Nobody knew that geography could be so complicated

“It’s very, very tough because it’s an island,” the president said, asserting that his government received “A+” marks for responding to storms in Texas and Florida. “The difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean — and it’s a big ocean, a really, really big ocean.”

from The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon

Handy Guide to Coming Disasters

Both senators from Texas, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and twenty of their House colleagues voted against the 2013 Hurricane Sandy Relief Act. (In the previous fiscal year, Texas received more federal disaster relief money than any other state.) All but four Texas reps voted in favor of initial Harvey relief legislation. The four dissenters don’t represent coastal districts, so they don’t care.

Florida Governor Rick Scott (still the record holder for Medicare fraud) warned residents of his state as Hurricane Irma bore down on them, “This is a catastrophic storm our state has never seen.” Governor Scott in 2015 purportedly banned state employees from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming.” Post hurricane, he still demurs when questioned about the subject, his stock answer, “I am not a scientist.” (I am not a doctor, but I know a 105° fever requires attention.)

Climate-change denier Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (a legacy of the Nixon administration) says it would be “very, very insensitive to the people in Florida” to discuss the cause of “these massive, anomalous storms.”

The Los Angeles Times recently published a concise summary of scientific consensus about cause and effect of natural catastrophes and why we can expect more in the future.

  • Wind & Rain – Rising sea levels mean more flooding – storm surge – when storms push water into the shore. Warmer air results in more moisture in the atmosphere, so… when it rains, it pours. And oh yeah, scientists say there’ll be fewer weak storms. That’s because more of them will be Category 4 and 5.
  • Lack of Wind & Rain – Warmer temperatures mean quicker evaporation into the atmosphere to feed the storms in hurricane zones. Meanwhile, in the southwestern U.S., even with normal rainfall – which has not occurred the past few years – the ground will be drier meaning less moisture for living things.
  • Fire – Dry conditions mean more fires. Duh. Warmer weather also means greater survival rates for pine beetles that generally perish in frigid conditions. The pest has expanded its area of devastation from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Read the rest of it here.

Sonny Boy 1 & Sonny Boy 2… and Randy Newman

Amongst the detritus of my youth is a vinyl LP “Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds.” The album was released in 1966, to capitalize on the growing fame of the British group. It is a recording of a 1963 concert with the Yardbirds backing U.S. blues artist Sonny Boy Williamson. Eighteen-year-old guitar novice Eric Clapton is in the band. The Yardbirds are remembered as a training program for rock guitar wizards. Jeff Beck replaced Clapton and Jimmy Page replaced Beck. (Page achieved greater fame with Led Zeppelin, the band that set the standard for rock ‘n’ roll debauchery.)

Rice Miller aka Sonny Boy Williamson

Sonny Boy Williamson was born in Mississippi in 1899… or 1909… or maybe 1897. His given name was Aleck… or Alex… or Rice – which might have been a nickname – Miller… or Ford. In the 1930s he was traveling the Delta, performing under the name Little Boy Blue. In the 1940s he became a star on the King Biscuit Time radio show. The sponsor felt they could sell more King Biscuit Flour if their star had a better-known name. Rice Miller took the persona of the late blues singer and harmonica virtuoso Sonny Boy Williamson. There was no Facebook or Twitter to tell radio listeners of the ruse.

John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson

John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, born in Tennessee in 1914, was younger than his impersonator. He learned his trade in the Delta before moving north to Chicago. His RCA recordings and live performances were hugely influential in the Chicago blues scene and beyond. Muddy Waters and Little Walter were among his acolytes. In 1948, walking home after a performance in Chicago, Williamson was shot to death in a robbery. Rice Miller soon was claiming to be “the original Sonny Boy.”

Which brings us to Randy Newman. Many know Newman as the composer of musical soundtracks for “Toy Story” and other motion pictures. He is also the creator of acerbic and often misinterpreted songs satirizing prejudice (“Sail Away”, “Rednecks”, “Short People”), self-absorbed yuppies (“I Love L.A.”), and nuclear holocaust (“Political Science”) among other topics. He can also convey heart-breaking empathy. (“Louisiana 1927”) Newman’s just-released new album “Dark Matter” includes the song “Sonny Boy,” wherein the original Sonny Boy Williamson – “the only blues man in heaven” – vents his resentment about having his name and career stolen.

Daniel Murray Meets Jim Crow

The recent antics in Charlottesville, Virginia ostensibly began as a protest of the impending removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army, astride his horse. The demonstrators were enraged by this attack on their heritage. The South’s Confederate legacy was so important that it took nearly sixty years, until 1924, for them to get around to erecting this monument in its honor. Like most Civil War memorials, this one was built not during the postwar reconstruction, but during the time of Jim Crow laws, a sort of “in your face” to African-Americans whose few decades of civil rights were ending.

Daniel Murray

Daniel Murray was born in Baltimore in1852. His father was a freed slave; his mother a free black woman. At the time of his birth, Baltimore had the largest free Black population in the country. Baltimore and nearby Washington D.C. were islands of opportunity for free blacks. Careers in government service and Howard University attracted African-American civic leaders and intellectuals. With timing, connections and his ability to network – sound familiar? – with both whites and blacks, Murray built a successful business and government career. By 1899, he was Assistant Librarian, the second-highest position at the Library of Congress, working with Congress doing research for legislation. He was a member of the Washington Board of Trade, the only non-white on the advocacy group of businessmen. Murray’s wife, Anna Evans, was a black socialite who taught at local schools and attended Oberlin College. They owned a three-story brick home in D.C.

Thomas Rice, a white vaudeville performer, became famous in the 1830s for a song and dance he performed in blackface and wearing shabby clothes. He claimed his inspiration was a slave he had seen. He called the routine “Jump, Jim Crow.”

The Supreme Court ruled in 1877 that states could not prohibit segregation on streetcars, railroads, riverboats or other public transportation. That same year, federal troops were pulled out of the southern states. Reconstruction had ended. The Supreme Court promulgated its “separate but equal” doctrine in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case. (“Equal” had a different meaning in southern states.) A deluge of “Jim Crow” laws followed, peaking in the 1920s, coincided with the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and a new need to put up Civil-War monuments. Confederate statuary reached a second peak in the fifties and sixties, a reaction to the escalating civil-rights movement.

After being inaugurated as president in 1913, Woodrow Wilson oversaw the segregation of federal offices, firing or demoting black employees and segregating facilities. Daniel Murray was one of those demoted and salary slashed. He was not allowed to eat in the Library’s public cafeteria. He died in 1925, in a segregated hospital and was buried in a segregated cemetery.

Read “The Original Black Elite” by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor.

Racial Diversity at the Pendleton Round-Up

Ken Kesey, author of the great American novel, collaborated with long-time friend Ken Babbs for, Last Go Round in 1994. The book was appropriately titled; it was his final work of fiction. The story takes place at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up, the second annual. The characters in the story were real people. Kesey’s father had told him stories about the Round-Up and the disputed results of the bronc-riding contest.

Pendleton citizens had such a good time 1909 with Fourth-of-July horse races, Indian dances, greased-pig contests and fireworks that they decided it should be an event on its own, separate from Independence Day. The first Round-Up took place in 1910 and has been held annually – except 1942-1943, World War II hiatus – every September since. The event brings more than 50,000 people to Pendleton, nearly quadrupling its population. Continue reading Racial Diversity at the Pendleton Round-Up