Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Books of 2011

It's the time of the year for "top " lists:  Russell Arben Fox's most intellectually stimulating books, Norm Geras presents 12 books he won't be reading in 2012 topping Keiran Healey's list of books not read in 2011, Salon's best tv episodes, Dave Adler's top jazz picks, Rolling Stone's top 50 albums, and many competing political gaffes lists.

Like last year, I've come up with a list of my top 10 books of 2010. The listing is not a a rank listing.

  1.  John Nichols, The "S" Word: A Short History of an American Tradition...Socialism

    Nichols has written a persuasive case that socialism is as American as apple pie.  From the forgotten radical economics of founding father Thomas Paine and the utopian socialists who founded the Republican Party to Victor Berger, the socialist Congressman from Milwaukee, who opposed WWI to Michael Harrington it is a great read.

    The subtitle is a little misleading.  Nichols leaves out some important topics that even a short history should contain: the Populist movement of the 1890s and the most successful Socialist Party of the Debs era--the Oklahoma socialists, discussed brilliantly in Jim Bissett's Agrarian Socialism in America: Marx, Jefferson, and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904-1920.

  2. John Quiggin, Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us  

    A prolific Australian social democratic economist takes on influential, but dead wrong economic ideas.  Be aware that there is another book out with the ZE title and be advised that the forthcoming paperback edition will contain an extra chapter refuting austerity economics. 

    From the coverslip:

    Killing vampires and werewolves is easy enough. But how does one slay economic zombies--ideas that should have died long ago but still shamble forward? Armed with nothing but the truth, John Quiggin sets about dispatching these dead ideas once and for all in this engaging book. Zombie Economics should be required reading for those who would dare reanimate the economic theories that brought us to the edge of ruin."--Brad DeLong, University of California, Berkeley.

  3.  Joe Burns, Reviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America

    Carl Finamore reviewed it on Talking Union
    a valuable contribution to resurrecting fundamental lessons from the neglected history of American labor.
    As the title suggests and as he emphasized to me, “the only way we can revive the labor movement is to revive a strike based on the traditional tactics of the labor movement.”

    But he doesn’t stop there. The author reviews for the reader the full range of tactics and strategy during the exciting, turbulent and often violent history of American labor.Refreshingly, he also provides critical assessments normally avoided by labor analysts of a whole series of union tactics that have grown enormously popular over the last several decades.

  4. Jay Walljasper,  All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons

    Walljasper is a former editor of UTNE Reader and this book is written (compiled, might be more accurate) in a similar style. There are lots of sidebars, interviews and the like.

  5. Louisa Thomas Conscience Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family--a Test of Will and Faith in World War I

     Even though I've read two biographies of Norman Thomas, this book by Thomas's great-granddaughter greatly added to my knowledge and appreciation of Thomas.  

    Alan Riding's review in the New York Times seems on the mark

    Louisa Thomas, who never knew her great-­grandfather, might well have chosen to write his biography as a way of meeting him. Instead, in her first book, “Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family — A Test of Will and Faith in World War I,” she has been far more daring. In fact, the lengthy subtitle is a bit misleading. Yes, Norman and his brother Evan were pacifists and their brothers Ralph and Arthur joined the Army. And yes, Evan was jailed as a conscientious objector and Ralph was wounded in the trenches. Yet the thrust of this enthralling book lies with its title: through the experience of her forebears, Thomas examines how conscience fares when society considers it subversive.

    At issue is not Norman Thomas’s socialism: it barely enters the picture because he joined the Socialist Party only a month before the end of the war. Instead, we are shown the “making” of a socialist, formed not by Marx but by the Bible.
    Also recommended is Mark Johnson's review and interview of Louisa Thomas on the Fellowship of Reconciliation blog.
  6. David James Smith, Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years

    This biography covers Nelson Mandela's early years up to his imprisonment in 1964.  Smith's discussion of Mandela's private life seems to depend too much on suppositions and speculation.  What is interesting to me is the ANC's move from non-violence to armed struggle and the close, working relationship between the ANC and the South African Communist Party.

  7. Bruce Watson, Freedom Summer
  8. Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice  

     Two outstanding books on critical episodes in the civil rights movement: the 1961 Freedom Rides to confront the segregation of interstate bus terminals and the 1964 Freedom Summer to register  African Americans in Mississippi.  Watson is the author of an excellent book on Sacco and Vanzetti (which I have read) and one on the 1912 Bread and Roses strike. Aresensault's book is a long one, but there  is an abridged version and a DVD of the PBS documentary based on it.

    9.   Philip Dray, There is Power in the Union

     I bought this at the bookstore at the 2011 Netroots nation and found that it lives up to its subtitle "Epic Story of Labor in America." It is now out in paperback.    There are other recent general  histories of US labor (Mel Dubofsky's Labor in America: A History and Nelson Lichtenstein's 2003 State of the Union: A Century of American Labor, A.B. Chitty's 2002 From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend, and the 2007 two-volume Who Built America).  They might be preferred by academics or labor studies professionals, but for the general reader, union activist, or occupier, There is Power in the Union is highly recommended.

    10. Barbara Clark Smith, The Freedoms We Lost:Consent and Resistance in Revolutionary America

    This is an eye-opening study of the real-life freedoms in revolutionary America. In a post on the History News Network, Smith brings out the huge differences between today's Tea Party and the original. If you find that post  intriguing, you might want to check out the book.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ron Paul

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck # 9

The influential bluesman Charles Brown sang two Christmas classics--"Please Come Home for Christmas" and "Merry, Christmas Baby."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck #8

Amos Milburn "Christmas Comes But Once a Year." Recorded in 1960 on King Records as the "b" side to a cover of Charles Brown's "Please Come Home for Christmas."

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck #7

Miles Davis and Bob Dorough "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)"

In 1962, the brass at Columbia Records wanted to include a selection by Miles Davis in a Jingle Bell Jazz holiday compilation album.

Miles turned to the singer, pianist, and songwriter Bob Dorough, who would later write many songs for Schoolhouse Rock.

Blue Xmas has been described as the Christmas song for everyone who hates Christmas or the excess of Christmas.

"When you're blue at Xmas time
You see through all the waste
All the sham, all the haste
And plain old bad taste
It's a time when the greedy
give a dime to the needy."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck # 6

Merle Haggard's "If We Make It Through December" is one of the Hag's great songs. It describes the too common real holiday experience of too many Americans--when the lack of a paycheck or an insufficient paycheck puts the gift-giving and holiday festivities out of reach. Not only is this remarkable song far different than the usual holiday fare, it was a hit, topping Billboard's country chart for four weeks in December 1973 and January 1974, and ranking number two in the 1974 year-end chart.

Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck # 5 says of Canadian singer Holly Cole "her smoky voice is sultry, yet she's ironically humorous and candid while reshaping traditional standards and pop classics. Jazz is her bedrock, but not exclusively." She has recorded two holiday CDs that are well worth a listen: Santa Baby,Live in Toronto and Baby, It's Cold Outside.

There's a video of Cole doing "Santa, Baby" from the Toronto show. The 1953 song was co-written by Joan Javits, the niece of Sen. Jacob Javits and a huge hit for Ertha Kitt. It has been covered by many, many artists. Cole's version is one that doesn't suck.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck #4

Charlie Parker "White Christmas" Kenny Dorham (tp) Charlie Parker (as) Al Haig (p) Tommy Potter (b) Max Roach (ds) Recorded at "Royal Roost", NYC, December 25, 1948

Worth reading

Russell Fox say Time got the person of the year right

Lawrence Guloyta's review of Manning Marable's Malcolm X biography discusses the relationship between Malcolm and African-American democratic socialists like A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.

Michael Berube. the Left and Libya

With Sober Sense (Marxist-Humanist Initiative) Beware of Leftist Anti-Semitism

Mark Engler analyzes military spending as a jobs program and finds it lacking.

         It is a good piece but I wish that in addition to discussing Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy, Michael Kalekci, and Seymour Melman, the early contributions of third camp socialist T.N. Vance/Walter Oaks to the theory of the permanent arms economy had been mentioned.

Jonathon Bernstein at Political Animal on the end of the Iraq War

the war ended because citizens, acting mainly through the Democratic Party, ended it. Democratic Party actors - activists, policy specialists, politicians, campaign operatives, and eventually just about everyone, many of whom were not politically active before the war - made it clear that a pro-war candidate could not be safely nominated, eventually, for any federal office. And the other point is that it took just forever to get that done, and it was never certain; had the economy boomed the Republicans might well have won in 2008. Is that undemocratic, given that the war polled badly for some time? I’d argue no: after all, at no time did a solid majority of all voters not only oppose the war but consider it a high priority, a critical voting issue. In those situations, it’s never quite clear that there is only one clearly democratic policy outcome. Instead, what we get are a wide variety of possible legitimate democratic outcomes. And what matters is which set of people care enough to try to get it done, and then are successful enough at politics that they can eventually get their preferred outcome.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck #3

Denise LaSalle "Santa's Got the Christmas Blues"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck #2

Louis Armstrong, "Zat You, Santa Claus?" This tune has been covered by lots of folks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck #1

There is lots of Christmas and holiday music that sucks.  Sacchrin, commercial, routine are adjectives that frequently apply. . Even great artists too often make terrible Christmas albums.  Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart is my pick for the most most disappointing holiday album, though Aretha Franklin's This Christmas is another recent effort that fell short.

On the other hand, there are lots of bargain holiday CDs in the stores and I have found some enjoyable CDs after a patient search.  For 2011, I'm doing some searching on You Tube.  I'll share some of my faves in the coming days.

I'm starting with a group I had never heard of--The Sonics, a 1960s Seattle garage band, contemporaries of The Kingsmen, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and others, and a influence on NIrvana and the White Stripes.

"I Don't Believe in Christmas" is a take off of Chuck Berry's Too Much Monkey Business., which was the source for Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues

Saturday, December 10, 2011

“The New Nationalism” Theodore Roosevelt

Speech in Osawatomie, Kansas
August 31, 1910

Theodore Roosevelt at Osawatomie, August 31, 1910
We come here to-day to commemorate one of the epoch-making events of the long struggle for the rights of man—the long struggle for the uplift of humanity. Our country—this great republic—means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy, the triumph of popular government, and, in the long run, of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him. That is why the history of America is now the central feature of the history of the world; for the world has set its face hopefully toward our democracy; and, O my fellow citizens, each one of you carries on your shoulders not only the burden of doing well for the sake of your own country, but the burden of doing well and of seeing that this nation does well for the sake of mankind.

There have been two great crises in our country’s history: first, when it was formed, and then, again, when it was it was perpetuated; and, in the second of these great crises—in the time of stress and strain which culminated in the Civil War, on the outcome of which depended the justification of what had been done earlier, you men of the Grand Army, you men who fought through the Civil War, not only did you justify your generation, not only did you render life worth living for our generation, but you justified the wisdom of Washington and Washington’s colleagues. If this republic had been founded by them only to be split asunder into fragments when the strain came, then the judgment of the world would have been that Washington’s work was not worth doing. It was you who crowned Washington’s work, as you carried to achievement the high purpose of Abraham Lincoln.

Now, with this second period of our history the name of John Brown will be forever associated; and Kansas was the theater upon which the first act of the second of our great national life dramas was played. It was the result of the struggle in Kansas which determined that our country should be in deed as well as in name devoted to both union and freedom; that the experiment of democratic government on a national scale should succeed and not fail. In name we had the Declaration of Independence in 1776; but we gave the lie by our acts to the words of the Declaration of Independence until 1865; and words count for nothing except in so far as they represent act. This is true everywhere; but, O my friends, it should be truest of all in political life. A broken promise is bad enough in private life. It is worse in the field of politics. No man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election; and, if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it, hunt him out of public life. I care for the great deeds of the past chiefly as spurs to drive us onward in the present. I speak of the men of the past partly that they may be honored by our praise of them, but more that they may serve as examples for the future.

Blues on a Saturday: Leon Russell "Big Boss Man"

A classic Jimmy Reed song performed in the early 1970s by Leon Russell and friends.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Muddy Waters Long Distance Call

Now that the holidays and my holiday music that doesn't suck series is over, it is time to resume blues on a Saturday. Here is Muddy Waters backed by Junior Wells on harmonica, Pinetop Perkins on piano, and Michael Bloomfield on guitar. The tune is Muddy's "Long Distance Call" . My favorite version of the song is on the 1969 Fathers and Sons album. I got it the same day as the Beatles' White Album. Played them back to back. Last day I was a rock fan.

Blues on a Saturday: B.B. King:

Here's a very nice solo by the master.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

I'm Going to Marry a Corporation

Lyrics © by Barbara Joye Music and guitar accompaniment by Reid Jenkins Vocal by Atlanta country diva Anita Paycheck

What is the occupy movement about? The numbers

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Shame on the Chamber

An impromptu song at a counter event to the Nov 3 2011 Wichita Chamber of Commerce bringing George W. Bush in as a keynote speaker for its annual meeting. Secret contributors paid for Bush's reported $100,000 fee. The Wichita Chamber promotes the interests of big corporations over those of workers and small and medium businesses.

Blues on a Saturday: James Cotton "Slow Blues

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Mitt Romney's America

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

"Thank you Crooks and Liars" from Wichita Zombie Crawl

On Monday (October 31, 2011) activists from Sunflower Community Action and Occupy Wichita had a Zombie Crawl to protest Wells-Fargo's involvement in pay-day lending, promoting private prisons, and funding anti-immigrant candidates. The march began right on time, a rarity, and I missed it, While many parents left with their kids to do neighborhood trick-and-treating, some folks hung around. The website Crooks and Liars donated pizzas from Nolla's Pizza and I captured the occupier's thanks.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Goldman Sachs Letter on Occupy Wall Street

Dear Investor:

Up until now, Goldman Sachs has been silent on the subject of the protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street. That does not mean, however, that it has not been very much on our minds. As thousands have gathered in Lower Manhattan, passionately expressing their deep discontent with the status quo, we have taken note of these protests. And we have asked ourselves this question:

How can we make money off them?

The answer is the newly launched Goldman Sachs Global Rage Fund, whose investment objective is to monetize the Occupy Wall Street protests as they spread around the world. At Goldman, we recognize that the capitalist system as we know it is circling the drain – but there’s plenty of money to be made on the way down.

The Rage Fund will seek out opportunities to invest in products that are poised to benefit from the spreading protests, from police batons and barricades to stun guns and forehead bandages. Furthermore, as clashes between police and protesters turn ever more violent, we are making significant bets on companies that manufacture replacements for broken windows and overturned cars, as well as the raw materials necessary for the construction and incineration of effigies.

It would be tempting, at a time like this, to say “Let them eat cake.” But at Goldman, we are actively seeking to corner the market in cake futures. We project that through our aggressive market manipulation, the price of a piece of cake will quadruple by the end of 2011.

Please contact your Goldman representative for a full prospectus. As the world descends into a Darwinian free-for-all, the Goldman Sachs Rage Fund is a great way to tell the protesters, “Occupy this.”

We haven’t felt so good about something we’ve sold since our souls.


Lloyd Blankfein
Chairman, Goldman Sachs

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blues a Saturday: John Lee Hooker Boom, Boom!

This is from the mid-1960s in the UK. Not everyone seems to know how to dance to John Lee Hooker.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Jammin' the Blues

A 1944 short film, nominated for an Acadmey Award and decades later selected for the National Film Registry Musicians include Lester Young (tenor sax) , Harry Sweets Edison (trumpet) and Barney Kessl (guitar), Illinois Jacques (tenor sax). This was a a project of Norman Granz, a leading jazz concert and record producer. Granz was a very committed advocate for integration in an era when that took some gut.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: William Clarke "Trying to Stretch My Dollars"

Blues on a Saturday: T-Bone Walker with Jazz at the Philharmonic

This is rare, unexpected setting for bluesman T-bone Walker, one of the first electric guitarists and a big influence on B.B. King and an entire generation of bluesmen. This is from 1966 BBC broadcast of a "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert. JATP was series of jazz concerts and tours organized by Norman Granz from 1944-1983.

Occuppy Wichita October 15: photo slideshow

Here are photos from today's Occupy Wichita action. There may be some video in a few days. If last week's theme was unions support the occupy movement, this week was Move-On and Van Jones' Rebuild the Dream movement. Of course, there were labor people there today, and Mo-on folks last Saturday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Wichita October 8, 2011

It was a rainy Saturday in Wichita on October 8, but there was still a decent turnout for the Occupy Wichita event on E. Douglass. There were about 50 to 80 people there. Perhaps a little more than the previous Sunday. The crowd fell short of the 500 that some of the OW activists were hoping for. But itw as a spirited gathering. It didn't seem to be just the same people as on Sunday. For one thing, there were a number of union folks present, from the SEIU, IAM, APWU, IBEW, and Teamsters. Also members of Move-on, Wichita Democratic Socialists, Sunflower Community Action, and the Tequila Party.

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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Occupy Wichita October 8

The Occupy movement continues in Wichita as it expands nationally. There is small group meeting nightly, but today there was an effort ot get a larger turnout. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day.

A broader group of participants, including folks from the labor movement. I saw people from the APWU, IAM, IBEW, SEIU, and Teamsters.

There is still a lot that needs to be done if the movement is to be broadened and deepened. I may have some good video interviews, but they will need to be edited. In the meantime, here is a photo slideshow. 

Blues on a Saturday: (Various) Let's Go Get Stoned

Bet you didn't know the low-down, drinking song "Let's Go Get Stoned," a number 1r&b hit for Ray Charles in 1966 was written by the Motown team of Ashford and Simspon? I didn't and the song has been a favorite of mine since I heard it on the radio not long after it came out. And I didn't know it was a hit first for the Coasters, though that version didn't get much play on white radio stations. It has become an often covered song. We'll start with a live version by the Derek Trucks band and follow it with Charles, the Coasters, and Big Mama Thornton. I'm not including Joe Cocker's version, which is already too famous.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Occupy Wichita

Events in support of the Wall Street Occupation have spread across the country. Even Wichita.

There was a rally of sorts Sunday in downtown Wichita with perhaps fifty attending.

There were a few of us from Wichita Democratic Socialists of America there, getting signatures for Congressman John Conyers full employment bill.

I didn't stay for all of the general assembly, but I understand there is going to an effort to form something ongoing.

Locally, as nationally, real success will depend on linking up the young (and no so young) activists of the occupy moment with unions, progressive groups, community organizations and the like..

Here's a little video, I put together.

And, here is a photo slide show.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: LIncoln Center Jazz Orchestra "Back to Basics"

 The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra gave a great performance Wednesday night at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita.  There was a near-sold out crowd. This is third time I've heard Wynton live in person and he has universally given fine performances.  The rest of the band was outstanding. 

Som other notable jazz events coming up in Wichita. October 8 Craig Owens and the Bodo Ensemble at the Fishchuas (524 S. Commerce St.)--free. October 23 Joe Lovano and Us 5 at Abode Vision. Tickets are $60 ad $100 but they come with lots of perks. Tickets are limited to 150 and 100, but come with lots of perks. There is no guarantees in jazz, but this should be great.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


woman holding To the People of Syria: 

We were profoundly saddened to learn of the tragic death of Ghiyath Mattar, a 26-year old non-violent activist who inspired his fellow Syrians in their struggle against the cruel repression of the Assad government. We send our deepest condolences to you and to Mattar’s friends and family, in particular to his widow, who is expecting a child.
Mattar was murdered after being arrested on September 6, and when his body was returned to his family on September 10 it showed massive bruising and other signs of horrible torture. According to Amnesty International, this brings the total number of reported deaths in detention in Syria since April to more than 90, and heightens concern for four other activists from the Damascus suburb of Daraya who were detained at the same time as Mattar and who are at grave risk: Yahya Shurbaji and his brother Ma’an Shurbaji, Mohamed Tayseer Khoulani and Mazen Zyadeh. All four have been held incommunicado at an unknown location since their arrest.
We want you to know that you are not alone. People around the world have been moved by your determined fight for justice and elementary democratic rights, by your refusal to end your protests despite the brutal violence rained upon you and the arrests of thousands of protesters. As peace activists in the United States, we are writing to express our solidarity with your inspiring struggle. We do not support military intervention in Syria by our government or NATO because we know too well the history of such interventions, made in the name of democracy but actually bolstering Western power rather than popular movements for freedom
We wish you success in your courageous resistance to tyranny. Below is the letter of protest we have faxed to President Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu’allim.
In peace and solidarity,
Joanne Landy Thomas Harrison
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
New York, NY, USA
President Bashar al-Assad
Presidential Palace
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 3410
Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 214 6251
Dear President Bashar al-Assad and Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim,
We are peace activists from the United States, and we write to express our horror and outrage at the reported death in custody of the non-violent activist Ghayath Mattar. We call for an immediate independent investigation of the cause and circumstances of his death and for those responsible to be brought to justice.
We protest the continuing detention of Yahya Shurbaji, Ma’an Shurbaji, Mazen Zyadeh and Mohamed Tayseer Khoulani and urge your government to immediately disclose their whereabouts in detention, allow them immediate access to their families, lawyers and any medical care they need, and to protect them against possible torture or other ill-treatment. These prisoners should be released from custody.
Beyond these particular cases, we call for an immediate end to the mass arrests, the release of all of those detained for exercising their basic democratic right to protest, and the violence and killings your government has inflicted on Syrians fighting for their elementary freedoms.
Joanne Landy Thomas Harrison
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
New York, NY, USA
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MeretzUSA (Partnrs for Progressive Israel) on Palestinian Statehood Bid

On Sunday, September 18, 2011, Partners for Progressive Israel (Meretz USA) President Dina B. Charnin, Chair Theodore Bikel, and Executive Director Ron Skolnik issued the following statement on behalf of the organization:

The Palestinian decision to advance their statehood drive via the United Nations, and outside the framework of negotiations with Israel, is a diplomatic turning point that creates risks but also offers new openings for progress toward peace. For the benefit of both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, we urge the government of Israel to focus on the positive elements we expect to be contained in the Palestinian request, as outlined below, and to refrain from precipitous responses that would escalate tension and serve the agenda of both sides' extremists. Such responses, hinted at in the press, would include a decision to annex West Bank territory, the annulment by Israel of current Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and the easing of rules of engagement to allow live fire to be directed at unarmed Palestinian protesters.
The unilateral Palestinian application for full UN membership is not a development we hoped for when the peace process began. More than anything, it represents the failure of that process to produce a mutually satisfactory outcome, 18 years after the first Oslo agreement was signed and more than a dozen years after a final-status agreement was supposed to have been reached to end the occupation.
We regard the current move by Palestinian President Abbas as an act of desperation, brought on in large part by the Netanyahu government's refusal to resume negotiations where they left off under the government of Ehud Olmert, and to negotiate seriously on the basis of the 1967 lines, adjusted by mutually agreed territorial swaps.

Over the last two decades, and more, governments, organizations and individuals on both sides committed actions that were counterproductive to the spirit of compromise and reconciliation. Acts of terror and the indiscriminate killing of civilians were foremost among these. But the failure of negotiations was also brought on by other factors, including the expansion of Israeli settlements and a rhetoric of intolerance on both sides that has dismissed the other's historical narrative and legitimate national aspirations. 

Regardless of whether or not the Palestinian application at the UN is approved, it will not replace the need for a bilateral Israeli-Palestinian accord, and Israelis and Palestinians will still have to learn to live alongside one another in peace and security. We therefore urge the government of Israel to embrace the positive elements that we hope and expect the Palestinian request to contain:

  1.  Non-violence: The Palestinian application is a diplomatic gambit, not a military offensive. It is imperative that this be the playing field on which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. 
  2. Two-state solution reinforced: By referring to the 1967 lines as the basis for their state, we expect that the Palestinian application will reinforce the concept of the two-state solution, and weaken the idea, promoted by each side's extreme elements, that one side or the other should dominate the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. 
  3. Recognition of Jewish rights to statehood: By hopefully incorporating a reference to UN General Assembly resolution 181, the international basis for Israel's creation, the Palestinian move could serve to implicitly recognize the Jewish people's right to national self-determination and statehood.
  4. The 1967 lines will not be the final borders: We expect the Palestinian application to indicate that the pre-war 1967 lines will be adjusted in subsequent negotiations with Israel to take into account Israel's security needs and some of the demographic results of its settlement policy.

Should the Palestinians go forward with their application to the UN, we urge President Abbas and his government to include these elements in their proposal - 1) Non-Violence, 2) A Two-State Solution, 3) Reference to the UN partition plan, 4) Final border based on the 1967 lines with negotiated land swaps - and to continue expressing their readiness for renewed peace talks with Israel. We urge Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government not to waste time, and to engage with the representatives of the Palestinian people on the basis of these principles.

While we believe the tactic of seeking UN affirmation of a Palestinian state outside the framework of direct negotiations is far from ideal, approval of a Palestinian request containing the elements noted above could have two positive outcomes for future negotiations. By elevating Palestine to the level of a state, it will reduce (though not eliminate) the asymmetry of power between Israel and the Palestinians that has complicated the process to date. It will also determine the general territorial outline of the conflict's resolution. These two outcomes will allow Israel and Palestine to recommence negotiations from a more productive baseline, and be better positioned to utilize the accepted tools of statecraft to engage with one another constructively.

Palestinian moves at the UN will not bring peace or end the occupation on their own. If handled properly, however, they can serve as the basis for a reenergized and revamped diplomatic process with the potential for resolving the conflict on a bilateral basis.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Eric Clapton "Groaning the Blues"

Here is Eric Clapton with a nice version of Otis Rush's classic "Groaning the Blues>" Pay attention to the discrete,but effective horns. Nowadays, I find myself often preferring the original blues to the more contemporary covers. Here is Rush's version from the classic 1957 Cobra sessions.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rob Boston on Church and State issues at Wichita UA annual meeting

Rob Boston of the national AU (Americans United for Separation of Church and State) was the featured speaker at the Sept 16 annual meeting of the Great Plains AU, the Wichita chapter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

International Protests to Save North Korean refugees

From the North Korea Freedom Coalition (via via)

Wherever you are in the world on Thursday, September 22, 2011, please join the International Protest to Save North Korean Refugees slated for 12:00 noon by participating with one of the thirteen countries and twenty-four cities where events will occur. Country and city coordinators are delivering petitions at 12:00 noon to the Chinese embassies calling upon them to end their policy of forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees back to North Korea to face torture, imprisonment and even public execution.

We are simply calling upon China to abide by its international treaty commitments and allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to be able to carry out their mission to help refugees. China's policy has caused this crisis and led to these refugees to be in extreme danger while threatening to arrest and jail those who try to help them
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

4 posts and 2 videos for the Democratic Left

Pablo Velasco takes down a "sophisticated apology" for Castroism's repression of workers.

Scott Keyes on seven progressive policies that make the NFL America's favorite sport by promoting quality, fairness, and diversity, while the loony conservapedia laments  that soccer is socialist

Michael Stephens on infrastructure and free lunches on Multiplier Effects, the blog of the Levy Institute

Numerous studies indicate that the US needs to make $2 trillion worth of necessary repairs to its roads, bridges, and sewage systems.

The key word here is “necessary.”  The issue is not whether to invest $2 trillion to make these necessary repairs.  Unless we decide that we want to return to dirt roads the only question is when.  Right now we are well below full employment (with serious unemployment in the construction sector), and borrowing costs are not just low by historical standards, but comically low—negative real yield territory.  The federal government is being paid to borrow money.

These conditions won’t always hold.  Borrowing to invest in infrastructure, right now, is about as close to a free lunch as you can get.

John Quiggen on Socialized Health care as a feasible utopia

Two videos, each about 1.5 hours worth watching.

"Historical Treatment of the Rosenberg Case" was a panel of the conference "The Rosenberg Case, Soviet Espionage, and the Cold War," sponsored by the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies and George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.

"The Rosenberg Case and the Historiography of Soviet Espionage in America" A panel of historians and professors examined the effects that Soviet spies had on the American public's mentality and on history itself. .

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Hound Dog Taylor and Little Walter

 Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers featuring Little Walter on harmonica in 1967, about a year before Walter's death.

When Delmark Records shipping clerk Bruce Iglauer couldn't convince his boss to record Taylor, he launched Alligator Records.

And there's a Kansas angle. Bob Koester, the owner of Delmark Records and the Jazz Record Mart, was born and grew up in Wichita.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Democratic Left Roundup

Steve Hendrix, Bayard Rustin, organizer of the March on Washington, was crucial to the movement

for hundreds of civil rights veterans, Aug. 28 will also always be Bayard’s Day, the crowning achievement of one of the movement’s most effective, and unconventional, activists.

Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes & Ronald Radosh “Childs at Play: The FBI's Cold War triumph”

A piece from the Weekly Standard won't often make a my recommended list, but here three expert scholars analyze new revelations from  declassified FBI files about the CPUSA. In the 1950s and 1960s, the FBI had informers in the very highest echelon of the American Communist Party. 

Paul Berman, "Do Ideas Matter: From September 11 to the Arab Spring.

An interesting analysis, but no discussion of independent workers' movements in the Arab Spring.

Sacha Ismail, Atrocities by the Libyan rebels? Some consistency, please!

The reality is that those using the facts of racism and atrocities by the Libyan rebels to justify their hostility to the Libyan revolution are generally not too concerned about the records of those they support. Repression and atrocities of all sorts can be justified or ignored if they fit into the “anti-imperialist” world schema. It is perfectly possible, of course, to raise issues such as racism among the Libyan rebels in good faith - as this article attempts to do. But they are being highlighted by pro-Qaddafi "anti-imperialists" primarily because of the rebels' alliance with NATO, and in order to whitewash Qaddafi.
Jake Blumgart, 4 ways government policy favors the rich and keeps the rest of us poor

James Bloodworth, CUBA: A Paradise of Sexual Tourism 
Since the early years of the Cuban revolution, the government claimed as one of its shining achievements the elimination of prostitution. In reality of course, it lingered on; but through the provision of job opportunities and training for former prostitutes, the revolution did go a substantial way to eliminating the sex trade relative to its documented abundance during the pre-revolutionary era.

Spending time in Cuba in 2011, one cannot but be alarmed by the frequency one notices young Cubans, often no more than 14 or 15 years old, fraternising with European and Canadian tourists of a certain age. Disturbingly, this hustling or "jineterismo" of foreigners often camouflages a more basic sex-for-cash transaction.

Juan Cole on 10 myths about the Libyan War 

Angelo Lopez ,Non-Marxist Critiques of the Capitalist System

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Louis Armstrong "West End Blues"

It has beena little over 110 years since the birth of Louis Armstrong, perhaps the greatest musician and artist of the 20th century.  Shiraz Socialist has a great essay on appreciating and understanding Armstrong. Here's a great video which analyzes the great "West End Blues" from 1928.

The blog  "Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong" has a great history of the West End Blues. 

Louis Armstrong’s 1928 performance of the tune has probably been the subject of more words and analysis than any other in the history of jazz. Gunther Schuller devoted page after page to it in 1967’s Early Jazz, writing, “The clarion call of “West End Blues’ served notice that jazz had the potential capacity to compete with the highest order of previously known musical expression.” Gary Giddins wrote that this tune “came to symbolize more than any other the ascendancy of a classic American music.” John Chilton called the introduction “a great moment in 20th century music.” Ken Burns devoted an entire segment to it and if you’d like to hear Artie Shaw, Wynton Marsalis and Gary Giddins expound on it, as well as hearing “West End Blues”
And, to close things out, here is a segment of Ken Burns' Jazz devoted to West End Blues

Louis Armstrong’s 1928 performance of the tune has probably been the subject of more words and analysis than any other in the history of jazz. Gunther Schuller devoted page after page to it in 1967’s Early Jazz, writing, “The clarion call of “West End Blues’ served notice that jazz had the potential capacity to compete with the highest order of previously known musical expression.” Gary Giddins wrote that this tune “came to symbolize more than any other the ascendancy of a classic American music.” John Chilton called the introduction “a great moment in 20th century music.” Ken Burns devoted an entire segment to it and if you’d like to hear Artie Shaw, Wynton Marsalis and Gary Giddins expound on it, as well as hearing “West End Blues”

Ken Burn's Jazz devoted a segment to "West End Blues" which is apparently no longer available on YouTube, but it is well worth searching on the Burn's series.

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Verizon Mobilization Wichita

45,000 CWA and IBEW members are on strike against Verizon. It has been called the "private sector's Wisconsin."  The striking workers are on the East Coast, but CWA is organizing information and solidarty actions at Verizon stores all across the country .

Yesterday afteroon, Paul Hendrix and myself from the APWU joined members of Wichita's CWA 6402 local outside the Verizon store on North Rock Road.  The temperature here in Wichita peaked at 105.

Here are a few photos from the mobilization. (If the slideshow, doesn't play automatically, hover over the lower left corner and click on the arrow.)

Please take a moment and sign the CWA's petition

Despite record profits, Verizon is refusing to bargain and is demanding that its workers add to those profits from their own pockets. In the last four years alone, Verizon made more than $19 billion in profits and compensated their top five executives more than a quarter of a billion dollars. But apparently that’s not enough.

Now they’re refusing to bargain. Starting on June 22 Verizon pushed proposals that would let them outsource more jobs, including sending jobs overseas, slash sick days, eliminate benefits for workers who get hurt on the job and cut the healthcare benefits they promised retirees. And they haven’t budged.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

KOSE Executive Director Jane Carter Responds to Administration’s Proposed Voluntary Retirement Incentive

I am quite disappointed by the Administration’s announcement of the Voluntary Retirement Incentive proposal. To be very clear, KOSE (Kansas Organization of State Employees) is not opposed to voluntary retirement plans in general. However, it is essential that all factors be considered before enacting a Voluntary Retirement Incentive. The State has not, at this point, considered those factors nor met its legal obligations to KOSE. 

KOSE heard rumors of a proposed early retirement incentive weeks ago, and promptly requested meet and confer over the incentive. The State indicated it would meet and confer with KOSE prior to rolling out the Voluntary Retirement Incentive. By mutual agreement, the first meet and confer session was scheduled for August 10, 2011. The State never informed KOSE that a planned rollout was scheduled for the first week of August, nor did the State ever indicate that an earlier meet and confer date would be required, or suggested. The State's rollout of this program, one week in advance of the scheduled meet and confer session, violates both the State's agreement to meet and confer and the legal requirement to meet and confer.

Secretary Taylor's contention that this is not an issue which must be discussed with KOSE is blatantly untrue. Under the Kansas Public Employee/Employer Relations Act, the State is required to meet and confer in good faith with the Union regarding terms and conditions of employment. The statute defines "meet and confer in good faith" as the process where the representative of the public agency and the representative of the employee organization to meet personally and exchange information, opinions, and proposals to try and reach agreement on conditions of employment. K.S.A. 75-4322(m). The statute goes on to define "conditions of employment", in part, as salaries, wages, hours of work, vacation allowances, sick and injury leave, number of holidays, retirement benefits, insurance benefits..." K.S.A. 75-4322(t).

The Voluntary Retirement Program involves both retirement benefits and insurance benefits, two items that by law are subject to meet and confer. Meet and confer is particularly important on this issue because of the potential impact of the Voluntary Retirement Program on State employees, the citizens of Kansas, and the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. The Voluntary Retirement Program, as announced today, contains no limit or cap on how many employees will be allowed to accept the retirement incentive. Some departments across the State, already crippled by budget cuts, are so understaffed employees are working shifts of sixteen hours or more, multiple times during a work week. Removing more employees from the system would create an even greater strain, and endanger the ability of these workers to deliver the services that many citizens depend on every day.

KOSE had hoped to discuss some of these very real concerns with the State during meet and confer, with the objective of developing a program that could meet the State's objectives while also ensuring employees, citizens, and KPERS were not negatively impacted. KOSE has not yet decided how to respond to this early rollout, but we are meeting with our attorneys to discuss all available options.
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The Kansas Organization of State Employees (KOSE) is the largest certified, State recognized employee organization for state employees in the executive branch, representing more than 11,000 state employees.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: B.B. King and T-Bone Walker

A rare clip of T-Bone Walker sitting-in with B.B. King at a festival in the later 1960s or early 1970s.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Bille Holiday "Fine and Mellow"

I recently watched Ken Burn's Jazz and was struck again by this 1957 clip featuring Bill Holiday and one the few blues she wrote and performed "Fine and Mellow" This originally aired live as part of a special telecast ("The Sound of Jazz") on a short-lived CBS Sunday afternoon "cultural program", "THE SEVEN LIVELY ARTS". The man setting the scene for the number is host John Crosby, best known as a TV critic for the New York Herald-Tribune. This was also Billie's last major appearance on network television. the first tenor solo is by Ben Webster, the second by Lester Young, and the third by Coleman Hawkins. The trumpet solo is by Roy Eldridge.

The entire show is on DVD. Well worth watching. And there's a CD as well.

How Higher Education Favors the Rich--Great Infographic

Rags to Rags - Riches to Riches

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Brownback wants to save your marriage--unless you're gay

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has already used his administration to make Kansas one of the most social conservative in the nation. Kansas has become the first state to end public funding of the arts and has narrowly missed being the first state to do end abortions. Now, Brownback is developing a plan to promote marriage. To head up this effort, Brownback has hired Robert Siedlecki. Ironically, Siedlicki is divorced, but he is an advocate of “faith-based” solutions and an opponent of gay marriage. And, he's from Florida, as if Kansas has a shortage of religious right activists.

Tim Carpenter reported recently some juicy details about a secret April meeting to design Brownback's marriage agenda. The Topeka Capital-Journal uncovered some through a Kansas Open Records request. The Kansas government spent $13,000 to bring together 20 mostly far-right marriage “experts” for the closed door meeting. Thanks to the reporting of Tim Carpenter and other public information we know something of what Brownback has in mind, even though the details of the meeting remain confidential.

Organizations represented included the Heritage Foundation, Institute for American Values, Georgia Family Council, National Center for Fathering, Stronger Families, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Marriage Savers, Kansas Healthy Marriage Institute, and National Center for African American Marriages and Parenting.

Governor Sam, according to Carpenter, “urged invitees to think in terms of 'Hail Mary' approaches to boosting marriage rates and slashing divorce rates in Kansas.” According to SRS secretary Robert Siedlecki, a Brownback import from Florida "The governor wants us to create a national model." Perhaps because he is not the best model as a divorced father and to begin the work on this national model, Seidlecki has hired a minister—from Florida! Carpenter also reported that Joyce Webb of Catholic Charities' Kansas Healthy Marriage Institute, recommended that SRS fund a new marriage with $1 million from federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Ethics of Brownback's Experts

Carpenter points out that one invitee Wade Horn “departed the Bush administration amid reports of cronyism in awarding federal grants to the National Fatherhood Initiative he founded. According to OMB Watch, NFI received a five-year, no-bid contract for $12 million.”

But, Horn is not the only invitee with shaky ethics.

Michael McMannus, according to wikipedia

On January 28, 2005, it was discovered that McManus was one of three media figures to accept money from the George W. Bush administration for targeted public endorsements of government policy.
McManus was the third person to be implicated in an article by Tom Hamburger of The Los Angeles Times. It was revealed that McManus, who is a self-described "marriage advocate", was paid through a subcontractor of the Department of Health and Human Services to endorse a Bush-approved initiative defining marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. The payments were said to be $4,000 plus travel expenses, with an additional $49,000 paid to his organization, "Marriage Savers". McManus did not disclose this payment to his readers

Maggie Gallagher, again according to wikipedia
received tens of thousands of dollars from the Department of Health and Human Services during 2002 and 2003 for helping the George W. Bush administration promote the President's Healthy Marriage Initiative. During this time, Gallagher testified before Congress in favor of "healthy marriage" programs, but never disclosed the payments. When asked about that situation, she replied "Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it? I don't know. You tell me. ...frankly, it never occurred to me".
After the Washington Post revealed this information on January 26, 2005, Gallagher claimed significant differences between her situation and that of conservative columnist Armstrong Williams, going on to add that "I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it. My apologies to my readers."]
Gallagher received an additional $20,000 from the Bush administration for writing a report, titled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?", for the National Fatherhood Initiative...
Gays No, Polygamists Maybe
It should surprise no one that Sedlieki made it clear to the TCJ that there would be “ no room in the state's program for gays and lesbians interested in marriage or parenting.” What is surprising is that some of Brownback experts think polygamy isn't so bad.
Gallagher has said that gay marriage is worse than polygamy, which, "for all its ugly defects, is an attempt to secure stable mother-father families for children".
Another invitee founder of the Institute for American Values Daniel Blankenhorn
was presented to the court as an expert witness in Perry v. Schwarzenegger by the proponents of California Proposition 8 (2008), a constitutional amendment stripping same-sex couples of the right to marry. On cross-examination by David Boies, Blankenhorn stated that marriage's "rule of two people" is not violated by polygamy, because "Even in instances of a man engaging in polygamous marriage, each marriage is separate. He — one man marries one woman." (source)
The Agenda?
We can't know what the Brownback marriage  agenda will  look like, but there here are some possibilities.
Mike McManus of Marriage Savers wants to get rid of no-fault divorce, limiting it to only cases of physical abuse or adultery. Gallagher not only want to end no-fault divorce, she want to prosecute spouses for adultery.
 And, a definite--no room in the state's programs m for gays or lesbians interested in marriage or parenting.