Those there's no real connection, my article this morning made me think of a similarly title song, "Poppa Knows Best," from the musical Two by Two. So, I figured, what the heck?
The show had a score by Richard Rodgers, one of the last he wrote, with lyrics by Martin Charnin (who most famously wrote Annie). It told the story of Noah, based on the play The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets, who wrote the play, Golden Boy. The book adaptation for the musical was written by Peter Stone whose many credits include 1776.
The show also had a big name on the marquee, starring Danny Kaye, and had a fair run of 351 performances -- as well as a bit of controversy in a public battle between star and composer. Danny Kaye began taking liberties with the book and tempo of the songs, which Rodgers was vocal about his displeasure -- and all the more so after Kaye broke his foot, but stayed in the show, wheeling around in his wheelchair, and often chasing the women in the cast. This has mixed reaction on the box office -- some came to see the antics, but others were not unreasonably bothered.
Controversies aside, the score is pretty good. There are some wonderful songs, and a few lovely Rodgers ballads, though it's not consistent. But enjoyable.
This particular song is a battle between father and rebellious son, Japheth, played by Walter Willison, who got a Tony nomination as Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Earlier in the show, Japheth had confronted his father for not building a rudder on his ark, with Noah insisting that because he hadn't been given specific instructions to do so by God, it wasn't necessary. (This leads into the song, "There's Got to Be a Rudder on the Ark.") Later, on the ark during a storm, the argument rises up again. I'm not completely sure of the story here, since as is clear in the song there is now a rudder, but Japheth seems to have it. But the sense I get is that Japheth has won the earlier argument (hence the rudder being there), but Noah still insisted it's unnecessary.
And so, to finish off the pair of bookends on our "Poppa Knows Best" Day, curtain up --
The Big Fish yesterday was, of course, the indictment of Paul Manafort. Though it had next to nothing to do about conspiring with Russia, at least on the surface (more on that in a moment), the charges are nonetheless significant. They show that if Robert Mueller is looking into Manafort’s money laundering and tax evasion, and indeed making them core to his very first indictment, then this should raise Trump's concern about his own money laundering with Russian oligarchs and any resultant tax evasion -- of particular note for someone who has refused to release his tax returns...as well as infamously said during the presidential debates that not paying income tax "makes me smart." Moreover, these are indictments that notably and extensively included all the documented paperwork, which is no small matter. From all the legal experts I heard throughout the day, charges that rely on basic documentation rather than "connecting the dots" kind of cases that lead a jury to a larger picture, are the hardest to defend. Many called it almost a near-certainty (one expert even said a "slam dunk"), which makes me suspect that Mueller was going for an Early Win initially, rather than try first to prove a twisting case of Russia conspiracy and obstruction, setting the groundwork for that later..
Indeed, I think Manafort's own lawyer was ill-advised to do his sort of dance in front of the courthouse yesterday, since also wouldn't be sure if these are the last charges we'll hear about his client. It doesn't seem unreasonable that the indictment could be amended later on, given the questions about what was done by him when head of the Trump campaign that was Russia-related because of all this money laundering and financial problems he was having. (Lest we forget things like the change of the Republican platform about Ukraine, which didn't come from nowhere.) In fact, further questions about Manafort's Russian involvement even reared their ugly head only two hours after his indictment. Mainly, though, I think the indictment on Monday was mostly about Mueller presenting his easiest case to prove with Manafort so that he has the best bargaining chip to get him to negotiate what he knows about the Trump campaign and will be willing to testify against in exchange for leniency.
But keep in mind one other very critical thing about money-laundering charges, which cover a far larger path than just Paul Manafort. Mark down in your notebooks that a lot of this money laundering with Russia centers itself not around Russia or even Ukraine, but rather the Bank of Cyprus. If that name isn't familiar with you, hold on to it. And know for now that the vice-chairman of the bank, which is well-known for money laundering, was Trump’s own Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. I think the Bank of Cyprus will become a major story in the investigation.
For all that, however, as big a fish as Paul Manafort may have appeared, I think that the biggest story was the littlest, most unknown name of the day -- perhaps even one of the least known in the administration. George Papadopoulos pleading guilty is a major deal.
Yes, he was just a "volunteer." Yes, he only plead guilty for lying to the FBI. But what this speaks to is substantive.
That he was a volunteer is meaningless, no matter how much the administration squawks about it. (Hey, Paul Manafort was unpaid when campaign chairman, making him a volunteer.) George Papadopoulos was an adviser to Trump on foreign affairs, one of the first two foreign affairs advisers Trump himself proudly brought up to the Washington Post during his campaign. And being "only" charged with lying in many ways was likely the whole point for Mueller -- because what that did was send a massively loud message to all future witness that the Special Counsel takes lying very seriously, so don't even think about it except at your own risk.
Further, with Papadopolous, not only is there now an actual guilty verdict of misconduct in the administration in regards to collusion with Russia, but he plead guilty a full two months ago and has been testifying ever since in order to get leniency, turning over all his emails, so as low-level as the administration may want to dismiss him as, Robert Mueller knows exactly who Papadopoulos has been talking to and what they’ve all been saying. Which, in turn, Mueller can use in setting up timelines for what others have been saying in public or testifying to him about.
For instance, it had previously been presumed that we all found out in June about Russia trying to influence the election, and that date allowed the Trump administration to raise the uncertainty and claim that Don Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort didn't know about it before they met with Russian government officials at Trump Tower. However, thanks to Papadopoulos's testimony and emails, we now know that the Trump campaign had been dealing with Russian contacts as early as April. So, any attempt for those three to insist on ignorance is gone.
But there's something else with George Papadopoulos that's significantly important here. It's a matter that occurred to me early in the day on Monday. And that's the possibility -- or even likelihood -- that he was wearing a wire for the past two months. I didn't hear anyone else discuss it, though, and yet the thought grew even more probable to me later in the day when I heard details of his sentencing. For all the charges, he could have gotten up to 5 years in jail and as much as a $20,000 fine. However -- the judge said because Papadopoulos has been cooperating so well with the Special Counsel that, if he continues, his sentence could be as low as...zero days and $500. You don't get a deal like that even if you are first cousin to Monty Hall. You have to be cooperating above and beyond. And then --
-- as the day wore down, I heard two experts say that they, too, not only thought that Papadopoulos could be wearing a wire, but they were even sure of it. One of them was former Watergate prosecutor Nik Ackerman who is on MSNBC a lot and is terrific. And he put it far more explicitly:
“It’s quite obvious that Mueller is playing this out very skillfully. First of all that [Manafort] indictment is a slam-dunk, as I said before, it’s proven by documents. But then you look at the Papadopoulos one that they put under seal all of this time.
“He’s plead guilty, plead guilty to a felony, lying to the FBI. He’s basically, if you looked through his allocution, you have to allocute. They don’t name names, it’s against Justice Department policy to do that. But he refers to campaign officials, other officials — it’s very obvious he has information on lots of people and on top of that, he’s been cooperating since July.
“If I were the prosecutor, and I guarantee you Robert Mueller has done this, he’s had him out there wearing a body wire, playing dial-a-crook on the phone, trying to get recorded conversations to use as evidence against other people,” he asserted. “If I were the other people, and they know who they are in that information, I’d be extremely nervous right now.”
So, we are just starting out on this. Any Trump supporters who think this is all Mueller has, this is it with the investigation are fooling themselves very badly. But then, these are the same people (including Trump) who have been insisting for months that Robert Mueller has nothing because he hasn't indicted anyone! And now, bam, two indictments and a guilty plea for breakfast. This is just an expert prosecutor starting to lay his case out. The "third inning" of a nine-inning game is who legal experts put it all day. There's more coming as a result of George Papadopoulos. There's even far more involvement from Paul Manafort -- and this is where Russia comes back for him because...he is who Papadopoulos reported to! We now know more of the timeline, and some of the pieces that no longer fit the public protestations. It's all just starting.
And one last thing.
All of the smokescreens and lies coming from Trump, his staff and especially from his official spokesperson, the press secretary, have been -- up to now -- just been political game-playing. But as legal experts noted last Friday, that all changed when it was announced there were sealed indictments. Because now there is an actual court case. And smokescreens and lies are never a good thing during an actual court case, most especially one that deals in part with obstruction of justice. And then things got ratcheted up even higher because not only are there indictments how, but there is an actual guilty verdict. So a person lies and obfuscates at his or her own risk.
Buckle your seatbelts.
"Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar is a wildly popular piece of music, both in his native England (where it's beloved and best known by the name "Land of Hope and Glory") and in the United States, where it's best known as "That graduation march thing." So well known that the song is just on the good side of being hackneyed at this point. Pretty standard pop-concert fare.
But this is probably the best, most fun and exuberant version of the music I've ever heard.
It comes at the end of the 2014 BBC Proms series, the BBC Symphony lead by the Proms' Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo. I get the sense that this is a traditional ending to the Proms every year. I say that because when you see the video, the normally low-key conservative British have come to the concert...well, let's just say prepared. And there's something so enthusiastically endearing about their love of the piece and massive flag-waving that it's SO over-the top that it doesn't come across as jingoistic. The audience decked out, the orchestra decked out, the stage decked out. What helps too is that there are flags from all over the world. And pretty much everyone there really gets into the thing, at times like human metronomes, but especially joyous ones.
Video of the concert was also broadcast to several outdoor venues around the United Kingdom (including the Titanic Slipway in Belfast, Ireland, where the ship was built and first launched), so it's fun too as the camera cuts to the massive crowds joining in with their outpouring of love for this.
When the crowd joins in singing, if you feel the spirit to sing along, as well, here are the words below. Follow the bouncing Brit --
Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.
Now that there are two indictments and one guilty plea, I have my television running on full speed and periodically pass by to pick up news updates.
I caught a couple minutes of today's White House press conference, and that was more than enough, two minutes far exceeding my normal limit. It becomes too galling to watch more. My teeth begin to gnash and fingers curl, and that's when I know it's time to turn the set off. I look forward to the day when one can yell back at the TV and the person can hear you.
No, contrary to what the Press Secretary tries to suggest, it is NOT "common practice" to have meetings with government agents of your foreign enemy in order to get dirt on your campaign opponent. In fact, aspects of doing that are even illegal.
And no, contrary to what the Press Secretary tries to suggest, it is NOT problematic to legally hire an outside firm and legally pay them to do opposition research. And doing so is not "worse" than meeting with the agents of a foreign government, parts of which are actually illegal.
And no, the Press Secretary is lying, because the Trump Dossier is not "fake" since much of the information it discovered has now already been confirmed.
Although I can't shout back through my TV set, it is my fond hope that one day the reporters in the White House briefing room will say some of these things, and not just let the Press Secretary's words sit on the record before moving on to the next questions. It's deeply unfortunately that she is not held accountable enough for lying to the American public as the Trump administration's spokesperson.
Yes, yes, I know that by the time you read this there will be a far-bigger banner headline story in the news on Indictment Day. But I'm writing this well-ahead of that, so one shouldn't expect up-to-date timing.
Actually, it's as much a companion to a piece I wrote last week about the "Un-Scandal," as anything. That previous article was about how the GOP is trying to make a non-existent scandal out of who funded the completely legal "Trump Dossier" which was basic opposition research. This here today is about yet another "Un-Scandal" -- the GOP trying to make a non-existent scandal over the sale the Canadian company Uranium One and further bizarrely somehow trying to tying it to Hillary (who, as best as I can tell, Republicans apparently believe mistakenly is the President of the United States and want to impeach her).
In addition to both being non-scandals, what the stories additionally have in common is they each want to distract everyone from the Special Counsel's Russia investigation, never recognizing that the only people who matter are the Special Counsel's team who is doing the actual investigating and does not tend to distracted by tweets, let alone news stories.
As for the Uranium One non-scandal, the conspiracy tale and its refutations are convoluted and often hard to follow. But from all I had read before the weekend about the Uranium One deal is that it was a ZERO story. No story, no scandal, no problem, and had all been discredited many months ago. Old and dead news. The more I've since read, however, the even-more pathetic the cries of "scandal" are. The more obvious that there's absolutely nothing to the fevered charges, and it's ludicrous.
I say that because I read a couple of articles over the weekend on the story, and they mentioned two incredibly important facts that I wasn't aware of despite having read quite a bit on it -- which shows how convoluted this all is, since the two new, important facts are probably the easiest of all things to understand. They just fell the convoluted cracks.
The first is that the quality of the uranium sold was actually so low-grade that it can't even be used for nuclear weapons! It only would work in power plants. So, any fear that this fake uranium scandal would result in Russian nuclear bombs (!) and national security that puts us all at risk is absolutely non-existent. No, this uranium is too low-grade for that. Power facilities only
And the second is -- the low-grade uranium can only be sold and used...in the United States!! This isn't a case of America giving up it's valuable uranium to Russia which will use it against it. It not only is staying in the United States, by law it has to stay in the United States. To sell uranium outside the country, a specific license is required, and Russia (which bought the company) doesn't have that necessary Nuclear Regulatory Commission export license. So, they can't export it. Can't. The uranium, which is low-grade to begin with, can only be sold and used here. In the United States.
Other basic issues demonstrate further how this is not even remotely a scandal, but those two top the list. So much so that another fact I discovered over the weekend that admittedly had passed me by would have been a good one itself, but pales in comparison. It's the reality that the United States gets most of our uranium from outside the country. So, this isn't even a story of us giving away our precious resources that have to be protected for national security.
So many of the other refutations are just as meaningful, but far-more convoluted, which is why it's so easy to get lost in the weeds. Like that the board which approved the sale has nine members and Hillary Clinton had an associate sit on it in her place and wasn't even involved and the vote to approve the sale has to be unanimous, nine to zero, and the vote was unanimous. And it then had to be approved by Barack Obama. And that same board today has said that if they had to vote on the very same sale today but under a different administration, they'd still vote for it, again...unanimously. But I'll leave all the convoluted charges and refutations to those who want to dive into such things.
For those such folk who do want to dive in, one excellent, simple-to-follow article is from FactCheck.org, which you can read here. It covers the story well and easily.
But another excellent which you might enjoy even more is in Forbes -- made all the better because of how (intentionally) funny it is. Something you don't expect for a story on uranium, and most especially expect from Forbes...on anything. But it is hilariously dripping in sarcasm. Yes, really, Forbes. Sarcastic. On uranium.
For example, here's a passage from near the top of the article --
"In a 2015 book, Breitbart News editor Peter Schweizer claimed that donations to the Clinton Foundation were behind the Obama administration’s approval of the 2010 sale of a Canadian mining company to a Russian state-controlled firm. The sale gave Russia control of a large swath of American uranium interests.
"And by large, we really mean small."
I must admit, I love that, and love it all the more for it being in Forbes. The article, written by nuclear expert Dr. James Conca, is that kind of snarky, not always in its jokes, but definitely in its bluntness. At heart it's a serious article, to be sure, but because the author is an expert and does take uranium and nuclear production so seriously, he takes foolishness on the subject so scathingly. There is another, very similar passage further down in the piece, for instance. And what I most-like about it is how intentionally ludicrous it is, which is clearly the point when trying to ridicule the charges of scandal being made here. The author writes --
"Obama and Clinton colluding to hand over 20% America’s strategic uranium to the Russians? On cue, Fox News gabber Sean Hannity said this could be 'the biggest scandal' in American history.
"But here's the thing -- by 20%, we really mean almost zero."
(By the way, to clarify what Dr. Conca is referring to her, his point gets back to what I mentioned earlier, that most of our uranium comes from outside the United States, and this sale was insignificant.)
But articles aside, for anyone who wants to have a short, two-minute primer on why this is not just a non-scandal, but a non-story, as well, here is a clip from a recent segment of the show A.M. Joy on MSNBC with host Joy Ann Reid. It's highly worth watching for another reason, however. It's a superb example of a journalist being prepared and questioning her guests for them to support the statements they're making, not just accepting a guest's words as a given.
How nice it would be if this was the standard.
(Incidentally, it's worth noting that what is equally stunning about the clip is how the guest actually lets Reid ask her questions, then answers specifically what was asked, doesn't change the subject, and also doesn't try to talk over the host to divert focus. What a breathtaking concept. As good as Joy Ann Reid is here, and she's exceedingly good, without the guest -- a Hillary Clinton conspiratorialist -- agreeing to play fair, it would have all fallen apart.)
So, all-in-all, this is pretty stunning. And you get a two-minute primer on Uranium One and why it is not even remotely a scandal, to boot!
From the archives, this week's contestant is David Hempling. from San Francisco. It's a very easy hidden song to get. As for the hidden composer style, it's clear after hearing the answer, but I didn't find it typical for that composer so I missed it.
A couple of nights ago, I went to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who are on a tour of the West Coast with their music director Riccardo Muti. The performance was wonderful, with two Brahms symphonies (the Second and Third), and an encore from Schubert's Rosamunde.
I followed articles on the tour, which got raves throughout, although the oddest review came from the Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed when he wrote about the concert in Santa Barbara a few nights they reached L.A.. In fact, it was one of the strangest reviews I've read, in which he was seemingly enthusiastic about the performance, writing things like, "The homogeneity of instrumental texture he achieved couldn’t be beat. Liquid winds marvelously blended with stirring brass. Fabulous strings played as one." And later added, "Muti allowed all the time in the world for us to take this all in. He drew out every pause, pregnant with meaning. He painstakingly ascended to glorious, heaven-opening climaxes and faded slowly, oh so slowly, to heart-stopping black, a black so empty it felt like sensory deprivation." Indeed, he even tossed in a "perfect", noting that, "After all, in this unflappably perfect world, the 'Unfinished,' its two movements drawn out to nearly a half-hour, overwhelms with an unstoppable effusion of lyricism, each unfolding inner line with its own story to tell."
So, he must have been utterly overjoyed by such magnificence, right? I mean, after all, it had a texture that "couldn't be beat." It was "marvelous" and "fabulous" with "heaven-opening climaxes." And as "heart-stopping" and "perfect."
But -- somehow he managed to find a way to rag on it. "There is, though, a price to such awe," he wrote. Absolutely a price, of course, because, like, eww, who really wanted to be awed, for goodness sake?!
Who indeed, because "...but where was the articulation, the sense of saying something?" he asked. Yes, where, oh, where? Silly me, I had thought it was found when he wrote that conductor Muti "drew out every pause, pregnant with meaning." And when Muti showed "each unfolding inner line with its own story to tell." Yes, oh, heavens where would that blasted "sense of saying something" possibly be??
How odd was this review? Even within one paragraph, critic Swed found a way to rave about the orchestra being so masterful that you couldn't even argue with it -- after finding a way to have argued with it. "It was too powerful, too masterful, too big to fail. You don’t argue with performances like that. They’re not about you. Right or wrong, you submit."
And for all this music so heaven-opening to which you couldn't help but submit, he somehow impressively was able to complain about what wasn't even there.
"For some clueless reason," Swed wrote, "Muti, who has admirably championed several progressive young composers in Chicago, left off a recent CSO commission by the orchestra’s current composer-in-residence, Elizabeth Ogonek, from the Southern California portion of the tour."
And that was sort of the foundation of all his criticism, despite his raving of ethereal perfection. The core of his full article seemed to be complaining that for some "clueless reason” they only played standard fare, and not adventurous new music. Seriously, dude? First, I think it’s odd to review anyone what for they didn’t do because it's not what you want, not for what they actually did. And second, I don’t think the reason is “clueless” in the slightest but rather seemingly obvious – when you tour, after all, since audiences can only hear you once, on that single night and then you're gone, I’m guessing that those in attendance mostly want to hear you do what you are famous for that brought them there -- and also want to hear the familiar so that they can compare you to what they know. That seems pretty basic and hard not to grasp in the slightest, contrary to being "clueless."
(By the way, next week the Israeli Philharmonic is in town. They’ll be playing the Beethoven Piano Concerto #3 and Schubert Symphony #9. I wonder if critic Swed will chide them for their choice…)
Anyway, overall it actually was a very positive rave, just the oddest one I’ve ever seen.
And we might as well have a bit of the CSO and Muti here, as well. This is the "Jupiter" segment from Gustav Holst's The Planets. You'll likely recognize it. If that's okay...
This is a particularly fascinating "Not My Job" episode of NPR's quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! The guest is Brian May, co-founder and lead guitarist of the rock group, Queen. But what leaps out in host Peter Sagal's interview is discovering that he -- actually, really, truly -- has a PhD in astrophysics! Honest. And the story of how he got it, after some roadblocks, is all the more fun. As are the panelists' fascination with it all, and their greater-involvement in the questions than usual, filled with Queen references. Along with the discussion of his passion for 3-D photography. It's all charming, remarkable and great fun.
As readers of these pages have long-since figured out, I absolutely love Anthony Rizzo, first baseman for the Chicago Cubs. I've written about him often, most notably here about overcoming Hodgkins lymphoma at the age of 18 to become a major league All Star -- while being an all-around wonderful guy, regularly visiting hospitals and sick children, and raising money for cancer through charity events. And most recently, this August piece about him donating $3.5 million to a family center from his Rizzo Family Foundation. And then a month later, his foundation pledged another $650,000 to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System.
Happily, I get to write about The Rizz once again. Because yesterday, Major League Baseball honored Anthony Rizzo as this year's recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award. It's presented to the player who "best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field."
Hey, as I always say, I tries nots to steers ya wrong.
"To win this is amazing," Rizzo said. "That's the impact we want to make. A lot of organizations do amazing work, and we want to impact families directly, and this foundation, that's what the staple is.
"It's insane over the last few years how many people have come up to me and said how we've helped someone's friend of a friend of a friend, and it gets back to me. To touch lives like that, it's something you can't explain."
It doesn't come without a tinge of sadness, when this is the sort of charity work you do. Only two days early, a little girl, Mia, who Rizzo had met when he started his foundation and stayed close with the family, passed away. And Rizzo addressed it with his normal grace.
"Every time I saw her, she was a breath of fresh air," Rizzo said. "The last time I saw her was at Wrigley [Field], and she wasn't looking too good, she was in a wheelchair. But I remember her smiling at me. Losing her is tough, because she was close to the foundation.
"Going through this now for five, six years and visiting kids, there's been a lot of positives that we do and help with the families. But when you lose kids who become close to the foundation and are basically a staple of the foundation, it's not easy," Rizzo said. "That's part of doing this. You have lives you're saving, and then you lose some, and when you lose some, it's not easy to deal with."
I am absolutely sure that all the finalists for the Roberto Clemente Award are wonderful people and would have been highly deserving if they'd been the recipient. But I'm just really pleased to see Anthony Rizzo get recognized, because I think he's a gem.
In 2011, Daniel Radcliffe starred on Broadway In a revival of the musical How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, with a score by Frank Loesser. For better or worse, whenever the show presented a number on TV, it was usually the lively production, "Brotherhood of Man." A very enjoyable song, but after a while, I really would have liked to have seen something else. This video will not change that, it's the same song
But -- there's a very good reason for posting it.
This comes from its presentation at the 2012 Tony Awards. And what makes it special is that introducing the number are the two men who starred in the show in its original production in 1961 and 1995 revival. That would be Robert Morse and Matthew Broderick.
The number itself is enthusiastic fun. The introduction is a job, and a touch of theater history.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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