Thursday, December 27, 2018

Daisey History Seven: Captains of Industry

Yeah, this is going to take longer than expected. Part of it is because the work load is tightening up, and part of it is because OTHER things are coming along that I should talk about (like, um, other plays and ... economic stuff).

In episode six we talked about how change really happens from below as opposed to being awarded from above. So now we flip to the other side with the seventh installment of Mike Daisey's "A People's History", switching from the renters seeking redress to the elites of the system, the giants of industry, the wealthy.

Carnegie. Industrialist. Philanthropist. Mutant.
Daisey comes in the basic assumption that "Rich People Are Bad" and he has more than enough examples of that. These elites come from success and just get richer. And there are a lot of good examples of this. JP Morgan was the son of a financier. Andrew Mellon was a banker's son.  Rockefeller's dad was literally a con man.

And then there is Andrew Carnegie, the exception that tests the rule. And it is pronounce Car-NEG-ee, as far as native of Pittsburgh are concerned. CAR-neh-gee is something New Yawkers talk about when talking about Carnegie Hall. Yes, some Pittsburghers call the museum complex that houses Car-NEG-ee's dinosaurs the CAR-neh-gee. But they're just wrong.

Andrew Carnegie is Horatio Alger as written by Stan Lee. He was an immigrant from Scotland. Came here as a child because his father's handmade lace business was destroyed by the arrival of high-production industrial methods. He comes to the States and became a bobbin boy, working at the very type of mills that destroyed his father. He got breaks - access to the libraries of the more successful (hence all the Carnegie Libraries around the country). He was diligent, and never forgot a fact, a name, or an opportunity. He claimed to be able to read a teletype by the sound it made making each letter. Yep, he's a mutant, suitable for Prof. Xavier's School for Exceptional and Privileged Children.

Instead of Money Comes from Money, I would propose that what really happens is "Learn the Game, Play the Game, Change the Game." And those born into positions of power are more capable of seeing the game and have access to it than most of the rest of our bunch. Because the nature of wealth does change over time, and we've seen agricultural fortunes flounder while industrialists come to the fore and then they are overtaken by financial managers and tech lords. But the wealthy, while not guaranteed success, have both table stakes to get into the game to begin with, as well as the cushion for when they fail. And they have the ability to, once they make their pile, pull up the ladder behind them to keep others from doing the same thing they did.

Nope. Not letting CaNEGie off the hook, here. Just looking for a broader pattern.

More later,

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

DOW Breaks 23,000! No, wait 22,000! No, wait ...

OK, this is interesting.

I love charts. This one, from Wikipedia,  is lying to you.
 Can you spot the problem?
So, for the most of the life of this blog, I have been following the Dow Jones Average, as it has become increasingly disconnected with most of our lives, if they were even initially. Literally an estimate of 30 large publicly owned companies,. It is a rogue's gallery of corporations, the big boy's table if the titans of industry, the whales of corporate life. It tends to be a little conservative, moving slowly over time to move aside old corps (like General Electric) in favor of newish blood (like WalMart and Apple). Amazon, it must be noted, is not on the list.

At best, it is a snapshot, but it is a snapshot that we all know about. We may be befuddled by S&P and NASDAQ and know that our retirement funds are in some business-level melange of stocks that may or may not be on these lists. But the Dow (named after a real person who created it), is something instantaneously recognized as the heartbeat of business.

And that heartbeat has picked up a bit of arrhythmia. Over the past fifteen years, this blog has seen the DOW soar upwards and crash mightily, only to regain its footing and push on to even greater heights. I use this as an example of American Optimism at its finest - if we all clap hard enough, Tinkerbell will pull herself off the tarpaulin and we will start again.

And the past ten years or so have been pretty indicative of this. It has been an even-growing increase in value ever since the last time a GOP administration crashed us into the pavement. And yeah, I'll put it on the various incumbent administrations for things, since they are more than willing to take the credit when things are going boffo. Until recently, the White House has been pointing at the DOW as indication of how strong the country is economically. Until it isn't.

The first year of an administration has to deal with the successes and failure of the previous admins, for good and ill. The Obama administration had to dig out from the Great Recession, and the current administration of Individual-One benefited from a strong economy coming in. This was made even better, as far as the big boys were concerned, by tax policies that put a lot of loose cash into their pockets.

And some of them used this sudden infusion to reward its workers, to update its equipment, and to compete better in the marketplace. But the vast bulk of them used it to buy back shares (making the shares controlled by the company worth more through scarcity) and to use the sudden liquidity to get rid of ailing sectors (closing down factories and costing jobs) and seeking better markets (closing down factories and costing jobs). And since there were no strings on the governmental largess, they took the money and ran.

And the market has seen amazing swings upwards and downwards, depending on the mood. It raced past 24k and 25k is long, looping arcs, and kissed 26,000 before retreating again. Now, the news is bad - trade wars, instability, the government being currently shut down, increased interest rates from the Federal Reserve, and, oh yeah, massive investigations of the inherent corruption of the current administration that could at any moment result in a congressional investigation of your particular industry. So things are not looking particularly rosy?

Well, then we the treasury secretary calling the major banks from his vacation and yelling at them - "Whatever you do, Don't panic!" So naturally things take another dive.

And what does this all mean? For those that have gold, it means they make less gold for a while, they hunker down, make safe bets, and wait for Tinkerbell to get back off the mat. For the rest of us, it means that things are probably only going to get dicier for a while. Factories get closed because there isn't enough demand, as opposed to just boosting the bottom line. Those mutual funds? Yeah, they're not going ever onward and upward. And more than a few rich people to come demanding other people pay to keep them rich.

Of course, with a volatile market, it could switch gears just as violently and return to "normal" (which is to say, going ever upwards). Or it could just sink again, returning to a more rational level.

Whatever happens, it will be interesting. Buckle in.

More later,

Saturday, December 22, 2018

And To All A Good Night ...

Grubbstreet wishes everyone a safe and sane holiday season, and a New Year filled with promise and hope.

Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Luc Olivier Merson (1879), MFA, Boston.
More later,

Monday, December 03, 2018

Theatre: North Side Story

In The Heights, Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, Concept by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Directed by May Adrales. Seattle Rep through December 30.

So there is such a thing a performance being too large for the hall that contains it. I've always thought of the venerable Bagley-Wright Theater as being a large venue with a lot of space on stage. Yet, for In The Heights, it is seriously too small, both on stage and as far as sound quality is concerned.

Let me deal with this bad news first before pushing on to say how good the cast is. The sound quality from the performance pitched the on-stage band against the miked-up actors, and the result was an unsatisfying tie. Often the words got lost in the upswelling music, and the audience was at times blasted by the resulting combined volume. It took much of the opening number for my ears to adjust and actually hear the words. The touring stage was a great design of multiple levels and exits, but it cramps the forward part of the stage, and I found myself marveling at the dancers not getting in each others' ways as much as their superior choreography.

And yes, the dancing is fantastic, the music is ecstatic, and the actors are all superior both in acting ability and the power of their voices. There isn't a weak singer in the lot (By way of comparison, you can give the role of the tailor in The Mikado to someone who does not have a huge amount of vocal range). This is an incredibly amazing cast from the leads to the ensemble who do their darnedest to sell the story.

And the story is, well, it is not the selling point. I can't give you a good summary without tipping my hand to spoilers, as you can see where everything is going from the get-go. It takes place over the 4th of July weekend in Washington Heights, a strong Hispanic community at the northern tip of Manhattan. Poor but proud, its people are second and third generation, both American and loyal to their family heritages. They've made something of themselves, and can make a bit more, but it may mean moving away from the Heights.

There is the bodega owner that wants to go back to his family's homeland. There is the student coming back from college. There is the father who has hopes for his daughter. There are the girls who work in the beauty shop. There is the neighborhood matriarch. Everybody gets their moment, everybody gets their song, everybody aims for a showstopper. There are revelations. There are fireworks. There is a power black-out. There is a winning lottery ticket. And by the end of it all, every character has their arc resolved in time for the finale.

The stakes in all this, however, are pretty low, and it is more of a slice of life with strong Latin flavor and a hip-hop beat. The threats are pretty mild, and when one of them seems about to rear its head, it diffused and lets all the air out. There are no real surprises. As I said, so much of what is good about this performance are the performers. Ryan Alvarado, Sophia Macias, David Kaverman, Alyssa Gomez, Stephanie Gomerez, Tony Chirolders, Karmine Alers and Yassmin Alers (yes, sisters), heck yes, even Henry Gainsa as the Piragua Guy engaged in a life-and-death struggle with Mr. Softee. All great.

I want to say that this is riding on the coat-tails of Lin-Manuel (Hamilton!) Miranda - they promote that angle heavily, and it was his first work. But the original show (pre-Ham) pulled down all manner of awards both on and off Broadway, has had some serious national tours (It was here in Seattle at the 5th Avenue in 2010 - probably a better venue), and will become a movie in 2020. There is something here that engages and delights, but it doesn't have that much foundation to it. This is one of those plays where I look at 4 Tony Awards (as opposed to a single award for the clearly superior Come From Away), and wonder what I am missing about the tastes of Modern American Theatre.

More later,

Friday, November 30, 2018

Daisey History Six: Renters

Mr. Daisey has moved on to his next gig, but still, we persist.

Daisey's sixth entry into his  People's History talks about the imbalance between those with power and those without. He talks a great deal about his personal experiences renting in Brooklyn, but the historical entry come from the Anti-Rent War.

What, you've never heard of it? The ANTI-RENT WAR. 1830's? New York State? No?

Hey, it got a historical marker and everything!
Yeah, this falls in the hole between 1812 and 1860, but it is extremely instructive as to how change gets made from below, as opposed to being granted from above.

Not-so-short version: The Hudson River Valley ran for a couple centuries on a feudal-style manor system run by patroons, who were the major land-holders. The inhabitants were effectively tenant farmers, who did not have control over the land they farmed. The patroons held a lot of the power, including control of the local courts and law enforcement, getting a big chunk when leases were sold, and a serious taste of the gross productivity.

In 1839, the tenant farmers revolted and refused to pay. The ruling patroons sent in tax collectors - they were tarred, feathered, and run off. They sent in a posse of 500 men. THEY were surrounded and run off. An agent of the patroons was killed. Finally the State itself declared it was an insurrection, sent in the military, and made arrests. Eighty-four anti-renters were arrested, thirteen was convicted, two were condemned to the gallows.

But the anti-renters transformed into a political force in NY State, a faction that contributed to vote out the then-current governor for a more progressive one. The convicted anti-renters were pardoned, and the feudal patroon system itself was disassembled in the New York Constitution of 1846. So, ultimately, the anti-renters won. Long fight, but they won.

It is an interesting story, and generally forgotten.

And what's interesting is that there as SO MANY stories like this that are sidelined, sidebarred, forgotten. Whiskey Rebellion. Shay's Rebellion. Pullman Strike. Haymarket. Occupy. They get moved off to the side, treated as exceptions to the rule as opposed to how things really move forward around here. Particularly if they have long-term results as those involved get a place at the table.

Wikipedia, interestingly enough, soft-pedals the Anti-Rent War in its entry. They blame the previous patroon for the uprising, who was too easy on the tenants, so that his heirs roused their anger by adhering to the established feudal laws. It ignores the Panic of 1837, which put the economic pressure on the patroons to demand their money and on the inability of the tenants to pay. It mentions but does not explain the "Calico Indians" (not Native Americans, but rather white dudes dressed up as false Indians, much like the Boston Tea Party). There is a mention how the soon-to-be-ex governor tied to get disguises outlawed, echoing the modern complaints again the Black Block protesters. Oh, and two of the anti-rent ringleaders would go on to help found the Republican Party. Howboutthat?

Yet this is a pattern we see again and again - Rebellion, Violence, Repercussions. Accommodations, Change. It doesn't always go through the full cycle, and does not always represent forward progress. But it is a theme that is showing up again and again in these discussions. And perhaps the real narrative that we're looking at in our history.

More later,

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Furthermore: Messing with Texas

What most of us know about the Texas Revolution.

I'm going to be horribly behind on this, since Mike Daisey's A People's History wraps up this past weekend, and I am just five entries into the tapes. But, they have sparked a lot of thought on my part about our history and how it is told. And I end up with multiple truths. Here's an example.

From the history that Mike and I (back in PA) were taught, here's the story of Texas:

American settlers in Texas rebelled against an oppressive Mexican government, with a big fight at the Alamo. They formed their own nation, and nine years later joined the US.

That is true. This is what Mr. Daisey said on the tape:

Americans settled in Texas. Provocateurs from the US government among those settlers agitated for independence, with the support of the US. After they rebelled against the government in Mexico City, the US propped them up, and eventually brought them into the Union. When they entered the Union, the US Army occupied Texas and grabbed a huge amount of additional land, and formented the Mexican-American War.

This is also true, and has incredible echoes with the current situation in the Ukraine. But here's another version:

American settlers moved into Texas with their slaves. The Mexican government was cool with it, but a change in government both reduced the powers of the states of Mexico and banned slavery. Texas and other Mexican states rebelled. Texas gained its independence, but was not recognized by Mexico. When the US admitted Texas into the Union, the US grabbbed a huge amount of additional land. They did not take over Mexico itself in part because they didn't want a huge, Catholic, non-English-speaking, non-slave-holding population threatening their control.

This is also true. I can also give you a bit more including the Republic of the Rio Grande, a Mexican state just south of Texas that ALSO declared its independence but did not get anywhere with it. The history of Mexico is just one more of those empty spots in our history - they show up as opponents (because all wars must have one), but the US influence and meddling gets glossed over (Flash Fact: The word "filibuster" was once applied to American adventurers who were mucking about in Central America, toppling and setting up their own governments - it soon afterwards was applied to congresspeople taking the process of government hostage by refusing to cede the floor.).

But the point is (and I have one) that there is so much history, that the narrative that we choose gets pulled out of bits and pieces that we ourselves select. It is the editor and the storyteller that chooses which parts get left on the cutting room floor. So historical fact provides the raw material, from which we choose our stories. And how our stories get chosen is as important as the stories themselves.

More later,

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Daisey History Five: Holes in History

Yeah, I'm still playing with the titles of this series, but never mind that. One thing that Mike Daisey reminds us of regularly in his A People's History (based on the Howard Zinn book of the similar name) is that he is not telling us anything that we don't already know. We know a lot of what he's telling us at a basic, down-in-your-bones level, but we don't bring it up, because its kinda dark and depressing and true. As a result, our history doesn't make a lot of sense, because we have a lot of holes in it.

We've hit some already. In his own narrative, Daisey hits Columbus, then bounces over to early English colonies (because, you know, the Spanish never had any claims on the eventual United States), then we blink over to the Revolution, then everything is rosy until we hit the Civil War. You can't talk about everything, and that's part of Daisey's point - it is all in the editing, and important swathes end up on the cutting room floor.

For my own upbringing, we didn't hit the Civil War to the level of detail his classes did, but we DID spend a lot of time on the exploration of America. Maybe it was the whole Space Program narrative of my youth, but we got deeply into the voyages of exploration for Cabot, DeSoto, LaSalle, Deleon, Cartier, and everybody else.  If you had a bunch of boats and went wandering through the American Heartland, you got a name-check in my history books. Sort of one big game of Sid Meiers Civilization at the point when you get caravels and can sudden roll out on the rest of the world. Now, my history books, like Daisey's, were a little emptier about talking about the people that these explorers met, lumping them all into "Indians" as opposed to nations and peoples and tribes. That's part of the erasure thing we were talking about earlier.

And yes, the period from the War of 1812 and the Civil War was always treated as "The run-up to the Civil War", since that is the big climax of the show up to then. But for those living though it, this period was "How the hell do we keep this together?"

If I look at the US in 1814 or so, I would say that the South is running things, and Virginia is running the South. Almost all the Presidents were Virginian. Most of the decisions were Virginian. The capital of the country, named after a Virginian, was built NEXT to Virginia, carving out part of MARYLAND for Virginia's benefit*. Things are so crappy for New England that during the War of 1812 there was talk of THEM seceding and making a separate peace with England.

So a lot of the history of that period boils down to "How Are We Going to Make Virginia Happy?" All the compromises, all the swapping of slave and free states, all of it, is how to preserve the southern slavery hegemony while keeping the non-slave-holders on board. Yet, by 1860, I have a powerful North, one that (obviously) would win a war against an agrarian South.

So how the heck did THAT happen?

Part of it may be raw geography. There was an article tracking the conservative south through its geological makeup - good for cotton, which meant it was a fertile land for big plantations, which brought in a lot of slaves, which created an entire African-American culture in the south, which had to be controlled by the slave-holders and former slave-holders, which got us to Jim Crow and then the Civil Rights Movement which got us to the current state of gerrymandering and voter suppression. It is a good story.

The North, however, benefited from the Industrial Revolution and the South did not. Why? The South had money. power and long-standing ties with Britain and the rest of Europe. Why are they shipping bulk cotton to Europe (and New England) as opposed to developing an industrial base themselves? They had the manpower in the slave population, and could utilize that base. They could have upgraded,

I have some theories. One of them involves the Fall Line. This is something I learned about in Social Studies in grade school. The South had the coast, then the Piedmont, then the Appalachians. The Fall Line is how far you can go upstream before falls or rapids stop further progress. So you can ship stuff down easily from there. Plus falls are great places to put mills that run off water because of the natural drop. As you go further north, that line gets closer to the coast, so the mills are practically on the coast itself, nearer the ports. So it may make sense to send cotton from you plantation to New England or Europe as opposed to building mills. Eventually, with electrification, the production of finished textiles moved into the south itself (see the movie Norma Rae), but by the Civil War, the south sent most of its raw material elsewhere.

I have yet to see a good history that explains the development of the industrial north as anything else than natural evolution.It is another type of erasure, another hole in history, but one that serves the established narrative by making it seem inevitable.

More later,

* UPDATE: That's only partially true, a reader noted. Virginia contributed a chunk of land across the river. However, most of the government buildings were on the Maryland side, so the Virginia side was not as developed. As it started looking that DC would ban the slave trade (a big business in nearby Alexandria, at the tip of the then-DC), Virginia agitated to get the land back. So while Virginia DID kick in for the site of DC, the government made them happy by giving it back. So the spirit of the comment stands, but not the facts as presented.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Meanwhile: A Century Ago

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

- John McCrae, "In Flanders Field", 1915

More later

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Daisey Lecture Four: Buried Histories

Daisey's fourth lecture doesn't progress entirely linearly with the others, but rather deals with the large context of erasure. Erasure from history in their case of women, and erasure from the land itself in the case of its original inhabitants. And being neither female or of native american heritage, I really don't really have much to add to their experiences except a laconic "Aye-yup."

But I do have a few things to say about my own brushing up with how I know what I know. What I was told.That may have some bearing.

My grade school experience matches tightly with Daisey's - a school text that tended to gloss over the more unpleasant issues. The one I remember had a Conestoga wagon on the top half of the cover, and a steam engine on the bottom. Sort of showing progress in that process. But it was a bunch of initial stories that prepared me for learning other stories, sort of how you learn that atoms are little solar systems and then discover quantum mechanics and electron shells later on.

And my high school experience had a lot of readings, usually by established historials. A lot of Hofstader and Kissinger, and things like the J-curve (Note - I hate the dreaded Davies' J-Curve, but that's a story for another day).

But in Junior High something different occurred. I discovered primary sources. As opposed to going to some historian looking back and pre-chewing my thoughts, I found I could go (to a library, in those pre-Internet days) and get input from people that were around at the time. That was cool. That made history exciting in an Egyptian Archaeologist sort of way (This was before Indiana Jones).

Great Art is not necessarily Great History
Also cool was Mr. Mentecki, who was a history teacher, and who first embodied the idea that people, including the people giving you your history, lied. He would do this by lying. Continually. How his ancestor was with Washington atop Mt. Washington, and almost got it named Mt. Mentecki. How he was a race car driver. How he sang with the Four Seasons (his wife affirms that this last one was the truth - he was in the audience and drunk at the time). And someone would call him on his lies and he would congratulate the student and give them a free period. And the other students would not understand.

He would also do things like read a passage of history and ask about what the writer really wanted. Give different viewpoints of the Boston Massacre. Or show a picture of Washington Crossing the Delaware and pointing out everything that was innaccurate about it.* Decades before Lies My Teacher Told Me, I had a teacher telling me about lying.

I think this has left me open to new ideas, and even when a new interpretation of events shows up, another story, I am poking around the edges, looking for ulterior motives.

But anyway, Women in History. There aren't any. Well, that's not true. They had to be there - subordinate, helpmates, mothers, property. When the question came up of beating your wife in law, it was more of a case of when and where it was proper to beat your wife as opposed to the if the act itself was inhuman. But in the "official" history (as opposed to "official history"), there are not a lot of women in the narrative that concerns itself about great men.

Those that show up are mythologized - Betsy Ross, Pocahontas, Molly Pitcher, all reduced to their great moment (creating a flag, sparing John Smith, fighting the British) that pushes them into the same realm as Paul Bunyan and Captain Stormalong. And we have a couple who are known for being in proximity of great men - Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, and, most recently, Sally Hemmings. Nope. Not a good look for us.

But there is a moment for women in colonial history that we hit and then forget about. It popped up every year in school, along with set theory and clock arithmetic. The Salem Witch Trials.

The Salem Witch Trials are a good, safe story. It involves women (as victims, but still....) It can be laid at the feet of other women (even more useful) and against a religious group that most people think of as extinct (Puritans- The Congregationalists are a descendant, but you don't think of them, much, either (sorry, guys)). It shows that occasionally we all go a little crazy and kill people for stupid reasons. It shows us injustice happens, but it happens such a long time ago it doesn't have any real affect on today.

So, yeah. Salem Witch Trials. Women in history!

Native Americans, we have a lot more of in our books. Almost always as military opponents. Blackhawk. Pontiac, Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Geronimo. A moment's reflection gets us to some who didn't die directly of European bullets - Tecumseh, Seattle, and, of course, Guyasuta, but who merely faded away. They were always the ones being swept away across the plains by the encroaching Europeans, making way for progress. Sacrifices must be made. They were them, and we remember them because they fought.

Zinn's A People's History of the United States was not my first "woke" text. That would have been Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, which hit my life at about/slightly after Mr. Mentecki. Here was, as Daisey notes, the story we always knew but never really delved into. Everyone knew of Little Bighorn - Custer is seeped deeply into out bones, but not so much Sand Creek. This was one of those books that made me face the idea that, though the victors, we the citizens of the US were not the good guys (of course, in the same period - Viet Nam, which has other resonances).

History is vast, and filled with stories. Whose stories get told reveals a lot about both the storytellers and their world. The vanishing of women and Native Americans are only one component of editing our pasts to justify our actions in the present.

More later,

* Flag wrong, river too wide, real crossing happened in the middle of the night, and that's before you get to the questions of whether an icy Delaware would have been frozen solid and is that really James Monroe in the boat with Washington? But we are talking about something painted 80 years after the event.

Friday, November 09, 2018

The Political Desk - End and Begin

Because of the nature of Washington's voting (mail-in ballots, stuff trickling in for a while), I usually wait a couple days before posting the results. At least one contest will still be hanging fire by the time I finally update this. So how did it go?

Most of these are in the +5% differential on the initial ballot drop, which in terms we're looking at very much a vox populi. Boldface is for those of you keeping score about my recommendations at home.

Initiative Measure No. 1631 - The Carbon Fee  - No
Initiative Measure No. 1634 - Prevent Soda Taxes -  Yes
Initiative Measure No. 1639 - Firearm Safety - Yes
Initiative Measure No. 940  - Training and Oversight for Police - Yes

Advisory Vote No. 19, Engrossed second Substitute Senate Bill 6269 - Repealed (Not that it matters)

United States Senator - Maria Cantwell.

United States Representative Congressional District No. 9 - Adam Smith.

State Supreme Court Justice Position No. 8 - Steve Gonzalez.

And furthermore:

United States Representative Congressional District No. 8 - Kim Schrier.

State Legislative District No. 47. State Senate -  Mona Das.  This is the one that is really too close to call. Incumbent Joe Fain was marginally up on the first drop of ballots, the lead shrank to 90 votes. Ms. Das is now up by 200 votes, and it may shift again. Meanwhile, the day AFTER election, the State Senate decided that, yeah, maybe we should check out this rape accusation thing after all. Regardless of political affiliation, this should steam your clams. If Mr. Fain was responsible, voters should have been warned. If innocent, he should not have had to face the voters under such a cloud. I will update if the results change.

State Legislative District No.  47 Position No. 1 - V Debra Entenman.

And Lastly, Stare Legislative District No. 47, Position No. 2 -  Pat Sullivan.

Well, now that the election is over, we can all relax and get back to our lives, right? Hang on, slow your roll, podner. We're just getting started.

Yeah, you may have put the people into positions that you agree with, or showed your direction in inititatives, but now comes the tough part. You wanted a particular candidate for office because of their stand on health care, or corruption, or corporate favors? Let them know about it.

The quote attributed to FDR is: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." Even if we agree with everything a candidate believe in (and we don't all agree about everything), we need to keep up the pressure. Because those who DON'T believe will keep up the pressure as well.

More later, 

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Furthermore: Shades of Washington

OK, I promised to deal with this one, even if Daisey mentions it in a later bit. Not seeing it in Zinn, but that's the job of the historian - to decide what stories get told. There are more than enough tales in the current narrative where the People decide to get frisky with all this freedom and stuff, and the Government decides to kick their teeth in, and here's one more.
This is the only statue I know of for the Whiskey
Rebellion. It is not where the actual fighting took
place, but rather in Washington, PA (also called
Little Washington), 20 miles south of us.

And it is important to us because it involves George Washington. And it is important to me because it is where I grew up.

I wrote last time about how my chunk of Western PA was the launching pad for the Seven Years War. And even afterwards there were competing claims about who owned the region - PA or VA. That was settled in 1784 with a survey. Things got better, right?

Well, then there was the Whiskey Rebellion. 1791-1794. It started two years into Washington's first term., and came to a head after his re-election.

OK, here's the short form: Early US Government was broke, needed to raise funds to pay for the revolution. Among other things, Hamilton pushed out a tax on distilled spirits. West of the Alleghenies this did not go over well. Whiskey was used as a modicum of trade, more stable than the government currency in places. Also it was easier and profitable to ship whiskey back east than the component parts. In addition to being a pain on the producers, the tax gave a break to big distillers as opposed to small operations, and there were a lot of small operations into Western PA.

And the guys who were most affected in this? White guys, with guns.

So from 1791 to 1794 there was a ratcheting up, with defiance to pay the tax, or the fines that came with the tax (you had to go to Philly to do that, which was way the hell and gone). Tax collectors were attacked, there were meetings about the degree of revolt, Moderates argued with Radicals. A lot of the tools of the Revolution were put into play - Liberty Poles and correspondence circles. Here was see the creation of Democratic-Republican societies, which would actually become the "other party" to oppose the Federalists. These whiskey rebels felt they were continuing the War of Independence many of them had fought in.

And seriously, if you tell a lot of people the war is about taxation by a distant government, they're going to get bent out of shape when the winner tax them from a distant government.

The Federal Government, finding their way out of the mess that what the Articles of the Confederation and the Panic of 1792, disagreed with this concept. From the Federalist standpoint, championed by Hamilton and with Washington's support, the Revolution had created a new sovereignty, and stuff that was OK during the revolution was no longer appropriate. Going with Daisey's note that the Revolutionary war was merely a change in the letterhead of management, that makes sense. All these frontiersmen threatening people was going too far.

And the strike of the point was the burning of the Neville house, up on Bower Hill, a couple valleys away from where I grew up, not far from the church I was baptized in. Walking distance, really. The whole process started when John Neville, put in charge of collecting the taxes, accompanied a federal marshal to serve writs against the rebels. They were fired upon at the Miller house and Neville returned home.

Later, a group of about 30 militiamen arrived to besiege the house. Shots were fired. Both sides retreated for reinforcements. About 600 rebels showed up the next night, Neville had fled at that point. The rebel leader, Major MacFarlane, was shot during an attempt at negotiations. The house eventually surrendered, the survivors within spared, and the building burned to the ground.

Neville was was a perfect example of the elite that Daisey talks about. Virginian. Wealthy. "As close to being an aristocrat as republican America west of the Alleghenies would allow", per his wiki entry. He had slaves who helped defend the household. When news of the attack reached back to the nation's capital at Philly, the new government had to decide whether they would negotiate or send in the troops. Washington did both - sent in some negotiation team and recruited militia from a few states and marched on Pittsburgh, along with Hamilton and Light-Horse Harry Lee. Only time a US President has led troops. Imagine Trump at the head of a tank corps rolling through Texas.

In the face of the armed forces of the Government, the rebels faded. Some lit out for further west (like Kentucky, which might as well be the back end of the moon in those days). A few were arrested. Fewer were tried. Two were convicted to be hanged. They were pardoned by Washington.

But this was a moment, one of those pivot moments where things could go many ways. Some saw this as betrayal of founding principles. Others put it as creation of a new nation that would not put up with this crap. For most people, it was a speed bump, forgotten in the wake of the Revolution, something that comes up in one of these Internet articles.

For me, it is local history. The house where the initial shots were fired is still there, in South Park (a large park known for picnics, county fairs, and the working model of Skybus, our monorail). Neville's house (sorry - Neville's OTHER house - he had one that is still around in  nearby Heidelberg) was replaced by a hospital and now by townhouses. Suburban sprawl has moved over the coal-dark hills and fog-shrouded creeks, so established the trees planted in the subdivisions have reached climax growth.

And yeah, I think George was done messing with us after this.

More later,

Monday, November 05, 2018

The Political Desk: Final Push

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Buried, like five entries below this, is the usual Jeff Recommends post. And SINCE I've buried it, here it is again, for you last-minute voters in the areas concerned, without commentary. 

Initiative Measure No. 1631 - The Carbon Fee  -YES
Initiative Measure No. 1634 - Prevent Soda Taxes - NO
Initiative Measure No. 1639 - Firearm Safety - YES 
Initiative Measure No. 940  - Reduce Police Shooting - YES 

Advisory Vote No. 19, Engrossed second Substitute Senate Bill 6269 - Maintained.

United States Senator - Maria Cantwell.

United States Representative Congressional District No. 9 - Adam Smith.

State Supreme Court Justice Position No. 8 - Steve Gonzalez.

And furthermore:

United States Representative Congressional District No. 8 - Kim Schrier.

State Legislative District No. 47. State Senate - Vote for Mona Das

State Legislative District No.  47 Position No. 1 - Vote for Debra Entenman .

And Lastly, Stare Legislative District No. 47, Position No. 2 -  Pat Sullivan.

In the WEEK since I posted the initial recommendations, we have the following updates on Republicans in the state:

Dino Rossi swore in an interview he knew nothing about foreclosures. Turns out he bought a house in foreclosure. Maybe he forgot. KIRO7 reported this, though I am sure that the Times will get around to mentioning it, like, oh, Wednesday or so.

The Times does talk about the rape accusation against Joe Fain, and how there should be an investigation ... maybe ... after he's re-elected for another two years. Meanwhile, an accusation against a Bellevue police chief was proved false. The chief went on administrative leave during the investigation. That was a smart move.

And then we have from Eastern Washington, Mike Shea, who's not only pushing for genocide against non-Christians (as defined by Mike Shea), but is doubling down on it. Because the Republican party is becoming a White Nationalist Party.  His opponent is Ted Cummings, who is not endorsing shooting non-Christians. Just thought that might be worth mentioning.

No Republicans. Go Vote, and Vote Hard.

More later, 

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Theatre: Our History is Now

A People's History  created and performed by Mike Daisey, Seattle Rep, Through 25, 2018.

So, you know that dream where you show up for class and its the final exam and you realized you haven't been there since the orientation session? I had a similar experience here. But let me back up a moment.

Monologist Mike Daisey is doing a show on American History. In 18 parts. Based on what he (and likely you) learned in school, compared with Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, and shone through the lens of his own personal experience. For the past few weeks he has started with Columbus and moved through American History to the present day.

Eighteen different shows. And he has made them available as audio files to those who were willing to talk about them. And I took on the challenge. So around here you'll see a lot of write-ups where HIS monologues have taken ME. But his stuff is better, so you should check him out. Also, it is probably going to get to Christmas before I finish this particular task.

But, as fate would have it, the show my Lovely Bride had tickets for was the LAST show of the first 18. Daisey has moved through the entirety of American History (I just got past Washington in my follow-ups), and this last show concentrated on Obama and Trump.

So I feel like I missed a couple beats here.

Daisey, pulling from Zinn distills American History into two basic founding principles - Genocide and Slavery. We wiped out one group of people to get the land, and enslaved another group of people to work the land, and that's why we are here where we are today. And he makes a good case, right up to today with the election of Obama, a representative of a race we enslaved, and with Trump, who has benefited ultimately from the relentless decade-long dogwhistling of the Republican Party against those people and the targeted marketing of Fox News.

And he does it well, and I'm not going to compete with him here, even in summary. There's a lot of good crunchy stuff in here on how the Republican Party is now a zombie, controlled by its "Freedom Caucus" and well on its way to becoming solely a White Nationalist party, and how the Democratic party, triangulating and big-tenting to the point where it has no meaning itself, is a fuzzy ally to humanists. But I'm going to save all that for when I get to the end of the audios.

But he does it all better, live. He lectures and jokes, he yells and he cajoles. He connects. He engages. He convinces. His journey through American History is a very personal one. Daisey never met Zinn, just as Dante never met Virgil, but the writings of the two earlier wroters informed their later authors as they guided them through the inferno.

I always mention the set. The set is for a monologue. Table. Chair. Class of water. Apple and name plaque. A map directly behind him with red lines streaming out like blood, or lancing in like lazers. You choice. Whatever, it rivets our attention on Daisey.

There are a number of threads throughout Daisey's epic presentation, but one of the important ones is - the world is changing, and the histories of the future will reflect on how we reacted in the rise of global climate calamity. And given our history, a house built on two pillars of genocide and slavery, is a house built on sand, and we will be swept away by the rising tide.

A People's History, having completed an 18-performance tour de force, now starts again. "This time, I might even get it right," he says. He gets it right. If you saw a performance already, tickets cost only 25 bucks. Go see it (unless you're a big fan of Hamilton - he just hates that guy).

More later,

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Daisey Lesson 3 - Shades of Washington

I'm going to have to say this - I'm not going to be able to keep up. I'm talking about Mike Daisey's A People's History. He's performing it here in Seattle at the Rep in the form of 18 different monologues and has made performances available to individuals by audio recording, provided we talk about it.

And I want to talk about it, since his work (and Zinn's original) fires off so many neurons and connections and memories about the entire process. The Lovely Bride and I will be attending the performance tomorrow afternoon (4 November), and I will go into more detail about the nuts and bolts of the live performance there .For the moment, I'm reacting to the 3rd Monologue - call it "Fireworks", since it starts there.And he talks about how we have totally screwed up the world, and it is primarily the fault of (usually) white, (almost always) male, (exclusively) rich people. And the definitions of those three terms have some flex in the story he is telling, but rest assured, the bog-standard history you learned in school? No really accurate.Not completely false, but a lot of bits get left out which serve the interests of white male rich people.
This is a detail of a statue called "Points of View". It is on Mount Washington,
overlooking Pittsburgh, and shows Washington meeting with a leader of the
Seneca, Guyasuta. They did not meet on this spot. The meeting happened in
1750, four years before the events that kicked off the Seven Years War. No one
really knows what they talked about. Welcome to History.

And that gets me to George Washington. Really, several George Washingtons. I am from Pittsburgh, and a lot of our history is wrapped up with this Virginia planter. We have county named after him. We have a mountain named after him. We have river crossing named after him. We have a major road named after him. We have all sorts of weird stuff named after him. And he has left deep, personal, marks in our area.

But I say there are several Washingtons. The first is the one we meet in the school books, the mythologized one. You know - cherry tree, never lies, crosses the Delaware, wooden teeth, great general, Valley Forge, BOOM! he's president. He's the guy you see on the dollar bill and huckstering for President's Day sales. And like certain other childhood mythologies, you grok after a while that he was not all that, and that these are stories, mostly elaborating upon or made up entirely in the nineteenth century to exalt our past and cover up the darker stuff.

Then there's the darker Washington. Zinn and Daisey know this guy. Really rich. Lot of land (52,000 acres at his death, scattered all over the place, including Western PA), Lots of Slaves (317 living people owned at his death, but we are told that some of them were his wife's, and some were on loan. As if that makes things better). And he had a mouthful of teeth from his black slaves. The wooden teeth? Pretty much debunked. Hippopotamus teeth, I've heard later. But most recently, there's been a fessing up and his dentures were made from the teeth of enslaved black men.

It is horrible and dark, but the story being told here is horrible and dark. I think I mentioned that at the beginning. Zinn's work  is measured, carefully meting out the genocide and charnel foundations of our nation. Daisey leaps into it, and makes you really, really uncomfortable that you have this guy's face on your money. People reject that truth, and that's understandable. But it is still a truth.

Another Washington, though, is the Doof. Tall guy, athletic, not the brightest knife in the shed.. And that worked for him over the years. Hardly the homespun backwoodsman, his adventures in the West made his name,  his ability to survive let him rise in the ranks, and his very non-political nature while leading a REVOLUTIONARY ARMY made him the go-too man for the first Presidency. While not a saint and not a sinner, that's a comfortable version for a lot of people.

And then there is the Washington that kicked off the Seven Years War. He's the guy I want to talk about here.

Yeah, as Daisey notes, we lay out stuff like that in broad daylight, we just don't direct your attention to it that much. But long before the Revolution, Washington was big part of the development of Western PA, with pushing the natives around, and with kicking off a war with the French. And the Indians. In fact, we call the Seven Years War, our first really global war, the French and the Indian War because that's what we worry about here in the provinces. And it started twenty years before the Revolutionary War.

Western PA, better known in those days as the Forks of the Ohio, was a bit of a territorial football in those days. We had natives inhabitants - the Seneca and others. We had the French, whose approach was to set up camps and trade, turning those natives into employable resources. And we had the English. Two competing groups of English at that - The Virginians and the Pennsylvanians.

Which group of Englishman was supposed to have a claim to the Forks was a bit of a mess - they were running off crappy maps back in England. Virginia's colonial grant was huge, including the chunk of land south of the Mon. The Pennsylvanians ALSO claimed that land. Both colonies were giving out grants and sending in surveyors to divvy stuff up.(my part of PA, south of the Mon, was actually part of this Virginia claim, and had its own county after the war - Yohogania (nope, didn't know about that until I started researching this posting). Washington, in his Young Surveyor capacity, had been one of the Virginians getting the lay of the land. So when the French built Fort Duquesne, the Virginians dispatched Washington to make them back off.

And they found a French scouting party and ambushed them. Then they negotiated with the French, and during the negotiation, Washington's Native American guide, one Tanaghrison, who was on the outs with the tribal leaders on the French side, killed the French commander. Much badness descended. and Washington got out of the territory by signing a confession accepting culpability for the assassination. People point out that Washington could not read what he was signing, but that just feeds into the Doof narrative. He was trapped in hostile territory with people who were REALLY mad at him about the death of the French Commander (including the commander's half-brother). So yeah, he signed a confession in the middle of nowhere and that was the end of it. The date was July 4, 1754.

Except that WASN'T the end of it, of course. The confession got back England, and the English dispatched a couple regiments to clean up Washington's mess, and, yeah, take the Forks of the Ohio for the British. General Edward Braddock, came up from Virginia and got his clock cleaned by the French and the indigenous population. Washington was part of Braddock's forces. Then they sent General John Forbes with more troops, who came in along the Pennsylvanian route. The advance stalled when Major James Grant got HIS clock cleaned by combined French and Native American forces from Fort Duquesne. While Forbes holed up, the French decided that it was probably best to book out and leave their allies hanging. The Brits get the Forks, build Fort Pitt (after the British politician) and we get Pittsburgh. Elsewhere, things quickly got out of hand, and we ended up with the Seven Years War.

Braddock, Forbes, Grant. These are well-known names to native Pittsburghers. I grew up in what had been, 200 years previous, a war zone. It never really clicked until years later.

By the way - My primary source material on all this? Fred Anderson's Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (2000). Good book. There's a shorter version, The War That Made America, by the same author.  Strongly recommended.

And Washington? He came out of it just jake, and when the Virginians were looking for someone to lead the troops against the British, he there, already a war hero and an adventurer of Indiana Jones-level. 

But Washington is not done with Western Pennsylvania. I don't know if Daisey is going to mention the Whiskey Rebellion, but I will. Eventually. 

Daisey's monologue on Chapter 3 repeats on November 8 at 7:30 On Thursday, unless it is sold out. Apparently there's a lot of that going around.

More later, 

Friday, November 02, 2018

Furthermore: Rebellion Vs. Revolution

Yeah, I'm still thinking about the second Daisey monologue on A People's History of the United States, though I'm going further afield as a result. Good theatere does this to me - it gets me going onto other things.

So here's the question: How does a revolution succeed? At what point does it stop being a bunch of angry people in the streets or the provinces and becomes a viable, hopeful, winnable conflict? Is there a pivot point that, looking back, it becomes obvious that it was all downhill from there for the powers who are about to be overthrown.

In Mieville's October, he describes a scene that fits that narrative. Protesters are moving in a mob down the street. The Cossacks are ordered to block the street by their (elite, noble) superiors. The Cossacks, the heavy leg-breakers of the Tsars, ride forward to block the street. And stop right there, making no move to attack. The protesters pick their way among the horsemen, unimpeded, and continue their march.

The Cossacks switched sides in that moment. They had had enough of their imperial masters, and while maintaining the letter of their orders but not its spirit, abandoned their traditional loyalty. In Mieville's narrative, it was all downhill from there. Entire units of the Russian Army were now switching sides, and the navy weighed in with the Revolutionaries. The local fortresses, the bastions of the establishment, were suddenly in the hands of the people. The Tsar left town (and in doing so, left the narrative).

Same goes for the French Revolution with the well known Storming of the Bastille, though I suppose a good case could be made for the capture of the Hotel De Invalides earlier. The Hotel, lightly defended, was being used as an armory, though a lot of the gunpowder had been earlier moved to the Bastille itself. The Hotel fell easily, and the crowd pressed on to the Bastille. What followed was miscommunication that turned into an assault, and the commander of the Bastille surrendered when he felt he could not hold out or expect support from other units.

Yes, the Bastille was used as a prison and was a symbol of tyranny, but at the time of the attack, there were all of seven prisoners there. The rebels were after the gunpowder. The mob got the advanced technology. And it feels that after that, it was over and done.

But then there was the American Revolution, the revolution that Daisey/Zinn doubts was a really a revolution in the traditional sense. And I can't point at a single similar point where, afterwards you could say - AHAH, after this, it was all over but the shooting. Bunker and Breed's Hills were early. Maybe Valley Forge, but only in the fact that Washington was playing rope-a-dope with the British- the Brits kept winning battles, but only by losing resources that could not easily be replaced. Yorktown was the final curtain, when an exhausted Cornwallis, suffering several days of shelling from French ships, surrendered and put our narrative period on the war itself.

At Yorktown, a British band played "The World Turned Upside Down". It is a pretty innocuous piece, notable more for its ironic title than its content. Perhaps a better song title would have been "The World Has Just Changed Hands".

Anyway, just some ongoing thoughts.

More later,

Thursday, November 01, 2018

More Daisey: Rebellion Vs. Revolution

I am continuing to listen to Mike Daisey's A People's History, based on the history book of the same name by Howard Zinn, on my long, long commute. Second episode talks about rebellions, revolutions, riots, winners, and losers (spoiler - the winners are the rich white guys. This is something that will come up again and again). Anyway, Daisey has the ability to unlock all sorts of subordinate discussions, and has me going on my own thoughts.

Daisey starts with Zuccotti Park in 2011. Remember it? It was ground zero for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Oh, yeah, that. Camped on land that, by law, was reserved for protest, the Occupy movement was a cogent reply to the absolute mess our corporate masters have put us all in. It was protest and disobedience in its core form. And as such disobedience, it was tolerated for a while, then mercilessly locked down and beaten into submission (spoiler - this is going to happen a lot in this narrative).

From there. he flashes back to Bacon's Rebellion, and here's the difference between a Revolution and Rebellion. If the rebelling side loses, then it was a Rebellion. If they win, it was a Revolution. Rebellions have as examples Shay's, Bacon's, and Whiskey. Revolutions have larger, more impressive names such as Glorious, Russian, and French. And American.

But American comes with an asterisk. Daisey points out that other revolutions have a serious changing of management, usually by the noose, the firing squad, or the guillotine. The American Revolution kept the local elites mostly in charge, and it was the elites who were generally around the table when the decisions were being made.

That's not completely true, but is true enough. Look at the framers of the Declaration of Independence. Adams was not a slaveholder nor a major landholder, but still a lawyer (and inherited 9 1/2 acres from his father). Franklin, the grognard of the group, was a newspaperman. Both good, solid urban professions. The slave/landholder tag definitely applies to Jefferson, though (2.6 square miles of land). So, yeah, it was the elites - literate, philosophical, moneyed, who fired up the passions that sent others to war.

And yeah, there was a departure of Tories from the colonies following the revolution. Some fled back to England. Some went to Canada. Some went to the Caribbean. (back in those days, when the English thought of the Americas, they were thinking of the Southern colonies and the West Indies. They left, and as such fell out of our narrative. But a lot of them stayed with a minimum of fuss.

Lemme give you an example. My brain has been in Philadelphia for the past couple years, for reasons that may or may not yet be revealed. The British took Philly in 1777. We know that from our history books, regardless of origin, because we talk about the privations at Valley Forge. But in Philly, the British were, well, partying it up. Keep the rebels out in the hinterlands, keep the flow of supplies into the city, but otherwise, kick back, drink some madeira, and watch a play. It was the Revolutionary War's Green Zone.

Then, things changed. General Howe was recalled on accusations that he was too soft on the colonials. More importantly, the French entered the war. I cannot stress how important this was to the Revolution. Philly, up the river estuary, could be cut off by the French ships. So the British Army beat feet back to New York City, leaving all those loyal Tories high and dry.

And the remaining Tories were all lined up and shot. Well, no. There were retributions and confiscations, but in general loyalties shifted and those that stood with the enemy were now at best sidelined but better yet part of the revolution. The young ladies sipping drinks with the British officers were now sipping drinks with the Virginia planters. One of them, daughter of a Loyalist to the crown, ended up marrying the British Commandant of the city, Benedict Arnold (and you can surmise how THAT turned out).

The American revolution, as Zinn and Daisey put it, was more of a corporate takeover as opposed to a society makeover. I have a book on the shelf, The Cousin's War, that puts our revolution squarely in the middle of three civil wars among English-speaking people - The English Civil War, the Revolution, and the American Civil War. I don't know if I buy the argument that all these wars were in reality three phases of the same war, as the first led to a dark period of democracy of the type Daisey describes, the second is asterisked with a yeah, kinda sort of thing, and the last is a rebellion - big, impressive, but ultimately failed. If we had more control over the language, that last conflict would have been called the Confederate Rebellion, confining it to the other failures over the years.

But I am getting ahead of myself. These excellent monologues curve, ouroboros-like, and repeat, and there will be another chance to catch them. This chapter gets repeated at 7:30 PM on Saturday. You might want to take a look.

More later,

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Driving Mr. Daisey

This is in part a preview of A People's History of the United States, presented by Mike Daisey, which the Lovely Bride and I are seeing on Sunday at the Seattle Rep. How can I do a preview of a play I haven't seen? Hang on, this takes some 'splaining.

I've talked about monologist Mike Daisey before. We first saw him ages ago at the old Intiman, doing 27 Dog Years @ I caught three of his four monologues on "Great Men" up on Cap hill. Saw The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs at the Rep, and followed up on the craziness of his encounter with "This American Life". And now he's back in Seattle, at the Rep, doing A People's History.

That's all very well, Jeff, but why are you talking about it now, as opposed to after seeing the play? That is  your usual MO, after all. Well, you really should go see it, and I want to tell you that before we get there ourselves, because I've been listening to the performance in advance.

Source Material
Here's the deal: The People's History is 18 different monologues, all pulled from and based on Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, one of the great, truthful, and depressing history books of all times. So he is doing 18 different monologues. In our Pokemon-obsessed universe, how are we going to collect them all? The Rep has helped, with MASSIVE discounts after the first ticket, but even the time requirement will suck up half your week for several weeks.

So Mr. Daisey made an offer. He said: Here are the recordings so far. Download them, and listen to them. But, the deal is, you have to talk about them.

And so I'm going to talk about them. But to be honest, it has not been easy as it sounds. First message came through as MIME files with broken links. He fixed that, but then I was sent to LA for a few days. Then I got the files, but they were in an audio format I could not get my car computer to read (Yeah, Tech World problems). So I brought them in on a memory stick to work to change the format and promptly lost the stick (and I am deeply afraid one of the resident dogs has eaten it). Got the files into my Dropbox, which promptly went over its limits (they are big files). FINALLY I got it all set up so I can listen to them on my hour-plus-long commute from Grubb Street to downtown.

And it has been worth it. Mr. Daisey is a geek, a nerd, one of us, and turns that level of wonkiness to the American History. Knowledgeable and acerbic, profound and extremely profane, he's the guy who swallowed the encyclopedia as a child and can bring up the facts in a direct, meaningful, smartass way. He's the history professor you've always really needed.

Now A People's History is one of those depressing, truthful books. I've had it on my shelves for years, and I have read it in full, but in bits and piece. And I've read it in bits and pieces because prolonged exposure can really dampen your soul. The book can be summarized with a quote from Jimmy Cagney in The Oklahoma Kid "The strong take it away from the weak, and the smart take it away from the strong." The inhabitants of earth who actually lived in those past times, who actually did the work, who suffered so we can be her today, have been erased, forgotten, molded into faceless economic trends and social mores while we concentrate on the great men and the great battles. They are pushed aside while we build a suitable narrative for ourselves, construct a history shorn of its blemishes and genocides.

Tough read. And Daisey doesn't shy away from its warts-upon-warts-and-all description. There are bright moments of light, but the overarching tone of our own history is one of venal greed and violence. As I'm listening, he is still making jokes as he strikes hard against our foundational lies, and I hear the audience go quiet. This is tough sledding.

He starts with Columbus, who within my lifetime has been toppled from his heroic throne. As a young man I was instructed in his legend as one of the bedrock stories of our society, but here he is, damned in his own journals and actions. Genocide against the natives and a lust for gold. He has diminished both in achievement (The Vikings and others were first, though not as effective in destroying the neighborhood), and in iconic statue. And here's the thing: Columbus Day as a going concern really started in the mid-nineteenth century, about the same time as a unified Italy itself got established. Columbus himself would not call himself an Italian, but rather a Genoan, in the service of Spain. Yet it is identified strongly as an celebration of Italian-American Heritage. Part of the lessening of Columbus Day, I think, has come from the assimilation of the Italian immigrants into the Ameriborg body politic, escaping from the cities into exurbia. Less of a group that would defend the man as embodying their virtues.

This is the sort of thing that Daisey's work does to you - it gets you thinking and takes you down some strange passes to some very uncomfortable conclusions. And that's a good thing.

Here's another one that occurred to me on the way up I-5; History never ends, but history never really begins, either. The sighting of the New World is a convenient starting point for the History of Europeans in America, but the Spanish treatment of the native population has its origins in the reconquista that "recaptured" Spain from the North African Muslims, and the slave trade found its roots in the Portuguese use of radical new tech (deep-hulled caravels and galleons) meeting large, organized nations in Africa who found a good bargain in dealing with a oversupply of conquered peoples (Lest it sounds like I'm trying to spread the blame, it was still our ancestors who created the horrible Middle Passage that claimed half of the enslaved peoples it carried.)

History is messy and nasty and ugly, and the narratives we have used to tame it are like how we explain our dreams - filling in bits and excising uncomfortable truths. I'm glad I'm getting a chance to get in on this on the ground floor, as it were, and am looking forward to the performance itself. But I recognize that its going to be a rough one.

More later,

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Political Desk: The Jeff Recommends

Let's see, in the week since I started this, we have had a string of bombs sent by a man living in a van covered with pro-Trump stickers, a guy shooting two black people in a Krogers and declaring "Whites don't shoot whites!" and eleven people die when another whacko conservative unloaded with an "assault-style rifle" at a synagogue. I lived for many years in Shadyside, right next to Squirrel Hill. So, yeah, forgive me if I'm a little strident this time out.

Let me reiterate my initial statement - No Republicans. Not all Republicans are fascists, or nazis, or alt-righters, or racists, or rapists. But if you find yourself in any of those categories, then the Republican party (and all its connective tissue) has your back. They will blame your victims, deny your crimes, encourage your delusions, and spoon-feed you a steady stream of entitlement, then walk away when you do something, saying "I have no idea where they get these ideas, but it's the liberal media's fault."

I'd like to say that saying this out loud makes me feel a bit better, but it doesn't. You know what will make me feel better? Voting. Voting will make me feel better. Let's see what's up there.

Initiative Measure No. 1631 - The Carbon Fee  -YES (The opponents are calling trying to make it sound like it is a direct tax on you - it ain't. It's a direct tax on the people who are pumping crap into the atmosphere, and with it a potential reduction to the shareholders).

Initiative Measure No. 1634 - Prevent Soda Taxes - NO (The opponents are LYING you when they say this will tax all your groceries, and they are doing it with daily mailers. This one passing lets corporations dictate to your local government (more than usual)).

Initiative Measure No. 1639 - Firearm Safety - YES (Unless you still want to stand around and look at you shoes instead actually DOING something about it. And yeah, this is only a very small part, literally the least we can do, but it still a start).

Initiative Measure No. 940  - Reduce Police Shooting - YES (This is a strong compromise bill from numerous sources. I'm a fan of giving the cops more options).

Advisory Vote No. 19, Engrossed second Substitute Senate Bill 6269 - Maintained, even though it is advisory and the gummint don't have to pay no attention. Its about holding oil companies responsible for spilling oil. The companies are always declaring they have incredibly safe pipelines and there is no chance of oil spills, so this REALLY shouldn't be a problem, should it?)

United States Senator - Maria Cantwell, who has done a real good, if centrist, job. Also, No Republicans, and in particular no Republicans that are Trump-apologists.

United States Representative Congressional District No. 9 - Adam Smith. Yeah, I went back and forth a couple dozen times on this, and if you go for Sarah Smith, I will forgive you completely. The fact is that he, like Cantwell, has been doing a good job. Retain Smith.

Let's see ....  what else do we have? No one running against the incumbent, no one running against the incumbent, opponent dropped out, no one running against the incumbent. Ah, here we go:

State Supreme Court Justice Position No. 8 - Steve Gonzalez. Every time I see something about his opponent, Mr. Choi, he's either not talking to the press or engaging in conspiracy theories. However, one early poll shows he is in the lead, so this is one of those places where we need an EDUCATED electorate. Go to Voting for Judges, which I have used for years for my recommendations, and Vote for Steve Gonzalez.

Stuff that is not on my ballot, but I think it is important in the local area:

United States Representative Congressional District No. 8: Kim Schrier, a pediatrician, over real estate millionaire Dino Rossi. The Times actually tone-policed Schrier in their endorsement of Rossi, saying that Dr. Schrier might actually put up a fight against the heavily-entrenched Republican majority, while Rossi will roll over on his back for belly skritchles. So, Yeah. Go with Kim Shrier.

State Legislative District No. 47. State Senate. Vote for Mona Das. Her views line up with mine, but let me lay on the line. Incumbent Joe Fain has been accused of raping a woman 10 years ago. I don't know if this is true. I'm not a court of law, and cannot dispense justice or find truth. But I damned well want to find out before hiring him for another term. Vote Mona Das.

State Legislative District No.  47 Position No. 1. Vote for Debra Entenman Again, she lines up with a lot of my own views. She is also a target of a lying mailer campaign from a nutter with access to photoshop, who has been encouraging progressives to write-in for candidates who are not running, Kent City Council member Brenda Fincher has been dragged into this mess, and minced no words in shooting it down, identifying it correctly as another form of vote suppression. Because, you know, that's what Republicans are known for. Vote Debra Entenman.

And Lastly, Stare Legislative District No. 47, Position No. 2. Vote for Pat Sullivan, who has served for many years and has not been accused of sex crimes or had nutters try to split the vote for him by sending out lying mailers. Hey, in the current environment, that's a ringing endorsement.

That's it. And regardless of where you are, it is time to step up. I'm not asking you to march. I'm not asking you to  confront. I'm not asking you to man the barricades. I'm asking you to vote. I know I am lucky in this state, with mail in ballots. We have a paper trail. We don't have voting booths located far away from actual voters. We don't have long lines. We don't have electronic devices that switch votes while you watch them. I'm lucky that way. I'm going to ask you to vote anyway.

Also, No Republicans.

More later,