Item: Elite Amherst College in a town by that name in Massachusetts has decided to drop its heretofore mascot, "Lord Jeffery," named after a colonial era soldier, Lord Jeffery Amherst (the college is named after the town, not the man). The charming Lord Jeff supposedly greeted Native Americans with smallpox infested blankets, among such other attributions of genocide, and, in the early twenty-first century, this mascot, evidently adopted in the early twentieth century, is seen as "divisive." American campuses are now at the forefront of free speech controversies these days, and quite frankly, I'm perfectly o.k. with saying that something as, well, banal as a school mascot is something that should be periodically reexamined in light of modern sensibilities (certainly, schools like NYC's own St. Johns U. dropped its mascot "the Redmen" in favor of "the Red Storm" some years ago on this basis). So... if "Redmen" (or "Washington Redskins") gives legitimate grievance to legitimately oppressed First Peoples, why wouldn't someone who, if history is to be believed, Murdered them? So... conditional "good on ya'", merry old Amherst.
Over to Iowa, where Donald "The Donald" Trump promises to sit out a Fox News sponsored debate (presumably because Megyn Kelly is hosting)... maybe he will... and maybe he won't. Can't criticize the man's tactics so far... he can't seem to do anything wrong if he tried... and Lord knows he's tried.
And on to Oregon, where (apparently) one man is dead and a number of "militia members" (including "leaders") are in custody in the standoff over a federal wildlife preserve. Others remain holed up, so the standoff over White men's ability to private exploit federal lands previously stolen from Native Peoples can go on unabated... will apparently continue, at least for the moment.
Overall, things are... who knows? When the biggest company in the history of the universe announces the biggest quarterly profit ever... and it might be greeted as not particularly good news? Don't know... some cognitive dissonance out there... The Donald is tapping into a strange zeitgeist... Oh... I just... don't... know...
The woman who singlehandedly gave us a Black President (with a middle name Hussein) stands poised to give us an outer-borough New Yorker as our next President... Donald Trump from Queens is polling well against her, for example. (His tacit praise of Kim Jong Un notwithstanding.) And Bernie Sanders from Brooklyn is a mortal lock to win the New Hampshire primary (as is Mr. Trump.)
Aside from the horse-race thing, one could go all big picture, stop a moment, and realize that Hillary [I have to tread carefully, as she and I share a birthday] has had a series of positions that were "fuck-up proof"... first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, legacy celebrity senator from New York, and Secretary of State... and yet, she managed to, well... fuck each of them up, be it with her respective roles in Whitewater (and that cattle futures thing), as First Lady of the United States with, well, the original health care debacle. Vince Foster and the White House travel office scandal, as senator, with that all-important Iraq war vote (thanks again, Hillary), and finally-- as Secretary of State-- a job that entails stepping down the steps of an airplane and having your picture taken, she managed to give us Benghazi, the e-mail fiasco, and of course, she was in charge of the genius neocon underlings who gave us the coup in Ukraine. Say what you will about her, after No Drama Obama, we are sure to have... Drama.
Meanwhile, upstart candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders polls far better against Trump than she does.
In short, Fuck. This Shit.
Some interesting developments (of the "may you live in interesting times") variety coming out of the always interesting Middle East, as Saudi "We'll Execute Anyone We Damned Well Want" Arabia has unsurprisingly cut off diplomatic relations with Iran. It seems that Shiites everywhere (and especially in Iran) were none too pleased when prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr (and 46 others) were executed on Saturday after being convicted of terror-related offenses. Iranian protesters stormed and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran... that sort of thing always goes well.
And so, in a region that already includes Syria, where all of the nuclear-armed U.N. permanent members of the Security Council (plus or minus China, Ben Carson) are engaged to some extent, with nuclear armed Israel right next door, two of the world's largest oil exporters (and possibly state sponsors of terrorism) as well as regional provocateurs in places such as Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon, as well as religious rivals, are now having an open urinating contest with each other. Yes, this can only go well.
Meanwhile, today's cause celebre in the domestic blogosphere is the apparent takeover of a building on a federal wildlife refuge in remote Eastern Oregon, coherently explained here at Rolling Stone.
Some would complain that [White, male] right-wing protesters, such as these dudes, or similar activists in Nevada recently, are treated more leniently than (arguably) left-leaning protesters, like Occupy! for example, They might also note that while American police routinely gun down people of color, in cases such as the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack, extraordinary effort seems to be undertaken to retrieve the [White] perpetrator alive. Well... your point is? Oh... Texas has "open carry" now. That will go well. Anyway, the fire-starting ranchers in Oregon whose stepped up federal sentence (supposedly) caused (or at least inspired) this will likely surrender to authorities tomorrow, and we'll see what happens then.
ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State purportedly released a video showing the execution of five purported British spies, supposedly a propaganda effort in the face of military set-backs suffered by the group (at the hands of... the Russians?) Meanwhile, fellow New Yorker Donald J. Trump has offered his explanation of the provenance of ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State: it was created, of course, by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, says Mr. Trump. For his part, concerning the apparently self-fulfilling prophesy by Mrs. Clinton that Mr. Trump's inflammatory statements might make their way into an ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State video [it was actually a video by Al-Shabab, the purported Somali affiliate of al Qaeda], Trump's response was "what am I going to do?" Specifically...
"They use other people," he told CBS' Face the Nation in an interview aired today. "What am I going to do? I have to say what I have to say. And you know what I have to say, there's a problem."
And so... 2016 is off and running. In eight days time, I expect I'll be down in D.C. yelling at the White House as I don't think the detention of around 107 men still held at Guantanamo Bay will end before the 14th anniversary of the opening of the maximum security military prison there (January 11th at noon at the park across from the White House for those of you who want to join in the righteous indignation).
While I don't know if the freak storms that have brought horrific flooding and tornadoes to parts of this country (and brought the North Pole to over 50 degrees above normal) have anything to do with it, the first hard frost of this winter here in Brooklyn will be tonight; I managed to retrieve vegetables (well, deeply buried sweet potatoes and some dried beans) from my roof-top vegetable micro-garden as late as yesterday; still didn't manage to mulch everything... well, I'm sure everything will go well. We'll see what all this brings... but I'm sure the weather, and the climate, will all... continue to go well.
Well, maybe this year will bring a greater degree of enlightenment to a greater number of people, and perhaps, some suffering might be alleviated somewhere along the way. Little kindnesses on your part, regardless of concern for any recompense, or even concern that they will have any macro effect at all, are the best advice I can give. A lumine. A lumine.
Happy new year, boys and girls.