A piano on the concourse of St Pancras Station in London says:
'Play Me, I'm Yours!'
... That's exactly what musician Henri Herbert did. Enjoy!
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I'm coming to believe that Thaddeus Stevens was right. I had always been taught to regard him as a man of vicious bias. But, when I see this sort of thing, I begin to wonder how else you can treat them.
- John F. Kennedy, reacting privately to the assassination of Medgar Evers, June, 1963
The literary storm that followed an unfortunate book review in the Economist magazine has been a combination of outrage and rage. The review was critical of a book by Edward Baptist about slavery. The reviewer presented the case that the book lacked balance, neglecting to present the case in favor of slavery.
The Economist withdrew the piece. The recantation contained the review itself as a gesture toward transparency. It served as an allocution of sorts: an acknowledgment of the facts as part of an admission of guilt.
Within the withdrawn review, mention was made of another author, British Lord Hugh Thomas. Thomas had written a more clinical analysis of slavery as a business industry, with only minimal mention of the cruelties involved. The review in the Economist compared the two:
Unlike Mr Thomas, Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.
The controversy brought to mind the lessons of my youth and a larger message about history itself. When I was in grade school, we were taught about the period after the Civil War. Lincoln wanted reconciliation with the southern states. He favored a moderate course. Sadly, he was killed before he could bring reconciliation to the nation. But he had chosen a Vice President who was committed to Lincoln's vision.
Obstructing that vision, a vindictive group of Radical Republicans wanted retribution against the south. They imposed harsh measures during a period of punishment known as "Reconstruction." Thaddeus Stevens, the leader of the "Radical Republicans" for a time, was a bitter sort of fanatic. For a few years, the Radicals would "wave the bloody shirt," smearing peace loving opponents who wanted a friendly welcome to the former rebellious states. Eventually, the Radicals lost power, and reconciliation reigned, just as Lincoln had wanted.
We passed vocabulary tests if we could remember the assigned definitions of such terms as "scalawag" and "carpetbagger" and "wave the bloody shirt."
The notion that Lincoln fought hard against those supposed caretakers of his vision to get a series of Constitutional Amendments passed was largely ignored. His late, but firm, embrace of equal treatment under the law, and his advocacy of the protections of basic rights were not mentioned at all. Only later did I discover that the "harsh treatment" covered in the classroom involved voting rights, protection from lynching, and the softest beginnings of advancement toward equal employment.
When federal protection of former slaves was ended in the 1870s, the violent rage of former slave owners took over. This was presented by the books we studied as the time that the great healing began between a bitter and angry north and a subdued and peaceful south.
Why were we taught such lies? My guess is it has to do with the slow path research goes to textbook.
The culture of the late 1800s, going well into the late 1950s, was war weary. The can't-we-just-get-along narrative had an unspoken underlying foundation. All the getting along was to be done among white people. The unwritten adjective to "south" was "white". The great reconciliation was between the white north and the white south.
The basic research from which later research drew was done during a time that the reconciliation narrative was in ascendancy. And that later research drenched textbooks of my time. Thus equality and protection could be introduced to our young minds as vindictive punishment.
The current below the reconstruction narrative still flows with racial assumptions. But the wind in the sails has come to be balance. How can we think that all the slave owners were on the side of evil? How can we see all the slaves as the victims of that same evil? How can only the bad side of slavery be presented? Why not the benefits?
This is only the most extreme, the most obvious case of a more general trend. The human instinct favors balance. News outlets today report based on balance. Balance is achieved, not as a result of evidence and documentation, but rather as a premise. Balance has come to be prized over truth.
More than half a century after I was first shocked and stunned and deeply saddened to hear of his own assassination, I still love John F. Kennedy. I understand his reaction to the tragic murder of Medgar Evers.
But there is additional tragedy in the fact that the conclusion "I'm coming to believe that Thaddeus Stevens was right" had to be prompted, not by historical evidence, but by the body of a hero in a driveway.
From the Daily Mail:
It is the greatest murder mystery of all time, a puzzle that has perplexed criminologists for more than a century and spawned books, films and myriad theories ranging from the plausible to the utterly bizarre.
But now, thanks to modern forensic science, The Mail on Sunday can exclusively reveal the true identity of Jack the Ripper, the serial killer responsible for at least five grisly murders in Whitechapel in East London during the autumn of 1888.
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From NBC News:
Federal authorities are now investigating police in Ferguson, Missouri, but it’s not their first visit to suburban St. Louis. There are other dysfunctional police forces near Ferguson – and part of the problem, say experts, is that there are just so many of them. St. Louis County has 58 separate departments, according to a recent tally by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, some serving towns with fewer than 900 residents.
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This is a must see!! If I'd have seen this as a child .......... What a story! If you pass this on everyone will thank you.
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Political issues ought to be the heart and soul of how we elect those who represent us. I like it best when policy is the subject. But sometimes scandal comes into play. I didn't much like Bob McDonnell when he was Governor of Virginia, or even before that. I saw him as a political prig, constantly pushing to regulate the sex lives of his constituents while ignoring such issues as poverty. Still, I'm sorry he turned out to be a crook.
I liked Marvin Mandel a generation ago when he was Governor of Maryland. I saw him as a political hero for many reasons. One was the existence of the first Shock Trauma center in the nation. He took political risks for the public good, pushing past established medical and political order. I was sorry he turned out to be a crook.
McDonnell has yet to be sent to prison. Marvin Mandel was released when President Reagan commuted his sentence. His conviction was later overturned, then the overturning was overturned.
Bob McDonnell remains a prig, who now should be in jail. Marvin Mandel remains a hero who still ought to be behind bars.
I wish there was a way to separate scandal from politics. But policy is not the only basis on which we decide for whom to vote. Values represent a legitimate way to choose representatives and governors. Corruption does represent a set of values.
I confess I don't really like politicized issues, controversies that don't really belong in the realm of political debate. For example Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) has been attacked, among other reasons, for no longer being a resident of Kansas. His declared residence turns out to be the home of supporters in Dodge City. He pays them rent.
As a voter, I'm okay with facing reality. Maintaining a full time residence here in Missouri while attending to a full time job in Washington is an untenable requirement. My bet is I'd feel the same way if I lived next door in Kansas.
But the insistence that our Representatives must work for us in Washington but can't live there continues. It doesn't happen every election season. Just enough to be an irritant.
In Kansas, the news is that the Democratic candidate withdrew in order to leave Bob Roberts to face only the independent, non-affiliated candidate. He can't win against one opponent. A Republican official insists that the name of the Democrat stay on the ballot. Bob Roberts might win, then he can't win, then he might win.
The story missed by pundits is the fact that the only hope of winning by a Republican incumbent in solid Republican Kansas is a divided vote by those who want to see him gone. This is in an off-year election dominated around the nation by older, more conservative voters. As the Republican party grows more conservative, purging members who are insufficiently extreme, a tipping point is reached in Kansas. Republicans begin to defect.
Speculation about whether the current very unpopular Kansas Senator survives all the machinations is important for the next couple of months. The real story goes into the future. The Republican party is in hidden trouble.
But residence? That is a disguise. It should not be an issue.
I thought about it all again as I read about another scandal brewing in Maryland. The state gives tax breaks to residents. Tax officials are investigating whether a public official committed a crime by claiming to be a full time resident.
The official claiming full time residence in the Maryland suburbs of Washington is Dan Sullivan. Dan Sullivan is member of Congress from Alaska. He is also the Republican candidate for US Senate from Alaska.
No kidding. The Republican candidate for the United States Senate from Alaska is demanding tax breaks, insisting he is a full time resident of the suburbs of Washington, DC.
I don't like that sort of issue, but this fellow is just asking for it.
Can a religious faith, depending on such a long, long chain, survive if even one link against science weakens?
The troubling ambiguity of the shooting leads to frustration. The plain truth is we can't prove what the plain truth is.
Why is the most fundamental question about these small municipal police departments in St. Louis County not being asked?
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Last Of The Millenniums sees a pattern as yet another journalist is roughed up by a political campaign and threatened with arrest. It suggests the real Republican attitude toward free speech does not extend to reporting that speech.
The Moderate Voice reports, with some surprise, that the United States Senate is considering actual campaign finance reform. Catch is, people like you and me, those of us who complain about how deep pockets control government, actually have to do something more than complain. Gee ‑ ‑ ‑ I dunno.
Max's Dad seems pretty grateful for working people and appreciative of the place of labor in American history. He suggests that official Republican attitudes toward working people has grown rancid. This is not your grandfather's Grand Old Party.
Jack Jodell at The Saturday Afternoon Post will probably not become a Republican. He explains why he feels compelled to be a progressive. I like Jack for many reasons. One is that he publishes regular podcasts in association with FairAndUNbalanced. I regularly forgive him for also publishing what is possibly the worst photo of me. Worst. Photo. Ever. (So humilated)
I occasionally write about those among us, I am one, who know what it is to discover among our deep beliefs some that are monstrously evil. Infidel 753 suggests, in a contrary view, the dangers of ordinary looking people who give out signs that they will turn out to be monsters.
Mad Mike's America brings us the very sad, remarkably incendiary opinion of Ben Stein. Michael Brown, killed by a police officer in Ferguson, was armed and dangerous even though he had no weapon. He was, after all, pretty big. Besides, he was, you know, real scary.
News Corpse relives the amazing moment when Bill O'Reilly tells America never to believe partisan programs. The man seems to possess no sense of irony and even less self-awareness. And we thought nobody could get less than zero.
Conservative James Wigderson believes he has caught the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General diving into a conflict of interest in a criminal case. He might just be right. A good rule in politics is to refrain from cutting deals with sexual predators of minors when they got you a good deal on a house. Hiding the relationship doesn't help.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot presents a scene from a famous movie that captures precisely his reaction to radical treatment of kidney stones.
Everyone is indignant at a book reviewer who was disappointed that a book about slavery is really one sided, ignoring the case in favor of people owning people. Tommy Christopher, at the Daily Banter, expresses his own anger, then goes granular. He shatters each of the pro-slavery arguments, piece by crumbling piece. You get the feeling that Tommy actually reads and considers what he reviews. His cold fury is backed at each step by reasoning and facts. Mediaite has to be kicking themselves for losing him.
Jonathan Bernstein, writing for Bloomberg, studies alternate history as he goes into the possible results if any of 6 events had gone in the other direction.
- Dog Bless Us One And All, explains why there is no time travel. Impossible. Has to do with abolishing organized religion. My closest friend explains why she won't go to worship. "I refuse to participate in organized hypocrisy!" I respond with indignation. "That's not fair! . . . We're not organized!"
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The friendly radio evangelist had been brought to visit by the local pastor. I liked him, for all his unusual beliefs. Creationism was his big thing. He had come to preach truth to a heathen.
I posed one of the traditional questions. If God had created all that he had created 6000 years ago, how would we explain fossils that were dated millions of years old. How about light from stars billions of light years away?
He had an answer. God had created his creation with the appearance of age. That was my introduction to what is known as the Omphalos hypothesis, named for a novel written in the MID-1800s. It has a certain chicken-and-egg logic to it. If God created the egg, it would appear to have come from a chicken. If God created a chicken, it would appear to have come from an egg. Both would have the appearance of age.
My visitor's faith was very strong. Unbending, really.
I suggested that, if God had gone through that much trouble to give his universe the Appearance of Age, it seemed to me a bit unsporting for us not to surrender to his will and believe in all those contrived eons.
My new friend's unbending faith was strong enough for him to find my observation completely nonthreatening. In fact, he laughed appreciatively. It was hard not to like him.
Not all creationists accept the Omphalos hypothesis. I don't much blame them. The big gaping hole in it is that it can support pretty much any theory of limited existence. God created the universe last Tuesday. He did it with the Appearance of Age, including memories, pseudo-history, relationships, and a fictitious past. Why not?
My friend's faith was strong and unbending, but his logic could support pretty much anything. So it pretty much supported nothing.
A few years ago, I happened upon an argument about all those light years of distance in observable stars. Andy Schlafly, the creator, as it were, of Conservapedia, considers Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and pretty much all science that flows from light traveling at a constant speed, as "heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world."
Like my friend from decades ago, Mr. Schlafly's faith is unbending and rigid. His faith is so rigid and unyielding on so many points, it makes me wonder what is at its core. His insistence that accepted science must be wrong, wrong, wrong, suggests to me that a faith that rigid is more than a little brittle.
Like most Christians, my own faith has its own vulnerability. It is historically based, at least in part. Christ died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. If I became convinced that Jesus died running from Gethsemane with a Roman spear in his back, I would be devastated.
I use that internal image to gain some empathy. If the slightest crack were allowed into any of the many crevices of the rock whose cleft shields so many of my brethren, the entire edifice might weaken and collapse.
I was reminded of the dangers of the single weak link in an unnecessarily long chain as I listened to small segments of the famous Creation vs Science debate a few months ago between Kenneth Ham the creationist and Bill Nye the science guy. Ken Ham was asked this:
Hypothetically, if evidence existed that caused you to have to admit that the Earth was older than 10,000 years and creation did not occur over six days, would you still believe in God, and the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and that Jesus was the son of God?
Mr. Ham began his answer this way:
Well, I've been emphasizing all night, you cannot ever prove, using the scientific method in the present, you can't prove the age of the Earth. So you can never prove it’s old. There is no hypothetical. Because you can't do that.
He continued for a minute or two, repeating variations of his theme. He doesn't have to test his faith, even hypothetically, because the universe isn't billions of years old. It just isn't. It can't, can't, can't be.
Although it is impossible to judge the inner core, the hidden strength, of Mr. Ham's faith, I can see the Appearance of Weakness in his writhing efforts to escape such a seemingly harmless question.
Einstein's theory must be wrong or else everything we believe will be at risk. The speed of light must vary over time or faith will die. A universe that is older than 6 millennia threatens God himself. We struggle within our souls against theocide.
A faith that shouts its unbending strength, its intractable rigidity, its brittle inflexibility, almost compels us to complete the circle. We have to wonder about the delicate fragility that fights so hard to avoid the slightest touch of factual contradiction.
Why will faith fear a touch, except that, like a fragment of ancient parchment, a touch will make it crumble?
From The Atlantic:
After months of unremittingly dark tidings from Syria and Iraq, some slivers of hope are beginning to shine through. ISIS, the terrorist army that now calls itself the Islamic State, has in recent days suffered a series of military reversals.
The Mosul Dam, a vital asset, has been wrested back from ISIS control. In Amerli, a small town where residents held out against an ISIS onslaught for weeks on end, the siege has been broken. In both instances, Iraqi forces—regular and irregular—were backed by American air support.
And now, Iraqi soldiers are advancing on Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, where ISIS has for several weeks seemed solidly entrenched.
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From tamu Times, Texas A&M University:
Pundits who throw around the words “big government” usually point out the negatives of having too much government involvement in the economy, but a Texas A&M University researcher co-wrote a study that found government intervention ‑ when done correctly ‑ leads to more happiness and satisfaction in the lives of citizens.
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Gazprombank GPB (OJSC), a Russian bank targeted with sanctions by President Obama over the Ukraine crisis, has hired two former U.S. senators to lobby against those sanctions, according to a new disclosure filed with the Senate.
Gazprombank is controlled by Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom, the country’s largest gas producer; it supplies about a third of Europe’s natural gas.
In a filing submitted Friday and effective that day, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former Senator John Breaux, D-La., are listed as the main lobbyists under the Gazprombank account for the firm Squire Patton Boggs, lobbying on “banking laws and regulations including applicable sanctions.”
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It has been a couple of decades since medical complications took my father from us. A friend who had lost his own father once asked me how long it had taken me to recover from the loss. I answered: "I'll let you know."
I still enjoy memories of our conversations.
It was a Monday evening in mid-July. My dad and I were talking about Watergate. Pretty much everybody was talking about Watergate in those days. Alexander Butterfield had just revealed that a secret recording system had documented a whole lot of conversations between President Nixon and his top aides.
Later that week, the President would refer to those who would "wallow in Watergate" rather than tending to the business of the nation. He was, of course, talking about folks like us. Rumors that he might resign were "poppycock." A country singer on Johnny Carson was asked what he had been doing of late. "I been wailerin in Watergate."
My dad and I were doing our share of wallowing, speculating whether the newly revealed tapes would bring down the President. In spite of John Dean's testimony, I doubted that Nixon himself had done anything criminal. If he had, he wouldn't have been foolish enough to say anything on tape.
"Nope. He's done," my Dad said. His reasoning was based on a simple observation. The initial reaction from the Nixon White House to the revelation of the tapes was a grim silence. John Dean and his family were reported to be gleeful.
One notable result of the slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, comes from the deeply troubling ambiguity of the circumstances of that death.
On one side, we have witnesses. Most saw pieces of the confrontation.
On the other side, we have an anonymous caller to a radio station who calls herself "Josie." She provides a circuitous route to what may be the account of the officer, Darren Wilson. According that call, the officer reported an account of the shooting to the Ferguson Police Department, then repeated that account to his significant other who then told her friend, who is the “Josie” who called the radio station, who then broadcast her call.
The plain truth is we don't know what the plain truth is. Not for sure. The context of police mistreatment of the community does not tell us. The context of Michael Brown's character does not tell us.
It is possible we will know more as additional evidence comes in. It is also possible we will never know.
The frustration that comes with a lack of knowledge has provided some momentum to an already existing movement to provide police officers with body cameras and to insist on their use.
The Chief Deputy of the Oconee County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office writes a nationally read blog.
... in my experience, video clears more peace officers of false accusations than it catches those committing malevolent acts.
- Chief J. Lee Weems, July 8, 2013
Experience in Rialto, California is often used as a basis for proposals in other cities. It is the first actual study of the effect of video recordings. Police use of force is down 60%. Complaints against the police have dropped by 88%.
The police chief explains why police have grown to like the idea:
Mr. Farrar says officers have told him of cases when citizens arrived at a Rialto police station to file a complaint and the supervisor was able to retrieve and play on the spot the video of what had transpired. “The individuals left the station with basically no other things to say and have never come back,” he said.
- As reported in the New York Times, April 6, 2013
There are privacy concerns. We want some caution about images of victims and the most vulnerable of witnesses put where they might end up in public view.
But I am reminded of conversations from long ago with a father whom I miss more than can be expressed. We don't know who would be happy if we suddenly found that the entire Ferguson incident had been recorded on video.
Two private companies have contributed body cameras to the Ferguson police force. Officers are currently in training. News outlets report the officers are delighted at the opportunity to record their interactions with the public.
A St. Louis-area police officer has been fired after making what his chief called "very concerning and inappropriate" Facebook comments on the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a city official.
"These protesters should be put down like a rabid dog the first night," Matthew Pappert, a police officer in the city of Glendale, wrote in one post, according to CNN affiliate KMOV. There were reportedly five inappropriate posts, KMOV said.
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