Remembering John Trudell

John Trudell passed into the spirit world this week, on December 8.  Best known for his Native American activism in the 60s and 70s, and in more recent years for his poetry and music.

There is already an excellent tribute to his life in Indian Country Today:

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/08/remembering-life-and-legacy-john-trudell-162697

Quote from an F.B.I. memo: “He is extremely eloquent, therefore extremely dangerous.”

One quote of John Trudell especially resonates with me:

HumanBeing

Not only given the state of the world, but especially given the still unbelievable (to me) struggle of the prostitution survivors (and the at least 89% of those currently trapped in the life) to be heard by Amnesty International. That AI would consider the commodification of women (and sometimes men) for sale to (mostly) men acceptable is something I still find incomprehensible.

See the Woman

She has a young face
An old face
She carries herself well
In all ages
She survives all man has done

Rest in Peace, John Trudell. . .

 
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Listen to the Survivors #EndDemand

I never imagined Amnesty International would make me aware of and passionate about a human rights issue by being on the wrong side of it. Now that I’m leaving Amnesty International over their “sex worker” policy (which decriminalizes not just those prostituted, who we all agree should not be arrested; but pimps and johns, by any other name), becoming discouraged and finding no hope of change from within, I’m going to start from the beginning (and the ending, for me & AI) with prostitution survivors.

I should note The Feministahood’s What Amnesty Did Wrong is  an excellent starting point on this issue (with several follow up blog posts & articles now listed at the end). I’ll be getting into a lot of those issues in the future, but to me, it comes back to the survivors and the vast majority of those still in prostitution who want to get out and the human rights violations what AI calls “sex work” really involves.

AmnestyDon'tTurnYourBackOnMe

Like a lot of people, I knew nothing of Amnesty International’s proposed policy on “sex workers” until the so called “celebrity letter” in July, just before the Amnesty International International Council Meeting (ICM) in Dublin. Except I tracked down the original letter from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), and realized there were over 400 signatures, most of them from leaders of organizations including anti-trafficking, women’s human rights and, something new to me at the time, prostitution survivor organizations – from as far away as the Philippines and Ireland to as close as Seattle – all trying to help women exit, talking of the real harms involved (in prostitution, not just trafficking, and that they aren’t so easily separated), and calling for the Nordic Model – decriminalizing of those selling themselves, but consequences for the buyers as well as the pimps and brothel owners.

Those survivor organizations started to speak out more as AI’s vote at the ICM in early August in Dublin came closer, from an op-ed in the Seattle Times co-written by Debra Boyer, the director of Seattle Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS) to a press conference in Dublin by SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightenment). As Rachel Moran from Ireland points out in the video below “I think that Amnesty, if they were looking at this issue coming truly from a perspective of human rights, they couldn’t possibly arrive at this position…”

A couple quotes from Bridget Perrier, a First Nations woman from Canada especially stood out to me:

“Prostitution is very sad. It picks the girls. It picks the girls who are fractured.

“For me, it wasn’t work. It was abuse.”

Bridget was quoted also in an article in the International Business Times: Sex trade survivors: ‘Amnesty wants to decriminalise every human rights violation intrinsic to prostitution’ just before the ICM vote:

Bridget Perrier is the co-founder of public awareness organisation Sextrade101. A First Nations woman from Canada, she was lured into prostitution at the age of 12 and trafficked across the country for 10 to 12 years. She says prostitution places Canada’s indigenous women at risk.

“I was the perfect candidate for prostitution, based on my race and gender, and I was under pimp control for 10 years,” she says. “I live in a country where aboriginal and indigenous women are going missing and being murdered by the droves. I have seen serial killers targeting women specifically because of their high-risk lifestyle and their involvement in prostitution. Decriminalising the commercial sex industry does not make it any safer.”

Sadly, Amnesty International did not listen, and  passed their DECISION ON STATE OBLIGATIONS TO RESPECT, PROTECT, AND FULFIL THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF SEX WORKERS in language so vague many are still hoping it doesn’t really call for the decriminalization of pimps and johns.

These questions are further answered (and the reality covered up) in their Q&A: POLICY TO PROTECT THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF SEX WORKERS.

Our policy is not about protecting “pimps”. Third parties that exploit or abuse sex workers will still be criminalized under the model we are proposing.

But there are overly broad laws, like those against “brothel keeping” or “promotion” that are often used against sex workers and criminalise actions they take to try and stay safe. For example, in many countries two sex workers working together for safety is considered a “brothel”.

So AI is for decriminalizing third parties (which generally means people like pimps and brothel owners), but only to protect “sex workers” accidentally accused of pimping or brothel owners and somehow there will be laws to distinguish third parties that exploit and abuse workers will still be criminalized.

The johns? The ones who drive the whole trade, including underage and trafficked women (or men)?  They also have to be decriminalized supposedly to protect the women (totally misrepresenting the Nordic Model):

Even though sex workers are not directly criminalized under the Nordic model, operational aspects – like purchasing sex and renting premises to sell sex in – are still criminalized. This compromises sex workers safety and leaves them vulnerable to abuse; they can still be pursued by police whose aim is often to eradicate sex work through enforcing the criminal law.

In reality, laws against buying sex mean that sex workers have to take more risks to protect buyers from detection by the police. Sex workers we spoke to regularly told us about being asked to visit customers’ homes to help them avoid police, instead of going to a place where sex worker felt safer.

I didn’t quit in August, as there was hope we could change things through internal process at AIUSA (and ultimately AI, at the next ICM).

That was not to be with the “sex workers” union SWOP and the other “sex workers” having their own panel and being well organized (and having the ear of AIUSA leadership) and student groups, whether lobbied or it’s what they’re teaching in college, buying into it.

I couldn’t help but think being a “rent boy” who gets to choose your customers by whether they’re cute or being an American Courtesan (again selecting customers) is not the norm for the vast majority trapped in prostitution (the most conservative estimate I’ve read is 89% would leave if they could). I also couldn’t help but notice that even their three panelists has all either been initially trafficked or underage, and sadly one serious account of violence by a john (somehow blamed on End Demand/The Nordic model, not on the violent customer).

Survivors were there as well, and have something to say:

There’s a lot more to say on this issue, and it’s sad that AI is not the one championing those really trapped in prostitution, instead pressuring us to leave if we want to speak out. I will not be silenced. I joined AI to speak out for human rights, not for their prestigious name.

Remembering Pearl Harbor and Xenophobia

I don’t suppose it was any accident that Donald Trump chose December 7, the anniversary of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, to call for “the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can ‘figure out what is going on’ after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, [California],” according to the New York Times.

I’m glad the New York Times called him out on it:

A prohibition of Muslims – an unprecedented proposal by a leading American presidential candidate, and an idea more typically associated with hate groups – reflects a progression of mistrust that is rooted in ideology as much as politics.

It’s still disturbing, if not surprising, as pointed out by Slate:

For starters, Trump has already suggested the government may need to shutter U.S. mosques and create a mandatory registry to track Muslims in the United States. While many of his rivals took issue with those remarks, they don’t sound all that different from him on the stump. Many have called for the same type of no-Muslims religious test for Syrian refugees looking to resettle in the United States. Ben Carson has proposed a similar test for future presidents (while also likening Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs”). And Ted Cruz has vowed to “shut down the broken immigration system that is letting jihadists into our country.”

I don’t take Pearl Harbor lightly. My father was a veteran of the attacks, stationed at the nearby Hickam Field Air Base (and had a hard time convincing his buddies they were being strafed by live fire that Sunday morning, until they saw the Japanese rising sun insignias on the planes).

Still, my father opposed the internment of Japanese Americans.

What did George Takei’s family, or the families of any of my Japanese American friends or colleagues have to do with the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Absolutely nothing.

What do the young Muslim American students interviewed by KUOW have to do with the attacks in San Bernardino? Or what do any of my Muslim American friends and colleagues? Absolutely nothing.

Similarly what do this Syrian American family, also interviewed by KUOW, newly arrived to safety in Seattle, or those interviewed in the International Rescue Committee video below arriving in Greece following a dangerous journey by water, have to do with the attacks in Paris? Absolutely nothing. In fact, they are fleeing ISIS, as well as Assad, and the destruction of their country.

Do they go through screening before they’re admitted to America? Of course.

When white, Christian, Americans “self radicalize” (and/or are crazy) and commit mass murder do we target all white Americans or all Christians? Of course not.

Dusty 45s Therapy and the Limits of Instagram

Some things don’t change! So, I took a break from some weighty human rights issues I’ve become concerned with last Friday night to catch The Dusty 45s in Ballard. Well, some things changed – a new upright bass player (at least new from the last time I blogged) and the weekend’s shows were in at Conor Byrnes, not The Tractor Tavern across the street. Which gave me an excuse for an Irish Coffee (minus the cream these days), which was very tasty.

So, I went Friday night, because it’s easier with my work schedule, and I wasn’t sure I was up for the insanity of a Halloween night on a Saturday. Opening that night were The Dee Dees, an all woman Ramones cover band. They were good, and loud (and my Instagram doesn’t do them justice).

The Dee Dees – all woman Ramones tribute band opening for The Dusty 45s at Conor Byrnes

A post shared by Colleen Roman (@java_colleen) on

Yeah, I’m going to have to bring my real camera if I want to start posting photos and video from shows. One of several things cell phone cameras aren’t so good at, though there’s a lot to be said for the immediacy of things they do take decent pictures and video of.

Luckily, someone did take video their next night’s show, where the skeleton crew played one of my favorite Halloween themed songs by them (which I heard on Friday night as well.

I did get an Instagram of the obligatory flaming trumpet finale!

Trumpet in flames! The Dusty 45s finale

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Of course they came back to play a few more, including a cover of Folsom Prison (where they shot a man in Kirkland, just to watch him die).

And back out into the street to catch my bus as I had to be at work the next morning. It had been just a little chilly when I left. I pulled up my hood and got to put my new fall jacket to the test (which it fortunately passed). Yes, what’s a Dusty 45s concert in Ballard in the fall, without rain for atmosphere!

Thanks to Instagram, I get to share that this time:

I've seen fire, I've seen rain…

A post shared by Colleen Roman (@java_colleen) on

Hello

Hello again! Starting to blog after a long absence.  Expect posts on human rights and social justice issues, music, art and some of the good times and disasters in my life.

So,  shortly after my last blog entry two and a half years ago the company I worked for went under abruptly and without the owner paying us for our last 3 (or more) weeks.  Can he really get away with that? *Spoiler alert*  No, not even after claiming, through his lawyer, to L&I that we were “volunteers”. . . How much have my co-workers and I recovered from him so far? About 1% of what he owes us, including penalties – $8.49 in my case. Hope these aren’t annual installments. . .

On a happy note, my current job does pay us, but it is a two hour commute by bus each way in addition to being evenings and weekends.

My last company’s demise, diversity of people and wildlife in the suburbs where my current job is, and changes in the market research industry where I’m back after a 15 year absence with my previous job and this one are possible topics for future posts.  *Spoiler alert* Fewer people want to talk to us.

A lot of missed music reviews of old and new favorites and even an occasional art exhibit, all of which I still sometimes make it to, in spite of a shortage of time and money. I’ll be catching up on some of them with pictures or videos.

Finally, the state of the world, human rights and politics; including disturbing dilemmas and why I’m becoming a radical feminist.

 

 

Say It Ain’t So, Kid! Kasey Anderson’s Scheme. . .

So, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed Wednesday morning and saw a familiar face in an unexpected place:

FacebookNewsonKaseyAnderson

Northwest musician charged in bogus charity recording. . . Oh. . .Say it ain’t so. . . Kasey Anderson?!

I’ve been meaning to write some more about Kasey’s music, but not like this.

Seriously? Kasey Anderson accused of “wire fraud for allegedly bilking investors out of thousands of dollars promoting a bogus charity album he allegedly said would feature songs by Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Lady Gaga” ?

Using Bruce Springsteen, one of his idols, and Pearl Jam, who he’s got a one person connection via Mike McCready through several of the musicians he performs with; including at least two members of his former band, The Honkies, who have played at McCready’s Flight to Mars (UFO tribute band) charity gigs?

Wow. How cynical. . .but it gets worse the more you read on the case (especially the charging documents). He’s evidently had a double life the whole time I’ve been a fan (about 2 1/2 years) and even before. A double life from his musician friends (err, former friends, probably), including his band.  Kasey Anderson’s scheme apparently outclasses the one in Mel Brook’s fictitional The Producers.

Kasey Anderson
Kasey Anderson at West Seattle’s Summer Fest 2012

Kasey Anderson, who I first heard play an acoustic set at Fremont Abbey, opening for Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs back in May 2010? Who played this incredibly moving song about Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, the young soldier, now veteran, in the “Marlboro Man” photo from the Iraq War?

Some intense writing:

So I felt like nothing when I got back home
and my father saw me in my granddad’s clothes
He said “You inherit my blood boy,
but your sins are all your own.”

Of course, the images of Kasey now intrude even on this video, with the wondering of who is he really, and how could he be both a talented singer/songwriter/musician who seems to care about other people and a talented con man?

One of my first thoughts, after the one of someone so young and talented sending his musical career up in flames, was how did Kasey get to this point? I initially thought it must have happened after he made his announcement he was quitting music, or at least his solo career and the Honkies, because he needed to make some money shortly before he mostly disappeared on the internet a few months ago. Turns out from the timeline, he disappeared as everything was closing in on him.

Also turned out that I was a little behind in the news, and the first article I unearthed was one in the Seattle Weekly from Dec. 12 when it all started unraveling with his band mates and “on October 17 with a $185,000 judgment levied against him.” This was for a civil suit.  Kasey is currently facing federal charges.

Kasey offers an explanation for his behavior:

Anderson says he underwent a medical evaluation in early November, and was ultimately diagnosed as Type I bipolar—an acute form of the disorder that, according to the Mayo Clinic‘s definition, is characterized by severe mania, risky behavior, delusions, and “spending sprees or unwise financial choices.”

I don’t know much about bipolar and I don’t dismiss this, at least as a partial explanation, out of hand. Actually, looking at the description, I believe I’ve known several people with the condition, one of whom I’ve often thought about when listening to Kasey’s song Don’t Look Back below (and jokingly wondered to myself if they’d dated or what would happen if they dated – I’m thinking I probably don’t want to know. . .):

Having family members who’ve suffered from mental illness, I know how terrible it is to watch someone close to you change and lose touch reality like that. It’s just that I’m more familiar with dealing with people with schizophrenia, where the Patton Oswalt twitter joke of John Lennon being part of Kasey’s benefit concert’s alleged line up probably would have been the case (and no one would have donated, because they would have realized he was crazy).

PattonOswaltTweetLarge

The scheme is so elaborate and long running though, and just builds and builds.  Is the mental illness diagnosis the cause or the defense, as the diagnosis came after the fraud charges started closing in on him?  Kasey says in the article: “To the outside it looks like this guy is just malicious and just bleeds people dry . . .”

Here’s where lines in his songs start taking on a different, or rather, a more literal, meaning, following the lawsuit.

from Kasey Anderson’s Dream:

“Most people ain’t sorry for nothing they’ve done. . .”

“Ashes, ashes we all fall down”. . .Kasey?

Whether or not there’s an issue with his being bipolar, after reading the charging documents on the second page of Seattle Weekly’s more recent article on Kasey Anderson, one thing is for certain – that he is a con man. It’s pretty breathtaking the extent he was willing to use friends, musicians, and the then imprisoned West Memphis Three to take more and more money. Estimated total loss to investors is $365,580.06.

An article by The Oregonian‘s Ryan White, who has interviewed Kasey Anderson over the years gives a far better summary than I could, and also I think the fairest representation of Kasey, who is incredibly talented (I never dreamed as a con man as well as a musician). There’s a link to a copy of the federal charging documents there as well.

It sounds like from the charging documents, the initial investors, one of whom in The Oregonian article Kasey says he’s know since high school, funded a tour and residency in Europe in 2009, which was supposedly profitable. Shortly after he’s selling them on rolling over their profits and investing in the wildest part of the scheme, the charity album, Trapped Like a Ghost, and benefit concerts that was to help the legal defense team of The West Memphis Three (yet, somehow provide huge profits for his initial investors and all the other investors he talked into it as well). Musicians involved were said to include: Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Tom Morello, Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Beck, Steve Earle, Death Cab for Cutie, Paul Westerberg and Jack White. At one point, Kasey claimed in an e-mail to an investor “the most interesting collaboration on the album” would be between Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga. A track they co-wrote for the album.

Kasey admits in both the Seattle Weekly and Oregonian to forging an email account of his friend Danny Bland, who had previously produced a benefit album for the West Memphis Three. He denies forging an e-mail account for Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau (but, I’m inclined to come to the same conclusion Special Agent Rounds in the federal charging documents – that this and other accounts were Kasey’s as well).

At one point the back and forth e-mails shared with investors said Springsteen was paying $890,000 for a delay in Bruce providing the songs, and at another point there was a promise from the alleged Jon Landau account to the alleged Danny Bland account promising $4.3 million (which included a $2.5 million penalty) and the tracks, but no sooner than October 1.

Wait, this whale of a tale gets wilder!

Kasey sends an e-mail asking “‘Danny’ to get on the phone with ‘Jon’ to find out why Bruce Springsteen could not provide music and funding before October 1, 2011.”

Bossy kid, huh? As I said, breathtaking. Not to worry though, Bruce allegedly pays the $4,300,000 and provides two tracks in collaboration with Arcade Fire. Well, Special Agent Rounds seems to think they’re bootlegs of Springsteen’s songs found on the internet. . .

Oh, and no hard feelings from Kasey. Fast forward a year to 2012. According to The Oregonian article:

Anderson hasn’t played live since performing three Springsteen songs on Nov. 27 at Mississippi Studios as part of an all-star-for-Portland celebration for the release of author Peter Ames Carlin’s biography, “Bruce.”

That was the night before Springsteen played the Rose Garden, and the same day an FBI agent interviewed Springsteen’s manager, Landau.

All right! I need a Boss break. . .besides, it’s hard not to think the kid is looking for Easy Money:

Should have been a bankster, Kasey. You’d get rewarded for this behavior and get to rip off far more people. . .

That’s the centerpiece of the charging document, but some of those alleged profits got rolled into his Heart of a Dog album, which does exist and is a good album (I have a copy), just didn’t sell nearly as many copies as he claims.  Then there’s an album for another group Kasey’s record label was to produce in 2011, and actually seems to have existed since 2006 (with no connection to Kasey or his record label). Also, Kasey’s 2011 spring tour, which existed, but I doubt made enough money to pay back the amount he asked from investors.

See, the sad thing is, unfortunately most musicians don’t make that much money. Which is why I both felt sympathy and also though he should get advice and a reality check from other musicians when he wrote that note saying he was giving up on his dream (his websites are down, but it was re-posted on Beat Surrender). He’s talking about not being able to live on just his music (as he apparently was for several years, well, yeah, apparently with a lot of help from charity, err, investors) and maybe having to work gigs with other bands or work another job. Umm, in other words, live like most real musicians. I’m not saying it’s fair (for that matter, neither is me as someone over 50 trying to live on a part time, minimum wage job with frequent layoffs; but I’m definitely not looking for investors).

Mental illness? I don’t know.  If that is part of what’s causing this, Kasey better be serious about treatment.

A couple other things don’t square. In the first Seattle Weekly article, following the civil settlement, Kasey sounds really contrite and like he wants to make amends:

Though the lawsuit makes it seem as if he’d been intent on fleecing his investors from the outset, Anderson claims his intentions were good, and things simply got out of hand. “To the outside it looks like this guy is just malicious and just bleeds people dry,” he says. “I didn’t set out to do this. I abhor the person that I was, and the person that I am. I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to be a person who is capable of those things, and when I think about it, don’t know how I could be. I’m not that person in my heart.”

Yet in the more recent Oregonian article about his federal case, Ryan White said about Kasey:

He said he signed off on the original $115,000 civil settlement, because what difference did it make? He didn’t have that much, and he didn’t have $185,000. He said he figured if he got it over with, he could put it behind him and move on. He’d always blown things up — relationships, usually — and always just picked up and moved on without consequence. To himself, anyway.

So it sounds like he never expected to pay back the $115,000, or be required to, or have a moral obligation to at least try to slowly make amends.

Maybe his behavior is that of a crazy person. Kasey left incredible wreckage within the music community as well, especially with his former bandmates.  According the the Dec. 12 Seattle Weekly story, after returning with his band touring with Counting Crows as an opening act:

Home in Seattle, friends traded tales of Anderson’s bizarre, reckless, and baffling behavior. And when they compared his various explanations and excuses, what they found was troubling. As Anderson himself puts it, “They unearthed one thing after another.”

After swearing off alcohol several years earlier, Anderson had fallen hard off the wagon and was drinking heavily. He confesses to being “dishonest” about money owed his bandmates, and says his ex-girlfriend discovered he had been unfaithful “to a very sick degree.” Most incredible, however, it came to light that he was embroiled in a $250,000 federal lawsuit.

As his former bandmate, Andrew McKeag puts it in the recent Oregonian article: “Never in my wildest nightmares could I imagine that a fellow musician would be capable of doing this kind of damage within the very community upon which he relied.”

I don’t know where Kasey Anderson goes from here, other than possibly, or maybe likely, to Federal Prison. He’s burned the trust of too many people and left everything in the most spectacular ashes just like many of the characters he sings about in his music. He’s now got notoriety, but most people talking about his case have no idea, and don’t care, that he’s a talented artist, just that he’s a talented con artist.

I came across an eerily prophetic article on Kasey by Sean Moeller in Daytrotter from Nov. 9, 2012:

He likely believes in the phrase, “He’s his own worst enemy,” in regards to nearly everyone he meets. We all should. Anderson gives great examples of its validity and he presents these resonant examples of what societal pressures turn people into and then the feasts that occur when everything starts to go haywire. He sings of the crowds gathering around the gallows, salivating at the hangings that are going to happen. . . . Anderson gives us those who are down on their knees begging for mercy and he gives us all the rest too, singing, “You’ve seen the glory now you’re gonna see the fall.”

Never liked the gallows myself, and still hoping for a little mercy for Kasey Anderson. . .(and treatment, if he needs it). . .

. . . and some justice for his victims. I doubt they’ll ever see the full amount, but restitution should be part of any sentence.  Doesn’t sound like facing the consequences of his actions has ever been a part of life for Kasey. . .

The Dusty 45s – Neither snow nor rain. . .

While I’m still deciding which of two awesome and ridiculously low priced New Years Eve shows I’m going to, there’s one group I absolutely need to see one more time before the end of the year. Yes, that’s right, playing both Friday and Saturday night at The Tractor Tavern .  . . The Dusty 45s!

The Dusty 45s at The Tractor
The Dusty 45s at The Tractor Tavern

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night. . .,” The US Postal Creed (or at least the inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City), comes to mind after their January snow day show at The Little Red Hen waaay earlier this year.

Snowman at Green Lake
Snowman at Green Lake

Seattle was having a dastardly snow day on January 19.  Yes, a Seattle snow day, and we had sooo much snow. . .I think maybe 2 or even 3 . . .inches. . .  (OK, there was ice and a lot more snow in outlying areas).

The Little Red Hen
The Little Red Hen

School was canceled at SCCC, including my evening IT class in conflict with The Dusty 45s show at The Little Red Hen. Snap! Shows were also being canceled. The Governor had declared a state of emergency. The Mayor was warning people to “to get home before dark if possible”. . .  The Little Red Hen was open when I took a walk over to Green Lake earlier (photos above), but The Dusty 45s drummer is from Olympia (which did have 14 inches of snow and ice) and their upright bass player lives in Bellingham and the freeway was a mess.

Would The Little Red Hen stay open? Would The Dusty 45s make it? Would people show up?

Yes, yes and yes! The Little Red Hen was open and poured me a strong Irish coffee (minus the whip cream these days for health reasons, alas!). The Dusty 45s not only showed, they played a second full set after their flaming trumpet finale and a short break. Yes, I love this band! Crowd was there and dancing, as you can see in the video above.

The rest of Seattle was evidently peaceful, with all those canceled shows. . .

So one more time this year. Wouldn’t be the holidays without The Dusty 45s playing The Tractor sometime in November or December!

Hard Times Need Old School Soul

I’ve been going through some hard times of my own lately and really was in need of some old school soul when I went to see Charles Bradley at Neumos  at a sold out show Thursday night.

Charles Bradley at Bumpershoot
Charles Bradley at Bumbershoot

I first saw Charles Bradley at Bumbershoot in 2011 and he was so good the crowd did not want to let him leave the stage.  He has all James Brown’s moves (and that’s how he got his start as an impersonator) and his own songs about hard times, and about love.

Just like at Bumbershoot, he opened with Heartaches and Pain, pouring his heart out on stage.  I was thinking that’s an incredible one to open on (almost like Pearl Jam opening on Alive), but it occurred to me that’s the point – it’s a tribute to his late brother.

What’s a night of soul music without a little romance, though?

How about an on stage proposal? During Lovin’ You, Baby?

What do you think. . .is Charles Bradley a good wing man or what?

I really hope he was able to marry them. I think they may have conceived their first child at the show the way they were going at it! Saw them making out some more near the front of the stage while the Menahan Street Band was playing a couple of their own songs while Charles went back stage for a costume change.  What threads! And what a band! They opened for him and just released their own album, The Crossing.

Here they are with Charles at South by Southwest, via. . .Seattle’s KEXP? Guess music has it’s own geography. . .

He ended on Why Is It So Hard (to make it in America. . .something I’ve been wondering about a lot lately, and not just for me).

After this plea for brotherly (& sisterly) love, he waded into the crowd and started hugging people. the crowd parted after everyone got their hugs in, until he reached a young man smiling in a wheel chair. They hugged and talked for a couple minutes, then he continued to hug his way out of the crowd. Guess that’s one way to handle it when people don’t want you to leave!

Can’t Make It Here & Having Us a Time

I’m way behind in music blogging –  on old & new favorites, tours, festivals & local heroes.  Seeing James McMurtry at the Neptune back in September seems a good place to start. A couple of his songs keep running through my mind, and one in particular seems especially relevant . . .

We Can’t Make it Here:

I like McMurtry’s songwriting and this song gets to the heart of the downsizing of America.  I’ll save my own rant for another day, but the working poor, those in poverty and the homeless don’t even count into most political equations.

That being said, Obama, like most of the Democrats, does at least throw us a few crumbs, saved Detroit (though the auto execs probably got too good a deal) and tried to get jobs programs through congress that were blocked by the Republicans.

I wasn’t going to get into a partisan political rant on this post, but the ad below on the right appeared while I was searching for the YouTube video above for my post:

Vote Romney-Ryan because our country needs jobs? Jobs?  Romney? Unless your idea of a job is training your replacement worker in China, that isn’t going to happen.

Especially ironic seeing the Romney = jobs ad next the We Can’t Make It Here video:

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ‘em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need
Their shit don’t stink and their kids won’t bleed
Their kids won’t bleed in their damn little war
And we can’t make it here anymore

All right, more music. “I don’t want another drink, I only want that last one again. . .”

I like the story telling in McMurtry’s songs. That one line above has already been running through my mind for my own “Can’t Make It Here” experiences (not to worry about me, it’s true “minimum wage. . .won’t pay for a drink,” or at least only a rare one). Obviously the song has been running through my mind this past week due to Hurricane Sandy. My heart goes out to those lost and the survivors. Glad, for the most part, people are coming together to help. Especially glad to see Occupy members pull together for those forgotten in housing project. More about that in another post, but we need more of that.

All these solo videos would give you the idea James McMurtry show was somber and acoustic. The Gourds opened it and got things going real good. Seattle-ites dancing! Who knew? McMurtry brought his band, too, and they rocked the rest of the night away.

In addition to my own ambivalence on trying to kick my photo taking at shows habit (or at least my excessiveness), I didn’t think cameras were allowed at the Neptune, nor that McMurtry would drop his video ban, so I didn’t bring my camera. Glad he did, as the YouTube clip below highlighting the band probably wasn’t authorized, either.

Fans don’t take pictures, post videos and blog in an attempt to piss off their favorite musicians. At least most of us, honestly!

All right. One more song I wanted us to include, and I did mention having us a time – Choctaw Bingo!

Wait, it’s that woman for Romney again. The one in the baseball cap telling us he’ll bring us jobs. This time it’s a video ad before the video. . .

There are a whole bunch of women in the ad voting for Romney, binders of them!

Hmm. Does that mean Mitt approved this message?: “Strap them kids in, give ’em a little bit of vodka in a cherry coke. . .”

Mitt & Ann, please leave the dog home, though. . . Aww. . .

In the words of Devo, Don’t Roof Rack Me, Bro!

Hey, maybe we’ll get Slate writer Ron Rosenbaum’s wish and Choctaw Bingo will become our new national anthem!

Ann and Lynn come down from Baxter Springs
That’s one hell raisin’ town way up in Southeastern Kansas
Got a biker bar next to the lingerie store
That’s got them Rolling Stones lips up there where everyone can see ’em
And they burn all night you know they burn all night you know they burn all night

. .  . and we’ll have us a time!

Shout out to Easy Street Records, who I won a pair of tickets from! Also my friend, Merri Ann, for buying me a drink. I was a shameless freeloader that night. . .

Not proud of that, just a little broke. . .though not as much as now, while I’m contemplating yet another show tonight after I figure out my finances. . .

Live music is one of my few vices. . .

Actually am proud of that!

Debating Conventional Wisdom About the Debate

I finally got around to watching the first Presidential debate this morning, as I was working last night. Maybe I’m just a wonk, as I neither found it as boring, nor thought Obama did as bad a job as many people, especially on the left (friends and progressive media), seemed to believe.

When I got home and checked first the news sites, then Facebook, everyone seemed agreed it as awful. One friend mentioned wanting to poke her eyes out during the debate, another posted a video of Charlie Brown’s teacher speaking to show what the debate sounded like to her and Andy Borowitz reported in The New Yorker  that “[m]illions of Americans lost consciousness on Wednesday night between the hours of 9 and 10:30 P.M. E.T., according to widespread anecdotal reports from coast to coast.”

James McMurtry’s pre-debate post made me smile, and seemed like it would have been the best way to watch the debate:

Decided to let Johnny D’s run the debate close captioned while I play. Never tried that. Should be interesting. Might even sync up. Come on out.

You Can’t Make It Here and Choctaw Bingo sounded like the perfect sound track for the state of our nation, which has only slowly turned around (and only on some issues) under President Obama.

Then the Tom Morello/Crosby, Stills & Nash concert to support California unions right to support candidates and defeat Proposition 32 in California Rolling Stone reported this morning also happened last night seemed even more relevant.

Not that I wouldn’t have loved to be at either concert, but I’m glad I finally watched the debate online.

I thought President Obama was considerably better than reports from, say:

Joan Walsh in Salon:

A subdued, deferential, over-prepared President Obama ceded the first debate to Mitt Romney on style and substance.

or Matthew Rothschild in The Nation:

[Obama] was sluggish and dull and let Romney box him all over the ring.

While I thought Obama was stronger on the issues than the left-wing pundits gave him credit for, I agree that he was too unwilling to attack Romney when he had an opening. I have mixed feelings about that, as I think it has a lot to do with Obama wanting to be a nice guy and play fair, and longing for a bi-partisanship that doesn’t exist any more.

I’m in full agreement that Obama should have fought back, for example as Truthout‘s William Rivers Pitt points out “when Mr. Romney re-re-re-re-re-told the $716 billion Medicare liearound 43 minutes into the debate.” I think President Obama is a little too hesitant to “[t]ag a liar for being a liar,” but he could have brought up the facts, without getting personal.

From the PolitiFact article Rivers Pitt links to:

Neither Obama nor his health care law literally cut funding from the Medicare program’s budget. Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to try to bring down future health care costs in the program.

What kind of spending reductions are we talking about? They were mainly aimed at insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries. The law made significant reductions to Medicare Advantage, a subset of Medicare plans run by private insurers. Medicare Advantage was started under President George W. Bush, and the idea was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs. But the plans have actually cost more than traditional Medicare. So the health care law scales back the payments to private insurers.

Then there was Romney’s hypocritical critique of the Wall Street bail out and the “too big to fail” banks, which I didn’t fully understand at the time, but struck me as odd coming from a venture capitalist (who has shipped jobs to China, something else Obama should have got him on).

In his column, Romney’s Obscene Posturing As a Wall Street Critic, George Zornick of The Nation takes it on, and explains what Obama should have in his response to Romney.

As Zornick points out:

Romney—the private equity veteran running a presidential campaign funded by Wall Street, on a platform that contains a full repeal of every financial regulation over the past four years—positioning himself as an opponent of those big “New York banks” was a historic moment in presidential debate cravenness. (And a real missed opportunity for Obama to wallop his opponent).

It turns out with the Dodd-Frank legislation “too big to fail” banks are subject to more regulation.

Dodd-Frank has two provisions regarding too-big-to-fail that Romney is talking about here. The first is the ability of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, created by the legislation, to name financial institutions “systemically significant.” This means they are so big that their failure could threaten the health of the financial sector, and that designation subjects them to heightened regulation and higher capital requirements.

The big banks hate this requirement, for obvious reasons—they come under increased scrutiny and restrictions. So Republicans have been dutifully attacking it. (Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, repeatedly blasted it before joining the ticket). The GOP argument, as you heard Romney deliver it, is that by giving them the “systemically significant label, the government is officially “designating” banks as too-big-to-fail—a very bad-sounding thing indeed!

The banksters need more regulation, not less; not that I think Obama and the Democrats have done enough, with both parties too much in bed with Wall Street and corporations.

What I do feel Obama did a pretty good job of defending was the Affordable Health Care Act (or Obamacare, as even he is calling it):

And let me tell you exactly what Obamacare did. Number one, if you’ve got health insurance, it doesn’t mean a government takeover. You keep your own insurance. You keep your own doctor. But it does say insurance companies can’t jerk you around. They can’t impose arbitrary lifetime limits. They have to let you keep your kid on their insurance — your insurance plan until you’re 26 years old. And it also says that you’re going to have to get rebates if insurance companies are spending more on administrative costs and profits than they are on actual care.

Number two, if you don’t have health insurance, we’re essentially setting up a group plan that allows you to benefit from group rates that are typically 18 percent lower than if you’re out there trying to get insurance on the individual market.

Further pointing out:

… the irony is that we’ve seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because Governor Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model and as a consequence people are covered there. It hasn’t destroyed jobs. And as a consequence, we now have a system in which we have the opportunity to start bringing down costs, as opposed to just leaving millions of people out in the cold.

Romney, in response claims “I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together.” He complains that the Affordable Health Care Act was passed without a single  Republican vote, and talks about “[w]hat we did in a legislature 87 percent Democrat, we worked together”. . .

There’s a major difference with the Republicans in Congress, though, and Obama rightly comes back with “I agree that the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice to Republicans in Congress about how to cooperate, but the fact of the matter is, we used the same advisers, and they say it’s the same plan.”

Above quotes from Washington Post’s transcript: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/politics/transcripts/2012/presidential/live/739/?wpisrc=nl_politics

While I wish it was stronger, the Affordable Health Care Act is a start and one of the things Obama tried to do. Like with jobs, there was a lot of push back from the Republicans in Congress.

Of more concern, with Obama (and even more so with Romney), are all the issues still not covered in this debate. Yes, I know I’m voting for the lesser of two evils. While I’m on the “for voting for the lesser” side of the progressive debate, I don’t feel like we should downplay (in addition to corporate influence) wars, drones, the NDAA, Guantanamo. . .

Oh, yeah, to take off my partisan hat for a moment, and switch to my favorite non-profit, how did we do with Amnesty International’s Human Rights Presidential Bingo?

Amnesty International Presidential Bingo
Amnesty International Presidential Bingo

Darn! A losing ticket again. . .

Just wish the stakes weren’t so high.