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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

#JTOWN4UNITY -- United for Compassion

Last night in San Francisco under the Peace Pagoda, several hundred Japanese Americans and friends gathered to show solidarity with communities targeted in the wake of the election.

According to Nichi Bei Weekly

Since and before the elections, there has been a rise in incidences of hate throughout the country, which appear to be emboldened by the “misogynistic, xenophobic and racist” rhetoric of the Trump campaign. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), to date, has documented more than 430 incidents since the elections alone, including physical assaults and racist vandalism.

Citing its firsthand knowledge of the effects of “wartime hysteria, racial prejudice and the failure of political leadership,” the community is responding to this rhetoric as a “stark reminder of the effects of the deprivation of civil liberties.” .

Event organizers aim to convey their expression of unity with the targeted communities, which include Muslims, Arab Americans, immigrants, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, LGBTQ people, Native Americans and women.

Since that was published, the count of hate incidents recorded at the SPLC has risen to over 700.
Several elders recalled being placed in camps behind barbed wire during World War II, despite being citizens and loyal to their country. They know too well what fear can do.
Youth leaders were attentive.

The Bay Area Day of Remembrance Consortium put on the event with sponsorship from the San Francisco chapter of the Japanese-American Citizens League, the Japanese Community Youth Council, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California and the Nakayoshi Young Professionals, along with the Nichi Bei Foundation.
UPDATE: In response to this post, an older white friend passed on this story:

During WWII my aunt worked for a lovely Japanese family named Nockeye (sp?); they owned a gift shop. She went to work the one morning and the shop was locked and the entire family was gone. No warning, no explanation - just vanished. What a shameful time for our country.

Not normal: a President-elect for whom other nations are profit centers

His business empire is certainly far-flung, even if much of it consists of nothing more substantive than franchising his name. Think about how existing partners might leverage their connections to the U.S. president on their own home fronts -- and what potential partners might be willing to fork over for his nod of approval. Our guy is a crony capitalist's honeypot. They'll come running and he can rake in the take. Meanwhile, since he refuses to put his business in a blind trust, how will we ever know whether the decisions he makes with regard to foreign countries are meant to benefit us or his personal bottom line? Or, for that matter, which of his domestic decisions are influenced by his love for his bottom line?

He asserts, and many lawyers agree, there is nothing illegal about this, though there is a clause in the Constitution ("emoluments" -- Merriam Webster's the word of the moment) that might serve as some check -- if Congress decided it wanted to impeach him for accepting profits from selling the policy of the United States to foreigners. It's hard to see that boot-licking bunch even trying.

A Wall Street Journal article (paywall, sorry) outlines how presidents became exempt from the restraints on other officeholders under conflict of interest law. (Hint: this involved protecting slave owners.)

... the U.S. president and vice president aren’t subject to laws that apply to nearly all other federal officials.

The reason for that dates to the nation’s founding, said Norman Eisen, fellow at Brookings Institution and the Obama administration’s former ethics counsel. The “decision-making of the founding fathers was replete with what today we would call conflicts of interest,” he said, noting that early presidents made decisions on agriculture policy and slavery despite owning large plantations.

“Because the president of the United States is the single most consequential decision maker on the planet, Congress has decided his hands shouldn’t be tied on any issue because of conflicts of interest over any potential financial or personal gain,” Mr. Eisen said.

Matt Yglesias has explained how plunder by a political leader can become "systemic corruption" which is itself a form of governance.

To be a successful businessman in a systemically corrupt regime and to be a close supporter of the regime are one and the same thing.

Those who support the regime will receive favorable treatment from regulators, and those who oppose it will not. Because businesses do business with each other, the network becomes self-reinforcing. Regime-friendly banks receive a light regulatory touch while their rivals are crushed. In exchange, they offer friendly lending terms to regime-friendly businesses while choking capital to rivals. Such a system, once in place, is extremely difficult to dislodge precisely because, unlike a fascist or communist regime, it is glued together by no ideology beyond basic human greed, insecurity, and love of family.

... This is how Vladimir Putin governs Russia, and how the Mubarak/Sisi regime rules Egypt.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This Atlanta cop harassed the wrong young woman

Our friend Renee doesn't take shit.

Here's a link if the video won't launch.

Not normal: a President-elect only a minority approves

Ezra Klein has this right:

Democrats should force both the media and Republicans to take seriously the fact that Trump is governing without a majority, or even a plurality, of the American people behind him, and that that carries with it a responsibility to govern modestly.

... Elections decide who wins power. They don’t decide how it should be wielded. If Trump governs in a way that respects the center of opinion in the country — a center Democrats appear to hold — Democrats should work with him. If he isn’t, then they should keep pointing that out, and force him to govern alone. They owe their voters nothing less.

As Ezra says, there is no sign, with the appointments of the white nationalist crank Steven Bannon and the racist old Confederate fantasist Jeff Sessions, that our budding autocrat is capable of modesty.

But we have no need to participate in his delusion. Majorities gave their votes to Clinton; Democratic Senator candidates cumulatively won far more votes than Republicans; the same is likely true of House candidates. Our people are not well geographically distributed to take power -- but we are the considerable majority. And Democrats should own that we are the majority and repeat it at every turn.

Not normal

Influence per voter in the Electoral College
Lest anyone is tempted to forget, this is not normal. Hillary Clinton will almost certainly have received more than 2 million votes more than the President-elect when all the votes are tallied. That President-elect will have been won because, under the rules we use in our game, the Electoral College votes of the states where he prevailed count for more than the desires of the majority of the citizens.
... we have a result swung by a tens of thousands of votes in three crucial states. On the other hand, we have enormous impending changes in international and domestic policy. Americans would not regard the result as normal or proportional if they observed it anywhere else.
As it happens, I am not a big advocate for any of the clamorous efforts to get rid of the Electoral College. Sure, this ancient compromise ought to go. But that fight doesn't look for the moment like a particularly fruitful tactical avenue for preserving as much healthy future as possible. My priorities lean more toward shielding the vulnerable, creating material and cultural friction as the white nationalists try to impose their dystopian vision on the majority, and generally clawing out whatever progressive victories we can at local and state levels.

Your mileage may vary. We don't know yet what avenues of resistance to our abnormal circumstances will prove most fruitful. Let's try not to go in for circular firing squads. Analysis, yes; recriminations, a luxury for less desperate times.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Erudite Partner has a new article published yesterday by TomDispatch, a syndication project of The Nation Institute. Here's how she begins; I suspect many will recognize these feelings.

Life Under Trump: Night Terrors and Daytime Hopes

The night after the election, this long-time pacifist dreamed she shot a big white man carrying an arsenal of guns.  He was wandering around a room full of people, waving a pistol and threatening to fire. Someone pushed a gun into my hand and said, “Shoot now, while his back is turned!” I shot. Blood seeped from a hole in his back. He fell. I woke up stunned.

And the election results had not changed.

Night Fears

More bad nights have followed, filled with dreams in which people who know me well accuse me of terrible things I haven’t done or of failing to protect people in my charge. ... And there have been nights when my partner and I hold each other in the dark and whisper our worst fears. ... Some fears are national ... Some are global ...

Don't worry, she gets to hope, on the other side of fear. Click through to read it all.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Transgender Day of Remembrance/Resilience

This past week I wrote about my frustration with a book purporting to tell me something of the history of poor whites in this country. It erased the agency, the persistence, the power, of its subjects. People just don't take shit lying down forever.

Transgender and gender non-conforming people have been asserting themselves for a long time.
Encountered in the Tenderloin while Walking San Francisco. Click to enlarge.

Resistance: cries from the heart as we are forced to clarify values

In a democracy, citizenship is always, at least in part, an ethical test. Do we use our tiny smidgen of political influence for the common good? What values inform our notion of the common good? Some of what some people consider "values" -- Ayn Randian maximization of personal benefits to oneself; forcing women to have unwanted babies -- feels criminal. Some people consider my highest values -- kindness, equity, and respect for all -- to be betrayals of their highest values which put the safety of their tribe over all else. Almost everyone claims to occupy the high ground.

Where do those values come from? It used to be, that's where churches (and less frequently in the USA synagogues, mosques and whatever) came in. People belonged to some religious tribe, even if only by inheritance and custom. They would likely say their values came from their religion. But affluent consumer capitalism eats conventional religion for breakfast and comes back at lunch to slurp any remaining tidbits. Some of us, myself included, still find wisdom in ancient rituals and teachings. But that old time religion ain't what it used to be for most.

For many of us, the unexpected catastrophe of a venal autocrat elected to presidential office might send us to check in what the religious values "professionals" are saying. After all, they say church attendance increased briefly after other recent traumas -- 9/11 and the Charleston massacre for example. And November 8 was certainly also trauma.

So I've collected some religious reactions here. It's all from people located somehow in the resistance chorus; I'm not interested in the chortling from the homophobes of Colorado Springs, Franklin Graham, or Jerry Falwell Jr. But I did want to see how some "religious leaders" were applying their values. There's a lot of pain in what follows.
This one came to me from a family member who often finds politics just too confusing to contemplate. The Rev. J. Gary Brinn is a UCC pastor in a small community in Maine (white people land). He's not sure his congregation has his back.

Many have rolled their eyes during recent years as I have named the pervasive hate and racism in this country, when I remind them that the lynch mob never went away, it simply got a badge. Some are worried about what I might say in this pulpit, worried about what people might think. Many are tired of me speaking of the broken brown body of Jesus. Yet, like Paul, I can only do one thing, and that is to preach Christ, and him crucified, foolishness to the Greeks and a scandal to the Jews.

I was a gay civil rights organizer in Jesse Helm’s North Carolina. I know about risk. I was gay-bashed by a group of men in England, a group that knew that I was working for cash under the table and dare not turn them in. Friday, for the first time in many years, I feared for my safety. As young white laborers worked in the Parsonage yard, I wondered if I would be safe if they knew I was gay. ...

I will fly my freak flag and tell the world that I am one of those people that those in power hate, one who has no rights under the sharia rule of the Christian Taliban. ... I will make some of you uncomfortable. I will lead you, with courage and humility, if you will let me.

But the pastor is not the church. You must decide which church you will be. Will you walk on by, turn your eyes away from the bodies in the ditch and pretend not to see? Will you, in your bubble of relative safety, downplay the threat? Will you worry what others might think? ...

Since I practice religious observance within the Episcopal Church, I was particularly happy to read what the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings had to say. Her values led her (she's a big wheel in this quasi-hierarchal denomination) to admonish anyone inclined to easy accommodation.

Christians who voted for Trump may claim policy or economic reasons for having done so. But by electing a man whose words and actions support and incite hatred and violence, the church has failed the country, and we have a lot of soul searching to do.

We might begin by examining our default response to conflict. The desire to foster “reconciliation” is deep in Christians’ bones, and it crops up in just about every statement about the election I have seen from a mainline church leader, but too often the church preaches reconciliation when what we really want is to avoid unpleasantness or get approval from worldly powers and principalities.

President-elect Trump’s rhetoric and his behavior indicate that he does not regard significant numbers of other Americans as his equal, or even as fully human.

Reconciliation, then, may be out of reach, and it may be pastorally inappropriate for the church even to suggest it to people who now have legitimate reasons to be afraid.

... our own limitations do not free us from our promise to resist evil. When the agendas of the president-elect and the new Congress scapegoat people of color and Muslims, deprive our fellow citizens of control over their lives, desecrate God’s creation or enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor, we must oppose them. This is not a partisan political statement; it is a confession of faith. ... Reconciliation is holy work. Resistance is too. ...

I've been unable to find a convincing report of what percentage of white mainline voters chose our budding autocrat. I would expect this was a majority (even if a small one) -- white mainline Christians are, after all, white. And often relatively privileged, the apparent profile of a Trump voter. Jennings certainly got plenty of pushback on this article which appeared in the denominational press.

The people who are really hurting are Black evangelical Christians. Their white co-religionists voted by a margin of 81 percent for a man with a documented history of racial hatred. Eighty-one percent! That's pretty convincing evidence of something rotting. I've collected two of their cries from the heart. Dr. Yolanda Pierce teaches at Princeton Theological Seminary and is the Director of Black Church Studies.

... I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who in his acceptance speech did not mention “God.” Not one time. Not even to thank God for his victory or to suggest that “God bless America.”

I lament that, for white evangelicals, my brothers and sisters in Christ (some of whom have joined me in the work of racial justice), the very real lives and experiences of black and brown peoples, Muslims, immigrants, and so many others were apparently not on their radar. People whose highest commandment is to love God and then love your neighbor.

There are real people on the other side of these lies and racism and misogyny. There are Muslims who face physical assault because of an Islamophobia that is being embraced and celebrated in this country. There are women who are raped or sexually assaulted, and who will never seek justice, since sexual assault has been reduced to merely “locker room” antics.

... How can I believe that racial justice is possible when dealing with those who are quick to forgive the president-elect’s egregious moral lapses, while simultaneously supporting his contention that black and brown youth are inherently criminals deserving of constant surveillance?

As a descendant of enslaved persons my ancestors have been in the United States longer than almost any other group besides American Indians. I am not going to leave the country my ancestors built with their blood and uncompensated labor. And I am a Christian – a faith that was birthed in an African cradle. I am not going to leave the faith bequeathed to me by my foremothers and forefathers. But I will always speak truth from my lived experience as an African American living in a nation in which the structural sins of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression are clearly evident even in the body of Christ.

... Something has been broken for me; a fragile hope that the work of racial and gender justice will be embraced by the larger church.

Dr. Pierce questions her fully developed career path; Brandi Miller is a young campus minister in Oregon. She's through with the white church.

... the white evangelical church has now committed adultery with its own moral values, and sacred texts for the socio-political power that [Trump] offers — at the expense of marginalized people, specifically people of color.

Evangelicalism has, in this election, set itself in opposition to the best interests of my people whom it claims to wish to evangelize. I refuse to hitch myself to a collective of religious people who actively vote to say that my life doesn’t matter and then quickly turn to share supposed good news about a God now represented by a demagogue and his people.

So I’m done.

White Catholics can claim to belong to a church whose adherents did not give a majority of their votes to Donald Trump -- and they did, so long as you subtract out Latinx Catholics. Pew reports 60 percent of white Catholics voted Trump. At the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters excoriates the complacency of Catholic bishops who apparently don't mind.

... the biggest immediate issue the bishops face is the prospect of mass deportations of many of our Catholic parishioners. The night before the meeting began, Donald Trump floated the number of people he intended to deport at 3 million. He suggested he was only going after the criminals. If the bishops do not stand up to this bully, and soon, before he gets the wind at his back, before the inauguration, before more people in Washington fall within his power, it will be too late. Throughout the primaries, people said, "He isn't going to get away with saying what he is saying," but he did get away with it. Countless times, people said, "Surely, he has gone too far now," but it was never too far. The annals of history are littered with evidence of well-meaning people and well-meaning clergy thinking that evil people will not really act upon the evil they have promised, and then it is too late to stop that evil.

The bishops need to find their voice, and fast. What was said in Baltimore [at a bishops' meeting] the past two days was totally unequal to the threat a Trump presidency poses to millions of our fellow Catholics.

I am not suggesting that we should only be concerned with the plight of Catholics. I am suggesting that if we are not prepared to demonstrate we will protect our own, Trump and his team will get the signal that they can do what they want.

No wonder the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, religiously speaking, are Millennial Nones, a cohort that finds its values without reference to religion. I suspect that the Trump era will force on them, especially the white ones, a need to clarify their own most rooted impulses. What matters to them? What guides their ethical choices and defines how they live? Hard times demand reflection on these seeming abstractions. This may occur without reference to religious leaders. Or Millennials may find new forms. I wish them the best.

Resisting what our fellow citizens have done remains a question of finding sustaining and orienting values somewhere. As a wise friend reminded me:

The worst consequences of capitulating are to the soul as even I, an atheist, understand.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday scenes and scenery: Briones Reservoir

I caught glimpses of this lovely body of water on a recent run.

A recent rain has rendered the surrounding fire roads so muddy as to be impassible for this jogger!

I must go back when I can make my way all around the shoreline.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The stain of fear

Did her editors make her write these lead sentences?

“It feels like 9/11.” That’s one of the many heartbroken comments I overheard among shell-shocked New Yorkers the wake of the election of Donald Trump. Now, the differences of magnitude and factual reality between the murder of 3,000 individuals and the prophesies of doomsayers predicting fascism under Trump are fairly apparent. ...

Writing at the Atlantic, Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, does not explicate further, but this opening seems to suggest that 9/11 was a more consequential event than the free election last week of our aspiring autocrat by a bare minority of our citizens.

That's nuts. The murderous attacks of 9/11, for all their shock and horror, were pinpricks on the U.S. state. Sure, we the people were rendered numb and aghast by the sight of burning jumpers and the crashing towers, but those events were no threat to this nation or most of us individually. Anyone who had been paying attention to U.S. behavior (especially outside our borders) knew there were people willing to die to hurt us. But the damage they could do was limited to a made-for-TV movie in Lower Manhattan. Our timid, imbecile "leaders" managed to make the aftermath into an ongoing threat, but that's been fully explicated by now.

After her unpromising opening, Greenberg goes on to lay out in all its horror how the crimes of the Bush administration and their extension by the Obama administration eviscerated restraints on torture and civil liberties. She does a clear, honorable, job of it and does not mince words:

With Donald Trump’s inauguration looming, a justified terror that law-breaking policies could return, and that new, aggressive violations of civil liberties could be brought to life, now stalks the republic. With Trump’s cavalier dismissal of civil liberties—through statements like “torture works,” among other things—he alludes to an even broader application of the policies that tarnished the Bush administration. While we don’t yet know whether Trump will fulfill his promises, we do know what happened the last time a president chose to sidestep the rule of law.

Among those lessons: When the White House asks, the rules can be broken as rapidly as dutiful government lawyers can put their pens to paper. ...

No, the horrors of 9/11 were not worse; they (and our reactions) were prelude to today's horror. Greenberg is too realistic an observer of reality not to know this. Maybe her editors will figure it out ...

The photo is one of the less shocking images from the U.S. prison at Abu Ghraib where torture was routinely applied to Iraqi captives by U.S. personnel.

Friday cat blogging

It's a wonder I ever get anything written at all with a sentry like this guarding the desk.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Resistance: internet petitions and appeals

This morning a friend wanted advice about how handle the blizzard of internet petitions and appeals flying about in the wake of the Trumpocalyse.

Here's some of what I wrote to her -- nothing novel, but perhaps more widely helpful. Please add thoughts in comments. I bet we are all living with this and trying to figure out how to react. Our net activism isn't going to save the country, but it may be part of living in resistance.

1) Evaluate what you are being asked to sign. Have you ever heard of the group/individual who passed it on? Does the content of the petition make sense? Most important of all, even if this particular petition is substantively not crazy, would what is asked be effectual? There are lots of ills embedded in the U.S. governing system and petitions aren't going to change most of them. Petitions that require an amendment to the Constitution should be non-starters. Also ones that would require political leaders to accomplish feats of fancy footwork, like the current one suggesting we can get all the state legislatures to boycott and overthrow the Electoral College. Not going to happen.

2) In general, internet petitions are simply devices to collect email addresses. That's no crime. If the petition comes from an organization you know and respect, why not get on their mailing list? I sometimes sign ones I agree with — what I think of myself as doing is continuing to hear from their sponsors. (Later I often unsubscribe, but they usually find me again. :-)

These days they all also hope to get you to donate. Some of them will need the money. I'm thinking particularly of Planned Parenthood.

3) Impeding Trump's hate-filled racist authoritarian ambitions is going to require many tactics in different moments. The internet petitions that might be worth signing are those that connect you into broad networks that are following some strategy that might make it harder for Trump to follow his worse impulses.

At this moment in time, I would sign petitions and take actions that any organization is sponsoring to try to get Steve Bannon out of the White House. The Breibart editor is a known enabler of anti-Semitism, woman-hatred, racism, Islamophobia, and conspiracy theories. His appointment as Trump's counselor tests whether we’ll be obedient to the new boss and normalize hate in office. This is a significant test. If we don't protest, the next test will be worse. Screaming bloody murder now is appropriate.

I’ve signed on with organizations from J Street (!) to Peace Action on this one as well as the usual liberal suspects, like Daily Kos. It is also gratifying to see that 169 Congressional Democrats have spoken against Bannon, including such Senators as Sanders and Franken. Aroused people are great for putting backbone into politicians.

4) At this moment, I would also suggest supporting with emails and calls those state and city officials who are doing the right thing, promising to protect their residents against racial profiling and hate attacks.

California elected officials claim to be making a serious effort to preserve the progressive initiatives that state has embarked on. This too may well matter in tough days ahead.

Internet petitions aren't going to save us. But as resistance grows, even internet noise has to be part of the chorus. And then we get active!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Resilience and resistance

Yesterday the invocation of the spirit of resistance at Standing Rock was inaudible at the #NoDAPL protest at Civic Center. This beautiful video stands in for that omission.

We don't have anyplace else to go ...we didn't matter. .. Our spirit is called to act. .. We have to make sure that this black snake is killed. We have to look in our hearts to ask how far are we willing to go...What is your spirit telling you that you want to do? ...

When our ancestors went into battle, we didn't know what the consequences were going to be for our children. All we knew was that if we did nothing, things were not going to go well for our children. Don't operate out of fear. Operate out of hope .... The only thing that keeps me going is prayer. I have to have faith that my prayers are being heard. ... We must show the rest of the world how to live ...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

#NoDAPL San Francisco

Supporters of the protest against the oil pipeline (Dakota Access' deadly boondoogle) at Standing Rock gathered this morning before dawn in front of City Hall.

Running an oil pipeline under a reservoir is self-evident folly that only could have been dreamed up by corporate leaders whose time horizon is no longer than their next bonus. Running it through sacred Native American lands is par for the course. We do that. Leaving the oil in the ground and finding alternatives to carbon-polluting energy sources is the only hope for human flourishing on the planet. Nothing big at stake here ...

After prayer ceremonies (unfortunately largely inaudible and invisible) hundreds marched to the offices in Market of the Army Corps of Engineers which can approve further construction.

People willing to be arrested blocked office building doors under guard from some of the SFPD's most suitably racially diverse representatives.

Actions are continuing all day in the Civic Center area. Over fifty cities held protests of DAPL today.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced yesterday that it was withholding final approval of the pipeline for further analysis.

Invisible people

After hearing the historian Nancy Isenberg do several radio interviews, I very much wanted to like White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. I usually try not to critique books on the basis that the author wrote the book she wanted to write as opposed to the book I thought she should write. But this one diverged so much from my expectations as to leave me nonplussed.

You see, in this book the "white trash" -- poor whites -- seem almost invisible. The first three centuries of U.S history are treated as a catalogue of how elites named, shamed, insulted and exploited, before tossing away, the white unfortunates who populated the continent elites were seeking to appropriate. It's a foul story -- but where are these "white trash" people in it? How did they live? How did they respond to insult? Did they rebel? I know enough history to know they did, more than a few times; for example, Isenberg alludes to Shay's Rebellion in the early days of the Republic, but does not explicate. Did these outbreaks matter? You won't find out here.

The picture of the "white trash" becomes more lively when Isenberg gets to New Deal programs which actually made some effort to improve their circumstances. Perhaps the troupes of social workers and artists who ventured into situations of terrible poverty in that era finally created accessible documentation that is largely absent for earlier times. Further into the 20th century, the "white trash" label became associated with the South -- and became a catch all for racial bigotry and backwardness. And so it remains today, both flaunted and shunned in cultural products like the TV show "Duck Dynasty."

And yet, and yet -- where was and is the agency of people so long exploited and discarded? I don't believe they didn't push back against their condition even if we might not recognize the forms that push back assumed. Did they develop their own religiosity? Create their own populism or socialism? Unite in what might look from outside like marauding outlaw bands but which from inside served to protect people without the privilege of access to law? Isenberg's "white trash" are people -- and people may be crushed for awhile, but they find ways to get back at "elites." (No -- I am not blaming "white trash" for the recent election -- just pointing to historical patterns.)
This is another book I "read" by ear, listening as I ran. This was not a good way to absorb it. The print version is illustrated with contemporary wood cuts, engravings, and photos that round out the story in the text. Perhaps I would have had less of sense that so much was missing if I'd encountered these as I read.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Latino vote

In the aftermath of last Tuesday's white-lash, one of the hardy perennials of dispute in recent Democratic losses is back. Was or wasn't the Latino vote much smaller and less for Clinton than so many had expected?

Pew reports:

Hillary Clinton won 65% of Latino voters on Tuesday, according to National Election Pool exit poll data, a level of Democratic support similar to 2008, when 67% of Hispanics backed Barack Obama. However, Clinton’s share of the Latino vote was lower than in 2012, when 71% of Latinos voted to reelect Obama.

While Clinton underperformed among Latinos compared with 2012, Republican Donald Trump won 29% of the Latino vote, a similar share to 2012, when Mitt Romney won 27%, and to 2008, when John McCain won 31%, according to exit polls.

Meanwhile, the polling group Latino Decisions calls, figuratively, bullshit!

Matt Barreto, UCLA Professor of Political Science and Chicano Studies, and Co-Founder of Latino Decisions, presented the results of the Latino Decisions Election Eve poll. The key finding: Latinos backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a 78-19% margin.

As pointed out in the presentation, the Latino Decisions finding on national presidential margin is consistent with high-quality, large-sample, bilingual polls carried out by a number of groups in recent months. ... Further, Barreto pointed to an examination of the actual election results from counties and precincts which are majority Latino show higher rates of Latino voter turnout in 2016, and show Clinton winning roughly 80% of the Latino vote.

Barreto contends that the exit polls routinely choose precincts to survey that do not include adequate numbers of Latinos to generate accurate estimates and consequently cannot.

This is all reminiscent of 2004, when exit polls suggested that 40 percent of Latino voters went for George W. Bush. Latino researchers contested that margin then, as they contest exit poll estimates now.

Long experience getting out Latino voters makes me lean toward the Latino Decisions view. Pollsters aren't going to get accurate measures without linguistically and culturally appropriate interviewers. As is true in all polling, quality is expensive. So I look at lowball findings like Pew's with a lot of skepticism. Is our repeated mystification about Latino polling and voting a byproduct of our as-yet-incomplete assimilation of the legitimacy of Latino citizenship in a U.S. culture more multifaceted than we realize?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Trump era: time to take our country back

In our appropriate despair over the outcome of Tuesday's election, let's keep a grip on our brains and our hearts. The thoughts that follow are skeletal. Whether we want to or not, we're going to have to flesh out this stuff over coming months and years. This post is an effort to create a framework that might guide my thinking. It will necessarily be incomplete and provisional -- and individual. These matters are not individual. Communities work out their fates collectively, but individuals have to start somewhere.

I still see Donald Trump's electoral success through the lens of the Californification of the nation.
Others have call this "white-lash" or whites voting like a super-unified "minority" population. Whites won't be a minority nationally until 2045 or so, but a demagogue has taken advantage of their fears to push into national power.

Here in California, the vote against this man was 61 percent to 33 percent. There's a lot wrong in this state -- including that our cities are becoming unaffordable to all but the very rich and our cops are shooting Black and brown people with impunity. But we've been moving in some good directions: a significant majority seems agreed that we want a multi-racial, economically egalitarian, gender non-constricting, woman affirming, democracy that preserves the earth. This is worth striving to protect and advance.

The Donald's accession presents at least three related challenges which seem worth enumerating. It is possible, though not clear, that fighting them may require different tactics so being aware of the distinctions could be useful.
  • First, the GOP program for the nation which they are now in a position to enact. They have promised to and certainly will demolish Obamacare, gut the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act, cut taxes for the very rich and make the poor and middle classes pay for the giveaway, end net neutrality, and legions of other regressive measures. This would be bad enough, but there is much more.
  • Second, rampant corruption will be the order of the day. The new President is a classic con man (thanks, Bloomberg) and so are his cohorts. They will steal all they can while in power. This will be a lot. Infrastructure improvements would be great, unless the scam artists walk off with 90 percent of slush as, for example, they did in U.S. projects in Iraq under occupation. We have contractors salivating to get their piece of the public trough.
  • Third, and most horribly, Donald Trump aspires to be our homegrown dictator and it is not at all clear that constitutional checks on authoritarian aspirations will hold. In fact, there's plenty of reason to fear that they won't. Most of us are not accustomed to preparing for resistance to tyranny.
I've been thinking about some principles for living in resistance; here are some preliminary items.
  • Don't play circular firing squad. Sure, the Dems nominated a candidate who was difficult to put over the top and lost a campaign and left us in this fix. But the causes of that are not simple and most likely involved multiple apparently minor missteps that added up to a foul face-plant. The various elements of our big tent coalition do not easily get along with each other. Whites will act racist, men will behave like pigs, more conventional people will look askance at gender queers. But when we rub each other wrong, we have to ease up.
  • Holding back the fascist tsunami must override these unresolved animosities as much as possible. People will try various paths and tactics. We need to try to respond generously and imaginatively, even when we think some of our comrades are going wrong. We don't have a lot of practice at this and we need all the avenues we can invent. And if people screw up and then try to come back to us, we need to be cautiously welcoming. Authoritarianism thrives by driving us apart. We need to act always to help people continue to feel that it is worth staying mobilized.
  • Our urgent task is to protect the vulnerable. Right now, individual Trump enthusiasts and long time haters are feeling empowered to attack Muslims, people of color, people perceived as immigrants, random women of all perceived identities. We must act -- aggressively, imaginatively, and creatively -- and as peacefully as possible. This last is important because fascism thrives on hyping disorder. They will label anything we do "violent," however peaceful, but we need to minimize their ability to do so.
  • When we have successes, even tiny incremental ones, we must celebrate. We win by attraction (something Dems forgot). In fighting off the propaganda of our rulers, we can easily teach ourselves to be so cynical and so defensive that we cease to recognize small victories. Yes, everything is awful, but when we win, point it out. Unlike previous eras, our job in the next period will not need to be convincing our friends that something terrible is happening. Our job is to win small victories on the way to big victories -- on the way to taking our country back.
Yes, a better way is possible. We have no alternative but to struggle to construct it.

This post owes a lot to Masha Gessen's Autocracy: Rules for Survival and Garrett Epps' Donald Trump Has Broken the Constitution.