Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Baroque Rock

Perhaps "Classical" classic rock might be a better term but, in any event, the origins and brief heyday of this pop mode are in the mid-60s, when musicians began incorporating melodies, instrumentation, and arrangements from Baroque and the Romantic periods into popular music.  I still enjoy the sound of these recordings.

It starts in the fall of 1965 with the near simultaneous release of Yesterday by The Beatles and Lovers Concerto by the Motown group, The Toys.  Both became immediate smash hits - on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for October 30, 1965, Yesterday is #1 and Lovers Concerto #2.  Yesterday, featuring just Paul on vocals backed by a string quartet, was a startling departure for The Beatles and rock music in general.  As for Lovers Concerto, while the instrumentation was pure Motown, the melody came directly from Minuet in G Major by Christian Penzold (1677-1733) a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach.

In December, The Beatles released Rubber Soul containing In My Life with its unusual harpsichord solo, a baroque instrument which began to see more use in pop songs.  That same month, the Rolling Stones, at the beginning of their imitative Beatles phase and after, no doubt prodding by their panicked manager and producer, Andrew Loog Oldham, decided to mimic Yesterday by releasing a string sweetened version of As Tears Go By, originally written for, and released by, Marianne Faithful, the year before but with a more pop/folk arrangement.

July 1966 saw the release of what many regard as the quintessential baroque rock song, the melancholy Walk Away Renee by the Left Banke:
Just walk away Renee
You won't see me follow you back home
Now as the rain beats down upon my weary eyes
For me it cries
The Left Banke followed this up with one more baroque single in late 1966 before breaking up, Pretty Ballerina with its gorgeous oboe solo.

The month after Walk Away Renee was issued Revolver by The Beatles hit the airwaves with two entries in this category, the best known being Eleanor Rigby, recognized as a remarkable accomplishment at the time, along with For No One.  The version below of Eleanor Rigby is a reimagining, using the original recorded tracks, created by Giles Martin (son of George) with the approval of Paul & Ringo for the Cirquedu Soleil show Love which is based upon the music of The Beatles.

1967 and early 1968 saw the last burst of the initial wave of baroque rock.  May saw the release of Procol Harum's first single A White Shade of Pale, a monster worldwide hit with a majestic vocal from Gary Brooker and would reprise elements of the sound in 1969's A Salty Dog.

The end of the year saw the release of Harry Nilsson's album, Pandemonium Shadow Show (named in homage to the strange and disturbing traveling circus at the center of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes) featuring, among other tunes, Without Her, with a wonderful arrangement of strings and woodwinds.

Child Is Father To The Man, the debut album of Blood, Sweat & Tears released in February 1968, produced by John Simon (who also produced the first two albums by The Band) and arranged by the band's founder Al Kooper, remains one of the best sounding albums of the 60s.  Kooper put together a talented group of musicians to create a unique blend of rock, pop, blues, and jazz and had a great ear for new songwriters finding tunes by little known, at the time, composers Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, and Tim Buckley, and he was also a good songwriter in his own right.  Unfortunately, Al couldn't sing a lick and his stubborn insistence of being lead vocalist led, after the album's release, to a revolt by the other band members and eviction from his own group, after which they recruited David Clayton-Thomas as vocalist and went on to great commercial success, though in my estimate the first album with Kooper remains their finest despite his vocal limitations.

The results was an eclectic collection of songs with the oddest being a Kooper composition, The Modern Adventures of Plato, Diogenes, and Freud, with the string arrangement making an appropriate capstone to this era.




Thursday, February 20, 2020

Johnny Appleseed

From Joe Strummer (better known for his earlier work with The Clash) & the Mescaleros.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Working With The Materials At Hand

“I suppose a great statesman should use in the best way he can the worst materials as well as the best that are within his reach and, if possible, make them all subserve the great purposes he has to accomplish.”
Major General John Schofield, Forty-Six Years in the Army
I found the quote from Schofield in a new book, Caught in the Maelstrom by Clint Crowe, about the Indian Nations in what is now Oklahoma, during the Civil War.

After serving in the Trans-Mississippi (including Oklahoma) and later under Sherman and Thomas, Schofield became Secretary of War for several months under Presidents Johnson and Grant and, from 1888 to 1895, Commanding General, United States Army. The context of the quote was Schofield’s recounting of his struggles with corrupt Union politican/generals and contractors who defrauded both the army and Indian allies and of President Lincoln’s actions and inactions in dealing with the bad actors.

Schofield’s observation points to an ever present tension and challenge in political leadership.

Caught in the Maelstrom tells the tale of the Indian nations caught up in the tumult of the Civil War.  The tribes themselves, predominately Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, were themselves divided, as some of them were slaveowners and indeed, several, including the Cherokee, initially decided to support the Confederacy.

Those divides, in which pure blood Indians tended to side with the Federals and mixed-breeds with the Confederacy, led to a civil war within the Civil War with organized Indian military units on both sides.  The only Indian to attain the rank of General during the war was Stand Watie, a Cherokee and commander of a Confederate cavalry unit.  Watie's was the last Confederate field unit to surrender, on June 23, 1865, ten weeks after Lee's surrender at Appomatoxx.

The corruption described in Crowe's book wasn't contained to just skimming off the top.  Most of the Indians valuable cattle herds were rustled by Union connected thieves.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

One Shot

You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime 

Eminem, "Lose Yourself" 

AG William Barr has publicly stated he expects John Durham to complete his investigation in late spring or summer.  It is not the only ongoing investigation (see below) related to Russia.  Whether the Russia collusion hoax, the greatest political scandal of my lifetime, involved just unethical, biased, incompetent and grossly negligent behavior or also included illegality remains to be seen, but this is the one shot to get this done.

In completing the task, Barr faces some headwinds, three regarding completion of the investigation and fourth, the ability to followup on the results.

Complexity

The sheer number of threads to the Russia collusion issue, and the number of investigations connected to it, makes this a huge undertaking. We have the announced investigations into the origins of the Russia collusion story, the Flynn prosecution, and activities in the Ukraine during 2016, and it is unclear to what extent other topics which could easily be included are, in fact, part of ongoing investigations such as the Mueller team probe, the Obama administration “unmasking” in 2016, any connection between Obama administration Section 702 surveillance abuses and the Russia matter, and the connection between the effort to clear Hillary Clinton in the email matter in order to free her to take on Trump in 2016. It’s easy enough for all of us to have our opinions (I sure do), it’s a lot harder to be slogging through the terrain facing enemy fire and obstacles while capturing the details needed to make a case. The complexity is compounded by the next factor.
 
People

Mueller could have filled his Goon Squad a hundred times over with willing and trustworthy partisan volunteers from Justice and the intelligence community. Barr, Durham, and now Jensen are in much different situations. They have few upon whom they can place their reliance and trust and are also capable investigators and lawyers. They’re in enemy territory surrounded by government employees just looking for a way to take them down. My guess is they are by necessity working with very small teams which further extends the time frame for completing the work.

The President 

The question is whether Barr can put up with the President's tweets and lack of discipline long enough to bring this to a conclusion.  He's already told the President to knock off tweeting about pending cases and then, just this morning, Trump was tweeting about the need for a retrial of Roger Stone.  I suppose the President thought he was being clever by quoting that idiot Andrew Napolitano, but Barr may reach a breaking point.  If he goes, there is no ready successor who knows the bureaucracy, understands the extent of the rot exposed by the Russia collusion hoax, has the guts to take it on, and can be quickly confirmed.*

The Election

Even if there is a report and indictments prior to the election any trials, needed agency reforms, reorganizations, and firing of embedded partisans will have barely started by January 20, 2021. If Donald Trump is not re-elected you can count on this whole scandal being flushed down the memory hole as if it never existed. If there is no accountability for what happened it will be impossible for any future President to govern if the federal bureaucracy does not approve of them; it means an end to a functioning democratic republic; it means the bureaucrats who see the Federal government as THEIR possession, not that of the American people, will have won.


That Barr's efforts are shaking up The Resistance is demonstrated by the increasingly hysterical attempts to quash and undermine his investigations as demonstrated by the recent letter from ex-DOJ employees demanding Barr's resignation.  The know their world is at risk from those investigations and they must be thwarted, by any means necessary.  Their reaction also demonstrates the truth in Holman Jenkins' observation about Trump's opponents:
To show what a liar he is, his enemies entangle themselves in lies.  Democrats have turned themselves into a party of Adam Schiffs, who, whatever his previous virtues, now is wholly defined by his promotion of the collusion canard. 

Ditto the media.  In their eagerness to traffic in falsehoods about Mr Trump, his media critics lend him strength.  We face the weird prospect now of a world-class scandal involving the FBI and the intelligence community being aired even while much of the press is committed to being part of the coverup. 
It didn't bother the signatories to the letter when AG Eric Holder proudly proclaimed himself President Obama's wingman and demonstrated the truth of that statement time after time.

It didn't bother them when President Obama obstructed justice by proclaiming Hillary Clinton's innocence on 60 Minutes in the midst of an ongoing investigation.  Where were the calls for Special Counsel to be appointed because the integrity of DOJ had been compromised by Obama's actions?

It didn't bother them when 43 Inspector Generals of federal agencies sent an unprecedented open letter to Congress in 2014 complaining of the Obama administration's obstruction of ongoing investigations, obstruction spearheaded by DOJ.

It didn't bother them when AG Holder was found in Contempt of Congress for failure to produce documents in order to carry out his missions as the President's wingman.

It didn't bother them when AG Holder smothered the investigation into the attack by Democratic partisans embedded at the IRS upon their political opponents.

It didn't bother them when the Russia collusion story, which they'd cheered on and accepted uncritically for three years collapsed, exposing at best incompetence, gross negligence, and bias and at worst, criminality by DOJ and the intelligence agencies.

It didn't bother them when it turned out it was the Clinton campaign that had colluded with the Kremlin and then used that information to manipulate credulous employees of the FBI and DOJ to approve an investigation of their political opponent.

It didn't bother them when IG Horowitz's report on the FBI investigation exposed massive fraud in the obtaining of FISA warrants against members of the Trump campaign.

No, the only thing that bothered them is AG Barr objecting to four politically partisan prosecutors making a manifestly unfair sentencing recommendations.

The fact that more than 1,000 ex-DOJ employees signed this ridiculous letter proves how deep the rot is in DC.  It will take some strong and determined people to bleachbit** the bureaucracy and the only chance of that happening is if Donald Trump, with all his manifest flaws, is reelected.  We only have one shot.


*   This afternoon Trump had a good and, for him, reflective, comment regarding Barr:
"I do make his job harder. I do agree with that," Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews, where the president was preparing to fly to California. "He's a very straight shooter. We have a great attorney general and he's working very hard."
** Hillary reference


Monday, February 17, 2020

That Russia Thing: Unanswered Questions

There are many questions for which we still don’t know the answers regarding the Russian collusion hoax. Here are four critical questions about its origin which, if answered, would fill in a lot of the blanks and tell us if this fiasco involved "just" unethical conduct, bias, gullibility, gross negligence and incompetence or also included illegality.  After the Mueller report was issued I posted a much longer list of questions (which you can read here), some answered by the December 2019 IG report. At this point we can only hope Durham answers the questions below.

Who was Joseph Mifsud acting on behalf of and what was said in his meeting with George Papdopoulos?

The alleged content of the Mifsud-Papadopolous and Downer-Papadopoulos conversations was the predicate for the FBI opening of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation on July 31, 2016.

Mifsud was the Maltese academic, publicly connected with Western intelligence services (particularly British), who approached the young, naive wannabe and newly appointed Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopolous in March 2016. On April 26, 2016 they had a conversation in which Papadopolous says Mifsud told him the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousand of emails. Mifsud denied this when interviewed by the FBI.

The Mueller investigation found, no doubt to its frustration, no evidence that Papadopolous informed anyone else in the Trump campaign about any statement made by Mifsud regarding the Russians having dirt or emails regarding Clinton.

Here’s what we know about who Mifsud was not working for:
The Horowitz report found no evidence, including in FBI databases, that Mifsud was an informant for that agency.
The Mueller report found no evidence Mifsud was an asset of Russian intelligence or acting on its behalf.
There are three other possibilities:
Mifsud freelancing on his own behalf trying to enhance his reputation and make connections for the future.
Mifsud acting on behalf of a “friendly” Western intelligence agency worried about the foreign policy of a potential Trump Administration.
Mifsud acting directly, or indirectly, on behalf of an American intelligence agency.

Who was Alexander Downer acting on behalf of and what was said in his meeting with George Papadopoulos?

In early May 2016, Alexander Downer, a senior Australian diplomat with intelligence service experience and with links to the Clinton Foundation, invited Papadopolous to meet him in a London bar. During the conversation, which Papadopolous believes was recorded by Downer, he allegedy mentioned the emails obtained by the Russians – allegedly according to Downer that is, as Papadopolous denies discussing the subject with Downer. On July 26, 2016, Downer reported the conversation to the FBI claiming P had told him the Trump campaign had received indication from the Russian government it could assist the campaign by release of information damaging to Clinton. This report triggered the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

Note that P’s statement regarding his discussion with Mifsud does not mention any indication that the Russian could assist the campaign, while Downer makes that specific claim. Further, Downer stated he decided to report the conversation ten weeks after it occurred after hearing about the hacking and public release of the DNC emails which occurred in July. Both the Mueller report and the Horowitz IG report place the alleged Papadopolous-Mifsud conversation in the context of the DNC email hack while the more obvious context is Hillary Clinton’s emails that she had destroyed to thwart the investigation, an event which was publicly known in April. Most people, myself included, assumed the Russians and/or Chinese had the missing Clinton emails and would have assumed that was what Mifsud was referring to.
Why was a senior Australian official contacting a junior Trump staffer?

Was it on his own initiative or at the request of others?

Was his conversation recorded? If so, does it support the claims he made when later reporting it to the FBI?

Does the connection made by Mueller and the FBI between the conversations and the DNC hacking make sense or was it invented after the fact to justify the initiation of Crossfire Hurricane?

Can the discrepancies between the accounts of Papadopolous, Mifsud, and Downer regarding the Clinton emails be reconciled?

Did this all start with the intelligence community trying to get Michael Flynn?

I originally thought Flynn was a bad appointment, someone who’d made some careless mistakes between the time he left the Obama administration and joined the Trump administration. Looking back I was wrong. Flynn was one of the few people in the administration who was both a Trump supporter, not just someone who wanted to “manage” Trump, and knew how the DC bureaucracy worked. He would have been very helpful to the President in those initial months when he had almost no one around him he could trust and who knew how DC worked. And he was a danger to the intelligence community because he’d made clear that the current structure was inefficient, incompetent, and needed to be slimmed down which meant a loss of power, influence, and jobs for those agencies. He needed to be taken out of action.

There is some evidence this effort to take out Flynn started as long ago as 2015. The travails and smearing of Russian emigre and Cambridge academic Svetlana Lokhova may have been ground zero for this effort, and present at the inception was U.S. intelligence agency asset Stefan Halper who turns up later interacting with Papadopolous, Carter Page, and others in what appears to be efforts to entrap them.
Was there an effort to specifically “get” Flynn and his conversation with the Russian ambassador merely an opportunity to do so?

Was Stefan Halper tasked to do this and, if so, by whom?

What is the background to the January 2017 Intelligence Community assessment regarding Russian interference with the 2016 election?
How was the assessment completed unusually quickly – only a month after being requested by President Obama?

How were the analysts selected and by whom? Was this the normal process?

Why was the assessment limited to three agencies?

What was the underlying evidence for its conclusions? Was any of the underlying evidence part of the now discredited Steele Dossier?
[By the way, the appendix to the intelligence assessment asserts the Kremlin supports the anti-fracking movement in the U.S. – Putin must be very pleased with the Democratic candidates for the 2020 election.]

And as long as we are talking about Russia . . . two more things

One of the factors in the recently announced DOJ decision not to charge Andrew McCabe for making false statements in connection with his leaks regarding the investigation of the Clinton Foundation is the difficulty in successfully prosecuting anyone seen as a opponent of Republicans in the District of Columbia (for some good analysis on the decision read this and this).  Donald Trump received 4% of the District's vote in 2016.  Voters, and potential jurors, don't just dislike Trump, they hate him and view his administration as an illegitimate occupying force that has no business being in control of THEIR government.

With the ongoing investigations and the likelihood that most indictments would need to be filed in the District we are faced with a true challenge for democracy.  Is it possible to successfully prosecute opponents of Donald Trump in the nation's capital?  If not, we are in big trouble as a country.

Secondly, I'd been meaning to write about this but an article in Red State beat me to it.  It's about Dana Boente of DOJ, who is now General Counsel of the FBI and has been neck deep in dubious activities regarding the Russia probe.  The chronology outlined in the piece is accurate and yet another illustration of how difficult it is to untangle the efforts to try to unseat Trump and why those only relying on the anti-Trump advocacy of the media don't even begin to understand what happened.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Lights Out

Image result for betelgeuse star

Something is going on with red supergiant star Betelgeuse (not the guy in the movie).  It's getting unusually dimmer at an unprecedented rate.  Astronomers have already predicted that the star will explode in a supernova sometime in the next 100,000 years; perhaps it is entering its death throes.

Since Betelgeuse is 700 light years from Earth it is already possible it exploded at some point in the past seven centuries and we just don't know it you.  That time travel stuff is tricky.

Better keep an eye on things.  You can read more here.