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52 Things Learned in 2019

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One of my favorite end-of-the-year lists comes from writer, consultant, and curious human Tom Whitwell: 52 things I learned in 2019.

8. Drunk shopping could be a $45bn/year industry, and only 6% of people regret their drunk purchases.

25. In the US Northwest, rain can damage the fruit on cherry trees. So helicopter pilots are paid to fly over the orchards, using their downdraft to dry the fruit as it ripens. For the pilots, it’s a risky but potentially profitable job.

31. Using machine learning, researchers can now predict how likely an individual is to be involve in a car accident by looking at the image of their home address on Google Street View.

52. Asking ‘What questions to do you have for me?’ can be dramatically more effective than ‘Any questions?’ at the end of a talk.

I will add a 53rd item: Whitwell used a machine learning tool trained on his lists from previous years to find a couple of the interesting stories this year. I’ve often wondered if I could do the same with kottke.org…sort of a bot’s-eye view of the daily link zeitgeist.

Tags: best of   best of 2019   lists   Tom Whitwell
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There's A New Kind Of Inequality. And It's Not About Income

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It used to be that the battle to overcome inequality was about money. It was about helping the poor get better jobs so they could access a larger slice of the economic pie.

What if that approach to inequality is no longer relevant?

In the latest edition of its Human Development Report, the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) argues that 20th-century thinking on global inequality no longer works in the 21st century.

The report warns that a new generation of inequities are driving street protests and damaging societies — and they're on track to get worse.

Each year the UNDP looks at human progress around the globe. This year the authors say that major societal shifts around technology, education and climate change are creating a "new great divergence." Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator, sums up the problem this way: "an increasing number of young people are educated, connected and stuck with no ladder of choices to move up."

Global inequality is now more about disparities in opportunity than disparities in income.

"What we are seeing is an opening up of a new generation of inequalities, particularly centered around the emerging middle classes of societies," Steiner says.

"What people perhaps 30, 40 years ago were led to believe and often saw around them," Steiner says, "was that if you worked hard, you could escape poverty." Yet in many countries today, he says upward social mobility is "simply not occurring" anymore.

The Human Development Report 2019 makes the case that many of the street protests popping up around the globe are driven by a growing sense that societies are rigged to favor the powerful and trap the masses in low-wage, dead-end lives.

And those inequities can start even before birth.

"This new generation of inequality is interesting," Steiner says. "It has to do with what you could call the micro-inequalities — the things that I perceive as unfair in my country and my community in my society." Some of those inequities start before birth and burden individuals deep into adulthood.

"It may and sometimes does have to do with income," Steiner adds. "But it may have also a lot to do with the fact that I know today that my child born into my family, into my neighborhood, already starts life at a significant disadvantage."

Technology and the Internet has made people far more aware of what they might be missing out on. Universal public education systems particularly in middle-income countries have raised student expectations about the responsibilities of their political leaders. While subsistence farmers concerned about their crops, for example, might not have time to pay attention to national politics, highly-educated, unemployed, 20-somethings with mobile Internet access do.

So in the 21st century not only are there still huge global inequities, but people are far more aware of them.

"A lot of the of pressures from rising inequality and a decimated middle class led to the Arab Spring uprisings," says Dana El Kurd, author of Polarized and Demobilized, about authoritarianism in Palestine, and an assistant professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. "I wouldn't say [inequality] was the only cause, but it was certainly a major factor."

She says recent protests in Lebanon and Iraq mark a shift in how people in the region view some of the problems in their countries. In the past many social conflicts in the Middle East were viewed as ethnic or sectarian clashes. But El Kurd says these new protests illustrate that people are growing frustrated with their political elites not solely because the elites are Sunni or Shia, for instance, but because the economic and political systems are failing so many citizens.

"What we're seeing in the protests that emerged in Iraq is people recognizing that these political elites don't represent anybody but themselves," El Kurd says. "And what we thought was a sectarian issue is actually an issue of corruption. It's inequality of access, the same with Lebanon. So in a lot of these places, it was kind of masked as sectarian conflict when it's really this conflict about inequality."

And that frustration isn't just boiling over in the Middle East. There have been protests up and down Latin America from Chile to Colombia. The student-led demonstrations in Hong Kong show no sign of letting up. In socially-conservative parts of Africa, young women have taken to the streets as part of the global #MeToo movement.

UNDP's Pedro Conceição, who oversees the Human Development Report, says their research shows that these global inequities are having huge impacts on individual lives.

"If we look at what happened to a child born in the year 2000 in a low human development country compared to a child born in a very high human development country, there's a 17% probability that the child [from the low development country] is not alive today, 20 years after she was born," Conceição says. "While in a very high human development country, there's only a 1% chance that the child is not alive today."

"Inequalities in human development remain high and widespread," he notes.

And it's not just in the health arena. More than half of the children born in wealthy countries in the year 2000 are enrolled in university today, Conceição says. Yet only 3% of the year-2000 babies from the poorest countries are in higher education.

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Did the 'Kamala Is a Cop' Meme Help Tank Harris's Campaign?


It’s only appropriate for a decade defined by the steady mainstreaming of internet memes to end with one so powerful it may have changed a presidential campaign. In the last couple of years, the political rise of Kamala Harris, from California Senator to presidential hopeful, has been met with a terse but effective meme: “Kamala Is a Cop.” Rooted in Kamala Harris’s tenure as San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General, the refrain started as a disdainful sneer from those disillusioned with her one-time “tough on crime” stance, blossoming into a full-blown meme that leftists, opportunistic right-wingers, Black Twitter, and bots wielded with gusto to represent everything and anything that was wrong with Harris’s desire for more political power. Now that Harris has announced that she’s ending her presidential campaign, the meme’s impact is worth a deeper examination.

“Kamala Is a Cop” has no set format or singular image: It’s a philosophy translated into meme form. There are photoshopped images of Harris wearing police gear and arresting black children. People manifested the meme in joking tweets about Harris arresting them for minor infractions, like wearing white after Labor Day. A brief clip of Harris waving at undocumented children in a detention center was stripped of context and turned into miscellaneous meme fodder, spurring another opportunity to play at her carceral wrath.

The refrain was particularly evocative as Harris struggled to lure black voters away from Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, despite being one of the few black candidates running in the primary. Last week, the New York Times spoke with a number of the black voters who weren’t backing black candidates Harris or Cory Booker for president—including a 20-year-old black woman, who had just attended a “Black Woman’s Breakfast” featuring Senator Harris. The woman expressed skepticism toward Harris’s campaign, citing a mortification that grew, in part, from memes (emphasis ours):

Ms. Hester made a sheepish admission: Ms. Harris was not her preferred choice. There were policy reasons — Ms. Harris has not rolled out a proposal on student debt cancellation, which is Ms. Hester’s top issue. But there was also something else. Even at the historically black all-women’s college that Ms. Hester attends, supporting Ms. Harris was a particularly uncool thing to do.

“It’s hard, you know. On social media, there’s a different meme about her every day,” Ms. Hester said. “A lot of young people don’t support her.”

Shockingly, it’s a faux pas to support the candidate your classmates sneeringly refer to as a cop! How, I wondered, how does Harris feel about reaching pariah status within online circles of young, politically astute black women?

I contacted the Harris campaign last week to find out: What does Harris think of the “Kamala Is a Cop” meme, and is she worried that it has stifled youth support? The response I received was somewhat brusque: A link to a Blavity round table with Harris, in which she briefly acknowledged the memes after a long defense of her record, and a quote from the aforementioned Black Women’s Breakfast, in which Harris said that she’s “fully aware” of the cop memes and that they break her heart. “Are we saying that we don’t want the people making these decisions to be someone who goes to the same church, has children in the same community?” she added. “No. We need to be everywhere.”

The next day, I received another email from the Harris camp suggesting my article about the “Kamala Is a Cop” memes “include evidence of disinformation online.” This was accompanied by a list of six articles that the Harris camp believed I would find helpful.

Five of the links focused primarily on Harris as the victim of online attacks about her race and ethnicity. It’s true: There are those representing the ADOS (African Descendents of Slaves) movement have expressed skepticism towards Harris’s dedication to black Americans, given her lack of American slave ancestry, and they’ve gone to great lengths to deny Harris’s blackness, as a biracial woman. (Harris’s father is Jamaican; her mother is Indian.) Right-wing trolls from Twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere have been more than happy to latch on to this birther-lite, race-math bullshit, and proliferate the conspiracies.

But only one link focused on the meme, even indirectly: A Vox article explored a social media frenzy following the senator’s onstage clash with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard during the second Democratic Debate. At the debate, Gabbard tore into Harris’s record, accusing her of putting 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations, blocking evidence that would have freed a man on death row, keeping incarcerated people in the employ of the state of California to perform cheap labor, and fighting to preserve a predatory bail system.

Gabbard’s wording was somewhat sloppy and sourcing dubious—those marijuana arrests numbers, which were incorrect, came from the conservative site Free Beacon—she wasn’t entirely off. During Harris’s tenure as attorney general, 1,883 people went to state prison for marijuana possession; Harris did, in fact, deny Kevin Cooper’s death row request for advanced DNA testing. Incarcerated people eligible for parole were used to fight California wildfires and as San Francisco DA, Harris fought to increase cash bail.

Drudging up Harris’s punitive history was effective: following the confrontation, the hashtag #KamalaHarrisDestroyed spread and Gabbard became Google’s top search overnight. Some pundits questioned whether the effect came from bots, and Gabbard’s relative leniency toward Russia certainly didn’t quell the conspiracy nuts. Twitter denied an uptick in bot activity, but given Twitter’s response to, well, anything, it’s reasonable to take that with a grain of salt.

Still, no evidence suggests bot-driven disinformation campaigns initially latched onto Harris’s prosecutorial record, and that’s what the “Kamala Is a Cop” meme is all about. If bots are attempting to spread outright lies about California’s former self-proclaimed “Top Cop” to turn young voters off, they’re not doing a very good job: Skeptical law professors, weary activists, and journalists have shared plenty of accurate information about Harris’s record that would make any 20-something social justice advocate skeptical of Harris as a candidate, despite her modest attempts at reform. The meme merely took publicly accessible information and translated it into an easily disseminated catchphrase. “You voting for Kamala? No way, she’s a cop.” For a generation that came of digital age watching movements grow in real-time around police accountability, that’s enough to leave them wondering who their other options are.

Regardless of its origin, the popularity of the meme speaks to a cynicism that some young voters have regarding Senator Harris’s record: Someone who talks about reforming unjust systems but is reluctant to acknowledge their own complicity to those systems. I asked the campaign if Harris had a plan to gain trust from young voters, like the Spelman student quoted in the New York Times, who are susceptible to the messaging behind those memes.

This was the response:

The memes and most importantly, their origin, at best are a manipulation of facts and at worst lies and designed to disuade voters or likely voter and stoke hate and skepticism based on race. If Tulsi Gabbards debate moment was any indication the claims she threw at my boss and her record were straight from those memes and immediately following were proven false. So to cover the memes, their popularity without consideration of their origin, validity or whether their based in truth misses what I think is the better story. Especially after 2016.

In this, the Harris camp conflated several things at once. Memes, by their very nature, are prone to facetiousness. And while variations of the “Kamala Is a Cop” meme are no exception, the heart of the meme is the same: Harris has a troubling record on criminal justice reform, which plays awkwardly against her campaign’s insistence on avoiding the grittier discussions of her work history.

Is a photo of Kamala Harris happily greeting a sea of young black school children with the pithy caption, “Kamala Harris getting ready to fill up another prison” necessarily “based in truth”? Well, that depends on who you ask. Ask the black mothers of the Bay Area who were disproportionately threatened by Harris’s anti-truancy proposals. Ask the disproportionately black and brown families of those punished under California’s draconian three-strikes law (as California Attorney General, Harris did not support a ballot initiative to reform it). Maybe, just maybe, the campaign could understand what that meme is getting at, even if Senator Harris has never and would never personally lock up a black child.

There’s good in Harris’s record. As attorney general, she tackled a backlog of rape kits, instituted implicit-bias training for police officers, and Harris’s uncanny ability to make Trump appointees squirm during confirmation hearings is pull-up-a-seat-with-popcorn worthy. But this doesn’t negate the less savory elements of Harris’s past, one that she was frustratingly unwilling to critique throughout her presidential run. And it’s that past, and the facts attached to it, that has helped the “Kamala Is a Cop” meme thrive.

Unfortunately, the campaign won’t get another chance to back away from the hypothetical Russian agents and reckon with the genuine critique underlying the meme, since Harris announced she was suspending her campaign as I was reporting this story. Ultimately, the Harris camp’s avoidance of young Democrats retweeting “Kamala Is a Cop” memes is indicative of larger issues within her campaign. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Harris’s team imploded. The New York Times reported that Harris’s state operations director, Kelly Mehlenbacher, resigned, citing dysfunction, layoffs, and no “real plan to win” Iowa. The Harris campaign has been in dire straits for months, due to messy messaging, inconsistent campaign locations, and poor management. But the Times also revealed another element of the discord: Harris’s advisers, “point to that [Gabbard] debate moment as accelerating Ms. Harris’s decline.”

But Gabbard simply poked the elephant in the room—the one narrative that’s taken hold online, spanning both the left and right. It was time for Harris to own up to her history with the criminal justice system, to acknowledge her missteps, to plot a future forward, and she fumbled. If this moment was the beginning of the end, it was set up years earlier, when some frustrated leftist somewhere thought of a quick way to summarize their discontent with a rising star in the Democratic party: “Kamala Is a Cop.”

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Doing Their Jobs

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We know by now, or at least I hope to God we know, that “just doing my job” is not an excuse for aiding institutions that commit atrocities. What we know from the Holocaust (and the Milgram experiment) is that ordinary people are capable of doing horrendous things when it is their “job” to do those things. And so a central lesson should be: The fact that it was your role to do something, or you were instructed to do it, does not eliminate your responsibility. If you chose the role in the first place, and could leave the job, then to say “I had no choice” is false. You just chose wrong.

So “just doing my job” seems like pitiful logic when used as a defense by a member of a death squad or a concentration camp guard. We can see clearly how, if everyone thought this way, nobody would step up and stop a preventable atrocity if preventing it would involve violating the Rules. Yet this kind of excuse-making is still used by many people who aren’t concentration camp guards.

Take lawyers, consultants, and CEOs. Each inhabits a role in which they are supposed to follow a particular code. The code for lawyers is: do what is in the best interest of your client, so long as you do not violate the canons of legal ethics. The code for consultants is similar: help your client achieve the desired outcome, so long as you do not violate the canons of consultant ethics (there are fewer of these). The code for CEOs is: maximize shareholder value.

If a person uses this code alone to determine whether or not they should do something on the job, they can easily enable and worsen atrocities, or commit crimes. The CEO maximizes shareholder value even if that means “getting as many people addicted to your drug as possible (and then selling them anti-addiction drugs)” The lawyer serves the best interest of their client even if that means representing said drug company, burying anyone who tries to sue for damages in a mountain of discovery paperwork and making sure they’ll never get their day in court. And if you’re a consultant, it means: being happy to help a dictator optimize their repression strategy, or a right-wing president improve the efficiency of his deportation regime.

Take, for instance, the elite global consulting firm McKinsey and Company. A while back, we published an excellent exposé of the company in Current Affairs by an ex-McKinseyite. The writer, who wanted to stay anonymous, explained the firm’s basic framework for thinking about their role. They believe that they “do execution, not policy.” That means that someone else makes the decisions about what ought to be done, and it’s McKinsey’s job to help them do it better, whatever it is. The author of our McKinsey article shows what this has meant in practice, which is that McKinsey has worked for the most horrendous clients imaginable: They have helped the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia track its dissidents and helped Purdue Pharma sell more opioids. These may seem like self-evidently evil pursuits to choose to get involved in. But if your philosophy is “we do execution, not policy,” there’s nothing actually wrong with them. Thinking about the “big picture” of whether the underlying policy helps or hurts humanity is not your department.

It is not surprising, then, to find out that McKinsey chose to help Donald Trump improve the efficiency of his deportation regime, even though Clinton voters significantly outnumbered Trump voters in the firm. Even if you are personally opposed to Trump’s policies, it is perfectly acceptable to help Trump in “client-centered” ethics. What might be surprising, though, is just how far McKinsey went in furthering Trump’s goals. The firm was so pathologically committed to improving efficiency that it managed to horrify and discomfort Trump administration ICE officials. Read the report on how the firm advocated “measures the agency’s staff sometimes viewed as too harsh on immigrants”:

The money-saving recommendations the consultants came up with made some career ICE workers uncomfortable. They proposed cuts in spending on food for migrants, as well as on medical care and supervision of detainees McKinsey’s team also looked for ways to accelerate the deportation process, provoking worries among some ICE staff members that the recommendations risked short-circuiting due-process protections for migrants fighting removal from the United States. The consultants, three people who worked on the project said, seemed focused solely on cutting costs and speeding up deportations — actions whose success could be measured in numbers — with little acknowledgment that these policies affected thousands of human beings… The firm’s work showed “quantifiable benefits,” ICE officials stated in an October 2017 contracting document, “including increased total removals and reductions in time to remove a detainee.” … McKinsey’s recommendations for spending cuts went too far for some career ICE employees, and a number of the proposals were never carried out... In a statement, an ICE spokesman, Bryan D. Cox, said McKinsey’s work “yielded measurable improvements in mission outcomes, including a notable decrease in the time to remove aliens with a final order of removal.”

I’ll confess to you, my first thought upon reading this was: “My God, they’ll be producing ‘measurable improvements in mission outcomes’ for the fucking gas chambers.” Indeed, our anonymous former McKinsey consultant pointed out in their article that the company’s philosophy (which sees “ethics” as a matter of how you treat your client, not how your client treats anybody else) would not have prevented them from advising Bayer on how to optimize its production of Zyklon B.

How could McKinsey actually be worse than the Trump administration? Because it saw its job as “optimization.” ICE officers do not necessarily see themselves the same way. A few of them still seem to bring some of their humanity to the job and don’t want to do things that would, say, starve the people in detention. McKinsey believes that whether or not immigrants are made miserable is not its department. Its job is to take a desired outcome and figure out how to get it.

You see here a lot of the problems with capitalistic logic generally. If your mandate is to maximize shareholder value, your shareholders might get a lot of value, but you might do it by trying to get Coca-Cola to replace water for as many people as possible around the world. The economic roles that people inhabit in our existing institutions produce sheer absurdities: companies trying to create demands that they can then satisfy, or trying to bury evidence that they’re destroying the future habitability of large parts of the planet, even though everyone in principle wants a livable planet. Nobody within institutions can question this madness, because their role is fixed. If you build an institution where the CEO’s job is to maximize profits, a person who points out that profits are doing colossal harm will be performing their job poorly. This is why it is unlikely that “good CEOs” can fix the problems of capitalism. We need different kinds of institutions entirely, ones that are governed by different interests and serve the collective good rather than the selective good.

Here is an interesting snippet from the New York Times article on McKinsey:

The firm’s global managing partner, Kevin Sneader, assured [concerned McKinsey staff] in a 2018 email that the firm had never focused on developing, advising or implementing immigration policies… But the new documents and interviews reveal that the firm was deeply involved in crafting policies fundamental to the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

The Times implies Sneader was lying. Certainly, what he said was false. But I suspect he might actually have believed it, possibly even still believes it. He probably has some twisted conception where because the desired outcome (“optimizing deportation”) was fixed at the request of the client, McKinsey could tell itself that what it was doing was not “actually” advising the administration on what policies to have. (I’m not saying you should kill Khashoggi, I’m just saying that if you did, this is the optimal saw to use.)

This is a useful way of telling yourself that you’re not a bad person, even if (1) the institution you are performing work for is doing bad things and (2) your work is having the direct effect of causing the institution to do more of those things. Now, even some McKinsey people were disturbed by the firm’s work with ICE, though they and other top American consulting firms still do work for the murderous Saudi government. But this self-justification is still endemic, not just here but across the corporate and legal worlds: It is not me doing this, I am inhabiting the role of serving the client. So it’s okay if you’re a corporate lawyer, and you chose to be a corporate lawyer, and you represent Exxon, or you represent Harvey Weinstein, or you help a company bust a union. Yes, you freely acknowledge that your function is to further enable acts that cause harm. But you have constructed a story about a job-person who exists separately from yourself, and that makes it okay.

Sometimes I think one of the worst and most dangerous ideas ever put on paper was this one, from Adam Smith in 1776:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

It appears pretty innocuous, as well as true. The baker doesn’t produce my baguettes because he likes me. He produces my baguettes because I have the money to purchase baguettes from him. But this simple sentiment was easily transformed into: It is acceptable not to think about “benevolence,” because if each person plays their part and inhabits their role, pursuing their interest, the public good will be served. And that can easily be taken to extremes, where greed is good and or it’s fine to spend your career writing press releases for a company that boils the planet full of bullshit euphemisms about the company’s commitment to sustainability. You just do your job, and let someone else handle the “policy.”

In the 21st century, we must make every single person confront their choices and their roles. If you work in advertising or P.R. or consulting or the law, and you believe that serving the client ends the inquiry into whether what you do is right, you are mistaken. It’s not just P.R. types though. Lots of people do this. Plenty of scientists think that all they do is the science, and other people decide whether it will be turned into terrifying autonomous death robots. Or cops: “I don’t make the law, I just enforce it.” I am sorry, bud, but you help to make the law by enforcing it, because law exists to the extent of its enforcement.

One reason many people cling to excuses like “My job is to serve the client’s interests” is that you feel very rudderless when the existing rules melt away and you have to decide things for yourself. If the code of professional ethics in my field doesn’t determine what is right or wrong for me to do, then what does? My gut? If the Constitution doesn’t tell me, a judge, whether it is morally acceptable for me to implement the death penalty, then what does?

Well, you won’t get a satisfying resolution anytime soon. It’s the difficult question at the heart of all moral philosophy: Where do values come from? But we certainly can’t defer to “whatever rules happen to exist within an institution at any given time,” because ultimately someone has to make the rules, and if we’re not exercising independent judgment, the judgment will be made for us, probably by worse people. If we don’t apply our own personal standards, we will be like the ones who failed their tests of character under bad historical regimes, the ones who thought “just doing their job” was a permissible stance to take.

So: Don’t work at McKinsey. If you do work at McKinsey, quit. And if the ultimate effect of your work on the world is negative, and you’re privileged enough for it to be a choice (as most consultants and corporate lawyers are), then stop doing it. It is not easy to forge an independent moral path that doesn’t simply defer to authority. But it is the only respectable choice.

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Climate Activists Plan Another Gridlock Protest This Friday

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For the fourth time this year, a group of D.C. protesters plans to cause gridlock during the morning commute to draw attention to the global climate crisis.

On Friday, a coalition of activists that call themselves Shut Down D.C. plan to blockade several busy streets surrounding the World Bank starting as early as 7:30 in the morning, the group announced in a press release on Wednesday. The protesters will be demanding that the bank fully divest from fossil fuels, which it hasn’t yet done, despite increasing its investments in clean energy projects.

“We wanted to draw connections with international institutions that are essentially propping up the climate crisis with their continued support of fossil fuel use,” said Nick Brana, an organizer with Shut Down D.C.

The event is supposed to mirror earlier actions by Shut Down D.C., most notably its largest event on September 23 when protesters managed to blockade 22 intersections during the morning commute, some for more than three hours. The group held another traffic blockade a few days later, on September 27, to close out global climate action week. And in early November, protesters took to the streets again and blockaded a few key intersections downtown (this protest was the smallest one so far).

The events are part of a larger turn toward civil disobedience as the next chapter in organizing around the climate crisis, Brana said.

“For decades, the climate and environmental movement has tried everything that we were told we were supposed to do to make change in a democratic society,” he said. “We have protested, we have written our members of Congress, we have put in phone calls, we have done private lobbying. None of it has produced any change.”

So, Brana said, activists are turning to the successful movements that came before them for guidance — civil rights and suffrage, for example. “The climate movement has come together and turned to civil disobedience because of how ineffective these other tactics have been,” he said. “We need to shake the world out of its complacency and out of its advancement of this crisis.”

Friday’s protests are being conducted in concert with the international Climate Strike, which is tied to the Fridays for Future movement started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. Starting in August of 2018, when she was 15 years old, Thunberg began skipping school to sit in front of Swedish Parliament every day and protest a lack of action on climate. Her protests have grown into a global movement of Friday strikes and other forms of protest and civil disobedience over climate change.

After the action near the World Bank, there will be an 11 a.m. rally at Franklin Square featuring movie star and climate activist Jane Fonda, who has been running a series of protests every Friday modeled after Thunberg’s. Fonda has been arrested several times for her actions at the Capitol building, and she often brings famous friends along with her to make speeches at her rallies.

This Friday, Fonda will speak along with actress Taylor Shilling, per a release from Shut Down D.C. After that, there will be another traffic blockade, this time targeting financial institutions downtown. Brana would not reveal exactly which ones, nor what other actions activists might be taking besides a traffic blockade.

Organizers are expecting hundreds of people to turn out for the morning blockade in D.C., and even more people to show up as events continue throughout the afternoon, Brana said.

This story originally appeared in DCist.

The post Climate Activists Plan Another Gridlock Protest This Friday appeared first on WAMU.

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Virginia Counties Declare They Won’t Abide By New Gun Laws. Is That Legal?

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A number of counties across Virginia have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” vowing to defy any new gun legislation.

While experts say that law enforcement cannot legally refuse to uphold the law, these resolutions highlight Republican fears of tighter gun regulations when Democrats take control of the state legislature next year.

“There is some push in the General Assembly to pass some amount of gun control legislation. I think that what you’re seeing in these counties, which are mostly red-leaning counties, is a political effort to try to push back a little bit,” said Rich Schragger, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

So far, more than two dozen counties in Virginia have declared themselves safe havens from new gun laws. Several more, including Prince William County in Northern Virginia, are expected to discuss similar proposals in the coming weeks.

The fight takes a page from immigration reform efforts. For years, across the country, cities have opted to limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agencies to protect low-risk undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Robert Spitzer is a government and politics professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland. He said that while cities have the right to decline to voluntarily work with deportation services, localities cannot legally refuse to enforce gun laws.

“This Second Amendment sanctuary idea is something different because first they’re saying that they’re not going to follow gun laws enacted in their states that they don’t happen to like. And that is expressly illegal,” Spitzer said.

Despite the illegality of enforcing these resolutions, gun rights advocates across the state have pushed for local lawmakers to pass these largely symbolic acts.

In Page County, Virginia on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to declare the county a Second Amendment sanctuary.

“Be it be known that the Page Sheriff hereby declares Page County, Virginia, as a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary,’ and that the Page County Sheriff hereby declares its intent to oppose any infringement on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” said Sheriff Chad Cubbage in a statement.

Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has said he intends to reintroduce a number of gun safety proposals, including universal background checks and a handgun purchasing limit of one per month, as early as January.

The post Virginia Counties Declare They Won’t Abide By New Gun Laws. Is That Legal? appeared first on WAMU.

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5 days ago
5 days ago
Just me, or is this how civil wars begin? :(
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