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.

Some May Call It Treason

Brian Beutler at The New Republic:

At his regular, end-of-session Capitol briefing on Friday, just before the Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Mitch McConnell took a victory lap for himself. “As I look back on my career,” he said, “I think the most consequential decision I’ve ever been involved in was the decision to let the president being elected last year pick the Supreme Court nominee.”

That was indeed a masterstroke of power politics. But for my money, the most consequential decision of McConnell’s career (and, since this is McConnell we’re talking about, the most diabolical decision as well) came last summer—amid intense, classified, bipartisan discussions about how to respond to Russian election interference—and remained undisclosed until December.

We learned earlier this week that on August 25, 2016 the CIA had warned Harry Reid (the Democratic Senate Majority Leader at the time) that the Russians were attempting to help Trump win, and that some of Trump’s advisers were possibly working with the Russians to do so. But McConnell threatened the Democrats in Congress and the Obama White House that he’d raise a stink if that information was made public during the Presidential campaign.

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

Beutler may thnk that’s a master stroke. I call it damned close to treason. Aiding a foreign nation in its attempts to suborn this country’s election? What else might it be called?

Big news day

First the Senate Republicans, as promised, destroyed years of Senate traditions in order to place another conservative vote onto the Supreme Court, a long-term goal of theirs.

It started with Bush v. Gore, when five conservative justices abruptly halted the recount of Florida’s ballots in the 2000 election and made George W. Bush president.


Later, Bush filled his second vacancy with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., and he and [earlier choice] Roberts were key to two of the most activist decisions in court history on matters central to how our elections work.

In 2010, Roberts and Alito voted with the 5-to-4 majority in Citizens United that overturned decades of law and precedent to widen the gates to big money in campaigns. Then, in 2013, they were integral to another 5-to-4 decision, Shelby County, that gutted the Voting Rights Act. Many Republican-controlled states rushed in with new laws, including voter ID requirements, that impeded access to the ballot by African Americans and other minorities.

And now we’re hearing (I heard Senator Thune of South Dakota say it on the News Hour tonight) that it’s all the Democrats’ fault, that if Harry Reid hadn’t eliminated the filibuster for lower-court nominations back in 2013 the poor victims of that in the Republican Senate wouldn’t have had to go the rest of the way today.

That’s hogwash, of course. Reid did it because the Mitch McConnell-led Republicans refused to hold hearings for those judges and for routine Presidential nominations, and the business of both the Judicial and Executive Branches of government were being deliberately blocked for political reasons. Remember, McConnell (he of the “keep Obama a one-term President” vow) utilized the filibuster more than during any other President’s terms in office while Obama was President. Here’s a chart from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones which shows it.

So much for that mean Harry Reid.

In other news, Trump concluded that Assad of Syria was a bad man for gassing his people on TV where Trump had to see them (he somehow missed the previous five years of death and destruction via barrel-bomb the Syrian dictator had visited on them) and so he petulantly launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an air base which might or might not have been the one where the chemical weapons which killed people the other day originated.

Bogeys, Snowmen and…falling down stairs?

The first two are hazards during rounds of golf, but falling down the wooden stairs at the house you’ve rented for the Masters Tournament is unusual. That’s what Dustin Johnson did today, landing on his lower back and elbows. Considering the odds he’d win the tournament were 11-2 before the fall, this may throw the thing wide open. Once the word got out that he’d injured himself his odds dropped to 7-1.

I feel sorry for the guy, both because he was in good shape to win and because I know what anti-inflammatory regimens are like. I have my doubts that he’ll be able to play tomorrow in the opening round.

Gimme some of that pie!

I think I’d like some Schadenfreude Pie.

What’s the occasion for my hunger for such a dark and dangerous pie?

This lovely news story. Bill-O losing advertisers, Fox losing revenue.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer organization. O’Reilly and Fox have had to pay out $13M over the years to settle sexual harassment cases brought against him, and once that became public over the weekend at least a dozen major companies have pulled their ads from his show. My opinion of Fox is low and my opinion of O’Reilly is even lower, so any damage either does to the anchor or the network is balm to my soul.