In Memory, Emmett Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955):

U.S. Came Close To Unleashing Nuclear Chaos in Vietnam

Fallout_shelterNHK Newsroom Tokyo, has broken a story about the United States’ operation of a secret experimental nuclear reactor in South Vietnam during the war. By itself this revelation is big enough news, but it turns out there is more, much more. According to the story, which includes an interview with a mission participant, in the waning days of the war Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State, ordered the site dismantled in a frantic attempt to keep the technology out of communist hands. Here is the big news: in the event of failure, Kissinger allegedly ordered that the radioactive core be blown up as a last-ditch measure!

Watch: NHK Report – Vietnam War Nuclear Mission

The Man With The Movie Camera (1929)

Frequently included in top ten lists of greatest films of all-time. Directed by Soviet director Dziga Vertov, the film is famous for its range of cinematic techniques — double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, close-ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animations — many of which appear here first. In 2014 Sight and Sound named it the top documentary film ever made. Watch it here:

Hello Michelangelo- Your Conference Call ID# is MDXII

800px-Michelango_Portrait_by_VolterraMichelangelo, master creator of great works of art like the Pietà and David and the Sistine Chapel, was also apparently far ahead of the curve when it came to telecommuting. Here’s how he put it, in a letter to his boss, Pope Julius II, making his case for the privilege of working from home:

“Now you write to me on the pope’s behalf, so you can read the pope this: let His Holiness understand that I am more willing than ever to carry on with the work; and if he wants the tomb come what may, he shouldn’t be bothered about where I work on it, provided that, at the end of the five years we agreed on, it is set up in St Peter’s, wherever he likes; and that it is something beautiful, as I have promised it will be: for I’m sure that if it’s completed, there will be nothing like it in the world.

“I have many marbles on order in Carrara which I shall have brought here along with those I have in Rome. Even if it meant a serious loss to me, I shouldn’t mind so long as I could do the work here; and I would forward the finished pieces one by one so that His Holiness would enjoy them just as much as if I were working in Rome — or even more, because he would just see the finished pieces without having any other bother. ”

The folks at Forbes Magazine announced in 2014 that “telecommuting is the future of work.” Little did they know that Michelangelo had beaten them to the punch by over a half millennium!


Selected Poems and Letters
by Michelangelo (Author), Anthony Mortimer (Editor, Translator, Introduction)  (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 18, 2007

Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra

Chamber of Commerce – The Wages of Sin

Skull MoneyElections are just around the corner again and one thing is certain– we’ll be hearing plenty from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. After all it has a cozy, some might even call it incestuous, relationship with every mainstream media outlet. Big money buys big access and the Chamber is one of the biggest spenders on the planet. In fact it is the largest lobbying group in the U.S., spending more money than any other organization on a yearly basis. It is also one of the most conservative.

The Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1912 by Taft as a firewall against what was seen by business interests as an increasingly powerful federal government (remembering Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting administration) and a surging labor movement (Eugene Debs’ Socialist Party won 6 percent in the 1912 election). From the beginning the Chamber’s raison d’etre was to undermine organized labor. It schemed in concert with another extreme anti-union outfit called the National Association of Manufacturers, which opposed efforts to expand workers’ compensation and ban child labor. They were quite successful (with an assist from politicians and police who dutifully ginned-up the Red Scare in 1919), leading to previously unparalleled business prosperity in the roaring 20s. But the party came at the expense of the working classes, the fortunes were made by speculators, corporation owners and bankers, not by those who produced and bought goods. We all know how that ended, with the stock market crash and the Great Depression.  

Unfazed after helping run the country aground, the Chamber then tried to block the rescue boats from entering the harbor. It despised the New Deal, accusing Franklin Roosevelt of attempting to ‘Sovietize’ America, lobbying heavily against the president’s entire legislative package. Later, with the onset of war in Europe, these folks were so wrapped in ideological hatred for FDR that, incredibly, they opposed the Lend-Lease program, designed to supply the allies with critical material to fight the Germans (and which ultimately made their business constituents millions). Here is a question worth asking: had it not been for the devastation of U.S. industry in the Depression, and had not so many of the nation’s factories been laying fallow, would the Chamber and its allies have allowed FDR to so easily transition the industrial base to create the “arsenal of democracy” to fight and win WWII?

In the 1940s, as the nation’s economy recovered, so did the Chamber of Commerce. In 1947 it was instrumental in passing the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, the first major blow in the fight to emasculate a newly emboldened organized labor. In addition, the Chamber established itself as a permanent source of funds for America’s Cold Warriors. In the 1950s, learning from earlier successes, the Chamber was instrumental in bringing us the second Red Scare by lending critical financial and political support to Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt to root out communists in the trade unions, schools and government, ruining countless innocent careers and lives in the process; in the 1960s it lobbied, unsuccessfully, for the killing of Medicare; in the 1980s it campaigned against regulations on nuclear plants and mine safety rules. The list goes on, and on, ad infinitum (ad nauseam). But that’s the price of doing business, right?

Throughout its existence the Chamber of Commerce has consistently fought against healthcare reform, unionization, living wages, workplace safety, progressive taxation, progressive education and environmental action. In the fight against global warming poll after poll shows that a large majority of Americans believe the climate science, they understand that the planet has never faced a bigger challenge, but nearly all attempts at remedial action have been completely blocked in Washington, and the U.S. Chamber is a major reason why. It has lobbied against every effort to cut carbon emissions, most recently celebrating a SCOTUS decision allowing coal plants to continue to foul the air with mercury. Enormous amounts of Chamber of Commerce electoral contributions go to climate change deniers. The NAFTA and TPP trade deals, bad news for American workers and the environment, were practically authored by Chamber lobbyists.

One agenda where the Chamber of Commerce has failed miserably at home in recent decades has been in its effort to support big tobacco. But has that stopped these assassins? Nope, the Chamber continues to see no evil in killing people for profit, it has just pointed its death-ray at new targets:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Works Globally to Fight Anti-Smoking Measures

So next election season, when I see those campaign ads sponsored by the innocuous sounding Chamber of Commerce, it will be my tipoff to vote for the other candidate. Easy!

You can bet the farm it won’t be bankrolling Bernie Sanders….

Related: How the Chamber of Commerce Established Libertarianism and Milton Freidman

Philadelphia Jazz City – The Great Tradition

Hank_MobleyBillie Holiday was born there. John Coltrane, and Dizzy Gillespie called it home during their lifetimes. In addition to being the “cradle of liberty” and the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Philadelphia’s contribution to America’s cultural and artistic landscape runs nearly as deep, especially when it comes to jazz.

Philadelphia’s jazz scene developed in the early 20th century, with two clubs, the Standard Theatre and the Dunbar Theatre, hosting most major acts travelling along the Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York corridor. Later, clubs opened along Columbia Avenue in North Philadelphia and the Clef Club, the Showboat, and Pep’s called South Philly home. From those early beginnings Philadelphia’s association with jazz grew steadily, mirroring the meteoric rise of the art form’s popularity, on through the peak years of the 40s, 50, and 60s. In addition to the giants of jazz listed above an amazing list of jazz greats established themselves there, or called the city home (not in any special order):

Ethel WatersStan GetzClifford BrownPhilly Joe Jones, Reggie Workman, Red Rodney (with the great Frank Young on drums), Jimmy Smith, Hank Mobley, Wilbur Ware, Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Odean Pope, Kenny BarronHenry Grimes, Jimmy Garrison, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Fortune, Archie Shepp, Rashied Ali, Sun RaStanley ClarkeJamaaladeen Tacuma, Christian McBride… Just to name a few.


Photo: Hank Mobley. Photograph by Ted Williams, circa 1956

Guns in American Society – No Magic Bullets

640px-Tiananmen_Mao Portrait_GandhiMao famously said that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Suggesting that in order to take outright political control the armed struggle is an absolute necessity. And although this is known as one of the famous creeds of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory, it has also clearly been adopted by those on the other side of the barricades, most aggressively by the United States.

Gandhi on the other hand taught that the monopoly on courage is held by those who stand and face the cannons, not by those who cower behind them. Guns (or insert drones here) are for the cowards in other words.

Until American society chooses Gandhi’s message over Mao’s message as its overarching philosophy on violence, and commits to teaching it from the earliest grades in schools and to echoing it repeatedly and endlessly in the media, no mere tweaking of easily circumvented gun laws will make the fundamental difference. There are no quick fixes, it will take generations. Shame is a powerful human driver and nobody aspires to be known as a coward…

Kamasi Washington and the Next Step – Epic Jazz from LA

From the Los Angeles Times:

“the idea of a South Central jazz ingénue makes for a hell of a story, and his band is surely amongst the most purely gifted artists in our city. The Epic is a cause for celebration whichever way you look at it, and as its creator, Washington deserves all the acclaim coming his way.”