“I’ll Fight ‘Em As An Engineer”

Folk musician Pete Seeger died yesterday:

Pete Seeger, the man considered to be one of the pioneers of contemporary folk music who inspired legions of activist singer-songwriters, died Monday.

He was 94.

Seeger’s best known songs include “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” and “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song).”

But his influence extended far beyond individual hits.

Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger dies at 94

He inspired an article last July Fourth, which featured a video where he and some other musicians sang Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land Is Our Land“, including the more subversive verses that most people don’t get to hear. Thus, it’s perhaps not surprising that his passing inspired another one. Of the videos people have passed along to remember him by, this is the one I like best:

Can you guess why? Well, that, and many of the most important people in my life are women. They deserve the same breaks I got, if not more. Plus, anyone who has read what I’ve written about the economy in the last few years ought to know I appreciate the sad irony of the song’s author being hired because she would do the job for less than a man would. I think that one of the reasons, as that CNN article says, Seeger’s influence went far beyond his hit songs is that his humanity made him feel that way, too.

So long, Pete, we’ll miss ya.

Afterword/UPDATE: Maybe the most “influential” thing Pete Seeger ever did was to refuse to testify about his relationship (if any) to the Communist Party during the bad old days of the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC):

MR. SEEGER: I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them.

When Pete Seeger Faced Down the House Un-American Activities Committee

Those words took real courage to speak, the kind where he had to decide who he was and defend what he believed in, despite the very real risk of prison, or worse. He was sentenced to as much as ten years for refusing to answer questions that shouldn’t have been asked of him in the first place (see the article link for details of the sentence). The only good thing he knew would result from his testifying is that he had a better chance of looking himself in the mirror. Contrast that with faux progressives who whine about how tough it all is or billionaires who express fear that protesting their wealth will lead to fascism, and you realize that our public discourse, bad as it could be back then, has devolved even further since.


There Are No Scientists At Time Magazine

People enjoy the view at the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon. I came. I saw. I photographed. I’m still an atheist. (Click to enlarge – it’s worth it.)

Image credit: Cujo359

Apparently, the only thing Time magazine can think to write about science these days is tripe like this from one Jeffrey Kluger:

[A]s generations of campers, sailors, hikers and explorers could attest, there’s nothing quite like nature — with its ability to elicit feelings of jaw-dropping awe — to make you contemplate the idea of a higher power. Now, a study published in Psychological Science applies the decidedly nonspiritual scientific method to that phenomenon and confirms that the awe-equals-religion equation is a very real and powerful experience — even among people who fancy themselves immune to such things.

Why There Are No Atheists at the Grand Canyon

He goes on to cite a bunch of nonsense about studies that are supposed to show that you can’t possibly gaze on a site like the Grand Canyon without feeling a little religious.

Well, Jeffrey, I have some news for you. You’re wrong. You couldn’t be more wrong if you were the most recent winner of the International “I Can’t Possibly Reach A Clear And Correct Conclusion On Any Subject More Complicated Than My Navel” Contest. In fact, you’re an idiot, and here’s some scientific proof:

Exhibit A
Exhibit B

All I felt was a bit of vertigo, plus some serious amazement that water could do that much damage. You see, all that about how people can’t see things like the Grand Canyon without being moved to spiritualism is supposition based on your own prejudices, without trying to find any evidence to the contrary. Kinda like how I’m assuming that Time doesn’t want to do anything more useful with its science section than let fools flog their religions there.

Now, go away and get an education. I’ve had enough conversations with half-wits already today.

A Peek At “First Look”

printing press of the Tombstone Epitaph

The first printing press of the Tombstone Epitaph, Tombstone, Arizona.

Image credit: Cujo359

Glenn Greenwald posted an article today at his blog that is a response to a reader who had e-mailed him about concerns regarding the NSA documents and the journalism venture he intends to become a part of, First Look. I had not heard the name of this organization before, so that’s either news or a refresher for those of us who didn’t catch it the first time around.

Besides the name of the new organization, he noted:

  • First Look will be a nonprofit organization, designed, in his words, to “encourage, support and empower – rather than undermine, dilute and neuter – independent, adversarial journalists”. “.

  • Neither Greenwald nor the other journalists with whom he was discussing new news ventures, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, are partners in First Look, “in any legal or financial way”.

  • Laura Poitras has a complete copy of the NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden. In addition, other major news outlets have “tens of thousands” of those documents between them.

On the NSA documents, he wrote:

[I]n his Washington Post interview with Snowden last month, Bart Gellman noted “Snowden’s insistence, to this reporter and others, that he does not want the documents published in bulk.” From the start, Snowden indeed repeatedly insisted on that.

Anyone who demands that we “release all documents” – or even release large numbers in bulk – is demanding that we violate our agreement with our source, disregard the framework we created when he gave us the documents, jeopardize his interests in multiple ways, and subject him to far greater legal (and other) dangers. I find that demand to be unconscionable, and we will never, ever violate our agreement with him no matter how many people want us to.

Email exchange with reader over First Look and NSA reporting

There is not likely to be a document dump similar to the Wikileaks dump of the documents Chelsea (formerly PFC Bradley) Manning provided them. Some folks will be upset about that, I suppose, but I don’t see much good that will result from such a thing. Certainly, there’s nothing that could outweigh the fallout from that alternative.

Of course, there’s plenty of time for disillusionment, but I think the idea of First Look is one of the most exciting things to come along in journalism in years. If that $250 million in funding Greenwald mentions is treated as an endowment, it can support several journalists plus a staff of editors and researchers. With added support from readers and advertising, it could be considerably more.

There’s lots more. It’s a Glenn Greenwald column, after all. So grab a cup of coffee and head on over.