As I walk along the ocean this morning, I start to think of my own steps, I expect them to calm the strange feeling—a mix of anxiety and nervousness— that has engulfed all my thoughts for the past few days. Listening to the noise my shoes make on the path reminds me of the slow walk of the old mare Tamise on the road after an afternoon of hoeing. She was a quiet, smart, stubborn mare on the farm. The recreated memory of her measured pace comforts me, and perhaps even more the fact that she accepts to be bound to me by the rope of her bridle which I hold by old reflex but which she does not need to find the trough and her stall.
Financial values went back up somewhat in reaction to the Federal Reserve’s resolve to inject up to 1.5 trillion dollars into the banking system and in reaction to the White House’s Rose Garden show Friday March 13. Trump was awful in his emcee role: health authorities were paraded before the microphone, and so were Pence and a number of CEOs of some large pharmaceutical companies and distributors like Walmart, Target-CVS, Roche, etc… They spent much of their time thanking a president who managed to get a number of facts wrong. He uttered a few lies. And he didn’t own up of course to terrible decisions made by his government, like the dismantling of the National Security Council’s global-health office. At least, small consolation, he didn’t talk anymore about a “foreign” virus. The take away from this Rose Garden exhibition was a belated recognition of the seriousness of the situation. And more practically, access to testing would ramp up by next week although Trump managed to still claim that it is not really necessary! No mention of course that a preliminary test had been developed by the end of January, about a week after China identified the gene structure, that the World Health Organization recommended this test for now, and that it was broadly distributed and used systematically in countries like South Korea but not in the US.
Other news that are diagnostic of the social chaos in our country: the democratic majority in the House voted for a package last night that was meant to support workers if they or their family members get sick. We learn today that the main provision—universal right to sick pay for ten days for any sick employee—will apply only to about 20% of workers, strictly speaking. It will exempt small and large companies. This was apparently the price that the House Democrats had to pay for getting Republicans and the White House on board, though about forty of the Republican representatives did not see the wisdom of such a watered down version of the law and still voted no. Today’s NYT editorial said that the Democrats should have pushed for the universal plan and forced the Republicans to explain their opposition to paid sick leave. But perhaps the most important thing was to get any legal package, no matter how imperfect and unjust, to be approved by a chaotic White House and a servile Senate. One may also think that not only Republicans but a number of Democrats worry about the economic cost of a protective, fairer, less exploitative labor law?. It looks like the Democrats wasted an opportunity to make some real progress in support of labor. This decision means that too many employees will show up for work even if they are sick, and that the virus will spread at a greater rate than would have occurred otherwise. I hope that our leaders are not choosing the economy over life.
Super Tuesday came and went yesterday. There was a broadly shared, nervous expectation that Sanders would win big especially in the western states, collect many more delegates for the convention in Milwaukee than Biden who won a decisive victory a few days ago in South Carolina, and end up being the nominee. I wished for that outcome even though I don’t agree with some of Sanders’ suggestions and hoped he would tone down his message if he won. But it is Biden who clearly was chosen by the majority of democrats and mainstream media to represent them against Trump and defend entrenched interests this fall. Bloomberg declared for Biden, as did Klobuchar and Buttigieg last week, which probably helped some during the vote, as did the rain of media articles warning about a Sanders nomination… It would be nice to know the proportion of voters by revenue and age bands this Super Tuesday. In any case, it looks as if the attention given to cultural and morality matters in the past forty years continues to be an effective cover for both the Republican and Democratic parties, though from different so-called right and left angles. There remains a fundamental agreement about accepting the mechanisms of market capitalism as they developed under the aegis of the USA (see Rubin two days ago in his NYT piece), the absence or relative weakness of regulations in business and banking, the continuation of private health insurance programs, the role of the Federal Reserve, and need to go deeper in reshaping federal programs, except war (= aka Department of defense). Social Security and Medicare are in the crosshairs of Republicans and could be retooled with the help of the right of the Democratic party. How far private banking would go in replacing federal programs would be the object of intense discussions. It could happen with the assent of many people at the helm of the Democratic and Republican parties. I suppose that Biden would be willing to negotiate an arrangement with McConnell if it were presented as an element of freedom. Social Security and Medicare would be transformed into what the 401K funds, education costs, and health have become: fragile, exposed replacements for older public pension, education, and health systems in which the risk used to be much more broadly shared (except for health). The stench of Trump gone, one would be relieved for a while to breathe the fragrant air of ethical capitalism.
Third day of wildcat strike by graduate students. Heavy police presence: 102 helmeted officers according to a person who counted them a bit before 3pm. Panorama below taken at that time:
Here is a view of the picket a little after 2 pm:
I walk in the cold air that moves from the north,
a folded sheet of paper in my pocket,
torn from a notebook left by the dead.
No phone or fiction where I stop and sit.
I cast graphite waves on the leaf,
bits of tightly bound lace,
and still wait for the promised swell.
Hand and pencil shiver,
the streaks become smaller.
An age-old scan of the imagined horizon
turns into a quiet and patient wake.
The memory of dipping a steel nib in ink reappears,
the slow drawing of purple sticks and ells along faint lines,
down the slope of a school desk,
and the miracle of painted words.
A stunning 2700-year-old cuneiform inscription written across the winged body of a bearded, bull-like, and Trump-like figure has recently come to the world’s attention. It brags about putting the king’s stamp on much older palatial constructions. Pundits hesitate to accept the authenticity of the document. Could it be a forgery? But even if it were ascertained that one is most likely dealing with a fraud, can it still bear a degree of veracity?
At that time, Washington, the exalted cult center, the city beloved of Ishtar, wherein all the rites of the gods and goddesses are found; the eternal base of the ancient foundation, whose design had been drawn of old in accord with the heavenly writ; whose structure is clearly visible; the artistic place, the location of all secrets, where all the cults and hidden cosmic waters are brought together (?); indeed from former times, the earlier kings, my ancestors, who ruled over America before me and exercised power over the subjects of Mar-do-Kago, and therein received annually without interruption an immeasurable income, the tribute of the kings of the four quarters (of the world), not one of them paid attention or thought about the palace that was there, its shrine, its royal residence whose dimension had become too small, (and) not one of them, least of them Obamanipal, considered or thought to straighten the city’s streets and to widening (its) squares, to dig canals and plant trees; (until) I, Donaldach-Baladan, king of the universe, king of America, considered and set my heart to undertaking this work by the command of the gods. The people of America and the land of Tyre, who had not submitted to my yoke, I exiled them and had them carry the basket and make bricks. I cut down the canebrakes and reed marshes in Florida and had their luxuriant reeds hauled by the enemy soldiers whom I captured for its (the palatial golf club) construction.
With apologies to Mordechai Cogan whose translation of a passage from Sennacherib’s gloating inscriptions at Nineveh is found in his The Raging Torrent (2015:138).
Regarding the March 3, 2020, upcoming elections: vote NO on the abusive recall of Santa Cruz’s council members Chris Krohn and Drew Glover. ALSO, vote for Tim Fitzmaurice and Katherine Beiers. It is critical to do both, i.e. NO on the recall and YES for Fitzmaurice and Beiers. Yes also for a general effort to restore civility…
Bad Animal will host an event in support of Tim Fitzmaurice, on poetry and politics, this Saturday Jan 25, 2020, 5:00 to 8:00pm.
For more details, see Tim’s information regarding running for the term ending December 2022. There is further information on the No on Recalls site. The Rose Investigative report is also available (full report), as well as letters to the council and community by Krohn and Glover.
The pro-recall site, called Santa Cruz United, seems to me singularly focused on furthering real estate interests under the guise of defending moral standards. By not waiting for the end of Krohn’s and Glover’s short mandates, the main real estate supporters of the recall are trying to score on a larger issue, namely protect their investments by pushing for a more conservative Santa Cruz Council.
No victims of the ballistic attacks, according to US forces or Iraqi news, but about eighty victims according to Iranian news. It seems that the Iraqi government was informed before the attack, which means that the US might also have been told about it and had the technology, in any case, to see what was coming. This demonstration of force seems to have been meant to calm the Iranian enormous outpouring of emotion and for their government to derive a much needed feeling of unity from it. The choice of targets (one in Sunni territory, Al Asad, west of Baghdad, and the other in Kurdistan, at Erbil) doesn’t make immediate sense to me, nor does it to Juan Cole’s article in his Informed Comment site today. The proclaimed Iranian primary goal is still to get rid of all US presence in the whole area. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn eventually, however, that the assassination of Suleimani not only was encouraged but partly organized by the Saudis as one important way to slow down the rise of Iran. The Saudi government would cover its responsibility in the assassination by pretending that they were willing to lower the tensions between Iran and themselves. Perhaps there has even been something of a partial strategy behind the political murder. Now that ISIS is under control, partly thanks to Iran and Suleimani, the US, Saudis, and Turkey can share the goal(s) of getting rid of annoying, dangerous allies of circumstance, namely the Kurdish forces in NE Syria for Turkey, general Suleimani and its foreign military policy for the Saudis and the US. And it doesn’t hurt that it allows Trump, Pompeo, or Pence to put on masks of messianic gravitas, while being a convenient distraction from impeachment. Israel and Palestine are disputed footnotes in all of this. Both are shamelessly used by the main adversaries, the US and Iran. Yet, in this context of post-Cold War calculations driven by greed and pride, I don’t think it is going too far to remember and ponder that Israel’s presently weak, destructive prime minister, Netanyahu, also owes his power and career to the politically successful assassination of PM Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir.
Que l’année vous soit douce et légère…. Image: Marie-Claude Bugeaud, 2020.