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Politics

Duck cum Fit

· with some goose bumps thrown in ·

In so may words: They are ducking their responsibility.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/01/ryan-hopes-to-avert-shutdown-by-funding-chip-cutting-taxes.html

They are complicit by sticking their head in the sand, or the mud, as the case may be.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/16/politics/cory-booker-kirstjen-nielsen/index.html

They are continuously, remorselessly pursuing a course to undermine DACA and escort the dreamers out of this country.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/trump-administration-appeals-judges-order-that-daca-must-remain-for-now/2018/01/16/41a8c960-f6e8-11e7-beb6-c8d48830c54d_story.html?utm_term=.f22842a53d74

After all, it’s all water off a duck’s back.

 

 

They are preening for the next affair, conveniently tolerated by their evangelical base – and hush money is a good way to launder money as well….

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/01/did-donald-trump-pay-porn-star-stormy-daniels-to-keep-quiet-about-an-affair.html

Let’s hope it all ends with a splash landing.

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/17/republicans-mueller-midterms-russia-probe-341592

Then again, a stable genius might also be able to walk (away) on water….

Sparks of Fire

A bit of fire represented by sunlit shrubbery all photographed yesterday might counterbalance Monday’s water and Tuesday’s ashes, I thought. Well, the colors of fire.

For the written bit I’ll focus on the fury, however. More specifically, the fury we find in current music that is reacting to the age of Trump.  The link below is a thoughtful and comprehensive take on contemporary protest music, describing musicians we all know, and also several many of us might not be familiar with.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/01/trump-protest-music-one-year-dorian-lynskey/550268/

The article is an interview with the U.K. music critic Dorian Lynskey who wrote a book, 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs in 2011 and now talks about the boom in music explicitly protesting against the current state of affairs. He claims that Trump elicited more protest music than previous political figures because he is so detested and so much the focus of what is going on. Only wars have been able to generate more protest music than despicable public figures.

Lynskey points out that protest music had already seen an upswing around the evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement and the increasing polarization that people were willing to risk, in the entertainment business, under Trump. An example is Eminem’s freestyle—if you’re a fan of Trump and you’re a fan of me, I’m drawing a line, which side are you on? People are willing to lose parts of the audience (unless they are country music singers who stay silent. And of course there is Ted Nugent…) Many of the ideas expressed in current protest music are not just dealing with the ugliness of Trump and his minions, but about the ideas of America. The songs tackle how we are going backwards due to greed and hunger for power, how so many feel powerless and in mourning.

Here is Lynskey’s take on what the music actually accomplishes – a take I very much liked.

Protest songs make people feel not alone. If we were looking at a situation where no artists were doing songs about Trump and nobody was talking about opposition to him, you would notice the absence. It would be painful. On a macro scale—a global or online scale—it serves the purpose it served in civil-rights demonstrations, where you’d be walking along singing freedom songs. This is where I think preaching to the converted is underrated. It’s fine to cement beliefs to inspire people to act on them.

There are also cases where they can turn somebody on to a particular fact or a certain way of looking. I learned a huge amount from Public Enemy as a white, suburban, English teenager. A large part of the reason many people know about Kent State as they do is because the [Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young] song “Ohio” brings it to people who are not necessarily researching the Nixon era.

Among the many examples the author gives for music clips, one of my favorite musicians is Kendrik Lamar. Many of my readers might not be familiar with that style of music but it is worth some exploration.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLZRYQMLDW4&feature=player_embedded  

Same is true for a Tribe called Quest. Stretch yourself and leave the comfort zone, listen to the words – even if the use of 4 letter ones remind you of the one they’re directed against.

 

 

 

 

 

A Smidgen of Black

Yesterday the US celebrated Martin Luther King Day, with the usual platitudes, the usual wagging fingers from sources that otherwise spew racist sentiments quite frequently, and a president who played golf.  There were also, of course, some smart articles that reminded us what the day is all about, what someone who fought in a civil rights movement with the strongest commitment and who paid with his life for it, stands for.

I selected two things as important reminders to keep an eye on during the struggle for social and political change. One is the fact that institutions are easily influenced by their leaders and one wonders how much they are impervious to change. For that I picked the blackmail letter that the FBI sent to MLK in 1964, demanding that he commit suicide unless he wanted them to publicize his extramarital affair.  Yale historian Beverly Gage found the original in the national archives and commented:

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received this letter, nearly 50 years ago, he quietly informed friends that someone wanted him to kill himself — and he thought he knew who that someone was. Despite its half-baked prose, self-conscious amateurism and other attempts at misdirection, King was certain the letter had come from the F.B.I. Its infamous director, J. Edgar Hoover, made no secret of his desire to see King discredited. A little more than a decade later, the Senate’s Church Committee on intelligence overreach confirmed King’s suspicion.

The article below discusses the details.

 

“King, There Is Only One Thing Left For You To Do.”

The second thing we should take to heart, is a fact that King himself pointed to: racism, poverty, militarism and materialism are all intertwined.  An attack on one needs to include a rejection of the other factors as well, if we want lasting, structural change. Here is a smart, short essay on the topic in the Paris Review.

Martin Luther King’s Radical Anti-Capitalism

 

Drops of Water

Wish I could just relish the beauty of little drops of water. Water is on my mind because of the crisis in Puerto Rico, however. They don’t have time to waste there over a discussion of the beauty of water – all that counts is the absence of it, the horrifying, shameful, sickening lack of it.

Two articles make my point better than I could, the first one written by a homegrown young man who is really making a mark on the world as a writer and reporter. Proud to know him.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/12/hurricane-maria-man-made-disaster.html

I visited El Yunque in 2012, together with about 12 million other people on that very day. None of whom will this spring be a tourist in Puerto Rico, depriving the island of income now needed more than ever. All of whom will recognize too late what our unwillingness to help with the disaster relief implies: try and find a hospital that is not short on infusion bags during the current influenza wave…. or  a cancer ward not short on chemo infusions.

All that pales, of course, in comparison to what the people of Puerto Rico go through, without end in sight.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/1/14/1730774/-Water-is-life-Puerto-Rico-potable-water-and-El-Yunque

Drops of water just like little drops of help won’t make the difference – there needs to be systemic, structural change.

 

 

A Walk on the Beach

The price you pay for traveling with your mother – or the adventures you experience, depending on perspective – is guaranteed to include visits to art museums, cemeteries, botanic gardens, explorations of graffiti  and the beach. And the occasional detour, if your mother is Frau Heuer.

The beaches around Charleston are diverse, and pretty empty during the winter. I presume during the  summer they are a zoo.

Beach towns vary. There are upscale neighborhoods (Isle of Palm), where the degree of wealth can be inferred from the car models rather than expressions of taste.

There are rather seedy neighborhoods (Folly Beach), which reminded me of spring break scenarios, minus the drunken crowds, given that it was December.

 

And then there are nature trails leading to somewhat hidden beaches, good for long walks and conversations;

the topic this time centering around race, as you’d predict. We would laugh around tidbits like this one:

In Search of the Black Confederate Unicorn

and think through issues of reconciliation (a topic I plan to explore in more depth at some future point here – I think it would be interesting to look at the various ways across time and places that people tried to come to terms with prior injustice.) For now, let this link with a conversation between the descendants of Dredd Scott and those of the other side be food for thought:

https://www.wnyc.org/story/american-pendulum-ii-dred-scott/

And speaking of food: the nice thing about traveling with your mother is that there is always a good meal guarantied.

With the appropriate drinks  

mystery deserts, refusal of  pumpkin spice

and strangely named waiters…

 

Magnolia Plantation

Gone with the Wind was a book that I devoured as a tween, blissfully oblivious to the historic context and fully caught by fantasies of emulating Ms. O’Hara.  Neither Wilkes nor Butlers in plain sight as love interests for this 12-year old, alas. I should have visited Magnolia Plantation then, my ignorance of slavery a shield against conflicting feelings.

The plantation was founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, and continually held and expanded by them, with wealth from slave-produced rice crops. I did not visit the slave cabins, which were in use from early on until 1990 (!) and only have been subject to historic protection for the last 5 years. http://www.magnoliaplantation.com/slaverytofreedom.html

I focused on the gardens which are astonishing, even in winter. Again, the dialectic of suffering and beauty seems a Leitmotiv in my S.C. sojourn. The man who created the gardens at the beginning of the 19th century had unexpectedly fallen into the inheritance of the plantation at age 22; he really wanted to pursue his career as a minister, a devout man. He also saw his Philadelphia bride languish for home and tried to cheer her with the gardens. He was the first to bring azaleas to the country and cultivate camellia Japonica for southern climes. A good guy, in essence, deeply anchored in a love for God and nature – and a slave holder.

The plantation suffered from the losses in the civil war and opened up, thus able to survive, its gardens to the public in the late 18oos. In our century the Audubon Society is also represented, having created a swamp walk of breathtaking beauty, where you practically stumble over the wildlife.

 

The slaves and their descendants were buried in the swampy woods. 

The Draytons were by marriage related to the Grinkés, an elite Charleston family that produced two of the most remarkable women the South has ever seen. Born among 13 children into a rich, pro-slavery household, their father a Supreme Court Judge, Sarah and Angelina both escaped Charleston around 1820 to become Quakers in Philadelphia and start careers as abolitionist writers, thinkers and lecturers. The older one also became a feminist and tried to test the 15th amendment (allowing men of all races to vote) by trying to vote when she was almost 80 years old. Contrast here, too: the abolitionists welcomed women among their brethren but the moment these started to argue for women’ rights they were told to let go and were actively oppressed.

The 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was eventually ratified in 1920, giving women the right to vote after a 72-year struggle. 6 months earlier, the League of Women Voters was founded during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. A good thing, one might think, but also riddled with complications: it has been argued that the women’ right to vote was needed to counterbalance the rights granted to Black men and that the suffrage movement discriminated strongly against their Black sisters. Link below gives a short summary of the claims: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/womens-suffrage-leaders-left-out-black-women

Harriet Simon brought the LWV to Charleston, standing out among her class as a moderate liberal, and seemingly progressive. She did a lot of good, fighting on the right side in questions of desegregation, but also had a problem admitting Black women into the fold of the League. I think it is important to value what these women accomplished surrounded by overt racism that few of us experience in our own personal lives as sheltered, Northern US Whites or Europeans, accused as traitors to their own race. They showed courage and persistence, despite slow, incremental steps toward more equality.

Should you feel inclined to see her grave, these signs will greet you. The place is filled with birds, confederate flags and inscriptions longing for the past.

 

 

Secession

Charleston is located at the Atlantic coast, the latter dotted with small islands, some natural and some man-made to accommodate forts that were intended to protect the city and the commercial trade. Marshlands extend inland, providing perfect conditions to grow rice, and a habitat that accommodates alligators, snakes, all kinds of bugs and birds.

And no, the snake not photographed in the wild, but in the local Aquarium

Fort Sumter was built on a manmade island on top of a sandbar, and it was there that the first shot of the civil war rang, where soldiers from the union were attacked by the confederate forces from Charleston, who laid a three months siege until the unionists surrendered due to impending starvation. Not a single life was lost (except an accidental death), and the troops and officers were sent back to the North on union boats – a stark contrast to the still mind-boggling number of 700 000 or more dead in the war that ensued. (In today’s numbers that would be 12.5 million US dead.)

 

The National Park Service museum has a simple, effective display of the history of the secession; some facts about slavery, but few details on the horrors other than stunning statistics about child mortality (33 % of all black children died before the age of 10.)

From the museum’s pier you can take a boat tour to the fort and listen to guides give a canned speech, but then also answer your questions in one-on-one conversation.

Much of it centers around the abolitionist cause, the desire to abolish slavery for moral principles or ethical or religious reasons. I have not seen a lot on the issue of economic competitiveness that was so much part and parcel of the conflict, or the other reasons that propelled the seven southern states to secede from the union (this from a Yale open course lecture on secession): So what caused the Civil War? Somebody said “slavery.” Can I hear a “states’ rights?” Can I hear a “conflicting civilizations?” Can I hear “unctuous fury?” Can I hear “fanaticism?” Can I hear “fear?” Can I hear “stupidity?” Can I hear “Goddamn Yankees?”

Jefferson Davis, first and only elected president of the Confederation, pointed to reasons quite contradicting themselves, depending on what time you caught him. Before the war he claimed the South “is confronted by a common foe. The South should, by the instinct of self-preservation, be united. The recent declaration of the candidate and leaders of the Black Republican Party must suffice to convince many who have formerly doubted the purpose to attack the institution of slavery in the states. The undying opposition to slavery in the United States means war upon it, where it is, not where it is not.”

After the war he argued in 1882 that it had nothing to do with slavery whatsoever: “Slavery was in no ways the cause of the conflict but only an incident….“Generally Africans were born the slaves of barbarian masters, untaught in all the useful arts and occupations, reared in heathen darkness, and sold by heathen masters. They were transferred to shores enlightened by the rays of Christianity, put to servitude, trained in the gentle arts of peace and order and civilization. They increased from a few unprofitable savages to millions of efficient Christian laborers. Their servile instincts rendered them contented with their lot, and their patient toil blessed the land of their abode with unmeasured riches. Their strong local and personal attachments secured faithful service. Never was there happier dependents of labor and capital on each other. The tempter came, like the Serpent of Eden, and decoyed them with the magic word, freedom. He put arms in their hands and trained their humble but emotional natures to deeds of violence and bloodshed, and sent them out to devastate their benefactors.”

The link below gives you a detailed and convincing analysis of some of the other factors mentioned above, including an interesting parallel to our times: the conflict between agrarian traditionalists and an urban intellectual class perceived to be foe.http://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-119/lecture-11

Alas, the parallels don’t stop there – the racism of a plantation-based economy has not only not disappeared, but is re-emerging from its underground retreat.

 

Another Promise Broken

A lot of people I know no longer read about the tax bill given that it is now a done deal, thoroughly depressing and taking time away from doing something that looks forward towards 2018.

I still think there is one bit to remember, though, that has not been as much in the news as the other regular Greed Over People items that we had to digest. And it will affect Trump’s base.

Parts of the Act that dealt with international issues seems to violate World Trade Organization agreements. The GOP either will have to revise major parts of the bill or face sanctions.  The international system as set up by the bill actually loses the US money and increases the incentive to offshore assets and incomes.

Given that changes need to be made, businesses are understandably worried to plan on a basis that shifts under their feet; and given that the 21% tax cut is not set in stone, in our unstable political environment and with mid terms looming, I would not be surprised if corporations continue to look for cheaper tax rates in other countries rather than investing in our own.

Here is a short and acerbic summary of it all: https://www.thenation.com/article/the-republican-tax-bill-codifies-a-new-gilded-age/

It could also be summarized like this, ( I lost the source for this quote, alas.)

 

 

Jobs, then, might again be traveling overseas. I am traveling next week as well, so reports might be intermittent. Wishing each and everyone health, peace for the next year and an unlimited supply of energy to wo/man the barricades!

 

Moving the Goalpost

Next attempt at sending this:

“Moving the goalposts (or shifting the goalposts) is a metaphor, derived from goal-based sports, that means to change the criterion (goal) of a process or competition while still in progress, in such a way that the new goal offers one side an intentional advantage or disadvantage.

Let’s give it a look – here are the original goals that were to be met to vote for the tax scam :