Here are some of the things we’re reading this week — from commentary about Donald Trump’s growing cabinet to a discussion of the imperative for protest and resistance in the face of authoritarianism. An additional longread explores the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, which may not at first seem connected to presidential politics, but in fact lies at the core of the heart of resistance in America.
‘Rex Tillerson, from a Corporate Oil Sovereign to the State Department‘ (Steve Coll for the New Yorker)
If the idea of a former oil executive as Secretary of State troubles you, you’re not alone. As this profile illustrates, you should probably be even more troubled than you already feel — Trump’s ‘swamp,’ far from being drained, is filling up fast. Clear conflicts of interest arise when it comes to someone with deep ties to the oil industry, and to Russia, tasked with setting and enforcing U.S. foreign policy.
If Tillerson is confirmed, he would be in a position to benefit the corporation where he spent his career, by, for example, advocating for the easing of Russian sanctions. In general, Tillerson and ExxonMobil have argued against economic sanctions as an instrument of American foreign policy. Tillerson’s compensation over the years has included large amounts of Exxon stock; he would presumably be required to divest those holdings, but at a minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest would remain, because of his long service at Exxon and the wealth it has given him.
‘Why We Must Protest‘ (Masha Gessen for Lithub)
With the rise of Trumpism comes the inevitable protest, followed by the followup — why protest? What’s the point? Who is even listening? Gessen articulates a compelling case for the need for radical protest, an imperative that should be driving all within the U.S. — especially with evidence that the incoming administration intends to suppress protest activity on inauguration day itself.
Posting guard is a reasonable and measured response to a clear threat. When a neighbor threatens to poison your dog, you secure the fence. When an aggressive power threatens to invade, a state arms and fortifies its borders. And when an autocrat-elect threatens your liberties, you post guard around them.
‘Fight Trump: Stop Deportations By Any Means‘ (George Ciccariello-Maher for Verso)
Deportations are one of the biggest threats, and fears, of the near future. Members of communities vulnerable to deportation have been leveraging every possible tool to fight them. Now, it’s time for those who want to work in solidarity with them to shoulder some of the burden. Fighting deportations is a moral imperative.
Direct action against deportation works, both tactically — to hinder ICE’s functioning while concretely protecting some from the hell of deportation — but also politically, as a tool for mass mobilizing and to provoke a national debate over the freedom of movement. Moving forward, organizations with deep roots in local communities will prove crucial relay points for a broader anti-deportation strategy, building the necessary infrastructure locally while networking nationally and shepherding volunteers and organizers into mass, mobile flying squads capable of obstructing ICE’s work by warning communities and physically preventing raids from being carried out.
‘Trumped and Abandoned‘ (Susan Faludi for The Baffler)
The rise of the angry white male in the U.S. is sometimes painted as a recent development. Faludi traces its origins deep into the heart of the 1990s, when the current form of white male rage was in the throes of its birthing pains. If you want to understand what has led to today, look to where it came from.
For the last twenty years and more, the Angry White Males have been looking for a general to storm the ramparts and lead them across the water. Donald Trump is only the latest in a string of plutocrats and media personalities impersonating wartime commanders and working-class heroes, inveighing against immigrants and championing gun rights. And in all that time, and through all those found-and-lost saviors, Hillary Clinton has been their perpetual Princess of Darkness, the sybil of female usurpation, the root and fount of all male decline, disappointment, and betrayal.
‘After Ghost Ship Fire, Oakland DIY Grapples With a Broken System‘ (Sam Lefebrve for Pitchfork)
The terrible fire in Oakland’s Ghost Ship has sparked a ream of thinkpieces — many written by people outside the Bay Area who don’t understand the peculiar twist of circumstances, class war, culture, poverty, and neglect that contributed to the fire. The East Bay Express is producing exemplary reporting — not surprising, for a paper rooted in the community and culture of Oakland — and this piece by Sam Lefebrve lays out the complexities of the situation that led to the fire, and why there are no easy solutions. In an era when unsafe communities are about to become less so, when creative expression is likely to be suppressed, this is an important conversation and one that must be handled with care.
Drained late last century by declining tax revenue and selective civic neglect, Oakland boasts a constellation of seemingly derelict warehouses, storefronts, and churches. Within many of their shabby exteriors, however, are places of creative invention and possibility. These homes and venues—known by cryptic names rarely recorded in the press—cradle scenes that slip between categories; they’re where as-yet-unnamed subcultures gestate. For non-conforming bodies harassed and abused at other clubs, they’re sanctuaries.
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Photo: Travis Wise/Creative Commons