Monday, February 17, 2020

Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack turns 83 today. Beloved but often underestimated, to fully acknowledge her importance is to rethink the presumptions that have haunted popular music for as long as she's been making music. on Roberta Flack, the virtuoso:

Why is Roberta so undervalued?

She's an amazing artist.  She can sing like no one else, she can produce, she can engineer.  She knows music and she makes amazing music.

From Ann Powers' NPR essay on Roberta:

She is best known for majestic ballads like 1973's "Killing Me Softly With His Song," which laid the groundwork for the neo-soul sounds of R&B in the 21st century. But real heads, as the perennially hip Flack might say herself, continually find their way to her albums, which are funky, sexy and political, blending jazz and Latin and rock and, always, classical elements in ways that defy the "adult contemporary" label often attached to her work. She's so often been ahead of the curve in her 50 years recording, bringing the Brazilian arranger and composer Eumir Deodato out of the jazz world into her sessions in the 1970s, helping R&B stalwart and future Disney balladeer Peabo Bryson break through to the mainstream in the early '80s, connecting with new wave reggae star Maxi Priest for a Top 10 hit in the 1990s. Long before "post-genre" was a cliche on a million pop aspirants' lips, Flack showed how to build a legacy based on a quiet belief in limitlessness. Starting with First Take — which will soon be reissued in an extras-packed deluxe edition — she established her own parameters and then continually transcended them.
Though she does occasionally co-write her material, Flack came to fame as an interpreter as bold and discerning as her role models Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra. Like them, she had no fear of putting a Broadway ballad like "The Impossible Dream" next to a Bee Gees song on her setlists. Her inventiveness and panache placed Flack beside Aretha Franklin, Judy Collins and Joan Baez as prime revisionists of the American songbook at the turn of the 1970s. She made room in the repertoire for the new generation of singer-songwriters emerging from the folk revival, like Cohen and Laura Nyro, and for civil rights movement-inspired black composers like Eugene McDaniels, who authored many of her most powerful and political songs. Later she would work with McDaniels and others to invent a new style of R&B that built musical all-inclusiveness into its circulatory system — the marketing term applied to it was "quiet storm" — and which, after too many years of critical underestimation, would reveal itself as a prime element in 21st century pop.
Flack is primed for the kind of critical and popular renaissance that brought Nina Simone back into the forefront of the musical conversation not long ago, and unlike that lost genius, she is still with us to enjoy it during her lifetime. As the only solo artist to win the Grammy for Record of the Year two years in a row — in 1973 for "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," and in 1974 for "Killing Me Softly With His Song" — she should have been granted, at the very least, a spotlight tribute during this year's televised ceremony, especially since host Alicia Keys owes Flack a considerable (and, by her, acknowledged) artistic debt. Instead, there was merely one quick shot of Flack smiling beatifically in the audience. Perhaps that cutaway did capture something: the failure of popular music's official institutions to fully track Flack's importance. She is beloved, yet underestimated, a treasure too rarely held up to the light.

One reason for this, unavoidably, is racism. After the 1980s, when new radio formats and outlets like MTV did much to undo the genre-busting experiments of the previous decade, Flack continued to be a regular presence on both the black-oriented R&B and white-dominated adult contemporary charts. But the influence of this firebrand who had openly defied others' definitions of "soul" was increasingly downplayed within the emerging histories of both rock and soul. (One obvious slight: Though she has been eligible since 1994, she's never even been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.) The values her music conveys — virtuosity's attention to detail; the warm sensuality and tender eroticism shared by longtime friends and lovers; revelations reached slowly and thoughtfully instead of in a clattering crash — didn't coalesce within a rock and roll-defined hierarchy that puts rebels and gritty individualists at the top. Within black communities and among artists of color, Flack's music has always remained a central guiding force. But to fully acknowledge Roberta Flack's importance is to rethink the presumptions that have haunted popular music for as long as she herself has been making music. Really listening to her seems like a good place to start.

No, not just racism.  There is also the issue of sexism.

Ann Powers never knows what the f**k she's writing about.

I can remember in the 70s, some critics trashing her because she lived with her mother.  I'm not joking.  She couldn't be real because she lived with her mother.  The way they'd insist Carly Simon could never rock because she grew up well off.  Sexism.  They never made that argument about coffee heir Lindsey Buckingham or doctor's boy James Taylor. 

But for Ann to call out sexism, she'd have to call out Robert Christgau and she'll never call him out.  There's a circle jerk at play, you understand.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, February 17, 2020.  Mike Bloomberg buys silence, Joe Biden tries to reboot his campaign by offering more of the same, Medicare For All will save money, in Iraq the protesters propose a candidate for prime minister, and much more.

In the United States, the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination continues.  War Hawk Joe Biden has maintained that he only has to win South Carolina.  He's lost Iowa (coming in fourth) and Iowa (coming in fifth).  Somehow, Joe insists, if he can just eek out a win in South Carolina, that will prove he's electable.

No, that's not logical.  It's also increasingly doubtful.  Briana Stewart (ABC NEWS) reports:

 South Carolina state lawmaker Rep. J. Todd Rutherford told Raddatz he’s strongly leaning toward endorsing Bloomberg.
“I am excited about the prospect of getting Donald Trump out of the White House. And I believe at this point, the only way to do it is to go with somebody that has the resources necessary to make it happen,” Rutherford said.
This election is "not about Democrats falling in love," he added. "This is about Democrats making sure that Donald Trump can no longer be the president. And people are so focused on that. Joe Biden's support here is starting to wane only because he'd limped out of Iowa, he'd limp out of New Hampshire. And we are not interested in somebody that cannot win.”
While Biden was competing with other front-running candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire, Steyer has taken advantage of having South Carolina largely to himself.
Since launching his 2020 bid in July, the billionaire activist has built a robust team of 102 staffers. He spent upwards of $178 million in campaign advertisements with $18.7 million targeting black voters in South Carolina, according to Kantar/CMAG.

Peter Schorsch (FLORIDA POLITICS) says it's time for Joe to drop out of the race:

Look at the facts. You didn’t just lose Iowa, you were shellacked. You were supposed to give U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders a run for his money in New Hampshire, but you not only were forced to cede defeat days out, you ended up in a distant fifth place. Fifth! Not to dwell too much on that, but you received less than half the votes of the little-known Senator from Minnesota who came in third.
And now your numbers in Nevada are beginning to cave which, at this stage, surprises exactly no one.
And so now you are putting your hope in the South Carolina comeback?

Recall, Joe, that your message, nay your underlying rationale, for why Democratic primary voters should support you was your electability. Forgetting for a moment that one running on an “electability” theme should win elections, the fact the you are hoping for a win because South Carolina has more than 60% African American voters is the opposite of an “electability” message.
There is no doubt that black voters are an important bloc in the Democratic primary and a vital part of our republic, but in order to beat Donald Trump come November, you simply must extend your base well beyond African Americans.
Further, new polls not only show you on a steady downhill slide, not even Democrats believe anymore that you are the most electable (that honor now goes to Sanders by a comfortable 10-point margin.)

As losses begin to pile up, your polling numbers dip and your electability drops, you have become the spoiler.

Joe wasn't electable when he made that the only thing he was running on.  Now voters know he's not electable and he still has nothing else to offer them.  Joe's real good at shooting down everyone else's plans and proposals, he's just not too good at coming up with anything of his own.  Maybe he could crib from some of Neil Kinnock's proposals during the Thatcher era?

In the meantimes, COMMON DREAMS notes:

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday applauded a new study published today by a team of epidemiologists in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet, which found that Medicare for All will save Americans $450 billion and prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths each and every year.
“This study confirms that Medicare for All will save the American people $450 billion on health care costs and will prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths – each and every year,” Sanders said. “In other words, guaranteeing health care as a human right by creating a Medicare for All system will cost substantially less than our current dysfunctional health care system. It will save working class families thousands of dollars and it will prevent tens of thousands of Americans from dying each year. While the CEOs in the pharmaceutical and health insurance industry may not like it, we will end their greed and enact Medicare for All when I am president.”
According to the study, by replacing premiums, deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket costs with a progressive tax system, Medicare for All will save the average family thousands of dollars each year and will provide lower-income households the greatest relief. 

Struggling hospitals serving low-income communities would be particularly helped by Medicare for All by eliminating uncompensated care, increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates to Medicare levels, and reducing administrative overhead, according to the study.
The study also debunks several attacks on Medicare for All from the private health care industry that made well over $100 billion in profits last year. Doctors and hospitals would see large savings in cost and time from streamlining our bloated and inefficient administrative and billing system, allowing doctors to spend more time with patients, the study found.
The study is the latest in a series of studies conducted over the past three decades that have found that guaranteeing universal health care through a single-payer health care system would not only dramatically improve the health and well-being of the American people, it would cost less than our current dysfunctional health care system that puts profits over people. 

Last month, another medical journal found that 19 out of 22 studies done over the past 30 years concluded that moving to a Medicare for All, single-payer health care system would cost less than our current health care system in the first year, and all of the studies showed that it would cost less within a decade of implementation.

While Bernie promotes programs that would help the American people, Mike Bloomberg tries to buy off those who might criticize him.  COMMON DREAMS reports:

Billionaire Republican-turned-Democrat Presidential Candidate Michael Bloomberg was hit with two damaging front-page headlines Saturday.
The Washington Post  reported"Bloomberg for years has battled women’s allegations of profane, sexist comments."
"Now, as Bloomberg is increasingly viewed as a viable Democratic candidate for president and the #MeToo era has raised the profile of workplace harassment, he is finding that his efforts to prevent disclosure are clashing against demands that he release former employees and complainants from their nondisclosure agreements."
"The allegations that he tolerated a hostile office culture could undercut his ability to criticize President Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct and efforts to keep such claims private."
And in a headline titled "Bloomberg’s Billions: How the Presidential Candidate Built His Influence" the New York Times exposes the corruption of two faux-progressive DNC-affiliated organizations, Emily's List and the Center for American Progress who sold out their organization's missions in return for millions of Bloomberg's influence buying:

"In the fall of 2018, Emily’s List had a dilemma. With congressional elections approaching and the Supreme Court confirmation battle over Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh underway, the Democratic women’s group was hosting a major fund-raising luncheon in New York. Among the scheduled headline speakers was Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor, who had donated nearly $6 million to Emily’s List over the years."
"Days before the event, Mr. Bloomberg made blunt comments in an interview with The New York Times, expressing skepticism about the #MeToo movement and questioning sexual misconduct allegations against Charlie Rose, the disgraced news anchor. Senior Emily’s List officials seriously debated withdrawing Mr. Bloomberg’s invitation, according to three people familiar with the deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity."
"In the end, the group concluded it could not risk alienating Mr. Bloomberg."
And the Times on the Center for American Progress:
"In interviews with The Times, no one described being threatened or coerced by Mr. Bloomberg or his money. But many said his wealth was an inescapable consideration — a gravitational force powerful enough to make coercion unnecessary."
"“They aren’t going to criticize him in his 2020 run because they don’t want to jeopardize receiving financial support from him in the future,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at the good-government group Common Cause."
"That chilling effect was apparent in 2015 to researchers at the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group, when they turned in a report on anti-Muslim bias in the United States. Their draft included a chapter of more than 4,000 words about New York City police surveillance of Muslim communities; Mr. Bloomberg was mentioned by name eight times in the chapter, which was reviewed by The Times." 
"When the report was published a few weeks later, the chapter was gone. So was any mention of Mr. Bloomberg’s name."

"Yasmine Taeb, an author of the report, said in an interview that the authors had been instructed to make drastic revisions or remove the chapter, and opted to do the latter rather than “whitewash the N.Y.P.D.’s wrongdoings.” She said she found it “disconcerting” to be asked to remove the chapter “because of how it was going to be perceived by Mayor Bloomberg.”"

On the topic of Mike Bloomberg, is Rebecca the only one that's going to address 2004?  This was a big deal.  I'm not talking about Bloomberg's speaking at the GOP convention and endorsing Bully Boy Bush, I'm talking about what went down on the streets of New York.  Bloomberg way mayor and all rules and laws were broken -- under his orders? -- to attack the protesters in 2004 -- those protesting the GOP convention.  Rebecca's "remember when michael bloomberg was mayor of nyc and violated all of those protesters rights?"  addresses a very important issue.  Civil liberties were ignored.  Bloomberg was mayor.  It appears he didn't just endorse Bully Boy Bush at the convention, he also used his powers as mayor to destroy the right to protest.

In Iraq, protests continue.

Former VP Ayad Allawi refutes claims that in are not , and says despite the constitution protecting Iraqi's rights to the govt is stopping people from speaking out, burning tents and even them

Young female students chant revolutionary slogans, as they take part in protests in Follow us :

Residents of stand in solidarity with protesters until demands are met Follow us :

Yesterday in Khilani Square near Tahrir Square in , security forces used tear gas canisters to push back protesters from the Square, while a female medic was all the protesters had to remain standing on their feet and fight back for their rights.

Latest update from - Rep. in Iraq urges Iraqi Gov’t to stop using deadly weapons & live ammunition against protesters, after 600+ died since Oct 1. - Students on strike in some provinces. - Khilani Square & Sinak bridge reopened in .

XINHUA reports:

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on Monday condemned the use of hunting rifles with birdshot in recent protests in Baghdad, which caused high number of casualties.
A statement by Hennis-Plasschaert, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said that UNAMI received "credible allegations" that peaceful protesters have been targeted by hunting guns on the road between the squares of al-Tahrir and al-Khalani in downtown Baghdad in the evening of Feb. 14 to 16, injuring at least 50 people.
"A number of security personnel were also injured, including by pellets from hunting guns, stones or Molotov cocktails," the statement said.
"Allegations on the use of similar kinetic impact projectiles were received from Karbala as well, causing injuries to over 150 protesters in January alone," Hennis-Plasschaert added.

She called on the Iraqi authorities to prevent the use of force and to hold those responsible for the abuse accountable, asserting that the "peaceful protesters should be protected at all times," according to the statement.

This morning, on NPR, Jane Arraf discussed the state of the protests.

In Iraq, the formation of a new government remains talk at this point.  Mohammed Rwanduzy (RUDAW) reports:

Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi is set to announce his new government within the week, but he has not consulted major Kurdish and Sunni parties about the formation of his cabinet.

Kurdish and Sunni leaders met on Sunday to call for an Iraqi government which is representative of Iraq’s culturally diverse population.

“We are close to a historical achievement represented by finalizing an independent ministerial cabinet composed of competent individuals with integrity, insulated from intervention from any political party,” PM-designate Allawi said in a Saturday tweet.

Allawi, tasked by President Barham Salih on February 1, 2020 to form his cabinet within 30 days, said he will present his cabinet before Parliament before the end of this week.

The protesters are rallying around Alaa al-Rikaby to be named prime minister designate.

  1. Alaa al-Rikaby, the candidate of the Iraqis as PM

AFP notes:

Rikaby, who has a round face and closely-trimmed beard, began demonstrating in early October alongside others fed up with rampant corruption, lack of jobs and poor public services.

He has since risen to local fame with a series of videos posted on Twitter to his tens of thousands of followers, discussing politics and a path forward for the otherwise leaderless anti-government movement.

In one video last week, he asked protesters who gather at squares across the country to show whether they would back him for the post of prime minister, in a novel approach for a political nomination in Iraq.

"If the people decide so, I'd accept," he said in his latest video on Thursday.

"This post has no value as such for me. I don't see it as a prize, but rather as a huge responsibility," said Rikaby, who has a tent pitched in central Nasiriyah targeted in a recent stun grenade attack.

CURRENCY365 discusses the development.

Let's close with this about the veteran in Texas who has been missing for one week now.

Hello everyone. Never thought I’d have to post something like this. But please take time out of your day to read the screen shot below. My cousin Aaron who lives in Texas is missing since Monday. We need all the help we can get. He is an Iraq Veteran. Please pray for my family.❤️