Monthly Archives: October 2012

Tres Barbaras (HUM455)

Below: Maria Felix as Dona Barbara in the film of the same name (1943):

One of the best sources for a thumbnail sketch of the history of Latin America from the post-Independence struggle to the present is probably the Encyclopedia Britannica. For students who are interested in pursuing such a study in greater depth the books listed on the course information page– Chasteen, Williamson, Galleano– are very useful. Chasteen’s is a standard textbook now in its third edition and as such the most expensive of these three histories. Williamson’s, published by Penguin, probably contains more detail though its relationship to the matters discussed is also more conservative. Galleano’s text, The Open Veins of Latin America, is a classic of “committed” historiography written in a poetic mode– notably from a Latin American perspective. As a Uruguayan, Galleano was witness to one of the most destructive periods in Latin American history– the era of military dictatorships which throttled democracy during the late 60s through the late 90s. This is the book that Hugo Chavez gave to Barack Obama as a gift, though given the Obama administration’s foreign policies he seems not to have read it.

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Pillaging the Empire (HUM303)

If you’re interested in further context for Captain Blood, you could consult this chapter from Kris Lane’s Pillaging the Empire: Piracy in the Americas, 1500-1750. Here it is as a pdf: pillaging

A pdf version of Alexander Exquemelin’s The Buccaneers of America is also available at, though it’s an earlier British translation which redacts passages that reflect poorly on the English.

“The children of hell” (HUM470)

Fourteen thousand tall chimneys are silhouetted against the sky, along the valley extending from McKeesport to Pittsburg; and these fourteen thousand chimneys discharge their burning sparks and smoke incessantly. The realms of Vulcan could not be more somber or filthy than this valley of the Monongahela.

The foundries and smelting-works are up-reared in serried ranks farther than eye can reach over the surrounding countryside. On every hand are seen burning fires and spurting flames. Look where one will, nothing is visible save the forging of iron and the smelting of metal. From thousands upon thousands of these plants the thud of steam-hammers and the hissing of escaping steam smite aggressively on our ears. One can hardly imagine it to be the conscious labor of human beings; the thundering tumult, blinding flame, and choking steam which surround us, rather suggest a horrible calamity fallen upon the land. From above, soot, ashes, and glowing embers rain in a steady shower, as though from some volcanic crater; indeed it is difficult to believe all this chaos to be wrought by human hands. It is like the nether world of Pluto, the valley of Hades– of eternal night. Only the imagination of a Dante could depict the horrors of a hell so dreadful as that to be found on the Monongahela, and well might every newcomer be addressed in the words of the Divine Comedy: “Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate!” (“All hope abandon ye who enter here!”)

In this mephitic atmosphere, mist-laden, the tolling bell performs its solemn function in a manner suggestive of some tired and struggling creature, while the funeral cortege wends its sorrowful way slowly towards the distant churchyard.

Along the valley below, the workmen’s colony and the mighty conglomeration of forges and factories unfold themselves to our view. Pittsburg, Homestead, Braddock, Duquesne, McKeesport, follow on each other like links in an interminable chain. The impression given by the sight of this series of gigantic industrial hives is indescribable and horrible in the extreme. It may best, perhaps, be characterised in the language of the Americans themselves: “Pittsburg is Hell with the lid off.”

— The Inner Life of the United States (1907) by Monsignor Count Vay de Vaya and Luskod, Apostolic Proto-notary, P.D.HH., KC.I.C.



In the past three decades, the cost of attaining a college degree has increased more
than 1,000 percent. Two-thirds of students who earn four-year bachelor’s degrees
are graduating with an average student loan debt of more than $25,000, and 1 in
10 borrowers now graduate owing more than $54,000 in loans.

African American and Latino students are especially saddled with student debt, with
81 percent of African American students and 67 percent of Latino students who
earned bachelor’s degrees leaving school with debt. This compares to 64 percent of
white students who graduate with debt. With $864 billion in federal loans and $150
billion in private loans, student debt in America now exceeds $1 trillion.

see The Student Debt Crisis (pdf)

Yes on 30/ No on 32

From the Sacramento Bee:

“A shadowy Phoenix-based group contributed $11 million Monday to a campaign committee funding attacks on Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative and supporting a measure curbing union dues collection, a new campaign finance report shows.” (Read more here:

See also an article in the SF Chronicle:

If Prop. 30 does not pass in November, CSU will automatically sustain $250,000,000 in “trigger” cuts. Classes will be fewer and larger, tuition will rise, fewer students will be admitted, and CSU employees will lose hours or their jobs. This, as part of an over $6,000,000,000 in cuts to be made largely in public and higher education.

If Prop. 32 passes the ultra-wealthy– via “special exemptions”– will gain even more power over the political process. This intentionally confusing proposition is meant to promote the rule of capital at the expense of ordinary working people.

From :

“Union members pay dues through payroll deduction, a portion of which is used for politics – to support candidates who stand with workers and oppose those who don’t as well as fighting ballot measures that threaten middle class jobs and wages. Corporations, though, almost NEVER use payroll deduction for politics; they use their massive profits. With the special exemptions in Prop. 32, corporate special interests will be able to spend with NO LIMITS on political campaigns through powerful Super PACs.”


Monday October 22 is the last day to register to vote.

You can do it online:

Pseudo-democracy: the arrest of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala

From a Green Party press release:

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala are now free from police custody after eight hours handcuffed to a metal chair in a remote police warehouse on Long Island. The Green Party presidential and vice-presidential candidates were arrested earlier today as they attempted to enter the grounds of today’s presidential debate organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

News of the incident spread quickly around the world via media coverage carried on ABC, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Democracy Now!, and many other channels, as well as via social media, trending on Twitter, for example, as far away as Egypt.

On her release, Dr. Stein said that, “It was painful but symbolic to be handcuffed for all those hours, because that what the Commission on Presidential Debates has essentially done to American democracy.” Stein and Honkala were eventually released into the cold at 10:30pm. Police provided no advance notice of the release to campaign lawyers and staff, and did not allow the two candidates to make any phone calls.

Cheri Honkala called her incarceration, “extremely uncomfortable, but standard for what so many Americans face on a daily basis in our corrections system.” Added Stein Campaign Manager Ben Manski, “These arrests and this treatment are outrageous and disportionate; who do the police think they are protecting here?”

Video footage from Democracy Now:

Pseudo-democracy: The Commission for Presidential Debates, Inc.

AMY GOODMAN: George, let’s begin with you. Last night, the contract between the campaigns was released for this debate. Talk about it. How long is it? What did you learn? How significant is it?

GEORGE FARAH: This is a 21-page contract that was negotiated by the Republican and Democratic parties, by the Obama campaign and the Romney campaign, and it dictates the terms of the presidential debates that we’re seeing this election season. This contract was not made public in 2008. It was made public in three prior election seasons only because we got copies from whistleblowers. So this is a fantastic primary document to see just how much the Republican and Democratic campaigns manipulate the process.

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MidRev: Part Two (HUM455)

The colonization of America, we have noted repeatedly, produced new social identities. The intermingling of people from Europe, America, and Africa led to the formation of a racio-political taxonomy, notably in the Casta System of Spanish America or according to the multifarious categories established in St. Domingue, which postulated 110 gradations of color. One of the key distinctions created by colonialism, less a matter of race than of nativity, divided criollos from peninsulares. Even so, intermarriage (and the rape of enslaved women) also produced mestizos (in New France, metis), mulattos, zambos, etc. The cultural value of mestizaje– of hybridity– shaped Latin American identity in a way that was absent in North America, where rigid prohibitions against miscegenation (routinely violated by EuroAmerican slavers interested in increasing their stock of chattel) worked in tandem with the rule of hypodescent to privilege (and police the boundaries of) whiteness.

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