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.


**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."
"Yes, because that's the philosophy of light[2]."
"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."

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!"
*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.


28 February 2017

When the history of this time is written, the voice of US Soccer mainstay and political neophyte Michael Bradley will be seen as far more consequential than the intellectual ratiocinations of David Frum, expert on autocracy.

Just my hunch.

27 February 2017

The Seductions of Premillennialism

I quite agree with this paragraph from Scott Lemieux (and I enjoyed his post title's allusion to a good Casey Affleck movie):

People for whom it’s never not 1996 notwithstanding, the Democratic Party is clearly moving to the left, as it should be. What the priorities of this coalition should be when it gets the chance to govern and how to get it in a position to govern remain pressing questions with plenty of room for disputation. But the DNC race will barely merit a footnote when this history is written, and distorting the players to try to transform it into a desperate Last Battle for the Very Soul of the Democratic Party is deeply strange.

Strange, yes, but also something we should recognize and be able to name.  It's premillennial thinking, and I must credit Rev. Patrick Cheng for formally introducing it to me at Episcopal Divinity School.

Many of the earliest Christians were really into it.  They took certain cryptic Gospel passages (Matthew 10:21-23* is a good example) to mean that persecutions and other terrors were going to keep piling up and life was going to get worse and worse until finally Jesus the Christ would return in glory, and reward those who never betrayed the faith.

Eventually (certainly by the time of Augustine of Hippo), institutional Christianity rejected this view of the future.  Something called postmillennialism was invented, positing a society that would continuously improve in holiness and justice until, finally, Christ could come back and people could accept him as True Lord.  (This may remind you of certain "free-market" thinkers.)  Yet premillennial movements came back over and over again at times of social and economic crisis, notably during the first throes of the Reformation.

It is, I hope, clear to most people who think about it carefully that today's atheists and agnostics are influenced by culturally bound ways of thinking that date from long before they were born.  Furthermore, I think quite a few non-religious leftist writers of today are jumping on the premillennial bandwagon with a zeal that rivals the 16th-century Anabaptists.  The frenzied search for traitors to the true faith found in the tweets of an Emmett Rensin ("it would be better, I think, if X just confessed") is not really a secular kind of rhetoric.

I know the seductive power of premillennial thinking because I have been gripped by it myself.  In November 2010, when the "Republican wave" happened and a certain Walker became governor of Wisconsin, I was sure that it was the first of many persecutions and tribulations for the progressive-left faithful, and that those would only worsen until somebody like Bernie Sanders came along (more or less).  And, with Act 10 etc., there was plenty of evidence to confirm this thinking!  And, yes, Wisconsin's roads and public universities are even now crumbling and ripe for the consuming fire!!

But as a 35-year-old now, I just find premillennialism exhausting.  Not every political loss has to mean a step further toward the Day of Wrath.  Tom Perez, though he was neither my first nor second choice for DNC chair, really doesn't seem to be a dark prince of Clintonism or Satan's anointed champion for the harrowing of True Progressives.  To me, he's a somewhat nerdy Latino administrator from Buffalo who has a really tough job ahead of him.


*"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (NRSV)
A song for Macron's campaign 
(to the tune of Carmen's aria to Don José)

Je chante pour moi-meme,
je chante pour moi-meme,
et je pense ------
qu'il n'est pas défendu d'etre beau;

Mes grands projets n'ont rien d'idéologique,
pas meme de langage fort;
ils respirent au centre,
mais c'est assez pour un jeune banquier ---
et je daigne m'en contenter!

Nous danserons la vieille pavane,
et nous boirons la croissance...
Tu le promets!


26 February 2017

Politics is too important to be left to the computer scientists ...

Sea-shells do not, to the outsider, seem more troublesome than other molluscs, but Voltaire regarded them from a very special point of view:  they were traitors, who attempted to demonstrate the truth of revealed religion instead of advancing the cause of Liberty, as natural objects should.  Had they remained in the sea, all would have been well, but straying from their proper element they appeared in large heaps in the middle of Touraine and elsewhere, or in fossil forms, or on the tops of mountains.  Why, you may ask, did this disconcert Voltaire?  Why, because it suggested that they had been left when the waters of the Flood subsided, so that Genesis was true.  He could not allow this, and he set out with his usual energy and ingenuity to put shells in their places.  He had not been trained by the Jesuits for nothing, and the arguments he brought forward are rather too conclusive to be convincing ... He feared that if once a flood was admitted Noah's ark would come sailing in, and consequently had to ridicule all theories of the universe that emphasized water.
E.M. Forster, "Voltaire's Laboratory"
I have to hand it to Donna Brazile, whose patience must be strained by now but who is keeping things moving along and herding cats in the big tent like nobody's business. 

This is my last DNC-palooza post.

25 February 2017

But, wait, there's more!  The Secretary race!! 

Wisconsin's own, Jason Rae, has a narrow lead on the most recent ballot (146.5) over the incumbent Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (142).  There are two other candidates.

A good and just ending to a sometimes frustrating process.   Perez is giving a good, if hoarse, speech right now, referencing the 1850s Know-Nothing movement (YES) and recognizing Ellison's contributions to what successes the party has had recently -- the Minnesota model works, and it is about time that the whole country knew it.

Praise is due to Domenico and Scott at NPR for their very good live blog of today's proceedings.  Thanks, guys.

It is enough to make me forget being told on NPR radio about a year ago that millennials don't turn out to vote, Bernie had no chance, and socialism is un-American (well, it wasn't said in Joe Mccarthy's words, more like "everybody knows capitalism makes this country work," but the gist was the same.)
Navy Man Falls On His Sword With Great Self-Effacing Charm (the Air Force Man thinks he can still win, though -- predictably.)

Jehmu Greene is absolutely on fire, as well.

The Democratic Party is like that mainline Protestant church you may know when the longtime pastor, an eloquent, gentle soul who spoke very feelingly about social justice and our better angels, etc. etc. , has retired, and the search committee is not even close to coming up with a likely replacement for him -- whether because literally nobody else on earth is suitable to lead this congregation, or because committee members X, Y, and Z are too busy bickering over their adjoining community garden plots to get anything done in meetings, you don't know -- and, oh, there's a gigantic non-denominational megachurch six blocks away now that's preaching the prosperity gospel seven days a week, two services a day, and deporting their members' gay kids to reparative therapy camps; you can see the lead pastor roll by in his orange Humvee on a regular basis; most of the people under 60 in your congregation have become secular Buddhists or agnostics or orthodox Jews or Pastafarians; yes, you're the oldest religious game in town (a little older than the Catholics, anyway).

23 February 2017

Wikipedia comes through, yet again, with eye-opening facts about National Harbor, Maryland, the location of CPAC this year. 

"In 2006, Peterson Companies withdrew plans to build a Target where the remaining plantation building, the slave quarters, still stand."

There is also a Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  Why am I not surprised?

22 February 2017

As Black History Month winds down, a reflection from June Jordan:

We erase ourselves through self hatred. We lend our silence to the American anti-American process whereby anything and anyone special to this nation state becomes liable to condemnation because it is what it is, truly.

Against self hatred there is Whitman and there are all of the New World poets who insistently devise legitimate varieties of cultural nationalism. There is Whitman and all of the poets whose lives have been baptized by witness to blood ... and on and on through the conflicts between the hungry and the well-fed, the wasteful, the bullies.

In the poetry of the New World, you meet with a reverence for the material world that begins with a reverence for human life. There is an intellectual trust in sensuality as a means of knowledge, an easily deciphered system of reference, aspirations to a believable, collective voice and, consequently, emphatic preference for broadly accessible, spoken language. Deliberately balancing perception with vision, it seeks to match moral exhortation with sensory report.

20 February 2017

I heard the balls cutting the leaves above our heads, and saw several men and women running in all directions, some of whom were wounded.  Of course there was a general stampede.  Charles Ewing threw Willie on the ground and covered him with his body.  Hunter ran behind the hill, and I also threw myself on the ground.  The fire ran back from the head of the regiment toward its rear, and as I saw the men reloading their pieces, I jerked Willie up, ran back with him into a gulley which covered us, lay there until I saw that the fire had ceased, and that the column was again moving on, when I took up Willie and started back for home round by way of Market Street.  A woman and child were killed outright; two or three men were also killed, and several others were wounded.  The great mass of the people on that occasion were simply curious spectators, though men were sprinkled through the crowd calling out, "Hurrah for Jeff Davis!" and others were particularly abusive of the "damned Dutch."

--W.T. Sherman describing what happened in St. Louis, May 10, 1861, after he and his son Willie were caught in an exchange of shots between a "drunken fellow" and a regiment of Home Guards composed "almost exclusively out of the German part of the population."  From Chapter 8 of Sherman's Memoirs.
Benoit Hamon's Biography

 (Breton coat of arms courtesy of Wikipedia)

I was born June 26, 1967 at Saint Renan in the Léon north of Brest.  Through childhood and adolescence I lived between Brest, Le Kremlin-Bicetre, and Dakar (Senegal).  I am the oldest in a family of four children.

My origins are entirely Breton:  on my mother's side I stem from Saint Renan and Saint Pabu, on my father's side Plougastel-Daoulas.  My father worked all his life at the Brest arsenal; my mother alternated periods of homemaking and different secretarial jobs.

I've adhered to the Socialist Party since January 1987, in the wake of the student demonstrations against the planned Devaquet law which would introduce ability to pay as a criterion for university admissions.  I became President of the Young Socialists' Movement in 1993; four years later, I joined the cabinet of Martine Aubry, Minister of Labor and Solidarity and was tasked with the youth jobs portfolio.  Following this I chose to work in the private sector, joining Ipsos France under the leadership of Jean Marc Lech and Didier Truchot.

From 2004 to 2009, I was an MEP and leader of the European socialist group.  I served on the commission for economic and monetary affairs and became vice-president of the delegation for relations with the USA.  Notably, I authored two important reports, one on the strategic revisioning of the IMF and the other on the struggle against tax shelters* and secrecy in banking.

At the party congress of Reims (November 2008), I moved the motion titled A world to win:  rebuilding hope on the left.  As candidate for the position of First Secretary, I obtained 22.6% of the vote.  I was a spokesperson for the Socialist Party from 2008 to 2012.

In 2009, I rejoined the company that I had co-founded several years earlier, and taught at the University of Paris 8 as an associate professor:  my subjects were the functioning of multilateral organizations and decision-making in the European Union.
Having settled at Trappes in Yvelines, I was elected Representative for the 11th district of Yvelines in June 2012.

I was named Minister for the Social Economy and Consumption in the government of Jean Marc Ayrault.  I drafted a proposed law on the social economy that recognized for the first time economic models and the specificity of enterprises in the [ESS].  I was furthermore instrumental in a bill on consumption (which came to a vote) putting tools in place to re-balance power between consumers and firms.  This law instituted a class-action procedure**.

In March 2014, I was elected municipal councilperson in Trappes.

On April 2, 2014, I was named Minister of National Education, Advanced Teaching, and Research in the first Valls government.  I completed the reform of school hours and negotiated the triennial budget, which preserves and reinforces the upkeep of schools, universities, and research through 2017.  I began reform of the student evaluation process.  I left the government in August 2014, demanding a change in the government's economic policy so that we could more effectively fight unemployment and inequalities.

I again took up my mandate as Representative in the National Assembly in September 2014, and integrated the Commission on Foreign Affairs#.  I was at the forefront of the resolution in favor of recognizing the State of Palestine, passed on December 2, 2014 (339 yes, 151 no).  At the start of 2015, I opposed the Macron law, which pushed the government to invoke article 49–3.  I militated for the recognition of "burnout" as a professional illness and, in July 2015, successfully advanced the Rebsamen bill on social dialogue and jobs.  In December 2015, I stood against amending the constitution to allow forfeiture of nationality for dual citizens, a move that was eventually abandoned.

In the first half of 2016, I rejected the labor law change proposed by the government and called for a real negotiation with trade unions.  I was particularly opposed to the reversal of the hierarchy of standards, which will erode compensation for overtime hours; therefore, I twice signed a motion of censure in violation of article 49-3 of the Constitution.

I'm the father of two daughters.

I'm a member of the National Assembly rugby fifteen.

*The French phrase is "paradis fiscaux," literally 'tax heavens.'
**I'm pretty shaky on this paragraph.  I have no idea what the ESS (French acronym) is, and as for the last sentence, "action de groupe" is pretty vague.
#"J'intègre la commission..." Not sure what to make of this.

18 February 2017

Nor was he content to show off his experiments in these arts to Rome, but as we mentioned, he also sought greatly to move people in Achaia. The cities there (having a tradition of holding musical contests) had all set up awards for singers on the cithara that he himself would win.  He would agreeably receive these crowns ... the legates asked him if he would sing at dinner too, and he garrulously declined.  "Only Greeks," he said, "are able to appreciate me and are worthy of my efforts."  He was no more broad-minded at the time of departure.  As his party was starting to leave Cassiope,* he took auspices and then steadily sang a song of Cassius at the local altar of Zeus, proving himself against competitors one after another.

--Suetonius, on Nero (my incomplete translation; thanks to perseus.tufts.edu for the Latin word study tool). 
*A city called Cassiope existed on Corfu and this would have been a convenient stopping point on any Achaia-Rome journey.
A parody of Dante's Purgatorio, Canto 16, v. 46 - 120
(based on the translation of Allen Mandelbaum)

'I was a Democrat and I was called Harry;
I knew the world's ways, and I loved those goods
for which the bows of all men now grow slack...
The laws exist, but who applies them now?
No one--the leader who precedes his bloc
can say the buzzwords but does not have the grit;
and thus the people, who can see their guide
snatch only at that partial loss which is their win,
feed on that and dream no further.
Misrule, you see, has caused the world to be
malevolent; the cause is clearly not
district boundaries -- they do not corrupt...
Within the territory watered by
the Potomac and Delaware, one used to find
valor and courtesy--that is, before
Carter was met by strife; now anyone
ashamed of talking with the righteous or
of meeting them can find consultant jobs there.'

15 February 2017

...protecting our way of life -- that's not just the job of our military.  [pause] Democracy can buckle when it gives into fear.  So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are....
Barack Obama, in this January's farewell address

14 February 2017

Why I will buy nothing on Friday (at least from non-union vendors)

So there's a general strike / protest / day of service planned for Friday the 17th, it appears.  I could attempt to write a learned discourse (when they heard the learn'd social theorist, they grew unaccountable weary ...) explaining why I want to join it.  Instead, I will cite some people of the internet whom I think understand what we have to do now.

Greg Sanders in Washington DC said recently:
there’s just loving our neighbors including those that don’t look like us, standing up to threats to life and liberty of all that live in our land, holding tight to those we care about, and seeking whatever common ground can be found with those on the other side that does not compromise those principles.
(Sorry, Greg:  I rewrote your sentence because I'm a grammar nazi.  I hope I preserved your meaning accurately.)

Francine Prose in New York said recently:
Recently a reporter asked me if a general strike, which I proposed in these pages several weeks ago, had any possibility of success, given the complexity of our country’s labor history and the fact that such strikes have not been part of our political culture*. I replied that no single event should be seen as a success or failure, but rather as preparation and practice for the next event.

Czeslaw Milosz (he died in 2004; he lived to see the Internet) once said:

The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason. The passionless cannot change history.

*nota bene:  this reporter needs to read some f**king American history before asking such loaded questions.

10 February 2017

"We can discard the notion that it's a fundamental technology that you have to use: nonsense, it's a slot machine in your phone; we can discard this notion that you're not going to get a job if you don't use social media: nonsense, anything a six-year-old can do with a smartphone is not going to be what the market rewards."

--Cal Newport.

08 February 2017

One measure of survivalism's spread is that some people are starting to speak out against it.  Max Levchin, a founder of PayPal and of Affirm, a lending startup, told me, "It's one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike -- the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it's our own failure, must be spared."  To Levchin, prepping for survival is a moral miscalculation; he prefers to "shut down party conversations" on the topic.  "I typically ask people, 'So you're worried about the pitchforks.  How much money have you donated to your local homeless shelter?' This connects the most, in my mind, to the realities of the income gap.  All the other forms of fear that people bring up are artificial."  In his view, this is the time to invest in solutions, not escape.
Evan Osnos, "Survival of the Richest"(the print article's title), New Yorker, Jan. 30, 2017.