Saturday, May 19, 2012

Breaking! The House of Windsor is One of the Five Tribes

My weekend column mentions en passant Teepee Party candidate Elizabeth Warren’s contributions to the cookbook Pow Wow Chow, a “compilation of recipes passed down through the Five Tribes families”:
The recipes from “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee” include a crab dish with tomato mayonnaise. Mrs. Warren’s fictional Cherokee ancestors in Oklahoma were renowned for their ability to spear the fast-moving Oklahoma crab. It’s in the state song: “Ooooooklahoma! Where the crabs come sweepin’ down the plain . . . ” But then the white man came and now the Oklahoma crab is extinct, and at the Cherokee clambakes they have to make do with Mrs. Warren’s traditional Five Tribes recipe for Cherokee Lime Pie.
Shortly after my column was filed yesterday afternoon, our Noah Glyn reported that Mrs Warren’s crab dish passed down from her Cherokee ancestors actually came from an upscale Manhattan eatery on 55th Street across from the St Regis:
Two of the possibly plagiarized recipes, said in the Pow Wow Chow cookbook to have been passed down through generations of Oklahoma Native American members of the Cherokee tribe, are described in a New York Times News Service story as originating at Le Pavilion, a fabulously expensive French restaurant in Manhattan. The dishes were said to be particular favorites of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Cole Porter.
The Pundette wonders: “Were they Cherokee, too?
No. But, as Broadway’s first Native American composer, Cole Porter wrote about his Indian blood in his famous song, “I’ve Got Sioux Under My Skin”.

Actually, that last line quoted above briefly made me wonder if writing about American liberalism isn’t a threat to one’s sanity. Some societies are racist, some societies work hard to be anti-racist, but only in America does the nation’s most prestigious law school hire a 100 per cent white female as its first “woman of color” on the basis that she once mailed in the Duke of Windsor’s favorite crab dish to a tribal cookbook.

Before he ascended to the throne, the Duke inspired a hit song of reflected celebrity: “I Danced With A Man Who Danced With A Girl Who Danced With The Prince Of Wales”. That seems to be how Harvard Law’s identity-group quota-filling works. I’m confident Elizabeth Warren will eventually be able to prove she danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with someone who once changed planes at a municipal airport accidentally built on a Cherokee burial ground.

Today's Tune: Emmylou Harris - The Boxer (Live)

When the looter is the government

The Washington Post
May 18, 2012

Russell Caswell (courtesy of Wall Street Journal)


Russ Caswell, 68, is bewildered: “What country are we in?” He and his wife, Pat, are ensnared in a Kafkaesque nightmare unfolding in Orwellian language.

This town’s police department is conniving with the federal government to circumvent Massachusetts law — which is less permissive than federal law — to seize his livelihood and retirement asset. In the lawsuit titled United States of America v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, the government is suing an inanimate object, the motel Caswell’s father built in 1955. The U.S. Department of Justice intends to seize it, sell it for perhaps $1.5 million and give up to 80 percent of that to the Tewksbury Police Department, whose budget is just $5.5 million. The Caswells have not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. They are being persecuted by two governments eager to profit from what is antiseptically called the “equitable sharing” of the fruits of civil forfeiture, a process of government enrichment that often is indistinguishable from robbery.

The Merrimack River Valley near the New Hampshire border has had more downs than ups since the 19th century, when the nearby towns of Lowell and Lawrence were centers of America’s textile industry. In the 1960s the area briefly enjoyed a high-tech boom. Caswell’s “budget” motel, too, has seen better days, as when the touring Annette Funicello and the Mouseketeers checked in. In its sixth decade the motel hosts tourists, some workers on extended stays and some elderly people who call it home. The 56 rooms rent for $56 a night or $285 a week.

Since 1994, about 30 motel customers have been arrested on drug-dealing charges. Even if those police figures are accurate — the police have a substantial monetary incentive to exaggerate — these 30 episodes involved less than 5/100ths of 1 percent of the 125,000 rooms Caswell has rented over those more than 6,700 days. Yet this is the government’s excuse for impoverishing the Caswells by seizing this property, which is their only significant source of income and all of their retirement security.

The government says the rooms were used to “facilitate” a crime. It does not say the Caswells knew or even that they were supposed to know what was going on in all their rooms all the time. Civil forfeiture law treats citizens worse than criminals, requiring them to prove their innocence — to prove they did everything possible to prevent those rare crimes from occurring in a few of those rooms. What counts as possible remains vague. The Caswells voluntarily installed security cameras, they photocopy customers’ identifications and record their license plates, and they turn the information over to the police, who have never asked the Caswells to do more.

The Caswells are represented by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm. IJ explains that civil forfeiture is a proceeding in which property is said to have acted wrongly. This was useful long ago against pirates, who might be out of reach but whose ill-gotten gains could be seized. The Caswells, however, are not pirates.

Rather, they are victims of two piratical governments that, IJ argues, are violating the U.S. Constitution twice. They are violating the Eighth Amendment, which has been construed to forbid “excessive fines” that deprive individuals of their livelihoods. And the federal “equitable sharing” program violates the 10th Amendment by vitiating state law, thereby enabling Congress to compel the states to adopt Congress’s policies where states possess a reserved power and primary authority — in the definition and enforcement of the criminal law.

A federal drug agent operating in this region roots around in public records in search of targets — property with at least $50,000 equity. Caswell thinks that if his motel “had a big mortgage, this would not be happening.”

“Equitable sharing” — the consensual splitting of ill-gotten loot by the looters — reeks of the moral hazard that exists in situations in which incentives are for perverse behavior. To see where this leads, read IJ’s scalding report “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” (, a sickening litany of law enforcement agencies padding their budgets and financing boondoggles by, for example, smelling, or imagining to smell, or pretending to smell, marijuana in cars they covet.

None of this is surprising to Madisonians, which all sensible Americans are. James Madison warned (in Federalist 48) that government power “is of an encroaching nature.” If unresisted, it produces iniquitous sharing of other people’s property.

Eternally shifting sands of Obama's biography

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
May 18, 2012

It used to be a lot simpler. As E.C. Bentley deftly summarized it in 1905:

"Geography is about maps

But Biography is about chaps."

But that was then, and now Biography is also about maps. For example, have you ever thought it would be way cooler to have been born in colonial Kenya?

Whoa, that sounds like crazy Birther talk; don't go there! But Breitbart News did, and it turns out that the earliest recorded example of Birtherism is from the president's own literary agent, way back in 1991, in the official bio of her exciting new author:

"Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii."

So the lunatic theory that Barack Obama doesn't meet the minimum eligibility requirements to be president of the United States was first advanced by Barack Obama's official representative. Where did she get that wacky idea from? "This was nothing more than a fact-checking error by me," says Obama's literary agent, Miriam Goderich, a "fact" that went so un-"checked" that it stayed up on her agency's website in the official biography of her by-then-famous client up until 2007:
"He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister."

And then in April 2007, someone belatedly decided to "check" the 16-year-old "fact" and revised the biography, a few weeks into the now non-Kenyan's campaign for the presidency. Fancy that!

When it comes to conspiracies, I'm an Occam's Razor man. The more obvious explanation of the variable first line in the eternally shifting sands of Obama's biography is that, rather than pretending to have been born in Hawaii, he's spent much of his life pretending to have been born in Kenya.

After all, if your first book is an exploration of racial identity and has the working title "Journeys In Black And White," being born in Hawaii doesn't really help. It's entirely irrelevant to the twin pillars of contemporary black grievance – American slavery and European imperialism. To 99.99 percent of people, Hawaii is a luxury vacation destination and nothing else.

Whereas Kenya puts you at the heart of what, in an otherwise notably orderly decolonization process by the British, was a bitter and violent struggle against the white man's rule. Cool! The composite chicks dig it, and the literary agents.

And where's the harm in it? Everybody does it – at least in the circles in which Obama hangs. At Harvard Law School, where young Barack was "the first African-American president of The Harvard Law Review," there's no end of famous firsts: As The Fordham Law Review reported, "Harvard Law School hired its first woman of color, Elizabeth Warren, in 1995." There is no evidence that Mrs. Warren, now the Democrats' Senate candidate, is anything other than 100 percent white. She walks like a white, quacks like a white, looks whiter than white. She's the whitest white since Frosty the Snowman fell in a vat of Wite-Out. But she "self-identified" as Cherokee, so that makes her a "woman of color." Why, back in 1984 she submitted some of her favorite dishes to the "Pow Wow Chow" cookbook, a "compilation of recipes passed down through the Five Tribes families."

The recipes from "Elizabeth Warren – Cherokee" include a crab dish with tomato mayonnaise. Mrs. Warren's fictional Cherokee ancestors in Oklahoma were renowned for their ability to spear the fast-moving Oklahoma crab. It's in the state song: "Ooooooklahoma! Where the crabs come sweepin' down the plain." But then the white man came, and now the Oklahoma crab is extinct, and at the Cherokee clambakes they have to make do with Mrs. Warren's traditional Five Tribes recipe for Cherokee Lime Pie.

A delegation of college students visited the White House last week, and Vice President Biden told them: "You're an incredible generation. And that's not hyperbole, either. Your generation and the 9/11 generation before you are the most incredible group of Americans we have ever, ever, ever produced."

Ever ever ever ever! Even in a world where everyone's incredible, some things ought to be truly incredible. Yet Harvard Law School touted Elizabeth "Dances with Crabs" Warren as their "first woman of color" – and nobody laughed. Because, if you laugh, chances are you'll be tied up in sensitivity-training hell for the next six weeks. Because in an ever-more incredible America being an all-white "woman of color" is entirely credible.

Entering these murky waters, swimming through it like a crab in Mrs. Warren's tomato mayo, Barack Obama refined his own identity with a finesse that Harvard Law's first cigar-store Indian lacked. In 1984, when "Elizabeth Warren – Cherokee" was cooking up a storm, the young Obama was still trying to figure out his name: He'd been "Barry" up till then. According to his recently discovered New York girlfriend, back when she dated him he was "BAR-ack," emphasis on the first syllable, as in barracks, which is how his dad was known back in Kenya. Later in the Eighties, he decided "BAR-ack" was too British, and modified it to "Ba-RACK". Some years ago, on Fox News, Bob Beckel criticized me for mispronouncing Barack Obama's name. My mistake.

All I did was say it the way they've always said it back in Kenya. But Obama himself didn't finally decide what his name was or how to say it until he was pushing 30. In the shifting sands of identity, he picked his crabs carefully.

"I suppose he'd had the name ready for a long time, even then," says Nick Carraway in "The Great Gatsby." "His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people – his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself... . So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end."

In a post-modern America, the things that Gatsby attempted to fake – an elite schooling – Obama actually had; the things that Gatsby attempted to obscure – the impoverished roots – merely add to Obama's luster. Gatsby claimed to have gone to Oxford, but nobody knew him there because he never went; Obama had a million bucks' worth of elite education at Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law, and still nobody knew him ("Fox News contacted some 400 of his classmates and found no one who remembered him"). In that sense, Obama out-Gatsbys Gatsby: His "shiftless and unsuccessful" relatives – the deportation-dodging aunt on public housing in Boston, the DWI undocumented uncle, the $12-a-year brother back in Nairobi – are useful props in his story, the ever more vivid bit-players as the central character swims ever more out of focus, but they don't seem to know him either. The more autobiographies he writes, the less anybody knows.

Like Gatsby presiding over his wild, lavish parties, Obama is aloof and remote: let everyone else rave deliriously; he just has to be. He is, in his way, the apotheosis of the Age of American Incredibility. When just being who you are anyway is an incredible accomplishment, Obama managed to run and win on biography almost entirely unmoored from life. But then, like Gatsby, he knew a thing or two about "the unreality of reality."


Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review- The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson

America’s Nastiest Blood Feud

By Garry Wills
The New York Times Review of Books
May 24, 2012

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro
Knopf, 712 pp., $35.00

Robert Caro’s epic biography of Lyndon Johnson—this is the fourth volume of a planned five—was originally conceived and has been largely executed as a study of power. But this volume has been overtaken by a more pressing theme. It is a study in hate. The book’s impressive architectonics come from the way everything is structured around two poles or pillars—Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy (pictured above), radiating reciprocal hostilities at every step of the story. Caro calls it “perhaps the greatest blood feud of American politics in the twentieth century.” With some reservations about the word “blood,” one has to concede that Caro makes good his claim for this dynamic in the tale he has to tell.

There are many dramatic events, throughout the volume, that illustrate Caro’s theme. I begin with one that could seem insignificant to those not knowing the background on both sides, because it shows that even the slightest brush between these two triggered rancorous inner explosions. Johnson, newly sworn in as president, had just come back to Washington on Air Force One from the terrible death of John Kennedy in Dallas. Robert Kennedy sped up the steps to the plane and rushed fiercely down the length of the cabin through everyone standing in his way (including the new president) to reach Jacqueline Kennedy. Understandable that he would first of all want to comfort the widow? Yes, but. This was the first of many ways Bobby (called that throughout) tried in the first days to ignore the man who had ignominiously, in his eyes, supplanted his brother by a murder in the man’s own Texas.

Caro understands that Bobby was determined not to see Johnson, even if he saw him—so he did not see him. But Johnson saw him not seeing, and hated him the more. That is how hate narrows one—narrows what one wants to see, or is able to see, in order to keep one’s hatred tended and hard.

Both men had good reason to treat each other with some empathy at that moment. Johnson had just inherited a crushing office, in a time of national crisis, and had to legitimize himself in every way he could. Bobby should have recognized the need of the nation, and gulped down the unwelcome fact that Johnson was, in fact, the president now. He should have set a pattern for stricken Kennedy loyalists on the plane. Johnson, on the other hand, should have sympathized with a brother still reeling from an incalculable loss, a man moving in a blur of emotions, and he should have swallowed his resentment at the snub. But they were blocked from the generosities needed in such a moment of tragedy by their previous clashes, well laid out by Caro.

Bobby had a long history of trying not to see Johnson, of resenting it when forced to acknowledge his presence; and he loathed shaking his hand. It began with their very first recorded meeting, in 1953. Lyndon Johnson came into the Senate cafeteria for his customary breakfast there. He was trailing his entourage, radiating his power as minority leader. He passed the table of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was sitting near the entrance with three or four staffers, including a newcomer to his team, twenty-seven-year-old Robert Kennedy, who had just got this job through the influence of his father, a McCarthy supporter. Johnson knew about that arrangement, as he did all the things that went on in “his” Senate. Johnson had mocked Joe Kennedy all over town and despised Joe McCarthy as a loose cannon in the Senate. He also did not think much of the newly elected senator John Kennedy, whom he would soon be calling a sickly absentee from the Senate and “not a man’s man.”

Yet McCarthy, with his coarse affability, leaped to his feet when Johnson approached, greeted him as “Leader,” and shook his hand. His aides followed suit, all but one, who remained seated, with an expression of distaste. Bobby knew what Johnson had been saying about his father and his boss, and he always bristled at slights directed at his own revered family. He refused to get up, or even to look at Johnson. Johnson, whose own history of humiliations Caro has traced in earlier volumes, was just as quick to sense contempt, and determined to crush it if he could. He was a bully and a sadist, and he took the earliest opportunity to force Kennedy to submit to the dreaded handshake. He went right up to him, towering over him (he always put his height to use) and crowded at him with a half-extended hand. Finally, in the embarrassment of a growing silence, Kennedy rose and, with averted eyes, shook Johnson’s hand. Johnson felt he had made this lowly staffer crawl. It would prove to be a costly victory.

The 1960 Campaign

Johnson had ached toward the presidency from his youth, an urge whose progress Caro has long tracked in his earlier volumes. Johnson recognized the obstacles in his way, mainly his association with the South and its racism. He had tried to ease this problem by getting the Senate to pass toothless civil rights bills in 1957 and 1960. He knew he could never win the liberal Northeast, but his many allies assured him that he had a passing chance in the Midwest and a good one in the West, and he could win by adding, here and there, enough votes to bulk out the still-solid South. He also felt that he would face a weak lineup of rivals for the Democratic nomination. John Kennedy was shaping up as the main threat, but he did not think much of him. It became a mantra with him that “the boy can’t win.” What had he done? He was an absentee senator with no major legislation to his name.

Johnson, who always set great store by physical strength, dismissed Kennedy as a scrawny lightweight. He was on to something that it would take journalists, and then historians, years to get to the bottom of. Kennedy was often absent from the Senate and other places because he was either in the hospital or was trying to regain an appearance of health and activity. Caro revisits the findings of biographers who finally documented how constant was Kennedy’s pain, from a formidable array of physical impairments. His back all but immobilized him, even with a brace wrapped around with mummifying tapes. His handsome features fluctuated in color and fullness according to his intake of cortisone and other drugs. He had many ailments to hide in order to keep on projecting his prized image of “vigor.”

Johnson knew something was wrong and later, during the 1960 campaign, he acted on his instinct, sending a former Senate investigator to find out the truth. A doctor who had treated Kennedy confirmed that he suffered from Addison’s disease and needed continual cortisone treatments. Johnson had members of his campaign team, including future Texas governor John Connally, hold a press conference to reveal those facts. Bobby answered that his brother never had classical tubercular-related Addison’s disease (he had a different kind), and Ted Sorensen said he had not been treated with cortisone (he used a cortisone derivative). These were lies hidden in technicalities, but nothing could have sharpened more Bobby’s determination never to let anywhere near his family the man who had revealed his brother’s affliction. We can only imagine the shock when that brother asked Johnson to become his running mate.

But before that traumatic episode, Caro addresses a major puzzle in his story. Why did Johnson assemble a campaign team for the 1960 election and then, month after month, refuse to use it? At first he said that he would make his campaign believable by staying and working in the Senate. But when his allies asked to organize stealthily for him, he forbade it. Caro, with his knowledge of Johnson’s lifelong experience of humiliations, says the real reason was a fear of being defeated. I suspect that this gun-shy trait is a premonition of the withdrawal from the 1968 race that Caro will be treating in the next volume.

The reason Johnson hesitated was that reports were reaching him that the Kennedy machine had a reach far outside of New England. And one of those racing around to recruit Catholic city bosses was Bobby, the lowly aide he had despised. After years of greeting Bobby as “Sonny Boy” when they passed each other in Senate corridors, he had seen him prove a tough investigator of organized crime on the McClellan Committee. When Johnson did lunge for the nomination, too late, he knew the man he had to fear. He said he needed John Connally on his campaign team because only he was “tough enough to handle Bobby Kennedy.” (Connally, as we have seen, showed that toughness in the press conference on Kennedy’s Addison’s disease.)

But even while he began to fear Bobby, he had to take every possible opportunity to humiliate him. When Jack sent Bobby to Johnson’s ranch to sound him out on the race, Johnson forced him to go deer hunting, and gave him a powerful shotgun whose recoil knocked him down. Johnson helped him up with the condescending words, “Son, you’ve got to learn to handle a gun like a man.”

When it became clear to Johnson that he could not reach the top of the ticket, he began to consider the second spot. He had his staff look up how many presidents in the previous hundred years had died in office—five out of eighteen, giving him a better than 20 percent chance of reaching the presidency that way. When Clare Boothe Luce later asked him why he would accept the nomination to be number two, he answered: “Clare, I looked it up: one out of every four Presidents has died in office. I’m a gamblin’ man, darlin’, and this is the only chance I got.” He said much the same thing to trusted journalists. So it was clear why Johnson would run with the “sickly” John Kennedy. He knew about the ailments that could threaten his life. But why would Kennedy want him?

Kennedy was Johnson’s quieter equal at calculating his advantages and disadvantages. He realized he needed the South, but that a liberal Catholic from Massachusetts would get few votes there—unless. What if he had with him a master of Southern politics, one with multiple ties on many levels throughout the area? He knew he would have to face opposition from his own supporters—people like Joseph Rauh and Walter Reuther and Arthur Schlesinger—who still considered Johnson a crude racist, and who would feel their candidate was betraying all the ideals they had imputed to him. Most of all, he would face the shock of his idolizing brother if he brought the very devil of Bobby’s universe into their circle. Jack could not budge that mass of hatred. So he decided to play on it. He told his brother that he did not mean to offer the second spot to Johnson. He had just made a pro forma suggestion, and Johnson had seized it, treating it as a firm offer, and now Jack could not get out of that imprisoning embrace.
Bobby bought the lie. His explanation of his brother’s quandary recalled his own earlier effort to avoid an unwanted handshake. Jack was quoted as saying, “I just held it [his hand] out like this,” putting his hand two or three inches from his pocket, “and he grabbed at it.” Bobby’s version became Camelot orthodoxy, explaining why the king had an evil troll in his entourage. Arthur Schlesinger and Theodore Sorensen etched it in historical accounts. They seem not to have considered the implausibility of the story—that the man they praised for resourcefulness and toughness (enough to deal with Khrushchev) had let a piratical buccaneer come swarming aboard his beautiful galleon, armed with no cutlass sharper than a handshake.

It is hard to ferret out truth in the sentimental mists wreathing Camelot, but Caro destroys the authorized version with some simple facts. Johnson, too, had loyalists who did not understand why he would give up his power in the Senate—principally his beloved mentor, the legendary Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. When Kennedy asked him to be his running mate, Johnson said he had one condition—Kennedy would have to persuade Rayburn to accept the deal, and Kennedy went straight to Rayburn’s hotel suite and used all his charm to get that agreement. Does that look like the action of man trapped with an unwanted partner?

Bobby tried repeatedly to save his brother from a situation he thought he did not desire, going repeatedly to Johnson’s suite to beg him to withdraw. He said there would be an awful floor fight if Johnson accepted, and said he was authorized to make a counteroffer—Lyndon could be head of the Democratic National Committee instead of vice-president. For three hours he played out this farce, not knowing it was a farce. He even tried to persuade Rayburn to make Johnson withdraw. A puzzled Rayburn telephoned Jack and asked if he had actually changed his mind after begging him to support a Kennedy-Johnson ticket. Jack answered, “Oh, that’s all right; Bobby’s been out of touch and doesn’t know what’s been happening.” When an infuriated Bobby had at last to submit to an arrangement he would never understand, he told a friend, “Yesterday [when Jack won the nomination] was the best day of my life, and today [when Johnson joined him] is the worst day of my life.”

Why did Jack Kennedy let his liberal followers swallow Bobby’s anguished version of what had happened? Why did these otherwise sophisticated thinkers accept such an implausible tale of his defeat by a scheming Lyndon? It is because the emotions of Bobby had percolated through the campaign, and hate is a great magnifier of its object. During the cold war, for instance, Americans hated communism so much that they thought every Russian was a threat. In the same way, Camelotians saw Johnson as a fearsome menace who could dominate even their beloved Jack.
This set a terrible tone for the coming administration. Kennedy’s closest followers felt they had a monster in their midst, and they must do everything in their power to contain him before he sneaked up toward another paralyzing handshake with their leader. Johnson, knowing their attitude and where it came from, responded in kind, since hatred creates a mirroring image in the hated. Referring to Bobby in a conversation with a friend, Johnson said, “I’ll cut his throat if it’s the last thing I do.”


Knowing that he would have many disadvantages in a Kennedy administration, Johnson attempted two preemptive moves at the very outset. But these power lunges just confirmed the Kennedyites’ view of him as a crude intruder. First, he tried to retain some of his Senate power. Since the vice-president presides (when he wishes) over the Senate, he asked to preside over his old power base as well, the Democratic caucus in that chamber—but he was rebuffed by his old buddies, who knew this would unconscionably blur the separation of powers. He also tried to work the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, requesting an office in the White House with a bulked-up staff for military and security issues. He was trying, we now see, to have the parallel presidency that Dick Cheney secured for himself under a compliant George Bush. Instead, he was consigned to an office in the Executive Office Building, without the extended staff he had requested.

After his failure to adjust the game to his own rules, Johnson made a bid for pity by presenting himself as the powerless butt of Camelot jokes (which he was). He moaned that he was “a cut dog.” He rarely challenged those around him, and when he did (as when he considered Bobby’s response to the Cuban missiles too weak), he was excluded from the secret decisions made on the crisis. He feared, rightly, that the Kennedy team was determined to push him off the ticket in 1964. Their detestation for Johnson, with their constant mocking of him, was so obvious that the president tried to damp down the fires, telling his appointments secretary, Ken O’Donnell, “You are dealing with a very insecure, sensitive man with a huge ego. I want you literally to kiss his fanny from one end of Washington to the other.”

But that availed little, and Caro says the president himself was beginning to see he would not need Johnson in 1964. Johnson could not even contain a disruptive party battle in his home state of Texas, between liberal Ralph Yarborough and Johnson’s old ally, now the state’s governor, John Connally. On the fatal Texas trip with Kennedy in November, Yarborough even refused to ride in the assigned convertible car with Johnson, prompting a Dallas News headline, YARBOROUGH SNUBS LBJ.
Still, Yarborough was the least of Johnson’s troubles by this time. Two other events ensured that Kennedy would not, in fact could not, have run again with Johnson. An intrepid investigator, Senator John J. Williams of Delaware, had begun to reveal the financial and sexual scandals of Johnson’s longtime Senate sidekick, Bobby Baker. That investigation would reveal Johnson’s intimate involvement in Baker’s misdeeds.

Moreover, Life magazine was assembling a large investigative team to get to the bottom of Johnson’s mysterious finances—how, receiving just government pay over the years, he had become a multimillionaire with the help of Texas oil buddies. Both those time bombs were furiously ticking as Johnson and Kennedy took off for their five-city tour of Texas. In fact, at the very time when the shots were fired at Kennedy in Dallas, a House committee was hearing testimony on the Baker affair and the Life team was meeting to map its strategy. Johnson’s whole future was rescued by the bullets that killed Kennedy. Unable to attack a new president in a time of crisis, Life abandoned its search into his records and the House contained the Johnson aspects of its Baker probe.

From the minute, at the Dallas hospital, when he received confirmation that Kennedy was dead, Johnson was all decisiveness. Advised to hurry back to Washington, since there might be more conspiratorial action against the government, he overrode that advice, declaring that he would not leave until Kennedy’s body was released, so it and Mrs. Kennedy could ride with him on Air Force One back to Washington. He wanted to be sworn in on the plane before he left Dallas, with his old friend Judge Sarah Hughes administering the oath of office. Legally, he did not need the oath—he succeeded Kennedy as president the moment he died—but he felt it would give visual force to the legitimacy of his succession.

Then, on the plane, he performed what must be one of the most mysterious actions of his life. He called Bobby in Washington. Why? Not to console him—which, coming from him, would have been grotesque. Not to gloat—even Johnson was not monstrous enough to do that in the anguished moment when Bobby first learned the dreadful news. Not to try to put their relations on a new basis—something that, if it were ever possible, could not be done then of all times. He invented an excuse—he wanted to know the procedure for his swearing-in—but that was information he could have got from many sources. Bobby in fact had to get it from his Justice Department associate, Nicholas Katzenbach, who later said, “Calling Bobby was really wrong.” Even Johnson’s loyal secretary Marie Fehmer, who was told to take down the phone conversation, would remember, “I kept thinking, ‘You shouldn’t be doing this.’”

Was Johnson in effect “clearing” his decision to go ahead with the swearing-in, lest Bobby should later claim he had not known of it and would have disapproved of it? If so, that too was a futile effort. Bobby later bitterly attacked Johnson’s impatience to claim the office publicly—and especially his use of Jackie Kennedy by his side to show he was heir to the Kennedy mystique. Johnson could not rationally have expected his call to pacify, or think it would not provoke. Then why did he do it? Hate goes automatically, as to a magnet, toward the hated object. Bobby filled Lyndon’s mind, even at this most terrible hour, and he always thought of himself as caught in a deadly dance partnership with him. For reasons he probably did not understand himself, he could not not call his foe at this most testing moment in his life. It was as unthinking as a tongue’s compulsive return and return to a rotten tooth.

When Air Force One landed in Washington, Bobby not only rushed onto it past the president, but guided the casket and Mrs. Kennedy onto the mobile hydraulic lift that had been rolled up to take the casket at the plane’s back door, where he descended without waiting for Johnson to step onto the lift’s platform. The president of the United States was left stranded in the open door of the airplane, unable for a while to get to the ground in his own capital city.

That began a series of encounters that made Johnson conclude that Bobby “seriously considered whether he would let me be president.” Bobby delayed Johnson’s occupation of the Oval Office, his move into the White House, and his address to Congress (planned for one day after Kennedy’s funeral), all in the name of Mrs. Kennedy’s grief. He came late to the new president’s first cabinet meeting, at which he was making a plea that Kennedy staffers stay on with him in this volatile period.

Bobby was putting off as long as he could any acknowledgment that Johnson was the president—and he would never, in the future, refer to him as such. Johnson’s usurpation of office had begun, in Bobby’s eyes, when he forced his unwanted way onto the ticket in Los Angeles, making all his subsequent acts illegitimate.

Johnson badly needed continuity with the previous administration. Knowing the hostility of most in the former president’s inner circle, he abased himself to them, flattered them as more talented than he was, professed his absolute need of their assistance. This made some of them remain from a sense of patriotic duty. Others despised the weepy fawning used on them. The three S’s (Schlesinger, Sorensen, Salinger) stayed just long enough to keep their departure from looking like an obvious insult. The big question is: What made Bobby stay on as attorney general? Perhaps he wanted to see what he could do to prevent Johnson from trashing the Kennedy heritage. He may have wanted to make Johnson uncomfortable. Jackie Kennedy had refused to take off the dress stained with her husband’s blood for the swearing-in photos. She said, “I want them to see what they have done to Jack.” Perhaps Bobby believed his very presence would brand Johnson for the usurper he was.

The President

But once Johnson had some of the Kennedy team staying with him—e.g., Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, McGeorge Bundy—he knew that the way to keep them there was to keep them busy, busy accomplishing things. Here Caro can go back to his original theme, Johnson as a virtuoso creator and user of power—every form of power, crude or subtle, blatant or disguised, cynical or sentimental. Johnson came into office like a tornado, clearing things out of his way. There were already on his desk three bills offered by Kennedy—a foreign aid bill (blocked by Senator Karl Mundt’s amendment banning sale of surplus wheat to Russia), a tax cut to stimulate the economy, and a civil rights bill. Members of his cabinet told him these had little or no chance of passage, and certainly none before Congress left Washington for the Christmas holidays (Kennedy, remember, was killed in late November). Johnson saw a way to push them all forward at once.

On the Mundt amendment, he told senator after senator on the phone, “Do you want the first act of the United States Senate to be a posthumous repudiation of John F. Kennedy?” He used the jolt of Kennedy’s death to kickstart his own presidency. On the tax cut, he went to its principal foe, Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia, who hated deficits, and got him to pledge that if Johnson could keep his new budget under a hundred billion dollars for the coming year (including the tax cuts), Byrd would support it. Johnson called to his economic aide, “Get in here, and bring your meat cleaver.” Then he browbeat agencies to abandon their demands (five thousand jobs for the Post Office alone) to make room for the tax cuts.

The civil rights bill had been held up, it seemed forever, by Howard Smith, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, who refused to release it from committee. Johnson knew that a revolt of committee members could be ignited by an extensive petition drive to release the bill. Johnson organized that drive by calling in civil rights leaders, labor friends, religious organizations. Many of these people were skeptical of Johnson’s late conversion to the rights of blacks. But he convinced them of his sincerity in emotional meetings. Caro has no doubt of that sincerity. He has demonstrated in earlier volumes Johnson’s identification with the poor and despised. It was common in Washington to speak of the “Good Bobby/Bad Bobby” oscillation. Caro knows there had always been a Good Lyndon/Bad Lyndon dynamic of the same sort in Johnson.

By the Christmas break (whose beginning Johnson had persuaded Congress to delay) all three “unpassable” bills were speeding toward passage, and Johnson had just begun. In his first State of the Union Address, he upped the Good Lyndon ante by calling for a War on Poverty. This was the harbinger of a series of reforms he envisaged for his Great Society. They would eventually include such things as Medicare, Medicaid, the Teaching Corps, VISTA, the Job Corps, Upward Bound, and Model Cities. The Washington press, which used to mock Johnson as Uncle Cornpone, registered increasing awe at what he could accomplish.

Caro gives a good example of this in the way Johnson set up the Warren Commission to investigate the murder in Dallas. At first Johnson wanted to rely on Texas criminal procedure to establish guilt for the act. When people let him know this would not convince people that the truth had been discovered, Johnson set up a bipartisan high-level body to conduct an investigation. He knew he needed certain key individuals for this, including the liberal chief justice of the United States, Earl Warren, and the conservative Senator Richard Russell, men at opposite political poles, each of whom despised the other. Both men turned him down, emphatically. But they were then subjected to “the Johnson treatment.”

He told each he was essential to reaching the truth, and only the truth would calm the fears of a jittery nation. He told each the fate of the world depended on him, since only he could allay suspicion that Moscow was behind the killing, which would push America into a dangerous (possibly nuclear) war. He called on each man’s previous military service, saying this was a new way the nation was drafting him. When even this did not bring Russell around, he simply released the official list of commissioners with Russell’s name on it. Then Johnson said that if Russell withdrew his name, he would irremediably wound the whole effort, and jeopardize national security.

Though conspiratorialists have subsequently nibbled endlessly at the Warren Commission’s report, it was at first received with great relief and popular acceptance. It succeeded in doing what Johnson needed, assuaging national nervousness over the assassination. Johnson soared in the national polls, reaching a record 77 percent approval rate in April, then the highest any president had reached at that point in his administration. James Reston, the most recognizable voice of The New York Times, wrote: “President Kennedy’s eloquence was designed to make men think; President Johnson’s hammer blows are designed to make men act.”

All this was gall and wormwood to Bobby, who felt that Johnson was killing his brother over again by stealing his thunder. In an oral history interview given in the spring of 1964, he vented his bitter resentment at the press “in their buildup of Lyndon Johnson, comparing him to the President” (the President). He said, “An awful lot of things were going on that President Kennedy did that Johnson was getting the credit for—and [he] wasn’t saying enough that President Kennedy was responsible.”
And, of course, there was nothing like Bad Bobby to bring out the worst in Bad Lyndon. Johnson told Pierre Salinger, a Bobby loyalist who would get word back to him, that John Kennedy’s death was “divine retribution” for his role in the assassinations of Raphael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. God, he said, puts his mark on those who do evil. So the killing in Dallas “might very well be God’s retribution to President Kennedy for his participation in the assassination of these two people.” Needleess to say, these words did get to Bobby, who told Schlesinger they were “the worst thing Johnson has said.” His own sainted brother was evil, was destroyed by God for his vices? What could more inflame the younger brother?

I doubt that Caro, when he began his huge project, thought he would end up composing a moral disquisition on the nature of hatred. But that is what, in effect, he has given us. Hate breeds hate in an endless spiral. Clausewitz, discussing hate as the necessary fuel of war, says it is always on supply, since foes undergo a Wechselwirkung, a back-and-forth remaking of each other, one hostile act prompting a response even more violent, in a continual ratcheting up. That is what Johnson and Bobby are engaged in doing in this book; and Caro has given us many clues to their continued venomous interaction to come in his next volume.

There has not been a great deal in Volume Four about the Good Bobby, but that is bound to emerge in Volume Five, which will treat the 1968 campaign, in which Kennedy championed the poor and opposed the Vietnam War. There has already been a hint of the Bad Lyndon to come as he thrashes deeper into Vietnam. In his very first days in office, he not only escalated troop movements to the war, but did it in secret, deceiving both Congress and the American public. Caro will no doubt trace the way Johnson’s dark war undermined his bright Great Society, “guns” draining money from “butter.” So we have some idea of what lies ahead in Caro’s great literary endeavor. Johnson always expected that Bobby would run against him in 1968, and Caro makes it seem likely that his withdrawal from that race was done in fear of being humiliated at Bobby’s hands. Then we have all the drama of 1968, the killing of Dr. King (which caused an anguish in Bobby related to his brother’s death) and the murder of Bobby himself.

Caro gives us one clear indication of where he is taking the story. He telegraphs ahead of time Johnson’s reaction to the news that Bobby had been shot in Los Angeles (where the two once battled over the 1960 ticket). The president kept asking Joseph Califano, “Is he dead? Is he dead yet?” Califano made so many calls to his assistant. Larry Levinson, to check with the Secret Service that Levinson had to ask: “Joe, is this something that he’s wishing to have happen?” Bobby had tried to keep Johnson out of the White House. Johnson, returning the favor, will try to keep Bobby out of burial beside his brother in Arlington. The hatred had reached depths where it amounted to kicking a corpse. It is disheartening to see such large men reduced to such petty furies.

To understand the sheer wastefulness of this conflict, try to imagine the impossible. What if the two men, instead of bringing out the worst, had played to the best in each other? Suppose Bobby had recognized his brother’s need of Johnson in 1960, had helped capitalize on his resources in the South, and had made him an effective partner in Jack’s administration, instead of a sullen man isolated in his discontent. Would some of the effective legislation of Johnson’s turn in office have been accomplished earlier? Or suppose that Johnson, open to the alternative insights of Bobby, had seen the force of objections to the Vietnam War before he floundered so deep into that Big Muddy. What if he had won over the young people who ended up chanting outside the White House, “Hey, hey, LBJ/How many kids did you kill today?”

But we see that what happened was the opposite of such reasonable alternatives. That is why we read this long book with a growing and almost guilty fascination, and anticipate horrors still to come. It is like watching two very powerful railroad trains racing at top speed toward each other along a single set of tracks.

Elizabeth Warren touted Cherokee heritage in 1984 collection of recipes

By Doug Powers • May 17, 2012 10:26 AM

The epic saga of Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (aka “Dances with Identity Theft”) continues. Personally, I don’t like finding out that politicians who are running for office in order to “serve the people” were once involved with a cookbook. It’s all too Twilight Zone-ish for my taste — but admittedly the metaphor isn’t much of a stretch.

Many moons ago, Warren submitted recipes for a Native American-themed cookbook. We’ll call Elizabeth’s latest recipe “cooked goose in hot water”:
Elizabeth Warren was touting her claim of Cherokee heritage as early as 1984, according to a cookbook titled “Pow Wow Chow” edited by her cousin that includes Warren’s recipes for a savory crab omelet and spicy barbecued beans.

The cookbook, edited by Warren’s cousin Candy Rowsey, is a compilation of “special recipes passed down through the Five Tribes families,” according to the introduction in a copy obtained by the Herald.

Warren, who has been under fire for claiming Indian lineage despite a lack of documentation, is identified as “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee” under each of five recipes she contributes in the cookbook, published in 1984 by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum located in Muskogee. Warren is not listed as an official member of the Cherokee tribe and she has been unable thus far to document her claim of any Native American heritage.
News of Warren’s Cherokee recipes comes as outraged members of the tribe — including a Warren supporter — demanded she release her employment records following reports that she has no documentation to prove her Native American ancestry.
By way of Twitchy (who are collecting the mockery for full display as we speak), here’s a review of the cookbook at Amazon:


Another satisfied customer!

I’m told Warren’s recipe for Macaroni & Cochise isn’t too bad though.

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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Dim All the Lights for Donna Summer

By Rob Sheffield
May 17, 2012

Dim all the lights for Donna Summer, the disco diva who lost her battle with cancer today at 63. She was more than just one of the Seventies' mightiest voices; she was the artist who exemplified the way disco broke out of the gay club subculture to take over the world. "Bad Girls," "I Feel Love," "Hot Stuff," "On The Radio" – these were bold and innovative records, but they not only became global hits, they defined the beat of pop music ever since.

Donna Summer would be remembered as a ground-breaking artist today even if she'd retired the day after she recorded "I Feel Love" in 1977. She wrote the song with European producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, who created an electro-dystopian mirror-ball glacier-wave wall of machine rhythm, the musical equivalent of catching a stranger's dead-eyed stare on the dance floor. Summer's voice floated over the synthesizers as if feeling love meant zoning out into your own private nightworld of sensory overload. This is what Summer was talking about when she boasted, "I could be a Bette Davis-type actress. Catty, cold, precise and domineering." It was all there in "I Feel Love."

David Bowie famously recalled hearing it with Brian Eno, while they were working together in the late 1970s. "One day in Berlin, Eno came running in and said, 'I have heard the sound of the future.' And I said, 'Come on, we're supposed to be doing it right now.' He said, 'No, listen to this,' and he puts on 'I Feel Love,' by Donna Summer. Eno had gone bonkers over it, absolutely bonkers. He said, 'This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.' Which was more or less right."

Donna Summer's early records were concept-heavy and experimental, but she wanted more she aspired to be a pop grande dame on the level of Diana Ross. "I do not consider myself a disco artist," she told Time magazine. "I consider myself a singer who does disco songs." She elaborated in her 1978 Rolling Stone cover story, telling Mikal Gilmore her voice was too big to be confined in any genre. "I've sung gospel and Broadway musicals all my life and you have to have a belting voice for that. And because my skin is black they categorize me as a black act, which is not the truth. I'm not even a soul singer. I'm more a pop singer."

She achieved all her aspirations with 1979's Bad Girls, one of the Seventies' greatest pop manifestos. It was a universal statement, mixing up hard rock, funk, glam theatrics, Broadway show tunes and R&B songcraft, without compromising the roller-boogie beat she rode in on. "Dim All The Lights" is still one of the most viscerally erotic soul records ever made; "Bad Girls" was a sad song about tough ladies with big dreams, yet it blasted into ecstatic chants of "toot toot" and "beep beep"; "Sunset People" beat Steely Dan at their own game with its L.A.-noir ambience. It all worked because Donna Summer felt just like those bad girls she sang about, and you could hear that in her voice like them, like you, like everybody else, she wanted to be a star.

At an incredibly divisive point in pop history, Donna Summer managed to create an undeniable across-the-board experience of mass pleasure after Bad Girls, nobody ever tried claiming disco sucked again. It set the template for what Michael Jackson would do a few months later with Off The Wall. And Summer was still a few months away from her best single ever, "On The Radio," a strings-and-skates fantasia about how hearing your favorite song on the radio can make you feel like your most dangerous secrets are getting broadcast all around town.

Summer moved on to the glories of her new wave period, biting Bowie and Gary Numan: "The Wanderer," "Cold Love," "Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)." And she still had hits to come, from her reggae-theology Musical Youth duet "Unconditional Love" to her hi-NRG makeover in 1989's "This Time I Know It's For Real." She's also great in the hugely underrated disco film Thank God It's Friday, where she plays an aspiring singer who hangs around the club hoping to get discovered, sneaking into the DJ booth with her demos. By the end of the movie, she's seized her chance to sneak onto the stage and become the full-fledged disco queen of her dreams, moving the crowd in a red sequinned gown, belting what else? "Last Dance." The last dance tonight is for you, Donna Summer.


Report: Donna Summer Dead at 63
Listen to Donna Summer's Best Songs, from 'Last Dance' to 'Bad Girls'
Is There Life After Disco? Rolling Stone's 1978 Donna Summer Cover Story
Photos: Donna Summer Through the YearsRihanna, Mary J. Blige, Flea and More Remember Donna Summer

Thursday, May 17, 2012

'Queen of Disco' Donna Summer 'thought she became ill after inhaling 9/11 particles'

Donna Summer, the 1970s pop singer known as the Queen of Disco, has died of lung cancer, an illness she believes she contracted from inhaling toxic particles released after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

By , in New York and Andrew Hough
The Telegraph
17 May 2012

The 63-year-old singer, who had hits including "Hot Stuff", "Love to Love You, Baby" and "I Feel Love", died in Florida on Thursday morning.

She had largely kept her battle with lung cancer out of the public eye. But the website TMZ reported that the singer had told friends she believed her illness was the result of inhaling toxic dust from the collapsed Twin Towers.
On Thursday night tributes were paid to the singer, considered by many to be the voice of the 1970s.
A statement released on behalf of her family — husband Bruce Sudano, their daughters Brooklyn and Amanda, her daughter, Mimi from a previous marriage and four grandchildren — read: “Early this morning, surrounded by family, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith.

"While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.

“Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.”

She had spoken at length about September 11.

In a 2008 interview with The Daily Telegraph, she said she had a premonition about the attacks a month beforehand. Afterwards she said she suffered from severe depression and could not leave her Manhattan flat.

“I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I had to keep the blinds down and stay in my bedroom,” she said.
Music industry heavyweights spoke of their respect for Summer.

Sir Elton John said: “I’m so sad. This woman was the queen of disco and so much more.
"That she has never been inducted into the Rock 'n’ Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace, especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted. Her records sound as good today as they ever did.”

Quincy Jones, who produced albums for Summer, wrote on Twitter: “Rest in peace dear Donna Summer. Your voice was the heartbeat and soundtrack of a decade.”

Gloria Estefan wrote: “Few singers have impacted music and the world like Donna Summer! It’s the end of an era.”

Kylie Minogue said that Summer was “one of my earliest musical inspirations”, while the musician Moby said: “Words can’t express the impact and influence she had on music.”

Aretha Franklin said: “So shocking to hear about the passing of Donna Summer. In the 70s, she reigned over the disco era and kept the disco jumping. Who will forget “Last Dance.” A fine performer and a very nice person.”

Barbra Streisand added: “I was shocked to hear about Donna. She was so vital the last time I saw her a few months ago. I loved doing the duet with her. She had an amazing voice and was so talented. It’s so sad.”

Neil Portnow, the Recording Academy President said: “Donna Summer had a dynamic voice and unique musical style that helped define the dance music genre in the ‘70s. She also was an artist who crossed many musical genres...”

The record producer Pete Waterman, who worked with Summer in the 1980s, said: “Whenever you were with her she made you feel so special. She had all the talent but she gave you all the credit. She was not a diva in any shape or form.

“But what a voice she had. She used to warm up in the ladies lavatory and everyone in our building would stop and it would come to a standstill to hear her warm up.”

Summer’s career began in the early 1970s and she was still recording until recently. She was reportedly working on a new record when she died.

A Christian who was “born again” in 1979, Summer was credited with defining the disco era, laying the foundations for modern dance music.

She was said to have pioneered the fusion of European electronic music with American disco and to have influenced acts including David Bowie and Duran Duran.

She won five Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, and had three multi-platinum albums.
In America the title track from her 2008 album, I’m a Fire, took Summer to number one in the dance charts, making her the first artist to reach the slot in the Seventies, Eighties, Nineties and the first decade of the new millennium.

At least 55 rescuers have died as a result of cancer since 9/11. Although many had been diagnosed with the disease prior to the tragedy. At least 75 have been diagnosed with cancer since the attacks.
More than 18,000 people claim to have fallen ill due to inhaling dust particles from the collapse of the towers, with the primary issue being repspitory problems. And the number is constantly increasing.

The majority of those affected are rescue workers who spent extended periods at Ground Zero. Several people who died of illness following 9/11, including eight police officers, have their names on the World Trade Center memorial.

Many families have sued the city for illnesses brought on by the tragedy with cases still making their way through the courts.

According to air polluton experts the dust contained asbestos as well as traces of Lead, mercury and dioxin. More than 2,500 contaminants were found in the dust including known carcinogens.

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Donna Summer's disco was as radical as punk

The pop singer, who died today, created powerful futuristic records that changed the course of music for ever

By Alex Needham
The Guardian
17 May 2012
Donna Summer will be remembered as the queen of disco, but in fact her best records transformed not just dancefloors but the course of pop music. Released in 1977, the year of punk, her single I Feel Love was as radical as any record that has got to No 1. Sparks were a glam rock band until they heard I Feel Love, when they decided to throw their entire musical direction in the dustbin and make pulsing, synthesised disco records with its producer, Giorgio Moroder. Seeking to assert his credentials as a man of impeccable musical taste, Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream used to boast that he had bought both I Feel Love and the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen on the same day. The combination of silvery female soul vocals with state-of-the-art electronic production, which has been responsible for some of pop's greatest and most groundbreaking singles, from Janet Jackson to Aaliyah to Beyoncé, was pioneered right there by Summer and her two Italian producers - Moroder and Pete Bellotte.

Working from the unlikely location of Munich, the trio managed to fuse soul with the surgical precision of Kraftwerk, creating a record so far ahead of its time that pop took a good 20 years to catch up. Like the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations, I Feel Love is a studio recording so perfect that covering it – or even playing it live – would be pointless, though many have tried. The sparsest ingredients – lyrics that could be written on the back of a beermat with room to spare, a bassline that, in theory, a three-year-old could play – are turned, in Summer and Moroder's hands, into an entire world of futuristic wonder. Moroder took a Moog Modulator synthesiser and put a delay on the bassline, creating the "dugga-dugga-dugga" sound that has galvanised dancefloors ever since. Summer's vocal is no less wonderful – ethereal and otherworldly.

If that was all Summer had ever done, her place in pop would be assured, but she made a number of standout records that have influenced musicians right across the spectrum, from rock to R&B. The drum break on her 1979 album track Our Love was filched for the beginning of New Order's Blue Monday, who also put the epic Patrick Cowley mix of I Feel Love on their Back to Mine compilation. Her version of Jon and Vangelis's State of Independence was covered by Chrissie Hynde. Part of Summer's strength was her versatility. The high concept of her album I Remember Yesterday was that each track would pastiche the sounds of a different decade, from the magnificent Love's Unkind, her take on Phil Spector, to I Feel Love (which represented The Future) and her voice is at home in any style Moroder and Bellotte can throw at her. Pitted against Barbra Streisand on the scenery-chewing 1982 duet No More Tears (Enough Is Enough), Summer demonstrates in grand style that she can face down any diva. Every time someone demolishes Summer's On the Radio on a TV talent show, remembering the original – surely one of the greatest ever songs about that medium – only reaffirms Summer's technical and emotional mastery. Even the records she made with Stock Aitken Waterman in the late 80s, a collaboration which seemed sacrilegious at the time, are animated by the power and sincerity of her voice.

And then, of course, there is sex. Summer's single Love to Love You Baby announced her arrival to the world – 17 minutes of groaning, whimpering and moaning. Get past its use by Mike Leigh in Abigail's Party – which made it an icon of bad taste thanks to it being played by the awful Beverly – and Love to Love You Baby is charged with feelings of liberation, a pre-Aids world of pansexual freedom and adventure. While Summer renounced her raunchy past, betraying her gay fans in the process, her best records still pulsate with that spirit, the lifeforce of pop itself. At only 63, that life force was extinguished.


Donna Summer Interview (1976) -

Today's Tune: Metallica - Whiskey In The Jar @ Live in Dublin (2006)

Too much agreement means more entitlements

The Washington Post
May 17, 2012

Bipartisanship, the supposed scarcity of which so distresses the high-minded, actually is disastrously prevalent.

Since 2001, it has produced No Child Left Behind, a counterproductive federal intrusion in primary and secondary education; the McCain-Feingold speech rationing law (the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act); an unfunded prescription drug entitlement; troublemaking by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; government-directed capitalism from the Export-Import Bank; crony capitalism from energy subsidies; unseemly agriculture and transportation bills; continuous bailouts of an unreformed Postal Service; housing subsidies; subsidies for state and local governments; and many other bipartisan deeds, including most appropriations bills.

Now, with Europe’s turmoil dramatizing the decadence of entitlement cultures and with American governments — federal, state and local — buckling beneath unsustainable entitlements, Congress is absent-mindedly creating a new entitlement for the already privileged. Concerning the “problem” of certain federal student loans, the two parties pretend to be at daggers drawn, skirmishing about how to “pay for” the “solution.” But a bipartisan consensus is congealing: Certain student borrowers — and eventually all student borrowers, because, well, why not? — should be entitled to loans at a subsidized 3.4 percent interest rate forever.

In 2006, Democrats, trying to capture control of Congress by pandering to students and their parents, proposed cutting in half the statutory 6.8 percent rate on some federal student loans. Holding Congress in 2007, and with no discernible resistance from the compassionately conservative George W. Bush administration, Democrats disguised the ­full-decade cost of this — $60 billion — by pretending that the subsidy, which now costs $6 billion a year, would expire in five years.

The five years are up July 1, and of course the 3.4 percent rate will be extended. Barack Obama supports this. So does Mitt Romney, while campaigning against a “government-centered society.” What would we do without bipartisanship?

The low 6.8 percent rate — private loans for students cost about 12 percent — was itself the result of a federal subsidy. And students have no collateral that can be repossessed in case they default, which 23 percent of those receiving the loans in question do. The maximum loan for third- and fourth-year students is $5,500 a year. The payment difference between 3.4 percent and 6.8 percent is less than $10 a month, so the “problem” involves less than 30 cents a day.

The 3.4 percent rate applies to only one category of federal loans, but because the Obama administration has essentially socialized the student loan business, federal loans are 90 percent of student borrowing, and this “temporary” rate probably will eventually be made permanent for all federal student loans.

Unsurprisingly, Obama has used this loan issue as an occasion to talk about himself, remembering the “mountain of debt” he and Michelle had when, armed with four Ivy League degrees (he from Columbia, she from Princeton, both from Harvard Law), they graduated into the American elite. The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf notes that if Washington is feeling flush enough to spend another $60 billion on education in a decade, it could find more deserving people to subsidize than a privileged minority of college students who are acquiring credentials strongly correlated with higher-than-average future earnings.

The average annual income of high school graduates with no college is $41,288; for college graduates with just a bachelor’s degree it is $71,552. So the one-year difference ($30,264) is more than the average total indebtedness of the two-thirds of students who borrow ($25,250).

Taxpayers, most of whom are not college graduates (the unemployment rate for high school graduates with no college education: 7.9 percent), will pay $6 billion a year to make it slightly easier for some fortunate students to acquire college degrees (the unemployment rate for college graduates: 4 percent).

Between now and July, the two parties will pretend that it is a matter of high principle how the government should pretend to “pay for” the $6 billion while borrowing $1 trillion this year. But bipartisanship will have been served by putting another entitlement on a path to immortality.

Campaigning recently at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., Romney warned students about their burden from the national debt, but when he took questions, the first questioner had something else on her peculiar mind: “So you’re all for like, ‘Yay, freedom,’ and all this stuff and ‘Yay, like, pursuit of happiness.’ You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”

While awaiting that eventual entitlement, perhaps she can land a subsidized loan so she can inexpensively continue to hone her interesting intellect.


By Ann Coulter
May 16, 2012

The real class warfare in this country isn't rich vs. poor, it's government employees vs. we, the taxpayers, who pay their salaries.

Working for the government is supposed to be a trade-off: You can't be fired and don't have to exert yourself, but you will receive smaller remuneration than in the private sector, where layoffs are common (especially in the Obama economy!). Instead, government jobs are safe, secure, pressure-free -- and now, amazingly lucrative!

Whether it's in Wisconsin, Illinois, California or the nation's capital, today's public sector workers expect to do little or no work (I'm not counting partying in Las Vegas as "work"), and then be lavishly compensated. Often, the only heavy lifting they do all week is picking up their paychecks.

When government employees mobbed the state capitol in Wisconsin last year, the upside was: They got to bully people. The downside: Voters finally found out what these public servants were being paid.

Their compensation included not only straight salary, but also lavish overtime benefits, pensions, health care plans, sick days and vacation time (most of which they spent protesting).

The unions thought they could fight back against Gov. Scott Walker's tiny rollbacks without anyone finding out the details. Most people saw what public employees were getting and assumed it was a misprint.

Two years ago, seven bus drivers in Madison, Wis., made more than $100,000 a year.

A few years before that, we found out that the city manager of little Bell, Calif. -- per capita annual income $24,800 -- was making $787,637, or including benefits: $1.5 million a year. The chief of police was getting $457,000 a year -- $770,046 counting benefits -- making him the first chief of police to commit highway robbery on the job. The assistant city manager was taking home $376,288 per year, for a total compensation package of $845,960.

All were Democrats, the party of Big Government.

Speaking of which -- whatever happened to that investigation Gov. Jerry Brown was launching into these thieving public servants drawing million-dollar pensions from California taxpayers? The Bell scandal broke during the California gubernatorial race between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, who was then state attorney general. Brown vowed a no-holds-barred inquiry.

Anyone seen his report yet?

Jerry Brown will demand to see Obama's birth certificate before he will call for a rollback of these undeserved, million-dollar government pensions.

Less than 20 percent of private sector employees get pensions. Most people save their own money for retirement -- for example, through 401(k)s. By contrast, government employees expect to be paid by us for the rest of their lives.

Former representative and amateur home pornographer Anthony Weiner was a member of Congress until he resigned last June in order to spend more time with his hard drive. He will probably end up collecting about a million dollars from his 80 percent taxpayer-funded government pension.

These are the "1 percent" deserving of the public's wrath: We're paying their salaries. We weren't taxed to pay Mitt Romney's salary at Bain Capital. We aren't taxed to pay the salaries of Jamie Dimon or Alex Rodriguez. Anthony Weiner? Him, we pay for.

Government employees expect to live like something out of the czar's court -- and then have us admire them as if they're Rosa Parks.

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Barack and Michelle Obama both paid heartfelt tributes to themselves for passing up money-grubbing private sector jobs to work in "public service."

In her speech, Michelle boasted that she had "tried to give back to this country."

"... That's why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities."

She was hired by the University of Chicago Hospital as soon as her husband became a state senator. When he was elected to the U.S. Senate, her salary nearly tripled, from $121,910 to $316,962 -- and the junior senator from Illinois returned the favor by sending taxpayer dollars the hospital's way.

By Obama's second year in the U.S. Senate, in 2006, Michelle Obama's compensation from "public service" was approximately $375,000 a year -- more than triple the average salary for a lawyer in the United States with 20 years' experience.

(America to the Obamas: "You two have sacrificed enough. Please retire and kick back a little!")

Vice President Joe Biden, long touted as the poorest U.S. senator, took home $248,459 in household income in 2006, including his public school teacher wife's salary, also paid by taxpayers. In 2007, these working poor made $319,853. This puts the couple nearly into the top 1 percent of all earners in the U.S., where the median household income was $48,201 in 2006 and $50,233 in 2007.

A career in "public service" pays well.