What I’m Reading this Week: 15 September 2016

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So in my haste to return to blogging, I consumed a lot of press this week. Some of it is older, but still important.

Vincennes, France holds a festival about American culture and literature, and has been since 2008. This year’s was held from the 8-11 of September. The festival chatted with 15 authors and Libération posted excerpts from their chat, which centered around the authors’ ideas and impressions of their personal vision of America. Fascinating stuff. Des écrivains racont leur Amérique [Authors talk about their America] — the original article is in French.

Going on at the same time, in Paris, was la fête de l’Humanité [The Humanity Festival], which is the French Communist Party’s annual festival. It still happens, though the party is apparently unpopular. This isn’t an article; it’s a video with a small report attached, but it’s interesting. France : la fête de l’Humanité, entre évènement populaire et vitrine politique [The Humanity Festival: popular event and political display– report and article in French].

Think Progress reports on several scientific studies about the mental health of Black people in the United States, especially battling the daily micro-aggressions and constant onslaught of race-based discrimination. It’s a glancing read, but each study is probably worth a look. Being Black in America is a heavy burden, one that many people are either blind to or deny.

Swinging back out to Europe, Arstechnica reports on Denmark’s move to pay for the leaked documents, in a bid to research Danish tax evasion (‘Panama Papers: Denmark to pay $1.3M-plus for leaked data to probe tax evasion‘). I usually read Arstechnica for technical news, but when tech and government mix, it can only be a good or bad thing. I appreciate Denmark’s willingness to investigate tax dodgers, instead of letting them run for high office.

Speaking of running for high office, two articles about the American presidential campaign, obviously. The Economist discusses the similarities and differences between the war-hawk policies of Clinton and Trump. American foreign policy is unattractive and scary thing to me, but there you go.

And finally, the Washington Post‘s 18 August report about Trump’s not-so-charitable giving is incredibly detailed and incredibly disheartening. I’m so bewildered by Trump’s continued existence. I’m very glad there’s only eight weeks until the election, but I have no idea what’s going to happen then. Nobody does, it feels like.

That’s all from me this week! Until next time. – SDM

photo by David Mark.

#atozchallenge: And the Nominees Are…

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I am writing this blind. The New York primary is Tuesday. New York is one of those states that has been reduced to one place: Manhattan. And Manhattan, like all large, cosmopolitan capitals, is a cosmos to its own. It has its own system, and its own politics, quite removed from the rural upstate.

We have two sons of New York, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, a transplanted New Yorker in Hilary Clinton, and two people who have nothing to do with the state.

New York finds itself in an unenviable position of being important to both parties. I find it hard to believe that we have still come so far and have no idea who our nominees will be. What is happening in America? I understand the anger and frustration on both sides (though I can’t pretend to be sympathetic to the Republican side), but are Americans really so entrenched and embittered?

America lives in its own bubble with regards to politics. Many of my students don’t really know much more than what their parents have told them, but I see glimmers of wanting to know a little bit more about the world around them, and that is the most important thing.

I am not sure which nominee I would be more scared of having, but I am sure that whomever wins in New York will move forward thinking they have the upper hand. I am afraid we shan’t get that until much, much later.

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Sergey Klimkin

What I’m reading this week: 11 March 2016

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I apologise for not updating my weekly reads in a week. Last week was horribly hectic and busy; this week hasn’t been much better, but I have a small collection of reads from the past fortnight.

First up, a little bit of good news from France, in honour of International Womens’ (Workers) Day. François Hollande, president of France, was profiled in the latest issue of Elle France, discussing various ‘feminist’ issues. Le Monde‘s Catherine Mallaval and Virginie Ballet summarise the article and discuss the history of French presidents and their attempts at connecting with women. France in general, in my view, still has an issue with equality amongst the sexes, but Hollande calling himself a feminist is probably better than anything we’ll get out of our male American leaders. [Article is in French.]

It’s not all good news in la belle France, though. Le Monde reports on findings from the European Council on issues of racism there, especially in the rise of harassment towards Muslims and Jews, along with general xenophobia. The council especially notes that France’s concept of la laïcité is taken to extremes very often, by banning outward expressions of religion that are deemed ‘ostentatious’. France is the very definititon of a ‘problematic fave’ as my students would say. [Article is in French.]

Coming back to America, then. The election continues apace, and now we are in an interesting place: the Republicans don’t want their winner to continue to win, and the Democrats are pushing further and further to the left. Danielle Kurtzleben writes about Tuesday’s (9 March) primaries, and what there is to learn.

Veit Medick, the Washington correspondent for Der Spiegel, writes about Donald Trump’s rise and the worry it is bringing people in the Republican party and in intellectual circles in his article Donald Trump und der Super Tuesday: Angst um Amerika. You can see my thoughts on his Super Tuesday win, and Super Tuesday in general, right here.

And finally, Emma Lindsay explains parts of the complicated history of racism tinged with classism and why it’s helping Donald Trump at the Medium. Being white and being poor, she explains, is probably still better than being black and being poor, because:

To summarize, no one wants to occupy the “last” place in society. No one wants to be the most despised. As long as racism remains intact, poor white people are guaranteed not to be “the worst.” If racism is ever truly dismantled, then poor white people will occupy the lowest rung of society, and the shame of occupying this position is very painful. This shame is so painful, that the people at risk of feeling it will vote on it above all other issues.

Whilst this is not a new argument, Lindsay’s essay is well-timed and well-written and a good look at the mindset of poor, white America.

Until next time. – SDM

Photo by Javier Rodriguez

On the South Carolina Primary

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I lived in South Carolina for two years. The Democratic party there is small but important. It was nearly non-existent in the city I lived in, but going to other places really surprised me with the amount of Democrats. Some were Yellow Dog Democrats, tried and true, and some were wildly progressive. South Carolina is a very religious, very conservative place, along with me very racist and quite misogynist. I drove daily on a road named for a Civil War general, and drove past Confederate memorials on that same road. It wore at me. I don’t miss the experience.

Hillary Clinton winning here is not much of a surprise. Democrats there are “conservative” in that they are not always progressive nor are they crazy liberal. So Clinton as a pragmatic Democrat was going to be popular in South Carolina. Most all Democrats would be considered Moderate or even right-wing outside of this weird fishbowl called America, and Clinton would be well at home among the blue Tories in the UK or even the Républicans in France. She is without a doubt the status quo. I wouldn’t call Bernie Sanders the equivalent to Jeremy Corbyn or Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, though. The United States has always been a fairly conservative place, even during the age of FDR, our most “liberal” president.

Clinton may well be on her way to becoming the Democratic nominee for the 2016 election. What this will mean for the Senate and House elections, that is a question. I have voted in advance of Super Tuesday, so I get to sit by the side and just watch.

The South may be Republican for the foreseeable future, but what might happen when we have whittled down our nominations to two? – SDM

Photo by Leslie Andrachuk

On Nevada and South Carolina

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I am not sure what I was expecting, honestly. Clinton, though she won and has a load of super delegates (people who are worth more than other delegates I suppose), she still isn’t smashing her direct competition into the ground. I am still undecided, though I did vote in advance. I feel that unless Clinton takes over half of the states on Super Tuesday, she will still have to fight.

Nevada is one of those ‘diverse’ states the news has been talking about; Clinton is supposed to be strong with minorities. Once more, the voting bloc of which I am a part is being told twice over that we must vote for Clinton: as a woman, I’m told I’m ‘going to hell’if I don’t support her, and as a black person I am told that she will be ‘best’ for us. I am tired of being told what to do, as a woman and a person of colour. It feels as if I am being treated as a toddler, and it is a bit patronising.

And in South Carolina, Donald Trump takes the lead over Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio by a full ten points. Having lived in South Carolina for two years, I am actually not surprised by this turn of events. South Carolina is a Conservative, fairly xenophobic state (with one exception, James Clyburn) and Trump is talking directly to those people who would rather have stayed pre-Civil Rights Act. But I am heartened by the fact that there is a strong progressive presence. It will take a very long time to destroy the shackles of Jim Crow, antebellum thinking, but perhaps we can get there.

I say this from Georgia, where I currently live. We have similar issues of xenophobia, of strong religious thinking, but where South Carolina has one Black Congressperson, Georgia has four, and our state has large centres of Democratic voting blocs: Atlanta, the capital; Augusta (Richmond County), the second largest city; Athens-Clarke County, the home of the University of Georgia; Macon, a largely Black city and, newly, Savannah. All of these places have enormous populations, but just not enough people vote to make a switch.

People are still guffawing, still disbelieving that a person like Trump could go on and win the nomination. The win in South Carolina is the first one that worries me, because it is the first indication of how the South may go for the Republicans.

The game continues on apace. – SDM

Photo by skeeze

On the New Hampshire Primary

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So, the people have spoken in the first primary of the nation. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, they have chosen two extremes. On the right, an unabashedly racist and proto-fascist blowhard. And on the left, America’s idea of what those crazy Europeans must be like, with their healthcare and their affordable universities.

I feel as though the reason Americans are so burnt out by the time November rolls around is because we begin this rigmarole two years before the actual voting and they honestly don’t care any more. I live for this sort of stuff, but it is punishing and can be repetitive.

Carly Fiorina has dropped out, and Chris Christie looks like he may do. This is when the winnowing begins! We still have way too many on the Republican side, but the game is still continuing apace.

There is obviously some debate, or some thought, that Bernie Sanders will do worse now that he is out of his ‘territory’ and onto more states that have a broader diversity of voters (more voters of colour, more women, etc). I feel like we are discussing people as if they are not autonomous, but huge swathes of demographic regions.

For my part, I will continue on with the watching. There are many things I hope for the United States as we continue forward.

It continues on. – SDM

Photo by Mark Buckawicki

On the Iowa Caucus

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I would be remiss if I didn’t at least discuss some numbers and make some sort of commentary on yesterday’s caucus, but to be frank, the results were not too surprising.

Ted Cruz winning on the Republican side is not testament to his ground game or his policies being more popular than anyone in his party. It is purely because he is a preacher’s son and Iowa’s Republicans are mostly evangelical Christians who are socially conservative. (Huckabee, the other evangelical social Conservative, dropped out of the race.)

I hardly want to think about Donald Trump moving on, but he did get second place. So he will continue on to New Hampshire. Will he win enough delegates? How will he do on Super Tuesday? I hardly want to think about him any more but apparently he’ll be hanging on like a particularly nasty cold.

I am not going to pretend that I wasn’t more interested in the race on the Democratic side. The fact that almost all media has touted Clinton’s hilariously marginal ‘win’ as a victory for her is…worrisome. What a dynasty America has become. I have to be neutral, as a teacher, but when speaking to other teachers I honestly admit that I don’t like the idea of another Clinton in office. That admission seems to make people think that I am a Republican, and I am hardly one to disabuse them of that notion.

And finally, The Independent describes a crazy tradition of a coin-toss to determine county delegates. Hillary Clinton won six of those county wide delegates, though she only ended up with two more delegates than Sanders. Hardly a stellar victory. I don’t think people are convinced by Clinton yet.

We shall see. Le jeu commence as they would say in France. The game is on. – SDM

Photo by crazysixdownunder