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The Beatles remind us: there’s a place…

“There’s a Place” anticipates the musical breakthrough that would come for the band with 1965’s Rubber Soul.

“There…is a place/Where I can go/When I feel low/When I feel blue…” – John Lennon, Paul McCartney

The Beatles in all the Edenic glory (image courtesy Time.com)

The Beatles in all the Edenic glory (image courtesy Time.com)

The English composer and musicologist Wilfrid Mellers, in his now classic scholarly study of the Beatles, Twilight of the Gods,  calls the early Beatles period, the period of screaming girls and “yeah, yeah, yeah,” their “Edenic” period. In his study, Mellers give particular attention to “There’s a Place,” the American “B-side” (there’s a quaint old term for you) to their iconic cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Twist and Shout.”

Given that the song wallows in obscurity in the Fabs’ canon, you must be wondering why Professor Mellers chose to give it serious scholarly attention and why I would choose it as the subject of of an essay. Other sources report that while John, Paul, George, and Ringo originally had high hopes for the song, that they themselves lost interest caused possibly by its having been a bit of a struggle for them to record. From being a song they expected to be their next #1, “There’s a Place” ended up as album filler and a B-side to a popular cover song.

As both Professor Mellers and I will argue, that’s a bad underestimation of what really is one of their finest early tunes. Continue reading

Quotes from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Donald’s immigration ban

9th_circuit_sealToday a three judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that they would not overturn the injunction blocking most of Donald’s immigration and travel ban Executive Order. I read the entire ruling, and I’ve extracted several key or amusing quotes from it below. Many of these were quotes that I posted first on Facebook, but I wanted to collect them all in one place.

As I said after DeVos was confirmed, “We cannot let our defeats demoralize us into inaction any more than we can permit our victories to lull us into a false sense of security.” But for tonight, enjoy the 9th Circuit’s very polite yet firm rejections of pretty much everything the Administration argued. Continue reading

Under Armour stock price

Four charts that prove Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank has no idea what he’s talking about

Kevin Plank is a successful businessman with strong opinions. The data, though, suggests he places ideology above facts.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank

If you’re a huge sports merchandise brand, you never want your marquee superstar endorser going after you in the press. But that’s what happened this week when Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank told CNBC that “[t]o have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset for the country.”

The aforementioned marquee superstar, 2014-15 NBA champion and reigning MVP Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, took a shot:

“I agree with that description, if you remove the ‘et.'”

The two have now apparently gotten on the same page after some top-speed backpedaling by Plank, who has taken great pains to clarify that he only meant his praise in a strictly business sense. It’s fun when CEOs get hauled out to the woodshed.

The problem is that even the business-specific comment illustrates what a fact-resistant barking fucktrumpet Plank is. Continue reading

murkowski-collins

A question for Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins

Murkowski-Collins.jpgDear Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine),

On February 1st, you both announced that you could not vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education. As a result, your majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, was forced to hold the DeVos vote while Jefferson Sessions was still the senior senator from Alabama. If the vote had been held after Sessions was confirmed and had resigned the Senate, but before his replacement could be named to the Senate, then the Senate would have had one fewer Republican senator. Instead of a 51-50 vote to confirm Secretary DeVos with Vice-President Pence casting the deciding vote, we would have had a 50-49 vote not to confirm without the need for a tie-breaker. I imagine that it would have been easy enough to convince the majority leader to vote on Sessions prior to DeVos, especially given the recent legal wrangling over the President’s Executive Orders.

So my question to you is this: Continue reading

trump

Why our anti-Trump marches matter: the counterintuitive lesson of Africa’s “big men”

trumpRecent anti-Donald protests are hugely important, although maybe not for the reason you think.

I keep wanting to write an article on how similar Donald is to the Big Men of Africa, and I keep losing the will to live whenever I start … After all, the South African Truth Commission final report is a public document. If you want to know how this ends, go read it.

However, don’t think that he’s starting a new fascist state. This is about ties of blood.

If you look to Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria … any of the places ruled by Big Men … they work with what they have to create a support base. The best way to do that is tribalism. Create an in-group derived from your own tribe. Then bind that tribe to you. And you do that through violence.

The in-group must be told they are superior to the out-group. Change the law to subject the out-group to brutal discrimination and suppression. Ensure that there is real violence.

Let it simmer. Continue reading

Music

Lady Day’s blues: Billie Holiday remembers…

Holiday’s goal is to reveal herself without giving herself away.

“I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, it ain’t music, it’s close order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music.” – Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday in full flight (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Billie Holiday in full flight (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Lady Sings the Blues is, I suppose, one of the first autobiographies by a popular music star. This, the first book from the 2017 reading list, is an “as told to.” One of the things the ghost writer (to resurrect an old term), William Dufty, a reporter for the New York Post and a personal friend of Holiday, does beautifully is avoid much revision of Holiday’s words. As best as I have been able to discover, Dufty did a series of extended interviews with Holiday without the benefit of tape recording. That Lady Sings the Blues reads like a transcribed conversation with Lady Day is a tribute to Dufty’s careful rendering of Holiday’s words in her voice.

Dufty’s success in allowing Holiday to speak for herself is both charming and haunting, both illuminating and (unintentionally, perhaps) misleading. What one realizes as one reads this autobiography is that Holiday’s goal is to reveal herself without giving herself away. Let me put that more accurately: what Billie Holiday tries to do in Lady Sings the Blues is not give her self away even as she reveals herself. Continue reading

Equity is another word for fairness (image credit: King County)

What is a liberal? Fairness is my core value

Liberals should talk about our values. And we should start with fairness.

Equity is another word for fairness (image credit: King County)

Equity is another word for fairness (image credit: King County)

Over the last few years, I’ve read liberals saying that we need to talk about our values more openly, to own them, to assert that they are just as much American values as conservative values are. But I’ve never been comfortable talking about my values. Partly that’s because I’m an introvert. Partly because sharing such important stuff about myself feels a bit like everyone’s nightmare of showing up to give a presentation and realizing you’re naked before the crowd. And partly it’s because some of my values have shifted over the years as I’ve matured and experienced more of life, and I’m sure that some of them will shift again in the future.

But since Donald’s election I’ve been thinking about my values a lot. I’ve already chosen to fight for my values via my writing, and I’m prepared to fight for my values by putting my personal safety on the line if need be. So I figured that, if I’m going to be willing to risk my career or my physical well-being, I’d better be damned sure I know what my values are.

After a great deal of thought, I’ve finally realized what my core value is. The one value that matters more to me than any other. The one value against which all my other values are weighed, and from which most of my values spring. The one value with which I weigh the character of everyone I encounter.

Fairness. Continue reading

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos (image credit: Slate)

Betsy DeVos’ confirmation was a defeat, but the greater battle for America’s future continues

Fighting Donald Trump’s agenda is a war, and there will be both victories and defeats

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos (image credit: Slate)

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos (image credit: Slate)

Today the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. She’s one of the least qualified people who has ever been nominated to the position, and she demonstrated such during her confirmation hearing. And for those of us who reject vouchers for private religious schools, who support children with special needs, who want to keep guns out of schools, and who support teaching our children critical thinking skills, this was undoubtedly a loss. And a painful loss at that.

But as with any conflict, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

As painful as the DeVos confirmation is, it’s only a skirmish in the greater war. The greater battle is stopping DeVos from implementing Donald’s education agenda. Continue reading

9th_circuit_seal

Dark thoughts about Donald and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

What would happen if Donald sent thugs to try to make the judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals an offer they couldn’t refuse?

9th_circuit_sealOn Saturday, a federal judge in Washington issued a nationwide injunction against the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department and blocked them from enforcing Donald’s travel/immigration ban. On Sunday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to immediately block the lower judge’s injunction until it could hear a full appeal later this week (possibly as early as tomorrow).

To give you some idea of how dark my thoughts have become since Donald took over (in case worrying about being nuked in my sleep wasn’t bad enough), on the way home from skiing today I found myself wondering if Donald would send law enforcement/thugs to threaten the judges on the 9th Circuit in order to get them to rule in his favor. Continue reading

american-civic-debate-union

Introducing the American Civic Debate Union: first event addresses the Electoral College

American Civic Debate Union logoWe need a new American consensus driven by a commitment to knowledge, reason and good faith engagement with those whose views differ from our own.

For decades I have toyed with the idea that we could use a civic forum for popular debate, an organization that would make it possible for communities to discuss the issues of the day in ways that would spark thought and reflection, perhaps enabling better decision-making come Election Day. This idea has grown stronger over the past 20 years, as the combined corrosive mechanisms of partisan tribalism, cable media and, worst of all, the Internet and social media seemed to find new and better ways of tearing society apart, making us dumber and more hateful in the process.

I broached the idea recently with friends and colleagues and their response convinced me that now was the time to give it a try. So I have founded what I’m ambitiously calling the American Civic Debate Union. Our first event will be held next Sunday here in Denver, and it will feature me squaring off with my good friend Dr. Frank Venturo over the question of whether the US ought to do something, once and for all, about the Electoral College. If so, what? Continue reading

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John Lennon reaches Across the Universe…

Lennon once said that he likes the lyrics of “Across the Universe” perhaps the best of all the songs he wrote with The Beatles.

“When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there.” – George Harrison

John and Yoko (image courtesy Vanity Fair)

John and Yoko (image courtesy Vanity Fair)

Recent news reports have noted that the best selling book at Amazon is currently George Orwell’s classic novel of dystopian horror, 1984. Given our national circumstances, I suppose this could be seen as a positive, an effort on the part of at least some of the populace to educate themselves, even if a significant number of others in the populace (including me) wish that this sudden urge toward historical and cultural literacy had occurred before a certain November event.

Such, such is life, as the poet says. We seem only to want to listen to our poets and sages in times of distress.

There are some who, in the face of what certainly feels like imminent disaster, keep telling us that, to quote the mystic, “All shall be well.” It is difficult to the level of impossibility, however, to emulate the purity and power of a Julian of Norwich’s faith which is roughly the level of faith needed these days.  What are we of little faith to do?

Well, we can listen to “Across the Universe.”
Continue reading