Archive for September, 2016


summer’s end


The other night it was so cold and wet, I finally broke down and brought out the space heater. It was glorious!

In a way, it was a self-imposed admission of the changing season… sort of like me lighting the retort for my wife’s cremation. An unpleasant event, but one in which I at least participated. It will get warm and sunny again, but this is the beginning of the end.

I really don’t have much more for you today. The weather is cold and gray, and I am in a foul mood. The only good thing is my housekeeper is here today and we’re drinking coffee and sharing gossip.

I’m going to get back to that.



Groove of the Day

Listen to LeRoy Anderson and His Orchestra performing “The Last Rose Of Summer”


Weather Report

76° and Cloudy


hey jude


Yesterday I spoke for some time with a film producer in Los Angeles who wants to do a short documentary about our work. I explained to her that it doesn’t matter whether the kids we serve are innocent or guilty, nor whether their cases can be easily adjudicated. In the cases of especially hopeless or desperate situations, at the very least we can hold out hope and give young people the consolation that they are not in their dilemmas alone. Sometimes there is little we can do, we can never deliver instant solutions… but in a few cases, we have made a big difference in kids’ lives. As more parricides serve out their lengthy sentences, there will be a place waiting for them when they’re released, where they can live and work in an unforgiving world.

After I hung up the phone, I began to think about St. Jude, the patron saint of desperate and hopeless cases, and I began to research Jude in search of some pearl of wisdom I’d overlooked. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but I found one of significance.

But first, a little background of basic facts about Jude.

St. Jude was one of Christ’s original 12 apostles. He is also known as Thaddeus or Thaddaeus—said to be a surname for the name Labbaeus which means “heart” or “courageous.” He is said to have written the book of Jude, which some religious scholars say contains some of the finest expressions of praise to God in the New Testament. He is thought to have been martyred in Beirut around 65 AD. His images often include a club or axe, symbolizing the way he died. Jude’s images often show a flame above his head, referring to the Pentecost, where he and the other apostles are said to have received the Holy Spirit. His feast day is October 28.

Jude became associated with desperate situations because of a letter he wrote to the churches of the East, in which he says that the faithful must keep going even in harsh or difficult circumstances. The personal ad sections of some newspapers occasionally include messages from people calling on St. Jude for help in times of need, or thanking him for his support and guidance. Some people choose to carry the image of St. Jude on a medal or as a pendant on a necklace to provide comfort.

In 1955, entertainer Danny Thomas and a group of businessmen named a research hospital in Memphis TN after St. Jude to treat the most hopeless childhood diseases, primarily cancer, entirely free of charge.

St. Jude is often confused with Judas Iscariot—another of the original 12 apostles, but the one who betrayed Christ—and this is the key to the interesting fact I found. Apparently, because of the confusion between “Jude” and “Judas,” some believers thought that neither was listening to prayers about their troubles. So they figured “what the hell”—they were desperate after all—and they began directing their prayers to St. Jude to get through the perceived clutter. Thereafter, because life is so daunting to so many people, Jude became one of the most popular patron saints out there.

I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of desperate requests. Somehow word is getting out there and an increasing number of juvenile parricides are contacting me out of the blue. I’m not always able to help—and the important thing is to never give up hope—but so far I haven’t turned anyone down.



Groove of the Day

Listen to The Beatles performing “Hey Jude”


Weather Report

77° and Clear to Partly Cloudy





I’m sorry… I don’t really have much for you today.

We’ve just come off a period of de-motivating gray, cold, rainy weather, and I drove into town yesterday to get provisions and to do a couple of loads of laundry. When I got back home, I just wanted to sleep. Anyway, all I had waiting for me is putting the finishing touches on a particularly difficult post that involves some fact-checking, and frankly I just didn’t have the energy to address it.

The best news today is that John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo, is having $41 million in stock and salary taken back by his board because that bank opened about two million unwanted deposit and credit card accounts without customers’ authorization—apparently to meet sales quotas. Last week, Stumpf faced a grilling in Congress, with US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) accusing him of “gutless leadership” and saying he should resign… but he won’t for now. His compensation forfeiture will be the industry’s biggest, at least since the 2008 financial crisis. Former community banking chief Carrie Tolstedt, who has left the firm but was responsible when workers opened the unwanted accounts, will lose $19 million in unvested stock.

But the media are all over that story, and there’s little I can add except the reminder that there are many more bankers who should be held responsible for creating so much misery in recent years. Yet you and I both know that is unlikely to happen.

Well, the sun is out today and it’s heating up. I’m going to do my best to get back to work and have something substantive for you tomorrow.




Groove of the Day

Listen to Frank Sinatra & the Harry James Orchestra performing “All or Nothing At All”


Weather Report

78° and Clear to Partly Cloudy


the winner


Today it’s said that more than 84 million tuned in—the biggest audience since the Carter/Reagan debate—and that doesn’t even count the number who watched the debate on their computers and streaming devices. Yet it’s unlikely that many minds were changed by last night’s debate. Voters who were looking forward to a knock-out punch by either candidate were disappointed; each candidate delivered “more of the same.”

In the first of three scheduled presidential debates, Trump tried to pin the blame on Clinton for chronic problems facing the US, while Clinton put Trump on the defensive with a poised and well-prepared performance. Clinton denounced Trump as racially insensitive, accused him of “stiffing” small businesses that did work for him, and said he was resisting calls to release his tax returns because he had something to hide. Trump derided Clinton as a “typical politician” and said she had failed to affect positive change in her 30 years in public life.

Election day results will probably prove that the debates are irrelevant. Voters will likely vote their prejudgments as the main opinion polls show both candidates in a virtual tie. Post-debate results are reminiscent of both candidates’ post-convention numbers.



Public Policy Polling’s post-debate survey found that 51% of voters nationally said Clinton won, while 40% favored Trump. In a CNN/ORC snap poll, 62% said Clinton won, while 27% said Trump had a better night. Republican pollster Frank Luntz had a focus group of undecided voters watch the debate for CBS News, and the group named Clinton the victor 16 to 5. “This is a good night for Hillary Clinton, it is not a good night for Donald Trump,” Luntz said, “but there is still time and there are still undecided voters.”

“Markets started to call the debate for Hillary within the first 15 minutes or so, with the Mexican peso surging in what is probably its busiest Asian session in years,” said Sean Callow, a senior currency analyst at Westpac in Sydney, Australia. For the markets, the experienced Clinton, a former secretary of state and senator, is seen as the candidate of stability and the status quo, while Trump, an opinionated narcissist billionaire, represents uncertainty.

Even if the first polls last night found that most viewers believed that Hillary Clinton won the debate against Donald Trump—who cares? Each candidate delivered pretty much as expected. Low bar, high bar—it matters not. For his part, Trump’s justifications for his claims pretty much boil down to “because I told you so.” Clinton’s boil down to “wonk, wonk, wonkety-wonk, blah-blah-blah.”

What a choice.



Groove of the Day

Listen to the Kings of Leon performing “Don’t Matter”


Weather Report

70° and Partly Cloudy


stereotypical roles


Matt Frye took this photo at his local library in Kansas City MO, when he noticed the stark difference between the messages for boys and girls.


Girls’ Life vs. Boys’ Life? Magazine covers spark an uproar.

by Tracy Mumford, Minnesota Public Radio

September 23, 2016

When Matt Frye took his kids to the library, he wasn’t expecting to start an internet uproar.

But when he saw his 7-year-old daughter looking at the cover of Girls’ Life magazine, he felt he had to do something.

The text framing the cover model’s face promised tips for “Your Dream Hair” and “Fall Fashion You’ll Love.” “Quiz! Are you ready for a BF?” it asked.

A few rows up sat Boys’ Life magazine, with the cover: “Explore Your Future: Astronaut? Artist? Firefighter? Chef?” It featured a microscope, a satellite, a hammer. It did not offer a “denim checklist.”

Frye put them side by side and snapped a photo, which he posted online. “A sad microcosm of what our society says being a girl vs being a boy means,” he wrote. “With three girls to raise, this breaks my heart. I’ll fight like hell for my girls to not exist in this reality.”

He tagged his local library in Kansas City, thinking maybe the staff would rethink its magazine selection, and that would be it.

That was three weeks ago. Frye’s photo comparing the Girls’ Life and Boys’ Life covers has now been shared thousands of times, including by Amy Schumer, who simply wrote: “No.”

The comedian’s commentary landed the photo on the Today Show, and now thousands of people around the world have joined the conversation: What kind of message does this send to girls?

St. Paul graphic designer Katherine Young first saw the picture on Facebook when her friend shared it with the note: “Isn’t it 2016? Isn’t a woman running for president?”

It seemed so sexist, she almost didn’t believe it could be real. But it was.

“I was also taken aback enough to do something,” Young said. So she got to work. She swapped out the photo and the call-outs with her own twist, and posted it to her blog late one night.

“I fixed it,” she wrote.

Graphic designer Katherine Young revised the cover of Girls’ Life magazine after the internet uproar. “I fixed it,” she wrote.


In Young’s version, “Wake Up Pretty” became “Wake Up Hungry?” and “Your Dream Hair” became “Your Dream Career.” The original cover model, actress Olivia Holt, was swapped out for Olivia Hallisey, the 2015 Google Science Fair grand prize winner.

Young’s modified cover blew up. Her blog—which she joked that not even her mom reads—went viral and the picture spread across Twitter and Facebook.

“The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive and very heartwarming,” Young said. “I’ve heard from people who are girls’ advocates to the UN, from women who are front line in the military, and even from just a dad saying, ‘You know, I realize I tell my son I’m proud of him and his accomplishments, and I always tell my daughter she’s pretty. I have to be mindful to tell her: Wow, you did a great on this test. Wow, you did great kicking that goal.'”

“Just knowing that there are people out there that kind of got a wake-up call from this was pretty amazing,” she said.

Young isn’t advocating for people not to buy Girls’ Life—the problem is bigger than just one cover or just one magazine. The beauty-first message follows every modern teenage girl everywhere she goes, from the movie theater to the grocery store.

“There are girls out there who will never see themselves … in the media,” she said. “No matter what science fair they win, no matter what solo they sing, they will still judge themselves on what stores carry their jeans size or if a magazine cover looks like them.”

Young grew up devouring girls’ magazines that offered the same promises as the Girls’ Life cover.

“I loved them. I went through them and picked out the lipstick shade I needed to get next, and always looked at the fashion tips—and all the fashion tips never fit my body type.”

Magazines today, she said, can and should do better.

Girls’ Life, which was founded in 1994, is aimed at girls age 10 to 16. “Parents can trust GL to guide their girls through the growing-up years—without making them grow up too fast,” the magazine promises.

Despite the similar name, it is not affiliated with Boys’ Life, which is the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. Girls’ Life is a for-profit publication.

And behind its much-dissected August cover, there are tips on making good decisions and doing your best in school. Articles on the magazine’s website offer advice on what to do if your friend comes out to you and how to start prepping for college, alongside hair dye tips and an answer to “Can I shave my tummy hair?”

“I’m really proud of the ‘Wake Up Pretty’ article,” said Karen Bokram, the publisher and founding editor of Girls’ Life. “It’s about healthy sleep habits. We all know teenagers don’t get enough sleep.”

Bokram has found her magazine sucked into a maelstrom of internet outrage this month, and she encourages people to read it before they criticize.

“Teenage girls have a lot of different interests,” she said. The magazine tries to incorporate all of them, and that means advice on hair straighteners and eyeliner alongside fall book recommendations.

Girls’ Life isn’t the only publication this year to ignite a debate on messaging for young girls. This spring, Discovery Girls, which has a younger audience, published a spread on: “What Swimsuit Best Suits You?” Critics slammed them for encouraging girls as young as 8 to worry about their curves.

For Young, the overwhelming response to her modified Girls’ Life cover shows that people are ready for change. She wants to see the conversation push beyond magazines.

“Even more important than that magazine on that shelf is just being positive influences in a girl’s life,” she said. “Watch the messages you’re sending to girls and boys—I think that is more impactful than anything they pick up on the shelf.”


Tracy Mumford is a digital producer for MPR News.



Groove of the Day

Listen to Sophia Grace featuring Silento performing “The Girl in the Mirror”


Weather Report

56° Cloudy and Rain


RIP Buckwheat Zydeco


Buckwheat Zydeco’s Stanley ‘Buckwheat’ Dural Jr. dies

by Mark Mobley, National Public Radio

September 24, 2016

Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr., an international ambassador for Louisiana roots music with his genre-leaping band Buckwheat Zydeco, died early Saturday morning. He was 68.

Dural died of lung cancer at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, La. In August, Cynthia Simien, an agent and manager who is married to Zydeco musician Terrance Simien, and Dural’s daughter Tomorrow Dural started a GoFundMe account to defray Dural’s medical expenses.

Given the easy familiarity of the zydeco sound—accordion, washboard, a driving beat and infectious energy—in everything from pop music to TV commercials, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that it was not always instantly recognized outside its home. In 1987, when Island Records, the home of U2, released the Buckwheat Zydeco album On a Night Like This, Dural became the first zydeco artist on a major label. This was just one milestone among decades of them in a career that included a Grammy and performances at the Summer Olympics and President Bill Clinton’s inaugural festivities. He performed with musicians as varied as Eric Clapton, Yo La Tengo and the Boston Pops.

Dural, the son of amateur musicians—a singing mother and accordion-playing father—began his career on keyboards. He played R&B and funk until he sat in as organist with the band of one of his father’s best friends, Clifton Chenier, “the king of zydeco.”

“We played for four hours nonstop,” Dural told Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon in 2009, “and he was telling people goodnight and I couldn’t believe it. And I thought we had just got onstage; that’s how much energy he had projected. I wound up staying with Clifton over two years. I said, ‘Next band I get, I’ll be playing accordion.'”

Dural took up the accordion in 1978 and founded Buckwheat Zydeco a year later. In 30 years of touring and recording he took zydeco to unexpected physical and musical places. From his take on Bob Dylan’s “A Night Like This” for Australian TV in the ’80s, to “Hey Joe” on David Letterman’s Late Show in the ’90s, to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in May, Dural was a welcoming presence who made his audiences happy.

“If you want to get respect, you’ve got to give respect,” Dural told World Cafe host David Dye in 2009. “You got to be positive. You can’t have no like positive/negative, positive/negative … It’s not like a car battery.”


Mark Mobley is a commentator and music producer for National Public Radio.



Groove of the Day

Listen to Buckwheat Zydeco performing “Ya Ya”


Weather Report

67° Cloudy and Rain




The Criminal Justice Reform That Could Actually Reach Obama’s Desk

In a year of inaction, a bill that changes the way we treat juveniles makes some headway.

by Eli Hager, The Marshall Project

September 22, 2016

Even though the year began with strong bipartisan support for federal sentencing reform, no major changes to the criminal justice system have made it out of Congress thanks to a combination of legislative gridlock, election-year rhetoric about rising crime in some cities, and Republican reluctance to hand President Obama a major victory.

But on Thursday, the House of Representatives quietly—and overwhelmingly passed what might be the most significant justice reform measure to reach Obama in his tenure.

The bill is an update of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which has been expired since 2007. It would withhold federal funding from states that hold minors in adult jails. Unlike previous versions of the law, the new bill would extend that protection to juveniles who have been charged with adult crimes but are still awaiting trial.

The legislation would also ban states from locking up minors for so-called status offenses—things that are crimes only because of the age of the offender, such as truancy or breaking curfew. The law also would extend to cases in which minors are charged with only a status offense but jailed for violating a court order connected to the case. That previously had been an exception.

“I’m delighted, but also optimistic,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), a lead sponsor of the bill. “Getting a law passed on justice issues—one that doesn’t go backward—has been a challenge, to say the least. But we ought to be able to conform the House and Senate versions and get this to the president” before his time in office runs out.

The Senate version of the bill has made it out of committee and has almost unanimous support. But it still faces an obstacle in Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has singlehandedly blocked the measure from being put to a quick voice vote. Cotton’s home state, Arkansas, locks up minors for running away and other status offenses at a disproportionately high rate, Mother Jones reported this week.

A spokeswoman said Cotton is concerned the proposed law would erode the power of the bench. “It is prudent to allow states to determine if their judges—often in consultation with the parents and attorneys involved—should have the discretion to order secure confinement as a last-resort option,” Cotton spokeswoman Caroline Rabbitt said.

Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the lead proponents of the bill on the Senate side, have been trying for months to reach a compromise with Cotton. If their effort fails, it would fall to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to take up precious floor time—in a season devoted to reaching a spending deal and funding the fight against the Zika virus—with a debate and vote on the legislation.

“Since it so closely resembles the Senate bill, Chairman Grassley is optimistic that it can be passed in the Senate,” said spokeswoman Beth Levine.

Either way, the bill’s passage through at least one chamber comes at a surprising time: right before the election. From the heated Republican primary race through his doomsday speech at the party’s national convention in July, Donald Trump has made the specter of rising crime a prominent issue in his campaign—and the chances of substantive criminal justice reform at the federal level have faltered accordingly.

But despite the status of many bills to reform the adult system, the juvenile bill still enjoys broad bipartisan support.

“It took this long more out of inertia than opposition,” Scott said. “We kept bringing it up—‘juvenile justice, juvenile justice’—and I think we just wore them down.”

As reforms go, the changes are not radical.

“This is the floor, the minimum of how we should treat children,” said Marcy Mistrett, the CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, which has been lobbying Congress to pass the bill since 2007.

The JJDPA law has existed in various forms since 1974 and provides federal grants to states on the condition they adhere to several “core principles” for detaining youth: not in adult facilities, not for status offenses, and not in ways that impact different racial groups differently. But over time, loopholes have been added to the legislation, all of which the new, reauthorized bill aims to close.

States that do not want to comply with the new law, should it pass, could choose to forgo a portion of their federal funding, a modest $92 million per year to be shared across the country—assuming Congress agrees to appropriate the money. The bill also does not contain a key goal for reformers of the juvenile system: restricting the use of solitary confinement in youth prisons.

But the bill would require states to collect new data on racial disparities at every stage of the juvenile system and to present the federal government with a concrete plan for how they will address those divides. It would also require states to ensure that academic credits and transcripts are transferred, in a timely fashion, between schools and juvenile-detention facilities, and that children get full credit toward graduation for any schoolwork they completed while incarcerated.

Finally, the legislation would ban the shackling of pregnant girls, provide funding for delinquency prevention and gang-intervention programs, and require states to report data on juvenile recidivism rates and other measures.



Groove of the Day

Listen to Elvis Presley performing “Jailhouse Rock”


Weather Report

85° Partly Cloudy and Rain