100-Proof Blogging by Randle Aubrey

Thursday, October 19, 2017

DOWN IN IT


There are things in life that no amount of preparation can make you ready to deal with the reality of, like the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job in a rapidly shrinking economy. You can plan, you can reason with yourself, you can stiffen your upper lip all you like, but when the thing hits you, it’s always so much harder than you imagined.

Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with the former in several years now, although the gray in my beard and the bags beneath my eyes remind me every day that death is indeed inevitable. But as of yesterday afternoon, I was laid off from my rather lucrative day job, where I had barely been for long enough to get settled in.

There’s been a massive sea change in my industry that stood to upend my company completely, and in the interest of battening down the hatches, my employer decided to forego the projects I’d been working on in favor of a leaner operation. I can’t say I blame him; I was quite literally the fifth wheel of our five-man operation, and the project I was working on involved building our business in a direction we could no longer go. Therefore, I had to go.

My boss was kind enough to pay me through the end of the month – essentially an entire paycheck – plus I’m pretty sure he gave me a little bonus on top of it. Along with a good reference and the work portfolio I’ve put together, I suppose it’s better than I could have hoped for. I’ve known it was coming for a while now, and had been scrambling to jump ship well in advance. But being a year from forty with no college education and no specialty skill set tends to keep my resume low in the stack, and as they say, the rest is history.

All things considered, things could be a whole lot worse, up to and including my handling of the situation. This is the sixth job I’ve either been fired or laid off from in the last five years. It gets harder and harder to bounce back from that every time. But over the last couple of years, I’ve done more to prepare myself for the sad inevitability of events like this than I have in literal decades. I’ve got nearly two years of therapy under my belt, and I’ve finally started taking the right medications that allow me to get my head on straight and keep it that way.

I’ve also got a great support system in the form of several lovely people that have come into my life over the last year or so, like my girlfriend, who is my much champion as I am hers; my lovely roommates, with whom I’ve started to form quite the happy little dysfunctional family; and of course, my parents, whom I’m finally beginning to realize that I’m never going to stop needing as long as I live. They are my everything, warts and all, and I wouldn’t trade either of them for the world.

Obviously, it’s too soon to tell how all of this will play out. It’s time for me to batten down my hatches as well, and take things one day at a time. The silver lining in all this is that I suddenly have a lot more free time with which to rev up production on the podcast, and hopefully get it out sooner than anticipated. It also means that if you were ever thinking about supporting Pink Elephants, now would be a very, very good time.

Storms like these always come. I’m just glad that this time, I have somewhere to go.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION

Governor Jerry Brown of California. (PHOTO: ABC News)
With all the extinction-level fuckery taking place on Capitol Hill at the moment, it can be difficult to remember at times that America’s 45th Official Political Goat Rodeo, as captivatingly horrible as it might be, is not the only news worth paying attention to at the moment. Nor are other newsworthy political happenings so uniformly awful as what is transpiring at the federal level.

For example: California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent signing of what’s known as “ban-the-box” legislation, which will prevent employers from requiring applicants to admit to prior criminal convictions on their initial employment application. Given that an estimated one in three adults in the state have some form of arrest or conviction record, and are – as per usual – low-level, disproportionately black and Latino ex-offenders, this is a big step in not only reducing recidivism, but in reversing discrimination more broadly against ex-cons and people of color.
“[This bill] will eliminate barriers to employment, reduce recidivism and give people with conviction histories an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to become productive, contributing members of our society." – Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, lead author of the “ban-the-box” bill
This isn’t the first step that California has taken towards expanding opportunity for the states ex-cons; this current “ban-the-box” bill is building off the success of 2013’s AB 218, which applied the same rules to government employers. Los Angeles also passed its own version of the legislation for private employers, which took effect in January. All three laws state that employers cannot conduct any sort of background checks on prospective employees until after they’ve been extended a job offer, which offers them greater protections under America’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines.

According to the EEOC, employers can be found in violation of anti-discrimination laws if it can be determined that “screening people based on criminal records is having disproportionate impact on people of color,” according to Beth Avery of the National Employment Law Project. Additionally, those who feel they’ve faced discrimination as the result of an employment background check can file a complaint with California’s fair employment agency, which they would not be able to do if denied a job based on their initial application.

“There are people who are struggling with old convictions not related to the job, but who are still being denied employment,” according to Avery. “The problem is applicants are being denied at step one of the process. They have no chance to point out, ‘Hey, this is what happened.’ Employers just see that box checked.”

The desire to remake one’s self in light of past hardships and mistakes is as fundamentally human as any other. To deny people their right to do so is to deny them the right of life, liberty, and most especially, the pursuit of happiness. California’s bold step in allowing its ex-cons the “right to be forgotten” by a society that views them as irredeemable upholds their ability to make that pursuit in a way that would make our nation’s founders proud.

Monday, October 16, 2017

GLASS HOUSES

A lot of you may not be old enough to remember when Joe Biden left Anita Hill in the lurch when she reached out to him for guidance during her testimony against SCOTUS nominee Clarence Thomas, but I do.

As much as I appreciate him speaking out against Harvey Weinstein now that the latter’s officially been hung out to dry, there was a time where his silence as a rising star in the Democratic Party could also be construed as complicity.

The only his stone-throwing hasn’t broken the walls of his glass house yet is due only to the fact that they’ve been frosted by a collectively foggy memory.

HANGING GAYS? THAT'S JUST "LOCKER ROOM TALK"

Oh, to be a fly on the wall of this administration…

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer just released a profile on Vice President* Mike “I Call My Wife Mother” Pence, which is about as unsurprisingly disturbing as you might expect. I won’t horrify you with too many details; if you’re in the mood for a proper TL;DR hate read, that link is your for the clicking. But I’d like to direct your attention to a particular paragraph near the end of the piece that is particularly illuminating for a number of disturbing reasons:
“Trump thinks Pence is great,” Bannon told me. But, according to a longtime associate, Trump also likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”
Honestly, you can skip the rest of the profile; this is the important part. Obviously the critical takeaway is an incredibly revealing glimpse into the depths of Pence’s anti-LGBTQ fanaticism by way of Trump’s typically boorish remarks. Regardless of how seriously a comment like Pence wanting to “hang them all” should be taken, there’s no denying that the nation’s top theocrat has had a hair up his ass (among other things, perhaps? #justsaying) for the Rainbow Coalition for a long time now.

"Who has two thumbs and a hard-on for
gays...er, gay-bashing? This guy!"
Among the more notorious efforts of his Indiana gubernatorial run was 2015’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state. The backlash against the bill was massive, forcing even his own supporters in the legislature against him and nearly tanking his political career. Mayer writes that according to hate-wing radio host Steve Deace, Pence “had no chance at national office after that, other than getting on the Trump ticket.” Lucky for him, that particular gravy train pulled into the station not long after.

But there’s another aspect of this that I’d like to direct your attention to, which is what the president*’s remarks reveal not about Pence, but about himself and his relationship with the glassy-eyed zealots that have set aside everything holy in their support for him. Not that this is terribly surprising to hear, but the only chance of reaffirming that Trump is not in fact the Second Coming Of Moses is to repeat observations like these as often and as loudly as possible.

For example: Trump riding Pence for having “wasted all this time and energy” on overturning Roe V. Wade makes it crystal clear that Donald Trump could give a shit about challenging abortion rights, which is the one issue above any others that Pence built his career on. Over the years, he’s backed so-called “personhood” legislation banning all abortions, including in the case of rape and or incest; he sponsored an ACA amendment to allow government-funded hospitals to deny abortion coverage’ he even once signed a bill that barred women from abortion fetuses with developmental disabilities. As if that isn’t heinous enough, the bill also required that all aborted fetuses be either buried or cremated, at the mother’s expense. It’s since been ruled constitutional, but…yeesh.

With everyone now taking bets on how long until he’s discovered stumbling through the West Wing talking to potted plants about what a cuck Grover Norquist is, a whole lot of eyes are nervously eyeing Pence’s potential succession with increasing seriousness. As the Martin to Trump’s Lewis, he’s done a great job of making himself appear, well…sane for starters, along with eminently reasonable by contrast. But make no mistake: the nation’s top theocrat has had his eyes on the POTUS prize for a very long time, and while he might feel constrained enough by the office to not behave like an adolescent baboon once installed, he’s also savvy enough and savage enough to work the levers of executive power in ways that Trump could never dream of. And the way will be more than clear enough for him to do so, if out of nothing other than sheer gratitude that ding, dong, that big orange bitch is dead.

MEDIA BROWN-OUT

L to R: Jorge Ramos (Univision), the president*, Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL). (PHOTO: Media Matters)
It’s a well-known fact that despite Donald Trump’s numerous declarations that the mainstream press are “the enemy of the American People,” not only would he not be president* were it not for their largely unblemished coverage, he would be nothing without them, period. (Let’s not forget CNN’s long, loving shots of empty podiums at Trump’s rallies while the commentariat blathered endlessly about Hillary’s e-mails, shall we?) He is a media parasite, who has learned to adopt “controversial” stances to generate the heat that drives mainstream media narratives, regardless of the cost or the consequences. In pursuit of this charade, he’s even now gone so far as threaten using the power of the FCC to revoke the licenses of networks who say things about him that he doesn’t like.

Now, this threat may more or less be toothless, but that doesn’t mean the public shouldn’t be concerned. However, what’s more concerning is what the president* and his Congressional goon squad are able to do in order to shut down and/or restrict negative press coverage surrounding his administration, and nowhere is that better evidenced than in today’s domestic Hispanic media.

From the moment Donald Trump announced his 2016 presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” (a move that to this day still baffles the mind for its sheer arrogance alone), he’s ground his axe the sharpest against Hispanic journalists, and the Republican party has not hesitated to follow suit. From the leadership on down, the attacks have been sustained, intense, and largely ignored by mainstream media outlets that are otherwise so “unfair” to him.

Trump’s rhetoric has inspired a horde of imitators among the electorate who, not bound by the what remains of media protocol, have unleashed all manner of hateful rhetoric against journalists like Henry Gomez, a senior political writer for Cleveland.com. In September last year, Gomez wrote an article describing the influx of hate mail that had poured in from hundreds, if not thousands of angry bigots for his critical coverage of Trump during the election, a broad swath of what he called “Donald Trump’s greatest hits.” When his article was released, he made the rounds through nearly every mainstream media outlet except for one: Fox News. Whatever the chatter on the crotch couch was that day, I’m not certain. But odds are good that it wasn’t especially simpatico with the plight of brown-skinned journalists and the liberals who love them.

The most notorious of Trump’s battles with Latin journalists would have to be his feud with Univision’s Jorge Ramos, widely thought of as the Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media. Ramos began using his platform to roundly criticize Trump from the moment his campaign began, to the point where Trump had Ramos ejected for a press conference shortly thereafter for refusing to suck up the man’s mouth farts like the rest of the Good Germans in the room. Trump proceeded to categorically deny Ramos any interviews despite being Latin America’s preeminent newsman, and in fact went on to blacklist nearly every Hispanic media outlet for the remainder of campaign, only doing two interviews with Spanish-language networks after the incident. The rest of the conservative movement, eager to prove that they, too wouldn’t take no shit from no Mex-i-cans, proceeded to pile on Ramos left, right, and center, culminating in a failed Media Research Center campaign to force his resignation.

Trump wasn’t alone in his Hispanic media blackout, either. Back in March, a top anchor at Univision named Enrique Acevedo told Tiger Beat On The Potomac (thanks, Charlie!) that “it’s harder to get access to Republicans than it is to get access to Democrats” nowadays, noting that it’s “happened more since the inauguration.”

Sure enough, he’s not wrong. Media Matters did a review of appearances by Republican officials on Univision and Telemundo during Hispanic Heritage Month in both 2014 and 2017 which demonstrated that, while an equal number of Republican officials and elected Democratic officials appeared on their Sunday chat shows in 2014, that number was down by 60% for Republicans. As the official marketing firm for American white supremacy, the Republican party has had zero interest in reaching out to people who don’t look, act, think or fuck like them, period. And wow that they’ve managed to use their propaganda arm to gain control both houses of the presidency and legislature and the judiciary and the electoral college, they have even less incentive to do so.

The saddest part of all this is how easy it would be for mainstream media outlets to offer greater support and solidarity to their colleagues in Hispanic media. Not only would they certainly be grateful for the support, but coordinated coverage between both parties could easily turn Trump into burnt orange tomato paste. Of course, that would require a fundamental shift in the goal mainstream press away from providing for-profit cover fire for crooked conservatives to something along the lines of honest reporting. And frankly, there’s just no money to be made in that.