Jun 112020

Cy Twombly Achilles’ Shield 1978


Virtue signaling in the US of A has already reached new heights, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t reach even much higher as we happily signal along. In the process, we will find that applying logic to the undertaking will take us to unanticipated, and highly undesirable (for most protesters), places. But by then a lot of damage, whether we think that’s a good thing or not, will have been done.

HBO opened a Pandora’s Box all of its own when it pulled Gone With the Wind, despite that fact that Hattie McDaniel was the first black American Oscar nominee AND winner. Let’s erase that too. Along with ALL other films that depict slavery in the “wrong” light, or, better yet, that depict slavery at all.

Let’s ban all links to slavery, let’s pretend it never existed, because if we don’t we will find it’s impossible to decide between what we do and do not want to last. not all people have the same preferences or opinions, and neither do all black people.

And while we’re talking movies, and Columbus statues are toppled across the nation because Christopher (before there were any “Americans”) treated indigenous Americans poorly, do let’s ban all Hollywood westerns in which “Indians” are depicted as cannon fodder. No more John Wayne for you. Gone even the few non-westerns Wayne appeared in, because his name and face are forever linked to killing “Indians”. No more Duke.


And why stop there? Just to name an example, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, arguably a great book and a good movie, depicts a white man “being compassionate” to a black man oppressed by other white men. Can’t have that, the oppression is obviously racist and so is the good(!) white(!) man who’s the protagonist of the story, written by a white woman(!).

Let’s leaf through all American and other world literature of the past half millennium that describes slavery, including that which talks about “good white” men. There are no good white men!

Anything to do with native Americans must go. Because they were badly treated throughout the 500 years of history they share with white people (Europeans). They still are, just like African Americans. Same difference. Phillis Wheatley, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison? Don’t think so. They were all talking about slavery. And we’re toppling statues in order to stop that talk.

Frederick Douglass? You got to be kidding. His autobiography is called “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave“. Isn’t that enough to topple him? James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, they all remind us of a period we don’t want to be reminded of anymore. It’s enough! No more slavery!

Martin Luther King? Get serious, he talks about nothing but oppression. He even claims black people in his lifetime were still slaves. Muhammad Ali is obviously not welcome anymore, he spoke just about exclusively from the viewpoint of an oppressed man.


Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States of America. George Washington was a slaveholder, he’s obviously out. D.C. stands for District of Columbia, named after Columbus, so that needs a new name. The country gets its name from a Columbus contemporary and fellow explorer who was a slave holder and treated indigenous populations of the countries he “visited” no better than Columbus did. Wikipedia:

Amerigo Vespucci wrote his will in April 1511. He left most of his modest estate, including five household slaves, to his wife.

[..] After Hispaniola they made a brief slave raid in the Bahamas, capturing 232 natives and then returned to Spain.

There once was a time when Washington, D.C. was the capital of the United States of America. But those days must soon be gone. How can you hold on to a name for your capital city that belongs to a man who was a brazen slave holder? Or the district the capital is in? And how can you breathe in a country named after a despicable Italian slaveholder and slave trader?

The US constitution was largely written by slave holders. We’re going to need a new one.



There are 1747 “symbols of the Confederacy” in the US. I’m guessing Pelosi, once those 11 statues at the Capitol have been toppled, will start work on getting rid of the other 1736 too. And mind you, this doesn’t yet include Columbus, Vespucci, or anyone else who’s “mistreated”, enslaved, murdered, native Americans. We will easily have twice the 1747 number once we include those.

For that matter, if you’re Nancy Pelosi, how and why do you dress up in the “kente cloth” fabrics that originate with the Asanthi people that ruled in present-day Ghana from mid-1600s to mid-1900s, and were themselves … slaveholders and slave traders? Who sold god knows how many African slaves to European slave traders? How can you dress up in the garb of slave traders to protest the mistreatment of the grandchildren of slaves? Short circuit? Temporary?



For all the protesters other than Pelosi, who herself obviously joined in only for political reasons, here’s a question: Do you oppose slavery, or only slavery on US soil? Because, you know, the Romans had slaves, many African tribes had slaves, present day Chinese people did. Australia? Slave country if I ever saw one. The deeper you dig into history, the more you will find. I don’t want to bore you with an extensive list, because it would be too extensive.



Or maybe a second question, though it has mostly already been answered: Is this protest only about slavery, or about the oppression of people(s) in general? It’s already been answered in toppling the Columbus statues, since Christopher was not a slavetrader as far as we know, so, see above, we’re talking about both “indians” and “negroes”.

I use both derogatory terms on purpose, precisely because they paint the picture of what things used to be like. That they are no longer tolerated tells a story all by itself. And yes, much more is needed, but can that be achieved by toppling statues and banning books and movies? Is that how those two terms were banned?

We cannot escape our past and probably that’s the reason we shouldn’t try. What we need to do, what our role in the story is, is to not follow in the “footsteps of wrong”, and to do better. Do we have a better chance at doing better and escaping “wrong” if and when we ban all symbols of it, so we can no longer see it?

Or is our best chance to let all these things last so we can point at them to say: that is wrong!? If all the statues and books and movies are gone, how will our children know?

And I haven’t even mentioned the music yet, the unique melting pot of European melodies and African beats that gave the world blues and jazz and rock, all born from the plantation life that so many stories depict, and the music itself, growing under the statuesque eyes of the likes of Jefferson Davis or George Washington.

Maybe if you like your blues and jazz and rock and rap, you should call for the statues and books to remain standing, because without the narratives they bear witness to, there would be no blues, or anything that came after. Maybe you should celebrate your ancestors’ genius that gave America (or whatever you wind up calling it soon) its music, which, accidentally, has conquered all the countries of all the slavetraders of the past.

Maybe the music, the books, represent your ancestors’ victory over their oppressors, and maybe you risk tainting that hard-fought victory by trying to erase the memories of those they fought against to attain it.

And no, you can’t just pick the books and statues and music you would like and dump everything else. It doesn’t work that way. Your neighbor might have slightly different criteria and pick other favorites, and so on.

You can’t say we’ll hold on to Toni Morrison and throw out Harper Lee, you can’t dump Gone With the Wind but keep Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, because each of these are part of the exact same story.

It’s a package deal, called history. And you’re not going to get the best end of that deal by pretending history doesn’t exist.




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Oct 102016
 October 10, 2016  Posted by at 6:46 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »

Elliot Erwitt New York 1955

If the US presidential debate last night showed anything, it must be that just about everyone has dug themselves into their trenches and had no desire whatsoever to ever came out.

This seemed especially clear on the Hillary side, which appeared to include -to an extent- ‘moderators’ Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, judging from their interruptions. But, granted, they were the only biased side in the discussion, so we don’t really know what trenches the Republicans have dug.

The biggest problem with biased moderators is that people notice their bias. Not those who are on one side already, it passes them by. But others do. And perhaps more importantly, -in this case-, Hillary’s team loses its ability to adopt a neutral view. And she will therefore hear so much praise that she can’t figure out if she’s not done too well.

To illustrate that point: the main takeaway must be that Trump won the debate hands down, but that’s the opposite of what Hillary sympathizers concluded and what various polls said. It’s still true though, if only for one simple reason. That is, for 48 hours straight all talk and ‘reporting’ had been about Trumps lewd ‘words’ on the Access Hollywood tapes.

Trump really was cornered, and he knew it, everyone knew it. But after the second debate, and within 90 minutes, most of the talk turned towards how he ‘threatened’ to jail Hillary. Now, that’s not what he said, but even if he had, it’s something a lot more people sympathize with than with his language on the tapes. That’s a lot of territory ‘conquered’.

Meanwhile, even the likes of Paul Ryan don’t seem to grasp what happened overnight (he apparently think Hillary already won). What he doesn’t appear to see is, again, that Trump looked completely lost for 48 hours, but doesn’t look so lost now. There are 4 weeks and a day left in the campaign, and a lot can still happen.

Look, Trump is a buffoon. The word could have been invented specifically to define him. And it would be a very bad idea to make him president of the US. But that doesn’t mean the idea of making Hillary president is any better. It may well be worse, for a variety of reasons.

What the debate made clear once more is that America stands face to face with itself, it’s looking in a giant mirror, one which -only- in choice moments does not contort its own image, and America finds there’s nothing to like about what it sees in those brief moments in that mirror. And then therefore immediately proceeds to contort that image like it’s used to doing.

America may not like to look at its own stone cold hard reality, but it’s better than any culture ever in painting a picture of itself that it does like. In fact, it’s the first nation ever that made exactly that its main goal in life.

The Brits, the French and the Dutch try to hide their dark colonial and slave trading pasts, but America built an entire culture around contorting its history, right there in Hollywood, with ‘stars’ like John Wayne and John Ford being celebrated for movies that celebrate the annihilation and violent submission by the white man of both Native Americans and African slave populations.

In that same vein, the ‘heroic exploits’ of US soldiers in Muslim countries from Libya to Afghanistan in the past decades are now a major topic for the next generation of twisted history in movies and other media, in which invasions, drone killings and carpet bombings are portrayed as acts of bravery that warrant Purple Hearts. While the people whose lives and cultures are destroyed are swept under the first available carpet.


But that’s another story for another time. Back to last night’s debate. Trump may have won big, but he left some substantial scraps on the table that he may yet come to regret. Perhaps he was too focused on digging himself out of the ‘grab that pu**y’ hole -and yes, that is foul- to notice he was already out. Hard to say. He has the intuition, but does he have the brain?!

The first thing either The Donald or one of his team members must hammer down, urgently, is the way past stupid narrative of Russia’s involvement in US politics. Hillary repeatedly brought it up again, and it’s cheap fare for her, she can say anything she likes on the issue, no-one will contradict her or check any facts.

There were all these alleged fact-checkers ‘active’, but they dare not check the facts on this (there are none). Anything the Democratic Party wants to hide, it is free to hide behind Putin. No questions asked. That is insane at best, and Trump should have halted the narrative.

As should Cooper and Raddatz, and the army of fact checkers, but the fix was in. The low point must have been the allegation that Wikileaks is linked to Putin. Really? Come with facts, or forever hold your tongue. Too much cheap fare, hollow as can be, and Hillary build much of her story on it. Not good on the part of the Trump people.

I was reading an August 2 piece by Timothy O’Brien at Bloomberg the other day on Trump’s Russian connections, and Tim seems to start off with good hope of ‘inking the deal’, but ends up admitting there’s no there there.. The entire narrative of Trump’s Russian connections is as false as John Wayne’s heroism in slaughtering Native Americans. He should have cut that tale short in the debate, He didn’t.

Hillary gets to say, without any interruption or fact checking that “Russia has decided who it wants to be president, and it’s not me.” and that is way beyond any comprehension, really. There is zero proof of that, as there is of everything the US claims about Russia.

For all we know, Putin would much prefer Hillary to be president, because he sees Trump as a much stronger opponent when the chips are down. Hillary’s allegations are just a narrative she thinks will appeal to voters. She’s wrong. At least when it comes to those who wouldn’t have voted for her regardless of the narrative.


The second issue Trump desperately needs to put to bed is the one of his taxes. And mind you, I did say Trump should not ever be president of the US. That’s my perspective.

Hillary again last night painted a picture of Trump leaving US veterans out in the cold by not paying enough taxes. Trump retorted by saying Buffett (not Jimmy) and Soros do the same. But that’s a huge missed opportunity.

Paying taxes in America, and in any western nation, is not some voluntary exercise; there are laws, and they are some of the most stringent and most punishable there are. You cheat on your taxes, and the IRS or their equivalent in other countries have the power to go after you like no other government institution. Tax cheats very often go to jail.

That none of this has happened to Trump means, it’s that simple, that he did not break the law. He has used to the law to his advantage, just like everyone else who could, sure, But there’s not an inch of evidence, not even a hint, that he did anything illegal.

Hillary’s campaign is well aware of this, so the issue gets presented as some -pretty opaque- moral issue: ‘You didn’t do well by our veterans’. But what could he have done? Should Trump be the only American, or only western citizen, to tell the IRS to please take another extra $10 million or so, or $100 million, after they were done auditing him? So he wouldn’t be attacked 20 years on when running for office? It makes no sense in any sense.

And yes, the situation is very different if you’re on a payroll for some company, you can’t deduct what Trump could. But he’s not alone in that; in fact, all American entrepreneurs are in the same boat, and they will all try to swing that boat in the direction that fits them best. And Hillary loves these entrepreneurs as much as anyone when it suits her purposes. And her accountants do the same thing, they follow the same principle. Perhaps for lesser amounts, but that’s not the point.

Trump’s taxes are a non-issue, a brainless narrative. Not something for Hillary or anyone else to use as some innuendo-laden topic, anymore than Trump can use Hillary’s tax files against her in an ‘innuendo illegal’ way. Any judgment on that is up to the IRS, not either the Republican or Democratic campaigns. It’s ridiculous that Hillary can use that in a debate, and Trump and his people should have shut that venue down long ago.

But anyway, we have that 4 weeks and a day to go, and there’ll by much more to ‘enjoy’. Still, Trump came back last night from very very far away. No matter what CNN and other polls may say. Those polls are as biased as the night’s moderators.

It might be a good idea to realize that a year ago nobody ever gave Trump a shot at the gold medal, and his support never came from the people who conform with CNN (which nobody watches stateside anyway) or ABC.

We’ll talk again soon. Meanwhile, I’m with Susan Sarandon, who says bring it on, bring on Trump, because she despises Hillary, and because:

Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately; if he gets in then things will really explode.”

Sort of like what I wrote before, that if you must choose between two very bad options, might as well pick the worst and get it over with: