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.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Saturday, March 14, 2020

from The Intercept:
Why I’d Rather Be in Italy for the Coronavirus Pandemic

by Alice Speri

I HAVE SPENT the last week looking for flights from New York to Italy — not because of coronavirus-inspired flash sales, but because I would rather go home to a country that’s currently in the grip of one of the worst outbreaks in the world than stay in the United States, where life is about to get infinitely worse.

More than 15,000 people have tested positive for the new coronavirus in Italy, more than 1,000 have died, and hospitals are at a breaking point. Hundreds of medical staff have been infected, and overwhelmed doctors are reporting having to choose which patients to treat. They are begging the rest of the world to take this virus more seriously. The entire country — 60.5 million people — has been on lockdown for almost a week.

In the U.S., meanwhile, where some are just starting to realize the enormity of the crisis and far too many remain in denial, confusion reigns, largely aided by our top officials’ inept response. Last night, after President Donald Trump abruptly announced he was blocking travel from Europe to the U.S. — though officials later retracted and clarified much of that statement — people in Europe raced to airports, reportedly paying as much as $20,000 to try to catch flights out. And still I am trying to figure out how to make the opposite trip.

Even as the death toll back home continues to climb and the lockdown gets stricter by the day, I would much rather weather this pandemic in Italy than here. I just can’t shake the terror that the United States, my adopted country, is fundamentally unequipped to handle what lies ahead.

When Italy announced its first Covid-19 case three weeks ago, it started aggressively testing people, making it the first country in Europe to record skyrocketing numbers of infected patients and to see its markets collapse. My ever-optimistic father, who worked in public health for decades and has been texting me calm and reasoned updates throughout the outbreak, wrote earlier this week that “things are getting hard.” Coming from him, that means they are really bad.

In the U.S., despite weeks of notice, officials are scrambling to get a grip on a quickly approaching disaster. Trump’s press conference last night was the most terrifying public statement I have ever heard, even from him. Days ago, as the number of infections rose at home, I began hearing about friends of friends here in New York who were struggling to get tested despite worsening symptoms. And yet as cases multiply in the U.S., the number of people tested here remains abysmally low. No one knows what’s coming, but we know far less here in the U.S. than people do back home.

It is a tragic irony that a public health emergency unlike anything we have seen in generations would come as Americans are constantly told that the idea of health care as a fundamental right is entitled, radical, crazy talk. What is crazy, to anyone outside the United States, is that it’s even a question.

Back in Italy, people are worried they’ll get themselves or their loved ones sick, they are angry at directives that came late, they are even scared that hospitals won’t be able to keep up. But there are more hospital beds and doctors per capita in Italy than there are in the U.S. The Italian government’s harsh restrictions are in part an effort to stop the virus from spreading to the south, where the health care system is weaker. But for all their fears, Italians don’t have to worry that tests won’t be available, or that they’ll have to pay for those tests, or for any of their care. They don’t have to fear that if they seek help now, they’ll get a surprise bill later or that medical costs will bankrupt them.

As Italy shut down its schools, families scrambled to figure out what to do with their kids. But the Italian government has moved to issue child care vouchers and paid leave. Closing schools is causing major disruptions, but nobody argued that you shouldn’t close public schools because that’s where tens of thousands of children get their only guaranteed meals.

The Italian government has tentatively approved a $28 billion plan to help Italians through the crisis, and mortgage payments and bills are on hold. The U.S. government will have to step in to mitigate the crisis too, but some politicians are already balking at the prospect, and I can’t blame my fellow Americans for going into this with low expectations. If the 2008 financial crisis is any indication, regular people won’t see much of any future bailout. Italians know that they’ll get through looming hard times because their government will do its part — not because it is a particularly good, generous, or even functional government, but because that is what governments are supposed to do.

Yes, the Italian system is often a mess. Italians love to complain about their elected officials, and this crisis is no exception. Our government is notorious for its infighting and instability, and when the virus first hit, Italian politicians did what politicians do everywhere: They politicized the crisis, dragged their feet, pointed fingers. And some Italians thought they could outsmart the system, slipped out of quarantine, and went skiing.

The rollout of the new restrictions has been chaotic — though not quite as chaotic as it could have been, considering that these are unprecedented limitations of individual freedom for a nonauthoritarian regime. One of the most tragic consequences of the lockdown has been a series of prison riots that has left 12 people dead. There is no modern precedent for such violence in Italian prisons — but there are plenty of examples in the U.S., where two million people are imprisoned in conditions that counter every public health standard. Italian inmates are not paid 65 cents an hour to mass produce hand sanitizer they may not be allowed to use.

Of course, there are people in Italy who are especially vulnerable. For immigrants, the drama of the virus has been compounded by racism. Disinformation on social media has been rampant — and my own elderly aunt shared dubious advice by self-proclaimed experts before a younger relative informed her it was fake. Italy is no better than the U.S. on that front.

And in some ways, the responses to the virus in my two countries have been similar: late and misleadingly reassuring. But for all of Italy’s flaws, I would still rather be there than here. I have no confidence that the U.S. will do what is right during and after this pandemic. This country is structurally incapable and fundamentally unwilling to put people over money, and all people over just some.

In the U.S., millions are uninsured or underinsured, people working multiple jobs can’t make rent, and workers making a few dollars an hour are told that if they miss a shift their hours will be cut. This is a society that responds to poverty with police, and to health care needs with jail. It may be true that viruses only see bodies, not class or immigration status, but there is no question that those who will bear the brunt of this pandemic will be the poorest and most marginalized. The fundamental inequality on which everything in this country is predicated will be exacerbated by this crisis in ways we cannot fathom.

Whatever myths my family in Italy held about the United States, they have largely come undone over the years I have lived here. I have found myself explaining countless times how everything from the U.S. criminal justice system to health care regularly fails to do what Italians expect of their institutions, no matter how much they criticize them. I have explained to incredulous friends used to complaining about Italy’s crippling bureaucracy just how unjust and racist U.S. bureaucracy can be.

And now I try to explain to them why I’d much rather be there than here at this scary time because of something more invisible even than a virus: the loneliness and isolation I feel here, in a country where everyone’s out for themselves.

The virus may be coming for all of us, but there is a fundamental difference between my two countries. In Italy, children stuck at home have been drawing signs with the words “Everything will be fine” and hanging them from windows all across the country. For a society as communal and physical in its affections as Italy, social distancing has been an extraordinary blow. And yet even with people locked up in their homes away from family and neighbors, a strong sense of solidarity has emerged. Italians know they’ll get through this because they have each other’s back. I am not sure we Americans can say that.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Rumble #29

On the eve of the Iowa Caucuses, Michael Moore sits down with Dr. Jane Sanders, an educator, activist, and the wife of Bernie Sanders. They discuss how fragile democracy is, Trump's fake populism versus Bernie's real populism and whether, unlike the New York Times, she gets a card from Bernie on her birthday.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Rumble #28

During Michael Moore's 12-day tour of Iowa, a trope used against the Sanders campaign was constantly being upended - the myth of the "Bernie Bro." The majority of Sanders supporters are women, and during a stop at the M and M independent bookstore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 3 of these Iowa "Bernie Bros" sat down with Michael for a conversation.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Rumble #27

America's most beloved ice cream makers, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met up with Michael on the campaign trail in Fairfield, Iowa. They discussed how the Vermont duo built their business while maintaining their values, dead peasant insurance, where their ice cream flavor ideas came from and their support for fellow Vermonter Bernie Sanders.


Watch the Dead Peasant Insurance scene from "Capitalism: A Love Story":