Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Governor Liar

You've probably seen or read that our NC Legislature is pretty much done fouling the punch bowl for now. We've become national news here, supplanting Wisconsin, the state where the nullification counter-revolution funded by the oligarchs and driven by the folks who know they've lost their heritage of white entitlement and are damned pissed off about it. Back in '72 these same forces elected Jesse Helms, in a race where the Democratic Party of that era was split between the traditional southern conservatives who hadn't yet jumped to the other party, and the moderate wing, who were behind a sitting congressman from Chapel Hill with a Greek name. Helms had been spewing hate and racism for ten years at our flagship Raleigh teevee station, WRAL, having his own five minutes every weekday news hour to opine on whatever was eating at his craw. Serial topics included the civil rights activities in Chapel Hill and Washington, Martin Luther King's seditious intentions, and Jane Fonda.

Once Helms got to Washington he was pretty much the same guy running his red-neck mouth, and he spent the rest of his life tossing whatever spanners were in reach at whatever spokes were available. For the most part, his accomplishments included simply giving North Carolina a public black eye, and doing a decent job at the other job of a senator--getting favors done for specific constituents, including many ordinary NC citizens who had some problem or other that could be addressed by some grease on the rails of the gubment which, running on spoked tires, Helms continued to publicly sabotage as he could. He held up many capable appointments. He stymied various sensible foreign policy measures. He passed the pork and gravy. And in NC he won election after election against capable Democratic opponents by mustering the forces of racism and aggrieved white privilege, people who were fine with voting against even their own specific interests if it meant they could land a blow against some hippie or queer or uppity women or black person. Mr. Helms had the championship sneer of all time.

Helms is of course gone. His side of North Carolina, however, remains, and these days it holds all the reins of power. Back in the late '80s and again in the early '90s, the liberal black mayor of Charlotte ran against Helms twice, and lost twice. Now we have an ex-Charlotte mayor as our Republican governor. Pat McCrory. He came down here with his cloth suitcases as a callow youth, got a good job at Duke Power, and acted like a moderate. Possibly his first run for Governor embittered him, since he lost, and often an egotist who loses becomes a person aiming to find payback. Possibly and more likely Mr. McCrory decided, like George Wallace before him, that warn't nobody gonna "out nigger" him again. McCrory made a deal with power.

Here's how you can smell a deal. Back when we were having debates and stuff, before last fall's election, Pat McCrory, Candidate, guaran-damn-teed that he would make no change in the nature and status of women's choice law in North Carolina. McCrory is absolute. Asked directly what changes he would make, he says flatly and simply, "none." There's no nuance, no equivocation.

So much for being "on the record." Possibly we are generally being tested these days on what "being on the record" means, if anything, to our voting public. Certainly the case of Mr. Weiner comes immediately to mind. He brazens on, dragging his missus behind him (or maybe she's dragging him?). My view of McCrory was, previous to this women's right to choose issue, that he was aiming for national office in the next Presidential Election, a fresh new face, articulate, with lots of business experience, yet not a true oligarch himself (as was Romney). Now he's got this, a flat-out guaran-damn-tee lie. The Legislature gave him a bold new law that comes close to being the most regressive with regards to womens health clinics as any in the United States--and that includes the fresh, similar laws passed in Mississippi, South Dakota, and Kansas. McCrory signed it with a smile.

What this really shows, I think, is that Mr. McCrory made private promises to power. The first promise was, forget any scruples you may have had, you're ours now. So I am at least hopeful that McCrory's national ambitions are obliterated. While plenty of women choose to hitch their wagons to white male power no matter what the price, these days a majority of women are at least aware enough to know that returning to the days when abortions killed, and when shame ruled a woman's life, are not acceptable options. The women who know this include quite a few who, publicly, might well picket a woman's health clinic. For women, the dilemma will always be existential. This means, hopefully, that McCrory's elephantine ambition must slowly starve on the little bag of peanuts his governorship of North Carolina amounts to. After this term, McCrory may well go back to being what he was, some anonymous manager of something or other. Possibly, should the Republicans come to power after Mr. Obama's term, he'll get some job in DC destroying some agency or secretariat. That'll be it, at best. And if the Republicans do come back to national power, there will be larger concerns, if not horrors, for all of us. These people aim to burn down the world.

Meanwhile, here's the lie:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lord Haw Haw Lives in Kansas

It is an ongoing thesis of this little blog (and certainly not mine alone) that one of the cancers growing and thriving on our democratic system of government is the Fox media empire--and particularly Fox "News." You can of course find obvious examples of propagandizing in nearly every broadcast by the network, and not just in the bizarre harangue shows such as O'Reilly or Hannity. The Fox News task is to obfuscate and confuse the electorate. This ongoing task, bought and paid for by people who view democracy as an impediment to making the most money possible in the least time, is effective in bringing us less and less competent and capable governance. The long term goal is probably to make government so incompetent that it will eventually be replaced by a committee of fatherly overseers, who will probably "get things done" at last. The trains will again run on time. Bridges will be rebuilt. And so forth.

One feature of this toil is to make most rational thought seem the very opposite. This task is carried out even in the most esoteric of regions, such as the scholarly study of comparative religion--a distinguished field with a history of centuries of scholarship behind it. Just as with the faux discrediting of the whole of climatology, which has at this point yielded the desired result in government, namely, paralysis; just as with the hysterical amplification of paranoid NRA talking points, which has lead to total paralysis of any government action concerning the proliferation of firearms, now Fox takes on a scholarly analysis of Christianity. Check it out:

This is star-chamber-worthy dialog. I am embarrassed for this obviously capable, distinguished scholar to have to endure a second of this crap. It reminds me, more than anything, of the moment at the beginning of the great film Katyn (directed by Andrzej Wajda), when the faculty of a Polish university is rounded up by Nazis and briefly interrogated. The only thing missing in the Fox piece is the men with machine guns at the margins. The questions, by the ignorant or clever Fox interrogator, are exactly the same sort of questions the SS Captain asks of the stunned professors.

We are losing our democracy in increments. Fox News is a major factor in an ongoing disinformation campaign. It is ubiquitous in our culture, probably on more public television screens than any other network by far, and even in its omnipresence Fox manages, like Jesse Helms did in the US Senate, to push the entire conversation that is our national understanding "what's going on" farther and farther rightwards, and into regions of fear and confusion, where our prejudices and given misapprehensions are the driving factors in our public choices.

As I've said more than once here, to understand the authoritarian yearning one must appreciate the aphorism in this little account of Mussolini and the reporter:

"What will you do, sir, if you are elected?"
"Why, first of all, I will kill you."

We saw, in the days after 9/11, how quickly rationality gives way to fear and anxiety. There is a reason why "fire" is not shouted in a crowded theatre. It's not because it's a lie, or even because it's true.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On the Shores of Gitchigoomie

Started out last Friday morning in the dark for an hour drive to the local airport. Made it in good time, and the plane itself, the first link to our destination, Marquette, Michigan, way up there in the UP, which someone said should be the 51st state, and someone else said, no, 52nd, Puerto Rico is ahead of us. We asked someone else how come the UP isn't part of Wisconsin, since it is contiguous, and they said well there was a war about Toledo, Ohio, and Ohio traded the UP to Michigan for the city. Which was a pretty mysterious explantion, eh? But through the weekend I kept asking, and indeed that was exactly the deal, a minor reprise of the time Napoleon "sold" close to a third of the continent to Tom Jefferson, while all the inhabitants of said third went about their business unawares they'd been bought and sold, and probably unfortunately allowed Lewis and Clark to go up the wide Missouri exploring, at Jefferson's behest.

We came down in Marquette through cloud canyons and over big stacks of cut logs and big stacks of lumber, some sawmill not far from Sawyer Field, which says it's an "international" airport, because no doubt some Ruritan or Civitan said one time a whilst back that "Field" was getting to be like "college," and we'd better call it an International Airport so's bidness will come up here despite the rugged beauty and the 300 inches of snow a year. From there we rode through the forest to Marquette, and from thence to the Hiawatha Festival grounds, which coincide with a nice little town park, and we became part of the 35th iteration.

Pretty quick we were on stage playing for a contra/square dance, with our fine ringer bassist, Mr. Tom T. Ball to add oommph, eh, and although I was kinda worried about remembering enough tunes without my trusty sidekick and accompanist Libby at my side, we did manage, and moreover, volunteered to do another dance set on Saturday afternoon as the local band scheduled for that slot had come up with some other gig they had to do instead, possibly for more remuneration, but that's just a speculation of course. It warmed us up some more in any case, and by Saturday evening's long long evening and sunset, we were primed for our first main stage appearance.

By the end of that set the breeze off the lake had quickened a bit, and temps were dropping. We all enjoyed being cold. It's not a likely possibility down here in NC this summer, where it's soggy heat day after day, the wettest June on record, a paradise for ticks and vegetable fungi. Our sad sad garden. Almost worth another post. I'd brought a heavy flannel shirt, in part so's to seem local, and it was a happy addition for the final couple of hours we were there, listening to Bonsoir Catin, and then Solas, as they ended up the show, first cajun, then Irish, both bands tight as, well, ticks.

Sunday morning we were back on the grounds by 8:30 or so and mainlining coffee, the better to do a gospelish workshop with several others of the participants. I got to share a mic with Charlie Parr, a very solid bluesman from Saint Paul, and he even did my request--something from Rev. Gary Davis. Then after more coffee it was a more fiddle-tune oriented co-workshop with Solas. I tried to get through Maggie Hammon's "Marrow Bones" ballad, and forgot the last verse:

Now it's hollerin' and screamin', murderin' cried she,
Now says the old man, I'm blind and cannot see...

But the nice fiddler from Solas knew it was missing even though it was only inference that was guiding her, e.g., but it can't stop right there, can it? and so we revealed it to the assembled throng for what it was worth. I was still recovering from too late a night before, and probably some kind of latitudinal jet lag, the midnight sun problem or something, even though like Stonewall Jackson I only drank water the whole and tender weekend, as opposed to beer I mean. I sat on a park bench in the sun and listened to the music wafting from behind the main stage. A nice kid from Minneapolis came up and chatted with me, a dancer who'd worked at the Old Town School of Music and was about to head out to Korea to teach English, what an adventure. Then I revived and watched Iron Weed and then Bonsoir's set, which was el perfecto as they say in the 51st State, and then we did our Sunday set, perfect time to play. I felt like I understood Keith Richards' remark, that he only wakes up on stage. The music was entirely reviving, the audience terrific and engaged. And we were done, and could kick back and enjoy Solas rock em all out.

Monday we met our pal Tom T. and his lovely wife for breakfast, and then made the flight. At Sawyer they confiscated my toothpaste, which had made it through all the rigamarole at the real international airports coming up. I think they just wanted to show whoever was watching that they were indeed on their toes. Coming down Lake Michigan we had to somewhat circle the lake for a bit as big planes took their turns at O'Hare, just making the last leg back to RDU after a sprint through the various concourses between L and H. Here in NC they've made this one toll road in the whole state, and no one much uses it because there are free alternatives that parallel it, so I took that and knocked off ten or fifteen minutes of my drive home, again into the sunset. And somewhat amazingly I could actually make work yesterday and feel rested and capable.

If you get the chance to go up to Marquette sometime, you should do it. It's a lovely town, and a lovely festival. The original Red Clay Ramblers had done a tour of the UP long ago, in '79 or '80, and I've always remembered that trip with pleasure. It was a delight to retrace, to some extent, our steps. I didn't miss the windy bridge connecting the two parts of Michigan all that much. Tom T. could tell us about his trip up from Remus as we sat around the folding chairs back at his camp site in the woods.

If you want to read about Gitchigoomie, you can go here:

Here at home our current regime has announced it's new budget. The biggest cuts are, natch, in edjication, and on Monday, while we were in the air, quite a number of good people got arrested at the State Capitol in Raleigh protesting the further excavation of our former state of progress. We are digging to South Carolina and from thence, Mississippi, and are at the moment somewheres near Talledega, but a mile deep. The joy expressed by the folks with the shovels is equal to that of some NASCAR fans, when bathed in the glow of a fine multi-car pileup at Tally. Tally was, by the way, a native American burial ground so's I'm told.

Photo Credits: Tom Dummer, moi, Adelle Whitefoot in the Marquette Mining Journal

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Strange Fruit

I knew Doghouse Riley would say it well:

Sunday, July 14
I KNOW two things about juries: I don't want my life or my liberty decided by one, and I don't want my sense of justice in the hands of one.

I don't think anyone with a sense of the history of this country imagined that justice was going to come out of that Florida jury. Put another way, Trayvon Martin received the full measure of American justice. Yesterday completed it. George Zimmerman is the model American. George Zimmerman is the fucking walking embodiment of America: we've got the gun, and the guy we don't like the looks of is supposed to jump when we say jump. And then, we it all goes wrong, we change the rules, congratulate ourselves on a job well done, and pretend it never happened.

There was never going to be any justice for Trayvon Martin come out of that courtroom. His chance for justice was killed by some mope who wanted to assume the moral superiority of the small-town bully cop, with none of the restraints. If he didn't die a mean and meaningless death, let that be for the one reason that's left him, and his parents: that what should die with him is the witless song and dance about this country being "over" its racist "past".

I've tried not to watch too much of the train wreck as it occurred in slow motion. I was, however, shocked by several of the comments made by the defense attorneys after the verdict was brought last evening. The suggestion that the trial should never have happened is shocking. The prima facie case--a dead, unarmed teen, and a guy with an attitude towards black teenagers who was explicitly told by police authorities to stop following Trayvon Martin. That there shouldn't be a trial given these facts is a shocking statement. I was also shocked by the assertion that had Mr. Zimmerman been black, there would not have been an arrest. Really? What world does Mr. O'Mara live in. Certainly not the United States. Unless, as it did not seem to be the case, that O'Mara was making a wry comment on the fact that sometimes black on black crime is not taken very seriously. But as commenters pointed out on the Melissa Harris Perry show this morning, the statistics on black men behind bars certainly belie Mr. O'Mara's remark. And had both races been reversed? I thought these tony lawyers were, in the end, "officers of the court." They won their case, or at the least, they received a verdict that they had worked for. To suggest that the trial should never have occurred is to rip away the veil and hope that justice can come from a trial--that our sad, flawed process at least might confer something better, sometime.

Meanwhile, as we saw last week, the Voting Rights Act is on the ropes. Are we then to simply follow the suggestion of the NRA? Would Trayvon have been better served to have also been carrying, and to have been more practiced in the fast draw/accurate fire discipline. Are we to frog-march our civilization, such as it is, back to the era of Billy the Kid and the samurai code? Certainly there is something satisfying about moments when bullies get their just and final desserts in the movies. But it is only in the paper thin spaghetti western that that satisfaction comes without at least some deeper implications, at which point we're really talking pornography.

Charles Pierce was quite right in his assessment of the chances for the Zimmerman trial: nothing good will come of this, he said over and over again.

As for the steaming Right Wing and their disgusting reactions. A picture is worth a thousand words I guess.

Further reading, should you so desire:

Tuesday Update: The long interview with the juror last night confirms what Doghouse opines. My guess is, this woman is typical of white, middle-class women from that area of Florida. Everyday their small-minded ignorance is "confirmed" by Fox "news." This is the situation we have in the United States. A commenter at "They Gave Us A Republic" (see my links section) made a great remark: if Zimmerman had been a guard dog, he would have been summarily put down. She also remarked that Zimmerman and his ilk are the consequence of these "communities" being cheap and using untrained volunteers rather than professional watchmen. Fox, meanwhile, seems to be pushing a theme aimed at creating such consternation in already outraged groups that violent confrontations with police at demonstrations will become more likely. The people who design the "Fox narrative" have no compunctions or scruples. They'd love a summer of "race riots," which they can then smugly say are both "not about race," and "just what you'd expect from those people."

One More Update: Listening extensively to the Anderson Cooper interview with one of the jurors was depressing, but instructive. As I had thought must be the case, the Zimmerman defense team managed to reduce the focus of the jury to a tiny sliver of the overall event which concluded with the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. As the jury narrowed it's focus down to a mere minute or two, Zimmerman began to seem the victim. What was he to do. If only Trayvon had simply walked away, or even run away. Mr. Edroso wrote the appropriate column a few years back, and links to it today:

One of the great problems we face as a nation trying to struggle to responsibly govern ourselves is a patent amnesia, which lies like a great suffocating blanket over all our efforts at finding clarity. Our Congress cannot muster the will to pass even the tiniest smidgeon of gun regulation in the face of the massacre of children, and in almost the same breath historically speaking, Mr. Zimmerman is not only found innocent, but will be presented with his firearm as he leaves the building, to stuff in his back pocket. Even his lawyers opine that now, more than ever, he'll need it.

Yet there is this filling in of the dots at hand:

The only thing wrong with Edroso's reductio absurdum is, it forces African-Americans into the role of martyrs for the rest of us idiots. We already killed Martin Luther King, Jr., not to mention Fred Hampton:

It's a tricky thing to make lying on the teevee an actual crime. The mechanics of such a legislative rube goldberg would be gawdawful, and we've also watched that chain of consequences in action time and again. But the fact is, Americans are so systematically lied to that we've become a muddled, blinded lot, staggering from tragedy to tragedy. Just listen to that juror as she explains how the thinking in that room went down. At the end of the process, they all cried a lot. Poor dears.

The New York Daily News ran an editorial complaining that liberals suffer from a nostalgia for the racist acts of another era. This is a subtle argument for accepting amnesia with open arms.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How to Live

Sue died back in April, of a brain tumor. That's only the period at the end of the story. The story is, how to live. No doubt she is and will rest in utter peace.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Houdahenians are not Christians (But Then Who Is?)

This is Kirby. He did not come with a name-tag, and arrived in some unknown magical way week before last. I got home and there he was, sitting on our kitchen stoop. As soon as he saw me he scrammed under the house. We live pretty far off the road. He might have been dropped off at the driveway, or walked over from the closest place that has cats, which is at least a quarter mile off. Maybe his mom took him out and he got lost. Maybe he was birthed somewhere on our place, kept secret, was the last survivor. We'll certainly never know. We got a have-a-heart trap from the Animal Control folks over near Pittsboro, the county seat, and he climbed right in and ate and ate and ate. He was not wild. We could reach in and take him out and he'd purr, not struggle. Libby combed him for fleas and ticks (plenty of each). We were told that the Animal Control folks had a nice "cat room" for adoptables, which he certainly is; he would not be put down at least for some time. It seemed like a good plan. More on why in a moment. Libby took him over there, and on the way he became "Kirby" and she fell in love with him.

At the Animal Control place they checked him out for feline distemper and leukemia, and gave him his first round of necessary shots. He was to be kept quarantined for a week, then he'd go into the "cat room." But in a couple of days, when Libby checked, the Animal Control folks had been over-run with new kittens. Suddenly Kirby was scheduled for a permanent departure on Wednesday last. Libby rescued him back, in a way too complicated to explain here. Now he's sitting in a kennel on the kitchen table.

We've barricaded the room off so's he can't go under something and hide, or otherwise disappear, yet can get out of the kennel and play and exercise. Cats need to move, stretch, thrive. They are not birds in a cage. But the Houdahenians are not happy with this situation. NOT AT ALL. They were instantly alert to a new creature in THEIR space. Even the momma cat, who gawd knows ought to be grateful and sympathetic, as we've given her a place out of the rain and cold, and two or three squares, and if she'll just let us catch her we'll be taking her in for her next year's shots and getting the fleas and ticks off'n her--momma is so annoyed at this development that she comes in the door and immediately hisses. Then she deigns to eat, as fast as she can, and then departs. Before Kirby she was not only eating, but rubbing against our legs, "talking" to us, going in the living room or upstairs or under the stairs and sleeping or whatever. Now we're back to the basic food relationship--ok, I will come in and eat, cause you gots good chow I reckon, but we're not really friends and I don't even want to look at that, errm, "creature" up there on the table that's acting like it knows me.

The big boys. We're concerned that either Puzzle or Wuzzy might jump on the kennel and scare Kirby to death, or knock it off the table and see if maybe the door might open. It's like he's in a shark cage. Kirby doesn't know a thing--he's just a little tyke, wants attention, and apparently nothing has scared him silly or warped his personality. Puzzle or Wuzzy would be delighted to take on the task. He's a mouse to them, and they love to kill mice. I had no idea how many mice and voles we had out in the woods around the house. They find a new one every time they go out, and bring its sad remains to the stoop to show us. The lizards, they're about wiped out.

We took the Houdahenians in, as you'll recall, back when they were smaller than Kirby. They've never had to hunt for anything but a litter box. They are always well fed. Puzzle, indeed, well-feeds himself on everyone else's food if we don't feed them in well separated places, and while he can certainly use his heft to block for Jim Brown, he is these days sometimes surprised and taken aback when he can't quite make the jump to his favorite perch. Gravity. Politic Real.

Libby talks to momma about this. "You were just like this little kitten. He needs a safe place right now." Momma hisses and leaves. Houdahenians are not Christians. We're putting his picture up on adoption bulletin boards and getting the word out. Great cat. Has a name. Needs a good home. We need our kitchen table back eventually. We'll keep you posted.

Oh, not un-ironically, Kirby may well be the Houdahenians' half-brother. We see a resemblance in the face, particularly to Mokey. We're pretty sure we know who their daddy is too--a big big yellow Tom who now and then strolls through the yard, a cross between Maurice Chevalier and Tyger Tyger Burning Bright. Momma Baby Daddy got a limp these days. The hard wild life.