Monday Reads: Ball of Confusion

prince-purple-rainGood Morning Sky Dancers!

You know it’s just another week in Drumpfistan when I’ve got this old song by the Temptations stuck in my head.

Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, 
humiliation, obligation to our nation
Ball Of Confusion that’s what the world is today (yeah, yeah)
The sale of pills is at an all time high 
young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky 
Cities aflame in the summer time, and oh the beat goes on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
Evolution, revolution,

 

 

 

Former first lady Michelle Obama spoke out Saturday at the U.S. Summit of Women in L.A.  Her big question was this. ‘What is going on in our heads where we let that happen?’  Indeed.

“In light of this last election, I’m concerned about us as women and how we think,” she said at the event. “What is going on in our heads where we let that happen, you know?”

In the 2016 election, 54 percent of women voted for Clinton, though that figure was sharply divided by race.

“When the most qualified person running was a woman, and look what we did instead, I mean that says something about where we are,” Obama said, referencing President Trump‘s victory in the 2016 election. “That’s what we have to explore, because if we as women are still suspicious of one another, if we still have this crazy, crazy bar for each other that we don’t have for men … if we’re not comfortable with the notion that a woman could be our president compared to … what, then we have to have those conversations with ourselves as women.”

Obama encouraged women to have high aspirations, but went on to add that she wished “girls could fail as bad as men do and still be OK.”

“Watching men fail up is frustrating. It is frustrating watching men blow it, and win,” she later added while discussing standards for women.

Obama also touched on the importance of education for women and encouraging young girls to speak their minds.

The United State of Women describes itself on its website as a “national organization for any woman who sees that we need a different America for all women to survive and thrive.”

Nothing has made me more sharply aware of my white womaness than this last damned presidential race. Black women were not fooled and they worked hard to get Clinton elected down here in Louisiana. Many white woman simply will not Surrender the Ivory Pedestal.  Figuring this out and correcting it is something only white women can do with each other. Making sure that we do not disenfranchise the women of color around us is our challenge.

Why does any white woman vote for some one like this?  This is from Republican Whisperer Jonathan Swan writing for Axios.  These candidates make me feel like we’re still choosing sides in the Civil War.  Where do they come from? 

Republicans in D.C. are panicking over Tuesday’s West Virginia Senate primary.

The problem: Don Blankenship, a coal baron who’s spent time in prison, is running a demagogic campaign in which he’s repeatedly invoked the Chinese heritage of Mitch McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

  • He’s also taken to calling McConnell “cocaine Mitch” in his ads — which, according to Politico, “is in reference to a 2014 report that drugs were once found aboard a shipping vessel owned by McConnell’s in-laws; however, he always found the products from https://urinedrugtesthq.com/whizzinator-review/ to pass his drug tests in one day.”
  • Blankenship is outspending his opponents on TV and has a ton of his own money to play with. He’s aired one ad that refers to “China people,” which you can watch here (or not).
  • And yet … he’s gaining in the polls and may win on Tuesday.

20140306_103546_Michael-Jackson-FilesBlankenship is a doozy of a candidate.  Even KKKremlin Caligula fears a repeat of Alabama’s Roy Moore. This is from Emily Stewart writing for VOX,

Blankenship is running against Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to be the Republican nominee to challenge Manchin in the fall. Their primary race is Tuesday, May 8. His credentials, and campaign tactics, have Republicans on edge about the prospect of him potentially becoming the party’s nominee.

Blankenship is a former coal baron who ran a company, Massey Energy, found to be violating federal safety regulations when a 2010 mining explosion killed 29 people, marking the worst coal disaster in 40 years. Blankenship stepped down after the incident but years later was indicted on conspiring to willfully violate federal mining regulations before the accident and lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission after it happened. He was convicted of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards and served one year in prison, and was released in May 2017.

exbdphlhra-1467533239There’s a behind the scenes look at this Hillbilly shoot out also at Vox by Dylan Scott.  This is for the seat held by Joe Manchin who is the Democrat we count on when we need a senate majority and little else.

Blankenship is, in many ways, an only-in-West-Virginia story. He grew up in Mingo County and got his college degree from Marshall University. He rose through the ranks at the Massey coal company, helping build it into one of the largest mining outfits in the country. By 2010, he was making nearly $20 million a year.

But then on April 5, 2010, 29 miners died in an explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia.

Blankenship stepped down soon after, but four years later, federal prosecutors indicted him on conspiring to willfully violate federal mining regulations before the accident and making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission in its aftermath.

The investigation laid bare Blankenship’s cutthroat vision of capitalism. This was a businessman who broke unions, laughed off climate change, despised federal regulations, and described his industry in Darwinian imagery.

It’s an interesting read from there on out and I recommend it because this race will stay in the news for some time.  I don’t even think I’ve been to West Virginia so all I can do is watch and wonder.

 

 

Meanwhile, black men are trying to figure out what it means to be Kanye.  It’s the ongoing necessary discussion of what it means to be black in America. Again, I’m watching this all with an eye to being understanding and checking my own frames. I’ve also learned a lot by watching this new video by Donald Glover.  This thread  on Twitter is worth reading.

 

Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on the Kanye at The Atlantic.  He does this by first explaining that Michael Jackson–the idol of many a child in the 80s–was dying to be white. 

Even his accouterment felt beyond me—the studded jacket, the sparkling glove, the leather pants—raiment of the divine, untouchable by me, a mortal child who squinted to see past Saturday, who would not even see Motown 25 until it was past 30, who would not even own a copy of Thriller until I was a grown man, who no longer believed in miracles, and knew in my heart that if the black man’s God was not dead, he surely was dying.

And he had always been dying—dying to be white. That was what my mother said, that you could see the dying all over his face, the decaying, the thinning, that he was disappearing into something white, desiccating into something white, erasing himself, so that we would forget that he had once been Africa beautiful and Africa brown, and we would forget his pharaoh’s nose, forget his vast eyes, his dazzling smile, and Michael Jackson was but the extreme of what felt in those post-disco years to be a trend. Because when I think of that time, I think of black men on album covers smiling back at me in Jheri curls and blue contacts and I think of black women who seemed, by some mystic edict, to all be the color of manila folders. Michael Jackson might have been dying to be white, but he was not dying alone. There were the rest us out there, born, as he was, in the muck of this country, born in The Bottom. We knew that we were tied to him, that his physical destruction was our physical destruction, because if the black God, who made the zombies dance, who brokered great wars, who transformed stone to light, if he could not be beautiful in his own eyes, then what hope did we have—mortals, children—of ever escaping what they had taught us, of ever escaping what they said about our mouths, about our hair and our skin, what hope did we ever have of escaping the muck? And he was destroyed. It happened right before us. God was destroyed, and we could not stop him, though we did love him, we could not stop him, because who can really stop a black god dying to be white?

Kanye is deconstructed thusily:

And he is a god, though one born of a different time and a different need. Jackson rose in the last days of enigma and wonder; West, in an accessible age, when every fuck is a tweet and every defecation a status update. And perhaps, in that way, West has done something more remarkable, more amazing than Jackson, because he is a man of no mystery, overexposed, who holds the world’s attention through simply the consistent, amazing, near-peerless quality of his work.

West is 40 years old, a product of the Crack era and Reaganomic Years, a man who remembers the Challenger crash and The Cosby Show before syndication. But he never fell into the bitterness of his peers. He could not be found chasing ghosts, barking at Soulja Boy, hectoring Lil Yachty, and otherwise yelling at clouds. To his credit, West seemed to remember rappers having to defend their music as music against the withering fire of their elders. And so while, today, you find some of these same artists, once targets, adopting the sanctimonious pose of the arthritic jazz-men whom they vanquished, you will not find Yeezy among them, because Yeezy never got old.

Maybe that was the problem.

Coates argues that West is dying for ‘white freedom’.

I see these guys–Prince for that matter too–as men in a country that is deeply troubled and yet oddly awed by black male sexuality and strength.  I harken back to the days of Boney M when we were all allowed to demonstrate a bit of that obvious human need for sex and Boney M looked like Prince with a lower level of production value.  But, the shock and awe of black male sexuality harkens more back to slavery. This is why Glover’s video has images that both remind us of Black Lives Matter and Django.

 

 

 

 

The Drumpf occupation of the Oval Office keeps sorting us up into tribes then pitting us against each other.  It’s a long standing tradition in the white patriarchy to do that so that’s no surprise. What is a surprise is that it still works when so many of us are educated, aware of what’s going on in the world, and have choices.

180413-gillon-kerner-comission-hero_mtjkbo

So, since Der Hair Fury has suggested he might be holding a summit on Race Relations it seems appropriate to review the granddaddy of these kinds of efforts. ‘The 1968 Kerner Commission report harshly described a country increasingly polarized by race. Its findings inspired positive change, but also more polarization. ‘  This is from The Daily Beast and dated from last month.  This is the tale of how The Fair Housing Act was passed and the role of a Republican in doing it in House Committee.  It also reminds us how fragile even our laws can be as one Black Cabinet member enabled by a hell of a lot of Republicans is trying to water it down.

People movin’ out, people movin’ in.
Why, because of the color of their skin.
Run, run, run, but you sho’ can’t hide

These short-term victories—more effective policing, improved media coverage, and passage of the Fair Housing Act—were significant for the commission’s report, but its long-term legacy is less clear. Lindsay and Harris had fought for a summary that would grab attention and generate flashy headlines. Soon they began to worry that reporters were focusing only on the report’s most provocative language and ignoring its detailed descriptions of the problems facing America’s cities. Harris recalled that he knew the commission had a perception problem after talking to his father, a small farmer in southwestern Oklahoma who had worked hard his whole life and had little to show for it. Based on the media reports he had seen, his father interpreted the report as saying, “You should pay more taxes to help out the black people who are rioting in Detroit.” That did not make a lot of sense to his dad. “I’m already paying a lot in taxes and getting nothing for it,” he responded. “Why doesn’t someone pay attention to me? Is it because I’m not rioting?”

Lindsay was probably right in believing it necessary to include striking language in the summary about “two societies” and “white racism” to ensure that the report would garner the attention it deserved. But the downside to this strategy was that the summary distracted attention from the heart of the report—the thoughtful narrative about the cause of the riots and the detailed, statistical evidence to support the existence of persistent discrimination. Lindsay and Harris assumed that racism persisted because most middle-class whites were unaware that it existed, and they thought that if confronted with clear evidence that discrimination imposed undue hardship on African Americans, white suburbanites would embrace new social programs, accept higher taxes, and demand more aggressive efforts to integrate their communities. “I believe that white people in America are decent people,” Harris told the New York Times in February 1968, and that “if they can be shown the terrible conditions in which other Americans live and how this threatens our society, they will join together to try to solve these problems.”

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2014 - Weekend 1Today, I wonder how many white women are “decent people”.  Surely, the majority of us are but what is going on with the group that’s larger than it really should be?  Let’s take this one for example that once again proves that really, I would never vote for just any or this particular vagina bearer. From the Des Moines Register: The nation’s strictest abortion ban is now law. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill.”  Goddamn!  Iowa!  Really?

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed into law the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation, surrounded by toddler-toting supporters.

As Reynolds inked the bill, backers’ cheers nearly drowned out the echoing chorus of “My body, my choice” shouted by protesters just outside the door.

“I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred,” Reynolds said from her formal office before signing a bill that will outlaw nearly all abortions in the state. “And as governor, I have pledged to do everything in my power to protect it. And that’s what I’m doing today.”

Senate File 359 will take effect July 1, though Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said they plan to quickly  challenge the law.

Under the legislation, physicians will be barred from performing most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Experts said that heartbeat can be heard about six weeks into a pregnancy — often before a woman realizes she’s pregnant.

adidas-hasnt-discussed-dropping-kanye-west-bloombergWhat matter of insanity causes a white woman to do this?

So,let me stir this pot a bit more.  From the Guardian: Kei Miller essay about white women sparks tensions among Caribbean writers. Miller’s essay has been withdrawn after divisive reception, but supporters say it is part of a necessary conversation about race and privilege.  Kei is a black man from Jamaica.

Miller’s essay, The White Women and the Language of Bees, was published last week in Pree, a new magazine highlighting writers from the Caribbean. Asking “how many years and decades must pass before we can belong to a place and to its words? How much time before we can write it?”, the essay saw the Forward prize-winning author discuss his interactions with four white women writers from the region, evaluating their books, and the way they have interacted with the local literary community.

“Was she really afraid? Was she nervous about people like me reading her book and throwing words like ‘appropriation’ about? Am I a part of her anxiety?” he wrote of one. In another scene, he imagines one of the women telling another: “You can’t be writing this place and putting the wrong words in people’s mouths. This rock is not made of granite or limestone, but with words. You must be given the right words. And these, my dear sister, are things you have yet to learn.”

The essay drew both praise and condemnation from writers. Rhoda Bharath called it “a necessary addition to the global cultural conversations around identity, appropriation and privilege”, while Veerle Poupeye wrote, in an open letter to Miller, that “parts of the essay are indeed breathtaking, because of the writing and because of the sublime insights you offer”, but took issue with Miller’s publication of private conversations, his focus on white women and not white men, and his representation of the women in the essay.

Judy Raymond said: “Almost everything that has happened since Kei’s essay has been based on emotion. It’s clear we need to have urgent conversations about race, racism, gender and privilege. Instead, careers and friendships are being broken and those conversations are being replaced by the verbal equivalent of hurricanes.”

So, yeah … good luck to Herr DrumpfsterFire and his Race Relations Summit.  I’m sure Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway will be put in charge of it.   

One of President Donald Trump’s most trusted black advisers wants the president to hold a summit on race relations at the White House with rapper Kanye West.

Darrell Scott, a pastor from Cleveland, is scheduled to meet with the president on Thursday to discuss his proposal for the summit, which would also include other prominent artists and athletes, Politico reported.

Scott said the summit would be “totally unscripted” and no topic would be “off the table.” He’s reportedly pitching the summit alongside Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and an aide in the White House Office of Public Liaison.

Some one drop a mic please.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: RIP Bobby Vee and Tom Hayden

 

Bobby Vee

Bobby Vee

Good Afternoon!!

Two notable deaths hit home for me yesterday. One was 1960s activist Tom Hayden, and the other was one of my teen idols, singer Bobby Vee. I’ll start with him.

RIP Bobby Vee

I was in 6th grade on February 3, 1959, when three pop stars, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson died along with their pilot Roger Peterson in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. They were on their way to a concert in Moorhead, Minnesota.

Holly’s band members Waylon Jennings, Tommy Alsup, and Carl Bunch, stayed behind with their broken-down tour bus. The Big Bopper had the flu, so Jennings gave up his seat, and Richie Valens won a coin toss to get his. Years later, that tragic day became known as “the day the music died.” after the Don McLean song.
Moorhead is just across the river from Fargo, North Dakota, my birthplace. Bobby Veline (later Bobby Vee) was a 15-year-old rhythm guitar player from Fargo who had recently joined a garage band. The awful crash led to Veline’s big break. The call went out for local bands to fill in for the lost stars. From The Fargo Forum: How ‘The Day the Music Died’ launched Fargoan Bobby Vee into music stardom.

Fifteen-year-old Fargoan Bobby Vee and his new band The Shadows stepped up to fill the bill at the Moorhead Armory show. With that, the singer/guitarist took his first step into rock history….

Robert Thomas Velline was born April 30, 1943, to Sydney and Saima Velline of Fargo. Raised in a musical household, young Bobby followed suit and started playing saxophone at Central High School.

“I wanted to rock out. We were playing all the standard band pieces, but I wanted to play ‘Yakety Yak,'” Vee recalled on his website biography….

The shadows

The Shadows

When his older brother, guitarist Bill Velline, started playing with bassist Jim Stillman and drummer Bob Korum, Bobby begged to join, but they thought he was too young. He won them over with a velvety smooth voice. The group hadn’t played together much and didn’t have a name until just before taking the stage at the Moorhead Armory that fateful night.

“I remember being petrified when the curtains opened,” Vee told The Forum 19 years later. “I was blinded by the spotlight and just numb all over.”

The nerves didn’t last. That June he and The Shadows recorded “Suzie Baby” and the song was on the radio later that summer. Hits like “Devil or Angel” and “Rubber Ball” kept coming. In 1961 he would release his only No. 1 song, “Take Good Care of My Baby,” written by Carole King and Gerry Coffin. The follow-up, “Run to Him,” peaked at No. 2 and in 1962 he would reach No. 3 with “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.”

Velline’s band didn’t even have a name when they went on stage. The emcee asked him for a name, and he looked at his bandmates and saw their shadows in the spotlight; so he told the emcee their name was “The Shadows.” Afterward, an agent gave Velline his card and the rest was history.

When Bobby Vee’s hit song “Take Good Care of My Baby” (written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin) came out in July 1961. I bought the 45 rpm record and played it over an over again. When I found out that the singer came from Fargo, I became his number 1 fan. I bought all his albums for the next couple of years before I moved on to more sophisticated rock music.

In this Dec. 18, 2013 file photo, Bobby Vee poses at the studio console at his family's Rockhouse Productions in St. Joseph, Minn. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen, File)

In this Dec. 18, 2013 file photo, Bobby Vee poses at the studio console at his family’s Rockhouse Productions in St. Joseph, Minn. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen, File)

One thing I never knew until yesterday was the connection between Bobby Vee and Bob Dylan (then Bob Zimmerman). Dylan grew up in Duluth, Minnesota–not that far from Fargo, and Dylan’s first paying gig was as a member of The Shadows.

Despite the sad circumstances, the Shadows’ gig was considered a success, with Vee calling the Moorhead show “the start of a wonderful career.”

Vee and the Shadows soon recorded a regional hit with “Suzie Baby,” which resulted in Vee signing a record deal with Liberty Records. Minnesota native Bob Dylan, who called Vee in 2013 “the most meaningful person I’ve ever been onstage with,” would later cover “Suzie Baby” in concert [Vee was in the audience].

Dylan, who played in the Shadows with Vee in 1959, also praised the singer in his Chronicles, Volume One. Vee “had a metallic, edgy tone to his voice and it was as musical as a silver bell,” Dylan wrote. “I’d always thought of him as a brother.” Dylan briefly joined Vee’s backing band as a pianist after Vee’s brother brought Dylan, who called himself “Elston Gunnn,” in for an audition. “He was a funny little wiry kind of guy and he rocked pretty good,” Vee said.

More about Vee and Dylan’s connection from Heavy.com.

Dylan and Vee both “escaped” the Midwest, as Dylan wrote in Chronicles. Vee was born in Fargo, North Dakota, and Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota. Vee was still playing in the region when his backing group, The Shadows, thought they needed a pianist. Dylan met Vee in a record store in Fargo and heard they wanted a piano player. He introduced himself as Elston Gunnn (with three n’s).

According to Expecting Rain, Vee told Goldmine in 1999 that Dylan claimed he just came off the road with Conway Twitty. They were impressed, but later learned that he could only play in the key of C. They hired him for $15 a night, but the job didn’t last long. As Vee explained:

It was ill-fated. I mean, it wasn’t gonna work. He didn’t have any money, and we didn’t have any money. The story is that I fired him, but that certainly wasn’t the case. If we could have put it together somehow, we sure would have. We wished we could have put it together. He left and went on to Minneapolis and enrolled at the University of Minnesota.

Years later, Vee and Dylan met in Greenwich Village.

Dylan was now a folk singer and Vee was a pop star. According to Vee, they met again in a record store.

“I was walking down the street. There was a record store there, and there was an album in the front window. And it said, ‘Bob Dylan.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Looks a lot like Elston Gunnn,’” Vee recalled.

In Chronicles, Dylan sounds like he regretted seeing Vee go from rockabily singer to pop star. He wrote that “Take Good Care of My Baby” was “as slick as ever.” Dylan wrote:

He’d become a crowd pleaser in the pop world. As for myself, I had nothing against pop songs, but the definition of pop was changing.

Bobby Vee and Bob Dylan in 2013

Bobby Vee and Bob Dylan in 2013

Despite their different career paths after that one meeting in Greenwich Village, Dylan said he still thought of Vee as a brother since they came from the same part of the country.

“I wouldn’t see Bobby Vee again for another thirty years, and though things would be a lot different, I’d always thought of his as a brother,” Dylan wrote in Chronicles. “Every time I’d see his name somewhere, it was like he was in the room.”

Isn’t that great story? Vee died after a five-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. The Associated Press: 

Vee was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, and performed his last show that year.

Vee had been in memory care at The Wellstead of Rogers & Diamondcrest in Rogers, about 25 miles northwest of Minneapolis, for the past 13 months and in hospice care in recent weeks, his son said.

Vee died peacefully surrounded by family, Velline said, calling it “the end of a long hard road.”
He said his father was “a person who brought joy all over the world. That was his job.”

RIP Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden led an amazing life. The New York Times obituary: Tom Hayden, Civil Rights and Antiwar Activist Turned Lawmaker, Dies at 76.

Tom Hayden, who burst out of the 1960s counterculture as a radical leader of America’s civil ri(ghts and antiwar movements, but rocked the boat more gently later in life with a progressive political agenda as an author and California state legislator, died on Sunday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 76….

During the racial unrest and antiwar protests of the 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Hayden was one of the nation’s most visible radicals. He was a founder of Students for a Democratic Society, a defendant in the Chicago Seven trial after riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and a peace activist who married Jane Fonda, went to Hanoi and escorted American prisoners of war home from Vietnam.

Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden

As a civil rights worker, he was beaten in Mississippi and jailed in Georgia. In his cell he began writing what became the Port Huron Statement, the political manifesto of S.D.S. and the New Left that envisioned an alliance of college students in a peaceful crusade to overcome what it called repressive government, corporate greed and racism. Its aim was to create a multiracial, egalitarian society.

Like his allies the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were assassinated in 1968, Mr. Hayden opposed violent protests but backed militant demonstrations, like the occupation of Columbia University campus buildings by students and the burning of draft cards. He also helped plan protests that, as it happened, turned into clashes with the Chicago police outside the Democratic convention.

Read the rest at the NYT link.

Tom Hayden, beaten by white segregationists in McComb, MS, October 1961

Tom Hayden, beaten by white segregationists in McComb, MS, October 1961

After the 1968 protests, Hayden stood trial in Federal court as one of the Chicago 7, along with Bobby Seale, Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis, Dave Dellinger, John Froines, and Lee Weiner, accused of conspiracy, inciting to riot and other charges. The Chicago Tribune:

With Rennie Davis, Abbie Hoffman and other radical leaders, Hayden went on to plot the massive antiwar demonstrations that turned Chicago’s streets into a battleground for five days in August 1968.

“Let us make sure that if our blood flows, it flows all over the city,” he told throngs of young protesters in the city’s Grant Park on the day Vice President Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic presidential nominee.

Confronted by Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley’s 12,000 Chicago police in addition to 6,000 Army troops and 5,000 National Guardsmen, Hayden exhorted the demonstrators to “turn this overheated military machine against itself.”

After arrests and injuries ran well into the hundreds, Hayden and seven others were charged with conspiracy to incite violence. The Chicago Eight, as they were initially known, became the Chicago Seven when Black Panther leader Bobby Seale was separated from the case. Hayden was found guilty but the conviction was overturned in 1972 by an appeals court, which cited improper rulings by an antagonistic trial judge.

Hayden went on to become a traditional politician, serving as a California legislator. The LA times:  ‘The radical inside the system’: Tom Hayden, protester-turned-politician, dies at 76.

Hayden later married actress Jane Fonda, and the celebrity couple traveled the nation denouncing the war before forming a California political organization that backed scores of liberal candidates and ballot measures in the 1970s and ’80s, most notably Proposition 65, the anti-toxics measure that requires signs in gas stations, bars and grocery stores that warn of cancer-causing chemicals.

Hayden lost campaigns for U.S. Senate, governor of California and mayor of Los Angeles. But he was elected to the California Assembly in 1982. He served a total of 18 years in the Assembly and state Senate.

During his tenure in the Legislature, representing the liberal Westside, Hayden relished being a thorn in the side of the powerful, including fellow Democrats he saw as too pliant to donors.

“He was the radical inside the system,” said Duane Peterson, a top Hayden advisor in Sacramento.

Defendants in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial hold a news conference in Chicago on Jan. 5, 1970. Standing are, from left, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner and Abbie Hoffman. Seated are Rennie Davis, center, and David Dellinger. (Chicago Tribune)

Defendants in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial hold a news conference in Chicago on Jan. 5, 1970. Standing are, from left, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner and Abbie Hoffman. Seated are Rennie Davis, center, and David Dellinger. (Chicago Tribune)

In April of this year, Hayden endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in a piece at The Nation: I Used to Support Bernie, but Then I Changed My Mind. Here’s what he had to say about Hillary:

Hillary is, well, Hillary. I remember seeing her on Yale’s green in 1969, wearing a black armband for peace while a kind of Armageddon shaped up during the Panther 21 trial and Cambodia invasion. Even then, she stood for working within the system rather than taking to the barricades. Similarly, in Chicago 1968, she observed the confrontations at a distance. If she had some sort of revolution in mind, it was evolutionary, step-by-step. In her earlier Wellesley commencement speech, she stated that the “prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living.” But from there it was a determined decades-long uphill climb through those same institutions that had disenchanted the young Hillary.

There are two Hillary Clintons. First, the early feminist, champion of children’s rights, and chair of the Children’s Defense Fund; and second, the Hillary who has grown more hawkish and prone to seeking “win-win” solutions with corporate America. When she seems to tack back towards her roots, it is usually in response to Bernie and new social movements. She hasn’t changed as much as the Democratic Party has, responding to new and resurgent movements demanding Wall Street reform, police and prison reform, immigrant rights and a $15-an-hour minimum wage, fair trade, action on climate change, LGBT rights, and more.

Hayden had grown more supportive of Hillary’s “evolutionary, step by step” approach and was concerned about Bernie’s all-or-nothing policies as well as his ability to deal with an all-out assault from the GOP and the media. In the end though, it came down to race.

I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in the California primary for one fundamental reason. It has to do with race. My life since 1960 has been committed to the causes of African Americans, the Chicano movement, the labor movement, and freedom struggles in Vietnam, Cuba and Latin America. In the environmental movement I start from the premise of environmental justice for the poor and communities of color. My wife is a descendant of the Oglala Sioux, and my whole family is inter-racial.

What would cause me to turn my back on all those people who have shaped who I am? That would be a transgression on my personal code. I have been on too many freedom rides, too many marches, too many jail cells, and far too many gravesites to breach that trust. And I have been so tied to the women’s movement that I cannot imagine scoffing at the chance to vote for a woman president. When I understood that the overwhelming consensus from those communities was for Hillary—for instance the Congressional Black Caucus and Sacramento’s Latino caucus—that was the decisive factor for me. I am gratified with Bernie’s increasing support from these communities of color, though it has appeared to be too little and too late. Bernie’s campaign has had all the money in the world to invest in inner city organizing, starting 18 months ago. He chose to invest resources instead in white-majority regions at the expense of the Deep South and urban North.

I know there is much more news out there, and I hope I haven’t bored you by writing about two symbols of the greatest passions of my youth–Rock ‘n’ Roll and Politics. I’ll leave it to you to post more links on any topic in the comment thread below.


Saturday Reads: Remembering the Soundtrack to the ’60s, and Other News

Husband and wife singer songwriting team Goffin and King rehearse during a recording session in a New York studio in 1959. (h/t NY Daily News)

Husband and wife singer songwriting team Goffin and King rehearse during a recording session in a New York studio in 1959. (h/t NY Daily News)

Good Morning

On Thursday we lost another 1960s music great; Gerry Goffin, who wrote lyrics to Carole King’s music died at 75. The talented couple wrote the songs that accompanied my teenage years–so much great music associated with so many memories.

From the Guardian Gerry Goffin: the poet laureate of teenage pop:

Gerry Goffin, a trainee chemist who became the poet laureate of teenage pop, specialised in coming up with a great opening line to grab the audience’s attention. Plenty of people will remember the first time they heard “Tonight you’re mine completely/ You give your love so sweetly,” from Will You Love Me Tomorrow, or “Looking out on the morning rain/ I used to feel so uninspired,” from (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. But he didn’t stop there.

Buried a little deeper in those wonderful songs are the lines that really touched his young listeners’ hearts. The words to the bridge, or middle section, of that first Shirelles hit from 1960 were almost like poetry: “Tonight with words unspoken/ You say that I’m the only one/ But will my heart be broken/ When the night meets the morning sun?” And when Goffin presented Aretha Franklin with the second verse of A Natural Woman – “When my soul was in the Lost and Found, you came along to claim it” – he gave countless ordinary lovers a way to express their deepest feelings.

Misleadingly, they are often called “Carole King songs”. She wrote the tunes, and later on she would sing them when, after Goffin and King divorced, she embarked on a hugely successful solo career. But whenever King sang her own, gentler versions of the Chiffons’ One Fine Day or the Drifters’ Up on the Roof, she was still singing Goffin’s words. They were written by the man she had met when she was 17 and he was 20, and with whom she had two daughters while they lived in an apartment in the Queens housing project LeFrak City – and with whom she travelled to work in Manhattan every day at their cubicle in the offices of Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway, where they pumped out hit after hit after hit.

Goffin King

From The New York Times: Gerry Goffin, Hitmaking Songwriter With Carole King, Dies at 75:

Mr. Goffin and Ms. King were students at Queens College when they met in 1958. Over the next decade they fell in love, married, had two children, divorced and moved their writing sessions into and out of 1650 Broadway, across the street from the Brill Building. (The Brill Building pop music of the late 1950s and ‘60s was mostly written in both buildings.)

Together they composed a catalog of pop standards so diverse and irresistible that they were recorded by performers as unalike as the Drifters, Steve Lawrence, Aretha Franklin and the Beatles. They were inducted together into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2004 the Recording Academy presented them jointly with a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement.

The couple’s writing duties were clearly delineated: Ms. King composed the music, Mr. Goffin wrote the lyrics — among them some of the most memorable words in the history of popular music.

“His words expressed what so many people were feeling but didn’t know how to say,” Ms. King said in a statement on Thursday.

A bit more about Goffin:

Gerald Goffin was born on Feb. 11, 1939, in Brooklyn and grew up in Jamaica, Queens. He began writing lyrics as a boy — “like some kind of game in my head,” he recalled once — but found he was unable to come up with satisfying music to accompany them.

He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School before enrolling at Queens College. He was three years older than Ms. King, studying chemistry, when they met in the spring of her freshman year.

He asked her to help him write a musical. She was interested in rock ‘n’ roll. They hit it off anyway, and she was pregnant with their first child when they married on Aug. 30, 1959.

Gerry Goffin

Gerry Goffin

After the couple divorced in 1968, King went on to become a singer and songwriter in her own right, although the two continued to collaborate and maintained a friendship. Goffin married again and and the couple had five children.

In addition to his wife, [Michelle] Mr. Goffin’s survivors include four daughters, Louise Goffin, Sherry Goffin Kondor, Dawn Reavis and Lauren Goffin; a son, Jesse Goffin; six grandchildren; and a brother, Al.

Goffin and King’s first hit was “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which they wrote in 1960 for the girl group the Shirelles. After the song hit #1 on the charts in 1961, Goffin quit his job as a chemist and began working full-time as a lyricist.

Goffin’s lyrics deftly touch on the doubt that lurks behind all new romances. As sung by Shirelles’ leader Shirley Owens in unflappable manner, the song doesn’t skimp on the wonder inherent in any fresh coupling. But it’s also unflinchingly realistic about the possibility that the fairy dust will dissolve at dawn.

“Can I believe the magic in your sighs?” Owens pointedly asks her paramour. In the bridge, Goffin’s words flow like champagne even as they fear the possible hangover: “Tonight with words unspoken/You’ll say that I’m the only one/But will my heart be broken/When the night meets the morning sun.” King’s melody plays a big role in the overall effect, arching high in the verses and middle eight while accompanied by strings that elegantly trip across the proceedings like moonlight dancers, before coming back down to Earth for the interrogative refrain.

In other news . . .

At Salon, Simon Malloy writes about the multiplying Republican scandals: GOP’s sudden scandal-mania: Why criminal probes and infighting are taking over the party.

It’s fashionable right now to talk about the premature end of Barack Obama’s presidency. He’s fast approaching the second half of his second term, which is historically the beginning of lame-duck season. His poll numbers aren’t what anyone would call ideal, and Republicans (in concert with some excitable members of the press) are rushing to proclaim the Obama presidency dead. “I saw a commentator today say that these polls, what they reflect, is that the Obama presidency is over,” Sen. Marco Rubio said, referring to NBC’s Chuck Todd. “And I agree with that. I think it is, in general.” Speaker John Boehner told reporters at his weekly press briefing yesterday: “You look at this presidency and you can’t help but get the sense that the wheels are coming off.” ….The funny thing is that as Republicans team up with pundits to chisel out Obama’s epitaph, the Republican Party itself is falling to pieces right before our eyes.

Yesterday’s news that Scott Walker and Chris Christie sinking deeper into their respective scandals is as good a sign as any of the GOP’s political disintegration. After Obama crushed Mitt Romney in 2012, Republicans began casting about for their 2016 redeemer, and Christie and Walker were high on the list. They won conservative hearts with their antagonism toward unions, but they had also found a way to win in reliably Democratic states. If the GOP hoped to take on candidate-in-waiting Hillary Clinton, they’d need someone who could peel away some Democratic voters. Walker had talked about the need to nominate an “outsider” like himself in 2016.

Now Christie and Walker are implicated in criminal investigations. Prosecutors in Wisconsin placed Walker at the center of a “criminal scheme” to coordinate campaign spending with outside groups. In New Jersey, the investigation stemming from the George Washington Bridge scandal is reportedly closing in on Christie himself. For both men, once considered potential saviors of the GOP, the political future looks considerably dimmer.

Read Malloy’s take on it at the link.

At FiveThirtyEightPolitics, David Wasserman has a long article on “What we can learn from Eric Cantor’s defeat.” You really need to read the whole thing, but here’s a small excerpt that deals with the contribution of public distrust of Congress:

Cantor was only the second House incumbent to lose a primary this year (the first was Texas Republican Ralph Hall), but the warning signs of discontent were abundant: Plenty of rank-and-file House incumbents had been receiving startlingly low primary vote shares against weak and under-funded opponents, including GOP Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Lee Terry of Nebraska and David Joyce of Ohio. In fact, just a week before Cantor’s defeat and without much fanfare, socially moderate Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey received just 54 percent of the Republican primary vote against the same tea party-backed opponent he had taken 61 percent against in 2012.

Overall, 32 House incumbents have taken less than 75 percent of the vote in their primaries so far this year, up from 31 at this point in 2010 and just 12 at this point in 2006. What’s more, 27 of these 32 “underperforming” incumbents have been Republicans.1

In other words, while Congress’s unpopularity alone can’t sink any given member in a primary, it has established a higher baseline of distrust that challengers can build on when incumbents are otherwise vulnerable. And as the sitting House Majority Leader, Cantor was uniquely susceptible to voters’ frustration with Congress as an institution.

There’s much more interesting analysis at the link.

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George Will’s recent column on campus rapes is still in the news. From Talking Points Memo, George Will’s Latest: College Rape Charges Fueled By ‘Sea Of Hormones And Alcohol’.

Will explained that he took issue with the practice of adjudicating campus sexual assault cases by a “preponderance” of evidence, rather than hitting the bar of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. That flies in the face of due process, he argued, and ultimately harms young men’s future prospects.

“What’s going to result is a lot of young men and young women in this sea of hormones and alcohol, that gets into so much trouble on campuses, you’re going to have charges of sexual assault,” he said. “And you’re going to have young men disciplined, their lives often permanently and seriously blighted by this — don’t get into medical school, don’t get to law school, all the rest.”

Four Democratic senators reached out to Will after his column was published to torch the conservative columnist’s “ancient beliefs.” Will said he wrote a letter back to the senators and laid out his rebuttal in the C-SPAN interview.

“What I say is that: A) I take sexual assault more seriously than I think they do, because I agree that society has correctly said that rape is second only to murder as a serious felony,” Will said. “And therefore, when someone is accused of rape, it should be reported to the criminal justice system that knows how to deal with this, not jerry-built, improvised campus processes.”

“Second, I take, I think, sexual assault somewhat more seriously than the senators do because I think there’s a danger now of defining sexual assault so broadly, so capaciously, that it begins to trivialize the seriousness of it,” he added. “When remarks become sexual assault, improper touching — bad, shouldn’t be done, but it’s not sexual assault.”

Well, we can’t have young men’s lives “blighted” by rape charges. Much better for young women to just suck it up and deal with a years of post-traumatic stress on their own and keep their complaints to themselves.

Whatever you do, don’t miss this TBogg post at Raw Story: Gentleman George Will is getting damned tired of having to explain rape to you guttersnipes.

Victorian gas-pipe and Her Majesty’s Curator of Rape To The Colonies, George Will, has just about had it up to here with you people — YES, YOU PEOPLE.

And especially you. Don’t think by closing your laptop he can’t see you, because he can.

Oh yes, he most certainly can, you loathsome wastrel.

t seems that, after explaining the ins and out of rape to you ungrateful curs, he was shocked and dismayed to discover that you promiscuous info-trollops on the intertubes are unable to comprehend the pearls of wisdom that he dispenses to the riff-raff gratis, courtesy of Ye Olde Washminster Poste.

Hush now, let Gentleman George condescend to speak down to you and try, fruitlessly no doubt, to explain once again that rape is what George Will says rape is

Now go read the rest at the link. You won’t be sorry.

This sounds like it could do some good: Google commits $50M to encouraging girls to code (CNet)

Google wants to see more women in technology, and it’s funding a $50 million initiative to encourage girls to learn how to code in an effort to close the gender gap.

Thursday night the company kicked off the Made with Code initiative here with celebrities former first daughter Chelsea Clinton and actress and comedienne Mindy Kaling.

Kaling, who emceed the event, said she has tons of ideas for apps but no idea to how make them work. She said she’d like to create a “What’s his deal?” app that takes a picture of guy and tells you whether he’s single, married, a weirdo, or what his car is like. Another idea is a Shazaam-like app for perfume.

“People my age have a million ideas for apps,” she said. “But we have no idea how to build them. Last week in the movies, I didn’t even know how to turn off the flashlight on my phone.”

Kaling isn’t alone. Women are woefully under-represented in the technology industry. Only about 20 percent of software developers in the US are women, according to the Labor Department. Last month, even Google admitted only 17 percent of its tech workers are women.

A bit more possible good news from the BBC: US sets up honey bee loss task force.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the agriculture department will lead the effort, which includes $8m (£4.7m) for new honey bee habitats.

Bee populations saw a 23% decline last winter, a trend blamed on the loss of genetic diversity, exposure to certain pesticides and other factors.

A quarter of the food Americans eat, including apples, carrots and avocados, relies on pollination.

Honey bees add more than $15bn in value to US agricultural crops, according to the White House.

The decline in bee populations is also blamed on the loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, mite infestations and diseases.

There has also been an increase in a condition called colony collapse disorder (CCD) in which there is a rapid, unexpected and catastrophic loss of bees in a hive.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


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.”

cvr_the-doors-original-album_front_1200

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.”

21artsbeat-manzarek2-blog480

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?


Saturday Reads: I got this one…

Happy Birthday BB...

Happy Birthday BB…

Good Morning!

Wow, WordPress had another one of those updates…, as I write this post with all sorts of new WP features and editing changes, no wonder the site was so damn slow yesterday.

As you can see, it is someone’s birthday today, Happy Birthday Boston Boomer. Hope you enjoy your special day.

Just a few quick links this morning.

I know that BB is fond of crime stories, so she may find this post thought-provoking. How I Changed My Mind About the Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case

Remember the perceptual illusion where you look at a picture and you’re certain that you see the bust of a young woman? Then, if someone draws your attention to certain details, suddenly the picture transforms into the profile of an old woman. It’s a disorienting trick. You think you know what you’re seeing, but then you aren’t so sure.

The Jeffrey MacDonald murder case is one of the most disturbing in living memory. There are only two possible pictures, both nightmares.

Picture #1. Jeffrey MacDonald, a Princeton-educated Green Beret doctor with no history of violence and a sterling record, butchered his pregnant wife and two young daughters using a knife, ice pick and club. Then he injured himself and set up the scene to make the crimes appear to be the work of intruders. He claimed they chanted, “Kill the pigs!…Acid is groovy!” and scrawled the word “PIG” on the wall in his wife’s blood.

Picture #2. Jeffrey MacDonald, a bright young man with everything in life to look forward to, lost his wife and children to senseless, horrific violence. A military hearing found charges against him “untrue,” but he was convicted nine years later in a civilian trial. He has been imprisoned for three decades for a crime he did not commit.

Two possibilities: MacDonald is a monster, or he is a victim of terrible injustice. Young woman; old woman.

I can relate to Parramore’s article because I too was born in spring of 1970…and I also was fascinated with the TV miniseries and book Fatal Vision.  However, I don’t know if I could be so moved by the possible “revelations” to completely change my mind about guilt. I do get the fact that there was definitely enough “reasonable doubt” in this case, and I can understand the thought processes of questioning the jury’s decision and the judge’s subsequent sentencing…but it does not make me any less certain that there is something sinister about MacDonald. Creepy yes…reasonable doubt, fair enough. All I need to say is two words: Casey Anthony.

On the science front, this next article is just plain cool, or as Dakinikat would say…kewl. Researchers synthesize new kind of silk fiber, and use music to fine-tune material’s properties

This diagram of the molecular structure of one of the artificially produced versions of spider silk depicts one that turned out to form strong, well-linked fibers. A different structure, made using a variation of the same methods, was not able to form into the long fibers needed to make it useful. Musical compositions based on the two structures helped to show how they differed. (Credit: Markus Buehler)
Pound for pound, spider silk is one of the strongest materials known: Research by MIT’s Markus Buehler has helped explain that this strength arises from silk’s unusual hierarchical arrangement of protein building blocks.Now Buehler — together with David Kaplan of Tufts University and Joyce Wong of Boston University — has synthesized new variants on silk’s natural structure, and found a method for making further improvements in the synthetic material.And an ear for music, it turns out, might be a key to making those structural improvements.The work stems from a collaboration of civil and environmental engineers, mathematicians, biomedical engineers and musical composers.

“We’re trying to approach making materials in a different way,” Buehler explains, “starting from the building blocks” — in this case, the protein molecules that form the structure of silk. “It’s very hard to do this; proteins are very complex.”

I know that Dak has perfect pitch, I know that someone else does too but can’t seem to remember if it was Fannie or Beata…in my defense I have had no coffee this morning, I know that is a lame excuse, I am so sorry. Please help me out and remind me in the comments who it was that also has perfect pitch among us. 😉

And lastly, here is an update on a story I shared with you earlier this year. Squadron of ‘lost’ spitfires could be flying again in three years

A lost squadron of Spitfires buried in Burma after the Second World War could be flying again within three years, experts said today.

A Mk 1 Spitfire Photo: Paul Grover

Archaeologists will begin digging for the historic hoard of at least 36 British fighter planes in January.

A proportion of the aircraft will then be carefully packaged and brought back to the UK next spring, where they will be restored.

David Cundall, a farmer and aviation enthusiast from Scunthorpe, Lincs, has spent 16 years researching the project after being told about the burial by a group of US veterans.

273 Squadron was stationed near Rangoon during WWII where the Spitfires were supposedly buried

It was his tenacity and perseverance and his “obsession to find and restore an incredible piece of British history” that will finally see a team begin digging in the New Year.

Enjoy your Saturday!

This is an open thread.


Friday Afternoon Open Thread: Mitt Likes Music, Including This

A few days ago, The New York Times posted a funny mashup of Mitt Romney talking about all the things he likes. The video was created by The Gregory Brothers, a musical group that produces takeoffs on the news. I wish I knew how to embed it here, but you’ll have to go watch it the NYT site. Please watch it if you haven’t already. It’s really hilarious!

Here is the original 1994 interview in which Mitt earnestly told a young interviewer, “I like music of almost any kind, including this.” At the time, he was running against Ted Kennedy for the Senate.

Back in March, Romney listed his favorite songs on Spotify, which I think is an iPad app. Here’s Mitt’s playlist, which his campaign insist he drew up all by himself:

I am a Man of Constant Sorrow” by The Soggy Bottom Boys
Read My Mind” by The Killers
December, 1963 [Oh What a Night]” by Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
Somebody Told Me” by The Killers
The MTA (The Boston Subway Song)” by The Kingston Trio
Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys
Desperado” by Clint Black
Crying” by Roy Orbison
Only You ” by Commodores
Runaway” by Del Shannon
It’s your Love” by Time McGraw
As Good As I once Was” by Toby Keith
Born Free” by Kid Rock
“Over the Rainbow” by Willie Nelson
“Stardust”
“In Dreams” by Roy Orbison
“Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban
“All-American Girl” by Carrie Underwood

Jim Farber, a reporter at the NY Daily News, notes that Mitt seems to like sad songs.

A man of constant sorrow who roams this world alone, doomed to realize his greatest loves only in dreams. Does this sound like the description of a man running for President?

….

Romney opens his 25 song list with The Soggy Bottom Boys’ version of that classic song of suffering “I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow.” He goes on to pepper the list with Clint Black’s cover of the Eagles’ ode to a shut-down loner “Desperado,” Roy Orbison’s uber-mopey “Crying” (along with his classic song of thwarted love “In Dreams”), Johnny Cash’s rumination on eternal damnation, “Ring of Fire,” and Willie Nelson’s take on the ultimate song of hopeless yearning, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Together, these selections suggest a guy whose soul may be far deeper, and less satisfied, than his public persona presents.

Farber also notes that there is only one female artist and one African American group represented on Mitt’s list. Some of the items also reveal Romney’s advanced age. Roy Orbison and Del Shannon were on the soundtrack of my late childhood (I’m just a couple of months younger than Romney).

I found a couple of other Romney- and music-oriented videos on Youtube. Who is Mitt Romney anyway?

This one is silly, but I really liked it: “Mitt Romney, I think I hate you.”

What do you have to say about all this, Mitt?


Two Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Songwriters Left Us Yesterday

Mike Stoller, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Leiber

Lyricist Jerry Leiber and his songwriting partner Mike Stoller wrote much of the soundtrack of my childhood and teenage years. The rest of it was probably written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, but that’s a story for another time.

When I was in junior high school, I started buying 45 RPM records, and I ended up with a huge stack of them over the years. On so many of them, the writing credit was “(Leiber and Stoller). I had no idea who those people were, but they sure made me and a lot of other kids happy back in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Jerry Leiber died yesterday at 78. Here’s an incomplete list of artists who recorded Leiber and Stoller songs: Big Mama Thornton, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Fats Domino, Aretha Franklin, the Clovers, the Coasters, and of course Elvis and the Drifters. They even wrote a song for Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?”

From the NYT obituary:

The team of Leiber and Stoller was formed in 1950, when Mr. Leiber was still a student at Fairfax High in Los Angeles and Mr. Stoller, a fellow rhythm-and-blues fanatic, was a freshman at Los Angeles City College. With Mr. Leiber contributing catchy, street-savvy lyrics and Mr. Stoller, a pianist, composing infectious, bluesy tunes, they set about writing songs with black singers and groups in mind.

In 1952, they wrote “Hound Dog” for the blues singer Big Mama Thornton. The song became an enormous hit for Elvis Presley in 1956 and made Leiber and Stoller the hottest songwriting team in rock ’n’ roll. They later wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You,” “Don’t,” “Treat Me Nice,” “King Creole” and other songs for Presley, despite their loathing for his interpretation of “Hound Dog.”

In the late 1950s, having relocated to New York and taken their place among the constellation of talents associated with the Brill Building, they emerged as perhaps the most potent songwriting team in the genre.

Here are some of my favorites:

Okay, so I love the Drifters….

Here’s one of my all-time favorite Leiber and Stoller compositions, Wilbert Harrison singing Kansas City.

This one was a huge hit when I was a kid.

Carole King, who also worked in the Brill Building back in the day “took to Twitter to pay her respects.”

“Farewell, Jerry Leiber: a legend, a friend, and a major influence on Goffin and King. Rest in peace.”


Motown songwriter Nick Ashford also died yesterday at age 70.
Ashford and his writing partner (later wife) Valerie Simpson wrote songs that were recorded by Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and many more great artists.

Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson

From The New York Times:

Nickolas Ashford was born in Fairfield, S.C., and raised in Willow Run, Mich., where his father, Calvin, was a construction worker. He got his musical start at Willow Run Baptist Church, singing and writing songs for the gospel choir. He briefly attended Eastern Michigan University, in Ypsilanti, before heading to New York, where he tried but failed to find success as a dancer.

In 1964, while homeless, Mr. Ashford went to White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem, where he met Ms. Simpson, a 17-year-old recent high school graduate who was studying music. They began writing songs together, selling the first bunch for $64. In 1966, after Ray Charles sang “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” a song Ashford & Simpson wrote with Joey Armstead, the duo signed on with Motown as staff writers and producers.

They wrote for virtually every major act on the label, including Gladys Knight and the Pips (“Didn’t You Know You’d Have to Cry Sometime”) and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (“Who’s Gonna Take the Blame”).

The Guardian had a great article today on songwriting duos by Laura Barton: From Leiber and Stoller to Lennon and McCartney: the alchemy of the duo

Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford: may they rest in peace. The best way to pay tribute to them is by remembering their music. Please post your favorites in the comments, if you’re so inclined.