Friday, July 31, 2020

"America" by Sufjan Stevens

"Don't do to me what you did to America..."

"America" by Sufjan Stevens. Capturing the anxiety and apocalypse of our situation right now.

Is it love you’re after?
A sign of the flood or one more disaster
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America

I have loved you, I have grieved
I’m ashamed to admit I no longer believe
I have loved you, I received
I have traded my lifeFor a picture of the scenery
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America

I give it all up in laughter
The sign of the cross awaiting disaster
The dove flew to me like a vision of paranoia
The dove flew to me like a vision of paranoia

I have loved you like a dream
I have kissed your lips like a Judas in heat
I have worshipped, I believed
I have broke your bread for a splendor of machinery
Don’t look at me like I’m acting hysterical
Don’t look at me like I’m acting hysterical

I have worshipped, I have cried
I have put my hands in the wounds on your side
I have tasted of your blood
I have choked on the waters, I abated the flood
I am broken, I am beat
But I will find my way like a Judas in heat
I am fortune, I am free
I’m like a fever of light in the land of opportunity

Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you do to yourself
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you do to yourself
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you do to yourself
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you do to yourself

Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation by John Lewis

Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation

By John Lewis
Mr. Lewis, the civil rights leader who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death, to be published upon the day of his funeral.

July 30, 2020

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

Link to original article:


"Long Lost" EP by Jordan Hunt

I am pretty dazzled by Jordan Hunt. A classically trained violinist who has worked with Björk and FKA Twigs (previously here) and was the resident violinist for The Irrepressibles (previously here), Hunt has been making incredible music of his own for a while now. These four songs--"Mother," "Don't Fly Too Far," "I Once Cared," and "Peter"--comprise his extended play release "Long Lost" and they are exquisite, not only sonically and lyrically but visually as well. The delicate, trembling nature of the sounds are offset by arresting, unflinching visuals that remind me of the work of contemporary artist Matthew Barney. Hunt describes the video for "Mother" as "durational performance art."

He says, "When you are classically trained, you’re taught that music is the point. But I’ve grown to believe that an emotional connection with the audience is much more important. Trained singers can be impressive, but you also need that nugget of rawness to draw you in. Without that, there’s no substance, just performance. Iconic singers have both."

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Anthenea Floating Hotel Pod

Made in France, the Anthenea floating pod is a new kind of hotel room. The website describes how it came to be:

At the origins of this incredible project, there is the dream of Jean-Michel Ducancelle, Naval architect, directly inspired by James Bond’s floating pod in "The Spy Who Loved Me" , 1977.

For 25 years, Jean-Michel has been wondering about how humans can inhabit the Earth. He passionately cultivates the idea that tomorrow’s habitat should be at the heart of natural environment in order to offer to all, a life in an immersive marine & submarine world. He envisions a way to apprehend the future differently, with a solution for the increasing reduced availability of construction on the coast and a new look at the floating habitat.

His decisive meeting with the visionary industrial Jacques-Antoine Cesbron, enabled the culmination of such years of patented research and innovation.

With the birth of Anthenea, the dream has become reality.

The Anthenea pod comes with an adjustable sunshade roof, solar panels, a panoramic bathtub, and over 7 feet of bedding diameter. The pod is 100% recyclable, while its design has been studied to resist cataclysms and the rise of oceans. Only running on solar power, the floating habitat features an energy sensor dome that meets the electrical and hot water needs. The Anthenea pod is equipped with certified black and gray water stations, and produces what it consumes, releasing clean water only. The manufacturer might want to look at ways of adapting the pod for permanent living, since we are all going to be floating in another 20 years or so...

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Ask Different Questions

"Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions."
—Bruce Mau

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

American Catastrophe Through German Eyes

You know it's bad when the GERMANS are worried about Fascism in the United States. This is an article by Roger Cohen of The New York Times where he speaks about a recent article in the German magazine Der Spiegel in which the German people express concern at the rise of literal Fascism in the United States, a place where no one in the world expected such a thing to happen.

American Catastrophe Through German Eyes

Trump says he wants to protect law-abiding citizens. In 1933, Hitler issued his ‘Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State.’
By Roger Cohen
Opinion Columnist
July 24, 2020

PARIS — No people has found the American lurch toward authoritarianism under President Trump more alarming than the Germans. For postwar Germany, the United States was savior, protector and liberal democratic model. Now, Germans, in shock, speak of the “American catastrophe.”

A recent cover of the weekly magazine Der Spiegel portrays Trump in the Oval Office holding a lighted match, with a country ablaze visible through his window. The headline: “Der Feuerteufel,” or, literally, “the Fire Devil.”

Germans have a particular relationship to fire. The Reichstag fire of 1933 enabled Hitler and the Nazis to scrap the fragile Weimar democracy that had brought them to power. Hitler’s murderous fantasies could now become reality. War, Auschwitz and the German catastrophe followed.

I have known many thoughtful German diplomats over the years, including Michael Steiner, who labored to stop the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and Wolfgang Ischinger, the former German ambassador to the United States. It always seemed to me that their particular passion for freedom, democracy and openness stemmed from the knowledge of how easily these are lost.

Michael Steinberg, a professor of history at Brown University and the former president of the American Academy in Berlin, wrote to me this week:

“The American catastrophe seems to get worse every day, but the events in Portland have particularly alarmed me as a kind of strategic experiment for fascism. The playbook from the German fall of democracy in 1933 seems well in place, including rogue military factions, the destabilization of cities, etc.”

Steinberg continued, “The basic comparison involves racism as a political strategy: a racist imaginary of a pure homeland, with cities demonized as places of decadence.”

Trump provokes outrage in a cascade designed to blunt alarm. He deadens reactions through volume and repetition. But something about the recent use of unmarked cars and camouflage-clad federal agents without clear identifying insignia detaining protesters shattered any inclination to shrug.

From the deployment of those federal units in Portland, Oregon’s largest city, where protesters have been demanding racial justice and police accountability, it’s not a huge leap to the use of paramilitaries (like the German Freikorps in the 1920s) to buttress a “Law and Order” campaign. The Freikorps battled communists. Today, Trump claims to battle “anarchists,” “terrorists” and violent leftists. It’s the leitmotif of his quest for a second term.

Perhaps the years I spent covering Argentina in the 1980s, in the aftermath of the military junta, made me particularly sensitive to the use of unmarked cars — in the Argentine case, Ford Falcons — to grab left-wing political opponents off the street. They were “disappeared,” a word whose lingering psychological devastation I measured in countless tear-filled rooms. Later I went to Berlin, where there was only one story: totalitarian tragedy and the labors of democratic salvation.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection confirmed this week that it has deployed officers from three paramilitary-style units to join the federal crackdown in Portland. The Trump administration, facing lawsuits, has cited post-9/11 legislation establishing the department to justify its action. Chicago is now among several cities being targeted as Trump seeks to foment confrontation.

As Tom Ridge, a Republican who was the first head of the Department of Homeland Security, noted in an interview with the Sirius XM host Michael Smerconish, the department was “not established to be the president’s personal militia.”

In wartime, the Third Geneva Convention, to which the United States is a party, requires even irregular forces to wear “a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance.” This is critical not only to protecting civilians but also to ensuring accountability for misconduct.

When paramilitary-style units have no identifying insignia, there is no transparency, no accountability — and that means impunity. Democracy dies. Think of all this as setting the scene for Trump’s own “state of emergency” if he does not like the November election result. Social media is combustible enough for a physical fire to be unnecessary.

The president says he wants to protect law-abiding citizens. In 1933, after the Reichstag burned, Hitler issued the “Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State” as his means to seize power.

German horror at Trump has many components. He’s the fear-mongering showman wielding nationalism, racism and violence as if the 20th century held no lessons. He’s the would-be destroyer of the multilateral institutions that brought European peace and made it possible for Germans to raise their bowed heads again. He is a fascist in the making.

As Ian Beacock argued recently in The New Republic, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, got it right on the virus. Not for her the imagery of war — all that talk of the silent, invisible enemy to be vanquished. No, for her the challenge of the virus has been a lesson in the power of democracy.

“We are not condemned to accept the spread of this virus as an inevitable fact of life,” she said. “We thrive not because we are forced to do something, but because we share knowledge and encourage active participation.” She went on to say that success largely depends “on each and every one of us.”

It worked. Merkel was addressing all democratic citizens, Americans included. No wonder Trump cannot stand her, a woman trained as a scientist whose life lesson has been the sacred value of freedom.

Link to original article:

And here is the Der Spiegel article Cohen references. It is a bit long, but please give it a read. This is a dire, dangerous situation that is hard to fathom. But we need to be aware.

A Perfect Storm
Democracy on the Defensive in Trump's America
Coronavirus, economic collapse and now mass demonstrations for racial equality: The United States is facing a trio of deep crises. Instead of offering leadership, President Donald Trump is exacerbating divisions and showing authoritarian tendencies. With the presidential election still several months away, the country's health is at stake.
By Guido Mingels, Roland Nelles, Ralf Neukirch, René Pfister und Marc Pitzke
05.06.2020, 19.26 Uhr

Once darkness had fallen, the general went to see the situation for himself. Mark Milley strode across the battlefield in olive-green camouflage and heavy boots, not to inspect a residential street in Fallujah or mountains in Afghanistan, but the streets of Washington, D.C.

A reporter asked Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, if he had a message for the American people. His response: "Just allow freedom to assemble, freedom of speech, that's perfectly fine, we support that," he said. "We took an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America to do that, and to protect everyone's rights and that's what we do."

It was a striking statement given that it came just a short time after security personnel, including members of the military police, deployed batons and flashbang grenades to forcibly push peaceful protesters out of the streets surrounding the White House. There are competing narratives as to whether they had been warned before force was deployed, but it is clear why they were moved: to provide a photo op for U.S. President Donald Trump.

Around 6 p.m. on Monday, after several days in which the White House had looked like a defensive fortress surrounded by a sea of furious demonstrators, Trump stepped outside. Up to that point, the president had hardly said a word about the largely peaceful protests or the limited rioting that had beset Washington, D.C., and dozens of other towns and cities across the nation. He was unable to find the courage or desire to give a consoling speech following the horrific slaying of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by a white policeman who kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes.

Once the crowds were cleared on Monday evening, Trump stood in front of St. John's Church, which had been damaged by fire the previous evening. He fiddled with a Bible, then held it aloft, as though unsure exactly what to do. When Trump was asked about his favorite verse in what he described as his "favorite book" last year, he had been unable to come up with one.

In front of the church, a journalist asked the president about his thoughts about the current situation. Trump muttered a few unintelligible comments into the wind. He was surrounded exclusively by white men and women, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the four-star General Milley, who had been tasked by the president a short time earlier with coordinating the military response to the unrest in the country.

Quick Pushback
The scene was as ridiculous as it was ominous, more reminiscent of South American potentates than of American democracy. Trump, who is fond of taking about "my generals" and also claimed to have the "support of the army," had arranged for a military escort for his foray into the streets of America. He also indicated that he wanted to send military units into American cities to confront the protesters, whom he has described as "terrorists."

The pushback came quickly. Defense Secretary Esper voiced his disapproval of the plan, as did several others. After Trump’s church appearance, retired General John Allen, who once commanded NATO troops in Afghanistan and was part of the fight against Islamic State, said, "The slide of the United States into illiberalism may well have begun on June 1, 2020." James Mattis, also a retired general and once Trump's defense secretary, wrote in The Atlantic that Trump was the first president who was seeking to divide the country rather than unite it. But Trump's political allies were still there for him. The New York Times published an op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton headlined, "Send In the Military."

Trump and his political accessories are using the rhetoric of authoritarianism. Militarized police forces haven't just been using violence to quell plundering and rioting, they have also been attacking peaceful demonstrators. Journalists have been arrested as well.

Should we be worried about the United States? Is a fundamental shift taking place in a country that is synonymous with deeply rooted democracy? The current chaos on the streets of America isn't just the product of the country’s economic and societal tensions. The president himself has repeatedly exacerbated those conflicts with his rhetoric. Trump, it seems, needs the chaos. He feeds off it.

Few other democratically elected leaders have as much power as the U.S. president, a reality that can lead to abuse. Trump has made personal loyalty the most important qualification for those with whom he surrounds himself. He harbors deep admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and once voiced his support for the violent crushing of the pro-democracy protests on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, saying it was a sign of strength.

The Russia investigation and his impeachment did not show him the limits of his power, and instead awakened in him a desire to hit back hard and to get rid of anyone within government who does not fulfill his every whim. In the waning months of his first term in office, just a few months before Election Day, he is increasingly putting his authoritarian tendencies on full display.

In the Hands of Loyal Acolytes
Not long ago, it seemed absurd to question the strength of America's system of checks and balances. U.S. democracy, more than 200 years old, has survived numerous crises and its resilience has always withstood attempts to grab power. But after more than three years of Trump, and despite him being the democratically elected president, the foundations of American democracy have grown brittle. Trump has continually pushed back the limits of what was considered acceptable under his predecessors. Flouting tradition, he placed the powerful Department of the Interior and the intelligence agencies in the hands of loyal acolytes.

"It's very frightening," says Rosa Brooks, a professor of law at Georgetown University. "I hope that I'm being much too paranoid but it's hard not to think of things like the Reichstag fire at this moment."

From the German perspective, of course, the comparison seems farfetched. In February, 1933, the National Socialists used the fire in Berlin’s Reichstag building as an excuse to issue the "Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State.” This essentially meant the suspension of the Weimar-era constitution and the beginning of the Nazi dictatorship.

The U.S. is far away from that. The system of checks and balances is a long way from being defanged and opposition is lively, as the streets in recent days have shown. In the House of Representatives, the Democrats have a solid majority and both Washington and New York are home to newspapers that wield tremendous power.

But the president is flirting with authoritarianism. And his party is following along.

On Monday, Trump retweeted a post by Cotton, the Republican senator, reading: "If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let's see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they're facing off with the 101st Airborne Division."

On Monday night, military helicopters circled at low altitude above the streets of the capital to intimidate demonstrators and looters. In military jargon, the tactic is known as a "show of force," and tends to be used in foreign battlefields in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. Meanwhile, National Guard troops in battle equipment lined up in front of the Lincoln Memorial, their faces covered. And then, suddenly, a high fence was erected around the White House on Thursday. To protect the president from the American people.

Daniel Ziblatt, a professor of the science of government at Harvard, co-authored the book "How Democracies Die" two years ago. It quickly became a widely respected work about the rise of autocrats and the strategies they employ. "When we wrote the book, we wanted to avoid seeming too alarmist," Ziblatt says today. "Now, I think we were too optimistic. We thought the Republican Party would break with Trump when he began attacking the democratic system. But that hasn't happened."

Destructive Rioting and Curfews
The U.S. has been beset by a perfect storm. In absolute numbers, no other industrialized country has been hit as hard by the coronavirus pandemic as the United States, with more than 100,000 dead. The economic consequences of the virus have also been devastating: More than 40 million Americans have lost their jobs, a disaster second only to the Great Depression. And now, the killing of George Floyd has torn open the country's oldest wound: the deep-seated racism left behind by slavery.

During the initial weeks of the coronavirus crisis, many people took comfort in the notion that "we’re all in this together.” The phrase was repeated daily by news anchors, politicians and celebrities. But many black people in the United States saw it as an affront. They have been hit much harder than white Americans by unemployment - even George Floyd had lost his job as a bouncer at a restaurant in Minneapolis. Furthermore, the chance that a black American will die from COVID-19 is three times higher than for white people.

"Our country will thrive and prosper again," Trump said in his inaugural address in January 2017. But now, dozens of U.S. cities have seen destructive rioting, and curfews have been imposed on 60 million Americans.

Racist police violence has a long, ugly tradition in the United States and white terror existed long before Trump rose to power, but almost all presidents in recent history have tried to unite the country. When a white terrorist shot and killed nine black people during a Bible study on June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, Barack Obama sang a moving rendition of "Amazing Grace" at the memorial service. It comforted the nation.

The contrast to Trump could hardly be greater. Last year, the current president awarded one of the country’s two highest civilian honors to the racist radio host Rush Limbaugh – a man who once said: "If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians." When the first disturbances began following the killing of George Floyd, Trump issued a warning that culminated in the sentence: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts." The sentence was used in the 1960s by racist politicians and police chiefs. Trump seemed to intentionally be throwing a match into a barrel of gasoline. And now, the country is burning.

"I am here to fight for my black skin," says a breathless Tranesha Smith, 25, in Oakland. She is holding up a homemade sign as a dark wall of police assembles in front of her. The sign reads "Peace for George Floyd" on the front and, on the back: "You killed my black brother." She says she is fighting for her children, for all black people. And for justice.

Understanding the Rage
"No justice, no peace," is one of the most frequently chanted slogans at the demonstrations. It is often followed by a second sentence: "No racist police!" Thousands have taken to the streets of Oakland in recent days, just as they have in dozens of other cities and towns around the country: in Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, Houston, Portland, Louisville and Chicago. Windows have been broken in Oakland, which is located across the bay from San Francisco, and there has been looting.

But on this recent afternoon, the protests are peaceful, at least in physical terms. The anger is still there, expressed in slogans like "fuck the police!" which is chanted over and over again. The heavily armed officers, dressed in dark-colored riot gear, show no emotion under their helmets. Tranesha Smith, who works as an elder-care nurse, is wearing sandals, torn jeans and a colorful top.

Oakland is a good place to understand the rage of black people in America. Many African American people from the South moved to the so-called "Harlem of the West" in the middle of the 20th century. In the 1960s, it was the birthplace of the militant Black Panthers, who confronted the virulent police brutality of the time with violent force. Their logo can be seen these days on many of the T-shirts worn by demonstrators. Another popular motif is an image of Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who popularized the practice of kneeling during the national anthem as a sign of protest. Oakland has a long tradition of black resistance.

And with good reason. Whereas black residents made up roughly half of the city's population in 1980, their share is below a quarter today. One reason for their displacement is the economic boom in Silicon Valley and the entire Bay Area, where high-salaried tech workers drove up housing prices, making it too expensive for many long-time residents to stay. Gentrification has long-since taken root in San Francisco, where black faces are frequently only seen among the homeless.

The geography of Oakland is itself evidence of structural racism: The neighborhoods where the city's black population tends to live are located in the lowlands and crisscrossed by highways raised on cement pillars. White residents tend to live higher up on the hillsides, with views of the bay.

As the demonstrators march past City Hall, they chant the names of the victims: "Say their names! George Floyd! Say their names! Breonna Taylor! Say their names! Ahmaud Arbery!"

Breonna Taylor was killed by police in Kentucky in March. Ahmaud Arbery was a young black man who was apparently shot and killed while jogging in Georgia by a white civilian. They are just three names in a long list of black victims. Many American cities have their own George Floyd.

"But this time, it's different," says Jackie Byers, 48, from a local human rights organization called Black Organizing Project, who is also marching with the demonstrators. It's different, Byers believes, than during the unrest in Ferguson in 2014, when Michael Brown was shot and killed. And different from the 1991 uprising in Los Angeles after police beat Rodney King half to death.

"A Stab in Our Hearts"
What’s new, says Byers, is that millions of Americans could see the expression on the face of the policeman Derek Chauvin as he presses his knee into the neck of George Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The video immediately went viral on the internet. The lack of emotion, the impassiveness, says Byers, "is like a stab in our hearts." It reflects, she says, the degree of arrogance of white law enforcement officers who don't have to fear ever having to face justice for their actions.

According to the Mapping Police Violence database, 99 percent of all deaths caused by police between 2013 and 2019 resulted in no charges whatsoever. Each year, around 1,000 people in the United States lose their lives at the hands of the police, though the likelihood of being one of those victims is almost three times higher for blacks than it is for whites.

Another new aspect, says Byers, is that there are now two life-threatening viruses fueling the rage of black Americans: racism, which is deeply rooted in American culture and history, and SARS-CoV-2, which has hit blacks much harder than whites. Together, they have created a social explosion.

The fact that a greater proportion of black Americans die from COVID-19 is also a consequence of the conditions in which they live. On average, black Americans are much poorer than white Americans, which frequently translates to worse health and inadequate access to quality medical care. The average income of a black household in the United States is around $40,000 per year. For white households, that number is $70,000. Black Americans are also relatively more exposed to the virus because they are more likely to work at lower paying jobs that they cannot perform from home – working in supermarkets, delivering packages or caring for patients in the hospitals.

Walking around the Chicago’s Austin neighborhood with Elce Redmond, one gets a sense of how American capitalism has treated black residents. A community organizer, Redmond has spent 30 years focusing his attentions on Austin, one of the city's poorest and most dangerous districts. Some 81 percent of its population are African-American, and 13 percent are Latino.

Broken Out or Boarded Up
Until the end of the 1980s, Redmond says, Austin was a solid, stable neighborhood. But then, spurred by globalization, numerous companies moved production overseas, plunging many people into unemployment and the neighborhood into a constant battle against poverty, drugs and crime. In some streets, nice homes with well-tended yards show that not everyone is losing the battle. But just one block away, entire rows of houses stand empty, with the windows either broken out or boarded up.

Children who grow up in Austin have a difficult start in life. "People used to think they had a chance if they worked hard and didn't give up," says Redmond. But that faith is waning. "The American dream doesn't work because there is a wall: institutional racism." To show what he means, Redmond points to a large building whose windows have been bricked up. It used to be Emmet Elementary School, but like many schools in Chicago's poorer neighborhoods, the school was closed down in 2014. "The only path to advancement is education," says Redmond. "There are plenty of dedicated teachers here, but there is a lack of financial means and there is a lack of desire to change things."

The American education system is heavily tilted toward the haves and away from the have nots. Schools in wealthy neighborhoods receive more public funding than those in poor neighborhoods because funding is dependent on local tax revenues. "Children who need help don't have a chance," Redmond says. And the many local initiatives in Austin can hardly change that situation. Now they are having to deal with the coronavirus as well. "This is a virus hotspot," says Redmond, a situation, he says, that came about in part because of high residential density and a lack of quality health care. The local hospital was shut down years ago.

The virus has combined with this widespread rage to feed the current unrest on American streets. The sentence George Floyd uttered as he was dying, "I can't breathe," has become the slogan of the nationwide demonstrations against police violence. But it also reflects the particularly hard impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the black population in the past several months.

Colin Kaepernick's kneel of protest has also taken on new meaning in recent days, mirrored as it is by the way the policeman knelt on George Floyd's neck. In many parts of the U.S., kneeling has become a way for the police to demonstrate solidarity with protesters. These scenes shouldn't be forgotten amid the news coverage of burning buildings, plundered shops and clouds of tear gas.

A Question of Power
America finds itself at a high-stakes crossroads. Although there has been looting and rage, hundreds of thousands of white Americans have joined the anti-racist protests. Indeed, the protests seem to also be aimed at the man in the Oval Office, whose administration does not include a single black person in a prominent cabinet position and whose campaign events are almost exclusively attended by white supporters.

Outside the White House, the United States is becoming increasingly diverse, making it increasingly difficult to win an election without support from black and Latino voters. The unrest is thus not just about racist police officers or jobs, but about who has the say in the United States, about power.

In 2016, Trump received 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, who won 89 percent of the African-American vote. Trump only won because of the Electoral College, which grants the primarily white states in the Midwest influence far outstripping the size of their populations. Demographically, though, whites are shrinking as a share of the population.

In Texas, a Republic stronghold for decades, the non-white population has already overtaken the white population. "We are experiencing the death rattle of the America represented by Donald Trump," believes Eddie Glaude, an historian at Princeton University. "Politically, that leads to panicked efforts to hold onto an America that is dying out. It has been accelerated by COVID-19."

The Republicans have entered into a devil's bargain with Donald Trump. He delivered all that the party has ever pined for: tax cuts, conservative judges and sharp anti-abortion rhetoric. In return, the party has completely subordinated itself to Trump, whose re-election strategy hinges on the support of white voters without a college education. The strategy can only be successful if large portions of the electorate are kept away from the voting booth.

The Republican conception of free and fair elections was on full display in Wisconsin in early April, during a vote in which Democrats also chose their favored candidate for the presidency. Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, wanted to delay the vote to give citizens an opportunity to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Endlessly Long Lines
But Republicans in the Wisconsin statehouse didn't just reject that effort, they ensured that the number of voting booths was drastically reduced – particularly in areas where many African Americans lived. In Milwaukee, 175 of 180 polling stations were closed. Those wanting to cast their ballots had to stand in endlessly long lines.

It was part of a long tradition. "There is no Republican majority in America, except on election days," wrote the New York Times in a recent editorial. Instead of striving to attract new groups of voters, the Republicans have adopted a different strategy: They are trying to prevent minorities from voting at all. And it is made easier by America's system of administration, which is not easy for Continental Europeans to understand.

Because American's do not carry federal IDs, citizens must register to vote. And every state decides on its own which document is required to do so. Since 2014, the state of Alabama has demanded a driver's license. Documents entitling holders to social housing are no longer sufficient, but for many African Americans, they are the only official documents that they possess.

The exclusion of black voters was an invention of the Democrats, once the party of Southern slave owners. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, they wanted to prevent former slaves from rising to positions of power. The Republicans, who have almost no black support today, expanded and modernized those efforts in the 20th century. "It used to be: If you vote, you die," says historian Carol Anderson, referencing the lynchings that used to take place in the South. "Today, intimidation works differently."

Crystal Mason is familiar with that intimidation. In the 2016 presidential elections, she wanted to cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton. Because her name was no longer the registration rolls, however, she cast a provisional ballot. It is a standard procedure and votes thus cast are examined after the election to determine if they are valid.

The mother of three had served a five-year jail sentence for a tax offense, but because she was on parole, she was ineligible to vote. By phone, she explains that she didn’t know about the rule, and received a shocking surprise a few months later: She was being charged with voter fraud. Mason was ultimately sentenced to ten more months in prison for violating her parole and sentenced to additional five years in jail for voter fraud. A court rejected her appeal. The three judges who ruled on her case had all been appointed by Republicans. "Prison for a vote cast in good faith that wasn’t counted – this is a textbook example of voter intimidation,” argues Anderson, the historian.

The Notion of American Exceptionalism
Another popular method Is to cleanse voter-registration rolls. The Republican-run state of Georgia stalled 53,000 people’s voter applications shortly before the state’s gubernatorial election in 2018. Because of alleged discrepancies within the registration system, these residents were made to meet confusing identification requirements in order to vote. Of those affected, 70 percent were black – hardly a coincidence. Ultimately, Republican Brian Kemp, a fervent admirer of Trump, won by approximately 55,000 votes.

It’s unclear if these kinds of tactics will help Trump win the election in November. The virus has shattered the strong economy he hoped would propel his election campaign. Millions of Americans have lost not only their jobs, but also their health insurance in recent weeks. The economic hardship in the U.S. is now so severe that many families no longer know how to feed their children. Miles-long queues have formed in front of food banks, and American downtowns are on fire.

Trump is trying to profit from the anger felt by many Americans about the looting, which has been especially serious in New York, Washington D.C. and Minneapolis, all of which are run by Democratic mayors. "I am your president of law and order,” Trump said in a White House address on Monday. But it is unclear if those kinds of appeals will actually help him.

The nation is watching footage on its screens of burnt-out police cars and shattered storefronts, of an America in chaos. In a recent CBS News survey, 49 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with Trump’s management of the crisis, compared to 32 percent who thought he was doing a "good job.”

American self-confidence has always been predicated on the belief that it is special. In his farewell address on January 11, 1989, Ronald Reagan spoke of a "shining city upon a hill,” admired not only for its prosperity but for its richness in ideas, its goodness and cosmopolitanism. Ten months later, the Iron Curtain fell, and it seemed like the age of American dominance was upon us.

This notion of American exceptionalism also came up in Trump’s inauguration speech in January of 2017, albeit in a vulgar form: "American will start winning again, winning like never before,” the president said. Three and a half years later, there are no signs of victory. The defeat in the war in Afghanistan, the longest in U.S. history, is now as good as certain. The war will soon have lasted 19 years and cost the lives of 2,400 U.S. soldiers and Trump is eager to withdraw from the country, though there is little doubt that the Taliban will take over in Kabul when he does, much like the Communists overran Saigon after the last GIs left Vietnam. China is seizing the opportunity provided by the crisis to impose itself on Hong Kong, and Trump is in danger of destroying the G-7 Summit, the last influential venue for discussion among the Western developed nations.

Capable of Anything
As a result, older voters in particular seem to increasingly be turning away from Trump and toward Biden and the Democrats. In a survey conducted by Morning Consult, a polling institute, 45 percent of those asked said they would vote for Joe Biden, Trump’s challenger, due to the protests. What’s particularly unsettling for Trump is that his challenger is currently ahead in the polls in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Biden now even has a chance of winning in erstwhile Republican strongholds like Arizona, Georgia and Texas. Polls predict a very close race in these states, something would have been unthinkable a few months ago.

Now a seemingly outrageous question is increasingly being asked: Would Trump accept defeat? "The next five months before the election could become very serious. Trump has the potential to significantly affect free and fair elections. He can undermine the entire electoral process and create maximum chaos,” says Bill Kristol, who was long one of the country's leading conservative voices. Kristol is known for bringing Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election, into the spotlight, and was the editor-in-chief of the Weekly Standard, a now-defunct conservative magazine once owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Kristol broke away from Trump early on, partly because he argues Trump is leading the Republican Party to disaster. He believes Trump is capable of anything in a fight for political survival. "He can fake a crisis, spread false information, for example, by simply claiming a week before the election that he discovered a conspiracy.”

A look back to February 2016 is instructive when it comes to Trump's view of democratic mores. At the time, he was only one of many candidates for the Republican nomination and he had just lost the first primary in Iowa to Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The voting was fair, but Trump still claimed he had been cheated. "Ted Cruz didn’t win Iowa, he stole it,” Trump wrote on Twitter. "Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified.” Neither of those things happened.

Large-Scale Fraud
Back then, few took Trump's allegations seriously. Now, though, he’s in the White House, and many people he trusts occupy positions in the state apparatus. Briefings on the security of the presidential election, for example, are now being given by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, a Trump acolyte who has spread the abstruse theory that the scandal about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was in fact a conspiracy perpetrated by Barack Obama.

Rosa Brooks of Georgetown University argues that there can be no doubt that Trump is setting the stage for a refusal to accept a potential election defeat in November. Brooks has formed a working group for the Democrats that is tasked with preparing Biden’s campaign team for the worst-case scenario: a president planning a coup d’état. If Biden doesn’t win by a landslide, Trump will most likely claim victory, Brooks believes.

Trump has been saying for weeks that his opponents in the fall presidential election are preparing to carry out large-scale fraud. The Democrats believe it’s no coincidence that the president’s criticism is focused on postal voting, even though it makes no sense at first glance. A study by Stanford University published in mid-April concluded that neither Republicans nor Democrats would benefit from a U.S. vote carried out entirely by mail.

Around half the American electorate wants to vote by mail this fall, more than ever. This is mainly because of the coronavirus, which has led millions of Americans to want to avoid waiting in long lines for hours in front of their polling locations, as is common in the U.S. At the same time, Trump and congressional Republicans are refusing to provide additional money to ensure an orderly election process. "That's a recipe for distrust,” says Nathaniel Persily, who teaches at Stanford University Law School and specializes in American electoral law.

Trump already declared in 2016 that he won’t voluntarily concede defeat, and the chaotic electoral system in the U.S. gives him several opportunities to question a Biden victory. Over 10,000 different bodies are responsible for carrying out the presidential elections – cities, municipalities, counties – and the postal voting system is a patchwork quilt. In some states, like Texas, vote-by-mail is only permitted if the voter gives a valid reason. Other states have switched entirely to mail voting. There are also different deadlines and security standards. In some states, the signature on the envelope must match the signature given at the time of vote-by-mail registration, which opens the door to challenges to the validity of hundreds of thousands of postal votes.

Now Rosa Brooks and many other American lawyers are working through scenarios that, until recently, seemed unthinkable. What if, on election day, Republicans imposed a curfew on cities with traditionally large numbers of Democratic voters? What should be done if the outcome is close and the president refuses to recognize the result in a swing state like Pennsylvania? Given that it takes days to receive and count all postal votes, what should be done if Trump proclaims himself the winner before that happens?

Bringing the Peace Back
"We don't have some single entity that can validate" the outcome of the election, Brooks says. "It’s purely political.” The more the professor has looked into the subject, the more pessimistic she has become that a president can be stopped if he has no qualms about ignoring the will of the people. It’s not even clear that the Supreme Court would accept a suit against a president who refuses to vacate the White House. And even then, what if Trump simply disregards a Supreme Court ruling?

The Secret Service would have to escort the president out of the Oval Office. But the Secret Service reports to the Department of Homeland Security, Brooks says. "Their boss is the secretary of homeland security. His boss is Trump."

There have been several extremely close election results in the United States. In 1960, Richard Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy by less than 113,000 votes. In 2000, the race between George W. Bush and his Democratic rival, Al Gore, came down to only a few hundred votes in Florida. But in both cases, the country was spared a constitutional crisis by the fact that the defeated candidates ultimately conceded defeat. This kind of humility can hardly be expected from Trump.

"Trump is going to contest whatever happens if he loses,” Jacob Hacker, who teaches political science at Yale University, argues. The question would then be whether American society can force the president to back down. Trump may have the Republican Party and parts of the state apparatus under his control, but the protests that are happening daily across the country are increasingly turning towards the president.

This past Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of people, young and old, black and white, once again protested outside the White House. They were facing down police officers with helmets and truncheons. The crowd included Pat Rolich, 60, from Virginia. "Trump is escalating the situation, causing more and more violence. It almost feels like living in a police state,” he says. For him, it is clearer than ever that Trump is no longer tenable as a president. "We need someone who can bring peace back to our country.”

Link to original article in English:

BEAUTY: Sculpture--Rhonda Wheatley

Artist Rhonda Wheatly combines spirituality and sculpture into fascinating objects. She explains in her Artist Statement:

"My work is grounded in the speculative, metaphysical, and spiritual, and through it I explore healing, consciousness expansion, and transformation. As an energy healer, I imbue my work with meditative focus and intent. Each sculpture is attuned to the combined energies and symbolism of my materials—vintage found objects and electronics, as well as organic and natural materials, including fossils, cicadas, barnacle clusters, moss, and shed snakeskin. I treat these materials as ingredients that flavor each piece with purpose and power. For instance, barnacles, which attach to objects or other lifeforms for the duration of their lives, are a 'glue' that enhances one’s ability to adhere to intended changes. Fossils bring the energy of millions of years. Clock radios reference time manipulation and frequency—moving through states of consciousness—while antennas and crystals amplify signals.

My long-form titles, themselves written works, are integral to each piece, as they indicate the objects’ uses as shamanic tools. While I push the limits of reality as it’s commonly understood, I also explore often-uncomfortable limitations. Caveats such as 'For self-use only' on a power object that transmutes negative energy and 'The future is a moving target,' on a hybrid device that predicts future outcomes of potential decisions highlight these limitations, emphasizing the importance of others’ free will, the inescapability of unknowns and uncertainty, and that there are few guarantees in life. Ultimately, my objects and accompanying texts hint that acknowledging a universe of vast, yet-to-be-understood possibilities while relinquishing the need for total control, is key to attaining radical freedom."

FULL TITLE: Empath Protector. Helps empaths create healthy energetic boundaries so that they may clearly distinguish their own emotions, needs, and desires from those of others.

MEDIA: Vintage mannequin hand, wooden beads, natural fluorite crystal octahedrons, and acrylic paint.

FULL TITLE: Life Review Device. The Life Review process uplifts users from depression and despair, triggering a life re-boot. Users re-experience their entire lives in a full/extra-sensory consciousness download, infused with the hope and purpose with which they entered this lifetime. The device facilitates the process of releasing blame and grudges, forgiving one’s self and others, and getting back on mission.

MEDIA: Three vintage clock radios, vintage TV antenna, and quartz crystal cluster

FULL TITLE: Energy and Intention Reverberator. Increases strength and resonance of healing energy one receives and.or one’s intention and will.

MEDIA: Vintage mannequin hand, barnacle cluster, ceramic with glass, shed snakeskin, quartz crystals, hand-cut paper, collage, and acrylic paint. Round canvas and moss.

FULL TITLE: Karma Planning Device for Future Lifetime Maximization. Instantly assesses karmic debt accumulated throughout user’s earth incarnations. Knowledge embedded in dormant memory cells, activated by soul at opportune times. Does not override free will. Increases chances of reincarnating at higher levels in subsequent lifetimes. Positive past lifetime impact reverberation highly likely.

MEDIA: Vintage clock radio (metal), vintage TV antenna, and two orange rhomboid calcite crystals

FULL TITLE: Power and Energy Amplifier. Increases power and healing energy one receives and/or sends to others.

MEDIA: Vintage mannequin hand, barnacle cluster, titanium quartz crystals, cholla cactus wood, and acrylic paint.

FULL TITLE: Subconscious Translator. Navigates unconscious mind. Decodes messages from one’s subconscious self received via dreams, physical ailments, and mysterious behaviors. Gets to root of self-sabotage, projection, haterism, addiction, and more. Provides emotional protection as painful suppressed memories surface. For self-use only.

MEDIA: Vintage headphones, beads, quartz crystals, plant roots, fossilized shark teeth, snake skin sheddings, collage, and acrylic paint

FULL TITLE: Trauma Healer. Repairs damage to physical body brought on by emotional trauma, beginning at the cellular level.

MEDIA: Vintage mannequin hand, wooden beads, snakeskin sheddings, various seashells, snake bones, catfish atlas bone, and acrylic paint.

Monday, July 27, 2020

"Strange Planet" by Nathan W. Pyle

The delightful, unadorned observations of daily life by the aliens in Nathan W. Pyle's "Strange Planet" series tickles me greatly...

Sunday, July 26, 2020

BEAUTY: Fabric Art--Trish Andersen

I am delighted by Trish Andersen's colorful yarn art. She makes wall hangings and rugs... but I really want that stair runner!

Artist Statement:
As an interdisciplinary artist born and raised in Dalton, Georgia "The Carpet Capital of the World”, Trish Andersen's initial attraction to the process of tufting was a means to reconnect with and explore her roots. Years after attending the Savannah College of Art and Design and moving on to live and work in Brooklyn, New York, she began using the medium in an examination of the notion that a thing or a way of being can run in our blood, that perhaps by observing the characteristics of personal origin and establishing commonality and community around those that reverberate in the present, one may be able to begin unearthing the elusive authentic self.

Enter the drips. Combining fibers gathered from field, sheep and those developed on a factory floor, Andersen proves that there is always room for both the vibrant and the muted, the sleek and the wild, cut and looped, soft and cumulus, the dense and the coarse; the unexpected and varied tactile quality of her pieces allow the eyes to open to an emotional one. Her work speaks to the truth that whether they are temporal, cultural, geographical, or interpersonal, boundaries inevitably bleed, and the results are often quite stunning.

Trish currently lives and works in Savannah, GA and accepts jobs worldwide.

Born and Raised in progress
Born and Raised
Chances on display in gallery
Choices on display in gallery
Highs and Lows
Rainbow Runner
Rainbow Runner
Right or Wrong
Right or Wrong on display in gallery
Seeing Clearly
Through and Through
Through and Through on display in gallery