Drinking from the Firehose, Volume 2

Well, it was another drenching week on hose duty. Here are a few longer pieces that provide some helpful perspective on a whole range of topics, from the environment, to the media, to veterans’ issues, to energy use and gerrymandering.


Mathematical Theorem Finds Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania Congressional District Map
Jocelyn Duffy
CMU News, 3.10.2017
“Pennsylvania’s congressional district maps are almost certainly the result of gerrymandering according to an analysis based on a new mathematical theorem on bias in Markov chains developed by Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh mathematicians. Their findings are published in the Feb. 28 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). . . .”


American Energy Use, in One Diagram
David Roberts
Vox, 4.13.2017
“Every year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory produces a new energy flow chart showing the sources of US energy, what it’s used for, and how much of it is wasted. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s a bit of a mind-blower. . . .”


How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics
Bruce Bartlett
The Big Picture, 5.21.2015

This one’s been around for a while,
but it’s a solid report worth the reading…

“The creation of Fox News in 1996 was an event of deep, yet unappreciated, political and historical importance. For the first time, there was a news source available virtually everywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a conservative tilt. Finally, conservatives did not have to seek out bits of news favorable to their point of view in liberal publications or in small magazines and newsletters. Like someone dying of thirst in the desert, conservatives drank heavily from the Fox waters. Soon, it became the dominant – and in many cases, virtually the only – major news source for millions of Americans. This has had profound political implications that are only starting to be appreciated. Indeed, it can almost be called self-brainwashing. . . .”


EPA staffer leaves with a bang, blasting agency policies under Trump
Joe Davidson
The Washington Post, 4.7.2017
“After 25 years, he retired last week from the Environmental Protection Agency with a tough message for the boss, Administrator Scott Pruitt. ❖ ‘I, along with many EPA staff, are becoming increasing alarmed about the direction of EPA under your leadership,’ Cox said in a letter to Pruitt. ‘The policies this Administration is advancing are contrary to what the majority of the American people, who pay our salaries, want EPA to accomplish, which are to ensure the air their children breath is safe; the land they live, play, and hunt on to be free of toxic chemicals; and the water they drink, the lakes they swim in, and the rivers they fish in to be clean.’ “


Trump’s Plan to End Europe
David Frum
The Atlantic, May 2017
“Why does the president want to undo the post–World War II order?”  Why indeed…


The U.S. Military Thinks Missiles and Bombs Work Better with a Strategy, Too
VoteVets.org, 4.14.2017
“They dispatched the carrier strike force toward North Korea. They launched the cruise missiles at Syria. But the U.S. military, stung when it was sent to war before without a clear plan and then blamed for the resulting mess, is expressing caution about being thrust deeper into any of the conflicts raging around the world. . . .”


Woody Guthrie, Old Man Trump, and a Real Estate Empire’s Racist Foundations
Bruce Bartlett
The Big Picture, 5.21.2015
“In the 1950s, Woody Guthrie lived in one of Fred Trump’s buildings. In newly discovered, never before published writings, Guthrie bitterly rails against the developer’s color line. In December 1950, Woody Guthrie signed his name to the lease of a new apartment in Brooklyn. Even now, over half a century later, that uninspiring document prompts a double-take. Below all the legal jargon is the signature of the man who had composed “This Land Is Your Land,” the most resounding appeal to an equal share for all in America. Below that is the signature of Donald Trump’s father, Fred. No pairing could appear more unlikely. . . .”


♫ “Black waters, black waters run down through my land”

Today our new President signed (yet another) executive order nullifying many of our old President’s carefully crafted climate change guidelines — “to revive the coal industry,” they said, and send all the coal miners “back to work.” (You have to feel sorry for those miners, because they seem to actually believe it!)

This order goes along with a Jan. 24th order reversing Obama’s “Stream Protection Rule” that prevented coal mining companies from disposing of mine waste by dumping it into the water supply. (Who needs healthy kids if you’ve got a job, right?)

So, in celebration of these two giant steps backward, I offer you this great version of Jean Ritchie’s famous song, “Black Waters.”

Continue reading “♫ “Black waters, black waters run down through my land””

♫ “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore”

James McMurtry is the son of Western writer Larry McMurtry.  While the father is one hell of a writer (you may remember reading or watching Lonesome Dove years ago), the son is one hell of a songwriter.  “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore” is a devastating anthem to America’s decades-long decline and fall from its former manufacturing greatness to our present rust belt diminishment.

This song is remarkable in a lot of ways — it’s one of the rare songs that can stand on level ground lyrically with Bob Dylan’s greatest songs, for one.  But I’m posting it for a different reason: because, in this song, McMurtry channels the same hard anger and despair that just put Donald Trump in the White House. It’s about why “Make America Great Again” hats were all the campaign advertising Trump needed to pull his base on board. (That and generous doses of fear-mongering, ridicule, and immigrant-bashing.)

In the song, though, McMurtry comes to a different understanding of our predicament than Trump and his voters do. They, in their anger and fear of the future, lash out at minorities, immigrants, Moslems, and liberals. McMurtry doesn’t fall for that easy blame. He calls out the real enemy at the end of the song. (You’ll just have to listen to it to find out who or what that is…) To me, one of Indivisible’s biggest challenges is helping Trump’s voters — our neighbors, more often than not — see beyond those too-easy decoys to the real sources of the misery and despair so many feel.

Trigger warning for parents of very young children:
the “sh*t” word is used a time or two in this song.