In this edition: Blue-eyed soul. Black hearts. Tracking the descent of American ideals. Best politicians money can buy. To-do list: avoid copyright infringement and finish on a positive note.
Cry Like a Baby
As I look back on a love so sweet
I cry like a baby
Every road is a lonely street
I cry like a baby
1968 — Written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and performed by The Box Tops
Memphis producer/songwriter Dan Penn contacted Spooner Oldham to write a song that would follow-up The Box Top’s success with “The Letter.” Oldham was a session organist and songwriter. Sitting in a diner, frustrated by a lack of ideas, Oldham told Penn that he could “cry like a baby” and Penn got inspired. The first verse came together as they walked to the studio, and the duo birthed a demo that night. The next day Box Tops’ singer Alex Chilton heard the demo and smiled. It soon reached #2 on the charts.
The Box Tops were a “blue-eyed soul” group from Memphis. A white group with a black sound. Singer/guitarist Chilton was just 17 in 1968. Like many young bands of the time they were mistreated by managers and road promoters and this led to their disbanding in 1970. The management company continued to release material recorded by the band, and when that ran out they created a new studio band to record using the name Box Tops. In their quest for fame and fortune, the band had ceded all control to the management and record companies. Their dream was derailed by the greed of the people they felt were going to help them.
And in case you were wondering, the strangely buzzing plucked string sound is from a sitar.
Several things came up in the past week or so that has me ready to cry like a baby. Healthcare.gov’s issues are touted by everyone (Left and Right) as “Obama’s Katrina.” The only truth in the analogy is that it is very effective in reinforcing the perception that government can’t get things right–a great boost to people who want to make government small enough to drown in the tub (see Grover Norquist). SNAP benefits (food stamps) were cut in November and nobody seems to care that benefits are reduced for 22 million children and 9 million people who are elderly or disabled. The super-typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippine province of Leyte. As many as 10,000 may be dead and over 600,000 people have been displaced. At the same time, the Warsaw Climate Change Conference is barely reported. Thirty members of Greenpeace are being held in a Russian jail because they climbed an offshore drilling rig in the arctic with banners and ropes. The Executive Branch and State Department remain silent on the topic (and this reeks of cowardice). The troubling thing is that the issue of the worsening climate doesn’t make a blip on the mental radar screens of a seemingly hypnotized American people who can’t seem to get it into their heads that 150 years of dumping CO2 into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels has consequences. Media has something to do with this as instead of paying people for investigation the news is simply reported as “this side says this and that side says that” and false equivalency abounds.
Those skeptical of climate change believe that there is no problem–it’s just natural cycles or manipulation by those that would benefit from a carbon market. What they don’t realize is that the energy companies employ between 3 and 8 lobbyists per member of Congress. The oil and gas industry spends $150 million per year lobbying politicians. They have spent $260 million in campaign contributions since 2000. While 75% of that goes to Republicans the industry was also a huge contributor to the Obama campaigns. By purchasing these politicians they may well be exchanging their profits today for a livable world tomorrow. What do the oil and gas companies get for their money? Freedom from pesky regulation, $4 billion in annual tax breaks, and continued profits–about a trillion dollars over the past decade for the top companies. And they don’t even thank us while they pick our pockets. (Perhaps a sexually oriented metaphor would be more appropriate?) The tens of millions the American Petroleum Institute spends on PR provides quite a return. It makes you wonder if the truly soulless can enjoy their ill-gotten gains? Of course they can. Lie about climate science by day, count your 30 pieces of silver at night.
While the Right likes to claim that the Koch Brothers are simply baseless scapegoats of the Left (they know that Al Gore and George Soros are the REAL threats LOL) yet we find Koch Industries at the top of the lobbying lists. The Kochs spent $122 million of their oil billions on Americans for Prosperity, a tax-exempt conservative political organization JUST IN 2012. They are focused on funding more local races to put Tea Party conservatives in charge of towns and counties across the country. Their money is important to Republicans generally–they either receive it or a candidate “primaries them” bankrolled by these anti-democratic maniacs. Their money funds much anti-Obamacare advertising through support of extreme right-wing groups.
I would say that 40 years ago most Americans understood that we needed to control the pollution of air, food, and water. Now, we’ve somehow been led to the place where we will no longer fight for controls against these terrible attacks on the environment. We not only lay down for polluters but we mindlessly believe that globalization is necessary, Medicare and Social Security are unsustainable for the U.S., the military can do no wrong, and that we can trust the efforts of private sector corporations over public sector civil servants.
How did we get here? I believe that it started out with Ronald Reagan duping socially conservative Democrats and business owning Republicans into trusting his ideology that what was good for business was good for everyone. Before that, Americans had more skepticism about where to place their trust. They understood that labor and management had a pact that neither would be sacrificed for the benefit of the other. Moreover, they understood (as Henry Ford did when he doubled the wages of his employees in 1918) that the success of the worker was a way to maintain the economic ecosystem. Communities need the consumption and civic participation of workers as much as the oceans need plankton. Companies need a stable motivated workforce or they squander energy on training and recruitment. Post-Reagan we raced to the place where in the name of globalism we have sent tens of millions of jobs overseas. Since labor is a market, we now have more workers than jobs to employ them (and few opportunities for low-skilled workers) and the result is that pay is flat or declining. High supply means low prices.
Low wages results in an elevated demand for cheap goods. Like from Wal-Mart. Except that Wal-Mart finds its low prices by forcing companies with American factories (like Rubbermaid, Levis, and Master Lock) to close their U.S. facilities and send those jobs to Asia to provide items for cheaper than the price we would be willing to pay for them. So the whole thing is a vicious, community-destroying cycle. But if you keep the masses occupied worrying that they might slip into poverty then they are unwilling to risk anything that threatens their shitty jobs and 2% raises. A debased and defeated work force is the easiest to take advantage of.
So depressing. Let’s get over it together. Have you seen this quote?
“Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.”
Hear more below.
From a Bill Moyer’s interview of Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo , “If there’s injustice in the world, those of us that have the ability to witness it and to record it, document it and tell the world what is happening have a moral responsibility to do that. Then, of course, it’s left up to those that are receiving that knowledge to make the moral choice about whether they want to stand up against the injustice or observe it.”
Knowing that such sentiments exist and that they have meaning to a large number of people is a comforting thing. Like tomato soup in Chicago in November.
More on the steps that led us into this descent next post. I will now be quoting only a verse of the songs that launch my blog posts. I wanted to collect a few things together (e-book style) and then I realized that in order to fit a fair use standard for copyrights I would have to restrict the lyrics to the relevant part. Luckily other sites have no qualms and I will link to their content as I did above.
Take care and do right.