Saturday, January 28, 2017

Who's surprised?

It's been a while.  So much has been going on, so much has happened, so much of it positively depressing and angering at the same time, that it has been hard if not impossible to focus the anger.
And frustration.  But what I wonder about is why anyone is even surprised that our country is descending into fascism.

There are a couple of different threads to this story, feeding into each other, reinforcing each other.  Perhaps the most immediate is our (US) national obsession with "business," and "businessmen" (face it, it's mostly men, and the women involved are honorary men).  Success in "business" is the Holy Quest of our land and has been pretty much since the beginning.  It almost seems not to matter whether the "business" succeeds or fails, the Quest is the thing.  And the people (mostly men) are the priest/leaders of this quest. They are the Holy Ones, successful or not, because they went on the Quest.  Trump is one.  Holy, untouchable, simply for having made the Pilgrimage.  Even as a failure most of the time, still able to command others to value his opinions, perverted and destructive as they might be for the rest of us.

There is another thread, and that has to do with the nature of "business" as it has developed over the last few centuries.  "Business" as we mostly know it grew out of the incomprehensibly vast profits created by the European imposition of predatory capitalism on both the New World and Africa beginning (roughly) in the 16th century.  West Africans were transported to the parts of the New World (the West Indies, Brazil and other parts of South America, parts of Middle America, and southern portions of North America) to labor without pay in the service of this predatory capitalism.  They worked mostly on plantations, growing and harvesting sugar cane (itself brought from the Old World) and processing it into sugar, rum, and molasses.  They grew other things too (tobacco, rice, indigo, cotton, etc.) but it was the immense wealth built by Sugar that fueled both the growth of global capitalism and the Industrial Revolution.

And as this happened, the plantation, and especially the slave-based plantations, among the earliest large-scale factories, became the working model for the "business corporation."  Power and authority flow from the top down, and all below serve the Masters.  Everything in the societies based on this system is subordinate to this essentially fascist structure, and many "third-world" problems remain in the places where it flourished.  The social structure of the southern US, the Old Confederacy, is still riddled with the rotting remnants of this system.

So, is it surprising, really, that a "businessman" who grew up comfortable with this type of predatory, fascist way of making a living would display the pro-fascist leanings our new president displays?  Couple this with his severe personality disorders, which apparently may include something called "malignant narcissism," and we are in trouble.  If there are any adults left in Washington I hope they can get rid of him very soon.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Human rights hypocrisy

The other day, the US abstained from voting on a UN resolution condemning our decades-long trade embargo on Cuba.  The US ambassador to the UN (I think) commented after the vote while we didn't veto the resolution, we are necessarily still concerned about Cuba's human rights abuses.  And just to be clear, I'm sure that Cuba does commit human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, in the United States, people continue to be denied access to health care for not having "insurance."  People continue to be overwhelmed by the costs of education and the debt they must accumulate to make themselves more competitive in the "job market."  And also meanwhile, workers in "right to work" states as well as in the country more generally find themselves at the mercy of a system that denies them the right to bargain collectively with their employers for better working conditions and benefits.

Make no mistake: these are human rights abuses carried out by the United States on a massive scale, and apparently with no end in sight.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Where's the firearms recall?

OK, so all yesterday they've been mentioning on the News that an 11th person has been killed by those defective Takata airbags, which are already under recall. Meanwhile, Thursday on the Diane Rehm program, a British journalist, in a really heartbreaking story, reminded us that every day, about 7 children and teens are killed by firearms in the US. That's over 2500 a year. Where's the recall notice for these goddam firearms?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Things that keep me awake at night...

Am I alone in thinking that there is zero moral equivalency between some donor to the Clinton Foundation getting to sit at the Chinese ambassador's table and what is being perpetrated upon all of us by the Republicans in the name of their NRA donors and lobbyists?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer's almost gone...

Not officially, of course.  But tomorrow morning I meet with the chair of our department (Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work) to strategize our upcoming departmental "retreat," which takes place a week from today.  I have to meet since I'm the "coordinator" (they don't give it the respect of "director") of our anthropology program, which includes a BA in Anthropology as well as a Minor in Anthropology.
So, how did I spend my summer?  Not writing blog posts, obviously.  This summer was a staycation for me, with twice-weekly visits to physical therapy to help with my aging back and legs (I turned 71 on July 8).  I tried to get out, on the days I didn't have PT, to walk at least a mile or so, but it was hard because July was a very hot, dry month, with temps in the high 90s almost every day and "feel-like" temps over 100º.  My longest walk was about 4 miles, shortest was usually a 0.7 mile loop in a nearby park.
About that 0.7 mile loop.  I've decided that when I talk about it, instead of saying I walked "a bit less than a mile" I'm going to start saying "I walked a bit more than a kilometer."  Sounds better, right?  A kilometer is about 0.62 miles.  I know this from being a runner and converting the 5K and 10K runs into miles and vice versa.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

August 6th, again

So, it's that day of the year again.

On August 6, 1945, about a month after I was born, my country committed what has to be by any logic or reckoning the most egregious single-event war crime of all time. And then, a couple days later, we did it again. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People are still living with the effects of these two atomic bombs being dropped on their cities.

And yet, we continue to behave as though these weapons are rational, and we may even elect a President one of whose midnight twitter-fests could easily result in a nuclear weapon being sent on its way to Russia or North Korea, or somewhere.

Monday, July 11, 2016

English is weirder than most people realize

OK, so I just encountered this on Facebook, representative of the many "English is weird" memes floating around out there. And as I nearly always point out, the spellings shown here have nothing to do with the English language itself. If you want weird, consider this:
To make an English statement into a question, one of the rules is to "move the auxiliary to the front of the sentence."* E.g.
The mouse is eating the cheese > Is the mouse eating the cheese?
But what if there's no (apparent) auxiliary? Then you have to create one and move it:
Mice eat cheese > Mice do eat cheese > Do mice eat cheese?
Wait, there's more. If an overt inflection is present on the verb, the created auxiliary strips it off the verb and attaches it to itself:
Judy walks to school > Judy do walks to school > Judy does walk to school > Does Judy walk to school?
That's something truly weird about English!

* It's not that simple. The Aux really moves to a position under C in the CP that dominates the sentence. But this is enough for one day.