Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Year In Music 2008


The best CDs I bought or borrowed and listened to this year. Unlike the lists from critics it is not restricted to albums issued in 2008.

B. B. King's One Kind Favor, probably the last CD I bought in 2008 and one of the best.

Neo-soul was one my trends this years. From Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Betty Lavette and Alice Russell to Ray Charles tributes from David Sanborn and John Scofield and Do the Boomerang, Don Byron's tribute to Junior Walker.

There's not a revival of Southern rock, nowadays it's called alt country rock, red dirt or who knows what. But there's some fine music being made that might remind you of the Allman Brothers. Drive-by Truckers Darker Than Creation's Bright further cements that band's critical reputation. Cross Canadian Ragweed isn't the same darling of the critics but they do some great music with a social consciousness.

In jazz, Bobby Watson's From the Heart is a fine piece of post-bop with a nice romantic touch. Jerry Hahn has an album of Christian hymns. Terrence Blanchard's A Tale of God's Will Carla Bley is known for her big band work, but I really liked her small group, The Lost Chords Find Paulo Fresu. Casandra Wilson did her first album of song book standards in twenty years ahead jazz album in years, Loverly, and it was really nice. Melody Gardot is a newcomer with a dramatic personal story Her Worrisome Heart is a standout. Allmusic says she "straddles the line between lounge jazz, folk, and cowgirl songs." Thanks to a friend at work, I listed to lots of Chase and Maynard Ferguson.

In the department of how did I everlook them, I enjoyed John Mellencamp's 2004 two-CD greatest gits collection Words and Music and his 2007 Freedom Road. Don't know why I never listened much to Nina Simone, but I finally got around to her High Priestess of Soul.

Live Music

Seeing Merle Haggard at the Cotillion was really nice. I took a teenager to see Weird Al at the Cotillion. Bobby Watson's concert with student big bands and combos at Friends University was great. Jimmy LaFave at the Bartlett Arboretum was enjoyable music and finally got me to that regional treasure.

I'm glad I saw Commander Cody at the Sedgwick County Zoo summer series, but wish he had a bigger combo. Soulstice, Friends small group combo, had a CD release party at the Broadview. I heard Steve Hatfield and other jazzers at the B-Side--and bought his excellent CD Just Be Wally-- and Craig Owens and Bodo Ensemble at the Blank Page. The Wichita Historical Museum had a great Final Friday event to conclude their electric guitar exhibit. Cliff Major, Rachel Coba, and Jerry Hahn performed. Dropped by Artichoke's annual Fish Fry to benefit the Kansas Acoustic Arts Association and spent a day at the Walnut Valley Festival.

I made several Wichita Blues Society events, including the Guitar Showdown. And close to the end of the year attended a Riverside Perk concert by friends Aaron Fowler and Laura Dungan celebrating their wedding anniversary.

Music Technology

Even as I've been continuing to convert my massive LP and cassette collection to CDs, I've entered the digital era, with a Iphone and a Sansa Clip.

The Clip comes with a 30-day trial of Rhapsody, a nusic subscription. You pay a monthly fee and get access to their vast music, but you have to pay every month. It will be fun trying it, could be a wonderful way to try out new music. I downloaded Bela Fleck's Christmas CD and some of Alice Russell's CD.

So I wondering if I should put (as much as possible) of my music collection on one of those massive external hard drives. How much sound quality do you lose with MP3s and if you can't tell the difference does that mean you need to upgrade your sound system.

Making use of playlists strikes me as one of the exciting things to do with digital tunes. How about Monk tunes, blues tunes and rock covers.

I like the Social Tunes on Facebook, but don't always keep it up to date and have than one-fourth of my collection entered

Another technology I'm going to try out in 2009 is Shazam the music recognition program for Iphones. My brother and his wife told me about this, but they didn't know the details. I thought it must be based on some sort of tagging, but it's not.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Friends Write Books

Several of my friends have books out in 2008 or coming shortly in 2009

Wichtia's Robert Beattie, having written a book that helped breakl the BTK case has a new one out in early January on another intriguing Kansas murder case. The Language of Evil is describes this way

Brilliant linguist, charming professor, and renowned writer Tom Murray had a way with words.

He used them to seduce.

And he used them to get away with murder.

Erudite Kansas City professor Tom Murray seduced, then married his starry-eyed student Carmin Ross. But when Carmin attempted to leave their violent marriage, Tom stabbed her in the throat thirteen times, but left behind no evidence.

Convinced he’d committed a perfect crime, Tom didn’t even solicit a lawyer. But he hadn’t counted on relentless small town deputy sheriff Doug Wood, who refused to be underestimated. What happened next would result in one of the most unforgettable, shocking, and unexpected trials in Kansas state history.
Joseph Schwartz has written a book blurbed by Michael Walzer, Cornell West, and Francis Fox Piven. Not bad. The Future of Democratic Equality: Rebuilding Social Solidarity in a Fragmented America Here's the publisher's description

Why has contemporary radical political theory remained virtually silent about the stunning rise in inequality in the United States over the past thirty years? Schwartz contends that since the 1980s, most radical theorists shifted their focus away from interrogating social inequality to criticizing the liberal and radical tradition for being inattentive to the role of difference and identity within social life. This critique brought more awareness of the relative autonomy of gender, racial, and sexual oppression. But, as Schwartz argues, it also led many theorists to forget that if difference is institutionalized on a terrain of radical economic inequality, unjust inequalities in social and political power will inevitably persist.

Schwartz cautions against a new radical theoretical orthodoxy: that "universal" norms such as equality and solidarity are inherently repressive and homogenizing, whereas particular norms and identities are truly emancipatory. Reducing inequality among Americans, as well as globally, will take a high level of social solidarity--a level far from today's fragmented politics. In focusing the left's attention on the need to reconstruct a governing model that speaks to the aspirations of the majority, Schwartz provocatively applies this vision to such real world political issues as welfare reform, race relations, childcare, and the democratic regulation of the global economy.

UMKC and Levy Institute economist Randall Wray co-authored the introduction to Hyman Minsky's Stabilizing and Unstable Economy.Minsky was a legendary economist who further developed some of John Maynard Keynes idea to explain an inherent tendency toward crisis and instability in capitalist economies. Never more relevant than today!

Max Skidmore, who teaches political science at UMKC, has Securing America's Future: A Bold Plan to Preserve and Expand Social Security

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Putting the Warren invocation in perspective

Gay rights groups, liberal organizations like People for the American Way, and the progressive blogosphere are upset that President-elect Barack Obama has picked mega-church pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren to offer the invocation at next month's inaugural.

I can't say I was thrilled when I first heard the news. What was Obama thinking, I asked like many others. One gay rights leader described it as a "slap in the face." It is certainly being portrayed that way in the email blasts and list serves I'm seing.

One Kansas blogger, Moti Rieber who blogs at Fed Reb, has writen several intelleigent and angry posts on the subject. In one he wrote

Someone asked me whom I would have chosen instead. There are many progressive religious figures who have been largely excluded from the public discourse for years now, and who would broadcast a truly inclusive message at the start of the new administration, but just off the top of my head I came up with four
Moti names four fine progressive religious individuals, who I think would make fine invocators in in January. (But many doctrinaire religious progressive think Jim Wallis of Sojourners doesn't pass the grade on abortion or gay rights.)

But he left out the one that Obama has actually picked to be part of the Inaugural ceremonies. Yes, that right. There's a progressive religious figure already invited.

Obama has asked Joseph Lowery to give the benediction Lowery is an icon of the civil rights movement, long-time of the SCLC, tireless advocate of peace and social justice, and a supporter of gay rights.

The first step in putting the Warren invocation in perspective is to realize that it is not Warren but Warren + Lowery.

Understanding that is key to understanding what Obama may be thinking. And key to how the gay rights movements and friends of that movement should respond.

That's a subject for another day.

WSU YDS Featured in December Progressive

The December issue of The Progressive magazine features three photos of an October march organized by the Wichita State Young Democratic Socialists in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in their campaign to get Chipolte!, a leading fast food chain, to give a fair shake to Florida tomato workers. (it's on page 20)

Pick up an issue at your local newstand. There's also a long article on the situation of farmworkers elsewhere in the magazine.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Cadillac Records--quick review

I rarely go to see new movies the first day. Sometimes the first weekend, but not often one the opening night. Tonight I went to see "Cadillac Records," which is loosely based on the legendary Chess Records.

There are lots of excellent stuff in the movie, but lots misses the mark. It could have been a really great movie, but it falls short. The chronology is all mixed up, the narration by Willie Dixon/Cedric the Entertainer doesn't work, there's more melodrama and formula than art at times. One of Chess Records founders--Phil Chess--is erased. The conflict between Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf is fit into a political framework that I'm not sure is at all historically accurate.

The acting is often better than the script--by a big margin

Most of the music is done by the actors. Beyoncé is great as Etta James, Jeff Wright as Muddy Waters and Eamon Walker as Howlin' Wolf are great. Mos Def is not so convincing singing Chuck Berry.

The main thing is the music, we shouldn't forget. If the movie reconnects the younger generation of black and whites to the great legacy of African-American music, it will be a success. If you buy the soundtrack, there's a CD of the Chess originals you should pick up as well. If you can only buy one, get the originals. And if you're really into the music, read the Spinning Blues into Gold history and get the fine documentaries on Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.

At my showing in Wichita, there was a good representation of African Americans--and some brought their youngsters. If you object to foul language, I wouldn't advise that. But if you like blues and early rock, I heartedly recommend the movie, despite its shortcomings.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Kansas Politics Gets Stranger

Hotline reports that Third District Democratic Congressman Dennis Moore won't be running for re-election.

Sources close to Rep. Dennis Moore (KS-03) say he will not run for re-election in '10. It's unclear if he will launch a SEN bid instead; Sen. Sam Brownback (R) is stepping down and is expected to run for GOV.

Via a spokeswoman, Moore said today: "I am honored to be serving the people of the Third District and have every intention of continuing my work in Congress on their behalf."

It could be that Moore will retire or run for Governor, or Hotline could have it wrong. Or it could be that he will run for Senate.

But, if the rumor is true--what a shakeup in Kansas politics.

Here's what could happen. Sam Brownback is stepping down from the Senate to run for Governor, facing Secretary of State Rod Thornburgh with Gov Kathleen Sebelius term-limited. Incumbet Representatives Tiahrt vs. Moran for the GOP Senate nomination, leaving the 1st District and 4th District open. Moore leaving the 3rd District open to ? First-term Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, having won by a narrow margin facing a rematch from Nancy Boyda, or another tough challenger.

Going down the ticket. Attorney General Steve Six running for his first state-wide campaign, having replaced the ethically challenged, Republican-turned-Democrat Paul Morrison. State Treasurer Dennis McKinney having been appointed to replace Jenkins also running his first state-wide campaign.

Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a moderate Republican, might be the only elected incumbent to run for the same office in 2010.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bobby Watson at Friends

Friends University, a private college here in Wichita, has a very fine jazz education program. One outstanding thing they do is periodically bring in a leading jazz artist to teach, rehearse, and perform with their big bands and combos.

Last night it was KC-based saxophonist Bobby Watson, a former musical director for Art Blakey. Watson played to a good sized --and enthusiastic audience--with two student big bands and the Soulstice small group.

The groups played lots of Watson originals, including one of my favorites "Wheel within a Wheel," which I first heard on the New York Stories CD led by guitarist Danny Gatton.

I found a YouTube version with Art Blakely.

At intermission I bought Watson's new CD, From the Heart which sounds great. One of his better efforts.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Elaine Bernard on State of US Labor and Bulding Union Power

Elaine Bernard has a valuable analysis of the state of US unions on the Talking Union blog.

Bernard is executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard University Law School and is a vice-chair of Democratic Socialists of America.

It is recommended reading for union members, but also for everyone concerned about the status of American democracy.

Here's a central and often overlooked impact of whether workers have the effective right to a union or not.

The decline in strength, density and influence of the labor movement as a whole must be a concern for everyone - whether a union member or not. The decline in unions has led to stagnating and/or declining wages and benefits of private sector workers, undermining the entire community. In a Hobbesian world of labor markets, no one sector or group can remain an island of good wages and working standards in a sea of declining standards and conditions.

In addition to the economic impact, the decline in unions has also had a detrimental impact on our democracy. Rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to form unions and bargain collectively are key underpinnings of a democratic society. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that “in democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.” Where, but through the labor movement, do millions of American workers learn how to democratically combine, not with an exclusive community of their choosing, but with a workforce hired by an employer and molded into a community though union organizing?

The workplace is a unique location in which most of us spend many of our waking hours and where important decisions are made that impact our lives and the lives of our neighbors. Without a union as a vehicle for collective voice and action, individual workers are powerless. How can workers spend eight or more hours a day in workplaces where they have no right, legal or otherwise, to participate incrucial decisions that affect them, and then engage in robust, critical dialogue about our society after hours? Eventually the strain of being deferential servants with few rights from nine to five diminishes our after-hours liberty and sense of civic entitlement and responsibility.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kansas Political Blogs: Hello and Goodbye

There's a new Kansas political blog, Kansas Jackass. Definitely worth check out. It is a project of folks associated with Boyda Bloc and Left Brain Kansas and replaces both those blogs.

Gender Analyzer: Flip a Coin

Some of the leading progressive blogs (here,here and here ,) have been discussing a blog site that purports to tell whether the blog is written by a man or a woman. It doesn't seem to be very relibable --at least for political blogs.

I entered the url for this blog and it said 95% probability that I was male. Then I clicked a link to report whether it was accurate or not Here's the result.

53% ain't much better than flipping a coin.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another Musical Birthday

Today is the birthday of Booker T. Jones, leader of Booker T and the MGs, which was the Stax house band heard on countless soul hits from the 1960s.

Here's a video of their great hit "Green Onions"

This is still really cool music today, but in 1962 it was incredible. And, there was a social message implicit in the group--2 African-Americans and 2 whites.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mose Allison

Nov. 11 is Mose Allison's birthday. He's one of America's great song-writers. A bluesy jazz man whose tunes were covered by many rock bands--The Who, Yardbirds, and Blue Cheer.

When I was in high school, I bought one of his Prestige LPs which had the fascinating liner notes story that he was once interviewed at length by Jet magazine before they realized that he was white.

Here's one of my favorite Mose tunes.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

After the election: Two Views from Kansas

Two Wichita bloggers have insightful posts about the election which saves me from having to write something completely original myself.

Moti Rieber at Fed Reb says America is a center-left, not a center-right nation

reality has a liberal bias.

...due to a lot of the rightwing assumptions that have dominated our political discourse over the past many years, which have ...also permeated the pundit-sphere, it is likely that efforts will be made to pull Obama to the right by people who say things like, oh, you have to settle the markets before you take care of health care, for instance. I've written about that before.

So far at least it seems that Obama gets that, and so does the congressional leadership, and that they are determined to hit the ground running with an "aggressive agenda" - I would prefer a "progressive agenda," but you know, it may amount to the same thing. But it is important all the Move-On-ers and everyone else who did so much to bring us to this moment make sure to let Obama and their congresspeople know that we don't want a lot of backsliding on this.

Moti wrestles with the implication of the California Prop 8 vote. I'm not sure I agree with his judgment that "Ultimately, civil rights cannot be won through the ballot box, but only through the courts, because that's their job." I don't think that has been the case. Historically, the courts have often denied or abrograted rights (child labor, union rights to cite two examples).

I do think that Moti is right when he argues

The Democratic Party cannot and should not spend its political capital pursuing a social agenda that will only cause the people who broadly agree with it on economic issues to rebel. The social issues will have to continue to be fought on an Alinskyist, community organizing basis. But as I said last night, the weight of history is on the side of right, and eventually (and not too long now, I think) justice will prevail.
Russell Arben Fox also judges the election to be of potentially historical importance.

there are good historical reasons for seeing the election of Barack Obama as the distillation of a potentially strong and long-lasting realignment in American politics, perhaps as strong as the one which gave the Democrats dominance over the federal government for decades following FDR's election in 1932

If Rieber cautions the Democrats not to alienate culturally conservative voters, Fox wants to go a step further and positively embrace the communitarian concerns of many working and middle class voters.

rejects some of the more individualistic and/or secular presumptions behind many modern liberal arguments, and thus are interested community empowerment, unionization, participatory democracy, parental involvement in education, civil service, anti-consumerism, progressive taxation, media responsibility, fair trade, civic religion and respect, localized and decentralized bureaucracies, limitations on corporate power, and so forth...all could be captured by this umbrella. Obviously, it describes a very different (ideologically, at least; perhaps less so demographically) umbrella coalition of progressive voters than does Judis and Teixeira's, and--given America's political culture--a far less likely one as well.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

State Board of Education: Vote the Whole Ballot

Hey, Kansans, when you vote this November don't quit too soon. The most important vote you cast could be close to the very end of the ballot. Five members of the Kansas State Board of Education (SBOE) will be elected on Tuesday.

And, if you have any doubts about what is at stake read the candidate survey from Kansas Citizens for Science

Whether the SBOE will be again be controlled by pro-science moderates or be deadlocked and at risk of swinging back into control of anti-science, anti-public education extremists is at stake. And, it is not just science standards that are at risk. When the conservative extremists were last in control of the SBOE, they hired an ideologue with no educational experience and no experience managing large institutions as Education Commissioner at a $140,000 salary.

Only one incumbent, the anti-science, radical anti-fundamentalist Kathy Martin is running for re-election. Fortunately, voters in the 6th District have a very solid alternative--Chris Renner.

But for the other four races, voters may have a harder time knowing the score. Just as they did when originally gaining control of the SBOE, anti-science candidates seem to prefer stealth and code words.

Fortunately, there are ways to find out who is anti-science. The KNEA has made endorsements (2nd--Sue Storm; 4th Carolyn Campbell, 6th Chris Renner, and 8th Walt Chappell.) The anti-science "Free Academic Inquiry and Research Committee which bills itself a "Kansas Republican Assembly PAC" has endorsed the other candidates in the 4th, 6th, and 8th races.

In the 10th District, both Republican David Dennis and Democrat Paul Casanova appear to be pro-science.

Amazing, Revealing Answers in KCS Survey

The candidate survey from the Kansas Citizens for Science deserves the exclamations seen in old-time movie trailers--"amazing" "revealing" "bizarre." The very first question from KCS asked

which of the following organizations would you trust to inform your decision-making in regards to science? Check all that apply.
KCS also asked whether they favored revisions to the state science standards.

Here's how the bad guys answered those questions.

Kathy Martin

would trust The Intelligent Design Network Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, and the The Institute for Creation Research ( in addition to mainstream science organizations).

Dennis Hedke

would also trust The Intelligent Design Network Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, and the The Institute for Creation Research ( in addition to mainstream science organizations).
He answers
I have stated publicly and openly that the theory of evolution should be scrutinized along with any other theory that makes its way to the domain of scientific review. I can see no logic in attempting to isolate and protect this theory against the broad range of theories in science, economics, sociology, etc.
Hedke is also a global warming denialist, ally of Americans for Prosperity, and a voucher advocate.

Robert Meissner

Declined to answer the Kansas Citizens for Science survey. That tells you something, as does his 2004 support for "alternative theories" and 2008 contributions from FAIR.

f the SBOE races haven't gotten the media attention they deserve, don't blame the moderate candidates. They all seem to be running vigorous campaigns. In Wichita, for example, Walt Chappell is running radio and TV commercials. Here's his TV spot

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tiahrt Lies About Betts

The Donald Betts campaign has issued a press release responding to lies in radio commercials from the Todd Tiahrt campaign. Tiahrt has a huge funding advantage, is a long-term incumbent, and polls reportedly show him far ahead. Why then has the Tiarht campaign stepped into the gutter?

WICHITA, Kans. – Rep. Todd Tiahrt began airing commercials on local Wichita radio stations saying that State Senator Donald Betts, Jr. (D-KS), voted against expanding oil refineries, is opposed to lowering gas prices, and voted against a bill that allowed sexual predators on the street. These are outright lies as Betts wants to maintain refineries, is not opposed to lowering gas prices and has in fact voted for “Jessica’s Law” to enforce stronger sentencing for sexual offenders – 1st offense 25 years; 2nd offense 40 years; third offense life in prison. “These are malicious lies that have no basis in fact and are meant to scare voters into voting for Tiahrt,” said Betts. Betts’ Campaign Manager, Lisa Reiss, further clarified the record “Tiahrt is saying that Don voted against ‘Jessica’s Law’ and there were only 2 legislators opposed to it – not Senator Betts- who voted for the bill. Furthermore, while he was opposed to drilling in ANWR as it would not produce oil for a minimum of 10 years according to a study done by the Department of Energy. This does not imply that he is opposed to lower gas prices. That is the most ridiculous statement ever – who is opposed to lower gas prices,?” said Reiss.

As of today, Joe Niblett, a voter who lives in Wichita, contacted the Betts for Congress office to tell us that he called Tiahrt’s campaign office and spoke with staff member, Pat Ream (sp?), about why Rep. Tiahrt won’t debate Betts. Ream responded “Are you retarded?” and the constituent asked her to repeat what she said. At that point she went on to say “Todd Tiahrt is too smart to debate someone that has no character, no common sense and is not a Christian.” Furthermore, she said they are having a rally this weekend for Tiahrt to “vote for someone with common sense.”

It is shameful that a member of Congress condones this type of behavior for his staff. Betts has been a Christian since he was born and is an active member of the St. Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita since 1999. His grandfather, Rev. I.W. Wilson, baptized him in 1988 at True Love Missionary Baptist Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. Futhermore, he is a statesman with common sense, honesty, and integrity. Senior Pastor at St. Mark, Junius Dotson said “Senator Betts is a faithful and committed Christian. As his pastor, I have witnessed firsthand his dedication to the many ministries and community outreach efforts of Saint Mark. His servant spirit benefits not only our church and community but also the entire state of Kansas.”

“I can’t believe that Tiahrt’s staff would stoop to this level. I love the Lord with all my heart and would never question someone’s faith. Furthermore, I am disappointed that his staff member would refer to a Kansas voter in this way,” said Betts

Betts is running for the 4th Congressional seat currently held by Tiahrt, who has been in office since 1994. Betts has been actively working for Kansans since 2002, when he was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives. He went on to serve in the Senate, bridging party lines to focus on the important issues that affect everyone including support for education through the Workforce Kansas Quick Careers. Betts took a stand against the practices of genocide with Senate Substitute for HB 2457 which was signed into law divesting Kansas Public Employee Retirement Funds from Darfur. “It has been my pleasure to represent Kansans in Topeka but I believe that now is the time to make their voices heard in Washington, D.C.,” said Betts.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dress Like Palin

From the AFL-CIO blog:

a playful new website from the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) shows just how extravagant the Republican National Committee (RNC)-funded $150,000 Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue shopping spree was. allows you to click on the top-of-the-line Valentino jacket and discover its price tag equals a month's salary for the typical teacher. Or how about that exclusive Louis Vuitton handbag, the price tag of which equals the cost of uniforms for 32 auto mechanics or 33 painters—some of whom may be named Joe.

The $22,800 the RNC spent on Palin's makeup, for example, would pay for 224 mammograms, 651 flu shots, or provide a supply of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor for one person for nearly 14 years.

Something non-political: Blues Guitarist Showdown

The Wichita Blues Society's 5th Annual Guitar Showdown is coming up to fill that blank space between elections and Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday

Get ready for some mighty fine guitar playing coming to Sam’s Place on Sunday, November 16th.

This year’s showdown features 8 musicians. Rachelle Coba, Clayton Crawford, Monte Harrison, Ken Kretzschmar, Vinnie Mourning, Michael Pelzer, Ron Starkel and Henry Walker.

Backing the guitarists up will Eddie Macy, Shawn Kail and Vinnie Mourning. This event is an exhibition, not a competition. Each player will have a 15 minute set. Get your friends together and come out for a grand evening. Doors open at 4 pm and the show starts at 5 pm. Sam’s Place 5521 W. Kellogg Drive.$3 Members $5 Non-Members

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Videos from Wichita's Vote Early Rally

Governor Kathleen Sebelius "What's the Matter with These Republicans"

Dan Glickman, former Congressman (intro by Samantha Finch of the Kansas Obama campaign) and current 4th CD candidate Donald Betts

Jim Slattery, US Senate Candidate "Take Back Kansas"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vote Early Rally

Sedgwick County Democrats had a well-attended rally in Riverside Park today to encourage people to vote early. There were buses to take people downtown to vote. I decided to wait until next week. There's one race where I'm waiting to decide whether to vote for the Democratic candidate or leave that office blank.

There were speeches from former Congressman Dan Glickman, US House candidate Donald Betts, Senate challenger Jim Slattery, and Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

Here's a photo slideshow.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Slattery Calls for Economic Stimulus Package

[Here's a good position taken by Democratic US Senate candidate Jim Slattery.]

Strategic Investments in Infrastructure and Education

Topeka, KS- Jim Slattery, candidate for the U.S. Senate, echoed Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke's call for an economic stimulus package.

"As the economic crisis spreads from Wall Street to Main Street, Congress needs to pass an economic stimulus package to help struggling families and small businesses," Slattery said.

In order to revive the economy the federal government should make strategic investments in infrastructure development.

"I favor infrastructure development that will create good paying jobs and rebuild our bridges and highways," Slattery said. "We must also invest in the development of alternative energy, like wind in Kansas, which will create thousands of green jobs."

The federal government should also invest in the next generation by encouraging job training and education. Earlier this month, Slattery proposed a $5,000 tax credit to help low and middle income students attend college.

"Few investments are more important than ensuring every young person who aspires to attend college has the opportunity," Slattery said.

The Election Scandal You Haven't Heard About

Election scandals are getting lots of press these days. The bogus ACORN voter registration "scandal" has gotten way too much publicity, but it seems to be meeting with widespread debunking. The very real scandal of the GOP voter suppression efforts is being tackled on the liberal and progressive blogs, by the media, and even by videos from Robert Greenwald.

The un-noticed scandal of American politics is that many state legislative seats have no general election competition.

Here are some details from the Ballot Access News

1. Massachusetts

"There is a contest between a Republican and a Democrat in only 29 of those races. This is because of the massive weakness of the Republican Party, which has nominees in only 37 districts." Not much help from minor parties. The Veterans Party is fielding one candidate for State Senate. The Working Families Party is ballot qualified, but is running no candidates and apparently will lose its ballot status.

2. Illinois

Illinois holds a regular election this November in 39 State Senate districts. In 20 of them, there is only one candidate on the ballot. No independent candidate, and no candidate of an unqualified party, is on the ballot for any State Senate race in Illinois this year. Illinois requires a petition signed by 5% of the last vote cast, for such candidates.

Republicans failed to run anyone in 13 of the 39 districts, and Democrats failed to run anyone in 7 of them.

For the 118 State House of Representatives races, there is only one candidate in 52% of the races, and if the Green Party weren’t on the ballot and running 13 State House candidates, the percentage would be 56% of the races with only one candidate on the ballot. Republicans aren’t running anyone in 46 races, and Democrats aren’t running anyone in 20 races. As with the State Senate, the 5% petition requirement kept all independent candidates, and all nominees of unqualified parties, off the ballot.

3. Over 78% of Georgia State House Races Have Only One Candidate on the Ballot

Georgia elects all 180 members of its State House in every election year. This year, of the 180 races, there is only one candidate on the ballot in 141 of the races.

There are no minor party candidates on the ballot for Georgia legislature this year, but there are two independent candidates for State House. Georgia requires a petition signed by 5% of the number of registered voters, to place a minor party or independent candidate on the ballot for district office.

Republicans failed to run anyone in 61 of the State House races, and Democrats failed to run anyone in 82 of the State House races. In the case of the two independents who managed to get on the ballot, they are each the only opposition to an incumbent.
4. Arkansas: All But One State Senate Districts Have Only One Candidate on the Ballot

Arkansas holds State Senate elections next month in 18 districts. In 17 of those districts, only one person is on the ballot. Only the 30th district has a contest, which is between a Democrat and a Republican. Although the Green Party is ballot-qualified, it didn’t run any candidates for the State Senate.

Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, compiles a listing for all 50 states after every election. It would be worth taking a look at that list when it is available.

Kansas doesn't come off too bad in comparison to these four states. Back after the filing deadline, I noted that

4 of 40 Senate seats and 44 of 125 House seats will be uncontested.
Still, when there is no contest in one-third of House seats that is a democracy deficit.

Al-Queda "Endorses" McCain

Pamela Hess of the AP reports

WASHINGTON – Al-Qaida supporters suggested in a Web site message this week they would welcome a pre-election terror attack on the U.S. as a way to usher in a McCain presidency.

The message, posted Monday on the password-protected al-Hesbah Web site, said if al-Qaida wants to exhaust the United States militarily and economically, "impetuous" Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is the better choice because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This requires presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the war till the last American soldier," the message said. "Then, al-Qaida will have to support McCain in the coming elections so that he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush."

SITE Intelligence Group, based in Bethesda, Md., monitors the Web site and translated the message.

"If al-Qaida carries out a big operation against American interests," the message said, "this act will be support of McCain because it will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al-Qaida. Al-Qaida then will succeed in exhausting America till its last year in it."

Mark Salter, a senior McCain adviser, said he had heard about the Web site chatter but had no immediate comment.

The message is credited to a frequent and apparently respected contributor named Muhammad Haafid. However, Haafid is not believed to have a direct affiliation with al-Qaida plans or knowledge of its operations, according to SITE.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

What the folks say about redistribution

John McCain is attacking Barak Obama for favoring higher taxes on the wealthy. He seems to believe that progressive taxation is sociliastic.

Well, what to the American people think? Ed Kilgore has an answer on Democratic Strategist.

.. i

f you check out the Gallup site, the most abundant source of polling on the broad outlines of tax policy, it becomes clear that the McCain-Palin campaign is really barking up the wrong tree.

As of April of this year--long before the Wall Street scandal roused particularly intense populist feelings--63% of respondents told Gallup that "upper-income people" paid too little in taxes. 9% said such people paid too much in taxes. While the term "upper-income" wasn't defined in the poll, Obama's definition--the top 5% of earners--couldn't be too far off the mark. And for the record, the "too little" figure was actually a bit higher back in the Clinton years, when the top rate was very similar to where Obama would try to put it.

Another common conservative talking point on taxes, echoed by John McCain in the final presidential debate, was that corporate taxes in the United States are too high. According to Gallup in the same April 2008 poll, 6% of Americans think corporations pay too much in taxes, while 73% think they pay too little.

But let's take this to another level. Suppose Republicans can convince people that Obama really does want to pursue a Robin Hood tax policy. Would that represent a political death sentence for the Democrat?

Here's another question posed by Gallup: Do you think our government should or should not redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich? In April of 2008, 51% of Americans answered that question "yes," while 43% said "no." Those who think of the New Deal Era as the high tide of American "socialism" might want to note that Roper asked the identical question in 1939; 35% said "yes" while 54% said "no."

So the bottom line is that under the most abrasive (and inaccurate) characterization of what Obama meant by "spreading the wealth around," he would still be reflecting a majority sentiment. Once again, the McCain-Palin campaign probably ought to be talking about something else.

The "insanity" of McClain on Socialism

Jack Balkin comments on an interview where John McCain lays down why he considers Obama to be a socialist and attempts to explain his economic views.

To summarize: a key tenet of socialism is redistribution of wealth. However, a 700 billion dollar bailout of banks and Wall Street firms is not socialism. Rather, it is "help[ing] those who need help, who can't help themselves," which is not socialism (because it is not redistributive?). Giving tax credits to people who pay payroll and Social Security taxes under Obama's health care plan is welfare (indeed, why isn't it socialism as well?). However, giving tax credits to individuals under McCain's plan is not welfare (and presumably, is not socialism either).

As far as I can see, according to McCain, "socialism" and "welfare" are thus defined as "redistributive policies that my opponent favors." Redistributive policies that I favor-- like using taxpayer money to buy up old mortgages and subsidize new ones-- are neither socialism or welfare; they are helping people. Where both my opponent and I have supported the same redistributive policies (like the recent bank bailout bill), they are socialism or welfare when he proposes them and not socialism or welfare when I propose them.

The insanity of McCain's remarks comes from two important facts about American government. First we live in a regulatory and welfare state in which one of the most important tools of government is taxation and spending, which are almost of necessity redistributive in character and/or effect. Second, at least since the time of the the New Deal Americans assume and expect that government will engage in redistributive policies to solve social problems and deal with crises. The bank bailout and health care reform policies are only the latest examples of techniques of governance that have become as American as apple pie.

McCain cannot really turn his back on the basic features of American governance in the post New Deal era; at most he can argue about the different ways that government should engage in redistributive taxing and spending policies to promote the public interest. Thus, his use of "socialism" and "welfare" are completely disingenuous, little more than scare tactics designed to obfuscate basic political assumptions about governance that both major political parties share.

Esquire's Kansas Endorsements

Esquire Magazine has come out with a whole slew of endorsements. The ones for Kansas seems mostly on-target. In my opinion, any Democrat who takes on an entrenched GOP in the 1st Disrict deserves a vote. For more Esquire endorsements, see here.

Election 2008: Who People in Kansas Should Vote For

Editor's note: the name of the incumbent candidate is italicized, while the candidate we're endorsing is in bold.


Pat Roberts (R)

Jim Slattery (D)

As then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Roberts steadfastly defended the CIA as clean on torture and the NSA as clean on wiretapping--and just as steadfastly dragged his feet on investigating prewar intelligence failures for the tawdriest of reasons: to protect the White House. His opponent, a moderate former congressman, will do better.
Esquire endorses: Slattery


Congressional District 1

Jerry Moran (R)

James Bordonaro (D)

Moran is an informed, subtle legislator with an independent streak. His stand against the administration on Medicare cuts drew plaudits from all but his own party leaders; his balanced views on ethanol promote that industry while seeking to protect Kansas's stockyards. Great work.
Esquire endorses: Moran

District 2

Lynn Jenkins (R)

Nancy Boyda (D)

A successful executive and lifelong pro-choice Republican, Boyda switched parties in 2003 over opposition to the war but retains her antitax, pro-business leanings. Which leaves pro-choice, antitax, pro-business Republican Jenkins free to campaign on what, exactly--change?
Esquire endorses: Boyda

District 3

Nick Jordan (R)

Dennis Moore (D)

Easy choice here: vague values-and-terrorists talk from the challenger versus bipartisan accomplishment by the incumbent.
Esquire endorses: Moore

District 4

Todd Tiahrt (R)

Donald Betts (D)

Tiahrt, knee-deep in Abramoff and DeLay cash, deserves to be dumped for this sin alone. But let's keep things positive: His opponent is as accomplished a state legislator as you'll ever find.
Esquire endorses: Betts

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cook political report upgrades Boyda race

The Cook political report has upgraded Nancy Boyda's reelection campaign in Kansas' Second Congressional District from "toss up" to "leans Democratic"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Steve Early on EFCA, Obama. and the Economy

Labor journalist Steve Early has a thorough examination of the Employee Free Choice Act, the
centerpiece of labor's political program on the Talking Union blog,

Thirty years ago, unions came closer to strengthening the Wagner Act than at any other time since Congress enacted labor’s “Magna Carta” in 1935. During Jimmy Carter’s first and only term, they had the benefit of big Watergate-related Congressional victories by the Democrats in 1974–and, four years later, 61 Democrats in the Senate. Yet, when a bill was introduced that would have speeded up National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections, helped fired organizers, and penalized union-busting employers, labor law reform got filibustered to death in the Senate, after tepid White House lobbying on its behalf. Three decades after that political set-back-and partly because of it–American unions now represent only 12.1 percent of the total workforce. In the National Labor Relations Act-covered private sector, union density is down to 7.5%.

Thanks to the popular backlash against our current discredited Republican administration, Congress once again changed for the better, in 2006, raising new hopes for labor law reform. This year, union members have been urged to elect even bigger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, plus a new president, so legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) can be enacted in 2009Since many in labor believe that amending the NLRA is more critical to union survival today than 30 years ago, it’s worth examining the current campaign for EFCA. (1) Have the lessons of past defeats been well applied in labor’s renewed bid to strengthen the right to organize? Can the AFL-CIO and Change To Win (CTW) win on this issue when organized labor’s size and political clout has been so much diminished since the late 1970s? Even if enacted, will EFCA enable unions to overcome widespread employer resistance to collective bargaining in the U.S.?

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Tiahrt Took Money from Northrup Grumman During 2008 Election Cycle

An important press release from Donald Betts campaign for the US House> WICHITA, Kans. – State Senator Donald Betts, Jr. provided information at last week’s press conference that Rep. Todd Tiahrt had taken $3,000 from Northrop Grumman during the 2008 election cycle. Additionally, Tiahrt voted for on the Fiscal 2008 Department of Defense Authorization Bill HR 4986, PL 110-81, Section 804 which allowed the Secretary of Defense the ability to waive “Buy American” Provisions. It passed by the House 369-46 with Representative Tiahrt voting Aye. This vote by the entire Kansas delegation effectively allowed the Air Force to make decisions on outsourcing military work to other countries. Campaign donations to Tiahrt can be reviewed by at The Center for Responsive Politics (a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization) website at this link:

Todd would have you believe that he has been an opponent of ‘outsourcing’ but the truth is he voted for the bill that allowed foreign companies to bid on defense contracts.” “Most people would be shocked to learn that he voted for a bill a few years ago that undermined the ‘Buy American Act’ established in 1933 by giving the Secretary of the Defense the opportunity to let out contracts to foreign governments.”

I am sure that Representative Tiahrt doesn’t want the public to realize that it was ‘him’ and other members of Congress and not this contract that opened the door to sending our jobs and security overseas,” said Betts. “It is an outrage that he is acting as though he supports Boeing and opposes Grumman when the truth is that he took campaign donations from Grumman,” said Betts. “We should absolutely never outsource our military contracts. The Department of Defense should always use American manufacturing for the sake of insuring the best possible products for our servicemen and women and for our nation’s defense and security.”

In addition to this legislation opening the process to foreign companies, it is important to note that in 2001, both Representative Tiahrt and Senator Roberts started receiving contributions from Grumman’s Political Action Committees (Grumman is the partner with EADS (Airbus) on the tanker project). Shortly thereafter, McCain mounted a campaign to force the Congress and Air Force to drop the Boeing tanker leasing deal introduced in October 2001. McCain bragged during the 2008 campaign for President that he had “saved” the American taxpayer 30 billion dollars by forcing the cancellation of the contract. In May 2003, Roberts voted for the John McCain amendment to the Fiscal Year 2004 military budget (Senate Bill S1050) allowing the Department of Defense to buy military equipment and services from foreign companies, including EADS, undermining the “Buy American Act”. It passed with a 50-48 largely Republican party line vote.

Senator Roberts and Representative Tiahrt are on the Senate and House sub appropriations committees for military spending, yet there is no evidence that they spoke out or tried to stop the cancellation of the Boeing contract in May 2004. Furthermore, the House and Senate in a series of continuing motions eroded the 50% USA content rule used by the Department of Defense by making agreements with 21 foreign countries to grant a waiver from the 50% rule. In other words, the House and Senate declared even if military equipment was manufactured in one of the 21 foreign countries it would be counted as “MADE IN THE USA”. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and President Bush supported these motions as did Roberts and Tiahrt. These motions passed without any reported opposition from Roberts or Tiahrt.

In Fiscal Year 2006 Defense Authorization Act (HR 1815, S1042) contained the authorization for the tanker contract. HR 1815 contained 3 strong Buy American provisions:

  1. Section 817 banned the Secretary of Defense from buying military hardware from any foreign company who receives subsidies from a foreign government when that government is a member of the World Trade Organization and applied only when the US is involved in an unresolved WTO dispute over the subsidies or the WTO has ruled the subsidies are illegal. The sole purpose of the amendment was to prohibit Airbus from winning the tanker contract over Boeing.

  2. Section 818 required military purchases contain at least 50% USA made content. It would have invalidated the special agreements with 21 foreign countries allowing them to manufacture more than 50% USA military equipment and count it as “made in the USA”

  3. Section 1212 would have prevented the US military from buying equipment from foreign companies who have sold items on the USA’s Munitions List to China.

HR 1815 passed the House and was referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee on which Senator Roberts sat. Senator Warner tried to attach the 3 “Buy American” amendments to the Senate defense appropriations bill, but in May 2005 Roberts as a member of the committee dropped the “Buy American” provisions. Grumman teamed with EADS (Airbus) to bid on the tanker in September 2005. The Senate Armed Services Committee stripped “Buy American” provisions out and it passed the Senate Armed Services Committee without any recorded objection from Roberts. On November 15, 2005, the stripped bill passed the Senate with unanimous consent with no recorded objection from Roberts. On that same day, Roberts was named to serve on the conference committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills. On December 21, 2005, the Senate agreed to the Conference Committee Report by a voice vote, again without the “Buy American” provisions.

Roberts and Tiahrt did not voice their opinions objecting to military contracts involving bidding from foreign companies or foreign countries, yet they have been very vocal as of late to show the voters of Kansas that they are the advocates of keeping military work in the U.S. “Voters need to be alert to realize this is not how they have voted and to realize this is just the latest in their campaign ploys to the public to present a different image,” said Betts.

Kansas Republicans Miss Deadline for Filing Presidential Elector Candidates

Ballot Access News reports October 3rd, 2008

The Kansas deadline for qualified parties to file their candidates for presidential elector is June 20. The Republican Party of Kansas still hasn’t filed any candidates for presidential elector. The Kansas Secretary of State’s webpage lists candidates for presidential elector. That webpage says the Libertarian Party also hasn’t filed its candidates for presidential elector, but the Libertarian Party did submit the list, late on October 3.

There are no consequences to missing the Kansas deadline. John McCain will still be on the ballot in Kansas.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Biggest Bailout, er Rescue, Whoppers

There's lots of confusion about the Wall Street bailout, or as the Senate is so carefully spinning it economic rescue

Here are some that have to my attention For the moment at least I'm not going to provide all sorts of documentation and links.

MYTH No. 1: Right-wing, free market fundamentalists in the House said that passing the bill was tantamount to instituting socialism.

REALITY: It is more accurate to describe the bail out as lemon socialism. The privatization of profits and the socialization of losses. Central American oligarchs used to oppose highways and sewer systems because any sort of public expenditure would lead to socialism.

McCain MYTH: The GOP Presidential nominee today in a NPR interview and repeatedly before said that the US is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. And, this is not a senior moment.

REALITY. The crisis facing the American economy is a financial crisis. Contrary to the Arizona Senator, the root of the problem is not "earmarks or excessive governmental spending. The solution is not a spending freeze

RACIST, RIGHT-WING MYTH: The housing crisis was caused by Democrats who required banks to give loans to blacks, Hispanics, and poor people/

REALITY: The Community Reinvestment Act was passed in 1977. There a name for this kind of logical error. Students look it up. The problem that we are now facing is a housing bubble. Middle-income, the affluent, and the wealthy benefited as much or more than anyone from the rise in housing prices.

ECONOMIC CRANK INNUMERATE MYTH: Every period of severe economic crisis throws up the wildest sorts of economic crankery In the 1930s there was the "social credit" of Major Douglass. Technocracy, and the Townsend Plan. Jon Maynard Keynes actually had some rather nice things to say about these cranks.

There's a "plan" going around I've seen it in an mail from an East Coast rabbi, heard it on a semi-racist radio show, and the like. Today, a caller to a NPR program brought it up and none of the experts caught the mathematical error.

Here's the "plan" attributed to T. J. Birkenmeier

I'm against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG.

Instead, I'm in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We
Deserve It Dividend.

To make the math simple, let's assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide
U.S. Citizens 18+.

Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and
child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up..

So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion that equals

My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a We Deserve It
The only problem is that the Birkenheimer plan is too good to be true. By a factor of 1000. If you divide 85 billion (8.5e10) dollars by 200 million (2e8) adults, you get $425 per adult, not $425,000 per adult.

HOOVER REDUX MYTH: We would be better off letting the market alone The invisible hand will sort everything out.

REALITY: This was tried back in Hoover's era. He was the first to judge the "fundamental are strong." As John Maynard Keynes observed, "in the long run, we are all dead." The market may take exceedingly long to reach an equilibrium if let to it own devices And, it is just possible, that things, housing prices, might fall below the equilibrium. One of the essential points that Keynes made is that the economy often adjusts by chaing levels of output rather than by changes in prices

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Soulstice CD Release Gig

I went to the Soulstice CD release party last night at the Broadview hotel and took a view pictures also bought their CD "Record Highs." Soulstice is a small group combo at the very fine jazz program at Friends University (which has an outstanding series of concerts scheduled over the fall and spring semesters.

I took a few pictures a non-SLR digital camera, which are in the slideshow below. By now means a thorough documentation of the evening. I didn't get a snap of Nathan Hittle the very fine piano player.

I'm very impressed with the CD. In a blindfold test, even sophisticated listeners might not detect that it is a bunch of college students from Kansas.

The unnoticed exremism in Palin's blessing

Video of a pastor blessing Sarah Palin with protection against witchcraft has been the rounds. Moti Rieber at FedReb catches something that most observers haven't noticed.

Here's what the Pastor says

The second area whereby God wants us, wants to penetrate in our society is in the economic area. The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It's high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity running the economics of our nations. That's what we are waiting for. That's part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the -- you know -- if you look at the Israelites, that's how they work. And that's how they are, even today.

Moti's comments are spot on.

In case you need a scorecard, that is a pastor at Palin's church saying that the Christians need to act like the Jews and run "the economy of nations" and "that's how they [the "Israelites"] are, even today." That, my friends, is classic, no-holds-barred anti-Semitism. And she was sitting there for it, and she was blessed by this pastor later in the event.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jim Slattery on Roberts Smears

Incumbent Senator Pat Roberts has spent lots of money--as much as $1.5 million on TV ads attacking challenger Jim Slattery alleging excessive absentism and that Slattery made "millions" "lobbying" for "special interests in Washington.

At the end of his August 22 speech to the Kansas AFL-CIO, Slattery told the truth about those smears.

Give a watch.

Sebelius Endorses Slattery & His Pro-worker Record

Governor Kathleen Sebelius endorses Jim Slattery at the 2008 Kansas AFL-CIO COPE convention, citing his pro-workers record

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Seeding Civil War: Kansas in the National News 1854-1858

Thursday, September 25. 7:00 p.m.

Craig Miner reading, talk & signing. "Seeding Civil War: Kansas in the National News, 1854-1858" -

At the Wichita/Sedgwick County Historical Museum 204 S. Main.

Following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Kansas Territory was a national issue that dominated America's press, not to mention three sessions of Congress. Hundreds of thousands of articles and editorials--4,500 in the New York Herald alone--were published about Bleeding Kansas during those four tumultuous years leading up to the Lecompton Constitution. Craig Miner now offers the first in-depth study of national media coverage devoted to the beleaguered territory, unearthing new examples of what Americans were saying about Kansas and showing how those words affected the course of national events.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Brownback confirms Palin was McSame's first pick

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback was interviewed on National Public Radio
Tuesday and let a couple of interesting things slip through in his rapturous adoration of Gov. Sarah Palin. Brownback is going to make one of the nominating speeches for Palin on Wednesday.

Revelation # 1. Brownback said he had originally been asked to make a nominating speech for another candidate. This candidate was pro-choice and Brownback assumed it was Joe Lieberman. Brownback agreed to make the nominating speech for candidate X. When McCain changed his mind, Brownback agreed to make a speech for Palin, who he probably knows even less well than McCain.

It has been said that a district attorney can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Apparently, so hungry is Brownback for attention, that he would agree to make a nominating speech for a ham sandwich.

Revelation # 2. I'm getting ahead of myself with that ham sandwich crack. Brownback, in this instance, has shown himself to be lacking in political principles. Willing to nominate a pro-choice or a pro-life candidate. Willing to nominate a moderate liberal on domestic issues (Lieberman) or a far-right kook (Palin.)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hero of the Democratic Left: Hubert Humphrey

"1948" One veteran of the new left and new politics recently recounted that in 1968 he was mystified that African Americans were unreceptive to his petition to not support Hubert Humphrey in the fall election. Finally, he asked one gentleman why and the man simply replied "1948." In a Huffington Post column, Chris Weigant rightly identifies the 1948 convention as a pivotal event in American political history and as the year--and not 1964-- in which the Democrats lost the South. It is also the year which marked the re-alignment of American parties into more or less coherent ideological parties.

No figure was more critical in the 1948 events than Hubert Humphrey, the young reformist and pro-labor mayor of Minneapolis. Humphrey was running for the Senate and could have easily played it safe, but he chose instead, with the support of liberals like Illinois Senator Paul Douglass, and big city machines to push for a strong civil platform.

President Harry Truman wanted party unity and a bland civil rights platform, even though he had earlier that year been the first President to address the NAACP and even though his administration had issued a detailed 10-point Civil Rights Program calling for aggressive federal action on the issue of civil rights. Immense pressure was brought on Humphrey and his allies not to press the issue.

On the morning of July 14, 1948, the Minneapolis Morning Tribune reported on Humphrey’s intention to address civil rights on the convention floor: “Such an action would be an embarrassing blow to a party already faced with an uphill fight, be held against Humphrey and thus become a dangerous stumbling block to the young man whose ambition goes far beyond the mayoralty of Minneapolis. Early today there were indications Humphrey would carry his fight to the floor – despite the consequences.”

Humphrey's 10-minute speech for the minority civil rights plank is rightly called one of America's great speeches. Here are the concluding paragraphs

There are those who say to you - we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late.
There are those who say - this issue of civil rights is an infringement on states rights. The time has arrived for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of state's rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.
People - human beings - this is the issue of the 20th century. People - all kinds and sorts of people - look to America for leadership - for help - for guidance.
My friends - my fellow Democrats - I ask you for a calm consideration of our historic opportunity. Let us forget the evil passions, the blindness of the past. In these times of world economic, political and spiritual - above all, spiritual crisis, we cannot - we must not, turn from the path so plainly before us.
That path has already led us through many valleys of the shadow of death. Now is the time to recall those who were left on that path of American freedom.
For all of us here, for the millions who have sent us, for the whole two billion members of the human family - our land is now, more than ever, the last best hope on earth. I know that we can - I know that we shall - begin here the fuller and richer realization of that hope - that promise of a land where all men are free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely and well.
(The entire speech can be found here, the audio here, and a video clip here.)

The pro-civil-rights plank was narrowly adopted. The Mississippi and half of the Alabama delegation walked out of the hall. They formed the Dixiecrat Party and nominated their own presidential candidate, Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. The goal of the Dixiecrats was to take several Southern states away from Truman and thus cause his defeat. The Southern Democrats reasoned that after such a defeat the national Democratic Party would never again aggressively pursue a pro-civil rights agenda. This strategy failed.

John D 'Emilio in his biography of Bayard Rustin (Lost Prophet) adds an intriguing detail to the 1948 story. The night before the Democratic convention began, A. Philip Randolph had addressed a rally calling for opposition to Jim Crow in the military.

The next morning, outside the convention, Rustin organized a picket line of several dozen supports of the League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience. After he, Randolph, and others had marched for several hours, Rustin recalled, finally a white man comes out and joins us, and none of us know who he is." He introduced himself as Hubert Humphrey...Randolph encouraged Humphrey to to "take the platform tonight or tomorrow and tell the world about civil rights." (p. 154)
Humphrey was, of course, elected to the Senate in 1948. Despite abiding hostility from the Dixiecrat Senators, he rose in influence. He continued to be a liberal stalwart and was the Senate manager of the 1964 Civil Rights Act over a Dixiecrat filibuster. At the time, it took a 2/3 vote to break a filibuster.

Humphrey's political career was not without controversy. He was sometimes criticized by liberals and the democratic left, sometimes justly, and sometimes not. But for his role in the civil rights revolution, he was truly a hero.

Shortly before his death, a poll named Humphrey--by a wide margin--the greatest Senator of the 20th century.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights gives an annual Humphrey Award

For more about Humphrey

Minnesota Public Radio program on the 60th anniversary of Humphrey's 1948 speech

Wikipedia entry
Gary W. Reichard "Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey" Minnesota History Summer 1998 (Volume 56, number 2 Pages 50-67)
Iric Nathanson "Political warfare: Looking back at early DFL caucuses" (a short article discussing Humphrey's role in forming the Democratic Farmer Labor Party and the successful fight of the liberals to defeat the Communist DFL faction.)
Carl Solbert, Hubert Humphrey: A Biography. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2003.

John Earl Haynes, Dubious Alliance: The Making of Minnesota's DFL Party

Ted Gittinger and Allen Fisher, "LBJ Champions the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Part 2"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to the Count

Count Basie was born and raised in New Jersey, but he will be forever linked to Kansas City. Here's a 1950 version of his theme song, "One O'Clock Jump."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bushies Screw Kansas Again

First it was the Air Force Tanker, now it looks like the Bush administration, aided and abetted by Roberts and Tiahrt, are rigging a government contract to go to their political allies. This time it's the contract for a biodefence lab. Manhattan (Ks.) is still in the running, but the fix may be in.

The Washington Post reports

The Homeland Security Department swept aside evaluations of government experts and named Mississippi - home to powerful U.S. lawmakers with sway over the agency - as a top location for a new $451 million national laboratory to study some of the world's most virulent biological threats, according to internal documents obtained by the Associated Press.
And more
The states where locations were eliminated despite earning scores higher than Mississippi include Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, Texas, Wisconsin and California, where a site in Tracy near the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had vied for the lab.

Government experts originally expressed concern that the proposed site in Flora, Miss., was far from existing biodefense research programs and lacked ready access to workers already familiar with highly contagious animal and human diseases, such as foot-and-mouth virus, that could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. They assigned the site a score that ranked it 14th among 17 candidate sites in the United States.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hero of the Democratic Left: A. Philip Randolph

Before Martin Luther King, Jr., there was A. Philip Randolph. Without A. Philip Randolph, no Martin Luther King, Jr.

After Randolph led a 12-year campaign to win a union contract for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, he was catapulted into the top ranks of African-American leaders. In 1941, he launched the March on Washington Movement (MOWM) and compelled President Roosevelt to issue an executive order outlawing discrimination in defense production. Randolph continued the struggle and the MOWM during WWII. At its 1943, the MOWM adopted a policy of non-violent direct action to fight discrimination. After the war, Randolph led the campaign that integrated the Armed Services. In 1962, Randolph and Bayard Rustin conceived the idea for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Randolph was, fittingly, the lead speaker at that 1963 event and, just as appropriately introduced Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Most Dangerous Negro in America

Born in 1899 in Florida, the son of an AME minister, Randolph moved to Harlem in 1911. Working as an elevator operator, porter, and waiter, he took night classes at City College, he was introduced to the ideas of the growing Socialist movement. The history of the European working class movements was so exciting that he began "reading Marx as children read Alice in Wonderland." It was "like finally running into an idea which gives you your outlook on life."

In 1917, Randolph with Chandler Owen founded a magazine The Messenger. Although devoted to radical politics, it had a lively literature and arts section, which published the works of Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen.

Randolph led an energetic Harlem effort for Morris Hillquit's Socialist campaign for mayor of New York in 1917. In 1920, the Socialist Party nominated Randolph for State Comptroller and he polled 202,361 votes--only 1,000 less than Eugene Debs, the Socialist Presidential candidate.

Randolph, Owen, and The Messenger fully supported the SP opposition to the first world war. They told President Wilson "Lynching, Jim Crow, segregation discrimination in the armed forces and out, disenfranchisement of millions of black souls in the South--all these make your cry of making the world safe for democracy a sham, a mockery, a rape on decency and a travesty on common justice."

In 1918, speaking at an anti-war rally in Cleveland, Ohio, Randolph and Owen were arrested for violating the Espionage Act. White socialists like Eugene Debs and Kate Richards O'Hare were sent to prison under this law, but Randolph narrowly escaped.

Randolph later recounted the proceedings:
The judge was astonished when he saw us and read what we had written in the Messenger. Chandler and I were twenty-nine at the time, but we looked much younger. The judge said, why, we were nothing but boys. He couldn't believe we were old enough, smart enough, to write that red-hot stuff in the Messenger. There was no doubt that the white Socialists were using us, that they had written the stuff for us. [Our lawyer] was ready for a grand political defense, indicting the war and everything else. But the judge looked at him and said, "I don't think we are going to have a trial, I am going to release these boys in your custody, and I want you to see that they return to their parents home."
After questioning Randolph and Owen and hearing them expound their radical views, the judge almost changed his mind.
"I ought to throw you in jail," he said. "But take my advice and get out of town. If we catch you here again, you won't be so lucky."
Federal authorities kept Randolph under surveillance. The Department of Justice recommended prosecution of  the "most dangerous Negro in America."

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

Randolph's efforts to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters is well-dramatized in the 2002 HBO movie 10,000 Black Men Named George (this can be rented from Netflix). The best account of the strategy, tactics, and impact of the BSCP is Beth Tompkins Bates, Pullman Porters and the Rise of the Protest Politics in Black America, 1925-1943.

Wikipedia has a good entry on the BSCP. Here's the background to the struggle.
The campaign to found the union was an extraordinarily long one, that put it at odds with not only the company, but many members of the black community. The Pullman Company was not only one of the largest employers of blacks in the 1920s and 1930s, but had created an image for itself of enlightened benevolence by its financial support for black churches, newspapers and other organizations. Many porters were, moreover, well-paid enough to enjoy the material advantages of a middle class lifestyle and prominence within their own communities.

Working for the Pullman Company was, however, less glamorous in practice than it appeared from the outside. Porters were dependent on tips for much of their income; that, in turn, made them dependent on the whims of white passengers, who uniformly referred to all porters as "George", the first name of George Pullman, the founder of the company. Porters spent roughly ten percent of their time in unpaid "preparatory" and "terminal" set-up and clean-up duties, had to pay for their food, lodging, and uniforms, which might consume half of their wages, and were charged whenever their passengers stole a towel or a water pitcher. Porters could ride at half fare on their days off — but not on Pullman coaches. They also could not be promoted to conductor, a job reserved for whites, even though they frequently performed many of the conductors' duties.
The Company also squelched any efforts they had made to organize a union during the first decades of the twentieth century by either isolating or firing any union leaders. Like many other large, ostensibly paternalistic companies of the time, the Company employed a large number of employee spies who kept the company informed of employees' activities; in extreme cases Company agents assaulted union organizers.

When 500 porters meeting in Harlem on August 25, 1925 decided to make another effort to organize, they therefore not only launched their campaign in secret, but chose Randolph, an outsider beyond the reach of the Company, to lead it. The union chose a dramatic motto that summed up porters' resentment over their working conditions and their sense of their place in history: "Fight or Be Slaves".
Randolph later said
There was no other group of Negroes in America who constituted the key to unlocking the door of a nationwide struggle for Negro rights as the porters. Without the porters I couldn't have carried on the fight for fair employment, or the fight against discrimination in the armed forces.
E. D. Nixon, a BSCP activist, played a key role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Montgomery Welfare League, and the Montgomery Voters League. He recruited both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King

March on Washington

Frustrated with the poor results of behind the scenes lobbying to get the Roosevelt administration to act against discrimination as the nation began an arms buildup, Randolph came up with the idea of 10,000 Negroes to march down Pennsylvania Avenue.

On January 15, 1941, Randolph issued a statement to the press

. . only power can effect the enforcement and adoption of a given policy, however meritorious it may be. The virtue and rightness of a cause are not alone the condition and cause of its acceptance. Power and pressure the foundation of the march of social justice and reform . . . power pressure do not reside in the few, and intelligentsia, they lie in and flow the masses. Power does not even rest with the masses as such. Power is active principle of only the organized masses, the masses united for a definite purpose. Hence, Negro America must bring its power and pressure w upon the agencies and representatives of the Federal Government to exact their rights in National Defense employment and the armed forces of the country...I suggest that TEN THOUSAND Negroes march on Washington, D.C....with the slogan WE LOYAL NEGRO AMERICAN CITIZENS DEMAND THE RIGHT TO WORK AND FIGHT FOR OUR COUNTRY .. No propaganda could be whipped up and Spread to the effect that Negroes seek to hamper defense. No charge could be that Negroes are attempting to mar national unity. They want to do none of those things. On the contrary, we seek the right to play our part in advancing the cause of national defense and national unity. But there certainly can be no national unity where one tenth of the population are denied their basic rights as American citizens///One thing is certain and that is if Negroes are going to get anything out of this national defense, which will cost the nation 30 or 40 billions of dollars that we Negroes must help pay in taxes as property owners, and workers and consumers, WE MUST FIGHT FOR IT AND FIGHT FOR WITH GLOVES OFF.”
The idea caught on like wildfire, and soon Randolph was calling for 100,000 to march. After tense negotiations with FDR, Executive Order 8802 was issued declaring it to be the policy of the US government "that there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, or national origin" and that "it is the duty of employers and of labor provide for the full and equitable participation of all workers in defense industries."

Integrating the Armed Forces

The March on Washington Movement continued through (and a little beyond). At the Detroit conference in 1942, Randolph called attention to "the strategy and maneuver of the people of India with mass civil disobedience and non-cooperation." In 1943, he urged the 1200 delegates to adopt a policy of "non-violent good-will direct action." After sessions on non-violence led by Bayard Rustin and Dean William Nelson of Howard University, the MOWM convention unanimously voted to adopt non-violent direct action tactics and projects were planned for the 26 cities with chapters. These plans were shelved after the 1943 Detroit race riot and because of opposition from the black press, but the prospect of non-violence action returned after the end of WWII.

In 1947, President Harry Truman called for a peacetime draft, but the draft bill contained no provision for a ban against segregation. Randolph with Grant Reynolds, NY Commissioner for Corrections, soon founded the League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation. On March 31, 1948 Randolph told the Senate Armed Services Committee

This time Negroes will not take a Jim Crow draft lying down. The conscience of the word will be shaken as by nothing when thousands and thousands of us second-class Americans choose imprisonment in preference to permanent military slavery.... I personally will advise Negroes to refuse to fight as slaves for a democracy they cannot possess and cannot enjoy....I personally pledge myself to openly counsel and abet youth, both white and Negro, to quarantine any Jim Crow conscription system....On previous occasions, I have seen the 'national emergency' psychology mow down legitimate Negro demands...
A poll of black men in Harlem showed 71 percent in favor of a civil disobedience against a Jim Crow draft. Randolph and others picketed the 1948 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. On July 26, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 ending segregation in the military.

1963 March on Washington

Randolph continued to play a crucial role in the civil rights and labor movements through the 1950s and 1960s. He has the grand old man of the civil rights movement, the one man who could bring together the diverse and often contentious institutions and movements. His long time colleague Bayard Rustin became an off-and-on key advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Without Randolph's great strategic genius in conceiving of the March and his tactical wisdom in bringing it about, history might have been far different.

Here is part of his speech which was the first to the 200,000 at the Lincoln Memorial.

Let the nation and the world know the meaning of our numbers. We not a pressure group, we are not an organization or a group of organizations, we are not a mob. We are the advance guard of a massive moral revolution for jobs and freedom. . . . But this civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro, nor is it confined to civil rights, for our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not, and we know we have no future in a in which six million black and white people are unemployed and millions live in poverty .... We want a free democratic society dedicated to the political, economic and social advancement of man along moral lines. . . . We know that real freedom will require many changes in the nation’s political and social philosophies and institutions. For one thing, we must destroy the notion that Mrs. Murphy's property rights include the right to humiliate me because of the color of my skin." The sanctity of private property takes second place to the sanctity of the human personality.

It falls to the Negro to reassert this priority of values, because our ancestors were transformed from human personalities into private property. It falls to us to demand full employment and to put automation at the service of human needs, not at the service of profits .... All who deplore our militancy, who exhort patience in the name of false peace, are in fact supporting segregation and exploitation. They would have social peace at the expense of social and racial justice. They are more concerned with easing racial tensions than enforcing racial democracy.
Jervis Anderson writes in his superb A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait had been the "most beautiful and glorious of Randolph's life. As the thousands walked away from the Memorial, singing, he had stood at a deserted end of the platform, looking out over the grounds that were slowly emptying. Seeing him standing alone, Bayard Rustin broke away from a group of friends, went over, and put his arm around the old man's shoulders. "I could see he was tired," Rustin recalled,. "I said to him, 'Mr. Randolph, it looks like your dream has come true.' And when I looked into his eyes, tears were streaming down his checks. It is the one time I can recall that he could not hold back his feelings."

  • Jervis Anderson, A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait (1973; University of California Press, 1986). ISBN 978-0520055056
  • Beth Tompkins Bates, Pullman Porters and the Rise of the Protest Politics in Black America, 1925-1943 (University of North Carolina Press, 2001) 
  • Cornelius Bynum, A. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights  978-0-252-07764-7
  • Paula Pfeffer, A. Philip Randolph, Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement (1990; Louisiana State University Press, 1996). ISBN 978-0807120750
  • Andrew E. Kersten, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (Rowan and Littlefield, 2006). ISBN 978-0742548985
  • Cynthia Taylor, A. Philip Randolph: The Religious Journey of An African American Labor Leader (NYU Press, 2006). ISBN 978-0814782873

A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom A 1996 PBS documentary not available from California Newsreel.

10,000 Black Men Named George. A HBO dramatization of Randolph's long and ultimately successful campaign to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Web Documentaries

A. Philip Randolph Exhibit based on the 1992-2001 traveling exhibit on A. Philip Randolph sponsored by the AFL-CIO.