Tag: Obituary

In Memoriam: Pete Seeger 1919 – 2014

Pete Seeger photo seeger_zps241f2f50.jpg

Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94

Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday. He was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y.

His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10 to college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.

For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action. [..]

Mr. Seeger’s wife, Toshi, died in 2013, days before the couple’s 70th anniversary. Survivors include his son, Daniel; his daughters, Mika and Tinya; a half-sister, Peggy; and six grandchildren, including the musician Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, who performed with him at the Obama inaugural. His half-brother Mike Seeger, a folklorist and performer who founded the New Lost City Ramblers, died in 2009.

Let the dream live. Blessed be.

The Burglars Who Came In From The Cold

On March 8, 1971 a burglary took place in Media, PA. That wouldn’t be significant except for the target, the local FBI office, and the documents that were taken opened a can of worms that blew the lid off of the covert, and sometimes illegal, FBI program called COINTELPRO, an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram. The police and FBI, Hoover had over 200 agents on the case, were never able to find the perpetrators of the break-in. Now, 43 years later. with the statute of limitations expired, the burglars have some in from the cold.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pa., on March 8, 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”

Two weeks after the burglary, Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger ran the first story exposing the FBI’s blanket surveillance of the peace and civil rights movement, the tactics of disinformation and deception the bureau used to silence protesters.

But the document that would have the biggest impact on reining in the F.B.I.’s domestic spying activities was an internal routing slip, dated 1968, bearing a mysterious word: Cointelpro.

Neither the Media burglars nor the reporters who received the documents understood the meaning of the term, and it was not until several years later, when the NBC News reporter Carl Stern obtained more files from the F.B.I. under the Freedom of Information Act, that the contours of Cointelpro – shorthand for Counterintelligence Program – were revealed.

Since 1956, the F.B.I. had carried out an expansive campaign to spy on civil rights leaders, political organizers and suspected Communists, and had tried to sow distrust among protest groups. Among the grim litany of revelations was a blackmail letter F.B.I. agents had sent anonymously to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., threatening to expose his extramarital affairs if he did not commit suicide.

“It wasn’t just spying on Americans,” said Loch K. Johnson, a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Georgia who was an aide to Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho. “The intent of Cointelpro was to destroy lives and ruin reputations.”

The eight burglars never met again as a group. When the statute of limitations had expired, the FBI closed the case. Ms. Medsger wrote that only one of the burglars was on the final list of suspects. Three of the burglars have decided to remain anonymous.

Democracy needs whistleblowers. That’s why I broke into the FBI in 1971

By Bonnie Raines

Like Snowden, we broke laws to reveal something that was more dangerous. We wanted to hold J Edgar Hoover accountable

I vividly remember the eureka moment. It was the night we broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in March 1971 and removed about 1,000 documents from the filing cabinets. We had a hunch that there would be incriminating material there, as the FBI under J Edgar Hoover was so bureaucratic that we thought every single thing that went on under him would be recorded. But we could not be sure, and until we found it, we were on tenterhooks. [..]

Looking back on what we did, there are obvious parallels with what Edward Snowden has done in releasing National Security Agency documents that show the NSA’s blanket surveillance of Americans. I think Snowden’s a legitimate whistleblower, and I guess we could be called whistleblowers as well. [..]

Democracy needs whistleblowers. Snowden was in a position to reveal things that nobody could dispute. He has performed a legitimate, necessary service. Unlike us, he revealed his own identity, and as a result, he’s sacrificed a lot. [..]

Nowadays, the country is divided once again, but I don’t see much concern about the abuses that are happening today, like the surveillance of mosques in America, using agent provocateurs. I hear people say, “I don’t care,” the government can do what it needs to do as long as it protects me from terrorism …” To me, that’s giving the authorities blanket permission to cross the line again.

Dissent and accountability are the lifeblood of democracy, yet people now think they just have to roll over in the name of “anti-terrorism”. Members of government thinks it can lie to us about it, and that they can lie to Congress. That concerns me for the future of my children and grandchildren, and that too makes me feel I can talk about, at my age, doing something as drastic as breaking-in to an FBI office in the search for truth.

In Memoriam: Peter O’Toole 1932 – 2013

Peter O’Toole 2 August 1932 – 14 December 2013

Peter O'Toole 1932 - 2013 photo Peter_O27Toole_--_LOA_trailer_zps80a2f910.jpg Peter Seamus Lorcan O’Toole, an Irish bookmaker’s son with a hell-raising streak whose magnetic performance in the 1962 epic film “Lawrence of Arabia” earned him overnight fame and put him on the road to becoming one of his generation’s most accomplished and charismatic actors, died on Saturday in London. He was 81.

His daughter Kate O’Toole said in a statement that he had been ill for some time.

A blond, blue-eyed six-footer, Mr. O’Toole had the dashing good looks and high spirits befitting a leading man, – and he did not disappoint in “Lawrence,” David Lean’s wide-screen, almost-four-hour homage to T. E. Lawrence, the daring British soldier and adventurer who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks in the Middle East in World War I.

The performance brought Mr. O’Toole the first of eight Academy Award nominations, a flood of film offers and a string of artistic successes in the ’60s and early ’70s. In the theater – he was a classically trained actor – he played an anguished, angular tramp in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” and a memorably battered title character in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.” In film, he twice played a robust King Henry II: first opposite Richard Burton in “Becket,” (1964), then with Katharine Hepburn as his queen in “The Lion in Winter” (1968). Both earned Oscar nominations for Best Actor, as did his repressed, decaying schoolmaster in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” in 1970 and the crazed 14th Earl of Gurney in “The Ruling Class” in 1973.  Mr. O’Toole threw himself wholeheartedly into what he called “bravura acting,” courting and sometimes deserving the accusation that he became over-theatrical, mannered, even hammy. His lanky, loose-jointed build; his eyes; his long, lantern-jawed face; his oddly languorous sexual charm; and the eccentric loops and whoops of his voice tended to reinforce the impression of power and extravagance.

Burton called him “the most original actor to come out of Britain since the war,” with “something odd, mystical and deeply disturbing” in his work. [..]

He is survived by daughters, Kate and Patricia, and son, Lorcan.

At the start of both videos the screen is blank during the orchestral introduction and intermission.

In Memoriam: Nelson Mandela 1918 – 2013

South African leader and icon, Nelson Mandela died today at his home in Johannesburg surrounded by his family and friends.

Mandela 1918 - 2013 photo nelsonmandela_zps5917367e.jpg

Madiba is gone from this earth but not from the hearts of the world.

Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns

In Memoriam: Helen Thomas 1920 – 2013

Journalism and the world lost one of its greatest on Saturday, the “Dean of the White House Correspondents” Helen Thomas died at her home in Washington. She was 92.

She had a lot of “firsts” for women in journalism. She broke down the walls of the traditional “old boys’ clubs” of the Beltway:

Thomas was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, and the first female member of the Gridiron Club [..]

In 1962, Thomas convinced Kennedy to not attend the annual dinners held for the White House correspondents and photographers if they disallowed women from attending. Kennedy moved for the dinners to be combined into one event, with women allowed to attend. In 1970, UPI named Thomas their chief White House correspondent, making her the first woman to serve in the position. She was named the chief of UPI’s White House bureau in 1974.

Thomas was the only female print journalist to travel to China with President Richard Nixon during his 1972 visit to China. During the Watergate scandal, Martha Beall Mitchell, wife of United States Attorney General John N. Mitchell, frequently called Thomas to discuss how the Nixon administration was using Mitchell as a scapegoat.

She was the only member of the White House press corp to have her own seat, all the other seats are designated for the media outlets. She often reminded her colleagues, “We are not here to be their friends.”

She was remembered fondly by many this weekend.

She is a the roll model for all us who report the news,

We are the watch dogs

~Helen Thomas~

Thank you, Helen Thomas

In Memoriam: Michael Hastings 1980 – 2013

Investigative reporter and author, Michael Hasting died in Los Angeles, CA. His death in single vehicle car crash has shocked his friends, colleagues and those of us who admired his work. His article in Rolling Stone, The Runaway General which  profiled US Army general Stanley McChrystal, then commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in the war in Afghanistan. It was Michael’s report on the remarks by McChrystal’s staff that were overtly critical and contemptuous of White House staff and other civilian officials that ended with McChrystal being relieved of command by President Barack Obama.

Michael said in a Today Show interview with Matt Lauer, “I did not think Gen. McChrystal would be fired. In fact, I thought his position was basically untouchable, I thought it would give them a headache for maybe 72 hours.”

It put Michael on all our maps.

Amy Goodman has a look back Michael’s interviews on Democracy Now!

Here are two of the many tributes at Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed where Michael was a contributor, followed by Rachel Maddow’s tribute, who met Michael when she was working for Air America Radio.

Michael Hastings, ‘Rolling Stone’ Contributor, Dead at 33

by Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone

For Hastings, there was no romance to America’s misbegotten wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had felt the horror of war first-hand: While covering the Iraq war for Newsweek in early 2007, his then-fianceé, an aide worker, was killed in a Baghdad car bombing. Hastings memorialized that relationship in his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.

A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an exposé of America’s drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army’s illicit use of “psychological operations” to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl, “America’s Last Prisoner of War.

Matt Farwell is a veteran of the Afghanistan war who worked as a co-reporter with Hastings on some of his recent pieces. He sent this eulogy to Rolling Stone:  “My friend Michael Hastings died last night in a car crash in Los Angeles. Writing this feels almost ghoulish: I still haven’t processed the fact that he’s gone. Today we all feel that loss: whether we’re friends of Michael’s, or family, or colleagues or readers, the world has gotten a bit smaller. As a journalist, he specialized in speaking truth to power and laying it all out there. He was irascible in his reporting and sometimes/often/always infuriating in his writing: he lit a bright lamp for those who wanted to follow his example.

Missing Michael Hastings

by Ben Smith, BuzzFeed

Michael Hastings was really only interested in writing stories someone didn’t want him to write – often his subjects; occasionally his editor. While there is no template for a great reporter, he was one for reasons that were intrinsic to who he was: ambitious, skeptical of power and conventional wisdom, and incredibly brave. And he was warm and honest in a way that left him many unlikely friends among people you’d expect to hate him. [..]

Some of that was Michael’s warmth, charm, and charisma. Some of it, I think, was the opposite: His anger and fearlessness made working with him, or against him, something more than the usual journalistic transaction. There’s a relief in dealing with someone and knowing where he stands.

In a way, Michael was born too late: He wrote with the sort of commitment of the generation of reporters shaped by the government’s lies about Vietnam, not by the triumphalism of the 1990s or the reflexive patriotism of the years after 9/11. He was surer than most of us that power is, presumptively, not to be trusted. Writers of his courage and talent are so rare, and he was taken way too soon. There are few like him. We will miss him terribly.

I wrote an article recently about Pres. Obama’s defense of his secretive drone war that featured Michael’s appearance on the Up with Steve Kornacki panel. I re-watched those videos last night admiring how forceful and accurate Michael was in his criticism.

Michael, you will be so missed.

In Memoriam: Richie Havens 1941 – 2013

Folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens passed away this morning from a sudden heart attack . He was 72.

Havens, widely admired for his briskly rhythmic guitar style and richly textured voice, became a part of history for serving as the opening performer at the Woodstock festival in 1969.

Havens transfixed the crowd at the start of that storied weekend. In a way, he had to. He was asked by the organizers to extend his set to nearly three hours to kill time since most of the other performers hadn’t yet reached the site, due to the choking crowds. Havens’ subsequent improvisation on the spiritual “Motherless Child” – threaded with his own inspired vamp of “Freedom” – become one of the festival’s signature sounds.

Havens’ reputation as a live performer earned him widespread notice. His Woodstock appearance proved to be a major turning point in his career. As the festival’s first performer, he held the crowd for nearly three hours (in part because he was told to perform a lengthy set because many artists were delayed in reaching the festival location), and was called back for several encores. Having run out of tunes, he improvised a song based on the old spiritual “Motherless Child” that became “Freedom”. The subsequent Woodstock movie release helped Havens reach a worldwide audience. He also appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival in late August 1969. [..]

Increasingly, Havens devoted his energies to educating young people about ecological issues. In the mid-1970s, he co-founded the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children’s museum on City Island in the Bronx. That, in turn, led to the creation of The Natural Guard, an organization Richie describes as “a way of helping kids learn that they can have a hands-on role in affecting the environment. Children study the land, water, and air in their own communities and see how they can make positive changes from something as simple as planting a garden in an abandoned lot.

Richie passed away on Earth Day.

May the Goddess guide him on his journey to the Summerlands. May his family and and friends and all the world find Peace.

Freedom at Woodstock 1969

Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns

In Memoriam: Hugo Chavez 1954 – 2013

Hugo Chavez photo imagesqtbnANd9GcQKVr6bXWlFx7SxZgpgP_zps07654e05.jpg Popular Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez succumbed to cancer today in a hospital in Caracas ending his 14 years as the leader of the oil rich South American country.

The flamboyant 58-year-old had undergone four operations in Cuba for a cancer that was first detected in his pelvic region in mid-2011. His last surgery was on December 11 and he had not been seen in public since. [..]

Chavez easily won a new six-year term at an election in October and his death will devastate millions of supporters who adored his charismatic style, anti-U.S. rhetoric and oil-financed policies that brought subsidized food and free health clinics to long-neglected slums.

Pres. Chavez was certainly controversial but it was through his economic and social policies that Venezuela reduced the poverty level from a low of 55.44% in 1998 to 26 percent at the end of 2008. Extreme poverty fell by 72%. He increased access to health care and education. In 2003, he made food security a priority by opening a nation wide chain of supermarkets and setting price ceilings for basic staple foods.

Pres. Chavez’ human rights record was somewhat mixed:

In the 1999 Venezuelan constitution, 116 of 300 articles were concerned with human rights; these included increased protections for indigenous peoples and women, and established the rights of the public to education, housing, healthcare, and food. It called for dramatic democratic reforms such as ability to recall politicians from office by popular referendum, increased requirements for government transparency, and numerous other requirements to increase localized, participatory democracy, in favor of centralized administration. It gave citizens the right to timely and impartial information, community access to media, and a right to participate in acts of civil disobedience.

However, as recently as 2010, Amnesty International has criticized the Chávez administration for targeting critics following several politically motivated arrests. Freedom House lists Venezuela as being “partly free” in its 2011 Freedom in the World annual report, noting a recent decline in civil liberties. A 2010 Organization of American States report found concerns with freedom of expression, human rights abuses, authoritarianism, press freedom, threats to democracy, as well as erosion of separation of powers, the economic infrastructure and ability of the president to appoint judges to federal courts.

Born Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías into a working-class family in Sabaneta, Barinas, he is survived by two ex-wives, Nancy Colmenares and Marisabel Rodríguez, and four children – Hugo Rafael, María Gabriela and Rosa Virginia by his first wife and Rosinés by his second.

Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns

In Memoriam: Van Cliburn 1934 – 2013

Pianist Van Cliburn died February 27 in Fort Worth, TX after a long battle with bone cancer. Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn, Jr. was an American pianist who achieved worldwide recognition in 1958 at the age of 23, when he won the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.

Moscow

It was his recognition in Moscow that propelled Cliburn to international fame. The first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 was an event designed to demonstrate Soviet cultural superiority during the Cold War, on the heels of their technological victory with the Sputnik launch in October 1957. Cliburn’s performance at the competition finale of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 earned him a standing ovation lasting eight minutes.

When it was time to announce a winner, the judges were obliged to ask permission of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Then give him the prize!”

Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, the only time the honor has been accorded a classical musician. His cover story in Time proclaimed him “The Texan Who Conquered Russia”.

Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns

In Memoriam: David W. Smith, Translator, 1957 – 2013

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I bring this sad news, Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith died this past Sunday, January 20.

Dr. David W. Smith, 55, of Richmond, KY, passed away Sunday, January 20, 2013.

Dr. Smith was born in Fort Smith Arkansas on March 2, 1957, to Roy W. and Geraldine Sandlin Smith. He was a self employed Scientific Consultant.

Survivors include his three sons: Geoff, Justin and Jon Smith; his former wife: Teena Smith; one brother: Richard Smith; as well as a host of other family and friends.

Private services will be conducted at a later date.

The Combs, Parsons & Collins Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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David was our friend and fellow traveler through the universe who shared with us his passion for science, music and cooking. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We grieve with you.

Though we share this humble path, alone

How fragile is the heart

Oh give these clay feet wings to fly

To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart

Lift this mortal veil of fear

Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears

We’ll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean

Cast your soul to the sea

When the dark night seems endless

Please remember me…

May we all find Peace. Blessed Be.

In Memoriam: Aaron Swartz 1986 – 2013

The brilliant mind, righteous heart of Aaron Swartz will be missed



The transcript can be read here

Lean into the pain

by Aaron Swartz

When you first begin to exercise, it’s somewhat painful. Not wildly painful, like touching a hot stove, but enough that if your only goal was to avoid pain, you certainly would stop doing it. But if you keep exercising… well, it just keeps getting more painful. When you’re done, if you’ve really pushed yourself, you often feel exhausted and sore. And the next morning it’s even worse.

If that was all that happened, you’d probably never do it. It’s not that much fun being sore. Yet we do it anyway – because we know that, in the long run, the pain will make us stronger. Next time we’ll be able to run harder and lift more before the pain starts.

And knowing this makes all the difference. Indeed, we come to see the pain as a sort of pleasure – it feels good to really push yourself, to fight through the pain and make yourself stronger. Feel the burn! It’s fun to wake up sore the next morning, because you know that’s just a sign that you’re getting stronger.

Few people realize it, but psychological pain works the same way. Most people treat psychological pain like the hot stove – if starting to think about something scares them or stresses them out, they quickly stop thinking about it and change the subject.

The problem is that the topics that are most painful also tend to be the topics that are most important for us: they’re the projects we most want to do, the relationships we care most about, the decisions that have the biggest consequences for our future, the most dangerous risks that we run. We’re scared of them because we know the stakes are so high. But if we never think about them, then we can never do anything about them. [..]

Next time you start feeling that feeling, that sense of pain from deep in your head that tells you to avoid a subject – ignore it. Lean into the pain instead. You’ll be glad you did.

Jack Klugman’s Life Saving Legacy

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

On Christmas Eve, stage, film and television actor Jack Klugman, 90, died peacefully at home in California. Best know for his rolls as Oscar Madison, the sloppy roommate to Felix Unger in the TV series “The Odd Couple” and the crime-fighting coroner in “Quincy, M.E.,” Mr. Klugman left another legacy that of live saver for millions of people who suffer from rare or “orphan diseases.” Through his TV show “Quincy, M.E” and testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, he as instrumental in passage of the Orphan Drug Act of 1983.

Thanks, Jack

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