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Tuesday Open Thread

american gothic 2

The Song Remained the Same

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

A Pennsylvania has let stand a lawsuit by founder of the 1960s act “Spirit” in his pursuit of Led Zeppelin for allegedly stealing “Stairway to Heaven”. Led Zeppelin’s propensity for um… ah… “homage” is the subject of the short, but interesting video above. They’re still a ways away from paying royalties, but stranger things have happened.

The relatives of the founding members of Spirit, a 60s/70s psychedelic/prog-rock band, are suing Led Zeppelin, alleging that the opening riff to “Stairway to Heaven” was lifted from Spirit’s song “Taurus.” Led Zeppelin apparently have a history of being inspired by music that came before them (and what musical act hasn’t?) provides some background:

This is not from the first time that Led Zeppelin has gone to court for failing to credit borrowed riffs and melodies. Page has previously blamed Robert Plant, the band’s singer and lyricist, for most of the earlier instances, as in this 1993 interview with Guitar World:

“I always tried to bring something fresh to anything that I used. I always made sure to come up with some variation. In fact, I think in most cases you would never know what the original source could be. Maybe not in every case — but in most cases. So most of the comparisons rest on the lyrics. And Robert was supposed to change the lyrics, and he didn’t always do that — which is what brought on most of the grief. They couldn’t get us on the guitar parts of the music, but they nailed us on the lyrics. We did take some liberties, I must say.”

The lawsuit was filed in May and in a ruling last week a judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed Led Zeppelin’s challenge over the venue: the group’s lawyers argued that none of the members of Led Zeppelin live or work in Pennsylvania nor have any connections that would warrant holding the trial there. The judge disagreed, buying into the argument by the plaintiffs that because “Stairway to Heaven” is marketed in Eastern Pennsylvania, the trial can be held there.

This Afternoon’s Broadcast is brought to you by…

Billy Idol. With the record selection, and the mirror’s reflection, I’m dancing with myself…

The Walking Thread: Strangers (S5, E2)

After the non-stop intensity of last week’s season opener, “Strangers” slows things down a bit to give Rick’s group a proper reunion, as this is the first time they’ve all been together (minus one still-missing Beth) since early last season. With everyone reunited and back on the road, the episode starts off a bit talky, as various characters pick up where they left off in their relationships. If this makes you concerned that we are slipping back into the doldrums of season two where the characters mostly sat around a farm and talked about things, don’t worry, it’s merely an economical way of getting several unresolved past conflicts (the tension between Rick and Carol, Tara’s guilt about helping the evil Governor, etc) out of the way so that everyone can move on.

And indeed, it isn’t long before the gang gets rolling right into a new conflict. Hearing a cry for help in the woods, they come across a Catholic priest being attacked by Walkers and save him. The priest, Father Gabriel, is something of an oddity: an (apparent) innocent. While everyone they’ve met has had to do horrible things to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, Gabriel claims to have avoided violence all this time due to a combination of good luck and the Lord’s protection. Having been misled many times before, Rick and his gang are understandably suspicious, but they agree to accompany Gabriel back to his church (there’s a wonderful scene where they first enter the church, and are genuinely touched and moved by the symbols of faith and love that they see there, a connection to a world of hope that they long ago left behind).

Father Gabriel claims to have survived all this time on the supplies from his parish’s canned food drive, and he agrees to take a few of them on a supply run to the food bank. There, they come across a group of Walkers who have been stuck in a flooded basement, soaking in the water for so long that the skin is starting to melt off of their bones, a visual effect that combined with some creepy moments makes for one of the more inventive and memorable zombie attack scenes in the show’s history. (Showrunner Scott Gimple, who took over the show last season, is a genius at crafting these kind of scenes- he makes them fun, tense and full of surprises.) While they are gone, Rick’s son Carl explores the church and finds some disturbing clues hinting that Father Gabriel has some dark secrets to spill in future episodes. And just as we think things are settling down, the episode ends with a shocking scene in which we discover that the fight with the citizens of Terminus isn’t over yet.

In last week’s review, I mentioned the recurring theme of the main characters’ compassion for others coming back to haunt them in very unpleasant ways, and that theme is echoed once again here. After the group escaped Terminus and Rick recovered his guns, he was tempted to go back and finish the bad guys off once and for all. The rest of the group talked him out of it, as it was risky and there were unlikely to be any survivors left to kill anyway. Well, surprise surprise, it seems the “Termites” were not all wiped out, and as the episode ends team member Bob is now paying for Rick’s mistake in a big and rather gruesome way. And what about Father Gabriel? When his secrets are revealed, will the group come to regret their choice to trust him? Only time will tell, but this is clearly a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”. For this group, thought, that’s pretty much par for the course.

Monday Open Thread

The Ghosts Hour by Mihaly Zichy (1880)

The Ghosts Hour (1880)

Bag Holder

I would love it if Eric Holder’s tenure as U.S. Attorney General would have ended in a perp walk… but I can wait a few more months perhaps. To channel Bill and Ted… strange things are afoot in the federal Eastern District of California and it looks like a couple of former Assistant U.S. Attorneys are blowing the whistle on government fraud and corruption… stay tuned from The New York Observer:

In perhaps the most stunning documentation yet of abuses by Eric Holder’s Justice Department, two former Assistant United States Attorneys spoke to defense attorneys and revealed appalling deceit and corruption of justice. This latest litigation time bomb has exploded from multi-million dollar litigation originally brought by the Department of Justice against Sierra Pacific based on allegations that the lumber company and related defendants were responsible for a wildfire that destroyed 65,000 acres in California.

In what was dubbed the “Moonlight Fire” case, the tables are now turned. The defendants have discovered new evidence and filed a stunning motion. The new evidence and disclosures are being taken seriously by the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of California—as they should be. In a shocking action, Judge Morrison C. England Jr. ordered the recusal of every federal judge in the Eastern District of California.

Sierra Pacific Industries and other defendants were compelled to pay $55 million to the United States over a period of five years and transfer 22,500 acres of land to settle massive litigation brought against them by the United States alleging that they caused a 2007 fire that destroyed 65,000 acres in California. Sierra Pacific has always maintained that the fire started elsewhere and that the state and federal investigators and Department attorneys lied. Now that settlement may go up in smoke because of the new evidence of outrageous misconduct by the federal prosecutors and the investigators from state and federal offices, as well as findings earlier this year by a state judge.

In an extraordinary development, Judge England, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, ordered the recusal of all the Eastern District judges from the case because of serious allegations that the Court itself was defrauded by the government in the original prosecution. To avoid any appearance of partiality, he has referred the case to Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski to appoint a judge from outside the Eastern District to handle the case going forward. Judge Kozinski has excoriated prosecutors for failing to meet their legal and ethical obligations.

The order notes that the defendants filed an action this week to set aside the $55 million settlement because, as the defendants allege, “the United States presented false evidence to the Defendants and the Court; advanced arguments to the Court premised on that false evidence; or, for which material evidence had been withheld, and obtaining court rulings based thereon; prepared key Moonlight Fire investigators for depositions, and allowed them to repeatedly give false testimony about the most important aspects of their investigation; and failed to disclose the facts and circumstances associated with the Moonlight Fire lead investigator’s direct financial interest in the outcome of the investigation arising from an illegal bank account that has since been exposed and terminated.”

The Sacramento Bee has more here.

From The Trailer Park – The Imitation Game

Based on a true story…

From The Trailer Park – Unbroken

Every Picture Tells A Story

Eugen Weidmann, the last person to be publicly executed in France, (June 1939) under arrest for murder.

Eugen Weidmann, the last person to be publicly executed in France, (June 1939) under arrest for murder.

Here’s an interesting article from a magazine called The Appendix on the relationship between photography and the guillotine in France. The last public execution was in June of 1939 and became controversial due to the fact that someone filmed it (yes it’s on YouTube) and the guillotine was finally retired in 1977.

Pierre Vaillat celebrated Christmas by murdering his two eldest siblings. Apprehended days after his crime, he welcomed the arrival of a new year in a squalid prison cell while awaiting his trial. 1897 was surely a banner year for Vaillat: in March he was convicted of the double homicide, in April he perhaps enjoyed a breath of spring air as he was dragged from his cell to the awaiting guillotine.

Vaillat would, no doubt, have been long forgotten—an unremarkable criminal who, like thousands of others in the nineteenth century, expired at the end of the guillotine’s egalitarian blade—if not for a single photograph. There is a grainy, black and white photograph of Vaillat stumbling to the portable guillotine only a few feet in front of him. Taken April 20, it captures the criminal, arms shackled behind his back, flanked by a guard and a priest who, no doubt, read the condemned man his last rites. The near-pristine whiteness of the priest’s frock seems almost absurd at the bloody site of an execution.

Execution of Pierre Vaillat. Lons-le-Saunier, 1897.

Execution of Pierre Vaillat. Lons-le-Saunier, 1897.

Vaillat’s features are hard to make-out, and his form is blurred—the result of the writhing resistance, perhaps, of his unwilling body. His out-of-focus body is in sharp contrast to the gendarmes who sit on horseback, semi-circle around the site of the execution, to keep the gathered crowd of onlookers ordered and outside of the photograph’s frame. The outlandish plumage of their bicornes defiantly immobile, their bureaucratic calmness is rendered in well-defined focus.

Though the actual event may have been chaotic, in the photograph it is rendered ordered and clear: an execution is about to happen; within the photographic frame it is always about to happen. Vaillat remains forever suspended in his final living acts, fixed in these last steps towards his impending fate (or frozen, at least, until the photograph fades and his final living acts disappear forever). Vaillat’s photograph, like all execution photography, resembles a novel with no ending: its narrative is interrupted, the protagonist immobile. But the final chapter is known to us: violence is inevitable.

h/t: Arts & Letters Daily

How to Beat a Depression

Economist Stephen Moore has a great write-up on how we really got out of the Great Depression. (Hint: it had nothing to do with WWII spending):

Here’s what happened. Government spending collapsed from 41 percent of GDP in 1945 to 24 percent in 1946 to less than 15 percent by 1947. And there was no “new” New Deal. This was by far the biggest cut in government spending in U.S. history. Tax rates were cut and wartime price controls were lifted. There was a very short, eight-month recession, but then the private economy surged.

Here are the numbers on the private economy. Personal consumption grew by 6.2 percent in 1945 and 12.4 percent in 1946 even as government spending crashed. At the same time, private investment spending grew by 28.6 percent and 139.6 percent.

The less the feds spent, the more people spent and invested. Keynesianism was turned on its head. Milton Friedman’s free markets were validated.

In 1946, the unemployment rate averaged below 4 percent, and it stayed that low for the better part of a decade. This all happened during the biggest reduction in government spending in American history under President Truman.

In sum, it wasn’t government spending, but the shrinkage of government that finally ended the Great Depression. That’s what should be in every history book — but isn’t.

Go read the whole thing. It should be noted that Truman’s methods of overcoming the Depression were not without precedent. A previous Depression had occurred in 1920, and Coolidge pulled us out of it using the exact same means: he made drastic reductions to spending and taxes, and the economy rapidly righted itself. Yet that earlier Depression isn’t even mentioned in history classes. Gee, I wonder why.

Liberals continue to push the lie that the New Deal got us out of the Depression (it didn’t) so that they can further the narrative that we can spend our way out of every economic crisis. Thus every crisis becomes a convenient excuse to tax more, spend more, grow the government a little more. And as the Fed continues to turn itself into Mr. Creosote, one recession at a time, don’t be surprised when we regular citizens keep getting poorer.