Saturday, December 03, 2016

The young people are alright ...

... their elders, not so much so.

H/t Ronni Bennett.

Saturday scenes: an urban oops

Encountered while Walking San Francisco. Too in tune with my general mood not to share.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Yet another fund appeal ...

Here's an email I sent yesterday to some of my friends ...
Bear with me; I know you’ve probably deleted fifty or more of these in the last week. Please let me tell you why I'm hoping you'll help rural Nicaraguans help their communities by making any donation you can to El Porvenir. (Click the link and go to DONATE.)

Over the last 25 years, El Porvenir has partnered with 165,000 rural Nicaraguans in 600 communities to complete over 1,100 projects. Communities come to our Nicaraguan staff for help; El Porvenir responds with assistance through on-the-ground technical support and your donations.

Clean water from sustainable sources, sanitation facilities, and health education enable very poor people to live longer, better, and more happily. Pretty simple, isn't it?

Many thanks for reading this.

Jan Adams

P.S. Most of you receiving this note, received a similar note from me last year. Many of you responded generously -- my friends contributed a total over $1000 in various amounts. This has been a tough year, but let's stick with people who are living healthier and more hopeful lives because of their own labors and the generosity of those of us who have a little more.

Friday cat blogging

Every week I think I'll give Morty a rest -- and then I catch him if a pose so photogenic that I don't resist.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Fight to preserve everyone's right to vote

Two maps show why the GOP/Trump regime can be expected to advance federal voter suppression legislation. These maps also show why they intend to seat a neo-Confederate Attorney General (Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions) who will not enforce the remnants of the Voting Rights Act that survived their stacked Supreme Court.

Via The Upshot.

If all citizens are freely able to participate, white nationalism will die off along with its aging white base. That's what is at stake in the voting rights fight.

Voter suppression will take many forms: false charges of fraud, voter ID requirements that are hard for poor and young people to satisfy, English-only balloting, limited registration and polling options, whatever the GOPers can think up. The attack on voting rights may seem abstract when set against immediate assaults on the safety and livelihood of communities of color. But our white supremacists are clear-sighted about this: they can't hang on forever unless they deny majority rule.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A puzzlement in two charts

Like all good loosely leftish agitators, I'm never free of the suspicion that our corporate overlords really run the show. After all, notions of neo-liberalism, surplus value, exploitation, all the intellectual paraphernalia of leftism, assure me that's how our advanced capitalism works.

But then there is this (click to enlarge):

According to the Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America's economic activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won combined to generate 36 percent of the country's economic activity last year.

Clinton, in other words, carried nearly two-thirds of the American economy.

With the exceptions of the Phoenix and Fort Worth areas, and a big chunk of Long Island, Clinton won every large-sized economic county in the country.

Jim Tankersley, Washington Post

Bringing the focus in a little closer to one of the country's strongest economic drivers, there's this:

Mr Trump, who is said not to use a personal computer, has railed against giants like Amazon and Apple, and has promised to cut the country’s H-1B visa programme, a source of skilled workers for the sector. He has criticised the “terrible” National Institutes of Health, America’s largest science-funding agency, and is expected to cut research funding for NASA. More than 100 tech founders and investors signed an open letter in July denouncing the future president as a “disaster for innovation”.

Mr Trump’s testy relationship with the tech industry reflects a growing divide between the Republican Party and America’s most advanced industries. In counties that favoured Democratic presidential candidates between 2000 and 2016, employment in high-tech industries grew by over 35%. In Republican-leaning counties, such employment actually fell by 37%. Today, there are more than three times as many high-tech industry workers in places that voted for Hillary Clinton as there are in those that favoured Mr Trump.

The uneven distribution of tech talent can be explained in part by job growth in historically liberal places like San Francisco and Seattle. However, changing voting patterns in formerly conservative places like Houston, Dallas, and Fairfax County, Virginia account for most of the shift. In 2000, 36 of the 100 counties with the highest number of tech industry workers voted for the Republican Party. By 2016, this figure had fallen to just 19.

The Economist

Okay, so Trump and the GOPers have got the fossil fuel sector on their side. But the rest of advanced capitalism, decidedly not so much so.

These aren't the people I'd look to lead the resistance to our emerging autocrat. If I had my druthers, I'd look to the National Domestic Workers Union and other marginalized folks who keep the world going. But it is nonetheless true that the most vibrant sectors of US capitalism suddenly find themselves on the outside looking in. They aren't going to like that. When they get their wits about them, they are going to create bumps on the GOPer road. Naturally, they'll also throw the rest of us under the bus if it serves their interests.

But whatever friction they create, it might serve the interests of broader, more democratic (small "d") resistance. Enhancing friction is the name of the game right now...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Depotism: maybe they were smarter in 1946

“You can roughly locate any community in the world somewhere along a scale running all the way from democracy to despotism,” says [this Encyclopedia Brittanica‘s] standard-issue mannered narrator before turning it over to a standard-issue sack-suited and Brylcreemed expert. And how can we know where our own society places on that scale? “Well, for one,” says the expert, “avoid the comfortable idea that the mere form of government can of itself safeguard a nation against despotism.”

This is a worthwhile 10 minutes of your life. Also worthwhile, Josh Marshall's reflection from last July on what men (yes, it was almost all men) of that time had learned about human societies.

H/t Slacktivist and Open Culture.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Look out for Montenegro under our new regime

If I hadn't hiked in Montenegro's mountains last year, I would have missed this obscure, but potentially significant, snippet of news amidst the news deluge over the weekend. Montenegrin authorities are interrogating a suspect who describes a baroque plot he claims was cooked up by Russia's intelligence service that aimed

to seize Montenegro’s Parliament building last month, kill the prime minister and install a new government hostile to NATO

The details are the stuff of Balkan conspiracies, opaque and slightly surreal, full of implied rather than proven connections -- and some plausibility. Buried deep in the story, comes the nugget that suggests trouble ahead.

To Moscow’s dismay, Serbia and Montenegro, both traditionally close to Russia, have increasingly tilted toward the West, applying to join the European Union and, in Montenegro’s case, even NATO.

With a few thousand soldiers, a handful of tanks and only 600,000 residents, Montenegro — whose application to join NATO was accepted in May and now awaits ratification — is hardly a military powerhouse. But it controls the only stretch of coastline where warships can dock between Gibraltar and eastern Turkey not already in the hands of the alliance. ...

Russia has campaigned furiously to keep Montenegro out of the alliance, supporting pro-Moscow political groups in the country and Orthodox priests who view NATO as a threat to Slavic fraternity and faith.

“NATO is an occupying force, and I am absolutely against it,” said Momcilo Krivokapic, an Orthodox priest ... . His church in Kotor, an ancient fortress town, is just a few yards from Kotor Bay, a deepwater haven long coveted by both Russia and the West for its strategic location. ...

Here's a view of that bay from above. Attractive, isn't it?
Lots of Russians have thought so, both dissidents who were getting their money out of Putin's kleptocracy and Putin's state as well. The bay is flanked by resort homes and hotels, an Adriatic Riviera with a Russian flavor. The Montenegrins I met, English speaking and part of the tourist industry, desperately wanted to be accepted as part of Europe. The country adopted the Euro as its currency, despite not being a member of the European Union. Yet the majority piety of the country is largely Russian Orthodox, looking to the Moscow patriarch for leadership.

According to the AP, today

Montenegrin lawmakers are set to swear in a pro-NATO government amid political tensions following an alleged foiled election day coup orchestrated by Russian nationalists to derail the Balkan country's bid to join the alliance. ... Opposition parties have boycotted the session.

I can easily imagine that Montenegrins might find themselves treated as a "thank you" present from our President-elect to his Russian buddies, blocked by Trump from membership in NATO. Trump's Washington Times (the Moonie paper) backers think that's a great idea. Trump showed an interest in Montenegrin hotels in 2007; my cursory investigation failed to turn up whether anything had come of that. Presumably if Trump hands over Montenegro's future to Russia, Putin would let him put up a magnificent resort or two on the Bay of Kotor.

Change of seasons: Advent comes round again

The ancient Christian liturgical year began yesterday as we entered Advent, the four weeks in which Christians annually live in expectation both of the birth of the human child who is also truly God, and of God's promise to somehow, someday, be with us in God's fullness. Both are mysteries, beyond our intellectual capacity. Liturgy -- communal ceremony -- is how we annually enact and recapitulate the many realities we sense/know, but cannot understand. I find this annual cycle profoundly grounding. Without such reminders of what I cannot grasp, wouldn't I think I knew it all?

We did not pray the traditional collect (prayer) for the season of Advent in my little parish yesterday. We offered a modern substitute. I was sorry about that. I understand that some might find the old petition outmoded and a little scary. It seems to arise out of a consciousness of life lived within a cosmic struggle between good and evil, not the usual stuff of sophisticated "modern" thought.

The prayer from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer reads:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,
and put on the armor of light,....

Or, as the Rev. Scott Gunn once explained the season:

Advent is a time to remember that we followers of Jesus are meant not only to be bearers of the light, but also to vanquish evil in this life, in our world and in our own lives.

This seems particularly apt in these sad days when our country has chosen to drive further off the rails. We find ourselves fearing freefall into rapacious greed and oppression of the vulnerable and weak. The works of darkness are all around, and we're going to need all the "armor of light" we can find, wherever we find it. It's long been conveniently forgotten that the oldest Christian self-consciousness was formed in tension with the most powerful, most brutal, empire of its day. For those of us for whom this tradition is a source of meaning, there's a lot there.

Another Advent theme also seems appropriate to our current moment. "Keep awake ... you also must be ready ..." say the ancient admonitions in the Gospel passage from the book of Matthew. Or, if we want to be more contemporary, #Stay Woke in every meaning of that catch phrase. Nothin' else to do ...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

History for a #BlackLivesMatter moment

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an eloquently constructed and argued narrative of the era of US history from the waning of the Black civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s through the recent police murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. Every eruption in the long arc of struggle needs its own historical tale of how current conditions came to be -- and takes shape from the particularities of its time. As Taylor writes:

Ideas are fluid, but it usually takes political action to set them in motion ...

Taylor grounds her history in rejecting, as all of us must when confronted with facts, the authority of "a simple morality tale about those who try hard and those who don't" constraining the conditions of US Black people.

From the mutual foundation of slavery and freedom at the country's inception to the genocide of the Native population that made the "peculiar institution" possible to the racist promulgation of "manifest destiny" to the Chinese Exclusion Act to the codified subordinate status of Black people for a hundred years after slavery ended, they are all grim reminders of the millions of bodies upon which the audacious smugness of American hubris is built. Race and racism have not been exceptions; instead they are the glue that holds the United States together.

I will not try to encapsulate Taylor's story arc here. Some chapter titles are suggestive: "From Civil Rights to Colorblind," "Black Faces in High Places," and "Barack Obama: the End of an Illusion." In "The Double Standard of Justice" she takes up the history of policing of Black bodies.

The racism of the police is not the product of vitriol; it flows from their roles as the armed agents of the state. ... The racism of the police, historically, has ... overlapped with the economic needs of business and the state to create a radicalized political economy that is particularly burdensome on Black communities.

She concludes, in part ...

the struggle for Black liberation requires going beyond the standard narrative that Black people have come a long way but have a long way to go -- which, of course, says nothing about where we are trying to get to. ... Most importantly, [this] requires a strategy, some sense of how we get from the current situation to the future. Perhaps at its most basic level, Black liberation implies a world where Black people can live in peace, without the constant threat of the social, economic, and political woes of a society that places almost no value on Black lives. That would mean living in a world where Black lives matter. While it is true that when Black people get free, everyone gets free, Black people in America cannot "get free" alone. ...

Taylor is a socialist internationalist, condemning global capitalism as that she insists on the particularities of the US Black experience.

Some months after the release of this book, Taylor affirmed the significance of the Movement for Black Lives policy program in an interview in Salon:

The movement platform gets [to] all of this and then discusses what alternatives could look like. It’s an incredibly important document. This document is not concerned with getting cozy with those in power. ...

I found this a brave and important book. If Taylor has described the truth of this moment in the US Black story accurately -- and I think she has (assuming any of us survive the next chapter as we probably will) -- her narrative will come to seem largely the obvious, unsurprising, reality of this time. Just as Michelle Alexander's New Jim Crow made the horror of Black criminalization and mass incarceration a known commonplace, this book will have situated Black Lives Matter -- all its contesting branches -- in our understanding. That should not erase the extraordinary accomplishment that is laying this out, before we all see it as "just how it is."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday scenes and scenery: sharing the trail

I wasn't the only critter out in Golden Gate Park on a gray Friday. Most humans may have been flocking to stores ...

but the deeper I plunged into isolated trails ...

the more members of this raccoon family showed themselves. I have since discovered the English language noun for the group is a gaze. That's a new one for me.

This bunch had little fear of a galumphing human.

One brave critter seemed to serve the gaze as forward sentry, coming within a foot of my feet.

The park's near human neighbors must have quite a time securing their garbage cans. It doesn't look as if they do so very successfully.

Friday, November 25, 2016

#optoutside but also #NoNewNormal

The Friday after the day before is #optoutside time for me. But also #NoNewNormal.

But if you are sorting through all the requests for donations you've found in your inbox today, you might want to take at look at our friend Daniel Pickens-Jones' Cabinet of Deplorables, a site offering opportunities to donate to organizations that work with the people most under threat from our incoming autocrat.

Friday cat blogging

Morty had more desire to situate himself on the dining table than we would accommodate.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

I'm thankful ...

I'm thankful for NY Times columnist Charles Blow:

No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn.

I know this in my bones, and for that I am thankful.

His autobiography gives every reason to believe he means what he says. He was never supposed to be where he is -- but he is still there.

Water is life

This Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for the brave water protectors at Standing Rock Camp in North Dakota. They are risking their bodies to protect the Missouri River watershed, the ancestral lands and burial grounds of the Sioux people, and their way of life.

All over the world, growing human populations, expropriation by people with money and power, and climate change threaten people's access to clean, reliable water supplies.

None of us can live without water. I'm grateful that when I turn the tap, cheap and clean water flows. Everyone should have that.

I am fortunate, through accidents of my history, to be able to help rural Nicaraguans bring water to their communities through a project called El Porvenir. This work too is something else to be grateful for.

This Thanksgiving Day, let us be thankful for water.
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