Friday, September 23, 2016

There is no shortage of excellent anti-Trump columns. They are especially useful when you can give them to someone who is still clueless about the threat Trump poses to our culture and political system (yes, some of those people are still around in surprisingly and depressingly large numbers).

 This one by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar should be read and widely shared.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Elizabeth Warren nails it (again)

In the hearings today about Wells Fargo's fraud, she proves her fearlessness, mettle, and morality:

"During the hearing, senator after senator expressed astonishment that the creation of unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts by Wells Fargo employees could have gone on for so long without more assertive action by senior management. But Warren turned that line of questioning personal, suggesting the "cross-selling" strategy that prompted some employees to make the phony accounts enriched Stumpf's own stock portfolio.

"While this scam was going on, you personally held an average of 6.75 million shares of Wells Fargo stock," Warren said. "The share price during this time went up by about $30, which comes out to more than $200 million in gains, all for you personally," Warren said.

Warren's plain-language questions, context-setting remarks and call for tough penalties show why she has become such a feared figure among Wall Street executives. "You should resign," Warren said at the end of a near-monologue about the broader failures of the banking system. "You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission."

In his responses, Stumpf was either frequently interrupted or forced into answers that had him repeating his talking points again and again. "Have you returned one nickel of the millions of dollars that you were paid while this scam was going on?" Warren asked three times, before unleashing repeated questions about whether Stumpf had fired any senior executives.

"So you haven’t resigned," she said. "You haven’t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings. You haven’t fired a single senior executive. Instead, evidently, your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves. It's gutless leadership."

Warren continued to rip into Stumpf, casting the situation in moral terms and using her time behind the microphone to call for broader, harsher consequences for banking leaders. "The only way that Wall Street will change is if executives face jail time when they preside over massive frauds," she said. "We need tough new laws to hold corporate executives personally accountable. We need tough prosecutors who have the courage to go after the people at the top until then it will be business as usual."

The Taco in Globalized Appalachia

This weekend I was really happy to be invited to be part of the 3rd Annual Appalachian Food Summit in Berea, Kentucky, put on by Grow Appalachia.  The whole program was very interesting.

The AFS is a young and growing organization dedicated to sustainable food traditions in Appalachia, and it draws a very diverse group of academics, activists, organizers, farmers, and others.

I talked about tacos in globalized and Latinized Appalachia. It's is a topic about which I am passionate, as you might guess, especially since it connects many of the areas of my research with a very basic love of tacos. And a research project for which I really sacrificed for by driving 1500 miles through Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina seeking out (and eating) the very best tacos available.

The winner on this leg of the taco accounting in the mountains are these fine tacos from a taco truck in Toast, North Carolina

My plan someday is to right the definitive guide to the Appalachian taco from Georgia north. I'm sure you will agree that this is a project that needs doing...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Worthwhile article pointing out the numerous ways that Trump's outrageousness serves to insulate him from any rational or normal standard of accountability:

"In a normal election cycle, a candidate making an offhand racist remark about a sitting US senator would be a big news story.
In a normal election cycle, a candidate making an offhanded lie about the state of his personal finances would be a big news story.
To be totally honest, even in a normal election cycle a candidate exhibiting total confusion about the mechanics and merits of monetary policy probably wouldn’t be that big of a news story but it would at least get some attention.

Seriously. Stop. Take a breath. Now imagine if Mitt Romney had run exactly Mitt Romney’s campaign but then suddenly in mid-September went on television and called Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas for no reason. It would have been huge.

This year, basically nothing. Trump being kinda racist is a dog-bites-man story. After all, just yesterday Donald Trump Jr. shared a white nationalist meme on Instagram. Trump lies all the time, so that’s not a big deal. In fact, he lies frequently about the essential core of his foreign policy, and his business dealings pose such obvious and flagrant conflicts of interest and ethics problems that lying about his stock holdings doesn’t seem like a big deal. And of course Trump doesn’t understand what he’s saying when it comes to monetary policy — monetary policy is complicated and obscure and Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about on any other issue either.

The whole thing makes me nostalgic for the days when I would complain that political coverage was too focused on candidate gaffes rather than policy ideas. Trump has no policy ideas, so there’s really nothing to focus on. You could spend all day trying to explain why various utterances don’t really make sense, but if he’s putting advisers out on television to denounce an entirely fake trade agreement with China, pointing out that he’s also getting the finer points wrong hardly seems worth our time. The best we can hope for is that Trump’s actual gaffes do get covered.

But the truly scary thing is that Trump is redefining the concept of a gaffe out of existence. It turns out that if you just boldly repeat something often enough, it goes away as a story. We’ve become numb, as a society, to what Trump is doing. In the process we’ve normalized casual racism, intense personal insults as an approach to politics, and completely decentered the idea that elected officials should grapple with difficult policy questions. Half the crazy things Trump says or does barely merit a mention on Twitter, much less the front-page coverage they would have merited in previous campaigns.

More than anything else, the numbness that Trump creates frightens me.

We have a learned a lot this year about what you can get away with in politics if you are brazen enough. The answer is that you can get away with a lot. Whatever happens in November, that revelation won’t go away."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I was very happy to welcome Juan Tejeda to campus this week for a couple of presentations, which combined a lecture about the global situatedness of conjunto music and performance of a variety of styles on the button accordion.

Juan is a professor and founder of the Mexican-American Studies program at Palo Alto College, the founder of the Tejano Conjunto festival en San Antonio 35 years ago, which is the largest and most significant festival for conjunto, and the author of Puro Conjunto.  Most of all, Juan is a force of change, inspiration, and leadership in conjunto culture and Chicano political action in Texas.

I've written about Juan in some detail in my article “Voz de Pueblo Chicano: Sustainability, Teaching, and Intangible Cultural Transfer in Conjunto Music,” in the Journal of American Culture, 2011. His work and vision and his festival are a major focus of my book project on sustainability theory as applied to conjunto music and culture in Texas, which is in process.

It was a real pleasure to have him on campus and to bring awareness of the heritage of conjunto music and Tejano music generally to this corner of the world.

I accompanied Juan's presentation on the bajo sexto, which was an honor and also a lot of fun.

Thanks much to my student Erdelis Nuñez for the pictures (and possibly video of the songs to follow, she promises)
Samantha Bee might be the only person who can save America. Or at least the best to lead the charge.

We have had two guest lecturers to the school in the past two weeks, and both have toed the same line of "there is a choice, you have to make it." When, in fact, there is no choice whatsoever.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

One advantage of never throwing anything away is coming across things like this buried in my files:

pretty timely, too, since I saw Dwight Yoakam play a good set last night up in Richmond.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sandy Levinson again rightly and stridently pointing out a major flaw in our political structure.

"From my perspective--no surprises here--this is simply another illustration of how we are victimized by our dysfunctional and even "imbecilic" Constitution. It's not only the craziness of, practically speaking, needing to rev up a constitutional convention in order to repeal a statute that made a great deal of sense in 1842 and generates really terrible consequences today; it's also the fact that the insane difficulty of constitutional amendment makes the very idea "unthinkable" among practical and "thoughtful" people as defined by the Washington Beltway and other centers of "thoughtfulness."

And Democrats are so eager to dismiss the ravings of the narcissistic sociopath regarding his own demented notion that the election is rigged--how else could somebody so magnificent actually lose the presidential election--that they/we are unwilling even to lay the basis for the deep critique of the American political system that assures that the election of Hillary Clinton, if the Republicans keep the House, will make, at best, a marginal different domestically, other than saving us from the prospect of a sociopathic president. That will be something to be grateful for, but it won't one whit lessen the overall political and constitutional crisis that faces the country and that most people simply wish to ignore because we have a Constitution that seems to assure there is no way out of it."
I have a new webpage over at

Yup, it is much like the old one, though improved and more functional.

I have long maintained my own page with seriously meager html skills, and since that is no longer being supported I have migrated over to this new site.

If you spot a broken link, please let me know.

And, yes, I will get back to blogging more regularly. Sometime.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

“this case has the United States written all over it.”

The Supreme Court's decision not to let the European Community sue RJ Reynolds under RICO act was announced yesterday. The ruling is in line with the presumption against extraterritoriality of U.S. law unless Congress was explicit about such provision. Although parts of the law were found to have extraterritorial provision, the Court decided that the EC would have had to feel the effects of the acts (injuries) in the U.S. So though the conduct was planned in the U.S., the effects of it are rendered invisible to the state.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting, wrote that “All defendants are U.S. corporations, headquartered in the United States, charged with a pattern of racketeering activity directed and managed from the United States, involving conduct occurring in the United States.” “In short,” she closed, “this case has the United States written all over it.”

full story on the decision here: Amy Howe, Opinion analysis: In the end, RJR prevails in European Community’s RICO lawsuitSCOTUSblog

This decision, which ably reflects the ideological divide on the Court, pretty clearly relates to the historical fundamentals of the political economy of extraterritoriality in U.S. policy. A central thrust of U.S. doctrine (in service to policy and economic interests) is to limit the reach of the law in a regulatory frame when it is convenient to do so in service to liberated capital beyond U.S. borders. This has been a consistent and unerring feature of extraterritorial decisions by the Court since American Banana in 1909. What is striking in the cases over time is recognition of the basic justice of the argument but a gymnastic effort to insure that law stays constrained when interest demands. Similarly, law's extraterritoriality is unshackled when it is in the state's interest to extend it directly over the effects of business activity (e.g. ALCOA). The ability of the state to hold both positions is always refreshing, no?

I gave a paper on this subject at the Society of American Foreign Relations meeting about nine years ago and have been working on various issues of extraterritoriality since even though my book was focused more on extraterritoriality in criminal jurisdiction. Heading off to give another focused on related issues of extraterritoriality in trade and resource regimes this weekend. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dave Eggers, ever perceptive at a Trump rally, is pretty essential reading

Monday, June 13, 2016

China aims to speed up extradition treaties in graft fight

"China aims to speed up the signing of extradition treaties with countries where corruption suspects have fled to, a senior official wrote in state media, as Beijing steps up its overseas hunt for citizens suspected of corruption.

China has been trying to get increased international cooperation to hunt down suspected corrupt officials who have fled overseas since President Xi Jinping began a war against deeply-rooted graft more than three years ago.

But Western countries have been reluctant to help, or sign extradition treaties, not wanting to send people back to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of criminal suspects remains a problem, and also complaining China is unwilling to provide proof of their crimes.

Beijing has vowed to pursue an overseas search dubbed Operation "Fox Hunt" for corrupt officials and business executives, and their assets."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

This is on the wall outside where I am staying in SF

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Over at Talking Points Memo, a nice history lesson about the core mendacity and venality of the Republican leadership (and their overall political mode) stretching back to the Clinton impeachment years, a time resurfacing as a result of the horrifying Hastert revelations

The Irony and the Awfulness

Saturday, April 9, 2016

This should take you the whole weekend to begin to understand

This is a good start:

For The First Time, A State Just Banned Neonicotinoids, A Pesticide Threatening Pollinators

Thursday night, the Maryland House and Senate agreed upon and jointly passed a final version of the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act, which would eliminate consumer use of neonicotinoids, a widely-used class of pesticides that has been shown to negatively impact honeybees. If the bill — which now goes to the desk of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) — is enacted into law, it would make Maryland the first state in the country to codify such protection for honeybees at a statewide level.
This is the 1001 post here at Nunal. Considering the somnolent pace of posting, that might be considered something of a triumph.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Maybe ridicule will work since nothing else seems likely to stop Trump. If so, John Oliver will lead the way

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A good example why David Rees is still one of the most exacting critical comic minds in America

Friday, January 8, 2016

"Like the first Sagebrush Rebellion of 40 years ago, this revolt represents a classic case of fictional privilege, grounded in a shoddy understanding of United States history."

Read more:"

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

There couuldn't be more useful timing for the Oregon militia action then when my students are focusing on just such events.

This is the best discussion of the Oregon militia action in the context of federal terrorism statutes, and a good comparison with the abuse of these laws to prosecute animal rights and environmental radicals.
You Can Prosecute Animal Rights Activists But Not a Right-Wing Militia for “Terrorism”by Kevin Jon Heller

Heller concludes, rightly: "It defies logic that there is a substantive federal terrorism offence covering non-violent activists who open mink cages but not one covering a right-wing militia that forcibly seizes a federal building, demands the release of prisoners, and threatens to kill anyone who tries to intervene. But there you have it."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We just finished the 2nd Annual Festival of Texas Fiddling in Burton, TX on November 7. This was the festival I founded and for which I serve as Artistic Director. I've been behind getting video and pictures up as this is a busy part of the semester, but I will do so very shortly and then post them here.

This year, for the first time, we gave a new Master of Texas Fiddling Award to two important figures in the state. First is Don Jose Moreno, the great Rio Grande Valley Valley fiddler. Here is a nice article about him getting the award.

The second Master of Texas Fiddling Award went to Washington County Texas-Polish fiddler Daniel Cendalski, who blew everyone away with his fiddling and his spirit. This gives you a taste:

I gave a talk for the VWC-NSU 1619 Symposium called "The African Roots and American Journey of the Banjo," and was sent this kind of blurry picture of me surrounded by a handful of banjos.

I made an akonting (you can see the neck on the left) and a gourd banjo for the talk. That one up front is an old banjeaurine

I've been informed that you are not a collector of banjos until you have 100 of them...

Monday, November 16, 2015

A friend of mine in Houston who has a deep knowledge of about every kind of music just sent me some videos of Vietnamese music there. I had no idea this music featured the steel guitar, and no idea it was this great.

this first one is just perfect

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Well, I'll admit to being obsessed with hurricane related news....

One reason that Joaquin is so strong is that "Ocean temperatures in the region are near 30°C (86°F)--the warmest seen there since record keeping began in 1880. " Wunderground links through to this map.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I was interviewed on SALive in San Antonio yesterday about the Festival of Texas Fiddling.

some nice playing by Belen Escobedo, Rabbit Sanchez, and Ramon Gutierrez on a polka.

It starts at 38:14

Notice to Those Thinking of Going to Graduate School:

There are 134 job openings being advertised in ALL fields of history in the United States.

One hundred thirty four.
The case for more tax brackets
Narco singer Larry Hernandez was arrested in an airport in California.

The kidnapping charge arose when Larry demanded 30k for a show in South Carolina and allegedly held someone until he got it.

(Is it just me, or does 30k sound like too little for a narco singer?)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

wow, this video of Roger Cooper when he was recording one of his cds. stunning thing to stumble across

the same guy posts tyhis 1987 video of Snake Chapman

ok, one more of Snake, with the unsurpassed Paul David Smith on the banjo

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Not-Not Life

I just happened across Michael M. Day's translation of Not-Not

" Up to this day, the sole difficulty has been that we have been unable to find any form of cultural artifice to “prove” whether they ultimately live in the fashion of an “animal,” or in that of a “plant.” Our present culture has been incapable of embracing them, this wondrous phenomenon of life. We also have no ready way of saying what manner of thought they ultimately follow, and what they ultimately are thinking. So --- Today we declare: First, they live in a not-not fashion; Second, they are not-not life; Third, they make us feel not-not; Fourth, they make us become not-not; Fifth, we are not-not. Applaud us! --- we believe the sound of today’s applause will be permeated by a great concentration of not-not, followed by a dilution within not-not ….. Today with this sign that is “Not-Not,” and with the great heap of highly obscure semantics still now waiting to be sorted out behind it, we officially declare: starting with the advancement of “Not-Not,” we will vigorously enlarge the cultural field [文化疆域], until there is a profound understanding of the “body of Not-Not life” [非非生命体] and the “body of Not-Not thought” [非非思维体] indicated to us by today’s culture. Until we can see in this (en-)cultured world and (en-)cultured crowd a renewal of full “Not-Not vigor” [非非生机], and everywhere “Not-Not values” [非非价值] abound. "

"some nice birds in here, really"

I have some new neighbors who spend all of their time when not at work out back behind their house training their pigeons.  I have seen them building a coop and doing things with the birds, but finally had a long talk with them about the birds today. Turns out they are rolling pigeons, which I have never actually heard of.

I'm fairly familiar with racing pigeons, or at least iwth the sport of since I have zero techbnical know how about raising birds or racing them. But it was an interest of mine for some time after becoming aware of the sport in Appalachian Tennessee. It is a world way bigger than you can imagine, actually. And it is a pretty fascinating world. I quote the American Racing Pigeon Union: "Remember, these birds are very different, in nearly every way, from anything you have ever thought of when you thought, "pigeon." The registered Homing Pigeon - the athlete - will be a source of great enjoyment. "

That is a great expression, no? "The registered Homing Pigeon - the athlete "

Rolling pigeons seem to be another thing entirely. It is about having them fly up and then roll down. Now this I had never seen before. They have meets, competitions, and etc. Astonishing how little one knows of this world, isn't it?

This guy John Jay has quite a series of videos on rolling pigeons.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Compilado Hardcore desde Chile

This "playing history" game doesn't seem like it could be real, but apparently so
I do wish Obama had displayed this level of political sharpness all the time

Friday, August 21, 2015

Undercurrent of my mind

There has to be a German word that describes the feeling

of starting a fall semester before a sabbatical in the spring.

Absent that, this will work:

Kyungso Park, The Undercurrent Of My Mind; Jukpa Kim's Gayageum Sanjo / 박경소 가야금 산조 ; 김죽파류

Thursday, August 20, 2015

ON some of the anti-neoliberal messages in recent dystopian fiction.

Of the works discussed here, I can vouch for Ann Leckie's books, which I really enjoyed and found very original.

And Snowpiercer, despite initially seeming to be the dumbest movie premise of all time, was a surprisingly engaging critique of inequality and socio-economic structure.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Second Annual Festival of Texas Fiddling

The Second Annual Festival of Texas Fiddling is now officially scheduled at La Bahia Turn Verein, a dance hall built in 1902 in Burton, Texas. Washington County is a historic area which has long featureed a particularly driving kind of Texas-Polish music, a style of which is one of the central features of this festival. La Bahia has been the site of a functioning dance hall since 1884.

I am very happy we are heading into the second year. I came up with the original idea of the festival and serve as Artistic Director of it, and have been really pleased and honored to work with Texas Folklife and Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. in making it a reality.

I will post more about the fiddlers involved soon.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

This thoughtful piece on Nikki Haley from James Cobb is really worth reading

" Lest we get a tad carried away here, let's note that, over the last generation or so, the GOP has gradually abandoned its old blatantly racialized "southern strategy" in favor of a new, ostensibly "colorblind" but hardly race-neutral conservatism anchored in the rigidly anti-tax, anti-welfare, anti-labor but pro-gun, pro-voter suppression, and indisputably ardent pro-corporate attitudes that essentially define Governor Haley's mindset. For Haley and her cohort, that mindset is unlikely to change anytime soon, regardless of what flag flies where."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

gthis is worth reading both for the discussion of the important role of wild bees, and because of the way it frames the very welcome Obama initiative to reverse the terrible situation for bees and other polliniators

What bees can teach us about one of the biggest debates in conservation

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I got some sad news today from South Texas that bajista Rigo Garza died. He played for many years with legendary valley fiddler Jose Moreno, who taught him to play and then recruited him into his band Los Patrulleros del Norte.

Here is a thing that reveals the true depth of what's on youtube, a video playing the whole 8 track recording of Los Patrulleros del Norte's album "Bailando En Valle Hermoso"

Here is a nice video of Rigo playing with his grandson Seth Lara a few years ago. Seth has carried on the Moreno tradition and plays accordion and fiddle in the old, disappeared Valley style that Moreno embodies.

We were planning to have featured Don Jose, Rigo, and Seth to the Festival of Texas Fiddling last year, but they had to cancel at the last minute because Seth was in the state band championships.

Rigo was a kind and very friendly guy. The first time I went down to Harlingen I met him in a pachanga in that same garage in that video below and he was extremely welcoming. Over the years every time I ran into him it was the same thing. Sad passing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Joe Lapointe in the Detroit Free Press lays it out there

Fight racist fire with literal fire: Burn Confederate flags

"Of course, burning the Confederate flag would be disrespectful. That is exactly the point."
"The display of the Confederate flag — anywhere — is a nonverbal statement of race hate. Its burning would be a nonverbal response to its crude attitude. You're sure not going to change their attitudes with sweet reason. Fight their figurative fire with the real thing."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


This is a long story, but it is really worth reading. When wealthy people with kooky ideas start to convince themselves of their own internal logics, all the while defying the very systems that made them wealthy in the first place.

There is far too much in this story to summarize here, but this stood out as especially interesting.

"According to this narrative, then, Texas isn’t just setting up its own depository, payments system, and a safe haven for gold that can’t be confiscated by the federal government. Instead, it is signaling a loss of confidence in the United States by pulling its gold out of the largest gold vault in the world eighty feet below the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Florentine-inspired headquarters in lower Manhattan. There, a special police force guards some 530,000 gold bars protected behind a 140-ton airtight steel and concrete framed door sealed with a 90-ton steel cylinder and time locks. Nobody enters the vault alone, ever; three people are present, even if it’s just to change a light bulb. Most of the gold in the vault belongs to other nations; the Fed stores and guards it as a courtesy to allies. Thus, the idea that Texas is somehow taking on an unwise risk by lodging $1 billion in bullion in the vault – so much so that it regards the New York bank as a foreign entity from whom gold ought to be justly “repatriated” – is to reject the practical and geopolitical realities of gold ownership in the 21st century. Even in fiction it is hard to recall a more secure site that has at its disposal more robust resources to guard and defend itself.

This is why, if you were suspicious about Gov. Abbott’s claim that “the [depository] law will repatriate $1 billion of gold bullion from the Federal Reserve in New York to Texas,” you were on to something.

Indeed, Texas has no gold bars in the Federal Reserve’s New York vault. And what the state has is not worth a billion dollars. Instead some 4,200 gold bars bought in 2011 by the University of Texas’s endowment fund (the second largest in the country after Harvard’s) are stored in the basement vault of HSBC’s headquarters at 450 5th Avenue in New York City, just south of the New York Public Library. For the last four years, the endowment has paid an estimated $1 million per year to store their gold there. (If it had been at the New York Fed the cost would have totaled about $15,400 over that period). And the new depository law does not require the university’s endowment fund to relocate the gold to Texas."


"Fed a steady diet of fear, paranoia, and survivalism, the consumer market for physical gold is left particularly susceptible to magical thinking."

I thought this was an unusually long and thoughtful sotry for a journalist, and I got to the end find out that it was written by a historian. Of course!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

sounds like the making of a B movie, really it's just the end of the world

Polar bears eat dolphins as Arctic warms

The Harmon Doctrine* has nothing on this control

This article on water usage law in Colorado is pretty astonishing, isn't it?  It's illegal to use rain barrels because the water is owned

A Thirsty Colorado Is Battling Over Who Owns Raindrops
And it shouldn't be surprising that Republicans are the ones pushing the power of the intrusive state to govern how people use the water falling from the sky.

"“It’s actually stealing,” said State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican from Sterling, a northeastern farming and ranching town on the plains, who voted against the rain barrel measure when it landed in the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee he leads. “You might say, it’s a little bit of water, just a barrelful, how much damage could that do to someone downstream?”

But, he continued, “If it’s just a little bit, why wouldn’t we allow everyone go to into 7-Eleven and take just one bottle of water, just a little bit?”"

Uh huh, stealing. Somehow harvesting the rain falling from the sky is the same as stealing a bottle of water from a 7-11.  The logic holds in that privatized water is privatized water.

*[if you have no clue about the Harmon Doctrine despite almost certainly having read my book's discussion of it, you can read this]

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

gimmicky but interesting map
This band of kids Villa 5 has captured my ear. The music is good, and the attitude is really captivating. They're from southern Cali, and the fusion of the norteño music and American attitude, great. And they definitely are way into the classic norteño sound and songs

Monday, June 1, 2015

I am kind of surprised that there is no online app for bathing the baby Buddha on Vesak Day (Buddha's birthday)

Yes, I know the day is meant to be spent with the sangha. But doesn't it seem like a logical thing to create digitally too, no?

You can read the sutra about bathing the Buddha here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I was happy to spend the day at Gran Plaza Mexico in Harmony, NC on Sunday. There is a monthly jaripeo (Mexican rodeo) there which has some bull riding followed by many hours of concerts of bandas, norteño bands, and banda norteños.


This time around the classic Cadetes de Linares played during the bullriding, followed by banda El Dasa and Conjunto Primavera. All were great, very tight, entertaining, and, as is typical, also insanely loud. Huracanes del Norte headlined and they were as perfect as always.

Plaze Mexico takes place on the groups of the Van Hoy campground, the longtime site of the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention. There is a huge dirt floored hillbilly amphitheater that gets absolute filled at these jaripeos.

I've been writing on jaripeos for some time and soon will have a longer piece on the world of Gran Plaza Mexcio

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Waco in the context of Baltimore

Brittney Cooper gets right to the crux of the matter in this great essay in Salon:

"Frequently in conversations that I have observed or participated in with white people about race, the claim is levied that it is Black people “who make everything about race.” But this incident in Waco gives lie to that claim. It turns out that when white privilege is in clear operation, white people are invested in making sure that we don’t see race in operation. Charles Mills, a philosopher of race, has a term which I think applies here: epistemology of white ignorance. By this means, he means that white people have created a whole way of knowing the world that both demands and allows that they remain oblivious to the operations of white supremacy, that white people remain “intent on denying what is before them.” Thus even though three gangs have now attacked each other in broad daylight and killed or injured 27 people, there is no nagging, gnawing sense of fear, no social anxiety about what the world is coming to, no anger at the thugs who made it unsafe for American families to go about their regular daily activities without fear of being clipped by a stray bullet, no posturing from law enforcement about the necessity of using military weapons to put down the lawless band of criminals that turned a parking lot into a war zone in broad daylight. More than that, there is no sense of white shame, no hanging of the head over the members of their race that have been out in the world representing everything that is wrong with America.

That kind of intra-racial shame is reserved primarily for Black people.

...With white citizens, officers feel it is their duty to protect the unsafe and de-escalate the situation. With Black citizens, officers, acting out of their own fear, escalate conflicts, antagonize citizens, and move swiftly to the use of tanks, tear gas, and billy clubs to subdue, even lawful and peaceful protests. What Malcolm X pointed to, and what we would do well to recapture on this week, as we, if we are brave enough, choose to remember his life, is that there is something fundamentally dishonest about a society that revels in the violence of one group while demanding non-violent compliance from another. That kind of thinking is unjust, unfair, and unproductive. And for those of us who are not white, white ignorance on these matters is not bliss."

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Well, play it fast. Real fast."

R.I.P. Tex Logan

He just passed away, a sad loss for us all.

He was always one of my favorite fiddlers, just a monstrous talent.

besides absolutely blistering fiddling, Tex Logan was an electrical engineer at Bell Labs and a pioneer  in the field of sound: 

"an early user of computers to simulate the reverberation of sound—work that would prove vital in the later digitizing of music. The co-inventor of “colorless” artificial reverb and (notes Mark Liberman) creator of “an important theorem about ‘information in the zero crossings of bandpass signals,’” Logan aided in grounding the electronics of recording in the science of acoustics. Along the way, he patented an echo canceller for satellite communications and worked on the “Shepp-Logan phantom,” which helps render images in cranial CT Scans."

I love this exchange in the attached recording:

Bill: Play it in a Texas style, however you want to play it.
Tex: Well let's play it fast... Real Fast.

and his line at 2:41 "Get some more, Bill"

end of the semester Panda

this is a good approximation of how I feel at the moment

According to Lucile Armstrong, who has written about the Verdiales fesitval in Málaga, the lead instrument is actually the pandero, the tamborine.

Monday, May 4, 2015

yup, it works sometimes

from interfluidity:

"I interrupt your punditry to tell you that all your commentary about riots is bullshit and confused and tendentious and fuck off. And that economists, God bless ‘em (no, not really), have a name for this."

"...Does that mean I’m a fan of these riots, that I condone the burning of my own hometown? Fuck you and your tendentious entrapment games and Manichean choices, your my-team “ridiculing” of people you can claim support destruction. Altruistic punishment is essential to human affairs but it is hard. It is mixed, it is complicated, it is shades of gray. It is punishment first and foremost, and punishment hurts people, that’s its point. Altruistic punishment hurts the punisher too, that’s why it’s “altruistic”. It can’t be evaluated from the perspective of winners or losers within a direct and local context. It is a form of prosocial sacrifice, like fighting and dying in a war. If you write to say “they are hurting their own communities more than anyone” you are missing the point. Altruistic punishment is not a pissing match over who loses most. The punisher disclaims personal gain, accepts loss, sometimes great loss, in the name of a perceived good or in wrathful condemnation of a perceived evil.

So you want to evaluate riots, then, as tactic. Surely these rioters can’t imagine that this — this — will reduce the severity of policing, bring jobs to the inner city, diminish the carceral state. By the way, have I told you, fuck you? Altruistic punishment is generally not tactical. Altruistic punishment is emotional. The altruism in altruistic punishment is not pure, not saintly."

Dissembling through the market

Quite an interesting interview with Wendy Brown about her new book and her approach to critical readings of neo-liberalism:

" In this book, I treat neoliberalism as a governing rationality through which everything is “economized” and in a very specific way: human beings become market actors and nothing but, every field of activity is seen as a market, and every entity (whether public or private, whether person, business, or state) is governed as a firm. Importantly, this is not simply a matter of extending commodification and monetization everywhere—that’s the old Marxist depiction of capital’s transformation of everyday life. Neoliberalism construes even non-wealth generating spheres—such as learning, dating, or exercising—in market terms, submits them to market metrics, and governs them with market techniques and practices. Above all, it casts people as human capital who must constantly tend to their own present and future value.
Moreover, because neoliberalism came of age with (and abetted) financialization, the form of marketization at stake does not always concern products or commodities, let alone their exchange. Today, market actors—from individuals to firms, universities to states, restaurants to magazines—are more often concerned with their speculatively determined value, their ratings and rankings that shape future value, than with immediate profit. All are tasked with enhancing present and future value through self-investments that in turn attract investors. Financialized market conduct entails increasing or maintaining one’s ratings, whether through blog hits, retweets, Yelp stars, college rankings, or Moody’s bond ratings."

bright shiny things

at the alarmed behest of my students at the old fashioned look, I have updated the template here on Nunal. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Texas greats

Here is an interesting article in the Dallas News about the effort to save the historic dance halls of Texas, with some great pictures from the inaugural Festival of Texas Fiddling held at Twin Sisters Dance Hall in Blanco, which I curated back in December.

Also go read this article on the Conjunto Heritage Taller in San Antonio, and its resident maestro Lorenzo Martinez. He is one of the most talented accordionists around, and his skill is equally matched with his generosity in sharing it.

Confederatism of the historic and neo varieties

On the 150th anniversary of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, it is worth wondering about the nature of Confederate sensibility in the contemporary South.  Euan Hague thought about it in Politico

Think neo-Confederatism is overblown? Check out the League of the South

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


You can read about some of my adventures researching conjunto 45 labels in San Antonio that was generously funded by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections here in their most recent newsletter. (scroll down to page 9)

Monday, March 30, 2015

An old friend of mine named Tara Linhardt has a very cool project called the Mountain Music Project linking traditional musicians from the Appalachians with traditional musicians from Nepal.  They made a film which you should see.

 Some of the musicians she works with are in the U.S. doing concerts of sarangi, tabla, and mandolin. Here are a couple of video.

There are more videos here

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

This is a truly astonishing story: China used more cement between 2011 and 2013 than the U.S. used in the entire 20th Century..

The images accompanying the atory are pretty good too.

Friday, March 13, 2015

have a nice spring break, whether you are spending it in the US or in Kyrgyzstan

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

oh yes, she understands "how the video must appear."

Is there another possible reading to it?

end run

I don't see how the Republican letter to Iran can be seen as anything other than bad politics and an un-constitutional insertion into foreign relations.  Peter Spiro argues persuasively that it is also likely criminal under the Logan Act.  (read the comments too, they are interesting).
NPR has quite a good little piece on Mexican style polka for Flaco's birthday today, Give a listen here: "How Mexico Learned To Polka"

Friday, March 6, 2015

For your Friday pleasure, a polka, a huapango, and a nice verison of 'Danzon Juarez" from the great Oscar Hernandez

Kind of amazing that ancient cities can still be discovered, including this one from a "vanished culture" which "has been scarcely studied and it remains virtually unknown. Archaeologists don’t even have a name for it."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

all good questions

These are all the right questions to be asked, from Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post

some samples:

1. Why did you make the decision to use a personal email account rather than government email upon becoming secretary of state?
4. Would it have been appropriate for others working for you at the State Department to use personal e-mail for official purposes? If not, why does a different standard apply to the secretary?
11. Specifically, C.F.R. 1236.22, which dates from 2009, provides that “agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.” What steps did you take to comply with this requirement?

12When e-mails were turned over to the State Department last year, who in your office determined what e-mails constituted official business and what standards did they use to make that determination? Did anyone from the State Department oversee or vet this process to ensure that all relevant e-mails were supplied?

13. In 2007, criticizing the George W. Bush White House during the controversy over fired U.S. attorneys, you decried the use of “secret White House e-mail accounts” to conduct government business. Please explain how your use of personal e-mail differed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

They moved the Cabin Fever bluegrass festival to just down the road from the college. It used to be up in Hampton, then Chesapeake for several years, nice to have it around the corner.

Though why did they pick this tune for the homepage I wonder?
There is vaguely sinister when groups use facebook as their platform for social justice actions. I know there is the whole concept of meeting people where they are, but it does cut out access from the small group of people who haven't bothered to sign up for it.

For example, Food Not Bombs Norfolk has a facebook page, but you can only look at it and find out what they are doing if you are on facebook. This seems deeply counterproductive. There is not even a non-facebook email.

Though more useful than the Food Not Bombs main page, which lists a defunct email address and a MySpace page!

Should any group (or any idivdual) really be relying exclusively on Facebook? You already know the answer.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Next time I am in San Antonio I hope my time there will overlap with one of these steel guitar jams.

Yup, the San Antonio Steel Guitar Association is on facebook.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

worse than you thought

Exhibit number whatever in reasons I tell students not to pursue graduate work in history, despite history being the best choice of major as an undergraduate, hands down.

" The data revealed that just a quarter of all universities account for 71 to 86 percent of all tenure-track faculty in the U.S. and Canada in these three fields. Just 18 elite universities produce half of all computer science professors, 16 schools produce half of all business professors, and eight schools account for half of all history professors."

"...In fact, after graduating with Ph.D.s, only about 10 percent of faculty move “up” the academic prestige hierarchy as defined by theScience Advances study (with “prestige” being determined by the university’s ability to place faculty at the widest variety of other institutions). Most faculty instead slide 25 percent down the scale."

history is not alone, either,

"Oprisko’s experiences inspired him to research faculty hiring on his own. In 2012, he conducted a review of the 3,709 political science professors who were then employed by Ph.D.-granting universities and found that just 11 schools had produced 50 percent of the total. Harvard, at the top of the list, was responsible for 239 of the professors. Purdue, on the other hand, was responsible for 10 of them."

"It’s not just young scholars who suffer under the current hiring hierarchy; innovation across all disciplines may be stifled. Because graduates from only a small number of universities account for the majority of faculty jobs, new ideas and discoveries from those elite institutions may be far more likely to gain traction in academia and in the wider world than those from outside this group. (Not to mention that bad ideas coming out of this core group of schools may get more attention than they deserve.)"
(You know, bad ideas like the one generated by Yale and Harvard grads, such as the Iraq War)

Monday, February 23, 2015

"Education is a social vaccine against sustained ignorance "

Not that you need to be persuaded that vaccines are a good idea (any more than you need to be reminded of the germ theory of diseaser) but this is a solid piece on it worth reading anyway. I hadn't realized how contagious measles actually is.

"Education is a social vaccine against sustained ignorance that blocks effective and responsible responses to public-health threats."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

And in other, not-unrelated issues of sovereignty and territoriality space--this interesting discussion about the legality under the Outer Space Treaty for private companies to exploit the resources of the moon.  I have briefly written awhile ago about the related concept of a U.S. base on the moon (floated by Newt Gingrich). The new idea is for the private exploitation of the resources of the moon by private companies, breathlessly supported by Glenn Reynolds.

The comments on the post are worth reading in full, too.
China has been building an artificial island in the South China Sea, more than 600 miles from its coast and only a couple of hundred miles from the Philippines.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

This is pretty funny, I had also gotten a similar phone message from a movie producer a few years about my Spaces of Law book. I couldn't imagine what the guy was thinking, and definitely did not see any way to make this dense book into a marketable movie. I looked up the guy and sure enough he had produced films with for-real people in them. I never returned his call, something was definitely up. (It didn't help that he was in Florida, which just made the whole thing sound sleazier). Turns out it is all part of some scam to snarl historians in legal troubles, just amazing.

J.R. McNeill, who had the same experience, writes:

"Only a desperate man out of good ideas (indeed, out of moderately bad ideas) would hatch a plan to recoup his fortunes by suing academic historians. In the annals of American entrepreneurship, this must rank among the least promising schemes ever concocted. For a movie producer, presumably accustomed to deals involving millions of dollars, this was passing strange. He could sue the entire membership of the AHA, win all his suits, and still walk away with only chump change. "

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sic Semper Tyrannis!

Sure the big snow storm which paralyzed the region is new (big snow 757-style, which means only about 5 inches of snow)...and then  there is the record cold coming at the end of the week (highs in teens)...

But here at Nunal the really interesting news is that Virginia is at long last legalizing adolescent male weapon fetishes.

Virginia is very close to legalizing brass knuckles. It's another blow for freedom in this freedom-lovin' state.  The bill has passed both houses and is just a governor's signature away!

Historically-minded readers might be interested to see the illustration chosen for this story--Jack Ruby's brass knuckles he was carrying at the time he killed Lee Harvey Oswald. Where did this ophoto come from and why was it chosen? Is this supposed to support or undercut the movement for brass knuckle legalization? Curiouser and curiouser.

Other things to be legalized: blackjacks, brass knuckles, swords in canes, switch blades, and throwing stars.  Nunchucks, "the greatest kung fu weapon" are off the list, perhaps because they are already legal? I have no idea. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It is really kind of sad Romney didn't give us another opportunity to reject him soundly, that would have been kind of fun.

In case you needed reminding why, read this story from Politico.

Turns out his concession call to Obama was just all class and good graces from Mr. 47%:

"President Barack Obama was not amused by Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential election concession call, according to a new memoir.

In “Believer: My 40 Years in Politics,” former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod writes that the GOP candidate implied on the call that Obama had won because of his popularity in black communities, according to the New York Daily News, which acquired an advance copy of the book.

Obama was “unsmiling during the call, and slightly irritated when it was over,” according to Axelrod.

“‘You really did a great job of getting out the vote in places like Cleveland and Milwaukee,’ in other words, black people. That’s what he thinks this was all about,” Obama said after he hung up with Romney."

I cut one of the Little Buddha's hair today. He was sporting quite an impressive mop. I cut it back and when he hopped out of the chair after the cut I said "there, don't you feel lighter now?" and he said "no, darker."

Friday, January 30, 2015

Lady Liberty, hot dogs, and etc.

A sure sign that you live in a blighted, low income area is that there are a number of income tax preparers around. In our neighborhood it is Liberty Tax.  Unsurprisingly, there are eight of these in Norfolk, the Queen City of Blight and Low Income.

It is well known that these tax prep places are basically loan shark operations preying on poor and underbanked areas. I think a while ago I linked to this fine Mother Jones piece about this, it is worth reading.

I think it is very possible to live in certain enclaves in American and not think much about tax prep places like this. It sure isn't possible in a place like Hampton Roads.

My question is how the dudes dressed as Lady Liberty gyrating next to busy intersections make people want to go in these places.  I see this everyday when I drive to and from work, a man (always a man) with headphones on, dressed in green robes, gyrating. Why does this work? Do the dancers share the gowns?

Liberty Tax is proud of the dancers. They say, on their career page, that if you are a Lady Liberty dancer you "Set the strandard, improve each day and have some fun."  Liberty tax identifies itself "As a leader in guerrilla marketing tactics, [because] we're known nationally for the thousands of wavers dressed as Lady Liberty who sing, dance and wave to passersby, attracting customers to our local stores."

Speaking of blight and low income areas, I was saddened to see that The Original Tony, The Hot Dog King has not just shut down, the building which held it was torn down. The Original Tony's was a serious Norfolk institution serving the most beloved food of the area, which is the hot dog. yes, the hot dog is the beloved food here even though they are hot dogs made in whatever shithole mkaes these things. It does say a lot about an area that the hot dog is the local delicacy, no?

That all said, it always produced melancholy when an institution disappears. And The Original Tony, The Hot Dog King, just a quarter mile from my hot dog-free home, is now gone. R.I.P The Original Tony, The Hot Dog King.

Here is a nice image of the building in its heyday:

The Original Tony, The Hot Dog King was in a building directly across the street from the empty lot which once held Tony Jr's Original Hot Dogs, which was a hot dog cart in an empty lot surrounded by a fence and loose guard dogs. I never quite got that concept, the hot dog cart made inaccessible by mean looking, fenced in dogs surrounding it, but there it was. I think there was a schism between The Original Tony, The Hot Dog King, and Tony Jr, which led to the cart a cross from the building. Tony, Jr disappeared a few years ago. Now The Original Tony, The Hot Dog King is equally just a memory and a pile of rubble (not a cliche, they really did tear the building down and just leave a pile of rubble. I will post a picture of it.

Here is a fan page someone put up for The Original Tony, The Hot Dog King. The black and white impedes full appreciation for the yellow siding and faded hot dogs.

One is adivised to never read the restaurant inspection reports on restaurants.

Tony's Hot Dogd (not the Original Tony) is elswhere in Norfolk and is a rough place.

This is a really worthwhile article from the Atlantic chronicling the divide in Virginia between the poor, unhealthy, and brutalitzed coal towns in the western part of the state like Grundy, and the wealthy imperial core towns in Northern Virginia

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Here are some eye opening numbers, from Nick Turse writing about the  projection of U.S. military power:

"During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries — roughly 70% of the nations on the planet — according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises. And this year could be a record-breaker. Only a day before the failed raid that ended Luke Somers life — just 66 days into fiscal 2015 — America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of 2014’s total."
Peter Spiro has a thoughtful approach to the question of constitutionality and Boehner's invitation of Netanyahu

"The question is appropriately raised but I think ultimately the Boehner move will go down as policy stupid but constitutionally legitimate.

...The fact that it was left to a niche blogger to raise the constitutional question this time around pretty much proves the fact that this is now water under the constitutional bridge."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I've been writing about conjunto music and sustainability for some time (for example here and here), and recently have been working on a book project titled Conjunto Music: Sustaining the Texas Tradition, which I am co-authoring with Cristina Ballí from Texas Folklife.  The book is going to be great, I am very excited about it.

I argue that the conjunto programs in Texas a model for the creation of sustainable cultures for vernacular, regional, and ethnic musics, and other "intangible cultures" in the United States and around the world.

One of the best examples of the sustainable structures in Texas are the several conjunto ensemble programs in the schools.

Now Roma High School has unveiled a new conjunto program, one that is fronted by not one but two woman playing accordion.  This is a fantastic development!

here is a link to a story about the program:

Roma High School Debuts Conjunto Band

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Two of my students in my "Radicalism, Terrorism, and Violence in American History" class are working on protest music--one on hip hop and one mostly focusing on popular metal. This led me to explore some music I haven't heard before.

No surprise, it turns out there is quite a bit of it.

Possibly the most radical thing I have heard this week is this song from Immortal Technique.   I'll put a version with the lryics, and then a live version that is way less powerful, I  think,

This is visceral challenging stuff, to say the least, I can't think of another thing I have played for a class that had such an impact (and this includes when I played this, as I do each semester

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The rich get richer plan

A new report from Oxfam reveals that the 1 percent is consolidating its control of wealth at a rapid clip:

"In 2014, the wealthiest one percent owned 48 percent of the overall wealth, while everyone else had 52 percent combined. Their share of the wealth has steadily risen in recent years and is poised to surpass 50 percent by 2016, the study found."

Oxfam also reports that EIGHTY (80) PEOPLE, that is Eight-Zero people, own as much wealth as 50% of the world population.  That math is interesting, is it not? It looks like this:

80 fat cats = 3.5 Billion people

Below is a great chart. it is rare to see such an absolutely perfect expression of how screwed up this situation is.

"None should be too big, none should be too poor"

Don't take my word for it, ask old Huey Long

Monday, January 19, 2015

My various projects have been reviewed all over the place, but never before in the McAllen (Texas) Monitor, where the Texas Folklife cd Traditional Music of Texas, Volume 1: Fiddle Recordings from the Texas Folklife Archives got a very positive review.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Here are some videos from the first VWC square dance. That's the great Derek Larimer on fiddle, me on banjo, Michael Ismerio calling and playing guitar.

The turnout was even better than I had hoped, and the enthusiasm was really high despite I think a bit of trepidation on the part of the inexperienced. It was a great dance and a hell of start to square dancing at the school.

This first one features some just insanely cute footage of the Little Buddhas dancing at 1:30, so take a look. The videos include the walk throughs, so you might want to fast forward through them to get to the music and dancing (about a minute in)

Thanks very much to my students for shooting so many videos and taking pictures.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It is a busy week of fun musical things going on.

Tonight, in conujunction with my Appalachian music and folk culture class, we are about to have the very first VWC square dance, called by old friend Michael Ismerio and with music from Richmond fiddler Derek Larimer (last seen representing Virginia old time fiddle at the Festival of Texas Fiddling) and yours truly on the old five string banjo.

Once I have some photo and video of the dance I will post it.

Tomorrow night I am performing with Alaska Fiddling Poet Ken Waldman at the Miller Studio Theater at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. It has been several years since Ken came through so I am looking forward to seeing him. Not sure exactly what I am going to play, but I hope it is "Burnt Down House," a song about house fires that is off of his children's cd...

On Thursday, I am happy to have banjo, n'goni, and Kora virtuoso Seth Swingle coming down from Earlyville to play a set. You can read a Q & A I did with him over at Alt Daily

Monday, January 5, 2015

In an act wich will help to spread the negative effects of fracking far and wide into this state from neighboring operations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, Dominon Power is seeking to build a 42-inch pipeline through some of the most beautiful parts of the state, and the Commonwealth will be using eminent domain to confiscate the private property in the way. The full story, which appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch, is here

"The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one of three 42-inch pipelines proposed through western Virginia from the Marcellus shale fields in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania that are fueling a surge in domestic energy production through horizontal drilling and fracturing techniques known as “fracking.”

Environmentalists cheered the decision by the U.S. Forest Service in November to prohibit fracking in the George Washington National Forest except on existing gas leases and private mineral rights that total 177,000 acres of the 1.1 million acres of sensitive forest lands in the Allegheny Mountains.

But they are horrified by the prospect of multiple 42-inch pipelines crossing some of the steepest and most sensitive terrain in Virginia.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline alone would cut through about 30 miles in two national forests; traverse more than 20 high mountain ridges in the Allegheny and Blue Ridge ranges; cross sensitive trout streams, wetlands and animal habitat; and pass through the complex karst geological formations that store water for wells and springs in the farm-rich Shenandoah Valley.

“We are very worried about our water supply, both the quality and the quantity,” said Tracy C. Pyles Jr., a member of the Augusta Board of Supervisors and the county service authority, which operates 12 well-fed water systems across the nearly 1,000-square-mile county.

Water is a crucial issue for Staunton as well as surrounding Augusta, which contains the headwaters for tributaries of the James, Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.

“We’re the only county in the state where no water flows in — it all flows out,” said Nancy Taylor Sorrells, a former member of the Board of Supervisors who is co-chairman of the Augusta County Alliance and a member of the service authority board."

one of the most daming lines:

"Opponents argue that Dominion should route more of the pipeline along existing utility and road rights of way, which currently account for only 4 percent of the 300-foot-wide study corridor on the 554-mile route."

It does make you wonder what the hell advantage there is to having Terry McAuliffe in the governor's office if he is going to support this kind of project.

Monday, December 29, 2014

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."