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Misc

What to expect when you’re expecting a crisis

Imagine a city, on a beach. Relatively bustling. Prosperous — more or less. At least, the parties are really fun (for those allowed in). And the art and food is really good (for those who can afford the best food and have the money for art). Sure, sometimes people disappear, never to be heard from again. Sometimes strange ritual chanting rings out at night. But the chanting never hurt anyone — at least, not one of our people. And the disappearances, well, they’re not of anyone important. Or at least, anyone disappeared is no longer important. The city endures. The city thrives.

Then, one day, a tsunami hits. Trees are uprooted. Sand and dirt are blasted away. The city comes together to save itself. Heroes reveal themselves.

But, so, too, does something horrible. In the midst of heartwarming cooperation, the citizens realize a truth. The entire city was built on the site of an old temple to the mad god Bel-Shamharoth. The mayor was a vampire the whole time. Those parties were also recruiting sites of the more refined cults.

There’s a crisis to deal with, sure. But, in the apocalypse, the veil has finally lifted. No one will quite look at each other the same way again.

What foundations have been exposed by the tsunami we are now facing? Now that the dirt and cobblestones of “normal times” are being ripped away, what truths stand stark, bold, and naked?

It might be too early to be certain. But I have some hunches. Keep an eye on these storylines in the times ahead:

I’m also watching some other things:

  • China. It’s authoritarian, it’s scary, and it’s exporting its model. We haven’t been taking it seriously enough.
  • Fights between the white-supremacy-curious faction of the conservative movement and the “let’s loot the country” faction of the movement.
  • We’re going to see a lot more strange bedfellows and left-right alliances between people of different parties.

What stories are you tracking and predicting?

Categories
Misc

TrumpLiedAboutCoronavirus.com

We saw it, for weeks, with our eyes. Trump, Republicans, Fox News, the conservative movement — all lying about Corovirus. Calling it a hoax, downplaying the threat, saying that the left was hyping it as “second impeachment.”

We saw the absolute, morally criminal lack of preparedness. The the hospitals not prepared, the population not distanced, the mocking of anyone who took this seriously.

We saw the clownish press conferences, claiming that “it’s only a flu”, that everything was under control, etc. The sort of obsequiousness to Trump that would be laughable if it wasn’t so scary. We saw Fox News hosts downplay the threat. Even in the last we saw Trump shaking hands during a press conference about the virus.

The propaganda onslaught from the right is coming. They’re going to try to pretend it never happened.

I bought the rights to TrumpLiedAboutCoronavirus.com and RepublicansLiedAboutCoronavirus.com. What should we do with them?

Right now I’m pointing them both to this post by James Fallows: 2020 Time Capsule #4: Trump Is Lying, Blatantly.

Instead we could point them to this video timeline of trump downplaying everything by The Recount. Or maybe this video tracking Fox New’s lies and sudden reversals about coronavirus created by the Washington Post.

Or a microsite! Or something else entirely. If you have a great idea for these domains, or even a bad one, let me know!

Categories
Misc

Life in a time of Coronavirus, March 17, 2020

Has anyone else noticed this? Taking a walk yesterday, neighbours were actually pretty bad at keeping a full 6 feet away, but they were very intent on not making eye contact.

It’s as if, I don’t know, people can’t look each other in the eye without coming close? Or their instincts are muddled and they do the wrong kind of social distancing.

It’s strange.

Sarah is working hard. Maybe today she will finally finish her draft. We’re running low on vegetables. 54 eggs left.

We took a walk around town yesterday. Restaurants closed and hurting, but still putting a brave face on it. A local tenants union has been trying to form for a while, it seems. (Go go Boston DSA!)

There’s a new group in town: MAMAS: Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts. They have google groups, google docs, etc. They have a website with overlays of “neighborhood pods” where a pod captain is meant to coordinate everyone in a roughly 3-block radius.

Like this:

I hope it works.

Meanwhile, there’s a battle between the democracy/civil rights orgs who say: “absolutely never delay elections, this could set precedent for very bad things”, and others who say “are you insane? Crowding election places run by elderly poll workers is a recipe for needless death”. Maybe both are right.

In Illinois, it seems like the workers took charge: they just didn’t show up to the election places. Polling locations are closed all over chicago, I hear.
There is weird stuff happening in national politics. Trump is saying one thing “checks for everyone!” while his negotiators are trying to get the opposite. Some D senators have good plans, some R senators have good plans. But R senators are also trying to make things worse. Seems like a mess of confusion.

I begin to hate group phone calls or video calls even more. An event I’m helping plan is transitioning to becoming a long conference call that is also a passover seder.

Will it work?

Friends are beginning to host social events online. Live concerts. Trivia times. Webinars. The concerts are fun to listen to. Everything else takes more participation energy than I want to give. I can’t stand staring into a webcam any more.

Last night, I got into a long talk with my dad about social insurance, pandemics, and taking things seriously. Thankfully, it seems like he’s isolating correctly. I’m not too worried about them: my whole life, there’s been a stockpile of food in my parent’s basement. My mom reminds me that she stayed home before, during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Instead of leaving home and getting sick, the danger was leaving home and getting shot. Ah.

Except for that one cold walk, I haven’t left the home in days.

Categories
Misc

It’s History Time

We are now in a special kind of time. “Revolution time”. “History time”. “Disruption time”. Whatever you want to call it.

Every day, huge events are happening. Things that seemed impossible now are a matter of course. Right now I’m watching a speech from the president of Serbia attacking the EU and throwing himself onto the arms of China. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Fox news) is proposing a much stronger (and equitable) response to the crisis than Nancy Pelosi. The Fed just took most of the 2009 playbook and deployed it in one big go yesterday.

In History Time, the rules are different. Opportunities arise. And the knives come out. For example: Right now the US airline history is asking for a $50 billion bailout because they “have no cash”. They just spent the last decade spending their cash on stock buybacks. Stock buybacks used to be illegal.

We have to be aware of the disaster profiteers. Not the small time chumps selling Purell at markup from their garages. I mean the titans of industry that will grab as much free money as they can.

In History Time, ideas that used to be laughable are now on the table. After 9/11, the FBI took out their wishlist from a filing cabinet, bound it up on one bundle, called it the Patriot Act, and dared congress not to pass it. After the 08 crash, banks started even more mergers and paid their executives even more money, and dared congress to stop them.

Now it’s History Time again. Will we cede the field to the white collar criminals? Or will we step up with our suddenly reasonable demands? Remember, right now Tom Cotton is to the left of Nancy Pelosi on the crisis response. Anything is possible.

(How do we do it? As a first step: Start organizing your literal neighborhood. As a second step: join a local political group that has dues-paying membership and democratic control by its members. As a third: let me think about it and get back to you)

Categories
Misc

How to be a citizen in a time of Coronavirus

What can we do in the present crisis? More interestingly, what can we do with it?

I’m not talking about purchasing a bidet and stockpiling pasta sauce and medicine. Instead: as citizens, how can we rise to the occasion? As organizers, how can we seize the moment to put in place some needed social change?

When life starts looking like a movie, the extraordinary becomes inevitable. Either for good, or for ill. Back in 2008, we on the left were a bit overconfident. The basic analysis was there: we cited Naomi Klein and talked about how we needed a “Reverse Shock Doctrine”. Even Rahm Emanuel was on TV saying “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste”

It didn’t go to waste — for the bad guys. The crisis helped the Tea Party rebrand the conservative coalition after Bush, it funneled trillions of dollars of free money into banks, and it raised the concentration of industry even higher.

So let’s not let the crisis go to waste, before the enemy does.

That’s the challenge. These next few days and weeks will be qualitatively different than normal. We have an opening to try things (and get people to sign on) that would be strange and hard to pull off before. That’s the challenge: What opportunities can we seize now, that might have important effects in the future?

1. Make a neighborhood group

This is an excellent time to make a Facebook group for your block. Maybe just the 40 or so homes in your street. In a few weeks, you might need to start babysitting each other’s kids, or sharing advil, or pooling risk to send exactly one person to the store to buy supplies. In a few weeks, you might be grateful that you dug this well before you drew from in. You might be saving lives by performing errands for your elderly neighbor.

And, in the months and perhaps years to come, you’ll reap the benefits of a tighter neighborhood network. You’ll be happier, more communal. And maybe when you’re trying to convince your neighbors to go to a meeting, to vote, or to consider your perspective, they’ll listen.

Tomorrow, I’ll put this in practice. I’ll knock on doors nearby, and leave a flier. I likely won’t use the term “mutual aid”, or “solidarity network”. Why bother using words that confuse people? But hopefully we will get the rudiments of a community network set up to start being generous, helpful, and kind to each other.

2. Be decisive

In times of crisis, the flailing defer to the decisive. Be decisive.

Delta flight attendants have gotten a huge boost to their union drive in the last few days:

“I have not seen interest this high. Not even after the merger with [Northwest] who was already represented by AFA at the time, or during the recession or the Ebola scare of 2014,” says Cheryl, who has worked at the airline for more than a decade. “The threat of involuntary furloughs and layoffs has been a big motivator. We are scared and freaking out because we don’t have any language in our policies for this.”

The Coronavirus Is Jump-Starting Union Organizing at Delta (by Mike Elk)

If months happen in days, then start grabbing that bounty of time and confusion to push your agenda.

You can start by small things. Advocate for this your neighbors to buy gift cards from local restaurants and cafes they’d normally go to every day. It’s a short term loan to businesses and a way to help them stay afloat. Can you do it through a Facebook page or Action Network petition? After the crisis, you can use that organization and credibility to start talking about other ways to help local businesses, like localist economics or raising the minimum wage or unionizing.

If you can, use the crisis as an excuse to cut out middlemen: can you pay service workers (instead of service businesses) directly? Can you convince your neighbors to do so as well? In the cloak of solidarity you can start laying the groundwork of a worker-owned business.

3. Be Local

Nationally, the Dems are gonna Dem. I’m sure they’ll disappoint us. But there’s a lot of ground you can seize locally.

Organize your neighbors around demands for your town or state. Ones that will save lives. Things like: Stop evicting people during a pandemic! Or “Free Broadband for everyone!”. Or “don’t cut off people’s access to utilities!” Or “give the prisoners free soap and water, for God’s sake

“Jails and prisons are often dirty and have really very little in the way of infection control,” said Homer Venters, former chief medical officer at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex. “There are lots of people using a small number of bathrooms. Many of the sinks are broken or not in use. You may have access to water, but nothing to wipe your hands off with, or no access to soap.”

When Purell is Contraband, How Do You Contain Coronavirus? by The Marshall Project

You might very well save lives.

Also, I expect that when you start asking your friends to call their city councilmember, or to sign a petition, about these things, you’ll get a different response than you normally get. People who normally tune out politics will be suddenly paying attention to this large shock in their lives. Get them hooked on advocacy. Get them comfortable with the democratic process. This will yield dividends later.

4. Don’t wait for Republican Party to collapse on its own

The conservative movement survived stealing a presidency, lying us into Iraq, failing into Katrina, looting the public after the 2008 crash, gutting the voting rights act, lying to the Supreme court about gerrymandering, and nominating a sexual assaulter to the presidency. It can survive this.

For the last two months, Trump, Fox News, etc have been downplaying the crisis at best, actively sabotaging efforts to handle it at worst. Starting in about a day or so, they’ll try to pretend that never happened. Don’t let them get away with it.

(I wrote a whole thing about it here)

5. Further reading and examples

Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville

COVID-19 Full List of Actions You Can Take Right Now

How To Start A Social Street

BRANDEIS mutual aid for first-generation and low-income students affected by COVID-19 updates