Saturday, May 17, 2008

One: After Jack by Anthony McCarthy

Work had ended early. He was getting down to a long Friday evening, not planning to, nothing was planned. Supper, watching some TV. No, there’d be nothing on. He'd listen to music. He didn’t have any work to do. The paper was read. He didn’t have any expectation of anyone coming to see him or calling him. They never did. He wouldn’t go out, there was no bar that would welcome his presence. He’d finished with drinking a few years earlier anyway. He wouldn’t be going to meet up with anyone. There wasn’t anyone he wanted to see or who would notice his absence. He didn’t mind, he liked being alone. It was a little past three, the drizzle that ended his work day was getting heavier, he should get out of his wet boots. But he was eating crackers and peanut butter and drinking a cup of coffee before bothering. He liked the feeling of the hot cup in his cold hands, the feeling of the warm vapors on his face in the cold air. He didn’t even realize that he was enjoying it. If he knew he wasn’t thinking about Jack he would have thought it was strange. Jack had taken up so many of his solitary times before. He hardly took up any, now. Jack, the love of his youth, the one who had taught him to experience things without noticing them, maybe the reason he liked to be alone so much now . “You think too much,” Jack’s first words when he’d said, “I think I’m in love with you,”. After the months it took him to say it, the crises. Jack’s last words, that was all Jack said. Jack wasn’t about thinking, he acted. Always all right there, nothing buffered. It was so strange that someone like that could fade out of the life of someone like him, even on a silent Friday afternoon drinking coffee alone in his kitchen. It would have seemed strange, if he’d thought about it.

Beginning of “Gay Man, Small Town”, Anthony McCarthy, 1998

This Will Only Take About A Minute

Ernst H. Papier: Lefting

Guy Livingston - piano

A whole lot of music packed into one minute.

posted by Anthony McCarthy

Paying Dues Emptying The Trunk posted by Anthony McCarthy

Looking for important and practical things to post over the past two years, I’d thought about an item legendary to students of the music of Charles Mingus and found it but never got around to posting a link. So, for those of you who didn’t take advantage of this “subscription bonus” for Changes Magazine in the 1970s, here is Charles Mingus’ pamphlet telling how he toilet trained his cat, Nightlife.

“... from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us...”

Nuh, forget His Nibs, this is Nockels' wake.

Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson: What a Little Moonlight Can Do

Other than Diverting Details by Anthony McCarthy

& It is the real life results of moral or ideological positions that govern their rightness or correctness, not their theoretical or traditional foundations or logical discourse. Results that injure living beings, certainly including people, are a good indication that the position is wrong and should be changed or junked. Those that don’t produce good results or even any results at all are sterile and useful only to distract people from finding what works.

& Advocating putting the lives of people before abstract principles and intellectual doctrines will be incomprehensible to many of the brightest among us. They won’t see either the forest or the trees unless those are cut down for paper production. Our educations lie to us. Theories are not the things they purport to govern, ideological traditions aren’t real life. They are useful only to the extent that they produce beneficial results, otherwise they’re just items on a résumé or a publication list. The teaching of theory is an inadequate substitute for teaching skills and arts. Theory is an abstraction, it isn’t the thing itself, it can’t be substituted for the thing itself in real life and yield good results. This is even true within science, where, at least, they are supposed to remember that the theories are contingent.

& Recently there has been an increase in intellectual bigotry on the left that splits it and rejects the work and ideas of those who have produced good results in the past. Often the side insisting on black balling another haven’t produced any good results, sometimes they lay claim to those produced by the side they are attempting to supercede. This is almost always a bad idea. It’s not as if there are hoards of us to spare. The left is too short handed to give up willing hands at the behest of those who don’t produce. Those who insist that they won’t work with “them” had better produce in both numbers and results or they should be shown the door.

& The interests of an intellectual elite will often be at odds with those of political success for the left. The frequent temptation of intellectuals is to try to saddle the left with their ideas, often at odds with the most basic foundations of democracy and, even, of the continued life of the planet. People who put themselves before the common good are not leftists, no matter what the facade alleges to represent. They are just mistaken as to where their real ideological home lies. We shouldn’t indulge their confusion. Anyone who is more interested in their or their ideologies’ reputation within the intelligentsia than in people who live in trailers is waving a warning flag to the rest of us to use extreme caution. A lot of the disinterest in people such as those who live in trailers is the result of snobbery. Snobs don’t make good leftists.

& When Republicans and their kept media started on their strategy of lying about the price of governmental services and public works projects and the effectiveness of those, regardless of the actual record, they guaranteed that people honest about what those cost would be driven out of office. The results are vital public services being starved of necessary money, the pillage of those by sleazy corporations and the public’s ever more cynical view of the common good. The only way to fix that is by attacking their media which continually promotes their lies even as their parent companies profit from the plunge to the bottom. Virtually all of broadcast and cable are the servants or Republican crooks, they don’t deserve our support, they deserve our attacks.

& The diversion value of an issue is no reflection on its importance. Frequently the value as diversion of an issue is a good indication of its potential to divert attention from more important but more complicated and, therefore, less diverting subjects.

& A lot of people who comment on blog threads need to grow up. We all do. We should feel just bad enough about this fact to make ourselves grow up and act like decent adults, not enough to get discouraged.

& As a personal note: I am profoundly discouraged that a quarter of a century into the AIDS epidemic that young gay men, who have never known a world before AIDS, are practicing unsafe sex. I suppose it is the same kind of discouragement that the continued epidemic of teenaged pregnancy brings. We need to stop lying about sex, both in education for contraception and about the irresponsibility of dangerous sexual practices. As above, the corporate media is largely to blame for both. Masturbation, solo or mutual, should be promoted. This is a more important issue than whether or not Jon Stewart can say “fuck” unbleeped.

Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach Quintet: “Freedom Now”.

Can’t find my old vinyl copy of “We Insist!”, don’t remember but seem to remember that “Freedom Now!” had another movement and I also remember a different order, though Max Roach could have changed those on different occasions. Doesn’t matter, these four are some of the highest quality You Tubes I’ve seen yet.

Part One.

Part Two.

Part Three.

Part Four.

posted by Anthony McCarthy

Always Beginning by Anthony McCarthy

If someone could find a way to change the past, it would probably be worth doing sometime. I deduce from the fact that no one has fixed the mistakes of the past century, including the worst our species has devised, to date, that no one interested in us will ever find a way to do that. Though it’s possible that the discovery is in such a remote future that they have no idea we are waiting here for remedial relief. It’s fun to think of the possibilities. In a dark Irish sort of way.

he past includes the recent past, from what happened the beginning of the presidential campaign to the last insult posted by a Republican posing as a Democrat on some blog thread or radio call-in a minute ago*. As said in one of the pieces I posted this week, the future contains the near future. The future beyond it has to go through next year and will be made from what happens next year.

We go on from now. Now is the ever renewing beginning of what comes. We have the present to work with, we can’t fix the past, deleting blog comments possibly excepted. We don’t have access to tinker with the future. We never do.

We’ve got to heal the Democratic Party now, if our first attempt doesn’t work we have to keep trying. Like it or not the Democratic Party is our only tool to gain political influence in 2008, 2009 or the foreseeable future. When the stakes are the future of the planet, democracy and a decent life, giving up is no option, passing up an imperfect vehicle for another alleged to be superior but which isn’t in sight, is foolish. The line for that one has been forming for the entire modern history of the left and there’s no sign of it turning into the road yet.

We are always beginning. If not us as individuals, those who continue on and come after us. The faster we all grow up, take what is useful from the past and overlook what will only make the future worse, the faster we can begin to succeed. We leave a legacy to those who come after, it can be useful or it can be a burden to them. The left seems to be better at leaving ideological burdens than it does something useful. A lot of times the ideological white-elephant was never more than a personal or cult indulgence of no importance or practical value. Sometimes the thing was pretty shoddy to begin with. You wonder why the heirs of our messes feel obligated to take the useless, out of date, doodads along with a small collection of useful tools. They aren’t under any moral obligation to us to take it all. No rule of logic, fairness or equity binds them to take everything we leave them. Taking it to placate the feelings of those insisting on it seems kind except that the resulting costs to the work to save and improve lives are a far greater price to those least able to afford it. Prolonging those ridiculous feuds indulged in and beloved by cults on the left is criminal insanity. I hope those coming after will junk a lot of what comes down to them. I hope they will look around other places to find whatever works to make life more secure, more equitable and more just. The politics of equality and justice isn’t an ideological game played for the entertainment of a ruling elite or those with a published record to defend, it’s a matter of who lives and who dies too young. And that includes all of us.

Giving up is no option, our opponents won’t. They never will. That’s why we have to do what’s smart instead of what we might most desire or which will gain us the most status. More than just our most cherished self and its fixations are at stake, infinitely more than that. We have to put those aside and work together on the basis of collaboration and compromise. That’s the only means to a better future. What the future makes of what we provide them is in their hands, not ours. That’s their beginning.

* Heard a most obvious call-in Republican plant posing as a McCain Democrat on Diane Rehm’s show yesterday.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Musings on identity: How do we define ethnicity? (by Suzie)

           My mother’s biological father was American Indian, but we rarely spoke of it. I wrote my grandparents almost every week, starting when I was a kid, but I never told them that I knew the shameful secret: that Grandma had gotten pregnant by another man before she knew Grandpa, and that Grandpa later adopted Mom.
           I didn’t think of this other man as my grandfather, and I didn’t dwell on his being Indian. With green eyes and red hair, Mom looked Irish, and that's how she identified. Mom was staunchly antiracist. I don’t think she denied her Indian heritage out of bigotry, but rather out of fear that she would be exposed as a bastard, and reveal family secrets. 
           Mom told me that Grandma had mentioned the man was Cherokee, but I have no idea if Grandma really knew. The man had an Anglicized, common name. In Cherokee, N.C., I looked at the rolls for the Eastern Band, but couldn’t find his name.
            This is one of many things in my life that has made me wonder about ethnicity and identity. If this man had acknowledged Mom as his child, if Mom had had a birth certificate listing him as her father, if he had been enrolled as a tribal member, I might have been considered Native American.
            The day that I found out about my grandfather, did I become Indian? A quarter Indian? Because I wasn’t raised in any sort of indigenous culture, I’ve never identified as such. Sometimes, on a U.S. reservation or among indigenous people in Latin America, I’ve wanted to blurt out, “We are not so far apart. I’m not as white as you might think.” But, of course, we are far apart. I have all the privileges of whiteness. I gain only an advantage from having Indian heritage among liberal friends who consider whiteness an original sin. The oppression, in regard to being Indian, was experienced by my biological grandfather and those who came before and after him who were seen as Indian.
        Maybe he was a great guy who really cared about my grandmother but abandoned her and their child only because he had suffered much hardship and wanted to spare them. Maybe if he hadn’t been so poor, he would have claimed my mother as his child. Oppression doesn’t necessarily ennoble people, though. Maybe he was a jerk who preyed on my grandmother because she was innocent, and then abandoned Mom as a nuisance. I’ll never know.
            My Irish-American grandmother, who put down every ethnic group except Irish, had a large portrait of me. In a loving tone, she would remark how Irish I looked. Seeing the Irish in me – and not seeing anything else – helped her love me.
           No one else looks at me and thinks I'm Irish. Perhaps that's why I don't identify strongly as Irish. Instead, I’m much more likely to identify as Jewish. (Yes, yes, I know there are Irish Jews, and I know Judaism is a religion, but for many Jews, it also is a cultural and ethnic identity.) My father was a Russian Jewish atheist, in the great tradition. My mother didn’t convert – to either Judaism or atheism. Because Judaism is matrilineal, most Jews would not consider me Jewish. Nevertheless, I have a Jewish last name, and my dark hair and eyes, high cheekbones and long nose seem to fit a Jewish stereotype. Jews have embraced me, if not as one of their own, well, at least close enough in the South.
               My parents married during World War II, when Jews were not considered quite white. Some white kids taunted me for my looks when I was growing up, and later, some men found me “darkly” attractive or “exotic.” (This was Texas, OK?) I understand that I have white privilege, compared with people of color. Within the broad category of “white,” however, there are many advantages and disadvantages, just as is true for the broad category of “people of color.”
               Like a lot of people, I have lived my life as part this and that. Multiples make up my identity. Who I think I am, and how others perceive me, may change with time and place.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

I took this photo of a baboon's backside at Legoland in Billund, Denmark.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Musings on identity: Shaming mothers and children (by Suzie)

        I don’t remember how old I was when I learned my mother’s terrible secret. She had been “illegitimate.” She told only a handful of people in her lifetime. Even now, with my parents and grandparents dead, I feel uncomfortable writing about this.
       Her mother had been infatuated with on older man in the neighborhood. She knew nothing about sex, but one time, when the two were alone, he had sex with her. She became pregnant, but he refused to acknowledge that he was the father of her child.
       The family tried to keep the pregnancy and birth a secret. Mom developed rickets because she was kept in the house for her first couple of years. The family moved, and Mom was passed off as an orphan of World War I. My grandmother married the man I consider my grandfather, and they moved again, passing off Mom as their child.
        A number of feminist issues that persist today resonate with me because of my family history. I’m irate that some conservatives want to use shame to try to keep unwed girls and women from becoming pregnant.
        This is a case of conservatives forcing their values on others. It reinforces the idea that females must be sexual gatekeepers because they bear the brunt of the shame. People may never know that a man is an “unwed father.” Shaming contributes to the instability of families, and it can result in mental and physical harms to the children. Shaming has economic consequences. 
        Thinking of my grandmother, I wish all children could get comprehensive sex education. My grandmother could be a terror, but her unhappiness may have stemmed from feeling trapped and abused. That’s another story, but suffice it so say that she knew my grandfather could destroy her life and Mom’s if he had told the truth.
        I long for a world in which women have more freedom in entering and exiting relationships, and no child is born into shame.

The Beginning by Anthony McCarthy

The last week, and my two years of blogging have had several themes, none of those more important than the fact that we live now, we act now, in the conditions we face now, like it or not. Reality is the bottom line, it has the potential to eat away at our most brilliant planning and thinking even as we try for perfection in those. While we fiddle, negotiate and sooth injured pride, our enemies are at work anticipating us and actively undermining us. As I have pleaded with you to understand, they are dishonest and cruel, they are crafty and deceptive, they aren’t stupid. Like all successful con men, they will deceive those they are robbing and destroying quite successfully. They are far from stupid.

The present contains whatever tools and opportunities we really have to work with, nothing which isn’t contained in our present is going to be available to us. Time taken up with the attempts to make basic tools from scratch is often time wasted, the left has wasted decade upon decade in just the planning for future tool making. What looks good on paper, is often worse than a flop. In the present conditions, here, now in 2008, we don’t have time to give to that speculation, we have got to use what we have at hand. If the tool isn’t available in time, it might as well have not worked.

We don’t have time to waste on the time wasters among us, we don’t have time to wait for their impractical theories to fall of their own, obvious weight. There are those among the worst of them who can prop up that lead balloon with the fine looking logo they are urging us to ride in, to sucker in generations that go nowhere. Some of them are half right, those can be some of the worst, Ralph Nader is the quintessential example.

Some of them are all wrong, those with a patina of what’s taken for liberalism or leftism while they offer only the promise of producing a small core of loud fanatics convinced of their superior intellects even as repeated failure demonstrates that their mastery of buzz words or even entire programs of intellectual theory is no substitute for practicality and good will.

Snobs, a dangerously proliferating invasive species on leftist blog threads, not only advertise themselves as those who will waste time and consume your energies with the damage they will do to the left, they advertise themselves as mock leftists, leftists who don’t possess the first requirements for being a leftist. Anyone who thinks the lowest among us are not worthy of our full respect, consideration and effort, is a conservative who hasn’t fully developed yet.

Sexism and racism and other forms of stereotyping and stigmatization as political strategy and posture should be stamped on vigorously, first and foremost because they are evil and unjust, secondly because those practicing them offend us, divide us, take up our time and do the work of our enemies for them.

I fully believe that the core belief of the left, that people are endowed with inherent rights equally held by every last person. People own their bodies, they have a right to an environment that will sustain them, they have the right to food, water, clothing, shelter, rest, sleep, respect, love and mutual support. People do not exist apart from each other, people have the right to have their rights observed, they have an absolute obligation to observe the rights of other people. I fully believe that governments are established to procure those rights and to protect them, equally, for every person. Education, one of the most basic means of obtaining, protecting and providing those things needed by people, it is a fundamental right. I believe that the core values of the left are correct and should govern our work in making progress.

I fully believe that people do actually have a spark of the divine in them and it is by that which their inherent rights exist. I believe that our bodies are provided to us as individuals for our use, though I’m not going to go into that here and now. I believe that we the living are different from the inert, that humans with the ability to think and learn and sympathize with other suffering life, are not the slaves of physical law in our actions. I believe The People, individually and collectively can take effective beneficial action that supersedes any possible theoretical impediment that the individual and collective genius of self-interested or merely deluded people can devise. Even those with a mighty good line and some involved equations attached. I'd better not go into the folly of trying to study vastly complex systems with science and that history is generally a better tool for understanding some of those, you know where that could lead.

In a practical demonstration of the fact that we are all subject to real life and time and that we had better not waste time on the impractical and theoretical, I am forced to inform you of the end of my regular blogging. I will post my last regular piece on Sunday, I don’t know if I will post any pieces or comments after that. Thought I’ve got too big a mouth to promise that I will remain silent forever. If I do have anything to say, Echidne’s blog is the first place I’ll come to say it, her admirable blog community those who I’ll think should hear it first. I’ll have more to say on this Sunday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"A deeper black" (by Suzie)

          I like identity politics when it brings about changes or benefits candidates I support. But it drives me crazy when it results in discussions over who is more authentic.
          In an article for The Nation, Ta-Nehisi Coates describes “blackness as a big tent” that can cover many ways of being in this world. But some ways of being clearly delight him, as he describes Obama’s haircut, his TV habits and his handshake.
          He calls Obama “the blackest man to take the public stage ever.” Obama doesn’t need to talk about racism, just as most African Americans think little of racism or white privilege, Coates says. “This is the blackness of Barack Obama. It is an identity that asserts itself without conscious thought.”
          But this goes against what Obama has written in his memoir, in which he examines his roots and searches for his place among other African Americans. We build our identities over time, and this may be especially true of someone like Obama because of his biracial, multicultural background.
         Coates asserts that it’s “a deeper black” to be confident, to think of blackness as a “garland,” rather than an “albatross.” Although he credits a new generation, his ideas echo the racial pride of the black power movement.
         Coates’ assertion strikes me as a false dichotomy, however. A person can be proud of being black while still fighting racism.
         Just to be clear: I’m criticizing Coates, not Obama.
         In the same article, I think Coates also misreads Frederick Douglass. Coates says Douglass “throttled his slave breaker [and] fled to the North.” Frederick did grab one of his masters, but he would later escape from another. Anna Murray, an older and free black woman whom he later married, helped him escape. I think it's important that she not disappear from his history. I’ve read that she borrowed money to help him, but another account says:
“Anna sold many of her belongings to help Frederick purchase the train tickets for his escape. She also sewed the sailor uniform he wore as a disguise and accumulated the necessary items for starting a household.”
          Coates says, “Douglass was vilified in his time.” Of course, pro-slavery people hated him, but he also was a popular speaker whose autobiography became a bestseller. While he spent much of his time traveling, his wife ran the household and aided the Underground Railroad.
Those interested in this history should visit the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in D.C. Its Web site also has much historical information.

What’s not rape (by Suzie)

      I’m excited to have my posts included in the latest Carnival of Radical Feminists, but it has gotten me thinking: What might the games and rides be like?
      The carnival has some interesting posts. Be sure to check out La Doctorita’s commentary on magazine covers. She concludes:
… the next time somebody tries to tell you that men have to deal with just as many unhealthy stereotypes about their appearances as women do … just walk them over to the magazine aisle.
         Abyss2hope comments on an outstanding series on rape in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She also wrote a series of posts discussing what constitutes rape. I read this yesterday, after a morning of imaging tests at the cancer center where I volunteer. I’ve gotten CT scans and/or MRIs at least every three months since I was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in 2002.
         For an MRI of the abdomen and pelvis, the techs put contraptions on my body and strap me down. Yesterday, one tech was going to strap my arms against my body, and I refused. The other tech got it immediately and said that was OK, and he could make my arms comfortable and free by my side.
         MRIs freak out a lot of people. But some health-care professionals also understand that procedures can be difficult for some people who have gone through traumatic experiences, such as rape. This silent understanding is a kindness because few people want to say, “Hey, I’m a rape survivor and this creeps me out.”
           I couldn’t find research on this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some rape survivors avoid medical care or skip some procedures because they are uncomfortable but don’t want to say anything.
           On the other hand, I’ve heard guys say, half-jokingly, that they felt violated or raped by procedures like catheterization. Listen up: If you’ve never been raped, please don’t use rape as an analogy for something unpleasant for which you gave your consent. Find some other way to complain.
          By the way, I listened to the latest CD by Little Pink during my MRI and I highly recommend it. Here's “Wind and Water.”

Today's Forcast

Heavy allergies, light posting. Will be back when I wake up in a Benadryl stupor. Do watch the program about fistula, it was a real reality check in this surreal atmosphere caused by our continuing election standoff. If you can't, read the things at the website linked to below, they are sobering.

Anthony McCarthy

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Nova Program About The Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia

posted by Anthony McCarthy

If you haven’t seen it yet and still can in your area, you should watch the Nova program “Walking to Beautiful” about Ethiopian women who suffer ostracism due to fistula and the Fistula Hospital in Addis Abba. It’s one of the best Nova programs in years, essential viewing, giving a hard to take look into the difficult lives of the women, what they have to go through to be treated and that there are a lot more women suffering with fistula than can be treated. Just saw it and thought you should know.

Here’s the program website.

A star athlete in the making (by Suzie)

Echidne pointed out this news story. I think it's hard for her to take time off. Rest, goddess, rest.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Bonnie Richardson ran. She threw. She jumped.
And when it was time to hand out the team trophies, Richardson accepted the 1A team championship for Rochelle High School -- by herself.
          Richardson was the only Rochelle athlete to qualify for the state meet and stunningly won the team title. University Interscholastic League officials said it was the first time they can remember a single athlete winning a girls' team title. It's happened before on the boys' side, but not since ... the 1970s...

Another video on campaign sexism (by Suzie)

      The video below is partisan, but I'm posting it because, believe it or not, there are still plenty of people who don't know the extent of the sexism in this presidential campaign.
       I think reasonable feminists can discuss 1) whether some statements or actions by Obama, cited in this video, were intended to be sexist and 2) whether a candidate should be held accountable for everything his supporters say. I also assume that McCain supporters are responsible for some of the blatant sexism against Clinton.
       But here's what I think is indisputable: Some Obama supporters have exhibited blatant sexism. Obama should come out and say that sexism is wrong. This could help heal divisions in the party.
       I know that Obama supporters believe that Clinton and her supporters have said things that feed racism. See my points 1) and 2) above. Whether Obama supporters believe her or not, Clinton has spoken against racism many times in her life. If Obama has addressed sexism at length or apologized for the sexism of some of his supporters, I would (sincerely) like the citations.

Nonprofit, online journalism (by Suzie)


         I wonder where journalism is headed, with the rise of the Internet and the slide in profits for print. That’s why I’m intrigued by the St. Louis Beacon, a nonprofit, online news site edited by a longtime journalist, Margaret Wolf Freivogel, whom I know from the Journalism and Women Symposium.
         I understand that nonprofits can’t ignore monetary issues if they hope to survive, and nonprofit status is not the panacea for all that ails journalism. Still, it does offer one alternative.

Well, mark me down for the geezer I am, but I’d not known about Somi before looking for a You Tube of Abby Lincoln singing “African Lady” to the jazz genius of Eric Dolphy. I didn’t find that great recording from 1961 but I found this song of the same name by Somi with Herve Samb on Guitar performed last year.

Somi: African Lady

I think you might like it. Here’s her website.

posted by Anthony McCarthy

Life Is Real Words Can Be Cheap by Anthony McCarthy

but they can get people killed.

Suzie’s post yesterday is about one of those first level issues that are much more important than the election campaign squabbling I’ve been dealing with. If you haven’t read it yet and donated, it’s very important and is a chance to do something real about the world.

The point about what we can do for people in another country where our best intentions are thwarted by politics and the history of the West in the Middle East came up at Digby’s blog. The issue is one we’ve discussed here a lot, the murder of a young woman that goes by the obscene non sequitur, “honor killing” Here’s one of my comments lightly edited.


You might be too young to remember the dispute of PBS showing the film "Death of a Princess" about the beheading of a young woman living somewhere among the royalty of the House of Saud and her lover. There were all kinds of threats about retaliation from Saudi Arabia, mostly taken by people at the time to mean another 1970s style oil crisis. I remember all the talk about "understanding their culture" by those who advocated PBS be stopped from showing it. Well, I heard Elizabeth Drew say that she thought the Saudis should be told that in our culture you don't censor the news media, that’s our culture. I thought it was one of the more intelligent points made in the arguments about the issue. The Saudi aristocracy, much more of an enemy of the people who they rule over than they are to us, had a potent tool to use, an implied oil embargo. We don't even have that to enforce our ideas in a case like this.

The murder of women like this is a crime against humanity, it's terrible and it's disgusting and outrageous. What do you propose we do about it? I mean what do you propose that will actually do, to do something for these women, not what will allow us to pretend that our outraged words, full of moral indignation and reason, will have any effect at all. And those reasonable and justified words don't stand alone, they are sent out in a sea of racism, imperialism, counterproductive religious invective, etc. When they get over there the most enlightened Western words are tainted with the Sam Harris and the neo-con kind of crap.

Has anyone here asked some Islamic feminists what they think? Some actually living in the middle east instead of some white man in a college town in the United States? I'm sure you'll get different and conflicting opinions from them, some probably in line with what I'd disagree with. But I am a white man in the United States, I don't have to live with the consequences that could flow from whatever other people here do. Women in the middle east, who have the advantage of knowing the first thing about their own situations, have more information that any one else does. They're the go to people on this issue.

I don't see what people who witnessed the reaction to those stupid anti-Islamic cartoons don't get. They don't care what we think, though they obviously can care about what we say. Our ability to influence their societies for the good is a lot weaker than our ability to piss them off stupendously and a lot of people get killed when that happens. Islam-baiting is certainly a way to get that accomplished. I can speculate what the assholes here who indulge themselves that way get out of it, they're the only ones who do get something out of it. But I don't know why any decent adult would want to get that out of a situation that gets people killed. I don't count them as among the enlightened.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Day Old Question by Anthony McCarthy

On first bite -

*Oh, it’s a store-bought cake.*

Then -

What do they put in store-bought cake that makes it taste like Play-Doh smells?

Don’t forget the women of Burma (Myanmar) by Suzie

      When a disaster occurs, don’t forget the gendered aspects. During the chaos, women can be more vulnerable to rape and violence by intimate partners. They may trade their bodies for aid. Because women often care for the young, the old and the sick, they may have greater needs or different needs than men. In many cultures, women have to protect their honor or dignity in different ways that may hinder their ability to get help.
         With extensive community ties, women also can have an advantage in distributing aid after a disaster.
         I haven’t seen an article on women in Burma after the recent cyclone, but here’s one on what happened in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Maldives after the tsunami hit in 2005.  This source and this one provide general information on women in Burma.
        The international women’s rights organization MADRE is one avenue for donations. Its Web site says: “MADRE is working with the Women's Human Rights Defenders Network and Burmese women's organizations.”

It’s Next Year That Could Get Us Killed If We’re Not Smart About It. by Anthony McCarthy

I don’t have a transcript but remember what was said on the program. It was one of those moments when someone say something that crystalizes an idea that had been only vaguely thought before. In a discussion of five members of the Boston media on Emily Rooney’s program on WGBH TV the subject was the handful of reporters and journalists who don’t vote out of principle. The idea being that reporters are supposed to be objective and unbiased so they shouldn’t vote. Callie Crossley, the accomplished and erudite journalist, producer, you name it in media, she’s done it... said that with the people who had sacrificed their lives to allow her, a black woman, to vote, there was no way she was going to give up her vote. Which was the most sensible thing I’ve ever heard a journalist say on that subject.

Voting, participating fully in politics, is the birth right of every single person. It is a right as much as any other, including the right to own your body, politics is what produces the limits under which we will be allowed to exercise our inherent rights. Anyone impeding someone from voting is assaulting all of their rights from the most vital to the least, they are telling, asking or encouraging people to give up their rights. That is just as immoral now as it was during Jim Crow when black people were passively discouraged as well as violently prevented from voting at all, never mind exercising the luxury we, we with the leisure to read blogs are being encouraged to give up, voting in their best interests. Women should certainly understand this issue, since their participation has been discouraged on the basis of their gender as well.

I’d go farther than that for the purpose of blogging. Those on the blog threads who are discouraging people from vigorously opposing and voting against the Republicans, in the only way that will affect reality in January, are acting as Republican agents provocateurs. I know that they will have some idealistic sounding reason for it, they will have some line, but reality is real*, that is the real life effect of what they are saying.

There is no rational reason for someone who doesn’t want the Bush-Cheney nightmare to continue under a new name to discourage people from voting for the Democratic nominee. There is either an irrational reason for them doing it or they are actually working to continue the policies of the Bush-Cheney nightmare. The six months before November will be too busy trying to prevent disaster to try to sort out the moles from the dupes. Until after the election, I’m considering them all Republican operatives, because they’ll be doing the same thing.

* Anticipating the usual eloquent appeals for “the future”, well, January 2009 is as much “the future” as their age of their glorious millennium. I am pretty sure January will come next year, I haven’t seen any evidence that their fantasy future will get here. And since time goes all in one direction and only on one road, the road to whatever future there is will have to go through next year. That’s the reality of it. People are going to have to eat next year, have health problems next year, need an environment that will grow them food and sustain their lives next year, keep from getting involved with McCain’s war on Iran next year. We need a good next year to have a future beyond it. Next year could get us all killed.


Sam is tired:

And so am I. Taking this week off from blogging. Suzie and Anthony McCarthy have generously promised to take care of the blog while I have a little nap. Or ten.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Paul Hindemeth Sonata For Viola and Piano Op. 11 No. 4

Ori Kam, violist [Tatiana Goncherova pianist (?) ] .

For my mother, a violist, on mother’s day. posted by Anthony McCarthy

Career Tracking 13-year-olds by Anthony McCarthy

I’m reading this article about career tracking young teenagers in the public schools for the third time this morning and can’t tell how I feel about it. My initial feeling is uneasy, it sounds too much like what they did in Britain to reinforce class rankings at the behest of social science charlatanism (See The Mismeasure of Man by S. J. Gould) . It also has more than a few points in common with the Booker T. Washington - W.E.B Du Bois dispute.

The push for a greater link between school and work is most apparent in low-income communities, where, advocates say, career themes engage kids who might otherwise drop out or lose interest in school.

That’s what you'd have suspected, a way to turn low-income children into a work force for the service and corporate oligarchs. The article begins with one 13-year-old giving up her acting when she was convinced to enter on a career path leading to her becoming a physician's assistant. Being a physician’s assistant is an entirely laudable goal and an admirable profession, certainly better than many better paid ones which are a blight on humanity. But why did she have to give up acting so early?

Other students in the article have other stories, some very positive, some I wonder about. And if it’s such a wonderful thing for lower income children, wouldn’t those in the upper class be pushing their way into it? I’m trying hard to remember a boon to anyone which wasn’t hogged by the upper class.

It will take a long time for me to figure out if I think it’s a good idea or not. Probably, like just about every practice in education it will be for some and not for others. I wonder why they couldn’t come up with a way to provide more of a liberal education within a vocational program. Having a child who can have a decent income is a laudable goal but a broad enough education for them to be a fulfilled person throughout their lives and fully participating members in a democratic society are as important. I'd like people to get back to realizing that they work to have a life of their own, that it isn't the other way around.

Get back to you on this.

Comment Posted As A Clarification by Anthony McCarthy

If you don't get the most votes you will not have to worry about "selling out", you will be out.

I'm a gay, socialist, leveler who believes, roughly, in the Quaker idea that each person has a spark of the divine in them and that they have inherent, absolute rights which they must exercise in full recognition of the rights of every other person. I could go into my leftist credentials further but I think you would agree this puts me on the far left side of things.

Nancy Pelosi is, beyond any dispute, the person farthest on the left to have held leadership in the House, the Senate or the executive, there is no evidence that anyone farther to the left is going to achieve power during our life times. Some individual members of congress are to her left, though not that many, arguably one or two of the senators, other than dear Senator Sanders, might be to her left. When we are talking about national office, the universe of what constitutes "the left" is not the same as that when we are talking about those of us who have either been unable or unwilling to achieve election to a public office*. We, old chum, are not going to constitute the governing left any time in our life times. For us, assuming you're roughly in my age cohort, when we are talking about national office, considering our "left" is a waste of time.

I'd rather have a more progressive tax code and a reduced carbon load in the atmosphere in the foreseeable future than in arguing about what will not be.

And, I assure you, a politician who has to win an election will have to deal with the much larger constituencies who aren't as far left as we are, in any case.

I'm done with pretending that unachievable principles are worth sacrificing the possible. That "ideal" isn't an ideal, it's a feel-good pose. It will feed no children, provide no one with health care or preserve one hectare of land or ocean. All of which are more important than any abstract ideal I happen to hold.

* Volunteering in a political campaign, seeing what they go through, I’m sick and tired of hearing people run down our politicians. They are just about all dedicated to pubic service. Few moderate to liberal Democrats serving in elective office at the national level couldn’t be enjoying a much more comfortable and profitable life pursuing a wealth-making career. With considerably fewer headaches. You think it’s such a bed of roses, try getting yourself elected. Try dodging the bullets and balancing the pressure groups. Anyone who wonders why they ignore people acting like crybabies should stop wondering. Acting like a crybaby is you inviting them to ignore you. They have to.

I’m Burned Out Just Listening To A Little Of What Teachers Are Up Against by Anthony McCarthy

Asking two highschool teachers I know about one of those tertiary level issues I mentioned yesterday, I got a crash course in their reality. Most of the basic assumptions I brought to my questioning were wildly optimistic. Instead of the 185 days I assumed as their opportunity for teaching their subject it was actually 180 days. Instead of the three days I’d imagined given to standardized testing, it was actually a week, sometimes more. And, as one of them reminded me, a class period devoted to giving a unit test is also a “day” when they aren’t teaching new information. He said that he never gets to the end of the textbook he’s got, never mind adding new topics to be brought up. That’s why he couldn’t tell me how many actual teaching days to subtract for unit tests.

And, as both reminded me, their “day” is actually not a day but an “hour”. And that “hour” was 50 minutes long, at least a tenth of that just spent on getting kids settled and taking care of administrative junk. Then there are the non-teaching problems they’ve got while actually teaching their subject matter, ranging from confused or listless kids to even the best behaved kids cutting up, to kids with a history of psychopathic violence. I asked how they dealt with kids who didn’t have the background knowledge for their subject, they said it was a huge problem.

So, when you subtract the 15 minutes from those 180 hours and start subtracting “hours” given over to, not teaching but testing, and figuring in the time spent with remedial and behavior problems, it looks like a mighty hard job.

When you ask one, don’t even bring up what they think when university based geniuses start telling them what they need to add to their curriculum. Not unless you really want an earful.