Thursday, September 29, 2005

I saw M.I.A. with her fella, the dj Diplo last night. It was like seeing the kids from a Lynda Barry cartoon, all up on stage and winning. THAT was what made it a worthwhile live experience. That and getting to hear Diplo who was great and, like M.I.A. totally assured in his own taste and not concerned with what's cool. He began his set with "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits; that's how unconcerned with being cool he was.
The stage looked like an 11-year-old's rec room prepared for a party. There was, inexplicably, a paper mache helicopter the size of a sofa cushion, a wooden palm tree, a backdrop covered with spraypaint and glitter and christmas tree lights everywhere.
My brother is in the New York Times today! It's a trend piece about spelling bees for adults:
Josh Reynolds, 31, who created the monthly spelling bee at Freddy's after seeing "Spellbound," remembers being eliminated from a childhood bee for spelling the world "climb" incorrectly. "I spelled it c-l-i-m-e," he said. "It resonates with people. Everyone has a spelling bee story."
Go Josh!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What would be worse than being forced out of your high-level gov't job? Seeing this headline about yourself in the NEW YORK TIMES:

Former Chief of the F.D.A. Wasn't Fired, His Wife Says

I guess his mom wasn't available for comment. I am envious of the reporter who must have been soooooo psyched to find the spouse so willing to chat on the record. The story notes:

In an interview, Mrs. Crawford said: "This was a sudden decision. No one asked him to leave or forced him out. I can vouch for that."

Mrs. Crawford said she "knew everything" about her husband of 42 years, adding, "There could not be a more moral, upright person." She rejected suggestions by a government official that her husband had omitted material information from his financial disclosure statements.
The resignation came as a surprise. At a reception in his honor on Sept. 21, just 48 hours before the resignation was announced, Dr. Crawford gave no hint that he would be leaving the government.
Mrs. Crawford said she had attended the reception with her husband. At that time, "he did not know he was going to resign," she said.

She said it was not true that "we had stock that should have been sold quicker."
Yesterday one of my classes took a field trip to the Chicago Historical Society to see the exhibit Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America.

Small towns had community photographers who took pictures of important events--weddings, picnics and lynchings. Beginning in the early 1900's, printing technology had advanced enough that it was easy and cheap to print postcards so these community photographers would print up cards as souvenirs.

Souvenirs. The lynchings attracted audiences. Some of the photos have children standing in the front row of spectators, smiling proudly for the camera. Railroads sometimes ran specialty excursion trains to allow the maximum number of people a chance to observe.

I have to say that I thought I knew what lynching was and that was that. It was chilling to see this exhibit. At the end is a rack filled with hundreds and hundreds of cards. The card I took reads:


After I was done I went to the lobby to wait for my fellow students. Rhonda was there, an African American woman who announced the first week of class that she was sick of all the complaining about Katrina--people have a responsibility to take care of themselves, to save money in the event of an emergency. If those people failed to plan, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Rhonda was looking at a brochure about Segway tours. I told her that I had ridden a Segway in Toronto and, after making small talk about high-end scooters, she asked me what I thought of the exhibit.

After I said my bit, she said that she didn't go into the exhibit and that she thought it was wrong to focus on a single side of lynching.

I hadn't really thought of lynching as being a nuanced, multi-sided affair so I asked for more information. She explained that she simply could not believe that black people didn't seek retribution. Her contention was that there was, in fact, a parallel series of black people lynching whites, it has just gone under publicized.

Remembering last week's lesson with Jane Feltes of This American Life, I asked the magic question: "So what do you make of that?"

She said that some races were bloodthirsty and took pictures; other races were subtle and left no trace.

My other questions went could I find out more about this secret history of parallel lynching? ("certain people have certain information") Have I never heard of this because I'm a white guy ("probably").

It was such a peculiar conversation. It was like pondering why no one ever talks about the millions of people that the Jews killed in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. Maybe because THAT OTHER SIDE DIDN'T HAPPEN AND DOESN'T EXIST?!?

I can understand why someone might choose not to see the exhibit--it's horrifying, that's the point obviously. I had to turn off THE CONTROL ROOM because of the video of children who were injured but not yet dead from American Bombings...I have a pretty low threshold for seeing gruesome stuff.

I think it would be foolish to say that I didn't want to watch THE CONTROL ROOM because of 9/11..."they" killed us, we exact revenge, etc.

But it would be ludicrous to say that actually, Iraqi militants kill U.S. children all the time; that there is a parallel history of killing our civillians that is just being hushed up.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

School has started up again for me and I'm still re-learning balance and stuff like that, all of which is cutting into my panda monitoring time.
I have tried to cut down on my web surfing at work just because it's conspicuous and have returned to my old ways of copying and pasting stories into email and staring at those as though I am conducting a particularly rigorous bit of analysis. Anyway, Dan Froomkin writes a blog-ish column for the Washington Post and he received a letter from a reader. It's one of those things that takes many of my vague thoughts and condenses them into four succinct points. These all relate to Bush's repeated assertion "The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission."
The WaPo reader, named J. Harley McIlrath, asks this:
1. Who are 'the terrorists?' He's talking about Iraq. Are 'the insurgents' also 'the terrorists?' Has Bush ever defined just who 'the terrorists' are?

2. What would constitute a 'win' for the terrorists? What do they want? Do we know? Has Bush ever asked himself what 'the terrorists' want and whether or not it's reasonable? Tactics aside, what do they want? Don't tell me 'they hate freedom.'

3. What constitutes 'losing our nerve?' Is it losing one's nerve to pull resources back from an ineffectual approach and apply them to an approach that is more promising? How many times in WWII did we pull resources off one front to reinforce another?

4. What is 'the mission'. Can we abandon a 'mission' that has never been defined? To quote George Harrison: If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Barbara Bush has a way with words, as reported in the New York Times yesterday, Sept. 7:
As President Bush battled criticism over the response to Hurricane Katrina, his mother declared it a success for evacuees who "were underprivileged anyway," saying on Monday that many of the poor people she had seen while touring a Houston relocation site were faring better than before the storm hit.
"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in
Texas," Barbara Bush said in an interview on Monday with the radio program "Marketplace." "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality."
"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway," she said, "so this is working very well for them."
Jacob Weisberg, writing in Slate, does a nice job (not even including the above passage) addressing the ways that race may have affected the Bushies response to Katrina. After making his way through the GOP's calculations that ignore black votes, Weisberg notes:
Because they don't see blacks as a current or potential constituency, Bush and his fellow Republicans do not respond out of the instinct of self-interest when dealing with their concerns. Helping low-income blacks is a matter of charity to them, not necessity.
When the levees broke on Tuesday, Aug. 30, no urge from the political gut overrode his natural instinct to spend another day vacationing at his ranch. When Bush finally got himself to the Gulf Coast three days later, he did his hugging in Biloxi, Miss., which is 71 percent white, with a mayor, governor, and two senators who are all Republicans. Bush's memorable comments were about rebuilding Sen. Trent Lott's porch and about how he used to enjoy getting hammered in New Orleans. Only when a firestorm of criticism and political damage broke out over the federal government's callousness did Bush open his eyes to black suffering.
Compare what happened when hurricanes Charley and Frances hit Florida in 2004. Though the damage from those storms was negligible in relation to Katrina's, the reaction from the White House was instinctive, rapid, and generous to the point of profligacy. Bush visited hurricane victims four times in six weeks and delivered relief checks personally. Michael Brown of FEMA, now widely regarded as an incompetent political hack, was so responsive that local officials praised the agency's performance.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

In Scarborough now, a suburb of Toronto. Per the newspaper, there is a Trinidad fest going on in a nearby park today featuring live Soca bands and a contest for the best curried duck. Last night, on the way home on the train after dancing, we saw kids playing cricket in a parking lot under street lamps.
There are times when denial is a relief and it is certainly a relief to not be in the U.S. at this moment. Between New Orleans and Rehnquist, I'm enjoying pretending that I already live in this country instead.
It's been interesting watching one of the television newscasts here...imagine a Fox News of the left. "More self-congratulatory remarks from the White House today," said the anchor, introducing video of the President hugging a pre-selected flood victim. Another story explained that the Canadian government has agreed to raise gasoline prices in order to reduce demand so that the balance can go to the U.S.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Yo shorties, it's my birthday.
I'm home, awake the night before taking a trip to T.O. to see my fella, taking stock of what it means to be 36.
I have to say that the part of me that feels self-pity about being closer to 50 years old than to 20 is being kicked in the ass big-time by the news from New Orleans.
I don't quite know what I would do if I was asked to evacuate the City of Chicago. I could try living with my Dad in McHenry County, about an hour away. But they have little space and little money and perhaps, in the case of a disaster, little refuge.
I could take to the road. Lots of room on my credit cards and I could live for a while. That, in and of itself puts me in a rare place, I realize. What would it mean if I had no money, no credit, no nearby, yet reachable family, no lifeline? Would I be holed up inside the United Center, waiting for someone to figure out how to ferry all 25,000 of us to Minneapolis where, without money or family or friends or mailing address or phone or anything I would be expected to make it work out?
That calculation, of course, assumes that I have no kids. The governor of Texas, where the current residents of the New Orleans stadium will soon be housed has pledged that his schools will be open to the incoming domestic refugees from New Orleans.
Good Lord but being a kid was hard. HARD. It was for almost everyone I know well. I am so glad that I was not obliged to have my childhood ass shuttled 350 miles from home to go to school and try to learn long division as a weirdo charity case.
I got a haircut yesterday and, as always, marveled at the increasing percentage of gray and white hairs in the debris left on the barber's cape. This is a good problem to have.