Tuesday, January 30, 2007
So, tonight, instead of listening to the State of the Union, because the TV I would be watching it on and throwing things at would not be mine own, I decided to take another path. I loaded up the car post-work and trucked across town to the University of New Orleans, as their Midlo Center was hosting a free lecture series/history course on the history of New Orleans.
Never one to turn down free college level history course actually taught by professors in which no papers, exams or tests will be required, my Tuesday evenings are now booked (with the exception of Mardi Gras) through April.
Tonight’s lecture was presented by Dr. Connie Atkinson, who set up this particular series of lectures and classes. She is an expert on the history of New Orleans music (and actually used to publish and edit Wavelength Magazine) and has called in experts from all over to fly to NOLA this semester and give talks.
Her talk hit on some very interesting topics that ranged deeper, in my mind, than just New Orleans music in the post-Katrina environment. During her examination of how the music scene/environment can be reconstructed post-K, and her discussion of what role music will play in the strategies to survive/rebuild, what really stood out was the ‘myth of New Orleans’ and the double edged sword that has presented to the City in the past, and how that will affect the City’s future.
That got me to thinking about other American myths, how strong they are, and how deeply they affect other people’s perceptions and beliefs.
Before Katrina, what did you think of when you thought of New Orleans? Go on back – back before all the recent nastiness. Go on back to the good ole days I know you think about all the time.
I’d put money down that the thoughts in your head when you thought about New Orleans – before - were of jazz music, spicy Creole food, zydeco music, gambling, football, beads, topless women, steamboats, clarinets, gaudy masks, blues music, Southern Comfort, drinking heavily, Mardi Gras, brass bands, partying, sinful lifestyles, fried dough and coffee – probably close to that order, but it doesn’t matter. The thoughts you had in your head were of a wild city, exotic and alien from the hum-drum of your everyday life in Anycity or Anysuburb, USA. New Orleans is the Big Easy, the City that Care Forgot, “I want to eat fried dough in the most corrupt City on Earth.” You’ve seen movies that expound on this exotic, sinful and alien theme; vampires and criminals, voodoo dolls and Mephisto masks. You’ve heard – and sing along to - countless songs about hippies and rambling men drifting down to New Orleans.
Why is that? Where did that image in your head come from? Was it put there by reality and experience, or was it put there by those folks who sell New Orleans to the rest of the country? Was it put there by accident, or are you supposed to think those things?
This is an important question, one I have asked myself more than a few times. The lecture went on and began working its way around the timeless myth of New Orleans and the music here, that all the music of this place is nothing but a happy accident, something in the water, a creation in spite of itself. Jazz was birthed, we are told, quite unexpectedly. That is the spontaneous nature of New Orleans, a city that is itself, a happy accident.
Dr. Atkinson examined how this myth is far from the case. Back in the bad old days, New Orleans was one of the scant few places where the slave population was allowed means of expression, however limited. Congo Square was such a place, where drums were allowed. In other places across slave holding North America, the enslaved were prohibited from such expression. Other items point to the fact that slaves could also attend some French operas in the city, shocking as that may seem, in segregated areas.
So, even in the days of slavery, there was a foundation for music. New Orleans’ position of strategic importance at the mouth of the Mississippi river – a trading city linking the rich interior of North America with the world – also brought a population of merchants and traders and wealth; such wealth that could patronize the arts. Immigrants of all varieties brought their music with them.
Even further proof against spontaneity is the emergence of musical geniuses in New Orleans, but it was not just ‘something in the water.’ Louis Armstrong had discipline problems that had to be resolved before he was allowed to touch his trumpet; he was taught the instrument by Peter Davis and tutored in its mastery by his mentor King Oliver. Despite those facts, he is heralded as a genius that is genius alone, as if he just picked up a trumpet one day on Louisiana Avenue and started playing Canal Street Blues.
Just like the Armstrong myth, the myth of New Orleans is sometimes what people believe to the point of ignorance. We do this for very good reason: as Americans, though we do not like to admit it, are a mythological people who need our Pantheon just as full as any society of old.
George Washington and his cherry tree, the Southern redneck is a fixture in self identification, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday – the North and South working together again after the war, the endless promise and greener grass of California, the cowboy; mythological figures and parables one and all. New Orleans is not the only American myth, but it is an important one. She sold herself as that myth, too, which has turned out recently to have unforeseen and unpleasant consequences.
Americans have always had their fascinations with the domestic-exotic and the roguish, and we use such myths and the places that represent those myths to blow off steam. For a long time, New Orleans provided that piece of our story. New York is The City, Miami is all drugs, Chicago is all work; Atlanta is all business, San Francisco is hopelessly homosexual, and Houston is hopelessly fat; Dallas is all plastic, Los Angeles is too, and Detroit is just Detroit, the home of Kid Rock, who we all knew, deep in our hearts, would come from Detroit someday.
New Orleans was something different. She was so many things, the Queen of the river cities, old buildings and generational corruption unresolved. Long sultry summers drew a sheen of sweat on the ladies, who were dressed as comfortably as the heat would allow. You could drive from the puritan upland South and see a burlesque show in the French Quarter that same evening. You could go a little crazy and your behavior would be tolerated, while no one back home, save your partners in crime who came here with you, would know. You could buy drinks on Sunday and all night long if you wanted to. The music was wild and sexual, and the food was almost everything the rest of America considered an aphrodisiac: fish, oysters, red wine. People danced in the streets. In two words, New Orleans was sexy and dangerous; and she was sexy and dangerous in the ways that you wanted her to be, but didn’t really want in your home city. You went to New Orleans to be in a city where cares didn’t matter, that all the problems could be solved another day. The only other place comparable was Las Vegas, and New Orleans wrote the script for Vegas, and was doing so a hundred years before that city was founded.
That’s the myth, those hot Southern nights of jasmine and magnolia, that soundtrack of clarinets and horns and accordions. But, while those things do feature prominently here, people wake up and go to work just like they do in any other city in America. Like any other city in America, New Orleans had her problems with unemployment, the school system, infrastructure, and business investment. Real people lived here, and no matter how many gigs the former attorney general played during the week, he was at his desk the next day in a suit and tie.
New Orleans was also an industrial town, mighty rail-yards and thick shouldered dock workers. New Orleans was the home of school children and the lake port of day sailors. It was built the way it was for the same reason all American cities are built the way they are, a strong dense core surrounded by miles of post-WWII housing. Except New Orleans was surrounded by walls, as many river cities - like Sacramento and Pittsburgh, Memphis and St Louis - are. None of the folks who bought into the myth, and only the myth, of New Orleans never really knew those walls existed. They never had to see the private, everyday lives of New Orleanians.
When those walls came down, the whole of America was forced to see the whole thing. You desire your lover over your spouse because you don’t have to see your lover in anything but silky lingerie, you never have to wash your lover’s dirty underpants. New Orleans had gone from a sexy and dangerous lover to a violent and disorganized embarrassment, and her dirty laundry was aired for everyone to see. Every problem Americans face in their own cities was being force fed back to them for 24 hours a day, from a city that was supposed to represent their escape from their own shit. Americans had to see their myth destroyed in front of them, and violently so, and were shamed by their own embarrassment. Like a lover who comes to her man at his wife’s home looking for help, the man refuses acknowledgement, and denies the affair ever existed.
Many Americans were hit by this and responded like angels, taking in the displaced, contributing what they could and volunteering their time and effort to give succor to those in need. Others denied the affair ever existed, questioned why the city of New Orleans ever existed, and responded by making fun of a catastrophe at a football game.
Florida is rebuilt every year without a question of why. The Carolinas are rebuilt every two years without a question of why. We send billions in aid to a nation a world away built on the side of a volcano.
But New Orleans had a different myth than any of those places, New Orleans had a different story and sold herself in a different kind of way. Because of that myth and because of that story, some folks have decided she is nothing but a used up whore, ready to be discarded.
Dr. Atkinson closed her lecture in wondering what was next for New Orleans, what story would be sold about the music. Would the story continue to be the ‘happy accident’ myth that this City has just lucked out with all the good things you think about her, or would the story be something more in depth, about how this city produces composers out of inner city kids? I know this story isn’t done, and I know there are millions of Americans pulling for this place to win.
I’ve come to believe that history is not written by the winners, but by the best storytellers. New Orleans has plenty of those, and when this city comes through this thing – because she will – the story is going to be about drywall and foundations, about living on second floors above gutted basements, about a magical football season, about what was lost along the way and how those who were left to carry on persevered and came together. It will be a story about one of the greatest triumphs over adversity in American history.
The next lecture is tonight, at UNO, in the Earl K. Long Library. 4th Floor, if any locals want to join us for the talk.
Monday, January 29, 2007
But we’re supposed to be good stewards of those public resources we allocate. We have to get them from the appropriate places and make sure that those dollars are effective when spent, and give taxpayers and property owners an appropriate return on their considerable investment. Otherwise, the already endangered support for public education will erode from the folks who put up the lion’s share of the money.
The movement towards private schools and vouchers and white – flight and home-schooling may have their roots firmly planted in the anti-integration soil of the past 40 years. But as of today that movement has gained most of its ground not from the inherent racism of its birth - as many liberal pundits insinuate - but at the fact that our public schools, especially across the South, are failing to return the proper investment to taxpayers, property owners and parents whose children should be attending those schools. In the case of the anti-public schools movement, what began as an ideological response has morphed into a competency-based response. Ignoring this fact will continue the downward spiral and will lead to the eventual dismantling of the American Public Education system, one of the core institutions of American public society, and what could have and should have been one of the crowning achievements of American liberalism.
As I say often, competency will trump ideology, even if all you hear about is the ideology. People will vote with their feet. One day, we wake up, and the whole public education system is de-funded because another, more competent but more exclusive system will have been built while we argued about who is to blame.
Maybe that is just a natural evolution of public institutions, but I think it would be a step backwards. If it ends up being a better education system, however, so be it. But it deserves our best fight - our best efforts - in defending our vision of American public education so that the choice is not poorly made. The final directional choice should be between two of the best educational models as opposed to grasping at whatever is better, safer, or more effective than our crumbling public institutions.
The future of the Democratic Party, Southern Liberalism, and the American way of life will factor heavily on how education is dealt with in the coming years, as an event horizon is approaching. The choice between public education v. private education will come to a head sooner than many of us on this side of the aisle are willing to think, and the results of that choice will have effects long into the future.
That choice will be made in New Orleans.
Seventeen months post-deluge, the public schools run by the locals and the state are still unable to accept all students and provide basic services for them at the schools. While some problems were to be expected in recovering from the scale of the disasters faced by this area, this is an American city, part of an American state and a piece of this Union. Last time I checked, the United States of America was the greatest, richest, most powerful and most can-do nation ever to exist on the face of this Earth, and the roughly 50% of us who consider ourselves left of center have a core value that says ‘we are all in this together’ and ‘what happens to the least of us happens to the best of us.’
Right now, in addition to those students who already went to parochial school, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has 1,500 public school kids in the system who had no space in the public schools, and made a declaration recently that they are willing to add another 300 students to that number because the need has arisen. Yes, bless whoever made that decision, because when the need arises, there is no greater thing to see than someone or some group stepping up to the plate and saying ‘we got this.’
And, as a Southern liberal and a Democrat, I have no problem with the state legislature sending some cash the Archdiocese’s way to cover some of the expenses. Separation of Church and State be damned, there are several hundred kids who won’t go to school this year if such drastic measures aren’t brought to bear. Yes, I factor in a hierarchy of need into my political and policy thought: it is called common sense.
What chills me is the slow pace of the public schools to recover, and I wonder: with the resources already so slow in coming, with the work so overwhelming, will they ever? Us Democrats and Southern Liberals should see the importance of this recovery for what it is: the line in the sand, the referendum on public schools as a shared American value. Right now, our side is losing this fight in spectacular fashion.
Madame Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Dean, we need that 101st Hour.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
So after a long night of work at the burrito stand, I was tempted to say 'screw this' go back to the sublet & get some rest. But no. The poster for the show has been up on the wall here for two weeks it seems, calling out for the viewer to come and have their ears assauled by the Black Rose Band, described as "New Orleans wreck and roll" at a club I'd never been to called One Eyed Jacks down in "Da Qwata."
We get out of work late, (it is Saturday night/Sunday morning, after all) and two of us roll down in all our salsa-covered glory to fight for parking in the French Quarter and find this place. Unbelievable parking karma worked again, so we were soon on foot, en route to the club.
Now, I've been to clubs in places like Athens, Atlanta & Savannah, and in those places, people get dressed up to go out. They get dressed up and look good, stylish and funky, as the mood strikes them. I've seen women wearing Gucci shoes and Versace dresses to football games, for God's sake. But I begin to learn that there is a difference between "dressed up to go out", and "dressed up to go out in New Orleans." In the foyer of One Eyed Jacks, I thought I had walked onto the set of a music video - you know the ones, where you can't believe places like that exist.
But there is rock and roll to be seen, and we can hear it now, so close as we are. Beverages are quickly purchased, cover is quickly paid and we're into the venue part of the place. (There is a bar in the foyer, and then a large room - theatre style.) A few easy crowd navigation techniques place us near the stage, where we find two other coworkers, and some folks my kitchen comrade knows (this happens everywhere we go in this town).
The band is halfway through a song when we get there, so I take the moment to look around and take in the venue and the show watchers. The venue is small and classy. For you Athenians, it is the size of Tasty World with the setup of the Georgia Theathre. For those of you unfamiliar with those places, you can fit about 200 people in the place comfortably, the smoke rises up to the high ceilings, and the floor in the back is higher than the floor at the stage. Though there are some additions to the crowd dressed in the 'townie' style, the place is still full of folks dressed up in pinstripe vests, retro boots, a few masks, one guy who's dressed up like Pirates of the Carribean and another indivudal dressed up like...well I don't know what it was, an anime spirit character with a shiny orange cape. Bourbon is what I'm sippin' on, and I'll have another one. The band launches into their next number with a scorching intro riff and a rockabilly beat, and I am hooked.
This group sounds like a Southern rock band from the 70's got mixed up with Nirvana's soundguy and boiled in a pot of crawfish with a rockabilly singer. If this is where rock n' roll is heading, I'm on the bus.
The double guitar solo break in the second song I heard was worth the price of admission alone. At one point towards the end, they played a song that is one of the greatest rock songs I'd ever heard performed live: unbelievable hooks, danceable rhythm, double guitar riffs and solos. I kid you not.
They pounded through their set, and at the end, music roiling, brought some other musicians onstage for the last song, just to hang out. And then hot blooded women joined them onstage for dancing. My coworker brings me a fresh beer. Can it get any better? Oh no, what is that? A pinata? The dancers bring a huge pinata on stage, and launch it into the crowd. It is surfed around for a few moments, before being dragged under the sea of retro boots, Converse All-Stars and no-skid kitchen shoes to get a punk rock curb stomp. Inside were some guitar shaped whistles, some shiny alligator keychains, CDs from other bands and underground music/porn magazines.
Did that really just happen? If these guys played in Athens, they might cause a riot. Especially during football season.
The finale is all axe players on the lip of the stage with their instruments raised for white noise generation and crowd adoration, while the hot blooded dancing girls are alongside shaking their rear ends over the edge of the stage and blowing kisses to the crowd. Then the finale and the good nights.
It was an hour later, at a bar down the street, that my sense of hearing was restored. Not a bad way to spend an evening, if I do say so myself.
Friday, January 26, 2007
"A Van Halen reunion tour, with David Lee Roth back in the fold after 22 years, is in the works, with a Las Vegas launch looking good.
A late April date at the Palms' new venue, The Pearl, is "99 percent" likely, a source said."
So much for a Friday Fluff Piece...
This was a comment I was going to write in response to a previous post concerning the membership practices of the Congressional Black Caucus. The comment thread had started into a new direction. It had gone from the old “what if there was a Congressional White Caucus” modest-proposal-style argument (that ignores the fact that Congress is overwhelmingly white and male and has been for some time), and had journeyed into the more pressing, and important (in my opinion) discussion about discrimination & reverse discrimination in America. We’ll go ahead and make that a thread of it’s own.
Well, number one, whenever anyone makes a choice about anything, they are technically discriminating against whatever choices they did not choose, for whatever reason.
That being said, what DADvocate describes is the "anti-affirmative action/reverse discrimination" debate and some of the less than stellar results of a society grappling to right, correct or realign in the midst of a history of social ills, which is an important debate to have, and deals with issues society as a whole doesn't usually like to deal with in the public arena.
“The beginning of the end of my liberalism was when my mother told be that it was OK to discriminate against me, her own son, because others had been discriminated against for so long. Yet, she had always taught me that two wrongs don't make a right. But, some think they do in racial/gender politics.And, yes, I have actually been denied opportunities because of my skin color, white. An unusually candid personnel worker at TVA who knew my father told me so.The favoritism the company I work for now shows women is almost beyond absurb. Twenty something women have "special work schedules". No men. Several have requested, all denied.”
As far as the real issues behind what you're saying, I live in the South, I hear this all the time. I'm sure I've been denied jobs because folks who did the hiring wanted to hire a woman or someone of a different race, and I even realize that sometimes folks who were hired instead of me may not have been as qualified as I was.
But I know for a fact that I have been denied jobs because the folks who did the hiring hired someone with less qualification, less experience, or less recommendation than me who was a white guy! It is because, with 90% of the (worthwhile) jobs in this country, the person doing the hiring already knows the someone who they want to have that job. They are just advertising the position because Human Resources departments of organizations require it to be advertised to comply with Equal Opportunity Employer regulations. The interviews and resumes and cover letters are usually just a dog and pony show, to meet requirements.
While there are exceptions, and many places of work are actually looking for a qualified applicant to fill a position regardless of race, color, gender, creed or personal friendship (and God bless those folks), I would venture to say that the majority, the vast majority, of bosses are hiring folks they know, or their employees know, over other qualified applicants.
This is borderline nepotism, at least insider-ism, and the feeling that is left in the heart of the qualified applicant who was denied the job so someone’s pet could get it is that of anger. This is true regardless of race, creed or gender. Everyone has a story of how someone of another race, creed or gender got a job they were more qualified for – everyone. That’s why some folks, denied such employment, will be for affirmative action, and other folks, denied the same employment, will be against affirmative action.
My beliefs are not those that say ‘it is OK to discriminate against someone because of history,’ because that ain’t liberalism, that’s stupid-ism. Affirmative action is not, and never was supposed to be, a plan to fill the bureaucracies and businesses of America with un-qualified workers and administrators, it was designed to break the insider-ism of actual discriminatory hiring practices, where qualified individuals of minority races, creeds and genders were denied opportunity. Sometimes an organization would have to give a job to someone with less experience and education because the experience and educational opportunities had never existed before in that field, but the plan (maybe the hope) was that the folks who did have the education and experience in that field would work with and bring those with newly acquired opportunity up to speed.
Instead, the implementation led only to resentment, and an excuse for human resources departments, managers and workers everywhere to stop doing their jobs of ensuring excellence in the workforce by throwing up their hands and saying “what can we do, we have to keep ‘diversity’ around” sneering as they said the word diversity as if there weren’t a million other folks who could do a job that wasn’t being done by someone who just couldn’t keep up.
You can’t fire someone because of their skin color, gender or creed, and I’m glad we live in a country where that is the case. However, you should always be able to fire someone for not doing their damn jobs, but that takes actual work in the training, documentation and quality control of your damn employees. I guarantee, there are a million qualified workers of any race, gender or creed who are willing to fill the slot of your incompetent worker of any race, gender or creed and do a better job. Managers have to let them.
Instead, we’ve become a milquetoast society that is not ready to actually make sure our employees are doing their jobs because our managers don’t have the stones to do theirs. Yet, we’re the most productive society on earth because our workforce is filled with underemployed individuals who can’t get a job higher up the chain, who are working their butts off to cover their own rear ends and the rear ends of at least one incompetent co-worker.
You can look at the big American-Car-Company-Who-Can’t-Make-Money that made headlines yesterday if you think I’m lying about any of this.
Affirmative action ain’t your problem, is what I’m saying. It is lack of follow through and people making excuses. That ain’t a ‘liberal’ problem or a ‘conservative’ problem, that’s a ‘competency’ problem. That’s ‘our’ problem, because all of us who know better have to work hard against incompetency.
In closing, I will share with you the moment I lost faith in the anti-affirmative action/reverse discrimination crowd. It was when the University of Georgia’s Supreme Leader decided not to actually defend OUR affirmative action policy, that was not actually an affirmative action policy at all, but got to feed the myth that affirmative action is wrong.
In the realm of UGA admissions (and this is a highly generalized description of what was told to me by university admissions officials), we had standards for students who applied. On the first tier were students who had GPA’s and SAT scores over thus and such. All of those applicants were accepted to keep them from going to UNC. Then there was another tier of lower SAT’s and GPA’s. They got accepted as well. Then there was the third tier, with SATs and GPAs bordering on the “you don’t gotta go home, but you can’t come here”* level. Many of these students were considered a ‘tie’ for entrance, and the point system went into effect.
The point system was a 14 item (if I remember correctly) list of descriptions of the student where, if you fit a description, you’d get either .5 or 1 point. On this list were the questions of gender and race, and you got a point if you were in the minority of the UGA student body. BUT also on this list were questions of ‘did your parents attend UGA,’ and ‘did you live in a rural county.’ Both of those, in Georgia, were slanted towards white people getting points towards easing the tie. There were other questions about extracurricular activities and what not, but those four questions leapt off the page at me, because those are the things I pay attention to.
When, several years ago, two young ladies sued the University of Georgia because they were denied admission in favor of ‘other students,’ the insinuation was that they were denied admission in favor of unqualified black students who didn’t deserve to be at UGA. That being the 'affirmative action/reverse discrimination' myth. The reality is, if they were denied, they were probably denied based off their GPA and SATs (which is kinda what we aspire for in discrimination in the field of higher education). If they were denied because they lost to the points system at the time, they were going head to head with other students in their same GPA and SAT area, making anyone who took their spot qualified to go to UGA. And if they had been denied because they lost on the points system at the time, it was more likely they were denied by a male (minority gender), from a rural/suburban (white) county, whose parent(s) had gone to UGA (white) who had more weight in points than a male (minority gender) who was of a minority race.
But, instead of having THAT conversation, we got to hear the whispers like City Confidential as UGA’s ‘defense’ of our policy always seemed more of an admission that our University was doing something wrong. Last I heard, the points for minority gender and minority race had been removed from the points list in the event of a GPA and SAT tie. The 'legacy' and 'rural county' points were still there, again, last time I heard anything about it.
I guess it kind of explains why all of the black people I met at UGA were in on the first and second tiers, making a tie situation unnecessary; and why my brother’s funniest joke about me is that I made it into UGA before they did away with the minority gender provision, making my tenure at the University of Georgia only possible because of Affirmative Action.
*(I erased my original snarky comment, which was “maybe you ought to apply over at the University of Tennessee”, but I ain’t no classless UNC grad who looks down their nose at graduates of other big state Universities**)
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
There's a bit of a problem for the pro Milton County crowd: the state of Georgia has a constitutional cap on the number of counties allowed in the state and Georgia is at that limit. The two scenarios possible to create Milton County are a constitutional ammendment or a merger of counties elsewhere to bring the number low enough to allow Milton County to form. Last time around, the latter was pushed for. This time, they're aiming for a full-fledged constitutional ammendment.
I used to be sympathetic the the Milton County cause. The northern residents were getting pretty hosed by Fulton when it came to tax money spent on them. Back in the 1990's, about $.60 of every dollar contributed from the northern residents of Fulton was spent in the northern area of the county. The rest was spent in the city of Atlanta. On top of that, Fulton County consistently pushed for new prisons to be built at the northern end of the county where crime is relatively low. But as of December 2006 there are no more unincorporated areas left in the are of Fulton County where Milton used to exist. Future tax money will be spent almost entirely in the area collected thanks to the complete municipalization (both north and south) of Fulton County and the Shafer Ammendment requiring counties to spend tax money in the region where it was collected. Now any attempt to seceed from Fulton would be for reasons of regional pride near as I can tell though it's still being spun as an economic issue from the pro Milton County side and as a racial issue from the anti Milton County side.
Like the many times it has been discussed before, I just find it hard to believe there will ever be another Milton County is what is now north Fulton County. I really believe this is just pandering on the part of Jan Jones, a state representative from Roswell who introduced the Milton County ammendment bill.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
It's good to know that the race card plays both ways still, including having sitting members of the House campaign actively against a fellow incumbent, in favor of a challenger who happens to also be black.
In other news, the Mayor, and most of the voting populace of Clarkston, GA, have vaulted into the lead for the Jackass of the Year award.
Want to help the kids, clicky here.
It's comforting to know that CNN picks THIS story of the thousands they cover every year to actually go and fact-check. God forbid someone say naughty things about the Chosen One hisself.
Highlights from the article? Oh yes, we've got highlights.
Insight Magazine, which is owned by the same company as The Washington Times, reported on its Web site last week that associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, had unearthed information the Illinois Democrat and likely presidential candidate attended a Muslim religious school known for teaching the most fundamentalist form of Islam.
Now, for those of you not in the know, the Washington Times is the right-leaning DC paper, that usually acts as a counterbalance to the left-leaning Washington Post. However, with the statement that the information was unearthed by minions of Sen. Hillary Clinton, you might think that the Obama-llamas would place the blame there. Yeah, you'd be wrong.
Insight attributed the information in its article to an unnamed source, who said it was discovered by "researchers connected to Senator Clinton." A spokesman for Clinton, who is also weighing a White House bid, denied that the campaign was the source of the Obama claim.
He called the story "an obvious right-wing hit job."
That said, CNN sent their
Monday, January 22, 2007
So take the time you need and read it, if you haven't already. The 50 Most Loathsome People of 2006.
(HT: Hey, Jenny Slater.)
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Like we didn't see this coming back in 1992...
For some more unpredictable shenanigans, click here.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Pardon me for a 'student-of-history heart attack' moment, and the apocalyptic mania that comes with it.
Now, I've had plenty to say about foregin policy - especially the current Administration's absolute and utter failures in that department - to the point that it seems like I'm flogging the deceased nag a little much. But apparently, these things bear repeating, again and again and again, because the talking heads can't get enough of the Bearded Leader of Iran and the Plump Little Malcontent of Caracas while a giant Bear and a giant Dragon can be seen in the distance laughing at us.
These days, our rough, "go it alone, Texas cowboy" style of diplomacy has looked and sounded really tough to folks at home. "We don't need no permission to defend ourselves" - and then the Beard in Tehran turns around and says the same thing. We start meddling too much in Russia's sphere of influence (Ukraine, NATO expansion) while thumbing our nose at them, leave China alone to keep sending us trinkets for cash, and absolutely alienate and surround Iran.
So, hmmm, we back Russia into a realpolitik corner, threaten Iran and ignore China to persue their own Machiavellian machinations. This makes a de-facto counterbalancing alliance possible between the worlds 4th largest oil producer, the world's largest armed forces, the world's 2nd and 5th largest nuclear arsenals and the world's 3rd & 4th most successful space programs; they all share borders and they all have one big rival to greatness - US.
And for our troubles, we add to our "Coalition of the Willing"....wait for it....Poland.
And for all y'all out there who think I'm being paranoid, we all know what it means when government agents, like college football coaches, deny that anything is amiss.
"I have not been informed of any test" says the Chinese Undersecretary to the Assistant of Dealing With Stupid Western Media Types, "absolutely not, we, the great and Glorious Chinese Empire/People's Republic want only peaceful uses of space technology. Here, I have some useless but shiny trinkets made from the patriotic toil of young members of our People's Society. You can take them back to your contry and sell them for far more than they are worth."
"A missile that kills sattelites? Please, the Chinese wouldn't do that. They couldn't even do something like that if their best minds got together with our best minds out near the Cosmodome in the puppet state of Kazakhstan, if Kazakhstan weren't the strong and independent nation that it was, and worked on it for years under a veil of secrecy and obfuscation made possible by our client nations of Iran and North Korea constantly distracting your attentions.
"I mean, what good would a missile killing satellite be to our peaceful loving nations anyway? It could only cripple your entire mititary and civilian communication structure leaving you as blind as Lee's Army at Gettysburg, and make any Anti-Ballistic Missile system you could devise - that wouldn't work anyway - absolutely obsolete and useless in any strategic theatre where it was employed against us. Why would our nations seek advantages such as those?
"No, I just tap the heel of my shoe on my desk. It is a nervous tick I have, nothing symbolic. Would you like some Vodka?" - The Russian Spokesman for the Advancement of Peaceful But Expensive Scientific Projects of No Strategic Importance.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I usually don't like the way Rep. Jack Kingston (R - GA) votes in the United States House of Representatives, but on this day, he has made many a man and woman proud to call themselves Georgians.
My question is: why did any of the delegations from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama or Louisiana vote for this resolution? I can see a little bipartisanship in the name of sportsmanship, or in SEC solidarity, but this is Florida, for God's sake. It ain't like Vandy won the title, and everyone had their aww shucks moment interrupted by some disgruntled Kentucky fan.
This wasn't a Cinderella story, it was the Revenge of the Sith, and now we get to hear all about Year 17 A.V.,*
… while I do concede that Florida has emerged as our recent overlord, why do Gator fans insist on believing that history began in 1990? Do your history classes frame the First Gulf War as the American Revolution? - Jmac.
* After Visor
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Bunch of smart fellas got together and decided we're about 5 minutes before midnight on the Doomsday Clock. Part of it is nuclear proliferation, part of it is global warming. I wonder if the symbolism of the Doomsday Clock still has any meaning for folks in the day and age of the Information Superhighway and YouTube, though.
Kinda retro, is what I'm sayin'. May not appeal as much to the kids these days.
Plus, and this is kinda morbid, but can you imagine the press conference someday when they actually announce "well, we're at midnight. The end is neigh. Party's over. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here..."
Sunday, January 14, 2007
First in the lineup, usual Birmingham sportsblogger Doug calls out Sean "ShaunHannigans" Hannity. Not because Hannity continues the "Liberals = traitors, America-haters, terrorist sympathizers" vein popularized by the likes of Rightwingers Against Really Real Reality (RARR!!!) subscribers Coulter, Limbaugh & Kristol, but because ol' Sean is doing it wrong.
Now, as much as I abhor totalitarianism of any stripe, I can still acknowledge the sheer balls it takes for someone to pop up and start advocating it, particularly in a democratic society. Sean, when I heard you were actually starting up an "Enemy of the State" feature, I was prepared for what basically amounted to a fatwa. Like Andrew Sullivan, I was waiting for a Two Minutes' Hate. I was hoping to see you call out Democrats and left-wingers at the very highest levels of our government, spew unhinged accusations of the Kevin Bacon chains connecting them directly to al-Qaeda, and order the rest of us to destroy them. I was hoping to be shocked.Yessir. Welcome to the beginning of the era of shrill, whiny, milquetoast rightwingery becoming obvious to us all.
Instead . . . you chose Sean Penn. You had a chance to do something balls-to-the-wall crazy, and you punted. I'm disappointed.
Hannity, you're a pussy.
Second up, this is a field trip link over to BlueinRedsVille, who isn't posting as much these days (life must be busy on Island City...), but still has time to feature the YouTube video of Keith Olbermann blasting the Administration's new (old) Iraq policy. Yeah. What he said.
Come to think of it, both posts to which I am linking involve the ass kicking commentary that comes from sportswriters calling BS on politics, and both involve calling out 'tough guy' wannabes as pansies.
Friday, January 12, 2007
As the Column wound its way towards City Hall, I got a text message from fellow Hurricane Radio contributor, SAWB. I had been texting him brief updates ("Hundreds here, more coming..." & "Thousands Now."), and his message: "Do they have the torches and pitchforks yet?" remains in my inbox.
The torches and pitchforks, it would seem, were edited out. But that didn't stop the speeches from being of first rate rabble rousing quality. You can even listen to audio of all the speeches here. (Reasonably work safe, but with volume spikes from crowd noise) HT: Schroder) They are all the good stuff you may not see on the news.
Being a diverse group, some of the things said from the stage were greeted with catcalls and boos (one being a strange segue into a 'we need Christianity in the schools' in the middle of a speech that angered several people where I was standing), many of the things with raucus applause and pounding drums. I just wish I could have gotten closer.
While standing outside City Hall, you couldn't help but notice some of the windows on the building collecting city workers on break, and photographers. I wonder how many of them wanted to be with everyone downstairs? I wonder how many were worried about torches and pitchforks? Looking down on a crowd now estimated to be between 3000 and 7500 really angry and determined citizens, I wonder what I would have thought.
I couldn't see at the time, but the Mayor was standing right next to the speakers as they let him have it with both barrells. I even heard he wanted a chance to speak to the rally, but organizers would not let him. As the rally began to break up, I heard someone over the PA announce that the Mayor would not be speaking, that this was the People's Press Conference. Amen to that.
After that, it appeared that everyone was rolling down the French Quarter for lunch, but I had to get back Uptown to get to work, so I went that way. The march and rally absolutely dominated conversation on the radio and at work and at the bar I went to after work. Everyone I spoke to was proud of their city, in a way they may not have felt for some time. It was really like the pathology had changed, like just having the rally and putting several thousand people together in a few days time, like just having that outlet for those hours and talking about it later gave people I spoke with the kind of dose of hope that keeps you going. The hope that says, things will get better, because if they don't, I got several thousand friends who are ready to get into the streets if necessary and make things better.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Loyola Avenue at noon.
Many hundreds. I say that only becuase I never got a clear look at the whole of the crowd. Everywhere I looked there were many hundreds. I'd stop and let the line go by, and there were more many hundreds. CNN reports upwards of 1000, but after seeing that march stretch out for over five city blocks in length, I'm willing to put the number a little higher. From where I was standing, even the temperature increased due to the press of the bodies.
At the foot of Canal Street
I got to Harrah's about 11:05 am. The motorcycle police cordon & the news helicopter got my attention first, followed by the din of the crowd of many hundreds was already forming up. I ascended to a higher vantage point to look down Canal Street in time to see more placard carrying groups heading towards us. Crowds could be seen assembling on the sidewalks and looking out the windows of buildings above the street.
One of several banners.
Getting underway, the sea of marchers rolled up Canal Street scattering photographers out in front and to the sides. Bystanders started out holding up cameraphones. Just before the first turn at Peters Street, another group of marchers, this one coming down Canal, folded into the main body.
Then, as we made the second turn (onto Poydras?), marchers started telling the bystanders to 'come on' and 'let's go' and the bystanders, many in suits and ties, some with mohawks and Doc Martins, just joined in. I saw Ashley Morris roll by with his snare drum. I jumped off to the side of the street and realized I could see neither the head nor the end of the column.
Outside City Hall there is a large grassy area, and thank goodness for that, because it was filled with New Orleanians. Camera crews, having staked out the locale, had the best positions, and had put their sattelite trucks in what would become the center of the crowd. There was a PA system set up right outside City Hall, but the majority of the crowd, being noisy as crowds can be, had a hard time hearing the proeedings from the other side of what appeared to be a wall of humanity. People were up on walls, and some folks took to climbing trees to get a better vantage. Eventually, and I've never seen this before, an absolute hush came over the crowd to better hear the speakers.
(More on this tonight)
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
For those of you wondering what it is, Left Behind is a documentary about a school system that brings new meaning to the term "in trouble." But what could have been a 90 minute heartbreak or guilt trip is produced and directed in such a way that you are very glad you took the time to watch the thing.
Though it gets a little preachy at the end, including interviews with Noam Chomsky, the meat of Left Behind is in the first hour, as the facts and history of the 2003 to 2005 timeframe are discussed. The interviews and cuts of school board members are priceless in a Chapelle Show Rick James kind of way. A 'money is a hell of a motive' quote would fit seamlessly.
The interviews with the social activists captures the gamut of emotions that must be felt from professionals proud of their own work who are not allowed to do their jobs. The scenes with the parents and citizens underscore the absolute frustration with a system that refuses to get anything done despite changes apparently for the better.
The documentary also blends humor with tragedy in the way only New Orleanians can, and instills a great deal of hope at the end in the ability of human beings to both overcome tragedy and turn their learning experience into a tool to help others. This comes mainly from the stories of the high schoolers who were featured and helped make this documentary (with quotes like: "can I sneak a camera into the school? Probably. Hell, you can get guns in easy enough. [sic]") Even the worst and most down trodden of the high schoolers are more candid and speak more intelligently about their own situations than most of the adults who hold political office or Ph.D's.
Not that that suprises me, or anything.
They said they had a hundred hours of footage. I'm ready for the DVD to come out, and I could just watch interviews with the high schoolers put in between interviews with the elected officials.
The movie won't be in New Orleans for some time, apparently, as the filmmakers take the thing on the road to Boston College, Harvard and the US Department of Education. Hopefully it will make a difference where a difference needs to be made. I hope this kind of thing gets more play in the public eye.
I got an email inviting me to a pre-march march up St Charles, as people roil along the wide avenue, banners and flags a flying, drums a drumming, feet not failing on their way to the big march.
The bad news is, the folks I asked to cover my shift, who were available to, can't switch for my shift, so I'll be rolling burritos that morning. The good news is, they didn't want to switch because they are going to the rally, too. Which is fine with me, so long as they bring all the folks that they know, and this I told 'em.
So I will be unable to march, but I'll be wearing black and red in solidarity, and I will tune the radio in the store to coverage of the march. And, hopefully, once the march is over, some of the folks who end up walking back Uptown will stop into Juan's and tell the red bandana-ed pantry cook how things went down.
Update: How cool is my boss? After I was done writing this, she calls me up to tell me that she had my day shift switched out. I'll have my walkin' shoes ready.
This is the US Government's trump card in the ongoing trial of Saddam Hussein's 6 remaining co-defendants, as well as what amounts to a posthumous continuation of his own genocide trial. Saddam speaking on tape about his use of chemical weaponry to massacre his fellow countrymen. As an added bonus, we get Saddam talking on tape about how to hide evidence of those pesky WMDs that there was never any evidence about, contrary to what 400+ congressmen voted on...
One recording revealed, more clearly than anything before, Mr. Hussein’s personal involvement in covering up Iraq’s attempts to acquire unconventional weapons, the program that ultimately led to President Bush sending American troops to overthrow him. Talking to the general who led Iraq’s dealings with United Nations weapons inspectors until weeks before the 2003 invasion, he counseled caution in the figures being divulged on the extent of Iraq’s raw supplies for chemical weapons, so as to disguise the use of unaccounted-for chemicals in the attacks on the Kurds.
Yeah. Isn't proof a great thing?
Monday, January 08, 2007
Other possible reasons I can come up with for taking today off:
1. Elvis' Birthday
2. Christmas (in Moldova)
3. World Literary Day
4. Jackson Day
5. David Bowie's Birthday
Feel free to post your own in the comments section.
(Note to House Leadership: Don't make a big deal out of the work week until you really intend to do something about it.)
Sunday, January 07, 2007
It took the ambulance an hour to arrive at the scene.
In the 1980's, the War At Home was in places like Detroit and Miami. In the 1990's it was in Los Angeles and New York. Now, it is in New Orleans, and one wonders how many times history must repeat itself until the cycle is broken or at least tempered.
A bar I frequent, where many new friends and co-workers patronize, was robbed over the holidays. Now, when we go take a beer at this place, we have to walk past the security guard with the AR-15 in hand.
But that place just got robbed. The murders keep piling up, and breaking the hearts of the folks who are fighting to keep this city alive. While parades started rolling yesterday, so did the funerals, and you have to wonder what a full life it would have been for folks like Shavers or Hill or...
The city will be redeveloping an area of the riverfront in the near future. Here's my suggestion they memorialize those who have died defending New Orleans. Cut their names into stone and put something up there on the walls around this town.
This was not the way New Orleans wanted to ring in 2007. Heartbreak piles on heartbreaks from all sides; emotion boils over and the venting begins in earnest. The Mayor promises action, and then eats cake.
Hopefully, mercifully, the public discontent will demand real change, and like in so many great American cities that have faced down crimewaves before, New Orleans, too, can overcome.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
And I bet mostly those 10% are going to be the ones on TV...but I digress.
Chalk me up as one of the other 90%, who have more complex views on how America should apply force in the world. I think that we should never engage our troops in war lightly, and I think we should apply a strict litmus test when doing so.
I'm not talking about this war, because our leadership has apparently not yet decided whether or not we actually are at war (much to the disservice of our men and women in uniform, who, when we do win this thing, will be the only reason, and the first US troops to do so since the War of 1812 without leadership from Washington), I'm talking about the next war. Hopefully we won't have so many problems if we do it right.
1. Overwhelming Force/Powell Doctrine. If we're not willing to put enough troops on the ground to win the thing, at the onset of hostilities, we are not ready to go to war. We may go to war with the Army we have, but we usually go on the understanding that reinforcements will be along d'rectly, with more guns and better planes.
2. Total War. If the American public is not ready to watch us destroy enemy cities from the sky, shell enemy cities into rubble and burn an enemy nation's entire infrastructure to the ground, we may not be ready for war. Because that's war. That's what the enemy would do to us if we give them the chance. FDR was totally against carpet bombing enemy cities, right up until Japan attacked us and Germany declared war on us. Facing the two greatest military-industrial machines the world had yet seen, FDR then decided, screw 'it, bomb the @#$! out of 'em. That way, when we take over enemy nations with our overwhelming force, the population is cowed and defeated and they know they are beaten.
The corollary to this, of course, is that once we break it, we do have to fix it, a la Marshall Plan, once we've won and they've surrendered.
3. National Service. A national service program would permanently swell the ranks of all Armed Forces and the reserves.
4. Peacekeepers. We need to bolster, seriously, our Peacekeeper divisions in order to keep order once the vanguards have destroyed enemy cities.
5. Collective Security. In 1991, the world sent over 500,000 troops into Iraq to liberate Kuwait, comprising the largest armored force the world had seen since WWII and backed up by the greatest air campaign evar. That war took 100 hours to complete.
6. Clear Strategic Objectives/Declarations of War. In WWII we knew we were fighting for the 'unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan and the Third Reich.' In 1991, we were fighting to 'drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait.' Everyone, including our enemies, knew these were our goals. The psychological and strategic importance of such clarity cannot be ignored.
Friday, January 05, 2007
And, with that, according to right wing talk raido, the end of the world is neigh.
So I waited a day to write about it, just to be sure.
Now, we've heard about the "Democratic Takeover" (as if the Democratic Party pulled this off like Bastille Day instead of Tuesday) every single day since November. We had to hear about the 'terrible divisions' that didn't really exist when the election of Majority leader came about. We've had to hear about the political ramifications of a guy from Dakota suffering a stroke, when we should have been worried about the man's health. We've had to hear all about the "Mean Girls" chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee. We even had to hear from a certain Georgia Republican about how Demcorats, when scheduling the next two years, 'didn't care about families' because they thought some well off folks might need to work four day weeks for a bit. And, to be honest, even I got into the act when Rumsfeld and Bolton got gone-d. (Though I would have been cheering their departure even if Republicans had did it...)
Matter of fact, I don't know if I've ever heard the media get so very high school yearbook-y with any transfer of political office. All I remember hearing about in 1994 was that Newt was using a different gavel, the media didn't seem to care what color curtains he was gonna have his office decorated with (though now that I think about it, Bravo! could get a great makeover show out of this).
And now, hearing about the pomp and circumstance of the swearing in ceremonies, I'm frankly getting a little tired of it. Yeah, I know we have to have the fame and accolades that come with being the first-to-do-something dance that we do in this country, and hear, hear, yay and all that.
I'm cool with it, y'know, because these cats have only officially been on the job for about 48 hours at this point, and Hail to the Victors is OK when you pull off an upset of any kind. And even then, I know that us hearing about most of this is because the tabloidification of the national news media that has been going on for some time now.
But the new guys are letting the media run with it, and that's how they're being portrayed to the national voting population. Double edged sword and all that.
I do know this, Democrats better knock this next 100 days out of the park...
But even if they don't, it wasn't the end of the world. And for that, we can all be thankful.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Sheehan, war-protesters interrupt Dem press conference
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While discussing the Democratic ethics legislation, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Democratic Caucus chairman, was interrupted by anti-war protestors lead by Cindy Sheehan, a well-known activist whose son was killed in Iraq.
"We're here to let the Democrats know that the grass roots and the anti-war movement elected them to create change," said Sheehan.
Sheehan said that she was joined by 70 protestors to hold the Democrats accountable, saying are pressing incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the new Democratic leadership to stop authorizing additional funds for the Iraq war.
Sheehan said any additional authorizations would make the Democrats "co-conspirators" with the Republican in what she described as war crimes.
"There is already enough money in their killing budget to bring the troops home," Sheehan said.
He may have partied in college.
You know, even back when we went through this with Clinton, Gore and Bush's forays into the realm of party enhancing goodies, I was kinda sick of it. I remember the absolute disconnect from reality that 'adults' seemed to have towards 'kids' behavior in the '80's concerning the use of drugs.
I mean, it was awful hard for ex-hippies, Miami Vice wannabes, and the people who gave us Disco to put on airs and tell us of Generations X&Y how your brain on drugs equalled breakfast food. Adults had a hard time talking about the 'good ole days' when Eric Clapton's song "Cocaine" was on radio rotation back then.
And for all the propaganda I heard about the long, downward spiral a child would face once they went from smoking to drinking to marijuana to coke to crack to heroin to meth, the proof was in the puddin' when most of us didn't go that route.
Do I know some folks who took the extracurriculars too far? Absolutely. I remember one fond night where I became the babysitter of the 'Rat King' for eight hours. But if they pulled their heads out of their asses later on and cleaned up, who am I to judge. I could throw plenty of stones if I didn't care about them throwing a Jack Daniel's bottle back at me (which gave them plenty of fond nights in return).
Did I lose some friends to the bad stuff? Oh yeah. But not many. Over the course of those losses, I learned that there is a long, long, long way to go from takin' a toke on the 4th of July or doing a line in a certain Island City restaurant's office (or bathroom) to full blown crack-headedness & strippin' at the Red Carpet Lounge.
So when a bunch of folks who lived through the '80's and who dreamed of homes in places like Island City started freaking out over Bill Clinton's joint toke, I stopped listening. That's why no one cared about Al Gore's admission to smoking marijuana in college and why a former substance abuser is currently sitting in the White House.
Now, if someone's doing lines in the Oval Office, I may tune in and turn on my "Give a Damn." But there just ain't that many of us left who don't know someone who engaged in extracurricular activities back in college, back in the suburbs or back in the 80's. I'm no longer interested in what a jackass party-er some political candidate was back in college or high school or the freakin' 80's.
That's why when I say "The '80's," you think of a very specific time with a very specific lifestyle and very specific things that happened back then. It is currently the "Get Out of Jail Free" Card for everyone between the ages of 34 and 50.
Monday, January 01, 2007
The last city is reported fallen into allied hands, the rebels have turned on one another and are looting their own supplies, peacekeepers are requested, and confiscation of weapons is promised in order to end the era of warlords and civil war.
I only hope this holds up, and the 15 year nightmare that is Somalia's unraveling can come to a close. I won't hold my breath on that, but it sure would be a sign of progress for the world, and especially Africa, if this could turn into something positive. I mean, the bar isn't set that high for 'progress' in Somalia, but we can hope and pray.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia has gone from late night TV charity recipient to "a traditionally Christian country, with one of the largest armies in Africa;" from basket case to Big Red Steamroller - complete with old Soviet tanks and MiGs. And that happened over the course of about 12 days. Now, that's a PR department...
...and again, I mention Ethiopia's proximity to Darfur.