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

Et maintenant?

J’ai le sentiment ce matin d’être dans un nouveau monde sans majuscules. Quelques impressions, après avoir mal dormi.

Wall Street ne s’est pas effondré et donne l’impression de récupérer rapidement. La grande nouvelle est que le gouvernement entier est à droite ou à l’extrême-droite. Je n’ose l’appeler républicain car ils sont très divisés. Il est à craindre que la surveillance de la grande banque se relâchera, l’assurance santé va retourner au Wild West (plus de vingt millions d’assurés sous cet Affordable Care Act, méprisé sous le nom d’Obamacare, mais aussi des augmentations brutales des contributions santé cette année dûes aux assurances privées), les jeunes immigrants vont perdre le peu de protections qu’ils avaient, le salaire minimum va rester très bas, allocation chômage très bas aussi, l’industrie pétrolière et charbon va reprendre sans considérations intempestives sur les effets climatiques, l’immobilier va pouvoir gonfler sa bulle, le mouvement de privatisation de l’éducation s’accélérera, etc…

J’espère que l’administration Trump n’osera pas toucher à la Sécurité sociale ou à Medicare à cause du danger électoral, mais les pressions d’un parti républicain même divisé seront fortes. Quant aux autres dossiers sociaux (avortement, mariage, homosexualité, drogue et prison), il reste à voir ce qu’une administration Trump acceptera de tolérer (Trump lui-même paraît indifférent à ce genre de questions). Je doute que les grands traités internationaux en préparation pour le Pacifique ou l’Atlantique nord ne soient pas signés, et vite, malgré l’opposition au “globalisme” du candidat Trump, car c’est le seul dossier sur lequel Obama était soutenu par le parti républicain et on peut penser qu’une entente sera vite conçue entre intérêts industriels, financiers et politiques (que ceux-ci soient d’un parti ou de l’autre).

Le fond du paysage économique reste le même: plus grande automation des tâches, rationalisation de la gestion plus extensive, création d’emplois précaires. Et donc faiblesse de la demande globale, timidité des investissements à longue durée, stagnation de la productivité, accélération continue des différentiations de revenu et de statut social.

Quant à la politique politicienne, il est difficile de prévoir ce qui va se passer dans nos deux grands partis. Quelle leçon vont tirer les membres du parti républicain de cet événement? Qu’ils doivent faire un réarmement moral (comme le suggéraient récemment les Douthat, Brooks, Wehner, et al dans le New York Times)? Ou bien que la démagogie larvée des trente dernières années ne paie que si pratiquée en grand et sans souffrir aucune hésitation de leur part? Le parti démocrate lui aussi devra monter au créneau et se demander ce qu’est une société de justice et de paix, au delà des discours qui ne coûtent rien sur l’intégration sociale, au lieu de faire une confiance aveugle à une rationalité et un calcul utilisés comme instruments de pouvoir.

Je crois qu’on va à la catastrophe un peu plus vite qu’on ne l’aurait fait sous Clinton. J’ai voté pour elle sans enthousiasme. Le Federal Reserve n’a plus d’instrument de contrôle avec le taux d’intérêt de base à zéro. Discours courageux mais lénifiants de Clinton et Obama ce matin sur le transfert de pouvoir et la bonne volonté de tous dans “notre” grande tradition démocrate. C’est de résistance qu’il s’agit maintenant.

On peut penser qu’une petite moustache ne siée pas à Trump et que nous sommes encore en démocratie. D’autres suivent dans l’ombre cependant. Que se passera-t-il quand les employés de l’industrie et des services qui ont voté pour lui dans les grandes zones industrielles défoncées s’apercevront que rien n’a été résolu, au contraire, et qu’ils ont été floués? Au Wisconsin, Michigan, en Pennsylvanie, Ohio, etc., là où on votait démocrate au temps des syndicats malgré les promesses non tenues? Mais ils le savent déjà. Ce vote de colère ne résoud rien et je crains qu’il n’annonce de plus grands mouvements.

civility

Post-trump political gurus and shills were hard at work this morning: the two Brooks of the NYT, both self-defined moralists who are busily spending their time separating and protecting the “conservative movement” from the crowds. They are revolted by Trump’s “grabbing”, mud-slinging, and total lack of civility. It allows them to talk up the soft side of conservatives: a social concern, a sense of connectedness and responsibility, even compassion for the poor (in moderation). This goes with systematic criticism (silence at best) of the Affordable Care Act—their own production—, no raise or adjustment of minimum salary, all out globalization, privatization of education by vouchers (at best), systematic rewarding of capital in all forms, and destruction of any semblance of fairness in the tax system as well as of any social goal in it, aggressive foreign policy without political aims, simply a machinery that provides rich contracts to armament, electronic, and surveillance industries.

These opinion writers feel pressure to externalize Trump as a “pityable” object beyond redemption. How much easier it is to treat Trump as a deranged outlyer in the capitalist system than recognize the much deeper and broader corrosion that threatens to engulf everyone. It is the profit making at the heart of capitalism that wrecks civil society and one of its expressions, civility. To quote a comment on David Brooks’ opinion article:

Trump is a sort of human embodiment of an un-parented, unregulated free market capitalism that runs over everything in its way, externalizes costs to everyone else and makes a “killing” for its practitioners.

Trump is not a lonely, single narcissist, but the truth of our conquering capitalistic culture. Attempts to paint this culture as potentially humane and compassionate are illusions if not lies. What will happen in the next election cycle, four or eight years from now, when much worse and organized than Trump may surface? As another comment says:

This election shows just how close we are to a fascist government in this country, and it will not take much to bring it into being, a bad down-turn in the economy and the right demagogue and we’ll be on our way.

gloria

[8 Oct 2011] On the way to Sabba’s place, I am on Delaware, in and of the world, yet in dire need of its compassion. I move, I live, do I do more than replicate and explicate. It is ad majorem dei gloriam, glory and exultet. The reeds along the San Lorenzo river wait for the breeze to brush against each other. Glory. Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be…. Sabba is in a circle of a dozen people in wheelchairs, listening to Jan who is leading the group through puzzle questions. Which country did Mother Teresa work in? What’s the name for a group of military officers who take power by coup d’état? I walk with Ben who is responsive today and whose hands are relaxed. He extends his arms more easily than Thursday and is able to hold the walker. I ask myself why it is different today. Questions take me away from the world. Is it the time of the day, my being more receptive, or a myriad other reasons? Questions are duplications, unfolding and refolding, how to conjure things to be other than they are. Back to the world. I learn the names: Mina, Herman, John… I forget other names. Hallowed be…. Dorothy thinks Ben is her departed Jack, Lorice sits near Ben. Her brother directed Catholic labor organizations. We speak of Dorothy Day. Your kingdom come. Ben is able to grab and hold the piece of fresh, sticky bread I give him. He gnaws at it. Drink: he slowly puts his fingers around the cup, lifts it, shapes his lips to drink, is able to tilt the glass with some assistance. I help with bits of pasta, turkey, zucchini. Their shape and size preoccupy me as does the dignity of this ninety-year-old man. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We share the sour dough bought at the market this morning. A piece of the still warm bread, with peanut butter, not only to Sabba but also to the neighbors. Apple sauce and yogurt for dessert, after the pills to help control the tremors. Comment allez-vous Mr. Kleinstein? He repeats. Then: מה שלוםך? It takes a while, but he repeats and perhaps means to continue, בסדר. Special day today: sabbath and Yom Kippur. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts. Our trespasses. Our breaks and heartbreaks. Yom Kippur. אבינו מלכנו חננו ועננו… חטאנו ופשענו ואין בנו מעשין… שלח לנו…

We sing, correction, I sing. Lorice: “You have a nice voice.” This leads to stories of Lent, old liturgical habits, Asperges me, thoughts of the hyssop that was used on the altar of the temple, et mundabor (“and I’ll be made pure”), and on to the paschal vidi aquam egredientem…. with a latere dextro on my mind, or is it my heart ?

Gildas Hamel