Friday, April 29, 2016

Wilbur


A Case of You - Prince


F*ck You, Flint


Courtesy Rebecca Cook/Reuters
While we were distracted by bathrooms and private parts, 47 Republican members of the U.S. Senate added insult to injury for the 100,000 residents of Flint, Michigan, by voting not to provide federal assistance in their time of need.

Everybody on the planet – except, perhaps, the scruffy, bearded man who lives in the woods near my house – has probably heard about the water crisis in Flint. In short, poor decision-making by politicians led to residents being forced to drink and bathe in lead-contaminated water for several months. What’s made matters worse is watching Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, dance clumsily around the fact that either he or his people knew about the unfolding tragedy long before it hit the international news. He’s astounded Democrats and Republicans alike by blaming virtually everyone – from “career bureaucrats” in Lansing to U.S. EPA officials and from Flint politicians to his own staff – for poisoning thousands of individuals in this predominantly African-American community. I’m surprised he hasn’t pointed a disingenuous finger at the scruffy, bearded man who lives in the woods near my house.

Anyway, federal GOP lawmakers voted last week in favor of an amendment – known as the “Coats Amendment,” named after Indiana GOP Senator Dan Coats – to an Energy/Water spending bill that gutted an advanced vehicle manufacturing program within the Energy Department. The money for that program could have been used to fund infrastructure repairs in the city. (Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said at the time, “Today, Republicans voted to remove a funding source for legislation to tackle Flint's water crisis without offering a single dime to clean their poisoned water.")

Click here to read, “Democrats Blast GOP Senators for Vote Against Flint.”

I don’t understand how anyone can publicly flip the bird to an entire community, to go on record saying, in essence, “F*ck you, Flint. Tax breaks for millionaires and unnecessary wars are more important than helping children who are forced to drink and wash in lead-contaminated mud.”

Matthew McFarland
I also don’t understand why people aren’t making a bigger deal about the fact that not one but two individuals connected to this tragedy – Sasha Avonna Bell, one of the first to file a lawsuit over the crisis, and Flint water plant foreman Matthew McFarland – were found dead within a few days of each other. Mr. McFarland, 43, was found dead in his home on April 16 and Ms. Bell, 19, was found shot to death in her home on April 19. (No cause of death yet for Mr. McFarland, but police found no signs of foul play.) I’m not suggesting that dastardly machinations have taken place here but I’m not saying they haven’t either. It’s quite a coincidence, isn’t it?

Sasha Bell
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to bemoan the ridiculous position that U.S. Senate Republicans have taken relative to Merrick Garland, the POTUS’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court (replacing Antonin Scalia, who died last February 13). Simply put, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to allow the Senate to consider Obama’s nominee, insisting that the next president should be the one to make this appointment. This is in spite of the fact that other presidents have made judicial appointments in their last year of office, including Dubya.

Click here to read, “Do presidents stop nominating judges in final year?” at Politifact.com. And click here to read, “Obama can appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court if the Senate does nothing” in the Washington Post.

Although I think the Post author unfairly paints Democrats with the same brush as Republicans, this excerpt sums things up well:

Today, the system seems to be broken. Both parties are at fault, seemingly locked in a death spiral to outdo the other in outrageous behavior. Now, the Senate has simply refused to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, dozens of nominations to federal judgeships and executive offices are pending before the Senate, many for more than a year. Our system prides itself on its checks and balances, but there seems to be no balance to the Senate’s refusal to perform its constitutional duty.

It’s infuriating how Senate Republicans refuse to do anything or let President Obama do anything – and then complain about the dictator in the Oval Office, the imperial president who has the gall to jump over the roadblocks they’ve placed before him at every turn to actually serve the people and achieve something and earn his paycheck.

I know I’m not the only person who can remember when lawmakers came together in times of hardship or crisis, when they rejected partisanship and focused on what constituents needed. It’s not news that somewhere in the years that have passed, screwing voters has become the standard response to any crisis or proposal. What’s looked at first on each piece of legislation is the party affiliation of the sponsor(s) and whether or not Barack Obama supports it; if he does, it’s sent to a committee to die. The merits of the bill, the need it fulfills or the problem it addresses, have become secondary. Partisan gridlock has replaced compromise and getting money for nothing – while denying it to those who deserve it – has replaced forming sound public policy. Sadly, making the rich richer and the poor poorer is now the modus operandi in Lansing and Washington.

How do we fix this? Four letters, people: v-o-t-e. And just don’t be an African-American resident of Flint, Michigan.


This photo of Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell, one of the most disgusting
 politicians ever, is courtesy Scott Applewhite/AP


Sources: Politicsusa.com, PBS.org, Inquisitr.com, RT.com, WNEM.com, WDET.org, WashingtonPost.com, Politifact.com, rollcall.com, MLive.com.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Girls at the Beach

Courtesy Heather Zaban

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - Prince and Some Other Guys


More On His Royal Badness



I saw Prince and the Revolution perform live at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit back in 1982 when he was just becoming the superstar that he is/was. I didn't pay as much attention as I wish I did now. And last year I needed money so I sold all my records - including Prince’s Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain and Around the World in a Day albums – which adds to the already-deep sadness I feel today.

He wasn’t just a rich and famous celebrity to me. He was my 20s, when everything was fresh and new and the possibilities were still endless. He was my first marriage, which I thought would last forever and didn’t. He was funk and creativity and dance and confidence and genius and escape and magic. He was anti-corporate before anti-corporate was cool, a former slave who wouldn’t be quiet, an unpronounceable symbol for a time because that’s how he rolled.

He made race irrelevant and unnoticeable. He made me want to have swagger like him. He could say with a look what I needed a paragraph to convey. He could take a color – purple, of course – and make it his. If he wanted to use eyeliner and carry a cane and bare his ass in pants that didn’t seem finished, he did. If he wanted to captivate with his sensuality, he f*ck*ing did it and if you had a problem with it, the problem was yours. The neighbors in my first apartment building must surely have wondered why a heterosexual guy from the suburbs would play “Do Me, Baby” over and over again with the volume dial at 11. This little man was huge.

His oddness was part of his allure. He was a recluse but not in a monkey-carrying, Ferris Wheel-riding way; it was a genius-exploring- musical-boundaries-and-writing-songs-that-would-be-played-for-decades kind of way. He was “Darling Nikki” – my favorite Prince song – and “Diamonds and Pearls” and “Sign O’ the Times” and of course “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” but also “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Controversy” and “Little Red Corvette” and “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.” He was “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and “I Would Die for U” and “Delirious” and “U Got the Look” and “Raspberry Beret” and “Cream” and “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Kiss.”

I reference all of these songs not because I’m a lazy writer who needs to lengthen my blog post; they’re listed because each has such meaning, such “listenality,” such “Princism.” Each is noteworthy and more than funk or pop or story-telling. Each, in its own way, marks days and weeks and months and years in my life. I don’t remember what I ate for dinner last night but I remember where I was, who I was with and what we were doing when I heard each of these songs for the first – and second and third and fourth, etc. – time.

One of my all-time favorites, perhaps surprisingly, is not a Prince song, although no one who’s heard the version to which I refer – with Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, Billy Preston and others during a 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tribute to George Harrison – would argue with you if you said it was. Because he OWNS it. His truly indescribable guitar solo during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which seems so effortless and fun for him, is earth-shattering, musically, for me. It’s one of those songs (and videos) that I can hear and watch again and again and again, until the person I’m with begs me to stop or my head explodes, whichever comes first. The Beatles may have first recorded it in 1968 but Prince & Friends revive it, kick-start it, breathe new life into it and turn it into a monster, something with which you’ll instantly fall in love whether you’re a music aficionado or a casual listener.

As I shared in Facebook yesterday, I know there are important things going on in Washington and around the world right now. I know there is suffering and pain, politics and problems, hunger and taxes, and that the death of a rich and famous music superstar can become a distraction from what really matters. But Prince really matters to me. His music really matters, and his persona, and his untimely, way-too-young death (he was 57, only three years older than yours truly), and his memorable contributions to our culture matter. It’s always sad when people lose loved ones, when lives end, when the unexpected passage of celebrities shocks us and reminds us of our mortality. But this is a big one. This is huge. This is something to write home about, or at least blog about. This one really hurts.

Rest in peace and power, Prince Rogers Nelson, and thank you for adding dimension to my life and memories that make me smile and cry.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince (June 7, 1958 - April 21, 2016)


Prince had more talent than any one human being should have. 
I know there are momentous happenings, great suffering
and significant developments all over the world but for now, I mourn the death
 of a guy I never met whose music made my life so much better.