♫ Overjoyed ♫ (Redux)

I figure that since last night I played Fire for Clive, tonight I get to treat myself to … wait for it … some Stevie Wonder!!!

Overjoyed is a hit single written and performed by American R&B singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder on the Tamla (Motown) label from his 1985 album In Square Circle.

The song was written first for the 1979 album Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, but was left off the album, and re-recorded for the 1985 album In Square Circle. In the liner notes for the song, “crickets, nightingale & additional bird sounds, ocean, pebbles in pond, stone dropped, crushing leaves” are listed under “environmental percussion”. The song was first performed live on the May 7, 1983, episode of Saturday Night Live, where Wonder was the host and musical guest.

This song has been covered by numerous artists, including Diana Ross, Mary Blige, Grover Washington, Celine Dion and many more, most of whom I have never heard.

I had to force myself to listen to this four five six times tonight, just to make sure I had gotten the right lyrics, that he wasn’t singing off-key … you know, all those details that must be just right!  😉  And now, I think I might actually be able to sleep for a few hours … dreaming … of … zzzzzz … sandman has come … zzzzzzzzzzz …

Overjoyed
Stevie Wonder

Over time, I’ve building my castle of love
Just for two, though you never knew you were my reason
I’ve gone much too far for you now to say
That I’ve got to throw my castle away

Over dreams, I have picked out a perfect come true
Though you never knew it was of you I’ve been dreaming
The sandman has come from too far away
For you to say come back some other day

And though you don’t believe that they do
They do come true
For did my dreams
Come true when I looked at you
And maybe too, if you would believe
You too might be
Overjoyed, over loved, over me

Over hearts, I have painfully turned every stone
Just to find, I had found what I’ve searched to discover
I’ve come much too far for me now to find
The love that I’ve sought can never be mine

And though you don’t believe that they do
They do come true
For did my dreams
Come true when I looked at you
And maybe too, if you would believe
You too might be
Overjoyed, over loved, over me

And though the odds say improbable
What do they know
For in romance
All true love needs is a chance
And maybe with a chance you will find
You too like I
Overjoyed, over loved, over you
Over you

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Wonder Stevie
Overjoyed lyrics © Johanan Vigoda Admin. Acct. Stevie Wonder Catalogue, Jobete Music Co Inc, Black Bull Music Inc, Jobete Music Co., Inc.

77 Years Ago – 6 August 1945

Today, 06 August 2022, marks the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima by the United States.  This post is partly a repost of the one I did two years ago, but I have updated it and added just a bit.  I know many disagree with me, but in my opinion, the bombing of Hiroshima, and three days later Nagasaki, were nothing short of war crimes, of crimes against humanity.  Approximately 210,000 people died as a direct result of those two bombings.. These people were not the military brass who were leading the Japanese army and navy in attacks against the allies, nor were they even the soldiers who were following orders.  They were innocents — senior citizens, women, children, civil servants — people who were only going about their lives until suddenly … BOOM … they no longer had lives to go about.  I will always believe that the use of nuclear weaponry is wrong.  Period.

In 2016, then-President Barack Obama attended the annual ceremony of the observance of the anniversary at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, attended by some 50,000 people representing 80 nations.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for global cooperation to end nuclear weapons.

“For us to truly realize a world without nuclear weapons, the participation of both nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states is necessary.”

In July of that year, the United Nations reached its first agreement to ban nuclear weapons. But Japan, along with the nine nuclear-armed nations, including the United States, refused to take part in the negotiations and the vote, saying it does nothing to counter the “grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program.”

Japan already adheres to a policy of not possessing, producing or allowing nuclear weapons on its territory. It is the only country to have ever come under nuclear attack.  So far.

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres issued a message calling for the United States and other nuclear-armed countries to do more to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

“Our dream of a world free of nuclear weapons remains far from reality. The states possessing nuclear weapons have a special responsibility to undertake concrete and irreversible steps in nuclear disarmament.”

Every president since 1945 has worked toward test bans and global reduction of nuclear weapons … until the Trump administration who seriously considered resuming nuclear testing.   Trump withdrew the United States from arms treaties including the landmark INF agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. Today, there are more than 13,000 nuclear warheads worldwide according the Arms Control Association, most of them held by the United States and Russia.

Given Russia’s war on Ukraine and the potential fallout of support for Ukraine by the United States and many European nations, the tension is higher than it once was, the threat of a nuclear war has increased, especially with a man at the helm in Russia who lacks a conscience, who cares not one whit about human lives, even those in his own nation.  It is more important than ever that we find a way of disarmament … but I’m spitting in the wind as our late friend Hugh used to tell me often.

Contrary to the “dream of a world free of nuclear weapons”, in February 2017 Donald Trump told Reuters that “if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”  Trump, in fact, has said some chilling things along those lines:

  • Trump said he might use nuclear weapons and questioned why we would make them if we wouldn’t use them. – March 2016
  • “Europe is a big place. I’m not going to take cards off the table.” (Answering a question whether he would ever ‘nuke’ Europe) – March 2016
  • Trump said that “you want to be unpredictable” with nuclear weapons – January 2016
  • Trump reiterated that it was important to be “unpredictable” with nuclear weapons – March 2016
  • Trump said he’d be OK with a nuclear arms race in Asia – May 2016

Now, ordinarily I would have taken Trump’s comments out of this updated post, for he is gone, he is history … but there is a chance that he will re-occupy the Oval Office if the U.S. Department of Justice does not do a proper job of charging and convicting him of his crimes in office, so I think it remains important to realize his views on nuclear war.

In my opinion, the absolute worst invention in the world … ever … was the invention of nuclear weapons that are capable of killing hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of seconds.  This is not a toy, not something funny to play around with, and it is damn sure not something that should be used to threaten other nations.

When I originally published this post two years ago, our friend Ellen provided a quote by John Steinbeck from his 1958 book “Once There Was A War”:

“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”

Truer words were never spoken.  Today, let us simply remember the atrocities, the horrors, of August 6th and August 9th, 1945.  And let us hope that somehow, someday, we can have a world free of the nuclear threat.

In Memory …

hiroshima-8.jpg

Related post: On President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima

Big Fat Liar

Well, ol’ Alex Jones, America’s #1 conspiracy theorist, finally had his day in Court and … it did not go well for Jones! I was going to write about it, but Clay Jones (no relation to Alex!) of Claytoonz has done it far better than I could have, and he even has a cartoon! Thanks, Clay — great job as always!

claytoonz

If you’re a gaslighting conspiracy theorist with a national platform spreading bullshit that defames, libels, and tears apart democracy, you better have good lawyers. Alex Jones, fortunately for the rest of us who hate lies, conspiracy theories, and bullshit, does not have good lawyers.

Alex Jones is a conspiracy theorist as it’s his business. He knows the bullshit he’s spreading is fake. Conspiracy theories are his business but lying is his nature. He’s also not intelligent enough to get away with it. Yesterday, Alex Jones was busted during cross-examination of not just being a liar, but of withholding evidence. And, the revelations came from his own legal team. Oopsies.

Jones (no relation to yours truly) is currently defending himself from defamation lawsuits brought by the families for lies he had spread about the 2012 school shooting. For years, he’s been telling lies that the shootings never happened. From his conspiracy…

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♫ Fire ♫

I have often said that for my music posts, I play only music that I like … which, relative to the universe of music, is admittedly a bit of a narrow scope.  Lately, Clive and a few others have been expanding my horizons and I’ve found a few new ones to like.  The song I am about to play is not one of them!  Our friend Clive asked for this one, and since he’s given me so many new musical experiences, I thought this was the least I could do.  I promised him before I listened to the song, but … a promise is a promise.  And I must admit that while I didn’t enjoy listening to the song, I had some fun with this post, with learning about the song and the artist!  This one’s for you, Clive …

Amazingly, this song reached #1 in the UK & Canada, and #2 in the U.S.  However, Arthur Brown, nee Arthur Wilton, was to be a one-hit wonder, for this was his only song to make its way onto the charts.  The song was written by Brown, Vincent Crane, Mike Finesilver and Peter Ker in 1968 and was released as a single and on the band’s debut album, called The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, which is also the name of the band.  According to SongFacts …

Growing up in England after World War II, Brown spent a lot of time around people whose lives were destroyed by the war, many of whom suffered from PTSD or other difficulties. When he started making music, instead of writing about girls, cars or relationships, he came up with a concept of an inner journey, developing a story about a man who faces his demons, heading into a figurative fire. Along this journey, he encounters the “God of Hellfire,” who shows up in “Prelude/Nightmare,” the first track on The Crazy World of Arthur Brown concept album. As the man enters the inferno, he finds himself deep in a psychedelic trip, which is described in the second track, “Fanfare/Fire Poem.”

As he falls into an abyss, the character returns, telling him: “I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you… Fire.” This marks the beginning of the song “Fire,” where our hero is taken to burn. While it works best within the concept of the album, it also serves as a standalone track, as the lyric on its own can be interpreted as a story about a man facing up to his past. Running 2:52 with the ear-catching spoken intro, it was a tasty, digestible slice of a much more complex work.

During live performances and in the black and white promotional television clip, Brown performed the song wearing a burning helmet. The helmet was improvised with a leather skull cap onto which was bolted a metal dish that held lighter fluid or petrol. As the cap was not insulated, the heat from the burning fuel quickly conducted through the fixing bolt to the top of Brown’s head, causing him considerable pain.  Apparently it sometimes caused pain for others, as well.  According to Jimmy Ryan, who backed him on bass as he recalls a gig at Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park …

“He simplified his attire with magician’s robes, war paint and a burning lyre headdress/helmet, and we were made to wear warlock cloaks and hoods, but we were forgiven the face paint. We began our show, and with a little difficulty, I managed to keep my floor length, flowing cloak from interfering with my bass strings.

Did I mention, Arthur liked to light his head on fire? As we cranked through our dark, distorted organ, pounding and pulsing bass-and-drums set Arthur, in a moment of screaming, psychotic reverie, forgot I was behind him, and hurled his lighter fluid-fueled, blazing headdress up and backwards, where it came to rest beneath my cloak. I was looking at (keyboardist) Paul Glanz at the time and only realized what had happened when I felt some red alert heat creeping up my bare legs and private parts (it was summer – no pants under my cloak). I began to spew four letter words in rapid fire, screaming and leaping around the stage, initially dragging the burning helmet with me under the cloak, unable to kick it free. Arthur thought I was ‘performing,’ absorbed in his insane, hellfire thing and was cheering me on. I thought I was about to meet the real God of Hellfire and go up in flames like a suicidal monk, right on the stage in front of 3,500 people! The stage crew was on it and came racing at me with a fire extinguisher, but Murphy’s Law of burning robes fortunately did not kick in. I managed to leap free before ignition/immolation, and they hosed the helmet instead of me. The irony was that Arthur kept going, unaware that anything was out of the ordinary, and the cheering crowd, pumping their two-fingered, metal head fists in the air, was treated to what they believed was me being possessed by demons, and doing the burning (literally) psycho hell dance.”

The SongFacts article is fascinating, if you care to read the entire thing!  And now, on to the song …

Fire

Arthur Brown

I am the god of hellfire! And I bring you
Fire, I’ll take you to burn
Fire, I’ll take you to learn
I’ll see you burn

You fought hard and you saved and earned
But all of it’s going to burn
And your mind, your tiny mind
You know you’ve really been so blind
Now’s your time, burn your mind
You’re falling far, too far behind
Oh no, oh no, oh no!
You’re gonna burn
Fire, to destroy all you’ve done
Fire, to end all you’ve become
I’ll feel you burn

You’ve been living like a little girl
In the middle of your little world
And your mind, your tiny mind
You know you’ve really been so blind
Now’s your time, burn your mind
You’re falling far, too far behind
Ooh

Fire, I’ll take you to burn
Fire, I’ll take you to learn
You’re gonna burn
You’re gonna burn
You’re gonna burn, burn, burn, burn
Burn, burn, burn, burn
Burn, burn, burn

Fire, I’ll take you to burn
Fire, I’ll take you to learn
Fire, I’ll take you to bed
Fire, I’ll take you, fire…

Who Are “We The People”?

The preamble to the United States Constitution reads …

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

But … just who are “We the People”?  Today, many of us consider that term to be all-inclusive … regardless of skin colour, sexual orientation, religion, gender, wealth, etc., but it wasn’t that way in the beginning, and today many in the Republican Party would like to narrow the definition of We the People to mean only white Christians, preferably wealthy ones.  Columnist Charles M. Blow, writing in the New York Times, has a more in-depth take on it …


The Republican Party Is the Anti-Democracy Party

Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist, 03 August 2022

The word “democracy” never appears in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

However, democracy is central to the modern concept of America.

The founders seemed to prefer calling the burgeoning country a Republic rather than a democracy. Many were opposed to direct democracy and the possibility that demagogues could corrupt it or mob rule could overtake it. They instead designed a representative government in which “the people” would elect representatives who would make the laws and conduct the governance.

The problem, or course, was that their definition of “the people” was largely limited to wealthy white men, enslavers among them.

Over the years, America has expanded the definition of “the people” to include more Americans, but conservatives have resisted the expansion at every turn. And now, they are trying to drag the country backward, to pare down the ranks of those who can vote and to deny or invalidate elections in which voting populations, not yet pared down enough, deliver results with which they disagree.

We keep hearing people say that candidates, like some of the ones competing in Tuesday’s primaries, threaten our democracy. We heard during the Jan. 6 hearings about threats to our democracy. We have heard for years that Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy.

But it seems to me that we have to take a step back and realize that the current Republican Party has abandoned the idea of a full democracy.

Republicans want to revert the country to the way the founders conceived of it, when white men had outsize influence, when patriarchy prevailed, when white supremacy masqueraded as conventional wisdom.

Liberals often seem to me overly vexed by why Republicans don’t recognize the threat that Trump’s election denialism poses. The reason is clear to me: They have turned their backs on democracy.

For anti-democracy Republicans, Trump is an incredibly useful tool. His motivations are selfish and small, but the Republicans balking at full democracy have plans that are grand. They see themselves falling into a minority, so they want to devise a plan for minority rule.

And they are attacking the electoral process at every level to realize their goals.

By calling themselves traditionalist and constitutionalist, and by canonizing the flawed founders, they disguise their regression as preservation.

Conservatives now routinely make the point that America isn’t a democracy, but a Republic. The Heritage Foundation even published a report in 2020 entitled “America Is a Republic, Not a Democracy.” The report argued, “The contemporary efforts to weaken our republican customs and institutions in the name of greater equality thus run against the efforts by America’s Founders to defend our country from the potential excesses of democratic majorities,” and that the American system of government is “threatened by an egalitarianism that undermines the social, familial, religious, and economic distinctions and inequalities that undergird our political liberty.”

In their telling, the will of the majority itself seems to be a problem. I interpret this broadly: that a fuller democracy is, in the view of many conservatives, a disaster waiting to happen.

So we are seeing an epic clash playing out in America in which the parameters are not being fully, loudly delineated: The Democrats want a democracy; the Republicans don’t. The Republican Party is anti-democracy, post-democracy. While Democrats are screaming about a collapsing country, Republicans are already surveying the landscape of the America that will emerge from the wreckage.

George Thomas, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, argued in The Atlantic in 2020 that although the word “democracy” may not be in the Constitution, the spirit of it is. As he put it: “High-minded claims that we are not a democracy surreptitiously fuse republic with minority rule rather than popular government. Enabling sustained minority rule at the national level is not a feature of our constitutional design, but a perversion of it.”

Perversion, distortion and deceit now appear to be the spine of the Republican Party. It is no longer a party of ideas, but rather a party of atavism. It is a party frantically running down an ascending escalator.

The problem is that there is a real risk that the party will succeed in bringing the country down with it.

As Sue Halpern has written in The New Yorker, “The paradox of American democracy is that its survival is a choice; it persists solely at the discretion of an electorate that can, if it so wills, dismantle it.” Republicans are pushing the portion of the electorate they control to dismantle it.

Da Snark MUST Be Shared!

Ever notice how in certain weather, your head and chest just seem to fill with ‘stuff’ and you sneeze, wheeze, gasp and cough until you think surely you’ve coughed up a lung?  Well, in certain political climes, my head just fills to the gills with snark, and there’s only one way to alleviate the symptoms … share it!


You could’a knocked me over with a feather …

Yesterday was a red-letter day in the United States Congress!  Why?  Because the Senate … members on both sides of the aisle … actually agreed on something and voted 95 to 1 to allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO!  95-1 … can you believe it???  I think this is the most cohesion we’ve seen in the Senate since … since … maybe 1867 or thereabouts!  Granted, there is little reason to object to allowing these two nations to join NATO … it is a win-win, for it adds strength to NATO and provides protections for Sweden and Finland, but these days, there doesn’t seem to be a need for a reason to split the two sides!

Oh … that single ‘nay’ vote?  That was ol’ Josh Hawley, the brunt of many jokes since the January 6th committee aired video showing Josh of fist-pump fame running desperately from the insurrectionists that day!  His reason for naysaying the treaty expansion was, in his words …

“NATO expansion would almost certainly mean more U.S. forces in Europe for the long haul. In the face of this stark reality, we must choose. We must do less in Europe (and elsewhere) in order to prioritize China and Asia.”

No, it made no sense to me, either, but then … it’s Josh ‘fist-pump’ Hawley, so I don’t expect intellect, but merely nonsense.  Rumour has it that he sees himself as a presidential candidate in 2024 🤣 🤣


Religious freedom?  I think not.

It was on June 27th, just over a month ago, that the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the case of Kennedy v Bremerton School District.  In a nutshell, the case was filed by Joseph Kennedy, a public-school football coach, who had taken the practice of praying at the middle of the field immediately after each game. The school board were concerned the practice would be seen as infringing on the Establishment Clause separating church and state. They attempted to negotiate with Kennedy to pray elsewhere or at a later time, but Kennedy continued the practice. His contract was not renewed, leading Kennedy to sue the board.

The Supreme Court ruled that the school’s actions against Kennedy violated his rights under both the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.  This decision has bothered me for over a month now, and last night I had a thought that I would share with you, my friends.

I don’t deny that Mr. Kennedy or anybody else has the right to pray … here, there, or anywhere.  However, public schools are not the place for public displays of religious acts!  They are institutions of learning … learning math, science, literature, history, and more … not religion.  In case the U.S. Supreme Court has not noticed, this is a secular nation.  We have people of every religion here and many of us are non-religious … that is our right, per the U.S. Constitution!  So, the thought I had was this:  Would the United States Supreme Court justices have been so quick to defend the man’s ‘right to prayer’ if he were a Muslim publicly praying to Allah?  I’m betting not.

Some of the boys on the team Mr. Kennedy coached said they were uncomfortable with his habit … some boys joined in, and those who did not believe or did not wish to join in were made to feel left out, felt that to belong, they had to join in.  THIS IS NOT what public education is about, my friends!  I would take umbrage if my child or grandchild were subjected to a teacher or other school employee praying in public during school hours or activities!  Again … if it had been a Muslim … can you just imagine the furor?

The U.S. is a nation founded in part by religious freedom.  That does NOT mean that one religion, ie Christianity, dominates the spirit of the nation.  It doesn’t.  The Court made a grievous error on June 27th, one that some were just waiting for in order to pounce and turn our schools into religious institutions.  We must not allow that to happen.


Say WHAT???

Ryan Kelley was running in the GOP primaries for governor of Michigan.  He lost.  In fact, he lost by a lot, coming in at fourth place with only 15% of the vote, or 165,016 votes as compared to the leader, Tudor Dixon, who received 434,673 votes, or 40.6%.  (I will have more about Tudor Dixon at a later date)  Now, one would think ol’ Ryan Kelley would tuck his tail betwixt his legs and go home to lick his wounds or cry in his beer, yes?  But nope.  He is planning to contest the election!

Kelly made the announcement early Wednesday morning as primary election results began to roll out that he refuses to concede and is contesting the election results.  Oh … and it may not surprise you to know that Kelley was one of the insurrectionists who was arrested for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election on January 6th by breaking into the Capitol, destroying property, attacking Capitol Police, and calling to hang Mike Pence!  And it surely won’t surprise you that he was endorsed by the former guy who incited the attempted coup.

Methinks he can contest until the cows come home, but he ain’t gonna be the one running against Democrat Gretchen Widmer in November!

♫ Sweet Caroline ♫ (Redux)

This one popped into my head a few nights ago, but I had already decided on another song by that time, so I saved it thinking I would play it one night later in the week.  And then, our friend Roger just happened to mention it in a comment talking about England’s Women Soccer Team who beat Germany in the finals of the Women’s Euro 2022 and will be going to the World’s Cup next year, or so says Roger, and “Sweet Caroline” is the “unofficial Team & Supporters Song.”  And so, with that in mind, of course I must play this one tonight!


Neil Diamond wrote this song about his wife … Marcia.  Yeah, I know … Caroline is not exactly the same as Marcia, but Neil apparently already had the music written and needed a three-syllable name, so he pulled the name Caroline out of his … er … hat, and thus was the song named.  Neil and Marcia divorced in 1995 … gee, I wonder why.

Now, according to SongFacts …

Neil Diamond is a great manipulator of the media, and has shifted his story about this song to fit the occasion. There was longtime speculation that the song is about Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the American president John F. Kennedy. Diamond has since revealed that this Caroline gave him the idea for the name, but had nothing to do with the song’s inspiration.

In 2007, however, Diamond performed the song via satellite at Caroline Kennedy’s 50th birthday party, and said that the song was about her. He told the Associated Press: “I’ve never discussed it with anybody before – intentionally. I thought maybe I would tell it to Caroline when I met her someday. I’m happy to have gotten it off my chest and to have expressed it to Caroline. I thought she might be embarrassed, but she seemed to be struck by it and really, really happy.”

Diamond added that he was a young, broke songwriter in the ’60s when he saw a cute photo of Caroline Kennedy in a magazine. Said Diamond: “It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her riding gear, next to her pony. It was such an innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in there.” A few years later, Diamond wrote the song in a Memphis hotel in less than an hour. Caroline was 11 years old when the song was released.

Another interesting tidbit is that even though the song has nothing to do with Boston, the Red Sox, baseball or New England, it is played at Red Sox home games in Fenway Park before the Red Sox bat in the the 8th inning. Amy Tobey, who worked the music at Fenway, first started playing the song in 1997 – it’s often reported that she played it in honor of a Red Sox employee who named her newborn daughter “Caroline,” but Tobey told NPR that she simply liked the song. It caught on with the fans, becoming a popular selection between innings. When Charles Steinberg took over as Red Sox executive vice president of public affairs in 2002, he championed the song, and instituted it as an 8th inning ritual (strategically placed before the Sox come up to bat late in the game), where it has been played ever since.

After the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, the New York Yankees – rivals of the Red Sox – began playing this song as a show of support for the city of Boston. On April 20, Diamond made a surprise appearance at Fenway Park where he performed the song in its traditional 8th inning timeslot. Diamond, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just two days earlier, appeared in street clothes rather than his usual lustrous performance garb as he led the crowd in a full version of the song.

This one’s for you, Miss JoyRoses …

Sweet Caroline
Neil Diamond

Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing
But then I know it’s growing strong
Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who’d have believed you’d come along

Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined
To believe they never would
But now I

Look at the night and it don’t seem so lonely
We filled it up with only two
And when I hurt
Hurting runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when holding you

One, touching one
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined
To believe they never would
Oh no, no

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
Sweet Caroline
I believe they never could
Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Neil Diamond
Sweet Caroline lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Have We Passed The Point Of No Return?

A couple of days ago I came across an article in The Atlantic that really gave me pause, made me step back and view our current situation in a bit of a different light … a chilling light.  Brian Klaas is a global-politics professor at University College London. He is the author of Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us, so he knows of what he speaks here …


America’s Self-Obsession Is Killing Its Democracy

The U.S. still has a chance to fix itself before 2024. But when democracies start dying—as ours already has—they usually don’t recover.

By Brian Klaas

In 2009, a violent mob stormed the presidential palace in Madagascar, a deeply impoverished red-earthed island off the coast of East Africa. They had been incited to violence by opportunistic politicians and media personalities, successfully triggering a coup. A few years later, I traveled to the island, to meet the new government’s ringleaders, the same men who had unleashed the mob.

As we sipped our coffees and I asked them questions, one of the generals I was interviewing interrupted me.

“How can you Americans lecture us on democracy?” he asked. “Sometimes, the president who ends up in your White House isn’t even the person who got the most votes.”

“Our election system isn’t perfect,” I replied then. “But, with all due respect, our politicians don’t incite violent mobs to take over the government when they haven’t won an election.”

For decades, the United States has proclaimed itself a “shining city upon a hill,” a beacon of democracy that can lead broken nations out of their despotic darkness. That overconfidence has been instilled into its citizens, leading me a decade ago to the mistaken, naive belief that countries such as Madagascar have something to learn from the U.S. rather than also having wisdom to teach us.

During the Donald Trump presidency, the news covered a relentless barrage of “unprecedented” attacks on the norms and institutions of American democracy. But they weren’t unprecedented. Similar authoritarian attacks had happened plenty of times before. They were only unprecedented to us.

I’ve spent the past 12 years studying the breakdown of democracy and the rise of authoritarianism around the world, in places such as Thailand, Tunisia, Belarus, and Zambia. I’ve shaken hands with many of the world’s democracy killers.

My studies and experiences have taught me that democracies can die in many ways. In the past, most ended in a quick death. Assassinations can snuff out democracy in a split second, coups in an hour or two, and revolutions in a day. But in the 21st century, most democracies die like a chronic but terminal patient. The system weakens as the disease spreads. The agony persists over years. Early intervention increases the rate of survival, but the longer the disease festers, the more that miracles become the only hope.

American democracy is dying. There are plenty of medicines that would cure it. Unfortunately, our political dysfunction means we’re choosing not to use them, and as time passes, fewer treatments become available to us, even though the disease is becoming terminal. No major prodemocracy reforms have passed Congress. No key political figures who tried to overturn an American election have faced real accountability. The president who orchestrated the greatest threat to our democracy in modern times is free to run for reelection, and may well return to office.

Our current situation started with a botched diagnosis. When Trump first rose to political prominence, much of the American political class reacted with amusement, seeing him as a sideshow. Even if he won, they thought, he’d tweet like a populist firebrand while governing like a Romney Republican, constrained by the system. But for those who had watched Trump-like authoritarian strongmen rise in Turkey, India, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Venezuela, Trump was never entertaining. He was ominously familiar.

At issue was a classic frame-of-reference problem. America’s political culture is astonishingly insular. Turn on cable news and it’s all America, all the time. Other countries occasionally make cameos, but the story is still about us. (Poland is discussed if Air Force One goes to Warsaw; Iran flits into view only in relation to Washington’s nuclear diplomacy; Madagascar appears only in cartoon form, mostly featuring talking animals that don’t actually live there.) Our self-obsession means that whenever authoritarianism rises abroad, it’s mentioned briefly, if at all. Have you ever spotted a breathless octobox of talking heads on CNN or Fox News debating the death of democracy in Turkey, Sri Lanka, or the Philippines?

That’s why most American pundits and journalists used an “outsider comes to Washington” framework to process Trump’s campaign and his presidency, when they should have been fitting every fresh fact into an “authoritarian populist” framework or a “democratic death spiral” framework. While debates raged over tax cuts and offensive tweets, the biggest story was often obscured: The system itself was at risk.

Even today, too many think of Trump more as Sarah Palin in 2012 rather than Viktor Orbán in 2022. They wrongly believe that the authoritarian threat is over and that January 6 was an isolated event from our past, rather than a mild preview of our future. That misreading is provoking an underreaction from the political establishment. And the worst may be yet to come.

The basic problem is that one of the two major parties in the U.S.—the Trumpified Republican Party—has become authoritarian to its core. Consequently, there are two main ways to protect American democracy. The first is to reform the GOP, so that it’s again a conservative, but not authoritarian, party (à la John McCain’s or Mitt Romney’s Republican Party). The second is to perpetually block authoritarian Republicans from wielding power. But to do that, Democrats need to win every election. When you’re facing off against an authoritarian political movement, each election is an existential threat to democracy. Eventually, the authoritarian party will win.

Erica Frantz, a political scientist and expert on authoritarianism at Michigan State University, told me she shares that concern: With Republicans out of the White House and in the congressional minority, “democratic deterioration in the U.S. has simply been put on pause.”

Frantz was more sanguine during much of the Trump era. “When Trump won office, I pushed back against forecasts that democracy in the U.S. was doomed,” she explained. After all, America has much more robust democratic institutions than Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, or Turkey. “Though the risk of democratic collapse was higher than it had been in recent memory,” Frantz said, “it still remained low, comparatively speaking.”

When democracies start to die, they usually don’t recover. Instead, they end up as authoritarian states with zombified democratic institutions: rigged elections in place of legitimate ones, corrupt courts rather than independent judges, and propagandists replacing the press.

There are exceptions. Frantz pointed to Ecuador, Slovenia, and South Korea as recent examples. In all three cases, a political shock acted as a wake-up call, in which the would-be autocrat was removed and their political movement either destroyed or reformed. In South Korea, President Park Geun-hye was ousted from office and sent to prison. But more important, Frantz explained, “there was a cleaning of the house after Park’s impeachment, with the new administration aggressively getting rid of those who had been complicit in the country’s slide to authoritarianism.”

Those examples once signaled a hopeful possibility for the United States. At some point, Trump’s spell over the country and his party could break. He would go too far, or there would be a national calamity, and we’d all come to our democratic senses.

By early 2021, Trump had gone too far and there had been a national calamity. That’s why, on January 6, 2021, as zealots and extremists attacked the Capitol, I felt an unusual emotion mixed in with the horror and sadness: a dark sense that there was a silver lining.

Finally, the symptoms were undeniable. After Trump stoked a bona fide insurrection, the threat to democracy would be impossible to ignore. As Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell denounced Trump on the Senate floor, it looked like Republicans might follow the South Korean path and America could finally take its medicine.

In reality, the denunciations were few and temporary. According to a new poll from the University of Monmouth, six in 10 Republican voters now believe that the attack on the Capitol was a form of “legitimate protest.” Only one in 10 would use the word insurrection to describe January 6. And rather than cleaning house, the Republicans who dared to condemn Trump are now the party’s biggest pariahs, while the January 6 apologists are rising stars.

The past 18 months portend a post-Trump GOP future that remains authoritarian: Trumpism without Trump.

“Democracies can’t depend on one of two major parties never holding power,” argues Brendan Nyhan, a government professor at Dartmouth College and a co-founder of Bright Line Watch, a group that monitors the erosion of American democracy. But that may be the necessary treatment for now, because Republican leaders “are defining a vision of a Trumpist GOP that could prove more durable than the man himself.”

Frantz concurred: “What did surprise me and change my assessment was the Republican Party’s decision to continue to embrace Trump and stand by him. The period following the Capitol riots was a critical one, and the party’s response was a turning point.”

That leaves American democracy with a bleak prognosis. Barring an electoral wipeout of Republicans in 2022 (which looks extremely unlikely), the idea that the party will suddenly abandon its anti-democracy positioning is a delusion.

Prodemocracy voters now have only one way forward: Block the authoritarian party from power, elect prodemocracy politicians in sufficient numbers, and then insist that they produce lasting democratic reforms.

The wish list from several democracy experts I spoke with is long, and includes passing the Electoral Count Act, creating a constitutional right to vote, reforming districting so more elections are competitive, establishing a nonpartisan national election-management body, electing the president via popular vote, reducing the gap in representation between states like California and Wyoming, introducing some level of proportional representation or multimember districts, aggressively regulating campaign spending and the role of money in politics, and enforcing an upper age limit for Supreme Court justices. But virtually all of those ideas are currently political fantasies.

The American system isn’t just dysfunctional. It’s dying. Nyhan believes there is now a “significant risk” that the 2024 election outcome will be illegitimate. Even Frantz, who has been more optimistic about America’s democratic resilience in the past, doesn’t have a particularly reassuring retort to the doom-mongers: “I don’t think U.S. democracy will collapse, but just hover in a flawed manner for a while, as in Poland.”

We may not be doomed. But we should be honest: The optimistic assessment from experts who study authoritarianism globally is that the United States will most likely settle into a dysfunctional equilibrium that mirrors a deep democratic breakdown. It’s not yet too late to avoid that. But the longer we wait, the more the cancer of authoritarianism will spread. We don’t have long before it’s inoperable.

Will He Or Won’t He? Should He Or Shouldn’t He?

The great debate these days seems to be over whether Attorney General Merrick Garland will, or should, charge Donald Trump for crimes committed while in office.  You all know my opinion:  charge him, convict him, put him in a cell and throw away the key!  But, there is more to consider and political author/journalist Bill Press assesses it in his latest column …


To charge or not to charge?

Bill Press, 28 July, 2022

To charge or not to charge?

For months in Washington – whether over breakfast at the Four Seasons, lunch at The Palm, or dinner at Café Milano – the only topic of conversation has been: What’s Merrick Garland up to? Is the Justice Department conducting its own investigation of possible criminal activity related to Jan. 6? And, if so, how high would it go? All the way to Trump? Why hasn’t he already filed charges? Or is Garland, afraid of making the department look political, just holding back and leaving it up to Congress?

Nobody knew. And Garland only deepened the mystery with his sphinx-like pronouncement that “no person,” not even a former president, is “above the law.”

This week, we finally got some answers. Washington’s sleepy, summertime media exploded with first, the rumor, then confirmation, that none other than Marc Short, former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, and Greg Jacob, Pence’s former chief counsel, had met with a federal grand jury looking into possible criminal charges related to the failed insurrection of Jan. 6.

Now we know for sure: The Justice Department, having already filed charges against more than 855 people who took part in the violent assault on the Capitol, is moving up the chain of command – is already inside the White House – investigating who in the top tier of the Trump administration is responsible for summoning and inciting the mob. And we know that the DOJ was, in fact, conducting its own investigation even before receiving any request to do so from the January 6 Select Committee. That’s big news.

But that news has also re-ignited another old debate in Washington: No matter how outrageous his conduct before, during, and after Jan. 6, should Merrick Garland even file charges against Donald Trump? Many leading attorneys, including CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin, with whom I usually agree on everything, have urged Garland not to act. Their arguments are wide-ranging: that such a case is complicated and might not succeed; that prosecuting a former president’s never been done before in this country; that that’s how autocracies work, not democracies; and that charging Trump with a crime will only give him another opportunity to paint himself as a political victim in a trial that could drag on for years.

And so the question of the day has become: To charge or not to charge? Frankly, I can’t even believe we’re having this debate. It’s a no-brainer. Of course, Donald Trump should be charged with crimes he committed as president. There’s no good argument for not doing so.

Granted, this would be the first time a former president faced criminal charges. But why? Because we’ve never had a president like Donald Trump before. No other American president tried to bribe the president of another country; refused to accept, and then tried to overturn, the outcome of an election; asked a state official to “discover” 11,000 more votes; encouraged his lawyers to create slates of fake electors; summoned a mob of supporters to Washington and, knowing they were armed, directed them to storm the Capitol and prevent Congress and his vice president from carrying out their constitutional responsibilities.

Plus, the evidence is clear. Trump is guilty as sin. The January 6 Committee has made the case. Trump’s guilty of violating the law against rebellion and insurrection. S2383 strictly prohibits anyone who “incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto.” That’s exactly what Trump did leading up to Jan. 6.

And, among other possible charges, Trump’s guilty of obstructing justice, according to which it’s a crime “to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding or attempt to do so.” Which is exactly what Trump did on Jan. 6.

There’s also the matter of fairness. There were two different sets of players on Jan. 6: those who carried out the attack, and those who planned and organized it. It would be a gross miscarriage of justice for the DOJ to prosecute only the members of the mob, and not the man who sent them.

Finally, it’s important to hold Trump responsible in order to send a message: In this great country, anybody has the right to complain about the outcome of an election. But nobody has the right to overturn the government and destroy our democracy in order to stay in office. That’s an attack on the United States of America.

For those reasons, Merrick Garland must file criminal charges against Donald Trump. The sooner, the better.

♫ Mony, Mony ♫

I owe the idea for tonight’s music post to rawgod, who commented on yesterdays Dancing Queen that this song was more his idea of music that gets his toes tapping and makes him want to get up and dance!  As soon as I began listening to the link he sent, I recognized the song, though I hadn’t heard it in probably 20 years!  And it definitely does have the rhythm that sets the old toes to tapping!

SongFacts did an interview with Tommy James about this song and if you’re interested, you can read it in its entirety, but meanwhile here’s a brief snippet …

“Originally, we did the track without a song. And the idea was to create a party rock record; in 1968 that was pretty much of a throwback to the early ’60s. Nobody was making party rock records really in 1968, those big-drum-California-sun-what-I-sing-money-type songs. And so I wanted to do a party rock record.

And we went in the studio, and we pasted this thing together out of drums here, and a guitar riff here. It was called sound surgery, and we finally put it together in probably a month. We had most of the words to the song, but we still had no title. And it’s just driving us nuts, because we’re looking for like a ‘Sloopy’ or some crazy name – it had to be a two-syllable girl’s name that was memorable and silly and kind of stupid sounding. So we knew what kind of a word we had, it’s just that everything we came up with sounded so bad. So Ritchie Cordell, my songwriting partner and I, are up in my apartment up at 888 Eighth Avenue in New York. And finally we get disgusted, we throw our guitars down, we go out on the terrace, we light up a cigarette, and we look up into the sky. And the first thing our eyes fall on is the Mutual of New York Insurance Company. M-O-N-Y. True story. With a dollar sign in the middle of the O, and it gave you the time and the temperature.”

This went to #1 in the UK and #3 in the U.S.  Billy Idol did a version that became a #1 hit in the U.S. in 1987 and I am including it here, despite the fact that I do not like it, not one bit!  I much prefer Tommy James and the Shondell’s original!  Idols has too many effects that detract and distract from the music, but such was his way I suppose.

Mony Mony
Tommy James & The Shondells/Billy Idol
Here she come down, says ‘Mony, Mony’
Well, shoot ’em down, turn around, come home, honey
Hey! She gimme love an’ I feel alright now
Everybody!

You got me tossin’ turnin’ in the night, and I feel alright
Let me feel alright

I say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Well you make me feel Mony, Mony
So! Mony, Mony
Good! Mony, Mony
Yeah! Mony, Mony
So good! Mony, Mony
Oh, yeah! Mony, Mony
Come on! Mony, Mony

All right, baby! Mony, Mony

Say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Break ‘dis, shake it, Mony, Mony
Shot gun, get it done, come on, Mony
Don’t stop cookin’, it feels so good, yeah

Hey! Well don’t stop now, hey, come on Mony
Well come on, Mony

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Well you make me feel Mony, Mony
So! Mony, Mony
Good! Mony, Mony
Yeah! Mony, Mony
Alright! Mony, Mony
Come on! Mony Mony
So good! Mony Mony

All right
I say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, ahhhhhhh

Oo, I love ya Mony, Mo, Mo, Mony
Oo, I love ya Mony, Mo, Mo, Mony

Oo, I love ya Mony, Mo, Mo, Mony
Oo, I love ya Mony, Mo, Mo, Mony

I say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah

Come on!
Come on!
Come on!

Everybody
Alright, alright
Come on!