Saturday, September 30, 2006

Can this get any worse?

I know by asking the above question, I am instantly assuring things will get worse, but given this story from, I fail to see how. Buried near the bottom of the story is the following sentence:

"The White House spokesman [Tony Snow] did confirm one detail in [Bob] Woodward's forthcoming book -- that Henry Kissinger has been advising Bush about Iraq."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Water: Why India May Fail To Become A World Power

This New York Times story on the severe water shortages New Dehli faces tells me one thing: India may well never reach their predicted position as a world power. People who believe that India and China are on their way to becoming dominant nations in the 21st century are ignoring environmental issues. These nations are in real trouble. The US is too, but we have the proper level of democracy, political power, and money to deal with these environmental issues to some extent. China--well, maybe. Authoritarianism might buy them a little time. India--no. You simply cannot build a powerful nation or even a decent middle-class without access to the world's most basic resource. New Dehli is suffering under massive water shortages, not to mention intense pollution, and a lack of government will to do anything about it. India is all about the money in their rapidly industrializing economy but if they don't solve their water issues, forget it. How can these cities continue to grow and prosper without water? They can't.

If I were a betting man (and I'm very much not), I would place my money that India is not a large world power in 2050 and I would say this because I don't think they will solve any of the environmental issues getting in the way.

One or the Other, But They Are Incompatible

I just ran across this amusing link for a conservative dating website--that states, "Whether you follow conservative politics or democratic principles, you can find someone online who meets your political needs."

Conservative politics or democratic principles. No question that these are quite the opposite of the other.

Truth be told, it's mislabeled. It's actually a link to various politically based dating websites. But it says it's for conservatives. In any case, quite hilarious, don't you think?

Lyrad's Random Ten

I'd write more but my keyboard's covered in skin....

1. Johannes Brahms--Sonata No.1 in e for Violin & Piano
2. Clutch--Rats
3. The Temptations--The Way You Do the Things You Do
4. Rich Woodson--The Gist Does Not Exist
5. Peeping Tom--Celebrity Death Match
6. Maceo Pinkard--Down Where They Play the Blues
7. Igor Stravinsky--Le chant du rossignol; 4. Jeu du rossignol mecanique
8. Blind Boy Fuller--I'm Climbin' on Top of the Hill
9. Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet--Farbs
10. Bill Frisell--Yala

Erik's Random 10

1. Charlie Poole, My Wife Went Up and Left Me
2. Rodney Crowell, The Rock of My Soul
3. David S. Ware, Theme of Ages
4. Conway Twitty, Happy Birthday Darlin'
5. Steve Earle, Ben McCullough
6. Kasey Chambers, This Flower
7. Jay Clark, Catfish
8. Charles Gayle, Faith Evermore
9. Bob Dylan, Shelter from the Storm
10. Tom Waits, Dirt in the Ground

Mister Trend's Random 10

Of course, no Madonna will be found here....

1. “El Momento” - Jaguares
2. “Symphony #9 in E Minor, Op. 95, B 178, “From the New World” - 1. Adagio, Allegro Molto
3. “Pharoah’s Dance” - Miles Davis
4. “Le Sacre du Printemps - Introduction (Lento)” - Stravinsky
5. “Experience Blues” - Blind Willie McTell
6. “Ambergris March” - Bjork
7. “Sad Dress” - Belly
8. “Blacklisted” - Neko Case
9. “Gloria” - U2
10. “Underwear” - The Magnetic Fields


I’ve made this stance before in bars and whatnot, but an incident at a nightclub last night has given me new motivation to reiterate my claims...

Madonna is overrated.

I have never understood the absolute love of Madonna in the U.S. If you actually listen to her voice and her lyrics, they’re usually at best mediocre. She has a couple of songs that aren’t to bad within the pop universe, but as musical productions themselves, they’re never that great.

However, I fully applaud her ability to pull the wool over America’s (and the world’s) eyes. Everytime she has a new song, the first thing you hear is, “Madonna is back with a new look. Here’s her new song!” Excuse me? Since when did how one appeared make for good music? Don’t get me wrong - the visual can increase the aural appreciation of music, but it can’t replace it. I don’t care if she’s back as a brunette/mom/Kabballah-lover/fascist/whatever. It’s the music that matters first, THEN the image. And yet, the world buys it. They barely give her music a second’s worth of attention, focusing on if it’s catchy for the 5 seconds it takes to decide such matters, and then instantly talking about her new look. And make no mistakes - reinventing image where there’s no musical strength is something Madonna excels at. Have you seen any other pop star that has been able to perpetuate a career for so long based almost completely on image?

So, bravo, Madonna - years ago you learned and have masterfully employed an uncanny ability to get people to keep you in their minds without producing anything of real note in the musical world.


Madonna is overrated.

Brazilian Presidential Debates

Last night, I had the chance to see a bit of the Brazilian presidential debates last night (I believe the last one before Sunday’s elections). Although, due to time constraints, I only saw fifteen minutes, they were a fascinating affair.

First, there were supposed to be four candidates, which as any American can attest to, is absolutely stunning. Being from a country where debates are almost ALWAYS two people (with 1992 and Ross Perot’s involvement being the most recent notable exception), it was nice to see such variety.

However, in reality, there were only three candidates. Cristovam Buarque of the (further left than PT) Partido Democrático Trabalhista (Workers’ Democratic Party, and a distant relative of singer Chico Buarque), Heloisa Helena of the Partido Solidariedade Liberdade, and Gerardo Alckmin of the PSDB, were all present. Absent was the current president, Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva. This was absolutely amazing to me, that not only would a major candidate not show up at a debate, but that the current present, seeking re-election, would avoid it. I asked my girlfriend why he wasn’t there, and she non-chalantly said, “Because he knows he’s going to win. He doesn’t need to be there.” She seemed a little surprise at my shock at his absence, but it’s just one of a million ways that politics differ from country to country. I had to explain to her that, if a candidate avoided a debate in the United States, he or she would take a HUGE hit in popularity, simply because the people would feel he or she was hiding something, or was unable to deal with even the relatively low-intensity of the canned debates in the United States. Yet here, Lula’s absence doesn’t seem to matter much to anyone. Those who hate him hate him regardless of his attendance, and those who love him applaud him for not attending to have his character assassinated.

Yet his absence didn’t go unnoticed or uncommented upon. The debate was on Globo TV, the largest media network in Brazil, and one that is OPENLY anti-Lula. As a result, they had an empty seat with his name on it, and continuously showed shots of it (more than of the candidates who WERE present when the debate first opened), allowing the image (at least to me) to repeatedly try to condemn him as a coward for being unable to attend (though I’m sure Lula is savvy enough to know what he was doing - he’s had to battle Globo throughout his presidency and his previous 3 attempts to run prior to 2002). Not only that, since he wasn’t there, the station decided to allow the other three candidates to state what they would ask Lula if he were there in place of the time he would have spent speaking were he present. In one way, I approve of this, because it does raise questions for the populace and the president equally. However, in general, I found this particular incident appalling, because many times, the candidates didn’t even address how THEY would tackle certain issues - instead, they simply fell to stale rhetoric condemning the “corruption” of Lula’s administration and offering nothing new themselves.

Another interesting thing about the debate was the importance of image and personal bearing. Not being able to always fully understand what the candidates were saying, I focused on how they bore themselves. I had heard that Alckmin, the leading opponent (at roughly 25%, depending on the poll) from the PSDB, had no personality (earlier this year, the PSDB went with him, who had more substance as a politician than another hopeful candidate, Aécio Neves, who turned it down and who was far more charismatic but less experienced than Alckmin). However, the rumors didn’t do the fact justice. We weren’t dealing with a Nixon/Kennedy type issue here, but he has less personality than Tino Martinez when he started on “Baseball Tonight” (Tino’s gotten better, but only marginally so). Alckmin just seemed as unmoving and uncharismatic as possible.

The final interesting thing to me was finally seeing Heloisa Helena. She formed the PSOL in 2003 when she was kicked out of Lula’s PT over policy disagreements. She claims that the PSOL stays by the people after the PT’s “betrayal” (she even commented that she would not betray the people the way Lula has), and her appearance appealed to this, as she showed up at the debate in jeans and a humble shirt, typical of the Northeast from which she hails (as does Lula). Many leftists in Latin America and political scientists in the U.S. sort of look to the PSOL as the real PT, offering a true “guiding light” in leftism for Brazil where the PT has failed (though the failures of the PT in social programs are dubious at best - it’s done more for social programs than any president since João Goulart in the early 1960s). On a listserv I’m a part of, we get to see a bombardment of articles that praise Heloisa Helena (“HH,” as she’s called here,) and completely condemn Lula. However, she is leftist AND remarkably traditional. While she is in favor of very strong social programs, she is VEHEMENTLY anti-abortion. While I approve of her social tendencies, I cannot support the anti-abortion stance she takes, and I find it ironic that those who strongly support her both in the U.S. and in Latin America completely neglect her absolute betrayal of the fight for women’s rights. She can condemn Lula for “betraying” the people even while she refuses to stand up for women’s rights in a country that has long had a hard time granting such rights (into the 1940s, men could kill their wives for “unfaithfulness,” and divorce was only legalized in 1977, paradoxically during Brazil’s dictatorship) and is still so difficult and complicated that it only is really available to wealthy women).

I wish I could have seen more of the debates, but it definitely was amazing to get such a good glimpse into a totally different political universe than the canned “debates” of the United States.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Alms for a Leper?

So, my face is falling off. To say it more accurately, just the skin on my face.

The sun and I don't get along very well. That's ok, we can agree to disagree. It's a neccessary evil and I have come to accept that. In any case, I went to see the final Texas Rangers' home game this past Saturday (in which I had the pleasure of seeing my first ever inside-the-park home run, mostly because Carlos Lee is in the running for history's worst fielder) and I got a little sunburn. No big deal...or so I thought. Unfortunately, I didn't take into account the warning label on the painkillers I'm taking to help some severe back spasms I have had recently, which clearly states "Avoid prolonged or excessive exposure to direct sunlight while taking this medication." I guess I looked at that much as I look at the warning not to drink while taking them, with a scoffing glance. On Tuesday, however, I woke to find my the skin on my face tightened into a painfully connected mask. Yesterday, that painful mask became even tighter and began to crack. This morning, when I dried my face off, I looked in the mirror to find myself wearing, in pro wrestling terms, the crimson mask. That is, covered in blood. Every time a flake of skin falls off, there is left a raw patch where there is supposed to be new skin which, unfortunately, has not grown. I am gruesome, scarier than I normally look. Open sores, large red patches, and there's still the sunburn that has not molted yet. It looks like somebody cut the tip of my nose off. I apologize if anybody is eating while reading this. At this point, I can look in the mirror to squelch my appetite.

The sun and I are officially not on speaking terms for a while. Hopefully, I will learn a lesson about heeding warnings.

By the any change?


Like Tom, I have been banned at Confederate Yankee. Thank God--this is as great as Times Select. Being banned keeps me from actually commenting.

All it took was asking him to teach for me in his Klan garb. He didn't even deny that he owned a Klan outfit. I was going to point this out in his comments, but I'm no longer welcome there. Very sad.

Thailand Update

Just over a week after the Thai coup, my faith in the smooth transition back to some sort of democracy continues to be shaken.

First of all, it is quite clear that no one involved in the coup has much clue what they are doing. They are telling different things about when they will step aside, who will replace them, and what role the military will have. The coup leaders are fighting amongst themselves. The Bangkok middle-class and intellectuals who supported dumping Thaksin are increasingly nervous about the anti-democratic elements within the military. And honestly, if you are supporting a coup against a democratically elected leader, what do you expect? Civil liberties, especially in the rural areas that constituted Thaksin's base, are severely limited. The coup leaders weren't even very competent--they revolted in part against Thaksin's corruption but failed to freeze his assets when they took over. So Thaksin is off scot free with all his cash. It's just not good. The coup leaders have come under increasing criticism--at first the US and other world powers seemed to tolerate the coup but the uncertainty and chaos is really starting to undermine faith in the Thai economy, which of course is what other nations really care about.

The leading candidate to take over seems to be Surayud Chulanot, a general long known for wanting to get the military out of politics. I don't know enough about Thai politics to say too much about what someone with this background taking over means, but he is a general and his commitment to democracy doesn't seem to be all that strong. Others, including the New York Times are saying the Prime Minister position is being offered to former World Bank head Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, which would likely help stabilize world opinion about the safety of the Thai economy.

Buried within this story is an interesting tidbit about how Thaksin's supporters are the descendants of the leftist movements that racked Thailand during the Vietnam War era. While it's hard to imagine a 1970s style Southeast Asian rebellion in 2006, this could mean that Thailand in general is more on edge than people are admitting. I'd like to know more about these connections and will be keeping my eyes open for them.

Meanwhile, the Thai generals have banned go-go dancers from hanging out near the tanks. Important move there.

Link of the Day: Mannion on Torture and What It Means to be an American

As always, I have no way to improve on Lance Mannion's clear elegant prose. Read this post on why torture is unAmerican.

Not surprisingly, many people who do support torture also feel positively about the Confederacy. Coincidence? I think not.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

George Allen Is Just Making Me Laugh Now

From the Virginia Progressive comes this report that George Allen has now angered his Confederate buddies by saying that the Confederate flag can be a symbol of hate.

RICHMOND — U.S. Sen. George Allen once again is being told to lay off the Confederate flag.

But this time, it’s not from the people who abhor the Dixie symbol. It’s from the people who revere it.

State leaders of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have scheduled a news conference Thursday to criticize Allen’s recent acknowledgement that the Confederate flag can be seen as a symbol of hate.

“George Allen was a good friend of ours and we don’t appreciate him turning on us to get out of political trouble,” said Frank Earnest of Virginia Beach, commander of the Virginia division of the SCV. “He’s degraded us, the flag and our heritage.”

Ha Ha Ha.

Selectively Telling Your History

Earlier this week I was writing a lecture on the Navajo Long Walk. This will be the subject of next Tuesday's Forgotten American Blogging, but in brief, the US Army forced the Navajos to leave their home and go to a distant reservation in the 1860s. It was a complete disaster.

I was scanning around for books on this in the library to crib from. The most useful thing I found was actually a book for children, Navajo Long Walk. Probably kids about the age of 11-12.

The Navajos have a complex history. They hardly fit the stereotypes many people have of Indians--they have ravaged their own landscape through overgrazing. They raided the villages of New Mexico for almost 200 years, causing widespread death. And they actively engaged in a regional slave trade.

Today, people don't much want to talk about these things. This book about the Navajo Long Walk really tried to hedge on the slavery issue. The book claims, "Far fewer New Mexicans were taken captive by the Navajos than Navajos were taken captive by the New Mexicans, yet it was the Navajos who became feared as raiders." Perhaps. But I think if you asked the Utes or the Hopis or the Zuni, they'd tell you that the Navajos were pretty damn fierce and loved taking slaves. Yet these peoples are interestingly not mentioned.

The book also claims that "The Navajos called the Americans the New Men. They hoped to find a peaceful way to exist with them." Um, no. Not to take away from the horrid Indian policies of the United States but the Navajos were not a peaceable people. They would have liked to take American children as slaves as much as New Mexican or Zuni. All the way into the 1860s, the Navajos were raiding villages throughout western New Mexico, even stealing US Army cattle.

Now I don't have much of a problem with this. The Spanish and the Americans were invaders of New Mexico, though so were the Navajos really. They all harrassed the fairly peaceable New Mexico Pueblos. I refuse to feel bad for the US Army in the American West. After all, they did engage in freaking genocide, something the Navajos certainly never did.

But it would be nice to have a little honesty in our historical narratives, particularly when they are developed for children and published by the National Geographic Society. The Navajos were slavers and did a lot of damage to other Indian peoples and the Hispanos of New Mexico. Deal with it.

Note--any similiarities between teaching undergraduates and teaching 5th graders are strictly coincidental.

Is Confederate Yankee The Stupidest Blogger in America?

I know there's a lot of competition for the title of stupidest blogger, but in the comments to this post, you can see that Confederate Yankee has a hell of a case.

The post itself is stupid enough--he says Yglesias hates America, blah blah blah.

But it is in the comments that his true idiocy comes out. He bans Tom Hilton for a somewhat tongue in cheek mark wishing that William Tecumseh Sherman would have had nuclear weapons for his march through Georgia. Yet at the same time he argues that slaves supported the Confederacy. He says the banning is for supporting genocide with no apparent irony of his support of slavery. He calls Yglesias a terrorist despite his own blog name being that of a terrorist movement against black people

As D puts it, "Not to pluck a well-worn harp here, but anyone with a blog entitled "Confederate Yankee" is utterly disqualified from making judgments about the "abject ignorance of history."


That didn't take long...

My girlfriend says somebody is ALWAYS striking in Brazil, an adage I can attest to. The last time I was here, all the museum workers were on strike (thus preventing me from seeing the creepy Getulio Vargas museum, a former dictator AND popularly elected president [in that order] of Brazil where you can not only see the room where he killed himself, but also the smoking jacket he was wearing when he put a bullet in his heart...).

This time, it took all of 4 days for a strike to occur. However, it's one that may be a little harder to approve of in the hierarchy-of-just-causes. As of yesterday, many bankers (though not all, and I can't figure out the rhyme or reason) went on strike. I'm all for worker's rights, and like the notion that lesser-paid bankers are sticking it to corporate bank owners. Who knows how long this strike will last (some strikes are over in a few days here - others, such as the museum workers strike of 2005, last months). All I know is, to quote Eric Idle...

"It sure will make chartered accountancy more interesting."

The Most Evil On One Stage In World History

No, this is not a proposed tour featuring Rush and Styx.

In the Spring of 2002, Ohio State University decided to give five honorary doctorates.

Two of them went to the nation's most evil individuals, George W. Bush and George Steinbrenner. Bush and Steinbrenner together.

Wow. If the apocalypse is truly upon us, at least we know when and where it started.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Tale of Two Sequels--The Ring 2 and Ringu 2

I saw The Ring when it came out on video and, while far from a masterpiece, surprisingly found myself highly interested in the film’s concept and imagery. Interested enough, at least, to check out Ringu, the Japanese film it was made from, to find one of the moodiest and conceptually ambiguous horror films I’ve seen in years. It uses classic Japanese concepts of spirits in everyday life in subtle and effective ways; ways that American horror will not touch. Then, in 2005, The Ring 2 arrived in theaters to universal pans and, as I’m as generally disgusted by horror sequels as the next moviegoer (no matter how much a fan of horror I am), I avoided the film like the plague and, consequently, neither did I see Ringu 2. Recently, however, as a result of ridiculous used DVD sales at video stores, I elected to pick them both up to watch together. Both were directed by Hideo Nakata, the director of the original Japanese film (Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski helmed the original American entry), which was encouraging, although the American sequel was written by somebody else unlike the Japanese, written by the director. This was somewhat distressing, but I had no idea how deep the distress would delve.

For those unfamiliar with the original films, they go something like this: after some strange and gruesome deaths, a reporter catches wind of a creepy montage videotape full of well and water images that contains a monster which, seven days after watching the tape, will emerge from viewers’ televisions and murder them savagely. The reporter watches the tape and, inadvertently, her son sees it as well, sending her on a quest to understand and, finally, destroy the monster before the seven days expires. The monster turns out to be the ghost of a young girl who, many years before, was thrown down a well by her parents after a shocking display of psychic power for the good of humanity. How the ghost becomes trapped in the video is (thankfully) left ambiguous, but what is revealed is that the only way to subvert this death is to copy the video and show it to somebody else, passing the curse on to the next unwitting viewer.

Now, in its Japanese sequel, a few months after the events of the original, the reporter and her son have disappeared into the country to come to terms with what they’ve experienced and get on with their lives. Unfortunately, all of the people close to the reporter, unbeknownst to her, are dying in similar fashion to the original and the assistant of her now-dead boyfriend seeks her out to help. The ensuing tale, more cold mood than thrills and chills, discusses the dichotomy between old Japanese spirituality and modern science, in which a scientist believes the answer to the problem lies not in subduing an evil ghost, but in channeling the negative energy into a manipulable, and finally a destructable, form. In ways, both theories are correct and what really happened is left, once again, ambiguous. This is a fine sequel that roots itself in Ringu but rides the ideas down a much stranger path.

Greatly encouraged, I elected to watch Ringu 2’s American counterpart directly afterward as a double-feature, hoping it would take a similar path in using Western spirituality and skepticism instead. Alas, to say that my hopes were shattered would be a grand understatement. As in Ringu 2, this opens shortly after the original ended. This time, our reporter (still Naomi Watts, who has proven she has little more than beauty to hang her hat on) moves the family from Seattle to Astoria, OR to escape the rat race and come to grips with the experiences of the first film. Like most women in thoughtless movies, she cannot bear to be without a relationship for long and, since her actions are the unwitting cause of her last boyfriend’s death, gets together with the first guy off the boat she sees (literally). Maybe he’ll help to raise the child, because God knows she can’t do it alone. The boyfriend, though, is actually only there to set up what this movie is really about: Postpartum Depression. In one key scene, after the ghost has resurfaced and the investigation has restarted, the son is bathing by himself and the ghost attacks. Mom comes in and sees he water in droplets, hovering in the air and her son sitting in the tub, scared shitless. Once she takes her first steps into the room, however, the water comes crashing back down into the tub, submerging the boy. Mom tries to pull him out but the water won’t let her and, just at that moment, the boyfriend comes in to witness what appears to be the mom attempting to murder the boy. This, in combination with the horrid bruises the ghost gives to anyone it touches, gets the boy sent to the hospital where they are met by CPS, which has tentatively taken custody of her son away from her. Her history of Postpartum Depression is revealed, from out of the blue, and now she must save both her son’s life and her own right to motherhood. Her investigations lead her to the ghost-girl’s birth mother, who is still alive and confined to an institution. Turns out, the ghost’s mom is Carrie (played by Sissy Spacek, no less), and it doesn’t take a lot of questioning for her to reveal what would be the worst advice in horror history (a history rife with bad advice that viewers should never, never heed): “When the voices in your head tell you to kill your child, you should listen. It is the only way to be rid of the monster.” Worse, Mommy Dearest heeds the advice, drowns her son, and exorcises the monster, all so mom, son, and new boyfriend (who apparently doesn’t much mind the murderous impulses) can live happily ever after.

Jesus, this goes far beyond stupid and is possibly the most infuriating sequel since Halloween 2 over two decades ago. What goes from an interesting study in spirituality in the modern era ends up in the States as something of a polemic against mental illness. The change almost unconscionable and helps me to realize that, sometimes, a director has little to nothing to do with the vision of a film and, no matter how good the artist is, an idiotic support system can take a film straight into the toilet. Still, I highly recommend both Japanese films, both for conceptual and visual styling. Please, please steer clear of The Ring 2 and, now that I think about it, stay away from its original too, just out of principle. I can’t be more sorry I did that to myself.

Tuesday Forgotten American Blogging--Philip Vera Cruz

One impact of America's imperialist experiment beginning in 1898 was the migration of Filipinos to the United States. Since the Philippines were technically US property thanks to the racist visions of Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, and large swaths of the American public, they could not be excluded from the nation like the Chinese and Japanese. Businessmen, always supporting immigration to lower wages, turned to the Filipinos after the Chinese and Japanese were excluded. The whites of California, one of the nation's most historically racist states, were not happy. But they could do little, at least until 1934 when the Congress pased the Tydings-McDuffie Act that prepared the way for Filipino independence while changing the status of Filipinos from "US National" to "Alien." California's long fight to be a white state scored another victory.

Filipinos came by the thousands to California to work in farm labor. They also did a lot of canning work in the Pacific Northwest and some lumbering too. But eventually, working California fields became the most appealing option they had. Almost all of these people were single men and a lot stayed in the US to build a new life here. Many hooked up with white women. In fact, with an eye to fashion, they proved very popular with working-class white women. This again, infuriated California whites. Section 69 of the California Civil Code was amended in 1880 to prohibit the issuance of marriage licences to whites and "Negroes and Mongolians." Samuel Roldan, a California based Filipino, won his 1931 court case to marry a white woman because he argued successfully that Filipinos were not "Mongolians." But the California legislature acted in 1933 to close this loophole, adding the "Malay" race to those who could not marry whites, which included Filipinos.

Filipino workers were discriminated against up and down the line, paid the lowest wages, forced to live in substandard housing, and inundated with the chemicals of the California agricultural industry. Given their long tenure in California agriculture and their numbers, the Filipinos played a major role in the early years of the United Farm Workers union. This is where Philip Vera Cruz comes in. Vera Cruz was like thousands of migrant Filipinos. He left the Philippines in 1926, moving around the nation at first working various jobs. He spent time in Spokane, Cosmopolis, WA; and Chicago before coming to the California fields. He worked both to build a life for himself in his new homeland and to support his family back in the Philippines. But Vera Cruz was also exceptional--he was involved in Filipino issues as early as 1934 and became a founding member of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), the precursor to the UFW. Later he was a Vice-President within the UFW, serving as the top Filipino in the union. Up until almost the day he died, Vera Cruz fought for the rights of Filipinos in the United States and justice more broadly.

Sadly, many of his fights in later years were within the UFW itself. While the UFW began as a cross-racial union, pretty early on Cesar Chavez and most of the leadership made the union synonymous with Mexican identity and Chicano nationalism. On one level this made sense. The Filipino workers were aging and not replacing themselves in the population. But it also marginalized the Filipinos within the union, forgetting about their key contribution to farmworker organizing in California and increasingly turning Vera Cruz and other leading Filipinos into tokens within the union. These problems became worse thanks to poor choices Chavez made, the worst being visiting Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1978 in an attempt to create some sort of solidarity with the Filipino community. Chavez completely misread the situation when all he had to do was ask the Filipinos in his own union about it.

Vera Cruz, in an oral history turned into a book by Craig Scharlin and Lilia V. Villanueva entitled Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement provides a useful counternarrative to the heroic tales usually told about Cesar Chavez and, to a lesser extent, Dolores Huerta. Vera Cruz became embittered by the actions of Chavez and Huerta and accused them of thinking they themselves were the union and that their actions were not subject to scrunity of the membership. He tells many disturbing stories about Chavez and the rest of the leadership that, while they do not negate the many significant positive contributions these people made, do complicate the heroic narrative frequently told about them. Chavez was not a Christ-like figure. He was a man who did a lot of great things but who screwed up a lot and had a zillion flaws. Much the same could be said of Martin Luther King--in both cases having a more complex history of these men makes our knowlege and understanding richer in the long-run, as disappointing as it may be upon hearing it.

Philip Vera Cruz is representative of so many unnamed thousands of individuals who have fought for justice for minority and disempowered communities. Most of them even historians haven't heard of. Within immigrant communities, this problem is even greater. Luckily Vera Cruz made friends with some young UFW organizers who put his book together. But there are just so many great Americans that we need to learn about, understand, and weave into our understanding of this nation's hsitory.


Che Guevara. An icon. A revolutionary. An inspiration to young radicals everywhere. An image spun to huge profits by capitalists. This article discusses Che's enduring image and the way his image has transformed over time. Everyone wears their Che t-shirts. And they have no idea who he is or what he means. The classic recent adapation of this is the Che image with the lines underneath that read "I have no idea who this is." Che's image has shifted over time. Castro has used him ever since his death as the iconic representation of the revolution in Cuba--there are very few images of Fidel and lots of Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Over time, the classic picture became picked up by US leftists, largely in support of Castro and the Central American freedom movements. By the 1990s though, kids around the US wore the image and knew nothing of what it means. Today, some people wear their Che t-shirt with pride because they love what he stands for while others just want to be cool.

My own issue with the Che image comes from Che himself. I have no problem with people wearing t-shirts with revolutionary figures on them. But why Che? The t-shirts should have Castro on them. You can criticize Castro for a lot of things--political repression, his anti-homosexual agenda, the absurd sugar harvest levels of the 1960s and 1970s, staying in power too long, his actions during the Missile Crisis, etc. But you know why Che doesn't get caught up in this? Because he left. Castro built a revolution. Che played at revolutionary. Now there are complex reasons for part of this--Castro and Che didn't see eye to eye by the early 1960s and Che felt he needed to go. But it was also part of Che's personality. Had Che acted responsibly in his post-Cuba revolutionary actions, I would feel a little differently. Che wanted to spread the communist revolution around Latin America. But instead of going somewhere he could do some good, Nicaragua or El Salvador for example, nations with active social movements, he decided to go to Bolivia, where there was no revolutionary movement to speak of. He just decided to start some shit. And it went nowhere. He was killed and the iconic image began.

Interestingly, the iconic image and memory of Che don't take into account that his asthma was so bad that the Bolivians were literally carrying him up mountains during the fighting. Now that's an effective revolutionary soldier!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Film Review--Call Northside 777 (1948)

Call Northside 777, part of the FOX film noir series released lately on DVD is not really a film noir. More on that later. But it is an interesting crime drama. It is based on the true story of Frank Wiececk, wrongfully convicted of murdering a Chicago police officer in 1932. He spent 11 years in prison before being freed. FOX decided it was such a great story, they would turn into a movie starring Jimmy Stewart as a newspaper reporter publicizing the case, Lee J. Cobb as his editor (and if the blogosphere needs anything, it's more Lee J. Cobb references), and Richard Conte as Frank Wiececk.

The movie is all right but the political assumptions of the movie are far more fascinating. Stewart's newspaper reporter is a skeptic--he doesn't believe that Wiececk could be innocent. The police wouldn't railroad someone into prison! Cobb is more optimistic about Wiececk and takes a particular interest in the case for reasons that remain unexplained. Jimmy Stewart is great in this role because he plays Jimmy Stewart--the conservative upholder of American morality. He has such faith in the system that clearly Frank Wiececk must be guilty. Eventually he begins to see the light and is outraged that the system would work against an innocent man like that. But Stewart still believes in the police, the justice system, and America.

As I was watching the movie, Jimmy Stewart reminded me of Bob Dole. Bob Dole was a big proponent of the American for Disabilities Act because he lost the use of his hand in World War II. Stewart's character promoted the Wiececk case because he became convinced of his innocence. But in neither case did they did take bigger lessons from it. Dole opposed every other sort of social program because it was a waste of taxpayer money. If it didn't affect him, he didn't care. Stewart still believed in the American justice system despite its wrongful conviction of Wiececk. Wiececk may be innocent, but everyone else is still guilty. All of this reminds me of a day I spent in the Montana State Legislature about 5 years ago. Some Republican was arguing in favor of a program to help troubled children because it helped his grandson who was a punk. He flat out said that he thought social programs were a waste of time and money but this one was different because it helped out someone he knew. Some people are completely unable to learn from their experiences.

Call Northside 777 was particularly known for its use of the prison system of Illinois as a set. They even had the inventor of the lie detector test himself run the test on Wiececk. Stewart visits the big new model prison to consult with the man convicted with Wiececk, a man that Stewart clearly doesn't care about and in fact no effort is made during the film to get him out of prison with Wiececk. This prison is supposed to be the new model. The cells are in an open circle with the guard tower in the middle. And while that might have been state of the art in 1948 and might even be today, I just became furious with the American judicial system. What is this supposed to do? Why don't we spend any time rehabilitating people instead of just locking them away? How many of the people in that prison were innocent? How many are today? Why don't we as a people care?

Finally, when the movie ends and Wiececk is freed (sorry for the spoiler but anyone who is going to watch this piece of well-made studio hackery is going to see that coming from the beginning anyway), Wiececk thanks Stewart for freeing him and Stewart is quick to remind him that few countries would have done so. So Wiececk is supposed to be thankful to the nation that locked him away unjustly for 11 years? Is he supposed to be happy that he is not back in Poland? I know it's the early years of the Cold War but come on! Yes, America is the greatest nation in the world because when one of our people is locked up through political corruption unjustly for a big chunk of their life, they have a tiny chance of being freed, despite official police opposition, if a remarkably unusual set of circumstances comes about. Yeah, I don't think so.

As for the film itself, it's OK but again, studio hackery. Why it is included in the FOX film noir collection I don't know. All it has in common with most noirs is that Jimmy Stewart is wearing a fedora and some of the scenes are filmed at night.

How do you say "teflon" in Portuguese?

When I was last in Brazil, Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva's presidency was mired in charges of corruption as Jose Dirceu, one of his top advisors, stepped down and numerous other PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, "Workers' Party") politicians faced charges from the Partido Social Democratico Brasileiro (PSDB) of graft, corruption, the buying of votes, etc. While many such charges may ultimately prove to be true (though the PSDB was more corrupt between 1994 and 2002, during the severely damaging neoliberal presidency of Fernando Henrique Cardoso) Lula has escaped most of these charges himself, and is riding high on a wave of popularity as he approaches this weekend's election.

The reasons? As the New York Times does a good job of discussing, a lot of it has to do with the fact that, while the PSDB has been perpetually crying corruption in an effort to regain control (something they decried as "dirty politics" when other parties rightly accused the PSDB of corruption in the aforementioned 1994-2002 period), Lula has been continuing to try to implement his programs over the center-right and right opposition in Brazil, and been doing so successfully. So while one party, which sold out Brazil to the neoliberal Washington consensus and increased Brazil's already-awful wage gap, Lula has worked to combat that disparity with social programs offering food, housing, schooling, etc. to many of Brazil's socially, economically, and politically disenfranchised people.

You mean social programs can actually lead to respect, while partisan accusations employed to hide the complete inability to complete anything juridically hurts your party? Who knew?

Brazil Blogging: Race

It seems only appropriate that I kick off the first of what will be many blogs from Brazil over the next fifteen months that I tackle one of the biggest problems facing Brazil: racism.

Ever since Gilberto Freyre published "Master and the Slaves" ("Casa Grande e Senzala") in 1933, Brazil has relied, openly or subtly, on the notion, plucked from Freyre, that Brazil is a "racial democracy" due to the mixing (to some, including Freyre, violence-free and harmonious) of indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and caucasian Europeans. They contend that this mixing has led to so many different skin-colors within the country, and even within families, that there can be no racism in Brazil. Not only this, they point to the supposed-absence of such mixing in the U.S. and the existence of Jim Crow laws, lynchings, etc., to suggest that Brazil not only is a racial democracy, but that slavery in the U.S. was and racism is far worse than in Brazil.

Brazilians are not solely to blame for this. Respected North American scholars such as Carl Degler have coined terms such as the "mulatto escape hatch" to basically suggest that Freyre was right.

But he wasn't, and if you take a close look at Brazil today, you can see how wrong he and the millions, both academics and "people on the street," are. Sure, you walk along, and you really do see a far greater physical superficial difference in skin colors of people in Brazil. This isn't like East Asia, where an American is kind of hard not to pick out in a crowd (at least not on skin color - the "I'm with stupid" t-shirts and the "Take this job and shove it" mesh hats differentiate far more nicely). One could easily see where Freyre might suggest that you can't be racist in Brazil when it's hard to pinpoint any one "race" in anybody.

But there are telltale signs. Certainly, there are folks (one of whom I have the pleasure of knowing) who insist that blacks are not to be trusted, that they are morally corrupt, and would steal from you if they could, even while this individual refuses to pay her black maid a respectable income.

Yet the signs are often more subtle, if no less sinister. One such sign is the advertisements. Nearly every ad is almost explicitly white people. Brown (their term, not mine) and black people rarely appear in ads unless they are famous, and the non-celebrity minorities that do appear in ads are often portrayed as the subaltern in the power system at play within the ads (such as small Afro-descendant children looking up to pretty white people who are helping them).

The other place one sees such racial disparities is in the workplace (or lack thereof). It's not that there aren't minorities in decent positions. But if you get on an elevator and there is somebody working the elevator, he or she (generally male, but I'm open-minded here) is Afro-descendant. Maids are almost never "white", and rarely even a "light brown" (and to you, dear reader, I now ask forgiveness - I'm basically translating racial terms that have no equivalent in English, another sign Freyre would point to as showing how much more successful racial mixing and harmony were in Brazil). Even the street vendors, while often times being "brown", are noticeably darker than professionals (though, of course, there are exceptions). And this is to say nothing of the cultural whitening or darkening power of income in Brazil. And when you see people waving flags or handing out cards promoting one political candidate or another (elections in Brazil are this Sunday, October 1 - stay tuned for THAT blog, which will have plenty to say, I'm sure), it's generally people who are poor and unemployed, and thus able to get paid (poorly) by political parties. The real crime of this latter is they are often waving flags for parties of the center-right and right, parties that have always and, if gaining office, will continue to screw the poor and minorities like they have over the last 500 years in Brazil.

Then there are the homeless. People sleeping on sidewalks all over, begging for money, and nearly all of them are Afro-descendants or the darker side of that generic "brown." I've yet to see a "white" or "light" person among them. This isn't to suggest that there aren't white or light homeless people, yet the numbers are small.

And finally, there is a book that greets me upon my arrival. In recent years, there has been outstanding work on race in Brazil, undermining, contradicting, and even discarding the U.S. comparison. One of the most notable works in this area is Michael Hanchard's edited volume, Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil. Yet upon my arrival, I see a book titled "We are not racists", with a subtitle something along the lines of "Why people are incorrectly trying to make us a bi-racial society." (I may have the exact phrase wrong, but I have the exact gist right). The notion, of course, is that Brazil is NOT racist, and that those who are trying to improve things through Affirmative Action laws (where Brazil employs quotas since 1997) and who are suggesting that race and racism are serious problems in Brazil are only CREATING racism where there had (supposedly) been none before. As unsubtle as the notion of a "racial democracy" was, this new book, which is advertised on the back windows of buses throughout Brazil, doesn't beat around the bush.

Books like these are absolutely awful, yet fully a part of the legacy of scholarship on race in Brazil. While many scholars like those featured in Hanchard's work, both North American and Brazilian, look at the subtle economic, political, and social ways in which racism exists and continues in Brazil, thus making headway, scholars like the author of this new book (whose name I can't remember, but will put up when I see it again) try to undermine all of that, continuing to rely on a comparison that pits Brazil vs. the U.S. and insists that the U.S. is the model against which Brazil must work. Thus, they see what they perceive (falsely, it turns out - just look at regional differences in racial hierarchies such as the indigenous-hispanic-anglo divisions in the Southwest, the Asian population, both East and South, throughout the U.S., and, let's not forget the Finnish-Swedish-Norwegian divisions of the great North Midwest) as a black-white division in the U.S. The thought is that in the U.S., we only perceive race in black or white, and that just leads to the institutionalization of racism via Jim Crow laws (nevermind their abolition). Thus, some scholars who will be widely read in Brazil insist that Brazil ISN'T racist, and that any effort to actually achieve equal rights for all will only LEAD to racism.

This may be nonsensical, and even droning, to some who do not know or care about Brazil or international racial politics. Yet it is very disturbing. Certainly, it's a pipe dream to think that racism can ever be eradicated, for people will always diffentiate each other on superficial characteristics. Yet as long as large portions of the Brazilian population continue to ignore or deny racial differentiation within society, and the racism that derives from that, and as long as some scholars insist that racial equality will actually LEAD to racism (nevermind that the indigenous peoples of Brazil never pop up in their arguments), Brazil will continue to struggle (some would say futilely) in the battle to improve economic gaps within the population (Brazil has the largest gap between rich and poor), to improve political openings, to improve society.

The Dangers of Teaching, Part 5

It really sucks to be feeling bad while teaching. You have to keep some semblance of dignity while telling your students a bunch of lies about how America is bad. Maybe that's the problem--if I told my students a tale of America as the greatest nation in the history of the world I would feel fine.

Anyway, for some reason I had some intestinal issues last week. That means in part a bit of gas. Sadly, about 15 minutes into my last class I seriously needed to take care of that problem. But how? The answer is that there is no answer. So I am lecturing on the Mexican War while trying not to explode like the Hindenburg. Then, to make things worse, I forgot to bring back the papers I had graded for the students who didn't pick them up last week. So a couple of students followed me back to my office to get them. All of this meant holding in my problems even longer.

God I thought I was going to die.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Please Marty, Don't Do This

Martin Scorsese's bizarre infatuation with Leonardo DiCaprio has taken a disturbing turn. According to IMDB, DiCaprio will star in a new Scorsese movie entitled The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, based on Edmund Morris' biography of TR. Not only do I loathe TR, but the idea of DiCaprio playing him makes me shudder. Has a worse casting choice ever been made? I just don't see how I can buy this. I've never not seen a Scorsese film in the theaters since I've been old enough to care. I don't want this to be the first.

I'm sure Scorsese sees this as a chance to indulge his John Ford fantasies. But not with this film. Not with DiCaprio. Please.

NCAA Top 25, Week 5

What a profoundly lame week of college football. I thought the week would be salvaged by Michigan St. beating Notre Dame but the Spartans decided to have their yearly collapse begin in the 4th quarter of this game rather than week 6 or 7. Colorado blows it against Georgia, no good upsets. Yawn.

1. Ohio St.

2. West Virginia

3. Florida

4. Auburn

5. USC--They had one of those days that will cost them if they are playing a good team. Luckily for them, they played Arizona.

6. Michigan

7. Oregon

8. Louisville

9. Texas

10. LSU

11. Virginia Tech

12. TCU

13. Oklahoma

14. California--The Cal-Tennessee game seems to have been an anomaly for both the Bears and Vols. Cal seems good again and UT seems kind of crappy.

15. Georgia--I had to drop them one spot after almost blowing it against Colorado

16. Notre Dame--lucky, lucky, lucky

17. Tennessee

18. Iowa

19. Boise St.

20.Florida St.

21. Clemson

22. Missouri

23. Nebraska

24. Texas Tech

25. Arizona St.--They did not look good against Cal at all. Again, no defense. What is the deal with their lack of defense every single year? Koetter is an excellent offensive coach but I think he shouldn't be more than a coordinator at a major school. But there aren't really any better choices in this spot so they'll hold on for one more week.

Close: Rutgers (they keep on winning, though against pretty inferior opponents), Arkansas (they've looked pretty good since their opening loss to USC), Purdue (I don't anything about them but they are undefeated. We'll see what happens against Notre Dame), Wisconsin (they did play Michigan fairly tough), UCLA (they lost to Washington but Willingham may actually be turning the Huskies around so I won't drop them too far).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Weirdness of New Mexico Hispano Nationalism

One of the strangest things in this strange state is the nationalism (or perhaps ethno-centrism is the correct term) of our Hispanos. Many people claim pure Spanish blood, which is a total joke. It's really a cover for racism and elitism among the state's wealthy.

Even weirder is when this nationalism comes from progressive Hispanos. I suppose this originates in the Chicano movement of the 1960s and the Atzlán myth of the Aztec homeland in the modern American southwest. Anyway, I was listening to a radio show the other night on KUNM, the city's public radio station, where some guy was talking about the importance of immigrants to the United States and the need for Chicanos to stand in solidarity with their Mexican brothers and sisters. I can buy that. He then said that people of Mexican descent had long served their country in the military. Absolutely. No question.

But then he goes on to say that without the Spanish people of New Mexico, the United States could not have won the American Revolution. This is just off the charts absurd. Yes, the Spanish did ally with the French and the Americans against the British. But the Spanish contribution was minimal to begin with and they really had no interest at all in seeing a free US because they were rightfully scared about what such a nation would engender in their own colonies. The Spanish simply went to war because they were related by blood to the French monarchy, because they hoped to gain some land in the Americas, and because they hated the English.

But beyond this, people in New Mexico did approximately nothing to help or hinder the formation of the United States. Nothing at all. Any claim to the contrary is totally absurd. That this commentator would make connections between the Spanish army and his ancestors who spent their lives in a tiny New Mexican village trying to not get taken into slavery by the Comanches is laughable. Not only does this commentator completely misunderstand the Spanish intentions during the American Revolution, he assumes that his rights as an American are greater because a country halfway around the world that his ancestors shared a limited amount of blood, language, and culture with sort of helped the nation become free.

Of course, he is speaking from a position of strength--his people are so often not given full rights as Americans and are subject to racism from the dominant white society. And he is trying to do good by making these connections. But how can you really accomplish anything when you are basing your argument on myth supported by shaky "facts." As a historian, I was deeply frustrated and annoyed.

Bring On The Immigrants!

Here's another story about how vital immigrants are to American life. Tons of fruit and vegetables are going unpicked this year as immigrants are having more trouble crossing the border and immigrants already here are afraid to leave and therefore moving into more stable, long-term jobs.

There is an alternative to having migrant immigrant workers picking fruit. That is to make the job well-paying enough to attract other workers. But this isn't going to happen either--either way the lack of pickers undermines one of the most unrenowned aspects of the American economy, dirt-cheap food. We don't like paying big money for food (unless it's a class symbol to do so and we shop at Whole Paycheck) and rising food prices is going to lead to a lot of crabby voters.

America's agricultural system and the migrant labor that underlays it has been a problem for a long time. These workers have long been exploited, forgotten about, and thrown away with the rotten fruit after the season. Writers from John Steinbeck to Don Mitchell have shown this. I'm not confident that a guestworker program can really solve this, though the fact that the United Farm Workers is behind one plan makes me feel a little better about its potential.

In any case, this is yet another example of the wrong-headed racist politics of the Republican Party. Not only is anti-immigrant sentiment racist, it is undermining American towns, cities, and the economy. Vote them out. Vote them out now!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Lyrad's Random 10

Two female classical composers out of ten songs...I'm not sure Sinatra would approve

1. Bill Monroe--Crossing the Cumberlands
2. Paula Diehl--On Course (Quartet) for Strings; Movement 4
3. Don Byron--Hegalo
4. Big Bill Broonzy--That's the Way She Likes It
5. Friars City Orchestra--Tiger Rag
6. Tania Leon--La Par for Chamber Ensemble; Movement 2
7. Joe Heany--Cunnla
8. Frank Sinatra--I've Got You Under My Skin
9. Mose Allison--Tennessee Waltz
10. James "Yank" Rachel--Squeaky Work Bench Blues

Southeast Asia, Democracy, and Corruption

This article from Asia Times really get at the heart of the Thailand issue--corruption. There is an absurd belief in some parts of the world that the people of southeast Asia don't have an interest in democracy. Leaders such as Mahathir in Malaysia and Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore have in fact used these arguments to their own advantage, deflecting criticism from international human-rights organizations by falling back on these stereotypes. Everyone wants to control their own fate and have a government that is responsible to their needs. Under certain circumstances though, democracies as they exist in a given country and at a given time sometimes do not provide this. People turn to the military, not because they don't appreciate what democracy brings them but because they feel order and stability slipping from their grasp and it scares them.

The problem in Asia is not that people don't like democracy, it's the pressures of corruption on democratically elected regimes. Once you get into power, you are expected to use that power to enrich yourself and your family. Some leaders do this a little bit, some go overboard. Thaksin went overboard. Filipino leaders such as Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have gone overboard. This frustrates the middle class that hopes for a limited amount of corruption, open business dealings and some level of responsibility in the government. Too often, this never happens in Thailand. This leads to middle-class support for coups and military regimes that at least ensure a sense of order.

What Southeast Asia needs is some real leaders who can appeal to a broad-based part of the population and resist corruption when they get elected. These aren't easy to find. But I have no doubt that they are out there somewhere. It is going to take a series of these kinds of leaders to stablize democracy in the region and make it not only a legitimate political option, but the only acceptable option. Without real leadership and transparent financial practices, it is hard to see democracy becoming the norm in the region.

John Zorn, MacArthur Fellow

I just wanted to say how happy I am that John Zorn won the MacArthur Fellowship. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Zorn, he is a leader in the New York improvisational scene, has produced interesting music for over 20 years, and is the founder of Tzadik Records, perhaps the nation's leading label for creative music. He also runs the music space The Stone in the East Village. The MacArthur Fellowship has long done a good job giving out their money to a wide-ranging group of people. They have cut back on awards to historians and other social scientists over the last few years which is a bummer. But when they are giving money to people like Zorn, I have to respect them a great deal.

Book Review, Christian M. Allen, An Industrial Geography of Cocaine

Christian M. Allen's An Industrial Geography of Cocaine is both an instructive book on the international cocaine industry and an example of the frustrations that I and many other historians have with many of the social sciences. Allen explores the cocaine industry from its production in the Andes to its distribution around the United States. While at least some of this story is probably familiar to anyone who follows the drug wars, Allen enlightens us on many subjects, ranging from the problems with drug laws to lack of economic opportunities that coca farmers face to the innovative ways that smugglers and dealers operate.

Perhaps the most important point coming out of Allen's book is how the international enforcement of drug laws, particularly driven by the United States, has not only failed to stop or even seriously slow down the cocaine trade but has in fact made that trade much more efficient since smugglers have to come up with new ways to beat the law. My first memories of the drug trade were with people like Pablo Escobar in Colombia and the major Mexican drug lords who lived semi-public lives and were mostly above the law. While these kinds of people still exist to some extent, particularly in Colombia, because they lived such showboating lives, a lot of them were arrested or killed eventually. This has led to drug lords moving more underground, hiding themselves and their success. It has also led to the decentralization of the drug trade, as evinced by the increasingly small busts the US government makes on lots of different operators as opposed to the big, newsworthy bust. Nearly all of Latin America north of the Andes is involved in the trade, either as a producer, a smuggling nation, or as consumers. All of this makes effective enforcement of any laws nearly impossible.

All of this leads me to again wonder what the point of the drug wars are. The only accomplishment I can see coming from it is to make Colombia even more messed up than it was before. The coca producers are still working as hard as ever to grow coca and no alternative program the US can come up will provide these people with an equal income to coca. It has created tightly controlled and extraordinarily violent international drug operations that has led to the deaths of thousands. It has created harsh laws within the United States that punish even casual drug users. All of this for what? Cocaine use has declined since the 1980s when it was chic, but it is still high and the only reason for its decline is fashion. The DEA has had nothing to do with this.

The assumption of course is that liberalizing the drug laws will lead to widespread consumption. In the short term that is possibly true but within a few years, I have to think that would decline. There are lots of reasons that people do and don't do drugs. The legality of them rarely has anything to do with it. Rather, it makes people feel shame and it creates violence and desperation. Even if there is zero penalty for drug possession, lots of people are not going to do drugs and those who do use drugs now are probably unlikely to significantly increase their consumption. And of course none of this takes into account the hypocrisy of the American drug system, where alcohol is promoted on TV and almost all other drugs are illegal, this despite the fact that not only is alcohol the ultimate gateway drug, but it causes more violence and death than all other drugs combined. Allen's study helps us to understand how this dysfunctional system has created the modern industry of cocaine production and distribution.

The frustrating side of this book comes not from Allen per se but from the field of geography. Allen's interesting and useful story gets mired down in the worst kind of academic models. I know that in geography and many other social sciences, people have to get tenure. But these models really pull the reader away from the story and they add almost nothing to the analysis. Most of these models never really fit the actual case studies anyway and certainly this seems to be the case in Allen's study. I wish he could just tell his story about cocaine and leave it be. I know historians are notoriously anti-theory and even more so anti-modeling. I actually am pretty pro-theory for my field but models I just have no use for.

Still, it's a good book. If you are interesting in reading this, I would recommend your library as it is selling for a mere $95 on Amazon.

Erik's Random 10

1. John Cale, The Ballad of Cable Hogue
2. The Postal Service, Such Great Heights
3. David Allen Coe, Jack Daniels, Jack Daniels, Jack Daniels Please
4. Gillian Welch, One Morning
5. Death Cab for Cutie, We Looked Like Giants
6. Charlie Hunter Quartet, Them Belly Full
7. Old 97s, Four Leaf Clover
8. Richard Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights
9. Tom Russell, Rayburn Crane
10. Hans Knappersbusch Conducts Wagner, Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg, Vorspiel Zum. 1

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Manifest Destiny Quote--Thomas Hart Benton

I'm giving a lecture today that I haven't given in awhile. I was reviewing it and came across this quote from the speech "The Destiny of the Race" by expansionist US Senator Thomas Hart Benton:

"The van of the Caucasian race now top the Rocky Mountains, and spread dowwn to the shores of the Pacific. In a few years a great population will grow up there, luminous with the accumulated lights of European and American civilization. Their presence in such a position cannot be without its influence upon eastern Asia. The sun of civilization must shine across the sea: socially and commercially, the van of the Caucasians, adn the rear of the Mongolians must intermix. They must talk together, and trade together, and marry together. Commerce is a great civilizer--social intercourse is great--and marriage greater. The White and Yellow races can marry together...Moral and intellectual superiority will do the rest: the White race will take the ascendant."

And nothing but good came forever after....

Also I think Benton had an early version of the Asian girl fantasy.

Sven Nykvist, RIP

The great cinematographer Sven Nykvist died yesterday at the age of 83.

Nykvist is best known as the cinematographer behind many of Ingmar Bergman's best films. Bergman would be considered a great director no matter what cinematographer he worked with but there is no question that those films are remembered far more fondly because of the sheer beauty of Nykvist's work. The use of red in Cries and Whispers, the way Nykvist shot the almost fantasy world of the uncle in Fanny and Alexander, the masterful use of black and white in films such as Winter Light and Through A Glass Darkly.

After Bergman went into semi-retirement in the early 1980s, Nykvist continued to work, though often on lesser films. He shot some of Woody Allen's most beautifully looking films, including Crimes and Misdemeanors and Celebrity. His work on Celebrity says a lot. A mostly forgetable film, I remember it today almost solely on the beauty of the camera work.

Nykvist also directed one film, The Ox, possibly the most depressing film I've ever seen. Starring Stellan Skarsgard, Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, and Max von Sydow, the film chronicles the struggles of one family through a horrible famine and the sacrifices people have to make at such times. Clearly, Nykvist did not only share a vision of film with Bergman, but a philosophy of life as well.

The death of Nykvist reminds me of a call Stanley Kauffmann made in the late 1990s for a Nobel Prize for Film. This is clearly a good idea. Nykvist would have made a worthy winner. One of the greatest cinematographers in the history of film, we have truly lost a legend.

North Korea, Example A In The Failure of High-Modernist Ideology

I want to point out to readers the first part of John Feffer's four part series about the North Korean famine. Feffer points out that North Korea's famine resulted from a series of terrible choices made by the Pyongyang government, including as Feffer states, "blind allegiance to the modernizing ideology of high-energy agriculture and the nationalist chimera of complete food self-sufficiency."

I agree completely. James Scott, in his seminal 1998 book, Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, argues that high-modernist states have brought disaster upon their ecology and population through their plans to create a legible land and populace that serves national needs, order, and security while ignoring traditional ways, the layout of the land, and the desires of the populace. North Korea is the ultimate example of a high-modernist state continuing its mission decades after other nations gave these ideas up. Communism and high modernism fit perfectly together (and capitalism with a large state component certainly can too) and North Korea continues to push land-use policies and state priorities that have made it one of the poorest nations on Earth. I was reading another article somewhere the other day that suggested looking on Google Earth at the Koreas--South Korea is green and lush, despite being severely overpopulated. North Korea has more land and less population and is completely denuded of vegetation. But the government in Pyongyang doesn't care about these things. It is happy to fail to feed its population instead of allowing international agencies to get food aid to the neediest people and it is happy to sacrifice the nation as a whole for the good of the military and government officials.

It's no news that North Korea is a failed state. But reading about just how failed it is and the stupid decisions made by the Kims almost makes one sick.

Mister Trend's (Early) Random Ten

As I'll be traveling and trying to settle in this weekend, and I don't know when/where I'll get to the internet, here's my random 10 for the week:

1. Sigur Ros - "Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa"
2. Wilco - "Say You Miss Me"
3. Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 - "Recitativo: O Freunde, nicht diese Tone!"
4. Belle & Sebastian - "For the Price of a Cup of Tea"
5. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Sunshine and Clouds (and Everything Proud)"
6. Big Bill Broonzy - "Serve It To Me Right"
7. Squirrel Nut Zippers - "You're Drivin' Me Crazy"
8. ZZ Top - "I Thank You"
9. Bruce Springsteen - "The Angel"
10. Sonic Youth - "Sugar Kane"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Comment of the Month

Axis of Evel Knievel's superb series chronicling the anniversaries of horrible events in human history has led to the best comment I've seen in some time.

Today, D discusses colonial witchcraft trials. That led to this classic comment from James:

"it would seem that you care more about protecting the rights of witches and warlocks than you do about protecting the good women and children of colonial Massachusetts.
why do you hate colonial america?"

Classic. And an excellent question. Why isn't D protecting us from the terrorists of years past?

Saxby Chambliss, Traitor

Yglesias links to this report on how Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss argued in a closed door session of the Senate Armed Services Committee that if General J.E.B. Stuart had better intelligence, he would be serving in a Confederate Senate today.

Yglesias talks about this as a weird piece of Confederate nostalgia, which it certainly is. And it is historically absurd. The Confederacy could have won the Civil War but it would have taken a lot more than better intelligence getting to Stuart.

What I find offensive is that Chambliss clearly wishes this was the case. He wants to serve in a Confederate Senate. Basically, Saxby Chambliss is a traitor to the United States.

George W. Bush and friends define a traitor to the United States as someone who disagrees with their policies. I only agree with Bush so far as we do have traitors in this country. But those traitors are not the people who disagree with the president. Rather, most of the traitors are those who wholeheartedly agree with whatever Bush says. The traitors are people who wish the South won the Civil War. These are people who do not support to core American values of democracy, freedom, liberty, and equality.

Sadly, these anti-American blowhards are still on the floor of the United States Senate. Trent Lott, George Allen, and Saxby Chambliss are but a few.

More Thailand

The coup has consolidated. The King publicly supports it. Thaksin is out.

I am a little more concerned than I was initially about the prospects of democracy in Thailand. I am pretty unhappy that the coup has suspended the constitution and even more unhappy that they claim it will take a year to write a new one. Coup leaders are promising elections for next year so that is good.

I think it is important to remember how uncomfortable Southeast Asia is with democracy. Thailand is seen as this safe, fun country with political stability and an open economy. This is mostly correct. But look at its neighbors. To the south is Malaysia, where Mahathir has controlled political life for decades, including sentencing a chief political rival to a lengthy prison term on trumped up charges of homosexuality. To the west and north is Burma, a country that has a great deal of cultural and religious similiarities with Thailand. Yet they live under one of the most brutal military dictatorships in the world. To the northeast is Laos, an impoverished nation controlled by the remants of the communists who took over during the 1960s. And to the southeast is Cambodia, about which nothing needs to be said. Other regional countries that don't border Thailand, such as China, Vietnam, and Singapore, are hardly democratic bastions.

It seems to me that the Thai ruling class shares much of the same discomfort as the ruling classes in the rest of the region. Thailand had a functioning democracy since 1992 and the rural poor loved Thaksin. This the elites ultimately could not deal with. Democracy brings disorder, espeically in a nation changing as rapidly as Thailand. When your military and political classes don't really want democracy to begin with, it is hardly surprising that they would clamp down. In addition, according to this Asia Times article, the monarchy did not like the increasingly centralized power of the executive. King Rama IX is getting pretty old and wants a stable transition to his son, who is known to be quite sympathetic with anti-democratic elements.

It is possible that the coup will actually help democracy in the long run. Thaksin was deeply corrupt and his centralization of power had the potential to use his democratic mandate to undermine democracy. So this situation needs to be watched closely. Hopefully, Thailand will continue to be a relative leader for democracy in Thailand. It will certainly be interesting in any case.

More Baseball Blogging

My hatred for the New York Yankees is deep and timeless. However, I find myself feeling greater hatred to some yankees past and present (Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, etc.) than others (Robinson Cano, Randy Johnson).

However, my hatred for Jason Giambi is huge, and thanks to his obnoxious behavior and superior attitude, has only gotten worse. Now, I'm no A-Rod lover by any stretch (seriously - is anybody else bothered by his PURPLE lips?), but suddenly, I find myself slightly sympathetic to him. Is he an overpaid? Sure. Does he exude some inexplicable aura that just makes you hate him? Absolutely.

But for Giambi to call him out like he has is absurd. Hey, Giambi - at least he produces without performance enhancers like you. Why you've been given a free pass for doing steroids while Palmeiro did not is inexplicable and infuriating - you lied about it as much as he did. Sure, you didn't point your finger at Congress, but that's only because you somehow weasled your way out of the limelight. Your lies are no less - it was you who tried to tell us a few springs ago that your huge weight loss was really just 2-3 pounds due to a "better diet."

While we're at it, Jason, you're no "comeback player of the year", and you're no role model. You are a criminal one year, plain and simple, and then because you manage to hit in 2005 after clearly admitting to steroid use, your efforts were somehow more valiant than somebody like Bob Wickman, who only managed to lead the AL in saves after coming of season-ending surgery in 2004.

And in the realm of dare you criticize A-Rod for batting .286/34/116?? If, as you say, he only hit singles, he's still ahead of you and your paltry .250. Sure, you're total numbers are .250/36/109, but so what? You've hit two more homers than him. Big deal. You of all people have NO room to criticize him, to call him out. Ask any of the GMs in baseball, and they'll tell you they look for hitting over power. You may be slightly ahead of him in OPS, but anybody would take a .900+ OPS on their team, so you're not a unique commodity.

And again, let's not forget, A-Rod does this without any enhancers. You may not be on steroids anymore - the testing has probably put the fear of god into you (probably). But you know they can't test you for human growth hormone yet, and there have been many not-too-quiet whispers about what you're still consuming. They aren't even rancorous rumors from angry Red Sox or Athletics fans - the men of ESPN's Baseball Tonight (such as Buster Olney) have heard and mentioned on national TV that you're still using human growth hormones. How well would you perform without them? Would you be even close to A-Rod? Would you even be playing, or would you be sitting beside Jeremy watching baseball and reliving the glory days?

Again, I'm not a huge fan of A-Rod (which an understatement if there ever was one), and he probably isn't the best team-mate out there, but Giambi is completely out of line on this one. A-Rod is totally justified in being perplexed as to how he can be so hated when Giambi has nearly completely professed to using steroids, makes only 5 million dollars less than A-Rod, and yet gets a free ride. Remember, Jason: you're a criminal due to your use of steroids, and your numbers still aren't better than A-Rod's. You aren't the leader of that team. You aren't a hall-of-famer like A-Rod probably will be. He won his MVP without any drugs, and you didn't.

Until you can look as clean and as productive as him, shut up.

A simple, humble welcome

I speak for millions of nameless baseball fans when I say, at last...

Welcome back, Peter. We missed you dearly.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Album Review--Made out of Babies' Coward

It’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited about the release of a rock band’s new album, since sometime in college when I was really digging Godflesh and The Jesus Lizard. But here I was with baited breath watching for the mailman to deliver Made out of Babies’ sophomore effort, Coward. Generally, this kind of anticipation breeds disappointment, and I inevitably pop the album in with some trepidation, fearing the worst and hoping for the best. I’d seen the cover art, a striking and cringe-inducing photo of a boy whose face is half angelic and half beaten to a pulp (the contrast of which gives a good sense of the band behind the cover), and heard two songs that appeared on the previously (sort of) reviewed Triad split EP, both of which gave me more hope than fear. Turns out, luckily, that I am far from disappointed in this second installment of the Made out of Babies odyssey that I wish would continue indefinitely.

The album opens with a series of blood-curdling screams that nobody I’ve ever heard can belt out like front-woman Julie Christmas, setting up a barrage of sound reminiscent of bands like the aforementioned Jesus Lizard or Big Black (not necessarily surprising, given that the album was produced by Steve Albini, who produced the former’s albums and fronted the latter) that barely relents for a second of the album’s 37 minutes. Christmas’ surreal, often improvised, lyrics run the gambit of catharsis and emotion through screams, whispers, and inhuman yelps and the band behind her, if not quite as skilled, provide an appropriately menacing backdrop. Take this example of the lyrical strangeness from “Death in April”:

Small body on the road
Coat still sheened with spring
Its eyes still black and soft and warm and clean
Its legendary quickness of feet
Too slow for the truck’s wheels or teeth
Matter of minutes and hours all gone
Picked up for someone else’s feast
And again and again and again and again

I love roadkill, don’t you? Nothing like waking up from a long winter’s hibernation to get smashed crossing the street. Most of the songs are much more difficult to decipher that this, but the power and conviction contained in each track is something to behold. The album really feels complete, unlike their debut, Trophy, which finished on a very sour note with the opening of a song that did not finish (it is performed as an entire song on Coward, and is the most interesting song on the album), and is quite good; much better than could be expected, and is very highly recommended. It may be the best new rock album in two years.

One thing that does disturb me though, and this is no fault of the album, is the way the band is presented in print. Why is it that a band, just because it is fronted by a woman, must be compared exclusively to other female-fronted bands? I’ve read things about Julie Christmas as absurd as Bjork meets Wendy O (Plasmatics) and Kate Bjelland (Babes in Toyland) in a dark alley on a bad day. This is complete, utter bullshit. She has been compared to every female rock artist ever (save Vixen, I have not heard that one yet), and rarely, if ever, compared to a man. Is music not music, regardless of gender? She is an artist of rare power and intelligence and the music comes off as such. I recommend this interview for a sense of who she is and what she represents as an artist. Unfortunately, the opening presents a comparison as I mention above that is so stupid it’s crippling, but the interview is pretty good.

And While We're on the Subject...

Adding to Matt's post, there's the absurdity of Bush's speech to the UN today, in which he claimed that fighting extremism is the U.S.'s "calling."

There are a couple of major hypocritical assumptions here. The first is the definition of extremism. In his worldview, being a Muslim at the head of a government is "extremist," or being a nationalist head of a state that disagrees with and refuses to buckle to the U.S.'s policy (a la Hugo Chavez) is "extremist" and a cause worth combating, yet being somebody who bends over backwards to satisfy the extreme right in the U.S. by proposing anti-gay marriage amendments, supporting the fight against a woman's right to choice, and claiming that God tells you what to do is NOT extremist. (This is an argument I hate - "extremists aren't me." It's just like the right-wing condemning "activist judges" they disagree with - all judges are "activist," people; it's just whose side their activist for).

Additionally, there's the more subtle hypocrisy of the wording itself. Where exactly is this "calling" coming from? Given Bush's open professions of the role his (fundamentalist) religious beliefs have in his shaping of policy, one would suspect there's religion behind this wording. Certainly, the people of the United States aren't in the streets clamoring for the government to combat "extremism." Couldn't one suggest that a "calling" from God to fight certain cultures and nation-states that don't agree with you is a little extreme? But, thanks to this right wing worldview, America can do no wrong. Our "callings" for issues such as the "conversion of others to Christianity" and "nation-building" are part of some universal, abstract, absolute truth, whereas the jihadists' "callings" for the "spread of Islam" (a subtle difference in linguistic meaning) and autonomy are inherently wrong and even evil.

The hypocrisy of the government never ceases to amaze. The worst part is, by the end of it all, the damage of claims to America's "callings" in an international forum will probably have the same effect of alienating nations-states as the use of torture.

Link of the Day--Matt on Bush's Hypocrisy

Matt rips Bush a new one over his hypocrisy. Bush talks about freedom and using torture to protect us from terrorists while examples abound of innocent people being held and tortured. Even worse, Bush attacks Syria for its undemocratic ways while we send people to Syria to be tortured. I can't say it better than Matt:

"This is shameful and disgusting in so many ways. First, there's the obvious: An innocent man, a husband and father, was taken from his family and tortured because Dick Cheney wanted to take a walk on the dark side. There's the jaw-dropping hypocrisy of George W. Bush condemning the Syrian government for its lack of freedom and democracy with one hand, while delivering people there to be tortured with the other. And then there's the very possible, even probable, outcome that foreign intelligence services will now be less likely to share information about terror suspects with the U.S. out of the reasonable fear that their citizens will be snatched up and spirited away to some dungeon without even the faintest whiff of due process.

I wonder if President Bush even realizes how, with stories like Arar's spreading through the Middle East, his talk of freedom is perceived, at best, as darkly comic. I seriously doubt it."

Coup in Thailand

Thailand is presently under martial law as the military is attempting a coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand is a weird country. It comes across as the most relaxed nation you'll ever imagine. It is a beautiful place with the most mellow people imaginable. The Buddhist culture of the nation is a sharp contrast to the uptightness of the Christian nations. However, underneath this placid exterior are a lot of problems. The country is very long. While central Thailand is dominated by the Thai people, the north has many hill peoples with their own customs and questionable loyalty to Bangkok. An even greater problem is the far south where Muslim insurgents are trying to break away. Of course, many western analysts are completely misunderstanding that situation. Where many analysts see this as another place where radical Islam is on the rise, the reality is that this is a nationalist movement. The power of the Thai government in these far away places is tenuous and few social services go to the southern provinces. They have little power and feel no connection to Bangkok. True, some people are turning to radical Islam as a solution to their problems but either letting these provinces go to Malaysia or actually doing something to bring these people into the nation would probably be enough to counter these problems.

In any case, a recent bombing in southern Thailand may have been the last straw for the military. Unhappy with both Thaksin's personal corruption and his inability to deal with the insurgents, the military has tried to take over, with the end result still in some doubt, though the fact that they claim the King is on their side probably will make the difference. The military is probably backed with the people of Bangkok--while Thaksin is popular in rural areas, with the increasingly cosmopolitan and powerful urbanites of Thailand, he is an anathema.

While coups are bad, I have pretty strong doubts that this situation will undermine Thailand's rocky road to democracy. They have been on that path for many years now and it sounds like the Thai military is less interested in total control of the nation than getting rid of Thaksin. It is hard to tell with these things of course and the military revoking the Thai constitution is hardly a good sign. But between international and domestic pressure on the Thai military, I hope that the nation and region will remain stable and relatively democratic.

More from Asia Times which suggests internal issues in the military as the major reason for the coup.

Tuesday Forgotten American Blogging--Sarah and Angelina Grimké

The early nineteenth century was the end of the revolutionary era in American history. It was still a time when one could think for themselves about the key questions of American life without too much condemnation from the neighbors. Jefferson, Adams, and Madison were all still alive and while America was hardening into a country that was hardly tolerant on race relations and other social questions, people could still openly question whether we should be a slave nation. Even in South Carolina this was still an open question among certain members of the educated class. Sarah and Angelina Grimké were born into the class in 1792 and 1805 respectively. By the time Angelina reached adulthood, the South and South Carolina especially had come out fully in favor of a proactive slave agenda that meant to expand slavery to every reach of the country. But coming from an elite, slaveholding family, they were allowed to think freely on this issue and both Sarah and Angelina turned against the key institution of their nation and became some of America's most ardent and outspoken abolitionists, despite the fact that their father was an ardent slaveholder and held no sympathy for either black or women's rights. It's hard to see how women growing up 20 years later could have had the opportunity to develop similar views in the social and racial climate of South Carolina.

That they took this stance meant ever greater hardship than what male abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison faced. They were women and therefore connected women's rights with the rights of slaves, arguing that both needed to be free and equal citizens of the nation. This caused great contempt among many, though by no means all, of the leading abolitionists in the nation.

In the 1820s, Sarah fell in with the Quakers in Philadelphia where she ran into Garrison. When Garrison published an antislavery letter of hers, the Quakers kicked them both out of the church. But what was no doubt a striking blow at the time became a key event in both of their lives as they turned their energies ever more toward abolition.

However, while both sisters played major roles in antislavery, women's rights, and the other social movements of the Jacksonian Era, ultimately they fell victim to the patriarchal ways of their time. Angelina married the abolitionist Theodore Weld in 1838 and quickly retired from public life to raise her family while Weld remained in the forefront of the movement. Sarah moved in with the her sister and also faded from view.

This doesn't mean they changed their views and after the Civil War, both sisters tried to vote as a challenge to the 15th Amendment. But the male-dominated public life of the Victorian Era set in and even women as powerful as the Grimkés could not resist this. None of this however should take away from what they did accomplish. Coming out in the 1830s and publishing Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women as Sarah did or their co-edited book American Slavery as it is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses from 1839 demonstrates their bravery and committment to social justice in the antebellum era.

America at its worst produced some of the most powerful advocates for social justice we have ever seen. The Grimkés remain both some of the most important and most forgotten of these brave people.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Never-Ending Governmental Deception...

The fact that the U.S. (and other countries, though I can't cite specific examples) uses euphemisms is nothing new. However, it never ceases to amaze me the ways our government can find new linguistic twists to gloss over appalling practices.

The latest example comes courtesy of the CIA (suprise suprise). They defend the use of "alternative interrogation techniques " in a new bill reaching the house floor.

As is so often the case, the government just doesn't learn. Or, seen from a different viewpoint, it knows too much. Instead of actually combating appalling practices on the government's part, they continue to insist upon euphemisms that "hide" the REAL meaning of such phrases behind innocuous word combinations that most Americans won't give second thought to. This is one of the few "pities" of the Oklahoma City bombing. McVeigh was one of the biggest cowards ever, killing the way he did, but few picked up on his use of politics. When he described the 19 dead children in 1995 as "collateral damage," I suspect he was using the term the U.S. government and military TAUGHT him to explain the situation, revealing the corrupt use of euphemisms on the government's part. There is no way you can say I admire or respect a single thing McVeigh did, and maybe I misread him - maybe he really felt the kids were just random victims who ultimately had it coming sooner or later.

But the fact that we have a government who trains the military that the children killed by stray bullets and powerful bombs are "collateral damage," instead of facing up to the immoral and appalling acts it commits, continues to choose linguistic turns such as "alternative interrogation techniques."

Please, America - wake up and learn what our government is doing in our names, and learn how to combat such corrupt and inhumane operations within the state apparatus.

A Message To David Boren--Can We Please Keep Things In Perspective?

University of Oklahoma President David Boren has come out and demanded that the Oregon-Oklahoma game be stricken from the record books because of the bad officiating.

Let's set aside for a moment the officiating, which was truly awful. The Pac-10 has already suspended the crew for a game and that is appropriate.

But Boren says:

"To describe the lapses in accurate officiating at the Oklahoma-Oregon football game last Saturday as constituting an outrageous injustice is an understatement."

Oh I don't know Senator Boren. Certainly as a senator you are familiar with what a real outrage is. This is a fucking football game. Get over it.

You know what a real outrageous injustice is Senator Boren? It's you voting to confirm Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court Justice after what you and your fellow senators did to Anita Hill. That's an injustice.

You know what else is an injustice? You as president allowing a conservative to defund an endowned chair named for Anita Hill at Oklahoma. That's an injustice.

But then again, I'm sure the higher education system in Oklahoma is such a national leader that the school's president should be spending his time on such important issues.