Sunday, September 29, 2019

I’ll be there in ten

I spent the afternoon today at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I concentrated on the special exhibits. The important one (to me) is paintings in the Impressionism style collected by (I think) the guy who owns the Buffalo Bills. It is a beautiful and modest collection. The show includes paintings by Manet, Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin and a few artists I hadn’t heard of.

Next was a series of shrines for the Day of the Dead, the South American holiday (see Disney’s *Coco* for an example). Some displays honored a particular person. A few honored groups, such as refugees who died in the Arizona desert and the 49 people who disappeared from a southern Mexican town.

The photo gallery had a film over two hours long showing images of the people of Detroit. I watched maybe ten minutes of it.

I finished off the day at the Detroit Film Theater and a showing of Give Me Liberty. Vic drives a van to offer mobility to disabled people of Milwaukee. He receives instructions from a dispatcher to pick up a certain person and take them to a particular place. It seems Vic is a bit too involved with his customers and too tenderhearted for the things that happen to them along the way. He’s frequently telling the dispatcher, “I’ll be there in ten.” For example, he reluctantly agrees to take his Russian grandfather and his circle of immigrant friends to the funeral of one of their members. It doesn’t go well. And the actual customer has to go along for the careening ride.

The movie is billed as a comedy, which is why I saw it, though it’s too deadpan for my tastes. I checked my watch several times.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Delighted to claim the kill

Over the last couple weeks the news has circled around a whistleblower, whose report has pushed the Democrats into starting an impeachment inquiry of the nasty guy. That whistleblower, because of the Whistleblower Protection Act, has not been named.

Not surprisingly, the nasty guy has called him a spy and essentially called for that person to be killed. The New York Times gave an unethical and unconscionable big assist by suggesting which group in the intelligence community the person is likely from.

With the impeachment inquiry announcement a lot of nasty guy supporters are in a rage that their Dear Leader might be toppled. A lot of these people also have guns.

Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos staff explains:
Now these mass murder fans believe it’s their time to stand up for history because “your president has asked for your help.” And their efforts are being driven to a fever pitch by a reported “reward” of $50,000 offered by pro-Trump activists behind previous smear campaigns.
A lot of nasty guy followers would be delighted to claim the kill.

Which means there is now an extensive hunt by doing such things as combing White House employee lists. And that means a lot more people than just the whistleblower are in danger. Those people who are in a rage may, when they discover a name, may not pause to figure out if they have the right name. And they may not care if their bullets are not confined to their target.

So a lot of progressives are contacting Congress to make sure protection of the whistleblower is included in their inquiry.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The greenest of lights

I was at the annual gala to raise money for the Ruth Ellis Center, where I volunteer. I’ll try to remember next year not to bother with most of the time for the “strolling dinner” – what I ate was good, though most high brow food doesn’t interest me and the milling crowds are a bit much.

But I’m glad I was there for the uplifting program. The Center was created 20 years ago (and I’ve been a volunteer there for 11) and over that time has greatly expanded its services to LGBTQ youth in need. Several awards were given. One to the Detroit soccer club for making their playing venue a welcome space and for creating a fundraising system – a donation for every goal. An award to Shea Diamond for being fabulous as a transgender woman after a traumatic life which included serving 10 years in a men’s prison and its constant harassment. To Shangela for working at being a drag queen able to get acting roles in movies and TV. And to Wanda Sykes, who told us her coming out story. She came out at 40 and communication with her parents stopped. She is well aware that she was able to “have a good cry beside my heated swimming pool.” She supports the Ruth Ellis Center because she knows that many of the youth, when they come out, end up with nothing.

I think Garry Kasparov tweeted this just before the whole impeachment inquiry became a real thing. He explains why impeachment and removal is necessary.
This is what every autocrat does, as I’ve written about Putin for years. Transgress, look around at the reaction, and if it’s safe, transgress again—bigger, more, worse each time. ... Trump does the same, and the weak response from his rivals only encourages further abuses. If they really cared, he thinks, they would stop him. And he's right.
Kasparov adds that expressions of concern are “the greenest of lights” because to the autocrat all that talk is meaningless. If his opponents were truly concerned they would do something.

Sarah Christopherson gives an example of what Kasparov wrote:
It's hardly a coincidence that his Ukraine call happened the day after he thought the Mueller report was truly dead.

So on to reactions to how that impeachment inquiry is proceeding.

Kyle Cheney, a Congress reporter for Politico, reports that Democrats are looking for an expedited process of focusing only on the Ukraine affair which could see a vote by the end of the year. That appears to be the one issue that unites their caucus.

Responses to Cheney’s tweet name many other offenses by the nasty guy that are impeachable.

TBashII notes a source that says there will be few, if any hearings. He responds:
um........."few, if any hearings" is the worst idea imaginable
Jeffrey Burr expands:
All they *have* is hearings. That is the only point.

Republicans in the Senate will never convict. So what's the point of impeaching if you don't have public hearings? Hearings educate the public and counter the GOP/Trump spin.
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted:
You spend 2.5 years defending the most corrupt President in history, normalizing egregious breaches of norms, viciously attacking anyone who sounds the alarm—and somehow the guy gets a crazy notion in his head that you'll tolerate anything. I mean where would he get such an idea?
Dave Weigel, political reporter for the Washington Post tweeted:
“Will this fire up Trump’s base” is a good question, but it seems like there are endless issues/fights that are Firing Up Trump’s base. By contrast, the Democrats’ base was watching them fold and whimper and clearly getting sick of it.

At least some people in media are catching on. As the nasty guy was nattering away about how everyone else, especially Joe and Hunter Biden, are the ones who really should be impeached, Nichole Wallace interrupted MSNBC’s broadcast of the nasty guy to say:
We hate to do this, really, but the president isn't telling the truth. These allegations against Joe Biden and Hunter Biden that he has been repeating have been investigated by the Ukrainians. None other than the Wall Street Journal included in their report, on Friday, that the Ukrainians view this issue as having been investigated and adjudicated, and what’s amazing is that what Trump appears to be trying to do is to turn his own impeachment into a big deflection.
Thank you! We need much more of this.

If we’re all busy fighting each other

Ian Reifowitz, part of the Daily Kos community, explains what Elizabeth Warren is doing differently in her campaign speeches. She’s calling out the nasty guy’s race baiting and saying that it hurts blacks and whites.

In a speech centered on corruption Warren, speaking about the nasty guy said:
He tries to divide us, white against black, Christians against Muslim, straight against queer and trans and everyone against immigrants. Because if we’re all busy fighting each other, no one will notice that he and his buddies are stealing more and more of our country’s wealth, and destroying the future for everyone else.
And from a Netroots Nation speech a year ago.
In Trump’s story, the reason working families keep getting the short end of the stick isn’t because of the decisions that he and his pals are making in Washington every day. No, according to Trump, the problem is other working people—people who are Black or brown, people who were born somewhere else, people who don’t worship the same, dress the same, or talk the same as Trump and his buddies.

And it comes in all sorts of flavors: racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia. It comes in all sorts of forms: nasty personal attacks, trolling on Twitter, winking at white supremacists. It all adds up to the same thing: The politics of division. Politics that tries to pit Black working people against white working people so they won’t band together. Politics of division that tells Americans to distrust each other, to fear each other, to hate each other.

Because while we’re busy doing that, Mitch McConnell gets to raid the Treasury and give a trillion bucks to their rich friends, destroy healthcare for millions of families, and wipe out Social Security and Medicare. They want us pointing fingers at each other so we won’t notice their hand is in our pockets.

Well, it stops here. It stops here. It stops now. It stops with this movement and this moment and this election. It is time for us say no! to the politics of division, to say no! To the ugly use of bigotry and fear.

We say, No, you will not divide us! We are here to bring working families together, to demand a government that works for all of us. That’s why we’re here.
Reifowitz summarizes a bit from the book Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America by Ian Haney López:
Warren’s approach—which unmasks Trump’s race-baiting as a direct effort to fool economically vulnerable whites into voting their race rather than their class—will gain the most votes among both those whites and the voters of color who will rightly be skeptical of any progressive who ignores right-wing race-baiting completely. This is different from simply saying “Trump’s a racist and that’s why you shouldn’t vote for him.” Such a message is simply not as effective, either among the group López identifies as “persuadable whites” or among voters of color.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Time to celebrate! Um…

A couple big developments today. Though I normally don’t post on Tuesday nights because of rehearsals, I feel I need to tonight. So I’ll sleep in tomorrow.

Surprising pretty much everyone Moscow Mitch McConnel agreed to a resolution calling for the release of the report from the intelligence whistleblower about what the nasty guy and the Ukraine president talked about recently. McConnell could have blocked the measure and … didn’t. It passed the Senate unanimously.

The other big thing is that Rep. John Lewis, unofficially known as the conscience of the House, declared he is for impeaching the nasty guy. This is an important turning point.

Over the last day or so several other Democratic representatives, and importantly those in purple states, declared they are for impeachment. So this afternoon Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House “is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”

Good! Finally! Let’s do this!

However, some people well versed in what authoritarians do are still quite cautious.

Peter Daou tweeted that Pelosi announced what Jerry Nadler, head of the Intelligence Committee, announced last month. What has really changed?

But Pelosi has now given her approval! shouts the gallery.

Nadine van der Velde asks perhaps Pelosi’s announcement is just to deflect pressure? Nadler says he is wrapping up in December. Then what? It’s a valid concern based on what happened to the Mueller report.

A reply to van der Velde notes that when starting impeachment hearings against Nixon in 1973 Chair Rodino hired a staff of 100, including 44 lawyers. Nadler is using the House General Counsel and his staff of five lawyers. In addition, Pelosi hasn’t funded the inquiry yet.

Wrapping up in December? Elad Nehori tweeted:
Remember that time everyone thought the Mueller report would save us?

Just because the government is doing the bare minimum to hold corruption in check doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate.

This is going to be long, hard work. Impeachment is one step of many in that work.

One more note: Remember, the more under threat Trump gets, the more he ups the ante of his dangerous behavior and policies.

Every step forward will get harder, not easier.

Leah McElrath reminds us that it does no good to rush to a vote, even though it appears Nadler is urging that. What we need is public hearings to lay it all out for the American people. It must be an extended process to give the public time to process the information and to keep the criminals on their heels so they can do less damage.

I’ve seen reports that say the nasty guy will release the whistleblower report. Others predict it will be doctored.

So it is quite possible, perhaps likely, that what the House Democrats are doing is all for show. All flash and no substance.

Kerry Eleveld, of the Daily Kos staff, reminds us “The more trapped Trump feels, the nastier he gets – and he’s getting really nasty.”
Trump will bring a new level of horror to American politics. Watch for it. As he fights for his political survival, Trump will get increasingly wicked and sadistic and vile.

Monday, September 23, 2019

How dare you!

Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish girl who inspired last Saturday’s round the world Climate Strike, spoke before the United Nations Climate Conference today. So, yeah, a 16 year old facing a room full of national leaders (well, maybe their top climate scientists) and she let them have it.
This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures today. Because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.
You can read the full text here, then scroll down into the comments to see a video of her speech. Viewing it is worthwhile to see her anger as she speaks.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

A Russian Mafia dormitory

I’ve referred to podcasts of Gaslit Nation before. It is created by Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa. Before now I haven’t actually listened to an episode. Part of that is because I get enough dire news from Kendzior’s Twitter feed, so have a basic idea of what most episodes are about.

But the description of this one is intriguing – how did the GOP become easy marks for the Russian Mafia? So I listened, taking notes along the way. The guest in this episode is Olga Lautman, of Jewish Russian and Ukrainian descent who works as a freelance researcher and well understands what is going on in Russia, the Russian Mafia, and what Russia is doing in America. The audio for this episode is 56 minutes.

Lautman has been following Russian and Ukraine politics her whole life. In 2015 she noticed that Russian leaders were explicitly favoring the nasty guy to be the next president of the US. They hadn’t done that before.

Lautman knew (as did a lot of NYC) that the nasty guy had dealings with the Italian Mafia. So why was Russia interested? She noticed that over a few decades a lot of residents of nasty guy properties were members of the Russian Mafia or were Russian Oligarchs.

Lautman grew up in Brighton Beach, where a lot of Russians escaping from the Soviet Union settled. It was nicknamed Little Odessa. It was also where many Soviet criminals came when the US changed its Russian immigrant policy in the 1970s. The Soviet Union saw a way to get rid of some of their criminals – and annoy the US. They ended up being mobsters. Some of their early funding was from Soviet KGB agents moving money out of Russia. So ties between the two.

Lautman talks about some of the people who associated with the Russian Mafia, such as Henry Kissinger, whose name, Kendzior notes while studying the current GOP mess, keeps popping up. Kissinger has known Putin for decades, since Putin was Deputy Mayor, and has an apartment near Moscow. Kissinger appears to have been an integral part of the nasty guy transition team, helping the vice nasty guy build the cabinet and making sure people who weren’t in the know (such as Mitt Romney) were excluded.

It seems a lot of people from the Nixon Administration, such as Kissinger, also appeared with the Reagan Administration and are showing up again.

In the 1980s as the Russians were seeing the Italians as competition, Rudy Giuliani was a prosecutor and put a lot of Italian mobsters behind bars. Donating to Giuliani’s campaign are a few Russian mobsters. One of the mobsters is appointed to the NYC business commission when Giuliani becomes mayor.

The nasty guy begins doing business (at least in the beginning legitimate) with these mobsters in the 1970s. A Russian Mafia boss bought five apartments in Trump Tower in 1984.

As the Russian Mafia rose the New York and national investigators still didn’t see them as a threat, in spite of their increasing crimes. So investigators didn’t bother hiring agents who knew Russian and thus couldn’t infiltrate them.

In the mid 1990s William Sessions and others in Washington began warning about the power of the Russians mobsters. But when Sessions was dismissed from the Clinton Administration, he went to work for the head of the mobsters.

In the 90s a leading mobster bragged how many former KGB agents had infiltrated American government agencies. The Mafia recruited workers by first asking them to do small courier jobs. But once a person had done that the Mafia had blackmail power over them. Which implies these people had blackmail power over the nasty guy since the 1980s, though in terms of business prospects the nasty guy was quite willing.

Lautman reviews several more connections between the Mafia and people in the news in the last couple of years, such as Felix Sater, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort. All of them had ties to the Mafia. Trump Tower essentially becomes a Mafia dormitory. Starting in the late 90s nasty guy was obsessed with all things Russian, sometimes even meeting Russian leadership. So why weren’t all these people prosecuted decades ago?

One reason why is at the time the nasty guy was seen as a harmless caricature of the rich buffoon.

The question still stands. The nasty guy and all these people certainly showed up in intelligence reports. Kendzior and Chalupa studied those reports (the parts made public) for what they know of the nasty guy. Some agents are now wondering how Kendzior and Chalupa knew those things when the agents didn’t. Guys … we read your reports. So with all this much incriminating info in public sources why didn’t the intelligence community put it together?

There’s a big difference between the Italian and Russian Mafia. The Russian Mafia is the same as the Russian government and Russian business. If the Russian government needs something done without fingerprints they ask the Mafia to do it. This is a thing Americans don’t understand. The Mafia not only made billions of dollars they also gathered a great deal of intelligence on all the major players.

They want revenge on the West, and the US in particular, for forcing the Soviet (Russian) country into collapse and breakup. They have the mentality of destroying and humiliating the West. They want to reverse our win in the Cold War.

The Mafia has infiltrated pretty close to every government agency. However, their primary target has been the GOP. And the takeover was possible because the GOP is white men who tend to think alike and who are all part of the good old boys club.

One thing that made that takeover easier is the Russian view of the West is the same as the GOP view of liberals.

This podcast mentions that there has been a big change in the GOP – they are no longer interested in governing. They only want power, the ability to make everyone else’s lives miserable. The podcast didn’t mention the timeline. However, I remember there was a big change in the GOP leading up to the 1994 election and Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. So just a few years between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the GOP switching to just wanting power. Hmm.

So, yeah, the entire GOP is compromised by Russia. We’ve long known that the nasty guy is a Putin puppet. Watching Speaker Pelosi and her refusal to impeach makes me and many others wonder if she is also compromised by Russia.

Several months (maybe a couple years) ago Kendzior started using the phrase “This is a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government.” Now I understand why. Signs with this phrase have been appearing around St. Louis (Kendzior’s hometown) recently. An example is here.

Friday, September 20, 2019

If you did your job I’d be in school

Today is Climate Strike Day. I took part in the strike in Detroit. I’ll share pictures below.

One year ago at age 15 Greta Thunberg started skipping school on Fridays to protest global climate change. All by herself she sat at Sweden’s Parliament building. She would talk to anyone who would listen, saying the climate is in crisis and doesn’t understand why so little is being done about it.

Thunberg isn’t alone anymore. She soon inspired students at other schools in other countries to leave school on Fridays to protest. This student-led movement became the Climate Strike. At least two coordinated multi-city protests included over one million students each. Yeah, she’s 16 and has her own Wikipedia page.

Today these students called for a Global Climate Strike. And people responded. There were over 6000 protest sites in over 170 countries in all seven continents (yes, a protest in Antarctica) with at least four million people. Thunberg isn’t alone any more.

I didn’t find an article about the strike on Daily Kos (hopefully one will appear later), so I turned to Twitter and found two wonderful feeds. The first is Thunberg’s own feed, the second is a feed for all the posts using the tag #ClimateStrike. Both of them show huge crowds in lots of places. Here are some of them:

Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska
Laramie, Wyoming
San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Francisco (perhaps 100,000), California
Seattle, Washington
Burlington, Vermont
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Lincoln, Nebraska
Denver, Colorado
Boston, Massachusetts
Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor, Michigan
Madison, Wisconsin
St. Louis, Missouri
Miami, Florida
Portland, Oregon
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Albany, New York
Chicago, Illinois
St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota
Moscow, Idaho
New York City (estimated attendance at a quarter million!)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Calgary, Alberta
Duncan, British Columbia
Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo Brazil
Sayulita, Mexico
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Nariño, Neiva, and Villa de Leyva, Colombia
Santiago, Chile
Lima, Peru
somewhere in Equador
somewhere in Panama
La Paz, Bolivia
Kabul, Afghanistan (where 80% of conflicts are related to the consequences of global warming)
Katmandou, Nepal
New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Adaspur, and Kantapada. India
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Funafuti, Tuvalu
somewhere in Russia
Tel Aviv, Israel
Istanbul, Turkey
Paris, Bordeaux, and Orléans, France
Granada, Spain
Stockholm, Sweden
Reykjavik, Iceland
Nairobi, Kenya
somewhere in Tanzania

I mention these only because they were listed in the Twitter feeds I was browsing. But even that shows how diverse and widespread today’s protests were. I scrolled through a lot of the #ClimateStrike feed, then scrolled through Thunberg’s feed. When I got back to the #ClimateStrike feed it said “1,178 new results.” And after a quick break it had jumped by another 200. So, no, I’m not going to be able to keep up with it.

The protest in Detroit was called for 3:00. I and my handmade sign got to Grand Circus Park at about 2:45 and there were already lots of people there. At about 3:15 there were a few speeches, then we headed out to march with the youth in the lead. We had cop cars beside us to protect us (we didn’t fit on the sidewalk) and to stop traffic at intersections.

I thought, according to the original plan, we were going to loop around Campus Martius and head back to Grand Circus. But there was already an event in Campus Martius (I think a celebration of a Detroit youth choir that came in second place on *America’s Got Talent*).

While we curved around Campus Martius I could look back at our crowd to get a sense of how many there were. And I was not at the front of the march. There were definitely several hundred of us. I don’t know if there were a thousand.

So we went on by, all the way to Hart Plaza by the river. There several youth spoke to us. And that’s where the event ended.

I walked back to Grand Circus and on to my car.

Favorite signs:

I’ll die of old age. My grandchildren will die of climate change.

We are missing our lessons so we can teach you one.

If you did your job I’d be in school.

May the forest be with you.

Daily Kos did post a story this evening. Scrolling through their pictures I can add protests in:

Sydney (a big one) as well as, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Hobart, and Alice Springs, Australia
Jakarta, Indonesia
Hyderabad, India
Glasgow, Scotland
Dublin, Ireland
Hamburg and Berlin, Germany
Brussels, Belgium
Marseille, France
Johannesburg, South Africa
somewhere in Uganda
Greensboro, North Carolina
Charlottesville, Virgina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Houston, Texas

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Silicon Valley and rising oceans

The NPR show Marketplace has an associated show Marketplace Tech. This week they’ve been talking about climate change and Big Tech. Yeah, this is a radio show, but transcripts are provided.

The first episode took a look at whether the big companies would be affected by rising sea waters. Many of them are quite close to San Francisco Bay. Alphabet (Google’s parent) and Facebook are particularly vulnerable. The website has maps to show what happens when the water rises.

So with rising seas a problem in Silicon Valley, why aren’t the big venture capital firms investing in climate tech? Two big reasons.

First, VC companies invested heavily into solar 10 to 15 years ago and lost a lot of money when many solar companies failed.

Second, VC companies are designed to expect a return on investment within 10 years. Climate solutions will likely take longer.

Even so, they are investing in such things as new ways of approaching manufacturing and logistics, and shortening supply chains to save energy in reduced transportation.

Yeah, it is frustrating and annoying to see VC chase the next big computer game with millions of dollars while there are real people suffering from the effects of climate change.

Marketplace Tech’s host Molly Wood spoke to Astro Teller, the head of X, a division of Alphabet that works on moonshots – really far out ideas that might pay off big, or not at all. Teller gets around the office – a former spread out mall – on rollerblades. That’s much more efficient than walking. The division is working on cool climate tech.

Such as buggies that roll through fields to understand individual plants and how they are doing to help farmers adjust to a changing climate.

Such as creating fuel from the carbon dioxide in seawater in so burning it would be carbon neutral. Alas, the product was $15 a gallon. And only wealthy people and the military would consider fuel at that price.

An imaginary conversation with your great-grandchildren

Chris Hayes, a news host on MSNBC, tweeted:
The reason that the House Democrats' efforts have failed to galvanize the public is because the Speaker of the House very clearly does not WANT the public galvanized on impeachment. End of story.
Adam Jentleson, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Harry Reid, responded:
Pelosi repeats the adage about how “you can’t do anything without public opinion” as if it’s wisdom. But when you choose not to lead, that adage just means don’t do anything until the way is already cleared for you.
Can’t do anything without public opinion? Strange thing for her to say …

That never stopped Moscow Mitch, who pushes things through the Senate with 75% and more of the country against what he’s doing.

As Hayes points out Pelosi is doing a great deal to change public opinion away from impeachment.

She’s not the change we voted for. Time to go.

Jen Sorensen draws comics for Daily Kos. A couple days ago her comic proposes some honest questions for the next debate of Democratic presidential candidates. A couple of them:
Grilling you on immigration feeds into the right’s manufactured narrative that there’s a crisis. Instead, please have an imaginary conversation with your great-grandchildren as they are consumed by flames in a climate apocalypse.

So how does it feel to be the last thing standing between all of us and authoritarianism? You won’t let that happen, right?

Today, NPR had a segment discussing various people who say that the Houthis of Yemen couldn’t have blown up that Saudi oil refinery and so it must have been Iran. I’ll let you go find that one. Of more interest (to me) is a thread tweeted by Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut who, in 11 tweets, explains the ongoing war in Yemen. I added a few comments.

Houthis are a Muslim minority who follow a variation of the Muslim faith (similar to Catholics and Presbyterians of the Christian faith). Saudi Arabia formed as a country in 1932 and ever since then have been trying to meddle in Yemen’s affairs to get the Houthis to change to the version of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. Houthis didn’t like that idea and defended themselves, becoming the most battle tested army in Yemen. They did this with help from Iran (which also practices a variation of Islam different from much of the Middle East). Atrocities have been committed by both sides. Concludes Murphy:
Bottom line: the Saudis sowed the seeds of this mess. … Houthis/Iranians have blood on their hands too, but the U.S. should not be a part of this disaster.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The curse of disbelief

You may have noticed that after Shakesville, the feminist blog that was my primary news source, closed up shop a good deal of the material for these blog postings has shifted to Twitter. And yes, it is possible to explore Twitter without being a member (which is why I don’t quote Facebook posts).

I follow three major Twitter feeds, Sara Kendzior, Leah McElrath, and Andrea Chalupa. I’ve frequently quoted Kendzior (see today’s other post) and I’ve probably quoted the other two. All three are solidly progressive and are quite good at explaining what the nasty guy and the GOP are doing (though McEwan of Shakesville was able to go into more depth). And all three link to interesting articles and retweet interesting ideas from others. All that can get me to some unusual ideas out there on the web.

For example, I followed a link to the blog What A Shrink Thinks, a psychotherapist’s journal written by Martha Crawford, LCSW. The particular post, written a couple years ago is titled, All the Cassandras. Crawford uses the Cassandra myth to discuss why women have such a hard time going after their abuser.

I know what a Cassandra is – a person (usually a woman) who tells the truth, who warns of a coming disaster, and is not believed. McEwan frequently referred to herself as a Cassandra. She clearly saw who the nasty guy has always been and sounded the alarm – and got a great deal of pushback for her efforts.

Crawford uses the example of a brush fire a great distance away and the Cassandra understands it is coming her way. We need to leave now. But the rest of the household dismisses her warnings. Then the fire moves closer and the people in the house must attempt a dangerous escape.

Here’s the core of the Cassandra legend: Cassandra refused the sexual advances of the god Apollo. So he cursed her to prophesy the truth and never be believed. Yes, the core is sexual abuse.

And that curse – telling the truth and not being believed – is what nearly all victims of sexual abuse face. Their abuser holds two things over them, the abuse and the disbelief of others. And the biggest agony of that disbelief…
The Curse of Disbelief is damaging in large part because it disrupts the process of meaning making, blocking Cassandra’s ability to use her injury in service of protecting others. It means that Cassandras cannot warn or insulate others who may also be in harms way. Pending disasters, clear and present dangers cannot be averted.

Cassandras are doomed to watch horrors that could have been stopped, unfold. We must watch, speechless, as the harm and the human toll mounts.

Those who do speak up to sound the alarm risk being crushed – depicted as defiled, liars or insane, and may grant their perpetrators even more power and sadistic pleasure. Who can take the risk, of empowering their abuser and harming themselves further while sparing no one else?
So then how do we support the Cassandras among us?
To hold traumatic reality in consciousness requires a social context that affirms and protects the victim and joins victims and witnesses in common alliance. For the individual victim, this social context is created by relationships with friends, lovers and family. For the larger society, the social context is created by political movements that give voice to the disempowered. ~ Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman, M.D.
It is political movements like #MeToo that toppled abusers such as Harvey Weinstein. Let’s use our voices to be the voice of the disempowered.

Control the mechanisms of repercussions

Twitter user Thockman64 tweeted:
Malcom Nance made a comment on the Gaslit Nation podcast that has helped me understand people like Barr, Kavanaugh, the Conways, etal. They don’t care about the opinions of the public, they only care about the approval within their far-right, religious, autocratic tribe.
This fits supremacist thinking. Someone aiming for a high position in the hierarchy doesn’t care about the opinions about those in lower levels of the social ranking. But they very much want the approval of those at the same level as or above them. That boosts their standing.

Twitter user The Resistants replied:
They don’t even care about that. DONORS. That’s the whole ballgame. Keep the money flowing at whatever cost. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for the right price.
I see it a bit differently. It isn’t just the money. It is the power, prestige, and social position that money can provide. And a seat in Congress is pretty prestigious. That plus the approval of the donors, which is a blessing of position.

Olga Lautman tweeted in response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joking about the nasty guy’s corruption:
Have you noticed how Trump/his regime are flaunting their corruption? They aren't bothering to hide it and behaving this way because they can. This is a direct result from failure of conducting normal investigations and using the full extents of the law to hold them accountable.

Trump like the authoritarian and mobster he is will demand more and more outrageous acts from his inner circle to prove their loyalty.

Sarah Kendzior, in discussing new allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and what the reaction means, tweeted:
The GOP plan to remain in power forever. They don't care if damning info comes out so long as they control the mechanisms of repercussions for it. The final step in doing that is controlling the courts. That's why they are rushing the process and being so brazen at the same time.
Yeah, we’re doing something bad. But we are making sure you can’t do anything about it.

In the replies Kendzior is asked why so many GOP House members are declaring they’re not running for reelection. The same thing happened leading up to the 2018 election. The polling about the gerrymandered safety of their seats hasn’t changed. So what is it? Kendzior replied, starting with a phrase she’s been using a lot:
It's a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government. That means GOP candidates have taken very dirty money since groups like the NRA were used to launder it. They also have little autonomy outside total obedience. They have no future unless they're complicit drones.

My guess is a bunch of the GOP reps got in over their heads and are implicated in a broader crime scheme. It's likely more appealing to them to go into lobbying, private industry, or media. If they're cheerleaders on the perimeter, they can pretend this is all normal. (It's not.)

Walter Shaub, former Director of Office of Government Ethics, wonders about the silence in the media and the lack of discussion of reform coming from Democratic candidates at all levels. He mentions an Ebenezer moment. Think Scrooge after the third ghost.
There's a raging ethics crisis burning down the republic, and I don't hear the media pushing the candidates to discuss reform. This shouldn't be a partisan issue, whether the next President is Trump or someone else, anticorruption reform and restoration of values is paramount.
But it seems like the media is making the same mistake it made in 2016 by making ethics a minor issue. Maybe they're afraid it'll look too anti-Trump. But I say give him a chance to convince you he's had his Ebenezer moment. And grill the other candidates about ethics reform too.

What'll they divest?
What will they do to mitigate conflicts with the interests of family members?
What legislation will they support, what regulations?
What will their executive orders say?
What kind of people will they appoint, and what will they do about conflicts of interest?
What personal financial information will they share beyond what the disclosure forms require?
Will they require appointees to disclose when they divest assets they sell or give to family members (or maybe ban such measures altogether), to reduce the risk of sham transactions?
Replies to this thread remind us the Democratic House did pass HR1, which now languishes in Moscow Mitch's graveyard. And Senator Elizabeth Warren, candidate for president, talks about it a lot. She understands what is going on.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Organizing big protests

SOS America is talking about sustained mass demonstrations similar to what we’ve seen in Hong Kong. First, the group’s five demands:

1. Remove the nasty guy along with all those who committed crimes to elect or keep him in office.

2. Secure elections.

3. Protect immigrants and asylum seekers. Close concentration camps. Reform the immigration system.

4. Legislation to protect people from violence and discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. Ensure access to reproductive health care.

5. Legislation to combat climate change.

So they call on every American to attend at least one protest this month.

I hadn’t heard of SOSA before last week. So it is good to read about them from Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer. They really are trying to organize big protests, perhaps in about 10 days.

They’ve already held a couple protests, such as “welcome back” signs at DC airports as Congresscritters return from their August recess. The focus was on lawmakers who haven’t yet decided about impeachment.

Bunch addresses the question: Why now? Why not in early 2017? During the nasty guy’s first two years the emphasis was on getting a Democratic House. That succeeded. But it is obvious, especially after the Mueller Report non-event, that the House isn’t going to do anything without a big push. So let’s start pushing.

Bunch knows America is not Hong Kong. HK is small and easy to turn out millions with a day’s notice. America is big. It could take West Coast people four days to get to a DC protest site.

So get off your sofa and attend a local event.

Not so independent media

Ian Bassin is a former Associate White House Counsel and the founder of Protect Democracy. He tweeted a thread about independent media in Hungary and how it became less independent:

1. Use regulatory powers of the government to investigate and fine media outlets critical of the leader. Use state resources [taxpayer money] to boost media outlets that are friendly.

2. When critical media outlets face financial troubles, which they do because of gov’t interference, loyal investors buy the distressed companies.

3. The gov’t thumb is lifted, the value of the media outlet increases, the loyal investor makes a profit.

4. The loyal owners purge critical journalists and the outlet becomes a regime cheerleader.

5. Other opposition outlets now see a sword of Damocles and begin to self-censor.

6. The dictator consolidates power with radically anti-democracy measures. The cheerleading media overwhelms the public with support of these measures.

The nasty guy has been following step 1 since the day he took office. He appears to be starting step 2. Paul Singer, a major backer of the nasty guy, just bought a big stake in AT&T, parent company to CNN.

I’ve written many times now that there are a lot of media outlets that were cheerleaders for the nasty guy since he announced his candidacy. Already, even before step 2, progressive media has been struggling.

In response to the news that the nasty guy is banning giving shelter to Bahama residents whose homes were destroyed by hurricane Dorian, Elad Nehorai tweeted:
Don’t let yourself become numb to this.

Don’t let them bombard you with inhumanity that you just tune it out.

Don’t give up on the dream of living in a humane world, where people in need are cherished and lifted up rather than turned away.

They want you to give in. Don’t.

A lot of words between "consider" and "impeachment"

We’re in the midst of Palindrome Week! (well, actually 10 days). Write out the date, today is 9-12-19. and the digits are the same forwards and backwards.

This only works with the strange American system of writing dates as month, day, year. While in Europe last month I had to keep in mind that the day came first. So they would get palindrome days on October, November, and December 9th this year.

The House Judiciary Committee voted this morning to approve how to go about holding hearings on impeachment. A few days ago, when the vote was scheduled, it was announced that the committee “will consider procedures on Thursday for future hearings related to its investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to Trump.”

Chuck Wendig responded:
Boy that's a lot of words between "consider" and "impeachment." JFC.

"The House Dems today voted to consider whether or not to consider a gentle Q&A which will in turn seek to inform whether or not to ask the oracle of the forest if she would possibly maybe perhaps whisper the word 'impeachment' into the blowhole of a dolphin or other cetacean. The Dolphin Council will in turn vote to approve a second vote, the porpoise of which -- ha ha just a little cetacean humor there -- would be to determine whether or not it is appropriate to recommend finpeachment -- ha ha there we go again -- for the Mad Orca King."

In response to an article that ICE is seeking a way for its agents to train for “urban combat” Charles Johnson tweeted:
This kind of training would be necessary if they were planning on large scale mass deportations and seizure of property. Because picking up people who overstay their visas usually doesn’t involve “urban combat.”

Look, I’m not saying the Trump administration is preparing to go full-on mass deportation and/or concentration camps for non-whites.

But I’m not laughing it off, either.

There was a special election in North Carolina a couple days ago. The GOP “won” the seat last year, though illegal handling of absentee ballots was quickly revealed and the result voided. The GOP won it this time, 52% to 48%. That means for this red district the Democratic challenger came really close! Or, as Jennifer Cohn, who specializes in election security, tweeted, the GOP cheated again. Keep that in mind when you hear calls to simply vote the nasty guy out of office.

Leading up to the 2016 election there were 600 consecutive days of stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Why hasn’t there been daily stories about election security? This is vastly more important.

The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional research agency, looked at the survival rates of the rich and the poor. Of those Americans who were in their 50s in 1991 how many were alive in 2014? Of the richest 20% more than 75% were still alive. Of the poorest 20% less than 50% were still alive. Poverty affects longevity.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Plausible deniability

Jed Shugerman tweeted about some shady stuff happening in a Georgia Election. In one machine the GOP won every race. In the other six machines in the precinct Dems won every race.

That brought a response from Leah McElrath, who tweeted:
You wouldn’t hack an election by hacking every machine throughout the nation. You’d do so by causing marginal changes in select machines in strategic locations, thereby creating plausible deniability.

To be clear: by “hacking,” I am not even talking about hacking via the internet.

Voting machines are stored w minimal security. Humans are the weakest link.

Depending on machine type, thumb drives or mechanical adjustments could be used to make marginal changes in voter input.

Jennifer Cohn is an attorney and an election security advocate. She wrote about voting machines for Medium and tweeted a short version. This is my summary of her thread:

Two vendors, ES&S and Dominion, account for 80% of voting equipment. Corrupt insiders or foreign hackers could wreak havoc on US elections. Both companies are held by private equity, so we can’t tell who funds and controls them. The known financiers and company officers of both companies are in tight with conservatives.

Cohn explains how voter equipment irregularities in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 gave the presidency to the GOP. There are now lawsuits in Georgia about missing votes from black voters. And Steny Hoyer, House majority leader, co-wrote the voting law in 2002 made sure it didn’t require machines to have a paper trail.

Free and fair elections? Sorry, not in America.

No one will take the smoking gun

Starting with good news of inclusion: Scotland is known for its tartans, patterns in plaid that signify clans and frequently worn for special occasions. They are officially regulated. Laura Morlock, who tweets about religious dress and human rights, wrote that to be inclusive and to honor its Muslim citizens Scotland has an official Muslim tartan.

Morlock says that happened in 2012. It was only when she recently tweeted about it that it became a big story. She explains more in her blog. That post includes a time in history when England tried to restrict the highland dress.

Michael Harriot tweeted a thread of the history of Bahamas and about the island of Abaco, flattened by hurricane Dorian. In the early 19th Century, when Britain abolished the slave trade. The Bahamas became a haven for freed slaves.

That became a problem for American slave traders because Bahama courts said if you dock at our ports your cargo is automatically freed. That situation included a ship that was wrecked on Abaco.

Harriot tells the story in a humorous way. He also reminds us the USA was “one of the last countries in North America” to abolish slavery. (Hold on a minute… There are only three countries in North America and I know Mexico abolished slavery before the USA did – it is why Texas broke away from Mexico. And I just looked up that Britain officially abolished slavery in Canada in 1834 and it was unenforceable long before then, which made the Underground Railroad possible. So we weren’t “one of the last.” Perhaps Harriot meant in all of the Americas?)

There have been recent reports that the nasty guy is showing noticeable mental deterioration – smaller vocabulary, slurred words, hesitancy when speaking. However, Azteclady says be careful reading (white male) political analysts. They want to make the issue about mental health and not about their own actions that made the nasty guy possible.

Christopher Duva tweets a quote from Sarah Kendzior:
Lying in an easily disprovable manner is a method that autocrats use to show that there is no point in speaking truth to power when power is the only truth.

When there is someone as corrupt as the nasty guy there is always talk of a smoking gun, either finding it or looking for it. Kendzior tweeted:
You should be less shocked by the smoking gun than by the fact that the gun is still in POTUS's hand.

It's smoking because he's shooting our country to death.

It's smoking because no one will take the gun.

It's smoking because the people tasked with protecting you reload it.
In response to another tweet, she added:
They don't see the future in a conventional way -- ie, that most people have a future. Pompeo and Pence invoke the rapture; Trump and Bolton want to use nukes; all are aware of climate change but don't seek to stop it. They act like an end-times cult and they want one-party rule.

The nickname Moscow Mitch has caught on. Perhaps another nickname is ready to launch: Putin’s Pelosi. Skydweller tweeted a thread about the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has received donations from a Russian Oligarch – the same one who donated to Moscow Mitch. Of course, there are questions. How does that affects public hearings on the nasty guy and Russian collusion? Is that the reason why Pelosi refuses to hold impeachment hearings? Why are certain candidates prevented from running primary challenges?

We also need a similar name for the nasty guy. We’ve known all along about the Russian collusion. It’s right out in the open as Melisssa McEwan frequently said. Jan Forney tweeted a bit of the reason:
Laurence O’Donnell just said that he has ONE source at Deutsche Bank who said ... the reason DB was willing to lend to a Donald Trump when NO one else would was that... The loan application was CO-SIGNED BY RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS close to Putin Wow! And DB has Tax returns!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

If the system is broken, policy doesn’t matter

A tweet from The Intercept:
Members of Congress who pay their dues and hit their targets are rewarded with better committee assignments in the future, and more favorable treatment of legislation they author, than members who shirk their dues.
That links to an article on The Intercept, with a title about the amount of money the Democratic leadership requires a member to raise to be on certain committees.

Congressman Justin Amash from western Michigan responded to that tweet:
Republicans have a similar operation. It is plainly corrupt to be compelled to raise money and campaign for your party in exchange for official government assignments and benefits.
And responding to Amash Twitter used with the handle dunder mifflin, this is Diane tweeted a thread:
This is something that @AOC has spoken about before as well. Members of Congress who raise tons of $$$ being rewarded with the best committee appointments + them/others spending tons of time dialing for dollars in order to keep/get them. Unacceptable.

One of the most important things in politics to me isn't even policy, but the overall structure of our government and what kind of behavior we allow to go on within it. A fair system where transparency and ethics are upheld and there is little unscrupulous wheeling and dealing.
As @AOC has mentioned when speaking about it previously, she has more time to do her actual *job* because she's not dialing for donors or at back-to-back fundraisers. She doesn't participate in this system, and has zero points.
If the system is broken, the policy that you're proposing doesn't matter. If you're not interested in pushing for and implementing structural reform in this country, then frankly I'm not very interested in anything you have to say.
For those rusty on initials, AOC is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

10,000 gun deaths

Jim Carrey – yeah, that Jim Carrey, the actor – also has a reputation for tweeting out drawings – uh, political cartoons – he creates that illustrate some anti-conservative point. It was only today I saw one of these drawings. The one sent out a couple days ago features a hundred dollar bill partially dipped in red. The text says:
10,000 gun deaths in 2019 and the year is far from over. What Osama bin Laden did to us was terrible but he doesn’t hold a candle to Mitch McConnell.
Once you’ve seen that one click on the “X” in the upper right to get to his Twitter feed and see what he’s been doing over the last few months. It is good to see he’s very much on our side.

Heavily gerrymandered North Carolina was allowed to keep its district maps by the US Supremes. However, a state court said not so fast. A three-judge panel is requiring the maps for state House and state Senate be redrawn for the 2020 elections. The argument is based on the state constitution and says the current maps violate the rights of Democratic voters.

And because the ruling is based on the state constitution it can’t be appealed to the US Supremes. It can be appealed to the state Supremes. But since that body is 6-1 Democrats (big gains in the 2016 & 2018 elections) the GOP has decided not to appeal. Their stranglehold on the NC state government will likely end next year.

The Mindset List used to be put out by Beloit College. Now it is being put out by Marist College. The list includes things that have “always” or “never” been true during the lives of this year’s college freshmen. It is to help their professors understand the mindset of the new students. Here’s a few items from this year’s list:

Like Pearl Harbor for their grandparents, and the Kennedy assassination for their parents, 9/11 is an historical event.

The Tech Big Four--Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google -- are to them what the Big Three automakers were to their grandparents.

They are as non-judgmental about sexual orientation as their parents were about smoking pot.

They have witnessed two African-American Secretaries of State, the election of a black President, Disney’s first black Princess, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Only two-thirds of this generation identify as exclusively heterosexual.

Blackboards have never been dumb.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Aboriginal science fiction

Books I read during my travels…

I was almost done with this first book and didn’t want it to sit for three weeks. So I finished it on the plane to Germany. The book is Roast Beef, Medium, by Edna Ferber. I’m pretty sure it was written before WWI, though I don’t have a date. The book is about Emma McChesney, a traveling salesperson. So, yeah, she travels by train for several months a year visiting stores in cities and towns across the Midwest convincing the owners to stock her wares. She’s pretty good at it too. She’s also pretty good at demanding that she be treated with dignity. It was a short and delightful read.

First the title. A traveling salesperson must deal with hotel and restaurant food. All those various dishes may look delicious, but they won’t agree with one’s digestion. Better stick to something safe, the roast beef, cooked medium.

And an excerpt. She has just checked into a hotel and the clerk has given instructions to the bellhop to take her to room nineteen. She follows, then…
“Wait a minute, boy,” she said, pleasantly enough, and walked back to the desk. She eyed the clerk, a half-smile on her lips, one arm, in it neat tailored sleeve, resting on the marble, while her right forefinger, trimly gloved, tapped an imperative little tattoo. …

“You’ve made a mistake, haven’t you?” she inquired.

“Mistake?” repeated the clerk, removing his eyes from their loving contemplation of his right thumb-nail. “Guess not.”

“Oh, think it over,” drawled Emma McChesney. “I’ve never seen nineteen, but I can describe it with both eyes shut, and one hand behind me. It’s an inside room, isn’t it, over the kitchen, and just next to the water butt, where maids come to draw water for their scrubbing at 5 A.M.? And the boiler room gets in the best bumps for nineteen, and the patent ventilators work just next door, and there’s a pet rat that makes his headquarters in the wall between eighteen and nineteen, and the housekeeper whose room is across the hall is afflicted with a bronchial cough, nights. I’m wise to the brand of welcome you fellows hand out to us women on the road. This is new territory for me – my first trip West. Think it over. Don’t – er – say, sixty-five strike you as being nearer my size?”

The clerk stared at Emma McChesney, and Emma McChesney coolly stared back at the clerk.

“Our aim,” began he, loftily, “is to make our guests as comfortable as possible on all occasions. But the last lady drummer who –“

“That’s all right,” interrupted Emma McChesney, “but I’m not the kinds that steals the towels, and I don’t carry an electric iron with me, either. Also, I don’t get chummy with the housekeeper and the dining-room girls half an hour after I move in. Most women drummers live up to their reputations, but some of us are living ‘em down. I’m for revision downward. You haven’t got my number, that’s all.”

A slow gleam of unwilling admiration illuminated the clerk’s chill eye. He turned and extracted another key with its jangling metal tag, from one of the many pigeonholes behind him.

“You win,” he said. He leaned over the desk and lowered his voice discreetly. “Say, girlie, go on into the cafe and have a drink on me.”

“Wrong again,” answered Emma McChesney. “Never use it. Bad for the complexion. Thanks just the same. Nice little hotel you’ve got here.”
She sees that room sixty-five isn’t in very good shape and hates to think what nineteen must look like.

Next in my reading was An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield. He got into the Canadian Space Agency, which assigned him to NASA. He had at least one shuttle flight, then spent six months on the International Space Station. There he became famous for his videos of what life in zero gravity is like. I saw the one about what happens when one squeezes a sponge full of water.

It was an enjoyable book, though perhaps I read it too soon after reading Scott Kelly’s book about a year on ISS and the book about the Apollo 8 mission.

As for his advice for life on earth… Many of us are familiar with the Power of Positive Thinking. Hadfield espouses the Power of Negative Thinking. It isn’t about being a pessimist. It is about thinking about the bad things that might happen and training so much that if those bad things ever did happen the response would be straightforward and without panic.

When I was in Australia a year ago I bought The Swan Book by Alexis Wright because the bookstore clerk said it was “Aboriginal science fiction.” Yeah, that alone was intriguing enough to buy it.

It has a science fiction setting – global warming has progressed enough that the world is awash in refugees. But the story seems more about fantasy or Aboriginal Dreamtime (not that I really know what that is). What it’s really about is white control of Aboriginal lives and how bizarre and silly that looks to Aboriginals.

There are a lot of references to swans, enough so that I figured they provided some symbolism. Alas, I didn’t figure out what that symbolism was. I really had to pay attention while reading this one.

On the flight home I started reading Work Song by Ivan Doig. I think this is the fourth book by Doig that I’ve read and I’ve enjoyed all of them.

I had met Morrie Morgan in a previous book, The Whistling Season. In that book Morgan was a teacher in a one-room school in rural Montana. I bought this book simply because it was about Morgan. The story is set ten years later in the mining town of Butte, Montana. Morgan gets a job in the local library and from there can watch the big Anaconda Mining Corporation try to squeeze its workers and the workers fight back.

Go ahead and make your case

Now for some good news. James Reardon Jr attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 that went violent. US Attorney Justin Herdman has announced federal charges have been filed against Reardon, who was arrested a few weeks ago.

After Herdman announced the charges he had a few things to say directly to white nationalists. And it is a pleasure to hear those words, especially from someone appointed by the nasty guy. Some excerpts:
The Constitution protects your right to speak, your right to think, and your right to believe. If you want to waste the blessings of liberty by going down a path of hatred and failed ideologies, that is your choice.
Democracy allows you to test those ideas in the public forum. If you want to submit your beliefs to the American people and get their reaction, please be my guest. Keep this in mind, though. Thousands and thousands of young Americans already voted with their lives to ensure that this same message of intolerance, death, and destruction would not prevail - you can count their ballots by visiting any American cemetery in North Africa, Italy, France, or Belgium and tallying the white headstones. You can also recite the many names of civil rights advocates who bled and died in opposing supporters of those same ideologies of hatred. Their voices may be distant, but they can still be heard.
Go ahead and make your case for Nazism, a white nation, and racial superiority. The Constitution may give you a voice, but it doesn’t guarantee you a receptive audience.

Your right to free speech does not automatically mean that people will agree with you. In fact, you have an absolute God-given and inalienable right to be on the losing end of this argument.
What you don’t have, though, is the right to take out your frustration at failure in the political arena by resorting to violence. You don’t have any right to threaten the lives and well-being of our neighbors. They have an absolute God-given and inalienable right to live peacefully, to worship as they please, to be free from fear that they might become a target simply because of the color of their skin, the country of their birth, or the form of their prayer.

Damage over a lifetime

While I was traveling in August I intentionally paid no attention to the news. So I hadn’t heard that David Koch had died. Some people are reluctant to speak ill of the dead. Mark Anderson of Daily Kos has no such problem. He describes the damage David Koch and his brother Charles did over a lifetime.

When Koch died he was worth about $51 billion. Already that tells me he exploited people. Anderson explains more. Throughout his life Koch gave large sums of money to make sure the gushers of money from his oil companies continued. He also gave large sums to advance conservative causes, such as Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party. Because of his big political donations he had the GOP so desperate to please him they would do all they could to enact his goals. His war on climate science has brought the world to the brink of disaster. He was the money and influence behind why the GOP stopped governing and turned to be interested in only power. His influence brought us the nasty guy.

Given the amount of damage David Koch has done in his lifetime it is not tasteless to point out how evil he was. Anderson wrote:
He will not be here for the climatic disaster he has wrought upon the world. My child will, though.

He would rather die

Give a man somebody to look down on and he’ll empty his pockets for you. Maybe even die for you.

The first is a paraphrase of a sentence attributed to President Lyndon Johnson. The second will make sense below.

I had written that during my August travels and debates with Niece she said we should listen to what conservative voters are saying and understand their values. Author Jonathan Metzl has done that and written the book, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland. Ian Reifowitz reviewed the book for Daily Kos and I’m quoting Reifowitz below.

One of the people Metzl talked to was Trevor, a 41 year old white man in Tennessee. At the time Trevor was dying of liver disease. His state had rejected Medicaid expansion. If Medicaid had been available it might have saved Trevor’s life.
But Trevor wouldn’t have accepted it. He “would rather die” than “support Obamacare or sign up for it.” Why? “We don’t need any more government in our lives,” Trevor answered, before fleshing out his response and fully revealing his thinking: “And in any case, no way I want my tax dollars paying for Mexicans or welfare queens.” And there you have the argument of this book in a nutshell. As the author, a physician with a Ph.D. in American Studies who currently serves as the Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, puts it, “Trevor voiced a literal willingness to die for his place in [the racial] hierarchy, rather than participate in a system that might put him on the same plane as immigrants or racial minorities.”
Such is the strength of supremacy.

Now note the dynamic here. The GOP has stoked racism so that people like Trevor will vote for them. Then the GOP enacts policies that make Trevor’s life worse or, in this case, end it. All the GOP cares about Trevor is his vote. They are working on their own supremacy goals of showing they are better than Trevor.

Metzl shows how GOP policies in three states – Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee – “gave certain white populations the sensation of winning, particularly by upending the gains of minorities and liberals.” But those “victories came at a steep cost” – cuts to health care, gutting of infrastructure and education, allowing greater environmental damage, and enacting pro-gun-rights policies. Reifowitz (or maybe Metzl) don’t mention other damaging GOP goals – union busting, privatizing services, and encouraging predatory capitalism, among many others.

Yes, these GOP policies significantly affected minorities. The policies also significantly affected lower- and middle-class whites. They’re dying of whiteness. Metzl acknowledges how devastating racism is for people of color and that white people do have advantages in a society structured around racism.

I add that it is the desire maintain those advantages – proof that white lives are better and they’re higher on the social hierarchy – that allow the GOP to oppress – and indirectly kill – middle-class whites.

Reifowitz wrote:
Above all, Metzl has made it impossible for anyone who reads his book to deny that the public policies supported by white conservatives—which are thoroughly suffused with racial resentment and a desire to maintain white supremacy—cause direct harm to all but the most well-off whites. Whether that information helps change large numbers of minds about either the wisdom of their beliefs about white supremacy or their voting habits remains an open question.

Even the GOP can take it too far. In 2018 Kansas elected Laura Kelly, a Democrat, for governor in specific rejection of the policies of her GOP predecessor Sam Brownback. Perhaps a bit of hope.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

How each level treats the other levels

Last Friday I wrote about a visit to the Star Trek exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum. I included this:
I’ve talked about a society without supremacy, without a social hierarchy. I saw such a society in what Roddenberry portrayed on the screen.
My sister responded with an important objection. I’ll paraphrase: These starships were run by Star Fleet, the military of the time. Of course, there is a hierarchy. That military chain of command probably carries over into a social hierarchy as well. Even a benevolent society still has a person in charge.

I’ll add to Sister’s objection: A military is inherently about supremacy. It is more than a hierarchy of people, a chain of command. Most of what a military does is project supremacy. One country attacks another, a supremacist move. Yeah, I know a military is necessary for defense. However, in my opinion the last time the US military was justified in its defensive operations was WWII (please, let’s not debate that).

Thanks, sis, for your objection. It is something that needs clarification.

Societies need leaders, someone in charge. On a spaceship the top leader is the captain. There is likely an admiral and generals with varying numbers of stars above the captain. In the US government this is the president. The question is: How does that person lead?

Sister gets to the idea here:
Ranking seems to be inevitable, but how each level treats the other levels is the real distinction in different societies. In the Star Trek world there is more respect than on Planet Earth. Here if all are respectful and grateful for those over or under then, then harmony would exist. Therein lies the problem, humans seem to have a real difficulty with respect to others not the same as themselves. Whether that difference is noticeable like skin color or physical statue (taller ungrateful of the smaller) or not so obvious; wealth or education, there are those who will point out the difference and "pull rank" because of it.

Is the leader in the leadership position because he or she has proven leadership skills? In the military that’s usually the case. Is the leader working for the benefit of the community? Or is the leader in that position because he or she took it by subterfuge or force and is using it to enforce ranking, to oppress part of the population? Under subterfuge I would include inciting hate towards a minority.

In Star Trek there is certainly a hierarchy of personnel. But the captain and senior officers have a mission of exploration, defense, and diplomacy instead of enforcing supremacy. All of Star Fleet has that as its mission. In addition, within the starship the society ignores the markers of hierarchy, it ignores race and gender (though it took a while to get the woman captain and black station commander) and also, in the last movie, sexual orientation (though one had to hunt for it).

Sister concludes:
You are creating an ideal goal, which is necessary in pointing people in the direction of mutual benefit. But there will always be those who don't get the message somehow and mess things up for the rest of us.

Keep dreaming the goal can be obtained and be happy of any progress made.
Thank you.