CONTEST!

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I’ve made a lot of noise about politics over the years. I don’t know if any of it made much of a difference or not, but looking back it’s hard to escape the conclusion I could have done more. Sure, I make donations. I’ve even done some volunteer work (ask me about the time I had to tell two hundred people — one at a time, more or less — they couldn’t sit in the VIP section of a Ralph Nader event). But I wanted to do something more, and, bless my heart, I wanted it to be something particular to me and what I do.

Standing Desk, Walnut and Cherry (photo: R. Smith)

Depending on how you found your way here, you may or may not know that in my other incarnation I am a self-taught woodworker who makes simple furniture out of scrap and salvaged materials, and that for some years now that’s how I’ve earned my living, such as I have.

So, my brilliant — or at least idiosyncratic — idea:

I’m going to run a contest, a raffle really, the prize being a small table, bookshelf, writing desk, or some such, designed and handmade by me. Chances are purchased by making donations to Democratic — ideally progressive — candidates for office in state and local-level races, with one entry for each $5 donation and an additional bonus entry for each candidate.

Example: Giving Candidate A $5 and Candidate B $10 earns a total of five chances: one for each candidate (2) and each $5 increment (3).

Table for Two, walnut and sapele

One of the ways things got as bad as they are is that Republicans swept the 2010 elections, particularly at the local and state level, where donation dollars go a lot farther than they do in the bigger federal campaigns. Like 2020, it was a Census year, and the winners got to draw congressional districts for the next ten years. We all saw how that’s worked out *gestures broadly at everything*.

If we want any chance of sane, science-driven, proactive governance in the face of a world simultaneously drowning and on fire, it’s gotta be Democrats all the way down the ticket this year, in numbers that can’t be denied. We’re good at giving at the national level. But we don’t always look to our own backyards. This is a chance to rectify that at a time where it’ll go the furthest and mean the most.

Coffee table, Jatoba

How to Enter: go to ActBlue and make your donation, then email the receipt to dt@dtfabs.com to enter. Entries will be accepted until Election Day.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! You can also earn chances by posting about candidates in the comment thread. Tell us who they are and why they deserve to be supported (keep it to a paragraph, if you can), and provide links to follow up to research and donate. Each one earns an entry.

(Feel free to chime in in favor of a candidate you like, but no credit for repeats. Sorry.)

Bar shelf, vintage cedar

Man, Fuck Capitalism, and Bob Woodward, too

You’re here, so you don’t live under a rock, and you’ve probably at least heard about Bob Woodward’s new book, and the eighteen on-tape interviews he did with Donald Trump for it, in which Trump, among many other admissions, admits that he knew the Coronavirus was more serious than he was saying in public, and that he basically kept downplaying it in the hopes it would go away, because the whole thing made him look bad.

If you have or had a functioning cognitive capacity in the last few years, this will surprise you not at all. Lying comes easier than breathing to Donald Trump. Or, rather, he simply creates the reality he prefers in his mind, then insists everyone else play along. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but that’s a whole other book-length blog post.

No, what pisses me off is that Bob Woodward — who has enough money and reputation to satisfy any sane human being — sat on the tapes, and the reporting, while the bodies piled up and basic health precautions became cause for a fucking civil war. And why did he do that? To sell more books. It’s the same as John Bolton, and that NYT reporter two weeks ago, and who knows how many other people.

And why? Because capitalism as presently practiced has so skewed our incentives and priorities such that all the lives unnecessarily lost, all the economic woe, the lost jobs and businesses and careers, all the culture war bullshit that only drags the whole thing out longer: all that put together doesn’t outweigh the individual interest in pursuing personal and private profit.

It’s a fucked up way to run a society. I wish more people realized that.

This Is the World Conservatives Want

When he was first running for President in 2008, the closest Barack Obama came to a gaffe — defined in political reporting as a politician inadvertantly speaking the truth — was when he said that when things got bad, it made people turn bitter and ‘cling to their guns and their faith.’ Conservatives excoriated him and the mainstream press went along, having been trained over years and decades to a kind of pro-conservative bias out of fear of being perceived as liberal. And in a sense conservatives were right to. Not because it’s insulting to their voters, but because it’s basically their game plan and philosophy of governance. Because people really do become more conservative — by which I mean driven by fear and concerned only with their own, be it family, race, or, in the worst cases, themselves alone — when things get tight. Which is why when they’re elected conservatives do their best to undo not only our social safety net, but the very idea that we can solve the problems facing us by coming together and cooperating. They do their best to shrink the government til you can drown it in a bathtub, and tell everyone that not only are they on their own, that it’s both righteous and good that they should be.

They’ve been on a real tear since 2016. Hell, since 2009, when Mitch McConnell and the rest decided their response to overwhelming electoral defeat would amount to ni shagu nazad. Since it’s always easier to say no than say yes, to tear down than to build, to demand good faith from the other side while acting from grievance yourself, they’ve been more successful than I think even they imagined they would be.

So let’s see where we are now, shall we? Near two hundred thousand dead in a pandemic, the numbers surely worse than we know thanks to a willful neglect and sabotage of testing and data-gathering. Police officers still executing citizens of color on camera despite huge, ongoing, and in some cases effective protest movements, to the point where one suspects a kind of willfulness to their assertion of their right to kill whenver they ‘feel threatened.’ They meet those protests like an occupying army, one that may or may not be coordinating with armed paramilitaries. Like the seventeen year old asshole who crossed state lines from Illinois to Wisconsin with an Armalite long gun to protect Kenosha’s businesses by murdering its citizens in the streets and failing to be arrested by police despite trying very hard to surrender himself. A person can’t help be reminded of the re-open protests — Liberate Michigan! — early on during the pandemic, when those same cosplay paramilitaries got up and spat in officer’s unhelmeted faces, and note the stark disparity.

This is the world conservatives want. This is the world they have built. This is the natural result of their practice of governance and whatever tatters of philosophy remain to justify it when they look themselves in the mirror before they go to bed at night.

Why do they want it? Who the fuck knows? Most of them are still the people Obama got dinged for too accurately describing: victims of the same pandemic, the same economic collapse, the same erosion of the social safety net. They may have voted for all of it, but they surely didn’t think it would work out this way, I’ve got to think. But I’ve also got to think the millennarian strain in evangelical Christianity — you know, the reason they support Israel so devoutly: not because they’re pro-Jewish, but because the Book of Revelation needs the Jews back in Israel to get on with the whole Rapture and Armageddon thing — has something to do with it. As do the oligarchs who fund the whole thing. You’ll notice the stock market’s doing fine even though the world’s going to hell and people are dying in droves and unemployment is as high as it was during the Great Depression. After all, if you’re rich enough, a recession is just an opportunity to buy assets at fire sale prices. The boom and bust of the ‘business cycle’? It’s a feature, not a bug, and screw you, jack, I got mine.

But, at the end of the day, this is the world conservatives want because it’s the only one in which they can continue to govern and hold onto their power. They need the post office hobbled so they can buy stock in FedEx and UPS and so mail-in ballots won’t be reliable. Then people will have to risk catching Covid to vote in person. It dampens turnout, which works out in their favor. They want Russia and whoever putting a thumb on the scale and will bury the story so long as it works in their favor. They want vigilante ’militias’ in the streets armed with military-style weapons, and cops in body armor and no visible identification to match. They want millions of gig workers with no benefits and no minimum wage and no safety net, who will work for scraps and crumbs and live paycheck to paycheck and be grateful for what trickles down.

All along, conservatives have described the world they wanted, this world they have brought about. We didn’t listen, I guess. Didn’t take them seriously. I’m not even sure they all took themselves seriously. I think plenty who profited bringing this about are surprised how far we’ve fallen how fast. That’s the thing about playing with fire. It gets away from you quick.

I’ll you one thing, though. It’s gonna take a hell of a lot of work to rebuild what’s been burned down. I hope enough of us can come together to build something better in its place. If it gets any worse, we won’t be able to.

Why is QAnon?

Now, I’m just some dumb asshole with a computer, just like you, and I hope it would be obvious that each believer will have their own special snowflake configuration of reasons and circumstance. But based on my experience and observation, it mostly seems to come down to three things:

  1. Conspiracy theories are attractive because they make sense out of a world far too complex for most, possibly all, humans to fully or even usefully comprehend. There are too many actors, too many agendas, too many forces at work at every level of action and perception. By positing a force both nebulous and powerful enough to steer the course of world events, the believer obtains a frame through which everything can be made to make sense.
  2. Once they’ve bought in, it’s extremely difficult, even impossible, for most people to admit they made a mistake. Especially, in my experience, people who see the world through a hierarchical lens, with themselves at or near the top of said hierarchy. Their privilege, in this view, stems from their virtue. Admitting error tarnishes that virtue, endangering the privilege and making the hierarchy wobble. Nobody likes when their worldview starts showing cracks in the facade, much less the foundation.
  3. Last — and in this case, I fear, most compelling — by projecting such evil debasement onto their adversaries, believers in QAnon and other similar conspiracies not only validate the visceral hate they have cultivated and been encouraged to cultivate by their leaders for those adversaries, they liberate themselves to act on that hate, without quarter, hesitation, or mercy, even making it, in their eyes, a positive moral duty to give in to the violent and/or oppressive impulses that so often follow such visceral hatred.

That’s my two cents. Your mileage may vary.

Hear Me Out

What if we just… took care of everybody? No, wait. Hear me out. What if we decided that nobody should go hungry, or be without a safe place to go? What if we decided everybody should have reliable lifelong health care, safe housing, opportunities for meaningful work, the chance to be part of a community, and all the education they wanted? What if we made that the birthright of every American, every human being ever born from here on out?

What would things be like if we decided to do that? If we decided to invest in a world worth living in and everyone living in it?

Would it be paradise? Utopia? Probably not. Humans gonna human. But it’d be a damnsight better than what we’ve got now. Think about it this way. What if all the economic stress in your life right now was gone? No worries how you’re going to pay the rent/mortgage. No stress where your next meal’s coming from, how you’re going to afford your meds, or your tuition, or clothes to wear. How you’re going to help out your parents or feed and clothe your kids or go see a doctor about that thing that’s been making you worry. Feels like a vacation, doesn’t it? Now imagine everyone else is on that same vacation. Oh, sure, there’s work to do. But there’s time to spend quality time with friends and family, time for the important things, the ones that make a life. The things you’ll look back on from your deathbed and be glad that you did them.

Crime would go way down, because without poverty and the misery and stress that go with it there will be less reason for it. Productivity would go up, because people who are rested and who choose to do the work they do get more done than desperate drones living paycheck to paycheck who know how disposable they are. The arts and sciences would thrive. Communities would thrive, too, yours and mine and everyone’s. We could finally turn our attention to climate change, and our crumbling national infrastructure.

The usual answer is that we can’t afford to do that. There’s not enough to go around as it is. But that’s a lie, and everyone knows it. A few hundred people have as much wealth as hundreds of millions. If that wealth were circulating in the economy instead of sitting offshore, everyone would be middle class.

The point is: we can afford it if we decide to. And that brings us to the real question, the one that doesn’t get asked enough.

The real question is: why don’t we decide to do that? 

Why don’t we decide to just take care of everybody, invest in every person and every community, put a floor under everyone, a foundation solid enough to build one hell of a high ceiling on? If we can — and we can — why shouldn’t we?

That’s a question everyone has to answer for themselves. To me, it seems obvious that we should. I’d think any person of conscience would say that. Wouldn’t you?

How will we do it? How will we pay for it? What is the plan? These are all good questions, with long, complex answers, the minutiae of which could occupy us for years, and will. But for now, for this moment in history, where we stand at a moment of grand possibility for both destruction and renewal, what’s important is to decide where you want to go. What kind of society you think we should build. Figure out what, and put how in the service of that. 

We can work out the details as we go. We’ll surely make mistakes. But the clock’s ticking down, and it’s time to get moving.