6.8.20

Canon Takes Down image.canon After Photos and Videos Go Missing


Canon’s new ‘Camera Cloud Platform’ image.canon hasn’t been up very long, but it’s already experienced its first critical failure. The site has been taken down pending an investigation after “some original photo and video files” that were marked for long term storage were “lost.”

First announced in February, image.canon is billed as a “camera cloud platform” that allows Canon shooters to sync their image library across devices and store some files in the cloud long term. It has/had three main features:

Automatic Image Uploading – Beginning with the EOS R5 and R6, future Canon cameras will be able to automatically upload full-quality stills and videos to the platform when connected to WiFi. Full res files will be saved for 30 days, after which you’ll still be able to access a 2048px thumbnail.
10GB of Long Term Storage – You can select up to 10GB of photos and videos to store longer than 30 days.

Social Media Connectivity – You’ll be able to easily post photos from the image.canon mobile app to “select” social networks and YouTube.



The idea has received a lot of positive attention online; however, on July 30th, the site went down without notice. Users were greeted by a cryptic message that read, simply: This service is currently not available. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you.

Four days later, Canon has finally posted an explanation.

In a notice posted to what used to be the image.canon homepage, the company says that an issue with the 10GB long-term storage feature led to the loss of some photo and video files, and the site has been taken down indefinitely pending further investigation into the problem:

“On the 30th of July, we identified an issue within the 10GB long term storage on image.canon. Some of the original photo and video data files have been lost. We have confirmed that the still image thumbnails of the affected files have not been affected,” reads the statement. “In order to conduct further review, we have temporarily suspended both the mobile app and web browser service of image.canon.”

Based on the statement, it’s unclear whether these lost photos and videos affected every single user file marked for “long term storage” or if the problem was limited to a smaller number of photographers. We’ve reached out to Canon USA for comment, and will update this post if and when we hear back.

In the meantime, Canon wants to assure users that no files were “leaked,” and info about when image.canon will be live again should be posted “soon.”

Update today 6/8/20: image.canon is back up and running as of this morning. The company claims that the issue that resulted in the loss of photo and video files from long term storage has been fixed, but there are still some errors cropping up if you try to download the thumbnails of those lost images.

For more details, visit the image.canon homepage.

5.8.20

TTArtisan Unveils a Gold-Plated 35mm f/1.4 Lens for Leica Aficionados


Chinese lens brands aren’t generally associated with the idea of luxury, but TTArtisan looks to be trying to change that. 

The company just unveiled a new limited edition 35mm f/1.4 lens for Leica M rangefinders that’s covered in 24K gold.






The full-frame manual-focus lens features a 10-blade aperture, 8 elements in 7 groups, a minimum focusing distance of 2.3 feet (0.7m), a filter size of 49mm, and a weight of 425g.



Buyers of the lens can have a custom image engraved onto the lens cap (included in the purchase price).




Only 200 of the gold-plated lenses will be produced, and it’s available now for $1,149 on Amazon. Just for reference, the standard black version of this lens can be had for $449, so you’ll be paying a $700 premium for the gold coat and custom engraving.

3.8.20

This week marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima

A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb. Survivors wonder why they lived when so many others died.
Nuclear Remembrance days: 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings.

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the detonation of nuclear bombs during World War II in Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9). There will be official commemoration ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki organised by these cities, was well as actions and events organised by civil society in Japan and around the world.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the official ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be invite only (to restrict numbers and allow for physical distancing) but can be watched live online. A number of other commemoration events will be run online as video conferences or live-streamed events.

See below for information on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki ceremonies plus other key international commemoration events. For more detailed information see Nuclear Remembrance and Action Week Aug 1-9 2020, which includes international events and suggested nuclear disarmamament actions to commemorate the 75th anniversaries of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Hiroshima and Nagasaki ceremonies

The official Hiroshima commemoration ceremony will take place on Thursday August 6 from 8:00am-8:50am Japan time. Click here for information on how to watch the ceremony on livestream. The UN Secretary-General is expected to either attend the event or provide a video message if pandemic conditions prevent his attendance. For more information see Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony and Notice regarding Hiroshima Memorial 2020 ceremony procedures in light of COVID-19 pandemic. The official Nagasaki commemoration ceremony will take place on Sunday August 9 from 11am-12pm Japan time. Click here to watch the ceremony on livestream. For more information see Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremony


Peace Wave

From August 6 at 8:15am, the time that the nuclear bomb was detonated over Hiroshima, until August 9 at 11:02am, the time the nuclear bomb was detonated over Nagasaki, peace activists around the world will undertake individual and/or group actions as part of a ‘Peace Wave’. You can join the peace wave by undertaking your own small, creative, social media action from home or interesting location, or joining an action in your community. For more information and to register your action, please visit Peace Wave 2020.

International Fast

Every year since 1984, a small group of peace campaigners from France and Germany have fasted from August 6 until 9 in commemoration of the nuclear bombings and to call for the global abolition of nuclear weapons. In recent years, they have been joined by fasters in the Ivory Coast, New Zealand, UK and USA. This year, in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic and its devastating consequences, the fast will also highlight the many millions around the world threatened by malnutrition or famine, while governments continue to spend $100 billion per year on nuclear weapons and $1.9 trillion per year on weapons and war. Participants in the Fast will donate the money they would on food during that time to organizations or charities helping to feed the destitute. You are invited to join the fast. Contact Dominique Lalanne (France) or Marc Morgan (UK).

2020 World Conference against A and H Bombs

Every year Gensuikyo (the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs) holds a world conference against A and H Bombs in Japan in conjunction with the commemorations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days. The theme for the conference this year is “With the Hibakusha, Let Us Achieve a Nuclear Weapon-free, Peaceful and Just World – for the Future of the Humankind and Our Planet” Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 world conference will be held by a series of webinar sessions from August 2 until August 9. There will be three main sessions (2 hours each) on August 2, 6 and 9, plus some additional special sessions. For more information including the draft program see 2020 World Conference on A and H Bombs.

Youth Peace Week and UN International Youth Day

Youth Peace Week is from August 3rd to 9th 2020. Originally established in New Zealand as Schools Peace Week with the support of the New Zealand government, the week spread to other countries. This year it has been broadened to Youth Peace Week as it only suits schools in the Southern Hemisphere (schools in the North are mostly on summer break). The theme this year is Celebrating Diversity. For more information and to register your youth action, see Youth Peace Week, visit the Youth Peace Week facebook page or contact the Youth Peace Week coordinator. Abolition 2000 also encourages those commemorating UN International Youth Day on August 12, to ensure that peace and nuclear disarmament are included as themes to your action or event.

Ribbon 2020 – Tangible hope for No nuclear war

The Ribbon International was founded as an artistic event to commemorate the Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries. On August 4, 1985, fifteen miles of Ribbons encircled the Pentagon and other important monuments: With the message of “What I cannot bear to think of as lost forever in a nuclear war”. The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima was also encircled. Various other Ribbon events have taken place since then. On August 1st 2020 at 10:00 am (EDT), The Ribbon International will hold a Ribbon 2020 memorial event by Zoom. You are invited to join the event with your friends/family. Hold your Ribbon in front of the Zoom screen, and pray for a nuclear free world. For details see The Ribbon International 2020 event, or contact The Ribbon International

Other events and event Calendars

The above, and other international events are listed on the Abolition 2000 events calendar. National and local events are listed on the FCNL Nuclear Calendar, World Beyond War events calendar and Hiroshima Nagasaki 75 events page (USA), Terminkalender (Germany) and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Events (UK). We encourage you to check these calendars.

2.8.20

James Baldwin’s faith in America

James Baldwin - photo by Sophie Bassouls/Sygma
Eddie Glaude Jr. on why Baldwin thought the idea of white America was irredeemable — but the country wasn’t.

If I could bring back from the dead any American writer and ask them to describe the country they see today, it would be James Baldwin, the great 20th-century essayist and novelist.

I don’t know what the Black experience is like in America, but I can say that no writer made it as visceral or vivid for me as Baldwin. He had a rare combination of raw literary talent and intellectual honesty that made him uniquely equipped to communicate an alien reality to someone like me, a white kid growing up in the South.

As it happens, Baldwin, who would have turned 96 this Sunday, has been in the news these past few years. The writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has invoked him as a model; he was the subject of a widely praised 2017 documentary; and his novel If Beale Street Could Talk was adapted into a feature film in 2018.

Obviously, no one is raising Baldwin from the dead, but we now have maybe the next best thing: a book about Baldwin from Princeton African American studies professor Eddie Glaude Jr. It’s called Being Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own and the book is part memoir, part biography, and part political essay. It’s Glaude’s attempt to process what’s happening right now through Baldwin’s eyes.

I reached out to Glaude to talk about Baldwin’s conception of America and how it can speak to this moment. This is a long and honest discussion about the contradictions of the American project and why racial progress is both real and illusory at the same time. It is also, I hope, a clarifying exchange on the moral dilemmas at the heart of this challenge. There are no easy answers in any of this, but, in a strange way, the unanswerability of the questions is a reminder that we’re all figuring out how to navigate this moment together.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing
What was Baldwin’s greatest insight into this country? What did he see more clearly than anyone else?

Eddie Glaude Jr.
I’ve never been asked that question before. The easy answer is that he saw that America was constantly telling itself lies. It refused to look itself squarely in the face. In some ways, America had refused to face its fears, refused to look at its own self-conception.


Baldwin said that Black people are the rejected sons and daughters of America. He put it this way once, and I’m paraphrasing here: There’s a level of barbarity and psychological fracture when you’re selling your own child. You know that’s your child on the auction block. For Baldwin, that takes us to a deep level of neurosis, of psychosis at the heart of the country that requires exploring. So I think his insight was in recognizing this psychological wound that’s at the heart of the American project.

Sean Illing
What were the lies he thought America kept telling itself?

Eddie Glaude Jr.
In 1964, Baldwin wrote an essay entitled “The White Problem.” He has this formulation that says, “The people who settled the country had a fatal flaw. They could recognize a man when they saw one. They knew he wasn’t anything else but a man, but since they were Christian and since they had already decided that they came here to establish a free country, the only way to justify the role this chattel was playing in one’s life was to say that he was not a man. But if he wasn’t, then no crime had been committed. That lie is the basis of our present trouble.”

So this idea of dehumanization is at the heart of this capitalist enterprise called slavery. Then built around it is this elaborate discourse that accounts for my intelligence, my passions, and my capabilities. And then we tell stories about what we have done not only to these people but to other people around the world that protect our innocence. Then we distort anything that threatens to reveal the lie of our innocence.

So this is at the heart of this self-conception of the United States as the redeeming nation.

“PEOPLE ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT TAKING DOWN MONUMENTS, BUT OUR ENTIRE BUILT ENVIRONMENT IS A MONUMENT TO A DEEPER RACIAL IDEOLOGY”
Sean Illing

There’s so much going on there and we’ll get to it, but I want to weave in what you think as we work through what Baldwin thought. So let me ask you this: When you look at this moment we’re in, and I mean the whole damn thing — the pandemic, the racial reckoning, the economic crisis — what stands out to you the most? What’s the unifying thread tying all of this unrest together?
Eddie Glaude Jr.

The country is broken. It’s built on a bankrupt ideology. There’s a reason why we’re not responding to the pandemic in a certain sort of way, because we’ve lived for over 40 to 50 years with an ideology that has said that big government is bad, that any sane intervention in the economy is an intrusion on our liberty. So that’s the first thing.

Ever since 9/11, there’s only been a certain portion of the country bearing the sacrifice for what we’ve experienced, for the forever wars. All of us aren’t asked to sacrifice. Even when it comes to wearing a mask, we’re too selfish. We invoke liberty as a defense instead of acting responsibly on behalf of one’s fellows. It’s a broken culture and a broken ideology.
Sean Illing

When Trump started campaigning in 2015, my biggest worry is that he would uncork resentments that had been festering beneath the surface for decades. On the one hand, maybe it’s necessary to bring these deep problems into the light in order to deal with them; on the other hand, it feels like the norms and constraints holding this experiment together have cracked apart.

I’m curious how you think about this paradox.
Eddie Glaude Jr.

First off, I think that’s absolutely right. The post-civil rights consensus has been broken, just like the post-World War II consensus about global governance has been broken. Part of what the post-civil rights consensus entailed was that you could racially dog-whistle. You could mobilize racial resentments for political ends, but you couldn’t do it in such a way that would spark full-blown racial wars. The cultural wars involved, in part, appealing to these resentments.

[This has been] the undertow of American politics, from Reagan’s run in ’80 to George H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton ads and right on down the line. Race has been mobilizing white resentments for a long while. Trump has put aside the dog whistle and grabbed a foghorn. So he appeals to them explicitly, and he’s brought those people who were initially banished to the margins of our body politic into the center of politics.


Sean Illing
Baldwin fell into despair, especially after MLK’s assassination, but he never completely lost faith in his home country, right? He still believed a moment of true freedom was possible, what he called the New Jerusalem.


Eddie Glaude Jr.
Yeah, but I don’t think he was ever optimistic. He might’ve been hopeful, but not optimistic. But even that hope was blue-soaked. He was never naive about the capacities of white folk in this country. Jimmy makes a crucial distinction between white people and people who happen to be white.
Sean Illing

What’s the difference?

Eddie Glaude Jr.
A white person is someone who’s invested in the value gap and is fine with how advantage and disadvantage is distributed along those lines. So a world that values white people more than others is a world that invests in that particular identity and the way in which the world is organized and arranged.

Someone who happens to be white is someone who is not invested in that, but understands how the language of whiteness comes to them as natural as the love of their mother.

This is what the writer Wendell Berry talks about in The Hidden Wound. He’s Kentucky-born. He knows that racism comes to him like language. But just the fact that he knows it and that he’s engaged in the ongoing work of trying to deconstruct it and deconstruct the world that has been organized in light of it says that he’s that dude. So the difference is whether you’re someone who’s invested in an identity of whiteness or someone who understands the dynamics of that identity and is trying to build a more just world in spite of it.

Sean Illing
Baldwin eventually concluded, for reasons you just hinted at, that “white Americans had to save themselves.” What did he mean by that?

Eddie Glaude Jr.
Baldwin’s revolutionary inversion is to flip the white man’s burden. The white man’s burden becomes the Black man’s burden. That’s when he says, “I’m not the N-word. Never have been.” The question is, why did you need to invent the N-word? Once you understand why, then maybe we can get off this damn hamster wheel. He didn’t say it that way, but you get what I mean. The point is that, “I’m not the N-word. You invented the N-word. We need to figure out why you invented the N-word. Until we do that, I’m going to give that N-word back to you. You must be the N-word.” That’s the revolutionary move.

In the early stages, the second move was to say, “Well, since that’s the case, we got to help them understand themselves differently. We have to love them into viewing themselves otherwise,” because otherwise we bear the brunt of this way of understanding themselves. But by the time MLK is assassinated, that feeling is gone.

Then the question is, we only have a finite amount of civic energy, so do we use that energy trying to convince people who hold noxious views about race not to hold them? Or do we spend our energy trying to build a world where those views have no quarter to breathe? It’s the latter that I think he’s invested in. We can still build a New Jerusalem. We can still do the work of trying to build a more just world. But that’s not going to involve me having to compromise with these folk, and I don’t want to do that anymore. Because every time we compromise, somebody, namely us, we have to bear the brunt of the compromise.
Sean Illing

The move you make in the book, and the move Baldwin eventually makes, is that there’s an idea of America defined by whiteness that simply isn’t salvageable and we’ve got to get clear about that before we can do anything else.
Eddie Glaude Jr.

Yes! I say that the idea of white America is irredeemable, but that doesn’t mean that we are. There’s nothing about the idea of an America that is defined by whiteness that we can salvage.

In the book, I’m trying to sever this idea of American identity from this idea of whiteness. Because they’re so intrinsically linked, when we tell the truth about the country, people think everything is going to collapse — that we’re no longer distinctive in some sort of way if we don’t tell the story in the way in which we’ve told it. I think Jimmy is trying to insist that by confronting our ghastly failures, we can be otherwise. There’s this wonderful line he said in 1962: “We are in deeper trouble than we think: The trouble is in us.”

The author James Baldwin smiles while addressing the crowd from the speaker’s platform, after participating in the march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights, Alabama, March 1965. Robert Abbott Sengstacke

Sean Illing
There’s a tension I struggle with and I want to be honest about it here. I’ll do it by reading something you wrote in the book: “I hoped one day white people here would finally leave behind the belief that they mattered more. But what do you do when this glimmer of hope fades, and you are left with the belief that white people will never change — that the country, no matter what we do, will remain basically the same?”

Do you really think the country has remained the same?

Eddie Glaude Jr.
It all depends on what we mean by that. The throughline of American history is the value gap. So what does it mean to believe that white people matter more than others in the context of slavery? It’s very different than what it would mean in the context of Jim Crow, which is very different from what it would mean in the context of the industrialized cities, or in context of the first Black president. In each instance, there’s going to be an element of progress, but if that valuation evidences itself in dispositions and practices, then it’s still a throughline. Until we uproot it and the habits it produces, we’re basically the same.
Sean Illing

That helps clarify my own thinking on this. The simple way to talk about this is to say that the arc of this country is clearly moving, however unevenly and awkwardly, in the direction of progress. But the deeper question you’re posing is, are our underlying values changing in any fundamental way, or are the manifestations of those values just taking on new — and undoubtedly better — forms? And if we don’t uproot the value structure, the thing that brings this ugliness into being remains untouched.
Eddie Glaude Jr.

That’s exactly right. This is what I mean when I say our progress is still laced with lies. Because we’re not getting to the core. We’re not getting to the heart of the problem. So in these moments, like we’re in now, they want us to tinker around the edges and not get to the heart of the problem. I keep saying over and over again we have to figure out how to be together differently. We can’t be mysteries anymore to each other. We can’t live like this.

People are complaining about taking down monuments, but our entire built environment is a monument to a deeper racial ideology. The highway systems in Chicago and New York are monuments to a particular racial ideology. So I think you’re absolutely right. This is why Jimmy always understood the problem to be a moral one. This is why he understood the justification for Black power. He fully understood that the problem at the heart of all of this is rooted in valuation and the dispositions that follow from them.

“I SAY THAT THE IDEA OF WHITE AMERICA IS IRREDEEMABLE, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT WE ARE”

Sean Illing
Part of the frustration with these conversations, not ours but these conversations more generally, is that they often get bogged down in this false choice between acknowledging the obvious progress and considering the problem solved or recognizing those victories without turning away from the root of the problem.

Eddie Glaude Jr.
A lot of folks view racial justice and racial equality as a philanthropic enterprise. It’s something that they can give to us. It almost reveals that at the heart of their conception of racial justice is charity, as opposed to justice. So part of what we have to do is to understand that frame as part of the problem. Racial justice is not something that you give to other people. It’s instantiated in the social arrangements, the way in which we imagine standing in right relation with one another. It’s a world defined by non-domination.

So people often ask me, “What else can I do? How can I help?” Commit yourself to building a more just world. Let’s do that. Once we get past the philanthropic model, we need to start getting at the heart of the matter. I had to watch my son deal with this. My dad had to watch me deal with this. His dad had to watch him deal with this. His dad had to teach him how to deal with this. People are saying it’s all better, but I can go back generations and see Black people witnessing this public ritual of Black grief and suffering. Somebody had to bury their child because of what? “Oh, look how far we’ve come!”


So part of our challenge is not to fall into the trap of this American insistence on gratitude and congratulations.

Sean Illing
Baldwin believed that telling the truth about ourselves — really telling the truth — could release us from our past and make space for a new story about who and what we are as a country. What did he think that story would look like? Did he even get that far? Did you get that far?

Eddie Glaude Jr.
There’s a line that he wrote when he resigned from the editorial board of Liberator. [Liberator was an American socialist magazine that ran from 1918 to 1924.] It’s a line that almost moves me to tears every time I say it. He wrote, “I want us to do something unprecedented, and that is to be able to create a self without the need for enemies.” Right? “To create a self without the need for enemies.” What would a world look like with that as its cornerstone?

Sean Illing
I’ve never seen it.

Eddie Glaude Jr.
Exactly. But that’s Baldwin’s idea of a New Jerusalem. Where we try to stand in right relation with one another, where we can see each other. Not in the name of some sentimental humanism that says we’re all the same. No, that’s not what he’s saying. Because we all got this funkiness in us. It’s the dark cellar of who we are. But that’s actually the bridge. Our suffering is the bridge. But how do we see each other so that we can be together for real? That to me is the ground for the world that I would love to inhabit. What it would look like in its details? I’m not sure. We would have to build it first.

Sean Illing
You say that we’ll have to decide, once and for all, whether we will truly be a multiracial democracy. Do you believe, in your heart of hearts, that we will answer in the affirmative?

Eddie Glaude Jr.
Not really, to be honest. Our history tells me that we won’t do very well. In the moments that we’ve had something of this magnitude in front of us, we’ve taken steps forward while still doubling down on the value gap. The cornerstone of America’s carceral state is the same old value gap, and it’s just hard to imagine a true public infrastructure of care in this country. After all, we just doubled down on ugliness.

So our past doesn’t fill me with optimism, and it didn’t fill Baldwin with optimism either. But I also believe this: Wherever human beings are, we have a chance. Because we’re not just simply disasters — we’re also miracles.

Sean Illing
But if this project we’re all involved in is truly Sisyphean, if we’re just going to keep rolling the boulder of equality up the hill only to watch it tumble back down to the ground, what’s the point?

Eddie Glaude Jr.
We have to conclude that the end is not the issue. What’s at the heart of this is not the end but the process. The struggle itself becomes the source of meaning.

Sean Illing
That’s very existentialist.

Eddie Glaude Jr.
Exactly, but it’s true. It’s the beautiful struggle, right? When there’s no guarantee of the outcome, the fight itself becomes the motivation. But wherever human beings are, we have a chance. Things are fucked up, we all know it, but as Samuel Beckett said, “Fail, fail again, fail better.”

Sean Illing

1.8.20

Biden’s Big-Tent Strategy Seems to Be Working

Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign has successfully navigated at least three significant political challenges

Earlier this week, there was a telling moment when Joe Biden spoke in Wilmington, Delaware, about the need to combat systemic racism and foster racial equality in the American economy. His speech was the latest in a series of public appearances in which the Presidential candidate has rolled out his Build Back Better economic agenda; earlier discussions were devoted to strengthening American manufacturing, addressing climate change, and building up the caring economy. “This election is not just about voting against Donald Trump,” Biden said. “It’s about rising to this moment of crisis, understanding people’s struggles, and building a future worthy of their courage and their ambition to overcome.”

The giveaway was the phrase “not just about.” Since capturing the Democratic nomination, Biden has repeatedly acknowledged, implicitly and explicitly, that, for many Americans, the 2020 election is mainly about getting rid of his opponent. This dynamic was clear during the primaries, when a majority of Democrats told pollsters that their top priority was selecting someone who could defeat Trump. It’s evident today in the endorsements that the former Vice-President has picked up, from groups ranging from the Lincoln Project, an organization of Never Trump Republicans that is running ads attacking the President and supporting Biden, to Indivisible, a group of progressive activists whose home page blares, “beat trump and save democracy.”

To the members of these groups, and to many other Americans, Biden’s role is to serve as a human lever to pry a disastrous President out of the White House. Defying the concerns of some political professionals who watched his primary campaign, the former Vice-President is shaping up to be an effective crowbar. Since wrapping up the nomination, in March, he and his campaign team have successfully navigated at least three significant political challenges.


The first was uniting the Democratic Party after a chaotic primary season. To this end, Biden has reached out to the Party’s progressive wing and tacked to the left in some of his own policy proposals. He created a Unity Task Force—including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other supporters of Bernie Sanders—that released a lengthy set of recommendations earlier this month. Biden now supports Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan, which would make it easier for financially strapped people to discharge their debts. He has put forward a proposal to insure free tuition for many students at public colleges, modelled on an earlier Sanders plan. His climate-change strategy sets a target of 2035 for the creation of a zero-emissions power grid, which is just five years later than the deadline laid out in the Green New Deal. Some Sanders supporters are still scornful of Biden, but there has been no repeat of the internecine conflict that occurred in 2016.

The second task facing Biden was to fashion a coherent response to the tumultuous events of 2020. That’s where his Build Back Better plan comes in. The members of his policy team have worked on the assumption that the coronavirus-stricken economy will need substantial financial support for years. They think that this presents an opportunity to make it greener, more worker-friendly, and more racially inclusive. Biden’s proposals include spending two trillion dollars on projects to move beyond fossil fuels; seven hundred and seventy-five billion dollars on expanding care for preschoolers and the elderly; and a hundred and fifty billion dollars on supporting small, minority-owned businesses. He’s also promised to insure that forty per cent of the investment in green-energy infrastructure benefits disadvantaged communities, to expand rent subsidies for low-income households, to facilitate labor-union organizing, and to introduce a national minimum wage of fifteen dollars per hour.

Many progressive policy experts still think that Biden’s proposals don’t go far enough, but some of them are also issuing qualified praise. “When you look at all four elements of his economic platform, I think some of them have been very good—the climate plan in particular,” Felicia Wong, the president of the Roosevelt Institute, told me. Wong also said that the speech Biden gave this week about the economy, race, and the coronavirus was an effective one. “He recognized that people of color suffer the most in economic downturns, and also bounce back last,” she said. “It’s hard for a lot of people to make the race and economic arguments together, and he laid it out eloquently.”

The third challenge that Biden faced was to avoid giving Trump an easy target. The pandemic has made the dodging part easier. Hunkered down in Wilmington, Biden largely has left the President to dig his own hole—which he has done, ably. But Biden has also reached out to Trump Country. The first of his Build Back Better speeches was delivered in Rust Belt Pennsylvania: it included calls to restore American manufacturing and “buy American.” As well as adopting some of the language of economic nationalism, Biden has rejected certain progressive proposals, such as defunding the police and enforcing a complete ban on fracking, that might alienate moderate whites in battleground states.

This is smart politics, Ruy Teixeira, a polling expert and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told me. Despite the changing demographics of the United States, whites who don’t have a college degree still make up about forty-four per cent of the eligible electorate, according to Teixeira; in some places, such as parts of the Midwest, the figure is even higher. “You cannot cede massive sections of the electorate if you want to be successful politically,” Teixeira said.

In 2016, Trump carried the white non-college demographic by thirty-one percentage points at the national level, according to Teixeira’s analysis of exit polls and election returns. Biden has narrowed the gap to twelve points, Teixeira said, citing a recent survey. That is similar to the margin in 2008, when Barack Obama defeated John McCain and the Democrats increased their majorities in both houses of Congress. As it is often defined, the Obama coalition consisted of minority voters, college-educated white liberals, and young people. Teixeira pointed out that Obama’s ability to restrict McCain’s margin in the white non-college demographic was also important, and if Biden matched that feat in November, he said, it could be of enormous consequence. “This is not the only thing that is going wrong for Trump,” Teixeira said, “but it is the thing that could give the Democrats the big victory that they need to govern effectively.”

None of this means that Biden is a lock for the Oval Office. Between now and November 3rd, something could conceivably shift the momentum against him, such as a Vice-Presidential pick that backfires, a major slipup in the debates, or a surprising economic upturn. Right now, though, the challenger’s strategy of keeping the focus on the incumbent and pitching a broad tent that accommodates anyone who wants to see the back of Trump is working well.

John Cassidy

31.7.20

Obama’s John Lewis Eulogy Is a Blueprint for the Next Fight for Democracy


Thursday morning, the sitting president used his Twitter feed to issue one of his periodic, and to date most serious, threats against American democracy. Hours later, the previous president used a eulogy for John Lewis to deliver a forceful rebuttal.

Obama has a view of American history as a long fight, punctuated by setbacks and struggle, to bring reality into alignment with the country’s founding ideals. Five years ago, in a speech at the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the March on Selma, Obama unspooled the most complete version of this analysis. Crucially, Obama’s speech placed the struggle for black equality — the struggle for which Lewis is most famous — at the center of the American story. (This is of course the precise opposite of Trump’s view of politics as a struggle to restore lost greatness.)

In his eulogy, Obama developed that idea further. Someday, when the struggle for equality has been completed, he said, “John Lewis will be a Founding Father of that fuller, fairer, better America.”

Rather than confine himself to abstractions, Obama connected Lewis’s work to specific ongoing democratic conflict. The troops who beat peaceful civil-rights protesters in places like Selma live on in Trump’s attack on peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters at Lafayette Square. And the legacy of voting restrictions continues in the modern Republican campaign to make voting as burdensome as possible for minorities and young people by erecting bureaucratic hurdles, closing polling stations, and limiting voting by mail in a pandemic.

The most important element of Obama’s speech was his proposal for a new law to honor and continue Lewis’s legacy. The new John Lewis Voting Rights Act Obama laid out would not merely restore the guardrails of the Voting Rights Act that had been gutted by a Republican Supreme Court. It would include automatic voter registration, voting rights for ex-felons, more voting stations and early voting, making Election Day a national holiday, an end to partisan gerrymandering, statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Even if Democrats win the presidency and the Senate, though, none of these proposals could overcome a Republican filibuster. Obama’s most important suggestion was to eliminate the filibuster.

The filibuster is not only undemocratic but also the most important obstacle to progressive reform in the next Democratic administration. No Democratic administration will be able to do much with a 60-vote supermajority requirement. The filibuster used to be a rarely used tool of unusually strong dissent, generally reserved for blocking civil-rights laws (which is why Obama called it a “relic of Jim Crow.”) Old bull Democratic senators who have grown up in the institution have grown accustomed to it, even as it has been distorted into something that allows lifetime judicial appointments and tax cuts but blocks effective lawmaking. If it didn’t exist, nobody would think to invent it.

Obama is using his authority to tell Democrats to use their power, should they attain it, not only to save American democracy as it exists, but to extend it.

Jonathan Chait