Questions for Secretary of State Nominee Antony Blinken.

Roots Action is an online activist groups that I happily allow to exist in my inbox: I find their messaging educational and their activism worthwhile. In case you are unfamiliar with them:

RootsAction is an online initiative dedicated to galvanizing people who are committed to economic fairness, equal rights for all, civil liberties, environmental protection — and defunding endless wars.

(More info at this link.)

Today they sent me an exemplary missive regarding Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Of course all such nominees are subject to Senate approval, so Roots Action has helpfully drafted questions for Senators to use when they query Mr. Blinken during the vetting process. These are questions that elected officials in any functioning democracy could, should and would demand be answered to the public’s satisfaction before handing over a set of keys to the kingdom. Which means these inquiries are highly unlikely to be asked, or even considered.

But that doesn’t mean that such email campaigns are not worth your click. For one thing, when a sizable enough number of constituents bombards your Senators’ offices with a single concern, some poor staffer is duty-bound to bring it to his or her attention. Unless the Senator in question is, say, Bernie Sanders, this particular collection of emails will have the effect of pissing them off. I mean really irritating the shit out of them.

Now doesn’t that mere thought alone warm your little black heart? Click here, and ruin a Goldman Sachs puppet’s day!

Second, I am a very big fan of taking actions that shift the Overton window. It is certainly in need of a hell of a lot of shifting, especially after conservatives have spent the last several decades on a singular mission to convince us all that people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are godless communists. There is no question this effort has worked out splendidly for conservatives.

Yet in more recent years we have finally witnessed “fringe” ideas enter the mainstream from both the right and the left. For instance, Medicare for All is not yet seriously on the table, but it no longer gets you laughed out of the room, either. Lowering the Medicare eligibility age, as Biden pretends he wants to do, would certainly be a shift in the same direction. Even more promising, a public option/Medicare buy-in has picked up traction, too. If enacted, I predict this would drag the Overton window toward the single payer point much farther and faster than many now envision. That’s because a Medicare buy-in would never be restricted to individuals: here in ‘Murikka where Corporations ‘R People®, big business buy-in to more affordable employee health coverage could topple the private insurance industry with lightning speed.

Meanwhile, poor Mr. Overton must be nearly dead now from all that punching from the right. Not very long ago the violent overthrow of Congress at the direction of the US president by a bunch of badly dressed mooks sure seemed like a pretty fringe idea. Yet here we are.

The Roots Action email campaign is set up so you can modify the text before it gets routed to your Senators, and I took full advantage of this opportunity. Roots Action’s message is serious and well-documented, though still outside of more mainstream discourse. So is mine, but in the current political environment I’m quite sure I sound like a deranged lefty berserker. Good. Because you know what? It takes an awful lot of little pushes to budge that fucking window.

Why not help kick it a little.

_________

(My added text is right up front; the Roots Action text is below the cut.)

Subject: Questions for Antony Blinken

Dear [Senators Schumer and Gillibrand]:

War profiteering used to be universally reviled as the evil that it patently is. And yet now, it’s in the job description of the Executive Branch to shill for US “defense” companies like a bunch of used car salesmen. Incentivising the spread of war, violence and weapons around the globe for obscene private profits should not be the business of anyone, much less the United States government. Quite the opposite, in fact. Why, one might think the Executive Branch works on commission, rather than remuneration from US taxpayers. And yet here we are, with a man perfectly emblematic of this problem, nominated to head the State Department.

I have some questions for you to ask Mr. Blinken, but perhaps you could start with asking this one of yourself: Wouldn’t it be more accurate to rename the US Department of State the US Department of Sales? And while you’re at it, please think about how you might use your considerable power to dismantle the system that enables war profiteering and all of the evils that flow from it. Here’s a thought, and I’m just spitballing here: if US weapons manufacturers cannot enrich their shareholders without using the US government to ensure they are the preeminent arms dealers for the entire world, perhaps they should all be run as nonprofits?

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MLK Day 2021: A Time to Break Silence.

Black Lives Matter

While the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are perhaps his most notable and oft-cited works, it has become my habit on this day to highlight another. Delivered on April 4, 1967 at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence reveals King as his fiery and ever-eloquent self, though as a wiser, wearier man than he was just four years earlier, sitting in that Birmingham jail cell.

With the Vietnam conflict raging at the time, King directly linked the profound injustices of that war to many other injustices in our own society – injustices which remain to this day. I wonder what King might say of the Black Lives Matter movement, and of the protests sparked by the police murder of George Floyd, if he were alive today. Of course, we’ll never know. But for me, one overarching message that the movement for Black lives delivered loud and clear to white America is that it is not enough to personally reject racism. If we are not doing the necessary anti-racist work, we whites are failing as human beings. Especially after reading Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, I get the feeling that King could not agree more.

Silence is complicity.

This work was urgent then. It is just as urgent now. That fact is as infuriating as it is heartbreaking. Let us use it, then, to rekindle our own sense of urgency, and to redouble our anti-racist work.

Speaking as a die-hard atheist, I would be remiss if I did not address King’s repeated references to religion. First, as I’ve noted before,

King tethers these to his eloquent defenses of secular ideas of justice, compassion and love to make the same case; in this way they function to bolster his arguments (for the religious-minded) instead of standing in for them.

Second, as a die-hard anti-theist, I’ll take any opportunity to point out that Christians don’t own every virtue- including forgiveness.

Speech below the cut.

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