23 July 2017

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"

22 June 2017

You can't ask someone who's comatose to swallow tablets.  So why deliver programs to people who are culturally and emotionally comatose?  We're not working magic, I just think we're doing some of the groundwork that makes the programs that are already funded work and stick.
Rev. Alex Gee, pastor of Fountain of Life Church in Madison, as quoted by Lisa Speckhard in the Capital Times (June 21, "Justified Criticism?")

21 June 2017

An Ossoff Autopsy [edited]

Ossoff was a good candidate, but sometimes seemed reluctant to fight for every vote, preferring to remain in the rarefied realm of "data," which is more or less shorthand nowadays for "don't take strong positions on anything."  I hope he learned something from this loss.

Regarding the great health care debate, which was rather important in this race, we ignore the theological premises behind people's views at our own peril.  When you think health care is a privilege reserved for good white Christian women (yes, men really don't need it, as their dominion over all creation is guaranteed explicitly by God*), no number of phone calls from concerned liberals across the nation is going to change your mind; indeed, white men who tell you that (maybe) every one deserves health care are probably going to look weak.  As before, white Democrats struggle with a morally righteous response to this theology. 

I also think it's getting increasingly clear that Nancy Pelosi should not remain House Minority Leader forever. 

----
*Field Organizer's Handbook on Christian Dominionism is something I may just self-publish.



Addendum

As usual, Trevor Noah is lightyears ahead of everyone else in understanding this problem. 

16 June 2017

"Members of the two parties are more likely today to describe each other unfavorably, as selfish, as threats, even as unsuitable marriage material."


This, on the nytimes.com main page ("Over 50 Years, the Partisan Divide Just Keeps Getting Worse"), has got to be the most horrifying sentence I've ever read from the Times.  Can someone immediately cut out the "even as," please?

Also, Jeff Bezos:  you could start one heckuva gun buyback program with your $82 billion.  It is perhaps the highest form of philanthropy to save the lives of innocent infants who have the misfortune to be born in states with virtually zero gun control by a proven method of reducing violent crime.

13 June 2017

Oh, and some sleepy old white dude from Alabama is testifying at the Senate now (although most of the talking is coming from Tom Cotton, who clearly has about 500 amazing liberal crimes to tell the nation about, and no time to lose!  Maybe the sleepy old white dude could go out and get to work fighting those crimes, if he didn't have to answer questions about what spy fiction he likes (not f*king kidding about that).
What will it take, exactly, for male reporters* to admit that American press freedom is not secure now?  Zones of media deference extending two miles around properties owned by Senators?  Anderson Cooper held as a hostage in Mar-a-Lago for two days every time Lester Holt wants to ask the President about perjury?

*The linked article assures us that despite the clear and present Maoism of the Trump White House, "Americans also benefit from a free and raucous press..."  It does always appear to be men (and certainly not all men: those who have been assaulted by Republican candidates may have other ideas) insisting that the mass media is healthy, vigorous and untrammeled as ever, and that yes, we may look an awful lot like stenographers for Big Brother, but really not to worry, we aren't actually ritually castrating ourselves yet, so we are a Free Country.

(I dislike the linked article for the additional reason that, right off the bat, it confuses the koutou , "the ancient Chinese act of kowtowing," with verbal sycophancy.)

12 June 2017

I'm sure it was very heaven on the rare sunny day in Glasgow last week when Jeremy Corbyn spoke to telly-watchers across the nation and scoffed at the Institute for Fiscal Studies*.  I would write a poem about it, if I could be sure of getting the local dialect right.

*A think-tanky sort of club founded by four financial-sector dudes in 1965 because they wanted to throw a tantrum about the new corporate income tax.  Over the next fifty years or so the group gained the status of Voice of God for upper-class-twit media organizations.
I'm sorry, this Slate headline has got to be rewritten:

En Marche, Centrist Machine Party That Devoured Much of Socialist Party, Appears to Do Very Well in Legislative Elections that Most French People Couldn't Be Arsed About; Stage is Set for Gradual Slide Towards Appeasement of Far-Right and a Cosmetic Reworking of Everything Marine Le Pen Wanted.

No, it's not pleasant seeing other democracies fall into the same trap as the United States did post-2008.  But I can't pretend that it's not happening.

11 June 2017





Rest in peace, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo.  Let us remember his words in a Pretoria courthouse:  "We are Namibians, and not South Africans.  We do not now, and will not in the future, recognize your right to govern us, to make laws for us in which we have no say, to treat our country as if it were your property and us as if you were our masters."

10 June 2017

Jon Ossoff, you are inspiring me like nobody else these days. You are the true apostolic successor to Bernie.

05 June 2017

In the post-patriarchal future I look forward to, I think virtually everyone will be happier on a day-to-day basis.  But jobs will be lost, and it isn't just Catholic priests I'm thinking about.  Without silly gender-role bullshit, I really doubt whether Dear Prudence (Mallory Ortberg) will have enough correspondents to justify her excellent Slate advice column. 

All but the last query in her latest batch could hardly be formulated in a society where it was truly OK for boys and girls, gay and straight alike, to pursue happiness in different ways according to their temperaments and inner lights.  (The first questioner tries to swat away this problem by pointing out that he's a man married to a man, and that he isn't making a "sexist calculation."  As if this was ever really a matter of crunching numbers.)  It's pretty f*ing sad, in my view, the kinds of things people will do to each other in the name of some vaguely defined notion of the way things oughta be.  There's tradition, and then there's just plain cruelty gussied up as "traditional values."  And forcing your 5-year-old into the ocean waves because he has a penis (the implication seems clear), I would submit, falls on the latter side.

This is my little Pentecost reflection.  I sure am thankful for Dear Prudence's tongue of fire, deployed unstintingly for those who need liberation.

04 June 2017

From the packet "Democratic Party of Wisconsin 2017 Resolutions," provided to attendees of this weekend's convention.  "Resolutions are considered active for four years after adoption and the 2017 adopted resolutions will be used to advise the DPW Platform drafts in 2018 and 2020."


17-ELE-11:  OPPOSE MEANS-TESTED PROGRAMS (8TH CD, 85 WORDS); ADOPT

WHEREAS, governmental policy should unify and not divide the American people;

WHEREAS, means testing has often been used to determine eligibility for basic human services such as healthcare, support for children, and housing;

WHEREAS, means testing has created a wedge between "the deserving poor" and the "not quite poor enough"; and,

WHEREAS, this division of working people has been exploited politically;

THEREFORE, RESOLVED, DPW supports the universal provision of essential human services funded by a system of progressive taxation based on income and wealth.

03 June 2017

State Democratic Party Convention, June 2, 2017

I came to the Hotel, across the street from
the site of my toil for ten dollars an hour for
weeks upon weeks in years past.
Congregants swirled and only the swift
and determined could make a progress in
the crush of human creatures seeking
glory, justice, or diversion.
And there stood my Congressman,
holding forth, looking lusty and vivacious.
And the lads all about him looked lusty and vivacious too.
Though no delegate, I was privileged in
these holy precincts; and I paid my thirty-five dollars to
the party treasury, getting some swag in
the process.  The process is the heart of things,
natura rerum.  Congregants wore the message
"I like Luke" on their gear, and
that is the gospel I like best right now,
the teller of "physician, heal thyself," and
recorder of the suffering of MBA-blessed Dives,
who had the greatest investment advisors in
the Upper Midwest, but whose weight grew to
worrisome levels, and was too mortified to
ditch his SUV and commute on foot, lest
his junior high school bully should see and mock him.
And, yea, tho' the political situation
is worrisome, I fear not so much,
because somebody lives who
truly needs a piece of the fruit of my labors:
I refer of course to my healthy, courageous Congressman.


02 June 2017

Turns out that sublimely intelligent, innovative, and forward-thinking straight white man Doug McMillon is pretty much okay with being a beautiful adornment to the court of King Robert Mobutu Savior of Pittsburgh and Virile Protector of America.

29 May 2017



This painting should be much better known.  Of course, in times like these, the very idea of allegory is trashed constantly.  Thank you, Anthony!

A somewhat fuller translation of Security's banner:

Fearless, every man takes the road freely,
each one planting seeds of work,
While such a city-state
maintains the government, a gift...



-------
[original, probably Sienese as spoken in the 14th century.  The last line is Greek to me.]
Enza paura ognom franco camini
Elavorado semini ciascuno
Mentre che tal comuno
Manterra questa dona signoria
Che'l alevata arei ogni balia 


Fear's banner:

Volere elbenpropio in questa terra
Somesse la giustitia a tyrannia
Unde __ questa via
No passa alcun senza dubbio di morte
Che fuor si robba __ dentro dale porte

26 May 2017

Surely those who have taken the calf (as a god) 
will suffer the anger of their Lord,
and disgrace in the world.
That is how We requite those who fabricate lies.
Yet those who do wrong, then repent and believe,
are forgiven, for your Lord is forgiving and kind.
When his anger subsided Moses picked up the tablets.
Inscribed on them was guidance and grace
for those who fear their Lord.

Qur'an, sura "Wall Between Heaven and Hell," v. 152-154, Al-Qur'an:  a Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali.

23 May 2017






I tried to find other people who believe what Rachel Maddow believes, but came up empty. 

18 May 2017

Jesus H. Christmas, the New Yorker and New York Times really should just get on with it and rebrand themselves Old White Guys Dreaming about Watergate* (with Good Cartoons) and Senior Center Discussion Groups Unlimited (with Florida Real Estate Porn), respectively.

----
*Reveries about J.F. Kennedy are, properly understood, prequels to the epic drama that culminated in Nixon's fall from heaven (hell, Mallon begins the article with Richard Nixon.)  So perhaps another possible name for the magazine is Neo-Miltonic Narratives with some animadversions to What the Kids are Listening to These Days.

13 May 2017

It is gratifying to see Michelle Obama allowing herself to be human again.


As Julie told Sabine in Act 1, Scene 1 of Corneille's Horace:

Les deux camps sont rangés au pied de nos murailles ;
Mais Rome ignore encor comme on perd des batailles.
Loin de trembler pour elle, il lui faut applaudir :
Puisqu’elle va combattre, elle va s’agrandir.
Bannissez, bannissez une frayeur si vaine,
Et concevez des vœux dignes d’une Romaine.

08 May 2017

A few students and a few adults have come to me and said, ‘What you’re doing is wrong,’” Hernandez said. “Some questioned whether we shouldn’t be more about teaching how to use the Internet responsibly."

Well, our outgoing President - a very gifted educator, to be sure - politely pointed out how to make responsible personnel decisions to the incoming President, and what did that accomplish?  I'm firmly with Principal Hernandez on this.

07 May 2017

HST:  Yes ... He named his campaign plane the Dakota Queen II, and at first that was enough -- just one 727 which he chartered from United Airlines at outrageously inflated rates.  They burned him as much as they could.  He was doing things like flying back and forth from Washington to New York when he could have stayed in one place and they were running up ...
Ed: Speak up, please.
HST:  They were running up massive bills which were not necessary.  I learned this from the United Airlines representative on the plane.  But nevertheless, when the campaign began mushrooming around Labor Day, more and more press people came aboard the Dakota Queen, and it was necessary to have two McGovern campaign planes.  One of which was divided into three compartments:  where McGovern's family, himself and his sort of ... personal staff sat in front.  Like a first-class compartment.
[later]
In the rear was a bar and a sort of mini press room where there were about five typewriters, a few phones -- you could call from the plane to headquarters in Washington -- you could call anywhere from the plane.
[much later]
... but Colorado was the only bright spot in the country that night ...
Ed:  Why was that?
HST:  Gordon Allot got beaten ... A Republican senator ... an arch Nixon supporter ... He was defeated by Floyd Haskell, a sort of unknown Democrat, by a very small margin ... and also the Olympics were defeated which was a definite victory ...
Ed:  There had been a referendum?
HST:  Oh yeah ... They actually threw the Winter Olympics out of Colorado ... Which was a great shock to the Chamber of Commerce people, the greedheads ... And then I called Aspen and ... we carried ... you know Aspen was the only county in Colorado that went for McGovern ... And there was one other thing ... I forget what ... oh, Pat Schroeder ... a sort of a liberal woman lawyer who beat the former DA who was the incumbent congressman.
Ed:  Where was that?
HST:   In Denver.
Ed:  Also in Colorado.
HST:  Yeah, but the rest of the country -- except for Massachusetts -- was a sort of never-ending nightmare.  For a while, in the press room, there were people trying to write or ... half-heartedly poking on typewriters around the edge of the room ... But nobody was writing by five, we were just sort of watching television and drinking ...

Hunter S. Thompson talking to his editor about election night in November 1972, from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.

05 May 2017

Just so we're clear:  I'm really grokking John Kasich's environmentalist theology but I'm not going to buy his book and I'm not going to become a Republican because Trump said weird shit at the inaugural address and God needs every last white male American to speak out about what's really wrong with this country but God also needs the two-party system.

01 May 2017

Rewriting NPR Headlines, episode 2


A Singing Cowboy, A [Young-Earth Creationist] Millionaire [from San Diego] And Rifles Dominate Montana Special Election

Gunman Kills 1, Wounds 6 In Shooting At A Pool Party In San Diego

Environmentalists, Coal Companies Rally Around Technology To Clean Up Coal [Coal is a Dirty, Dirty Fuel and Coal Companies are in Trouble] 

Trump Invites Controversial [his Filipino Dictator Bro and] Philippines Leader To White House

30 April 2017

While waiting impatiently for Hasan Minhaj to take the stage at the WHCD tonight (some old white guy named Bernstein is orating), I must recommend this article (and this related video) to all my readers. 

Mr. Hobbes notes:

One of the most striking studies I found described the spike in anxiety and depression among gay men in 2004 and 2005, the years when 14 states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. Gay men in those states showed a 37 percent increase in mood disorders, a 42 percent increase in alcoholism and a 248 percent increase in generalized anxiety disorder.
The most chilling thing about those numbers is that the legal rights of gay people living in those states didn’t materially change. We couldn’t get married in Michigan before the amendment passed, and we couldn’t get married in Michigan after it passed. The laws were symbolic. They were the majority’s way of informing gay people that we weren’t wanted.

Yes:  symbols affect our health.  This is something human beings have known since we started making symbols (which is probably when we started developing formal ideas of language), but hyper-rationalists have been denying it for a few centuries now.  We forget it at our great peril.  The arts can kill as well as heal.

28 April 2017

Boycott United Airlines Memorial Day weekend, and see what happens.

That's my two cents on the great international soul-searching dialogue of people sad, upset, and angry that a ruthless monopolistic* corporation showed itself to be a ruthless monopolistic corporation on more than one occasion this year. 

I used to fly United quite a lot (within the US) and can assure you there was no golden age of great customer service that selfish millennials like me destroyed.  I have not flown at all for three and a half years now.

I have tried to read a broad spectrum of opinions on this topic, within reason (I know there are people blaming everything on The Gays, but there are only so many hours in the day).  On the left there are some people who say only the complete eschatological overthrow of capitalism and MOAR CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS among workers** will do anything; and then on the right there are people who blame American consumers for being cheap in all things (except of course accepting overbook vouchers).

So here's my hot-take 'centrist' view:  maybe the world wouldn't completely grind to a halt and Stephen Colbert die of bird flu if people stopped buying the product from the badly-behaving company for a short time.  Assuming (conservatively) that Memorial Day weekend is an average three-day period from a United Airlines revenue standpoint, it accounts for $258.55 million in revenue [data crunched based on this document].  So that's almost a brand-new Boeing 777 right there.

This strange, unprecedented form of collective action is undoubtedly scary to many.  So to assuage those fears, I suggest we call it "a credible signaling system."

---
*It may be more accurate to say "oligopolistic," but I'm not an economist angling for a Wall Street Journal column.
**It may be a useful exercise for these people to research how many times airline workers of various types have gone on strike.

24 April 2017

Sorry, you ain't no Lisbeth Salander,  Travis Kalanick.

I have to wonder if TK has ever read the novel Cugel's Saga by Jack Vance (a prolific Californian science-fantasy author).  This is from Chapter 1:


The door closed.  Cugel looked anxiously over his shoulder.  At the entrance to the garden, where heavy yews flanked the walk, he glimpsed a pair of still white forms.  Cugel turned back to the door and jerked hard at the bell-chain. 
Slow steps padded across the floor, and once again the door opened.  The old man looked out.  "Sir?"
"The ghouls are now in the garden!  They block the way to the beach!"
The old man opened his mouth to speak, then blinked as a new concept entered his mind.  He tilted his head and spoke craftily:  "You have no funds?"
"I carry not so much as a groat."
"Well then; are you disposed toward employment?"
"Certainly, if I survive the night!"
"In that case, you are in luck!  Master Twango can offer employment to a willing worker."  The old man threw open the door and Cugel gratefully entered the manse.
With an almost exuberant flourish the old man closed the door.  "Come, I will take you to Master Twango, and you can discuss the particulars of your employment.  How do you choose to be announced?"
"I am Cugel."
"This way then!  You will be pleased with the opportunities! ... Are you coming? At Flutic we are brisk!"
Despite all, Cugel held back.  "Tell me something of the employment!  I am, after all, a person of quality, and I do not turn my hand to everything."
"No fear! Master Twango will accord you every distinction.  Ah Cugel, you will be a happy man! If  only I were young again! This way, if you please."


21 April 2017

Message final à propos de l'élection présidentielle

Je ne suis pas français, mais je regarde ce dimanche avec une sensation mixte: une sensation de peur et d'espoir.  De peur, parce que les menteurs professionels ne cesseront pas de nous dire que des meurtres et des autres actes de violence sont la faute d'une réligion prophétique remplie de majesté.   D'espoir, parce que la démocratie d'une si noble nation ne cède pas avec vitesse aux attentats désesperés de la couler.

J'appelle à tous les citoyens de France de voter, et de faire leur confiance en la jeune génération.

19 April 2017


But I gotta say this one more time:  this is not about what happens every four years, or four years from now.  We have to be in this fight right this minute.  This is what has changed in democracy in America.  It's not the case that we can simply put this off, you know, and every four years we'll all kinda get interested in one big race, and pay attention to it, or maybe every two years for Congressional races or Senate races.  No.  No longer can we do this.  We have to be engaged right now.  I mean between now and the end of the day.
--Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Georgia 6th District Special Election Thoughts

Jon Ossoff was only slightly exaggerating when he said "this is already a victory for the ages."  Hauling in an apparent 48% of the vote in an 18-way race is no petty achievement.

There were thirteen Republican candidates in the running for this seat, including an Air Force pilot (there's always an intrepid boy Air Force pilot).  Commentators sometimes tell us that the reason Republicans win so often is that they are a highly disciplined strike force of doom, ever-ready to rally around their nominee, whomever it may turn out to be.  I have my own doubts that the party of casual pussy-grabbing and not dining alone with women will pull off a quick regrouping maneuver to save the race for Karen Handel -- particularly since there's an extremely righteous* Christian conservative penis-endowed candidate contesting a Montana special election in 36 days.  (Also:  Bill O'Reilly must be protected from mean women and the PC FAKE media).

Another important takeaway:  vanishingly few Republicans really give a damn who Newt Gingrich and Marco Rubio endorse.
----
*a synonym for homophobic in Republican circles.

18 April 2017

As a newly avid reader of Lawyers, Guns, and Money, I have some thoughts on the blog's quality.

Occasionally, someone presents a really good insight, as for example this from Erik Loomis:

Second, this is indicative of a lot of reaction to Trump from Democrats since November 8. The amount of grasping at desperate straws has been disheartening. The idea that an electoral college revolt would reject Trump was the worst moment in this, but relying on the 25th Amendment is almost as bad. This kind of desperation shows how reluctant liberals are to deal with the real problem–the Republican Party. Donald Trump is nothing more than a slightly worse Republican than normal. That’s why the Republican base supports his agenda and why congressional Republicans are unwilling to buck him on most issues–except from the right! Getting rid of Trump solves nothing except some exceptional kleptocracy. But until I see Republicans outraged by Trump’s support of Erdogan, I’m not believing that they care one iota about emerging authoritarianism. It’s what they want if they can be the authorities.

Of course, Loomis also believes that workers have "no choice" but to work with the Democratic Party, as flawed as it is, to gain rights and improved conditions.  (My view is, in short, that this is usually a good idea, but in West Virginia it's a ridiculous joke.)  

I have heard a lot of people (well, old white men anyway) talk to me about politics with the unshakeable assumption that Republicans and Democrats will endure forever and ever amen  and that when one of these two immortal supports of the US body politic shows signs of weakness, we have to spend billions on a knee replacement (clunky analogy, but I hope my point is coming across.)  The notion that an obviously gangrenous leg might need to be removed to save the body always comes to my mind in response.  (Not to mention that this body was born with no legs as we would recognize them...)

And then, there's, I don't know what to call it -- men getting shocked, shocked that there is MISOGYNY in ACADEMIA, after they and their colleagues have already written copiously about a well-known orange-pated misogynist politician who won the Presidency after virulent misogynist attacks on his rival.  But upon some reflection, I recall that there's a gospel passage that might cover this.  Matthew's Jesus was tested by the Pharisees and Sadducees:

...they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.  He answered them, 'When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.'  And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.'*  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah.'  Then he left them and went away.  (Matthew 16:1-4, NRSV)

 And this, dear readers, is why I am glad not to be working in academia right now.

----
*Or, if you like, "You can construct fine scenarios of electoral vote majorities for both candidates."

08 April 2017


The Secret Mission to Save Senatorial Comity
A POLITICO Special Report

(inspired by a series written by Harry Turtledove)

[image lifted from this article]

  John S. McCain III has been driven by a sense of mission his whole life.  Little did he know, when he shivered at the inaugural ceremonies for President Trump, that making contact with his own doppelganger from an alternate timeline would be critical to saving the Senate from mean Democrats bent on tearing the august traditions of deliberative democracy to shreds.

 "I saw him spending a lot of time with [former Energy Secretary] Moniz, right around Valentine's Day," a senior official attached to the Senate Energy Committee told me recently.  "One day I saw some weird-looking mirrors and other hardware being wheeled into his offices.  The next day McCain didn't show up to coffee with Claire McCaskill.  We drew our own conclusions."

Documents obtained from the Department of Energy and the Pentagon via a FOIA request show that Senator McCain has been tapping into the expertise of quantum physicists for years.  Now, with the sanctity of judicial filibusters at stake, it is clear that the Senator has used revolutionary new spacetime technology to call on the help of -- himself.

 John Sidney McCain-Forrest was born just a few hours before the John McCain we know and love, in August 1936.  He looks like an identical twin of the Senator and two-time presidential candidate.  But he was born in the C.S. Naval Hospital in Savannah, Georgia, and by the age of 18 was enlisted as a coastal defense cadet, scanning the waters of the western Atlantic for Yankee fighter jets and the telltale traces of U-boats.  What's more, this young man was a Democrat -- a registered member of the Free Democratic Party (Jacksonite), an organization that had long ago disappeared from the enemy lands to the north ...









"Very few traders saw this one coming."

I do dream that one day economists will stop issuing monthly jobs predictions, and instead will get paid to play 7 Wonders or some other enjoyable board game with their friends.  I cannot imagine anybody's net happiness decreasing as a result of this shift (even if gaming is only a minimum-wage job). 

It is quite pathetic to see the anguished contortions of the boys' club that is economics every time job growth turns out to be not nearly as stellar as they imagined it would.  You'd think that some "traders" or whatnot would have figured out that a president nominated by the party that hates government would probably do something or other to cut the government payroll, and that -- oh! -- the federal government employs an awful lot of people.  (And that the retail shopping season finally sputters out in March.)  But I guess that would require folks like Gus, Marcus, and Mark to think about society as it actually exists, which is boring, uncool and probably contributing to the feminization of American men at the hands of Foucauldian terrorists, because everything written on Breitbart is at least half-right. 





My best English rendering of "Es winkte der abendhauch," poem by Stefan George (found under 'Dreary Dances' in his book 'The Year of the Soul.')

The dusk's garment winks to you
With slanted fortune:
Take and preserve it, yes,
For aye, another one is plucked already.

As when the pale soul, bound in fetters,
yammers to itself, so the proximity of joy
is sensed -- shown, though not understood.

Then the dusk's garment brought to you
The customer who absolved:
Oh, my clouded-over hour,
you know it now, friend, too.

04 April 2017

'[he] wants to industrialise the moon, has likened Barack Obama to Hitler, ...'
 

Yes, the expanded clown-car debate format is coming (in just a few hours) to French TV. 

Nathalie Arthaud of the Lutte Ouvrière seems by far the most sensible of the second-tier candidates.  Minimum wage of $1,925 a month?  Or glorious revivification of French virility and abolishing the presidency?  Of course, at least three times as much airtime will be devoted to the latter.
I was just 16 and I saw that there was a big problem in France with massive immigration and also globalization with no economic borders.  And there was insecurity and places in the city where police didn't even want to go. And for me this was a very big problem ... When you are in front of her, you know that she's the boss.  And for us this is very, very important.
Arnaud de Rigné, 21-year-old Marine Le Pen supporter


Belief in reason was common enough among the educated a couple of hundred years back, but it is rare today, because our knowledge has become greater and our problems more complicated.  We can no longer divide mankind into philosophers, priests, and dupes, as Gibbon or Voltaire could.  Even when we style ourselves philosophers, we know that we are sometimes duped, and not always by the priests ... Is not belief in reason based upon a misconception of human nature which we should correct?  Since the war, an increasing number of people have come to feel this, and are taking refuge instead in authority or in intuition.  Authority attracts our dictators and our serfs, because it seems to promise a stable society.  Intuition attracts those who wish to be spiritual without any bother, because it promises a heaven where the intuitions of others can be ignored.

E.M. Forster, "Roger Fry: An Obituary Note," 1934

01 April 2017

A little more sanitizing of fascism from NPR, French edition

I'm kind of disgusted by this piece from NPR, although I give Eleanor Beardsley credit for seeking out Front National activists.  (Surprise, surprise:  they're all men, and their lives were hopeless until Marine whispered to them, or something.) I'm not going to dispute the polls they cite to show Le Pen's popularity with the youngest voters, but I will say that you can get almost any result you want from polling -- it just depends on the framing of the questions*.  This is really a matter of people (notably single white men) becoming brainwashed by fake leftism.  And I'm happy to say I don't think most French people under 40 are falling for it.  I just want to suggest to NPR executives that maybe it wouldn't kill you to mention that there is a Socialist Party nominee in the race, too.


"She's really not like her father."  Poisson d'avril!


*I remember a lovely pie chart from America: The Book, entitled "Who Owns the Media?"  The only answers were "Gay Jews,"  "Non-gay Jews," and "Non-Jewish Gays."

31 March 2017

A musical offering for the Netherlands MNT, which is having something of a turbulent identity crisis right now in World Cup qualifying.  (They don't play again until June 9.)  I would love to see them win their group.


30 March 2017

Rewriting the day's NPR headlines


The U.S. Is Ramping Up Military Engagement, Which Could Be A Risk For Trump

President Trump seems to have  [has] given the U.S. military a freer hand — but without apparent diplomatic or political strategies to accompany the increased military engagement.



Lonely People Report More Severe Cold Symptoms, Study Finds

The study builds on previous evidence linking loneliness to more serious health problems, but the findings do not link the sheer size of a person's social network to cold symptom severity [make no case whatsoever that Facebook cures loneliness.]
 

Rural Trump Voters Embrace The Sacrifices That Come With Support [Have Thoughts and Feelings]

KCUR 89.3
President Trump has proposed spending cuts to programs that prop up rural areas that voted for him. While some policy experts bemoan the cuts, there are rural voters [folksy-sounding men] who fully support them  [the idea of making "people bleed a little bit."].



29 March 2017

Translation of B. Hamon's 'solemn appeal to citizens', made today.  This is clearly a response to Manuel Valls, Hamon's Socialist primary opponent, endorsing Macron, although Valls is not mentioned specifically here.  Warning: Some of Hamon's sentences are epic, and a little hard to follow in English.

Dear fellow citizens:  this morning, what is to my eyes the most serious matter to our country, but also to politics in the noble sense of the word -- that democracy has suffered yet another major blow.  It has already been humiliated, yes, humiliated, and needs nothing of the undignified behavior and practices we've seen since the beginning of the presidential campaign. 

To my eyes -- and this is the most important thing, at a moment when the authoritarian extreme right and palling around with dictatorships have become trivialized* -- yes, democracy is the apple of our eye, which must be respected at all times, great and small, of political life.  Words given and words signed before the people should be scrupulously adhered to.  This is what I've always done, and it's because of that that I've never accepted -- indeed, I've fought against -- 49-3.**

So I turn towards the citizens of the left, towards all the strengths of civil society, to make a solemn appeal.  I ask you to get involved.^  I ask you to take action against whatever lends itself to this morbid game, and I ask you at the same time to turn the page on this old politics, to turn your backs to these politicians, who no longer believe in anything, who go where the wind blows, scorning all convictions.

There is thus no longer, to my eyes, any excuse, any pretext -- the instigators, the spokespersons, the theoreticians of the decisions that have done so much harm to the left, on the forfeiture of nationality or the labor law, have found, or are beginning to find, refuge in Emmanuel Macron's camp.  There's no longer any excuse, any pretext:  the Left, to win, must come together, and I appeal for it to do so now.

I've already gathered around me a large family of the Left, and of ecological parties.  I appeal henceforth to all voters:  those who are engaged in struggles against injustice; I appeal to social-democrats intimately attached to social progress and democracy; but also, the Communist Party, communists, and Pierre [not sure of last name]; the insoumis and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, to unite their forces with mine.  Everyone knows that with my platform, turned towards the Sixth Republic, towards the ecological transition, towards labor, towards increasing purchasing power, towards the re-foundation of Europe;  everyone knows that with my transformative and serious platform, I have a central position in the Left and that I am the only one able to join together different electorates, from radicals to the most moderate.  I am today the only one that can deliver victory, that can create the conditions for a parliamentary majority of the Left, than can govern and transform. 

The question is thus not one of voting as fleeing, of voting as protest, of voting to eliminate***.  The question is absolutely one of victory at our fingertips, won by a victory coalition of the entire Left.  Conscious of my responsibilities, I'm making this solemn, forceful, and fraternal address so that we might not leave [5] the forces of demolition, the forces of destruction, the forces of money to preside over the destiny of our country.  There's too much to lose for French women and men.  Let's create hope for ourselves, and let's give France the democratic politics of social justice that it needs.  Long live the Republic, and long live France.


----

*banalisés
**Article of the French Constitution
^Je vous demande de réagir
***vote refuge, vote de témoignage, vote d'élimination
5.  Pour que nous ne laissions pas -- There's power in the subjunctive, but you'd never know it from modern English.

28 March 2017

Although Hong Kong is not by any stretch of the imagination a free and independent country, it seems noteworthy that Carrie Lam was just elected its Chief Executive by a committee comprising 0.16 percent of the Hong Kong population -- quite democratic, really, compared to the USA's Electoral College, which comprises about 0.00016 percent of the USA's population (the numerical coincidence comes from my use of a rounded 2017 population estimate, 325 million.)

I applaud Russ Feingold for taking this seriously enough to start a pressure group. 

27 March 2017

Benoit Hamon's Salon of Agriculture interview, continued.

How will you make standards and regulations flexible?

There are domains where we need to establish standards and regulations: health, the environment.  The question is how to adopt these standards to the reality and the diversity of situations of farmers in their enterprises.  Standards can, in certain cases, amount to a constraint that's too strong.  We have to find a happy medium, something that permits an economic sector to orient itself, without at the same time destabilizing the participants.  It's often difficult to carry through changes in the modes of production.  Instead of normative policies, it would be preferable to adopt contractual policies, which assign objectives to participants.

Agricultural development policies must also be put in place.  The capacity for innovative uses of terrain should be rewarded, and practices that work well should be mutualized:  short circuit selling, group agriculture, or upgrading towards organic farming and production, for example.  National public policies should support these exemplary practices of farmers who have already begun their agrarian transition.

How can production be better distributed?

Eating healthily requires us to better compensate our farmers and stockbreeders.  I want to see our producers get a larger return on value at the agricultural upstream.*

Production is not distributed, it's organized around specific potentials and the climatic and natural conditions of every region.  Of course, it also stems from the choice of people and from their collective organization.  As I see it, the solutions really go through the strengthening of producers' organizations, so that they're in a position to negotiate on a level playing field with processors and distributors -- and that transparency in the price chain is assured.

Policies regarding quality, whether it's about products given a seal of quality or about organic farming, also contribute to a new management of production that's closer to a circular economy and a locally based agriculture.

Furthermore, it's relevant to note that we no longer have a legal mandate for apportionment of production, like production of milk and sugar.  The Left has always been in favor of quotas that will at the same time guarantee prices and assure a fair allotment of production across the country.

How do we better manage water resources?

As always, it's about finding the equilibrium between the preservation of the resource and its delivery. Water is an important resource for dry regions, without which neither life nor agriculture can thrive there.  It's incumbent on us to adapt agriculture to these arid ecosystems.  This is why I'm proposing the creation -- on the model of the coastlands conservatory -- of an Arable Lands Conservatory, whose mission will be to protect the health of agricultural lands. 

How do we hold back desertification?

The farm sector is destroying jobs, the number of enterprises is dropping, the youngest have more difficulties getting started, the oldest have the feeling of being marginalized in our society.  I will push for the land law to fight the concentration and grabbing of lands by the big firms, as a way to encourage the renewal of generations and assure them better access to the land.  The arable lands conservatory that I propose to create will also promote access to the land for peasants** wishing to work it.

Also, we need to have initiatives for developing the countryside that are shared with the rural world's other partners.  Rural areas should not be marginalized.  They bring an important potential for development -- including the production of foodstuffs, but also other goods (renewable energies, in particular) and services.  So many jobs proposed thanks to this diversification of activities in farm enterprises are, furthermore, immune to outsourcing.  To accompany this transition, I want to guarantee effective equality of all citizens before the public services, and make a priority of broadband access in rural areas.

---
*Literal translation of "amont."
**The French word "paysans" that Hamon uses is, I think, less pejorative than English "peasants."
I have been awaiting with eagerness the release of "At the Gates," a 4X strategy game from Conifer Games, a spunky startup which seems to have begun in SE Michigan and then moved to a Maryland HQ.

As often happens to spunky startups, though, life throws all kinds of obstacles in the way of making a name in the world.  At last report, the intrepid head designer had his ribs broken.  I am trying very hard not to politicize this unduly, but it occurs to me that in any other developed country this would not necessarily be a financial blow to his company.  (It seems obvious that his COBRA insurance from his previous employer must have expired by now.  Following your dream is greatly valorized in our country, but not, alas, supported by health care law.)

I ask all annoyed and angry fanboys and -girls to think about Jon Shafer's health, and to think about the reasons why a really cool project might get derailed, even permanently, by the sub-standard state of health care in the USA.  As it turns out, someone who was running for President just last year has a plan to improve things.  Maybe you should check it out, and remember to vote for Democrats and/or Berniecrat Independents in upcoming special elections and next year's midterms.


25 March 2017

At the meeting of the 54th Salon of Agriculture, Benoit Hamon responded to questions from the Manifesto of Barcelonne-du-Gers on the worries of young farmers, which were posed to him by the editors of the newspaper Sud Ouest.

 
How can the farmer make a better living from his/her craft?  What levers are there?

The agricultural crisis that we are living is unprecedented.  Global competition weighs on prices of primary goods, there's a race to the bottom in distribution, and the food processing industry pushes prices down:  so more and more farmers no longer succeed in digging themselves out.

I want to improve the day-to-day situation of farmers; in particular, by assuring them a decent income.  I want to ensure that they can live decently from their production.  A universal income will allow farmers to be protected against climatic and economic rolls of the dice.  To address these hazards, I will also put in place a voluntarist political regime to rebalance power relations between producers and buyers, at the national and European level; this will also protect them from random fluctuations in the prices of products on the market.

I also want farmers to have better access to care, as they suffer much from health problems* linked to the toughness of their work.  I wish to protect them against the job risks of pesticides, and recognize poisoning by phytosanitary agents** as a professional illness.  Equally, I wish to generalize the right to respite, so that workers who have become exhausted or burned-out can be replaced.  Financial concerns should no longer be a barrier to farmers in great difficulty giving themselves rest.

I want to see the progress made in these last few years continued, and better use made of newly created devices.

( More to follow Monday. )

----
*The French is "affections," which must be an error.  I'm assuming Hamon meant "afflictions."
**I know almost nothing about this issue; there may be much better translations.
Alison Geyer, you're the best writer by far on the Isthmus staff now.  Keep up the good work, wherever you end up.

24 March 2017

An Ingenious Purple Health Plan for America

All current Americans with MDs will be offered a contract of chattel slavery with the county in which they currently reside.  Non-acceptance of this contract will constitute an act of treason.

Counties unable to pay all the doctors they now own will be eligible for block grants.

To promote choice and competition, Americans who have completed ten hours of Trump University course training on medical choice and competition will be considered as licensed to practice medicine.

To promote long-term sustainability of care, enslaved doctors will be encouraged to have children by means of a vigorous child tax deduction.  Medical education will be the responsibility of a nationwide consortium of Christian universities and yeshivas.  Although care for pregnant women is no longer available under this plan, with a 50% pregnancy survival rate, the Freedom Budget Office estimates that the rate of doctor reproduction will be sufficient to maintain adequate care for the US population. As a standby, foreign doctors will be able to "buy in" to to practice medicine in the US by selling at least two children into slavery to underserved rural counties in selected states.



(((advocatethis))) says:
I do not understand why there are so many Oregon fans in the Bay Area, so say nothing of why they are so assertive about it.

-------

Firstly, it is known that a massive chunk of graduates from colleges in Oregon head directly to the Bay Area after graduation.  They naturally develop some kind of homesickness (for their college home, I mean:  many of them were from the Bay Area to begin with) and this may present as wearing duck hats and green and yellow all the time.  (I headed directly for Wisconsin after graduating from my Oregon college; I felt the deprivation of mountains very very intensely, pathologically.)

Secondly, this is just one manifestation of a cross-cultural phenomenon.  There are many Scotland soccer team fans in London (probably more than England fans these days), and they're known for being "assertive."  Ditto with Bretons in Paris:  watch some Benoit Hamon rallies and when you see the Breton Stars and Stripes flag* you'll know what I mean.


*What I call the flag of historic Brittany - but the 'stars' are actually weird little emblems, probably ancient and Celtic in origin.
In the House of Representatives today, Rep. Diane Black* was given the honor of speaking first about the AHCA.  She was a nurse in the 1990s; she believes that the ACA is a monstrosity because -- doctors should never ever be allowed to retire (or die, I guess)^; Al Gore once sketched a plan for a single-payer health care system in Tennessee on a bar napkin**; "we were promised" massive reductions in premiums (I believe she said $2500 - God knows where that number came from.)

At least, that is my interpretation of her speech.  Those fluent in Trumpian may have other translations.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) spoke second, quite forcefully.  He is being treated for lymphoma now.



*I believe she is one of only two women left among House Republicans, the other being Virginia Foxx (NC) , whom you could see presiding as chair shortly before the AHCA debate began.  A female House Republican's PR work is never done.
^ Isn't that the only way to guarantee "you will always be able to keep your doctor"?
**Cool story, I must say.  Maybe a movie is forthcoming?

22 March 2017

I am offering a cash reward of $500 to any economist who can explain to me in good layman's terms why "core inflation" excludes food.

Email me with your explanation (between 200 and 1,000 words, please).  Entries received by May 1st will be evaluated and the best selected for reward.


Historian Erik Loomis writes of Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust,

I will also say that Faust is an embarrassment to the reputation of historians. Faust herself works on issues of justice in her writing and yet has sold out all the way. I really struggle to understand how you can know everything she knows and then want to treat pregnant hotel workers or impoverished dining hall workers in this way. I guess that’s why I will never climb the corporate ladder. 

I find this strange in two ways.  I do think Loomis is justified in pointing out hypocrisy in academia at the highest levels:  it's his profession, and he cares about the moral standards of his profession (that's how I, son of an academic, would put it anyway).  But:

1.  Do historians even have a "reputation" in this country to embarrass?  I suspect if you asked a hundred college-educated people between the ages of 30 and 90 to name some living American historians, the names David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin would come up a lot, a lot.   I wish more college-educated people knew the names Barbara Tuchman (although she's dead) and James McPherson, and Linda Colley too.  Goodwin has had a few spots on her record.  Does knowing the hypocrisy of one Ivy League president lead to a feeling that those historians are hypocrites, just like the politicians?

2.  "How you can know everything she knows and then..."  Well, didn't Upton Sinclair warn us about this?  "If a man's salary depends on his not understanding something..."  Sinclair lived through the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, a man who knew many many things as a historian and president of Princeton University.  Then, Wilson got into the Oval Office and waged unrelenting war on African-American civil rights.  (He called himself a 'progressive,' of course, and cared deeply about national self-determination for white Europeans.)  This was fifty years after slavery had been abolished.  One would hope the lessons of black American competency were ready to be learned by this point, right?  And yet, because Wilson relied on white Southern Democrats for his nomination, he did not seem to understand.




19 March 2017

Yuval Noah Harari is probably a very smart man.  (Full disclosure:  I have read none of his books, nor even heard of him until today.)

Alas, after reading all his responses to these questions, I am left with a barren feeling of emptiness inside.  For one thing, he declined to fully answer the question 'What concerns you most about the world, and what are you doing about your concerns [emphasis added]?'  Is there really nothing that can be done about our concerns?  I want to ask him, "Do you even vote, bro?" 

Veganism and daily meditation (although I think the latter can be beneficial) are no substitute for risky political actions such as speaking out in favor of a measure that's unpopular in your community; blocking traffic at rush hour to protest police brutality; going on strike because you are underpaid and poorly treated at work.  There is plenty of hope to go around for homo sapiens if we are ready to undertake these sorts of actions.  Retreating into books (and I know the temptation well) is not going to save anybody from new elite domination.  You may feel better after embracing a vegan diet, but the vultures and/or worms who feast on your remains aren't going to give you any karma/virtue points because, in your lifetime, some cows were not slaughtered or milked. 

18 March 2017

"...as for me, I think that's useful information:  do we have pharmaceutical labs, through their directors, financing a campaign?  And do we have chemical and petrochemical industries financing a campaign?  Do we have, not firms, but managers--"
"Do they have the right to give that out?"
"Perfectly, they do--"
"The names of donors."
"Well, I'm happy to do it.  I ask all my donors to give us 2,500 [euros] at most, to give smaller amounts if they wish, but I tell them that I'll make their names public ..."

"So [the campaign is] not constructive?"
"Actually, yes, because in spite of this it's uplifting.  It's uplifting because -- the choices that'll be made by our compatriots -- there's a very nice phrase from Tocqueville that says 'in each new generation there is a little more that's new.'   And today, it means the generation that's going to vote for the first time, or -- that takes responsibility from ages 18 to 30, the active young people--"
"Do you think it excites them, voting for the first time?"
"No, but I think they have to decide what people they want to be.  What people they want to be.  In every generation there's a little more that's new.  Decide the people you want to be.  Do you want a sinister future that brings us to ... [too fast for me] ... definitively extinguished?  Do you want to continue writing the page that's been written the last twenty years:  less of a welfare state, less social protection, less protection for low earners ... [too fast] ... that hasn't worked one bit.  They're going to decide what page they want to write, and I for one find ... [too fast] ... my candidacy is about passing the witness[1].  I want to preside over the Republic so I can pass the witness to them.  I observe that other candidates, eventually, become encircled by men who, in matters political and economic, wish to hold back their hands; and they wish to keep the witness that they've held for 20, 30, or 40 years.  I want to hand it over."


Yann Barthès and Benoit Hamon in conversation

1.  Literally; "passing the baton" would be more idiomatic in English.

17 March 2017

A partial English transcript of this video clip of March 13 ("Who is Macron really --according to himself?")


 [Yann Barthès reads off the words on the poster]
"Liberal / libertarian, universalist, progressive, ambiguous, of the right but not reactionary, of the left but not a slinger[1], neither right nor left, of the right and the left ... go ahead, now."
 "Liberal / libertarian. [pause]  I am liberal, in the political sense; in the economic sense too, even if I'm not only liberal, but I'm not liberal - libertarian in the proper sense of the term ..."
"Not on morals."
"Not totally.  But on the subjects of security, my zero tolerance, on morals, I'm not effectively for the legalization of cannabis ... I'm on the side of -- in effect, a little more, I'd say, authoritarian, maybe--"
"You're not Justin Trudeau."
"No, because I think France is not Canada.  Because I think that the Republic is not a multiple, pluralist country any longer; so I don't think myself liberal - libertarian in the true sense of the term."
"Universalist?"
"Yes, because that's the philosophy of light[2]."
"Progressive?"
"Actually, that is -- one can be --"
"Are you going to take 10 minutes on each item?  Because, if not--" [audience laughter]
"But no, you see--"
[indiscernible, with arm gesture]
"No, this is important, because that's a fight that I've decided to lead.  I'll go this week to Villers-Cotterets ... to talk about French culture and what it is to be a patriot.  And that is a fight that I want to win against the National Front, and also against François Fillon and his acolytes ..."
"The pride of French people."
"Yes.  As for the word universal, French universalism, it means you don't like France ... no.  I am a universalist, because I am a patriot.  And a patriot is somebody who likes France and its openness, and wants it to propose other things.  On the contrary, I'm not a nationalist:  those guys are nationalists.  Progressive:  completely [ticks box] ...  Progressive, it's the idea of saying -- I believe in a progress [garbled] of the left, center, right, and civil society ... ambiguous; I am not ambiguous ... no, I'm not on the right; left but not a slinger, also no, because ... actually, yes, I come from the left.  But I don't like the term slinger ..."
"You don't come from the left."
"Yes, I just said it.  I do come from the left.  Those are my convictions [garbled]"
"You say 'I come from,' but not 'I am.' "
"No, because I'm right now in the process of building a political option that goes beyond that cleavage.  I am much more comfortable with 'progressive.'  And so I'm gathering people from the left, the center, and the right who want to work together on a progressive platform."
"Would you permit me to say you're a little ambiguous?"
"No. [audience laughter] No, because I, I am progressive.  Look:  I am of the right and the left, in the movement I bring.  There [ticks box]."
"OK.  Very good."
"I'm not in the double exclusion.  I am -- I think there are good ideas on the right which are just and effective, and there are good ideas on the left that are just and effective.  Me, as a personality, I come from the left; I was in a leftist government and I confess it totally."


-----
Notes
1. The literal meaning of frondeur.  Historically, it refers to people supporting an aristocratic conspiracy against Louis XIV in the earliest years of his reign. 
2. he may have said "philosophy of the Enlightenment"  -- they sound almost identical in French.

14 March 2017


If Andrea Pirlo wants to learn Chinese and play in the Super League because Americans are too stingy with their salary caps, he is welcome to do so.  I know of no other sports league than MLS where exactly three (five is right out) players are granted extraordinary compensation packages amounting to a charter of baronial rights, but if that is just not enough anymore, well ....



13 March 2017

Our efforts at compromise have instead been met with a brick wall of intransigence...
UK membership of the single market was ruled out with no prior consultation with the Scottish government or with the other devolved administrations - leaving us facing not just Brexit, but a hard Brexit...
There has been talk of special deals for the car industry and others, but a point blank refusal to discuss in any meaningful way a differential approach for Scotland.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, in a press conference announcing her intent to call for a second Scottish independence referendum (in late 2018 - early 2019).   Some guy from The Institute for Fiscal Studies is saying that an independent Scotland might have to increase taxes!!!!! Clearly, this alone should terrify all the good people of Scotland / Alba into remaining under the kind and gentle care of a Tory government for fifteen more years, and accepting stagnant wages for all except the most hot-shot currency traders (I'm not knocking their economic studies per se, it just seems that the concept of people having political choices to make is far beyond their ken.)

11 March 2017

Bill McKibben is quite right:  dignity works much better than rage in activism.  And his example of the dignified but politically forceful protest led by Rev. William Barber gets to the heart of why I continue practicing Christianity (fitfully).   It is not so that I will find success in my private endeavors (heresy 1), or even that it will help me to love everybody (heresy 2).  I practice Christianity to learn human dignity, period.  This is not something that any doctoral program can teach me.  Some have learned it really well from other religions, and more power to them -- but I chose Christianity at age 26 and can't see the point in changing now.

------
explanations of my so-called heresies 

1. The "prosperity gospel" is a well-known and bold-font version of this.  I think a softer version may lurk in the reasons many people adduce for going to church, viz.  "to make connections,"  "to plug in to society," etc.  But that's another post.

2.  It's true:  one can argue, with biblical passages, that this is exactly what Christians are supposed to learn.  I do not share these high hopes of learning to love everybody, but I do believe the Word of God teaches us to love ourselves and those closest to us better, which is no small thing.


10 March 2017

Benoit Hamon at Le Havre today

He repeated what François Mitterand once said of centrists: "they're neither on the left, nor on the left."

On the question of European solidarity, he cited Massimo d'Azeglio (after 19th century unification of Italy):  "We have just made Italy, now we must make Italians."

On considering the "fate of the planet" in economic planning, he remarked:  "What will I say to my children, and their children - if they choose to have them - when they are confronted with a world that isn't breathable?"

Shortly after speaking of "Spain, Portugal, Greece," he said:  "A word on the mutualisation of [EU member nation] debts:  German economists proposed the idea at first ...  we need cooperative action, not action emanating from one, two, or three countries ... Germany [is a] great parliamentary republic"

Rather than depending on "Russian gas," France can rely on solar and other forms of renewable energy; my investment plan will further this

I'm not promising a "great evening," but together we can make "little mornings" of change

"y'all decide now the people y'all wanna be*: a people that wants to leave the eurozone, that [resigns itself] to disorder and injustice?"

"Choose the Left; choose Europe; choose social justice!  Long live France and the Republic!"
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*My creative translation of a phrase beginning "vous décidez"
 
OK, I wasn't actually done with Benoit Hamon.  When reading foreign languages is becoming politically uncool, then I feel all the more piqued to do it.  Here is a selection from the last two paragraphs from Hamon's written statement the morning after Trump was elected (and before Hamon won his party's primary):
 
 
In France, it's not too late to avoid the worst.  We have to mobilize ourselves starting now, to bring about in 2017 a triumph of the Left of Freedoms against the Right of Bans, the Left of Equality against untamed free-market ideology ... Time presses and the choice is being made right now.  In May 2017, in the first round of the presidential election, it will already be too late.  Like Bernie Sanders, I want to propose to the French people another path of exit from this system while creating a less unequal, more protecting and more fraternal society.  It's in January, at the primary, where we have to change the course of matters.
 
 

08 March 2017


[thank you, Brenda Konkel, for your exhaustive report of last night's meeting!]

In the wee hours of last night, my city's common council (twelve of them anyway) made, in my opinion, a very poor decision.

Alder Zellers was right to ask what happens if this biergarten becomes a disaster.  As I see it, the operators' plan -- if you can call it a plan -- is a standing invitation for roving armed gangs from nearby counties to descend upon the Olbrich neighborhood, grab a 20-ounce beer, intimidate all the soccer-playing children,* cut the rope "barriers" to ribbons, start stabbing each other in the Tiki Bar parking lot (yes, there's already a bar NEXT DOOR), then stop passing vehicles on Atwood Avenue and extort valuables from the drivers at gunpoint.  And the police will be too busy dealing with chronically drunken people on State Street to respond in time.  But, hey, it'll be innovative!



*Only children play soccer:  every Cool Person in Madison knows this, as was evidenced in Brenda's report.  URRGH
What "universal income" means to Julia Cagé, economic advisor to Benoit Hamon

[This will probably be the last of my Hamon campaign Englishings, at least until (hopefully) the candidate gets to the 2nd round of voting in May.  I find Cagé's French very accessible, so I selected her as a good surrogate voice for Hamon.]

For me, the universal subsistence income is the social safety net for the 21st century, accompanied by a return to giving labor its due value and an increase in the lowest wages.  It's an income that will be distributed to all French people of 18 years of age and older, in an automatic way, on a monthly schedule.  It comes into play for people who have no income, but it also comes into play for those who earn a wage that is too little, whose work is poorly paid.  For example, with the universal income, someone in that category could see their wage increased by 200 euros:  so, a universal social protection ... (digression about the C.I.C.E.) .... to sum up, the universal income is a guarantee to you, backed up and made automatic by the state, that you won't ever again be in a situation of poverty.  Those who think that this will lead to laziness or mass idleness are, unfortunately, people disconnected from reality.   You can't live at all easily on 600 euros a year; of course this is not going to fully substitute for work.  On the contrary, it's simply a stabilizing balance brought in -- because I think, in the 21st century, we just can't take it for granted that society will pick up the slack.  All those who have the right to it will tap into it; they won't have to ask, they'll get it every month, so it'll increase their net wages.  It'll make their work pay better, and encourage them to keep working.






07 March 2017

Summary of this afternoon's Freedom Caucus press conference:

White men who believe in "future generations" are unhappy that the AHCA wouldn't exterminate all poor people immediately, because that is a core conservative principle. 

Also, health care costs "going down by negative 1 percent" is "what Americans want to see."


The Bottom of a Cycle?

I'm trying not to blog as much now because it's Lent and the name of the season suggests that we ought to take things slowly.  (Of course, try telling this to conservative Catholics who want to decapitate the Pope...)

I do find myself thinking more and more about income inequality and the unsustainability of its continual rise.  (I'm given to understand that some economists think a continual rise is sustainable, but if I believed everything those economists said I would also believe that 40-day erections were healthy.)  The Magic Seasteading Kingdom that will house all our super-rich hasn't materialized yet, except in the brains of video-game and anime developers, so West Palm Beach has to suffice, and when the next tropical storm hits it the President might be very very sad indeed.

Still, there are so many ways people who are doing okay in this economy can rationalize and explain away unnecessary poverty and hunger and child mortality.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz (FN - Utah), who is being rightly slammed now for his callous words about health care, is not at all atypical in this regard for a rich straight white man in the developed world. 

I'm often exasperated by liberal or politically moderate (and almost always male) academics who are so eager to share with us the shocking results of their research:  There is growing inequality in this country!  This never seems to get old for them.  Maybe they are trying their darndest to effect political change for the better, which would be great, but really, guys:  people figured this out during the Reagan administration.

An example of this can be found here.  I hesitate to call myself exasperated by Paul Campos, since it is certainly important for young people considering law school to know the price tags.  And I love the rococo painting he chose to accompany his post, since it captures what I feel very strongly about this time:  that we are reliving the last days of ancien régime France.

We have an aristocracy that jealously monopolizes higher political office.  We recognize them not by their titles of nobility but by their honorary degrees and the speaking fees they can command.  They are not all bad people:  I was ready and willing to vote for one of them for president last year, because I knew the likeliest alternative.  Some of them have made great contributions to science and social welfare, just like some French aristocrats did.  Of course, they often were in a position to do so only because they participated in rapacious profiteering activities that undermined the moral legitimacy of the state.  (Today they take jobs with HMOs or Lockheed Martin.)

The French Revolution was completely unthinkable to intelligent European men of the time, like Edward Gibbon, until it actually happened.  There was, after all, so much innovation going on in France in the 18th century!  Surely the tenant farmers could appreciate that, or would appreciate it one day, when they bought themselves out of feudal debts and bestrode the amazing modern economy with their improved agricultural techniques.





03 March 2017

While E. Macron sings of content-free progress, "innovation," and his personal coolness, Benoit Hamon is proposing something that many people in the Puget Sound area are already familiar with.

I've been proposing to put in place a system of inter-enterprise currency, as it's known on the model of the Swiss huire [sp?]  It's a non-profit cooperative ... which is to say, 20 percent of Swiss enterprises exchange goods and services through a currency that is an alternative to the Swiss franc ... for example, a builder lacking work in the winter, who doesn't have a reserve fund, will be able to complete projects all the same ... by exchanging inter-enterprise money.  The objective is to maintain employment and to maintain activity in counter-cyclical periods ... [this has] functioned extremely well in Switzerland, ... which has succeeded in maintaining a living economic fabric even in the most difficult periods ...
Apparently, Theresa May spoke to a Tory party conference in Glasgow and announced that she is King Charles I, or something.  (There are probably about six Tories left in Scotland, by the way.)

When the Sovereign British Government has withdrawn from the EU, NATO (after refusing to raise income taxes to satisfy the United States' cost-sharing demands), the International Olympic Committee, and UEFA, and ordered a return to the Old Style Calendar,* and a large swath of the population is dying of scurvy because they can't afford imported citrus fruit anymore, maybe Prince William will step in with unaccustomed royal assertiveness.  Preferably, though, a general strike or some such uprising will turn things around.  Waiting until the next general election in 2020 does not inspire much hope.



*The New Style Calendar, after all, was foisted on an unwilling English people in 1750, robbing them of eleven days of life!!

02 March 2017

Obscure Theater Troupe from Mountains of North Carolina Attempts to Stage Macbeth in U.S. Capitol

01 March 2017

An Ash Wednesday Praise Song for Ian Grillot (and others)

There weren't a lot of homicides in Olathe,
at least since the days of Bleeding Kansas,
when Righteousness warred with the Slave Power
and John Brown's axe cleaved the skulls
of greed-soaked Missourians in their cabins.
That was all prelude to the transcontinental railroad,
and the Triumph of Technology, circa 1870.
The buffalo disappeared, then the Arapahoes,
and Kansas knew peace.

But our time is another Bleeding Time, because
a greedy time, and the engineers, architects of
the longue durée of peace, are lambs,
and the wolves are neighbors who "seem nice."

Praise him with great praise who,
not content to mind his own generation's business,
wrestles with death when his elders avoid it;
praise them who tend the bodies of the young
and comfort the falling friends,
praise him who reads the tale,
and tweets not, but weeps.