Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Chitlin' Circuit

The Chitlin’ Circuit story that unfolded through old newspapers, interviews with aged jitterbugs, torn scrapbooks, and city directories crossed unexpected backroads: the numbers racket, hair straighteners, multiple murders, human catastrophe, commercial sex, bootlegging, international scandal, female impersonation, and a real female who could screw a light bulb into herself — and turn it on. . . . These are the intertwined stories of booking agents, show promoters, and nightclub owners, the moguls who controlled wealth throughout the black music business. Until records eclipsed live shows as the top moneymakers, new sounds grew on the road and in nightclubs, through the dance business rather than in the recording studio. Though the moguls’ names are not recognized among the important producers of American culture, their numbers rackets, dice parlors, dance halls, and bootleg liquor and prostitution rings financed the artistic development of breakthrough performers.

Harlem Renaissance Novels

Continually impressed by what Library of America comes out.  This looks like a very impressive set of novels.

Now, for the first time in this definitive two-volume set, their greatest works are presented in a handsome collector’s edition featuring authoritative texts and a chronology, biographies, and notes reflecting the latest scholarship.
  • Cane, Jean Toomer
  • Home to Harlem, Claude McKay
  • Quicksand, Nella Larsen
  • Plum Bun, Jessie Redmon Fauset
  • The Blacker the Berry, Wallace Thurman
  • Not Without Laughter, Langston Hughes
  • Black No More, George Schuyler
  • The Conjure-Man Dies, Rudolph Fisher
  • Black Thunder, Arna Bontemps
Together, the nine works in Harlem Renaissance Novels form a vibrant collective portrait of African American culture in a moment of tumultuous change and tremendous hope. “In some places the autumn of 1924 may have been an unremarkable season,” wrote Arna Bontemps, one of the novelists in the collection. “In Harlem it was like a foretaste of paradise.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One more Time at the OK Corral

Speaking of the "Old West," here is a review of The Last Gunfight by the author of Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends.  Seems Jeff Guinn runs into a few snags in recounting this well documented gunfight.  It has received mixed reviews, but sounds entertaining just the same.  Loved this scene from the old Star Trek series where James, Scotty, Doc and Spock are forced to play out the gunfight.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Post!

How about this one -- I'm really looking forward to reading it:

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Not looking good for the Washington Monument, which has suffered multiple cracks as a result of the recent earthquake that shook the East Coast.  The National Cathedral also suffered damage.  I was working with the National Park Service in Washington, in 1992, when the monument received a thorough cleaning, returning it to its pristine white finish.  It was quite a sight seeing the monument covered from base to aluminum cap in scaffolding.  It looks like that will be the case again as the monument will need to be thoroughly examined for any structural fatigue.

The War on Social Security

Marco Rubio's recent comments make it abundantly clear the right wing hasn't given up its war on Social Security.  You can view more political cartoons in the same vein as the one above.   Once again, we hear all the horror stories, claiming that early retirement will run out by 2017 and that Social Security itself could be insolvent by 2035, assuming we don't dig ourselves out of this economic hole.  It was the same type of rhetoric that was used during the early Reagan years, as he badly wanted to tap into entitlement programs.

As it is, we have seen an erosion in entitlement programs over the last 10 years with Congress running up record deficits while trying to maintain historic low taxes.  The tax base, as a percentage of GDP, is the lowest it has been since 1942.  Yet, every Republican presidential candidate is calling for even lower taxes, while Rick Perry wants to abolish the federal income tax all together, with the repeal of the 16th amendment.  Where will that leave entitlement programs?

There seems to be this widespread feeling among a restless young generation that senior citizens are riding on their backs, and that only by freeing up Social Security and Medicare in the form of vouchers, can they be free to choose what they want to do with "their" money.  Bush first broached the idea of Social Security vouchers in 2003, and retracted his statement pretty quickly when he saw the angry reaction.  Nevertheless, Paul Ryan suggested the same thing for Medicare in the budget plan he proposed earlier this year.  Rubio seems to represent this disgruntled generation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Say it isn't so, Mamet?

Seems David Mamet has had quite a change of heart these past few years, as he rails against "liberalism" in his new book, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture.  This is something you would expect from Regnery Publishing, not an award-winning playwright and film maker who has given us some very thought-provoking plays and films over the years.  David Ulin writes in his review that most of Mamet's arguments are all too easy to refute, leaving me to wonder what "secret knowledge" he is privy to that the rest of us are not, or if this is dementia setting in early.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Perpetual War

Looks like Stephen Glain has written a promising new account of America's "perpetual war,"

The myth of Soviet superiority was barked by the White House, swallowed by the press, cheered by the Pentagon and carried the country through the pitiful collapse of the Soviet Union. However, our “enemy deprivation syndrome” was later filled by the Islamist terrorist threat. Desert Shield and consummate generals such as Colin Powell brought the “romance with the military” to primetime. The momentum of militarization has become unstoppable, Glain writes gloomily. In crisp, authoritative writing, the author sets down some scathing portraits, from MacArthur to Rumsfeld, and in a powerful conclusion, exposes the disequilibrium between the U.S. civilian versus military resources throughout the world and the continued “appeasement” by President Obama to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It seems we will never know when to say, enough is enough.  While our armed forces have been reduced in Iraq, they have been correspondingly increased in Afghanistan.  It also appears that the apparent success of NATO and rebel forces in Libya might lead NATO to contemplate similar actions in Syria.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Obama's summer Reading List

I see The Warmth of Other Suns made it on Obama's reading list, but apparently it was the only non-fiction book he picked out for the summer.  Others included The Bayou Triology and Rodins' Debutante.  Once again, the Republicans accuse the President of being out of touch with the electorate by vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, where he is pretty much cloistered from prying eyes.  You can read more here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

Although I have read Frederick Douglass' Narrative a number of times, I pulled it off the shelf this weekend to read again in the wake of the controversy surrounding The Marriage Vow pledge signed by Michelle Bachmann.  The Michelle Bachmann's of the world, and there seem to be more of them out there than I had imagined if the Iowa straw poll numbers are any indication, could learn an awful lot from Douglass' Narrative.  If she can actually read, that is.  Those eyes of hers make me wonder.

Speaking of the Death of Principled Republicans ....

She did it ....

Scary when you think about it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pueblo Revolt 1680

For years I had a Pueblo Revolt Poster hung on the wall.  It was great to read how the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona drove the Spanish missionaries out of their homes back in 1680.  Of course, most of the missionaries returned with troops to back them up, but to this day the Hopi villages remain firmly in Hopi hands.

Not that the missionaries were all bad.  There were reports that some of the missionaries integrated themselves so fully in the pueblo communities that they came under fire by regional Spanish authorities.  They helped to preserve some of the rich heritage in accounts they put together.  Yet, the Hopi and other Pueblo Indians continue to shun these accounts, preferring to draw on their own oral history instead.

Here's one of the more recent books on the subject.  And, here's an account at the time, written as a letter by Governor and Captain-General, Don Antonio de Otermin, from New Mexico. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

How Much is Too Much Debt?

Standard and Poor's recent decision to downgrade the US credit rating is a historic one.  The US had enjoyed a AAA rating since 1917, which not only spans the Great Depression, but the Big Recession of the 70s as well, not to mention the collapse of the S&L's in the 80s and the banking meltdown of 2008.  So why now?

S&P would like the public to believe it is non-partisan, but it seems it was first challenging the White House back in April, according to this article from Business Insider, which very clearly shows which side of the political divide S&P sits on,

The S&P was much less optimistic when they reported that  "we believe the Democratic Party, which controls the Senate, remains committed to its spending priorities and is unlikely to agree to further tax cuts, particularly for the highest-income earners, meaning Democrats are unlikely to accept the Ryan proposal without substantial modification."

Seems the $4 trillion deficit reduction plan Obama had on the table in June, which only included 17% in revenue increases, wasn't enough in their mind.  But, like the Ryan plan, S&Ps numbers just don't add up, as Tim Geithner pointed out.

Moody's thinks there should be more budget cuts as well, but it chose to retain the US's AAA rating.  Interesting that neither of these credit rating agencies feel that revenue increases are in order?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Who Owns History?

Once again we find ourselves in a battle over "who owns history?"  Republican presidential candidates have been making some rather sensational interpretations of American history, and the Tea Party would like to claim its roots in the original Tea Party revolt of the 1773.  Sarah Palin's recent tour of the Northeast defied all credulity when she repeatedly confused historic facts, as she tried to blend American history into her own personal narrative.

We've all read how SC justices Scalia and Thomas have inventively reinterpreted the Constitution, including the 14th amendment to favor corporate interests, and in Scalia's case demean women's rights.  The "original intent" debate seems to be the cornerstone of the right-wing "think tanks," with conservative writers re-interpreting the Constitution and its Congressional debates to suit their own interests.

As Eric Foner notes in his collection of essays, this intellectual posturing has deep roots.  He focuses on the "Redeemers" in one essay, who succeeded in repealing the hard fought post-Civil War Reconstruction, and how contemporary Republicans would like to see Civil Rights legislation similarly repealed, focusing largely on the affirmative action legislation which followed. 

Rick Santorum, who was born in 1964, is on record as saying he "hates" the 1964 Civil Rights Bill and the Medicare bill which followed, preferring instead a pre-1964 America. I wonder if he would prefer an America without him?  Seems Goldwater is more the "godfather" of the current crop of Republicans than Reagan, who similar lashed out against Civil Rights legislation.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Calling Obama Names

Pat Buchanan is just the latest white man to insult President Obama by referring to him as "your boy" in a discussion with Al Sharpton. Only days ago Doug Lamborn, Republican representative from Colorado, likened Obama to "tar baby" but back-pedalled the next day by claiming he meant to liken him to a "quagmire." Racism is more alive and well in the United States of America than I thought it was.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The eternal hunt for D.B. Cooper

One of the more fascinating "true crime" cases over the years is that of D.B. Cooper.  The case has been reopened, apparently as a result of new information uncovered by Geoffrey Gray, who will have a new book, Skyjack, out this month.

Peeling away the masks

This volume does not provide much psychological insight into why Malcolm X became such a protean figure (or why he needed to distance “his inner self from the outside world”), and it lacks the urgency and fierce eloquence of Malcolm X’s own Autobiography. Still, Mr. Marable artfully strips away the layers and layers of myth that have been lacquered onto his subject’s life — first by Malcolm himself in that famous memoir, and later by both supporters and opponents after his assassination in 1965 at the age of 39. 

from NYTimes book review