Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RIP, Harry Stamper


I'm very sorry to say that my friend Tom Stamper's brother Harry Stamper died last Friday:
On Friday, March 9th, 2012 folksinger Harry Stamper passed away at his home in Charleston, Oregon. Harry Stanford Stamper, Jr. was born September 20th, 1944 to Harry and Viola Stamper in Roanoke, Virginia. Harry wrote prolifically on a range of subjects, although he was best known for his labor songs and his work with the ILWU, his union for 37 years. His song, “We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die” is considered a classic in labor and folk song circles. The song is featured on Classic Labor Songs from Smithsonian Folkways and on the album We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die: Songs of Health and Safety. Harry’s music has been recorded and performed by a wide array of musicians including Anne Feeney, Citizen’s Band and General Strike. Stamper’s lyrics were featured in Sing Out!
Tom introduced me to Harry many years ago, and I was especially honored to have him play an extended, hilarious and raucous set at my Open Mike in Ashland, in around 2005. Harry was a pro, a true pro, and an extremely funny, engaging, thoughtful, whip-quick, and just plain human human to be around. He was just a very special man, and it made my life better just to know him the little bit I did.

Sorry for the loss of your brother, Tom.

Here's an Oregon Public Broadcasting clip from 2001 on Harry. They did a nice job.



P.S. Found this, too. Very nice:
A musical tribute in Harry’s honor will be held at the ILWU Local 12 Hiring Hall, 2064 Sherman Ave., North Bend, Oregon on Saturday, March 17th at 2 p.m. The family wishes to make it a party that Harry would have liked to attend. Holly says, “We want to pack the house.” So come on prepared to play, sing and/or tell stories and celebrate a life well lived.


Friday, December 23, 2011

"The Wild Holiday Goose"

Dal Carver, owner of the Wild Goose Cafe in Ashland, Oregon, and an extraordinarily gifted piano and keyboard player, and I, a ne'er-do-well folkie, came up with the idea for this album in 2005 or so. In October. With the help of a mindblowingly great group of musicians and recording people (Tom Freeman), it was finished in six weeks. We sold a thousand or so, gave all the profits to local schools for art programs. Bonus: I only sing one song on it. You're welcome.

No lie: this is a really great album. Try "Jingle Bells" first and you'll understand.

  The Wild Holiday Goose by Little Thom

I'll get all the track info soon.

And why someone in Germany is selling one I do not know.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sailing From Sydney to Hobart, Tasmania


I mentioned the other day that I may be going on a sailing trip. Well, the details have been worked out, and tomorrow or Thursday (Australia time) I'll be headed to Hobart, Tasmania, on a 38-foot sailboat. Skipper: Craig. Crew: Me. (Home, gnawing fingernails on walls, ceiling: Christine.)

Short story shorter: Craig, friend of Christine's who lives in Hobart, bought a sailboat on the internet a few months ago. It's here in Sydney, so he flew up last Thursday to get it ready and sail it back home. I had expressed interest in tagging along when I first heard about this some months ago, but Craig said he had had a close friend going back with him, and said no. I forgot about it. On Thursday, when Craig got here, he said that his friend had backed out. There ya go. 

It's take up to two weeks. Highlight of the trip: the Bass Strait.


I'll be out of internet and phone range for much or all of that time. Hobart is way down there: Nothing but open water between us and Antarctica. I will of course have much to post here when I return.

The route is the same as taken in a what is a very famous race here, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, held every year stating Boxing Day.

Did I mention I've never sailed before? (I have been on the sea, as I said in that other post.)

Here's the boat (second one out). Best I could do for now:




Here's Craig showing Christine around, up on the bow:




Skipper Craig and Christine on the Southern Ocean.




Sunday, November 06, 2011

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Stephen Colbert's Super PAC

Stephen Colbert - he of of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report - is doing something extraordinary to American politics, through the forming of his Super PAC, "Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow." It is not often that you get to witness someone of Colbert's stature pull off a stunt like this: using a law (or in this case Supreme Court rulings) to highlight the absurdity of said law. The whole thing is downright Mark Twainian.

To get a proper idea of what Colbert is doing, look at it this way: If the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that said it was perfectly legal for really rich people to designate their homes as foreign countries - thereby making them off-limits to U.S. police organizations - Colbert would right now have a mansion next to the White House with a 24-hour-a-day, Las Vegas-themed, gangster/biker party going on, complete with drug-fueled machine-gun target practice contests, strippers in every window, and dogfights in the front yard. And possibly live kitten barbecues on the veranda.

And there would be nothing the cops could do, because Congress made it legal for really rich people - and Stephen Colbert is definitely one of those - to designate their homes as foreign countries. (Colbert's would probably be called "Colbertistanistan.")

Except Colbert wouldn't be doing because he's a rich asshole - he'd be doing it to show how horribly unDemocratic and morally perverse the Supreme Court ruling was. And that's exactly what he's doing here.

The Supreme Court ruling Colbert is lampooning is actually two recent rulings, and they concern one thing: the role money plays in political campaigns in the U.S. In this case by the way of the "Super PAC."

What's a Super PAC? It's a brand new kind of "political action committee" (see last link for more on them), an organization that raises and spends money on advertising for or against candidates for public office. If you want to spend money on political candidates - apart from contributions directly to a candidate or a political party (these have their own rules) - it has to go through a PAC. It's the law. PACs have been around for a while,  but they used to have restrictions: Corporations, unions, and individuals used to have strict limits on how much money they could give to PACs; and PACs were only allowed to spend so much money. Why? Because it was believed that allowing extremely wealthy corporations, unions, or individuals to spend enormous amounts of money on political advertising gave them an unfair advantage over us regular schmoes who don't have yacht-loads of cash to spend on such things - which isn't exactly rocket science.

As of the Summer of 2010, those restrictions are gone. Thanks to those recent Supreme Court rulings. (Well, some restrictions remain, but many are gone.) What effect did it have? 84 Super PACs were quickly formed, and, over the course of only a couple months, they spent $65,326,957 on the 2010 midterm elections. $65,326,957. That's four times as much as was spent on the 2006 midterms, and while election spending has been rising for a long time, that was a very unprecedented jump. (How much did you spend on the 2010 elections? Did it have the effect you wanted? And read this, about the current election cycle, which is just getting started. Or don't.)

Stephen Colbert looked at all of this and thought it was just nuts. Which it of course is. And he decided he was going to show just how nuts it was. How? By forming his own Super PAC. And he did it. Stephen Colbert can now hold the equivalent of drug-fueled machine-gun target practice contests, with strippers in the windows and dogfights on the lawn - right in the middle of the American political election process, and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it. (He'll probably spare the kittens. He seems like a nice guy.)

An excerpt from Colbert's viictory speech after getting the okay for the Super PAC from the FEC:
Sixty days ago today, on this very spot, a young man petitioned the FEC for permission to form a super PAC, to raise unlimited monies and use those monies to determine the winners of the 2012 elections. Moments ago, the Federal Election Commission made their ruling. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to say … We won!
"Sorry to say" is exactly right.

It's going to be a very interesting 2012 election year. Maybe some of it will be the good kind of interesting - thanks to Stephen Colbert.

All 2012 Super PACs.

Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow

[pic]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fukushima Much Worse Than Previously Thought

In other words - of course they were lying:
The Fukushima nuclear disaster released twice as much of a radioactive substance into the atmosphere as Japanese authorities estimated, reaching 40 percent of the total from Chernobyl, a preliminary report says.
The estimate of much higher levels of radioactive cesium-137 comes from a worldwide network of sensors. Study author Andreas Stohl of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research says the Japanese government estimate came only from data in Japan, and that would have missed emissions blown out to sea. 
The study did not consider health implications of the radiation. Cesium-137 is dangerous because it can last for decades in the environment, releasing cancer-causing radiation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

High School Teacher Faces Fines For Registering Students to Vote

Things that make me want to bite a moving train Number Googelty-million:
The teacher who heads up New Smyrna Beach High School's student government association could face thousands of dollars in fines. Her transgression? Helping students register to vote. 
Prepping 17-year-olds for the privileges and responsibilities of voting in a democracy is nothing new for civics teachers, but when Jill Cicciarelli organized a drive at the start of the school year to get students pre-registered, she ran afoul of Florida's new and controversial election law. 
Among other things, the new rules require that third parties who sign up new voters register with the state and that they submit applications within 48 hours. The law also reduces the time for early voting from 14 days to eight and requires voters who want to give a new address at the polls to use a provisional ballot.

Northern Lights Visible in Southern U.S.


Of course this happens after I move to the Southern Hemisphere:
A baffling solar storm pulled colorful northern lights unusually far south, surprising space weather experts. 
TV stations in Georgia and Kentucky reported people calling about the sky show Monday night. And NASA posted a photo from Huntsville, Ala. Southerners normally don't get to see the vibrant red and green aurora borealis.

They even saw them in Texas! I saw a green curtain effect aurora in Alaska when I worked there in the 1980s - but in the Lower 48? Never. Lucky.

MSNBC has a few shots that people sent in. One, from Wisconsin:








Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Electric Bonsai Band

Good gads, I was just persuing Twitter when Will Wheaton - yes, the kid in Star Trek: The Next Generation, who is a funny and sharp dude - made a comment about becoming his father. That blasted me back to seeing The Electric Bonsai Band - not electric, not a bad - in, where? Portland, Oregon? so many years ago, maybe even the 80s. My god he was good. Fast, smart, scary smart, and just as funny as hell.

I am so happy to have found him (Andrew Ratshin) on Napster. Please go, listen. "I am My Dad" is so good - although it is much better live.

Ratshin also played in Uncle Bonsai.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Drug War, Explained

The Los Angeles Times today:
As a student of history and a retired deputy chief of police with the Los Angeles Police Department, I can attest that the damage that came from the prohibition of alcohol pales in comparison to the harm wrought by drug prohibition. In the last 40 years drug money has fueled the growth of violent street gangs in Los Angeles, from two (Bloods and Crips) with a membership of less than 50 people before the drug war to 20,000 gangs with a membership of about 1 million across the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Justice. These gangs serve as the distributors, collection agents and enforcers for the Mexican cartels that the Justice Department says occupy more than 1,000 U.S. cities.
Sabet, a former advisor to the White House drug policy advisor, ignores these prohibition-created harms, making no mention of the nearly 50,000 people killed in Mexico over the last five years as cartels have battled it out to control drug routes, territories and enforce collections. When one cartel leader is arrested or killed, it makes no impact on the drug trade and only serves to create more violence, as lower-level traffickers fight for the newly open top spot. 
U.S. law enforcement officials report that as much as 70% of cartel profits come from marijuana alone. There's no question that ending today's prohibition on drugs -- starting with marijuana -- would do more to hurt the cartels than any level of law enforcement skill or dedication ever can. 
Much more at Glenn Greenwald's place.

This subject is another of the vital sources of cynicism in the U.S. today. We are so far from being able to even talk with some sense about this issue, much less act on it, that it's hard to not come to thee conclusion that common sense is actually a wrong force in this world, that's how fucked up it is.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

1 in 3 American Vets Sees Iraq, Afghan Wars as Wastes

Wow.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- One in three U.S. veterans of the post-9/11 military believes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that after 10 years of combat America should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on its own problems, according to an opinion survey released Wednesday.