Archive | July, 2011

Frank Foster in Buffalo

28 Jul

Frank Foster in Buffalo

At first glance this wouldn’t seem to be about politics. It’s about a musician who was also my teacher. Which is to say, it is very much about politics in the deepest sense. Music is about community, and so is politics. Teaching is about passing knowledge from one generation  to the next, as politics requires. Like politics at its best, it’s about truth and tradition. One of my teachers just died. A great musician, Frank Foster. This is about, and for, him. He knew truth, respected tradition, and made beautiful music, of his time and for the future.

I headed off to the State University of NY at Buffalo (aka UB) in the Fall of 1973. While I was going for my Ph.D. in English Literature, I was also interested in their music offerings—the school’s, not the English Department’s. I’d just gotten my trumpet out of “storage,” as it were, a year or so ago and I decided I wanted to sharpen my jazz chops. So, I looked through the UB catalogue and noticed they had some guy named Frank Foster teaching jazz improv. I’d never heard of him. But, hey, I looked him up anyhow, you never know—played and arranged with Basie, Elvin Jones, Sarah Vaughan, “hmmm,” says I to my little-too-smart self, “maybe he’ll do.”

He did.

I forget just how I made my way into his improv workshop. While I was registered in the English Department and took courses there, there was no problem about showing up in Frank’s class and just hanging out. I didn’t even register for credit. Just showed up. (Maybe I officially audited the course, as it’s called, but I don’t really remember the arrangement.)

Frank had no problem with that. Neither did anyone else.

So, anyhow, I show up in the room. Other folks came in. We got out our horns and warmed up in that “checkin’ everyone out” way that musicians have. Then Frank comes in—he must’ve, because that’s how it had to be, no? But I don’t actually remember that first day. I remember other days, but not that one. So I’m just makin’ it up about that first day.

Improvising, you might say.

Frank comes in, says ‘hi’ to folks he recognizes. Does some administrative crap, and gets down to business. He goes to the chalk board, writes out the head and changes to a tune, say, “Blue Bossa,” explains a thing or two about “harmonic relevance” (his term) and we’re blowing. The rhythm section has it, we all play the head with Frank. Then Frank takes a chorus or two and then sends it around the room. Everyone took a turn. Continue reading

How America Could Collapse, No Resilience

27 Jul

US corporations have been “de-localizing” everything, making  the US vulnerable supply chain “shocks” in countries around the world and leaving us bereft of local resilience.

US corporate leaders now see the idea of making things as a cost of doing business, one best left to others. What has happened as a result is that much of the production for critical products and services that make our economy run is constructed by a patchwork global network of suppliers all over the world in unstable regions, over which we have very little control. An accident or political problem in any number of countries may deny us not just iPhones but food, medicine or critical machinery.

Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel, has made the case that America needs to be building things here, investing here and manufacturing here. We need the know-how and the ecosystem of innovation. The more corporate America seeks to push production risk off the balance sheet onto an increasingly fragile global supply chain, the more it seeks to wound the state so there is no body that can constrain its worst impulses, the more likely we will see a truly devastating Lehman-style industrial supply shock.

via How America Could Collapse | The Nation.

That’s Not Trash, That’s Dinner

26 Jul

We can get more food out of the plants we raise as food crops, thereby making better use out of the biomass.

If home cooks reconsidered what should go into the pot, and what into the trash, what would they find? What new flavors might emerge, what old techniques? Pre-industrial cooks, for whom thrift was a necessity as well as a virtue, once knew many ways to put the entire garden to work. Fried green tomatoes and pickled watermelon rind are examples of dishes that preserved a bumper crop before rot set in.

“Some people these days are so unfamiliar with vegetables in their natural state, they don’t even know that a broccoli stalk is just as edible as the florets,” said Julia Wylie, an organic farmer in Watsonville, Calif.

via That’s Not Trash, That’s Dinner – NYTimes.com.

Run, Ralph, Run!

26 Jul

Take a look at this cap, Ralph, a fine custom job:

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It says, “Nader 2000.” I wore that cap proudly then and was happy to vote for you. But, honestly, Ralph, here’s the ship of state:

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I mean, that’s not what it looks like, physically. But that’s its soul. Would you have been proud to walk the decks of that ship? I think not. If you’d have made it to the ship the Wall Street Gang would have tied you up with threads of gold. Pretty, lots of glitter, but those threads are so tight around the wrists that you’ll bleed to death if you move even one tiny iota in the wrong direction. Continue reading

Change the World

26 Jul

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

—Margaret Mead

Where the money is — Crooked Timber

25 Jul

The wealth that has accrued to those in the top 1 per cent of the US income distribution is so massive that any serious policy program must begin by clawing it back.[1]

If their 25 per cent, or the great bulk of it, is off-limits, then it’s impossible to see any good resolution of the current US crisis. It’s unsurprising that lots of voters are unwilling to pay higher taxes, even to prevent the complete collapse of public sector services. Median household income has been static or declining for the past decade, household wealth has fallen by something like 50 per cent (at least for ordinary households whose wealth, if they have any, is dominated by home equity) and the easy credit that made the whole process tolerable for decades has disappeared. In these circumstances, welshing on obligations to retired teachers, police officers and firefighters looks only fair.

In both policy and political terms, nothing can be achieved under these circumstances, except at the expense of the top 1 per cent. This is a contingent, but inescapable fact about massively unequal, and economically stagnant, societies like the US in 2010. By contrast, in a society like that of the 1950s and 1960s, where most people could plausibly regard themselves as middle class and where middle class incomes were steadily rising, the big questions could be put in terms of the mix of public goods and private income that was best for the representative middle class citizen.

via Where the money is — Crooked Timber.

Murdoch’s 12 ‘Gifts’ to the World

25 Jul

Salon has an article on 12 things the Murdoch has done to make the world a poorer place for you and me:

  1. He has transformed world politics for the worse: It was George W. Bush’s first cousin (John Ellis), working as head of Murdoch’s Fox News election night “decision desk,” who, during the Florida voting uncertainties, called the election for Bush and set off a chain reaction from other media.
  2. He has ridiculed and raised doubts about global catastrophes, and about science itself, while elevating absurd theories and hyping minor matters.
  3. He has undermined liberty: His outlets led the drumbeat for restriction or elimination of certain fundamental rights, … while at the same time … fueling panic justifying the buildup of the national surveillance state.
  4. He has turned the public against the press.
  5. He has simultaneously propagandized for “the law” and compromised it.
  6. He has undermined essential rules about propriety in the news business, degrading ethical walls put in place through long tradition.
  7. He has propagandized for many of society’s worst instincts.
  8. He has until now effectively neutralized many would-be critics in journalism.
  9. He has relentlessly applied a double standard: Long a vilifier of others as communist sympathizers, he has created a pragmatic, but cynical partnership with the Chinese communist party dictators that has benefited him financially without helping (in fact, in some ways hindering) the prospects of democracy and freedom in that country.
  10. He has dumbed down the news business and hence the public.
  11. He has used his wealth regularly to stave off businesses and individuals that his company has illegally damaged.
  12. His campaign contributions and the public support of his media organizations have persuaded politicians to override laws against media monopolies. And with each successive step, his growing dominance made the following step in building an empire easier to achieve

George Bush owns this deficit – Budget Showdown

25 Jul

The debt ceiling is not a fight about the deficit. It’s a fight over power and the size of government.

“Utter incoherence” becomes entirely coherent when one considers that Republican strategy is founded on two things: neutering Obama and rolling back the welfare state.

via George Bush owns this deficit – Budget Showdown – Salon.com.

10 Steps Toward Democracy

25 Jul

Juan Cole has a piece on 10 Ways Arab Democracies Can Avoid American Mistakes. Here they are in brief.

1. Contemporary political campaigns in the US depend heavily on television commercials. In the UK these ads are restricted, and in Norway they are banned. Consider banning them.

2. Do not hold your elections on work days. America’s robber barons put elections on Tuesdays in order to discourage workers, including the working poor, from voting.

3. Have compulsory, government-run voter registration at age 18 or whatever the voting age is. … Compulsory voter registration is correlated with high electoral turnout.

4. About 32 countries in the world have enforced compulsory voting. In Australia, for instance, you have to pay a small fine if you do not vote in certain elections.

5. Make a bill of rights central to your new constitutions, and be specific about what rights people have and what actions infringe against those rights. Include electronic rights to privacy, such as freedom from snooping in private emails or warrantless GPS tracking.

6. Put separation of religion and state in your national constitutions and make it hard to amend the constitution. … If we did not have our First Amendment, our fundamentalists would long since have passed blasphemy and other laws and deprived us of freedom of speech (which they consider a ‘provocation’ just as your fundamentalists do).

7. Keep your defense ministry spending as low as possible consistent with being able to defend your borders. Tunisia, you get this one right.

8. Avoid allowing your judiciaries to become politicized. Having party-dominated executives and legislatures approve judicial appointments has real drawbacks. … Never, ever, ever recognize your corporations as persons under the law.

9. Protect your workers’ unions. Make it illegal to fire workers for trying to unionize. Remove obstacles to unionization.

10. Find a way to fight monopoly practices with strong antitrust legislation and enforcement. … Laws against legislators and regulators being hired by the companies they used to regulate would help tell against the entrenchment of the monopolies.

An Open Letter to Ralph Nader

22 Jul

Dear Ralph Nader,

I hope you will campaign for a seat in the House of Representatives where your life experience and wisdom could be put to excellent use during two crucial years 2012-2014. For this country, the world, and all the creatures whose survival is increasingly dependent on whether or not humanity can make the “great transition” to sustainable economics and rational politics, IN TIME, I pray each day that you will make this decision to serve us, and soon.

We do need some of the rich to save us. We need the 17 traditions passed on to you by your family, you know already know the song: traditions for the future. But most of all we need you to give calm, steady leadership to the Truth & Traditions Party between now and election day, Nov. 2012. This party does not exist legally, financially — it’s just an idea that I pay one blogger a modest stipend to develop on Facebook and on the web. We’re not getting anywhere with it, no steadily rising net statistics to report, but it still seems necessary for us to keep trying to awaken a small but significant percentage of right wing populists, old fashioned anti-interventionist and anti-imperialist Republicans, thinking and stubborn (not wishy-washy) liberals, and all those increasing numbers of “independents” who don’t want to be part of this corporate controlled “2 party system” any more.

There is a winning percentage of voters in all 435 districts who can be persuaded to vote for someone in a 3 or 4 person race who stands for: honesty, fiscal responsibility, reducing federal taxes and the war department, decentralization toward real democracy (see Wendell Berry’s 17 Rules for Sustainable Communities); letting companies and banks fail when their “speculations” and criminal activities bring them down; “bringing ALL the troops home” (I’ve been told that a dozen GOP presidential candidates are muttering that “we can’t afford these wars”) to plant trees, permaculture the 50 states; restore the Constitution and Bill of Rights; conserving resources and Nature. . . . . YOU know the list of what needs doing far better than I do. You understand the urgency of our situation. And it can all be phrased as conserving America’s most basic values and traditions by speaking Truth to power.

No need to run for President. And you don’t need to “run” fast, or full tilt, for Congress either. Just make yourself available as a candidate in District 1, and help raise the substantial bucks needed from Gates Sr., Ted Turner, Ross Perot, George Soros and other rich folks who could save us if they would, so that a genuine, conserving party can recruit excellent citizen-candidates in every district of the USA and destroy this deadly Republican control of the House.

Practically speaking, you might not be able to defeat Democrat Larsen in the 1st, but by pulling votes from the right side of the spectrum along with a chunk of independents you could come in 2nd and put the Republican Party into “3rd party” status and fading fast. The best result: you win, Larsen comes in a close second and the Republicans get 5 to 9% of the vote. But the next best result also puts Truth & Traditions Party on the map, the big issues are discussed, and there will be winners in some of the other 435 districts with a very powerful voice in Congress. TNT also stands for Transition and Transformation.

Many thanks for your time and attention all these years,
(my wife adds, we love you)

Charlie Keil

cc. Meryl Streep in the 5th District Ct.; Naomi Wolf in the 20th District NY