Hot Air: Sabba-Sibby-Sabath

A Note From The Boss

I was too lazy to get this posted yesterday (it sat half written on my screen until early this AM) and I’ll be too busy to post a new one today, so here’s what I got, a day late. Enjoy. Peace, love & soul.

The Earth Says, “Hello!”

Does the headline up top ring a bell?

Sabba sibby sabba

Nooby abba nabba, lee lee lo lo

Tooby ooby walla

Nooby abba nabba

Early mornin’ singin’ song.

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Bombs Away

Friday was the anniversary of the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia. Eleven people were killed, 65 homes destroyed, and some 250 made homeless.

The whole fiasco came about when the police went to the MOVE compound in a densely packed neighborhood of row houses to arrest some members of the separatist commune on outstanding warrants. A gunfight ensued. The cops then dropped a couple of ammonium nitrate bombs on the roof of the MOVE house, setting off a fire that quickly spread to surrounding homes. Firefighters were under orders not to douse the flames and so the conflagration spread until the neighborhood looked like Berlin after the war.



Now, let’s not pretend the MOVE gang was a bunch of innocent little lambs. A fellow named Vincent Leaphart, who changed his name to John Africa, formed the commune in the early ’70s. The group loudly protested racism, police brutality, and other outrages we’ve come to expect here in this holy land. MOVE also called for a return to a hunter-gatherer society, calling for radical global de-industrialization and a general return to primitivism. Technology and medicine, Africa and his followers claimed, were destroying humankind. No real problem there. It’s not against the law to be a lunatic. But Africa and his followers — all of whom he insisted change their surnames to Africa — would broadcast diatribes via bullhorns and a public address system on the outside of their homes, making life hellish for the neighbors. They also staged public demonstrations, using their PA equipment to blare their message.

Still, all that was merely annoyance. Things turned dangerous in 1978 when the police came to the MOVE house to serve outstanding warrants for the arrests of several commune members. A gunfight broke out and 18 people including police officers, firefighters, MOVE members, and neighbors were injured. One police officer was killed. Seven MOVE members are serving 100-year sentences for first-degree murder (two members have already died in prison.)

The commune moved to a new home in 1981 and by 1985 had accumulated a new armful of warrants for arrests. That led to the confrontation on May 13th, 31 years ago Friday.

I understand the MOVE people were whacked out and presented a clear danger to police officers. They had to be apprehended and removed from civil society. But dropping bombs on their building and letting the flames and destruction spread for blocks seems to be a bit of a faulty strategy, no?

Five children of MOVE members lost their lives in the blaze. A federal jury eventually awarded MOVE survivors $1.5 million and ruled the Philadelphia police had used excessive force and had denied members their Constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Funny thing is — well, not funny at all, but you know what I mean — authorities overreacted in almost the exact same way just eight years later when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI raided the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texaco. This time the FBI used tanks modified as Combat Engineering Vehicles to deliver incendiary military-grade tear gas projectiles into the compound. The projectiles ignited fuel the Branch Davidians had spread around the building and the ensuing inferno resulted in the deaths of 76 people, all members of the cult. Another six people had been killed during the 50-day standoff.

We don’t talk much about such things now. One reason, natch, is we eschew pretty much all history, the subject being such a dreadful bore, you know, especially when there are Kardashians and Trumps to keep abreast of today. But equally stifling to discussion of bombings and infernos is the fact that we don’t like to think of ourselves as the kind of nation that bombs its own cities or sets fire to religious compounds in our midst.

Yeah, the MOVE people and the Branch Davidians had scads of guns and were more than willing to use them. Still, all the authorities had to do was continue to wait both sets of psychos out. Both groups had kids galore with them when they resisted the authorities — and the authorities knew damned well they did.

The argument can be made MOVE and Koresh’s cult brought all the death and destruction on themselves. My argument is we, the sane, the agents of civilization and law, must do all we can to protect them and others from their own insanity.

In the long run, we were far too eager to fight shootin’ wars with both gangs.

An Empire Of Stupidity

My old Lampreys colleague and bassist extraordinaire, Gordon Patriarca, points out this incisive quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force.

Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless.

Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything her; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.

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Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran minister who resisted the Nazis before World War II. After suffering various persecutions for his outspokenness, Bonhoeffer fled to the United States in 1939. He decided to return to Germany because he felt himself cowardly for fleeing. He wrote:

I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany.

He was arrested and imprisoned for his activities in 1943 and then was sent to a concentration camp after it was discovered he’d secretly corresponded with members of the plot to assassinate Hitler (Operation Valkyrie or the July 20th Plot).

Bonhoeffer was hanged less than a month before the collapse of Nazi Germany.

May 15th Birthdays

L. Frank Baum — Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, his first published book was a dissertation on poultry, The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs. As a young newspaper editor in Aberdeen, Dakota Territory, Baum called for the elimination of the remaining Native American peoples in the United States and its then-territories. He wrote: “Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”

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Pierre Curie — Husband of the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first of any gender to win it twice, in different categories, Marie Sklodowska Curie. Pierre shared Marie’s first Nobel, in physics, along with Henri Becquerel for their work on radioactivity. The lives of the Curies as well as their work are laid out nicely in a graphic novel entitled Radioactive by Lauren Redniss.

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Katherine Anne Porter — Pulitzer Prize-winning author, journalist, and political activist, her only novel, Ship of Fools, was America’s best selling work of fiction in 1962.

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Prescott Bush — Daddy-o of President George H.W. Bush and grandpappy of President George W. Bush, Prescott was a banker and a Republican US Senator from Connecticut. It may surprise you to learn that Prescott was a supporter of Planned Parenthood and the United Negor College Fund. He would become known as a Rockefeller Republican and was an early Senate supporter of civil rights legislation.

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Prescott Bush (R) With Richard Nixon

Maria Reiche — German archeologist and mathematician who studied the Nazca Lines in Peru. She suggested they were astronomical and seasonal markers, an hypothesis later discredited. Nevertheless, her work on them was the first scientific study of the lines.

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Reiche In The Nazca Desert

Abraham Zapruder — The fellow who shot that grisly 8-mm movie footage of John F. Kennedy being killed.


Wavy Gravy — Born Hugh N. Romney, he became known for dressing as a clown during anti-war and civil rights demonstrations. He did this, he claimed, because he felt the police wouldn’t be so eager to arrest a clown. He gained national exposure when his Hog Farm commune was hired to help maintian order at Woodstock. Gravy also served as emcee for the festival. Gravy and his wife, who changed her name to Janahara Romney, have a grown son whom they named Howdy Do-Good Gravy Tomahawk Truckstop Romney.

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Brian Eno — The biggest and most influential name in the ambient music genre, Eno played synthesizer for Roxy Music before striking out on his own as a recording performer and producer. He guided the likes of the Talking Heads, David Bowie, Robert Fripp, U2, John Cale, and Laurie Anderson. Eno, BTW, quit Roxy Music because the life of a rock star bored him.

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Mike Oldfield — Best known for his album, Tubular Bells, a snippet of which served as the opening theme for the The Exorcist. The wild success of the movie thrust Oldfield into national prominence as a musician. On the album, he played the acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, Farfisa, Hammond B3, and Lowrey organs, flageolet, fuzz guitars, glockenspiel, piano, mandolin, percussion, “taped motor drive amplifier organ chord”, timpani, and tubular bells, as well as contributing vocals. Oldfield was 19 years old when he made the album.

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Laura Hillenbrand — Author of the bestseller Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. She is a long-time sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and rarely appears in public due to the malady. Her suffering was compounded when friends and family members accused her of malingering rather than being ill. In fact, much of her family shunned her in the ten-year period after she fell ill as a student at Kenyon College.

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On this day in 2007 Jerry Falwell died. It can be said he was the most important early figure in the unholy matrimony between the Religious Right and the Republican Party. If you’re a liberal and/or progressive like me, you stand in opposition to pretty much everything Falwell ever thought and pontificated about in world affairs, domestic policy, sexuality, gender issues, and, hell, probably even pizza toppings. His Moral Majority organization galvanized white fundamentalist Christians and turned their rage against change into effective political action through direct mail, highly successful fundraising, and get-out-the-vote efforts. He founded Liberty University, the world’s largest Christian school of higher education.

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