As part of my duties as a copy cataloging clerk for the university libraries I recently processed an archival photocopy replacement of a book from 1928 being withdrawn due to old age. There was something about the book that caught me up enough that I flipped through the initial chapters. Here was theosophy, Kickapoo Joy Juice, and the origin of the phrase enough food to feed Coxey's army. The book in question was
Coxey's army, a study of the industrial army movement of 1894, [WorldCat.org]. Here also was a triggering moment of serendipity. Which I will get to after a few words on the immediate subject.
The primary event here was the petition in boots of 1894
Coxey's Army - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. More formally known as the Commonweal in Christ a march on Washington DC in 1894 during the depression of the 1890's. Its leader was one Jacob Coxey (and baby son little Legal Tender Coxey) a fairly well-to-do Ohio businessman, owner of a quarry. In addition he was a Greenbacker and proponent of a Good Roads movement
Jacob S. Coxey Sr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. I should take a moment to try to explain what that might mean. Greenbackers were part of the free silver or bimetal currency movement. They favored an expanded currency unlocked from rigid gold reserves in order to have the fiscal wherewithal for a public works program to ease unemployment and to gain farmers value for their product. At this period in American history much of the true value of the American economy did not exist in circulating currency issued by the Federal Government through the Banks. This remained only a portion, much of it was held in private script covering the flow of industrial and retail production and service. The book is lengthy and I declined to read it all before writing this post. The critical point is that these issues came together for Coxey in the form of a notion for non-interest-bearing public bonds, rather like modern municipal bonds in some ways. And he conceived of a march on Washington DC to popularize the cause. A march that would leave his home town in Ohio on Easter Sunday and arrive in Washington around May first
The opening chapters of the book build up vivid detail of the characters: cowboys, indians, mysterious strangers, and ladies in veils that gathered to make up this march. The whole thing was a real Chautauquafest from start to finish.
The times were fascinating: though, always more complex than I imagine. The early chapters of Stegner's Big Rock Candy Mountain cover the same period. It was a time of tight money and unemployment. Of scattered hoboes and itinerant workers traveling the only way that existed in those times - foot or rail
Coxey's army : an American odyssey [WorldCat.org]. And of how as unemployment rose these gave way to more organized movements of workers looking for employment the Industrial Army movement. At the same time as Coxey; Fry's army and Kelly's army were also marching on Washington. The panic of 1893 and recession for the remainder of the 1890's can be seen as rehearsal for the great depression of the 1930's but it was too early then for a new deal. L Frank Baum was supposed to have observed Coxey's army on its progress and used it as the inspiration for the Wizard of Oz tales. Its not thought they formed a full and rigorous analogy on ounces of gold (Oz) and yellow brick roads wicked witches (McKinley Cleveland) and gold slippers (only ruby for the movie) so much as a running series of metaphors loosely joined
JSTOR: Journal of Political Economy: Vol. 98, No. 4, p. 739 Wizard of Oz as Monetary allegory.
The March arrived at the end of April passing down Rockville Pike, Hagerstown Frederick Rockville Bethesda into Washington. whereupon Coxey and the others were promptly arrested for walking on the grass and the whole thing fell apart. Well that and the fact that a significant portion of the marchers had been police and secret service anyways and their vacation was over once they got to DC.
Jacob Coxey was not indifferent to ambition. He allowed himself to be nominated to run for governor of Ohio by the peoples party in 1895, and 1897. And he habitually contested Congressional or Senate seats from Ohio over next 20 years either as independent or republican without ever winning anything until he won a term as mayor of his hometown in 1931. A sample slogan of his campaigns in the mid 1920s: "Unhorse the Coupon Clippers" has a certain Hugoian ring to it. Coxey lived 97 years, until 1951, and saw the ideas of a progressive age and a new deal push out and replace the plutocratic diffidence of the gilded era.
The actual serendipity, came when I noticed the name of the town Jacob Coxey hailed from; Massillon Ohio. I recalled the email address I had recieved from my old navy friend Mark E. Which ended with what I took to be a company name at the time Mr. Massillon. I made a command decision (as we used to say) at this point to equate Jacob Coxey with Mr. Massillon and will not be shaken from this. I recalled the curious phrase Mark used to obscurely describe what he did for a living "I'm stilling selling people, kind of a legal pimp if you will."
In this season of providence we are greeted by politicians who claim God is validating them. I cannot think that this can be anything but a convoluted selectivity. You pick favored facts, your people suppress the rest. Recent pronouncements from the attained heights of our highest office holders (and such applicants who aspire to such offices) that Divine Presence smiles on their personal opinion and desire; has placed them on their seat of destiny or paves the path of such aspiration, requires some moments thought from the rest of us. Public displays, gratuitous public displays of religiosity are rarely more than abject exercises in egotism Online NewsHour: Analysis | Debate: Religion in Politics | December 24, 2007 | PBS.
The principle of destiny in general tends toward egotistic presumptions that destroy any now built of moments of realistic complexity. Imagining you were able, at some former interval, to look up the course of life the same way you look down at it. With its sense of inevitableness and completeness intact, causes some to overestimate their ability to will things into (or out of) being. To overestimate determination and reward. To discount loss and suffering.
Decisions form a branching tree structure many lines extend from where one started. Many paths between A and Z. In simplified terms people tend to regard that any decision they make could go one of two ways. A choice "A" they want to make. A false choice "D", a straw-man, conjectured only to make "A" look good. Choices "B" or "C" actually existing in equipoise counterpoint to "A" fade from mind. Any kind of complex decision making is like pushing a line of pennies across a table. you don't move the tenth anywhere surely, pushing on the first. Pressing on the eighth or ninth perhaps. The chain of causality contains no stronger links. No journey's completion is obvious at the outset.
At the same time. At every junction. Our decisions reveal who we are at that moment. Literature and opinion condemn choices made obsessively against the pressing of past desire. This is largely unnecessary. Desires of the moment are not inclined to allow themselves to be overcome.
Whether we attribute our fortune to providence, or our own perfected wisdom and resolve. What is most called for is an understanding of how limited our knowledge of self and place is. I am struck continually by the sense that the only thing we know with any clarity is the effect of how we treat our immediate and important others. It is the only thing we do truly deliberately, or follow the outcome of closely. On this rides our aggregate destiny.
Listening to the Higsons, that's a Robyn Hitchcock song, a reference to radio listening. Which for some reason is permanently stuck in the midground of my thoughts. His album from 2004, Spooked, which featured Gillian Welch is one of the things I listened to this year. Reading over the end-of-year music lists I've seen, I figured I could make such a list. I listen to radio at work taking advantage of being at a university and hardwired into the net. I listen to radio stations I've sought out, rather than just the ones around. I listen intently. My job is copy cataloging books; Ultra low level clerical work. I have to keep my mind occupied somehow. And on my pay I'm not tempted to buy many records or try to download all of iTunes. When I hear something I like but don't know, I write it down. I've been doing this my whole life, never bothered to save any of it before.
Here in no remaining order is an extract from my set of notes from this year.
Red Krayola: "Transparent Radiation." One problem with my list, that actually came out in 1967, but let this represent the principle of back catalog discovery.
Four Tet. I'm not sure what in particular I like by them I just find I keep writing their name down.
Pink Reason ibid. They have a disc Cleaning the Mirror out this year. Pink Reason is apparently just one Kevin Debroux from Wisconsin. A similar band in some respects is
His Name Is Alive from Livonia Michigan. HNIA is Warren Defever and usually a few others currently Andy fm (Andrea Francesca Morici). I have previously written in Atomized I really like the song "Come to Me " off the 2007 release Xmmer.
Of Montrealhad a record out this year, Hissing Fauna are you the Destroyer, I wasn't as taken by it as others of theirs, but I did like "the past is a grotesque animal" I felt similarly about San Francisco's Deerhoof lp Friend Opportunity. "the perfect me" was a fine song, though.
Something I admit I enjoyed thorougly was the Sea-horse song from
Devendra Banhart (2007's Smokey rolls down Thunder Canyon). People like to downgrade Banhart for being too affected, self-aware or whatever it might be. This song a stylized retro-extravaganza-channeling won't change. that. It's a very good song though, something hard to achieve through such deliberateness.
Band of Horse is another band I've come to like. "Is there a Ghost" is the new song getting played, "Funeral' a lovely song from the previous record I've heard in a car commercial recently [Ford Edge?].
Glenn Mercer formerly of the Feelies had a strong solo effort out this year, Another band in any list I make now is the Pernice Brothers . I like the sparer arrangements better. B S Johnson, a song about the british novelist is a favorite off this (or last years) Live a Little. I also like "7:30 off "The World Won't End". One of the two brothers involved used to head up a band called the Scud Mountain Boys. I want to mention
Myracle Brah too. This one of the bands that reminds me of the sort of stuff Boston's Real Kids used to do. Also in the simple pleasures category
Art Brut and their song "Direct hit" (I wonder what Billy Childish is up to). With the band Grinderman. Nick Cave records an album without feeling the need to summon the world's dwindling supply of seriousness to the project.
There is a circuit of noisy folkie bands out there I don't have much of a handle on.
Six Organs of Admittance may be one. I recommend the song "Coming to get you." This is one of a handful of projects out on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label. It shares this and a guest guitarist with the
Magik Markers. I have a couple of songs written down for them Empty bottle, Ballad of Harry Angstrom. This is a very noise band in current incarnation, no mistaking that
Magik Markers Punkcast. Noise had a good year though. The band
Psychedelic Horseshit, got some attention with their discordant jangle "New Wave Hippies." All the same it was San Francisco's
Sic Alps which continued to catch my attention. They did a live set on Jersey Cities WFMU back in the fall. I truly enjoyed that. They paired down from a three piece to a two piece at some point. Songs like "Message from the Can" are more or less indicative of the current sound. Strawberry Guillotine is the most recent release
SIC ALPS - Forced Exposure.
I've been listening to rock and pop music for a great many years now. For a considerable stretch of that time it was all industry approved corporate product, no regrets there, you like from what you know. None of the stuff above is from artists working for a big labels; however. The more I know the less I am tempted to care about the definitions those people pedal. All the same the White Stripes are on a major and I like them. For some reason this song of theirs remind me of the old Status Quo song "Pictures of Matchstick Men."
Candy cane girl, don't you know your
name, girl? Yeah, 12 people are gonna ask you just the same,
girl. What a world, Christmas once a year, girl.That's 364
tears, girl. So when Christmas finally comes, and nobody's got
a gun,And you think it might be fun to hang around, think
Why don't you open me up,
Candy cane boy, don't you know your name,
boy? Nine people gonna tell you just the same,
boy. You're alone son in the middle of a million, And
nobody knows how to talk to children.
Christmas finally comes, and nobody's got a gun, And you think
it might be fun to get a new toy, think again, boy. Oh, when
Christmas finally comes, and no one's got a gun, And you think
it might be fun to make a stand, think again, man. the white
A brief minor adventure occurred earlier this year when Hollywood showed up at the University of Maryland to shoot a scene in the building I work in. I was reminded of this when I saw that the movie is coming out on Friday. Normally, the McKeldin Library Special Events room looks like the first picture below. For a couple of days last April it looked like these following pictures. The word was that it was set up to look like the interior of the Old Executive Office Building for a scene in the movie National Treasure II. I think they are looking for a lost book of Presidential secrets in this one. Or maybe a secret book of lost Presidents. Perhaps a book with the address of a legendary lost guitar maker. I might have to see the movie at some point and find out. The real Old Executive Office Building is a grey second empire building that sits to the immediate western side of the White House in Washington DC. I think the Vice President has his offices in that building. I've been in that building; my sister, Ann, had an office there when she was a deputy White House Counsel for Telecommunications.
There was a two day load-in on a Thursday and Friday with the filming to occcur on the following Saturday. None of the principles, actors or directors, were around while I was there. They were apparently with another unit filming elsewhere. Several strands of massive fire -hose sized power cables were snaked laboriously from a generator truck parked at the loading dock, to the back staircase all the way up to the sixth floor. Here they remade our empty room meticulously into another cubicled reality. Before taking it all apart again a few days later. By Monday it was all just a rumour. I believe this scene did make to the final cut
National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) - Filming locations. I was trying to get more detailed pictures, these were taken at around 5pm that Friday, but there were some people around who were giving me displeased looks. So I got a couple of quick shots and left.
I was off on the weekend and didn't make back to campus, so I missed seeing the day of filming with Jon Voight and Nicolas Cage who were in that scene (It's not like Jon's daughter was going to be there). They also apparently filmed a brief outdoor scene on the fly. The area just outside McKeldin being used to stand-in for a scene at the University of Virginia. I have a vague recollection that the time of year in the story for these scenes was supposed to be late spring or summer, but I remember on that Saturday there was a near inch of snow on the ground when I got up that morning.
The U S intelligence agencies got together recently and released one of their consensus intelligence reviews on Iran's nuclear program
U.S.: Iran Halted Nuclear Weapons Plans in 2003. This hit the landscape like a bombshell, but it wasn't exactly clear why
A Blow to Bush's Tehran Policy. It was interpreted as claiming that Iran is not trying to develop nuclear weapons. Great amounts of energy were released quickly in a chain reaction
News Analysis: An Assessment Jars a Foreign Policy Debate About Iran. Iran's desire for nuclear weapons is probably a given. This shouldn't be doubted and that is not what this report was claiming. The only appeal against attainment is greater self interest. And it can be pointed out that Israel's nuclear weapons program is ever the biggest advertisement in the middle east for such a program. It seems to do so much for Israel and on a daily basis. The most successful programs are obscured and ambivalent ones.
What does this NIE actually say? We have only the nine page publicly released summary to examine, but let's look at it
Iran threat assessment: the do-over. - By Bonnie Goldstein - Slate Magazine (A pdf of the summary is linked from this article). The first 3 pages are devoted to peculiar throat clearing where the authors explain what they mean when they say "highly confident etc." Essentially that goes something like this: 'Definitely' means 'maybe'. 'Maybe means 'we have no idea' and 'we can't tell' means 'definitely.' The Intelligence community believes: we have multiple sourced information that Iran had a military run weapons program active from the mid 1980's until 2003, when a decision was made to shut it down. We believe it remains shut down. This is not as thoroughly confirmed
Israel Insists That Iran Still Seeks a Bomb - New York Times. This program is or was separate (in addition to) the civilian nuclear enrichment program. The military program involved a wide range of technologies: fissionable material production either indigenous or by a program of external acquisition, triggering and weaponization, and delivery systems i.e. outfitting a missile to carry the bomb that they think they'll end up with. The time frames for having enough fissile material to assemble a bomb are based on indigenous production paths. Centrifuges in operation times their efficiency of operation (rotation speed mainly). Variables due to known technical difficulties (centrifuges shredding when operated at optimum speeds) are taken into account for the estimates. It does not appear that any additional technical hurdles remain, no additional allowance is made for any. Last; it is judged that Iran has all necessary theoretical knowledge to create a nuclear weapon. Any decision not to proceed with making a nuclear weapon would be a political decision and therefore reversible decision. The halt that we believe occurred in 2003 was such a decision. we believe it to be a cost benefit analysis basic on a decsision metric of some type. We do not know the terms of this metric or whether the programs resumption is tied to certain events or to an existing schedule. It is expected to remain a deeply clandestine operation.
The official circumstances of release and official reaction were curious from the start. The White House appeared to be taken by surprise
Bush Says Iran Still a Danger Despite Report on Weapons - New York Times. But an examination of rhetoric and statements over the last few months made it clear that they knew where the CIA was headed. When the Intelligence community made it clear they wanted to make this the official estimate. They had already ramped up the rhetoric on statements the estimate would not directly contradict and prepared an argument that it was threats of military action not sanctions that had influenced the Iranians
Bush: Iran Intelligence Report Is Warning Signal. The vice presidents apparent non reaction and non involvement mean very little here. Having lost the preferred battle. He has simply shifted to to other means.
The Media and public reaction fell into variations on "revenge of the intel community" or that it marked a disinclination of the Pentagon to become involved in a further war. The former is a perverse stretch of the hyper-cautious tone of this NIE
How Did a 2005 Estimate on Iran Go Awry? (over the last). I expect revenge to be colder and composed more of iron nickel, and carbon than an intelligence estimate that simply does not declare what it does not know. But what do I know of revenge? The latter issue with the Pentagon is similarly doubtful it is unlikely the intelligence community took it upon themselves to produce an estimate simply to comfort the military. The public explanation pointed to dramatic new data New Data and New Methods Lead to Revised View on Iran.
There did seem to be confusion in the international reaction, and initial commentary warned of the seeming collapse of sanctions regime
U.S. Renews Efforts to Keep Coalition Against Tehran. Iran is too large and wealthy a country for the European community to shrug off trade with it. For those inclined to doubt the Iranian bomb this will briefly seem like an opportunity to cease self denial and press for deals. There may be opportunity here to engage that set of Iranian opinion that believes more in their bomb than trade. For some of the Arab states there is worry that U S will not always do their dirty work:
Losing Weight in the Gulf - New York Times. An uncompromising U S hardline works for them. Of course some of this same lot would have liked the U S to have responded to the Iraq insurgency by leveling Sadr city. It is more instructive to examine what they will put their name to. The stark shadeless diplomatic initiative to isolate Iran earlier this year, it should be noted, left many of our allies feeling somewhat stampeded.
Right wing neo conservative reaction is not less than various expressions of outrage and betrayal
John R. Bolton - The Flaws In the Iran Report - washingtonpost.com. At the very least the rest of us can appreciate the humor in hearing these sputtering malcontrites call an intelligence estimate "political."
U.S. intel report on Iran was political: Bolton - Yahoo! News They are all just looking at each other now saying: "Where'd our war go?" "I don't know." I cannot figure what they thought this new war would do for them. For some the Victor Hanson crowd, it is simply that it would be a war, for others it is doubling the initial wager, a last wave to the beach before history drowns them. Nuance means nothing to them so they see no need to read small print, or consider the pages of this iceberg that remain classified. It is key that no overt attempt was made to coordinate with this lot.
There is little reading between the lines. There was a weapons program, ironically it appears to be notes taken a meeting full of kvetching on the program being ordered into a standown that provided the confirmation
Details in Military Notes Led to Shift on Iran, U.S. Says. Everybody in the middle east believed the Iranians were working on a nuclear weapon. Shibley Telhami's periodic public opinion polls confirm that. Why was there so much doubt in the U S and Europe? Likely as not it is not true doubt so much as convenience Bush Says Iran Still Must Explain Past Nuclear Work. There are significant differences between Iraq's situation where WMD proved to be a false positive and Iran's a more cohesive society, wealthier, and with all its regional aspirations still intact. Iran will attempt to sneak up to an active weapon with little sideways steps, a scuttling crab dance, without being seen ever making a straightforward run at it. It appears likely they will keep at it
Israelis Brief Top U.S. Official on Iran. Not all parts of the program will run at once, anything that can repurposed from above-board nuclear research will be. The blackout on the clandestine program will be complete: people, locations, portions of the Iranian national budget, and the entire material procurement chain will go dark. For U S intelligence it becomes an exercise in determining the shape and size of the void and what might be able to fit inside it.
Confronting the Iranian Bomb In the end will be a matter of emphasizing the costs. The costs ought not be left entirely to the material plane on lost wealth and what we will break, This will have little impact on those that believe that conviction and principle are involved. This will require understanding that insisting that confrontation occur on U S (or Israeli) terms with threats, with the stick half of a carrot and stick approach, is more likely to be read in the end as a reason for acquisition rather than against.
11:52:20 PM comment ;trackback ;
The other day in a passing comment my niece noted she liked the newspaper comic Brewster Rockit. I had pegged that strip as a slightly difficult to figure variant of the Office with assorted and somewhat random pop culture elements
Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!. The mad scientist who is, however, one of the team. Their home; a space station named R.U. Sirius, featured distinctly in that days strip. As noted by my niece simply a pun, as noted by me a particular and lovely pun. One in real life belonging to Ken Goffman (aka) the moving force behind the demised magazine Mondo 2000 and associated glitter hacker groups.
Still the work I had to do tryin to explain that someone had been running around twenty years as a leading digerati with that moniker made me think when someone at Ars Technica wrote up a post on R.U a few days later
Cyberpunk icon proposes open source political party that others had walked the same path I had. It turns out that from his web log R.U. Sirius is championing what he calls the Open Source Political Movement. A seven (or so) point manifesto: The Open Source Party Proposal - 10 Zen Monkeys. He says we need only be behind five of the seven to play. I can get somewhat behind three of them. Ending imperial foreign policy. Ending (or at least not priviledging) corporate personhood. And the call for a new energy task force. R.U. Sirius makes at least as much sense as Ron Paul.
The Thanksgiving weekend involved spending time with teenagers and similarly aged folk. I always learn a lot on such occaisions. Consider the Awkward Turtle (Urban Dictionary: awkward turtle). Demonstrated below by my niece Nicole. Simply place one hand over the other, thumbs out, and rotate the thumbs. This is something I was completely unaware of previously. I'm pretty unaware in general, but still. There remains some question as whether faster or slower rotation indicates greater or lesser awkwardness Type of gesture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. I align with the turtle of slow pained and limping awkwardness. Depending on how dexterious you are, the turtle may be flipped over on his back. A pitious turtle indeed.
The Turtle is apparently the mascot of the awkward movement. A movement which seeks to combine and encompass the various too-much, ill-timed, or simply unnecessary information events. The "thanks for sharing" moments. All those times and turns of limited grace and cover in life. There really is a certain genius in this.