Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I'm not sure if "hero" is the right word, but I've decided to start a weekly series featuring some of the political and intellectual giants of the American democratic left. (I may include some non-Americans such as George Orwell or Tommy Douglass who have had a profound lasting impact on the American democratic left.)
Norman Thomas is first up, partly because Rick Hertzberg recently blogged about him after neo-con David Frumm mistakenly calledThomas an "adamant isolationist."
Here's what Hertzberg wrote
If you’ve never heard of Norman Thomas (all too likely if you’re not yet eligible for A.A.R.P. membership), he was the leader of the American Socialist Party and its Presidential candidate in every election from 1928 to 1948. This may make him sound like a marginal crank, but he was neither. Bigger by far than his party affiliation, he embodied and fought for just about every decent cause of his era, whether that cause was popular (social insurance) or not (protesting the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War). Tall, handsome, white-haired, and resonant-voiced, with a manner and a wardrobe more aristocratic than proletarian (Princeton, the Presbyterian ministry, Gramercy Park), he was one of the most famous Americans of his day, and his prestige was such that F.D.R. found it politic to have him in for regular White House visits.
Frum probably has mistaken Thomas for an isolationist on account of Thomas’s opposition to U.S. entry into World War II before Pearl Harbor. This opposition was ill-judged, a misjudgment shared by many liberals of the day, including Chester Bowles, William Benton, Oswald Garrison Villard, and Robert Maynard Hutchins—people who believed (rightly) that the first World War had been a catastrophe for all concerned and (wrongly) that participation in a second one would push the country over the edge into totalitarianism, as the first one had done to Russia and Germany. But the fact that on this one issue Thomas found himself temporarily in uncomfortable alliance with isolationists did not make him one, any more than their initial support for the Iraq war makes John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Paul Berman, Peter Beinart, and Matt Yglesias a bunch of alliance-busting, torture-promoting, habeas corpus-trashing Bush-Cheney unilateralists.
In every other way one can imagine, from his decades-long advocacy of greatly strengthened international institutions to his tempered support for Truman’s (and the U.N.’s) military intervention in Korea to his untiring and highly concrete work on behalf of the victims of tyrannical regimes no matter what their ideological colorations to the grown-up level-headedness of his opposition to the Vietnam War (“don’t burn the flag, wash it”), Norman Thomas was an internationalist par excellence. And unlike his old Princeton and coast-of-Maine friend John Foster Dulles, he knew the words to “The Internationale."
Something that Hertzberg doesn't mention is that in 1948, Thomas very actively urged A. Philip Randolph to run as the Socialist Party candidate, or as the candidate of the New Party, an effort to create an American version of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation of Canada.
Several excellent biographies of Norman Thomas. Check one out in your public or college library. Consider buying one, if you come across it in a used book store.
- Harry Fleischmann, Norman Thomas: A Biography, New York, Norton & Co., 1964.
- Bernard K. Johnpoll, Pacifists Progress: Norman Thomas and the Decline of American Socialism, 1987. ISBN 0-8129-0152-5 (1970 first edition)
- Murray Seilder, Norman Thomas: Respectable Rebel, Binghamton, New York, Syracuse University Press, 1967. Second Edition.
- W. A. Swanberg, Norman Thomas: The Last Idealist, New York, Charles Scribner and Sons, 1976.
Articles on Thomas on the Web
- Elizabeth Balanoff Norman Thomas: Socialism and the Social Gospel
Kansas vs. Darwin, a documentary film about the 2005 "kangaroo court" hearings on evolution, is scheduled to air on Kansas PBS stations in late July and August.
It will air at 9:00 p.m. on July 28 on KTWU, Channel 11 in Topeka; at 7:30 p.m. on July 31 on KCPT, Channel 19 in Kansas City; and at 8:00 p.m. on August 21 on KPTS, Channel 8 in Wichita.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I've been posting a number of clips of US Senate candidate Jim Slattery talking issues with Wichita union members from an informal June 23 meeting. This is one of the most important-- in this clip Slattery emphasizes his long-standing support for the rights of workers to form unions and for prevailing wage legislations which protects a race to the bottom in construction wage.
Only a glitch in my understanding of how to use my video software has delayed.
Correcting the gross imbalances in US labor law in favor of companies should be a top concern for everyone in the libera and progressive community.
But that's a subject for another day.
(See here on Air Force tanker decision and here on why he's running and here on why climate change legislation must be done right.)
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I'm beginning to think that North Carolina Senator Libby Dole, married to one-time Kansan Bob Dole, might be the dimmest bulb in the United States Senate.
Now I don't follow North Carolina politics closely, but here are two real bone-headed moves.
1. Dole is trying to name a bill for giving funds to AIDS victims in the developing world after Helms--a homophobe and racist
2. According to a report in the Hill newspaper, an ad aired by North Carolina Republican Elizabeth Dole taking credit for saving North Carolina military installations actually included images of a French-made Dassault Super Etendard fighter jet, which was last seen in combat action being flown by Saddam Hussein's Air Force during the Iran-Iraq War.
"The government should spend less money on people with AIDS because they got sick as a result of deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct." At a different time, he contextualized his comments by saying, "Nothing positive happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, and nothing positive is likely to happen to America if our people succumb to the drumbeats of support for the homosexual lifestyle." He once said that AIDS prevention literature was "so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up.".
Harry’s Place, a UK blog dedicated of the democratic left, is being sued by Mohammed Sawalha, the President of the British Muslim Initiative, which has been linked to Hamas and the Islamic Brotherhood, both terrorist organizations. The blog reports that Mr. Sawalha, according to the BBC…
master minded much of Hamas’ political and military strategy” and in London “is alleged to have directed funds, both for Hamas’ armed wing, and for spreading its missionary dawah”.In their revelation of the impending lawsuit against them leveled by Mohammed Sawalha, they write:
Mr Sawalha claims that we have “chosen a malevolent interpretation of a meaningless word”. In fact, we did no more than translate a phrase which appeared in an Al Jazeera report of Mr Sawalha’s speech. When Al Jazeera changed that phrase from “Evil Jew” to “Jewish Lobby”, we reported that fact, along with the statement that it had been a typographical error.
Mr Sawalha has been the prime mover in a number of Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood associated projects. He is President of the British Muslim Initiative. He is the past President of the Muslim Association of Britain. He was the founder of IslamExpo, and is registered as the holder of the IslamExpo domain name. He is also a trustee of the Finsbury Park Mosque….
…Mr Sawalha says that the attribution of the phrase “Evil Jew” to him implies that he is “anti-semitic and hateful”. Notably, he does not take issue with our reporting of the revelation, made in a Panorama documentary in 2006, that he is a senior activist in the clerical fascist terrorist organisation, Hamas.
It looks like Harry’s Place is going up against some pretty top-notch lawyers on this one, and they’ve got guts, but as the post goes on to say:
If Mr Sawalha persists in attempting to silence us with this desperate legal suit, we will need your help.
We won’t be able to stand up to them alone.
A blogburst has been started by the NeoConstant site, to get the word out that we won’t let members of Hamas or any radical terrorist group censor us or any of our fellow bloggers. Since that's a right of center site, they've gotten mainly right of center sites so far. I happy to begin tobalance that and encourage my fellow left of center bloggers to join us to support Harry's Place and freedom of the blog.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Jimmy LaFave, an Austin-based, folk-rock singer songwriter appeared at the Bartlett Arboretum,Sunday afternoon backed by a nice band and straight from the just-concluded Woody Guthrie festival in Okemah, Oklahoma.
I had read about LaFave, but hadn't really heard his music except, I think, at the Guthrie Festival several years ago. I've been hoping to make it back to Okemah, but it hasn't worked out. So when I read about the Sunday concert, it seemed like a good opportunity to indirectly support the festival (LeFave is a founder and serves on the board of directors) and the Arboretum.
Well, I think I'm a fan, now. The 12-year old I took enjoyed him and enthusiastically said yes. (We bought Texoma, which I'm enjoying now). On the road home, he asked when LaFave was going to play in Kansas again.
Here's a video of LaFave doing a Dylan tune, something he excels at.
BTW, you can help the Arboretum by voting on-line for for them to $25,000 grant to deal with sever flooding and erosion problems undermining both the Arboretum and area residents.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
On June 23, US Senate Jim Slattery meet with a group of union activists from the IAM and other unions to discuss his campaign. In this video, he makes an off-the-cuff summary of why he's running.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Five of the six Wichita area candidates for the Kansas Board of Education appeared at a forum on June 30 at Allison Middle School. Towards the end, they were asked about science standards (i.e., evolution vs. creationism.)
It's not always easy to tell where BOE candidates really stand. In the past, anti-evolution candidates have been elected to the KBOE through stealth campaigns.
Two candidates in the 8th district--Democrats Walt Chappell and Chalels Wiggins are clearly in favor of strong science-based science standards. Republican Dennis Hedke appears ambivalent.
In the 10th District, Democrat Paul Cassanova and Republican David Dennis are against imposing religious views on science instruction. Republican Marty Marshall skipped the forum.
Marshall and Hedke have both been endorsed by the Kansas Republican Assembly, which supports so-called intelligent design.
Friday, July 04, 2008
1. Essential Fourth of July Reading
Frederick Douglass' 1852 Independence Day speech (via Daily Kos)
2. Another Banner Controversy
Just two years after going ballistic over the national anthem being sung in Spanish, right-wing talk shows and xenophobic politicians like Tom Tancredo are all upset that at a meeting of the Denver city council "jazz singer Rene Marie sang the melody of Francis Scott Key’s "Star Spangled Banner" but used the lyrics of “Lift Ev'ry Voice in Praise,” written by poet James Weldon Johnson in 1900. The song is often described as the 'black national anthem.'"
Funny that Tancredo and his ilk never seems to get angry at the Confederate flag which is a real insult to American values.
Marie Renee is not the first to put new words to the Star Spangled Banner. During the Civil War, Oliver Wendell Holmes penned a new stanza
If a foe from within strikes a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that tries to defile
The flag of the stars, and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained,
Who their birthright have gained
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.
"Long May It Wave"--my blog on the Spanish anthem controversy
3. Be Patriotic, Defend the Constitution
John Nichols writes on the Nation's blog
advertisement in Thursday's New York Times that announced "A Declaration for Our Times" -- a variation on the Declaration of Independence that, in the spirit of the original document, rejects sacrifices of basic liberties in the name of security.Here's the link to the People's Campaign for the Constitution
The declaration is signed by 500 individual Americans and organizations -- including this writer -- the who pledge support for fully restoring Constitutional rights and human rights in a United States steered dangerously off course during the Bush interregnum.
The Declaration is part of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee's "People's Campaign for the Constitution," which has been launched to organize grassroots coalitions in communities across the country to demand that 2008 election candidates get serious about renewing rights that have been seriously undermined and threatened during the Bush-Cheney interregnum.
4. Message for Progressives, Democratic Lefists, Liberals: Take Back the Flag
Paul Slansky at Huffington Post
Of all the stupid things done by the anti-war crowd, the most gratuitously moronic was allowing the sanctimonious hypocrites of the right to co-opt the nation's most basic icon, its flag. The emblem of the country's highest aspirations was mindlessly ceded to the holier-than-thou zealots who used it as a bludgeon against the less fanatical.
Having unburdened itself of patriotism, the left proceeded over the years to also give away religion, national security and, finally, the elections themselves, but this devolution, into the pathetic puddle of unprincipled, acquiescent wimpiness that the Democrats have become, started with -- or rather, without -- the flag. It's hard to remember a presidential election in which that cavalier surrender hasn't exacted a serious price.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
I went to Merle Haggard's show at Wichita's Cotillion tonight. It was a little under a full sell-out, which was good since I bought my ticket at the door.
Merle is one of the true giants of American music. I was glad I went. It was my first live Merle show. A fellow at the next table said he had 17 Merle albums. I'm close to that--or more, but about half of mine are LPs I bought second hand after the beginning of the CD era. For a while, I went to lots of yard sales and flea markets. I was mainly looking for jazz, but if I found any Merle vinyl in decent shape I picked it up.
Merle has written some great tunes and the audience tonight knew the songs and the lyrics singing along to quite a few. Some of Merle's tunes are solidly in the country genre, but he's written a number that could and should become part of the American songbook. Someone like Kevin Mahogany could do a nice jazz treatment. The Merle Haggard Songbook should be up there alongside Gershwin and Porter.
I had hoped the Kansas City's Iris Dement might be the opening act, but she wasn't. Merle's son Noel did a warm-up set and after a brief intermission, it was time for the Merle show. A credible guy whose name I didn't catch let the Strangers through a mini-set of 3 or 4 tunes.. Then it was time for the master.
Merle opened with "Silver Wing." I didn't write down the set list, but I recall "Mama Tried," "Big City" "I Think I'll Stay Here and Drink" "Rainbow Stew" "I"m a Lonesome Fugitive" "Fighting Side of Me"
The Strangers is/are still an outstanding band. Merle is a great guitar player. And there are two other fine ones in the group. If I heard right one is a Haggard.
Only disappointment were that Merle didn't do an encore, didn't do "Working Man Blues" or any of his recent political songs. And I didn't like the selection of tee shirts on sale. The designs I like are at the on-line store.
Merle didn't come back for an encore, but he did say he was planning on coming back next year.
I'll plan on catching him again.
Here's a fine "Left Side of Merle" stanza from "Big City"
Been working everyday since I was twenty.
Haven't got a thing to show for anything I've done.
There's folks who never work and they've got plenty.
Think it's time some guys like me had some fun.
UPDATE July 3 5:30 PM. Eagle on-line review is here. That was Merle's youngest son, Ben, on guitar. The review is mostly okay, but contains a real howler. Jeffrey Lutz wrote Haggard "had played most of the chart-topping hits he has made famous during the last 40 years." Wikipedia has a list of 38 #1 hits.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
KS-Sen: Preliminary Q2 fundraising numbers in the Kansas Senate Race indicate that Democrat Jim Slattery raised over $500,000 in the quarter, next to $850,000 for incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.
For a Democratic candidate in Kansas, $500K is a pretty good haul for one quarter. Granted, Slattery is still in the hole in terms of cash-on-hand (Roberts has over $3.1 million).
Roberts is already on the air, and has plenty to spend, but Slattery is showing surprising resilience in a difficult red-state battle. I wouldn't be surprised if the national parties wind up spending in Kansas, at least a little bit.