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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

January 23rd, 2018

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FRESH AIR: If watching President Trump and listening to American political discourse these days makes you feel something’s gone wrong, our guests today will tell you it’s not your imagination. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent years studying what makes democracies healthy and what leads to their collapse. And they see signs that American democracy is in trouble.

In a new book, they argue that Trump has shown authoritarian tendencies and that many players in American politics are discarding long-held norms that have kept our political rivalries in balance and prevented the kind of bitter conflict that can lead to a repressive state. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are both professors of government at Harvard University. Levitsky’s research focuses on Latin America and the developing world. Ziblatt studies Europe from the 19th century to the present. Their new book is called “How Democracies Die.”

Well, Stephen Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt, welcome to FRESH AIR. You know, you write that some democracies die in a hail of gunfire. There’s a military coup. The existing leaders are imprisoned or sometimes shot. Not – this is not the kind of death of a democracy that you think is most relevant to our purposes. What’s a more typical or meaningful scenario? MORE

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RIP: South African Trumpeter Hugh Masekela, The Man Who Blew Freedom’s Horn, Dead At 78

January 23rd, 2018

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NEW YORK TIMES: The next year he joined Abdullah Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand) and four other upstart instrumentalists in the Jazz Epistles, South Africa’s first bebop band of note. With a heavy, driving pulse and warm, arcing melodies, their music was distinctly South African, even as its swing rhythms and flittering improvisations reflected affinities with American jazz.

“There had never been a group like the Epistles in South Africa,” Mr. Masekela said in his 2004 autobiography, “Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela,” written with D. Michael Cheers. “Our tireless energy, complex arrangements, tight ensemble play, languid slow ballads and heart-melting, hymnlike dirges won us a following, and soon we were breaking all attendance records in Cape Town.”

The group recorded just one album, which was printed in a run of 500 and eventually became a kind of Holy Grail for collectors. After the so-called Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960, in which 69 protesters were killed by police officers in a township outside Johannesburg, the government banned public gatherings of more than 10 black people. This forced groups like the Jazz Epistles to take their performances underground; Mr. Masekela and Mr. Ibrahim soon chose to leave the country.

In 1960, Mr. Masekela moved briefly to London, where he studied at the Guildhall School of Music, before the singers Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba helped him secure a scholarship to attend the Manhattan School of Music. He studied classical trumpet there for four years.

In 1962, he recorded his debut album, “Trumpet Africaine,” for the Mercury label. He followed it in 1964 with “Grrr,” also on Mercury. That album — which featured the trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, a veteran of the Jazz Epistles who had also relocated to New York — included a number of Masekela originals that reflected his devotion to his musical roots. On tunes like “Sharpeville,” the effortless churn of the rhythms and the thrumming harmonies reflected the influence of marabi, an instrumental style developed in the early 20th century by workers in the townships outside Johannesburg. […]

In 1964, Mr. Masekela and Stewart Levine, a fellow student at the Manhattan School, established the independent label Chisa, named for the Zulu word for “burn.” The two would remain lifelong collaborators and friends. The label struck gold in 1968 when Mr. Masekela released the album “The Promise of a Future,” featuring “Grazing in the Grass.” With a sanguine two-chord hook, the song registered as a beatific ode to summer; it was released in May and hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in mid-July. MORE

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SMUS: The Sh*tholing Of The American Presidency

January 22nd, 2018

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BY WILLIAM C. HENRY No doubt this nation does need to be made “great,” (as if we were ever really and truly “great,” but I will grant you that our WWII participation and follow-up Marshall Plan SMUSachievements were exemplary exceptions) but for reasons you are about to be made fully aware of, I am extremely reluctant to add the word “again” to any such plea, plan or plaudit. One thing we surely DO NOT need — nor should we EVER become dependent upon — is a bigoted, racist, Russia-hugging, Nazi/fascist-embracing, thieving, bankruptcy reliant, altogether phony, traitorous, money laundering, pathologically lying, petulantly immature, deadbeat, con artist degenerate like Donald J. Trump to lead us toward such a virtuous and honorable goal. What’s that you say? It has only been a year so far. Give him a chance. Well … bullshit! How ’bout I begin by pointing out a few pertinent “facts” that he is obviously: a) totally ignorant of, b) would much prefer to ignore, c) tries his idiotic best to obfuscate, d) totally lies about, belittles, sluffs off or laughs away, e) stuffs under the Oval Office rug, or f) blames everyone and everything but himself for; all of which constantly spews forth from a mouth that so often doubles as an asshole or urethra.

It’s probably best to kick this American “greatness” stuff off back around 1492 — which, by the way, European revisionist historians like to plug as the beginning of “real” American time — there were some 10,000,000 native Americans inhabiting the land mass we now call the United States of America. By 1900 there were believed to be about 300,000 left. What happened to the “difference?” WE KILLED THEM, period! That is correct, folks. We starved them to death, we literally “walked” them to death, we “infected” them to death, and we just plain shot and stabbed them to death! OVER 9 MILLION native Americans! By contrast, the Nazis murdered some 6 million Jews and others. If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to read, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown; Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria Jr.; or perhaps the finest book ever written on the subject, The Earth Shall Weep by James Wilson.

And let us never forget the literally hundreds of thousands of innocent lives this country has sacrificed in the name of “America’s best ‘corporate’ and ‘financial’ interests.” This holier-than-thou country of ours has supported, encouraged, and even installed, tyrannical butchering dictatorships in no less than 35 countries from 1945 to the present day. For God’s sake, this kind of detestable behavior is literally imbedded in America’s political DNA! Trump says he wants to make America great “again.” Are you kidding?! Hell, we’ve been acting in our own selfish “greatest” corporate and financial interests regardless of the human toll and consequences for the past 75 years! If you have any doubts as to the veracity of this paragraph, I suggest you do a little independent research of your own. The truth may not set you free from this moral degenerate in the White House and his American “greatness” rebuilding delusions, but it should damn well alter your moral compass a bit if you possess even a shred of human decency.

Oh yeah, did I mention our shameful if not altogether disgusting (and in many cases downright deadly) policies regarding some 750,000 folks who were originally brought to this country through no fault or choice of their own and have lived exemplary American lives (as in having regularly paid taxes, having diligently educated themselves, having honorably contributed to their communities, having maintained superlative employment histories, and never having garnered so much as a traffic ticket) ever since?! That’s right, folks, we currently have a piece of that proverbial “shit” as president (I simply can’t bring myself to capitalizing the term for him) who would prefer to destroy the lives of decent, upstanding, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons rather than concentrate ALL of our I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency) resources on rounding up and deporting those who damn well deserve to be kicked the hell out of this country! But, that would require some truly honest and discerning effort, some real courage, some real honor, some real “greatness” on our part!

Finally (well, not really, because when this piece is completed I will have only begun to scratch the surface of the repellent transgressions haunting the past and present histories of this “great” nation of ours), in January of 2017 a moronic degenerate was officially installed as president of this “great” nation. Turns out he had amassed 3 MILLION FEWER popular votes than his opponent. Not 3 HUNDRED fewer, not 3 THOUSAND fewer, not even 3 HUNDRED THOUSAND fewer! Are you ready for this? The actual figure is 3 MILLION FEWER!!! How could something like that happen in this so-called “greatest democracy on the face of the earth,” you ask???!!! The answer is a disgusting American “election” travesty called the Electoral College. Check it out. It’s a classic example of American political “shit,” folks, and universes away from what you would expect from the so-called “greatest” democracy the world has ever known!!!

In that same vein, let me ask you a question: do you think that in a “great democracy,” one that prides itself in having engendered and championed the idea of “one man/one vote”, that an essentially all white voting block of some 575,000 (the state of Wyoming) should be able to exercise the exact same degree of political power within our government as say a completely racially and ethnically mixed voting block of some 40 MILLION (the state of California)? Well, that’s exactly how things work in America’s most august and venerable governing body, the United States Senate! Yessiree, it’s essentially that same “magnanimous” concept (remember the Electoral College bullshit?) that made a lying, thieving, traitorous, degenerate, narcissistic, blithering idiot the president of the “great” United States of America!

So, when you take all of that into account, plus the fact that it took until December 18, 1865 to rid this “great” nation of slavery; and until August 18th, 1920 for women in this “great” nation to obtain the right to vote; and that America ranks no better than 16th worldwide in education, and 37th among 190 countries worldwide in healthcare; and that our poverty situation is way, way beyond contemptible and unconscionable, you begin to understand that this so-called “great” nation of ours has hardly progressed beyond the “g” in the word. But, lest you are thinking about completely giving up on this rather mediocre country, you should know that there are two things that it is INDEED unsurpassed at: a) building contraptions to blow people up, and b) actually blowing people up with them. According to the latest figures, we spend about 570 BILLION DOLLAR$ on “defense” (and even that obscene figure is vastly underestimated because this country has so many phony, secret budgets that the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security are awash in so much money that even they don’t know what the annual grand total is or how to keep track of it). The next in line, China, spends about 191 Billion; and the United Kingdom, number 3, spends about 67 Billion. Little ole Russia is 4th with about 54 Billion. That’s right, folks, America spends (as published but not in truth or actuality) nearly as much money on that all-encompassing term “security” as the next three in line COMBINED! And, of course, NOBODY wants to talk much anymore about the ATROCIOUS HUMAN CARNAGE and TRILLIONS$ UPON TRILLION$ OF DOLLAR$ we’ve blown, and CONTINUE to blow, in Iraq and Afghanistan!!!

Stop for a moment and imagine how many fewer homeless and mentally ill individuals, children, and families there might be if we could have dedicated more resources to their health, feeding, clothing and shelter; how many fewer jobless there might be if we could have dedicated more resources to education and retraining; how much more adequate, safer and functional the infrastructure of this country might be if we could have devoted more resources to its construction, rebuilding and repair; how much further along our research into “incurable” diseases might have progressed if we’d had the additional financial resources to devote to their conquering. So, I leave you with the following query: Is it not evident that presidential assholes who preside over glass-enclosed shitholes should be extremely wary of throwing racist and bigoted stones?!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.

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TELEVISION: Fare Thee Well, Portlandia

January 19th, 2018

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PHAWKER: The people quoted in the below article are humorless bores richly deserving the parody they bitch about. Their comments only reinforce the necessity of the show’s humor.

WILLAMETTE WEEKLY: The first time I saw Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen together in the same place, it wasn’t on television or YouTube or in a magazine.

It was at a ping-pong tournament.

Specifically, the Ping Pong Pandemonium Party at Holocene in June 2010. My predecessors on the WW music desk were participating, so I came to show support. Brownstein teamed with her Sleater-Kinney bandmate Janet Weiss and won the whole thing, beating members of Starfucker in the finals.

Armisen—then most famous for portraying Barack Obama on Saturday Night Live—was also hanging out. I hadn’t yet heard of Thunderant, his sketch duo with Brownstein, so it wasn’t obvious to me why he was there.

A few months later, a press release went out announcing a new show satirizing Portland culture.

“Well,” I thought, thinking back to that ping-pong party, “this thing will write itself.”

A few months after that, it was on TV. Nothing was ever the same. And everyone’s still pissed about it.

Seven years later, Portlandia is finally ending. The sentiment around town, at least among anyone who lived here prior to its premiere, is “good riddance.”

It’s an exhausted cliché at this point, but it’s not an exaggeration: Portland truly believes Portlandia destroyed Portland as we once knew it. In 2015, we half-jokingly conducted a poll trying to determine the exact date when “Old Portland” supposedly died. Readers overwhelmingly chose January 21, 2011—the day Portlandia premiered on IFC.

Somehow, this little sketch show on an obscure cable network portraying Portland as a fantasyland of socially awkward liberal narcissists convinced the whole world to move here, driving up rents, clogging the freeways and replacing your favorite dive bar with an artisanal knot store. It misrepresented the city, then those misrepresentations became reality. They paved paradise and put a bird on it.

At least, that’s the theory.

Nobody necessarily worried about this happening when the show first started. It’s a misnomer to say the city was ever totally on-board with Portlandia, but the reasons for being wary of it were different—mostly, we just didn’t like being made fun of. MORE

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GEEK SQUAD: When Ben Franklin Cucked Strange

January 17th, 2018

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SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY: This is Doctor Strange (v2) #018 from 1976. After a brief sojourn through time, Strange and Clea encounter Ben Franklin. Strange proceeds ahead and leaves Clea and Franklin in each other’s company. The randy old goat then proceeds to seduce Clea. MORE

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INJUSTICE: The Inky’s Dirty War On Larry Krassner

January 17th, 2018

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IN JUSTICE TODAY: It didn’t take too much deliberation for the Philadelphia Inquirer to render its guilty verdict against District Attorney Larry Krasner after he took office on January 2: “the first days of Krasner’s administration,” the editorial board intoned nine days later, “seem more about imprudence than jurisprudence”

Zing. A rhyme. But what does it all mean? Well, Krasner swiftly ousted 31 prosecutors who packed up their desks along with others who had resigned on their own accord before he took office. Last year, Krasner, a career civil rights and defense attorney, rode a surge of grassroots organizing to a shocking win, promising to turn the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office upside down and take concrete steps to end mass incarceration.

What’s surprising to me, first of all, is all the Inky’s surprise: What should be remarkable is that Krasner fired such a small number, judging the vast majority of people in an office of roughly three hundred prosecutors to be ready to head in a very different direction under his new leadership — a direction in which he plans to leaven the conventional pursuit of punishment with a more holistic conception of public safety and well-being.

The Inquirer’s editorial board, however, shrouded its opposition to the firings (which were actually pointed requests to resign) with criticism of the way in which they were orchestrated. Echoing reporting from the paper, they complained that “victims of crimes, witnesses and people accused, along with judges and defense attorneys, were left in a lurch in city courtrooms when prosecutors expected to play their part in our criminal justice system were suddenly yanked from those roles, with no replacements ready.”

At least two different stories in the paper highlighted a murder case that was delayed because veteran prosecutor Andrew Notaristefano was pushed out, with one story citing the emotional toll the delay caused for the victim’s family. No doubt: lengthy trials are painful for victims’ families, and the paper is right to tell their stories. But context is important and hard to find in the coverage: trials are delayed all the time, often at the request of prosecutors. It’s worth considering, then, why this one delay has dominated the paper’s coverage of Krasner’s extremely short tenure, and why stories about the many Philadelphians who have had their lives ripped apart by mass incarceration and police brutality — and what they might be hoping for from the new district attorney — have been absent.

The paper’s reporting — “Last week’s shakeup and the new appointments added to the impression — and in some corners, hope — that Krasner, a career civil rights lawyer, would drastically reshape the office and its priorities” — turns reality on its head, portraying their own reactionary position as the majority one prevailing in the city. In some corners? The paper has yet to accept that their position, which is also the position of the city’s criminal justice establishment, was thoroughly repudiated at the ballot box. MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: The Day Martin Luther King Had To Explain To His Daughter Yolanda That Little ‘Colored’ Girls Are Not Allowed To Go To Funtown

January 15th, 2018

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PLAYBOY: Dr. King, are your children old enough to be aware of the issues at stake in the civil rights movement, and of your role in it?

MARTIN LUTHER KING: Yes, they are—especially my oldest child, Yolanda. Two years ago, I remember, I returned home after serving one of my terms in the Albany, Georgia, jail, and she asked me, “Daddy, why do you have to go to jail so much?” I told her that I was involved in a struggle to make conditions better for the colored people, and thus for all people. I explained that because things are as they are, someone has to take a stand, that it is necessary for someone to go to jail, because many Southern officials seek to maintain the barriers that have historically been erected to exclude the colored people. I tried to make her understand that someone had to do this to make the world better—for all children. She was only six at that time, but she was already aware of segregation because of an experience that we had had.

PLAYBOY: Would you mind telling us about it?

MARTIN LUTHER KING: Not at all. The family often used to ride with me to the Atlanta airport, and on our way, we always passed Funtown, a sort of miniature Disneyland with mechanical rides and that sort of thing. Yolanda would inevitably say, “I want to go to Funtown,” and I would always evade a direct reply. I really didn’t know how to explain to her why she couldn’t go. Then one day at home, she ran downstairs exclaiming that a TV commercial was urging people to come to Funtown. Then my wife and I had to sit down with her between us and try to explain it. I have won some applause as a speaker, but my tongue twisted and my speech stammered seeking to explain to my six-year-old daughter why the public invitation on television didn’t include her, and others like her. One of the most painful experiences I have ever faced was to see her tears when I told her that Funtown was closed to colored children, for I realized that at that moment the first dark cloud of inferiority had floated into her little mental sky, that at that moment her personality had begun to warp with that first unconscious bitterness toward white people. It was the first time that prejudice based upon skin color had been explained to her. But it was of paramount importance to me that she not grow up bitter. So I told her that although many white people were against her going to Funtown, there were many others who did want colored children to go. It helped somewhat. Pleasantly, word came to me later that Funtown had quietly desegregated, so I took Yolanda. A number of white persons there asked, “Aren’t you Dr. King, and isn’t this your daughter?” I said we were, and she heard them say how glad they were to see us there. MORE

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DAILY KOS: I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech. My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.” Please let this sink in and and take my word and the word of my late father on this. If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about. […] It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus. You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement used to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.

It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment. This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people. White people also occasionally tried black people, especially black men, for crimes for which they could not conceivably be guilty. With the willing participation of white women, they often accused black men of “assault,” which MLK ABERNATHY MUG SHOTcould be anything from rape to not taking off one’s hat, to “reckless eyeballing.”

I remember a huge family reunion one August with my aunts and uncles and cousins gathered around my grandparents’ vast breakfast table laden with food from the farm, and the state troopers drove up to the house with a car full of rifles and shotguns, and everyone went kind of weirdly blank. They put on the masks that black people used back then to not provoke white berserkness. My strong, valiant, self-educated, articulate uncles, whom I adored, became shuffling, Step-N-Fetchits to avoid provoking the white men. Fortunately the troopers were only looking for an escaped convict. Afterward, the women, my aunts, were furious at the humiliating performance of the men, and said so, something that even a child could understand.

The question is, how did Dr. King do this—and of course, he didn’t do it alone. So what did they do? They told us: Whatever you are most afraid of doing vis-a-vis white people, go do it. Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down. Go ahead sit at that lunch counter. Sue the local school board. All things that most black people would have said back then, without exaggeration, were stark raving insane and would get you killed. If we do it all together, we’ll be okay. They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad. They taught black people how to take a beating—from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses. They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms fredshuttlesworthmuglargeand take the beating. They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.

And you know what? The worst of the worst, wasn’t that bad. Once people had been beaten, had dogs sicced on them, had fire hoses sprayed on them, and been thrown in jail, you know what happened? These magnificent young black people began singing freedom songs in jail. That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south. Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song. The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another. MORE

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BEING THERE: Dog Day Afternoon

January 14th, 2018

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The Linc, 8:04 PM Saturday

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SIDEWALKING: Velvet Fog

January 12th, 2018

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Ben Franklin Bridge, 1:27 PM Friday by JONATHAN VALANIA

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CINEMA: Paper Trail

January 10th, 2018

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THE POST (Directed by Steven Spielberg, 115 minutes, USA, 2017)

CHRIS MALENEYBY CHRISTOPHER MALENEY FILM CRITIC Is Nixon done to death? With two movies out in the past six months alone, I have to wonder how much more we can squeeze out of the years between 1968 to 1974. It’s gotten to the point where they’re making prequels to classics like All the President’s Men; it won’t be long until they do a remake of it. Anyway, this year’s recycling of the journalistic wet dream that was the Nixon saga is The Post, which retells for film the real events of the Washington Post’s publication of the Pentagon Papers and subsequent rise to national significance. The difficulty with discussing a historic movie is that we must separate the real events from how the film portrays them. In lauding or panning a historic movie, we do not pass judgement on the events themselves but on how the filmmaker depicts the events, and what they are trying to say about modern times.

So, just what were the Pentagon Papers? Well, for anyone who didn’t live through the events, or who didn’t pay attention in American History class, the Pentagon Papers were a study commissioned by Robert Mcnamara, the Secretary of Defense for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, that outlined the history of American involvement in Vietnam, and south-east Asia generally, from 1945 to 1967. The seven thousand page study showed how the government lied about the scope of the war, the aims of the war, and its ability to be won. They showed how the American government manipulated elections in South Vietnam, conducted illegal operations, and then lied about it all. When the Pentagon Papers were printed, the people were shocked. Imagine the naivete of the times! This was the first time in a long while, possibly ever, that the machinations of the American state were stripped bare, the first time people realized the government was lying to them, the first time people were told that the expressed morality of the United States government was at odds with the sheer brutality of imperialist capitalism.

The United States has been at war in one form or another for almost my whole life. We’ve been in Afghanistan since I was in kindergarden. We’ve been in Iraq since I was in second grade. Today, that list includes Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Niger, and a number of other top-secret locations, you can be sure. The point is, none of us are surprised anymore. Most of us aren’t even concerned. Sure there are distractions. Sure, the optics on it are better than in the sixties and seventies. But overall, we’re just numb. We don’t care how many civilians get blown up by drones, how many kids are murdered by security forces. Bush, Obama, Trump — nothing changes but the names and the numbers. And yet, as Kennedy states at the beginning of the film, we know that America never starts wars. We know we’re the good guys.

So it is commendable that what Spielberg wants to show us in The Post is that whistleblowers and leakers deserve protections to reveal the abuses of the state. They should function as a check on power; I’m sure James Risen would agree. The film glorifies the choice that the editors and publishers of the Washington Post took to print the Pentagon Papers, and it was a daring choice. Good on them. The trouble is that the biggest risk the characters run is losing a lot of money. Katherine Graham, the paper’s owner, runs the risk of seeing her whole fortune vanish if bankers withdraw from the Post’s impending Initial Public Offering. Everyone, she tells us at one point, has a lot to lose — a line that would be a lot stronger if she wasn’t speaking about a room full of millionaires. And this might be true to history, but is that the ultimate narrative concern? At a time when people are being threatened, jailed, even murdered by the government, is the most daring risk really to lose millions of dollars?

I appreciate what is going on in this movie. I think it is important to have a movie where people discover that the motivating ideology of their country is not as benevolent as the national narrative has lead them to believe. I like how the message is established with audio and visual quotes of real persons juxtaposed over the revelations of the Pentagon Papers. My problem is that this analysis of ideology and actuality does not go nearly far enough. The film never explores why the message and the facts become so mixed. Pride, it suggests, and inertia, are what kept us in Vietnam so long. A simplistic reading of history, to be sure.
And there is some difficulty, too, with how the film wants us to treat the press. We’re supposed to believe that all journalists are crusaders, fighters for the American dream, who defy unjust wars wherever they’re spotted. It’s like the Spanish-American War never happened. It’s like the Washington Post never printed the word ‘irrefutable’ in 2003. The narrative’s message is a simplistic treatment of journalism, just like its examination of Katherine Graham’s life is a simplistic examination of feminist theory. If all you want is reassurance in dark times, this might do the trick. If you need meat on the bones, well, stick to reading books or something. Start with David Halberstam‘s The Best And Brightest.

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IN MEMORIAM: David Bowie Will Never Die

January 9th, 2018

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This euology originally published in the wake of David Bowie’s death on January 10th 2016. We are re-posting it today on the occasion of his birthday and the kick-off of Philly Loves Bowie Week.

BYLINER mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA The year is 1980 and 14-year-old me drops the needle on Changesonebowie in my bedroom, with the door locked because this is serious business, while staring at the album cover, trying to figure out how all these startling and seemingly disconnected musics — space-age psych folk, white plastic soul, zooming Brechtian glam, bloozy garage-punk, coked-up funk, Teutonic trance-rock, proto-electronica — came out of this one delicate man with impeccable hair and immaculate cheekbones. Thirty-six years later I still don’t have a good answer beyond this: Clearly, he is from another planet. Clearly.David Bowie Aladdin Sane

The year is 1983 and I am teetering on my seat, dizzy from the thin air  — and perhaps an illicit beer or seven in the parking lot — way up in the nosebleed section of the Spectrum for the Philly stop of Bowie’s Serious Moonlight Tour. Though we seemed miles away from the stage, there was no missing that hot mustard yellow double breasted suit and the curly shock of electric blond hair or that voice — river deep, mountain high, smooth as crushed velvet and sharp as shattered glass, it contained multitudes. You could hear the whole 20th Century in that voice.

The year is 1984, I walk into the only edgy/cool fancy-pants hair salon in Allentown, PA, with the cover of Heroes under my arm. “This is what hair is supposed to look like,” I tell them. “Make me look like this.” When they get done, they insist I look just like the guy on the cover of Heroes, but looking in the mirror I can tell they are lying. A hard lesson was learned on that day: Being David Bowie is harder than it looks. Much harder.

The year is 2004, I am a journalist working on a magazine profile of the Polyphonic Spree who have been hand-picked by David Bowie to be the opening act for what will prove to be his David Bowie Aladdin Sanefinal American tour. We are standing in the support act dressing room — me and 12 gangly, funky-smelling Texans wearing white Jesus robes and dirty Chuck Taylors —  deep in the bowels of the Wachovia Center waiting for The Man Who Fell To Earth to pop in for one of those faux-spontaneous carefully-arranged candid shots for the Random Notes section of Rolling Stone. It’s noisy, hot and locker room-rific in here. When he finally arrives literally everyone gasps and the room falls pin-drop silent: It’s David Fucking Bowie. He is elegant and gracious and shorter than he looks on TV. I shake his hand just to prove to myself that this really happened.

The year is 2016. It’s the morning after I heard on the BBC somewhere around 2 AM that David Bowie died. I’m still having a hard time processing it. I feel like a part of me is gone. I’m driving around Philadelphia, the city where David Bowie recorded three albums (Young Americans, Live, Stage), going nowhere in particular. Philly is a big Bowie town. Back in the day, he would sell out the Tower six nights in a row and tickets were a whopping $5. WXPN is playing non-stop Bowie and I have the radio cranked up to 11. “Heroes” comes on and I crank it up to 12. It’s my favorite Bowie song. I lose it somewhere around the third verse, when he sings “I, I can remember…standing by the wall” and the back-up singers repeat his words back to him like horns. That’s when it hits me like a hammer: David Bowie is fucking dead. Tears roll down my cheeks like I’m watching the end of It’s A Wonderful Life. I flick on the windshield wipers even though it’s not raining. David Bowie Aladdin Sane

But as the song fades out it occurs to me that that’s not true at all. David Bowie is not dead. Because David Bowie will never die. Oh sure, that guy born David Robert Jones is gone, and that’s a terrible loss for his friends and family. But people like you and me, we never knew that guy. We knew David Bowie, or more accurately we knew the idea of David Bowie. Because in the end David Bowie was, above all things, an idea, a brilliant idea, but an idea nonetheless and you cannot kill an idea. Not even cancer can kill an idea. And that idea is this: we are the imagination of ourselves. We control the illusion and we can change it any time we want. We can be black, white, striped, gay, straight, bi, trans, Martian, glam, goth, hot funk, cool punk, old junk, a bottle blonde, a ginger, a jazzer or even drums n’ bass. There is no right answer. But sooner or later, you become yourself. That is the idea of David Bowie. And that will never die.

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INSTANT KARMA: Gonna Knock U Off Your Feet

January 8th, 2018

via GIPHY

BUSINESS INSIDER: White House adviser Stephen Miller was escorted off the set of CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday after a contentious interview with host Jake Tapper. Two sources close to the situation told Business Insider that after the taping was done, Miller was asked to leave several times.

He ignored those requests and ultimately security was called and he was escorted out, the sources said. Miller’s appearance on the cable network quickly went off the rails when Tapper pressed him on explosive claims about President Donald Trump that appeared in the book “Fire & Fury: Inside The Trump White House” by Michael Wolff.

Miller repeatedly attempted to pivot the conversation toward criticism of CNN, a favorite target of Trump’s. He then referred to Trump as a “political genius” and lamented his treatment during the interview, leading Tapper to reply that there was only “one viewer you care about right now.”

“I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time. Thank you, Stephen,” Tapper said, bringing the interview to an abrupt end. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has been interviewed as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The interview brings the special counsel investigation into President Donald Trump’s inner circle in the White House. Miller is the highest-level aide still working at the White House known to have talked to investigators.

Miller’s role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey was among the topics discussed during the interview as part of the probe into possible obstruction of justice, according to one of the sources. Special counsel investigators have also shown interest in talking to attendees of a March 2016 meeting where foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos said that he could arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin through his connections. Miller was also at the meeting, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

Papadopoulos was recently charged with lying to the FBI about Russian contacts he had during the campaign.
Earlier this year, Miller assisted Trump in writing a memo that explained why Trump planned to fire Comey, according to sources familiar with the matter. Eventually that memo was scrapped because of opposition by White House counsel Don McGahn, who said its contents were problematic, according to The New York Times. The Comey dismissal letter — drafted during a May weekend at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey — has also drawn interest from the Mueller team. MORE

NEWSWEEK: Senior White House advisor Stephen Miller was among the top-flight Trump 2016 officials in regular contact with campaign staffer George Papadopoulos, now at the center of a federal probe into Russian influence on the presidential election.

While the White House has looked to distance itself and President Donald Trump from Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to federal officials about his Russian contacts, the New York Times reported Friday the 28-year-old had been in regular contact with Stephen Miller and helped edit a major Trump foreign policy speech. Miller had not previously been identified in court documents.

According to emails seen by the Times, Papdopolous, named as a foreign policy advisor to the campaign, told Miller, now one of the most enduring and recognizable members of the administration, that Trump had an “open invitation” to visit Russia, at the guarantee of Russian President Vladimir Putin. MORE

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: It’s Mueller Time!

January 4th, 2018

final-mueller-cover

 

TIME: The special counsel is, like Trump, the scion of a wealthy family, raised at a boarding school and educated in the Ivy League. But the life choices of Robert Swan Mueller III, 72, suggest a decidedly different temperament from the one that occupies the Oval Office. Unlike Trump, who says he has few if any personal heroes, Mueller’s path was marked by a profound admiration for a role model he met at Princeton, a student a year ahead of him named David Spencer Hackett.

“I played lacrosse with David,” Mueller explained last year in a speech at West Point. “He was not necessarily the best on the team, but he was a determined and a natural leader.” Hackett’s decision to join the Marine Corps, and his death in 1967 while rallying his platoon during an ambush in Vietnam, moved Mueller to follow in Hackett’s footsteps. “Many of us saw in him the person we wanted to be,” Mueller said.

Trump once joked with radio shock jock Howard Stern that chasing women while risking STDs was his version of Vietnam, adding, “It is very dangerous.” He might have chosen a different analogy if he had served as Mueller did. Commissioned in the Marine Corps and trained at Army Ranger School, Lieut. Mueller led a rifle platoon in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. Wounded in combat, he received a Bronze Star with a V for valor as well as a Purple Heart and two Navy Commendation Medals.

Mueller told his West Point audience that his military experience instilled in him a desire to continue to serve his country. After earning a law degree from the University of Virginia and learning the ropes as an associate at a large law firm, he joined the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco, where he rose to chief of the criminal division.

In 1989, Mueller moved to Washington, where he soon took charge of the entire Justice Department’s criminal division. Under his watch, department lawyers prosecuted major cases involving terrorism, organized crime, drugs and money laundering. Although his voter registration said Republican, Mueller earned the confidence of leaders in both parties. In 1998, Democrat Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Attorney for Northern California. Republican George W. Bush called him back to Washington as Deputy Attorney General, then picked him to lead the FBI in 2001.

Mueller’s first official day at the Hoover Building was Sept. 4. A week later, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington plunged the bureau into one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. Mueller’s challenge was to transform a primarily domestic law-enforcement agency into a global counterterrorism force–while breaking down cultural barriers to information sharing and pulling the paper-pushing bureau into the digital age. Many agents found Mueller to be bullheaded as he shook up personnel rules and rammed through technology updates. And he made mistakes, including a botched investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks in D.C., Florida, New York and New Jersey, in which an innocent man was hounded in the press while Mueller and his agents ignored the real killer. But overall, in the judgment of FBI historian Ronald Kessler, no director in the modern era “has had a greater positive impact on the bureau than Mueller.”

As director, Mueller worked closely with Comey, who was appointed Deputy Attorney General in 2003. Together, they threatened to resign in 2004 over a White House plan to preserve a program of warrantless wiretaps. Their frantic dash to the bedside of ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to ward off a delegation of White House arm twisters on a mission to save the program was a heroic high point for friends of Mueller and Comey–and an example of their sanctimony to their detractors. Either way, they won: Bush agreed to make changes to the program. When Mueller’s extended term at the FBI ended in 2013, few were surprised that Obama installed Comey in his place. MORE

FRESH AIR: Neal Katyal wrote the special counsel regulations when he worked under President Clinton. Now he lays out the legal issues that could arise if Trump tries to interfere with the Mueller investigation. MORE

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