Reader’s Corner: ‘We Were Eight Years in Power’

When Ta-Nehisi Coates published his third book, We Were Eight Years in Power, a collection of essays on black American history and current affairs late last year, the country was still just getting used to its new presidential reality. Or not.

My review is at RainTaxi Review of Books:

Until recently, when the true desolation of the early Trump era has started metastasizing in even the most ardent optimist’s heart, America had a script to use after a catastrophe. Whether a mass shooting, natural disaster, or police atrocity, each event was termed an opportunity for a “national dialogue” on guns, race, class, climate change, or what have you. Those conversations never happened because there was always another catastrophe, and in any case, the culture had mostly lost interest in the public intellectuals needed to push forward such a conversation. That changed, however, in 2014, when The Atlantic published one of the most talked-about pieces of writing in recent memory, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations.” Suddenly, the country was having a conversation. And it wasn’t an easy one…

Nota Bene: Not the Country You Voted For

From Yascha Mounk’s “America is Not a Democracy“:

…across a range of issues, public policy does not reflect the preferences of the majority of Americans. If it did, the country would look radically different: Marijuana would be legal and campaign contributions more tightly regulated; paid parental leave would be the law of the land and public colleges free; the minimum wage would be higher and gun control much stricter; abortions would be more accessible in the early stages of pregnancy and illegal in the third trimester.

Quote of the Day: Meryl Streep Digs Journalists

Speaking at the the annual awards for the Committee to Protect Journalists last night, Meryl Streep—who plays Katharine Graham in Spielberg’s new Pentagon Papers movie—said this:

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. You are the Fourth Estate. You are our first line of defense against tyranny and state-sanctioned news … Thank you, you intrepid, underpaid, over-extended, trolled, and un-extolled, young and old, battered and bold, bought and sold, hyper-alert crack-caffeine fiends. You’re gorgeous, ambitious, contrarian, fiery, dogged and determined bullshit detectives.

What’s to say? It’s a good time to be a detective.

Quote of the Day: Margaret Atwood on Police States

Earlier this week, as marchers gathered in St. Louis for another night of protests following the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley on murder charges, Margaret Atwood was in town accepting a literary award. The author of The Handmaid’s Tale and many other works of dystopian fiction said the following:

Countries do not become police states overnight. They get there by steps. One step after another is tolerated and accepted, and soon the bridge between police state and democracy will be crossed, and then that bridge will be burned, and then you can’t go back without an uprising or a war and even that may not work.

So, America, please don’t go there. Please honor your own pledge to the flag — liberty and justice for all. All means all. Justice doesn’t mean merely the administration of laws. The Nuremberg laws were laws. The fugitive slave act was a set of laws. But just and fair laws administered without discrimination. Please don’t settle for less. Live up to your own propaganda.

Reader’s Corner: Bannon, Trump, and the ‘Devil’s Bargain’

As the D.C. news circuit scrambles to dissect the court turmoil in the White House to see how long Steve Bannon may or may not survive, it’s instructive to read Joshua Green’s Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.

My review is at PopMatters:

Years from now—assuming that books are still being published and we aren’t just wandering dazedly through a burnt-out cultural void of screaming memes—the books written about the 2016 US Presidential election will fill even more shelves than those written about Watergate. They will discuss the strategies, the major players, and the trendlines that led to this decision or that. Some books will also analyze how, in 2016, a fury-fueled flim-flam man broke almost every rule about presidential campaigns and became the most powerful man in the world. Those authors will argue with good reason that 2016 was the election that changed everything…

Quote of the Day: Patriotism

From Howard Zinn:

If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, not as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one’s country, one’s fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles.

Quote of the Day: Book Burning

fantasticbeasts1When the verbose and gloriously opinionated J.K. Rowling had the temerity a few weeks back to tweet her thoughts on President Tiny Hands’ travel ban, the pushback was about the same as what happens whenever an athlete ventures into the realm of politics.

The conservative troll brigades swarmed and told Rowling the usual things: Stick to writing, woman, and stop saying what you think about anything. (Nevermind that her Harry Potter books are all about tolerance and the acceptance of minorities.)

Things hit a particularly ugly pitch when one twit tweeted that they would “burn your books and movies.”

Rowling’s response was one for the ages:

Well, the fumes from the DVDs might be toxic and I’ve still got your money, so by all means borrow my lighter.