Saturday, May 17, 2008

Blog #36: Bush Going Down in Flames?

Surprise, surprise. Our most revered leader, our resident president and would-be ruler George W. Bush, like the ex-Air National Guard member that he is, has evidently decided to go down in flames of glory as described in the Army Air Force song “Wild Blue Yonder.” Never mind that his approval rating among the American people is at its lowest point in the history of presidential approval ratings, at 28% (even during the height of Watergate Nixon’s ratings never dipped below 33%), and with 72% of Americans feeling he has taken us down the wrong road. I guess it was in the spirit of “what have I got left to lose?” that the illustrious Mr. B. denounced those who would negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” — a remark that was widely interpreted as a rebuke to Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, who has argued that the United States should talk directly with countries like Iran and Syria. Mr. Bush obviously prefers emulating the reaction of the ostrich, hiding one’s head in the sand while pretending that all is well in his immediate world, rather than negotiating with whatever powers that be.

In a speech celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary, our leader of extremely low esteem said, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush was heard to say. He went on to rant, “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” He was alluding to Senator William E. Borah, an Idaho Republican noted for his powers of oratory and his isolationist views. In 1938, when Hitler was gobbling up parts of Europe, Borah expressed admiration for him, and in 1939 he did indeed lament that he had not been able to talk to Hitler before the Nazi invasion of Poland. “We have an obligation to call this what it is" Bush ranted on, “the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

In the lengthy speech intended to promote the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, the president invoked the emotionally volatile imagery of World War II in making the case that talking to extremists was no different than appeasing Hitler and the Nazis. Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Obama by name, and the White House was quick to point out that his remarks were not aimed at the senator, though nobody believed that and they created a political firestorm in Washington nonetheless.

The Obama campaign issued an angry response to Mr. Bush’s statement. In an e-mail statement to reporters, the senator denounced Mr. Bush for using the 60th anniversary of Israel to “launch a false political attack,” adding, “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.”

Other Democrats leapt to Mr. Obama’s defense, including Senator Joe Biden, who heads the Senate Foreign Relation Committee and who minced no words as he labeled Bush’s remarks exactly what they were, “bullshit!” Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, accused Mr. Bush of taking politics overseas. “The tradition has always been that when a U.S. president is overseas, partisan politics stops at the water’s edge,” Mr. Emanuel said in a statement. “President Bush has now taken that principle and turned it on its head.” We might add just as he has turned many another United States tradition on its head, including torture and the right to have a trial to name a few.

In response to Democratic chairman Howard Dean’s suggestion that McCain denounce the president’s word, Mr. McCain took the occasion to support the president’s position: "Yes, there have been appeasers in the past, and the president is exactly right, and one of them is Neville Chamberlain,'' Mr. McCain told reporters on his campaign bus after a speech in Columbus, Ohio. "I believe that it's not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn't sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home.''

However, according to James P. Rubin writing in Friday’s Washington Post, McCain is the last politician who should be attacking Obama over talking to Hamas. Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, Mr. Rubin interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News’ "World News Tonight" program. Here is the crucial part of the exchange:

“I asked: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?" McCain answered: "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

Funny, as Senator Obama once pointed out, how running for the office of the presidency and especially under the Republican banner, can run the so-called “Straight Talk Express” right into the ditch.
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From our “Everybody’s Doing It So Why Not Me? Department comes word that Republican presidential candidate John McCain has taken a solemn journey through Lewis Carroll’s storied looking glass, and has emerged from the experience sporting his brand new troop withdrawal schedule for Iraq. Providing he gets elected, of course, which we fondly believe is a GIGANTIC and hopefully INSURMOUNTABLE IF, he promises to bring the troops home by 2013. In the excerpts of a speech he gave on Thursday, McCain describes in detail the "conditions I intend to achieve" by the time his first term in office ends. He says he will "focus all the powers of the office; every skill and strength I possess," to make that future a reality.” Can’t you just hear the sighs of relief echoing from sea to shining sea, and from purple mountains majesty to fruited planes?

It is worth noting however that as recently as the Florida primary, McCain blasted former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for what he said was support of a withdrawal timeline. Democrats, meanwhile, pilloried McCain for saying American troops could remain in Iraq for up to 100 years – a reference McCain later likened to the presence of U.S. bases in Germany or South Korea. And just last month, McCain said that "To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership.'' Isn’t it funny how for an aspiring presidential candidate the simple reading of poll numbers can change minds previously frozen in cement into minds swimming in sillyputty.
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Well, the state of Texas is beginning to show the first signs of the weakness of their case against the polygamist sect in West Texas. The first cracks have appeared in the facade of the state of Texas’ recent and unprecedented seizure of the sect’s 465 children. First the presiding judge, a female, allowed nursing mothers to remain with their babies. Now Lisa Sandberg of the Houston Chronicle’s Austin bureau reports that a woman from the West Texas polygamist sect will be allowed to remain with all three of her children, not just her nursing infant, Child Protective Services said Thursday — the first sign the agency may be softening its approach in the massive custody case.

Agency attorney Michael Shulman said temporary housing will be sought so Louisa Bradshaw Jessop can remain with her three young children. Until now, only mothers and their nursing infants have been kept together, leaving the vast majority of the sect's 465 children scattered across the state. "I just knew that the Heavenly Father would see us through," a relieved Jessop, who gave birth in Austin earlier this week to a boy, said by telephone Thursday.

The Jessop children will not be released from state protective custody while investigators seek to determine whether underage girls at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, which is outside Eldorado and is run by followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were being married to older men and sexually abused.

But in yet another concession, Shulman said his agency was now convinced that Jessop was not in fact a minor, but age 22. He said agency workers, facing "a wall of deception," were presented with the first concrete evidence of Jessop's age, a Utah birth certificate, only last week. "We were constrained in getting accurate information," Shulman said Thursday at a hearing in Austin on the Jessop custody issue. It was the second admission this week by an agency official acknowledging that a pregnant female once considered in a "disputed age" category was now deemed to be an adult.

Last month's raid of a West Texas polygamist sect's ranch and the removal of the more than 460 children living there has cost the state at least $10 million in sheltering and legal costs, according to estimates provided by state offices Friday. Records released by Gov. Rick Perry's office show $7.5 million in estimated costs for April, including expenses related to the weeklong search of the Yearning for Zion Ranch, run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect.

The costs of sheltering the children and some of their mothers for three weeks in San Angelo city facilities added to the offices' estimate. The period covered ends April 23, after the state had won temporary custody of the children based on arguments that underage marriages at the ranch put all of them at risk of child abuse, and was moving them to foster facilities around the state.

The children were originally removed from their parents under the supposition that underage girls were being forced to marry and have sex with older men. The original girl complainant has never been found, but it has since been learned that the call which brought about the mass removals came from the cell phone of a 33 year old black woman, Rozita Swinton, who lives in Colorado, and who has a history of reporting abuse in a childish voice.
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The Republicans are running scared during this political season. One of those oddities, a Democrat named Travis Childers, won the race for a GOP-held congressional seat in northern Mississippi yesterday, leaving the once-dominant House Republicans reeling from their third special-election defeat of the spring. Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat who serves as Prentiss County chancery clerk, defeated Southaven Mayor Greg Davis by 54 percent to 46 percent in the race to represent Mississippi's 1st Congressional District, which both parties considered a potential bellwether for the fall elections.

Democrats said the results prove that they are poised for another round of big gains in the November general elections, and they attacked the Republican strategy of attempting to tie Democrats to Sen. Barack Obama, the front-runner for the party's presidential nomination, saying it had failed for a second time in 10 days in the Deep South. Democrat Don Cazayoux won the special election for a GOP-held House seat in Louisiana on May 3. "No one could have imagined the tsunami that just crashed on Republicans in Mississippi," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in an interview after the victory. "There is no district that is safe for Republican candidates."

While some out there might be quaking in fear at this indication of the shifting of the nation’s political plates, to the rest of us it is a sign that perhaps after a seven year hiatus the government of the United States might actually begin being run by people whose primary interest is in its own citizens rather than in the interests of the super wealthy, the big corporations and the military industrial complex.
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I’m still exploring ways to bring to what I’m sure is a breathlessly awaiting world a podcast version of my radio program from the 1970’s, Nightsong. It was the dj show I did for KPFT-FM, Houston’s Pacifica station. The program was an experiment in surrealistic radio and in the programming of music. Back in those days I used longplay records played on two turntables and I used other res0urces like tape decks to bring some of the mixes to life. Most notable back then was the Sea Mix, which used both turntables and tape decks, and went for 18 minutes and 36 seconds without any kind of script or rehearsal beforehand, but which I am happy to report came off without a hitch.

The new Nightsong, in the form of a Podcast, doesn’t use any of that stuff, lp records, turntables, or tapes, that we used to make radio with in those days. All of the musical performances are digital in form, and I put it together using a program called GarageBand, which is part of Apple’s iLife suite of programs. I have to have a website to host the program, and plan to use .Mac, a web location run by Apple which allows you to have your own website on what is affectionately termed “the cloud” these days. However, the other day I was experimenting with Apple’s web application, iWeb (what else?) but when I brought an episode to the program and listened to it I was underwhelmed, to say the least, at the sound quality. I use the MPEG4 format, which is pretty standard for podcasts so I’ve read, and which GarageBand encodes your efforts with as you save them to the iTunes application for ripping to CD or posting online, but I’m hoping there is something better out there, another compression program which might treat the music more kindly. Wish me luck in that endeavor.

Meantime I continue to put together programs. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t give you a logical answer other than it’s fun to do. I presently have nine programs in the can, so to speak, which I have put together in eleven weeks. I have done pretty much one a week, although doing the first one it took me an extra week as I was teaching myself the program, and after NS7 I took a week off to listen to and assess the programs I had done up until that time.

In the past week I’ve been putting together Nightsong Ten, which delves into the music I grew up with. Not the clunkier stuff like Kay Kyser and his Kollege of Musical Knowledge or Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights. No, although a couple of Kyser jingles spun around my head for more than awhile back then (songs like Three Little Fishes) most of my attention was focused on more serious music of the day. And the material I have put together for NS 10 consists of music by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Dinah Shore, and Fats Waller, among others. It was a trip for me to rediscover these gems from my youth, and of particular interest was a song by Dinah Shore called Dinah’s Blues, which was made for her first national radio gig, a wing-dinger 0f a program called The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street.

I loved that program as a kid, partly because it was a parody on the very serious classical music and operatic programs of its day, the kind that were hosted by the oh so dignified and authoritative voice of Milton Cross. Well CMSLBS spoofed such seriousness in a major way, and in the process showed off a major American contribution to the world’s music, Henry Levine’s Dixieland jazz and Paul Laval’s woodwind jazz band. But most unique were the singing talents the progam featured, for it hosted the very first national appearances of both Dinah Shore and Lena Horne, both of whom went on to become icons of their day. To paint a word picture of the program, I’d like to quote from CMSLBS’s Wikipedia page:

The Basin Street opening, intoned by announcer Jack McCarthy, usually went along these lines: “Greetings, music lovers, and that includes you too, Toots. Once again you are tuned in on a concert by the no doubt world-renowned Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, whose members have consecrated their lives to the preservation of the music of the Three Bs: Barrelhouse, Boogie-Woogie, and the Blues. Present with us on this solemn occasion: Mademoiselle Dinah (Diva) Shore, who starts fires by rubbing two notes together; Maestro Paul Laval and his ten termite-proof woodwinds; Dr. Gino Hamilton, as our chairman and intermission commentator; and Dr. Henry Levine, with his Dixieland Little Symphony of eight men and no!"

The society's chairman, the witty Gene Hamilton (always introduced as "Dr. Gino Hamilton"), would then call the meeting to order, peppering his formal speech with slang: "There are those critics of the saxophone who say it is merely an unfortunate cross between a lovesick oboe and a slap-happy clarinet. To those critics we must say, 'Kindly step outside with us a moment' and 'Is there a doctor in the house?'" These off-center comments were actually scripted by Welbourn Kelley, but Hamilton's deadpan deliveries often made the musicians laugh out loud. The program then delivered 30 minutes of blues and hot jazz, with Dr. Gino stepping in between numbers to deliver such comments as, "A Bostonian looks like he's smelling something. A New Yorker looks like he's found it."

Two resident bands provided the music. Henry Levine and His Dixieland Octet offered traditional "readings" of jazz standards such as "Farewell Blues," "St. Louis Blues," and "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street." Trumpeter Levine, a former member of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, was quite familiar with these arrangements. Paul Laval and His Woodwindy Ten (which included some of Levine's personnel) played the same type of music on more symphonic instruments, demonstrating that such instruments as oboe, bassoon, and celeste were equally capable of producing hot jazz.

Each week Hamilton would feature a notable guest from the jazz world, either a musicologist or a performer. Such celebrated soloists as Sidney Bechet, Bobby Hackett, and Benny Carter sat in with Levine's band. On one occasion Hamilton introduced a W. C. Handy tune, adding that if Mr. Handy was listening from his home in New York, it was hoped he would approve. Handy was indeed listening, and the delighted Hamilton invited him to appear on the following week's broadcast.

Featured vocalists Dinah Shore and Lena Horne received national exposure from their "Basin Street" appearances. Linda Keene joined the show in 1941. Later programs used singers Dixie Moore and Dodie O'Neill. Each broadcast ended with the ritual of Levine's band playing "Basin Street Blues" in "the 'Farewell Symphony' arrangement" -- gradually, each musician would bow out of the song, until finally bassist Harry Patent was playing solo, "dolefully drubbing on his dog house."

The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street initially ran from February 11, 1940 to October 8, 1944. During its first months on NBC it was a sustaining feature (meaning unsponsored) in a late-Sunday-afternoon (4:30 p.m. ET) time slot. It soon developed a loyal following, and on September 16, 1940 NBC began airing the show in prime time, on Monday nights at 9.p.m. ET.

The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, featuring the Levine and Laval bands, recorded for RCA Victor. One side of each record was an instrumental by one of the bands, with opening remarks by Gene Hamilton; the other side generally featured a vocal, accompanied by the other band. These 78s from the 1940s were reissued on LP years later, spotlighting the contributions of Lena Horne and Dinah Shore, but omitting most of the instrumentals and the spoken material.

Five episodes for five dollars may be found on a CD in the mp3 format at:

Also at that location you can hear a full sample program featuring Dinah Shore with the folk legend Hudie Ledbetter, better know as Leadbelly, as a special guest. From that same link you can also save that mp3 file to your computer if you wish to keep the program on your hard drive. The website has many CD’s of famous and not so famous radio programs of the thirties, forties, and fifties at an average price of $5 a cd.
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And so we come to the close of yet another Little Eddy rant. We hope you have enjoyed your time here, and will return again next week. In the meantime, as the old union song used to say, “take it easy, but take it!”

The Real Little Eddy

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