Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday five

My query to you: name five bands that changed your life.

To be clear, I'm setting the bar pretty high with "changed your life." I want you to name bands that if you hadn't discovered them when you did, it's entirely conceivable that you would not be the person you are today. Here's mine (in order of discovery):
  1. the Beatles
  2. REM
  3. the Minutemen
  4. the Flaming Lips
  5. Phish
Leave yours in the comments.

As Latin America Goes, So Goes...

Greg Grandin's recent recent writing on an Obama policy for Latin America transcends any such political 'presentism' or hero-worship, and instead offers a vital and occasionally horrifying crystal ball in which to peer. As staging ground for some of the most hateful, inexcusable adventures in government, empire, and murder, Grandin argues that the region has always worked as a sort of laboratory for new technologies of capitalist government that would eventually extend outward (c.f., Friedman's neoliberalism in Chile.) But at the moment, Grandin wonders if the Right's racial and ideological compulsions haven't taken them to a place of temporary hysterical inefficacy.
The Right's decay as an intellectual force is nowhere more evident than in the fits it throws in the face of the Left's—or China's—advances in Latin America. The self-confidant vitality with which Jeane Kirkpatrick used Latin America to skewer the Carter administration has been replaced with the tinny, desperate shrill of despair. "Who lost Latin America?" asks the Center for Security Policy's Frank Gaffney—of pretty much everyone he meets. The region, he says, is now a "magnet for Islamist terrorists and a breeding ground for hostile political movements… The key leader is Ch├ívez, the billionaire dictator of Venezuela who has declared a Latino jihad against the United States."
So far Obama seems to kind of a Clinton revivalist, economically speaking. Will his administration take us to a place in which Third Way, capitalist cosmopolitanism makes it's second historical appearance (in the 1990s as tragedy, in 2009 as farce?) Will we see a batch of new trade agreements? Continued, contrived saber-rattling at Chavez? something like peace talks in Colombia? micro-credit for nominally socialist democracies? A less austere, more paternalistic disposition from the IMF/World Bank? Historic summit conferences, at least?

Friday, June 13, 2008


... is the Group C standings.

Solidarity in Action

Once upon a time, the GTFF held an old-school mock funeral for our expired contract.

Overcome with emotion Wobs breaks down. EZ reaches out to him.

Difficult iPod Transitions

I think we all love our iPods in shuffle mode for the times two songs we never would have put together get played next to back-to-back. These surprising combinations often bring a new dimension to songs we've been listening to for years, revealing layers of meaning that we may not have noticed before (or may be inventing for the first time).

Sometimes, however, iPod gets it wrong and plays two songs back-to-back that just don't belong together and I find myself reaching for the skip button. I call these "Difficult iPod Transitions."

In what I hope will become a regular, if random, feature of the OG (I hope all of my colleagues will participate), I present my DIT from yesterday:

Pitbull's Bojangles


Frank Sinatra's Strangers in the Night

Of course, I did realize that both artists were essentially singing songs to ladies they were dancing with, emphasizing their desire to continue the interlude in a more martial setting. Pitbull stating quite clearly his preference for being pleasured orally and his perfect willingness to reciprocate, while Frank left the details to my imagination. Not surprisingly, I imagined Frank in a more missionary context.

h/t: Wobs for the proper punctuation

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A little matter of journalism

In an article about groups seeking to influence the Democratic Party's education agenda, this bit caught my attention:
Mr. Klein and Mr. Sharpton’s statement argued that federal policy should continue to hold schools accountable for raising the achievement of poor African-American and Latino youths, which is a focus of the federal law, but should also seek to assign more effective teachers to the nation’s neediest classrooms. This is an area where the statement said the law had been weak.


The statement included a passage labeling teachers union contracts a significant obstacle to increasing the achievement of poor students.

“We must insist that our elected officials confront and address head-on crucial issues that created this crisis: teachers’ contracts and state policies that keep ineffective teachers in classrooms and too often make it nearly impossible to get our best teachers paired up with the students who most need them,” it said.

Leaving the substance of the charge aside, you would think that such a statement - such a singled out statement - would call for a response from a representative of a teachers union. In fact, you would think that an article on groups attempting to shape education policy would call for the inclusion of a comment from someone in a teachers union.

You would think.

To Go With Your Curious George Shirt

This obviously won't be the worst thing we see this election cycle, but what a way to start us off!

via LGM, Pandagon

Irrational exhuberance

Yes, I do know that we're only 65 games in to a 162 game season, but my beloved Cubbies currently have the best record in baseball. I'm feeling... what's the word I'm looking for...? Hopeful? Optimistic? Are Cubs fans supposed to have these strange emotions?

You may place your bet for when, exactly, my heart gets broken in the comments.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

PR Savvy

From The Guardian:
To some it may come as too little too late. But setting out on his final trip to Europe as president, George Bush has expressed regret that his rhetoric in the run-up to the war in Iraq may have created the impression that he was a warmonger.


The phrases he used to win support for the war such as "bring 'em on" and "dead or alive" he said, "indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace."

Sure, your rhetoric might have created that impression. But actually starting an unprovoked war kinda confirmed to us that you're a, you know, warmonger.

updated: Note to self - when you think you're being clever, check Sadly, No! first to make sure you're not ripping them off.

Bambino blogging

Not so bambino-y anymore.

Nothing New about These Neoliberals

Yuck, the noble adversary over at the Washington Note couples his always pretty crackling analysis with this gloomy glimpse into Obama's economic team, which includes nobody from the Economists for Edwards (sigh), and generally looks pretty flaccid. We pick up with a discussion of the newest Obama-economist, Jason Furman.
Furman (a friendly acquaintance of mine and close associate of one of my New America Foundation colleagues) is also well known for his budget-hawkery. He has been part of the Democratic Party economic class that has successfully stolen from the Republicans the ethic of fiscal conservatism and advocates a Social Security entitlement reform process that begins to wrestle with America's long term entitlement obligations.

To some degree, Furman manifests the interests and perspective of perhaps the leading neoliberal force in politics today, Robert Rubin. Furman could make a good case that his views may differ here and there, but my sense is that he's an essential spear-carrier of Rubinomics.

Given the rhetoric of Obama on redoing trade deals, of giving China a tough time on trade, and focusing on the real needs of working class Americans -- the choice of Furman surprises me though I certainly don't oppose it.

But calling a spade a spade, it's clear that Furman is no Dean Baker or Robert Blecker or Jared Bernstein -- all important economists who have been far more right as of late than the Rubin crowd in anticipating the stress points in globalization, the housing bubble, trade, and the like.

If We Weren't Talking at Cross-Purposes, We Wouldn't Be Talking

This reminded me of a conversation that could take place between myself and Lex. It actually took place between baseball announcers Joe Morgan and Jon Miller during a broadcast on Sunday.

"Jon, I gotta ask you a trivia question. I was fishing with Matt Franco, used to play for the Mets. I was fishing with him on a boat, and Matt Franco asked me this trivia question. He said he had talked to players past and present. He asked me, Which guy hit the hardest line drives most consistently of all I'd ever seen. Hardest line drives."- Joe Morgan
"That's a trivia question?"- Jon Miller
"Well, it was for me and him. We were playing trivia on the fishing boat."- Joe
"Where would I look up the answer to that?"- Jon
"Well, you should know the answer!"- Joe
"Give me the question one more time."- Jon
"All right. Who hits the hardest line drives of any player you ever saw on a consistent basis?"- Joe
"Dave Winfield."- Jon
"All right, keep going. That's one. That's "A". "A" wasn't right.- Joe
[Loud Laughs] "Yes it was right! I beg to differ!"- Jon
"I'm gonna give you, uhh … I'm gonna give … I'm gonna give you a hint. You even broadcast games for him."- Joe
[Long Pause] "I broadcast Dave Winfield's games."- Jon
"No … for the answer, I'm talking about. I'm telling you, he asked all the other players. I'm not saying—"- Joe
"Well, I'm saying, this is a question for which there is no correct answer."- Jon
"Yeah, there's a correct answer."- Joe
"Well, what did you say? What was your answer? Did you get it right?"- Jon
"Yes." [pause] "Al Oliver."- Joe
"Oh, Al Oliver. He was—"- Jon
"See!"- Joe
"He was a very good line drive hitter."- Jon
"I knew you would say that. See, I knew that you'd eventually come up with the answer."- Joe
[Al Oliver and Dave Winfield Talk]
"It was interesting because Matt Franco said if I got the answer correct, he would introduce to his cousin … the actor … Kurt Russell. And I said, 'Okay.'- Joe
"That's his cousin?"- Jon
"That's his cousin."- Joe
[Laughs] "So when did you meet Kurt?"- Jon
"Well I haven't met him yet. I just answered it last week."- Joe
"Well, what's taken him so long? We're in L.A. Kurt could have been here tonight. Or maybe he wants to wait till you're in New York, and we can help Kurt Russell … escape from New York."- Jon
"Yeah, that was a great movie. Snake Plissken. The Snake."- Joe
"You want to meet him bad, don't you?"- Jon
"Yeah, that was his … That was his name. Snake."- Joe

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sorry Environment, There's Votes to Win!

I got this in an e-mail from the AFL-CIO's "Working Families" campaign.
Out-of-control gas prices are choking off the American dream for working families.
The e-mail is about how John McCain and George Bush are killing working families by giving giant tax breaks to Big Oil. A perfectly legitimate point to attack, but does the attack have to come in language that actually helps the GOP?

Isn't this what McCain was arguing when he proposed the gas-tax holiday? Isn't stabilizing the supply of oil a reason (unstated) for going to war in Iraq? Isn't this the reason we need to drill in Alaska (and California, New Mexico, Louisiana and everywhere else)? Could this line of reasoning be why the blue wing and the green wing of the Democratic party mix as well as the evangelicals and the Wall Streeters do in the Republican party?

The blue/green divide in the Democratic party is going to be a major problem in the coming years and I greatly fear that the GOP's tax-cutting, drilling, and anti-cap and trade arguments will become Labor's arguments. I fear that Labor did not learn a lesson from the Pacific Northwest timer unions...even if you buy into the bosses' anti-environmental bullshit, they are still going to shut you down the moment it becomes more profitable to use their money somewhere else.

Sensory Deprivation

Sorry that I haven't posted lately.

I am currently without phone/internet/cable.

free media is a wasteland.....

I feel like Spurlock going 30 days with no access.

h/t: Pomona public library

Terrorists everywhere!

Ever since the Obamas introduced America to the "fist bump of terror"...

... I've noticed that there's an awful lot of other people who are showing solidarity with Islamofarian America haters:

I, for one, will be hiding in my basement to avoid tangling with the Eight Iron of Allah.

Catholicism, Workers and the Poor.

When I was 18 years old back in Jersey, I was even more sophomoric, pretentious and hypocritical than my prep school. (Delbarton is situated on 400 acres of Jersey forest, and peppered with Greek statuary and Goose shit.)

I would spend studyhall mornings listening to The Shape of Jazz to Come on my walkman, while reading the Communist Manifesto or Forced Exposure in the half-lotus position.

There were a lotta coffees and bagels
snarfed down in between seminars with the half-Benedictine faculty, and a lot of really hideous things happened inside me and around me while I inhabited this prep space. But I also learned about William Faulkner, James Joyce and Marx from a lot of very smart people, some of whom - shit, they were monks - even kinda managed to retain (kinda) leftist critiques of la societe despite all the wanky, preppy computations of the place.

All of which leads up to yours truly getting tapped for a sort of volunteer trip to Camden, NJ, where unbeknownst to me there was a full-blown Liberation Theology, anti-poverty mission happening that left me duly impressed. We emptied abandoned crackhouses by day and then attended - seriously - seminars at night that were often as much about the Sandinistas as they were about transubstantiation...It's also the place where I first heard of Marx, Keynes and Neoclassical political economics.

This was a big time for Young Me, though I'd always known and/or suspected that there was potentially something radical about the cosmological and moral psychological framework called Catholicism that I'd been raised in. Grade School. At Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange, they were always talking about poor people - poor people seemed to have a weird kind of cred, even. The overall message was something like, you are an ungrateful wretch, but look how much worse off you would be if you were that guy. "That guy" could take the form of Christ getting scourged, or a homeless man, or whatever, within the whimsical framework of this or that lay minister's moralism.

Of course, those were very American, very white ethnic, very suburban glimpses into catholic social teachings that I just provided. The AFL-CIO reminds us how Catholic Worker programs in urban America have a long, kinda bitchin', weirdly bohemian kind of legacy in American communities that need all the help they can get. I'm trying to be very deadpan about my debt here, and I've had to renounce catholicism (for more on this see the sermon chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), but rest assured that a lot of my formative exposure to the left came through this stained glass-ed prism. As of today I don't think it's any less sane to expect emancipatory action in the catholic church than it is to expect same from the Democratic Party.

Unless, of course, you're a woman, or gay, which brings me back to skepticism, secularism, and a relevant lingering question unanswered above: is catholicism more "pro-worker" or "pro-poor"? Do we even consider wage workers and the unemployed as part of the same class anymore? And back to my point, does Catholic Worker-ism actually contain some class content, or is catholic social teaching better captured in the essentialism - not to say the defeatism or conservatism - of statements such as "the Poor are Always With You."

So anyway, it's funny, a decade later, still living down the residual effects of 18 years in the eyes of the Church... to live through a media moment in which the larger culture is realizing that Liberation Theology exists, and to see it being used as a smear against Barry Obama. It's funny to watch Father Pfleger with however much lefty sympathy, and think, who finds this man frightening? Who? How? Really?

It seems equally as ridiculous as thinking John Bellamy Foster is a threat to the State Monopoly Capitalism (Stamocap).

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Brand it Down, Now

Brand our city!
The Eugene Register-Guard reports that Springfield, OR has arrived upon its very own tagline - but only after months of deliberation.

And in just a few months, local residents will see those words — Proud History, Bright Future — popping up on banners, signs, city vehicles and other spots throughout town.

The saying is not an official city motto or slogan. City spokesman Niel Laudati calls it a “tag line” that will be incorporated into a series of events and activities occurring in advance of and in conjunction with Springfield’s 125th anniversary in 2010.

Laudati said officials are confident that “Proud History, Bright Future” accurately represents what city residents and others think of Springfield.

That’s because the saying is a product of a “community imaging” survey that generated about 250 responses.
I can see the bumper stickers now:

If You Think Community Imaging is Expensive,
Try Community Imaging-less-ness