Complicity

The thing about autocracies, or budding autocracies, is that they present citizens with only bad choices. At a certain point, one has to stop trying to find the right solution and has to look, instead, for a course of action that avoids complicity.

– Masha Gessen, “The Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed
and the Trumpian Corruption of Language and the Media”

The New Yorker, 9-6-2018

The officials who enable the Trump administration to maintain some veneer of normalcy, rather than resigning and loudly proclaiming that the president is unfit, are not “resisters.” They are enablers.

– Adam Serwer,
There’s No Coup Against Trump
The Atlantic, 9-6-2018

This week’s featured post is “What should we make of Anonymous?

This week everybody was talking about “resistance” inside the Trump administration

See the featured post. Short version: Yes, Trump is unfit to be president. But setting up a government-within-the-government to thwart him is not the right solution.

and Brett Kavanaugh

I’ve had a hard time making myself pay attention to the Kavanaugh hearings, because as best I can tell nothing matters. This is a power play, and Republicans have the power to force it through.

Various Republican senators are posturing in various ways. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski pretend not to know that Kavanaugh will be the deciding vote to reverse Roe v Wade. (Nothing Collins takes as reassuring is interpreted as disturbing by the religious right; they know what Kavanaugh will do.) Mitch McConnell pretends not to know that Trump nominated Kavanaugh precisely so he would be a pro-executive-power vote when the Court has to decide whether Trump can be subpoenaed or indicted. Chuck Grassley pretends nothing is hidden in all those Kavanaugh papers we aren’t allowed to see. And all the Republicans avert their eyes so as not to see that Kavanaugh lied in his previous confirmation hearings.

All the Republicans will vote for him because they just will. Nothing matters. Collins continues to describe herself as undecided, but nothing she has said is laying the groundwork for a No vote.


I agree whole-heartedly with Katherine Stewart’s article “Whose Religious Liberty Is It Anyway?“. She notes Kavanaugh’s endorsement of “religious liberty”, and explores what that really means: Christian supremacy (as I’ve been claiming since 2013). Stewart writes:

Let’s call it by its true name: religious privilege, not religious liberty. Today’s Christian nationalists want the ability to override the law where it conflicts with their religious beliefs, and thus to withdraw from the social contract that binds the rest of us together as a nation.

… Religious privilege of this sort was never intended for all belief systems, but rather for one type of religion. Sure, its advocates will on occasion rope in representatives of non-Christian faiths to lend the illusion of principle to their cause. But the real aim and effect of the religious liberty movement is to advance their idea of religion at the expense of everyone else.

If your religion or deeply held moral beliefs include the view that all people should be treated with equal dignity, then this religious liberty won’t do anything for you. If you’re a taxpayer who helps to fund your local hospital, a patient who keeps it in business, or a professional who works there, then your sincerely held religious and moral conviction that all people are entitled to equal access to the best medicine that science can provide and the law permits won’t stand a chance against a Catholic bishop’s conviction that some procedures are forbidden by a higher authority.

Today’s Christian nationalists will insist they are the only victims here. But that is as false as it is lacking in compassion. The terribly real effect of the kind of religious supremacy they seek is to target specific groups of people as legitimate objects of contempt.

and Nike

Nike unveiled the full version of its ad narrated by Colin Kaepernick yesterday. (It also includes footage of Serena Williams, LeBron James, and a lot of other amazing athletes.) Nike is intentionally thumbing its nose at Trump here, and taking the side of players like the Miami Dolphins’ Kenny Stills, who is carrying forward the protest Kaepernick started.

Vice News explains the business reality pretty well:

Conservative old white guys may love Trump, hate Colin Kaepernick, and now hate Nike as well. But how many top-of-the-line athletic shoes are they going to buy this year? And how many younger people want to be like them? Nike showed how much it worries about the shoe-burning protesters with this ad:

The shoe-burnings practically parody themselves. But Brent Terhune pushed it a little farther.

and Barack Obama

President Obama went to the University of Illinois to receive an award Friday, and gave the students there the kind of speech ex-presidents rarely give: a serious one that went right at the problems of the current moment. If you have the time, it’s worth watching or reading in its entirety.

The overarching theme of the speech is that, in the long run, America makes progress towards the dreams it was founded on: equal rights for everyone, government of the people, and so on. But that progress isn’t steady; it doesn’t advance like clockwork, year in, year out. Instead, whenever we make progress, the forces of inequality and special privilege regroup and counterattack.

The status quo pushes back. Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change. More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and the privileged who want to keep us divided and keep us angry and keep us cynical because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege. And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments.

… Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us or don’t sound like us or don’t pray like we do, that’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time.

And in a healthy democracy, it doesn’t work. Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fear mongers and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature.

But when there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void.

He goes on to summarize what Republicans are doing and what Democrats want to do instead. And then he tells the students to vote.

and you also might be interested in …

The Atlantic has an article about “zombie small business“: small businesses that are entirely under the thumb of the large businesses who control their pipeline to the consumer. The prime example is chicken growing: A handful of companies control just about the entire chicken market, and each works with “tied-and-bound contractors—so controlled by their agreements with giant food corporations that they no longer act like independent entities.”

The big company provides the chicks. The contract farmer raises them into chickens. The big company slaughters them for meat. It packages and brands that meat under one of dozens of labels. And it sells it cheap to the American consumer. … These big operations do not act like department stores, choosing goods from a broad variety of vendors and fostering competition and innovation. They instead act like a lord with serfs, or a landowner with sharecroppers.

The article quotes the head of a poultry-growers association:

I’ll list what they tell you: what time to pick up the chickens, what time to run the feed, what time to turn the lights off and on, every move that you make. Then, they say we’re not an employee—we are employees, but they won’t let us have any kind of benefits or insurance.

But it’s not just chickens:

The top four beef producers account for more than 80 percent of the market. The top four hog processors account for more than half. Much the same is true across the economy. The top four players account for more than 90 percent of overall revenue in a wide variety of market sectors and for a wide variety of consumer goods: web search, toilet paper, wireless services, arcade operations, soda, light bulbs, tires.

We’re used to thinking about the danger of monopolies, companies that can charge what they want for their product, because they are the only ones selling it. We need to think more about monopsonies, companies that can dictate to their suppliers, because they are the only buyers.

A monopsony-dominated economy is not a good place to achieve economic equality. Starting your own small business has traditionally been a way to get ahead in America. But if being a small businessman just means that you take orders in a different way, and your sole customer dictates how much money you get to make, then that avenue is shut off.

and let’s close with something awesome

Brightside collects the “100 best photographs taken without Photoshop“. It’s hard to chose just one, but I think I like the first one best: what it looks like to toss hot tea into the air in the Arctic.

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Comments

  • GJacq726  On September 10, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    For the record, the whole companies as a feudal system, saw that coming over a decade ago. Others maybe longer?

    It’s backlash to the percieved evils of socialism, which when enacted by those in power is a fascist form of socialism, not true socialism brought about by a well functioning capitalist society.

    We’re going backwards. 🙁

  • George Washington, Jr.  On September 10, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    The idea that Kavanaugh will be seated along party lines with a 51-vote majority should be unacceptable and further cements the Supreme Court as nothing more than a partisan stamp for the legislature. It wasn’t that long ago when a SCOTUS nominee could expect nearly unanimous support. If we want real jurists again, we need a rule requiring nominees to have at least 80 senators vote for them, preventing partisan hacks from being seated.

    • GJacq726  On September 10, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      Hear hear, but that worked require legislation that may favor “the other side”. 😖

  • Souma  On September 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Hey, I’ve looked into the Nike shoe-burning PSA and I can’t find any reputable sources pointing towards its veracity. The claim is that it is from an ad agency contracted by Nike (Wieden + Kennedy) but I cannot find the ad on their website:

    http://www.wk.com/office/portland/client/nike

    It’s also featured on bestadsontv.com:

    https://www.bestadsontv.com/ad/97027/Nike-How-to-burn-our-products-safely

    but nowhere have I seen where this ad was printed or shown on the tv

    Also, it’s a really ugly ad. It doesn’t look like a polished product that Nike would put out to represent themselves. Especially compared to the slick Colin Kaepernick nike ads.

    • George Washington, Jr.  On September 13, 2018 at 8:13 pm

      That doesn’t look like a typical Weiden+Kennedy ad either.

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