Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hillary's Path to 9/11
April 10, 2015

We will probably never know specifically what was on Hillary's email server (unless, as suggested by the Wall Street Journal, we subpoena China's military intelligence). But if the spell is finally and definitively broken, as the willingness of less-than-right-wing pundits at the New York TimesTime magazine and others to criticize Hillary without restraint suggests it might be, then we may yet learn many things about the world in which we live that we had no idea were being suppressed out of rapturous worship, or mortal terror, of the Clintons. We may emerge into a world of freedom and democracy that we had almost forgotten existed.

As just one example: Imagine for moment a world in which any of the movies Flight 93World Trade Center, Zero Dark 30, or American Sniper had been produced but never screened in theaters, because some cabal of politicians had objected and seen to it that the film would be censored, censured, and suppressed.

Stop imagining. That is exactly what happened to the prime-time ABC miniseries 'The Path to 9/11'. This film is arguably the most significant of the post-9/11 set, as it connects the dots between the first World Trade Center attack of 1993, the failure to neutralize Osama Bin Laden despite multiple opportunities, and the ultimate tragedy of September 11, 2001. 

Yet this 5-hour docudrama was aired only once in September 2006, with edits and cuts demanded by partisan censors, and then buried under orders of Robert Iger, president of the parent company, Disney. To this day it has not been released to the public on DVD. Why? The ostensible reasons are summarized by Wikipedia as "The film was controversial for its alleged misrepresentation of events and people, that some people called inaccurate, biased and included scenes that never happened." One would be hard-pressed to name a single historically-based or documentary film that couldn't be accused of the same to some degree, except that the bias of most that get produced emanates from the left. Fahrenheit 9/11Sicko and An Inconvenient Truth come to mind. Yet the controversy surrounding these and similar films have never, and are unlikely ever, to cause anyone to imagine the possibility that they might be banned from the public square.

What then made the case of “The Path to 9/11” different? The reason for the unprecedented censorship may be summarized in two words: The Clintons. The Clinton machine, jealous both for Bill's legacy and Hillary's 2008 White House ambitions, saw the film as a threat, and mobilized all of its heavy artillery to make Disney/ABC offers it couldn't refuse, first to edit and then to completely withdraw the film. 

At least 3 of Bill Clinton's attorneys, as well as allies and advisors to Hillary's 2008 presidential campaign in the Senate, the House, the media, and the blogosphere went into an overdrive campaign of public denunciations, back-channel maneuvers and direct threats to Disney and ABC's broadcast license: Clinton attorneys Richard Ben-Veniste, Bruce Lindsey, and Floyd Abrams; pundits Keith Olbermann (remember 'The Worst Person in the World'?), Judd Legum and Max Blumenthal; Senators Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, and Charles Schumer; and U.S. Representatives Louise Slaughter and Jim Moran, comprise the short list. Even Sandy Berger, National Security Advisor to Bill Clinton who had been convicted in 2005 of stealing classified documents from the national archives, was considered a credible public witness against the film. 

The writer of the film, Iranian-American Cyrus Nowrasteh, was painted as a right-wing extremist and member of a subversive conservative network infiltrating ABC having David Horrowitz as its godfather, despite Nowrasteh's previous partnerships with Oliver Stone and other not-quite-right-wing producers. Then they went after director David Cunningham for his shocking ties to a -- gasp! -- evangelical Christian ministry founded by his father.
Very few of the Clintonite critics had actually seen the film. As a result, while making the charge that the film was historically inaccurate for depicting scenes that never happened, many of them were reduced to making straw-man arguments against scenes that didn't exist in the movie.

No free-speech, civil libertarian or professional guild organization came to the producers' defense; not PEN America (even though Nowrasteh was a 2-time award winner), not the Director's Guild of America, nor the Writer's Guild of America, nor the Screen Actor's Guild, nor the ACLU. Participant Productions, maker of the anti-McCarthyism movie Good Night and Good Luck among others, posted a letter in support of the miniseries on its website, but quickly took it down under pressure from ex-Vice President Al Gore.

All of this happened within the last two weeks before the planned air dates of September 10th and 11th, 2006. Prior to that time, no one, including the executives at ABC and Disney, the attorneys that had vetted every scene of the heavily footnoted script, and the many liberal Democrats and Clinton voters who had senior roles in the production (this is Hollywood, after all) had expressed anything other than the greatest enthusiasm for the project and for its prospects as an annual commemoration broadcast. Members of the Bush administration, who didn't come away much less scathed than the Clintons in the movie, never protested.

In the end, all of this pressure may have been overkill. Bob Iger and the Disney political action committee were donors to Hillary Clinton's campaigns for several years. Iger forbade his employees from talking to anyone and pulled the plug, putting political considerations above his fiduciary duties to the Disney shareholders, going so far as to refuse to sell the film to prospective buyers. (Incidentally, if a corporation takes a $100-million loss for the sake of a political candidate, does that count as a campaign contribution for purposes of campaign finance laws? Just asking.) 

Nowrasteh and Cunningham have done an adequate job of responding point-by-point to their critic's more rational challenges to the film's historical accuracy, including explaining the obvious point that squeezing 70,000 hours of historical time into a 5-hour movie requires some amount of compression and amalgamation. But the bottom-line reason this film should be released is not because it is accurate, fair or true, or least of all because conservatives like it, but because we are a free society of mature adults governed, among other things, by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. No one is saying that Nowrasteh's and Cunningham's "Path to 9/11" has to be the last word -- unless, on the merits and in the marketplace, no one else is able to do a better job. Competition? Bring it on!

So when Hillary is finally out of the running for good sometime in the next three to nineteen months, will Bob Iger or his successors at Disney finally relent and release the film? Maybe if they feel enough heat in a different direction, including the direction of their own self-respect.

The suppression of this film is only one example of the latent effects of the Clinton intimidation machine. Once the fear is lifted, there's no telling what other revelations may be made to the American public. We might yet be able to shine a brighter light on how much of HillaryCare, thought to have been defeated in 1994, actually made it into the Clinton-Gingrich budget act of 1997, including price controls, caps on the number of medical student residencies, and interference in the patient/doctor relationship.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Ex-Duke coach on rape scandal, resignation

The lacrosse coach forced to resign in Duke rape scandal shows Bryant University the loyalty that he says Duke failed to show him

Mike Pressler (CBS News)
April 9, 2015

Above all be loyal. It could be the motto of Bryant lacrosse coach Mike Pressler. It's the reason he hasn't taken other colleges' offers to triple his salary. He's loyal to Bryant, because it hired him after Duke University showed him zero loyalty when it forced him to resign nine years ago in the "Duke rape scandal" that turned out to be a big lie. Pressler speaks at length about his life during and after the scandal for a 60 Minutes story reported by Armen Keteyian, which also includes a Duke athletic department director in a rare interview expressing regret over Pressler's treatment. Keteyian's report will be broadcast Sunday, April 12 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Bryant University in Rhode Island hired Pressler a few months after he was forced to resign by Duke amid the lacrosse team rape scandal caused by the false accusations of a stripper. The national scandal frightened even his own college alma mater; it would only agree to meet him off of its campus for a job interview.
Pressler appreciated Bryant's offer. After the three Duke lacrosse players were declared innocent, other schools sought to hire the former Division I coach of the year. But Pressler turned down the big money. "[Loyalty] is everything...everything. And without that, as a man, you have nothing," he tells Keteyian.
At Bryant, he so improved the lacrosse program that the Division II team was moved up a notch to Division I, where it distinguished itself against some of the nation's top teams. Ron Machtley, Bryant's president, says Pressler is an inspiration to the team and society. "He's never come to me and said, 'Ron, can you match this offer?' He has made a commitment to stay here and that kind of loyalty, which he showed to his team and which his team ultimately showed back to him is something that's very rare in society today."
To turn down the money and the fancy perks that came with it was the only way, says Pressler. "Got to go back to the events of the summer of '06. For me to turn and-- and leave a place... the administration that has given me and my family so much...I couldn't live with myself," he tells Keteyian.
As the false accusations took wind in 2006, he says he was advised to distance himself from his team. "That was, like, blasphemy...We don't run...don't quit, you finish what you start at all costs," says Pressler. The costs were high. He received hate mail and calls, hate signs were placed in front of his home mocking his support of "the Duke rapists." "Google up one of the boys' names, my saw the word 'rape,' 'sexual assault' next to your name... that just was-- even today, I get emotional about it," says Pressler. At the height of the scandal, Duke told him to resign or risk being fired.
Chris Kennedy, senior deputy director of athletics at Duke, says there was a chaotic atmosphere on campus. Duke was in the national news every day over a false story framed by class, race and sex in a Southern town. He felt for the players. "It was painful because you had 46 kids who were really suffering who knew for a long period of time...some number were going to be indicted based on no evidence whatsoever," he says. "Imagine the stress of that on the kids and on their parents and everything." Kennedy says many at the university have come to regret what it did to Pressler. "I think that a lot of officials at the university have come to the realization or came to the realization within a year or so that probably, Mike shouldn't have lost his job."

The Iran deal: Anatomy of a disaster

By Charles Krauthammer
April 9, 2015

President Barack Obama speaks about the negotiations to curb Iran's nuclear technologies during a statement in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Iran and and six world powers have agreed on the outlines of an understanding that would open the path to a final phase of nuclear negotiations but are in a dispute over how much to make public. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
President Barack Obama speaks about the negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear technologies during a statement in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 2.. (J. David Ake/AP)

Negotiations . . . to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability . . .
— Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, the Wall Street Journal, April 8
It was but a year and a half ago that Barack Obama endorsed the objective of abolition when he said that Iran’s heavily fortified Fordow nuclear facility, its plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor and its advanced centrifuges were all unnecessary for a civilian nuclear program. The logic was clear: Since Iran was claiming to be pursuing an exclusively civilian program, these would have to go.
Yet under the deal Obama is now trying to sell, not one of these is to be dismantled. Indeed, Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure is kept intact, just frozen or repurposed for the length of the deal (about a decade). Thus Fordow’s centrifuges will keep spinning. They will now be fed xenon, zinc and germanium instead of uranium. But that means they remain ready at any time to revert from the world’s most heavily (indeed comically) fortified medical isotope facility to a bomb-making factory.
And upon the expiration of the deal, conceded Obama Monday on NPR, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear bomb will be “almost down to zero,” i.e., it will be able to produce nuclear weapons at will and without delay.
And then there’s cheating. Not to worry, says Obama. We have guarantees of compliance: “unprecedented inspections” and “snapback” sanctions.
The inspection promises are a farce. We haven’t even held the Iranians to their current obligation to come clean with the International Atomic Energy Agency on their previous nuclear activities. The IAEA charges Iran with stonewalling on 11 of 12 issues.
As veteran nuclear expert David Albright points out, that makes future verification impossible — how can you determine what’s been illegally changed or added if you have no baseline? Worse, there’s been no mention of the only verification regime with real teeth — at-will, unannounced visits to any facility, declared or undeclared. The joint European-Iranian statement spoke only of “enhanced access through agreed procedures,” which doesn’t remotely suggest anywhere/anytime inspections. And on Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures.”
The IAEA hasn’t been allowed to see the Parchin weaponization facility in 10 years. And the massive Fordow complex was disclosed not by the IAEA but by Iranian dissidents.
Yet even if violations are found, what then? First, they have to be certified by the IAEA. Which then reports to the United Nations, where Iran has the right to challenge the charge. Which then has to be considered, argued and adjudicated. Which then presumably goes to the Security Council where China, Russia and sundry anti-Western countries will act as Iran’s lawyers. Which all would take months — after which there is no guarantee that China and Russia will ratify the finding anyway.
As for the “snapback” sanctions — our last remaining bit of pressure — they are equally fantastic. There’s no way sanctions will be re-imposed once they have been lifted. It took a decade to weave China, Russia and the Europeans into the current sanctions infrastructure. Once gone, it doesn’t snap back. None will pull their companies out of a thriving, post-sanctions Iran. As Kissinger and Shultz point out, we will be fought every step of the way, leaving the United States, not Iran, isolated.
Obama imagines that this deal will bring Iran in from the cold, tempering its territorial ambitions and ideological radicalism. But this defies logic: With sanctions lifted, its economy booming and tens of billions injected into its treasury, why would Iran curb rather than expand its relentless drive for regional dominance?
An overriding objective of these negotiations, as Obama has said, is to prevent the inevitable proliferation — Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf states — that would occur if Iran went nuclear. Yet the prospective agreement is so clearly a pathway to an Iranian bomb that the Saudis are signaling that the deal itself would impel them to go nuclear.
You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.
What is the alternative, asks the president? He’s repeatedly answered the question himself: No deal is better than a bad deal.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Boston Marathon Jihad Murderer Tsarnaev Guilty

Posted By Robert Spencer On April 9, 2015 @ 12:58 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | No Comments

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev flag
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev posing with a flag similar in style to ones used by Islamic radicals. This photo was pulled from Instagram during an investigation. (US Attorney's Office)

The guilty verdict came as no surprise to anyone, least of all Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense attorney, Judy Clarke, who told the court last month, “It was him.” Tsarnaev could now face the death penalty, and it would be richly deserved, given the fact that he and his brother deliberately placed a bomb filled with nails behind a row of children, hoping to maximize the number of people they murdered, and subjected eight-year-old Martin Richard to a gruesome and excruciatingly painful death.

Whether or not he is executed, however, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a vivid illustration of the abject failure and catastrophic wrongheadedness of the Obama administration’s approach to the jihad threat. For if the mainstream and dominant analysis of the jihad terror threat is true, then Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should have been the last young Muslim in the U.S. to become a jihad terrorist: he had everything that mainstream analysts claim Muslims turn to terrorism because they don’t have.

Terrorism, we are often told, is a reaction to political instability. Young Muslims growing up under repressive dictatorships strike out for justice in the only way that is available to them: by joining jihad terror groups. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, however, didn’t grow up amid any political unrest: his family was granted political asylum in the United States when he was eight years old.

Dzhokhar was no deprived and marginalized immigrant. He attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and received a $2,500 scholarship from the City of Cambridge when he graduated in 2011. Then he went to the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth, where to all appearances he was a completely Westernized moderate Muslim with an outlook that was little different from that of his fellow students.

John Kerry, if he is paying attention to the Tsarnaev case at all, should be nonplussed. Here is a young man who was saved from political tumult in his homeland (Tsarnaev was born in Kyrgyzstan but spent most of his early life in Chechnya) by the United States of America, open as always to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free. Once here, he enjoyed a comfortable middle-class existence, attending fine schools in the Boston area – in part due to the generosity of the City of Cambridge. He showed no signs of cultural alienation, having a wide circle of friends and appearing to them to be a fully American youth.

So what went wrong? If it wasn’t poverty, lack of opportunity, and alienation, then what drove young Dzhokhar to jihad, Mr. Kerry? Dzhokhar’s defense team and the mainstream media have tried to portray him as completely under the spell of his older brother Tamerlan, who was supposedly a jihadist Svengali leading his bedazzled and impressionable younger brother down the path to mass murder for Islam.

If that were true, it is nonetheless obvious that Dzhokhar was an apt and willing pupil. While hiding out in a pleasure boat just before his arrest, Dzhokhar wrote that he did it for the umma, the worldwide Muslim community: “the bombings were in retribution for the U.S. crimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan that the victims of the Boston bombing were collateral damage, in the same way innocent victims have been collateral damage in U.S. wars around the world. Summing up, that when you attack one Muslim you attack all Muslims.” He didn’t think that he shouldn’t exact this “revenge” in light of the fact that America had been very, very good to him.

There also emerged during his trial a photograph of Dzhokhar sitting underneath the black flag of jihad and raising his right index finger in the gesture of adherence to Islamic monotheism that has become the symbol of loyalty to the Islamic State. Clearly the younger brother was as convinced and dedicated an Islamic jihadist as the elder – it is hard to imagine that if he weren’t, he would have gone along with Tamerlan’s mass murder plot, no matter how much he adored him.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should never have become a jihadist, if the mainstream view of what creates jihadists were remotely true: he was not poor, he was not uneducated, he was not deprived of opportunities. In fact, he had it all. And what do you get for the young jihadi who has everything? Apparently, a pressure cooker bomb packed with nails.

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Today's Tune: Robert Earl Keen - Hot Corn, Cold Corn

Robert Earl Keen Talks Breaking the Bluegrass Law

"Nobody has ever told me what to do," says the Texas singer-songwriter about his unorthodox new album 'Happy Prisoner'


If he appears comfortable, it's probably because he is — here, in the office of his new label, Dualtone Records, where he just finished a meeting over takeout pizza ("You sure you don't want a slice?" he insists) and here in Nashville, where he's been coming to co-write with various Music Row pros. He's also pretty cozy in his new role as bluegrass interpreter with February's Happy Prisoner, his album of covers from across the genre, which took the master Texan songwriter back to his childhood roots of Flatt, Scruggs and honing his chops alongside contest fiddlers, furiously sweating to keep in time. It also helped him recall the trappings of teenage romance.

"I went on my first date — stupid, stupid, stupid — to a bluegrass festival," he says in a voice that sounds a little bit like the Dude from The Big Lebowski, if he were a literature professor at Oberlin. "I had just gotten my driver's license and I took this girl from down the street that I really liked. But I think she was a little baffled by the whole thing — she liked pop music, and this was in pretty deep Texas. Pretty hillbilly, pretty weird." They kept in touch for a while after that, but it was the music he couldn't shake.

Keen — who is often mentioned in the same breath as fellow Lone Star folk-country deities Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Steve Earle — actually was weaned on bluegrass, even beyond that one misguided outing where he thought a mandolin jam might make a nice adolescent aphrodisiac. Happy Prisoner charts the music that he played on the front porch while at Texas A&M, picking alongside speedy takes on Bill Monroe and the Carter Family. Keen insists you can hear hints of Appalachia all across his creations.

"I have a real soft spot for a murder ballad," he says, his brows rising. "And some of my songs are not the most upbeat things, lyrically. I think the head count on A Bigger Piece of Sky was about 38 people. I like the drama of knocking off a few people in your songs. And it really locked me into my guitar style. I can almost never strum a guitar like 'zing-zing-zing.' I have to do an alternating bass thing, and that came from bluegrass."

That pattern of play suited him well: As he told stories of the renegade life, the outsider and the outlaw, those instincts to slap the strings with the restlessness of a lost mountain soul proved fruitful in driving his "cinematic" landscapes, as he describes them. And then there's "The Road Goes on Forever," which has become a veritable Texas anthem that commits more crimes than the Louvin Brothers on "Knoxville Girl" and Jimmie Rodgers on "Frankie and Johnny" combined. As the years went by, Keen became known more and more for that imaginative, often dark lyrical hand and skewered take on the Americana crown. But at the end of the day, it was bluegrass that made up the bulk of what he listened to in his spare time.

But it's always a special kind of risk when an artist lauded for their songwriting — Keen was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012 — decides to put out a record of covers. There's that usual line of questioning: Mr. Keen, have you run out of songs?

Courtesy of Dualtone Records

"I was worried people would immediately [ask that]," he says, recalling a story where a reporter back in Austin demanded to know that very thing. "But I've also gotten to this age and place in my career where I really don't give a shit."

Keen had wanted to make this record for years, and finally, one morning in June a few summers back, he decided to call producer Lloyd Maines and go for it (Maines had produced Keen's last album, Ready for Confetti, in 2011). They booked studio time and rounded up the band. As for giving a shit: Well, that's never exactly been Keen's thing.

He certainly wasn't worried about catering to the "grassholes" or bluegrass purists when he started to put together Happy Prisoner, but he did want to show the breadth of a genre to people who mistakenly think it's all about one specific sound. Or to those who think bluegrass is something akin to Mumford & Sons. There's Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe on the LP, sure, but there's also contemporary songs like Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," all picked to show a dynamic spectrum that isn't often given a spotlight.

"I wanted to show the nuance in bluegrass. It's not just all in G, playing as fast as you can," Keen says, motioning his hand up and down as if he were quick strumming the guitar. "And I also wanted people to hear how cool bluegrass music is. I didn't want to be the torchbearer for it because I've never thought of myself as a great singer, certainly not a bluegrass singer, but I really did want to have some kind of rebirth and put it out there so people would go, 'Yeah, this is great music.'"

And the songs do ooze cool. The gravely depths of Keen's voice takes them out of traditional high-pitch howl into something halfway between Tom Waits and those Texas A&M porch sessions with good pal Lyle Lovett (who guests on the album). It's bluegrass, for sure, but more fun and less staid than most modern tributes to the genre, which can get caught up in ideas of purity or rule-abiding rather than taking its rich historical bones and making something that sounds fresh and current.

A lot of it is owed to Keen's vocals, which never once try to emulate that traditional Appalachian yodel. They're just as raw and loose as always, delivered as if he's casually firing out the songs in his Hill Country living room with a bunch of pals who happen to be expert pickers. Not having written any of the tracks, Keen found himself with a renewed freedom to focus more on instrumentation and less on punching out a particular lyric — though it also gave him a little bit more of an impetus to worry about whether or not he was actually singing them properly.

"One time I fell in love with this Charlie Rich song, 'There Won't Be Anymore,'" he says, straightening up in the chair a bit and replacing his hat. "And I was determined to sing it. I put it in every key I could and I just couldn't sing it. I would love to be able to, but I just sounded like shit. So there was that thought, that no matter what I did, I would be able to sing these songs."

Keen realized the best approach was to just sing as he sings anything — and bring in a little help from Maines' daughter, Natalie, who was a diehard bluegrass fan long before her Dixie Chicks days. She offers vocals to the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger," as does Lovett on "T for Texas," which was once covered by their old buddy Townes. Their version, unlike Van Zandt's, which rang like a bittersweet ode, is a celebration. In fact, that's the driving thread of the record — the pursuit of clever interpretation rather than purely aping what's been done before.

As much as Happy Prisoner may have been a surprise, Keen's been working on something that's even more shocking: He's putting in hours on Music Row in co-writing sessions, looking not for the next big piece of poetry but the next big Billboard topper. "I would just like to have a hit," he admits. "I feel like one of the things I had not accomplished, which I didn't always feel was very important, was that. So I started coming here last October, and I didn't realize [co-writes] are so fun. I've written with a lot of shitty writers that didn't have any good ideas, but my friend Bobby sets me up with people who really know how to write and play."

Bobby is Bobby Rymer, who owns the Writer's Den Music Group, and whose roster is responsible for hits recorded by Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson. Keen wouldn't mind banking one or two himself — he's always been outside that particular steely gate of mainstream country music, which, until now, felt like its own kind of prison. That might be a strange concept for his diehard fans, but he's not blinking.

"Nobody has ever told me what to do," he shrugs, drawing his feet back onto the floor as those pink and purple socks disappear. "But I don't think anybody has ever thought of me as someone you can mold very well. I don't know," he adds, smiling, "maybe I just look that way."

Dwight Yoakam on Returning to Cowpunk Roots for Fiery 'Second Hand Heart'

Country star says Beck was the catalyst for him to rev up his sound again


For 38 nights last fall, Dwight Yoakam brought his rhinestone-bedazzled honky-tonk show to arenas for the first time in more than a decade — but instead of headlining, Yoakam was the opening act on Eric Church's Outsiders tour. "A lot of the audience was new to anything older than three or four years old in country music," says Yoakam, 58. "It was almost like walking out and playing early in my career when people were just getting to know me."

The feeling of plunging into his past extends to Yoakam's upcoming album, Second Hand Heart (due April 14th). It's a return to Yoakam's fiery "cowpunk" sound, which he discovered in the late Seventies, after striking out in Nashville, moving to L.A. and opening for punk and rock bands like X and Los Lobos. The album features his best songs in years: from the title track, a Roy Orbison-like ballad about falling back in love that's built around a Stonesy riff, to a revved-up punk take on "Man of Constant Sorrow." "It's that collision of Bill Monroe meeting the Ramones that embodies the nightclubs we came out of," Yoakam says.
The man Johnny Cash called his favorite male singer has never been a typical country star. Yoakam favors complex Beatles-influenced melodies, has been a successful actor (see Sling Blade) and never drank alcohol or did drugs. "I had enough problems without flicking the match in that dynamite shack," he says. His 1986 debut featured hits like "Honky Tonk Man" and "Guitars, Cadillacs," and Yoakam went on to sell 25 million albums over the next decade. The hits dried up in the mid-Nineties, around the time his acting career took off.

Yoakam went seven years without releasing an album of original songs, breaking the spell with 2012's 3 Pears. That record included two cuts co-produced by Beck, a collaboration Yoakam says was the catalyst for him to rev up his sound again on Second Hand Heart. Now, Yoakam is back playing theaters and casinos, and he no longer cares about making the charts. "I don't have that burden on me at this point," he says. "I had a great run."    

From The Archives Issue 1231: March 26, 2015

Today's Tune: Dwight Yoakam: Second Hand Heart

Dwight Yoakam: Nothing ‘Second Hand’ About New Music

Dwight Yoakam is tying up the last years of his 50s, and has been making records for three of those decades. Given that, it’s a bit ironic that he is managing to be one of the freshest, most cutting-edge artists in country music. His 2012 set, Three Pears, marked a return to the studio after a five-year absence; it critically racked up a (highly rare) A+ report card across the board. Now, he’s poised to release Second Hand Heart, a follow-up that’s stirring up comparisons to his 1986 honky-tonk soaked debut.
That outlaw edge, of course, is one of a number of currently hot trends in Nashville. Yoakam’s take on the sound, however, sounds effortless, boundlessly creative, and completely unselfconscious; caring not one whit whether it fits any trend whatsoever. And, by way of that, sounding far more daring than anything currently being released.
“My entire career has not been anticipating what will be commercial,” Yoakam explains. “It’s about doing what I find exciting musically and what will entertain me musically." 
That said: "I think there’s a sense of immediacy about this record,” he notes. “Thats is why folks are responding to it being a return or coming full circle to how I began…energetically it has to do with the spontaneity of the scene that I broke out, which they used to call cowpunk here in LA in the early ‘80s." 
 Second Hand Heart not only employs vintage Yoakam vibes, it also incorporates some of his musical influences, such as the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. "California’s not a literal theme on this record but it’s certainly the musical influence that drew me here in the first place.It’s not a literal album about California, but it certainly is musically.”

Yoakam also drew upon classic influences, such as the Beatles, for 3 Pears, and explains that he feels he’s continuing the vibe with his new album. “I ended up kind of completing the thought of 3 Pears with this record,” he adds. “3 Pears was a catalyst for where I went with this album.”
Between the two albums, Yoakam’s sound is likely going to capture an entire new generation of country fans – ones who are seeking something different from the current crop of radio hits available. Yoakam is optimistic that both new and old fans alike will enjoy the tunes. “The entire record, Second Hand Heart, I hope it’s something that captures the imagination of the new audience that has arrived for country music,” he says.
“Hopefully this new material is discovered by not only the new audience for country music but the traditional audience for country music.”
Overall, Yoakam has the most enviable position an artist can boast: “To still be able to make my living and be able to perform this music…it really does feel like a lucky continuing stream of events for me in my life,” he reflects. 
“From then to now I don’t regret anything about the records I’ve made and that’s a really fortunate statement to be able to make on my part.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

More or less

The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?

By Eamon Duffy
31 January 2015
Anton Lesser as Thomas More in the BBC dramatisation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall
Anton Lesser as Thomas More in the BBC dramatisation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall Photo: BBC

Judging by the media coverage, the BBC dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s brilliant reimagining of the court of Henry VIII has unleashed a wave of Tudor frenzy. Great fiction based in fact, Wolf Hall seems set to shape a generation’s perception of what really happened in the most formative age in English history.

For admirers of St Thomas More this could be bad news. More’s reputation for humanity and integrity survived his execution for high treason, and even England’s repudiation of the Catholic faith for which he died. 

Two generations on, Shakespeare collaborated in Sir Thomas More, a play portraying a man who embodies good humour, good sense, decency and justice. There was a stream of admiring biographies, above all the eyewitness memoir by his son-in-law William Roper, the ultimate source for Robert Bolt’s play and film A Man for All Seasons.

We know More better than almost anyone else in Tudor England. We are familiar with his eloquence, learning and often risqué humour, his legal reforms and judicial integrity, and his sardonic realism about the snake-pit of Tudor politics. Roper’s words and Holbein’s paintings open windows into More’s household at Chelsea, full of laughter, music and exotic pets, where girls were treated as equal to boys and taught Greek and Latin to a standard that would shame any modern undergraduate. 

But More’s reputation has fallen on hard times. For centuries, he was an icon of innocent suffering for conscience’s sake; more recently, he has been represented as a hypocrite, a bigot and a persecutor. The More of Wolf Hall is the latest and most powerful example of this reversal. Mantel’s character is More as he was perceived by his enemies – a joyless puritan, a man whose social charm but cruel humour masked a steely religious bigotry. He is a sneering misogynist who enjoys humiliating the women in his household. Above all, he is a religious fanatic, flogging himself in a fear-driven piety, obsessively writing vitriolic and obscene polemical books, implacably hunting down defenceless Protestants, imprisoning and torturing them in his own cellars. 

Far from being the innocent victim of a cruel regime, this More is a calculating political schemer, treated better than he deserved. After More’s arrest, Thomas Audley, the contemptible climber who succeeded More as Lord Chancellor and pronounced the death sentence on him, tells him: “We spare you the methods that you used on others.”

One of the avowed motives of Wolf Hall was to correct the idealised picture of A Man for All Seasons. In this unforgettable but misleading portrait, More featured as an icon for twentieth-century liberals, defending the rights of the individual against a coercive society. Bolt projected on to his hero opinions More would have indignantly repudiated; Mantel’s starker portrait has sixteenth-century warrant, and far greater plausibility.

For it is perfectly true that as a Crown agent, and then as Lord Chancellor, More did pursue heretics. He never presided at a heresy trial (no layman could) and he never condemned anyone to death for their religious beliefs. In his autobiographical Apology, he refuted the charges of torture and maltreatment of suspects that Wolf Hall reports, accusations that, through John Foxe’s hostile elaboration in his Elizabethan propaganda work, Actes and Monuments, nevertheless persisted down the centuries.

In an age when all but one of the bishops had perjured themselves by signing up to the Royal Supremacy, More died rather than swear an oath he did not believe. We can therefore trust his solemn insistence that no one in his custody for heresy had ever suffered “so much as a flip on the forehead”, much less been tortured. Yet in the 1520s, he was undoubtedly the most active agent in Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey’s campaign against heresy. In collaboration with the gentle humanist Bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall, More led a series of nocturnal raids on London houses and warehouses in search of forbidden Lutheran books and, as was routine in that age, he imprisoned and interrogated suspects in his house in Chelsea.

In the early 1530s, he wrote thousands of pages of ferocious polemic against the Reformation, defending the execution of stubborn heretics in language whose violence can make even the most ardent admirer quail. Heretics at the stake, he insisted, were “the devil’s stinking martyrs”, not men of conscience but “mischievous persons” driven by “desire of a large liberty to an unbridled lewdness”. He insisted that unrepentant heretics were “well burnt” and went “straight from the temporal fire to the eternal”.

In the age of Islamic State and al-Qaeda, we are deeply suspicious of anyone who thinks God wants us to kill other people, whatever the motive. But More’s world was not our world. By the standards of his age, he was a compassionate and just man. But he never questioned a legal system that imposed the death penalty not only for heresy or murder, but even for quite minor thefts. And like most of his contemporaries, he believed that heresy was a kind of spiritual murder. 

He viewed the preaching of heresy as we do the peddling of hard drugs, a moral cancer that ruined lives, corrupted the young, dissolved the bonds of truth and morality, and undermined the fabric of Christian society. He was horrified by the religious wars tearing Europe apart in the 1520s, shattering the vision of Christian harmony that he and Erasmus had promoted in their writings. Like Erasmus, More blamed those wars on Luther and his followers, and he feared that the spread of Protestantism would wreak the same havoc in England.
He believed he had a duty to persuade, coax and, if necessary, coerce heretics to abandon their beliefs – or at least to stay silent about them. A man must indeed follow his conscience. But if a misguided conscience led him to propagate evil opinions, he must either repudiate those errors when they were pointed out to him, or take the consequences.

Several recent biographers have found the apparent contradiction between the genial humanist and saint of tradition, and the implacable opponent of heresy, impossible to resolve. So they have cut the Gordian knot, rejecting as pious fiction the testimony of Erasmus and of More’s sixteenth-century biographers that he was as attractive as he was brilliant, and substituting instead the portrait of an unreconstructed bigot and sadist, in the words of Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell, “a blood-soaked hypocrite”. 

But the portrait that emerges is too dark. It is impossible to imagine the sour-faced More played by Anton Lesser stepping in among the Christmas players at Cardinal Morton’s court – as the young More did – to improvise his own hilarious role; or writing the 100 “merry tales” that light up even the most serious of his English works; or cracking the last great joke of all, as he climbed the rickety scaffold to his death: “I pray you, Master Lieutenant, see me safely up, and as for my coming down, you may leave me to shift for myself.”

More was neither blood-soaked nor a hypocrite, but he was a man of his times, not of ours. In the spring of 1535, while he languished in the Tower, William Tyndale was arrested in Brussels. A year later, Tyndale was strangled and burned as a heretic. 

More and Tyndale were old and bitter enemies. But like More, Tyndale was a man consumed by passion for the truth, and a scholar and translator of transcendent genius. Most of what we admire in the magnificent language of the King James Bible goes back to him. More too believed the Bible should be available in English. But Tyndale taught that the Pope was Antichrist and the Catholic Church a Satanic conspiracy against God’s work. More thought Tyndale’s Bible would poison the wells and corrupt the hearts and minds of innocent Christians. 
Yet the two men, so deeply divided in religion, were united in the conviction that truth was worth dying for. Both believed that society must be rooted in truth, and that God’s truth had to be defended against brute power and political expediency – even if it cost the defender their liberty and their lives. 

Tyndale’s vitriolic hatred of the papacy now seems unbalanced, just as More’s rejection of Tyndale’s sublime biblical work seems blinkered. They died for opposing understandings of the Gospel. But both died as witnesses that truth mattered, that in a truly human society both law and liberty must be rooted in something deeper, more objective and more enduring than personal preference, political expediency or naked power. Neither would have looked to Cromwell for a soul-mate.

Eamon Duffy is professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and the author of The Stripping of the Altars