Charlottesville: One battle in a war for America’s very soul

Confederate Monuments Protest

White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va. (Credit: AP/Steve Helber)

I’ve been going to Charlottesville, Virginia to visit relatives and the home of my ancestors since I was four years old. Practically every summer we used to visit my great-grandmother, Mary Walker Randolph, a great-great-granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson, who lived there in a little house they called Wild Acres with her daughters Agnes and Mary Walker, who we called Aunt Aggie and Miss Moo, my great aunts and third great-granddaughters of Jefferson. My great-uncles Hollins and Tom Randolph lived nearby, and so did my great-aunt Carolina. All of them and my grandmother Sara Randolph Truscott were born at Edgehill, a former plantation a couple of miles from Monticello that had been owned by their great-grandmother, Martha Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, and her husband Thomas Mann Randolph.

The truth about my family history was hidden from me by my relatives back then, just as white supremacists and others among us seek to hide and deny our history today. The truth was, my great-grandmother’s father and mother were slave owners. In fact, every person I’m related to through the Jeffersons and the Randolphs owned slaves in the early days of Virginia, which would seem to make the legacy of my family in that state a complicated one, except it’s not complicated at all. Owning slaves was wrong and not just by the moral standards we would apply today.

Most, if not all, of Jefferson’s political compatriots from the North opposed slavery at the time Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of this nation. A contentious battle was fought over the issue of slavery at the Constitutional Convention, resulting in the infamous 3/5ths compromise, enshrining this country’s original sin in the document establishing the laws under which the United States of America was to be governed and is still governed today. The failure to resolve the issue of slavery at the founding of the nation led directly, seven decades later, to the secession of the slave owning states from the Union, the formation of the Confederacy and the Civil War. More than 435,000 Union soldiers gave their lives in combat or perished from disease fighting to end slavery and the institution of white supremacy and to maintain the Union. More than 258,000 Confederate soldiers were killed in combat or died from disease fighting to preserve slavery and white supremacy. The nearly 700,000 who died in that war far exceeds the total number of Americans killed in all wars fought by the Unites States combined.

To that astounding number we must now add one. 32-year-old Heather D. Heyer was killed at a protest against the rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon when one of the white supremacist demonstrators, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, drove his car at high speed into a crowd of counter demonstrators in an act of terrorism. The white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers had gathered to protest the pending removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. It would seem that the Union’s victory in the Civil War would have settled the issue of slavery and white supremacy for good. But the Confederacy and Civil War generals like Lee and Stonewall Jackson have their defenders, and white supremacists cling to their spurious “honor” and seek to deny the reality of what they did. The clash over the statue of Lee between defenders of white supremacy and their opponents is being described as a stain on Charlottesville, in normal times, a quiet town of leafy streets and the grand campus of Jefferson’s University of Virginia. But the stain was there all along, the stain of slavery and of white supremacy, which Jefferson infamously defended in the only book he ever wrote, “Notes on the State of Virginia.”

How to deal with the legacy of slavery and the Civil War in the South is a contentious one, but it shouldn’t be. All over the South, grand statues stand in public squares and parks celebrating the heroes of the Confederacy — Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Nathan Bedford Forrest, J.E.B. Stuart and many others. It’s one of the great American ironies — a uniquely Southern one to be exact — that they erected these monuments to celebrate a bunch of generals who lost a war and the cause they were fighting for — white supremacy. These monuments to a lost cause were erected during the days of Reconstruction and Jim Crow in an attempt to oppress African-Americans and show them that whites were still in charge in the South. It’s as if Germany had erected statues celebrating General Rommel and General Kesslering and General Von Rundstedt, the Nazi generals who lost World War II and the cause they were fighting for — Aryan supremacy — in order to show Jews and gypsies and homosexuals who was still boss.

Charlottesville has begun an attempt to redress this contradiction by taking down the statue of General Lee from a public park and moving it to another location, where Lee and his role in the Civil War can be displayed in context. The proper way to view Lee, I believe, would be as a traitor to his nation who defended an immoral institution in an unjust and insane war. I doubt that will be the context in which his statue ends up being displayed in Charlottesville, but anything at all will be better than celebrating a man with such an inglorious past. The protest by white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers last Saturday was against this attempt to correct the historical record. They came armed with firearms, clubs and projectiles, wearing camouflage clothing, helmets and in some cases bulletproof vests, to make their statement in defense of Robert E. Lee and white supremacy. They came, it would seem, to continue fighting a war that was lost 152 years ago. They left one dead and 19 injured, but they lost the battle of Charlottesville just as the South lost the Civil War.

I visited Charlottesville for a couple of weeks earlier this summer. My 16-year-old son was working as an intern at Monticello, and my 10-year-old daughter attended the Monticello day camp for children. I have my own legacy at Monticello — I was the first and only white Jefferson descendant to invite my African-American cousins who are the descendants of Sally Hemings and Jefferson to accompany me to the family reunion on the mountain back in 1999. I spent the next four years inviting my Hemings cousins to Monticello every May, trying to convince the white descendants to welcome them into the family. We were unsuccessful, but the presence of the Sally Hemings descendants at Monticello changed the place forever. I wanted my kids to learn about my part of our family history and to get a sense of the peculiar legacy left to us by our great grandfather Thomas Jefferson. It is a mixed legacy. The man who wrote the Declaration of Independence owned more than 600 slaves during his lifetime and had a family of six children with one of them. After Jefferson left the presidency and took up his life at Monticello, there were many, many days when there was only one white man and over 100 slaves on that mountaintop.

It was possible to take a tour of Monticello as late as the 1990’s and never hear the word “slave” uttered. But the place they call “Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello” was always his in name only. He may have designed the house, but his slaves built it. Monticello arguably belongs to its enslaved community more than to its master. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and cares for Monticello, is today seeking to redress this inequity. A tapestry is being woven using archeology, the written record and the oral history of descendants of slaves, and slowly a picture of the lives of the slaves who built and worked at Monticello is being revealed. Today, tour guides on the mountain point to the work done by slaves and the remnants of their lives, and it is everywhere. They are excavating the ground around the joinery, where John Hemings, the brother of Sally, built furniture and did the fine woodwork that ended up in the interiors of Monticello and Jefferson’s summer home, Poplar Forest. Recently, a public restroom was excavated which had been built within the slave quarters that comprised the “dependencies” attached to Monticello. There was discovered the remains of rooms occupied by Sally Hemings and her brother James, Jefferson’s cook who had been trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris when Jefferson served as ambassador there. Elsewhere on the mountain, there are excavations of small communities built by slaves who worked in various sections of the plantation farming the crops and tending to farm animals. And down the mountain, just below the Jefferson family cemetery where my great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and mother and father and brother Frank are buried — where one day I will join them — a slave cemetery was discovered and preserved.

The history being revealed day after day at Monticello isn’t slave history. It is American history, a part of the story of our nation that has not been adequately told in textbooks in primary and secondary schools and colleges and celebrated in public squares by the erection of great statues. Where, for example, is the statue to the slaves who built the White House and the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.? Where is the statue to the slaves who worked the cotton fields and provided the raw material for the factories in the north, which wove the fabric that made the garments which clothed Americans as they moved west and expanded the United States? Where are the statues of the black Americans who fought on the side of the Union in the Civil War? Where are the statues honoring the slaves who built the grand downtowns of capital cities of Richmond and Atlanta and Columbia and Raleigh and Jackson and Montgomery and Baton Rouge? There are streets and highways all over the South named after Confederate generals like John Mosby and John Bell Hood. Apart from a few boulevards here and there named for civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, where are the names of the slaves who actually built those streets and roads? Where are the statues in the public plazas honoring the towering figures of the civil rights movement who came along later and turned dreams into reality, wrongs into rights?

This is the history that the white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville were trying to suppress by protesting the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee. They realize that the negative space left in Emancipation Park will be filled with history they seek to deny — a history of accomplishment and honor of African-Americans that puts the lie to white supremacy. Why these people are so uncomfortable with this history is a mystery to me. Our history is so complex and rich and filled to the brim with contradictions and unknowns. This is the reason our history is worth exploring and revealing, because it is at once so wondrous and horrifying, beautiful and ugly. It is, in short, human.

The white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers who went to Charlottesville last weekend and marched with torches and displayed Confederate and Nazi flags fought a battle they did not win in a war that was already lost. That Donald Trump refused to call them out for their prejudice and hate last Saturday, and doubled down by overtly and outrageously taking their side on Tuesday, is all the evidence you need that his presidency is an empty vessel containing not a shred of decency or honor. Because of this, he will not last. Trump doesn’t seem to realize that it’s possible to be proud of America, warts and all. It isn’t what’s right about us that makes this country worth celebrating. It’s what’s wrong with us and our willingness to fix it that makes America great. A lot of Americans have given their lives in this cause over the years. One more fell last Saturday. They should put up a plaque on the street where Heather Heyer was killed, honoring her sacrifice in the battle of Charlottesville. We won this time, but there is still a war to fight against Trump and his Nazis and white supremacists and what they stand for. This isn’t just politics. We are fighting for our nation’s soul.

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Netflix’s “The Defenders” isn’t the best Marvel series, but it may be what we need right now

"Marvel's The Defenders"

Krysten Ritter, Finn Jones, Charlie Cox and Mike Colter in “Marvel’s The Defenders” (Credit: Netflix/Sarah Shatz)

Before diving into a review of “The Defenders,” rolling out this Friday on Netflix, I am compelled to state that watching live TV can be unbearable right now. I’m not referring to the unscripted competition series frosting the prime time schedule or other lackluster summer programming. I’m talking about the hateful reality that’s slapping all of us in the face.

Plenty has been and will be written about the atrocities that occurred over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia — the footage of torch-wielding mobs of white supremacists on the University of Virginia’s campus last Friday, the constantly replaying clip of that sports car plowing into a crowd of people, injuring at least 19 and killing Heather Heyer on Saturday. These, I believe, are images we are obligated to absorb and discuss and above all, remember.

Television, history teaches us, played an important role in motivating complacent white moderates to support the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, when ninety percent of Americans owned a set for the first time in American history. Television brought the Vietnam War into American living rooms.

Viewers in the 1960s and ‘70s weren’t dealing with sustained, prevalent and technologically-assisted attacks against the media. Networks weren’t brazenly devoted to enabling and cementing political and social tribalism. But a number of them are now.

In the Civil Rights and Vietnam era, viewers weren’t spoon-fed hours upon hours of chirping rationalizations for white supremacy and half-baked defenses of slaveholders such as those spewed on Fox, whether by Tucker Carlson or Jesse Watters on “Fox & Friends” or by President Donald Trump himself. None of that is shocking but in the aggregate, it gnaws away at the spirit.

Go ahead at watch Monday night’s Vice News episode “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” because it is frightening and blunt and devastating. I also guarantee that what you’ll see isn’t anything people of color in this country haven’t had nightmares about throughout their lives. Forgive us if we don’t leap to watch it with you. Many of us are heading out on road trips soon, and don’t want to add to our already sizable fears of breaking down in rural areas.

And yes, watching the late-night hosts laugh at the devil or, in Jimmy Fallon’s case, publicly acknowledge its corrosiveness for the first time, can be cathartic. Unless you’re past believing any aspect of this lengthy joke on the United States is still funny.

So I have to wonder, how will everything we’ve seen on television since last Friday impact Americans? Any immediate embrace of unity is too much to ask for — we’re a long way down the road from that promised land and honestly, we may never get there. But will what TV is hitting us with finally awaken complacent, decent Americans who, to quote an indisputably great citizen, is “more devoted to order than to justice and prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension” to face hard truths about what this nation actually is, right now, versus what we dreamed that it stood for?

The honest answer to that question depresses me.

This is why I can’t wait to turn it all off for a while and binge “The Defenders.”

Nothing about “The Defenders” is more political than any of the series leading up to it, the viewing of which is not required to enjoy the team-up Marvel and Netflix have promised since “Daredevil” successfully debuted in 2015.  There’s no hidden meaning in the fact that it’s premiering a week after armed white supremacists invaded an American town and assaulted citizens as law enforcement officials stood by and watched. Netflix set its debut date months ago.

The assumption is that if you’re tuning in, you at least know who Matt Murdock, aka The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen (Charlie Cox) is. Even if you don’t know much about leathery, hard-drinking private investigator Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) or the impressively annoying billionaire Danny Rand (played by the impressively unimpressive Finn Jones), what matters is that they’re the good guys standing against evil in the streets of New York City, home to Lady Liberty. Only one of them wears a costume, and each has a disparate motivation to seek justice. Two would rather stay out of the spotlight altogether. But they step up, even the reluctant ones among them, to stand against a common enemy: The Hand.

The Hand is a fellowship dedicated to the destruction of flourishing cities and civilizations. Sound familiar? The cultist crime organization threads through all of the pre-“Defenders” series, and here we receive a glimpse at its all-star line up, including Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) and its agent Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung), two of this section of the Marvel TV universe’s more dynamic villains.

This probably reads like a description of an “insert piece A into slot B” kind of show, and indeed, that pretty much sums up “The Defenders.” It’s a fun diversion, albeit a simple one. Nothing in the four episodes sent out for review rises to the level of thoughtful tension fueling “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” or the finest episodes of the empowering if uneven “Marvel’s Luke Cage.” Then again, it’s nowhere close to resembling the debacle that is “Marvel’s Iron Fist,” even if Jones’ Danny Rand remains the weakest link in this fellowship.

“The Defenders” manages to overcome Rand’s initially central role in this plot by leaping between the narratives of his more compelling teammates without spending an excessive amount of exposition on their backstories. Ritter, Colter and Cox are still wonderful in their roles, though some may miss the wit that pervaded “Jessica Jones” and the first season of “Daredevil.”

Jones remains horrendously miscast, although this time around Iron Fist’s stunt double gets an admirable workout in the action sequences. Indeed, most of the fight choreography in “The Defenders” lends the story a welcome velocity that keeps its detractions from weighing things down too much. Yung, especially, attacks her scenes with the appropriate mixture of gusto and a cafard that defines her character, a bookend to Cox’s brooding, seething Daredevil, a former lover.

“The Defenders” also calls upon central co-stars and sidekicks from past series, including Scott Glenn’s Stick, Rosario Dawson’s Claire and Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing as well as Rachael Taylor, Deborah Ann Woll and Carrie-Anne Moss.

But the star of this sinister cabal is a woman named Alexandra, played by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver character isn’t blessed with snappy, profound dialogue because none of the heroes and villains in “The Defenders” are. The writing in his series is best described as economic, in the sense that’s it is designed to get the story where it’s going without much artful flair.  Nevertheless Weaver sells her queenpin with a cool slickness that raises the energy of her scenes.

For all of their flaws, a few chapters of Netflix’s Marvel pantheon have constructed antagonists in ways that deceptively soften them, masking their criminal viciousness. Weaver embodies that manner in a way that rivals Vincent D’Onofrio’s exemplary portrayal of Daredevil’s archenemy Wilson Fisk. Just as he made the first season of “Daredevil” consistently exciting, Weaver’s presence truly provides one of the best reasons to watch “The Defenders.”

Another one is simpler, though. Right now, many of us maybe emotionally vacillating between completely disconnecting from the bloody, violent message that is our American reality and punching something really hard. Doing the former solves nothing; doing the latter could worsen our problems.

Catharsis, however, is healthy and necessary to keep moving forward — even the vicarious variety. Especially that, if you’re exhausted and frightened and would simply rather not leave the house for say, eight straight hours. Maybe the antidote to those feelings of helplessness is watching Jessica Jones, an assault survivor, lift a car or seeing bullets bounce off of Luke Cage’s dark brown skin. Maybe we’ll feel inspired by the sight of a blind attorney disrupting violent attacks on weaker victims with the use of his hand-to-hand combat skill and his athleticism.

Sufficiency, not excellence, may be the legacy of “The Defenders,” and that may be precisely what we need right now. We have leaders refusing to name the malevolence within our borders getting plenty of airtime on live television. We have brave people whose contributions are insufficiently acknowledged, if not outright dismissed or twisted. You’ll have to forgive and understand those of us who seek solace in a fictional version of our world where corruption isn’t qualified or reframed, and the scrappy protagonists are outmatched but battle to stop it anyway. A world where everybody knows that when destruction and chaos are breaking down one’s front door, there’s no such thing as “many sides.” There’s only good and evil,  and which of these we choose to uphold.

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Was Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” whitewashed? And if so, what does that mean?

Fionn Whitehead as Tommy in "Dunkirk"

Fionn Whitehead as Tommy in “Dunkirk” (Credit: Warner Bros./Melinda Sue Gordon)

We can’t consider the “Dunkirk” whitewashing controversy without at least mentioning the recent resurgence of white nationalism.

From the election of Donald Trump and the upsurge of far-right violence that culminated last weekend in Charlottesville to parallel developments in Europe and the rest of the West, the world is discovering that racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism and xenophobia remain nearly as potent in 2017 as they were in 1940. That was the year, of course, in which the British army had to stage its dramatic retreat from France during the famous Battle of Dunkirk. That great escape quite likely stopped the Nazis from total victory in Western Europe and paved the way for the Allies’ victory five years later.

But racism doesn’t have to be violent or hateful — or, for that matter, even intentional — to be pernicious. This point became clear when British-based writer Sunny Singh wrote a piece for the Guardian skewering Christopher Nolan’s film “Dunkirk” — which is certainly not on the side of the Nazis — for alleged historical whitewashing.

The movie, Singh wrote, “erases the Royal Indian Army Services Corp companies, which were not only on the beach, but tasked with transporting supplies over terrain that was inaccessible for the British Expeditionary Force’s motorised transport companies. It also ignores the fact that by 1938, lascars – mostly from South Asia and East Africa – counted for one of four crewmen on British merchant vessels, and thus participated in large numbers in the evacuation.”

This point was echoed by Case Western Reserve professor John Broich in a Slate editorial. “In the film, we see at least one French soldier who might be African. In fact, soldiers from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and elsewhere were key to delaying the German attack. Other African soldiers made it to England and helped form the nucleus of the Free French forces that soon took the fight to the Axis. Soldiers from West and North Africa were key to delaying the German attack.”

Broich added, “There were also four companies of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps on those beaches. Observers said they were particularly cool under fire and well-organized during the retreat. They weren’t large in number, maybe a few hundred among hundreds of thousands, but their appearance in the film would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war. Their service meant the difference between victory and defeat. In fact, while Britain and other allies were licking their wounds after Dunkirk, the Indian Army picked up the slack in North Africa and the Middle East.”

Singh and Broich are hardly alone in accusing the film of being a whitewash. As Oxford professor Yasmin Khan wrote in The New York Times, “Britain was always dependent on the colonies — in India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean — for men, materials and support, but never more so than in World War II. Some five million from the empire joined the military services. Britain didn’t fight World War II — the British Empire did.”

To address the whitewashing controversy, Salon reached out to Joshua Levine, who served as Nolan’s historical consultant on “Dunkirk” (which I reviewed here), for his thoughts on the whitewashing controversy.

“Members of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps served in France in 1939 and 1940,” Levine explained. “The majority of them were evacuated to England before Operation Dynamo [the Dunkirk evacuation] began – although a small number were evacuated from Dunkirk during the very early part of Dynamo. So the film could conceivably have shown Indian soldiers. But that isn’t the same as saying that it ought to have done so. It isn’t this film – or any film’s –  job to tell the full story of Dunkirk.”

Levine added, “Nolan’s film focuses on a few protagonists whose paths cross occasionally, each one of whom experiences just a tiny corner of the whole story. As Hilary Mantel has said about historical fiction, ‘The man who is fighting can’t see over the hill, out of the trench.’ It is unlikely, in reality, that a soldier at Dunkirk would have encountered any Indian soldiers. And while some viewers and commentators might prefer the film to feature members of the RIASC, that’s a matter of preference — and I don’t think it’s justified to claim that the film ‘whitewashes’ the story of Dunkirk.”

The historian then closed his comments with this observation: “At the same time, I’d love to see an Indian film about Dunkirk, or the Second World War generally, and I really hope that Indian filmmakers are working on it.”

There may be a legitimate artistic case for limiting the main narrative of “Dunkirk” to the perspective of a handful of characters. But it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of artists of color to incorporate the perspectives of nonwhite characters in fictional accounts of historical events. In order to effectively fight racial bigotry — whether the worldwide terror presented by Hitler in 1940s or its alt-right echo today — one must do more than wage war against the bad guys. Sometimes we have to acknowledge bias that is much harder to see.


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Is the Trump administration “turning a blind eye” to Louisiana’s storm season?


(Credit: Getty/Harvepino)


It’s been over six months since Donald Trump became President of the United States, and the new administration and agencies have yet to get on their feet.

And for Louisiana in particular, the lack of federal aid and hurricane response leaders (which agencies are still scrambling for) has chipped a subtle crack between the state’s unwaveringly loyal congressional delegation and increasingly fatigued locals.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) only swore in its permanent head, previous Alabama emergency response agency director Brock Long, in June — just as hurricane season was underway and residents’ anxieties were elevating. But storms and flooding are in the back of Louisiana’s mind year-round; Hurricane Katrina’s shadow still looms, and many areas remain fragmented from last year’s historic floods that mainly destroyed low-income households and resulted in failing grades for FEMA in statewide polls. Officials predict an abnormally intense few months, with up to 19 named storms and five major hurricanes. This month, areas of New Orleans suffered nine inches of rain in a matter of hours due to failed drainage pumps, prompting school closures and a declarative state of emergency this week.

Before the season began, Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said she wanted to see permanent federal leadership at FEMA. Nearly 2,000 families in East Baton Rouge Parish, one area hard-hit by the historic August 2016 flood, still live in the manufactured housing units provided by FEMA at the beginning of this hurricane season, according to an agency spokesperson. Broome said the units are not meant to withstand high winds.

The unusually prolonged lack of key agency leaders has been a countrywide contention point in American politics. Long’s swearing in came 140 days into Trump’s presidency, which one state senator called “inexcusable.”

FEMA isn’t the only disaster protection agency under pressure. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which directs weather forecasting and the National Hurricane Center, has also been without a permanent leader since Trump’s inauguration.

Some Republican lawmakers blame the lack of agency heads on Democrats for blocking presidential appointments — something freshman U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson,R-La., in June called “bitter partisan fights between every issue under the sun.”

Partisanship in natural disasters also infects federal-state relationships, particularly with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, the outnumbered, lone Democratic governor in the Gulf South who said in May that Trump’s budget “turns a blind eye” to his state, in part because it pulls hurricane protection funds.

The governor petitioned for $3.6 billion in federal disaster aid a year ago after the August 2016 flood. He has only received $1.7 billion in disaster aid so far, and Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., blames Edwards for the slow progress.

Abraham said the rest will come once Louisiana shows it’s handling its first allocation, which the governor has just begun distributing to flood-affected homeowners this summer. The federal money became available to spend and the application process began in April — months after it was originally asked for.

“We still have people from March [2016] living in hotel rooms, shelters [and] with relatives,” Abraham said in June. “They’ve been hurting.”

In fact, 57 out of Louisiana’s 64 parishes — 89 percent of the state population — is still in some sort of recovery from natural disasters since March 2016, according to the state’s Department of Children and Family Services. As of last week, about 1 percent of the Congressional appropriation was reportedly dispersed to affected residents.

Receiving federal aid in fragments is normal. But overall, Trump’s disaster aid package to Louisiana is unlike any the Louisiana governor can remember — mostly because it is the first that does not grant infrastructure aid, which would help prevent similar losses in future disasters. After Congressional appropriation, HUD has only given Louisiana enough disaster aid money so far for housing and an inadequate amount for infrastructure. The Trump budget proposal calls for eliminating future disaster aid funds, called Community Development Block Grants, entirely.

Louisiana did in July get a hefty gift — hundreds of millions of dollars — from FEMA for future flood prevention, which is separate from the infrastructure-starved aid package from Congress. The governor estimates the state needs more than three times as much of that money for future storm resiliency alone, which locals are still looking to their Washingtonian representatives to shore up. But FEMA programs are also slashed in Trump’s budget proposal, suffering hundreds of millions in cuts.

While the Trump administration has yet to see the kind of billion-dollar disaster that previous presidents have, Gov. Edwards and HUD Secretary Ben Carson met in person Tuesday to discuss removing certain federal regulations that slow down allocation. But some are not even looking to the federal government this hurricane season.

“A lot of times, the [federal] response is very lacking,” said state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, in June, as his state braced itself for another prayerful storm season under sea level. But the state takes pride in its resiliency: “If we don’t get help, we usually tend to take care of ourselves.”

At the time, Congressmen in Washington agreed. “If the Sheriff doesn’t come to work, guess what?” said Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La. “We still arrest people.”

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Martin Shkreli thinks he’ll be president someday

Martin Shkreli

(Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Do you think Martin Shkreli, aka the “Pharma Bro,” is destined to become an American president?

If you don’t, he certainly does.

“Well, at some point I’ll be POTUS,” Shkreli wrote on his Facebook page in a post published Tuesday. He added that conservative commentator Ben Shapiro would be his vice president and alt-right pundit Milo Yiannopoulos would be his press secretary, before going on to list some more unorthodox choices:

Kanye West will be head of the CIA. Stefan Molyneux will be Secretary of State. Kodak Black will be Attorney General. Edward Snowden would be the head of the NSA. Julian Assange: FBI. Kim Kardashian is Fed Chairwoman. Trashy is Surgeon General.

From there, Shkreli predicted defeating a ticket with President Mark Zuckerberg and Vice President Bernie Sanders no earlier than 2024, since he also predicted they’d have to abolish Zuckerberg’s Universal Basic Income “which passed in 2024.”

Shkreli added that Young Turks host Cenk Uygar “will be sent back to wherever he came from” and that “Lauren Duca will tragically fall ill from subtweeting too hard if she isn’t the First Lady.”

Somewhat more ominously, Shkreli also boasted that he would put nuclear weapons in enemies’ cities, force members of the media to go through “training programs” and completely slash “almost all entitlement programs.”

An account purportedly belonging to Yiannopoulos has already liked the status update and said that “I’m down,” while Shkreli added in the comments that “OKAY FINE KIM KARDASHIAN WILL BE HEAD OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE.”

Whereas President Donald Trump at least had a core of support prior to his career as a politician, Shkreli may now be best known for raising the price of a life-saving drug by 5000 percent and being convicted of three counts of securities fraud.

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Colin Kaepernick supporters rally in protest at the LA Coliseum

Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid

FILE – In this Oct. 2, 2016, file photo, from left, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. During an appearance on Fox News Jan. 3, 2017, former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann slammed the 49ers’ decision to give Kaepernick an award for being an “inspirational and courageous” player. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) (Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

As thousands of football fans poured into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a pre-season contest Saturday, a small group of demonstrators greeted them with a message: Colin Kaepernick was being denied a job in the NFL as punishment for his refusal to stand during the national anthem last season — his protest against an alarming wave of police shootings of unarmed African Americans.

About three dozen protesters gathered at the entrance to the park, where the L.A. Rams were battling the Dallas Cowboys. They held signs that read: “Boycott the NFL” and “I stand with Kaepernick! Charge police with crimes against black people and justice systems.”

Leading the demonstration was longtime L.A. activist Najee Ali, who said the former 49ers quarterback “is being punished for exercising his First Amendment rights.” Almost exactly a year ago, Kaepernick began quietly protesting an increasing number of police shootings across the country by first sitting, then kneeling, during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Kaepernick’s solemn, season-long ritual became one of the most covered controversies in American sports in 2016, drawing support and intense criticism for the young quarterback. Now a free agent, he’s so far been unable to land a new position on a team.

“It was inspiring that he would use his platform as an NFL star to raise awareness to the fact that black and brown people were being murdered in the streets — sometimes on videotape, and yet the police always seemed to not be convicted,” said Ali. “So it was frustrating, but he gave hope that people who are influential do care about us.”

The Los Angeles protest was among the first of a series of demonstrations planned across the country. Director Spike Lee has announced a rally for the quarterback Aug. 23 in front of NFL headquarters in New York. And in September, a group called “Standing for Kaepernick” promised to host protests at the first regular season game at each NFL stadium.

Ali said the protest was directed at the entire National Football League, not any particular team, questioning why the quarterback remains jobless while lesser players have been signed. (In San Francisco on Saturday, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch joined a handful of other players in the league in aligning himself with Kaepernick by sitting during the national anthem. And the NFL Players Association just last week offered to assist Kaepernick.)

“His stats are better than half the quarterbacks in the league,” said one protester, Samerai the 7th, a rapper and writer in sunglasses and a T-shirt reading “Malcolm X was right.”  He called the NFL “the good old boys league,” which he compared unfavorably to the NBA, “the most progressive league in the world.”

Also protesting was a Native American actor named Courage, 28, who wore feathers in his hair. Admitting he didn’t follow football, he saw similarities between the risks of political speech in sports and in the entertainment industry.

“This protest really hit home for me because as an actor, it’s really dangerous being political, especially as an aspiring actor,” said Courage. “Seeing a talented football player like Colin Kaepernick being forced to choose between his dreams and what he stands for, that’s something I think about a lot. It’s easy to get blacklisted for being political in Hollywood. Its easy to be punished for standing up for what you believe in.”

Following a few more pre-season games, the 2017 NFL season begins for real in L.A. September 10 at the Coliseum in a game against the Indianapolis Colts. If Kaepernick is still not signed to a team by then, Ali expects to be back at the stadium gates.

“We’re hopeful that this movement will catch on nationwide,” said Ali, “and draw attention and awareness that we must defend Kaepernick’s constitutional rights.”


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My road trip with a Republican: 2 strangers spend 14 hours in a car to talk through America’s political divide

Republican Democrat

(Credit: Getty/wildpixel)

As my reporting [on the 2016 presidential campaigns] gained momentum, so too did the harassment. Suddenly I was receiving dozens of messages a day, some laudatory but most of them hateful. When I felt the most anxiety, I’d sit in front of my computer and watch the abuse roll in on the screen. It felt like every Republican in the country had decided to come after me. At first I tried to respond to every single negative message and attempt to communicate, but soon there was no possible way of keeping up.

That barrage, and its unrelenting nature, forced me to confront how I viewed the political state of America. It would have been so much easier had I just decided conservatives weren’t going to respect me and call it a day. But I wanted to have empathy for them, I wanted to see if there was some way we could bridge the gap between us.

Late one night, still buzzing from a particularly unpleasant conversation with a Republican on social media, I sent out a call to see if anyone knew a conservative who’d be willing to take a road trip with me. I was planning on traveling to Ohio to see Hillary Clinton speak with Elizabeth Warren, and I thought the hours on the road might present a chance to get to know a complete stranger with whom I disagreed completely.

The first time I ever laid eyes on “Dave,” he was stepping out of his car and stretching in the driveway. Instantaneously, I violated my own rules not to succumb to preconceived notions. From my car, across the street, he looked exactly like I expected: a young, white square wearing a pair of khakis with a polo shirt the National Guard couldn’t untuck.

After we introduced ourselves, he sat in my passenger seat, listening while I explained the purpose of this trip. We were about to drive to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a Hillary Clinton rally. Seven hours there, seven hours back. Two strangers who’d never so much as spoken before. A liberal and a man who was seconds away from filling out a survey reporting himself as “very conservative.”

“You can do anything in the car,” I told him. “Switch the AC on, switch it off. Look through the glove box. Flip through the radio if you want.”

“And you want me to fill this out?” he asked.

“This” was a six-question survey I’d hastily thrown together that morning as I was trying my damnedest to get out of the house on time. On it, Dave was asked to rate his level of conservatism, choose words that described conservatives, liberals, President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton, and answer how likely he was to vote for the Democratic nominee.

Without hesitation, he circled Very Unlikely.
“Do you want to know why we’re doing this?” I asked him.
 He shrugged. “Sure.”
 I told him it was an experiment. That in the past two weeks, due to my political writing, I’d received a healthy dose of criticism and harassment, not to mention death threats, and now I wanted to see if complete strangers, on opposite sides of the political spectrum, could transcend these polarized times and find common ground.

“Okay,” he said, less than impressed.

I put the car in drive, pressed record on the digital recorder, and tried to get Dave up to speed.

* * *

The pleasantries were over as we’d met our first disagreement.
 We’d been getting along just fine when he had to go and ruin all that good will by saying, “I don’t like peanut butter.” 
I’d gone out of my way to bring a pair of peanut-butter sandwiches for the road. A tactic, I’ll admit, I’d planned on using to create a shared experience that would undoubtedly serve as a transition to discovering common ground.

But Dave was picky. Notably so. He didn’t like peanut butter or Mexican food or anything spicy. That included chili and certain brands of fried chicken.

I was distraught.

On top of Dave’s disappointing gastro preferences, I could now paint a decent portrait. In his twenties, he was the kind of guy who showed up to your college lecture in a full suit and tie, not to mention a briefcase you always wanted to break into. Even at his young age he was already heavily involved in local GOP politics, and when he talked it was with the measure and confidence of a much older politician. In all things, his religion guided him, a fact he underlined when he told me he wasn’t worried about Donald Trump because of his faith in God and the divine influence on fate. Dave was what you’d expect if you tried to clone Ronald Reagan but went a little heavy on the America.

The next hiccup, however, wasn’t food-based. We were talking about federal-versus-local influence, one of his favorite topics, when Dave told me he didn’t feel like the federal government should have enforced desegregation.

I had a brief but interesting conversation one night with Brett Chamberlain, the founder of Trump Love Letters, a project where progressives angered by the Republican nominee were writing respectful, empathetic notes to his supporters in order to broach the communication bubble that divides them. Brett introduced me to a concept I’d always been aware of but never had the vocabulary for.

Attribution bias explains, at least in part, how long-held divisions in politics continue to propagate. It states that rival groups, whether Democrats and Republicans, or Israelis and Palestinians, or so on and so forth, attribute the actions of their adversaries to hate while justifying their own as coming from a place of love. Obviously, this is the basis for the rationalizing at the heart of all partisan conflicts, but it happens so naturally that even those aware of its existence are oftentimes unable to recognize or change the pattern.

I think this explains rather nicely why the hair stood on the back of my neck when Dave told me about his doubt regarding desegregation. Immediately, I was petrified that I’d just doomed myself to hours alone in a car with an unrepentant racist. I’d told myself, before picking Dave up, that I wasn’t looking to argue issues. I was hoping to listen and find common ground. But I wasn’t going to just sit there and listen to outright intolerance.

“I think ending racism is about winning hearts and minds,” he said, and I nearly drove off the road. “I wish the racists had to show who they were instead of being driven underground.”

And though I could not have disagreed with him more regarding the federal government’s intervention, I came to believe, god help me, that he honestly believed what he was saying. In the past, I might have been suspicious that it was a rhetorical trick, a quick pivot to hide hatred and bigotry, but Dave was completely convinced that, while racism is wrong, the federal government had no constitutional authority to legislate on people’s minds and hearts.

He could not have been more wrong and he could not have believed this more.

And the only reason I know this is because Dave was nothing if not completely honest. Sitting in the dining room of a Cracker Barrel, he told me he once got into an argument with a girl in his college dorm because she called herself a Buddhist but didn’t, in his opinion, live up to the tenets of her faith.

“I bet she didn’t like that,” I said.
 He answered, “Most people don’t like being told they’re wrong.” Other confessions he made over chicken-fried steak: He’s not much into art and thought there should only be artists if there was a market demand; he watched ISIS beheading videos in case one day he needed to speak in an official capacity to families who’d lost loved ones to terrorism; he attended the CPAC conference and loved how Sean Hannity, Fox News bloviater extraordinaire, played matchmaker with audience members during commercial breaks, going so far as to offer to pay for first dates and, if there was a proposal in studio, the wedding of two people who didn’t know each other.

Oh. And Dave didn’t like reading because “there’s so much else” he could be doing.

In his classes, he told me, he was sick of spending so much time on dead philosophers. “Please don’t lecture on Kant again,” he said and rolled his eyes. “He’s dead.”

When I suggested he probably needed to know Kant as he’s considered one of the cornerstones of modern thought, he told me he wished his professors could just hand him a slip of paper containing an easily digestible summary of philosophy. I told him about Bertrand Russell’s “A History of Western Philosophy,” a nine-hundred-page weapon I kept handy for light reading, so I could start with Socrates and work my way up to existentialism.

Perplexed, he said, “I like things being in a box.”

As the nice Cracker Barrel waitress brought me a fresh Coke, I told Dave that, if liberals had our way, we’d happily smash that box into a million little pieces.

* * *

According to a report published in Scientific American in 2012, there are undeniable differences in the makeup of conservatives and liberals, including a study that showed conservatives’ eyes lingered on disturbing images—see: ISIS beheadings—15 percent longer than liberals, and that proved conservatives are way more likely to value loyalty.

One study that appeared in The Journal of Political Psychology in 2008 caused some waves by positing that these hardwired differences include personalities, interaction strategies, and even the makeup of people’s living spaces. According to that research, conservatives were more likely to be “neat” and “organized.”

Perhaps one of the most interesting, if not politically relevant, moments in our odyssey to Ohio came when Dave talked at length about the steps he took to simplify his life. Much like his desire for a piece of paper condensing the grand tradition of human thought, Dave had streamlined the decisions he considered wastes of his time, including his wardrobe. Having gone to college and bought four separate differently colored sets of towels—the rationale being that he could use one colored set before throwing them all in the washer and moving on to the next—he transferred the idea to his shirts. Currently, he explained, tugging on his polo, he was onto reds.

“Tomorrow,” he said, “it’ll be red again.”

I couldn’t help but break my own rules. Dave’s system sounded unnecessarily repressive and inexplicably dull.

Again, he shrugged, and I started thinking about the conversations we’d been having about religion and its place in politics. Just like the Constitution, Dave saw the tenants of Christianity, in his case Southern Baptist, as guideposts for not just personal life but life in the public sphere. If he has dedicated himself to Christ in faith, how could he not dedicate himself to Christ in politics?

I asked him if there are any parallels to his religious dedication and his pledge to support Donald Trump in November, a pledge, I could tell, that troubled him.

“When it comes to campaigning for Trump,” he said, “I’ll knock on the door and read the card. I don’t want my name tied to it.”

Dave found Trump offensive and brash, the two traits holding equal concern. He didn’t care for Trump’s language or how he incessantly bragged about his money, his polls, his support. He wasn’t excited about a Trump presidency and actively supported multiple candidates before the field winnowed down.

I told Dave, pledge or not, if I were him, I’d probably have to vote my conscience in the end. That if I ever have children, and they brought home from school a book turned to this page in history, I’d want to tell them I voted against the man.

What would Dave say?

“I’d tell them I took a pledge,” he answered, “and that, in the end, I was good on my word.”

Outside Lexington, Kentucky, the sun was slipping behind the trees and the faraway mountains. Drifting through the awe-inspiring forests was a soupy, sleepy fog that gave the impression we were driving on air.

“Beautiful,” I said. “Illogical,” Dave said.

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Taylor Swift owning her groper is great news — and it sets a powerful example for other women

Taylor Swift Radio Host Trial

In this courtroom sketch, Taylor Swift speaks from the witness stand (Credit: AP/Jeff Kandyba)

Famously lanky pop songstress Taylor Swift is, it seems, as badass as she is tall. For years, Swift has advanced a kind of pop feminism, focused more on girl-power cheerleading than the grimier work of resisting patriarchy. That changed, through no fault of her own, when former DJ David Mueller sued her over an incident in which he allegedly groped her butt during a 2013 radio meet-and-greet.

Mueller says he didn’t do it, and accuses Swift of getting him fired based on a false accusation. In reaction, Swift countersued him. On Monday, she won in court, after clearly winning in the court of public opinion.

What’s really exciting is what this all could mean not just for Swift, but for women all over the country who face sexual harassment and even assault in their schools and workplaces. Can Swift use all her fame, power and privilege to help rewrite the script for how we understand these sexual harassment disputes? Can she push the public a little closer to realizing that sexual abuse is real and not something women just make up for mysterious reasons?

Alexandra Brodsky, the co-founder of the anti-rape group Know Your IX and an attorney working on education equity for the National Women’s Law Center, certainly hopes so.

Many people still “expect the survivor to slink away quietly” after a sexual assault, Brodsky explained. By sticking to her guns and countersuing, she continued, Swift is sending a message to those who would “intimidate survivors: You better be ready for a fight.”

Swift’s court testimony on Thursday was thrilling, as she coolly shut down Mueller’s lawyer, Gabe McFarland, during his repeated efforts to shift the blame to Swift, suggest that she was lying and deflect responsibility for the incident away from his client.

“I’m not going to allow you or your client [to] make me feel in any way that this is my fault,” Swift said, in a particularly fist-pumping moment. “Here we are years later, and I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are the product of his decisions — not mine.”

Mueller’s case isn’t helped by the fact that the alleged ass-grabbing occurred during a photo shoot, which means there’s a picture.

Brodsky explained that lawsuits are a common strategy to silence women or retaliate against them when they report sexual harassment or abuse.

“We, in recent years, have seen a rash of male students who were suspended or expelled for sexual assault suing the alleged survivors in retaliation, using these kind of defamation laws,” she explained. “What’s scary is that the knowledge that’s a risk is part of a victim’s calculus in whether to come forward, whether to report someone to his or her school or whether to pursue litigation.”

Unfortunately, Brodsky added, survivors don’t often have the resources to fight off such lawsuits, “and so often end up settling in ways that are counter to their interests and counter to justice, because they don’t feel like they can fight a well-resourced opponent.”

Swift, of course, has plentiful resources, which she deliberately highlighted by suing Mueller for $1. But it’s not a huge surprise that Mueller still took his chances. The myth that women lie about sexual abuse for the hell of it is still deeply ingrained in our society, and it’s notoriously hard even for lawyers with hard evidence to persuade jurors who want to cling to the belief that most such allegations are false.

Just last week, in fact, a male journalist, Yashar Ali, was targeted by a similar lawsuit. Fox News host Eric Bolling is suing Ali for $50 million for a story Ali wrote in which multiple women alleged that Bolling sent them unsolicited photos of male genitalia. Ali spoke to 14 sources for his story, and presumably there is a digital record if such text messages did occur.

The choice to target Ali personally instead of HuffPost, which published his story and has much deeper pockets, only adds to the suspicion that Bolling’s suits has less to do with uncovering the truth than with silencing women who have come forward with the counts his alleged sexual harassment.

In the past, women who made claims of harassment or abuse had real reason to fear public shame and approbation for coming forward. Watching that narrative turn around in pop culture, which can have a massive impact on culture at large, is a reason for hope.

It’s not just that Swift is gaining the upper hand in public opinion. The story of her fellow pop singer Kesha shows that women these days can come out about alleged sexual abuse without being relegated to pariah status.

Unlike Swift, with her cool certainty about what happened to her in the face of some pretty aggressive denials, Kesha’s journey has been a messier one. She has been entrenched in a public and horrific battle with her former producer, Dr. Luke, whom she accuses of sexual and emotional abuse. He, too, has countersued for defamation. Kesha has lost many of her court battles, due more to contractual issues than legal findings about her accusations, but it seems the public is on her side.

Kesha’s new album, “Rainbow,” was released last week to critical acclaim, and the media narrative quickly forming around her is inspirational, so much that it verges on cloying. But it’s tough to quibble with that, since Kesha, like Swift, is reaching the broader public with a narrative feminists have been proclaiming forever: the story of the survivor. It’s one where a woman does not need to be permanently broken or forever traumatized in order to demand justice. It’s one where the man who rapes, hits or harasses is the one to blame, not the woman who was simply trying to live her life, do her job or make her art when she was targeted.

To be clear, both these women have money and fame and all the attendant privileges, which most women lack. But these kinds of pop culture moments can create dialogue among ordinary people about issues like sexual abuse, power and how we know who to believe when someone makes an explosive accusation of sexual misconduct. We can hope that makes it easier for people to take such accusations seriously when they happen closer to home.

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“An Inconvenient Sequel” is good science with a fuzzy agenda

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power

Al Gore giving his updated presentation in “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power” (Credit: Paramount Pictures/Jensen Walker)

As I prepared to see “An Inconvenient Sequel,” my friends Jon and Chris and girlfriend Fran joked about Al Gore’s numerous appearances in pop culture, from direct cameos (“Futurama,” “30 Rock”) to satirical jabs (“South Park,” “Saturday Night Live”).

After the movie was over, the four of us were still discussing Gore’s pop culture appearances. And that, more than anything else, is the chief failing of the film.

Of course, this isn’t what the purveyors of pseudo-science would have you believe. Pundits like The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch have been claiming that the global warming observations and predictions from “An Inconvenient Truth” ultimately “never came true” and have used that claim to smear Gore’s new documentary about man-made climate change.

As has long been the case with the anthropogenic global warming deniers, however, their argument depends on disregarding the expertise of top scientists.

“Everything is heading in the direction of what Gore pointed out in ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’” said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science. “It might take us a little longer to get there than he suggested, but we will end up in the same place if we don’t do something about our greenhouse gas emissions.”

As Caldeira also explained earlier in his email to Salon, the various points cited by conservatives as discrediting Gore’s earlier film actually reinforce his point about global warming. There has been a significant ice retreat on Mount Kilimanjaro over the past century, despite right-wing claims to the contrary; Arctic sea ice has plummeted since 1979, again despite conservative attempts to spin that fact; and although Bastasch insists there has been a global warming “hiatus,” in fact “the last 3 years were the hottest 3 years on record, and the 15 years of the ‘hiatus’ were the warmest 15 years on record.”

And, of course, there is that timeworn claim that Gore and the scientific community are predicting an ice age. “They are apparently watching ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ and confusing it for ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’” Caldeira wrote. “‘An Inconvenient Truth’ did not predict that global warming would predict an ice age.”

Kevin Trenberth, of the Climate Analysis Section at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), made similar observations to Salon. After noting that he did not recall Gore making specific predictions in his first film and that if he did “any such predictions are posed as risks,” he pointed out that man-made climate change costs billions of dollars in damage each year; that “glaciers are melting worldwide and the snow season is a lot shorter”; and that “heat waves have indeed increased and caused huge losses.” Trenberth also echoed many of Caldeira’s observations before closing by stating that “Al Gore’s warnings hold true today every bit as much as before.”

This isn’t to say that scientists are brimming with enthusiasm for “An Inconvenient Sequel.” As Trenberth also mused in his email to Salon, “Whereas ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ seemed to be more about climate change, with Al Gore as a star, this movie seems to be about Al Gore, with climate change playing a secondary role.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. While both films in Gore’s “Inconvenient” series go into detail about the former vice president’s biography, the insertions seem more egregious in the sequel than the original. With “An Inconvenient Truth,” the bulk of Gore’s intelligence, wit and passion was invested in breaking down climate science in such a way that the vast majority of viewers could easily understand the threat presented by man-made global warming.

The tensest and most exciting moments of “An Inconvenient Sequel,” by contrast, are those in which Gore is front and center. In particular, we see the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee wheel and deal with Indian power-brokers to obtain that nation’s support for the 2015 Paris climate accord. This is interesting and relevant material, of course, but the narrative often seems to focus more on promoting Gore as a hero than on impressing upon its audience the dire need for change.

Strangely enough, this creative decision would be more justifiable if Gore was running for president in 2020 (he makes it clear in the documentary that this is not the case). Just as Bernie Sanders was able to draw increased attention to the issue of income inequality through his 2016 presidential bid, so too could Gore quite literally change the world by running for president with a focus on global warming (a point I’ve made in the past). If “An Inconvenient Sequel” was meant to be the kickoff for a Gore 2020 campaign, its focus on Gore himself would make perfect sense. Barring that possibility, however, it simply muddles the film’s purpose, if not its message.

Would I still recommend “An Inconvenient Sequel”? Sure, although I doubt there is much one could glean from this movie that couldn’t be obtained by rewatching “An Inconvenient Truth.” The thing about science is that it doesn’t much care for the flawed human beings who try to interpret it. Man-made global warming will continue to threaten our species whether we admit it or not, and that reality remains as present in 2017 as it did in 2006.

There are worse ways to learn about this subject than to watch “An Inconvenient Sequel.” It’s just a shame that Gore didn’t come up with a better one either.

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Love live storytelling? These 8 podcasts tell the good, bad and mortifying truth


(Credit: Getty/RapidEye)

It’s electric: these eight podcasts capture the storytellers’ adrenaline as they step into the spotlight to tell their tales. From the shocking to the sweet to the embarrassing, these live stories are told for an audience of you.

1. “The Moth”

Featuring favorite stories from live Moth events around the country.

2. “Snap Judgment”

A weekly radio hour of dramatically told stories with killer beats.

3. “Risk!”

Jaw-dropping and uncensored true stories that are remarkably real.

4. “2nd Story”

Fusing page, stage, and sound into a literary and theatrical experience that builds community through storytelling.

5. “RadioWest Podcasts”

Conversations between people that explore the way the world works

6. “The Stoop Storytelling Series”

Weird, wonderful, hilarious, heartbreaking — and, above all, intimate stories from ordinary people telling extraordinary true tales.

7. “Mortified”

Sharing the most embarrassing things created in our childhood — in front of total strangers.

8. “Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids”

Remembering the good, the bad, and the awkward parts of growing up.

Live storytelling is a part of the Arts podcast collection on RadioPublic. For more audio collections like this, check out RadioPublic’s guide. Begin listening to the most recent episodes here, or download the RadioPublic app for iOS or Android to follow the shows from any of these links.

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