Monday, November 28, 2022

Urban improvements ...

You go away for 4 months and come back to find that Costco built an array of solar panels over its parking garage. Little by little ...

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Yet another piece of very good news from the 2022 election

Did you know that Arizona -- otherwise known as home to xenophobic politicians like Kari Lake and former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio -- just voted for a ballot measure that will allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at their public universities? 

The best evidence of Arizona’s shift away from Republican policies was the passage of a ballot measure reinstating the right of undocumented Arizonans to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.

At 2.48 percentage points, the margin of victory for “yes” on Proposition 308 was bigger than the margin that secured the governor’s seat for Democrat Katie Hobbs over Kari Lake and broke 13 years of Republican dominance in Arizona.

How did this victory come to be? As usual, the answer was organizing, combined with building the broadest coalition possible. Dreamers even lined up the Chamber of Commerce for this effort, convincing the business group and moderate Republicans that an educated Arizona Latinx population was in their interest.

A voter-approved in-state tuition ban had made college three times more expensive for the last decade, putting it out of reach for many undocumented students. But Arizona has demonstrated it can move on from a season of fear of the newcomer.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

On the trauma of our time

Mary Trump, in addition to having the misfortune of being Donald Trump's niece, is a psychologist. I did not read her first book, a best-selling memoir of growing up in unhappy proximity to her avaricious uncle. But her interviews, of which I heard plenty on podcasts, always seemed smart and insightful. So when I heard that she'd written The Reckoning, on the theme of the combined trauma of COVID and Donald's effort to overthrow U.S. democracy, I thought she might offer something from which I could learn.

The book turned out to be something different than I'd expected. Nearly half is devoted to an exposition of our country's original sin, what she calls "A Short History of American Failure: 1865–2020." White supremacy justified extermination of native peoples and the enslaving and exploitation of captive Africans. All of us are warped by this heritage, including white beneficiaries of privilege.

Mary Trump doesn't break any new historical ground here -- there are numerous other sources for the same insights. (I would start with W.E.B. DuBois' Black Reconstruction but your mileage may vary.) But her account is wonderfully clear and succinct, pitched at a good level for oblivious Americans. Anti-racism educators might do well to adopt it.

And for Trump herself, the meaning of that history is our enduring national trauma.
Ours is an ugly history full of depraved, barbaric, and inhumane behavior carried out by everyday people and encouraged or at least condoned by leaders at the highest levels of government. A denial of that history is a denial of our trauma.
... At almost every step of the way in our history, there were opportunities to make this country more democratic, more open, and more equitable. Instead, the North became more segregated and the South continued to be a closed fascist state.
Trump views our national failure to marginalize her sociopathic uncle and the political party he has gorged himself on as a consequence of our failure to make peace with and offer reparations for the inhuman crimes of our past and present.
Racism is something we white people inflict on our children as it was inflicted on us. It is a violence we commit against them — and as they grow up, they benefit from the same entrenched system that benefits us, because our racist, white supremacist society allows us to benefit from it. We become complacent and selfish and, in the end, just as guilty as the people, and the people before them , who did this to us. The cycle continues. Our ability to be decent and kind is stunted, our desire to belong to a broader community without fear is curtailed. It is a passive experience, until it’s not. The more we exercise our privilege, the easier it gets to cross that line between doing so unconsciously and doing so because we feel entitled to it. It is so easy to get used to the luxury of forgetting and the luxury of never having to know.
Trump the clinical psychologist insists that facing the truth is the only escape from our national trauma.
But if we want to heal, it’s important to resist calls to look to the future, not the past. The past is what shaped us. Trauma is enervating and it is entirely natural to want to move beyond it. But trauma changes us at the cellular level. We carry it with us in our bodies, and there is no moving on without facing what we want to run from, because to dismiss your own pain is to postpone your freedom from it.
... The impact of unacknowledged trauma can be catastrophic — at both the personal and the societal levels — and by failing to invest in the infrastructure necessary to prevent or at least mitigate these kinds of disasters in the future, we leave ourselves open to long-term damage that could be irreparable. One of the most striking developments of the last five years has been the trend toward cruelty, the cultivation of a callousness toward anybody who believes differently or thinks differently. The mantra of “Fuck your feelings” at Donald’s rallies reverberated and reminded us that, even though it goes underground from time to time, the impulse toward cruelty never completely goes away.
... Until the playing field is leveled, America is not a democracy. Until everybody eligible is allowed to vote unimpeded, America is not a democracy. As long as a majority of the majority doesn’t have a problem with the deliberate economic plunder and disenfranchisement of large swaths of the population, and as long as the rest of us ignore it — because to pay attention would be to challenge our privilege — nothing will change.

Sympathetic as I am to Mary Trump's account of our traumatized condition, I am also left wanting something more. There is an alternative to despair, even justified despair. 

We can still struggle for a better democracy, a better society. By razor thin margins, in places where choices were stark, in the recent election majorities of us said no to cruelty, no to lies, no to crushing the life out of the weak.

Trauma can be mitigated and exorcised by action. This may not be the only way, but I find it is my way. The work of the recent campaign, even beyond its relative success, was cleansing for me and I think for many. We can go on -- differently.

As my comrades in UniteHERE insist, "when we fight, we win!" The struggle for justice is the best remedy I know to the traumatized condition of which Mary Trump's uncle is such a national symptom.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Friday cat blogging and more ...

I hope any readers enjoyed a happy, grateful Thanksgiving holiday. I certainly did -- for the first time in months I did nothing socially useful unless one counts chowing down on Erudite Partner's duck feast. I needed that unburdened time. Janeway took advantage of my leg for a nap.

• • •

And I need a little more such time to read and recover -- so don't expect much here for a bit. But I'm reading up a storm ...

• • •

In the first photo, that's my left middle finder, obviously not in the best condition. About ten days ago, while cleaning out the campaign office, I pinched it. I knew right away that nothing serious had happened; the knuckle moves fine, even if the tip of the bone may be a bit pulverized. The swelling has receded; with time, it will stop hurting. 

But bizarrely, the uninjured right middle finger on my other hand has begun to throb similarly at its tip. My brain is trying to even things up? I find this both fascinating and annoying -- the pain discourages typing.

Has anyone ever experienced a similar phenomenon?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Kilimanjaro: the snows are almost gone

Usually I don't post videos that are more than a couple of minutes long -- but this from Jack Dolan of the Los Angeles Times is too poignant for me not to share.

Dolan tells the story of his recent climb of the 19,000 foot Tanzanian peak with grace and respect -- for the mountain, for the Tanzanians who make the tourist expedtions possible, and for the changes that planetary warming is making to this forbidding environment. 

Erudite Partner and I trekked the same trails twenty years ago. The experience was so different as to make Dolan's path seem unrecognizable.

Partly that's just weather, not warming. We never saw the peak; from every vantage point, the mountain was obscured by clouds, rain, and snow. None of our eight days on on the trail was without downpours verging on sleet. We rushed up and over the summit as something like a white-out closed in. But in those days, though glacial melting was already underway, the high plateau and crater were not yet a dusty desert. 

Here are a few photos from that trip:

At the lowest elevations, this was the trail. Slippery mud was no fun.

Somehow, guide Freddy Chikima shepherded our crew up this pitch.

This, from about 12,000 feet, was as wide a view as we ever saw.

At the summit, we were eager to dash down before blizzard conditions engulfed us.
With Jack Dolan, I mourn what our civilization has done to the mountain. I'm glad to see what the mountain looks like today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Like it is ...

Medication abortions -- the abortion pills -- weren't around back in the day when I heard from friends about what it was like to end an unwanted pregnancy. Too often, it was scary and involved dealing with a doctor who was mercenary rather than caring.

But not anymore. Safe and effective medicines are available -- and these women are willing to share what the experience was like for them, both the comforting and the uncomfortable moments.

You don't know unless somebody tells you -- and there are a lot of repressive people who want to keep women scared and helpless.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Let's celebrate the voters

Perry Bacon Jr.:
... in elections, the voters are the actors, the deciders. And this year, millions of Democratic-leaning voters turned out and stuck with the party, looking past sky-high inflation and a leadership team that spent much of its time courting people who would never vote for Democrats while ignoring key priorities of people who always vote for the Democrats.
These voters should be commended and celebrated.
And let's celebrate the union members and other citizen activists who listened to and talked with voters who might not have bothered to vote if they hadn't felt heard.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Giving up is not an option

Like Bill McKibben, who pointed me to this Pew Forum statistical picture of How Religion Intersects With Americans’ Views on the Environment, I experience the findings as more than a little demoralizing. 

Click to enlarge

In summary: 

... the survey ... finds that highly religious Americans (those who say they pray each day, regularly attend religious services and consider religion very important in their lives) are far less likely than other U.S. adults to express concern about warming temperatures around the globe.

... The main driver of U.S. public opinion about the climate is political party, not religion. Highly religious Americans are more inclined than others to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, and Republicans tend to be much less likely than Democrats to believe that human activity (such as burning fossil fuels) is warming the Earth or to consider climate change a serious problem.

Religious Americans who express little or no concern about climate change also give a variety of other explanations for their views, including that there are much bigger problems in the world today, that God is in control of the climate, and that they do not believe the climate actually is changing. In addition, many religious Americans voice concerns about the potential consequences of environmental regulations, such as a loss of individual freedoms, fewer jobs or higher energy prices. 

Finally, climate change does not seem to be a topic discussed much in religious congregations, either from the pulpit or in the pews. And few Americans view efforts to conserve energy and limit carbon emissions as moral issues.

Notably, among Christians, Historically Black Protestants are far and away the religious grouping most likely to consider climate change an urgent concern. This perhaps should not be a surprise, since people of color are often less insulated from climate-induced disasters than are more influential and affluent communities. Black Protestants. members of "other religions," and religiously unaffiliated people show similar levels of concern. And this is true, even though Black Christians reported similar levels of belief that we are living in "end times" to white evangelicals who doubt or are indifferent to the climate crisis.

Of course these Black Christians know, come what may, giving up is not an option. It's more than time for the rest of us to listen up.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Ah, globalization ...

One of the small pleasures of our extended stay in Reno was that blueberries never stopped being available in grocery stores. 

How strange was that? Don't blueberries have a season, a short one in late spring, and then disappear from the shelves or become prohibitively expensive?

Not anymore. Adam Tooze shared a thread which explains:  

One guy’s experiment drove Peru to become the world’s #1 blueberry exporter and #2 overall producer.

Carlos Gereda was the spark that lit Peru's blueberry boom of the past decade. He asked a simple question: "can blueberries grow in Peru?" In 2006, he brought 14 varieties from Chile to see which ones adapted well to the Peruvian climate.

He narrowed it down to four and, in 2009, founded Inka's Berries. The company's service consisted of assisting the development of plantations that adhered to the growing standards Carlos had conceived. The blueberry revolution ensued. ...  production multiplied by more than 6,000x in ten years. Blueberries are now the country's 2nd most significant export, just behind grapes.

... Peru's climate allows for year-round production, giving the country a competitive edge over seasonal agriculture. The productivity of Peruvian land is 13 tons per hectare. The world's top player, the USA, produces 8 tons per hectare. Given the massive competitive edge, we believe it's only a matter of time before Peru becomes the blueberry capital of the world.

And so we could buy "out of season," reasonably-priced blueberries into November. What a world we are making!

Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Janeway is on her way back home. Sentence served. We await the prisoner whose camp counselors report she is still the tiny terrorist she always was. They have our deep gratitude. She's our terrorist ...