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Celerity's Journal
Celerity's Journal
July 1, 2020

There's A Devious Way To Help Get Donald Trump Out Of Office

It's a highly effective and proven tactic that will make space for Joe Biden to smash Trump into oblivion in November.


By all accounts, Donald Trump’s bid for re-election in 2020 is in very, very serious trouble. So much trouble in fact, that Trump is openly talking about Biden becoming the next President, and may even be mulling quitting the race altogether if things do not turn around. His poll numbers are in the toilet and getting worse, the Coronavirus pandemic is surging under his leadership (again), and most sensible economists are predicting a prolonged recession with severe job losses. This is not a great record to be running on four months out from an election. There are several steps Trump needs to take to turn things around:

The problem is, Trump is utterly incapable of doing any of the above. He won’t wear a mask because he believes it is a sign of weakness. He won’t take the Coronavirus seriously because he views the economy as his key to victory and the pandemic a minor inconvenience he can pretend isn’t happening. He won’t stop engaging in conspiracy theories because his supporters love it, and he cannot stay on message because of his legendary inability to pay attention to anything for more than a few seconds at a time. Thus his campaign team is horrified about his re-election prospects.

A recent article in Politico laid bare just how bad things are in Trumpland. The article notably reported on his advisors desperate attempts to get him to focus on fighting Biden rather than everyone else: Trump advisers acknowledge that tearing down Biden will require a level of discipline he isn’t demonstrating. They have pleaded with Trump — who has used his Twitter account to vilify critics from MSNBC host Joe Scarborough to former National Security Adviser John Bolton — to stop focusing on slights that mean little to voters. Biden's low-profile during the pandemic has made it that much harder for Trump to land a punch, his advisers said. And this where the public comes in. Trump’s petty vindictiveness and non-existent attention span means he can be very easily thrown off course. The Never Trump Republicans Rick Wilson and George Conway founded the Lincoln Project to do exactly this. They have been creating astonishingly effective viral videos attacking Trump on a whole host of issues designed specifically to annoy Trump. They have questioned his health, accused him of being a traitor, and called him a racist — and they have made absolutely sure he sees their videos:

In the past few months, the Lincoln Project — a PAC with not much funding, as far as PACs go — has successfully established itself as a squatter in Trump’s mental space, thanks to several factors: members each boasting hundreds of thousands of social media followers, rapidly cut ads that respond to current events and a single-minded focus on buying airtime wherever Trump is most likely to be bingeing cable news that day, whether it’s the D.C. market or his golf courses across the country. And every time Trump freaks out — or every time the media covers his freakout — the Lincoln Project scores an incalculable amount of earned media, and millions of views online to boot. If regular Americans help amplify these efforts by forcing Trump to engage with these ads or any other celebrity/media figure’s negative comments about him, Trump will respond. And the more he responds, the less Joe Biden needs to spend time portraying him as a dangerously incompetent buffoon, and the more he can focus on campaigning and spreading a positive message for his Presidency. In other words, the job of every concerned American citizen is to now troll Trump at every given opportunity.

If you are not particularly good at trolling, then find those who are, spread their message or help fund their efforts. How low do you want to go? Given this is an all out emergency, pretty much everything is fair game. From his hairpiece to his bone spurs, marriage to Melania and weird relationship with his daughter, no topic should be taboo when spreading rumors and innuendo about the president on social media. Reservations should made at Trump events you have no intention of going to in order to deflate his crown size, and if anyone wants to make another Trump blimp, it should get funded immediately and flown over (or near) the White House. Celebrities, particularly ones Trump has singled out before, should coordinate attacks and get in as many spats with the president as possible. This might appear to be childish — and to a degree it is — but one has to remember who we are dealing with here. Trump is a child, and the more childish he becomes, the less likely he is to be re-elected. You are not trolling Trump for fun, but for the sake of American democracy and the health of the entire planet. So go forth and make the president’s life miserable.

July 1, 2020

The Voting Disaster Ahead

Intentional voter suppression and unintentional suppression of the vote will collide in November.


On June 9, primary day, hundreds of people surrounded Park Tavern, a sprawling brewery and restaurant in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. They queued in six-foot increments, and the line wrapped around the parking lot. Two nearby polling locations were closed, so this was where 16,000 Atlantans were slated to cast their ballots. Across the metro area, more than 80 voting locations had been closed or consolidated over concerns about the coronavirus. What’s worse: The new state-ordered voting machines had stopped working. Some people waited for more than three hours to vote; others left before casting their ballots. Georgia’s meltdown was not an anomaly. The 2020 primary began with a malfunctioning app in the Iowa caucus, rendering the first-in-the-nation contest moot. One month later, on Super Tuesday, voters met hours-long waits in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, and Sacramento. Another month passed, thousands of Americans were dying of the coronavirus, and state officials began canceling primaries. Wisconsin’s state legislature forced its April primary through anyway. Milwaukee voters stood masked in a hailstorm, waiting to vote at one of just five polling places. Any other year would have seen 180 voting locations.

The widespread failures during the primary elections foreshadow a potentially disastrous November election. States such as New York have been racing to make accommodations for voting by mail. But other states are making voting more difficult for residents: Oklahoma is fighting to keep its law requiring that absentee ballots be notarized; Texas will not accept medical vulnerability to the coronavirus as sufficient grounds for absentee voting. Even though greater access to the vote might help a sizable number of Donald Trump’s voters, this opposition to it comes from the top. “Mail ballots, they cheat,” the president has said. The barriers to ballot access were unacceptable before the pandemic, Leah Aden, an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund who is actively litigating several voting-rights cases, told me. Black voters, on average, wait 45 percent longer to vote than white voters; Latino voters wait 46 percent longer.* One study, from the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, found that black and Latino voters in Florida were more than two times as likely to have their mail-in ballots rejected as white voters—because of a mix of voter error and how the state processes ballots. To leave that already flawed system unchanged in a pandemic is injurious, Aden said. “The failure to operate in the context that we’re in, which is a pandemic, and proactively use your resources to address the emergence of that: That is also a form of voter suppression.”

Several states, such as Georgia, Virginia, and Massachusetts, have reported record turnout for their primary elections, and will probably see double to triple that in the general. “It’s likely that we’re not going to fix these problems by November,” Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who studies elections, told me. “In some cases, there really aren’t any good solutions.” More polling places will not magically appear. The average poll worker is more than 60 years old—and therefore vulnerable to COVID-19. In Wisconsin, roughly 7,000 poll workers said they would not work during the April election because of their fears of the coronavirus. Voters had to scramble to find new polling places, and figure out ways to get to them. The result? Long lines and a spike in absentee voting. “Habituation is one of the things that makes people vote,” Henry Brady, who studies electoral politics at UC Berkeley, told me. Some people are encouraged to vote because it’s easy enough to do. In 2011, Brady and a team of researchers examined how changing polling places could affect the outcome of an election—and they found that alternating a location may have reduced voting by as much as 2 percent. Some people voted absentee instead of in person when their polling place was changed—but the study examined California, where an excuse is not required for absentee voting. “You’re probably going to lose a lot more voters in places where vote-by-mail is not as easy.”

During the 2016 primary, residents in Maricopa County, Arizona, faced voting delays of up to five hours. After state officials cut county budgets, Maricopa reduced its number of polling places by 70 percent—from 200 to 60—meaning one polling place was available for every 21,000 voters. Officials in dozens of other states, including Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama, similarly closed or changed polling locations. Before the Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013, each of these states had previously fallen under the section of civil-rights legislation that allowed the federal government to block changes to elections that could adversely impact people of color in places with a history of disenfranchisement. When polling places are closed, many black and brown people are forced to travel farther to vote, at disproportionate rates, according to a report from the Legal Defense Fund. The pandemic will result in an unusually large number of mail-in ballots come November. And if a voter forgets to sign the ballot envelope, if they sign the envelope but the signature does not match the one on file with the elections office, or even if an election official misreads information that is correctly written, a mail-in ballot can be discarded. In 2016, the United States Election Assistance Commission reported that more than 300,000 mail-in ballots were rejected. “That number could be substantially higher—could be a million or more in 2020—if we don’t take action,” McDonald told me. “And even if we do take action, we’re still going to see an unusually large number of ballots rejected.”

July 1, 2020

The Spirit of '70


Kathleen Cleaver on the set of Zabriskie Point.

The amber waves of Zabriskie Point’s opening credits harden into its first scene; the psychedelic pumps and skitters of Pink Floyd’s “Heart Beat, Pig Meat” die down so the characters, college students contemplating a strike, can speak. Kathleen Cleaver of the Black Panther Party is there (playing a student, but also herself). So is activist Frank Bardacke. Discussion has turned to the list of demands. A blonde woman wants to abolish the ROTC. The Panther next to Cleaver lays it out: where have all these fearless white revolutionaries been for the last three hundred years? “Molotov cocktails is a mixture of kerosene and gasoline,” he says. “White radicals is a mixture of bullshit and jive.” There are scattered protestations from the white radicals in the room. Are you willing to die? asks one. A Black student retorts: Black people are dying. Mark, our pale, blue-eyed, shag-haired hero, stands up. He is prepared to die, too, he tells the assembly. But “not of boredom.” How to watch this film today, as the radicalism of the fabled 1960s walks the land once more? I began this essay during a pandemic. Since then, George Floyd’s murder by cop has compelled people to break quarantine and take to the streets, sometimes to confront the police. Molotov cocktails, indeed, have arced through the teargas, thrown by radicals of all races. It is the Movement rephrased for the present. But it is also, more importantly, something new. And in the context of this erupting urgency, Michelangelo Antonioni’s lush, confused film is all the more cautionary, a warning about the problematics of allyship and the seduction of myth. The students launch their strike. Antonioni works his own staged scenes (a standoff in the library, a stricken cop, a Black Panther gunned down) into newsreel of an actual campus uprising at San Francisco State in 1968.

A still from the author's film Walk Thru Walls.

Zabriskie Point is set amid the social strife of the late 1960s—it was released one month before the massacre at Kent State, two months after police murdered Fred Hampton while he slept—but is focused on the story of one disaffected white youth, a rebel without a cause and all that. The plot is violent in an ambient, aimless way. Thus, the film glosses over the great omission of the American myth, the fact that white supremacy has always walked hand in hand with freedom, progress, and the frontier. It was 1968. Antonioni was riding high on the success of his first English language film, 1966’s Blowup, a dark vision of swinging London, and America was next. America was important, thought the Italian auteur, because America was a future-facing, frontier country, and its youth the most futureward of all. An assistant to the director spotted Mark Frechette at a Boston bus stop shouting obscenities: “He’s 20,” she told her boss, “and he hates.” Antonioni cast him immediately. He found his starlet, Daria Halprin, dancing in a documentary on the counterculture. In Mark’s handsome, almost sociopathically wry face, in Daria’s flowering, innocent limbs, the auteur saw his metaphor: the Movement’s firebrands turning inward, to self-immolation. Mark and Daria were not actors. They were real, beautiful, white American youths. Daria was the daughter of a Bay Area choreographer, and Mark was a Boston native and itinerant handyman bidding to join Mel Lyman’s cult. Both use their real names in the film. Antonioni used (or tried to use) their real idealism. The director wanted rawness, authenticity, wildness—the West in the Continental mind—and he got it: a shallow-focus misapprehension of the Movement as only a 50-something European man could see it, through a lens as grandiose as it was bitter.

And so, Zabriskie Point is a gorgeous mess. The plot is dumb, the acting (who knew?) is wooden, the dialogue is a labored caricature of America structured by binaries like students/cops, free/trapped, and nature/civilization. The film valorizes free love as much as lost causes. Mark buys a gun, but it never goes off. Daria explodes a building with her mind. Contemporary film critics thought it was a joke. “I want to avoid all clichés about young Americans,” Antonioni had said. He failed. “Corny? You bet your ass it’s corny,” wrote John Burks in a ruthless but romantic review for Rolling Stone. “Antonioni has constructed his movie of so many lame metaphors and bad puns that it’s staggering.” Mark, ever authentic, went on the Dick Cavett Show and told the host, who hadn’t seen the movie, to save his money. Antonioni’s film was mired in nostalgia for a time that was still unfolding. But, just maybe, the golden gobs of idealism on the director’s lens made for a truer document of modernism’s gasping dreams and its aleatory fallout than he realized. Even its critics admit the gangly plot is slung between images of scintillating pathos and splendor: the opening scene of student radicals rapping in a classroom; the final sequence of a mansion crammed with consumer goods exploding in tingling slow motion; and the centerpiece, some 20 minutes of striking Death Valley landscape, Mark and Daria flirting through it like pretext. The actors’ lives, too, bear out images to punctuate the era. With the money and fame from Zabriskie Point, Mark was finally let into Lyman’s cult. Daria, his lover for a time, followed him to Boston, but didn’t dig it, and went back to the Bay Area. In 1973, Mark was arrested after a botched bank heist (he claimed it was the closest he could get to robbing Richard Nixon), and died in prison two years later in a suspicious weightlifting accident. Meanwhile, Daria married and divorced Dennis Hopper, star of Easy Rider, the kind of era-defining movie Antonioni had wanted Zabriskie Point to be.


Zabriskie Point is an alien outcropping near the east rim of Death Valley that overlooks the sepulchral beauty of wind-hardened canyons of yellow- and rose-gold sand. On any given morning, dozens of photographers gather there to make images of the sunrise. Many leave after just a few seconds of light: evidently, the best part is over quickly. Antonioni’s film meanders through this scenery for around 20 minutes. As Antonioni said in 1969, during production, “A boy and a girl meet. They talk. That’s all. Everything that happens before they meet is a prologue. Everything that happens after they talk is an epilogue.” The film’s rocky plot is a vehicle for getting Antonioni’s two stars untangled from Los Angeles (prologue), beyond what he saw as a soulless commercial wasteland of billboards and fast food stands and facades, and out to the real stuff: mounds of pulverized minerals. Everything on either side of Zabriskie Point is the politics of the 1960s, the Movement, the ravages of capitalism and the pigs. In other words, the politics of landscape—conquest, development, when the freedom of the desert was not the freedom to fuck in a national park but to claim, to exploit, to “mine.” They talk, saying nothing much, keeping time, as politics presses in. Suddenly a hundred other couples, like ghosts, nip and prod and pleasure each other in the dust. Then, it’s over. Even in 1970, even to Antonioni’s dazzled eye, the drift into the desert felt predictable. “I always knew it would be like this,” says Mark, post-coital. Maybe he means sex. Maybe he means the desert, or Hollywood film. Maybe he means the revolution. The phrase, cynical and beatific, hangs over the film like haze.



Richard Brody on Michelangelo Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point" (1970).

July 1, 2020

Trump's Escalation Just Took A Significant Turn For The Worse


There’s a scene in 1997’s Titanic where the captain, realizing that his actions have led to the inevitable sinking of his ship and the certain death of over 1500 people, gives up. He walks away from his crew, locks himself in the wheelhouse, and waits to die with his ship. That will not be Donald Trump. There’s another scene in which Bruce Ismay, the owner of the doomed vessel, gets onto a lifeboat to flee the sinking ship he had previously said was unsinkable. He had ordered the captain to recklessly go faster and had limited the number of lifeboats available. Now that the deadly consequences of his terrible decisions were playing out in real time around him, Ismay took no responsibility and bravely ran away, leaving others to pay the price. That will not be Donald Trump. Instead, Donald Trump will be Charlton Heston in Beneath the Planet of the Apes in which he destroys everything because he’s a racist, self-centered asshole.

Reality Slaps Trump In The Face

Up until the Tulsa rally, Trump had convinced himself that no matter what the polls said, he was winning, and winning big. His unbearably racist “silent majority” was unstoppable and he would get all the angry white voters he would need to win the Electoral College again. But then no one showed up for his triumphant return to the stage in deep red Trump country. Where before, throngs of adoring red hats would greet him with rapturous applause, barely a third of the arena was filled. Politico reports that this appears to have been a wake up call for Trump: In the week since his Tulsa rally, the president has grudgingly conceded that he’s behind, according to three people who are familiar with his thinking. Trump, who vented for days about the event, is starting to take a more hands-on role in the campaign and has expressed openness to adding more people to the team. He has also held meetings recently focusing on his efforts in individual battleground states. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who effectively oversees the campaign from the White House, is expected to play an even more active role.

Thank goodness Trump is giving Jared more responsibilities! Once he solves Middle East peace, the opioid crisis, tensions with China, Muslims in general, and Mexico, and fixes our criminal justice system, the VA, and PPE stockpile, he will totally get Trump reelected. No problem! He may even have some spare time left over to set up that secret back channel to Russia that he was working on. But aside from the humiliating Tulsa non-rally, the coronavirus is now, as predicted by every healthcare expert, tearing its way through all of the red states that laughed at the coastal blue states who begged them to take it seriously. The difference is that it’s going to be so much worse in Trump country. As I wrote about back at the end of April, most red states do not have the resources of states like New York, California, or Washington. The big cities in Texas have resources but they’re going to be swamped with cases from the surrounding rural areas that have no resources at all. And what’s a poor state like Tennessee going to do?

On top of that, you have Republican governors refusing to do more than the bare minimum to stem the carnage. Some of them won’t even do that much. To compound the nightmare, millions of white Republican voters are refusing to take any precautions at all because something something “mah freedumbs!” Naturally, the economy, which had a tiny little burst of hope as the country reopened, is contracting again like a groundhog fleeing from its shadow, portending dismal times ahead. Since the economy is the only thing Trump (inexplicably) has going for him, this is a bad thing in terms of his reelection. It’s bad in every other context but that is an article for another time. Trump lied and spun and blustered as hard as he could. He ordered his regime to do the same and most of the right wing media followed his lead for as long as they could. But reality has a funny way of asserting itself regardless of what you want. Trump is losing. Badly.
In ordinary times, we would be sharks circling for the kill, in a frenzy from all the blood in the water. But these are not ordinary times. We should be absolutely terrified of the next 6 months and be prepared to fight, quite literally in the streets, on election day.

Trump’s Transition To Mad Bomber Is Underway.......

June 29, 2020

What Happened To Elijah Weatherspoon? 'Conflicting Stories' Of Black Boater's Death Prompt Questions

Online petitions claim that police in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, have refused to investigate.


A pair of online petitions are demanding an investigation into the death of a Black teenager whose family says he went boating last week with his white friends only to never return home. They both make reference to allegedly inconsistent statements from the friends of Elijah (Nicky) Weatherspoon, an 18-year-old whose body was found Saturday in a river in the town of Mount Pleasant.


“The events leading up to his death are unclear and are being treated as if he was just another black man who couldn’t swim and drowned. When, in fact, he can swim,” Lauren Jackson, who started one of the petitions and said she knew Weatherspoon’s aunt, wrote in part. “The people who were with him have stories that do not match up.”

The other petition addressed “several conflicting stories given to the police on what happened. Some say he decided to flip off the boat, along with another, and a ‘Good Samaritan’ could only save one, but not Nicky, another story was the boat was docked and Nicky jumped off but couldn’t come back up due to his inability to swim, (He was an experienced swimmer) and another story was he panicked while another tried to help him and sank.”

Both petitions claim that the Mount Pleasant Police Department said it will not investigate the case. It was an instance that eerily harkened back to how local law enforcement in rural Georgia did not investigate the death of a jogger. It was only after national media brought attention to the case and multiple prosecutors refusing themselves that Ahmaud Arbery‘s killers were ultimately charged with murder — months after the shooting in broad daylight that critics have called a modern-day lynching. In fact, Weatherspoon’s death comes at a time when there have multiple suspected lynchings of Black and brown people nationwide amid protests against racism as well as police violence.


June 27, 2020

NYT : Supreme Court Says Rejected Asylum Seekers Have No Right to Object in Court

The case concerned a member of Sri Lanka’s Tamil ethnic minority who said he feared persecution and sought to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court sided on Thursday with the Trump administration’s efforts to speed the deportation of asylum seekers, ruling that a law limiting the role of federal courts in reviewing those decisions was constitutional. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, allowing them to continue to use a program that shields them from deportation and allows them to work. Thursday’s decision, which barred immigrants whose asylum claims were rejected in bare-bones proceedings from filing petitions for habeas corpus, struck a strikingly different note.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the five more conservative justices in the 7-to-2 decision, said asylum claims threatened to overwhelm the immigration system. Congress was entitled to respond to that crisis, he wrote, by enacting a law that limited the role federal courts may play in reviewing summary determinations of whether asylum seekers faced a credible fear of persecution were they returned to their home countries.

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, said the majority had damaged the rule of law. “Today’s decision handcuffs the judiciary’s ability to perform its constitutional duty to safeguard individual liberty and dismantles a critical component of the separation of powers,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. The majority was unduly focused on “the burdens of affording robust judicial review of asylum decisions,” she wrote. “But our constitutional protections should not hinge on the vicissitudes of the political climate or bend to accommodate burdens on the judiciary.”

Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the immigrant who brought the new case, said the Trump administration’s immigration policies had made the need for judicial review more pressing. “This law has been in existence since 1996,” he said, “but the need for judicial oversight has increased dramatically because the Trump administration has so eviscerated the protections in the underlying asylum hearings.” “This ruling fails to live up to the Constitution’s bedrock principle that individuals deprived of their liberty have their day in court, and this includes asylum seekers,” Mr. Gelernt said. “This decision means that some people facing flawed deportation orders can be forcibly removed with no judicial oversight, putting their lives in grave danger.”

June 27, 2020

Over 1,000 AI Experts Condemn Racist Algorithms That Claim to Predict Crime

Technologists from MIT, Harvard, and Google say research claiming to predict crime based on human faces creates a "tech-to-prison pipeline" that reinforces racist policing.


Over 1,000 technologists and scholars are speaking out against algorithms that attempt to predict crime based solely on a person’s face, saying that publishing such studies reinforces pre-existing racial bias in the criminal justice system. The public letter has been signed by academics and AI experts from Harvard, MIT, Google, and Microsoft, and calls on the publishing company Springer to halt the publication of an upcoming paper. The paper describes a system that the authors claim can predict whether someone will commit a crime based solely on a picture of their face, with “80 percent accuracy” and “no racial bias.”

“There is simply no way to develop a system that can predict ‘criminality’ that is not racially biased, because criminal justice data is inherently racist,” wrote Audrey Beard, one of the letter's organizers, in an emailed statement. The letter calls on Springer to retract the paper from publication in Springer Nature, release a statement condemning the use of these methods, and commit to not publish similar studies in the future.

This is not the first time AI researchers have made these dubious claims. Machine learning researchers roundly condemned a similar paper released in 2017, whose authors claimed the ability to predict future criminal behavior by training an algorithm with the faces of people previously convicted of crimes. As experts noted at the time, this merely creates a feedback loop that justifies further targeting of marginalized groups that are already disproportionately policed. “As numerous scholars have demonstrated, historical court and arrest data reflect the policies and practices of the criminal justice system,” the letter states. “These data reflect who police choose to arrest, how judges choose to rule, and which people are granted longer or more lenient sentences [...] Thus, any software built within the existing criminal legal framework will inevitably echo those same prejudices and fundamental inaccuracies when it comes to determining if a person has the ‘face of a criminal.’”

The letter is being released as protests against systemic racism and police violence continue across the US, following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and other Black people killed by police. The technologists describe these biased algorithms as part of a “tech-to-prison pipeline,” which enables law enforcement to justify discrimination and violence against marginalized communities behind the veneer of “objective” algorithmic systems. The worldwide uprisings have revived scrutiny of algorithmic policing technologies such as facial recognition. Earlier this month, IBM announced it would no longer develop or sell facial recognition systems for use by law enforcement. Amazon followed by putting a one year moratorium on police use of its own facial recognition system, Rekognition. Motherboard asked an additional 45 companies whether they would stop selling the technology to cops, and received mostly non-responses.

June 27, 2020

Cut Copy - Cold Water (new drop)

Cutters ?– none
File, MP3, Single

26 Jun 2020

June 26, 2020

'I'm leaving and I'm just not coming back': Fed up with racism, Black Americans head overseas


Anthony Baggette knew the precise moment he had to get out: He was driving by a convenience store in Cincinnati when a police officer pulled him over. There had been a robbery. He fit the description given by the store's clerk: a Black man. Okunini Ọbádélé Kambon knew: He was arrested in Chicago and accused by police of concealing a loaded gun under a seat in his car. He did have a gun. But it was not loaded. He used it in his role teaching at an outdoor skills camp for inner-city kids. Kambon also had a license. The gun was kept safely in the car's trunk. Tiffanie Drayton knew: Her family kept getting priced out of gentrifying neighborhoods in New Jersey. She felt they were destined to be forever displaced in the USA. Then Trayvon Martin was shot and killed after buying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.

Baggette lives in Germany, Drayton in Trinidad and Tobago, Kambon in Ghana. All three are part of a small cultural cohort: Black emigres who, feeling cornered and powerless in the face of persistent racism, police brutality and economic struggles in the USA, have chosen to settle and pursue their American-born dreams abroad. No official statistics cover these international transplants. In Ghana, where Kambon is involved in a program that encourages descendants of the African diaspora to return to a nation where centuries earlier their ancestors were forced onto slave ships, he says he is one of "several thousand." Kambon rejects descriptors such as "Black American" or "African American" that identify him with the USA.

Tiffanie Drayton working on Pigeon Point beach, Trinidad and Tobago, in January 2020.

In Trinidad and Tobago, where Drayton now works in her home office with a view of the ocean and hummingbirds frolicking above the pool, there are at least four: Drayton, her mother, sister, and her sister's boyfriend. There are likely more. About 120,000 Americans live in Germany, which is home to an estimated 1 million people of African descent. But because for historical reasons Germany's census does not use race as a category it is not possible to calculate how many hail from the USA. "There's a lot of institutional racism in Germany," said Baggette, 68, who has lived in Berlin for more than 30 years. Years later, Baggette feels conflicted about his move. He described the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, as a time when Neo-Nazis and skinheads would "throw Black people off of the S-Bahn," the city's subway system. "But I still felt, and feel, better off here – safer," he said.

'I don't have to think of myself as a Black woman'

In interviews with more than a dozen expatriate Black Americans spread out across the globe from the Caribbean to West Africa it became clear that, for some, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has provided fresh evidence that living outside the USA can be an exercise in self-preservation. A 2019 study by the National Academy of Sciences found Black men were around 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police. A 2020 analysis of 100 million traffic stops conducted across the country determined that Black people were far more likely to be pulled over by police than whites, but that difference narrows significantly at night, when it is harder to see dark skin. Black Americans face a far higher risk of being arrested for petty crimes. They account for a third of the prison population but just 13% of the overall population, according to Pew Research, a non-partisan "fact tank."

June 25, 2020

Other Nations Are Nearing The End Of Coronavirus Crisis. Not America.

There is a new spike in Coronavirus cases, and it is entirely Donald Trump’s fault.


WASHINGTON, DC -- Those of us who’ve been paying attention to facts and science have known for weeks that the United States is far from done with the coronavirus. Indeed, there’s no end in sight. None. The pandemic, here at least, will go on and on, killing Americans and crippling our economy as our idiocracy seems to be simultaneously gaining strength. As I write this, America has surpassed the record for new daily cases. Back on April 25, the former high water mark for the virus, we hit 36,001 new cases in a single day, nationwide. Today, June 24, the United States hit 38,672 new cases -- and rising. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a ceiling any more, and the death toll will continue its climb toward 200,000 and beyond. Why is this happening, especially when other nations are nearing the end? Donald Trump, of course. Duh. And, yes, I’m absolutely blaming him for the entirety of this resurgence in the virus. Unlike the initial spike in cases, which was only partially due to Trump’s incompetence and single-minded focus on re-election, this new spike is all about the newly poisonous language and political tactics Trump has been playing with in the past month or so.

Even the most cursory examination of the stats and charts show that we were on our way toward a survivable rate of transmission when Trump decided to screw it all up -- not unlike how he screwed up his foundation, his university, his casinos, the rest of his presidency, and the past several weeks of his re-election campaign. Trump always makes things worse for Trump, but his most unforgivable decisions involve making things worse for the rest of us, too. With the coronavirus, though, Trump didn’t just “make things worse,” he made things unforgivably catastrophic. His mortal sin in all of this was turning the pandemic into a partisan issue when it should’ve had nothing to do with party politics, at least in terms of how the federal government would approach the crisis. Almost from the beginning, Trump framed the pandemic as a “Democrat hoax.” He urged a rapid reopening in defiance of experts, deliberately inciting a backlash from Democrats who knew that’d be a calamitous blunder. Then he attacked any Democratic governors who defied his insistence upon reopening the economy, indulging the whims of the mob over the caution of the experts. Likewise, he attacked Democratic governors who cried out for help from the White House, only to be confronted by Feds who hijacked their incoming supply of PPE.

As a result of Trump’s blurts on Twitter and during his daily Trump Show, protests erupted in various state capitals, most shockingly in Michigan where men armed with semi-automatic rifles invaded the capitol building to accost Governor Whitmer. Naturally, the protesters didn’t socially distance or wear masks while being compacted into tight indoor demonstrations. The partisanship worsened in recent weeks as Trump turned mask-wearing and social distancing into a matter of “political correctness” -- as something only the allegedly frightened Democrats wanted to enforce. Anyone wearing masks, Trump said, were just doing so to voice their disapproval of him personally. While continuing to treat a massive cataclysm as a right versus left issue, Trump is currently behaving as if there is no pandemic. During a recent press event in the Rose Garden, Trump’s staff rearranged the seating from being distanced to being shoulder-to-shoulder. He’s now held two campaign rallies, one in Oklahoma and another in Arizona, where there was zero social distancing and only a few visible mask-wearers among the Red Hat disciples. Ignoring the matter is far worse than his initial downplaying of the crisis, given the wealth of knowledge we’ve accumulated since March.

At this point, Trump has essentially decided that the pandemic is no longer his problem -- it’s now the purview of governors, while everyone’s to blame except him. It’s China, or it’s Mexico, or it’s the CDC, or it’s the aforementioned Democratic governors who are Trump’s handy dandy scapegoats -- not the man at the top of the heap where the buck is allegedly supposed to stop. Perhaps the most blindingly criminal decision he’s made so far -- beyond the incompetence, beyond the partisanship, beyond the rank ignorance -- became public this week. Several days after Trump told his fanboys in Tulsa that he ordered his staff to “slow the testing down, please,” we learned that the federal government will no longer be supporting drive-up testing sites. It seems intentional now, this degree of utter cruelty -- this degree of malfeasance. Trump is so driven to relentlessly perform CPR on the economy in order to get re-elected that he’s chosen to murder by negligence thousands more Americans who could have been saved were it not for his callow, irresponsible, sociopathic compulsion for self-preservation and literally nothing else. When the history of this era is written, the name “Trump” ought to be presented in the same light as the worst despots throughout world history and the words “slow the testing down, please” need to be a major chapter title.

This nightmare is far from over.

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