• Mother Jones’ Sinduja Rangarajan Wins a National Reporting Award From the Asian American Journalists Association

    A big shoutout to senior data journalist Sinduja Rangarajan for winning a national award from the Asian American Journalists Association. Her extensive reporting and wrangling of datasets in collaboration with Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting, where Sinduja worked before joining Mother Jones, shines a crucial light on challenges for H-1B visa holders. The Trump administration tightened restrictions, creating obstacles for highly skilled immigrants, largely from India and China, who often use the coveted visas as a path to residency in the United States.

    Sinduja assembled a first-of-its-kind database of H-1B lawsuits against the administration, showing a substantial uptick in applications being rejected for reasons that appear deliberately arbitrary and misapplied federal law. It was Sinduja’s first big series for Mother Jones, the culmination of a long look into the Trump era’s stealth strategy of cracking down on the visa program stemming from complaints aired by Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions in contradiction to Trump’s own claim that he wanted to help “totally brilliant people” work in the country.

    Trump himself is totally brilliant people, so I should trust 45, but, you know, I just don’t. Melania herself is here on a special-case “genius” visa, as it happens. Rather trust solid datasets from reporters who show their methodology transparently. Sinduja has built a living archive for the public to expand on. She shares the award with Mother Jones deputy editor Dave Gilson and producer James West, along with Reveal’s Teresa Cotsirilos, Brett Myers, Al Letson, Jim Briggs, Fernando Arruda, and Amy Mostafa.

    And today is Giving Tuesday. For those of you who can, consider pitching in to support investigations like it, and join the award celebration on Friday, December 12, 5–6:30 p.m. PT.

  • Help for Musicians and Other Post-Thanksgiving Leftover Hope

    The devastating toll of the pandemic on gigging musicians continues to upend artistic communities, but relief efforts are also growing. I got an encouraging email from the jazz drummer and singer Rie Yamaguchi-Borden. The nonprofit she started, Gotham Yardbird Sanctuary, with her husband, Mitch Borden (founder of the legendary jazz clubs Smalls and Fat Cat), helps musicians hardest hit by the coronavirus. “Even COVID-19 hasn’t completely broken our hearts,” she said. “As long as we are alive, we will never stop thinking about playing.”

    The group provides paid gigs with physical distancing in place throughout New York. More than 60 percent of musicians surveyed by the Jazz Journalists Association said their income this year is less than half of last year’s. More than 70 percent said they have no live gigs lined up for next year. Relief groups like GYS and the Jazz Foundation of America are meeting the moment with fundraisers and livestreams. GYS’s first monthlong series starts Tuesday and continues every Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. ET.

    More Recharges to enter the week:

    Fowl headlines: “Lame Duck Pardons Turkey,” tweeted Washington Post editor Marc Fisher.

    Take two: “Lame Duck Pardons Turkey.” Thanks Guardian.

    Take three: “Lame-Duck President Pardons Turkey.” Thanks Reuters.

    Climate win: Goldman Environmental Prize winners are being celebrated today in a virtual ceremony hosted by Sigourney Weaver, with appearances by Jack Johnson, Robert Redford, Danni Washington, and Lenny Kravitz. Winners include the innovative activists Chibeze Ezekiel of Ghana, Kristal Ambrose of the Bahamas, Leydy Pech of Mexico, Lucie Pinson of France, Nemonte Nenquimo of Ecuador, and Paul Sein Twa of Myanmar.

    Season of firsts: The American Ballet Theater welcomes Calvin Royal III as its first Black male principal in more than two decades. “Whether I was being featured or not over the years, I pushed myself and strived to be the best version of myself on stage and off,” he said, “so to finally make it to principal with ABT, it was a dream come true.” Hat tip to Venu Gupta for the story, and if you haven’t yet, check out our colleague Cathy Asmus’ insightful take on how dance studios are adapting to the pandemic.

  • What Giving Thanks Can Look Like This Weekend

    As you gather with the ones you love in person or remotely or not, it is worth reflecting on the words of Edgar Villanueva—author, activist, founder of the Decolonizing Wealth Project, an Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity, and, in full disclosure and celebration, a new member of Mother Jones’ board—from a conversation in Yes! magazine headlined “Healing From Colonization on Thanksgiving and Beyond”:

    As a Native American, I’m often troubled by the way that Americans approach Thanksgiving. By holding onto an idealized image of a harmonious feast between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag, we’ve overlooked the brutality that Native people have faced since the arrival of Europeans. For many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning and remembrance—a reminder of the genocide of our people, the loss of our way of life, and the theft of our ancestral lands.

    I propose seven steps to healing: grieve, apologize, listen, relate, represent, invest, and repair. I initially developed these steps in relation to my professional field of philanthropy, but they are also applicable to a personal process of decolonization.

    The steps Edgar proposes are not easy, but I imagine they have the cumulative effect of bringing forth the actual goal of Thanksgiving—gratitude.

    Gratitude for the opportunity to cross a bridge that you may not have known was there, or one you thought you couldn’t cross. Gratitude for the Navajo communities that organized get-out-the-vote efforts during a devastating pandemic that has imperiled the Navajo Nation at a disproportionate rate. Gratitude for the Gwich’in Native community in the Arctic for protecting the planet, risking life and livelihood. Gratitude for the Federated Indians of Graton Ranchería for supporting ways all of us can keep learning about wisdom that existed before so many of us arrived.

    Happy healing and giving of thanks in the many ways we can and have yet to pursue.

    —Venu Gupta is Mother Jones’ Midwest regional development director. Share your stories of gratitude and Thanksgiving with her at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Enjoy the Holidays Like My Grandma Would: Talk Shit About Strangers

    On Thanksgiving I think of my grandmother—a loud, kind, pugnacious woman who dyed her hair fiery red almost until the end. When she finally let her hair go white, I knew we were approaching a cliff. She died in early 2019.

    Her absence makes the general loneliness of this pandemic Thanksgiving a bit easier. I think this year’s holiday would have always felt empty without her, as my family adjusts. On my dad’s side, she was our locus. The turkey dinner was less important than her ersatz Jewish brunch; Panera bagels were deemed good enough, lox was average at best, pimento cheese was added (which, I thought, until visiting New York City, was Jewish, not Southern, because we always had it as an optional schmear). It is not really because of food though or because of her warm embrace that I will miss her this season.

    It is because my grandma, like me, basically enjoyed, above all, one activity: talking shit.

    I will really miss talking shit with my grandma this year.

    She was so ruthless, and funny, and biting. I loved it. She was an older Jewish woman glued to her chair or creeping along slowly in her walker around her home, constantly yelling insults about strangers—absolutely eviscerating people she’d heard about on TV.

    She talked shit about everyone and everything. She watched CNN with the glee of gossip and without moral qualms. The point was entertainment. I don’t think she ever pretended to be some “citizen” interested in democracy or the nation. She liked Anderson Cooper because he was attractive, not a good journalist. And she liked cable news because it tore away the pretense of “policy” and got right into the bullshit. My father joked that if a horror was ongoing in the world somewhere, she’d wake up early and diligently turn on cable news like it was a job. The Trump era, obviously, treated her well.

    Thanksgiving brought her prowess at this to a peak. Each year, we played a simple game: Who will be the Time Person of the Year? None of us really read the news deeply, except my dad, but mainly to write jokes; I don’t think anyone in my family subscribed to a print newspaper. This was all us just recklessly talking out of our asses. We’d yell and fight and laugh. This was a great way to be, and still is my preferred method of communication. I learned love is haranguing a family member for a slip of the tongue and a slightly bad take.

    So, in her honor, and perhaps this will be of help to you too, I highly recommend doing as she would do. Talk some shit. If you’re doing pandemic Thanksgiving, no uptight family will grouse or condemn about your meanness. Lean in and talk some shit about someone. Just pile on for no reason! It’s fun.

    And, yes, you can be thankful for all the good people in your life too, I guess.

  • “In a Sentimental Mood” When You’re Not in a Sentimental Mood

    The most memorable description I’ve read of the Trump era’s time-warp effect and destabilizing impact was written in late 2016—before his presidency. The president-elect was doing a victory lap. The news media was looking inward, or trying to, for lessons learned. Fusion’s editor-in-chief was the brilliant Alexis Madrigal, now an Atlantic staff writer and co-founder of the COVID Tracking Project, who found just the words to close out the year: “Each hour and each tweet and each celebrity sighting at Trump Tower can blot out the millions of other stories simultaneously in motion, backwards and forwards in time. How can anyone make a proper critique” of “the ‘moment,’ our name for any number of myths…if its basis—even the set of facts that occasioned it—has been forgotten in an instant? It’s like we’re living inside the memory hole, shards and pieces of what used to be structured into history floating around us like confetti.”

    My porous memory can’t shake that idea, the swirl of news and noise and the distinction between them; the durability of facts; the shards and structures of memory itself. What we remember and don’t. What we choose to forget but can’t. Whether it’s Mother Jones giving shape to the pandemic or Alexis chronicling its path, I’m brought back to those year-end words: “Maybe the hero of 2016 is every other year that has come before it, and their contents. Stay anchored. Do the work.”

    Thanksgiving will float by like a shard, and workers will stay anchored, seen or unseen. You don’t need sentimentalism to hear it, and don’t need to be in a sentimental mood to hear “In a Sentimental Mood,” recorded on this day 13 years ago by Sonny Rollins, now 90. Ellington’s original is here. Rollins’ is here. Madrigal is here. Recharge is at recharge@motherjones.com. Happy almost Thanksgiving.

  • Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Special Returns to Air After a Very, Very Close Call

    “Now that’s good news,” a co-worker sighed in relief after a colleague shared with us a breaking news headline: “Charlie Brown Specials to Air on TV, After All, in PBS Deal.” Count yourself lucky if you didn’t know that Charlie, Linus, and Lucy were temporarily off of network TV. They’re back to their historic PBS home after Apple TV+ had gained exclusive rights. An outcry grew with petitions gathering more than 263,000 signatures, and Apple backed down. PBS scored the victory, but Apple didn’t lose either. The platforms teamed up to air the specials in partnership “ad-free!” my co-worker boasted.

    The broadcast aired yesterday on PBS and streams for free this week on Apple TV+. If you don’t know Charlie Brown or Peanuts, start with the piano soundtrack. A key theme is anti-commercialism, or striking a better balance of consumption and the meanings found beyond products and services. It’s echoed elsewhere in surprising ways during the pandemic, as more big-box retailers revert to staying closed around Thanksgiving Day for safety rather than fueling elbow-jabbing crowds.

    The Black Fridayification of Thanksgiving was summed up in a 2015 Mother Jones article that rings ever truer, and a 2017 academic essay by Williams College student Will Abersek, with footnotes and all, that doesn’t fail to mention at the end, “I have written this essay in the style of David Foster Wallace.” Not sure that helps, Will, but your essay is remarkably good. And support for a less-commercial future of Thanksgiving, after the pandemic, is growing.

    Share thoughts on Thanksgiving and opinionated takes on Charlie Brown at recharge@motherjones.com, and if you need a boost, the daily blog is here for you.

  • From Our Archives, the Beginning of the Obama Presidency

    Ah, 2009. For the past week or so, I’ve lived in a time vortex propelling me back to that year. Then, as now, a Democratic president was about to take the White House; there was much chatter about Barack Obama’s legacy; and Gucci Mane’s music was of utmost importance.

    Yet it would have been impossible then to imagine each becoming so relevant now: Joe Biden’s election as president, a Verzuz battle amid the pandemic, and Obama’s memoir all smashing together. The world is acting like a poorly performed “10 years later” article.

    So, what can 2009 tell us about now?

    Looking back at our January+February 2009 issue, it’s surprising to see the number of echoes of the present. There were discussions about race versus class, whether to lock up Cheney for war crimes, and pushes for broad plans to fundamentally change the economy.

    One, from David Cay Johnston, that ran as our cover story, is an interesting document. He lays out a few ways to substantially change the tax code instead of “tinkering around the edges.” You might recognize a few of the ideas: fix student debt (Biden is talking about doing that), tax the rich (Democrats are talking about doing that).

    There’s more to dig into there, from a takedown of stimulus spending to an examination of welfare’s means testing.

  • Decades After Bombing Its Own Residents, Philadelphia Issues Its First Official Apology

    Thirty-five years later, a first public apology. On the night of May 13, 1985, police dropped a demolition device, typically used in war, on Philadelphia’s own people, killing 11 residents, including five children. The satchel bomb destroyed 61 homes and left more than 250 people homeless, lodging in local memory and parts of national memory an example of just how cruel, corrupt, demonstrably racist, and capable states are of atrocity with impunity. The target was the Black liberation group Move, known for protesting war and police violence. The city had wanted to evict Move from its West Philadelphia residence.

    The apology comes after the City Council passed a resolution following the measure’s introduction on the 35th anniversary. Only a handful of times in US history have governments—local, state, or federal—apologized for anything. Whether the apology can meaningfully advance a process of reconciliation, if not restorative justice, or is chiefly symbolic is fiercely debated, says Howard University political science professor Niambi Carter. But the acknowledgment does expand focus on a tool democracies have available and rarely use: apology. “I don’t know that an apology is going to be enough to really address the emotional toll that those events took on those communities,” Carter says.

    “To evolve and progress towards a more equal and just society,” the resolution says, “we must confront, reflect upon, and learn from heinous government actions of the past.” The apology also establishes a remembrance day to observe the history.

    “I know that it’s symbolic, but I also hope that it can be the start of the real listening and conversation and relationship building that we need to happen in the city,” says Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who sponsored the measure.

    Learn more about the legacy and share memories and thoughts about the bombing—and the reaches and limits of state apology, as well as what should come next—at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Barack Obama Drops a Playlist of 20 Memorable Songs From His Presidency

    On the eve of his new memoir’s publication, Barack Obama tweeted an accompanying playlist of “memorable songs from my administration” yesterday. “Hope you enjoy it.” The 44th president of the United States hopes you enjoy, and you should, but will you? No sooner did he publish his picks than millions of people got busy debating his list, checking it twice, criticizing his taste, praising his taste, and running a battery of political tests for partisan and bipartisan implications.

    “Great list, but kinda mellow,” tweeted the novelist Stephen King. “I like your style, Mr. President, and I miss you and your family so much,” wrote a fan. “Wish you were still President,” beamed a music critic. “So the soundtrack for his 8 years in office is Starbucks elevator music. Haha,” hissed a scholar. “A real Hyde Parker wouldn’t have picked the second track off Kind of Blue because the first track was too obvious—they’d have picked the third track!” wrote a discerning investigative editor at a competing newsroom.

    Obama has some good ones, but decide for yourselves: Aretha Franklin’s “The Weight,” BB King’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” Beyoncé’s “Halo” and “At Last,” Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” Brooks and Dunn’s “Only in America,” Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady,” Gloria Estefan’s “Always Tomorrow,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” Jay-Z’s “My 1st Song,” John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things,” Miles Davis’ “Freddie Freeloader,” Phillip Phillip’s “Home,” the Beatles’ “Michelle,” Sade’s “Cherish the Day,” Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” and “Sir Duke,” and U2’s “Beautiful Day.”

    “Music has always played an important role in my life—and that was especially true during my presidency,” Obama tweeted. His new book, A Promised Land, is fast becoming one of the top-selling political memoirs in history.

    “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There’s the United States of America,” he said years earlier. Tell it to the raging chorus of music critics and polarizers on Twitter. At least he included the Beatles’ “Michelle.”

    Listen to his playlist and weigh in on the former president’s picks at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • The Pandemic Has Shuttered Dance Studios, But the Stage Keeps Expanding

    There are many dancers for whom dance is their profession and near-singular concentration, who train for hours every day to become world-class athletes, classical artists, or iconoclasts in renowned companies. But there are many more for whom dance is a private and personal form of expression, who will never desire the fame or attain the status of a New York City Ballet prima ballerina, but who find in dance an integral and special part of their lives. They dance for self-exploration and cultivation of local community. And they have unique insight into the cloistered world of professional dance, owing to their access to it.

    I’m a dancer of the second kind, and though I’ve practiced jazz, modern, and many other styles, ballet makes my heart sing. Before the pandemic, I’d finish my day’s work at Mother Jones, change into my leotard, tights, and warmups, and hurriedly bike to the studio, arriving just in time for the first plié. I did this three or four times a week, staying for up to three hours each day. Dance was my all-in-one workout, church, therapy, art, and craft—in a different order each time.

    My last class was March 13, two days after the pandemic was declared, at Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet Dance Center in San Francisco. I’m sure many dancers remember their last pre-quarantine class vividly, set in memory by the void that followed.

    The Bay Area was quick to implement shelter-in-place and strict health protocols, and many studios closed, but they got creative: They tirelessly supported and received support from dancers by offering virtual classes for the first time, made recordings free to stream, held online events—whatever to stay afloat. Eight months later, studios that could survive financially are still adapting. Wherever you live, I guarantee your local studios and companies have found creative solutions.

    Until recently, I lived in a tiny one-room apartment with no space to dance, let alone do anything requiring a more-than-2-foot radius. I supported dance studios by buying passes for future classes and found workarounds to compensate for the abrupt drop of my spiritual center. Many groups have pivoted to digital offerings—Alvin Ailey posts prerecorded performances—and for others, the stage itself has moved. It’s no longer confined to a theater, the locations are limitless, and everyone gets the best seat in the house.

    Top companies are transcending traditional restraints, as in this San Francisco Ballet performance filmed at outdoor locations with more than 150 tracks recorded remotely by 60-plus musicians. Or in these five works by the New York City Ballet filmed throughout the city. One of them, Water Rite, turns the inside of the Hearst Plaza fountain into a stage. Or in this Paris Opera Ballet offering with a breathtaking view of the city.

    If you’re new to ballet or prefer classical story ballets over contemporary works, the full-length recording of the Kirov Ballet’s Swan Lake is magical. It’s a 1990 production, but it doesn’t age (or it ages well) and the caliber of Russian companies is exquisite. Giselle, Don Quixote, and Romeo and Juliet are all online too. And if you love ballet through the music, my top pick is the Mariinsky Orchestra’s version of Swan Lake under the direction of Valery Gergiev—jump to track 13, “Song of the Swans,” or listen to the masterpiece in its entirety.

    Beyond ballet, the range of contemporary and hip-hop offerings is expansive. A good place to start is Galen Hooks, who effortlessly plays with contemporary, lyrical, musical theater, and hip-hop themes to create a style of her own. Both Kida the Great and Robert Green are phenomenal (you’ll recognize them from So You Think You Can Dance), and Zoi Tatopoulos’ choreography is unclassifiable.

    When the pandemic is over, and lockdowns are loosened, I hope (and plan) to continue watching, listening to, and supporting dance in each new way.

    —Cathy Asmus is Mother Jones membership initiatives manager. Share your dance stories with her at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Don’t Fear Friday the 13th or Steve Buscemi

    Looming disaster and peril get all the love on Friday the 13th, but there is a ton of justice, good fortune, and joy in the archives. It was Friday the 13th when Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins recorded “Friday the 13th” in 1953, a classic of collective resilience. Their day had an eerie start: Rollins was delayed by a car accident, and trumpeter Ray Copeland fell sick, so Julius Watkins filled in, but they measured the moment by their resolve and firepower. The 10-minute jam was written on the spot in the studio, and Rollins tells me it’s one of his most fulfilling collaborations. Full track here; Monk’s solo here.

    It was Friday the 13th when Evelyn Brier became the first woman to receive an airplane instructor’s license. And Friday the 13th when President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order banning gender discrimination in federal employment, which, for all the rightful criticism of its record of enforcement and political support, signaled a milestone. But you’re not convinced. You freak about the 13th. You say you’re not superstitious while watching your step. Here’s more:

    It was Friday the 13th when Super Mario Bros. entered the world, in 1985, and another Friday the 13th when Steve Buscemi entered the world, in 1957. What scare has Buscemi given you other than Fargo and Reservoir Dogs? Steve is fine. He was a New York City firefighter in the ’80s. The day after 9/11, he volunteered with his old firehouse to work 12-hour shifts digging through rubble in search of missing firefighters and other potential survivors. “Very few photographs and no interviews exist because he declined them. He wasn’t there for the publicity,” a firefighter community wrote in solidarity. Ten years later, he joined protests against firehouse closures under Mayor Bloomberg. The actor has spoken at union rallies in support of labor rights while serving on the Friends of Firefighters advisory board.

    The first dinosaur eggs were discovered on Friday the 13th. Guess which day it was when NASA announced water on the moon. Guess the date of this year’s World Kindness Day. Correct. Share a word about kindness shown to you or by you at recharge@motherjones.com. And if today turns to crap, see you on Saturday the 14th.

  • Today Is National Happy Hour Day. You Get One Hour to Be Happy. Spend It Like This.

    The origin story of “happy hour” is contested and blurry, but most historians and etymologists circle 1599, when Shakespeare’s Henry V proclaims, “Omit no happy hour that may give furtherance to our expedition.” It wasn’t until the 1910s that the US Navy held Happy Hour Social three nights a week aboard the USS Arkansas, when, instead of drinks, it was boxing, dancing, singalongs, and picture shows. Today is National Happy Hour Day, and after a few drinks, the origin story is whatever you say it is. If you’re going by the archives, consider the 1959 Saturday Evening Post article that popularized the phrase. Shortly after, a 1961 Providence Journal article dove into detail.

    The saying was heard in California cities near naval bases in the early ’50s, and the tradition began at least as early as Prohibition. But nothing prohibits remaking the hour in your vision, if you can. Here are some suggestions:

    1. Spend an hour however you want or need (conditions permitting). You don’t even have to tell us what it is at recharge@motherjones.com.

    2. Wave across the internet, or the room, to someone you’ve been meaning to. Don’t exceed 60 minutes of this.

    3. In under an hour, read our Mother Jones column “What Are You Hoping For?”—with or without a beverage in hand—and let us know how you’re processing the election, the pandemic, the media’s coverage, and the personal and political roads ahead.

    4. See number one: Do something you want or need.

    I don’t want to hear from any horologist that “Hour Day” makes no sense. I’m far fussier than you could ever be about contradictions in terms, but this is fine. We can have an entire day for an hour. But only that. Happy NHHD.

  • Happy Diwali! And Don’t Forget to Wear Masks.

    Getty

    Over the next few days, you will undoubtedly read about the Hindu festival of Diwali, which signifies the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. The myth has different characters depending on where in India, or the world, you’re from: Rama, Sita, and Lakshman vs. the demon Ravana; Lord Krishna vs. the demon Narakasura; Lord Vishnu vs. the demon King Bali.

    Democracy vs. Donald Trump and complicit members of the Republican Party. Admittedly, this battle is still being fought, and even if democracy wins this time, and light pushes out the darkness, battles for good are fought over and over again. In lore and in life, good edges out evil, and then evil edges out good. The lines get blurry. And the battle begins again.

    We celebrate Diwali every year because there is no final triumph. Good cannot eliminate evil, only transform or temper it, because neither good nor evil—light nor darkness—exists without the other. Every year we’re reminded to use our most precious resources—time, energy, concentration, and love—to transform suffering in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country.

    We are, each of us, the light and the darkness, and our greatest battle is not with the demons outside but with the demons within. Much of Hindu mythology is about transforming our own ignorance. If we remake the Ravana within, we can shine more light for ourselves and even our political opponents. We do not need to demonize each other to fight demons.

    We need a little Diwali year-round. There are daily decisions that can bring more light: showing gratitude and showering people with your own brand of blessings; bringing righteous anger and commitment to justice in a given moment (instead of impotent rage); making space for BIPOC voices in our lives and workplaces; supporting our country by supporting women of color. And dancing with joy—and laughing—even when you feel like lying down in silence.

    The diyas that led the exiled son, Rama, to his rightful throne in Ayodhya stretched far from the city and could be seen from high above. Every flame upon a wick of cotton in an oil lamp helped pierce the darkness and allowed Rama to find his way home.

    You may not have a throne, and you may not run a city, state, or country, but you may run something—like the Recharge column at Mother Jones, and like my colleague who does, you are going to fight to protect that diya and illuminate the path forward no matter what comes. And you do. And the transformation toward good continues. Thank you, Daniel King.

    Happy Diwali to you all. May you find the light in your lives, and may you be a source of light to others.

    —Venu Gupta is Mother Jones’ Midwest regional development director. Share your stories of Diwali with her at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • The Healing Potential of Handwritten Letters

    In the far periphery of presidential politics and the surging pandemic, there’s a small, simple story that caught my attention from New York City. On a street corner in Brooklyn, a teacher named Brandon Woolf set up a folding chair and a typewriter alongside a mailbox and a handwritten sign offering “Free Letters for Friends Feeling Blue.”

    It’s a familiar sight in some cities. His instrument is analog. And there’s nothing particularly new about consolation letters. But as isolation stretches on, the sheer tactility of letter-writing takes on heightened potential for healing for passers-by who pulled up. For hours on end, Woolf would type for anyone who asked, with masks, hand sanitizer, and distance in place. “Whatever type of experience you would like to have, I’m happy to provide letters, envelopes, stamps,” he told reporter Anna Quinn. “What’s a better experience than getting a piece of mail…from somebody you didn’t expect to hear from?”

    Hard to disagree. With credit to Woolf and anyone who’s done it before, here’s an idea (what would Recharge be if not an amplifier?): For any reader who’d like a handwritten letter from our international Recharge desk, request away at recharge@motherjones.com. It won’t be typed, won’t be lengthy, and won’t be poetic; it’ll just be a postcard with a short message, and it won’t mention the 45th president of the United States.

  • Massive Street Parties Underway as Relief and Joy Wash Over Cities and Towns

    Eruptions of joy continued into the afternoon as sprawling street parties picked up from Brooklyn’s Fort Greene to Oakland’s Lakeshore, filmed by @ghostlychloe and shared by my colleague Jayo Miko Macasaquit, and another in Fairfax, California, posted by @sherlavars and shared by my colleague Steve Katz.

    From Oakland:

    In Fairfax:

    Steve, with Rachelle Averbach, describes “a beautiful fall morning” and “no surprise that downtown Fairfax was filled with mountain and road bikers” (Fairfax is the birthplace of mountain biking) plus “coffee-slugging brunch mavens…About 50 of us locals headed downtown to catch Biden’s and Harris’ victory party. It was an unexpectedly emotional moment for so many people—a release, a relief, even though we know how hard the time ahead will be.”

    In Brooklyn, my colleague Molly Schwartz synthesized the clanging pans, honking horns, and shouts of catharsis as “ambient jubilance [that] erupted into a full-fledged open-air dance party”:

    Outdoors and indoors, it all continues; if you have Recharges and videos of your own, share them at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Change Has Come to Mother Jones’ Style Guide: Biden-Harris in, Trump-Pence Out

    It’s not every day, or year, or four years, that I’m booting a president from our newsroom’s style guide. On Saturday, after multiple news organizations declared Biden-Harris the winning ticket of the presidential election, what choice did I have but to open our style guide, click “edit,” and enshrine the people’s will?

    Before:

    Capitalize formal titles only when they precede a person’s name: President Trump, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Lowercase informal titles (e.g., special counsel Robert Mueller).

    After:

    Capitalize formal titles only when they precede a person’s name: President-elect Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Lowercase informal titles (e.g., special counsel Robert Mueller).

    Before:

    airstrike
    a.m., p.m.
    American Dream
    “Amtrak Joe” Biden
    antifa
    Arafat, Yasser
    archaeologist

    After:

    airstrike
    a.m., p.m.
    American Dream
    “Amtrak Joe” Biden, President-elect Biden
    antifa
    Arafat, Yasser
    archaeologist

    Plus:

    • President-elect Biden (lowercase “elect”) in running copy; President-Elect Biden in headlines
    • Vice President–elect Harris (en dash, option+hyphen); Vice President–Elect Harris in headlines
    • Lowercase titles when not preceding names: The president-elect tweeted. If a spoken quote has “Madam Vice President,” Madam not Madame.

    Had to be done. Trump is still president for the next 10 weeks, so bear in mind that “lame-duck” gets hyphenated as an adjective, and stays open as a noun. And these things matter, like when Fox News told its anchors not to call Biden “president-elect” when it called the race, according to two internal memos, before the network changed its tune in the face of overwhelming facts. Read our style guide, and send suggestions, here.

  • From Our Archives, When Bush Left

    “The Bush legacy—where to begin?” this magazine’s staff wondered in our 2008 September+October issue. It was hard to sum up the unrelenting damage done by the “Worst. Administration. Ever.” The obvious place to start was the horror of the Iraq War, which we’d reported on extensively, including a timeline of lie after lie that led to it. But there was more, much more to how Bush tore the government apart.

    A great deal of what happened has been flushed out of collective memory—or at least less likely to be mentioned—with the more robustly obvious incivility (if no less evil) ascendent in the tea party and in turn President Trump. Yet disconnecting those strains of Republicanism and teasing out any real change on the right is a bit harder to see when you look back to 2008. At the very least, it’s not worth pretending Bush didn’t set up Trump, and it is harder to pretend Trump is a complete aberration.

    Go check out our timeline of Bush’s “reign of error.” Look back at what David Cole said in 2008, with grave concern over the powers of an unchecked executive. And, of course, the lack of calling out a president’s blustering lying surely didn’t help us deal with Trump. All the seeds are there. Comparisons of “who caused this” or “who is worse” likely miss the point—Bush set up Trump more than we’ve probably talked about. In 2008, we wrote a whole issue grappling with how to fix the Bush era. I’m rereading to see what we still have left to do.

  • A Day of Firsts for LGBTQ Candidates, and the Anniversary of “Georgia on My Mind”

    Eighty-nine years ago today, Louis Armstrong recorded “Georgia on My Mind.” Counting in Georgia continues as I write this, and a listener asks, “What date did Louis record ‘I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed’?” Answer: November 21, two weeks from now. I heard last night on the radio a back-to-back set of “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe” by Ella Fitzgerald, “Good for Nothin’ Joe” by Lena Horn, and “Hold ’Em Joe” by Harry Belafonte. “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix was missing. I don’t endorse candidates or radio stations, but I endorse music and justice; while we wait, Armstrong is here, Fitzgerald here, Horn here, Belafonte here, Hendrix here, and good news here:

    Earth’s people. Nevada voted to require half of all energy to come from renewable sources in 10 years. The state is also the first to repeal a same-sex marriage ban in its constitution.

    Path to power. Ohio welcomes its first woman and LGBTQ person as sheriff in the history of Hamilton County. “My role,” Charmaine McGuffey said, “is to be an example of what you can accomplish as an LGBT person because there’s a lot of discrimination out there.” 28-year-old Adrian Tam becomes Hawaii’s only declared LGBTQ elected official in the statehouse, beating a leader of the Proud Boys, the violent far-right group that includes white supremacists. And in Oklahoma, 27-year-old Mauree Turner becomes the country’s highest-ranking nonbinary lawmaker.

    Naming rights. Rhode Island has removed the word “Plantations” from its official name. Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is now just Rhode Island. When the name was adopted in the 17th century, the word didn’t refer specifically to a place where people were enslaved locally, but 53 percent of voters approved the switch, recognizing the role the state played in the transatlantic trade.

    Moons ago. If the planet is wearing you down, remember that NASA announced last week the discovery of water on the moon’s sunlit surface. When safe travel returns, Recharge party on the moon, your treat. Mother Jones is reader-supported; if you can, support us and I’ll look into a 2021 moon Recharge. Until then, keep Georgia on your mind, and keep ideas coming at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • The Biggest Battle Isn’t Over, But 7 Causes for Celebration Couldn’t Be Clearer

    Whatever happens tomorrow, these day-after boosts are right here:

    Florida gets a raise. The Sunshine State became the first in the South to pass a $15 minimum wage, nearly doubling its current minimum in a milestone for the livable-wage movement supported by labor groups like Fight for 15. My colleague Hannah Levintova contextualizes it. 

    Medicine that works. Five states have made safe medicine more available—Arizona, Montana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and South Dakota—in cannabis changes that our science reporter Jackie Flynn Mogensen rolls right up for you.

    Bag it. New Jersey is the latest state to reduce its reliance on single-use plastic, seeing the stakes (and acting on them) as a climate imperative.

    Native voices. Six Native Americans are heading to Congress in a historic wave that gives the House a record number of Native members. Indian Country Today reporter Dalton Walker has more.

    Rising representation. New Mexico is the first state to elect all women of color to a House delegation: Deb Haaland was already one of the first Native women in Congress, and she’s joined by Teresa Leger Fernandez and Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee Nation.

    A hot dog is not a sandwich. As I write this, 128 of you voted “no” and 117 “yes” in yesterday’s Mother Jones poll asking, “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” Look, it’s not my fault that National Sandwich Day lands on the last day of presidential voting any more than it’s your fault. Team No is pulling ahead; polls are still open, but I’m projecting a winner.

    Try not to nail-bite. A lot of “nail-biter” uses in headlines this morning. New York Times: “nail-biter.” CNN: “nail-biter.” NBC: “nail-biter.” Politico: “nail-biter.” CNBC: “nail-biter.” FiveThirtyEight: “nail-biter.” Chicago Tribune: “nail-biter.” Talking Points Memo: “nail-biter.” Mail Tribune: “nail-biter.” CNN again: “nail-biter.” Times again: “nail-biter.” I don’t endorse nail-biting but I endorse the phrase for drawing attention to behavior that needs consideration. Nails get bitten and chewed and gnawed and spit out like day-old pizza crust and unpaid interns at oppressive offices that exploit free labor. But the phrase is good. Think about it: all this free publicity about the health of your nails, smuggled through metaphor. “Learn to resist the urge” to bite, says Tara S. Peris, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a piece titled “How to Stop Biting Your Nails.” In high-stress times, it’s understandable. Biting should be taken seriously as a sometimes compulsive or impulsive expression. Take Peris’ advice, if you can, to limit it. And take my advice, if you can, to keep using the phrase.

  • A Florida Mother of 4 Recounts Her First Time Voting in 12 Years

    As the race tightened into the night and early morning, sources of good news began to emerge beyond the results themselves. Among them is the story of 39-year-old LaToya Moreland, a mother of four, and her rocky journey to her first time voting in 12 years. The Florida resident overcame obstacle after obstacle on her way to the polls. Read her incredible story in her own words, and take your recharge where you can. We’ll be back with more good news after some short rest.