Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flush Rush

"We clean up your yard of dog waste so you don't have to." — Dog Doody Duty ad

I RECEIVED an email from a Hey Look reader with a blog post attached he wrote about the effort here in Iowa to end greyhound racing. He's more knowledgeable and up-to-the-minute on the issue than I am. It's extremely disheartening. I'll share it with you when I have the strength. 

For now, I need to feel better about something, so I'm offering the below Daily Kos post from April 3, 2014 written by ProgLegs. It's the best I can do today.

Rush Limbaugh Can't Even Keep Dog Turd Removal Ads on his Right Wing Clown Show

You can't make this stuff up.

A Flush Rush activist in Syracuse, NY yesterday caught one of the funniest and most ironic ads heard on Rush Limbaugh's right wing clown show since StopRush began more than two years ago.

For a reasonable fee, Dog Doody Duty removes dog poop from your yard:

Two years of constant pressure by online activists has decimated Limbaugh's once proud advertising potential.  Ad breaks that used to be dominated by household names like Sony, Office Max, and JC Penney now contain ads for Social Security scams, herbal boner pills, and shady land deals.
Oh, and dog poop collectors.

Dog Doody Duty's rates depend on frequency of service and number of dogs. They do offer a flat fee of $50 for a one time visit, but indicate that certain jobs may result in additional charges.

So how much would it cost to remove El Rushbo?

Need evidence of just how far Limbaugh's stock had fallen?  When notified by Flush Rush that their ad was running on the Rush Limbaugh Show, Dog Doody Duty immediately pulled the plug:

Decent folks who believe in tolerance and equality are no longer powerless against Rush Limbaugh's efforts to spread intolerance on the radio. StopRush is making a major impact by convincing advertisers on this show to withdraw their ads--and with your help we can do even more. Just a few emails, tweets, or Facebook messages a week to Limbaugh's advertisers can go a long way toward making hatred less profitable.  It is our collective voice that makes us strong. 

Want to do something hold Limbaugh accountable?  
Join StopRush!  We can use your help in the following ways:

Join:  The Flush Rush Facebook community

Visit:  The StopRush sponsor database

Tweet:  #stoprush Twitter campaign
Fact Check:  Limbaugh Lie Debunking Site

Install: ThinkContext StopRush browser extension notifies you as you browse which companies advertise on Rush

We're packing up and moving

“I ate apple pie and ice cream – it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer. There were the most beautiful bevies of girls everywhere I looked in Des Moines that afternoon – they were coming home from high school – but I had no time for thoughts like that. So I rushed past the pretty girls, and the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.” — Jack Kerouac

AS SOME OF you know, Paul and I own Brainstorm Marketing in Des Moines, Iowa. We're excited to announce that after 20 years in the same building, we're moving!! 

We're relocating to an area in Des Moines called the East Village. Besides being in a creative, funky, hip neighborhood, what we're extra, extra excited about is that our new location is store front on Grand Avenue. Couldn't be better.

So right now we're hot and heavy into making the tenant improvements that we want, working every night to get ready.

BTW, I recently told someone from Vermont that we were moving to the Des Moines' East Village, and he (literally) laughed out loud. "East Village. Ya' right. Like there would be enough of Des Moines to have an East anything."

Well, surprise, surprise. Des Moines has become mega hip, and the area known as the East Village was just recognized by Paste Magazine as one of "10 Undercover Stylish Neighborhoods in the US."

Here's what Paste had to say:

Des Moines is like that one effortlessly cool kid in your middle school who was beloved by the popular group for his weird humor and appreciated by the geeks for his kindness to all. Des Moines is unconcerned with hipness and lofty ambitions; it’s perfectly content with it’s quietly impressive art museum, quaint as hell turn-of-the-century homes, and robust offering of quirky locally-owned shops. Because it’s not a transient city, Des Moines has developed a distinct vibe that you’ll feel all over downtown, particularly in the East Village area. It feels warm and inviting, but also like everyone’s in on a secret that you have yet to fully discover. Get to the bottom of it at the t-shirt store Raygun, thrift emporium Hill Vintage & Knits, and the oldest gay bar in the state, Blazing Saddle.

Below is a list of other awards Des Moines has won just in the past couple of years.

Exemplary Systems in Government Award — URISA, 2013

Des Moines in Top 20 of Nation's Most Generous Cities — NerdWallet, 2013

#1 "Best Places for Business and Careers" — Forbes, 2013

#3 in Emerging Downtowns  — Forbes, 2013

Ten Most Unexpected Cities for High-Tech Innovations 2013 —

#2 "Strongest Local Economy" — Policom, 2013

Des Moines #8 in 2013 Best Places for Young Adults — The Business Journal

#2 "Best Cities to Start a Business" — The Street, 2013

#6 "Cities Where Startups Are Thriving" — CNN Money

#1 "Best Cities for Families" — Kiplinger, 2012

#2 "Best Cities for Jobs this Summer" — Forbes, 2012

#10 "Most Educated Young Workforce" — The Business Journals, 2012

"One of America's Best Farmers' Markets" — Country Living, 2012

#2 "Best Cities for Jobs" — Forbes, 2012

#3 "Best Cities for Business" — MarketWatch, 2011

#1 "Best Cities for Young Professionals" — Forbes, 2011

#1 "Cities in the US for Home Renters" — Time, 2011

#1 "Richest Metro in the Nation" — US News & World Report, 2011

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rising Tide

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.” — Sigmund Freud 

By definition good parents are concerned about what sort of opportunities and life will be available to their children when they grow up. For parents of children who are disabled or have special needs, it's an even weightier worry.

Here's an April 21 story from Harry Smith of NBC News about a Florida father who built a successful business around his autistic son's strengths, not his challenges, and in so doing created employment not just for his son, but for many other young adults on the autism spectrum.

Car Wash Offers Employment to Young Adults With Autism 

At the Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Fla., most of the employees have one thing in common: they've been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. 

As young adults they began to age out of the school system, with employment options in short supply. That’s why John D’Eri co-founded Rising Tide Car Wash: to give his son, and others on the autism spectrum, a place to earn a paycheck — and build a community. 

D’Eri came up with the idea about two years ago when he was — what else? — driving through a car wash. Why not build a business with the prime objective of employing people with autism, he reasoned — not a charity or a “sheltered workshop” — but a business with the potential to keep growing. 

Although the repetition of a car wash might seem like a drawback, it’s actually perfect for those on the autism spectrum who gravitate toward repetitive behavior. D’Eri relied on experts in the car wash business and those who employ people with disabilities. Together they spent almost two years testing systems and coming up with a training protocol. 

D’Eri is insistent it remain a self-sustaining business — because if it is, that means other people can do it too without having to depend on grants or government red tape. He employs 35 men who have been diagnosed with some form of autism and several who have moved up to manager positions.

If you love dogs, please help

"I hope to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am." — unknown author

APRIL 11 I wrote a Hey Look post about a bill in the Iowa House that would end greyhound racing in Iowa. It's taken me these 18 days to recover enough from a comment submitted by a reader to broach this subject again. 

Here's the unedited comment:

"I can remember , years ago, filling in for an employee at a vet's. I was asked to bring up a certain greyhound. He happily bounced up the steps in anticipation. I later heard one quick yelp. He was dead, put to sleep, he was too slow, not earning his owner money. I was sickened. I neveragain bet on the dogs…"

It broke my heart. I couldn't sleep all night long after reading it and tears were shed.

According to the ASPCA, thousands of otherwise healthy greyhounds are killed each year simply because they lack enough racetrack potential.

The bill currently making its way through the Iowa House would end greyhound racing in Iowa. That's the good news.

Here's the potentially not such good news: The bill calls for $74.2 million to provide a “soft landing” for racetracks and greyhound owners, breeders, kennel operators and any persons involved in Iowa greyhound racing. 

A portion of that money is also supposed to go to no-kill animal adoption agencies. 

The problem is that of that $74.2 million, $70 million has already been designated for the racetracks, which leaves only $4.2 million to be split between the other stakeholders.

You can guess how much will be left for no-kill animal adoption agencies.

Actually you'll have to literally guess because there seems to be no transparency whatsoever built into the distribution of funds. 

My other concern is that there is a similar bill in the Iowa Senate that would allow the Iowa Greyhound Association to pursue a new "racino" to continue live dog track racing at a licensed Iowa gaming facility. 

This means is that casinos could get $70 million of our money, but greyhound racing may continue unabated.

My goal is to end greyhound racing entirely in Iowa for once and for all.

So if you're a dog lover, you can help us here in Iowa. Really! You don't have to be a resident of the state to make an impact. 

Here's how: According to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, Iowa's commercial casinos are collectively the largest tourist attraction in the state. 

If enough potential tourists — you don't have to even be a probable tourist — because if you live out of state, you're a potential tourist. If enough "potentials" tell the commissioners that you won't set foot in an Iowa casino until they end greyhound racing for good and earmark enough money for no-kill adoption shelters to take proper care of these beautiful dogs, I believe they will start to listen.

PS: In case it might prove useful, I've attached the letter that I've already sent to all the Commissioners.

The other entity to tell is the Iowa Department of Tourism:

Here the contact information:

Phone: 800.345.IOWA

Shawna Lode
Iowa Tourism Manager

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission can be reached at:
1300 Des Moines Street, Suite 100
Des Moines, Iowa 50309

The commissioners can be reached as listed below:

Richard Arnold
26875 407th Street, Russell, IA 50238

Carl Heinrich
816 Birchwood Circle, Council Bluffs, IA 51503
no individual email

Kristine Kramer
PO Box 263, New Hampton, IA 50659

Jeff Lamberti
Block, Lamberti, Gocke & Ahlman
210 N.E. Delaware Avenue, Suite 200, Ankeny, IA 50021

Dolores Mertz
1803 E. Mound St., #8, Algona, IA 50511
no individual email

Richard Arnold
26875 407th Street
Russell, IA 50238

Dear Commissioner Arnold,

I have been following Iowa House file 2406 with great interest and would like to share my views with you.

I am absolutely in favor of ending greyhound racing at all tracks in Iowa. 

I am not in favor of paying casinos to do so (at least certainly not so much), but if you have to pay them to shut down greyhound racing, then do it.

I am strongly in favor of allocating money to give to no-kill shelters to take care of the dogs, but it doesn't sound to me like any transparency has been built into this bill. We, the public, have a right to know how much money is being provided to whom and for what. 

The money that goes to assure that racing dogs get the care they need and find loving homes must be more than a token amount; it has to be enough to take care of them as well as you would care for your own family pet.

I am also categorically not in favor of leaving the door open for the Greyhound Association to rent out the current facilities to continue racing.

It's time to end greyhound racing for good.


Kelly Sargent

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cliven Bundy

"I wish the world were a fly and I was a giant rolled up newspaper." — Al Bundy, Married with Children

SOME OF US might be wishing that Cliven Bundy were a fly and the BLM had a giant rolled up newspaper. I admit I hadn't been paying any attention to this dude until he began sharing his racist views with the media, and with that he earned my notice. 

What an utter caricature! Cliven Bundy?!! Seriously? Sounds like the name of a character in an amateur B movie script or two-bit detective novel.

I have a theory: having a weird or dorky name is an influencing factor in people turning out weird or dorky. But, be that as it may (or may not), there's no "controversy" here — arrest the guy for crying out loud!! I'm pretty sure Al Bundy, the blockhead from Married with Children, had many more redeeming qualities than this wingding.

But wait, Debra Donahue, a law professor at the University of Wyoming, has a bigger, better idea, and the witty, wise and wonderful Gail Collins of The New York Times tells us about it and more in her April 25 column. 

Of Fox and the Cattle
By Gail Collins
April 25, 2014

So, what have we learned from the Crazy Rancher Guy saga?

You have undoubtedly heard about Cliven Bundy of Nevada, who refuses to pay federal grazing fees for, um, grazing his cattle on federal land. When government agents, acting on a court order, tried to remove Bundy’s cows, they were met by armed resisters. The agents wisely withdrew rather than risk bloodshed, and the resisters declared victory.

This was Bundy’s happy time. He was a star on Fox News, where his new friend Sean Hannity asked him probing questions like:

“How far are you willing to go?”

“How far are you willing to take this?”

“What would happen if they came in the early morning hours one day to your ranch?”

Bundy’s job was to say things like: “Just come on! We’ll take you on!”

A careful listener might have deduced that this was not the sharpest hoof in the herd.

But he was the man of the moment. A Fox News correspondent announced Bundy was “a folk hero.” Senator Dean Heller of Nevada called for hearings on the behavior of the federal agents. A congressman from Arizona drove to the ranch to pay tribute.

When he wasn’t on Fox, Bundy was bloviating before admirers who gathered in front of his ranch to hear his words of wisdom on topics ranging from government overreach to abortion. Also race relations, a subject Bundy apparently had studied by driving past a housing project in North Las Vegas. 

Earlier this week, The Times’s Adam Nagourney quoted the rancher theorizing that African-Americans were ruined by government subsidies and might be “better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life.”

With that, the Bundy bandwagon crashed so decisively that we barely had time to contemplate the fact that this screed about subsidies was coming from a guy who had used up $1 million in public grazing time without paying a dime.

Politicians fled. Sean Hannity severed his ties (“repugnant ... deplorable”) and then moved on to a bizarre revision of his own history with the story. All of Hannity’s interviews with Bundy, it turns out, were “not about a man named Cliven Bundy” but about “a federal agency’s dangerous response to a situation that could have resulted in a catastrophe.” Also, Hannity had been interested in the ranch standoff only because of its relation to “similar issues” like the Internal Revenue Service, Benghazi and, of course, Obamacare.

To be fair, I don’t think Hannity had any idea about Bundy’s racial theories. However, it’s generally a good idea to be wary of lionizing people who go around saying: “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”

Anyhow, Cliven was toast, although he did make an appearance on CNN, in which he explained that his racist remarks were all about — yes! — freedom. In this case, the “freedom to say what we want. If I call — if I say ‘negro’ or ‘black boy’ or ‘slave,’ I’m — if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive, then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done yet.”

People, we have got to do something to protect the word “freedom.” It used to be our best word, and lately it’s turning into something you have to approach with a certain wariness, like “bargain” or “fat-free.”

But what about Bundy’s cause? You wouldn’t have important politicians like Heller and the governor of Nevada and Senator Rand Paul expressing sympathy for people who pointed semiautomatic rifles at government agents unless there was something really serious at stake, right?

Let’s consider the actual issue, which was grazing fees. I know this is not something most of you grapple with on a day-to-day basis, but give me a second.

Ranchers are supposed to pay $1.35 a month for every steer — or cow and calf — they graze on federal lands. “Which doesn’t come close to covering what it’s worth, or what it would cost if they were grazing on private land or state lands. It doesn’t even cover the administration costs,” said Debra Donahue, a professor of law at the University of Wyoming and an expert in public land use.

I had an extremely interesting telephone discussion with Donahue, who believes that there shouldn’t be any cattle on federal lands, because the cows ruin the fragile soil and foul the water. “The single most effective thing we could do to help Western lands adapt to climate change would be to take the cattle out,” said Donahue. And, she added, the animals creating all these problems produce only about 2 percent of the nation’s beef.

This sounds like an important topic for further discussion. Let’s demand congressional hearings! Also rallies! Unlike Bundy’s, they’d have to be gun-free. So they wouldn’t be quite as dramatic, but we probably could get more actual people.

And when cowboys want to know why the public wants to kick them off their subsidized grazing space, we’ll say we got the idea from Sean Hannity.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Dialogues of Plato (and me)

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

I TOOK only one philosophy class in college, but I adored it. More than that; I found it exciting. The discovery that there were rooms, possibly even entire buildings, where it wasn't just okay to think about thinking, but doing so was actually a highly valued pursuit, was almost like gaining sight. Permission to think! 

To put such euphoria in perspective, it's probably helpful to take into account my basic nature. I once sat on the floor in my apartment in Spokane, Washington for two unbroken days contemplating, not the meaning of life with a lower case l — as in the meaning of my own — but the meaning and purpose of all Life with a capital L. I am nothing if not reflective.   

My philosophy class was taught by a tall, thin, loose-limbed man with a patient, rather world-weary countenance. I was spellbound by the subject matter and him. I would have taken more classes except that it was the end of my senior year. 

Somehow or other I got to be friends with, or perhaps more a protégé of him and his wife — and equally mesmerized by both. She was more than a few years younger than he was. Small, slight, with large, dark eyes and a long, thick, deep brunette braid of hair running down her back; she was gentle, she was lovely. 

I remember going to their home and listening to a record album of the Dialogues of Plato recited by Sidney Portier. I was rapt. Some weeks later, they, or rather she, gave me a copy of the same album as a gift. I still have it.

I loved the story of how they met. I wanted to ask her to tell it to me over and over again, but that would have seemed impolite, even prurient. She had been a student in his class some years before where she sat unnoticed in the back of the room. During class one day, he became engaged in a vigorous and protracted debate with another student. After awhile he heard a faint but persistent tapping on the blackboard at the back of the classroom. She had points in mind to buttress his position, and in an effort to be of assistance she was writing hints on the chalkboard and quietly tap-tap tapping to catch his attention.

Unfortunately I didn't go on to lead a life of deep, philosophical study. I bought a set of three classics and have barely cracked open one of them in twenty years. I'm contemplative, but apparently also lazy, and after all this time I can hardly tell my Nietzsche from my Spinoza.

With all that said, I share the below piece from The Stone, a New York Times series featuring "the writing of contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless." Simon Critchley, who teaches philosophy at The New School for Social Research in New Yorkis the overall series moderator as well as the author of this particular issue. 

I'm guessing that some readers will find Mr. Critchley's views controversial, perhaps even threatening, but he's on solid ground with me. This particular post will also please my husband Paul. Aside from finding accordance with the views Mr. Critchely articulates, Paul is always begging me to write my stories, not just share other peoples'. So today he gets both someone else's clear thinking, and that little story of mine.

Abandon (Nearly) All Hope

By Simon Critchley 
April 19, 2014

With Easter upon us, powerful narratives of rebirth and resurrection are in the air and on the breeze. However, winter’s stubborn reluctance to leave to make way for the pleasing and hopeful season leads me to think not of cherry blossoms and Easter Bunnies but of Prometheus, Nietzsche, Barack Obama and the very roots of hope. Is hope always such a wonderful thing? Is it not rather a form of moral cowardice that allows us to escape from reality and prolong human suffering.

Prometheus the Titan was punished by the Olympian Zeus by being chained to a rock in the Caucasus, quite possibly not that far from Crimea. Each day for eternity, an eagle pecked out his liver. Every night, the liver grew back. An unpleasant situation, I’m sure you would agree. His transgression was to have given human beings the gift of fire and, with that, the capacity for craft, technological inventiveness and what we are fond of calling civilization.

This is well known. Less well known is Prometheus’ second gift. In Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound,” the chained Titan is pitilessly interrogated by the chorus. They ask him whether he gave human beings anything else. Yes, he says, “I stopped mortals from foreseeing doom.” How did you do that, they ask? His response is revealing: “I sowed in them blind hopes.”

This is a very Greek thought. It stands resolutely opposed to Christianity, with its trinity of faith, love and hope. For St. Paul — Christianity’s true founder, it must be recalled — hope is both a moral attitude of steadfastness and a hope for what is laid up in heaven for us, namely salvation. This is why faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so absolutely fundamental to Christians. Christ died on the cross, but he was resurrected and lives eternally. Jesus is our hope, as Paul writes in the First Letter to Timothy, namely he is the basis for the faith that we too might live eternally. Heaven, as they say, is real.

In his Letter to the Romans, Paul inadvertently confirms Prometheus’ gift of blind hope. He asserts that hope in what is seen is not hope at all, “For who hopes for what he sees?” On the contrary, we should “hope for what we do not see” and “wait for it with patience.”

Now, fast forward to us. When Barack Obama describes how he came to write his keynote speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the speech that instantly shot him to fame and laid the basis for his presidential campaign and indeed his presidency, he recalls a phrase that his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., used in a sermon: the audacity of hope. Obama says that this audacity is what “was the best of the American spirit,” namely “the audacity to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary.”

It is precisely this kind of hope that I think we should try to give up. It is not audacious, but mendacious. As the wise Napoleon said, “a leader is a dealer in hope” who governs by insisting on a bright outlook despite all evidence to the contrary. But what if we looked at matters differently? What if we expected more from political life than a four-yearly trade-in of our moral intelligence to one or other of the various hope dealers that appear on the political market to sell us some shiny new vehicle of salvation?

The problem here is with the way in which this audacious Promethean theological idea of hope has migrated into our national psyche to such an extent that it blinds us to the reality of the world that we inhabit and causes a sort of sentimental complacency that actually prevents us from seeing things aright and protesting against this administration’s moral and political lapses and those of other administrations.

Against the inflated and finally hypocritical rhetoric of contemporary politics, I think it is instructive to look at things from another standpoint, an ancient and very Greek standpoint. Just as our stories shape us as citizens, their stories shaped them and might shape us too. So, let me tell you a little story, perhaps the most terrifying from antiquity.

In “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” Thucydides, the sober and unsentimental historian, describes a dialogue between the representatives of the island of Melos in the Aegean Sea, which was allied with Sparta, and some ambassadors from invading Athenian military forces. The ambassadors present the Melians with a very simple choice: Submit to us or be destroyed.

Rather than simply submit, the Melians wriggle. They express hope that the Spartans will come to rescue them. The Athenians calmly point out that it would be an extremely dangerous mission for the Spartans to undertake and highly unlikely to happen. Also, they add, rightly, “We are masters of the sea.” The Spartans had formidable land forces, but were no match for the Athenian navy.

The Melians plead that if they yield to the Athenians, then all hope will be lost. If they continue to hold out, then “we can still hope to stand tall.” The Athenians reply that it is indeed true that hope is a great comfort, but often a delusive one. They add that the Melians will learn what hope is when it fails them, “for hope is prodigal by nature.”

With consummate clarity and no small cruelty, the Athenians urge the Melians not to turn to Promethean blind hopes when they are forced to give up their sensible ones. Reasonable hopes can soon become unreasonable. “Do not be like ordinary people,” they add, “who could use human means to save themselves but turn to blind hopes when they are forced to give up their sensible ones – to divination, oracles and other such things that destroy men by giving them hope.”

At this point, the Athenians withdraw and leave the Melians to consider their position. As usually happens in political negotiations, the Melians decide to stick to exactly the same position that they had adopted before the debate. They explain that “we will trust in the fortune of the Gods.” In a final statement, the Athenians conclude that “You have staked everything on your trust in hope … and you will be ruined in everything.”

After laying siege to the Melian city and some military skirmishes back and forth, the Athenians lose patience with the Melians and Thucydides reports with breathtaking understatement, “They killed all the men of military age and made slaves of the women and children.”

* * *

Thucydides offers no moral commentary on the Melian Dialogue. He does not tell us how to react, but instead impartially presents us with a real situation. The dialogue is an argument from power about the nature of power. This is why Nietzsche, in his polemics against Christianity and liberalism, loved Thucydides. This is also why I love Nietzsche. Should one reproach Thucydides for describing the negotiations between the Athenians and the Melians without immediately moralizing the story and telling us how we should think? Not at all, Nietzsche insists. What we witness in the Melian Dialogue is the true character of Greek realism.

Elected regimes can become authoritarian, democracies can become corrupted, and invading armies usually behave abominably. What we need in the face of what Nietzsche calls “a strict, hard factuality,” is not hope, but “courage in the face of reality.”

For Nietzsche, the alternative to Thucydides is Plato. With his usual lack of moderation, Nietzsche declares that Platonism is cowardice in the face of reality because it constructs fictional metaphysical ideals like justice, virtue and the good. Nietzsche sees Platonism as a flight from the difficulty of reality into a vapid moralistic idealism. Furthermore, he adds, we have been stuck with versions of moral idealism ever since Plato, notably in Christianity, with its hope in salvation, and modern liberalism, with its trust in God and its insistence on hope’s audacity contrary to all evidence.

Where does this leave us? Rather than see Thucydides as an apologist for authoritarianism, I see him as a deep but disappointed democrat with a cleareyed view of democracy’s limitations, particularly when Athens voted to engage in misplaced military adventures like the disastrous expedition to Sicily that led to Sparta’s final victory over Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars. Thucydides would have doubtless had a similar view of the United States’s military expeditions to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq on the basis of metaphysical abstractions like enduring freedom or infinite justice. But he would have thought it was even worse for democracies to speak out of both sides of their mouths, offering vigorous verbal support for invaded or embattled peoples and talking endlessly of freedom and hope while doing precisely nothing.

When democracy goes astray, as it always will, the remedy should not be some idealistic belief in hope’s audacity, which ends up sounding either cynical or dogmatic or both. The remedy, in my view, is a skeptical realism, deeply informed by history. Such realism has an abiding commitment to reason and the need for negotiation and persuasion, but also an acute awareness of reason’s limitations in the face of violence and belligerence. As Thucydides realized long before the 2004 Democratic National Convention, it is not difficult to make beautiful speeches in politics, but they very often do little to change people’s minds and effect palpable improvement in social arrangements.

Thinking without hope might sound rather bleak, but it needn’t be so. I see it rather as embracing an affirmative, even cheerful, realism. Nietzsche admired Epictetus, the former slave turned philosophy teacher, for living without hope. “Yes,” Nietzsche said, “he can smile.” We can, too.

You can have all kinds of reasonable hopes, it seems to me, the kind of modest, pragmatic and indeed deliberately fuzzy conception of social hope expressed by an anti-Platonist philosopher like Richard Rorty. But unless those hopes are realistic we will end up in a blindly hopeful (and therefore hopeless) idealism. Prodigal hope invites despair only when we see it fail. In giving up the former, we might also avoid the latter. This is not an easy task, I know. But we should try. Nietzsche writes, “Hope is the evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment.” Often, by clinging to hope, we make the suffering worse.

Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York and the author of several books, including “The Ethics of Deconstruction,” “Stay, Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine” (with Jamieson Webster) and the forthcoming “Bowie.” He is the moderator of this series.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Palm Sunday and Easter 2014

"Happy Easter to all who celebrate. Happy day to the rest." — Phyllis Bridson, Paul's mom

TODAY on Easter, arguably the highest of Christian holy days, it seems fitting to acknowledge and remember the shooting rampage an anti-Semite unleashed one week ago on Palm Sunday at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, KS and at Village Shalom, a senior living community about a mile from there. 

The irony is of course that in his virulent hatred for Jews, the shooter who shouted "Heil Hitler" as he opened fire, killed three Christians

The man who has been arrested is Frazier Glenn Cross from Aurora, MO, better known as F. Glenn Miller. His hate-based life has been well documented. Frank Bruni who writes for The New York Times mentions in his April 14, 2014 column that when Miller appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show four years ago — and how in good conscience could Stern give such a person a platform —  he called Adolf Hitler “the greatest man who ever walked the earth.” 

F. Glenn Miller

When Stern asked him who he loathed more, Jews or blacks, Miller chose the Jews “a thousand times more." 

He said, "Compared to our Jewish problem, all other problems are mere distractions." 

Bruni wrote in his column, "He apparently wasn’t just spouting off. He was gearing up".

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking this guy for years. Below is an email letter I received on April 14 from SPLC President, Richard Cohen, and below that a little about the three victims.

Dear Kelly,

Our hearts go out to the families who lost loved ones in the shootings that left three dead at a Jewish community center and retirement home in Overland Park, Kansas. We feel a special connection to them because we know the killer well.

His name is Frazier Glenn Miller, and he once plotted to assassinate my colleague Morris Dees.

Miller was the leader of a notorious neo-Nazi organization in the 1980s that was stockpiling weapons and training for a race war. His blueprint was a book called The Turner Diaries, a racist manifesto that also inspired the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 men, women, and children.

After Miller was convicted on criminal contempt charges in a case we brought, he went underground, declared “war” on the government, and offered a white supremacist bounty on Morris’ head. Luckily for us, he was caught and went to prison. Unfortunately, for the people of Overland Park, he was sentenced to only three years.

We’ve been contacted by the authorities and are sharing everything we know about Miller. But the sad truth is that there are other Millers out there – people with hate in their hearts who are willing to kill innocent people in the name of their race.

This sad truth is one of the reasons why our work fighting hate, teaching tolerance, and seeking justice is still so vital. I wish it were otherwise.

Thank you for standing with us.

And who were the three victims?

Terri LaManno was a 53 year-old wife, and mother of JenniferAlissa who is a student at Missouri State University, and son Gian who attends Kansas State University. Terri and her husband Jim planned to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary on the following Tuesday. 

Terri LaManno

On Sunday, the day of the shooting, she was making her regular weekly visit to see her mother at the assisted living center at the retirement village. She was not Jewish; she was Catholic.

Here is part of an April 14 article from The Kansas City Star about Terri:

Brian Fowler, a lawyer and longtime family friend, said Terri LaManno’s two sisters were visiting their mother at the time of the incident and didn’t realize that their sister had been shot outside the facility.

Fowler described Terri LaManno as a “beautiful lady” who was devoted to her husband and children.

LaManno worked as an occupational therapist at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City. She worked with children and their families in their homes and provided constant “support and compassion,” said co-worker and friend Amanda Daniels.

“Terri acted out of kindness and gratitude in everything she did,” Daniels said.

Many of the children’s families were dealing with emotionally trying situations, and LaManno always strove to find ways to help them, Daniels said.

“Terri never gave up on anybody,” she said. “She did an amazing job in helping families in their journeys.”

The LaMannos are longtime parishioners at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Kansas City, where a rosary was said for Terri LaManno after Monday morning Mass.

The two other victims were a 69-year-old physician, William Corporon, and his 14-year-old grandson, Boy Scout and aspiring Eagle ScoutReat Underwood.

William Corporon and his grandson, Reat Underwood

Below is an article about them written by Eric Adler that appeared in The Kansas City Star also on April 14. 

William Lewis Corporon was a man of strong faith. His father was a Christian minister, and so was his grandfather.
The 69-year-old Corporon also was a skilled hunter, and he may have been carrying his own firearm when he and his grandson were fatally shot shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday in a parking lot at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park. Corporon had taken Reat Underwood, 14, there to audition for a singing competition.

Will Corporon, 48 — son of William Corporon and uncle of Reat — said he knows that had his father been given the opportunity, he would not have hesitated to sacrifice his life for his grandson’s.
“He would have stood there and said, ‘Take me now,’ but he didn’t get a chance,” Corporon said.

“My dad, too, is an avid hunter, an outdoorsman. He loves to shoot. He has legally been concealing and carrying for years. I have no doubt that if this guy hadn’t ambushed him, he would have done just fine. … This coward, this chicken (expletive) with a shotgun, didn’t even give him a chance to defend himself.”

Will Corporon, who lives in Arkansas, also spoke Monday at a news conference with his sister, Mindy Corporon, Reat’s mother, at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, where Mindy Corporon and her family are members.

Mindy Corporon, 45, showed the same measure of kind strength and brave comportment that she demonstrated Sunday when she spoke, only hours after her son’s and father’s deaths, at a vigil at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Overland Park.

Reat, a Boy Scout in Troop 92 who had 22 merit badges and was working to become an Eagle Scout, was a bright and enthusiastic student who loved to sing and act. He competed in seven debate tournaments in the first semester of his freshman year at Blue Valley High School.

“He was very proud of that,” his mother said.

Mindy Corporon said she already had made the difficult decision to offer her son’s tissues and organs for donation if they’re deemed viable. She said Reat had recently gotten his driver’s permit, and he had indicated he had wanted to be a donor.

Will Corporon said that his father — who was still working full-time as a physician and had planned to retire over the next several months — died doing what he loved to do most: spending time with one of his 10 grandchildren, ranging in age from 23 months to 23 years.

Note: In celebration of the Christian spirit, two days after the shooting rampage, members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church  announced their intention to picket William and Reat's funerals.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rhapsody in Gershwin

"George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937, but I don't have to believe it if I don't want to." — John O'Hara, best-selling American author of "Appointment in Samarra" and "BUtterfield 8"

APRIL 17 was the final Turner Center Jazz Orchestra concert of the season, and what a hit it was all 'round. Tina Haase Findlay was our special guest, and honestly I believe you could search all of New York City and not find a better jazz singer. 

Tina Haase Findlay

The band was in fine fettle, and Paul played well, which isn't all I care about, but naturally it ranks right up there for me. 

There were some hard passages he had to negotiate in Gordon Goodwin's arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue. The original piece written by George Gershwin in 1924 for solo piano and jazz band was commissioned by band leader Paul Whitman and orchestrated by Ferde Grofé. Combining elements of classical music and jazz, it has become one of the most popular of all American concert pieces.

George also wrote Fascinatin' Rhythm in 1924, with lyrics by his brother Ira Gershwin. The version TJCO played Thursday night went about a million miles an hour and had a section that was a duet with Paul on lead trombone and Dave Bohl on lead tenor sax. They nailed it.

Tina and the orchestra performed for, literally, a sold out crowd. Room capacity is 120, but with the audience and musicians, we had 140. I was thrilled to see this group get the recognition they deserve, and since Paul, Richard Early and I are the ones doing the behind the scenes marketing and promotion, it was personally gratifying.

We hope to be able to release the schedule next month for the upcoming season of TCJO concerts that will begin in the fall. I'll keep you posted.

Below is a Facebook post from unofficial band photographer (and official friend) Karl Schilling. He got the night off because it was just plain too crowded to move around and take any pictures. 

Below that is a little information about George and Ira Gershwin taken from Wikipedia and other sources. It's interesting!! Most people don't realize George died so young. He wrote an enormous amount of enduring music in his short time on earth.

Peg and I had a great time last night listening to the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra. It was a night of Gershwin played by top flight musicians and a very talented singer named Tina Haase Findlay. They did big band arrangements of “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Summertime” that were interesting takes on the originals. The energy in the group was amazing. There were two things I reflected on: One, that all that music was done by someone who died before he was 40. (His first hit was “Swanee” written when he 19 and made famous by Al Jolson.) The second was that young lovers had a lot more encouragement from music in the big band era than today. The place was packed. It isn’t the great secret anymore. The band got a standing ovation which isn’t easy from a group our age. The last crackling sound wasn’t a final drum riff but the sound of joints as we leaped up to applaud. Great night.

George Gershwin:

George Gershwin came from Russian Jewish heritage. His grandfather, Jakov Gershowitz, served for 25 years as a mechanic for the Imperial Russian Army in order to earn the right of free travel and residence as a Jew. 

His teenage son, Moishe Gershowitz, worked as a leather cutter for women's shoes. Moishe fell in love with Roza Bruskina, the teenage daughter of a Saint Petersburg furrier. Roza moved with her family to New York because of increasing antisemitism in Russia and Americanized her first name to Rose. Moishe, faced with compulsory military service in Russia, followed Rose as soon as he was able. Upon arrival in New York, Moishe Gershowitz gave his first name as Morris. He settled at first with his mother's brother in Brooklyn and earned money as a foreman in a women's shoe workshop.

Morris and Rose married in 1895 when she was 19 and he was 23. Gershowitz changed his family name to Gershwin some time between 1893 and 1898, perhaps at his marriage.

The first child of the family was Ira Gershwin, born with the name Israel, on December 6, 1896. George was born on September 26, 1898. (His birth certificate bears the name Jacob Gershwine, which would have been pronounced 'Gershvin' in the ex-pat Russian neighborhood.) He was named after his late grandfather, the army mechanic, however, he was never called anything but 'George'. Two more children were born to the family: Arthur (1900–1981) and Frances (1906–1999). Years later, George changed the spelling of his surname to 'Gershwin' after he became a professional musician, and other members of his family followed suit.

George Gershwin

George and Ira lived in several different residences in the area as their father pursued various enterprises, but the boys mostly grew up around the Yiddish Theater District where they frequented the local Yiddish theaters. George ran around with his boyhood friends, roller skating and misbehaving in the streets, with no interest in music at all until the age of ten when he was intrigued by what he heard at his friend Maxie Rosenzweig's violin recital.

The sound and the way his friend played captured him. His parents had bought a piano for lessons for his older brother Ira, but to his parents' surprise and Ira's relief, it was George who played it. George tried various piano teachers for two years before being introduced to Charles Hambitzer by the Beethoven Symphony Orchestra pianist, Jack Miller. 

Until Hambitzer's death in 1918, he acted as George's mentor. Hambitzer taught him conventional piano technique, introduced him to music of the European classical tradition and encouraged him to attend orchestra concerts. Afterward, young George would try to play the music he'd heard at a concert on the family piano at home. He later studied with the classical composer Rubin Goldmark and with avant-garde composer-theorist Henry Cowell.

A poor scholar uninterested in intellectual pursuits, George left school at fifteen to join music publisher Jerome K. Remick as Tin Pan Alley's youngest-ever song-plugger for $15.00 a week, while at the same time trying his hand at composition. His first published song written in 1916 was "When You Want 'Em You Can't Get 'Em". Although it didn't catch on, that same year Sigmund Romberg used another of George's song in a show. 

In 1916 George also started recording and arranging for Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York. He produced dozens, if not hundreds, of rolls under his own and assumed names. Pseudonyms attributed to George include Fred Murtha and Bert Wynn. He also recorded rolls of his own compositions for Duo-Art and Welte-Mignon reproducing (player) pianos. 

George left Remick in 1917 to travel the vaudeville circuit for a time as piano accompanist for Nora Bayes and Louise Dresser

He was subsequently hired to write songs for Max Dreyfus, head of the publishing house T.B. Harms. His first Broadway show "La, La, Lucille" ran for one hundred performances in 1919, which was the same year that Al Jolson heard "Swanee", written in 1917, and added it to his touring show. "Swanee" was a tremendous hit, selling over two million records its first year, and George was well on his way to fame and fortune. 

In the early 1920s, George frequently worked with the lyricist Buddy DeSylva. Together they created an experimental one-act jazz opera set in Harlem called "Blue Monday." it survived for only a single performance, but it was the first serious music George wrote and widely regarded as a forerunner to the groundbreaking “Porgy and Bess”.

Throughout the twenties, George and his brother Ira — who wrote lyrics for several years as Arthur Francis,' a pseudonym which combined the first names of their younger brother and sister — teamed up to write successful musicals for performers such as Fred and Adele Astaire, Gertrude Lawrence, W.C. Fields, Jeanette MacDonald, Ruby Keeler, Jimmy Durante, Fannie Brice, Bob Hope, and other notable figures of the American musical stage. 

In the mid-1920s George went to Paris and stayed for a short period of time, during which he applied to study composition with the noted Nadia Boulanger who, along with several other prospective tutors such as Maurice Ravel, rejected him. She was afraid that rigorous classical study would ruin his jazz-influenced style. He soon tired of Paris and returned.

In 1924 George and Ira Gershwin collaborated on a stage musical comedy called "Lady Be Good”. It included such future standards as "Fascinatin’ Rhythm" and "Oh, Lady Be Good!" That same year, George debuted "Rhapsody in Blue" which had been commissioned by the band leader Paul Whitman and was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé. Combining elements of classical and jazz, it established George's reputation as a serious composer and has become one of the most popular American concert pieces.

in 1926 George and Ira followed with "Oh, Kay!", then "Funny Face" in 1927 and "Strike Up the Band" also in 1927.

While George was in Paris, he had written "An American in Paris". On December 13, 1928 it was performed for the first time to mixed reviews. However, it quickly became part of the standard repertoire in Europe and the United States. 

In 1929 George and Ira created "Show Girl", and in 1930 "Girl Crazy" debuted introducing the standards "Embraceable You", performed by Ginger Rogers, and "I Got Rhythm" sung by Ethel Merman. 

"Of Thee I Sing" hit Broadway in 1931. It was a brilliant political satire written as a collaboration between George and Ira, George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, and in 1932 it became the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (There was no category for music at that time.) This was, interestingly, George's last big Broadway success; two musicals that premiered in 1933 ran for less than a hundred performances each. 

By this time George's interest in serious music had increased, and he wanted to write the full-length opera he had been contemplating for years. George called "Porgy and Bess" a "folk opera". Based on the novel "Porgy" by DuBose Heyward, it's set in the fictional all-black neighborhood of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. 

"Porgy and Bess" contains some of George's most sophisticated music, including a fugue, a passacaglia, the use of atonality, polytonality, polyrhythm and a tone row. Even the "set numbers" "Summertime", "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'" and "It Ain't Necessarily So" are some of the most refined and ingenious of George's work. 

For the performances, Gershwin collaborated with Eva Jessye, whom he picked as the musical director. The work was first performed in 1935 and although it debuted to mixed reviews and was at the time a box office failure, it is now widely regarded as one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century. 

After the commercial failure of "Porgy and Bess", George moved to Hollywood. He was commissioned by RKO Pictures in 1936 to write the music for the film "Shall We Dance" starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. George's extended score, which married ballet with jazz in a new way, runs over an hour in length. 

George had a ten-year affair with composer Kay Swift, whom he frequently consulted about his music. The two never married, although she eventually divorced her husband in order to make it possible. Swift's granddaughter, Katharine Weber, has suggested that the pair didn't marry because George's mother Rose was "unhappy that Kay Swift wasn't Jewish". "Oh, Kay" was named for her, and after Gershwin's death, she arranged some of his music, transcribed several of his recordings, and collaborated with Ira on several projects.

Early in 1937 George began to complain of blinding headaches and a recurring impression that he smelled burning rubber. On February 11, 1937, he performed his "Piano Concerto in F" in a special concert of his music with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. George who was normally a superb pianist of his own compositions, suffered coordination problems and blackouts during the performance. 

He was living with his brother Ira and Ira's wife Leonore at the time in a rented house in Beverly Hills while they worked on other Hollywood film projects. Leonore began to be disturbed by George's mood swings and seeming inability to eat without spilling food at the dinner table. She suspected the onset of mental illness and insisted he be moved out of their house to lyricist Yip Harburg's empty quarters nearby where he was placed in the care of his valet. 

The headaches and olfactory hallucinations continued and on June 23, George was admitted to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles for observation. He was released on the 26th with a diagnosis of "likely hysteria". His trouble with coordination and mental acuity worsened, and on the night of July 9, George collapsed. He was rushed back to Cedars of Lebanon where he fell into a coma. 

Only at that point did it become obvious to his doctors that he was suffering from a brain tumor. An immediate call was made to pioneering neurosurgeon, Dr. Walter Dandy, who was fishing on a boat in Chesapeake Bay. Dandy was quickly brought to shore by the Coast Guard and sent on to Newark Airport to catch a plane to Los Angeles. By that time, however, George's condition was judged to be critical and the need for surgery immediate. An attempt by doctors at Cedars to excise the tumor proved unsuccessful, and George died on the morning of July 11, 1937 at the age of 38.