Tuesday Reads

Pete Seeger, early 1940s

Pete Seeger, early 1940s

Good Afternoon!

I decided to post the “morning reads” a little late today, so everyone could read and comment on Dakinikat’s post on Pete Seeger. He was 94 years old, but his death is still a terrible loss. I was a huge folk music fan in the 1960s–I still am, actually. Seeger was a true radical who talked the talk, and walked the walk. His death closely followed the passing of his wife Toshi in August 2013 at age 91.

I liked this obit of Seeger by John Nichols at The Nation: Pete Seeger: This Man Surrounded Hate and Forced it to Surrender.

When some of the greatest musicians in the world gathered five years ago to celebrate the 90th birthday of the musician who inspired them all, Bruce Springsteen told Pete Seeger: “You outlasted the bastards, man.”

And so he did.

Seeger, who died Monday night at age 94, was singing with Woody Guthrie when “This Land Is Your Land” was a new song. And because he meant and lived every word of the oft-neglected final verse – “Nobody living can ever stop me, As I go walking that freedom highway; Nobody living can ever make me turn back, This land was made for you and me” – Seeger was hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee, blacklisted and sent for a time in the late 1950s and early 1960s to the sidelines of what was becoming an entertainment industry.

But Seeger kept singing Guthrie’s “This Land…,” kept writing songs of his own like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” kept playing a banjo inscribed with the message “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” and kept traveling across the country and around the world – for every cause from labor rights to civil rights to environmentalism to peace.

Before he was convicted in 1961 on contempt of Congress charges – for refusing to name the names of the Young Communists and Young Socialists he had organized with and sung for in those heady 1930s and 1940s days of anti-fascist organizing — Seeger acknowledged that “The House committee wished to pillory me because it didn’t like some few of the many thousands of places I have sung for.” But he explained, “I have been singing folksongs of America and other lands to people everywhere. I am proud that I never refused to sing to any group of people because I might disagree with some of the ideas of some of the people listening to me. I have sung for rich and poor, for Americans of every possible political and religious opinion and persuasion, of every race, color, and creed.”

And I really enjoyed this “non-interview” with Seeger from 2010 by Jay Blotcher: My (non-)interview with Pete Seeger on gay and lesbian rights. Please give it a read.

Moving on to other news . . .

Yesterday, I had an interesting day on Twitter that ended up with my getting a shout-out from one of my favorite bloggers, Bob Cesca of The Daily Banter. A few days ago, I had sent Cesca some tweets from a blogger who collects info on the internet, publishes it, and stores it for ordinary people to access. They perform a valuable service, and not all the things they post are top secret leaks. Anyway, I noticed that they were posting harsh criticism of Glenn Greenwald and the other “journalists” who have been slowly dribbling out the Snowden leaks for the past 7 months. The blogger deletes his tweets on a daily basis, but I did post them in the comments on Wednesday and in my Thursday post.

Yesterday the sh$t hit the fan when this tech blogger posted some unredacted files that named an NSA employee, a targeted terrorist group, and some top secret NSA capabilities. From Bob Cesca’s post:

A pair of new Snowden revelations were published on Monday. First, an article was published by NBC News in association with Glenn Greenwald about an NSA operation codenamed “Squeaky Dolphin.” A second revelation was posted by The Guardian in partnership with The New York Times and ProPublica, which covered an NSA document that revealed how the NSA and the British GCHQ are able to collect information on various targets via “leaky” smartphone apps like Angry Birds.

As soon as the article was posted, someone from or associated with a popular cryptography website claims to have downloaded a pdf of the Snowden document fromThe New York Times and discovered that three of the redactions that were intended to obscure sensitive national security information were easily accessible by highlighting, copying and pasting the text. The poorly-redacted file was subsequently posted to the cryptography website, then promoted via Twitter. (We’re not going to post the name of the website that posted the file to protect the information contained within.)

Meanwhile, at some Monday afternoon, The New York Times appears to have discovered the problem and posted a new version of the file with fool-proof redactions.

The cryptography website posted the following tweets:

NSA and GCHQ docs today with inept redactons were posted by NY Times on DocumentCloud, grabbed by A. Later replaced with ept redactions.

Not clear who ineptly redacted the NSA and GCHQ files, NYT, Guardian or ProPublica, failed to verify, or told them at ~1:30PM today.

Read the rest at The Daily Banter, and if you want to know more you can take a look at my Twitter timeline.

I have some more reads for you, but I’m not going to excerpt them; I have to rush around and get ready to go out this afternoon. 

A long abortion-related read from The New Yorker: A BOTCHED OPERATION: Steven Brigham’s abortion clinics keep being sanctioned for offering substandard care. Why is he still in business?, by Eyal Press

Dak posted about this yesterday, but it’s worth posting twice: New Law Could Force All of Louisiana’s Abortion Clinics to Close (from The Nation)

From BBC News, NSA-GCHQ Snowden leaks: A glossary of the key terms

From Pando Daily, Google and encryption: why true user privacy is Google’s biggest enemy, by the great Yasha Levine

For laughs, Do You Believe Edward Snowden Is A Traitor Or Hero? Check out the map!

From Newsweek, Snowden’s Red Dawn

Statement of Ukranian priests: Human Dignity and Freedom Must Be Preserved

From The Daily Beast, Charlie Shrem, CEO of Bitcoin Exchange BitInstant, Arrested

From Counterpunch, Did the Elites Have Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Killed?

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about? Please share your links in the comment thread.

Late Night: Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie at Occupation Columbus Circle

The Daily Beast:

If Fox News didn’t think Occupy Wall Street protesters are just a bunch of hippies already, this sure won’t help. Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie were the latest celebrities to join the 99%, treating the crowd to a spontaneous folk performance Friday night near New York’s Columbus Circle.

F**k Fox News!

92-Year-Old Folk Legend Lends His Voice to ‘Occupy’

On Friday night, over a month since the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests began as a small gathering of people so small that there was a virtual media blackout, Pete Seeger emerged from a show he had been performing on New York City’s Upper West Side to join in the protests.

There have been many musicians and celebrities who have thrown their weight behind these protesters, but the 92-year-old folk legend gives these young Americans a new sense of hope and rejuvenation. In the 1960s, he established himself as a prominent protest singer, bringing awareness to causes such as civil rights, international disarmament and the environment.

Seeger, who was wearing a red cap and carrying two canes, was joined a crowd of 600 as they headed south towards Columbus Circle (some 30 blocks away) starting from Symphony Space on 95th and Broadway. On both sides, Seeger was flanked by people carrying placards reading “Lost my job, found an occupation,” and “Corporate greed is revolution’s seed.”

The crowd resembled that of an earlier decade, as they sang “Down by the Riverside,” and “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and [Woody]Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

The audio and video aren’t that great, but it’s the revolutionary spirit that counts.

Take it from Dr. King

The I have a Dream Speech happened 48 years ago tomorrow.

I thought about this a lot while I was watching the PBS Masters series on Pete Seeger called The Power of Song.  A repeat of the 2007 program was played yesterday showing 88 years of Pete Seeger and the role of his protests songs in everything from cleaning the Hudson River, to the Vietnam War and protesting the Wars in Afghanistan and, of course, his score for the Civil Rights movement.

There was then and there should be now: a powerful joining of social justice, music, and words.

Here’s part of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

Here is the powerful music of Pete Seeger who provided the score to so many social justice movements during my life time.

and from the PBS show and the transcript up top:

This is an open thread, but I’d like to add an article with a good question.

Why won’t America embrace the left?

In two centuries, the movement’s history in America is plagued by failure. An expert explains why.

What has the left really accomplished over the past two centuries? FDR’s New Deal remains one of the great American success stories. In the ’60s, leftist politics created a massive countercultural movement — and sexual and feminist revolutions. The civil rights movement transformed both American society and the American soul. But, if you compare the accomplishments of the American left to those of other parts of the world, like Western Europe, its record is remarkably dismal, with a surprising lack of real political and social impact.

At least, that’s the main takeaway from “American Dreamers,” a new book by Michael Kazin, professor of history at Georgetown University, which covers nearly 200 years of struggle for civil rights, sexual equality and radical rebellion. His book explores the way the national conversation has been changed by union organizers, gay rights activists and feminists. He also writes about how their techniques have now been adopted by the Tea Party movement. From Michael Moore to “Wall-E,” he argues that, although the left has been successful at transforming American culture, when it comes to practical change, it’s been woefully unsuccessful.

Monday Reads

Good Morning!

I’ve almost gotten shy about going out to search for links these days.  Most of the political and economic news is disheartening so I thought I’d try to mix it up today with some good stuff and disheartening stuff.  Hopefully, you can find some things to share with us too.

You may want to start out your day arming yourself with “Five Myths about Planned Parenthood” in case any one in your sphere of influence starts spewing some of the ridiculous memes passed around by the right wing. This was in WAPO over the weekend and was written by Clare Coleman worked for America’s best known provider of family planning and health services.  I liked number five.

Three million patients each year visit Planned Parenthood’s more than 800 health centers in every state, in big cities and small towns. In some areas, Planned Parenthood and the Title X-funded system are the only sexual health providers for hundreds of miles.

We screen people for high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes; we counsel them about smoking cessation and obesity; we connect them to other primary-care providers and social services. The huge response to the attack on family planning and on Planned Parenthood — hundreds of thousands of Americans signing petitions, showing up at rallies, calling Congress – is extraordinary. But it doesn’t surprise me. One in five American women has gone to Planned Parenthood at some point in her life, for respectful, compassionate, quality care. And now those Americans are going to have our back.

I feel like I’ve turned into an IMF groupie by putting up yet another link to them shortly after featuring one of their studies on the dominance of the finance sector, but here I go again.  I do spend time gleaning data from their site so maybe it’s just that I keep bumping into things.  The IMF says we have a Global Job Crisis.

At the end of his magnum opus, The General Theory, Keynes stated the following: “The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes”.

Not everyone will agree with the entirety of this statement. But what we have learnt over time is that unemployment and inequality can undermine the very achievements of the market economy, by sowing the seeds of instability. In too many countries, the lack of economic opportunity can lead to unproductive activities, political instability, and even conflict. Just look at how the dangerous cocktail of unemployment and inequality—combined with political tension—is playing out in the Middle East and North Africa.

Because growth beset by social tensions is not conducive to economic and financial stability, the IMF cannot be indifferent to distribution issues. And when I look around today, I am concerned in this regard. For while recovery is here, growth—at least in the advanced economies—is not creating jobs and is not being shared broadly. Many people in many countries are facing a social crisis that is every bit as serious as the financial crisis.

Unemployment is at record levels. The crisis threw 30 million people out of work. And over 200 million people are looking for jobs all across the world today.

The jobs crisis is hitting the young especially hard. And what should have been a brief spell in unemployment is turning into a life sentence, possibly for a whole lost generation.

In too many countries, inequality is at record highs.

As we face these challenges, remember what we have accomplished. Under the umbrella of the G20, policymakers came together to avoid a financial freefall and probably a second Great Depression.

Today, we need a similar full force forward response in ensuring that we get the recovery we need. And that means not only a recovery that is sustainable and balanced among countries, but also one that brings employment and fair distribution.

This is part of a speech given by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund. He argues that financial sector reform is central to the problem of getting back on track.  It’s worth reading the entire thing or you can watch the video here.  Occasionally, I remember why I thought it was important to study economics.  This is one of those times.

The so-called “Gang of Six” is still anxious to put social security on the bargaining table. I still can’t figure out why every time some politician wants to talk about the Federal Deficit--in this case Senator Mark Warner–they mistakenly include the stand-alone program.

Including Social Security in the Gang of Six package appears to be a concession by Democrats made in exchange for agreement to raise some revenue by Republicans. But liberals in the Senate and House have made clear they will not stand for any cuts to benefits.

The 2012 budget passed by the House on Friday does not include reforms for Social Security. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) instead called for a trigger in the budget whereby the president and Congress would have to propose solutions once the Board of Trustees certifies the program is in trouble. Presidet Obama in his 2012 budget and in a speech last week did not lay out plans to reform Social Security.

Warner said the Gang is “very close” to an agreement that includes spending cuts and tax increases such as be eliminating the home mortgage tax deduction.

“We are going to make everybody mad with our approach,” he said.

Warner made clear he is opposed to the House Republican 2012 budget’s reliance on cuts to Medicare—he called it a “massive transfer of responsibility onto our seniors”– but he did not say how the Gang of Six will approach the massive entitlement program.

Please join me as I scream.  How stupid do they think we are?

Ninety-one year old Pete Seeger will be joined by David Amram, 80, and Peter Yarrow, 73 on the stage to inspire young people to be active in political and social justice movements.  Yarrow had just returned from a series of rallies in Wisconsin.

The three artist-activists say they are fired up by recent protests — from Egypt to Wisconsin — and by the enthusiasm of their youthful kin, who will join them onstage.

“I do have the feeling that the kind of energy we felt in the ’60s is in the air now,” Mr. Yarrow said. “That energy seems to be reigniting itself.”

That concert should be a treat.  It’s nice to see these guys seem to never tire of singing songs of justice. It’s important that a new generation hear these truly American songs.  I was interested in reading that many kids and grandkids of these folk singers are now in the family business and may show up on stage with them now and then.

Okay, this is something that kinda surprised me from the WSJ: “Greenspan Steps Up Call to End Bush-Era Tax Cuts”.  I still haven’t figure out why any one thinks he’s still relevant, but oh, well.  At least, he’s on the right side of this one.

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is stepping up his call for Congress to let the Bush-era tax cuts lapse.
In an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Greenspan used his strongest words yet to urge lawmakers to let them expire. The risk of a U.S. debt crisis, he said, is just too big. Mr. Greenspan, who retired from the Federal Reserve in 2006, had endorsed the cuts back in 2001 championed by then-President George W. Bush.

“This crisis is so imminent and so difficult that I think we have to allow the so-called Bush tax cuts all to expire. That is a very big number,” he said, referring to how much the U.S. government could save from letting income taxes go back up to levels last seen under former President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Greenspan was talking about re-imposing the taxes for all Americans. The Treasury has estimated that a permanent extension of all the Bush tax cuts would cost $3.6 trillion over the next decade. Allowing taxes to increase on those in the top income brackets would take the cost to the government down to $2.9 trillion, according to White House estimates.

CBS news has done some data gathering on taxes as part of its Tax Day coverage: Wealthy Americans see drop in federal taxes; High-earning Americans pay less in taxes than in previous years; nearly half of U.S. households will pay no income taxes at all.

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation’s tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.

There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

The sheer volume of credits, deductions and exemptions has both Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled. House Republicans want to eliminate breaks to pay for lower overall rates, reducing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Republicans oppose raising taxes, but they argue that a more efficient tax code would increase economic activity, generating additional tax revenue.

The row of shotguns featured on the first season DVD set of Treme are set to be demolished as blight.

New Orleans is abuzz with the second season of Treme about to start up on HBO.  I have to admit that I have not watched it since I’m still working through my dose of PTS from Katrina and the aftermath. However, for those of you that are fans of the show, you can get it now on DVD and you can get a bit of a taste in what’s in store for you in season two from this story from the TP.  The show evidently ended last season with the city’s evacuation.  That’s something I will NEVER forget.  The show has been great for the city, overall and it’s producers have taken on a lot of causes around here including a fight to save some historic properties featured in the series’ promotions.  Just thought I’d add some insight into what the production brings to the city including its musicians.  Here’s a little drama from Hollywood South.

… production money is being spent daily in New Orleans for locations, for equipment, material, labor and talent. In the first two seasons, for example, about $2 million in music licensing money was paid for the rights to songs by New Orleans artists, alone. Such expenditures — with or without any charity component — are the crux of the real economic relationship between a film company and the community in which it works. It is a straight-up transaction. We come here to shoot a movie. We pay a variety of local vendors, government fees and individuals to do it. And for virtually every other movie shot in Louisiana, that is it — end of story.

Thought I’d end with a treat from Pete Seeger to get you through your coffee:

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?