On climate change

January 8, 2023 at 3:17 pm (Uncategorized)

I quoted (on FB) a paywalled Glenn Greenwald interview with libertarian congressman Justin Amash, who described how Congress has steadily devolved since 9/11 into a top-down, non-representative, antidemocratic rubber stamp for the corporate security state, and who saw the Raucous Caucus rebellion over Kevin McCarthy’s speakership as a perhaps deformed (from long repression) eruption of democracy. I got pushback from liberal commentators saying Amash was good when he criticized Trump but people like him want to disempower government from fighting climate change (while empowering it to fight women’s bodily autonomy).

Abortion’s a separate issue but I felt that my response regarding climate change summed up my own view of the issue as well as I ever will. So I’m saving it here.

But what [Amash] describes having evolved since 9/11 is not a functioning representative government, and it expands powers to control citizens, not corporations. It seems to me that government and business ought to be pitted against each other (as described by Greenwald’s other interview subject in this paywalled post, antitrust scholar Matt Stoller of the Substack “Big”) so that neither can get away with too much of a power grab. Presently they are in cahoots to take away rights and protections from citizens, even as they pretend otherwise.

If you are concerned about climate change, are you OK with very coercive enforcement of green norms (e.g., curbing people’s spending and travel via a central bank digital currency and UBI, and/or docking their “social credit score” and restricting their access, and/or freezing their bank accounts)? Or would you prefer people to become enlightened and persuaded (and enticed by new products) to change their own behavior? It’s a mess, because climate science is both genuinely contested and vigorously manipulated and exploited. Those who downplay anthropogenic climate change say they’re defending freedom but are funded by oil companies; those who believe strict government controls will be necessary say they’re “saving the planet” but are backed by an agenda to control the population in other ways, such as free expression of political dissent. To repeat: it is a mess.

Here’s the link to the paywalled post. It is so eye-opening, I would recommend anyone pay $5 for a one-month subscription just to be able to read it. https://greenwald.substack.com/…/who-holds-power-in…

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Molecules of Dad getting tossed in the hurricane destroying SW Florida*

September 28, 2022 at 2:03 pm (Uncategorized)

What freedom, to fly with the storm rather
than fear it and futilely try
to shield structures from it — houses, bodies . . .
Smash, Dad! Fly!

(as you once wrote to me Blog! Dance!)

*we scattered half of my father’s ashes in Estero Bay, where he loved to fish

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Gender in K–3

March 15, 2022 at 2:17 pm (Uncategorized)

I was reading this alarming article about Ron DeSantis and I realized that the article assumed my alarm included unquestioning support for every detail of what DeSantis opposes and means to outlaw. I get claustrophobic when I feel myself being corralled into one of these “you’re 1,000% with us or you’re against us” thought-traps.

Specifically: Does it make ANY sense to talk to K through 3–age kids IN SCHOOL about ANY kind of gender or sexuality? (This changes as kids get older and look around and ask questions, but I’ll keep it simple for now.)

I get that what we used to call “square” norms have been inculcated and enforced unthinkingly for centuries and that this can drive nonconforming kids even unto suicide. I get that school can be a refuge from cruelty at home.

I also get that kids don’t see any of this the way adults do. They are not yet alienated from their bodies. From what I remember of being a kid plus some observation, they have a vague, matter-of-fact notion of their own anatomy, and an even vaguer conception of “the facts of life,” notions that range from fanciful to indifferent. They are curious, but their curiosity is fleeting and quickly supplanted by other interests. They are not obsessed the way we become as puberty sweeps in, and remain in defiance as the tide ebbs decades later.

It seems to me that an age-appropriate and kind way to treat these issues in K–3 would be neither “Don’t Say Gay” nor “Do Say Gay (trans, etc.),” but something in the spirit of the Silver Rule, “Do not do to others as you would not have them do unto you.” The Via Negativa. Like:

  • Don’t bring the subject up or enforce explicit lessons on it—of ANY agenda, traditional OR radical.
  • Model matter-of-fact acceptance that some kids in the class have two parents of the same sex. That families vary (in all kinds of ways) is a normal fact of life. No two people are alike. This is one of the glories of nature.
  • Do not enforce or preferentially reward either conforming or nonconforming gender dress and behavior. Allow kids to do what they choose, and to experiment, if they choose, without comment, except to forbid and decry cruelty in your presence. (Some kids will be cruel outside of your presence, but at least they will have seen there’s another way to be.)
  • Some kids’ families will be ideological and enforcing on this subject, one way or the other. This is the hard part: Model acceptance that families are different in their attitudes, too. School is not a place to find out that your family is wrong (unless they are physically endangering you). School is a place to discover that your family’s attitude is not the only one.

I want to sum all this up as “Leave kids the fuck alone,” but then I remember that people say “Leave me alone” when what they really mean is “Let me be.” Let kids be, but don’t abandon them.

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You don’t have to be Jewish: Don’t miss

September 10, 2021 at 9:33 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

the ultimate Yom Kippur story.

There’s an old Hasidic story, attributed to the great master Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk.

It’s the day before Yom Kippur, and the hassidim come to Rabbi Elimelech and ask him how he prepares for the most holy of days. “Tell you the truth,” says the old rabbi, “I don’t know how to do it. But Moishele? The shoemaker? He knows how to do it. Go ask him.”

So the hassidim walk over to Moishele’s house, and they peek in through the window, and they see this simple man sitting around his simple wooden table eating dinner. And when he’s done, he calls out to his children, “The great moment is here! Bring out the books.” And the children return with two books, one very small and the other very large and bound in expensive leather.

Moishele, looking up, begins to speak. “Dear God, master of the world,” he says. “It’s me, Moishele, the shoemaker. God, I want to read you something.” And Moishele takes the small book and opens it up. “God,” he continues, “I want to read you a list of my sins.” And he reads on from the book: “I’ve yelled at my wife. I’ve been impatient with my children. I’ve charged a bit too much for shoes sometimes. I kept a scrap of material for myself instead of giving it to the customer who paid for it.

“I think you’ll agree, God, these are all pretty petty sins.” Moishele closes the small book and picks up the large one. “And now, God,” he says, “now, let me read to you a list of your sins:

“A mother of nine dies and leaves all of her small children orphans? A famine forces entire families to forage for their food like animals? A war takes thousands of innocent lives? These are major crimes, God, very major crimes.” And with that, Moishele looks solemnly to the heavens.

“But I’ll tell you what, God,” he says. “This year, if you forgive me my sins, I’ll forgive you yours.”

The hassidim are elated! They run back to Rabbi Elimelech and tell him all about Moishele’s wisdom. But hearing the story, Elimelech starts to cry.

“What’s the matter?” the hassidim ask.

The rebbe looks at them with his eyes all swollen. “Don’t you get it?” he says. “Moishele had God in the palm of his hand! He should’ve said, ‘No, God, I won’t forgive you! I won’t forgive you until you redeem the entire world.’”  

From “The Scroll,” Tablet Magazine’s newsletter:

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A sweeping vision

January 8, 2021 at 11:34 pm (Uncategorized)

is what I’m being inundated with, of European domination of the world through its various empires, of which the U.S. is just the latest extension, and its massive twin engines (picture those two suckers on the back of a mother of a motor yacht): technology, which equipped it to dominate and exploit both other humans and nature; and religion, which gave it the justification and the sense of superiority and entitlement to do so.

Domination is not a European impulse, it’s a human impulse. Think of Genghis Khan and Moctezuma and the Aryans who rode down into India from the steppes, etc. What has been uniquely successful and destructive about the European version is those twin engines. It’s because of them that there are too many of us humans (I myself am spun from petroleum and nitrogen fertilizer) and that a minority of us live lives of comfort and safety and plenty and diversion our ancestors could never have dreamed of, to which the majority aspires, all at staggering cost to the rest of the biosphere.

I’m not saying this is bad or good—it’s too big for that, too done a deal. It is not even possible to imagine other ways the world might have gone. This is it, what we’ve got. Other cultures with different or even similar aspirations and priorities were invaded, conquered, colonized, enslaved, or allied and traded with, and became hybridized with European culture by force, or to survive; in self-defense, or out of curiosity and envy and opportunism. Some of these hybrids are more malignant than either parent, the way the monster of alcoholism isn’t lurking in the bottle or in the subconscious but is the product of a chemical reaction between the two. Pol Pot (“Politque Potentielle”) and Al-Wahhab studied in Paris. And from where did China get communism?

I can’t go all the way into this in one blog post. What I’ve been thinking about tonight is the role of one of Europe’s twin engines, Christianity, with its presumption of having the only right, real ,and powerful god, and therefore the right and the duty and the power to convert others or, failing that, kill them.

And Christianity’s peculiar relationship with the Jews.

How Christianity morphed from a universal and redemptive religion of the humble to a chauvinistic and warlike religion of the conqueror is another fascinating story. Maybe it had to do with its merger with Rome, the early prototype European empire. But it has its roots in the Hebrew bible, whose early chapters are horrifically bloody. Basically, there was believed to be a contest among gods, and Jahweh, the new god, and (a new claim) the only real god, sought to defeat the other gods by empowering his people, the offspring of Abraham, to defeat the peoples who believed in those gods, seize their lands, and slaughter their children. This may have provided the template for the Crusades, and for the conquest of the “New World.”

So jump ahead a millennium or five, and I’m thinking about Israel, which leftists call an outpost of the American empire. But really, Israel, settled by so many European Jews (who still dominate it culturally if not numerically) both before and after the Holocaust, is an outpost of Europe in the Middle East, culturally and militarily a promontory of the long European empire. And I thought further about the Jews’ uneasy status as Europeans, but not; serving the empire as financiers (not so exclusively now as at the end of the Middle Ages, when Jewish bankers financed the exploration and colonization of the New World because Christians were not allowed to charge interest), but also as scapegoats. If you entertain Freud’s equation of money with shit, then the Jews were a little like the Dalits of India, who traditionally handled sewage and garbage (though the Dalits were and are much more numerous, and poorer, because finally, money ain’t shit). The Jews were, and still are, cousins yet heathens, prodigal sons of the same god, necessary but mistrusted, dealers with the dark side so Christians didn’t have to, and subject to periodic exorcismic spasms of “convert, expel, or kill.” A semi-disowned, secret part of Europe that it has never been able to absorb or excise, a sort of parasitic twin. And suspected of being not quite white.

Ugh, I feel like I’ve just coughed up a parasitic twin myself. Enough for now.

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It’s a Vast Oversimplification…

November 12, 2020 at 12:24 pm (Uncategorized)

. . . but let’s entertain it for a moment: there are roughly two kinds of people in the world:

  • Those who are interested in power, money, and glory; and
  • those who are interested in something else.

Of course there is some apparent overlap, because plenty of people who are interested in, say, making scientific discoveries or writing novels, would like to get some glory, money, and power for it. But you’ll find that those also divide along the same lines: those who are primarily interested in the glory, money, etc., and those who are principally interested in what they’re doing and know that some power/money/glory will free them to do and share more of it. The latter tend to have a sense of “enough.” The absence of that sensor is an identifying characteristic of the former.

The first group of people is much smaller, but has in its favor

  • motivation, and
  • the command of material resources and the labor and “loyalty” of others. (Scare quotes because it’s the stomach kind, not the heart kind.)

The second group of people is much larger, and that’s all it has in its favor: numbers. But it’s very hard to rally those numbers, because these people are interested in a million different things and just want to be left alone to pursue them.

But the first group will not leave them alone.

Oh, one other thing the second group has in its favor: evolution. Their interests are infinitely more conducive to the long-term survival of our species, if not to its short-term bang-pow-dazzle success.

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Mom Sounds Off

November 8, 2020 at 1:56 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

on the post-election mood—9 days before her 97th birthday.

Hey, Annie! What doing? Got an Election Hangover? Are you – as I am – a MishMash of emotional Cross-currents: a schemear of elation, exhaustion, anxiety spread across my breakfast pumpernickel?  Am I afraid that sulking Trump will hang in the air over us like a noxious fart? Are we doomed to suffer his indelible presence because he will intone neither the magic release: “I quit”, nor choke to death on the fatal promise, “NEVER!”?


Sent from my iPhone

She’s like the nonagenarian Rachel Maddow.

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Please listen to this.

August 25, 2020 at 11:51 am (Uncategorized) ()

Nina Simone, in 1969, making Black lives matter—making life matter.

Of the 4 songs here, the first and third must be her own creations. She fills the covers to overflowing, too, but if your time is limited, don’t miss the originals.

00:04 4 women

07:23 band intro

08:16 Aretha Franklin’s “Somebody Save Me”

13:19 Ain’t got no

18:07 you don’t know what it’s like “To Love Somebody”

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The Love – Hate Election

August 24, 2020 at 6:14 pm (Uncategorized)

National political conventions are all about marketing, making the sale. They are targeted to a mass audience, not to the rather small class of political junkies, micropundits, and activists. Therefore, they are pitched to the heart, not the head; branded by emotion, not by ideology or policy.

Most people glaze over or break out in hives when confronted with isms or wonkery. They will vote for candidates who make them and their loved ones feel good and who they believe will make their lives feel better. For example, they want simple, affordable, comprehensive health insurance and they need it yesterday; they don’t care whether it’s called Medicare For All or precisely how it’s paid for.

You can say we have an ill-informed populace, or you can say that’s just how people are and there’s a wisdom to it. A naïvété too, of course. Hearts can be hoodwinked, but heads can be irrelevant. They just talk to other heads.

So, crudely put, the Democrats branded their convention Love and the Republicans are branding theirs Hate. (That’s the label, not the contents. The main ingredient inside both is Desire To Win.) I started thinking about which will prove stronger, which has the best shot at prevailing over the other. First I’ll make the case for Hate, laid out in a string of tweets I posted this morning. This is not negativity, it’s superstition. The Jewish philosophy of life is “Expect the worst, you might be pleasantly surprised.” My ancestors were sure that blithe optimism attracts the Evil Eye.

Republicans will point out, correctly, that Democrat Love is chocolate sauce poured over hate of Trump. Democrats will point out, correctly, that Republican Hate is really fear of demographic change. It’s natural to hate what threatens what we love (channeling Polly Chase for a moment), and the parties’ constituencies are now defined by which America they love: the diverse one of the future, or the white one of the past. That future is coming, inexorably, and the only way to slow its advance is what it always has been, brutal oppression, but on a larger scale than ever before. The best and worst of America since its founding are now fully out in the open and heading for a showdown. To beat Trump is to win a battle, not the war. To lose to Trump is to lose the war.

The video of George Floyd’s murder, coming on top of seven years’ effort by Black Lives Matter, seems to have finally opened the eyes of a majority of white Americans to what nonwhite Americans have always known. Those newly awakened, if not woke, white people now tentatively love the vision of the Beloved Community presented by the Democratic convention, especially since it was married with an older style of all-American happy talk, just with varied accents and many-colored faces. (Advertising has been test-marketing this vision for a while, and a heartwarming prototype can be found in the Paul Mazursky / Robin Williams film Moscow on the Hudson, in which my husband had a cameo.) But as much as they might come to love this feelgood vision, they also hate violence and disorder that threatens them. That is why the urban “riots” and shootings are Trump’s ace in the hole right now—the same dynamic that brought us Richard Nixon.

Now as then, you can be very sure that right-wing provocateurs are a big part of the action. The left should let them have it all. Let the Proud Boys dress up as a handful of anarchists and riot by themselves. To attract mass support and expose the opposition, protests and demonstrations for Black Lives Matter should ideally be disciplined, nonviolent, and free of ideology. (Let me dream.) It’s an uncomfortable fact that if the initial George Floyd protests had been completely nonviolent, they might not have gotten much attention. But when violence wears on, the weathervane of attention soon swivels the other way. Instead of violence pointing at injustice, it becomes fear pointing at violence—and disgust, especially when small businesses are destroyed.

After centuries of oppression and corruption, hate may be justified and cathartic. But for now, let it be the Republicans’ brand. Only that can weaken it—by diluting its fuel of fear.

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Strange thought

December 31, 2019 at 11:39 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Every work of literature springs from the same impulse as a baby’s cry.

[UPDATE] Or, differently put: writing is just fancy crying.

Or laughing.

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