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On the brink of disaster


This week I have three videos and two stories to share.

I begin with Kenneth Clarke's argument on behalf of his right to think for himself on behalf of his constituents.  I thought the most important passage and relevant directly to the US elections was where Clarke defended that members should follow their conscience, and not automatically obey what was the winning choice in a referendum. He parsed the mantra about the necessity absolutely to follow a vote:  following that logic he said he should each time the Tories lost an election, immediately vote for all labor measures. He described the absurdity of an up-or-down vote for the complex situation voters were asked to decide

He referred to his decades of experience in these areas. The situation in the US is the vote is the result of gerrymandering, and the decision the undemocratic electoral college re-skewing so millions of votes are nullified -- in the recent election we also had the interference from anothe country, and the FBI castigating Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server (a commonplace among politicians today, including Trump and republicans).

Every politician should vote according to the interest of the majority of the people. If he no longer gives his constituents his judgement and simply follows ilke an automaton (succumbs to bullying) he is not serving, he is betraying the people in his district. For decades the UK has been part of the EU and profited mightily from it. For a century the US has had a number of sound social programs and for a couple of centuries principles of freedom, assembly, protest in place. Why reverse them for the advantage of whom?

The first article is about the rump who have the power to remove Trump through impeachment but are not going to do this until they destroy every social program that redistributes any income in any way, from health care to social security, to schools, to public transportation. We have to remember that Trump could not get away with what he's doing with the Republicans in charge. They are there after years of gerrymandering, politicizing the courts.  They are enabling him. This is what the principle of voting your conscience is so important. Here is a good instance of their ruthless doings after 40 years of making the American republic undemocratic, rotten at the core links.

The Republicans in congress are no longer ashamed to force the District of Columbia to their will and against the desires of the people of that city and their local elected representatives end all attempts at helping the city's poor using the poor leftovers of the welfare program ended by the Clintons. It appeared in the Washington Post for February 4th, "The DC local gov't in a fight for its life," by Aaron D. Davis and Peter Jamison. DC has been commiting the mortal sin of trying to prevent people from starving to death. The Republicans can't stand this.

Of course Trump matters. He enabled this win. He thrives on a constituency that is narrow but potentially violent and is treated with credibility and certainly not criticized in media: that there was a possible massacre at Bowling Green was never admitted in mainstream newspapers: a white supremacist planned to kill African-Americans and Muslims. They represent the left-out, jobless, people without hope such that he can appearl to them; the core is miseducated and misinformed, and has for years been found outlets in racism, bigotry, sexism. What American culture in general admires he has been presented as on TV for years:: the ruthless businessman, utter selfishness. Taxation now seen as socialistic. This second article on Trump's character and the way he behaves appeared in the New York Times for January 29, 2017, "Up is Down: unreality show echoes a history of false claims," by David Barstow. Here you will learn how throughout his business career and TV "reality" show, Trump succeeded -- or floated along on money he made and inflated through lawsuits and cheating everyone he encountered, through not paying and manipulating the tax system, through mystifying himself by an image he created which deluded masses of people, and that the techniques he used outside the oval office he is now using far more openly and ruthlessly. He has now behind him such fearful firepower, law and offices, he figures he can punish anyone anywhere to the hilt who attempts to stop him. So much for the leader of this rump cabal -- remember half the American population voted, and of that half less than half voted for Trump.

As in previous weeks a few new thoughts:  Trump is not liar about all things. His anti-immigrant stance is not political expedience. He is deeply prejudiced against anyone not white and born in the US. He proposes to have surveillance of all immigrants for all the time they live in the US; if they go on welfare or do anything he doesn't like, green cards or no (permanent residence this used to be call) throw them out. Long time green card holders too. He talks of how those succeeding in business in the US (ie. making money) will be kept, but if their business ejected. He is deeply violent. The woman he put in charge of his renewal ofblack sites is known for cruelty in torturing. In a book Speaking about Torture, edd. Julie A Carlson and Elisabeth Weber it's demonstrated the purpose and work of torture is to "drive the victim 'beyond the borders of death into [a state of speechless] nothingness" Korea has nuclear bombs and says it can deliver them on California. California is a blue state so Trump may truly not care about. He is starting two wars and maybe really thinks he can steal Iran's oil from them. His tweets are spiteful, paranoid, if in doubt violence and punishments are the solutions. His I'll send in the feds on Chicago means I'll put martial law on that place. No respect for law means abusing his power over legal violence.  Protesters on inaugural day are charged with felonies and threatened with 10 years in prison. Trump uses the word nuclear over and over. Quite apart from killing us all he will ruin the earth and atmosphere, the sky, plant life, animals. He may believe that climate change is a hoax. He doesn't read anything. He shows ignorance in his executive orders, in his ordinary talk (he apparently did not know anything about Frederick Douglass including that he died in the last century), in important negotations: He has to ask an aide what are the provisions of the test ban treaty while he finds what has been done "stupid."  He does not want the congress to be a debating, advising body but obedient to him so 52 republicans in congress should simply ignore 48 -- go for the jugular, the "nuclear' option of stopping all filibuster. Govern by fiat; executive order.

Last one of Robert Reich's resistance reports:

Here is what he suggests you can try to do:

I have begun to phone, to email, have joined a group, I will boycott all stores that carry Trump merchandise, contribute to social media, to ACLU, Common Cause, Southern Poverty Law Center.  I'm going to try to find a sticker for my car. I'm going to vote for all the principles he lays out.

Miss Drake
Dear friends and readers,

This week I've but one essay to share,. but its excellence more than makes up for my not having another: Rebecca Solnit, London Review of Books, 19 January 2017, 3, 6-7: Penis Power

When Solnit tells of the nightmares, inability to sleep, and hideous memories Trump's stalking of Hillary Clinton on a TV stage on 9 October 2016, prompted in so many women, she spoke for me. I wake with this monster's image in my head; since he's been elected, he has chosen to disseminate photos of himself against a black background looking fierce, or in various official situations grim, mean, inexorably dense.

She then accurately describes the endless variations of misogyny which gave a man unfit to president of the US, and affect the fates of the world, the office.

I saw a great play today, August Wilson's Fences  (as a film with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis) which reminded me of how much living on without my husband is a kind of torture for me. She cannot leave him; she has given all she has to him; she cannot conceive of life without him. He is the heart through which her blood flows too:

Viola Davis as Rose

I imagine it was close to the original play: the only departure I've read is the ending. No one says what that was, but my guess is not the final total justification of Troy who behaves horribly on and off to his wife, his sons, everyone but his male peer friends. He takes out his anguish on destroying and bullying others. Wilson feels that's okay -- males who are put down are accorded tremendous compensations over everyone else. he is a deranged person -- as Frantz Fanon said, the colonized, the semi-enslaved into bleak servitude becomes mentally ill and wreaks his misery on others: Writing on Alienation and Liberty (another good essay linked in for you, gentle reader). No it was the final moment where first whatever he did was justified and he was made into a kind of God-man in the family by the wife he had betrayed and bullied, even as he was her only protection, source of income, of pride, security; and then (as in other movies and plays I've seen) from heaven we get a trumpet playing and light streaming down as if it were some baroque painting out of which his great spirit were shining. Both together almost ruined the experience for me. I have read that but one congressman in all congress doesn't have a narrow religious affiliation and go to some church; yet studies and statistics suggest some 30% of Americans if asked will say they have no religious affiliation, no religious sect identification and many of these will call themselves agnostic or (less often) atheist. 30% of Americans have no representation of their secular point of view in congress.

I need not detail once again all the destruction Trump has promised, and what he has done so far: free speech on the Net, truth, civil rights, rights of protest, health care, women's health care, federal gov't workers and agencies. The list is long and havoc-causing potentially already. Each day new cruelties and vindictiveness and sneering triumph over the vulnerable are recorded.

All day I feel under assault -- the continual menacing pictures of Trump. He deliberately puts him photos of him against a black background looking like some whirlwind ferocity, a grim or inexorable expression on his face. Then by the hour a new horror. Now the reporters who reported on his inauguration protests are accused of felony as the reporters who reported on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
I don't know if I can manage four years of this. I fear for the destruction of the gov't programs and services that make my life endurable. I'm especially frightened at the thought I'll lose my house. To me despite what I have said about it, giving words to how I surmise my upper middle class neighbor see and talk about my house, it is a sound comfortingly solid brick, two squares of a house. I am proud to live in it. When I look around me and see cleaning teams leaving other houses, just like mine, or mowing teams, contractors come to replace, improve, renovate, I am bewildered at my luck. I never expected to end in such a position and know it is precarious without Jim. The house holds my computer and its line to the outer world (an IT guy included), my books, which enable me to reach back to Jim and to do research, read for reviews, papers and teaching. I cannot conceive that I could know any comfort without it and them.

I am become unwell under this daily assault. so last one: how to #stayoutraged without losing your mind; for me this means having oneself torn to pieces. What is so striking is how the author says, without exception, every institution and belief, civil protection, good people hold is going to be attacked, and if possible destroy in its embodiment by Trump and many will go the wall, without exception. There's been nothing like this before in my lifetime in the US.

Miss Drake

A poem: There needs to be a time to weep

From Paradise Lost:

Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her Works gave signs of woe

A Lily (Carrington)

I saw Jim Jarmush's Paterson in the later afternoont. I felt recognition, and the hero bus-driver (brings home how rare such a "level" of job is given to a hero-protagonist), never went to college, but well read in American poetry on his desk a group of beloved books, includes Emily Dickinson), he writes poetry to himself all day long. So this has given me the courage to put on this blog the one revolving in my mind today:

There needs to be a time to weep
We have not set aside a time to cry
Everyone who understands what is happening
needs to have a time to mourn.

Americans are driven -- like cattle --
to hold onto the precious job
at whatever cost, no matter how badly treated they are
however corrupted the task -- bad food being profitable

A shameful event has taken place today
It was a long time in the making
much moral stupidity
much mean conniving
went into this: gerrymandering,
voter suppression, fake news,
stations called News shows -- propaganda

for a long time at first underground hidden
emerging explicitly afer 9//11
But today a new major step
The poison made plain,
he who shall not be named
dished out the poison

Circus performers (Carrington)

They dancing to it, pompous with wealth,
smirking, smug, lying before congress
they'd nullified the majority, erased us,
Is this how & why they won't be held unaccountable?
for the destruction they are about to wreak?


Look at them, the orange-haired Godfather
fatly regal with his acolytes around him,
Ryan so gladdened hands held together
under his belt, the other devils crowding in
as the great man signs away lives,
heaps money on banks -- real estate people first ...

Barrel bombs on middle eastern people
yes that has been going on for a long time
too.  Hitting hospitals, civilians deliberately
kill the population you are set on controlling
Bu now they can fire any federal worker at will

We are having to swallow this  nightmare, these lies
hatred spread, threats against anti-police atmosphere
must be put a stop to

I just felt all day that there has not been set aside
a time to weep, to cry, to mourn for the
death of a republic, half obsolete in rules
because it allows this to happen

Shameful, shameless, hollow spectacle
Empty trains all day, empty highways
Tomorrow they will be filled to overflowing
with massive protest

We need a time to weep
We have not allowed an interval for people to cry
to mourn .... not to despair, some decent
interval to acknowledge the shame
of who is now representing us

let us not be ashamed to admit
what now happens to us individually
it is through shaming us individually
paralyzing us, that's how they silence us

The anthropological fact of fascist values
pervasive, everywhere -- a sign for
a popular movie -- Infinite Warfare ...
"Look at her! who would rape her?" -- laughter

A time to grieve for the anguish of women

Norms prevent open acknowledgement
of grief, justified fear, harassment.
you end up hounded for money.

Earlier death
people will now die earlier
I won't be here to help a beloved near me
who needs me
or breathe the sweet air myself

And who would dare go to a hospital now?
Not I.


Among the first acts of the Trump administration was to remove the right of the National Park Service to tweet. I didn't know a president could forbid a whole agency to tweet. Why? they dared to reports the numbers of the crowd at his inauguration service as under 10,000. Small. It was an act of vindictive spite. I understand his New Year's Eve tweet of 2016 was a list of his enemies.

A coming act of spite, as the budget for such people is pathetically small: they will eliminate all funding for public TV which has spread across the US since its slow inception.  I remember when the first PBS type channel, WNET in NYC opened Channel 13 with Play of the Week. I was 13 and my father said, let's watch this play tonight. Each day all week (in the manner of Million Dollar Movie on Metromedia Channel 9), I saw an astonishingly good performance of a great play. Unusual. Judith Anderson as Medea, an Ibsen play, The Flying Duck, how I bonded with that man in the attic, a bitter melancholic Twelfth Night, the first and last time i've ever seen that play done right.  By the time I was 20, when I watched TV (I had stopped watching regularly around age 13-14), PBS was the main channel I watched. Nowadays except in rare forays to HBO, it's the only channel I watch on TV. I listen to NPR music on and off during the day. They can try for some billionaire philanthropist, but it will no longer be a people's channel. It will be the billionaire's. Sesame Street was sold off last year to HBO. Second rate children (they get it for "free") watch shows a year later. Inculcuting who belongs, who excluded now. An end of an era.

These trillion dollar cuts in health care -- including medicare for the elderly, allowing them to go to hospitals without bankrupting themselves, into near homelessness, hounded and harassed for bills -- and this will go into the pockets of the corporations and millionaires about to get huge tax breaks

Five decades -- since just before Reagan with the forming of organizations like ALEC: they took hold of courts, aimed at them, got passage of Citizens United -- huge amounts of money at the heart of the take over of the states: then they added the suppression of the vote through various techniques: from gerrymandering, to laws which prevent people from voting (voter IDs, mass incarceration robs huge numbers of people of the right to vote ever after -- and it's no coincidence they are mainly black), to simply ignoring the law (Congress is not supposed to prevent the nomination of a person to the supreme court, but advise and consent). The Republicans have discovered they can even get away with nullification: in North Caroline they stripped a man elected to governor who is a democrat of most of his powers to do any good. They are no longer afraid of the "many" (militarized police, egregious injustice it the courts, horrific prison conditions - large percentages of people in solitary confinement, proven a form of torture).
So yesterday what we saw was a major step in the destruction of the republic that we had -- it had evolved into something better than its original during the later 19th century and again during the FDR years (LJB added further helps). All this is about to be cancelled; but not just back to pre-FDR, the very foundations of the republic: voting, obedience to law, observance of the original bill of rights (much of it now gutted).
And of course as education has been one source of improvement in people's understandings and therefore their lives, that is in the middle of evisceration too. Get rid of public education in the lower levels, make the universities subject to corporations in the upper. All over the US humanities departments have been cut to nothing or eliminated (in effect), also science hurt.

Danger to the whole world increased a hundred fold: military, war, the destruction of local and wide environments directly to make profit, and in the long run climate change and losses of lands, populations. What do they care?  Remember Malthus: don't try to save people starving, that just makes more of them.

Boy on Concertina (Carrington) -- the learned guarded face

Miss Drake
I asked myself this morning what can I contribute in good memory of and to honor the tragically assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. Then I read David Remnick's essay in the New Yorker: John Lewis, Trump and the Meaning of Legitimacy

It can bring tears to your eyes, make you think:  "I don't see how [President Johnson] can send troops to Africa, and he can't send troops to Selma, Alabama.  Last year I saw the great film, Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, and was moved to write a blog-review praising it as strongly as I could. She has since made a film about the slow replacement of slavery for huge numbers of black men in the US through sharecropper-servitude backed by lynch law, to a brief couple of decades of civil and voting rights, from which the criminal injustice system establishment has moved to mass incarceration, the 13th (amendment).

So with all due respect to Remnick, I have to disagree with him when he writes that "Lewis remains nearly alone in his capacity to tell the story of race in America." There are thousands of black men and women, who have equal capacity to tell this story alive today in all age groups. Such a one is the African-American preacher-journalist, professor of sociology, author, Michael Eric Dyson, in his Tears We Cannot Stop, reviewed in the Washington Post by Carlos Losada: what is it like to drive through a street in the US aware that at any time you might be pulled over for a minor infraction of the law and end up killed ("We think of the police who kill us for no good reason as ISIS")? Ask the mothers and fathers and spouses  and children of all these dead black people. They can tell it like it is. I saw a foolishly "feel-good" film (all piety, triumph, it flattered the mostly white audience watching) about three black women who worked as scientific technologists for NASA today: Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaugh, and Mary Jackson (Hidden Figures, as a film, it's beating Rogue One at the box office). Johnson is still with us, at age 97, finally awarded a Freedom Medal of Honor by President Obama: she could tell us a thing or two.

Remnick and so many others fall for this perpetual seeking for big people, for the hero (or heroine), for the "special genius" as a site of history. But we are all history, the person no one pays attention to, no stories in newspapers are written about offers the perspective which do not obscure the dominating effect of culture, circumstances, other people, contingency, other issues: gender, class, sexual orientation. Bernie Sanders does acknowledge like that.

Let us honor Martin Luther King today by imagining all these other people under this regime that is about to get much worse by trying to prevent it from getting much worse. Angus Wilson does this for one family in his Fences -- which I hope to get to this Thursday. The New York Times had a good interview about Wilson's drama: Jitney, an early play is on Broadway just now. As literary critic and woman writer, I also recommend Margaret Drabble in 1995 from a British perspective: Wilson as an enemy of false sentiment, self-delusion, dwelling on class. Anglo-Saxon attitudes can tell us much too: irreverent, iconoclastic, angry, very funny.

I'm going out on the March on the 21st: the day after the 20th when a man who thinks he can get away with being a dictator, will not be held accountable by law and the constitution once he takes power, remove the social programs set up by Roosevelt and since, give millionaires yet more huge tax breaks, what he pleases in foreign policy and war conducted by tweets (which defile anyone who protests). It's going to be the most massive demonstration we've seen in years. The people in charge of parking the buses estimate 180,000 people. Many many women's groups. It's estimated by my local JCC (Jewish Community Center) that 200,000 people will show, many organized from a group of JCCs around the East Coast, some of whom have had bomb threats since the election. Unions are coming. Be there if you can make it. Wear strong boots, a warm coat with hood, and carry plenty of water.

Enough from me for this week,

Miss Drake

"Let's be vigilant but not afraid." -- President Obama

Friends -- you must be friends to carry on reading this blog,

I'm keeping up what I can contribute since early this fall - when I began to do this: articles, YouTubes, book reviews, I find of interest which my reader might have missed and seem to be important.

We begin with what I read most about and of: the literary and the arts -- don't forget most of them are with us (Trump can get only fools and those bound by contract, fearful of losing their jobs to his inauguration):

There's a wonderful article in the TLS, December 9, 2016, pp 19-20, by Lucy Munro -- about a Shakespeare trilogy put on by Donmar company and theater in London: Julius Caesar, Henry IV (both parts) and Tempest with all women casts. The Cambridge Companion about Acrtress's last article begins with how in the last 20 years there is far more conventionality in the way women are treated in Shakespeare plays than there had been in the later 20th century.  Harriet Walter wrote a book on her experience of acting Shakespeare over carer, including these three plays where she was Brutus, Henry IV, and then Prospero: Brutus and Other Heroines

Among the fascinating things Munro discusses is how the director chose a particular actress to play analogous parts in the three plays, Julius Caesar, Henry IV (both parts), The Tempest.  The first two just about always done with almost all male casts (as they call for it).  Here the same actress plays Falstaff and Caliban.  One is Mark Antony, Hotspur and Ariel. Another the soothsayer from Julius Caesar, Poins from Henry IV (not a tiny role) and Douglas. A third, Caesar, Glendower (not a tiny role) and Stephano.The costumes, the setting, how it felt, how the audiences responded.  As we know Glenda Jackson has been Lear this season -- but it has been not uncommon for Hamlet and Lear and Prospero to be parts given to women when women are given such parts. This season we had Glenda Jackson as Lear:

The breakthrough feat was done by Donmar company and theater in London. The plays open in a prison, and we first meet Hannah who is serving a life sentence after serving as a driver in a get-away car in a politically-motivated bank robbery in which three people died. The setting is institutional and we meet other prisoners. These are our actress who like Harriet emerge again in Shakespeare's plays. The Cambridge Companion about Acrtress's last article begins with how in the last 20 years there is far more conventionality in the way women are treated in Shakespeare plays than there had been in the later 20th century.

Among the women in the forefront have been Judi Dench, Peggy Ashcroft (on the stage), Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson, and Harriet Walter, in the younger generation in the US Rachel Weisz.
The small photo/still (promotional shot) I've used for over 16 years now  for this blog is Harriet Walter enacting Harret Vane (from Dorothy Sayers); my pseudonym Miss Sylvia Drake from Gaudy Night (Why Sylvia?).

As we all know, the best and bravest few minutes by a woman in weeks was at last night's Golden Globe: Meryl Streep called attention to what we must pay attention to and should respond to with horror: She was there for her Lifetime Achievement Award (see my blog on Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher).

Last, are these tweets important:  yes, he's not just any troll or pest: a third article I want to share, originally in the Washington Post, now in the St Louis Dispatch by Philip Rucker and Danielle Paquette: on these tweets as having Seismic Power, and not just Uncertain or feeble fact (that's courtesy) but being harmful lies.

Among the person's malevolent tweets this week was one aimed the Duchess of Cambridge, wife to Prince William (the UK). In unusually neutral language, the person urged photographers to go photograph "Kate" who he had learned was set to have a vacation where she might be seen on a beach presumably (he clearly hoped) naked on the ground "who" wouldn't" take that photo "and make lots of money."  Appealing to the worst motives. Then "Go for it!"  In other words, harass and hound and humiliate her if you can -- the way Princess Diana was before her.

Why do this? because of his ceaseless vindictive spite: he was ignored when he came to the UK last time. Unlike the unfortunate corporations (yes, unfortunate here), the palace can do what is the right thing to do with malicious trolls.  It ignored him. The next day after some of his tweets about companies who displease him, they find their shareholders selling their stock, their price goes, people phone in panic lest what he lied about them is true. When he torments some stars, they cannot resist the reply button feeding his delight more. I'm told the man who owns Twitter was asked by Financial News to unsubscribe him. One wishes a pail of vomit would be gathered and someone poured over him (a version of this was tried by the chaffeur in Downton Abbey, but alas the tureen with the yukky thick viscous liquid was caught by the shill butler before it could be overturned on the sneering smug smirking rich man's head), a photograph taken and it go viral on the net.

I couldn't find a still from the episode: it went too quickly. Here he is as Irish chauffeur

Also this is going as low as he, but it would be an outward image of the inner man.

Until then someone takes up my suggestion, we have this week had the noble deeply troubled voice of a brave Meryl Streep brings us back to decent humanity -- not long after of course (small hours of the morning is his favorite time) he tweeted viciously at her, denying he had mocked the disabled reporter (happily it's on video as well as all the laughter in that rally).

Last but by no means least, I find this heart-breaking; my eyes tear up:  Alfred Woodfox after a lifetime in solitary confinement finally walks free

Miss Drake
though things are moving as Trump behaves as if he were president through his tweets, and continues to assemble his nightmare gang (the phrase is from the NYRB, titling an essay by MIchael Tomasky)

You can read about this or watch on DemocracyNow.org.  Here are Martin Garbus and Rose Styron on this tragic egregious stealing of the life of someone who tried to work for the improvement of lives of Native Americans.

The staute of Leonard Peltier now in jail for over 40 years, a Native American activitst was dismembered this week.

I continue for now to contribute what a reader coming here might not have seen and a few thoughts thereon. For this week, Alan Bennett's diary entries from the LRB (not publicly online as far as I know), first after Brexit:

24 June:  The day after the referendum, I spend sitting at the kitchen table correcting the proofs of Keeping On Keeping On before going to Yorkshire in despair. I imagine this must've been what Munich was like in 1938 -- half the nation rejoicing at a supposed deliverance, the other stunned by the country's self-serving cowardice. Well, we shall see.

10 November, Venice: One way of going on post-Trump, though it's hardly a solution, is to live without news: no papers, no TV, no comment ... It's not something I want to get used to, or for the outrage, the disgust, the despair to become blunted. Better raw ... Trudging painfully through the streets ... America ... is now virtually a dictatorship, with congress and the presidency both in Trump's hands, and the Supreme Court packed for years to come [a minority party], if we're lucky enough to be granted years to come .. Thankful I am old and have no children [my case grandchildren] to leave in a world of at the mercy of this lying and bellicose vulgarian ... [a little later] a malevolent buffoon ....

14 November. A nauseating picture on the front of the Guardian of Trump and Farage together, with 'nauseating' in this case not just  a word. It does genuinely make one feel sick.


John Berger:  he died this week: he was an ethical art critic, poet, painter, an intelligent well-educated man, humanist, feminist, yes they have existed and continue to exist all over the world. Ways of seeing was his important work. Here's a summary of his work.  Another great 1970a mini-series, a a DVD worth watching. From the text:

Images we are so used to are analysed for what they tell us.

Begin here:

You can go to YouTube and see Parts 2-4.

The kind of adversarial criticism the "Adorno" school of thought attracts nowadays -- which I find highly unfair: it's a defense of modern amoral hedonistic un-self-examined public media: "Puritanic rationalism" But I include so you can see why Berger's writing is not remembered as widely today as it deserves.


3 January.  The endurance ordeal is over for another year.  I woke around 4.  Even with my nightly sleeping pill I couldn't sleep past that hour.  I am so deeply ashamed and revolted by what is happening in the US govt on the federal and other levels. By so much I see in the public media, obscenely luxurious houses around my block, the soulless hotels I've stayed in, glamor it's called, popular movies. Got up and read in the Washington Post that Trump hardly ever uses email. He said he doesn't do email or some phrase, with the excuse it's so unsafe. Each time I've seen him near a computer it's been with that son-in-law of his, Jared Whatever. I am now wondering if Trump is semi-literate. Did he graduate from high school?  how well can he read? he can't spell and shows no ability with grammar. Not a moron as he's planning now to revamp the immigration laws to be like the repressive ones of the 1890s. He knows about that.  My grandparents could not have gotten in had they been in place post-1900.  There have been powerful kings before who are morons,  illiterate but all I've ever read of got their thrones through inheritance, not that an electorate voted them in. What a statement that makes about the American electorate. Hofstadter in his important Anti-Intellectualism in the US failed to predict this. I saw in the New Yorker an article about Intellectuals for Trump ...

It seems to me of immense importance that this man cannot read anything complicated nor write anything complicated. The true author of the Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, who became very guilty when he realized how his book has become a legimitizer of Trump told Jane Mayor in the New Yorker how it was produced. Alas, he has been shut up by Trump's lawyers.

Truly I can no longer watch PBS but intermittently (Malcolm Brabant, Fred de Sam Lazaro) and for DemocracyNow.org while there are still the invaluable interviews (the Leonard Peltier entry above came from that), I just manage to listen to the recitation of what happened today and give up. She has a way of repeating her tapes as she has so little money and too many of them feature Trump's face or tweets. Her attitude towards Julian Assange now sickens me. I shut the sound off.


It's also what's not in the news:  I look for but don't read anywhere that Obama is about to pardon and free Leonard Peltier. Only that people against "cop-killers" were responsible for AU's craven destruction of the Peltier statue. Nor that he has taken the Nuclear stance off High Alert: a president can start a nuclear war right now in four minutes: high alert would require him to consult others first. Obama cares too much about his place in social organizations after the presidency is over -- $90,000 a year for the rest of his life is not enough.

Miss Drake

It becomes very hard to write political blogs as they are so egregiously without real political effect by people hitherto thought powerful. So what of mine? Each week I try to share good essays or articles, blog and interviews or books you may have overlooked; this week I begin a line of thinking derived from the strong voice of Elena Ferrante in her Frantumaglia (Fragments); move on to a informative good book on drones and end on an interview with a Syrian dissident from the original Arab Spring.

Obscenity may be defined as indecency, immorality, impropriety (from Webster's American Dictionary). I was going to write that the Rockets forced by contract or fear of not being rehired to dance in super-sexy outfits in this super-controlled way before a man who has repulsively boasted of his sexual predation, laughed at women who grieved over the trauma as women not tempting enough for him (thus liars), and shut a number of rape charges (including one from his first wife) by litigation, suit, bribery, forced to dance this way was an act of obscenity since they have made it plain to their manager as well as their union a majority of them regard this as degrading and debasing their art or status as professional women. The whole thing seemed to me reminiscent of how black concubine slaves could not escape their white master's demands.

But Ferrante's forceful exposure of why far from no one opposing fascism coming to power, but majorities voting for this derives from how a large swath of society rejoices in fascistic cultural norms -- which are deeply sex-drenched from a hegemonic aggressive heterosexual male perspective. The anthropology of male-female relationships in her imagined Naples is analogous to the way the Rockettes dress themselves, maintain their figure (as the body is called). Her heroines empower themselves through obedience. She goes beyond sexuality to how this culture believes a grand entrepreneur (she is thinking of Berlusconi) who grew wealthy, powerful, connected by his bad television and other empires can "fix" the problems of a nation, manage democratic institutions meant to answer the needs of all citizens. She says we should keep our eyes on the illusions of his target audience and constructions of his politician and corporate peers.

What is so hard to demonstrate is how this depends on controlling and demolishing women's rights as women. Trump has asked his appointees to various departments to make a list of all programs meant to promote gender equality. He's after that.  He has the treacherous snake lady, Kellyanne Conway: nothing too vile nothing too crude, too low for her to defend. Defunding all of Planned Parenthood is in his first 100 day plan. Ferrante's Frantumaglia by discussing how she came to write her first three novels, Troubled Love, Days of Abandonment, The Lost Daughter, the thinking behind them brings these connections out visibly, concretely.  makes these connections visible.

(She is obsessed with how people want to pay attention to her book if it is made into a film. I'm struck by how if a press person gets in touch with her, instead of say being glad of the distribution or briefly referring to the irony of why he or she is getting in touch, Ferrante goes on to berate the press person or reviewer. She tells the person only if she will say something about herself only then does she receive compliments or recognition from the press.. She insists on this and then ends the letter. Like Trollope In the Way We Live Now, she connects the corruption of the political and economic world with the corruption of the literary one.

I also have concluded that the anonymity was to protect herself from personal attacks far more ferocious than Rachel Cusk received because Ferrante's novels are far more intimately and centrally subversive.)

And how pathetically out of it Hillary Clinton becomes in this new context: she defined herself perpetually as a grandmother: now she walks in woods as one:

I admit how much better I like her withoutall that make-up, without her power suit: it's said that she wore a metal sheath to protect her from assassination -- Trump is still rallying his followers with "lock her up," only the phrase has wider application (or will) now.

The second topic I found something worth while to think about is the abuse of power through principle Obama used in his drone program. Amy Goodman interview of Jameel Jaffer, author of the Drone Memos: Targeted Killings, Secrecy and the Law

I quote Jaffer:

Not only does the government not have to go to a court beforehand to justify the use of legal force, but there’s no requirement that the administration go to a court after the fact to justify the use of legal force. When the Obama administration fought to keep the courts from evaluating the lawfulness of its policies, it was fighting not just for power that it would exercise, but for power that the next administration and the administration after that would exercise, as well. The Obama administration worked for this.

This was an abuse of power on the part of the Obama administration. He ends on how the new national security advisor, Michael Flynn, wants to define 1.7 billion people as Islamists infected by “a vicious cancer” which has to be “excised.” This is horrible. 1.7 billion people include so many different ethnicities, versions of Islam, it's absurd, blind, ugly.  This connects back because the drone program began as a tool against ISIS and Al-Quaedo.  Obama's administration sought to punish and imprison "whistleblowers:" people (Snowden was the most spectacular) seeking to bring before the American people how much data which can be used against them by such courts is being collected.

I'll add congressional committees have time and time again had before them people from the Middle East demonsrating how much hatred and fear the US brings on itself by these drones.

And if you've time, listen to this Syrian dissident, Yassin al-Haj Salen tell how a revolution to overthrow a dictator and achieve a social democracy has ended in the destruction of a people, and the installation of ruthless colonial powers in alliance with that dictator. His wife, Samira Khalil disappeared three years ago along with a human rights attorney, Razan Zaitouneh; they were abducted and what happened to them is unknown to all but those who too and probably killed them. Saleh lives very quietly as an exile in Turkey.

Miss Drake

Dear readers,

It may be I am stating the obvious and this is "old hat" to many people who have thought about what has been happening in US politics since the 1970s. This blog is about what to watch for, what to pay attention to. People who are watching Trump and his appointees are paying attention to the trees may be missing what this forest is.

Before Nov 8th, we were told we were watching the break-up of the Republican party. Turns out we were watching the break-down and destruction of the democratic one as having any effective power.

We have recently been told we are watching an attempted transformation of the democratic party into a progressive party. North Carolina's legislature coup to deprive an elected democrat to the governorship from having any power lets the genie out of the bottle. The republican party is now openly anti-democratic and fascist.

This is also one of my many blogs where I link in a good essay and then summarize and infer and extrapolate from it. I read many perceptive articles in The Nation, Naked Capitalism and elsewhere. But these are well-known sites and publications. You could hav missed
Mabel Berezin in a publication called The Conversation. She argues that there is a crucial difference between the European populists, demagogues, and even fascists who have taken power recently around the globe (from the Philippines to :Poland) and who are campaigning to take power (France and Austria where they lost the election but not by much), between the choice of Brexit by the UK voter and the anti-immigration, anti-NATO, anti-TPP and other non-cooperative stances of Trump (except in the case of Putin where he seems to want to forge an alliance). Most of these other people running for or taking public office are seasoned politicians (not simply millionaires -- we don't know that Trump had a billion though when he leaves office he will probably have many many), and they have programs where they want to use their state's institutions to start reactionary policies of all sorts. Trump questions the legitimacy of US institutions and in fact behaves in ways that ignore all tradition, custom (like meeting with the press in public). He wants to subvert and bypass and undermine our political institutions, free press, and and electoral sytstem.

From this I ask, what is the purpose of this wrecking. He tweets that millions of people fraudulently voted for Hillary Clinton (without any evidence), that our elections are rigged (they are but in the direction of repressing all minorities, the poor, the disconnected); he hires people who on record hate the purpose of their agency or want to destroy it. When it suits him, undermines judges, union rights, suggests policies that are probably illegal (registries for Muslims, he wants lists of people in university who have worked for environmental reform); asks for lists of people active in promoting gender equality in another agency. He is not alone: the Republicans in North Carolina have brazenly exposed their hand. After having gerrymander the state so that the representative majority represents a minority of actual voters in order to get a Republican pro-white, anti-labor, anti liberal human rights, when the people of the state fight hard and get a democratic man elected governor, they strip him of all powers before going out of session. They are paving the way, exemplifying what they hope other republican state gov'ts will do.

The purpose of all of this is seen in the results around the country: the setting up of a permanent gov't of a minority of wealthy people with people motivated by systemic racism, backed by military force.

By these laws and gerrymandering and court decisions (including Citizens United whose funds have directed and enabled all these Republican wins) you pull a red gov't out of a blue majority.

Watch what Trump says he is for. He wants to pass a rigid law punishing anyone who attacks the US flag: the flag has long been a symbol of "what makes America great:"  US power which his constituency who are themselves personally deprived can feel triumphant about. That means more to them or as much as getting a good job. It's associated with a hard line pro-police, and punitive prison system.

You can demand impossible IDs for many: two picture IDs:  I have two pictures ID only because beyond my driver's licence, I have a passport. Passports cost and they take time and trouble to obtain. You have to go through a process and I can forsee putting obstacles in that process. The regulations put in the way of thousands of voters this time (2016) is enough to account for Trump's narrow victory. He & his party will now consolidate the means that brought him and his party to power. They are lawless. They refused to even consider Obama's nomination for the supreme court. The senate is not supposed to refuse the president's choice, they are to advise and consent and refuse only after considerable evidence justifying that.

Fake news helps destroy democratic institutions. Also poor education and Trump has picked someone to run a department which covers education who is against public education. She has never attended a public school, taught, sent her children to one. Private schools are for profit, and it won't be long before they start charging substantial sums, especially if education remains underfunded.

Who is to be excluded: black people, minorities, immigrants, low paid workers who move about. Given the open disdain for women's rights (health care, abortion, against violence) and mockery of rightful accusations of sexual assault, what women need and want is to be excluded too. Just about all his appointees are on record as against LRGT rights.  It's important to see this so that as we see people begin to re-vamp the democratic party (now a shell) and try to create new grassroots organizations or make them effective, they have to know what they are fighting against, what is aimed at them.

It's often said that central to the original foundation of the US was slavery -- making huge sums of money off the free incessant labor of African people, working them to death, trading them, making concubines and breeding animals of African women-- so treating black lives as not mattering, as fodder; now this re-construction of a violent vicious order is dependent on overtly treating black lives as not mattering to make the poor whites feel good and have superiority control, and make money off blacks -- Ta Nehisi Coates's article on reparations in the Atlantic showed how whites have fleeced blacks since the later 19th century, with impunity taking from huge numbers of them any opportunity to build savings or ownership -- jobs as prison guards (who are overwhelmingly white). No mainstream US newspaper even reported on the recent prison strikes: conditions in prisons have returned to the worst of the pre-1960s era. Those who assembled, protested peacefully have been harshly punished.

Miss Drake

Friends and readers,

Something is about to happen which is not a bad dream:  a man is about to take enormous power in the US as the president, Trump by name, and he erupts periodically in 141 characters utterance on the Internet where in spiteful moronic sometimes mispelled ungrammatical utterances he insults other people. If they are people living inside the US and on TV or theater or in a newspaper, he menaces them with a implied threat he will shut them down.  He conducts diplomacy with govt's who have nuclear bombs through this medium and in this way. He uses perverse (unexpected to those who would never vote for him) logic which he knows will delight his followers because it brings out into the open their deep resentments and lies: for example, believing the CIA lies is like believing women who claim to be sexually assaulted (I suggest one of his family members vetted that for grammar). (He does in fact sue anyone he can to shut them up when possible and silences all those he hurts by money.)

He backs this up by going around the US holding rallies where he continues the rhetoric of his rallies which incited anger and violence. He tells them they were "nasty mean and vicious" and now people say "you are mellow. Wrong!" and he proceeds to whip them up again.

The one bright spot of good news is in North Carolina Rev Wm Barber  and friends, associates, workers groups  each Monday had as mass a demonstration as they could manage, out of that worked together to nominate, get people back their right to vote (if say they had no voter ID), got people who needed help to the limited polling times, they elected a democratic governor. Now the Republican state legislature is seeking to strip the governorship of most of its powers before they go out of office (a coup). Update:  12/19/2016: The brazen stripping of the governor's powers in North Carolina in the last days of legislature has taken my breath away. By not even waiting until they return to a session, they aggressively make it known they intend to end democracy. Eliminating voting rights and nullifying all elections openly is their strategy.

How is Barber going to continue to fight back. Carry on demonstrating, organizing, helping people to vote, fighting in the courts, supporting civil rights organizations, getting candidates on the ballot who are for peoples' needs and liberty and rights. Read on.


A friend on one of the listservs I moderate wrote this history of the democratic party -- I do not agree with it all, I do not think Trump can have any kind of success by freeing up US capital utterly (except for those who have a lot of it); supply side economics is voodoo economics:

There are no rules about the rise and fall of political parties. Their appearance and disappearance, their move from the margins to a more central role reflects big political changes, themselves the result of deep shifts in a society's contending social forces. In the US, presidents have been elected from the Federalists, the Democratic Republicans (later the Democrats), the Whigs, and the Republicans. In the UK, the Whigs have been replaced by the Liberals and Labour. In Canada, something similar has happened. In Europe and elsewhere, new parties come into existence fairly often and sometimes win power, as has happened most clearly in Israel.

The Democratic Party in the US, originally a party of small farmers and small businessmen, came to represent the lower classes during the first half of the 20C. In the North it represented the union movement, middle-class people, and others in opposition to big business. In the South it  was the party of the racist establishment. This meant there was no national party, but a coalition of state parties going by the same name. I expect everyone knows this, but my point is that political parties don't conform to a formula.
New social conditions result in the demise of some parties. The Democrats turned away from their traditional middle-class base in the second half of the 20C, partly because American capitalism had become successful enough to spread the wealth around. Carter and to a much greater degree Clinton accommodated Wall Street, turned their backs on the unions, adopted austerity measures and converted the Democratic Party into a nicer version of the Republicans. This turn away from working people is a big reason that Trump won this last election.
Trump appears determined to undo the last 75 years of social progress, which he thinks will free up US capital and rejuvenate the economy. He may succeed but at great cost to the working people who supported him. It's also likely that he won't succeed, which, too, will lead to disillusionment with him. In either case he will use more vicious demagogy and even repression to maintain his authority.
The super-rich will either go along with him or won't, depending on what they think is in their self-interest. If he institutes something approaching fascism they may not have a choice. But the likelihood, again, is that he cannot fix the economy and also keep people happy.
In other words, new contradictions will emerge sooner or later. Serious damage may be done before that happens, but we just don't know what will happen. I'm reminded of the terrible attacks that occurred on Black people and their supporters as the Civil Rights movement gained steam. For some years it seemed that the racists had all the power, but then the tide turned. At the moment  the Democratic Party is a pathetic shell. It will either learn to fight for ordinary people or it will die and be replaced."


Now there are millions of intelligent people who value their lives, liberties, property, monetary arrangements (pensions), health care, education (for most that means public education), who have a good grasp of science, do not live corrupt lives bankrupting, de-frauding, and suing other people. With the demise of the democratic party in office, they are all waiting for this tweeting man to take a powerful office where he can wage horrific wars, make and break treaties with powerful other gov'ts, put people in charge of agencies which affect lives of millions (and he has chosen people who loathe the agency they are in charge of, want to destroy it). Some of these appointees remind me of 19th century people who were indifferent as to whether a majority of people died. He appointed a woman to head public education who hates public education, never spent a day in a public school, has worked very hard to destroy them. 90% of US people go to public schools and every time there is a vote about them, the majority support public schools over charters. One his appointees says he prefers to have robots in his fast food places to people as they never get sick, never take vacations, never complain, can be made to smile all day -- like slaves. If the behavior of those people in charge of some gov'ts that bomb and kill thousands and thousands of people in and outside their country is any indication, they would prefer most people dead: they need only enough other people to get the wealth out of the ground and only enough people with money to sell it too. Everyone else is superfluous. Another doesn't believe (he says) in evolution: he is at the head of heath, education and human services. He is against any public help in gaining housing. Four generals, one whose nickname is "mad dog," another involved in atrocities. The people in congress are salivating to privatize social security; they claim falsely it's in trouble. It is paid for by the people who are to live off these pensions theyve built up by weekly payments over a lifetime. It does not hurt these Republicans at all; it's the principle of the to them. They cannot bear that a huge amount of working people can be secure late in life. That makes these older people strong against any need to work at hard jobs for minimum wages to pay their rent or buy food. I call this wanton cruelty.

Newspapers have supported this new (and continuing) establishment by not televising or offering videos to show happened in North Dakota when the Standing Rock native Americans just now successfully stopped a pipeline going through lands where the pipeline will threaten the water supply.  They gave Trump fantastic amounts of air time for nothing. If someone goes to video or report, they are accused of sympathizing with the native people not being neutral . It is the job of newspaper to report both or all sides of a conflict. The courts in North Dakota have issued warrants for arrest of reporters and one was charged with a felony which had a very long prison sentence. Newspapers are normalizing him and saying that he is and will be the 45th president. They are important agents of what happens as well as information, true and distorted both.

Yesterday on CNN the usual wrong explanation was given for why millions of jobs have been lost in the US and shipped abroad: so the explanation given to the head of the United Steelworkers that the ships were being shipped to Mexico was "technology." The technology was doing this. But if you look, you find this is false. In fact the same technologies are used abroad. The jobs are shipped because workers work for so much less money, in bad conditions with no benefits. In Germany jobs stay because the laws and tax is set up to discourage exports of job and keep jobs in Germany; further financial marketeers cannot strip a company's assets, sell it off as bankrupt and then buy it back. This kind of misinformation from CNN is repeated to the point that (as Orwell says) it becomes the accept trut.

Is anyone doing anything effective to control this worse than unfit person once he takes office? or the majority in congress who support him?

A photo take the day Rev Barber succeeded in stopping three forms of voter suppression bills - some of these people are part of the "moral majority" who demonstrate every Monday in North Carolina

The progressive wing of the democratic party -- Keith Ellison at their head, Elizabeth Warren and others, are taking steps to put pressure on congress when the congress meets not to enact the worst of their wanton cruelties on what Romney when he was running for public office called the 47%: those people who receive some form of gov't help, by which he also meant anyone who worked in a gov't job. They say they will be building a "grassroots" movement to once again hold public office so as to stop the republicans from privatizing social security, abolishing medicare, funneling huge amounts of money through tax breaks to the very wealthy and corporations. They have lost because huge amounts of money were funded into Republican campaigns over the country to take state congresses, state governorships and when they did that they immediately gerrymander the areas they controlled so that they could nullify the effect of millions of votes. This never was a country where one person got one equal vote to others, but now the whole system is worked to make sure minority people and the poor in cities get less representatives than rural and white people. A problem here is centrist democrats have voted for mild and other versions of Republican policies, like austerity.  Hillary Clinton campaigned on  pro-austerity platform.

There have been demonstrations, mass demonstrations around the US since the election results were announced November 8th since majority vote was for Hillary Clinton. A huge demonstration is planned for January 21st. When you have no other tools as a people, if you have the right of peaceful assembly (which it is said US people still do -- though arguably they do not), this what is left.

A Trump is not my president demonstration in the US in the days after the election (NYC outside a Trump building)

Another -- from Reuters

People have been giving money to organizations who fight for civil rights, human rights, women's health, public education, and I have too: southern poverty law center, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Democracynow.org. There are reports that contributions have gone way up for the moment.

One man says he has been working effectively and is beginning to have success: Rev Wm Barber of North Carolina; he was interviewed by Amy Goodman on DemocracyNow.org last night. If you click on the link you can watch the interview or read the transcript. It's worth reading:  When the republicans took over North Carolina, it was the most liberal state in the south. They reversed all legislation they could, they gerrymandered the state to stay in power. They cut all legislation to keep minimum wages, refused to allow Obamacare to do its effective job in the state; have decimated worker benefits, gov't jobs; the state is right to work and everything has been done to minimize voter participation among blacks and poorer people in North Carolina.

Barber and his friends and associates worked hard in their weekly demonstrations and meetings; they canvassed people, got a democratic candidate who was for their interests and worked hard to get people voter registration that was accepted  and to vote, ahd the democratic man one.  The response of these people is to hold an emergency meeting to pass legislation to take power from this office: to demand the man have approval of the congress for any of his appointees, to strip him of power to help put back the clock to start improving wages, health care, education. They are conducting a coup. It might seem Barber is losing but he says no; they are gradually winning. After all they got this man elected.  Barber says if only the majority of people who voted for Hillary Clinton worked the way he has across the country, they can start to take back the power they have seded. The first step is to win offices with power and hold onto it.

Barber's thinking is important too. What he says is behind the near majority of voters to vote for Trump. While a segment of these people are impoverished who have lost their manufacturing or good jobs, many many are not: in my small acquaintance I know of about 8 people who told me they voted for Trump: all of them are doing well, and all of them are white. At the Oscher Institute of Lifelong Learning where I teach at George Mason I know of people who voted for Trump: very well heeled, white.  Trump can win again more easily in 4 years because the very wealthy and newspapers who backed Hillary Clinton out of fear he would be a populist or help the working class are now much relieved. It's gov't by billionaires for billonaires, pro-fossil fuel industry whatever they want. They will vote for him and support him. Police will. The military -- a huge segment of the US polity.  I've read 52% of white women above some age like 40 voted for Trump.

What unites them: they are just about all white. Rev Barber calls the glue that holds the things together, that unites this constituency systemic racism  If we want to fight this group, we must fight systemic racism. I know this is very hard as the people who are racists will appear indignant and angry if you call them that (some of them all the while knowing better); but the other day some Ku Klux Klan type asserted if we all have a right to our opinions, he has a right to his. But if you ignore it or pretend it's not there, you cannot make any inroads. I think through education that is integrated you can begin, but as we know over the last few decades education has returned to being segregated through income which means also race and ethnicity.

I quote from the ending of his talk:

"they keep talking about just an economic fix, or we just need to talk to white working poor people. But if you do not factor in race and how, as Nell Painter said at Princeton, the—you would not have a Trump without an Obama, that President Obama’s election represented a kind of inversion of a hierarchy in this country. And so, what we have to wrestle with is what caused, for instance, many whites to vote for a candidate that actually says—and there are 8 million more white people that are poor than black, but they vote for a candidate that’s against living wages. What causes many whites to vote for a candidate who says, "I’m going to cut your healthcare," when 80 percent of the people who will lose their healthcare are persons that do not have a college degree, and 56 percent of them are white?"

Tthe "fusion" coalition he speaks of is Jesse Jackson's idea of a rainbow coalition. It's not mullticultural, but people standing alongside one another for their own interests. He says it's Ryan and McConnell are the important racists, not so much the KKK or David Dukes or calling somebody the N-word. It’s policy. It’s systemic racism.

Then talking about the conviction of Dylann Roof,the young white man in South Carolina who murdered 9 black people who welcomed him into their church Bible reading group and was planning this as an uprising to murder more minority people, he ends:

"the irony of it is we’ve come through this campaign, this Trumpism, with all of this overt racism and othering, you know, this—at the same time we’re convicting Dylann Roof. We have a candidate, you know, who is now president-elect, who began his movement on birtherism and demeaning and denouncing the very birthright of our president. We have policies being proposed. We’ve got Jeff Sessions, who attempted to prosecute civil rights leaders for participating in registering people to vote, who is against voting rights and civil rights, who now will be possibly the attorney general. We have alt-right, or I call it alt-wrong, and Steve Bannon and white supremacists in the heart of the Oval Office. We haven’t seen that, at least that blatantly, since 1915, when Birth of a Nation was played in the Oval Office by Woodrow Wilson. And by the way, Dylann Roof was captured in Shelby, which is the hometown of the playwright who wrote the movie and the script for Birth of a Nation. And now we have this alt-wrong in the Oval Office, 100 years later, exact almost to the date. We’ve gone from Birth of a Nation in the Oval Office to alt-right in the Oval Office."

"We have a rise in white supremacy, but we also have a rise in systemic policy. We have people being put in place that are going to do what Icall destruction from the inside. Price over HHS, Health and Human Services, who I believe will do great damage to the Health and Human Services, will hurt many black people—and many white people. And we’ve come through this election where people have been divided by race and fear. You know, Donald Trump is not the first white man who has used racial division to be elected. This is not the first time America has dealt with a racist president. But what we should be surprised about is the ease at which he was able to use it in the 21st century and the way in which people bought the con and bought this racism and othering that we have seen now."


I remember a joke that was made just before Obama won for the first time. We see a white working class man drinking beer and watching football; his wife with an apron on her skirt goes to the door. It's a canvasser; she yells. He yells back, "Tell him we're voting for the nigger." The joke is that the man has not overcome his racism but has rather made an exception for Obama.

So what you have to start with is to have a candidate these people will make an exception for. Berne Sanders thinks that his programs will so favor working and all people, middle class, that he can get the bigoted people (he's Jewish, was a socialist) to vote for him. He will shore up social security, genuinely support all sorts of social programs and initiatives that do create jobs, support a higher minimum, improve public education. He almost beat Hillary Clinton in the primaries. He does get people to vote for him from different constituencies and was at the head of a movement when he stopped campaigning. Can he resurrect this? Had he been the democratic candidate all the republican establishment and newspaper people who supported her would have attacked him ferociously. He has dared to object to US foreign policy where we fight against genuine people's movements and support dictators (back them in their wars by not stopping funding them).

To be honest, I don't know that he would attract these people. That they would make an exception for him. But that is what you have to do it seems. When enough candidates get into office and improve lives for these people (the billionares who are taking power are a tiny minority of them), you have to hope they will be grateful and carry on voting for better lives. While there, if they ever get back, the democrats have to make a supreme court which will over turn Citizens United, for that is where the avalanche of republican victories came from.

Right now it looks hopeless by peaceful means, and so, to return to my opening, that is why millions are sitting doing nothing or  blogging or tweeting or writing messages on face-book, listservs or other social media or publishing on and off line in newspapers, journals, on websites against it.

Miss Drake

For water is the basis of life

A merchant's desire is not of glory, but of gain; not of public wealth, but of private emolument; he is therefore rarely to be consulted about war and peace, or any designs of wide extent and distant consequence. -- Samuel Johnson, from Taxation No Tyranny

It is to be feared that the science of over-reaching is too closely-connected with lucrative commerce. There are clases of men who do little less than profess it, and who are scarcefly ashamed, when they are detected in imposture -- again Johnson

Friends and readers,

Ordinary people and the earth itself, its natural resources, have had a victory, which, even if temporary (the Trump administration could reverse), must be celebrated. We have had some progress during the years of the Obama presidency, but much may be overturned as well as the basis of FDR's new deal (social security) and LFJ's life-saving Medicare. I assure whoever reads this I am not into false celebrations.

Cannon Ball, North Dakota -- let's remember it's now very cold in North Dakota

The Standing Rock tribe has won.  The US Army corps of engineers denied an easement that would allow the pipline to cross beneath Lake Oahe, threatening the water supply of the Standing Rock reservation just downstream.  For months of the Standing Rock people, multiple native American tribes, and many other groups, now reinforced by a Veterans' group, put their bodies on the line -- and they have faced attack dogs, pepper spraying, hosing, rubber and real bullets; arrests, warants out for felonies which are a modern way of nullifying our right to assemble and protest peacefully. This kind of courage emerges from desperation and having no other recourse to stop this wholescale violation. A group of US Veterans had just joined them, saying they would encircle the Native Americans to protect them.

The Standing Rock Sioux are determined to prevent 1) the possible and even probably pollution of the Missouri River, central source of water for millions of people; and 2) the destruction of the Standing Rock people's burial sites, which by treaty, is land belonging to them, and part of the religious aspect of their community life. See Amy Goodman's full interview of the people involved yesterday: DemocracyNow.org

As a good friend on a small Yahoo list I moderate (focused on Anthony Trollope and 19th century literature and culture) wrote:

The victory today may be only temporary, but this would not have happened without the courage, determination and solidarity of the various tribes, environment groups, veterans groups, and people like us. That petition we signed was a very small contribution, but it helped build the climate of opposition.

A clear description of what this is about: for now it's halted. I've read the company that has fought so aggressively (gotten on its side major agencies, newspapers) to build this pipeland has said the court's decision does not stop them from going ahead. i've read that Trump has interests in companies that stand to gain profit from this pipeline and will give the "green light" to this and all other pipelines..

The inference: we must fight for say social security and medicare, decent treatment to enable disabled people to live fulfilled independent lives. We can sometimes win.

More widely; the important of keeping up the struggle not to allow wanton polluing of our atmosphere and food (causing cancer pandemonics). Year ago now Izzy and I saw an important film where a private corporation attempted to privatize the water supply in Bolivia and cut off a group of Indians from any water unless they pay for it: Even the Rain. The people's protests managed to stop this wholescale theft of necessity of life but their city is ruined, and we see the cost to individuals is high. Gasland is another movie about this problem of theft of natural resources of the earth people depend upon suddenly privatized and then polluted.

A still from Even the Rain

More recently we've seen how the waters of Flint, Michigan were polluted to "save" tax money. I've been in communities where the local water is not drinkable and people are forced to buy water in great plastic jugs.

More years ago than I like to (or can) remember I read with several classes of students over a few years John McPhee's The Control of Nature: the course was Advanced Composition in the Natural Sciences and Technology and read McPhee's book. It contains a long section on aquifers that large cities depend upon for their water supply, and how easy it is to destroy them. This and other books by McPhee seems apolitical because he concentrates on explaining how natural phenomena in a given region have emerged over centuries, and problems people have today in managing the resources that come with the phenomena. He usually develops a story out of a semi-ironic problem local people are having controlling something that is interfering with their middle class way of life. But the inferences taken away enable a reader to understand what these various struggles with multinational corporations out to be a huge profit for the investors and company members are about.

From the latest edition of McPhee's Pine Barrens: a favorite for me for summer reading with science students.

Miss Drake

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May 2017



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