U. S. Politics

The Word Power of Samantha

A Review of “The Education of an Idealist”

October 30, 2019 in U. S. Politics | Comments (1)

By LARRY JOSEPH CALLOWAY (C)

Samantha Power’s new book, “The Education of an Idealist,” is an engaging personal memoir telling how she was formed by Ireland, acculturated by America and educated by a dangerous world. It begins with her love of her pub-dwelling father in Dublin and ends with her professional friendship with Barack Obama in Chicago and Washington. 

There are entertaining anecdotes along the way about everything from jogging under fire in Sarajevo to breast feeding while UN ambassador. But this true testament, in her own un-ghosted words, is shadowed by the same dark theme as her first book, “A Problem From Hell,” which won a Pulitzer prize in 2003 when she was just 32. 

“We have been bystanders to genocide. The crucial problem is why,” she wrote then. Sixteen years later, informed by a remarkable career as an “upstander,” (her coined word), her question is refined: “How do the moral and religious traditions of nonviolence coexist with the moral imperative not to stand idly by in the face of suffering?” 

But wait. Samantha Power is. . .who? 

Born in 1970 of Irish parents, who separated when she was eight. Mother and her new partner, both medical doctors, immigrated with her to the United States. Schooled in Georgia, graduate of Yale. Became an American citizen in 1993. Freelance war correspondent, Bosnia, 1993-96. Joined Obama’s Senate staff in Chicago, 2005. Married Cass Sunstein, a former Chicago law school colleague of Obama. Two children with Sunstein, a boy and a girl. Served with the National Security Council, 2009-13. United Nations ambassador, 2013-2017. 

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A Tale Of Two Stairways

Past, Present, Faulkner

May 24, 2019 in El Turista,SOUTHERN JOURNAL,Southwest,U. S. Politics | Comments (0)

By LARRY CALLOWAY (C)

“My fellow citizens,” Abraham Lincoln said, addressing Congress in December 1863. “We cannot escape history.” The sentiment and, “The past never dies. It is not even past,”  a line from William Faulkner that has been elevated by quote pickers to the status of an aphorism about the South, hummed like a soundtrack in my mind as we (my daughter and I) discovered the state of Mississippi. Don’t forget slavery, the bluesy background kept repeating. Don’t forget the violence of the 1960’s. 

She was not even born then, but I did not have to tell her about Mississippi Burning: the KKK at night, the exonerated murders of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Chaney-Goodman-Schwerner. The endless anniversaries attract the media. They become news, affordable to produce from the archives. Not even the past.

We went to Natchez because I wanted to drive some of the Natchez Trace Parkway that goes 444 miles to Nashville and look for signs of the original wagon road. I like historic trails. Old spirits follow them, and you can find things. In arid northern New Mexico I have seen 150-year-old wagon tracks from the Old Santa Fe Trail and found a rusty spur.

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On Natural Education

Review of “Educated” by Tara Westover

April 18, 2018 in The Rockies,U. S. Politics | Comments (0)

By LARRY JOSEPH CALLOWAY (c)

“Educated” is an ironic title for a memoir by a young woman, Tara Westover, who showed up at Brigham Young University from rural Idaho at age 17 without any education at all, not even home schooling. All she knew was the mountain where she lived and the personalities of her extended family and the beauty of the seasons and animals and junk cars and how to ride and tame horses and how to cook and identify herbs and their healing properties, and how to sing before an audience and how to trust her own instincts. The meaning of “educated,” then,  must lie in her flyleaf quote from John Dewey that “education is a reconstruction of experience.” 

At 27 Tara Westover received a PhD in history from Cambridge University in England. Her story, published in March, is sure to provoke public schoolers and believers in Jeffersonian democracy. They will have explanations and investigations. All I have is the suggestion that you read this book.

If it were simply about “another young person who left home for an education. . . and isn’t going back,” as the New York Times review concluded, then her memoir would not be a best seller, despite her skillful story telling. The success is in the setting, the surrounding, which is a mystery to most Americans. Most of the book takes place in what is being called The American Redoubt, by fringe writers and their followers. This is the mountainous spread of the interior northwest (Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and parts of eastern Oregon and Washington).

The survivalist culture of the Redoubt (a fortified refuge) involves severing dependance on government, its schools, its police powers its health care requirements, its systems of water, power, and transportation, and its distribution of goods. The culture involves preparing for the political-economical system’s collapse by stockpiling guns, food and fuel and other necessities. Culture is the business of anthropology and this memoir, along with its literary virtues, is anthropological.

Her father is a tyrant, a doomsday prepper who has dozens of guns and a thousand gallons of fuel wrapped and buried. He draws his absolute family authority from random biblical passages. He supports the family with his junkyard salvaging and barn building, in which the seven children as they grow are expected to help. He ignores safety as a matter of crazy religious faith — the angels of the Lord will protect them — and Tara is slashed, impaled and twice nearly crushed to death by his frenzied junkyard sorting. “Dad lived in fear of time. He felt it stalking him. I could see it in the worried glances he gave the sun as it moved across the sky, in the anxious way he appraised every length of pipe or cut of steel,” she writes. (more…)


HILLBILLY SYNCHRONICITY

My Fellow Americans. . .

November 9, 2016 in SOUTHERN JOURNAL,U. S. Politics | Comments (2)

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By Larry Joseph Calloway ©

 The networks were so unprepared for Donald Trump’s win that my election night switching caught only one panelist who could speak with authority for the key voters euphemistically called “white – no college degree.”  He was J. D. Vance, the black-haired concise-speaking author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” an immediately personal story of his poor and violent family from Appalachian Kentucky.

I was reading it in October along with another pre-election bestseller, the radical history “White Trash” by Nancy Isenberg. These books are cultural not political, but they explain something about the “populist uprising,” as Vance termed it in an interview while adding that Trump understood the anger behind it but offered no solutions.

Apart from politics, my research represented an obsession with my father’s hardwood Appalachian roots. He was always wanting something far away. His sisters talked of North Carolina when we visited their farms near Lyons, CO. They were pretty and spoke in sweet accents. My father drank. He died. I was about to set the periodic ancestry project aside when, suddenly, up popped an email from a total stranger in Longmont, Colorado. I’ll get to the deep synchronicity* of it in a few minutes.

Writer-lawyer Vance’s family moved from Jackson, KT, to Middleton, in southern Ohio, so his grandfather could work in the Armco steel mill. It rusts away now under a Japanese name. His grandfather died as an out-of-work alcoholic. His mother, pregnant at high school graduation with his older brother, was more in love with drugs than any of her half dozen husbands.

His elegy is for his grandmother, who raised him. She was a heroic exemplar of the lost mountain culture of pride and toughness. She disciplined him relentlessly to pursue self-improvement through education and even, among other folksy wisdoms, learning golf because “that’s where rich people do business.” (Trump is an international developer of golf courses.)

Mamaw, as he called her, represents the culture lost when the families of several generations were uprooted by economics and dropped dead by economics. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” as my father used to say. I had his brother-in-law minister, a chaplain of the Arizona National Guard, read it at his graveside ceremony. Vance does not mention churchgoing in Middleton, but I suppose religion was a part of the lost culture because in every North Carolina hollow where I searched for Calloways there was a church — usually Baptist — often looking forsaken. Vance observes out of nowhere, “I wasn’t surprised that Mormon Utah — with its strong church, integrated communities, and intact families — wiped the floor with Rust Belt Ohio.”

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What Did You Expect? Privacy?

Mechanic In A Digital Age

June 17, 2013 in U. S. Politics | Comments (1)

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Finally, some media attention to the thin legal basis for the NSA surveillance of telephone and e-mail communications. Stories today about the decision of  U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon that the program is unconstitutional report his dismissive comments on Smith v. Maryland. The 34-year-old Supreme Court opinion says you don’t have an “expectation of privacy” when you dial a telephone. This opinion was the basis of the government’s defense in the case before Leon. He wrote that “the government’s surveillance capabilities, citizens’ phone habits, and the relationship between the NSA and telecom companies” today are so unlike 34 years ago that the Smith decision does not apply. Here is what I reported in June:

 

By LARRY CALLOWAY

Be reasonable. The government can look at your phone and email logs. You should know that by now.  All reports say this,although there may be limits.  According to the government, there is protection of privacy, but that depends upon secret decisions by secret courts. So you don’t know. You have no “reasonable expectation of privacy,” as the Supreme Court likes to put it.

The issue was framed in a 1967 opinion by the court involving the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Without getting a warrant,  the FBI placed a listening device on a phone booth to catch a man who was phoning unlawful bets from one state to another. His lawyers argued it was a violation of his privacy. The federal prosecutors argued the phone booth was public, not a private place.

Justice Potter Stewart wrote the 7-1 majority opinion (Katz v U.S.) siding with the the bookie. “One who occupies [a telephone booth], shuts the door behind him, and pays the toll that permits him to place a call is surely entitled to assume that the words he utters into the mouthpiece will not be broadcast to the world.” The opinion extended Fourth Amendment protection to any situation where a person has an expectation of privacy. And it expressed Stewart’s dictum: “Property does not have rights. People have rights.”

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Minutes Of A Crestone Meeting

The Case For Economic Sustainability

November 10, 2011 in Rio Grande West,U. S. Politics | Comments (0)

Baca Grande Membership Vote Update.  See Baca Blog. . . 

 

By Larry Joseph Calloway

The anti-government passion that animates politics nationally was echoing off the walls at Jillian’s studio, where I have experienced yoga classes, a Sufi zirka, a feng schui talk, a sales pitch for ionized water, and such. Crestone is not where Republicans bother to campaign. It voted overwhelmingly for President Obama in both the primary and general elections three years ago.

But here before about 50 residents on folding chairs the speakers, backed by PowerPoint slides on a big screen, were saying we cannot depend upon government – federal, state, county – for relief in the coming upheaval. The main speaker was Vickie Helm, known to most of the gathering, whose only apparent motive in organizing the discussion was to inspire the community to work toward what she called “economic sustainability.”

That title does not convey the spirit of the gathering, just as speaker probably is not the best word for Helm, who was more like an evangelist than economist. She ran back and forth placing imaginary buckets under imaginary sudden leaks in the imaginary roof until, panting and exhausted, she made her point: namely, we’re running around containing leaks without realizing the roof is about to cave in.

OK, call it the sky. Call her Henny Penny. It don’t matter to her, I thought. “In a short period of time we’re going to be going through the same thing that Greece is going through,” she predicted. In other words, our national sovereign credit card is maxed out. “The inconvenient economic truth is this: the United States is broke.” There will be inflation and devaluing of the currency, but no more funding (federal, state, local).

She said somewhere in Kansas a school board proposed charging parents $40 a week to have their kids bussed to school. (I guess that board would never consider a small general tax increase for the general welfare. Oh, no! Forget the communal spirit that used to prevail in rural America if it costs money. Similar problem in Crestone, I thought:  Here an emergency services district to replace the endangered private fire department was created by a thin margin of voters this month, but a peculiar switch of only about 20 of the voters defeated the tax to support it.)

What if everything collapsed by natural disaster or by bankruptcy of the various corporate entities that sell services here but don’t care about the community? Who ya gonna call?

How to weather the coming storm? Up flashed some PowerPoint points:  Support community businesses. Community businesses support each other. How many folks in the audience had businesses? A dozen raised their hands, and she had them stand up. How many would like to learn how to make money on the internet? Two dozen hands went up. “If I get nothing else across to anybody, it is this: The most important thing is where you spend your dollars.”

And, Helm proclaimed the importance of supporting the non-commercial collection of community efforts she called “infrastructure.” Namely, that unfunded Crestone Emergency Services District, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, the various youth programs (thank you, Lisa Bodie and others), the food bank, the charter school (building under construction), the newly consolidated library district. These things, to me, are signs of a young and enthused community with a spirit of American volunteerism.

To the infrastructure she added two information-age essentials that bind the community to itself and to the world: the Crestone Eagle, a successful monthly newspaper in a time when mass circulation dailies are falling like trees (and saving some) and, the fledgling effort to bring high speed internet to this digitally disadvantaged rural area.

Internet. Now here was a cause worth urgent consideration. Cheered on by some in the audience, Mayor Ralph Abrams of Crestone took the floor. He has been working for a year to create a community internet company, and he said it’s going to happen – to begin to fire up in the next few weeks. The company, which he will head, is called Crestone Telecom. It will bring in high-speed internet service with state of the art equipment.

This was the most hopeful project to come up at the meeting (not to dismiss the many undeveloped suggestions for green technology) because it is concrete and ready to go. Problem: the effort is being undermined by a distant corporation. In a word (or maybe two), FairPoint. The sudden unannounced competitiveness on the part of a phone company with more apparent interest in the bankruptcy code than digital engineering is a good preface for the concept economic sustainability. This is probably going to be a test of standard corporate capitalism versus Abrams’ community capitalism.

Further, the year-long drill that Abrams and company were put through by the USDA in applying for a grant under a program that was cancelled at the last minute (budget problems?) is a good case history in support of the argument that we can no longer depend upon government.

Discouraging, this distrust of corporate America and American government (might as well add the corporate media). I stood to say that for reasons of practical politics including the obvious intent of some Republicans to purge all political opposition by driving the economy into the ground, I could not endorse the increasing cynical distance from government. I grew up as a student of the New Deal, which saved America from some of the terrible mistakes made elsewhere (Germany, Italy, even Russia where the mistake began) in reaction to Great Depression I. But that was long ago in a different world.

Anything on the bright side?  Jeff WishMer, a bright young man who works for Chokurei Farm Store, married with a home in the Baca, received a warm applause when he stood to include home-grown food in the infrastructure against the Collapse. He is running for the POA board against an incumbent, Robert Garnett, who opposes the new EMS district and almost anything else that might cost money. WishMer is being criticized by some of these oldtimers because he has said he hates the POA, at least the way it is.

Distrust of government is in the American grain. I became atuned to it not long ago when I went searching in rural North Carolina for family roots. My father’s people were subsistent farmers (and, some of them, moonshiners). These Scot-Irish folks were responsible for the Whiskey Rebellion and many other insurgencies in our history. They’re still around. Take Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., the writer-soldier who won an astonishing victory in 2006, defeating an incumbent Republican to give Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. My grandparents on my father’s side were born just 70 miles over the mountains from his grandparents.

Webb has proposed that this Scot-Irish minority, southern in origin but without a history of slavery, has a lot in common with the African-American minority, which goes back almost as many generations. Together they could form a populist force that would revive the Democratic party and its historic principles, particularly in the Republican South (which includes Texas).

Similarly, it occurred to me that the communal sentiments expressed at the meeting in the yoga studio might be wedded with the anti-government sentiments of those  angry folks who seem to support the Tea Party. They might want a divorce, I supposed, once they realize they are being used by corporately funded professional politicians to defeat the many and strengthen government in the interest of the few. Perhaps  Crestone is not that far from Kansas, Dorothy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


If It’s Halloween, This Must Be Moffat

Grass Roots Politics, Grama Grass Style

November 1, 2010 in U. S. Politics | Comments (0)

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(UPDATE: U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D, representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional district, was defeated for reelection by Republican Scott Tipton of Cortez by 4 percentage points. Salazar,  a popular incumbent seeking a fourth term, had defeated Tipton by more than 10 points in 2006.  The Oct. 13 FEC report showed Salazar received 1.8 million to Tipton’s $923,000. This is an account of a campaign stop in Salazar’s final tour of the San Luis Valley, which he carried by more than 60 per cent, but that plus a weaker showing in Pueblo and Durango was not enough to counter Tipton’s 60 per cent victory in Grand Junction, Delta, Montrose and Cortez. )

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Moffat, Colorado, a dot in a high 5,000-square-mile dry lake bed called the San Luis Valley. Pure land. Old West. Snow-dusted mountain ranges, San Juans west, Sangre de Cristos east. Collegiate peaks north, infinity south. This town is so small that nobody needs an address for the political reception (Democrat). Willow Springs Bed and Breakfast is the biggest house in town.

Halloween, but nobody is scary. (more…)


Hello? Is This Chile?

Forgetting Friedmanism

October 16, 2010 in U. S. Politics | Comments (0)

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Michael Moore on the Chilean rescue: “Next time we have a hole in the Gulf, we should call Chile.”

Which was to say, in managing recent disasters Chile did it right and America did not. In the Atacama desert the government  took charge of the rescue, realizing early on that the mining company (although it is state-owned) could not handle it. In the Gulf of Mexico the government stood aside while BP fumbled and prevaricated.

The Chilean strategy involved backup plans and acceptance of expert advice. The BP approach was to try and try again, beginning with the cheapest possible solution. The result was serial failure and a public relations disaster.

CNN anchors kept calling the rescue “historic.” It was, but not in their 24-hour view of history. Not so long ago, in the longer view, if you called Chile you would get  Augusto Pinochet.

The  New York Times interviewed people in the Atacama who live with the memory that 37 years ago a Pinochet death squad flew in by helicopters and murdered 16 suspected communists, including miners, at the same place. The “caravan of death” methodically moved on to other communities of leftists. It’s commander, now an ailing octogenarian as was Pinochet, has been identified but never prosecuted.

The first murders were  in the weeks following the September 1973 military coup that opened with the bombing of the presidential palace in Santiago and the death of the elected president, Salvador Allende, beloved by the labor leaders in the exploitive copper industry. (more…)


La Politica NM: Republicans Celebrate In The Shadow Of Arizona

What? No saguaros in New Mexico?

June 2, 2010 in U. S. Politics | Comments (0)

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Primary election message from New Mexico Republicans to the political planet: Hey, we’re not Arizona! Or so it would seem to people whose knowledge of both states comes from the national media. (more…)

Why “American Violet” Is Art, Not Polemics

My impressions of the 35th Telluride Film Festival

September 2, 2008 in T-ride Film Fest,U. S. Politics | Comments (0)

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The 35th Telluride Film Festival showed two fight-the-system movies originating with legal cases. The message for aspiring heroes: Don’t settle your lawsuit. Don’t plead guilty to criminal charges against you. Go to trial. The first message in the first film came easily. In the second, the message was artfully disturbing.

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