Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Moving to WNYMedia . . .

July 15, 2009

lgfp1454+anakin-skywalker-becomes-darth-vader-star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-posterLike a caterpillar changing into a butterfly, Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader, or George Jefferson moving to a deluxe apartment in the sky, this blog is being left behind for bigger and better things.

As of today, I’m a columnist at wnymedia.net.  The good folks there apparently liked my Ahab-like obsession with Byron Brown and Brian Davis, so they’ve asked me to join their esteemed roster of writers.  With that kind of exposure, who knows what could happen?  Will I end up running for the county legislature or being harassed by toll takers?  In the words of Kent Brockman, only time will tell.

Eventually (once I figure out how to do it) this site should redirect you to the new site on wnymedia.  Until then, you can use this link for everything you’ve come to love about Will There Ever Be a Rainbow in a fancier package — plus a picture of my gigantic head!

My Sophisticated Sense of Humor

June 27, 2009

1. I really like the ongoing series of articles by “Larry Flesler” over at the Buffalo Ruse.  They’re full of red meat, alcohol and homoerotic tension between Larry Felser and Van Miller.  This excerpt features Larry and Van visiting a personal trainer following a night at Scotch and Sirloin:

The first thing he had me do was an assessment of my flexibility, a measurement of my fat content and a check of my strength.  I laid on the mat and went through a series of stretches. Unfortunately for Carl and the other members of the gym, the steak mushrooms and dirty martinis were done fermenting in my stomach and I let go with a 21 gun salute. Carl winced, let out a scream, held his nose and ran to the exit. He had to hold the door open as the other members were right behind him.  Van and I were alone for about 15 minutes as the mushroom cloud dissipated. We played slap and tickle until Carl finally returned.

“Sorry about that” I said. “That’s OK,” said Carl, his eyes still watering.  “I just wasn’t expecting it to burn so much.”  He decided to skip the rest of the assessment and delve right into my diet.

“What’s your daily nutritional intake, starting with breakfast?” asked Carl.  I replied, “Well, for breakfast I start with a pound of bacon cooked in 4 sticks of butter and a cheese omelette smothered in hot fudge sauce topped with Skittles. For lunch I keep it light: a chicken salad with bacon wrapped sticks of butter and cheesecake for dessert. Dinner is normally done at the Scotch and Sirloin or The Grapevine. We go with either Steak and mushrooms or the King cut (24 ounce) Prime Rib. I’m not a big snacker and rarely get through more than 4 bags of Funions in an evening.”

“Wow” said Carl, “This could be a challenge.  Let’s run through some of the weight machines.”

2. Reposted from the Rebecca and Colin blog:  I’m a fan of mixed martial arts, and came across an excerpt from a book on the rise of the UFC while wasting time earlier today. The part about a fighter named Luke Cummo and his, umm, unusual routine just about killed me. You can read the whole thing here, but beware that the story includes a gross picture of a particularly bloody fight. Anyway, here’s the comic gold:

In Ohio, I saw Cummo outside his locker room and remarked that he looked decidedly smaller than his opponent, Luigi Fioravanti, an Iraqi war veteran. Perhaps that was because while Fioravanti was adding mass—gulping water and gorging on steak the day after the weigh-in—Cummo had had nothing to eat all day. Not only that, without a trace of self-consciousness, Cummo explained that he had “purified” himself by practicing “urine recycling.” Come again? “I drink my own urine. I had my last meal last night and then I continually drink my urine. Eventually when I poop—you know, when I do No.2—all that comes out is urine. Then I know my digestive system is completely empty. At first I used to put some honey in it, heat it up and drink it like a tea. But now I just drink it fresh. That’s when it’s most delicious.”

Bob Reynolds is a Coward, Tim Wroblewski is a Liar

June 26, 2009
Sloth from the Goonies?

Sloth from the Goonies?

The County Legislature fell one vote short of overriding Chris Collins’ veto of a law that would establish a county-wide planning board yesterday.  10 votes were needed to override the veto, and the vote was 9-6.  I was there, and I’m pissed off.

There are 12 Democrats in the Legislature, so the defeat of the planning  means that 3 Democrats chose to side with Chris Collins rather than their party, more than 80 community groups, and basic sanity.  What were their reasons?

The most consistent argument was that, since the heads of local towns and villages were against the planning board, it would be wrong to support it:

. . . for the notion of a countywide planning board to move forward, it will take the support of the county’s numerous cities, towns and villages, the same group that led the opposition this time.

“I think they’re afraid,” Majority Leader Maria Whyte, the bill’s chief sponsor, told her colleagues Thursday. “I think they’re afraid of change, and I think they’re afraid of losing power and control.”

For the three Democrats who broke ranks, it was clear the municipalities in their districts leaned on them to vote “no” just as fellow Democrats pressured them to vote “yes.”

Legislator Robert Reynolds of Hamburg said his defining moment came last week during a meeting of the Erie County Association of Governments.

Reynolds, who indicated he might provide the necessary 10th vote to override, asked who among the municipal leaders there opposed the new board.

“It was unanimous,” Reynolds said. “That was a changing moment for me.”

Of course, the objections of local chieftains in places like the town of Boston are all about protecting turf, not about protecting a better way of doing development and land use planning.  What Reynolds — who supports the idea of county-wide planning enough to have hosted a town hall meeting promoting the idea — effectively did was to sell out his beliefs and his party in order to protect the turf of a bunch of two-bit town supervisors.

Another argument used by the Democratic turncoats was that they supported the idea of regional planning so much that they just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a board with only advisory powers.  This was the favored argument of Tim Wroblewski, and it’s pure horseshit.  If the most vocal public advocates of regional planning all support this board, maybe you could get behind it, right?  Maybe it’s a necessary first step toward a board with real teeth, right?  And even if it remains an advisory board, isn’t it still a useful body to promote sane planning and anti-sprawl measures?

The final argument was that the board would be costly and bad for business.  There was disagreement about how much the board would cost — some said $100,000, some said $500,000 — but that misses the point, which is that sane planning could save the area far more than that by reducing infrastructure costs and subsidies to business that play one municipality off another.  And since the board was supported by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the big developers in the area, it’s kind of hard to paint it as an anti-business measure.

So now we won’t have a planning board — unlike almost every county in the state — because of two men: Bob Reynolds and Tim Wroblewski.  Reynolds, a coward who renounced his principles after being threatened by a bunch of town and village nobodies; and Wroblewski, a liar who stood in front of me and 20 others and said that “he wouldn’t leave Maria hanging.”  Fuck them both.

Weather on the 8’s, Revolution on the 9’s

June 16, 2009

9-moviePundit’s post about the protests in Iran reinforced a long-held theory of mine — that years ending in 9 tend to be the most interesting of their decade, full of the kind of revolutionary change that effectively announces where the world is going in the decade to come.  Think about it:

2009: Iranian protests, global economic meltdown, Obama elected president.  It’s only 1/2 way through the year, but it’s been an interesting one, hasn’t it?

1999: The Battle in Seattle shuts down the WTO and serves as the coming out party for the worldwide movement against corporate globalization.  The next two years were filled with serious debates about the role of corporations, America’s place in the world, and even the legitimacy of capitalism.  Of course, 9/11 short-circuited these discussions, but they’re beginning to gain steam again and I think they will be the defining questions of the 21st century.

1989: The demise of the Eastern Bloc and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  This year ushered in what proved to be the short-lived era of US global omnipotence, where our government felt free to act around the world without the counterbalance of the Soviet bloc.  The Christmas-time invasion of Panama gave a taste of what was to come in the 90s.

1979: Revolutions in Iran, Nicaragua, and Grenada; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; the election of Margaret Thatcher.  A crazy year.  Iran ushered in the age of Islamic bogeyman and the revolutions in Central America set much of the US foreign policy agenda for the next decade.   The Russian invasion set the clock ticking to the dissolution of the USSR, fractured the non-aligned movement, and helped create somebody called Osama bin Laden.  And Thatcher’s election was an appetizer for the Reagan years.

1969: A comparatively quiet year.  Most of the really important stuff happened in ’68.  Oh well.

1959: The Cuban Revolution, hugely important in shaping US relations with Latin America for decades.

1949: The Chinese Revolution.  Sort of a big deal.

1939: The start of WWII — maybe you heard of it?

1929: The start of the Great Depression.

1919: civil war in Bolshevik Russia, the biennio rosso in Italy, the German Revolution.  The failure of the socialist uprising in Italy led directly to Italian facism, while Germany saw the creation of the Weimar Republic and its nationalist opponents.

Care Bears, Kids, and Good and Evil

June 9, 2009

Rebecca and I went to Connecticut two weekends ago to visit Ben, Mary, Jonathan and Bridget (that’s her brother, his wife, and our niece and nephew for the uninitiated).  We spent all day watching the kids on Saturday, and that’s where I was introduced to the greatness of the Care Bear countdown:

This will be the only song in your head, pretty much forever.

Anyway, I was talking with Ben about the changes in kid’s media since we were kids.  We grew up with GI Joe and the Transformers, which weren’t only violent but which promoted a very Manichean worldview — good vs. evil, Joe vs. Cobra, Autobot vs. Decepticon.  Heck, even the Care Bears was based on this sort of struggle.  Bridget and Jonathan, though, are growing up with very different media — Thomas the Tank Engine, Caillou — that are less about violent fantasies of struggle and more about friendship, cooperation and problem solving.  It’ll be interesting to how this generation of kids turns out.

Manischewitz

May 19, 2009

manischewitzRebecca and I spent the last five days down in Charlotte, visiting her family and seeing her brother graduate from Wake Forest with his JD and MBA.  Somewhat more practical than a history PhD.  If you don’t know Dave yet, don’t worry — you’ll be working for him soon enough.

But this post is really about my introduction to the delicious world of sweetened kosher wine.  And by delicious, I mean painfully disgusting.  Yes, on Friday night a few of us drank Manischewitz and did a jigsaw puzzle.  Nobody parties like the Hoffmans!

This stuff was so bad it gave me goosebumps, but Rebecca poured me such a huge serving — 20 ounces or so — that I took it as my mission to finish the thing.  This was my Everest.

I can’t do justice to how nasty it was, so I’ll let Nosheteria do the honors:

For those of you who have never tried the nectar, I can’t say I would honestly recommend it. Sort of reminiscent of cough medicine, overly sweet, the wine actually burns one’s esophagus a bit on the way down. But the burn only causes me to think of the suffering of the Jewish people when they were enslaved in the land of Pharaoh. LET MY PEOPLE GO!

Just as reciting the four questions (because yes, I am still the youngest in my family), the drinking of the sacharine-sweet sacrament drink, is an activity in which I will masochistically partake. The first sip is always the best/worst, the concord grape most pungent. Then as my glass comes down to room temperature, and the wine lingers longer in my glass, the medicinal quality becomes redolent. With each taste I wince, and prepare myself for the next gulp.

Why Whiteness?

May 11, 2009
The whitest picture I could find . . .

The whitest picture I could find . . .

Some of you may know that I’m interested in studying race and whiteness when I start up the ol’ PhD machine in August.  When I tell people this, I often get blank stares or questions along the lines of “what, like the Klan?”  So I thought I might lay out just what I’m talking about so I can point people here when they have questions.  Some of this is probably nothing new for many people reading this, but oh well.

It starts with the idea that race is socially constructed.  It’s true that there are physical differences between people — skin color, hair, susceptibility to certain diseases — but these differences aren’t in themselves that significant.  And yet these differences have, whether by law or custom or some other mechanism, been used in ways both big and small to help determine people’s life chances for centuries.  That’s because societies have decided that a set of physical differences have some particular importance.  The meaning of race is constructed by society.

Given how important these definitions of race have been, it makes sense that historians would want to study how they were arrived at, how they’ve changed over time, and their impact on modern life.

But why whiteness in particular?  In large part, because whiteness is so often invisible.  Whether consciously or not, most people assume that whiteness is simply the norm, rather than one race among many.  When you say “race,” most people are bound to think “black,” not “white.”  And despite being practically invisible, whiteness is a source of real advantage and power.

A classic example of the power and effective invisibility of whiteness has to do with housing discrimination.  For decades, discrimination in housing was a matter of government policy.  The federal government backed hundreds of billions of dollars in loans between the 30s and 80s, yet explicitly racist practices like redlining meant that only some 2% went to blacks.  It’s easy to see that this situation harmed black people, but traditionally it’s been far less common to recognize that whites benefited from that harm by gaining access to a lucrative all-white real estate market.

Studying whiteness is about uncovering the ways in which racial advantage was created and structured, and how it’s changed over time.  It’s about recognizing that white racial identity is just as manufactured as black racial identity.  And it’s about challenging white people to recognize that their advantage is the flip side of someone else’s disadvantage.

Torry Holt’s Finger

May 4, 2009

holt

Torry Holt was on my fantasy team last year.  He sucked.  Maybe the whole deformity thing had something to do with it.

“I’m going to leave it just like this,” Holt says. “This is what I got out of the game. Some crooked fingers. It scares little kids, too.”

Doug Turner, the Buffalo News, and Torture

May 1, 2009
Doug Turner: Yoda's white uncle?

Doug Turner: Yoda's white uncle?

On Monday the Buffalo News published an opinion piece that was idiotic even by their lofty standards.  The piece, by their ancient Washington Bureau chief Doug Turner, argues that the Obama administration made a mistake by releasing some of the Bush-era memos authorising the use of torture on suspected terrorists.  Here are the relevant bits of Turner’s piece:

In the wars America won— in less than four years—our intelligence agencies did what was necessary.

By contrast, Obama and radical allies on his left spent last week tantalizing our terrorist enemies and the public with the release of classified interrogation documents and holding out the possibility of show trials of Bush administration officials . . .

[Turner lists US atrocities during WWII and the Cold War] None of this behavior can be justified in the open . . . Obama, by releasing the secret papers on waterboarding and other harsh treatment of terror suspects, has signaled a massive generational and cultural change.

1. Of course, we don’t know that the things our intelligence agencies did in the past were “necessary.”  That we won WWII doesn’t mean that everything we did in the course of the war was necessary.  It just doesn’t follow.

2. That said, even if we accept that the torture of prisoners was necessary in the past, that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable in the present.  Maybe I’m a starry-eyed dreamer, but I’d like to think that the standards of ethical behavior have changed in the last 60 years.  Our government found that interning Japanese-Americans and intentionally killing millions of civilians was necessary, too — and by Turner’s standard, they would be just dandy today.

3. How would prosecuting Bush administration officials be a “show trial?”  Figures from the Bush administration have already gone on trial.  So did folks from the Clinton and Reagan administrations, to say nothing of the criminal bloodbath that was the Nixon White House.

4. The most amazing part of Turner’s piece is the bit about the difficulty of justifying torture “in the open.”  For Turner, the problem isn’t that our government tortures; it’s that our pesky rabble of a citizenry knows about it.  What we have here is a journalist arguing in favor of government secrecy and public ignorance.  Pathetic . . . and typical.

Is the Worker’s Paradise Here Yet?

May 1, 2009

kapital

Happy May Day everybody!  I wasn’t sure if I would say anything about the holiday, but then I noticed the flyer above taped to a pole in the parking lot at Home Depot.  It’s the first Soviet/Marxist-themed handyman flyer I’ve ever seen, so I took it as a sign.

Three years ago, I was one of a couple hundred folks who held a rally and unpermitted march down Main Street as part of a huge day of action for immigrant rights.  The police broke up the march and arrested two of the organizers, including my friend and fellow Colin caucus member Colin O’Malley.  From the May 2, 2006 Buffalo News:

About 200 college students listened to speeches, chanted and held signs Monday in front of Harriman Hall on the University at Buffalo’s South Campus as they protested proposals to crack down on illegal immigrants.

They then marched a mile to Shoshone Park to listen to more appeals for illegal immigrants.

“Our battles are not with immigrants to this country,” rally organizer Carlos Lizarraga, a nursing student, told the crowd at the beginning of the rally. “Our enemies are the rich, the capitalists, the lawmakers, the politicians, the elite and those who leave us disenfranchised and oppressed.”

He also had his problems with the police.

Police arrested Lizarraga and Colin O’Malley after the two rally organizers stepped onto Main Street during the crowd’s walk to the park.

Police in eight patrol cars guided the marchers through the University Heights business district during heavy early evening traffic. A road repair project already clogged traffic along a stretch of Main Street, with a single travel lane for each direction.

Police, who said they had two hours advance notice of the march, said they instructed the marchers to stay on the sidewalk. Some marchers said the road repair project made that difficult at various points along the route and accused the police of being aggressive.

The UB May 1st Coalition, consisting of several organizations, sponsored the “No Human Being Is Illegal” rally as part of a nationwide “Day Without Immigrants” boycott to show solidarity with illegal immigrants.

The rally turned a little tense in Shoshone Park, with at least one speaker using profanity as he chided police. Officers in 11 police cars kept their distance, but surrounded the rally. Children played on a playground about 30 yards from the speaker.

Still, those in the diverse, college-age crowd were peaceful. And they expressed concern for those who have entered this country illegally and now fear what a congressional bill could mean for them.

A measure passed by the House of Representatives would treat being in the country illegally as a felony.

Wow, I’d forgotten how militant that action was.  Carlos was actually put in a  chokehold before being arrested.  That was just about the hairiest local action I can remember during the Bush years.

In 2005, I spent May Day at a big anti-nuke rally in NYC.  It gets lost in the shuffle now, but one of the big victories of the peace movement over the last decade was thwarting Bush’s plan to build a new generation of nuclear weapons systems.  The trip was most memorable, though, for a late-night discussion I had with some friends from Peace Action.   We were bitching about the state of the movement, and we came to the story of one Peace Action group that had gone bankrupt after opening its own coffeehouse.  According to the president of the local chapter, it couldn’t be helped since “our coffee wasn’t any good.”  The great Catherine Detwiler’s timeless response — “that seems like a solvable problem!” — still tickles me to this day.

Back in Buffalo (and back two more years) I was involved in a much less eventful May Day march down Main Street.  A group of younger anarcho-types had come together to plan direct actions against the Iraq War in April 2003, but since the war had ended so quickly — ha! — we decided to form our own organization and kick things off with a weekend of events around May Day.  And so the mighty Buffalo Coalition Against Poverty (BCAP) was born.  It was a neat weekend — a Wal-Mart demo, a benefit concert, the march, a big picnic and skill share — but over time it became clear that scensters and crust punks weren’t a solid base on which to build an organization.  Oh well.

Then, I organized and put myself on the line.  Now, I blog.  Hasta la victoria siempre? (shrugs shoulders)