What’s the Matter With Kansas?


Out on the road.  Posting may be a little slow. However, this is a really great Rolling Stone article about the failings of total adherence to free market ideology in Kansas. 

The Concise Untold History of the United States


I read the Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick book The Untold History of the United States.  They have now released a companion book, that is shorter and more closely follows the TV series.  It is called The Concise Untold History of the United States.  The difference between the two books as Oliver Stone explained on his Facebook page:

“Concise Untold History” was released last week. At 306 pages, it faithfully renders the text of the 12-hour series. The original 618-page edition, with 90 pages of footnotes, is really closer to a primer that substantiates the details presented in the film. 

I am particularly passionate over this ‘Concise History,’ and find it poetic in keeping with the spirit of the series. It’s a light-weight paperback that can easily be carried around.  

I was really impressed with the first book.  I was a History Major and eventually graduated with a degree in American Studies.  I have seen at least some of the information that Stone and Kuznick wrote about corroborated in other sources.  I  don’t normally like to recommend a book I haven’t read, but if you are at all interested in what they have to say, but feel a little daunted in a 600 plus page book, this seems like a good place to start.  From what I saw of it the series was excellent as well.  After reading the first book and seeing about half of the series, I feel pretty safe saying this would be a very interesting read.

Protests Erupt Over Opera

The opera The Death of Klinghoffer is causing all kinds of drama in NYC.  I just read the following New York Times article about it:

New York Times The Death of Klinghoffer

If you want to read a basic description of the plot and what people find controversial about it you can find it on Wikipedia:

Wikipedia The Death of Klinghoffer

I am not going to pretend that I understand the opera having not seen or heard it.  I do think Rudy Giuliani is an ambulance chaser, but that can be a conversation for another day.

Here is my question:  When is the last time that a pop song, let alone an opera, started a serious political discussion?  This is what art is supposed to do, to bring up subjects in a way that get people discussing things in a peaceful manner.  The opera may be great or it may be terrible, but it has gotten people talking about an important political topic, one of which there isn’t enough discussion on.  It doesn’t seem as it is, by design, meant to anger or offend people.  It seems like it is the work of a serious artist that is trying to get people to think.

People have the right to peacefully protest anything they want.  If they find the opera offensive it is their right to stand outside and provide people with an alternative viewpoint, as long as they do not threaten or harass those that want to see it.

However, when it comes to art I would rather see a free exchange of ideas.  I would rather see some kind of in depth and honest criticism of the work than a protest.

However, in this case, I think the protestors lose in two ways.  First they are meeting complex ideas with something simple.  Second, they are drawing attention to something that they don’t want people to see.  That never works.  Protests are a a great way to bring attention to things that aren’t receiving enough attention.  Let’s face it, operas have about 0% effect on popular culture in America.  I don’t even know the names of any newer operas other than this one and I listen to a ton of music, including on occasion opera.  Now I am interested in seeing this one at some point just to see what all the racket is about.

I remember when The Passion of the Christ came out.  There was a lot of controversy over that.  I don’t like to let others make up my mind for me, so I went to see a movie that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen, because I wanted to decide for myself what I thought about it.  I did not like the movie, because I thought it dwelled on all the wrong aspects of Jesus, but I was glad I went because it was a large part of the cultural conversation at the time.  In my opinion anything that makes one think is a good thing, even if at the end of the day what you think is that you don’t like it.

John Oliver Uses Dogs as Supreme Court Justices

This video from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight is must see.  He is taking on the Supreme Court for not allowing cameras in the the court.  They release audio, but do not allow video.  The team at Last Week Tonight has created its own footage by using dogs as visual stand ins for the Supreme Court.  It is amazingly hilarious.  John Oliver is somehow always able to pull back the curtain and show the absurdity lurking behind.

Complex Fiction and Simple Reality

Tonight is my night off.  I got back from tour today and tomorrow I go back to canvassing.  I am marathon watching The Walking Dead and messing about.  I am only in the beginning of season 3.  There was a scene in the beginning of the season where one of the main characters had to kill other live human beings for the betterment of the group.  It was not played out as an easy decision.  I started thinking about how many modern dramas display complex moral decisions, that seem underneath the surface to be asking big questions.  Yes, even a show about zombies at times.

It seems that many Americans can handle watching shows that deal in moral complexity.  Why is it that so much of our drama is morally complex, but so little of our reality seems to be?  (And I am not just talking about the vapid and often quite unreal reality of reality TV.)  A great deal of the time our corporate media paints things in black and white, between good guys and bad guys.  Our leaders are often no less guilty.

Can this be because so many in power want it this way?  Many people, referring to this current crop of dramas, that started with The Sopranos and is still continuing today, refer to this as the golden age of TV.  (These shows obviously air between a great deal of meaningless nonsense.)  This golden age of TV is taking place during a time of political inaction as various sides are painted in simplistic terms.

I’m not saying there is a connection, though it may be that some people hunger for any kind of intellectual stimulation in a world that rarely seems to ask you to think.  There are always going to be people that want to put their heads in the sand, but if people were presented with more facts, then I have to believe more people would become engaged in the political discussion.  It’s too bad that so much of our discourse is dumbed down to the point that it just becomes meaningless background noise.

Manifest Destiny and Lebensraum

I have been reading a little about World War II lately.  I have always been fascinated by World War II.  It was a time when the world teetered on the brink of insanity.  In many parts of the world civilizations were turned upside down.  If you read a lot about the Nazis it is really amazing how they were able to pervert every aspect of society for their own ideological political gains.  They were able to turn things that were normally good, like motherhood, and corrupt them towards their own ends.

I have a question and I don’t mean to be controversial.  I am not asking this to purposely get some right wingers’ heads to explode.  First I came across the following passage from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in an old blog I wrote:

“The rich and beautiful valleys of Wyoming are destined for the occupancy and the sustenance of the Anglo-Saxon race.  The wealth that for untold ages has lain hidden beneath the snow-capped summits of our mountains has been placed there by Providence to reward the brave spirits whose lot it is to compose the advance-guard of civilization.  The Indians must stand aside or be overwhelmed by the ever advancing and ever increasing tide of emigration.  The destiny of the aborigines is written in characters not to be mistaken.  The same inscrutable Arbiter that decreed the downfall of Rome has pronounced the doom of extinction upon the red men of America.”

That was said by The Big Horn Association in 1870.  That was said about Manifest Destiny.

A very simple explanation of Manifest Destiny is:  In the 19th century, Manifest Destiny was the widely held belief in the United States that American settlers were destined to expand throughout the continent.

Hitler wanted what was called Lebensraum or “living space” for his Reich.  A very simple definition of Lebsenraum:  The territory that a state or nation believes is needed for its natural development, especially associated with Nazi Germany.

So my question is, especially considering the fate of many of the Indians and the Jews, what is different about Manifest Destiny and Lebensraum?

I am asking that as a rhetorical question to get you thinking.  I know that in some ways there were many differences you could bring up.  The industrial murder of the Holocaust was very different from the Indian Wars, as cruel as the Indian Wars were in many ways.  There are many cultural and political differences that you could bring up as well.  The degradation of values was nowhere as complete in even the worst of times in America as they were in Nazi Germany, not for a second.

But in school we are brought up, or at least I was, to think of Manifest Destiny in a mostly positive light.  But we wiped out many people in order to acquire this “living space”.  I’m not trying to say that everything America does is bad or “blame America first”.  For instance, in World War II we were on the right side of history.  But I do think there are many myths and stories that we don’t question.  I posed this particular question to make you think.  If we can understand the distortions of the past, we have a better chance at unraveling the distortions of the present.

End of the Weekend Trivia

How many of you know the name of this character?


Answer here:

Information on above character

And now how many of you, off the top of your head, can remember what the Fourth Amendment pertains to?

Answer here:

The Fourth Amendment

I am willing to bet there are a lot more people that know the answer to the first question than the second.

And I’d be lying if I said for sure I would have gotten the second one right from memory!  Just a little test to make you think about where we’re at.