Friday Homestead Dispatch

Alarming Dismantled Canoes

Margaret Keelan’s clay work has the feel of sea-weathered wood, giving the pieces a timeless yet contemporary quality. Keelan is the Assistant Director of Fine Arts and Sculpture and teaches at the San Francisco Academy of Art.

At the age of sixty-seven, there are days when my body and mind cannot seem to get out of bed. Then here’s Laurie Anderson at seventy-four, moving forward, going strong. Most times it’s not the work of older artists that inspires, but the get-up-and-go-to-work attitude that does.

From the New York Times article: Although Anderson has come to be associated with New York, with Europe, with cosmopolitan intellectualism, her baseline vibe is extremely Midwestern — normal, practical, unpretentious, conspicuously kind. This is a good way to read her work — all those avant-garde stories spooling out around familiar things (weather, sweaters, pet dogs, J.F.K.). She is the American heartland affectionately alienated from itself. Anderson is the middle of our nation asking out loud, in a spirit of loving curiosity, what on Earth it thinks it is doing.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will present the largest-ever U.S. exhibition of artwork by Anderson from Sept. 24–July 31, 2022.

History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies, the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues
Elvis Costello, Beyond Belief, 1982

History is repeating itself with the Republican Party prepared to do everything it can to prevent people from voting, especially folks who ain’t white. The House has passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 but good luck getting it to pass in the Senate. It is aimed at restoring voting protections that were lost in two Supreme Court decisions over the course of the last decade, Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. Of course, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed opposition to passage of the bill, and said that its passage is "unnecessary.”

Here’s a passage that sums it up from Heather Cox Richardson’s book How the South Won the Civil War:

So, in America, the idea that all men were treated equal depended on the traditional idea that all men were created unequal and that a few wealthy men should control the government, and therefore the lives, of women and men of color. This is the paradox that sits at the heart of our nation. We have the radical capacity to “make the world anew,” as Thomas Paine said, so that our government truly reflects human equality. But that idea assumed that some people were better than others, and that social hierarchies were natural–or even dictated by God. Natural leaders should govern the mudsills. (In the South, whites had made an “inferior” race into the mudsills, dull but loyal people who were content to have their labor directed by their betters and to have no say in their government)

From its founding, America has stood at the nexus of democracy and oligarchy. And as soon as the nation was established, its history of conflating class and race have an elite the language to take over the government and undermine democracy.

A little bit of light in an otherwise dark week. In a ruling on Wednesday, Federal District Court Judge Robert L. Pitman, granted the Justice Department’s request to halt enforcement of the recently passed Texas law (at least temporarily) that bans nearly all abortions in the state while the legal battle over the statute makes its way through the federal courts. Small steps.

My buddy Jeff Harkness reminded me to listen to more jazz. He sent me a link to a Lou Donaldson track that had Baby Face Willette on the Hammond organ, and damn that kid could cook. He led a rough life and died at the tender age of 38. Here’s a cut from his album Face to Face titled Swingin’ at Sugar Ray’s that features Fred Jackson on sax, Grant Green on guitar, and Ben Dixon on drums.

One of the best comparative arguments about the relative cost of Biden’s signature bill that Sinema and Manchin are making such a fuss about comes from the Guardian.

The primary problem with the hyperfocus on cost is that this bill just does not cost all that much. The $350bn a year in increased spending represents just 1.5% of the US GDP. Even after passing reconciliation as is, the American welfare state would still be a small investment by the standards of world economies. This is not a radical spending package: it’s the agenda of a moderate president, supported by the moderate leaders of the party, and even by groups like the arch-centrist thinktank Third Way.

In defense budgets, which are passed without the blink of an eye, massive amounts of money end up in boondoggles and lining the pockets of contractors: $1.7tn on a fighterjet that will barely fly, at least $35bn on ships that literally disintegrate when they touch salt water, and more and more. Each of these wasteful programs could pay for huge chunks of the sort of popular and useful social spending that is currently so controversial. The provisions in the reconciliation bill are not only a moral necessity and good policy: they are extremely popular. Yet, the elected officials who support unlimited military spending are responding to lobbyists and donors, and opposing social spending on their behalf.

Check out the article linked above for the complete story.

And now…