Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Recovered Silents

Here's the full list from the National Film Preservation Foundation of the 75 previously lost silents recovered in New Zealand. An amazing variety of films that covers the spectrum of the silent era, including documentaries, comedies, westerns, animation, drama, and instructional films. What a treasure that closes a bit of the massive gap of lost silent films.

Fight Song for the Ages

Just in time for football season, I have learned the Colorado School of Mines fight song from the 1930s.

"Now here we have the mining man
In either hand a gun
He's not afraid of anything,
He's never known to run;
He dearly loves his whisky,
He dearly loves his beer;
He's a shooting, fightin',
Dynamitin', mining engineer."

Not sure if they put that to music or not.

Most Prominent Politicians From Each State (VII): Maryland

I haven't done one of these in awhile, but it's time to get back to it.

Maryland has a surprisingly lame history of prominent politicians. Given it's proximity to the nation's capital and it's relatively high population for a small state, one might expect more from Maryland. The top 10 list is pretty thin and includes some pretty unsavory characters.

1. Roger Taney--Supreme Court justice notorious for writing the opinion in the Dred Scott case.

2. Thurgood Marshall--not really a politician, but as a Supreme Court justice and gamechanger in American racial history, obviously deserves a high place on this list.

3. Spiro Agnew--it's always good times to think about Nixon's hippie-punching and race baiting vice president.

It starts getting real lame now.

4. Samuel Chase--Supreme Court justice from 1796 to 1811; most famous for being impeached by angry Jeffersonians in 1804.

5. Paul Sarbanes--Senator from 1977 to 2007, making him the longest serving senator in Maryland history. Not really any kind of leader in the Senate but is well-known for cosponsoring the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 which reformed securities law.

6. William Pinkney--Long-term Jeffersonian politician, Attorney General under James Madison

7. Millard Tydings--Senator from 1927-51. Most famous for cosponsoring the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934, which provided for the eventual independence of the Philippines and ensured that Filipinos could no longer migrate to the United States. I always loved this law--we gave up colonialism in order to prevent Asian immigration! Tydings was later redbaited by Joe McCarthy and lost the 1950 election because of it.

8. John Carroll of Carrollton--signer of Declaration of Independence. The only Catholic to sign and the last surviving signer.

9. Gabriel Duvall--Supreme Court justice from 1811-35. Follower of John Marshall and made little name for himself. Averaged less than one written decision a year (17 written decisions in 24 years).

10. James Pearce--Senator from 1843-62. A Whig who switched to the Democrats after the Whig Party's decline. Not much of a player. Chairman of the Committee on the Library (!). Did serve as Chairman of the Committee on Finance for 2 months in 1861.

Was it as lame as you expected? Probably lamer.

Next: South Carolina. That ought to be interesting.

Famous Loomises (II): Homer Loomis

Homer Loomis was an American fascist.

Specifically, Loomis was a race-baiter and self-proclaimed fascist who attempted to rouse the people of Atlanta into white supremacist politics in the years after World War II. Originally from New York City, Loomis was a co-founder of The Columbians, Inc. in 1946. Disgusted by the gains African-Americans had made during World War II, Loomis and his cohort hoped to ignite a race war and moved to Atlanta to do so. According to Kevin Kruse, from whose White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism this is drawn from, Loomis wanted to be the Hitler of America.

"His hair was close cropped, Prussian style," an acquaintance recalled, "and his eyes had a Satanical look about them." Loomis had a specific model in mind. "I'm going to be the Hitler of America," he bragged. Friends were asked to greet him with, "Heil, Loomis!"

In order to join the Columbians, Loomis had three requirements. "Number one: Do you hate niggers? Number two: Do you hate Jews? Number three, Do you  have three dollars?" This combination of racism and hucksterism caught fire in the working-class districts of Atlanta, where a growing African-American population was pressing into white neighborhoods. The Columbians focused their efforts on keeping all-white neighborhoods that way; as Kruse demonstrates, that was the fundamental issue that would shape post-war racial politics in Atlanta.

The Atlanta establishment was having none of this. Having prided themselves on a paternalistic racial tolerance, they weren't ready to let neo-fascists overturn their power base. Although they would later lose their hold on the city's politics in the face of massive resistance to the civil rights movement, in the 1940s that time had not yet arrived.

Homer Loomis faced tried in 1947 on charges of inciting a riot, assault, and usurping police powers. Despite his lawyer-father pleading to the jury that his son was being "crucified like Christ by the Jews," the jury sentenced Loomis to 2 years on the chain gang followed by 6 months in prison.

As far as I can tell, Loomis disappeared from the scene after 1947. But once white supremacists began cloaking racism in more respectable language around ideas of property rights and freedom of association, beginning to develop what I call the New Racism, Loomis' ideas took hold in the white population, even if is messianic tendencies and overt fascism did not.

A lengthy discussion of The Columbians, Inc. can be found here.

Reservation Housing

Leaders at the Pine Ridge Reservation went to Congress recently appealing for decent housing.

For most of U.S. history, public opinion about Native Americas have moved between outright hostility, neglect, and romanticizing an ideal Indian. Today, Native Americans have more power than any point in American history. There are two major reasons for this. First, gaming has given some tribes a lot of money. Second, Native Americans have taken advantage of white kids connecting them to the counterculture beginning in the 1960s. This phenomenon has provided them with white allies, at least so long as the Indians act like white people think Indians should act.

Despite the gains of recent decade and the overwhelming feeling among young white people today that Native Americans really got screwed over, for the most part whites still either stereotype or ignore Indians. You can see that at Pine Ridge or on the Navajo nation or at Jemez Pueblo or at Fort Peck or any number of other reservations. Particularly for tribes who have either decided not to embrace gaming or do not have the geographic proximity to interstates and cities to attract large numbers of gamers, their poverty and political powerlessness continues almost unabated.

If we really think Indians got a raw deal, how about a government commitment to actually provide safe housing, medical care, and electricity to the reservations? Sadly, most whites see Indians more as a dead people than people living underprivileged lives in the present.

Historical Image of the Day

"Kids Talk about Nuclear Weapons." 1950s evidently, though I can't seem to find a precise date on it. The production values actually suggest late 40s to me, but that's a very loose guess.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Crisis of Masculinity Blogging: Military Preparedness, Fit Soldiers, and the National Character since the Late 19th Century

The Army has changed its training regimen because the troops are too fat and out of shape.

I'm not going to weigh in much on the whole fat debate and whether or not it's mostly a socially constructed concept used to oppress people or if there's a national crisis. I understand the former but do tend slightly to the latter; regardless of the former's validity, there are real health problems with morbid obesity.

I'm more interested in how worries about soldiers' health are seen as a reflection of national character. Critics have connected the male body with the national character since at least the late 19th century. If I had more time, I'd actually go into my boxed up research notes to the various places where I've seen this. Lacking that time, let me just sketch a couple of quick points.

In the late 19th century, the middle and upper classes discovered the joys of sport hunting. While there were many reasons for this, chief among them was fear over what the industrial city did to the male body. The pollution, the closed spaces, the Jews*--all of these things threatened the white Anglo-Saxon male body and soul. Men like Theodore Roosevelt wondered what these weak bodies and corrupted morals would do to the nation during wartime. In order to see through their master plan of the United States as a military power, Roosevelt, Alfred Thayer Mahan, George Bird Grinnell, Madison Grant, and so many others clamored for young men ready to fight for their country. But they couldn't do that living in the cities.**

So these men turned to outdoor pursuits in order to make our fine young WASPs men. Boy Scouts, boxing, football, camping, fishing, and hunting all became training grounds for war. Men like Roosevelt made explicit connections between these activities. Of course, nothing could actually substitute for war, but it would have to do.

The nation had similar concerns during and after World War II. Military planners worried about the large number of conscripts denied entrance into the military during the war. Like with the Gilded Age cities or the weight of current recruits, there were legitimate health concerns here. The Depression created chronic malnourishment and untreated health problems that did reduce the fighting force during World War II. Under total mobilization, this never really threatened the nation because these men could work in factories or do any number of other necessary jobs.

While military men expressed concern over all this during the war, it was in post-war fears of communism that men's bodies really reentered the culture as a point to question the national masculinity. Americans often saw the Soviets as supermen during the 1950s, leading many to wonder whether we could defeat a nation with that combined powerful masculinity, even in their women,***, with unlimited national resources and a totalitarian government. Of course, we vastly overrated the Soviet capacity to keep up with American economic development, but that's irrelevant here.

For many Americans of these years, our national masculinity might not be up to the Cold War test. Again, returning to nature became a possible solution in our fight against the Soviets. Luckily for those upset by our national capacity for war, the 1950s became a decade of robust national health in so many ways, including in media portrayals of young people. Yes, like in the 1890s, bad morals threatened to undermine normalcy and Americans worried about juvenile delinquency.**** But Americans were going to the beach, buying big cars, taking dates out to malt shops, and going into the outdoors. Again, commentators called for a return to nature in order to recharge the national manhood.

I don't want to draw connections too closely between these three periods. We haven't seen concerns about the national male body lead to environmentalism, as happened in the 1890s and 1950s. If anything, the national indifference to environmental questions poses a major threat to our society. And no one is directly making connections between our ability to fight against supermasculine terrorists and our fat kids. However, there are interesting parallels around how Americans have made connections between the state of men's bodies***** and the national body at various points in our history, something that we see again today. 

*--Quite literally, the ethnic body threatened the WASP body in the minds of these elite masculinity worriers.

**--For all the clear contempt I have for much of this line of thought, Gilded Age cities were, of course, death traps.

***--I'm fascinated at the 180 degree shift in how Americans have viewed Russian women since the 1980s. During the Cold War, we had a vision of them as coal miners, steroid-using track athletes, and hairy peasants growing cabbage for the state. Today in the American mind, they all look like models and exist as a store for men to buy wives that won't talk back and will have sex whenever demanded. 

****--I've always loved that one of Paul Newman's most heinous crimes in "Cool Hand Luke" is taking the tops off of parking meters. I don't even remember him stealing the coins. For this, he is sentenced to a chain gang.

*****--Of course, any discussion of today's military also includes female bodies, but the nation has never reached any kind of comfort point discussing the role of women in combat. Most people, I believe, still view women in the military as a support system for "our boys."

Answering Rick Perry's Question

A simple answer to Rick Perry's question can be provided:

 “There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it’s called Texas,” Perry said. “We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. … Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

Would I rather live in Texas or live in a state that allows gay marriage? Hmmmm...that is a really tough call there....

Also, what was after the creating more jobs. "We're executing more black people than any other state in the nation." Or perhaps, "We're allowing more chemical plants to give more of our citizens cancer than any other state in the nation." Or one of the many other awesome things about Texas that makes Rick Perry proud.

Famous Loomises (I): Henry Loomis

I think it's time for an occasional series entitled "Famous Loomises," dedicated to those people out there with whom I share a last name.

Henry Loomis was a foundational figure in the beginnings of the Voice of America. A high-ranking official within the United States Information Agency (USIA) during World War II, Loomis fought hard to open Americans to the value of international propaganda. Oddly enough, those very right-wingers like Joe McCarthy who most decried the potential of communism to take over America also led the charge against funding an agency that would present the U.S. side of things to the rest of the world. They feared the government producing left-leaning propaganda that would then be used to influence American citizens against god and country and whatever. Senseless worries that again remind me that Joe McCarthy was a Soviet dream--no provocateur could have done more to damage the U.S. during those years than McCarthy.

Anyway, Loomis ensured that the USIA retain power within early Cold War foreign policy. In 1958, President Eisenhower named Loomis head of the Voice of America, an agency that had mixed success in its propaganda goals during the Truman and Eisenhower years (again largely because of Congressional interference). Loomis remained VOA head until 1965, when the Johnson administration became agitated that VOA was reporting negatively on U.S. foreign policy.

This always bugged me--the idea that if we don't talk about our foreign policy failures that no one else will either. That's absurd--every other country's news agencies were talking about Vietnam and Cuba and the Dominican Republic--and all we were doing by pressuring VOA and other agencies to be more positive was to lessen our credibility to people around the world.

In 1973, Richard Nixon named Loomis the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but he spent his five years at the head of that agency fighting with PBS over control of programming, something that showed neither agency in the best of light.

Historical Image of the Day

This week's images will consist of Cold War propaganda films.

"Communism vs. Capitalism," late 1940s

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shorter Chris Wallace: "If Grover Cleveland Can Destroy the Constitution, So Can Anyone Else I Like. But not Barack Obama. He's a Commie-Islamofascist Constitution Destroying Foreigner"

Regardless of Grover Cleveland's somewhat questionable sexual history, what's really offensive about the man is how he destroyed working-class rights during his presidency. The Democrats were supposed to be the party of the working man in the late 19th century. But tainted with the Confederacy and realizing they would never win another election if they didn't election a quasi-Republican, the Democrats went for Cleveland in three straight campaigns.

Most notably, Cleveland used the military to crush the Pullman Strike in 1894. This really impressed Fox News blowhard Chris Wallace when he "wrote" his 2004 book Character: Profiles in Presidential Character. What does character mean to Chris Wallace?

WALLACE (continuing directly): And so they decided they were going to strike. And it happened in the context of lots of people coming to Chicago for the international exposition, and it became riots and tremendous civil disorder. And they counted, the labor people, on their friend in the White House staying out, or, if anything, caving in to their demands, Grover Cleveland. Cleveland, who, as I say, was a huge friend of labor, felt that the nation`s security was in jeopardy. And he really went against the Constitution because at the time, there was—you—presidents were not allowed to send troops into a state unless the governor asked for the troops, and Governor [John] Altgeld of Illinois didn`t want them because he was a—he favored labor.

And so Cleveland went against the law, went against Altgeld, sent in federal troops, restored order. 

Like George W. Bush, Grover Cleveland eviscerated the Constitution to advance his conservative agenda. That's great. Heroic even. 

Chris Wallace's loose interpretation of the Constitution totally extends to Barack Obama. For instance,

Wallace: ..."I have to say I'm not sure Barack Obama really is the President of the United States because the oath of office is set in the Constitution and I wasn't at all convinced that even after he tried to amend it that John Roberts ever got it out straight and that Barack Obama ever said the prescribed words. I suspect that everybody is going to forgive him and allow him to take over as president, but I'm not sure he actually said what's in the Constitution, there."

Historical Image of the Day

Navajo uranium miners, 1956

Thursday, August 26, 2010

America's Creepiest President

Last week, I visited the First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio. It was OK, though it has a weird public-private partnership where the private side was not exactly great. Anyway, they had descriptions of each first lady. Naturally, I was attracted to the Gilded Age (Jackie Kennedy? Who cares? Now Lucy Webb Hayes, that's interesting!!!). Anyway, I was looking at the biography for Frances Folsom Cleveland. And I found it deeply, deeply disturbing.

Grover Cleveland had a pretty risque sexual reputation for the Victorian Age. He was accused of fathering a child out of wedlock, a child he supported financially. During the 1884, Republicans chanted "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?" to make fun of Cleveland. When Cleveland became the first Democrat to win the presidency since James Buchanan, his supporters responded by saying "Off to the White House, ha ha ha."*

Anyway, Cleveland was a good friend with a man named Oscar Folsom. Just as they became friends, Folsom had a daughter named Francis. Cleveland was 27 years old at the time. 11 years later, Folsom died in a buggy accident. He did not leave a will. A court named Cleveland as Folsom's guardian.

At the time, Grover Cleveland was 38 years old. Francis Folsom was 11.

One might say that Cleveland was being a pretty nice guy. He was wealthy and well-connected. One might think he'd be a father figure to Francis and set her up for a prosperous lifestyle.

However, it didn't work how one would might expect. Cleveland took care of Francis and watched her grew up. Watched her grow through puberty and from a small girl into an attractive young woman.

Were I in that situation, I might be really proud of the young woman.

Cleveland on the other hand decided she was sexually attractive and married her in 1886. Cleveland was 47. Frances was 21.

Grover and Frances ended up having 5 children.**

Amazingly, no one seemed to care about this at the time. The public was fascinated by the story, but as far as I could tell, the reaction to his marriage was pretty positive.

And virtually no one has ever mentioned this marriage ever since.

Am I the only one who finds this story disturbing? Can you mention a current president marrying a woman 28 years younger, a woman he had taken care of since she was 11?

Also, if Jonah Goldberg knew this story, he'd use it as evidence that all Democrats are sexual deviants. 

*Gilded Age political slogans seem incredibly simplistic to me. Really, the Republicans couldn't attack Cleveland with a better chant?

**Amazingly, Cleveland was so much older than his wife that his  youngest son died in 1995. That means that Grover Cleveland's son was still alive until I was a senior in college.

Historical Image of the Day

Smog in Los Angeles, January 5, 1948

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Top 100 Events in American History since 1945

I am creating my syllabus for my U.S. history course since 1945. Because the course is at least as much thematic as chronological, I am creating a 100 most important events list to include in the syllabus. Here's what I came up with. Comments? Anything egregious that I am missing? Anything dumb that I have included?

  1. August 6, 1945—U.S. drops atomic bomb on Japan; World War II ends 8 days later
  2. 1946—Winston Churchill gives “Iron Curtain” speech in Missouri, tensions rise between United States and Soviet Union
  3. 1946-63—Baby Boom—record amount of births in a period of economic growth and increased consumerism leads to the most dominant and self-conscious generation in American history.
  4. 1947—Unveiling of Truman Doctrine, announcing the U.S. would do everything in its power to contain communism
  5. 1947—Marshall Plan enacted, providing American aid in rebuilding western and southern Europe, advances the Cold War significantly
  6. 1948—Berlin Airlift shows American resolve against the spread of communism and Soviet aggression
  7. 1949—Creation of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  8. 1949—China becomes communist, Republicans use event to paint Democrats as “soft on communism”
  9. 1950—Senator Joseph McCarthy asserts he has list of communists in the State Department. Although he has no such list, McCarthy builds upon national fear of communism to make himself the nation’s most powerful individual. Eventually falls in 1954 after accusing the military of communist sympathies. Nonetheless, McCarthy defines the 1950s as a decade of suppression of left-leaning thought and action.
  10. 1950-53—Korean War
  11. 1951—U.S. tests hydrogen bomb
  12. 1951—Release of The Day the Earth Stood Still, beginning of science fiction films standing in for American fears about the Cold War
  13. 1952—First rock and roll concert in Cleveland
  14. 1953—Execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for treason
  15. 1953—Hugh Hefner launches Playboy magazine
  16. 1954—Supreme Court declares segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education
  17. 1954—Television becomes increasingly common
  18. 1955—Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by a young Martin Luther King
  19. 1955—American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) merge, signaling an end to the great period of American labor organizing.
  20. 1956—Elvis Presley becomes international star, rock and roll becomes music of America’s youth
  21. 1956—President Eisenhower signs Interstate Highway Act, leading to massive government investment in road building and disinvestment in American downtowns and public transportation
  22. 1957—Federal court orders Little Rock to desegregate schools, violence results and forces federal government to intervene.
  23. 1957—USSR launches Sputnik, beginning of Space Race
  24. 1959—Cuban Revolution brings Fidel Castro to power
  25. 1960—4 North Carolina A&T students begin sit-in at Greensboro lunch counter, begins sit-in movement around South.
  26. 1960—Food and Drug Administration approves birth control pill for general use
  27. 1961—Freedom Rides test willingness of federal government to enforce desegregation decisions, violence results.
  28. 1961—Bob Dylan releases first album
  29. 1961—East Germans raise Berlin Wall
  30. 1962—Cuban Missile Crisis—U.S. and Soviet Union come dangerously close to nuclear war
  31. 1962—Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, exposing the terrible environmental damage of pesticides and the chemical industry, eventually leads to banning of DDT and other toxic pesticides.
  32. 1963—Birmingham campaign of civil rights movement, Martin Luther King leads March on Washington to pressure President Kennedy to support civil rights legislation
  33. 1963—Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique, frequently seen as beginning of modern women’s movement
  34. 1963—Assassination of John F. Kennedy
  35. 1964—Gulf of Tonkin resolution, giving tremendous power to make war to the presidency, significantly ramps up American involvement in Vietnam
  36. 1964—Freedom Summer in Mississippi—attempt to register African-Americans to vote, violence results throughout Mississippi
  37. 1964—Civil Rights Act of 1964
  38. 1964—Republican Party nominates Barry Goldwater as its presidential candidate, marking the rise of modern conservatism. Lyndon Johnson defeats Goldwater in landslide, but conservatives see marked gains in elections of 1966 and 1968.
  39. 1964—Lyndon Johnson signs Wilderness Act of 1964
  40. 1964-1968—President Johnson launches his Great Society, including establishment of Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and dozens of other programs intended to lift Americans out of poverty.
  41. 1965—Voting Rights Act of 1965
  42. 1965—Murder of Malcolm X in New York City
  43. 1965—Immigration Act of 1965 ends revokes restrictive and racist immigration legislation of 1920s, begins rise of Latin American and Asian migration to the U.S.
  44. 1965—César Chávez and United Farm Workers begin Delano grape strike, call for national grape boycott
  45. 1965—Ralph Nader publishes Unsafe at Any Speed, attacking unsafe General Motors cars. Nader becomes leader of consumer rights movement and one of America’s most influential figures through the late 1970s.
  46. 1965-70—rise of  Black Power movement, eventually crushed by FBI-led murders of leading Black Power advocates
  47. 1966—National Organization of Women (NOW) founded
  48. 1966—California becomes first state to make LSD illegal, nation soon follows, but far too late to stop spread of drug
  49. 1966—Martin Luther King takes civil rights movement to the North; violent protests against housing desegregation in Chicago.
  50. 1967—Summer of Love in San Francisco, hippie movement becomes increasingly prominent
  51. 1967—Bonnie and Clyde hits the theatres, destroying the restrictive code that guarded the morality of movies for 33 years and launching a new era of American film.
  52. 1967—Reies López Tijerina leads raid upon county courthouse in New Mexico in protest over lands stolen from native New Mexicans.
  53. 1968—Tet Offensive puts lie to President Johnson’s proclamations that the Vietnam War is almost won. Lyndon Johnson chooses not to run for reelection.
  54. 1968—Assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee
  55. 1968—Assassination of Robert Kennedy by Palestinian nationalist Sirhan Sirhan.
  56. 1968—Brutal beatings of protestors at Democratic National Convention in Chicago, open warfare on the convention floor.
  57. 1968—Alabama Governor George Wallace runs for president on openly segregationist platform, wins significant support in North—rise of white backlash to civil rights movement.
  58. 1968—Richard Nixon wins presidency behind power of white backlash
  59. 1969—Americans land on moon
  60. 1969—Stonewall Rebellion in New York City marks first open resistance of gays to police repression, launches gay rights movement
  61. 1969—increasingly radical women’s movement protests at Miss America pageant in Atlantic City
  62. 1969—Cuyahoga River catches fire in Cleveland, drawing attention to massive environmental problems
  63. 1969—Woodstock music festival in New York
  64. 1970—Environmentalism becomes prominent; first Earth Day protests, creation of Environmental Protection Agency to enforce increasing number of environmental laws and regulatory agencies.
  65. 1970—President Nixon invades Cambodia, leading to massive protests, including killing of students at Kent State University and Jackson State University
  66. 1971—MASH begins its run as the most popular television show in American history
  67. 1972—Equal Rights Amendment passes Congress, but rise of conservatism dooms it in state legislatures.
  68. 1972—Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev conclude talks on Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, the most important treaty controlling the nuclear arms race
  69. 1972—Passage of Title IX, greatly expanding women’s access to college sports
  70. 1973—U.S. pulls out of South Vietnam, Vietnam united under North Vietnamese leadership in 1975
  71. 1973—American Indian Movement seizes Wounded Knee, South Dakota, leading to violent standoff with FBI
  72. 1973—passage of Endangered Species Act, leads to revival of threatened species such as the bald eagle, wolf, and grizzly bear.
  73. 1973—First large-scale economic crisis since Great Depression, leads to high unemployment and long-term economic uncertainty that lasts through remainder of 1970s.
  74. 1973—Roe v. Wade legalizes abortion
  75. 1974—Watergate scandal comes to light, resignation of President Richard Nixon
  76. 1977—Apple introduces Apple II, the first prominent personal computer
  77. 1978—California passes Proposition 13, drastically cutting property taxes
  78. 1979—Iranian radicals take over American embassy, hold dozens of Americans hostage until 1981.
  79. 1979—Three Mile Island incident—near nuclear meltdown ends period of nuclear power growth in U.S.
  80. 1980—election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency
  81. 1980s—President Reagan launches “War on Drugs,” results lead to imprisonment of 20% of young black men on nonviolent drug charges.
  82. 1981—AIDS first recognized, Reagan administration ignores it as gay disease until 1985, setting back research and dooming thousands to early deaths.
  83. 1981-87—Reagan administration supports right-wing movements in Central America, leading to civil wars and the deaths of tens of thousands.
  84. 1986—Iran-Contra scandal comes to light, embarrassing Reagan administration
  85. 1986—Challenger Space Shuttle explodes, event watched by nearly all schoolchildren because first teacher to enter space was onboard; national interest in space program declines
  86. 1987—Supreme Court recognizes legality of Indian gaming
  87. 1989—Fall of Berlin Wall heralds end of Cold War, breakup of USSR in 1991 ensures its end.
  88. 1991—First Gulf War begins period of long-term American military involvement in the Middle East.
  89. 1992—creation of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), expands both globalization and outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs abroad.
  90. 1993—Internet becomes prominent
  91. 1994—Republicans win massive gains in Congress, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich issues “Contract with America”
  92. 1994—California voters pass Proposition 187, designed to deny undocumented migrants all state services, leads to backlash against Republican Party and makes California a Democratic stronghold based upon Latino votes.
  93. 2000—Disputed presidential election, Supreme Court gives election to George W. Bush, voting on a strictly partisan basis
  94. September 11, 2001—terrorists attack the United States, over 2000 dead, begins “War on Terror,” invasion of Afghanistan, etc.
  95. 2003—President George W. Bush orders invasion of Iraq
  96. 2003—Latinos pass African-Americans as nation’s largest minority group
  97. 2007—Global recession begins, no end in sight as of fall 2010
  98. 2008—election of Barack Obama to the presidency
  99. 2010—Arizona passes restrictive anti-immigration legislation, resurgence of racism and nativism throughout U.S.
  100. 2010—summer of 2010 sees record high temperatures around nation, flooding around the world, global climate change reaches critical tipping point.

Note: Already I noticed that I didn't include anything on the oil embargo.

Historical Image of the Day

Visitors to Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1950s.

Alaskan Polling

As we see that Lisa Murkowski might actually lose her grudge match against Palin clone Joe Miller, I wonder why polling of Alaskan races trends far to the left of actual reality. Murkowski was supposed to blow Miller out; all the stories were written about the slap in Palin's face. Yet this is very much not the case. Similarly, in 2008 Mark Begich was supposed to destroy the scandal-riven Ted Stevens and longtime Republican Rep. Don Young was also likely to lose. Yet Begich barely squeaked out a win and Young won fairly easily.

What's up with this? Do they not poll the lunatics who live in the middle of nowhere, crawling out of their caves covered in animal furs to vote for the farthest-right candidate possible?


This Times piece on gay cadets at West Point doesn't do a very good job of keeping its anonymous sources anonymous:

“The most important thing I’ve learned here is how to be a good actor,” said one gay male cadet, who grew up in Philadelphia and is in his fourth year at the academy.

West Point is a small place. It's not going to be hard to find out who is a fourth year cadet from Philadelphia and who doesn't date women. Given that this cadet could be kicked out of the military for this, it seems like an awful lot of information to be providing. Maybe the cadet doesn't really care anymore, but that's seems somewhat unlikely. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

Construction of McNary Dam, Oregon, 1947.

The amount of salmon killed by this and dozens of other Northwestern dams is almost incalculable.

That must have been a lot of vodka...

As with a not-insignificant number of people, there are times in my life where I've gotten incredibly drunk. Nonetheless, I'm fairly certain that, even at my drunkest, I think I would have noticed if I'd been shot in the head.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

With the semester about to start, I suppose it's time to start with the historical images again. This week's theme will be the environment and environmentalism in the decades after World War II, but before Earth Day.

Smokey the Bear, 1950s. I have heard that this icon of American life was a real bastard of a bear. Liked to snap at people and such. I guess if I had my paws burned as a cub and was taken from the New Mexico forests to a zoo, I'd be pissy too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rock's Greatest "Fuck You" Moments

Over on Facebook, I responded to Erik's Dylan question that the electric side was better, all because of Dylan's sneer on the live version of "Like a Rolling Stone" (after having somebody yell out "Judas!" and telling his band to "Play it fucking loud!"), which I suggested was one of the three greatest "fuck you" moments in rock and roll. He asked me what the other two were. I responded that they were (in no particular order): Donita Sparks of L7 reaching up between her legs, pulling out her used tampon, and throwing it into the audience after being pelted with mud at the Reading festival in 1992; Dylan's sneer in "Like a Rolling Stone"; and the "Fuck'em" bit in the Libertines' "I Get Along."

Given that we do apparently still have readers in spite of the dearth of posts, I open it up - the best "fuck you" moments in rock music?


Question of the day: Which set from Dylan's 1966 Royal Albert Hall concert is better? I say the electric set by a single Robbie Robertson guitar lick. But it's damn close.

Also, everything bad about the 60s can be summed up by the idiot who screamed "Judas" at Dylan after he finished Ballad of a Thin Man.

Remembering Lou Dobbs' Idiocy

Until I found this editorial while researching something on the 2007 May 1 immigrant rights rallies, I had almost forgotten what a stupid racist asshole Lou Dobbs is. In this editorial, he not only insists on calling migrants "illegal aliens," he finds it conspiratorial that they would choose the workers' day of May 1 for their rallies. Of course, he forgets that it's not just a Soviet holiday, but that celebrate in such commie paradises as France and Sweden. But then he goes on and reminds us that apparently May 1 is Law Day in the United States. Evidently, this was some sort of Kennedy Cold War creation. Anyway, I'm sure the people who were blown away by the police after the Haymarket bomb would totally respect this. I don't know what I like the most--the whole idea of Law Day as some sort of slap at the Soviets or Lou Dobbs bringing this up in 2007.

I'm so glad we've moved on from this idiotic racist nonsense in the last 3 years....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Neener, neener, neener

Forgive me the childish joy I am taking in reading that Roger Clemens has been handed a perjury indictment for lying his ass off to a Congressional committee about his use of steroids.

Political capital and the Ground Zero mosque

The proposal to erect a mosque near Ground Zero poses something of a quandary for Democrats and the president. President Obama has defended the rights of the people involved to build the mosque, which is, of course, the right thing to do. The protection of religious minorities is an important part of the American experiment, certainly. But is it the most strategic move?

With 62% of Americans opposing the construction of the mosque (a number most likely inflated because most people don't seem to realize that the mosque and Islamic center wouldn't be on the actual Ground Zero property, just near it), Democrats and Obama are spending some serious political capital and assuming a modicum of risk in an election year. Of course, the most admirably idealistic among us may say strategy be damned in the face of ethics, but I think weighing the cost is worth discussing. Is this a big enough issue to swing a few close races in the midterms? It seems as such, at least in New York, where a number of Democratic congressional nominees are opposing the project. What cost will a few more losses in the midterms have on the Obama agenda going forward? Will this resurface in 2012 (I'm thinking of heinous right-wing attack ads in Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, etc.)? At what point do we consider the greater good of a more successful Obama agenda vis-a-vis taking a stand on this particular issue?

This is an interesting battle for the President to weigh in on-- I'm wondering if "no comment" would have been a better play. Obama isn't totally innocent of this kind of Clintonian hedging-- look at the situation with "Don't Ask-Don't Tell" (the repeal of which has far more popular support in the nation than the proposed mosque project).

This is an interesting issue to me because I don't have much of an answer to these questions. But I can't shake the feeling that the left is involved in a bit of a gamble here; the ethics of possibly hindering progress on the economy, the environment, and a host of other far more important (in the sense of the number of, and degree to which, people are affected) issues is certainly worth thinking about.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The New York Mets, or, Yet Another Way In Which Mr. Trend Was Ahead of the Curve

The Cleveland Indians are and always will be my first baseball team. That said, living in New York turned me into a pretty strong Mets fan, for better and for worse (though being a lifelong Indians fan has made me relatively immune to what Mets fans think is severe suffering). With the Metropolitans as my second team, I quickly invested a decent amount of emotion and energy into them, and ever since the firing of Willie Randolph, I've insisted the Mets need a purging, not so much because I was a major Randolph partisan, but rather because of the fact that Minaya handled it about as terribly as one could. Ever since then, I've never missed a chance when with friends to call for Minaya's firing and the removal of Jerry Manuel (not out of ill will, but out of a desire for a completely fresh start).

Thus, I'm glad to see the major national media finally starting to get on board with what fans have known for a long time: that the Mets need to ditch Minaya, Manuel, and all related personnel, and begin a major rennovation (new ownership would be nice, too, though that's less likely).

Monday, August 09, 2010

Franklin Pierce Sex Jokes

Joke from an 1850s quasi-pornographic newspaper:

"Why is Ex-President Pierce like the privates of a man?

Because he went in Hard and came out Soft." 

I'm not actually sure what the joke means. Perhaps monetary policy. But any Franklin Pierce sex joke must be shared.

From Donna Dennis' Licentious Gotham: Erotic Publishing and Prosecution in Nineteenth-Century New York.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Memo to the Nixon Foundation...

The wire-taps are the least controversial part of the Watergate scandal. Nobody condemns Nixon for the wire-taps. They condemn him for the constitutional abuses, the paranoia, the attempts to use his authority to ruin his opponents, and the illegal effort to cover up an absurd break-in.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Today in Specious Arguments: Lula's Absence at the G20 Destroyed Brazil's Economic Power!

Although editorials like this are all too common and don't surprise, their absurdity never ceases to amaze me. I always marvel at how far some will stretch in order to attack Lula, even when all other evidence suggests their arguments are wrong. Are there good reasons to criticize Lula? Absolutely. It's completely fair to say that his environmental record is at best "not good." Although I wouldn't fully agree, you could also suggest that he did not go far enough with his social programs, and that he compromised too many of his ideals to become president.

But to go after Lula because he skipped June's G-20 to deal with domestic disaster is facile and ridiculous. First, there is the fact that there is very little concrete evidence to suggest that Lula's absence has doomed Brazil. The author provides a lot of conjecture, but no actual evidence of damage. Could Lula's absence possibly be a problem down the line? Theoretically, I suppose so; but the idea that missing deals that could have taken place at one meeting across two days in June will reduce Brazil's economy and political presence globally is not only ridiculous; it's insulting to the expert diplomats Brazil has throughout the world to suggest that their efforts are undone just because a president missed a meeting due to issues at home. And there is absolutely no reason, politically, economically, or historically, to believe that the window that was open for opportunity for economic deals on June 26-27 will magically be closed on October 22-23, when the G20 meets again. Arguing that Lula's absence has caused irreparable damage to Brazil's standing in the global economy and politics is not just specious; it's patently absurd.
And on those issues at home...it's not like Lula dodged the meeting to vacation, or get some fake honorary title or something. There were horrible floods in Brazil; dozens were killed, and thousands more displaced. And this was almost simultaneous with the G-20 meeting. It's not like Lula waited to respond until it was too late. What is more, I just don't buy the "he skipped the G-20 for a few more votes at home argument," for several reasons. First, being president isn't the same as being head of the national bank; Lula has other duties besides economic deal-making. Taking care of his constituents is arguably at the top of the list of presidential duties. Surveying the damage and trying to help alleviate Brazilians' suffering through executive decision-making is probably more important than economic deals that can come later. I imagine most presidents or prime ministers would agree that domestic disasters take precedence over international meetings; you are elected by and serve your country's civilians, not the leaders and deal-makers of other countries.
Finally, this idea that Lula skipped the meetings for "a few more votes at home" is absurd. A) He's not running for re-election. Sure, you could suggest he did it to garner support for the PT's candidate, Dilma Rousseff; certainly, he's been very present in drumming up support for her. But the flooding happened in Brazil's Northeast, an area where Lula got 66% of the vote in 2006 (nearly propelling him to a first-round victory), an area where the PT has traditionally done very well. It's not like this was some opportunity to try to shore up support where Lula and the PT had traditionally lacked it, and to suggest as much is to effectively ignore both regional politics and the social conditions in the Northeast.
In short, this is one of the worst types of editorializing, relying not only on doom-and-gloom predictions based on hypotheses with no grounding in historical realities and gross simplifications of complex negotiations, but also turning to conjecture that ignores social realities and political practicality (who is the president supposed to serve?) in order to launch yet another smear campaign.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Why I Am Skeptical of Some Brazilian Poll Numbers

This episode from 1998 demonstrates perfectly a couple of things: the unreliability and partisanship of some of the major polling institutions in Brazil; many media organizations' (and not just Datafolha's) ties to the PSDB; and their efforts to either swing Brazilian voters to the PSDB and its allies, or to persuade those who would vote for another party to just abandon hope before the election. Additionally, as a sometimes-collateral effect, this type of activity also does a great job ratcheting up hatred for the PT among the more conservative elements of the middle-class; not only is it a "Workers' Party," but this type of misinformation (which was not an isolated incident in 1998, but continues today) lowers expectations for how the PT will do; when it does much better than predicted, the outrage increases, as people expect one outcome but receive another.

Though complex, this article gives a pretty strong and accurate portrayal of one of the "darker" sides of how Brazilian electoral politics and the media's role in them function, not just at the state level but at the national level as well, and it reminds me why I have a hard time taking any non-IBOPE polling results seriously (and though IBOPE has erred before, it has also done the best job of showing complete non-partisanship and a commitment to just reporting numbers).
(And again, sorry for the choppy translation, but at least Google Chrome makes it possible to actually link to Portuguese articles for non-Portuguese readers now, too).

Monday, August 02, 2010

On Brazil's Presidential Campaign

I've been terribly remiss at dealing with this topic, in no small part because, while Brazil prepares to head to the polls again, I continue to try to finish a dissertation. However, with the campaign having really picked up steam once Brazil exited the World Cup, now seems as good a time as any to dive into the debates and discussions on the impending election.

Shortly after Dilma Rousseff's nomination, the PSDB, the main political party of the right, once again launched Jose Serra as its presidential candidate, later selecting relatively young Indio da Costa, of the far-right Democratas (Democrats) party as its vice-presidential candidate. Serra had been the candidate against Lula in 2002, when the PT and Lula finally won the election on their fourth try (having lost in 1989, 1994, 1998). Although Serra was seen in retrospect as relatively progressive for the PSDB (especially after the PSDB nominated extreme conservative Geraldo Alckmin in 2006), the 2002 loss apparently has still left him embittered, while the PSDB has continued to futilely and baselessly rail and rant against Lula, taking any chance they can to smear him. Indeed, in an effort to denigrate the PT, da Costa even baselessly claimed that the PT is connected to the FARC and narco-traficantes, in a moment that resembled Sarah Palin suggesting Obama "palled around with terrorists." It is clear that the PSDB and Serra do not want the PT's presence in Brasilia to continue, and while their efforts to do anything to prevent that from happening are fairly disgusting, it's also understandable, for two reasons: first, Lula has seemed to invoke an almost irrational hatred among many in the PSDB and its supporters (especially Rio's middle class); this is often based on classism as well as political jealousy and (to a lesser extent) ideology. Secondly, the PT was and is Lula's party, and the PSDB is Fernando Henrique Cardoso's party. Many have questioned whether the PT could survive beyond a Lula presidency, or whether it would disappear the way the National Reconstruction Party disappeared when Fernando Collor had to resign amidst allegations of extreme corruption. If Dilma wins, it will do much for the PT's ability to remain a strong and vibrant party beyond Lula. With Rousseff having taken the lead in polls after a statistical tie for much of the campaign, these tactics are likely to continue.

What would a Rousseff presidency look like vs. a Serra presidency, though? Many intelligent and respected scholars say there won't be much difference [sorry for the rough translation - Google's Portuguese-English translator isn't the best], and that a PT and PSDB presidency at this point would really vary only in shade, rather than in real policy. They point to what they perceive to be Lula's "continuist" policies following Fernando Henrique in terms of views on the market. This M.O. of Lula as "continuist" has been the main narrative since about 2004, and it clearly hasn't shifted as historians, political scientists, and others consider this year's elections.

However, I think this has always been a bit of a misnomer. If your idea of "continuist" is "a not-sudden and extreme ideological shift," a la from socialism to neoliberalism or from a dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy, then yes, Lula has been continuist, and either Dilma or Serra would be similar. However, this strikes me as a rather facile and useless way to view the two main presidential parties in Brazil right now. There were subtle but important differences between Lula and Cardoso. For example:

-The PSDB under FHC pushed privatization to extremes, trying to privatize everything (and succeeding with just about everything except Brazil's public university system and Petrobras; on both, the Brazilian people drew the line, and FHC had to step back a bit). While some say this did improve services, it also raised prices (when a French company bought out Brazil's public phone system, for example, phone prices in Brazil immediately went up 30%, even as they dropped 30% in France); what is more, as Lula demonstrated, investing in state-run companies and improving efficiency are not mutually exclusive terms, and when both are executed, can make an even stronger company than privatization could, all while offering greater benefits to your own citizens.

-In addition to adhering strongly to neoliberalism, FHC kept his economic relations connected almost strictly to the European Union and the United States, meaning Brazil's economy was by and large dependent on the fluxes of the American and European markets (no small irony, given that, in the 1970s, FHC was a leading theorist in dependency theory). While Lula did not shed the mercantilist policies of his predecessor, he did extend them to all of the world. Trade with Africa; deals with Arab countries in the Middle East; agreements with China; partnerships with India; collaborations with the United States - all were fair game, and Lula fostered these agreements in all parts of the world. This was beneficial both economically and politically; on the economic front, it diversified Brazil's trade, making it less susceptible to one country's or region's economic decline and strengthening its own economy (indeed, it was one of the last countries to enter the 2008 global recession, entering into recession in June 2009 and emerging from it just one quarter later.) Politically, Brazil was able to strengthen its role as a global player, working with everybody but dependent on nobody. Thus, Brazil enjoyed a level of both political and economic autonomy it had never witnessed before. The old joke used to be "Brazil - the country of tomorrow, forever." Yet Lula seems to have guided it very close to being the country of tomorrow today.

-Thirdly, there has been Lula's emphasis on state programs. A sort of flip-side to neoliberalism, Lula proposed a greater state presence and higher government spending on programs like Zero Hunger and the Bolsa Familia, which provided money to poor families for food or for their children to attend school longer. These programs have by all accounts been massively successful, and thanks in no small part to them, more people are joining Brazil's middle class than had ever taken place before. These policies ran directly counter to FHC's emphasis on "trickle-down" economics, something that Serra also emphasizes. While there are still enormous gaps between the wealthiest and the poorest in Brazil, the middle seems to be growing, and has done so through increased state spending (something the U.S. could learn from), and not from privatization and hopes for a trickle-down effect.
This is why describing Lula as "continuist" is not wholly accurate. Sure, he didn't radically alter the political or economic system, but there are major and important differences between Lula/PT and FHC/PSDB, and these differences I think in large part explain why Brazil has become such a major player in the global community in the 2000s, and not in the 1990s. And these differences continue between Rousseff on the one hand and Serra on the other. The election of either will not be the same thing (in much the same way that Bush and Gore were not the same thing in 2000); the election will determine whether Brazil continues down the path that garnered so much success in the first decade of the 2000s, or if it returns to the path of the 1990s that continued to perpetuate social and economic inequalities and sent the country spiralling into debt in the 1990s and inflation and recession after 1998 (when the exchange rate of the real to the dollar doubled overnight, immediately after FHC's re-election).

We are already getting good examples of these differences in Rousseff's pledges to continue those social programs, even while Serra denigrates of Mercosur and Brazil's relationship with Paraguay (fostered under Lula), while expressing his desire to return to policies focusing on neoliberalism and partnerships with the EU and the US. That type of policy is pure PSDB, and I think explains in no small part why Brazil did not take off under FHC but did under Lula. Lula did indeed continue to focus on market policies, but he did so with everybody, rather than just the EU and US; in doing so, he was able to expand Brazil's market even while retaining autonomy, rather than becoming dependent on one or two major economies. That success explains in no small part some of that hatred for Lula among the PSDB and its supporters - he succeeded where they failed, and did so by pointing out the weaknesses in their own policies. That these university-educated politicians were schooled by a laborer who never went to college particularly stung.

For these reasons, to suggest that Brazil will be the same whether Rousseff or Serra wins overlooks some very important distinctions. Yes, an overall mercantilist worldview will continue, but the differences between Serra and Rousseff are not just the differences between believing in privatization vs. a strong state with social programs for the poorer sectors, or partnerships with the U.S. vs. partnerships with the whole world. They are the differences between Brazil in the 1990s and Brazil in the 2000s; ask any Brazilian, and those differences are enormous and almost uniformly better in the 2000s. And that is why this year's election is so important and worth watching.

182,152 pages in the Chevron trial

It's an impressive number. Judge Leonardo Ordonez, president of the provincial court of the Sucumbios in Ecuador's Oriente, has said he won't be able to rule this year on the suit between indigenous communities of the region and Chevron Corporation in part because of the extent of the filings in the case, totaling 182,152 pages. How many of those pages are superfluous motions, document dumps, and the like by Chevron? The case has dragged on for 17 years now.

By the way, the indigenous communities claim that during Texaco's twenty years in Ecuador, the company was responsible for dumping 345 million gallons of crude oil, and another 18 billion gallons of contaminated waste water into the Oriente. Compare that to BP's release of approximately 185 million gallons into the Gulf. Of course, the BP contamination is much more dramatic because of its rapidity, and because releasing into the Gulf allowed the oil to spread rapidly. It took Texaco a much longer time to contaminate Ecuador's slice of Amazonia. That, and there is no "first world" media obsession with the destructive deeds of the past. This is also the case with the Niger delta, which has been horribly devastated by unregulated petroleum extraction.

And that last bit is a real part of the problem. Why do oil companies behave as they have in places like Niger and Ecuador? Because they thought they could get away with it in countries that lack robust environmental regulation, monitoring capacity, and political will to take foreign corporations to task. In many cases, the possibility for a regulatory structure was coercively quashed by the international debt regime, which forced desperate countries to privatize and deregulate their economies in return for renegotiated debt service.

Compensation for the victims of this system of petroleum exploitation is too little too late, but it is at least something. Here's hoping that Ordonez can wade through the rest of that paper in the next 6-10 months and give a just ruling.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

People I'm Allowed to Mourn

I've always been a bit bothered by the obituaries many bloggers write, primarily because they often seem to end up being more about the blogger than the deceased. ("I will now explain all the wonderful ways my life changed due to X, who has sadly passed). That's usually why my comments on people's deaths on this blog have been brief and to the point. As Erik can tell you, I'm a wordy bastard, and if I don't keep it brief, it will turn into an obnoxious exercise in narcissism (or at least even more obnoxious than the usual narcissism of blogging).
Fortunately, I recently came along SEK's "List of people whose deaths I'm allowed to mourn." Rather than using anybody's death of somebody you've heard of or had minimal exposure to (and turning said death into another exercise in navel-gazing), he narrowed down the artists (musicians, television/movie personalities, authors) who he can safely say have played a major role in forming who he is as a person.

And so, instead of getting into a long series of self-important posts down the line, I thought a similar list of people from various media who played a major role in forming me as a person would be handy. That way, on the event of their deaths, my reflections will actually be genuine observations on the role people who truly were an important part of my life (even if I never met them), rather than a shallow effort to turn the death of every person I've ever heard of into a chance to talk about myself. And if I ever turn the death of somebody not on the list into an obnoxious study in egocentrism, then I welcome any subsequent blogging-flogging. In no particular order:

1. Philip Roth
2. Christopher Tolkien
3. Joan Didion
4. Sonic Youth (all long-term members)
5. Radiohead
6. Philip Glass
7. Lou Reed
8. Sleater-Kinney
9. Joe McPhee
10. Ornette Coleman
11. Neil Young
12. Gilberto Gil
13. Tom Ze
14. Alain Resnais
15. The Coen Brothers

Certainly, as life goes on, I'm sure other (still-living) authors, musicians, etc. will become bigger parts of my life, but right now, those deaths would/will really hit me on a personal level, and I reserve the right to self-reflective obituary writing. Beyond that, they'll stay impersonal and brief.