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America and the 3-party system

We think of America as having a de facto two-party system of government, with the Republicans dating back to the Lincoln administration – and California explorer John C. Fremont, who ran in the previous election but didn’t win – and Democrats back to Jefferson. In 1856 an anti-immigrant (and anti-Catholic) party…

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Tchaikovsky: Russian to judgment

In the 1980s, when I was well-embarked on a voyage of classical music discovery, I had a next-door neighbor who said he had known Paul Hindemith, and said he was a pushy fellow who would accost a publisher at a party and tell him about something he wanted published. My…

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Music Post: The long and the short of Anton Bruckner

In the 1980s when CDs were new and record stores weren’t yet passe, I spent a fair amount of time perusing the classical racks, and overheard many conversations about classical music between customers and store clerks. I well remember the single most passionate discussion of any composer, in which the…

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The voyages of the Starship Enterprise

Growing up in the late 1960s (high school class of ’71) I remember watching certain TV shows after coming home from school. Chief among the favorite reruns were “Star Trek” and “Wild Wild West.” “Star Trek” aired for three seasons on NBC (everyone says, “Really? Only three seasons?”) and “Wild…

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Torturous thinking in the pursuit of intelligence

A meme on Facebook showed someone falling to his death from the burning World Trade Center, with a caption to the effect that the poster didn’t care how information was obtained from terrorists. The image is as powerful as it is misleading. The recent terror report said 26 of the 119…

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“Patient” Janet Yellen and impatient Richard Shelby

When Federal Reserve Board chairmen testify to Congress, as they do from time to time, financial markets drop what they’re doing and stare intently at CSPAN, alert for any code words that could signal changes on policy. The current code word is “patient,” as in, “The Fed is patient about…

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Music Post: The Art of the Fugue, the Craft of Bach

Several great composers have given us great books on how to compose. Hector Berlioz and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote books on orchestration that are still read today. Paul Hindemith’s writings on counterpoint are valuable. But Johann Sebastian Bach is a special case. Bach wrote music textbooks with notes, not words. His…

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Alternative economic indicators: Walmart raising pay

Walmart said today it will raise its average starting salary to $10 an hour. Anyone who says “Sound the trumpets!” in response to that is probably being sarcastic, but in truth this is a major development for the U.S. economy. I’ve seen stories and social media comments that try to…

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A Valentine’s Day story

Every year Bernadette tells me I don’t need to do anything for Valentine’s Day but every year I choose to do something. Sometimes it’s something bought with money and sometimes it’s something I produce. This year my plan was to do a Valentine’s Day edition of my radio show with…

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Music Post: Music for Valentine’s Day

Maybe it was because I was in love at the time, and it was young, urgent, sappy love of the very best sort, but I really liked Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be the Magic.” The fact that the young woman in question later broke my heart didn’t undo my connection…