Thursday, September 17, 2009

Camp Bucca closes, Mary Travers passes away

CNN reports that one US military prison in Iraq, Camp Bucca, has been closed. BBC Radio World Service notes that at one time the prison held many prisoners "some of whom were held for years without charge." Martin Chulov (Guardian) observes it was the largest US prison and that "Camp Cropper near Baghdad airport -- will still be operating" and he quotes Mohaamed al-Janabi stating, "I was there for 18 months. I was arrested by the Americans at my uncle's house because one of their trucks had been blown up the day before. They fed me well and they trained me in woodwork and I only ever did four nights in isolation. But I should not have been there in the first place. My story was similar to almost everyone else I met there." Hannah Allam files "U.S. military closes huge prison in southern Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers):

It grew into the military's largest prison in the world, and commanders used it as a closely monitored laboratory for studies in long-term detention. The results changed U.S. military doctrine on enemy prisoners of war, leading to new manuals on interrogation and detention practices, commanders told McClatchy in previous interviews.
As Iraqi officials point out, however, the changes at Bucca came only after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal exploded into the news, undercutting the U.S. military's perceived moral superiority and fueling support for insurgents. For many Iraqis, U.S.-run prisons remain synonymous with torture, sexual assault, and indefinite detention without formal charges — though Iraqi-run prisons are now accused of similar violations.
"Bucca has been a shameful stain on Iraq since the regime change," said Shatha al Obousi, a Sunni Muslim lawmaker who serves on the Iraqi parliament's human rights committee. "The problems Iraqi prisoners had with the Americans weren't related to hunger or mistreatment, but it was the long delays in their cases, the lack of investigations and lack of charges. Prisoners didn't know the status of their cases and they remained there for years."
Former detainees interviewed by McClatchy described a hostile American guard force and an even more terrifying population of hardened jihadist detainees who operated their own parallel "prison command," which was known for stuffing rocks into socks and beating prisoners who didn't pledge allegiance to them.

We'll note Mary Travers death because Amy Goodman didn't have time to (a headline -- a brief one at that, isn't noting the passing). Peter, Paul and Mary's Mary Travers died yesterday at the age of 72. Peter, Paul and Mary's official website carries this statement from Peter Yarrow:

In her final months, Mary handled her declining health in the bravest, most generous way imaginable. She never complained. She avoided expressing her emotional and physical distress, trying not to burden those of us who loved her, especially her wonderfully caring and attentive husband, Ethan. Mary hid whatever pain or fear she might have felt from everyone, clearly so as not to be a burden. Her love for me and Noel Paul, and for Ethan, poured out with great dignity and without restraint. It was, as Mary always was, honest and completely authentic. That's the way she sang, too; honestly and with complete authenticity. I believe that, in the most profound of ways, Mary was incapable of lying, as a person, and as an artist. That took great courage, and Mary was always equal to the task.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of my relationship with Mary Travers over the last, almost, 50 years, is how open and honest we were with each other, and I include Noel Paul Stookey in this equation. Such honesty comes with a price, but when you get past the hurt and shock of realizing that you're faulted and frequently wrong, you also realize that you are really loved and respected for who you are, and you become a better person. The trio's growth, our creativity, our ability to emerge over the years completely accepting of one another, warts and all, was a miracle. This gift existed, I believe, because of the music itself, which elicited from each of us the best of who we were. When we performed together, we gave our best to each other and to the audiences who came to hear us.
I have no idea what it will be like to have no Mary in my world, in my life, or on stage to sing with. But I do know there will always be a hole in my heart, a place where she will always exist that will never be filled by any other person. However painful her passing is, I am forever grateful for Mary and her place in my life.

And this message is also up at the front page of the website: "In lieu of sending flowers, for those who would like to contribute to a particular charity in memory of Mary, that information will be posted tomorrow after the family has an opportunity to make a decision." Rolling Stone notes:

Travers was born in Kentucky but attended high school in New York’s West Village, where her family lived in the same building as folk icon Pete Seeger. She became a disciple of the Weavers and performed with Seeger before Yarrow and his manager Albert Grossman (who later steered Bob Dylan’s career) recruited her for the trio. After seven months of rehearsals, the group made its debut in 1961 performing songs carefully arranged by Milk Okun. Their self-titled debut came out the following year and boasted the Grammy-winning "If I Had a Hammer," as well as "Lemon Tree" and Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." They hit Number One with "Leaving on Jet Plane" from 1967's Album 1700, but made a large impact off the charts as leading voices of protest.

Lynne Heffley (Los Angeles Times) adds:

Together and separately, Peter Yarrow, Noel (Paul) Stookey and Mary Travers have raised their voices for peace, for a nuclear-free America, to support the homeless and to protest apartheid in South Africa and human rights abuses in El Salvador, the Middle East and the then-Soviet Union.

Felix Contreras (NPR, link is audio and text) observes, "The group had 12 hit singles. One of them, "If I Had A Hammer," became an anthem for the civil rights movement. Another, "Puff the Magic Dragon," became an anthem of a different sort. Peter, Paul and Mary put a Bob Dylan song on the charts for the first time and introduced the work of other new folk singers and songwriters -- like John Denver, whose 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' became a hit when the group released it." Michael Yaki (San Francisco Chronicle) shares personal memories:

When I was old enough to drive, I remember going to Wolf Trap, the legendary venue in northern Virginia, to see Peter Paul and Mary. I don't recall my date, but I do remember the concert, two hours of classic PP&M, a special appearance by Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, and an audience singalong of every lyric to every song. It was magic.
The last time I saw Mary Travers was at the "American Reunion" celebration on the Washington Mall during the week leading up to the inauguration of President Clinton in January, 1993. I had heard that PP&M were appearing that day, and I distinctly remember going into a hot, crowded tent and stationing myself as close to the stage as possible to watch them. I never saw them again since, except on the occasional PBS pledge drive special.
There will be many tributes to Mary Travers, paying special homage to PP&M's tireless work on behalf of civil rights, the anti-war movement, to the crusade against nuclear power, and deservedly so. My memories are more personal, as a part of a time spent with my parents, singing songs to drive away the darkness and fill the silences of the night.

Michael Yaki notes, as Ava and I did Sunday, that Mary Travers was the inspiration for Janice on The Muppets. The Mama Cass Television Program, taped January 18, 1969, has been released on DVD for the first time. The special, hosted by the one and only Cass Elliot, features Joni Mitchell and Mary in one segment. Cass introduces them and Joni performs "Both Sides Now" and then Mary performs Laura Nyro's "And When I Die." All three women then sing Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." We quoted Peter earlier, we'll close on her passing with the statement from Paul (Noel Paul Stookey) at the group's website:

as a partner...she could be vexing and vulnerable in the same breath. as a friend she shared her concerns freely and without reservation. as an activist, she was brave, outspoken and inspiring - especially in her defense of the defenseless. and, as a performer, her charisma was a barely contained nervous energy - occasionally (and then only privately) revealed as stage fright.
sometimes frustratingly dismissive, i seldom heard her say she was sorry, yet she often displayed an immense generosity that would surprise even herself. witty, politically savvy, she was the master/mistress of the cutting exit line. once i was attempting to defend ronald reagan's educational policy. she interrupted me with "oh, for heaven's sake, do your homework!", turned on her heel and walked away. need i say it turned out she was right?
as the relationships in the trio continued to shift and grow, mary's insights and evolving comfort onstage drew her into the role of societal commentator and satirist; her genius revealed especially poking fun at the tumbling chaotic communications technology expanding around us.
her illness softened her outlook considerably. her work, her life and friends became more and more precious. and friends, especially women friends, closed ranks in the later years, returning in kindnesses so much of that which mary, their powerful feminine matriarch, had given them.
i am deadened and heartsick beyond words to consider a life without mary travers and honored beyond my wildest dreams to have shared her spirit and her career.

Amy Goodman didn't have time for that. Of course not, as we saw with Odetta, when a woman dies, Amy Goodman's somewhere else. A man few ever heard of (Utah Phillips comes to mind, but really any man)? She's devoting an entire program to. Goody gives Mary, who fought for social justice her entire life, a brief mention at the end of headlines. Forget a hammer, if Mary Travers had a penis, she'd get a full segment and the full hour of Democracy Now!

Instead Amy uses her time to spin for the liar of ACORN. The problem, Bertha Lewis, isn't that you got taped. The conservatives aren't your problem. Your problem is your organization encouraged prostitution -- child prostitution -- underage girls being brought into the country. I don't care if you have 700 employees. 700 employees really isn't a great deal and shame on you. It happened four times. Once was too many. Prostitution is illegal. Child prostitution? Offensive. Encouraging a 'pimp' and 'prostitute' to claim children from El Salvador for a 'tax credit,' counseling them that the only thing to worry about was that the children are enrolled in school?

Bertha Lewis says that her (700) employees can't be "absolutely perfect all the time." This isn't about 'perfection,' this is about the damn law. ACORN encouraged people to break the laws, multiple laws. And Bertha Lewis can whine all she wants about how "we know the right is doing a relentless campaign against us" when the reality is that if this isn't what ACORN expects of their employees, Bertha Lewis should be publicly thanking the two who did the tapings for bringing the problems to her attention.

She's a joke and it's so disgusting to watch these closet political cases try to act like this behavior is normal or acceptable or just a 'woops.' There's a reason Amy Goodman's relegated to the fringes: She belongs there. That thing just started airing and already Latino community members are expressing offense in e-mails. They're sick of "Race Queen" (Francisco) Amy Goodman who never calls out Bertha Lewis, never asks, "Why do your employees need training to know that prostitution is wrong? That bringing children into the country for prostitution is wrong?" Francisco's correct, Amy Goodman's nothing but a "Race Queen." Which is why she works in a clip of Peter, Paul and Mary not singing out against nuclear weapons and certainly not using their voices to draw attention to the assault on Latin America (might get sticky with pro-prostitution for El Salvador children Bertha Lewis on the show), but with "Oh, look, it's MLK!" clips. The world goes on and there were many, many events, issues and causes that the group supported and advocated on behalf of. Amy Goodman's inability to leave the year 1963 goes a long way towards explaining why she hides in a political closet and why 'race' on Democracy Now! has never included seriously examining the issues of Latinos, Asian-Americans, etc.

ACORN encouraged the exploitation of children, the sexual exploitation. They weren't real children but ACORN employees didn't know that. And they were happy (look at the tapes) to explain how to hide prostitution (call yourself an entertainer) and how to get tax credits for running a brothel staffed with underage Latinos you brought into the country to exploit. It's offensive and Simply Red Amy Goodman needs to stop trying to wrap the Civil Rights around ACORN. That's not about the Civil Rights Movment. ACORN employees willingly and repeatedly advised people on how to break criminal laws. It's offensive. As US White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs stated in yesterday's press briefing, "You know, Jake, as it relates to ACORN, obviously the conduct that you see on those tapes is completely unacceptable. I think everyone would agree with that."

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oh boy it never ends