Our Most Important Thanksgiving Traditions #gobblegobblegobble 🦃💀

I’m a child of the 1980s, so most of my nostalgic holiday memories are TV-related. 🤷‍♀️

1. “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

THANKSGIVING TURKEY GIVEAWAY! (WKRP in Cincinnati) from Tony DeSanto on Vimeo.

(Yeah, I repost this every year, because I love this gag, and because watching this on TV—and rehashing it with my mom and sisters each year—is one of my fondest holiday memories. But it is, in my humble, a damn-near perfect gag. That’s saying something, because I find single-camera laugh-track situation comedies almost entirely unbearable to watch. If you wanna read more of my thoughts on this specific gag and what it can teach writers, you can do so here.)

2. “…your people will wear cardigans and drink highballs; we will sell our bracelets by the road sides…”

3. ♬♫♪ “Caught his eye on turkey day / As we both at Pumpkin Pie … ” ♬♫♪

4. “What do Jews do on Thanksgiving?”

(I wrote this essay a few years back; every word is both true and factual—which is a harder trick than you’d think.)

You’ll be 15 minutes into that Lesser Family Feast in Michigan when your mother-in-law will turn to you and ask:

“What do Jews do on Thanksgiving?”

You should be prepared for this sort of thing in Michigan. But even though I’m warning you in advance, you still won’t be prepared.…

(excerpt from IN MICHIGAN: A PRIMER, A TRAVELOGUE)

I hope your day is good and sweet.  Gobblegobble! 🦃💀

BURIED LEADE ALERT: Increasing the Minimum Wage by a Buck Can Prevent 1,600 Suicides

This all might be old news for you—especially the bit I shoved in the title, as I’m told that finding actually saw a fair bit of press earlier this month—but I found this all eye-opening:

The Finance 202: Mo’ money, fewer problems: Two new studies show 1 percenters are the most satisfied

Three key takeaways:

1. This single factoid on the impact of tiny wage increases on suicide rates is pretty stunning:

At the bottom of the income heap, relatively minor adjustments in pay can yield such a dramatic difference they register as public health benefits, according to the second study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health. That paper found “state-level increases of $1 in minimum wage corresponded with a 3.4 percent to 5.9 percent decrease in the suicide rates of people with a high school diploma or less” among 18- to 64-year-olds

Picking that rather tortuous second sentence apart is a little tricky. Americans 18- to 64-years-old account for something like 200,000,000 people. About half of them would probably fall in the “have a high school diploma or less” bucket. So, this group—less educated American adults of working age—amount to something like one-third of the country. But they make up something like 70% of our suicides. So, that’s a population that’s really hurting, to the tune of more than 30,000 suicides per year. If you reduce that by an average of a 4.7% (as the above mentioned study found), that translates to ~1,600 lives saved.

That’s good. I don’t think anyone reading this is going to say “Thousands of families kept whole? Fuck that, Dave: Let them choke on cake!”

But what’s the cost? I mean, maybe it costs some absurd amount to get this done, and there’s a legit question if it’s a good investment or not.

Minimum wage is still pretty insanely variable across the US, but it looks like the average US minimum wage worker earns $11.80 per hour (given how the population of working-age Americans is distributed). That being the case, a $1 raise amounts to an ~8.5% increase in payroll. If that’s entirely passed directly to consumers (with all else staying equal), you might end up paying as much as 25 cents more for a Starbucks coffee, or almost 70 cents more for a Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich at Panera.

That’s literally pocket change. It seems like a pretty frikkin easy way to save 1,600 lives each year. I say let’s do it.

2. Even 1%ers struggle with medical bills‽

“Among low-income households, for instance, nearly 40 percent said they had trouble paying their medical bills in the past several years and 30 percent reported having difficulty paying for food, Ingraham writes. “Among the top 1 percent, those shares were 5 percent and zero, respectively.”

I’m sorry, put we’re talking about the handful of families that have more than half the nation’s wealth—and even they can’t all cover their medical expenses? That right there is the single most persuasive argument I’ve ever heard for socialized medicine.

3. This all translates to a significant Democratic tailwind in the presidential election. Our economy is doing great—which historically gives an incumbent PotUS an easy win for reelection. But that great economy is only benefiting a small group of people in the upper reaches of the wealth curve. They’re happy and they vote—but they each get just one vote.

Meanwhile, huge swaths of Americans are “dissatisfied” (or much, much worse)—and don’t tend to vote. Get more of these less-likely voters to the polls, the Dem advantage increases (incidentally, as voter turnout increases, policies tend to get more progressive, too—BONUS!).

This all points to the one thing you can do if you want to see a Dem in the White House: Work to increase voter turnout. Get folks registered. Get them to the polls. Get them their absentee ballots.🇺🇸

I love that this was shot in Detroit…

…but hate that it’s yet another sci-fi film shot in the bizarro Detroit that’s mysteriously devoid of all Black people. WtF, dudes!  

Do you know how hard it is to find great Black actors for an SF movie in Detroit?  ZERO HARD! It’s a huge city, there are several solid acting programs at the various colleges and universities there, plus an additional 700,000 people.[*]

Also, not for nothing, but imagine how much more tightly on-theme this movie would have been if you highlighted race and consumption, rather than white-washing Detroit—THE BLACKEST CITY IN AMERICA:

[*] Yes, I saw that there were a couple Black ladies in the background of one shot. But, c’mon, dude, please. Incidentally, they weren’t even credited; i.e., they were probably just a pair of ladies that happened to be wandering around. 🙄

“We invade violent countries to make them peaceful” is the most American sentence I can imagine🇺🇸🔥

If you’re an American tax payer, then you owe it to ~3000 dead Americans, 20,000 wounded Americans, and more than 100,000 dead Afghans to read this whole thing:

AT WAR WITH THE TRUTH: U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it, an exclusive Post investigation found” by Craig Whitlock

This long piece is worth every second of your time—and deserves every moment of your attention. It’s full of gems: nauseous, heartbreaking facts, brief tales of uncertain moral.

“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich. We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic.We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”— James Dobbins, former U.S. diplomat

Also—and I’m not being flip here—but I sorta love that Rumsfield called his frequent memoranda “snowflakes.” Over the years, I’ve grown to realize that he may have been one of the most profoundly clear-eyed thinkers of the dawning of the American 21st C. Again, I’m not being sarcastic in any way here: The shit he said frequently sounded nuts, but it was and is perhaps the only clear and honest way to talk about Now.

Anyway, here’s a #fact you should know:

One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’ ”

The gusher of aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.

In public, U.S. officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But in the Lessons Learned interviews, they admitted the U.S. government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers — allies of Washington — plundered with impunity.

Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three U.S. generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 — and that U.S. officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.

“I like to use a cancer analogy,” Kolenda told government interviewers. “Petty corruption is like skin cancer; there are ways to deal with it and you’ll probably be just fine. Corruption within the ministries, higher level, is like colon cancer; it’s worse, but if you catch it in time, you’re probably ok. Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”

And here’s another:

“We stated that our goal is to establish a ‘flourishing market economy,’ ” said Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013. “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade — this is the only part of the market that’s working.” 

No single agency or country was in charge of the Afghan drug strategy for the entirety of the war, so the State Department, the DEA, the U.S. military, NATO allies and the Afghan government butted heads constantly.

The agencies and allies made things worse by embracing a dysfunctional muddle of programs, according to the interviews.

At first, Afghan poppy farmers were paid by the British to destroy their crops — which only encouraged them to grow more the next season. Later, the U.S. government eradicated poppy fields without compensation — which only infuriated farmers and encouraged them to side with the Taliban.

And here’s a picture. No trigger warning, because we should all look, regardless of how it makes us feel. Do you see the writing on his forehead? The duct tape on his shirt? These tell me that there is a tourniquet on his right leg. It was put on at 2:55 pm. I wonder if he kept that leg, if he survived at all.

Incidentally, here’s the previous winner for “Most American Sentence Dave Can Imagine”:

This is us, folks. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.

This short film isn’t really all that disturbing…

…unless you’ve ever had or been a child or parent.  In that case, whoadamn!!!

This is from Ari Aster, the writer/director of Hereditary and Midsommar—the latter of which I loved, although plausibly for different reasons than most.  To me, it wasn’t a revenge film at all.  There’s a crop of female-lead horror films surfacing (A Dark Song is another that leaps to mind) that are tremendous explorations of how one processes trauma.  Midsommar is mos def one of these, in my humble—and, in a deeply morally ambiguous way, sort of an optimistic film, when all is said and done.  Highly Recommended.

You Can Help Reduce the Hidden Costs of Being a Minority in America

UPDATE 2019-10-11: Yom Kippur was Wednesday, and a guy with homemade guns and bombs tried to kill a few dozen praying Jews in Germany. He was thwarted by his own poor craftsmanship and decent locked doors. I’d really like to know that Jewish congregations throughout America have good doors, good locks, and good trauma kits. All of this is expensive; a small trauma kit—one with supplies to slow the death of one or two gunshot victims—runs ~$50. It would be nice not to have to chose which of my friends, neighbors, or family members dies and which might live. YOU CAN HELP US BUY THESE THINGS.  Heck, here’s the shopping list for a minimal trauma kit.  Buy the parts yourself, and send it to the congregation of your choosing. Concerned they won’t know what to do with it? Have them contact me and I’ll walk them through how to use this trauma kit in an emergency.

It’s expensive to be in the minority: You need to take days off that aren’t excepted in the “secular” work calendar; you need to buy things (garments, food, etc.) for which there is lower demand (and thus are correspondingly more expensive to acquire); you need to spend time (often on a daily basis) explaining very simple things over and over and over again to often very well meaning people; you have to swallow your gall over a very large number of very small insults; you have to search around for food or facilities or services that are suitable for you, and don’t oblige you to debase yourself or become an unwilling spectacle (although both are frequently part of your life).

Muslims face this.  Immigrants face this.  Folks whose genders don’t match their sexes in the predominant fashion face this.

Right now, all over America, very small groups of Jews are scratching together very large sums of money in order to buy thicker doors, better locks, security cameras, and bullet-resistant glass.

I know that you don’t wish any of us harm.  And I know how awful it feels to not be able to do anything.

If you’re in the majority, then you never have to sit down in your pew and say “OK: The shooter will almost certainly come through those doors, so I need to clear people this direction.  We’ll designate Person X to sprint down to the childcare room and get the kids out through the fire exit…”

If you never attend religious services, then you aren’t shopping for trauma kits—and so maybe have some shekels to spare.

If you don’t need to be dedicated brain cycles to having a plan for keeping your friends and neighbors alive for the 5 to 7 minutes it takes the police to arrive, then you have bandwidth to spare for some other thoughts—and likely some of those are “How did we get here?  How the hell can we get back?

Me, I’ve got the High Holidays next week; I’m waiting for the supplies for my trauma kit to come in the mail.  I’m reviewing building schematics and Google satellite views and walking perimeters to figure how long it takes to get from a fire door to the tree line.

If you’re bummed about the surge in American anti-Semitism (and the corresponding new fad of shooting Jews in our houses of worship while we pray), there’s something concrete you can do:

Send money

This flyer is for my community, but you don’t have to send us money.  I absolutely guarantee that every Jewish Federation in every part of this country is running a similar drive.  We all are operating congregations and community centers in of old buildings with shoe-string budgets. Google the nearest major city to you and the word “JCC” (for “Jewish Community Center”).  You’ll either get the Jewish Federation for that region, the nearest Jewish Community Center in that town, or that town’s lone lil synagogue (example: I googled “jcc billings, MT” and found these cats Congregation Beth Aaron—who almost certainly need better doors).

Give them a call and say “I’d like to donate to help you increase safety and security in your community.”  Give an amount of money that’s a multiple of 18 (it’s sort of a lucky number; Jewish superstition associates 18 with life and longevity).

 half page ad_Jewish Federation

Listen to (or Read) My Story “Whatever Comes After Calcutta” on @PseudoPod

The Pseudopod team always does great work, but I’m especially thrilled with what the reader—Rish Outfield—has done here; the story has lots of voices, and he captures them all.  Such a treat. (For those less inclined to audio drama and more to old-fashioned reading, they have the full text of the story posted, too.)

PseudoPod 649: “Whatever Comes After Calcutta

And here’s a YouTube video of the audio, if that’s your jam:

Enjoy!

Happy Treat Yourself Wednesday!💸

Not for nothing, but I’m not a huge fan of Black Friday/Small-biz Saturday/Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday/etc.  Yeah, there’s power in focusing our economic force on these specific days (obviously)—but also, there’s power in you just spending money on what you want when you want it.

Anyway, I love the denim from these cats in California, Brave Star.  The cuts work for my particular body, the construction is quality, and the materials a delight (more of my thoughts on Brave Star—who, incidentally, are still using some of the final bolts of historic Cone Mills denim I mention in the post at that link).

If you wanna give them a whirl, you can save $10 on dope-ass, sanely priced, all-American-made denim with that link. (DISCLOSURE: If you use that link and coupon code you save $10 and I get a $10 credit.  FURTHER DISCLOSURE: These are basically the only pants I wear anymore. I’m wearing a pair of indigo x brown Cone Mills selvedge Slim Straights right now, although my favorite are the various blacks. They are all good jeans.)

Joyner Lucas’s “I’m Not Racist” — a perfect musical example of the 45/45/10 Formula

The 45/45/10 Formula for narrative/argument is one of the perpetual bees bumbling around my bonnet.  This video for this song is such a stone cold perfect example (and, subsequently, so rhetorically devastating) that I just had to share.  PRO-TIP: The first two-and-a-half minutes will likely be almost unbearable to watch for most white Americans.  If it helps, know that Joyner Lucas (the musician and the voice you hear throughout the song) is black (although not the black guy in the video).

At any rate, to review my 45/45/10 Formula:

  • The first 45% of a piece is the Setup: Characters/concepts/situations/dynamics are presented and relationships among these made clear
  • The next 45% is the Tangle: Complication(s) disrupt (or at least complicate) the situation laid out in the Setup
  • The last 10% is the Resolution: The knot is Untangled, for better or worse

In the case of this track, the Setup runs from the open to ~2:50. The Tangle then runs to ~5:50, and from that point to the cut to black is the Resolution. What especially thrills me here—beyond the hard body impact of the rhetoric itself and the lean power of the videography—is how shifts in the music mark out the transitions between stages in the argument: Each section break is marked out be an abrupt shift in the tone and mood of the backing track.

This is a wonderful primer on how to structure an narrative argument to hold an audience and not persuade them, per se—because that’s not the goal—but rather to enduringly stick in their craw, so they keep troubling over your argument long after they’re done with the piece of entertainment.  This is how you write moral fiction.  This is how you plant the seeds that grow the trees that, indefatigably and seemingly effortlessly, bend the arc of that moral universe back toward justice.

And that, kids, is our business.  Go, watch … and learn.

Contact Your Reps: The PotUS Needs to Stop Sanctioning Bigotry🇺🇸🔥

Here’s the email I sent my reps last night.  Maybe you wanna tell your reps something similar.  It’s been more than a year, and the President is no better at this than he was before he was sworn in. Maybe Congress needs to try something different—’cause all the nothing they’ve done thus far hasn’t had the intended effect (*grumbles* lousy beatniks).

SUBJECT: The PotUS sanctions bigotry, assists persecution

Dear [NAME TK],

I was truly and deeply dismayed this morning to read the President’s remarks on the recent NFL decision to fine players who kneel during the National Anthem.  Specifically:

“You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

Just to be clear, I don’t particularly care for football, nor for labor practices within the NFL.  If that employer wants to set a weird (to me) rule about how to comport oneself during pre-game musical performances, then that’s for those employers, their employees, those employees’ union, and the courts to sort out.

I’m not even that concerned to hear a President so blithely unaware of existing First Amendment precedent; sure, I learned about cases like West VA State Board of Ed v. Barnette in middle school, but not everyone benefited from my fine education, and not every President can be a noted Constitutional scholar.

But I’m extremely concerned when I hear a sitting U.S. President breezily opine that a group of people who believe differently than he “shouldn’t be in the country.”  I grew up in a community with a very small number of Jehovah’s Witnesses—folks who, for religious reasons, do not pledge allegiance or stand for the National Anthem.  As a Jew, I did not share their beliefs—but I was taught, by my family, my faith leaders, and my teachers, that their beliefs were worthy of my respect.  More to the point, I was taught that their beliefs were due equal protection under the law—just like mine.

President Washington promised us a government “which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  President Trump, meanwhile, sanctions bigotry and assists persecution—with these words, and with countless other utterances and decrees, tweets and executive orders.  In the decade before Trump my local Jewish Community Center received zero threats. Within 18 months of his nomination, we’d had two.  We hadn’t had run-ins with white supremacists here since the mid-1990s.  Last year our skatepark was festooned with dozens of swastikas and emblazoned with “JEWS DIE” and “WHITE WOMEN NO NIGGERS OR JEWS.”

Violent crime in general is trending down in the U.S., but hate crimes continue to climb—and speaking out against any element of that rising tide of hate and bias seems to run the risk of having a target painted on your back by a big bully, who we inexplicably permit to continue to bludgeon private citizens from his bully pulpit, uncensured.

What the hell are we supposed to do to feel safe?

Sincerely,

David Erik Nelson

SOURCES:

(This "America golem" is Nazi propaganda from WWII, but remarkably apt these days.)
(This “America golem” is Nazi propaganda from WWII, but remarkably apt these days.)