Saturday, December 31, 2005

Stand or fall, state your peace tonight

My friend RJ Eskow, writing both at his own place as well as at HuffPo, has started a little 'thing', wherein he asks us to be self-critical. Starting here he says:
Some Democrats would rather be victims than losers, like those who wrote me angry emails after this recent piece. In it, I call Democrat leaders "perennial losers" who lack nerve and don't act tactically. Democrats don't lose, say my correspondents, they win - only to have the elections stolen from them by Diebold, a crooked Supreme Court, and other conspiracies

Fellow HuffPoster Jane Smiley responds thus:
I was thinking that the spy scandal was being expertly taken care of without my input, what with Martin Garbus, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, and Barron's magazine hot on the "president's" tail. My plan was to continue reading Les Rougons-Macquart in peace, but then I read RJ Eskow's blog about the Democrats, and while I thought it was insightful and well-argued, there was one thing I disagree with, and that is that the point of the whole spy scandal, now that Bush has been caught and has admitted breaking the law, is not whether the Democrats can find a way to be electable, it is whether the Republican Party is a criminal enterprise, and whether average Republicans, both in and out of the government, are going to countenance and support unnecessary and shamelessly unlawful behavior.

Not being one to give up without a bit of contrast, RJ answers back here:
Jane Smiley has posted an eloquent and well-written piece in response to one of mine entitled "Democrats: Losers or Victims?" In it, she suggests we not concentrate on the Democrats, but on the venality of the GOP, the "winners and perpetrators."

Jane summarizes the lawless and immoral state of the Republican Party well - but, then what?

Who's going to defeat them and take their place? There's no effective and meaningful opposition party. We may agree on who the villains are, but there's no hero in sight. And that means we know how the story's going to end.
I try to define an objective for each post I write - not because I think I'm a world-shaking influence leader, but because somebody's going to read it. So I stop and think - am I trying to cheer up the discouraged, suggest a new perspective on an old issue, encourage the growth of another writer's "meme" that I consider important, or hector progressives and Democrats into more effective and meaningful opposition? I'd put the "Losers or Victims" piece in that last category.

See, the thing is, I think they both have "rightness" in their arguments. Jane's point is well taken, that the current administration blah blah, well, we know their perfidy. As the Abramoff debacle unfolds, heads and careers will likely roll and asses will be carted off to jail.

Bur Richard's premise is, I feel, really important, Certainly, as some of his commentors said, Progressives and Democrats don't need snappy sound bites and slogans, we already have most of the good ideas. But Jack & Julie Sixpack hear those soundbites, as well as those of the opposition, and they have effect, whether we like them or not.

So as a form of New Year's Resolution, I ask/challenge any and all, readers, commentors, fellow bloggers, to state our goals. What exactly do we stand for? And if you do it in a clever CNN-ready sound bite, what the heck, go for it. Let's have some big ideas.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What have they done to my song

A mother in upstate New York has been targeted by the RIAA (Recording Industry Assoc. of America) for illegal downloading of copyrighted music, according to the AP:

Santangelo says she has never downloaded a single song on her computer, but the industry didn't see it that way. The woman from Wappingers Falls, about 80 miles north of New York City, is among the more than 16,000 people who have been sued for allegedly pirating music through file-sharing computer networks.

. . .

If the downloading was done on her computer, Santangelo thinks it may have been the work of a young friend of her children. Santangelo, 43, has been described by a federal judge as "an Internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from kazoo, and who can barely retrieve her email." Kazaa is the peer-to-peer software program used to share files.

. . .

She did not look like someone who would have downloaded songs like Incubus'"Nowhere Fast," Godsmack's "Whatever" and Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life," all of which were allegedly found on her computer.

Her former lawyer, Ray Beckerman, says Santangelo doesn't really need him.

"I'm sure she's going to win," he said. "I don't see how they could win. They have no case. They have no evidence she ever did anything. They don't know how the files appeared on her computer or who put them there."

Now I'll be the first to admit that this may not exactly be the poster child case for the industry to pursue. This woman is not the prototype of the serious downloader, who then shares the music with lots of other folks via other peer-to-peer networks, or by simply burning CDs and passing them around.

She also says this:
Santangelo said her biggest issue is with Kazaa for allowing children to download music without parental permission. "I should have gotten at least an e-mail or something notifying me," she said.

Telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment from the Australia-based owner of Kazaa, Sharman Networks Ltd., were not returned.

I am sympathetic with her complaint about Kazaa, which is really a pernicious entity. But my problems with Kazaa are not the same as hers.

She also said, on TV report, words to the effect that: "My kids, didn't download all this music on my computer, which I own, and even if they did, they didn't know it was wrong."

We'll parse this gem in a moment.

Others in this tiff have a different take from the RIAA:
The David-and-Goliath nature of the case has attracted considerable attention in the Internet community. To those who defend the right to such "peer-to-peer" networks and criticize the RIAA's tactics, Santangelo is a hero.

Jon Newton, founder of an Internet site critical of the record companies, said by e-mail that with all the settlements, "The impression created is all these people have been successfully prosecuted for some as-yet undefined 'crime'. And yet not one of them has so far appeared in a court or before a judge. ... She's doing it alone. She's a courageous woman to be taking on the multibillion-dollar music industry."

Again, I sympathize with Ms. Santangelo. But then again I don't.

Imagine if her kids had been arrested shoplifting. No one would be too sympathetic in that case, as clearly the law would have been broken. But for reasons not easily understood, other forms of stealing are deemed more acceptable by some people today.

There seems to be an air of entitlement among many people today. Critics on the Far Right argue that this started in the '60s with pot smoking hippies, but I disagree. Certainly there were those in that time who felt, in a sometimes socialistic and sometimes just selfish way that "stuff" ought to be free. But I feel it really became a wide spread way of thinking during the More Me Reagan era. Regardless, we see it in many areas of society, from people who cut in line at ticket windows, who cut other drivers off, who demand that we listen to their phone calls in public places, to those who think the intellectual property and work of others is theirs to plunder at will.

I am no fan of the way record companies do business, as any regular reader of my blog knows. See here, here, here, and here for some of my further thoughts on the inner workings of the music business. But one point needs to be hammered home again and again:

Stealing is stealing.

The crime, as stated by Newton above, is hardly as-yet undefined. If someone makes copies of a book at Kinko's, then distributes these copies to friends, there are two crimes here: Theft, and Receiving Stolen Property. It's really simple. And it applies to copies of software, music, and other properties which seem to some like Christmas cookies, meant to be shared with friends. But that really is just plain silly.

Back to Ms. Santangelo's kids, who she declared were unaware that they were wrongdoing. Bullshit. They knew they were downloading copyrighted properties, they just didn't give a crap. After all, it's just music. And they were entitled to it. I mean, it's not like someone had to really work hard to create the music, then record it, mass produce the CDs, truck them to stores, arrange for corporate sponsorship for the tour (more about this to come), hire people to engineer the recordings and tune the instruments, or a thousand other tasks. All that mattered was that they wanted the music.

Heck, I want a new computer. Perhaps I can go to Ms. Santangelo's house and just take hers. Seems the same to me.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

And so this is Christmas

For this Holiday, I searched for something to say, something witty, something deep...some thought that might encapsulate all the turmoil and distress we have felt, and yet show a positive spirit of progressive movement, and faith in both humanity and our future.

I could do no better than this:

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Jim's nuts roasting on an open fire

There is no one in the bloggersphere more funny and witty than the proprieter of tbogg. Holy crap, this dude is funny, and, well, kinda nasty. He wields words like some mad surgeon slicing and dicing Righty giblets with his shiny scalpel, all the while cackling like Colin Clive before he threw the big switch.

This year he gives us all his greatest gift: (note: copied in its entirety simply because I couldn't stand to cut it up.)

A Very Lileks Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and through Jasperwood
We shut it down early, like good Lutherans should.
The presents were finished with none left to wrap.
In each festive package some more Target™ crap.

Gnat tucked in her bed and dreaming sweet thoughts,
After one boring story and three Nyquil™ shots
And mama was upstairs beginning to snore
While I finished watching Stargate Season Four.

When out on the lawn there arose a kerfluffle
Startled, my foreheads, they started to ruffle
I snuck to the windows and peeked through the drapes
But I could see nothing, my knees they did quake

The moon it shown down on the undisturbed snow
That I had not moved since my blower won’t blow.
There was someone out there! Someone bad I just knew it.
If only I was brave like my good friend Hugh Hewitt

There’s bad people out there they envy our stuff,
Because they've no Targets, their life is quite rough..
They want to invade us and make us their slaves.
Live in our ranchstyles, not in their dark caves.

Islamists! Jihadis! and Birkenstocked hipsters!
They'll destroy our pop culture and marry our sisters
No more "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year"
They'l make fun of my matchbook collection, I fear.

These people are evil, they must be interned
Or they'll fly into buildings, this much we have learned.
I can't live in a world without DVD sets
But my wife is relieved there will be no more sex

And then in a twinkling I heard a small crash
Like a door that was opened too quickly, too fast.
This is it! I just know it! They've invaded our block!
Up the walkway, the stairs to the door they did knock.

Because of the wife I don't have a gun
She said if I did I'd blow off my left thumb
So I went to the door and peeked through the crack
Omigawd, it's a man! Omigawd, he is black!

He stood there and waited and rapped hard once more
I knew it was hopeless, I opened the door.
And there stood a UPS man all in brown
He held a small package, his face held a frown.

"I've got a package for Lileks", he held out a pad
I grabbed it and signed it, I scribbled like mad
He gave me the box and he went on his way
No "Merry Christmas" No "Happy holidays".

I slammed close the door, my heart slowed a little.
But the front of my pants showed I'd done a small piddle.
So I went to the kitchen and I put on the kettle
And soon my fast breathing, it started to settle.

I made some green tea and I climbed up the stairs
My wife sat there giving me one of those stares.
"Well, that was a close one", as I set down my cup.
She said, "Jim come to bed... and shut the fuck up."

Listen, do you want to know a secret

Nobody asked, yet still I answer, just for fun.

Four jobs you've had in your life: Recording studio tech, computer tech, guitar teacher, direct mail print shop droid.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Monty Python anything, Chinatown, Hitchcock anything, Concert for Bangladesh.

Four places you've lived: Los Angeles, Yorba Linda, Huntington Beach, Victorville.

Four TV shows you love to watch: West Wing, Daily Show, Law & Order SVU, Medium.

Four places you've been on vacation: San Francisco, Las Vegas, Sonoma, Texas.

Four websites you visit daily: BuzzFlash, Eschaton, Eric Alterman, DailyKos, Crooks & Liars, Fire Dog Lake. (yeah, I know that more than four, deal with it.)

Four of your favorite foods: soft French cheeses, pistachios, chicken tikka masala, chips and salsa.

Four places you'd rather be: South of France, San Francisco, New York City, Washington DC.

Rather than pass it on, I'll just ask readers to either take it up themselves, or leave comments.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Listen, people, to what, I say

In 1972 I made my hippie pilgrimage to Europe. With a long departed ex, an acoustic guitar, and a back pack, I traveled through most of continental Europe.

I had taken 3 years of High School German, and had done well with it. I have some natural aptitude for languages, and after just a few days in Italy, I was able to count, ask directions, and generally get by. My ex, who had studied High School French, found her command of it had vaporized. It was no fault of her own, just different wiring.

With my basic German, a little Italian, and a few words of French, and with many Europeans speaking English, we got by just fine. And my German skills progressed as I picked up vocabulary and colloquialisms not taught in class. I considered that, as a visitor, speaking in a country's mother tongue was the least I could do.

We met my Grandparents in Italy, when they came over for a week's vacation. And sadly, we now had a minor version of The Ugly American. My Grandfather, a fairly taciturn and often gruff individual during the best of times, was frustrated by not being able to find American coffee. And why didn't everyone speak English? I didn't point out the obvious, that re: coffee, well, this wasn't America, and re: English, virtually everyone he came in contact with did, in fact, speak English.

Here, finally, is my point. I spent some time this evening in a large chain department store, picking up some last minute goodies. And I noticed that every sign in the store was in 2 languages: English and Spanish. And as I wandered the aisles, I heard many conversations in Spanish, as well as other, more exotic languages. Clearly, America is, and has always been, a nation of immigrants.

I may be going against what some perceive as the true spirit of Liberalism and multiculturalism, but I do have one request of our recent arrivals:

Learn the damn language.

I truly believe that heritage is precious, and that cultural uniqueness and languages should be passed on. My son in law, born of Hispanic parents, grew up speaking only English, such was the parent's drive to assimilate. He has had to learn Spanish as an adult. While I admire this effort of his parents to blend, he was deprived of a rich tradition that he's only now getting re-acquainted with.

A friend of mine and his Chinese descent wife recently adopted an orphan from China. And wife, with the help of her Chinese born parents is making sure that baby is learning both languages. This is the right approach, in my opinion.

Contrast this to many of the customers that came into Pam's store. It was situated in a part of the San Fernando Valley with many immigrants, primarily from Iran, Russia, and Israel. And regularly people complained that she didn't speak Farsi, or Hebrew. And these were people who in some cases had lived here for many years.

Pam traveled to Europe in July, and commented that while in Paris, a world class tourist destination, multi-lingual signage was very evident. But when she traveled down to Bordeaux, it was French only. And that makes perfect sense, as less tourists venture to Bordeaux.

But please tell me that Target, in the Valley, really needs bi-lingual signage. I understand capitalism, they want to reach all consumers. So be it. But people, if you're going to live here, please:

Learn the damn language.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Try to see it my way

The Beatles acting as Apple Records have filed suit against EMI Music, parent company of Capitol Records here in Hollywood (Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that unpaid royalties is going on in here!) claiming that:

On Thursday, Apple Records — which is owned by surviving members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and the families of George Harrison and John Lennon — launched legal action in the High Court in London against EMI Group and in the Supreme Court in New York against EMI subsidiary Capitol Records.

Apple Records said in a statement that an audit has determined EMI had not been fulfilling its contract and that the legal action is the result of a breakdown in negotiations between the two sides.

"Despite very clear provisions in our contract, EMI persist in ignoring their obligations and duty to account fairly and with transparency. Apple and The Beatles are, once again, left with no choice but to sue EMI," the company said, adding the claim that it is owed 30 million pounds (about $53 million US).

EMI owns the copyright, in perpetuity, to recordings made by the Beatles.

An EMI spokesperson has declined comment on the litigation, but said that artists requesting an audit of their record label's accounts are "not unusual, but sometimes there are differences of opinion, especially when the contracts are large and complex."
I was lucky (well, I also have a pretty good skill set) to work in Capitol Studios for 5 years, the longest job I have ever held as an adult. And while there, I wasn't really privy to much of what went on at the label, as the studio tried very hard to remain independent. But I did see and hear things, and I was directly able to see the product coming out of the label. And folks, it wasn't pretty.

The label is getting a little, well, mature, shall we say, and while The Beatles have clearly been a tremendous revenue stream, still, Capitol will always be know less as the house that Frank built and more as the home of the Beatles and Beach Boys. And while the musical contributions by those groundbreaking groups largely changed the face of music and the music business forever, they haven't exactly been burning up the charts lately.

The person who ran the label most of the time I was there had been in A&R at another label where he did his career wonders by signing Nirvana. Insider stories abound regarding the truth of that situation, but regardless his name will evermore be connected with the band from Seattle. But as President of Capitol, he had yet to make his mark. In an effort to youth-ify the label, he downplayed releases by label stalwarts like Bonnie Raitt, and dropped aging yet still viable artists like Bob Seger and Richard Marx.

In what clearly seemed like an attempt to re-capture the market share of Nirvana fans, he signed Everclear. We see how that worked. They are finally starting to move some units, but still...

The interesting point about all this is that toward the end of every year, it seemed like suddenly a new Beatles product came out. I know, because I always got them as company Christmas presents. Again and again the company continued to strip-mine the Beatles catalog, in what seemed an effort to make year-end numbers and raise dividends.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Anthology. And how I feel about the Beatles' place in history has been recently made clear in my recent post here, cross posted at HuffPo and nicely covered by John @ Crooks & Liars.

But I can't help wonder, if the numbers are down for the company year after year, maybe the label treats to books like Paramount treated Art Buchwald, by reporting that the movie made no profit, by extremely creative book cooking.

I don't know, I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

..cause I've seen the dark side too

In the furor surrounding Tookie William's execution, a specific hypocrisy, often manifested by right wingers, wasn't discussed. I have no fancy name for it, but I know it when I hear it. Perhaps we'll call it "It's someone else's problem."

The practitioners of this hypocrisy are often those who take strong and inflexible positions regarding law and order, and other social constructs. Here's one example:

My work in recording studios takes me to some unlikely places. For several years two of my major clients were evangelical Christian Mega-churches that had record labels and recording studios. One day during some major legal drama, perhaps OJ, one of the guys there was whining about "Damn liberal defense lawyers." You know, the typical crap. I asked him what he would do if his son/brother/wife etc. were arrested and charged with murder, who would he want as an attorney? After a few seconds he sheepishly said "Johnnie Cochran, I guess." It all changes when it's not someone else's problem.

I also guarantee that the same Conservative Christian Republican-voting guy would suddenly embrace the Innocence Project, the ACLU, Barry Scheck, CSI-style DNA testing, habeus corpus filing defense attorneys and the DNC if they thought it would save their loved one. It all changes when it's not someone else's problem.

When I asked the same guy about the Commandment: Thou shalt not kill, he responded that that was not the right translation. It should say 'murder'. When I pointed out that the Bible on the pulpit of his own church used the word 'kill', he quickly changed the subject.

During the Laguna Beach fires a while back, people who owned lavish homes suddenly became Federal welfare cases, hands held out greedily for help. Knowing how the OC typically votes, I'll bet many of them previously would have scolded Medicaid and food stamp recipients.

Perspective is a bitch. Suddenly things look very different when it happens to you. People who are so quick to judge and condemn would be wise to follow the counsel of the religion they claim to follow.

Most religions have some form or other of what is often referred to as the Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you would wish them do unto you
Christianity contains these, for example:
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.
"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.
"...and don't do what you hate...", Gospel of Thomas 6. The Gospel of Thomas is one of about 40 gospels that were widely accepted among early Christians, but which never made it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).
And even 'Godless' Islam has this:
"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths."

Judgment passed on others is judgment passed on yourself. If abortion is murder, execution is, and no rhetorical gymnastics changes that.

Murder is murder.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Johnny get angry, johnny get mad

The lovely and talented John Amato, founder of the increasingly popular blog Crooks & Liars, and a friend of ours, was featured in the LATimes today: (note: annoying but harmless registration required)

For political junkies, must-see TV once meant sitting through hours of "Crossfire," "Hannity & Colmes" and "Meet the Press," hoping for the occasional gem. Nowadays, to catch Robert Novak turning the air blue on "Inside Politics" or work yourself into an apoplectic lather over our politicians' latest truth-challenged utterances, you can point your browser to , the brainchild of 47-year-old West L.A. musician and liberal-Democrat John Amato. Since last fall, he has been serving up political dish from a decidedly blue-state perspective with daily posts of video and audio streams.

. . .

What is the blogging community like? Do you guys socialize?

There are a lot of bloggers in Los Angeles, even a few big conservative blogs. Another blogger said, "Let's have a blogger barbecue," and there were like 50 people there. [Most of the guests] were liberal; I gather some were Republicans. We're making some great friendships. There are a lot of characters.
John found a niche that is unique, putting up clips from TV and other sources so that atrocities that might have been missed are now being seen by thousands of readers. He does the heavy lifting so that others may watch and learn. He is definitely the hardest working man in blog business.

Of course John is referring in his interview to the little soiree held here at House of Audio last August, where we had several of the really bright lights of the left-leaning political bloggersphere, including the also lovely and talented Jane Hamsher who also co-hosted the party with us, Mr. & Mrs. tbogg, mr. & mrs. skippy, Mr. & Mrs. Kevin Drum, Arianna Huffington, and a cast of thousands.

Some other posts on the event:

Jane Hamsher,
The Broad View,

The point of this is that supporting and helping other activists, whether it's the volunteers who make calls or register voters, professional writers who have a large scale voice, or bloggers you really enjoy reading, will truly pay off. The liberal message is starting to resonate with more Americans, not just because of all the crap the Repubs have been pulling but also because the view we hold dear are felt by most Americans according to polls. They just don't know it yet, and books, speeches, newspapers, and blogs all help spread our message.

In the 4 months since we had the 1st Annual LA Bloggers Barbecue, with a follow-up at Brian Linse's place in October lots has happened. Scooter (what an ass-wipe of a nick name) Libby and Tom DeLay have been indicted, plans are being made to reduce troop strength in Iraq, and GWBush's poll numbers are falling like Jeff Gannon's shorts in a DC mens' room. The tide is turning.

To any other bloggers who read this, connect with like minds in your area. Admittedly here in Los Angeles we have a pretty large concentration of talent, but there are so many out there, Reach out to your fellow bloggers and activists, the payback is greater visibility and greater penetration into main stream media, and thence into the living rooms of voters.

Also, in the bloggersphere, 2 more bloggers are on their way to becoming true rock stars of the genre: John Amato, and Jane Hamsher, who has done spectacular work on PlameGate.

Mad props to them, and to all who spend their time so passionately trying to stem the tide of Intelligent Design and tax cuts for the wealthy.

God bless us, everyone.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Eastern world, it is explodin...

We attended a special screening of Syriana, the new George Clooney film not about Edward R. Murrow, hosted last night by our friend Arianna Huffington, & Lawrence Bender, at Warner Bros. tonight. Q & A after was handled by Arianna & Stephen Gaghan, the writer/director fo the film, who previous won an Oscar for Traffic.

Fascinating film, very timely in its look at US government intervention in Middle Eastern affairs. Not an easy film, no spoon feeding of plot ideas and characterizations, this film makes one really work and think, and that, among its other virtues, made it a really enjoyable experience.

Playing against type, Clooney gained weight and became an 'everyman' schlub, as the CIA operative who, by being the consummate insider, failed to grasp what was going on outside his sphere of influence.

Gaghan answered questions after, and was eloquent, witty, driven, and intelligent in his recounting of the development of the film. His description of actually meeting uberMacher Richard Perle added insight into the deviant thinking and mendacious spirit that has driven the USA's current foray into Iraq, as well as the larger picture of world socio-political dynamics in the Middle East.

While not claiming to be authoritative, Gaghan is insightful and well read re: the Middle East, and offers not so much answers as directions for further discovery and thought.

He concluded his remarks by saying that he was hopeful and positive, that the world was tilting slightly off axis, but that there seemed to be change taking place in a positive direction.

From his lips to God's ears.

Update: Cross posted at Huffington Post here:

Saturday, December 03, 2005

If there's anything that you want, if there's anything I can do

jedmunds over at Pandagon has a post I simply must respond to, in which he/she(?) opines thus:

Well, I can't say that I ever dug the Beatles too much. In context, I can appreciate them, but like I say, you can't "rock out" to context. And all in all, I'm more or less indifferent to listening to their albums, which are fine, but meaningless to me.

All I can say, respectfully, is 'kids today!' Debating this will, to some, permanently place me in the camp of "old dude who doesn't get it." Well, kids, as someone who spends every day either in recording studios, or working with engineers and producers who also spend every day in studios, let me 'esplain' that, in the warm reality of modern music, you don't get it. Here's why.

The Beatles, in terms of rock (pop, whatever) music, changed everything.

Let me establish some bona fides first. I have worked in recording studio and the music business for over 30 years. In the last 3 or 4 years alone, I worked in studios responsible for music from:

Bad Religion
Backyard Babies
Michelle Shocked
Lucinda Williams
Badly Drawn Boy
Dr. Dre
Gwen Stefani
John Frusciante
Killing Heidi
Evan & Jaron (yeah, I know)
and others I can't remember. So please don't think that, even though I'm an "old dude", I'm just into "Classic Rock." Heck, I don't even own a Boston album. And if I ever hear anything by Rush again, I'm gonna scream. I love new music, all music, as long as it's good. Good is, of course, difficult to define, but you know it when you hear it. Sometimes.

Anyway, back to my thesis:

The Beatles, in terms of rock (pop, whatever) music, changed everything.
Here's what I mean.

1. Prior to the Beatles, and during a large part of their music output, artists recorded where record labels dictated. Labels all owned their own studios, including one of the most famous, Capitol Studios, where I worked for 5 years. And EMI, Capitol's parent company since the '50s, also had several studios in England, in the London Area, specifically, including one called Abbey Road. I'm sure the conversation went something like this: "All right then, lads, lets go 'round to Abbey Road, and make an album this afternoon."

By the end of their recording career, the lads had broken that hold, and were recording anywhere they wanted, even at some of the independent studios not affiliated with record labels.

Today, every band enjoys that freedom.

2. Prior to the Beatles, artists recorded when record labels dictated. Sessions were 3 hour blocks, called 'singles'. And for pop music, being recorded on only 3 or 4 tracks at that time, the single was enough time to lay down, at the very least, one 'single' side, or song (one side of a 45 rpm single.) In many cases, with good pre-production and session players, 2 or 3 songs would be finished in a single session.

Sessions ran roughly 10AM-1PM, 2PM-5PM, and 6PM-9PM. The Beatles broke down both of those walls in several ways. First, after their initial success, they started their sessions whenever the hell they wanted, including midnight, if that was their mood. And as the music got more experimental, and complex, and as more drugs were ingested, the sessions became longer, and longer, and longer. And that meant hours of recording, re-recording, and mixing for a single song. Was EMI freaked by this extravagance? Yes, but, as long as the records continued to sell, they agreed. Hell, these were The Beatles, who was gonna tell them no?

Today, most artists enjoy these freedoms.

3. Prior to the Beatles artists recorded with whom record labels dictated. EMI matched The Beatles with George Martin, which would have seemed completely insane, considering that the classically trained Martin's prior work was largely with comedy recorded acts, in other words, someone working a non-emotionally connected day gig. He largely hated pop music, and only agreed to work with the lads because...wait for it...IT WAS HIS JOB! He had no choice! "Right, George, we think these boys might have something unique, see if you can polish it up a bit." "Uh, righto, then, boss."

Engineers at that time were on staff at studio. You worked with whatever engineer the studio assigned, sometimes even different engineers on the same song from day to day.The Beatles were lucky enough to have some continuity, working initially with Norman 'Hurricane' Smith, and later with Geoff Emerick (worked with him, very nice man, still really loves to work, recently produced/mixed Nellie McKay-check her out). And by this time, they had enough clout to take the engineers with them when they worked at outside studios, which previously was not allowed.

Today, only smaller owner-operator studio have staff engineers. Major studios have Assistant Engineers, who work with the independent free-lance engineers that are hired by directly by the artists. And today, while the label still initially has most of the say in who the producer is, successful artists choose whatever producer they want.

Also, keep in mind that many classic pop/rock records had very few of the actual band playing. Virtually all the Beach Boys records used the famous "Wrecking Crew" of famous studio musicians, many of whom played on records considered epiphonal by such other artists like The Byrds, etc. The Beatles used a session drummer or two in the very beginning, and brought in musicians for instruments that were out of their experience, like trumpet, etc, but otherwise, they played damn near all the isntrument, snd sang all the parts.

All artists today enjoy these freedoms.

4. Prior to the Beatles, and during a large part of their music output, artists recorded whatever the hell record labels dictated. They often had no or little choice in material, because not every act wrote all of its own music. Especially in the growing rock world, where most musicians didn't read music, songwriting was yet to really develop other than the really notables, like little Richad, Chuck Berry, etc. Many up-coming rockers were cutting, pasting, and adapting classic riffs from blues and hillbilly artists, who actually had much richer creative traditions. Even the classic Motown stuff, contemporaneous with The Beatles, was as rigid and formulaic, in its own way, as Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra. In other words, it was written by a composer, arranged by an arranger, conducted by a conductor, and mixed by a staff mixer. The whole process was a machine, with largely as much freedom as working within any machine.

But John, Paul, and to a lesser extent George, being sponges for all pop music from their '50s youth, as well as sensing the freedom that was slowly and grudgingly being given them by EMI, started writing and recording more of their own music. Keep in mind that Meet the... and Introducing the... were composed mostly of cover songs, with only a few originals each. Luckily the original songs were pretty good, and resonated with a young audience that was really tired of Bobby Vee and The Shirelles. And this early success, combined with John and Paul's rich listening habits and their own innate talent, resulted in an output of songs not often matched by any artists since. The notable exception, of course, being Springsteen, who seems to be able to write several good songs before breakfast every day.

Today, most artists enjoy that freedom.

These were revolutionary changes in the way music was made, and recorded. One can argue that they were changes ready to happen, and while that may be true, no one can argue that The Beatles weren't at the epicenter of these changes. They pushed envelopes, broke out of boxes, both musically as well as functionally, and changed the way record labels and recording studios operate forever.

On top of all that they wrote some damn fine songs. I have yet to hear, from many artists today whom I really love and respect, anything that doesn't owe some debt to The Beatles. I'm still waiting for someone to write a better pop tune than Please Please Me that doesn't also sound like a Beatles outtake.

And regarding musical innovation, which I haven't even touched on here, a few things they started or popularized that are still heard today are:

Strings with rock instruments
Telephone sounding vocals
Synths (Mini-Moog, specifically on Abbey Road)
Each person playing multiple instruments
Vocals through Leslie speakers
Automatic Double Tracking of vocals
Tape machine varispeed (esp. Strawberry Fields Forever)
Indian instruments ( yeah, I know Brian Jones was dabbling with sitar when he died, but, well, he died)
Bouncing tracks across multiple machine for more cumulative tracks
8 track recording

and perhaps the most important:

The Roadie.

Update: Cross posted at Huffington Post here:

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cuts like a knife

Just a thought:

TSA Would Allow Sharp Objects On Airliners

Now GWBush won't be all alone on flights.

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

My friend Arianna Huffington was on the Ron Reagan/Annoying Right-wing Blond show this morning on MSNBC, cast opposite wing nut Affirmative Action beneficiary David Limbaugh, also known as the less talented, less suave and debonair of the Limbaugh fils.

His big closer was something like:

"Well, you know Democrats (note use of plural noun, which loses them the opportunity to belittle Dems by using Democrat as an adjective. Anyway...) who are saying we need to Cut and Runtm voted to give the President total dictatorial power to attack any damn thing he wants with no warning or paperwork, so why are they bitching now? So he declared war on Iraq. What of it?"

If the quote isn't exactly accurate enough, please bite me.

This is known as Right Wing Smear Tactic #39: Criticize your opponent for something they didn't do, otherwise known as "That thing you did, you should be ashamed of."

Problem is, that's not what the resolution was. It was for more dialog, more diplomacy, and a return to Congress for an actual war resolution. Also, not to pick nits, but there was no declaration of war.

Oh no u di'int!

Of course Reagan, not exactly blessed with copious testosterone, didn't argue, Crowley drooled on Limbaugh's every word, and Arianna, who knows the truth, wasn't given a chance to rebut.

Liberal Media at work.


Friday, November 25, 2005

And up through the ground came a bubblin' crude

Hugo Chavez seems a bit of a jerk, I'll have to admit. His posturings and radical rhetoric often overshadow the actual good that he does. While some claim him to be the Hispanic Nelson Mandela, he would do well to study Mandela's methods, instead of trying to provoke knee jerk reaction from both his supporters and his enemies.

Still, this seems like a useful, if politically awkward offer of help:

Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, has pulled off his greatest public relations coup yet in his campaign to irritate the Bush Administration with a deal to supply cheap fuel to thousands of poor residents of Boston and New York.

To the anger of many in Washington, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, a company controlled by the Venezuelan Government, will supply more than 45 million litres of oil at 40 per cent below market prices.

The deal is one of the most spectacular moves yet in Mr Chavez's attempt to market his "21st-century socialism" using his country's oil wealth.

While it will not change many minds in Washington about his populist and autocratic regime, Caracas hopes it will bolster Mr Chavez's claim as the coming leader of an anti-capitalist Latin America. Mr Chavez, who once dubbed President George Bush a "genocidal madman" and led a huge anti-US protest earlier this month, first proposed his fuel offer in August when oil prices were at a record high after Hurricane Katrina.

Joe Kennedy, the chairman of Citizens Energy, one of the organisations that will distribute the oil, said the deal highlighted the failure of oil companies in the US and the Government to step in to help.

"Our government has made billions of dollars just this year on the royalty payments the oil companies pay to the Government," he said. But when it is a question of poor Americans, "what do we hear from Washington? Sorry boys. There's no money in the till."

Keep in mind, this is the same Chavez that almost was ousted in a US sponsered coup a while back, and who that paragon of Christian virtue Pat Robertson said:

We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.

The question, of course, is what matters to GWBush: saving face in a pissing match with Chavez, or actually helping Amricans who might have trouble buying gasoline.

We'll see. My bet is on saving face.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

We went to a very special event tonight, a screening of One Bright Shining Moment, the film about George McGovern and the very special assault he made on the malevolent political machine that was the Nixon Presidency in 1972.

What made the evening more special was that George McGovern was there to give a brief introduction. Afterward, he and the film's director Stephen Vittoria, took questions and gave spirited and complex answers for almost an hour and a half.

Many activists today won't really understand the dynamic of '72. Coming during the downward slide into hell of Viet Nam, the left and the peace movement, which had been largely dispirited by the horrible events of '68, became newly energized behind the Senator from South Dakota, an unlikely yet perfect candidate, much like it seemed Howard Dean might become last year.

Of course, there are many differences between McGovern and Dean, just as there are comparisons and contrasts between Iraq today and Viet Nam in the '70s. Yet one elemental bond gives both time periods commonality: the awakening of a hungry movement, a political force that could capture and change the minds of the American public as clearly happened then, and hopefully seems to be occurring today.

McGovern, unlike most politicians today, was unequivocal in his opinion against the Viet Nam War. He makes the statement in the film, echoed in person, that his misled vote for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in '64 was his biggest voting regret, and he compared that to the vote in 2003 to give authorization to GWBush to propel the equally mendacious war in Iraq forward. But other than that one exception, McGovern was staunch in his disapproval of the Southeast Asian war.

As is the case today, in a relevant and oft repeated parallel, those who dissented then, as McGovern did, were, and are still today tarred with the brush of 'treason,' He mentioned in the Q & A this week's statement by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) against the Iraq war, which predictibly drew cowardly references from the White House hit squad.

McGovern is a special man, whose clear grasp of history and current events made the film even more relevant than merely revisiting a moment where political advantage was lost. His message, made clear as the film unfolds, is that hope moves us forward, that the bastards won't wear us down. This is a film worth watching for any student of politics, and especially those who consider themselves activists today. And Vittoria's sharp direction, featuring interviews with those involved with the campaign like Gary Hart and Frank Mankiewicz, as well as observers such as Gore Vidal, Dick Gregory, and Warren Beatty, presents a vision that seems as clear and frustrating today is it did in '72.

And for those members of the Greater L.A. Blogger's Alliance in town this weekend, there are 2 showings on Sunday, 11/20, followed by Q & A. It would do you well to go see, and meet this mythic figure of progressive Democratic politics. His message is still as vibrant as it was in the infamous 3:00 AM acceptance speech at the '72 convention.


Note: music used in the film was excellent. I am always moved by Elvis Costello's reading of Nick Lowe's "Peace, Love, and Understanding" which played over the closing credits.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Party all the time, party all the time

Several of us, a loosely allied and rag tag bunch of LA bloggers, were invited to the home of the lovely and talented Arianna Huffington tonight for the impressive party she threw for Gawker Media/Yahoo/Huffington Post's new alliance. Bloggers in attendance beside us were Brian Linse (AintNoBadDude), Greg Saunders (TheTalentShow), Joseph and Alex (MartiniRepublic), Brad Friedman (BradBlog), John Amato (CrooksandLiars), Kevin Roderick (LA Observed), and others I likely missed.

Arianna was, as always, gracious. As when she came to the LA blogger party at our house last August, she meets and greets everyone equally, and makes each and everyone feel welcome and valuable. In her talk to the assembled masses, Arianna praised the direction blogging has taken the media, as witnessed by the successful pairing of Gawker & Yahoo.

That said, we also observed Ron Silver, who, like his character on West Wing, is a political animal with no true center, able and willing to swing with the breeze of convenience and shallow thought.

Mickey Kaus was also there, and I wanted to ask him what the hell he was thinking when he recently wrote, post-Katrina, that rescinding Davis-Bacon protection for local workers was a really groovy idea, to speed up government response and bypass bureaucracy. But I didn't.

I also had an interesting exchange with Paul Bond, West Coast Business Editor of The Hollywood Reporter, who, while charming, asked me I was thinking when I told Arianna that Woodward had again proven himself less than credible, while his
mea culpa with Len Downie was less about Bob and more about Len's loose standards.

Anyway, it was a pleasant gathering, Arianna was charming, and deserves thanks for opening her home to so many folks, and I'm just really glad that Silver didn't bring his latest squeeze, the effervescent and delightful Ann Coulter.

I might'a hurled.

for the bible tells me so...

Thanks to the indispensible Mom.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Now, if I'd known they'd line up just to see him,

We went to the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) tonight, and as glitzy exhibitions that charge too much for tickets and have convoluted entry methods go, it was a success.

I saw Tut on his first and only previous world tour in 1978, and he didn't disappoint. Some old material, some never before presented to American audiences, and tickets were only(?) $25 through Ticketmaster (bastards!).

But the audience has changed, some might say, matured. Tonight it was a show for and about parents, and their kids. Kids that pouted and fought. Infants that squawked and cried. Parents that talked on prohibited cell phones while their darlings fought like soccer hooligans having just sung the last verse of "You'll Never Walk Alone."

In short, what the hell is wrong with people? No infant will be edified and uplifted by seeing Tut's Canopic Jars. No 4 year old will relate unless Sponge Bob is somehow included in the show. And no adult ought to have to listen to screaming babies at a museum.

Call me intolerant. Today's parents feel it's their God given right, even duty, to parade their progeny to the world as if they alone had somehow been given the gift of procreation. Their spawn must be catered to, included in everything, and their every bowel movement bronzed and mounted on a marble block.

I'm sorry I don't feel that way. Adults have earned the right to some experiences and events without the distraction that otherwise lovely kids become. I won't suddenly stand up in the middle of a nice restaurant and start singing Pokemon songs. I won't loudly ask my sib why they are such a dork. I won't cut between other folks simply because I'm smaller. And I won't bring my kids (had I any) to places where they would annoy others by behaving similarly.

So next time, leave yours at home too. It'll be much more peaceful that way. Speaking for King Tut, we appreciate it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Is this land made for you and me?

The Library of Congress's National Recording Preservation Board's listing of "This Land" as an entry in the 2002 Registry of historical recordings brought to the public some almost forgotten verses. These often ignored lyrics change the folky chestnut from a patriotic ditty sung by Elks Lodge members and Cub Scouts alike to what Woody really intended: a populist call to arms, a gentle, witty tirade against fascism and concentration of wealth. In short, a socialist manifesto with a clear nod to the civil disobedience of the coming civil rights movement.

Read especially the forgotten 5th and 6th verses. Their message is as clear and as relevant today as it was when the song was written in the '40s.

Read the whole list of songs and recordings. This is real rock and roll: music that changed the world, from Robert Johnson to Scott Joplin; Booker T. Washington speaking and William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech. This is the sound of history, of guitars, drums, and dreams crashing together in a cacophony of noise and ideas. These are recordings that will live long after the world has forgotten GWBush, Creed, Pat Robertson, Britney Spears, Andrea Bocelli, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Gene Scott, Sean Hannity, Pope Joey Ratz, Celine Dion, Chris Matthews, Tom DeLay, Scott McClellan, Barry Bonds, John McCain, Ricky Martin, Jerry Falwell, Kyra Phillips, Nance Grace, Joe Lieberman, Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, Tim Russert, Pete Rose, Donald Trump, Ricard Perle, Kenneth Starr, Bob Novak, and so many many more.

Rejoice that we have these triumphs, large and small, to listen to, to remember how we got where we are. At the end of the day, it's ALL about the music.

This Land Is Your Land

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

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.

© Copyright 1956 (renewed), 1958 (renewed), 1970 and 1972 LUDLOW MUSIC, INC, NYC

Friday, November 11, 2005

Slipping into darkness

The Los Angeles Times has taken another "Mother May I" step toward irrelevance with the dismissal of Robert Scheer, announced today. From his email:
"On Friday, I was fired as a columnist by the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, where I have worked for thirty years. The publisher Jeff Johnson, who has offered not a word of explanation to me, has privately told people that he hated every word that I wrote. I assume that mostly refers to my exposing the lies used by President Bush to justify the invasion of Iraq. Fortunately sixty percent of Americans now get the point but only after tens of thousand of Americans and Iraqis have been killed and maimed as the carnage spirals out of control. My only regret is that my pen was not sharper and my words tougher."

Sheer is irascible, cranky, and unforgiving. He's an unreconstructed anti-war leftie, who regularly critiques the ever rightward trending Democratic party. And he's often correct, focused like a laser on what he sees as hypocrisy and corruption in the ruling elite of both parties. He thankfully will still appear in The Nation, Huffington Post, as well as his own site,

As the Times founders and wallows, clearly not finding its way through the political mess surrounding the US, it looks ever more cross-eyed at the world and its place in it.

When the Op-Ed page was reorganized a few years ago, those of us who yearned for leftist perspective were encouraged. Michael Kinsley took over as Editor, and while he was hopelessly untelegenic and outgunned on the original Crossfire, we held out hope that his wit and intellect could energize the sagging section. Of course, at the same time, right-wing cartoonist Michael Ramiriz, who never met a Democrat he didn't dispise, took his place at the center of the right hand page, becoming the turd in the otherwise watered down punchbowl that was Kinsley's domain.

And now the page has changed its name from "Opinion" (simple, clear) to "Currents" (pretentious, silly). Instead of 'Current' call it 'Undertow' as good writing and common sense are swept out to sea to drown. In their piece on the troubles of the United Nations last week, the front page offered reasoned opinions by David Bossie, Ron Silver, and some tool from the American Enterprise Institute. Imagine! That's like asking David Duke, Strom Thurmand, and Clarence Thomas to offer opinion on the NAACP. Such balance, such fairness.

And just last week the recommendations for Schwartzenfartzen's hideous special election were published: my God, what were they thinking! Regarding one proposition: "It's not a good bill, but it's a start"! What the hell does that mean? No, it's not a good bill, and it's a lousy start toward corporate control of the state house. This from the paper of the solidly Democratic LA city and county. If we want conservative opinion, we'll listen to the radio and TV. Now there's even less reason to read the Times, especially since they long ago took their restaurant reviews out of the Sunday section and put them behind a pay wall. Looks like the only paper left in town is the LA Weekly.

Bastards, that's all I have to say.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Money is a drag

Tyson Foods, about whom we've written a geat deal here, tried to sneak on through the back door. As we reported a while back, they have legal problems, culminating in a class action lawsuit joined by the EEOC for discrimination in the workplace.

Not to be deterred, they tried the oldest trick in the book: they tried to buy some credibility. As Saadiq Mance writes at
Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN) has donated $26,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) to support the non-profit organization's leadership education efforts, the company announced.

This morning Tyson Foods issued a press release stating that the majority of the money will be used to fund CBCF scholarships in six congressional districts where Tyson operates plants. This includes districts represented by Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. It also includes the state of Illinois represented by Senator Barak Obama.

Hoping it would result in some congressional Get Out Of Jail Free card, I assume. Mance goes on:

However, America should not be fooled by this new found gratitude of Tyson Foods, Inc in light of a lawsuit the company faces for violating federal civil rights laws.

On August 12th, 2005, Emerging Minds News reported that twelve African-American employees of Tyson Foods, Inc. filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, alleging that a "Whites Only" sign and a padlock denied them access to a bathroom in the Ashland plant. The complaint states that numerous white employees had keys to the bathroom that were not provided to African-American workers.

Tyson followed in the proud tradition of other corporations who, when embarrased, decided to give some racial love. The article goes on:

Tyson Food’s donation of $26,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus is in the wake of Wachovia (NYSE: WB) and Bank of America’s (NYSE: BAC) admission of guilt for historically building its company from money made from the forced servitude of Africans that were brutally brainwashed after they were kidnapped from their native lands.

Both Wachovia and Bank of America have attempted similar tactics of paying off “mainstream” Black organizations to quiet down potential backlash from the Black community.

As a result of Wachovia’s admission of guilt for slavery the company told the press that it plans to distribute only $10 million over a five year period through a string of new and enhanced partnerships with at least two of the "good ol’ boys" of civil rights pacifiers, the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP.

In turn, Bank of America pledged only $5 million over a three-year period for institutions and programs involved in preserving African-American history. In addition, Bank of America said that the $5 million offer will build on “existing commitments”, inferring that no new initiatives will be started and failed to cite which organizations their monetary pledge will benefit.

As Wilson Pickett once sang, "Do you like soul music, yeah, yeah".

Friday, November 04, 2005

Don't you forget about me

Howie Klein, mentioned in the last post about Gen. Clark's World Tour appearance here in LA, emailed me to let me know that I had inadventently done him a disservice. In that post, I had mistakenly said that Howie wasn't a blogger, and nothimg could be further from the truth.

Down With Tyranny
is Howie's blog, and it's some damn fine writing. He is smart, well spoken and well written, and has a ton of insight into politics, and the entertainment biz, that I find fascinating.

Here's part of a bio from EWorldPress:

Like many in the music business, Klein got his start booking bands while a student at SUNY Stony Brook in the late 1960s. However, unlike most young student talent buyers, he booked the entire gamut of the psychedelic era's top artists including Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Who and Pink Floyd. Klein eventually relocated to San Francisco where, in addition to co-founding the nation's first FM punk radio show (The Outcaste Hour on KSAN), he also started 415 Records. He has been a cornerstone presence in the record industry ever since applying his trademark focus on "long-term artist development" at Columbia, Sire and eventually Reprise Records.

Klein's last official post in the music industry was as president of Reprise, the AOL / Time Warner label that is home to such marquee artists as Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Lou Reed and Green Day. Having found that his focus on the long term artist had become antithetical to an overly commercialized record industry, Klein had since moved on to education, public speaking, and devoting more time to progressive political activism.

Welcome to the world of blogging, Howie. Kick out the jams.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Take the last train to Clarksville

We were invited to a Wesley Clark WesPac fundraiser last night by the lovely and talented Mark Kleiman, (thanks also to Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake) and of course, being intrigued by the General's presence and demeanor during the last campaign cycle, we gladly attended.

Mark arranged for a private sit-down for some of us LA bloggers with the General, who with his charming wife Gert, chatted face to face with several of us for almost half an hour. Besides Mark, myself and Pam (Ms. Audio), there were John Amato, Dante Atkins, Howie Klein, who, like me, is a survivor of recording studios and the music biz, and a very nice person from Who's Counting.

The General is even more personable than he appeared on TV. He looked each one of us in the eye, had a message that he clearly felt he wanted to get across, and also listened to our questions. And rather than patronize us by making supporting noises about bloggers as the wave of the future and salvation of the human race, he instead told us what he felt he wanted us to hear, his vision for uniting the Democratic Party behind a clear winning message.

He also said one thing that really struck me. He said: "I have no friends at the Pentagon." Hard to believe, as he is a successful career military man. But he pointed out that many of his former colleagues still owe fiscal allegiance either to the military, or to the corporations upon whose boards they sit, in order to pay for the country club membership. In exchange for which, they can often call up the SecDef or staff and say "Hey, you know I'm with General Dynamics now, and they have their new Acme RoadRunner model submarine that you guys should really take a look at."

He also talked about torture and The Geneva Conventions as values we have to adhere to, lest we fail to be what we proclaim to the world, the greatest civilization on earth. He said we can't expect other peoples and societies to respect us unless we also show reciprocal respect. I pointed out that many Americans today have no problem advocating torture as a method of securing their security, regardless of evidence that as an interrogation method it seldom bears fruit. He replied that many Americans are afraid today, of "other" and change, and that we can reach those folks, because at the end of the day, they are still Americans, with values, just a bit misguided.

When he spoke to the larger group of attendees, he also made the point that although Democrats have many niche issues, we can't hang our hats on the success of those. We instead need to focus on making the Party stronger, convincing America that we are the party of values, and if we build a coalition that focuses on the Common Good (his phrase), rather than individual good, we can win elections.

Now that sounds good to me.

He also talked about an Exit Strategy for Iraq, and this troubled me, because he didn't say exactly what I wanted to hear. He said that we shouldn't have gone into Iraq, something most Democrats always believed (sorry Peter Beinert, you're just wrong.) That was an idea we all could agree with.

But then he said that we also couldn't leave, and that a timetable was a strategy for failure. He said the withdrawal had to be Event Driven (again, his phrase), and that only upon certain conditions, like a truly self-sufficient Iraqi military, with some hope of maintaining a balance of power between Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds, could we ever start to leave with some certainty that civil war wouldn't erupt.

This bothered me. I wanted instant gratification, an easy way out. I wanted to believe that no more American soldiers or Iraqi civilians would die. I also wanted to believe that we wouldn't watch the Oil Ministry be saved while the Electricity grid was destroyed. And I wanted to believe that the Bush administration wouldn't lie so brazenly about Iraq.

I knew they were lying, I knew the Oil Ministry was the most important target, and I knew General Clark was right.

Time to join the world, time to grow up.

Thanks, Gen. Clark.

Update: Corrected to fix the large error regarding Howie Klein as a blogger. In fact, Howie blogs his ass off here: Down With Tyranny!. Apologies, Howie.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I'm down, I'm really down

Sir Paul McCartney seems like a really nice guy. We were even in the same studio for a while at Capitol Studios, and while we didn't speak to each other, everyone else assured me that he was a really nice guy.

As further proof, we have the following socially active links from his own web page:

Make Poverty

Adopt-A-Minefield UK

The Nelson Mandala Foundation

Heather Mills' anti-Dog & Cat fur petition

Lovely. I'm sure all that social consciousness was helpful to Susan LoTempio when she tried to see Macca in concert:

I WAS 15 when I first saw the Beatles in concert. That was 1965, long before the Americans with Disabilities Act, so wheelchair seating was rather unpredictable. Lucky for me, the ushers at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens pointed me to the front of the arena and told me to stay there.

"There" was right under Paul McCartney's amplifier. A perfect place to be.

"There" last Friday night at Madison Square Garden, 40 years later, was third row on the floor, a few feet away not just from his amplifier, but from Sir Paul himself. An opening night dream seat, you might assume.

Actually, it was a seat from hell.

The ticket was a Mother's Day gift from my 20-year-old daughter. She and my niece scraped together $278, contacted the Garden's disabled services office, and gave me the best gift I've ever received.

Like the thousands of others there that night, I expected a great show, and a great memory.

At the Garden, though, as I was being shown to my seat (a spot at the end of the aisle where a chair had been removed), I wondered if I would be able to see the stage if the fans in front stood up during the show.

Don't worry, the security guards assured me, they know how to handle the situation. I also asked a representative from the Garden's disabled services office. He said the same thing.

When Sir Paul came out and launched into his first number, everyone stood up, and all I could see was a wall of gyrating backsides.

Too close to the stage to even see the huge monitors overhead, I moved into the aisle to try to get a view. The security guard told me to move back. I asked him where I could go to see around the masses of bodies, and he ordered me to stay where I was.

I tried to remain polite, but that painful sensation I get when I'm being dismissed or patronized swept through me and I yelled back, "These tickets cost $300, and I can't see anything."

"Stay there," the security guard shouted, his face just inches from mine. "If you don't like it, you can leave."

There's more. Go read it all.

In all fairness, I'm sure that Paulie would be outraged if he knew about Ms. LoTempio's cavalier treatment by the Garden's crack staff.

But also in fairness, I googled every combination of primary elements in this story, and while I make no claim to be the experienced journalist that, say, Judy Miller is, I could find no mention that this episode had been followed up upon by either the Garden or Sir Paul.

"All you need is love." Maybe you can show some love to this issue too, Paul.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I read it in a magazine, oh oh oh

In what may be a thrilling bit of news to Wingers, the International Musician, magazine of the Musician's Union (here, but you have to be a member to read the mag) has this:

The nation's minimum wage hit its lowest point in relation to the average wage in the country since 1949, a new report by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found.

Today, the minimum wage equals just 32% of the average private sector, nonsupervisory wage. During the 1950s and 1960s, the minimum wage equaled about 50% of the average wage. The purchasing power of the $5.15 an hour minimum wage has decreased by 17% since it was last raised in 1997.

Unions and Democratic congressional leaders are taking action, trying to bring minimum wage increase legislation to a vote. Two recently introduced bills would raise the minimum age to $7.25 an hour in three steps over 26 months.

Here's more from the source, from the Economic Policy Institute:
The real value of the minimum wage peaked in 1968, when it was equivalent to a wage of $7.54 an hour. During the 1970s, the wage floor averaged $6.71 an hour in today's dollars.

But the economy is recovering. This should fit nicely into Neil Boortz's vision of a post-catastrophic relief effort; with so many more poor, that's fewer rich folks to have to save.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

That's when you know, you doin' the funky chicken

Let's recap the Tyson racial discrimination lawsuit:
9.15.04: Tyson signs an aggreement with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) called "National Universal Agreement to Mediate (NUAM)" to informally mediate worker complaints, hopefully before actual complaints or litigation.

How's that working out so far?
8.11.05: EEOC responds to complaints by 2 Tyson Foods employees that they were subjected to "adverse employment actions, including suspensions and disciplinary write-ups" after complaining about a "Whites Only" restroom and lo9cked break room. EEOC v. Tyson Foods, Inc., CV-05-BE-1704-E (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama), alleges that Tyson's violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

8.12.05: Lawyer's Committee on Civil Rights helps 13 employees of Tyson Foods file discrimination lawsuit, alledging Tyson managers maintained "Whites Only" restroom and locked break room, and that complaints about this resulted in retaliation.
10.06.05The National Action Network, the New York-based organization run by activist and former presidential candidate Al Sharpton, has withdrawn two Dream Keepers awards originally earmarked for Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart, after learning of race discrimination charges against Tyson.
. . .
Sharpton has said he was not aware of the federal lawsuit filed Aug. 12 against Tyson by 12 Black employees until an interview with the NNPA. At the time, he said he would have his nominating committee review the award decision and would have it overturned if necessary. The employees allege segregated bathrooms with a "Whites Only" sign, the pervasive use of the n-word, "monkey," "boy" and "watermelon" insults and a threat with a noose.

Is this the first time Tyson found its collective wing in the wringer? I don't think so.
In July 1999, the EEOC settled a class action suit against Tyson Foods, Inc., for $3.2 million, the largest settlement ever by the agency's Birmingham office involving racial and sexual harassment.

In April 2002, a group of workers filed a civil suit against Tyson Foods, charging the food processor with violating federal racketeering and immigration law by allegedly conspiring to keep workers' wagers low by hiring illegal immigrants at 15 of its food processing facilities. The civil suit, and a federal criminal suit, allege that Tyson violated the federal Immigration and Nationality Act by knowingly hiring a large number of illegal immigrants. (Trollinger v. Tyson Foods)

Tyson Foods, Inc. will pay $230,000 to female and minority job applicants who were allegedly not hired to work at a Forest, Mississippi poultry plant for discriminatory reasons in 1996 and 1997

Muslim employees at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Norfolk have agreed not to strike pending negotiations of alleged religious discrimination by management.

The meeting between both sides on Friday was productive, said Fardusa Council, a negotiator for the Muslim employees. All Muslim employees had planed to strike if a resolution was not reached, but that is being put on hold as the two sides work together, she said.

Is Tyson the only corporation guilty of nasty business practices? Hardly. But these type of allegations and offences, once investigated and proven, need to be exposed as the shicken sh*t they are.

Friday, October 14, 2005

If you'll be my Dixie chicken...part II

Tyson Foods has a love/hate relationship with diversity and minorities: they love diversity, but hate minorities, as we have previously posted here and here.

Tyson's legal problems continue to grow. Like some Bizarro chess game where players join rather than retire, the current lawsuit by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights has been supported by a suit from the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission):
After complaining to Tyson Foods, Inc. about the posting of a "Whites Only" sign on one of Tyson's restrooms at its Ashland, Alabama, facility, two black employees were subjected to adverse personnel actions by Tyson management, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges in a discrimination lawsuit announced today.

The EEOC's suit, EEOC v. Tyson Foods, Inc., CV-05-BE-1704-E (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama), alleges that Tyson's violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against Henry Adams, Leon Walker, and other black employees, by establishing and maintaining a locked bathroom facility, which on occasion had signs posted on it stating "Out of Order" and "Whites Only". Keys to the facility were distributed to white employees only. After Mr. Adams and Mr. Walker complained of the segregated facility, management subjected them to adverse employment actions, including suspensions and disciplinary write-ups.

That a federal agency, in these times of corporate laissez fare governance and oversight, has taken on this battle is telling. The EEOC seems to feel that the lawsuit has merit, and that bodes well for the plaintiffs.

Tyson, on the other hand, should start to worry. As the right-wing ideologs in power suddenly seem amateurish, craven, and, finally, criminal, the public's contempt for bad behaviour will grow. There will always be apologists for racism, as we pointed out in our last post (reverse discrimination!), but this time, Corporate America should start being good citizens, before they lose all credibility, and customers.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I'd like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love

Here's another look at Coke's racial discrimination lawsuit we discussed in the last post. A website called has this thought provoking post:
This unprecedented case of racial extortion has resulted in Coca Cola paying $500 million dollars or more to silence racial activists and to keep Coke sales among minorities up. Coke was never allowed to prove itself innocent of racial discrimination charges in a court of law.

(A) Quota Cola Background:

Four disgruntled black employees of Coca Cola filed a racial discrimination lawsuit based on unsubstantiated charges that Coke (a) underpaid them because they are black; and (b) created a hostile work environment.

The allegations of these 4 black employees were never proven in a court of law. Nonetheless, their clever lawyers managed to extort over $475,200,000 from Coke without ever setting foot in a court of law! Incidentally, the plaintiff's lawyers walked away with over $20,000,000 in legal fees.

. . .

(E) Race-Based, Non-White Policies Coke Must Implement:

Publicly, Coca Cola maintains that the changes in their business practices demanded by the racial quota lobby are "forward-looking and are designed to ensure that Coca-Cola will treat all employees fairly." But the fine print makes it quite clear Coke is spending over $475 million specifically NOT for the benefit of white males.

(Note: emphasis added)

Not too subtle, it's the "Return of The Angry White Male."

In a refreshingly bold bit of hypocrisy, they have this about Bill Lann Lee, late of The Dept. of Justice Office of Civil Rights. In '97, Clinton appointed Lee, but the Republican controlled congress refused to confirm him. Now get this, posted with no visible irony or shame:
Subsequently, Clinton waited until Congress was in recess and illegally appointed Lee to the post as a "recess appointment".

Savor that, it tastes sweet. Let's learn the phrase:
Illegal recess appointment.
Illegal recess appointment.
Illegal recess appointment.
Illegal recess appointment.
Illegal recess appointment.

Now go use it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

If you'll be my dixie chicken...

I'm still curious about the relationship between Tyson Foods and the Arkansas Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (ARMSDC), who named Tyson "Corporation of the Year." Seems odd while Tyson is encumbered with a class-action lawsuit about discrimination in the workplace, See our previous posts here and here.

Let's take another look at ARMSDC. First, in addition to the oddities about their web site we noticed before, we find the heading on the home page: "Arkansas Regional Supplier Devlopment (sic) Council". Again, seems pretty shoddy for a national organization. And there's still the curious matter of their Corporate Awards Dinner page:
??Need some general verabage on this event.... Such This is a annual event to recognize businesses & corporate sponsors.... This event is held in the fall... check the event calendar for date... yada yada yada??
Very wierd. Reminds me of the David Spade Capitol One TV commercial, except, not so funny.

ARMSDC is an affiliate of the (surprise!) National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. (NMSDC), Here's their "Who We Are" statement:
Providing a direct link between corporate America and minority-owned businesses is the primary objective of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, one of the country's leading business membership organizations. It was chartered in 1972 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes.

The NMSDC Network includes a National Office in New York and 39 regional councils across the country. There are 3,500 corporate members throughout the network, including most of America's largest publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned companies, as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The regional councils certify and match more than 15,000 minority owned businesses (Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American) with member corporations which want to purchase goods and services.

Sounds fairly safe, so far. Here's one item from their Programs & Services:
Referrals to corporate buyers of minority suppliers capable of providing quality goods and services at competitive prices, and in a timely fashion;

Now that starts to make sense; it's really a shakedown organization to milk minority owned companies and Fortune 500 companies for money in exchange for contacts and bona fides such as the award given to Tyson.

Not surprisingly, we find these upstanding citizens on the list of Members:
The Coca-Cola Company &
Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc.

A little research turns up this about Coke from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility:
16 November, 2000

On November 16th, The Coca-Cola Company agreed to pay more than $192 million in cash and equity payments in the largest racial discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history. The settlement resolved a federal class action lawsuit brought by African American employees against the company in April of 1999 and mandates major changes unprecedented in corporate history.

Earlier the same year we have this from Coke:
Atlanta, May 16, 2000 - Doug Daft, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, today made a five-year $1 billion commitment to diversity in a comprehensive empowerment and entrepreneurship program for the U.S.

"This is a logical extension of our 'think local, act local' strategy and our desire to become a model citizen in the communities we serve," said Daft. " To do that, The Coca-Cola Company must continue to strengthen local economies through the way we invest, the way we allocate our procurement dollars, the partners we choose to help us market and distribute our brands, and the way we build our system."

"This Company was built on a tradition of shared success. I commissioned a disciplined and rigorous inventory of our operations to determine where we could do more to extend that tradition. 'Everyone who touches Coca-Cola should benefit' was one of this Company's early business principles. This program reflects the results of that recently completed review to help us take that principle into the 21st century."

The program announced today includes:

1. Increased spending with minority- and women-owned businesses and a commitment to foster a climate of entrepreneurial opportunity through targeted minority supplier identification and a new supplier mentoring program;
2. Increased Company investments in local economies through urban economic partnerships, including a 50-community expansion of the Urban Customer Partner program and increased marketing investments to strengthen local retailers and entrepreneurs;
3. Increased opportunities for minority financial institutions and businesses through the Company's financial strategies and investments;
4. Creation of a task force headed by Jack Stahl, president and COO, to determine by first quarter 2001 specific opportunities for minorities for equity and ownership in the Cola-Cola value chain;
5. Increased community contributions and support for organizations focused on education, mentoring, economic opportunity and neighborhood revitalization.

5 years later we have this:
With The Coca-Cola Company’s five-year pledge to spend $800 million with minority- and women-owned businesses winding down, Chairman and CEO Neville Isdell recently confirmed his commitment to supplier diversity at the fourth-annual “Partners in the Promise” awards celebration in Atlanta.

“As a consumer products company, our success depends on our ability to listen to consumers and customers, and to respond rapidly to changes in the marketplace,” Isdell told the audience of supplier diversity partners and supporters at the April 7 event. “If The Coca-Cola Company is going to continue to be a leader in the marketplace, we must also be a leader in supplier diversity. Tonight, I’m honored to share with you my personal commitment to this imperative.”

So clearly Coke embarked on this minority PR campaign as penance for the impending settlement of the discrimination lawsuit. And Coke milked it for all it was worth, after, of course, the humiliation of the settlement.

Oh, wait a minute, what humiliation? That's pretty impressive performance. Maybe they deserve the award from the NMSDC for biggest contribution from a member successfully litigated against. Unless Tyson has beaten them to the punch.

The NMSDC member list is long; we'll look at some more later, after my stomach settles.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sweet Home Alabama II:

On Sept. 13 we posted that Tyson Foods was being sued in a class action by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights. This action was taken because of alleged discrimination: Tyson's local managers at the Ashland, Al. plant had allegedly posted a "Whites Only" sign on a bathroom, and had padlocked the door.

This got quite a bit of press, including several kind references to us.

We now learn that, astonishingly, Tyson has been honored for supporting minority businesses. From Tyson's Press Release:
Tyson was recently named “Corporation of the Year” by the Arkansas Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (ARMSDC) for exceeding standards for corporate diversity and demonstrating leadership and a genuine commitment to minority businesses. The award was presented to Tyson Foods during ARMSDC’s 19th Annual Business Opportunity Fair.

As someone once said, "Fascinating, Captain."

I'm not one to cast aspersions or dive into tinfoil hat territory, but some strange stuff happened when we tried to verify this. First, we Googled Arkansas Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (ARMSDC), and got lots of interesting hits.

First, we found the actual web site,, which yesterday said this: This Domain has expired. Please contact your provider to renew. Containers · Rifle scabbard · Gun safes · Cartouche · Rifle case ...

but now today says this:
Our mission is to promote the development of business opportunities between minority business enterprises (MBEs), corporations, and government agencies in Arkansas and Mississippi.

Simple oversight, perhaps someone forget to send in the registration fee.

Interestingly, clicking on all available links on the newly refreshed ARMSDC web site, we fing not one reference to Tyson Foods, not even on the Upcoming Events PDF. Also, several places that say "click here for..." have no links attached. Pretty sloppy HTML, or a hastily thrown together web site? In either case, hardly professional.

In fact, here's what the "Awards Dinner" link says when clicked through:
??Need some general verabage on this event.... Such This is a annual event to recognize businesses & corporate sponsors.... This event is held in the fall... check the event calendar for date... yada yada yada??

This is embarrasingly bad for a seeming large entity. So let's look further.

Hola Arkansas has this:
At the CEO Awards luncheon on Wednesday, August 17, Maura Lozano-Yancy, president & group publisher of ¡Hola! Arkansas introduced the keynote speaker, Mr. Anthony Robinson, Executive Director of MBELDEF, Minority Business Enterprise and Education Fund from Washington, DC.

Liz Massey, Today’s THV Channel 11 evening Anchor served as the Master of Ceremony.
Tyson Foods was voted the “Corporation of the Year”, for setting up new standards for corporate diversity, for it’s support to the council and it’s MBE’s. Tyson Foods also received the “Stancil Image Awards” for best booth. Tyson is represented in the Board of the ARMSDC and in all the committees.

So far the Award seems legitimate, although the timing is curious. Keep in mind that ARMSDC lists not only Tyson but WalMart as corporate sponsors. Am I trying to damn by association? Well, in a word, yes. No one can credibly assert any altruism from WalMart toward its suppliers, minority or Martian owned.

Finally, just to cement the oddness of this award, a google search for "armsdc tyson" shows that all the press for the Award was generated by Tyson, either its own press release, or what was fed to other news organs. I couldn't find one link to ARMSDC.ORG that seemed to be from itself, touting the Tyson Award.