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The Fraud


Whoever commits a fraud is guilty not only of the particular injury to him who he deceives, but of the diminution of that confidence which constitutes not only the ease but the existence of society.

–Samuel Johnson


Come on, you knew he* was a fraud.

A grifter. A con man.

It was always out there for us to see if we took the time to look and weren’t distracted by the gaudy golden letters that screamed out his name being plastered on every surface of his properties. But a lot of us didn’t take the time to look deeper and some were indeed mesmerized by his branding.

I pointed out four years ago that one bit of evidence of his ineptitude as a businessman was to be found in looking at his Atlantic City casinos. His casinos were part of a publicly held corporation from 1985 to 1995. It was the only time he was answerable to shareholders and he failed them in a most spectacular fashion. You have to realize that in that specific time period, almost every company and stock affiliated with gambling and casinos were highly profitable. Yet, his was the exception, somehow managing to go bankrupt after ten years.

In fact, if you had invested $10,000 in his corporation’s stock in 1985 you would found yourself with a nearly worthless pile of paper. It lost 96% of its value in the ten years and your 10G’s were worth a measly $400.

$400.

All that was left after a 10 year investment of $10,000 in a booming industry at that time.

Yet, people continued to call him a great businessman. And it continued even as his every venture went boots up or were implicated in some sort of fraud litigation. His self-named university(!) and his ridiculous steaks or bottled water, for examples. The fraud even extended into his efforts to appear as a charitable benefactor.

His charity was disbanded and he and his family of grifters are prohibited from operating any charitable foundation in NY because of his illegal handling of the funds.

They actually stole money from a children’s charity, for chrissake.

He hasn’t done anything in the four years that changes any of this (and there is so much more that I just don’t feel like documenting here this morning) and the swampy, corrupt deals he continues to make every single day only enhances the truth of what he is– a fraud.

And maybe that is the only time you can use his own brand of narcissistic hyperbole and say that he is the greatest at anything.

He may be the greatest bad businessperson of all time. He certainly has perpetrated a fraud bigly.

And you know something? I don’t hold it against him that he is a shit businessperson. There are plenty of them out there who do little lasting harm.

Hell, I was and might still be a shit businessman.

But I hate that he has parlayed his failures, through shady deals with foreign interests and a deepening and broadening of the swamp that is public corruption, into a position where he has eroded all public confidence in nearly everything that binds us together.

His fraud, even if you can somehow dismiss the criminality of it, has put our entire system of democracy at risk.

It must stop.

But he is shielded by his enablers in the Senate and House, who only serve now to perpetuate the fraud.

The only way is to stop this is to Vote Blue in huge numbers up and down the ballots.

That is the only thing that can end this fraud.

 

Sign of the Times


“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain


These certainly is a time of mental pain.  a It’s time with a lot of moving parts, so many things with so many repercussions all going on at one time. Everything, every emotion and passion, feels heightened.

And that can be overwhelming. After all, most of us devote our lives to avoiding pain and difficult emotions.

Unfortunately, there are times when it can’t be avoided.

This is such a time.

We will all have to dig deep into our inner reserves and call on whatever courage and strength we have accumulated there. And if our reserves feel lacking, don’t despair alone. As C.S. Lewis points out above, mental pain is hard to bear and trying to go it alone makes it even more difficult. Everyone–and I mean everyone–needs help now and then so in these times of super stress, reach out and let someone know.

The exposure is often purifying.

On that note, here’s song from someone who, several years ago, I never thought I’d be playing here. It’s Sign of the Times from Harry Styles, who came to fame as part of the manufactured British boy band phenoms, One Direction. But going out on his own, he has proved himself quite a talent and this song has stuck with me from the first time I heard it a few years back.

Give a listen, reach out to friends and family and have a decent day.


 

The Partisan


In the last week or so, I have featured a few songs of resistance from the past century. The song we’re looking at today, The Partisan, is a song most often associated with the late Leonard Cohen and his 1969 recording of the song. It has come to be seen as one of his songs but it has an interesting history.

The Leonard Cohen version is actually an early 1960’s adaptation and translation into English of an earlier French song from songwriter Hy Zaret, who is best known for writing the huge hit Unchained Melody for the Righteous Brothers.

The songs origins however go back to World War II France and the Resistance fighters battling the invading Nazis there, the Free French Forces. The song was originally composed by Anna Marly, who is an interesting case.

Anna Marly, born in 1917, was the daughter of a Russian noble family whose father was executed by the revolutionaries in the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1918. Her family fled first to Finland then settled in France, part of the White Russian exile community there. As a youth she was aballet dancer in Monte Carlo and was also taught music by fellow Russian exile, composer Sergei Prokofiev, best known for his Peter and the Wolf. By the time she was 17, she had changed her Russian name to Marly and was performing her own songs in the Paris cabarets.

She fled to England in 1940 when France fell to the invading German forces. There she began to communicate with members of the rebel FFF, the Free French Forces. A leader of the group heard her singing her song, Chant des Partisans, in Russian in a London club while there in 1943. He asked two French writers accompanying him to translate the song into French with the intention that it might become a replacement for  La Marseillaisethe French anthem banned by the occupying Germans. The translated song soon became the new anthem for French resistance and the two writers, Joseph Kessel and Maurice Druon, were credited for many years as the writers of the song. It wasn’t until quite a few years later that Anna Marly was credited as the writer of the song.

Marly ended up moving to the USA after the war, living for some time in Richfield Springs, NY, not far from Cooperstown, near a Russian Orthodox Monastery there, the only such monastery in North America. She died in 2006 in Alaska at age 88.

But her song lives on in history and in some form today.

Here are three versions below. The first is an Anna Marly version in French from 1944. The second is an early 1960’s version of the Hy Zaret translation and the final is a performance from Leonard Cohen of his adaptation of Zaret’s version. All have their own feel and power.

 



“Sublime”– Currently at the Principle Gallery, Alexandria


WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

–Mary Oliver


It’s been my privilege and good fortune to spend much of my life among the trees. I have climbed and played on them as a child and there are many memories of specific trees from my childhood. I have planted multitudes of trees and nurtured them.  I have lived under their watchful cover and have built a studio among them where I worked for many years. In fact, much of my livelihood has been derived from a certain Red Tree.

Throughout it all, there has been a sense of them as beings, unlike us humans but living beings nonetheless. I think that sometimes that we are the aliens living among their native race here on earth. I also like to think that I have a neighborly friendship of sorts with the trees around me. An understanding it might be called.

I try to not harm them and try my best to protect them, That it is becoming harder as invasive species become more and more prevalent. The ash trees in our area are on their last legs, for instance, from the emerald ash borer beetle. It is tragic to see them begin to fail from the onslaught of the beetles. But they maintain their stoic dignity until the bitter end, as they slowly dissemble with their upper limbs falling first. Eventually, all that remains is a tall sheared off trunk standing as a memorial to the life that once stood proudly in that space.

I do mourn for the trees. There is a white pine that stands by our drive. It is probably 25-30 years old and watching its growth over the years has been a delight as it grew large and full in that time. But this year, this goddamn 2020, its needles suddenly went brown and it died quickly and completely. Each time, we pass it as we go down our drive, I feel a great sense of loss, a deep bite of anguish over the fact that it died on my watch.

It feels like it was our responsibility. We are the caretakers for our trees. Or rather, we serve the trees so that they can complete their destiny on their land.

That being said, the poem at the top from Mary Oliver certainly rings true for me as it recognizes the profound gift that trees often offer to those of us lucky enough to spend time and share space with them.

Here’s lovely reading of the poem from Amanda Palmer.


A Defining Vote


It’s your life — but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.

–Eleanor Roosevelt


I read a comment by someone on social media that tried to defend their possible vote for the president*** in the upcoming election by saying that who they voted for did not define them.

In normal times, I might agree with them to a point. I know plenty of folks who voted for Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes along with John McCain and Mitt Romney  and their values were not so different than my own. We shared some beliefs on some things and had different viewpoints on others. But we didn’t live on different planets, didn’t hold beliefs that were against every fiber of our moral selves.

However, these are not normal times, as you may have noticed.

Things are spiraling quickly with a deadly pandemic.

The forests burn, the rivers flood and hurricanes wreak havoc as we experience more and more dire climate crises throughout the land.

The streets are filled with protesters fighting for justice and racial equality. Opposing them is an armed legion devoted to open white supremacy that we are finding extends deeply into law enforcement.

There’s an economy that is staggering from job losses and business closings along with an exploding budget deficit.

Forgotten immigrant children and families are still in detention centers with allegations of sexual abuse and forced sterilizations coming out in recent months.

Our longtime and sworn foes around the world openly interfere in our elections.

I am sure I am missing some awful aspect here but none of it is normal.

And leading us is a man*** who seems almost pledged to making every one of these situations worse. He refuses to take any responsibility for his actions or inactions.

He has no plan for dealing with the pandemic. There was a plan early in the pandemic but it was set aside for political purposes because they believed the virus was only affecting the more populated Blue states. He then refused to take all the actions available to him because he felt that by passing responsibility for action on to the governors, they would be held accountable for a virus he knew was deadly even as he publicly said was not much of a threat.

A man who refuses to criticize our longtime enemies even as they pay bounties, on which he also refuses to comment,  on the heads our troops. The are the same troops he calls “suckers” for serving and “losers” when they are captured or killed. In fact, he fawns over despots and dictators, often subjugating himself and our nation to them. All of this while he spurns and alienates our longtime allies.

A man who openly foments racism and uses it as a pry bar on our population. Who refuses to criticize the white supremacists even as the FBI and other agencies point out that they are the most deadly and dangerous terrorist group at play in this country. In rallies, he talks about the “good genes” in states that are homogenously white and uses racial buzzwords when describing people of color. This racism extends to his immigration policies.

He has openly invited foreign interference in our elections and in recent days has set the stage for creating a crisis around the election, negating the ballots and sending the election back to state delegations that would be allowed to set aside the actual votes and choose the president as they see fit. His campaign has called for an army of able-bodied patriots to volunteer to surveil polling places during the election.

He speaks openly of ruling after a second term, much like his Russian mentor.

His actions are those of a dictator.

He is corrupt. He is dishonest. He is immoral. He is a racist. He is hateful and vengeful. He is weak-willed. He is beyond selfish. He is loyal to absolutely no one and no country.

There is no gray area here this year.

You are defined more than ever by this year’s vote.

In this election, if you stand with this man***, those are the values you are adopting.

I will forever define you by your vote this year.

If you vote for this man***, I will forever see you as racist, as morally bankrupt, as dishonest, as weak-willed, selfish, bitter, mean-spirited and stupid as the man*** you chose. That is the definition you choose.

You may think that is wrong or harsh or that I am somehow being hyperbolic.

Maybe so.

But I stand by it. Especially in this year, this terrible mess we call 2020. Nothing I have seen in the past four years has given me pause or proven me wrong. You have had more than ample time and evidence to see what he truly is.

If you can’t see that, I can live with this judgement. Both mine of you and you of me.

There is a line in the sand. This is a binary election. Yes or no.

Yes to America. No to Trump.

Our future depends on it. Try to have a good day and keep this in mind: this might be the best chance you will have to have a good day if he*** is somehow reelected or subverts or outright steals the election because it will never ever get better with him.

So, remember that today might be as good as it gets for a long time to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zog Nit Keynmol

One of the very few surviving drawings from the Warsaw Ghetto


“Zog Nit Keynmol (Song of the Warsaw Ghetto)”

Never say that you have reached the very end,
When leaden skies a bitter future may portend;
For sure the hour for which we yearn will yet arrive,
And our marching step will thunder: we survive!

From green palm trees to the land of distant snow,
We are here with our sorrow, our woe,
And wherever our blood was shed in pain,
Our fighting spirits now will resurrect again.

The golden rays of morning sun will dry our tears,
Dispelling bitter agony of yesteryears,
But if the sun and dawn with us will be delayed,
Then let this song ring out to you the call, instead.

Not lead, but blood inscribed this bitter song we sing,
It’s not a caroling of birds upon the wing,
But ’twas a people midst the crashing fires of hell
That sang this song and fought courageous till it fell.

So never say that you have reached the very end
Though leaden skies a bitter future may portend
Because the hour which we yearn for will arrive
And our marching step will thunder: We survive!


I like history and am a fan of World War II movies. Now when I say that, I don’t mean the combat films, though there are many fine examples. My favorites are those that focus on the people who fought as Partisans against the fascist forces of that time. Movies like Hangmen Also Die!, The Seventh Cross and Watch on the Rhine are such examples and favorites of mine. Casablanca, at its core, is also such a film.

There is something in these films that goes beyond the horror and stupidity of war and brings a very human element into the conversation. For me, it is the portrayal of common people fighting for their freedom and dignity in any way they can against brutal and overwhelmingly oppressive forces that I find so appealing. They often band together in covert underground organizations to form a network that attempts to stymie their oppressors expansive desires.

Many of these groups of partisans had rallying songs that they used to unite themselves and to shore up their strength and courage. In Watch on the Rhine, one of my favorite characters in all filmdom, a Resistance leader played to perfection by Paul Lukas, sings a song that he sang as a German soldier returning from WW I that had been adapted as a song of resistance to the Nazis. Very powerful stuff.

The song below (with lyrics above) is such a song. It is Zog Nit Keynmol which is sometimes called The Song of the Partisans or The Song of the Warsaw Ghetto. It was sung during the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto and is still sung today as an anthem of defiance and perseverance.

And survival.

Most versions of this song are in Yiddish or Hebrew but I am sharing the version of this song from the great Paul Robeson that integrates both an English translation along with the original Yiddish lyrics.

If you need to shore up your own courage and strength in the iffy days ahead, give a listen. Powerful stuff, indeed. Have a good day and stay aware.


Good Night, Day


The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?

‘No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.’

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning


Thought I’d kick off the first day of autumn by sharing a painting, And the Glimmer Comes, which I look at from my chair now, a few words from the always inspiring Viktor Frankl on finding meaning in one’s life and a piece of music that brings it all together for me, as someone just in the autumn of his life. Well, I say just but I guess that would be based on a lifespan of 120 years.

High hopes, I suppose.

The music is an atmospheric piece, Good Night, Day, from the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018) who was best known for his scores for films such as Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and The Theory of Everything.

I am going to leave it at that. Have a good first day of fall.

 


 

Tower of Lies/Bella Ciao


Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina


 


GC Myers- Tower of Lies
How long can you stand on a tower of lies?
How long can you endure on a tower built with  lies for posts and boasts for beams ?
How long before you see the folly in reinforcing one lie with another?
How long before the foundations come apart and fail?
How long before truth comes as gravity to pull this tower down?
How long can we tolerate you standing brazenly atop your tower of lies?
How long until the inevitable collapse comes?
How long until we begin to tally the casualties from the fall?
How long before we begin to build a straighter and stronger tower?
How long can you stand on this tower of lies?

The post above ran back in February of 2017. That seems like an eternity ago now. It asks how long you can stand on a tower of lies.

We may be coming to an answer, at last. The past 3 1/2 years has seen the most remarkable amount of lying and deceit ever to spew from an administration. It is without equal in our history.

Not even close.

The whole administration is a tower built from lies, deflections, spittle, tape and hairspray. It is as weak as the fool atop it.

And now the “Good Germans” who continue to shore up the foundations of this rickety horror show now make no pretense of honesty, openly and shamelessly lying for all the world to see. Their words, their ethics, their moral compasses are worthless trinkets now.

It is obvious they will and plan to do absolutely anything needed to maintain power. There are a number of scenarios floating out there that outline sheer power plays right out of the fascist/authoritarian playbook that might be in play soon. As hard as it is to imagine these things ever coming to be in this land, we have to at least look at them, be aware of them.

I know that four years ago, in September of 2016, I worried that the scenario we’re experiencing might be a possibility with the election of the orange creature. But I felt that my imagination was just running wild and that the institutions, our Constitution, the balance of power would surely  be strong enough to hold back the onslaught.

So now, I hope for the best outcome but pledge to be prepared for the worst.

Be aware and prepare.

Here’s another song from people who were in such a situation. It’s Bella Ciao, a resistance song from the Italian partisans, the anti-fascists who fought the underground battle against Mussolini and Hitler during World War II.

Bella Ciao was originally a rallying song for the women who labored in the rice paddies of northern Italy in the 19th century. Their jobs were backbreaking and they were treated poorly which resulted in strikes and riots and the violence that accompanies such things. This was their rallying song. Bellla Ciao translates as Goodbye Beautiful.

This version is from Marc Ribot‘s 2018 album Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 and features the unmistakable vocals of the great Tom Waits. It is a powerful version of a powerful song that still stands as symbol of resistance to authoritarianism to this day.

Let’s hope we don’t have to adopt this song as our own. Be aware and prepare.

 


As I walk this land of sudden beauty
I hear the voices of such angry men
But my eye’s been on the prize for so long now
Ain’t gonna let them turn
Ain’t gonna let them turn me ’round again

— Ain’t Gonna Let Them Turn Me Around, Marc Ribot/ Steve Earle


I don’t want to write anything this morning. I don’t want to disrupt the quiet of a slow Sunday morning with bitter anger and long spews of profanity. You don’t need to hear it from me this morning.

It’s a time to gather one’s strength and get ready for the difficult days ahead.

So, I am simply going to share a couple of songs, as I do on every Sunday morning. One is a song that came from a late 19th century folk spiritual that was sung in the civil rights marches of the early 60’s, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around. It is powerfully performed here by Sweet Honey in the Rock. The second, Ain’t Gonna Let Them Turn Us Around, is loosely derived from the first song and is from guitarist Marc Ribot‘s 2018 album, Songs of Resistance 1942-2018. and features the vocals of Steve Earle.

Give a listen.

Don’t lose heart. Look at it this way– there is no longer any veil covering their willingness to grab and maintain power at any cost. You now fully know what you’re facing and can prepare.

Use your day wisely and proceed without fear. And vote early.



RBG


And the stars fell out of heaven and the moon could not be found
The sun was in a million pieces scattered all around
Why did you ever leave me, you knew how it would hurt
And now there’s darkness on the face of the earth

Willie Nelson, Darkness on the Face of the Earth


No words this morning.

Losing an authentic champion for the people and for truth does that, especially in a time when she is so needed.

Lots of concerns, worries, going forward.

RIP RBG.

And goddamn this year.

Here’s Willie’s song. See you tomorrow.

 

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