democrats have no plan

Sophia Tesfaye in Salon:

Trump is bulldozing democracy — and nobody's ready to stop him

Democrats in Congress have done little more than pay lip service to bipartisanship in the week since the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Even as the high court's ideological balance is up for grabs for the third time in four years — and as the president of the United States refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power — prominent Senate Democrats have rushed to tamp down talk of retaliatory action. This leaves little doubt that the opposition party is unequipped to handle the threat posed to democracy by Donald Trump and the Republicans....

It's been a near-universal show of surrender from Democrats — even as their voters have sent more $200 million in donations to Democratic candidates and causes since Ginsburg's passing. If they want to rally and sustain public support, Democrats might want to fight as if they believed they could win.

Republicans lie, cheat and steal. Democrats pretend to "resist" with weak appeals to the nonexistent conscience of Republicans who long ago sold their supposed principles down the river.


breonna taylor

Indictment doesn't even begin to bring justice for Breonna Taylor

The mere phrase "collateral damage" evokes a visceral reaction. But so does the realization that they decided to prosecute an officer for prospective loss of life, but none of the officers for the actual loss of life. It confounds the mind as much as the soul.
 
But until there is a judicial reassessment of how we evaluate the reasonableness of an officer's use of lethal force, it is justice that will end up being collateral damage.
 
Thursday will be 196 days since Breonna Taylor was killed inside of her home.
 
And still, no officer has been charged for her death.
-- Laura Coates

music friday: emmett till

On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi.

A.C. Bilbrew wrote "The Death of Emmett Till", which was recorded in 1955 by The Ramparts, who was actually Scatman Crothers.

In 1962, during his first radio interview (hosted by Cynthia Gooding), Bob Dylan played a new song that wasn't officially released under his name until 2010. It was called "The Death of Emmett Till".

On her 2011 album, Hard Bargain, Emmylou Harris included "My Name Is Emmett Till", which she also wrote.


"you know i hate politics" -- michelle obama

Michelle Obama was the key speaker at the first day of the Democratic convention. She's a powerful speaker. Here is what I got out of her speech:

Vote for us because we are not Donald Trump.

That's a good reason. I'm going to vote for them, myself.

But for me, her speech can be summed up in this: "You know I hate politics. But you also know that I care about this nation. You know how much I care about all of our children."

Her "argument" seems to be that we are nicer than Trump, therefore we deserve to win.

Early on she said, "I am here tonight because I love this country with all my heart, and it pains me to see so many people hurting." Later, she noted that Trump has "a total and utter lack of empathy." She continued, "Empathy: that's something I've been thinking a lot about lately."

A bit later, she added, "And like so many of you, Barack and I have tried our best to instill in our girls a strong moral foundation to carry forward the values that our parents and grandparents poured into us." That is, we have stronger morals than Trump, so vote for us.

She worries because she sees "a nation that's underperforming not simply on matters of policy but on matters of character. And that's not just disappointing; it's downright infuriating, because I know the goodness and the grace that is out there in households and neighborhoods all across this nation." We have goodness and grace ... vote for us.

And this, which hits the nail on the head:

So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.

She is right. But her point once again is, vote for us, we're not Trump. And "I know Joe. He is a profoundly decent man, guided by faith." (He's not Trump.)

"This is who we still are: compassionate, resilient, decent people whose fortunes are bound up with one another." (We're not Trump.)

This is not a message of hope, beyond hoping that we can get rid of Trump. But that's what you get when you speak for a political party and admit "I hate politics".


out of the coma again

In 2003, I had a blog post ("Out of the Coma") about ... well, here's how it began:

There's a news story about a guy who has just awoken from a coma that began on July 13, 1984. Apparently, the guy is talking a blue streak, and he still thinks Ronald Reagan is president. This made me decide to play a game, "What If I Was In A Coma?" The idea here is that everything is still 1984 to me ... the Reagan thingie is the example of what I mean. What needs to be explained to me, to get me up to speed?

I thought to do this again. In this case, I went into a coma in July of 2003, and woke up today. What needs to be explained?

When I went into a coma, George W was president. Since then, we elected our first African-American president. After him, we elected a real-estate mogul who by that time was known in part for his reality TV show, The Apprentice.

Harvey Pekar is dead. But Betty White and Olivia de Havilland are still alive.

When I went into a coma, the Giants had lost the World Series the previous season. Among the team leaders were Barry Bonds, Ray Durham, Marquis Grissom, and Jerome Williams, all African-Americans. While I was in a coma, the Giants miraculously won three World Series. There were no African-Americans on the list of top players on those teams. When I woke up from a coma, I was informed that there was no baseball yet, because of a virus.

Ah yes, the virus. For almost a year, now, the world is living through a pandemic. Lives have changed. When/if I go outside, I'll find that I have to wear a mask and stay at least six feet away from people. Many things will be closed ... shopping is a dangerous thing to do.

The most important political movement is now Black Lives Matter, which covers a lot of ground but which focuses on police brutality against African-Americans. In June of 2020 alone there were several dozen killings by law enforcement officials, including Rayshard Brooks, an African-American murdered in a Wendy's parking lot in Atlanta.

In football, the 49ers were mostly awful for nearly a decade, but they returned to the Super Bowl behind QB Colin Kaepernick. During the 2016 season, Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem as a protest against treatment of black people and people of color. After the season, he was released by the 49ers. He has never been given a job in the NFL since.

You know that American soccer league, MLS? It had 10 teams when I went into a coma. Soon afterwards, the Earthquakes won their second MLS Cup. A couple of years after that, they moved to Houston. A couple of years after that, San Jose was awarded an expansion team. A couple of years ago, the Earthquakes opened their new, soccer-only stadium. You'll notice that MLS is still around, now with 26 teams. Oh yeah, my nephew Sean works for the Toronto team.

When I went into a coma, the #1 song in the country was "Crazy in Love" by Beyoncé with Jay-Z. When I woke up, Beyoncé was the biggest music act in the country. The current #1 song is "Rockstar" by DaBaby. Prince died in 2016. While I was in a coma, Bruce Springsteen released 7 new studio albums, went on 7 world tours, had a show on Broadway that ran more than a year, and turned 70. Along the way, he won a few Grammies and a Tony. Danny Federici died in 2008, Clarence Clemons died in 2011. My beloved Sleater-Kinney released one of their greatest albums, went on a "hiatus", and came back a decade later. Before their most recent tour, Janet Weiss (sigh) quit.

Those Oscars you watched a coupla months before you went into a coma? The ones hosted by Steve Martin, where Chicago won Best Picture? The Best Picture at the most recent Oscars was Parasite, the first non-English language film to win the award.

The #1 broadcast TV series was CSI, which ran until 2015. Not sure you knew it back then, but we were entering the time of Peak TV. People "binge" series now. May I recommend the following shows to you, most of which you haven't heard of: The Wire, Mad Men, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, 30 Rock, Justified, Terriers, The Americans, Broad City, Fargo, Game of Thrones, Girls, The Leftovers, Mr. Robot, Orange Is the New Black, Rectify, Halt and Catch Fire, Jane the Virgin, The Comeback, The Knick, RubiconTremé, Outlander, GLOW, Vida, The 100, Agents of SHIELD, Better Things, Insecure, Atlanta.

Your family is fine, Steven. Robin is as terrific as you remember. Neal and Sonia are still a great couple, Sara married Ray and had your grandson, Félix, who is about to turn 8. Welcome back.

Oh, and it's possible to become famous via something called YouTube, which was created a couple of years after my coma began. Here's a YouTube show you should binge:

You won't recognize most of those people, but they are all big stars today. And yes, that's Scarlett Johansson, the girl from Ghost World. She is one of the biggest stars in the movie world.


planet of the humans (jeff gibbs, 2019)

Planet of the Humans has pissed off a lot of people. It's a documentary, made by environmentalists, that takes the movement to task for what is seen as its failures. In "Planet of the Censoring Humans", Matt Taibbi writes, "In Planet of the Humans, [Michael] Moore and Gibbs make a complex argument. In essence, they charge that people have become dependent upon the high-consumption lifestyles made possible by fossil fuels, and that it’s our addiction to that way of life, as much as to fossil fuels themselves, that is driving humanity off a 'cliff.'"

Taibbi's focus is on censorship more than the environment, and it is true that Planet of the Humans has gotten a lot of what amounts to free publicity because of attempts to shut it down. It's not entirely fair to accuse the film makers of milking the controversy ... the film is available for free, it is not as of now a profit-making enterprise ... but Michael Moore's gift for self-promotion is well-known, and it's hard to be sure what he's up to. I imagine he would argue that it's irrelevant, that the only thing that matters is the subject of the film.

Josh Fox is a leader in the attacks on the film. His essay in The Nation, "Meet the New Flack for Oil and Gas: Michael Moore", details many of his complaints.

The discussion surrounding the film is almost entirely about its content ... the form is apparently irrelevant. And I'm succumbing to that problem myself, I admit. The form matters, though, as it always does with films Moore is involved with. Moore creates propaganda, and the criticisms always come from the people he is attacking. What makes Planet of the Humans different is that the people under attack have supported Moore in the past (because they agreed with his propaganda). I, like others, may be making too much of Moore's involvement. I was surprised at how little presence Moore has in the actual film. It's really a Jeff Gibbs movie; he wrote, directed, produced, and is the main character, the way that Moore usually is in his movies. Moore seems to be the public face of the film, because of his notoriety, I suppose, and because of that gift for promotion. The film shares some of Moore's muckraking use of editing to make its points, even when that editing is unfair. Ultimately, it's not a lot different from a typical Michael Moore movie. I like his movies, I'm glad they exist, but I don't trust them, even when I agree with them.

One place where I think the critics are missing the point comes when they accuse the film of pandering to the notion of population control as essential, the criticism being that population control is often related to dark notions of "culling the populace". But the central point of the film isn't that there are too many of us (although that is presented as a problem), it's that we aren't doing enough to change our way of living. The problem isn't too many people, it's too many consumers. The enemy in Planet of the Humans, as in most things Moore is associated with, is capitalism. It's hard to miss this point, but apparently lots of people aren't seeing it. So Gibbs and Moore are seen as "flacks for oil and gas", when the film isn't pro-fossil fuels, it's just a critique of the current environmental movement, which, according to the film, has gotten too cozy with capitalism. It's ironic that the film argues against the movement's capitalist-friendly approach while being accused of promoting fossil fuel usage.

In the end, the criticisms of Planet of the Humans are well-taken. As is usual in his films, Moore (and Gibbs, it's really hard to separate the two) plays cutesy with facts. He is always easy to criticize. As I say, the only difference here is that it's the left doing the criticizing.

Meanwhile, there's an elephant in the room ... well, that's not the right way to say it, it's an elephant that isn't allowed into the room. Nowhere in the film (and nowhere in the critiques) is the question of nuclear power addressed. It's possible that Gibbs/Moore would include nuclear power alongside all of the other hoped-for scientific advances like solar and wind power as misguided attempts to maintain a lifestyle that no longer works. But I have to try and guess that, because nuclear is never brought up. Those of us who think a serious re-examination of nuclear power is long overdue can not be encouraged by this film, or the controversy surrounding it.

Here is an interview with the film makers where they try to address the criticisms:

And here is the movie itself, back on YouTube, at least for now. Watch it yourself, examine it for yourself.