• ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 18

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signs hotly-contested education bill (Orlando Sentinel)

    The major bill

    tackles everything from recess to teacher bonuses to testing. Backers called it “landmark” and “transformational” legislation, while critics said it will harm public schools and their most vulnerable students. . . . .

    The measure includes the “schools of hope” provision [House Speaker Richard] Corcoran championed, which will use state money to lure high-performing charter schools to neighborhoods where students in traditional schools have struggled academically.

    “These are kids who are being robbed of dignity and hope,” Corcoran said. “We want every single child to have an opportunity to get a world-class education.”

    The bill’s provisions related to charter schools — privately run public institutions — have prompted some of the biggest outcry, with many educators and school advocates urging Scott to veto the bill because they think it will reduce funding for traditional public schools.

    Comment: The bill was strongly opposed by teachers’ unions and other supporters of traditional public schools, strongly supported by proponents of charters and private schools.

     Carol Felsenthal has a thoughtful, succinct opinion piece at ZipDialog: Will Trump Ax Mueller?

    She thinks there is an excellent chance he will and that the political consequences will be very serious.

     Illinois state comptroller says she cannot pay the bills. State finances are in a “crisis mode” (Associate Press)

    [Comptroller Susana] Mendoza says a recent court order regarding money owed for Medicaid bills means mandated payments will eat up 100 percent of Illinois’ monthly revenue.

    There would be no money left for so-called “discretionary” spending – a category that in Illinois includes school buses, domestic violence shelters and some ambulance services. –Associated Press

    Comment: For years, the state spent lavishly on pensions for unionized state employees, who were so beloved by legislators that they actually wrote into the state constitution that pensions can never be reduced.

    On those rare occasions when the Democrats and Republicans agreed on budget cuts, they were struck down by the courts because they reduced future pension benefits, which violates the constitution.

    For years, the state has been deep blue, with House Majority Leader Mike Madigan (of Chicago) as the most powerful figure. Several years ago, a tough-minded Republican (Bruce Rauner) won the governorship, but he and Madigan have not been able to strike a deal. 

    Unlike Puerto Rico, Illinois and other US states cannot seek bankruptcy protection. But lots of city and state agencies can, and there is a real prospect that some will have to do so if the state cannot pay its share of their budget.

    You can easily imagine what the D’s and R’s say. “The other side is intransigent, and what we need to do is (a) raise taxes or (b) cut services.” You can guess who says A and who says B. (The one quirk is that not all Republicans favor being hard on unionized state employees. In some downstate districts, they are vote in large numbers, often for Republicans.)

     “Put down you make-up kit, m’am, and come out of the beauty shop with your hands up.”

    Idaho governor vetoed legislation to make it easier to work in cosmetology  (FEE, Foundation for Economic Education) Then, his wife called and asked her usual, unlicensed make-up artist to come and do some work. The make-up artist, Sherry Japhet, told her no.   

    Here’s what Ms. Japhet said on Facebook:

    Got a call to do [First Lady] Lori Otter’s makeup for a commercial on location and I said…

    “I would be more than happy to do it but her husband [Gov. Butch Otter, R] vetoed a bill to make it legal for me or any other makeup artist and stylist to do so. She will have to go to a salon or do it all herself.”

    She added in the Facebook post: “That felt so damn good.” –FEE

    Comment: Too many people need costly, time-consuming, irrelevant licenses.

    Bureaucracies love imposing them. That’s what they live to do. Professionals already in the field often favor them to prevent competition.

    So, who loses? Consumers lose, unless the licenses protect health and safety.

    Licenses for commercial truck drivers and food handlers are obviously necessary. But many others are unnecessary or are saddled with lots of unnecessary classroom hours. They raise costs and force people to go to unlicensed or blackmarket providers–or do without.

     The answer, my friend, is blowing in the . . . Spark Notes???  (Slate)

    Slate asks, “Did the singer-songwriter take portions of his Nobel lecture from SparkNotes?”

    Sounds like their lawyer went over that headline, doesn’t it? Anyway, they note the following:

    Across the 78 sentences in the lecture that Dylan spends describing Moby-Dick, even a cursory inspection reveals that more than a dozen of them appear to closely resemble lines from the SparkNotes site. And most of the key shared phrases in these passages (such as “Ahab’s lust for vengeance” in the above lines) do not appear in the novel Moby-Dick at all. –Slate

     Bodies of missing US sailors found in ship’s flooded compartment  (New York Times)

    The collision occurred in a  crowded shipping lane and the cause of the accident has not yet been determined.



  • All the Beatles’ songs ranked, best to worst

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    Vulture’s Bill Wyman did the rankings (here).

    I discovered them, thanks to my friend Shlomo Dror, and so can you.

    It’s hard to argue with their top 9, though you or I might put them in slightly different order.

    What’s so striking to me, even now, is that the words and tunes play through my mind as I say the names.

    1. A Day in the Life (Sgt. Pepper’s)
    2. Strawberry Fields Forever (single)
    3. Penny Lane (single)
    4. She Loves You (single)
    5. Please Please Me (single)
    6. Dear Prudence (The White Album)
    7. Here, There, and Everywhere (Revolver)
    8. Norwegian Wood (Rubber Soul)
    9. Eleanor Rigby (Revolver)

    They rank “Let It Be” and “Here Comes the Sun” at 15 and 16, “Hey Jude” at 20.

    Amazing songs further down the list like “Blackbird” (31), “While My Guitar Gently Weeps (32), “Yesterday” (39).

    And on and on. The last one on the list, #213, “Good Day Sunshine.”


    Thanks, Shlomo. What fun reading this article and remembering those songs.

  • It really was “50 Years Ago Today, Sgt. Pepper Taught the Band to Play.”

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    The album’s release began a brief, wild, frenzied few years of peace, love, and dope.

    That cultural shift would have happened anyway, but Sgt. Pepper pushed it along and became an important part of the soundtrack.

    Here are the iconic tracks:

    • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
    • With a Little Help from My Friends
    • Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
    • Getting Better
    • Fixing a Hole
    • She’s Leaving Home
    • Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
    • Within You Without You
    • When I’m Sixty-Four
    • Lovely Rita
    • Good Morning Good Morning
    • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
    • A Day in the Life

    So many great songs, all still fixed in the collective memory of that generation, my generation.

    Some, like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” became a kind of inside joke, shared by everybody who passed a joint or something more trippy in those hazy days.

    Others, like “Lovely Rita” and “When I’m Sixty-Four” had a sweet, even innocent, humor.

    The band itself never talked down to the audience or seemed crassly commercial.

    Each album they released seemed new and truly original–none more so that Sgt. Pepper’s and, later, the White Album.

    For Sgt. Pepper’s, the 50th really is a golden anniversary.


  • Gregg Allman, Rest in Peace

    Here are Gregg, Duane, Dickey Betts, and the Band in their iconic 1970 performance at Fillmore West

    “Tie Me to the Whipping Post”

    Blending southern blues-rock with the acid-rock rhythms of San Francisco, they created something unique.

    And lasting, unlike nearly all the acid music of that era, which sounds like a time capsule.

    Btw, also on the bill that night: The Byrds, Elvin Bishop, and Van Morrison. Good ticket, I’d say.

    Billboard has a first-rate remembrance of Gregg.

    Here’s Gregg, chatting with Conan in 2012, remembering that concert.

    My favorite song of Gregg’s is Southbound. It’s what kick-ass Southern rock is about. Here’s a great performance–so live you can feel the electricity in the room–done when the song came out in 1973.

    Rest in Peace, Gregg, wherever you are bound.


  • John Belushi–Two amazing musical performances on SNL

    Belushi’s talent burst at the seams and included not only mimicry but mimicry in song.

    His two best, in my opinion, are as Ray Charles and Joe Cocker.

    The bit of his morphing from Beethoven into Ray Charles is really hard to locate, at least as a complete routine, but I managed to find it.

    Enjoy. Here Click on this link (not on the picture).

    And the classic version of John singing “Feeling Alright” as Joe Cocker with Joe Cocker. Click on the video below.


  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, May 2

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump offers to meet with North Korea leader under the right conditions.  Even says he would be “honored” to meet him. (Washington Post) 

    Why the sweet talk about one of the world’s most noxious humans?

    Comment: My guess is that Trump and his aides are trying to give Kim Jong Un a face-saving way out, even as the US ratchets up the pressure. Trump would never meet with Kim unless the deal itself was already set.

    It’s all a long shot in any case. Everything hinges on China, and the only reason China will pressure Pyongyang is the now-credible fear that, if Beijing does not act, Washington will.

    Who knows if the whole thing will disintegrate? Still, Trump and his team have handled this carefully, so far, and have managed to assert leverage from threats that were simply impossible under Obama and the Bush administration (which was tied down in Iraq).

    To put it simply: Trump is coupling his coercive diplomacy with a carrot.

    Brexit: Brits and EU off to a bad start. Strong words at Downing St. meeting between PM Theresa May and European Commission Pres. Jean-Claude Juncker (BBC)

    The UK will not enter into “a briefing war” with the European Commission over Brexit talks, Tory sources have said.

    It follows reports in a German paper of repeated clashes between Theresa May and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at a Downing Street dinner.

    EU sources claimed UK misunderstanding of the talks process, and ignorance about how Brussels works, could lead to no deal being agreed on the UK’s exit. –BBC

    Comment: These will be complicated, difficult negotiations. Each is a huge trading partner of the other. But the EU does not want to set an example that it is easy to leave the union. Nor does it want to see EU nations, currently living in the UK, forced out.

     Dozens of Putin’s opponents killed over the years. USA Today says those “cast suspicion on Vladimir Putin”

    What do they have in common? They are among 38 prominent Russians who are victims of unsolved murders or suspicious deaths since the beginning of 2014, according to a list compiled by USA TODAY and British journalist Sarah Hurst, who has done research in Russia.

    The list contains 10 high-profile critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, seven diplomats, six associates of Kremlin power brokers who had a falling out — often over corruption — and 13 military or political leaders involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including commanders of Russian-backed separatist forces.. –USA Today

    Comment: Looks like a previous leader passed along his advice.

     Why are US corporate earnings so high when the economy looks weak, CNBC asks.  Short Answer: International Earnings in a strong global economy.

     How is Europe’s problem with Islamic terror going? Not Well.

    The US State Department just issued a travel alert for the whole continent. (Reuters)

      Just heard Elvin Bishop singing “I’m Old School,” with the great line,

    Don’t send me no email.

    Send me a female.





  • Chris Stapleton nails two songs, one a classic, one an original

    “Elvira” and “Might As Well Get Stoned”

    I always liked “Elvira” even though it was so obviously written to be a commercial hit when the Oak Ridge Boys sang it in 1981. Bubble-gum country, you might say. Even though I knew that, I also knew it was–and is–wonderfully catchy. “My heart’s on fire-a . . . for Elvira,” followed by a doo-wop “giddyup” that could have come from the Coasters.

    Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town show it has legs. Giddyup.

    As a bonus treat, here’s a short interview with Little Big Town about how they decided to do that song and their love of the Oak Ridge Boys.


    Chris and Morgane are great in “Might As Well Get Stoned.” How deep is his accent? Well, he rhymes “on” and “stoned”


    Bonus: If you want another, here’s a heart-wrenching version of “You Are My Sunshine,” with Morgane Stapleton killing it. It’s a little too slow for my taste but it brings out the pain in the song.

    Jimmy Davis, credited with co-writing the song in 1939, rode its success to become governor of Louisiana. Davis didn’t actually write it and never said he did. He bought it from another writer and put his name on it, as many singers did in those days.




  • Torn between two lovers: Strange story and the perfect blues song to go with it

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    I hate it when this happens.


    Blues song, dedicated to the miscreant’s wife.

    “Another Mule Kickin’ in Your Stall,” is supposed to be metaphorical.

    In this case, though, it’s all-too-real. Elvin Bishop does a great, laid-back version of this Muddy Waters song. There are several great versions, if you are interested. Junior Wells has a fine rendition, featuring his harmonica. So does the great blues piano player, Otis Spann, here. Bobby “Blue” Bland does a growling version here.

    Let’s go with Elvin’s easy, wistful version.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, April 21

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     ISIS terror in Paris’ Champs-Élysées

    Comment: Why would Islamic terrorists strike so close to the election, in such prominent spot? What’s the logic?

    They surely know it will increase support for the most hardline anti-Islam candidates. They must calculate that such candidates will strengthen their own radical basic in poor, bitter, poorly-integrated areas in France and across Europe. That is, they want to drive a wedge between French Muslims and the rest of the country, hoping the Muslims will then side with ISIS.

    The high-profile attack also signals strength to their supporters around the world. They are saying, in effect, that we may be losing their territorial Caliphate in Iraq/Syria, but we can still cause death and destruction to the Infidels. Of course, all non-Muslims and perhaps even Muslims who are not in ISIS are infidels.

    Meanwhile, Europe itself is in the midst of a cultural, political, and organizational crisis, besieged on several fronts with no clear leaders and confusion over what to do about Islamic immigrants, Russia, the EU, and Turkey.

     US intel agencies reexaming leaks, could indict Julian Assange and WikiLeaks (CBS)

    They are also engaged in a major hunt for the sources of multiple devastating releases of information, some to WikiLeaks, some to news outlets.

     VERY prominent financial exec says there are “some warning signs [in the economy] that are getting darker” (Bloomberg)

    The comments came from Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager (over $5 trillion). Fink stressed how much depends on corporate earning and political action in Washington.

    The stock market needs validation that U.S. corporate earnings will stay strong and that the policies of President Donald Trump regarding taxes, regulation and infrastructure will advance in Congress in order to move higher, Fink said.

    “If we don’t have earnings validated in these higher P/Es [price/earnings ratios] we could adjust downward 5 or 10 percent from here,” Fink said. “If the administration does succeed on some of these items then the market will then reassert itself going higher.” –Larry Fink, interviewed by Bloomberg News

     Fine piece on the Mississippi Delta blues, local food, and other attractions in Clarksdale and points south  (Jackson, MS, Clarion-Ledger)

    It comments on the Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood, Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, and a lifelong favorite of mine, Chamoun’s Rest Haven (Lebanese food) in Clarksdale.

    Comment: The omission of Abe’s Bar-B-Q is a serious error of omission that should be corrected immediately by the Clarion-Ledger.

    People don’t go to Abe’s for the view or white table cloths. They go for some serious pulled-pork sandwiches.

    In other Mississippi news: Gov. Phil Bryant vetoes a budget line-item spending $50,000 on a PR campaign telling people wild hogs are dangerous. His point: they are dangerous, but you should already know that unless you are an idiot. He was more polite.



  • Remembering guitarist, Bruce Langhorne, who inspired Mr. Tambourine Man

    Langhorne, who died at 78, performed the great guitar lines that accompany–and form a counterpoint to–Bob Dylan’s vocals many of his great early songs. It’s his guitar solo on “Maggie’s Farm,” for instance, and on “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

    Premier Guitar magazine calls him a “forgotten hero” of the folk music revival.

    In his 2004 memoir, “Chronicles,” Mr. Dylan said of Mr. Langhorne, “If you had Bruce playing with you, that’s all you would need to do just about anything.” New York Times obituary for Bruce Langhorne

    It’s Langhorne’s great guitar on one of my favorite early-Dylan songs, Subterranean Homesick Blues. You don’t see Langhorne, but you certainly hear him.

    Btw, that’s Allen Ginsberg in the background, wearing a scarf and looking like a rabbi.

    Listen, watch, and enjoy!