30 November 2016

11:40 AM in the US Capitol and reporters are waiting an awfully long time to hear from the House Democrats.

This smells to me a lot like the mayoral election in Chicago 18 months ago, in which Rahm Emmanuel was supposed to win handily, no runoff needed, because all the beautiful people who were going to chip in for the Obama Presidential Library were behind him.  Although I could be wrong.  Thank God for C-SPAN in these times.

26 November 2016

What Rust Belt?

Continuing in the "happens in some place" theme...

I am not a political scientist or statistician.  However, I have seen quite a lot of the United States, and I am more than ever convinced that there is no 'Rust Belt' anymore.  (People driving cars made in Tennessee and Georgia, you may agree.)

Like Northern England, the Great Lakes region once had a lot of heavy industry, and there are enough people still alive who remember that era that political consultants can be paid very well to fret about the Rust Belt Problem.

The only place I have set foot in that looked and felt like 'the Rust Belt' to me is Gary, Indiana, a shell of its former grandeur.  If there was ever a place tailor-made for the words 'Make America Great Again,' I would have to say it would be 21st-century Gary.  (My experience of the Detroit area is limited to the bright perky international airport outside the city.) And yet (Gary being 84.8% African-American might have something to do with this) in Gary's county, Lake County, Trump received less than 38% of the vote.

A vague approximation of Gary, I guess, may be Milwaukee, which has also lost much population in the last 60 years.  Trump didn't get very far here either, despite a county sheriff who wants all citizens to arm themselves and throws accusations of 'penis envy' at his political rivals.

A Tough Crowd for the President-Elect in the Theater of Government

"Everything that happens in the world happens at some place." --Jane Jacobs

In this election, Trump did not win any suburban Maryland or Virginia counties, and won 4% of the DC popular vote.

Compare this with 2004, when George W. Bush won Loudoun and Prince William counties (in the northern VA suburbs), and also won 9% of the DC popular vote.

Even in the tumultuous 1968 election, Richard Nixon managed to get 18% of the DC popular vote and won most of its suburban counties.

No amount of care in selecting Cabinet members (and indeed racial diversity in the new Cabinet is already a casualty) is going to ameliorate the kind of hostility that comes from a foreign conqueror occupying the seat of power amidst an urban and suburban population that so decisively rejected him.

Trump may well find it more convenient to "govern" (air quotes very much intended) from Louisville, Kentucky or another centrally located city.  Four percent of the District of Columbia's vote -- less than 13,000 people -- is no basis for a normal, stable regime.  The farcical Trump 'priorities statement' the other day made this all too apparent.

20 November 2016

“It’s just one or two disgraceful people who are trying to incite the rest. The majority of fans here are saying that if they’re there at the game and hear anything like that, they’re going to make sure the people disrupting things are removed.”


18 November 2016

When I write criticism now, I do tend to write about things I love just because I’m more motivated by that. Hate is not enough for me anymore. It doesn’t give me the requisite energy to write 5,000 words. It really has to be adoration, I guess. But I do feel when I am writing criticism that I am much more defended, sure. I can be cool in criticism, and I can be right, which is a great joy, whereas in fiction you can only be variously vulnerable. There’s no such thing as a perfect novel, and you’ll always look the fool in some proportion, and also you’ll always reveal yourself in a way that is kind of horrifying. I can tell from somebody’s sentence the type of person they are and that’s the risk with a novel. With criticism it’s all much more disguised.

--Zadie Smith

16 November 2016

Death in Hellas (a poem about Barack Obama's last international journey as President, to Greece)

Over the Atlantic, and over Mare Nostrum,
if it is still nostrum, the airship sailed,
and when the rubber kissed the tarmac
on an old, old Attic field,
there was weeping of women in many cities.

Rocks of ages sternly loomed
and olive trees drooped with the advancing year.

Mr. Tsipras sat with his guest and talked technology,
while dirty Cynics in the streets screamed or slept.
The gods of finance, bratty children of classical liberalism,
are never satiate for long.  Which hundred Cretan,
or Macedonian, or Epirote, children to garland now?

Full moon through wintry clouds.

14 November 2016

"We don’t believe there is a functional conservative party in this country and we certainly don’t think the Republican Party is that,” he told a gathering of conservatives in Washington, D.C.  “It’s going to be an insurgent, center-right populist movement that is virulently anti-establishment, and it’s going to continue to hammer this city, both the progressive left and the institutional Republican Party."

--Steven Bannon, incoming White House chief strategist

While carrying out the socialist revolution, we must not only see that the old bourgeoisie and its intellectuals still exist in society and that large numbers of the petty bourgeoisie are still in the course of remoulding their ideology, but we must be especially aware of the bourgeoisie hidden inside the Party, that is, those Party persons in power taking the capitalist road. Only by waging a resolute struggle against the capitalist-roaders in the Party like Liu Shao-chi, Lin Piao and Teng Hsiao-ping and persisting in directing our revolution at the bourgeoisie inside the Party can victory be ensured in the struggle against the bourgeoisie and the capitalist forces in society at large; only thus can it be said that the main target of the socialist revolution has been really grasped.  Anyone who fails to understand that the bourgeoisie is right in the Communist Party is not a sober-minded proletarian revolutionary.

"mat," editor of Signalfire, a Maoist web publication that keeps us informed of the heroic activities of  "Great Penis"* and other Naxalites in present-day India.

 *My translation of 'Mahalingam,' who is apparently now in Madurai Central Prison after failing to appear in court as ordered.

12 November 2016

The presidential election, according to --

1.  A very late NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll:

Clinton  44%
Trump  40%
Johnson  6%

2.  Reality (as far as the votes have yet been counted):

Clinton   47.6%
Trump   47.1%
Johnson   3.2%

The Coming Presidency is Already Chronically Wasted

The outgoing President's valiant performance of normalcy notwithstanding, 2017 is going to be a pretty difficult year for American unity, with over two-thirds of Americans apparently disgusted with the Trump campaign.  (Translating that disgust into support for someone else, and not just political apathy, is not easy and too many experts assumed Clinton didn't have to work at it.  She was certainly trying by the end, but this is a tough nut to crack.   As a writer during the flagrantly corrupt Grant Administration put it, "The public ear becomes dull by the constant repetition of accusatory epithets until disgust leads to apathy instead of action.")

The writers behind the American version of House of Cards must be (uncomfortably) reminded of their work:  the show introduced us to a vapid Democratic President from California, unprepared for the job, saddled with a consummate insider VP from a conservative rural state who steps in to do the actual governing.  That the two major parties could both produce such an executive duo is, sadly, not shocking to anyone who looks closely at RNC or DNC sausage-making.  I do hold out hope for the Democratic Party to make better sausages, though, especially with someone like Keith Ellison as head chef.

10 November 2016

The Age of 'Liberal Lions' Is Done

I am sorry to see Russ Feingold lose his bid to return to the US Senate.  I saw him twice in the last two years, two consecutive Septembers I believe, and remain very impressed by his fighting heart and his lifelong commitment to the public good.

In the new age that is dawning, though, new leaders are emerging to captain the progressive cause.  We should not hold our breath for a replicated Ted Kennedy* to appear and, white knight-like, deliver our afflicted souls from the dungeons of Orange Bolg.**  A Slate writer recently noticed that the number of women of color in the Senate is about to quadruple.  We may never get to see Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, but I am heartened to know that any attempts to reinstate anti-gay discrimination in the military or ban abortion will have to get past these women first.  (There are going to be at least 48 Democratic senators in total in the coming Congress -- 49 if Louisiana chooses to elect a Democrat in the imminent final-round contest there.)

*I confess to having never understood the cult of Ted Kennedy.  He was an egotistical grandstander who accomplished very little in his years as Senator; arguably, he destroyed the Carter Presidency by the schism he instigated in the Democratic Party in 1980.

**Bolg:  the Balrog who dwelt deep in the Mines of Moria and slew Gandalf, at least temporarily.

06 November 2016

Pro Catulis: Paradise Lost and Regained

[photo:  Mordecai Brown and Cub friend in 1909]

And so the people of the Garden-City sang;
at an age of innocence, they rejoiced in their bearlings,
while their cousins in Britain and Germany
built Dreadnoughts, their fellow men and women
in China died to build their own Republic.
The kind and portly Unitarian man would be Chicago's
highest magistrate, for four years at least.

[variation on the Song of Legolas in Return of the King]
Grey team, grey team, whither are you going?
Aut Epstein aut nihil:  thus my mind is fearing.
Yet perfect love casts out all fear -- O streetlights shining!
O dhaba, O Irish pub, O taqueria bustling!
Long are the waves on the lakeshore falling,
Sweet are the voices of Wrigleyville laughing,
The place that you must fly the W to discover,
In any town on earth:  home of our Cubbies forever!

03 November 2016

Zobrist and Arrieta, Hendricks and Chapman, Bryant and Fowler ....
A laita te!  A laita te!  Andave laituvalmet!