Son House

Son HouseOn this day in 1902, the great blues musician Son House was born. He’s one of the legends of Mississippi Delta blues, which more or less make him a blues legend across time and space. According to him, he met a young Robert Johnson who would have been 18 or 19. He said that the young Johnson was an acceptable harmonica player but a terrible guitar player. I find this hard to believe, because just six years later Johnson recorded some of the very best delta blues ever. There is no doubt, however, that Son House was a huge influence on Johnson.

Son House was more of less “discovered” by another of my favorite bluesmen, Charley Patton. The two of them began performing together. And House continued playing throughout the region long past Patton’s death in 1934. But ten years later, he gave up performing and moved to New York. Like other blues greats, he was rediscovered in the 1960s and became an even bigger star than he had been.

There is a surprising lack of live action video of Son House performing. So you are just going to have to settle with “Death Letter Blues,” which is the very best form of settling.

Happy birthday Son House!

Dems Need to Increase Asian Voter Turnout

Just VoteThe Monkey Cage is one of the best blogs going. Unfortunately, since it moved to the Washington Post, I don’t read it as much. There just isn’t enough coming from them to pay for a subscription, especially when the news and editorial page so often annoy me. However, I just noticed that they have lowered the price of subscriptions to $7.99 per month, which is slightly tempting. Regardless, earlier this week, Andrew Gelman published an interesting article, Why Do Asian Americans Mostly Vote for Democrats?

He talked about a recent article by political scientists Alexander Kuo, Neil Malhotra and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo published in Politico of all places, Why Are Asian Americans Democrats? The article is brutal to the Republicans. Basically, it finds that Asians identify with the Democratic Party because Asians see themselves as a minority group. And the Republicans can’t seem to utter more than a sentence without sending out the message, “White people are the only true Americans!”

But the authors do provide one potential way forward. In one experiment, they primed Asians by informing them of ways that Democratic policy helped Latinos at Asians’ expensive. This did indeed cause a fall in Asians’ self-identification as Democrat. But the effect was very small. When primed to see Latinos and Asians as a single group, 72% identified as Democrat. When primed to see Latinos as “the other” who take away from Asians, only 67% identified as Democrat. I don’t think this is surprising. The use of in-group/out-group politics is common. What’s more, I think that the Republicans already use this tactic, we just don’t see it much because the Asian community isn’t that large. Regardless, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for Republican growth in this study.

Gleman ads another potential cause of the heavy Democratic skew of Asians: urbanity. Asians tend to live in urban areas. But I’m not sure this isn’t just saying that Asians are more liberal. Whites in urban areas are more liberal than they are in rural areas. I know that part of this is that the hatred that is so critical to conservative thought is hard to maintain when you have to actually interact with different people. I remember a commentator (I think it was John Nichols) talking about how his experience of urban blacks was quite different from the stereotype: every day, he saw them lining up to take the bus to work at 6:00 in the morning. But the other side of why people are more liberal in cities is that more liberal people are going to choose to live in the cities.

Whatever the reason that Asians vote Democratic, it doesn’t seem like it is going to change any time soon. A more important question, for Democrats anyway, is why Asians vote at such low levels. According to census data, blacks have been been voting much more over the last 20 years and voted at higher rates than whites in 2012. Latinos have also improved their voting percentages but still have a long way to go. If you ignore the Obama elections, Asians have actually seen their voter participation decline. Even with Obama, they’ve only risen slightly. In the last election, Asians had the lowest turnout of any major ethnic group.

The way forward seems clear. Asians and Latinos seem like they are going to aligned with the Democratic Party for at least a generation. We need to encourage them to vote. The Republicans can work on why Asians don’t like them. I don’t think there is any secret as to why. But the Republicans work very hard at not seeming such obvious facts. If they didn’t, they would be forced to change. And change is not something the Republican Party wants to do. And until they do, that’s good for the Democrats.

Politico‘s False Equivalence on Media’s Putin Love Affair

PutinDigby also sent me to a very funny article by Roger Simon, Mess With Bull, Get Horns. But she didn’t see the article the way I did. The article makes fun of the sudden outbreak of Putin love here in the United States. But as one would expect from Politico, Simon couldn’t just attack the conservative side, which is the only side with the crush. So he engages in some of the most extreme false equivalence I’ve ever seen.

You have no doubt seen the love that Fox News is giving to Putin. It takes the form of, “Putin rides around shirtless on a horse while Obama rides a bicycle (How girly!) with a helmet (Wimp!) in mom jeans!” Check out The Young Turks video, “You’ll Never Guess Who Loves Putin” for a good rundown. (I’ve embedded it below.) Others have noticed the weird double image conservatives have of Obama. On the one hand, he’s a despot who has staged a huge power grab. On the other hand, he’s an indecisive wimp. So the subject is ripe for humor.

There are liberals who have sided with Putin. Jonathan Chait described this group in an article last week, The Pathetic Lives of Putin’s American Dupes. But as he pointed out, this is a small group. And a weird group. And they are not Putin lovers; they are Russia apologists. There is not a lot of humor potential there.

So what is a Washington insider determined to equate left and right to do? First, define centrists and conservatives as liberal! Did you know that the Washington Post editorial page was liberal? I don’t mean in 1972; I mean today. I’m sure you didn’t, because it isn’t. This is why liberals call it “Fox on 15th Street.” And then there is Thomas “Suck on this!” Friedman. And centrist Fareed Zakaria. According to Simon, if you aren’t a fire breathing conservative, you are a liberal. That is, interestingly, the conservative defintion of “liberal.” But you would think a reporter would have a more objective definition. But wait, there’s more!

Simon quotes Rudy Giuliani saying, “[H]e makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. And then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader!” And then he quotes Sarah Palin saying, “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans.” And even staid old Charles Krauthammer saying, “Putin fully occupies vacuums. In Ukraine, he keeps flaunting his leverage.”

And what do we get from the “liberal” Washington Post? Only this outrageous quote:

While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding… As Mr. Putin ponders whether to advance further—into eastern Ukraine, say—he will measure the seriousness of US and allied actions, not their statements.

There are similarly tactical statements from Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman about what Obama must do. Now I may or may not agree with what all three are arguing. I’m not really interested in taking the time to read those articles. But there is no Putin idolatry in any of the these supposed liberals’ views of the situation. There isn’t even anything close to Krauthammer’s statement.

One thing I think we all like about comedy is that it takes a stand. That stand doesn’t have to agree with the listener or fit into some pre-existing ideology. But what Simon has done is madness. He’s clearly going after the the conservative “Putin’s so manly” meme. But he hedges his bet by throwing in a few quotes that have nothing to do with what he’s writing about. And it is all for the purpose of maintaining some ridiculous notion of objectivity. It’s pathetic.

Bill Donohue Welcome at NYC Pride

Bill DonohueThere hasn’t been a whole lot of news the last few days, and that always has me roaming around FARK and blogs looking at what people are yammering about. Digby brought my attention to a very interesting article in Gothamist, NYC Gay Pride Parade Welcomes Catholic League & “Straight Is Great” Sign. It is delicious.

Just as many liberals have been upset that the New York City St Patrick’s Day Parade wouldn’t allow explicitly gay participants, many conservatives became upset when other people pulled out of the parade because of its intolerance. After Guinness pulled out, Catholic League president Bill Donohue was hopping mad. In an effort to show how everyone is intolerant in their own way (Sounds like a song!) “he said he wanted to march in the NYC Pride parade, with a banner that says, ‘Straight is Great.'” Unfortunately, everyone is not intolerant in their own way.

March Director of NYC Pride, David Studinski, released a statement:

Mr. Donohue and his group are free to participate in the 2014 March. His group’s presence affirms the need for this year’s Pride theme, “We Have Won When We’re One.” Straight is great—as long as there’s no hate.

Other parade organizers have made similar statements including “pointing [out] that it’s ‘probably not the first time’ that a ‘Straight is Great’ sign has been shown in the parade.” But all this wonderful tolerance does not mean that the LGBT community is blind to what Donohue and his group are all about. In their statement, they included information about his beliefs and past statements:

Mr. Donohue has been an outspoken opponent of legal recognition of LGBT people, loving LGBT families, the science of sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS education. He continually refers to marriage equality as “crazy” and “one of the most bizarre ideas in human history,” and he has equated the marriage equality movement with the “minority of people in South Africa who took away the rights of Black people”; insists “we’re not going to allow gay people to adopt children, that’s against nature, it’s against nature’s God”; champions a program called Courage, which tells LGBT people that a chaste, celibate life is the only acceptable option; and on multiple occasions, Mr. Donohue has referred to AIDS as “self-inflicted” and due to going against “natural order.” For more information visit: GLAAD’s Bill Donohue Page.

Meanwhile, the Catholic League is busy working on a boycott of Guinness. Donohue said that the company has declared war on Catholics. He has a right to think what he wants, but that’s just silly. It is unfortunately, entirely typical of American conservatism with its constant feelings of persecution when people don’t provide them with special rights. It is the basis of the whole War on Christmas nonsense. But what is most clear in this whole incident is that the two sides are not equal. Everyone is not intolerant in their own way. And in the future, Bill Donohue will be remembered for his intolerance, not for any good works he may also do.