Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow Day Burn Pile

Randy Paul's astute analysis of the "war on women" last weekend was actually a nice sleight of hand, a subtle obfuscation, or pretty much the lie of the moment in the ongoing effort by the entrenched monied interests to keep anything at all from changing their comfy situation. I kept waiting for somebody to point this out, but I never heard it. Thing is, the "war on women" was not a war with women, nor is it a war on men by women. Much of the right, which is centered demographically on white, middle-aged white men and the women who depend on them for their protection and comfort, likes to imagine that it's a war with women. So, says Mr. Paul, "they" won.

This, in a word, pretty much justifies the actual war on women that's continuing apace in Republican Party policy at every level of government. The women who get with the program get gold stars. Otherwise, they continue to be diminished and pilloried at every turn. Look at how the current Democratic candidate for governor in Texas is characterized by the right. I didn't hear Randy stand up for her, an obvious example of a "winner."

Last night I couldn't bear to watch the State of the Union. I certainly hope Mr. Obama will manage to achieve some of his laudable goals. If the country could manage to raise the minimum wage to something approaching what it was in 1960 when adjusted for the gigantic changes in the value of our currency, that would probably be a boon to the general economy, and to all of us who must live with it. Even the few who are surfing the wave, such as Mr. Tom Perkins, would probably do pretty well. Oh, maybe Mr. Perkins wouldn't be able to build a private submarine, or at least wouldn't find it sufficiently prudent. Or maybe he would, who knows. It's strange that these super rich people have become so comfortable with their opulence that they can't bear to let any tiny crumb of it go except on exactly their own terms. Many of them perform various philanthropies, large and small. They are utterly cowed by the idea of our government raising their taxes--an act which would be out of their control.

Mr. Perkins is apparently so afraid of any adjustment in his tax rate that he will not even admit, in a live interview, that he is in fact a billionaire.

That, gentlemen and ladies, is unreasoning fear. Here on the home front the driveway is snowed under, and the steep hill we have to get up to get out is impassible. There's one vehicle "out." Probably all we need until warmer temps arrive in a day or two. I expect I'll get in to work tomorrow, and in the process get to the cat food and coffee store. We have lots of firewood, and I cut a whole truckload on Sunday, which Libby got all stacked up and covered before the snow started yesterday--dead standing oak which is pretty much ready to burn the instant it hits the turf. And if worse comes to worse, there's the burn pile. I've never done a burn in the snow. It'd certainly be plenty safe as long as the wind is still.


Thursday Update. Before testing the roads today I happened to find this:

One advantage to the fragmented Republican response to the State of the Union speech is that there's so much to bedazzle that it's hard to actually fix on any particular craziness. Ms Maddow picked the low-hanging fruit with Huelscamp and his tweeter attack. The Right Hon. Michael Grimm obscured nearly everything the GOP might have wanted to say by threatening to toss a mild-mannered reporter plumb over a three story balcony--the railing of which the reporter was leaning against at the moment. So who could blame the general press from missing the detail Mr. Pierce discovers at the link above: that Mrs. Rodgers benefits from government health care even as she battles like all the other brethren to destroy the effort to get the rest of the citizens on the boat. I also noticed the absolutely perfect poise and posture exhibited by Mrs. Rodgers. This is a Republican winner woman, ain't no doubt:

[Melinda Mara,Getty Images via Washington Post via Charles Pierce]

This is one Republican reason why Mrs Bachmann has decided to retire I reckon:

Hey, styles change.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nina Simone on Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is the audio of a live memorial concert Nina Simone did three days after Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, in April, 1968.

Not that it matters what I think, but I think she got it pretty much right. The murder of Martin Luther King is the loss of the last best chance America had.

Monday, January 20, 2014

At the Start of 71

Senator Richard Burr (R, NC) has been a senator for two or three terms. Time enough for him to "change" from being a conservative to being a sorta moderate Republican, due to the ever shifting goal posts and the advancing dementia of the Grand Old Party. Here's a piece about Burr and his political behavior which in a normal circumstance would raise issues about his very sanity:

In 2009, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) wrote a letter to President Obama recommending that he nominate Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor from his state, to a judicial vacancy on a federal trial court. You can read his letter to President Obama here. Last June, the president agreed with Burr’s recommendation, and nominated Ms. May-Parker to be a federal district judge.

And now Burr is blocking May-Parker’s nomination, invoking an arcane Senate tradition that allows senators to unilaterally veto judicial nominees from their own state....

How'd you like to be Ms. May-Parker, sitting on tenderhooks since 2009. I'm surprised she hasn't written her senatorial representative a year or two back and told him to fuck off, she's a Democratic Party member now. Perhaps this publicity will do the trick for her. And note--Mr. Burr refuses even to divulge his reasons, the height of authoritarian arrogance. Given the raging stupidity that is our state government at this time, probably this is all Mr. Burr sprinting as hard as he can to the right in the hopes of avoiding a primary challenge next time around. Maybe the guy from Klingon will go after him.


Today I crossed the dateline of my 71st year. Seems pretty much the same as yesterday so far. Sun comin' up and the sun it goin' down, shine through my window, and my friends they come around. We've had a sparkling weekend, perfect January weather, meaning not too cold to do a few things, bright and sunny, in the 50s. I've gotten a lot of things done of a January. Thirty plus years back I tore down my cabin and moved it to where it stands today, with me inside it. With a bunch of help of course. After a bunch more work I was living in the thing, and having moved a bunch of left over stuff up to a barn on the neighbor's place, I got a U-haul truck stuck on the wagon path just before I was to leave on a several week road trip with the band. That's how I met my oldest neighbor-friend out in these parts, Noble Hinshaw, who has a great garage about two miles down the road that includes, amongst his many pieces of equipment, a wrecker. He came out and pulled me out of the mud hole. There was some friendly chortling on his part. Since then he's kept my aging fleet on the road, year in, year out. He's the best of mechanics: his motto is, "you can fix that yourself." When it's true.

Last week Noble had a significant heart issue. He's been in the hospital and I hear he's getting better. He's pretty much the same age as I am, and he's been an inspiration. He's in our thoughts.

That's my kid playing fiddle on our porch, back in 1985. She's six or so. This is Libby and my 30th wedding anniversary, as well as my birthday. I always tell people I'll be sure to remember the date. This is of course not really true, but it's true still! Time do fly, however. I watched a documentary last week called The Navigators, about two sailing voyages, one from France, the other from England, which independently set out to circumnavigate the continent of Australia. At that time, 1800, it was thought that a narrow strait divided the continent into two large islands. At that time there were only a couple of tiny settlements of Europeans on the coast. The English one was called Port Jackson, and looked to be about the size of Ocracoke village. Both ships put in there at different times for repairs and a supply of citrus, as their crews were suffering greatly from scurvy. Give "Port Jackson" a google sometime. It's now a dot in the middle of Sydney, a city of millions. It's remarkable to me, as well, that a mere 150 years after those days when people sailed for months to "discover" a continent, World War II was in progress in those same waters, complete with submarines, war ships, air craft carriers, thousands of troops using automatic weapons to fight over these same "spice islands," and, as a final culmination of course, the detonation of two atomic bombs.

When the Dutch explorer Tasman first spotted New Zealand, Maori warriors in war canoes rammed his small boat and killed four of his sailors. He left without setting foot on that particular paradise. European "exceptionalism" nontheless ruled the day, forestalled but not repulsed. Ain't we special. They're playing tennis down under in 108 degrees tonight.

This is Silver Lake Harbor, at Ocracoke. I took the picture in 1997 from the bow of the schooner Windfall, now late lamented, where I was the first mate that summer. I expect Port Jackson looked rather like Ocracoke in 1800. We'd go out with some 30 civilians two or three times a day and run the channels for 45 minutes or so. Some times the porpoise would swim along side. Now and then we'd hit a sudden squall and heel over, and the kids would scream. Threading our way through the harbor on busy weekends such as the Fourth of July was the trickiest part of the voyage. The old ship steered like a 1948 two ton with a worn out front end. You had to plan ahead.

Relations with the Maori were difficult. Here's perhaps the culminating moment from those early days:

Who's the terrorists is my question? In the end, European diseases crushed the maori as they crushed native Americans.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

1/24th in the Books

People who handicap future elections say our NC senator, Kay Hagan, is in for a go this time around. Could well be. It's hard to know until after the Republicans get done with their primary. There's a couple of serious players, guys who worked mightily in the Legislature this past year to mess up NC taxes and make it harder for anyone but white men to go vote. Depending on when people do their taxes, these guys could have some issues in their primary. My guess is, one of 'em will win, and Mrs. Hagan will talk a lot about their record as summer rolls along. But meanwhile she has some doozies coming at her from the peanut gallery.

Last week I mentioned the heavy hitter who resigned his current political post in the language of Klingon in order to run against Mrs. Hagan. This week another of her opponents has stated that the entire U.S. Agriculture Department should be abolished, along with Food Stamps and anything else the Ag Department does in the real world. His genius metaphor is the old cliche about giving a man a fish, versus a fishing pole (or a stick of dynamite). I thought it was a particularly notable metaphor given doings on the waterways of West Virginia. Not much fishing happening in Charleston right now I don't 'spect.


The Christie scandal will inch along, and the question is going to be when and if any of the inner circle decide to break ranks. Rachel Maddow is doing really outstanding reporting. She's already discovered photographs which absolutely prove Christie was lying when he said he hadn't seen Mr. Wildstein in months. The press generally is proving to be its usual befuddled self, when some of its components aren't actively dissembling or tossing chafe into the wind. Mark Halperin told Mr. Rose with a straight face that his rule is to believe what a politician says. They didn't get into how you do that, exactly, when the poltician talks for an hour and a half and says any number of contradictory things.

For all that Richard Nixon made his permanent mark as the nadir of Presidential office holders, the tapes present one feature of his tenure which is worth considering for its deeper meaning. For reasons that much have resided deep in Nixon's cinder of a heart, down below all the in-fighting and victimhood to somewhere near the Quaker roots he possessed, Nixon wanted there to be some touchstone of truth, at the end. He taped it all.

Of course he didn't expect for the tapes to be revealed when Sam Ervin was running the show. But he wanted something bedrock, for some future moment. In establishing the taping system, Nixon moved beyond the gleaming surface of things, at least in theory. He set up a verifiable level of truth deeper than "deniability." The question for us today is whether the practice of deniability can manage to trump reality. The Bush people thought so. "We make our own history," one of them said early on, before things on the ground started to go in directions they hadn't forseen. A lot of people think history will tend towards justice, tapes or not. It could be, in the case of Mr. Christie, that a little blonde with four kids won't manage to carry the whole load up the whole mountain.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

At a Discrete Distance

This post from Eric Loomis should remind everyone of the strange situation we are in, here in the belly of the beast:

Back in '77 I went with the other Red Clay Ramblers on a long, fairly hilarious "tour" of much of western Europe. It included a stop at Luxemburg, where a German customs agent was assured that all our LPs were just "promotional," and that we'd just toss 'em into the Mosel if we had to pay duty on them. It included a bird's eye view of a "waiter's race" in Lausanne, Switzerland, where waiters ran through the steep streets carrying trays with a bottle of wine and a filled glass, and a trip to see the Bern bears themselves. It included a very long ride in a Volkswagon van from the Swiss-German border up to Stockholm, which took about twelve hours longer than we had calculated, and which included an accidental opening of the sliding side door, and an an accidental departure of some boots onto the autobahn, never to be found again. This wonderful leg of our tour ended at Israel Young's place, in Stockhom, where I found to my amazement a copy of my first LP, "The Fuzzy Mountain String Band," in Mr. Young's record collection. It had arrived here before I had, to this beautiful place in the far north. Mr. Young loved Sweden and its sensible governmental structure, which provided among other good things free child care and medical care for his wife and child. Mr. Young, at that moment, believed that the Khymer Rouge, in Cambodia, was building an Asian people's paradise. He based his beliefs on sketchy reports, and no doubt revised them as more information became available. The war in Vietnam had only ended two years earlier, and Mr. Reagan was an aging retired actor and former governor of California. At that distant time, shirts and blue jeans were still manufactured in the United States, and, indeed, in the South. Now and then we did a great song called "Cotton Mill Colic":

Payday comes, you pay your rent
End of the week you ain't got a cent
To buy fat-backed meat, pinto beans
Cook up a mess o' turnip greens

I'm a-gonna starve and everybody will
'Cause you can't make a livin' in a cotton mill

Pete Seeger sang this version. We went back and got the original, recorded on a '78 by David McCann (or McCarn). The 78-rpm recording was said to have sold "briskly" during a strike in Danville, Va. To "colic" is to complain. Down the road from Charlotte lies Gastonia, NC, where there was a cotton mill or two in the '20s and '30s. Here's a long article, first published in the magazine "Southern Exposure," which details the strike at the Loray Mill in Gastonia:

Although it wasn't Mr. Reagan's idea, by the 1980s basic manufacturing industry was moving from the United States to distant places where, to put it in unemotional language, people had a lower standard of living. When Mr. Clinton finally brought a Democratic Administration back to office in Washington, he had accepted as a fait accompli that the movement of manufacturing from the United States to the "third world" was simply an economic fact to be lived with; it was quixotic to resist this fundamental economic trend. And so this bipartisan agreement has reigned supreme, no matter the political party in national office. Mr. Romney, a man who made his millions surfing the wave, was rejected for national office, but Mr. Obama has no interest in tilting at this long-term trend.

Meanwhile Amiri Baraka died this past week, age 79. He wrote an acclaimed play in 1964 called "The Dutchman." In it a white liberal woman stabs a black man to death on the subway. This pretty much sums up Mr. Baraka's way of looking at things. Here's a picture of him dancing with Maya Angelou, which I think is pretty neat. It comes from the New York Times obituary.
Chester Higgins took the photo.

After being discharged from the Air Force for being a suspected Communist--Baraka was reading suspicious books--he went on a life-long journey of art and politics which led, much later, to his decision to "be" a Marxist, whatever exactly that might mean in the life of a celebrated if cantankerous black American man of letters. The New York Times obituary is here:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cubing Stupid

Distant Galaxies in GOODS North

Jon Stewart the other night did a riff on some Fox conversationalists who were using the current cold snap (or Polar Vortex, as the Klingon overlords call it with a chuckle) to poke fun at the idea that our modern civilization machine is pumping such quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as to cause relatively rapid climate disturbances. As you no doubt are aware, in earlier days this observation was quaintly termed "global warming," as the observation turned on the green house effect which already keeps things in a temperature range that makes human life possible. The critics of climate science, like six-year-olds at a birthday party, fixed on the "warming" adjective and have whined and quibbled for ten or fifteen years now every time the weather does something noteworthy. As long as it involves snow or cold that is. (And what's much worse, of course, is that this whole infantile stance is actually a rhetorical strategy which insults the public by assuming that this is all it takes to convince.)

That these people are not laughed into silence is a critique of our mass media (and particularly Fox News), and a critique as well of our general weakness as a country to educate people as to what science is and what science is doing. Meanwhile, people who are scientists carry on. They have, for one thing, a longer view, and for another, an intense need to know. Scientists know that the system of inquiry builds and builds, one block after another. This is what they're working on these days, at the juncture of cosmology, astronomy, and astrophysics:

They are photographing deep space using gravitational lensing. The photographs are published, and can be viewed here:

Next time you happen to read about the derision Galileo was subjected to when he discovered imperfections on the lunar surface, and find yourself incredulous that anyone could be so backwards, and stand so athwart the very plain visual evidence Galileo was presenting, consider that at this moment not only Fox News, but a variety of pundits including the venerable George Will, and a variety of US Congresspersons, heap the same derision and scorn on climate science every time it gets cold in places it usually doesn't.

What they are really doing is heaping scorn on scientific inquiry. They are as absurdly certain as six-year-olds arguing about who has the biggest piece of cake. They are deriding argument of the sophistication of Dr. Pettini's Lecture 14, above, with "nayah, nayah, nayah."

Hat tip to Digby for bringing the wonderful Hubble site to my attention this morning. Another hat tip to Eric Loomis at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, for his post on the "German Coast Slave Rebellion of 1811." I'll bet you never heard of this event in our exceptional American history. I'll bet it's not in any history text used in any high school, middle school, or elementary school in the United States. Here's a link to Loomis' post (he offers references to further reading in the post):

It is not really surprising that most people recoil from distasteful information that would tend to change how they feel about themselves and their country. This is human psychology. After General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, the little crossroads was utterly abandoned and the town moved down the road a piece, to Appomattox Station. I'm surprised the locals didn't salt the earth. Nonetheless, it is the charge of people with education and perspective to keep the truth in view, whether it be the truth of American history, or the truth of gravitational lensing.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Best NC News (So Far)

Welcome to 2014. One hundred years ago this year World War I started. That was in late August I believe, or early September. Before that them folks were living in a more or less 100-year peace and having a terrific time. Who knows how this year will turn out. Just sayin'. But I was happy to see the following news story yesterday over at, which is the Raleigh TV station of record, and the birth place of Jesse Helms, Senator.

INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. — Call it a politician boldly going where no one has gone before.

On Thursday, David Waddell used the Klingon language to write his letter of resignation from the Indian Trail Town Council in North Carolina.

Waddell says he opted to use Klingon, the language of a warrior race on the "Star Trek" TV shows and movies, as an inside joke. Mayor Michael Alvarez is calling the letter unprofessional.

Waddell says he is resigning at the end of this month. His four-year term expires in December 2015.

Waddell says he also needs to devote time to mounting a write-in campaign on the Constitution Party's platform against U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

Indian Trail, by the way, is a suburb of Charlotte and is located on US-74, which at that point is known as "Andrew Jackson Highway." Andrew Jackson was an American genocidist who marched the Cherokee people off to Oklahoma, causing some ten thousand of them to perish en route, an event known as the Trail of Tears. He was President of the most exceptional United States, and graces our $20 bill. His hair is obviously arranged to masque his Spock ears.

Senator Hagan, while hardly perfect, has been a far better representative of North Carolina than either Jesse Helms or Andy Jackson. I'd expect she is some delighted by the prospects of tilting against the Right Honorable David Waddell, part-term Town Councilman. Mr. Waddell, on the other hand, might expect a note from Mr. Art Pope concerning his, erm, "unseriousness."


I'd be remiss if I didn't award honorable mention to David Brooks' column on reefer (as we hipsters called it back in the day). The column itself you can find any number of places, and it's caused such consternation that even Chris Hayes devoted an excellent segment on its pathetic qualities last evening. The best response I've seen is the following:

Next, week 2.14, wherein the NC temperatures are going to plummet to single digits, and maison Hicks may be due for some emergency plumbing assistance if all doesn't go as hoped. Once I lived in a house with no plumbing, just a well and a bucket. Sometimes it was a hassle, to be sure, and when Libby and Anna (age 3) came to live here, it wasn't long before we achieved the modernity of pipes, bathtubs, hot water heaters, and all that fancy dancy stuff of the past century. But one thing's for sure, there are no frozen pipes in that lost world, and the water doesn't freeze 30 feet down.