This first Nygaard Notes of 2018 is special in at least one way: This is the first Nygaard Notes sent out using the MailChimp email program. My long-time and beloved Internet Service Provider and email host closed up shop at the end of 2017, and the old way of sending out Nygaard Notes no longer works. No need to spell out the technical details, but why am I telling you this in the first place? Well…
First of all, this issue of the Notes was supposed to go out on New Year’s Day. But I had annoying, and very time-consuming, technical problems that required much tedious data entry before MailChimp would let me send anything. If you are reading this now, my efforts have been successful.
Secondly, if this issue of the Notes looks odd in some way, now you know why. I’m trying to make it look pretty much like it always has, but I’m on a learning curve with MailChimp, so please be patient.
Thirdly, there is a chance that your email program will find this new format suspicious in some way, and send it to your spam or junk folders. PLEASE TELL YOUR EMAIL SYSTEM THAT NYGAARD NOTES IS NOT SPAM! I would hate to have people miss an issue because the Notes never made it to your inbox.
Finally, since I’m using a whole different method to do the (very simple) layout, NOW would be a great time to tell me if you’d like to see me change the layout in any way. Font size, color, essay dividers, etc. Just let me know.
However or whenever you are receiving this issue, I hope you enjoy this look back at the past year. I’m excited about the coming year. I hope you are, too!
Happy New Year!
Back in October (NN #615), I wrote about the increasing use of video in the news media system. I explained a bit about how this trend affects what we think about and, more importantly, how we think about it. I wish I had been in possession of this week’s “Quote” of the Week at the time.
It comes from a year-end feature by the Nieman Journalism Lab’s year-end series called “Predictions for Journalism 2018.” A piece called “Television Has Won” by journalist Hossein Derakhshan included the following words:
“Two decades after the web posed an unexpectedly serious challenge to television in the 1990s, we can now comfortably say television has won. It has conquered the internet, the media, and thereby the world.
“Not just as a medium, but as a discourse which has deeply affected our understanding of ourselves and the world. Its linear, centralized, emotion-driven, and photography-centered form has prevailed over the decentralized, text-based, and reason-driven form of the World Wide Web, which was itself inspired by books and newspapers…
“Television, old or new, is the medium of our post-Enlightenment era when text and reason are substituted by images and emotions. To be brief and blunt, Trump is just the beginning.”
It’s a Nygaard Notes tradition to put out an issue around the end of every year, for the purpose of reflecting on what Nygaard Notes has been up to during the year that is ending. This past year has been an unusual one, to say the least.
The year 2017 has been a difficult year for me, having started out with Nygaard Notes on hiatus due to both of my hands being in casts up to my elbows following a bike accident and subsequent surgery. In February the casts came off and I began a course of rather intensive hand therapy. It wasn’t until March that the first Nygaard Notes of 2017 was published. I’m still dealing with the emotional repercussions of my various health issues, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting the writing too much. The good news is that my hiatus allowed me time to reflect a bit on how I think Nygaard Notes should work. I wrote about those reflections in Nygaard Notes #614, on the occasion of the 19th birthday of Nygaard Notes.
But what has Nygaard Notes been writing about this past 10 months? Well…
In March I started out talking about voting rights, specifically felon disenfranchisement and how it may have played a big role in getting our current President elected. The racial impact of our antiquated marijuana laws was also discussed, and I talked once again about single-payer health care, which my be closer to reality than we think. (I’ve been focused even more than usual about health care in light of my own health issues.
In April I talked about some lessons we can learn from the current struggles around the British health care system, and I announced the creation of a new caucus in the Minnesota House of Representatives called the People of Color and Indigenous, or POCI, caucus. They have a plan called “Enhance Minnesota” that I described in May. It’s quite inspiring, and gives a hint of the exciting future in store for Minnesota and elsewhere as the complexion of our political leadership increasingly becomes less white and hence becomes more representative. Also in May, I gave examples of declines in U.S. diplomatic, military, media, and economic power which, when considered together, point to a rapidly-declining U.S. Empire. I followed that with a brief explanation of how organized capital (that is, the corporate sector, or corporatocracy), which has no nationality, is stepping into the power vacuum. And, if you don’t know what a Racial Equity Impact Assessment is, I explained it in Issue #607.
Later in May I talked about the dangers of privatizing Medicare by detailing an enormous scam that the “private sector” has been running for years. And I found myself talking, once again, on the revival of the super-racist “War on Drugs” that has been such a plague on our country for so many years.
June brought a discussion of the REAL threat of Iran, and I also ran a piece called “The Claim of “Voter Fraud” IS the Fraud!” (A little update on that story appears in this issue of the Notes.)
The 2017 issue about which I think I got the most positive response was #610 of June 30th, in which I discussed the idea of reparations for Native people in the United States, and offered my summary of An Indigenous Theory of Justice. It really takes the idea of “reparations” to a whole new place for most United Statesians.
July brought a discussion of the infamous Doctrine of Discovery and how it lives on in the United States of the 21st Century. This should all be common knowledge. But it’s not.
In August I reported on a peculiar Pentagon self-investigation, and offered some small opportunities to act in solidarity with indigenous people.
September was the birthday mediation on the modus operandi of Nygaard Notes that I mentioned above.
Many of you wrote to say that you got a lot out of the October issue of the Notes, wherein I talked about video and what it is doing to our brains. Worrisome, I say.
November brought a discussion of income taxes and how we are manipulated by media to think of taxes in a certain way. A subtle form of propaganda, y’see.
My final issue of 2017, in December, was all about natural disasters, insurance, and solidarity. This made me realize that I don’t think a lot of people really know what “solidarity” means. So I plan to be writing about that in these pages before long.
So that’s it for the year 2017 in Nygaard Notes. But I also want to mention a few pieces from 2016, since I didn’t do a Year in Review back then because I was recovering from surgery. The four issues preceding my medical leave featured a 12-part, 15,000-word series which, although I didn’t have a title for it at the time, might have been called “Individualism and the History of Modern Racism.” I am thinking about publishing it as a stand-alone pamphlet, as I think it illuminates a number of very important concepts that could help people understand better the power and pervasiveness of racism in the United States (and beyond). Here are the titles of the essays in that series, which appeared in Nygaard Notes issues 599-602:
1. The Enlightenment and the Social Contract
2. Age of Discovery, Age of Conquest, Birth of Capitalism
3. Individualism in the European Tradition
4. We’re Good People. The System Makes Sense.
5. The Birth of Modern Racism, Part One: Subpersons
6. The Birth of Modern Racism, Part Two: White is Right
7. Contracts Between Groups, Not Individuals
8. The Racial Contract, and Beyond
9. Introduction to a Couple of Individualistic Ideas
10. Race and the Myth of Meritocracy
11. Belief in a Just World and Race
12. Race And Individualism
If you want to read any or all of them, just motor over to the Nygaard Notes website and search for any of the titles you see here.
People who don’t know me very well sometimes ask me what I plan to write about next. People who know me well don’t usually ask, because they know that Nygaard Notes has a life of its own and I am typically as clueless as any reader as to what is coming up.
For the record, the core values motivating Nygaard Notes are Solidarity, Democracy, Compassion, and Justice. I have already begun the research for an issue of the Notes that will be focused on the idea of Solidarity and how to cultivate it. But, beyond that, I really don’t know what to expect in the new year. So I’ll close by reproducing the final paragraph of my birthday issue of this past September:
It is my belief that no one teaches another, and no one is self taught. As Nygaard Notes moves into its 20th year, you can rest assured that I will continue to feature thinking that is Explicit, Verbalized, Slow, and Deliberate. I won’t be “teaching” you anything. I’ll be inviting you to join with me as we attempt to travel a path of Liberation.
The Washington Post reported on January 23rd 2017 that “Days after being sworn in, President Trump insisted to congressional leaders invited to a reception at the White House that he would 0have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes.” This claim is so obviously false that it earned a place last week on FactCheck.org’s list of “The Whoppers of 2017.”
Nonetheless, reports the Associated Press, “Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in May to investigate his unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016.”
Nygaard Notes reported on this Commission in June, noting that one effect of having such a commission is to sow doubt in voters’ minds that United States elections are seriously lacking in “integrity.” That way, when Republicans lose an election, the thinking likely goes, they will have some pre-established credibility for the claim that the election was “rigged.”
So, what’s been going on since June? Well, the AP reported on September 12th that “The vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud [the infamous Kris Kobach] says there’s a ‘high possibility’ the panel will make no recommendations when it finishes its work.” What is its work, then, one wonders. And it’s hard to say. The Commission has met twice, but few know much about what the meetings produced, as there has been virtually no reporting on what may or may not have happened there.
In fact, the proceedings have been so low-profile that, as the Los Angeles Times reported on December 24th, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a member of the Commission, actually had to sue the Commission upon which he sits because he said he “was denied full access to internal information.”
And he won. The LA Times (and almost no one else) reported in its December 24th article that “a federal judge ruled the panel must give Dunlap access to relevant documents in order to allow him to fully participate in the commission’s work.” The Times quoted U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly saying that Dunlap “has a right to access documents that the commission is considering relying on in the course of developing its final recommendations.”
I’m not making this up.
So, what can you do with this knowledge? If and when you see ANY report on this commission or any other hearings or investigations of voter fraud, make a quick trip to the page on the website of the Brennan Center for Justice called “Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth.” Then email, post, tweet, call or write a letter to the editor saying that the jig is up, and that you know what the Brennan researcher know, which is that “putting rhetoric aside to look at the facts makes clear that fraud by voters at the polls is vanishingly rare, and does not happen on a scale even close to that necessary to ‘rig’ an election.”
As I pointed out last March, U.S. elections ARE rigged, but fraud is not the problem. The big problem is not people voting who should not be voting. The problem is people not voting who should vote. Voting rights, not voting fraud. Raise your voices on this issue.
Between the time the above essay was written and the time this edition was published (a long lag time due to technical difficulties with my email list), a major development was reported. On January 3rd, Donald Trump officially disbanded his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. This was reported as a victory for voting rights, and in the short run it is. But the reports point out that Trump is asking the Department of Homeland Security “to review its initial findings and determine next courses of action.”
Matthew Dunlap, a member of the Commission, notes that “Homeland security operates very much in the dark. Any chance of having this investigation done in a public forum is now lost, and I think people should be, frankly, frightened by that.” So, the struggle continues.