April 20, 2015 archive
Apr 20 2015
Apr 20 2015
What went wrong is what usually goes wrong, no matter the context, when you have a history of colonialism, ongoing interference from outside forces, sectarian blindness, and massive wealth at the service of mischief.
Tensions Flare Between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in U.S. Coalition
By MICHAEL R. GORDON and ERIC SCHMITT
APRIL 15, 2015
The dueling Iraqi and Saudi narratives began when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq, who this week is making his first official visit to Washington, spoke early in the day to a small group of reporters at Blair House, the White House guest residence for visiting dignitaries. He said the Saudi campaign and the fighting in Yemen had created huge humanitarian problems.
“There is no logic to the operation at all in the first place,” Mr. Abadi said. “Mainly, the problem of Yemen is within Yemen.”
Mr. Abadi, who is in Washington seeking American military help in the fight against the Islamic State as well as billions of dollars to shore up his sagging economy, then suggested that the Obama administration agreed with him in his concerns about the Saudi campaign.
“They want to stop this conflict as soon as possible,” Mr. Abadi said. “What I understand from the administration, the Saudis are not helpful on this. They don’t want a cease-fire now.”
The United States is flying Predator and Reaper reconnaissance drones over Yemen and transmitting the information to a 20-person American military coordination team divided among Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, overseen by Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, the deputy commander of Marines in the Middle East, said a senior American military official who wanted to remain anonymous because he was discussing targeting procedures.
Under the arrangement, Saudi Arabia gives lists of potential targets to the American analysts for vetting. “We are not choosing their targets, but upon request, we’re providing intelligence to help Saudi Arabia with their precision, effectiveness and avoidance of collateral damage,” the official said.
Apr 20 2015
Happy 420! I’ve got a few smoky things for ya! Then maybe go grab the chips!
Apr 20 2015
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
April 20 is the 110th day of the year (111th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 255 days remaining until the end of the year.
“Strange Fruit” was written by the teacher Abel Meeropol as a poem, it condemned American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans. Such lynchings had occurred chiefly in the South but also in all other regions of the United States. He set it to music and with his wife and the singer Laura Duncan, performed it as a protest song in New York venues, including Madison Square Garden.
The song has been covered by numerous artists, as well as inspiring novels, other poems and other creative works. In 1978 Holiday’s version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.
In the poem, Meeropol expressed his horror at lynchings, possibly after having seen Lawrence Beitler‘s photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. He published the poem in 1936 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine. Though Meeropol/Allan had often asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set “Strange Fruit” to music himself. The piece gained a certain success as a protest song in and around New York. Meeropol, his wife, and black vocalist Laura Duncan performed it at Madison Square Garden. (Meeropol and his wife later adopted Robert and Michael, sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of espionage and executed by the United States.)
Barney Josephson, the founder of Cafe Society in Greenwich Village, New York’s first integrated nightclub, heard the song and introduced it to Billie Holiday. Other reports say that Robert Gordon, who was directing Billie Holiday’s show at Cafe Society, heard the song at Madison Square Garden and introduced it to her. Holiday first performed the song at Cafe Society in 1939. She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation, but because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing it. She made the piece a regular part of her live performances. Because of the poignancy of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; second, the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face; and there would be no encore.
Holiday approached her recording label, Columbia, about the song, but the company feared reaction by record retailers in the South, as well as negative reaction from affiliates of its co-owned radio network, CBS. Even John Hammond, Holiday’s producer, refused. She turned to friend Milt Gabler, whose Commodore label produced alternative jazz. Holiday sang “Strange Fruit” for him a cappella, and moved him to tears. Columbia allowed Holiday a one-session release from her contract in order to record it. Frankie Newton’s eight-piece Cafe Society Band was used for the session. Because he was worried that the song was too short, Gabler asked pianist Sonny White to improvise an introduction. Consequently Holiday doesn’t start singing until after 70 seconds. Gabler worked out a special arrangement with Vocalion Records to record and distribute the song.
She recorded two major sessions at Commodore, one in 1939 and one in 1944. “Strange Fruit” was highly regarded. In time, it became Holiday’s biggest-selling record. Though the song became a staple of her live performances, Holiday’s accompanist Bobby Tucker recalled that Holiday would break down every time after she sang it
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.