Thursday Morning Open Thread: Never Stop Fighting Back

A few more photos of the Women’s March in DC, courtesy of commentor ET.

And an excellent reminder from Buzzfeed‘s Bim Adewunmi, “The Road Women Marched On This Weekend Was Paved By Black Resistance“:

In the Culture galleries at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, there is a whole section on style. Written on a museum sign is a quote attributed to Tony Award-winning playwright George C. Wolfe, which reads: “God created black people and black people created style.” On the eve of the Trump inauguration, black people came out in style, and gathered at the NMAAHC, nicknamed the Blacksonian, to attend the inaugural Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance, a “gathering to celebrate the accomplishments and successes of the past four years and the vow to continue to be the change we want to see in the world”…

… It felt fortifying, like an enriching blood tonic. “This is not a game. This is not reality TV,” actor Danny Glover said to the crowd. Writer and activist Naomi Klein laughingly called the night “the eve of the apocalypse” before adding, more seriously, “Tomorrow is not a peaceful transition of power – it’s a corporate coup d’état.” Children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman led a fiery prayer (“God, forgive and transform our rich nation and us…”) and urged the assembled guests to “go out there and cause a movement”. Playwright Eve Ensler led the crowd in a series of pledges, to “resist, disrupt, love deeper, to rise”.

“We will not compromise, we will not negotiate. We will not go backwards,” Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter declared. “Are you with me?”…

I had come [to the Women’s March] to talk specifically to black girls and women about why they were at the march. Statistically speaking, black women already got in formation at the election (and beyond), and if more white women had followed in their footsteps, perhaps this particular march might not had occurred?

I saw so many black women at the Women’s March, and each one I spoke to gave me a variant of the same answer: They were here because they had to be. To have sat it out would’ve been to cede to a feminist movement that was all too willing to discard them, when they had been the silent workhorses of the collective for so long. It was evident in the number of placards and signs I saw, happily quoting from the rich and grand tradition of black feminist theory and thought: Angela Davis, a speaker at the march, popped up often via her words, as did Maya Angelou. The most quoted was Audre Lorde, whose abundant written legacy is a treasure trove of march-friendly quotables. It was about representation, a group of African women told me. They were here, representatives of African women a continent away from this march, each with their own feminist histories, currently living their own feminist realities. This is for us too, all the black women I spoke to were saying. Putting ourselves back into the narrative, where we have always been. So I approached multigenerational groups of black women and asked to take their photo, and I looked out for groups of multiracial teenage girls, eyes wide and almost overwhelmed by the crowd. We are physical manifestations of our parents’ dreams, and I saw so many parents with a proud gleam in their eyes on Saturday afternoon…
Read more



Long Read: “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich”

Citizen Thiel has a cunning plan for his escape pod! And the NZ whale-wranglers and hobbit-handlers find him as simultaneously risible and unsettling as the rest of us!

******

I went to a parochial school in the Bronx back when the Duck’n’Cover security theater plans were first proposed to a skeptical American public. Despite their near-veneration of President Kennedy, the nuns who taught us had no faith in such drills. When we second- and third-graders asked about the CDC commercials we’d seen on our black-and-white tvs the night before, the Dominicans told us the greater NYC area was so vital a target that, should the Godless Commies ever lose their fear of America’s military majesty, we’d be dead by the time the sirens went off. Ergo, our best doomsday prep was to preserve our immortal souls in a state of constant purity, vigilant against all temptations, so that if Satan’s Kremlin minions should temporarily gain the upper hand our time in purgatory would be minimized.

Between those nuns, and the spate of fine post-apocalyptic fiction ranging from Earth Abides and Shadow on the Hearth to The Day After, I’ve never been able to find much consolation in the concept of ‘doomsday prepping’. But it’s always interesting (often entertaining) to see how other people have invested their hopes.

Evan Osnos, in the New Yorker, on “the wealthiest people in America—in Silicon Valley, New York, and beyond— getting ready for the crackup of civilization”:

Steve Huffman, the thirty-three-year-old co-founder and C.E.O. of Reddit, which is valued at six hundred million dollars, was nearsighted until November, 2015, when he arranged to have laser eye surgery. He underwent the procedure not for the sake of convenience or appearance but, rather, for a reason he doesn’t usually talk much about: he hopes that it will improve his odds of surviving a disaster, whether natural or man-made. “If the world ends—and not even if the world ends, but if we have trouble—getting contacts or glasses is going to be a huge pain in the ass,” he told me recently. “Without them, I’m fucked.”…

Last spring, as the Presidential campaign exposed increasingly toxic divisions in America, Antonio García Martínez, a forty-year-old former Facebook product manager living in San Francisco, bought five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest and brought in generators, solar panels, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. “When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” he told me. The author of “Chaos Monkeys,” an acerbic Silicon Valley memoir, García Martínez wanted a refuge that would be far from cities but not entirely isolated. “All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.” Once he started telling peers in the Bay Area about his “little island project,” they came “out of the woodwork” to describe their own preparations, he said. “I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now.”

In private Facebook groups, wealthy survivalists swap tips on gas masks, bunkers, and locations safe from the effects of climate change. One member, the head of an investment firm, told me, “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system.” He said that his preparations probably put him at the “extreme” end among his peers. But he added, “A lot of my friends do the guns and the motorcycles and the gold coins. That’s not too rare anymore.”

Tim Chang, a forty-four-year-old managing director at Mayfield Fund, a venture-capital firm, told me, “There’s a bunch of us in the Valley. We meet up and have these financial-hacking dinners and talk about backup plans people are doing. It runs the gamut from a lot of people stocking up on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, to figuring out how to get second passports if they need it, to having vacation homes in other countries that could be escape havens.” He said, “I’ll be candid: I’m stockpiling now on real estate to generate passive income but also to have havens to go to.” He and his wife, who is in technology, keep a set of bags packed for themselves and their four-year-old daughter. He told me, “I kind of have this terror scenario: ‘Oh, my God, if there is a civil war or a giant earthquake that cleaves off part of California, we want to be ready.’ ”…

Such behavior is not, IMO, much different from that of medieval barons building churches in the name of their patron saints — a measured monetary gamble in hopes of ensuring one’s survival, worst came to worst (and the ‘worst’ was always so imminent, whether as three bad winters in a row or another outbreak of civil war). We are nowhere near the level of such daily physical jeopardy, but we have so much more stuff to protect… and so many more ways to terrorize ourselves with new information!

Huffman has been a frequent attendee at Burning Man, the annual, clothing-optional festival in the Nevada desert, where artists mingle with moguls. He fell in love with one of its core principles, “radical self-reliance,” which he takes to mean “happy to help others, but not wanting to require others.” (Among survivalists, or “preppers,” as some call themselves, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, stands for “Foolishly Expecting Meaningful Aid.”) Huffman has calculated that, in the event of a disaster, he would seek out some form of community: “Being around other people is a good thing. I also have this somewhat egotistical view that I’m a pretty good leader. I will probably be in charge, or at least not a slave, when push comes to shove.”…

In building Reddit, a community of thousands of discussion threads, into one of the most frequently visited sites in the world, Huffman has grown aware of the way that technology alters our relations with one another, for better and for worse. He has witnessed how social media can magnify public fear. “It’s easier for people to panic when they’re together,” he said, pointing out that “the Internet has made it easier for people to be together,” yet it also alerts people to emerging risks. Long before the financial crisis became front-page news, early signs appeared in user comments on Reddit. “People were starting to whisper about mortgages. They were worried about student debt. They were worried about debt in general. There was a lot of, ‘This is too good to be true. This doesn’t smell right.’ ” He added, “There’s probably some false positives in there as well, but, in general, I think we’re a pretty good gauge of public sentiment. When we’re talking about a faith-based collapse, you’re going to start to see the chips in the foundation on social media first.”…

… One measure of survivalism’s spread is that some people are starting to speak out against it. Max Levchin, a founder of PayPal and of Affirm, a lending startup, told me, “It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike—the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared.”

To Levchin, prepping for survival is a moral miscalculation; he prefers to “shut down party conversations” on the topic. “I typically ask people, ‘So you’re worried about the pitchforks. How much money have you donated to your local homeless shelter?’ This connects the most, in my mind, to the realities of the income gap. All the other forms of fear that people bring up are artificial.” In his view, this is the time to invest in solutions, not escape. “At the moment, we’re actually at a relatively benign point of the economy. When the economy heads south, you will have a bunch of people that are in really bad shape. What do we expect then?”…

Read more



PSA Open Thread: Don’t Mourn, (Learn to) Organize



Excellent Read: “Back on the Mekong Delta… “

From the Washington Post:

CA MAU, Vietnam — It could have been 1969 again as Secretary of State John F. Kerry stood on the bow of the small boat chugging up the Bay Hap River on Saturday, the wind billowing his sleeves and his eyes darting left and right toward banks shrouded in dark foliage.

As a young Navy lieutenant, Kerry commanded a Swift boat along this stretch of churning brown waters in the middle of a free-fire zone. Here, he earned a Silver Star for his heroics when he leapt ashore after an ambush to pursue a fleeing Viet Cong with a grenade launcher and shot him dead.

Now, some 48 years later and with the rapid approach of sunset on a political career spanning almost four decades, Kerry was about to be yanked back to that time, and come face-to-face with a Viet Cong soldier who had taken part in the ambush.

Aides escorted Vo Ban Tam to greet Kerry on the dock, beside a row of blue tourist boats. Tam at 70 is three years younger than Kerry. He was Viet Cong in the communist stronghold of Ca Mau, one of the enemy lying in the tall grasses waiting to entrap unprotected, thin-skinned river patrol boats like Kerry’s.

Tam apparently had been tracked down by U.S. consulate officials and invited to meet the U.S. secretary of state he once tried to kill.

Speaking through a translator, Tam said that he had known the man whom Kerry had chased and killed in the firefight of Feb. 28, 1969.

His name was Ba Thanh, and he was 24 years old.

“He was a good soldier,” Tam told Kerry, explaining the training and skill required to handle an R-40 grenade launcher…

Kerry’s encounter with Tam was the emotional peak of his two-day stop in Vietnam on ­Kerry’s final trip as secretary of state. His office in Foggy Bottom is packed and ready to be shipped to Boston.

It is doubtful the longtime senator from Massachusetts will ever run for public office again, but he will continue to work on climate change and ­environmental issues, and he is particularly concerned about the effect of rising sea levels and hydroelectric dams on the rivers in the lower Mekong Delta. When he wasn’t looking at the ­riverbank for some familiar marker from long ago, he was engrossed in conversation with a local ­scientist who said the effect of rising salinity and dams upstream brought once-in-100-year drought last year and threatened livelihoods…



Friday Morning Open Thread: “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long”

At the beginning of the year, a bunch of you were sharing John Scalzi’s wise words. Time to re-up his argument:

… “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”…

… I think both Parker and King understood that moral endeavors can be measured in years, decades and sometimes centuries. This is not an argument toward complacency; indeed I think it’s an argument against defeatism and fatalism in the face of setbacks and stalemates. We live in moments and days and it’s often hard to see past them, and it’s easy to believe when we are struck a hard blow that all is lost. All is not lost. The arc is long. Nothing is ever fully decided in the moment or the day. There are years and decades and sometimes centuries yet to go. The arc continues to bend, if we remember that it is long, and that we need to imagine it extending further.

We need to imagine that because of the second thing: The arc is not a natural feature of the universe. It does not magically appear; it is not ordained; it is not inevitable. It exists because people of moral character seek justice, not only for themselves but for every person. Nor is the arc smooth. It’s rough and jagged, punctuated in areas by great strides, halting collapses, terrible reverses and forcible wrenching actions…

Remember the arc is long. It’s not one moment or one day or even a year or four years, even when that moment or day or year seems endless.

Remember the arc is not inevitable. It needs you. You are more important than you know, if you don’t give in to despair, to complacency, or to apathy. Add to the moral weight that bends the arc toward justice. You can’t do it alone, but without you the work becomes that much harder.

Remember that those who are working to flatten the arc hope you give up and give in. They are relying on you to do just that. Disappoint them. Disappoint them in big ways. Disappoint them in small ways. Disappoint them each day, and every day, in all the ways you can. Do not consent to this flattening of the arc…

***********
Apart from ignoring the tshit tsunami taking place on the Mall, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Friday Morning Open Thread: Beginning of the Downfall Arc?

Allow me an old person’s whimsy. The notorious Watergate burglary took place in June 1972; its instigators were indicted in September, but its beneficiary — Richard Nixon — was nevertheless reelected in November. Televised hearings of the Senate Watergate Committee didn’t begin until June 1973. The impeachment hearings began in May 1974, yet Nixon didn’t officially resign until August 9, 1974.

That was in an age before 24/7 cable news, much less social media.

Alex Pareene, at Deadspin, yesterday — “Republicans Have No Good Reason Not To Impeach Donald Trump“:

It’s been fun, but it’s about time for Republicans to admit that the great Donald Trump experiment isn’t going to work out—for them.

One hypothetical version of President Trump—the ideal version, for Republicans, and one that many convinced themselves he would become, given practice and training—is a new Reagan: a mouthpiece for the ideas and policies inserted into his empty head by members of an ascendant conservative movement riding his television-mastery to power. Surround this version of Trump with good party men like Reince Priebus and Mike Pence, and he takes care of entertaining the masses—and distracting the opposition—while true-believing conservatives actually run the country, enacting their entire agenda too forcefully and quickly for anyone to effectively fight them…

Another version of Trump—the nightmare for liberals and not one conservatives would welcome either—could be a second Nixon, with no real political philosophy, but a willingness to do anything to maintain his grip on power. Not just through unethical and criminal means, like the Watergate break-in or the sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks, but also in his willingness to do decidedly un-conservative things if they’d benefit him politically—like the wage and price controls he implemented, to great popular acclaim, in 1971. This is the model Steve Bannon likely hopes to emulate.

But Trump will fail to be either, and by now Republicans should recognize this. He’s too impetuous and narcissistic to be Reagan, and not smart enough to be Nixon. Half of his advisers will attempt to use him as a pitchman for conservative policy, the other half will attempt to use him to create and sustain a white nationalist international coalition, and he will instead tweet for hours about which celebrity slighted him this week. Trump will reject conservative ideas if he believes they will not be popular, but if Trump attempts to cynically abandon conservatism to maintain popularity, he will find that he has no clue how to go about doing actually popular things.

The end result won’t work for anyone. Successful corrupt right-wing populists generally tend to actually deliver tangible things to their bases of support. Trump will be unable to do this, and the Republican Party is too tied to its dead philosophy to help him. Ethno-nationalism needs welfare chauvinism to flourish, but today’s GOP might actually be too opposed to all forms of welfare (for the non-rich) to ensure their own political success….

If Republicans were smart—if they were a rational political party able to act in their own best interests—they’d impeach Trump as soon as possible. His bizarre performance today, and his brazenly inadequate response to the many very obvious conflicts of interest and opportunities for corrupt dealings that his administration will invite, give Republicans a perfectly acceptable rationale to do so. They can say it is for the good of the country, but the truth is that it would be for the good of the Republican Party and the conservative movement…

***********
Apart from such happy fantasies — not to mention awaiting the usual Friday Doc Dump — what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the week?



#Facepalm Read: Andy Griffith’s Home Town Hates & Fears This Modern World

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
.

I believe I may have discovered the platonic ideal of all “Poor Little WWC Voters!” stories. And because it is from the Washington Post, I strongly suspect its bathetic overkill may be entirely intentional. “How nostalgia for white Christian America drove so many Americans to vote for Trump“:

Residents and tourists from far-flung states mill along the thoroughfare, past the quaint low-slung shops made of Mount Airy’s famous white granite and named, like Floyd’s City Barber Shop, for references in “The Andy Griffith Show,” the folksy comedy set in the idyllic fictional small town of Mayberry that first aired in 1960.

And yet even as this city of about 10,000 nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains fills its coffers by selling nostalgia, many of its residents would agree with the now-popular saying “We’re not in Mayberry anymore.”

If only the real Mount Airy, which has experienced decades of economic and social decline, were like the Mayberry facade, muses Mayor David Rowe. If only his city and the rest of America could return to the 1950s again.

“Now it’s about secular progressivism, not the values you get out of this book,” such as honesty and hard work, said Rowe, 72, jabbing his finger at the leather Bible on his office desk.

But as Donald Trump prepares to move into the White House, Rowe and many of his constituents are hoping for a return to the past…

Seventy-four percent of white evangelicals believe American culture has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s — more than any other group of Americans — compared with 56 percent of all whites, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. In sharp contrast, 62 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanic Americans think the culture has changed for the better, the survey said.

“You think back to the 1990s, and conservative Christians could throw around the phrase ‘moral majority,’ and there was a kernel of truth to that,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive at PRRI and author of “The End of White Christian America.” “Even in 2008, they could say the country is on our side on [same-sex marriage], and that’s changed so quickly in this last decade. The election hit on fundamental questions about what America is and should be.”…

Thomas, who blames the loss of his $75,000-a-year factory job on Obama, now makes $18,000 working in his friend’s gun store and pawnshop. He is hopeful Trump will bring jobs back.

His colleague, Dreama Staples, 53, said people are bringing in their prized possessions to sell so they can buy groceries and gas. At 4.8 percent, the unemployment rate in Surry County is similar to the national figure, but Staples said that finding full-time work with benefits is difficult. She said she has grown angry over what she considers government overreach.

“We’re losing control of our freedoms,” Staples said. “The government was taking away our rights. Taxes are higher, our jobs are gone, and it just feels less Christian.”…

Not everyone is nostalgic for the 1950s.

Ron Jessup, 68, who grew up in Mount Airy during that era, found the place generally friendly then, he said — as long as he and other blacks obeyed the racist laws and social mores of the time.

If African Americans went to the theater, they sat upstairs, he said. If they went to the restaurants, they avoided the counter. “We understood what was considered our place,” said Jessup, who is retired from his job as a high school principal in nearby Winston-Salem. Even now, all five Surry County commissioners are white.
Read more