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Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy Hogmanay -- "Auld Lang Syne" Understandings


 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
"Auld Lang Syne" is said to be a Scots poem written in 1788 by Robert Burns (1759–1796) , widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and a pioneer of the Romantic Movement. The roots of the song go much, much deeper.

Auld Lang Syne” comes from a storied past. Some of the lyrics of the work were collected" rather than composed by the poet. The phrase “Auld Lang Syne" was used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (1570–1638), Allan Ramsay (1686–1757), and James Watson (1711), as well as in older folk songs predating Burns.

The story goes that in 1788, after hearing it warbled by an old man, Burns was so moved by its beauty and longing that he set the words to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud #6294). He sent his poem “Auld Lang Syne” to the Scots Musical Museum indicating that it was an ancient song but that he’d been the first to record it on paper. In any case, Burns sent a copy of the poem to a friend that year and wrote: "There is more of the fire of native genius in it (the song) than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians!"

Known to few today, although Burns's "Auld Lang Syne" stirs pleasant memories of carefree companionship, the earliest surviving rendering of the ballad's beginning actually identifies the "old acquaintance (to be 'forgot')" as a faithless lover ("Thou art the most disloyall maid that ever my eye hath seen") with its narrator full of bitterness and regret. This early manuscript was first found in a commonplace book of James Crichton, 2nd Viscount Frendraught, dated 1667.

(“Auld Lang Syne: the story of a song.” The Morgan Library and Museum. 2016.)

History shows that another song beginning “Should auld acquaintance be forgot” appeared in print before Burns adopted the familiar line. Poet Allan Ramsay, whose passion for Scottish folk tradition inspired Burns, published this version in 1724, and its tone approaches the bittersweet nostalgia now associated with "Auld Lang Syne” – “Methinks around us on each bough a thousand Cupids play, whilst thro' the groves I walk with you, each object makes me gay.”

Poet Allan Ramsay's version of "Auld Lang Syne" appeared again a few decades later, set to a traditional air, in the first volume of James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum. (In 1796, in a later volume of the Museum, Johnson published the Burns version of "Auld Lang Syne" for the first time.)

(“Auld Lang Syne: the story of a song.” The Morgan Library and Museum. 2016.)

Of course, “Auld Lang Syne” has weathered time, and it still traditionally played to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight on December 31. Yet, a deeper context of the song reveals a colorful past.

(George Frederick Maine, ed. Songs from Robert Burns 1759–1796. 1788.)


 


History of Celebration

There is some doubt as to whether the melody used today is the same one Burns originally intended, but it is widely used in Scotland and in the rest of the world.

Singing the song on Hogmanay, or New Year's Eve, became a Scots custom that soon spread to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots, English, Welsh and Irish people emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.

Scottish Hogmanay origins are unclear but believed to be derived from the Norse and Gaelic observances of celebrating the winter solstice. It seems the holiday invoked the hill-men, or elves, to banish the trolls into the sea, part of the ancient, pagan, Norse winter festival of Yule. Viking invaders brought their midwinter customs with them from the far North to Scotland. The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule – the celebration of the passing of the shortest day – was "Hoggo-nott."

The word “Hogmanay” is thought to have first been used widely following Mary Queen of Scots' return to Scotland from France in 1561.

As Christmas was all but banned and only very quietly celebrated in Scotland from the end of the 17th century until the mid-1950’s, New Year's Eve became something of a good excuse for revelry, as well as the hardly needed excuse to drink whiskey and eat good food not allowed over the Christmas period.

Historians suggest this banning may have been a result of the Protestant Reformation after which Christmas, and its close ties to the Roman Catholic Church, was seen as "too Papist." Others point to the grueling work schedules of laborers during the Industrial Revolution which did not provide time off for the Christmas holiday.

(Lara Suziedelis Bogle. “Scots Mark New Year With Fiery Ancient Rites.” National Geographic News. December 31, 2002.)


On November 19, 1644, Parliament resolved that Sunday was the "only standing holy day under the New Testament" and within a week they decided that no other holy day would be recognized.

Oliver Cromwell Bans Christmas

Public Notice

The observation of Christmas having been deemed a Sacrilege, the exchanging of Gifts and Greetings, dressing in Fine Clothing, Feasting and similar Satanical Practices are hereby FORBIDDEN with the Offender liable to a Fine of Five Shillings.

Despite Puritan ideals, Hogmanay continued. It allowed wasteful vanities, an excuse for misrule, drunkenness, promiscuity, gluttony, and gambling. It doesn't take a genius to see the parallel to modern New Years celebrations.

In fact, up until the 1950s, many Scots worked over Christmas and celebrated their winter solstice holiday at New Year when family and friends would gather for a party and to exchange presents which came to be known as hogmanays. Parties at the end of the year continue today as people still welcome friends and strangers with warm hospitality and rowdy celebration.
 
Old Hogmanay customs that spread throughout Scotland includes a children's tradition of gift-giving small treats such as sweets or fruit and visiting the homes of friends and neighbors.

Many Hogmanay traditions involving superstitions deal with duties that folks felt should be taken care of before midnight on December 31: these include cleaning the house and stables, taking out the ashes from the fire, and clearing all personal debts before "the bells" sounded midnight – all symbolizing a clean and happy break into the new year. The entire custom of preparing the home for New Year celebrations was called “redding” in Scotland.

(Ben Johnson. “The history of Hogmanay,” historic-uk.com. 2016.)

On the eve, great care was taken to make sure the home fire was burning strong, in order to make sure the new year hearth didn’t go out. If it did, bad luck was foretold for the household -- “the brighter the fire, the better the luck of year.” In addition, the burning of juniper in the home was believed to ward off any evil spirits. 
 
As an extra precaution, as many candles as possible were lit as well, thus giving the name Oidhche Choinnle – the Evening of Candles, the name for Candlemas Eve. It is said that Oidhche Choinnle was applied to Hogmanay by Protestants who didn’t observe Candlemas.

(John Gregorson Campbell and Ronald Black. The Gaelic Otherworld. 2008.)


 

Midnight and “Auld Lang Syne”

Historian F. Marian McNeill describes how the family would wait around the fire for the bells to strike twelve, upon which the head of the house would go to the front door and open it, waiting until the bells had died down and the new year had officially begun. Upon the bells’ silence, he would say:
“Welcome in New Year!
When ye come, bring good cheer!”
(F. Marian McNeill. The Silver Bough Vol III. 1961.)
With the welcome made, the head of the house would return to the fire where his family would be waiting, if they hadn’t all run to the windows as the bells began. Then, they would begin making a racket by shouting, beating trays, and honking horns in order to chase away the negative influences of the old year. In some parts, people fired guns as well.
Immediately after midnight came the traditional singing of "Auld Lang Syne.” Some recount this tradition as everyone standing in a circle holding hands, then at the beginning of the final verse (“And there’s a hand my trusty friend…”), they all crossed their arms across their bodies so that their left hand was holding the hand of the person on their right, and their right hand held that of the person on their left. When the song ended, everyone rushed to the middle, still holding hands, and probably giggling.

(“The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne.” scotland.org. November 18, 2016.)

It was not uncommon for the partiers to have a toast or two to the new year, perhaps with a traditional glass or quaich of Het Pint (ale/whiskey/egg concoction) in a copper kettle passed around for everyone to take a sip.

Next, the party exchanged their small gifts called hogmanays. And, people gave special attention to the “first-foot” – the first guest of the new year. The practice of "first footing" (or the "first foot" in the house after midnight) was once common across Scotland. It was supposed to ensure good luck for the house.

The preferred first-foot was traditionally a dark male bringing with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun, and a “wee dram” of whiskey. It is said the requirement for dark hair echoed to a time when a blonde-haired stranger on one's doorstep meant a visit from bloodthirsty Viking raiders – indeed, a sign of a particularly bad new year. An empty-handed first-footer was also supposedly a bad omen -- though for quite different reasons.

Dr Donna Heddle, director of the Centre for Nordic Studies at Orkney and Shetland College UHI, said: "All these gifts (of first-footing) were symbolic wishes for the new year to come. Coal for heat, whiskey for good cheer and hospitality, while shortbread and black bun – a rich cake – symbolized good food all year.”

Heddle claimed, "Salt is particularly significant. Salt is a symbol of friendship. Traditionally, hospitality is referred to as sharing bread and salt.That is why so much outrage surrounds the Massacre of Glencoe. Bread and salt had been shared and it was taboo to do anything that harmed that gesture of friendship."

(Donna Heddle. “Happy Hoggo-nott?: The 'lost' meanings of Hogmanay.” BBC News. December 31, 2012.)

It was also common for girls to run to the local well for the chance of getting the first skim of it – the flower (as it was called in the south), or cream (as it was called in the north). Whoever got the first pail was said to stand a good chance of finding a good man to marry. Historian John Simpkings relates …

“... but presumably the idea is the same as the skimming of the well at Bealltainn – to get the first, and most potent toradh of the well to ensure luck and prosperity in the coming year. In some parts, it wasn’t the unmarried girls who competed for the first skim, but the wives, who would then wash the dairy utensils in it, with any leftovers being given to the cows to ensure a good supply of milk in the year to come."

(John Ewart Simpkins et al. County Folklore, Volume VII. 1914.)


In the meantime, one of the men who had dressed himself in the hide of the mart cow (the winter cow – killed at Martinmas on November 11, shortly after Samhainn – the festival marking the end of the harvest season), replete with horns, hooves and tail. Off he would go to each house in the neighborhood as residents tried to beat the hide and cause a ruckus. 

At each house that was visited, the guisers would go round deiseal three times, hammering the walls and calling to the occupants to come out. A song would be sung as the door was answered, beseeching to be let in.
(F. Marian McNeill. The Silver Bough Vol III. 1961.)
T.F. O'Rahilly explains the deiseal turning “righthandwise” or in the apparent motion of the sun ... 
 
“In the eyes of our early forefathers the daily course of the Sun, bringing about the alternation of light and darkness and the regular succession of the seasons, was the most striking example that man had of that divine order of the universe which served as a model for order and justice in terrestrial affairs. 

“Hence to go dessel or righthandwise, thus imitating the course of the sun, was not only the right way to make a journey, but was likewise beneficial in other affairs of life, and was likely to lead to a prosperous result; whereas to go in the contrary direction (tuaithbel) would be a violation of the established order and would lead to harm.”

(T. F. O'Rahilly, Early Irish History and Mythology, Dublin (1946), pp. 296-297.)

The festivities would also include the lighting of bonfires and tossing torches. Animal hide wrapped around sticks and ignited produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective in warding off evil spirits: this smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay. In North East Scotland there is a long-standing tradition of making giant fireballs (weighing up to 10 kilos) from rags doused in paraffin, swung on poles and paraded through the town's streets.

It Still Brings a Tear

The song remains. It is an integral part of New Years celebrations, a tune that still evokes meanings and memories for millions. “Auld Lang Syne” is one of the most recognizable songs around the world.

Throughout the lifetime of the song, it was not unusual to pair verses with whatever popular tune provided a good metrical fit. In the United States, "Auld Lang Syne" served as a popular accompaniment to antislavery poems such as William Lloyd Garrison's "I am an abolitionist! I glory in the name." Katharine Lee Bates's poem "America the Beautiful" was often sung to this tune (and many others) before becoming inextricably linked with a composition by Samuel Ward.

(“Auld Lang Syne: the story of a song.” The Morgan Library and Museum. 2016.)

American historians even relate that “Auld Lang Syne” was so powerful in its emotional provocation that it was actually banned from performance on the Civil War battlefront in December of 1862. The Union Army had just suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg. With morale extremely low, Union generals worried that homesick soldiers would be moved to desertion by the song’s aching sentimentality.

And, during the Boer War, Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) composed a new set of lyrics to be sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne" at a benefit concert for military widows and children. His version was first published as a broadside in South Africa and was reprinted in this American keepsake edition.

Hogmanay also remains. The largest celebration of Hogmanay is now held in Edinburgh, where people join hands for what is reputed to be the world's biggest “Auld Lang Syne.” The three to four-day long New Year's party kicks off with a dramatic torchlight procession and fire festival on December 29 or 30, and travel guides say it continues with “spectacle and celebration for every one in the family” - including, in some years, even the family dog, (Dogmanay).

According to scotland.org., the verses of “Auld Lang Syne” are as follows:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.


Chorus:

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne,


And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


Chorus

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.


Chorus

We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.


Chorus

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.


Chorus

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago.


Chorus

And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago


Chorus

And surely you'll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I'll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.


Chorus

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we've wandered many's the weary foot
Since long, long ago.


Chorus

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.


Chorus

And there's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we'll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.


Chorus



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ladies -- Which State Speaks Most to Your Needs?


 

Ladies, welcome. Have you ever wondered what state offered you the most? Where in the United States of America could you find the most equal opportunity?

It really doesn't matter, you say? Well, consider that even though women outnumber men in all but nine states today, research shows female social progress is severely lacking. Serious problems such as gender gaps, along with discrimination and violence against women continue to persist in the United States.

For instance, women represent nearly three-fifths of all minimum-wage workers. And, in the 19 states that refuse to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, women constitute the majority of poor, uninsured adults.
And, consider these employment statistics:

  • Women earn 78.3 cents for every dollar a man earns.
  • At the current rate, women will not receive equal pay until 2058.
    Millennial women experience depression 15.7 more days per year than Millennial men.
  • Men are 2.2 times more likely to work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations than women. 
    (statusofwomen.org. Institute for Women's Policy Research.)
So ...

WalletHub – online, advice-oriented, personal finance tool whose homepage features endorsements by CNN Money, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and others – compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across key metrics that “speak to the needs and expectations of women in America.”

To do the research, WalletHub examined a wealth of data from “median earnings for female workers” to “women’s preventive health care” to “female uninsured rate” to “percentage of women living in poverty.”

In order to identify the best states for women, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across two key dimensions, namely ...
  • “Women’s Economic & Social Well-Being” and
  • “Women’s Health Care & Safety.”
First, they compiled 15 relevant metrics. Each metric was given a value between 0 and 100, wherein 100 is the best value for that metric and 0 is the worst.

Then, they calculated the overall score for each state using the weighted average across all metrics and ranked them accordingly.

Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Violence Policy Center, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, the Social Science Research Council, U.S. News & World Report and WalletHub research.

The Results?

I want to present you with the results of the calculations. To do this, I have chosen the top state and five others at random. Given these six states, which state do you think is ranked as the best to “speak to the needs and expectations of women in America”?

Ohio, California, Minnesota, Hawaii, California, or Florida? 

 

The Winner

Here is the rank of these six states along with the state's total score:

#1 Minnesota 83.17
#10 Hawaii 71.47
#16 New York 65.38
#22 Ohio 61.26
#28 Florida 58.82
#39 California 52.72

Yep, Minnesota gave the world the Mayo Clinic, Prince, Bob Dylan, and a professional wrestler as governor, and according to WalletHub, the state also is the best place for women. Who knew?
The website also said that Minnesota ranked among the best states in terms of women’s life expectancy, women being insured, and the percentage of women who vote.

It also helped that Minnesota placed highly in recent analyzes of the best states for working moms and women's equality. Those reports were used as part of the metric for the “Best States” report.

(Richis Bernardo. “2016’s Best & Worst States for Women.” wallethub.com. February 29, 2016.)

And, Minnesota's stellar ranking is confirmed by other research findings.

The nonprofit Institute for Women’s Policy Research published two reports in a sprawling seven-part series exploring how women are faring in the states. The research confirmed that Minnesota was the best state for women. The “Status of Women in the States” series, an update on a set of reports from 2004, represents an ambitious attempt to quantify gender inequality in the states.

“The way politics are structured in the U.S., if you want to make an impact it helps if you have the data,” says Ariane Hegewisch, study director at IWPR. “So the purpose was to pull the data down to the state level at least to help people concerned about addressing gender issues to make their case.”
Each state and the District of Columbia received grades on seven broad topics, derived from dozens of metrics and touching on virtually all aspects of the public and private lives of women, from employment and earnings to economic opportunity to violence and safety to reproductive rights to health to political participation. In the end, Minnesota rose to the top of the rankings.

(Nirah Chokshi. “The best states for women in America, in 11 maps and charts.” The Washington Post. May 20, 2015.)

With input from a broad and diverse array of business and policy experts, official government sources, the CNBC Global CFO Council, and the states themselves, CNBC scored all 50 states on more than 60 measures of competitiveness. Minnesota was rated #1.

Here are some reasons for Minnesota's glowing standing:

Rather than just seeking the lowest taxes or the highest incentives, companies are increasingly chasing the largest supply of skilled, qualified workers. Minnesota has a great human resource.

Governor Mark Dayton pushed through a whopping $2.1 billion tax increase, primarily targeting smokers and wealthy people. Although Dayton did approve a $508 million middle-class tax cut in 2014, the rate for top earners remains among the highest in the nation, at 9.85 percent.

Minnesota now has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. And, no exodus of millionaires.

Dayton also proposed in 2015 to spend much of the state's budget surplus on education. The legislature approved an additional $500 million for education. Minnesota features some of the best-performing K–12 students in the nation. As of 2015, it has led the nation in average composite ACT scores nine years in a row, and 4th and 8th grade math and reading scores are among the best in the nation as well.

The quality of life in Minnesota is high, and there is plenty of clean air.

Crime there is lowjust 234 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013, the most recent full-year figures available.

Other top 10 finishes for the state in the CNBC study include fifth place in Economy, sixth place in Technology & Innovation and ninth place for Infrastructure.

(Scott Cohn. “Minnesota is 2015's Top State for Business.” CNBC. June 24, 2016.)

Congratulations to the ladies in Minnesota! You have made history.

Postscript

In honor of women in the North Star State, I will end this entry with the story of the earliest known female inhabitant of Minnesota.

The Pelican Rapids-Minnesota Woman is the name given to the skeletal remains of a woman thought to be 8,000 years old. The bones were found near Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, on June 16, 1931, during construction on U.S. Route 59.

The bones were brought to Dr. Albert Jenks at the University of Minnesota, who identified them as the bones of a woman who was 15 or 16 years old, but who had never borne children. The woman had two artifacts – a dagger made from an elk's horn and a conch shell pendant. The conch shell came from a snail species known as Busycon perversa, which had previously only been known to exist in Florida.

The site indicated that the woman had not been ritually buried, and there was a thin layer of broken clam or mussel shells over the body. This led to the hypothesis that the woman had drowned, either by breaking through the ice or by falling off a boat, and that her body had been covered in mud at the bottom of a glacial lake.

Before 1926, most scientists theorized that human beings had only appeared in America within the last couple of thousand years. The discovery of Minnesota Woman provided evidence that humans had been in America for many thousand years before that. Scientists now recognize the girl as a Paleo-Indian whose ancestors had come across the Bering land bridge during the Pleistocene Ice age. Radiocarbon dating places the age of the bones approximately 8,000 years ago, approximately 7890 ±70 BP or near the end of the Eastern Archaic period.

These skeletal remains were reburied in South Dakota on October 2, 1999 by Sioux tribes.



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

William Bell -- "Three of Him" at 76 and Better Than Ever


 

He's had records that have sold millions, but William Bell had never been nominated for a Grammy award despite his 60-plus years in the music business.

That is, until now, upon the release of his sixteenth studio album.

Bear witness to a veteran soul hitmaker's journey back to the spotlight.

William Bell has been nominated for two 2017 Grammy awards. This Is Where I Live is nominated for“Best Americana Album” and his song“The Three Of Me” is nominated for “Best Traditional R&B performance.” With this, his first major release in almost 40 years, Bell has returned to his original home, Stax Records. He has come “full circle” back towards his early teenage roots. 
 
The legendary soul singer is known for writing and performing such standards as “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “You Don't Miss Your Water,” “Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday,” and “I Forgot To Be Your Lover.”

Bell co-wrote most of the songs on the new album with Grammy-winner John Leventhal, who also produced the album. Additional co-writing contributors are Marc Cohn, Rosanne Cash, Cory Chisel and Scott Bomar.

Music historian Peter Guralnick observes that the album, full of assured, subtle moments in its perspective of a certain tension “conveys truths from a perspective of age and experience that might not always have been readily apparent to a younger man.”

Bell confirms this understanding: “At my age (76), I’ve had a lot of experience, and I know what my limitations are, what my faults are as a human being, and I utilize that. When I approach a lyric or a melody, I’m brutally honest.”

No song on the album is more emblematic of this honesty than “The Three of Me,” featuring Bell singing of the different sides of a man who has loved and lost.

A National Public Radio reviews notes the following about the composition:

Age becomes Bell’s voice, which is still sweet and unwaveringly earnest; befitting the song’s conceit, he sings harmony with himself. It’s a pleasure to once again hear his reliable romanticism arranged astride the earthy simplicity of horns, Hammond organ and unfussy guitar riffs.” 
 
(Rachel Horn. “Songs We Love: William Bell, 'The Three Of Me.'” National Public Radio. March 24, 2016.)

Bell relates this insight about writing “The Three of Me” … 
 
We were sitting around in John Leventhal's studio and we were coming up with scenarios about how to write a different love song. And I think Marc [Cohn] had an idea of a title, but no words or anything. But the title kind of struck me, as if a man was just looking back over his life and trying to find out what he would do differently — the loves that he's lost or gained. And we just started writing, and this is what came out of it. It was written as a three-character series.”

By different, Bell says …

Well, sometimes as you grow older you kind of reflect on your life and the loves that you've missed or lost or gained. You write about the things that might have happened, could have happened, woulda-shoulda-coulda, that kind of thing. And what you would like for it to be in a very different situation.”

 

A Brief Bell Bio

William Bell was born in Memphis as William Yarbrough in 1939. He took the last name “Bell” as a stage name in honor of his grandmother, whose first name was Belle.

At first, Bell backed Rufus Thomas, and in 1957, he recording his first sides as a member of the Del Rios. Stax initially signed him, and after a stint in the military, he released his debut album,“The Soul of a Bell,” in 1967. It included a Top 20 single, “Everybody Loves a Winner.” He left Stax shortly before the company collapsed.

Bell then moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1969 and started Peachtree Record Company, his short-lived soul label.

In 1985, Bell founded another label, Wilbe, and issued Passion, which found its most receptive audiences in the United Kingdom.

William Bell was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's R&B Pioneer Award that same year. In 2003, he received both the W.C. Handy Heritage Award from the Memphis Music Foundation and the BMI Songwriter's Award. He was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class.

Bell's songs have been covered by everyone from Linda Rondstadt to Homer Simpson. Other notable artists who covered him include Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Carole King, the Byrds, Gram Parsons, and Warren Haynes.

Some of William’s recent live performance highlights include the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C., the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Lincoln Center in New York City, Ronnie Scott’s in London, the Porretta Soul Festival in Italy, Billboard Live in Tokyo, and at The White House for the PBS broadcast of “In Performance At The White House: Memphis Soul.”

I'm a late bloomer, I guess. But, you know, I've been in this business my whole life, since I was 14 years-old recording. So it's just rewarding. I guess if you stay in it long enough, sooner or later you hit a streak.”

--William Bell, 2016

Click herd for William Bell's, NPR Music, "Tiny Desk Concert"




Monday, December 12, 2016

Income Inequality -- Killing Generations of American Dreams

Americans uphold the notion that hard work and personal skill are the main ingredients for success. Of course, their belief is based on the fact that a high degree of social mobility defines American culture. American History is rich with examples of those from simple, poverty-stricken beginnings who, through incredible perseverance and industry, climb the ladder of success and eventually attain the ever-popular, metaphorical American Dream.

Yet, are people today realizing their ambitions with the same regularity of those in the not-so-distant past? Who can now attain the American Dream of success, happiness, and material comfort traditionally sought by those in the United States?

According to a recent working paper authored by researchers from Stanford and Harvard universities and the University of California, Berkeley, since the 1940s, it has become less and less likely that children will grow up to earn more than their parents.

Children born in 1940 had a 92 percent chance of taking home more income than their parents, the research shows. By contrast, someone born in 1984 – who is 32 years old today – has just a 50 percent likelihood of making more than his or her parents.

Put another way: “Only about half of 30-something Americans earn more than their parents.”
 
(Etehad and Natalie Kitroeff. “American dream slips out of reach for millennials, study finds.” Los Angeles Times. December 08, 2014.)

The study found income inequality is really driving the problem. In the past, new income was spread more evenly across the economic ladder than it is today, when a disproportionate share of the country's gains are going to the very richest Americans.

The country's highest earners have seen their pay balloon by 35 percent, according to a 2015 report by President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisors.

Making growth more equal would help middle-class people the most. But it would also deeply affect wealthy Americans.

People whose parents are among the top earners in this country would see their likelihood of making that much money increase by more than 30 percentage points, if growth were more balanced.

“Broadly shared economic growth affects rich people too,” said Nathaniel Hendren, the assistant Harvard assistant professor who coauthored the study.

There are those who claim pointing out income inequality is simply employing the politics of envy; however, this inequality in the United States is greater than in any other advanced country. It is evident that much of the poverty at the bottom of the income spectrum is due to economic discrimination and the failure to provide all Americans with needs like adequate education and health care. Statistics support the reality that nearly one out of five children in the country grow up poor.

(“Family Characteristics of School-Age Children.” National Center for Education Statistics. May 2016.)

 

Income Inequality – The Impact on the Economy

A study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found income inequality has an impact on the economy overall. There is and has been a reduction of economic growth because of the growing concentration of income among a smaller portion of the global population.

According to the OECD, the gap between the richest and poorest in most member countries is at its highest in the last 30 years. In addition, a broader measure of inequality called the Gini constant (0 when everyone has the same income and 1 when a single person has all income) has been on the rise.

The U.S. is at the top of the scale except for Mexico, which has by far the worst income inequality of the OECD states.

The new OECD analysis found a "negative and statistically significant" correlation between income inequality and economic growth.

(Erik Sherman. “Income Inequality Hurts Economic Growth.” Forbes. December 09, 2014.)
 
Other Dangers of Income Inequality

Living in a community with high income inequality poses health risks.

A study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute examined a series of risk factors that help explain the health (or sickness) of counties in the United States. In addition to the suspects people might expect – a high smoking rate, a lot of violent crime – the researchers found that people in unequal communities were more likely to die before the age of 75 than people in more equal communities, even if the average incomes were the same.

Inequality effects, over and above average income, are pretty well established,” said S.V. Subramanian, a professor of population health and geography at Harvard, who has studied the phenomenon. We know that inequality tends to concentrate income in fewer hands, creating more low-income households – and people in low-income households don’t live as long. But what causes the drop in life expectancy is debatable.

(Bridget Catlin “Income Inequality and Health.” Institute for Research on Poverty Dispatch. April 03, 2015.)


Income inequality can breed corruption.

The effect on corruption may be especially true in democracies, where wealth and political power can be more easily exchanged, according to a study of 129 countries by Jong-Sung You, a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and Sanjeev Khagram, a professor of public affairs at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The wealthy have both greater motivation and more opportunity to engage in corruption, whereas the poor are more vulnerable to extortion and less able to monitor and hold the rich and powerful accountable as inequality increases.

Corruption, of course, can hurt growth by reducing the efficient allocation of public and private resources and by distorting investment. That may end up creating asset price bubbles.

(You Jong-sung and Sanjeev Khagram. “A Comparative Study of Inequality and Corruption American Psychological Review. February 2005.)

Unchecked income inequality may also tend to create still more inequality.
 
Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard, argues that as the rich become richer and acquire greater political influence, they may support policies that make themselves even wealthier at the expense of others. He said, "If the rich can influence political outcomes through lobbying activities or membership in special interest groups, then more inequality could lead to less redistribution rather than more."

(Edward L. Glaeser. “Corruption in America Journal of Public.” Economics 90. 2006)

The crime rate has also been shown to be correlated with inequality in society.

Most studies looking into the relationship have concentrated on homicides since homicides are almost identically defined across all nations and jurisdictions. There have been over fifty studies showing tendencies for violence to be more common in societies where income differences are larger. Research has been conducted comparing developed countries with undeveloped countries, as well as studying areas within countries. 

(Martin Daly et. al. “Income inequality and homicide rates in Canada and the United States.” Canadian Journal of Criminology. April 2001.)

And, the worst effect is that increasing gaps in academic achievement and educational attainments have accompanied the growth in income inequality. 
 
Very young children tend to be completely dependent on their families to provide what they need for healthy development. Children growing up in families with greater financial resources score higher on many dimensions of school readiness upon entering kindergarten. An obvious advantage of a higher family income is that it provides more resources to buy books, computers, high-quality childcare, summer camps, private schooling, and other enrichments.

In the early 1970s, high-income families spent just under $3,000 more per year (in 2012 dollars) on child enrichment than low-income families. By 2006, this gap had nearly tripled, to $8,000. Spending differences are largest for enrichment activities such as music lessons, travel, and summer camps. Differential access to such activities may explain the gaps in background knowledge between children from high-income families and those from low-income families that are so predictive of reading skills in the middle and high school years.

(N. Kaushal, K. Magnuson, & J. Waldfogel, J. (2011). “How is family income related to investments in children’s learning?” In G.J. Duncan & R.J. Murnane, Whither opportunity? Rising inequality, schools, and children’s life chances. 2011.)

(G.J. Duncan & R.J. Murnane. “Introduction: The American dream, then and now.” Whither opportunity? Rising inequality, schools, and children’s life chances (pp. 3-26). 2011.) 
   
(C. Snow. Reading for understanding: Toward a research and development program in reading comprehension. 2002.)
 
Differences in the reading and math achievement levels of low- and high-income children are much larger than several decades ago, as are differences in college graduation rates.

In addition to growing differences in the resources spent by poor and rich families on their children, declining real incomes for low-income families have affected maternal stress, mental health, and parenting. storing the educational opportunities that children from low-income families need if they are to lead productive and fulfilling lives.

Peer problems, geographic mobility, and challenges in attracting and retaining good teachers have made it difficult to provide consistently high-quality learning experiences in schools serving a large proportion of low-income students.

Given the importance of academic preparation in determining educational success, it should come as no surprise that growth in the income gap in children’s reading and mathematics achievement has contributed to growth in the corresponding gap in the rate of college completion.

(Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane. “Growing Income Inequality Threatens American Education.” Phi Delta Kappan. March 28, 2014.)

Among children growing up in relatively affluent families, the four-year college graduation rate of those who were teenagers in the mid-1990s was 18 percentage points higher than the rate for those who were teenagers in the late 1970s. In contrast, among children from low-income families, the graduation rate was only 4 percentage points higher for the later cohort than for the earlier one.

Analysts differ in their assessments of the relative importance of college costs and academic preparation in explaining the increasing gulf between the college graduation rates of affluent and low-income children in the United States. However, both cost burdens and academic performance are rooted, at least in part, in the growth in family income inequality.

Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski. “Changing Inequality in U.S. College Entry and Completion.” National Bureau of Economic Research. 2011.)

The children of the poor can afford neither the advanced degrees that are increasingly required for employment nor the unpaid internships that provide the alternative route to “good” jobs. 

Looking For Solutions

If the United States is the land of opportunity and fair play, why do the richest often pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than those less well off?

What new directions might help alleviate the vast income inequality. Allow me to close this entry with the words of Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate and professor of economics at Columbia University. Stiglitz has received more than 40 honorary degrees, including from Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge Universities. He says ... 
 
If we just imposed the same taxes on the returns to capital that we impose on those who work for a living, we could raise some $2 trillion over ten years. “Loopholes” does not adequately describe the flaws in our tax system; “gaps” might be better.

Closing them might end the specter of the very rich almost proudly disclosing that they pay a tax rate on their disclosed income at half the rate of those with less income, and that they keep their money in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. No one can claim that the inhabitants of these small islands know how to manage money better than the wizards of Wall Street; but it seems as though that money grows better in the sunshine of these beach resorts!

... And because so much of the money at the top comes from exploitation (or as economists prefer to call it, “rent seeking”—that is, seizing a larger share of the national pie rather than increasing its size), higher taxes at the top do not seem to have much of an adverse effect on economic performance.

"Then there’s our corporate tax rate. If we actually made corporations pay what they are supposed to pay and eliminated loopholes we would raise hundreds of billions of dollars. With the right redesign, we could even get more employment and investment in the United States...

"If we required the banks to pay but a fraction of the costs they have imposed on others, we would then have further funds to undo some of the damage that they caused by their discriminatory and predatory lending practices, which moved money from the bottom of the economic pyramid to the top. And by imposing even slight taxes on Wall Street’s speculative activities via a financial transactions tax, we would raise much-needed revenue, decrease speculation (thus increasing economic stability), and encourage more productive use of our scarce resources, including the most valuable one: talented young Americans...

Similarly, by taxing land, oil, and minerals more—and forcing those who extract resources from public land to pay the full values of these resources, which rightly belong to all the people, we could then spend those proceeds for public investments—for instance, in education, technology, and infrastructure—without resulting in less land, less oil, fewer minerals. (Even if they are taxed more, these resources won’t go on strike; they won’t leave the country!)

(Joseph Stiglitz. “How Inequality Is Killing the American Dream...And What We Can Do About It.” The Washington Monthly. November 17, 2014.)

 


Saturday, December 10, 2016

My Right Is Your Left -- Ambidextrous Human Rights



The first human rights organization was established in the United States in 1776 when the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence from England. The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, the foundation of American human rights, reads …

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

What a wonderful, all-inclusive statement of rights it was! Or was it?

Let's consider the fact that the Declaration made no provisions of equality for races such as African slaves and Native-American “savages,” for women, for the disabled, for the young, or for those of other gender identities. In truth, the statement of rights extended only to a segment of the privileged white population of the time.

Over the last 240 years a multitude has given their time, effort, and even their lives to defend, refine, and re-define American human rights – human rights intended for all, not just for some. Early on, the Constitution (1787) and the Bill of Rights (1791) helped establish a broader interpretation of equality in the United States. And, the struggle in pursuit of unalienable rights continues.

Because the attainment of rights is ongoing, the struggle for life, liberty, and happiness in America is perpetual. By its very nature, independence requires the utmost attention and nurturing from those charged to strive toward its lofty ideals. As long as even a few people are oppressed in America, no one lives in a state of equality. “All created equal” are words unshackled by limitation.

How difficult is it to guarantee human rights?

Consider that specific human rights include the following:

* The right to personal liberty,
* The right to due process of law, 
* The rights to freedom of thought, expression, religion, organization, and movement,
* The right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, language, and sex,
* The right to basic education,
* The right to employment, and
* The right to property.

Are these human rights guaranteed to all in the United States? Presumably, yes. Are they given freely to all? I think not. Consider the poor, the aged, the LGBT community, racial minorities, refugees.

People can be quick to criticize less-fortunate individuals. Some bristle about “politically correct” language as being too sensitive. Some claim the government and courts extend too many privileges to those who don't deserve them – for example, they despise those who receive welfare or similar state assistance. These people argue that certain minorities – races, ages, economic groups – should not be protected as equals because they do not “do their fair share.” There are those who even defame and maliciously stereotype struggling people as criminals.

Lately it seems there are more and more of those who think that taking away liberty and equality from those unlike themselves is in order. They feel empowered to judge others who hold different opinions as “unworthy.” They even wish to impose restrictions upon the “bad” people because they are disgusted at their own lack of privilege or because they think single interpretations of “moral behavior” and “religious belief” must be mandatory for all people.

Conservative evangelicals now represent one of the most vocal groups in judgment. The vast majority of them wish to take away rights to abortion, to gender identities, to gay marriage, and to separation of church and state. Many have a narrow view of accepted “family life,” immigration, and substance use. Although this group claims they are being persecuted for their beliefs, they lobby for governmental restrictions on those they deem incorrect. They see anything opposing them as lawless and Godless.

The amazing irony of the religious right is that by voting for a conservative ideological agenda, they have actually hurt the poor, resisted immigration reform, promoted endless foreign wars, and neglected the environment. How can their efforts to marginalize and demonize others extend equality in America?

God bless the masses of gullible, poor people in the Evangelical movement who are so frustrated in their efforts to be recognized that they have become unhinged and turned toward idolizing rich, privileged, controlling interests … but … it is time for truly “good” folks to wash from their eyes the anger and resentment of others and to join movements to advance human rights for all.

If enough people follow certain narrow interests, I fear a stagnant, ultra-right nation will develop; it will then be a place where the privileged choke any and all hopes of unalienable rights from dissenters. Right now so many struggle every day for their share of life, liberty, and happiness. Shouldn't it be our mission to uplift those in need instead of attempting to mold them into forms that fulfill our own visions of independence? No one wants to strive toward an American delusion, rather they wish to fulfill their birthright of an American Dream. 

 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Heartbeats and Abortion in Ohio -- Essential Information About the Law


 

It's called the “heartbeat” bill. It has passed the state House and Senate in Ohio. The bill will now go to Republican Governor John Kasich to either sign into law or veto within 10 days. If he signs it and it takes effect, this would be the shortest window for abortions to be performed in the United States.

This proposed law is known as the “heartbeat” legislation because it bans abortion once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus. Senate President Keith Faber said the bill has been defeated twice in the past in the Senate but was revived after Donald Trump's presidential victory.

The passage came this time as a last-minute attachment to a child abuse-related bill being considered in the lame duck session. That’s what angered Democratic State Senator for the 15th District and Assistant Democratic Leader Charleta Tavares. She said,“It bastardizes the child abuse and neglect bill because it is taking away the safety and security of children.”

(Jo Ingles. “Ohio Legislature Passes Controversial Heartbeat Bill.” Ohio Public Radio. December 07, 2016.)

Medical experts say the bill affects a fetus on average around six weeks gestation into a pregnancy. The bill has no exception for cases of rape or incest.

The Supreme Court has held for over forty years that states cannot ban abortion before a fetus is viable, around 24 weeks. And, similar measures have already been struck by federal courts in two other states: North Dakota and Arkansas.

"We've been fighting this for about five years now," said Kellie Copeland, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. "We've always been able to bottle it up in the Senate." Not this time.

(Emily Willingham. “Ohio 'Fetal Heartbeat' Law Fails On Science And Humanity.” Forbes. December 07, 2016.)
Two Pieces of Legislation

On December 9, Ohio lawmakers also sent a second anti-abortion measure to Governor John Kasich. The Ohio legislature voted 64-29, mostly along party lines, to advance Senate Bill 127, legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

President of Ohio Right to Life Mike Gonidakis said, "I know everyone is swept up in Trump mania, but we have to be realistic. When you overreach, you lose. The courts can be very vicious to you."
Ohio Right to Life's preferred vehicle for chipping away at Roe v. Wade is a ban on abortion at 20 weeks, mirroring the priorities of the National Right to Life Committee, which has championed such a ban at the federal level.

While Ohio Right to Life is officially neutral on the heartbeat bill, having outright opposed it in the past, Gonidakis said of Ohio Governor John Kasich, "I know we hope he signs the 20 week ban because we think it'll be a game changer for the pro-life movement."

Nationally, Kasich has sought to present himself as a moderate. He has previously voiced concerns about whether such a move as the “heartbeat” law is constitutional. He reportedly told CNN in August, referring to abortion, that Republicans "focus too much on just one issue." Many believe if Kasich vetoes the heartbeat bill while quietly signing a 20 week ban into law, he would seemingly take the more measured path.

(Irin Carmon. “Is Ohio 'Heartbeat' Bill a Feint Before More Successful Blow to Women's Rights?” NBC News. December 08 2016.)

Concerns About the Heartbeat Law

Emily Willingham, author and Forbes contributor, explains the penalties under the “heartbeat” law ...

If a physician fails to check for a fetal heartbeat or performs an abortion when a heartbeat is clearly heard, the doctor would be 'guilty of a fifth-degree felony.' This felony, according to The Columbus Dispatch, would be punishable by up to one year in prison and the physician could face a civil lawsuit from the mother as well as disciplinary action.

Under the law, abortions would be allowed only if the woman is at risk of death or 'substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function' (does personal autonomy fall under that?). Women would have to sign a form confirming an understanding that the embryo or fetus (called the 'unborn human individual' in the language) has a fetal heartbeat.”

(Emily Willingham. “Ohio 'Fetal Heartbeat' Law Fails On Science And Humanity.” Forbes. December 07, 2016.)

Willingham believes the law redefines terms for its own purposes. It claims that a fetus is "the human offspring developing during pregnancy from the moment of conception and includes the embryonic stage of development," which would conflict with views of developmental biologists and obstetricians.

And, gestational age is defined as “the age of an unborn human individual as calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of a pregnant woman.” Willingham contends that since this way of measuring pregnancy starts two weeks before conception, this law essentially says that "an unborn human individual" can be minus two weeks old, existing before even the first cell does.

Christy Osler of USA Today speaks of some major concerns for pregnant women under the “heartbeat” bill.

Osler acknowledges the ban would likely take effect before many women even know they are pregnant. Since for many women, it takes a missed period — or even two — to realize they could be pregnant, that could place them about six to eight weeks into their pregnancies, which is too late to get an abortion under the “heartbeat” bill.

Osler also points out ...

Even if some women with unwanted pregnancies discover they are pregnant before the six weeks, they still might not be able to schedule an abortion for one of two major reasons: there are very few abortion clinics in Ohio – nine, currently – so women may have to wait for appointments, and state laws require women in Ohio to first have an informational meeting with a physician about the abortion – and then wait 24 hours after that appointment to have the actual procedure done.”

(Christy Osler. “7 things to know about the Ohio 'heartbeat bill.'” USA Today. December 08, 2016.)

Law Under the Supreme Court

In the light of Ohio considering passage of the “heartbeat” bill, it is important to consider the Supreme Court's rulings on abortion. It is imperative that both proponents and opponents of any legislation restricting a woman's right to an abortion understanding the legality. The Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion, but this right must be balanced against the state's two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting women's health and protecting the potentiality of human life.

Roe v. Wade (1973) ruled unconstitutional a state law that banned abortions except to save the life of the mother. The Court ruled that the states were forbidden from outlawing or regulating any aspect of abortion performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, could only enact abortion regulations reasonably related to maternal health in the second and third trimesters, and could enact abortion laws protecting the life of the fetus only in the third trimester. Even then, an exception had to be made to protect the life of the mother.

Because abortions lie within a pregnant woman's "zone of privacy," the abortion decision "and its effectuation" are fundamental rights that are protected by the Constitution from regulation by the states, so laws regulating abortion must be sufficiently "important."

The Court ruled that narrower state laws regulating abortion might be sufficiently important to be constitutional. For example, because the medical community finds that the human fetus might be "viable" ("capable of meaningful life") outside the mother's womb after six months of growth, a state might constitutionally protect a fetus from abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy, as long as it permitted an exception to save the life of the mother.

Additionally, because second- and third-trimester abortions present more health risks to the mother, the state might regulate certain aspects of abortions related to maternal health after three months of pregnancy. In the first trimester, however, a state's interests in regulating abortions can never be found "important" enough. Such abortions are thus exclusively for the patient and her doctor to govern.

(Alex McBride. “Roe v. Wade (1973).” The Supreme Court: Landmark Cases. Public Broadcasting System. 2006.)



Thursday, December 8, 2016

John Lennon -- Gone for 36 Years But Still Active


 
 Yoko Ono, John Lennon and their immigration attorney, Michael Wildes (right), leave the Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York City on March 16, 1972.

Every December 8 we mourn the loss of John Lennon. This year marks the 36th anniversary of his assassination. Lennon was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman while walking into a New York City apartment on December 8, 1980.

People in my generation find this senseless act so despicable. We understand that Chapman took away the man most responsible for the soundtrack of our lives. Lennon was the musical and cultural icon who exemplified the love and peace movements. His music, more than that of any other popular performer, changed our world. For no reason, we lost him much too soon.

We should remember John Lennon was much more than a talented musician.

Lennon was an activist who spoke his mind about many political issues including the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the struggles of the working class. Thrust into the spotlight as a member of the Beatles, he soon recognized that he could use his celebrity status to not only communicate his own ideas about the world but also to change the way people thought about issues of the day.

Today it is appropriate to speak about a fight waged by John Lennon. It is lesser known than many of his other political exploits; however, it marks an important decision for United States immigration. Considering the times and the leaders, how important it is.

Elizabeth Mitchell of the New York Daily News speaks of Lennon's fight for freedom in America ...

“Who knows what Strom Thurmond had against the Beatles, but the senator from South Carolina certainly knew how to make John Lennon’s life miserable. On Feb. 4, 1972, the 69-year-old, anti–Civil Rights agitator wrote a few lines to Attorney General John Mitchell and President Richard Nixon’s aide, William Timmons, which would end up threatening Lennon with deportation and entangling him in legal limbo for almost four years.

“'This appears to me to be an important matter, and I think it would be well for it to be considered at the highest level,' Thurmond wrote. 'As I can see, many headaches might be avoided if appropriate action can be taken in time.'”

(Elizabeth Mitchell. “How this hastily shot image of John Lennon became an enduring symbol of freedom. New York Daily News. June 11, 2016.)

Thurmond attached a one-page Senate Internal Security Subcommittee report explaining that Lennon appeared to be a threat to Republican interests, particularly their desire to re-nominate Nixon at the San Diego convention that coming summer. The report explained that Lennon was friendly with various left-leaning political activists, including Yippie leader Jerry Rubin.

Word had it that leftists had gathered in New York and discussed the possibility of Lennon appearing at concerts on college campuses to promote voter registration, marijuana legalization, and bus trips to the Republican convention for throngs of willing protesters.

Lennon's friend, photographer Bob Gruen, said the reality was that Lennon felt he shouldn’t endorse or attack individual U.S. candidates. Grune claims Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono strove never to be negative. “They weren’t anti-war. They were pro-peace,” Gruen says. “They weren’t against a politician; they were for voting.”

Yet, despite Lennon's positive intentions, Thurman's letter reached sympathetic ears, and by the end of February, John and Yoko received a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service telling them they had until March 15 to leave the country. John was found to be an “excludable alien.”

Mitchell explained the charges ...

“In 1968, a police drug squad had conducted a warrantless search of his London flat and found a half ounce of hashish. Lennon claimed he hadn’t known the hash was there and, in fact, had swept the apartment three weeks earlier on a tipoff that the squad would be coming. (Since Jimi Hendrix had been a previous tenant he left nothing to chance.) He and Ono had even gotten a friend in the police force to pre-search the place to make sure they were clear. But the raiding officers discovered the stash in a pair of binoculars, found in an untouched box of possessions that had been moved from his previous residence. Lennon pleaded guilty and paid a 150-pound fine. The charge, he thought, was behind him.”

John Lennon eventually spent tremendous money, time, and words battling to remain in New York City. And, unlike most migrants who have problems with their legal status, Lennon and Ono had powerful friends who petitioned the Immigration and Naturalization Service on their behalf.
Bob Dylan wrote a letter on Lennon's behalf. Do did Joan Baez. Others also wrote letters to the service: beat poet Gregory Corso, novelists John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates, painter Jasper Johns, composer John Cage, Leonard Bernstein of "West Side Story," and Joseph Heller of "Catch-22."

On October 30, 1974, John Lennon and Gruen created an image that would make his case succinctly.





On Tom Snyder’s talk show in April 1975, Lennon said, “I love the place. I like to be here. I’ve got a lot of friends here, and it’s where I want to be, Statue of Liberty…welcome.”


Lennon's attorney Leon Wilde said John “understood that what was being done to him was wrong. It was an abuse of the law, and he was willing to stand up and shine the big light on it.”

(Dave Swanson. “The Day John Lennon's Deportation Order Was Reversed. ultimateclassicrock.com. December 07, 2015.)

After years of struggle. Lennon finally received a green card, which allowed him to stay in the U.S. But, most importantly, the files discovered in Lennon's case led U.S. immigration officials to publicize a secret policy.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Irving Kaufman said, “The courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds.” He added, “Lennon's four-year battle to remain in our country is testimony to his faith in this American dream.”

"Before the work of Mr. Wildes, deferred action was a complete mystery because there wasn't even a guideline for attorneys and noncitizens," says Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, who teaches immigration law at Penn State University and wrote Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases.

(Hansi Lo Wang. John Lennon's Deportation Fight Paved Way For Obama's Deferred Action Policy. National Public Radio. August 23, 2016.)

The files showed that for decades, the government had shielded some immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from deportation because of their sympathetic cases.

In fighting the system and exposing the files, John Lennon had effectively changed American immigration policy. It remains pertinent today.

The Obama administration used that policy to create the original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

"Eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization," said President Obama in a 2012 announcement.

An expansion of the program, as well as the creation of a similar program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, is currently on hold because of legal challenges.

Now, the original DACA program covers more than 700,000 young people brought to the U.S. as children — all in part because of John Lennon.

Today we once more remember John Lennon – musician, song-writer, cultural icon, and revered political activist. Thank you, you dreamer. You truly changed our lives.


 


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Brian Jones, Rolling Stone, Ghostly Concert Photo




"If Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were the mind and body of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, standing most of the time in the shadows, was clearly the soul.

Brian, in with Keith and Mick from the earliest – when the Stones were still largely an R&B discussion group meeting in a Soho pub – was labeled the quietest, the moodiest of the group. But he was in fact the most vocal to the press, angrily and sharply defending the Stones' then-radical style of music, their appearance, their politics, and their whole style of life.”

Brian Jones: Sympathy for the Devil,” Rolling Stone, August 09, 1969

Brian Jones, legendary musician and founding member of the Rolling Stones died July 3, 1969 at the age of 27. He was pulled from a swimming pool at his Cotchford Farm estate (formerly owned by A.A. Milne, author of the Winnie the Pooh books) in Hartfield, East Sussex.

Jones developed a serious drug problem over the years, and his role in the band had steadily diminished. The band asked Jones to leave the Rolling Stones in June 1969. His drinking and drug-taking had reportedly taken a toll on his health.

On June 8, Jones announced he was leaving the Stones permanently due to a difference in music policy. He revealed nothing about his own future further than: "I want to play my own kind of music." Jones was replaced in the group by guitarist Mick Taylor.

An inquest in Jones' death returned a verdict of death by misadventure, despite post mortem results showing Jones had not taken illegal drugs and had only consumed the alcoholic equivalent of three and a half pints of beer. He was also reported to be asthmatic.

 

Conspiracy theorists insist he was murdered – and police reviewed the case as recently as 2010 but did not reopen inquiries.

One theory was that Jones was killed in a scuffle or perhaps during horseplay with his disgruntled minder Frank Thorogood. Thorogood had previously been employed by The Rolling Stones to do some work on Keith Richard's house, so he was trusted. Jones had employed a team of three builders at Cotchford, and Thorogood was staying there in the room over the garage to oversee the renovations and to keep an eye on Jones.

The validity of the witnesses to the Thorogood conspiracy is questionable, especially since none had identified themselves or come forward until several years later when rumors of ill-deeds became rife.

One report does say while Thorogood was in a hospital dying of cancer, he confessed to Tom Keylock, Rolling Stones tour manager, that he had killed Brian Jones.

(“Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones dies in his swimming pool.” thehistoryofrockmusic.com. July 02, 1969.)

Thorogood, Janet Lawson, and Swedish dancer Anna Wohlin were at the house at the time of Jones' death. She was Jones' lover and the person who reportedly dragged his lifeless body from the swimming pool and tried in vain to revive him.

 
 Anna Wohlin

Wohlin says she and Brian had planned to go to a Rolling Stones Hyde Park concert together where the Stones would introduce Taylor, Jones' replacement, so Brian could publicly show he had no hard feelings about leaving the Rolling Stones. Jones died just two days prior to the concert.
The Stones, although grief-stricken, decided they would go ahead with the gig and dedicate their performance to him. What was supposed to be a party turned out to be a memorial. Keith Richards later wrote:
The all-important thing for us was it was our first appearance for a long time, and with a change of personnel. It was Mick Taylor's first gig. We were going to do it anyway. Obviously a statement had to be made of one kind or another, so we turned it into a memorial for Brian. We wanted to see him off in grand style. The ups and downs with the guy are one thing, but when his time's over, release the doves, or in this case the sackfuls of white butterflies (butterflies released in tribute at the concert)."
(Keith Richards. Life. 2011.)

Before the Stones kicked off their set on July 5, Jagger addressed the crowd, asking them to be quiet so he could read a tribute to Jones. He then read two stanzas of Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem on John Keats's death, Adonais:

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep —
He hath awakened from the dream of life —
Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings. — We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. — Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled! ….

27” and the Memorial Concert at Hyde Park

It seems that only the good and troubled die young, so let's add to the mysterious tale of the death of Brian Jones.

The “27 Club” is a term that refers to the belief that an unusually high number of popular musicians and other artists have died at age 27, often as a result of drug and alcohol abuse, or violent means such as homicide or suicide. Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse are said to be the “Big Six” in the club. Some people think death at this age haunts celebrities and some pretty weird things surround the tragedies.

(Howard Sounes. 27: A History of the 27 Club. November 12, 2013.)

To add to the intrigue, consider it was reported that prior to buying Cotchford Farm, Brian Jones went on holiday to Ceylon and while there, he visited an astrologer. The astrologer supposedly told him, “Be careful swimming in the coming year. Don’t go into the water without a friend.”

In addition, in the immediate aftermath of Jones' death, Anna Wohlin suffered terrible depression and a miscarriage of the child she and Jones did not even know they were expecting.

(“The Real Brian Jones. Independent UK. November 15, 2005.)

And, for my own addition to the Brian Jones legend and mystique, I want to reveal my reason for writing this entry today. I just happened to be reading about Jones this morning when this photo really took me by surprise. Yes, this is a photo taken of the Rolling Stones playing the memorial concert on July 5, 1969, at Hyde Park. Look at it carefully.

Who or what is the figure on the left of the stage?

 

Is it simply a weirdly unfamiliar photographic depiction of Rolling Stone guitarist, Mick Taylor?

Or, is it a shot of another person on the stage?

Or, is it Brian Jones making one last appearance onstage as a newly departed guest of the band? Is anyone besides me hearing the strange strains of a mellotron and a theremin in flight?

Sun turnin' 'round with graceful motion
We're setting off with soft explosion
Bound for a star with fiery oceans
It's so very lonely, you're a hundred light years from home

Freezing red deserts turn to dark
Energy here in every part


It's so very lonely, you're six hundred light years from home

It's so very lonely, you're a thousand light years from home

2000 Light Years From Home” The Rolling Stones