mehdi hasan and zeteo

I rarely talk about current affairs ... this blog has a category devoted to it with close to 800 posts over the years, but this is the first post with that tag since November of 2022. The blog has narrowed significantly since its beginning in 2002, no question, and I don't have a reason beyond laziness. But it's also true that I might feel I have something to contribute to a discussion about film, but when I think about politics, there's always someone out there who knows more than I do and says what I think more effectively than I would.

Mehdi Hasan is an example of this. He is from England (and is now a naturalized citizen of the US). His journalism career includes time spent at the BBC, Al Jazeera, and more recently MSNBC, where he often offered takes on topics that made me wonder how a mainstream news organization in this day and age let him on the air. My fears were probably right, since MSNBC gradually cut Hasan's time on air. At the beginning of 2024, Hasan left the network, and he has now resurfaced with Zeteo, "where independent and unfiltered journalism is making its comeback." Zeteo claims to be "a new media organization that seeks answers for the questions that really matter, while always striving for the truth." They have a home on Substack (, and big plans for the future. Yesterday, Hasan hosted a Zoom "Town Hall" where he answered questions for about 40 minutes.

Zeteo is a subscription service. Here is a brief introduction:

Hasan sounds very ambitious, and only time will tell if he will deliver. I like his track record.

october 12

October 12 in Spain is called the Fiesta Nacional de España. Cut-and-pasting from Wikipedia:

The National Day of Spain is the day of celebration on which the Spanish people commemorate the country's history, recognize and appreciate achievements, reconfirm their commitment to the nation's future. The day celebrates unity and fraternity, and also shows Spain's ties with the international community....
National Day of Spain commemorates the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus for Spain on October 12, 1492. The date is a key point for Spain's overseas influence and legacy to the world and to the Americas in particular. It symbolizes Spain's vast, common heritage with today's American countries, which made up the Spanish Empire, the first global power in world history.

I am from Berkeley, where, in 1992, Indigenous People's Day was instituted as a counter to the celebration of Columbus. So today, I am in a country that still celebrates Columbus every year, and in a couple of weeks, I'll be back in a city that has a different celebration. I don't know what any of this means.

i read the news today

Laura Ruby, "Democrats, here's a thought: Stop retreating. Stand up for your own voters for once"

Wannabe tyrants represent only about a quarter to a third of the population, but you wouldn't know it by the behavior of the Democratic Party. Cowering, dithering Dems accept the most ludicrous Fox News framing of every issue from inflation to policing to abortion, perpetually stumped by right-wing mud-slinging. In response to rabid authoritarianism, they hem and haw, shuffle policy papers, babble about "bipartisanship" and attempt to negotiate with GOP grifters who call them pedophiles. And then these same Democrats turn around and blame a handful of progressives, when it's conservatives from both parties who block and shred every scrap of legislation that might make all our lives a little less apocalyptic. And the administration wonders why Biden's approval numbers are tanking? ...

Finally, instead of nagging terrified people for more money, Democrats could tell us what their vision for the country is, and clearly lay out their agenda. They can start with the idea that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness do not belong to Republicans alone, that we all should have the freedom to decide how we live, who we marry, how we build our families and how we worship. Democrats should talk about the legislation they've passed — the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the historic gun safety law — as well as the numerous bills the GOP has blocked. And then Democrats could talk about the specific measures they intend to take right now to protect us from this corrupt and illegitimate Supreme Court, as well as what they'll do after the November election if they hold the House and increase numbers in the Senate (i.e., "Give us two more seats and we will make Roe the law of the land." Or, "Give us 60 seats in the Senate and we'll expand the Supreme Court to 13.")

i read the news today

I used to post a lot about current affairs on this blog. I spent several years working on a journal with the subheading "Political Education For Everyday Life", and I wrote 2 or 3 articles for them every year. In more recent years, I've cut back on my political blog posts. I have a feeling that someone else out there has made my argument more persuasively (although I never think that I shouldn't write about movies or music just because other people do it better), so at best, I'll link to others.

At times like today, I feel the absence of those posts. Also, more than ever I write entries and then post-date them, so when something momentous happens, I've got a pre-written blog post about Miranda Lambert.

Today calls for a post. More than a post, of course ... it's heartening to see people taking actions on the streets, even as I anticipate Sunday, which I'll spend sitting on the toilet prepping for Monday's colonoscopy. But I don't know that I have a post worth offering. People are reminding us that despair gets us nowhere, and they are right, but Despair is my middle name. (I recall an old underground comic from R. Crumb, "Plunge into the Depths of Despair", with a cover that showed a husband with arms crossed saying "See if there's anything good on..." and his wife gripping the arms of her chair as she replied, "Why bother?")

Here's a piece by Samuel Moyn (it has a tremendous drawing by Mathias Ball) in the Washington Post: "Counting on the Supreme Court to uphold key rights was always a mistake".

The situation reflects a flaw in our political system: The Supreme Court has been allowed to usurp the place of national majorities in envisioning and enacting the highest values of American citizenship — the rights we hold. Contrary to a popular misconception, when the court has assigned and defined rights, more often than not it has reinforced the rule of powerful and privileged minorities rather than protecting ordinary (let alone marginalized) citizens....

Arbitrary and unreviewable power of the sort the Supreme Court now possesses is the worst threat to democracy and rights alike. Abortion rights are at stake in the Dobbs case and its political aftermath but, equally fatefully, so is whether democracies can legislate rights of almost any kind. Only when rights are legislated, progressives need to learn, are they made reliable.

Heavens to Betsy, "Baby's Gone":

I grew up in your house
I grew up with your rules and I know sex is what I shouldn't do
I know what i can't tell you

Baby's gone away
Baby won't be back
Baby grew today and she won't ever be back

Maybe he loved me;
Maybe he didn't I don't know
It doesn't matter now because when I needed help I was all alone
Now baby's gone away
Sometimes condoms break
Your baby grew today, and she won't ever be back

I'd be a little girl forever
I won't make you ashamed
Little girl's gone away because I died on a knitting needle yesterday

Baby's gone away
Baby won't be back
Baby grew today
I did what you told me to do- now I'm dead
Goodbye. goodbye

nuclear power has returned to the energy debate

"3 Reasons Nuclear Power Has Returned to the Energy Debate" by Jason Bordoff:

A decade after the Fukushima nuclear accident set back nuclear power’s prospects worldwide, the outlook may finally be brightening for three reasons: the urgency of meeting increasingly ambitious climate goals, significant advances in nuclear technology, and national security concerns about China’s and Russia’s growing leadership in nuclear power....

[A]s the urgency to combat the climate crisis grows, there is growing recognition that the pathway to net-zero emissions will be faster, easier, and cheaper if nuclear energy is part of the mix of solutions....

Chernobyl and Fukushima remain seared in the public’s memory, weakening popular support for nuclear energy. Yet nuclear power has resulted in vastly fewer deaths than other energy sources—especially when the basis of comparison is the amount of energy generated. For example, the number of deaths associated with coal-fired energy—including from mining accidents and air pollution—is around 350 times higher than from nuclear plants per terawatt-hour of power produced.

Nuclear power is not without problems. But at the same time, when we refer to climate change as a crisis and existential risk, too often we do not act as if we believe that rhetoric to be true. If we did, we would approach many of the tradeoffs involved in accelerating the pace of climate action differently. When it comes to nuclear power, support would be much stronger if we took our own rhetoric seriously. This is not to ignore the risks and the many other reasons to be skeptical about nuclear power. The question to ask, however, is whether it is easier to address nuclear power’s risks and challenges than to try to achieve net-zero without nuclear in the mix. Available evidence suggests it is.

returning to the weather underground (sam green and bill siegel, 2002)

I first saw the 2002 documentary The Weather Underground in 2004. At the time, I wrote:

It's a weird time to be watching The Weather Underground, a recent documentary about self-proclaimed Amerikan revolutionaries. It didn't make me want to go out and start a revolution ... But the film did bring to mind some parallels to American life in 2004.

These radicals felt completely alienated from mainstream America, and felt a need to act upon that alienation, in order to end the society they felt was causing such misery across the globe. Whether or not their political analysis was correct, their sense of themselves as separate was shared not just by bomb-throwing radicals but by many of us.

And many of us increasingly feel that way now. George Bush is a divider, not a uniter. And if he gets another four years, some of us are going to feel as alienated from mainstream America as the Weather Underground was in the past.

Well, George Bush did get another four years, and we survived somehow. Then in 2016, we found out there was something worse than Bush the Younger: Donald Trump became president. It's funny, because Trump wasn't quite the warmonger his predecessors had been, and while there has never been a worse president, war was far from the biggest issue.

But in The Weather Underground, various ex-members talked about how their movement petered out when the U.S. finally got out of Vietnam. The war had been the trigger for them, and without it, they were lost, and found themselves questioning what they were doing.

The film is an uneasy look back, using the benefit of hindsight to reject what the Weather Underground was doing. I got the feeling that the film makers wanted that rejection. It is balanced in some ways ... you do hear from members who would "do it again". But you also hear Mark Rudd, who admits to mixed feelings of guilt and shame. And the way Green and Siegel use Todd Gitlin upsets the so-called balance. Gitlin belongs in any study of the Weather Underground ... he had been a president of the Students for a Democratic Society, from which the Weather Underground came, and he is adamant that the Underground was ruinous for the Left. His points are well-taken at first, but he keeps popping up throughout the film, always insisting that the Underground was a bad thing. The way the film is constructed, it's as if Gitlin is called upon whenever the film makers want to take the Underground to task. The result is that the members of the Underground come across as spoiled kids who wouldn't listen to daddy. Which may even be an accurate description, but the use of Gitlin in the film means Green and Siegel side with daddy.

It is entirely possible I bring too much baggage to the film, and I may be unfair to Green and Siegel. Here is Green talking about the film in 2015:

sundown town

Today I learned ... well, it's nothing I didn't already know, so maybe "learned" is the wrong word, but it helped me combine a few things I knew into something I hadn't considered in quite this way before.

I have written before about growing up in Antioch, California, which until my senior year of high school in 1970 had no black people. This fact has been in my mind recently, with the just-finished NFL draft, where Najee Harris was a first-round pick. Harris, who set records playing college ball at Alabama (one of the prime football colleges in the country), went to Antioch High School. He has a chance to be the greatest football player in Antioch High history (an honor that I'm guessing is currently held by Hall of Fame lineman Gino Marchetti). Najee Harris is black. And in 2021, that isn't noteworthy ... Antioch has come a long way in 50 years. Wikipedia informs us that "the city has grown substantially more diverse since the 1990s, with no ethnic group comprising more than one-third of Antioch's population."

Wikipedia describes the Antioch I grew up in as "an all-white sundown town". And it wasn't just blacks who were discriminated against ... a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle tells the story in its title: "The Bay Area town that drove out its Chinese residents for nearly 100 years."

I knew about sundown towns, and I certainly knew about Antioch's history. But I'd never put those two facts together. If nothing else, it makes my story shorter in the telling: I grew up in Antioch, California, a sundown town.

The city's progress isn't confined to sports. Two of the last three mayors, including current mayor Lamar Thorpe, are black. If I had to guess, I'd say most younger residents of Antioch know little or nothing about its past as a sundown town. I often say I don't recognize Antioch any longer ... it's been 40 years since we last lived there. But I'm mostly thinking about the size of the city. In 1920, around the time my grandparents from Spain moved to Antioch, the population was under 2000. By 1930, when my father was 6 years old, it was up to 3500. And it kept growing ... 11,000 in 1950, three years before I was born, up to 28,000 when I graduated from high school in 1970. The census for that year says that 98.1% of the populace of Antioch was "white" ("white" encompassing lots of groups that have their own categories now, such as Italian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Portuguese-Americans, and Spanish-Americans). According to that census, there were 42 "Negroes" living in Antioch, and if you asked me at the time, I'd say that overstated the case by around 38 people.

Times change. When we had kids, we moved to Berkeley, partly because we liked the city, but also because we didn't want our kids to grow up in that same racist environment in which we were raised. Our kids were born in 1975 and 1978 ... the 1980 census says there were 615 Black people living in Antioch at the time. I'm glad things have changed in my home town, but I'm even more glad that we got our kids out of there.

guilty guilty guilty

I didn't think it would happen. I'm so glad that the jury came through.

But I don't buy into this "the system works, the American Dream is still possible" crap. If the system worked, George Floyd would be alive. If the system worked, police wouldn't be killing citizens. If the system worked, systemic racism would be part of the past.

Not denying the pleasure those guilty verdicts provide. But it'll take a few hundred more such verdicts before the surface has been even barely scratched.