The Breakfast Club (Don’t Diss Your Homeys)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgLowell P. Weicker is about the last Republican I respected and voted for.  While Wikipedia labels him a “radical centrist” he’s a flat out Liberal Republican of the Northeast Nelson Rockefeller type that used to be common but now seems as extinct as the Passenger Pigeon.

Readers of a certain age will remember him best from the Senate Watergate Hearings way back when the Neoliberal consensus didn’t rule D.C. and rape and pillage our country for Oligarchs and Billionaires while setting up a Stasi State to repress democracy and dissent.

But the story of Lowell is instructive in how such a situation developed.

Weicker was the First Selectman (Mayor equivalent) of the Town of Greenwich and was absolutely as beholden as you might think to the Hedge Funds and WWE of Connecticut’s Gold Coast.

He replaced Thomas Dodd who was censured in 1967 for pocketing campaign funds and was by almost all accounts a vain and vapid fool who let himself get beat by Prescott Bush and then re-elected to the other seat.  Yes, he is Chris Dodd’s father Luke.

Lowell won in a 3 way with Tom as an independent and Joe Duffey as the endorsed Democrat.  What eventually got him booted from the Senate was only partly his participation in Watergate (Nixon endorsed him) but mostly the fact that Republican Conservatives viewed him (correctly) as a Liberal (Americans for Democratic Action rated Weicker 20 percentage points more liberal than his fellow Connecticut senator, “Democratic” Chris Dodd) and were unhappy that he wanted to make the State Party more inclusive.  He was defeated in 1988 when conservatives including William and James Buckley and the Bushes defected en masse to Joe LIEberman who is much more a conservative Republican than a Democrat and is the single slimiest most unctuous politician it’s ever been my displeasure to meet.

In 1990 Weicker ran for Governor as an Independent in another 3 way against John Rowland (who eventually spent a year and a day in Danbury, as we in Connecticut like to say even though he served his time in Loretto PA where John Kiriakou is currently the only CIA Officer imprisoned in the CIA Torture Scandal and for whistleblowing not for actually torturing people or authorising torture) and Bruce Morrison.

Now nationally the narrative is that Lowell paid the price for implementing a State Income Tax which lowered our incredibly regressive Sales Tax but also eliminated a Commuter Tax, a State Capital Gains Tax, and substantially reduced an Unearned Income Tax (told you he was close to his Hedge Fund backers).  It was no doubt incredibly unpopular with some, but as a native Nutmegger let me tell you that’s not what people were talking about on Election Day.

Auto Inspection Contract Has Hartford in Uproar; Weicker and ExMotor Vehicles Commissioner Trade Ethics Charges Over Bids

By KIRK JOHNSON, The New York Times

Published: December 21, 1993

Both the Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, and the Legislature’s Transportation Committee — exercising its rarely used powers to issue subpoenas and compel testimony under oath — have begun investigations into the charges and counter-charges between the Governor and his former protege.

If the investigations bear out Mr. Goldberg’s charges that the administration circumvented its own established procedures in awarding the contract, legislators say, the implications would shake Connecticut’s government and could lead to an overhaul of the contract laws and a legal challenge by the losing company, at the very least.

Mr. Goldberg and a contract committee in his department both recommended a Connecticut company for the seven-and-a-half-year emissions testing contract. Besides being a local business, the Connecticut company, Environmental Systems Products Inc. of East Granby, was also the low bidder. Mr. Weicker overruled Mr. Goldberg and chose a vendor from Arizona, Envirotest Systems Corporation, which had already being doing emissions testing for Connecticut and which the Governor said had greater financial stability than the home-grown competitor.

Lowell chose not to run again leaving the field open to Rowland about whom the major surprise was that he was so cheap to bribe, but the moral of the story is-

Don’t Diss Your Homeys

So you want to buy some Nutmeg?

Which (finally) brings us to the point- our State Composer, Charles Ives.

Ives was an insurance salesman born in Danbury, an actuary who invented creative ways to structure life insurance for estate planning and wrote a book, Life Insurance with Relation to Inheritance Tax, that made him world famous in Poland and Hartford.

You’re not Polish or from Hartford?  That’s OK, he was mostly thoroughly ignored throughout his lifetime except by his industry peers who found his musical avocation both amusing and confusing because it was cutting edge avant garde.

His Dad was a Band Leader, much like John Philip Sousa whom we discussed last week.  When Charles was a child he’d frequently march behind the band but near enough the next one hear the tunes from each.  Carried over in his compsitional style, his signature was having different parts of his orchestra play completely diferent melodies, harmonies, and time signatures which sometimes synced but frequently didn’t and resolve it all at the end of the piece.  His works are ferociously difficult to play and challenging to listen to.

Ives frequently chose patriotic themes and popular marches, tunes, and hymns as his source material, seeking like most late Romantics to evoke a mood or a memory rather than simply displaying technique thought his compositions are technically demanding and utilize “polytonality, polyrhythm, tone clusters, aleatoric elements, and quarter tones.”

Now this made him world famous in Poland (only a different one) and his compositions highly regarded by academics and fellow composers, but most musicians would look at them and say- “what the heck is this rubbish?”.  Independently wealthy he funded the works of others and when awarded a Pulitzer in 1946 for his 3rd Symphony (The Camp Meeting) he gave it all away saying- “prizes are for boys, and I’m all grown up.”

While he lived until 1954 he stopped writing in 1927 and it took nearly 50 years for his works to gain acceptance after being championed by people like Gustav Mahler, Aaron Copland, Bernard Herrmann, Leonard Bernstein, and Arnold Schoenberg who said-

There is a great Man living in this Country – a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one’s self-esteem and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.

Speaking of Leonard Bernstein, in 1951 he gave Charles Ives’ Symphony #2 its debut with the New York Philharmonic.  Here’s a performance of that which, while complete, is visually uninteresting.

Ives heard it on his cook’s radio (he was a FIRE guy, independently wealthy, I told you).

Later Bernstein performed it again with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and gave a little chat about Ives-

That full performance, in three parts, which is visually interesting if you like that sort of thing, is available below along with the Obligatories, News, and Blogs.


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


Guantánamo Diary exposes brutality of US rendition and torture

by Spencer Ackerman and Ian Cobain, The Guardian

Friday 16 January 2015 13.15 EST

Mohamedou Ould Slahi describes a world tour of torture and humiliation that began in his native Mauritania more than 13 years ago and progressed through Jordan and Afghanistan before he was consigned to US detention in Guantánamo, Cuba, in August 2002 as prisoner number 760. US military officials told the Guardian this week that despite never being prosecuted and being cleared for release by a judge in 2010, he is unlikely to be released in the next year.

The journal, which Slahi handwrote in English, details how he was subjected to sleep deprivation, death threats, sexual humiliation and intimations that his torturers would go after his mother.

After enduring this, he was subjected to “additional interrogation techniques” personally approved by the then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. He was blindfolded, forced to drink salt water, and then taken out to sea on a high-speed boat where he was beaten for three hours while immersed in ice.

The end product of the torture, he writes, was lies. Slahi made a number of false confessions in an attempt to end the torment, telling interrogators he planned to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto. Asked if he was telling the truth, he replied: “I don’t care as long as you are pleased. So if you want to buy, I am selling.”

Though his captors have long since ceased treating Slahi as a security threat – he is said to inform on other detainees, and lives in a separate facility where he is allowed to garden – the US insists it has legal justification to deprive the Mauritanian of his freedom. Lt Col Myles Caggins, a defense department spokesman, said: “We continue to detain Mohamedou Slahi under the Authorisation for the Use of Military Force of 2001 (AUMF) as informed by the laws of war. He has full access to federal court for review of his detention by United States district court via petition for writ of habeas corpus.”

Barack Obama and David Cameron fail to see eye to eye on surveillance

by Nicholas Watt, The Guardian

Friday 16 January 2015 15.01 EST

Obama agreed with the prime minister that there could be no spaces on the internet for terrorists to communicate that could not be monitored by the intelligences agencies, subject to proper oversight. But, unlike Cameron, the president encouraged groups to ensure that he and other leaders do not abandon civil liberties.

The prime minister adopted a harder stance on the need for big internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter to do more to cooperate with the surveillance of terror suspects. In an interview with Channel 4 News he said they had to be careful not to act as a communications platform for terrorists.

Cameron said: “These companies are run by good and sensible people, we’re having good and productive conversations. You’re absolutely right we’re not China. We have a very clear set of legal procedures. I’m not trying to go through a back door here. The companies themselves have all sorts of interests, but one of those interests is they don’t want to be the platform that becomes safe for terrorists to talk to each other and plan appalling outrages on.

The White House press conference will be, despite the nuanced differences, a gift to the prime minister before the election. Obama came close to endorsing Cameron’s handling of the economy when he pointed out that the two countries were helping to lead the world recovery. He added, in a boost for the prime minister, that Britain and the US must be doing something right on the economy.

BP Deepwater Horizon fine capped at $13.8bn

Terry Macalister, The Guardian

Friday 16 January 2015 11.41 EST

Judge Carl Barbier ruled late on Thursday in a New Orleans federal court that the Deepwater Horizon spill was 3.2m barrels, greater than the 2.4m barrels argued by BP but less than the 4.2m claimed by the US government. The decision leaves the oil group facing a maximum possible fine of $4,300 per barrel, or $13.8bn, under the Clean Water Act. This will be decided by a separate hearing to begin next week.

The judge also said there was no question that BP lied about the amount of oil that flowed from the well. The company told government officials the figure was 5,000 barrels a day when internal documents showed that officials knew the amount was significantly higher than this.

BP is still separately appealing in the courts against the gross negligence verdict and its lawyers are expected to argue for a small fine per barrel in the case beginning on Tuesday. The Clean Water Act penalties would come on top of more than $42bn that BP has set aside or spent for clean-up, compensation and fines.

Even after the Clean Water Act fines are set, BP may face other bills from a lengthy Natural Resources Damage Assessment – which could require the company to carry out or fund environmental restoration work in the Gulf – as well as other claims.

The police rely on fear and lobbying to defeat reforms. Protestors can’t let them do so again

Steven W Thrasher, The Guardian

Friday 16 January 2015 11.36 EST

Police unions, private prison corporations, corrections officers unions and more will spend millions of dollars lobbying to hold on to the billions of dollars of government money which comes their way. This is why one of the most trumpeted recent “solutions” to our policing nightmare has been body cams, which are costly to buy, easy for cops to leave off and require catching new crimes on camera to justify their hefty operating expenses.

Politicians will not change policy or buck the beneficiaries of the security state of their own volition. They only respond to money or pressure, and lobbyists will always have more money than activists. But keeping up the pressure can work, even in unexpected ways.

That’s what happened here in New York City: from the time Eric Garner was killed, activists banged their drums so loud that, when the grand jury refused to indict the officer who killed him, Mayor Bill de Blasio felt he had to respond – and pushed into speaking from his heart, about his fears for his own son. It was a message so human that many parents across America heard it loud and clear while the NYPD could or would not listen to the sentiment behind his words: that parents of “children of color, especially young men of color, [must] train them to be very careful when they have … an encounter with a police officer.”

Instead, the NYPD union leadership took that common sense, heartfelt advice of millions of parents as an attack on every police officer, turned their backs on their civilian commander, and finally decided to respond by only arresting people when “absolutely necessary.” (Why they were unnecessarily arresting people before de Blasio’s statement was not intended as an admission that he was right.)

That mistake – made on the defense – ironically gave anti-police violence activists exactly what they wanted: less violence from cops, be it of the mortal or mundane variety, and arrests only when “absolutely necessary.” The NYPD’s stunt leaves behind a data set of a time with deliberately low arrests, during in which the city did not burn to the ground, and provides more evidence that over policing has little or nothing to do with lowering crime — a point recently made in Wednesday’s New York Times and in Steven Pinker’s 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. On the ropes, the NYPD may have handed a key piece of evidence to its sworn enemies that could lead to less policing in the future.

Probe finds NYC jail guards hired despite arrests, gang ties

Al Jazeera

January 16, 2015 1:34PM ET

More than one-third of jail guards recently hired by the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) had previous gang affiliations, criminal histories or significant psychological problems, the city Department of Investigation (DOI) said on Thursday.

The probe found 79 hired officers admitted having friends or family members who were inmates – including one with nine relatives who had served time in Rikers Island jail complex. Ten new hires had been arrested more than once, and another 12 had been rejected by the significantly higher standards of the New York Police Department, including six for psychological reasons and one who failed a drug test.

Among other findings, there was no evidence applicants had been screened for gang affiliation, even though the jails’ own intelligence officers rank it as the top threat to safety. It wasn’t until after probe began that the jails began taking photos of applicants’ tattoos to check for possible gang ties.

Following the investigation, three of the problem hires have already been fired for misconduct, including one who had an “unduly familiar” relationship with an inmate later arrested in a murder-for-hire plot. Two of the hires resigned.

2014: Hottest year on record and humans to blame, says NASA


January 16, 2015 1:07PM ET

Last year was Earth’s hottest on record in a new sign that people are disrupting the climate by burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases to the air, two U.S. government agencies said on Friday.

‘While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,’ said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York.

‘The data shows quite clearly that it’s the greenhouse gas trends that are responsible for the majority of the trends,’ he told reporters. Emissions were still rising ‘so we may anticipate further record highs in the years to come.’

Government data-collection report favors government data collection

by Gregg Levine, Al Jazeera

Jan 15 6:30 PM

(W)hen you’re a surveillance state intent on bulk collecting every bit of available data, nothing does the job quite like bulk collection.

Such is the determination of a new report from the National Research Council (NRC), the arm of the National Academies tasked with, yes, that’s right, data collection. (But, of the overt kind.)

Some of the provisions that provided the legal justification for the government’s bulk data collection – like Secs. 206 and 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act – will expire on June 1. There was an attempt last year to get them extended until 2017 in Sen. Pat Leahy’s USA FREEDOM Act, but the bill could not overcome the skepticism of some intelligence watchdogs and the party-line opposition of Republicans.

Continued focus on cybersecurity in the wake of the hacks of private companies like Sony and JPMorgan Chase is one way to control the climate for the coming debate, despite the fact that those data breeches had nothing to do with terrorism or government security. Pointing to last week’s shootings in Paris is another, even though the vast amounts of information already collected on each of the gunmen did nothing to prevent the attacks.

(I)f you are an intelligence agency in love with bulk data collection, never mind the efficacy or constitutionality – nothing succeeds like failure.

Yes, bulk data collection does collect a bunch of data, but, really, so what? Unless the NRC asks what tools could provide useful information and uphold constitutional values, they and their report just look dumb – dumber than a bag of hammers.

Supreme Court to Decide Marriage Rights for Gay Couples Nationwide

By ADAM LIPTAK, The New York Times

JAN. 16, 2015

The decision came just months after the justices ducked the issue, refusing in October to hear appeals from rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. That decision, which was considered a major surprise, delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19.

Largely as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision not to act, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36, and more than 70 percent of Americans live in places where gay couples can marry.

Gay rights advocates hailed the court’s move on Friday as one of the final steps in a decades-long journey toward equal treatment, and they expressed confidence they would prevail.

“We are finally within sight of the day when same-sex couples across the country will be able to share equally in the joys, protections and responsibilities of marriage,” said Jon W. Davidson, the legal director of Lambda Legal.

Slow Rise in Consumer Prices May Stymie the Fed


JAN. 16, 2015

Consumer prices in the United States are rising at the slowest pace during a period of economic growth in the last half-century, a trend that could delay the Federal Reserve’s retreat from its stimulus campaign.

An index of the prices Americans pay for goods and services rose just 0.8 percent during the 12 months ending in December as the collapse of oil prices offset the higher cost of food and health care, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday.

The slow pace of inflation means Americans are experiencing less erosion in the value of their paychecks at a time when wages, too, are rising unusually slowly. But it is also evidence that the recovery from the Great Recession remains incomplete. And sluggish inflation itself can impede debt repayment and other economic adjustments.

Why Chaos in the Currency Markets Might Be Good News

By John Cassidy, The New Yorker

January 16, 2015

After Thursday’s unexpected and dramatic revaluation, by the Swiss National Bank, of the Swiss franc, the euro fell sharply against the dollar on Friday, at one point dropping below $1.15. Observing the gyrations in the currency markets, it is easy to get alarmed. What do they portend?

It means big losses for some individuals and institutions that were on the wrong side of the moves (and big gains for others). For the rest of us, the apparent chaos in the markets contains some good news. Traders and currencies are reacting to a new policy regime, in which the Federal Reserve is moving toward raising interest rates while the European Central Bank embarks on a policy of quantitative easing-i.e., creating large sums of money then used to purchase government bonds and other financial assets-that is designed, in part, to bring down the value of the euro. With the euro-zone economy still chronically depressed, and the U.S. economy expanding at an annual rate of more than four per cent, a substantial devaluation of the euro is precisely what is needed.

With quantitative easing seemingly on the way in the rest of Europe, and with a further substantial devaluation of the euro imminent, the Swiss National Bank realized that maintaining the currency cap for another two or three years would have involved more large-scale intervention in the currency markets. Its stock of foreign-currency reserves would have grown even larger, exposing it to the possibility of big losses in the future, and possibly contributing to other financial imbalances, such as a nascent bubble in Swiss real-estate markets. Rather than take that risk, the central bank decided to cut its losses and let the currency rise now. With Switzerland currently enjoying a large trade surplus-more than five per cent of G.D.P.-policymakers evidently decided that it could weather a shock to the exchange rate. Time will tell whether this judgment was right or wrong, but it wasn’t necessarily irrational.

In any case, the key point is that the much bigger issues are the euro and the threat of deflation. Now, at last, the European Central Bank is going to address the danger in a serious fashion-or, at least, let’s hope so.


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