Sunday, December 13, 2020

Strangers in Their Own land

This week, with much on everyone’s mind, and bearing in mind the essential role a free press needs to play in a democracy, this newsletter briefly addresses Julian Assange’s dire situation at Belmarsh prison where 19 COVID-infected inmates have deliberately been moved into his wing (murder by indirection). Tulsi Gabbard has petitioned #45 to pardon him, followed by Edward Snowden, and now George Christenson, the Australian MP as well. You can do your bit by adding your signature to this petition.


Although hundreds of thousands of post cards and text messages have been addressed to voters in Georgia, cleansing the Senate of bottom feeder McConnell cannot happen without both Warnock and Ossoff winning Jan. 5. When at least 40 million American children are going hungry and 50 million unemployed workers are about to be evicted while the GOP makes every effort to overturn 2020’s election results, if you haven’t already contributed to this life-and-death struggle, please join Stacey Abrams now.




The United States is just one of nearly 160 nations occupying our planet. Among industrialized nations, in little more than 200 years it has managed to fall to rock bottom place.  At the root of homelessness, hunger, heightened infant mortality, and truncated longevity is the virtually intractable polarization that is tearing this country apart.  The divide cuts along urban/rural cultural lines, progressive/Tea Party political lines, immense wealth/desperate poverty economic lines, and war-machine-corporate-Wall St./we-the-people societal lines. Those who might care to take the lessons of history to heart might learn from the Roman empire’s decline and fall.


More than once, the issue of this compound divide has already been addressed by  this newsletter, but this week I want specially to highlight Arlie Hochshild: Strangers in Their Own Land:  Anger and Mourning on the American Right, a book a kind friend, knowing my interest,  gifted me for the Solstice. Arlie Hochshild happens to be an academically-credited sociologist of over 70 years now with the courage and gumption to travel to Lake Charles, LA, for some field research to get to know the very people—real people—progressives tend to lump into an ill understood category.  


Why Lake Charles? Because it’s popularly known as the heart of Cancer Alley, one of the most industrially polluted corners of the nation by plants catering to the oil industry and to our whim for tooth brushes, steering wheels, and all the many products our “advanced” civilization deems essential to our way of life, and because Louisiana happens to be the state, thanks to its ex-governor Bobby Jindal, that more than any other, has swapped its education and essential services budget for line items calculated to attract yet more polluting, tax-avoiding industry.


Hochshild’s mission is to map the complicated mind set of the people she meets.

She is welcomed with the traditional Southern hospitality of Louisiana’s white, and Cajun population, people who still hunt, fish, and carry guns. They are “churched,” and family oriented, and many live in family compounds. They take care of one another. Some have been personally devastated by industrial mega accidents which have left the Gulf unfishable, and the land corroded by punctured salt domes 4000 feet below ground. Many have worked, mostly as pipe fitters in the plants, some have knowingly dumped polluting by-products into their very own bayous under cover of night, but all equate the incidence of disease, horrific pollution, and environmental destruction in which they managed to survive with jobs. Jobs that will entitle them to that elusive American Dream for which they have been standing in line since the South’s defeat and the break up of their farms under the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. While they wait, they deeply resent the folks who they see as having been allowed to cut in line ahead of them under the apparent encouragement of an out-of-touch government: immigrants, Black folk, the disadvantaged, all categories they see as taking advantage of a federal government located in an urban D.C., able to comprehend neither the culture which has forged them, nor the devastation of their lives.


They lack trust in their government, and they seem to have a point. It is to our peril that not enough of us seem to realize it.


As it meanders from visit to visit, the book is not necessarily well written; but it needs to graze back and forth to render the flavors of the complex belief systems its author encounters. The appendix tables alone are worth the price of the book as they fact check every possible basic assumption Hochshild hears during her stay, but her stroke of genius is to identify what she calls the deep story which drives the belief systems by which this group of people operates, that waiting in line under the hot Louisiana sun while people cut in ahead of them. 


That is the book’s great strength, and if, like me, you see their apparent misguidedness as the very basic system underlying the schism tearing this nation apart, read the book.  If you’re enterprising enough, take a trip to the people of Cancer Alley, not just to listen but to empathize, to join them over a cup of tea and cakes, and discover some very real, very injured. very likeable human beings.


Sound familiar?



Greta Thunberg warns humanity still speeding in wrong direction on climate with idle talk and obfuscation.


Declare states of climate emergency UN chief urges world leaders.


Receiving Nobel Prize, world food programme chief warns we are losing battle against hunger.


UN calls for investigation into Israel’s attacks on children.


Of 155 UN states, 153 call on Israel to renounce possession  of nuclear weapons.


Compulsory face masks helped cut German COVID infections by almost 50%.


Venezuela election update: PSUV wins 67% of vote.


Venezuela votes to reject neocolonialism, create its own path.


Spain’s ex-president props Venezuelan  elections.


U.S. observers endorse Venezuela’s election legitimacy.


Greece confirms EU will react to Turkey with sanctions.


Mexico confirms asking the U.S. to extradite former security chief Genaro Garcia Luna facing U.S. trial for allegedly protecting drug gang.


Time for reset in US-China relations foreign minister Wang Yi says.


UN removes marijuana from most dangerous drug list.

The U.S. MORE Act is step toward unraveling “war on drugs.”

B of A joins Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Citibank announcing they will no longer finance fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic.


After considering Flourney, under progressive pressure, Biden appoints Lloyd Austin as Pentagon head instead.


Pentagon plans to cut most CIA counterterrorism support.


Schumer and incoming NY reps urge Biden to cancel student loan debt.


Columbia students prepare to launch tuition strike.


Presidential Plastics Action Plan urges incoming president to stop new plastic production and regular petrochemical industry, reducing plastic pollution.


Shareholders flag risks of over-reliance on plastics and petrochemicals.


Some very few Dems and Repubs vote against it, but more Repubs than Dems vote against military budget.


Over 300 groups urge Dems to block dirty energy subsidies in lame duck spending deal.


New forms of testing could bring pandemic under control before vaccines are widely available.


200 health experts urge Biden to reduce incarceration levels aid COVID pandemic


Although prisoners suspend their hunger strike at Corcoran State Penitentiary, inmates continue work strike.



Biden to nominate Medicare for All proponent Xavier Becerra as next HHS secy.


Noting U.S. unparalleled contribution to global crisis, 100+ groups push Biden to commit to U.S. to fair share of climate action.


Climate activists announce national COVID-safe day of action push back against Wall Street financing of Keystone XL and Minnesota Line 3 tar sands pipelines.


Medicare for All could cover everyone for $650 billion a year and it could still save $300 if it included long-term care.


More than 140 groups demand Congress leave corporate immunity provisions out of COVID relief deal.


25 progressive organizations call on Senate to add seats to the circuit and district courts.


Justice Department investigating potential presidential pardon bribery scheme.


Calls to abolish death penalty grow as #45’s last ditch execution spree kills Brandon Bernard.


Supremes deny injunction in Pennsylvania election results case.


Supremes declare no standing for #45-Repub  seditionists. 


Victory for Transgender rights as Supreme refuse to hear case on school bathroom policy,


Federal judge condemns ICE for “appalling” handling of COVID at private prison.


Judge requires government to explain why undisclosed data on missing separated parents was not provided sooner.


Judge orders Trump administration to fully restore DACA and accept new applicants.


Judge rejects latest GOP effort to overturn Michigan vote, seeing it for what it is.


Minnesota legislators to visit Line 3 construction area to express solidarity with pipeline opponents.


Peninsula Clean Energy board rejects PG&E nuclear credits.


Minneapolis City Council votes to cut millions from police budget.


SFPD officer indicted by grand jury over Jamaica Hampton shooting.


Judge denies immunity to cop accused of beating and tasering to death Kendole Joseph, father of 2.


Miami paper hires first Black woman as executive director.


Portland community beats back eviction, erects barricades.


In support of climate action, indigenous rights groups among those championing Deb Haaland as Interior Secy .


Indigenous-led patrol keeps peace, assist people in Vancouver’s inner city.


Schooling four local mayors in aboriginal rights, Vancouver Island First nations chief tells Canadian mayors to butt out.

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