There was a pilot program set for the next three Hawaii Island Council elections. It is being shot down at the State level with the approval of the newly elected Council. Since Obama abandoned public financing, the tone has been set. This is too bad. It almost ensures that business and financial interests, real estate people, etc. will continue to dominate local politics. League fought very hard for public financing, in conjunction with other groups, and people are very disappointed.
The new brooms are Obama people who expect to get large amounts of federal money to spend on stuff they want. The new Mayor has already been to Washington with his wish list. Since he and the others are beholden to the money interests who got them elected, this would be in the direction of more development. If I wanted to live in a place full of industry and developments, that is where I would live, so I can hardly be pleased about any of this.
More: I have just discovered the economist Michael Hudson.The gist of what he says, as I understand it, is that unless Obama lets the banks fail, we are doomed. He says to let all the bad credit go south. Let people with money buy up junk loans at twenty cents on the dollar or something, re-negotiate the loans, and make profits of (say) twenty five cents on the dollar. They get their profits, homeowners keep their property. But no. Taxpayers will have to save the banks, who will just take the money, save their own situations, and force people out of their homes anyway.
Will Obama come around? It does not look likely. He will restore some important social programs, but he is not challenging the very basis of the financial meltdown. His financial people are Clintonistas and Bushites. I am very sorry for people who cannot understand what has happened. Hudson makes the situation clear in this Renegade Economist video that someone posted on Gawker:
You are a somewhat serious person who enjoys studying subjects deeply. Art of all kinds interests you, and a good piece of art can really effect you emotionally. You are inspired by human achievement, and you appreciate work that takes years to accomplish. For you, the finer things in life are not about snobbery - they're about quality.
Yay!League has been working on this forever. My cousin and I even gave a talk on this issue to the prisoners at the correctional facility where I used to work, and our picture was in the National Voter. The hook for the prisoners, who were in a civics course, was to get them interested in voting rights for incarcerated felons. A few days ago I sent my Senators emails urging them to vote for the D.C. measure. I hope they did. I'm going to look it up. High time and way overdue. The lack of representation for D.C. residents has been an ongoing disgrace.
Wow! Thanks to the magic of Google, I was able to find the picture of cuz and me (actually Terry's cousin) holding up the show and tell material for our lecture.
Here is a video about the work of this fine Japanese artist who is currently exhibiting at the East Hawaii Cultural Center. Admission is free, but contributions are welcome. (I am not sure whether her name is Shigeno Sawada or Shingeno Sawada; I've seen it spelled both ways.) The EHCC is an amazing cultural resource for a town of this size. We are sustaining members, because we really appreciate what EHCC does for Hilo.
Glenns' Weather Narrativeis a good place to get updates on the weather in Hawaii. Scroll down to see Glenns' photos of the incredible Haleakala Crater on Maui. (Oops. Looks as if he changes photos all the time. The photos are no longer there.) It is no exaggeration to say this is the most beautiful place I have ever been. It's a huge downhill hike in, and the altitude's a challenge. We started out at 10,000 feet and went down to 7,000 feet or so where the cabin was. The uphill hike was actually easier, I think because we were better acclimated. We did this in 2004. I wonder if I'd be able to do this again.
Above is a little nene goose family (the native Hawaiian goose) that hung out near the cabin where we stayed. The cabin is one of three cabins built as a WPA project and can be rented for groups through the National Park Service.
(Click for Enlargement). I will attend this talk and report back. We are lucky to have speakers like Delgado coming to our remote spot, so I hope for a good turnout.
I have begun a big reading project. This is not reading for pleasure, but to me seems like an obligation. The book is called Torture and Democracy, and the author, Darius Rejali, is a professor at Reed College. I took a fascinating course from him years ago entitled Comparative Revolutions. He is a humanist above all, and everything he says in his book reflects that. I feel that he is guiding me through this difficult material so that I can stay with it and really learn what torture is about.
Why do democracies torture? And how does torture in democracy differ from that in dictatorships? I trust him to answer these questions. The whole issue of torture needs his sort of analysis. Simple indignation will not stop it. Appeals to morality don't work. For example, in spite of attempts by Amnesty International to stop torture, there is more torture than ever. At some level we think that torture is inevitable. If we do not change our ideas and behavior fundamentally, yes, torture will go on. When I finish the book, I'll have more to say.
This one snuck up on me. I have been so focused on other political matters here, both local and state, that I did not realize that civil unions were up for consideration again in the legislature. The Catholics (of course) and other church groups are already all over this with ad campaigns and demonstrations. The No Hope (oops: New Hope) church is in the middle of the fray. New Hopers are very reactionary. Mormons abound in Hawaii, but I am not sure that they are very powerful politically, since this is a Democratic state. They own the Polynesian Cultural Center, a big tourist trap on Oahu. I guess some of them are Democrats, though.They could certainly add money and noise to the campaign against gays, but they don't seem to be as actively in opposition to this measure as they were in favor of Prop. 8 in California.
Governor Lingle was elected as a protest against the "good old boys" of the Democratic party. She does a creditable job and keeps her head down. A lot of Hawaiians are cultural conservatives. Which is what this opposition is.
These opponents would do themselves and all the rest of us a favor if they would drop the culture wars. We have huge problems: social, economic, and so on . Gay civil unions and gay marriage are not problems. In fact, gay marriage could give a boost to the sainted tourist industry. Gay weddings on Maui!
Anyway, civil unions would be a help, but I think gay marriage would be better.
Won't make it to Rio or to New Orleans' Mardi Gras this year, but I have this photo slide show from Spiegel to give me some idea of the action. Check out the Carnival queen with the Obama painting on her leg.
And just in case you think Germans lack a sense of fun, take a look at Heino singin' and groovin' to the rhythms of "Carneval in Rio."
More: on the general subject of kitsch, Clement Greenberg wrote this at about the last possible moment (1939) when intellectuals could excoriate popular taste in favor of high culture. Note that the poster feels he has to write a disclaimer. I do not essentially dispute what Greenberg says, though.* Today, of course, kitsch IS culture, and it's all we know.
As he says,
Kitsch has not been confined to the cities in which it was born, but has flowed out over the countryside, wiping out folk culture. Nor has it shown any regard for geographical and national cultural boundaries. Another mass product of Western industrialism, it has gone on a triumphal tour of the world, crowding out and defacing native cultures in one colonial country after another, so that it is now by way of becoming a universal culture, the first universal culture ever beheld. Today the native of China, no less than the South American Indian, the Hindu, no less than the Polynesian, have come to prefer to the products of their native art, magazine covers, rotogravure sections and calendar girls. How is this virulence of kitsch, this irresistible attractiveness, to be explained? Naturally, machine-made kitsch can undersell the native handmade article, and the prestige of the West also helps; but why is kitsch a so much more profitable export article than Rembrandt? One, after all, can be reproduced as cheaply as the other.
Today, the triumph is complete, as "folk art" has been regenerated and mutated into new forms of cheap and garish kitsch. Even high art incorporates kitsch. In fact, kitsch has totally invaded and conquered high art, as witness this sculpture by Umberto Boccioni that David Vickrey shows here. It is artistic in the way it challenges and disturbs, but it is, at the same time and most definitely, kitsch. It was not produced in that spirit, but it is an early example of the sensibility of kitsch in spite of being "handmade" and original. It glorifies speed, artificiality, the machine, the winged warrior. Another early kitschmeister, Karl Spitzweg, is someone I've written about, and I'll post the essay sometime. He was a precursor of Norman Rockwell and like him glorified and cutsified the everyday but was at the same time a fairly serious artist. These two artists, Boccioni and Spitzweg, define the two main strains of kitsch, in my opinion. One is ugly, exciting, and belligerent. The other is cozy, sentimental, and reassuring.
There was always that "Unbehagen" (uneasiness) in his work that redeems Spitzweg for high art but not Rockwell. It is amazing to me, I must say, that the emetic evocations of American life that Rockwell is known for have become respectable among intellectuals, along with those of that other kitschmeister, Wyeth. Give me dogs playing poker any day. Or Heino!
The goldfish can't see its bowl, and we can't see kitsch. It's everywhere.
*Except that I think Picasso's work often has elements of kitsch in it. Look at Guernica, especially in reproduction.