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Archive for July, 2009

It’s about time!  Sgt. Grumbles and I have been waiting for this for two years!

Back in 2007 our friend Sufjan Stevens made a short film/musical score called The BQE, a “symphonic and cinematic exploration of New York City’s infamous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.”  Since his last release way back in 2006, The Avalanche, Sufjan fans have been thirsty for more, having to settle for his excellent Christmas albums and contributions to various compilations (covers of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Castanets, etc.).  Even last month Sgt Grumbles and I had a conversation expressing our frustration over the non-release of The BQE, but come October 20 we shall be frustrated no more!

“The double-disc album will include the original film on DVD, the original soundtrack on CD, a 40-page booklet (with photos and liner notes), and a stereoscopic image reel (aka View-Master®), created by illustrator Stephen Halker…The limited edition vinyl is available as a double gatefold and includes the soundtrack on 180-gram vinyl, a large-scale 32-page booklet with liner notes and photographs, and a 40-page Hooper Heroes comic book.”

How exciting.  Take a look at this clip to wet your appetite…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

THE BQE- A Film By Sufjan Stevens from Asthmatic Kitty on Vimeo.

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Is this how you treat a black man in America?

So said Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to James M. Crowley, a Cambridge police officer who was responding to a call of a break-in at Gates’ home.   This is now national news (Obama apparently mentioned it on primetime last night) but because of being sequestered at training for work, today is the first that I am reading about this.  This is poised to be a hot topic about race and racism as Crowley is unwilling to bow to pressure to apologize and thus make a case that he is not racist.

This is a classic ‘my word against yours’ situation as only Crowley and Gates were present during the confrontation.  However, as you can imagine, a charge of racism is on par with a charge of child molestation… the facts are secondary, your guilt is presupposed.  So Crowley is put on the defense first, and any questioning of the charge can implicate you in siding with racism.  This is a dilemma that any politically-minded person will come across as they begin to debate public policies such as affirmative action, educational reforms, or any number of issues that may affect the black community in any way.  If you want to dismantle the public school system, are you racist because it may affect poor black children?  Are you racist if you disagree with affirmative-action and it’s attempt at “equality”, even if you think you have evidence of its damage?

And thus you may find yourself in this quandary if your instinct says that Gates, Jr. was playing a race card and not an actual victim of racism.  Again, by possibly dismissing this accusation (and I am not, it is too new and information is still coming…I’m just talking about a gut reaction to claim racism) are you therefore saying that racism does not exist, and racial profiling is a myth of liberal creation?  Absolutely not… but that IS the implication.

As Paul Mirengoff of Powerline states (initially quoting a Washington Post article):

“Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. has spent much of his life studying the complex history of race and culture in America, but until last week he had never had the experience that has left so many black men questioning the criminal justice system. . . .”I studied the history of racism. I know every incident in the history of racism from slavery to Jim Crow segregation,” Gates told The Washington Post on Tuesday in his first interview about the episode. [note – really, everyone single one?] “I haven’t even come close to being arrested. I would have said it was impossible.”

Instead, in a country where one in nine young black men are in prison, where racial profiling is still practiced, the arrest of a renowned scholar on a charge of disorderly conduct in front of his house last Thursday has fueled an ongoing debate about race in America in the age of its first black president.”

Gates is actually admitting plenty here. For if he has lived as a black man in America for 58 years without ever being mistreated by the police, to the point that he believed being arrested was an impossibility in his case, that speaks rather well for the police forces of America. (emphasis mine)

This is a powerful observation.  How a black man, who has gone 58 years of his life and never experienced a racist act by police, can finally have an alleged experience and have that lead to an accusation of rampant racism by American police does not follow.  And the broader implication of general racism in America is beyond me.  It seems to do the opposite, and that is Mirengoff’s point.  I have long felt that the playing of the race card by too many black Americans (read: Sharpton, Jackson, NAACP) dilutes the power of the offense when truly racist acts take place, and can serve to desensitize people to the charge itself.  The Duke lacrosse rape case provides an example where the knee-jerk racism card and it’s broad acceptance can now be seen as so highly unfair as to possibly cause skepticism if another similar situation (that may actually be factual) were to arise… and that would be a terrible shame.

I am very fond of the writings of black writers Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder and Clarence Thomas (who actually lived under extreme racism) and how they deplore the act of racism, but equally deplore the race card for the very fact that it does dishonor those who have encountered true racism.  They rightly question the race-accusations against police and the judicial system which many people blame for the over-representation of blacks in jail.  But who is to blame for the fact that over the last 30 years 94% of black homicide victims are killed by a black offender?  Is that statistic somehow linked to racism?  Is that stat alone enough to disprove racism?  Hardly… and the point isn’t to disprove it, but to not rely on it.

Which brings me back to Gates and Crowley.  Let’s suppose that Gates is right, and that Crowley actually did refuse to identify himself and was somehow rude to Gates (which is Gates’ charge) does that immediately imply racism?  Couldn’t Crowley just be a prick or something? Is it at all possible to be belligerent to someone of another race, without it being racism?  That is why I don’t like the automatic jump to race.

I have a similar sentiment towards the term “hate crime” to define a crime against a member of society based on their race, sexual orientation, etc.  It is most often associated with Matthew Shepard and his death, and the idea that he was murdered because he was gay.  Hate crime legislation serves to add an additional weight to crimes of this sort… which is a position with which I disagree.  Is murdering someone not hateful enough that we need to add another element?  Similarly, if Crowley was being belligerent to Gates, then that should be sufficient for a complaint… race should have little to nothing to do with the validity of the charge.

Thoughts?

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maricaliAccording to this article there is proposed legislation in the assembly to legalize marijuana because of the potential $1.4 billion in revenue from legalizing pot that could help with the budget woes.  In its current form it will require federal sign-off, which is not going to happen anytime soon… but may possibly be re-written to get around this.

As I have stated before I am in favor of legalization, and I think it would be interesting if tough economic times finally get this ball rolling rather then any of the other arguments for it that have been presented.

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Heard a great report on KCRW’s, Which Way, LA?, on Monday night about a nuclear meltdown that occurred 50 years ago right here in LA.  Maybe you are like me and had never heard of this, so you may find that alone an interesting component of the show.

However the program went on to have a discussion about nuclear power and whether it should start to be embraced by the United States.  Our country has not built a reactor in 30 years… and it is safe to say that a lot has changed since then.  The show has guest presenters who discuss the pros and cons of nuclear, and they all make very strong points in this nuanced discussion.

I am personally very intrigued by nuclear, and don’t usually place the safety concerns about it above the concerns for other forms of energy.  As John McCain stated in one of the presidential debates, we have been powering submarines with nuclear for 30 years and we are still sending them out filled with our citizens.  And if safety is the primary concern, then why does it make sense to keep running 40 year old reactors instead of building new ones with all the new safety features that have been developed over the last three decades?  It really is an interesting debate, especially as it crosses territory into environmentalism since nuclear produces no greenhouse gases that global warming is said to be based on, and yet it is still not favored by many environmentalists.

While I usually don’t look to France for anything innovative in politics, economics, business, science, etc., they are the world leaders in nuclear power and provide a current example we can look to of the pros and cons of this form of energy.  I encourage you to check out the KCRW show and let us know your opinion.

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Victor Davis Hanson has some advice for Sarah Palin, but also a little reflection on her time in the spotlight.  In his summation he states:

While we rightly argue that the Sarahs of the world, if they are to be taken seriously as leaders, must read and study more, why do we not also suggest that the Baracks of the world could do a little more chain-sawing, run a coffee shop for a summer, or drive a Winnebago cross-country? (Who knows, he might meet a fellow woodcutter who knew there were 50 states or that it was dumb to make fun of the Special Olympics.)

The salt-of-the-earth vs. coastal elites is a theme that Hanson plays on often, and one that I go back and forth on myself.

I’d written here and here about Palin and people’s reaction to her and how though I was/am not a fan, I also don’t despise her as some do.  However it appears she has aspirations of sticking around as a national figure now that she has been elevated to that level, so it remains to be seen if time helps or hurts her perception.

So maybe it’s time for another poll!!

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As I mentioned in a post back in February regarding the breaking news that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, I detest the Yankees.  It’s just what you have to do when you like another team (the Tigers are still over .500 and in first place in the AL Central), but even some BoSox fans have a certain respect for the dynasty that is Yankee baseball (they’ve won 26 of their 39 appearances in the World Series, 16 WS victories ahead of the second place Cards).   Berra, Boggs, Combs, DiMaggio, Dickey, Ford, Gehrig, Gomez, Henderson, Jackson, Mantle, McCarthy, Pennock, Rizzuto, Ruffing, Ruth, and Stengle – any of these 17 (of the 36) Yankees in the Hall of Fame ring a bell?  What about Clemens, Jeter, or the countless other outstanding Yanks over the years?  And the Yankees pull these names together to win rather consistently.

Why the hoopla over the Yankees?  Trust me, I wouldn’t write out such a post if it weren’t absolutely necessary…

I’ve just read a marvelous article by Joe Posnanski for Sports Illustrated about Mariano Rivera and his famous cut fastball.  I knew he was a deadly closer with a wicked cutter, but I never quite realized how impressive his [ongoing] career has been.  I encourage you to give it a read, even if you hate the Yankees and even if you hate baseball.

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