All posts by Gildas Hamel

right and left up and down

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.

UCSC grad strike

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:

picket at grad students’ strike, Bay and Western, UCSC

ink and graphite

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).

No on recall

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.

crime pays

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.

Carrel and Lindbergh

The BBC today carried a story about Alexis Carrel who got the 1912 Nobel Prize in medicine for his development of vascular grafting and tissue culture. It mentions in passing the island of St. Gildas which Carrel bought sometime after the end of WW I, I think, together with the house on it. It is in Port-Blanc, about 2 miles from the respective farms where Jean Hamel and Marie Gourhant lived. I got my name from it or rather from the Welsh saint that we imagine had lived on it. I would learn later that he lived in the sixth century and wrote in Latin the first book on the history of Britain, his De excidio et conquestu britanniae. My mother liked to reminisce on the occasional presence of Carrel at the church in Penvenan, nearby. Did she think, perhaps with her mother who was unusually educated for a farmer’s wife—she had her brevet—, that he was a miscreant tempted by the Catholic version of the faith, somewhat à la Paul Claudel behind his Notre Dame pillar? She gave me his book, L’homme cet inconnu, when I was fourteen. To bring that book back to the small seminary and have the “préfet” of discipline authorize its reading was a cinch (we had to submit all of our own books to his vigilance. The story of Tristan and Iseult was not authorized, but that is another story). No objection anywhere. Only a few years later (3 or 4?), did I finally realize that Carrel was or had long been a eugenist and was concerned, like Hitler, with the survival of a very narrowly defined, racist, western civilization. I was naïve enough not to realize what he was doing in that long-lost book. Aside from his racism, or rather along with it, he dreamt that modern science could bring immortality. Lindbergh is also featured in the BBC story because he became a friend of Carrel and lived on a close-by island with a small strip where he could land his plane. He and his wife lived on that island for barely one year. Lindbergh and the famous doctor were figures of fame that occasionally surfaced in our local conversations. Carrel is unfortunately not the only one whose skill with a scalpel got to his head and heart.

baseball liturgy

Children and grand-children made me realize that I need not fear losing the wonder that the Catholic liturgy of my childhood brought every Sunday. It is alive, albeit in different colors, in the grand liturgy of American baseball. It was wonderful, while the sabbath rang slowly / In the pebbles of the holy streams, to contemplate these perfectly raked paths, the players decked in impeccable altarboys’ and -girls’ outfits, the green open to the unbound horizon, the pitcher on the mound, and the division of the faithful into two theological camps.