Too Rich to Pitch In

Forbes Billionaires 2021

“WEALTH SURGE 
A NEW BILLIONAIRE WAS MINTED EVERY 17 HOURS ON AVERAGE OVER THE PAST YEAR. ALTOGETHER, THE WORLD’S WEALTHIEST ARE $5 TRILLION RICHER THAN A YEAR AGO.” FORBES MAGAZINE

Republicans refuse to raise taxes to pay for what is basically a jobs bill, a bill that fixes infrastructure and opens up jobs simultaneously, although they certainly realize that inequality became greater during the COVID19 pandemic. For many Americans this past year and a half has been the worst time they have ever lived through, even greater than the Great Recession. 

Setbacks in the economy have not hit everyone equally and you don’t have to be a Senator to know this. Millionaires and billionaires might have worried that the bottom might fall out of the economy in 2008, but their lifestyles didn’t suffer one bit, which is very clear if you like to peek at the limited glimpses of the houses of the rich and famous that you are allowed to see without a subscription in the email ads for Architectural Digest. And, as we can see from the quote that begins this article, the pandemic has actually been good for billionaires and most likely millionaires as well. 

But while I am being tempted to subscribe to Architectural Digest and also getting notices of the Forbes list in my mail, I am reading Nomadland by Jessica Bruder. These contrasts are not surprising. We already knew that many Americans were facing financial ruin as they lost jobs, could no longer pay mortgages, had to choose between rent and food, lost their cars, gave up their homes when they got too stressed out trying to stretch inadequate salaries or government aid. 

In Nomadland you hear from those who have chucked their old lives and decided to go on the road in RV’s or just their cars, or small campers and roam from one Walmart parking lot after another, one campsite after another, one low-paying temporary job after another. The ways in which Americans at the bottom of the income scale have had to shuffle their lives around is sobering.

Here an excerpt from the Forward of Nomadland:

“In Drayton, North Dakota, a former San Francisco cabdriver, sixty-seven, labors at the annual sugar beet harvest. He works from sunrise until after sunset in temperatures that dip below freezing, helping trucks that roll in from the fields disgorge multi-ton loads of beets. At night he sleeps in the van that has been his home ever since Uber squeezed him out of the taxi business and making the rent became impossible.

In Campbellsville, Kentucky, a sixty-six year-old ex-general contractor stows merchandise during the overnight shift in an Amazon warehouse, pushing a wheeled cart for miles along the concrete floor. It’s mind-numbing work and she struggles to scan each item accurately, hoping to avoid getting fired. In the morning she returns to her tiny trailer, moored at one of several mobile home parks that contract with Amazon to put up nomadic workers like her.”

“Wages and housing costs have diverged so dramatically that, for a growing number of Americans, the dream of middle-class life has gone from difficult to impossible. As I write this there are only a dozen counties and one metro area in America where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market value. You’d have to make at least $16.35 as hour – more than twice the federal minimum wage – to rent such an apartment without spending more than the recommended 30 percent of income on housing.”

“A NEW BILLIONAIRE WAS MINTED EVERY 17 HOURS ON AVERAGE OVER THE PAST YEAR.”

Mitch McConnell and his faithful Republicans who follow like a pack of large loyal old dogs are aghast at the idea of raising taxes on corporations to help pay our way out of this pandemic economy. And small wonder, since the wealthy people he represents have done very well. Of course corporate taxes used to be much higher than they are now and not that long ago. Would we really be raising taxes or just restoring them slightly upwards so that the wealthy can pitch in? It looks like economic recovery may be strong. But it won’t benefit everyone.

Why would rich folks be proud to be citizens of a country where they had to ignore the places where the ‘pixels’ were disintegrating, where the nation was not so shiny and where life is a dire and desperate affair? Will this be something they will allow, having the third world exist right in the middle of plenty. That didn’t used to be America. Will their lives stay peachy as they create economic structures that sequester more and more of the world’s wealth into fewer and fewer pockets? Will none of the rot and ruin ever affect them in the places where they find to escape to? Will escape simply come to seem like exile? The pendulum only swings one way for just so long. At some point the pendulum swings the other way. 

I know I sound grim, but it takes a bit of drama to make a point these days. Senators are complaining that the Infrastructure and American Jobs bill costing 2.2 trillion is too expensive. Compare how spending 2 trillion feels to someone making $7.50 and hour and someone with 161 billion dollars. The billionaires can’t pitch in a little? They don’t want to lift up the entire nation to give them more consumers and a nicer country to live in? They are so focused on the deadbeats who will waste their dollars that they won’t help anyone? These wealthy folks won’t be able to live on their yachts forever, because they will burn too much carbon-producing fuel.

Senators also complain that most of the things the bill will provide stimulus for are not infrastructure items. They don’t seem to comprehend that child care helps women work and therefore helps the economy? They don’t think paying for in-home care in a nation booming with seniors will offer Americans good paying jobs and allow older people to stay in their homes? 

In their very narrow view, only things that require steel and concrete are infrastructure, and yet we have learned that steel and concrete, made the way we produce them now, are adding enormous amounts of excess carbon to the atmosphere, and fueling global warming. They don’t have to know this because they don’t believe in global warming or that excess carbon will kill the planet we live on. It is difficult to believe that people who can amass personal fortunes are this short-sighted. We are seeing signs that they are starting to come around on climate and they are changing the way they make things. So why would they object to helping out their country, which has been so good to them, after an unprecedented pandemic which could, if we are unable to find our way out economically, bring us to that apocalypse that seems so near these day? 

Billionaires, corporations, please tell Mitch McConnell to get his Senate pooches to pass the American Jobs Plan, and that you will be glad to pitch in by paying more taxes. The only thing Mitch listens to is money and you have almost all of it.

https://www.forbes.com/billionaires/

NY Bail Reform and Victoria Afet

From a Google Image Search – Yonkers Times

We have long been aware of the fact that US prisons hold more Black folks than White, at least in proportion to their representation in the nation’s population. It also became clear that many people were being held in jail for even rather minor offenses because they could not afford to pay bail. In fact judges could set unreasonable bail amounts in order to hold people in pretrial detention.

Citizens who are able to meet bail requirements tend to own homes and have incomes that qualify them as above the poverty level. Since many poor offenders, or alleged offenders, do not own a home or property, or have incomes that rise above the poverty level, setting bail has tended to unfairly disadvantage Black folks and poor folks. Some people spend months in jail before they are tried or sentenced. 

Without the Black Lives Matter movement we might not have seen the need for bail reform, but NYS has responded by attempting to right this particular inequality. Backlash from law enforcement groups was instant and fierce. The Bail Reform laws that passed in January of 2020 eliminated cash bail for almost all offenses except violent felonies. At a local level this meant that many repeat offenders kept being returned to the neighborhoods to reoffend. Most of these violations were minor, but disruptive to the community.

Officials were so upset about the Bail Reform laws and so vocal about it that by April, 2020 amendments had already passed the legislature. These amendments expanded the list of charges and situations to nonviolent felonies. This allowed judges to set money bail or even send people for pretrial detention. Bail is supposed to prevent people from being able to leave the area but with no property or job responsibilities it is believed that people will just refuse to appear in court when their presence is requested if they are not held. But because the courts are overwhelmed people can remain in pretrial custody for periods of time that might be longer than they would be held if sentenced in a timely fashion. This challenges the very notion of justice.

The April amendments also offered more options for non-monetary release such as mandated treatment or maintaining employment. These kinds of creative and positive reforms were what the Bail Reform law was aiming at. I’m not sure that local law enforcement spent much time discussing how the Bail Reform law could be used to address unequal justice. Mostly they just uttered a giant vociferous “no way.” 

A Case in Point

On March 172021 Syracuse police discovered the body of 93 year old Connie Tuori in her apartment in the Skyline Apartment building. An autopsy revealed that she had been dead since the end of February. Ms. Tuori had traveled the world but her travels had been curtailed by the pandemic, if not by her age. It was determined that she did not die of natural causes. 

https://www.newsbreak.com/new-york/syracuse/news/2184989829090/fearless-retired-teacher-93-was-killed-in-skyline-apartments-family-says

https://cnycentral.com/news/local/relative-identifies-woman-93-murdered-at-skyline-apartments-in-syracuse

After a request for public information in the matter a name popped up, a name of a 23-year-old homeless woman, Victoria Afet, with a record of many recent arrests. 

https://cnycentral.com/news/local/syracuse-police-update-arrest-93-year-old-connie-tuori-murder-skyline-apartments

Afet seems to have been living in Connie Tuori’s apartment with the dead woman’s body still present.

I guess it is easy to see how this incident can be used by law enforcement to demonize the new Bail Reform Law. On local news the DA ponders aloud on why Afet, with all her recent offenses is still on the streets. However he was being somewhat disingenuous, because clearly the courts had the option of setting bail for at least one of her previous offenses. She has not been proven guilty and we have no idea what kind of evidence exists, but because the crime she may have committed is so serious I doubt that anyone will question that she should be held for bail. If she were released, because innocent until proven guilty, she ought to be under some kind of supervision. She had previously attacked a 74-year-old woman to take her purse in the same apartment complex. 

Conclusions

This is a test of Bail Reform that could prove fatal. Tweaking the law would be preferable to overturning the law. The question that must be asked is what happened to Victoria Afet that turned her into a homeless 23-year-old making her way by stealing and possibly killing local seniors, and other lesser crimes? Syracuse has been cited for stubborn segregation and poverty. What are we doing to turn things around in our city and throughout our state? We have problems with violence that are usually found only in much larger cities. Whole generations of Black Syracusans are unable to partake of the opportunities their nation supposedly offers. 

Bail Reform Laws alone will not fix this, but this attempt at change should not be abandoned. Of course, if Afet is proved guilty she should go to prison. However, we  also should look to Ms. Afet and figure out where our city went so wrong. Redlining was practiced in Syracuse preventing home ownership to many. Home ownership leads to generational wealth. The most successful Black district in the city was replaced by a highway project which displaced thriving home owners and divided the neighborhood by routing traffic over it, creating a dead zone under a lengthy overpass. Change is required in Syracuse and in America and the need is urgent. Bail reform is just a beginning and we should fine tune it until it functions as it should.

Immigration: A Complicated Dilemma

From a Google Image Search – AP News – Migrants repelled at border.

Immigration at the Southern border is a complex topic that raises many questions for citizens in the US. Do we have room for more people? Should we remain closed even after the virus is managed through herd immunity? Are we worried that allowing so many to enter the country from South America will change America as we know it enough to essentially make it feel like a different country? Will new arrivals be assimilated? Will they be so numerous that they take over our society and turn it into a carbon copy of their homeland? How big a burden will these new arrivals be on our safety net and for how long? Will they become working members of our society, or will they be have to be subsidized for decades? Will we become a Spanish speaking nation or a bilingual nation? Will they be Conservatives or Liberals?  

These are things we rarely discuss because they seem racist and inappropriate. Since these questions underlie all the emotional debates we have about immigration at the Southern border they create an enormous fog of unexplored worries, mostly hypothetical, with no extensive data to supply answers. The entire situation remains fraught with fear and the desire to just not deal with it, to wall it off and place an impenetrable barrier between “us” and “them.”

But our humanitarian side sees our neighbors as leaving the countries they love, where their roots lie, not to overrun us, but to escape strife and land that is suddenly infertile due to climate changes. What was once a fertile triangle has become almost a desert that no longer produces enough food to feed the nations it once provided for. Young people are also being forced to either join gangs or drug cartels, or face terror and even death. The powers of these cartels have sidelined the powers and assets of the governments of these nations. 

We recognize that, as parents, we might also choose to send our children to another place where they might be safe, have enough to eat, and have better opportunities if it became necessary. We also recognize that inviting people who are poor into our nation when it is already doing an inadequate job of dealing with our own poor might increase the violence we are seeing among our own younger people who are trapped in poverty and who will seek any way out, criminal or not. 

Perhaps we even feel some guilt for pumping chemicals into the atmosphere that have changed weather patterns enough to cause that drought in the Northern Triangle of Central America, and, given the demand for drugs in the US we have even contributed to the failure of governments in that same area. In Venezuela the failing economy seems to stem more from too much dependence on oil and gas to provide income in a market where prices have fallen. Whether we are driven by guilt or necessity to consider the plight that drives migration from parts of South America to the US, even in a pandemic, it is our problem to figure out, and if we are who we say we are, it is our dilemma to figure out how to deal with migration as humanely as possible. We can start by recognizing this as migration and not immigration.

President Biden has offered a tasty bribe to the President of Mexico to help stem the tide of migrants for a while, at least until we get COVID under control. He has exchanged doses of vaccine for cooperation, a deal that helps both sides. This is a temporary solution and it is unclear how effective it will be. Biden also plans to invest in the home nations that migrants are fleeing to correct some of the conditions that are causing the exodus. We must assume that there will still be migrations to the US from South America as we cannot hope to solve all of the problems among the nations losing citizens. 

We have this moment and perhaps not much of a moment to figure out the answers to all of our questions about immigration or migration, or whatever you choose to call the ‘en masse’ movements of people that we experience so regularly. Can we come up with a decision about whether migrants are welcome, which migrants are welcome, how many migrants are welcome, what kinds of structure will be put in place that will be adequate to manage the migrations that will most likely continue? Will it actually be possible to set the terms for future migrations or should we come up with ways to deal with the real numbers that we can see are actually on the way? What would such a system look like as it would have to be adjustable for periods of more and fewer migrants?

It would be informative to follow what happens to migrants who are turned back and what happens to those who are allowed to stay but then we might have to understand the suffering that people are trying to leave behind and deal with our own callous lack of concern for our neighbors. 

After the pandemic, I would like to see a kinder system that recognizes the pain people feel at making the decision to leave their home country and family to start over. People who have a plan for what they would like to do in the USA and some reasonable connection or resources for pursuing that plan might be allowed a visa that would allow them to stay in America and visit home as often as possible, in other words, move back and forth across a more porous border. Those who apply for asylum and plan to never return home, who would seek citizenship and make America their new home, could be sheltered by a family member or sponsor as they are now, or counselled to come up with a plan for how they would make a living in the US and perhaps be provided with some aid to make their plan possible. 

I don’t believe that we can continue to turn people away at our Southern border and still claim the humanitarian high ground globally. Immigration/migration is a very complex issue indeed, but even a complex issue is unraveled by taking one step and at a time and readjusting as necessary. Once the pandemic ends or herd immunity is reached what steps do we want to take? Right now that depends on the Democrats, but at the next election the approach could change drastically. Yanking policies right and left periodically will not make any of this any easier.

Policing Armed Citizens

From a Google Image Search – The Economist

Recently a 17 year old young man who had been dealing with a mental illness all his life finally committed “death by police.” He created a chaotic situation where he was living so that a 911 call dispatched the police. He owned an air gun that shoots pellets similar to BB’s. It was modeled on a Glock and looked like a real gun. The police were aware of the air gun he owned, but they still had to consider that the gun pointed at them might be real. This young man, failed by modern medicine and modern treatments for mental illness, finally died at the hands of local police with far too many shots fired, all the usual overreaction that we find happening over and over in these situations these days. This young man was not of African American descent but he still joins the ranks of young people killed by overreactions from police. 

https://www.syracuse.com/news/2021/03/dispatcher-warned-of-jamesville-teens-airgun-and-suicide-by-cop-before-fatal-shooting-by-police.html

Tamir Rice was not mentally ill as far as we know, he was only 11, and he was Black. He was reported by a neighbor as being in a park with a gun, except that the gun was a BB gun. He was killed without any questioning as soon as a policeman arrived on the scene. 

Here are, to me, a couple of excellent reasons why we need gun regulation laws. Of course I thought it was more than obvious when a young mentally ill man with a gun shot 20 very young children and several adults and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but these poor parents have never been respected as they should have been. When guns are everywhere it puts police and even some Americans, especially Black Americans, in a bad situation. Police officers are always either paranoid that a potential perpetrator has a gun, or they are able to claim that someone they wish to be rid of has a gun even though s/he doesn’t. Black people do not tend to pass muster even when they have a legal gun with a permit.

Putting aside even the horrific situation that happened in Boulder or in Atlanta, or any appearance of a determined shooter in a totally unexpected public place which is difficult to anticipate, just the proliferation of guns because of a decision to put a certain interpretation to what the founder’s meant in the Second Amendment to our Constitution, is bound to make law enforcers paranoid and fearful that policing could lead to death at any moment. And it is leading to death either for the police, the person who may or may not have broken a law, someone caught in an uncontrollable mental moment or all of the citizens embroiled in such a drama. 

Guns are not actually saving lives; they are costing lives. Perhaps what we need to do is sideline the Senate, which seems dominated by irrational and reactionary politicians who insist that America belongs to them and refuse to accept that we no longer live in the 1780’s. Against all odds, these stubborn legislators insist that nothing can even be said about regulating guns in America. They are like a human wall on this topic and that wall cannot be breached. It is a most frustrating thing, among a number of frustratingly inflexible issues, we are facing in American politics, and all are very good reasons to find ways to sideline the Senate or set term limits that get rid of arrogant old men elected for life.

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: Fast or Slow

From a Google Image Search – Dmitry Anikin

Having read The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, a science fiction description of how we might have to tackle greenhouse gases and global warming, and How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates, a nonfiction step-by-step analysis of where excess carbon dioxide and methane gas is coming from and what it will take to get emissions to zero, it is impossible not to compare the two plans.

Robinson has little confidence that millionaires and billionaires, especially those who produce and guzzle fossil fuels, will be willing to switch to the alternatives we have available so far, or even put the kind of money into research and development which will offer better choices. He imagines that we will have to use a guerilla/ terrorist approach along with less militant ones. 

He creates in his writing an angry group of victims of a climate disaster who take matters into their own hands, who shoot private jets out of the sky, who create a frightening weapon called ‘pebble mobs’ to target people for assassination or just cause random chaos. 

He designs an entirely new economy that offers those who emit carbon both a carrot and a stick to incentivize change. When he is done currency no longer exists. When he is done airplanes are replaced by dirigibles. 

Robinson offers us a sense of urgency; a sense that we must act right now and in big ways. Robinson is never reluctant about messing with our minds and helping us change old mindsets. In 2031 he either predicted or caused the sexual/gender revolution that offers us as many genders and sexual combinations as humans need or want. In his novel, The Ministry of the Future, Robinson blows up stodgy mindsets once again, this time in terms of ways we can lower excess carbon dioxide levels and lower them right away. He is pugilistic and angry, tired of waiting for capitalists to commit to science and sustainability.

Bill Gates in his nonfiction book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, takes the dispassionate man of science approach. He offers a sense of urgency but is more optimistic about both the time frame and the ways he already sees industry beginning to accept alternatives to practices that produce excess carbon. 

He parses all the problem areas and gives everything a green premium by comparing the cost of using an alternative to the low costs of using gas and oil. He predicts that change will not occur until we can keep the society we have and have alternatives energies that are as cheap or cheaper than things like the current big carbon producers that we love, like steel and concrete and plastic, and meat, and heating and cooling and refrigerating and shipping and traveling long and short distances, and which will get us to zero carbon emissions. 

He calls for innovation and says that solar and wind alone will not get us to zero. He wants modern nuclear, which controls the dangers far better than older nuclear power plants. He wants better batteries. 

After reading both books you can’t help but wonder if Gates’ slow, methodical approach of building on what we already have and looking at 2050 as our target date will change global warming in time, or if we will end up using tactics that are harsher, bolder and single out the wealthiest people on earth for terrorist attacks to intimidate them into changing their ways. Both authors agree that wealthy nations are the biggest greenhouse gas producers, but poorer nations will bear the brunt of climate change. Climate migration could trigger more fear and chaos. If Gates’ approach doesn’t work, and earth is in terrible danger, if climate disasters are powerful enough and frequent enough to trigger mass anger, and there is no Planet B, what might we be capable of doing?  

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates – Book

From a Google Image Search – Gates Notes

If you like a level-headed, carefully researched roadmap to ‘get to zero’ (zero greenhouse gas emissions), tapping into the mind of a man who brought on the age of technology can’t hurt. Bill Gates in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, is exactly the unemotional problem solver, backed by a team that has helped collect data and facts (you remember facts) who could foment the kinds of changes the humans on our planet need.

Did you know that 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere in a year? How do we get that number to zero? Gates comes as close to showing us how we can do this, without making our lives unrecognizable, as any one has. “I came to focus on climate change in an indirect way – through the problem of energy poverty,” says Gates. (pg. 8) Eventually Gates divested of all stocks in coal, gas, and oil.

Gates offers plenty of graphs and charts but not to prove that carbon dioxide and methane are heating up the world and causing global warming that is great enough to affect climate. He begins with the assumption that this correlation is real and spends his time exploring every thing humans do that creates emissions and how we get each to zero global warming emissions. He uses one graph and some dramatic examples to show how warming affects the earth and some people more than others. He admits that ‘getting to zero’ will be hard. The effects of warming will be worse in poorer countries that are not responsible for emissions. The changes will have to be made in rich nations who will be most reluctant to change their ways.

“To sum up: we need to accomplish something gigantic we have never done before, much faster than we have ever done anything similar. To do it we need lots of breakthroughs in science and engineering. We need to build a consensus that doesn’t exist and create public policies to push a transition that would not happen otherwise. We need the energy systems to stop doing all the things we don’t like and keep doing all the things we do like – in other words, to change completely and also stay the same…But don’t despair. We can do this.” (pg. 48)

Gates starts us off with a chart on page 51 which shows “How much greenhouse gas is emitted by the things we do?” Making things (cement, steel, plastic) – 31%, Plugging in (electricity) – 27%, Growing things (plants, animals) – 19%, Getting around (planes, trains, trucks, cargo ships) – 16%, Keeping warm and cool (heating, cooling, refrigeration) – 7%

Using this chart every greenhouse gas producing activity is assigned a Green Premium. That green premium needs to go to zero. Gates, with the help of his research groups (Gates Ventures and Breakthrough Energy) takes each greenhouse gas emitter and shows how we get to zero carbon emissions. This is another climate book you really need to read. In fact, if you are an inventor, there are any number of areas where you could follow in the footsteps of Bill Gates and perhaps get in on the revolutions in energy that we all need. Will you end up skyrocketing to fame and fortune? Perhaps, perhaps not, but you could end up in some future history books. Help Bill Gates, help yourself.

Politics from the Cheap Seats

Omnibus Edition 1 covers 2010-2016

These essays were all written in the administration of Barrack Obama. They show a Republic Party that had been radicalized by the Tea Party movement, the Federalists, the NRA, and a web of Conservative think tanks and policy groups. Fundamentalists had their own influential groups that also worked with the Conservative web. It became clear that there was a concerted effort to put forth an firm agenda for the way Conservatives planned to steer government into the future. We came to know these agenda items as ‘talking points’. It also became clear that Republicans were looking for members who would lead aggressively and who would not put too fine a point on civility. The groundwork for this agenda was laid out before Obama won, but the obstructionism and the racism, the voter suppression, and the reactionary attitudes towards women and immigrants became Republican strategy and this strategy is still in use today. Conservatives seem dedicated to winning a final battle with liberalism, once and for all. As you read these essays you can watch this campaign unfold.

Omnibus Edition 2 with bonus material covers 2017-2020

Donald J. Trump was elected to be America’s 45 th President in 2016. He was inaugurated in 2017 and joined an elite club of men who have led American through good times and bad. From the beginning he seemed to deliberately govern America as if he were a king or a mafia don. He does not ever worry about representing all Americans. He is, clearly, the “Red State” President with his own supporters, his own media and his own agenda, which also includes helping the Republicans and the Fundamentalists accomplish their agenda when doing so suits his purposes. 

What ensues in the first term of Trump is the subject of this book, which covers the essays I wrote during Trump’s first term in office. Since I would like to get these thoughts out in time to convince voters of how important it will be to replace the Republicans and Donald Trump with Democrats if we want our republic to survive, I had to publish before the end of 2020.

We are in the midst of trying to emerge from a pandemic and whether this virus is done with us or not remains to be seen. If there is a second wave of the virus we are unsure what will happen to the American economy. This administration does not value workers except as cogs in a Capitalist machine that drives the stock market. This is not an argument against Capitalism. It is an argument against a misguided ideology that divides people into winners and losers and plans to give the winners dominion over the losers.

I have an author page on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/author/nlbrisson

Atavistic Attitudes

Washingtonian

Democrats have tried to tackle race inequality before and they were shut down by Conservatives in the Republican Party, some of whom are racists who never got over losing the Civil War and who nursed their racial myths, hated Northern liberals, and felt that the generals who lost the Civil War were heroes. There are Americans who seem to think that wiping out Americans of African Descent, brought here by their own ancestors into slavery, is justified; that they should be terrorized and killed, either separately or in groups until they leave. (America is their country; where would they go?) At least a campaign to decimate this population appears to be true if you keep track of black deaths at the hands of white folks and the police. In 2020 a law was just introduced by Kamala Harris and Cory Booker that would make lynching illegal. Do you know any white folks who were ever lynched?

In the 60’s the nation was made aware of the dissatisfaction of our fellow citizens with black and brown skin. The Black Panthers showed America what it could be like if black Americans decided to get really angry and militant. Citizen demonstrations by black Americans arose in a number of American cities and neighborhoods. Perhaps you heard about the demonstrations in Watts which turned destructive and were labeled as “riots.” Race “riots” were effective in that they scared legislators into thinking about laws that could be passed and actions that could be taken. Solutions split into two camps. One group, mostly composed of liberals, agreed that our treatment of our black neighbors had been appalling and that what was needed was an investment of time and money and opportunity focused on lifting up black folks in our inner cities for the most part. Of course, the squeaky wheel gets the grease so bigger cities got more resources. During the administration of LBJ programs to educate and offer good health care and encourage entrepreneurship in our cities proliferated. 

Republican legislators were frightened by the violence enough to try these lefty ideas although they hated them and never let Democrats forget that they felt this approach was wrong. Even then Republicans had no faith that the government could solve societal or economic problems. But what they really believed is that Black Americans were lazy and flawed and that they were incapable of adopting the behaviors of successful white folks. They were uneducable and had no work ethic. They were simply a bunch of drunks and criminals and any money spent on such programs would be wasted money. They sabotaged these programs with one hand while they voted for them with the other. They added rules and restrictions that made taking part in many of these programs embarrassing or difficult. The government built housing but only in certain neighborhoods where poverty practically guaranteed that the building would be substandard and overcrowded. There was optimism on the left and the self-fulfilling prophecy of predictions of failure on the right; in fact, Conservatives Republicans made sure that failure was built in so they could say ‘I told you so.’

Then the right came back in the 80’s and 90’s and claimed that these programs had been abject failures; that they had no effect on lifting up inner city black folks. The self-fulfilling prophecy ‘bombs’ built into the programs had muffled their effectiveness. But it was not true that no one was lifted up. The number of Americans of African Descent in the middle class grew. Head Start programs did help children do better in school. Small businesses did spring up, but without any nurturing from above they often failed and added to the burden of hopelessness. Home ownership improved for a few, but because of redlining many people were imprisoned in their inner city neighborhoods without the resources to find housing in diverse, upscale neighborhoods or they owned homes that were undervalued. Real estate is at the base of much generational wealth. Such wealth could only be found in the inner cities residents felt by becoming a professional athlete, a musician, or engaging in some form of criminal or gang activity. Imagine if these were the only choices white children had?

As the programs failed and some in the inner cities turned to gangs for power and family loyalty, criminal activity increased in our inner cities. Guns appeared on our city streets. Families in these neighborhoods who hoped for a better future for their children found that their children got sucked into gangs, each with a pitifully small turf of city territory that they had to protect and defend against intrusion by other gangs. Did anyone get rich? A few gang leaders flashed cash and fancy cars, but it did not trickle down to the regular troops. Gangs have ended up being a sort of pyramid scheme. Conservatives began to slip the words ‘law and order’ into every conversation. What they meant is that we need our police forces to declare war on these behaviors and put these criminals, big and small, young and old, but only black or brown or poor, into jail cells. Getting them off the streets will solve the problems. They were successful at busting gangs, using old mafia laws, like RICO laws to convict in the courts. “Being nice to them won’t work”, Republican said. “We told you so. Put the fear of the law in them. Let them live out their lives in prison.” It became a kind of exile right here in America. Racists avoided having to find a nation or an island to ship people of color off to. Did it work? Did our inner cities become oases of civil society, the arts and opportunities to advance economically. No ‘law and order’ did not work. No, although our cities contain many creative and positive elements we could not exactly grant them oasis status.

So, here we are once again, trying to find out how to rid ourselves of our racism and of the damage it does to black and brown Americans and to the ideals America was supposed to stand for. And we are divided in exactly the same ways we have always been. Democrats still say that opportunity, that welcoming Americans of African Descent into diverse communities with great schools and lots of adult mentoring for any children who struggle educationally is the only correct pathway out of racial discrimination and inequality. Once we recover from the economic setbacks of the coronavirus, reparations to make up for the lack of chances to build up generational wealth, for the land robbed from black folks, for the lives destroyed or ended, would definitely be in order.

But Democrats are not in control and the current administration, right down to the lowliest new Republican representative or senator believes that ‘law and order,’ the baton and the tear gas, the hoses and the rubber bullets, the dogs and the real bullets are the only language that black and brown Americans will understand. They see no injustice here. All they see is people flaunting the rule of law and the power brokers. They still refuse to accept that their own hatred and fear caused the tragic suppression of black and brown people in America. Until Republicans are voted out, and Conservatives are ignored to become a circular echo chamber pontificating only to each other, until then, we cannot do the things that need to be done; pass the laws that need to be passed, spend the resources that need to be spent and try, just try to humbly apologize for what has been done and what has not been done. And then we have other shortcomings to make up for as well. Do not let that ‘law and order’ cry win the day. Vote in the Democrats and since we are a big tent party  we will find ways to lose racism forever and to try, once again, to live up to the uncompromised ideals of the American republic/democracy. If the Democrats lose in 2020 you get Trump’s Troops and apparently the entire military might of the United States in our streets. Republicans cannot and will not change the way they think; their atavistic attitudes.

Washingtonian

I Did It!

Omnibus Edition One

I did it! I fit an entire decade into two volumes. So you can buy my essays by the year or you can get the whole megillah all at once. 

Omnibus Edition 1 covers 2010-2016

These essays were all written in the administration of Barrack Obama. They show a Republic Party that had been radicalized by the Tea Party movement, the Federalists, the NRA, and a web of Conservative think tanks and policy groups. Fundamentalists had their own influential groups that also worked with the Conservative web. It became clear that there was a concerted effort to put forth an firm agenda for the way Conservatives planned to steer government into the future. We came to know these agenda items as ‘talking points’. It also became clear that Republicans were looking for members who would lead aggressively and who would not put too fine a point on civility. The groundwork for this agenda was laid out before Obama won, but the obstructionism and the racism, the voter suppression, and the reactionary attitudes towards women and immigrants became Republican strategy and this strategy is still in use today. Conservatives seem dedicated to winning a final battle with liberalism, once and for all. As you read these essays you can watch this campaign unfold.

Omnibus Edition 2 with bonus material covers 2017-2020

Donald J. Trump was elected to be America’s 45 th President in 2016. He was inaugurated in 2017 and joined an elite club of men who have led American through good times and bad. From the beginning he seemed to deliberately govern America as if he were a king or a mafia don. He does not ever worry about representing all Americans. He is, clearly, the “Red State” President with his own supporters, his own media and his own agenda, which also includes helping the Republicans and the Fundamentalists accomplish their agenda when doing so suits his purposes. 

What ensues in the first term of Trump is the subject of this book, which covers the essays I wrote during Trump’s first term in office. Since I would like to get these thoughts out in time to convince voters of how important it will be to replace the Republicans and Donald Trump with Democrats if we want our republic to survive, I had to publish before the end of 2020.

We are in the midst of trying to emerge from a pandemic and whether this virus is done with us or not remains to be seen. If there is a second wave of the virus we are unsure what will happen to the American economy. This administration does not value workers except as cogs in a Capitalist machine that drives the stock market. This is not an argument against Capitalism. It is an argument against a misguided ideology that divides people into winners and losers and plans to give the winners dominion over the losers.

I have an author page on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/author/nlbrisson

” The Only Good Democrat is a Dead Democrat”

From a Google Image Search – Restavek Freedom blog

“The Only Good Democrat is a Dead Democrat”.

Trump praised this statement (he did not say it himself) on Twitter. The statement was made in a video by a commissioner in New Mexico and a Trump supporter. The guy from New Mexico said he did not mean the statement literally, but it is entirely possible, given Trump’s constant moves to suppress the Democratic vote, the way he praises his gun-toting followers/defenders, his resolve to end coronavirus protocols as soon as he learned that it was attacking (and killing) mainly minorities and seniors (although he is a senior) is perceived by Himself, (does he actually perceive or does his gut just burble satisfaction when he listens to its urgings) to be perfectly justified because the Democrats are at the top of his enemies list. Democrats are not seen as people, just targets for vengeance and if you happen to be a Democrat how can you not be frightened by this, and forewarned?

We the people who are still rational and believe in a common morality are trying to avoid an explosive confrontation with Trump until after we see what happens in the 2020 election, and I guess we owe it to our founders to make the most of this last tool in the Constitutional toolbox. But if cops keep killing black folks we may lose it. That may even be what these acts are: provocations to get us to respond physically against these wrongful acts. 

We want to see the police as protectors and defenders against antisocial acts, but watching three cops with knees on a supine man in handcuffs who is not resisting arrest hardly projects an image that is respectful of citizens. Even if there is history between the arresting officer and George Floyd, that was not the basis that was given for this arrest. Supposedly Mr. Floyd passed a counterfeit $20 bill. If I had a counterfeit $20 bill would I even know it was counterfeit? Would I lose my life? Maybe, I am a Democrat, but probably not because I do not have pigmented skin. 

We the people do not want this awful pattern to play out over and over again. It is racist: it is wrong: and it is tragic. It is a tragedy we do not need in a world that is already quite tragic enough. It is also unnecessary because if a stimulus bill focused on those at the bottom of the economy passed it might have kept poverty at bay. So this explosion is not just the province of the city of Minneapolis or the police; it is also on Mitch McConnell’s plate, the President’s plate and the Republicans in the Senate own it too. They all own this because they refuse to see that when people are robbed of economic hope they may have to resort to desperate measures, which may be the true cause of all the current tensions in American society. This, along with anger at centuries of discrimination, may help explain the looting. America has had black Americans under a knee, or many knees since they were brought here in slavery. The knee pressure may lighten at times, but in times like this, when a virus is depressing our economy that pressure is getting stronger each day as the unemployment rate rises and the food stamps are cut.

The federal government must help the people at the bottom, the people whose upward trajectory literally ended up on life support. If you don’t and you start killing those who are left without adequate food or support systems you will start something you may not be able to end. The President also tweeted, “once there is looting, there will be shooting, quoting a Floridian from 1967.” The President may declare that he did not say that he would favor violence, but he has telegraphed violence often enough that denial seems strictly pro forma. 

If we continue down this road we are on, the racism, the vigilantes with long guns, we the people will have to arm ourselves and get ready for the second civil war in America history. A majority of Americans cannot continue to rationalize inaction and allow our nation to be turned into something unspeakable. There are Democrats who own guns, of course, but the left does not have armed militias. In a war who would our soldiers back, who would our policemen back? It could be a massacre and we know it. Do we go with Malcolm X or do we stay with Martin Luther King? There are 200 new right-wing judges on federal courts for life. The things we object to may become the law of the land. Are the sheeple just the people who love Trump and worship him, or are the sheeple any of us who put up with his twisted governance. I have never been in a war; I do not want to be in a war, but, like the abolitionists all over America and the world who fought with words and then with guns in the first civil war which ended slavery, but did not end racism; if police continue to pick off black folks one death at a time we will have to prepare a response that is powerful enough to show that we do not now and never will tolerate racism in America any longer.