Sitting This One OutBy Adolph L. Reed Jr.
November 2007 Issue
OK, HERE WE ARE AGAIN, a year out from a Presidential election, and we’re all supposed to be figuring out which of the Democrats has the best chance to win—determined mainly by the standard of raising the most money—and subordinating all our substantive political concerns to the objective of getting him or her elected. This time, I’m not going to acquiesce in the fiction that the Presidential charade has any credibility whatsoever. I’m not paying any attention to the horse race coverage—that mass-mediated positioning in the battle for superficial product differentiation....
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Kate has a beautiful post up over at Broken Windows describing the Dia de la Natividad festivities in Oaxaca.
Afterwards, Jonathan took us to a nameless clandestine cantina on the north side of town. The cantina is run by Enrique and his wife. When we arrived, the women of the posada were still eating and drinking chocolate. The posada is a religious function, a sort of parade of its own, that goes from house to house on holy days and ends at a host house that serves food and chocolate. Gathered along the front part of the little courtyard of the cantina were a dozen women eating dressed hot dogs. Just beyond them were a few little tables and a bar (which in traditional cantinas like this one serves more as a buffet table). Enrique served us mezcal from old Smirnoff bottles and one of the young women gave us each a little plastic bag filled with Christmas cookies and candies. They offered us some of the posada hot dogs, but we were all completely stuffed. Later we were served beers, queso fresco, salsa, and tostadas, which are crisp, baked tortillas. The cantina is really a part of Ernesto’s house, with a public outhouse in the center of the courtyard, potted plants, and a corrugated metal door held shut with a couple of rusted steel bars. Some of the family’s clothes were hanging to dry on the clothesline near our table. Jonathan told us that it is not uncommon for there to be copal incense burning in the front while Ernesto’s devout mother and wife pray just feet away from the cantina tables where customers drink mezcal and beers and tell all matter of stories. It’s just pure, beautiful, Oaxacan complexity in one little house.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Handle it? He has a hard time identifying it. Romney claimed on Meet the Press that he'd received an endorsement from the NRA during the 2002 gubernatorial race in MA. Turns out he didn't. He's also claimed to "hunt varmints." Turns out he only straps them to the roof of his station wagon on family road trips.
Monday, December 17, 2007
we’ve got one Janet Rowland comparing gay marriage to a man marrying a sheep, and of course,
we’ve got Willard Mitt Romney strapping his dog Seamus on top of his car until a “brown liquid” ran down the back window.
And now we’ve got the son of likeable Mike Huckabee, Republican candidate for President, killing a dog using a “particular process” that was, to say the least, not “kind.” Makes you wonder how these guys bring up their kids, doesn’t it?
If any of these Christian candidates are ever caught emulating Christ, please let me know.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Here’s a little-known and slightly terrifying fact: According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60 million people in the United States are infected with a parasite that may migrate into their brains and alter their behavior in a way that — among other things — may leave them more likely to be eaten by cats. New research into this common parasite — Toxoplasma gondii — may offer clues to the phenomenon known to the unscientifically-minded as “crazy cat lady” syndrome.
The basic facts: Toxo can infect many species, but it undergoes sexual reproduction only in cat digestive tracts. Once the parasite reproduces, the cat passes it in its feces, where the next unwitting host picks it up by digesting it (intentionally or unintentionally). Then the cycle starts again. In the long run, Toxo must find its way back to a cat’s stomach to survive. So the parasite has evolved a complicated system for taking over its hosts’ brains to increase the likelihood that they’ll be eaten by cats.
How? Scientists are still figuring that out. Research conducted this year by Toxo expert Robert Sapolsky of Stanford, and also by Joanne Webster, professor of parasite epidemiology at Imperial College London, has found that Toxo actually causes rats to become attracted to the smell of cat urine.
Might Toxo explain why some humans develop an unhealthful attraction to cats and apparently become immune to the smell of their urine? And might that explain the mystery of crazy cat ladies? “That idea doesn’t seem completely crazy,” Sapolsky says. “But there’s no data supporting it.”
Not yet. But Jaroslav Flegr, an evolutionary biologist at Charles University in the Czech Republic, is looking into it. He has spent years studying Toxo’s impact on human behavior. (He found, for example, that people infected with Toxo have slower reflexes and are 2.5 times as likely to get into car accidents.) He won’t have results of his study for a while and refuses to speculate. But Joanne Webster says the connection isn’t much of a stretch: “In our evolutionary past, perhaps we were eaten by cats, too,” she says.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
By 1992, after Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive, people with brains understood that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact.
"It is difficult to understand the public policy towardsHuckabee also . It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."opposed federal funding for AIDS research and "suggested that Hollywood celebrities fund AIDS research from their own pockets, rather than federal health agencies..."
"I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."
And this guy's apparently surged into second place, behind Mayor 9/11.
Something's really gone off the rails when the Obama campaign decides to release an oppo document on Paul Krugman. It's not only the actual attacks that are weak (most of them rely on misinterpreting one comment, then misinterpreting the next, then pretending there's a contradiction), but, seriously, it's Paul Krugman. Arguably the most progressive voice in American media.Obama's basically embraced what Krugman has accused him of. His campaign is essentially an attack from the right. I'm inclined to agree with Jason in comments:
But Obama is a sideshow, a candidate whose celebrity is his only rationale. It is very fitting that Oprah is campaigning for him. Obama's supporters represent a disturbing cult of personality that I do not see anywhere else (except Ron Paul). They seem to think that his very existence is somehow miraculous and that his election would be "transformative" in some ineffable, metaphysical way. Andy Sullivan's argument, essentially, which should really tell you something.
Friday, December 07, 2007
The Village Voice reminds us that Dick Cheney's long umbilical cord to Halliburton was intact up until last year:
Dick Cheney was getting a salary from Halliburton until last year, and he did well by his company. Halliburton's financial picture was shaky until after 9/11, when the Iraq debacle infused it with these huge bundles of taxpayer money.Now Halliburton is taking advantage of UAE's nonstop service between Houston and Dubai to ship the "huge bundles of taxpayer money" they've made thanks to Dick and his minions, to their brand new headquarters there—in Dubai, where "The law permits indefinite routine prolonged incommunicado detention without appeal."
That sounds like Dick's kind of town.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I just realized I have to vote for Dennis Kucinich.
The empty flightsuit has failed miserably. He's broken our government, our military, our "free press," and thousands of lives. It is our duty as American patriots to see that he suffers the consequences of his actions and any persons who aid and abet this criminal should be held likewise accountable.But, hey, I'm in good company. Here, too.
The first candidate who calls for Bush to be tried for war crimes and/or impeached for subverting the Constitution has my vote.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
An increasing number of left-wing commentators assert that Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign with a states’ rights speech in Philadelphia to send a signal to white racists that he was on their side. The speech is taken as proof that the Republican majority was built on racism.
The truth is more complicated.
In reality, Reagan strategists decided to spend the week following the 1980 Republican convention courting African-American votes. Reagan delivered a major address at the Urban League, visited Vernon Jordan in the hospital where he was recovering from gunshot wounds, toured the South Bronx and traveled to Chicago to meet with the editorial boards of Ebony and Jet magazines.
On Friday, Krugman decides that he can't let that pass.
Indeed, you do really have to feel sorry for Reagan. He just kept making those innocent mistakes.
When he went on about the welfare queen driving her Cadillac, and kept repeating the story years after it had been debunked, some people thought he was engaging in race-baiting. But it was all just an innocent mistake.
When, in 1976, he talked about working people angry about the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks at the grocery store, he didn’t mean to play into racial hostility. True, as The New York Times reported,
The ex-Governor has used the grocery-line illustration before, but in states like New Hampshire where there is scant black population, he has never used the expression “young buck,” which, to whites in the South, generally denotes a large black man.
But the appearance that Reagan was playing to Southern prejudice was just an innocent mistake.
Slate's Tim Noah gives us a little backstory here. Brooks, apparently, isn't just talking out of his ass as usual. He's gunning for Paul Krugman.
The Reagan story forms the centerpiece of Krugman's argument in The Conscience of a Liberal that race, far more than economics or foreign policy or "values," is what gave Republicans an electoral majority for most of the past 40 years. At the end of his calumny column, when Brooks elaborates on the "slur," it sounds an awful lot as though he's really talking about Krugman's book: "It posits that there was a master conspiracy to play on the alleged Klan-like prejudices of American voters, when there is no evidence of that conspiracy."
And today, Bob Herbert steps into the fray to back Krugman up.
He was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.
And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.
Let's leave aside the fact that Brooks should know better than to launch these pebbles at Krugman, and focus for a moment at the substance of his "outrage". Brooks isn't as clever as he thinks he is, but he's clever enough. He's careful to call accusations of racism on the part of Reagan a "slur" carefully turning the rhetoric of bigotry around to reflect badly on the part of liberals. Reagan gets to be the victim of racism by being wrongly identified as racist. He also locates the "slur" in a conspiracy that sees a racist agenda where none exists. Liberals can cry wolf but the worst one can accuse Reagan of is being "callous."
Brooks paints a picture of a somewhat chaotic moment in the campaign, which gives the illusion of detail but manages to avoid laying blame at the feet of any one person. "The decision was made to go to Neshoba. Exactly who made the decision is unclear." But, oops! That sticky phrase "states rights" made its way into the speech, and by the way don't you dare imply that the Greatest President Ever was a racist.
Brooks even attempts to cast doubt on the character of White Southern Voters in 1980 referring to the "alleged Klan-like prejudices of American voters." It's all part of Brooks' schtick. It's interesting to read that sentence while listening to This American Life's rerun of "Harold" which documents the extraordinary election of Harold Washington. During a radio interview, a caller called asking Harold if he would be replacing the elevators with vines once elected. But in Bobo's world, problems don't really exist until those partisan liberals start their hype.
Krugman and Herbert do a pretty good job of demolishing Brooks in highlighting all of Reagan's best moments. But they miss the real problem with Brooks. Brooks is basically dishonest. He'd probably be forced to concede every point made by his two more able colleagues, but it wouldn't matter. Each instance, rather than evidence of institutionalized racism, is merely a far more benign policy grossly misconstrued by partisan liberals. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter to him whether Reagan was a racist or not; it's more about casting doubt on what constitutes racism in the first place.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
"The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today." --last words of August Spies just before he was hanged November 11, 1887.Although Labor day, or May Day, is traditionally when the country honors its workers, and socialists and labor unions celebrate their heroes and martyrs, today, November 11, marks the anniversary of the execution of four of the seven anarchists convicted of consipiracy to commit murder in the Haymarket Riot that took place in Chicago on May 4th, 1886. Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel, all German nationals, members of the International Working Peoples Association (IWPA), the group that organized the campaign for the eight-hour workday, were hanged for their anarchist opinions.
The beginning of the end for them does begin on May 1st, 1886, when a strike in support of an eight-hour workday gathered force all over the US.
Both the Democratic and Republican mainstream political parties offered little hope for disgruntled and downtrodden workers both immigrant and American-born, so doctrines like anarchy, socialism, communism, feminism and labor activism sprouted in the political soil of late-19th-century America.During the days that followed over 340,000 workers walked off their jobs. In Chicago the IWPA organized a rally where 7,400 striking workers gathered. Unprovoked, the police opened-fire on the crowd, killing four people.
The following day August Spies, who was editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, published a leaflet in English and German entitled: Revenge! Workingmen to Arms! It included the passage:
"They killed the poor wretches because they, like you, had the courage to disobey the supreme will of your bosses. They killed them to show you 'Free American Citizens' that you must be satisfied with whatever your bosses condescend to allow you, or you will get killed. If you are men, if you are the sons of your grand sires, who have shed their blood to free you, then you will rise in your might, Hercules, and destroy the hideous monster that seeks to destroy you. To arms we call you, to arms."Over 3,000 people were rallying in Haymarket on May 4th when a bomb exploded killing one policemen and injuring dozens of others.
"The police then immediately attacked the crowd. A number of people were killed (the exact number was never disclosed)and over 200 were badly injured."Martial law was declared in Chicago and the "Red Scare" took hold of the country. Chicago prosecutor Julius Grinnel famously said "Make the raids first and look up the law afterwards." The prosecution of the seven workers was built around the speeches and writings of the defendents, since it could not be proven that any of the men were at Haymarket at the time the bomb went off.
During the trial the judge allowed the jury to read speeches and articles by the defendants where they had argued in favour of using violence to obtain political change. The judge then told the jury that if they believed, from the evidence, that these speeches and articles contributed toward the throwing of the bomb, they were justified in finding the defendants guilty.
Ken Warren writes in Black and White Strangers, that no less a personage than William Dean Howells, American author and literary critic, petitioned the governor of Illinois to commute the death sentences, calling them "a fundamental assault on political dissent." After his appeals fell on deaf ears and the executions were carried out, Howells wrote:
We had a political execution in Chicago yesterday. The sooner we realize this, the better for us.As Ed Tant writes the Haymarket tragedy involved political elements all too familiar: government surveillance, police misconduct, immigration, and workers' rights. Today we take the eight-hour workday for granted, just as we take the First Amendment as a birthright. We would do well to heed the words of Mr. Howells and mark the anniversary of the Haymarket tragedy as an important history lesson.
Look for more info at:
Chicago Historical Society
The Haymarket Tragedy, by Paul Avrich
Saturday, November 10, 2007
The FBI apparently spied on the Marx brothers. Why? Maybe J. Edgar H00ver thought they had a long, lost brother named Karl. Groucho's file alone is 186 pages long, although there's not much intrigue in any of the brothers' files. I wonder if anyone bothered to tally the cost to taxpayers this particular exercise generated.
Hoover seems to have paid very alert attention to anyone, anyone at all, who could bridge the gap between an 'intelligentsia' and the general public, between the highly educated and ordinary working people.Hoover would've fit right in with the Bush league, with their fear and obsessive control over information.
I'll bet Jon Stewart's file is much more interesting.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
What is the only sentence structure Rudy Giuliani knows?
Cross-dressing Republicans for $600, Alex.
I'll see your noun and verb, Senator Biden, and raise you a lie and a fabrication.
Rudy G. is getting over. And he's doing it on the memories of the 9/11 dead, and on the backs of sick police and firefighters who cleaned up at the WTC Ground Zero when Rudy assured them there were "no significant problems" with the air down there.
Giuliani Lies About Supressed EPA Reports
Despite mainstream coverage and a national controversy over suppressed and misleading air quality statements, Giuliani claimed all such reports were given openly to the public without regard to their impact-- a direct lie.
"I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. I was there working with them. I was there guiding things. I was there bringing people there. But I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."He spent just 29 hours at WTC ground zero over a 3-month period.
Rudy can be for anything after he was against it.
The man lies with staggering impunity. But here's the thing: he does it with such conviction and such seeming authority that people who are not inclined to study the matter will believe him -- will in fact be utterly convinced that Giuliani is speaking the gospel truth, and they will prove almost impossible to shake from this conviction.Rudy can associate with anyone for any reason and the mainstream media will give him a pass.
...He will say and do anything he feels he needs to say and do to get power. Newspapers write that he was "liberal" on social issues in his mayoral days, as if his positions on abortion and immigration were matters of conviction. Nonsense. He took the positions he needed to take to be elected in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.
...He recently told a meeting of social conservatives that his reliance on God "is at the core of who I am." As mayor he was known to attend mass almost never, he obviously cheated serially on the wife (wife No 2) he married in the Catholic church, and the only occasions on which I can remember him invoking God when he was mayor were the two times he was forced to say "so help me God" in taking the oath of office.
Item 1: Bernie Kerik
Federal prosecutors have told Bernard B. Kerik, whose nomination as homeland security secretary in 2004 ended in scandal, that he is likely to be charged with several felonies, including tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wiretapping.Item 2: Pedophile priest
Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani hired a Catholic priest to work in his consulting firm months after the priest was accused of sexually molesting two former students and an altar boy and told by the church to stop performing his priestly duties.Item 3: Pat Robertson
So very clearly, Robertson was still suggesting as late as 2005 that American sins such as abortion lead God to lift his protection of us against terrorism -- in other words, that they are to blame for terrorism. It's hard to see what else this could be a reference to other than 9/11.
on Hugo Chavez
"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," the Associated Press quotes Robertson as saying. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."He can repeat false claims ad infinitum and the mainstream media might report it but will give him a pass by not making it a part of the news cycle 24/7 ala Hillary Clinton's debate "debacle". With Rovian proteges as his cornermen, he will bring the dirtiest fight this side of pay-per-view.
on Ariel Sharon
Television evangelist Pat Robertson suggested Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which Robertson opposed.
He's a creep and a fraud and the Republican party personified. If they insist on putting him forward as their candidate, I say bring it.
Learn more here.
Joss Whedon sez.
“The trappings of a union protest…” You see how that works? Since we aren’t real workers, this isn’t a real union issue. (We’re just a guild!) And that’s where all my ‘what is a writer’ rambling becomes important. Because this IS a union issue, one that will affect not just artists but every member of a community that could find itself at the mercy of a machine that absolutely and unhesitatingly would dismantle every union, remove every benefit, turn every worker into a cowed wage-slave in the singular pursuit of profit. (There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.) This is about a fair wage for our work. No different than any other union. The teamsters have recognized the importance of this strike, for which I’m deeply grateful. Hopefully the Times will too.It was just this kind of rhetoric used to explain why Ph.D students don't need a union. Work of the mind doesn't translate into dollars and cents.
It's easy to get distracted by the glitz of this strike, especially when the pretty people come out to support their writing teams, but without the writers they don't have a show.
So really, take the time and watch some of the stuff over at the United Hollywood blog.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
That's what Mark Klein, former AT&T technician and current whistleblower says.
...they [AT&T] were copying everything flowing across the Internet cables, and the major Internet links between AT&T’s network and other company’s networks, and it struck me at the time that this is a massively unconstitutional, illegal operation.Apparently, Big Brother is watching.
It affects not only AT&T’s customers, but everybody, ‘cause these links went to places like Sprint, Qwest, a whole bunch of other companies, and so they’re basically tapping into the entire Internet.
But isn’t the government only monitoring suspected terrorists and not ordinary Americans?
To perform what they say they want to do, which is look at international traffic, none of this makes any sense. These installations only make sense if they’re doing a huge, massive domestic dragnet on everybody, in the United States.
hat tip to Buzzflash
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Greetings friends and family
We've just spent our first días de los muertos in Oaxaca and we've got pictures!
Sonny has been working like mad, mapping the entire Cerro Danush. As he is a "buen jefe," he gave his workers Thursday and Friday off, which was quite convenient for us as well since our new Oaxacan friends had quite a few things planned for us.
Wednesday night, Halloween, we went to the panteón in Xoxocotlán, an area of the city known to tourists across the globe for their fiesta in the cemetery on the 31st. It was more like a feria than the somber holiday we imagined. Food vendors lined the streets around the cemetery; day-glo sticks, candles, and assorted plastic chotchkes were for sale at the panteón's entrance, and a group of catholic school kids stood on a stage and sang contemporary Christian "rock" songs. Inside were hamburger and hot dog vendors and literally mobs of people. The 31st is traditionally the night that children who have died are remembered. Children dressed in costumes (only a few costumes are allowed—skeletons, witches, "la muerte" in her many forms) ask for money, which they use to buy sugar skulls to place on altars for all of the spirits who have no family to remember them, and for the espiritus apenas, the spirits who died violently or quickly who need a little extra sweetness to carry them to purgatory. There were kids everywhere dressed as ghouls asking for money, which they carried in little plastic jack-o-lantern tubs just like kids in the states. We ran into two different sets of neighbors, all from the US. There seemed to be more tourists than celebrants, but then it was hard to say. While we may think it is unseemly to intrude on what seems like a private celebration, in Xoxo Wednesday night it seemed purposely public, with families intermingling with tourists (offering mezcal...but we'll get to that later), and a desire to show their elaborately decorated graves. Several bands played at the graves, commissioned by the families to play the favorite songs of the deceased. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any decent pictures that night, but if you've seen any pictures of Oaxaca during los días, you have surely seen Xoxo.
Thursday morning we went to Macquilxochitl, the Zapotec village where Sonny does his work, to have chocolate and pan de muertos with Tomás, one of the men who works with Sonny. We have known Tomas and his family since 2003, so it was wonderful to go back to their house for a visit. Tomas' wife Matilde is from Veracruz, but she prepares everything the way the do traditionally in Oaxaca. Their house is made of adobe and is laid out similarly to the way Zapotecs lived hundreds if not thousands of years ago, with several one-room, rectangular buildings surrounding a dirt patio. Tomás and Matilde live there with their three children and Tomás's mother, who is 83 years old. In the courtyard are turkeys, chickens, a penned-in pig, and a couple of dogs. One of the buildings is used for cooking. Every morning, Matilde wakes up at 3:30 to prepare fresh tortillas to sell in the Teotitlán del Valle market. She told us that she and her daughter make about 150 a day to sell. Unlike most vendors these days, she makes tortillas the original way, with corn they grow just outside their property. After treating the corn with lime, she crushes the wet hominy on a volcanic stone metate, forms the masa into tortillas, and cooks them on a wood-fired, adobe stove. An anthropologist introduced a machine for grinding the corn years ago, so that is how most people do it, but I have to say, Matilde's tortillas were truly the very best I've ever had, with a strong, fresh corn aroma and a beautiful, soft touch, which I guess comes from the hand grinding of the hominy. She also makes tlyudas, the over-size tortillas Oaxacans use to make delicious meals (more on that later!).
Matilde served us bowls of steaming hot chocolate made with milk and the unique Oaxacan chocolate, a mix of fresh-ground cocao beans, almonds, cinnamon (they use the Sri Lankan soft cinnamon) and sugar from sugar cane. She also served a huge pile of pan de yema, Oaxaca's style of pan de muertos. Unlike the kind of bread we were familiar with (round loaves with little "bones" on top and lots of sugar), the Oaxacan style is a light egg bread with seeds sprinkled on top that is incredibly fluffy with a lovely crisp crust and a little head of a figurine nestled inside the fissure on top. It is sometimes flavored with anis (or something similar -- I'm not sure what exactly) and when you dip it in the chocolate, the soaked bread is absolutely delicious. She also served us chicken with mole negro, the "king of moles." The chicken came from their yard and the mole from the city. Even on the day we visited, Matilde had gotten up at 3:30 to make tortillas to sell, and to prepare the mole and chocolate for us and for their padrinos or god-parents. It is the tradition to bring chocolate, bread, and mole (or tamales) to your padrinos during the days of the dead. While we were eating, the kids took some of the goods to their godparents, and after we left, they were all going over to drink more chocolate and eat more mole with the padrinos. In the room where we ate (which is their dining room/sleeping quarters) was the ofrenda, the altar, a table adorned with yellow flowers (mostly marigolds), apples, unpeeled jicama, pan de muertos, glasses of water and chocolate, candles, and pictures of la virgen and other saints. Many of the people of Macquilxochitl do not have photographs of their relatives (living or dead), so they are not a part of their ofrendas. (We noticed, too, that there were no skulls. In the markets they sell skulls made of sugar, chocolate and amaranth, but the ofrendas we saw in Macquilxochitl and the ones in the city represented by smaller villages (like Mitla and Teotitlan) did not have the skulls, so perhaps they are not a part of the tradition in Zapotec villages.) Before we left, Matilde prepared bags of food for us to bring home, including pan de yema, chocolate (enough for us to share with our neighbors, Jack and Enid, our Oaxacan "padrinos"!), two large jicama, apples, oranges, tortillas and tlyudas. Matilde offered us mole too, but we said no because we know how much she had already worked and we didn't want to add to her already busy day.
I think our experience with Tomás and Matilde is more typical of the actual, traditional días experience, but that's not to say the more "tourist" stuff isn't fun. For sure!
Here's what we did Thursday night:
We've been so lucky to make friends with a number of Oaxacan artists, including Jonathan Barbieri, an American-born painter who has lived here for over 20 years. He's as "Oaxacan" as most native born Oaxacans. His wife is from Juchitan, his daughters grew up here, and he was even a member of the bienes comunales, the local town council, of the village he lived in, Reyes de Etla, He took us to San Agustín de Etla (there are many Etlas) for the famous comparsas, parades.
Traditionally, only men dress for comparsas (though San Agustin has a women-only comparsa next weekend!), and that means that some are in drag to play the "la muerte" part in all of her forms, including the Nurse, the Nun, the Bride, and the Spinster (all dead, of course). In San Agustin, there are three comparsas each representing a different neighborhood. Some members of the community spend all year making elaborate costumes of mirrors and bells. They're incredible! Beginning around 10 at night, the three groups begin to parade around town with brass bands and they go until around 4 in the morning when they come together in the town square. Along the way, they stop in to different people's homes to sing limericks about the heads of the households. It's an opportunity for them to make fun of the patrons of the town, giving serious digs at times, all in the context of theater. The doctor is present, as is the nurse, and of course the difunto, the dead guy. The band plays a crazy mix of brass tunes and a poem is read. It's outrageous. And, of course, there are the ubiquitous bottles of mezcal, beer, and empty soda bottles filled with sniffing glue (yes -- kids do that here, and it turns them into zombies).
But back to the costumes. Here are a few:
The whips are made of bull-cock, supposedly. I don't quite know why they carry them, except that the whole comparsa scene involves a lot of drinking, so perhaps they need the whips when the night gets long. I hope not, but then who knows!
I took some video of one of the "roastings" and I will send it in a different email.
[The video is posted below]
After San Agustin, we drove to two other Etlas looking for comparsas, including Reyes de Etla, the town where Jonathan lived for many years. By the time we were there, most of the paraders were completely wasted on Mezcal and who knows what else. It's said that dias de muertos is a way of laughing in the face of death, and perhaps it is, though there seems to be a lot of trying to forget it too, by drinking and drinking and drinking. We especially saw this the next night, when we went to the cemetery in Tule.
In Tule, the celebration is also public like in Xoxo, though no doubt the vast majority of the people do not go to the cemetery at night, but rather stay at home with their altars and eat with their families. But we saw the public celebration, which included families in mourning (we met a man who had lost three siblings and a sister-in-law this past year -- two were killed in the firecracker factory where they worked, and two were killed in a car accident) and those who had come out to say "hello" to their dead (a man who'd lost his mother ten years ago). Just as at Xoxo, there were bands playing at the graves, but also at this little covered area of the cemetery, where people danced, including costumed couples of men in drag. Unlike Xoxo, there were not many non-Mexican tourists and there were no food vendors.
Of course, even in death there is a stratification of class -- some graves were simply dirt mounds, while others were elaborate stone tombs.
This gentleman was celebrating the life of his mother who died ten years before. What better way to celebrate than with music and mezcal? Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to escape all of the drinking, even at the cemetery, where so many are buried who died in alcohol-related accidents. I don't drink much, and I was basically forced to have a little at multiple graves. They're insistent! Somehow I doubt, though, that the families who stay home are drinking quite this much.
Luckily, our group was well fortified before all the mezcal. We'd gone to eat barbacoa (barbequed goat) beforehand. The meat is placed inside tin foil or banana leafs and then cooked, served with rice and tortillas. Delicious!
Our San Agustin night was our latest, though all were pretty late (like after 1 a.m.). We had a 'traditional' late-night snack around 3 in the morning on Thursday night, an absolutely delicious tlyuda on Los Libres in the city at Tlyudas Libres, a street-side place that opens around 10 and closes around 4 or so. Two ladies fan the charcoal fires and place pieces of tesajo and cecina (skirt steak and pork) direcly on the coals. Two other women spread a little rendered pork fat on the tlyudas, then pureed black beans and a sprinkle of salsa and fresh cheese. They fold the tlyudas and put them on the coals to heat up. With "verduras" means they include a little shredded cabbage in the fold:
So no, it's not the sort of thing to eat every day, but when in Rome!! And let's face it, Oaxaca is not the Rome of food.
I hope you all had a safe and fun Halloween.
As the sign welcoming us into Macquilxochitl says, Cuida tu vida! Guard your life, dear friends, and please take care.
Wishing you peace these last days of autumn
Kate and Sonny
The Chicago Police TASERED an 82-year-old woman. I don't even know what else to say about it.
My own experience with the CPD goes from bad to worse. I wasn't kidding when I said in a previous post that I cautioned my sons before they go out for the evening. I worry more about them running into the police than any "bad element." My sons have assumed the position for nothing more serious than sitting in a car in front of our house and waiting outside the high school after a trackmeet. I, myself, was hauled down to the station at Wentworth and 51st for making an improper right turn. Notice that it was not illegal. The sad and frightening thing is: I know we've gotten off lightly.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Now that Stephen Colbert is out of the race, what Ted Rall said:
We must elect--by an overwhelming, theft-proof majority--a candidate who promises to renounce Bush and all his works. A reform-minded president's first act should be to sign a law that reads as follows: "The federal government of the United States having been illegitimate and illegal since January 20, 2001, all laws, regulations, executive orders, and acts of commission or omission enacted between that infamous day and 12 noon Eastern Standard Time on January 20, 2009 are hereby declared invalid and without effect." Guantánamo, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, spying on Americans' phone calls and emails, and "legal" torture would be erased. Our troops should immediately pull out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Somalia; we should apologize to our victims and offer to compensate them and their survivors. Bush should never appear on any list of American presidents. When he dies, his carcass shouldn't receive a state funeral. It ought to be thrown in the trash.I love the way he weaves in the Roman Catholic Baptismal rite about "renouncing Satan and all his works..." I especially enjoyed the end where we all denounce the Codpiece as a blot upon our history and toss him out like a rotting fruit.
Ahh, liberal political porn, you are my weakness.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Of course it is an Anarchist's bookfair.
At 3 PM, on Friday, November 2nd, the landlord of the building which houses the Pitch Pipe Infoshop received a call from a Tacoma PD lieutenant. He told her that the Infoshop and the Anarchist Bookfair which it is holding this Saturday and Sunday is a homeland security threat and will be monitored by police for the entire weekend. The landlord then approached residents of the building and threatened eviction.I had no idea anarchists had bookfairs or fairs of any kind.
There will be a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for infiltrators. In order to better help identify any infiltrators, do not speak about instigations and do not take aggressive actions towards the police. DO NOT DO THESE THINGS NEAR THE HOUSE! We can not have anything happening near the house. Do not venture off somewhere with someone you do not trust. Stay with those you are completely tight with. Any and all infiltrators that are caught will be treated like infiltrators. ALL AFFINITY GROUP MEETINGS ARE CLOSED MEETINGS! PERIOD!It sounds like what I say to my sons when they go out for the evening.
hat tip to Nonsensical Ravings of Finely Tuned Insanity
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
Hell, she's not even my third choice for president, but I'm defending Hillary an awful lot these days and I really have to weigh in on the whole Hillary's playing the gender card theme that's got everyone's panties in a knot.
So she gave a speech at her alma mater and said,
"In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics."Hmmm...not sure what the problem is with that statement. What else you got?
Tim Grieve over at Salon's War Room is getting the vapors because one Clinton strategist characterized the debate this way:
"Ultimately, it was six guys against her, and she came off as one strong woman."If the group was engaged in arm wrestling, tractor pulling, or even pie eating, I have a feeling this would be an acceptable assessment.
Obama plays the race card by bragging that he didn't play it when he could have on the Today Show:
"Well, look, I am assuming and I hope that Sen. Clinton wants to be treated like everybody else. And I think that that's why she's running for president. You know, when we had a debate back in Iowa a while back, we spent, I think, the first 15 minutes of the debate hitting me on various foreign policy issues, and I didn't come out and say, 'Look, I'm being hit on because I look different from the rest of the folks on the stage.' I assumed it was because there were real policy differences there. And I think that has to be the attitude that all of us take. We're not running for the president of the city council, we're running for the president of the United States of America."So it's OK with Barack if a woman takes advantage of her gender if it's simply the city council?
She's used to playing in national politics. And in fact, that is one of the things that she has suggested is why she should be elected is because she's been playing in this rough-and-tumble stage. So it doesn't make sense for her, after having run that way for eight months, the first time that people start challenging her point of view that suddenly she backs off and says, "Don't pick on me."I have a hard time picturing Mrs. Clinton shrinking from a fight. I see her more as the "Throw me the ball!" kind of player—the one who wishes they would pick on her. And since when is this the first time people are challenging her point of view? Send up a flare, Barack, and let us know where you are, because on this planet everyone who's anyone has challenged Hillary's point of view.
It's curious that now that a woman is the frontrunner in a presidential race we're being told by men that gender solidarity is sad and no voter should let a candidate's gender affect their vote. And isn't it unseemly and embarrassing that Hillary called Washington politics a "boy's club." Gentlemen, puh-leeze. Next thing you know they'll be telling us not to let someone's race affect our vote. Yeah, that'll be the day.
Just a note: women and non-white male voters have proven time and time again that they will support a candidate who doesn't share their gender or ethnic background. It's the white male voter who has difficulty voting for anyone who doesn't look like him.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
The gap between women's wages and men's is narrowing, but the gap between economic winners and losers of either gender is widening. And the patterns of inequality among women are more similar to than different from the patterns among men: Earnings at the very top are growing much faster than those at the middle or the bottom. Everything else is detail.
Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers puts it sharply. If the distribution of income in the U.S. today were the same as it was in 1979, and the U.S. had enjoyed the same growth, the bottom 80% would have about $670 billion more, or about $8,000 per family a year. The top 1% would have about $670 billion less, or about $500,000 a family.
The point is that with the precipitous rise in inequality it’s possible to narrow the wage gap between women and men or between blacks and whites by getting more blacks and women into the top 1%, while leaving most Americans, blacks, white, and otherwise with the short end of the stick.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
poor puppy... does he look humiliated to you?
my Dick Cheney pumpkin...
The professor carved one even though he's on the phone with Mr. Reed and feeling a bit under the weather.
Greg's Homestar Runner and Angele's first pumpkin ever! Her reaction to it when it was all lit up was adorable.
The surprising thing was that Richardson, Clinton, and even Biden and Dodd turned in the best performances of the debate.
Given that Obama's campaign rests on the idea that he's the one who will change the way politics is conducted, Obama didn't deliver the goods. He set the stage so that the only thing he could do was attack Hillary. And it wasn't attractive.
Edwards, who came across as desperate in his assault on Mrs. Clinton, really needs to concentrate on his progressive agenda. He's got all the right moves, if only he'd use them. What the Democrats need is strong, credible, and electable voices coming from the left so that if Hillary does turn out to be the nominee, she'll have to do so by playing to the left rather than the right.
Kucinich always sounds passionate and his criticisms of the others don't play into the rightwing gameplan, which I applaud. He gets points for repeatedly bringing up impeachment and for questioning W's mental health earlier in the day. But the whole UFO thing helps the media make positions on the left, ala guilt by association, seem loony.
Dodd is an interesting case. I discounted him from the beginning, but he's growing on me.
Biden has always been good with the one liners, but he's wildly inconsistent in the clutch.
I was impressed with Richardson. He often comes across as a bit bumbling and underprepared, but last night that seemed mostly under control. He has an impressive resume and is the most likable of the candidates. He's not the most progressive candidate, but he has the best ideas on immigration reform, veterans' healthcare reform, and ending the war in Iraq.
As for Hillary, she was poised and showed a strong presence. In this crowd, she looked downright presidential. The post-debate commentary on MSNBC was focused on her "stumble" in the final minutes. So she waffled on driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. So what? State officials have to work out remedies for what are issues in their states, as she said, given the absence of a national policy. This is the kind of controversy that the dems would be better off avoiding altogether because the whole thing plays to the right. The hidden subtext to the question, which she was right to reject was, "is this your national policy on immigration?" It was unfair as a question and Dodd, Edwards and Obama should be wary of trying to take advantage in situations like this, because this is the tactic that both the right and the media are going to be employing against them. The right and the media are going to be trying, at every instance, to turn pragmatic responses into general principles and then calling candidates hypocrites and flipfloppers when the two don't line up.
President Codpiece has made such a big mess on so many issues that any candidate forced to deal with them is going to have to have a patchwork set of responses.
Bottomline: every one of these candidates is head and shoulders above their Republican counterparts and a considerable step up from the present administration. While that may not be a ringing endorsement, it is certainly progress.
with the professor
Monday, October 29, 2007
is the one that Washington resists because it contradicts the city’s long-running story line. Namely, that the political clout ritualistically ascribed to Mr. Perkins, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Gary Bauer of American Values and their ilk is a sham.
These self-promoting values hacks don’t speak for the American mainstream. They don’t speak for the Republican Party. They no longer speak for many evangelical ministers and their flocks. The emperors of morality have in fact had no clothes for some time. Should Rudy Giuliani end up doing a victory dance at the Republican convention, it will be on their graves.
The kicker is that Rich cites a poll showing that “Like most other Americans, [evangelicals] are more interested in hearing from presidential candidates about the war in Iraq and health care than about any other issues.]
In the meantime the Democratic frontrunners have been tripping over themselves to proclaim the importance of their religious values. Why, one wonders, aren’t they listening?
Perhaps we need to face the fact that, for the most part, our Democratic Party leadership is like the ship’s captain who needs only to hear a bump against the hull to claim he’s struck an iceberg and that emergency measures are needed to save the ship. We (and I mean myself, too!) have got to ask ourselves why we spend so much time trying to keep our guys from throwing our precious goods, and so many of our fellow crewmembers, overboard, with the justification that some sacrifices will have to be made if we’re going to bring this ship into harbor.
Have we ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe they’ve got no intention of going where we want to go anyway? What if we look at all the things they’re saying and doing now not just as the things they have to say in order to get elected but as things they really want to do? They want religion to play a role in public life. They want to protect corporate profits. They want to chip away at Great Society Reforms rather than build on them. To take one example, Grover Norquist and the Republicans have admitted publicly many a time that their assault on Social Security has nothing to do with the alleged impending insolvency of the system and everything to do with ideology. Norquist believes that without Social Security people “are more likely to be available to the Republican Party." Thankfully, both Obama and Clinton oppose privatization, but both acquiesce in the Far Right fiction that the problem somehow lies within the Social Security system in the first place.
I’m going to assume that the Presidential candidate whose views track most closely to most people reading this blog is Dennis Kucinich. I’m also going to assume that like me, everyone reading this blog knows that Kucinich has got as much chance of winning a primary as the Kyoto Protocols had of becoming national policy in the Bush Administration. So most of us are going to vote for a Hillary and Obama or an Edwards, all of whom are going to spend a lot of time on the stump distancing themselves from, say, single-payer, not-for-profit universal healthcare. Nonetheless, we’ll vote for one of them knowing that Kucinich can’t win because people think he’s a low-charisma dweeb, and we'll lament that if only an Obama or a Hillary would embrace slightly more progressive policies, we might be able to get something through. But at the end of the day this turns out to be a dodge that prevents us ever from putting single-payer healthcare or universal higher education into play for serious discussion because our candidates will have won precisely by disparaging the very things that will make all of the difference.
So am I saying we should vote for Kucinich, at least as a way to try to get the attention of the frontrunners? Well, alas, no, because they aren’t listening anyway. What I am saying is that we’ve got to talk seriously about how to change the game so that we don’t have to ante up by giving up our central issues. Hey, if the Republicans were able to put up the beady-eyed moron currently occupying the White House, our problem is not candidate electability but something more fundamental.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Rumors that Obama’s campaign is already floundering may either be true or only the result of successful media maneuvering by Hillary’s campaign. Certainly Obama hasn’t been helping himself out. Either way, most disturbing is how the campaign talk so far has not been driven by Democratic issues, despite the sorry lot of Republicans in the race, the persistent ineptitude and unpopularity of the Bush regime, and more importantly, Right-wing fears that Democrats might make income inequality the issue.
How scared are they? Well in the past two weeks the Wall Street Journal has published several articles and columns stating, respectively, that income inequality: is increasing and will prove a problem for Republicans, is increasing but is not much of problem because money is not what makes people happy, hasn’t increased at all but only reflects changes in the way income is reported.
Why all the worry? Well it’s because the WSJ editors know that if the Dems manage to stay on message about bread and butter democracy issues, then the Republicans don’t stand much of a chance. Ironically, all of the leading Democratic contenders have—if only modestly—proposals that address this issue, but I suspect that most would-be voters don’t know it, and probably won’t anytime soon because the candidates seem to feel it is more important to pander to so-called “values” voters than to define the key value—equality—that is the core of a democracy and the only way that Democratic candidates can make an electoral victory possible and meaningful.
And anyone who says that the only way to woo the black vote in South Carolina is to play the religion card by becoming a gospel music impresario should take a look at the South Carolina Labor Party, which, with only minimal resources, secured a statewide ballot line by gathering more than 16,500 signatures (only 10,000 were required) from working class black and white South Carolinians. What did the Labor Party say to these South Carolinians? We know you need living-wage jobs, effective schools, and universal health care, and we’re going to fight to get you those things. Black and white South Carolinians are quite capable of keeping two distinct ideas in mind: Jesus and democracy—without blurring the two needlessly. This is something the Obama campaign should have considered before inviting homophobic gospel singers to help them pander to the voters in SC.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.Tough and perceptive.
"If there's no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil, surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States."
Correa, a popular leftist economist, had promised to cut off his arm before extending the lease that ends in 2009 and has called U.S. President George W. Bush a "dimwit".
Monday, October 22, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
...has detailed his struggle with gay tendencies and vowed to battle "the curse of homosexuality," said yesterday he'll perform as scheduled at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, despite controversy over his view that sexuality can be changed by religious intervention.Donnie McClurkin is in denial on so many different levels it makes me dizzy.
Why would the senator risk the votes of two traditionally Democratic constituencies that don't require pandering to? I 'm referring to gay and lesbian voters*, and voters who want to preserve the separation of church and state.
I'm trying to remember what Obama-mania felt like.
*maybe this should be qualified to read "openly gay and lesbian voters" since there's been a rash of news items involving sexually confused Republicans that have embarrassed the GOP.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
It's not just a TV show that's losing viewers! It's Bush's job approval rating, according to Zogby.
Consider this number in the context of other Presidential approval ratings:
Bush is pathetic.
- According to Gallup, on the eve of President John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination, he was suffering the worst job-approval ratings of his presidency -- 58 percent.
- In 1968, when the war in Vietnam was claiming hundreds of U.S. casualties each week, President Lyndon Johnson was considered so unpopular that he didn't even run for re-election. Johnson's average Gallup approval rating for that year was 43 percent.
- When Reagan's second term was rocked by the Iran-Contra scandal, his ratings plummeted, all the way down to 43 percent.