Friday, January 29, 2010

Howard Zinn

Historian and activist Howard Zinn passed away Wednesday at age 87. Zinn's family said that he had had a heart attack while swimming in Santa Monica, CA.

Howard Zinn was born August 24, 1922 in Brooklyn to a Jewish immigrant family. His parents were factory workers with little education, and Zinn's introduction to literature came when they sent 25 cents and a coupon to the New York Post in return for a collection of Charles Dickens' writings. He joined the Army Air Force in World War II. As a bombardier, he participated in attacks upon Berlin, as well as parts of Czechoslovakia and Hungary. At Royan, in southwest France, he also took part in one of the first attacks using napalm. After the war, Zinn found out that the napalm attack killed 1500 innocent French along with the German soldiers in hiding there. This discovery helped influence Zinn's decision to become a pacifist in later years.

Zinn attended New York University on the GI Bill. He moved on to Columbia for his postgraduate work, earning his Ph.D. in history with a minor in political science in 1958. By that time he had landed his first job in academia, as chairman of the history and social studies department at Spelman College in Atlanta. His experience at the historically black women's college led to involvement in the civil rights movement. Among his students were author Alice Walker and Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman. But Zinn's increasing political activity, notably his work in advising the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, angered the school's administration. In 1963, Spelman fired him for insubordination.

The next year, Zinn took a position in the political science department at Boston University. His classes on civil liberties quickly became among the most popular on campus. Once again, Zinn became heavily involved in political activism, particularly the efforts to stop the Vietnam War. In 1968, his diplomatic visit to Hanoi with the Rev. Daniel Berrigan resulted in the release of three US prisoners of war, the first set free since the US bombing of North Vietnam began. Later, he helped edit a set of government documents secretly copied by Daniel Ellsberg that became known as the Pentagon Papers, and served as an expert witness at Ellsberg's trial for theft, conspiracy, and espionage.

Of the many books Zinn wrote during his career, the best-known was A People's History Of The United States, published in 1980. Ever since participating in the civil rights marches of the 60's, Zinn had noticed that history almost always had been focused from the perspective of society's most powerful, and his goal was to create a textbook that contained the voices of America's lower classes, and to present a side of the historical narrative that had been overlooked. A People's History, by frequently casting America's past leaders as greedy, bloodthirsty exploiters, caused a stir among historians when first published. Nevertheless, the book spurred further efforts to consider history from alternative viewpoints, particularly those of the poor and minorities. A People's History became an unlikely popular success as well, with nearly 2,000,000 copies sold.

Zinn retired from teaching in 1988. In typical fashion, he finished his last class and then hurried off to join a picket line. He continued to write with regularity, with his articles frequently appearing in publications such as The Progressive and The Nation, and also continuing to write books, including several highly critical of the Iraq War. One of his last projects was a documentary, The People Speak, based on his A People's History and featuring appearances by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Bob Dylan, and many others. In one of his last interviews, Zinn said he wanted to be remembered "for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality," and "for getting more people to realize that the power which rests so far in the hands of people with wealth and guns, that the power ultimately rests in people themselves and that they can use it." Indeed, Howard Zinn was highly successful in getting millions to reconsider how they thought about history and America's relationship with the world, myself included.

I highly recommend visiting The Nation's website and checking out the videos featured in their Howard Zinn tribute. Zinn also returned to Spelman College in 2005 to give the commencement address. That speech is one of Zinn's most stirring moments, and a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the rest of the historian's work.

(Crossposted at Pole Hill Sanitarium.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger

J.D.Salinger, reclusive author of the classic The Catcher In The Rye, passed away Wednesday at his New Hampshire home. He was 91.

Salinger, the son of a cheese merchant, began writing short stories while attending Valley Forge Military Academy, usually late at night under the covers. He enrolled at New York University in 1936, but dropped out during the spring semester. His father then sent him to Vienna to learn about the meat-importing business, leaving there in early 1938, shortly before Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany.

From there he spent a semester at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, then returned to New York to take a night class in creative writing at Columbia University. He managed to sell a few short stories to publications like Esquire and The Saturday Evening Post. In 1941, The New Yorker bought his "Slight Rebellion Off Madison", but held it for five years, fearful that its rebellious theme would encourage youngsters to drop out of school. In the meantime, Salinger was drafted into the Army to serve in World War II, landing at Utah Beach on D-Day and seeing action in The Battle Of The Bulge. While on the campaign from Normandy into Germany, he also met with Ernest Hemingway, who was serving as a war correspondent in Paris. He also continued writing through the war, the quality of his work markedly improving. The New Yorker published his first major success, "A Perfect Day For Bananafish", in 1948, setting the stage for his greatest triumph.

The Catcher In The Rye sparked something of an uproar when it was published in 1951. Catcher's teenaged protagonist, Holden Caulfield, had already appeared in Salinger's "Slight Rebellion Off Madison", and the novel expands upon the themes of that earlier story. Caulfield was no athletic hero or goody two-shoes; he was a hard-nosed kid of the streets, recently expelled from prep school, and bursting full of attitude, as was apparent from the opening lines: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” The language of Catcher, laced with profanity and sexual innuendo, perfectly captured the streets of New York City, but teachers and librarians of the day felt it was hardly suitable for their young readers. Catcher was an immediate success, going through eight printings in its first two months after its release, and smuggled undercover by countless adolescents during the Fifties and for years thereafter.

Salinger followed this up in 1953 with the critically acclaimed Nine Stories, a collection of short stories, including his previously published "Bananafish", that showcased his ear for the everyday vernacular of the streets. The author, though, increasingly desired to step away from the limelight. Salinger had embraced Zen Buddhism prior to writing Catcher In The Rye, and spent increasing amounts of time in solitude and meditation. Also in 1953, he moved from New York to a secluded 90 acre property in Cornish, New Hampshire, and slowly withdrew from the world.

At first, Salinger socialized with the Cornish townspeople, especially taking a liking to the local high school students who would come to the author asking for advice. He even allowed one of the students to interview him for the high school newspaper. But after that interview appeared on the editorial page of Cornish's daily paper, Salinger cut off all contact with the high schoolers, and eventually with nearly all the city's residents as well.

After the short story "Hapworth 16, 1924" was published in The New Yorker in 1965, Salinger never had another of his works published. He was frequently rumored to be working on a new novel, but nothing ever surfaced. He refused nearly all requests for interviews, turned down numerous requests to have his works made into Hollywood screenplays, and demanded that his photo be taken off the dust cover of future printings of his books. Increasingly reclusive, it became a noted pastime for tourists to Cornish to see if they could get a glimpse of the author. Salinger's enigmatic image was further complicated by the release of two memoirs, one by his daughter Margaret, the other by Joyce Maynard, an author and Yale student many years his junior with whom he had an affair in 1972. Both painted a picture of an abusive, controlling man far different from the genial figure Salinger had been in his heyday.

John Updike and Philip Roth, among others, have acknowledged their debt to Salinger's work. Despite his virtual disappearance from public view, J.D. Salinger remains notable as an author who broke down barriers, without whom the cultural advances of the later 50's and 60's would have been that much more difficult to achieve.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Happy blogiversary to my co-bloggers at VidiotSpeak!

Update (SteveAudio): and from me too, it's a great blog, and I'm so grateful they loan you out to write over here. I'm honored!

We skipped a light fandango . . .

Politics are so ugly right now that I need to wrap in a cocoon of music. I've chosen this young man to warm my cold heart, and remind me that art is, above all, a healing thing:

Oh, and he's 13 years old. Who know what he might do when he, you know, grows up.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Somebody's Watching Me

Spies that don't like US:
Inspector general cites 'egregious breakdown' in FBI oversight

FBI agents for years sought sensitive records from telephone companies through e-mails, sticky notes, sneak peeks and other "startling" methods that violated electronic privacy law and federal policy, according to a Justice Department inspector general report released Wednesday.

The study details how the FBI between 2002 and 2006 sent more than 700 demands for telephone toll information by citing often nonexistent emergencies and using sometimes misleading language. The practice of sending faulty "exigent" letters to three telecommunications providers became so commonplace that one FBI agent described it to investigators as "like having an ATM in your living room."
At times, what the inspector general called an "egregious breakdown" extended to misstatements to the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about how sensitive information had been obtained by federal law enforcement, the report said.
As part of a leak investigation, the FBI used exigent letters to improperly obtain toll phone call information from Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima and New York Times reporters Jane Perlez and Raymond Bonner, all working in Jakarta, Indonesia, about six years ago. The letter was not followed up with a subpoena and it did not secure the approval of the attorney general, which is required when seeking reporters' phone records under Justice Department policy, the inspector general report said.
At the very least every agent that lied to a Federal Court should go to prison for perjury. And everyone involved should be fired.

It ain't gonna happen, but it should.

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And the lights all went out in Massachusetts

Dear people of Massachusetts:

That's so sweet that your newly-elected Jr. Senator tonight called Vicky Kennedy first to gloat congratulate her on her late husband Teddy's legacy.

But, Brown isn't exactly setting out to support Teddy's goals. In fact, he'll try to undermine & reverse EVERYTHING!!! Teddy stood for.

I mean, seriously people, didn't you pay any attention when Brown wrote this:
  • Government is too big and that the federal stimulus bill made government bigger instead of creating jobs
  • Taxes are too high and are going higher if Congress continues with its out-of-control spending
  • The historic amount of debt we are passing on to our children and grandchildren is immoral
  • Power concentrated in the hands of one political party, as it is here in Massachusetts, leads to bad government and poor decisions
  • A strong military and vigorous homeland defense will protect our interests and security around the world and at home
  • All Americans deserve health care, but we shouldn't have to create a new government insurance program to provide it
1. Biggest expansion of federal government was under Reagan & Bush 43. Obama has actually cut gov't spending. And stim bill did create jobs, which Repubs still deny.

2. Bush 41 caused the majority of that debt, and you supported everything he did. Remember Cheney saing "Deficits don't matter?"

3. IOKIYAR. Power concentrated in R's is OK, in D's is awful. And remember when MA got a new Health Care plan, under liberal Governer Mitt Romney? Yeah, I thought so.

4. So how is that strong military working out in Iraq, and Afghanistan? Winning hearts and minds, or pissing people off?

5. All Americans deserve health care, as long as Anthem/Blue Cross makes their profits first.

Look, this guy has a Repub voting record of between 90 & 96%, nothing independent about that. Brown is a lock-step tea-bagger, climate-change denier, Mass. health-care hating, simple-minded Republican tool.

Yes, the national, as well as MA Democratic infrastructure, as well as candidate Coakley, FAILED.

But good people of MA, what in hell were you thinking?

Well, now you own him. Let me know how that works out, mkay?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Will you ever win?

As a kid, I remember reading an old Mad Magazine feature called “You Can Never Win With a Bigot”. It illustrated the mentality of one who is prejudiced and how their opinion of someone they dislike is already “colored” (so to speak), so that regardless of anything the object of their disdain does, the bigot will spin it so as to “prove” that they were right about them all along.

For example, in that piece the bigot is sitting watching a baseball game and someone else says “The bases are loaded and Reggie Johnson is coming up” to which the bigot sneers “Ah, all them niggers choke in situations like this”. Then in the next scene the other guy shouts “Wow! He hit a homerun!”, to which the bigot smugly replies while downing a beer “What do you expect? All them coons are strong from livin’ in the jungle”.

Or in another scene two waiters are talking and one says “I hope that guy over there gives me a good tip”, to which the bigot scoffs “Forget it! Them Jews are way too cheap.” Then in the next panel the first guy comes back exclaiming “Wow! He gave me a $100 tip!”, to which the bigot says “Of course. Kikes have all the money in the world”.

Which, I think, helps to better understand how conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh can spin anything that President Obama does to make it sound negative. The perfect example of the “you can never win with a bigot” in this case is the President’s handling of aid to Haiti. According to Rush, Obama’s swift action to help a nation of people who were absolutely devastated by a massive earthquake amounts to nothing more than a way to appeal to blacks and score brownie points and photo ops. In the world of Rush, even being compassionate and human can be twisted into partisan politics.

As for the art of being “human”, I think Rush clearly pointed out where his own withered "I've got mine" soul stands on that with basically washing his hands of the Haitian people in saying “We’ve already donated to Haiti…it’s called the U.S. income tax”. So pretty much the message is “I gave at the office, so just go away now”. I wonder if he would still feel that way if Haiti was inhabited by blue-eyed Caucasians?

But the real “you can never win with a bigot” point here comes from if we consider what Rush would have said had Obama NOT acted in an opposite manner that Bush had for Katrina, and instead delayed or muted any assistance and aid to Haiti. I think we all know the answer to that one. Rush would have gleefully bounced up and down squealing “See? See? I told you the liberals are all a bunch of hypocrites!”

That is the reason no one should expect someone like Rush and his ilk to ever have a good word to say about the President, regardless of any path he may take at a whatever fork in the road he comes to, because Rush stands ready, like the bigots in the Mad Magazine, to twist and spin whichever direction Obama takes into “proving” himself right no matter what. Because in Limbaugh's world, that is all that matters, regardless of what may or may not be for the overall good of the American people, or humanity for that matter.

And that is why the President has to do what he feels is the right thing to do and not worry about pleasing his detractors who plan to find fault in EVERYTHING he does. Like someone once said, if Obama were to find the cure for cancer, blowhards like Rush would denounce him for taking away jobs from hard-working red-blooded American oncologists.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me where he's gone?

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience, 1967.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967.

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. "
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' "
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

More here.
I remember Martin Luther King, and I remember what was said about him at the time. 'He's a communist', 'he's a puppet of outside agitators', 'just a ni**er that doesn't know his place', 'he's uppity for a boy.'

I remember separate drinking fountains, 'colored entrances' and attack dogs and fire hoses and Bull Connor and George Wallace.

What I don't remember is any Republicants marching with him. Sure, there were a lot of southern democrats opposing him, and a lot of pure hate that survives to this day, but to march with him you literally had to put put your life on the line.

Maybe as a country we always take 2 steps forward and one step back.

Martin Luther King was always speaking to our better angels. Maybe we can, as a country, recover that optimism. With all that he'd been thru he still held out for hope.

I do too.

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Smoke gets in your eyes

Shortly after the earthquake in Haiti, Haitian artist Wyclef Jean started appearing on teevee asking for donations to the usual suspects, including his own Yele Foundation. But the interwebs are buzzing with rumors his foundation is a fraud. Here's from Wikipedia (yeah, I know. If you don't like it, do your own Googling.):

In 2005, Jean established the Yéle Haiti Foundation. In its first year of operation, the foundation, with funding by Comcel, provided scholarships to 3,600 children in Gonaïves, Haiti, after the devastation by Hurricane Jeanne. In its second year of operation, it is almost doubling the amount of the scholarships and spreading them throughout Haiti, providing tuition in 5 regions. The foundation aims to provide 6,800 scholarships to children in Port-au-Prince, Gonaïves, Les Cayes, Port-de-Paix, and Cap-Haïtien.

Yéle Haiti, and its predecessor the Wyclef Jean Foundation, have been involuntarily dissolved by the the Florida Division of Corporations on multiple occasions for failing to file required state disclosure reports.[19] Of the $1,142,944 in total revenue the foundation collected in 2006, at least $410,000 was paid directly to Jean and his business partner for rent, production services, and Jean's appearance at a benefit concert.[20]

In a 2009 interview with writer Han O'Connor, Wyclef stated that his priority for the organization was to raise money to build the Yéle Center, which would be a facility that consists of a sports center, Wyclef Jean School of the Arts, a cultural center focusing on the environment and an internet café. During the interview he claimed that he feels the key to improving the situation in Haiti is to build sustainable opportunity. [21]

After the earthquake on January 12, 2010 in Haiti, Jean called on others to donate to his foundation's Yéle Haiti Earthquake Fund, imploring "We must act now."[22]

OK, so they're sloppy with paperwork. But what's the real issue? Well, The Smoking Gun tells us:

As seen on the following pages from the foundation's 2006 tax return, the group paid $31,200 in rent to Platinum Sound, a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Jerry Duplessis, who, like Jean, is a foundation board member. A $31,200 rent payment was also made in 2007 to Platinum Sound. The rent, tax returns assure, "is priced below market value." The recording studio also was paid $100,000 in 2006 for the "musical performance services of Wyclef Jean at a benefit concert." That six-figure payout, the tax return noted, "was substantially less than market value." The return, of course, does not address why Jean needed to be paid to perform at his own charity's fundraiser. But the largest 2006 payout--a whopping $250,000--went to Telemax, S.A., a for-profit Haiti company in which Jean and Duplessis were said to "own a controlling interest." The money covered "pre-purchased...TV airtime and production services" that were part of the foundation's "outreach efforts" in Haiti.

OK then. I have no insider knowledge of Wyclef or Yele, but I do know the entertainment business, so I think I can shed some light on this.

Regarding the rent paid to the studio, it may be for one of several reasons, like legitimate office rent. The foundation needs space, and will have to pay rent, why not in your own building. Nothing sinister here. And don't think a legitimate business like Platinum Sound can offer "free" space in its building to a charity. Ask your accountant about that. Not happening.

$100k to the studio for Wyclef's performance at a benefit? Look, if he is the studio's only client, like Stevie Wonder and his Wonderland Studio when I worked there, he still has to pay staff, building rent, utilities, even when he's not there. While I wish he'd just paid his expenses out of his own nicely-lined pocket, it still fails the smell test to me. Nothing to see here, move along.

And paying $250k to a production company you own for work they do? In terms of production and post-production expenses, that amount is so small as to be laughable. It probably is wages, utilities, equipment rentals, and rent for the time the company was working on the project. Again, I wish he had just swallowed the expenses, but again, he has a business, with, you know, employees, etc.

Look, when you watch something like the Jerry Lewis telethon, there are many people working on that show, and most of them need to get paid. Someone making $15 per hour can't afford to donate their time for a week of technical work. Could you? Of course not.

So is Wyclef guilty of sloppy bookkeeping? Yes.

Is he guilty of not covering some expenses? Yes.

But is he guilty of fraud, as The Smoking Gun and many others are now implying? I don't know.

But the numbers don't add up to me. If he is skimming a few thousand here, $250k there, he's a lousy con artist, when there's far greater $$ to be had.

Innocent until proven guilty to me. The Smoking Gun is blowing smoke.

In the meantime, here's what you can do for Haiti:

Text "Haiti" to 90999 for a $10 donation to the Red Cross. I did.

Go to Doctors Without Borders' donation site and contribute anything from $35 on up.

And call Pat Robertson's 700 club to politely ask if Jesus would blame the victims of the Haiti earthquake the way Robertson did: (757) 226-7000

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tell It Like It Is

President Obama talks the talk:
Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery
Weekly Address January 16, 2010

Over the past two years, more than seven million Americans have lost their jobs. Countless businesses have been forced to shut their doors. Few families have escaped the pain of this terrible recession. Rarely does a day go by that I do not hear from folks who are hurting. That is why we have pushed so hard to rebuild this economy.

But even as we work tirelessly to dig our way out of this hole, it is important that we address what led us into such a deep mess in the first place. Much of the turmoil of this recession was caused by the irresponsibility of banks and financial institutions on Wall Street. These financial firms took huge, reckless risks in pursuit of short-term profits and soaring bonuses. They gambled with borrowed money, without enough oversight or regard for the consequences. And when they lost, they lost big. Little more than a year ago, many of the largest and oldest financial firms in the world teetered on the brink of collapse, overwhelmed by the consequences of their irresponsible decisions. This financial crisis nearly pulled the entire economy into a second Great Depression.

As a result, the American people – struggling in their own right – were placed in a deeply unfair and unsatisfying position. Even though these financial firms were largely facing a crisis of their own creation, their failure could have led to an even greater calamity for the country. That is why the previous administration started a program – the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP – to provide these financial institutions with funds to survive the turmoil they helped unleash. It was a distasteful but necessary thing to do.

Many originally feared that most of the $700 billion in TARP money would be lost. But when my administration came into office, we put in place rigorous rules for accountability and transparency, which cut the cost of the bailout dramatically. We have now recovered most of the money we provided to the banks. That’s good news, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not good enough. We want the taxpayers’ money back, and we’re going to collect every dime.

That is why, this week, I proposed a new fee on major financial firms to compensate the American people for the extraordinary assistance they provided to the financial industry. And the fee would be in place until the American taxpayer is made whole. Only the largest financial firms with more than $50 billion in assets will be affected, not community banks. And the bigger the firm – and the more debt it holds – the larger the fee. Because we are not only going to recover our money and help close our deficits; we are going to attack some of the banking practices that led to the crisis.

That’s important. The fact is, financial firms play an essential role in our economy. They provide capital and credit to families purchasing homes, students attending college, businesses looking to start up or expand. This is critical to our recovery. That is why our goal with this fee – and with the common-sense financial reforms we seek – is not to punish the financial industry. Our goal is to prevent the abuse and excess that nearly led to its collapse. Our goal is to promote fair dealings while punishing those who game the system; to encourage sustained growth while discouraging the speculative bubbles that inevitably burst. Ultimately, that is in the shared interest of the financial industry and the American people.

Of course, I would like the banks to embrace this sense of mutual responsibility. So far, though, they have ferociously fought financial reform. The industry has even joined forces with the opposition party to launch a massive lobbying campaign against common-sense rules to protect consumers and prevent another crisis.

Now, like clockwork, the banks and politicians who curry their favor are already trying to stop this fee from going into effect. The very same firms reaping billions of dollars in profits, and reportedly handing out more money in bonuses and compensation than ever before in history, are now pleading poverty. It’s a sight to see.

Those who oppose this fee say the banks can’t afford to pay back the American people without passing on the costs to their shareholders and customers. But that’s hard to believe when there are reports that Wall Street is going to hand out more money in bonuses and compensation just this year than the cost of this fee over the next ten years. If the big financial firms can afford massive bonuses, they can afford to pay back the American people.

Those who oppose this fee have also had the audacity to suggest that it is somehow unfair. That because these firms have already returned what they borrowed directly, their obligation is fulfilled. But this willfully ignores the fact that the entire industry benefited not only from the bailout, but from the assistance extended to AIG and homeowners, and from the many unprecedented emergency actions taken by the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and others to prevent a financial collapse. And it ignores a far greater unfairness: sticking the American taxpayer with the bill.

That is unacceptable to me, and to the American people. We’re not going to let Wall Street take the money and run. We’re going to pass this fee into law. And I’m going to continue to work with Congress on common-sense financial reforms to protect people and the economy from the kind of costly and painful crisis we’ve just been through. Because after a very tough two years, after a crisis that has caused so much havoc, if there is one lesson that we can learn, it’s this: we cannot return to business as usual.

Thank you very much.
Now will he walk the walk?

Please give it up for Aaron Neville, Gregg Allman & And Bonnie Raitt as they Tell It Like It Is

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You're the devil in disguise

Google Pat Robertson today, and the top 2 auto-fills Google returns are "pat robertson haiti" & pat robertson haiti earthquake". Wonder why?

Well, Robertson has pissed into the punchbowl of decent people everywhere:
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about," Robertson said Tuesday.

"They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, 'Ok it’s a deal.' And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another," Robertson said.

First, your history is wrong. Napolean Bonaparte, not 'Napolean the third and whatever' sent 20,000 French soldiers to retake the island after they wrote a new constitution. Problem was that yellow fever decimated the French army which was then beaten by Haitian forces. Satan had no part in this struggle. Napolean III wasn't even born until 1808, 6 years after the Hatian Revolution.

Second, what in Hell is wrong with you? I'm pretty sure Jesus, who you claim to worship and adore, wouldn't discuss the reason for the earthquake before wading in to help the poor Haitian people. And He might take issue with your bitching about it:
'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'

So for the first time in 2010, I hereby award our Golden Douch award to Pat Robertson:


Places to donate to Haitian Relief:

Wyclef Jean:
Either you can use your cell phone to text “Yele” to 501501, which will automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund (it will be charged to your cell phone bill), or you can visit and click on DONATE.
American Red Cross:
Those wanting to aid in relief efforts can also text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross.

Doctors Without Borders:
Your gift today will support emergency medical care for the men, women, and children affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Please give as generously as you can to our Haiti Earthquake Response and help us save lives.

Sailor here, what SteveAudio said and some more links:

Oxfam-Earthquake hits Haiti – help urgently needed
I've worked with Oxfam before at benefits. They are among the best international charities I know of.

You want to volunteer, but not sure how? These people may be able to help.
I'm going to mostly ignore politics for the moment, except to point out the differences in response between Haiti and New Orleans.
- Haiti has 8 million people. New Orleans had 1/2 a million.
- Haiti is 700 miles to the east of the USA. New Orleans is in the USA.
- Haiti was struck by a natural disaster, and President Obama immediately responded. New Orleans was struck by a natural disaster and pResident Bush said 'heckuva job Brownie.'

The next time someone says there's no difference between Bush and Obama? You have my permission to set them straight.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

And the white knight is talking backwards, And the Red Queen's "Off with her head!"

The wrongwingers are constantly calling for various people in President Obama's administration to be fired. Whether it's because this person supports unions or that person is gay &c, it's just so much noise, even if at times it's succeeded.

But I'm joining them today to call on one member of the admin to not only be fired but to be indicted for conspiracy and manslaughter charges.

Meet Nina Dozoretz:
Officials Hid Truth About Immigrant Deaths in Jail

In February 2007, in the case of the dying African man, the immigration agency’s spokesman for the Northeast, Michael Gilhooly, rebuffed a Times reporter’s questions about the detainee, who had suffered a skull fracture at the privately run Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey.
But, records show, he had already filed a report warning top managers at the federal agency about the reporter’s interest and sharing information about the injured man, a Guinean tailor named Boubacar Bah. Mr. Bah, 52, had been left in an isolation cell without treatment for more than 13 hours before an ambulance was called.

While he lay in the hospital in a coma after emergency brain surgery, 10 agency managers in Washington and Newark conferred by telephone and e-mail about how to avoid the cost of his care and the likelihood of “increased scrutiny and/or media exposure,” according to a memo summarizing the discussion.
Among the participants in the conferences was Nina Dozoretz, a longtime manager in the agency’s Division of Immigration Health Services who had won an award for cutting detainee health care costs. Later she was vice president of the Nakamoto Group, a company hired by the Bush administration to monitor detention. The Obama administration recently rehired her to lead its overhaul of detainee health care.
Read the whole thing. I'm with the Red Queen on this one. Off with her head.

Now for some brain bleach:

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

The misunderstood

The progressive Twitterverse got its collective underpants in a bunch today when Drudge Politico reported on Mark Halperin's upcoming bodice ripper. Ben Smith reports this nugget:

One of the enduring mysteries of the 2008 campaign was what got Ted Kennedy so mad at Bill Clinton. The former president's entreaties, at some point, backfired, and the explanation has never quite emerged.

I've finally gotten my hands on a copy of Game Change, in which John Heliemann and Mark Halperin report:

[A]s Hillary bungled Caroline, Bill’s handling of Ted was even worse. The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

Many were upset by the allegedly racist tone of Clinton's remark. And I'm no Clinton apologist; while there were things to admire about Bubba, there was much that was Teh Suck™.

But hold on a minute. When this was said, Bill was a popular former President, running a successful foundation, with a popular wife who was campaigning for the Presidency. Meanwhile, Barack Obama was a young junior senator from Illinois, also campaigning, somewhat improbably, for said Presidency.

So I think the comment was about position and prestige, a sort of "Hey kid, get offa my lawn! I'm the Big Dawg!" moment having nothing to do with race. I could be wrong, but I really think that's all there is.

And stalwart Dem activists wallowing in outrage? Get over it, quickly. There are so many items of real outrage to deal with rather than step into Halperin's manufactured crap. He's grinning all the way to the bank as he know righty oppo researchers and wanking heads will be inhaling this book and regurgitating it all over Fox News.

Please don't help them.

This band was from Riverside, CA, where I went to high school with Glenn Ross Campbell, the fellow at the bottom of the picture, and the band's steel guitar player. Yep, I said steel guitar, in a rock context. Nice, eccentric guy, and a heck of a musician.

More about Glenn here:
Glenn Ross Campbell born in 1946, is a child prodigy Steel guitarist, most noted for being lead guitarist of cult band, The Misunderstood[1][2]. The Misunderstood were a psychedelic rock band originating from Riverside, California in the mid-1960s. The band moved to London early in their career, and although they recorded only a handful of songs before being forced to disband, they are considered highly influential in the then-emerging genre[3][4]. Influenced by The Yardbirds, the distinctive feature of their sound was Campbell's steel guitar. Rolling Stone Magazine (Issue 956) in a September 2, 2004 review describe the Misunderstood's Campbell as "Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page rolled into one."[5][6].

Friday, January 08, 2010

They've warned you as it drains away, But you don't listen

Update below

What's up with Fire Dog Lake these days!? First Jane Hamsher joins Grover Norquist and now Marcy Wheeler aligns with large corporations. I expect smear tactics from Faux News, but this is a non-story that's now all over the news. Here are some of the headlines:
FDL:Jonathan Gruber Failed to Disclose His $392,600 Contracts with HHS

Faux News actually had a more accurate headline: Economist Was Under Contract With HHS While Touting Health Reform Bill
Here is the relevant part of The New England Journal of Medicine's conflict of interest policy:
Public funding sources, such as the NIH or the MRC, need not be disclosed.
Professor Gruber wasn't paid by the Obama Administration, he had a grant from HHS. Just like my work is paid for by a grant from the NIH. Obama can't just call up any Federal agency and get a paper written, all of these grants are peer reviewed at multiple stages.

How do these people think research gets done? Would they rather corporations pay for it? So what if reporters didn't do due diligence, they don't even fact check, and no one has suggested that anything Gruber has said isn't factual. And it's not like he gets all the money, there's overhead for MIT, technical and administrative support services, researchers.

The folks at FDL are doing everything they can to stop health care reform, even dishonest smear tactics like this, trying to make some conspiracy theory out of what is publicly available information. In fact, their 'source' was a website setup by the Obama Admin.

Their stance on HCR aligns them with insurance companies, the US Chamber of Commerce and drug corporations.

I still have hopes we'll get a better bill, but my god if all those folks are against it, then I'll take what I can get.

Update: I stand corrected by a commenter, Prof. Gruber didn't receive a grant, it was a "CONTINUATION OF TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE FOR EVALUATING OPTIONS FOR NATIONAL HEALTHCARE REFORM"

And the contracts are only 2 of 18 contracts he has received from the Federal gov't since 2002. From everybody from the DOJ, to the DOD, to the HHS, to the State Department.

This is what happens when you're a leading expert in economic analysis.
Here is a list of his publications since 1991.

He's been writing papers about HCR since at least 1995.

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Thursday, January 07, 2010

'Cause I can play this here guitar, Pt. 29

To piggyback on a post I did recently on Bach for the guitar, here's another version of what is commonly called "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". To all you hotshot guitarists out there, all I have to say is: Try. To. Play. This. Then fall down on your knees and worship true rock'n'roll guitar, as shown by fine classical guitarist Ronnie Wiesauer:

This guy has serious skills, and deserves a listen.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

How can a place be 100 degrees in the summer and 7 in the winter!?

Well, I'm going where the water tastes like wine

There were many wonderful bands in L.A. in the late '60s. Among them was a blues band called Canned Heat. I was lucky to see them several times, including both these memorable gigs:
Also recorded live at the Kaleidoscope around this time was the album which would find later 1971 release with the deceptive title, Live At Topanga Corral (later renamed Live at the Kaleidoscope), under Wand Records; as Liberty Records didn’t want to release live album at the time and manager Skip Taylor did not want a lawsuit.[9] The band would end 1968 in a big way at a New Year's show in L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium with Bob Hite riding a painted purple dayglo elephant to the stage[10].

Actually, it was the Shrine Exposition Hall, on the north side of the Shrine Auditorium, where many great concerts took place in the mid-late '60s. The elephant with Bob 'Bear' Hite riding came in from the main entrance doors, and walked slowly toward the stage. Bear was wearing nothing but a diaper, as a proper New Year's baby should do. When they got to the stage, Bear hopped onto the stage and the elephant, who I assume was being led by a handler, left peacefully.

Here's a poster from the Kaleidoscope concert. I'm pretty sure it was Saturday, March 23 when I went with 2 friends/band members:

I had a poster for this show for many years, I guess it's lost now. The building housing the Kaleidoscope has been many venues during its life, as this web site presents:

The glamorous supper club - theatre was built by Carroll to supplement his highly successful New York landmark. The lavish establishment featured a huge revolving stage, swings which dropped from the ceiling, &
"The Most Beautiful Showgirls
in the World".

After Carroll's death in a 1948 plane crash, the theater was sold, then reopened in 1953 as a dinner club, the Moulin Rouge, home to 50's TV show "Queen For A Day".

Later, in the mid 60s, after the successful run of John Hartmann's Kaleidoscope, The theater was home to Gary Bookasta's "the Hullabaloo", a popular teen hangout/nightclub which featured many of the popular new bands (Yellow Payges, Palace Guard, Wild Ones, Pat & Lolly Vegas, etc.), of the era.

The theater would later undergo major renovations and reopen as the Aquarius Theatre, home of the West Coast production of the revolutionary stage musical, "HAIR". The Aquarius also became known for staging Rock Concerts featuring many of the biggest 60s groups.

Here's what was special about Canned Heat. From the Playboy After Dark series, this live appearance shows both raw blues as well as the lovely "Going Up The Country" as sung by Alan 'Blind Owl' Wilson. Note especially Blind Owl's superb blues harp playing. The opening and ending are cut off, but it's still a fine performance by one of L.A.'s best blues bands:

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Yeah, that always works.

from Media Matters:

Hardly a moment goes by without some well-meaning prat inappropriately offering up their disembodied force in the clouds as a temporal band-aid for some earthly woe...But Brit Hume takes the mumbo-pocus to a whole new level of officious presumption.

'Once the news value dies out of this scandal...' - Of course, the perception that there was any news value in a celebrity's domestic squabble being highly subjective - "The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith," Hume said.
"He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

My message to Brit Hume would be stop pushing your personal (and highly uninformed) experience of faith into places where it doesn't belong, like other people's private lives that are no business of yours...And stick to propagandizing for failed political ideologies that bring the world to the brink of chaos and keep the Dow Jones high for your investor-class bourbon fancier friends, you publicly pious gasbag you.