The Breakfast Club (Better Than Mozart?)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgJakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, the very name tells a story of the pervasive anti-Semitism in pre-World War II Europe.

Mendelssohn’s Grandfather was the noted Jewish philosopher Moses and his Father Abraham a banker who was instrumental in breaking Napoleon’s Continental System which may explain Felix’s positive reception by the British.  Abraham was not very happy being a Jew, especially a notorious one, and declined to have Felix and his brother Paul circumcised.

After moving the family to Berlin from Hamburg in 1811, Abraham had Felix baptized in the Reformed Church where he acquired his Christian name- Jakob Ludwig.  Abraham himself renounced the name Mendelssohn and adopted the name Bartholdy from his wife’s family which itself had taken it from the name of some property in Luisenstadt that they owned.

Talk about your Oedipal issues-

Abraham later explained this decision in a letter to Felix as a means of showing a decisive break with the traditions of his father Moses: “There can no more be a Christian Mendelssohn than there can be a Jewish Confucius

Dysfunctional?  Hmm…

Felix’s sister Fanny was much more talented that he was but she was a girl so, you know, couldn’t actually do anything being property and all.  She hated the name and wrote him in 1829, “Bartholdy […] this name that we all dislike”.  Felix himself compromised and styled himself Mendelssohn Bartholdy out of deference to his Father.

Felix was restrained from displaying his musical talents at an early age by his Father (Hmm…) but they were apparent by the time he was 6.  In 1819 he and Fanny were allowed to study with Carl Friedrich Zelter who ran the orchestra at the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin.  They had an extensive collection of original J.S. Bach manuscripts and Felix became a big fan.

Zelter introduced Felix to his friend Wolfgang von Goethe in 1821.

von Goethe: Musical prodigies … are probably no longer so rare; but what this little man can do in extemporizing and playing at sight borders the miraculous, and I could not have believed it possible at so early an age.

Zelter: And yet you heard Mozart in his seventh year at Frankfurt?

von Goethe: Yes … but what your pupil already accomplishes, bears the same relation to the Mozart of that time that the cultivated talk of a grown-up person bears to the prattle of a child.

I guess it was the incessant fart jokes.

Felix led a short and presumably deeply unhappy life (Father a control freak self hating Jew?  Do the math.) passing at a young 38 from a series of strokes which his family was predisposed to.  As for his religious views, it’s a  matter of some dispute.  He was a conforming member of the Church, yet commissioned a complete collection of the writings of his Grandfather Moses and once wrote his sister Rebecka regarding her complaints about an unpleasant relative-

What do you mean by saying you are not hostile to Jews? I hope this was a joke […] It is really sweet of you that you do not despise your family, isn’t it?

He may or may not have had an affair with Jenny Lind the Barnum Sideshow Freak and while he was acclaimed by his contemporaries for his virtuosity, he was also regarded as a completely conventional frump.  He admired and patterned himself after Bach and his connection with the Romantic movement is that his compositions were designed to evoke emotion rather than as clever and catchy technical exercises.

Up until the acendancy of Hitler he was a respected, if minor, member of the German “Art” Music (I’m telling yah, boffo in Britain) Pantheon.  And then-

Ironically today is the 91st anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch.

Contemporary critics are back to the “well, he wasn’t revolutionary enough” stage which is an improvement I guess.  I’d agree with Friedrich Nietzsche

At any rate, the whole music of romanticism [e.g. Schumann and Wagner] … was second-rate music from the very start, and real musicians took little notice of it. Things were different with Felix Mendelssohn, that halcyon master who, thanks to his easier, purer, happier soul, was quickly honored and just as quickly forgotten, as a lovely incident in German music.

The reason “incident” is highlighted is some people think it’s condescending coming from Nietzsche.  I don’t mean to imply anything by it at all even though I endorse the gestalt of the comment as a whole (did I mention I’m part German on my Mother’s side?)- Schumann is totally forgetable, Wagner an insane raving egomaniac.

While Mendelssohn is best known for the Wedding March I choose to present instead Symphony #2 in B-flat major, entitled Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) which is notable for it’s inclusion of a chorus and was written to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the printing press.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.


Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

This Day in History


Why Innocent People Plead Guilty

Jed S. Rakoff, The New York Review of Books

November 20, 2014

The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes.

To the Founding Fathers, the critical element in the system was the jury trial, which served not only as a truth-seeking mechanism and a means of achieving fairness, but also as a shield against tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

The Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” The Constitution further guarantees that at the trial, the accused will have the assistance of counsel, who can confront and cross-examine his accusers and present evidence on the accused’s behalf. He may be convicted only if an impartial jury of his peers is unanimously of the view that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and so states, publicly, in its verdict.

The drama inherent in these guarantees is regularly portrayed in movies and television programs as an open battle played out in public before a judge and jury. But this is all a mirage. In actuality, our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.

British Spies Are Free to Target Lawyers and Journalists

By Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept


On Thursday, a series of previously classified policies confirmed for the first time that the U.K.’s top surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters (pictured above) has advised its employees: “You may in principle target the communications of lawyers.”

The U.K.’s other major security and intelligence agencies-MI5 and MI6-have adopted similar policies, the documents show. The guidelines also appear to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in “sensitive professions” handling confidential information.

In a statement on Thursday, Reprieve’s legal director Cori Crider said that the new disclosures raised “troubling implications for the whole British justice system” and questioned how frequently the government had used its spy powers for unfair advantage in court.

“It’s now clear the intelligence agencies have been eavesdropping on lawyer-client conversations for years,” Crider said. “Today’s question is not whether, but how much, they have rigged the game in their favor in the ongoing court case over torture.”

Rachel Logan, a legal adviser at rights group Amnesty International, said that spying on lawyers affords the U.K. government an “unfair advantage akin to playing poker in a hall of mirrors.”

“It could mean, amazingly, that the government uses information they have got from snooping on you, against you, in a case you have brought,” Logan said. “This clearly violates an age-old principle of English law set down in the 16th century-that the correspondence between a person and their lawyer is confidential.”

Global Meat Corporations Push for Sweetheart Trade Deal

by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams

Friday, November 07, 2014

The global meat industry views the Trans-Pacific Partnership as an opportunity to “undermine local, democratic control of agriculture systems” and increase factory-farmed meat exports around the world, charges a new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The report, Big Meat Swallows the Trans-Pacific Partnership (pdf), was released Friday in advance of next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing, at which world leaders are slated to discuss the international trade deal.

It examines attempts by big beef, pork, and poultry corporations like Cargill, Tyson, and JBS USA-who have long been influential in trade talks and who have profited from so-called free trade pacts in the past-to reduce tariffs, lower food safety standards, and weaken regulatory barriers in order to expand their export markets.

“As growth in U.S. meat consumption has flattened or declined, much of the recent expansion in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the U.S. is geared toward growing export markets,” report author Ben Lilliston explains. “When combined with the voluminous feed demands for CAFOs (see this year’s record U.S. corn and soybean crop), more and more agricultural land is being used to feed industrialized meat production-making it more difficult for independent producers targeting local markets to compete. The global meat industry has already used trade rules to attack very basic consumer rights like country of origin labeling of food. These corporations view TPP as an important opportunity to further undermine local, democratic control of agricultural systems, and expand their reach globally.”

Obama to Send 1,500 Troops to Assist Iraq


NOV. 7, 2014

Pentagon officials said Friday that military advisers will establish training sites across Iraq in a significant expansion of the American military campaign in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State. A Defense Department official said that a number of military personnel would deploy specifically to Anbar Province, the Sunni stronghold in western Iraq that was the scene of bloody fighting for years after the 2003 American-led invasion. In recent months Sunni militants with the Islamic State have been seizing and holding territory across Anbar.

In addition, White House budget officials said they will ask Congress for $5 billion for military operations in the Middle East against the Islamic State, including $1.6 billion to train and equip Iraqi troops. At its height in 2006 and 2007, the Iraq war was costing the United States more than $60 billion a year.

During a conference call with reporters, senior administration officials denied that Mr. Obama waited until after the midterm elections to announce the deployment so as not to alarm an already skittish electorate. “It’s being done now, quite frankly, because the Iraqis have demonstrated the willingness and the will to go after ISIL,” Admiral Kirby told reporters after the call, using another name for the Islamic State. Iraqi forces, he said, have “reached the point where they need additional help and guidance.”

“We did spend a lot of money and effort training the Iraqi Army,” Admiral Kirby said. “When we left them in 2011, we left them capable.” He said the Maliki government “squandered” the American military’s training of Iraqi troops, but expressed optimism that things will be different now. “This is a completely different game,” he said, pointing to a recent visit by Mr. Abadi to Anbar Province to engage Sunni leaders in the fight against the Islamic State.

What’s the Left’s Answer to the Democrats’ Crushing Defeat?

by David Weigel, Bloomberg News

Nov 7, 2014 2:57 PM EST

As the lame duck session of Congress approaches, progressives are encouraging the president to act unilaterally, frustrate the Republicans, and let the 2016 class of Democrats run as populists. That means a continued war against the Keystone XL pipeline, an executive order to extend deferred action to all illegal immigrants, and a rat-a-tat of vetoes over the Republican Congress.

That means getting the White House to accentuate the differences. Two bitter memories reinforce this strategy. The first: The White House’s quick 2011 accommodation with the Republicans who demanded an entitlement-cutting bargain in exchange for raising the national debt.  The second: George W. Bush’s decision to surge in Iraq after a “shellacking” ended Republican control of the House and Senate. Progressives have seen what happens when a president remains unmovable, and they’ve seen what happens with accommodation. Why would he ever want to accommodate again? Why not make progressives as excited in 2016 as the right was in 2014?

“Democratic senators represent five million more Americans than Republican senators,” argued Ben Wikler, the Washington director of “There just isn’t a sign that the public wants conservative government. People who ran as progressive champions, people like Sen. Al Franken in Minnesota and Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan, won by big margins. Wherever Sen. Elizabeth Warren went to campaign for Democrats, there were these giant, totally fired-up crowds.”

On Wednesday, at another post-election rev-up, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asked reporters to look at those same campaigns. He came armed with his own polling data, an election night survey that found a 2-1 supermajority of voters in favor of raising the minimum wage and reducing the power of giant corporations. The problem: A majority, 55 percent of voters, agreed that “politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties do too much to support Wall Street financial interests and not enough to help average Americans.” Clearly, said Trumka, voters agreed with the progressives.

“If a candidate goes out with a strong economic message, and says, ‘Here’s how I’m gonna solve your economic problems,’ that candidate’s gonna do well,” said Trumka. “It doesn’t matter whether they’re a Democrat or Republican. But the economic message that voters heard, they heard stronger from the Republican side than from the Democrats.”

To take Trumka seriously, a lot of Democrats had to be placed under the proverbial bus, and proverbially backed over repeatedly. This process is well underway on the left. The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner and Harold Meyerson were quick out of the gates with columns explaining that the Democrats were too busy distancing themselves from Obama to make popular, left-wing arguments. “With the exception of Sen. Elizabeth Warren,” wrote Meyerson, “who has been plenty outspoken about diminishing the power of Wall Street, the Democrats have had precious little to say about how to recreate the kind of widely shared prosperity that emerged from the New Deal.”

Richmond: The little town that beat big oil

by Madeline Ostrander, Al Jazeera


(O)n Tuesday, this city of more than 100,000 garnered national headlines when it became one of the few spots in the country where progressive underdogs triumphed, even though they were heavily outspent by their opponents.

Here the battle lines were defined by one big donor, the multinational oil giant Chevron, which operates a century-old refinery in Richmond. Candidates who had accepted backing from Chevron fought an alliance of progressives who had not.

The company spent more than $3 million on the Richmond election. But voters there rejected the candidates Chevron supported in favor of a scrappy, volunteer-driven coalition that included Richmond’s current mayor, a soft-spoken former schoolteacher and Green Party member named Gayle McLaughlin who ran for city council this year after reaching the end of term limits. Also among the winners were Jovanka Beckles, the openly gay vice mayor who successfully championed a higher minimum wage there; Eduardo Martinez, also a former teacher; and longtime local politician Tom Butt, who won the mayoral seat. Now up to six of the city’s seven council seats may soon be occupied by Chevron critics, according to the Contra Costa Times.

The city has since risen into the national spotlight several times, partly because of McLaughlin’s willingness to take on Chevron, which is Richmond’s largest taxpayer and employer. Last year, the city sued the refinery after a 2012 fire sent thousands to area hospitals complaining of respiratory problems. “We don’t see Chevron as the source of keeping our economy going,” McLaughlin said defiantly at the time.

In response, Chevron has gone to great lengths to try to regain public sympathy, and to oust its opponents from local office. Earlier this year, the company launched its own online news outlet, the Richmond Standard, which offers both daily stories on local events and a section called “Chevron Speaks,” where the company posts its views. In the weeks before the election, the company plastered local billboards and stuffed residents’ mailboxes with ads attacking McLaughlin and her allies and supporting candidates backed by Moving Forward, one of its Richmond-based political action committees.

But there were signs in the days before the election that such campaigning had backfired. Vandals spray-painted the campaign sign for the pro-Chevron mayoral candidate, Nat Bates, with the words “Paid For By Chevron.”

“We were getting full-page and multiple-page, full-color mailers, six or seven a day. They were hit pieces,” said Doria Robinson, who supported the progressive candidates and who runs a Richmond-based community gardening organization. “I not only think it turned off voters. I actually think it inspired voters to come out and take a stand against the attempt to buy our elections.”

Ukraine accuses Russia of sending in tanks, escalating crisis

By Natalia Zinets and Vladimir Soldatkin, Reuters

Fri Nov 7, 2014 6:53pm EST

Thursday’s cross-border incursion, if confirmed, is a significant escalation of a conflict that has killed more than 4,000 people since the separatists rose up in mid-April and would call into question Russia’s commitment to a two-month-old ceasefire deal.

“Supplies of military equipment and enemy fighters from the Russian Federation are continuing,” military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a briefing in Kiev, describing a column that included 16 big artillery guns and 30 trucks carrying troops and ammunition as well as 32 tanks.

The increase in tensions stems from Sunday’s leadership elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, which the West and Kiev say violated the Minsk agreements.

The Ukrainian government responded by revoking a law that would have granted the rebel-held eastern regions much more autonomy and would have provided them with cash.

Loretta Lynch, Federal Prosecutor, Will Be Nominated for Attorney General


NOV. 7, 2014

The decision to announce Ms. Lynch’s nomination came after days of speculation in the news media that she was a leading contender to replace Mr. Holder, an Obama confidant who has been a central figure in his cabinet since the start of his presidency.

Ms. Lynch gained prominence for her work prosecuting members of the New York Police Department for the 1997 case in which a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, was beaten and sodomized with a broom handle. The case became a national symbol of police brutality.

Her office is known for its work on organized crime, terrorism and public corruption. It has prosecuted the planner of a subway bombing plot, Mafia members and public officials, including Representative Michael G. Grimm, a Republican, and State Senator John L. Sampson, former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr., all Democrats.

U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato. Next Up: French Fry Fans.

By ANDREW POLLACK, The New York Times

NOV. 7, 2014

The potato’s DNA has been altered so that less of a chemical called acrylamide, which is suspected of causing cancer in people, is produced when the potato is fried.

The new potato also resists bruising, a characteristic long sought by potato growers and processors for financial reasons. Potatoes bruised during harvesting, shipping or storage can lose value or become unusable.

The potato is one of a new wave of genetically modified crops that aim to provide benefits to consumers, not just to farmers as the widely grown biotech crops like herbicide-tolerant soybeans and corn do. The nonbruising aspect of the potato is similar to that of genetically engineered nonbrowning apples, developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which are awaiting regulatory approval.

But the approval comes as some consumers are questioning the safety of genetically engineered crops and demanding that the foods made from them be labeled. Ballot initiatives calling for labeling were rejected by voters in Oregon and Colorado this week, after food and seed companies poured millions of dollars into campaigns to defeat the measures.

Simplot is a long-established power in the potato business and presumably has been clearing the way for acceptance of the product from its customers.

Simplot hopes the way the potato was engineered will also help assuage consumer fears. The company calls its product the Innate potato because it does not contain genes from other species like bacteria, as do many biotech crops.

Rather, it contains fragments of potato DNA that act to silence four of the potatoes’ own genes involved in the production of certain enzymes. Future crops – the company has already applied for approval of a potato resistant to late blight, the cause of the Irish potato famine – will also have genes from wild potatoes.

“We are trying to use genes from the potato plant back in the potato plant,” said Haven Baker, who is in charge of the potato development at Simplot. “We believe there’s some more comfort in that.”

That is not likely to persuade groups opposed to such crops, who say altering levels of plant enzymes might have unexpected effects.

25 M.P.H. Speed Limit Takes Effect in New York


NOV. 7, 2014

In a city where any hint of open asphalt can take the edge off a day mired in traffic, the dawn of a new speed limit did not change much.

Cluttered roads still seemed to dictate speed far more than did the city’s new mandate, which dropped the default limit from 30 m.p.h. to 25.

Fear of enforcement was palpable. “Snitches get stitches!” one passer-by called out to a reporter who was monitoring cars’ speed with a radar gun on Madison Avenue near 39th Street.

Though the new limit is already in effect on all city streets unless otherwise posted, city officials said there were no plans for a ticket blitz.

Nor did they expect police officers to begin splitting hairs at speeds just above 25 m.p.h.

If you happen to be in Connecticut I’ll tell you that we talk fast (Network Standard with hardly a hint of New England except in isolated pockets) and we drive fast.  Speed limits are merely a suggestion or an excuse.  If you drive at the speed of surrounding traffic (which is usually 10 m.p.h above the posted limit, except in the few areas posted 70) you can hardly go wrong.  You can’t drive that fast in town of course and though we look all bucolic and woodsy we are in fact highly developed so there’s a lot of town.  We’re also quite small so its hard to get lost.  If you hit New York you’re too far West, if you hit Rhode Island you’re too far East, if you hit Massachusetts you’re too far North, and if the water is up to your hub caps and salty you’re in the fucking ocean dummy.  What were you thinking?  South to North 90 minutes tops, West to East 2 hours (3 to 5 in traffic) and if your want to win diagonally (pretty sneaky sis) and you’re driving for more than 3 you’re going in circles.  Stop at a gas station and buy a dash compass cheapskate.


Wedding March

White Wedding

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