Merle Haggard: Remembering a Legend

merle haggardAmerica lost a legend Wednesday, April 6, 2016, when Merle Haggard passed away.

Merle Ronald Haggard was born on April 6, 1937 in Oildale, California. His family had moved away from Checotah, Oklahoma to Bakersfield, California during the middle of the Great Depression after their barn burned down. Three years later, Merle was born.

His father, who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, died in 1945 from a brain hemorrhage and that had a large impact on him growing up.

His early musical influences were Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, and Cowboy Bob Wills. He even sang backstage for Frizzell who insisted Haggard sing on stage before his own performance. That was what launched him into his musical career.

He was a juvenile delinquent in Texas and California growing up. He attempted a robbery in Bakersfield in 1957 and was sent to San Quentin after trying to escape from a local jail. While at San Quentin, his wife became pregnant by another man. Haggard grew depressed and was fired from several prison jobs. He planned an escape attempt with another inmate, but other inmates talked him out of it. The inmate who escaped later returned to San Quentin for his execution after shooting a police officer.

That inmate’s plight, along with an author he met who was serving time on Death Row, convinced Haggard to turn things around. He kept a steady prison job, got a GED, and joined the prison’s country music band. He joined the band after attending Johnny Cash’s famous performance at San Quentin in 1958.

He started out digging ditches when he got out of prison, which was about the time the Bakersfield Sound was emerging. His career took off with a number of hits. I won’t go into detail on his musical career at this point.

In 1972, Haggard was pardoned by California Governor Ronald Reagan. In 1973, Merle Haggard performed for President Richard Nixon at an Evening at the White House.

Merle Haggard recorded 38 #1 hits. He was awarded three Grammy Awards and numerous CMA and ACM awards. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Haggard was inducted into Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. He also was given an honorary doctorate by Cal State Bakersfield.

He was not a fan of modern country music (I agree with a lot of those criticisms) but he did praise Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, and George Strait. There were tributes to him in songs by numerous artists including Eric Church, Shooter Jennings, Brooks & Dunn, Colin Raye, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many others.

The songs I always thought of when it came to Merle Haggard were Mama Tried, Workin’ Mans Blues, Okie from Muscogee, and Fightin’ Side of Me. They all resonated for me at some point and still do – especially the last two I named.

Remembering Merle Haggard

Here’s an Eric Church song, “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag”, released in 2006

W. Earl Brown made a post today about Merle Haggard’s last show. I don’t think the Facebook settings will let me embed it here so I will link to it and post the text:

Merle’s Final Show. It was Super Bowl weekend. Merle had already cancelled months of shows, but this particular booking was a big payday. Merle had to pay his band and crew, so there was no calling in sick for this gig.

Toby Keith was in town with his wife to watch some football and have some fun. Toby got word that Merle was in Vegas, so he went to see him… Merle was in bad shape. He needed to be in a hospital – not on a stage; but The Show Must Go On. Merle would not take charity from anyone, but he did turn to Toby and say, “How many songs of mine do you know?”

“All of ’em” answered T.

“All of ’em?”

“Yep. And I won’t need a teleprompter.”

“Well, stay nearby.” After four or five songs, Merle’s infected lungs were spent. He couldn’t draw enough air to sing any longer. “We’ve, uh, we’ve got a special guest here tonight…” Toby came out and sang the rest of the show. Merle gave his last concert. The Strangers got paid. And the audience, while not realizing it at the time, saw something special.

Never speak ill of Toby Keith to me; thanks to him, Merle exited the stage with his dignity intact.

Here’s what Ben Haggard, Merle’s son, had to say Wednesday on Facebook:

A week ago dad told us he was gonna pass on his birthday, and he wasn’t wrong. A hour ago he took his last breath surrounded by family and friends. He loved everything about life and he loved that everyone of you gave him a chance with his music. He wasn’t just a country singer.. He was the best country singer that ever lived.

Rolling Stone magazine had a lot of news coverage of Merle Haggard’s passing Wednesday. They included in this a list of his 30 Essential Songs. I made a Spotify playlist of these 30 songs and it’s embedded below. Please listen, share it, and add it on Spotify. If you think any other songs need to be added, please suggest them in the comments on this blog post below.

Bernie Sanders: No Constitutional Protection for Unborn

bernie sandersBernie Sanders has joined Hillary Clinton today in reaffirming that the Democratic Party is the party of taxpayer-funded abortion on demand up until birth.

As I noted earlier, Hillary Clinton spoke on the issue on Meet the Press this morning.

On that show, she told Chuck Todd that “the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”

When asked by George Stephanopoulos on This Week if there should be “any restrictions”, Bernie Sanders told him the decision “ultimately has got to be made by the woman.”

Sanders didn’t initially answer the question and instead went through the Democratic Party’s pro-abortion talking points.

He finally did say, “I don’t believe there’s any constitutional protection for the unborn.”

Here’s more from Daily Caller:

Stephanopoulos asked Sanders about his position on abortion and whether or not he agreed with Clinton that unborn children do not have constitutional rights, to which the Vermont senator replied, “All I know is that I will fight as strong as I can to defend a woman’s right to choose. I believe that it is an outrage that Republicans who tell us how much they hate the government now want to tell every American — every American woman what she can and cannot do with her body. And I do agree with the Secretary. I don’t believe there’s any constitutional protection for the unborn.”

When asked if he was “for any restrictions on abortion,” Sanders said, “I think that decision ultimately has got to be made by the woman. I have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record throughout my career. That decision must be made by the woman, must be made by her family and her physician, not by the federal government, not by the state government.”

“And let me tell you something. If elected president, I will not only fight to protect Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose, I will take on the Scott Walkers of the world and the other right-wing governors who are trying to restrict and limit that right,” Sanders said.

Watch Bernie Sanders Say There’s No Constitutional Protection for the Unborn

Hillary Clinton: No Rights for Unborn Persons

Hillary Clinton

This morning on Meet the Press on NBC, Hillary Clinton told Chuck Todd that “the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”

Here’s a transcript:

NBC’S CHUCK TODD: “When, or if, does an unborn child have constitutional rights?”

CLINTON: “Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists. The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can, in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support. It doesn’t mean that you don’t do everything possible to try to fulfill your obligations. But it does include sacrificing the woman’s right to make decisions. And I think that’s an important distinction, that under Roe v. Wade we’ve had enshrined under our Constitution.”

The Republican National Committee responded:

Hillary Clinton has repeatedly avoided giving a definitive stance on the rights of unborn children throughout her career, but when pressed this morning by NBC’s Chuck Todd to define her positon on what limits to abortion she believes in, Clinton revealed that she believes no unborn child is subject to constitutional rights. Voters now know Clinton’s extreme stance against the value of protecting life, and can no longer be misled by her deceptive pandering.

Sadly, this is no surprise. Hillary has said before that she couldn’t favor any restrictions on abortion until very late in the 9th month. Also, last year Planned Parenthood pledged to spend millions to work for her election and endorsed her.

Hillary also carried Planned Parenthood’s water when it came to defending them for their harvest and sale of body parts from unborn babies. That practice was exposed last year by videos by the Center for Medical Progress.

Watch Hillary Clinton Say the Unborn Have No Rights

Voter registration drive violates law

voter registrationVoter registration drive may get ACORN successor in hot water with Feds.

Earlier this year, Maryland removed the restriction on felons voting.  This happened when the legislature voted to override Gov. Hogan’s veto of the legislation.

As the State Board of Elections website summarizes: “Effective March 10, 2016, if you have been convicted of a felony, you are eligible to register to vote once you have completed the court-ordered sentence of imprisonment. For the purposes of eligibility to register to vote, convictions include federal, state and out-of-state convictions.”

A Friday (4/1/16) story by Erin Cox in The Baltimore Sun discusses a voter registration drive targeting these newly eligible “ex-felons.”

voter registration

The voter registration drive was organized by Maryland Communities United. A 2014 story by Matthew Vadum in Daily Caller reported that as a successor organization to ACORN. ACORN was disbanded following a scandal in 2009 that centered on Baltimore. Note their logo (above) has the socialist fist in it.

Here’s one interesting detail from the Sun story Friday (emphasis added):

Over the course of the next 90 minutes, Communities United volunteers persuaded more than a dozen passersby to register, doling out packages of Skittles or a single Newport cigarette to each new voter.

Violations of Federal Law for Voter Registration

Looking at the applicable sections of federal law, 52 U.S.C. § 10307(c) anyone who:

pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both: Provided, however, That this provision shall be applicable only to general, special, or primary elections held solely or in part for the purpose of selecting or electing any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, presidential elector, Member of the United States Senate, Member of the United States House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, Guam, or the Virgin Islands, or Resident Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.”

Here’s what the California Secretary of State’s office says about the federal law (emphasis added):

Federal law makes it unlawful in an election in which there is a federal contest on the ballot (e.g., President, U.S. Senate, U.S. Representative) to knowingly and willfully pay, offer to pay, or accept payment for registering to vote or for voting. (52 U.S.C. § 10307(c).) Violations are punishable by a fine up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to five years, or both. Any type of incentive is considered “payment,” even things as seemingly innocent as cookies or admission to an entertainment event.

Based on the report of Communities United giving out cigarettes and Skittles to people in exchange for voting – it appears to be an obvious violation of federal law.

First, I would hope Communities United would cease and desist these actions. Second, I would hope that the appropriate authorities look into the matter and take any action deemed necessary.

Rappers make song threatening Donald Trump

donald trumpA report on a Donald Trump “protest song” by Midnight Sun blogger Wesley Case from The Baltimore Sun discusses the fact that a rap song by Baltimore artists includes threatening language.

The song is called “CIT4DT”, which stands for “Choppa in a Trunk 4 Donald Trump.”

The Sun’s interview with one of the people involved seems to be using what every person who gets called on threatening speech uses when caught – it’s not literal, or it’s satire, or it’s comedy.

Urban Dictionary defines a choppa as: “A firearm that is fully-automatic or select-fire, e.g. the M16A2, AK47, Uzi, MAC10.”

Here’s an excerpt from Case’s story including lyrics and why the threat isn’t literal:

While the song is overtly threatening in nature (it warns Trump not to come to Baltimore “unless you want to die, though”), the lyrics also contain a schoolyard-insults spirit (“Boy ain’t even white / you yellow! / You said you’d date your own daughter / You a sicko!”).

Ibrahim said the song’s threats of violence against Trump were not literal or even serious.

“We didn’t mean no harm by it,” Ibrahim said. “We don’t got no damn chopper! My religion says don’t even kill. I wouldn’t kill an innocent fly.”

The video features a crowd around the three rappers. The video on YouTube and the audio on SoundCloud both include the #fucktrump2016 hashtag. In the video, a lot of middle fingers are in the air and maybe a gang sign or two. Here’s a picture of one gentleman holding a shovel and wearing a t-shirt that says “Fuck Donald Trump #We got a choppa in a truck for Donald Trump”:

donald trump

The rap is performed by artists calling themselves Dooley, Tlow, and Lor Roger. Dooley, a.k.a. Abdel Ibrahim. Ibrahim, who is Muslim, said he was inspired to make the song after Trump made comments about monitoring mosques.

Ibrahim is a Bernie Sanders supporter apparently:

When asked whom he’d like to see as the next president, Ibrahim said Bernie Sanders was “cool.”

“To be honest, I just want a good person,” he said. “I don’t really pay attention to it. I just be hearing all of the stuff Trump be saying.”

Rapper Who Made Song Threatening Donald Trump is on Probation

donald trumpMaryland Judicial Case Search records show that Ahmed A. Abdelhameed Ibrahim (left) was charged on February 24, 2015 for an incident on February 11 of that year. He was charged with disturbing a school (ED.26.101) and molesting a school (ED.26.101.B).

Ibrahim is listed as 19 in the Baltimore Sun blog post and the Ibrahim charged was born in 1997. A jury trial was prayed, which moved the case out of Baltimore County District Court up to Baltimore County Circuit Court.

In May 2015, Ibrahim received probation before judgement (PBJ) on the disturbing school charge and the other charge was nolle prossed. He received 18 months probation, a fine, and was required to get a GED (which seems to indicate that he was expelled from school.)

Ibrahim also received probation for numerous moving violations in November 2015 after he was charged with driving 72 mph in a 55 mph zone and multiple passengers weren’t wearing seatbelts.

Watch the “Choppa in a Trunk 4 Donald Trump” video below: