The U.S. burns while the rich and powerful fiddle

Social inequality

Billionaires have been profiting exorbitantly from the ups and downs of the stock market as it reacted to news of the pandemic:[1]

Luke Hilyard, executive director of the High Pay Centre, a thinktank that focuses on excessive pay, said the “extreme wealth concentration is an ugly phenomenon from a moral perspective, but it’s also economically and socially destructive”.

“Billionaire wealth equates to a fortune almost impossible to spend over multiple lifetimes of absolute luxury,” Hilyard said. “Anyone accumulating riches on this scale could easily afford to raise the pay of the employees who generate their wealth, or contribute a great deal more in taxes to support vital public services, while remaining very well rewarded for whatever successes they’ve achieved.”[2]

Meanwhile, U.S. politicians still won’t (don’t say “can’t”) agree on an economic relief package even as people are losing their jobs,[3] losing their health insurance (but forget about Medicare For All, even in a pandemic),[4] and being evicted.[5] ’Cause, you know, none of that really matters.[6]

Rupert Neate, “Billionaires’ wealth rises to $10.2 trillion amid Covid crisis,” Guardian, October 7, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/07/covid-19-crisis-boosts-the-fortunes-of-worlds-billionaires

Jonathan Roeder, Jordyn Holman, and Mary Schlangenstein, “‘People are suffering’: Corporate America lashes Trump after stimulus call,” Sydney Morning Herald, October 7, 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/people-are-suffering-corporate-america-lashes-trump-after-stimulus-call-20201007-p562rj.html


Academia

Colleen Shalby, “California colleges tried to prepare for COVID-19 outbreaks. It didn’t work,” Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-10-07/as-californias-universities-reopen-off-campus-activity-contributes-to-spike-in-covid-19-cases


  1. [1]Rupert Neate, “Billionaires’ wealth rises to $10.2 trillion amid Covid crisis,” Guardian, October 7, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/07/covid-19-crisis-boosts-the-fortunes-of-worlds-billionaires
  2. [2]Rupert Neate, “Billionaires’ wealth rises to $10.2 trillion amid Covid crisis,” Guardian, October 7, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/07/covid-19-crisis-boosts-the-fortunes-of-worlds-billionaires
  3. [3]Jonathan Roeder, Jordyn Holman, and Mary Schlangenstein, “‘People are suffering’: Corporate America lashes Trump after stimulus call,” Sydney Morning Herald, October 7, 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/people-are-suffering-corporate-america-lashes-trump-after-stimulus-call-20201007-p562rj.html
  4. [4]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Eric Levitz, “In the Age of the Coronavirus, Biden’s ‘Results’ Require Bernie’s ‘Revolution,’” New York, March 16, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/who-won-the-democratic-debate-between-biden-and-bernie-coronavirus.html
  5. [5]Associated Press, “Tenants Behind on Rent in Pandemic Face Harassment, Eviction,” U.S. News and World Report, June 14, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/virginia/articles/2020-06-13/tenants-behind-on-rent-in-pandemic-face-harassment-eviction; Regina Garcia Cano and Michael Casey, “Wave of evictions expected as moratoriums end in many states,” Associated Press, August 4, 2020, copy in possession of author; Stephen Caruso, “Gov. Wolf says his executive authority has run out on extending eviction moratorium, perplexing some experts,” Pittsburgh City Paper, August 28, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/gov-wolf-says-his-executive-authority-has-run-out-on-extending-eviction-moratorium-perplexing-some-experts/Content?oid=17896117; Benjamin Fearnow, “Biden, Sanders demand 3-month freeze on rent payments, eviction of tenants across U.S.,” Newsweek, March 28, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/biden-sanders-demand-3-month-freeze-rent-payments-eviction-tenants-across-us-1494839; John Fritze and Nicholas Wu, “Trump administration announces nationwide eviction moratorium through end of the year,” USA Today, September 1, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/09/01/trump-imposes-eviction-moratorium-because-covid-19-pandemic/5686402002/; Kriston Capps, “What Happens When the Eviction Bans End?” CityLab, May 29, 2020, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/05/pay-rent-eviction-ban-coronavirus-housing-crisis-landlord/612277/; Elizabeth Hardison, “Pa.’s moratorium on evictions has ended. Here’s what that means,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, September 1, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/working-the-economy/pa-s-moratorium-on-evictions-has-ended-heres-what-that-means/; Sam Levin, “California landlords are locking out struggling tenants. A ‘tsunami of evictions’ may be next,” Guardian, July 30, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/30/california-covid-19-evictions-landlords-tenants; Eric Levitz, “This Recession Is a Bigger Housing Crisis Than 2008,” New York, July 13, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/07/coronavirus-recession-evictions-crisis-congress.html; Renae Merle, “Evictions are likely to skyrocket this summer as jobs remain scarce. Black renters will be hard hit,” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/06/eviction-moratoriums-starwood/; John L. Micek, “Pa. is facing a wave of evictions. Two state House lawmakers have a plan to help,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, June 16, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/commentary/pa-is-facing-a-wave-of-evictions-two-state-house-lawmakers-have-a-plan-to-help-tuesday-morning-coffee/; Emma Ockerman, “The Tenant Uprising Is Here, and It’s Fierce,” Vice, August 7, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7kpdyq/the-tenant-uprising-is-here-and-its-fierce; Ashwin Rodrigues, “Gig Economy Company Launches Uber, But for Evicting People,” Vice, September 21, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ep435n/gig-economy-company-launches-uber-but-for-evicting-people; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/; Renatta Signorini, “As time ticks down on eviction ban in Pennsylvania, crush of court cases expected,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 8, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/as-time-ticks-down-on-eviction-ban-in-pennsylvania-crush-of-court-cases-expected/
  6. [6]David Benfell, “The mysterious expectation that elites give a damn,” Not Housebroken, September 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/01/the-mysterious-expectation-that-elites-give-a-damn/

And here I’ve been, waiting for word on Trump’s alleged participation in ‘golden showers’ with Russian prostitutes

Donald Trump

Despite this, Donald Trump, whom authoritarian populists insist is such a great businessman,[1] is going broke again. He is personally responsible for some $421 million in debt, “most of it coming due within four years,” and faces the possibility of having to return a tax refund to the Internal Revenue Service, which could cost him $100 million. The report does not say to whom he owes the former,[2] but some will surely suspect the Russians.[3]

Ah, gee. And here I’ve been, waiting for word on Trump’s alleged participation in “golden showers” with Russian prostitutes.[4] Make of that what you will. I sure as hell don’t know, but I can’t even wrap my head around my own finances.

So I was wondering what the National Review would have to say about the New York Times story on Trump’s taxes. Well, um, it seems they’re all about the “golden showers,” too, or more precisely the “Russian investigation” into Trump, which Republicans insist was unjustified and possibly illegal.[5] Make of that what you will, too.

Brittany Bernstein, “Lindsey Graham Hints There is ‘More Damning’ Information about the Russia Investigation to be Released,” National Review, September 28, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/lindsey-graham-hints-there-is-more-damning-information-about-the-russia-investigation-to-be-released/

Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire, “Trump’s Taxes Show Chronic Losses and Years of Income Tax Avoidance,” New York Times, September 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html


Fire

Napa Valley in California is on fire and the fire spread west through mountainous terrain north of the Valley of the Moon, also wine country, in Sonoma County toward Santa Rosa, where evacuation orders are taking effect (figure 1) in areas that previously burned in 2017 with the Tubbs Fire. I keep saying it: In California, if it hasn’t burned, it will. And is.

Fig. 1. Screenshot taken by author of the Sonoma County Fire Incident Map, September 28, 2020, at 9:44 am EDT (6:44 am PDT).


  1. [1]Bess Levin, “G.O.P. Voters Think Losing $1 Billion Makes Someone (Trump) a Good Businessman,” Vanity Fair, May 15, 2019, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/05/republicans-still-think-trump-was-a-successful-businessman
  2. [2]Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire, “Trump’s Taxes Show Chronic Losses and Years of Income Tax Avoidance,” New York Times, September 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html
  3. [3]Craig Unger, “Trump’s Russian Laundromat,” New Republic, July 13, 2017, https://newrepublic.com/article/143586/trumps-russian-laundromat-trump-tower-luxury-high-rises-dirty-money-international-crime-syndicate
  4. [4]Jeff Stein, “Trump, Russian Spies and the Infamous ‘Golden Shower Memos,’” Newsweek, January 10, 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/trump-russian-spies-infamous-golden-shower-memos-541315
  5. [5]Brittany Bernstein, “Lindsey Graham Hints There is ‘More Damning’ Information about the Russia Investigation to be Released,” National Review, September 28, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/lindsey-graham-hints-there-is-more-damning-information-about-the-russia-investigation-to-be-released/

The arrogance of the rich

Congress

There is a new blog post entitled, “Ice cream and hair appointments.”

Tal Kopan and Rachel Swan, “Nancy Pelosi calls salon visit a ‘setup,’ refuses to apologize,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 2, 2020, https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Speaker-Pelosi-calls-salon-visit-a-set-up-15538247.php

Marianne Levine, “Schumer rips ’emaciated’ Republican coronavirus relief plan,” Politico, September 3, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/03/coronavirus-relief-plan-chuck-schumer-407974


Just leaving all this here

My disgust is complete.


Higher Education

Michelle Hackman and Melissa Korn, “ICE Says Newly Enrolling International Students Can’t Come to U.S. if Classes Fully Online,” Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ice-says-newly-enrolling-international-students-can-t-come-to-u-s-if-classes-fully-online-11595611772


Gig economy

Marc Santia, “Lyft Driver Says He Was Attacked, Then Arrested After Refusing Rider Without Mask,” WNBC, July 24, 2020, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/lyft-driver-says-he-was-attacked-after-refusing-rider-without-mask-then-he-was-arrested/2529101/

Joshua Emerson Smith, “A COVID-19 death renews questions of Uber and Lyft’s responsibility to drivers,” San Diego Union-Tribune, July 24, 2020, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/transportation/story/2020-07-24/uber-driver-dies-covid-19


Elon Musk

So you all remember Elon Musk, the guy who resisted closing a Tesla factory in Fremont for the COVID-19 lockdown, opened it before he should, was in denial about COVID-19 a la Donald Trump, and donated the wrong kind of ventilators to treat the disease?[1] And, oh yeah.[2]

I guess it’s just a little past way beyond amazing that anyone thinks Musk is a great man:

The afterthought:

I don’t know where Tesla gets its lithium. But something’s certainly rotten in Bolivia.[3] And there just ain’t no excuse for Musk.


  1. [1]Steve Hanley, “Tesla Cuts Jobs In Nevada, Sends Ventilators To New York,” Clean Technica, March 29, 2020, https://cleantechnica.com/2020/03/29/tesla-cuts-jobs-in-nevada-sends-ventilators-to-new-york/; Tim Higgins, “Elon Musk’s Defiance in the Time of Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musks-defiance-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-11584733458; Kathryn Krawczyk, “’Ventilators’ donated by Elon Musk can’t be used on coronavirus patients, health officials say,” Week, April 2, 2020, https://theweek.com/speedreads/906406/ventilators-donated-by-elon-musk-cant-used-coronavirus-patients-health-officials-say; Jack Morse, “Ventilator manufacturers aren’t impressed by Elon Musk’s offer,” Mashable, March 21, 2020, https://mashable.com/article/experts-doubt-tesla-elon-musk-manufacture-ventilators/; Kari Paul, “Elon Musk rails against ‘fascist’ shelter-in-place orders in Tesla earnings call,” Guardian, April 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/29/tesla-quarterly-earnings-coronavirus-shares; Zachary Shahan, “Elon Musk: Should Have 1000 Ventilators Next Week, + 250,000 N95 Masks For Hospitals Tomorrow,” CleanTechnica, March 21, 2020, https://cleantechnica.com/2020/03/21/elon-musk-should-have-1000-ventilators-next-week-250k-n95-masks-for-hospitals-tomorrow-cleantechnica-exclusive/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Elon Musk, groan, again,” Not Housebroken, April 4, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/22/elon-musk-groan-again/
  3. [3]Marjorie Cohn, “US Is Again Complicit in an Illegal Coup, This Time in Bolivia,” Truthout, November 27, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/us-is-again-complicit-in-an-illegal-coup-this-time-in-bolivia/; John Curiel and Jack R. Williams, “Bolivia dismissed its October elections as fraudulent. Our research found no reason to suspect fraud,” Washington Post, February 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/02/26/bolivia-dismissed-its-october-elections-fraudulent-our-research-found-no-reason-suspect-fraud/

But Elon Musk has a family to support!

There were updates last night.


Elon Musk

Instead, Elon Musk gets to manufacture automobiles, dig tunnels, and launch astronauts to the International Space Station. Seriously, how insane is this?[1]

I’m glad to see someone somewhat agrees with me, even if their objection is primarily to how money Elon Musk would be paid.[2]

I’m waiting for Musk-worshippers to wail about how he has a family to support, though.

Rupert Neate, “Tesla shareholders urged to oust Elon Musk over $55bn pay deal,” Guardian, June 30, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jun/30/tesla-shareholders-urged-to-oust-elon-musk-over-55bn-pay-deal


Palestine

I was beginning to think Binyamin Netanyahu’s promised de jure annexation announcement might come in the dead of night. But it appears there’s been a delay.[3]

Yousef Munayyer, “Liberal Zionism paved the Israeli right’s path to annexation,” +972, June 23, 2020, https://www.972mag.com/liberal-zionism-israel-annexation/

Salem Barahmeh, “Palestinians are fighting to dismantle apartheid, not just annexation,” +972, June 29, 2020, https://www.972mag.com/jericho-annexation-jordan-valley-apartheid/

Associated Press, “Netanyahu ally confirms delays in West Bank annexation plan,” Al-Ahram, July 1, 2020, http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/373408.aspx


Pandemic

In the ‘this should be brain-dead fucking obvious’ department:

I guess it isn’t.


  1. [1]David Benfell, “On kente cloth and appropriation,” Irregular Bullshit, June 9, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/06/09/on-kente-cloth-and-appropriation/
  2. [2]Rupert Neate, “Tesla shareholders urged to oust Elon Musk over $55bn pay deal,” Guardian, June 30, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jun/30/tesla-shareholders-urged-to-oust-elon-musk-over-55bn-pay-deal
  3. [3]Associated Press, “Netanyahu ally confirms delays in West Bank annexation plan,” Al-Ahram, July 1, 2020, http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/373408.aspx

This ‘lesser of two evils’ thing just ain’t working like it used to

Updates

  1. Originally published, June 14, 10:00 pm.
  2. June 15, 7:16 am:
    • Even my loyal readers hadn’t read my most recent blog post and I realized the argument could be made stronger. I have revised it and changed the publication date. This affects the URL. It has been updated here.
  3. June 15, 9:50 am:
    • There has been yet another police shooting of yet another Black man.[1] That blog post has been revised further.

Horse race

It would seem that some folks just aren’t buying into the whole concept of “lesser of two evils” anymore.[2] That’s probably a bigger problem for Democrats than it is Republicans. They were warned. I warned them[3] but they were also warned by a whole bunch of people besides me all this year.

But of course, that assumes the Democrats even want to win. Which, to me, isn’t at all clear.[4]

Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “New generation of activists, deeply skeptical of Democratic Party, resists calls to channel energy into the 2020 campaign,” Washington Post, June 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-generation-of-activists-deeply-skeptical-of-democratic-party-resists-calls-to-channel-energy-into-the-2020-campaign/2020/06/13/cbacede6-ac47-11ea-9063-e69bd6520940_story.html


Police

There is a new blog post entitled, “Defunding the police is, at best, a baby’s first step.”

Amanda Arnold, “What Exactly Does It Mean to Defund the Police?” Cut, June 12, 2020, https://www.thecut.com/2020/06/what-does-defund-the-police-mean-the-phrase-explained.html

Theresa Waldrop et al., “Autopsy report says Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back, lists manner of death as homicide,” CNN, June 14, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/14/us/atlanta-protests-rayshard-brooks-sunday/index.html

Felicia Sonmez et al., “Killing of black man in Atlanta puts spotlight anew on police, as prosecutors contemplate charges against officer,” Washington Post, June 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/killing-of-black-man-in-atlanta-puts-spotlight-anew-on-police-as-prosecutors-contemplate-charges-against-officer/2020/06/14/ad9cea20-ae60-11ea-856d-5054296735e5_story.html


Recession

Olivia Rockeman and Jill Ward, “Millions of Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-14/millions-of-jobs-could-be-permanently-lost-in-reallocation-shock


  1. [1]Felicia Sonmez et al., “Killing of black man in Atlanta puts spotlight anew on police, as prosecutors contemplate charges against officer,” Washington Post, June 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/killing-of-black-man-in-atlanta-puts-spotlight-anew-on-police-as-prosecutors-contemplate-charges-against-officer/2020/06/14/ad9cea20-ae60-11ea-856d-5054296735e5_story.html; Theresa Waldrop et al., “Autopsy report says Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back, lists manner of death as homicide,” CNN, June 14, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/14/us/atlanta-protests-rayshard-brooks-sunday/index.html
  2. [2]Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “New generation of activists, deeply skeptical of Democratic Party, resists calls to channel energy into the 2020 campaign,” Washington Post, June 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-generation-of-activists-deeply-skeptical-of-democratic-party-resists-calls-to-channel-energy-into-the-2020-campaign/2020/06/13/cbacede6-ac47-11ea-9063-e69bd6520940_story.html
  3. [3]David Benfell, “A false dichotomy view of politics,” Not Housebroken, November 2, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/05/15/the-lesser-of-two-evils-the-more-successful-con-artist/; David Benfell, “The lesser of two evils? The more successful con artist,” Not Housebroken, May 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/05/15/the-lesser-of-two-evils-the-more-successful-con-artist/; David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The limits of game theory in U.S. politics,” Not Housebroken, December 20, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/20/the-limits-of-game-theory-in-u-s-politics/

Yes, it is possible to be safe without the police, at least in some places for a limited time

I’m going ahead and publishing this now. The weather has gotten interesting north of here—apparently a tornado near Beaver Falls—and a severe thunderstorm warning has been posted for at least very close to my area.


George Floyd

With so many examples of how humanity is not ready for anarchism, it’s quite a surprise to read an account of how a community protected itself without the police and without replicating the problems of the police.[1] I don’t know how sustainable this is or how widely applicable, but it’s quite a story and certainly worth looking at.

Meanwhile Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor looks more broadly, both historically and topically, at the issues the U.S. needs to address[2]—and of course, won’t. I had not seen her article when I tweeted my response to Chuck Wendig above, but I think we’re on the same page.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “How Do We Change America?” New Yorker, June 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-do-we-change-america

Hahrie Han, “What Happened When the Minneapolis Police Lost Legitimacy?” New York Times, June 10, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/opinion/floyd-minneapolis-police-protests.html


  1. [1]Hahrie Han, “What Happened When the Minneapolis Police Lost Legitimacy?” New York Times, June 10, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/opinion/floyd-minneapolis-police-protests.html
  2. [2]Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “How Do We Change America?” New Yorker, June 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-do-we-change-america

On kente cloth and appropriation

Elon Musk

Instead, Elon Musk gets to manufacture automobiles, dig tunnels, and launch astronauts to the International Space Station. Seriously, how insane is this?

It appears Tesla workers were infected with COVID-19 prior to an agreement with Alameda County that allowed company to resume production in Fremont and so the company was not required to, and did not, report the cases to the county.[1]

Faiz Siddiqui, “Tesla defied county orders so it could restart production. Days later, workers tested positive for the coronavirus,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/06/09/tesla-factory-coronavirus/


George Floyd

imrs.php
Fig. 1. Photograph by Manuel Balce Ceneta of the Associated Press, via the Washington Post, June 9, 2020,[2] fair use.

The concern I have with Congressional leaders wearing kente cloth stoles (figure 1) is with what’s called ‘appropriation,’ in which, as I understand it, a colonizer appropriates cultural objects of a colonized culture. The critique applies generally when whites, whose heritage is inextricable from colonialism and imperialism, deploy objects from other cultures with little regard for the cultures themselves.

I acknowledge the complaint, at least to the degree I understand it, but I also see treacherous ground: Cultural interchange happens. Is every white woman in a yoga class thus guilty? And what, really, are the boundaries here? Is this a charge applicable only to whites?

I suspect the charge of appropriation more strongly applies when the political leadership of a hegemonic world power deploys cultural artifacts, which is what I see with Nancy Pelosi and other congressmembers wearing the kente cloth. I can see where it might be different had they repudiated neoconservative policies, including the neoliberalism which neoconservatism sees as a moral imperative and which colonizes poor and working class people even today, but they most certainly have not.

I don’t really have an answer for all this and I’m not really one to say. In the case of the kente cloth, I’d very much rather hear from Blacks on this, some of whom do indeed seem disturbed.[3] Most of the response I’m seeing so far is more along the lines of Benjamin Dixon’s and Eric Haywood’s tweets, quoted above, which is that they are more concerned with the (predictably and woefully inadequate) political response to the protests than they are with the possible appropriation.

Robin Givhan, a fashion critic at the Washington Post, appears a little better placed to respond—and along with some useful background on kente cloth, she has some suggestions as to how the cloth might better have been used.[4]

Alicia Lee, “Congressional Democrats criticized for wearing Kente cloth at event honoring George Floyd,” CNN, June 8, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/08/politics/democrats-criticized-kente-cloth-trnd/index.html

Robin Givhan, “Congress’s kente cloth spectacle was a mess of contradictions,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/06/09/congresss-kente-cloth-spectacle-was-mess-contradictions/


Censorship

Mark Zuckerberg has refused to take action against Donald Trump for inciting violence on Facebook[5] against Black protesters. But on spurious allegations of fraud, Facebook shut down (and later restored, after—this was in an earlier version of the article—the Sacramento Bee requested comment from Facebook’s legal department) Black Zebra’s page. The latter organization has been providing video documentary coverage of Black Lives Matters protests, especially since the George Floyd murder, directly through a social media presence and to the Sacramento Bee.[6]

Racism much?

Alex Hern, “Facebook moderators join criticism of Zuckerberg over Trump stance,” Guardian, June 8, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jun/08/facebook-moderators-criticism-mark-zuckerberg-donald-trump

Michael McGough, “Facebook page restored for Black Zebra, team covering Sacramento protests, after being disabled,” Sacramento Bee, June 9, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article243401291.html


  1. [1]Faiz Siddiqui, “Tesla defied county orders so it could restart production. Days later, workers tested positive for the coronavirus,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/06/09/tesla-factory-coronavirus/
  2. [2]Robin Givhan, “Congress’s kente cloth spectacle was a mess of contradictions,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/06/09/congresss-kente-cloth-spectacle-was-mess-contradictions/
  3. [3]Alicia Lee, “Congressional Democrats criticized for wearing Kente cloth at event honoring George Floyd,” CNN, June 8, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/08/politics/democrats-criticized-kente-cloth-trnd/index.html
  4. [4]Robin Givhan, “Congress’s kente cloth spectacle was a mess of contradictions,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/06/09/congresss-kente-cloth-spectacle-was-mess-contradictions/
  5. [5]Alex Hern, “Facebook moderators join criticism of Zuckerberg over Trump stance,” Guardian, June 8, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jun/08/facebook-moderators-criticism-mark-zuckerberg-donald-trump
  6. [6]Michael McGough, “Facebook page restored for Black Zebra, team covering Sacramento protests, after being disabled,” Sacramento Bee, June 9, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article243401291.html

Now that rich folks’ property is safe…

George Floyd

And yeah, I was kinda wondering about this:

Miriam Berger, “Pittsburgh paper accused of barring black reporters from covering protests, censoring stories,” Washington Post, June 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2020/06/06/pittsburgh-post-gazette/


Recession

It’s official. We are in a recession which began in February. At least as I read their press release, they still blame the pandemic.[1]

National Bureau of Economic Research, “Determination of the February 2020 Peak in US Economic Activity,” June 8, 2020, https://www.nber.org/cycles/june2020.html


  1. [1]National Bureau of Economic Research, “Determination of the February 2020 Peak in US Economic Activity,” June 8, 2020, https://www.nber.org/cycles/june2020.html

Elon Musk needs to get (back) on his ‘meds’

Elon Musk

About the only sense to be made here is that Elon Musk appears anxious to restore capitalist power relations.[1] I am quite well aware that most psychologists are not fans of a medicinal approach, otherwise known as psychiatry. But when I see unhinged rants such as reported here,[2] all I can think is that this man needs to get (back) on his “meds.”

Kari Paul, “Elon Musk rails against ‘fascist’ shelter-in-place orders in Tesla earnings call,” Guardian, April 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/29/tesla-quarterly-earnings-coronavirus-shares


Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “Donald Trump needs a scapegoat and the U.S. has gone to war over less.”

Joby Warrick et al., “Chinese lab conducted extensive research on deadly bat viruses, but there is no evidence of accidental release,” Washington Post, April 30 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/chinese-lab-conducted-extensive-research-on-deadly-bat-viruses-but-there-is-no-evidence-of-accidental-release/2020/04/30/3e5d12a0-8b0d-11ea-9dfd-990f9dcc71fc_story.html


  1. [1]Kari Paul, “Elon Musk rails against ‘fascist’ shelter-in-place orders in Tesla earnings call,” Guardian, April 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/29/tesla-quarterly-earnings-coronavirus-shares
  2. [2]Kari Paul, “Elon Musk rails against ‘fascist’ shelter-in-place orders in Tesla earnings call,” Guardian, April 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/29/tesla-quarterly-earnings-coronavirus-shares