Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Herb Ellis: Remembering a jazz guitar great

Herb EllisImage via Wikipedia
Herb Ellis, one of the great jazz guitarists in the post Charlie Christian, pre-fusion era died on Sunday.

He was perhaps most famous as part of the Oscar Peterson Trio and for jazz duets with fellow guitarist Joe Pass. Ellis was from Texas and retired to Arkansas.. He had a twangy blues drenched sound and swung like crazy.

Sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, I think, Ellis retired to Arkansas. He continued to play and record. I enjoyed his 1992 Texas Swings on the Justice label, which featured Western swing oriented jazz, including an appearance by Willie Nelson. But it is not my favorite Ellis. That might be Herb Ellis Meets jimmy Giuffre or Nothing But the Blues, which was Ellis' personal favorite.

Here's Herb playing with Barney Kessell, a contemporary who grew up in OKlahoma city and had a similar musical approach






















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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Two "Half the Sky" Items

Our Wichita DSA reading group discussed Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl DeWunn'a Half the Sky, a very valuable and eye-opening survey of the oppression and subjugation of women in the developing world. The book has some flaws, but no one can deny it is an eye opener.

Here are two items from my RSS reader.

1) Grab and Run Weddings in Kyrgyztan from the International Campaign Against Honor Killings, via Mick Hartley

Since Kyrgyzstan gained its independence in 1991, there has been a revival of the ancient practice of 'grab and run' weddings.

A third of all marriages in modern Kyrgyzstan are kidnaps. Typically, a man abducts his bride by force or deception, enlisting his family to break her resistance to the wedding through hours of persuasion. If successful, the next morning the bride will sit quietly in a curtained-off area wearing the traditional white wedding headscarf and an imam will be called in to marry the couple.

The Kyrgyz phrase ala kachuu describes this process – literally, it means "grab and run". Some brides are kidnapped by strangers, others by men they know. Some escape after violent ordeals, but most are persuaded to stay by tradition and fear of scandal. In Muslim Kyrgyzstan, where virginity is revered, a girl who has been kidnapped and then leaves is considered to be tainted. If her family refuses to allow her back home because of the shame, she has few options. With their purity in question after a night spent at a man's house, many women accept what they believe is their fate.

2)13-year old school girl refutes post-modernist apologist for women's oppression

Terry Glavin writes


Alaina Podmorow is 13 years old. She wrote this article in response to a masters' thesis by the University of British Columbia's Melanie Butler, Canadian women and the (re)production of women in Afghanistan, an eruption of "post-colonial feminist theory" that sets out to attack actually-existing feminists who do real work for their real, living sisters in Afghanistan.

A snippet of Podmorow: No one will ever tell me that Muslim or any women think it’s ok to not be allowed to get educated or to have their daughters sold off at 8 years old or traded off at 4 years old because of cultural beliefs. No one will tell me that women in Afghanistan think it is ok for their daughters to have acid thrown in their faces. It makes me ill to think a 4 year old girl must sleep in a barn and get raped daily by old men. It’s sick and wrong and I don’t care who calls me an Orientalist or whatever I will keep raising money to educate girls and women in Afghanistan and I will keep writing letters and sending them in the back pack of my friend Lauryn Oates as she works so bravely on the ground helping women and girls learn what it is to exercise their rights. I believe in human rights so I believe everyone has the right their own opinion, I just wish that the energy that was used to write that story, that is just not true, could have been used to educate a girl in Afghanistan. That’s what the girls truly want. That’s what the Women in Afghanistan truly want. I have a drawer full of letters from them that says just that.

Butler's thesis, which is sadly typical, could well have been produced by the software program Postmodernism Generator, which spews out random text from recursive grammars. Here's a snippet of Butler: In their bid to help Afghan women. . . some feminist groups have failed to distance themselves from the discursive mechanisms that manufacture consent for women’s oppression in the name of Empire. Building on Krista Hunt’s analysis of feminist complicity in the War on Terror (Hunt 2006), this essay draws attention to Canadian feminists’ role in (re)producing neo-imperialist narratives of Afghan women. Focusing specifically on the NGO Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), it shows how their use of feminist rhetoric and personal first-hand narratives, together with national narratives of Canada as a custodian of human rights, add to the productive power of the Orientalist tropes they invoke."

More on Alaina and her comrades here. How to support their work here.



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Things getting worse for Tiahrt

Swing State Project  reports

Things have gotten a little worse for Todd Tiahrt in his race against Jerry Moran in the GOP primary to succeed outgoing Sen. Sam Brownback: SUSA now shows Moran up 42-32. Two months ago, Moran led by seven points - and by just three two months before that. The Kansas primary is not until August 3rd, so Tiahrt still has time, but he doesn't seem to be gaining much traction.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Interesting report on Iraqi election

Martin Thomas of the UK-based left-wing group Alliance for Workers Liberty has an interesting analysis of the just concluded Iraqi election. It was written before the election results were reported, but it is still relevent. The last paragraph is especially important, in my opinion.

The left had no real presence. The Worker-communist Party of Iraq originally decided to stand - a welcome move, since we in the AWL had argued with them back in 2005 that they should contest the elections then - but then pulled out. The Iraqi Communist Party did stand more-or-less independently this time, rather than joining a coalition with bigger bourgeois forces as previously - but only "more or less" independently, since they presented themselves as the "People's Union", with no distinct working-class or socialist claim. I don't know their vote, but it is unlikely to have been big.

However, there was some political movement in the run-up to the elections, and some beginning of political differentiation as distinct from the jostling of communal blocs. All the main coalitions, apparently, were at pains to present themselves as non-sectarian, nationalist, and at least semi-secular.

Maliki represented a pro-Iranian orientation, Allawi a more Arabist orientation. I don't know how much the Iraqi National Alliance has rowed back from the Islamic Supreme Council's previous advocacy of a federalised Iraq, with a southern region having the same very large autonomy that the Kurdish north already has, but in the past that has been a key differentiation between them and Maliki, who claims to represent a more unified and centralised Iraq.

As far as I know, relations with the USA were not a big issue in the election. Nor was the continuing process of selling off to multinationals licences for shares in production in Iraq's oilfields.

But the "politics" in the election were a bit more like "politics", a bit less like straight communal-bloc haggling.
This does not mean that Iraq has achieved a stable (although limited and bourgeois) democracy, or that the 2003 invasion is vindicated. Between 2003 and now have come at least 100,000 civilian deaths. Each month dozens more are killed by Al-Qaeda-type bombings. Vast numbers have been maimed or forced to flee their homes. Iraqi society has been atomised and brutalised. Even the formalities of democracy are very shaky in Iraq.

Despite the Maliki government's repeated promises of a democratic labour law, the government still has to hand laws from the Saddam era which give it a legal basis for snuffing out Iraq's much-harassed new labour movement as soon as it feels strong enough to do that. Paradoxically, a "strengthening of democracy" in Iraq in the shape of a more solid political system, and a government with more credibility and authority, could well bring a rapid risk of the stifling in Iraq of the element of democracy most important for socialists, the ability of workers to organise and agitate independently.

The shifts in Iraq do, however, show that it is (and has been since 2003) important for socialists to agitate and organise on democratic issues within Iraq, rather than limiting themselves to denunciation of the USA. They reinforce the urgency of building international support for the Iraqi union movement's demand for a democratic labour law, codifying the right to organise and to strike

Founding Fathers Supported Obama Care

Paul J. O'Rourke has a dynamite column showing that the Republican claim that the Obama Health Care Reform is unprecedented and unconstitutional can't stand scrutiny. In 1789, the Congress passed and President John Adams signed a law mandating medical insurance for seamen. (ht: Jeff Weintraub)

Officials from 14 states have gone to court to block the historic overhaul of the U.S. health care system that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, arguing the law's requirement that individuals buy health insurance violates the Constitution.

Thirteen of those officials filed suit in a federal court in Pensacola, Florida, minutes after Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The complaint calls the act an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states" and asks a judge to block its enforcement.

"The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage," the lawsuit states.

The history lesson

In July, 1798, Congress passed, and President John Adams signed into law “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen,” authorizing the creation of a marine hospital service, and mandating privately employed sailors to purchase healthcare insurance,

This legislation also created America’s first payroll tax, as a ship’s owner was required to deduct 20 cents from each sailor’s monthly pay and forward those receipts to the service, which in turn provided injured sailors hospital care. Failure to pay or account properly was discouraged by requiring a law violating owner or ship's captain to pay a 100 dollar fine.

This historical fact demolishes claims of “unprecedented” and "The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty...”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reform immigration for America march and rally

Last Sunday, I attended the reform immigration for America march and rally in Washington, D.C.

I was too young to attend the 1963 March on Washington, so I didn't want to miss this one. I was glad to be able to be with a group from Wichita's Sunflower Community Action.


There was a huge crowd, estimates ranged from 200,000 to 500,000,
Reports in the days leading up the march said 50,000 to 100,000 were expected. Another report said that Obama adminsitration would not move on immigration reform if there were not more than 100,000 people.

There appeared to me be a considerable labor presence--from unions with large numbers of immigrant workers. SEIU had a large tent on the mall. A SEIU member told me that Chicago SEIU brought 5 buses. Overall, SEIU says it brought 5,000 members to the rally. There was also big contingents from UFCW, Unite Here, and a few other unions. Arlene Holt Baker, executive VP of the AFL-CIO spoke. She said good things, but she is not the dynamic speaker that Richard Trumka is.

NAACP leader Benjamin Jealous gave one of the first speeches and he was excellent, as was the leader of the Urban League. I was struck by the large number of African Americans on the grounds of the mall.

The involvement of churches and workers centers did a lot to secure a great turnout.

Here's a slide show of the photos I took.





Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alex Chilton RIP

Sad news, Alex Chilton lead singer for the Box Tops and leader of the influential, but not commercially successful Big Star.

Chilton was only 16 when the Box Tops'first single "The Letter," rocketed to the top of the charts in 1967, not only spending four weeks at number one but ending up as Billboard magazine's number one single of the year. I must have played the 45 of The Letter hundreds of times.  It's a classic. 


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I am still a big fan of blue-eyed soul and it makes me sad that, in many ways, American popular music is more segregated today than it was forty years ago. And, the few areas that are partial exceptions (rap)strike me as musical dreck. On the other hand, I guess I ought to remember that the Jackson 5 and the Osmonds are other, less inspiring, of the cross-ethnic music of the 1960s.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interesting analysis of Iraqi election

BAGHDAD, IRAQ, JANUARY 28:  An Iraqi Communist...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Martin Thomas of the UK-based left-wing group Alliance for Workers Liberty has an interesting analysis of the just concluded Iraqi election.  The last paragraph is especially important, in my opinion.





The left had no real presence. The Worker-communist Party of Iraq originally decided to stand - a welcome move, since we in the AWL had argued with them back in 2005 that they should contest the elections then - but then pulled out. The Iraqi Communist Party did stand more-or-less independently this time, rather than joining a coalition with bigger bourgeois forces as previously - but only "more or less" independently, since they presented themselves as the "People's Union", with no distinct working-class or socialist claim. I don't know their vote, but it is unlikely to have been big. [see Harry Barnes' posts on the history of the ICP here--nar]

However, there was some political movement in the run-up to the elections, and some beginning of political differentiation as distinct from the jostling of communal blocs. All the main coalitions, apparently, were at pains to present themselves as non-sectarian, nationalist, and at least semi-secular.




But the "politics" in the election were a bit more like "politics", a bit less like straight communal-bloc haggling.
This does not mean that Iraq has achieved a stable (although limited and bourgeois) democracy, or that the 2003 invasion is vindicated. Between 2003 and now have come at least 100,000 civilian deaths. Each month dozens more are killed by Al-Qaeda-type bombings. Vast numbers have been maimed or forced to flee their homes. Iraqi society has been atomised and brutalised. Even the formalities of democracy are very shaky in Iraq.

Despite the Maliki government's repeated promises of a democratic labour law, the government still has to hand laws from the Saddam era which give it a legal basis for snuffing out Iraq's much-harassed new labour movement as soon as it feels strong enough to do that. Paradoxically, a "strengthening of democracy" in Iraq in the shape of a more solid political system, and a government with more credibility and authority, could well bring a rapid risk of the stifling in Iraq of the element of democracy most important for socialists, the ability of workers to organise and agitate independently.

The shifts in Iraq do, however, show that it is (and has been since 2003) important for socialists to agitate and organise on democratic issues within Iraq, rather than limiting themselves to denunciation of the USA. They reinforce the urgency of building international support for the Iraqi union movement's demand for a democratic labour law, codifying the right to organise and to strike





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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Move-on members back health-reform bill 83-17%

John Nichols writes in the Nation

Eighty-three percent of MoveOn members say the organization should join the fight to pass the health reform bill being advanced by President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress, despite the fact that the measure falls short of the sort of reform for which the powerful progressive group had campaigned.

That's an important message for Obama and the Democrats, who will need strong support from progressive activists during the final push to pass reform legislation -- and during the 2010 election cycle when much of the political debate will continue to focus on questions of how best to address issues of health-care access and cost.

The MoveOn result means that one of the savviest and most effective progressive organizations in the country will be a part of that process.


Also,

MoveOn announced the vote earlier this week, when the online activist community, which played such a critical role in building opposition to the Bush administration and in paving the way for its replacement by the Obama administration, asked members to weigh in on whether they now support President Obama's final push for health-care reform.

The MoveOn "team" admitted in an email to the group's roughly 5 million members that Obama's proposal is "definitely not the bill most of us hoped for at the start of this fight." But, they added, "it does do some important things."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Glenn Beck Attacks Me




Not really, this cool viral is from MoveOn.org Civic Action, Brave New Films, and the Service Employees International Union.
Don't worry: This video and site are fictional and satirical.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Marc Cooper on Kucinich

Dennis Kucinich has announced that he will vote against the health reform bill, even if he is the decisive vote. Marc Cooper nails what is wrong with this position and with Kucinich's politics.


...in Congress... we have the ultimate zero-sum equation. There are no choices except up or down, yes or no. If you don't vote for a bill, you are voting against it. Period. You are not taking a third position by opposing a less than perfect reform. You are literally joining forces with all of its opponents.

I have always been skeptical of Kucinich not because he is too far left. But because he is too far detached from effective politics. I saw his primary "campaign" up close and personal in Iowa in 2004 -- the ultimate venue for ground-level retail politics-- and he did virtually nothing. Late in the game, he hired a single staffer for the entire state. The point being he squandered the energy and political capital invested in him by naive supporters. I can honestly say he did little, nay, he did nothing to build any movement out of his campaign other than to move his face in front of the cameras of the televised debates.

Here we go again. We now have a black and white choice. Either we pass a flawed health care bill that provides access to private insurance for 30 million Americans without it. Or we do nothing. And in so doing, let the Republicans pick up another 15 or 20 seats beyond the 25 or so they are already destined to win in November.

Dennis Kucinich is no Ralph Nader. He might as well be another John Boehner.

Walzer and Geras Disagree

Michael Walzer and Norm Geras are two important thinkers on the democratic left. Today, Norm writes

It's a rare day. I just read something by Michael Walzer with which I don't agree. It concerns his attitude to world citizenship

Walzer's original is here.



Saturday, March 06, 2010

Flaming Enchirito: progressive & blog on posterous

I just came across and added to the New Appeal to Reason blog roll and to my Google's Reader, Flaming Enchirito a blog by my friend Kiley Hernandez, who used to live in Wichita but now works for the national machinists union (IAM).

There's lot of good content there, though I am not a fan of white text on a black background. (I must confess that one of the fist website I build used that theme. I'm not

For those web geeks out there, Kiley is using Posterous, a new blogging plus tool that looks extremely promising. Even if you are happy with Blogger.com or Wordpress.com, you may want to take a look at Posterous, it has some tools that can be used with the more established blogging platforms. I've done a test of Posterous along with some friends and I think it has great potential.

Eric Lee, founder of LabourStart, recommends Posterous as a a flexible and powerful tool for union campaigns.



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Monday, March 01, 2010

Kos on Kansas Gov race

An item in Daily Kos is interesting.

KS-Gov: Brownback Holds Early Lead To Flip Kansas for GOP

With outgoing Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson electing not to seek re-election, the GOP has been a heavy favorite throughout to claim the governor's mansion, propelled by popular Senator Sam Brownback's decision to trade in his Senate ID for the title of Governor. In that context, this Rasmussen poll is actually a touch underwhelming for the GOP. Brownback enjoys a solid lead over relatively new Democratic candidate Steve [sic] Holland, but Brownback is held to just 55% of the vote in doing so (55-33). Holland is a little-known state legislator, and his numbers are bound to improve somewhat as he actually forges a campaign. In a "what might have been" data point for the Dems, Governor Parkinson actually has (in this environment) extraordinarily high job approval. Indeed, his 58/34 approval spread is equal to the favorabilities for Brownback.