This month’s show features guests who shatter the myth of the Bernie Bro, the alleged white male millennials, living in their parents’ basements, harassing women online and supporting Bernie Sanders. Leslie Lee, a Black writer and teacher was so frustrated with the misrepresentation of Sanders fans and the erasure of his supporters of color, he created the spot on and very funny #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag, which went viral. Erika Andiola is a dreamer, organizer and she happens to be a National Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders Campaign for President. Jacob Bridge, a VeteranForBernie and conscientious objector who has organized around LGBT rights, is also far from a Bernie Bro. So, come, learn, laugh, nosh and drink at this live and free talk show! livestream here https://livestream.com/thecommons/events/5125512
Wednesday, April 6 at 6:00 p.m. at Brooklyn Commons (388 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11217)
Leslie Lee III is a writer and English teacher from Baton Rouge, LA who lives in Yokahama, Japan with his wife, Kelly, and their dog, Taco. His writing ranges from essays and articles on politics and Japanese wrestling, to the novel he is working on with his father about Kentucky’s Black coal miners. But according to some sources, Lee does not actually exist. He’s a figment of the imagination. Because he’s both Black and a supporter of Bernie Sanders.
The nice thing about the notion of the unbearable whiteness of being a Sanders supporter is that it doesn’t need to be based in reality. On Saturday, for example, CNN attributed Sanders’ landslide victories in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington primaries to the whitey-mcwhiteyness of the states:
These caucus states — largely white and rural — are the type of places Sanders traditionally does well. In order to win the nomination, he must replicate this success in other, more ethnically diverse states that hold primaries, as he did in Michigan last month. In theory, it’s possible. But the reality is tough.
Likewise, in theory, it’s possible to portray these states as white. But the reality is tough. Because they’re not. Washington state is literally the seventh most diverse state in the Nation. Two (if not three) of the five most diverse counties in the country are found in Alaska, which CNN itself described as “the most diverse place in America,” in an article in January. And Hawaii, according the Pew Research Center,
stands out… more than any other state… when it comes to its racial and ethnic diversity… The Rainbow State has never had a white majority. In fact, non-Hispanic whites, the largest group in most states, account for only 23% of the population, according to 2013 census figures.
But you know the old adage, necessity (to correct irresponsible journalism and media bias) is the mother of (viral) invention. And So, Mr. Lee launched his epic #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag, mocking the idea that all supporters of Sanders are white. Its debut appearance was:
I decided I would ask Mr. Lee, or @tokyovampires as he’s known on Twitter, about what inspired the hashtag, though merely ignoring it and him would have been a very meta demonstration of the very erasure he’s protesting.
He explained, “The common narrative in this election that Bernie has a ‘minority problem’ or that all his supporters are ‘bros’ is pervasive, and insulting to the POCs [People of Color] and women who support [him].” But, “it hit a peak… when Hawaii, the least white state in the nation, retroactively became white or ‘not diverse’ due to the fact that Bernie won it. So, I started #BernieMadeMeWhite.” And, Lee tweeted to me, “since my real existence as a black person who supports Bernie is ignored… might as well embrace my new whiteness.”
Lee was kind enough to answer some more questions over e-mail, probably out of a sense of solidarity, since I’m a female Bernie bro and don’t really exist either.
Countless people, newspapers, pundits, self-appointed definers of all things Jewish have challenged, questioned or even denied Bernie Sanders’ Jewish identity… because it’s a Friday. Speaking of which, good shabbos!
It’s hard to keep up with all the self-righteous attacks and denouncements lobbed at Sanders but one of my favorites from this week alone was the nuanced and understated headline which graced the schlock-filled right wing rag that is Front Page:
HOW BERNIE SANDERS SOLD HIS SOUL TO BE AN AUTHENTIC LEFTIST
This soul selling was, of course, a reference to Sanders’ decision not to the annual AIPAC conference.
But I don’t want to leave out Jeffrey Goldberg, whose condescending and catty tweets about how Jewish identity is appropriately defined, was stunningly unaware. Goldberg tweeted truth to power during the Sanders-Clinton debate in Flint Michigan from earlier this month when host Anderson Cooper said the following:
Just this weekend there was an article I read in the Detroit News saying that you keep your Judaism in the background, and that’s disappointing some Jewish leaders. Is that intentional?
(Because if there is one publication that represents THE JEWS it’s definitely the Detroit News or DN, as we Jews like to call it. And if there is one group of people who speaks for the Jews, it’s definitely “some Jewish leaders.” But that’s neither here nor though, so moving on.) Bernie made the mistake of saying that part of his Jewish identity was shaped by the Holocaust, during which his father’s side of the family was “wiped out.” Well, that didn’t sit too well with Jeffrey Goldberg, who sanctimoniously tweeted:
Like many people, I found out about the death of Antonin Scalia through social media, a Facebook chat to be specific. “DUDE! Scalia may be dead,”my friend messaged me.”After a few minutes of silence, my friend returned, in all caps, once again, to proclaim, “HE’S DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
While Scalia’s unexpected death provoked a pseudo-constitutional crisis among the right wing, it provoked an existential crisis in me. I felt simultaneously happy, relieved, hopeful and guilty. He’s someone’s father! Someone’s husband! RBG’s bestie and opera partner! Even worse than what I felt was what I wanted to do! “OMG!”I typed to my friend. “Would a listicle of Scalia’s Worst Quotes be the worst?”Ironically enough, my friend’s verdict was Scalian; swift, punishing and punctuated with hyperbole and exclamation points: “NO! YOU MUST DO IT!”F&*( DECORUM!”
A woman of checks and balances, I sought counsel from other sources via other means of communication. I skyped an editor to ask for her ruling on the issue. Her judgment was Kennedyian and moderate: She urged me to wait 24 hours, reminding me that “dancing on people’s grave [was] not a good look.”When I texted another friend, a journalist, he concurred with the editor, writing, “I wouldn’t celebrate it.”
The majority, it seemed, had ruled. It would be in poor taste and bad judgment, an ethical breach, to openly rejoice about Scalia’s death.
I had no grounds for appeal. The decision was final…or so it seemed.
But then, I felt a flickering of hope, as I saw a flickering of light from my cellphone. With bated breath, I watched as dots of i-message judgment popped up on my screen. The journalist, it seemed, hadn’t finished his ruling: He thought I could make the argument that his death may have “saved the planet”with the court now unlikely to strike down Obama’s far-reaching emissions plan. “He was a bigot who made millions of people suffer.”With this Breyersian analysis, my friend granted my piece, which I had planned to kill, a last-minute reprieve.
I decided I’d “nudge,” if not totally violate, decorum. I compiled some of the late justice’s most “memorable quotes.”I can’t say I’m proud of my word choice. The cop-out-est of adjectives, “memorable”allowed me a convenient vagueness. But, in all fairness, Scalia’s equal opportunity bigotry made it hard to come up with a headline-length title that did him any justice: “Scalia’s most homophobic and/or sexist and/or racist and/or savage decisions, quotes or off-the-cuff statements”is a mouthful.
The guilt I felt over turning Scalia’s death into shareable content started to dissipate as I sorted through the bottomless pit of sexism, homophobia and racism that was his legacy.His cruel and draconian incarceration opinions, which had caused so much suffering, now offered me comfort, solace, conviction and a sense of righteousness.
But what really emboldened me was his near fetish for death and the death penalty. Not only did Scalia defend capital punishment for youth and people with mental disabilities, he also has famously said, out loud, that it wasn’t unconstitutional to execute the innocent as long as they had a fair trial: “[t]his court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’innocent.”
Why should Scalia, who was so brazen about his disregard for human life, even innocent life, deserve respectful or solemn commemoration in the public sphere?
Scalia wasn’t merely defending the death penalty in theory as an acceptable and appropriate punishment for guilty people; he was defending it for the innocent if it came to that. And, as one of the nine people on the Supreme Court, his ideas contributed and buttressed the state-sanctioned murder of innocent people.
Surely, whatever deficit of empathy I revealed paled in comparison to Scalia’s chasm of compassion. If he could sleep soundly with the deaths of innocents on his mind, who was I to feel guilty about a death I had nothing to do with. It seemed wrong. And also, profoundly un-Scalia-like. And that was when it occurred to me: What better way to honor the late justice than by asking #WWSD? What would Scalia do? The answer was obvious: He’d react to the loss of human life with heartlessness, cruelty and adherence to his own conviction.
To be fair, this issue of how to mark the passing of the wicked and depraved does not belong to Scalia alone. The question of public celebration of death was raised when Osama bin Laden was assassinated. I’m in no way comparing Scalia and bin Laden, but the contrast between the two sheds light on how and why society determines norms around mourning. I did not celebrate the death of bin Laden because we have laws to deal with outlaws and trials to teach defendants and the public about the nature of crime and punishment. But most Americans rejoiced at the death of a man who masterminded an attack on the United States that killed 3,000 people.
The truth is, these norms are based on politics, vested interests, an unquestioning acceptance of the status quo and powers that be. They are not based on ethical principles or moral absolutes.How many leaders have ordered the killing of thousands of civilians? When the leaders are ours, we call it collateral damage. When the leaders are our enemies, we call it murder.
There are, of course, rules of engagement and the rule of law. And Scalia isn’t technically a murderer. As a judge, he gets to implement state-sanctioned murder, also called the law. But as any student of civil rights history knows, the issues of legality and justice are separate. What Martin Luther King did was illegal. But it wasn’t unjust. What Scalia did may have been legal but it was unjust. And because he was a judge, Scalia had the power to codify his own murderous behavior, enshrining it into the law.
But let us return to the question of whether the late justice, despite his numerous crimes and offenses, still deserves to be mourned with some level of decorum. After lengthy analysis and hand-wringing, I can only conclude: hell no! It is hypocritical and sanctimonious to require anyone to grant Scalia the compassion he relished denying others. Mourning itself becomes distasteful and disrespectful when the person who has died was not simply a flawed person or a misunderstood person or a deeply misguided person, but a person whose life and legacy were built on the pain, damage, humiliation and injustice he caused others and our world at large.
When we decorously mourn Scalia, or other powerful and public figures like him, what are we doing to the family members and loved ones of those people whose appeals Scalia voted against? Is there not something morbid about mourning a (state-sanctioned) murderer?
If only our culture cared as much about the lives of the living as it does the lives of the dead, or the unborn, for that matter. The culture of decorum that elevates a person’s life after death is, in some way, a perfect corollary to the culture of “life.”
Our tradition of mourning, rooted in religion, has codified centuries of war and pillage. Paying homage to people once they are dead doesn’t absolve us from killing them. Death cannot and should not change history. Solemnifying and ennobling the act of leaving the mortal sphere has the dishonest and painful effect of whitewashing the actions of those who were hateful, destructive, or worse. The damage wrought by people like Scalia will long outlive them.
Rest in peace can’t undo a career’s worth of damage; and pointing this out is not an act of disrespect. Ignoring it is.
Unlike Scalia or our leaders, however, I don’t believe the desire for vengeance should be embraced on a legal or policy level. I know Scalia was very Catholic in his thinking and siring (of nine children). And I, on the other hand, am a godless Jew. But when I heard about Scalia’s death, I immediately thought of a Christian hymn, of all things. Written in 1869 by the American Baptist minister Robert Wadsworth Lowry, “My Life Flows on in Endless Song (How Can I Keep From Singing)” was amended by Quaker Doris Penn, popularized by the folk singer Pete Seeger and, later, the new-age singer Enya. Since I’m not a strict constructionist, I will quote the verse that Penn added nearly a century after it was first written:
Rapper and Bernie Sanders endorser Killer Mike made a terrible mistake on Tuesday night when he quoted “a woman” who used the word “uterus,” during a speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Twitter and several media outlets blasted Michael Render, AKA Killer Mike, for sexism. Interestingly, most of them didn’t bother to explain what he was really saying or who the woman he had cited was: feminist, anti-racist educator and activist Jane Elliott.
When people tell us ‘hold on, wait a while’ – that’s what the other Democrat is telling you, ‘Hold on Black Lives Matter, just wait a while. Hold on young people in this country, just wait a while,’ And then she get good, she have your own momma come to you, your momma sit down and say, ‘Well you’re a woman.’
Render is describing what he sees as an attempt on Clinton’s part to appeal to gender identity to get the vote. Whether or not you think this is accurate is another question. But we can all agree on what he’s saying. He goes on:
I talked to Jane Elliott a few weeks ago, and Jane said, ‘Michael, a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States. You have to have policies that’s reflective of social justice.’ ”
To me, it’s pretty clear what Render is saying here. Again, you don’t have to agree with him, but the point he is making is that policies and not gender determine whether someone is actually promoting social justice.
Somehow the takeaway from this was,”Killer Mike Quotes Woman Saying ‘Having a Uterus Doesn’t Qualify You to Be POTUS’” as Blue Nation Review headline put it. The Hill said, “Rapper Killer Mike drew attention late Tuesday after saying during a rally for Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders that a “uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president.” And Mediaitewrote that he “got pretty fired up about Team Clinton saying “just wait a while” and quoted a woman who told him, “A uterus doesn’t qualify you to be President of the United States.”
Erica Garner-Snipes, whose unarmed father was murdered by police, released an extremely moving video endorsing Bernie Sanders on Thursday. Garner joins a long list of women who don’t fit into the stereotype of the white millenial, skinny-jeans-wearing, Brooklyn-gentrifying Bernie Babe.
The issue of female support for Bernie Sander’s has been in the headlines ever since Gloria Steinem commented on it during an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday. When Maher asked his guest why so many women support Senator Sanders, Steinem explained, “when you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie’.”
Many responded my attacking Steinem’s statements and her approach to feminism. While a debate over intersectionalist feminism has it’s place, I do think it’s unfair to trash Steinem and throw out her invaluable contributions to feminist and progressive movements. And, as the video I made below shows, Steinem herself “felt the Bern” so much, she declared him “an honorary woman” at a campaign event in the fall of 1996.
But this isn’t about Steinem or individual surrogates or endorsements. Her turn of phrase about “where the boys are” does give us an important opportunity to explore exactly who some of the women and girls supporting Sanders actually are and why they are choosing to support him.
And here is the amazing video from Erica Garner-Snipes, about why she’s supporting Sanders.
Conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who spent decades warning the nation about the flagpole-sitting nature of homosexuality, died of natural causes on Friday at a luxury resort in Texas. He was 79.
Death is always sad. I feel bad for his family. And it’s not time to talk about politics. (Unless you’re a Republican who really wants to honor Scalia’s memory by using his death to push for a totally unheard of postponement of his replacement so it happens after Obama leaves office.)
But it might be time to memorialize the man through rounding up some of the most memorable things he ever said or wrote.
1.Homosexuality: It’s a lot like murder! Romer v. Evanschallenged a Colorado amendment which banned outlawing anti-gay discrimination (I know, I have a headache, too) in 1993. Justice Scalia expressed his sympathy for the people of Colorado, who wanted nothing more than to protect themselves from gay sex like they would from murder:
The Court’s opinion contains… hints that Coloradans have been guilty of ‘animus’ or ‘animosity’ toward homosexuality, as though that has been established as Unamerican. . . . I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible–murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals–and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct.
2. Homosexuality: it’s a lot like incest! The Supreme Court struck down a Texas ban on sodomy in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas. Amazingly, Scalia’s murder comparison had not convinced his colleagues of the danger posed by the gays. So he tried again. Only this time, with a different analogy.
States continue to prosecute all sorts of crimes by adults “in matters pertaining to sex”: prostitution, adult incest, adultery, obscenity, and child pornography
3. Homosexuality: it’s a lot like flagpole sitting! To his credit, Scalia would try, time and time again, to use the power of simile to enlighten his colleagues. Within the same dissent, he pointed out that not everything was a right just because it had once been illegal. The act he chose to use to demonstrate is a great American pastime:
Suppose that all the states had laws against flagpole sitting at one time [which they then overturned].Does that make flagpole sitting a fundamental right?
4. Legalizing same-sex marriage: nothing more than ‘fortune cookie justice.’ When the Court legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodgesin 2015, Scalia lamented that,
The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.
5. Legalizing same-sex marriage: nothing more than pretentious, egomaniacal ‘fortune cookie justice.’ In the same dissent, he described the majority opinion as being,
couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic.
6. ladies: not protected by the Constitution. Scalia didn’t limit himself to reactionary ideologies based on sexual orientation. Ironically, his bigotry embraced the diversity and equality that, he claimed, the Constitution lacked.During a 2011 interview with California Lawyer, Scalia said,
Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws.
On this really, really engaging and informative episode historian Grandin takes us on a virtual tour of Central America, a land of beauty, enchantment, and U.S.-supported death squads. Then let Bill Conroy exposes the hypocrisy and opportunism behind mainstream media’s contempt for Sean Penn and his interview with El Chapo. Grandin goes over government’s rich contributions to the violence of Central America, starting with the 1950s (or else we’d be here all day) when we helped the coup in Guatemala that set off a civil war; the 1980s when we trained the Contras in Nicaragua and the death squads in El Salvador; the 1990s when we imposed “free market” neoliberal policies AND tightened border security to keep out the people we knew would be displaced (because we think of EVERYTHING!); the 21st century when we continued those policies, did jack s&*^ over the coup in Honduras… and we’re not even talking about Mexico or Colombia yet! Then Bill Conroy who has worked as an investigative journalist covering the drug wars and law enforcement corruption debunks what the mainstream media and Mexican authorities are saying about Sean Penn and his interview with El Chapo. Conroy frames the freakout as part of a larger fear on the part of gatekeeping journalists and reveals one of the things they are attacking Penn over is something they routinely do, but don’t even admit it. Follow us on Soundcloud, like us on Facebook and subscribe on iTunes!
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. To be fair, I guess I should wish “Sorry it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day” to the people who don’t believe it should be a holiday and the politicians who voted against making it one. I’m talking to you, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).
While both parties attempt to claim Dr. King, the Republicans have a much harder time doing so without distorting history and the truth. But the truth is, most politicians would distance themselves from Dr. King’s stunning (and spot on) indictments of capitalism. There are, of course, a few exceptions, here and there.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, let’s look at some of the things he said challenged capitalism and are left out of most history books.
“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.” – Letter to Coretta Scott, July 18, 1952.
“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…” –Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.
“Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis.”Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.
“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.” – Speech to the Negro American Labor Council, 1961.
“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.
“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” –Speech to SCLC Board, March 30, 1967.
“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income… The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.” – Where do We Go from Here?,1967.