“Stealing” Music

This little snippet from today’s FiveThirtyEight’s Significant Digits caught my eye and started me wondering.

2-second clip

Kraftwerk, the pioneering German electronic band, has won a 20-year case in the European Court of Justice concerning a 2-second clip of its song “Metal on Metal.” The court ruled that two hip-hop producers could not sample the track without permission. The ruling “could have huge implications for the music industry” and also comes as an American court ruled against Katy Perry, holding that she copied 2013’s “Dark Horse” from a Christian rap song that Perry claims she had never heard. [BBC]

Are all these lawsuits about royalties?  Copyright infringement?

The other night I went to a concert and heard a new piece by the composer Brett Dean.  The piece, Reflections, was written in 2006 and one section contains to quote his own program notes,  “…a quotation from a piano piece by Clara Schumann (Romanza in A Minor)….”  The Dean piece was first on the program and the Schumann was played at the end.  The quote was obvious.  But I guess that Schumann is dead and any copyright has long expired.

But what of jazz?  Musicians often quote from other musicians.  No one sues.  In fact it is almost a game to hear and recognize a quote.  Much of the tunes quoted are recent and many are still under copyright.  Take folk music as another example.  Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind takes it’s tune from an old slave song, No More Auction Block for Me.   Folk music, and I think much of traditional country music, is using the same tunes with new words or maybe the same words with different tunes.

According to the CNN reporting on Katy Perry

Katy Perry’s 2013 song “Dark Horse” was copied in part from “Joyful Noise,” a song by Christian rap artist Flame, a Los Angeles jury decided Monday, according court filings obtained by CNN.

The unanimous decision from a nine-person jury came after a week-long trial, during which Perry testified about the track’s creation. She was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read, Variety reported.
Flame, whose real name is Marcus Gray, argued that “Dark Horse” infringed on his copyright by using an underlying beat from his song without permission, according to court filings. Perry’s attorneys argued, in part, that the portion in question was too common and brief to be protected by copyright, Rolling Stone reported.

 

So I’m still confused and puzzled.  What is the difference between what Perry did and what jazz musicians do every day?  Maybe pop musicians and rappers just need to be more upfront about the fact they are quoting each other.  Think of it as a compliment instead of theft.  I think Clara Schumann would be happy to know that someone like Dean is still remembering her music.

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Picture of Clara Schumann from brittanica.com.

Can baseball help us slow down?

The news seems to come at us with lightening speed.  No sooner do we start to digest the latest tweet, the current egregious statement by some state’s governor or a cabinet secretary or the most recent sign of climate change than here comes another and still another.  Who can keep up?  No wonder so many of us are depressed.  And many of us try to keep pace by constantly looking at our electronic devices to see the latest.  The pace can’t be doing us any good.

The other day there were two columns in the Boston Globe bemoaning the current state of baseball (The Red Sox and Yankees are killing baseballand fearing for the future of the game (I remember the good old days of baseball).  If you follow the game you know the arguments:  Games are too long and there is not enough action.  People want things to happen fast.  Only old people watch baseball and they are dying off.

Dan Shaughnessy argues in The Red Sox and Yankees are killing baseball:

The Red Sox’ average game lasts 3 hours and 23 minutes per game. Crushing all the competition. The Sox are a full seven minutes per game better than anybody else. That’s 700 minutes over 100 games.

The Sox step out. They grind. They take more time between pitches. They walk. They strike out. They strike everybody else out. Great product. They have seven-man meetings on the mound where everybody covers their mouths, as if they are protecting nuclear codes. Brandon Workman throws 44 pitches over 1⅔ innings, most of them curveballs in the dirt. Porcello throws 60 over two innings.

Thanks. Thanks for killing baseball.

Dan forgets to add that Porcello went on to pitch six innings.  And the Red Sox are not the only ones with all those mound meetings.  Should I remind him that teams are only allowed 6 a game now?  But I agree that the Sox could speed up their games a bit.  David Price should not take so long between pitches. (He actually does better when he’s faster.) I think it was Jerry Remy who once commented, “Get the ball back, get the sign, and throw it”.  And maybe they could start a trend by not stepping out of the batter’s box between every pitch.  But they also tend to score a lot of runs which, when you are hitting a lot of doubles and singles, takes time.  Many of their home runs are with men on base.

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Shaughnessy again

I spent last weekend in Cooperstown, celebrating this great game with more than 50 Hall of Fame ball players and over 50,000 fans who made the trek to celebrate the careers of Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, and Harold Baines. I spoke with Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench, Randy Johnson, Eddie Murray, Wade Boggs, Dennis Eckersley, Jim Thome, Tony La Russa, Cal Ripken, Dave Winfield, and a raft of other Hall of Famers who love this game. The old and young men are not delusional. They know they have lost a generation of fans. They know the product is increasingly the purview of old folks who have a lot of time on their hands. They worry about the game’s relevance in a society of Instagram and Instant Karma. They feel it slipping away.

Who will be there to replace the fans who are dying off? Who will care about a sport populated by players who see no problems with the pace of play, and arrogant team analytics departments that stress successful strategies that push fans away?

I think that Major League Baseball can start by doing away with “instant” replay.  Who needs to sit and watch umpires with headsets waiting and waiting for some unknown person or persons in New York (I think that’s where they are.) to watch endless loops of videotape to decide if a call were right or not.  I think more than half the time the call stands because there is not sufficient evidence to over turn it.  Doesn’t that show maybe it isn’t needed?  Has anyone calculated how much time it adds to games?  Close plays give us fans something to talk about.

If MLB wants people to come to games maybe they should take the advice of Bob Ryan (I remember the good old days)

There is empty rhetoric at the top of baseball about finding ways to attract younger fans, but if that were truly the case teams would stop games on Saturday night, let alone Sunday. It used to be the best time to welcome families were weekend afternoons. But baseball has sold its soul to national TV and instead of 1:05 Saturday it’s 4:05 and, worse, 7:05. So much for that family time.

Sunday night baseball is an abomination.

But ultimately I look at the sports page in our local newspaper and read about all the kids playing Little League and American Legion baseball not just in Brattleboro, but all over Vermont, New England, and the country and realize they will be watching baseball.  And the rest of us should take a deep breath and go to a game or watch part or all of one on television or listen on the radio.  It will make us slow down.

Photograph: Mookie Betts connects for a solo homer in the first inning on Friday, his first home run of three in the game’s first four innings.(JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF)

Politics and Poetry

I’m not like some who memorize great reams of poetry and can always find an appropriate quote.  I like to pick up a book of poems and look though it until something catches my attention.  Then, I’ll read it over and over for several days.  Or, I have a friend who often posts poetry on her Facebook page which I read.  And it makes me happy that The Writer’s Almanac is back.

So the other night I was thumbing through Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times and this short poem by Ginger Andrews caught my eye.

Lying around all day

with some strange new deep blue

weekend funk, I’m not really asleep

when my sister calls

to say she’s just hung up

from talking with Aunt Bertha

who is 89 and ill but managing

to take care of Uncle Frank

who is completely bed ridden.

Aunt Bert says

it’s snowing there in Arkansas,

on Catfish Lane, and she hasn’t been

able to walk out to their mailbox.

She’s been suffering

from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.

The cure for the mulleygrubs,

She tells my sister,

is to get up and bake a cake.

If that doesn’t do it, put on a red dress.

 

I had to look up mulleygrubs.  Turns out it also means the blues or sulks; a despondent, sullen or ill-tempered mood. (Merriam-Webster)

I think a lot of us are looking at the current political scene and suffering from the mulleygrubs.  So it is worth finding a red dress – or shirt – or baking a cake.  Maybe Aunt Bertha is right.

Democracy

I’ve just finished reading Jon Meacham’s book The Soul of America:  The Battle for Our Better Angels.  Using various periods in our history (The Civil War, the McCarthy Era, Reconstruction, etc), Meacham tries to reassure us that things have been bad in the past and we managed to survive and even move forward.  When I think about this history I am comforted until I read the news.

In today’s Daily Kos Elections email newsletter we find that the Republican Party in North Carolina has changed its mind about joining in the effort to seek a new election and that the losing candidate in a New Mexico congressional race is refusing to concede a race she lost 51-49.  Add to the mix what is happening in Wisconsin and Michigan and the only conclusion is that the Republican Party no longer believes in democracy.

From the Daily Kos:

NC-09: In a bizarre about-face, the North Carolina Republican Party is once again demanding that the state Board of Elections certify the results of the tainted race in the 9th Congressional District, less than a week after state party executive director Dallas Woodhouse all but called for a new election. Woodhouse, rather impossibly, claims that his position “has not changed”; rather, he insists, the state GOP is only objecting to the fact that the board has delayed a public hearing on the matter until Jan. 11 and has not produced “one iota of public evidence” that wrongdoing altered the outcome in the 9th.

Of course, it’s impossible to square these two things. If, as Woodhouse briefly purported to, you believe that the widespread allegations of election fraud merit a thorough investigation, then you need to allow the necessary time for that investigation to proceed. Had the board instead tried to rush matters rather than conduct a serious inquiry, then Republicans would be howling about a lack of “due process.”

And this

NM-02: Even though we’re now six weeks out from the 2018 midterms, Republican Yvette Herrell still hasn’t conceded to Democratic Rep.-elect Xochitl Torres Small, who won New Mexico’s open 2nd District 51-49 in a race that wasn’t called until the day after Election Day thanks to absentee ballots. Like many of her fellow Republicans, who’ve decided that elections aren’t legitimate when Democrats win them, Herrell has been busy sowing vague doubts about the democratic process—and, naturally, refusing to substantiate any of her claims.

While the Daily Kos makes no claims to being non partisan, the underlying facts are pretty clear:  When the Republicans lose, they no longer believe in the democratic process.

On December 11, The Guardian ran an opinion piece by Andrew Gawthorpe, a lecturer in history and international studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, which did an excellent job of summing up what is going on.

America’s federal system of government is, in theory, key to the strength of its democracy. As opposed to citizens in the more centralized states of Europe, Americans get to vote for a huge array of local offices, policies and ballot initiatives that can influence their lives for the better. Innovation in the states can be healthy for the whole country, such as when healthcare reform in Massachusetts provided inspiration for the Affordable Care Act. The supreme court justice Louis Brandeis famously praised US states as laboratories which could “try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country”.

In Wisconsin, where Scott Walker’s loss to the Democrat Tony Evers was a national embarrassment for Republicans, the legislature has moved to seize control of welfare policy from the incoming governor. Evers will no longer be able to overturn policies that require food stamp recipients to take drug tests, or that require Medicaid recipients to meet a work requirement. Nor will the state’s new attorney general, also a Democrat, be able to withdraw Wisconsin from a lawsuit which seeks to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional.

Given that these are all policies that the incoming Democrats fought and won their elections on, we might expect Wisconsin Republicans to show some humility. But we would expect wrong. Wisconsin speaker of the House, Robin Vos, instead warned his fellow Republicans that the power grab was necessary to stop a “very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in”. Just not quite enough, that is, to actually win the election.

Gawthorpe concludes

While so much outrage is rightly directed at Donald Trump’s daily attacks on democratic norms, the growing detachment of establishment Republicans from them is arguably an even greater concern in the long run. Trump’s general incompetence and lack of focus have so far prevented him from doing serious damage to voting rights, but his administration has provoked a backlash and energized the left. This swinging of the pendulum is how democratic politics should work. But events in Wisconsin show the limits to what can be accomplished by even an energized left in the face of disciplined Republican attempts to rob them of the power that is rightfully theirs.

To see the complicity of establishment Republicans in these attempts to turn the states into laboratories of anti-democracy, look no further than Paul Ryan. Even as he leaves politics this year, the Wisconsin congressman and poster boy for a supposedly “respectable” conservatism has been silent on events in his home state and their broader implications. There is little indication that the next generation of Republican leaders will have any more scruples, and plenty of reasons to fear they will have fewer. As the incentives increase for Republicans to ignore the will of the voters, the threat to American democracy today goes much deeper than Donald Trump – and consequently will be all the harder to tackle.

Many of us, myself included, spend a good deal of energy wallowing in the latest chapter of the Trump soap opera.  Perhaps we need to spend more on saving our democracy.  But is will be difficult when on political party appears to no longer believe in our basic democratic values.  Jon Meacham tells us that things have been bad before, but we have survived.  I hope he’s right this time.

Rituals and Presidents

I had a discussion with two friends about state funerals.  They thought stopping mail delivery and otherwise closing the federal agencies was excessive; I thought it was a matter of respect that we didn’t have business as usual.  Yes, it costs – particularly suspending the mail just as we enter the busy holiday season – but for me cost is not a factor.  I don’t think I convinced them and they certainly didn’t convict me.  We had a civil discussion on FB and agreed to disagree.  But the discussion got me thinking about what we owe our former presidents when they die.

The first presidential funeral I actually remember was John Kennedy’s.  I can see to this day the riderless horse and young John’s salute in procession.  I’m pretty sure that everything shut down for a few days.  I know we had no school.  And this was different because JFK was assassinated.

I went searching for what is considered “normal” for former presidents and found a Washington Post story about Richard Nixon’s funeral.  Of course he did not get to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda, but had a service at his Presidential Library.  The Post explained Bill Clinton’s decision to suspend mail delivery and close government offices

The Clinton administration’s decision to close the federal government Wednesday in honor of Richard M. Nixon will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, but it follows the precedent of at least the past four presidential funerals.

Administration officials yesterday said the government was shut down for the funerals of John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson, citing those closings as the basis for President Clinton’s decision to do the same for the Nixon funeral.

So what happened yesterday for George H.W. Bush was following a modern day tradition.

Also following tradition was the attendance of all the living Presidents.  Another one of my friend’s referred to this as The President’s Club.  According to the New York Times, they don’t gather often, mostly at funerals.

annotation-desktopPresident George W. Bush sat with his family out of frame.

Note the Vice Presidents in the row behind the Presidents.  I think this is a remarkable photograph.  Another one of my favorites photographs of the President’s Club is the gathering in the Oval Office when George W. Bush invited them before Barack Obama took office. (I’ve always wondered what was going through Jimmy Carter’s mind!)

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To get back to Presidential Funerals I think we model them after the English traditions.  We don’t have a monarchy, but we do have a head of state who combines elements of both royalty and the governing powers of a prime minister.  It doesn’t matter if we agreed with a President’s politics, I believe we owe them a measure of respect for their service to the country.  We will probably continue to close the federal government, suspend mail delivery, and fly flags at half staff.  Presidents (with one potential exception) will continue to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda and many will have services at the National Cathedral.  And I, for one, don’t think this continued adherence to tradition to be a bad thing.

Photographs:  Doug Mills/The New York Times

Left behind

Demographers tell us that those who identify as white will be in the minority in a few years.  If you were a political party trying to maintain power and relevance wouldn’t you be trying to court members of the future majority?  I guess not.

Frank Bruni wrote in his recent column

From proud Republican harbinger to sad Republican castaway — that’s the story of Representative Mia Love, who finally conceded her extraordinarily close House race on Monday.

It’s the story of her party, really. Of what it once realized about the future and how it slouched backward into the past. Of trading the elixir of hope for the toxin of fear.

It charts Republicans’ ugly drift under Donald Trump, who rooted for her defeat not only as the votes in Utah’s Fourth Congressional District were still being counted (“Mia Love gave me no love,” the president pouted) but with all that he said on the campaign trail and has done in the White House. Tacitly and explicitly, he has sown disdain for the likes of Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants who, in 2014, became the first black Republican woman ever elected to either chamber of Congress.

She remains the only one. When she leaves at the end of this congressional session, there will be just two black Republican men — one in the House and one in the Senate.

And then you have Cindy Hyde-Smith winning in Mississippi.  Jelani Cobb writes in the New Yorker

A series of outrageous statements, regardless of whether they were calculated or clueless, was not sufficient to alienate enough white Republicans from Hyde-Smith. She blithely stated that she would be willing to sit in the front row of a public hanging, in a state whose history is marred by the spectacle murders of black people at the hands of racist white mobs. She “joked” that she was in favor of making it more difficult for certain people to vote in the state where, in 1966, the N.A.A.C.P. activist Vernon Dahmer was killed—his home was firebombed—for the crime of registering black people to vote. Earlier, she had praised Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis, as “Mississippi history at its best!” (It was also reported last week that she had graduated from a “segregation academy,” created to sidestep the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, and sent her daughter to a school that had had the same origins.)

Mike Espy was always a long shot to win the elections, but the margin, 54 to 46, surprised me; I thought it would be closer.  And Hyde-Smith is not the only Republican to win this fall despite their racist statements.  Think of Governor-elect DeSantis in Florida and Governor-elect Kemp of Georgia.  Cobb writes

Hyde-Smith’s victory means that, this month, three Southern white Republicans used cavalierly racist rhetoric in successful attempts to defeat three black Democrats in statewide races. In Florida, Ron DeSantis warned Floridians not to “monkey this up” by electing his rival. In Georgia, Brian Kemp billed himself as a Trump-like conservativewho drove a large pickup truck so as to have room for the “criminal illegals” he might round up as he went about his day.

Trump with his implicit and explicit racism has created the atmosphere that gives other candidates cover.  On the Democratic side as Bruni points out, there is a new diversity.

Everything you heard about the exciting diversification of midterm races? About the significantly increased numbers of women running for office, of people of color, of L.G.B.T. candidates?

That was on the Democratic side. The Republicans either couldn’t be bothered, couldn’t find any takers or — my guess — both. Love called that out in a remarkable concession speech on Monday. To the victor go the spoils, but from the vanquished comes the candor.

“Because Republicans never take minority communities into their home and citizens into their homes and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats,” Love said. Democrats “do take them home — or at least make them feel like they have a home.”

Mia Love has put her finger on the Republican problem.  After Mitt Romney lost in 2008, the Republicans talked a lot about a reset to become more diverse and attract more diverse voters.  It obviously has not happened.  In fact, the Republicans have gone far in the opposite direction.  Meanwhile, the Democrats have made, in Love’s words, a diverse group feel like they have a home.  Just take a look at this New York Times piece on the new Freshmen in Congress.  The contrast is striking.  The Republican Party is being left behind.

Let me give Cobb the last word

The pre-Trump Republican Party certainly relied on the support of whites who held racially bigoted views, but it struggled for plausible deniability in such matters. With Trump, the racism is out in the open, and so, in some cases, is the willingness of the electorate to tolerate it. The Mississippi race reinforced something that has been impossible to avoid but difficult to accept: Trump’s imprimatur actually helped some Republicans win elections. Nina Simone titled her racial-justice protest song “Mississippi Goddam.” The shame isn’t just that the song remains resonant fifty-four years after it was released but that, looking at the landscape of 2018, there are still so many other places she could sing about.

Pardons and Guilt

Last night my husband and I were watching “All In” with Chris Hayes and there was a lot of speculation about Trump pardoning Manafort, et al.  I got curious about Watergate pardons and did a search.  Turns out that except for Ford pardoning Nixon, there was only one other – Reagan pardoned one of the burglars.  But in my search I turned up this very interesting commentary by Jill Wine-Banks  (Three ugly Watergate lessons for President Trump, Chicago Tribune) who was an Assistant Watergate prosecutor.  Written in July 2017, it contains information I had never heard before.  Wine-Banks outlines three things one should think about before accepting a Presidential pardon.

First, it is an admission of guilt.  I had no idea, but the controlling case law is a 1915 Supreme Court decision, Burdick v. United States:: 236 U.S. 79 (1915).

The first thing President Trump and voters should know is that anyone who accepts a pardon admits guilt by doing so. That means, even if Trump could pardon himself — a long-debated legal gray area — as well as any family members and aides, he and they would be admitting guilt by accepting the pardon. And under the Constitution, the president’s pardon power does not apply to impeachment proceedings that could — and might well — be triggered by his pardoning himself or even the others.

That is the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1915 Burdick decision. It was the basis of President Ford’s written explanation to the House Judiciary Committee regarding his pardon of Nixon. For the rest of his life, Ford carried a portion of the Burdick decision in his wallet.

In 2014, I appeared on a panel at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., with Benton Becker, the lawyer Ford sent to Nixon’s San Clemente home to offer the pardon. Becker described his meeting with the recently resigned president as painful. It was his duty to explain to Nixon, as instructed by Ford, that if he accepted the pardon, it was an admission of guilt. Becker reviewed with Nixon a copy of the Burdick decision that he had brought with him to California.

Nixon accepted his guilt in the Watergate controversy by accepting the pardon. Anyone Trump pardons would be doing the same.

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Second, the pardoned person loses access to the Fifth Amendment.

Second, Trump should know that anyone who accepts a pardon loses his or her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and can be forced to testify under oath. The resulting testimony can be used against President Trump. Of course, should anyone pardoned refuse to testify or testify falsely, the person can be jailed for that offense.

Wine-Banks’ third reason is that pardons would not save Trump politically.

Third, the president should understand that his potential use of the pardon and the possible firing or limitation of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation are likely to cause as much backlash as such conduct did during Watergate.

I hope that some lawyers are thinking about Burdick and trying to explain it to clients and to the President.  Would he really want to have Don Jr. or Ivanka admit guilt?  He probably doesn’t care about the others.

We are trapped in a drama few of us want to watch, but we can’t turn away from watching.  Look for more surprises.

Photograph: Corbis