Friday, August 23, 2019

Inferno



David Koch kicked the bucket the other day. 

I cited Koch as a notorious polluter in a recent blog post:
Should one boycott the New York City Ballet, which calls the David H. Koch Theater home? Named after one of the notorious polluting Kochs, who also give gillions of dollars of tainted money to efforts to undermine our republican form of government.(1)
Here’s a photograph of Koch being applauded for handing over some of his tainted bucks to the New York City Ballet:


Notice the complacently smug mug.

According to Christopher Leonard in the New York Times, David Koch and his brother Charles “built a political influence machine that is arguably unrivaled by any in corporate America.”(2) And one of the major tasks of that machine has been to undermine any government effort to enact climate control legislation that might fight the disastrous effects of global warming, such as action to control greenhouse gas emissions. Koch, a graduate of MIT with a degree in chemical engineering, turned his back on science and supported a baying pack of climate change deniers. As Leonard reveals, 
in 1991, the Cato Institute, a Koch-funded think tank, held a seminar in Washington called “Global Environmental Crises: Science or Politics?” This was part of a decades-long effort to cast doubt about the reality of climate change.
David Koch worked tirelessly, over decades, to jettison from office any moderate Republicans who proposed to regulate greenhouse gases.
To hell with the planet—as long as Koch Industries could keep raking in its dirty money. 

*

David Koch won’t be around when this sphere of ours becomes a burning cauldron. But one can only hope that, in the spirit of divine justice, he will be spending eternity in an even hotter place.

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Also worth reading:





Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Comes the Revolution . . .


Let’s once and for all put a stake through the heart of it—the myth that Donald Trump is a leader of a populist movement. 

Unless one believes that the sans-culottes who were at Southampton last Friday were representative of a surging underclass. In truth, what was represented among those in attendance, according to The Hollywood Reporter,* was the usual Trumpian mix of grifters, sexual predators, and brownnoses. There was Wilbur Ross, the conflicted Secretary of Commerce, Steven Mnuchin, the Secretary of the Treasury, famed for kicking people out of their houses, Phil Falcone, who somehow never figured out that he has to pay taxes, Bill O’Reilly, who got booted off Fox News because of sexual harassment charges, and the ever-lovable Rudy Giuliani and Geraldo Rivera. 

Not a Madame Defarge among them.

Those in attendance, who have never missed a meal in their lives, were able to bag another for a mere $100,000 or $250,000, filling their bellies with a buffet lunch of sirloin steak, shrimp with lemon chili and charred broccoli. 

There was no mention of entertainment, so I imagine the peasants in attendance were not offered a rendition of Bach’s cantata “Ich habe genug.”

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Monday, August 12, 2019

For Whom the Bell Tolls


The bell rang this weekend and the Pavlovian dog of the Trump administration responded.

The death of his old pal Jeffrey Epstein gave Trump some new baseless material to spew out into the Twitterverse. He re-tweeted nudge-nudge, wink-wink conspiracy inanities that pushed the Clintons into the middle the Epstein suicide story:
Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH ? Yeah right! How does that happen#JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead. I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this! RT if you’re not Surprised#EpsteinSuicide #ClintonBodyCount #ClintonCrimeFamily* 
When rational people raised protests against Trump’s actions, there came Kellyanne "Alternative Facts" Conway (Bow Wow) to defend her labmeister: it was “clear what he was trying to say. I think the president just wants everything to be investigated.”**

 (That statement is just a teeny bit disingenuous; Trump refuses to allow his administration to investigate climate change, for example.)

Anyway, we probably should welcome the open inquiry stance that Conway (Woof Woof) has enunciated. I, therefore, have prepared a little list of questions that need resolution. The reader who can tie in one or another of the Clintons to the most conspiracies will win a year’s supply of Alpo or Ken-L Ration.

*

Who killed Cock Robin?

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Where is Judge Crater?

What happened to Jimmy Hoffa?

Who put the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?

How the heck am I gonna wash my neck, if it ain’t gonna rain no more?

Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?

Whatever happened to Baby Jane?

Where’s Waldo?

Why a duck?

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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Do Me a Favor?--Take 2


I am glad that I am not a very important person. I am glad that no one might attempt to write a biography of my life, exposing all my sins and errors, my crassness and laziness, my pettiness and my wastefulness, the slights I gave to others and the misjudgments I gave to myself. 

Along with the sigh of relief that my personal faults will never be exposed is the relief that professional faults that are not my own will never be ascribed to me—that no assiduous researcher will discover in dusty files ill-written, badly-organized, and faultily-constructed documents with my signature at the bottom. Reader, I did not write them!

As chairman of a college English department, I was asked at times by faculty members to submit letters to support their applications for promotions, for sabbatical leaves, for research grants, and so forth. Usually, the document would appear on my desk already composed by the applicant and ready for my signature. I remember the first of those documents: as mentioned above, ill-written, badly-organized, and faultily-constructed. “I can’t sign this crap,” I said to myself, and poised my pen, not to affix my signature, but to edit the text. However, I did not know where to begin, the text was so jumbled. Better to re-write the whole thing, I thought—until my better second thought told me that I had not the desire to expend my time and effort on the project— nor the sitzfleisch

So, balancing a possible diminution of my reputation as a writer against the certainty of being rid of the project, I said the hell with it and indeed used the pen to sign at the bottom of the page. 

And since English teachers can’t write, I was to repeat the charade several other times afterwards.

*

One day I was approached by a faculty member I’ll call MR (basically because those were her initials). Would I write a recommendation for her to support her application for promotion? (Groan.) “Write it yourself, and give it to me,” I told her. “I’d really like you to do it,” she responded. (Trapped.) “OK, give me your materials and I’ll deal with it.” The next day my mailbox was stuffed.

Now let me digress here to explain that just then MR was making noises about presenting the department with a proposal to make some sort of alteration in procedure that could limit the chairman’s flexibility in dealing with a future issue. A few days after the mailbox stuffing and just prior to the next department meeting, I approached MR and gently whispered into her earhole, “Maria, I am really against that proposal.” She blew me off. Her proposal passed, everyone subsequently forgot about it, and I of course ignored it.

The day following the meeting, her supporting materials were back in her mailbox.

She didn’t know the first rule of politics.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Do Me a Favor?



The Guardian (UK) website has a weekly feature that allows readers to respond to relationship questions. Some recent examples:
My boyfriend won’t tell his kids about me.
Would it be fair to retire and let my wife carry on working?
My husband has been having an affair with his ex-wife for the past five years.
Here is last week’s topic in full:
My boyfriend and I are in our mid-20s. We’re in full-time employment and live separately. We each earn a modest amount, with him about a grade higher than me. We have very different views on money. I’m frugal, he’s somewhat frivolous. He often borrows money from me at the end of the month. I have obliged in the past and he returned it as soon as payday came around. I have recently moved out from my parents’ house and so my outgoings have increased a lot. I have savings, but these are strictly for a house deposit. I told him that moving out would mean that I wouldn’t be able to lend him money any more, but he asked again. I refused, and this escalated into an argument, with him accusing me of not helping when I can, and that doing this out of principle has hurt him. We can’t agree, and I’m not sure how to move forward.*
The reader responses were very thoughtful, often drawing upon personal past experiences:
“I once went out with a man with a similar attitude to money.”
       “I was married to someone who (eventually) didn’t seem to care how much he spent on drink  when I was working and keeping both of us.”
“I had an ex who was not as responsible with money as I was . . .”
The readers agreed that at the very least the writer should not back down from her stand about no more loans. 

Many readers went further and warned about the future, if the writer were to continue the relationship with someone the readers saw as having character issues. As one wise reader remarked:
Disagreements over money probably break up more relationships than infidelity. . . . You’re allowed to break up over matters of money. It can be miserable being in a relationship with someone who is careless over money and expects you to bail them out.
The response that most matched my own? “Tell him to get lost.”

*

Some years ago, when I was playing tennis regularly, two friends and I would purchase a season’s court time at a local indoor club for Thursdays from 7:30 to 9 PM. We were assigned court number 1. We would rotate play—2 weeks on and 1 week off. 

On the first Thursday of a new fall season, my friend (Frank or Vic) and I were approached by Brad, the club’s teaching pro, who had a favor to ask. He had invited some friends to the club to play doubles, but the only court available was court 7, which, owing to a lack of space, had been put down as a singles court without the doubles alleys. Would we trade our court number 1 for the singles court, so that Brad & co. could play doubles? We graciously obliged.

The following Thursday Vic or Frank and I were down on court 1 preparing to start play, when through the curtains there came Brad & co. all set for action. 

I put my hand up. Not this week.

*

I once had a colleague who volunteered to drive me home. “But you live in the complete opposite direction,” I told him. “It would be an inconvenience for you.”

“If it wasn’t an inconvenience,” he replied, “I wouldn’t be doing a favor.”

*

I don’t know if it should be labeled an adage, a maxim, or an aphorism, but one of my favorite dicta is:
Once is a favor. Twice is an obligation.
Never put someone to an inconvenience twice. And never allow yourself to be inconvenienced a second time—for there will be a third and a fourth time. Better for them to think you a stinker than to have your life controlled by leeches.

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Monday, July 29, 2019

Take the Money and Run



I may have done a bad thing last week. I visited the Frick Museum in Manhattan, where I saw Holbein’s famous portraits of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, several Vermeers, a few astonishing Rembrandts, and various El Grecos, Whistlers, and Turners, among others. What could be wrong about such a heady dose of art?

*

Last week also saw the resignation of Warren B. Sanders from the board of the Whitney Museum, also in Manhattan. The museum was pressured by the withdrawal of their works by artists in protest of Kanders’ role in a company that produces “munitions for police and military forces, including tear gas that has been used on migrants at the US border.”(1) That artist protest was only the latest by artists, actors, musicians, and others against taking money from companies and individuals responsible for pollution, sexual assault, discrimination, and other perceived evil practices. Earlier in July, for example, 
78 British artists . . . said they had called on the National Portrait Gallery in London to cut ties with BP, saying its “role in furthering the climate crisis” made accepting new sponsorship from the company unacceptable.(2)
And eleven days ago, it was reported that the Louvre Museum in Paris 
has removed the name of the Sackler family, owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, from the walls of one of its wings amid a growing scandal over its alleged connection with the US opioid crisis.(3)
*

So what was my problem with the Frick?

Here’s a brief bio of Henry Clay Frick from Wikipedia:
Henry Clay Frick (December 19, 1849 – December 2, 1919) was an American industrialist, financier, union-buster, and art patron. He founded the H. C. Frick & Company coke manufacturing company, was chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, and played a major role in the formation of the giant U.S. Steel manufacturing concern. . . . He later built the historic neoclassical Frick Mansion (now a landmark building in Manhattan), and upon his death donated his extensive collection of old master paintings and fine furniture to create the celebrated Frick Collection and art museum. However, as a founding member of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, he was also in large part responsible for the alterations to the South Fork Dam that caused its failure, leading to the catastrophic  Johnstown Flood. His vehement opposition to unions also caused violent conflict, most notably in the Homestead Strike.(4)
The whole Frick Museum enterprise was based on the money accrued by a capitalist exploiter. The money not only paid for the building but also for the acquisition of the masterworks of art that the building houses. 

Was I wrong to enjoy myself in such a milieu?


One of the paintings I admired at the Frick was by Anthony van Dyck, a favorite of the art-loving despot King of England Charles I, who “appointed him ‘principalle Paynter in ordinary of their Majesties’ and knighted him.”(5) And in turn, I was once again reminded of the dictum of Balzac:
Behind every great fortune lies a great crime. 
Great art has been sponsored throughout history by great wealth—the wealth of monarchs and the nobility, popes and prelates, land owners, merchants, and industrialists. 

Take the Medici family, for example:
They were more than beneficent and ostentatious patrons of the arts; they were also enlightened and were probably the most magnificent such patrons that the West has ever seen.(6)
But they were hardly enlightened and beneficent when it came to politics. They rose to power in Florence by undermining the republican tradition of that city. Although of bourgeois origin, in the 15th century they “set up a hereditary principate in Florence but without legal right or title, hence subject to sudden overthrow” and eventually in the 16th century “renounced republican notions and imposed its tyranny, and its members made themselves a dynasty of grand dukes of Tuscany.”

*

Back to the present day. 

In the present climate there is great pressure to reject the money of modern would-be Medicis as tainted. The Guardian (UK) reported early this year:
One of America’s most venerated institutions, the Smithsonian museum, which oversees the US National Portrait Gallery, has accepted donations from the US maker of Marlboro cigarettes as recently as 2017.(7)
Should one boycott the Smithsonian?

Tobacco money is tainted; how about pollution money? Should one boycott the New York City Ballet, which calls the David H. Koch Theater home? Named after one of the notorious polluting Kochs, who also give gillions of dollars of tainted money to efforts to undermine our republican form of government.(8)

*

There’s a wonderful Yiddish joke that goes like this:
My wife is a chemist. She makes dreck fon gelt.

Well, in disagreement with those who reject taking so-called tainted money, I say, “Take it. Take gelt fon dreck!” 

When you don’t take their money, what happens to it? They have more money to invest in their odious pursuits. Which makes the world an even worse place.

Take their money from them—as much as you can. And fill the world with art and music and poetry. 

I don’t think that’s a shitty idea.

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(8) To me one of the great telling signs of the falling to pieces of our democracy is the fact that the oligarchical Koch name replaced the original name of the building: The New York State Theater.










Friday, July 26, 2019

The Grim Reaper Party



BREAKING NEWS:

The Republican National Committee has voted to cease using GOP (Grand Old Party) as a designation for the Party. It has adopted, instead, the initials GRP for the Grim Reaper Party as more fitting for its actions during recent decades.

*

In June, 2012, a Supreme Court decision upheld most of the Affordable Care Act, but allowed governors to refuse an expansion of Medicaid in their states. No state with a Democratic governor refused the expansion. Many states with Republican governors did. Charles P. Pierce points out that because of 
the fanatical refusal of Republican politicians, specifically Republican governors, to associate themselves with anything that had anything to do with President Barack Obama . . . these governors violated one of the fundamental tenets of state government that date back to the dawn of human greed: they refused FREE MONEY!(1)
Here’s a map showing the latest state of play of Medicaid expansion:(2)


Pierce goes on to cite a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research:
Our analysis provides new evidence that Medicaid coverage reduces mortality rates among low-income adults. Our estimates suggest that approximately 15,600 deaths would have been averted had the ACA expansions been adopted nationwide as originally intended by the ACA. 
GRP!

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The New York Times reported this week that, embracing regulation of exhaust emissions, 
[f]our of the world’s largest automakers have struck a deal with California to reduce automobile emissions, siding with the state in its fight with President Trump over one of his most consequential regulatory rollbacks.(3)
This victory in the fight against air pollution and greenhouse warming is only a rearguard action, however, since Trump plans to plow ahead with his desire to “all but eliminate an Obama-era regulation designed to reduce vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming.” 

I have written before(4) about the dire health consequences of air pollution, so there is no need to go over the preventible deaths associated with it. Since there can be no argument here about the automobile industry fighting against regulation, that excuse for rolling back emission standards won’t fly. What we have left is (once again) a Trumpian determination to undo the work of the Obama administration without a moment’s concern about the health of our citizens and the state of the planet. So what if more people die—and the planet burns?

GRP!

*

Congressional opposition to U.S. support for the brutal Saudi/UAE war in Yemen has been growing in the past few years. It has underpinned the work of a network of peace, human rights, and humanitarian aid groups who are moved to end what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The war has killed thousands of civilians through air strikes and put millions at risk of famine. William D. Hartung(5)
Congress had passed resolutions that would have prevented “the sale of billions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”(6) But Trump, after shedding crocodile tears about “the conflict’s toll on innocent civilians,” vetoed the resolutions. The United States, Trump declared, is “working to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end.” 

Probably by facilitating the Saudi bombing of the Yemeni population out of existence.

GRP!
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And finally, to bring it all home again, there’s Attorney General William “I will lie about the Mueller Report” Barr deciding that it’s time the federal government recommenced killing people:
The federal government will resume executing death row inmates after nearly two decades without doing so, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.                                                                      Attorney General William Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of five inmates convicted of murder and other crimes. The executions have been scheduled for December 2019 and January 2020.(7)
Maybe Trump can get his pal Crazy Roy Moore to nail one of his Ten Commandment plaques to the wall of the Oval Office. You know, one of those plaques that reads, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Then Trump can be reminded to have have his administration adhere to the suspension of governmental killing. 

Oops, sorry. We all know that Trump never reads anything.

Let the killings begin!

GRP!

*

UPDATE:

Shortly after I posted this, the following showed up on Yahoo News:
Arizona is poised to resume executions after a five-year hiatus brought on by an execution that critics said was botched, a subsequent lawsuit challenging the way the state carries out the death penalty, and the difficulty of finding lethal injection drugs, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said.(8)
Needless to say, Brnovich is a Republican.

GRP!

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