Continuing Education: Western Swing

Let's take the Hank Williams song from the last post on the subject as a baseline for the unity of country and Western music. The song dates to 1950, and it stands at something like the end of a trend in which the two genres had grown together in popular culture. Now let's look at how that baseline point was formed. The driving force was Hollywood, whose appetite for cowboy movies through the 1930s and 1940s included a developing taste for Western music. We had singing cowboys, who started off by singing traditional Western folk songs. The Sons of the Pioneers and Roy Rogers (originally together, later separate) were probably the most famous of these, from 1933. Here's a traditional Western tune.


 As cowboy movies continued to be popular through the 1930s and 1940s, the musical genre began to take on aspects of another genre very popular in the '40s: swing music. Here's the same group kicking up their heels a bit in a film from 1944.


Another band that was at the forefront of Western Swing music was Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.  I believe it's correct to ascribe the introduction of the steel guitar to them.  That first happened in 1935, when the band had already included a saxophone and other instruments more commonly found in jazz and swing music.

Now here's Bing Crosby making the point about the change that had overcome the Old West even in its music.

So this is the music that Hank Williams' alter-ego was performing.  It was a genre that had national attention and acclaim for a couple of decades.  It remained popular through the 1950s, when Westerns were still very popular in Hollywood, and even more popular on television.

Hollywood Westerns from the '50s, though, began to move away from Western Swing and back toward traditional Western music out of a desire to use the Western movie as a vehicle to present more serious films.  In Rio Grande, for example, the cavalry regimental singers return to traditional roots music in order to achieve authenticity. It is therefore ironic that the authentic Irish rebel song they picked for the Irish soldiers to sing, "The Bold Fenian Men," actually wasn't composed until the 20th century.

UPDATE:  Turns out we have a highly educated and well-connected fan of Western Swing in the Hall.  I petitioned Gringo for some favorites, and here's what he picked (see discussion).

Ida Red shows Bob and the Texas Playboys playing an old folk tune- or should we say fiddle tune.

Trouble in Mind shows what Bob Wills can do with a blues song. Al Striklin, my third hand connection to the Texas Playboys, is on the piano.

Home in San Antone is a movie clip with some good, swinging instrument solos. 

Take Me Back to Tulsa has a rare appearance of brother Luke Wills on the vocals. Tommy Duncan did most of the vocals.This is one of Bob’s best known tunes.

Two Interesting Articles...

...on subjects we occasionally discuss.

A female Marine with combat experience argues against the admission of female Marines into the Infantry officer program.  In doing so, she makes a number of points Cassandra has often made, but one that I think may be new to the discussion.  The author's own experience with medical attrition as a combat engineer includes a harrowing list of symptoms including infertility:  and that is from a successful tour, without injury from enemy action.
This said, we need only to review the statistics from our entry-level schools to realize that there is a significant difference in the physical longevity between male and female Marines. At OCS the attrition rate for female candidates in 2011 was historically low at 40 percent, while the male candidates attrite at a much lower rate of 16 percent. Of candidates who were dropped from training because they were injured or not physically qualified, females were breaking at a much higher rate than males, 14 percent versus 4 percent. The same trends were seen at TBS in 2011; the attrition rate for females was 13 percent versus 5 percent for males, and 5 percent of females were found not physically qualified compared with 1 percent of males. Further, both of these training venues have physical fitness standards that are easier for females; at IOC there is one standard regardless of gender. The attrition rate for males attending IOC in 2011 was 17 percent. Should female Marines ultimately attend IOC, we can expect significantly higher attrition rates and long-term injuries for women....
Opening combat arms MOSs, particularly the infantry, such observers argue, allows women to gain the necessary exposure of leading Marines in combat, which will then arguably increase the chances for female Marines serving in strategic leadership assignments.... Even if a female can meet the short-term physical, mental, and moral leadership requirements of an infantry officer, by the time that she is eligible to serve in a strategic leadership position, at the 20-year mark or beyond, there is a miniscule probability that she’ll be physically capable of serving at all. Again, it becomes a question of longevity.
When we were talking about Ranger school, some of us noted that the odds were that there would be a loss to the force of excellent officers by putting them in such a physically demanding situation.  However, the issue of longevity is new:  even the ones who do survive the training may not be able to survive twenty years of active service to attain admission to the general officer ranks.  If we are doing a cost/benefit analysis in terms of the good of the force, then, the costs are even higher than I had thought; and the expected benefit begins to vanish entirely.

The second article is over at National Review, a writer named David French does something that I know Elise and Cassandra both wish we did more often:  he attacks the problem set that conservatives often attack as arising from "feminism," but without attributing it to (or even mentioning) feminism or feminist groups.  Rather, he attributes the problem set to "the sexual revolution."

This strikes me as kind of a good point.  What's really objectionable is the destruction of the family, the prevalence of abortion, the translation of 'pursuit of happiness' to mean 'chasing after desires by adults, regardless of the cost to their families and children.'  It seems natural to look to the foremost defenders of unfettered abortion when you go to complain about abortion; but it may be that the underlying issue he identifies is the real source of the problem.

No, No, Joe:

As a service to Dad29, who doesn't know much about country music, a song. This one is by Hank Williams, Sr., when he was singing under a stage name ("Luke the Drifter"). You'll probably like it, both for the anti-Communist lyrics and the Western swing sound.  Note the steel guitar.  This was originally a Hawaiian instrument, but Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys introduced it into Western music in the 1930s.  It was a very popular sound in both country and Western music through to the 1960s.

An Excellent Annotation

"The other VC" has a great annotation of the Declaration of Independence.  It contains some highly useful and informative analysis.  This part is relevant to one of our recent discussions:
4. “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. . . .” Another overlooked line, which is of greatest relevance to our discussion of the first underlying assumption of the Constitution: the assumption of natural rights. Most emphasis today is placed on “the consent of the governed” passage that follows. But both parts of this sentence need to be reconciled. This part identifies the end of governments as securing the natural rights which the previous sentence affirms is the measure against which all government—whether of Great Britain or the U.S.—will be judged.
5. “. . . deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Today, there is a tendency to focus entirely on this portion of the sentence to the exclusion of the first part, but we should recognize both parts are there and do not mean the same thing. Although the ultimate criteria of legitimate governance is the protection of natural rights, this affirms that particular governments only gain jurisdiction to protect these rights by the consent of those who are governed. The “consent of governed” is a different idea from protecting rights. It is how to get government up and running. But it is a problematic idea in terms of rights. If you emphasize consent and de-emphasize rights, government gets empowered to do anything in the name of the people, so long as it can claim the “consent of the governed,” which is never going to be the actual consent of each and every person. So there is a tension between the first and second parts of the sentence.
 The concept is inherently limited by a natural law context.  This is true in Locke, too, although he is not as explicit:  a social contract can't legitimately do anything that people happen to agree to do.  It can't abrogate property rights, for example:  for Locke, those are pre-political natural rights, and any state that presumed to invalidate them is no longer legitimate.

My own view of legitimacy is somewhat different, but I think I agree that natural law needs to be the foundation stone.  If the Bill of Rights sets limits on the government -- or intends to do so, not that the government always listens or agrees to be so bound -- here is another, older, and more final set of limits.  There are some things that no government can legitimately do.

The Value of Compromise

Cassandra's Independence Day post warns of radicalism on the right.  Compromise is what made America:
Others saw them as cowardly traitors seeking to undermine the foundations of our system of government. Some in the anti-war movement took dissent beyond mere speech, urging soldiers and Marines to frag their officers. Violence, it seemed, did in fact solve some problems (even if one professed to abhor it). Two polar extremes, each animated by what to them seemed fundamental questions about the role of government, struggled to articulate their positions. The passion of those who hated and feared the Bush administration was matched by those who defended its actions. We were engaged in what - to us - seemed a titanic struggle to define the proper role and the legitimate authority of that government created in 1776 by men who themselves did not agree about a great many things.
A mere seven years later, Americans are still arguing about the role and legitimacy of the federal government. But the two parties do so from different sides and are motivated by different issues. Progressives, now that a Democrat occupies the Oval Office, are all in favor of a strong federal government with an assertive Executive branch. And conservatives of all stripes, now that we're out of power, fear that a strong federal government is in danger of extinguishing the freedoms we hold dear. Different freedoms, and different dreams.... Now it is conservatives who whisper of rebellion and armed resistance; of lack of consent.
These questions have faced every generation for over two centuries. They are not new to us, nor are our current discontents greater in kind or severity than the many follies and abuses that gave past generations ample cause for outrage. The old struggles divide us, still.

If I have one wish for this Fourth of July, it might be that we stop for a moment to contemplate our long history, considering both the great good and the equally great evils this nation has experienced. If we did not consider the governments of the past to be illegitimate when they made very great mistakes, by what rationale do we seek to undermine the legitimacy of our present government, however deeply we disagree with its policies?...
I'm not sure when compromise ceased being the quality that gave us our Declaration in 1776, the Articles of Confederation in 1781 and - when that minimalist framework proved insufficient to the task of governing a handful of former colonies - the Constitution in 1789 and become a threat to the principles outlined in them. The men who signed all three of these documents did not agree about a great many things. To secure their signatures and their consent to the greatest experiment in representative government the world had yet known, compromise was needed.
And if we hope to hold onto what our forebears bequeathed to us, we had better relearn the skills that made our way of life possible in the first place. 
I am not unsympathetic to the idea of compromise.  Back in 2004 -- which I didn't take to be a referendum on the legitimacy of the nation, but on whether we would or would not surrender in Iraq and to al Qaeda -- I wrote the following:
In the next years, we must remember the 55 million [who voted for Kerry]. It may be that some of them can be won over, through argument or through example, or even -- on matters not of principle -- through compromise. Even when not, we must remember that they showed that America is their country too: no one can ever again claim to be backed by the "silent majority." That majority has now spoken, but it spoke on both sides. 
We should remember that they felt all the passion and concern that we did ourselves, and found that doing everything they could only led to the defeat of their cause. That kind of defeat can weaken the Republic, which many of us are sworn to uphold. It weakens it by undermining faith and confidence in the institutions. We must take care to be sure they find fair hearing of their concerns in the institutions that conservatives now control. The government must serve them as well. We should take care to observe the tenets of Federalism, and not use the power of the Federal government to try and influence liberal states according to a general will. We should erect new walls in that regard, so that our disappointed neighbors can still live the lives they want to live in what is also their country. 
That's the kind of compromise I think is sustainable in this country, which is deeply divided on basic values.  If we can't achieve that renewed Federalism -- if we continue to insist on using the vast power of the Federal government to force compliance out of the part of America that disagrees with us -- we will have war whether we want it or not.

Nor is this new.  If we are to grant Cassandra's wish, and re-examine the way in which the nation advanced to its state of flourishing liberty, we will find only some few compromises -- and a great deal of uncompromising violence.  Even where we see compromises, we see them in the context of threats of armed rebellion, secession and disunion.  The Great Compromise arose because Southern and Northern states would not otherwise agree to be bound together.  The Compromise of 1850, which agreed that we would remain half-slave and half-free, arose because otherwise the Southern states would leave the union entirely.  It was granted only at the point of civil war.

If it were compromise that was at the root of liberty, we would have remained half-slave and half-free.  It was Lincoln's uncompromising stance, and hundreds of thousands of dead, that resulted in liberty for the slaves.  The ratification of the Reconstruction amendments was forced by military occupation.  The withdrawal of that occupation was the carrot offered in return for Southern acceptance of a Republican presidency in the Compromise of 1877.  

The late 19th century saw the rise of labor unions as a force in politics.  The compromises they won were won through strikes and clashes with the US Army, whose main duty between the end of the Civil War and the first World War was suppressing unions.  It was their willingness to keep fighting in the face of such suppression that compelled compromise.

Likewise, when desegregation of the schools was commanded by the Supreme Court of the United States, Arkansas called out its national guard in order to resist the command.  It took the 101st Airborne to make that good.  The history of desegregation -- not only in the South, but everywhere -- is marked with bombings, lynchings, terrorism, snipers, and blood.  It was achieved only because the force brought to bear in its favor overwhelmed the force brought to bear against it.  The compromise was the compromise of submitting to desegregation in return for an end to the pain.

The great lesson is that compromise comes only at the point of disunion and violence.  If we have principles we are prepared to insist upon, we must be willing to contemplate -- and indeed, to prepare for -- disunion and even civil war.

That is not to disdain compromise, or to set it aside.  It is, rather, the only way to achieve a compromise on such a basic and deeply-felt matter.  It is the way we have always treated these things.  Conflict is how liberty ever came to flourish at all.

I hope this will be of comfort to my dear friend Cassandra, to whom the murmurings of revolt on the right seem disconcerting and immoderate.  These things do not spell the end of America or its liberty:  they are the root of American liberty, and they have always been its nourishment.  It is only through such mutterings, and sometimes far more than muttering, that our compromises have been achieved.

So take heart, and look to your arms.  We may hope not to need them, but we dare not lay them aside. We must have the option of practical recourse to them if we are to compel the kind of compromise we need.

Evil shale-gas fracking corporations slash U.S. carbon footprint

Don't you hate it when the market forces changes in energy consumption that bureaucratic bullying could not?  Citing a government report, blogger John Hanger reports:
After the first quarter, the USA's 2012 [carbon] emissions are falling sharply again and may drop to 1990 levels, or just slightly above that important milestone, according to data in EIA's latest Monthy Energy Review.  .  .  .  [T]he shale gas revolution, and the low-priced gas that it has made a reality, is the key driver of falling carbon emissions, especially in the last 12 months. . . .  Shale gas production has slashed carbon emissions and saved consumers more than $100 billion per year.  Truly astonishing!

Old Husbands' Tales

Not really.  I was just having a little gender-bending fun.  The site is really called "Life's Little Mysteries," and it contains an entertaining variety of explanations.  For instance, it's possible that Gollum really would have submerged upon falling into Mount Doom, though you might have thought he would float, lava being denser than a living body.  Perhaps more to the point for those of us more likely to visit the coast than an active volcano as the summer vacation season opens, you shouldn't pee on a jellyfish sting, but pouring vinegar on it may help.

For alternative views, this scientist asserts that all home remedies commonly believed to assuage the pain of either bee or wasp stings are rubbish.  This one cites a lot of contradictory evidence regarding the treatment of fire ant stings with everything from acids to alkalines to meat tenderizers.  He adds the helpful advice that you should try either ammonia or bleach, but never mix them together, as they will release deadly chlorine gas.  Not that this should matter much outdoors, but people have been known to hurt themselves badly in enclosed bathrooms, especially poking their faces down too close to toilet boils that have been cleaned with, say, Ajax and ammonia.  This more medically oriented site says just remove the stinger, if any, wash with soap and water, and try ice, antihistamines, pain relievers, and maybe think about when you last had a tetanus booster.  I don't know if any of this works; I barely react to bees, wasps, or fire ants in any case.  I also found out this week that I'm nearly immune to a scorpion sting.  That same day, however, I found out that a bite from my own danged cat will send me to the urgent-care clinic for antibiotics to treat a thumb that's still swollen and painful now two days later (but on the mend).  Well, at least my tetanus booster was up to date.

H/t Maggie's Farm

Independence Day

Pause and reflect.
When in the course of human events  it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation...

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures....

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures....

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation...
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:...
You can make a lot of distinctions here, if you care to do so.  But there's a lot to compare, however carefully you wish to contrast.

Happy Independence Day.  Maybe it's time for a little rebellion.

UPDATE:  Dr. Mead has composed a modernized version of the Declaration.

George Washington was just as good as Bill Clinton:

Another poll to help us achieve despair.  Best Presidents Ever:
5. (tie) George Washington, +15 points (16 percent place in top-2, 1 percent place in bottom-2)
5. (tie) Bill Clinton, +15 points (28 percent place in top-2, 13 percent place in bottom-2)
Man, that's depressing.

The Palio

Machu Picchu

Speaking of crazy Russians, here is one who has assembled a remarkable virtual tour of Machu Picchu out of high-definition photographs.  If you haven't got the time or the money for a trip to Peru, at least you can virtually take the hike and look around!

Theme Songs

The Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys settles on this for their internet theme song.  There's a significant amount of bad language, but the singer is Russian, so probably it's not even obscene by relevant community standards.  In any case, 2:37-2:50 is brilliant.

I never thought of having a theme song.  Nevertheless, I guess our theme song would have to be this.

Well, OK, it has the disadvantage of being an hour and nine minutes long.  But it's worth it, and isn't that the point?


A friend sent me this link, designed to make us miss the Great Communicator.

The verdict on the court

My husband and I have been going back and forth over whether Justice Roberts's decision can be defended.  I was inclined to stick up for him at first, but I'm coming around to the opinion that he fell into the trap of issuing an opinion tainted by politics.  That they weren't the politics his enemies predicted he would fall prey to doesn't change this conclusion.  The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal did the best job I've seen so far explaining where he went wrong:
America has its origins in a rebellion against arbitrary and pernicious taxation and the Framers wanted to make it extremely difficult to impose or raise direct taxes.  These can easily morph into plenary police powers, the regulation of private behavior and conduct that the Constitution vests in the states.  For this reason, while the taxing power in addition to raising revenue can achieve regulatory results, those regulatory results must be constitutional themselves. 
That boundary held for 225 years until Thursday's ruling, as the Court had repeatedly struck down Congress's efforts to arrogate to itself police powers under either the Commerce Clause or the taxing power.  The Chief Justice ruled instead that the mandate was an unconstitutional exercise of federal police powers under the Commerce Clause, only to transform the taxing power into a license for the federal government to impose taxes whose defining feature is commanding people as members of society. His discovery erases the limiting principle—apportionment—that constrains the taxing power for everything besides income and excises. . . . [T]he punishments in the [current] tax code for inactivity come in the form of not being able to claim benefits that Congress in its graces bestows.  Such as: If you don't borrow to buy a home, you don't get a mortgage interest deduction.  Congress has never passed a tax on a lack of gasoline or a tax on a failure to buy gasoline, any more than Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause by telling people to buy gasoline or else pay a penalty. 
His ruling, with its multiple contradictions and inconsistencies, reads if it were written by someone affronted by the government's core constitutional claims but who wanted to uphold the law anyway to avoid political blowback and thus found a pretext for doing so in the taxing power.  If this understanding is correct, then Chief Justice Roberts behaved like a politician, which is more corrosive to the rule of law and the Court's legitimacy than any abuse it would have taken from a ruling that President Obama disliked.  The irony is that the Chief Justice's cheering section is praising his political skills, not his reasoning. Judges are not supposed to invent political compromises.

Cardboard tomatoes -- a mistake?

Or did they do it to us on purpose?  I always figured that tastelessness in modern tomatoes was an unintended consequence of the desire to make them firmer and easier to transport.  It's true that the worthless flavor and texture of just about all supermarket tomatoes is an unintended consequence, but not of the desire to make them as tough as tennis balls.  It was a side-effect of something far more useless:  a gene that makes the tomatoes turn uniformly red when ripe, instead of leaving unsightly patches of green.  So now they're purty, but not worth the trouble of chewing.  The linked article claims that researchers think they figured out to turn the flavor gene back on, but regulations forbade them actually to taste a research product, so they're not sure, and anyway they'd be crazy to try to market an evil GM tomato, right?

Heirloom tomatoes have escaped this fate, so it's still possible to grow a decent tomato at home.  At least, I assume it's possible for some of you.  We have terrible luck with tomatoes here, perhaps because we don't use pesticides, but perhaps even more because our climate tends to go from "too cold to bloom" to "too hot to set fruit" in the space of about a week every spring.  It makes me want to build an air-conditioned greenhouse, because a good tomato is the crown of creation.

Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld

Jimbo at BLACKFIVE posted a link to this gentleman's obituary, and he's right:  it's a remarkable one, well worth reading.  His was a life well led!

Google fu

Every Sunday, the "Rocket Science" blog I enjoy so much posts a lot of links to a variety of science articles.  For the last couple of weeks it's been boring, but today is a bonanza.  One of my favorites is a short article stuffed with tips for Google searches.

If you've ever worked as a lawyer or paralegal, you probably know a lot of tricks for searches in sites like Lexis or Westlaw that permit you to search for X but not Y, or X within 15 words of Y, or exactly the phrase "X Y Z," or only documents that have all three of X, Y, and Z.  It seems you can do the same things with Google code, as spelled out in this article.  I already knew that typing "Pendergast L. Snooks" will weed out the pages that mention that far less interesting fellow, Pendergast W. Snooks.  But "Pendergast L. Snooks" -sheep will enable you to focus on Mr. Snooks's  invaluable contributions to heirloom tomato production without bogging you down in a lot of articles about the unfortunate farm scandal.

You may also have known that, once you're on a page, you can use "Ctrl-F" to search for a word within it.  I use that one all the time.  I've noticed, though, that search engines will send me to sites that don't contain all words I was looking for, which is annoying.  Typing "Pendergast L. Snooks" intext:tomato will zero in on his important horticultural work while filtering out the many web pages distracted by his earlier careers in basketball, espionage, and Hollywood.

You can upload an image to Google and ask it to show you "more like this."

It's just the handiest article I've found in ages.