Bruce Springsteen’s Playlist for the DT Era
“I don’t know if our democracy could stand another four years of his custodianship.”
by David Brooks
Contributing writer at The Atlantic and columnist for The New York Times.
This is a moment of tumult, anger, hope, and social change. At moments such as this, songwriters and musicians have a power to name things and help us make sense of events—artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monáe, Tom Morello, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.
It’s been 20 years since Springsteen wrote “American Skin (41 Shots),” a powerful song about the police killing of a black man. I thought it might be a good idea to check in with Bruce, to get his reflections on this moment and on music in this moment. Here’s a slightly edited transcript of our conversation, which took place on June 9.
“…at the heart of our racial problems is fear. Hate comes later. Fear is instantaneous. So in “American Skin,” I think what moves you is the mother’s fear for her son and the rules that she has to lay down so he can be safe. It’s simply heartbreaking to watch a young child be schooled in this way.
The Democrats haven’t really made the preservation of the middle and working class enough of a priority. And they’ve been stymied in bringing more change by the Republican Party. In the age of Roosevelt, Republicans represented business; Democrats represented labor. And when I was a kid, the first and only political question ever asked in my house was “Mom, what are we, Democrats or Republicans?” And she answered, “We are Democrats because they’re for the working people.”
Woody Guthrie- This Land Is Your Land
“I’m so saddened to hear about the passing of Little Richard… He was the biggest inspiration of my early teens and his music still has the same raw electric energy when you play it now, when it first shot through the music scene in the mid ’50’s. When we were on tour with him I would watch his moves every night and learn from him how to entertain and involve the audience and he was always so generous with advice to me. He contributed so much to popular music, I will miss you Richard.”
We can not stand by and be only witness to the cataclysm…we must be active participants. (Thomas Merton)
“We didn’t need a pandemic to remember how filthy America has been left by racism and the laws that uphold it.”
Ahmaud Arbery Should Be Alive
[Remember his name.]
Convicting his killers is the start. But the family of this modern lynching victim can’t have justice in a country with laws that protect white people who kill black people.
by Jamil Smith
Ahmaud Arbery was 25. A former high school football player who reportedly was passionate about staying in shape, Arbery was out for a run in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia. That’s a little more than an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida, if you need to get your bearings on a map. So that you can spare yourself the horror of actually watching the video, I’ll briefly describe what happened in broad daylight on the afternoon of Sunday, February 23rd.
I’m going to word this carefully, because I don’t necessarily believe any part of the story Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan are telling. Gregory, a retired investigator for the Brunswick County district attorney, told police that he first saw Arbery “hauling ass” that day down Satilla Drive, according to the police report. That is what a young, athletic man might be doing on a jog, first of all. But that sight provoked him to tell his son Travis that he suspected Arbery was involved in two recent burglaries in the area, even though neither of the alleged incidents had been reported to police and no official description was on record. Gregory made that assessment, despite the guy “hauling ass” past him. Was a black man running away in this predominantly white community all the probable cause that he needed?
The men loaded themselves up with a .357 Magnum and a shotgun before pursuing Arbery in a white pickup truck. Bryan joined them in the pursuit. Gregory told police that they were packing because “‘the other night’ he saw the same male and he stuck his hand down his pants which lead [sp] them to believe the male was armed.”
If we are to understand Gregory McMichael correctly, he claims he believed Arbery to be armed because — and this is his deduction, based upon his career as an investigator for the local district attorney — he saw a person who he thinks was Arbery the previous night stick his hand down his pants. Because heaven knows, no man in American history has ever done so for any reason other than procuring a handgun. (That he keeps there at all times. Even while supposedly “hauling ass.”)
That is the best story that he could devise for what appears on the video to be the deliberate stalking of a human being. Sure, there’s the audible, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” yelled by the McMichael boys, but what black man in America with a survival instinct stops when a bunch of white men with guns, without badges, hollers this at them?
The police report and full video, photographed by an as-yet unknown driver trailing the McMichaels’ truck, both detail what happens next. The McMichaels cut off Arbery’s path and then we see people getting out of the vehicle and hear yelling. As the car pulls up, per the police report account, the video depicts Arbery struggling over a firearm with Travis, the son. A man is perched in the bed of the truck overlooking. Shots are ringing out. By the end of it all, three shots are fired. At least two struck Arbery, who falls dead to the ground with a visibly bloody shirt. He was unarmed.
Arbery family attorney Lee Merritt, who last October secured a conviction of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger for the murder of Botham Jean, told me Thursday morning that Bryan was the person that recorded the video and that he believes Bryan coordinated with the McMichaels in committing the murder. “We are demanding that all three of these men be arrested immediately,” Merritt said to me via text.
(Update, 5/7: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced late Thursday evening, several hours after the publication of this article, that Gregory and Travis McMichael had been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.)
However, it is the video of this incident, emerging earlier this week, that has both seemingly secured the nation’s attention and an eventual grand jury in Brunswick County.
The killing happened more than two months ago, and a series of prosecutors have recused themselves from the case because they’re connected professionally to McMichael.
One prosecutor — Waycross, Georgia district attorney George Barnhill — wrote a letter that candidly stated why he felt that the McMichaels should escape accountability for the incident, citing Georgia’s open-carry and stand-your-ground laws, as well as its state code for grounds for arrest: “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”
I want these men put away, but this is why the solution to incidents like this cannot be sought primarily through the courts. We need lawmakers to get busy. Open-carry must be abolished. Stand-your-ground has to go. State codes that allow citizens to arrest people? Those are golden tickets for lynchings. They should be relics of an America that should embarrass us.
Why should these be the priority? Given that racism has such permanence, it only makes sense that Americans must do away with any law or standard that empowers those who embrace that ideology. First, there is too much money in it. Those who seek to maintain power invest heavily in seeding it amongst the poorest, whitest Americans, and frankly, a lot of rich folks believe it themselves. So especially in this pandemic age, I’m even more about survival than ever. If black folks want to vent about the racism of the individuals involved here, I don’t begrudge them, especially if it helps assuage their anger and grief. But another reason why Arbery is dead today is that the laws of the land, along with those who enforce them, have long ensured that people like the McMichaels don’t have to think twice about picking up that .357 and that shotgun before running off to harass or even kill someone like Ahmaud Arbery.
With laws that made sense, at the worst we’re talking about a young man with some viral tweets about white guys who confronted him about burglaries while he was out for a jog. Maybe he even takes cellphone video of it, and laughs to keep from crying as he runs off. A lot of people will be doing the same as they run Friday in tribute of Arbery on what would have been his 26th birthday. I’ll join them. It will help sate the pain, for now, and demonstrate that we should be able to do what he was doing that Sunday afternoon without threat of losing our lives.
Arbery’s death didn’t get much media attention until now, in part because it happened right as COVID-19 began scaring us into submission. But even long before the coronavirus, there has always seemed to be some reason for us to look away from black death of this kind. The era that birthed Black Lives Matter is several years past, yet we keep needing to repeat those words to a largely white America that seems exhausted by them. The shock of Arbery’s limp body slumping to the ground after very real gunshots is here to once again wake up the “woke,” I guess. Saying their names over and over again to people who don’t hear them until we eventually lose our voices has to end. We cannot afford, as citizens, to continue propagating memes and other forms of online absolution without concrete action. Until there are severe and inescapable consequences for killing black people, anyone who isn’t fully antiracist will continue to do just that.
We didn’t need a pandemic to remember how filthy America has been left by racism and the laws that uphold it. However, we cannot baptize ourselves in the blood of the slain and leave feeling clean. We can no longer accept facsimiles. We must have actual justice.
“A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.”
The three-time Grammy winner released just eight albums before walking away from the spotlight in 1985, but he left an incredible mark on the music community and the world at large. Songs like “Lean On Me,” “Grandma’s Hands,” “Use Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Lovely Day” are embedded in the culture and have been covered countless times. While many of Withers’ biggest songs were recorded in the Seventies, they have proven to be timeless hits. “Lean on Me” emerged once again in recent weeks as an anthem of hope and solidarity in the time of COVID-19.
He had to endure incredible racism in the Jim Crow South. “One of the first things I learned, when I was around four,” he said, “was that if you make a mistake and go into a white women’s bathroom, they’re going to kill your father.”
Looking back decades later, Withers was still amazed at his success at a relatively late age in his life. “Imagine 40,000 people at a stadium watching a football game,” he told Rolling Stone. “About 10,000 of them think they can play quarterback. Three of them probably could. I guess I was one of those three.”
In 2015, he made a rare public appearance when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “I still have to process this,” he said shortly after learning the news.
(AUSTRALIA OUT) SKM, a recycling company in Melbourne, has been declared bankrupt and its six major warehouses are full of recyclable materials awaiting processing. This warehouse is located in the industrial suburb of Derrimut. The Victorian Government and the warehouse owners, Marwood Constructions, are unsure how to deal with this material, which is largely unsorted and cannot be sold easily to materials processors. With no one to process their household recycling, Melbourne councils are being forced to send thousands of tonnes of recyclable waste to landfill. (Photo by Jason South/The Age via Getty Images)
How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a global environmental calamity a secret for decades
More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030. At its root, the global plastics crisis is a product of our addiction to fossil fuels. The private profit and public harm of the oil industry is well understood: Oil is refined and distributed to consumers, who benefit from gasoline’s short, useful lifespan in a combustion engine, leaving behind atmospheric pollution for generations. But this same pattern — and this same tragedy of the commons — is playing out with another gift of the oil-and-gas giants, whose drilling draws up the petroleum precursors for plastics. These are refined in industrial complexes and manufactured into bottles, bags, containers, textiles, and toys for consumers who benefit from their transient use — before throwing them away.
“Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels,” says Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network. BAN is devoted to enforcement of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that blocks the developed world from dumping hazardous wastes on the developing world, and was recently expanded, effective next year, to include plastics. For Americans who religiously sort their recycling, it’s upsetting to hear about plastic being lumped in with toxic waste. But the poisonous parallel is apt. When it comes to plastic, recycling is a misnomer. “They really sold people on the idea that plastics can be recycled because there’s a fraction of them that are,” says Puckett. “It’s fraudulent. When you drill down into plastics recycling, you realize it’s a myth.”
Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste — and 91 percent has never been recycled even once, according to a landmark 2017 study published in the journal Science Advances. Unlike aluminum, which can be recycled again and again, plastic degrades in reprocessing, and is almost never recycled more than once. A plastic soda bottle, for example, might get downcycled into a carpet. Modern technology has hardly improved things: Of the 78 billion kilograms of plastic packaging materials produced in 2013, only 14 percent were even collected for recycling, and just two percent were effectively recycled to compete with virgin plastic. “Recycling delays, rather than avoids, final disposal,” the Science authors write. And most plastics persist for centuries.
Americans who believed they were diverting plastic from the trash were, ironically, fueling a waste crisis half a world away. “It is easy to find American and European packaging polluting the countryside of Southeast Asia,” states a 2019 report from the Break Free From Plastics coalition, which coordinates an annual global audit of plastic waste. “When people in the global north throw something ‘away,’ much of it ends up in the global south because there is no such thing as ‘away.’”
In Washington, the plastics industry is asking government, and American taxpayers, to foot the bill to revitalize the moribund recycling industry. The RECOVER Act — backed by both PLASTICS and the ACC — would offer $500 million in federal-matching funds for investment in new infrastructure. This summer, PLASTICS showed off a demonstration project with high-tech, near-infrared scanning machines that can segregate plastics by their polymer type, improving on human sorters who can’t distinguish between two identical-seeming yogurt cups, each made from different plastics.
The legislation would formally ban the U.S. from exporting plastic waste to developing countries, in alignment with the Basel Convention. Perhaps most controversially, the bill would halt construction of new plastics facilities, giving the EPA time to craft new regulations. Udall insists his bill can return value to the economy, and save consumers a lot of money, noting that every year plastic worth up to $120 billion “is lost after one short use.”
The companies of the plastics industry, Lowenthal says, are ultimately “going to have to deal with the sticker shock that they are now responsible and they’re going to have to pay” to keep plastics out of the environment. The alternative, he insists, has become untenable: “What we have in plastic is something that has made our lives more convenient and easier. But unless we figure out how to keep this out of the waste stream, it’s just going to kill us.”
From Bill McKibbon, environmentalist and founder of 350.org:
‘One of the most damning pieces I’ve ever read, on how Big Oil and Big Soda teamed up to give you Omnipresent UnRecyclable Plastic.’
Massive Woodstock Box Set Planned for August
Massive 38-disc box includes nearly every note of music played during the festival’s three days in 1969 – but assembling old tapes and having musicians sign off 50 years later was a daunting task.
Yeah, but. It’s $799. Although, there’s a guitar strap.
“The box — which will also include a Blu-ray of Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock movie, a guitar strap and a replica of the original program, among other items — will cost $799. More condensed versions — a 10-disc set and a 3-disc one — will also be available. In the mega-box, the 38th disc includes various audio flotsam. The “Groesbeek Reel,” named after festival sound recordist Charles Groesbeek, includes comments from random attendees taped by Grosbeak–like, Zax laughs, “this one guy moaning about what a disappointing experience it was and that it was a sell-out. It’s a great slice of real people in the moment reacting to it, which pleases me immensely.”
“Complete performances of the Who, Joe Cocker, Sly and the Family Stone, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and others, along with acts who weren’t in the movie or the original Woodstock album, like the Band, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin will be available for the first time. The tracks are also arranged chronologically, by day and set times, from Richie Havens’ opening set that August Friday in 1969 to Jimi Hendrix’s festival-closing set on Monday morning. To ease the overwhelming listening experience, each act is accorded its own disc.”
“There have been large boxed sets devoted to particular eras or tours — the Grateful Dead do a great job of that sort of thing — but there’s never, to my knowledge, been an attempt to present a large-scale durational experience of this sort,” says Andy Zax, the Los Angeles producer and archivist who co-produced the set with Steve Woolard. “The Woodstock tapes give us a singular opportunity for a kind of sonic time travel, and my intention is to transport people back to 1969. There aren’t many other concerts you could make this argument about.”
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