Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I'm really having trouble seeing the outrage over the Wikileaks release of American diplomatic cables. I suppose the State Department doesn't want these made public, and I understand that. But I think most of the outrage over Julian Assange comes from right-wingers who prefer to live in an America isolated from the rest of the world and which we can bomb if they cause us any problems.

I say this because I see little the US should be embarrassed by in the documents. In fact, I see a situation where the State Department struggles with the same questions as the rest of the informed world. North Korea is crazy and unpredictable. Iran's neighbors are nervous at their nuclear weapons program. No one wants to take Guantanamo prisoners.

What is particularly shocking here? Nothing. If anything, the cables just reinforce what I already thought about U.S. foreign policy--that for the most part, we don't really understand many of the countries that oppose us. Big deal. I'd have been more interested if the cables showed any real comprehension of the problem and created a path forward in dealing with Iran or North Korea.

Civil War Memory Fail

Less encouraging than the Times articles I mentioned in the last post is the Southern attempt to remember secession as something other than committing treason to defend slavery. As Bob McDonnell found out recently, public figures today can't completely ignore the fact rich plantation owners caused the death of over 500,000 Americans in order to keep more than 3 million black people in slavery. But on the local level in many southern communities away from the spotlight, large numbers of powerful white people in the present aren't going to mind celebrating their "heritage" while conveniently forgetting why their ancestors fought the war in the first place.

Jeff Antley, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Confederate Heritage Trust, is organizing the secession ball in Charleston and a 10-day re-enactment of the Confederate encampment at Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the war were fired on April 12, 1861. He said these events were not about modern politics but were meant to honor those South Carolinians who signed the state’s ordinance of secession on Dec. 20, 1860, when it became the first state to dissolve its union with the United States.

“We’re celebrating that those 170 people risked their lives and fortunes to stand for what they believed in, which is self-government,” Mr. Antley said. “Many people in the South still believe that is a just and honorable cause. Do I believe they were right in what they did? Absolutely,” he said, noting that he spoke for himself and not any organization. “There’s no shame or regret over the action those men took.” 

Just celebrating what their ancestors believe in--the right of self-government so they could continue to rape, murder, and exploit black people. Shockingly, the Sons of the Confederate Veterans have very close ties to the Tea Parties!

Remembering 1861

If you haven't been following the Times' columns on the coming of the Civil War, they are really quite good. I like them not only because they tell key stories of American history, but because most of them don't forecast the known future. They try to tell the stories from the perspective of people in late 1860, when Lincoln was a newly-elected president from whom no one knew what to expect, when it was unclear what Virginia and Tennessee would do, and when everyone realized James Buchanan had no idea what he was doing. OK, that last part has been well-known since 1860, but the deifying of Lincoln sometimes has made it hard to understand his growth.

The blog here has been somewhat content-lite of late because I am so overwhelmingly busy, but there's great historical writing going on all over the internet, including at the Times. Here's today's great piece on Harriet Tubman.

Thanks Federal Judge

Halting Oklahoma's anti-Sharia law allows me to continue my lifelong goal of bringing Sharia to Oklahoma. Personally, I'd like to turn Lawton into the American Kandahar. And if the Taliban can blow up ancient Buddhas, surely bombing the giant praying hands at Oral Roberts University is a worthy goal!

Freezing Federal Pay

Obama's pay freeze on federal employees is precisely the kind of meaningless and unreturned bipartisanism that has alienated the Democratic base. It is an anti-worker maneuver designed to please the David Broders of the world. It does nothing to fight the deficit. It makes lives a little harder for American workers. It splits the Democratic Party. It allows Republicans to seize even more momentum in their aggressive program to return America to the Gilded Age.

Another terrible move by Obama. My disappointment only grows.

Song of the Day, Curtis Mayfield, "Freddie's Dead," 1973

Historical Image of the Day

Tsukamoto and Nakamura Laundry, Salem, Oregon, 1919

Monday, November 29, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

This week's images are of Japanese-Americans. I've been reading Gail Dubrow's excellent Sento at Sixth and Main, about preserving sites of Japanese-American heritage on the West Coast, mostly in Seattle.

Japanese-American boys inside internment camp, World War II

Song of the Day, Duke Ellington, "It Don't Mean a Thing," 1943

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NCAA Top 25

Boise loses (Ha Ha!), Oregon moves to 11-0, LSU finally loses one of the many games in which they should have, Auburn comes back against Alabama to keep the awesome national championship matchup with Oregon alive. A good week by any standard. Unless you are a Boise fan.

1. Oregon (1)--back to dominant form against Arizona
2. Auburn (2)--huge comeback win against Alabama. Really deserved to win
3. TCU (3)
4. Stanford (5)
5. Wisconsin (6)--you can still flip a coin between Stanford and Wisconsin as the best one loss team. I'm sticking with Stanford, despite Wisconsin running up the score against weak Big 10 opponents
6. Ohio St. (7)
7. Michigan St.  (8)
8. Arkansas (12)--nice win over LSU
9. Oklahoma (13)
10. Boise St. (4)--I guess I was right to have TCU over Boise after all. I'm keeping Boise above Nevada because Boise completely choked but was clearly the better team. Also, the game was at Nevada and on a neutral field, does anyone think Nevada would win?
11. Nebraska (14)
12. Virginia Tech (15)
13. LSU (8)--so overrated. They should be about 8-4. But they are 10-2, so what can you do?
14. Missouri (16)
15. Nevada (17)
16. Oklahoma St. (11)--Do they play defense in Stillwater?
17. Alabama (9)--Do I really think Alabama is the 17th best team in the country? No, but they have lost 3 times and manage to lose pretty much every big game they've played. So they are missing something. Maybe only luck.
18. South Carolina (18)
19. Texas A&M (19)
20. Utah (21)
21. Florida St. (22)
22. Northern Illinois (25)
23. West Virginia (NR)--I guess the Big East might have a top 25 team at the end of the year after all!
24. Mississippi St. (NR)
25. Arizona (20)--probably the best 4 loss team in the country. They've lost 3 in a row, but to Stanford, USC, and Oregon. I'm keeping them in at 25th.

Out: Miami, Iowa

Key games for next week:

1. Nebraska-Oklahoma. Big 12 title game. Should be a great game.

2. Auburn-South Carolina--SEC title game.

3. Florida St.-Virginia Tech--ACC title game

4. Oregon at Oregon St--this should be a total blowout.

5. N.Illinois-Miami (OH)--MAC championship

Song of the Day: Dallas Wayne, "I'm Your Biggest Fan," 2006

One of the most underrated country musicians today, Dallas Wayne writes a dark, dark song here. Performed at Austin's legendary Continental Club, which is a wonderful place to see music, even if the genre in which it specializes is growing wobbly with age.

Historical Image of the Day

Cattle dying on Great Plains in Blizzard of 1886

Friday, November 26, 2010


Krugman has an excellent take on the Irish economic crisis:

The Irish story began with a genuine economic miracle. But eventually this gave way to a speculative frenzy driven by runaway banks and real estate developers, all in a cozy relationship with leading politicians. The frenzy was financed with huge borrowing on the part of Irish banks, largely from banks in other European nations.

Then the bubble burst, and those banks faced huge losses. You might have expected those who lent money to the banks to share in the losses. After all, they were consenting adults, and if they failed to understand the risks they were taking that was nobody’s fault but their own. But, no, the Irish government stepped in to guarantee the banks’ debt, turning private losses into public obligations.
Before the bank bust, Ireland had little public debt. But with taxpayers suddenly on the hook for gigantic bank losses, even as revenues plunged, the nation’s creditworthiness was put in doubt. So Ireland tried to reassure the markets with a harsh program of spending cuts.

Step back for a minute and think about that. These debts were incurred, not to pay for public programs, but by private wheeler-dealers seeking nothing but their own profit. Yet ordinary Irish citizens are now bearing the burden of those debts.

Or to be more accurate, they’re bearing a burden much larger than the debt — because those spending cuts have caused a severe recession so that in addition to taking on the banks’ debts, the Irish are suffering from plunging incomes and high unemployment.

It's amazing that the Irish people are allowing themselves to get fleeced on behalf of the banks. This isn't like the U.S. and the bailout--the Irish are facing higher taxes, higher unemployment, and a lower standard of living--all to bail out millionaires and billionaires. Krugman goes on:

But Ireland is now in its third year of austerity, and confidence just keeps draining away. And you have to wonder what it will take for serious people to realize that punishing the populace for the bankers’ sins is worse than a crime; it’s a mistake. 

I'd go a bit further than Krugman. What will it take for the people at large to realize that fundamentalist global capitalism doesn't work except for the wealthy? When will people begin to demand accountability from corporations and the political class? When will people begin to demand employment and the restoration of the social safety net? I'm certainly not seeing it yet, neither in the United States, nor Ireland, nor anywhere else. The average everyday person still believes that free market capitalism is their friend. Despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Song of the Day: Allan Holdsworth, "Devil Take the Hindmost," 2009

This song is off what is off his 1982 album Metal Fatigue, which you can buy here.

Historical Image of the Day

Dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas, 1930s

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Song of the Day: Tommy Jarrell

Various songs and interviews from Les Blank's documentary about the great Appalachian fiddler and banjo player Tommy Jarrell.

Historical Image of the Day

Cleaning up after the Santa Barbara oil spill, California, 1969

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And the Winner is....Richard Cohen!!!

Although somewhat devastated that Jonah Goldberg only finished 7th in Salon's Hack Thirty columnists, Richard Cohen surely deserves the title. This is an awesome takedown:

I sometimes ask myself, who is the intended audience of a Richard Cohen column? Who reads a Richard Cohen column and thinks to himself, "Yes, I agree with this"? I don't write "thinks to herself" because I cannot fathom the existence of a woman who'd respond approvingly to this defense of Clarence Thomas' vocal appreciation of large breasts. I think Ginni herself would say it does Justice Thomas no favors to have the support of this guy. And what does Cohen leave out of his defense of Thomas? That he was accused of creating a hostile work environment himself, for making inappropriate comments to a 23-year-old editorial aide in the late-1990s.

MLK's Vision--That Workers Regardless of Color Could Be Exploited!!!

The story of the exploitation of Chinese workers that are building the statue for the new Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall is bad:

The man told Bassan that the rest of the Chinese crew lives in another apartment, but all the workers gather for breakfast and dinner, which they make themselves. They work for a sculpting company in Hunan province and have no idea what they will be paid for their work on the King memorial. They expect to be paid when they get home.

The translator asked: Why are the workers okay with not being paid until they return to China?

Because they are working for "national honor," the man said. "To bring glory to the Chinese people." He said the workers felt patriotic pride in having been chosen to work on the King project. He said they knew there were Americans who wanted their jobs, didn't get them and were mad that the Chinese did.

The man said the workers get free room and board, and lunch delivered at the job site. Their work breaks last only as long as it takes them to eat. When they had been in the United States for one month, they were treated to dinner at a restaurant. Like any good tourists, they planned to go to New York City over Thanksgiving and maybe Niagara Falls.

But this response by King Memorial Foundation head Harry Johnson is just disgusting:

Instead, the foundation sent a Sept. 8 statement by Johnson that reads: "While 95% of the work is being done by American workers, we strongly believe that we should not exclude anyone from working on this project simply because of their religious beliefs, social background or country of origin."

Precisely--labor unions are being racist by not allowing the foundation to exploit workers from around the world in the building of this memorial!

Via Cogitamus

Bonus Thanksgiving-Themed Historical Image

Couldn't resist this:

Advertisement for Banquet TV dinner, 1963


Sarah Palin, speaking about Korea on Glenn Beck's radio show today:

CO-HOST: How would you handle a situation like the one that just developed in North Korea? [...]
PALIN: But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies. We’re bound to by treaty –
CO-HOST: South Korean.
PALIN: Eh, Yeah. And we’re also bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes.

It is indeed very important to stand with our North Korean and South Korean allies!

Maybe she can't see Korea from her front door. 

Historical Image of the Day

Aftermath of the Johnstown Flood, Pennsylvania, 1889

Arguably America's greatest environmental disaster, the failure of the South Fork Dam 14 miles upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania led to the deaths of approximately 2200 people. Typically, the industrial tycoons behind the dam claimed it was an act of God. While it came after heavy rains, human fault caused the dam collapse and ensuing flood.

Song of the Day: The Klezmatics, "Shnirele Perele"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Oh Snap!


Motor Trend to Rush Limbaugh

All the shouting from you or from electric car purists on the left can’t distort the fact that the Chevy Volt is, indeed, a technological breakthrough. And it’s more. It’s a technological breakthrough that many American families can use for gas-free daily commutes and well-planned vacation drives. It’s expensive for a Chevy, but many of those families will find the gasoline saved worth it. If you can stop shilling for your favorite political party long enough to go for a drive, you might really enjoy the Chevy Volt. I’m sure GM would be happy to lend you one for the weekend. Just remember: driving and Oxycontin don’t mix.


Matt Zoller Seitz on why AMC shows are so great.

Slight Site Change

I'm making a slight change to the site--to stop accepting anonymous comments. This isn't for any reason of anger or trying to limit conversation--it's just that there's so often when people mean to leave their name but JS-Kit in its worthless state logs you (or me) out and then it goes up as "Guest." I'd rather have actual names (or made up names) so that we can have a less confusing conversation.

Song of the Day: Sparklehorse, "Saturday"

Historical Image of the Day

Barrels of toxic waste, Love Canal, New York, late 1970s

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shorter Douthat: "Sex and Drugs Brought Down the Irish Economy"

What in the living hell does this have to do with the Irish economic crisis?

To the utopians of secularism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the waning of a powerful religious tradition can breed decadence as well as liberation. (“Ireland found riches a good substitute for its traditional culture,” Christopher Caldwell noted, but now “we may be about to discover what happens when a traditionally poor country returns to poverty without its culture.”) 

To his credit, Douthat actually kind of says that the fundamentalist free-market ideology that has ruled Ireland over the past two decades may have not been entirely good, something his fellow conservatives cannot admit. But if anyone can figure out what birth control and divorce have to do with this, let me know. 

Mickey Kaus is Only the 25th Worst Pundit in America?

Salon's ongoing list of America's 30 worst pundits is pretty fantastic. Amazingly, Mickey Kaus is only #25. It's a 3 day festival of hackery slamming, so stay tune over the next 2. If Thomas Friedman isn't in the top 5, I'm going to be disappointed.

Bjorn Lomborg, Still Hackalicious After All These Years

Bjorn Lomborg's climate change skepticism grows even more tiresome.

Historical Image of the Day

My Recent US History course just read and discussed Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. It's a very good book, though as depressing as you might imagine. In honor of that, this week I will be highlighting environmental disasters in US history.

Oiled otters after Exxon Valdez oil spill, Alaska, 1989

Song of the Day, Ian Tyson, "The Gift"

"The Gift," about the cowboy artist Charlie Russell, appeared on Tyson's landmark 1987 album Cowboyography. Buy it here

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NCAA Top 25

Not the most exciting week this season, with few upsets, even as a couple of one-loss teams got lucky wins.

1. Oregon (1)
2. Auburn (2)
3. TCU (3)
4. Boise St. (4)
5. Stanford (5)--after yesterday, I feel a lot better about moving Stanford above the other 1 loss teams last week. Stanford killed Cal, while LSU and Ohio St. nearly lost and Nebraska did lose. You could quibble between Stanford and Wisconsin here, but they are clearly 5 and 6.
6. Wisconsin (6)
7. Ohio St. (7)
8. LSU (8)
9. Alabama (10)
10. Michigan St.  (11)--huge comeback against Purdue keeps them in the running for the Rose Bowl.
11. Oklahoma St. (12)
12. Arkansas (13)
13. Oklahoma (14)
14. Nebraska (9)
15. Virginia Tech (15)
16. Missouri (16)
17. Nevada (17)
18. South Carolina (20)
19. Texas A&M (21)--one of the top 10 teams in the 2nd half of the season. First half, maybe not, which is why they are still at 19
20. Arizona (24)
21. Utah (25)--gutty comeback over San Diego St. to save their season
22. Florida St. (NR)
23. Miami (18)
24. Iowa (19)
25. Northern Illinois (NR)--a MAC team has to make it once a year, right?

Out: USC, Mississippi St.

Key Games for Next Week:

1. Auburn at Alabama--The Iron Bowl shows us whether Auburn is really one of the 2 best teams in the country. Should be very very interesting.

2. LSU at Arkansas--another fine SEC matchup. LSU will try to make a claim for the title game if Auburn loses; personally, I think Arkansas wins this game at home.

3. Boise St. at Nevada--If Boise is going to lose, this is the time and place. On the road at an excellent Nevada team. I don't think Boise will lose, but I hope they do.

4. Arizona at Oregon--Oregon should win this going away at home, but Arizona is a solid, if struggling team.

5. Oklahoma at Oklahoma St.--huge Big 12 South matchup and a rivalry game.

Song of the Day: The Freight Hoppers, Sally Ann

From February 2008

The Freight Hoppers were a key band in the old-time music revival of the late 90s. But the band always had an unstable lineup and the fiddle player had serious heart problems. He seems to have recovered and the band is back together. I saw them play in 1999 or 2000 in Knoxville and it was a really great show.

Historical Image of the Day

Page from Boys Book of Fun, a deeply unpleasant book from the 1840s.

Friday, November 19, 2010


If you've never had a martini with Damrak Gin, you basically haven't lived. This despite the sentence fragment on the home page. But I'll take bad grammar for this level of awesomeness. Even if you claim to not like gin (which shows bad character right there), you will love a Damrak martini. But no olives--you don't want to cover the taste of this delicious gin.

Daryl will not only back me up on this, but I owe him forever for introducing me to this glorious gin.

Why Americans Don't Like Nancy Pelosi

Because she's a strong woman.

Nancy Pelosi is awesome. She was a fantastic Speaker. One of the best ever. To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, Pelosi could engage in nut-cuttin' time as well as anyone in American history. And that's precisely the reason she's unpopular. If it was Norman Pelosi, the Speaker wouldn't have been an issue in the midterm elections, anymore than Harry Reid was.

Of course, there's the fact that the only voters who really hated Pelosi weren't going to vote Democratic anyway. But Pelosi was in the Beltway media narrative so everyone talks about her. I am glad she is going to be Minority Leader. For a few days, I was wondering if, despite her awesomeness, the Democrats should choose someone else just to move this narrative. Then I realized that a) it would probably be Steny Hoyer, which is unacceptable and b) that to do so would to reinforce the sexism that has brought her under attack to begin with.

Mark Twain

For as deeply screwed up as this country is, I find it incredibly refreshing (as well as a rare ray of hope) that people are so jazzed by the publication of Mark Twain's Autobiography.

How'd That Work Out For The Cherokees?

Mike Huckabee claims that politicians should just ignore court decisions they don't like:

A president has certainly got to respect a ruling of the court, but if the ruling of a court is wrong, and it’s fundamentally wrong, and you have two branches of the government that determine that it’s wrong, then those other two branches supersede the one. . . . The two branches of government, legislative and executive, have every right to make it clear to the Supreme Court that their interpretation is wrong.  And whether they do that by constitutional amendment to spell it out to the court, or by passage of further amplification of law, there are many means, I think, at hand to do that.

That got me to thinking--where I have heard of this before?

Ah yes, the Trail of Tears.

In Worcester v. Georgia (1832), the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice John Marshall, ruled that Georgia's laws did not extend to the Cherokees and that they had no obligation to give up their land to that state. President Andrew Jackson's response:

"John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!"*

One of the greatest threats to democracy is politicians choosing to ignore the courts. If politicians stop respecting court decisions that disagree with (which of course is different than working to get those decisions overturned), then what really stops them from doing whatever they want to whoever they want? As the Cherokees found out, nothing.

*--Some sources say this is a false quote. Maybe.  But it doesn't really matter since Jackson acted upon this idea.


Michael Shear is engaging in some excellent High Broderism in his Times piece on Mark Warner's centrism.

The former governor arrived in Washington two years ago — at exactly the wrong moment. His party had seized control of the White House and Congress, and were in no mood to compromise. Republicans decided to say no to everything. Mr. Warner found few takers for his style of moderation.

Now, Mr. Warner believes the tables have turned. With Republicans in charge of the House and more numerous in the Senate, he is eager to join with a handful of like-minded Democrats and Republicans to nudge his Washington colleagues toward the political center.

Oh, is that so? Democrats were completely unwilling to compromise?

I guess that's right--that's why Don't Ask, Don't Tell was overturned, we have a single-payer health care system, a comprehensive national energy policy, immigration reform, a vigorous job creation package, and every other program wished for by Ted Kennedy on his death bed....

This is just false reporting that constantly assumes the middle is somewhere to the right of leading Democrats and somewhere to the left of Glenn Beck, no matter what issue might be.

From Warner's perspective, I wouldn't be surprised if he's angling for the Democratic nomination in 2016, so I can very much see why he is putting himself front and center. But to contrast Warner to his supposedly uncompromising Democratic colleagues is utterly absurd.

Song of the Day, Will Bernard live performance, 3/24/07

I enjoyed putting up that Tom Russell clip yesterday. I listen to music basically every waking moment anyway. So why not go for a song of the day.

This is the guitarist Will Bernard doing one of his songs, I believe off the Party Hats album, though I can't remember which one this is right now. You can buy the album here. I first learned of Bernard in the mid 90s when he was playing in TJ Kirk with Charlie Hunter. He's remained active since with quality chill west coast guitar work.

Historical Image of the Day

Runaway slave notice for Harriet Jacobs. Probably between 1835 and 1842, which were the years where Jacobs' lived in an attic in order to escape her master.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Song of the Day: Tom Russell, "Guadalupe"

This is just an amazingly beautiful song. This live performance is absolutely worth your time, even if the sound is not as great as you might like. Buy the album here.

Will the Food Riots of 2008 Return in 2011?

The short answer is yes.

From the Food and Agriculture Organization:
Food import bills for the world’s poorest countries are predicted to rise 11 percent in 2010 and by 20 percent for low-income food-deficit countries.
This means, by passing a trillion dollars, the global import food bill will likely rise to a level not seen since food prices peaked at record levels in 2008.
Price increases, seen for most agricultural commodities over the past six months, are the result of a combination of factors, especially unexpected supply shortfalls due to unfavourable weather events, policy responses by some of the exporting countries, and fluctuations in currency markets.
International prices could rise even more if production next year does not increase significantly – especially in maizesoybean, and wheat, FAO said in its report.
The weather is partly to blame. And it is not too much of a stretch to expect extreme weather events, like the massive floods that decimated Pakistan’s agricultural sector, to increase in intensity and frequency as climate change gets worse. Presumably, that means we should be prepared for more of these kinds of food price shocks in the future.
Our short memories have allowed us to already forget how much food prices shot up in 2008 and how poor people around the world rioted as their difficult living conditions became all the more precarious with rising grain prices. For example, Mexico reached a state of national crisis as the price of corn reached record highs. Then, in 2009, grain prices fell because of the global economic crisis. But that fall, like the fall in oil prices, was likely an aberration strictly related to that economic crisis. Like oil, traders of most other commodities have been chomping at the bit for prices to again rise. But that's going to have real consequences around the globe. Americans may get upset because Cheetos prices could go up by 10%.  But in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, these price hikes could be calamitous and contribute to a rise in global insecurity. Which as we should know by now, could come back and bite America in the behind.

Too Much Ham

I think Roger Ailes has been stuffing himself with too much ham again. It's leading to the clogging of his brain passages:

But the Fox News chief saved his heaviest fire for NPR, which dismissed Williams last month after he said he felt uncomfortable around some Muslims on airplanes in the days after September 11.

"They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude," Ailes said of NPR. "They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don't want any other point of view. They don't even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive."
I'm scared to see what Ailes comes up with after a Thanksgiving weekend where ingests turkeys at the rate of one per hour. 

Is Sitting Bull an American Hero?

The mouthbreathers are going crazy that President Obama included Sitting Bull in his book of American heroes he dedicated to his daughter. While FoxNews' coverage of this fits perfectly with their almost openly racist norm, they are right about one thing in covering this part of the culture war: Obama's list is a window into who Americans, and especially our children, are looking up to at a given time. Most of Obama's list is precisely who'd you expect: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson. I was glad to see Billie Holliday included. And I'm surprised that conservatives didn't throw a fit over Cesar Chavez, as the exclusion of Chavez from textbooks is a primary goal of the Texas Board of Education.

Instead, they focused on Sitting Bull. Why? Because he played a part in killing someone conservatives really think is an American hero, George Armstrong Custer! Custer isn't a hero, not only because he was evil and a lover of massacring defenseless women and children, but because he was an idiot who led his men into a trap that cost all of them their lives.

I'm more interested though in thinking about Sitting Bull. Obama's book clearly reflected 21st century multiculturalism. Every major racial group is included in this short book. For example, Maya Lin represents Asians (personally I'd go with Minori Yasui but a lot more people know who Lin is and her impact is unquestionable). So Obama clearly was going to select a Native American leader. The question had to be who to select.

And of course, they went with Sitting Bull. Is Sitting Bull a hero worth emulating? I don't  know. Sitting Bull led his people in a desperate fight against the United States to hold on to their land. If Custer (and the entire United States really) is a villain in this story, does this make Sitting Bull heroic? I think we'd all like a leader of Sitting Bull's stature if aliens or Russians or whoever tried to force us off our land.

But what message does Sitting Bull provide for today's kids? I can't really think of a particularly compelling one. Too often, we think of Native Americans as people who disappeared in 1890. Maybe they've reappeared as casino operators, but that's about it. Americans have romanticized Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse and Chief Joseph since almost the day we wiped them out. Usually this has operated within a framework of longing for a simpler past. I don't think that's a valuable lesson by any means. Sitting Bull was a deeply religious man and I suspect this helped his inclusion in a book celebrating multiculturalism--we celebrate religion too, but not just Christianity. Also, the story of whites screwing over Native Americans have become pretty standard within schools; even students from relatively conservative places who attended public schools have a pretty good idea of this. And of course that history is always worth remembering. So I think Sitting Bull is on this list more as symbol than as a man who made particular heroic decisions.

I guess these are good enough reasons to include Sitting Bull. However, it would also be useful to find a Native American who lived within the last century to remind everyone that they are still around.

Worst 100 NFL Players of All Time

This list of the worst 100 NFL players is pretty fantastic. Part 1 here. Part 2 here. There are many gems. I'm a big fan of Bob Timberlake:

The Giants signed Timberlake to a two-year, $85,000 deal, but he couldn't beat out Earl Morrall for the starting quarterback job. When the team's primary kicker suffered an injury, Timberlake was inserted into his spot. On Oct. 3, 1965, Timberlake hit a 43-yard field goal in a 23–13 win over Pittsburgh. He missed his next 14 field goal attempts and was cut before the following season.

I also thought Kim McQuilken was fantastic as well:

One can certainly argue that McQuilken belongs at No. 1 on this list. In five NFL seasons, the Lehigh product threw for four touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He went on to become executive vice president of the Cartoon Network, which is somehow appropriate.

Really, there are so many excellent candidates for this list. Amazingly, Ryan Leaf was only #6 and JaMarcus Russell #13. 

Historical Image of the Day

Harriet Jacobs, late in life

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

Black women working in cotton field. I'm not sure if this image is from before the Civil War or not, but it's clearly indicative of the type of labor slave women did.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

Slave women processing pork, Wessyngton Plantation, Virginia

Monday, November 15, 2010

NCAA Top 25

Close one for the Ducks. Shows that they can still win when their offense isn't working, which just strengthens my feelings about them. A pretty staid week though.

1. Oregon (1)
2. Auburn (2)
3. TCU (3)--a tough win against San Diego St. They are being punished for this in the polls, but SDSU is a very good team. Certainly better than anyone Boise has played in their conference.
4. Boise St.  (4)
5. Stanford (7)--Stanford moves ahead of Wisconsin and Ohio St. not because those Big 10 teams did anything wrong, but because Stanford has looked phenomenal all year, has only lost to the #1 team, and plays a tough schedule. I see no reason to say they are not the best 1 loss team in the country. Yet they will probably end up playing in the Alamo Bowl. 
6. Wisconsin (5)
7. Ohio St. (6)
8. LSU (8)
9. Nebraska (9)
10. Alabama (10)
11. Michigan St. (11)
12. Oklahoma St. (12)
13. Arkansas (15)
14. Oklahoma (16)
15. Virginia Tech (17)--I still have trouble ranking a team that lost to James Madison this high, but they keep winning.
16. Missouri (19)
17. Nevada (21)
18. Miami (22)
19. Iowa (14)
20. South Carolina (23)--beating Florida always makes me happy
21. Texas A&M (24)
22. USC (NR)
23. Mississippi St. (20)
24. Arizona (18)--they looked pretty good wiping up the dregs of the Pac-10. Now they've lost to Stanford and USC back to back weeks.
25. Utah (13)--total flop against Notre Dame. Did they just have a hangover from being blasted by TCU? Or were they frauds all along?

Out: Penn St.

Top Games This Week:

1. Nebraska at Texas A&M--A pretty big game. A&M has risen fast the second half of the year. Are they elite? We'll find out this week. Meanwhile, Nebraska needs to win in order to essentially clinch a BCS bid if they can't win the Big 12 championship game. So it's a big game all around. Best of the week.

2. Ohio St. at Iowa--an Iowa win would provide some clarity to the Big 10 race that is so jumbled at the top. After a tough loss to Northwestern, I don't know if they can pull it off. Meanwhile, I don't really trust Ohio St. on the road at a tough team. Should be good.

3. Arkansas at Mississippi St.--while hardly a game with BCS implications at this point, these are 2 ranked teams in a key conference battle.

4. Virginia Tech at Miami--Important game for the weak ACC. Should even be fairly entertaining. And how often can you say that about the ACC?

5. Utah at San Diego St.--Is Utah a fraud? Is San Diego St. the real deal? This game should decide those questions. I'm definitely picking the Aztecs.

Historical Image of the Day

This week's images revolve around female slaves. They are inspired by Harriet Jacobs' anti-slavery classic, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. One of the greatest non-fiction works in American history. I have assigned it to my survey class this week in order to explore how slavery affected one woman.

Sojourner Truth

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

Dr. Alfred Kinsey, author of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, 1948, and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, 1954. I assume this picture is probably from the 1920s.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

Stonewall Riot, the opening battle of the gay rights movement, New York City, 1969

Friday, November 12, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

Marilyn Chambers, breakthrough pornographic actress and star of "Behind the Green Door," as well as star in commercials for Ivory Snow

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Centralia Massacre

This is my yearly repost of what Veterans Day means to me--an excuse to crush the civil rights of those who oppose war.

On November 11, 1919, the people of Centralia, Washington, a small lumber town in the southwestern part of the state, celebrated the first anniversary of Armistice Day with a parade. However, town leaders and the local American Legion post decided to turn the parade into an attack upon the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) union hall, which they considered the center of subversion and sedition in their community. When the Legion reached the hall, they broke in and began tearing the place apart. What they did not expect was that the radical loggers had prepared an ambush. The I.W.W. had stationed at least two shooters on a hill approximately ¼ mile away. In addition, some of the workers in the hall had weapons. In the hail of bullets, four American Legion members died. Warren Grimm, a University of Washington graduate and lawyer, had not only fought in World War I, but had also served in the military’s anti-Bolshevik force in Siberia before returning to his home town of Centralia. Arthur McElfresh had spent eighteen months in the army in France. The third dead Legionnaire was Ben Casagranda, a Greek-American who went to war for his new nation. The fourth was another University of Washington graduate and member of the Centralia elite, Dale Hubbard.

Infuriated, the Legionnaires chased a man they thought was Britt Smith, the local I.W.W. secretary, but who in fact was Wesley Everest, an itinerant logger and I.W.W. member. They beat him severely and threw him into a prison cell with other Wobblies they rounded up. That evening, still incensed, local men took Everest from his jail cell, possibly castrated him, and hanged him from a bridge on the Chehalis River. Trials quickly ensued for a dozen other I.W.W. members. A jury found eight guilty of second-degree murder, and they received sentences ranging from twenty-five to forty years at the Washington State Prison in Walla Walla. The I.W.W. claimed that the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (4-L), the American Legion, and local authorities had railroaded the eight men into prison; and their cause served as a rallying cry for an increasingly marginalized I.W.W. over the next twenty years.

Violence in this little lumber town took place as forces of order battled against radicalized loggers over control of the industry. Throughout the first two decades of the 20th century, timber companies treated their workers like animals. They forced them to live in horrific conditions in the timber camps. Daily these workers dealt with adulterated food, fleas and other vermin in their overcrowded housing, straw for bedding, the smell of disgusting wet socks drying near the bunkhouse's one heater, latrines located directly next to the dining hall so that they could smell feces everything they sat down to eat, etc. They were paid next to nothing for their work and frequently ripped off by a collusion of timber operators and employment agencies who would force men to pay for jobs and then the job not be there when they arrived. These men also lived in all-male spaces, completely isolated from women in their remote camps. Thus, when men could get to town, the first thing they headed for was to purchase the services of a prostitute. They could not live normally, either in the camps or when they returned to society. In desperation, and with the American Federation of Labor showing almost no interest in organizing these workers, they turned to the I.W.W.

By the summer of 1917, the woods were at war in what I call the Battle for the Body. The IWW organized directly around these environmental conditions and workers joined because the union was the only organization that could give them dignity and their bodies safety. Timber production plummeted that summer, but it could have continued interminably. However, when the U.S. entered World War I, the nation needed Sitka spruce to build airplanes. That tree only grows in the Pacific Northwest (and the west coast of Canada). Thus, the strikes became a threat to national security.

President Woodrow Wilson and General John J. Pershing realized they need to end these strikes. So they sent Colonel Brice Disque to the woods to figure it out. He ended up starting two organizations. The first was the Spruce Production Division, which was a squadron of soldier-loggers. Instead of going to Europe, these troops would cut down trees, which frankly sounds like a good deal to me, though there was a lot of squawking about these guys not being able to share in the manly glory that the war provided. Disque also began the Loyal Legion of Loggers of Lumbermen. Disque also supported a project to organize logging camps based on patriotism, hard work, and loyalty to the American government. This became known as the 4-L, or Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen. The pilot camp started on November 30, 1917 in Wheeler, Oregon, with 100% participation. Impressed by this, both Disque and the timbermen gave increasing support to the idea. On February 27, 1918, the Northwest’s lumber operators agreed to place their problems in Disque’s hands, which he responded to by officially announcing the 4-L, which became the nation’s first government-sponsored company union. Disque’s plan to settle labor disputes by improving workers’ environmental conditions proved effective. The 4-L set new standards of hours, wages, working conditions, and environmental conditions in the camps, regardless of whether they had SPD troops. SPD officers played a major role in pushing the 4-L, as they often worked hard to ensure high rates of enrollment among the loggers where they worked. In return for meeting the demands of agitated workers, the 4-L demanded that workers not strike during the war and instead consider the 4-L a mediating organization between themselves and their employers.

By forcing the hands of both the workers and the industry, Disque successfully brought peace to the labor industry through eventually became a government sanctioned, industry-wide company union. Most workers reneged on their 4-L membership. They didn't really believe in I.W.W. ideas of syndicalism anyway. They just wanted safe environments and bodily dignity. The 4-L provided that. But some loggers held out for the radical beliefs they held so dear. Those radicals were loathed in the Northwest. A year before, in 1918, Centralia residents had destroyed the local I.W.W. hall. They figured they could do so again. Little did they know that the union would set up shooters on the hills surrounding the town and arm some of the men inside.

In the years after the Centralia Massacre, both the I.W.W. and the American Legion fought over the meanings of the event, as well as over the fates of the prisoners. Both sides used ideas of masculinity based upon work in nature to build their arguments. Rather than bore with the details of these gender constructions, let me focus on the alleged castration of Wesley Everest. From the best I can tell, the I.W.W. made this up. None of the early accounts of the event mention it, and that includes Wobbly accounts. But soon the legend sprung up that the mob had castrated Everest, something promulgated by John Dos Passos in his novel, 1919. Although some scholars have tried to debunk the castration, it has generally come to the present as a fact, including in recent histories of the World War I era. Wobbly propagandists had little problem in promoting the castration story. The earliest publications about Centralia make no mention of castration. It first appears when I.W.W. writer Walker C. Smith wrote Was It Murder? The Truth about Centralia in 1922 as a spur to promote a retrial of the Centralia prisoners, he did discuss it, writing, “An automobile headlight was trained upon the dead man, plainly revealing that some sadist more demoniacal than his fellow degenerates had ripped Everest’s sexual organs almost loose from the body with some sharp instrument.”

What really matters here though is not whether the mob in fact castrated Everest, which I believe did not happen, but how the Wobblies used the idea of castration, the ultimate demanning of the body, to further their agenda about manhood, the body, and the environment. For the I.W.W., within Everest’s testicles laid the core of working-class manhood. He showed his bravery throughout that hellish day in Centralia. His courage originated with his hard work in the woods in the midst of other men. For that daring, savage capitalists, fearful of this kind of true proletarian man, had to eliminate that manhood before ending his life. But of course, one could not eradicate the manhood of someone like Wesley Everest so long as his comrades continued his memory and the fight to destroy capitalism.

By the middle of the 1920s, the white heat blazing off the Centralia Massacre cooled. The story became untouchable in Centralia, and in fact no documents exist from anyone remotely connected with the American Legion or timber industry in that town. The I.W.W. focused much of its waning energy on freeing the Centralia prisoners, as well as its other incarcerated members throughout the nation. Many of the jurors who put away the Centralia radicals felt remorse about their role, and in the fall of 1925, five of them met with Washington Governor Roland Hartley to make a personal appeal for the prisoners’ release.

The real impetus for their release came from former army captain Edward Patrick Coll. In 1928, Coll, an active American Legion member and a close relation to Irish revolutionary leader Eamon De Valera, moved to Aberdeen to sell insurance. He could not believe the stories he heard about the organization’s role in the Centralia affair. Coll wanted the Legion to put on a program defending themselves, but they refused, citing explosive evidence against them if they were to do so. Concerned that the Centralia case would undermine the power of the Legion in southwestern Washington, Coll began a personal crusade to get the prisoners released, which the Legion opposed every step of the way. He started asking around Centralia and claimed that the relatives of dead Legionnaire Warren Grimm had admitted that Grimm helped lead the raid, the denial of which formed the basis for the prosecution’s murder case against the Wobblies. Governor Clarence Martin paroled most of the prisoners in 1933 but Rayfield Becker refused his parole, holding out until he received a full pardon. In 1939, Martin commuted his sentence to time served and Becker left prison, though without the full pardon for which he held out.
Mentioning the Centralia Massacre quickly became totally unacceptable in the community. Literally none of the participants on the Legion side ever told their story. They all took it to the grave with them. At some point, I think sometime in the 80s, Centralia residents commissioned a bunch of murals for their town representing their history. There are lots of scenes of white people settling the land, but nothing on Centralia. The labor hall in town put up its own mural, though it is kind of hard to see from the road because it is on the second floor. You have to know where to look. Even today, it is an almost totally unmentionable subject.

Historical Image of the Day

Naked hippies. Presumably late 60s, but of course could certainly be the early 70s.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And We Shall Now Call Our Urban Planning Department "Developer Services"

The likely slim Republican majority in the Colorado House is producing some real high quality early results.....

Colorado House Republicans today announced new committee chairs for the 2011 session, which will convene in January. More profoundly, perhaps, Speaker of the House-elect Frank McNulty announced new names for some of the committees.

Nowhere to be found among the new committees are such stalwarts as energy, labor or human services.

Instead of Health and Human Services, we now have Health and Environment. Instead of Business Affairs and Labor, we now have Economic and Business Development. Instead of Transportation and Energy, we have Transportation.

“The new committee names are a reflection of Speaker McNulty’s radical conservative agenda,” said House Minority Leader-elect Sal Pace, Pueblo.

“This really tells us how he plans to govern,” Pace said.

“It shows where their priorities are,” agreed Rep. Max Tyler, Lakewood, a member of the Transportation and Energy Committee last session. “I don’t know what committee will consider energy bills this year.”

These name changes may seem minor. But they are not.  Conservatives consistently do a great job of understanding how names, framing debates, and image shape American politics. Eliminating "Labor" from any committee and renaming the said committee "Economic and Business Development" quite clearly shows that the state of Colorado has no interest in protecting the rights or listening to the concerns of workers.

The other thing conservatives know is that Democrats won't do anything to change this back in the future. By renaming the committees now, despite having a 1 seat majority, they have reframed the debate for the foreseeable future.

Note: "Developer Services" is in fact the name of the urban planning department in the Albuquerque suburb of Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

Revisiting the Election of 1860

Seth Masket claims to be busting the myth that Abraham Lincoln only won in 1860 because the Democratic Party split. Yglesias approves. Loomis does not.

The mythbusting goes like this: If you add up all the votes against Lincoln in 1860 in each of the states, Lincoln still wins the electoral college; the Democratic Party did split, but because that split was regional, only 1 Democrat gets the vote in most states. And the Constitutional Union Party got a few votes, but not enough to turn the states from Lincoln. Therefore, even if the Democrats united under Stephen Douglas, Lincoln wins.

That is the historical counterfactual equivalent of lazy punditry right there.

I don't know if Lincoln would have won against a united Democratic Party in 1860 or not. I teach the Civil War, but I'm not an expert on state politics in the antebellum years so I don't have a great sense of how the swing states (especially New York, which is the one that truly mattered) would have gone. I can make a couple of points.

1. There was significant nervousness among many moderate northerners about Republican abolitionism. This caused a fair number of future Lincoln voters to go Buchanan in 1856. What happens between 1856 and 1860? The South way overplays its hand and blows up the nation. If that doesn't happen, do all those voters go for Lincoln or Douglas? My gut tells me Douglas has a real shot.

2. What bugs me about all of this is not the expected result that Lincoln would win. It's the lazy approval that goes along with it. Life and politics aren't so simple as A+B=C today. And they weren't in 1860 either. There's an entirely different set of factors that could have come into play for many voters under a united Democratic Party. Simple answers are rarely answering any questions. That's for 2010 or 1860. And I worry that people willing to settle for simplicity in their analysis for the past might fall victim to easy explanations of causation today.

Scorsese on Bergman

This is a wonderful discussion of the greatest director of all time (Bergman) by the greatest film fan and one of the top 50 directors of all time (Scorsese). Really great.

Remember the Alamo!

If Joe Barton is going to call health care repeal his Alamo, let him and his supporters gather inside the Alamo, let me join the Mexican army, and give me a weapon.

Tucker Carlson, 8 Year Old

Acting like an spoiled 8 year old rich kid wearing a bow tie is par for the course for Tucker Carlson, but this almost makes me think that he's more like 6 years old.

Historical Image of the Day

Jim and Artie Mitchell, the pornography kings of San Francisco, 1970s

Monday, November 08, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

Cover of Time Magazine, April 9, 1984.

This cover is so classic 80s--fear of sex representing the rise of both AIDS and conservatism. And then Al Haig on the corner.

Historical Image of the Day

This week's images revolve around the sexual revolution. Inspired by Josh Sides' excellent book, Erotic City: Sexual Revolutions and the Making of Modern San Francisco, which my Recent U.S. course read last week.

Scene from Bettie Page S&M film, 1950s

Expect Rising Food Prices in 2011

This ought to help the struggling economy.....

Sunday, November 07, 2010

NCAA Top 25

Another year, another Oregon destruction of Washington.

1. Oregon (1)
2. Auburn (2)
3. TCU (3)--I really thought about moving TCU past Auburn. They eviscerated Utah. A great team.
4. Boise St. (4)
5. Wisconsin (7)
6. Ohio St. (8)
7. Stanford (11)--dominated Arizona. The nation's most underrated team. I truly think they might be the best 1 loss team in the country. And of course, it's no shame to get blown out by Oregon
8. LSU (15)--OK, that reverse on 4th down was awesome. They keep winning the big games. I guess I have to believe. Except that I really don't. They seem almost fated to blow a game they should win. I'm not really holding the incredibly lucky win against Tennessee against them.  But good and lucky are not always the same thing.
9. Nebraska (10)
10. Alabama (6)--I still have them above some of the 1 loss teams. I think they belong there. But they've been less than dominant all year.
11. Michigan St. (14)
12. Oklahoma St. (16)
13. Utah (5)--Ouch
14. Iowa (17)
15. Arkansas (19)--nice win against South Carolina. Good that only the 5 best teams in the SEC are all in the West.
16. Oklahoma (9)--Like LSU, they've been lucky all year.  Unlike LSU, playing on the edge has bitten them back.
17. Virginia Tech (20)
18. Arizona (13)--Good, but Stanford showed them to be the #3 team in the Pac 10. At best.
19. Missouri (12)
20. Mississippi St. (22)
21. Nevada (25)
22. Miami (NR)
23. South Carolina (18)
24. Texas A&M (NR)
25. Penn St. (NR)--I don't even think Penn St. is very good. But it's getting really hard to find 25 worthy teams.

Key games for next week:

Actually, next week is a pretty mediocre week of college football. Sounds like a good week for raking leaves. I'll be out of town so that's good timing. Anyway, if you are going to watch football, here's the most important games, such as they are.

1. Mississippi St. at Alabama. Possibly the only matchup of ranked teams. Kind of interesting--how will Alabama respond to that tough loss? And is Mississippi St. actually good?

2. Penn St. at Ohio St. Ho hum. Sounds kind of boring really. If this was at Penn St., I might pick an upset.

3. USC at Arizona--the battle for the 3rd best team in the Pac-10, including one team ineligible for a bowl. It's that kind of week.

4. San Diego St. at Utah--this is probably the game I am most interested in, even if it lacks big-time implications. San Diego St. has been the nation's most unexpected rising team this year. Utah looked good all year and then was embarrassed by TCU. Could be an upset.

5. South Carolina at Florida--I suppose I should care about who wins the SEC East, which is what this game will decide. I don't.

Out--Florida St., North Carolina St., Baylor