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