23 August 2010

Ya Gots to Run the Pigeon

People in the US bandy political descriptors Far Right and Far Left as if there's some sort of balance or equivalence. There ain't.

There is no Far Left in the US. Period.

Collectively, the US is about as progressive as a Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Far Right is the new mainstream. With the systematic dismantling of public institutions - vital institutions like the public schools - begun in the Reagan era, it shouldn't surprise us that anti-elitism is rampant. Reagan's aw shucks demeanor was the birth of decades of appealing to mis-informed, middle-class schmucks, while simultaneously making our lives incrementally worse.

Unfortunately, the US brand of anti-elitism is not a populist backlash against rich folks putting the screws to us. Rather we suffer a peculiar brand of anti-elitism that celebrates the right for all of us to be uninformed, lazy and disengaged.

It is a badge of honor in the US to be a vituperative redneck.

The US airwaves are dominated by the most frighteningly ignorant, mean spirited animus one could have ever imagined in a lifetime. Traveling across Wyoming, the AM dial had 3 venom-spewing talk-show hosts fomenting anger by a manufactured mythology of misinformation and 3 nutty Christian stations in praise of Him.

In fairness there was a lone knothole of light piercing this privy of appalling ignorance -- Yellowstone Public Radio; albeit a public station with a weak signal that faded in and out.

Far Center - Alive & Well

The US Congress, and the Executive Branch, is where the Far Center resides.

Congress, and President Obama, understand the policy issues and how to fix them, but they operate in fear of how the Far Right will spin any inkling of progress, any inkling of a federal program that will help people, into the feared S-word, Socialism.

Welcome to the Far Center. The Far Center panders to the scent of political expedience.

Democrats are NOT aptly described as the Tax and Spend party. But it is now fair to say that Democrats ARE aptly described as the party of Tax and Waste Billions on Two Elective Wars.
I don't get the message so you gots to run the pigeon
~ American hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest from Check The Rhime

I am not a member of the professional left that Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs recently dissed. The notion offends me. Citizens should critique their president. The flip-side of criticism is apathy, or worse, lock-step simpletons.

I am a seeker of what's rational and what's fair. That's progressive.

Progressives are rightfully disappointed in the path President Obama has taken - the Far Center path.

President Obama's single-most egregious failure is not ending two elective wars on day one. Because Obama chose to escalate in Afghanistan, and chose to continue nation-building in Iraq, his administration has earned the derisive badge of Bush Lite.

Check The Rhime

The Far Center doesn't get the message.

We gots to run the pigeon to politicians paralyzed by political calculation. President Obama, and the soul-less Far Center cohorts in Congress, don't understand that Tax & Spend is good - but only if we Spend on shit people actually need -- like an education, or a job (see Constructive vs. Destructive Spending).

Destructive vs Constructive Spending

I want the US Federal government to spend your hard-earned tax dollars.

Yes, I want the US government to spend your hard-earned tax dollars on essential shit you actually need, like an education or a job.

What if the US Federal government provided equal access to higher education? What would it cost and where would we get the money?

Military Spending for $1,086 billion, Alex.

Cumulative funds appropriated by the US Congress from the 9/11 attacks through the regular FY2010 for US Department of Defense, US State Department / USAID and VA for medical costs for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and enhanced security...is a staggering and indefensible $1,086 billion.

Simple Calculation

A college degree from a public 4-year college costs, on average, $28,080 for in-state tuition and fees.

Recently, about 11.5 million students, ages 18 to 24, were enrolled in either a 2- or 4-year colleges (October 2008).

11,500,000 students x $28,080 tuition = $323 billion

The price to provide students, 18-24, with a 4-year college education is about $323 billion. Useful, indisputably constructive, and roughly equivalent to the $304 billion outlay in Afghanistan since 9/11.

Destructive / Military

Constructive / Education


$748 billion*


$304 billion*


$29 billion*


$6 billion*
*since 9/11 attack on WTC

College Tuition

$323 billion

If the US were not beholden to what General Colin Powell coined the terror-industrial complex, we could provide higher education to all comers with a cool $764 billion to spare.
The only thing that can really destroy us is us. We shouldn't do it to ourselves, and we shouldn't use fear for political purposes —scaring people to death so they will vote for you, or scaring people to death so that we create a terror-industrial complex.
~ General Colin Powell GQ Interview, October 2007
Don't take the wacky assertions of anti-government extremists, like those in the Tea Party, too seriously, but understand the basis of their anger. They are disenfranchised. They are filled with animus for a US government that's done a shit job of providing the basics, and angered by a US government that has idly let its public infrastructure crumble.

As anti-government extremists see it, government takes their money, and then air-lifts their family members to foreign lands be maimed or killed in inexplicable and indefensible elective wars.

We can do better. We must.

Government works best when it helps its people. Plain & simple.

Reference Material

14 August 2010

Little Wing - Paid in Advance

Little Wing is a unearthly tune written by Jimi Hendrix. First recorded in 1967, it is no. 357 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In the rendition of Little Wing below, tapping guitarist Carlos Vamos coaxes an other-worldly rendition from his axe.

Vamos' ethereal improvising caused one blown-away fan to wax existential:

Fan:I live a fast life, so I'm preparing for the end. You,sir, will play at my funeral.
Carlos Vamos:That's fine,you can book me now, but payment must be before the event.

Hendrix played Little Wing with a unique chord/melody guitar style where his guitar sounds like it is playing two parts. He did this by simultaneously laying down multiple complementary notes.
The unusual flanging sound of the lead guitar part is a result of the Doppler effect which is created using a rotating speaker cabinet, or Leslie speaker. ~From Wikipedia
Little Wing Covers
  • Tibor Tátrai plays Little Wing in a live performance. Stellar solo.
  • Carlos Vamos plays another (better) Little Wing acoustic tapping version.
  • The Corrs play their unplugged Little Wing with beautiful voices, flute, violin, and slide guitar.
  • Jim Richter plinks out a memorable Little Wing on octave mandolin.
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan's Little Wing is perhaps the most faithful tribute to the original Hendrix version but heightened by signature SRV licks.
  • Jamie Winchester & Hrutka Róbert perform a respectable rendition of Little Wing in Jamie's living room.
  • A young Sting with a pony tail plays Little Wing circa 1988.
  • Eric Clapton plays lead on a Little Wing cover featuring an '09 reincarnation of the legendary Allman Brothers Band.
  • Elijah Blue Allman is the son of Cher and Gregg Allman.. Elijah Blue absolutely rips in this stirring rendition.
Little Wing
by Jimi Hendrix

Well she's walking through the clouds
With a circus mind that's running round
Butterflies and zebras
And moonbeams and fairy tales
That's all she ever thinks about
Riding with the wind.

When I'm sad, she comes to me
With a thousand smiles, she gives to me free
It's alright she says it's alright
Take anything you want from me,

Fly on little wing,
Yeah yeah, yeah, little wing

Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams and fairy tales are about all one could hope for. I'd gladly pay Carlos in advance, but how do I know he'll outlive me?

01 August 2010

America, The Continent

Several years ago, I wrote a poem, ostensibly about immigration, called America, The Continent.

America, The Continent is a poem about something we all seek:
a better life
I am often compelled to write after seeing vintage black and white photographs of historical events.

One photograph I could not let go of, depicted a border station where migrant workers were given a de-lousing bath of kerosene and vinegar before entering the US. I had been listening to hauntingly beautiful tune Matamoros Banks by Bruce Springsteen.

Borders often follow geologic features like rivers, but frequently they are anthropomorphic (and imaginary).

David Dorado Romo tells the story behind the image that inspired my poem:
All immigrants from the interior of Mexico, and those whom U.S. Customs officials deemed "second-class" residents of Juarez, were required to strip completely, turn in their clothes to be sterilized in a steam dryer and fumigated with hydrocyanic acid, and stand naked before a Customs inspector who would check his or her "hairy parts" -- scalp, armpits, chest, genital area -- for lice. Those found to have lice would be required to shave their heads and body hair with clippers and bathe with kerosene and vinegar.

My great-aunt, Adela Dorado, would tell our family about the humiliation of having to go through the delousing every eight days just to clean American homes in El Paso. She recalled how on one occasion the U.S. Customs officials put her clothes and shoes through the steam dryer and her shoes melted.

~David Dorado Romo, from Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez, 1893-1923
The poem America, The Continent (below) appears in my new online book Hope Begins.