Monday, January 23, 2017

Toynbee's Take, Hip Hop, "Just You Wait," the Anti-Business Businessman and the Inaugural Address





Why Civilizations Decline

Sir Arthur Toynbee, historian and philosopher, has written about the rise and fall of civilizations.  His books are heavy stuff.  Suffice to say that of the 23 civilizations Toynbee recognized in world history, only seven survive.  Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” another difficult tome, also recognized that few civilizations are permanent. 

Probably, most civilizations contain within themselves the seeds of their own destruction.  Toynbee suggests that a creative, intelligent “dominant” minority fuels the energy which keeps a civilization vibrant and able to meet challenges, but only so long as they remain in charge.  When they lose control, which might be the result of warfare, natural disasters or even popular democratic changes, decline can ensue.

With this elitist thought in the back of your mind, check out the following two articles, one dealing with music and the other with our present state of politics.
Jack Lippman


Hip Hop


Never a fan of rap or hip hop, I barely tolerate most rock and roll.  My musical tastes lean toward Broadway show tunes, the “Great American Songbook” and I am not ashamed to say, opera and classical music in its many forms.  Folk music, and its derivatives are sometimes okay, too.
But the great success which the musical “Hamilton” has achieved has caused me to try to see what it is about hip hop music, one of the driving musical genres in that award-winning show, which makes it so appealing.  So I decided to listen to some.
After looking around on the stations available on my car radio (which is far more receptive than any of the radios in my home), I settled on assigning a permanent slot to “the Beat,” an FM station at 103.5 mg which broadcasts a strong signal from Miami and seems to exclusively play rap, hip hop and rhythm and blues. If I debarked from a ship or an airliner in a place where on arriving I encountered the English in which the artists featured on “the Beat” are allegedly singing, I would think they were speaking some other language, or that, more likely, I had ended up on some other planet. 

Most of the lyrics are incomprehensible, and when they can be deciphered, they are often simplistic, involving tortured rhymes, and at the level spoken by a semi-literate teenager about to flunk out of middle school. Sound effects and recording embellishments are ever-present. Sometimes romantic, sometimes social, sometimes political, the words are ejected rapid-fire in a monotone on top of an everpresent “beat.” The DJs speak far more properly, but with an accent attuned to their listeners.  Risking being accused of racism, I would guess that 103.5’s listeners are mostly Afro-American. 
Our public schools have a problem regarding literacy in teaching children who come from homes where they are not receiving sufficient parental support.  Involved literate parents at home give children a better chance to learn to read.  What children are exposed to outside of the classroom is important.  Stations like “the Beat” are playing a significant role in keeping Afro-American children from succeeding in school. They offer nothing better than a justification for remaining ignorant and living in a world where rhythmically mumbling barely understood words is what life is about.  It isn’t.
As for the musicality of what 103.5 plays, it certainly has a rhythm, a beat and might be appealing were it not for the dumbed-down lyrics accompanying it.  But don’t try to hum or whistle a tune you might hear on “the Beat.”  That would be impossible.  “Hamilton” is different from most of the "music" on 103.5 from a lyrics standpoint in that its hip hop language is about events that happened in American history.  But I don’t hear Hamilton's music on 103.5. And most of that station's listeners wouldn’t know who Hamilton was anyway, even if they played some of the show’s music.
I shall continue to listen to “the Beat” sporadically.  Maybe I am missing something.  Maybe they will stop treating their audience like morons.  They really deserve better, something much better than the simple visceral appeal of this kind of music.  To me, this seems to be an unfortunate bump in the road in the broad forward-looking context of the civil rights movement. 


          Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I listen to this kind of music, I get a "separate but equal" feeling that I thought Brown vs. Board of Education and the heritage of Martin Luther King had corrected.  Even though there is some appreciation of this kind of music among others than Afro-Americans, slowly easing it into our broader culture, it still comes across to me as "their" music and I feel that this is wrong.  Again, 103.5's listeners deserve better.
But “the Beat” at 103.5 in Miami isn’t the only culprit.  Try tuning in to the music channels on your HD TV.  Where I live, Comcast’s channels 805 to 809 provide, in order, “Hip Hop and R&B,” “Rap,” “Hip Hop Classics,” “Throwback Jamz” and “R&B Classics.” Tune into one of them and leave it on for an hour or two and you’ll get the same effect as listening to 103.5 on your radio.
Imagine that you’re a six year old kid living in a household where that kind of music is the background for everything that goes on.  Then go to school in the morning.  And by the way, what do you think those kids with earplugs are listening to as they go to school?  What chance does a first or second grade teacher have?  Some educators have bitten the bullet and are trying to reach these students on a level which might be more comprehensible to them.  But doesn’t such a compromise involve diluting that which the educational process is supposed to inculcate in the students? And we wonder why they have difficulty learning to read, and a dozen years later, they can’t get a job.

Listen to 103.5 in South Florida, or similar stations elsewhere and make up your own mind.
JL 


Just You Wait, Henry Higgins, Just You Wait!



I’ve made a few enemies by implying and even occasionally saying that some of those who voted for Trump were not only gullible, but stupid as well, since a vote for the Donald, and the conservative Republicans who had hitched their wagon to his star, was clearly not in their own interests. 
Any “senior” who voted for Trump not only put the Donald in the White House, but brought along with him Republicans whose gunsights are aimed at changing some of their Medicare benefits.  Smart move, Mr. Senior Citizen!
And as for the scientifically-proven effect of human activity upon changes in our climates?  The vast majority of Americans who believe this are now confronted by a President and cabinet members who believe otherwise ... as they made clear prior to the election.  The future of the planet is at stake and yet they voted for Trump.  Gullible? Stupid? You make up your mind.  
Hey, I am not immune to such criticism myself!  I was “stupid” to go along with Hillary when it was clear that Bernie Sanders was talking like a true Democrat, while I never quite figured out what she was talking like, but I supported her anyway.  I should have stuck with Bernie.  (I had switched because of his position on gun control.  I should have swallowed that and joined those battling for his nomination.)

Be that as it may, however, by now some of those stupid or gullible folks who voted for Trump may be starting to recognize that they bought into something other than what he was selling.  Rather than “making America great,” they bought into a traditional, right wing, conservative Republican policy of reducing government involvement and with it, reducing spending for the kinds of things Americans have come to expect from their Federal government over the past quarter of a century.


Remember that most Americans have supported Democrats for the Presidency in almost every election since 1992!  The elections of "minority" Presidents Trump and George W. Bush (at least for his first term) were colored by questionable events without which, many contend, neither would have been elected.  Neither received more popular votes than their Democratic opponents.  (Since 1992, only George W. Bush in his second term managed to accomplish that.) 

Republican majorities in Congress and in State legislatures are the result of clever, if not dishonest, gerrymandering of district boundaries, and do not reflect the nation’s natural Democratic majority.  I have repeatedly urged Democrats to focus their efforts on State legislative seats.  That’s where redistricting takes place.

And don't forget that Trump said that Mexico would be paying for a “wall.”  Well, now it’s reduced to just some more “fencing” and guess who will be paying for it?  Americans, that’s who!  And the Republicans say they will try to figure out some way of eventually getting it out of Mexico through currency exchange and/or tax manipulation.  Fat chance!  Just so long as the wealthy here don’t face a tax increase  to pay for it.
As the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, women’s rights, real job creation and Federal support of public education start to erode away, for example, the gullible and the stupid will turn into the disappointed and the angry.  Trump and the Republicans will have to answer to them.  They can’t keep blaming it on Obama, although they will try mightily to do so.   And the appointment of individuals tragically ill-prepared for their posts, such as UN Delegate Haley and Education Secretary DeVos does not bode well for the country.  But just as we survived the violent Sixties when we were fighting a war in Vietnam that should not have been, we will survive this Administration.


Some of Trump’s cabinet appointees are dedicated to the elimination of the Departments they have been chosen to head!  Anyone who watched the Senate hearings know that aside from the Defense, State and CIA heads, the other appointees are out to reduce the taxes on the wealthy and serve their public with nothing more than lip service.  That is their mission in government.  Down deep, they are one with the likes of Grover Norquist who famously suggested a decade ago that government be drowned in a bathtub. 


As Eliza Dolittle sings in My Fair Lady, “Just You Wait, Henry Higgins, Just You Wait!”  That’s what the American public will have to do to find out how gullible or stupid, or both perhaps, they were in 2016.  And then the #%@& will hit the fan.
JL





Comment on President Trump's Inaugural Address

President Trump’s Inaugural Address was not an “inaugural address” in the traditional sense of the word.   It was just his standard campaign speech, without a hint as to how he would accomplish what he had been saying all along that he was going to do.  It certainly served to keep his army of supporters happy.
What it did achieve, however, was keeping people both in this country and abroad guessing as to what he ultimately would be proposing to Congress.  Keeping those on the other side of the table in the dark as to what you’re going to do is a key skill for a negotiator, and that’s what the President is, if nothing else.  That's how he made all those wonderful deals in the pseudo-business in which he achieved so much success.  But is that skill transferable to the Presidency?  With all sincerity, as an American, I wish him luck.  He will need it.

Since his inauguration, Trump has frequently voiced complaints that the media does not treat him fairly. His spokespeople have been presenting "alternate" facts with which to challenge "real" facts, shedding unwarranted doubt on them. This is just a diversion to take the spotlight off of what he is really doing to weaken programs which benefit most Americans, including those whose votes put him in office.  That should be the big news, not his battle with the press.   Claiming to "Make America Great" was just a campaign slogan while the Republican conservatives whom he dragged into power are intent on doing exactly the opposite.

Thus far, the Trump Presidency, as was his campaign, is based on lies, and a lie is a lie, no matter what you call it.  Here are photos (from Fox News, not one of those liberal media sources) of the crowds at Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration and Donald Trump's inauguration last week.  Make up your own mind between the "facts" and the "alternate facts."

Which crowd is larger?  2009 or 2017?        JL
         


                   



The Anti-Business Businessman


  

 Mona Charen



Usually I don’t include columns written by right wingers.  I disagree with what Mona Charen writes and says about 95% of the time, but this is included in that five percent in which she makes sense.  I understand the President just signed the paperwork pulling us out of participation in the Trans Pacific Trade Pact.  China is cheering.

(Bear in mind that Hillary Clinton was against it too, but I believe that she only said that out of expediency, and didn't mean it.  On this issue, Trump and Bernie Sanders were on the same page!) 
That is not to say that I agree with unlimited free trade, but a balance must be struck.  The crucial question I raise is whether a President who probably doesn’t read columns as erudite as those written by Ms. Charen is capable of understanding what she is saying.  Perhaps some of his advisers are and will attempt to pass the message on to him.  As for the message, you can read it by clicking right here. 
JL



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Jack Lippman 




Sunday, January 15, 2017

News that Ain't News, a Wiley Cartoon, Gilbert's Lyrics and Who'll Discredit Whom?





Is it True What They Say About Donald?
The information which can be found around the periphery of the news concerning the President-Elect’s relationship with Russia is vague at best.  But it does raise several questions.
First, let us recognize that it is “unvetted” and unconfirmed information from sources which are very difficult to pin down.  It comes from the world of intelligence and spycraft where normal rules do not apply.  What we are hearing may be entirely fallacious or there may be a shred of truth to it.  Because of the kind of information it is, there may be more to it than the “unclassified” and unconfirmed tidbits which have leaked out, and let me repeat, there may be nothing whatsoever to it.  And bear in mind, the “leaking” of this information may be intentional. Originally, the source of it was hired to develop unfavorable information on the President-Elect by his opponents for the G.O.P. nomination, and later employed by the Democrats to some extent as well.  What kind of "source person" takes on such a job?  Finally, it seems that the FBI, and many in the media world, were aware of the source and the unconfirmed information involved for quite some time, and chose to keep quiet about it.
Here are some final thoughts on this subject which have occurred to me:
1.    This information, IF TRUE, is far more damaging than the thoroughly developed information about Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Clinton Family Foundation, yet up until now, it was not publicized, although it was known to some. Clearly, this was because of the extreme difficulty which confirming it would involve.  Without such verification, "news" is not yet "news."


                                            Trump in Russia for Miss Universe Contest in 2013
2.  The Russians have agreed with the President-Elect that the information is totally false.  But if the information happened to be true, they would be saying the same thing, so their agreement with Trump carries little weight. 
3.    The FBI’s not publicizing this information, into which they had been looking, contrasts with their readiness to release information in the form of letters regarding their unrelated investigation into the emails of former Congressman Weiner, which included emails from Huma Abedin, his estranged wife, and who also was Hillary Clinton’s assistant.  They jumped to release this information about Clinton before they fully investigated it and which a week later they confirmed as amounting to nothing, and which in the minds of some may have changed the outcome of the election ... while simultaneously sitting quietly on the unconfirmed information they were also investigating regarding Trump. The FBI Director is being asked by Congressional Democrats to explain this difference. Thus far, his answers have been vague and will probably never be more specific.

My personal conclusion is that the “unconfirmed’ information probably accurately describes what the Russians would have liked to have accomplished regarding their relationship with Donald Trump, but in reality, did not succeed in doing. I would expect that to solidify this view, Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin will become increasingly distant over the next few months.
Jack Lippman

A Non-Sequitur Cartoon

I’m a great fan of Wiley Miller’s Non-Sequitur cartoons.  Take a look at his cartoon for Sunday, January 15, 2017. Just Click Right Here, find the date and then when you see the first panel, click on “’Expand” for the full cartoon.
Its point is that “news” published by “real” media such as newspapers is usually verified, but that some material on the internet is more likely to be unverified “fake news,” preaching to those with already closed minds and who find it reassuring.  But click on the cartoon!  My words don't do it justice. 
While appearing in the “funny papers,” it isn’t funny.  Cartoonists who published this kind of thing in Germany during the Thirties disappeared … and you won’t find them in Putin’s Russia today either.
JL

Who's Doing the Discrediting?

Any attempts to discredit the incoming Administration will not be coming from Democrats so much as they will be originating in that very administration itself as it carries out Republican efforts to “drain the swamp,” and basically reduce the role of government in the lives of Americans.  Many Republicans, immersed in dreams of an irretrievable past peddled by its President, fail to recognize that our government plays a vital role in the lives of all Americans.
Messing around with Medicare, Affordable Healthcare, Social Security, Medicaid, Unemployment Benefits, Student Loans, Food and Drug regulation, Investment and Banking safeguards, Consumer Safety, Interstate Highways, Sexual Equality and basic guarantees of Constitutional Rights in efforts to “Make America Great” will disturb the millions of Americans who have come to accept and even cherish the role of government in these areas.  And for those who would scream out “socialism,” understand that “socialism” involves the government owning and operating a country’s means of production … and that is not what government does here, despite right wing views to the contrary.    
Some of these efforts will even run counter to the “promises” made by Donald Trump during the campaign and others will simply enrage the Americans who would be directly affected by any changes in the laws.
For example, on September 15, 2016, candidate Trump promised “when that (Ford) car comes back across the border into our country that now comes in free, we’re gonna charge them a 35 percent tax.”  Does anyone really expect Congress to invoke such a tariff?  When this doesn’t happen (and it won’t) and jobs lost to new technology and low cost foreign labor don’t come back, who is being discredited and by whom?  And whom will it anger?  Same thing goes for those coal mines which will never reopen.
On August   8, 2016, candidate Trump said “One of my first acts as president will be to repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare, saving another two million American jobs.”   When Obamacare is repealed, but not immediately replaced, or is finally replaced with a program more costly to the individual insureds, as is likely to be the case, who is being discredited and by whom?  Twenty million Americans insured for the first time through the Affordable Care Act will not be happy when this happens, and there is no record of Obamacare causing job losses.  Actually, increases in new healthcare jobs
far outstripped any job loss because of employers’ unwillingness to provide health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  And those new jobs will be lost.  Whom will that discredit?
As the new Administration’s appointees, aside from the Departments of State and of Defense, reluctantly struggle to run their parts of the Executive Branch, they will confront a Congress which will make that struggle more difficult as it supports the vague promises Donald Trump made.  This will further discredit the Administration. 
The Democrats do not have to harp on the margin of popular votes by which Clinton defeated the President, the influence of Russia on the election nor the questionable pre-election role of FBI Director Comey in order to discredit the new President. All that is unnecessary.  Donald Trump, his Administration and the Republican majorities in Congress will easily take care of doing that discrediting themselves, as the Democrats watch.
Of course, to make sure America knows what is going on, a watchful and vocal press, which the President greatly fears, is necessary.  The media, including the press, is going to be the battleground on which the battle to keep America great is going to be fought over the next four years.  Their job will be to present the “truth,” which Americans must learn has neither a liberal nor a conservative bias.  Facts are facts.
The First Amendment to the Constitution includes these words: Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  But that Constitution is not so specific in regard to what a President might do in issuing Executive Orders.  The words attributed to many great Americans, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” must not be forgotten.
JL


The Major General Song

Having just ordered tickets for a forthcoming production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” I recognize that beside Sullivan’s music, understanding the tricky rhymes in Gilbert’s lyrics is vital to enjoying the performance!  They laid the groundwork for the clever lyrics of more modern Broadway musicals.  ("I got the horse right here, his name is Paul Revere," "With a little bit of luck, with a little bit of luck" etc.) Incidentally, "Pirates" did not open in London.  It opened in New York City first!

One cannot come in “cold” and expect to catch all the words of songs like the “Modern Major General” without some preparation.  They will fly by the listener too rapidly to be understood, so it’s best to be a little familiar with them beforehand. With that in mind, I googled the following lyric … and am sharing it with you.  Gilbert wrote it as a “spoof” of the British career military officer class.  And finally, “sat a gee” translates from the slang of the day to mean “sat on a horse.”


The Major General's Song


GENERAL: 
          I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
          I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
          I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
          From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
          I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
          I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
          About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news,
          With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

ALL:  With many cheerful facts, etc.

GENERAL:   
          I'm very good at integral and differential calculus;
          I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
          In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
          I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

ALL:  In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
          He is the very model of a modern Major-General.

GENERAL:   
          I know our mythic history, King Arthur's and Sir Caradoc's;
          I answer hard acrostics, I've a pretty taste for paradox,
          I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
          In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;
          I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
          I know the croaking chorus from the Frogs of Aristophanes!
          Then I can hum a fugue of which I've heard the music's din afore,
          And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.

ALL:  And whistle all the airs, etc.

GENERAL:
          Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
          And tell you ev'ry detail of Caractacus's uniform:
          In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
          I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

ALL:  In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
          He is the very model of a modern Major-General.

GENERAL: 
          In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin",
          When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,
          When such affairs as sorties and surprises I'm more wary at,
          And when I know precisely what is meant by "commissariat,"
          When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
          When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery --
          In short, when I've a smattering of elemental strategy,
          You'll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.

ALL:  You'll say a better Major-General, etc.

GENERAL:
          For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
          Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
          But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
          I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

ALL: But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
         He is the very model of a modern Major-General.

Now isn't that one great line, "I know more of tactics that a novice in a nunnery,"  worthy of Oscar Hammerstein or Lorenz Hart, both of whom were fans of Gilbert's work?


JL



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HOW TO VIEW OLDER POSTINGS.                                                

To view older postings on this blog, just click on the appropriate date in the “Blog Archive” midway down the column off to the right, or scroll down until you see the “Older Posts” notation at the very bottom of this posting.  The “Search Box” in the right side of the posting also may be helpful in locating a posting topic for which you are looking.



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Jack Lippman