Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince and the (New Music) Revolution

(I posted this on Facebook last night; I’ve made a few minor edits.)Prince playing at Super Bowl XLI on February 4, 2007 (won by the Indianapolis Colts)

I first heard Prince a summer or two before he released “1999” and hit it big. Back then, I went to a summer camp near Cheboygan, Michigan. Most of the kids came from Detroit and Chicago with a smattering from Cleveland, Indianapolis, and other spots in the Midwest. And most were Jewish. None, as far as I can recall, was African American. Each year, many of us would bring boxes of cassette tapes featuring our new favorite artists and songs. I know that I introduced many people to Squeeze the same year I heard Neil Young for the first time. The assortment of styles and genres you'd hear from tinny boom boxes across camp was very, very broad … or so it seemed.

But one summer, I recall three girls raving about this new musician from Minneapolis who, according to them, was the best thing they’d ever heard and the “next big thing”. I will admit that I didn’t love the songs they played for me. But I’ll also admit being intrigued because the music and lyrics were like nothing I’d ever heard. (And the girls were cute, so I was willing to listen to whatever they liked…) Certainly there was a world of difference between that new sound and the music most everyone else was playing. Add to that the idea of these three suburban Jewish girls raving about this genre-bending music from a black guy was … well, that was also new.

And that new sound and its crossover appeal, was a sign that music, musical styles, and listeners were moving into a new realm where what and who you listened to would be more defined by what appealed to you than where you were from or what you looked like.

So when Prince exploded a year or two later, his sound and popularity weren’t a surprise. I was ready. I was already listening to music far removed from what most of my classmates were playing. And it didn’t take many playings of songs like “Little Red Corvette” before all sorts of people were listening to all sorts of different genres and styles.

I never was a huge fan of Prince, but that was a matter of taste (though I absolutely love “Raspberry Beret”). Yet I always recognized him as a great artist, musician, and songwriter who played a very influential role for many other musicians.

The idea that both he and David Bowie, two artists who I think belong in a category almost all to themselves, should die within a few months of each other only reinforces the sense of loss to the musical and artistic communities.

But today, as I listened to several remembrances, my mind turned back to happy days in the woods of remote Michigan. And, in the end, isn’t the stirring of memory and emotion what music is all about?


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Monday, April 11, 2016

Hillary or Bernie? Bernie or Hillary? But Not a Republican!

In just over 3 weeks (May 3, 2016), Hoosiers will get to vote for their choice to be the Democratic and Republican Party presidential nominees. As things presently stand, Indiana’s votes will once again matter, a statement that we can’t often make with regard to our primary. I will need to decide between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or John Kasich. I’m sure readers of this blog will have no problem guessing which three candidates can easily be crossed off my list (no fair looking at the title of this post!).

At present, I’m leaning strongly toward Hillary Clinton, but my mind is not completely made up and I’m persuadable if confronted by honest, well-reasoned, policy-based arguments. In some respects, my current mindset is a bit reminiscent of the period leading up to the 2008 primary that I wrote about in my post Clinton or Obama? Obama or Clinton? I Might Get to Choose After All (March 5, 2008), though I’m leaning much more strongly toward Clinton now than I was toward either she or Obama back then. You might also be interested in my post My First Chance to See a Presidential Candidate (update) (April 23, 2008).

In either event, I will not be voting for Trump, Cruz, or Kasich. No way. Neither the fascist, the Christian Dominionist, nor the far-right politician wearing moderate sheep’s clothing holds any appeal for me.

And that brings me to the point I want to make.

If I vote for Clinton in the primary and Sanders is the winner, I’ll likely experience a bit of disappointment (and the same should I vote for Sanders only to see Clinton win). But here is what matters: No matter which of those candidates I may choose in the Indiana primary in May, when it comes to November, I will vote for the Democratic candidate for President. You see, I recognize that I’m unlikely to have a chance to vote for a candidate with whom I agree on each and every single issue. And I’m equally unlikely to have a chance to vote for a candidate with no baggage or issues that cause me concern. Neither candidate is perfect and neither agrees with me on each and every important issue. But no matter whether the candidate is Clinton or Sanders, that person will be far, far better on the vast majority of issues that matter to me than will any of the possible Republicans. Perhaps I should revise that previous sentence by adding the word “far” several more times (in bold and underline, too, perhaps). And with an exclamation point.

So when I hear some people (in particular, supporters of Bernie Sanders) saying that if their candidate is not the eventual nominee that they won’t vote (or, worse, might vote for Trump), I shake my hade in dismay. No, actually, that’s not entirely right. It might be closer to say that I shake my fist in anger. I have to wonder whether people who express a “my guy or I stay home” mentality understand how elections really work. I have to wonder whether they remember Ralph Nader in 2000 or Ross Perot in 1992.

Most importantly, I have to wonder if they have given any real thought to how issues that concern them would be addressed by a Republican president. Clinton won’t be tough enough on banks for you? OK. But do you think that Trump, Cruz, or Kasich will be better? Clinton won’t be good enough on environmental issues? Do you really think that Trump, Cruz, or Kasich will be better? Do you think that Clinton is really more likely to put American troops into combat situations than Trump, Cruz, or Kasich? Really? And I haven’t even gotten to issues like healthcare, abortion, gay rights, racial equality, minimum wage, net neutrality, campaign finance reform, or … well, virtually every other issue that liberals and progressives care about.

Maybe think about it this way: If Trump, Cruz, or Kasich are elected, what are the prospects that the judges they appoint to the Supreme Court (or other federal courts) will uphold reproductive rights, overturn Citizens United, keep Obamacare in place, and issue opinions that you will approve of? Or, perhaps, think about it this way: In 2000, had a slew of Florida voters not voted for Ralph Nader, then it is highly likely that Al Gore would have been elected President. So ask yourself: Would you have preferred an Al Gore presidency to that of George W. Bush? If so, that should be your history lesson to help you understand that refusing to vote or voting for a protest candidate (or a candidate to “blow up the system”) may be tantamount to helping elect a candidate who will do precisely those things that you are opposed to. Imagine how you’ll feel if Donald Trump is elected by a tiny number of votes … and you stayed home.

Thus, whether you support Hillary or Bernie, Bernie or Hillary, I implore you to do a few things:

  1. Be sure that you base your support (or opposition) on actual policies and ideas (and not just on attack ads or sound bites);
  2. Discuss the reasons for your support or opposition with those holding different views, but do so in a civil manner and on the basis of well-reasoned policy ideas and not on the basis of personal attacks;
  3. Whomever wins, get behind that candidate and the party that will better represent the overall set of policies and ideals that are important to you;
  4. Get involved (work the phones, go door-to-door, raise money, host a party, work the polls); and
  5. VOTE.

Update (April 12, 2016): Fixed typos. Sigh.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Attention Hoosier Women: Stop Having Sex to Avoid Potentially Breaking the Law!

Last week, in my post “Gov. Pence and Christian Legislators Have Enacted a New Law That Has a Dangerous, Discriminatory Impact on Jewish Hoosiers” (March 28, 2016), I wrote about Indiana’s terrible new abortion law (House Enrolled Act 1337). In that post, I focused on the new law’s provisions concerning prohibition of abortions in the event of a fetal abnormality, in particular the genetic mutation that causes Tay-Sachs. When I wrote that post, I was very much aware of certain other problems with HEA 1337, but I will acknowledge that I hadn’t given much consideration to the full scope of one of those problems. And it is to that issue that I turn my attention today.

I was aware that HEA 1337 (and, if I’m not mistaken another law passed in 2015), requires burial or cremation following an abortion (to be paid for, of course, by the woman getting the abortion). This requirement strikes me as mean-spirited and an attempt to create financial disincentives to abortion (perhaps, if the government showed that it cared about the well-being of children and helping out those families who choose not to abort, that sort of financial disincentive would be unnecessary…). The abortion itself may be a very difficult decision for a woman, but the State of Indiana now wants her to take the extra step of thinking about the disposition of the fetal remains (burial or cremation) as well as providing information about herself into a governmental record. Oh, and as an extra added “bonus,” this law prevents aborted fetal tissue from being used in medical research (because it must be buried or cremated); so much for trying to find cures for just the sort of genetic mutations for which abortions are now prohibited.

But it was in response to a comment I saw online over the weekend (I think it was on the Periods for Pence Facebook page … and you really do owe it to yourself to check out that page and click Like), that I went back and reviewed HEA 1337 again and discovered an even worse provision in the bill. I know that this will be a lot of legalese (which I’ll attempt to parse below), but here is the text of Section 26 of HEA 1337:


Sec. 7.6. (a) This section applies to a person or facility possessing either an aborted fetus or a miscarried fetus.

(b) Within ten (10) business days after a miscarriage occurs or an abortion is performed, a person or facility described in subsection (a) shall:

(1) conduct the final disposition of a miscarried fetus or an aborted fetus in the manner required by IC 16-21-11-6 or IC 16-34-3-4; or

(2) ensure that the miscarried fetus or aborted fetus is preserved until final disposition under IC 16-21-11-6 or IC 16-34-3-4 occurs.

The references to IC 16-21-11-6 (Indiana Code) essentially provide that a fetus must be buried or cremated with certain paperwork completed (though, in the case of a stillbirth prior to 20 weeks of gestational age, a certificate of stillbirth is not required) and the woman need not provide a name for the fetus. The rest of those cross-referenced provisions deal, primarily with transporting an aborted or miscarried fetus to a burial or cremation site.

Now I just know that you are wondering precisely how Indiana defines “fetus”, right? Indiana Code § 16-18-2-128.7 defines “fetus” as “an unborn child, irrespective of gestational age or the duration of the pregnancy.” Indiana Code § 16-21-11-2 defines “miscarried fetus” means an unborn child, irrespective of gestational age, who has died from a spontaneous or accidental death before expulsion or extraction from the unborn child's mother, irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy.”

Uh. Fabulous. And what does “unborn child” mean? I’ve searched the Indiana Code and discovered that phrase appearing throughout the statutes, but I was unable to find a definition of the term. If you have the statutory cite that defines “unborn child” please let me know! But absent a statutory definition of “unborn child” that means something else, given phrases like “irrespective of the gestational age or the duration of the pregnancy” it would appear to me that “unborn child” means any fertilized human egg.

So, anyway, let’s go back to the provision added by HEA 1337. As quoted above, the law requires that a “person … possessing either an aborted fetus or a miscarried fetus … shall: (1) conduct the final disposition of a miscarried fetus or an aborted fetus … or … ensure that the miscarried fetus or aborted fetus is preserved until final disposition …”. And that “final disposition” must be via burial or cremation.

Now think about that for a moment. Let’s say that you’re a woman. You’re pregnant and thrilled about the prospect of starting or adding to your family. And then you suffer a miscarriage. You’re likely devastated by this occurrence. But you also probably understand that not all pregnancies go as planned. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage before the 20th week of gestational age. Though saddened by the loss, you also understand that this is a part of life, part of the human condition. But now the State of Indiana has enacted a law to require you to either bury or cremate your miscarried fetus (and fill out paperwork about it). How does that make you feel?

Let’s dive a little further into the scenario. I suspect that many of you are thinking of that miscarried fetus as it might exist around the 20th week of gestational age (or even later). Maybe burial or cremation is appropriate at that stage. I don’t know (though I do think that it’s much more a matter for individual choice rather than for the State). However, what if we think of the miscarried fetus as it might exist as of, say, the 4th week of gestational age … or even earlier?

By that 4th week the fetus has grown to be the size of … a poppy seed. Prior to that, of course, the fetus is even smaller. And let’s not forget that many in the pro-life (anti-abortion) movement, will tell you that (based on their religious views), human life begins at conception (fertilization of an egg by a sperm). Thus, we really need to think about that fetus as it exists even in the moments after fertilization, when it is simply a small cluster of cells.

So what happens when that newly fertilized egg doesn’t implant in the uterine wall and is, instead, expelled as a part of a woman’s menstrual cycle? What happens when that poppy seed-sized 4-week-old fetus miscarries as, recall, 10-20% of pregnancies do? And what is a woman supposed to do if she takes the “morning after pill”?

Well, starting July 1, 2016, a woman in Indiana will have to bury or cremate that fetus (and fill out appropriate paperwork, too).

Consider the problem: A fertile woman has sex (even protected sex; recall that not all birth control is 100% effective). There is a possibility that one of her eggs was fertilized by her partner’s sperm (and let’s not even ask what we should do if the “partner” was a rapist or incestuous family member…). That woman now has a problem. You see, she won’t know if an egg was fertilized and, if one was, whether it implanted. She really won’t know if she’s pregnant for some time, right? But the State of Indiana doesn’t care about that. Nope. Rather, what the State of Indiana cares about is whether, should her unknown pregnancy miscarry, she buries or cremates the bunch of cells and fills out the appropriate government paperwork (nothing like adding a little shame, right?).

I suppose that beginning in July, Hoosier women that want to avoid inadvertently running afoul of the law, need to be sure that they capture their menstrual flow in a box that they then bury in the backyard (though I suspect that kind of burial runs afoul of the law, too; she probably needs to take the box to a licensed cemetery). Or, perhaps, women can install some sort of incinerator in their toilet bowl (though I’m not sure what they should do when they’re not at home…). I mean, what happens if a woman’s period begins when she is at a local business? Who is responsible for the potential miscarried fetus in that case (who possesses the fetus, the woman or the “facility”)? That of course makes me wonder what women who are traveling to Indiana should do (and I’m also wondering why anyone would want to travel to Indiana these days, given the State’s expressed bigotry toward … well, lots of different groups…). I mean, should hotels provide certified disposal boxes? And let’s not even think about national cheerleading competitions at the Convention Center. No. Don’t go there. Yuck.

Of course I recognize that I’m being a bit hyperbolic with this concern. I don’t really think that some overzealous prosecutor is going to start knocking on doors and asking women if they’ve properly disposed of their menstrual discharge. The problem is that laws like this are the result of a legislature that doesn’t take the time to listen to testimony, listen to concerns, think about practical effects of legislation, and then take the time and effort to carefully craft legislation to address the (supposed) concern. And if some woman (or abortion clinic) is eventually charged with failing to comply with this insane law, won’t one of the first defenses be that the woman (or clinic) is being singled out when the law is being ignored by and not enforced against literally millions of Hoosier women?

But remember: Republicans aren’t waging a war on women. Nope. Not in Indiana. Move along.

Please call Governor Pence. Please call your state representative and state senator. And please tell them to stay out of your vagina (if you’re a woman) and out of the vagina of your wife, daughter, mother, and sister (if you’re a human). Tell them to fix our roads and schools and to stop using their religious values to dictate how the rest of us should live.

So long as this law remains in effect, Hoosier women who have sex risk breaking the law. And if that isn’t the ultimate attack in the war on women, then I don’t know what is.

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