Got your sitz muscles on and your warm beer and cold pizza ready? Good, because today I have 2 solid hours of Baroque Opera for you.
I told you to expect something completely different.
It tells the story, at great length and repetitively in song and a foreign language that I don’t understand, of Orpheus and Eurydice. Allow me to summarize-
Orpheus was a legendary Bard (who says you don’t learn anything from D&D?) who could literally (and I know the difference between that and figuratively) out sing the Sirens and did so in the service of Jason and his fellow Argonauts.
He married a beautiful woman named Eurydice. Just after their wedding she was accosted by a satyr and rather than submit she ran away and fell into a pit of snakes suffering a fatal bite.
Distraught, Orpheus expressed his grief in songs that made the gods themselves weep and he was allowed to enter Tartarus where his lamentations softend even the hearts of Hades and Persephone. They agreed to release Eurydice on a single condition- that Orpheus not look back until they were both safely out of Tartarus.
Did I not say tragedy? Nothing ever goes well in an Opera. Orpheus misinterprets the agreement and when he reaches the land of the living again with Eurydice a step or two behind (totally sexist) he turns back to see how she is doing. Poof. She is now dead dead, no saving throw.
Like a lot of myths and legends you should take this one with a pillar of salt, but you can see why it’s a particularly attractive one for musicians and it is constantly re-visited in that pre-corporatist intellectual property kind of way.
What’s interesting about L’Orfeo is that it’s one of the earliest examples of the ‘classical’ Operatic format that was enormously popular for over 300 years and could be argued persists even today in what we contemporarily call ‘Musicals’.
Monteverdi was right on the cusp of the transition between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque basso continuo. He was a singer, a gambist (an instrument that hardly exists now except in museums), and, oh yeah, a priest.
Look, I know he had a wife and 3 kids. He didn’t take orders until after she died and back in the day becoming a priest was kind of like retiring on a pension. Give him a break.
In fact he’s rather more famous for his Madrigals which in addition to being eminently singable and pleasant to listen to (much more than Opera to my mind) clearly demonstrate the transition between the Renaissance and Baroque styles.
As Baroque style rose the Madrigal was displaced by the solo Aria and that made me sooo mad.
How mad are you?
I’m sooooooooooooooo mad.
I’m so mad I’m not even going to sing my Aria!
OK, maybe a little.
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
NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Intelligence for Years
By Michael Riley, Bloomberg News
The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.
“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first,” said Jason Healey, director of the cyber statecraft initiative at the Atlantic Council and a former Air Force cyber officer. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.”
The revelations have created a clearer picture of the two roles, sometimes contradictory, played by the U.S.’s largest spy agency. The NSA protects the computers of the government and critical industry from cyber-attacks, while gathering troves of intelligence attacking the computers of others, including terrorist organizations, nuclear smugglers and other governments.
Following the leaks about NSA’s electronic spying, President Barack Obama convened a panel to review surveillance activities and suggest reforms. Among the dozens of changes put forward was a recommendation that the NSA quickly move to fix software flaws rather that exploit them, and that they be used only in “rare instances” and for short periods of time.
“If the NSA knows about a vulnerability, then often other nation states and even criminal organizations can exploit the same security vulnerability,” said Harley Geiger, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington. “What may be a good tool for the NSA may also turn out to be a tool for organizations that are less ethical or have no ethics at all.”
The White House, the NSA, and the DNI deny that they ever used this
feature flaw to spy on U.S. citizens, let alone introduced it.
And I have this real good deal on a bridge on Brooklyn.
Now, if you’re a Bankster-
U.S. rallied 120 nations in response to 2012 cyberattack on American banks
By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post
Published: April 11
In the spring of 2012, some of the largest banks in the United States were coming under attack, with hackers commandeering servers around the world to direct a barrage of Internet traffic toward the banks’ Web sites.
The response to the episode, which has not been previously detailed, reflected the difficult choices the Obama administration faces in the event of a cyberattack – assaults that constitute a new-generation threat to the nation’s financial and industrial computer networks. In many cases, officials are still feeling their way in the dark, determined to protect U.S. computer networks but wary of an overly aggressive response that could invite escalatory attacks that might further paralyze the networks of American businesses.
Officials said the approach worked to a degree: The barrage of traffic eased. At the same time, the approach did not eliminate the traffic entirely and did nothing, some say, to ensure that the attacker would not try again.
“What was the sanction?” said a second former defense official who favored a more aggressive response. “The effort didn’t hinder the adversary’s objectives in the least.”
Journalists who broke NSA story in Guardian dedicate award to Snowden
Amanda Holpuch, The Guardian
Friday 11 April 2014 16.28 EDT
“Each one of these awards provides perfect vindication, that what he [Snowden] did, coming forward, was absolutely the right thing to do and merits gratitude and not indictments and decades of imprisonment,” Greenwald said in his acceptance speech.
Federal prosecutors have charged Snowden, who leaked thousands of classified documents to the reporters, with violating the Espionage Act. Greenwald said he and Poitras had been seeking information from the US government about whether they were also the subject of an indictment that was under seal.
“They wanted us to have that kind of uncertainty about whether or not they would take action upon our return to the US,” Greenwald said, at a press conference following the awards ceremony. “It’s easy to say it doesn’t seem like that would happen, but when those threats are directed at you, you take them seriously.”
Dropbox faces online protests after appointing Condoleezza Rice to board
Stuart Dredge, The Guardian
Friday 11 April 2014 12.52 EDT
“Given everything we now know about the US’s warrantless surveillance program, and Rice’s role in it, why on earth would we want someone like her involved with Dropbox, an organisation we are trusting with our most important business and personal data?,” claims the site, which is encouraging people to post their agreement on Twitter and Facebook using the #DropDropbox hashtag.
“Condoleezza Rice should not be on the Board of Directors of Dropbox and her selection shows that Drew Houston and the senior management at Dropbox are ethically short-sighted.”
For her part, Rice has suggested that her experience will benefit Dropbox as it grapples with the privacy implications of the last year’s revelations about surveillance by the NSA, GCHQ and other security agencies.
CIA’s use of harsh interrogation went beyond legal authority, Senate report says
By Ali Watkins, Jonathan S. Landay and Marisa Taylor, McClatchy
April 11, 2014
The report also found that the spy agency failed to keep an accurate account of the number of individuals it held, and that it issued erroneous claims about how many it detained and subjected to the controversial interrogation methods. The CIA has said that about 30 detainees underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.
The CIA’s claim “is BS,” said a former U.S. official familiar with evidence underpinning the report, who asked not to be identified because the matter is still classified. “They are trying to minimize the damage. They are trying to say it was a very targeted program, but that’s not the case.”
“If the CIA fundamentally misrepresented what it was doing and that was what led (Justice Department) lawyers to conclude that the conduct was legal, then the legal conclusions themselves were inaccurate,” said Andrea Prasow, senior national security counsel for Human Rights Watch. “The lawyers making those assessments were relying on the facts that were laid before them.”
CIA and White House under pressure after Senate torture report leaks
Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian
Friday 11 April 2014 10.44 EDT
The classified study, prepared by the Senate select committee on intelligence, concluded that the CIA’s interrogations, secret detentions and outsourced torture sessions were “brutal, and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers.”
According to the leaked conclusions, the committee found that that the agency poorly managed its interrogation and detention efforts. It relied extensively on outside contractors for design and implementation, especially “two contract psychologists,” whom an earlier Senate Armed Services Committee investigation identified as Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell. Both men were influential in retrofitting techniques that had been designed to train captured US troops to survive and resist torture by foreign adversaries for use on detainees.
“The legal foundation for this program was always broken, but this also shows that it was resting on thin air. These conclusions only reinforce that torture is a brutal, unlawful practice that is unnecessary for protecting our national security,” said former navy general counsel Alberto Mora in a statement released by Human Rights First.
Documents show GM’s sluggish response to deadly defect
By Eric Beech and Paul Lienert, Reuters
Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:50pm EDT
In February and March, GM recalled 2.6 million older cars, including Saturn Ions and Chevrolet Cobalts, due to concerns that faulty ignition switches could cause the vehicles’ engines to turn off during operation. That, in turn, can prevent airbags from operating and disable power steering and power brakes.
The document says that Altman, who was the program engineering manager for the Cobalt and Ion, reported on October 29, 2004, that the Cobalt ignition “can be keyed off with knee while driving.”
It says the problem was detected in a field test of the 2005 Cobalt. “While driving the vehicle the driver’s knee bumped the key in such a manner as to turn off the ignition,” it states.
The document also indicates “business case unacceptable,” an apparent reference to the internal decision made not to fix the part because of costs.
Altman testified in a 2013 deposition that GM delayed action because of costs.
Japan anti-whaling ruling saves face
Saturday April 12 2014
The Antarctic program was nearly bankrupt, but if the government had overhauled it on its own, it would have incurred the wrath of a strong pro-whaling lobby, and could have been criticized for caving in to foreign anti-whaling activists. Now officials can say the court forced their hand.
“It seemed to me they were anxious to lose,” said Masayuki Komatsu, a former fisheries official known for his battles at the International Whaling Commission to defend Japanese hunts. He accused Japanese officials of losing “passion and love” for whaling and not fighting hard enough in court.
The research hunts started in 1987 following an international moratorium on commercial whaling. The whale meat is sold at home to finance the program, but sales have fallen as whale meat became less popular, forcing sharp increases in government subsidies to keep the program afloat.
SeaWorld loses appeal against killer-whale occupational safety ruling
Friday 11 April 2014 12.38 EDT
The ruling by the US court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit could have a major impact on how SeaWorld presents its shows, because it would require increased separation of humans and killer whales.
“Statements by SeaWorld managers do not indicate that SeaWorld’s safety protocols and training made the killer whales safe; rather, they demonstrate SeaWorld’s recognition that the killer whales interacting with trainers are dangerous,” Judge Judith Rogers wrote on behalf of the court.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion noting that people who work in dangerous fields in the sports and entertainment context are aware of the risks.
OSHA has “departed from tradition and stormed headlong into a new regulatory arena,” he said.
#CancelColbert, Meet ‘the Heathen Chinee’
By BEN TARNOFF, Politico Magazine
April 08, 2014
By 1870, there were nearly 50,000 Chinese in California, making up roughly 11 percent of the state’s population. While contributing enormously to California’s prosperity, these immigrants endured hostility from working-class whites who accused them of stealing their jobs by working longer hours for lower wages. California’s first statewide labor organization, the Mechanics State Council, warned that “the barbarian hordes of China” posed a “serious evil” to the white worker and that, if immigration continued, it would lead to an all-out race war.
Having spoken out against such vicious nonsense for years, in 1870, Harte decided to deliver a withering satire on the subject. The result-a poem called “Plain Language from Truthful James”-appeared in the September issue of the Overland and swiftly became the most popular thing Harte ever wrote.
“Plain Language from Truthful James”-or “The Heathen Chinee,” as it came to be known-tells the story of a card game between a Chinese man named Ah Sin and a pair of white men. Everyone is cheating, but Ah Sin cheats better, and wins. When his opponents discover his trickery, they are outraged. “We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor,” one of them cries. This is the punch line, a delicious inversion of a phrase already popular among anti-Chinese agitators, appropriated by Harte to expose the hypocrisy of white racism. The Chinese worker, Harte later wrote, “did as the Caucasian did in all respects, and, being more patient and frugal, did it a little better.” He learned the white man’s game, and proceeded to beat him at it.
“The Heathen Chinee” penetrated American culture with terrific speed, setting off, in the words of Harte’s friend (and rival) Mark Twain, “an explosion of delight whose reverberations reached the last confines of Christendom.” It went viral, ripped from its original context and reprinted in the nation’s newspapers and magazines-the Internet of the day. Its lines were recited, quoted, parodied, set to music, reprinted and resold on city streets. The Overland’s publisher claimed that his clients in the East “doubled their orders” of the magazine because of the poem. When a collection of Harte’s poetry appeared later that year in time for the Christmas market, with “The Heathen Chinee” as the centerpiece, the book sold out its first six editions within five days.
Harte had another reason to regret the poem: Many readers missed the ironic tone, interpreting the parable as a sincere endorsement of anti-Chinese racism. A pirated edition of the poem published in Chicago made this painfully clear. It featured drawings of a slant-eyed Ah Sin getting attacked by a mob of whites, without an ounce of irony.
“I like irony except I find that if you just toss your clothes in the dryer for a few minutes you hardly ever have to use it.”- ek hornbeck
An Immodest Proposal: A Global Tax on the Superrich
By Peter Coy, Bloomberg Businessweek
April 10, 2014
The growth of inequality can sometimes feel as inexorable as the subterranean shifting of tectonic plates. It may be driven by powerful forces, but ultimately it’s a choice, not a fact of nature. What allows Gates to keep getting richer in spite of himself is a web of human-designed institutions and practices, from the tax system to patent law. So the question is not whether society can reduce inequality, but whether it wants to. If the answer to that is yes, the next question is how.
Most of the coverage of Piketty’s book has focused on his diagnosis, but the most interesting part is the cure. He proposes a global tax on capital-by which he means real assets such as land, natural resources, houses, office buildings, factories, machines, software, and patents, as well as pieces of paper, such as stocks and bonds, that represent a financial interest in those assets. In his terminology, capital is essentially the same as wealth. So taxing capital is taking a chunk of rich people’s money. His tax would start small but rise to as high as 5 percent to 10 percent annually for fortunes in the billions. The proceeds in Piketty’s view should not fund an expansion of government: “The state’s great leap forward has already taken place: there will be no second leap-not like the first one, in any event,” he writes.
Piketty’s global tax has features that make it worth pondering as a thought experiment if nothing else. For one thing, it gets the incentives right. If a global tax on capital were imposed, owners of valuable assets such as empty lots might be more likely to put them to good use, or sell them to someone who could, to cover the tax bill. (American writer Henry George had the same idea in the 19th century with his famous single tax on land, designed to reward development but not speculation.) For another, a wealth tax captures resources that other taxes miss.
Early in his career, Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize-winning economist at Columbia University, wrote a much cited paper concluding that if certain economic conditions existed, then there would be no justification for taxing capital. I ask him about that paper. He says the conditions he identified don’t exist in the real world-which is why he’s sympathetic to Piketty’s ideas. “By clarifying the conditions under which you wouldn’t tax capital,” he says, “it helps clarify the reasons why you would.” For example, some of the greatest fortunes are built at least in part on monopoly power. If the government doesn’t bust up monopolies, Stiglitz says, it can achieve similar results by taxing away their “rents”-i.e., excess profits.
Piketty isn’t willing to concede that his wealth tax is dead on arrival. In an e-mail exchange, he said, “First there’s a lot countries can do on their own. It would be very easy in the U.S. to turn the property tax into a progressive tax on net worth. In effect, we would be reducing the property tax on people with little net wealth (because of large debt) and raising it on people with high financial wealth.” He added: “I understand that many people don’t want this to happen, just like many people did not want the progressive income tax to happen around 1900-1910; but it did happen.” As for capital flight, he said tax havens could be punished. “If the U.S. (a quarter of world GDP) and the EU (another quarter of world GDP) want this to happen, then this can happen. Again, this is political, not technical.”
Must Read Blog Posts
In Defending Dianne Feinstein, Ron Wyden Reminds that Michael Hayden Lied to Congress
Published April 7, 2014
But unlike Reid and Udall – who attack Hayden for being a sexist pig (though not in that language) – Wyden attacks Hayden for being a liar.
Markets and Competitive Markets
by Ian Welsh
2014 April 11
Markets are almost entirely a product of government regulation and enforcement, and cannot be anything but. This is not just about the common observation that government must enforce contracts, but about the how it enforces contracts because contract law changes over time, and is differs from country to country.
Even more fundamentally, what property is, government determines. For example, most land could not be sold through most of history. Patents and copyrights are not universal in human existence and they radically undermine the argument for markets because for competition to work people must be able to enter any business which has high profits. If patents or copyright make it impossible to produce products that others are, then competition does not drive down prices.
Property, from ownership of land, to the right to broadcast over the airwaves, to the right to make something and deny other people the right to make it as embedded in patents and copyrights is entirely a social choice, enacted through government. What property is, what may be sold, and what may not be sold: what is a market good, what is tradeable, is a matter of law and convention.
Every grant of monopoly, such as copyright and patent, every natural monopoly such as water and sewage and power and phone and internet and cable; every oligopolistic grant such as auctions of spectrum to telecom companies; every grant of money-creation to a few; every network-effect or first-mover advantage; every inherited fortune or oligopoly engaged in non-competitive pricing makes a market less competitive.
Slate’s Civil War about Bigotry and Markets
by William Black, New Economic Perspoectives
Posted on April 7, 2014
What does economics have to say about employment discrimination? Neoclassical economics’ inability to comprehend one of the most common and disabling social ills – discrimination – is a classic example of its limitations. Neoclassical economists suffer from a self-inflicted limitation that cripples their ability to discuss discrimination honestly. Under the standard assumption of rationality essential to all their models discrimination cannot exist because it is irrational. Neoclassical economists could respond to the failure of their models by changing their models, but that would cause them to have to admit massive errors and raise the question – why are we listening to these folks? Neoclassical economists have taken two primary approaches to attempt to escape this trap of their own (irrational) design that insists on ignoring so much human behavior.
One neoclassical answer to the dilemma is a cheat. There are two sub-variants. In the first, bigotry, which has so often proven murderous, is sanitized, even made positive, by rebranding it as a “taste.” When we say that someone has “taste” it is a compliment. It also (seems) to solve the rationality problem because neoclassical economists are used to (assuming, incorrectly) that tastes are innate (“exogenous”) and stable rather than often being driven by advertising and other social forces. Some people have a taste for vanilla and some have a taste for chocolate. Neoclassical economists assume that all such tastes are equally valid. We don’t see many mass murders in ice cream stores between holders of these diverse tastes. I’m not aware the vanilla ice cream lovers have ever asserted the right to enslave the chocolate lovers.
The second neo-classical cheat is to give up the standard assumption on perfect, cost-free information. They modify this assumption to argue that “statistical” discrimination is efficient. Traits such as race, gender, sexual orientation, national identity, and age become under this treatment excellent (albeit inherently imperfect) predictors of employee performance. Becker claimed in a book that have proven to be an embarrassments (A Treatise on the Family), women are inherently inferior to men as workers in most fields. There may be a few female “deviants” who it would make sense to train for “male” jobs if we could predict their (deeply unlikely) future success in “male jobs” when they were five years old, but we cannot. Given this inability to identify now the tiny group of potentially successful “deviant” girls, it makes no sense to provide girls the option of undertaking the years of training necessary to qualify the few “deviants” who would actually be as good as males in such jobs. Becker claimed that he used the term “deviant” only in its statistical sense – because, you know, there was no other word for that concept that avoided the obvious and bigoted double insult to both women and lesbians. Come to think of it, he could have used the word “exceptional.”
Alternatively, neoclassical economists assume that there is no discrimination. Employers do not hire particular people from disfavored groups because such groups are in fact inferior. I will dignify this with a refutation beyond that presented above in which the markets have refuted Becker’s claim that women were inferior paid workers due to “biolog[ical]” defects that Becker could not identify.
The Evening Blues – 4-11-14
by joe shikspack, Daily Kos
Fri Apr 11, 2014
This evening’s music features blues, jazz and boogie-woogie pianist and singer Blind John Davis.
Teaching while transgender
by rserven, Daily Kos
Fri Apr 11, 2014
Lumberton, TX Independent School District substitute teacher Laura Jane Klug has been suspended for being transgender. The school district says they are “looking into the matter”…and that Klug has not been terminated…yet. Klug is supposed to hear about the resolution of the school board today, after the school board met on Thursday.
A final note
Also cross posted (eventually) at Voices on the Square.