Friday, November 30, 2012

Mickey Baker

 It was announced today that legendary guitarist Mickey Baker has died.  He was busy r&b and jazz session guitarist in New York in 1950s and wrote a jazz guitar instruction book series that influenced a generation or two of players.  He is most famous, though,  as half of Mickey and Sylvia.  Their 1956 hit Love is Strange is truly a classic.  Baker's guitar playing is among the best rock/r&b playing ever.  Turns out though that much of is borrowed from Jody Williams playing on Billy Stewart's tune "Billie's Blues" on Chess.  Chess even sued over the matter, but Williams apparently got no compensation. Another Williams piece ("Lucky Lou") was borrowed by Otis Rush for "All Your Love."

This YouTube Of "Love Is Strange" has some very nice vintage photos.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Complete run of Labor Action on-line

Workers' Liberty reports

David Walters has announced the completion of a major milestone for the Left Opposition Digitization Project for the Marxist Internet Archive: the complete run of Labor Action, the newspaper of the Workers Party (U.S.) and Independent Socialist League from 1940 through the Autum of 1958.

Writers for this paper included, among others, Max Shachtman, James T. Farrell, C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, Hal Draper, and Irving Howe. The 19 years of Labor Action represents approx. 1,000 issues published, over half of which are full broadsheet in size. Presented in beautifylly digitaly optimized PDFs, the work was a joint project between the Riazanov Library Project and the Holt Labor Libary. Walters says: "We encourage the free and widespread distribution of this historic archive".

Click here to visit the archive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Partners for Progressive Israel endorses the application to make Palestine a Non-member Observer State in the United Nations

[The original can be found here Americans for a Progressive Israel is linked to Meretz, the Left-wing Zionist,social-democratic, pro-peace Israeli political party.]
November 27, 2012 

Partners for Progressive Israel strongly endorses the application of Palestine to be accorded Non-Member Observer State status at the United Nations and calls on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to do so as well.

As a longstanding member of the American Zionist movement and as an organization that traces its roots to the days of Israel’s creation, we regard the Palestinian application as a vital step forward towards a durable, just, comprehensive, negotiated two-state peace, which is the only way to secure Israel’s existence as a democratic, Jewish-majority state.

The recent violence between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza has underscored that any attempt to ignore the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and any effort to indefinitely maintain the status quo of ‘manageable Occupation’ and ‘low-intensity conflict’ – as Israel’s current government seems inclined – is dangerous folly that is certain to exact a growing price in suffering and death on both sides.
Two Palestinian groups are vying for dominance of the Palestinian national movement: The Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, condones the targeting of civilians, and does not accept Israel’s fundamental legitimacy.  And the Fatah-led PLO, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people, whose leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has endorsed the two-state solution, rejected violence and terrorism, rejected efforts to delegitimize Israel, and is preparing his people for the difficult, but necessary, concessions that a peace agreement will entail.

At this crucial juncture, it is the obligation of the international community, including Israel’s greatest ally, the United States of America, to make sure that the strategy of coexistence and moderation is rewarded, and that the Palestinian people are offered a horizon in which they are able to realize a viable, contiguous, independent state alongside Israel not through guns and bombs, but via the tools of statecraft and diplomacy.

Far from being an act of “diplomatic terror” against Israel (in the words of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman), the Palestinian application for Observer State status is entirely consistent with the two-state approach supported by the international community and by a majority of Israel’s citizens, and nominally endorsed by Israel’s current government.  In particular, we note that the application:
  • Prominently refers to UN Resolution 181 (II) of November 1947, which clearly endorses the existence of an independent “Jewish state” as part of the partition of Mandatory Palestine.  This reference constitutes an important step towards accommodating Prime Minister Netanyahu's demand that Israel be recognized as the expression of Jewish nationhood.
  • Affirms the State of Palestine’s desire to live, “side by side in peace and security with Israel”.
  • Acknowledges that the occupation began in 1967, rather than at the time of Israel’s creation.
  • Emphasizes that the Observer State application is in no way a substitute for final-status negotiations with Israel, whose “urgent resumption and acceleration” is called for.
  • Indicates that mutually agreed adjustments will be made to the 1967 borders in negotiations between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.
On November 29, 1947, the Jews of Mandatory Palestine, the yishuv, rightly celebrated in the streets when the UN General Assembly approved the partition plan and endorsed the principle of the self-determination of the Jewish people.  Sixty-five years later, we believe it is time for the UN to fulfill its two-state vision and recognize a state of Palestine alongside Israel.

We are deeply disturbed by reports of a threatened US cutoff of funds to Mr. Abbas’ government should he follow through with the application, as they suggest an American unwillingness to stand by the Palestinian proponents of a two-state solution.  We call on President Obama to swiftly renew his administration’s serious efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

We are similarly dismayed by reports of threatened Israeli punitive measures – including a withholding of Palestinian tax revenue, massive settlement construction, annexation of parts of the West Bank, and even the toppling of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel cannot decide who will lead the Palestinian people.  But it can and does pursue policies that add legitimacy and validation to one side or the other.  For four years, Israel’s current government has taken steps that have strengthened Hamas at the expense of Palestinian moderates, negotiating with, and making concessions to, Gaza’s hard-line rulers over prisoner releases and ceasefire terms, while at the same time spurning meaningful peace talks with Mr. Abbas and undermining his standing among his people by building thousands of housing units in West Bank settlements.

We call on Mr. Netanyahu at this critical hour to reverse this tragically misguided policy.  We call on Mr. Netanyahu to publicly acknowledge that President Abbas is a worthy partner; to engage constructively with Mr. Abbas in order to achieve a two-state peace based on the 1967 borders, with agreed, equitable territorial exchanges; and to lead the chorus of nations that says ‘Yes’ to a State of Palestine at the United Nations, and alongside the State of Israel.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Favorite Westerns

Norm Geras of Normblog has conducted a number of reader polls over the years and I've participated in  a fair number. His latest is favorite Westerns and the deadline is the end of November. (To enter, look for Norm's email link in the upper right-hand corner of his blog.

I've put together my list. It doesn't include very many classic Westerns and no Clint Eastwood.  On the other hand, it is heavy on what might be called anti-Westerns.

Here's my list with the top three picks as allowed by Norm's rules.

2. True Grit (2010)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Soldier Blue
The Searchers

Blues ona Saturday: Big Bill Broonzy "Summertime Blues"

Big Bill Broonzy, Wikipedia tells us "began in the 1920s when he played country blues to mostly black audiences. Through the ‘30s and ‘40s he successfully navigated a transition in style to a more urban blues sound popular with working class Black audiences. In the 1950s a return to his traditional folk-blues roots made him one of the leading figures of the emerging American folk music revival and an international star. His long and varied career marks him as one of the key figures in the development of blues music in the 20th century."

Broonzy was picked to replace Robert Johnson at the legendary 1938 From Spirituals to Swing , but there was no Big Bill craze similar to that for Johnson. Which is a shame because Bronzy was a very important bluesman and made some very great music. Here's a 1947 performance "Summertime Blues"--not the Eddie Cochran/Who/Blue Cheer rocker. It's very interesting, starting with piano and guitar lines that might been played in the 1930s,then horns enter with lines from swing and jump blues. This was a dominant sound in Chicago and other African-American urban centers. Even the very early Chess Records and Willie Dixon sides were in this vein. Then in 1948, Muddy Waters recorded "I Can't Be Satisfied" and "Rolling Stone" and a blues styles that had been considered out-of-date was again relevant. A preservationist stream keeping country blues alive was created on the white folk circuit, meanwhile Waters went electric and the modern Chicago blues was created.

If you want to learn more about Broonzy, there are over 100 YouTube videos.Bob Riesman has written a highly-regarded biography I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy Bob Riesman. which has a very nice website, which includes an appreciation by Pete Townsend, Foreword by Peter Guralnick, multimedia, and other features.

This seems like a good place to put in a plug for Elijah Wald's Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. While it is focused on Johnson, it is essential to understanding the whole scope of blues and American popular music. Including Broonzy.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blues on a Saturday: Magic Sam "Easy Baby"

 Magic Sam had a short career, dying in 1969 at the age of 32, but among blues afficianados he has a very high reputation.  His two albums on Delmark, West Side Soul and Black Magic, are highly regarded. Here's a sample.

Partners for Progressive Israel on Violence in Israel and Gaza

I find a lot to agree with in this statement from Partners for a Progressive Israel, a group of Americans who support Israel's Meretz, a left wing Zionist social democratic, pro-peace party with roots in Mapam.

 Statement on the latest violence in Israel and Gaza

November 16, 2012

Partners for Progressive Israel is deeply dismayed by the killing and destruction in Israel and the Gaza Strip over these last days, and we urge all sides to refrain from further escalation and reach a negotiated cease-fire with all due speed.  In the last day, Palestinian rockets from Gaza have claimed their first three Israeli lives in the latest round of violence, and the shelling has now reached the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas.  Over a dozen Palestinian civilians, including children, have been killed by Israeli bombing.  We mourn the loss of all innocent life.

As we learned four years ago, massive Israeli military action, divorced from diplomatic progress, does not deliver long-term results. Precious human lives are wasted for short-term gains, or no gains at all. And sometimes the use of force inadvertently creates worse scenarios, as we have witnessed repeatedly throughout the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While Israel clearly has the right to, and must, defend itself from Hamas and the rockets fired from Gaza, Israel has an obligation to use this right and its overwhelming firepower prudently: to seek negotiation first to defuse tensions, to respect the lives of innocent Palestinians, and to recognize that, ultimately, the conflict can be fully resolved only through diplomacy.  Unfortunately, Israel’s current government has not always fulfilled these basic obligations to its citizens.

Hamas is an unsavory neighbor which shoulders a very large degree of responsibility for the current escalation and the ongoing conflict, due to its unwillingness to accept Israel’s fundamental legitimacy. Yet Israel has no choice but to find a way to live alongside the Hamas government for the foreseeable future.  Reports that Israel’s government did not pursue promising third-party efforts to mediate an extended truce with Hamas are therefore a cause for deep concern.

To quote the group of Israelis living in Sderot and nearby communities who have created the organization, “Another Voice”:

“We call on the Israeli government to immediately launch negotiations with the Hamas government.  Rockets and bombs don’t protect us.  We have tried warfare long enough, and both sides have paid, and are still paying, a high price of suffering and loss.  The time has come to talk and seek long-term solutions that will allow citizens on both sides of the border to lead normal lives.”
Above all, at a time when Israel has potential partners in President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Palestinian leaders who are keeping alive the flagging hopes for peace by reaffirming their commitment to a two-state solution, rejecting violence and terrorism, and preparing their people for necessary concessions regarding the ‘right of return’, it is unconscionable for the current Israeli government to continue to rely on military action alone and to resist ending the occupation.

For the long term, a political solution is the only way out of violence and despair, and the only hope for the peace which so many Israelis and Palestinians yearn for and deserve.