Thursday, December 22, 2005

Incontrovertible proof that Jesus was a Republican

From Jesus's General's great blog:

"Lock and load!"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


He was a dark, depressed, maybe-masochistic, endlessly-cynical, and remorselessly courageous man.

He grew up in colonial India (tall guy, 3rd from left in the back row--as a member of the Burmese police) and he saw it for what it was--and he rejected it:

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Burmese Days

He hated what the fascists were doing in Spain in '36 (basically war-gaming for WWII)

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and he went to Spain to fight (he's the cadaverous tall guy with the mustache and cigarette):

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and then he came back and wrote about the way that bothRight and Left would propagandize what had happened there as he arrived back, wounded and disillusioned, into Britain:

“the huge peaceful wilderness of outer London, the barges on the miry river, the familiar streets, the posters telling of cricket matches and Royal weddings, the men in bowler hats, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, the red buses, the blue policemen—all sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs.” [from Homage to Catalonia]

He saw the nightmare beyond the Socialist Utopia:

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and he called it out by 1948, when the rest of Britain's Communists were trumpeting Stalin's heroism:

[Animal Farm]

Here's what he said about Bush 43's "war on terror":




Those scoundrels and villains will not escape the verdict of history.

Missing FZ

God, I miss Frank Zappa.
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Patron saint of the bloggers, or should be: he figured out decades ago that finding and promulgating information--and then laughing about it--was the most effective weapon against fascists. A song is the ultimate meme:

He nailed Dick Nixon:

["Dickie's Such an Asshole"]

One 'n one is eleven!
Two 'n two is twenty-two!
Won't somebody kindly tell me,
What the government's tryin' t' do . . .
Dickie's just too tricky
For a chump like me to use, oh use
You take that sub-committee serious, boy (and I'm serious)
You just might get a seizure from the evenin' news

Millions 'n millions of dollars . . .
Much as he might need . . . (good work!)
He could open up a chain of motels, people,
On the highway, yes indeed!

Quadrophonic desperation! (oh, pinch that loaf now!)
There might be confinement loaf up under your bed (well . . . )
You know if you just might pinch a little loaf in your slumber (pffft . . . NURSE!)
The FBI is gonna get your number




Tryin' not to worry
Tryin' not to care
But you know, I get so excited
When that soup goes over there

Can't have no private conversation
In the USA
Can't wait 'til the rest of the people all over the the world
Find out that their confinement loaf
Is just the same ol' way
Every day . . .
(Pinch that loaf now!)

Let me tell you about this right now
Let me tell you about this right here
Let me make this formerly clear
Let me tell you about this right here
You know you put me in office
So you must have wanted me in office
I've did you no harm
I used to have twenty-five tapes
Now I only got ten
Can't remember what happened to the rest
Musta gave 'em to a friend
Gave a couple to Bebe Rebozo
Gave a couple to Pat Boone
Gave a couple to Ronald Reagan
Gave a couple to the new vice-president
He said he'd stick with me through thick and thin
Even if I invaded Nicaragua
You know I'm not a crook
You know I'm not a crook
I just wanna lie about one more thing right now . . .
(Say yeah yeah . . . )

The gangster stepped right up,
'N kissed him on the lips good-bye
Made him a cocksucker by proxy, yes he did,
An' he didn't even bat an eye!

The man in the White House -- oooh!
He's got a conscience black as sin!
(Yeah, maybe I . . . I don't know but, it's just a training exercise)
There's just one thing I wanna know --
How'd that asshole ever manage to get in?

You're all the same, so sing right along now:

Sincerely, Dick, we mean it
Sincerely, Ron, we mean it
Sincerely, Dick and Ron, we continue to mean it

Now let's bring the Republican Party up to date . . .

and then he nailed the Religous Right

[When the Lie's so Big]

(Pinch it good!
You know, that confinement loaf is real good stuff
Hey, you oughta try some!)

They got lies so big
They don't make a noise
They tell 'em so well
Like a secret disease
That makes you go numb

With a big ol' lie
And a flag and a pie
And a mom and a bible
Most folks are just liable
To buy any line
Any place, any time

When the lie's so big
As in Robertson's case,
(That sinister face
Behind all the Jesus hurrah)

Could result in the end
To a worrisome trend
In which every American
Not "born again"
Could be punished in cruel and unusual ways
By this treacherous cretin
Who tells everyone
That he's Jesus' best friend

When the lies get so big
And the fog gets so thick
And the facts disappear
The Republican Trick
Can be played out again
People, please tell me when
We'll be rid of these men!

Just who do they really
Suppose that they are?
And how do they manage to travel as far
As they seem to have come?
Were we really that dumb?

People, wake up
Figure it out
Religious fanatics
Around and about
The Court House, The State House,
The Congress, The White House

Criminal saints
With a "Heavenly Mission" --
A nation enraptured
By pure superstition

Do you believe in the Invisible Army?
(Yes, indeed!)

When the lie's so big
And the fog so thick
And the facts kept forgotten
Then the Republican Trick
(Ketchup is a vegetable!)
Can be played out again
People, please tell me when
We'll be rid of these men!

"King of the Hill" is a documentary

This just in, from West Texas:
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"King of the Hill" is not a comedy. It's a documentary.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Flavors of my childhood

Not too many memories of my childhood and many of them are bad. The period between about age 11 and age 17 was one in which my family was falling apart: alcohol, disfunction, emotional abuse, you name it. But one/some of the few positive memories are of experiences--tonight, I'm recalling the Macintosh apple. We lived not far from orchards, and two or three times in my recollection we went, picked, brought 'em home, and made applesauce. What notes would Charles Ives use to recall the remembered taste of a Macintosh apple?

Primary challengers from DeLay's own party

Turning on each other, I see. No surprise there.

More evidence that animals are superior to humans

Little Brother's dog Sam and her mixing bowl...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Virtual Faculty Lounge

Have recently been catching up with more-wired colleagues and discovering the numbers of educators out there in the blogosphere. A lot of interesting insight out there--not least, confirmation that some of the trends/syndromes we notice Around Here also crop up Out There. But on a very preliminary run, there are two things I notice:

  • A lot of the edubloggers are pre-tenure, working their butts off as adjunct, visiting, or assistant professors. There seem to be fewer post-tenure people. Don't know why that is.
  • A lot of the edubloggers use their anonymized sites at least in part in order to vent a lot of anger at students. I certainly don't blame them: adjunct/visiting/assistant status means that everybody else, from undergrads to grads to junior colleagues to senior colleagues to upper administration, feels they can impose. And they carry large loads, of disinterested students, and that's massively wearing.
But I wonder if there might be another factor operating here. Certainly my female colleagues have spoken of having to use a very different classroom manner than I seem to have to. Are these edubloggers getting dumped on, and venting in response, because many of the edubloggers I'm reading are female, and lower-status, and thus get dumped on much more?

[update 2.13.06: Scott Kaufman's data confirms this.]

Probably a massively gender-oblivious comment on my part. But I ask because I mostly don't dislike my students. They occasionally irritate me, but mostly I like them. And if I don't like them, I'm at least amused by them.

Hmmm....need to get my head out of the sand a bit.

[added 12.13.05 2330 by Professor Spouse]:

Whether we like it or not, gender makes a huge difference in classroom discipline AND the amount of ridiculous crap students will try to pull. One of the reasons for this has to do with perceptions of authority, and what fosters authority can be completely different for male instructors than for female.

First of all, sadly, no matter whether it should be true or not, I believe it is simply not possible for a 5’2” woman (me) to have the same kind of physically authoritative and challenging effect on a young testosterone-ridden undergraduate male that a 6’5” male with a commanding voice can have. I am no expert on gender issues or socialization, but frankly I think this is hard-wired cave-man stuff. The latter punches very primal “rival who might kill me” buttons, and the former seems kind of like Mom. Not that Mom has no authority – she does, but it’s a very different authority from the Alpha Male, and it’s an authority that after a certain age is regularly circumvented with a whole bag of manipulative tricks.

The difference in accepted social behaviors between genders is also a huge factor. One of the most obvious examples of this seems to occur in students’ perceptions of identical behavior in male and female professors. Male teachers who are strict, good class disciplinarians, abide by the rules and boundaries they set in their syllabi, and inflict consequences for student irresponsibility are often described as “tough” or “demanding,” whereas I have repeatedly heard students describe analogous female teachers as being “mean” or a “bitch.” In our culture, the socialization, and hence expected behavior, of women requires us to accommodate, commiserate, forgive, and compromise. If we do not, we invite the very disrespect that we are trying to discourage by being “tough,” and the disrespect actually comes from our refusal to conform to the expected social norms. To add insult to injury, female students can sometimes be even worse culprits in this department than male students – if they have to spend so much time accommodating, commiserating, forgiving, and compromising, then they expect female Professor So-and-So to bloody well do the same.

Male and female students also exhibit very different patterns of trying to “get around” a professor. In my experience, undergraduate male students who are trying to avoid the consequences of their own bad decisions or irresponsibility usually just call upon some combination of lame excuses, obvious lies, and retroactive sicknesses, and then sit back and see what they can get away with. (I had a stomachache three weeks ago and therefore couldn’t do the 40-minute exam that was available on the class website for 9 solid days.) If they don’t get what they want, they will persist, usually by repeating the same excuse multiple times. Female students, on the other hand, tend to write long involved emails, trying to appeal to the female professor’s emotions, and pleading technical / computer imbecility, emotional meltdowns, vague “family problems,” and grueling, incompatible work schedules – in other words, the kinds of things that they think will elicit the expected reaction that has been socialized into them: that the female professor will commiserate with them, forgive whatever ridiculous irresponsibility they’ve exhibited, accommodate to the consequences of their bad decisions, and usually compromise on a grade issue. If they don’t get their way, they will also persist, but in a different way, often ramping up the emotional tenor of the phone calls and e-mails to a degree that is almost embarrassing. My conversations with male colleagues over the years would suggest that most of these same female students would never in a million years engage in this same style of communication with a male professor, or persist to this degree.

I myself certainly don’t have the answers for any of these issues. So far the formula I have tried to use with students of all genders is this:
1) model the same behavior you expect from them,
2) treat them all with equal respect,
3) don’t answer every addle-brained e-mail that comes over the transom;
4) insist on consequences;
5) always speak authoritatively about your subject, and
6) make it so abundantly clear that you know so much more than they do, that you scare the crap out of them (and the respect *into* them.)

As for hating or disliking them– sure, we get angry at them sometimes. And sometimes their complete lack of responsibility and sense of consequence is extremely frustrating. But it’s very important to keep a sense of humor about it, too.

And frankly, I think that people who find themselves consistently hating their students should find another line of work.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Great essay from Pedablogue on classroom geography

Great essay from Pedablogue on classroom geography.

Newsweek's "Bush in the Bubble": "What Bush actually hears and takes in, however, is not clear. "

It's amazing that even as stolid a source as Newsweek can run a story describing the extent to which Bush is a case of "lights on and nobody's home" and the balance of the MSM still can't articulate the fact that he's disengaged, incompetent, wilfully ignorant, a bully, a mama's boy, and out of his depth. Of course we're in an unwinnable, unnecessary war. Of course no one saying anything remotely critical of 43 was willing to be identified. Of course he does what the "older, smarter kids" tell him to do; that's what he's always done. But the job he's doing now matters a little more than cramming/cheating his way through a Gentleman's C at Yale.

Putz. He's an embarassment. I suspect that historians will look back and ask themselves how 51% of Americans could possibly have believed the man was competent.stupid Bush

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Dogs laugh, chimps play, loons mourn, whales adopt

Science Online reports that dogs laugh when they play.

When are we going to outgrow the Puritan vision of nature as "given to man by God" and start treating sentient beings as if they actually are?

" The Pilgrims justified their conquest by appealing to the Bible, Psalms 2:8:

“Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”

The use of force to take this “inheritance” was justified by citing Romans 13:2:

“Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

William Bradford, called a man of “more than ordinary piety, wisdom and courage” by no less an authority on Godliness than Cotton Mather, wrote in 1642:

“Wickedness Breaks Forth—Marvelous it may be to see and consider how some kind of wickedness did grow and break forth here, in a land where the same was so much witnessed against and so narrowly looked unto, and severely punished when it was known, as in no place more, or so much, that I have known or heard of; insomuch that they have been somewhat censured even by moderate and good men for their severity in punishments. And yet all this could not suppress the breaking out of sundry notorious sins.. Especially drunkenness and uncleanness. Not only incontinency between persons unmarried, for which many both men and women have been punished sharply enough, but some married persons also. But that which is worse, even sodomy and buggery (things fearful to name) have broke forth in this land oftener than once. I say it may justly be marveled at and cause us to fear and tremble at the considration of our corrupt natures, which are so hardly bridled, subdued and mortified.....But one reason may be that the Devil may carry a greater spite against the churches of Christ and the gospel here,....I would rather think thus, than that Satan hath more power in these heathen lands, as some have thought, than in Christian nations, especially over God’s servants in them.”"

Above compiled and quoted from ManticEye

More proof that animals are superior to humans

This time it's a mother otter and her pup at the Seattle Zoo.

"Plan for Victory" = "Vietnamization"

Excellent Richard Reeves article unmasking the latest "Plan for Victory" in Iraq--which is the same thing as "Vietnamization", strategic hamlets and all. As John le Carre put it in "The Honorable Schoolboy": "This is how they tried to win it--in air-conditioned rooms, behind smoked glass. And this is how they would lose it, as well."

The criminal tragedy is that hundreds more Americans and thousands more Iraqis will probably die while Bush/Cheney seek some non-existent (read: politically-secure) "peace with honor."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Dick Cheney and the Salem Witch Trials

So they (Egyptians following US orders) tortured Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi until he told them what they wanted to hear: that there were links between al-Qaeda and Iraq.


NYT: “The Bush administration used Mr. Libi's accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda included training in explosives and chemical weapons.”


I grew up across the harbor from Salem Massachusetts, and at the age of 11 attended the Salem Witch Museum for the first time, in which the testimony--both false and later recanted, and true—was induced from the accused by torture: pressing with huge stones, strangulation, starvation, immersion in icy water, and so on (timeline and testimony here. Even for children, the stupidity, inhumanity, and injustice, caused us horror. 300 years ago (in 1692), Governor Phips acknowledged that torture could not be used to extract confession, and we learned the evil of its usage in 1968—the year Dick Cheney had “other priorities” than service in Vietnam.


Dick Cheney and Condi Rice haven’t learned torture’s elementary lesson yet—that the suffering inflicted upon its victims is matched only by the condemnation heaped upon its practitioners. What kind of government with any pretense toward justice, legality, or humanity says “We’re going to torture you until you tell us the lies we want to hear”?


The evil they are practicing in the name of “protecting America” is making us unworthy of protection in the eyes of the world, and of history.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Christiane Amanpour tells it like it is

Just heard on a Sundance documentary on Christiane Amanpour:

"If you are aware of the reality of a situation--of genocide, of the depths of human suffering--and you do not report it, you are complicit."

Are you listening, embedded journalists?

"4 more years" (shades of Nixon) to erode civil liberties

A small minority of Republican negotiators hammered out a “compromise” to extend the Patriot Act—under which all manner of unconstitutional domestic surveillance is legitimized to “fight terror”—for “only” 4 more years, instead of the 10 originally sought. This is bad law and intentional erosion of civil liberties, under the guise of “keeping us safe”, at which the Bush Administration has proven singularly incompetent—see the findings of the 9/11 Commission. It’s no consolation that the Act is supposed to expire in 4 years instead of 10—that 4 years still gives the Bush White House the opportunity to target political opponents for domestic spying (shades of the “ratfuckers” of CREEP), and another year during which they can guarantee pardons for themselves—shades of Ford pardoning Nixon.


HUAC under McCarthy in the early 50s used “domestic security” as excuse for all manner of illegal and unconstitutional invasion of privacy; Nixon did it in the early 70s; now Bush/Rove are doing it. It’s always the same: external threats are magnified in order to justify internal spying, repression, and illegality. Now we’re including torture and character assassination. Those bastards are going to have a lot to answer for, and I’d guess there will be multiple indictments, on both the Hill and in the White House.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Excellent TPM blog comments which address the 37% in TX who still support DeLay

This is really very articulate, thoughtful, and accurate commentary about the sociology, cosmology, and thinking processes of hard-core conservative, fundamentalist, Bible-literalist Texans. What’s not so clear is that a lot of them are actually decent people…but they’re very very provincial, the big outside world (diverse, contentious, changeable, skeptical) deeply intimidates them, and they are comforted by cynical politicians who will mouth insanely simplistic platitudes to reassure them. DeLay is just the same kind of selfish, cynical, nepotistic, opportunistic, greedy, hypocritical asshole as the city fathers in Lubbock.



speaking of fanatics...

There’s not much question that NYT wants Mel Gibson’s new project on the Holocaust to seem like the work of a fanatic. Gibson’s acting offends me, his opportunistic pandering to the White House for We Were Soldiers and Passion of the Christ disgusts me, and his gutless, whiny, and spiteful response to those who tell him he makes bad films amuses me, so I’m not sorry they’ve chosen a shot designed to make him look like a homeless street preacher (with top-class hair-piece). But it seems cheap.

I’d expect it from CNN, but NYT should do better.

Evangelicals turning on Bush for insufficient fanaticism

Now the radical fundamentalist right is pissed at the Shrub because his Xmas cards leave off any reference to Jesus. But it’s all bullshit really: they’re not really angry: they’re just sending a message to remind him that he has to pander to their agendas if he wants their continued support.


He’s exploited cynical fanatics to get into office; he can hardly be surprised when the fanatics turn on him.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

War-crimes coming home to roost

A German national of Arab ethnicity, represented by the ACLU, is suing the CIA (including George Tenet) after he was allegedly detained without indictment, denied legal counsel, and tortured. The war crimes are coming home to roost. Here’s hoping Tenet (and Cheney, and Rumsfeld, and Gonzales, at the very least) are brushing up on their Dutch and building their legal defense funds.

This is heart-breaking. One prays that cowardice, if not conscience, will push these criminals to reverse criminal and inhumane policies.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I love it when they whine...

Donald Rumsfeld, the self-described “toughest man in Washington” (who never served in uniform), is now whining about the MSM’s coverage of the Iraq War. To anybody with any historical memory, this is a blackly comic reminiscence of the way Westmoreland would exhort Vietnam-era journalists (who are the ones who uncovered the secret invasion of Laos, the bombing of Cambodia, the My Lai massacre, and so on) to “quit being so negative” and “get on the team.”


One-armed pushups don’t make you tough, Don. And whining doesn’t make you right.


GWB as "post turtle"

A doctor and an old Texas rancher were talking about George W. Bush being in the White House. The old Texan said, "Well, ya know, Bush is a 'post turtle'." Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a 'post turtle' was. The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle." The old man saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain, "You know he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, and you just want to help the dumb bastard get down."



Friday, December 02, 2005

Arlen mouths off again. Credibility = still 0

Arlen Spector says “Alito's personal views won't drive rulings.”

C’mon, Arlen: why should we trust your statements of opinion? You thought that there might be an anti-trust case to be made against the Eagles because they fired Terrell Owens’s obnoxious ass.

Arlen: shut up. You’re a relatively decent and moderate Republican, but your credibility is not much better than the nominal head of your party.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

AS decides he ought not be an ASS about TO

From the Sports Illustrated website:

“Sen. Arlen Specter on Tuesday backed off a threat to have a Senate subcommittee investigate whether the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles violated antitrust laws in their handling of Terrell Owens.

Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he talked to lawyers in the Department of Justice about the issue.

"I think it's more a matter for them than us because we've got ... a lot of matters which take precedence over this for our own time," said Specter, R-Pa.”

You’re right, Arlen: the Senate has other concerns which ought to “take precedence” over defending this arrogant jackass.

If you want to get into defending an “arrogant jackass”, why not look to the head of your own
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staggeringly brilliant Bush/Cheney Monty Python parody

From comments on

The wise Sir Cheney was the first to join King Bush's
Chickenhawks, but other illustrious names were soon to follow:
Sir Rummy the almost Brave; Sir Delay the ImPure; and Sir Frist the
Not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Rummy who had nearly fought the Squawb
Of Baghdad, who had nearly stood up to the vicious Turkey of Teheran
and who had personally wet himself at the Battle of the Hill; and
the aptly named Sir Not-a man Rice. Together they formed
a band whose names and deeds were to be retold throughout the minutes,
the Chickenhawks of the not so Round Table.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Commuting murder

The Buddhist precepts say "Don't kill." They also accept the occasional necessity of "gentle violence", and the resulting bad karma, in order to prevent greater suffering or more death. A good Buddhist is not necessarily someone who refuses to kill under any circumstances. Rather, a good Buddhist is one who recognizes the terrible, lasting, uncountable negative impact of killing, and who yet may, in certain circumstances, willingly take on that negative karma to prevent further suffering.

Taking life is a terrible thing--and to do it knowingly, intentionally, or pre-meditatively is worse. And it is a terrible thing whether an individual or the state does it. As Lenny Bruce said, "The Commandant doesn't say 'Thou shalt not kill except.'"

Virginia governor Mark Warner has granted clemency to Robin Lovitt, who otherwise would have been the 1,000th person executed since the Nixon Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Regardless of Warner's motives, it was the right choice, even if a very painful one for the relatives of the murdered Clayton Dicks.

Let us hope that others in a position to grant clemency take heart from this example.

Arnold, are you listening?

Prayers for all affected.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ol' Dave Letterman can still crack the whip

"President Bush, is on his Asian tour now.  He'll visit Japan, China, South Korea, Mongolia.  Once again, he's skipping Vietnam."
---David Letterman

Tom Englehardt's "Losing the Fear Factor: How the Bush Administration Got Spooked"

Fantastic Mother Jones article articulating just how and why language reveals that the Bush/Cheney oligarchy is coming apart at the seams. Maybe the Democrats will even grow sufficient guts to take back Congress in ’06.



Thursday, November 17, 2005

The bravest man in Congress

Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a former Marine and a Vietnam vet, has called for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. His 8-minute video segment on the CNN website is the most cogent, damning, and bravest response to the Bush-Cheney madness so far offered by a member of Congress. What the cowards and shills at CNN left out was Murtha's response to a reporter's citation of Cheney and Hastert questioning his (Murtha's) patriotism:

"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments [Cheney] and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

They are evil men and he has called them out. It's damning him with faint praise to call him "The bravest man in Congress," but he is.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Cultural Diversity in Music Education

Off to OZ in the AM. Long trip: Lubbock-Dallas-LAX-(Hawaii)-Brisbane. Leave Tuesday AM, arrive Thursday AM.

Presenting a workshop at the conference "Cultural Diversity in Music Education" on use of indigenous teaching methods for teaching diverse musics: "Trusting the Tradition." Look for a chapter on the philosophical and pedagogical bases for this in the forthcoming conference proceedings.

Also a chance to hook up with Down-Under Irtradders and my old friend from Bloomington Gerardo Dirie.

Will post travel snaps.

Setting the bar for academic engagement: Howard Zinn

One of my great heroes. b1922 in Brooklyn, a decorated WWII vet, author of the People's History of the United States, chair of history at Spelman college and an advisor to SNCC during the Freedom Rides.

Howard Zinn said:

"I would encourage people to look around them in their community and find an organization that is doing something that they believe in, even if that organization has only five people, or ten people, or twenty people, or a hundred people. And to look at history and understand that when change takes place it takes place as a result of large, large numbers of people doing little things unbeknownst to one another. And that history is very important for people to not get discouraged. Because if you look at history you see the way the labor movement was able to achieve things when it stuck to its guns, when it organized, when it resisted. Black people were able to change their condition when they fought back and when they organized. Same thing with the movement against the war in Vietnam, and the women's movement. History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place."

If the nation survives, it will be because of heroes like them. And him.

FW: brilliant parodies: "If Fox News Had Been Around Throughout History"

My faves:


Wallace defiant: “We will not negotiate with terrorists.”


Terrorists seize B.E.I. tea. King George: “They Hate America.”

Pass ‘em on!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Say goodnight, Ken

Kenneth Tomlinson, the Republican appointee who used public funds to commission political analyses seeking "bias" in the work of Bill Moyers--the man who helped invent the Corporation for Public Broadcasting--has been fired from the CPB board, after having been forced out as Director. There's a Senate-commissioned audit/analysis coming which is going to confirm all of Tomlinson's exploitative, cynical, opportunistic, and vicious political maneuvering. Say goodnight, Ken. Go make your millions in the private sector, and leave the short bread and clean ethics of public broadcasting to those who actually have a conscience.

One more Bush/Neo-con appointee bites the dust. And he won't be the last.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Another Gilded Age

Though I'm not an American political history specialist, a parallel has occurred to me, in an attempt to make sense of the current political environment and the sense that, although the country is skidding ever-more toward oligarchic totalitarianism, there was another era to come.

I'm reminded of the Gilded Age (Mark Twain's term), that period between post-Civil War Reconstruction and the onset of the Spanish-American war. It was the period of America's greatest industrialization to date, a period that saw the mushrooming power of huge "trusts" (vast monopoloistic corporations) and of their murderous repression of labor organizing (murder, torture, violations of civil liberties), the period of America's first massive imperial and colonial aspirations (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Panama Canal, Hawaii, etc). Corporations owned government; politicians were controlled by corporations; the wealthy were enriched; the poor were repressed and the social safety net (barely in existence) was constantly attacked. External bugaboos ("Bolsheviks," "Jews," etc) were used to justify the erosion of domestic civil liberties, activists were jailed and deported without trial.

But it also led to the Wobblies (the "One Big Union"), American progressivism in Greenwich Village and North Beach, the first public hospitals and libraries, and the "trust-busting" of Teddy Roosevelt.

So what follows a "Gilded Age"? Revulsion: when the middle class who really dictate long-erm social change reject the greed, chauvinism, and naked imperialism of the oligarchy. It takes a long time--but it works.

Slate agrees.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Tedy Bruschi and Bob Kraft: Brass and Class

Tedy Bruschi is playing a balls-out tough game against the Buffalo Bills tonight, less than six months after a stroke. As he put it, "I kept looking for some doctor who'd tell me I shouldn't do it, and none of them would." The ESPN staff talked to Patriots owner Robert Kraft during the half-time and confirmed that (a) it was Bruschi's decision to come back and start, and (b) that he (Kraft) had refused his lawyers' advice to demand a waiver of responsibility from Bruschi, in the event that Bruschi was hurt again. Kraft said "I like lawyers and trust lawyers, but that's not the kind of relationship we have with our players."

Bruschi and Kraft: brass balls and a class act.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Yalies 0, Fitzgerald 5

Patrick J Fitzgerald, who today indicted Scooter Libby on 5 counts including obstruction of justic and perjury, has refused to make the "outing" of Valerie Plame the focus of his indictments. Instead, he has focused on the cover-up that went on to try to conceal the White House's despicable vengeance-seeking against Plame's husband Joe Wilson. As a number of commentators have said, this is very much parallel to Watergate, in which the initial knuckle-headed burglary was seen as representing the tip of an iceberg, and brought on a huge coverup that brought Nixon down and to Iran-Contra (same thing).

What I haven't seen is an commentary on Fitzgerald himself. The right-wing pundits and spin-meisters are doing everything they can to claim that F is a "rogue prosecutor" (and it's wonderful to see the same people who wanted to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about a blowjob now claiming concern about the "criminalization" of perjury), but what none of those punk-ass silver-spoon Yalies and Stanfordites have remembered is that Fitzgerald is the US States attorney from Chicago.

This is a tough Irish DA from the most politically corrupt city in the country, folks. This man has prosecuted for, closed loopholes on, and gotten convictions on blackmail, graft, and political tactics the neo-cons haven't even thought of yet.

He indicted Libby--but he didn't close the door on Rove et al. He delivered indictments at the end of the commission's first term--but he got permission from a federal judge to open a second term. He used FBI agents and investigators from Chicago--not those corrupt, sold-out leftovers from the Louis Freeh administration.

Fitzgerald knew that the WH was expecting indictments for Thursday 10.27.05, and he knew that they'd issue some bombshell to try to drive the indictments off the front page. So he let them withdraw Harriet "you are the greatest governor ever--I hope the girls know how 'cool' their parents are" Miers on Thursday--and then he issued no indicments. So the Bushies roasted HM for a whole day, to no purpose.

And you can bet that he indicted Libby first, w/out mentioning Rove, because he knows the lessons of Watergate are that if you indict one or two rats, one of them will roll over on their bosses. Wouldn't be surprised if Fitz has talked to John Dean.

He's going to nail more people. "Toby, come quick, Cheney's getting his ass kicked by an Irish cop!"

this will be fun.

FW: conclusive evidence that animals are in fact superior to humans...

Conclusive evidence that animals are in fact superior to

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Bush baseball curse

Has anyone noticed George HW Bush and Barbara Bush sitting behind home plate at the Sox-Astros games in Houston? No surprise that they'd be following the team--after all, their son was briefly a Texas baseball team owner before he blew that enterprise, too, into the ground. But the Astros are getting spanked like little girls by the vastly more talented White Sox.

I notice that the color commentators are pointedly not mentioning the Bush presence. Presumably they'd claim that it's an attempt to lower security risks--but in that case, why the hell are George and Barbara (and she's the real villain in that family--as distorting a person to her progeny as Joe Kennedy was to his) sitting squarely in-frame of the home-plate camera?

Maybe the color commentators are refraining mentioning the Bush's because of GW's current political embarassment? Or maybe they think that, with the Shrub's approval ratings lower than ever, the Bush curse (irresponsiblity, absentee management, careless disregard of others, egocentricity, a sense of silver-spoon entitlement) is coming home to roost in Houston as it did in New Orleans, S Florida, Iraq and now in Patrick Fitzgerald's special prosecutorial investigation? Maybe the Astros management wish they wouldn't sit behind home plate?

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

[10.27.05 12:04pm: corrected to accurately reflect GWB's ownership of Texas Rangers, not Astros, as reported by an anonymous poster. Thanks, Mr Anonymous.]

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Millions without power? For a month or more? Say goodnight, Jeb

If there was any question about the degree to which the storms resulting from global warming (and thus, realistically if indirectly, in part from the Bush family's support of oil dependency and their denial of the Kyoto Accords) are deep-sixing the family's political future, consider the impact of Wilma on Jeb Bush's chances. Katrina revealed the despicable cronyism that's been at the heart of the Bush/Cheney regime since before they were even elected (Enron, Halliburton, FEMA), and Wilma is revealing the absurd neglect of basic infrastructure under the Bush governorship. A million without power, for as much as another month? Say goodnight, Jeb. You and George will have lots of time to work on your golf swings. You're damned sure not going near the White House during the 2008-12 Democratic presidency.

[10.27.05 Jeb says "Blame me, not FEMA." OK, you punk--we will.

As Zappa said "they really hate it when you laugh at them"

The latest:

The White House, claiming there is a possibility of fraud, is attempting to enjoin the satirical newspaper The Onion from using the White House seal.

They say there is some possibility that readers might be confused and think that the Onion is an official publication.

Well, considering the absurdities coming out of the "real" White House these days, that's not as outrageous a claim as you might think:

No, he really is that stupid, folks.

As Frank Zappa said "The best way to deal with politicians is to laugh at them. Boy, they really hate that."


[10.26.05: The blogosphere agrees.]

External threats and internal spying

In any totalitarian regime, those in power use the fear, or claimed risk, of external threats in order to erode civil liberties. The dept of Homeland Security, NSA, FBI, and (to a lesser extent) CIA do not care about protecting Americans from terror threats--they care about maximizing their mandate and justifying their budgets. Now the Washington Post is reporting that illegal domestic surveillance, scrutiny, and invasion of privacy by FBI is far greater than had been feared. Same thing happened in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations, with the same external justifications ("threats from outside") and the same internal motives (control of dissent).

From Wag the Dog:

Why do people go to war?

Why do people go to war?

I'll play your silly game.

Why do they go to War?

To preserve their Way of Life.

Would you go to War to do that?

I have.

Well, I have, too. Would you do it again...? In't that why you're here? I guess so. N'if you go to war again, who is it going to be against? Your "ability to fight a Two-ocean War " against who? Sweden and Togo? Who you sitting here to Go To War Against? That time has passed. It's passed. It's over.
The War of the Future is Nuclear Terrorism. It is and it will be against a Small Group of Dissidents who, unbeknownst, perhaps, to their own governments, have blah blah blah. And to go to that war, you've got to be prepared. You have to be alert, and the public has to be alert. Cause that is the war of the future, and if you're not gearing up, to fight that war, eventually the axe will fall. N'you're gonna be out in the street.


And you can call this a "drill," or you can call it "job security," or you can call it anything you like. But I got one for you: you said, "Go to War to protect your Way of Life," well, Chuck, this


is your way of life. Innit? And if there ain't no war, you can punch out, go home, and take up Oil Painting.
And there ain't no war but ours.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Congressional Republicans: P*ssing themselves with fear

In a post a good while back, I predicted that Bush's falling numbers, the range of scandals and mismanaged disasters both at home and abroad, and voter disgust would cost the Republicans in the 2006 Congressional mid-term elections. Now Time (hardly a bastion of radical prognostication) agrees:

"Since 1962, when a President's approval ratings have dipped below 50%, his party has lost an average of 43 seats in the House of Representatives."

The 'Pubs currently hold only a 28-seat majority and the Shrub's approval ratings are below 40%. The Dems will take at least the House (and even or overcome the deficit in the Senate), he'll be the lame-duck I predicted, his last two years will be a comedy of ongoing and failed attempts to scrub his image and avert indictments for key staffers (Rove and Libby will be indicted this week, almost for certain), and the Dems--if they ever manage to grow the slightest bit of ethics, courage, or agenda--will have a good shot at the White House in '08.

Oh, and both Bill Frist (under investigation for insider trading) and Jeb Bush (tarred by incompetence, absolutely asinine political intervention--in the Schiavo case--and incompetence--in the wake of Rita) can kiss their presidential aspirations goodbye.

Not much consolation in knowing that half the rats will flee and the other half will go down with the sinking ship though...because we're still sinking.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Celtic Backup Clarification

[from a Celtic Backup owner]

Here are a few comments in response to your apt questions:

Your text doesn't reference tuning changes until the Appendix 2 section.

Yes, that’s more-or-less intentional. My basic premise in making the book non-tuning-specific (and in providing accompaniments on the CD in an array of tunings and instruments) was to emphasize that the principles behind improvised accompaniment remain the same across instruments. However, see below discussion regarding strengths/weaknesses of various tuning choices (I’m assuming you’re interested in guitar only). I would encourage you, no matter what tuning you settle on, to build your own personalized preferred voicings in that tuning based on the Celtic Backup principles.*

>My Question: for the initial exercises in the book, the 15 point plan, it appears that drop D tuning is best: DADGBE. Yes or Other?

Actually, for the 15-point plan (as much as I remember how I conceived it at that time), the priority would be to ensure that you can get open-string drones in useful keys: e.g., the root and/or 5th degree of the scale on the fundamentals G, D, A, and E. So, a tuning that gives you, respectively, G-D, D-A, A-E, and/or E-B as open strings helps make these open-string drones especially feasible.

Strictly for accompaniment, I personally prefer to use some kind of tuning which supports low (6th-string) D and (5th-string) A, as that gives me root/5th in D, the 5th of D (and lets me play bass runs that lead up to the 6th-string/5th-fret G, approaching the fundamental of below), gives me the root of A. It also mimics the low D bass drone of the pipes. So, for me either DADGBE or DADGAD is preferable.

Here are the advantages, as I see them, of the above two tunings:


Has the advantage of permitting a very triadic/chordal approach (familiar fingerings, full 3-note triads) while also supporting the low D-A drone strings. So we can have moving or droning bass lines under triads. Best for D major/minor, G major (can use the low drones the most). Less good for A mix/min (can use the low A drone some). Less good for E minor (can’t use the low drones at all).

Permits the adaptation of familiar triadic fingerings to omit the 3rds from chords. So, a D chord without the 1st-string F#, a G chord with the 2nd-string B altered to a 3rd-fret D, and so forth. Calls for quick thinking and conscious choices from the player in order to avoid adding a “triadic” flavor to tunes which don’t require it.

I tend to use DADGBE myself because I like the flexibility of being able to shift from a very droning/modal orientation to a very triadic one within the course of a single accompaniment.

Best exemplar: Arty McGlynn (my very favorite Irish-style guitarist, but one who I like primarily for his rhythmic and textural sense).


Has the very major advantage of providing useful drones on treble as well as bass strings. Readily permits the incorporation of root-5th treble drones (in D), 5th-2nd treble drones (in G), 5th-4th drones (in A). Still rather problematic for E (many DADGAD players will capo at the 2nd fret and play D minor/modal fingerings to get E minor).

Has the additional very major advantage of really supporting the contrapuntal approach laid out in Celtic Backup. You can play moving lines above, below, or even between low and/or high drones. Really is the best solution I know for making the 6-string guitar “behave” in a bouzouki-esque fashion. Very good overall for counterpoint.

I use DADGAD when I pick up the wife’s guitar in a session, and have come to appreciate its droning/modal/zouk-like characteristics much more over the years. Lets the instrument really function as very effective drone/percussion—takes it a long way away from triadic/”guitaristic” approaches.

Exemplars: Philip Masure (Belgium; the most staggering DADGAD player I’ve ever heard. Philip, with whom and the Coyne Brothers I sessioned a couple of times in Liverpool, is absolutely frightening. Definitive DADGAD playing. Second-place: Randal Bays, who’s irritatingly brilliant at fingerstyle and accompanimental DADGAD guitar in addition to his fiddle virtuosity.


Think of DADGBE as a kind of “pianistic” approach, where you can have “right-hand” (treble) chords, of triadic or modal nature, over a moving bass line (McGlynn).

Think of DADGAD as a kind of “bouzouki/pipes” approach, where you can contrapuntal accompanimental lines moving above, below, or within drones.

*Having said that, I can also point you at Han Speek’s DADGAD guitar pages ( Han is a great musician, a true gentleman, and very generous with his knowledge.

Good luck!


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Building (and tearing down, and rebuilding) community: the case of Lubbock

Well, it had to happen. I used to joke with other session members that the true mark of our little scene having reached a kind of "maturity" would be when feuds and cliques developed. It's kind of like the old joke defining "Irish Alzheimer's": e.g., "when you forget everything except the grudges." By that mark, the Lubbock Irish scene has finally "grown up".

An angry person over on the Yahoo caprockcelts list has posted a screed accusing me of selfishness, opportunism, and about 6 other things. This despite the fact that I created the list for free, made sure that all members could post and add links, listed links of numerous other organizations besides my own band, have played hundreds of free concerts, sessions, and fundraisers over the years, have taught hundreds of hours of free lessons and have never charged a dime, took students to Ireland for summer schools, and so on. She is still convinced that I'm a selfish opportunist. Fortunately, people on the list have responded in more adult ways.

But the joke (which is funny) and the above anecdote (which is sad) get at something important about how communities are built or are torn down. And the Wife reminded me of another anecdote which has helped me get past the anger at being attacked and move toward constructive responses which help mend things.

Years ago in Indiana we had some great friends and revered teachers who were members of a small Tibetan monastery in Bloomington. These men had been a very powerful positive influence on our lives and we felt we owed them a lot.

At one point, a traveling ensemble of Tibetan monks presenting a program of ritual, choreography, and chanting came to town. One of our local teachers, a Lama, had formerly been a member of this ensemble and its members contacted him to invite him to the concert.

Unfortunately, members of another monastery in the area were vehemently opposed to the Lama's attendance, as a result of old and vicious temple politics in Tibet (sadly, the politics, opportunism, and repression associated with organized state religion are not limited to the West): lives had actually been threatened (though thankfully not by any locals). I was asked to attend the event with the Lama, because at that time I was very active in both martial arts and Buddhist practices, because I was a former bouncer and had worked security, and because it was felt that I might be able to help avert any kind of confrontation. I was honored to be given this opportunity and I would, quite truthfully, have run any risk to protect my friend.

In the event, I went with the Lama, stayed at his elbow, sat next him in the theatre, and kept a close eye on those around us. Afterward, by chance he and the chief representative of the rival order encountered one another in the theatre lobby. And the Lama did something which I and others experienced as a great teaching: seeing Mr X across the lobby, he walked over to him, greeted him in very friendly fashion, and held out his hand, which Mr X took.

And that was a great teaching: in a situation in which it might have been very understandable and very human to respond with anger, resentment or frustration, the Lama instead chose to literally reach out to the other side. I can't speak for how Mr X experienced that moment, but I know that I, and other students present, saw it as a profoundly skilful way of changing, and improving, the climate between the two groups.

Anger destroys community. Compassionate acceptance helps rebuild it. That's a good lesson for me/us to remember, particularly when we are attacked.

[3:16pm: a bunch more people have stepped up, in essence to say "you can't tear down this community--we'll do what we have to keep it strong." Hope the attacker learned a lesson.]

Next day: lovely turnout at our regular Thursday gig: friends, families, students, people with kids. Nat Cooper sang a song, Stacey Houck got a birthday cake, and the community was stronger than before.

Positive energy works.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Do-over" politics in the Miers nomination

Since when do candidates for the Supreme Court, submitting responses to appropriate questions posed by the appointed body (the Senate Judiciary Committee) which that body calls "inadequate, incomplete, and insulting", get a "do-over"? We know that the worthless little punk in the White House who has spent his whole life getting "do-overs" for his own incompetent performance--in oil, baseball, gubernatorial politics, national economics, and now international armed conflict--thinks this is OK, but just how arrogant can his handlers be in their contempt for Congress? Sooner or later, even the idealogues are going to be shamed into more responsible action.

You don't get "do-overs", Harriet. Prepare for the private sector.

Clean work in Public Radio

Radio is going a lot of strange places in the new millenium (and is perpetually under attack by Republicans trying to blame Corporation for Public Broadcasting for an unbalanced budget) but public radio is still clean work. Nobody in public radio gets rich, most could make more money elsewhere, almost everybody involved does it because they believe in the way that it adds to local communities' quality of life. Donate here to Lubbock's KOHM (89.1,

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Spring courses in musicology and ethnomusicology at Texas Tech

I'm teaching my usual load in Spring 2006 (including MUHL2303 Music as Cultural History: The Modern Period, and MUHL5336: Music in the United States), but am also pleased about having added an overload course taught through the TTU Honors College, as follows:

HONS 3304-H02:

Music, Folklore, and Tradition in Irish Cultural History

It should be an interesting and enjoyable challenge for all concerned. Here's hoping I can do justice to my heroes.

Great post on Irish fried breakfast

Serena-abroad has a great post on the traditional Irish fried breakfast. Mandatory reading for my Honors seminar in Spring 2006: "Music, Folklore, and Tradition in Irish Cultural History."

What she neglects to mention is that the single advantage of the traditional fry is that it'll carry you through until dinner--and it's including in the B&B price. Excellent for youthful budgets and digestive tracts.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Jean Ritchie

Jean Ritchie and her husband George Pickow were here in town this week, for a series of elementary educators' workshops and a gala concert. At 83, born in Viper, KY, Miss Ritchie brings a Cumberland Mountains/coal-mining experience and music from a place that is now gone. She's the mother of Appalachian dulcimer players everywhere, and is the single person most responsible for bringing the dulcimer to the folk world. She also made the first field recordings of many Anglo-Irish source musicians (including Bess Cronin, Seamus Ennis, and Sarah Makem) during a 1950 Fulbright. She's a splendid person and a wonderful musician, and it was a helluva learning experience for all of us. Banjo-player Mason Brown came down from the hills above Taos, Susan Brumfield brought her SweetPeas women's chorus, LNF was the backup band, and a good time was had by all. Not too many opportunities available like that for us anymore. We're very grateful.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

When the Bush White House threatens a veto to PROTECT torture

So far has our leadership sunk. When the Senate (at the instigation of veterans, former POWs, and those members of Congress with a shred of humanity remaining) moves to regularize, limit, and oversee the treatment of "detainees", the Bush White House threatens a veto. This is where we stand: when the Cheney/Bush/Rumsfeld axis takes a public, political stance that torture should be protected.

Let's be clear: Guantanamo Bay is a concentration camp, wherein are held individuals who may have committed no crime other than ethnicity or the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bush and the architects of Gitmo are guilty of war crimes. They will (like Henry Kissinger, another monster masquerading as a political) eventually be charged with these crimes, probably by the International War Crimes tribunal at Den Haag, but they will never respond to these charges as long as the US uses its force-dominance to ignore international law.

I would not expect the Shrub--a draft dodger who served a few days in the Air Force Reserve, but whose records were mysteriously "lost, or Cheney--who spent the Vietnam Era informing on anti-war activists, or Rumsfeld--who as a non-vet civilian has cost thousands of American and tens of thousand Iraqi lives needlessly--to care about either the practical or the ethical problems with defending torture as official policy.

But John McCain, Colin Powell, and John Shaliskavilii are intimately acquainted with the human, military, and ethical repercussions of torture. The White House stance must make McCain, who spent almost six years in a tiger cage in North Vietnam, want to vomit.

Even the Shrub's father, who fought in a War aimed at defeating ethnic fascism, must be appalled at the acts of his offspring. These are evil, evil men.

[October 25: They're still defending torture. Now they want exemptions for the CIA.]

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Pow! Nailing the Hammer

Tom DeLay was indicted today by a Texas grand jury for conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme. He's been a vicious and greedy power-broker for years, but finally, through the hard and courageous work of a lot of people who DeLay attempted to strongarm or otherwise intimidate, he's been called and will have to answer. Word is he will step down as House majority leader.

After Iraq, Katrina/New Orleans, "Brownie" and FEMA, Karl Rove's treachery, Halliburton and $4 gas, and now DeLay's demotion, Congressional Republicans are peeing their pants over the inevitable losses they'll take in the 2006 mid-term elections.

7pm, later that day: Time magazine agrees.
7:30pm: the Post reports there are Mafia ties.

Now is the time for the leftist coalition to step up the pressure.

Fantastically good news, even if the Hammer never does time. Say goodbye time: prepare for the celebrity golf circuit.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Benedict: the Church of Paul, Torquemada, and and Pius XII...not of Augustine, Francis, or Merton

Lest there would be any question about relaxation of doctrinal rigidity or expansion of compassionate tolerance, the new pope--a former hatchetman and rules-enforcer for John Paul II--has declared himself firmly in the hateful, condemnatory, hierarchical, and judgmental tradition of the misogynist Paul, the Inquisitorial Torquemada, and the anti-Semitic Pius XII, with a bull banning gays from the priesthood entirely.

Benedict is another in a long line of hate-preaching Popes. A sad day for the church of compassion, inclusivity, tolerance, and love preached by St Augustine, St Francis, and Thomas Merton.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

News: buried but hugely important

Kofi Annan and almost all member nations managed to overcome objections from John Bolton (the US representative to the UN who had to be an interim appointee for Bush because Bolton has been such an asshole to so many people for so long) to retain language in the UN's 60th anniversary declaration that makes explicit the "right to protect." It was carefully kept out of the US press, but the Guardian website reports that "the world community has the right to take military action in the case of "national authorities manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity".

What this means, of course, is that the world community has a duty to take military action in such cases. Further, that any member nation which fails to take such action, in the case of "national authorities manifestly failing to protect their populations," is culpable in such crimes against humanity.

To quote Jeb Bartlett, "Congratulations, folks. We've got ourselves a doctrine."

Now it's a question of getting greedy and cowardly world leaders to employ that doctrine in cases of human rights, rather than only in cases of oil or imperialism.

Monday, September 19, 2005

This is an example of the outrageous and cynical political opportunism of the Bush II White House. The Shrub himself, as a policy-maker, "leader," and the person ultimately responsible for appointing utterly incompetent federal officials, is massively at fault for the loss of life and property--the sheer magnitude of human suffering--which Katrina caused. But his handlers want to minimize the degree to which Bush II is blamed for this. So the handlers set up a website which puts the Bush name (Bush I, but it's the family name) in direct proximity to (and preceding) that of Clinton, who whatever other faults he possessed really did care, demonstrably, about poor people, and links both the Bush and Clinton names to Katrina relief.

Why not simply ""?


Because ultimately, for the Bush White House everything--even charity--is about spin and image control. If they could make more political capital about claiming that Katrina victims' suffering was their "own fault", they would. In fact, they did: just ask Brownie. If they could make more political capital by fobbing off responsibility on local or state officials, they would; just ask Condi. If they could make more capital about claiming the victims were now "better off," they would. In fact, they did: just ask Barbara (and there's a person who's going to spend a few extra eons in the lower circles of hell).

Clinton himself slammed the Bush government today for their disregard of the poor. But the Bushies know that shame is irrelevant to political gain--they'll claim anything, no matter how bald-faced the lie, and rely on the Goebbelsian "Big Lie" to put it across.

Make the Lie big enough, and loud enough, and repeat it often enough, and people will believe it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Sorry for relative dearth of posts. We've started the Fall semester here at TTU, and though I'm teaching courses I've taught before, all of us in the MUHL department (Angie, myself, Stacey Houck, Cara Pollard) are drastically ramping-up the "wired" nature of our presentations. So now all of my lectures are on PowerPoints, played from the laptop, and almost all the in-class audio and video is likewise from the laptop. It massively improves our content delivery, and certainly is much more engaging for our students--who are very visually-oriented and essentially "post-literate." But it's time consuming and takes a lot of concentration: to make sure the wireless works everywhere in the buildings, that the laptops can talk to each other, that the FM transmitters from the iPods and laptops to the permanent audio racks work, etc.

Newest: got the wireless network online at home (typing from there now, in fact). This drastically expands the amount of work we can do at home--especially on two computers at once--which unfortunately makes it that much harder to drag oneself away from the laptop. Should be more up-to-date with blogs, though.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"Coyotebanjo" and

Friends and neighbors:

Brief commercial announcement:

My Irish traditional music disc, Coyotebanjo, with Randal Bays (fiddle) and Roger Landes (bouzouki), plus guests Angie Mariani (singing "Short Jacket and White Trousers" and "So Early in the Spring") and John Perrin (bodhran on four tracks) has shipped and I've got copies in hand. 71:00 minutes of music. Buy from me on the gigs or via The latter site has excerpts of all tracks.

On another note: my website is up in a preliminary version:
Includes complete liner notes, gig list, photos, etc.

Feel free to visit, sign the mailing list, leave a note in the guestbook so I know you've been.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

How our President "leads," and, the elephant in the Republican living room

Last night Bill Maher, on his Real Time monolog, did a bit about where viewers could go to help "those victims most devastated by Katrina," and gave the number of the Republican National Committee.

The elephant in the Republican living room, the huge bugaboo too few in the media have been willing to confront, is the right wing's racist and classist priorities. The Republican party is overwhelmingly concerned with benefitting the privileged and the wealthy, and they use their political power to protect those parties: they cut public school funding because rich kids go to private school, they cut public college funding because rich kids go to private colleges, they cut public health care because rich folks all have health insurance, they limit the ability of customers to sue for malpractice because the rich are not victimized by malpractice, they support an all-volunteer army because a draft would impact rich kids, they send poor kids in the "volunteer" army to fight wars that build the trust funds of rich kids.

The fact of the matter is that Republican public policy ever since Hoover has been to ignore, exploit, and neglect the poor. That is the elephant in the Republican living room, the enormous and contemptible class warfare practiced by the rich against the poor.

And so it becomes more convenient, and better political strategy, to imply that somehow poor people are at fault for the tragedies inflicted upon them. In this country, many of the poor are not Anglo. And so, when you have a city in crisis, one of the most culturally-rich but economically-strapped (not to mention corrupt--I used to live there), in which the people worst hit are poor, brown, and disenfranchised, then you don't really have to concern yourself with their political responses to a government's criminal neglect.

FEMA's own director said that if people were told to evacuate, and didn't, they more-or-less deserved what happened to them. He ignored the fact that many didn't have transport, that no public/federal transport was made available in time, that many of those who stayed didn't dare leave, for the same reason that Iraqis refuse to leave war zones. If everything you own, everything you've spent your life working hard to try to build (home, business, personal belongings) is going to be abandoned to looters by a government to cheap to send military defense in time, of course you won't leave.

Bush has created economic, personal, or human disasters in every job he's ever held, and every one he's abandoned. Of course he presumes that people can just leave if a disaster looms--that's what he's always done.

And how do the Bush handlers try to "shift the story"? They send him to New Orleans so he can be photographed hugging a black person. That photo tells a very very profound lie: about Bush, about Bush's government, about Republican public policy.

They are greedy villainous scoundrels. The level of incompetence in the Bush White House and congress should have the opposition talking impeachment.

And Condoleeza Rice, who was shopping at Ferragamo and attending Spamalot as Katrina hit, and who has no domestic policy brief, was nevertheless trotted out to "sharply contest" the idea that the White House was neglecting black people. She is beyond contemptible.

But the chickens are coming home to roost. Here are some predictions--test my own political savvy:

  • The oral/vernacular culture of New Orleans will survive: the music, food, community feeling, and attachment many feel for the place will all live on. But the physical culture--most notably, the historic buildings--will be virtually obliterated by large-scale government and corporate jackals who will make millions through rebuilding in a faceless generic style designed to titillate the tourists and ignore the locals--kind of like they're doing in Baghdad.
  • Bush will rebound from the devastating condemnation of his lacking leadership with his core support (social conservatives, Congress, multinational corporations, foreign oil-based governments) largely intact, because that core support doesn't give a shit about poor people. Kind of like in Baghdad.
  • The mainstream Democratic party leadership will give lip service to condemning the Republican response, but they will not dig too deeply into the criminal financial and federal neglect that led to the levees breaking, because then they would have to admit their own massively cowardly, obsequious behavior in the face of Republican naked-fist greed. Just like they did with the Congressional resolution giving Bush wartime powers to invade Iraq.
  • Grass-roots oppositional organizations and leaders--PAC's, news outlets, organizers, and new left-wing candidates--will by comparison speak out in brutal and effective terms about Republican neglect.
  • As a result, the Republicans will lose seats in, and probably control of, the Senate in the 2006 elections. The only Republican governors in the Katrina states who keep their seats will be those who (a) have risen to the challenge of leading effectively and courageously, and (b) distance themselves from the Bush White House. Congressonal Republican rats weill depart the Bush ship, but it will not retain them the Senate.
  • As a result, 2006-08 will find Bush a complete lame-duck president, unable to pass legislation, increasingly out-of-touch with day-to-day governing and concerning himself (insofar as someone of his limited IQ is capable of doing) with his "place in history."
  • But his "place in history" is already assured: he'll be seen in the same light as Herbert Hoover, who played with his dog on the White House lawn throughout the Great Depression, and Woodrow Wilson, who after a stroke was effectively comatose for most of his second administration.
  • The issue in 2006-08 will be to see how far the Republican right wing might be willing to go to try to retain control of the Executive--up to and including changing the Constitution. If Bush manages to pad the Supreme Court, the right wing might succeed.
Addenda next day (9.4.05): Renquist has died. Though no one should mourn that "vengeful geek" (HS Thompson), who was a judicially-incompetent Nixon appointee, the Bushies will use his death to further try to pad the Court in support of the above. A majority of respondents to a CNN poll favor an appointment from within the current Court, but the Bush White House will use this as an opportunity to further skew the judiciary. Look for one of the obedient social conservatives--Scalia or, God help us, Thomas--to be appointed Chief, and for Roberts's nomination to be fast-tracked.

Worst-case scenario: If it looks to the Bushies that they can't get Jeb into the White House in '08, they will be working from '06 to change the Constitution and seek the Shrub a third term.