Friday, March 23, 2007


I was worried about this one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Income inequality in the US

Economist Brad DeLong, a moderate center-left economist has a interesting video on his site about the growing income inequality in the United States. He shows that we are back to pre-Depression Gilded Age levels.

Check it out here.

Illegal Immigration Not Just American Issue

Name a country were ten percent of the residents are illegal residents from nearby poorer, slower growing economies? Where there is a powerful nativist backlash against the migrants? Where there's a movement to kick them all out, but widespread acceptance that the economy depends on their presence? Where there's a large scale roundup of the migrants? Where those rounded up have their legal rights routinely violated? Where the undocumented workers are subject to mistreatment and abuse?


Not the US, but Malaysia. The bar association is mounting a campaign to abolish corporal punishment.

migrant workers have often received negative coverage in the media. Many Malaysians are worried about the incidence of serious crime. Others link the rising crime rate with the high number of migrants, estimated to number close to 10 per cent of the population, even though statistics reveal that they are not more prone to crime.

The country's top police officer was reported as saying last month that only 2 per cent of crimes in the country were committed by foreigners. However, he proposed that all foreign workers be confined to their quarters and have their movements monitored by management to prevent them from committing crimes.

Despite the inuman conditions, Malaysia's relative prosperity has continued to attract thousands of illegal or undocumented workers from such neighbouring countries as Indonesia, Burma, India, the Philippines and Bangladesh where job opportunities are scarce.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wichita City Paper on the Mess

From the latest City Paper, a good article on blight in some of Wichita's neighborhoods, and the disinterest of some of our city government and prominent elected officials

Wichita’s Sunflower Community Action believes Wichita officials are not doing enough ... The group is planning to not only address the city council at its scheduled March 20 meeting, but is also inviting the community and its officials to the group’s own meeting at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 22 at The Church of the Living God, 2725 N. Hillside.

The group has extended personal invitations to city manager George Kolb, District 1 councilman and mayoral candidate Carl Brewer, mayor Carlos Mayans, the city’s Environmental Services director Kay Johnson, and Central Inspection superintendent Kurt Schroeder. However, Brewer — whose District 1 encompasses all 20 of Wichita most blighted properties — has declined to meet with the group until after April 7 when his bid for the mayor’s office will come to an end. Kolb, also, has declined the invitation for not only himself, but also Johnson and Schroeder, who are his employees. Mayans has not yet replied.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Pat's Day and the other Pat

I drove downtown around noon to the Artichoke which had a nice St. Pat's day promotion set up. A race was launched from there and they had a tent set up in back for all day music.

Listened to a nice trio from up around Lawrence. They were playing three gigs in the area today. It's the one day when every Irish band in the world has a gig--or three.

Later, this evening, there's a benefit for local musicians with medical problems at the Orpheum. This is an on-going program adminstered by the Blues Society and the Acoustic Arts Association. The Pat Fund is named after local blues legend Pat McJimsey.

A worthwhile cause.

Still, I'm reminded that part of John McCutcheon's pitch for musicians to get in the union goes something like this, "if you join the union, you'll be paying a benefit for yourself every night."

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What to do on St. Pat's Day

The Artichoke, Wichita's leading folk club has a very full day of bands and events. They've rented a 40x40 tent

Irish Tent Schedule:

12:00 to 2:00 p.m. Rowan, traditional Irish Music,
1:30-4:00 Run Wichita will be hosting it's first race of the season, Murdock and Main
4:00-7:00 Irish Open mic, Limmerick and Red Hair Contest
7:00-8:00 MacGuffin,
8:00-10:00 The Free Staters

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Progressive evangelicals show strength

TAPPED has this very interesting item.

Some evidence this week that more progressive evangelicals are strengthening their position within the larger movement: The National Association of Evangelicals rejected a call from James Dodson, Gary Bauer, Paul Weyrich, and other prominent conservative Christians to maintain a singular focus on abortion and gay marriage and abandon environmentalism (which the movement calls “creation care”). Then, as part of the same meeting, the NAE board endorsed a strong anti-torture statement written by Evangelicals for Human Rights, a group with members who have vocally supported expanding the evangelical agenda beyond divisive cultural battles. “Our moral vision has blurred since 9-11,” the statement reads.

The NAE represents some 45,000 congregations nationwide, though it’s unaffiliated with powerful groups including Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention. But more and more, it seems that many Christians are as frustrated with the Bush administration’s record on the war and the environment as the rest of us. Are such evangelical voters more likely to sit out the 2008 elections than grit their teeth and vote for the pro-choice party? And how much compromise should Democrats make on social issues to win their votes?

Ethicial questions about another Kansas political pastor

Last year a secular right wing talk radio station dropped a radio program co-hosted by Rev. Terry Fox, a conservative powerhouse pastor. Soon, the church dropped Fox and it turned out that he had spent large sums of the church's money on the radio program without authorization.

Now it seem that another right-wing pastor who played a key role in passing Kansas's anti-gay marriage and civil union bill is in ethical hotwater.

See this AP story in today's Topeka Capital Journal

OVERLAND PARK — Questions about financial accountability at a fast-growing megachurch have prompted a leading Christian radio network to drop Rev. Jerry Johnston’s daily show.

Bott Radio Network, which aired Johnston’s 30-minute program Monday through Friday on KCCV-AM 760, dropped the program Monday.

The move came a day after The Kansas City Star reported that hundreds of people have left Johnston’s First Family Church in Overland Park in recent years because of concerns about a lack of financial accountability.

The church has 4,200 members, a $17 million annual budget and a TV ministry that has gone global, and Johnston has become a leader in speaking out on conservative causes.

Dick Bott, founder and president of the radio network, said he was surprised to learn the First Family Church isn’t a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which sets standards for charities and religious groups.

The KC Star article (registration required) is pretty devastating.

Lavish lifestyles at odds with pastor’s calls for the faithful to sacrifice
Johnston and his family travel abroad, live in big houses and drive church-owned SUVs.
The Kansas City Star

Expensive trips. New homes. An elite credit card.

The lifestyle of the Rev. Jerry Johnston’s family has raised eyebrows among former members of First Family Church.

“Everything is extravagant,” said Melisa Gingrich, who left the church last year. “That’s the way the Johnstons live.”

Johnston and the church board will not reveal his compensation, nor how much he makes from his for-profit corporation that handles his books, videos and speaking engagements.

The Johnstons go on several “Christian tours” each year. Last year, Jerry and Christie Johnston went to Hawaii, the Holy Land and Rome. Last month, the Johnstons spent six days in Hawaii. They plan to visit England in May and Germany in July....

Former members also complain that Johnston’s family members drive expensive sport utility vehicles owned by the church.

And then there’s the black American Express card. Church members said they were surprised when the Johnstons used it to pay for lunch.

Known as the Centurion card, it is offered only to “a small but affluent group of card members for whom individual attention and access to previously unavailable elite travel benefits was of great interest,” according to American Express. The annual fee alone is $2,500.

Johnston, however, declined to answer questions about whether he had such a card.

“The credit cards used by Pastor Johnston and the other employees of the church,” his spokesman said, “are a personal matter.”

Rest of the Story about Rev, Terry Fox resignation (September 27, 2006)

Leading Kansas Conservative Pastor Resigns Suddenly (August 07, 2006)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Two jazz interviews

A very long print interview with controversial jazz critic Stanley Crouch by pianist Ethan Iverson of the controversial jazz combo Bad Plus. Definitely worth reading and makes me want to read Crouch's new book of jazz criticism, Considering Genius. (hat tip: Dave Adler of Lerterland.) One big suprise is that Crouch is a big fan of the Bad Plus.

This Sunday (March 18), Barry Gaston of KMUW-FM (89.1) will be interviewing Sonny Rollins on his Moonglow program, 8-10 PM. I don't think there's a on-line broadcast, so if you're outside the Wichita area, you're out of luck.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Congratulations to Bill Onasch and KC Labor

I'm a few days late in posting a congratulations to Bill Onasch for seven years as webmaster and editor of the excellent website KC Labor. Bill covers more than just labor issues in Kansas City and more than just labor issues narrowly conceived.

Bill picked a memorable day in 2000 to launch his site--International Women's Day and the anniversary of the downfall of the Czar.

Bill's observations on seven years on the web can be found here.

Take a look at the KC Labor site. Bill writes a weekly column, which I recommend highly. You can can find it here . He also blogs here.

Hamas bans Folktales book


Hamas-led Palestinian authorities banned an anthology book of folktales titled “Speak Bird, Speak Again,” according to the Associated Press. Palestinian Education Minister Nasser Shaer told the AP that copies of the books were removed from school libraries because of “clear sexual expressions” in the book. As many as 1,500 of the books were destroyed, the AP reported Tuesday (March 6, 2007). The book lists for $356 on for a single used copy. At that price, the censors could have made $534,000 if they sold the books instead of burning them.

West Bank novelist Zakariya Mohammed told the AP he fears banning Speak Bird, Speak Again is just the beginning of censorship under the Hamas-led government. “If we don’t stand up to the Islamists now, they won’t stop confiscating books, songs and folklore,” he told the AP.

From the author of Speak Bird, Speak Again

Professor of psychology and anthropology at Bir Zeit University, Ashraf Kana'nah, has commented on the decision of the Palestinian ministry of education to burn copies of the book he collated with his colleague, Dr Ibrahim Mhawi. The book, collated from Palestinian oral narratives, is entitled "Speak bird, speak again". Dr Kana'nah described the ministry's decision as "cultural terrorism"; while the ministry claims that stories in the book contain "immoral expression".

Kana'nah told Ma'an's correspondent in Ramallah that "those who conducted such measures are not related to academia", since he found no more than three references to sexual activity in a 400 page book.

Dr Kana'nah expressed his disturbance over the burning of his book, saying that "every book one writes is continuity of his own ideology, as much as the son is the biological continuity of his father." He added that it was the ministry of culture who decided to distribute the book at the schools, and they also funded the printing of 3000 copies.

The book was misinterpreted, explained the author, "since it was not meant to be taught to children, as it is taught at the masters and doctorate level [in literature studies]". Kana'nah himself taught the study of the book in the masters programs at Bir Zeit University. In addition, the English version of the book is studied as part of literature courses at both Berkeley and Chicago Universities. It was the best-selling Palestinian academic text book in foreign countries.

"The book should be read by teachers at schools, rather than be given to students, and if the teacher is embarrassed to read some expressions, which the students hear every day, he does not deserve to be a teacher," declared Dr Kana'nah.

Dr Kana'nah is a seventy-one year old professor of sociology and anthropology. The book, "Speak bird, speak again", first published in 1989, has become one of the most studied works of Palestinian literature, sharing some 45 stories detailing popular culture in Palestine dating back many centuries.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Washington Days

I attended the Kansas Democratic Party Washington Days events March 2 and 3 in Topeka.

Former President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker Friday night. He spoke to a crowd of about 1500 and raised over $200,000 for the state party.

Josh Rosenau of the Thoughts from Kansas blog has a nice round-up here and some nice photos here.

The Topeka Capital Journal report is here.

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star compared Clinton's speeches in Topeka and earlier in the day at Kansas State University in Manhattan to campaign stops.

In Topeka, he followed party tradition by offering his tie for auction.

The winning bid: $26,000, far above the $8,000 offered for last year’s speaker, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

Clinton barely referred to his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, who is a contender for the Democratic nomination for president.

When praising Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, he said: “I think we ought to just elect women to everything;” a line that got a rousing applause.

Another time and another (blog) space, a critique of the shortcomings of the Clinton "third way" triangulations will be in order, but I'll save those for later.

There was a packed, enthusiastic, and productive meeting of the Labor Caucus on Saturday morning.

Saturday's luncheon speaker was Lt. Governor Mark Parkinson. He gave a very effective speech. Parkinson is a former Republican legislator and state GOP chairman. He did a good job of explaining how his traditional moderate Republicanism had made him increasingly uncomfortable in today's right wing, social conservative party and led him to switch parties. He riffed on how true conservatism and true progressivism could work in tandem. He was also very persuasive in proclaiming that's he's now a Democrat for life.

One suspects that there is a political future for Parkinson in Kansas, whether running to succeed Sebelius in 2010 or against Senator Pat Roberts in 2008.

Maybe by then, he'll evolve a little more and embrace Democratic principles more fully.

Secular Islam Summit Off target

Taner Edis, a physics professor at Truman State University, is one of the finest secular or skeptical writers on religions and science. He has a new book out from Prometheus: An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam that looks very interesting. And you can find him blogging on the group blog Secular Outpost.

Recently he posted about a conference taking place yesterday and today. His reaction is pretty much what what I thought when I got an email on the conference.

Secular Islam Summit

On March 4, 5, in St Petersburg, Florida, a "Secular Islam Summit" appears to be scheduled. Nice idea. It wouldn't hurt to have more discussion of secularist ideas in a Muslim context. And it could be interesting to see what comes out of a gathering of secular-oriented dissidents with Muslim roots.

Unfortunately, I don't see the summit as shaping up that way. Right now, it's bringing together too many people who confuse desire for a more secular Islamic culture with praise of American and Israeli neoconservative agendas in the Middle East. The summit seems to have some US nationalist associations, such as the Intelligence Summit and so forth.

So I'll be surprised if much useful comes out of this. It's difficult enough to get a hearing for criticism of Islam in the Muslim world; one of the roadblocks is the common suspicion that critics give aid and comfort to Western imperial ambitions. Very often, that suspicion just serves to deflect legitimate criticism by changing the subject. It should be possible to talk about Muslim problems without being paranoid or shifting blame onto outside forces all the time. But here is a case where it looks like even the paranoid is correct about his enemies once in a while.

Honestly, this is starting to piss me off. We always seem to get caught between multicultural lefties who cannot conceive of anything the Muslim "Other" does than can go wrong and that portion of right-wingers who think Islam is The Great Threat to Western Civilization. So invariably, it's hard to come across anything about Islam that in our current media landscape that rises above the level of bullshit. Always, but always, their picture of "Islam" ends up as a mirror of their own ideological preoccupations. Sigh...

UPDATE (March 11) According to an item on Pajamamedia, neo-con Michael Leeden was the organizer for the Secular Islam Summitt. On Leeden, see this wikipedia bio,
, this alternet column, and this Right Web profile.