Paul From Minneapolis

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Jerry Brown is Blogging

..and from the looks of his first post, he may provide a tiny light of hope in the world. That is, he may be taking the conscious role of "prominent leftist who doesn't have his head up his ass and is willing to talk back to the throng who do." That's what this nation needs as much as anything, I sometimes think.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Thoughts on Professor Head Shot

I caught the CSPAN coverage of last Tuesday’s Ward Churchill rally at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I watched it Saturday night around eleven from the sanctuary of a room at the Luck Country Inn in Luck, Wisconsin during a romantic Valentine’s Weekend getaway. So I didn’t watch the whole thing. At least not with the sound turned up, if you know what I'm sayin'. But I got the gist.

Just to review, Ward Churchill is the Native American (see below) activist and professor of Ethnic Studies at UC Boulder who back in 2001 labeled the 9-11 WTC victims “little Eichmanns,” functionaries of the profit machine of capitalism and hence legitimate military targets. “Innocent? Give me a break,” he said, a la Ed Grimley.

Now those words are coming back to haunt him; he’s standing by them, it’s a free speech issue and a “what a creep” issue and so on.

I’ve been following things a little. It turns out to be nearly certain he’s not an Indian, no kind of Native American or Indigenous Population Guy, not even the three-sixteenths Cherokee he’s leveraged into a reputation as one of the leading voices of indigenous protest. That’s according to AIM, anyway, which dismissed him in a terse press release; and newspapers have been looking and can’t find any Indian blood. In short, he’s not Quint, he’s Festus.

This fact didn’t bother the rally-goers. I would guess they see a conspiracy to keep Ward Churchill from being an Indian. Also, they were not perturbed by indications he makes things up in his scholarly writings, in easily detectable fashion. They stood and cheered anyway, and denounced a clear move by Those Who Control Us to destroy their new hero, the first step in a plan to silence those who dare dissent, like them, abetted by fools too cowed to perceive the obvious, like me.

So where’s it all headed? Not to Ward Churchill’s utter disgrace anytime soon. He is simply too craggy and owns too many pairs of dark glasses for that. Maybe he’ll be fired; maybe he’ll really become a new national spokesmodel of the Deep Left. Maybe both.

They’re not always so particular about who they anoint over there on the Deep Left, of course, one fact that keeps the Deep Left stuck in eternal LA Clipper mode.

A few observations.

The Deep Left likes to bears witness to its own courage, but the single least courageous thing a person could undertake anywhere in the United States that evening would have been to stand up at that rally and voice support for Ward Churchill. It looked like a hell of a lot of fun for the people doing it. They just glowed!

The combination of moral preening, absolute certainty and bodyguards was redolent of any number of bullyboy rallies we’ve all seen in grainy film from the past.

90% of the students standing and applauding this man will, in years ahead, wonder what in the name of God they were thinking.

The rest will become ever more impenetrably immune to argument. Meaning we may all be doomed, and yes I am proposing that out of ten thousand enraged fools in our population, al Qaeda might be able to spot a few true assholes. Call me a fascist and denounce me. But there was a particular womyn granted access to the microphone somebody should keep an eye on.

Speaking as his peer in a sense, I offer this clear summary. Ward Churchill: just another white guy with a master’s degree.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Last Fifteen Days in Paul's Life

I’ve been ideologically confused.

I have also been out of town twice and sick, not at the same time, fortunately. Out of town, out of town again, and then sick.

For example, I was in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, for work. I had never been to Fergus Falls. It’s in the northwest, 60 or so miles short of Fargo. So it’s in that part of the state where you can kind of see that you’re beginning to merge into what might be called the west, the prairie west. You might see a sign for Wall Drug.

Yet, weirdly, there are lakes. It’s a strange part of the state for one accustomed to lakes and trees, like in northeastern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. Here you have lakes and farms, resorts and supper clubs contiguous with regular workaday massive agriculture. So it’s less wilderness-y, a new thing for me. To tell you the truth I wasn’t that taken with it. Though as long as there were no too-obvious hog manure lagoons, I could be happy on a lake here in summertime, I’m sure.

(That's what they're called, "lagoons," and I apologize to the word lagoon for that.)

Fergus Falls itself is irreplaceable. I explored it for an hour around midnight after enjoying a late supper in the company of some community college-based drinkers making the scene at Appleby's. There’s a fine lake, Lake Alice, in the middle of the town, with a ring road upon which sit nice homes, county seat category. There's a long street called Union Street, and more nice homes. A 10-foot concrete otter in a park signaled to me as I concentrated on obeying the speed limit (I wouldn't say I was drunk, but still, I was the only mobile car in town on a cold Tuesday night in February) that this must be Otter Tail County.

There’s also the corporate home of Otter Tail Power, and a large hospital and this, the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center.

It’s reportedly a fine example of the architecture and approach for treating the insane (sic) as devised by Dr. Tomas Kirkbride in the 19th Century, and the only one remaining in Minnesota. Doesn’t the Kirkbride approach sound nice: “From 1891 to 1969, the Fergus Falls State Hospital was a self contained community. It consisted of a 637 acre farm which included orchards, pasture, dairy and horse barns, 35 acres of gardens and 650 tillable acres.”

You're insane? We'll send you to a holistic retreat center. Is there a lesson for those of us drawn still to holistic retreat centers? Discuss.

It’s closed now after withering for decades, and re-use studies are underway. Still, the legacy remains. “Of course we do have a lot of mentally ill in the area,” remarked a woman the next day when I asked her about the economy. Interesting. Interesting I mean in that it was the first thing that came to her.

But anyway, then out of town again and then sick and then, as I say, ideological confusion. Regarding which more soon.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Live-Blogging the State of the Union

Note, March 15: I did this at the time and thought it kind of sucked. Maybe it's not so bad though.

08:11 - I gotta say, when you look at Cheney in the background, you can see why my friends on the left don't like him. Why he gives them the creeps. Recently I've come to see him as the ultimate grown-up, which may also have something to do with why the left doesn't like him.

08:13 As I was typing I heard bipartisan applause for the concept of helping our grandchildren.

08:13 Bush looks sad and tired sometimes. Or maybe I'm projecting.

08:14 Is that John Kerry's secret lucky CIA hat he's wearing?! - oh no, it's just his hair.

08:15 I'm going to go get a whiskey sour.

08:18 We were out of whiskey so I had to go with a gin and tonic. What'd I miss?

08:19 I heard a reference to the Clear Skies Initiative. I know that completely sets some people's teeth on edge. They think it's Orwellian. When I get a chance I'm going to write something about Bill Moyer's weird anti-Christian article in the Mpls Star-Tribune, about how super-Christians dont care about the environment because the end-times are coming. Did you hear about that? Weird, man. I think Moyers has some kind of previously unknown lefty Alzheimer's or something, or lefty Tourette's.

08:21 Here comes Social Security! Wonder if he's gonna say it's going bankrupt in 2018 which pisses people off?

08:22 He's doing a good job laying out the argument about the changed context of Social Security since it was designed. Used to be 16 workers for every beneficiary, soon it'll fall to 2 for each. He says it'll be bankrupt in 2042 - and the Democrats are booing! Cool. I don't know enough to judge the statement but I will soon, you can bet.

08:25 "This should not be a small matter to the United States Congress!" - one half the chamber cheering. I bet chairs on the right side of the chamber have to be reupholstered less often than the ones on the left. (As seen from the rear, not from Bush's perspective.)

Anyway, that 2042 statement is gonna get sliced up all over the place, discussed to bejeebers. He just said he'd be willing to listen to any proposal the Dems would come up with and there was some raucous cheering, I assume from the Republicans.

I assume Republicans have better calf and glute muscles, too.

Man, this is like announcing a hockey game. Sure wish I knew how to type. Anyway, I would suspect this is playing pretty well because it sounds pretty reasonable and includes safeguards and so on. And the closing point about federal employees having access now to something similar to private accounts, that is brilliant. For a lot of reasons. Is it true substantially?

08:31 He just came out in favor of the FMA. Very brief, though.

08:33 Finally - the Dems stand to applaud the concept of not selling humans.

08:34 I'm gonna slow down a little.

08:35 Dennis Hastert looks like he's thinking about something else.

08:36 Wow, teaching young men to respect women and reject violence got even Hastert standing. Oh, and Barbara Bush is going to lead this initiative! That's perfect! That's a real feint that will freak out the gang culture.

08:38 This is interesting, he's saying a lot of stuff that he's packaging as reaching out to the less fortunate. Equal protection under the law and so forth. The Democrats are standing again.

08:42 After his talk about the international effort to defeat terrrorism, the Dems stood, but more slowly than the Republicans. Same with his talk about the "force of human freedom." Grudging respect for that concept - that pretty much sums up the left's political and moral dilemma, don't it?

08:44 Nice stuff about the differences between us and our enemies, on how we don't seek to impose our system. Of course a lot of people will say, how are not doing that? Still - "The advance of freedom will lead to peace." How do you not cheer that? Poor Democrats.

08:47 How is Egypt going to show the way toward democracy in the Middle East?

08:48 Pretty direct slam at the Syrian government - "We expect them to stop all support for terror and open the doors to freedom." Both sides stood. And again, when he said America "stands with" the Iranian opposition.

Here comes Iraq.

08:49 Some Dems stood when he said that our soldiers are fighting terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here. Interesting. That some but not all stood, I mean. (Just a few stood, actually.)

08:52 Bipartisan standing ovation for the Iraqi voters. Again, how do the Democrats deal with that? With that great thing that simply would not have happened if the opposition to the war had its way?

08:53 This woman, this Iraqi voter, missed her name - the thing that makes me sad is I know people who will sneer at this moment.

And see the thing is, the idea that the terrorists are working against the will of the Iraqi people: after this weekend, how can that be denied? The Iraqis were commanded not to vote, and they did vote, and they were gleeful about it.

08:56: Wow. "Freedom in Iraq will make Americans safer for generations to come" - and most Dems don't stand. Seriously - do they honestly believe it won't mean that, if it works? They just lustily cheered the emergence of Iraqi freedom, so they're not disagreeing with that premise. So what's their argument? They don't have one. They just don't want to be seen as approving the decision. I've always thought any kind of successful outcome in Iraq - and I know it's not guaranteed - presents a huge political problem for the Democrats, because it will mean the decision was at least not totally absurd. And they've been calling it totally absurd.

Anyway, we just saw that dilemma in action, punctuated by everyone standing for the soldiers' parents, Mr. and Mrs. Norwood. What a moment.

09:02 Nice close. Did he say the road of Providence leads to freedom?

09:15 Harry Reed's Democratic response: avoid Iraq, talk about a "domestic Marshall Plan" to build the new economy. And health care - that is something they should focus on. I do wish the Pres would have talked about that, would focus on that.

I just don't know enough to judge the arguments about Social Security.

Now, on to Pelosi, and she's gonna talk about national security. I see. Train security forces faster, do everything that's being done but faster. So - hm. I think I'm done for the night.

The focus on better security measures here seems reaonable, I guess. It's not a topic I've really looked into, I have to say, just how profoundly flawed the effort has been so far.