Saturday, September 26, 2020

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Noam Chomsky: There’s Reason for Hope

from  JstorDaily:

The celebrated linguist and scholar on his new book on global climate change, the mediated reality of Fox News, and the economics of the Green New Deal.

As the world faces an existential crisis–climate change, not the global coronavirus pandemic–it is fitting that Noam Chomsky, arguably the most influential public intellectual of the last half-century, is fixing his attention on a solution. Chomsky, perhaps best known as the father of modern linguistics, has spent decades speaking truth to power as a vocal anti-war activist, from the Vietnam War to the drone strikes under Barack Obama. And while he is associated with the American Left, he prefers to align with the “libertarian socialist” camp and has been deeply critical of both major U.S. parties.
In his new book, Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal, Chomsky and renowned economist Robert Pollin answer questions posed by C.J. Polychroniou on the global climate catastrophe, spelling out what, exactly, could happen if we do not take immediate action to stop carbon emissions. In the book, Chomsky tackles the economic arguments related to the Green New Deal: how neoliberal economic policies since Ronald Reagan got us into the current mess, and why the new proposal actually will be good for American workers.

Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal

I spoke with him over Zoom from his home office in Arizona, and our conversation touched on how climate change will create new jobs, the biggest myths about the Green New Deal, and why the Republicans in Congress are worse than the Nazis.

Here is our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Hope Reese: One of the things you’ve written is that people are going to have to be convinced of the urgency of the threats we face. How can that happen?
Noam Chomsky: If you look at the coverage of the conventions, there’s not one word about it, not a word. People are incapable of imagining what is not immediately in front of their eyes. So, if they see a storm, they might think about it. But when they see that the Greenland ice sheet has reached the point of irreversible melting, it sort of shoots off into the back of their minds. It’s going to destroy the species unless we overcome this.
You argue that we need to revive the labor movement. Can you talk about the importance of the labor movement in connection to the climate crisis?
Well, look over modern history. The labor movement has been in the forefront of just about every significant action for social change, reform, and so on. The U.S. labor history happens to be unusually harsh and brutal. Well, the labor movement has been very vibrant, but it’s repeatedly been crushed by force. And that was true in the 1920s: it had virtually disappeared. The Depression hit in 1929, and it took about five years for the labor movement to start to revive. And then it led the thrust toward the New Deal, which we’ve been living with since.
When Reagan and Thatcher came in, they understood this very well. Their first actions were to destroy the labor movement––illegal strike-breaking under Reagan, which was pretty effective. But nowadays the labor movement is quite weak. It could reconstitute. And if it does, it should be in the forefront of this, so these are issues that immediately affect working people.

One example: Even before the pandemic, the oil and gas prices were sharply declining. Companies were going out of business, wells were not being closed, which is very dangerous because they leak methane and so on. There are about 100,000 workers involved in this. They can be put to work immediately and constructively just to close the wells. Okay? Make sure that the wells are closed and not leaking huge quantities of methane. Not a huge sum of money, but it requires some concern for working people and that’s lacking.
The Democrats gave up on the working class 50 years ago. The Republicans are violently opposed to working people. They pretend otherwise, but it’s clear from what they do, so nobody’s pushing it. Actually, you can read it in the business press, Bloomberg Businessweek proposes it, another picks it up. Then, there’s the Green New Deal, which is essential for survival. One strong component of it is engaging working people.
How does that happen under the Green New Deal?
There’s a huge amount of work to be done simply in retrofitting homes, construction development, and mass transportation. All of these activities engage a huge part of the labor force, installing solar heaters, solar panels, and so on. Well, that should be a large part of the Green New Deal. But of course, it takes legislation, initiative, popular movements to press it. These things are happening, but not on a sufficient scale to make it work.
I mean, the Republican Party programs, of course, are just asking for total disaster and calamity. And the Democrats have a somewhat better program. In fact, the best on paper, the best program that’s ever been produced. But meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee’s cutting back on it. So, for example, both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris proposed cutting subsidies on the fossil fuel industries, which is insane. The democratic establishment cut it out of the program—over the objections of both the presidential candidate and the vice presidential candidate.
This is the kind of thing that takes lots of public activism to overcome. The Clintonite Democrats are basically moderate Republicans. They don’t want to see anything happen, and they control the “Party of Radicals,” which means that there has to be a lot of effort to get the chance to get a serious change.
In the book, you say that dismantling capitalism might be ideal, but there’s a problem with doing that now. How so?
It’s just out of the question. In order to overturn capitalism, you have to have huge masses of the population committed to overturning all of the basic institutions of society and creating new ones. Do you see any sign of that anywhere?
I believe you wrote that we just don’t have the time for it, in the face of this immediate crisis…
We have to work on it, but you have to create the situation. You can’t do it by snapping your fingers. Talking about getting rid of capitalism is like saying, “why don’t we have total peace on earth with everyone loving each other?” It’d be nice.
What role does the media play in the public’s perception of the climate crisis? In light of fake news and a fractured media landscape, can we come to an agreement about what’s going on?
Well, it’s not entirely a fractured landscape. There’ve been good studies of media outreach by the business press and peer research and so on, and the results are pretty interesting. So one major study took about 30 media, print, TV, radio, the full range, and asked people which ones they go to, and they divided into Republicans and Democrats. Among the Democrats, it was a pretty broad spectrum, most of them. Among Republicans, it was very narrow, focused on Fox News, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh. That’s what they hear. Now, what they hear is what you just said: fake news. Everything’s invented, Rush Limbaugh, four corners of deceit, science, academia, government, and media. They thrive on the deceit. Well, if half the population has that drummed into their heads every day, every year, you’re going to get stranger attitudes.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Misinformation Is ‘Its Own Pandemic’ Among Parents Here’s how to push back on social media and in person.

from the New York Times:

In January 2019, Scott Wiener, a California State Senator, introduced what he thought was an L.G.B.T.Q. Civil Rights Bill. At the time, California law gave judges discretion on whether to put a 19-year-old man on a sex offender registry if he had vaginal sex with a 16-year-old girl, but if that 19-year-old man had anal or oral sex with a 16-year-old boy, he would automatically be registered as a sex offender. Wiener ’s bill sought to fix that discrepancy by giving the same discretion to judges over oral or anal sex offenses. Sex with any minor would be a crime in the state of California if this bill passed.

According to Wiener’s communications director, Catie Stewart, the bill was moving through the legislature with little fanfare or opposition until this summer, when a mom with tens of thousands of followers on Instagram got wind of a politically motivated misrepresentation from earlier in the year — one with the headline “California lawmakers introduce bill to protect pedophiles who sexually abuse innocent kids.” She then posted about it, and encouraged her followers to contact Wiener’s office to complain.
This mom is anti-mask, against vaccines and promotes QAnon-based conspiracy theories about pedophilia — specifically that Democratic elites are running secret pedophile rings. When her anti-bill Instagram post went viral, it reached many parents who were not her direct followers and who were not affiliated with QAnon.

“They’d share it on their grids, and they’d share on their stories. They were fully unaware it was false information,” she said. “They weren’t really hard-core QAnon people — I don’t know if they’d know what QAnon was.” They just saw that there was a bill appearing to protect pedophiles and were understandably horrified. Wiener’s official Instagram was bombarded with thousands of comments and D.M.s, ranging from upset to violent. “#SaveTheChildren seemed to be the way in for many people,” Stewart said.

Since the bill passed on Sept. 2, the torrent of comments and D.M.s have become “a monsoon.”

As my colleague Kevin Roose pointed out in August, the SaveTheChildren hashtag began as “a legitimate fund-raising campaign for the Save the Children charity,” a 100-year old nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of children around the world. But since the pandemic began, that hashtag has been hijacked by QAnon followers spreading conspiracy theories about rampant pedophilia.

In the motherhood and wellness online space, #SaveTheChildren has been successfully distanced from the more extreme elements of QAnon, said Kathryn Jezer-Morton, a doctoral researcher in online motherhood at Concordia University in Montreal. Mom-fluencers pushing essential oils and nontoxic cleaning products aren’t, say, posting about how pedophiles are murdering children and harvesting their blood to stay forever young — they’re merely posting photos of themselves at rallies against child-trafficking.
“No one wants to take a public stance for child trafficking,” Jezer-Morton said, especially on Instagram, where “posi-vibes” are encouraged, so these posts go unchallenged, and can spread quickly. It matters because people can follow these hashtags down the rabbit hole of QAnon and become radicalized. And at this moment, parents may be particularly vulnerable. “It’s a really hard time in our country,” said Stewart. “People are suffering, there’s massive unemployment,” and becoming an activist against something as disgusting as child trafficking may be a way to make sense of the chaos.

“What most of us don’t realize is how entrenched people can get in these beliefs very quickly,” said Joan Donovan, the Research Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy who studies online extremism and disinformation campaigns. In the worst-case scenarios, these beliefs can lead adherents to potentially harm people, as Annie Kelly explained in an op-ed about moms for QAnon, and the F.B.I. labeled conspiracy theories including QAnon a new domestic terrorism threat in 2019.

Since July, at least three reality-TV-star moms with over four million Instagram followers collectively have posted about #SaveTheChildren, including incorrect information like the statistic that “300,000 American children a year will be lured into the sex trade,” a figure that has been thoroughly debunked.

If you’re active on social media, you may have seen a fellow parent share some of this information. So how do you go about pushing back against the falsehoods? I asked three experts to weigh in.

If it’s someone you know, talk to them privately. Start by asking broad questions about their posts, like, “What is this about? Can you explain it to me?” said Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher and the author of “The World’s Worst Conspiracies.” You’re trying to gather knowledge about their beliefs in a non-adversarial way. “You don’t want to try to debate or debunk, it makes them think they’re right,” he said. Just ask questions and get them to explain it to you. “Get them to do the thinking,” said Rothschild. “You can’t reason someone out of a fringe belief,” but you may be able to get them to see their logic isn’t holding up.

Approach the subject with kindness and empathy. Paul Offit, M.D., the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who talks to parents who have encountered vaccine conspiracy theories, said that “I am sympathetic to the fact that it’s hard to see your kids injected with a biological fluid,” he said. “I can see when people would be worried about that.” So try to engage with what your friend is really afraid of if they are posting a lot about child trafficking. Are they scared of their child getting kidnapped? If so, why?

You have to be willing to meet them where they are without calling them “crazy” or dismissing them out of hand. “Even feigning interest in the conspiracy in order to find out what their real pain point or fear is that they’re trying to address in their lives, may give you info on how to reach them as they’re getting more and more involved in this,” Donovan explained.

Acknowledge when someone is not open to a discussion. If your friend is so deeply into the QAnon world that they cannot have a civil discussion about their beliefs, “Let them know you love them, that you’re here for them,” but then drop it, said Rothschild — you can’t “talk somebody out of a belief that they want to have.”

If it’s someone you don’t know personally, respond with facts. If someone is repeating misinformation, say, in a Facebook mom group, you can gently push back with a link to correct data, said Donovan. It’s appropriate to respond, “‘I don’t think this discussion has a place here,’ and potentially link to some of the reporting going on,” she said. If that misinformation is anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim, as many of QAnon-related conspiracies tend to be, you should report those posts to either the moderator or the social media company, Donovan said. “It’s important to use the tools available on the platform to get these posts removed.”

Catie Stewart ignored all the Instagram messages that were abusive or contained threats of violence toward her or Sen. Wiener, but she said she had a decent success rate responding to constituents who were just misinformed. “You helped pass a law in California for pedophiles, basically,” one parent initially wrote to Wiener’s account over Instagram D.M., which Stewart shared with me. “As a mother, I need a clear understanding of what the laws that are being passed actually mean.”

Stewart wrote back to this woman with a link to a USA Today story that fact-checkedconspiracies about the bill, and made it clear California was not legalizing pedophilia. “OK, thank you for clearing that up. My heart literally dropped thinking that this would be something California would do,” the mom replied.
“It’s really important that if you see someone in your life spreading this, you explain to them the truth in a really kind way,” Stewart said. “Sometimes it’s not going to work, but whoever you can get to, it’s one more person who is not going to spread this.” Misinformation is “its own pandemic.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2020


from Dangerous Minds:
I [Richard Metzger] was on my old friend Douglas Rushkoff’s Team Human podcast. We taped this just before news of George Floyd’s murder became widely known, and talked for over four hours over the course of two long calls. The edited version is just under an hour. It’s always fun to have a conversation with him.
Playing for Team Human today, counterculture icon and Editor of Dangerous Minds, Richard Metzger. Metzger envisions what life might look like on the dole and what that means for the future of the counterculture.

Rushkoff and Metzger consider whether the ideals of yesterday’s counterculture were so successful that they’ve become the new over culture? And if so, who really are the new revolutionaries? They also consider the effect Covid-19 will have on a new generation’s financial prospects, and whether the underlying flaws in capitalism will finally be laid bare.

In his monologue, Rushkoff looks at the way our policing problems can only be solved if we fund and utilize other kinds of civil servants instead of just ones with weapons.

Read “Good Cops Don’t Need Grenade Launchers” by Douglas Rushkoff from Medium’s GEN.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Saturday, May 30, 2020


from emptywheel

While many would point to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial  in August 1963 as his most powerful, the words from King that most move me come from a letter written four months earlier, as he sat in the Birmingham jail. It was a letter written to local pastors, who expressed support for his cause but concern for the manner in which he came to Birmingham to protest. When looking back at historical letters, there are some that are products of their time that illuminate the events of that day, but which need footnotes and commentary to explain to contemporary readers.
King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is *not* one of those letters. I wish it was, but it isn’t. It’s all too clear, and speaks all too clearly even now.
In that letter, King identified “the great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom” not as the hoodwearing Klanners or the politically powerful White Citizens Council folks, but the white moderate. These are folks who
  • are more devoted to order than justice
  • prefer a negative peace – the absence of tension – to a positive peace – the presence of justice
  • constantly say they agree with your goals but not your direct methods for achieving them
  • feel no problem in setting a timetable for someone else’s freedom
  • live by the myth of time, constantly urging patience until things are more convenient
Anyone who has watched the news at any time over the last three years knows that this great stumbling block to freedom and justice, the Moderate, is an all-too-familiar presence, appearing in various guises. For example . . .
  • police officers who, as one African-American after another is beaten, abused, and killed by one of their colleagues, silently watch the attack as it unfolds, who refuse to intervene, who write up reports to cover for this conduct, and who by their silence and their words defend and justify assault and murder done under the color of law;
  • staffers at ICE facilities who, as children are separated from their parents, as people are crammed into unlivable facilities, as basic necessities like toothbrushes and soap are withheld, clock in and clock out without saying a word;
  • personal assistants, co-workers, and superiors who watch as victim after victim were abused by powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Jeffrey Epstein, and untold others, and who said nothing;
  • Susan Collins, hand-wringer extraordinaire, who expresses her deep concerns about this rightwing nominee or that destructive proposed policy, and nevertheless puts her concerns aside time and time and time again to confirm the nominee or enact the proposal into law;
  • media figures who practice “he said/she said journalism,” who twist themselves into pretzels in order to maintain their “access” to inside sources, and who refuse to call a lie a lie in the name of “balance”;
  • corporate bean counters, who place such things as quarterly profits and shareholder value ahead of worker safety and well-being, ahead of environmental concerns, or ahead of community partnership, saying “we can’t afford to . . .” when what they really mean is “we choose not to spend in order to . . .”;
  • lawyers who provide legal cover to those who abuse, torture, and terrorize, and the second group of lawyers who “let bygones be bygones” in order to not have to deal with the actions of the first group;
  • bishops and religious leaders who privately chastise abusive priests and pastors, but who fail to hold them publicly accountable and seek justice, out of a concern to not cause a scandal that would bring the religious organization into disrepute; and
  • leaders of sports programs who value winning so much that they are willing to look the other way when coaches, trainers, and doctors abuse athletes.
The tools of the Moderate are things like Non-Disclosure Agreements, loyalty to The Team, and the explicit and implicit power of the hierarchy. The Moderate may not be at the top of the pyramid, but as long as the Moderate can kiss up and kick down, they think they will be OK. They’ll keep their powder dry, waiting for a better time to act. But all too often, the Moderate refuses to use what they’ve been saving for that rainy day, even when they are in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane.
But there are signs of hope, and we’ve seen some of them as well over the last three years:
  • career government professionals – at the State Department like Marie Yovanovitch, at the Department of Defense like Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, at the Department of Health and Human Services like Dr. Richard Bright, at the Department of Justice like Brandon Van Graak, and others like them – who refused to worry about personal consequences to themselves and fudge the data, ignore the facts, shade the advice,  or stand silently by while others do so;
  • passers-by to acts of injustice, who not only document what is being done but who take action to hold perpetrators to account (NY dog walkers, represent!);
  • young voices like Greta Thunberg who refuse to go along to get along, who ask the tough questions of those in power, and who question the answers that mock the truth, and old voices like Elizabeth Warren who do the same; and
  • voices of political relative newcomers like Katie Porter, AOC, Stacy Abrams, who do not let their low spot on the political totem pole (or lack of a spot at all) keep them from speaking out for justice.
This past week, longtime AIDS activist Larry Kramer passed away. He founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis to care for gays stricken with AIDS, while the government turned its eyes away from the problem. Later on, he founded ACT-UP, when he saw GMHC had become too domesticated and unwilling to rock the boat when the boat desperately needed rocking. He called out the gay community and he called out government officials, even those who were trying to help like Anthony Fauci, for not doing anywhere close to what was needed.
And in many respects, it worked. Maybe not as fast as it should have, or as well as Kramer would have liked, but it made a difference. From Kramer’s NY Times obituary:
The infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was one who got the message — after Mr. Kramer wrote an open letter published in The San Francisco Examiner in 1988 calling him a killer and “an incompetent idiot.”
“Once you got past the rhetoric,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview for this obituary, “you found that Larry Kramer made a lot of sense, and that he had a heart of gold.”
Mr. Kramer, he said, had helped him to see how the federal bureaucracy was indeed slowing the search for effective treatments. He credited Mr. Kramer with playing an “essential” role in the development of elaborate drug regimens that could prolong the lives of those infected with H.I.V., and in prompting the Food and Drug Administration to streamline its assessment and approval of certain new drugs.
In recent years Mr. Kramer developed a grudging friendship with Dr. Fauci, particularly after Mr. Kramer developed liver disease and underwent the transplant in 2001; Dr. Fauci helped get him into a lifesaving experimental drug trial afterward.
Their bond grew stronger this year, when Dr. Fauci became the public face of the White House task force on the coronavirus epidemic, opening him to criticism in some quarters.“We are friends again,” Mr. Kramer said in an email to the reporter John Leland of The New York Times for an article published at the end of March. “I’m feeling sorry for how he’s being treated. I emailed him this, but his one line answer was, ‘Hunker down.’”
Which brings me back to King’s letter and the title of this post:
. . . though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
We’ve got plenty of extremists like Stephen Miller and the cop who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he died. We’re in dire need of more creative extremists.
Which leaves me with one question: how will you be a creative extremist today?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Questlove presents #QuestosWreckaStow


6 nights a week, check him out!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Beyond The Board
the first doctoral study of SKATEBOARDING

You can download the actual study HERE

or watch this summary from this skate blogger:

Very cool stuff, particularly for those who don't already know, but for those that do, it's great to have this scientific study to share with those who don't.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Marty Grimes will be inducted into the
Later this year ...

Along with Many other great skaters and Icons of the Skateboarding, Chad Muska, Rick Blackhart, Doug Saladino, Bob "The Bullet" Biniak, John "Tex" Gibson, Terri Lawrence, Ray Barbee, Waldo Autry, Chris Strople, Deanna Calkins, Ed Natalin, Jerry Valdez, Paul Schmitt, and Hobie Alter.

Once we get past this virus the ceremony date will be announced.

Hope all are healthy.