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.


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."


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.