Morning in America

The White House at night, with the lights turned off.

After a dark, dark night.

I woke up this morning, following strange dreams where the roads were flooded and I wound up in some kind of speak easy. The clock said 4AM and I knew there was no point in trying to go back to sleep. I walked outside to meditate and the sky was clear, the stars bright in the sky. In the distance, I could hear someone on a crotch rocket, barreling down the avenue half a mile away. I’m slowly waking up, and the sun is starting to creep up over the treeline to the east.

The tranquility of the house seems false, like an illusion. The news and images of the outside world are two much for our brains to handle, just pixels on a screen that are screaming to be consumed, fingers always scrolling, liking, reposting. Different accounts, trying to choose which voice to use, which identity to be as I furiously post. The feeds start to blend together, encroach on each other as the unrest spreads like wildfire and consumes everything else. The chaos has subsumed everything, the brain is in distress, scrolling more, more, more: what is happening.

Missus said she did the same thing during 9/11, just watching the towers fall over and over and over. This time the images are different, protesters corralled and tear gassed, people pulled from cars, eyes lost to “nonleathal” rounds, “serve and obey” now forgotten as the country is engulfed in a police riot. There’s the posturing and strong words, there’s the green light to the militias. And then the photo op, split-screened for the world to see, Dear Leader, announcing Law and Order, walking to a church and posing with a Bible like he’s never seen a book before. And still, admirers, “a power move”, one said.

I want very hard to write about anything else right now, but how can there be anything else? Madness, madness, madness. Our President, so long enamored of dictators and strongmen the world over, has just declared martial law, war on his own citizens, and done it with a photo op that would make Kim Jong Un jealous. Declared a non-existent organization, Antifa, as a terrorist organization, as an excuse to crack down on political opponents. Sitting Congressmen, calling “no quarter” for those who take to the streets. It is all happening so fast, but so slowly.

The condemnation was swift. The outrage, immediate. Nearly as soon as he was done talking, the price of bitcoin shot up some seven percent, a vote to defund the State, as one put it. Pols and pundits expressing disbelief, shock and amazement. No, that’s not fair, many people expected this, knew this would happen the night he won. Still, “this is not the America we have known, this is something dangerous.” The President is mad.

The seven percent spike occurred right after the President stopped talking.

I have told my friends I see no way out of this. There are no leaders able to contain this fire. We are headed to civil war, revolution, or dictatorship. The Reichstag is burning. The Left will be blamed, even as police and alt-right provocateurs are exposed time and time again. We cannot escape this. There is too much technical debt in the system, a reboot in necessary.

I managed to put the phone down at the prescribed hour and made my way to bed, one habit still more powerful than the need to scroll, scroll, scroll. Missus stayed down another half hour while I read, then came back up to tell me that the world was turning their backs on us, pulling out of the G7. Good, or not? We talked about getting passports renewed, and some for the girls. Something on our to-do list for weeks now, but that seems more urgent now. The girls are too young to understand what’s going on, to know what we’re losing. We’ve been careful to keep our phones out of their view when we’re looking at what’s going on, leave the room to listen to anything. There’s no way to explain this to them.

Life goes on, for now. We stick to our routines. Make plans. Enjoy the silence and the stillness of the morning, like nothing has changed. Just the long, slow emergency that is America, burning like the sun that is now rising up over the horizon.

America is on Fire

Justice for George Floyd is Justice for America

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten political on here, but after last night, watching cities across America descend into chaos, I feel I have to say something. There’s so much pain being felt in this country by the African American community, so much despair among those who have lost their jobs in the past few month, and so much anger, that it’s hard to see how we come out of this intact.

Missus and I stayed up late last night, scrolling through our phones, watching cops and protesters confront each other. There was a man who got beat up by a crowd of people and had his car overturned and torched after he shot an arrow into a crowd of people. He lived. There was a shopkeeper who got kicked unconscious by a mob after trying to defend his shop with a sword. I don’t think he lived. NYPD using their vehicles to ram people blocking the streets. Police stations going up in flames across the country. People I know getting tear gassed and pepper sprayed by riot police. And you have a literal dumpster fire burning outside the white house.

It seems a lifetime ago that I was watching protesters in Hong Kong scuffle with police and wondering what it was going to take to get Americans out. Well, now we have our answer. One more black man, murdered by indifferent police officers, and captured on camera. This, on top of weeks of coronavirus lockdown, millions of jobs lost, and decades of lost opportunity, a generation without a purpose. And on top of all this, the President, fanning the flames on Twitter, speaking the language of white supremacy.

At this point I fear that we are headed to either full revolution, or dictatorship. Either would mean civil war, and I don’t see how we escape from that in the next five months before the election. I don’t think Trump wants us to escape from that. This administration has thrived on chaos from day one, and it’s the only way that he maintains his hold on power. He’s been telegraphing support for white nationalists with his words, and demonstrating with his actions that there will be no consequences for military and police who execute it.

Of course the riots and other violent protests have brought out the usual tropes about black people burning down their own neighborhood, and the response of riots being the language of the oppressed and unheard. The one that’s been on my mind lately has been the one from Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” The thing that bothers me the most in these times is that it is so easy for a right-wing instigator to don a black mask and attack someone so that it gets blamed on Antifa or the protesters. I’m hearing chatter about this now, about far-right ‘Boogaboos’, who want to goad America into a race war. Well, mission accomplished. I just wonder what difference it’s going to make to the average citizen.

And making everything even more bizarre is success of Space X’s first manned launch into orbit. It’s the first time since the space shuttle program ended that a manned launch has taken off from American soil. A running joke that I saw on Twitter in various forms was congratulating the astronauts for deciding to leave Earth on this particular day.

I’m a bit numb to all of it right now, this morning. I haven’t looked at my phone since I woke up, and I’m not sure I can go on there right now without getting lost. I’m waiting for a leader that can bring America together, but I don’t think there is one. Trump is only speaking to one segment of the population, his base. And no one really wants to hear anything Joe Biden has to say. Part of me keeps thinking about Bernie, whether we’d be here if he was president or even the nominee right now. It’s useless imagining. And there’s nothing for me to do about it.

I’d managed to stay detached from what’s been going on. I still haven’t watched the video of George Floyd calling for his momma while four cops pin him to the ground, and I don’t think I ever will. But last night, I sat and watched this video of Killer Mike speaking at a news conference in Atlanta, and it brought home how real things are getting out there. I’m hoping that someone like Reverend Barber can help pull us together, cause it definitely isn’t coming from the White House, and I doubt it’s going to come from the Democratic establishment. For now, there’s nothing for my wife and I to do but to stay home and take care of our family and act like nothing outside our door has changed.

Elder has caught me scrolling on my phone the past few days and has caught a glimpse of the images of unrest. I turned off my phone after she an image of George Floyd with a knee on his neck, and she asked me what was going on. “The police murdered a man because he is black,” I told her straight up. I’d decided some time ago not to lie or try to sugar coat things. If I want to raise an adult I’d better start treating her like one.

“They can’t do that,” she said, getting ready to repeat back something she learned in one of her history or civil rights-themed children’s’ books, “black people are equal under the law.”

Bless that kid, I thought. “Yes they are honey, and that’s why people are so mad.”

Political moderation in these times is a vice

So the Democratic primary race is down to Bernie and Biden now. Warren dropped out yesterday and there’s been lots of speculation as to whether she’s going to endorse Sanders. Twitter is a complete mess right now, and I haven’t been on any other social media. I can just imagine how toxic Facebook is at the moment.

The only thing I’m really paying attention to is the delegate race. Biden has a slight lead, but is barely a quarter of the way to securing the nomination. Last I checked, there were still enough undecided delegates in California to give him the lead, so I’m not resigned to Biden as the nominee just yet.

Sam Harris had Scott Galloway on the most recent episode of Making Sense. It was an interesting conversation. I’ve heard Galloway speak in support of his book before, but the conversation took a more political turn toward wealth inequality, what they call “class warfare within the Democratic party, billionaires, and of course, cancel culture. Galloway professes to be progressive, but disdains the Warren/Sanders economic platform.

Galloway has an interesting outlook on life, and I’m not sure I have the words to describe it succinctly. At one point, when Sam asks him whether he should use Facebook for marketing, given their role in destroying our Democracy, Galloway goes on a tirade about how Facebook is the most dangerous company on earth, calls Zuckerberg a sociopath, and then says that Harris should “absolutely” use Facebook’s advertising. He then adds that he’s happy to make money off of their stock, before calling for the government to take anti-trust action against the tech giants. He uses the breakup of Ma Bell, pointing out that after the split, each of the companies created were worth more than the original AT&T.

Galloway is full of these contradictions, and has some fascinating arguments. I’m still having trouble reconciling his acknowledgment of American socialism, namely the California university system that he benefited from, with his rejection of Sander’s policies. The interview, recorded before Bloomberg dropped out, goes into stop and frisk. Galloway talks about his support for Bloomberg, and makes some compelling arguments about why Bloomberg is well positioned to beat Trump in the fall.

During his defense of billionaires, he acknowledges most American’s wealth aspirations, and goes on to make the observation that most moderate American’s “don’t care about what happens in the African American community.” Those are the people that you have to win over to defeat Trump, he says.

I can’t recall ever listening to someone who I both agreed and disagreed with so much at the same time. It seems that Galloway has decided that the world is a certain way, and has taken a brutally pragmatic approach to life. Whether it conflicts with his personal beliefs or not, so be it. Facebook may be destroying to country, but I’ll be dammed if I ain’t going to profit from it in the meantime. He somehow expects the government to step in and do something, all while acknowledging that government has been bought and paid for by these same tech firms. I can decide whether it’s cognitive dissonance or some kind of ingenious rationality.

The conversation is very interesting, and there are couple portions that I’d like to excerpt and share if I have time. I think Galloway’s mindset, or at least his rationale, is prevalent within many political and business elite, and this conversation offers an interesting argument for a moderate candidate to run against Trump in the fall.

That said, I don’t buy into all of his argument, and still support Sanders for the nomination. I think Galloway makes some comments that actually can be used to better frame the case for Sanders. The conversation around means testing Social Security, has some very interesting points.

Galloway ultimately is saying the quiet parts out loud. He isn’t afraid to think out loud, and I think what he’s saying is important for those on the left to hear, and ultimately be able to rebut.

This metaphor of the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic party as a bird bothers me. “You need both wings to fly.” Yes, but does the metaphor really hold up. I don’t think so. The entire moderate position seems predicated on attracting conservatives who are fed up with Trump, people like my dad. They preach “party unity”, but only as a way to solidify their position to the middle. They assume that radical economic policies won’t have traction with voters in red states, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily true. We’ll have to see how the primary plays out to know how that goes. Moderates may have coalesced around Biden, at the moment, but we’ll see how the voters turn out now that the choice is down to the two of them.

I’m going to finish with this clip that I saw this morning, between Simone Sanders and some lady that had the audacity to whitesplain Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It speaks more to why I think moderation within the Democratic party is perhaps more insidious than anything Trump is doing.

Overflow Hell at the Sanders Rally

Bernie Sanders came to town yesterday. As our state is a Super Tuesday one, he held three rallies across it. I was part of the 2016 team and had a great experience when he came by last time, and wanted to help out this time around, so I signed up for a volunteer. My wife got us an overnight babysitter, and we headed out to the event to help with the show.

I was shocked at the sheer number of people who were there to volunteer. I had expected maybe a dozen people, but it was closer to 50. The staff rattled off jobs and picked from those with their hands up, but we were in no hurry to sign up for anything. The temperature had dropped into the forties with a brisk wind, an I had underdressed, with only a sport coat, so there was no way I was working outside. After a second round of walking us around I finally raised my hand to work the overflow room.

In 2016, they had held the rally at a local sports area, and had 3000-3500 at the event, mostly all on the floor. This year’s event was held at the stadium of a local university, that seemed like it had less capacity. I was told that it had room for three thousand on the floor, and staff said they weren’t expecting to need the overflow room. They were wrong.

Volunteering at an event like this is almost like having a backstage pass at a rock concert. And dressing up like I did gave me an air of authority as well. (Being an clean cut white guy helps also…) We were told that “the Senator” would address people in the overflow room, and I figured it would be easier to get close to Bernie in the smaller room than pushing through the crowd in the main room. They had a podium setup, and a projector connected to a laptop. I wanted to make myself useful, so I tried to make sure that we would have access to a live stream in the room. The first problem is that I couldn’t find one. I communicated it to staff, and was told that “someone was going to handle it.”

The overflow room was a secondary gym, just two full size basketball courts, with a capacity of a thousand. They main room began to fill and we were called too our stations; our job was simply to count people coming in to the room. They started sending people our way and that’s when the nature of the job became clear: people were disappointed.

Getting to the event for us had been somewhat of a chore. We go there almost three hours before the start time, and there was already a line of cars to get on the university campus. I checked my map and found a lot that was in the opposite direction of the road to the building we were supposed to go to, and was able to cut ahead so we could park and walk the short distance to where we were supposed to be. We had to walk to the far side of the building, and I was fighting off the chill the for about five minutes. People who were waiting for the event, regular attendees, were outside for an hour or more.

So imagine, you’ve been stuck in traffic, waiting in line for an hour or more, freezing your ass off at 6:30 in the evening, you finally get into the rally to see your favorite presidential candidate, expecting to be among the thousands of like-minded folks, and instead, are stuck in a gymnasium with a few hundred. It must have felt like going to see your favorite arena rock band and getting the local dive bar cover band instead. People were let down.

We had been told that Sanders would speak before the overflow crowd, which seemed to temper some people, but others were straight up indignant. Several men acted like the whole thing was beneath them. Another, and older woman, caught me in the hallway, crying about the situation, asking me why they weren’t told to show up sooner, and that she was unable to stand for long, and it was cold, and so on. All I could do was listen and offer her a chair, but there was nothing I could say to make it okay for her. Looking back, I suppose I could have tried to let her through into the capacity room, but frankly, I was kind of indifferent that she hadn’t anticipated there being a huge crowd at a Sanders rally.

We had told people in the overflow that Sanders would stop in the room, but as the event started we were told that it was starting to look unlikely due to the Senator’s flight plans. By this point, the bands had finished and the warm up speakers had started, and there wasn’t a feed in the main room. Someone had put a livestream up, but the only sound was on the projector cart, which had a pair of desktop computer speakers on it. There was a PA in the room, but the board for it was on the opposite side of the room. People were getting very antsy. I was apparent that whoever’s job it had been to manage the overflow room had failed completely, and I had already brought my concerns to staff several times.

So, I did the only thing I could think of and grabbed the microphone for the room, turned it on, and held it up to the desktop speakers. It sounded like shit, but between that and the close captions on the video feed, people could actually hear the speeches. So I stood there for close to half an hour holding this mic, watching the livestream of the event going on the other side of the room, with 500 or so people who had been relegated to overflow hell.

My view from the bacck of the overflow room.

Eventually, the word from staff on the chances of Sanders coming through the room was not likely, so I handed the mic off to someone else and made my way in to the main room. I found my wife in the back. Caught the last few minutes of the Senator’s speech. He seemed tired. When he was done, I tried to bring my wife back to overflow in case he actually came through, but she wanted to leave. So off we went.

I don’t know if he made it to the overflow room.

More economic and political news

The big news today seems to be a three percent pullback in the stock market due to Coronavirus fears, or the threat of a Sanders presidency, depending on who you ask. I wrote yesterday that Trump’s obsession with a health economy leading up to the election was leading forcing the Fed to inject liquidity into the markets, and that efforts were likely to fail at some point and lead us into a recession. What goes up, as they say… I also noted that the Coronavirus might be a big monkey wrench that throws us into global recession sooner than later. And while I haven’t bought face masks for my family yet, I am thinking about it.

$250,000 BTC?

This interview with Bitcoin bull Tim Draper was really interesting. The first two minutes are slow cause he just keeps repeating that the market’s are “frothy”, but then he gets into talking about bitcoin for several minutes. At one point he repeats his $250,000 price target for 2024, and is asked how much of his net worth is in crypto and he refuses to answer.

His point about the credit card fees versus Bitcoin is well-made also, as well as his arguments about banks in general. He throws out OpenNode as an example. Taking a quick look at it, they charge less than one percent per transaction, and even process the first $10,000 free of charge. They also have plugins for Shopify and WooCommerce. Neat!

Social Democracy vs. Unfettered Capitalism

I’ve been using Basecamp for several months lately, and have been using it with several clients lately. One of the founders, Jason Fried, has been on the Peter Attia pod a couple times since he started and I really appreciated the approach they take to running a business, work-life balance, and success. It really seemed like a breath of fresh air and a really healthy outlook.

A little over a year ago I participated in my first startup competition, and Angel investor Jason Calacanis was one of the keynotes. Afterward I got a bit caught up in the prospects and started listening to his The Week In Startups pod, but quickly burned out on it due to the number of episodes they put out and some general antipathy to the culture in general. So when I saw Fried’s co-founder, David Heinemeier Hasson, was a guest on TWIS, I added it to my feed and listened to it earlier today. I was not expecting what I heard.

Hasson is from Denmark, and the conversation quickly went to discussion about how America can “get to Denmark”, this is, providing citizens with basic services like healthcare and education for free. And Hasson is a pretty strong advocate for social democracy, and a fierce critic of exploitative capitalism, especially gig economy firms like Uber, of which Calacanis is an early-stage investor in. This was a really interesting conversation, and one that I will be sharing quite a bit with people in the run up to the Democratic primary here next week.

President Bernie Sanders

So yesterday was the Nevada caucus, which Bernie Sanders won, solidifying his status as front runner for the Democratic nomination. And the pundit class is losing their shit. Between Chris Matthews’s fears about guillotines in Time Square and James Harville’s recent comments, it’s clear that the masks are off for the Democratic elites.

Sanders is clearly benefiting from Democratic moderates being unable to coalese around a favorite, and are splitting the vote between Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Bloomberg. It’s clear that they clear any kind of real systemic change, and some of them are wondering out loud whether they’d be better off with another four years of Trump than they would a President Sanders.

My take on the political reality in the United States has been influenced by this 2016 post, The Three Party System.

There are three major political forces in contemporary politics in developed countries: tribalism, neoliberalism and leftism. Until recently, the party system involved competition between different versions of neoliberalism. Since the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere, but can no longer command the electoral support needed to marginalise both tribalists and leftists at the same time. So, we are seeing the emergence of a three-party system, which is inherently unstable because of the Condorcet problem and for other reasons.

The Three Party System, by John Quiggan

To be a Sanders supporter at this point in time must feel similar to what Trump supporters felt during the 2016 GOP nomination, although Sanders is well ahead of where Trump was at this point in the process due to the fact that hes been at it for so much longer. Still, it is exciting to watch everyone losing their minds in real time. Obviously, we’re a ways away from Sanders locking the nomination, and there is a lot that the Democratic Party leadership can do to try and screw Sanders over, but we’re looking at a pivitol moment in American history, as a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist is leading the fray.


Elizabeth Warren’s evisceration of Bloomberg at last week’s debate was all anyone talked about for days after. It’s a bit early to tell if Bloomberg is done, but he still has a lot of money left in his war chest. The parallels between Bloomberg and Trump are just too much for me, but on the plus side, nothing has been better for Bernie’s anti-plutocrat message than an actual billionaire trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination.

I’m not sure where I first picked this theory up, but it may be that Bloomberg’s campaign is just a giant money-laundering operation for the eventual (moderate) nominee. My understanding of Federal campaign finance laws may or may not be accurate, but my working theory right now is that Bloomberg will be rolling over his remaining campaign funds to whoever the moderate’s choice turns out to be when he does. My guess is Klobuchar. He rolls over a couple hundred million to her directly, bypassing the $5400 contribution limit and allowing her to use the funds directly instead of going through a super pac.

Biden’s support among African Americans

Sanders has a clear majority of support among Latinos and and most young people, but there is one demographic where Biden is still holding: older African American voters. Much of this is likely due to the connection to Obama. Also, the Cold War connotations of socialism still have much negative influence on older populations. This, combined with Bernie’s reluctance to talk about racial issues in anything other than class terms, has likely hurt his support among this demographic, and is one of the major challenges that needs to be overcome.

Sanders support clear among the youth

There is a clear plurality of support for Sanders among young people, many of whom have higher opinions of Socialism than Capitalism. Given the economic conditions of the past forty years, it’s not hard to see why. This dichotomy between the younger working class and the Boomer elite that has been in charge of the neoliberal power structure for the past decades is the source of much of the friction that we’re seeing today. Also, the younger generations have long recognized the threat of climate change and are willing to enact a Green New Deal to combat it, and this scares the hell out of the establishment.

Given the clear support for Sanders among these younger people, the question now becomes whether Democratic power brokers are willing to let the youth decide this election, or whether they’re going to try to eliminate a Sanders nomination via a brokered convention.

The end of the Democratic Party?

It’s clear that the GOP is now the party of Trump. Some long-time moderate Republicans have fled, changing their affiliations to independent, or even Democratic. What will happen after a Sanders nomination? Will we see a similar exodus of billionaire-friendly plutocrats flee? Will it spark a Randian-style capital flight?

The better question I think is what will happen if the neocons put their hand on the scale against Sanders, or even if there’s the appearance of interference. I can only imagine the ruckus that will happen. No doubt it will make the 1968 convention look tame. The widespread disillusionment among Sanders supporters in the general election would be significant. Of course it depends on who the alternative nominee is. Bloomberg would be a non-starter for most, including myself. Warren or Klobuchar might actually be the compromise choice that their campaigns are making them out to be. Not that I think there’s room for compromise at this state of late Capitalism.

Will elites crash the economy to spite Sanders?

I’ve seen lots of chatter in the finance space about irregularities in the repo markets, as well as additional quantitative easing by the Feds. It seems that there’s a lot of money being pumped into the system, most of which is going into the markets. This has continued the stock market’s rise in the face of other tepid economic indicators. Trump has been obsessed with keeping up these appearances, as a successful economic outlook is most critical to his success this November. However, with interest rates at such a low point and a good number of masters of finance warning about an impending crash, the ability of the Fed and central banks to keep the show going is questionable. A recession is likely, the question not if but rather when and how bad.

There are signs that the Coronovirus may be a black swan event that may already be precipitating this slowdown. Last week Apple announced that they were not going to hit production targets because of factory closures in Asia, and it is likely that other supply chains are going to be affected if the disease continues to spread. This could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back and starts a new global recession.

A pullback before November would be disastrous for Trump, whoever is president in 2021 will have to pay the piper in some form or another. A Sanders presidency could have to deal with the threat of Capitalist rebellion. As Sanders begins enacting his reforms to decrease wealth inequality, those with wealth fill fight tooth and nail to stop him. Any economic slowdown, rather than being recognized as the result of four decades of neoliberal economic policies, will be blamed on Sanders socialism.

On the bright side

Jacobin magazine had an issue some time back called A True Story of the Future, looking back from the near future at how Sanders not only won the presidency, but managed to transform the country by instituting Medicare For All and a Green New Deal. Realistically, it talked about the fact that the real challenge for Sanders would be after he won, as the ruling class of wealthy elites will do everything they can to undermine a President Sanders and prevent his agenda from destroying the status quo. The authors of the Jacobin piece take a look at steps Sanders and his supporters can take to make sure that the movement keeps going and that we get what we’re fighting for.

Nation Magazine: September 9/16 2019

Yea, I know, we’ve got a stack of magazines from last fall that we’ve been procrastinating on, and they keep getting bigger and bigger. It’s obviously too much to keep up with. Nation’s publishing schedule is pretty prolific, and their subject matter is quite a step from Time Magazine. Couple of interesting articles in this one:

INDIVISIBLE, by Joan Walsh: Covers the post-Trump activist org of the same name, and schisms between their national leadership and grassroots organizers. This seems to be a recurring theme with liberal organizations; I wonder if Conservatives have the same problems?

Indivisible’s work has earned it enormous political capital; now its national leaders want to figure out how to use it. But since so much of that capital has been earned at the local level, the leadership has to be careful about spending it—and whether it is theirs to spend at all.

I’ve got nothing but respect for the work that Indivisible has done; the local chapter here has done political work for my causes in the past, and they’re a great group of committed activists. The issue here seems to be with how the national leadership wants to leverage Indivisible’s political capital as part of a 2020 presidential endorsement process. The issue with some of the larger cohorts is that an endorsement will likely alienate some members.

Interestingly, after this issue was released, Indivisible released their 2020 Candidate Scorecard. Warren and Bernie take the top two spots, with Biden dead last in the rankings. Apparently Biden declined to participate, so their ranking is based on ‘research into his public record.’ Oops.

To Stay Or Go, by Mara Kardas-Nelson: Environmental racism is the focus here, as the author details the battles that communities in Cancer Alley go through against their own elected officials and the corporation who are poisoning the water and air with the highest concentration of petrochemical plants in the United States. Of course, the prevalence of increased Cancer and other sickness in this region has lead to a flight of citizens out of the area, leaving most of rest with few options. As the population has fled, those remaining have fewer options to sell homes, and communities see their young people and entrepreneurs dwindle.

Of course people shouldn’t have to flee the homes that they’ve made, but it seems that people of places like St. James Parish seem to be fighting a losing battles. While there are some activists trying to fight back via court challenges and electoral battles, the current situation for these communities is quite dire. It’s a situation that we’ve seen play out in other places around the world.

Our Shared Fate, by Suzy Hansen: Review of What You Have Heard Is True, by Carolyn Forche: You may remember this exchange between Ilhan Omar and the Trump administration’s special envoy to Venezuela, where she pressed him over his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair and in El Salvador’s civil war.

The massacre that isn’t mentioned by name in the above clip is the 1981 El Mozote massacre, an event during the El Savador civil war in which a village of 800 men, women and children were raped and murdered by a US-backed Salvadoran army battalion.

What You Have Heard is True is the memoir of American poet Carolyn Forche, who spent several years in El Salvador during this period. It is one that more Americans need to be aware of, given our complicity in the events there. It puts a different perspective on the immigrants who are fleeing from there to this day, trying to enter the United States and being caught up in family separation.

Jacobin: War Is a Racket

It seems wholly appropriate to be covering this issue on Veteran’s Day. Both my parents were Army, and I’ve been living in an area of the country with one of the largest populations of active-duty personnel in the country.

This issue came to my door looking like a mock up of an old GI-Joe action toy, the packaging made out with images of our hero in the midst of battle. In this case, however, the included figurine is long after the battle has ended. Our action hero is sporting non-regulation long hair and beard, as well as a prosthetic leg, cane, and several bottles of prescription medications litter his feet.

This issue pulls no punches, deflating the notion of ‘service’ and ‘supporting our troops’. There’s plenty in this hefty issue about ending American imperialism, but probably the standout for me is the re-framing of American military culture as a ‘poverty draft’:

“The military welfare state only makes an effective recruiting tool because the Unite States denies all of us the civilian safety net we deserve. The US working class is held hostage by a political and military elite that exploits our deprivation to fuel its endless wars, forcing workers to make a devil’s bargain in pursuit of basic protections that should be available for all.

This statement hit me with such a moment of realization that reading it, I was almost embarassed that I had not seen it before. It’s a bit difficult to state the way which military culture permeates the culture here, so it was a bit like the David Foster Wallace bit about a fish learning what water is for the first time.

There’s a bit about activist opposition to ROTC programs in High Schools that made me think about the recruiting emails and texts that I’ve been getting through my college email address. And there’s a lot more in this issue, which is heftier than most of the others I’ve seen from Jacobin. They have a breakdown of the current 2020 Democratic Presidential contenders, (dl;dr: Biden, F; Warren, D-; Bernie: A-), infographic timelines on US military installations post-WWII, and some other features that are interesting.

But the short end of it is that they’re right about the hold that US militarism has on culture. From ‘Defense’ spending, displays of patriotism at sporting events, to the exploitation of Veterans by for-profit colleges via the GI Bill, American’s have an unhealthy relationship with our Armed Forces. And while a good deal of this issue does talk about concrete steps that can be taken to turn the tide, it seems like it might take generations before we have a population willing to fight back against our military-industrial system. Providing Medicare for All and free college would do a lot to break this, but then again, this may be exactly why the powers-that-be are fighting so hard to stop it.

The Nation: Aug 26/Sept 2, 2019

We’re seriously behind, both on the pile of periodicals that we have to read and on the ones that we’ve read that we haven’t covered. Letting them age a bit this way puts the coverage in perspective a bit, and helps justify our procrastination.

News You Can Lose, by John Nichols: I have yet to watch any of the Democratic Presidential debates. I gave up my binge-drinking, live Tweeting, event watching after Trump was elected president. Douglass Rushkoff has noted how the debate as television spectacle gave us our current, reality show president, and I am in no mood to participate in the current round. That’s not to say that I haven’t post-watched some of the more ‘gotcha’ moments of the current crop: Biden’s numerous flubs, Julian Castro’s miscalculated attack on Biden, and of course, Elizabeth Warren’s onstage murder of one of the other also-rans.

Nichols column follows the Democratic debate in Detroit, hosted by Fox News. There was a union solidarity event a few hours before the debate at a General Motors transmission plant that was scheduled to be closed the day after the debate. Nichols notes that Dems would have been smart to have hosted the debate at the union hall, or at a church across the street from the actual debate’s location, where Detroit’s Democratic congressional delegation were attending in solidarity with families facing deportation. Either of these would have been smart choices to help focus the debates on substantive policy issues.

But of course, that isn’t the point. Spectacle is. Nichols’s point is that progressives need to make more of an effort to wrest control back of these debates back from the party and the networks and points to the People’s Presidential Forum as an example of this. The Forum, which was to be hosted in October by New England group Rights and Democracy, was cancelled because “not enough candidates could make this date work”.

The American Workplace, by Bryce Covert: Workplace discrimination against pregnant women is rampant in America, especially against working-class women. My wife was able to save up weeks of leave for both of our two children, but for most American women, finding or keeping a job while pregnant can be difficult, and employers use a variety of measures to screen out or dismiss these women. Pay discrimination, or more specifically, the gender-based wage gap, and the Equal Rights Amendment are important political issues today, and Covert profiles the challenges of several women whose lives have been affected by this issue and are fighting back.

Without repeating the details of these cases, I should note that America is one of the only industrialized countries that does not provide for paid maternal care for new mothers. And this fact has many secondary effects on the well-being of the child, including potential educational and economic ones. The profit-driven war on expectant mothers is a roadblock to economic mobility. We should grant American mothers the same privileges as the rest of the developed world, and allow them the time to bond with their newborns and not force them to either give up this time with their newborns, or give up on their careers.

Source: Pew Research Center

Vigilant Struggle, by Robert Greene II: Review of Stony the Road, by Henry Louis Gates. The new Watchmen HBO series premieres with scenes from what can only be described as a race riot: Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921. A black couple with a young boy tries to escape violence in the city as white citizens indiscriminately shoot unarmed blacks while buildings burn around them. Later, explosive devices are dropped from airplanes onto a garage where others had been hiding out. The scene was so outlandish that I thought it was some sort of alternate history being built around the show’s background. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that the racially motivated destruction depicted in the show was based on actual events.

My own ignorance of the Tulsa race riot almost a hundred years ago is further magnified by the history of Reconstruction following the Civil War. Henry Louis Gates has produced a new documentary series for PBS titled Reconstruction, and his book Stony The Road is a companion to this series. According to Greene, Gates has attempted to expand the period defined by Reconstruction to encompass the war itself as well as the first couple decades of the nineteenth century. Whether he includes the 1921 Tulsa riot in this definition remains to be seen.

Greene, a history professor at South Carolina’s Calfin University, spends several thousand words on the subject of Reconstruction before getting into Gates’s documentary, and notes how there was really two Reconstructions: one that was reconciliatory toward the vanquished South, an another, more radical Reconstruction that attempted to redefine the entire concept of American democracy and expand it to the former enslaved peoples. He notes that the period was one of revanchanist backlash, and lynchings, and raises questions about just how successful these latter efforts at reform were.

Gates documentary, he notes, provides a level of context to the African American experience, and is successful at detailing the evidence of continued aggressions against the freed slaves: racist stereotypes in papers and books, minstrel shows, the founding of the Klan, Jim Crow. This evidence is held as proof against claims of a modern post-racial America. Ultimately the Reconstruction is “not just about the rise and fall of black power in post-Civil War America, but the the rise and fall of black equality in all spheres of American life, cultural, political and otherwise.”

The Nation Magazine: Aug 12/19, 2019

We are really behind on our periodicals, and have quite the stack building up on our bookshelf. We’re going to be catching up over the next few days with a flurry of reading and posting.

Go Not Abroad In Search of Monsters, by David Klion: The title of this article is taken from John Quincy Adam’s Monsters to Destroy speech. Quincy is the namesake for a new transpartisan think tank who’s aim is to restrain America’s foreign policy.

[The] Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, which states that its mission is to “move US foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace.”

This think tank is apparently the love-child between a number of liberals and conservatives, including perennial boogeyman George Soros and arch-fiend David Koch. This is really promising. If The Quincy can be effective at keeping the US out of the next international conflict, then I am all for it.

One notable takeaway that I hadn’t heard before is Quincy’s executive director’s definition of transpartisanship, as opposed to bipartisanship. Bipartisanship, she explains, implies that each side is giving up some of what they want in compromise. Transpartisanship means that both sides are “collaborating on issues they already are in agreement over.” It’s a definition that I will be stealing in the future.

Marie Newmann vs. the Democratic Machine, by Rebecca Grant: If ever there was a subject near and dear and to me, it’s Progressive challengers to the Democratic party establishment. I’m not ready to dox myself quite yet, but I was an organizer for the 2016 Sanders campaign, as well as a staff for an unsuccessful Congressional primary campaign. This article does well to highlight Newmann’s challenge to conservative Democratic representative Dan Lipinkski, but I’m not sure there’s more to take away from it.

Right-Wing Troika, by Bryce Convert: Review of State Capture, by Alexander Hertel-Fernandez. State-level politics is another game that I’ve been involved with, and Republican Scott Walker’s successes in Wisconsin has been something that’s interested me. In my case, it’s been to pine that Democrats hadn’t dropped the ball so spectacularly over the past decade and lost so many state legislative seats and governors mansions. The GOP had a great strategy and implemented it brilliantly, with ALEC and other think tanks that helped push policy out in the states.

The left has a lot to learn from the conservative playbook, especially the Wisconsin model, and has a long ways to go to catch up. Hopefully State Capture will help the road to recovery.