26 July 2017

As a former resident of Massachusetts, I could not be prouder of Monday's unanimous court decision against tyrannical and unlawful detention of innocent immigrants.  It honors the legacy of John Adams, defense attorney (if not John Adams, president). 

It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, 'whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,' and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

25 July 2017

I turn my ears to the Streets and Avenues of the Midwest
And there groans and keens the rumbling of the Harley,
Whose Cylinders rage direKilling the noise
That spills over every family's windowsill,
Destroying the sleep of the babe and child,
And killing the subsidies given with lavish hand
By state development agency to forge
The Wheels without Wheels
For pale men remembering a pale Past.

A contemporary poem based on an excerpt from William Blake's Jerusalem

24 July 2017

Whether you are fighting because you’re buried in student loan debt, are struggling to afford your health care, or are one of the millions of Americans who have not bounced back from the Recession quite like Wall Street and the top one percent have, it is important that we stick together.
We have proven time and again that when we are determined, engaged, and supporting one another we can overcome whatever challenge is thrown our way. When the establishment told us that campaigning on Medicare for All, free college tuition, and closing the corporate tax loopholes without a Super PAC to help us was pie in the sky, we went out and won 22 states and over 13 million votes in the Democratic primary. That is exactly what we fought for...
As long as a single person is denied their right to health care, an education, a living wage, or reproductive rights, we will be there fighting. Until the fossil fuel industry, Wall Street, and the prison-industrial complex are called to account for the harm they’ve done to the American people, we will stand with you in this fight.

--Nina Turner, President of Our Revolution, in a fundraising email, July 22

23 July 2017

This honest autobiographical piece is well worth reading for anyone who has been reading Harper's and The New York Times religiously for the past six months and still can't fathom why Trump and everyone around him is such an asshole.  (The man has a bachelor's degree and a MBA, and I dare say he could have gotten a PhD in philosophy from Princeton or maybe U. Penn, if he had claimed to have a new interesting take on Heidegger or Derrida -- but he was always more into wrestling.)

(I discovered this piece from a Yahoo search for "assholes of academia.")

The Defeat of Trumpcare, as explained by Chad Harbach in his novel The Art of Fielding.  

[SIGNIFICANT PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD!  Here is a Cubs video to cushion the blow.]

   Dougal stomped pissily around the back of the mound, flipping the rosin bag with the backs of his fingers.  Henry squeezed into a batting helmet and slowly made his way toward home plate.  He dipped one foot inside the batter's box, as if testing the temperature of a pool.
   "Let's go, son," growled the umpire.  "Season can't last forever."
   Henry stepped into the box, tapped the Harpooner on his chest three times.  He felt less muscle than he'd grown to expect beneath the starchy fabric.  Dougal peered in, agreed to a sign.  The Amherst crowd started a chant.  The first pitch, an absolutely filthy slider, darted by for a strike.
   Henry knew that he was toast.  Dougal could throw that filthy pitch twice more, and he wouldn't come close to hitting it.  It was a pro-quality slider, had broken a foot or more while moving outlandishly fast.  The timing required to hit a pitch like that was a matter not just of skill but of constant practice.  A day off made it tough; a month off made it impossible...
   He decided in advance to swing at the second pitch, if only to give Dougal something to think about.  Dougal wiped the sweat from his forehead, checked Izzy at first.  The pitch was another slider, identical to the first.  Henry swung and missed.  Two strikes.
  Still, he must have done something to catch Dougal's eye, because Dougal shook off one sign, and then another, and then beckoned for the catcher, who called time and jogged out to confer.  The Amherst fans were going crazy.  Dougal lifted his glove to his face and spoke through the latticed weave of the webbing, to keep Henry from reading his lips ... The catcher figured Henry was an easy mark -- wanted to finish him off right away, with another slider down the pipe.  The catcher was probably right.  But Dougal saw something else in Henry, smelled a whiff of danger (We are brothers, Dougal, brothers) , and felt a need to set him up for the kill -- to show the fastball high and tight, before finishing with the slider low and away.  It was flattering, in a way, that a pitcher like Dougal would go to such trouble to strike him out.  And it was foolish, in a way, for Dougal to be so crafty, to insist on the pride of his craft, to try to orchestrate things, instead of simply letting Henry beat himself. 
  Henry set up farther from home plate than usual, to encourage Dougal to throw his high tight fastball a little tighter than he otherwise might...

25 June 2017

Ode sur le cinquantième anniversaire de Benoît Hamon
(aux vers alexandrins)

Je te félicite, Benoît de Bretagne!
J'ai cherché l'histoire depuis Charlemagne,
J'ai lu la vie de chaque roi catholique,
et jamais j'ai vu ça, ta vertu publique.

De la politique honnête le professeur,
du vieux socialisme l'heureux rédempteur;
associé manqué du chancelier Merkel;
et -- pardonne-moi une phrase de l'autel --
face au grand chaos de Tiamat dragon,
tu maintiens l'ordre, un beau Mardouk champion.

Quam parva sapientia mundus regitur,
et très notamment aux îles Brittaniques;
La joie intense des campagnes politiques
Cède si vite à la vie ennuyante.
Mais c'est suffisante à nous, la victoire,
bien qu'un autre a gagné la belle gloire.

Je dédie ces vers à toi, homme mal connu,
qui voit le monde tel qu'il est, pas tel qu'il fût,
Esprit magnanime, trop rare à la gauche,
An par an, tu écris la puissante ébauche
D'une société plus humaine:
Qu'on l'écoute, et la France soit saine.

24 June 2017

¡Félicitationes al Tri!  Ustedes deberían estar recibiendo la copa del próximo año.
"In every child, there is a poem; in every child, there is a painting; in every child, there is music.  But d'you know what, as people get older they get a bit embarrassed about that:  ooh, can't be thinking that sort of thing, can't be writing poetry.  No!  I want all our children to be inspired..."

--Jeremy Corbyn today at Glastonbury

23 June 2017

As with most autocrats, Mobutu's personal charisma went hand-in-hand with an instinctive feel for the masses.  It was an understanding he carefully nurtured in the first fifteen years of his rule, travelling the country constantly in his determination to fuse the fractious provinces into one nation.  "His party piece was to call some regional governor and announce he would be flying into his district at noon.  It was his way of keeping them on their toes," recalled former US ambassador Daniel Simpson, who did a total of three tours of the country...
Then would follow a speech in Lingala, the language which, unlike the French mastered by only an educated elite, was accessible to the common man.  It would be full of puns, wordplay and wisecracks.  Mobutu would get the crowd giggling, cheering and laughing.  As often as not, there would be a public putdown for an unpopular aide or minister, sometimes a sacking.  It was Mobutu's way of assessing the national mood and lancing the boil of public discontent before it turned septic.  "He was a speaker of genius," said a Congolese journalist who was a student at the time.  "I would go unwillingly, because I didn't really approve of Mobutu.  But as soon as he began speaking, we would be swept away.  We'd stand in the sun for hours, but the time would slip by without you noticing.  If you study those speeches now, in the cold light of day, you can see there was almost nothing in them, they were full of inconsistencies, gossip and tittle-tattle.  But he knew just how to speak to the people.  He would tell us nonsense and we would believe him."

--Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz:  Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo, Chapter 4, "Dizzy Worms"