Merrie Monarch 2017

The World Series, the World Cup, the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl…call it what you will. The hula equivalent of those events is taking place over the next three nights in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai’i. It’s being livestreamed and you can watch it by clicking the image below.

Here’a good primer on what it is, how to watch, and what to look for.

Here’s the Wikipedia article about the Festival.

There are three nights of competition. Tonight a whole bunch of young women get 14 minutes apiece to try to persuade the judges they should be Miss Aloha Hula 2017. Friday night is for groups (halau) performing ancient hulas. Saturday night is for modern hula performances and award ceremonies. Saturday morning the Merrie Monarch Royal Parade winds its way through downtown Hilo, with pa’u riders on horseback and many other participants.

Tickets are nearly impossible to get. The stadium seats fewer than 5,000 (it was built for tennis, not for a gigantic hula event) and it sells out a year in advance. Hilo doesn’t have a whole lot of hotel rooms available, either. The Big Island has about 12,000 rooms, but only about 1,500 of them are on the Hilo side of the island. That’s why the show has been televised live for the past 35 years.

US Attorneys Missing

Back in March Trump’s Attorney General, evil little troll Jeff Sessions, abruptly dismissed all sitting US Attorneys (prosecutors). That isn’t unusual; all Presidents typically ask the people in those jobs to resign and then replace them with attorneys of their own choice. What’s unusual is that a month later not a single one of those positions has been filled. I think this is yet one more example of Trump’s paranoia: he’s refused to let even Cabinet secretaries hire people they want for their agencies if those people haven’t expressed absolute fealty to the Donald.

Sessions, meanwhile, is touting how tough on crime he’s going to be, unlike those wimps Holder and Lynch, who were more concerned about police misbehavior than locking up miscreants for extended periods. What’s unclear to me is how he’s going to execute those policies when he has no lawyers in place to do so.

This is on top of the huge number of Administration jobs going unfilled due to Presidential micromanagement:

Trump personally oversees the hiring process for agency staff by insisting on combing through a binder full of names each week and likes to sign off on each one

Now there’s a good use of Presidential time!

So close in Georgia, so close

Jon Ossoff, a true Democratic longshot to win the Georgia district once held by now-HHS Secretary Tom Price and before him by fellow Republicans Newt Gingrich and Johnny Isakson, came within a whisker of winning it outright in a special election today. He won 48.3% of all votes; Karen Handel, the second place finisher, won a distant 19.7%, but that was among some 17 Republican candidates. Those two will go to a runoff in June.

Now the Republicans will try to coalesce around Handel, a former Georgia Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate who lost to Nathan Deal in 2010. She then took a VP job with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which had just announced it was going to stop funding Planned Parenthood. That was a position she had taken in her race for Governor. She kept that job until 2012 when the Foundation reversed its Planned Parenthood policy. She ran for the US Senate in 2014 but lost.

Ossoff will try to raise more funds to fight off a scared Republican party. He’ll still have Trump to dump on, which should galvanize Democrats in the district.

Trump is a nasty man

At the Easter Egg roll (reduced in size from the last one due to sloppy and belated organization) today he’s in the crowd when a kid asks him to sign his red MAGA hat. Trump does so, and then does he hand it back to the kid who owns it? He does not. He flips it into the air behind the kid.

Then he signs another hat and does it again!

Is he just absent-minded? Did he forget who gave him the hat, twice? Or is he a mean nasty small-minded little man?

I report, you watch the above video and decide.

Just what the Middle East needs

By a vote of 51.4% – 48.6% the Turks approved a referendum today which gives their current President executive powers similar to those of the US President. There’s some question as to how legitimate a lot of the “yes” votes were, though:

The CHP is refusing to accept the Yes victory and is demanding a recount of 60% of the votes, criticising a decision to pass unstamped ballot papers as valid unless proven otherwise.

Three of Turkey’s biggest cities – Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – all voted No to the constitutional changes.

Hmm. Rural votes went one way, urban votes went the other. Where have I seen that pattern before?

Mr Erdogan says the changes are needed to address Turkey’s security challenges nine months after an attempted coup, and to avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The new system, he argues, will resemble those in France and the US and will bring calm in a time of turmoil marked by a Kurdish insurgency, Islamist militancy and conflict in neighbouring Syria, which has led to a huge refugee influx.

Critics of the changes fear the move will make the president’s position too powerful, arguing that it amounts to one-man rule, without the checks and balances of other presidential systems such as those in France and the US.

They say his ability to retain ties to a political party – Mr Erdogan could resume leadership of the AKP he co-founded – will end any chance of impartiality.

Even if the CHP’s objections stand, the country is obviously terribly polarized, which is not what the world and the region needs. It’s one more country at odds with itself, like its neighbors Syria and Iraq. It’s also a NATO member with a large air force base at Incirlik in Adana on the southern coast that’s used by the US Air Force in its bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. For good measure it’s believed there are some 50-90 US nuclear weapons on that base.

If it were me I think I’d be considering a pullback of those nukes.

Buffoons in NC are at it again

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a spiteful little man named Mark Brody who thinks his and his Republican party’s views on transgender people are righter than any old governing athletic body like the NCAA or the Atlantic Coast Conference. He and four co-sponsors have introduced a bill in the NC State Legislature which states that “public universities would be required to immediately begin the process of leaving their athletic conference if the organization boycotts the state.”

A little history is in order. Last year North Carolina passed a law called HB2, often called “the bathroom bill.” It reversed a local ordinance in Charlotte which had outlawed discrimination against transgender people, allowing them to use the public bathroom which corresponded to the gender identity they identified as.

The state has long had laws regulating workplace discrimination, use of public accommodations, minimum wage standards and other business issues. The new law – known as HB2, the Charlotte bathroom bill or, more officially, as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act – makes it illegal for cities to expand upon those state laws, as more than a dozen cities had done, including Charlotte, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham.

North Carolina’s new law sets a statewide definition of classes of people who are protected against discrimination: race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or biological sex as designated on a person’s birth certificate. Sexual orientation – people who are gay – was never explicitly protected under state law and is not now, despite recent court decisions that legalized same-sex marriage.

The law not only overturned the Charlotte bill, it also nullified other local ordinances which would have added protection for LGBT citizens to existing anti-discrimination statutes.

About two weeks ago the ACC announced that North Carolina venues would be allowed to host ACC sporting events again, since the state legislature had modified HB2 to remove the clause which forced people to use the bathrooms conforming to the gender shown on their birth certificates. This after pulling 10 neutral-site events in 2016-2017.

Mr. Brody and his colleagues are vindictive. With their proposed legislation they are threatening the ACC with the loss of UNC-Chapel Hill (which won the NCAA Championship last week) and NC State should the ACC boycott or withdraw its events from the state again. “I think there are a lot of conferences that would love to have North Carolina, including having a national championship basketball team join their conference,” Mr. Brody said.

That’s as may be, but I suspect the alumni at the two schools might have a few things to say about it.

Mr. Brody is an equal opportunity whiner, by the way.

Brody has also filed another bill that takes aim at the NCAA and ACC for their actions on House Bill 2. The “Athletic Associations Accountability Act” would require House and Senate leaders to complain to the IRS that the boycotts violate rules for nonprofit organizations.

That bill would also require any UNC system leader or staff member who serves on a board or committee for an intercollegiate athletic association, such as the ACC and NCAA, to disclose their votes – unless the vote involves a legal settlement or personnel matter. That would make public any votes cast by UNC chancellor or leader on a proposed boycott.

Get that? “You must whine to the Federal IRS!” So much for not liking Uncle Sam’s interference in state government’s rights, huh? Some conservative Mr. Brody is.

Shoulda stood in bed

Hmm. Who had the worse week, Pepsi and its now-pulled “Kendall Jenner joins the demo!” ad? United Airlines and its “re-accommodation” of a passenger because it needed the space to send four of its employees to Louisville? Or Presidential flack Sean Spicer and his multiple missteps about Hitler and chemical gas usage?

I think I’m gonna go with Spicer. As I saw somewhere on Facebook, surely one of the things you learn on Day One at PR Flack School is “Never compare anything to Adolf Hitler. It will not turn out well.”

It surely didn’t for Spicer. He came off looking as though he knew nothing of the Holocaust, nothing of history, and nothing of the day of the year nor of the week he’s in. Today is the 72nd anniversary of the Liberation of Buchenwald:

On April 11, 1945, in expectation of liberation, starved and emaciated prisoners stormed the watchtowers, seizing control of the camp. Later that afternoon, US forces entered Buchenwald. Soldiers from the 6th Armored Division, part of the Third Army, found more than 21,000 people in the camp. Between July 1937 and April 1945, the SS imprisoned some 250,000 persons from all countries of Europe in Buchenwald. Exact mortality figures for the Buchenwald site can only be estimated, as camp authorities never registered a significant number of the prisoners. The SS murdered at least 56,000 male prisoners in the Buchenwald camp system, some 11,000 of them Jews.

As to the week, Passover began yesterday.

Sunday Volk Music

If you’re interested in a curated podcast of folk music with one theme for each session, you should listen to Jim Moran’s Folk Music Podcast, a bimonthly show often partially broadcast on KPFK FM in Los Angeles as part of its “Roots Music and Beyond” program. It’s an outgrowth of Jim’s work at his blog Comparative Video 101, subtitled “SELECTED VIDEOS OF AND COMMENTARY ABOUT SOME CLASSIC FOLK, ROOTS, AND AMERICANA SONGS.”

In its infinite wisdom Blogger has mucked up (aka “deprecated”) the video codes Jim used to create his blog, so he’s recreating it, slowly. Let him tell it:

As of this writing in March of 2017, the Blogspot site that hosts CV101 has “deprecated” or made obsolete the old video code that I have been using since 2007 to make videos visible in these articles. That’s ironic, since for several years Blogspot was not accepting the newer code that is now required, forcing me into a workaround that is now useless.

The upshot is this. Of the 222 posted articles, more than 200 include multiple YT videos, up to ten but averaging about seven per post – more than 1400 videos in all. The change has left me with the choice of either abandoning this project, which at its inception in 2006 elsewhere was a kind of pioneer in presenting embedded videos with commentary – or going into every single article and changing the code for every single video.

I hope that no one is surprised that I am choosing to do the latter. I do believe that there is some value in this site, and several hundred thousand people over the years have enjoyed it.

However – changing all those codes is going to take some serious time to complete, so I beg your indulgence. If you happen by here and find an article that intrigues you but that is missing all or some of the videos, please drop a short comment at the end of the post and I will get to the restoration as soon as I can.

As always, thanks for your attention to this project of mine.

As of April 5 he’s got about thirty entries done and around 180 left to go. They are almost all fascinating. He’ll take a song from its earliest known cover and roll it forward to the most recent version, usually by widely varied artists. The site will be a resource for musicologists for years to come.