The Breakfast Club (Bells)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgBells seem to be a recurring theme at the holiday season.  You have Jingle Bells, Silver Bells, Winter Wonderland, and Carol of the Bells among others.

Along with Drums and Flutes they’re among mankind’s oldest instruments dating back to the Neolithic period.  What you say?  Bells before metal?  Well, yeah duh.  Haven’t you seen ceramic wind chimes?  The oldest examples are from China, ceramic ones from the Yangshao culture, metal ones start to appear at the Taosi and Erlitou sites c. 2000 BCE and were quite common by the Shang Dynasty in 1600 BCE, sometimes even being used on horse tack and dog collars.

So, jingle bells, but when most people think about bells they think about Church or Temple Bells, large heavy things made of bronze, brass, or iron (rarely silver, though smaller hand held ones are sometimes plated on the outside).  There are many details of the harmonics inherent in bells and the types of ways they can be rung in the Wikipedia article I cite or this alternate one, but what’s important to remember is that they’re primarily a percussion instrument and, while minor adjustments in the way they sound can be made by striking them in different manners, when used alone provide only rhythmic accompaniment.

Well how do you get around that limitation?  By using lots of them in different sizes tuned to different notes.  A set of bells is known as a peal and small sets of 6 or 8 are used in a style called Change Ringing.  Because it’s mathmatically based some of the combinations are distinctly, uhh… unmusical.  I mention it because it’s one of the major plot devices in Dorothy Sayers’ The Nine Tailors.

Larger peals of at least 23 Bells make a musical instrument called a Carillon which is most similar to an Organ but also closely related to the Harpsichord and Piano.  Like them you can use it to play a tune-

A number of composers have written specifically for the Carillon, among the earliest was Mathias van den Gheyn.  His 11 Preludes are among the most frequently performed works, here’s a Fugue in C Major-

Now the thing is that Carillons are even bigger, more expensive, and less portable than Organs while being equally likely to be melted down for cannons and such.  If you’re a big deal composer like Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and you’re writing a grand patriotic tribute such as the 1812 Overture AND you have the backing of the Tsar of all the Russias, then of course you can have as many Bells and Cannons you want.

More commonly the problem is that, while cannon are easily moved around (for authenticity) or sonically duplicated, it’s very difficult to move a Carillon into your Orchestra pit. A good substitute are Tubular Bells.

Today’s example is The Bells by Sergei Rachmaninoff.  It’s a choral symphony scored for a choir with Soprano, Tenor, and Baritone soloists, the standard assortment of strings- 1st & 2nd Violins, Violas, Cellos, and Double basses, Piccolo, 3 Flutes, 3 Oboes, English Horn, 3 Soprano Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, 3 Bassoons, Contra Bassoon, 6 French Horns, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, 4 Tubular Bells, Glockenspiel, Triangle, Tambourine, Snare Drum, Cymbals, Bass Drum, Tamtam, Piano, Celesta, Harp, and Organ.

The words (in Russian translation) are taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Bells and when you read it you can see the Romantic themes that would have appealed to Rachmaninoff, a late Romantic composer, 65 years later.

It is said to have been one of his two personal favorites (the other being All-Night Vigil).

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


Amid Details on Torture, Data on 26 Held in Error

By SCOTT SHANE, The New York Times

DEC. 12, 2014

Mr. Bashmilah has told them of being tortured in Jordan before he was handed over to the C.I.A., which at times kept him shackled alone in freezing-cold cells in Afghanistan, subjected to loud music 24 hours a day. He attempted suicide at least three times, once by saving pills and swallowing them all at once; once by slashing his wrists; and once by trying to hang himself. Another time he cut himself and used his own blood to write “this is unjust” on the wall.

While the gruesome details of torture and the dispute over its results have drawn the greatest media coverage, the Senate report also represents the fullest public account by any branch of government of the C.I.A.’s secret prison program. It exposes some of the mistakes made in the agency’s rush to grab people with possible links to Al Qaeda in the first years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The C.I.A. told the Senate in its formal response that the real number of wrongful detentions was “far fewer” than 26 but did not offer a number. Human rights advocates who have tracked the C.I.A. program believe that considerably more than 26 were wrongfully detained. Another Yemeni client of Ms. Satterthwaite, for instance, Mohammed al-Asad, was left out of the Senate’s count, even though he languished for months in C.I.A. prisons without being questioned, was sent home to Yemen and was never charged with a terrorism-related crime.

“The U.S. caused a great deal of suffering to people who posed no threat,” said Anne FitzGerald, director of research and crisis response at Amnesty International, who visited Yemen eight times to talk to Mr. Bashmilah, Mr. Asad and others who appeared to be former C.I.A. detainees. “International standards are there for a reason – they protect everyone.”

Among those that the report found to have been wrongfully imprisoned were some whose cases had already drawn public attention. Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen, was mistaken for someone with the same name, grabbed in Macedonia and flown to Afghanistan, where he spent four months in the C.I.A. jail known as the Salt Pit. Laid Saidi, an Algerian, identified in the Senate report as Abu Hudhaifa, was held in Afghanistan for 16 months, and his case became the subject of a New York Times article in 2006 after Mr. Masri called it to public attention.

The Senate report says that Mr. Saidi “was subjected to ice water baths and 66 hours of standing sleep deprivation before being released because the C.I.A. discovered he was not the person he was believed to be.”

Among the others mistakenly held for periods of months or years, according to the report, were an “intellectually challenged” man held by the C.I.A. solely to pressure a family member to provide information; two people who were former C.I.A. informants; and two brothers who were falsely linked to Al Qaeda by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 planner, who “fabricated” the information after being waterboarded 183 times.

In addition, the report says, “C.I.A. records provide insufficient information to justify the detention of many other detainees.”

“Detainees often remained in custody for months after the C.I.A. determined that they did not meet the MON standard,” the report says, referring to the secret “Memorandum of Notification” signed by President George W. Bush six days after 9/11. It authorized the detention of “persons who pose a continuing, serious threat of violence or death to U.S. persons and interests or who are planning terrorist activities.”

Documents Shed New Light on Legal Wrangling Over Spying in U.S.

By CHARLIE SAVAGE, The New York Times

DEC. 12, 2014

In January 2007, Judge Malcolm Howard issued an extraordinary order on behalf of the nation’s secret surveillance court. He interpreted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires individual warrants to wiretap on domestic soil, in a way that authorized the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, according to documents declassified on Friday.

But three months later, Judge Howard’s secret order came up for reauthorization before a colleague, Judge Roger Vinson. He balked, the documents showed. Judge Vinson permitted only a short extension of the program. The Bush administration then sought legislation, the Protect America Act, that amended the surveillance act to explicitly authorize the program.

While it was known that in early 2007 the FISA court had briefly approved the National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping program, the newly disclosed documents shed new light on an extraordinary moment in the history of surveillance inside the United States. The revelations included the identities of the judges and aspects of the legal theory that they disagreed about.

Documents leaked in 2013 by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. intelligence contractor, provided additional clues, and the newly disclosed documents go further.

Essentially, Judge Howard accepted a theory that reinterpreted a word in the law, “facility,” which in FISA had always been understood to mean a phone number or email address a foreign agent was using to communicate. Traditional FISA orders issued by judges allow the government to direct surveillance at facilities used by suspects who meet probable cause standards.

But the Bush administration argued that “facility” could instead mean entire network switches used by large numbers of people, some of whom were members of Al Qaeda. It sought an order permitting the N.S.A. to direct surveillance at those switches, so long as its equipment only forwarded communications involving particular email addresses and phone numbers that N.S.A. analysts decided met a standard of suspicion.

In April, however, Judge Vinson, whose turn it was to approve the program, told the N.S.A. that he disagreed with Judge Howard’s legal theory that the N.S.A., rather than a judge, could make probable cause findings.

U.S. providing little information to judge progress against Islamic State

By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy

December 12, 2014

The American war against the Islamic State has become the most opaque conflict the United States has undertaken in more than two decades, a fight that’s so underreported that U.S. officials and their critics can make claims about progress, or lack thereof, with no definitive data available to refute or bolster their positions.

The result is that it’s unclear what impact more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iraq and Syria have had during the past four months. That confusion was on display at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing earlier this week, where the topic – “Countering ISIS: Are We Making Progress?” – proved to be a question without an answer.

The dearth of information by which to judge the conflict is one of the difficulties for those trying to track progress in it. The U.S. military, which started out announcing every air mission almost as soon as it ended, now publishes roundups of airstrikes three times a week. Those releases often don’t specify which strikes happened on what days or even whether a targeted site was successfully hit. McClatchy has discovered that in some cases, the location given for bombings has been inaccurate by nearly 100 miles.

Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a research center in Washington, suggested that one reason for the lack of information may be the strange alliances that have emerged in the battle against the Islamic State; the Obama administration may not want to draw attention to what Korb called “competing interests.”

“The U.S. is working with the Iranians in Iraq. You’ve got the Shiite militias in control until the Iraqi army is standing. And, of course, in Syria you have our so-called Mideast allies and the U.S. in some ways helping Bashar Assad. I think that is the reason you don’t see as much information coming to the forefront,” he said.

Pentagon officials privately concede that they could release more, and more timely, information. But the problem, they say, ultimately is a lack of a strategy. President Barack Obama said in a White House address Sept. 10 that the goal was to “defeat and destroy” the Islamic State, but the military approach so far is more of a containment policy. Releasing more details about the strikes would expose that divide, critics said privately.

Bangladesh oil clean-up begins amid fears of ecological ‘catastrophe’

Al Jazeera

December 12, 2014 10:32AM ET

Bangladeshi fishermen, using sponges and sacks, have begun cleaning up a huge oil spill in a protected area that is home to rare dolphins, after environmentalists warned of an ecological “catastrophe”.

Thousands of liters of oil have spilled into the protected Sundarbans mangrove area, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins, since a tanker collided with another vessel on Tuesday.

Amir Hosain, chief forest official of the Sundarbans, admitted authorities were in the dark about what to do for the best.

“This catastrophe is unprecedented in the Sundarbans and we don’t know how to tackle this,” he told AFP news agency.

“We’re worried about its long-term impact, because it happened in a fragile and sensitive mangrove ecosystem.”

Officials said the damage had already been done as the slick had spread to a second river and a network of canals in the Sundarbans.

New York protesters to stage mass whistle-blowing at police stations

By Sebastien Malo, Reuters

Fri Dec 12, 2014 5:48pm EST

The latest wave of protests in New York against the killing of an unarmed black man by a white patrolman began on Friday with a visual demonstration by artists in Times Square and a rally outside City Hall.

As hundreds of tourists and shoppers watched, protesters held up stark, black signs with white lettering bearing the names of more than 100 people who organizers say were victims of police violence. The artists are members of a Brooklyn-based collective called We Will Not Be Silent.

In Lower Manhattan, more than 100 people gathered in the cold on the steps of City Hall, some carrying homemade banners demanding an end to police violence.

A mass whistle-blowing outside three police stations in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens on Friday evening and the latest in a series of so-called “die-ins” were also planned as part of a “Week of Outrage.”

Obama’s Pleas Foreshadow Tense Relationship With a New Congress


DEC. 12, 2014

(T)he fact that the president had to lobby his own party so intensely speaks to the challenge he faces in dealing with a hostile Congress during his last two years in office.

The week’s spending-bill drama also illustrates the degree to which Democratic fissures may complicate his ability to do so – and how Mr. Obama, after six years of keeping Congress mostly at arm’s length, may have to take a more activist role in the legislative wrangling that could shape his legacy.

“We’re at a point in time now where the interests of Democrats on the Hill and the president are beginning to diverge,” said Jim Manley, a former Democratic Senate aide. “As he heads into the twilight of his career, it’s going to be much more difficult to corral Democratic votes – he’s going to have to work harder.”

Some Democrats privately feared it reflected a much grimmer reality for them: that Mr. Obama is ready to sacrifice some of their most cherished priorities in the service of cutting deals with Republicans on issues many of them oppose, such as trade agreements.

“What we saw was the tension between the populist and the nonpopulist wings of the Democratic Party, and that is not likely to go away in 2015,” said William A. Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was a policy adviser to former President Bill Clinton.

The divisions promise to sharpen next year when, under the newly passed House measure, funding for the Homeland Security Department runs out in February, quickly followed by a succession of deadlines, including scheduled Medicare payment cuts for doctors and the expiration of the Highway Trust Fund.

Oil Seen Dropping to $55 Next Week as Price Rout Deepens

By Moming Zhou and Lynn Doan, Bloomberg News

Dec 12, 2014 4:38 PM ET

Benchmark U.S. oil prices are poised to test $55 a barrel after a six-month rout pushed crude to the lowest in five years.

West Texas Intermediate crude ended below $58 today for the first time since May 2009 after the International Energy Agency cut its global demand forecast for the fourth time in five months. Prices are down 46 percent from this year’s highest close of $107.26 on June 20.

“By taking out $58, oil is moving towards the next target $55,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at the Price Futures Group in Chicago. “It’s such an emotional selloff, and the even numbers are going to be the magic numbers.”

Skip York, a Houston-based vice president of energy research at Wood Mackenzie Ltd., said the next price target is $45.

“The market hasn’t seen the response they’re looking for on the supply side yet,” York said. “We’re now in this environment where I think prices are going to keep drifting down until the market is convinced, until the signal that production growth needs to slow has been received and acted on by operators.”

Traders will be monitoring drillers’ fourth-quarter earnings statements and listening in on their earnings calls next month to gauge how much production growth will slow, York said. Wells with higher operating costs come under pressure at $45 oil, he said.

Low oil prices may slow U.S. shale production, Ian Taylor, chief executive officer of Vitol Group, said in an interview yesterday at the Platts Global Energy Outlook Forum.

Oil Freefall Gives Dow Worst Week Since 2011; VIX Jumps

By Oliver Renick, Bloomberg News

Dec 12, 2014 6:11 PM ET

Signs of an improving economy did nothing to shield stocks from oil’s freefall as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDU) had its worst week since 2011, volatility surged and fund managers said anxiety is building among clients and themselves.

More than $1.2 trillion was erased from global equities over the five days, as the drop in crude below $58 a barrel raised concern over the strength of the global economy. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, a measure of trader anxiety that has spent most of the year hovering about 25 percent below its historical average, jumped 78 percent as oil’s impact rippled through financial markets.

The Dow lost 677.96 points, or 3.8 percent, to 17,280.83. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) slid 3.5 percent to 2,002.33, its biggest drop since May 2012. The MSCI All-Country World Index declined 3.8 percent, also the most since 2012. The worst rout in Greek equities since 1987 sent European shares to their biggest weekly slump in more than three years. Canadian stocks plunged 5.1 percent and Brazil entered a bear market, falling more than 20 percent from a September peak.

“It may be that smart money heard things that the long money crowd didn’t that worked its way into the market in the last two hours,” Orlando said by phone. “Bottom line is, you pay attention to fundamentals and the fundamentals are solid, and then you look at your screen and you want to throw up.”

“The dramatic change in oil price is a disruptive event and it causes people to rethink their views on the world,” Erik Davidson, who helps oversee $170 billion as deputy chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank, said via phone. “Anyone that’s had exposure to equities this year, they’ve done well, so there’s certainly a lot of people that are now likely to be finding themselves a little overexposed here and will be trimming back and redeploying that cash.”

“Oil’s drop is a canary in the coal mine for economic prospects in 2015,” Chad Morganlander, a money manager at St. Louis-based Stifel Nicolaus & Co., which oversees about $160 billion, said in a phone interview. “Investors are deleveraging risk. There’s a convergence of disinflationary trends, as well as a deceleration of global economic growth, which is sending investors to the sideline.”

A New Guide to Trading on Inside Tips Without Prison Time

By David Glovin and Patricia Hurtado, Bloomberg News

Dec 12, 2014 5:01 AM ET

A casual tip on the back nine seems safe.

A hot steer from someone who knows someone might be iffy.

And a profitable, you-scratch-mine-I’ll-scratch-yours exchange is — well, get a lawyer.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan did more than toss out the convictions of fund traders Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson, who faced years behind bars. For the first time, the court said traders must know that insiders who leak information are doing so in return for “personal benefit.”

The court handed a second victory to Wall Street in its 28-page ruling. For years, prosecutors have argued that tipsters broke the law if they leaked information in return for friendship or job advice. Now, “that’s not enough” said Holwell. The court said tipsters must get something “of some consequence” to prove an illegal quid-pro-quo. A friendly exchange about a pending merger or earnings report won’t be enough.

Small Vermont company beats fast-food giant Chik-fil-A in kale trademark battle

Nicky Woolf, The Guardian

Friday 12 December 2014 14.45 EST

Bo Muller-More’s small Vermont-based company prints T-shirts that say “Eat More Kale,” but Chick-fil-A – which has 1,800 locations nationwide – claimed “Eat More Kale” was too similar to their advertising slogan, “Eat Mor Chikin [sic].”

Muller-Moore had been fighting to get the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to grant his application for almost three years, but Chick-fil-A’s lawyers used an unusual legal wrangle called a “letter of protest” to try to derail his application.

In November, an examiner at the USPTO ruled in favour of giving trademark protection to “Eat More Kale.”

In October 2011, lawyers representing Chick-fil-A sent another aggressive “cease-and-desist” demand, saying “Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property is extremely valuable to it, and it will pursue all available remedies, including opposing your client’s application, in the event it fails to comply with this demand.”

Muller-Moore said that he never would have dreamed it would take the USPTO so long to decide on his trademark case. He said he was thrilled that reason prevailed and Chick-fil-A had to “eat some crow”, and admit they were wrong.

“My company is not going to ‘cease and desist,'” he said. “I am now allowed to protect my simple, original art from copycat artists and hopefully Chick-fil-A’s trademark bullying spree can come to an end.”


A complete re-recording of the 1973 original 30 years later

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