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Entering the Quiet Time as We Leaf the Light Behind

An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the Sun being vertically above a point on the Equator. The latitudes +L and -L north and south of the equator experience nights of equal length and the celestial equator has intersected the ecliptic in the axial precession.

This year’s autumnal equinox, when the light and dark are equal – but moving towards dark – arrives at 3:02pm Central Time on Friday, September 22.

But seasonal celebrations should not be bound by dates and times and such. In fact, it is a good idea to pre-celebrate Equinox so that you do not miss that last fleeting moment when light and dark have equal time. So …

Let the Fall Celebration Begin !!

August Wildflowers on the Mountain

 

 

Yellow and Pink Monkey Flower, Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National forest

 

Wild Flowers are usually aflame in mid August around the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, and so they were to the extent to which we could reach them. After a snowy winter and a near record snow pack, the snow had not yet melted from one of my favorite mountain trails.

British Breakfast and Euro-selections

The events in Charlottesville and POUTS’s piss-poor reaction to them have already been extensively covered, and it won’t surprise you to learn that European reactions to what POUTS said range between horrified and disgusted. I don’t propose to regale you with much of that since it’s already getting pretty monotonous and you’ve read it all before.

We will in fact begin in Norway, as I promised last week. Their general election is on Sept 10-11: “election day” is the 11th, but there’s early voting on the Sunday in a lot of places.

British Breakfast and Euro-comment

European covfefe of POUTS this week has been dominated by the North Korea situation. Articles generally fall into one of two categories: first, assessments which say that events demonstrate that orange shitgibbons aren’t well-suited to the job of being President and second, those which wonder what is going to happen given that an orange shitgibbon actually is President. As regime change in DC is unlikely to occur overnight simply because a political journalist from Denmark thinks that the wrong bloke is in the White House/at a golf club, it has to be said that the second type is rather more enlightening.

British Breakfast and punditry

 

There has been an awful lot of comment about POUTS this week, mostly to the effect that he is bonkers. I realize that this may not come as much of a surprise, and it’s a theme which has always been part of the scenery in articles about him, but we seem to have reached something of a tipping point in the tone of coverage of him. There is less and less discussion of what he says, his various utterances being used more as jumping-off points for analysis of his character, for want of a  better word.

AIDS Walk Austin – We Get To Carry Each Other

This is the 30th year of AIDS Walk Austin & I’ve done every damn one of them. I love the AIDS Walk & the Ride and the people who work at AIDS Services of Austin & the other agencies. They are an example of how we should be — caring for each other, carrying each other. If you haven’t met me, I’m just a teensy bit of a U2 fan, so yeah that was a reference to a song.

One love, one blood, one life, you got to do what you should.
One life with each other: sisters, brothers.
One life, but we’re not the same.
We get to carry each other, carry each other.
One, one.

“Give Thanks for the Blessings”

Happy Lammas!!

Hey, wait just a minute! Those are happy llamas … which is not the same thing at all!

Today is August 1st, the pagan holiday of Lammas or First Harvest. It is the first of three harvest celebrations on the Wheel of the Year. But because this is a pagan holiday that does not have a corresponding non-pagan holiday, it may be one that you have never heard of.  

British Breakfast and Euro-opinion

Trumpcare may have gone away for the moment, but whatever happens next is going to involve the Republican Party in some shape or form. That they can’t be trusted with Americans’ healthcare is unlikely to change just because of a close Senate vote, so I think these first two pieces published in mid-week are still relevant. Both give lengthy histories of how we got where we at least were on Thursday, some of which I bet you didn’t know.

British Breakfast and Euro-punditry

POUTS has been off on his travels again, yet again having to put conversations with foreign politicians ahead of golf. No wonder he’s upset.

First stop was Poland, where he made a belligerent speech in front of a bused-in audience of RWNJs. This prompted Máriam M-Bascuñán to reflect on POUTS’s advisers’ choice of reading matter:

What is relevant in Trump’s speech is his substantialist vision of the values ​​of the West, which he says he wants to defend with relish against potential external and internal enemies as Le Pen already did with his “choix de civilization”: the war of interpretations within The West is served. And it is symbolic that Trump wielded it in Poland, where the government favors an intolerant and fundamentalist populism. Pericles prayed to the fallen in the midst of the war, and Trump turned to the martyrs and heroes of Poland as an example and model of what the struggle for freedom, family, country and God means. His warning is clear, a warning to sailors. Too bad his advisers read so much Thucydides instead of the Kant of Perpetual Peace!

On to Moscow, and a meeting with a Russian bloke POUTS barely knows and has never colluded with, not nohow, nosirree Bob. Maria Georgieva comments in Svenska Dagbladet:

The meeting lasted for more than two hours, much longer than expected, which makes Russia look good.

The Kremlin hoped to inject some clarity in what direction the relationships will take. It is important for Russia that the presidents find a common ground to stand on.

On the whole , it became a good day for Putin, who looked like a real statesman. But despite the expectations of excitement, the challenges remain. Russia still wants Trump to lift the economic sanctions, halt support for Ukraine – something that has not happened so far.

It also seems that the outside world wants to work out which of the presidents is the savannah’s wild lion on the one hand, while on the other hand, conclude that there is a wide-ranging “bromance” between them. Next to each other they looked like two elephants pushing and trying to drink from the same waterhole….

Regardless of what’s going on in the future, the Kremlin wants Putin to appear as the winner of the meeting, to ensure momentum against other world leaders. Therefore, President Putin’s facial expressions will continue to carry on passive expectations.

Then it was the G20. Let’s start with Andrés Rojo:

The G19 distanced themselves yesterday from the White House tenant by including in the final declaration of the Hamburg Summit a point declaring the climate change agreement in Paris “irreversible” and calling for “proceeding swiftly” to its implementation despite opposition from the United States. The delegation headed by Donald Trump included a note stating that the US “would work with third countries to use fossil fuels more effectively and cleanly”, a phrase that was supplemented, on the initiative of the France of Macron, with the addendum ‘and other renewable and clean energy sources’. Finally, the United States was not able to add to its proposal the support of Saudi Arabia or Indonesia (large oil producers) and the Americans were left alone, certifying a paradigm shift in the G20 summits, traditionally led and directed by the tenant of the White House on duty.

The other of the great points where a priori disparity of approaches existed between the US delegation and the rest of the G20 members was the chapter on free trade, which Trump had set afire with its serious charges against German business practices in the steel market against which it intends to raise tariff barriers. Finally, as in Hamburg, a compromise was reached: the final declaration enshrined the principles of global free trade but, at the same time, it recognized the right of states to play Trade defense. This last expression was universally understood to be a concession torn away by the delegation headed by the millionaire New Yorker. In any case, the text approved and signed by the US, China and the European Union proclaims the need for free and fair international trade with open markets and condemns discriminatory protectionism through tariffs or regulations.

Much comment is of a similar nature. The world is adjusting to the USA being out of step. Make America Irrelevant Again was probably not the original idea, but it seems to be working.

There were some pretty violent protests, which led to a lot of Germans asking whether it was worth holding G20s, especially in Germany. Christian Stöcker doesn’t think so:

1. A city like Hamburg is unsuitable as a venue.

Even before the first stone flew and the first car was burning, the summit had begun to paralyze Hamburg. There were hours of traffic jams, the city center was locked up, police cars on every corner and helicopters across the city produced a sense of siege. From the dissolution of the “Welcome to Hell” demonstration on Thursday evening, black-dressed hooligans began to hit the streets in various places in the city, lighting barricades and cars and generally spreading chaos.

If threr must be a G20 summit, then in the future please in the desert, on an island or an aircraft carrier.

2. The “black block” has nothing to do with politics.

The people who came from Europe to riot in Hamburg describe themselves as politically radical, as anti-fascists, anti-capitalists or anarchists. In truth, the past three days have once again shown, they are simply hooligans as soon as they put on the black gear. To light small cars and smash the windows of mom and pop stores with a hammer is not a political statement. And just because you have yelled a few times “Anti-Anti-Anticapitalista!” does not make a political symbol of the plundering of an electronic store. Writing  “Death to the police”  on walls and throwing stones at policemen is not an act of resistance in a democratic state.

4. These peaks bring nothing

The Chancellor’s summit conference was, to put it cautiously, no revelation. The US is still not involved in climate protection, one wants to take care of Africa somehow, all find free trade jolly good. Saying this as clearly as that could have been accomplished much more quickly if the ladies and gentlemen had held a teleconference.

Petra Pinzler disagrees:

Heads of government must be able to talk to each other, for example about climate protection . Moreover, in the months leading up to their meeting, they need to know which topics of international politics interest citizens. Talk about it, argue, write about it. All this would not happen if there were not such conferences. Without the G20 in Hamburg, not many thousands of citizens would have discussed world politics, if scientists had not made any reform proposals for global co-operation, and foundations had not invented new joint projects.

At the G20 in Hamburg, all of this led to the climate being on the agenda. In the end, nothing revolutionary was decided, but the G20 has passed the Trump test and put it at 19: 1 to take the resolutions of Paris seriously and to work on further joint strategies. It does not save the climate any better. Would we could get much more. For example, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Erdoğan, did not want to go on afterwards and wanted more money.

But the world does not consist mainly of friendly, environmentally friendly, democratic governments, with whom one likes to pass polite time by the Alster. That is why small steps in the right direction are already a success. It has been given on the G20 summit, with a few other topics as well. That’s why it was right to go to Hamburg.

Some people were surprised that POUTS didn’t attend some meetings, sending along his daughter instead, which is at least unusual. Matthew Norman discusses it:

In Hamburg, birthplace of his favourite food item, Donald Trump had warm words for his favourite female politician. Oddly, it wasn’t Angela Merkel, his hostess, or our own Lame Duck Boudica, Theresa May.

“I’m very proud of my daughter Ivanka,” declared 45th US President at the G20 summit, “always have been from day one… If she weren’t my daughter, it’d be so much easier for her. It might be the only bad thing she has going, if you want to know the truth.”

Of course we want to know the truth. We always do, though whether Trump is the go-to guy for that is a matter of opinion. George Washington had a stronger reputation in the field (Trump would have framed the cherry tree for suicide), and he was phobic about nepotism.

With America joining Britain in the death-spiral to isolationism, the free world begins to look for leadership to the unfree world, in the unlovely shape of China. However gruesome the paradox, geopolitics abhors a power vacuum, and unless and until the EU becomes a federal superstate, China will be the only candidate to replace the US not just as the world’s largest economy but leading power.

In the meantime, look forward to more nepotistic merriment, with Ivanka winning the $600m contract to supply US Army uniforms, Donald Jnr replacing Ulysses S Grant on the $50 bill, Eric made US Masters champion by executive order after shooting 197 and 212 in the first two rounds at Augusta, and 11-year-old Barron and his two favourite teddies given permanent situation room chairs in place of the National Security Adviser and a couple of four-star generals.

Only that nebbish Tiffany will continue to be overlooked, according to top DC sources. Far from being very proud of her from day one, the President wouldn’t date her even if she wasn’t his daughter.

Although golf was off the agenda, there was plenty of opportunity for POUTS’s other favorite sport, competitive handshaking. Marco Venturini analyses his matches at the G20 (This takes you to the original, where the actual videos being given the expert treatment will play.)

During the G20 there is always some attention on the handshakes , which are often used as a diplomatic message . Sometimes they are avoided, sometimes they are asked, they usually give themselves, formally.

The handshake communicates a lot, in a non-verbal way . In the case of the leaders reveals the relationship they have with each other and what they want to make outside . In many cases, a quick gesture of handshake tells us whether a leader feels submissive or wants to dominate the other.

This time, Trump preferred to avoid embarrassment and immediately stated, not verbally (with a gesture instead of words), his intention to shake hands at the German Chancellor.

We can see from it that Trump gives and opens his hand long before he gets to the point of contact with Merkel. Trump makes several steps with his hand pulled to the German leader .

This formality of handshake with an enemy, however, embarrasses Trump. His gesture was due but not heard . So to relieve tension and prove it has not changed, it breaks the pattern by giving them taps on the right arm as it goes.

The fear of distortion in the eyes of the world with that handshake makes him perform another unpopular gesture in typical Trump style: just before leaving the center of the scene, the provocative president shakes the fist closed in a gesture of exultation towards the photographers. As if he wanted to induce the cheer for him. An obvious discharge of tension at a time of embarrassment.

He went on from the G20 for another bout of handshaking with the current world champion, Emmanuel Macron. Most observers reckon that Macron won the epic 25-second tussle. POUTS was there as the guest of honor at France’s national day celebrations, in which the French naturally pay more attention to what their own President does. This was Macron’s first 14 July, just as ten days earlier had been POUTS’s first Fourth.

So it’s worth having a look at reviews of The Macron Show (with special guest). First, Vadim Kamenka:

Since the beginning of his mandate, the Head of State intends to embody a new foreign and European policy: his own. It is a break with his predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande. Is it to reconnect with a gaullo-mitterrandian line? For Christian Lequesne, researcher at the International Research Center (Ceri), there is little doubt: “Emmanuel Macron takes the standards. There is a form of rupture with the previous two quinquenniums, which largely based their diplomacy on the question of respect for the great principles and democratic values. There seems to be a tendency in the French president to diplomatically pursue interests. It can be characterized as a kind of pragmatism “according to which” France must be able to discuss with everybody “.

The new head of state would be ready on Syria for military reprisals against the regime in the event of chemical attacks.
France would not hesitate to act alone in order to “respect its red line”, he affirmed, like Donald Trump who ordered a military strike against the Syrian army on April 4th. Macron did not break with Atlanticism at all. And the president goes so far as to invite Donald Trump for the celebrations of July 14, in Paris. A highly symbolic gesture, which the Élysée explains by a determination not to break the dialogue after an “opposition” on COP21.
It remains that Emmanuel Macron break with neoconservatism and interventionism seems overplayed.
The official goal is to celebrate “the 100 years of the United States’ entry into the war with French troops during the First World War”. Unofficially, the Elysee wants to bring the United States back into the process of fighting global warming and work together on conflicts in the Middle East, notably on the Syrian issue and the fight against terrorism.
Emmanuel Macron seems to want to draw inspiration from all the diplomatic lines. A method that could work for a while, but that “could become complicated if the aura surrounding it were to become fragile. For now, his success in the presidential election still serves him, but if his reforms in France become problematic, then he could lose credibility with other leaders, warns Christian Lequesne.

In Le Monde, Marc Semo again underlines that Macron is very much aware of being the new kid on the block and keen to make a strong impression on the world stage:

Mr. Macron loves history and its symbols. He had already shown it by inviting Vladimir Putin to Versailles for the inauguration of an exhibition celebrating the 300th anniversary of the visit of Tsar Peter the Great. The centenary of the United States’ entry into the war in 1917, the start of their involvement in European politics in the name of a certain idea of ​​democracy, is even more important.

“He treats de facto Donald Trump even better than Vladimir Putin, stressing the importance of the alliance with Washington,” analyzes Bruno Tertrais of the Foundation for Strategic Research. Mr. Tertrais noted that the French president “invites above all the President of the United States, even beyond Donald Trump.”

It’s a bet for Mr. Macron. “He is buying Trump down, relying on the fact that the United States remains in any case unavoidable whatever the errors of their president,” notes a fine observer of the diplomatic scene. The unpredictability of the US president, his refusal to engage in the fight against global warming as his protectionist tendency in the name of “America first” complicate his relations with many international leaders, beginning with Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor has often had very harsh words against him.

Macron, for his part, took the lead in a diplomatic counter-offensive to recall the irreversibility of the Paris agreement. But both at the G7, where he still evoked his hope to convince Mr. Trump, that at the G20, the Head of State has multiplied the gestures of kindness towards him. “Personal alchemy works well between the two men,” said a White House official.

“I never despair of convincing, it is a trait of character,” explained Mr. Macron in Hamburg. With his diplomacy of “at the same time”, the French president has willingly posed, since his entry on the international scene, as a mediator taking advantage of the tensions of the last months between Moscow, Washington and Berlin. He is the political leader capable of snapping the wind at Angela Merkel, of talking in firmness with the strong man of the Kremlin and of keeping the ear of the real estate tycoon who runs the United States. The latter, ever more discredited, has everything to gain by displaying a French president with excellent image, including in the United States, whom he salutes as a “trailblazer” (pioneer).

I’ll finish this week’s miscellany with a piece by Slavoj Zizek entitled “Christian conservatives don’t support Donald Trump despite his vulgarity – they support him because of it”. Which is at least an intriguing title:

How to account for the strange fact that Donald Trump, a lewd and morally destitute person, the very opposite of Christian decency, can function as the chosen hero of the Christian conservatives? The explanation one usually hears is that, while Christian conservatives are well aware of the problematic character of Trump’s personality, they have chosen to ignore this side of things since what really matters to them is Trump’s agenda, especially his anti-abortion stance.

If he succeeds in naming conservative new members of the Supreme Court, which will then overturn Roe v Wade, then this act will obliterate all his sins, it seems. But are things as simple as that? What if the very duality of Trump’s personality – his high moral stance accompanied by personal lewdness and vulgarities – is what makes him attractive to Christian conservatives? What if they secretly identify with this very duality?

Exactly the same goes for Poland’s current de facto ruler Jaroslaw Kaczynski who, in a 1997 interview for Gazeta Wyborcza, inelegantly exclaimed: “It’s our f***ing turn” (“Teraz kurwa my”). This phrase (which then became a classic locus in Polish politics) can be vaguely translated as: “It’s our f***ing time, now we are in power, it’s our term”, but its literal meaning is more vulgar, something like: “Now it’s our time to f**k the whore” (after waiting in line in a brothel).

It’s important that this phrase was publicly uttered by a devout Catholic conservative, a protector of Christian morality: it’s the hidden obverse which effectively sustains Catholic “moral” politics.

The important lesson here is that this coming open of the obscene background of our ideological space (to put it somewhat simply: the fact that we can now more and more openly make racist, sexist and generally xenophobic statements which, until recently, belonged to private spaces) in no way means that the time of mystification is over, now that ideology openly displays its cards.

On the contrary, when obscenity penetrates the public scene, ideological mystification is at its strongest: the true political, economic and ideological stakes are more invisible than ever. Public obscenity is always sustained by a concealed moralism, its practitioners secretly believe they are fighting for a cause, and it is at this level that they should be attacked. To paraphrase the old Marx brothers joke, apropos Trump or Kaczynski: you look and act like a vulgar clown, but this should not deceive us – you really are a vulgar clown.

It goes on to theorize that Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal is because he’s so ordinary — he seems like a man of the people because he doesn’t really stand out from the crowd. I think Zizek is on to something, but my view is slightly different: Corbyn is a very nice man. He’s not given to firebrand rhetoric and while as a lefty he can’t entirely avoiding speaking in slogans, he doesn’t talk down to people. Some people can work themselves into quite a lather hating what he stands for, but it would be very difficult to hate him personally. You wouldn’t want to go and have a beer with him, but you’d probably be able to have a pleasant conversation while you sipped your coffee and he his tea in a local cafe.

The thing is, you’ve got to be who you are. Mother Theresa, stung by the criticisms that she’d been robotic about the Grenfell Tower fire, has been telling stories about shedding a tear when she saw the exit polls on polling night, presumably as part of an attempt to prove that she was born rather than assembled. I have to say that it’s not working. Like POUTS, she’s way out of her depth.

Survive Sunday.