desire

Are there limits to desire(s)? Many think it is boundless. By allowing and selling a 24/7 fantasm of presence, our transportation and imaging instrumentation keeps building and increasing our distance from others and ourselves, in a fuite en avant of constantly distantiated objects that makes more poignantly frantic the still-hoped-for possibility of presence. Present-day adults spend about one third of their waking time on digital “distance reducers/maximizers” (my name for all machinery that moves and mobilizes us). Desire then becomes regret and even regression. We are creating a greater distance from objects that we set as projections of selves and that we believe we control via our putative mastery of discourse, instrumentation, ethic norms, and social constructions. Transcendence is “ingraved”—I want to say “enshrined,” “hacked” even—into these projections, yet tends to escape and become something all its own, part of the construction of distance that no one is in charge of. So, our distance from the world increases. If desire has as its main function the union with, or proximity of, a present world—including present as in “giving presents”—, this absence keeps tripping and reshaping desires as unquenchable. Capitalist institutions rely upon this fleeing and deepening distance and absence, including that from oneself, to offer their paying (re)mediations. Kings of ancient times did something similar in increasing a divine distance and power that in turn they re-presented and mediated in temples and altars they kept under the watchful eyes of their palaces.

support the ACA

Paul Ryan’s office is conducting a phone poll about the ACA, apparently hoping to hear overwhelming opposition to it. Here’s how to participate (you don’t have to speak to anyone, it’s all automated):

Call 202-225-3500. The line works 24/7, including weekends.

There’s a menu of several choices, after a few seconds of silence.

Press 2 to weigh in on the ACA issue.  You’ll hear a relatively short verbal blurb about repealing the bill.

Press 1 when prompted to SUPPORT continuing the Affordable Healthcare Act.

strangers

How are the foreigner and the poor to be treated, according to the Bible? Here are a few texts from the Hebrew Bible and the gospels:

Deuteronomy 10:19:

You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:34:

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself …

The scene of the last judgment in Matthew 25:31-40:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.[ ….] Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The story of the chasm between Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19–31:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried….

I end this partial list with the story of the Samaritan in Luke 10. It infinitely expands the command of love of neighbor in Leviticus 19:18 by binding it to the central command of love of the divinity in Deuteronomy 6:4–5. The Samaritan of the story is on Judaean territory. He himself belongs to a reviled group and  is in potential danger. When he comes upon the victim on the side of the road, he is the one who comes to the help of that near-dead person. He does not put his own security above everything else as the priest or levite do. Luke 10:25–37:

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

women’s march, SC

According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, 8,000 people participated in the walk and rally. I do not know how they came by their number. Police estimate? Here are a few photos from the march today in downtown Santa Cruz.

"Totally UNfuckABLE"
“Totally UNfuckABLE”
There is no planet B
There is no planet B
Not even qualified to be himself
Not even qualified to be himself
on Pacific Avenue, going by Planned Parenthood
on Pacific Avenue, going by Planned Parenthood
"Every Pussy Needs Health Care!"
Every Pussy Needs Health Care!
Make America THINK again
Make America THINK again
"I decide who grabs my Pussy" (with picture of smiling cat face)
I decide who grabs my Pussy
"Girls just wanna have FUNdamental rights"
Girls just wanna have FUNdamental rights
Mary Poppins to the rescue
Mary Poppins to the rescue
SAD. (at Louden Nelson Center)
SAD.
"Thou shalt not mess with women's reproductive rights" --Fallopians 1:21
“Thou shalt not mess with women’s reproductive rights” –Fallopians 1:21
Large hairdo in the shape of ... you guessed it!
at Louden Nelson Center

hope

Today, I walked to the Town Clock, downtown Santa Cruz, to add a soul to those from UCSC and town who live in hope of a better, richer, shareable existence, not in fear of one’s neighbor as our governing kleptocracy would wish us to have it. When I got there a little past noon, there were two or three hundred people gathered around the clock. Some old friends, lots of young people. We were waiting for the UCSC students to join us. All looked full of joy and hope.

Noon No-to-Trump demonstration at the Clock Tower, downtown Santa Cruz
Saturday 01/20 at noon, wave of UCSC students coming down Water St

I was moved at times. The first was at the sight of the marching UCSC students coming down Water Street. There were many more of them than I anticipated, given the threatening weather and more importantly the insidious separation and individuation that capital, management, and education have long been encouraging.

A second moving moment was to see people sit or kneel on the pavement at the intersection of Front, Water, and Pacific, to listen to the first speaker.

While we were listening, voices of another march approaching from the other end of Water became stronger and stronger. Heads began to turn towards the noise. The whole sitting crowd surged in a large wave as they realized it was school children and their teachers come to join us, before sitting again to listen to the speaker.

After a second speaker spoke briefly, the march started down Pacific Avenue. I joined teacher friends behind their sign, “teachers for thought”. The crowd continued to Laurel and looped back to the Clock via Front. Many people at office windows and doors. Much patience or even expressions of support on the part of many drivers blocked for something like half an hour to an hour. Longish video of marching along Pacific.

Tomorrow, Saturday Jan 21, 2017, a women’s march open to everyone is planned in Santa Cruz to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington, DC. It starts at 1:30pm at Santa Cruz City Hall, continues with a march on Pacific Avenue, leading to the main event at Louden Nelson Center. See Indymedia.

in case

Activities this Friday Jan 20, 2017—also called inauguration day— UC Santa Cruz Students will join students and workers around the country to walk out and take a stand — against Trump, against racism, against misogyny, against terror, against hate, against inequality and exploitation.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (from Indymedia Santa Cruz):
— 11:00: March from UCSC (and various schools) to downtown
— 12-1:30: Gather at Clock Tower
— 1:30-2:30: Workshops/teach-ins 1
— 2:30-3:30: Workshops/teach-ins 2
— 3:30-4:00: The Wall on Pacific is knocked down
— 4:00-5:00: Workshops/teach-ins 3
— 5:00: General Assembly to discuss future steps; mobile signups for future neighborhood organizing

See the Indymedia page (with further links to movements in the Monterey area) or the general strike facebook page for more news.

general strike
general strike

capital

My first thought upon waking up these days is still the meaning of this November election, the feeling that little clicking wheels are going a little faster all around me. How can I explain this strong feeling of an abyss gaping below or ahead?

I start from what I think is the frightening ground. The reality of the global economy in our post-industrial nations is that automation and the search for cheaper labor will continue to develop. It means that well-paying jobs that have been lost since the seventies in highly industrialized nations are not coming back. Predictions by the government labor statistics bureau is that most jobs will be created in services over the ten coming years. Most are low-pay jobs. It also means that a consumption-driven economy is going to remain flat. Unless new forms of enforced consumption can be entertained and paid by hitherto hidden resources?

Major profits are being sought by corporations, shareholders, and their political allies. One way, as I said above, is to turn to cheap labor and automation. But with labor productivity and the consumption-driven economy remaining stuck at a low level (1.3% in nonfarm business sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the other way is to pick pockets directly. Much capital can still be skimmed off the lower and middle classes. Off their hopes for a future. This skimming could be presented as an economic success. Even if productivity stays stuck at below 1%, the economy might look good for a while, perhaps the US Treasury too, since money can be borrowed at such low interest… My temporary list of the skimming methods likely to be practiced by capitalist institutions, as enabled by Trump’s nominees, includes:

  • increased financial pressure on industry and service companies to concentrate activities and lower salaries at jobs with no minimum wage increases, no pension, no health plan.
  • in the health field, new rollout of predatory private health insurance for which the Affordable Health Act was apparently not sufficient—with due precaution of course—, continuation of big payouts to the pharmaceutical industry—continued absence of bidding by Medicare—, plus financial pressure on hospital chains and medical services to be more efficient. Hope of doing to Medicare what is being done to education, that is, replace it with vouchers and “local” state solutions.
  • education from K to university: vouchers, online education, increased tuition at public universities as a form of taxation on middle class. For most of the new generation of students, these education costs will hardly be repaid by participation in a low-growth economy.
  • pensions: there will be renewed attemps to privatize Social Security and force risky, private accounts (called personal accounts) on individuals, with the risk being shouldered entirely by them, in the name of freedom.
  • the military budget, which is a form of massive, forced consumption of useless products, will continue to be an enormously profitable jumble of industries and services for military purposes, intelligence gathering, prisons, drug policing, local police. Much of it is privatized. More of it will bring more war, less peace.
  • entertainment and gambling, à la Trump Enterprises, is a time-tried way of taxing wages, or money loaned against wages.

With Trump’s election and nominations, capitalism has dropped its thin moral and missionary disguises and wears its true face and colors. It is agressive and empty of concerns and ideas, except one, the inflation of the ego. Capitalism’s old face had been an ersatz of moralization on the right (abortion, gender politics) and liberal concerns on the left, as disguises for the market-based radical transformation of all virtues. Other masks have fallen or evolved: efficiency is still there but limited to monopolies, progress is invoked but only in the form of growth and quantifiable goals, freedom is reduced to that of self-expression via consumption, opportunity has become the grabbing of what you can get away with, patients and students have become clients, humans are resources, etc… Politics has become almost entirely subject to a narcissistic race of egos.

There is little pretense now of keeping to a modicum of values. There are gestures, such as pretending respect for “national” ethos by cloaking it as brutal justice. Flag burners should lose their citizenship, no matter what the constitution and a very conservative Supreme Court say about freedom of expression. Or the keeping of 750 jobs as part of a ransom deal with Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies, is expected to make people forget about the real forces at work in the job market.

I used to accept what I read in Badiou and other modern critics regarding the success of global capitalism. The first step of any critic of the modern situation was to recognize that global capitalism had won and eradicated any competitor on the political or economic stage. Strange to say, the election of Trump and his choices for cabinet positions make me feel that the signs of capitalism’s weakness are everywhere, against all appearances. This is little consolation. What are we going to replace it with?

Almar Street

Un éventail d’eucalyptus géants essuie le ciel
Au-dessus de pins de Monterey austères et têtus.
De longues écorces pelées par la pluie et le vent
Jonchent le macadam huilé.
Les cables de téléphone et d’électricité ne sifflent pas.
Pas de longues fougères tassées en pelisse mais des buis, des troènes, ou d’épais cactus incongrus incapables du moindre son.
De grandes vagues désordonnées déferlent sans cesse et attaquent les grès de la côte.
L’écume s’accumule dans les recoins d’anses, bouillonne,
s’envole en paquets cotonneux qui couvrent la route.
De petits oiseaux noirs nagent dans les rouleaux,
vifs, flottant sur les plus grosses vagues ou plongeant prestement dans les eaux glauques, à la recherche de crabes désarçonnés.
Les cormorans attendent de meilleurs jours et les pélicans prennent refuge jusqu’au milieu des touristes sur la jetée.
Seules les mouettes se laissent aller sereines sans un battement d’aile le long de colonnes d’air invisibles.
Humains engoncés dans leurs anoraks, fanas du jogging, leurs rangs clairsemés…
Je souhaite l’événement: de grands rugissants qui arracheraient des pans entiers de la côte, en feraient de longues plages ondulées et me nettoieraient l’âme.
On revient à la maison toute verte d’ocellus, la vieille ferme-cabane, abri d’amours barrées à l’infini.
Les grattements de violons, les soulagements du violoncelle, la fière amertume de la clarinette, les craquements du feu de bois en offertoire, le grondement de l’océan apaisé par la distance, l’odeur des chanterelles rôties, les algues dans la soupe “hot and sour”, épaississent notre navigation dans le temps, ce trente et un décembre 1996.

Ferndale protest

Large protest this late afternoon in the modest town of Ferndale, Michigan. We started downtown, walked along Nine Mile Road and ended at Geary Park where a high school student and the mayor spoke eloquently on the need to come together and welcome all. I tried to estimate the size of the crowd: I would say a couple thousands, which is about 10% of a population of a bit over twenty thousand. Some of the signs: LOVE TRUMPs HATE; RƎVO⅃UTION.

trump trust

I’ve just been made aware by some science professors at UCSC that a petition is circulating to ask our president-elect to separate himself completely from his business interests via a blind trust. The petition can be signed at https://wh.gov/ie80r. I copy below the argument for the petition:

Over the last few days, the following transpired:

  1. Donald Trump claims ownership interests in numerous and anonymous companies, many of which proudly owe millions of dollars to foreign banks, have holdings in foreign countries as well as the United States, and that depend on government leases, contracts, and relationships. Several of his companies bear his name as its brand;
  2. In the past, Presidents have placed their assets in “blind trusts” during their Presidency or divested (sold) their interests in the companies. In a true blind trust, the beneficiaries (here, Mr. Trump) would have no knowledge whatsoever about any of the companies during his Presidency and would have no ability to intervene in any business decisions of those companies during his Presidency. This makes sense, right? If otherwise, the potential conflicts of interest are in every single Presidential decision;
  3. Two days ago, very quietly, and hidden behind all the hate filled rhetoric and media, Mr. Trump announced that he will ignore decades of precedent and prior Presidents’ sound practice of placing their assets in a true blind trust [not one merely denominated as one] or an equivalent arrangement or otherwise divesting their holdings in a manner that would avoid both actual conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety;
  4. Instead, Mr. Trump announced on November 10, 2016 that his adult children will run and/or own and profit from his assets during his Presidency, many of which bear his name and which involve the licensing of his name;
  5. Mr. Trump has also declared the same adult children will be on his Transition team, in charge of selecting his Cabinet and staff members;
  6. These decisions have the effect of improperly and corruptly monetizing the Office of President of the United States for the benefit of Mr. Trump’s immediate family and expose that Office and President-Elect Trump to an unprecedented potential for conflicts of interest;
  7. Further, the decision to place all of his adult children on his Transition Executive Committee makes each political appointee in his administration beholden to Mr. Trump’s children for his or her job (the same adult children who will be running his businesses);
  8. Worse, Mr. Trump’s complete refusal to release any personal or business tax returns and their supporting documents leaves State Electors unable to conduct the appropriate “due diligence” on Mr. Trump that he himself would demand in his own businesses. Because of his flat refusal, we and the State Electors have no idea who he owes money to (and he brags about borrowing millions of dollars, from whom?), what foreign financial institutions have leverage or control over his businesses, or any other financial conflict of interest. We are only left to guess; and
  9. Once the Electoral College has voted (currently set for December 19) and the Presidential vote is certified and announced (currently set for January 6, 2017), there will be no formal check on President-Elect Trump’s inevitable conflicts of interest short of impeachment and a constitutional crisis.

These potential conflicts of interest are unprecedented. We need to act now.

Here is where we currently stand:

Each state has state Electors responsible for casting that state’s electoral votes. On Tuesday, November 8, the country voted to provide guidance to their respective state Electors on how to cast the state’s electoral vote (i.e., Colorado has 9 electoral votes; California has 55; Texas has 38). The electoral vote is currently scheduled for December 19, 2016. The constitution does not require adherence to any popular vote, state or federal, although Electors could surely be informed by it. However, in an election like this one, where 2 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton nationwide (estimated that she will end up winning national popular vote by 5 million votes), the state Electors need to be informed voters now more than ever. Tellingly, no state Elector has ever been fined, prosecuted, other otherwise formally censured for failing to follow his or her party’s direction as to a vote or his or her State’s law requiring a certain vote.

OK — SO — NOW WHAT?

This evening, I filed a formal White House Petition asking that VP Joe Biden, as President of the Senate require that Mr. Trump provide to state Electors his federal income tax returns and supporting documents for 2006-2015 by December 12, 2016, to enable Electors, before they vote, to
1. assess his qualifications to serve as President without impeachable conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety given his adult children’s continuing association with his companies and Transition and his failure to release tax returns; or
2. switch their vote unless he places his assets in a true blind trust or otherwise properly divests them by December 19, 2016.

If my petition gets 150 signatures, the petition goes public on the White House website. BUT, if I get 100,000 within 30 days, the White House has to respond. Here is my concern, the White House says it will respond within 60 days of reaching 100,000 signatures. By that time the vote will have passed and we will have missed our opportunity to determine the depth of the conflicts of interest. My hope is that if we crush the threshold (at least 1 million signatures) the White House will require transparency prior to the vote. Because it is an official White House petition, after you sign, you have to verify your signature with the e-mail you used.

Sign the Petition.

We deserve to know this information before he is elected President by the electoral college.

Please forward this e-mail and link to all of your social and professional networks and also forward to media.

Thanks for your action,

Aimee Wagst

Gildas Hamel