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.