Joe Kenehan Center

Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Must See Alt-Country

If you live on the West Coast, you should try to make it to one of the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers’ shows as they finish their tour this week. They played a sloppy yet completely endearing show at The Tractor in Seattle last night. For some people Victoria Williams’ voice is an acquired taste, but I think everyone could agree that her interpretation of “Moon River”—which they closed with last night—is beautiful.

In related news, The Jayhawks have resurfaced on Lost Highway records and are supposed to have a new album out in April.

Red-Baiting Redux

Others have already justly ridiculed Balnint Vaznoyni’s hysterical Washington Times column warning that Nancy Pelosi is a stealth totalitarian.

It doesn’t say a lot for the Times’ op-ed page that they give a forum to a guy who insists that the very presence of non-whites on TV news teams is proof enough that an authoritarian quota system has been imposed on American business--because otherwise black people aren't qualified to do the weather, right?

Vaznoyni make this observation on a “Booknotes” interview a few years ago:

BRIAN LAMB: B--back to the anchor thing--and the reason I brought it up is
'cause I remember you referring to the fact that there are usually
four anchors on a television news show on a local basis, and--two of
'em news, t--one of 'em weather, one of 'em sports, and that there is
always a racial mix: Hispanic, a black, a woman and all that. Have
you noticed this as you've traveled around in all the cities that you
go to?

Mr. VAZSONYI: Mostly. Mostly.

LAMB: And what does that mean, if that's the case?

Mr. VAZSONYI: Well, what it means is that we live in a world of
quotas, which I consider as much running counter to American
principles as anything possibly could and that, as part of the
30-years war, forces have surfaced in this country which have somehow
brought about a con--the condition in which radio stations and
television sta--television is special, of course, because it's
visual--feel that they need to show this kind of a mix or they will be
in trouble, and--and people do get in trouble. I mean, there
is--there is no question that there's a quota system in the
universities, at the workplace, with federal contracts. I mean,
it's--it's a hotly debated topic.

It would be easier to dismiss Valziony as an isolated crank on the right if various House Republicans weren’t launching similarly ludicrous attacks at the same time against Brazil’s President Lula in a clumsy attempt to turn him the next Daniel Ortega.

Monday, November 18, 2002
Klein vs. Reich

What role can American workers and their unions play in renewing the Democratic Party?

If you listen to Joe Klein, it’d be better if working people disbanded their unions and let the DLC handle things from now on.

In an exchange with Robert Reich in Slate, Klein assigns unions a huge share of the blame for any number of problems facing America. This is nothing new in the cyberpages of Slate, where Mickey Kaus is a reliable and consistent basher of all things union.

What’s irritating about Klein’s portrayal of the labor movement is that it’s not serious analysis but a lazy caricature. Klein’s labor movement is two groups of people: xenophobic UAW guys and incompetent public school teachers who couldn’t care less about kids. And nobody else, really.

To Reich’s credit, he fills in some of the gaps. He uses my own union, SEIU, as an example of a union that’s growing in both the private and public sectors. Reich gets some of the details wrong about the kinds of workers who are joining SEIU, but his main point -- that employees in the post-industrial service economy need a stronger voice -- is crucial.

Given that folks like Klein are largely unconcerned with issues of economic fairness, it’s not surprising that he can’t be bothered to talk about unions without flinging around cliches.