Bob Schwartz

Month: April, 2013

Richie Havens

Richie Havens
Every artist wants their spirit to be a presence, and to stay a presence. Every artist would love to be so recognizable that with just one note sung a listener would be certain—and would instantly want to hear more.

Since Richie Havens released his album Mixed Bag, and since his legendary performance at Woodstock, he grew older but never changed. Decades where peace, love and freedom looked like something radical, then something hip, then something imminent, then something commercial, then something distant and quaint, he did just what artists do. He stayed true to himself, true to his ideals, true to his craft as a unique troubadour. He was irresistible and his music still is.

Richie Havens died yesterday at the age of 72.

And close your eyes, child, and look at what I’ll show you;
Let your mind go reeling out and let the breezes blow you,
And maybe when we meet then suddenly I will know you.
If all the things you see ain’t what they seem,
Then don’t mind me cause I ain’t nothing but a dream,
And you can follow…

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Tsarnaev and Miranda

Miranda Warning
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, is now in custody and in hospital recovering from gunshot wounds. The Justice Department has announced that it will not be giving him a Miranda warning before initially questioning him, under the public safety exception to the need for such warning.

In Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the Supreme Court established guidelines for the taking and use of statements by suspects in custody. In very brief summary, if a suspect is in custody and being interrogated, statements made will be admitted into evidence only if he has been properly warned about his right not to talk, about the potential use of his statements for self-incrimination, and about his right to have an attorney. The various versions of the Miranda warning reflect this decision, and embody the protections of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

A narrow exception to Miranda was established in New York v. Quarles (1984)  . In an age of terrorism and the prosecution of terrorists, this so-called “public safety exception” has become the focus of intensive analysis and application—along with a push for its expansion.

In Quarles, a victim of rape pointed police officers toward her armed assailant. The police pursued him into a supermarket:

Respondent ran toward the rear of the store, and Officer Kraft pursued him with a drawn gun but lost sight of him for several seconds. Upon regaining sight of respondent, Officer Kraft ordered him to stop and put his hands over his head; frisked him and discovered that he was wearing an empty shoulder holster; and, after handcuffing him, asked him where the gun was. Respondent nodded toward some empty cartons and responded that “the gun is over there.” Officer Kraft then retrieved the gun from one of the cartons, formally arrested respondent, and read him his rights under Miranda v. Arizona. Respondent indicated that he would answer questions without an attorney being present and admitted that he owned the gun and had purchased it in Florida. The trial court excluded respondent’s initial statement and the gun because the respondent had not yet been given the Miranda warnings, and also excluded respondent’s other statements as evidence tainted by the Miranda violation. Both the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Supreme Court reversed the New York courts and created an exception to Miranda, when the interrogation was aimed at preventing further harm and enhancing public safety:

Procedural safeguards that deter a suspect from responding, and increase the possibility of fewer convictions, were deemed acceptable in Miranda in order to protect the Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination. However, if Miranda warnings had deterred responses to Officer Kraft’s question about the whereabouts of the gun, the cost would have been something more than merely the failure to obtain evidence useful in convicting respondent. An answer was needed to insure that future danger to the public did not result from the concealment of the gun in a public area.

The narrow exception to the Miranda rule recognized here will to some degree lessen the desirable clarity of that rule. However, the exception will not be difficult for police officers to apply because in each case it will be circumscribed by the exigency which justifies it. Police officers can and will distinguish almost instinctively between questions necessary to secure their own safety or the safety of the public and questions designed solely to elicit testimonial evidence from a suspect.

It is useful and enlightening to read the dissent by Justice Thurgood Marshall, joined by Justices William Brennan and John Paul Stevens. Justice Marshall, whose practical understanding of constitutional rights was second to none (see Brown v. Board of Education), had difficulty with the trading away of such a fundamental right, even for something as paramount as public safety. He had an elegant solution: Please do interrogate without a Miranda warning—just don’t expect to introduce the answers at trial:

The irony of the majority’s decision is that the public’s safety can be perfectly well protected without abridging the Fifth Amendment. If a bomb is about to explode or the public is otherwise imminently imperiled, the police are free to interrogate suspects without advising them of their constitutional rights. Such unconsented questioning may take place not only when police officers act on instinct but also when higher faculties lead them to believe that advising a suspect of his constitutional rights might decrease the likelihood that the suspect would reveal life-saving information. If trickery is necessary to protect the public, then the police may trick a suspect into confessing. While the Fourteenth Amendment sets limits on such behavior, nothing in the Fifth Amendment or our decision in Miranda v. Arizona proscribes this sort of emergency questioning. All the Fifth Amendment forbids is the introduction of coerced statements at trial.

There is one thing that in the early aftermath of this dynamic story can be missed: Whatever he did, whatever we believe about what he did, however vital his knowledge is, Tsarnaev is under no legal obligation to say anything and has the constitutional right not to say anything that could be used against him.

The Justice Department has invoked the public safety exception: it will not yet Mirandize Tsarnaev. In part, they may be trying to reserve the right to use at trial any of the statements he makes in response to questions such as “Are there more IEDs? Who else is currently involved and dangerous?”. Maybe more significantly, they simply don’t want him—as they don’t want any other suspect—to prematurely stop talking. They won’t be telling him yet that he has the right to remain silent or to have an attorney.

But…not telling him he has these rights doesn’t mean that he doesn’t already have them. He does. A Miranda warning does not magically grant a suspect those rights. The much more magical Constitution and Bill of Rights do.

It is not clear that Tsarnaev needs a reminder of those rights. He is by all accounts a smart and educated young man, even if by recent actions a horribly misguided and tragic one. Almost all television viewers are expert on Miranda warnings anyway; even the most law-abiding American has heard them hundreds of times. But if he should decide to say nothing, other than his desire for a lawyer, in America there is nothing police or prosecutors can do. What we may justifiably feel and believe about him and what he and his brother perpetrated won’t change that, and shouldn’t. We didn’t write these self-imposed limitations for easy cases. We put them in place as a test, to see just how deliberate and fair we could be, when all we want is swift and hot-blooded justice. We wrote them to remind ourselves that we are better than that—even when we for a moment and for good reason don’t want to be.

Happy Record Store Day: I Like It Like That

I Like It LIke That
To celebrate International Record Store Day on April 20, Ambassador Jack White might have visited I Like It Like That Records & Tapes on Main Street in Newark, Delaware.

The problem is that the second most important record store in my life is no longer around. Hasn’t been for years. And even if it was, I’m not sure Jack White would be there, though he would have been welcome.

(The first most important record store? A hole in the wall in New Jersey, which soaked up every bit of available adolescent cash, like a dealer peddling stuff to an underage junkie. A gateway drug.)

For the record, Newark has a number of musical distinctions.

The Stone Balloon, also on Main Street, was the site of some epic performances by not-quite-yet-superstars like Bruce Springsteen. That The Balloon is now a “Winehouse” says something about civic and commercial evolution, though there’s too much loud laughter to tell that story.

The Deer Park, also on Main Street, is even more important musically than The Balloon. George Thorogood and the Destroyers began as George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers, and back then George could be found some Thursday nights at the Park, finishing off the destruction of masses of Newark townies with his guitar.

But this is about I Like It Like That. Main Street had a number of worthwhile places to simultaneously be enlightened and spend/kill lots of time. Two in the pantheon were the world’s greatest and most significant bookstore and I Like It Like That.

Somewhere in space, the sounds of I Like It Like That are still reverbing, though those alien rockers will be missing the feeling of walking through that door into another world (though, technically, they are in another world).

To celebrate, one thing would be a marathon playing of Frampton Comes Alive—the most overbought and traded-in album of all time, at least by ILILT standards. Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah.

Better yet, the name of the store is I Like It Like That. So let’s sing:

They got a little place
Across the track
The name of the place is
I Like It Like That
Now, you take Sally
And I’ll take Sue
And we are gonna rock away
All our blues

Now, the last time I was down there
I lost my shoes
They had some cat
Shoutin’ the blues
The people was yellin’
Out for more
And all they were sayin’
Was, ‘Go man go’

Come on, let me show you where it’s at
Come on, let me show you where it’s at
Come on, let me show you where it’s at
The name of the place is
I Like It Like That

Every record store, past, present and future, is where it’s at. BJL, JG and DC—thanks and rock on.

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment
It is just like a movie, some are saying.

No, like a novel.

Two brothers. The older one dead, run over by the younger. The younger on the run—maybe caught or even dead by the time this is read.

In the media, fragments of information are spun into explanations, like Rumplestiltskin’s straw into gold. It is the job of experts to provide answers, and when pieces are missing, to speculate. Can they be blamed?

Writers are the real experts at helping us on this. In 1962, when Truman Capote applied his considerable skill as storyteller to a pair of real-life cold-blooded killers, the book In Cold Blood became something new: the non-fiction novel. Critics celebrated, but others complained that the humanizing of evil made the author an accomplice.

A century earlier, Fyodor Dostoyevsky took an even deeper look at the mind of the killer, a fictional one, in Crime and Punishment. He did not minimize the horror of the crime or humanize the killer for purposes of sympathy, empathy or excuse. He instead set the standard for psychological depth and ambiguity that is the hallmark of modern literature since.

Standard or simplistic explanations and labels fit many needs, including the need of broadcasters to fill dead air while an extended manhunt and its aftermath proceed. But Dostoevsky demanded a trip on the subtle dark seas of family, society and the mind. That’s not just a way we understand the bad actors. It’s how we understand ourselves, even when our own seas are not nearly so dark.

From Crime and Punishment, as Rodion Raskolnikoff  pursues his plan to kill the moneylender Alena Ivanovna. He walks down the street, when someone remarks about his unusual hat:

“I knew it,” he muttered in confusion, “I thought so! That’s the worst of all! Why, a stupid thing like this, the most trivial detail might spoil the whole plan. Yes, my hat is too noticeable…. It looks absurd and that makes it noticeable….With my rags I ought to wear a cap, any sort of old pancake, but not this grotesque thing. Nobody wears such a hat, it would be noticed a mile off, it would be remembered…. What matters is that people would remember it, and that would
give them a clue. For this business one should be as little conspicuous as possible….Trifles, trifles are what matter! Why, it’s just such trifles that always ruin everything….”

He had not far to go; he knew indeed how many steps it was from the gate of his lodging house: exactly seven hundred and thirty. He had counted them once when he had been lost in dreams. At the time he had put no faith in those dreams and was only tantalizing himself by their hideous but daring recklessness. Now, a month later, he had begun to look upon them differently, and, in spite of the monologues in which he jeered at his own impotence and indecision, he had involuntarily come to regard this “hideous” dream as an exploit to be attempted, although he still did not realize this himself. He was positively going now for a “rehearsal” of his project, and at every step his excitement grew more and more violent.

Forget the Senators, Love the Mayors

Mayor Annise Parker

If you are one of those angered and ashamed of members of the U.S. Senate today, you are not alone.

Forty-six U.S. Senators voted against the Manchin Amendment to the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013. This amendment to the gun violence bill was crafted by Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) to be the mildest, least objectionable expansion of background checks conceivable. They tried.

The amendment was rejected. The vote was 54 Yeas to 46 Nays, less than the 60 votes needed under the Senate rules. All the other amendments attempting to enhance regulation also failed.

Three Republicans voted for the amendment, including Toomey, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona. McCain deserves special mention. From the year 2000 on, including the 2008 Presidential election, his “maverick” and “straight talk” credentials have been an on-again, off-again affair. At least for this amendment (though he did not support any other regulation), he took a stand.

Here are the Senators who voted against any expansion of background checks, no matter how small:

Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Enzi (R-WY)
Fischer (R-NE)
Flake (R-AZ)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Lee (R-UT)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reid (D-NV)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

For a change, we have a post-partisan moment, where some Democrats and Republicans can agree on something: the status quo of guns in America is just fine.

Forget the Senators. Whether they believe it or not, a political steamroller is on its way that, no matter how they calculate home state interests or expect the NRA to protect them, will flatten them like Wile E. Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon. Too wily by half.

Let’s talk about mayors, the politicians who can’t distance themselves from the harsh realities of American life, politicians who, unlike others, have to actually work for a living and try, as best they can, to do a little something to make things better.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns is a coalition of over 900 mayors from big cities and small towns across the country:

As mayors, our highest responsibility is to enforce the law and to protect the people we serve. One of the most difficult challenges we face in meeting this responsibility is preventing criminals from illegally obtaining guns and using them. The issue of illegal guns is not conservative or liberal; it is an issue of law and order — and life or death.…

[W]hat binds us together is a determination to fight crime, and a belief that we can do more to stop criminals from getting guns while also protecting the rights of citizens to freely own them.  We have seen how the polarizing rhetoric of gun politics on all sides only obscures the tragic reality we see every day on our streets: violent criminals with easy access to illegal guns.

Above is a photo of Mayor Annise Parker of Houston. She is shown as a representative mayor against illegal guns because Houston is also the home of Senator Ted Cruz, one of the most vocal opponents of any gun legislation.

Maybe what we need to do is replace these Senators at the next available opportunity with almost any of these mayors. These mayors aren’t all angels, but they don’t have time to be blowhards or ideological purists. They know how to get the job done, know what it is to tackle difficult issues, and know what it’s like to do the dirty work of cleaning up messes—and most of all figuring out how to avoid some of those messes in the first place. They could do better, in part because nobody could do worse.

Accidental Racist or Ebony and Ivory

Accidental Racist
You know that the controversy about Accidental Racist, the track and video from Brad Paisley’s new Wheelhouse album, is way out of hand when he is criticized for not being a “real” Southerner anyway because he was born in West Virginia and only now lives in Tennessee.

Seriously.

If you haven’t heard, Accidental Racist is a collaboration between Paisley and LL Cool J. You can find, listen to and purchase the audio. But the official video was pulled almost immediately, in the wake of an unprecedented avalanche of criticism and derision of the song—musically, culturally, politically, sociologically, morally—which adds up to this: It is the worst, most misguided, most laughable, most unlistenable record ever.

What did Brad Paisley, not quite authentic Southerner, and certainly a musical lightweight (20 number one singles, but those were country number ones), do to deserve this?

He wrote and recorded a song that, stripped to its essentials, says that it’s hard to be a Southerner because people come at you with all kinds of presuppositions, not the least of which is that everything you do or say has to be measured against a history which you were not involved in, which doesn’t reflect who you are, and which puts you in the position of not being quite sure of what you can embrace and what you have to reject. LL Cool J comes in to briefly add exactly the same perspective for urban black men.

Simplistic and clumsy, musically and poetically? Maybe. Sincere? Absolutely. Reflects a real problem for Southerners, who just like post-War Germans, have a culture they are proud of, but have to still perform a delicate balancing act to make sure they aren’t the wrong kind of proud so that they can distance themselves from aspects of their own history and from that very culture? If you think that’s easy, try it yourself.

Is Accidental Racist really that bad? Submitted for your consideration, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Stevie Wonder (he deserves a knighthood too). These two are musical geniuses and real humanitarians. Brad Paisley and LL Cool J would be the first to admit that they are not in their league.

The success of McCartney and Wonder includes their collaboration Ebony and Ivory, which spent seven weeks as a number one single in 1982. The song did not propose anything  challenging or deep about racism, nothing about history, or blame, or stereotypes. Instead, it all comes down to something obvious, something uncontroversial that nobody could complain about. Maybe covering this would have been a better choice in 2013. Or maybe not.

Ebony and Ivory

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?

We all know that people are the same where ever we go
There is good and bad in everyone
We learn to live, we learn to give
Each other what we need to survive together alive

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?
Ebony, ivory living in perfect harmony
Ebony, ivory, ooh

We all know that people are the same where ever we go
There is good and bad in everyone
We learn to live, we learn to give
Each other what we need to survive together alive

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord why don’t we?

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore
Take a break with Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941).

He was a Bengali poet, essayist, dramatist, composer and philosopher, and is the most esteemed creative artist of modern India. He was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.

A brief introduction is Stray Birds (1916), which consists of 326 very short verses—each one usually one or two sentences. Below is a selection of them. Among the many online items by and about Tagore there is a 1961 documentary about Tagore by Satyajit Ray, India’s most celebrated film director. Here is a PDF of Stray Birds as originally published, with a translation from Bengali to English by Tagore himself.

These literary stray birds may seem at first glance to be mere poetic aphorisms. Taken together, though, this is a worldview of inspired simplicity.

From Stray Birds by Rabindranath Tagore

1
Stray birds of summer come to my window to sing and fly away.
And yellow leaves of autumn, which have no songs, flutter and fall there with a sigh.

2
O troupe of little vagrants of the world, leave your footprints in my words.

6
If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars.

28
O Beauty, find thyself in love, not in the flattery of thy mirror.

35
The bird wishes it were a cloud. The cloud wishes it were a bird.

36
The waterfall sings, “I find my song, when I find my freedom.”

40
Do not blame your food because you have no appetite.

43
The fish in the water is silent, the animal on the earth is noisy, the bird in the air is singing,
But Man has in him the silence of the sea, the noise of the earth and the music of the air.

45
He has made his weapons his gods. When his weapons win he is defeated himself.

48
The stars are not afraid to appear like fireflies.

52
Man does not reveal himself in his history, he struggles up through it.

58
The sparrow is sorry for the peacock at the burden of its tail.

62
The Perfect decks itself in beauty for the love of the Imperfect.

75
We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.

88
He who wants to do good knocks at the gate; he who loves finds the gate open.

121
I carry in my world that flourishes the worlds that have failed.

123
The bird thinks it is an act of kindness to give the fish a lift in the air.

128
To be outspoken is easy when you do not wait to speak the complete truth.

130
If you shut your door to all errors truth will be shut out.

141
When I travelled to here and to there, I was tired of thee, O Road, but now when thou leadest me to everywhere I am wedded to thee in love.

146
I have my stars in the sky,
But oh for my little lamp unlit in my house.

156
The Great walks with the Small without fear.
The Middling keeps aloof.

158
Power takes as ingratitude the writhings of its victims.

161
The cobweb pretends to catch dew-drops and catches flies.

166
The canal loves to think that rivers exist solely to supply it with water.

169
Thought feeds itself with its own words and grows.

178
It is the little things that I leave behind for my loved ones, –great things are for everyone.

184
He who is too busy doing good finds no time to be good.

193
A mind all logic is like a knife all blade.
It makes the hand bleed that uses it.

207
Praise shames me, for I secretly beg for it.

208
Let my doing nothing when I have nothing to do become untroubled in its depth of peace like the evening in the seashore when the water is silent.

210
The best does not come alone. It comes with the company of the all.

235
Do not say, “It is morning,” and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a new-born child that has no name.

243
The stream of truth flows through its channels of mistakes.

248
Man is worse than an animal when he is an animal.

258
The false can never grow into truth by growing in power.

280
Let the dead have the immortality of fame, but the living the immortality of love.

296
Blessed is he whose fame does not outshine his truth.

317
Man’s history is waiting in patience for the triumph of the insulted man.

319
I long for the Island of Songs across this heaving Sea of Shouts.

323
I have suffered and despaired and known death and I am glad that I am in this great world.

Close to Her

Karen Carpenter
This past week on American Idol, a show on life support, some finalist named Lazaro—whose back story includes the fact that he apparently doesn’t speak English and he stutters—chose to perform the song Close to You by the Carpenters.

Also, Lazaro apparently can’t sing. The performance was rated by Idol experts as the worst ever in the show’s history. It is available online, but please don’t listen; treatment for it will require years of therapy. Lazaro was summarily eliminated by viewers.

In a 1994 tribute album, If I Were a Carpenter, Karen Carpenter songs are covered by an amazing collection of artists. In the video of their version of Superstar,  Sonic Youth includes a Karen Carpenter montage, with their riding around in a convertible, passing a sign announcing “Now Entering Downey, Home of the Carpenters.” It is a moving tribute, and the vocal couldn’t be any farther from Karen Carpenter’s.

Here’s why: no vocals are close to Karen Carpenter’s, and nobody sane or self aware goes there. Not even her brother Richard’s heavy-handed arrangements and production—responsible for their massive commercial success—could obscure that. Watching her sing is a revelation. The revelation is that while she certainly knew she was good, she probably had no idea just how good (or beautiful) she really was. Knowing she was so much more than good enough might not have saved her, but she was that good.

How good? If she was in a competition like American Idol, they would just stop the season right there, if not cancel the show entirely. Same thing if she was on The Voice, because they would have found The Voice. Search over.

In 1980, she sang a television duet with Ella Fitzgerald.  If there has ever been a queen of American popular song, Ella may have been it. Duets are funny things. They are frequently a bit off or complete misfires, even when the two artists are separately good. Another thing is that each one of the pair has to bring something special, even when they are not artistic equals. Comparing Karen to Ella, or anyone to Ella, is like comparing anyone to Karen: pointless. In the case of this duet, remember that Ella was renowned for her purity of tone, her effortless range, and for that something that was supremely and gorgeously her. All those things can be said about Karen Carpenter. Ella was already having health problems at this point, though you wouldn’t know it from her voice, and she would live for another sixteen years to the age of 79. Karen was visibly suffering from the problem that would end her life, three years later, at the age of 32.

Karen Carpenter singing Superstar.

Your Congressional District on Drugs

Brain on Drugs
This is your geography.

NEO

This is your Congressional District on drugs.

Ohio 13th District

Any questions?

Gun Violence Legislation

HenQ: Why is there a picture of a chicken on this post about gun violence legislation?

A: Because a small number of U.S. Senators have decided that the best way to approach the very important issue of legislation to curb gun violence in America is to block a vote on any legislation.

Q: Why is this text so big?

A: Because there have been previous posts about gun violence and about political courage, and after saying the same thing multiple times, it can be therapeutic, if not any more effective, to say the same thing louder. Also, if any of those Senators are not wearing their glasses, they will still be able to see the chicken and read this message about the historic lack of political courage. (Idea borrowed from John Hancock.)

Q: Isn’t this childish and unbecoming adult and reasoned debate?

A: Which? The use of a chicken post? Or the failure of well-paid and trusted public servants to stand up and do their job?