The contrast between Kaepernick & Barr demonstrates that the free speech argument is often a bogus substitute for the real issue—racism in America

Should supporters of the right of National Football League players to take a knee during the national anthem also raise their hackles about the cancellation of Roseanne Barr’s situation comedy?

Of course the question could be posed the other way. If Facebook is any indication, there are large numbers of conservatives supporting Barr but not the players, just as there are large numbers of liberals supporting the athletes but not the entertainer.

Roseanne’s situation, like that of the two NFL players reportedly under league boycott, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, raises the bar because the “punishment” for the exercise of free speech was not a fine or a lambasting by an ignorant and crude autocrat, but the loss of a very lucrative job, and in the case of the players, a career.

No one disputes that Barr had the right to make the ugly racist joke she did about Valerie Jarrett, whereas many argue that the players’ actions were taken while on the job and therefore subject to the policies and regulations of their employer. Technically, however, anyone with an employment contract that includes what used to be called a “morals clause”—a stipulation that the employee stay out of trouble and conduct themselves always in a professional, ethical and legal manner—is always on the job. A morals or behavior clause restricts speech and actions as much as a league policy does. These clauses are standard in employment contracts and must be in the one that Barr signed. No has the right to restrict free speech, but both the NFL and Disney thus probably have the right to punish their employees for the exercise of free speech under certain, highly defined circumstances. Both Barr and the players on the field probably fall into those circumstances.

But free speech is not the only issue involved. The other issues are racism, truth and civil discourse. When we analyze the actions of Barr and Kaepernick from these perspectives, I think it’s easy to favor labor (Kaepernick) in one instance and management (ABC/Disney) in the other.

Kaepernick was trying to bring public attention to the fact that not much has been done to address the racial bias nationwide in the killing of civilians by police officers. He was speaking a truth and he did so without insulting anyone directly. True enough, those who believe that anything other than standing at strict attention at the playing of the national anthem are traitors were offended, as were those who believe that any criticism of police is always wrong. Let’s remember they and their predecessors also expressed outrage when Barr sang the national anthem in the character of a crude baseball player at the 1990 All-Star Game; her comic version offended their sensitivities. Kaepernick used a tool of free expression called civil disobedience and a platform that would be certain to attract attention, a televised football game. Yes, he pissed some people off and made lots more uncomfortable, but he insulted no one directly, told the truth and behaved in a civil manner. Moreover, he spoke on the side of the angels, unless you believe that the moral imperatives of any religion leave room for unequal treatment of anyone because of race.

Barr’s tweet was a racist insult of Obama-advisor Valerie Jarrett meant to incite the Twittersphere. She resurrected an old and ugly insult of African-Americans—that they are like apes, less human, or as Donald Trump recently described Hispanic immigrants, animals. She also managed to tie Jarrett to the Muslim Brotherhood, the kind of smear that keeps on smearing, because not only is it false, but it also assumes that there is something bad about the Muslim Brotherhood, which in this case is a transparent stand-in for all of Islam. As when people called Obama a Muslim, the denial can be construed as agreement that Islam is bad. We don’t really know why Barr tweeted. Was it because she was under the influence of Ambien (and why should that matter?) as she claims; or attempting to get attention for her show; or suffering the momentary boiling over of anger and frustration from a myriad of sources. It matters not. It was ugly and had only one goal: To use racism to insult another public figure. Barr had no thought of public betterment. She did not behave in a civil manner. And she expressed a thought, Black person = ape, that is completely racist and cannot be excused.

Thus, while we should “support” the right of free expression exercised by both Kaepernick and Barr, only Kaepernick’s conduct was right, as in correct.

Which brings us to the institutions. The highly public nature of the actions turned each into a minor point of skirmish in the continuing culture wars. Like it or not, both the NFL and Disney ended up taking sides, pissing off millions and gaining the admiration of millions.

But what did the side-taking say about the organizations? Disney’s cancellation of “Roseanne” said that the organization cannot and will not abide overt racial ugliness, even if it costs them a little money. And I do say, a little. “Roseanne” was slotted to make about $60 million for Disney next year; even if the replacement show does half of that, the $30 million loss would be five one-hundredths of one percent of the company’s 2017 revenues of more than $55 billion—a suitcase on the Queen Mary, as the expression goes. For Disney, spending $30 million to tell international and youth markets that it hates obvious virulent racism sounds like a pretty good investment in damage-control public relations. And like the best crisis PR, it turns a negative into a positive.

By contrast, what could the NFL possibly be saying? I know that it wants to say that it believes politics should not enter the game or the playing arena in any way, ever, but it’s making a lot of other messages. It says that the NFL still has the plantation mentality that characterized all sports leagues before free agency. It says that the NFL agrees with the rigid, easy-to-anger patriots who will broach no action that could be construed as flag desecration. It says that the NFL subscribes to the same authoritarian stances regarding civil disobedience as Trumpty-Dumpty does. And, unfortunately, it says that the NFL sides with those who either don’t believe the statistics that show blacks suffer more violence in arrest and incarceration than whites do, or that it doesn’t care. Or that it thinks it’s a good thing.

More than anything else, the contrast between Kaepernick and Barr demonstrates that the free speech argument is often a bogus substitute for the real issue—racism in America. Racism is what the quarterback protested and racism is what the comedian was spouting. Yes she has a right to do it, but I’m happy as hell Disney fired her, and disappointed that the NFL is trying to control its plantation hands.

In light of Trump’s remark about “animals” here is a new definition of human beings: “Animals who kneel.”

Whether Donald Trump meant his “they’re like animals” remark to refer to all immigrants or merely to members of the MS-13 gang, everyone understood his intent: To say that a group of human beings of a certain ethnicity are less human than we full-blooded Americans, and perhaps not even human beings at all. In this sense, even if Trump really only meant MS-13 gangbangers, MS-13 served Trump as a synecdoche, which is a figure of speech in which a part represents the whole. Just as we understand that “a strong arm” or a “piece of ass” refers to an entire body, so do we realize that Trump was saying that all immigrants from Latino (and African and Islamic) countries are animals.

The essence of racism involves the belief that certain human beings are better than others—by virtue of their skin color, DNA, family history or whatever factor is being used to distinguish individuals by race. In the West at least, humans have traditionally considered animals to be lesser forms of life put on earth for the benefit and use of human beings. To call someone an animal is virtually always used in a pejorative sense, except when referring to football players or boxers, and even in the sporting context, our admiration for an animal is for her/his less than human qualities.

To call a group of people animals is always racist.

Of course, most Americans nowadays would be appalled if we treated animals, especially dogs, how we treat immigrants and refugees. Far more was made in the news media of Michael Vick killing dogs he trained to fight than in the separation of families by the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). Without a doubt, America loves its pets more than we love the human beings whom we have defined as “others.” In the mass media and advertising and in our streets and living rooms, we see dogs pampered and treated as members of the family, referred to as children, given holiday gifts, preferred over human beings for companionship. The composite message we should infer regarding the totality of television advertising for food and what are called food products is that human beings give their pets a healthier, more nutritionally balanced diet than they themselves eat.

Thus many, if not most, of the people who embrace Trump’s demotion of groups of human beings to animal status routinely elevate animals to the status of “human beings.”

Defining people as less than human makes it easier to treat them badly. It used to justify slavery, segregation and Jim Crow laws. Today, it justifies an ungenerous, mean-spirited immigration policy—to use violence when dealing with them, to turn them away even though they are suffering refugees, to split families, to send people well-established in this country to the countries of their parents.

Trump’s animal comment is one set piece in a large campaign he and his allied are waging to divide America into “us-and-them” armed camps, with ”them” defined by color and ethnic background. Another theme in this long-term propaganda war is Trump’s constant labelling of behavior by blacks, Hispanics and Muslims as horrific while condoning or remaining silent about similar white behavior. The most obvious example of the Trumpite double standard is Trumpty-Dumpty’s reaction to mass murders involving whites versus people of color. When whites go postal, mental illness is to blame; anyone of color and it’s terrorism.

Contrast, too, Trump’s comments about “the good people” marching with the Nazis in Charlottesville versus his condemnation of Colin Kaepernick and other professional athletes for taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before sporting events.

Which brings us to the unfortunate decision of the National Football League (NFL) to fine players and their teams when the player genuflects during the anthem. Like Trump and his minions, NFL owners have decided that taking the knee is inherently unpatriotic and thus antisocial, even if the players are asserting a right that defines Americans to protest a flaw in the American way of life that supposedly makes the United States a superior place to live—the unfair treatment of African-Americans and other minorities by the criminal justice system. The NFL owners put themselves on the side of Trump and his minions, which is why Trump is praising the announcement.

In attempting to explain why NFL owners didn’t decide to affirm the right of all Americans to engage in peaceful protests by doing nothing, we face another set of bad options, caught between a symbolic Scylla and Charybdis with no ship to navigate us safely between the two: Either pressure from rightwing politicians and the large numbers of NFL fans who are racist or Trumpite has coerced a craven NFL to submit to their un-American, and covertly racist, agenda OR the NFL owners sincerely believe that saluting the flag is more important than a basic civil right.

Or maybe they just like the idea of controlling the players, like a sheep herder controls the flock.

Let’s keep in mind that the NFL, more than any other professional sport, has maintained the plantation owner attitude towards players that all sports used to have before the days of free agency. No other league is as preoccupied with its public image as the NFL, and the owners insist on that image being corporate, conservative and dedicated to the values of small-town white America. No other league has as many rules of behavior that have nothing to do with playing, e.g., the extensive regulations dictating proper behavior after scoring a touchdown. Now the NFL wants to take away the player’s right to free speech, or at least make them pay for the right through fines (which is in keeping with the essential rightwing idea that people with more property should have more of an influence on social policy, as if the NFL is saying, “If you want a say, you have to pay.”). The racial makeup of the NFL reinforces the plantation metaphor: The league is about 70% black, but there are few blacks in management and no black owner.

In organization and physical infrastructure, the old slave plantation had many similarities to contemporary immigration collection centers, Japanese internment camps during World War II and German concentration camps. Moreover, in all these instances of herding people into confined quarters and controlling their every movement, the people in charge openly expressed a superiority to those under their control. The evidence of that superiority was and is racial in nature and usually color-based.

Thus the NFL’s decision to try to prohibit political protest during the national anthem and Trump’s “worse than animals” remark are profoundly connected, not only as different arrows in Trump’s quiver of racism, but as manifestations of the continued persistence of the belief that whites of European decent are superior to others. Both Trump’s comments and the NFL action are highly calculated moves meant to exploit the virulent racism that still distorts American values.

During the last few centuries, science has undercut the notion that certain groups of humans are superior to others, or that all humans are superior to animals for that matter. Science’s inexorable refutation of revealed religion removed our inherent superiority to other creatures as much as its dismissal of inherent differences between the races has refuted racism. Moreover, over the past 40 years, anthropologists and paleontologists have found evidence of all kinds of behavior in animals that humans once cited to assert our superiority, including the development of language, use of tools, social organization and hierarchy, altruism, morality and even religion. The more we learn about the natural world and ourselves, the more like other animals we seem. Even as American whites wrongly believe that they are losing their status economically and socially to “others,” all humans are losing their status of uniqueness among the animal kingdom.

While respecting all life (except maybe rats and cockroaches), I still believe that humans are different. Other animals may use tools, but not to the degree we do. Other animals may communicate, but they haven’t built the widespread and sophisticated communications networks we have. And while altruism and morality exist among other animals, none have yet banded to together to protest the mistreatment of others. Your typical alpha male or alpha female among social animals doesn’t threaten its own existence by trying to raise awareness about how creatures in other groups suffer. And that’s what Kaepernick, the quarterback—the quintessential human alpha—did. In standing up for the civil and judicial rights of people of color, Kaepernick performed a uniquely human act. He could have defined himself as a privileged football player or a member of the economic elite, much as Trump and the NFL owners do, but instead he chose to identify with the downtrodden, and by implication, the entirety of humanity.

In a profound sense, then, those who protest and work for human, civil, judicial and economic rights are the most human among us. That’s certainly what Christ and the early Christians thought. They knelt before the concept of a god who helps the poor. Kaepernick knelt before the secular concepts of equality, equity and human solidarity. Either way, they elevated themselves—made themselves more human and less like animals—through the devotional act of kneeling. Perhaps when considering definitions of human beings, we should simply say, “animals who kneel.”

My hope is that the NFL edict will incite more football players and other professional athletes to become “animals who kneel.” I would like to see entire teams either stay inside the locker room for the national anthem or all take a knee in unison. I would like to see fans stay seated during the national anthem to protest this new restriction on civil rights. I would like to see a class action lawsuit by the players that upends this obnoxious new regulation. In short, I would like to see Americans collectively tell Trump and the NFL owners that we are not animals, but human beings.


The terrible consequences of the largely symbolic move of U.S. embassy: At least 61 dead & 2,700 injured, plus U.S. credibility in international circles sinks lower

The demonstrations and killings in the wake of the United States moving its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem reminds us again of the power of symbolism: People are willing to put themselves in harm’s way and other people are willing to kill them for a symbol, in this case the symbolism of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The move encourages extreme Zionists, enrages Palestinians and rankles most other countries.

But the embassy move doesn’t change a thing in the Middle East.

It doesn’t alter the situation on the ground and it shouldn’t disturb the dynamics of any negotiations. Why should Jerusalem be off the table now in discussions of a peaceful settlement, be it a two-state solution or something else? It was so easy to move the U.S. embassy. All it took was money. Why can’t a future deal require the United States to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv, or elsewhere? It’s even possible that one day this new U.S. facility could be the U.S. embassy in a democratic Palestinian state that is allied with its neighbor, Israel? A peacenik can always dream…

Trump’s lunacy does have both immediate and long-term consequences. Short-term, it increases tensions and violence in Israeli and the occupied territory. Trumpty-Dumpty and his advisors must have known that the opening ceremonies would kindle demonstrations. But did they know that Israel would react with such brutality? Only among American evangelicals and hardliners in both Israel and the United States will the Israeli reaction to the demonstrations not seem blood-thirsty. Sixty-one dead and about 2,700 injured by a superior force that as of this writing reports no injuries or deaths is what the Latins used to say was res ipsa loquitur, a thing that proves itself. What it demonstrates is that the Israelis could have figured out a way to deal with the protesters and rioters without killing anyone, inflicting minimum injury. Fire hoses. Loud acoustics. Reinforcement of the fence. There are lots of ways to deal with protesters short of firing bullets and teargas.

The long-term implication of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is that it provides further proof that the other nations of the world can no longer trust the United States to abide by treaties and that the United States has little interest in collective decision-making on issues of global import. Trump has already walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Accord and the Iran nuclear agreement, and raised tariffs that threaten to start a trade war. Now he has ignored the United Nations agreement not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel until a peace agreement is reached. U.S. credibility is at an all-time low among our allies.

And for what? A symbolic move about a symbol.

As a secular Jew in diaspora, I am befuddled by the big deal that Jews make about the symbolic import of the city of Jerusalem. I’ve never been there, but I have seen ancient Neolithic, Greek, Roman, Carthaginian and Islamic ruins and experienced the expansive swell of religious joy and connection with past civilizations and peoples, the oneness with humanity, or a portion of it, that comes from knowing that values, ideas and artifacts persist in time. And yes, I did feel a special, Jewish tug when viewing the old synagogues of Prague and Spain. I get it.

But let’s consider the real symbolism of Jerusalem. It is called King David’s city, the city that King David conquered and made his capital, the city that King Solomon grew, the city of the temple of the Kings.

Kings. Royalty. The idea that certain people have a divine right that is passed down by birth, a right to command others, to mess with the lives of others by forming armies, fighting wars, deciding who should pay what taxes, and building monuments, often to their own glory. Royalty is the most autocratic and least democratic system of government. Royalty is the ultimate expression of racism: my blood is so much better than your blood that I’m always in charge. One could make a case that the kings weakened ancient Israel to the point that the Babylonians could take over the country. Why would Jews want to have anything to do with royalty? Most Jews everywhere in the world today believe in representational democracy and reject the very concept of kingship and royalty, yet worship Jerusalem, forgetting that the city is not just a symbol of Judaism, but of Jewish royalism.

True enough, both holy temples were located in Jerusalem, but the first was fruit of the evil seed of royalty. Remember, too, that the temple was the place of animal sacrifice, a practice that Jews gave up centuries ago. There are remarkable and religiously uplifting antiquities all over the state of Israel.

Giving up the obsolete is something Jews are used to doing. We replaced animal sacrifice with prayer centuries ago. Most branches of the Jewish religion have gradually ended or are in the process of ending the many sexist elements in ancient and medieval Jewish religion and custom. We’ve made changes to the liturgy—prayers and melodies. Isn’t it about time that we turn our back on the concept of royalty and thereby de-mythify Jerusalem? If I were involved in the negotiations, I would be willing to trade political control of Jerusalem in return for a real lasting peace that included economic cooperation with a Palestinian state, as long as Jews were allowed to visit and live in Jerusalem. Hell, yes.

The equations sometimes produced by symbolic actions like moving an embassy are as macabre as they are tragic. Ask yourself, if it were your children, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces, friends and neighbors, how many dead would be worth the symbolism? It shouldn’t be difficult to understand that Palestinians feel the same way. Of course, to believers in royalty, some people are worth more than others. The essence of royalty—as conceived of and practiced throughout recorded history—is that the better people can sacrifice or kill the lower orders. That military representatives of “the chosen people” should kill and maim so many as an almost necessary aftermath to Trump’s Jerusalem symbolism is the ultimate expression of the obscenity that is the concept of kingship.

Now for the latest installment of the mainstream media’s favorite game: Blame the Democrats!

It wouldn’t be a Sunday New York Times opinion section without a couple of articles blaming liberals for their supposed inability to capture the hearts and minds of mainstream America. It’s always the liberals fault for putting up the wrong candidate, being self-righteous, being too smart or wonky, focusing too much on identity politics, not articulating the message in bold terms, or not understanding the soul of middle America. In going through this list of Democratic “failures,” note how many descriptions could be coded language for “not being racist enough.” Then there are the special criticisms leveled at Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi’s political liabilities, which have always struck me as patently misogynistic.

This week’s edition of “Beat the Liberal” featured a piece by Gerald Alexander, an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia whose research suggests a right-wing bent. In “Liberals, You’re Not As Smart as You Think” the not-so-good professor claims that liberals “may be more effective at causing resentment than in getting people to come their way.” Alexander never proves his point. He doesn’t even bother to offer up one study or survey to demonstrate that when liberals talk, they turn off large numbers of people. Interestingly enough, his article is a mild revision of a piece he wrote for the Washington Post eight years ago. Bashing liberals is never out of style!

And what does Alexander think liberals do that piss people off so much? They publicly call racist behavior racist. What’s more, they do so self-righteously, with an “I’m better than you are” tone. Earth to Alexander: People who call out racism are better than the racists. That is, assuming you buy into Alexander’s shoddy premise that Democrats are self-righteous about their morality. Now maybe it’s my self-righteousness coming through, but as parent, I found that shame works wonders in getting people to do the right thing.

Frank Bruni joined in the “Beat the Liberal” game, too, this week, with another of a long line of columns by mainstream media pundits advocating that the Democratic Party can win if they become more like Republicans. The headline says it all: “Renounce Pelosi, Ignore Trump—and Win?” Bruni advocates for Democratic candidates who are less strident and project a less partisan image. In particular, Bruni touts the Democratic nominee for the seat in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, white male Dan McCready, who claims to have center-right political views. Of course he never gives examples of Democratic candidates who are too strident or too partisan, leaving us to guess who they are. I sincerely hope Bruni means something other than the coded message I receive from his article—that he wants more white males and fewer women and minority candidates. It would help if one of the candidates he lauds in his article was not all white male.

Bruni’s article quotes Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton, as saying “If we actually want to be a majority party, then we better embrace more Americans.”

What is he talking about? Democrats won way more votes than Republicans in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Clinton wiped out Trump in the popular voting. Survey after survey on education, healthcare, aid to dependent children, criminal justice reform, environmental policy, abortion and yes, even gun control, show that majorities of American—and sometimes overwhelming majorities—support the views of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and other liberal Democrats.

The game of blaming Democrats for their failure to take the reins of government conceals the real reasons Republicans today control the presidency, both Houses of Congress and most state governments:

  1. The current shape of Congressional districts, gerrymandered to structurally favor Republicans after the 2010 census.
  2. The raft of voter suppression laws that have swept the country, also since 2010.
  3. The natural electoral bias in states and nationally in favor of rural areas, built into our system by the Electoral College and geographic representation.
  4. The influx of money to support right-wing candidates and think tanks, especially since the Citizens United
  5. The constant anti-Democrat slant of the mainstream and rightwing media, which includes covering Republican primaries more closely than Democratic ones, using Republican premises when formulating coverage, conflating real scandals of Republicans with Democratic non-scandals and issuing a constant stream of these silly articles about Democrats shooting themselves in the foot.

Of these five factors, only one can be remotely blamed on the Democrats: the gerrymandering of Congress. Democrats assumed they were going to lose seats in 2010, since a new president usually sees his majority eroded in midterm elections. They therefore did not aggressively spend money on 2010 mid-term elections, while the Koch brothers and their billionaire buddies saw the historic opportunity created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that freed corporate spending on elections and ramped up their support of not just Republican, but ultra-right candidates. The news media helped out the Republicans in 2010 to be sure by ignoring Democratic primaries, focusing most political coverage on the new “Tea Party” movement, ignoring the progressive alternatives to the Tea Party, and providing inaccurate and misleading coverage of the key issue of the day, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There was certainly a lot going against the Democrats in 2010, but by not aggressively contesting the election, they did a pretty good imitation of a pro basketball team tanking the season to get a high draft pick.

We can find no fault with the Democrats in the development of the other four factors leading to Republican control of an ostensibly democratic country in which a majority of citizens support the views of the party out of power. The voter suppression laws have come in states controlled by Republicans. The rich white men who founded the country established the rural bias in the Constitution more than 200 years ago to placate the many slave owners among them.

In one way or another, Ronald Reagan is responsible for the other two factors. Reagan started the movement to allow single companies to own many media outlets in the same town and nationally and ended the Fairness Doctrine, which made all broadcast stations air the views of the other side when they gave an editorial. These moves more than anything else enabled the fringe right-wing media like mega-giants FOX, Clear Channel and Sinclair Broadcasting to emerge as powerful voices in the marketplace of ideas. And it was Reagan who nominated two of the five justices who voted that the constitution prohibited Congress from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations in Citizens United; he also gave important career promotions to the other three voting to unleash the Koch money machine on the political system.

But pundits will continue to blame Democrats for their current status in state and federal governments. It’s easier than doing real analysis and telling the truth: our country has been taken over by a small but very well-heeled minority who have used their money to manipulate our political system to their own end and to pursue their own interests, even to the detriment of overwhelming numbers of their fellow citizens.

Walking away from Iran treaty is enormous foreign policy mistake. It only helps Saudis & Benjamin Netanyahu

What I wrote last September about decertifying the Iran Nuclear Deal still holds, so rather than recreate the wheel, here it is again:

The sheer stupidity of “decertifying” the nuclear—or should I say “antinuclear”—treaty between the United States, five other nations and Iran beggars the imagination. That an ignorant bully with no experience and a history of failure should propose such an idea is not noteworthy, not if the ignorant bully is Donald Trump. That supposedly patriotic, educated and experienced cabinet officers and advisors are unable to squelch this move in any way possible makes me shudder for the future of this country—and the entire human population.

The decision is bad in every way. It destabilizes the entire world every time another nation gets nuclear weapons, because the entire world would suffer from any nuclear war. The more nations have weapons, the more likely one is going to slip into the hands of a nutcase who might push the big red button. Of course, that seems to have already happened.

The decision also sets back the peace process between Iran and the West, specifically the United States. Why would we want to be enemies with a country with such an educated population and unrivalled natural resources among mid-sized countries and whose thousands of years of history has been one of the major influencers of the European culture upon which America is built? Let’s also remember that Iran wields a lot of influence with insurgent movements around the world. Coming to a lasting, all-inclusive peace with Iran would ease tensions throughout the Muslim world.

Think, too, of the lost opportunity to reduce the need for armed forces. A rapprochement with Iran would enable us to dedicate money a large portion of the billions of dollars now spent on armed forces and counter-terrorism to fixing our infrastructure of mass transit, sewers, roads and bridges and investing in alternative energy.

The key moment in the history of American-Persian relations is a stupid mistake that the United States made in 1953. We were allies and big supporters of Iran in 1953 when the CIA engineered an overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh, who was a secularist who wanted Iran to follow the model of American and European societies. Of course, he did nationalize oil industries, which was the secret reason the United States installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as Shah of Iran. Yes, that’s right. Shah! King. Royalty. A dictator who rules by divine right. The system we fought a revolution to change. The United States of America overthrew a democracy to install a dictator not to protect our oil supply, but to protect the interests of certain oil companies. We continued to support the Shah of Iran as opposition to his rule grew and grew through the years until his overthrow in 1979 by ultra-right religious fanatics in what was a relatively bloodless revolution. It was in the immediate aftermath of the revolution that Iranian students took 52 Americans hostages and held them for 444 days.

The hostage crisis wounded America’s pride, leading to the current situation—decades of enmity between the two countries, during which we have embraced Saudi Arabia, a kingdom that oppresses its people and is the home to most of the 9/11 hijackers and the mastermind behind 9/11 and Al Qaeda. We’ve essentially taken sides in a regional religious dispute and selected a side less in tune with our values, all because the other side slapped us around a little after we had helped bludgeon it for 26 years.

The absurdity of not taking a road to pace with Iran will come into stark view if we consider that we have now had an adversarial relationship with it for 38 years, which is 10 years longer than Germany was our enemy in the middle of the 20th century. We essentially forgave Germany for all the death and misery it caused and immediate embraced it after WW II. Of course we beat their asses and they were Christians. When we deal with Iran across the peace negotiating table, we have to treat them as equals.

Usually when an Administration does something that hurts most people, the answer as to why can be found by following the money: who benefits. In this case, it’s primarily the Saudi Arabians and whichever governments, insurgent movements, terrorist groups and oil companies it is supporting. Also benefitting is the government of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Note I write the Israeli government, not the Israel people, who stand to benefit more than anyone else from peace with Iran. But Bibby needs another external enemy. We know Trump is buddy-buddy with both the Saudis and Bibby. It wouldn’t be the first time that crony capitalism has led America to make a bad foreign policy decision.

But in the case of Trump, I have to wonder. Media reports suggest that virtually all White House advisors are telling Trump not to do it and that he is digging in his heels. Why? Is he that much in the pockets of the Saudis?

Or could it be that Trump’s main motivation is to destroy everything done by that black man out of a sense of revenge for being the butt of a few jokes? For a while, I’ve heard and scoffed at the utterly Shakespearean theory that Trump’s hatred of Obama overwhelms all other thoughts and emotions when it comes to government. Trump as Iago or Lady Macbeth. An interesting and theatrical idea, but how could it be? Destabilize global politics? Throw 800,000 people with jobs or going to college out of the country? Walk away from our first real shot at addressing human-caused global warming? All because you dislike some uppity guy because he doesn’t know his place (although I imagine that instead of “black man” and “uppity guy,” Trump uses a different word when thinking about President Obama). Impossible, I thought. But maybe not.

Not that it will help, but we should all be jamming the phone lines and Internet bandwidth with pleas to Trump not to walk away from the Iranian deal and demands to our Senators and Congressional representatives that they announce they will support impeachments proceedings if Trump goes ahead with his plan to “decertify.”

Yet another study shows the negative effect that charter schools have on public schools and the communities they serve

Here’s another example of ideology being such a strong factor in perception that it overcomes facts. Two academic researchers Helen Ladd of Duke University and Josh Singleton of the University of Rochester conduct a fine study that shows another way that charter schools are bad for students and society, but their conclusion is not to end charter schools but to make it easier to open more!

What the esteemed professors Ladd and Singleton find is that shifting monies from public schools to charter schools leave the public schools with less money to spend per pupil, something like $500 per kid in the areas they studied, which is a lot of money when you start thinking about supplies, books and enrichment tools. Ladd and Singleton did their analysis on the Durham, North Carolina school system and follows similar research that found that Albany had $900 less to spend per public school pupil and Buffalo had $700 less to spend because of charter schools. Ladd and Singleton figure that the impact is greater on the North Carolina children because that state spends less per child on public education. Reversing the math, Ladd and Singleton compute that each charter school enrollee in Durham means there is $3,500 less to spend on the students who remain in public schools.

The biggest reason Ladd and Singleton find for the charter school drain on public schools is that fixed costs such as for buildings, vehicles, administrators and compliance remain the same but there is a smaller base of students to pay for these expenses.

Before considering how Ladd and Singleton propose to address the issue of charter schools draining public schools, let’s review what we already know about charters. Time and again, studies have shown that more than 70% of all charter schools perform either at a worse level or at the same level as the public school with which they compete. Thus in most cases, charter schools are not working and were not worth the effort and disruption.

What’s more, whenever researchers and journalists dig into any of the 29% of charter schools whose students seem to do better than the kids in the competing public school, they find a telling pattern: In every reported case I’ve seen, the charter school always starts with more kids in their early grades but as the years progress, gradually whittle down the class size. In other words, many of the limited number of successful charter schools weed out underperforming students so that their results look better.

For example, a charter run by the for-profit BASIS Charter Schools that U.S. News & World Report once named as one of the top 10 schools in the country, started with 125 students in sixth grade but had a mere 21 in the graduating class. The administration presumably weeded out low performers, who then returned to their traditional public school.

We must assume that Ladd and Singleton have reviewed this research. In fact, if they were doing work on charter schools, we would be highly surprised and suspicious if they were not aware of the growing body of research demonstrating that charter schools have failed to deliver on their promise to improve school performance.

So let me pose a common sense question. If you knew charter schools almost always do not do better than public schools and many of the small number of cases in which they do improve student performance the schools cooked the books, and then you found out that charter schools also hurt the kids who remain in the public school system, what would you recommend?

Remember, the results: Doesn’t work for the kids it teaches and makes things worse for other kids.

Let’s simplify some more: Doesn’t help users, hurts others.

Admit it. When learning that something usually doesn’t help the people it’s supposed to and hurts everyone else, wouldn’t you say, get rid of it!? Wouldn’t you take that prescription drug off the market, or not approve it in the first place?

But that’s not what Ladd and Singleton want. They don’t call for an end to charter schools. They don’t propose a process for reintegrating charter school students into the public school population. They don’t advocate for a public affairs program to explain to school boards, politicians and civic leaders why charter schools suck. They don’t even propose that charter schools pony up more money to public schools (which in this case means taking less funds or returning some of the money) to make up the difference.

No, what Ladd and Singleton advocate is that state governments provide local public schools with more funding to make up the difference when charter schools drain their student base.

We can only speculate idly about why two apparently well-respected academics would not only fail to recommend reining in charter schools, but actually propose a way to make it easier to form more. We have seen this kind of thinking before, usually from right-wing ideologues who place the free market system above all else, but also from Democrats who try to accommodate the free market such as the Clintons and Obama. Take the large number of policy wonks who continue to believe that making a market for pollution will lower pollution because the market will encourage more innovation than simply regulating emissions, despite the fact that all pollution markets have failed miserably. As we know, many of the most radical free-marketers are in the pay of the billionaire funders of the charter school movement, whose real goal all along has been to destroy teachers’ unions.

We have no way of knowing the real reason why Ladd and Singleton don’t condemn charter schools. All we can do is scratch our heads and wonder.

How else to understand the negative reaction to Michelle Wolf’s jokes at White House Correspondents’ dinner if not sexism & a double standard for women comedians?

I thought The Emperor’s New Clothes was a children’s story, not the plot to the latest media distraction: the wide condemnation by the Trumpverse and many in the mainstream media of Michelle Wolf’s performance at the recent Whitehouse Correspondents’ Association dinner. Everything Wolf said hit a truth about the current administration and many of its players, but in the Trumpverse the media, our civic leaders and the general public ignore and even deny the many lies, inanities and cruelties of Trump and his crew.

Meanwhile, Mika Brzezinski, Andrea Mitchell, Maggie Haberman and other mainstream media continue to look for any way possible to normalize as much of the behavior of the current White House staff as possible, and creating out of the blue the imaginary rule that you don’t make jokes about the White House press secretary is a cheap way to do it. After all, Miss Sarah is just a hard-working professional in a tough situation. True enough, but the way out of Sarah’s difficulties is not to lie, which means either quit or answer questions truthfully. Once you lie again and again and again over months, you become part of the corruption and an open target for the satirists of the world such as Michelle Wolf.

Word to the literally dozens of conservatives who use “it’s not the appropriate time, place and/or words” to condemn all manner of performances, demonstrations, speeches, community actions and other expressions of free speech:

There is no such thing as an inappropriate time and place to speak the truth.

There is no such thing as an inappropriate time and place for a comedian hired to perform to make fun of a person who is front of the news media almost daily.

Unless we’re talking about a death, a horrible accident, the victims of a tsunami or a similar personal tragedy. Or children.

But Sarah Huckabee Sanders is not a child and has not suffered any personal tragedy that she did not bring on herself through her own career choices. She is the public spokesperson for the White House, a public figure subject to comment, parody and joking. Moreover, she has chosen to be part of a corrupt political machine that seems to share more similarities to a crime family than to a political movement, an autocratic kleptocracy based on lies and unproven assumptions that knowingly lies to the public on a daily if not hourly basis.

Then there’s Kelly Anne, one of the longest running of the Trump crew of mean-spirited, racist liars. How is she not fair game for a political comedian?

No one has to think that Wolf was funny. I only liked about half her jokes. But to say it was a mistake to tell them, that the jokes were in poor taste because of the setting, is to assault the first amendment. You don’t have to agree with her or think she’s funny to recognize that Wolf exercised her First Amendment rights in the service of her profession. Whether it’s Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Chris Rock, Lewis Black or Stephen Colbert, comedians who talk about serious subjects often have punchlines that are unfunny, or funny but sad or sickening at the same time, but still a necessary part of the truth they are conveying. Anger lurked or lurks behind the humor of all these comedians. Those they shock are often angry at the joke because it cuts too close to home or it puts the lie to a myth they believe.

I don’t see the difference between what these comedians were doing and what Michelle Wolf did at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

But my wife saw a difference.

They were men and she’s a woman.

It’s hard to deny the reality of the facts on the ground. Starting with Colbert, male comedian after male comedian has gone after administration figures at these annual dinners, and the butts of the joke politely grin and bear it, while the comedian collects his kudos. A woman does it and she’s widely (but not universally) condemned. For an extended period of time by media standards, she becomes some cross between a cause celèbre and a political football.

 Plus, there’s the painfully obvious sexism of the administration, which starts with a lack of female appointees, but includes a high tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere, a dismantling of regulations that protect women, and a war against birth control and abortion.

I wish I could come up with another explanation for why so much of the mainstream news media, including the White House Correspondents’ Association itself, swallowed the authoritarian and anti-American Trump Kool-aid on Michelle Wolf. But institutional sexism—a reluctance to give women the same rights and privileges as men—is the only rationale that makes sense, the only one consistent with the facts.

Not the finest moment for Mika, Andrea or Maggie.