Friday, November 28, 2008

Recommended Reading

Check out William Greider's blog on the Nation web site.

According to Greider, if the fox is not exactly guarding the hen house, then it's the little boy who's adopted that strange looking stray dog that's been hanging around lately.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recommended Reading

Check out Matt Taibbi's latest in Rolling Stone.

According to Taibbi, Republican is the new liberal.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whatever Happened to Tang?

I just read in the paper that the space shuttle Endeavour is bringing to the International Space Station a new marvel of science: a machine that recycles urine into drinkable water.

I wonder if the astronauts will form a line to use such a machine?

BUCK: Um...After you, Flash.

FLASH: Oh, no, Buck, I insist you go first.

Eventually, someone will go first, and that person will make history.

One small sip for man, one giant GULP for mankind!

Quips and Quotations

Fight for what you believe in. Just make damn sure what you believe in works!

--Les Paul

Recommended Reading

Check out Dick Feagler's latest column.

According to Feagler, urban renewal is starting to get old.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Direction Correction

(This first appeared somewhere else, but I spelled a word wrong. It's reprinted, or "re-posted" here. Hopefully, this time I'll get it right.)

Landslide notwithstanding, some conservatives still contend this is a center-right country. Their argument goes something like this:

The American people were mad at the Right because, when the Right was in power, it moved to the left (e.g., expanding the size of government, increasing the deficit.) So, they've decided to punish the Right by voting for the Left. Now that the Left is in power, the American people fully expect it to move to the right.

It's positively dyslexic!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Go to the Head of the Second Class

Even though I voted for him, and in spite of all the pollsters predictions, I was still almost surprised when Wolf Blitzer said "CNN now projects the next President is Barack Obama." Even then I wasn't sure. In this age of holograms, you can't believe everything you see on TV.

Three years ago if you told me that the next president would be black, I would've said you were nuts, and I'd be wrong. Now, if you told me that we'd have one by 2041--33 years from now--, I would've said, "Oh, of course, we'll have one by then!" Along with flying cars.

OK, here's the ironic part. If you told me in 1975, when I was in the seventh grade, the next president would be black, I would've said you were nuts, and I'd be right. However, if you told me that we'd have one 33 years in the future (do the math), I would've said, "Oh, of course, we'll have one by then!" Along with flying cars (and I'd be half right.)

So what to make of all that? Predictions are relative, for one thing. The other is that, sociologically speaking, attitudes weren't that different three years ago then they were in the mid-seventies. I guess that's why those old Norman Lear shows on Nick at Night and TV Land still seem relevant. Or at least they seemed relevant in 2005.

A prediction currently in vogue is that the election of Barack Obama heralds the End of Racism. Even some right-wingers are saying this. In fact, to them it's the sorry mandate's one bright spot. No need for affirmative action. No need for Black History Month. No need for a Civil Rights Commission. Who the hell needs all that stuff now that we've agreed to judge people by the content of their character? Well...maybe the Left can strike a deal with the Right. We'll drop all those 1960s hippie-dippie kumbaya racial consciousness-raising stuff, and, in return, they drop all the Silent Majority Willie Horton palling-around-with-terrorists race-baiting. Well, how about it? They're not answering. I guess they're too busy making reservations on Alaska Airlines.

Right-wingers aside, is it the End of Racism? Perhaps. But it's not necessarily the End of whatever it is that makes people want to be racist, or bigoted, in the first place. That may always be with us.

It's commonplace to describe bigots as "ignorant." That one guy at the end of the bar grumbling that Obama's election means we're now living in the United States of Africa? He won't be winning a MacArthur Prize anytime soon. But prejudice is a pyramid scheme. At the bottom you've got your Klansmen. Not the Grand Wizard, or Grand Dragon, or Grand Wizard Dragon, or whatever their leaders are called. Just the rank-and-file Klansmen. The ones whom whenever the Grand Whatever gives the order to burn a cross, they answer, "Sho thing!" Just above them is the Archie Bunker-types. They don't burn crosses, they just have wet dreams about doing so. Then you get your Grand Whatevers. At the very top of the pyramid you get those folks who don't necessarily harbor hate in their hearts, but rather greed, avarice, lust, etc. They're not stupid. They've just figured out how to manipulate those who are.

Those southern plantations owners from before the Civil War. Did they ignorantly force the "darkies" to pick cotton for them? Or did they reason (the thing that separates man from beast) that this was the best way, the most astute way, to keep labor costs down? Switching to another form of discrimination, was it out of sheer stupidity that the European settlers, and their forbears, force this continent's original inhabitants ever westward until they ended up in the desert wastelands now called reservations? "Duhhhhhh, I guess we'll keep all the good land for ourselves." Finally, there's the Nazis, who came damn close to eliminating one of the world's major religions. You can't say they didn't lack organizational skills.

No, history's oppressors are smart enough. They're just not particularly nice.

Anyway, now that racism, sexism, anti-semitism, and imperialism seem headed for history's ash heap, who will the smart but not particularly nice people go after next? People with glasses? Tomorrow I'm getting contacts. People who wear ill-fitting clothes? I'm going to see about getting a tailor. People whose last name end in a vowel? Look, my great-grandfather's last name was Juskowikz. They made him shorten it at Ellis Island.

Hmm. I think I know now who they'll go after.

The paranoid.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Eating Jim Crow.

I have to say I was moved by President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech last night. I hate having to say that because I don't particularly like being "moved." I prefer cold irony. It's much less draining. Actually, I wasn't moved so much by what Obama was saying as I was by the reactions of the crowd in that Chicago park. I was moved because they were clearly moved. Jesse Jackson was crying! And I don't think he or anyone else there was particularly moved by what Obama was saying. For all they (or I) cared, he could have stood there and recited "Casey at the Bat." He had made it! That's what was so moving. Especially for the African-Americans in the crowd. After nearly 500 years of various forms of oppression, from slavery to segregation to voter suppression, one of the opressees had risen above all the oppressors. Of course, there were white people in that crowd, too, some of whom were also moved to tears. After eight years of George W. Bush, perhaps they felt a little oppressed themselves.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Blog Verite: Spoil Sport

A couple of years back I was at a luncheon that included a man of the cloth. The priest had a healthy sense of humor, and shared an amusing anecdote with us.

"This past summer we had our annual church picnic, and one of our parishioners was assigned sandwich duty. Well, he got up early that day, made the sandwiches, and then put them in the trunk of his car. Well, it ended up in the high 80s that day. When he opened that trunk up around noon, oooh boy, was there one bad smell!"

We all had a nice little chuckle over that. Except for this one older woman, who had something she wanted to contribute to the conversation.

"Oh, Father?"

"Yes, Rita?"

"I have my own bad food story."

"Do you now?"

"Yes. Can I tell it?"

"Why, you go right ahead."

"This woman who lived on my street about 40 years ago went to the store to buy some food. She was hoping to be back before her ten-year old boy got home from school. Well, at the store she saw an old friend who had moved out of town and was now back. They started talking and she lost track of the time. Her boy came home from school, and he was hungry. He looked in the refrigerator and there was just an old rutabega. He ate it, and do you know what happened, Father?"

"I can't imagine."

"The boy died! He died from eating the rutabega! Isn't that terrible?!"

His amusing anecdote having just been topped, the priest quickly changed the subject.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

In Memoriam: Studs Terkal 1912--2008

Jouralist, Radio Personality, oral historian, and unrepentant liberal.

"Perhaps it is this specter that most haunts working men and women: the planned obsolescence of people that is of a piece with the planned obsolescence of the things they make. Or sell."