Friday, January 12, 2018

Shitholes

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
With conquering limbs astride from land to land; 
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand 
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand 
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command 
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she 
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Trump America

Trump America is a celebration of white supremacy.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Is Liberal Zionism Dead?

"The word “apartheid” will become increasingly inescapable as a small but growing number of Palestinians turn from fighting for independence to demanding equal rights in the system they are living under. “If the Israelis insist now on finishing the process of killing the two-state solution, the only alternative we have as Palestinians is one fully democratic, one-state solution,” Barghouti says, in which everyone has “totally equal rights.”

Needless to say, Israel will accept no such thing. Though demographics in the region are as contested as everything else, Palestinians are likely to soon become a majority of the population in Israel and the occupied territories. If all of them were given the right to vote, Israel would cease to be a Jewish state.

But most of the world — including most of the Jewish diaspora — will have a hard time coming up with a decent justification for opposing a Palestinian campaign for equal rights. Israel’s apologists will be left mimicking the argument that William F. Buckley once made about the Jim Crow South. In 1957, he asked rhetorically whether the white South was entitled to prevail “politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.” The “sobering answer,” he concluded, was yes, given the white community’s superior civilization.

It’s impossible to say how long Israel could sustain such a system. But the dream of liberal Zionism would be dead. Maybe, with the far right in power both here and there, it already is."
-Michele Goldberg, "Is Liberal Zionism dead?"

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President

Shocking but sadly not surprising:
Even though the numbers in a few key states had appeared to be changing to Trump’s advantage, neither Conway nor Trump himself nor his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — the effective head of the campaign — ­wavered in their certainty: Their unexpected adventure would soon be over. Not only would Trump not be president, almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be. Conveniently, the former conviction meant nobody had to deal with the latter issue. 
As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. “I can be the most famous man in the world,” he had told his aide Sam Nunberg at the outset of the race. His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities. 
“This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” he told Ailes a week before the election. “I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won.”
From Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury excerpt in NY Mag.  We are all fucked because of a reality tv stunt.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege

"In college — this was in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the University of California, Berkeley — I used to be one of those smart-alecky young conservatives who would scoff at the notion of “white male privilege” and claim that anyone propagating such concepts was guilty of “political correctness.” As a Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union, I felt it was ridiculous to expect me to atone for the sins of slavery and segregation, to say nothing of the household drudgery and workplace discrimination suffered by women. I wasn’t racist or sexist. (Or so I thought.) I hadn’t discriminated against anyone. (Or so I thought.) My ancestors were not slave owners or lynchers; they were more likely victims of the pogroms.

I saw America as a land of opportunity, not a bastion of racism or sexism. I didn’t even think that I was a “white” person — the catchall category that has been extended to include everyone from a Mayflower descendant to a recently arrived illegal immigrant from Ireland. I was a newcomer to America who was eager to assimilate into this wondrous new society, and I saw its many merits while blinding myself to its dark side.

Well, live and learn. A quarter century is enough time to examine deeply held shibboleths and to see if they comport with reality. In my case, I have concluded that my beliefs were based more on faith than on a critical examination of the evidence. In the last few years, in particular, it has become impossible for me to deny the reality of discrimination, harassment, even violence that people of color and women continue to experience in modern-day America from a power structure that remains for the most part in the hands of straight, white males. People like me, in other words. Whether I realize it or not, I have benefitted from my skin color and my gender — and those of a different gender or sexuality or skin color have suffered because of it.

This sounds obvious, but it wasn’t clear to me until recently. I have had my consciousness raised. Seriously."
-Max Boot, "2017 was the year I learned about my white privilege"

Monday, January 01, 2018

New Year's Day

Vancouver is completely fogged-over in a sea of grey fog. That seems like the perfect metaphor for 2K18.

That it has now passed, even more so.

French toast made from thick French bread, with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. Canadian maple syrup. Strawberry jam. A great way to start the New Year here in Vancouver.

I'm going to spend the day on the couch, reading of the French Revolution, Frodo, and George Smiley. 

My big plans for the day are steam bath, sauna and hot tub, in that order.

New Year's

No automatic alt text available.

Hasta la vista

The year is short but the night is young.  I end the year listening to vinyls of Buena Vista Social Club and wait for the ball to drop.  Hasta la proxima....

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Twenty Seventeen

The sun sets golden across the Vancouver horizon, for a last time on quite a year that was, as ferries putter along the blackening False Creek 

A year that began in North Africa, ends in the Pacific Northwest.  The year saw a lot of time in North Africa, most especially Morocco but also my final international program in Tunisia and Algeria.

Much of the year was around the Mediterranean basin, with a nice stint in southern France and sojourns in Spain.  Palma mostly, but also stopovers in Barcelona and Madrid for the first time in fifteen years.

The year ends in Vancouver, just off False Creek.  It ends with a cat on my lap.  For me, this was a Year of Cats.  I had multiple stints catsitting, and lived up to my name of Abu Hurayrah while caring for North Africa's streetcats.

It was a year of transitions, and that doesn't change as the new year begins.  But 2018 promises to be new and different from the years that passed, and that is exciting in its own right.

So long 2017, so much of you won't be missed but you definitely had your charms and moments.

Hello 2018, let's see whatcha got....

RIP 2017

"Ring out the false, ring in the true."
-Alfred Lord Tennyson

H/T AA

Epitaph for a year of shit.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

On leadership

“Now, look, I happen to know a little about leadership. I’ve had to work with a lot of nations, for that matter, at odds with each other. And I tell you this: You do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it’s usually called ‘assault’ — not ‘leadership’...I’ll tell you what leadership is. It’s persuasion, and conciliation, and education, and patience. It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know, or believe in, or will practice.”
-Dwight Eisenhower

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Time and Money

When you have more time than money, you can spend an hour and half grocery shopping at three different stores, spend less than $10 and walk away with days of provisions. 

In a former, or future, life, I am a professional coupon cutter.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Republicans’ failure on health care is even greater than they realize

"And now Republicans have created the worst of all possible worlds, at least from where they sit. They’ve only made Americans more insecure about their health care, they’ve pushed the Democratic Party to the left, and they’ve brought the arrival of a universal system based on government insurance closer than it ever was."
-Paul Waldman, "Republicans’ failure on health care is even greater than they realize"

I Want 2017 to Be Over. I Never Want to See Anything Like It Again

"Which brings us to the end of the year. And the possibility – borne out by polls, by desperation, and by what may be a resurgence of activism, organization, and voting by the center and left - that, for both men, their worst enemy will turn out to be 2018.

At some point, even the worst nightmares do end.

At some point, people do wake up."
-Bradley Burston, "I Want 2017 to Be Over. I Never Want to See Anything Like It Again"

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Vancouver Traditional Jewish Xmas festivities

Mixing it up a lil on the traditional Jewish Christmas fair: incredible Dim Sum for breakfast at a spot called Western Lake.  It is known to be the best dim sum in Vancouver, which is quite a worthy title.

So instead of the traditional Chinese food for dinner, I will be having Mexican food at a friend's place.  Possibly birria if I am lucky.

Get America Covered

'These numbers debunk that theory that people don’t want it, that it’s not a good product,' said Emily Barson, a senior adviser with the national group Get America Covered."
-From The Atlantic's "Signing Up for Obamacare After Trump Proclaims It 'Dead'"

From the "Not-All-Heroes-Wear-Capes" files, a huge shout-out and congrats to Emily Barson for her work getting America covered in the face of obstruction by the Trump administration.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Short Vancouver days

The sun basically just set at 4:10pm. 

It rose at 8:07 am. 

Roughly 8 hours of daylight.

But unexpected sunlight, so I am pleased.

The task of a rabbi

In his book, "To Heal a Fractured World," Rabbi Jonathan Sacks notes that when the great Rabbi Hayyim of Brisk was asked by his disciples to define the task of a rabbi:

"To redress the grievances of those who are abandoned and alone, to protect the dignity of the poor, and to save the oppressed from the hands of his oppressor."

All the rest is just commentary.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Age of Betrayal

"Dec. 20, 2017, will live on as a day of disgrace and dishonor.

It will be remembered as the day when a government of, by and for the people became a government of, by and for wealthy campaign donors — and of, by and for wealthy Republican politicians themselves.

We thought the corruption, self-dealing and social indifference of the Gilded Age were long behind us. But we underestimated the raw nerve of President Trump, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

This Triumvirate of Privilege has returned us to the “age of betrayal,” as writer Jack Beatty called the years of the robber barons. The goal has always been to roll back the social advances that the country has made since the Progressive Era. On Wednesday, the demolition crews in the House and Senate struck a devastating blow.

The tax law loots the federal treasury on behalf of major corporations and the richest people in America. It sharply shifts the nation’s tax burden onto wage and salary earners whom Trump, Ryan and McConnell treat as serfs expected to bow before the wielders of capital, including real estate titans such as the president himself. It also creates an utterly unstable tax code. So many new opportunities for evasion were stuffed into this monstrosity that not a single person who voted for it can fully know what its effects will be.

This lobbyists’ wish list was passed with unconscionably reckless haste because those who confected it didn’t want mere citizens to grasp what they were doing. In this, they failed. The polls make clear that citizens, including many Republicans and many Trump supporters, know exactly whom this bill will benefit, and whom it will hurt. No tax cut in recent memory has been so unpopular."
-EJ Dionne, "The Age of Betrayal is Back"

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Exploits of Don Quixote

On a snowy Vancouver day, two things I love: Don Quixote and old vinyl records:

For over three centuries readers in all countries have been delighted by the adventures of this absurd gentleman and his squire Sancho Panza.  The reason for Quixote's popularity cannot be merely that he is ridiculous, or that he makes a nuisance of himself and gets into trouble wherever he goes. Quixote is the embodiment, even though he is also the exaggeration, of a great idea.  This idea is that there is more in life than the humdrum routine of everyday affairs; that true greatness is to be found only in the spirit of service to an ideal.  That the ideal is, with Quixote, only an illusion does not detract from its fascination, though it does make him a pathetic figure.  To attempt the impossible for the sake of honor--to add to the store of human greatness by risking everything without the hope of material reward--to endure danger and hardship because endurance is noble: this is the quixotic ideal, and the world would be poorer without it.  That is the secret of Don Quixote's universal appeal. We may, indeed we mus, laugh at his absurdity; yet if there is anything of chivalry or generosity in us, we cannot help being on his side, however innocent his victims. We know he cannot win, but his misguided valour excites our pity with our laughter.


Grass Roots

“I remember right before the polls closed, I sat down and I felt good because the one thing I did know was that we left it all out there,” Thompson told me. Woke Vote, the collection of students and church-going activists and voter organizers she founded, had been working to bolster black turnout long before the Senate race gained national attention. As the results she’d hoped for materialized, she said, it took her back to the euphoria in black communities after the election of Barack Obama in 2008. “I started to get somewhat emotional because it was a similar feeling.”

From The Atlantic's "How Grassroots Organizers Got Black Voters to the Polls in Alabama"

Monday, December 18, 2017

Billy Wylder

Glad to back this project, please consider doing the same.




Why...

"Republicans aren’t idiots. They recognize just how unlikely this victory was and they know it won’t repeat itself. Demographic trends won’t slow down and midterm elections always go against the party in power anyway. They’re probably going to lose unified control of the government in 2018, and even if they hang on they won’t make it past 2020. This is their last chance to control the levers of power, quite possibly for a decade or two."
-Kevin Drum, on why the Republicans are doing what they are doing.

The Historic Blame Game

"The historic blame game that is the current rage. Our new national sport. Today’s blameless generation versus your guilty one. Who will atone for our fathers’ sins, even if they weren’t sins at the time?"
 -John Le Carré, "A Legacy of Spies"

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Tax Bill That Inequality Created

"Most Americans know that the Republican tax bill will widen economic inequality by lavishing breaks on corporations and the wealthy while taking benefits away from the poor and the middle class. What many may not realize is that growing inequality helped create the bill in the first place.

As a smaller and smaller group of people cornered an ever-larger share of the nation’s wealth, so too did they gain an ever-larger share of political power. They became, in effect, kingmakers; the tax bill is a natural consequence of their long effort to bend American politics to serve their interests.

As things stand now, the top 1 percent of the population by wealth — the group that would primarily benefit from the tax bill — controls nearly 40 percent of the country’s wealth. The bottom 90 percent has just 27 percent, according to the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. Just three decades ago these numbers were almost exactly the reverse: The bottom 90 percent owned nearly 40 percent of all wealth. To find a time when such a tiny minority was so dominant, you have to go back to the Great Depression."
-NY Times Editorial Board, "The Tax Bill that Inequality Created"

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The more they stay the same

“When will the people be educated? When they have enough bread to eat, when the rich and the government stop bribing treacherous pens and tongues to deceive them…. When will this be? Never.”‬ ‪-Maximilian Robespierre ‬

And now the Republicans will have us walk a gilded plank.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Tintin et Le Lotus Bleu

I am proud to have completed translating my third comic book, and second edition of Tintin: Le Lotus Bleu.  I especially got a good chuckle when Tintin was referred to as le petite Don Quichotte.

Up next: Le Petite Prince.  This will be my first attempt at translating a book.

The Closing of the Republican Mind

"But there is a more straightforward reason why not a single Democrat backed the legislation: The GOP not only entirely excluded Democrats from the process of drafting the bills, but the party punished Democratic constituencies—from residents of high-tax states to graduate students—in the bills’ substance. The tax plans represent a political closed circle: bills written solely by Republicans and passed solely by Republican votes that shower their greatest benefits on Republican constituencies. Meanwhile, the biggest losers in the plans are the constituencies of the Democrats who universally opposed them. It’s not just redistribution: The tax bills are also grounded in retribution.

In that way, the tax debate offers the clearest measure of how powerfully the Republican Party in the Trump era is folding inward. Neither Trump nor GOP congressional leaders are even pretending to represent the entire country—or to consider perspectives beyond those of their core coalition. Instead the party has shown that as long as it can maintain internal unity over its direction, it will ignore objections from virtually any outside source—not just Democrats, but also independent experts, affected interest groups, and traditional allies abroad."
-Ronald Brownstein, "The Closing of the Republican Mind"

And a good PS from David Brooks, on why the GOP is rotting:

"Starting with Sarah Palin and the spread of Fox News, the G.O.P. traded an ethos of excellence for an ethos of hucksterism.

The Republican Party I grew up with admired excellence. It admired intellectual excellence (Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley), moral excellence (John Paul II, Natan Sharansky) and excellent leaders (James Baker, Jeane Kirkpatrick). Populism abandoned all that — and had to by its very nature. Excellence is hierarchical. Excellence requires work, time, experience and talent. Populism doesn’t believe in hierarchy. Populism doesn’t demand the effort required to understand the best that has been thought and said. Populism celebrates the quick slogan, the impulsive slash, the easy ignorant assertion. Populism is blind to mastery and embraces mediocrity.

Compare the tax cuts of the supply-side era with the tax cuts of today. There were three big cuts in the earlier era: the 1978 capital gains tax cut, the Kemp-Roth tax cut of 1981, and the 1986 tax reform. They were passed with bipartisan support, after a lengthy legislative process. All of them responded to the dominant problem of the moment, which was the stagflation and economic sclerosis. All rested on a body of serious intellectual work.

Liberals now associate supply-side economics with the Laffer Curve, but that was peripheral. Supply-side was based on Say’s Law, that supply creates its own demand. It was based on the idea that if you rearrange incentives for small entrepreneurs you are more likely to get start-ups and more innovation. Those cuts were embraced by Nobel Prize winners and represented an entire social vision, favoring the dispersed entrepreneurs over the concentrated corporate fat cats. [Editor's note, I am still calling bullshit! -PR]

Today’s tax cuts have no bipartisan support. They have no intellectual grounding, no body of supporting evidence. They do not respond to the central crisis of our time. They have no vision of the common good, except that Republican donors should get more money and Democratic donors should have less.

The rot afflicting the G.O.P. is comprehensive — moral, intellectual, political and reputational. More and more former Republicans wake up every day and realize: 'I’m homeless. I’m politically homeless.'"

Monday, December 04, 2017

Vancouver City Dreams


I arrived to Vancouver in the rain, and in the rain I expect it to be.  But today, I woke up early and looked out across the skies and saw golden yellow yolk in the sky.  I quickly decided I was going out riding.  I found the bike left for me, with the "one less car" sticker attached.   A racing bike can be different but can fly in a whole different fashion.

I found the trail just at the park outside the apartment, and I turned left.  I passed some auspicious words wrapping around a corner:

“As the moon circles the earth the oceans responds with the rhythm of the tide.”

I hugged the False Creek bike lane in the golden sunlight.  It cast long rays across the cityscape.

I was drawn out towards the mountains, and up by the Science Museum.  The Fullerscape greeted me.  Above the orange circus tents the mountain was covered in white snow dust.  On the mountain top there was a giant windmill welcoming me to Vancouver.

I headed out along the Seaside trail as I hugged the coast on the two-wheel racer.  The mountains shimmered behind me as white snowcaps off the cityscape.

On my path, I found some sage words on Vancouver:

"Vancouver is famous for its rain. It can rain here for weeks on end, but it does not usually bother me. However, several years ago I found myself coming close to being thoroughly disgusted by the rain.
I walked home from work one evening in the pouring rain, mumbling under my breath the whole way that this weather was only suited to ducks. The building I lived in was large and square, and it surrounded a brick courtyard. I came around the corner into the courtyard and there, to my amazement was a beautiful Peking duck in a huge puddle in the middle of the courtyard, quacking and splashing with obvious delight. I had to smile, glad that such joy could be found in the gray wetness of such a day.
I have often thought that we do not have nearly enough words for rain, especially as this was once a rainforest. There is booming rain, whispery rain, rain that lulls you to sleep, and rain on the leaves which sings you awake; there is soft rain, hard rain, sideways rain, rain that makes you instantly wet, and rain that leaves soft kisses on your cheek, like the wings of a butterfly.
Rain brings us all the shades of gray, but it also brings us the wonderful greenery that surrounds us and blesses us all."
These words come via Regan D'Andrade, and were carved on a rock in the path.


I biked my way out to the Pacific Spirit Park, a lovely national treasure just outside the city.

I hiked along the cold stony beach, watching the waves lap against the stony shore.

At a perilous river crossing, a young man told me of two eagles in the trees.  I thanked him for this heads-up, and continued along the empty beach.  A little further up, I heard a crack, and saw a giant eagle fly off with branches in his talons as he set off for his nest.  He flew off in majestic glory.

I found my driftwood throne to sit on, and listen to the waves lap their rhythm against the stony shore.  Ever the Prince of Tides.

Vancouver is an incredible abode of peace.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Ancient Vancouvorian riddles

If I am on the 15th floor of a building in Vancouver, what is my actual floor?  It isn't fifteen.

American Plunder

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it."
- Frederic Bastiat