Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cheney is more than a bit confused in his history. While he claims that the United States never prosecuted Japanese soldiers for war crimes, we in fact gave many water boarding torturers 15 to 25  years in prison for doing exactly that.

This puts the actions of the Bush-Cheney administration firmly in line with the war crimes the United States once pursued quite vigorously. No, that isn't new revelation, but it can't hurt to continue to question why Cheney is considered a legitimate political voice at this late date.

Nothing is likely to be done legally or politically. This leaves it to historians, apparently.  Jonathan Hafetz makes this point:


"The report provides the most comprehensive examination to date of the CIA Torture Program. Above all, it helps strip away the layers of secrecy and expose the misrepresentations to better inform the American public what actions its government took in the name protecting its security. In that sense, the report serves an informational role vital to a democracy and the deliberative process on which it depends.
But accounting should not be confused with accountability. It is crucial to remember that the torture and other misconduct committed by U.S. officials was not simply immoral, barbaric, and counterproductive. It was also criminal, prohibited under both U.S. and international law. In other countries, detailed investigations into human rights violations helped lay the groundwork for subsequent prosecutions. (Argentina and Guatemala are two examples). But President Obama has already suggested that the Senate report will not cause him to reverse his original decision not to pursue a full criminal investigation. The President called the report’s findings “troubling,” but cautioned against “refighting old arguments” and, once again, urged the country to look forward, not backward.

To be sure, political winds in the U.S. may shift, or another country may prosecute U.S. officials under international law. (Prosecutions under universal jurisdiction have previously been attempted in several European countries). But history, not law, may well be the final arbiter of America’s Torture Program. If so, the report’s main contribution will be the factual record it provides to us now and to future generations....

...While the opposition to criminal prosecutions remains undeniably intense, the U.S. faces no comparable choice between peace and justice. The trade-off is one of politics, not peace. And, so far, politics has trumped law. There are other ways for the U.S. to achieve a measure of accountability, from noncriminal sanctions against those responsible to providing remedies to victims. But to date other accountability mechanisms have been not taken hold. Instead, we are left with accountability through accounting.

And herein lies the Torture Report's central paradox. It is because the Senate report provides such devastating details into the Torture Program that the stakes for the rule of law are now so high. By demonstrating the depth and degree of America’s lawlessness, the Torture Program shines the light even more brightly on law’s absence in addressing the crimes of the past."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

We need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission...

Not that I think we will get one. That sort of thing doesn't happen in America. History isn't given much traction in these parts, better to ignore and forget it.  So, the torturers and their enablers in the Bush administration will simply never face justice.

One of the deep failings of the Obama years will always be allowing torture with impunity to define the United States in the 21st century. This just makes it all but certain that we will revisit these techniques in future years following some other traumatic event. Cheney still today doesn't admit to any misgivings. How can this be considered a legitimate political position at this point?

The whitewash for torture joins hands with the whitewash for bank and Wall Street criminality, as the House now guts the milquetoast Dodd-Frank reforms of the post-financial crisis. That is kind of astonishing to me. The tortured were extreme outliers in the American mind, and so easy to ignore by the public. It is pretty hard to ignore the damage wrought by financial chicanery. But apparently the time has already come to get back to the status quo.

The torture report confirmed the existence of high crimes at the highest level of the federal state.  This piece by Deborah Pearlstein at Opinio Juris points out another terrible legacy of that era: the core incompetence of leadership at the highest levels.

"Having spent years of my life as a human rights lawyer working on precisely these issues – preparing reports on secret detentions, and indeed detainee deaths in U.S. custody, among other things – and having spent plenty of days in shock and horror at what we learned then, I had come to feel almost inured to new revelations. Power drill to the head? We’d seen that earlier. Detainee died of hypothermia having been left mostly naked in his dungeon-like cell? Knew that too. But beyond the important new detail about our treatment of detainees the report offers, it is for me the facts the report reveals about the level of fundamental professional incompetence giving rise to this program, and the extent of the CIA’s efforts to keep information about it from other parts of our own government – including the director of the FBI and two U.S. secretaries of state – that leaves me newly in awe. Among the many telling (and I believe unrefuted) passages of incompetence (p. 11 of the Report): “Numerous CIA officers had serious documented personal and professional problems – including histories of violence and records of abusive treatment of others- that should have called into question their suitability to participate” in the interrogation and detention program. More, the private psychologists CIA hired to develop, operate and assess its interrogation program lacked any “experience as an interrogator, knowledge of Al Qaida, background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.” Even as I continue to work through the text of the report, it is clear that it should be required reading for all Americans."

Friday, December 12, 2014

With all of my grades posted, the semester is over and it has been a good one.

This semester I taught two classes for the first time and really enjoyed them. The first, "Asians in America," was a great success mostly because the class was so committed to the topic and to doing the reading, which was not light. I will definitely offer this one again in the future.

The other new course was "Music and Sound in American History," which also worked well I believe. The switch from music studies to sound studies was not without its difficulties, particularly in taking the class through the theoretical literature, but it was utlimately a worthwhile and highly effective experience.  I definitely will teach again.

If you are interested in seeing how the classes were structured, check out my courses' webpage.

Meanwhile, I have a break for a couple of weeks, so I can get all manner of projects completed, which means a lot of writing and also a lot of time on the bajo sexto, ideally.

For your end of the semester pleasure, a couple of videos

Trío Guardianes de la Huasteca


Trio Tamazunchale



and this one, which I was interested to happen across enitrely by accident.. The guy playing the huapanguera with the Beatles and Stones stickers who starts singing at the 2 minute mark lives in Austin, He is the organizer of the Huapango festival there. He also appeared at the Fesitval of Texas Fiddling last week, singing along with Los Trineros.

This site hosts a huge archive of digitized Earth First! and Animal Liberation zines from the 1980s to the present, such as XUltraMilitanceX from Hants, England or the Laguna Beach zine "The ALF Is Watching And There’s No Place To Hide" from 1988. The zines in this site are U.S., British, and Australian. There are probably others I haven't seen yet as well.

 The site also has posted some 1980s Animal Liberation punk rock. Like Toxic Waste's "As More Die" or Power Age's "Eat Wheat Not Meat". Here is the whole collection, which varies a bit in quality shall we say.




 I am not aware of a single place where there is such a complete and idiosyncratic collection of these kind of underground materials. This is an incredible wealth of historical material which will be very useful to the students in my Radicalism and Violence class.

The short introductions to each digitized collection are worthwhile since they do not obscure some of the dated or unsavory aspects of the old zines and the organizations in earlier eras. As one blog post on early Earth First! notes,

"For all of its many flaws, I love Earth First! and most of the many projects that it has inspired, and I say that as someone fully aware of all the mistakes that have been made along the way. Those errors- everything from alliances with open racists like Ed Abbey to articles cheerleading famine in Africa- are ultimately what makes the history of Earth First! such a valuable roadmap for modern revolutionaries. Earth First!’s fuck-ups are at times so glaring that my hope is, after examining them, there is no way they could be made again."

The hosting site, called the Talon Conspiracy describes itself soberly like this:

"The Talon Conspiracy is an online archive preserving the history of protest movements for animal rights and environmentalism. Its owners, contributors, and designers are not responsible for actions taken by third parties which may be harmful or unlawful to the individuals or entities named in archived publications. This web site is provided for the purpose of historical research and analysis, and is not intended to incite, encourage, or condone any criminal action on the part of its readers. Finally, The Talon Conspiracy does not necessarily agree with any of the views expressed in the publications in our archive, but aims to provide a thorough collection of the history of eco direct action. All opinions expressed in our archives are those of their original authors only."

and more dramatically like this:

"TALON is a shadowy collective of archivists and media soldiers hellbent on advancing their ZINESTORM master plan! Soon our JACKAL minions will flood the streets, the old order will fall, and liberty will flourish for the entire biological community! TAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALOOOOOOOON!!! "

and in a historically minded frame, like this:

"Editors note: Since this site’s inception, the volunteers at TALON have felt that our purpose is not to catalog the past, but to inform the present. We do not exist as activist nostalgia, but to guide new generations by sharing information about the errors and victories of those who came before them. Our hope was always that modern campaigns would be built with these lessons, and that we could share their own errors and victories as a long term effort to refine our movement’s tactics and strategies."

Worth your time, if you are interested in this stuff.

Thursday, December 11, 2014



The Traditional Music of Texas, Volume 1: Fiddle Recordings from the Texas Folklife Archives is available for sale on cdbaby for download if you are one of them newfangled sorts who does the digital download. You can also hear a bit of each tune there too, so go give a listen.

You can also buy the cd directly from Texas Folklife right here  There are tune snippets there too.

Oh what the hell, buy two, it's the holidays.

I write a bit about the festival of Texas Fiddling last week in Blanco over at the Texas Folklife blog, I'll just send you over there rather than repeat it here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

This is a great week for me as a couple of my projects come into being after a lot of work and planning. (It happens to be during the last week of classes, so things are very busy, but it is all worth it.)




 This Friday the compilation album I have been working on will be released. The cd is called Traditional Music of Texas, Volume 1: Fiddle Recordings from the Texas Folklife Archives, and it features 14 tracks from legendary Texas swing fiddler Johnny Gimble, Texas breakdowns and contest style fiddling by Ricky Turpin and Valerie Ryals, Texas-Polish fiddling by Brian Marshall, Texas-Mexican fiddle music of the Rio Grande Valley by Jose Moreno, and down home Texas style fiddling by Bill Gilbert and Mike Henderson. It is all great stuff. The Jose Moreno tunes are the most interesting to me, but the whole thing is fantastic.

 It sounds great, too. This project has been whipped into being in record time by a lot of work from me and Charlie Lockwood at Texas Folklife, so I am really happy to see it actually coming into being.

Go to the Texas Folklife webpage and you can hear Ricky Turpin playing "Sally Johnson" from the album.

And you can order a copy for everyone one your holiday list...

On Friday you'll be able to buy it as MP3s on CDBaby and elsewhere, as well.

This Friday will be the release party for the cd in Austin at the Texas Folklife offices, along with a retrospective view of 30 years of fiddle programming from Texas Folklife.  I will talk a bit, and there will be a jam too. More info about the night and the music available here.

Then, most exciting of all, the Festival of Texas Fiddling is coming up this Saturday, which I am really looking forward to.

Texas Highways magazine just put up a great article about the festival, available here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Festival of Texas Fiddling I am curating is coming up in just two weeks, I am very excited about it. (and please do come if at all possible, from wherever you are).

The Fesitval features fiddling from across the various styles in Texas, including old time, Creole, Texas-POlish, country, contest style, and Western Swing.

And the really exciting news is that we just secured a son huasteca band named Los Trineros to play at the festival as well. This is a style of music from the Huasteca region of Mexico, featuring driving fiddling and falsetto singing, aloing with a tight huapango rhythm oplayed on the jarana and huapanguera. I love this music (and even am a mediocre jaranista myself).

Son huasteca and huapango Arribeno are becoming very popular in Central Texas, and this year saw even the first festival dedicated to the music in the United States, called Huapangos Sin Fronteras.

Here is a brief video of Los Trineros





These guys aren't playing at the festival, but this is a tune called "El Querreque Mojado" that I love, well played here




I'll also be blogging a bit about the festival over at the Texas Folklife blog.
This horrifying satellite view of mountaintop removal over time is worth viewing

All in the context of Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy, being indicted at long, overdue last.

Friday, October 17, 2014

My friend Charlie Lockwood has a fusion band called Atlas Maior which has just today released a new album. It was all recorded live, world music, jazz fusion kind of stuff, excellent, in a word.

If you're in Austin tonight you can go to the cd release party, but if not you should go ahead and download this album. Now.

By day Charlie is Operations & Development Director for Texas Folklife. In Atlas Maior he plays oud. Which is an understatement, given his skill on it.

Here is how they describe the recording of the album:





"During a two-month recording process at Bell Tree Recording Studio in Austin, TX during Summer 2013, Atlas Maior experimented with a variety of instrumental and sonic arrangements, exploring different methods of improvisation and cosmologies of sound. Many of these exercises explored themes of symmetries in sound through different instrumental arrangements. The result of these sessions is Palindrome, Atlas Maior's 2014 two-disc album comprised entirely of live improvised material from these studio sessions. The album also features instrumentalist and recording engineer Gary Calhoun James (upright bass, harmonium) and special guests Sari Andoni ('ud) and Bob Hoffnar (Pedal Steel). 

The release of Palindrome caps off an exciting year of growth for Atlas Maior, which included an international tour in Turkey and Spain, placement of a track from Palindrome in Marrakesh, Morocco's 5th Biennial Art Festival, and a proclamation by Austin's City Council of Atlas Maior Day on March 27, 2014. "

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I'm working on a project listening to some archival recordings of great Texas fiddlers and up comes great Texas fiddler Louis Franklin. I felt like it would be good to have some of him up here, in this old footage.

Franklin was from Windom, Texas, and his uncle Major Franklin was also a well known fiddler. Bio here. (And Louis' son Larry Franklin is a massively accomplished Nashville fiddler nowadays).

Louis Franklin-Fiddle. Bill Butler-Guitar. Zipp Durrett-Guitar
Jack Goldsmith (along with Matthew Waxman) continues his sharp analysis of Obama's expansive use of the war power

Obama, Not Bush, Is the Master of Unilateral War

Monday, October 13, 2014

hardball, at last

It’s Raining Rage in Ayotzinapa



This is via El Enemigo Común


It’s Raining Rage in Ayotzinapa

"The pain, horror and rage over the crimes committed against Ayotzinapa students last September 26, in Iguala, Guerrero, have fostered national and international condemnation of criminal governments that plan to close all teacher-training schools — and do away with anybody they see as an obstacle to their plans.

On October 8, thousands of demonstrators took up the demands of the family and friends of the students killed and disappeared. In the streets of dozens of cities in Mexico and the world, the same chants could be heard: “You took them off alive, we want them back alive.” and “We want justice and we want it now.”

In Chiapas, Zapatistas marched in silence the same day and called for international protests.



In Mexico City, at least 20,000 people, maybe more, marched from the Angel of Independence to the Zocalo with banners and signs that read, “It’s Raining Rage in Ayotzinapa,” “Present the students alive,” “Aguirre, killer,” “Today it was Ayotzinapa students, tomorrow it might be you,” among other messages."


...Some of the cities in Mexico where protestors demanded justice and the return of the disappeared students are: Chilpancingo, Chihuahua, Lázaro Cárdenas, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mérida, Querétaro, Cd. Juárez, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Playa del Carmen, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Orizaba, Tijuana, Monterrey, Cuernavaca, León, Villahermosa, Salina Cruz, Aguascalientes, Xalapa, Morelia, Valladolid, Torreón, Tecpan de Galeana, Tuxpan, Cancún, Puebla, Mazatlán, Durango, San Luis Potosí, Toluca, Pachuca, Hermosillo, Tehuacán, Culiacán, Irapuato, Poza Rica, Chetumal, Acapulco, San Miguel de Allende, and on the international scene, London, Madrid, Munich, Chicago and Los Angeles."

Take a look at the pictures and the note the last one with the marching jaranistas.

Friday, October 10, 2014

For my students in Sound and Noise in American History asking about it, here is the link to the Free Music Archive.

 It is definitely worth spending some time listening there.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No Bankers Left Behind

some listening to counter Geithner's testimony----Ry Cooder's perfect "No Banker Left Behind." It sounds like an Uncle Dave song, I think. I first heard it when he played it at the Arhoolie 40th anniversary concert a few years ago.



On this one the music is a bit rough, but the spirit is all there. "On the brink of bankruptcy/my life is pitiful, you'll agree"



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Democracy comes to Virginia's Third district, Nunal's very own, the map of the district having been declared unconstitutional because of blatant racial gerrymandering.

Take a look at the map of District 3. The whiteness of the non-District 3 areas is no mistake!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

And back in Norfolk, there is a new app for the iphone to gauge seawater rise in the city.

Perhaps a better bet would be an app to get the hell out of town!
The Festival of Texas Fiddling poster is out, and it looks great. I hope some of you can make it!



Some of what I was doing during my time in Texas last week, playing with the legendary Lorenzo Martinez and also with amazingly prolific and talented Lupe Acuña . These were filmed by Lupe, who singlehandedly documents virtually everything going on in conjunto music from the insignificant (me) to the most important events each week. All of his 1000+ videos are worth watching.

(if you click on the titles you will be taken to youtube, better viewing there)




Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday morning at 9 am central time, take a listen to Rancho Alegre Radio on KOOP in Austin, you can listen to me talk about conjunto music. You can listen online if you don't happen to be in Austin. Here is some more info.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's been three years since Occupy Wall Street. The movement didn't amount to what some of us had hoped, but it certianly was not a total failure. John Wellington Ennis has a good take on it

Here is what Occupy has to say for itself
Maybe all the Republican hysterics prattling on the civilizational threats facing the country across the world ought to take a look around, say, Norfolk, to see what is actually destroying this country.

Just yesterday, in the middle of the day, two guys turned up with a mile or so of each other. One was dead from a gunshot around the corner from my house laying on the street at 1 in the afternoon. One was wounded by a gunshot but still alive at 4 in the afternoon.  All in a day's work.
'
The interesting part about these is simply that they were reported. Generally shootings are not even considered to be news.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My always interesting friend Allen Shelton just published a new book titled Where the North Sea Touches Alabama   It is described as a "fictocritical account part memoir, part steam-punk theory, and a hard edged psychic materialist analysis of the possible return."

The title comes from this line attributed to a Sand Mountain preacher: "In Christ there is no East or West, North or South, and the North Sea touches Alabama."


Here is a short film about the book:


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Students in my globalization class will appreciate these two articles. One is an interview with the authors of a new book on Karl Polanyi's critique of free market fundamentalism.

The other is an interesting perspective on offshoring of wealth and its connections to globalization.

(And  yes, don't worry, these are short.)
It's too bad I would never eat at Burger King, because now I can't boycott it to protest its (almost) shameful flight to Canada to avoid taxes.

Now we can just generally continue to boycott it for serving shitty food.

I was geared up to avoid Walgreens for the same move to dodge taxes. That would have been easy here in the sprawling wasteland of Hampton Roads since ever Walgreens is paired with a CVS at intersections. A law of nature, that.

It is a good reminder that none of these corporate entities is value neutral, even ones fulfilling a quasi-public role like Walgreens

Of course there are plenty of companies around who are doing the same thing to avoid paying their share in taxes after having profited from it for years. Here is a list, from the Washington Post.

Anyway, why do all these companies want to move when patriots like Mitt Romney have shown that it is perfectly possible to avoid taxes and still live here.

Now you can go read this. and this too (it is easier to read, also better).

Friday, August 22, 2014

This is some interesting music, a tenor banjo band in Oaxaca. Nothing written about this music except one dissertation in Mexico I am waiting to get. I am interested to find out a lot more about this, and about Don Francisco Ávila y sus hijos.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

This is a really interesting take on why we like repetition in music and how it relates to our cognition.  (no, the author is no relation  but I was at the SEM NEH seminar with her a few years ago and I'm using her new book in my Sound and Noise in American History class).
Here is a sentence that sounds more than a bit odd:  I wish Norfolk would take a lesson from Milwaukee.

Norfolk has many of the same historical problems in terms of decay, derelict properties, poverty, white flight, and general cultural crisis. The natural setting here is of course much more appealing in almost every way, starting with the warm weather, the easy access to water everywhere, and the enormous potential with its proximity to vibrant places. What Norfolk lacks is any sort of vision and an apparent hostility to culture, while post-industrial, workingclass Milwaukee is leading the way as a green city taking the fullest advantage of its natural setting. In Norfolk, in contrast, the incredible coastline along the Chesapeake Bay is abandoned to decay except for isolated pockets of Truman Show like ersatz neighborhoods. Whole neighborhoods are allowed to decline until whole blocks are empty lots dotted with a handful of houses.

It doesn't have to be this way, ask Milwaukee.  Milwaukee is the New Portland

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I've been involved in planning and organizing a new first annual Festival of Texas fiddling this December that I am really excited about. This festival is the fruit of a partnership between two groups that do amazing work (and with which I have worked in the past) Texas Folklife and Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. It is shaping up to be a great festival with a bunch of fiddle masters from great Texas regional and ethnic traditions, all capped by a great western swing band. The festival will present styles of Texas fiddling far beyond just the contest style that most people think of. The whole event takes place in the historic Twin Sisters Dance Hall in Blanco, Texas. (which is conveniently located near Austin and San Antonio, for those of you wondering)

Here below is the press release for the event. I will post more information as it comes out. I hope to see you all there!

Here are some great views of the Twin Sisters Dance Hall in Blanco





TEXAS FOLKLIFE AND TEXAS DANCE HALL PRESERVATION, INC. ANNOUNCE INAUGURAL


“FESTIVAL OF TEXAS FIDDLING”


Day-long Festival will Feature Showcase Concerts and Dancing at historicTwin Sisters Dance Hall with


Fiddle Workshops by Masters Brian Marshall, Ed Poullard and Howard Raines


plus


Evening dance with Al Dressen’s Super Swing Revue


Austin, Texas – July 30, 2014 – Texas Folklife and Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. (TDHP) are pleased to announce that the first annual “Festival of Texas Fiddling” will be held on December 6, 2014. This festival will be the most comprehensive celebration of the many styles of Texas fiddle music ever held. This festival will showcase the diverse genres, regional styles, and ethnic traditions of fiddling in the state in order to preserve, promote, and celebrate the central role the fiddle plays in Texas roots music.


In many ways, Texas music is synonymous with fiddle music. The fiddle traditions of the state encompass a stunning array of styles: old time fiddling, Western Swing, and virtuosic contest style across the state, Texas-Mexican fiddling in the Rio Grande Valley, Creole fiddling in east Texas and Texas-Polish fiddling in Central Texas. More specific regional styles of fiddling include San Antonio conjunto fiddling and cowboy fiddling. In addition, there are fiddle traditions that did not originate in the state but which have flourished and found unique expression in Texas, including country, blues, bluegrass, jazz, and mariachi fiddling, as well as increasingly popular but little known styles like son huasteca.


The first Festival of Texas Fiddling will be held at the Twin Sisters Dance Hall in Blanco, Texas. The festival will offer a new way of experiencing Texas fiddling through hands-on fiddle workshops, showcase concerts, and a community dance in an historic Texas dance hall. Participants will be able to learn, jam, and dance to the many different varieties of this essential instrument in a beautiful setting. Festival workshops will be led by recognized masters of Texas regional fiddling: Ed Poullard, Creole fiddler from Beaumont; Brian Marshall, Texas-Polish fiddler from Houston/Bremond; and Howard Rains, an old-time fiddler from Austin. The evening dance will feature a full Texas Swing dance band: Al Dressen & the Super Swing Revue.


This is the second collaboration between Texas Folklife and Texas Dance Hall Preservation this year. The two non-profits joined forces last February to present the highly successful Texas Polka Festival and Symposium in Schulenburg. The organizations’ goals go hand-in-hand—preserving Texas roots music and the dance halls where it has been played for over a century.


As times and names of other confirmed participants and performers for the festival become available, other media releases will be distributed and updates will be posted on Texas Folklife’s website:
 http://texasfolklife.org and TDHP’s website: http://texasdancehall.org.
- See more at: http://texasfolklife.org/event/inaugural-festival-of-texas-fiddling-at-twin-sisters-dance-hall#sthash.Ha96mXsG.dpuf

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

the winner is...1,032,212 Barrels of Crude Oil

This is a fascinating case for a lot of reasons, not least the bold Kurdish move to use oil as the means of constructing a basis for their justifiable independent sovereignty and the corresponding reminder of the limits of U.S. jurisdiction in oceanic space.

The case is officially called "Ministry of Oil of the Republic of Iraq v. 1,032,212 Barrels of Crude Oil Aboard the United Kalavrvta and the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Kurdistan Regional Governate of Iraq," in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston). The ship is flagged in the Marshall Islands

The U.S. had planned to seize the load of oil (worth $100 million) as a means of maintaining the status quo in Iraq. In other words, in stifling Kurdish independence in pursuit of failed Bush-era policies built upon failed post-WWI era imperialist reorderings.

The LA Times apparently buys this idea, headlining its piece "Iraq and its Kurds fight over oil tanker off the Texas coast"  Its Kurds?



From Reuters (which everyone from Aljazeera to the Maritime Executive reprinted)

"A high-stakes dispute over a tanker carrying $100 million (59 million pounds) in Iraqi Kurdish crude took a surprising turn on Tuesday when a U.S. judge said she lacked jurisdiction given the ship's distance from the Texas shore and urged that the case be settled in Iraq


Federal magistrate Nancy K. Johnson said that because the tanker was some 60 miles (100 km) offshore, and outside territorial waters, an order she issued late on Monday for U.S. Marshals to seize the cargo could not be enforced.




Though the Houston Chronicle reports

"By Monday afternoon, the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker had yet to offload any crude, said Jamie Webster, senior director of global oil markets for IHS, an energy analyst firm. He based the observation on ship-tracking data that showed the vessel's draft hadn't changed since it anchored.

He said legal threats may deter any U.S. vessels from touching the shipment, forcing the tanker to travel elsewhere to unload.

"It wouldn't surprise me if it ends up sitting there for a little while or ends up going to another port," Webster said....

Coast Guard crews boarded the vessel Sunday to conduct routine safety inspections and determined it met all safety requirements, paving the way for the tanker to begin offloading crude, said Petty Officer Andy Kendrick, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard Houston-Galveston sector.

Because of the political sensitivity of the transaction, the Coast Guard worked closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the National Security Council but no additional measures were necessary, Kendrick said.

The U.S. government, which backs a unified, central government in Iraq, discourages companies from buying crude from the Kurdish Regional Government, warning such deals pose significant legal threats.

But the government hasn't banned the purchases, Webster said.

The U.S. State Department declined to intervene, calling the matter a private transaction.

If the crude does sell, the deal could mark a significant economic leap toward independence for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, said Ed Hirs, who teaches energy economics at the University of Houston.

"Without economic hard currency and established trading partners, it would be very difficult for the Kurdish region to become separate, autonomous and sovereign, or basically secede from Iraq," he said.






So it does make one wonder why it would leave purchase as an option.The limits of sovereign jurisdiction at 12 miles allows the Kurdish tanker to float freely outside of U.S. power, which is


I am especially interested to see what happens in the Kurds decide to sell these 1,032,212 Barrels oil to Israel or China, two options with some interesting geopolitical repercussions.


And the historian in me is wondering about analogous episodes of secessionist areas not involved in a civil war seeking to use this kind of commodity leverage not just for funding but as a political tool.

Monday, June 30, 2014

From the Academic Abolitionist Vegan blog:



"Euthanasia is an essential component to capitalism....

The arguments for euthanasia are really quite disturbing in this light, especially given similar projects designed to eliminate unwanted human populations that are a burden on the capitalist treadmill. I have heard it argued that not killing dogs and cats waiting on homes is “a waste of people’s time and money.” Ironically, I saw this argument made in an anti-capitalist animal rights space. But this is the very logic of capitalism, that is, to view sentient beings as disposable objects measured by their monetary value. Strange, when it comes to privileged groups, where there's a will, there's a way. When it comes to devalued groups, killing is just "common sense."

I also thought this was interesting, these debates chutning away in this corner of things:

"Classical Marxism is inherently speciesist and thus it should be the intellectual priority of socialist animalists to retheorize the position of non-humans within the system of thought. In classical Marxism, domesticated animals are literally reduced to machinery. So long as this is unchallenged, an anti-speciesist Marxism is impossible."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

There is nothing else that really needs to be said at this point beyond this, John Stewart at his best


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

worth reading in whole. Here is a glimpse

" For better or worse, universities seeded the very changes—neoliberal economics, technological innovation, and the education of the Calvinists who now declare a reformation—that Shirky sees as inevitable Oedipal threats to the academy. Agency, contingency, and complexity never figure into the baby-simple analysis of discredited public monopolies of knowledge falling before the spontaneous liberating sway of crowdsourced intellectual inquiry. Predestination, or maybe some oracle, explains everything.
The market surely can’t—and shouldn’t. The richest nation in the history of the world subsidizes all sorts of luxuries and inefficiencies. Football stadiums, bridges to nowhere, bases and planes that even the military does not want, churches, temples, cathedrals, and vacation homes. Yet in the present consensus on the future of our higher learning, the notion that perhaps we can afford a reasonable level of public investment in the inefficient institutions that gave us the Green Revolution and Google is deemed unrealistic. The public debate is locked on measurable outputs. But the opportunity costs of failing to reinvest never come up. What is the public expense, for instance, if we continue to gouge funding for research on communicable diseases or climate change? How do we measure the cost of failing to inspire and guide the student who might write the next great work of political thought that can guide us safely through the challenges of this century? Why can’t the richest country in the world afford to adequately support passionate potential scholars in the pursuit of their calling? We make explicit value choices in this republic. We have chosen tax breaks over history, poetry, and science. Nothing is inevitable. We can choose otherwise.


When we scholars explain our passions—the deep satisfaction we feel when we help a nineteen-year-old make a connection between the Mahabharata and The Iliad, or when our research challenges the surprising results of some medical experiment that the year before generated unwarranted headlines—many of our listeners roll their eyes like my fellow students did back in that classroom in 1995. How embarrassing that people find deep value in such uncountable things."

Friday, March 7, 2014

I've been hither and yon and flat out busy, the blog has suffered accordingly. Etc.

At the end of February I was happily down in Texas in participate in a festival and symposium on Texas polka music, put on jointly by Texas Folklife and Texas Dancehall Preservation, Inc, at the restored and truly lovely Senglemann Hall in Schulenburg, Texas. This is a grand old dance hall which was just perfect for the array of bands all day.

This was a great event filled with music of all kinds, alternativing with a series of really worthwhile presentations on dance halls, food, and music. I was there to talk about sustainability theory and vernacular music, in a session along with the great Czech musician Mark Halata and Texas Polish musician Frank Motley. The audio for each of the sessions can be heard here (mine is the last) along with a bunch of pictures of the festival overall. A great event overall which is intended to start running on an annual basis. I already look forward to it.

I'll be in Korea next week talking about the same issues, only focused specially on conjunto music. More on the Korea trip and those topics later. I am very excited about going, as you'd imagine.

Here is a picture of me playing some tunes in the evening with Lala Garza, one of the very rare female conjunto accordionists.  Even rarerr--she had her own conjunto back in the 1960s. You can hear a full story about her here.  I was fortunate to get to meet Lala on a previous trip to Texa,s and was pleased to get to play some more with on this trip. Here we are sitting in an 1835 house between Schulenburg and LaGrange that was once considered as a spot for the capitol.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Virginia textbooks have not always been known for their historical accuracy, but at least now they will no longer unwittingly serve as reminders of Japanese colonial rule in Korea.




"RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - Two of America's closest Asian allies played out their historic rivalry in the U.S. state of Virginia on Thursday, with South Korea celebrating victory after state lawmakers approved legislation requiring that the Korean name for the Sea of Japan be included in new school textbooks.


Virginia's House of Delegates voted 81-15 to approve the two-line bill, which requires "that all text books approved by the Broad of Education ... when referring to the Sea of Japan, shall note that it is also called the East Sea."


The bill had already been approved by the state Senate. Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has veto power but spoke on behalf of the Korean perspective during his campaign for governor and is widely expected to sign the measure.


It was a significant victory for vocal campaigners among Virginia's 82,000 Korean-Americans, who greatly outnumber the state's 19,000 ethnic Japanese and showed up in the hundreds to cheer the vote in the state capital, Richmond.


The vote followed intense lobbying not only by Korean-Americans but the governments of South Korea and Japan more than 7,000 miles away, which have been squabbling for years over the name for the sea, which separates their countries."



The local news story on this issue had this quote worth considering.



"Opponents of the measure warned that it sets a bad precedent for legislative interference in academic matters.


“I’m wondering what business is it of the commonwealth of Virginia to engage in the nomenclature of bodies of water or land masses?” said Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Henrico County.


He suggested that the Assembly might next be asked to weigh in on the Persian Gulf, the Irish Sea or even the English Channel.


Del. Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth, drew on his Greek-American heritage to argue against the bill, noting that Constantinople, which fell to the Ottoman Turks in the 1400s, ultimately lost its centuries-old name when the Turks rechristened it Istanbul.


Nevertheless, Joannou said, he has no plans to introduce a bill to recognize the name Constantinople.


“I have some deep feelings, but I’m an American. I was born in this country and I love this country,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that have happened in history which were wrong…. That was all in the past.


“I can’t change history.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

You can be a Messiah nowadays, at least in Tennessee.

It is worth reading this whole story and also following the link through to the article about the right to control your own name, which I found fascinating.

I just found out that Volokh had migrated to the Washington Post. Maybe this happened awhile ago and I missed it, but I wonder what it means for the blog overall.

Friday, January 24, 2014

In lieu of detailed analysis of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's multiple personal and professional failings and the connections between his core venality, greed, and duplicity and his deeply held religious convictions honed at Regent University here in Virginia Beach, of all godforsaken places, Nunal offers this possible soundtrack to his morality play: Horatiu Radulesco's String Quartet No. 5, "before the Universe was Born"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This is really compelling listening for this midweek moment. (Placed here to save you the hours of getting sucked into youtube)




Definitely beyond the kayagum sanjo I can play, which I have been thinking about (and which she plays starting at 1:37 until 2:07).

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ya Basta, plus 20

Twenty years on with the EZLN

TO THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO:
MEXICAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS:



We are a product of 500 years of struggle: first against slavery, then during the War of Independence against Spain led by insurgents, then to avoid being absorbed by North American imperialism, then to promulgate our constitution and expel the French empire from our soil, and later the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz denied us the just application of the Reform laws and the people rebelled and leaders like Villa and Zapata emerged, poor men just like us. We have been denied the most elemental preparation so they can use us as cannon fodder and pillage the wealth of our country. They don't care that we have nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a roof over our heads, no land, no work, no health care, no food nor education. Nor are we able to freely and democratically elect our political representatives, nor is there independence from foreigners, nor is there peace nor justice for ourselves and our children.

But today, we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Friday, December 20, 2013

more banda, and a little livelier too





Banda de Policia de Mexico - Viva La Industria (1910)

I'm reading a history of Mexican military bands, so here's a soundtrack dating from the cylinder era:


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Watch his feet, he'll kill you with his feet."



Tom Laughlin, aka Billy Jack, R.I.P.

I knew quite a bit about Billy jack, not only from watching the movie many times but also from living in Wisconsin and remembering fondly his shortlived run for president in 1992. Laughlin was a Milwaukee native.

This LA Times obit I linked to has some amusing lines:

"Over the years, critics assailed Laughlin's performances. Leonard Maltin called him "the only actor intense enough to risk a hernia from reading lines." The New Yorker's Pauline Kael called "The Trial of Billy Jack" extraordinary — that is, "the most extraordinary display of sanctimonious self-aggrandizement the screen has ever known."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This issue of Chinese sovereign jurisdiction assertion into the East China Sea is interesting on numerous levels form UN Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) angle to the broader significance in terms of U.S. power projection in the Pacific.

The Washington Post reports just now:

"The U.S. military has flown two warplanes over the East China Sea on a training exercise, the Pentagon announced Tuesday, blatantly ignoring a recent edict from China that it must be informed in advance of any such flights over the region."...

Japan and the United States immediately protested the move. The Pentagon, which frequently conducts naval and air exercises in the East China Sea, said it had no intention of bowing to China’s demands, calling them “a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region.”

On Tuesday, the White House blasted China’s imposition of the air defense identification zone, but urged Beijing to address territorial conflicts diplomatically instead of militarily."

  Julian Ku, who has been writing the best analyses of the territorial and jurisdicitonal disputes between China and Japan and China and the Philippines write this:

"
Meanwhile, China Draws a Provocative, Dangerous, But Perfectly Legal Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea"

But I did want to note one other big sort-of-law news item from the other side of the world: China’s announcementthat it is drawing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, including over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

China’s announcement has riled up both Japan (which has declared it “totally unacceptable”) and the United States (which has expressed “deep concerns.”)

Why all the fuss? China’s new ADIZ appears to overlap with Japan’s own ADIZ in some crucial places (like the Senkakus/Diaoyu) as well as South Korea’s and Taiwan’s. China has declared that aircraft entering its ADIZ must report flight information to Chinese authorities (actually, its military) and (here’s the scary part), “China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions.” The U.S. is already hinting that it will test this resolve by flying aircraft through the ADIZ. (Wonder which lucky US pilot draws that mission!)

Although provocative and dangerous, it seem clear to me that China’s ADIZ does not violate international law. Indeed, China’s Foreign Ministry was perfectly correct today in its claim that its ADIZ is consistent with “the U.N. Charter and related state practice.” Countries (led by the U.S.) have long drawn ADIZs beyond their national sovereign airspace as a measure to protect their national airspace. This practice, although not exactly blessed by any treaty, does not appear to violate either the Chicago Convention or UNCLOS. "


W eare reading this worthy book Drug War Zone in my borderlands class this week.  Light holiday week reading...

This film Narco Cultura has been getting a lot of press, I think it looks like it will be worth seeing. The director Shaul Schwartz's photography of the drug violence is really quite striking and working seeing. (not for the squeamish)

Though your time would best be spent reading 2666.
Every house needs one of these:
 


"The Laib Wax Room, lined with fragrant beeswax and illuminated by a single bare light bulb, is the first permanently installed artwork at the Phillips since the Rothko Room in 1960. German artist Wolfgang Laib (b. 1950) installed the work in a space he helped to select in the original Phillips house. The Phillips Laib Wax Room is also the first wax room that Laib has created for a specific museum. Accommodating one to two people at a time, it offers a personal, meditative encounter.

To install the work, Where have you gone – where are you going?, Laib melted approximately 440 pounds—at a constant temperature to achieve a uniform golden hue. He used tools such as a spatula, spackle knife, electric heat gun, and warm iron to apply the wax, on the walls and ceiling of the 6-by-7-by-10-foot space.

For Laib, The Phillips Collection was a logical choice for the work because of its intimate, experiential character. Laib visited the Rothko Room for the first time in October 2011, and it left a profound impression. “A wax chamber has a very deep and open relationship to Rothko’s paintings,” he explains. To enter a wax room, Laib says, is to be “in another world, maybe on another planet and in another body.”

Laib began working in beeswax in 1988 and has used removable wax plates to create wax rooms for exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1988), the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Germany (1989), the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, the Netherlands (1990), and the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany (1992). Laib went on to create beeswax chambers in nature—his first, created in 2000, is situated in a cave of the French Pyrenees and is accessible only by footpath; his most recent is on his property in southern Germany."

I'm definitely going to go visit this next time I'm in DC.

I actually made a bunch of beeswax candles and Buddhas this past weekend, so our house smells nicely of beeswax, though I am sure it is not the same as a beeswax room.

Kind of tempting to do this in a room in my house, though the flammability of it is a bit unnerving. Brings to mind that story of the Hartford waxed circus tent fire

Friday, November 15, 2013

 This article about Korean literature is worth a look, especially once you wade through the filler intro (can we at last dispense with the phrase "neon-saturated"?) and the sweeping generalizations about Korea which litter it.

Nevertheless, it makes some observations about the relative invisibility of Korean literature in the U.S. and the globe more widely, and presents the directed Korean state response to the problem.

This is a telling section:

"Still, when it comes to American recognition, Korea has a ways to go. Charles Montgomery, a California native who’s now a professor in Seoul and the proprietor of a lively literary blog, puts it this way: “Imagine, we’re drinking martinis with a bunch of educated people, and I say, ‘Who is your favorite Japanese author?’ You can say one of ten names. ‘Who is your favorite French author?’ One of ten names.” Montgomery continues: “But ‘Who is your favorite Korean author?’ Everyone will run to refill their drinks.”

When people ask me, I of course always start with the obvious and best, in my estimation: Ko Un.  I also like O Chōnghūi and Kim Young-ha. I've thought about using the latter in my class recently. A lot of the Korean stuff I admit I have thought about in terms of pedagogical usefulness. Not
Ko Un, there is nothing quite as arresting as reading him. I use him in class too, of course, how could I not?

I am pretty excited about Dalkey Press publishing this whole slew of new translations. Now I just need to find the time to read them.

Sometime when it is not 2 in the morning and I am not out of time I will lay out the article I am working on that looks at the detective fiction of South Korea alongside that set in (though it is not of) North Korea.



Thursday, October 31, 2013

This was amusing. A prosecutor in Tennessee moved that the defendent's lawyer could not refer to the prosecution as "the government," and this was the lawyer's response:




via Volokh

..."Should this Court disagree, and feel inclined to let the parties basically pick their own designations and ban words, then the defense has a few additional suggestions for amending the speech code. First, the Defendant no longer wants to be called “the Defendant.” This rather archaic term of art, obviously has a fairly negative connotation. It unfairly demeans, and dehumanizes Mr. D.P. The word “defendant” should be banned. At trial, Mr. P. hereby demands to be addressed only by his full name, preceded by the title “Mister.”

Alternatively, he may be called simply “the Citizen Accused.” This latter title sounds more respectable than the criminal “Defendant.” The designation “That innocent man” would also be acceptable.

Moreover, defense counsel does not wish to be referred to as a “lawyer,” or a “defense
attorney.” Those terms are substantially more prejudicial than probative. See Tenn. R. Evid. 403. Rather, counsel for the Citizen Accused should be referred to primarily as the “Defender of the Innocent.” This title seems particularly appropriate, because every Citizen Accused is presumed innocent.

Alternatively, counsel would also accept the designation “Guardian of the Realm.”

...Along these same lines, even the term “defense” does not sound very likeable. The whole
idea of being defensive, comes across to most people as suspicious. So to prevent the jury from being unfairly misled by this ancient English terminology, the opposition to the Plaintiff hereby names itself “the Resistance.” Obviously, this terminology need only extend throughout the duration of the trial — not to any pre-trial motions. During its heroic struggle against the State, the Resistance goes on the attack, not just the defense.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I am fairly well behind posting pictures to Nunal and likely will never catch up with all the stuff from the summer I had intended to put here. Oh well.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Texas working on a project with Texas Folklife (and particularly its visionary director, Cristina Ballí, who launched the effort) on helping to foster sustainable cultures of young musicians in Texas Czech polka music. I got to meet a bunch of musicians and cultural workers involved in the Czech polka scene, which was a marvelous experience.

I've been working on sustainability issues in Conjunto music, which is a real model for developing programs for teaching young musicians and vibrant traditional transfer (I've written about it here). I am currently collaborating with Cristina on a full book on sustainability in Conjunto music culture, so you can look forward to that.

This polka project is an important one and a lot of fun too, not least because it means spending time with musicians in Texas, which I always welcome.  This time around I was in some places I had never been, as well as places I love to be, like San Antonio and also Austin.

That is to say, the music playing parts of Texas, not the Nut-Haus Tea party parts of Texas. Though these elements are not rare in the state.  Case in point:



It's hard to read, but that bumper sticker says "SECEDE". It is even spelled right.

Or in front of this statute in Schulenberg (a Czech town with a polka museum and a famous old timey dance hall)

Yup, that is not one but three fetuses on this statue. The fetuses are persisting in stylized drops of blood, with some angels cavorting along the base.

Another place I went was Dallas, where I was at a Czech festival that started with a polka mass and ended in a big party with two polka bands and a lot of food. The food was ok, the music was better.

Interestingly to me, the sermon was an extremely caustic critique of the wealthy and their unwillingness to accept responsibility of the poor. Quite powerful, actually. I would not have been surprised by it in South Texas, but was a bit un[prepared for it here.

The priest is quite an accomplished harmonica player, and he played a nice version of Amazing Grace while peddling his cd at the end of the mass.  Don't worry, all proceeds went to charity.


 
I was a bit shy taking pictures during the mass. I wish I hadn't been. The music was supplied by three accordions and a tuba,
 
I was surprised by the highly charged sermon given the general political vibe.
 
 
 
 
 
 
That sticker says "fight terrorism, support a missionary." Indeed.  I was thinking of marketing "support terrorism by supporting a missionary" stickers, but that might be a harder sell

Here is the scene at the polka fest proper.  The pictures don't really capture the happy feeling and the load of kids running around. I was a bit focused on the size of the hall, which was built to accommodate thousands.
 


 
Of course, I had to stop by the grassy knoll before leaving Dallas.  It was marked.

 

 
 
 
Very strange and not welcome feeling to be at that site. On the road there are two X's taped onto the spots of the shots.  People would run into the road, grin, point at the Xs, and take pictures. The pointing and the grinning reminded me of Errol Morris' film "Standard Operating Procedure."
 
It was weird, this pointing and grinning.
 
On the way back south I managed to stop by a place I have always wanted to go --Mount Carmel.  It was very peaceful and worth visiting for that reason.  I have taught about these events for years, quite interesting to be there in person.







 
 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Michael Lind does a good job contextualizing and historicizing the Tea Party movement.  He demonstrates how this moment has some deep continuities with longstanding political realities in the South, which won't be at all surprising to anyone who has studied the region and especially its politics (see below).  I liked this line "By using a semi-filibuster to help shut down the government rather than implement Obamacare, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is acting rationally on behalf of his constituency—the surburban and exurban white local notables of Texas and other states, whom the demagogic Senator seems to confuse with “the American people.”"

and

"While each of the Newest Right’s proposals and policies might be defended by libertarians or conservatives on other grounds, the package as a whole—from privatizing Social Security and Medicare to disenfranchising likely Democratic voters to opposing voting rights and citizenship for illegal immigrants to chopping federal programs into 50 state programs that can be controlled by right-wing state legislatures—represents a coherent and rational strategy for maximizing the relative power of provincial white elites at a time when their numbers are in decline and history has turned against them. They are not ignoramuses, any more than Jacksonian, Confederate and Dixiecrat elites were idiots. They know what they want and they have a plan to get it—which may be more than can be said for their opponents."


Meanwhile, over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall throws tenured history professors under the bus:

'As an historian, though not a practicing one, I would only say that I don't think historians are necessarily the best ones to address the issue, either substantively or politically. In other words, I don't think many Americans care to hear what tenured history professors have to say and I'm not sure I blame them. But on the broader point, I agree with FN's point. The real issue, as I see it, is the marquee DC journalists and pundits, who refuse to speak plainly about what's happening and won't go beyond the pablum of false equivalence."

Of course, I know that virtually nobody cares what historians have to say, tenured otherwise! But this doesn't mean that their political or substantive perspectives aren't important. Just sayin.

Friday, October 4, 2013

42 dead and 1600 injured!?

This sounds made up it is such a crazy story.



SHANGHAI — Swarms of giant hornets have killed 42 people in Shaanxi Province and injured more than 1,600 in recent months, according to Xinhua, the official news agency. Government officials have yet to figure out why their attacks have been so widespread and deadly.

Officials said on Thursday that 206 people were being treated in hospitals in Shaanxi Province and that emergency response teams were working to locate and destroy the nests of Asian giant hornets, the species involved in the attacks. Their venom is highly toxic and can cause shock and renal failure, experts say.

Hornet attacks have been reported elsewhere in China as well. Last month, a swarm attacked a primary school in the Guangxi Autonomous Region in southern China, injuring 30 people, including 23 children. But the most serious attacks, according to the state-run news media, have taken place in rural areas near Ankang City, in the southeastern part of Shaanxi Province

More news of it here

It is actually starting to sound like a bad movie

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Regular violence and shootings aren't uncommon in Hampton Roads, but this home invasion by armed intruders seems a bit extreme. Not surprisingly, this being the 757, they were repulsed by armed force.



"Four people entered a home on Long Point Boulevard armed and masked and intent on robbing their victims, police said.

But the intruders were greeted with resistance. One person in the home pulled a gun and fired, hitting an intruder, according to police. Others grabbed a second masked man and held him. Two intruders escaped. The residents were unharmed.

When police arrived about 11 p.m. Wednesday at the home in the 3900 block of Long Point Blvd., they found a 29-year-old man shot in the back. He was taken to a hospital and was in critical condition, but he is expected to recover. Charges against him are pending, police said.

A second suspect, a 26-year-old, was charged with robbery, use of a firearm in a felony, breaking and entering, and conspiracy to commit a felony.

Police have not identified the two men. They are continuing the search for the two who escaped."

the first day is a difficult day

Of particular interest to my students reading about samathabhāvanā and other approaches to mastering the mind might be the sad news of the passing of S.N. Goenka, a global vipassana pioneer.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013



I was really happy this weekend to get to play some music with Art Rosenbaum, an artist, musician, and field recorder of incredible stature both for me and for all people who love old time music.  You can check out his page detailing his many projects here.

When I first got into old time music I checked every record I could out of the public library, one of which was Art's banjo records which I listened to a lot and was hugely inspired by. I still have a tape of it somewhere.  (Yup, even have a means of playing said tape still).

 I've know Art for a few years ever since we were in a really fun and interesting symposium in Buffalo together, but I've never had the chance to play tunes with him. He was in town for an exhibit at a gallery in Williamsburg called the Linda Matney Gallery. The exhibit was the work of several Southern artists, the work in it was quite good.

So the Gallery was snapping pictures and I've been informed that a few were of me, and then posted on Facebook. Not being on Facebook, it took some doing for me to get them. But here is one:



Art is playing a fiddle made by the great John W. Summers, who Art recorded (a podcast on Summers is here). I guess Mike Seeger owned this particular fiddle for awhile and now it has made its way to Art. So a double honor for me, to play with Art and to play with Summers' fiddle (and, of course, Art played some of Summers' tunes) And through it all I got to play Art's sweet custom Wildwood banjo, too. A nice day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I am using this book by Daniel Innerarity in my freshmen seminar and I liked this line: "we practice an imperialism that is no longer related to space but to time, an imperialism of the present that colonizes everything.. There is a colonization of the future that consists of living at its expense and an imperialism of the present that absorbs the future and feeds off of it parasitically."

The other book I'm using for this class is Jaron Lanier's Who Owns the Future?

I guess I am future minded this fall. Must be the effect of the looming apocalypse.

boutique freedom vs. "wholesale breach of privacy"

Oops, the NSA accidentally and illegally scooped up "56,000 “wholly domestic” communications each year."  But you don't need to worry yourself, John and Jane Q. Public, it was just an accident.

“This was not in any respect an intentional or wholesale breach of privacy of American persons,” Robert S. Litt III, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence, said Wednesday.

No, that "wholesale breach of privacy" is what the NSA is doing legally by gathering every phone call and every internet search.

This implies that freedom is rapidly becoming a boutique item, like those enjoyed not by our reassured Mr and Ms Q. Publics, but by that smaller number of one percenters, knowwhatI'msayin?

Monday, August 19, 2013

If you are still fooling yourself that MOOCs are revolutionary for the ways they are helping education to evolve, than this should help you understand that the change is really to be found in the ways that administrators no longer even pretend that higher education is anything but a business that requires the approaches and sensibility of a business. That is, profit is the sole legitimate motivation.

In this NYTimes story on Georgia Tech adopting for-credit MOOCs, we read


" The Florida Legislature has directed the University of Florida to start fully online bachelor’s degree programs and set the price for residents at three-quarters of the campus in-state tuition, or about $4,700. But Bernie Machen, the university’s president, said he had not yet decided whether to charge out-of-state online students the full $28,000 tuition they would pay on campus, in part because he wondered if online pricing models were changing.

Most of us got into online graduate programs more from the revenue side than the service side,” said Mr. Machen, whose university brings in $75 million annually from its more than 70 online graduate degree programs. “It was an untapped market.”

The "service side" he refers to would be what the uninitiated or old fashioned might call "education."

But you would only think this if you failed to understand that students should be viewed in terms of the marketplace. To be uneducated is to be untapped.

My own school seems to have adopted this model by having all of the freshmen required to read a largely empty management book dressed up as an exploration of the science of habit formation. This book presents the worst kind of journalism that we are, in theory, attempting to teach the limits of to our students. (I am not the first to note that  "Duhigg is a wannabe Malcolm Gladwell. His prose is less elegant, but his approach is similar: Find a Big Theme and illustrate it with an array of eclectic examples. Like Gladwell, Duhigg is very comfortable making sweeping inferences from limited data."

Duhigg breezily connects things with a simple monocausal explanation, and then demonstrates how this simple rule in fact governs all behavior. And it is written in distracting TV-talking head short bursts, wherein single sentences are made into important sounding single sentence paragraphs. This is the kind of writing that I actively encourage my students to avoid.

It is that kind of book.

It is that bad.

  This is a book which fuses the habit denial of Rosa Parks with the Christian mega church formation imperialism of Rick Warren.

Don't ask.

Actually, you can ask. This linkage seems to imply a moral equivalency between the two, which is foul enough.  Is Rick Warren's homophobia a habit? Or just evidence of poor character?

At the same time this telling simplifying the civil rights movement into a mere act of habit maintenance. The historical context conveniently gets muddied, and the historical agency and hard work of Parks and the whole movement is reduced so utterly in Duhigg's telling as to count as counterfactual mythology.

Another chapter, perhaps the most depressing, argues approvingly (even gushingly) that Starbucks is really a massive educational institution teaching "willpower." The example is a man who's eparents both died of drug overdoses but for whom Starbucks helped him learn his true potential in customer service. The power of the corporate ideal to triumph over life adversity, family failure, and personal weakness. The willpower to say invented words like "vente" instead of "medium"

But it occurs to me that Starbucks knows something about untapped markets. A Starbucks Will-to-Power MOOC can't be far behind, don't you think?

It turns out that the forces of higher education marketing have already noticed this book is a good ally for their propaganda campaigns