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John Summers at The Baffler wishes Happy Birthday to Jean-Paul Sartre:

This Saturday marks the 109th anniversary of the birth of Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher, novelist, playwright, and agitator extraordinaire.

Sartre is well known today for many things—though fame was never what he was after. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964, but declined to accept it, just as he had declined to accept the Legion of Honor two decades earlier. “The writer must . . . refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution, even if this occurs under the most honorable circumstances,” he explained. You are your life, and nothing else.

But what Sartre is perhaps least remembered for is his journalism. With Serge July, Sartre founded the leftist newspaper Libération in 1973, giving it the motto “People, take the right to speak and keep it.” The paper still runs today, although its future is presently at risk. And in 1945, Sartre traveled to the United States to report for Albert Camus’s French Resistance journal Combat and the newspaper Le Figaro.

In Issue 23 of The Baffler, Seth Colter-Walls reviewed a collection of Sartre’s nonfiction essays published by NYRB Classics, in a piece called “Sartre for Sartre’s Sake.” He found this collection of Sartre’s dispatches, gathered under the heading “On the American Working Class,” to be both impressively written and highly relevant today.

An excerpt from Colter-Walls’s essay:

His assessment of the bleak condition of American health care, for instance, is surprisingly topical, at least for those of us eager to figure out not just how much we might save under a government-regulated private insurance system, but also what we might soon expect, in a collective-national-unconscious sense, from the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. [...]

In at least one respect, he did foreshadow the all-out battle for the reader’s precious eyeball-time we know so well in the age of digital reporting: his dispatches from America always came packaged with material suitable for repurposing in headlines. See, for example, the all-caps line atop a report published in Combat on June 10, 1945, about an “apparent equality” between the working and bourgeois classes:

“HELLO, JIM!” SAYS CHICAGO’S BISHOP TO THE SCHOOL’S JANITOR.

“HELLO, BISHOP!” ANSWERS THE JANITOR.

You can read the rest of that essay from November 2013 here.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010On presidential leadership:

With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.
—Abraham Lincoln
Barack Obama made very clear in his statements before, during and after the campaign that he did not think any one president could accomplish major changes all alone. He has said on multiple occasions that he doesn't have all the answers. He has said that no party or person has a monopoly on good ideas. He has said that change will not come from himself, but from the unity of millions of people demanding it. He has said change is slow, difficult and, at times, frustrating. At many opportunities, he has made an effort to make sure the people understand their role in his presidency, which is to act as agents of change where he cannot.

It's a persuasive argument. I'm convinced the nature of our times demands much of what the President says. What I am not convinced of is that this state of affairs means our President has to accept unnecessary limits on the breadth and depth of the changes he advocates. Nor am I convinced that this means the President should stop being a public advocate and simply become one of many negotiators around a table. I am not saying the president could be "more progressive." I'm saying the range of possibles could be far greater because of the very reasons that the President outlined above. The President won the election convincingly. His party has been given, by the people, large majorities in Congress. The people are, more than they have been in years, receptive to broad, deep and fundamental shifts in the direction this country is headed. What seems to be holding back all this change is presidential leadership more concerned with process and procedure rather than removing minor obstacles using the mandate of popular will.

In the past, the most effective presidents understood that speaking publicly and rallying people was one of their primary powers. Greater than the ability to veto budgets.
Greater than the ability to command armies. Greater than crafting regulations. The quote above from Abraham Lincoln illustrates that Lincoln believed that what won him the office in the first place was what would sustain him as an effective leader. […]



Tweet of the Day
Robber that held up a bank can't get a meeting with the Atty General, but the bank exec that held up the country can http://t.co/...
@ddayen



On today's Kagro in the Morning show, our Friday grab-bag had a little bit of everything in it. The "hot mug shot." Hannity proves the Heritage hatefest wasn't berating Muslims by berating the same Muslim. A collection of Iraq wrongness. "Reining in" the NSA. "Sovereign citizens" pulled over for hand-written "license plates." Closing in on Christie & Walker. A diary by Armando, and a Demos blog post, argue those objecting to "government intervention" in PTO's cancellation of the R*dsk*ns mark are looking at things upside-down. A WaPo piece offers up an explanation for why VA state sen. Phillip Puckett's constituents aren't calling for his head: they hate Obamacare because "death panels."



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