Saturday, August 03, 2013

Mother Russia gives Uncle Sam lesson on Americanism

The embarrassment that Uncle Sam has incurred by his futile efforts to apprehend NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden, first from China, then from Russia, continues to grow exponentially. A majority of Americans consider Snowden acted in the public interest for exposing the massive spying program begun under President George W. Bush and continued
under President Obama. The genie of knowledge about our loss of privacy guaranteed under the 4th Amendment is out of the bottle and can never be put back. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was caught lying about the program before Congress and forced to apologize. The administration is apoplectic over Russia's refusal to return Snowden and to grant him one year of temporary asylum in Russia. Congressional Hawks, led by virulent war monger Senator John McCain, are demanding reprisals against Russia for their action. US outrage now threatens to torpedo President Obama's planned September summit with Russian President Putin. America has become a worldwide laughingstock over Affaire Snowden.

But the corker in this whole sordid mess of unconstitutional governmental spying on literally every phone call and every email, is what Uncle Sam promised Mother Russia if she would only hand over the guy who deserves a hero metal instead of a jail cell. Cough Snowden up, pretty please, and we promise neither to torture nor kill him. That's right. The country that should be the beacon of not torturing or murdering folks, has lost such credibility as a moral actor on the world stage that we are reduced to making a public announcement not to engage in such abominable conduct. That public utterance speaks volumes about America's decline as the last best hope of mankind.

But Snowden's revelations leave a legacy among people who still believe in Constitutional guarantees of privacy. A recent coalition of 111 Democrats and 94 Republicans, opposed by both administration and House GOP and Democratic leadership, nearly voted to end unlimited spying in an amendment to a defense spending bill. The close 217 to 205 vote to continue such spying sent shock waves through the ranks of those who disgrace and dishonor the Constitution. The debate is on and it won't go away till our 4th Amendment rights are restored. And thanks to Russia, Ed Snowden, for at least a year, will escape the kangaroo court that waits him if returned to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

Music Pick: King Oliver

Joe "King" Oliver (1881-1938), cornetist, band leader, composer, was the first great jazz artist of the recording era. Playing in New Orleans jazz bands starting in 1908, Oliver eventually led the top New Orleans jazz band along with trombonist Kid Ory. Racial strive drove him to friendlier climes in Chicago in 1918, but, in the greatest hiring in jazz history, he gave his vacated cornet slot to 17 year old Louis Armstrong, who otherwise might have toiled his career in second rate New Orleans aggragations. Then, in 1922, missing his protégé, he beaconed Louis to hop the IC for Chi Town to play second cornet in his now famous "King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band" killing white and black jazz fans alike at Chicago's Lincoln Gardens on State Street. The featured piece is Oliver's "Dippermouth Blues" from April 6, 1923 (Oliver's second recording session). That's Oliver, not Louis, on the cornet solo. The apparently unrehearsed "Oh, play that thing" shouted by Bud Scott became forever a part of the hundreds of subsequent versions of Oliver's most recorded composition. Louis loved the King who was his surrogate father as well as musical mentor. He always said, "No King Oliver; no Louis Armstrong". The Depression and bad gums ended Oliver's career in the 30's, where he toiled as a janitor in Savannah, GA and died broke.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Congressman Roskam's war on IRS as phony as his war on Medicare‏

Visit my Congressman (IL, 6th) Peter Roskam's congressional website, week after week, month after month, year after year, and you're sure to read about his ongoing war against "Medicare fraud". In Roskam's congressional worldview it's not just America's biggest problem, it's America's only problem. One would think after six and a half years he'd might devote a little pixel space to gargantuan military spending fraud, be it the trillions squandered in our failed wars of conquest in the Middle East, or merely the massive fraud by military contractors for unnecessary and failed weapons systems like the F-35 fighter. Roskam's endless railing against the former and endless support of the latter is no coincidence. He owes his GOP House leadership position to lockstep criticism of any important government program that helps the truly needy and lockstep support for any wasteful program that helps the war party, regardless of how much money is wasted and how many lives are lost. 
Last week Roskam finally unveiled a new Bête Noir to parade before his constituents at the behest of his handlers in the GOP Tea Party Leadership: the IRS. Riffing off the phony, trumped up non-scandal the GOP launched against the IRS for doing their job of ascertaining the veracity of tax exempt status of political organizations, Roskam now trumpets his two bills introduced to crack down on alleged IRS abuse with this bit of hyperbole: "This track record shows the IRS has been acting with virtually no regard for the taxpayers they serve and an unacceptable lack of oversight from their senior leadership." What Roskam doesn't include in his overwrought criticism is that the IRS is acting responsibly in tax exempt oversight activities and, in fact, has denied none requested so far. If Roskam dared speak such blasphemy against the real cause of
governmental abuse and waste from his benefactors in the war party, he'd be drummed out as a GOP House leader faster than you can say: "Thanks for that free $25,653 trip to Taiwan so I could visit my daughter". Speaking of which, the Congressman should take a cue from his New York Democratic colleague Bill Owens who was also tripped up by a freebee trip to Taiwan two months after Roskam's October, 2011, soiree. When called out on it, Owens did the right thing and paid back the cost: all $22,000. If Roskam does right by his constituents and his office by paying back the $25,653 for his trip, that will deserve a banner headline on his website...and knock those silly and phony wars against Medicare and the IRS where they the electronic waste basket.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Music Pick: Helen Forest

 During the heyday of the big band era (1935-1950) bands featured "girl" singers or "boy singers" to reinforce the youth orientation of the outfits. Girl singers were also known affectionately as "canaries", and was none better than Helen Forest (1917-1999), who waxed over 100 tunes with 3 of the top big bands ever, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Harry James between 1938 and 1943. After the war Forest continued on as a soloist and a big band reunion act singer into her 70's. The featured tune "Comes Love" from June 12, 1939, features a terrific Artie Shaw arrangement including his clarinet, Billy Butterfield's trumpet as well as Forest's luscious singing voice.