Monday, November 29, 2010
There is an almost theoretically unsolvable problem associated with the interface between law enforcement and crime. On the one hand, law enforcement must have intelligence--it is not reasonable to expect law enforcement to remain entirely unsullied by association with criminals, since their job is to stop criminal activities. On the other hand, to obtain intelligence is to frequently establish on-going relationships with criminals, to know in advance that criminal acts are being planned or even are occurring, to allow certain informants to continue their criminal activities in the service of catching other criminals, and so forth. And so, with this nether world, comes the art of Noir (including LeCarre), and various real-life mysteries which must be taken into account by anyone trying to understand the real world.
E.g. Jack Ruby was a long-time police informant at both the federal and state levels, and Lee Harvey Oswald himself appears to have worked for the US government at certain times in his life. E.g., the events known as the Greensboro Massacre, in November of 1979, include the fact that a police informant rode in the lead Klan car, and led the shooters to the rally, where, oddly, no police were present.
Then there's this current event, the thwarting of an alleged bomber in Portland, Oregon, last weekend. Glenn Greenwald writes a good piece on the involvement of the FBI, beforehand:
For details of the Greensboro Massacre, see:
I'll quote one paragraph from the Greensboro story:
"The marchers killed were: Sandi Smith, a nurse and civil rights activist; Dr. James Waller, president of a local textile workers union who ceased medical practice to organize workers; Bill Sampson, a graduate of the Harvard School of Divinity; Cesar Cauce, a Cuban immigrant who graduated magna cum laude from Duke University; and Dr. Michael Nathan, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, North Carolina, a clinic that helped children from low-income families."
My daughter was grade school friends with the daughter of Dr. Nathan. Both she and Dr. Nathan's daughter were born in 1979. For a deeper understanding of the abstract problem of intelligence, see Peter Dale Scott's "Deep Politics."
Thursday, November 25, 2010
|James McMurtry, photo Don Winters|
I was going to put up a great youtube video of James McMurtry's "Choctaw Bingo." It's posted near the top of today's FireDogLake, so if you care to go check it out, be my guest. (Once you're at youtube you'll find many other vids of his music.) McMurtry's one of the best current songwriters, in my opinion, with a political edge second to none. His "We Can't Make It Here" is also worth a good look, and for his lyrical side, I can't get enough of his "Lights of Cheyenne," a very modern-life update of perhaps the greatest cowboy ballad of all, "Old Paint." (For the best version of "Old Paint" I've ever heard, check out Pop Wagner's version on his "Cinchin' Saddles" CD.) One thing I like about McMurtry is, his music contains musical history. "Choctaw Bingo," musically, is related to Chuck Berry's "Cool Breeze" in much the same way that "Lights of Cheyenne" relates to "Old Paint." But that's not the main thing about McMurtry. The main thing is, he is outraged--as we all should be, if we could simply manage to remain in an outraged state and still function, i.e., survive. It's not easy to do that--it's, as the shrinks like to say, dissonant. One of the more subtle things about the '60s was, dissonance was for a time accepted and even expressed openly in the public mainstream media. (The specific content of this dissonance was by no means subtle--it was the experience of dissonance which was mostly unremarked, even if felt with great power and ultimate effect by the "body politic.") There was no way to ignore Vietnam, or the Assassinations, or the Civil Rights Movement. So one of the big problems to be solved, as the Vietnam era shuddered to a close and the great soporific blanket of Reaganism lulled the country to sleep, was how to keep dissonance at bay.
Various solutions arose and were implemented. The most obvious would be the All Volunteer Army. Clear Channel might be another. At any event, I've never even once heard McMurtry on the airwaves. I first heard of him listening to XM, which we subscribed to for a time, until the merger with Sirius oddly enough included the end of the particular channel which aired McMurtry. He's come to Chapel Hill once, to the Cat's Cradle. I think his show was on some night where I was too tired from work to make it, but I do have his live CD from somewheres out in the boonies of the West, and he does seem to be surviving--touring, recording, etc. We all going to have to keep finding our footing without much help from sources which depend on big corporate support, particularly if the GOP actually marches back into full power in two years.
It may be that keeping an eye on the endless climate change "debate" will be helpful in maintaining that footing. Over and over again, scientists, who are mostly just engaged in their specific area of focus keep telling us that, for example, the ice is melting. As one scientist has famously said, recently, ice has no agenda or politics. When it gets warm, it turns to water. That's it. The US Navy agrees. Deep in the Pentagon, the US Navy is making plans for a world with a navigable "Northern Ocean," something akin to the current Southern Ocean. So are planners in Iceland, Russia, and Canada. Meanwhile, the so called "Climate Change Deniers," well represented in the Republican Party and in Congress work at creating a sense of ongoing puzzlement among voters and politicians who might have to vote on anything which might change the status quo of the world's current energy production economic sector. But if you want to try to stay in the real world, just keep noticing who is saying what--not so much the specifics even, just the basic point of view. The ice is continuing to melt.
It struck me the other day that perhaps the most fundamental disagreement between so-called liberals and so-called conservatives lies in the acceptance or rejection of democratic choice as an effective method of actually deciding things. Ever since Reagan--perhaps I should say at least since Reagan--the Republican side of American politics seems to have believed that the voting public was a problem, a mass of fundamentally muddled people who presented a problem in advertising. The Democrats, meanwhile, keep putting up candidates who at least have some appreciation of what's real, what's going on, and who are then derided as "wonks" or worse by their Republican competitors. The evidence for this oddly asymmetrical bipolar Two Party relationship is obvious as Sarah Palin becomes more and more a serious possibility for 2012 Presidential Candidate. (It was already pretty obvious with George Bush, who reduced his duties to the duties of a simple light switch--on/off, yes/no--I'm the decider. And it was pretty obvious to George's mom as well, apparently, given her reaction to his victory in 2000: "We never thought he'd be the one who would be President. Mrs. Bush continues to see things as they are with her recent remarks on Mrs. Palin.) The trouble with Mrs. Palin is, she's clearly not capable of being President, and the only way a majority of voters can be convinced to vote for her is to first convince them that all the conventional media is actually engaged in a conspiracy to fool the public otherwise. That is, even an innocuous question such as "What books do you read," which was probably asked of every person running for President, for ever, is now cast by the Right as evidence of an attempt to "gotcha" Mrs. Palin, and she publicly vows never to talk to Mrs. Couric again.
But I'm not talking about Palin's candidacy except to point to the fact of its existence as evidence--evidence that one of the poles of the American political universe has no interest in democratic choice, except as a problem to be overome through endless and sophisticated advertising rhetoric, 24/7, for ever and ever. That is, the only reason the Republican Party would ever think of presenting Mrs. Palin as their candidate for President is that they do not in any way respect the voting public, or trust voters or their representatives to make real decisions about the future of the United States. And they've already explained that to those who are interested in listening. For the Republican Party, the President is merely the light switch. The voters do not vote for the invisible hand who throws that switch, nor are the interests of that invisible hand to be revealed to the voters. Any light switch, pretty much, will do.
I don't mean to suggest that the Democratic Party is entirely democratic of course. It is obviously not. However, it is apparent that Democratic Presidents, going back as far as the Roosevelt Administration at least, are engaged in policy making and make every effort to make informed decisions. Moreover, for the most part Democratic Presidents and Administrations believe in democracy. (I fully acknowledge the murky character of certain crucial moments in American History which featured Democratic Presidents: the start of World War II, and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, a moment of extreme mystery buried in the climax of the American Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam Escalation. There is a case that neither party really has much faith in "the people.") It still seems clear to me that Republicans have entirely given up the pretext of democracy, while Democrats at least make the effort. The evidence is Sarah Palin. Ice does melt.
McMurtry won't be doing half time at next year's Super Bowl. You can bet on it. So go listen to his stuff on You Tube while you're basting the American Bird (see Ben Franklin), or get one of his CDs. (He'll be at the Eagle Tavern in Asheville, NC, next March 17, by the way.) Then. Take. Eat.
Update. I should admit that it's quite possible that "Choctaw Bingo" might never have made it to any regular AM or FM radio station in even the halcyon days of the '60s. There was much Beatles in those days, and some Stones. Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" was played. Peter Paul and Mary got to the general public with Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." "Everybody Must Get Stoned" got air time, which I think expressed the temporary disconnect between a vast body of listeners who had in fact had a toke, and a government that actually didn't realize that "kids" had found a new recreational drug to augment the drugs which paid for most television programming. None of these examples, however, get us quite to "Choctaw Bingo." That is, hind sight is often experienced with rose colored glasses. The world of live music, and of recorded music for that matter, is much much wider than the sampling found on your radio--then and now. For example, tonight Les Rambleurs Anciens (the Craver, Hicks, Watson, Newberry Group) will appear at the Cave for a late show. There is simply no place else to experience their music. You just have to be there. But come early as the Cave is exactly like its name suggests.
Monday, November 22, 2010
It used to be a sensible thought. In ordinary life, all of us have our point of view, and we all would do well to respect this fact, and give a listen to what each person has to offer. No one, after all, can see the future, or understand everything about a situation. Buy? Sell? And that's a metaphor of course. But in our political life, it seems to me that "balance" has come to allow an ever shifting center point, as the Right pushes harder and harder to the right. We are close to a moment, for example, when people who are basically just maintaining a perspective of common sense--such as Keith Olbermann--are being marginalized out of existence in the way that genuine Marxists already have been marginalized out of existence--at least in the discourse of political life at the "mainstream" level. According to some congressmen, NPR is now "Marxist." Oh really? The Car Guys? Garrison Keillor? Saturday NPR's Morning Edition featured a segment on bird watching so "in depth" as to eventually cause me to simply turn off the radio entirely. Leftist? No, it was just too much detail, too rich a portrait of what bird watchers actually do of a morning. Yet possibly some right wing climate denier somewhere was fulminating on the "touchy-feeliness" of the segment, and checking even this bland portrait of people who obsess about birds as yet another example of how the Left is influencing our energy policy with emotional appeals.
Yes, there once was a Weather Underground. But these days the balancing of Right Wing appeals to "Second Amendment Solutions" occurs when large numbers of somewhat formerly engaged young people turn back to their more interesting social lives and don't bother to vote at all in an election which returns the Foxes to the Henhouse. That is, "balance" these days is a ploy, and aims, with significant success, to effect a soporific fugue-state. The "system" will and must always be flawed, because money is power, and the powerful always have a louder voice. This is the context within which all of our feeble efforts at effecting progress and democratic change must of necessity occur.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
|From the Maltese Falcon, obviously|
1. From his biography on-line:
During the House Un-American Activities Committee's investigation of Communist infiltration of Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s, Lorre was interviewed by investigators and asked to name anyone suspicious he had met since coming to the US. He responded by giving them a list of everyone he knew.
To quote David Byrne: Any questions?
To quote David Byrne: Same as it ever was.
2. I happened to see "East Side, West Side" yesterday on TCM. The best lines are James Mason's, as he makes a vain attempt to win back Barbara Stanwyck at the end of the movie. To paraphrase. "Our marriage has been good. You learned to put up with the hockey games, I learned to put up with the ballet and the poetry readings. Let's not throw it all away." (The best scene is surely the fist fight in the car between Heflin and Bev Michaels, who in a real fight would have won, but who needed to be knocked out for the plot to continue as written. Eventually Heflin does the job.)
What? Libby and I were both incredulous. Stanwyck would have dragged Mason to the hockey game, kicking and screaming, from the ballet or the poetry reading. I'll have to rent the movie from Netflix to try to figure out if the lines were meant as a subtext. It's been done. See, e.g., my two favorite bizarro westerns, "Johnny Guitar," and "The Outlaw."
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I think that the vanishing of the caboose may be the harbinger of our current times, unnoticed, unremarked. Here and there you can find a person who loves the caboose. Some have been adopted as ready made cabins or storage buildings. A few can be found in museums. A great lot of these charming break rooms on the roll have no doubt been scrapped for their metal. You could be riding in a former caboose, or part of one, just as your wedding ring could possibly be composed of Cleopatra's fillings. Mostly, the caboose has just vanished. I watched a coal train pass by a few days ago, some eighty cars, all rolling down to a coal-fired electric generating plant which serves our needs here in Chatham County. It ended simply with the last of the coal cars. No jolly red punctuation mark, smoke coming out of its little chimney, or the brief glimpse through a greasy window of overalled men standing around a potbelly with cups of coffee in their gloved hands. Though I will say that the coal, itself, was on the verge of nostalgia, and probably could I have clambered atop a car and stomped around on top of the coal, the old smell from my days of shovelling coal into the hopper in our basement furnace would have brought back many memories, since even remembering the smell as I write evokes immediately that basement and furnace--the pipes and dials, the red clinkers in the belly of the firebox, the wonderful metal tongs I would use to clean said clinkers away, the big coal shovel, hanging at the ready on the wall, and perhaps best of all, the pictures of dinosaurs which my father had painted onto the coal bin door, without comment. (And my dad was born on a farm in 1901!)
Sometime in the past, between that coal bin door and this moment writing in the kitchen amidst the peak moment of fall foliage in my woods, some men in suits decided that the caboose was unnecessary. Little did they know the implications of their seemingly unremarkable decision. The precipice continues to crumble beneath our feet.
Update. On the other hand, William Rivers Pitts does have a point:
Friday, November 12, 2010
|Sam Johnson sans KBM cap|
Down at the Texaco Bob 2 (he has the UNC Pork Skins ball hat) said the other day that it'd be nice if we all had an "ignore button." That way, he said, we could just hit the ignore button whenever somebody started talking about global warming or the alleged immorality of the Iraq Adventure, or any of that other stuff that just burns him up. I guess the deal is, his blood just gets too up when he hears these arguments these days, and he'd like to just turn them off, period.
Kinda seemed like former President Bush has found one of those things, or maybe he always had one? Back just after 9/11 (our 21st Century Little Big Horn), Bush found the surprising eloquence to remind Americans that the Islamic religion did not plan or execute the attack on the World Trade Centers or the Pentagon. He correctly pointed out that millions of Americans are Muslims, that they serve with honor in the military, that they are doctors, lawyers, dentists, shopkeepers, working people--that they are just like other Americans. Some of these Muslim Americans even numbered among the victims of the zelots who crashed the airplanes into the buildings. Bush's fine statement, stressing our commonality, has been replayed in recent days as part of his many interviews concerning his new memoir, with some interviewers asking him to comment on his own words now--the context being the vicious anti-Muslim rhetoric we've seen and heard in the past few months coming from not only self-promoters like Pam Geller, but from people as central to our political life as Newt Gingrich. Bush's response to this query has been breathtaking, at least to me.
He pressed the Ignore Button. This was his own statement, mind you. He wasn't being asked to comment on someone else's words. In 2001 Mr, Bush made an essentially moral assertion about how Americans should view the religion of Islam and it's billion or so adherents. But a few days ago he called a question by Matt Lauer that he simply affirm his own statement a "trick," then added a bunch of arm waving to distract the inattentive listener, ending with "buy my book." Mr. Lauer looked rather stunned, and for good reason. How can this be a trick? If anything, it was an opportunity.
It seems like too many folks are using the Ignore Button when things come up that might actually cause them to question their own beliefs. I think it's an indication of our culture's lack of education. Because an Ignore Button is a concept that was shown to be a fundamental intellectual mistake some years back--like probably by the 1600s or so. See, there used to be this kinda lame solution to quandaries, which in drama was called Deus Ex Machina. Such a solution is now considered to be a joke, an irony. So, for example, Charles Bukowski can end "Post Office" by simply going to the track and winning enough to quit his job and "write this book." It's a funny solution.
But Bob 2, down at the Texaco, is serious about it. In his world, putting his hands over his ears means that the world actually shuts up. And this, to be fancy about it, is solipsism. To be sure, solipsism has a long tradition. Bishop Berkeley tried to argue for it, and he's got some serious cred--a lot more than George Bush--amongst the philosophers. But I'll have to go with Sam Johnson on this. Bob 2 can push his Ignore Button all he wants, but my guess is, he'll still notice a good kick in the shins.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I am impressed at the spunky reactions from various liberal bloggers, and look forward to Tbogg returning to his blog (versus "twitertwating" as he says he's doing at the moment)--personally, I just do not want to go down the super-phone corridor at all, and I'd probably be cranking the Victrola still if I still lived in that house with that great basement where the Victrola resided back in 1948, with its little stack of classical platters which comprised my dad's entire music collection, carefully purchased after much thought no doubt back in '39, after he'd paid off his '36 Chevy coupe and his lovely brick house with two stories, an attic, and a full basement. Life under Roosevelt was good if you had a job.
You have to be happy that Reid beat Angle, and Coons beat O'Donnell. Coons seems like a potentially fine Senator; Reid is at least reasonably sane. You have to be dismayed at the success of the advertising campaign of outright lies which has been full-tilt on since January 20, '09. If the Health Care Bill was Obama's "Waterloo", then the efforts to suppress all Democratic attempts at explaining the Bill to the public must be give full credit. This was out and out thuggery, and it was followed by the rallies in the fall of '09, and of course augmented by the endless day-after-day lies and mischaracterizations of the right wing punditry, not to mention a whole "network" which retains some sort of objective credibility in the face of the obvious distortions it produces daily. I guess the brilliance of Mr. Murdoch lies in his corralling of the NFL, Major League Baseball, and various other big-time sporting coverages. Right there he has the male part of the electorate. If any one still doubts the simple power of advertising to affect election results, check out the example of the three Iowa judges. That was money, pure and simple--and one focused character with a bent agenda and a willingness to spend.
The internal contradictions within the Tea Party "organization" may create some digestive discomfort eventually. For example, their hard-line anti-undocumented persons stand must surely conflict with their claim to want an unintrusive State, because the only way to drive the undocumented either out of the US or into the very grave of poverty is to enforce the necessity of documents at every turn. Will we all, in a few years, be showing our "papers" at various check points on the way to the grocery store, much less when we happen to cross state lines, or even county lines? How will that "hopey-changey future" suit ya, Ms Angle? And as cash money is anonymous, will our new Tea Party State forbid its use in the furtherance of making undocumented life untenable? That's the direction things are heading.
The same contradiction exists, of course, back at the big turning point for the United States, the Reagan election. Mr. Reagan was elected a few years after the Supreme Court made it's ruling in Roe V. Wade. This ruling was a proper Constitutional judgment which asserted that female citizens of the United States had the right to make crucial decisions concerning their health in consult with the medical profession. Yet since Mr. Reagan placed the Presidency foresquare with the "Right to Life" Movement, the body politic has allowed a kind of Constitutional Black Hole to develop and grow larger and larger, and women's health providers are becoming few an far between, and live in some fear of lynching (see, e.g., the late Dr. Tiller).
The Tea Party view seems to be that even in the extreme cases of rape and incest, lemonade must be made. What cashes in that "must" but State Power? Meanwhile, the wedge issue exists to be manipulated, election after election. Race, the wimmens, teh gays, and the mescans--it's like 'lectricity for agitating that "base." Works every time apparently.
Before this brave new world arrives, of course, the Tea Party will have to turn the next few years into a reprise of the Impeachment Circus the Republicans gave us in the mid-'90s, when it was decided that even the Impeachment Process would be enlisted in the on-going political struggle that is our two-party system. That brilliant move some how inoculated Mr. Bush, or perhaps it is only Democrats who can be impeached. At any rate, if the Tea Parties have their way, all governance will cease until the Great Issue of the Obama Birth Certificate is decided--which should get them at least to 2012. And while "Originalists" treat our Constitution as though it were handed down on stone tablets written in fire by the finger of God himself, they also are fine with excising several of the Amendments which were added after the Civil War. You'd think if they're ok with that concept, they might wonder about doing a bit of carpentry on the Impeachment process, so it can't be misused again. And there might be some issues to look at re having tiny small population states which can be cheaply bought by anonymous advertising campaigns wield enormous legislative power. Just sayin'.
Here in NC, in my Congressional District, we now have a Republican, replacing the long-time Congressman Ethridge. (Update--Ethridge is demanding a recount, so this one isn't decided quite yet.) And in my county, Republicans have swept into the Board of Commissioners. This should mean renewed efforts to make life inhospitable for our Mexican and Central American residents, as well as a cessation of all attempts to make plans for orderly land development and long-term waste and trash solutions. So, if you happen to want to relocate your Lead Smelting Plant to the sunny South, give Chatham County a look. We're gonna be open for bidness from now on, and Union Labor is illegal in North Carolina--we have a "Right to Work" law. Our out-going Commissioners lost by about 1%. Nationwide, demographics which enabled the so-called "liberal sweep" two years ago were down by several percentage points this time around. There's a relationship between the Satanic power of advertising and these slack asses who didn't bother to get to the polls. Just sayin'.
It might also be nice if, one day some day, a few preachers would tell their flocks that the message of Jesus was not that it was ok to lynch people. That seems to be the message of one Preacher John Jones of Liberty, NC. Mr. Jones put out flyers on election day telling everyone with a windshield to vote straight ticket Republican because the Democrats were baby killers and socialists, and he suggests that while Hitler killed six million Jews, Obama and the Democrats have killed fifty million babies. Mr. Jones is no doubt in the lemonade camp with Ms Angle. Mr. Jones even included his email with his flyer. If I was an asshole I guess I would include it here in the hope that it would be collected by some bot or other and cause him to be spammed ceaseless. Fortunately for Mr. Jones, Jesus did not suggest that if your neighbor is an asshole, you should be an asshole right back at him.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
|well the race is on and here comes heartbreak|
You have a brief day to vote, if you haven't. In North Carolina we vote for judges, and they've developed some sort of mathematical computer assisted gizmo (probably using software cobbled from the BCS system of bowl selection) called the instant run-off (since run-offs are expensive, and there are lots of candidate judges that no one knows). So, have fun with that, but read the instructions. You cannot shotgun-vote, which is counter-intuitive to me anyways Otherwise, good luck and be a good citizen. I'm sure you know who I'm voting for.
Some random facts. Andrew Breitbart is going to be on the ABC news team covering the election this year. That's it for ABC in my book. Makes me happy I live in a little shadow spot on the globe where my Dish won't give me local programming. Also, yesterday Limbaugh revealed his true "reasoning" for being such a determined dick (aside from making millions of dollars)--this election, he said, was an exercise in kicking all the pretty people who ran high school out. That's what he said. He used "like" in there somewhere, to show it was a metaphor. I'm thinking he actually revealed a little of his own psychology. Pat Buchannan seemed to be hedging his landslide bets a bit last night on Hard Ball, as did Limbaugh yesterday. After the dust settles, be sure to put a big star on the calendar denoting the day the Tea Party subjects the defense budget to their oh most serious fiscal principles. And another on the day you predict they start an investigation of Mr. Obama's place of birth. And let us know which of these future days you predict comes first.
That's about it for the election. It's up to America to get out and vote. As for NASCAR, I'm with Charles Pierce.