Monday, December 31, 2007

Ron Paul is a racist, reactionary

Jeff Weintraub has a good take-down of Paul's view that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a bad idea American civil war was a "senseless war" here.

Orcinus has the low-down on Paul's links to white racists.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best of 2007 II-Books

The best books I read in 2007, most were published this year or last.

1. Michael Honey, Going Down Jericho Road. a history of the 1968 Memphis sanitation worker's strike and Martin Luther King's Jr. radical politics. A must for understanding US.

2. Sam Farber, The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered.

2. Jim Green, Death in the Haymarket.

4. Darren Cushman Wood, Blue Collar Jesus.

Joe Bagenant, Deer Hunting with Jesus

6. Taner Edis, An Illusion of Harmony

7. Robert Irwin, Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents

8. Walter Dean Micahels, The Trouble with Diversity

9. Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival

10. Big Red Songbook. collects the lyrics of every song from the IWW's Little Red Songbooks through the mid-1970s, plus some interesting essays.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Best of 2007 I--CDs

The best CDs I purchased in 2007, not the best released in 2007, not the best I listened to.*

  1. Vince Gill, These Days. a marvelous 4-cd set, each devoted to a specific style.
  2. Joe Glazer, My Darling Party Line, a brilliant collection of anti-Stalinist parodies recorded in the early 1950s, but timeless and available from Smithsonian Folkways. Also recommended Glazer's Songs of the IWW.
  3. Joshua Redman, Back East, a tribute of sorts to the classic Sonny Rollins Way Back West.
  4. Betty Lavette, The Scene of the Crime
  5. Joss Stone, The Soul Sessions, I'm still not sure how to evaluate the whole neo-soul trend--Madeline Peryoux sounds too much like Billie Holiday, but I really liked Stone.
  6. Dwight Yoakum, Blame the Vain
  7. Dave Douglass, Meaning and Mystery
  8. Merle Haggard, Blue Grass Sessions
  9. Dexter Gordon Getting Around DG was one of the first tenor sax players I got into, right after Rollins and Coltrane. very under-rated player.
  10. Various artists, Song of America, a 3 CD tour of American history in song. One could question some of the selections (I could have done without "Little Boxes") but it is enthralling to hear contemporary artists do these historic songs.
BOX SETS: I bought and listened to far more Rolling Stones than Byrds back in high schools, but the new Byrds There is a Season set opened my ears far than the older London Singles box set. The Stones set had a better, because larger, booklet.

LOCAL MUSICIAN CDs: I enjoyed the alternative rock of Snapback's Purgatory and the celtic music of Rowan's Tolls Through Time.

I transferred a bunch of LPs and tapes to CDs, but didn't keep a running list, which I probably should.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bloody Dawn: Lawrence Massacre Debuts

Put one of these on your 2008 resolutions.

Bloody Dawn is a documentary about
Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, Kansas. In this event, over 150 unarmed civilian males were killed in cold blood.

The film produced by Lone Chimney films uses the "direct cinema" tradition of documentary films, but will also dedicate a portion of the film to docudrama, where the raid will be played out in cinematic detail.

The folks behind this project did the excellent 2005 documentary Touched by Fire: Bleeding Kansas about the Kansas oriignsrelude to the civil war.

Premiere of Bloody Dawn: The Lawrence Massacre
January 11, 2008
The Orpheum - Wichita, KS

*Premiere of Bloody Dawn: The Lawrence Massacre
January 12, 2008
Liberty Hall - Lawrence, KS

*Premiere of Bloody Dawn: The Lawrence Massacre
January 18, 2008
The Brown Grand Theater - Concordia, KS

*Premiere of Bloody Dawn: The Lawrence Massacre
January 19, 2008
The Columbia Theatre - Wamego, KS

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sign a letter supporting Iranian Students

I've added my name to the Campaign for Peace and Democracy letter supporting Iranian students imprisoned for speaking up.

Here's the text of the letter


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, Minister of Intelligence
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, Leader of the Islamic Republic
Gholamali Haddad Adel, Speaker of Parliament

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

We are writing to strongly condemn the arrests in early December of students in Tehran involved in courageous protests against repression; a key target of their protest was the arrest in May of three student leaders: Ehsan Mansouri, Ahmad Ghassaban and Majid Tavakkoli.

We call for the immediate release of the imprisoned students, as well as all others in Iran who have been unjustly imprisoned. A partial list of the students we understand to be still in prison is: Nader Ahsani, Roozbehan Amiri, Said Aqam, Anousheh Azadfar, Keyvan Amiri Eliyasi, Rosa 'Essa'ie, Mehdi Geraylou, Mohsen Ghamin, Ahmad Ghassaban, Mehdi Grabloo, Yaser Pir Hayati, Younes Mir Hosseini, Ilnaz Jamshidi, Ali Kalani, Ali Khalili, Ehsan Mansouri, Amir Mehrzad, Hamed Mohamadi, Milad Moini, Arash Pakzad, Rouzbeh Safshekan, Ali Salem, Nasim Soltan-Beigi, Majid Tavakkoli, Behruz Karimi Zadeh, and Behrang Zandi.

We wish to state that we are unalterably opposed to a military attack on Iran by the United States or any other nation. An attack would be devastating to the people of Iran. We reject too the hypocrisy of the U.S. government when it protests repression in Iran while turning a blind eye to or actively abetting comparable or worse repression in countries with which it is allied like Saudi Arabia, as well as undermining civil liberties at home and torturing prisoners. But that in no way deters us from protesting in the strongest terms the denial of basic democratic rights to the people of Iran. We protest because we believe in these rights, and also because we see social justice activists in Iran and all countries as our natural allies in building a peaceful, democratic world.

To add your name, go to

I signed the CPD statement on Iraq in 2002 and the CPD statement of antiwar, social justice, and human rights activists protesting repression in Cuba.

Three Musical Restorations

Three important musical restoration projects have come to my attention in the last week or so.

The lattest was Friday's NPR report on Moby Grape

All Things Considered, December 21, 2007 - Mention the name Moby Grape to a roomful of rock critics, and you'll hear nothing but praise for the 1960s San Francisco rock band. But aside from fans and critics, few people today have ever heard of Moby Grape. Why? Bad advice, bad breaks and bad behavior are three short reasons. Now that a label is trying to right these wrongs by reissuing the group's first five records, old problems still stand in the way.
The name Moby Grape comes from an absurdist punch line: What's big, purple and swims in the ocean? But the band that influenced groups ranging from Led Zeppelin to The Pretenders was no joke. Neither was its 1967 debut, according to Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke.
"It's one of the few rock 'n' roll albums of any era that you can say, 'That is a perfect debut album.
I was a big Moby Grape fan. I once owned most of their LPs, but at some point they vanished from my collection. Did I sell them at a second hand record store, possibly, but more likely I loaned them to someone who forgot to return them. My brothers, however, deny this. The NPR story made me want to hear them again.

Since the reissue of the classic Grape LP's has been sabotaged by the band's ex-manager, I;ll have to choose between the two CD compilations. I'll add one to my collection in 2008.

While doing some holiday shopping Friday night, I decided to buy a CD for myself. I considered Dwight Yoakum's tribute to Buck Owens Dwight Sings Buck, but chose Betty Lavette The Scene of the Crime.

Who is Bettye Lavette, you ask? Short answer: the best soul singer you've never heard of. Longer answer, listen to Terry Gross interview Lavette on NPR's Fresh Aire.

In 1972, Atlantic shelved an LP Lavette recorded at Muscle Shoals. If it had been released, chances are she might have been as well-known as Aretha Franklin. Finally,thirty years later a French company leased the masters for a Euro release. Rhino put it out in the US a little later with a few additions as "Child of the Seventies." That revived her career. For The Scene of the Crime, Lavette returned to Muscle Shoals and recorded with some of the same musicians and members of the Drive By Truckers. Truckers leader Patterson Hood is the son of Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood, who plays on the new Lavette CD.

The third restoration project is the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project. I learned about this when I heard Robert Darden, former gospel editor for Billboard, and author of People Get Ready: A New History of Black Gospel Music, interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air" this week.

The goal of the project is to preserve as much as possible of the thousands of black gospel 78s, 45s, and LPs recorded between 1945 and 1970. These were mostly done by small labels which have disappeared. Hence, the importance of the project. The records are being gathered not only from collectors, but from flea markets, estate sales, and so forth. They are also interested in publicity photos, posters, and the like.

Information on how you can loan or donate materials is here. I hope that KMUW's Gospel Reminiscences, The Community Voice, and the black churches will get the word out about this valuable project.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunflower activists acquitted

I commented (here, here, and here) on the travesty of leaders of Sunflower Community Action being prosecuted for leaving a few signs at the home of Wichita City Manager George Kolb in a protest about the city's failure over years to clean up a lot in Wichita.

This week, a jury acquitted them of the charges.

After the group protested at his house, Kolb asked the city to charge Perry Fisher and Sunflower leaders J.J. Selmon and Louis Goseland with trespassing and illegal dumping, accusing the group of more than a dozen of leaving protest signs scattered across his lawn on Dec. 9, 2006.

After testimony on Monday and closing arguments Tuesday morning, the Sedgwick County jury of three men and three women found them not guilty.

"We can all sleep tonight, finally," Perry Fisher said after the verdict. "I am happy, happy, happy.
Meanwhile, Kolb resigned in a mutual agreement with the City Council, which gave him an extremely generous severance package. Eagle columnist Randy Schofield had some germane comments

Council members cited "philosophical differences."

Philosophical differences?

What's that supposed to mean? Did they argue about Kant's categorical imperative? Bicker about the symbolism of Plato's cave?

Schofield rightly points to problems with Wichita's city manager form of government. It seems that the city manager view themselves as being the real boss of the city. The mayor and council members like corporate board of directors are to do what the manager wants. And the citizens are just an awkward encumbrance. When Kolb resigned he wished the "organization" well in the future. The ORGANIZATION? As if the city of Wichita were a corporation or a non-profit.

Ike Turner

From all accounts, Ike Turner was a sob in his private life, but he was one of the great figures in rock and rhythm and blues. He passed away on December 12.

His 1951 recording of "Rocket 88" has a very strong claim to be the first rock record. (There are least 50 other candidates, but I agree with those who think this song peformed by Jackie Berenson and his Delta Cats--actually Ike's Kings of Rhythm band from St. Louis has the best claim.)

Strangely, the first NPR obit, didn't even mention Rocket 88. It also didn't mention "River Deep, Mountain High" the legendary 1965 Ike and Tina Turner single. This tune is #33 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest rock songs. This omission is understandable, since the song was produced by Phil Spector on the condition that Ike stay out of the studio.

Here's a very nice video "Huck" put together in a visual tribute to this great rock song.

I discovered Ike and Tina about the time they were discovered by the rock world. I bought and wore out "Outta Season" and "The Hunter" two late '60s LPs on Blue Thumb, but I suspect that the really great Ike and Tina Turner was a little bit earlier. This clip shows why.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tiahrt aide resigns to take post as...

...manager of the Holiday Inn Express in Andover. Chuck Knabb, communication director for Rep. Todd Tiahrt is resigning to take that lofty position here.

The Hill quotes one staffer as saying

"I knew times were tough for Republicans on the Hill but looks like things might be sinking to a whole new level if these are the only options we have left...”

Daily Kos observes

the freak out amongst GOP staffers is still hilarious.

And since Republicans will have far fewer seats in Congress and will lose the White House, their job prospects will certainly look bleak. There's only so many staffers that can be picked up by wingnut welfare (the think tanks), so the rest will probably be left taking "real" jobs -- but against their will.

US LEAP: a valuable anti-sweatshop group

US LEAP (U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project), one of the more effective anti-sweatshop, anti-"free trade" groups celebrated in 20th anniversary recently.

Among the speakers at the event was, Gabriela Lemus, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).

The AFL-CIO Blog ran a report on her speech which contained a good round-up of the failures of NAFTA. You can find it here.

Here are some highlights

Globalization, immigration and trade policies are intertwined—and you can’t solve one without addressing the other two...

Lemus says the global economy is not working because “there is a huge disconnect between the multinational corporations and consumers, and it is threatening our democracy.”

“Corporations are no longer loyal to one market, and as a result they have no sense of national identity. They are actually becoming so big they are competing with nation states. They don’t respect boundaries, but they expect us to.”

If we really cared about the people of Mexico, we would create jobs there that would allow them to make a decent living. We’re scapegoating immigrants for a problem they didn’t create. We’re attacking the symptom, but not getting at the root causes.

Check out the attractive and informative US LEAP website.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kansas Citizens for Science Annual Meeting

The Annual Kansas Citizens For Science Membership Meeting

Sunday, November 18, 2007
1:00 PM
Topeka Public Library
Anton Room 202
1515 SW 10th Ave.
Topeka, Kansas

KCFS is the leading grass roots group in Kansas advocating for sound science in our education system and opposing the imposition of creation and intelligent design.

Although moderates now control the state Board of Education, it won't necessarily stay that way.
There will be elections for five state Board of Education seats in 2008, including seats held by staunch supporters of science from Topeka/Lawrence, the metropolitan Kansas City area, and Wichita, and by opponents of good science standards from Manhattan and the area south of Wichita.

Membership in KCFS is inexpensive. $25 for regular membership and $15 for students and teachers. Come to the meeting or join by mail by sending a check to KCFS
PO Box 442136 Lawrence, KS 66044.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Congrats to Roy Nitzberg

Lots of people have a musician or two or more in their circle of friends, but damn few of us have a music theorist.

My longtime friend Roy Nitzberg has co-authored (with Henry Burnett) Composition, Chromaticism and the Developmental Process New Theory of Tonality.

Here's the synopsis.

Musicology, having been transmitted as a compilation of disparate events and disciplines, has long necessitated a 'magic bullet', a 'unified field theory' so to speak, that can interpret the steady metamorphosis of Western art music from late medieval modality to twentieth century atonality within a single theoretical construct. Without that magic bullet, discussions of this kind are increasingly complicated and, to make matters worse, the validity of any transformational models and ideas of the natural evolution of styles is questioned and even frowned upon today as epitomizing a grotesque teleological bigotry. Going against current thinking, Henry Burnett and Roy Nitzberg claim that the teleological approach to observing stylistic change is still valid when considered from the purely compositional perspective. The authors challenge the traditional understanding of development, and advance a new theory of eleven-pitch tonality as it relates to the corpus of Western composition. The book plots the evolution of tonality and its bearing on style and the compositional process itself. The theory is not based on the diatonic aspect of the various tonal systems exploited by composers; rather, the theory is chromatically based - the chromatically inflected octave being the source not only of a highly ingenious developmental dialectic, but also encompassing the moment-to-moment progression of the musical narrative itself. Even the most profound teachings of Schenker, and the often startlingly original and worthwhile speculations of Riemann, Tovey, Dahlhaus and others, still provide no theory of development and so are ultimately unable to unite the various tendrils of the compositional organism into a unified whole. Burnett and Nitzberg move beyond existing theory and analysis to base their theory from the standpoint of chromatic 'pitch fields'. These fields are the specific chromatic pitch choices that a composer uses to inform and design a complete composition, utilizing specific chromatic inflections to control a large-scale working out process that is the very essence of 'development'. In short, the authors claim that a chromatic background that coexists with a diatonic contrapuntal background may define the process of compositional development. These chromatic and diatonic events are the two genus expressions of slowly unfolding tonic octaves.
BTW, my connection with Roy is more political than musical. Roy is senior US correspondent for LabourStart.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Strangers in our midst

I'm not shocked when the Minutemen and FAIR have an organizing meeting at the Wichita Public Library. I'm not surprised when college Republicans at Wichita State have a fundraiser with anti-immigrant themes.

But I'm disappointed that two forces which normally play a progressive, humane role on immigration issues have been less than stellar.

First, a Catholic school in Wichita has imposed an English-only policy on its students. Not only in the class room, but even on the play grounds. One the people upset is a social worker for the Wichita school district who has been involved in the diocese's Hispanic ministry program.

Bob Viboril. the Catholic school superintendent is quoted as saying

"As people take it away from being a simple disciplinary action, it tends to harden the position of people who want to make everything into a Hispanic-rights issue or those who want to make everything as an excuse to push Hispanics away...I am not on either side."

Not on either side! Not wanting to side with bigots or too over-zealous defenders of the marginal. One of the strongest points of Catholic social teaching in recent years has been the preferential option for the poor. It's sad Catholic leaders seemingly forget this principle.

Kansas Protestants also disappointed. The planned what looked like an interesting conference on Hispanic immigration, but cancelled it when there wasn't enough registration.

Bishops' Conference on the Common Good

Bishops Scott J. Jones of the Kansas Area of The United Methodist Church, Dean E. Wolfe of The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and Gerald L. Mansholt of the Central States Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will host an event examining the issues surrounding Hispanic immigration on October 21 from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. A light supper will be provided, and a free-will offering will be taken.

Annapolis Peace Conference: Guide for the Perplexed

Meretz USA has prepared an excellent guide to the upcoming peace conference in Annapolis between Israel and the Palestinian authority.

Whether you follow the Middle East just a little or consider yourself an expert, this should be a very valuable resource.

Don't know who Mertz USA is?

MeretzUSA is "a US non-profit organization that supports a genuine peace between the State of Israel and its neighbors (including the Palestinian people) based on a negotiated land-for-peace solution. Meretz USA supports full civil and human rights for Israeli citizens, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation."

It is independent of, but philosophically attuned to Meretz-Yachad, the left-wing, social democrratic party which has 5 seats in the Israeli Knesset.

Also, check out the Meretz USA blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Co-op Month

Bet you didn't know that October is co-cop month. I didn't.

Find out more information about co-ops here.

About 170 million million Americans are members of co-ops. True. the biggest number of these are members of credit unions. Co-ops represent a real alternative to the corporate model. Radicals and economic democrats should make a more serious effort to understand both the real role of co-ops and their potential. Liberal and progressive candidates, likewise, should include support for co-cops in addition to the standard affirmations of small business.

A 2003 poll for co-op month had some interesting findings showing wide support for the ideas of the co-op movement.

Respondents were read a list of corporate governance characteristics and asked if that characteristic makes a business more or less trustworthy.

  • 68% said that a business that has consumers on its board of directors is more or much more trustworthy;
  • 66% said that a business that is owned by the people who use the services of the company or buy its goods is more or much more trustworthy;
  • 63% said that a business that is governed by a board of directors made up of the people who use the services of the company or buy its goods is more or much more trustworthy;
  • 62% said a business that is locally owned and controlled is more or much more trustworthy; and
  • 55% said a business that allows its customers to democratically elect its board of directors is more or much more trustworthy. Perceptions of Co-ops vs. Publicly Traded Corporations

Respondents were given nine positive business attributes and asked if they agreed or disagreed whether each attribute described co-ops and publicly traded corporations;

  • 81% agreed that co-ops can be counted on to meet their customers needs, compared to 65% for publicly traded corporations;
  • 79% agreed that co-ops are committed to providing the highest quality service to their customers, compared to 58% for publicly traded corporations;
  • 78% agreed that co-ops are committed to and involved in their communities, compared to 53% for publicly traded corporations;
  • 77% agreed that co-ops have the best interests of consumers in mind when conducting business, compared to 47% for publicly traded corporations;
  • 76% agreed that co-ops run their businesses in a trustworthy manner, compared to 53% for publicly traded corporations;
  • 74% agreed that co-ops provide products and services that are of high value, compared to 63% for publicly traded corporations;
  • 68% agreed that co-ops are ethically governed, compared to 45% for publicly traded corporations;
  • 64% agreed that co-ops offered the most competitive prices, compared to 58% for publicly traded corporations; and
  • A nearly equal percentage agreed that co-ops and publicly traded corporations engage in charitable giving: 57% for co-ops and 58% for publicly traded corporations.
  • Publicly traded corporations outscored co-ops only on marketplace choice. While more than a majority (53%) agreed co-ops offer consumers more choices in the marketplace, 62% agreed that publicly traded corporations did.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Hag vs. Walmart

Merle Haggard's newest CD, Bluegress Sessions, includes another new social commentary from Merle. I first heard this while driving between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Conway, Arkansas ten days ago. This is the sort of anti-Wal-Mart song you might expect from a Si Kahn or Utah Phillips, but may be more artistically profound. And it will surely reach more people than a slew of cause singers.

In the chorus, Merle laments the lose of America and asks where did America go, the next line says "Everything Wal-mart all the time." In short, Wal-mart is un-American.


Merle R. Haggard (Merle Haggard Music, Inc., 8MI)

It used to be Andy and Barney Fife
Now it's Howard Stern and a brothel life
Too much crap can drive the world insane
Everybody's singing the Jailhouse Blues
Don't believe a word of the evening news
Truth that stood for years is down the drain
Trailer parks with a building code
Cul-de-sacs on a country road

High-Tech bars with bad karaoke sounds
Uncle Sam keeps your money spent
Pay your tithes, you can't pay the rent
Foreign cars selling big in American towns


What happened, does anybody know?
What happened, where did America go?
Everything Wal-Mart all the time.
No more mom and pop five and dimes
What happened,where did America go?
Where did America go?

How did we ever go so wrong?
Did we get too high, Did we sleep too long?
Why did we raise the price of gasoline
I remember the morning the towers fell
I fell back asleep and I dreamed of hell
I guess I thought it all was part of my dream


Where did it go boys? Tell me. I miss America.

The Bluegrass Sessions is to my knowledge, the first time Merle has recorded with a bluegrass sound. Surprisingly, it works.

There's a lot of musical, historical, and sociological stuff to unpack in this landmark recording. Merle has show a high regard for the history of country music. He's done tributes to Bob Wills, Jimmy Rodgers, and Lefty Frizzell. So, at first appearance, it's odd that he's never done a bluegrass album.

Actually, it may not be so strange. Merle was born in 1937 to parents who had moved to California from Oklahoma during the depression. Bluegrass wasn't invented, or didn't evolve, until the 1940s. It's my guess that bluegrass didn't have much of a following in California.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Report on House Immigration Reform Caucus

The Building Democracy Initiative of the Center for New Community has just released a new report on the House Immigration Reform Caucus which was founded by Tom Tancedro.

It's called Nativism in the House. Read it on-line or down-load the PDF.

  • The overwhelming majority of Caucus members are from the furthest, hardest edge of the Republican Party’s rightwing; only eight are Democrats. Although they often invoke the supposed interests of native-born wage earners, these representatives generally have stiff anti-labor voting records. Many also oppose a woman’s right to choose, and vote regularly against civil rights and civil liberties concerns.
  • The report finds that the Caucus is ideologically-driven, and might more accurately fit an “ultra-nationalist” model typically associated with far-right European parties such as Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France, the Vlaams Belang in Belgium, or the Swiss Peoples Party.
  • Although it is often assumed that nativist politics are the result of economic resentment, these congressmen and women are not elected from districts with a common economic or demographic character. They come from suburban, middle class California districts with a significant minority of Hispanic residents. In the South, Mid-South, and West they are elected from districts with a measurable percentage of rural, blue collar white voters, and very small numbers of Hispanics.
  • Notwithstanding the Caucus’ political character, its members have received campaign contributions from a surprisingly wide range of sources, including AT&T, the American Medical Association, and Home Depot. All told, 2600 PACs, most of whom are not considered anti-immigrant, have contributed to the HIRC’s campaign coffers. In addition, Caucus members receive funding from nativist sources such as the Minuteman PAC as well as from ultra-conservative sources such as the Eagle Forum and the Club for Growth.
  • • The election of Rep. Brian Bilbray as the Caucus’ chairman is likely to cement the already symbiotic relationship between fringe anti-immigrant advocacy groups and Caucus members. Rep. Bilbray is himself a former lobbyist for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a controversial anti-immigrant organization that holds questionable ties to white nationalist and nativist groups. At the same time, the former HIRC director has gone to work at FAIR as a Government Relations Associate.
  • Most recently, Caucus members have begun to actively promote legislation aimed at gutting the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As of the time of this report’s printing, 90 members of the House of Representatives signed on as co-sponsors to legislation aimed at nullifying the Fourteenth Amendment’s “birthright” provision. If passed, this type of legislation would certainly provoke a constitutional crisis.

Blues Crawl Review

The Wichita Blues Society is one of the important grass roots organizations that preserves and enriches the cultural life of Wichita. Without the WBS and similar organizations, only narrow commercial interests and the elite refined culture of elite foundations would determine the cultural scene.

Each year, the WBS sponsors a Blues Crawl on a Sunday evening with a low admission price allowing admission to a series of Old Town clubs which are featuring blues bands for the evening. I made the Sept 30 crawl after having missed several. I managed to catch a tune or two from 10 of the 12 bands. Pretty good, considering the I got started at 7 instead of 6 when the crawl got underway. Maybe not the ideal way to take in a crawl, but something every crawler should consider.

Here's what I heard.

Nightwatchmen. My buddy Clayton Crawford is lead guitarist and vocalist for this power trio. I started and spent the longest time here. Highlight was "Got My Mojo Working Working" They had a unique arrangement for the tune based a driving guitar lick which I never heard another band use. It wasn't till the vocals that I recognized the tune. The drummer did an outstanding job on MOJO, evoking Sam Lay.

Next was the Corbett Cameron Band at Flashbacks. Reminded me of a Southern rock band with a country twinge.

At Mort's playing outside was Moreland & Arbuckle. Can you say Jimmy Reed. Very jumping.

RKO, two-time winners of the WBS Blues Challenge. I really liked this band. It had a classic Chicago blues line-up of lead and rhtym guitar, harmonica, bass, and drums. Played a very nice version of Otis Rush's "All My Loving," including a double time section. I think that's on the original, but AML isn't on the Cobra best of OR that I have.

Three Shades of Blue was holding forth at Torre's Pizza. Very skillful guitarist, but I felt like he was using every lick he knew.

Little Smoke playing a O'Sullivan's had a conga player, didn't come away with a distinct impression. That's the problem with trying to squeeze in seeing 12 groups in 2 hours.

Wing Tip Six a swing/jump blues combo with two saxes was groovin at the Brickyard.

Sharon Rush Band was doing a Dylan tune when I stopped into America's Pub.

Kelly's Irish Pub had Front Porch Blues a guitar and harp duo. Someone requested Stevie Ray Vaughn and they obliged, but I think their forte is more country blues.

My last stop of the evening was Larkspur where I heard Rachelle Coba who did some nice blues while accompanying herself on guitar. Not an easy thing to do, but she pulled it off.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

About the only safe Republican Senate seats in '08 are the ones that aren't on the ballot," a GOP operative with extensive experience in Senate races said. (Washington Post Sept. 2, 2007)

1. Pat Roberts to Too Popular

Pat Roberts is may be well-known, but he is not popular. Survey USA national polls have consistently put his ratings in the low 50s.

In contrast, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has a 60 percent approval rating.

It is time to take of the kid gloves and tell the truth about Roberts. He is a professional Washington, D.C. politician who is closer to the K Street lobbyists than to main street Kansans. He may be mild-mannered, but he is not moderate. He has fully backed the GOP obstructionist tactics in the Senate.

2. Voter Registration is so overwhelmingly Republican that no Democrat has a chance of winning.


Registration in the state breaks down along these lines 47% Republican, 29% Democratic, and 27% Independent. But this doesn't tell us much about where people really stand political.

A national Gallup poll early this year asked voters whether they "leaned" Democratic or Republican, as well as whether they were Dems or Republicans and they broke the answers down by states.

Here's how the Gallup poll break down for Kansas with leaners included

Democrats and Lean-Democratic 48%
Independent Independents 8%
Republicans and Lean Republican 44%

Other national polls are also showing a strong break for D among independents.

3. Kansans vote Republican when it comes to federal office.

WRONG. Look at the 2006 results for Congress, across the state. Total the results across the state and you’ll see that a Democrat could be elected to the Senate.

Republican Congressional Candidates 2006 Total Votes 456,138 55%

Democratic Congressional Candidates 2006 Total Votes 369,191 45%

4. Hilary or any other D at the top of the ticket will doom the down ticket.

A late August 2007 Survey USA poll shows Hilary Clinton surprisingly close to the leading GOP candidates in Kansas.

Among 502 registered voters in Kansas:

Clinton 40%, Giuliani 54%

Clinton 44%, Thompson 49%

Clinton 45%, Romney 46%

2004 results were Bush 60% Kerry 39%

As Kansas Democrats we have supported Howard Dean’s "50 State Strategy." It is time we held up our part of the deal.

5. Wait until 2010, there’s a much better chance to capture an empty seat when Brownback retires.

WRONG. Brownback may or may not keep his promise to retire. An empty seat is usually easier to capture. But 2008 is shaping up to be a Democratic wave nationally. There are 22 Republicans Senators up versus only 12 Democrats. GOP dollars and resources will be stretched thin. The many favorable circumstances for pull off an upset in 2008 will not be present in 2010. The state Republican party continues to appear to be divided and disarray, the time to strike is now.

6 Roberts is too formidable a candidate.

Roberts miserable failures as Senate Intelligence chair mark him as vulnerable. Let’s call is the Bush-Cheney-Roberts debacle in Iraq. Roberts will be 72 when November 2008 rolls around. He has never faced a first-rate challenge as Congressman or Senator.

Roberts isn’t running like he thinks he in invulnerable. He is running like he is scarred for his political life.

7. No Democrat can be elected to the US Senate from Kansas.

In the last fifty years, there have only been two serious challenges for Senate seats. Dr. Bill Roy in 1974 and Jill Docking in 1996. In both cases, it took dirty tricks to beat them.

Democrats have won statewide offices–Governor, Attorney General, and Insurance Commissioner. There is no reason a Democrat can’t be elected to the United States Senate.

8 Kansas Democrats should concentrate on the lower offices.

A strong campaign for US Senate will help candidates all down the line.

9. None of our top level statewide office holders will run.

Stop whining. Find a candidate. It is not necessary to be or to have been a statewide office holder or a former Congressman to be a Senate candidate. Nancy Kassebaum was a school board member. Paul Wellstone was a college professor. Barak Obama was a state Senator.

10. It’s too late.

Campaigns are starting earlier and it certainly would have been ideal for a challenger to have already launched a campaign. But it is not too late. The opportunities in 2008 are unique and must be grabbed. Kansas campaigns are cheaper than elsewhere in the nation and won’t take as much financing.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is America Moving Left?

Is America Moving Left?

October 2 7:00-9:00 PM WSU RSC 223 (Rhatigan Student Center)

David Dulhade National Organizer Young Democratic Socialists
Kelly Johnston, Chair, Sedgwick County Democratic Party

The WSU YDS chapter appears to be a solid group involved in real world. Their projects have included voter registration, increasing the Kansas minimum wage. I'm sure the program will be of interest to not-so-young-anymore activists as well.

YDS is the youth group of Democratic Socialists of America, the group that was founded and led by Michael Harrington, author of The Other America. Notable DSA members have included United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, SDS veteran Steve Max, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers President William W. Winpisinger, literary critic Irving Howe, former Congressman Ron Dellums, author Barbara Ehrenreich, United Auto Workers co-founder Victor Reuther, leading African-American Studies professor Cornel West, political columnist Harold Meyerson.

Here is the wikipedia entry on DSA
The DSA website
wikipedia on YDS
YDS blog

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cheating Workers Out of Overtime Pay

The cover story of the October 1 Business Week looks at the booming business in law suits for overtime violations. The New Deal era FLSA guarantees most workers which mandates time-and-a-half pay after 40 hours of work. Even after the Bush administration stripped millions of workers of over-time protection about 115 million employees—86% of the workforce—are covered by federal overtime rules, according to the U.S. Labor Department

So pervasive and routine is the violation of the FLSA law that some lawyers are making fortunes in bringing law suits on behalf of workers. The lawyers typically take a big cut of the settlement, usually 25 percent.

There have been some huge settlements in white collar professions with the number of federal overtime lawsuits more than doubling from 2001 to 2006. One estimate is that companies have collectively paid out more than $1 billion annually to resolve these claims. But the same giant companies keep on violating the laws. Apparently, it is cheaper to cheat employees wholesale and risk paying court-ordered settlements. The lawyers winning these suits say that most clients come to them complaining about other problems and don’t’ realize they’ve been cheated out of overtime pay. Only a small percentage of those cheated take a case to court.

Many employees don’t know their rights. Companies don’t make it easy for them. One common dodge is to give workers a fancy title like “manager” or “assistant manager.” Another trick is for a company mis-classify employees as exempt from the wage and hour laws. and thus improperly failed to pay overtime. A third trick to have employees do a portion of their work “off the clock.” This is common among big retailers. Wal-mart has been found guilty many times, most recently paying over $70 million in a Philadelphia suit.

Naturally, the Chamber of Commerce is denouncing the "FLSA litigation explosion." The real issue is the FLSA violation explosion.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Slattery considers Senate race against Roberts

Public radio, the KC Star, and other sources are reporting that former Congressman Jim Slattery is considering entering the race against Senator Pat Roberts.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Dumbest President--Ever!

Okay, you're no friend of George Bush, you voted against him twice, you've opposed nearly every thing he's done as President, you detest him and his politics. But you've thought it was laying it on a little heavy when people started calling him the worst President ever. After all, there is some stiff competition--Richard Nixon, Warren Harding, James Polk (Mexican American war), Grover Cleveland (suppressed the Pullman strike), James Buchanan, and Franklin Pierce.

Well, whether he's the worst or not, he certainly appears to be the dumbest and most incompetent.

According to a recent NY Times article, Bush is being interviewed by author Robert Draper. There is a simply amazing passage in the article

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, "The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen."

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush's former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army's dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, "Yeah, I can't remember, I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?' " But, he added, "Again, Hadley's got notes on all of this stuff," referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

"I can't remember." One of the most fateful decisions of his Presidency and Bush can't remember! He didn't have enough "leadership" to make sure that his decisions were implemented. Dumbest President. Ever

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Could Clinton Carry Kansas?

Hillary's not my first or second choice for President, but a just released Survey USA poll shows her surprisingly close to the leading GOP candidates. (via Pollster blog)

Among 502 registered voters in Kansas:
Clinton 40%, Giuliani 54%
Clinton 44%, Thompson 49%
Clinton 45%, Romney 46%

2004 results were Bush 60% Kerry 39%.

My guess is that Giuliani perceived as a moderate Republican, while Thompson and Romney are seen as right-wingers. Of course, it could be just name recognition.

But if Hillary Clinton runs this close in the polls, Kansas Dems ought to be serious about challenging Senator Pat Roberts. A campaign would need to target him as a stealth extremist/obstructionist. That could begin even before a candidate is fully recruited.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sacco and Vanzetti

August 22 is the 80th anniversary of the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, Italian immigrant workers who were convicted of murder during a 1920 Boston payroll robbery. The trial was marked by prejudice and irregularities. Sacco was a shoe-maker and Vanzetti was a fish peddler and both were active in the Italian American anarchist movement. Their arrest came in the midst of the first Red Scare, that saw thousands of socialists, anarchists, and union members arrested and even deported.

The judge in the case, Webster Thayer, stated to the jury "This man, (Vanzetti) although he may not have actually committed the crime attributed to him, is nevertheless culpable, because he is the enemy of our existing institutions."

Sacco and Vanzetti were supported by a broad cross section of liberal and progrssive opinion in the U.S. and worldwide. The 1922 American Federation of Labor convention adopted a resolution describing Sacco and Vanzetti as "victims of race and national prejudice and class hatred."

Fifty years after their execution, Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation stating that Sacco and Vanzetti were tried in an atmosphere permeated by prejudice against foreigners and hostility toward unorthodox political views and that therefore any stigma of disgrace should forever be removed from their names.

A recent documentary on Sacco and Vanzetti is now available on DVD

Website on Sacco and Vanzetti and the Italian American experience

Wikipedia on Sacco and Vanzetti

The myth of Amazing Grace

A mini-essay on Amazing Grace which I posted on Everyday Citizen.

There's a good chance you'll learn something new about the famous song. I don't discuss the recent movie about William Wilberforce, which I found to be quite good, but which is less than historically accurate. Unfortunately, the critical review by Adam Hochschild from the New York Review of Books is not available free on-line. It appeared in the June 14 issue.

Wal'mart's volunteer labor in Mexico

I posted this on the group blog Everyday Citizen.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Max Roach

Max Roach, one of the giants of jazz, died today at age 83. His drumming innovations were critical to the development of the be-bop revolution, though not often credited as being on the same level as the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic innovations of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

He was also a socially conscious musician. In 1960, he recorded the landmark Freedom Now Suite.
He was also active in the civil rights movement.

I had the pleasure of hearing him live, including a very memorable benefit concert for Eldridge Cleaver, when Cleaver returned to the United States. Cleaver had abandoned the third world revolution temptation and not yet embraced nutty right-wing views. For a brief moment, his politics were sane, democratic left. Bayard Rustin organized a defense/support group and brought in many leaders in the African-American community.

Roach's performance that night was marvelous. Normally, I detest drum solos, but Roach could play the drums musically. In fact, he went from using the entire drum set, eliminating one component at a time until he was just down to the hi-hat. The way I remember it, he actually had the various drums and cymbals removed, but maybe that is memomry playing tricks.

You tube has some wonderful clips of Roach performing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Here's a good idea: international labor rights groups blog together

The International Labor Rights Forum blog is now a joint project with two similar-mined groups: STITCH and US LEAP. It's called "Labor is not a Commodity" Looks like it will be a go to place to get news about the brutal exploitation that corporate globalization visits on workers in poor countries.

Here's descriptions of the three groups.

International Labor Rights Fund
ILRF is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. ILRF serves a unique role among human rights organizations as advocates for and with working poor around the world. We believe that all workers have the right to a safe working environment where they are treated with dignity and respect, and where they can organize freely to defend and promote their rights and interests. We are committed to overcoming the problems of child labor, forced labor, and other abusive labor practices. We promote enforcement of labor rights internationally through public education and mobilization, research, litigation, legislation, and collaboration with labor, government and business groups.

Women in Central America and the U.S. face similar challenges in the workplace, especially when it comes to low wages, discrimination, insufficient childcare services and dangerous working conditions. To change these shared conditions, STITCH, founded in 1998, unites Central American and U.S. women workers to exchange strategies on how to fight for economic justice in the workplace. STITCH equips women with the essential skills through trainings and educational tools, and in the process, builds lasting relationships with women across the two regions, further empowering women in the labor movement. STITCH also ensures women's voices are heard in global debates and discussions on issues that impact them: globalization, trade agreements, immigration policy, and global labor standards.

The U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project (U.S./LEAP) works to support the basic rights of workers in Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico, especially those who are employed directly or indirectly by U.S. companies. Founded in 1987 as the U.S./Guatemala Labor Education Project (U.S./GLEP) by trade unionists and human rights advocates concerned about the basic rights of Guatemalan workers, US/LEAP has since expanded its work to other countries in the region.

UPDATE 8/14: Thanks to A.L. for catching that the link to the collaborative blog didn't work, it's been corrected.

Behind Enemy Lines in Garden City

The LA Times ran an interesting article earlier this week on a Republican campaign worker in Berkeley, California and a Democratic organizer in Garden City, Kansas.

For my coastal and foreign readers, that's far western and deep Republican Kansas . The famous In Cold Blood murders happened in Holcomb, just a little west of Garden City.

Jacqueline Bujanda is the Democratic organizer in Garden City. Here are some interesting 'graphs from the story.

Rural Kansas businesses are boycotted for Democratic sympathies. At one county clerk's office, workers stared dumbfounded when Bujanda introduced herself as the new Democratic regional field coordinator. "There was total silence," she recalled, "as if what I was doing was just an unheard-of thing."

Garden City (pop. 27,000) was now more than 40% Latino, a demographic shift driven by the arrival of Mexican and Central American immigrants to work in the county's meatpacking plants.

When she first began her field-

coordinating, she pursued mostly Republicans, challenging a Midwestern tradition of conservative voting handed down over generations.

One day, Bennie Creeden scowled at Bujanda's pitch. "I'm not voting for any Democrat," he said, shutting his door. Nearby, retiree George Purnell had the same response: "Democrat is a dirty word in this community."

Bujanda now thinks her best chances lie not in the area's old guard, but with the Latino newcomers. Here, she reasoned, was an untapped voter base.

Bujanda wants to enlist 1,500 new Latino voters. She knocks on doors, patiently explaining to some immigrants what a Democrat is.

Got a Bad Boss?

Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate, is doing some neat one line things.

In its second annual My Bad Boss Contest, Working America is looking for the worst of the worst workplace horror stories about managers who mismanage and maltreat employees and otherwise act like they are the proprietors of their own personal medieval serf estate. The winning entry—voted on by visitors to the Bad Boss site—will get a weeklong getaway—miles away from the boss.

Over 500 entries have been submitted. The first week's four winners are here.

I especially liked this submission

worst boss in America: G.W. Bush
bludnguts, Minnesota

1. He is not qualified by either training or successful experience in management. He and his friends engaged in illegal activities to get him the job.
2. He is destroying the bottom line and the general economy of the company
3. He has the company borrowing heavily-at a rate that will destroy the company's credit and lead it into bankruptcy.
4. He is mis-appropriating company assets by giving them to his friends on the board and friends who kick-back to him for company favors and contracts
5. He is spending heavily on foreign activities that have no logical connection to the well-being of the company and are causing loss of life and limb of company employees
6. He is trying to nullify the healthcare, retirement and other benefit obligations to company employees
7. There is little hope that he is able to change his policies, because he is does not read, seek the advice of experts and is not curious
8. He is a poor speaker and communicator, is not respected or trusted by heads of other companies that might do business with us; he is a poor public representative of company values and integrity
9. It is clear that he is actively working to take the company apart and sell it off to other profit-making interests.
There's also a nifty interactive quiz that asks "How Bad is Your Boss?"

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Boyda's profile in courage

Before he became President, John Kennedy wrote a famous book Profiles in Courage. It was probably the first political book I ever read. I remember being impressed that a Kansan was among those profiled. Edmund G. Ross cast the decisive vote that prevented President Andrew Johnson from being impeached. Later, when I connected JFK's go slow stance on civil rights with his selection of Ross, I wasn't so proud. Kansas deserved a better hero.

Regardless of how one feels about PiC or Ross, Kansas had a real political hero last week: Congresswoman Nancy Boyda.

Boyda voted against the FISA bill. 41 House Democrats voted for it. Boyda is among the freshmen Democrats who narrowly won election in 2006. Her seat is one of the top GOP targets for 2008 and it is a district with a military base.

The Bill, S. 1927, the Protect America Act, which authorizes the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to acquire foreign intelligence of individuals "reasonably believed" to be outside the United States without a court order.

Boyda's statement

Tonight I voted to uphold something near and dear to America - the U.S Constitution. When the President signs this bill, anyone out of the country, including Americans, can have their communications monitored with virtually no oversight. Sadly, the slippery slope of our civil liberties has given way to a mudslide.

"It's never been easy to balance our security and our liberties. Our nation has struggled with this for over 230 years. As Benjamin Franklin said, 'They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.' Tonight our freedoms took a serious blow.

"For the past several weeks, Congress and the Administration worked closely to achieve a bipartisan agreement on foreign surveillance. An agreement was reached that would have provided our nation's intelligence community with the powers it needed while safeguarding the Constitution. But Friday night, at the 11th hour, the Administration effectively eliminated oversight. "

"Over the next six months, we may hear reports of information gathered under this bill. Let me be clear - that same information could have been collected without giving up Constitutional oversight. "

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Michael Yates on Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas

Michael Yates, touring the country to promote his Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate, was here in Wichita recently and has written up his trip through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas here.

Emergence of Paul Simon

Wichita's NPR station, KMUW, ran a two-part special on Paul Simon this week. I've never been a great Paul Simon fan so it is easy to forget just how much great music he has made.

Those who grew up with Simon and young listeners should give a listen to the wide range of his work. There's a new 2-CD, 36 song Essential Paul Simon collection that I'm adding to my wish list.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Two stories on John Edwards

I read two interesting stories on the John Edwards campaign this week.

Jonathon Tasini discusses an interesting Wall Street Journal article on how Edwards is seeting the agenda for the Democratic field. The WSJ article is for subscribers only, but here's two key paragraphs.

John Edwards may be stuck in third place in the polls and fund raising in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But the populist seems to be playing an outsized role in driving the terms of the party's debate -- generally to the left -- on everything from Iraq to health care.

This week, the former North Carolina senator has made his most prominent bid yet to place the oft-ignored issue of poverty prominently on the 2008 agenda, with a four-day tour of some of the most run-down parts of the South and Midwest, beginning with his sixth trip this campaign to this city, devastated by Hurricane Katrina. He has talked about the issue more than any of his rivals, and was the first to craft a "poverty" plank in his platform.

David Moberg has a fascinating In These Times article "The Union's Man?"

Edwards walks the talk as well, often on picket lines. The week after his swing through Iowa, he joined a rally at the giant Smithfield hog processing plant in his home state to demand that the company, a notorious labor law violator, recognize workers when a majority signs union cards. During the past two years, the Edwards campaign claims, the former senator and vice-presidential candidate has taken part in more than 200 different union events with more than 20 unions, including a national contract campaign tour for hotel workers, a fast with janitors organizing at the University of Miami and an airport rally in Texas for Continental Airlines ramp employees who were organizing.

“He’s redefined the way public officials engage the ongoing work of the labor movement,” says Chris Chafe, the former chief of staff of UNITE HERE and one of several labor officials with high-level positions in the Edwards campaign—not counting campaign manager David Bonior, the former staunchly pro-union congressman who previously headed American Rights at Work, a labor-rights advocacy group. “I don’t think anyone has come so close in recent memory to putting himself so squarely behind issues central to the labor movement. We’d welcome institutional endorsements, but our goal is to have workers and union leaders focus on what he does as well as what he says.”

Two landmarks

Important landmarks on blogs I enjoy.

Josh Rosenau of Thoughts from Kansas is leaving the state to take a position with the National Center for Science Education. Josh has been a leading critic of intelligent design. the banner on his site now say "Travelling from Kansas." Josh is also a supporter of unions and an all around good guy.

Norm Geras recently posted the 200th item of his popular weekly bloggers profile and picked a very suitable subject Norm Geras.

For the list of previous subjects, click here. My profile was no 148.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mainstreaming anti-Semiitsm

I've recently come across two disturbing examples of mainstream media outlets whitewashing two of the most notorious anti-Semites in American history.

US New & World Report publishes occasional "collectors editions" on special topics for news stand sales. I picked up "Mysteries of History" Secret Societies."

In an article on "America's Cult Culture," Philip Jenkins describes William Dudley Pelley as "a religious activist of the 1930s." Pelley was, in reality, the leader of the Silver Shirts, one of the largest and most active Nazi group in the United States with more than 15,000 members at its peak.

The Economist, in a review of Amity Shlaes book on the Great Depression, seems to vindicate Henry Ford's antisemitism.

Ms Shlaes tends to look at the Depression in terms of the conflict between business (good) and politics (bad). At the time, though, Roosevelt's view that the “lack of honour of men in high financial places” was at the root of the trouble seemed like a statement of the obvious, rather than a political pose. Even Henry Ford had been uttering warnings that “the Jews of Wall Street”, as he so nicely called them, had stored up trouble in the 1920s. The Depression appeared to prove him right.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (August 15) I've had an exchange of emails with Philip Jenkins. He writes:

USNWR took my description of Pelley from a book in which I wrote at length about his Nazi and anti-semitic activity. The article that appeared under my byline was abstracted from that book, but I do not believe I was consulted about the final text, which left the Pelley phrase out of context. (Nor did I have any idea it was to appear as a separate article). I am trying to find exactly what happened from my publisher.

Your comments about Pelley's Nazi politics are entirely correct, and I share them fully.

In short, this is a bizarre matter, and I look forward to clearing it up.
Prof. Jenkins was kind enough to send me an extract of his writings and I am informed that he has an outstanding reputation as a scholar, so I credit his explanation.

Nontheless, it is troubling that the editorial staff of one of our leading news weeklies would not realize that describing Pelley as a "religious activist" was highly inaccurate and troubling.

Minor Update August 18. In the third paragraph, I originally wrote "Dudley" instead of "Pelley" in the second paragraph.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Barry Lando Lies About Israel

Truthdig, a website associated with Robert Scheer, a much respected radical journalist, has a bad article by journalist Barry Lando, "Israel's Primal Myth: A Barrier to Peace." I've been noticing an upsurge in anti-Israel articles beyond the sewers of Counterpunch, et al. Lando's article deserves a fisking. I anticipate that someone with more time and knowledge will thoroughly deconstruct it.

For now, note of Lando's outright misrepresentation of Benny Morris.

LANDO "Morris found that not only was there no evidence that Arab leaders had
called upon their people to flee in 1948-49, but that records revealed
exactly the opposite."

MORRIS ".. it turns out that there was a series of orders issued by the Arab Higher Committee and by the Palestinian intermediate levels to remove children, women and the elderly from the villages. So that on the one hand, the book reinforces the accusation against the Zionist side, but on the other hand it also proves that many of those who left the villages did so with the encouragement of the Palestinian leadership itself."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Backlash Against Globalization

Interesting article in the Financial Times

Large majorities of people in the US and in Europe want higher taxation for the rich and even pay caps for corporate executives to counter what they believe are unjustified rewards and the negative effects of globalisation.

Viewing globalisation as an overwhelmingly negative force, citizens of rich countries are looking to governments to cushion the blows they perceive have come from the liberalisation of their economies to trade with emerging countries.

Those polled in Britain, France, the US and Spain were about three times more likely to say globalisation was having a negative rather than a positive effect on their countries. The majority was smaller in Germany, with its large export base

Corporate leaders fared little better, with 5 per cent or fewer of those polled in the US and all large European economies (except Italy) saying they had a great deal of admiration for those who run large companies. In these countries, between a third and a half said they had no admiration at all for corporate bosses.

In response to fears of globalisation and rising inequality, the public in all the rich countries surveyed – the US, Germany, UK, France, Italy and Spain – want their governments to increase taxation on those with the highest incomes. In European countries, a large majority want governments to go further and to impose pay caps on the heads of companies.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What secularists go wrong about Islam

Taner Edis has an interesting article on the Council for Secular Humanism website.

secular humanists have not been entirely clear-eyed about Islam. While supporting critical inquiry, many secularists have also been partial to simplistic representations of the Muslim world. Indeed, some popular secular literature opposing Islam is hardly distinguishable from Christian and neoconservative polemics. Secularists have been too eager to seek immediate doctrinal causes for Muslim problems. In doing so, many critics have been tempted to identify an essential “true Islam” that is antagonistic to reason and liberal values.
Here's the conclusion

Those of us who do not accept revelation, however, need not go in search of an idealized, true Islam. We should give up those habits of thought that prompt us to seek a well-defined true faith, now to condemn as barbaric rather than to endorse as divine. Religion is a human activity, and what deserve our attention are the varieties of faith revealed in actual practice.

Secular humanists have been very supportive of science and critiques of Islam; they have stood up for freedom of inquiry. And as a godless infidel, a scientist, and a critic of Islam, I am grateful for this support. But we secularists also have our blind spots, our episodes of intellectual laziness. Accepting the framework of a “true Islam” is one such mistake. We can do better.

Michael Yates: Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate

Radical economist Michael Yates was in Wichita yesterday, part of the book tour for his new book Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate.

Some union folks met him for lunch and talk.

He gave a book reading in the evening at Watermark books. There were some more union folks there, including some present and retired members of the letter carriers.

It's a fascinating book. It reminds me a little of John Gunther's Inside the USA but with two big differences. Gunther interviewed business and government leaders; Yates lived with and interviewed working folks. The second difference is that the USA is a very different country today than when Gunther wrote IUSA in 1947. Yates chronicles the growing disparity of wealth and income in today's America.

More important than Guthrie

What was more important than the Woody Guthrie festival? Why did I make it to Tulsa, but not the rest of the way to Okemah.

Quite simply, an almost 12 year old is a huge Weird Al Yankovich fan and I took him to the Brady Theater concert in Tulsa as an early birthday present. It was a long drive down and back, but it was worth it. Al put on a good show and Dominic thought it was great. Al signed autographs after the show.

The Brady Theater is only a couple of blocks from the legendary Cain's Ballroom, which was Bob Wills' showcase in Tulsa.

One of the highlights for me was Weird Al's palindromic tribute to "Bob" Dylan.

For the younger readers of this blog, its a parody of Dylan's premature music video

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Happy birthday Woody (without illusions)

Today is the 95th anniversary of Woody Guthrie, the legendary American folksinger and songwriter, who did much to enrich our life, not the least being "This Land Is Your Land"

Each year during this week, his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma throws a grand tribute with a free folk festival. (There is a fund raising concert Wednesday nights.)

I had the pleasure of attending with friends Laura Dungan and Aaron Fowler and can attest to its excellence, even though we were able to go only on Saturday. I reported on that festival visit in 2005 and 2006.

Laura, Aaron, and I each vowed to make it back to the festival. Unfortunately, we haven't. I come closer this year, making it all the way to Tulsa, within 72 miles of Okemah. That's most of the way from Wichita. But I had something far more important to do in Tulsa. (more on that in a later post.)

2007 Thoughts on Woody

As potent as the songs of Woody Guthrie are, as powerful as the arc of his life's story, and as tragic as the suffering of Woody, his family, and friends, we should not hestitate to acknowledge the deep ambiguity of his political and moral choices. For Woody the tribune of the people, the defender of the common people against oppression, the defender of democracy, had a major blind spot. It was a blind spot as significant as the American founders participation in slavery.

Guthrie, if not a member of the Communist Party, during the long years of its slavish devotion to Stalinism, was a full-fledged fellow traveller. His songs followed, for instance, the twists and turns of the CP during the invasion of Finland, and the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Woody never wrote a "Ballad of the Legless Veteran," who after WWII was fired as a government clerk because he belonged to subversive organization. The problem for the American Stalinists was that the veteran belonged to the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. Woody never wrote a talking blues for the March on Washington Movement, the movement led by A. Philip Randolph to force the integration of U.S. defense plants. Here the problem was that the Communist Party subordinated the just demands of minorities and workers to the military needs of the Soviet Union. CP hacks denounced Randolph as a fascist for insisting on the abolishment of Jim Crow in American defense plants.

During the war, the CP applauded the Smith Trial act prosecution of Trotskyists and demanded that Socialist Norman Thomas be prosecuted under the same law. During the cold war, American Communists were, in turn, prosecuted under the same laws that they had supported a few short years before.

Wobblies Vs. Woody

Tom Herriman, producer of Shiftbreak, a Washington state labor radio program, has an intriguing interview with shipwright and anthropologist Archie Green whose new book, "The Big Red Song Book" analyzes the famous "Little Red Song Book" published continuously by the Industrial Workers of the world (aka the IWW, aka The Wobblies) since 1909. Green explodes some of the myths about labor music, and charts the political fights between L the Wobblies and other popular folk singers like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Listen here.

A Final Word for now

Let's not avoid dealing with the full complexity of Woody Guthrie's life. There is no more reason to reject the values and sentiments of his great songs because of his naive attitude towards Stalinism, than there is to reject the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights because Jefferson and Madison were slave-owners. After all, this country still has to overcome its treatment of Native Americans and the post-slavery exploitation of African Americans.

In the final analysis, "this land is your land, this land is my land." But it is not enough to say "This land was made for you and me." It is time that we say "This land is you and I make it together." And, we can, only do that with honesty, reconciliation, and justice.

So, let's celebrate Woody for all he contributed and where he fell short, lets do it right.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kansas GOP launches "loyalty" oath

Gee, the Kansas Republicans are going downhill faster than one can possibly imagine.

Our friend Thomas Frank is going to have to come out with a new edition entitled "What Used to Be the Matter With Kansas"

The Kansas GOP has come out with a loyalty oath and it's a dozy. There have been some important loyalty oaths in American history. They've always dealt with the past or the immediate future. In the post civil war era former Confederate soldiers released upon taking an "oath of allegiance". Lincoln required an oath to "faithfully support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the union of the States thereunder" as a condition for a Presidential pardon. The ironclad loyalty oath during the Reconstruction forbid former Confederate soldiers from elected and appointed office.

During Truman's presidency, after the discovery of Communist spy rings, loyalty oaths were imposed for government jobs. Again, they dealt with the past and present. Here's an example.

"I further swear (or affirm) that I do not advise, advocate or teach, and have not within the period beginning five (5) years prior to the effective date of the ordinance requiring the making of this oath or affirmation, advised, advocated or taught, the overthrow by force, violence or other unlawful means, of the Government of the United States of America or of the State of California and that I am not now and have not, within said period, been or become a member of or affiliated with any group, society, association, organization or party which advises, advocates or teaches, or has, within said period, advised, advocated or taught, the overthrow by force, violence or other unlawful means of the Government of the United States of America, or of the State of California...."
Political parties sometimes require that their candidates do not support the candidates of any other party in the current election or something similar.

In the past, loyalty oaths have been imposed over issues of great import. A rebellion or the infiltration of the government by a conspiracy directed by a hostile government. What has the Kansas GOP so upset pales by comparison. A couple of former Republicans won state-wide office and a few at the legislative level. And that causes the GOP to panic and demand a loyalty oath of an extraordinary sort.

But the Kansas GOP is apparently demanding an oath in perpetuity. They must pledge "never to abandon" "I will, at no point in my political or personal future" "I will not at any future time ..." become a Democratic...or a Libertarian. "I will always be a Republican"

But even these forever promises aren't enough for the fearful Kansas Republicans. No, not by any means. Now they want candidates to forswear even "to ever consider" switching parties.

I, _______________, promise never to abandon my present Republican Party affiliation for the purpose of political gain. The Republican Party, both nationally and domestically, was founded on sound and principled ideals, that include but are not limited to, personal liberty, individual freedom, responsive and citizen-based Government, life-affirming values, economic growth, strong and cutting edge military, low taxes and a mutual respect for fellow Republicans. Because of that, I will, at no point in my political or personal future, find cause to transfer my Party loyalty to any other affiliated organization.

I will not, at any future moment, become a registered Democrat for the purpose of seeking any political office. Additionally, I will not change my Party affiliation to that of any peripheral political party, such as the Reform Party, the Green Party or the Libertarian Party. Such a move would be not only opportunistic, it would be an unjustified trampling of everything that I previously claimed to stand for.

I care far too deeply about the previously espoused Republican ideals as well as the thousands of hard-working Republican citizens all over the State of Kansas to ever consider changing my political Party affiliation. I look forward to a life of citizen-serving, Republican political involvement. I thank the Kansas Republican Party, including all of the registered Kansas Republicans, for their years of service, good will and friendship.

I solemnly pledge to always be a Republican, no matter what promises are made by external forces seeking only to undermine the Republican values I stand for. I can have reasonable disagreement with members of the Republican Party; however, at no point will ‘Party switching’ or quitting of the Party be tolerable.


X __________________________________

(It is also interesting that the Kansas GOP, which once counted a great writer like William Allen White, has fallen on some hard times. Notice at the end of the first paragraph that the want people to pledge not to "transfer my Party loyalty to any other affiliated organization." Wouldn't an affiliated organization be a Republican organization.)

There were always two kinds of Republicans in Kansas. Those who were born Republicans and could never imagine anything different. Republican was just another way of saying Kansan. The absurd and insulting idea of having to swear forever to a Republican and to never at any future time to become a Democrat would be just ridiculous to this sort of GOPer. Now, they would never consider switching parties, but the very idea being asked to take an oath to never even considering switching parties would, I think, strike them as just plain loco. It might be enough to start them to thinking.

The other type of Republican is a Republican because everyone else is a Republican. It made sense to register in the GOP party where the primary made a difference. The road to professional success for many a young professional ran through the GOP. But if the Republicans have to resort to this sort of extreme loyalty oath to maintain their superiority, it may just occur to the go along Republicans that they are on a sinking ship.