Monday, January 14, 2019

Rome: 900 AD

An artist's interpretation of the Forum of Nerva as it may have looked in 900.  From History on this Day.

Forum of Nerva in 10th century

Construction of the forum began under the Emperor Domitian around 85 AD but was still underway when the increasingly paranoid emperor was assassinated in 96 in a plot which included his wife (maybe he wasn't so paranoid, after all).  The forum was completed and dedicated in the reign of his successor Nerva (96-98).
Reconstructive view of the Forum of Nerva
The space was one of a series of Imperial Forums constructed adjacent to the older Roman Forum of the Republic.  Nerva's Forum was adjacent to those of Caesar and Augustus, which would be to the right on the image above.

With the deterioration of the City starting in the 5th century and accelerating during the Gothic Wars, the buildings and forums of the Republic and Empire were largely abandoned as the diminished population retreated to the banks of the Tiber.  For more on the history of the city in those times read Belisarius Enters Rome.

Large areas of the Forum returned to marshland as the drainage systems installed centuries before were no longer maintained.  From the archaeological evidence, Nerva's Forum, which lay empty for hundreds of years saw a revival in the 9th century as farm buildings began to occupy its interior, using stone scavenged from the Forum.  It is these tiny farms, huddled in the ruins of a great empire, that are portrayed by the artist in the picture at top.  What did those farmers think of those who built the massive structure centuries before?

As the city began its recovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Forum of Nerva and other ancient sites served as quarries for new buildings and many of the statutes and columns pictured above were removed leaving the forum a complete ruin.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Presidential Farewell Address

"What they called radical was really right. What they called dangerous was just desperately needed." 
Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's farewell address after eight years in the White House.  He made his share of mistakes, some of them big, but he was the best president of my lifetime and the only one I loved, and the last who was a sheer pleasure to listen to.  By comparison, all his successors of both parties seem small.

Reagan was easy to underestimate.  His Secretary of State George Schultz later admitted assuming that when Ron went upstairs at the end of the day, he and Nancy were spending the evening watching old movies on TV.  With the publications of Reagan's correspondence and diary Schultz was startled to find out the President was instead writing letters, reflecting on events in his diary, and reading.

Schultz had already seen the President's gift for words in action.  For one study of Reagan's presidency, Schultz made available the President's handwritten changes on the draft opening remarks prepared by the State Department for Reagan to make at the first summit with Soviet Premier Gorbachev at Geneva in 1985.  The President's changes transformed a dry document into a remarkable statement on behalf of America.  Schultz was astonished.

Until listening yesterday to the speech, I had forgotten that President Reagan closed with a warning of the need to improve the teaching of our history and what it means to be an American before the memory was eradicated.  That remains a theme of this blog; unfortunately Reagan's warning was not heeded.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Normalizing Mass Murder and Repression, Part 2

Last year I did a piece on the New York Times forty part series normalizing communism's past.  This week we have a micro-example of the continuing effort by the Times on this front.  It's the article, "Angela Davis Says She's 'Stunned' After Award Is Revoked Over Her Views On Israel".

The Birmingham (Alabama) Civil Rights Institute had announced it was giving Ms Davis its annual human rights award but decided to rescind the honor due to “protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies.” because of Davis' support of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The Times describes the BDS movement as seeking "to apply economic pressure to Israel until it ends the occupation of the West Bank, treats Palestinians equally under the law and allows the return of Palestinian refugees."  In fact what BDS supports is the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel and then the creation of one state with a Palestinian majority.  In other words, the end of Israel as a Jewish state.  These are the same people who, after Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005 including forcibly uprooting several thousand Jewish settlers, still insist that Gaza is occupied in order to justify the continuing attacks of Hamas on Israel.  So the article normalizes those calling for Israel's destruction.

But that is only the start.  Ms Davis is described as an "activist and scholar".  Now that's an initial tip-off since "activist" is a synonym for "leftist".  She is also called "once a global hero of the left who has since earned renown for her scholarship".  We'll come back to that one.  Davis is also held in high esteem in the right quarters, "she has been recognized for her scholarship and activism around feminism and against mass incarceration. Last year, a Harvard University library acquired her personal archive."

And then we come to these interestingly structured paragraphs:
Professor Davis became a global progressive leader nearly half a century ago. At the time, she was agitating on behalf of three California inmates accused of murdering a white prison guard when guns she had purchased were used in an attack that was aimed at freeing the inmates but left four people dead, including the assailant.

She was not present during the attack and witnesses testified that the guns were purchased for defense, but Professor Davis nonetheless spent 16 months in jail before an all-white jury acquitted her of all charges. In the interim, “Free Angela” had become a rallying cry.
So, she was a progressive back then and someone some guns she purchased were used in an attack that left several people dead.  Interesting.  It turns out that at the time of the shoot out at the Marin County Court House in California, Angela Davis was a member of the Communist Party USA and a committed supporter of revolutionary violence.  As the Times article mentions she was acquitted of charges of being an accomplice to kidnapping and homicide.  However, there are also some relevant (and undisputed) additional facts that give further context.

On August 7, 1970, 17 year old Jonathan Jackson entered the court room where a trial of a Black Panther was underway.  Jackson was carrying a sawed off shotgun and handgun in a satchel (it was a lot easier to get into courts in those days) and a M1 carbine under his raincoat.  Throwing the handgun to an accomplice, Jackson pulled his M1 out and announced he was acting to free three convicts at Soledad Prison, one of whom was his brother George.  It turned out there were four kidnappers in on the takeover.  

The kidnappers took five hostages including Superior Court Judge Harold Haley and tried to escape in a van, ending up in a shoot out with police at a roadblock.  At the end three of the kidnappers and Judge Haley were dead, and two hostages wounded; a juror wounded in the arm, and Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas who was paralyzed by a bullet in the spine.

Angela Davis had been in correspondence with George Jackson, the older brother of Jonathan, and agitating for his release from prison.  Two days prior to the court house incident, Davis purchased the shotgun used by Jonathan, and all the guns he was carrying were registered to her.  At the trial it was established that Judge Haley had two wounds, either of which would have been fatal - one was from the shotgun.

Ms Davis was part of the same revolutionary scum that floated around America in the late 60s and into the 1970s (some of whom I wrote about in The Company You Keep).  As a communist party member she was part of an organization under the direction of the Soviet Union, which also financially supported the group, an organization she remained a member of until the Soviet Union was no more in 1991.  She ran as the party's candidate for vice-president of the United States in the presidential elections of 1980 and 1984.  Talk about collusion!

As a committed communist, Davis opposes human rights.  To the extent she supports free elections it is under the slogan, "one person, one vote, one time".  Over the years she has consistently been an unapologetic supporter of every bloody Leftist regime in the world.  She was a big fan of the murderous, homophobic thugs Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.  In Moscow she praised the "glorious name of Lenin" and "the great October revolution" (which overthrew the first democratic government in Russian history).  Locally, she was a very public supporter of the Reverend Jim Jones and the People's Temple, telling them, "when you are attacked, it is because of your progressive stand, and we feel that it is directly an attack against us as well".

She has also consistently refused to agitate for the release of prisoners held by Leftist governments.
As recounted in his book Chutzpah, when Alan Dershowitz, who worked on her legal defense, asked her to speak out on behalf of Soviet Jews imprisoned as dissidents, Davis responded that they were all “Zionist fascists” who deserved their fate.  In the 1970s, asked to support Czech dissidents imprisoned by the communist regime she responded, "They deserve what they get. Let them remain in prison".

What we have is a problem much bigger than Davis' support for the BDS movement and the attempt of the New York Times to normalize her.  It is the determined whitewash of her actual views.  Not even considering her position on Israel, it is nauseating that civil and human right groups would bestow awards on someone who has no compunction about lining up against a wall those she disagrees with and shooting them.  That's no exaggeration.  Remember the line in the Times article about Davis being recognized for her activism "against mass incarceration"?  Yet she supports mass incarceration when those being imprisoned are ideological enemies.  For her the crucial question is Lenin's, "Who will overtake whom?".  If you are on the wrong side of that equation for Davis it is "no soup for you!"  It cannot be said too often, Angela Davis opposes human rights.

It also reflects poorly on the degeneration of the academic world.  She has had a long and distinguished career in academia despite her repellent beliefs.  Remember the quote from the Times article above that she was "once a global hero of the left who has since gained renown for her scholarship"? Her longest stint was 17 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Rutgers University as professor in the History of Consciousness and the Feminist Studies Departments; which aren't even things!  They are simply sinecures in intellectually incoherent and artificial disciplines designed to provide platforms for agitprop and financial security for its practitioners.  She is still the same politically as she was when she purchased guns for Jonathan Jackson, and when she endorsed the imprisonment of dissidents by the left, only now she has the imprimatur of a corrupt academic establishment for her authoritarian philosophy.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Buffalo Springfield Non-Reunion

One of the best bands of the 1960s was Buffalo Springfield.  After making three albums the group broke up in 1968 with three members going on to longer careers - Steven Stills as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash, a solo career, and he's still touring, currently with Judy Collins who, so many years ago, inspired his writing Suite: Judy Blue Eyes; Neil Young as the junior partner in Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, and with a monster solo career; and Richie Furay as the founder of country-rock band Poco and now as a minister (Richie tells some funny stories about meeting Steven and Neil and on the intersection between his post-Buffalo Springfield career and his ministry).

Recently a YouTube video popped up showing all five original members (including Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer) casually rehearsing for a planned tour in 1986.  The tour never happened (my guess is the always difficult Young was the reason why) but it's a lot of fun to see the band finding their way through a new Neil Young song (which eventually evolved into the song Eldorado, which sounds like a Mark Knopfler tune, along with an intermediate period when it was called Road of Plenty, which Young never recorded; plus you can hear the beginnings of the riff that became Like A Hurricane).  About three minutes in you can listen to Young and Stills discussing where to take the song.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Russian Linked To Clinton Collusion Indicted

Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer strongly linked to the Putin regime and the campaign of Hillary Clinton, was indicted today by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for alleged obstruction of justice in connection with the government's investigation of Prevezon Holdings, a Russian company she was advising; a company with close ties to Vladimir Putin.

Though the indictment is merely symbolic since Veselnitskaya is in Russia and chances of her extradition are nil, the government's action highlights the linkage between the Clinton campaign and its minions in the FBI and Justice Department during 2016.

Veselnitskaya is best known for her June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Fredo Trump Jr and Jared from Subway, which was set up based upon her claim of having information related to Hillary Clinton's missing emails (approximately 30,000 of her emails illegally kept on her private server while she was Secretary of State were deleted in order to obstruct the Federal investigation of her alleged breaking of federal law).  However, when she showed up for the meeting what she wanted to discuss was the Magnitksy Act, a sanctions law against Russia that Putin has been desperate to have repealed (as was Veselnitskayas client Prevezon Holdings).

And here's where the plot thickens.

At the time Veselnitskaya was in the United States on a non-immigrant work visa issued by Homeland Security and the State Department, which is interesting since she was a Russian lawyer, not a qualified American lawyer.  Her purpose for the 2016 visit was to work on repeal of the Magnitsky Act.  On the same day Veselnitskaya had the meeting at the Trump Tower she met before and after with Glen Simpson.

Who is Glen Simpson?  He's the head of Fusion GPS.  His firm had been retained by the American law firm of BakerHostetler on behalf of Prevezon Holdings to work on repeal of the Magnitsky Act.  Fusion was paid $524,000 by Baker between March and October 2016.

At the same time, Fusion was working for the Clinton campaign, having been hired through its outside law firm, Perkins Coie, which paid Fusion $1.024,000 between May and December 2016.  In turn Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele, who in turn hired various contacts to obtain information on Donald Trump from sources in Russian intelligence which was compiled into what is now known as the Steele Dossier.  The only established coordination link between a 2016 Presidential election campaign and the Putin regime is the assembling of the Steele Dossier on behalf of Hillary Clinton, which, in turn, was used by the FBI and Justice Department to obtain the FISA warrant to tap the communications of Carter Page who worked on the Trump campaign.  Under the terms of such warrant, the FBI could also monitor the communication of anyone who communicated with Page, and anyone who communicated with those communicating with Paige.  In effect by this two-step operations pretty much the entire Trump circle of influence.  What is particularly curious about all this is that Carter Page has not been indicted nor, as far as I can learn, been called before a grand jury or even questioned by any governmental authority about all this.

One of the Fusion GPS Russian experts was Nellie Ohr, wife of Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official.  In May 2016 Nellie Ohr obtained a ham radio license enabling her to make contacts outside of normal surveillance.  Bruce Ohr in turn served as a two-way information conduit between Fusion GPS and the Justice Department.  Rod Rosenstein, who oversees (I use the term loosely) the Mueller investigation, was apparently unaware that Ohr was working closely with Fusion GPS and he has since been demoted since his role as a mole was uncovered.

Meanwhile the FBI officials most closely involved in the Russia collusion investigation and obtaining of the FISA warrant were the same officials who made sure to clear Hillary Clinton of any criminal taint in the email investigation.

I continue to marvel at the stark contrast between the amateurs and the pros in the two campaigns.  Trump and Jared were foolish enough to meet directly with Veselnitskaya, and even though the meeting ended up not having anything to do with Hillary, it apparently remains a focus of the Mueller investigation.

Meanwhile the pros at the Clinton campaign do it right.  They have Perkins Coie hire Fusion GPS which hires Steele who hires cut-outs to deal with the Russians.  So we have actual collusion but no apparent interest by Mueller.

Something stinks here.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Ed Sullivan: Rock God

I got in the WABAC Machine to look at the British Invasion bands featured on The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights from February 1964 through January 1965.  Back then appearing on Ed Sullivan was a big deal (as you can tell by this satiric tribute to the power of Ed from the musical Bye, Bye, Birdie featuring Paul Lynde and Ann-Margret).  The show drew a huge audience, despite, or maybe because of, Sullivan's complete lack of charisma and stiff, awkward stage presence, and its where America saw for the first time many acts, including The Beatles.  Sullivan's show lasted from 1948 until 1971 because he and his talent scouts had an eye for what would appeal to broad segments of the American public.  Along with The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis made their first TV appearances on his show.  It's also where comedians like Rodney Dangerfield, Joan Rivers, and George Carlin came to nationwide attention.

Sullivan also presented many African American artists for the first time on TV including Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis Jr., and was an early promoter of Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor's careers.  He was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of his frequent guest, and friend, Louis Armstrong.  In a sign of how different things were back then, some sponsors threatened to withdraw ads after he kissed Pearl Bailey on the cheek.

And, as those who watched frequently remember, after seeing one of those great acts we might next see Topo Gigio or Senor Wences, both of whom seemed like they were on the show every month.

We can chart the transition from American popular music to the British invasion over those twelve months.  Here's how it played out (where IMBd carried a summary of the entire show I've included it in italics):

February 2, 1964 - The last pre-Beatles show, featuring Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Jr.

February 9, 1964 - First appearance by The Beatles.  An estimated 73 million Americans (40% of the nation's population) watched the debut of the Fab Four.

February 16, 1964
The Beatles return to program for the second consecutive week, this time performing in Miami Beach, Florida. In the first set, the group performs "She Loves You", "This Boy", and "All My Loving". After Ed Sullivan introduces current heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston and former champ Joe Louis, comedians Marty Allen and Steve Rossi perform a sketch where an unlikely boxing contender (Allen) is quizzed by a persistent interviewer. Mitzi Gaynor performs "It's Too Darn Hot" and a series of blues numbers. Sway Bar Acrobats 'The Nerveless Nocks' perform aerial feats in a segment taped at Hialeh Race Track, followed by Myron Cohen's stand-up comic routine concerning two old ladies who enter the race track by accident. The Beatles wrap up the show with a second set, singing "I Saw Her Standing There", "From Me to You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand".
February 23, 1964
The Beatles return for their third straight show and perform "Twist and Shout" and "Please Please Me" in their opening set. Cute blonde Gloria Bleezarde trills the comic song "Safety in Numbers", followed by Pinky and Perky's marionettes performing "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" and "Speedy Gonzalez". Morecambe & Wise perform a comedy sketch concerning fragile antique brandy glasses and are succeeded by clarinetist Acker Bilk and the Ed Sullivan Dancers performing "Acker's Lacquer". Gordon and Sheila MacRae spoof 'The Garry Moore Show' with Gordon and Shiela performing "The Sweetest Sounds", followed by Gordon's impressions of Moore and Frank Fontaine and then singing "If Ever I would Leave You". Sandwiched around comedy routines by Dave Barry and Morty Gunty, Cab Calloway sings "St. James Infirmary" and "Ol' Man River". The episode concludes with The Beatles singing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" for the third consecutive week.
March 8, 1964  The Dave Clark Five.  When The Beatles exploded on the scene no one knew whether they'd be around in three months, so when the DC5 had their first big hit in the U.S., Glad All Over, they were touted as the next big thing, and appeared four times on Sullivan during 1964.

March 15, 1964  The Dave Clark Five

April 12, 1964  The Searchers
The Searchers sang "Needles and Pins" and "Ain't That Just Like Me". Teresa Brewer sang Bye Bye Blackbird. Senor Wences did his ventriloquist act. The Little Singers of Tokyo sang "Sakura" and "Swanee". 

May 3, 1964  Gerry & The Pacemakers.  Mersey mates of The Beatles, Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying was a massive hit.


May 10, 1964  Gerry & The Pacemakers

May 31 1964  The Dave Clark Five

June 7, 1964  Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas  Now forgotten, Billy J had a few hits in the UK and this creepy single hit #5 in the U.S.  Managed by Brian Epstein, who also managed The Beatles.

September 27, 1964

The Beach Boys become the first American pop/rock band to appear on the show in 1964, followed by Roy Orbison in October and, in December, Gary Lewis & The Playboys and The Supremes (the first of many appearances for them).

October 18, 1964  The Animals.  The music coming out of Britain in the second half of the year started sounding rougher, a trend spearheaded by The Animals, The Rolling Stones, and The Kinks (You Really Got Me).  The House of the Rising Sun was a #1 everywhere in the English speaking world, a remaking of an old blues tune, with Eric Burdon's soulful vocal and an unforgettable organ sound from Alan Price.  The bass player, Chas Chandler, went on to discover Jimi Hendrix playing in a London club, and produced his first three albums.  The Animals were the first of the British bands to hail from the north of the country.

October 25, 1964  The Rolling Stones.  In 1964 the appearance of the long-haired and scruffy (for those times) Stones was a shock.  And 55 years later they're preparing for yet another tour!  Here they are making their debut on Ed Sullivan performing their first hit song, Time Is On My Side.

November 1, 1964  The Dave Clark Five

November 15, 1964  Peter & Gordon  Peter Asher and Gordon Waller were the easy listening duo of the British invasion.  Their good fortune was that Peter's sister Jane was dating Paul McCartney who gave the duo a song he'd written, World Without Love, which became their biggest hit.

January 17, 1965  The Animals.  This link takes you to the Ed Sullivan performance of their outstanding second single, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.