e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


ten greatest halloween songs

10. Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
9. Back in Black (AC/DC)
8. Frankenstein (New York Dolls)
7. Dirty Creature (Split Enz)
6. I Want Candy (The Strangeloves)
5. Hellhound on My Trail (Robert Johnson)
4. Paint It Black (Rolling Stones)
3. Bela Lugosi's Dead (Bauhaus)
2. The Witch (The Sonics)
1. I Put A Spell on You (Screaming Jay Hawkins)

happy listening...and happy halloween

bourbon at the border

Last night saw Miami U's production of "Bourbon at the Border," a moving tragedy about a husband and wife who were civil rights organizers in college and were scarred by a series of horrific experiences in 1964 Mississippi. I hadn't been to an intimate performance in some time (the theatre department staged "Bourbon" on one of its experimental stages for an audience of about fifty) and wasn't prepared to be sucked into the drama--which tends to happen when one sits at arm's length from the performers. The action takes place in mid-1990s Detroit in the couple's apartment, where they try to make peace with their memories and figure out how to support each other in their desperate attempts to cope. I don't know anything about the playwrite--Pearl Cleage--but I'd like to learn more about her. Readers in the area should check out the show, which runs through this coming weekend in Oxford.


theft as political discourse

Two nights ago my “Kerry-Edwards 2004” yard sign was stolen from the front yard of my Hamilton home. The Butler County Democratic Party headquarters informed me that they’ve been getting multiple phone calls on a daily basis reporting similar thefts.

Is this how divided we have become as a society? Do some among us consider theft a legitimate form of political discourse? I would love for one of my neighbors or fellow Hamilton citizens to have stopped me in my driveway to ask me why I support the Kerry-Edwards ticket. Instead, someone chose to steal my property.

A conversation between two individuals of differing opinions opens up possibilities for a free exchange of ideas, for mutual understanding, and perhaps even for finding common ground. Stealing a yard sign silences an opposing point of view. Have we become so entrenched in our support of our own side that we want to silence the other side?

Sadly, it seems that much of our political discourse takes on a similar tone. When President Bush uses rhetoric like “You’re either with us or against us,” I fear he’s attempting to squelch dissenting perspectives (indeed, the current situation in Iraq suggests the president—and the nation—would have benefited from listening carefully to multiple points of view). When hosts of cable television news programs tell guests to “shut up,” I fear they have compromised the ideals of democratic, free expression. When GOP volunteers registering new voters tear up registration cards of likely Kerry-Edwards supporters (which happened in Nevada), I fear those individuals have spit upon the most fundamental of our civic duties in this country.

We all need to ask ourselves if we are pleased with the level of political discourse in the U.S. No matter how fervently you support your side, the ends do not justify the means. Talk to your neighbors. Discuss the issues. Seek out multiple sources of information. Speak out in support of the issues and candidates of your choice. But don’t engage in discourse or actions that silence the other side. That’s not what democracy looks like.

Jon Stewart on Crossfire

If you missed this much-discussed appearance, watch it online:



academics' donations to political campaigns

Right-winger David Brooks wrote an interesting NYTimes column back on September 11, 2004 about how "spreadsheet" people vote GOP and "paragraph" people vote for dems. Simplistic and unsubstantiated--no surprise for something from the mainstream press. Here's a response that's been making e-mail rounds in academe.

Letter to the Editor of the New York Times:

When the 'Spreadsheet People' Go to Vote
Published: September 14, 2004, Tuesday

To the Editor:

David Brooks notes that academics give overwhelmingly to Democrats and
attributes that to their mushy post-modernism, as opposed to those more
rational ''number'' people in business.

At M.I.T., 94 percent of campaign giving was to the Democrats. What does
Mr. Brooks think the people at M.I.T. do? Does he think that the electrical
engineers, computer scientists, roboticists, biologists and economists run
screaming from numbers and sit around reading Derrida?

Academia is full of very smart people earning very little money relative to
what they could earn. They are curious people, dedicated to pursuing the
truth and teaching others.

Business is full of very smart people whose sole responsibility is to make
money, for stockholders and themselves. The first group supports Democrats.
The second group supports Republicans. Draw your own conclusion.

Andrew Milne
Atlanta, Sept. 11, 2004

Published: 09 - 14 - 2004 , Late Edition - Final , Section A , Column 5 ,
Page 22


Abort, Retry, Fail

Final presidential debate last night. In a night of insipid questions (What have you learned from your wives?), Bob Shieffer's strangest question must have been his query about some Catholic bishops' claims that a vote for Kerry is immoral due to his position on abortion. It's a fair question in another context, but doesn't lend itself to the debate format. First of all, when a question references something so specific about only one candidate, how should the other guy spend his ninety seconds? The question set Bush up to comment on Kerry's faith and Catholic theology. Aloha, non sequitur. I'm reminded of Gwen Ifil's question to John Edwards about why Edwards ought to be a heartbeat away. When his rebuttal time came, Dick Cheney, rightly baffled, asked, "You want ME to answer a question about his qualifications?" The debate questions should all address issues.

CNN's Paul Begala mused about the one-sided nature of the question, and suggested that Shieffer ought to ask Bush what he thinks of the Pope's condemnation of the Iraq War. (If the media' so liberal, why didn't they pick up on the fact that the Pope unequivocally renounced the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a direct violation of just-war theory?) An interesting thought, though I think a better way to balance the query about the Bishops would have been to ask Bush why abortion is still legal in this country. The party that cares for the "culture of life" (Iraqi civilians nonwithstanding) controls all three branches of the federal government, and Roe v. Wade remains legal. All those single issue voters have got to feel disgruntled, no?

Bush completely sidestepped the question about whether he wants to overturn Roe. Shieffer's question was direct: "Would you like to overturn Roe v. Wade?" Bush's response: "What he's asking me is, will I have a litmus test for my judges." I don't think that's what he was asking! If Bush is taking the moral high ground on this issue, why can't he answer the question directly? He wants to have it both ways. He throws pro-life republicans and democrats (including the aforementioned single-issue voters) a bone with the "litmus test" business and they fool themselves into believing they're placing a moral vote. Meanwhile, he also satisfies pro-choice republicans (like his mother, who in her memoir wrote: "abortion is a personal issue--between the mother, father, and doctor," and who praised the fact that pro-choice GOP-ers spoke at the GOP convention), who correctly surmise that whether Bush or Kerry end up in the White House, abortion will remain legal.


Armchair Pundit Challenge

Bloggers, Amateur Pundits, Interested Parties:

Head over to www.julienne.com and play the Armchair Pundit Challenge. Julienne is the brainchild of my good friend Jeff. Each March, the site hosts a NCAA tourney contest. But this year Jeff and company have pundit fever. Here's how it works: Go to the site and pick which states you think will go red and which states you think will go blue. The contest is just for fun, so no wagering please. Bragging rights (and maybe the future of the free world) are the only things on the line. If he runs this like he runs his basketball contest, Jeff will offer amusing analysis of folks' picks. Have fun...


illusive truth

Dick Cheney at last night's debate: "I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

A few of the many times Dick Cheney made that very connection:
"I think there's overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government." [National Public Radio, "Morning Edition," 1/22/04]

"If we're successful in Iraq… we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base… of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11." [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/14/03]

Salon.com reports this a.m. that another of Cheney's zingers was less than truthful:

Cheney's best line came midway through the debate. It just happened to be false. Minimizing Edwards' political experience, Cheney said: "The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight." Edwards didn't call Cheney on it -- another missed opportunity -- but his wife did. Before Cheney left the debate stage, Elizabeth Edwards told the vice president that he had indeed met Edwards before, at a Senate prayer breakfast. Minutes after the debate ended, the Kerry-Edwards campaign circulated a photo showing Edwards and Cheney at the breakfast together.


Vote For Change Tour

Before Saturday I had never seen Bruce Springsteen live but, obviously, had heard tales of the marathon shows. At the moveon.org Vote For Change stop in Cleveland Saturday night, Sprinsteen proved that he and his band want everybody in the house to enjoy the show. Throughout their set, they engaged every corner of Gund Arena (Nicole and I should know--our seats were *behind* the stage), frequently playing to the sides and to the rear. And did they rock! John Fogerty came out and joined Bruce and company for some old CCR songs. Michael Stipe came out and sang "Because the Night," returning the favor after Bruce joined R.E.M. earlier in the evening, doing "Man on the Moon" as a duet with Stipe. The R.E.M. set seemed a little anemic, like the band's starting to show its age. The Springsteen duet was a highlight, as was the jangly "Life and How To Live It," one of the few 'oldies' they performed. And Stipe is still one of the brilliant frontmen in rock&roll, commanding the stage like a shy dictator. But some of the between-song banter dragged and I found myself wishing the band would speed things up to make room for another number or two. (Probably an unfair criticism. After all, when you see a band you've listened to for years you're inevitably going to grouse about glaring ommissions. "What..no 'Gardening at Night'?!!) Evening's highlight was certainly the finale, with the whole cast returning to the stage for a rollicking "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love, and Understanding" and Patti Smith's "People Have the Power." Both became crowd sing-alongs. Excellent.


well-rehearsed boys (mostly) making nice

Yes, of course last night's debate was a tucked-in, orchestrated affair. I, too, struggled to listen to the candidates' words, as visions of focus groups telling them what color ties to wear danced in my head. And after all the nastiness, hearing Bush and Kerry say nice things about each others' families couldn't have seemed more disengenuous.

Best zinger: Kerry, speaking of Bush's decision to send Afghani troops into the mountains after a cornered bin Laden, said, "He outsourced that job too."

Most defensive moment: Talking about seeking support from the U.N., Bush emphasized, "So I went to the United Nations. I didn't need anybody to tell me to go to the United Nations. I decided to go there myself."

Contradiction that the mainstream media won't point out: Bush proudly touted going to war despite the U.N.'s objections and, minutes later, defended those actions by saying that Iraq didn't listen to U.N. mandates. So, Iraq must listen to the U.N., but the U.S. doesn't have to listen to U.N.? Gee, I can't understand why the international community resents the United States.

Tomorrow: road trip to Cleveland for the second night of the moveon.org Vote For Change tour: Bright Eyes, R.E.M., and Bruce Springsteen, at Gund Arena in Cleveland. Can't wait.