Tuesday: Break On Through To The Other Side

Ray Manzarek with Jim Morrison

Ray Manzarek with Jim Morrison

Good Morning!

Yesterday we lost another influential 1960’s icon. Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the legendary rock group The Doors has died at 74, after a long battle with cancer. From The New York Times:

Ray Manzarek, who as the keyboardist and a songwriter for the Doors helped shape one of the indelible bands of the psychedelic era, died on Monday at a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany. He was 74.

The cause was bile duct cancer, according to his manager, Tom Vitorino. Mr. Manzarek lived in Napa, Calif.

Mr. Manzarek founded the Doors in 1965 with the singer and lyricist Jim Morrison, whom he would describe decades later as “the personification of the Dionysian impulse each of us has inside.” They would go on to recruit the drummer John Densmore and the guitarist Robby Krieger.

Mr. Manzarek played a crucial role in creating music that was hugely popular and widely imitated, selling tens of millions of albums. It was a lean, transparent sound that could be swinging, haunted, meditative, suspenseful or circuslike. The Doors’ songs were generally credited to the entire group. Long after the death of Mr. Morrison in 1971, the music of the Doors remained synonymous with the darker, more primal impulses unleashed by psychedelia. In his 1998 autobiography, “Light My Fire,” Mr. Manzarek wrote: “We knew what the people wanted: the same thing the Doors wanted. Freedom.”

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It’s difficult to describe how powerfully I was affected by The Doors’ sound back in January 1967. I was 19 years old, a sophomore at Ball State University in Muncie Indiana.

I had purchased their first album in the college bookstore on a whim–based simply my intuitive response to the cover art. I had never heard of the group–their music wasn’t being played on AM radio, that’s for sure.

I bought a lot of albums “sound unheard” in those days–a new kind of music was being born and the powers that be in radio didn’t know what to make of it yet.

When I got home, I put the LP on my cheap stereo record player and sat on my bed to listen. As soon as I heard the sound of Manzarek’s “piano bass” on “Break on Through to the Other Side” and his amazing organ intro and solo on “Light My Fire,” I was transfixed. This was really something new and unique. It’s not an exaggeration to say that music changed my life.

Along with Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Jack Kerouac, and a few other musical and literary influences, The Doors music helped me begin to realize that I was not alone, despite my sense of being out-of-place in my dull Midwestern town–there were other people out in the world who were like me, who didn’t want to accept the status quo in those days, who didn’t want to settle for the unexamined life. Little did I know as I listed to those songs that I would be living in Boston just a few short months later–a place where so much was happening, where so many other young people were opening up to new ways of being, thinking, and feeling.

I guess that sounds pretty corny now, but it’s the truth. The late 1960s was a time of real change, when “the doors of perception” really did begin to open and a different world began to form.

Back to the Times obituary of Manzarek:

The quasi-Baroque introduction Mr. Manzarek brought to the Doors’ 1967 single “Light My Fire“ — a song primarily written by Mr. Krieger — helped make it a million-seller. Along with classical music, Mr. Manzarek also drew on jazz, R&B, cabaret and ragtime. His main instrument was the Vox Continental electric organ, which he claimed to have chosen, Mr. Vitorino said, because it was “easy to carry.”

The Doors’ four-man lineup did not include a bass player; onstage, Mr. Manzarek supplied the bass lines with his left hand, using a Fender Rhodes piano bass, though the band’s studio recordings often added a bassist.

Mr. Densmore said, via e-mail: “There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words. Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother.”

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From the Detroit Free Press: Ray Manzarek’s keyboards opened musical doors

It was the iconoclastic makeup of The Doors that helped make them a success from the monster debut of the group’s self-titled 1967 album.

There was Morrison’s otherworldly howl, Krieger’s Spanish-influenced guitar work, Densmore’s subtle, jazz-infused drumming and perhaps most striking of all, Manzarek’s keyboard, which did triple-duty as lead instrument, accompanying instrument and the band’s lone bass sound. Together, the group recorded numerous multiplatinum albums and had hits with “L.A. Woman,” “Break On Through to the Other Side,” “The End” and the Manzarek showcase, “Light My Fire.”

“You just can’t imagine ‘Light My Fire’ without Manzarek’s organ,” says Andy Greene, associate editor of Rolling Stone. “He was unquestionably one of the best rock keyboardists ever. But more than that, he was proud of the band’s legacy (after Morrison’s 1971 death in Paris). The Doors came back in a big way in the ’80s and Ray was mainly the one carrying the flame.”

Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of which Manzarek was an inductee and at whose ceremonies he was a frequent performer, said the organist was “instrumental in shaping one of the most influential, controversial and revolutionary groups of the ’60s, (which owes) much to Manzarek’s innovative playing.”

For many fans and musicians alike, The Doors’ brooding and sometimes dark sound crystallized the experimental rock music emanating from Los Angeles, which stood in stark contrast to the lighter, soaring sound coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area that was typified by the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

A couple more links–an NPR interview of Manzarek from 2000 and a Billboard interview with Manzarek, Densmore and Krieger from 2006.

In other news,

The death toll from the Oklahoma tornado has been lowered considerably, according to the AP–to 24, including 7 children, as of now. The Chicago Tribune reports:

MOORE, Oklahoma — Officials lowered the death toll to two dozen this morning as emergency crews continued to search feverishly for survivors in the rubble of homes, schools and a hospital in an Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by a powerful Monday afternoon tornado.

Officials in Oklahoma City said on Tuesday that 24 bodies were recovered after a 2-mile wide tornado tore through Moore, a sharp decline from the 51 deaths they previously reported.

“We have got good news. The number right now is 24,” said Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer at the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner’s Office. The prior figure of 51 dead may have included some double-reported casualties, Elliott said.

“There was a lot of chaos,” Elliott said.

She cautioned that additional bodies could yet be recovered from the rubble.

At least 60 of the injured are children. Obviously, this story is far from over. I’ll update in the comments thread as I learn more–and please add what you hear as well! But it does sound like good news that there may be more survivors of this incredible storm than authorities originally believed.

More surprising (and disappointing) news breaking… From the BBC: Guatemala annuls Rios Montt’s genocide conviction

Guatemala’s top court has thrown out the conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity of former military leader Efrain Rios Montt.

The constitutional court ruled that the trial should restart from the point where it stood on 19 April.

On 10 May, Gen Rios Montt was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his time in office in 1982-83.

The 86-year-old was sentenced to 80 years in prison. He denies the charges.

The three-to-two ruling by a panel of constitutional judges annuls everything that has happened in the trial since 19 April, when Gen Rios Montt was briefly left without a defence lawyer.

The defence team had walked out of the court on the previous day in protest at what they called “illegal proceedings”.

The New York Times reports:

The decision by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court was a dramatic legal victory for General Ríos Montt, 86, and a blow to human rights advocates who had called his conviction a sign that Guatemala’s courts would no longer allow impunity for the country’s powerful.

General Ríos Montt was sent to prison immediately after the verdict on May 10 when a three-panel tribunal found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison but was soon transferred to a military hospital for medical tests. Monday’s decision means that he will return to house arrest, where he had been held since the case against him began in January 2012.

The additional effects of Monday’s court ruling were unclear. The court did not invalidate the entire trial, which began on March 19. Instead, the court ordered that the proceedings be rolled back and reset to April 19, when a complex decision by another judge sent the trial into disarray, causing a brief suspension….Legal experts said repeating the final days of the trial before the same tribunal would be unlikely because it would amount to a form of double jeopardy for the general. But it was unclear if the rest of the trial would remain in limbo or could be restarted before a new tribunal.

General Ríos Montt was found to be responsible as commander in chief for a series of massacres and rapes and the forced displacement of the Maya-Ixil ethnic group during his 17-month rule in 1982 and 1983. During a month of prosecution testimony, the court heard wrenching descriptions by survivors of the army’s scorched-earth policy through the hamlets of the Mayan highlands.

I’ve long been appalled by the FBI’s use of elaborate sting operations to entrap hapless men in Muslim communities in the U.S. who would never have thought of or have been able to commit a terrorist act on their own. Here’s one recent example. In fact, I suspect that the Boston Marathon bombings may have resulted from the FBI’s targeting of accused bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

I recently read a book on this subject by reporter Trevor Aaronson called The Terror Factory, and I highly recommend it. According to Aaronson, there have been hundreds of convictions of American Muslims for supposedly planning “terrorist attacks,” but only a few of those involved actual attempted terrorist attacks. The rest were operations in which the FBI sought out a vulnerable person, provided the know-how, the plans, an the (fake) weapons. In many cases these men were very reluctant and had to be really pushed by the FBI “informants” who targeted them.

There have also been reports of the NYPD using similar tactics, and yesterday the AP focused on those efforts in one of their “big stories,” a report from an ongoing NYC trial.

A New York Police Department detective told a federal judge that he’s seen no evidence that one of his informants brought up the subject of jihad as a way to bait Muslims into making incriminating remarks. But text messages obtained by The Associated Press show otherwise.

And while the detective, Stephen Hoban, described the activities in a new legal filing in U.S. District Court as narrowly focused on a few people under investigation, text messages show a wide-ranging effort. Eager to make money, Shamiur Rahman, the informant, snapped pictures during prayer sessions, rallies and a parade; recorded the names of people who signed petitions or protested; and reported fellow Muslims who volunteered to feed needy families.

When the detective responded, his text messages nearly always sought more information:

“Did you take pictures?”

“I need pictures from the rally. And I need to know who is there.”

“Get pictures”

Rahman told the AP last year that he made about $9,000 over nine months spying widely on friends and others. He said the NYPD encouraged him to use a tactic called “create and capture.” He said it involved creating conversations about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the responses and sending them to the NYPD.

I wonder how many other large city police departments are emulating the FBI in this way? Could Boston be next? I sure hope not.

I’ll end there, and throw the floor open to your contributions. What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: The 27 Club, Brain Development, Pot, and Grapefruit

Jim Morrison reading2

Good Morning!!

It will probably be another slow news day today–in fact we’ll most likely have nothing but slow news days until we get past New Years. So I’ve got some non-political and not-all-that-important news to start this post.

If he had lived, Saturday, December 8 would have been Jim Morrison’s 69th birthday. Hard to believe. Of course the way he was going, he probably would have killed himself with alcohol anyway. But I wonder what he would have thought about the world today, if he had lived?

Another rock ‘n’ roll legend who died at age 27–Jimi Hendrix–would have been 70 on November 27. Would he still be “blowing minds” if he were alive today? Maybe.

Instead these two, along with other musical members of the “27 club” are frozen in time, still young and vibrant while the rest of us have aged. Is there something significant about being 27? Is it a year in which a person gets over the hump, so to speak, and begins to move toward adulthood?

According to a study reported by the BBC in 2009, human “mental powers” are greatest at age 22, and the brain begins to decline at age 27.

Professor Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia found reasoning, spatial visualisation and speed of thought all decline in our late 20s….His seven-year study of 2,000 healthy people aged 18-60 is published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

To test mental agility, the study participants had to solve puzzles, recall words and story details and spot patterns in letters and symbols….In nine out of 12 tests the average age at which the top performance was achieved was 22.

The first age at which there was any marked decline was at 27 in tests of brain speed, reasoning and visual puzzle-solving ability.
Things like memory stayed intact until the age of 37, on average, while abilities based on accumulated knowledge, such as performance on tests of vocabulary or general information, increased until the age of 60.

It may be true that certain mental abilities peak at age 22, but we now know that the frontal lobes continue to develop well into the 30s, and the brain can form new neurons even in old age. I guess it depends on which mental powers are most important to you. Personally I’m glad I didn’t check out at 27.

Would Morrison and Hendrix be surprised that it has taken so long for states to begin decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana? Or would the be surprised that has happened at all?

Yesterday, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order declaring that recreational pot use is legal in the state.

“Voters were loud and clear on Election Day,” Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said in a statement, as he signed an executive order to officially legalize the personal use and limited growing of marijuana for those 21 or older. Amendment 64, as it’s called, is now a part of the state’s constitution.

It is still illegal, however, to buy or sell marijuana “in any quantity” in Colorado or to consume it in public.

Hickenlooper, who opposed the amendment in the run-up to Election Day, announced the start of a 24-member task force that would “begin working immediately” to help the state navigate federal laws and establish how citizens can legally purchase and sell cannabis.

Possession and sale of pot are still federal crimes, however. In Washington, where pot became legal last week, at least one bar is now allowing patrons to smoke pot on the premises.

Frankie’s Sports Bar & Grill, owned by one Frank Schnarr, is thought to be the first of its kind anywhere in the U.S.: a bar that lets patrons toke up freely.

“I’m about to lose my business,” the Olympia, Washington-based business owner told Reuters. “So I’ve got to figure out some way to get people in here.”

Just to make sure he’s not chasing off all his customers, Schnarr has set up the second floor of his bar as a private club called “Friends of Frankies.” Interested patrons are charged a $10-a-year fee to access the lounge, where they can smoke marijuana freely. The lounge also serves alcohol, manned by a staff of volunteers paid by tips.

I’m not sure I’d like it if public places in Massachusetts started allowing pot smoking. I guess that would make me into more of a homebody than I already am. I wouldn’t want to smell pot everywhere anymore than I want to smell cigarette smoke. Mary Crescenzo at HuffPo has similar concerns.

I have lots of questions about new state laws regarding weed. With U.S. nonsmoking laws among the most restrictive in the world, I can’t help but wonder if recreational marijuana smokers in Washington and Colorado will regard smoking marijuana as an exception to our nonsmoking rules. In these two states, will smoking marijuana be tolerated in public while smoking cigarettes in public is, for the most part, clearly restricted? A few days ago in Seattle, as people gathered in the streets to celebrate the legalization of the use of marijuana, police asked those smoking pot not to smoke in public. For now, Washington police officers are limited to issuing verbal warnings to smokers but nothing more. Those police requests didn’t seem to dampen the party, though. I can’t be the only one with questions on these new twists and turns in the law.

I have some other worries. I think it’s important for people to understand that pot isn’t completely harmless. A certain percentage of people will become addicted to it. I have seen people in withdrawal from marijuana–it can be problem for people who have addictive tendencies. Smoking a lot of pot may also push vulnerable young people into psychological disorders such as schizophrenia. And a recent study in New Zealand found that smoking pot before age 18 can hinder brain development.

Among a long-range study cohort of more than 1,000 New Zealanders, individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and used it for years afterward showed an average decline in IQ of 8 points when their age 13 and age 38 IQ tests were compared. Quitting pot did not appear to reverse the loss either, said lead researcher Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University. The results appear online Aug. 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The key variable in this is the age of onset for marijuana use and the brain’s development, Meier said. Study subjects who didn’t take up pot until they were adults with fully-formed brains did not show similar mental declines. Before age 18, however, the brain is still being organized and remodeled to become more efficient, she said, and may be more vulnerable to damage from drugs.

“Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents,” said Meier, who produced this finding from the long term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. The study has followed a group of 1,037 children born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand from birth to age 38 and is led by Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, psychologists who hold dual appointments at Duke and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

About 5 percent of the study group were considered marijuana-dependent, or were using more than once a week before age 18. A dependent user is one who keeps using despite significant health, social or family problems.

I do support legalization, because I think it’s ridiculous that we are putting people in jail for possession of pot. But society needs to be aware of the consequences if more people begin using the drug regularly.

Could Stephen Colbert replace Jim DeMint in the Senate? A new poll shows he would be the popular favorite.

Why not? We already have one comedian in the Senate.

I really liked this piece by Chris Weigant at HuffPo: If We’re Going to Tax the Rich, Then Let’s Tax the Rich.

Due to the political courageousness of President Obama (there is simply no other way to put it), the folks inside the Beltway are finally having a serious discussion about taxing the rich. Obama is not only strongly fighting for higher tax rates on the higher-income earners, but he was the one who put the subject front and center in the election season — when he could easily have punted it to a non-election year.

But the “tax the rich” policies so far being discussed (at least the ones that leak out to the public) are laughably timid and tame, when you really examine the big picture. So far, what is making Republicans howl is President Obama’s plan to end the Bush tax cuts on the top two marginal income tax rates, which would raise them from 33 percent to 36 percent, and from 35 to 39.6 percent. Seen one way, that’s impressive, since tax rates haven’t gone up in such a fashion since President Clinton’s first year in office. But seen another, it’s not all that radical at all.

Consider the fact that nothing Obama is doing is going to “fix” the problem of Warren Buffett paying a lower tax rate than his secretary — a problem Obama has repeatedly said he’d like to tackle. On “entitlements reform,” only a few lonely voices crying in the wilderness are suggesting ending the most regressive federal tax around, by scrapping the cap on income for Social Security payroll taxes. Also seemingly forgotten in this debate is the proposal for a “millionaires’ tax” or a “transactions tax.” The real measure of whether Democrats and Republicans are both selling smoke and mirrors is whether they permanently fix the Alternative Minimum Tax — again, a subject which has barely been mentioned.

Click on the link to read Weigant’s recommendations.

It’s not just the Catholic Church that has a problem with sexual abuse. The New York Times has an article about a Hasidic religious counselor who has been convicted of abusing a young girl.

Sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has long been hidden. Victims who came forward were intimidated into silence; their families were shunned; cases were dropped for a lack of cooperation.

But on Monday, a State Supreme Court jury in Brooklyn delivered a stunning victory to prosecutors and victims’ advocates, convicting a 54-year-old unlicensed therapist who is a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg of repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl who had been sent to him for help.

“The veil of secrecy has been lifted,” said Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney. “The wall that has existed in parts of these communities has now been broken through. And as far as I’m concerned, it is very clear to me that it is only going to get better for people who are victimized in these various communities.”

The case against the therapist, Nechemya Weberman, was a significant milestone for Mr. Hynes, whose office has been criticized for not acting aggressively enough against sexual abusers in the borough’s large and politically connected ultra-Orthodox community.

These creeps are everywhere.

grapefruit

I’ll end with this. I love grapefruit, so I didn’t appreciate this piece at Slate: Grapefruit is disgusting. I think it was intended to be tongue in cheek, but I didn’t laugh once. Katy Waldman objects to her least favorite fruit being given as a Christmas gift.

It needs to stop. This killjoy has already invaded our breakfast routines. Its baleful pink, white, or red flesh shines from thousands of tables. Its pulp gets stuck in our teeth. Its juice stains our clothes. And now, we are asked to inflict the scourge on our relatives, shipping it off in packages of 12 or more in order to demonstrate our love?

No. Grapefruit is unwieldy, disgusting, and in some cases dangerous to eat. It is indisputably the worst fruit anyone has ever put on a plate.
A pause, now, for its partisans to bellow, “But it’s a superfood!” Grapefruit enjoys an exalted reputation, thanks in part to countless magazine stories and nutrition listicles singing its praises. It figures in fad diets, including its eponymous diet, dreamed up by Hollywood sadists. Even its scientific name, Citrus x paradisi—so called because, in 1750, naturalist Griffith Hughes dubbed grapefruit the “forbidden fruit” of the Barbados—implies that it belongs somewhere in the Garden of Eden. It does not. It belongs in the trashcan.

Read her reasons at the link. Dan Amira agrees with me, and some DC bartenders also objected to the “grapefruit bashing.”

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Forty Years Ago Today, Jim Morrison “Broke on Through to the Other Side”

Forty years ago on June 3, 1971, Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, died in Paris at age 27. He was buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery. Two former members of the band were at the grave site earlier today to mark the occasion.

“James Douglas Morrison, 1943-1971,” reads a plaque on the gravestone erected in the 1990s by the singer-poet’s father, who added a Greek phrase often interpreted as “true to his own spirit”.

Band members Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist, and guitarist Robby Krieger, lit candles at the grave of Morrison, who was known by the nickname the “lizard king”.

Fans of Morrison also paid homage at his grave by leaving flowers there. Some wore black T-shirts with a white drawing of Morrison’s face and the words “40th anniversary.”

I discovered The Doors first album when I was in college in 1967. I had never heard their music and simply bought the record on a whim because I liked the spooky cover art. I went home and put it on my turntable and listened. I was completely blown away. It honestly isn’t over the top to say that the music changed the way I experienced the world. It was that powerful for me.

So here’s to Jim and the great music and performances he shared with us during his brief time on this earth. Here are a couple of my favorites.

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Thursday Reads

Woman Reading, by Marie Fox

Good Morning!!!

You’ve probably heard about George Soros’ remarks at a meeting for big bucks progressive donors on Tuesday. Sam Stein at Huffpo:

The Hungarian-American financier was speaking to a small side gathering of donors who had convened in Washington D.C. for the annual gathering of the Democracy Alliance — a formal community of well-funded, progressive-minded individuals and activists.

According to multiple sources with knowledge of his remarks, Soros told those in attendance that he is “used to fighting losing battles but doesn’t like to lose without fighting.”

“We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line,” he said, according to several Democratic sources. “And if this president can’t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”

Michael Vachon, an adviser to Soros, did not dispute the comment, though he stressed that there was no transcript of a private gathering to check. Vachon also clarified that the longtime progressive giver was not referring to a primary challenge to the president.

Really? Hmmmm…. So um, who leaked the news from the secret meeting?

And there’s more:

Dissatisfaction with the Obama administration was not limited to Soros’s private gathering with donors. On Wednesday morning, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina received several tough questions during his address to the Democracy Alliance. According to a source in the room, he was pressed multiple times as to why the administration has declined to be more combative with Republicans, both in communication and legislative strategy.

So Soros and pals are all hunky-dory with Obama? I’m not sure I buy that. Anyway this is being spun as simply a discussion about giving money to outside groups instead of directly to Obama–a change from 2008 when Obama directed his donors to funnel all money through his campaign instead of giving to groups like Move on.org.

Let’s look at some of the reactions to this political bombshell.

Dave Wiegel dismisses out of hand the notion that Soros is unhappy with Obama.

Soros isn’t actually a liberal Democrat — he has a diverse collection of interests, some of which (drug legalization) don’t move at all when Democrats win. There may be some millionaires who want to beat Obama in a primary, but there are more who want to activate the third party pro-Democrat groups that Obama wanted to evaporate in 2008-2010.

Kenneth P. Vogel at Politico:

Soros, a billionaire who has been among the most generous donors to liberal causes over the years, has recently indicated he no longer intends to fund the kind of independent political advertising campaigns he backed in 2004 and that Republican allies used to bombard Democrats in the midterm elections.

During a private session Wednesday on the sidelines of a conference of major Democratic donors organized by the Democracy Alliance, Soros reiterated the position that wealthy liberals should focus their giving on groups that will push President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats on liberal legislative initiatives, rather than groups supporting individual candidates, according to a source in the meeting.

“George was talking about how, in the context of the election, progressives are disappointed, and that they should keep (the administration) focused on certain issues that we should be promoting,” said the source, who did not want to be identified because Democracy Alliance bars attendees from discussing its conferences.

New York Magazine responded with snark:

According to some loose-lipped folks that attended a private event for the Democracy Alliance in Washington today, the hedge-fund billionaire and longtime Democratic donor George Soros is very upset about the last election, not least because his plans to grow a crop of Maui Wowie in his front yard were stymied, and he hinted darkly that the president may not have his support for much longer.

I have to say I agree with Soros on the legalization issue.

In other news, unemployment benefits will soon expire for two million Americans, and since Congress won’t be in session next week (they get whole weeks off for holidays), they will have to do something soon or face the wrath of voters when they go home for Thanksgiving.

Currently five million people are receiving aid under two federally-funded programs for the long-term unemployed.

Yet no clear path forward has emerged in Congress for reauthorizing those programs. Aides have floated the idea of coupling the benefits with a reauthorization of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts for the top two percent of earners.

But it won’t happen if Ben “Scrooge” Nelson gets his way.

Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat who sided with Republicans when they blocked the previous reauthorization for nearly two months this summer, said he doesn’t love the tax cut deal.

“That’s a mistake,” said Nelson, who has joined the GOP in opposing the extended benefits unless their deficit impact is offset with spending cuts. “Unless unemployment is paid for, I can’t support it.”

Why don’t you just switch parties, Ben, and take President teleprompter Jesus with you.

Jim Morrison

I love this story: The Charlie Crist wants to pardon Jim Morrison. For those too young to remember:

It was a classic skirmish of the 1960s culture war, pitting a nonconformist rock star and his bohemian fans against clean-cut defenders of acceptable behavior, the counterculture against the mainstream, and Jim Morrison against Anita Bryant.

Now the governor of Florida says he will seek to put an end to it by pursuing a posthumous pardon for two criminal convictions that Morrison, the frontman for the Doors, received after some very bad behavior at a 1969 concert in Miami.

I can get behind that. Why not give Morrison a posthumous Medal of Freedom too? And lets submit his name for the Nobel Peace Prize. Morrison gave me a lot more joy than I ever got from the latest Medal of Freedom winner or the Nobel Peace Prize winning War President.

“The more that I’ve read about the case and the more I get briefed on it,” Mr. Crist said in an interview on Tuesday, “the more convinced I am that maybe an injustice has been done here.”

For those on the other side, the passion has dimmed, but a sour taste lingers. The anger that once brought them to the barricades has dulled to an impatient pique at the notion that the fate of a dead rock star still commands attention 40 years later.

The fight began on March 1, 1969, when the Doors played a raucous concert at Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami. An intoxicated Morrison stumbled through songs like “Light My Fire” and “Break On Through (To the Other Side),” taunted the crowd and threatened to expose himself before fans mobbed the stage. A newspaper review said the singer appeared to simulate masturbation during his performance, and the concert was investigated by a Miami crime commission as six arrest warrants were issued for Morrison, including one for a felony charge of lewd and lascivious behavior.

I’ll end with a great Morrison song with some stirring lyrics that are very relevant today.

Five to one, baby
One in five
No one here gets out alive, now
You get yours, baby
I’ll get mine
Gonna make it, baby
If we try

The old get old
And the young get stronger
May take a week
And it may take longer
They got the guns
But we got the numbers
Gonna win, yeah
We’re takin’ over

Come on!

Except maybe we should change that to

“the rich get richer/ and the poor get angrier.”

So what’s on your reading list today?