The Casual Blog

Tag: Atlantic

Getting the Green New Deal

Sally’s newly revived orchid

This week Sally succeeded in coaxing an orchid back into blossoming, after several months of hibernation.  On Saturday I made a picture of it, and also took some shots of Sally’s expanding menagerie of house plants.  Outside it’s been gray and rainy, but at Casa Tiller things are green and growing. The New Yorker cover of earlier this month of a devoted indoor gardener (see below) suited Sally well, and she framed it for her desk.    

I’ve been reading a lot about the Green New Deal, and am hoping it has legs.  The foundational GND document, House Resolution 109, is not long or difficult. It starts with a clear-eyed acknowledgement of the massive environmental disaster now threatening all of us, and recognizes that it will take years of work on many fronts to combat that threat.  H. Res. 109 is primarily a call to arms, rather than a battle plan, and of course, much more planning is also needed. But it is encouraging to see at least a few political leaders putting the climate change issue front and center.  

The GND suggests a connection between our current environmental crisis and social problems of education, health, jobs, inequality, and natural resources.  It accepts that our predicament is part and parcel of our economic system, and fixing it will require systemic changes. The editorial board of the New York Times, as of today, prefers to view our rapidly degrading environment as unrelated to our economic myths and abuses.  

But the connection is getting attention. In the Times, Lisa Friedman and Trip Gabriel did a useful piece on some of the economic issues of the GND.  Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic has a good discussion of the GND and economic policy.  David Roberts, in Vox gives a useful historical overview and points up the GND’s intent to foster new social and economic relationships. Is any of this politically feasible within a viable time frame?  Maybe I’m an optimist, but I want to believe so.  

Last night we went to Durham for dinner and an extraordinary concert:  master cellist Steven Isserlis and master pianist Robert Levin in an all Beethoven program.   In Duke’s Baldwin auditorium, Isserlis and Levin played the first, third, and fifth of the five cello sonatas, along with the Op. 66 Magic Flute variations.  They presented this great music using a fortepiano, the type of instrument that Beethoven primarily used. The keyboard and cello blended wonderfully.  More than any cellist I’ve ever heard, Isserlis made me forget that the cello is very difficult to play. He seemed radiant with joy, and the music seemed to come directly from his heart.    

Losing things, and joining a protest

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Protest march in downtown Raleigh, February 11, 2017

It’s been almost 3 hours since I last lost something, which is a slightly sad thing to be pleased about.  Lately my little things — car keys, access cards, reading glasses, my tablet device, my phone — have gone missing more than usual.  I find them eventually, but the interval between losing and finding is tense and uncomfortable.  It could be early onset Alzheimer’s, but I suspect the cause is Trump.  With his non-stop boasting and lying, his cluelessness on every vital issue, his shameful targeting of minorities,  and his general shamelessness, he’s got me spinning and oscillating with amazement, laughter, and fear.  That could be what’s impairing my brain.  

It may be no coincidence that I’m seeing more references to losing things.  I’ve heard multiple citations recently to the famous Elizabeth Bishop poem One Art (“The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”), which is worth rereading.  And there’s a beautiful, lively, and touching piece by Kathryn Schultz in the current New Yorker entitled Losing Streak.   She writes of her personal losses of little things (wallets, bike locks), and big ones (her car, her father).  Schultz comes up with some fun facts: the average person misplaces up to 9 objects per day, and in a lifetime will spend 6 months looking for lost things.  She identifies some of the possible causes — your spouse, aliens, wormholes.  

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The only disappointment was  that she didn’t zero in on Trump.  But a new piece by David Frum in the Atlantic tends to confirm his potential for making us all losers, wondering what became of our democracy.  Frum points up a critical difference between previous varieties of fascism and Trumpism: Trump doesn’t need to stop holding elections, shut down the press, and murder political opponents to achieve his primary objective:  enriching himself.    Modern kleptocracies grow by fostering cynicism and apathy.  Corruption could become ordinary and expected here, as is already has in many countries.  A possible future is the end of the rule of law.

Frum ends on a hopeful note by encouraging us to all get in touch with our Congressmen and Senators and support good laws.  He seems to be of the view that resistance is not futile.  That’s where I am, too.  Even if it is futile, the alternative is worse.

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Apropos, on Saturday morning I went to a protest in downtown Raleigh– the HKonJ and Moral March organized by the NAACP with some 200 other groups.  Fayetteville Street was packed for several blocks with many thousands of people.

Being in big noisy crowds is not comfortable for me, but that said, it was a cheery noise, and a truly diverse crowd.  There were signs for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, gun control, reproductive rights, immigrant rights, living wages, health care rights, civil rights, and animal rights, among many others.  There were signs against The Wall, the immigration ban, HB2, voter suppression, Tweeting, and intolerance, among many others.  There are so many things that need resisting that it’s hard to stay determined and focused, but we’ve got to get started.  

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Izzie the cat, questionable executions, and ballet love

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Izzie the cat took her last trip to the vet this week. After almost 14 years together, we were sad. Our pets enrich our lives and make us better, more loving humans, even the ones with mercurial moods like Izzie. One minute, she would be seeking affection, angelically purring, and hissing like a little demon the next. Of course, we probably seemed strange to her.

From time to time I tried to get her to do some modeling for me and my camera, but she never cared much for that. I cannot say that any of my photos quite got her essence. White with black splotches and wings, she was a strange, pretty thing. It will be a slightly different world without her.

Deciding to put down a beloved pet is a hard decision. We considered for a while the evidence of Izzie’s diminishing capacities and increasing behavioral problems, and balanced as best we could the pros and the cons. In the end, we decided it was a good time for her death. But there remains a little nagging discomfort, along with sadness. To actively take on the choice of life or death is unsettling, which it should be.
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This week U.S. fighter planes reportedly blew up several dozen people in a Libyan terrorist training camp. The target was a single Tunisian individual I’d never heard of, Noureddine Chouchane, based on his participation in terrorist attacks in Tunisia. I found this disturbing. Assuming Noureddine Chouchane was a thoroughly evil person who committed heinous acts (we couldn’t possibly get that wrong, could we?), should we be the judges and executioners for all terrorist acts, no matter how far removed from the U.S.? And even if we can justify that, how to justify taking the lives of dozens of other people who, so far as we know, committed no crimes? Do we really think it’s OK to kill all potential terrorists (who are, after all, also potential future non-terrorists)?

The Times had a story this week headlined (in the print edition) “Scars Left by American Bombs Resist Fading, 25 Years Later.” The particular scar in issue was damage from our bombing of civilians in 1991 at the beginning of the Persian Gulf War. We dropped an especially powerful bunker busting bomb on a shelter in a middle class Baghdad neighborhood and killed 408 people, most of whom were burned alive.

I can see how ordinary Iraqis could find this a moral outrage. Wouldn’t anyone? Yet I had never heard of the incident before, and after digging through 25 years of Times coverage on Iraq, couldn’t find an earlier story about it. It makes you wonder whether there are some other military atrocities that even faithful Times readers have not heard about.
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The Atlantic has a good piece by Peter Beinart titled “Why Attacking ISIS Won’t Make America Safer.” Beinart notes that most Americans favor attacking ISIS, but argues that history shows that our military actions in the Middle East have resulted in inceased, not decreased, terrorist attacks. He calls it “the terror trap”: the more terrorists we kill, the more terrorists there are trying to kill us. Beinart doesn’t say this, but I will: the military solution will not work.

On a lighter note: Saturday night we went to the new Carolina Ballet show, Love Speaks. It was delightful! The theme of romantic love never gets old, and it’s right in the sweet spot of this wonderfully talented company. Lynn Taylor-Corbett’s new work has a narrator providing some poetry of Shakespeare, and a sort of Elizabethan look, but also kind of jazzy, with quickly developing flirtations, fascinations, and jealousies. I really liked it. I also particularly enjoyed Jan Burkhard and Richard Krusch in the balcony scene of Weiss’s Romeo and Juliet. It was profoundly romantic.
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