6 min read

Signs of the Times

Every so often I think it's worthwhile to take the metaphorical temperature of world events–or, perhaps, to check the metaphorical seismograph? You know what I mean. I think it's a valuable thing to continue validating the ideas of preparedness and collapse even if, at times, these very ideas feel remote from us. That doesn't seem like a problem anyone should have right now, but maybe someday it will.

As of this writing (which is always a bit behind posting), Trump has embraced the most disturbing sect of his followers; DeSantis sent immigrants, via plane, to Martha's Vineyard in an attempt to stick it to the libs, or something; A railworker strike was narrowly avoided (or delayed) by intervention from the Biden administration; a strike looms for UPS drivers; a severe storm flooded coastal Alaska; Puerto Rico has been struck by a hurricane which completely blacked out the island; Japan is suffering its most powerful typhoon in decades; and, in good news, Biden said the pandemic is over! Let the good times roll.

The Right is Leaning Into It

What feels like a year ago, Representative Liz Cheney lost her Wyoming race against Harriet Hageman, who decided to run, as she put it, because "Liz Cheney...betrayed the country" by opposing Trump. I am no fan of Cheney, at all, but I recognize that she was willing to operate within a system that we can agree, I think, is substantially better than a fascist autocracy. Cheney's loss is indicative of a slide in the country's right wing not just further right, but also against the idea of democracy itself. Six current republican candidates for office, when asked whether they would accept defeat if it occurred, refused to say they would, citing claims that the system was rigged one way or another. Since Trump broke the taboo, it has predictably become easier to cross the line.

This push is from other comers, as well. The political theater from red state governors has reached a new low. Most recently, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spent millions to fly immigrants to Martha's Vineyard without telling anyone on the ground. While this technique is not exactly new–Governor Abbott, of Texas, has been bussing immigrants to Washington DC–DeSantis' flight was a calculated act of deception. Immigrants were told they were being set up with housing and jobs, but they were being sent purely for the drama. As of this writing, most experts are "unsure" of the criminality of these acts because there are still so many questions surrounding the details.

The pièce de résistance is, of course, Trump himself. Generally couching his support of fringe allies in ignorance–claiming he "doesn't know much" about QAnon, or what have you–he has recently come out virtually festooned in the conspiracy theory's garb. With an audience that creates signs of support from the number of flags on display in a picture or cryptic, gematria-type symbolism from spoken words, to "reTruth*" a picture of himself wearing  a Q pin and featuring two Q sayings, is not simply support for such a crowd, but equivalent to screaming "you were right about everything!"**

QAnon believers have not needed Trump to do much of anything in the last couple years to elaborate upon their theories, nor to act upon them. The past few years have seen quite a lot of tragic violence from believers, with incidents of QAnon adherents killing their families or family members due to belief in these conspiracies. More recently, another follower came to a Dairy Queen, claiming he was going to kill all the Democrats and restore Trump to office. There is a lot to be said about the effects of QAnon on its followers, from the loss of friends and family due to their vociferous belief in baby-eating cabals, to the literal loss of life, but when combined with the greater context of the country and stirred in with greater heat due to Trump's sudden increased participation, it's difficult to say what exactly will result from this other than more loss. This isn't just stochastic terror, painting Democrats and leftists as pedophilic Satanists; it's stochastic chaos.

Speaking of chaos, there has been a disconcerting spurt of "SWATing" activity at schools, in which shootings or bombings are called in.

Lastly, in the political realm, I want to bring up this relatively minor happening:

This time, it wasn't some small-fry crackpot who targeted the drag show–it was the Twitter account for the Texas GOP. And literal Nazis answered the call.

*I dunno, that just seems super pathetic to me.

**Trump has since played a "Q" song at a rally, received a one-finger salute (not the kind you want) from the rallygoers, and posted a video with lots of Q references suggesting, briefly, he's the savior of the country.

COVID is a Top Ten Killer

COVID-19 still kills around 400 to 500 US citizens every day–and ranks at #3 on the CDC's list of top causes of death in the country. Despite this, and despite the wide belief that we can expect a fall or winter surge, Biden announced recently that the pandemic was "over," and that while we would still have to deal with it, that phase of our lives is finished.

I don't wish to drag on the pandemic. In the grand scheme of things one could argue that COVID is now a minor part of life, death count included, and we can agree there must be a point at which we move on. And there is, I think, a desire in the media and even the public for the next narrative, which can create conflict and blame artificially. But ultimately, to say there is no danger is a lie for the sake of image and economy. Like many things in this country, we have sacrificed, willingly or ignorantly, our safety for convenience, and for the enrichment of others. One need only look at COVID deaths in other countries to see how we might have done things differently.

This is less about warning you to keep wearing a mask (which you probably should, especially as the weather cools), and more about reminding you that even with the Dems in ostensible control of the levers of power, we're still pawns in their game. There is an acceptable level of death for them, and that metric is based upon making the rich richer. Which brings me to:

Labor

We've seen headlines about Starbucks and Amazon workers unionizing (solidarity). More recently, you probably saw that there was nearly a rail worker strike this summer. This was a potentially massive disruption to the economy and still-vulnerable supply chains. To be clear, I stand behind striking workers always, and especially in this instance, but so long as we live in an atomized society, one in which we don't support each other, there is a real danger of a strike like this hurting regular people. Which, again, does not mean they shouldn't strike or that lines should be crossed.

And the threat isn't over just because Biden stepped in. Still necessary to avert a strike are very reasonable demands by workers surrounding time off and scheduling, and without those demands being met it seems very likely that a strike is still in the offing. As the article above states, around a third of all freight is conducted via rail, meaning a literal third of the whole economy would be immobilized overnight. This of course includes food, fuel, and medical supplies.

It is illegal for rail workers to strike. Because of the critical nature of their work, much like in aviation, the federal government has jurisdiction over rail labor disputes and workers cannot simply up and picket. They can, but it's not legal. This dates back a hundred years ago, and longer, to strikes by rail workers that debilitated the nation, causing the federal government to step in. And that's not great. Labor has little power in general in this country, and it's particularly so for workers in the rail industry. Congress can extend contract deadlines or forcing settlements that keep the workers from achieving their goals.

If we manage to make it through this dispute without a strike, another looms on the horizon. Next year, the contract for workers at UPS ends, and said workers are at a breaking point while the company itself posts record profits. You may be noticing a bit of a trend. While unions are having a moment, the powers that be are loathe to budge. When you couple this with everything else going on in the world, and particular omens like inflation, rent prices, and the number of homes being snatched up by private companies, it feels like we're nearing another period of acute struggle. I know the new season of the Great British Bake Off just dropped, but we can't sleep on these issues. Not for long, at least.