The last time most people heard the name "Van Jones," it was as a political football. He got burned on the national scene, and he's learned a few lessons: play your cards close to the vest and keep moving forward. While his name's been less heard, Jones is still making his case in inner cities, Appalachia and think tanks.
In an interview before a speech to students at Howard University, Jones showed how much he's walled off his time, alluding to it only indirectly: "I'm glad I had 6 months in the White House. Now I'm working on the same issues in other ways."
He spends little time in the past and bounds over questions regarding his departure. Earlier this summer, though, the past seemed to repeat itself in a way that couldn't be ignored. The events surrounding the hasty termination of another black administration employee at the hands of a conservative media campaign begged Jones' analysis. The following is from his NY Times op-ed.
"Our situations aren't exactly the same. Ms. Sherrod's comments, in which she, a black woman, appeared to admit to racial discrimination against a white couple, were taken far out of context, while I truly did use a vulgarity." Jones is referring to himself using an expletive to describe Republicans
"Life inside the Beltway has become a combination of speed chess and Mortal Kombat: one wrong move can mean political death. In the era of YouTube, Twitter and 24-hour cable news, nobody is safe."
Nobody is safe. And Jones knows that in a way that few do. Even a year later, Glenn Beck continues drawing squiggly lines between Van Jones and the "New Black Panther Party" (Jones has retaliated with the L word). But amazingly, Jones hasn't tried to burrow deep below the chalk radar. Between his visiting fellow stint at Princeton University and his senior fellowship for the Center for American Progress, he could remain largely hidden under a stack of policy papers.
Instead, Van Jones, has started to beat the drum again, a little more measured this time: "We've got to find a way to get past the food fight. On TV you have people screaming at each other. When you have a really tough problem people should get more quiet--listen harder rather than screaming louder."
Author of the best-selling "The Green Collar Economy," Jones is still trying to convince America that "we are going into a period where the economy is melting down and the glaciers are melting down too." He promotes environmentally friendly jobs as the best way to employ the unemployed while tackling global warming. This two pronged approach, preaching environmentalism for the poor, can be an uphill battle.
But that is Jones's strength. Part of the reason he garnered a White House appointment rests in his deft, nearly poetic ability to deliver this message.
Following Jones to his address to Howard University's incoming freshman, he acknowledged the shortcomings of our current climate nomenclature; "Let's call it global weirding," then went on to lampoon our industrial stasis; "For 100 years we've been stuck on the post whale-oil solution." Finally, he invoked a slight of magical realism to describe the origin of our fuel supply..."That black goo that comes out of the ground is death--it is the blood and bones of our biological ancestors and we've been running our society on it. You pull death out of the ground and burn it...without ceremony. Then you've got death in the air and death on the oceans."
All his prose is in service of stretching out the corners of the environmental tent to include those who typically have been left out. He makes a special effort to engage two groups in particular: urban youth and Appalachian families. Thought not often seen at the movies together, both tend to suffer from economic hardship and environment-based illness (the highest levels of obesity, asthma and cancer). And to each their own rhetoric.
A Howard freshman hears: "If you are a young person standing in front of somebody's house, I'd rather you be on top of their house putting up a solar panel. I'd rather you put down the handgun and be able to pick up a caulking gun."
Inner-city youth seem like Jones' natural audience. He first entered the environmental debate through an Oakland-based campaign called "Green Jobs not Jails."
But Jones takes special pride in his ability to talk over the pink, bristled head of Glenn Beck, directly to his audience. At every speaking engagement, even at Howard, Jones mentions his plan for Appalachia and the heartland. "Under sane climate policy a rural farmer could get three paychecks. This is an agenda for a red state--three paychecks to bring back rural America...the first check is from deploying wind turbines. You get paid to watch those spin. The second is from growing an energy crop--hopefully an advanced energy crop, not necessarily corn. The third check comes from sequestered carbon in the soil that you can trade on the carbon markets."
Different solutions to the same problem. Which is how Jones views his own personal and political evolution as well: "Quite famously I've had a very colorful past as an activist. I've tried on lots of hats and ideas. The great thing about being an American is that you have the right to think whatever you want and you have the right to change your mind...My answers have changed as I've gotten older but my questions have stayed the same."
As I mentioned in this post in late November, and in this followup, and also in a discussion with Diane Rehm on her new podcast series yesterday, Donald Trump’s lies differ from those we have encountered from other national figures, even Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton during their respective impeachments. The difference is that Trump seemingly does not care that evidence is immediately at hand to disprove what he says. If he believes what he’s saying, at least in that moment, why shouldn’t we?
For the record, the latest entry of this sort is the repeated insistence by Trump and his associates that he won a “landslide” or “major” victory. For instance, this was his transition team’s response to reports of Russian attempts to swing the election in his favor:
Should you drink more coffee? Should you take melatonin? Can you train yourself to need less sleep? A physician’s guide to sleep in a stressful age.
During residency, Iworked hospital shifts that could last 36 hours, without sleep, often without breaks of more than a few minutes. Even writing this now, it sounds to me like I’m bragging or laying claim to some fortitude of character. I can’t think of another type of self-injury that might be similarly lauded, except maybe binge drinking. Technically the shifts were 30 hours, the mandatory limit imposed by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, but we stayed longer because people kept getting sick. Being a doctor is supposed to be about putting other people’s needs before your own. Our job was to power through.
The shifts usually felt shorter than they were, because they were so hectic. There was always a new patient in the emergency room who needed to be admitted, or a staff member on the eighth floor (which was full of late-stage terminally ill people) who needed me to fill out a death certificate. Sleep deprivation manifested as bouts of anger and despair mixed in with some euphoria, along with other sensations I’ve not had before or since. I remember once sitting with the family of a patient in critical condition, discussing an advance directive—the terms defining what the patient would want done were his heart to stop, which seemed likely to happen at any minute. Would he want to have chest compressions, electrical shocks, a breathing tube? In the middle of this, I had to look straight down at the chart in my lap, because I was laughing. This was the least funny scenario possible. I was experiencing a physical reaction unrelated to anything I knew to be happening in my mind. There is a type of seizure, called a gelastic seizure, during which the seizing person appears to be laughing—but I don’t think that was it. I think it was plain old delirium. It was mortifying, though no one seemed to notice.
A profanity-filled new self-help book argues that life is kind of terrible, so you should value your actions over your emotions.
Put down the talking stick. Stop fruitlessly seeking "closure" with your peevish co-worker. And please, don't bother telling your spouse how annoying you find their tongue-clicking habit—sometimes honesty is less like a breath of fresh air and more like a fart. That’s the argument of Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett, the father-daughter duo behind the new self-help book F*ck Feelings.
The elder Bennett is a psychiatrist and American Psychiatric Association distinguished fellow. His daughter is a comedy writer. Together, they provide a tough-love, irreverent take on “life's impossible problems.” The crux of their approach is that life is hard and negative emotions are part of it. The key is to see your “bullshit wishes” for just what they are (bullshit), and instead to pursue real, achievable goals.
The same part of the brain that allows us to step into the shoes of others also helps us restrain ourselves.
You’ve likely seen the video before: a stream of kids, confronted with a single, alluring marshmallow. If they can resist eating it for 15 minutes, they’ll get two. Some do. Others cave almost immediately.
This “Marshmallow Test,” first conducted in the 1960s, perfectly illustrates the ongoing war between impulsivity and self-control. The kids have to tamp down their immediate desires and focus on long-term goals—an ability that correlates with their later health, wealth, and academic success, and that is supposedly controlled by the front part of the brain. But a new study by Alexander Soutschek at the University of Zurich suggests that self-control is also influenced by another brain region—and one that casts this ability in a different light.
The personality test isn't perfect, but it plays to people's desire to understand themselves and others.
A group of young adults shyly meet for the first time on the second floor of an empty Manhattan shopping mall. The stores are all closed for the weekend, and other than a man stopping in the lobby to read his phone, this group is the only sign of activity.
“I actually really like clubbing,” shares one guy.
The group goes silent.
“Get out of the circle,” a woman whispers.
Everyone in this group took the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a personality test. They all tested as the same type (one that tends to be introverted), joined an online group for others who got the same result, and decided to meet up.
Which explains why they’re meeting in an empty food court: It’s perfect for a group of people who like quietude. In this crowd of 20-something New Yorkers, the clubber is, truly, an oddball.
Members disillusioned by support for the president-elect can more easily affect change if they stay put.
In October 2000, Jimmy Carter publicly bid farewell to the Southern Baptist Convention. He said he had grown “increasingly uncomfortable” with the Baptist body’s beliefs for years, but then the denomination adopted a “rigid” and conservative statement of faith that asked wives to submit to their husbands and prohibited women from serving as pastors. That was a bridge too far for the former president.
“My grandfather, my father, and I have always been Southern Baptists, and for 21 years, since the first political division took place in the Southern Baptist Convention, I have maintained that relationship,” Carter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I feel I can no longer in good conscience do that.”
How Vladimir Putin is making the world safe for autocracy
Since the end of World War II, the most crucial underpinning of freedom in the world has been the vigor of the advanced liberal democracies and the alliances that bound them together. Through the Cold War, the key multilateral anchors were NATO, the expanding European Union, and the U.S.-Japan security alliance. With the end of the Cold War and the expansion of NATO and the EU to virtually all of Central and Eastern Europe, liberal democracy seemed ascendant and secure as never before in history.
Under the shrewd and relentless assault of a resurgent Russian authoritarian state, all of this has come under strain with a speed and scope that few in the West have fully comprehended, and that puts the future of liberal democracy in the world squarely where Vladimir Putin wants it: in doubt and on the defensive.
When you’re alone in a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness, the simplest question becomes the most complicated: How do you fill a day?
A couple of years ago, I woke to three birds circling over my body, barking. I’d been sleeping in a bivouac, a kind of raincoat for a sleeping bag, camped in the tundra of Alaska’s Kantishna Hills. I unzipped the bivouac and popped my head out, peering up as the eerie silhouetted birds swooped toward me. The moon was a low and yellow sliver in the eastern sky; clouds to the northwest stacked in electric oranges and dark purples.
The birds' bodies stretched wide, their faces were flat. I could see faint stripes on the undersides of their extended wings. One of them landed on my food canister nearby and hissed. The other two circled about fifteen feet above the ground. They rose, then dove toward me, then rose and circled once more. They kept a rhythm: every few circles, one of them plunged toward me again. They eyed me from above, barking all the while like angry watchdogs. When one came close enough to claw at me, I flung my arms overhead and screamed, “Stop! What’s wrong! Go away! Please!”
Key legislators saw their fortunes reshuffled on Election Day in ways good, bad, and ulcer-inducing.
Quack. Quack. Zoom. With visions of unified Republican rule dancing in their heads, congressional leaders in both chambers are keen to keep the lame duck session quick and painless. (House members are already fleeing town, starting the holiday recess a week early.)
Pretty much everyone could use a bit of extra time off to prepare for the new president and the vastly altered political landscape he brings. Across the Hill, Trump’s shocker of a win has revalued the stock of members on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers. Some are obvious. (Poor Nancy Pelosi.) Some less so. (What will Jason Chaffetz do without a Democratic president to torment?) As the Trump Era looms, keep one eye on these notables, who saw their fortunes reshuffled on Election Day in ways good, bad, and ulcer-inducing:
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.