Saturday, February 09, 2019

Happy Birthday Tom Rush -Once More Into The Time Capsule, Part Three- The New York Folk Revival Scene in the Early 1960’s-Tom Rush

Happy Birthday Tom Rush -Once More Into The Time Capsule, Part Three- The New York Folk Revival Scene in the Early 1960’s-Tom Rush

A link to YouTube's film clip of Tom Rush performing Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game"

CD Review

Washington Square Memoirs: The Great Urban Folk Revival Boom, 1950-1970, various artists, 3CD set, Rhino Records, 2001

Except for the reference to the origins of the talent brought to the city the same comments apply for this CD.Rather than repeat information that is readily available in the booklet and on the discs I’ll finish up here with some recommendations of songs that I believe that you should be sure to listen to:

Disc Three: Phil Ochs on “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, Richard &Mimi Farina on “Pack Up Your Sorrows”, John Hammond on “Drop Down Mama”, Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band on “Rag Mama”, John Denver on “Bells Of Rhymney”, Gordon Lightfoot on "Early Morning Rain”, Eric Andersen on “Thirsty Boots”, Tim Hardin on “Reason To Believe”, Richie Havens on “Just Like A Woman”, Judy Collins on “Suzanne”, Tim Buckley on “Once I Was”, Tom Rush on “The Circle Game”, Taj Mahal on “Candy Man”, Loudon Wainwright III on “School Days”and Arlo Guthrie on “The Motorcycle Song”

Tom Rush on “The Circle Game”. Joni Mitchell wrote it. Tom Rush sings it. That is enough for me. Except I think we have to expand the number of verses to cover later times (after 20)...and to keep slowing those circles down. Please!

"Circle Game"-Joni Mitchell

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when youre older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and dawn
Were captive on the carousel of time
We cant return we con only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it wont be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and dawn
Were captive on the carousel of time
We cant return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur
Coming true
Therell be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
Were captive on the carousel of time
We cant return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Happy Birthday Tom Rush -For Bob Dylan *Once More Into The Time Capsule, Part Two- The New York Folk Revival Scene in the Early 1960’s-Eric Von Schmidt

Happy Birthday Tom Rush -For Bob Dylan *Once More Into The Time Capsule, Part Two- The New York Folk Revival Scene in the Early 1960’s-Eric Von Schmidt

A link to YouTube's film clip of Eric Von Schmidt performing "Joshua's Gone Barbados".

CD Review

Washington Square Memoirs: The Great Urban Folk Revival Boom, 1950-1970, various artists, 3CD set, Rhino Records, 2001

Except for the reference to the origins of the talent brought to the city the same comments apply for this CD. Rather than repeat information that is readily available in the booklet and on the discs I’ll finish up here with some recommendations of songs that I believe that you should be sure to listen to:

Disc Two: Dave Van Ronk on “He Was A Friend Of Mine” and You’se A Viper”, The Chad Mitchell Trio on “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream”, Hedy West on “500 Miles”, Ian &Sylvia on “Four Strong Winds”, Tom Paxton on “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound”, Peter, Paul And Mary on “Blowin’ In The Wind”, Bob Dylan on “Boots Of Spanish Leather”, Jesse Colin Young on “Four In The Morning”, Joan Baez on “There But For Fortune”, Judy Roderick on “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”, Bonnie Dobson on “Morning Dew”, Buffy Sainte-Marie on “Cod’ine” and Eric Von Schmidt on “ Joshua Gone Barbados”.

Eric Von Schmidt on “Joshua Gone Barbados”. As a good historical materialism of the Marxist tradition I am very wedded to the idea that ideas, movements and the like do not just spring forth in pristine nature but are conditioned by a whole series of prior events. Figuring out the important ones that drive history has been a life-long occupation. What has required less time is the knowledge that certain folk personalities like Dave Van Ronk (and the members of New Lost City Ramblers) were waiting in Greenwich Village when the young aspiring folkies were heading to Mecca.

There were other “hot” folk spots as well, with their own local town-greeters. In the case of Cambridge by the banks of the old Charles River and adjacent to that citadel of folk wisdom, Harvard University, that task was done by, among others, Eric Von Schmidt. Bob Dylan makes reference to Eric in one of his early albums. How about that for cache? I have written elsewhere about Eric’s role I only need to note here that there are two other songs that could have been included here: his cover of “When That Great Ship When Down” (about the Titanic, naturally); and, his own “Light Rain” are good examples of the kind of energy that was around in those days.


Sunday, March 11, 2007
Joshua Gone Barbados. Eric Gone, Too.(v2)


Eric von Schmidt, a painter and folksinger, died February 2, 2007 in Connecticut. Bob Dylan wrote of him that “He could sing the bird off the wire and the rubber off the tire, he can separate the men from the boys and the note from the noise". But why should that be of interest to people in St. Vincent? Because his most recorded and most famous song, "Joshua Gone Barbados", is about an incident that happened near Georgetown:

"Joshua Gone Barbados".

"Cane standing in the fields getting old and red
Lot of misery in Georgetown, three men lying dead
And Joshua, head of the government, he say strike for better pay
Cane cutters are striking, Joshua gone away.

Chorus: Joshua gone Barbados, staying in a big hotel
People on St. Vincent they got many sad tales to tell.

Sugar mill owner told the strikers, I don't need you to cut my cane
Bring in another bunch of fellows, strike be all in vain.
Get a bunch of tough fellows, bring 'em from Sion Hill
Bring 'em in a bus to Georgetown, know somebody get killed.

And Sonny Child the overseer, I swear he's an ignorant man
Walking through the canefield, pistol in his hand
But Joshua gone Barbados, just like he don't know
People on the Island, they got no place to go.

Police giving protection, new fellows cutting the cane
Strikers can't do nothing, strike be all in vain
And Sonny Child he curse the strikers, wave his pistol 'round
They're beating Sonny with a cutlass, beat him to the ground.

Chorus 2:There's a lot of misery in Georgetown,
you can hear the women bawl
Joshua gone Barbados, he don't care at all.

Cane standing in the fields getting old and red
Sonny Child in the hospital, pistol on his bed
I wish I could go to England, Trinidad or Curacao
People on the Island they got no place to go.

The Answer My Friend Is Blowing (No Clipped “G”) In The Wind-The Influence Of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” On The “Generation of’68”-The Best Part Of That Cohort

Link to NPR Morning Edition 'The Times They Are A-Changin" Still Speaks To Our Changing Times

By Seth Garth
No question this publication both in its former hard copy editions and now more so in the on-line editions as the, ouch, 50th anniversary of many signature events for the “Generation of ‘68” have come and gone that the whole period of the 1950s and 1960s had gotten a full airing. Has been dissected, deflected, inspected, reflected and even rejected beyond compare. That is not to say that this trend won’t continue if for no other reason that the demographics and actual readership response indicate that people still have a desire to not forget their pasts, their youth.
(Under the new site manager Greg Green, despite what I consider all good sense having worked under taskmaster Allan Jackson, we are encouraged to give this blessed readership some inside dope, no, no that kind, about how things are run these days in an on-line publication. With that okay in mind there was a huge controversy that put the last sentence in the above paragraph in some perspective recently when Greg for whatever ill-begotten reason thought that he would try to draw in younger audiences by catering to their predilections-for comic book character movies, video games, graphic novels and trendy music and got nothing but serious blow-back from those who have supported this publication financially and otherwise both in hard copy times and now on-line. What that means as the target demographic fades is another question and maybe one for a future generation who might take over the operation. Or perhaps like many operations this one will not outlast its creators- and their purposes.)    
Today’s 1960s question, a question that I have asked over the years and so I drew the assignment to address the issue-who was the voice of the 1960s. Who or what. Was it the lunchroom sit-inners and Freedom Riders, what it the hippies, was it SDS, the various Weather configurations, acid, rock, folk rock, folk, Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, Abbie Hoffman, Grace Slick, hell the Three Js-Joplin, Jimi, Jim as in Morrison and the like. Or maybe it was a mood, a mood of disenchantment about a world that seemed out of our control, which seemed to be running without any input from us, without us even being asked. My candidate, and not my only candidate but a recent NPR Morning Edition segment brought the question to mind (see above link), is a song, a song created by Bob Dylan in the early 1960s which was really a clarion call to action on our part, or the best part of our generation-The Times They Are A-Changin’.    
I am not sure if Bob Dylan started out with some oversized desire to be the “voice” of his generation. He certainly blew the whole thing off later after his motorcycle accident and still later when he became a recluse even if he did 200 shows a year, maybe sullen introvert is better, actually maybe his own press agent giving out dribbles is even better but that song, that “anthem” sticks in memory as a decisive summing up of what I was feeling at the time. (And apparently has found resonance with a new generation of activists via the March for Our Lives movement and other youth-driven movements.) As a kid I was antsy to do something, especially once I saw graphic footage on commercial television of young black kids being water-hosed, beaten and bitten by dogs down in the South simply for looking for some rough justice in this wicked old world. Those images, and those of the brave lunch-room sitters and Freedom bus riders were stark and compelling. They and my disquiet over nuclear bombs which were a lot scarier then when there were serious confrontations which put them in play and concern that what bothered me about having no say, about things not being addressed galvanized me.

The song “spoke to me” as it might not have earlier or later. It had the hopeful ring of a promise of a newer world. That didn’t happen or happen in ways that would have helped the mass of humanity but for that moment I flipped out every time I heard it played on the radio or on my old vinyl records record-player. Other songs, events, moods, later would overtake this song’s sentiment but I was there at the creation. Remember that, please.   

**Poet’s Corner- Langston Hughes-Freedom’s Plow

**Poet’s Corner- Langston Hughes-Freedom’s Plow 

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

February is Black History Month

Freedom’s Plow

When a man starts out with nothing,
When a man starts out with his hands
Empty, but clean,
When a man starts to build a world,
He starts first with himself
And the faith that is in his heart-
The strength there,
The will there to build.

First in the heart is the dream-
Then the mind starts seeking a way.
His eyes look out on the world,
On the great wooded world,
On the rich soil of the world,
On the rivers of the world.

The eyes see there materials for building,
See the difficulties, too, and the obstacles.
The mind seeks a way to overcome these obstacles.
The hand seeks tools to cut the wood,
To till the soil, and harness the power of the waters.
Then the hand seeks other hands to help,
A community of hands to help-
Thus the dream becomes not one man’s dream alone,
But a community dream.
Not my dream alone, but our dream.
Not my world alone,
But your world and my world,
Belonging to all the hands who build.

A long time ago, but not too long ago,
Ships came from across the sea
Bringing the Pilgrims and prayer-makers,
Adventurers and booty seekers,
Free men and indentured servants,
Slave men and slave masters, all new-
To a new world, America!

With billowing sails the galleons came
Bringing men and dreams, women and dreams.
In little bands together,
Heart reaching out to heart,
Hand reaching out to hand,
They began to build our land.
Some were free hands
Seeking a greater freedom,
Some were indentured hands
Hoping to find their freedom,
Some were slave hands
Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom,
But the word was there always:

Down into the earth went the plow
In the free hands and the slave hands,
In indentured hands and adventurous hands,
Turning the rich soil went the plow in many hands
That planted and harvested the food that fed
And the cotton that clothed America.
Clang against the trees went the ax into many hands
That hewed and shaped the rooftops of America.
Splash into the rivers and the seas went the boat-hulls
That moved and transported America.
Crack went the whips that drove the horses
Across the plains of America.
Free hands and slave hands,
Indentured hands, adventurous hands,
White hands and black hands
Held the plow handles,
Ax handles, hammer handles,
Launched the boats and whipped the horses
That fed and housed and moved America.
Thus together through labor,
All these hands made America.

Labor! Out of labor came villages
And the towns that grew cities.
Labor! Out of labor came the rowboats
And the sailboats and the steamboats,
Came the wagons, and the coaches,
Covered wagons, stage coaches,
Out of labor came the factories,
Came the foundries, came the railroads.
Came the marts and markets, shops and stores,
Came the mighty products moulded, manufactured,
Sold in shops, piled in warehouses,
Shipped the wide world over:
Out of labor-white hands and black hands-
Came the dream, the strength, the will,
And the way to build America.
Now it is Me here, and You there.
Now it’s Manhattan, Chicago,
Seattle, New Orleans,
Boston and El Paso-
Now it’s the U.S.A.

A long time ago, but not too long ago, a man said:
His name was Jefferson. There were slaves then,
But in their hearts the slaves believed him, too,
And silently too for granted
That what he said was also meant for them.
It was a long time ago,
But not so long ago at that, Lincoln said:
There were slaves then, too,
But in their hearts the slaves knew
What he said must be meant for every human being-
Else it had no meaning for anyone.
Then a man said:
He was a colored man who had been a slave
But had run away to freedom.
And the slaves knew
What Frederick Douglass said was true.

With John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, Negroes died.
John Brown was hung.
Before the Civil War, days were dark,
And nobody knew for sure
When freedom would triumph
"Or if it would," thought some.
But others new it had to triumph.
In those dark days of slavery,
Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom,
The slaves made up a song:
Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
That song meant just what it said: Hold On!
Freedom will come!
Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
Out of war it came, bloody and terrible!
But it came!
Some there were, as always,
Who doubted that the war would end right,
That the slaves would be free,
Or that the union would stand,
But now we know how it all came out.
Out of the darkest days for people and a nation,
We know now how it came out.
There was light when the battle clouds rolled away.
There was a great wooded land,
And men united as a nation.

America is a dream.
The poet says it was promises.
The people say it is promises-that will come true.
The people do not always say things out loud,
Nor write them down on paper.
The people often hold
Great thoughts in their deepest hearts
And sometimes only blunderingly express them,
Haltingly and stumblingly say them,
And faultily put them into practice.
The people do not always understand each other.
But there is, somewhere there,
Always the trying to understand,
And the trying to say,
"You are a man. Together we are building our land."

Land created in common,
Dream nourished in common,
Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on!
If the house is not yet finished,
Don’t be discouraged, builder!
If the fight is not yet won,
Don’t be weary, soldier!
The plan and the pattern is here,
Woven from the beginning
Into the warp and woof of America:
Who said those things? Americans!
Who owns those words? America!
Who is America? You, me!
We are America!
To the enemy who would conquer us from without,
We say, NO!
To the enemy who would divide
And conquer us from within,
We say, NO!
To all the enemies of these great words:
We say, NO!

A long time ago,
An enslaved people heading toward freedom
Made up a song:
Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
The plow plowed a new furrow
Across the field of history.
Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.
From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow.
That tree is for everybody,
For all America, for all the world.
May its branches spread and shelter grow
Until all races and all peoples know its shade.

Langston Hughes

… he, call him Chester Moore, to give him a name, although in the end he was nameless, or maybe too many names to name and so stick with Chester, Chester of the thousand dreams, Chester of the ten generations in the Mississippi night, the, what did Nina Simone call it, call right and righteous, Mississippi goddam night, if that helps. Chester now several generations removed from Mister’s slavery, now a couple of generations removed from the plow, that damn sharecropper’s plow and forget all that talk about freedom’s plow, forget about “forty acres and a mule” plow, forget all that “talented tenth” talk about hands joined together, white, black, indentured, adventurous, pushing that plow, that plow that kept his daddy and his daddy before him still under Mister’s thumb and Mister’s strange book of etiquette, his Mister James Crow (or call it Miss Jane Crow for his womenfolk were as obsessed and thrilled as old Mister with the forms of the, ah, etiquette and the great black fear-the great miscegenation –damn race-mixing ).

Chester all citified now, all up from the Delta to Jackson, all book-learned, a little anyway in those damn segregated schools (except if you pushed his buttons he would admit that some schooling was better that the none Mister offered, offered after about grade six and so he was the first in his family to avoid the infamous X mark of illiteracy although he had heard of this strange group of brothers, mostly prison-etched brothers, who took back the X to x-out Mister’s slave name but he was proud to write his given name, write his righteous given name). A little more worldly, having been to nightclubs with electricity and jukeboxes not some old juke joint drinking Wet Willie’s home-made by lantern light, than daddy and granddaddy who never, ever left the Delta for one day, after having done his American, hah, duty to fight off old white bread Hitler in all the crevices of countrified Europe.

Chester a little less enamored of slave-owners Mister Thomas Jefferson (who rumor had it could not keep out of the slave quarters although that was an unverified rumor learned from Johnny Logan a fellow soldier who hailed from Alexandra in Virginia near the old plantations) and Mister George Washington (who at least did go to the cabins) than daddy or granddaddy (although still enthrall to Father Abraham, who had the guts to say no more to slavery even though he never had truck with black people, wanted them banished back to Africa from what he heard and heard not from Mister Carl Sandburg of Chi town whom wrote Massa Abe up either and that silky smooth mad monk John Brown who led an integrated band, including kin to a future poet, in some doomed old prophet Jehovah project over Harpers Ferry way) and ready, black hands and all, and only black hands if that is what it took to fire old Mister James Crow (or maybe ravage Miss Jane Crow, if that was what it took) to seize the moment (long before Bobby called his tune- seize the time) and to break out of that fetid Mississippi muck, that cold steel Alabama, and maybe shave that peach fuzz off old stinking gentile new south Georgia.

So Chester gathered Booker, all greasy hands and dank uniform, from the auto shop, gathered Uncle Bill, grizzled by too much processed beef, from the barbecue stand, gathered Edward, head and back bent from ancient seedings, from his hard-scrabble low-down no account dirt share-crop, gathered Robert, full of book knowledge on the sly, from his janitorial duties over at the court house , hell, even gathered Reverend Sims, fat with Miss this or Miss that’s home cooking, from his Lord’s Worship Baptist Church sanctuary from the world, gathered Miss Betsy, an old time love before she took up with Johnny Grey while he was overseas, from her Madame Walker beauty salon (a very strategic move as it turned out since Miss Betsy knew everybody, everybody that Chester needed to turn that silly freedom plow talk into kick ass freedom talk ), gathered Miss Millie from her maid duties at Mister John Connor’s house, and even gathered (although not without controversy, not by a long shot, mostly from Reverend Sims) Miss Emily Jones, habitué(see he learned something in Uncle Sam’s Army) of Jimmy Jack’s juke joint, hell, just call her a good time girl, okay. All others, reverends, bootleggers, juke joint owners, northern liberals, white and black, shoe-shine boys, newspaper shouters, streetwalkers (yes, those streetwalkers), bus-riders (front or back), walkers of indeterminate reason (along Highway 61 dusty roads ready to make an arrangement with the devil if need be), Johnny-come-lately boys (brave too, despite the late hour, brave after the first jail night, the first blooded street fight) , children, high school be-boppers, you name it fill in the rear, because daddy and granddaddy Mister Whitey’s judgment day is here, here and now.

When Jeremy Irons Ruled The Whole Natural (And Apparently Unnatural World As Well)- “Beautiful Creatures” (2013)-A Short Film Review

When Jeremy Irons Ruled The Whole Natural (And Apparently Unnatural World As Well)- “Beautiful Creatures” (2013)-A Short Film Review

DVD Review

By Josh Breslin

Beautiful Creatures, starring Jeremy Irons and a bunch of kids, and a few off-hand holy goof denizens of the gates of hell for good measure, 2013

Who would have thought that God-fearing Gaitlin (no relationship to Gatling gun, okay), South Carolina, site of a decisive battle in the American Civil War when that meant something would be the central headquarters of the devil’s den (and not even near the river Styx). A town that proudly boasts of 12, count them, 12 churches (eleven Baptist from Primitive to 6th Day Adventist to Common Brethren and one so-called Methodist known locally by one and all as Wesley’s Folly) and one 24/7/365 very private public library. That is the main tension in the film under review Beautiful Creatures where Jeremy Irons who must be fighting Michael Caine for the record of appearing in the most films lifetime runs the show and fights the good fight against the bad-ass degenerates who do the devil’s handiwork. And he isn’t even human himself.     

When I mentioned the plotline to this film to old friend Leslie Dumont she made me laugh that this was just another albeit strange kids’ coming of age story, a high school saga that she thought had been played out years ago. And at some level Leslie, who in the interest of what appears to be current obligatory transparency used to be an old flame back in the day and now we are friends and let’s just leave it at that, was right that the growing puppy love affair between family been here for generations Ethan and new girl in town Lena was the stuff of a million films going back to when films just started, hell maybe back to  Greek calends. The kinky part, the part that sets this one apart from the usual hormonal teenage romance stuff is that Lena is not one of us, is not human. Moreover is under some strange ritual ban, maybe started by Jeremy playing Macon the king of the hill in town to not intertwine (nice way to put it, right) with humans under penalty of the human’s death.

This human sacrifice cult is what made this one interesting although I will say the specific ghoulish effects used were from nowhere and a couple of characters, denizens I guess you would call them could have been left out. Bright boy Ethan, a high school kid who is just muddling along, takes a shine to new girl in town Lena after seeing that she was reading Charles Bukowski (and with a quick glance of her reading list I noted she had William Burroughs and Harper Lee, who knows maybe Truman Capote too on tap to tempt bright boy. Of course, nobody in Gaitlin, no teenager at least even knows who the great LA writer was so this is all so much soap in the eyes). The other high school kids knowing that she had been thrown out of other high schools had her down as a tramp, maybe not the Whore of Babylon that Sam Lowell is yakking about these days in the art series he is doing with Laura Perkins (his long-time companion but he can do the transparency thing about that himself if he hasn’t done it already) but definitely weird, definitely does not fit in with the God-fearing folk of the community. Even the Methodists scorn her.             

The long and short of it as we painfully find out via first Uncle Macon, did I say that was Jeremy Irons role, Ethan’s housekeeper, Lena’s bewitched mother and a cousin Ridley who might be good for a couple of dates but who would wear you out if you spent any serious time with her is that come her sweet little 16th birthday Lena has to make a big decision. Has to decide whether she want to go to the lustful good dope and sex dark side with Mom and cousin Ridley or stay in the light with the nicer crowd, maybe join that Methodist church everybody laughs at just to show her independence. Naturally after seven kinds of hellish experiences Lena opts for the light, that wisdom coming from the catacombs beneath the town public library where all the banned books are banished to and which contain what looked to eyes like the Kabbala or Book of the Dead.  

That struggle, aided by Uncle Macon, you know Jeremy Irons, taking a slug meant for pesky Ethan which he, Jeremy, promised Ethan’s deceased mother (with whom he was having an illicit affair and under the same “no human love ban” as Lena) to do if the need arose meant that the budding Lena-Ethan romance was kaput, finished. Maybe. Hey, the more I think about this little conundrum the more I think that Leslie was right that this one was strictly a teenage coming of age film, a little quirky in spots but every teen could relate to the issues brought up in the film.     

NEW WARS / OLD WARS – What Could Possibly Go Wrong SEARCHING FOR A PROGRESSIVE FOREIGN POLICY But if progressive ideas thankfully seem on the upswing in domestic politics, it is less clear how this next generation of leaders will translate these ideas for change at home into change in America’s approach to the world. What does a new approach at home suggest for a strategy and a foreign policy that would make the country stronger and more prosperous?

NEW WARS / OLD WARS – What Could Possibly Go Wrong

But if progressive ideas thankfully seem on the upswing in domestic politics, it is less clear how this next generation of leaders will translate these ideas for change at home into change in America’s approach to the world. What does a new approach at home suggest for a strategy and a foreign policy that would make the country stronger and more prosperous? New ideas are as desperately needed for America’s broken foreign policy as they are for its broken domestic policies…  The quest for a different set of foreign policy priorities faces daunting obstacles and entrenched interests that will resist calls for change. Any attempt to change foreign policy must first wade through the wreckage of the post-9/11 era that is spread far and wide around the world, wreckage created by Republicans and Democrats alike who are not keen to acknowledge their responsibility and their mistakes.  More

Senators — Republicans and Dems — overwhelmingly criticize Trump’s withdrawal plans
In a bipartisan rebuke to President Trump, the Senate voted 68-23 Thursday to advance an amendment that would oppose withdrawal of US troops from Syria and Afghanistan.  The amendment by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell comes after Trump called for a drawdown of troops in both of those countries. The measure says the Islamic State and Al Qaeda militants still pose a serious threat to the United States, and it warns that ‘‘a precipitous withdrawal’’ of US forces from those countries could ‘‘allow terrorists to regroup, destabilize critical regions and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russia.’’   More

23 Senators – mostly Democrats – voted NO, including Markey and Warren. 
(Few mainstream outlets even noted that this amendment was to a pro-Israel grab bag bill, S.1,including anti-BDS, anti-free speech provisions, on which see below under Israel.)

Media Rally Around ‘Forever War’ in Afghanistan
After “six days of some of the most serious Afghan peace negotiations to date,” US government and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to preliminary foundations of a deal, the “biggest tangible step toward ending” the war, the New York Times (1/28/19, 1/26/19) reported this week… Certainly this sounds like good news, a chance to end the United States’ longest overseas war, one that has cost nearly $1 trillion and some 100,000 lives—a war that, in its 17th year, even the foreign policy elite admit “cannot be won” (Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, Project Syndicate, 1/14/19).  Yet, just hours after news of the framework deal broke, corporate media jumped to sound the alarm, urging the US to maintain its occupation. The primary concern was over the Trump administration’s perceived “quick exit” or “speedy withdrawal,” a boogeyman notion that the New York Times has hyped up for years.   More

The way personnel spin through Washington’s infamous revolving door between the Pentagon and the arms industry is nothing new. That door, however, is moving ever faster with the appointment of Patrick Shanahan, who spent 30 years at Boeing, the Pentagon’s second largest contractor, as the Trump administration’s acting secretary of defense. Shanahan had previously been deputy secretary of defense, a typical position in recent years for someone with a significant arms industry background. William Lynn, President Obama’s first deputy secretary of defense, had been a Raytheon lobbyist. Ashton Carter, his successor, was aconsultant for the same company. One of President George W. Bush’s deputies, Gordon England, had been president of the General Dynamics Fort Worth Aircraft Company (later sold to Lockheed Martin)…  While the Pentagon should be focused on protecting the country, the arms industry operates in the pursuit of profit, even when that means selling weapons systems to countries working against American national security interests.   More

Dems introduce bill barring US from using nuclear weapons first
The bill was introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a Senate Armed Services Committee member who is running for president in 2020, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.). “Our current nuclear strategy is not just outdated—it is dangerous,” Smith and Warren said in a joint statement Wednesday. “By making clear that deterrence is the sole purpose of our arsenal, this bill would reduce the chances of a nuclear miscalculation and help us maintain our moral and diplomatic leadership in the world.”
The bill, titled the “No First Use Act,” simply says, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.” Smith previously introduced the same bill in November 2017. A Wednesday press release from Smith’s office argued the bill would improve U.S. national security by reducing the risk of a miscalculation, clarifying U.S. policy and preserving the ability to conduct a nuclear strike after a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies. It has long been the policy of the United States that the country reserves the right to launch a preemptive nuclear strike.   More

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The Green New Deal Is Our Best Hope for Saving the Planet—and Ending Poverty
If we’re going to unrig the system and make it work for everyone, we have to transform every aspect of the economy, and rebuild it from the bottom up. Luckily, the massive set of investments required to address climate change, called the Green New Deal, gives us an opportunity to do exactly that.  We’re talking about a full-scale mobilization of the economy—of both the public and private sectors—on a scale we haven’t seen since World War II, and with it, the opportunity to fundamentally shift the economic balance of power, strengthen workers’ rights, and create widespread prosperity for the 21st century. Making the transition to a carbon-free economy is going to require a massive workforce. The Green New Deal would create tens of millions of jobs, from installing solar panels to retrofitting buildings, from manufacturing electric vehicles to reforesting public lands.   More

The Republicans can’t control their baser greed impulse, as revealed in their latest move to abolish the federal estate tax, our nation’s only levy on the inherited wealth of the super-rich.  But what we really need is a bold intervention to break up growing dynasties of wealth and power. Congress should jump on board an improved estate tax introduced today by Senator Bernie Sanders, that would levy a top rate of 77 percent on inheritances over $1 billion.  Sanders bill, The For 99.8% Act (pdf), would also plug up loopholes and ban trusts that wealthy families use to hide and perpetuate wealth dynasties… When families accumulate hundreds of millions of dollars, they have enough wealth to meet any possible need and desire.  They also have enough to provide future generations with privileged lives. Wealth exceeding $100 million is a form of power, the power to rig the rules of our economy and shape the culture through ownership of media.  A steeply progressive estate tax is one of the ways we protect our society from Roosevelt’s “tyranny of plutocracy.”   More

The lowest-paid shutdown workers aren’t getting back pay
Unlike the 800,000 career public servants who are slated to receive full back pay over the next week or so, the contractors who clean, guard, cook and shoulder other jobs at federal workplaces aren’t legally guaranteed a single penny. They’re also among the lowest-paid laborers in the government economy, generally earning between $450 and $650 weekly, union leaders say. And even as they began returning to work Monday, they were bracing for more pain. President Trump’s new deadline for Congress to earmark funding for his proposed border wall is Feb. 15. Agencies could close again if no deal is reached.   More

GOP rejects bill to give back pay to federal contractors, wants to repeal estate tax instead
Not a single Republican senator has joined the effort to give back pay to hundreds of thousands of federal contractors who were unpaid during the partial government shutdown. But the party’s leaders are pushing ahead with a bill to repeal the federal estate tax on behalf of the wealthiest Americans. Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, both Democrats, have introduced bills that would give back pay to federal contractors, who are not entitled under law to be paid after a shutdown as federal employees are, Vox reported… Instead, on Monday, three top Republican senators introduced a bill to repeal the federal estate tax, which is paid by fewer than 2,000 of the wealthiest Americans per year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was joined by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., in sponsoring a bill that fully repeals the tax some wealthy families must pay on inherited wealth, the Washington Post reported.   More

Trump blocked pay raises for 2 million workers. The House just voted to restore them.
President Donald Trump canceled annual pay raises for federal employees last year — and now members of Congress are trying to restore them.  On Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would give civilian workers a 2.6 percent cost-of-living increase for 2019. They were supposed to receive an automatic 2.1 percent pay bump starting in January, but Trump canceled it in December — just days after he shut down the government and withheld paychecks for nearly 800,000 employees…  That means roughly 2 million people won’t get an annual pay raise this year, including Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Members of Congress, though, think they can still make it happen. Senate Democrats introduced another bill on Tuesday calling for the 2.6 percent raise, which would match the increase given to military service members. So far, the bill has no Republican support, but GOP Senate leaders had previously been willing to give employees a 1.9 percent raise.   More

"It Can't Be Warren and It Can't Be Sanders": Wall Street Make 2020 Preferences Known
The first 2020 Democratic presidential primary is still over a year away, but Wall Street executives are reportedly already freaking out about two likely progressive candidates: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).  "It can't be Warren and it can't be Sanders," the CEO of a "giant bank" anonymously told Politico, which reported on Monday that Wall Street executives are "getting panicked" about the presidential prospects of the Senate's two fiercest financial sector critics…  According to Politico, Wall Street executives who want Trump out of the White House mentioned "a consistent roster of appealing nominees" they would find acceptable outside of Bloomberg, who the outlet describes as Wall Street's "platonic ideal."  This "roster" reportedly included Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), and Kamala Harris (Calif.); former Vice President Joe Biden; and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas).  As CNBC reported earlier this month, Harris, Booker, and Gillibrand have all reached out to Wall Street to gauge support for 2020 campaigns. Harris announced that she is running for president last week, and Gillibrand launched an exploratory committee for president earlier this month.   More

If Fox News Existed in the Middle Ages. . .

Lobbyists are already mounting an opposition strategy to Democrats’ anti-corruption bill
As House Democrats’ sweeping anti-corruption bill had its first hearing Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee, a different meeting about the bill was taking place on K Street.  The National Association of Business Political Action Committees and its members met at the law offices of their legal counsel Wiley Rein on Tuesday to discuss the bill’s impact. The group is calling the anti-corruption bill, commonly known on the Hill as HR 1, “potentially onerous legislation,” and told its members to “immediately begin engaging on this topic with your donors, senior executives and Hill allies.”  … The Conservative Action Project released a memo on Monday calling the bill “the ultimate fantasy of the left,” which was signed by Republican figures including former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, Edwin Meese III, and former House Majority Leader Tom Delay. (Delay resigned from Congress in 2006 after questions about his ties to infamous DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and wasconvicted of campaign money laundering in 2010.)    More

Calling Bill That Makes Voting Easier a "Power Grab" Exemplifies a GOP Terrified of Democracy
Voting rights groups and Democratic lawmakers looked on in alarm Wednesday as Republican leaders broadcast open hostility toward policies that would curb corruption and make it easier for Americans to vote. Speaking on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) mocked a provision in the For the People Act (H.R. 1) that would make Election Day a federal holiday, calling it a "power grab" that would allow federal workers to have a day off to campaign for Democrats. "Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work for I assume our folks—our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns," McConnell said…  "When you insist that a bill designed to support voting rights for everyone, shine a light on billionaire donors, crack down on lobbyists' influence, and protect our elections from foreign interference would just help Democrats, that's a pretty big tell," historian Kevin M. Kruse wrote of the GOP's rhetoric.   More

For Kate McGarrigle’s Birthday- In Honor Of Lena Spencer- Caffé Lena And Saratoga’s Folk Scene

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels-In Honor Of Lena Spencer- Caffé Lena And Saratoga’s Folk Scene

If I Could Be The Rain I Would Be Rosalie Sorrels-The Legendary Folksinger-Songwriter Has Her Last Go Round At 83 (June 2017)

By Music Critic Bart Webber

Back the day, back in the emerging folk minute of the 1960s that guys like Sam Lowell, Si Lannon, Josh Breslin, the late Peter Paul Markin and others were deeply immersed in all roads seemed to lead to Harvard Square with the big names passing through the Club 47 Mecca and later the Café Nana and Club Blue, the Village down in NYC, North Beach out in San Francisco, and maybe Old Town in Chicago. That is where names like Baez, Dylan, Paxton, Ochs, Collins and a whole crew of younger folksingers who sat at the feet of guys like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger got their first taste of the fresh breeze of the folk minute (that expression courtesy of the late Markin, who was among the first around to sample the breeze. (I should tell you here in parentheses so you will keep it to yourselves that the former three mentioned above never got over that folk minute since they will still tell a tale or two about the times, about how Dave Van Ronk came in all drunk one night at the Café Nana and still blew everybody away, about catching Paxton changing his Army uniform when he was stationed down at Fort Dix  right before a performance at the Gaslight, about walking down the street Cambridge with Tom Rush just after he put out No Regrets/Rockport Sunday, and about affairs with certain up and coming female folkies at the Club Nana when that was the spot of spots. Strictly aficionado stuff if you go anywhere within ten miles of the subject with any of them -I will take my chances here because this notice, this passing of legendary Rosalie Sorrels a decade after her dear friend Utah Phillips is important)

Those urban locales were the high white note spots but there was another important strand that hovered around Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, up around Skidmore and some other colleges. That was Caffe Lena’s, run by the late Lena Spenser, a true folk legend and character in her own right, where some of those names played but also where some upstarts from the West got a chance to play the small crowds who gathered at that famed (and still existing) coffeehouse. Upstarts like Bruce “Utah” Phillips (although he could call several places home Utah was key to what he would sing about and rounded out his personality. And out of Idaho one Rosalie Sorrels who just joined her long-time friend Utah in that last go-round at the age of 83.

Yeah, out there in the West, not the West Coast west that is different, where what the novelist Thomas Wolfe called the place where the states were square and you had better be as well if you didn’t want to starve or be found in some empty arroyo un-mourned and unloved. A tough life when the original pioneers drifted westward from Eastern nowhere looking for that pot of gold or at least some fresh air and a new start away from crowded cities and sweet breathe vices. Tough going for guys like Joe Hill who tried to organize the working people against the sweated robber barons of his day (they are still with us as we are all now very painfully and maybe more vicious than their in your face forbear). Tough too when you landed in rugged beautiful two-hearted river Idaho, tried to make a go of it in Boise, maybe stopped short in Helena but you get the drift. A different place and a different type of subject matter for your themes.  

The last time I saw Rosalie perform in person was back in 2002 when she performed at what was billed as her last go-round, her hanging up her shoes from the dusty travel road. She was on fire that night except the then recent death of another folk legend, Dave Von Ronk, who was supposed to be on the bill (and who was replaced by David Bromberg who did a great job) cast a pall over the proceedings. I will always remember her cover of her classic Old Devil Time that night -yeah, give me one more chance, one more breathe. But I will always think of If I Could Be The Rain whenever I hear her name. RIP Rosalie Sorrels


Caffé Lena, Kate McGarrigle and various artists, directed by Stephen Trombley, Miramar Production, 1991

I know of the work of, and have reviewed in this space, the late Utah Phillips, Rosalie Sorrels, obviously Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, The McGarrigle family, David Bromberg and many of the other “singing” heads that populate this tribute documentary or found their way to Café Lena’s. Lena Spencer, owner, operator (and, from all accounts off-hand fairy godmother), through thick and thin, as thoroughly documented here , of Saratoga’s Café Lena was the impresario of the upstate New York’s booming 1960s folk scene. So there is a certain sense of déjà vu in viewing this film. This documentary film was probably as much about our youthful dreams and ambitions (and that hard musical road, although voluntarily chosen) as it was a tribute to Lena.

I know Saratoga and its environs well and if New York City’s Greenwich Village and Cambridge’s Harvard Square are better known in the 1960s folk revival geography that locale can serve as the folk crowd’s summer watering hole (and refuge from life’s storms all year round). From the descriptions of the café ‘s lifestyle and of the off-beat personality of Lena it also was a veritable experiment in ad hoc communal living). The folkies that did find found refuge there have been interesting behind- the- scenes stories to tell about Len that make this a very nice slice of history of the folk revival of the 1960s.

A special note to kind of bring us full circle. My first CD review of folksinger Rosalie Sorrels and the late Utah Phillips combined works together, who are highlighted in this documentary along with Kate and Anna McGarrigle, mentioned a spark of renewed recognition kindled on my part by the famous folk coffee house “The Café Lena” in Saratoga Springs, New York. Thus, it is rather fitting that Rosalie performs Utah’s “If I Could Be The Rain” and Utah his “Starlight On The Rails” here. Even more fitting are the McGarrigles performing their “Talk To Me Of Mendocino”, song composed in honor of Lena.

"Talk to Me of Mendocino"

written by Kate McGarrigle
© 1975 Garden Court Music (ASCAP)

I bid farewell to the state of old New York
My home away from home
In the state of New York I came of age
When first I started roaming
And the trees grow high in New York State
And they shine like gold in the autumn
Never had the blues from whence I came
But in New York State I got 'em

Talk to me of Mendocino
Closing my eyes I hear the sea
Must I wait
Must I follow
Won't you say come with me

And it's on to South Bend, Indiana
Flat out on the western plain
Rise up over the Rockies
And down on into California
Out to where but the rocks again
And let the sun set on the ocean
I will watch it from the shore
Let the sun rise over the redwoods
I'll rise with it till I rise no more

Talk to me of Mendocino
Closing my eyes I hear the sea
Must I wait
Must I follow
Won't you say come with me

Veterans Call to Resist U.S. Coup in Venezuela

Veterans Call to Resist U.S. Coup in Venezuela

Veterans For Peace is outraged at the unfolding coup d’etat in Venezuela, which is clearly being orchestrated by the U.S. government. Two hundred years of blatant U.S. intervention in Latin America must come to an end.  Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985, in part prompted by the U.S.-backed “contra” war in Nicaragua, and U.S. support for the rightwing government in the bloody civil war in neighboring El Salvador.  We did not want to see another Vietnam War in Central America. 
Years of increasingly crippling U.S. sanctions have succeeded in destabilizing the Venezuelan economy and created great unrest, division and migration.  The U.S. government encouraged Venezuelan opposition parties to boycott last year’s election. Now they are calling the election fraudulent, and attempting to install a little-known politician more to their liking.  This is part of a dangerous game that the U.S. continues to play throughout Latin America. 
President Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton has called Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba the “Troika of Tyranny,” and boasted that they have now “met their match.”  Right-wing Cuban American Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, said to be deeply involved in orchestrating this coup, has implied that U.S. military intervention may be next. Responding to questions about possible military intervention, President Trump says that “all options are on the table.”  Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have openly encouraged the Venezuelan military to stage a coup and U.S. officials have even met with potential coup leaders.  Right-wing governments in Colombia and Brazil could also possibly be involved in U.S.-coordinated military action against the democratically elected government of Venezuela.
In our Statement of Purpose, Veterans For Peace promises to “restrain our governments from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations.”  We call on our members in over 100 U.S. cities and internationally, to make their voices heard.  We must do all we can to prevent a bloody civil war from taking a huge toll on the Venezuelan people, and the peace-loving people of the hemisphere.
Call your political representatives, write letters to the editors, protest in the streets, resist yet another blow against democracy and human rights in this hemisphere and the world.
For more historical context details about the current situation in Venezuela, please read this Open Letter signed by 70 academics, Latin America experts and activists, including Veterans For Peace Advisory Board members, Medea Benjamin and Phyllis Bennis.

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