Merle Haggard

Before there was gangster rap or heavy metal or even psychedelic rock, there were The Outlaws. Johnny Cash got himself banned from the Grand Ole Opry for smashing the footlights while high. Waylon Jennings refused to play the Opry because they wouldn’t let him bring drums on stage. Willie Nelson’s very public embrace of weed and his ‘unconventional’ appearance left him on the outs with Nashville. And then there was Merle Haggard.

Raised in a family of California Okies during the Depression, Haggard launched his country music career after he was released from prison. The man was born grizzled. Nashville loved his sales numbers, but hated his image. Like the other Outlaws, his refusal to sand down his edges left him on the margins of the Nashville scene while smiling crooners in Nudie suits packed the Opry stage.

Cash wrote songs about drugs and murder. Nelson celebrated liquor and drugs. Haggard’s first-person experience with poverty and the justice system never left him. Like the other Outlaws, his music centered on pride, pain, and the struggles of people at the margins.

While stereotypical Opry performers like Conway Twitty and Glen Campbell scored hits with sappy songs about love, Merle Haggard crashed the country charts in 1969 with ‘Working Man Blues.’ His album, ‘Okie from Muskogee’ was a legend marked by stories about prison, alcoholism, divorce, and poverty. His two most popular songs from the album were anthems of white blue collar resentment, mostly aimed at the emerging Hippie culture.

Merle Haggard died yesterday at the age of 79. He will be sorely missed.


Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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120 comments on “Merle Haggard
  1. 1mime says:

    There are still some people out there who tell it like it is. Bruce Springsteen is one of them. He cancelled a concert in Greensboro, NC, due to the bigotry that is happening there with their “faux” religious liberty laws.

    Good for Bruce!

  2. Griffin says:

    Fox News helps out Trump by reaching out to college students and the black vote! Just kidding, they annoy them!

    It’s funny because they think they’re so clever but they’re just the old Republican version of some fifteen year old troll writing dumb shit under YouTube videos.

    Also by funny I mean cringeworthy. Jesse Waters is competing with Ted Cruz for “most punchable man in the US”. If you don’t believe me:

    • MassDem says:

      Oh please don’t even get me started on Jesse Watters. Cringeworthy is putting it mildly. He reminds me of that other doofus–James O’Keefe. Ugh.

      • 1mime says:

        O’Reilly is supercilious. Watters is his hired gun to go out and create an incendiary situation. These tactics are not unusual for the Republican Party of this decade, but it the arrogance of a media personality who purports to be a purveyor of “news” is inexcusable. Of course, I never watch O’Reilly so I never see Watters until either of them goes so far over the top that “it” becomes the news. I’ve pretty much decided to stick with PBS news. Occasionally I’ll take in Maddow or CBS, but I find it difficult to get past the opinion to the hard news. One has to read, listen, and mostly, ‘think’ about what is being represented as news. CNBC does a pretty decent job during the day with reporting “news” but the opinionators (Rick Santelli is one) manage to get their licks in.

      • I watch Rachel fairly often, but hate the way she drags things out, saying stuff three times in different ways like I didn’t get the point the first time. (She seems to be getting better about this.) Her candidate interviews are always worth watching.

        Really like Chris Hayes, too — not least because I know about half the people in his regular guest rotation, but also because he’s fair and smart.

        But recently, I’m following 1mime over to PBS. Maybe I’m just growing up. Or getting tired of partisanship. Or something.

        (And yes, there’s a blog. My apologies for the radio silence: we did a 47-day, 15-state, 7100-mile road trip, and I came back into two straight back-to-back work-related projects that sucked down all the time since. But I’ve got a bunch of stuff queued up to start getting back to this week. Stand by. You may be sorry you asked.)

      • 1mime says:

        No, I won’t be sorry. Will comments be allowed going forward?

      • Comments are absolutely allowed (and everybody here is invited over to hang out there, too). The only hitch is that the very first comment you post needs me to approve it. After that, you’re good to go.

        I wasn’t sure about that policy at first, but it proves its wisdom a couple times a week. Trolls have zero subtlety; but even so, it’s amazing how many of them can’t help announcing themselves in their very first post. Which means I can shut them down before they even get started.

  3. Rob Ambrose says:

    This is getting really ugly in the GOP.

    Frankly, I don’t see any route the GOP doesn’t have a major implosion at the convention followed by a historically ugly loss.

    Unless Cruz can win 1237 delegates (he won’t) there is no way the Trumpkins will feel anything other then that the election was “stolen” from Trump. And unless Trump wins 1237 (looking more unlikely everyday) there is no way he can take the nom.

    I don’t think you’re going to be able to explain to Trump supporters that nothing is “stolen” and that if you don’t win 1237 delegates, you aren’t entitled to anything, historically. Something tells me a group that believes that thousands of Muslims danced on 9/11, that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim, and that Mexico is going to pay for a wall is not going to be swayed by that explanation.

    • 1mime says:

      I think there is a real push to have Cruz achieve the requisite 1237 delegates. He just swept CO. However, if he continues to rob delegates from those states where Trump swept in the primaries and caucuses, I am with you, the convention and its aftermath are going to be very, very ugly.

      I am amused at those who are pointing out the Sanders/Clinton tit for tat…..Really! There is no comparison….guess they’re just looking for something to talk about.

    • flypusher says:

      “I don’t think you’re going to be able to explain to Trump supporters that nothing is “stolen” and that if you don’t win 1237 delegates, you aren’t entitled to anything, historically. ”

      I wonder if Cruz getting the nom would piss off some of them less- after all, Cruz did run and he won some states and he had the 2nd highest delegate count. But I would expect a large chunk of both Trump and Cruz supporters to revolt (and possibly riot) if the GOPe selects Ryan or somebody else who hasn’t been running.

      Seriously, the phrase “quit while you’re behind” has meaning here. The GOPe would probably be the best off if Trump got beat in the general, and they just stopped obstructing Judge Garland. At the risk of a Godwin, they’re just like Hitler forbidding strategic retreats at Stanlingrad, because appearances.

      • 1mime says:

        Somehow, I suspect that Donald Trump is not going to go gently into the cold, dark night. He has already voiced his dismay for delegates being taken from him in states where the popular vote clearly went his way. He does not strike me as the type of person who would “take one for the party”. If he reacts the way I think he will to Cruz becoming the nominee, especially if his delegate count as “won” in primary and caucus events is the highest, I see total mayhem and I wouldn’t blame him. One bit.

  4. MassDem says:

    Barbara Anderson, longtime limited-tax advocate in Massachusetts, has just died. Love her or hate her, she was a force to be reckoned with for many decades in the state. Her greatest accomplishment was the passage of Proposition 2 1/2, which still impacts every town in Massachusetts today. Anderson was a gifted citizen advocate, and even her opponents had to concede that she was unrivaled at explaining complex policy positions in a language that anyone could understand. Her passing marks the end of an era in MA politics.

  5. flypusher says:

    Who’d like to see someone like Loretta Lynn use this as a subject for a new song:

    $&#£ Blankenship. Anybody with the gall to play the class warfare card in political debates should be forcefully reminded that this POS got a grand total of one year in prison, because people like him have lots of lawmakers in their pockets.

  6. 1mime says:

    Since we’ve been pretty much all over the map of late, this book has been recommended to me by a good friend and has great reviews. “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History”, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. You will be surprised at the similarities between events of then and now. History does repeat itself, doesn’t it? Check out the reviews if you’re looking for an interesting read.

  7. fiftyohm says:

    I would have fixed a flat tire for him, that’s for certain. And Glenn Frey, too. Somebody said, further down the page, it all makes one feel old. I’ll second that.

  8. 1mime says:

    Since MassDem joined the group, I’ve been following headlines from The Boston Globe. Today there was an interesting story that talks about politics and booze….a fun, interesting read.

    • texan5142 says:

      Good read, the comments are good also.

    • MassDem says:

      If, as Otto von Bismarck said, making laws is like making sausage, then what kind of sausage do you end up with when the people making it are wasted?

      Oh Lordy.

      • 1mime says:

        What kind of laws do you get if the people making them are wasted? With this crowd, not a whole lot different. Staff becomes critical for working out the kinks and actually doing the drafting….not all members of congress work like this, but many do. We’ll have to ask Bernie how he nips at the edges … when that happens. The hard stuff, the complex stuff, staff and legal counsel crunch. The officials deliver it and defend it in committee hearings….or, maybe, pontificate is a better descriptor!

  9. texan5142 says:

    Most of you have probably seen the Scott Walker takedown at Starbucks, here is an excellent interview with the brave woman who Walker’s now attacking.

    • MassDem says:

      5:39 sure is early! So can see totally where the whole Rick Scott/Scott Walker confusion came from….

      Anyhoo, so Rick Scott had three ways to deal with this:

      1) ignore the incident, although hard to do as it went viral

      2) meet with activist group, promise to make changes to Medicaid, accept climate change, discuss ways to grow economy, and then implement at least some of these changes, which would have been moral & ethical but very unlikely, or

      3) do the above, except end up implementing nothing which is the typical route.

      But he didn’t do any of that! Instead he threw a complete curve ball, which was to make a video attacking the woman who yelled at him, paid for by his super-pac.

      Moral of the story: if you are that thin-skinned, perhaps you shouldn’t be in politics.

  10. MassDem says:

    Sorry to get back to politics, but what is this? Any ideas?

    • 1mime says:

      Link, MassDem?

    • 1mime says:

      Sorry, MassDem….the video didn’t load until I opened up comments. Did you take a minute to read any of the 3K + comments? Within the GOPlifer womb, it’s easy to forget how much hate there is out there. I think Ryan is trying to keep the party together by appearing sensible. As appealing as he is with “what” he says, I keep going back to his budget and his positions and I realize, he’s just smarter and more polished in his dialogue.

      • MassDem says:

        That’s weird, I can watch it. The comments are disgusting–I hadn’t seen them. I forget that as bad as it seems between Sanders & Clinton supporters, it’s a piffle compared to the bad blood on the GOP side.

        I was just astounded. This seems like a campaign ad to me, or at least a trial balloon. Guess he got his answer–don’t do it!

      • 1mime says:

        I took the name off the podium he was using in the video and found his website.. It gave me the option to receive emails, so I signed up. Who knows at this point. I’m interested in learning more but, as stated earlier, I have read Ryan’s budget and policy positions and he is hard right. Just sounds better.

        Re the comments – they were ugly and directed to Democrats….nothing fact based (the little I viewed) but just nasty comments. This is a problem, just as Sara observed. It’s dumb and the good of the parties and, more importantly, the nation is becoming more divided.

        What did you think of the Daily Kos letter to Bernie?

      • vikinghou says:

        The comments may be a preview of coming attractions in Cleveland.

      • texan5142 says:

        There are some vile comments out in the wide web , this place is an oasis.

      • 1mime says:

        I appreciate the civility of Lifer’s blog, and when I stumble on comments like this, it is an unsettling reality check. Most here have expressed frustration with the Republican Party for allowing the extreme elements within it to dominate, but these same people repeatedly state their wish for a more balanced, rational Republican Party – a strong opponent with good ideas and fair execution, because the democratic process is built upon compromise and consensus. That is not what I am hearing and seeing from their base or their leadership. And, that’s concerning.

      • MassDem says:

        I don’t read Daily Kos regularly, so I’m not sure if it’s the letter from the Clinton supporter to Sanders from yesterday (there are a lot of these open letters to Sanders at DK). The writer was angry at him for calling HRC “unqualified”, as it may end up hurting party unity and give advantage to the GOP candidate in the general election. It pretty well summed up the anger I felt. But now they’ve both made nice with each other again, so my equanimity has been restored. I am glad that HRC took BS’s remarks in stride; she is clearly a seasoned campaigner and much less likely to fly off the handle than I am!

        Sigh, political parties. I can understand the need for structure and organization to facilitate political campaigns, but these divisions often end up making us unable to find common ground to solve our country’s problems, or even to prioritize what our most pressing problems are. In our competitive, sports-loving culture, we seem to focus more on the horseraces in politics, and the diehard rooting for our team, points scored against the opposition, and the “winning” and “losing”. I’m not convinced that having more parties would actually improve things, as then we would just have opposing coalitions rather than parties. Would it actually improve the working of Congress to have the Freedom Caucus be its own party, rather than a faction within the Republican Party?

      • 1mime says:

        I think back to the campaign of 2000 when Gore won the popular vote and GW Bush took the presidency. Sometimes I wonder if the people of America when left alone, wouldn’t make the right choice. I was not impressed with Gore, but, in hindsight, would we have been better off as a nation? Too much artifice, too much control, too many egos, too much too much. And, the money……if we had that money to spend on things that mattered to all Americans. It’s an obscene process and I don’t like it one bit but I don’t know how to resolve it either.

      • Creigh says:

        I will say one thing about the little spat between Sanders and Clinton, I found the media’s glee about reporting “dissention in the Democratic race” to be completely disgusting. I really hope both sides can refrain from giving those vultures anything else to gloat over.

      • 1mime says:

        Yeah, I agree Creigh. After the ugliness on the right, you’d think they would be able to tell the difference between mature adults and wrestlemania.

      • I’ll echo what vikinghou said. Cleveland might be very unappealing. I can’t imagine that the cucksayers will take kindly to any attempt to steal the convention.

        The other commentators here know far more than I do, so a question for them. Here in Europe we hear a lot about the growing levels of violence at Trump rallies. Do you believe there will be violence in Cleveland?

      • 1mime says:

        Lifer could probably answer this question better than I, but, if there is a contested convention, I think it is highly likely. Some $80 million has been allocated from taxpayer dollars to beef up security, so there is that protection. I wouldn’t visit the area during this time, that’s for sure.

      • vikinghou says:

        Given all the poisonous rhetoric, I can envision fisticuffs on the Convention floor, let along violence in the streets. Just think what it could be like if the Secret Service hadn’t stepped in and banned firearms.

      • 1mime says:

        The Secret Service stepped in and banned firearms……….

        And, I will never forgive them for that…….I am serious. There would have been no better opportunity for conservatives to: (1) demonstrate their firearm discipline; (2) demonstrate their lack of firearm discipline; and (3) provide a visual op like never before of either scenario. The only negative is that members of the SS and the general worker bees making the convention run, could have been in the line of fire. The rest?

      • Sir Magpie De Crow says:

        History, I like studying it. Particularly the history of modern American politics. Not to get off topic from the focus on the passing of a music legend but our political history of late would be worthy of many songs, ballads or at least a triple album from Weird Al Yankovic.

        Consider the revelations and the impending final judgement of former Speaker of the House (Republican) Dennis Hastert. Second in line to the presidency, longest serving Republican Speaker of the House in history.

        ….And lastly he was a serial rapist/pedophile in his previous public life as a high school teacher/wrestling coach who was willing to lie to federal authorities/law enforcement in an effort to hide his inglorious personal history of unspeakable crimes.

        But at least Bill Clinton got impeached over sexual acts with a consenting adult.

        Here is a little flashback:

        President Clinton got oral sex from an intern. He then was getting impeached over lying about said affair in a legal deposition. Newt Gingrich was pushing for his impeachment or resignation. Turns out he was cheating on his second wife with a twenty-something congressional aide (kinda like Bill).

        The impeachment effort failed. A disappointing midterm election for Republicans cause Gingrich to fall. Rising star Bob Livingston was going take over. He didn’t because Larry Flint of Hustler fame/infamy helped spill the beans on Bob’s sexual exploits.

        He effectively resigns and calls on Bill Clinton to do the same even before he takes over. Republicans are shocked as hell and cry like little girls in the halls of the Capital.

        The resulting power vacuum in the house empowers a first class a**hole named Tom Delay, The Republican majority leader, who essentially hand picks the little known congressman Dennis Hastert to be the next Speaker of The House.

        Tom Delay would in turn fall in part because of his collective b*llshit that was arguable the result of his odious affiliation with Jack “Casino Jack” Abramoff. Abramoff goes to prison and later gets work making pizzas. Delay avoids it. So much for their master plan of an enduring Republican Permanent Majority.

        Lasted about as long as the Third Reich if you ask me.

        Bob Livingston departure leaves a power vacuum in Louisiana. Of all people, family values politician David Vitter fills the void, becomes a senator while screwing prostitutes while wearing allegedly diapers. A black book of a DC Madam revealed this stunning hypocrisy. He survived the scandal only to lose the governorship years later.

        The DC Madam killed herself after being convicted of money laundering.

        Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert who ran a relatively tight ship in the house for the GOP until he lost the speakership because of his disinterest and dereliction of duty in disciplining Republican congressmen like Mark Foley, who was sexting to teenage male pages.

        Foley becomes an overnight internet gross-sation when his texted attempts at wooing young boys gets readings by edgy comedians.

        Now we know why Hastert failed in punishing Foley, cause he was a big old pedophile too who has destroyed the lives of heaven knows how many boys and young men.

        Hastert in turn would be prosecuted by an administration of Barack Obama who was aided in his rise to power in Illinois when his would be opponent Jack Ryan on the Republican side lost his shot at running for senator when it turned out he had tried to force his actress wife (now ex-wife) Jeri Ryan (Star Trek’s Seven of Nine) to have sex in public at kinky sex clubs. Obama’s G-Men were using provisions of the Patriot Act that passed under Hastert’s watch when he was still Speaker.

        Irony alert!

        Despite all this absurd collection of horrific s**t and compromised political titans the GOP base seems on the cusp of choosing a pure shameless misogynist… who is completely morally bankrupt and occasional financially bankrupt… who likes to play coy on the question of whether any of the married women he had affairs with in the past had abortions.

        So what does this all mean?
        F**K IF I KNOW!

      • 1mime says:

        It means, Sir Magpie, that per the Republican standard you have so neatly recounted, that “we should do ‘as they say’, not as they ‘do'”.

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        Sir Magpie- It sounds so dirty when you put it like that! ;>)

      • Sir Magpie De Crow says:

        Interesting article title, on the heels of my Denny Hastert rant.

        Yeah. I also agree.

      • 1mime says:

        They need to buy Hastert – deep – so he will never see the light again. He is the worst of child predators – judgmental of others while practicing his perversion through the power of his office. I wonder, why don’t we hear anything from the GOP about this? Afraid to air this dirty linen? Seems this would be an opportunity to stand clearly on the side of the famous moral code that conservatives preach through their legislation and social positions. Where’s the courage?

      • The outrage withers in the face of GOP tribalism. Conservative culture has thoroughly absorbed the Evangelical sin-and-redemption narrative, and having a good testimony of saving grace is an important political asset. A conservative who goes through the right steps in the mandated absolution process (which I can and have outlined at length; they are specific, ritualized, and may not be skipped) can get back in the public’s good graces in a matter of a few months — never more than a year. And forever after, they’ve got a good testimony to share, which makes them only more appealing.

        (Child molestation is harder to bounce back from, because you’re really not electable after that; but you might still be kept around in the backstage areas if you have the right friends.)

        Such absolution is never available to anyone outside the tribe. David Vitter hung around for many years after his humiliation. But Bill Clinton got a blow job, and they’re still trying to hang that on him (and now his wife) 20 years later. If you’re in, you’re golden: all is forgotten, and quickly. But if you’re out, it will be part of the charge against you for all the rest of time and eternity.

      • 1mime says:

        If I see one more woman holding hands with her sexually flawed spouse, I am going to barf. I know this is a key part of the ritual (although I have never read your litany), but, as a woman who has always believed that we should and can stand on our own merits, this visual has always disgusted me….for both of them. Guess I’m not the forgiving type….something missing in my protestant upbringing…maybe it was being second eldest of six siblings – you gave as good as you got.

      • vikinghou says:

        Hastert sitting in a Lazyboy recliner in full view of the showers, purportedly to “keep the boys from fighting,” is a creepy thing to ponder. It’s amazing no one questioned that. Different times I suppose.

      • 1mime says:

        The emperor has no clothes….power often usurps reason. He clearly took advantage of his position to advance his personal predilections. Anyone who takes advantage of children is the worst sort of person – that is a sick, sick mentality.

      • Love Crow’s telling of the history. I remember all of this well — although I’ve never seen it put together quite this way, with the chains of sexual misbehavior creating political opportunities for the next guy, who is then also caught with his pants down. I do remember that wild fall and winter (1998) after the impeachment, when the GOP couldn’t find a sexually uncompromised speaker candidate to save its life. It was swift and sure cosmic justice being visited on them; and after the agonizing indignities of Impeachment Summer, it was a hugely gratifying comeuppance to watch.

        But this is exactly what the party bought when it decided to pander to a social conservative base that runs, more than anything else, off of its bone-deep terror of changing American sexual dynamics. Unfortunately for them, the people most likely to share that fear and express it best are people who are themselves the most deeply damaged on this front, as Freud told us over a century ago. As long as blind, inchoate fear of sex is what’s keeping the party together, they’re going to keep electing perverts. It can’t really go any other way.

        It’s been a boon for bloggers, though. We figured out early on that whenever some moralizing politician seems particularly focused on one issue (child sexual abuse in the case of Foley was a prime example), start your digging on that guy right there, because he’s pointed you straight to the X that marks his own particular spot of greatest vulnerability.

        This became so predictable a source of dirt on Republicans that it eventually almost seemed like cheating — just too easy. And yet, nearly 20 years on, their followers are still shocked and surprised by the stuff that turns up on their leadership. They haven’t learned a thing from any of this, except how to get better at waving it all away.

      • 1mime says:

        Sir Magpie hit the “high points” of sexual misconduct within the Republican Party, but there were/are so many other conservatives that should be added to the list – and these are just the ones we “know” about. A dear friend of mine was a page in the House and she recounted the huge problem young females had in inappropriate advances and actions from members of Congress. These were young, college age women who had gone to DC to learn about how the democratic process worked. What they saw and experienced was a bit more tawdry.

        The religious right has provided a “cover” for those within the conservative wing who have committed all sorts of sexual misconduct….the worst, of course, that against children, followed in a close second by masquerading their sanctimonious rage at ‘those’ who perform these deeds while clearly practicing their own.

        Despite the imperfections of the Democratic Party, their position on “true” individual liberty, not the “limited” fake individual liberty supported by conservatives, will keep me in the fold. I cannot abide hypocrisy.

      • There was a time (my time, in fact) when the pages where high school seniors. (I almost was one.) I think they may be college kids now, and that’s explicitly because of the predator problems.

        I wrote a long-ago blog post about what it must be like to be the wife of one of these guys. (Legacy site, may take a while to load. Be patient.) It’s the price of being queen, but that doesn’t make it easy to pay.

      • 1mime says:

        And, if the price of being ‘queen’ is to sell one’s personal soul, it’s not worth it. I’m pretty resolute on that point. Forgiveness is one thing; “playing” a role because one enjoys being queen, denigrates the woman. There are certainly situations where there is genuine regret and a commitment to transform one’s life. I make no judgement of women who stand by men who make that life decision. What I deeply object to are those who ‘play at’ relationships and roles because of the status it offers. What a crock. Can’t go there. Politics can either elevate one or debase one – the choice is not always easy but it is always personal and accountability to oneself should be paramount.

        There are so many things wrong right now with the Republican Party’s operation, but one of the greatest IMHO, is the insistence for its members to stop thinking for themselves and never speak out in opposition to the party line.

        I look forward to reading your piece. Just when you think there isn’t much more harm that can be done in the name of politics, I continue to be proven wrong. Politics is becoming worse not better – suppression not expansion of voting; big money and few people controlling the process; loss of integrity and freedom of thought; meaningful engagement and participation of the masses; policies and legislation that is driven by special interests….. I am reluctantly coming to the opinion that our current system has failed. Popular vote in primaries is yielding to delegate coercion. Why have a delegate wall at all if it, too, can be compromised? I am hardly a fan of Donald Trump, but I think that the process being orchestrated to defeat him is despicable. I am interested to know if there are other ideas being discussed to replace what we currently have.

        BTW, Sara, I signed up for your blog some time ago. Are you actively blogging and I’m missing your posts?

      • 1mime says:

        Great post, Sara. This particularly resonates with me: “…the only thing that ever really belonged to her — to her alone — was her sexual identity and self-confidence. Her STUFF.” Let me be clear, the male in these relationships are clearly at fault. My interest and support for women’s rights include the full range of choice – family, relationships, career. One day, women will sit on boards and in the halls of our state and federal legislative bodies in numbers more representative of their presence. Until this happens, the brave, singular women who are leading the way have my profound respect, such as the diminutive Ruth Bader Ginsberg to name one who I greatly admire. Egalitarian relationships are healthy for both men and women because they are built upon mutual respect and shared responsibility. We’ll get there, but it is a long, hard road.

      • flypusher says:

        “Tom Delay would in turn fall in part because of his collective b*llshit that was arguable the result of his odious affiliation with Jack “Casino Jack” Abramoff. Abramoff goes to prison and later gets work making pizzas. Delay avoids it. So much for their master plan of an enduring Republican Permanent Majority.”

        DeLay sadly wasn’t totally defeated. His horrible legacy of extracurricular gerrymandering was not struck down, and remains a very dangerous precedent.

        I live in TX-22. I’m so glad that dirtbag no longer represents me, but the GOP has come up with even worse people since DeLay’s fall. I’d actually take DeLay over the likes of Cruz or Trump, and 10 years ago I thought DeLay was rock bottom.

    • vikinghou says:

      Americans are so puritanical when it comes to marriage and fidelity. Having lived in France for several years, I observed that the concept of fidelity is different there. Basically, “flings” are tolerated (for both partners) as long as one is discreet. The true nature of marriage there is the emotional and intellectual bonding. At least they’re not hypocrites. My French colleagues have always expressed amazement at Americans’ obsessions about who is screwing who. Very declassée. The Clinton impeachment was totally incomprehensible to them.

      I’m not saying Americans should completely adopt the French attitude, but I think a little self examination of our views concerning sexual behavior is warranted.

      • 1mime says:

        Agree, especially as it relates to how we prepare our children. With the advent of the internet, there’s very little innocence to kids before mom and/or dad have “the talk”. It helps if mom and dad (or their partner) sets a healthy example of what a respectful relationship between the sexes looks like. That’s where it begins, really, in teaching our children their responsibilities, self respect, boundaries, good judgement, and how to pick friends who share their values. Mobility has rendered traditional boundaries moot….no longer are our neighborhood kids always our kids preferred friends. It’s more difficult than ever to provide loving independent decision-making by our children without cause for worry as to forces beyond our control and theirs. As for the adults in the equation, what can I say except to use common sense and personal discipline. That should still work better than an aspirin between the knees (-;

      • flypusher says:

        I had some ‘splainin’ to do to some European colleagues about why so many Americans got their knickers in a knot over Bill Clinton’s sex life. I too wouldn’t go with the French attitude ( if you’re still into playing the field, either don’t take marriage vows, or find someone who will agree to an open marriage), but that wasn’t anything that justified impeachment.

      • 1mime says:

        There are so many “or’s” to Republican tactics that I have accepted the fact that they are not just trying to sully the reputation of those they go after, they’re also wearing them down with subpoenas, budget cuts so their departments “can’t” meet demands, etc. It is an entire game plan of obstruction and deceit. For all Republicans, the methods used by the party are beyond decency. One day, some day, they’re gonna get theirs.

  11. MassDem says:

    Ignorant Yankee here: I only ever knew one song of Merle Haggard’s, and that was “Okie from Muskogee”. Here’s a fun version featuring the clean-living Willie Nelson. BTW I had a college roommate from Oklahoma who introduced me to the music of Willie Nelson (and Dolly Parton), but somehow neglected Merle Haggard.

    PS Both of the Merle Haggard clips are great, but I especially liked “If I could only fly”. Country music does melancholy really well, better than many other genres.

    • flypusher says:

      Nice. Willie is such a good sport there. I don’t listen to much country music, but I absolutely would have paid to see a show that had Haggard, Nelson, Cash, and Jennings performing together.

      The BBC had a great interview a few night ago with Kinky Friedman, reminiscing about Haggard. Maybe add him too for a quintet.

    • MassDem says:

      BTW, Creigh mentioned dance halls–what are they, and are they a Texas thing, a Western thing or a Southern thing? We have a few places up here where you can go square dancing or contradancing, but they’re not real common.

      • Creigh says:

        MassDem, dance halls are not exclusively a Texas thing, but they are certainly a big part of culture there. Back in the day, small towns had dance halls where travelling bands like Bob Wills would come and play for Saturday night dances. Mostly, they were informal places, pole barns really, with a stage at one end and picnic tables around the dance floor. Many have become neglected, but some are still thriving, like Luckenbach, Floore’s, and Gruene Hall. If you ever get to Texas, a visit to one of these places is a must.

      • MassDem says:

        Thanks Creigh for answering me–dance halls sound like fun! I will definitely add that to my list of stuff to do when I visit Texas.

        We have concert pavilions at some local beaches, like Nantasket in Hull, where there’s free live music on Saturday nights in the summer (free after you pay for parking that is). Sometimes there’s dancing too; depends on the band. Listening to live music by the ocean is wicked awesome fun. I went to a band concert last year where they did a medley of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits, and it was surprisingly good.

        Luckenbach TX-I’ve heard of that before. Waylon & Willie and the boys; it’s all coming back to me now.

      • 1mime says:

        In my home state, LA, dance halls were family oriented. Music, beer, food, and kids….everyone came. People were poor and this was not only a social event but also time to sample good cajun food (crawfish if they were in season). The term, “laissez les bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll) is well known by all who visit the Acadiana region (south central LA). The indigenous French natives knew how to have a good time and the music (a brisk two-step) by home-schooled violinists formed the backdrop for the good times. You might see a poker game or a local card game called “bourre” in the corner…in short, anything was possible. It was typically a clean, gregarious gathering, and today is not found except for isolated pockets of the region or in tourist-driven locations.

      • goplifer says:

        Oh, the dance halls. For starters, you have a draw a distinction between honky tonks and dance halls. Obviously, these are not technical terms, but I think the distinction is pretty reliable.

        In parts of the South with a strong Catholic tradition or a lot of central European immigrants, mostly limited to Southern Louisiana and Central Texas, dance halls were like a community center. All across the Texas Hill Country you see literal community centers like the SPJST’s that are all equipped with a beer garden and dance hall. The whole family would go, including small children. There is often a pretty fine restaurant too (check out my favorite, the Walburg Mercantile

        Also, not to be missed is Gruene Hall.

        Similar facilities existed elsewhere, where drinking and dancing was more frowned upon. Those were the honky tonks. East Texas has a beautiful circuit of old honky-tonks.

        Decent folk avoided being seen at the honky tonk. In fact, they were often concentrated away from town, often near places with lots of fishing or hunting camps. There are no children at the honky tonk…except maybe for very sad children. Unincorporated areas were preferred since a whole host of “special rules” were required in order for a bar to even operate in those regions.

        Houston’s honky-tonk scene used to be legendary, with places like Post Oak Ranch, Blanco’s, and of course Gilley’s. They are all gone now, replaced by wretched, soulless country-themed nightclubs. The nearest thing Houston retains is its ice-houses, basically sports bars that host bands. Houston doesn’t really have a dance hall tradition, though there is one on 290 out near Hempstead.

        Austin’s finest Honky Tonk is probably the Broken Spoke and it’s still going strong. You’ll still find seedy old honky tonks in East Texas, but mostly only the dance hall format has survived.

      • Sara Robinson says:

        “Ice-houses.” I’ve heard this term for years, and still don’t know where it came from or what it describes. Anybody got some history on this? (It’s clearly a Texas/Gulf Coast thing.)

      • 1mime says:

        Ice houses, beer halls, honky tonks…..ya think maybe we’re all a little campaign-nuts about now?

      • Sara Robinson says:

        I am very deliberately avoiding anything having to do with the campaigns right now. I was a blogger through ’04, ’08, and ’12, and cannot bring myself to endure one more of these goddamn unnecessary, damaging, ridiculous food fights.

        I’m a reluctant progressive on a lot of fronts, and this is one of them. Buncha frickin’ babies — God forbid anybody exercise a little self-restraint, or take the long view of what’s best for the movement, the party, and our long friendships if there are big fat tantrums to be had instead.

        The Old Mom in me just wants to go in there, take away everybody’s Twitter, the TV remotes, and the keyboards, and tell everyone to go play outside until dinner. Because I have had enough. If you can’t play nice, you can’t play inside where the grownups are any more.

        Since I can’t do that, I’m staying off my Twitter feed, ignoring several e-lists that I’m on, and sticking to places like here where people are still capable of talking about pleasant things like icehouses and honky-tonks and Merle Haggard.

      • 1mime says:

        Good for you. I miss Howard Dean. That’s the kind of honesty in politics I like.

      • goplifer says:

        Ice houses:

        To me they always seemed kind of…what’s the word I’m looking for…’low-rent.’ Just a building attached to the convenience store where people could get drunk and maybe dance. They never seemed to have the personality you’d get from honky-tonks.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        Creigh mentions Bob Wills.

        I actually heard Bob Wills one time and it was in Massachusetts! On the cape! Mid-80s, I guess.

      • MassDem says:

        Did you know that there is an actual place outside of Austin called Oatmeal, TX? And that they have an annual Oatmeal Festival every Labor Day (“Fun, Food and Foolishness”)? I saw it on the Google map near the Walburg Mercantile.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        MassDem, did you know there’s a widening in the road a few miles south of Worcester named Dallas?

      • MassDem says:

        I looked for “Dallas MA” on the google map, but I ended up in TX. So I have to take your word for it Bobo!

  12. Rob Ambrose says:

    Is it just me, or does it seem like those on the GOP side are starting to flat out admit lately that their incentives for certain policirs have always been what Dems say theyve been?

    Like bow Trump exposed that abortion laws are really about punishing women , or that gaffe the other day about “voting rights” laws are actually about preventing certain segments from voting.

    Here’s another one in that same vein, only this isn’t a gaffe so much as an admisaion.

    • Sara Robinson says:

      Not gaffes. I think the GOP base is throwing away the dog whistle. If you think like we do, have the guts to say so. If you can’t say it out loud, we have zero faith in your ability to actually do it once you’re in office.

      This is of a piece with new PRRI data coming out today showing that 2/3 of Trump supporters *want* a president who is willing to break the law if that’s what it takes to get things done.

      The gloves are off, both metaphorically and physically. On both sides, there’s a reckoning coming. And such reckonings are
      not a moment for subtlety or euphemism — and anybody who feels the need to resort to those things is not the right person for the job.

      • n1cholas says:

        Exactly this.

        Trump, Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, Bush, and Santorum are all basically supporting the same policies.

        Trump is just the one that refuses to play the dogwhistle, and he holds himself out as a true authoritarian, able to Make America Great Again simply because he himself is great.

        Nothing rouses up the rabble more than an authoritarian screaming insults and pointing out enemies.

      • 1mime says:

        And, might I suggest along with Sara’s “throw away the dog whistle” theory, that this also accounts for the doubling down we see from Republicans in any number of areas: a plethora of new religious liberty laws; more attacks on PP; refusal to hold hearing on SCOTUS nominee; decision to ignore the potential fall out from Trump and his supporters; decision to support Ted Cruz because they. think they can control him…..The GOPe is gonna let it “all hang out” in 2016. They will either win with a fired up base with predictable short fuse issues, or they will fall on their swords. They are all in.

      • n1cholas says:

        The base has woken up, looked around, and realized that it’s been a useful tool for the GOP donor class (establishment) for the past 40 years.

        Now that they are out of the denial stage, they are in the Anger and Bargaining stage – anger at anything but 100% purity on social issues, and bargaining that a Strongman Trump or a theocrat Cruz are the only ones who can deliver.

        Depression follows anger and bargaining: depression that Trump/Cruz aren’t the nominees, lose the General, or won’t be able to unilaterally turn the US into Mississippi.

        Perhaps the Republican base will finally gain acceptance and realize that their interests do not align with a party that only ever delivers on its promises to cut taxes on the richest people in the solar system. If this happens, the modern Republican party is dead.

      • 1mime says:

        Are you suggesting that the GOP will only go so far to be truthful?

      • objv says:

        “2/3 of Trump supporters *want* a president who is willing to break the law if that’s what it takes to get things done.”

        Why not ask …
        Do all of Hillary’s supporters *want* a president who is willing to break the law if that’s what it takes to get things done?

      • Ryan Ashfyre says:

        Wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • 1mime says:

      Voter suppression? What voter suppression?

  13. Rob Ambrose says:

    OT but an update on Tesla, they’ve now got 325,000 models pre ordered.

    If they can fill all orders, that’s something like $11.3 billion.

    For comparison sake, thats 1/3 of Fords entire gross revenues in 2015. In one week.

    • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

      I’m a huge fan of Tesla, but I’m not sure of your numbers.

      I think Ford has something like $150 billion revenue and sells like 3 million cars in North America per year, so, we are pretty far away from thinking of them as a major car company.

      Given their production and delivery capacity and likely drop offs from the pre-orders to the actual sells, those 325,000 cars are probably going to be spread across a couple of years.

      Ford sells 250,000 Fusions alone per year.

      I think buyers had to put down $1000 deposits, and that money is going to come in handy as they try to ramp up, but they are going to need another billion dollars to get the facility running, They have never once met a production deadline, so while Tesla is impressive, its success is a bit ephemeral at this point.

      If nothing else, the hope is that it changes the conversation and motivation to get more companies producing quality electrics and more people willing to buy them.

  14. Bobo Amerigo says:

    My favorite tune of his is If I Could Only Fly. It’s wistful and wise in its on way.

  15. Creigh says:

    At the dance hall where I hang out way too much, it is almost mandatory for the band to play a Merle Haggard song every set.

    “And I’ll never swim Kern River again
    It was there that I met her, it was there that I met my best friend
    Now I live in the mountains, I drifted up here with the wind
    And I may wade in shallow water but I’ll never swim Kern River again”

    Take that, bro-country lightweights.

    • Creigh says:

      Shoulda been “there that I lost my best friend”

    • Sara Robinson says:

      I know Bakersfield well: for us, it was the Big City. My parents met and married there; my grandparents owned a farm out north of town; and I spent one weekend a month and two weeks every summer there. (Much later, my mother ran for the state Assembly district seat that included East Bakersfield, so I ended up spending three months there, campaigning.) If we needed a mall, an orthodontist, or a fine dining experience, Bakersfield was the place that happened.

      What I mostly remember about the local media is how Okie-saturated it was. Every anchor and personality on TV had an Okie accent. Merle Haggard and Buck Owens were already stars, but they were also Local Boys Made Good, and showed up fairly often. Grandma’s Baptist church was all Southerners with Okie roots. And my Dad had this weird snobbery that probably dated back to the Dust Bowl years in Bakersfield: we were always combed, scrubbed, and well turned out when we went into town, so people “won’t think we’re Okies.”

      That was also the insult kids of that time and place used to censure each other’s grooming and behavior. “You act like an Okie” or “you’re dressed like an Okie” was pretty much the ultimate in shaming.

      It was into that context that Haggard injected “Okie from Muskogee.” It wasn’t just the national shaming of rednecks; it was the regional shaming the Okies took from their middle-class betters in conservative, oil-patch Bakersfield.

      • Sara Robinson says:

        Also: nobody swims in the Kern River, at least not in Bakersfield. It’s mostly just a concrete-lined irrigation trench by the time it hits the valley floor. Go up 40 miles toward its Sierra headwaters, though, and it’s got some absolutely gorgeous spots for camping, fishing, rafting and kayaking.

      • 1mime says:

        The “class within the class” meme. Not to drift too far from the Haggard topic, but this is what is happening in American politics. Country music simply bridged the dissension finding common ground for all who could escape reality through a good tune well played. We could use a few Merle Haggards to help us over some rough places today, couldn’t we?

      • Creigh says:

        Second verse of that song: “There’s the south San Joaquin, where the seeds of the dust bowl are sown”

      • Creigh says:

        In “Mama’s Hungry Eyes” Haggard says “she only wanted things she really needed.” What do you suppose that was.

  16. Some bits of news just make you feel your age. 😦

  17. Sara Robinson says:

    There’s some debate about whether “Okie From Muskogee” was serious, or done with his tongue firmly in his cheek. Perhaps both are true; or each was true at different times. Whichever it was, though, your fellow Chicagoan Rick Perlstein (my former boss and co-blogger), perhaps our primary historian of the Nixon years, is very clear that Haggard’s song gave voice and impetus to Nixon’s cultivation of the original Silent Majority — which is why Haggard, with all of his rough edges, ended up performing it in Nixon’s White House. (That’s an evening I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall for.)

    There’s a larger point here, too, which is that we’ve come a long way from an America where talent was enough, as it was for Haggard and his generation. These days, fame and fortune — even in the entertainment biz — are reserved for those who are pretty enough, had enough money to go to the right schools and buy the right consultants, and don’t have “unseemly” backgrounds that will scare off producers and audiences. We’ve lost our affection for people with rough edges and grizzle, and our appreciation for the ones who are able to rise above their station by wit, skill, and giftedness. It’s much harder now to do what Haggard did, because we don’t have the same respect for self-made people.

    I think we are a poorer country for this. We are definitely a less equal one, because the ingredients that bring success now are far more dependent on a fortunate choice of parents and other forms of good luck than they are on what’s inside you, and what you make of it.

    • flypusher says:

      “These days, fame and fortune — even in the entertainment biz — are reserved for those who are pretty enough, had enough money to go to the right schools and buy the right consultants, and don’t have “unseemly” backgrounds that will scare off producers and audiences.”

      True, but there are more opportunities to do an end run around the pop assembly line, with the Internet. Not easy, but possible.

      I honestly have no respect for any music that requires no talent and effort to perform/ compose. And except when used sparingly for the occasional special effect, autotune is an utter blasphemy to the music gods.

      • 1mime says:

        Those of us who are not gifted with the ability to play a musical instrument but love music, and who grew up in an era when music was “pure” (human hands/voice-no autotune, no computers), struggle to enjoy the extravaganzas that mark most music today. Few singers today can hold a simple mike and sing a tune unfettered by improvisation except with for what their vocal cords and imagination provide. Not ever having played an instrument except to keep time with my hands and feet, I am in awe of all who play. But, please, keep it pure enough so the melody isn’t lost, instruments don’t drown one another out, and staging doesn’t distract.

        I’m not generally a country-western fan, but the lyrics have always impressed me with their honesty and soul. As with so many things today, times may be “better”, but the loss of simpler, more honest times and people is much lamented by us “old” folks. RIP Merle Haggard.

    • Creigh says:

      The music business is struggling, whether you’re pretty or not. But music is alive and well, probably even better than ever. I’m continually amazed at the quality of original music one can hear for the price of a couple of beers and $10 in the tip jar, for example. If we could figure out a way for artists to make decent livings, that’d be a start on the biggest economic problem of our day.

      Also, as to whether “Okie From Muskogee” is tongue-in-cheek, I think the giveaway is the line “and the students still respect the college dean.”

      • 1mime says:

        A really beautiful story followed the tragedy of Katrina. New Orleans has a wealth of musicians and artists – of all kinds. They earn their living mostly by performing and selling their artwork. Most of them lost their studios and their inventory. ONe of the neat things that was done in the aftermath of the hurricane was to offer lodging and performance venues for these artists in surrounding towns and cities. Local resources of all kinds – medical, dental, educational, housing, food, etc – were made available, allowing them time to get back on their feet. Bad times do bring out the best in many people. I was proud of LA and its people for helping their own.

    • 1mime says:

      “Self-made” success applied to many of the working class, uneducated white people who comprise Trump’s angry base. Why shouldn’t they be angry? The party they have supported for years has ignored what has happened as working class jobs disappeared. As renewable energy expands its inexorable market share exacted from the fossil fuel industry, warning signs are all over the place. Is there any recognition or movement to plan for a transition of a significant job losses in this area? If not, why not? Is this more of the “responsibility of the individual” pap that Republicans believe to their core? Why don’t they just “pick up and move”? People who live from paycheck to paycheck find it very expensive to relocate when there is no job guarantee in a new place and surely no family support system such as you left.

      Well, this time, it’s not just blue collar jobs, it’s mid-level and executive positions that are going to be lost, and unlike previous cycles in the energy sector, there will not be coming back. Alternative energy is becoming competitively priced and our reliance on fossil fuels will lose market share. At least those with skills (welding) and those with college degrees have something to work with. The rest, not so much.

      The economy at large may be benefiting from lower prices at the pump and for other refined fossil fuel products, but this industry is no longer able to pull itself up by its bootstraps and hang on til the next boom. It ain’t coming. Neither is any help from business or government, apparently.

      • Sara Robinson says:

        What you said about “just move” really resonates. This is *such* a big (and arrogant) class marker! For working-class people, family, work, church, and neighborhood social ties are the single biggest source of personal capital they have. (It sure as hell isn’t money.) The bigger your support network, the more resilient you are. These are the people who fix your car and give you rides into town, watch your kids while you’re working the evening shift, find you your next job/car/dog, mow your lawn when you’re sick, and invite you over for dinner when the month has outrun your money. The economic value of these services would take vast amount of money to replace.

        There’s nothing more patronizing than having some middle-class person tell you to just walk away from everything and everyone that’s keeping you together. The only way to successfully relocate such people is to respect their need to move in groups, so they can keep big chunks of their support networks intact; and move them to places where there are existing networks (family, church, jobs) that they can easily hook into. (Even oil-rich Jed Clampett did not move to Beverly Hills without his mom, daughter, and nephew in tow.)

        Middle-class folks have the capital to survive the very significant social and financial shock of moving alone to a strange city. Working-class folks usually don’t. It’s condescending of us to blindly insist that they do what we would do.

      • flypusher says:

        “There’s nothing more patronizing than having some middle-class person tell you to just walk away from everything and everyone that’s keeping you together. ”

        Very, very well said, although I think most of the condescension is coming from above the middle class (hey, sometimes trickle down does work!!). It’s a perfect example of just how out of touch the GOPe is, and it’s a damn shame there’s no one better than the likes of Trump for such people to back.

      • 1mime says:

        I think there’s plenty of unhappiness with the candidates on both sides. It will be interesting to see if this lack of “enthrall” keeps people home, or brings them out with reluctance. It’s far too early to make any predictions.

  18. Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

    There were interesting debates regarding his disdain for the “emerging Hippie culture”, and while the “if you don’t like it, leave it” sentiment during the Vietnam era is pretty distasteful, you can find a greater number of songs that were definitely counter-culture friendly and darn near protest songs against the establishment themselves. His later work certainly was very much that way.

    I’d like to believe that some of “Okie” was purely a commercial grab, but like most people, he likely had views with which I agree and those with which I would disagree because we humans are just complex animals.

  19. texan5142 says:

    He and Kris Kristofferson played the state fair here last year, wish I could have made that show.

  20. Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

    I managed to miss the news until late last night. I almost posted an RIP comment last night on the previous thread but figured no one was awake for it.

    Haggard actually was an outlaw and would have caused some serious pearl clutching today.

    So, for those of you who are not fans, fire up the streaming music application of your choice, type in Haggard, and enjoy an hour of some truly righteousness music. The same advice holds for Haggard fans, although you can probably enjoy a few hours of great music from some of the deeper cuts.

  21. rightonrush says:

    RIP old buddy, you will be missed.

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