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An important opinion column from the New York Times. I realize it may get plenty of readers and attention, the thesis that words matter, and the words used here have the effect of trivializing and confusing why Trump's behavior for over a year over the Ukraine's need for arms to protect itself against invasion is impeachable.


I copy and paste the succinct text:

A plea from 33 writers: words matter.

To the Editor:

A plea from 33 writers: Please use language that will clarify the issues at hand.

Please stop using the Latin phrase “quid pro quo” regarding the impeachment inquiry. Most people don’t understand what it means, and in any case it doesn’t refer only to a crime. Asking for a favor is not a criminal act; we frequently demand things from foreign countries before giving them aid, like asking them to improve their human rights record.

That is not a crime; the crime is President Trump’s demand for something that will benefit him personally. But using this neutral phrase — which means simply “this for that” — as synonymous with criminality is confusing to the public. It makes the case more complicated, more open to question and more difficult to plead.

Please use words that refer only to criminal behavior here. Use “bribery” or “extortion” to describe Mr. Trump’s demand to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, making it very clear that this is a crime. The more we hear words that carry moral imputations, the more we understand the criminal nature of the act.

Please also stop using the phrase “dig up dirt.” This slang has unsavory connotations. Instead, please use the more formal, direct and powerful phrase “create false evidence,” or “find incriminating evidence” or the simpler “tell lies about.”

Words make a difference.

These are parlous times, and we look to public voices for dignity, intelligence and gravitas. Please use precise and forceful language that reveals the struggle in which we now find ourselves. It’s a matter of survival.

Roxana Robinson
New York
The writer is former president of the Authors Guild. The letter was signed by 32 other writers:

Karen Bender

Rachel Cline

Martha Cooley

Angela Davis-Gardner

Alex Enders

Pamela Erens

Barbara Fischkin

Lynn Goldberg

Lisa Gornick

Masha Hamilton

Jessica Keener

Fiona Maazel

Celia McGee

Edie Meidav

Susan Merrell

Sue Miller

Mary Morris

Elizabeth Nunez

Maureen Pilkington

Elissa Schappell

Debra Schupack

Christine Schutt

Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Andrea Scrima

Alix Kates Shulman

Jane Smiley

Lee Smith

Terese Svoboda

Amanda Vaill

Katharine Weber

Paula Whyman

Posted by Miss Drake


Last night PBS aired an hour-long documentary on the decades (it did not happen just in a single of decade) of burnings of buildings that devastated a huge swathe of the south Bronx and displaced almost a quarter of a million people.  In Amy Goodman's summary:  "Co-directors and producers Vivian Vázquez Irizarry and Gretchen Hildebran tell the story of the government mismanagement, landlord corruption and redlining that lit the Bronx ablaze. They also describe how the community fought back to save their neighborhoods," and she included a discussion with one of the film-makers and the trailer for the film:


While I have told of my own adventures in our politicized world (a police man behaving utterly irrationally and dangerously when he pulled my car over for passing a stop sign; at the DMA semi-coerced into turning my driver's license into a "real" ID card, complete with a photo of me using facial recognition technology), I've never set myself in a particular social and economic context, a place. I grew up in the southeast Bronx between the ages of 4 and 10, the years 1950-1957/8; my relatives lived there, and my father continued to visit his mother and go to Crotona park regularly for another 15 and more years.

The co-directors and producer

So here is my reply to this hour-long program: First briefly,
I am not sure what year the burning down began but not long after we let. 
The buildings were burned down by the landlords to get the insurance.  Alas, this was only stated in passing by someone in the trailer shown on DemocracyNow.org. What also was happening was when someone would move out, the landlord would try not to re-rent and so the apartment would fall empty.  No care was taken by the city or any local authority to make sure that the buildings were safe and tenants began to take away and steal the innards of the buildings for money.  Pipes, electrical lines; when a building began to be stripped bare, everyone else would leave. Time to set fire to the place.  My father joked, "The Bronx is going to the dogs."
My parents lived in a two bedroom apartment over a bar, on a corner part of a building.  Charlotte Street has some resonance as a name; President Carter came and asked, "what happened here as if it were a mystery." The street led to PS 60 on Charlotte and Boston Road.

And then as I watched:
I put the TV at 10 and watched patiently for the hour. FWIW, as I said, my parents and I left around 1958/9 or so, we left before the major fires began. I had an uncle, aunt and cousin who lived next door and left about 1961, another an aunt, uncle and cousins who stayed until 1963/4 or so. These were my father's family and he kept visiting regularly (almost once a week) until his mother left -- she went to live in a house the family had built in Long Island (Riverhead). I sometimes came. When she was gone, he kept going to Crotona Park (very large and once beautitul park) where he had male friends who went to the handball courts. He was there around the time Carter arrived and a small program to rehabilitate the very blocks we had llved on was set up: those few blocks (Charlotte Street is the street we lived on and it is the street Carter chose to have himself photographed on). Reagon did visit and did a foul thing -- came precisely to deny that anything could be done for the area -- vicious man. Shameless. Surrounded by hoards of police.

As to the content, the program did not sufficiently emphasize at all that it was the landlords who began many of the fires to get the insurance. It was said just once and quickly. Shame on them. But that was just a start. They also abandoned the buildings after decades of neglect -- the city did nothing to make them keep the buildings up to safety standards - now the program did say that a few times. It was know that the city did not send fire fighters quickly; I did not know (this was years after I lived there) that the fire companies were actually cut in the Bronx. I.E., they wanted these buildings destroyed, these people thrown out. Benigh neglect -- Moynihan should live on in infamy for that phrase.

This reminds me of the church upon which J.L. Carr based his gem of a novel, A Month in the Country. He came across a lovely church in desuertude and tried to save it. He discovered the authorities were letting it go to rot; themselves stealing functional elements in order to hasten the delay. He wrotes letters to the church; officials wrote lies in reply -- it's all in Byron  Roger's The Last Englishman. One night a demolition came and destroyed it after Carr had begun to put money in it to renovate -- with a few other people. So the novel about the saving of this church is a total wish-fulfillment. The analogy is the people who owned the building wanted it destroyed.

My grandmother stayed until the 1970s. She never was stolen from - an issue my father worried about. She had an enormous handbag, but she was tough old biddy and could look out for herself. Not yet frail at the time. by then the fires had begun. It was a decade but nearly 3 decades.  It takes time to burn 80% of a borough down and rebuilding began by the tenants before the third decade.

Yes starting in 1970s tenants got together and began to work to rehabilitate the buildings. .They had the problem they didn't own them, and so they began with abandoned buildings. At first they were stopped because the property was not theirs in law; they hired lawyers. There were attempts at wholesale evictions at the time. The tenants fought back, wouldn't go - they had nowhere to go, no money. Eventually organizers went after the city and small areas beyond the one Carter rehabilated were brought back. Then Koch came in and began a large program (100,000 units at a time) to rebuild areas, including roads.

Ethnically the information at the start was misleading. The speaker said in the 1950s the largest number of people living in the Southeast Bronx were Irish and Jewish; no the largest number were African-American and hispanic (often from Puerto Rico); there was a sizable minority of whites in the early 1950s, Irish, Italian, Jewish, a few Poles (my father was Polish and so too his family). If it was predominantly white, that had to have been in the 1940s. There was this implication that in the early 1950s (even in this film) that the poverty did not make for a bad community (sick, with petty crime and violence -- Americans are violent) after it was said it was predominantly Irish and Jewish. This makes me especially angry as there is no such thing as a "good slum," and ethnicity does not matter when it comes to misery, violence and other communal pathologies.

In the early 1980s my father together with his friends (men in their fifties to seventies at the time) sometime in the 1980s, all of whom by then lived in Suffolk or Queens country (maybe Brooklyn) and had various tools, cement mixers and things to build with, and bought what they didn't have, came to the handball courts of Crotona Park and over several months with the young hispanic and African-American men who played ball there or other games, rebuilt the handball courts and one playground nearby. Put in benches. There were two Italian men in the building industry, construction people by trade who helped.  It was a spontaneous gesture by a group of people who had the wherewithal (time and money) to do it in order to keep a place to meet and play games in that was habitable.

President Carter on Charlotte Street and its environs: three blocks were turned into small private houses with fences around them; they were offered for reasoable sums to families living in the area.

I did recognize a few of the blocks, the library, Sutphin Boulevard, the names of streets. My best friend was a Puerto Rican girl in my class, Magali her name. I've sometimes wondered what happened to her. I imagine she married young, aged young, and is now a grandmother. I do not assume she even finished high school.


On rape

I've not been blogging here lately -- too busy, too disheartened because Trump and his allies seem to be deflecting (as yet) the serious impeachment charges -- rather than focusing on three, Pelosi should include so much more that he has done against the law -- like making large sums from the American taxpayer by renting out his properties to gov't officials, by ignoring laws in place (for asylum), not that using armies and money to blackmail other gov'ts into contributing misinformation on behalf of his re-election is nothing.  He is himself tireless with lies, his armies of lawyers and the corrupt sycophants he's surrounded himself with.

Paula Rego, Germaine Greer (1995)

So much for the situation. I have nothing new or unknown or overlooked to add. But on the important topic of rape, yes. Mary Beard's review of Germaine Greer's recent book, On Rape from the London Review of Books 41:20 24 October 2019. It seems that the book has been trashed and attacked by most reviewers without paying attention to what Greer has, and Beard brings out what's worth while and why so often Greer is a target:  The essay seems to be open to the public


It came out of a talk she gave at the Hays Festival this year (or she took her talk from her book) and of this talk Beard writes:

A large part of the thirty-minute talk is taken up with Greer’s very powerful account of recent cases in which brutal rapists were acquitted, and of the way in which the victim’s initial trauma was redoubled by the indignity of the legal process and the humiliation of not being believed. She also addresses her own rape, sixty years ago, and explains why she didn’t report it to the police. They are reasons (not least the imperative of just wanting to go home and wash him off you) that any person – myself included – who has been raped and has taken the matter no further, would understand

She then wrote:

In her lecture, Greer was attempting to overturn some assumptions about rape, and to think differently about how to prosecute and punish it – to end the current impasse. It is hard to imagine things being worse: only a tiny number of successful prosecutions, which cannot possibly reflect true levels of guilt; those women who do report a crime feel assaulted all over again by the invasive procedures that accompany the investigation (courtroom interrogation is just one)

Here is what Beard thinks is the core insight of Greer's book:

She is trying to make the argument that non-consensual sex – with its long-term, repeated, low-level humiliation of women – is much more prevalent (‘in the psychopathology of everyday life’) than we like to admit. It was, after all, only in 1991 that rape within marriage became recognised as a crime in English law. Even now very few wives feel they have any redress against unwanted sex, least of all by making a visit to the local police station (it’s a price many women are prepared to pay for partnership and the other ‘advantages’ of marriage). Greer is also saying that if we cannot deal with the crime of rape by the traditional legal strategies, we might have to look for a radically new approach. If one of the main factors preventing convictions is the central criterion of consent (juries cannot convict if there is the smallest doubt that the rapist might have believed that the victim consented), then maybe we ought to lower the burden of proof. But, if we do that (to the necessary disadvantage of the accused), it follows that we should lower the penalty. This is not an attempt to diminish the seriousness of the crime. Whether you like the idea or not, Greer’s contention is that raising conviction rates is more important than securing lengthy punishment: better one hundred men found guilty than two locked up for five years. Little of this was acknowledged in the furore that followed the book’s publication.

Beard corrects and qualifies insightfully:

She is also uncharacteristically unreflective on the question of violence. She rightly says that ‘rape itself need involve no violence at all,’ which is true, if you mean that many, if not the majority, of victims do not emerge with obvious physical injuries, cuts and bruises. But, as critics (in this case correctly) observed, to claim that women can be raped while sleeping does not mean that such rape is a ‘non-violent’ act. It can only be on the crudest equivalence of violence with visible injury that the insertion of an uninvited penis into the vagina of a comatose woman does not count as, at least, a violation. Greer is uncompromising in seeing all rape as a ‘hate crime’; why not ‘violent’ (on a more nuanced definition of the term) too?

There is also the question of the cultural and intellectual baggage around rape that we have inherited. Greer is strong on some of the inconvenient shadows that earlier definitions of rape still throw over our own debates. She usefully observes that, in the UK at least, the law has never successfully managed the transition from rape as a crime (of theft, from the Latin rapio) committed against the woman’s owner or guardian, her husband or her father, to rape as a crime (of sexual assault) committed against the woman herself. But when she trails the idea that consent, as a touchstone of guilt or innocence, has been part of the discourse of rape since at least the 12th century, she sells the history of the subject rather short. The fact is that, as far back as we can trace it in the West, the question of consent has been, as it remains, the slippery conundrum at the heart of discussions about guilt, innocence and victim-blaming. In ancient Rome, the (mythical) rape of Lucretia was the key example, and the story continued to be invoked for centuries by those probing the dilemmas of sexual assault, from St Augustine to any number of 17th-century English moralists.

I'll link this to a story Margaret Atwood published  in 1975 called "Rape Fantasies" which Elaine Showalter sent to a class I've been participating in once a week on Thursday afternoons for four weeks now: it's republished in Atwood's Dancing Girls and Other Stories. I've no idea how to attach it alas, but if you belong to groups.io, it's possible you can reach the file I put it into for my listserv group called WomenWriters@groups.io.


This is a good interpretation and discussion by Nancy Workman:


This by Wanda Campbell also


The context is a wry-voiced pragmatic sort of woman at a game of bridge with other women -- or at work -- and she says as how rape stories are everywhere and people constantly on about it. they also claim women have rape fantasies -- i.e., they want to be raped is implied  She pushes this group to try or they push one another and pretty soon what emerges is a series of erotic fantasies, but not rape because rape includes forcing, mean violence, brutality, fear, anxiety.
She then alone begins to recount her rape fantasies -- now all her stories include these elements of forcing, implied or threatened violence, anxiety, except they are told through a lens that reminds me of a Woody Allen (I just saw one this week) -- in all we feel sorry for this emasculated guy, and he does not rape her but the two settle down together to watch a TV show or die of leukemia (cancer).

It all brought to mind my Jewish grandmother's rape story. Yep -- she told me that one night around 3 am a young African-American man broke into her apartment. It was summer, she has left the window open, she was on the ground floor. He was looking to steal but, failing that, he got into bed with her, on top of her and he would rape her. She was in her 80s. She said she said to him, look I'm an old woman, and you don't want this, I have some money in my purse in the living room. Go get the handbag. He did have knife or gun, but got up and left her unharmed, found the handbag, took all her money out of her wallet, and then went out the front door. When she told my aunt (her youngest daughter who lived on the third floor) what had happened, my aunt said "you need to move to the second floor."  But it was rent control apartment and there was nothing available on the second floor. After that even on hot nights she closed her windows. She did have an air conditioner in one of her rooms.

I believed her and believe this happened. I told the story of my own humiliation and violation at the age of 12 in a much earlier posting on this blog. I have never forgotten it and the experience influenced my whole life ever after. In a story in her recent collection, Stone Mattress, Atwood tells of a woman who decades later takes revenge on a man who harrassed, humiliated, treated her with barbarity, rape too. She seeks him out and in the crucial moment he shows himself to be the same shit he was decades ago Memorable. She has never forgotten and never forgiven.  Where Atwood breaks a taboo is in the #MetToo discourses is often women are urged what's the big deal, get over it, no broken bones? Or forgive -- like forgiving your mother. Women are seen as hurt, puzzled, confused, indignant, seeking justice, trying to stop the man from raping others; she wants him to recognize what he did to her and feel remorse - -but not holding a deep grudge, not seeking revenge. --

I suggest one of the goals of the older "Rape Fantasies" was to cut through the hysterical way with the intense trauma that most of us talk about such experiences through -- and beyond showing the failures of imagination that undergird today's society's condoning of rape, an attempt to talk about real sexual life if Mary Beard is accurate in her comment that Germaine Greer wanted to talk about rape and its relationship to actual experiences of heterosexual sex. It's not just a question of consent, the problem is the fantasies that are inculcated in the minds of women. Now she is bringing forth the intense anger. About time?

Update at 12:21 pm -- this is superb:  Anne Enright -- whose Gathering won the Booker one year -- LRB diary entry: beginning with the husband of the woman who was a judge on the Nobel Prize committee and where a brouhaha was responsible for no winner for literature last year.  He couldn't even resist groping the Queen of Sweden in public (who apparently had never had this happen before): Recent monsters of #MeToo

Miss Drake

More than a week ago now I got a form letter from the DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles), telling me that in order to renew my driver's licence this time, I must go down to an office of theirs and have myself photographed. As I have renewed my driver's licence twice since I took the present photo on it, it is long out of date.  Maybe by as much as 20 years.

Face recognition technology at the DMV today was the same in Alexandria, Va

But there was something else, and it was phrased ambiguously. If I wanted to turn my driver's licence into also a "real ID," and also wanted to fly domestically, I would have to produce 4 documents on the day I came in. These were evidence of my residential address, a birth certificate or passport, my social security card, and evidence of change of name. I have changed my name twice: first there was my maiden or birth name, then my first husband's name, mine for about 6-7 years, and then my late husband's name, which I've been using for some 50 years. For evidence of residential address I was at first stumped; then I thought of utility bills and brought in two; I brought in my last bank statement, then ferreted out my marriage certificate from Leeds (my second marriage), a frail document, which I proceeded to scan into my computer, lest it be taken away. I puzzled if I should bring my first marriage certicate and divorce papers, but felt surely that's too much. I did find an old social security card with my birth name on it (gotten at age 15). I couldn't find my birth certificate, and brought just my passport.

I asked Izzy, my younger daughter, if Trump had signed some kind of executive order trying to control people flying within the US; she went to her computer and said, no this comes from TSA (those harassment officials at the airports) in conjunction with the DMV, and ultimately from Home Security. Once you enter "their" (TSA) space at an airport, you lose many of your civil rights. And now the FBI and CIA are not enough outside airports.

I wonder if all this seems innocuous to others reading this. I asked a few friends had they gotten something like this, and learned this new requirement, with this implied risk of not being able to move around the US freely by airplane, has been set up by other states than Virginia. It's in Ohio. And I got stories of "heavy lifting" to renew a license in Virginia; a friend told me she had to bring her grand-daughter back three times before they could change the girl's driver's licence into a "real ID."  The girl's father lives in Les Vegas and she might want to take planes to travel.

The DMV looked like its ordinary self; long lines, all the people coming for documentation or out of need, very polite to the officials, clerks. Nothing new going on. Well what do I mean by nothing new ? for a long time the DMV has been an utterly autocratic place, inclined to suspend driver's licenses at will, almost. Public transportation (need I say) is poor in most of Virginia; without the "privilege" of driving, you cannot easily get to your job. Driving is not defined by law as a right. My license was suspended for some 5 months after I had a period of unconsiciousness, only a few seconds, but enough to get into an accident - I hurt no one but myself and my car. I was making slow left at a green light. The DMV would not believe the doctors (or seemed unwilling) that this was a temporary incident due to exhaustion and grief (after my husband's death). I had to pay a lawyer $395 per billable hour and she earned it by getting back my license; towards the end she was threatening to go to court and they unsuspended my license just before the date she proposed. Nowadays police have computer abilities to flash over a license plate and learn if the person driving has no license or a suspended one.  An invisible prison.

Some people came and went quickly; but others had more difficult business (buying a car, changing information about ownership). I did see four people while I was there turned away for lack of documentation for this real ID; all were told they can come back today with the requisite documents -- if they have them.

In the event, I did have no trouble. Indeed the bottleneck man (I have dubbed him), who mans the desk at the entrance, and everyone must pass by to get into the central room with chairs and a number (I waited about 45 minutes on a long meandering line), smiled at my number of documents, asking me if I had brought coffee too. (As a bribe?)

Though I got there an hour after the place opening in an attempt not to wait outside ... the experience is set up to make you wait outside. Beneath this particular photo you are told you have to pay $94 for the right to wait online; this reminds me of how when you buy tickets online or by phone today you are charged for buying of the ticket first wherever you are doing it, then the ticket price ....

My wait in the room was an hour and a half and I was worried about the form I was asked to fill out. Among the questions, was one about having a driver's license from another state or country. I was asked for the number of that driver's license, and the year I got it and the expiration date.  I have no copy that I know of of that old driver's license; all I remember is I got it in 1976 in New York State (after passing a driver's test driving and filling out a test form), and switched to Virginia in 1980 where I had the easiest of tests on a computer and voila a new license. I wrote the general years. I was also asked about the suspension of my license; a tiny box was provided for me to explain. I tried to in two sentences.

This scene from Santa Monica could have be Alexandria today

My number was called and I went to the counter and clerk.  The young woman looked at me, and when I said I was there because I had this form (I produced) asking me to have my photo done to renew license; and, if I wanted to fly domestically too, bring these four sets of documents. She never answered the implied question about flying domestically: instead it was, "Did I want a "real ID."  I said yes. She then swiftly went through my documents, picked out all she needed, handed the rest back. The truly important one was my passport. With that and my social security card, I didn't need the driver's license. My utility bills were enough for proof of residence. She looked at the form and where it said 1976 muttered something about too many years ago and hardly read the suspension section.

But then I was asked to answer a set of questions on a computer; three sets rapidly, click yes or no. There were two that bothered me, and I didn't have time to think about. They asked me did I give permission for voter registration to compare my name (it was a phrase which meant that) on this ID with the name they had in their files. I didn't like saying yes. There was a second question tending the same way. If I had clicked no, I would not have been able to get this wonderful "real ID:" there was no lawyer to consult. The young woman would not have answered such a question.  After this set of questions, she took my photograph (using facial recognition tech), using the computer again, I passed a very easy eye test, and then paid $42.00

My new combined "real ID" and driver's license will be mailed to me in 8-10 business days. "Give it two weeks at least" she said. Meanwhile my present license is fine -- it's not expired until my birthday this November.

Gentle reader if you live inside the US, what I have written here should worry you. There are several places where I could have been denied a driver's license or at least "real ID." I know for decades through the passport mechanism, many people have been stopped from mobility: Paul Robeson is a famous case where he was refused a passport, and inside the US he could not get a job. But notice how much more general the refusal is. This driver's license ID is narrow, specific, confers a specific ability to drive and/or to travel by airplane, and therefore is potentially limit on our liberty to move about within the US. When I signed these things I am implicitly agreeing to this limitation. I know from NYC lawyers over tenants' rights, that the contract landlords sometimes insist one sign don't hold up in court, because you are in a coercive situation. Still.

I am bothered because each time I have asked someone, they have told me yes they are aware of this, and yet they never spoke of it before. I am bothered because no where in our newspapers is this tightening noose described. Everyone should know about it in a state affected and I suppose they do when their license comes up for renewal.  This is stealth dictatorship. Our right to assembly (people gathered up and imprisoned because they don't have a permit), to a free press, to free speech (one can be accused of terrorism) are all being corroded away. We know about what happens at airports, and many may think about international flight first.  We know what is happening at the invented borders; the ignoring of laws allowing people to seek asylum, the obstacles now put in the way of green cards, VISAs, the imprisoning without trial of refugees, immigrants, the depraved Us gov't behavior towards their children, the imprisoning and accusing of treason of anyone attempting to help these people in any way..

So now our liberty of movement outside that airport is at risk.

Miss Drake

Another time away: this time, Calais

The World at Evening -- Summer

As this suburban summer wanders toward dark
cats watch from their driveways --

The color of the sky makes brilliant reflection
in the water

There is a time, seconds between the last light
and the dark stretch ahead ...

-- Rachel Sherwood

A little more than a year ago, I made a summer interlude for this blog; now I'm content with a few words. Then I was gone for 16 days, now it'll be 10.  Then I went with a Road Scholar group to the lake district and borders of Scotland and England in the UK; now we go (me, my two daughters) to Calais, northern France.Why? well I said I wanted to go to the beach, Laura said she wanted to go to France, and Izzy was not going to be left behind.

This sculpture commemorates an eleven month seige on Calais by the British during the hundred years war ...

The town or small city has a long history, it's one of the channel ports between England and France and was owned by England for a very long time. Lots to see beyond the beaches. Castles, prisons, towers, a cathedrale, museum. I looked it up on Amazon and bookfinder and found many books: on the recent history of immigration to the place and the development of what was known as The Jungle; as a place of war, from 14th century to WW2; where peace treaties and the like were signed; fishing and trading, commerce; a place to set mysteries. Today there are beaches, hotels, shopping, roads to drive, walks to do, markets to buy food and all sorts of goods.  There are even ferries.

Laura rented a bnb for us that looks lovely in the picture: it has air-conditioning and wifi.  We've bought to go to London at least once (see Kensington Garden exhibit), to Paris more than that (we signed up for a food fest). So we'll use cabs and trains -- spend money. The hard question for me is which books to take -- to guess which ones will hold you when traveling and away is not easy, but I know Trollope may be relied upon, and so one will be Phineas Finn (as I will teach it this coming fall). I should probably take a good book on or by Austen too. They usually "work." A small French dictionary -- though for a long time it was an English city in France.

Google produces many pictures. Painters like to paint fantasies and semi-realistic images. From among these, this by Eduard Vuillard:

Dinner with two lamps: rue de Calais

Many years ago I saw a gigantic exhibit of Vuillard's paintings drawings murals (rooms upon rooms tracing his career) at the National Gallery with a friend. I've loved his work ever since.

Chez nous, here in Alexandria, Laura's friend, Marni, will come every day and has promised to stay 45 minutes with the two pussycats, provide food, water &c. Clarycat already made friends with her, and I hope before the end of the time, Ian will come out of hiding and join them in play.

An archetypal harbour scene by Nell Blaine (1986)

From Three Poems at the End of Summer by Jane Kenyon

I stood by the side of the road,
It was the only life I had.

Miss Drake
It seems to me what is reported here is of vital importance for anyone who laws and customs in your gov't can easily render powerless, imprison (for minor infractions), deprive of mobility, the right to get a job ...

The preparation of living corpses by David Herd, from Times Literary Supplement, July 30, 2019

Core paragraphs:

"In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2012, Theresa May announced the intention to use the Immigration Act of 2014 to create a “really hostile environment for illegal migration”. The 2016 Immigration Act further intensified that hostility, with its root-and-branch foreclosure on anything like a livable life. At the same time, however, as official hostility to those seeking asylum has intensified, so also the Home Office’s practices have become much more widely known and discussed in the media, though this can hardly yet be said to have altered Home Office behaviour. And seven years on from Theresa May’s announcement of the government’s intention we are still coming to terms with what the hostile environment has brought into effect.

The hostile environment, as the 2016 Immigration Act confirmed, is a sustained, systematic and brutal assault on every aspect of the life of the geopolitically vulnerable person. Denied the right to work for as long as their case is unresolved, which will frequently be for years and can easily be for well over a decade, a person seeking asylum finds their every movement compromised and controlled. As has been observed by Refugee Tales before, but which needs constant reiteration, such support as is afforded a person in that circumstance (at the subsistence level of £5.39 per day) is paid not in cash or into a bank account (which since the 2016 Immigration Act it has been illegal for a person seeking asylum to hold), but as a voucher in the form of a top-up card that can only be spent on designated products at designated shops. This renders even the act of securing basic provisions a hostile process since the voucher – like a badge – has to be displayed at the point of transaction. It also subjects human movement itself to the process of hostility, since public transport is not listed as an item on which the voucher might be spent. One effect of this is that a person will spend endless hours walking, either to secure basic provisions, or to sign at a Home Office Reporting Centre, or because in the absence of work there is precious little else to do.

Larger perspective:

What has become apparent, however, in the past five years, as right-wing narratives of nation have gained sway in parts of Europe and America, is that we have to heed Arendt’s warnings more closely and more urgently than we would have wanted to think. Thus, one thing Arendt was very careful to observe was how administrative hostility could give way to, or could prepare the ground for, further large-scale assaults on personhood. As she put it, “the methods by which individuals are adapted to these conditions, are transparent and logical”. Thus the insanity of the historical developments she was seeking to understand in Origins of Totalitarianism had its root, as she understood it, in administrative hostility, in the “historically and politically intelligible preparation of living corpses”.

Arendt’s history of totalitarianism was written in the form of a warning. Her aim was not to argue that one historical development follows straightforwardly or in any simple fashion from another, but that there are tendencies in politics by which we have to be alarmed. When recently, under the Salvini Decree, the Italian government bulldozed the Castelnuovo di Porto refugee reception centre just outside Rome, evicting hundreds of refugees, the authorities were acting on grounds Hannah Arendt would recognize. The people concerned had been rendered so politically vulnerable as to make them subject, eventually, to state-orchestrated violence. Understood historically, it is just such ground that UK policy-makers began to prepare when they instigated the hostile environment. The intention was to produce the conditions through which personhood itself could barely be sustained. The longer that environment exists the more we understand its implications. To detain a person indefinitely is to so fundamentally breach their human rights as to render them outside the provision of any ethical framework. In order to detain indefinitely, in other words, the state must already have taken the decision that this is a person to whom rights don’t apply. From which it follows that their personhood does not require respect. From which it follows that one can develop a comprehensively hostile space.

It is the prospect of such arbitrary detention that instils the fear that shapes a person’s relation to their everyday life. ..."

Miss Drake

I've returned to finding (a friend found this) important articles for my reader to read: after this weekend, you must read White Genocide Conspiracy Theory

Crazy? fantastic? as unbelievable as the US gov't opening private prisons and treating the people in them as if they were in concentration camps, letting young children sleep on cement floors, feeding them junk food and kool-aid, punishing them if they protest and letting these people die for lack of any decent accommodation, housing and medicine?  hundreds and thousands of people.

Let's step back a bit to see the whole picture which this weekend's two massacres were epitomizing and telling moments. What we need to do is connect up ordinary daily pictures and events with these massacres and the actual legislation passed by the Republican or refused to allow to come to the floor of the senate, or vetoed by Trump or after struggles where the decent socially good legislation is passed it's nullilfied by decisions of the courts and the inactivity of agencies supposed to implement them.

We are talking of daily, weekly monthly, yearly massacres: a continual and tremendous threat to us all, about which nothing is done. What is cried out for is gun and bullet control.

A white nationalist rally -- all male


For quite some time now I have felt that far from being indifferent to the loss of life, maiming and wretched misery inflicted on the now thousands of victims slaughtered, crippled, bereft of crucial people in their life, the new Republican party and Trump cooperate with them. Most of the time, their rhetoric disguises their complicity and support. Trump is rare for saying the murderers are "fine people" - and even he only looks openly with favor on male white supremacists when they form open hate groups. It seems in public one needs an explicit set of words beyond the obvious lack of action and pretense of caring. One cannot get any gun control legislation passed because no or few Repubilcans will vote with the majority of democrats to pass it. This despite something like 87% of all Americans wanting this.

Once in a while the hostility to those murdered emerges: when the private high school in Florida was attacked and the high school students not used to being targets, in their horror and astonishment, protested vehemently and actually went about to urge gun control legislation, went to the congress to demand minimal safety (say gun control background checks), they were sneered at and vilified. This was possible because the new Republican party and Trump recognized that these kids could be identified as part of the white elite. The Republicans were not a  bit upset by what happened. They greww angry when these survivors complained and demanded gun control  because they are the children of respected segmants of society who expect the police and their gov't agencies to protect them.

Here the function of these massacres was seen. They are forms of domestic terrorism which serve the purposes of the Republican party to terrorize the ordinary citizen or person living in the US. Only once in a while (and this weekend was such an occasion) do the gov't authorities call what happened domestic terrorism. A white man known on line as a white supremacist, part of online rhetoric and groups who spew out hatred of non-white people traveled hundreds of miles to El Paso where he knew large numbers of hispanic people. He brought war weaponry able to kill hundreds quickly. Two incidents occurred together so that within 24 hours white males were seen to have deliberately gone where they could kill as many African-Americans and hispanic people in a short time as possible.

And finally the New York Times wrote openly about what this is about:  The Right way to understand White Nationalist Terrorism.

Like a number of recent mass shootings, the one in El Paso on Saturday came with a manifesto. While authorities are still working to verify that this document explicitly was indeed written by the attacker, the evidence seems clear: It was posted to 8Chan minutes before the attack, by someone with the same name.

By manifesto, I mean a document laying out political and ideological reasons for the violence and connecting it to other acts of violence. We’re familiar with those. We can recite them. And yet our society still lacks a fundamental understanding of the nature of this violence and what it means.

Too many people still think of these attacks as single events, rather than interconnected actions carried out by domestic terrorists. We spend too much ink dividing them into anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic attacks. True, they are these things. But they are also connected with one another through a broader white power ideology.

The El Paso manifesto, if it is verified, ties the attacker into the mainstream of the white power movement, which came together after the Vietnam War and united Klan, neo-Nazi, skinhead and other activists. That movement, comparable in size to the much better known John Birch Society, never faced a major prosecution or crackdown that hobbled its activity. As a result, it was able to sink deep roots into society, largely under the radar of most Americans

What you need to know to back this up is the reality that for decades while the FBI and CIA have done everything in their power to harass, hound, suppress and imprison and (at times) downright kill organizations of left parties (socialists, there are no open communists left in the US), black organizations especially, they hav left alone to grow white nationalist parties and armed groups and do nothing whatsoever to stop the proliferation of these groups on the Internet. Again a NYT editorial talked about how the FBI has been doing  nothing to infiltrate or stop these groups-- and contrasted that to the great effort to infiltrate, re-educate (I suppose that means torture), and wipe out Islamic extremist cells in this country. I think it also said that Congress refuses to fund studying the problem of white surpemacist domestic terrorismOnly recently have those who control the cyberware that hosts such sites started to take them down. As you can see from the New York Times language, the Times reporters have known about this for a long time. This is so well-known that there are wikipedia articles explaining a conspiracy Replacement Theory. 

It states that with the complicity of "replacement" elites, the white French and European and American populartions are being replaces -- deliberately -- by non-European (non-white) peoples through mass migration, demographic growth and a drop in European birth rate. It's a conspiracy: you, I and others are planning, vote and work towards the puropose replacing white hegemony with non-white power whose purpose of course will be to destroy white culture and wealth. The wikipedia article cites Renaud Camus as a central political figure and "thinker."

What we have to connect up with this is larger ordinary daily political context: for example, the refusal of the Republicans and Trump to protect our elections, the extreme gerrymandering of elections so that a minority of white Republicans can win a state and take power when the majority of people voted democratic. One "weapon" democracies are supposed to have are the right to assemble, to demonstrate and to have a free press. Everything is done that can be to stop demonstrations, to demonize those demonstrating, and to punish those who show up not only by painful spraying, barely non-lethal guns but also imprisonment, charges of felony whose purpose is deny the people liberty, right to work, to vote, to live.

The crowding of reactionary judges in our courts is done so that there is no longer a separation of powers and the courts are allowing Trump and his allies to do what they please -- for example, after Trump lost an election, was unable to fund his wall even when Trump closed down the govt', he is now taking money from the military budget and a court said that was just fine. The purpose here is to stop any social legislation on behalf of the middle class and working class and poor to say fund public schools, pass a universal health care plan which enables all of us to access health, programs to rebuild our infrastructure and fund public transportation. This white conspiracy theory, its advocates and its gun-toting activists are useful in sustaining a far right-wing gov't. Trump's mythic history this past 4th of July is their narrative: militarist de-contextualized asocial history.

From Orange is the New Black: women prisoners, women workers -- based on a memoir of a woman about her time in prison

If we can find explanations on wikipedia, there are also TV programs, serial dramas that bring out into the discussably open or should what is happening: the latest is Orange is the new black. Again a friend wrote me about this set of films:

"the government has created a class of “Jews” in the undocumented immigrants—they are simply stripped of any rights a citizen in this country would have under the theory that since they are not legal citizens, they have have no rights. One might argue they do have basic human rights under international law—or should be granted the same rights as  American citizens if they are on American soil—but that is not being done. It’s really very scary when you put all the pieces together—not only does being an undocumented alien mean you are stripped of rights, felons are more and more stripped of rights—as soon as you create a class that can be treated as non-citizen, non-volk, you are, as Arendt points out, in the heart of the Nazi beast. It is worrisome: I can imagine as they already do (!) they will start arresting more and more people they don’t like on felony charges, face them with such horribly long sentences that they plea bargain into pleading guilty to lesser felonies and then are essentially stripped of citizen rights as felons. This could happen to any of us. And I have been reading again, as I have before, that the assault on women is a part of all this—the replacement theory conspiracists want to outlaw abortion (as is very close to happening) and then strip us of rights so that we are forced into endless childbearing (white women that is) so as to produce more whites."


Fantastic, you say? Crazy ....

No, it's happening right in front of us. Congressional and state legislation is in line with all this. Now we can turn to the criminalization of pregnant women, the assumption they want to kill a coming baby; the closing down and defunding of women's health care institutions like Planned Parenthood.

There's an agenda, it's being implement step-by-step. Another function of the massacres is to allow a race war to emerge: you do nothing to control guns, you set and step up attacks on immigrants, you snatch them from their communities (all non-white people are in danger, whether citizens or not from ICE). Trump's slogan meant make America white again.

Dylan Roof: again wikipedia

Do consider that instead of being regarded as a madman, Dylan Roof was allowed to conduct his own defense as if what he did was the act of a sane man. This tells us how far our society has come in accepting what is happening.

Try to persuade the next open Republican you see to the democratic point of view, show the parallels with the rise of Hitler and you find you are with someone strangely inoculated againsts information, common sense, reality. I've another friend whose son is a superintendent of schools and moves from one pro-Trump Republican Christian district to another ...  It's called "transactional" voting: they vote for this man because he will pass some specific law or enforce some custom their sense of their threatened identity craves.

Miss Drake

Small or individual stories tell us what life is becoming like for people living inside the boundaries of the US where there are no sanctuary cities or states. So for this week's blog I send along variations on the theme of kidnapping, snatching up people, dividing them from their children, and then treating them in prison abominably. Back to the 1950s when ruthless people outside gov't began to prey on the vulnerable too.

The important thing to keep one's eye on is how abused people become targets for predators, and that if all of this is engendered by Trump: his adminstration, his vicious tweets, it is permitted and thus endorsed by Republicans, what's called his "base" (some tens of millions of people who voted for him) and the very wealthy plus those now complacent and complicit.

This story tells of how ICE operates to discover hispanic or muslim people, get warrants or not to search their houses, arrest or kidnap them, and then haul them away to privately-owned prisons (concentration camps is the accurate term) anywhere in the US.

ICE steps up ruses and surveillance

In this reports the police and ICE and drug enforcement work to find where ethnic groups are living, any houses changing hands, send out notices that they are coming not to take away non-native white Americans, but to clear the neighbor hood of drugs:


Then the police and alll other enforcement officals call "come out with your hands up!" (they say this) and arrest and take people away. I wonder if blackmailing goes on, where people threaten one another by demanding a bribe. Houses are emptied out and squatters and drug addicts and sellers do then come in sometimes.

The New York Times suggests there is much bluster and "little" people removal. But the spreading of fear and anxiety turning people into submissive guilty people when they have done no crime -- the law used to allow genuine refuges from brutality the right to enter.

Last an individual family's story: one family's painful and ongoing experience:

This is the back-drop to Trump's campaign of open  racist vilification of the four Congresswomen of color and now Elijah Cummings, a long time black congressmen and his Baltimore District.  And the democratic congress does nothing to impeach this man.

Among the more demoralizing moments for me this week: twice a woman I was with expressed a back-wards justification, even approval of what Trump is doing Both white women in their 70s. One said "I am so conflicted" over immigrants coming in -- there are no jobs for them, said she. She refused to answer my query on how she felt about separating families, children in prisons. The other waxed far more indignant over the thought she had that democrats want "open borders!'  and how insane and extremist that is.Not how insane and ruthless is ICE: I said months ago I agreed with democrats who anted to close down ICE (attracts thug types) a few months ago, and she was horrified by this demand. No we must have them.

This morning I read of two other communities where this is happening.

Personal story from 1950s:  My father took my mother on a lovely honeymoon to a camp in Connecticut. Years later --1950s-- she "discovers" it was run by communists. As in Italy, they used to do community stuff to be part of their society. My mother knew; of course she did So people in his office going after one another to try to take their jobs -- or if they didn't like them. My father cited. He changes all his subscriptions. Lives in fear, has himself transferred to terrible temporary job on New jersey - -had to get up very early. And what does she do. Berates him ferociously for taking her to communist camp. I used to have those photos. They looked happy. he said to her: "you have now ruined one of the rare good times we ever had."  My first husband destroyed that photo album, which I forgot to take with me when I fled. Yes she was afraid -- but she showed that she would not be loyal to him at all. Darkness at noon in banal worlds.

 France in the later 1940s and '50 was a veritable culture of predatory betrayals ....

Fast forward 20 years:  Jim and I living a married couple in NYC: Some decision in 1978 worried my husband, a British citizen with a green card so he became a US citizen. He would read whole supreme court decisions and the way the justices then were thinking troubled him.  He didn't go into what it was that so worried him. He was not a native citizen and even if white, vulnerable ... as in these people preying on these people: when the Japanese were taken to Internment camps their property was stolen from them;

Miss Drake

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