Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Further Reading on the Poor and Natural Disasters

There's no time like the present to recommend that everyone horrified by the plight of the poor in New Orleans should read Ted Steinberg's Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disasters In America to understand the historical roots of how and the effects of natural disasters are pushed onto the poor. A great book to understand this terrible situation.

New Orleans and the Consequences of Consumption without Consequences

For as awful as the disaster in New Orleans is, and it is of course truly terrible, I am having a little bit of a hard time feeling as bad for the fate of that city as I am for Gulfport and Biloxi. Of course, the plight of the impoverished trying to survive in New Orleans is saddening and awful. Those latter two cities are directly on the Gulf Coast but are in reasonable places for people to live. There is no good reason to have a city like New Orleans that is below sea level and in the direct line of hurricanes. To me, this is the primary example in my lifetime (so far) of how Americans blind themselves to nature and believe that technology will protect them from its ravages. Scientists have predicted such a disaster for New Orleans for decades. These predictions have become more dire in recent years as the enormous damage to the bayous and the Mississippi Delta from flood control and the oil industry has become evident. Since the bayous are starved of the fresh sediment they need to survive, they have rapidly dissipated and have returned to the sea, thus eroding New Orleans' buffer from the strongest storms.

To me, this is the perfect example of the idea of consumption without consequences, which American subscribe to more than they do to low taxes and Christianity. And like those other two ideas, consumption without consequences has serious negative consequences. We simply cannot expect to live in a place like New Orleans without consequences. Everyone is saying that they will rebuild--why? What good is it going to do to rebuild a city that will likely be destroyed again in the next 50 years as another result of our consumption without consequences, global warming, leads to more and stronger hurricanes that make all the cities along the Gulf of Mexico vulnerable to complete destruction, not to mention rising sea levels from the melting ice caps?

But it's not just living in a dangerous city below sea level that reflects our ideas of consumption without consequences. For instance, at what price will Americans stop driving so damn much? And I include myself too. I drive a car that gets around 38mpg so the price of gas hasn't hit me as hard as it has other people. And I'm a little glad I guess to be pumping less carbon monoxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere than other people, at least per mile. But even me, when will I adjust my schedule so I take the bus into Los Alamos twice a week rather than drive? I am a little stuck on driving to my class in Albuquerque twice a week--even if there was a bus service, it wouldn't run at a time where I could get home after my night class. When will New Mexicans demand mass transit between Albuquerque and Santa Fe? Ever? When will people give up their gas guzzlers? When, if ever, will people realize that their driving is causing more of the kind of storms that destroyed New Orleans? And when they do realize this, like myself, when will they change their lifestyle to do their part to stop it from getting worse?

Living in the West, this consumption without consequences has its own unique issues. Of course we are not going to be hit by hurricanes. And living at 7000 feet I'm probably not going to be flooded out of my house by rising sea levels. But we do consume water at an enormous rate. I know of people who know how little water there is for new housing developments, but move there anywhere figuring that the government won't let them die of thirst. Maybe they're right. But at some point, we are going to have to face the reckoning of our water consumption. Because with all the people moving to Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, and with the likelihood of extended droughts due to global warming, at some point in the not too distant future, we are just going to run out of water. There simply will be no more water. All the damming of rivers, all the pumping of aquifers, all the pipelines will not provide the water we need to survive. Will it take that long for us to realize that our consumption of natural resources has real consequences? I hav e to say yes it will. A new development has been announced for the area west of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, Albuquerque's unfortunate and soulless exurb. This Rio West, the brainchild of a Phoenix-area developer (a good sign if there ever was one) could hold up to 75,000 people. Where is that water going to come from?

And when will the winds of silence blow over the ruins of southwestern cities like they are blowing over the waters of New Orleans right now?

Race, Survival, and Food in New Orleans

More on New Orleans later, but Matt via Metafilter points us to these news photos and captions that starkly show the difference ways the media treat blacks and whites who are doing the exact same thing, i.e. surviving.

Look, be horrified, drink in order to relieve your depression after you look.

64% of Americans Are Stupid

In this poll, 42% of Americans believe in creationism. Another 18% believe in one form or another of intelligent design. 64% are open to teaching creationism in American classrooms. There are certainly different ways to measure stupidity in American culture. This is my way. 42% are truly lost to idiocy and that 18% are falling fast. 64% of Americans though definitely qualify as stupid.

And if you say that this is intolerance, I say that I don't care. There are just certain things that should not be taught or believed in and creationism, intelligent design, and the like are among them.

The True Nature of Terror

How terrible. At least 800 stampeded to death after rumors of a suicide bomber are started. The greatest victory for the Sunni terrorists and they didn't even have to use a bomb. I guess this is the true nature of terrorism.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Guitar Solos

Because I am lazy, lazy man with an attention span of about 30 seconds, I am going to take time away from writing my lecture for tomorrow to talk about a serious issue:

Rock guitar solos.

This comes out of a conversation with friends last night when one of my friend asked what rock guitar solos were our favorites.

I've come to realize that I generally dislike guitar solos (and of course drum solos but that goes without saying). This is why I find Bill Frisell an infinitely more satisfying guitarist than Eric Clapton (also being about 20 times better also makes a difference here) and even more than infinitely satisfying than some wanker like Kenny Wayne Sheppard or other Stevie Ray Vaughn wannabe. Good music comes from musicians playing with each other, not over each other. This is why Rush is an intolerable band for me, even if they didn't write songs about trees going to war with each other. They never played together and got past their technical skills to make really good music.

What does the solo really provide? Of course, solos can be valuable. Look at the innumerable wonderful jazz solos. But an electric guitar solo--what does this provide? No doubt it is a salve to white souls everywhere, particularly if they were born between 1945 and 1965. But musically, what is it other than masturbation?

That said, I will suggest 2 solos that I do find satisfying.
1. Richard Thompson, "Can't Win" live version from the Watching The Dark box set that came out about 10 years ago. I believe the show this is from is also available on CD from RT's website. Playing within a great band, RT starts the song like the fairly slow song it is and ratches it higher and higher. He's the most underrated guitarist in the universe for the precise reason that he chooses to play within the music and his songs and not be a showoff.

2. Frank Zappa, "Outside Now" from Joe's Garage. This is your classic guitar solo without much meaning. But the sheer wizardry of Zappa's playing combined with it's place on the album make it one hell of a great number.

Does anyone have thoughts on their favorite solos or the nature of the guitar solo? Please share.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why I Fucking Hate Technology

So after a year of not teaching, I decided to take a class this fall. Teaching the second half of the US history survey, a class that if I can not teach well, I'm in the wrong field. I start off on Tuesday with an excellent opening class. We talk about how things have changed over time and focus on subjects like technology and fashion, where I pose the question, "How have we moved from a country where women wore corsets to one where women wear low-cut jeans?" The students seemed to like it a lot, got lots of class participation, I'm really jazzed.

Unfortunately, I decided that since we live in such a visual culture, putting together powerpoint presentations would be a good idea.

Fucking wrong.

I believe that it's good to give an opening lecture in the second half of the survey summarizing the first half. So I know that this is an important lecture but maybe not the most exciting. So I'm already a little worried about losing momentum. But I prepare a really nice powerpoint presentation with lots of maps and cool pictures, etc. I bought a memory stick for the occasion. I get in there and the presentation totally freezes. Luckily I brought a backup copy on a zipdisc but by the time we got another computer and a zip drive and everything I had lost nearly 15 minutes of my class. I was totally flummoxed and my lecture was awful. The students were probably bored out of their minds, though the John Brown as Moses picture seemed to work well. I felt like a damn idiot. My memory stick is literally stuck inside the computer and won't come out. They have to take it to some technican. Jesus Christ.

Why the hell did I ever think I would be able to use technology without major problems? Is it really worth it? I love the pictures but Jesus Fucking Christ this sucked. Definitely my worst classroom moment ever.

Fuck technology.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Minutemen Come to New Mexico

Thought I'd link to this story about the racist Minutemen coming to New Mexico to expand their "organization." My favorite apart about this article is how the guy from Alabama who is one of their trainers came to this realization when he couldn't go to his favorite buffet anymore without hearing a lot of Spanish.

Historical Quote of the Day

From Senator Prentiss Brown who was a member of the Army Ordinance Committee during WWII:

"The pumps were found to be in perfect condition and no reason could be found for their failure until a pair of ladies panties were taken from the suction pipe. These were undoubtedly discarded during the construction of the vessel in a moment of thoughtlessness and left lying in the tank, later finding their way into the pipeline...In order that all may cooperate one hundred percent in the war effort and the total destruction of the Axis Powers, it is respectfully requested that lady workers keep their pants on during working hours for the duration."

How Old I Feel

This year's class of college freshmen were born in 1987!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

John Roberts

I haven't posted on John Roberts for several reasons, the most important of which is that there are lots of people in the blogosphere who can do this much better than I. I almost posted when I heard an interview with Cass Sunstein who said that his greatest concern about Roberts was the quite likely possibility that his appointment would lead to the Endangered Species Act and other core environmental legislation being declared unconstitutional unless they explicitly affect interstate commerce. So that's bad. But his comment that he wondered whether "'encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good'' meant I had to say something. And that something is, I wonder if he would say that to Sandra Day O'Connor's or Ruth Bader Ginsburg's face? Or for that matter his own wife, who is also a lawyer. What a jerk.

Classic Quotes From Hypocrites

From Daily Kos via Progressive Blog Digest comes these classic Republican quotes about Clinton's Balkan policy.

"You can support the troops but not the president." --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years." --Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?" --Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy." --Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy." --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy." --Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area." --Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today" --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." --Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

John McCain--"We didn’t have to get into Kosovo. Once we stumbled into it, we had to win it. This administration has conducted a feckless photo-op foreign policy for which we will pay a very heavy price in American blood and treasure."

Weirdo American History Note of the Week

I will be reviewing this book here soon, but I'm going to mention this classic moment of American history now. In 1923, a bill passed the U.S. Senate directing acceptance of a monument to be built "in memory of the faithful colored mammies of the South." For some reason the House didn't pick up on the bill. I can't wait to teach that this fall.

From Sanford Levinson, Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies. Duke, 1998

Eugene Notes

A few notes from Eugene.

I'm really from Springfield, right outside of Eugene. My going to school at the University of Oregon creates for me sort of 2 home towns, or maybe one town with two very different sides. I certainly identify a lot more with Eugene than Springfield. But I can't deny that it's Springfield where I come from. And that's very different from Eugene. Very working-class. Very conservative. Very different identity.

Springfield has a rough edge to it. I don't know how many times in the last week I've seen someone walking on the street, who clearly has nothing going for them and thinking if I went to high school with that person. Wondering what got me out of here when they could never do so, not even to get into a countercutlural Eugene 5 miles away. I'm thankful but retroactively scared. It seems that it would have taken so little for me to fall into that. To still be stuck in Springfield with no hopes or dreams left at the age of 31 seems like Hell.

On the other hand, downtown Springfield is a place significantly revitalized since I left nearly 10 years ago. And it's not from some yuppified redevelopment program with a nice big Gap store as its centerpiece. Actually it comes from retaining its working class roots as Mexicans are owning more and more space along Main Street, and opening up some very tasty taco places let me tell you. I have little doubt that Eugene's best Mexican food is actually found in downtown Springfield, well unless you like the messy goo that passes for Mexican food in much of America.

Eugene is a lovely place. I think the University of Oregon is my favorite campus that I've been to, though the University of Virginia is obviously great (designed by Jefferson for Christ's sake) and the University of Washington and University of Colorado are quite nice too. But Oregon has the mix of pretty interesting buildings, lots of green space, huge trees, and just a general atmosphere of learning. On the other hand, the new business building is atrocious. The entrance to it is a glass facade that looks like the opening to a Bon Marche in Seattle or other high-end clothing store in whatever big city. Actually it looks a lot like yuppified, revitalized downtown Denver. Now I have no problem with architectural experimentation on college campuses. Higher education architecture has looked to the past for far too long. But really, the look of a shopping mall? God, that's ugly.

Oregon sports are pathetic. And I'm saying this as a big fan of Oregon football. But they still haven't gotten over the gimmick stage of promotion. They always come up with some really stupid saying revolving around ducks to promote the team. Sometimes they will do something around the color green. For instance they used to call themselves the "Quack Attack." Or "Everybody Duck." Really bad stuff. This year, they have a double whammy. They are calling themselves "The Next Green Monster" which is just fucking stupid. And they are trying to get new students "Induckted." Get it! Wow, how clever. The only good one they ever came up with was "Gang Green" and that was stolen by the stupid New York Jets. Anyway, I really wish Oregon would take the approach that Tennessee used when I was back there which was basically this. "We don't need any stupid goddamn slogans because we are just going kick the living shit out of you. And then, next year we'll do the same thing." Now that's how a winning program operates.

The counterculture in Eugene is pretty funny, even as I respect much of what it stands for. Growing up in a place like Springfield, which is 5 miles but many light years from Eugene, has bred in me a deeply ambivalent attitude toward the counterculture. If the counterculture is rejecting the kind of values that I grew up with, well, I'm rejecting them too. But of course the counterculture in 1968 is more than a little different than what it is in 2005. And it's really hard not to laugh when confronted with it. While in Eugene a friend wanted to grab some breakfast. So we stopped in at a breakfast place we saw. It was quintessential Eugene. The menu is entirely vegetarian. In fact, it was mostly vegan but given the option there was no way in hell that I was going to choose to eat some sort of vegan butter over the real thing. We must draw the line somewhere. And I draw it over butter and cheese. Anyway, the food was quite tasty. But the people in there were trying so damn hard to be sufficiently counterculture. No one working there didn't have multiple tattoos and/or piercings. In fact, I wonder if they would even hire someone like me, even if I were a genius at cooking vegan food and work cheap. Because I don't really scream counterculture. When I suggested this to my friend, he agreed and said that he didn't think there was an affirmative action for people like me to get hired at places like that, something that referenced an earlier conversation where I mentioned that I was one of the few white men in the country to have directly benefited from affirmative action, something I may get into on a post one of these days. Anyway, the walls were covered in hippie art including knittings of psychedelic mushrooms, which is such a stereotype. I wonder why people feel the need to try so hard to fit into any culture, but especially a counterculture which theoretically should foster and promote individualism, but really always has produced a conformity as stifling as what they rebel against. But hell, why am I complaining. My food was good.

Finally, a note on Eugene Emeralds baseball. Eugene has had a short-season single A team ever since I was a kid. I went to a lot of games in high school and college. I hadn't been back to one in 10 years. Nothing at all had changed. They still played the same hokey music. The recording of the national anthem was the same. The beer selection was much better than it used to be there. You still had to watch out to not get your head taken off by a foul ball, something that nearly happened to me. What I had totally forgotten about was that the real purpose of the games in Eugene is a venue for teenagers to go strut their stuff--boys and girls. It was a total riot. God, I love minor league baseball.

The Postal Service

I don't post about rock nearly as much as bluegrass, country, or jazz. But I have to say that The Postal Service's Give Up is a really good fucking album.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Adam Carolla

Adam Carolla after Jon Stewart. It almost makes you long for the days of Colin Quinn.

Sorry For The Lack of Posts

I have like 10 things I want to post about. But I have just been swamped since getting back from Oregon on Sunday. I have a freaking mound of interlibrary loan material to get through, particularly some great oral histories of Idaho loggers, I'm trying to put together a class I have to teach starting next week, and also a million other things. More posts soon, certainly no later than Thursday. I promise.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Racial Stereotypes 101

As taught by David Brooks

"What do you say to the working-class guy from the south side of San Antonio? He feels his wages are stagnating because he has to compete against illegal immigrants. He watches thousands of people streaming across the border, bankrupting his schools and health care system, while he plays by the rules.

He's no racist. Many of his favorite neighbors are kind, neat and hard-working Latinos. But his neighborhood now has homes with five cars rotting in the front yard and 12 single men living in one house. Now there are loud parties until 2 a.m. and gang graffiti on the walls. He read in the local paper last week that Anglos are now a minority in Texas and wonders if anybody is in charge of this social experiment."

The Times should issue an apology for printing this.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

George W. Bush, Keynesian

I could not help but find this story hilarious. George W. Bush says, because it is politically advantageous, that a huge, bloated highway bill is a good thing because all that government money creates jobs. I don't disagree. But do you think he even sees the inconsistencies? Gee, W, how about funding the National Park Service properly? Don't you think that would create jobs too? How about the EPA? Or creating work programs for young people in the forests? Or funding inner-city programs? Wouldn't all that create jobs? Oh, that's right, doing things like that would create opportunity for people and help to make our society equal. And of course we couldn't have things like that. That would make us liberals.

Giving Up The Satellite Television

My wife and I have decided to give up our satellite TV and not even pick up basic cable. We have done this for various reasons. There will be some things that I miss, but knowing that I can download The Daily Show makes this decision much easier. What interests me about this is how the quality, though certainly not the quantity of my television watching has decreased over the past 18 months or so that I've had cable and then satellite. I've missed watching PBS much for one. Now I know that the quality of PBS has declined greatly since it came under attack from the right. But still, isn't Globetrekker better than anything on the Travel Channel? Isn't Rick Bayless better than anything on The Food Network with the obvious exception of Iron Chef? Isn't any nature show on PBS far better than anything on Discovery or whatever channel that idiot Crocodile Hunter is on.

The other thing is that I miss local news. Well, in a way. Local news in New Mexico is deeply depressing. All the local channels have been rated as among the worst in the nation by those who rate such things because they focus strictly on the violence and weird crime that seems to happen with bizarre regularity in New Mexico. Sometimes this stuff will make national news such as the police helicopter shot down over Albuquerque the other day. In fact, I'm so immune to it that when I got to Oregon last week, I walked into the house and there was a news story on that was about some guy who raped a woman at the University of New Mexico. I barely even gave it a second thought until about 10 seconds later when I realized, wait a minute I'm in Oregon. Turned out the bastard had killed someone here. In any case, the sheer ubiquity of crime in New Mexico is sad. But on the other hand, I feel like I know less about the state where I live since I got advanced television systems.

The Great Hope of Texas Politics

Here's where the hope lies. Texas has just become the 4th state to be a minority-majority state, with less than 50% of the population now made up of people traditionally considered white. The other three are California, New Mexico, and Hawaii, all generally Democratic states. What does this mean? It certainly doesn't mean that the Democratic party can count all of these votes for themselves. Alberto Gonzales and Henry Bonilla are good reasons why not. But it doesn mean that the majority of Texas voters are now made up of people traditionally underprivileged in American society and that Democrats should be able to make inroads here, especially if they can get divisive social issues less centered on the American political radar. If you're curious, here's the 5 states just under 50% minority--Maryland, Mississippi, Georgia, New York, and Arizona.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Price of Gasoline

I guess I have to hope that the price of gasoline keeps rising. I know that's an unpopular thing to say. But given that the current price hike has made ZERO impact on consumption, I guess that says that these prices should keep on going. I wonder what the level is that oil prices will start negatively affecting the economy. At this point, my guess is around $85 or so a barrel. But then again, a year ago I certainly would have said that $65 or so would be wrecking the economy, so it shows what I know. The personal sucky part is that my wife and I want to travel soon and plane tickets are crazy expensive. But even that I don't think is going to stop us from doing so, so I guess we are contributing to the consumption in big ways ourselves.

One question, and I am far from an economist so I don't know the answer, but how the hell is the Chinese economy able to pay for these kind of oil prices? I would think that they will blink before we will on consumption, but I'm starting to wonder.

The Price of Concerts

Going to shows in Santa Fe is damned expensive. And it sucks. Lucinda Williams is playing there soon. The cheapest tickets is $36 plus service charge. The closest seats are over $50. People pay $50 or more all the time for shows. Why? Is it really worth it? Are you usually getting music of that quality? I have to think the answer is no.

Here is my list of living people I would pay $50 for.

1. Tom Waits

That is all.

Young People of the World, Do Not Listen to David Brooks

David Brooks says that a new field of "cultural geography" is opening up where people should study why are rejecting a homogeneous culture during this age of globalization and are in fact rejecting globalization while taking advantage of that globalization. However, that he would look for guidance, and suggest that other people start their study of the matter, from people as ass-backwards as Samuel Huntington, suggests that, like always, Brooks has taken an issue and shaped it to fit his own ex-urban view of the world. I would say that if you really find these issues interesting, you forget about reading Huntington or Thomas Sowell and think about picking up Yi-Fu Tuan, Edward Soja, or David Harvey. But I'm only an academic who studies these things. I'm not an over-simplifing conservative who gets hired by the New York Times to dabble in the topic of the day. You should definitely listen to Brooks over me.

The Glories of Peasant Food

This NY Times article on Korean food trying to become fancy and Americanized made me think about how much I like Korean food for being what it is, peasant food. This is just the food that people eat. There's not much artistic design to it. There's not much pretension to it. It's just some hot, spicy, tasty shit. The same goes for peasant food around the world. I can't imagine that I would have been happier at some upscale Mexico City or Acapulco restaurant than I was with the fish tacos in the street stands in Guyamas. Same with high-end restaurants in Bangkok and Singapore compared to the thousands of stands around those cities. I have no doubt that I would rather eat French peasant food than the finest food in Paris. What are you paying for? Air-conditioning? Lighting? Is the food really any better?

I also found this story interesting for its discussion of how Koreans are pissed with these new upscale Korean restaurants in Manhattan because they don't offer the basic amenities of Korean food, namely free side dishes. To me, the side dishes are the best part about Korean food. They are shared among all eating. That means that eating in a Korean restaurant is not privatized food consumption when you are eating with other people. It means that eating is a community function to share with those around you. Maybe for the people freaky about germs it would be uncomfortable. For me, it's wonderful. Plus those side dishes are a way to get a lot of different tastes and find out what you like about Korean food, or what you like about a particular restaurant if you are more familiar with it. To not give free side dishes, not even kimchi for Christ's sake, is basically a denial of Korean culture. I understand that this is America, or New York anyway, and that things are a lot different than in Seoul. But in trying to become the next trendy food, these restaurant owners are not only denying their fundamental culture, they are hurting some of the best things about their own food.

Any Good Blogs Out There?

I'm been in a bit of a rut with the blogs I read. Not that they are not good blogs, but I just haven't found a lot of new blogs lately that I've really been into. Does anyone out there have any recommendations for me?

Study of the Week

"A study in Toronto found that removing hazardous playground equipment can redue the number of playground accidents."

I hope they spent a lot of money figuring that out.

Monday, August 08, 2005


I can't help but be amused that Hugo Chavez said fuck you to the DEA and the American government. If I were him I would have told them to go start taking care of your own people making crystal meth before invading my country with your chemicals, your right-wing propaganda, and your agenda of American hegemony over Latin America.

Ibrahim Ferrer, RIP

Not to take anything away from Peter Jennings, who seems to have been a good man and a decent reporter, but to me it's clear that the biggest loss to humanity today is the death of Ibrahim Ferrer from Buena Vista Social Club. The New York Times obit reads that he was "an excellent bolero singer who used space and silence in his relaxed elegant delivery to increase the drama." I agree with this characterization. He was so good in fact that I came to really enjoy his music even though he sings in a vocal style I don't often enjoy. I compare him to someone like Nat King Cole who was a great singer and in much the same style. Yet even though I recognize Cole's greatness, I don't really choose to listen to his music and I don't own any of it. But I do enjoy Ferrer deeply and his passing is sad. I have to say that I was probably more sad when Compay Segundo died because he was my favorite of the musicians featured in Buena Vista Social Club.

This also reminds me that one of my least favorite things about Castro's regime was his attempt to create revolutionary art that served the abstract "people" as opposed to what people actually liked. The kind of music that Ferrer, Segundo, and the rest played was officially discouraged after the Cuban Revolution. These guys could not leave the country to promote their stuff nor could they play to paying audiences in Cuba. They faded into obscurity and many died before the renaissance of Cuban music started by Ry Cooder and Buena Vista Social Club. Really, who would want to be a part of a revolution that didn't understand the organic functions of music and art to people, and not as something that could be manipulated to serve the state? Obviously, states both to the left and the right have manipulated tastes to serve national interests. But doesn't that sound dull and deadening?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

You Know It's A Bad Sign When...

I know it's a bad sign when someone, as it happening at present cooks you meal but then asks if I would like the hot pepper flakes the meal calls for or the fresh red bell pepper, which this person believes the flakes come from.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Oregon Blogging

I'm in Oregon for 10 days for a conference, research, parents, etc.

First thought--My parents are watching the morning news on the local CBS affiliate, KVAL. What do I see? Why, it's one James Dobson giving a nice homily on family values!! I find this particularly insidious for many reasons. That it's a CBS station is one of them--everyone who watches Fox knows more or less what they're getting. But isn't CBS supposed to be neutral? Guess not. Plus, other than the politically active and most Colorado residents, who really knows who James Dobson is? It's sly and horrifying. What, you mean he's not just some nice preacher talking about family values? He has a political agenda?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ohio Congressional Election Promising

Even though Democrat Paul Hackett lost to Republican Jean Schmidt in the Ohio Congressional election yesterday, it was still very promising. Hackett is an Iraq War veteran and was very critical of Bush. He used very harsh attacks such as calling him a "chickenhawk" and saying that Bush's famous Bring It On speech made him "a cheerleader for the enemy."

Hackett seems to have lost 52-48. This in a district where Bush won 64% of the vote in 2004 and that was considered a safe enough Republican district to have Bush choose its former representative, Rob Portman, to be the US Trade Representative. The NY Times article is written in the tone of another defeat for the Democrats but I think that the Hackett campaign is a good sign. While it's clear from Schmidt's campaign that a slight majority of voters in the district prefer the fantasy war that the Republicans are presenting to the real war that people like Hackett are fighting, it is a sign that many people are open to listening to critics of the war, so long as they are veterans. In addition, it's a sign of the weakening Ohio Republican party, which has recently been rocked by a scandal over the state's workers comp fund.

So I think we have 2 good signs here--1) that Democrats may have a winning strategy by running people extremely critical of the Bush administration so long as they have the credentials to do so and 2) that the Ohio Republicans are in trouble, something we can only hope lasts until 2008.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Quote of the Day

"The white race cannot survive without dairy products." Herbert Hoover

2000 Dead

The most recent coalition death in Iraq puts the number at 2000. No need for further commentary, the number says all that can be said.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Myth of False Consciousness

Is there any more ridiculous myth on the Left than that of the false consciousness of the American people. I'm inspired to write this by this quotation from Lisa Fine's Reo Joe: Work, Kin, and Community in Autotown, U.S.A.

"Labor historians need to stop treating George Wallace's popularity in the North in 1968, the Reagan Democrats of the 1980s, the Ross Perot phenomenon of 1992, the so-called "angry white man" congressional elections of 1994, and the importance of working-class members of the National Rifle Association during the 2000 presidential elections as aberrations, false consciousness, or "co-optation." The need to understand the relationship between a rural/working-class constituency in Michigan and right-wing extremism has taken on a heightened importance in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, where the Michigan Militia took center stage in the national media."

I couldn't agree with this assessment more. Let's look at some of the problems with the myth of false consciousness. First, there's no actual evidence for it. It is a red herring that leads analysis of American politics and history down dead-end paths. Second, it does not respect people acting in ways that leftist analysis doesn't agree with. It assumes that people who do not vote according to their class or race interests are voting wrong. Rather than figure out why they are voting why they are and believing what they do, too many people have focused on how to get them to vote according to their class or race interests as the Left identifies it. It's demeaning and wrong. Third, these myths hold progressives back from figuring out how to build winning political coalitions. As long as progressives believe that the American people are being hoodwinked by the Republican party we are in trouble. Because Americans aren't hoodwinked by Republicans. Rather, at this stage in American history, evangelical religion, guns, and sometimes hatred a certain vision of what the federal government does means more to people than their civil rights, than economic welfare, and than a federal government working in the interests of all the people. Now I don't know where to move from here on how to build politically given this knowledge. But I do know that we must get rid of the idea of the false consciousness of American workers for positive gains to be made.

Korean War or Korean Conflict

Does anyone have any insight into why people call the Korean War the "Korean Conflict." I first ran into this about 6 years when I had a job at the local newspaper typing up obituaries. When I first saw the term "Korean Conflict" in one of these I asked my co-worker what the hell this meant. She was very adamant that it was a conflict and not a war. I dropped it there since she was getting riled up. Since then, I've seen that phrase dozens of times, including in a history book I am currently reading. It never ceases to irritate me because it was a damn war. Call Grenada a conflict (or an unjustified invasion if you will). Call Panama a conflict. Hell, even call the first Gulf War a conflict if you want. But not a brutal 3 year war where tens of thousands of Americans died.

Is there a psychological need among the generation who fought in Korea to call it a conflict? Is it because they didn't win? Does it relate to the failure of US troops relative to World War II? Is it because Korean War veterans never got the respect that WWII veterans did or that the Korean War never had the cultural cache that WWII did (how many Korean War movies have you seen?)?