Saturday, October 21, 2017

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: NINA SIMONE V. BILLIE HOLIDAY

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Thank you for your interest in my return to the Battle of the Bands, hosted by Stephen McCarthy at STMcC Presents 'Battle of the Bands'I appreciate the time you took to vote and read my posts about the song for my battle––Strange Fruit.

And the winner is

Billie Holiday with 18 votes

while

Nina Simone finishes with a respectable 13 votes.

After spending so much time on a song about lynching and writing about the connection between its author, Abel Meeropol, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, I had a nightmare Thursday night that I was fighting with someone who was trying to kill my daughter in the electric chair. I didn't sleep well the rest of the night. 

I mentioned the nightmare to my son and told him I would also be opposed to his execution in the electric chair (or by any other means).

Isn't it strange that the man who wrote with such eloquence about lynching went on to adopt the sons of people who were, in essence, lynched by their own government?

On a happier note, it's a bit cooler here. Franklin and I have resumed our walks to the neighborhood park. While we often meet other dogs who are walking their people, last time we met a horse. She was beautiful, and was accompanied by her human friend, who had stopped to give her a break from her trailer.

That's the first time we've come across a horse in the park. Franklin was curious about her and seemed unafraid, but when we returned to the path, he was in a hurry. She had four legs, but she was the biggest dog he'd ever seen.

I'll leave you with another song by Abel Meeropol, whose pseudonym as a songwriter was Lewis Allan in honor of his two stillborn sons with wife Anne. Sing us out, please, Ole Blue Eyes.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug




Thursday, October 19, 2017

WHAT HAPPENED TO MICHAEL AND ROBERT ROSENBERG?

If you want to read my posts for this week in sequence, please start with BATTLE OF THE BANDS: STRANGE FRUIT. The contenders are Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. You have until midnight on Friday, October 20th, to vote. I'll announce the winner on Saturday, the 21st.

My posts that expand on information about Strange Fruit are the following (in order):

THE ORIGINS OF STRANGE FRUIT
WHO WAS LEWIS ALLAN, THE AUTHOR OF STRANGE FRUIT?
THE STRANGE CASE OF JULIUS & ETHEL ROSENBERG

And now for today's post:

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today we finally get to the connection between Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Abel Meeropol, who wrote Strange Fruit.

Michael and Robert Rosenberg, known as Robbie, went through hell when their parents were arrested, tried, and executed. Michael, who was ten at the time of the execution, remembers their parents better than Robbie, who was only six.

Here the boys are escorted by their grandmother to visit their parents in prison a few days before the execution:



Although the boys spent some time with each of their grandmothers, no relatives wanted to keep them. Everyone was afraid to be associated with the convicted criminals. Michael himself recalls denying that he had any association with his parents.

They ended up in an orphanage, where they were abused.

Their parents' will named one of their lawyers, Emanuel Bloch, as the boys' guardian. Bloch found a home for the two with none other than Abel and Anne Meeropol, who had never met the Rosenbergs but were sympathetic to their cause.

Abel and Anne adopted the boys, who are still known as Michael and Robert Meeropol.

Here are Michael and Robbie with Abel Meerepol:



The two credit the Meeropols with saving their lives. Both grew up to have their own families, successful careers, and to acknowledge their identities as the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

In fact, for many years they fought to clear their father's name. As more information became available to them, they accepted his guilt, but continue to believe that what he provided to the Soviets was useless.

They asked President Obama to exonerate their mother before he left office, which he did not do. They are ardent believers in their mother's innocence. She was convicted because of her own brother's false testimony.

When he consented to an interview with 60 Minutes in 2001, David Greenglass stated: "I would not sacrifice my wife and my children for my sister. How do you like that?" He still insisted on having his face and voice disguised. 

Thanks to all of you who have followed this series of posts that began with the song Strange Fruit.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Michael Meeropol


Robert Meeropol

If you'd like to read more about Michael and Robert Meeropol, I suggest https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-brothers-rosenberg-cold-war-spying-2/, where you can read the transcript of their interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. I also recommend Ivy Meeropol's documentary, Heir To An Execution. Ivy is Michael's daughter. The documentary is available on HBO Now, can be purchased from Amazon, or is available on DVD from Netflix.







Wednesday, October 18, 2017

THE STRANGE CASE OF JULIUS & ETHEL ROSENBERG

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

As we continue with connections to my current Battle of the Bands song, Strange Fruit, I have a summary for you of the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, which is so complicated that I can't possibly unravel it in a blog post. However, many sources are available online for further reading.

In 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a married couple with two young children, were convicted of espionage for leading a spy ring that provided atomic bomb information to the Soviet Union. On June 19, 1953, they were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York––first Julius and then Ethel. Julius was 35, and Ethel was 37.



Calling the case "controversial" is quite the understatement.

Were they guilty? Were they victims of anti-communist hysteria in the U.S.? The answer to both of these questions is yes.

During the two years between the conviction and execution, and in the decades since, their supporters have argued that they were innocent, that they were framed, and finally, have been forced to acknowledge that they bore some guilt. The execution seems to have been an insane overreaction.

Here are the basic facts:
  • The U.S. did not share information about the atomic bomb program with their allies during World War II, the Soviet Union. 
  • In 1949, the U.S. government was shocked when the Soviet Union tested an atomic weapon.
  • In 1950, the U.S. learned that a physicist and German refugee working on the Manhattan Project gave information about atomic weapons to the Soviets throughout the war. Fuchs said his courier was a man named Harry Gold.
  • In May, 1950, Harry Gold was arrested and confessed. He identified David Greenglass as another participant in the scheme. Greenglass was a machinist in the U.S. Army who was assigned to the top-secret Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
  • In June, 1950, David Greenglass was arrested and confessed to giving secrets to Gold, who passed them on to the Soviet Union. 
  • David Greenglass also identified Julius Rosenberg, an electrical engineer who was his sister Ethel's husband, as the person who persuaded Greenglass's wife, Ruth, to recruit him and said that Julius Rosenberg gave atomic secrets to the Soviets. 
  • Rosenberg's Soviet contact agent was Anatoly Yakovlev, to whom Rosenberg provided numerous documents and drawings connected with atomic secrets.  
  • Morton Sobell, another accused conspirator, took off for Mexico City. He was extradited to the U.S. and was tried with the Rosenbergs for conspiracy to commit espionage.
So what was the case against Ethel Rosenberg? Not much, but she became part of the ploy to convict Julius because the idea of a very stiff penalty against both of the Rosenbergs was supposed to make Julius confess. David and Ruth Greenglass, in exchange for charges against Ruth being dropped, changed their testimony from David passing secrets to Julius Rosenberg on a street corner in New York City to David passing secrets to Julius in the Rosenberg's apartment, which Ethel then typed up in their living room.

The ploy didn't work the way that government prosecutors thought it would. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were called to testify before a grand jury and were indicted along with David Greenglass and Anatoly Yakovlev. During the grand jury hearing and at their trial, the Rosenbergs never implicated anyone else. They refused to incriminate themselves. The judge in their trial sentenced them to death for conspiracy and blamed them for American deaths in the Korean War. They were the only two people to be executed for conspiracy during the Cold War.

Up to the last minute before their executions, Ethel was told she could save herself by admitting that her husband was guilty, but she wouldn't do it.

Jean Paul Sartre said the executions were a "legal lynching."

And what happened to others who were accused?

Harry Gold was convicted and served 15 years.

Klaus Fuchs was convicted in Great Britain and served nine years and four months.

Martin Sobell was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He served 17 years and nine months. In 2008, he admitted he was a Soviet spy.

David Greenglass was sentenced to 15 years in prison, served 10, and went home to his wife Ruth. They lived under assumed names. In 2001 he recanted his testimony against his sister and admitted that he lied to spare his wife and their children. Ruth died in 2008 at age 83. David died at age 92 in 2014.

Yes, Julius Rosenberg was guilty, but Sobell and other sources have claimed that the information Julius Rosenberg passed to the Soviets was of little value.

Ethel was probably guilty of hiding money for Julius. She also allegedly asked her sister-in-law Ruth to convince David to join Julius in the spy ring. All four, along with Martin Sobell, were members of the American Communist Party.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg could not possibly have deserved the punishment they received.

When they were executed, their sons Michael and Robert were ten and six years old.

Next time, what happened to Michael and Robert and how is the author of Strange Fruit involved?


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

If you haven't voted in my Battle of the Bands, please check it out at
http://dumpedfirstwife.blogspot.com/2017/10/battle-of-bands-strange-fruit.html. The song is Strange Fruit. The contenders are Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.











Tuesday, October 17, 2017

WHO WAS LEWIS ALLAN, THE AUTHOR OF STRANGE FRUIT?

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

We're on the subject of Strange Fruit, the poem that became a song, which is featured in my current Battle of the Bands. Click HERE to listen to two versions of the song and cast your vote for Nina Simone or Billie Holiday. It's a close battle because both renditions are so good.

My post for yesterday is THE ORIGINS OF STRANGE FRUIT. It touches on the history of lynching and reveals that the author of the poem, and subsequent song, used the pseudonym "Lewis Allan."

Lewis Allan was Abel Meeropol, an English teacher and member of the American Communist Party (which he later left). His poem, first known as Bitter Fruit, appeared in a teachers union publication. Meeropol added music to his words, and with his wife, Anne, and a singer named Laura Duncan, began to perform it as a protest song.

A couple of different versions of the story about how the song made its way to Billie Holiday exist, but she began to perform it regularly as part of her live act and recorded it in 1939 and 1944. She claimed in her autobiography that she helped write the song along with two other people, but numerous sources state definitively that words and music are by Lewis Allan, a.k.a. Meeropol.

In 1999, "Time" magazine named Strange Fruit the best song of the century.

The Meeropols were also less well known for their link to an unusual event: the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Abel and Anne


Yes, the Meeropols and the Rosenbergs were all Communists, but they didn't know each other.

Coming up next: more about the Rosenbergs.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug





Monday, October 16, 2017

THE ORIGINS OF STRANGE FRUIT

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

If you visited my blog yesterday or today, you know that I've re-joined the Battle of the Bands and that my first competition is between Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. The song is Strange Fruit.

The lyrics to Strange Fruit made their way into the world in 1937 in the form of a poem by "Lewis Allan," a New York City teacher who put his thoughts into an extended metaphor after seeing a photo of two African-American men who had been lynched.

The lyrics of the song are copyrighted, but they're quite easy to understand in either of the recordings posted HERE for my Battle of the Bands. (If you haven't voted yet, I hope you'll do so after listening to Simone and Holiday.)

Now, where do I go from here? Do I tell you about the man behind the pseudonym Lewis Allan, or do I write about lynching?

I guess I choose lynching, with information about the writer of the song soon to follow.

I won't include any photos of people who have been lynched. If you want to see them, they're not difficult to find. It was common for the murderers to photograph their accomplishment, and even to put the photos on post cards.

"Lynch Law" means a punishment without trial. For black men in the U.S., a lynching meant being accused of some fault or crime, being dragged from their homes or pulled off the street by a mob––often members of our oldest hate group, the Ku Klux Klan––and then hanged. Sometimes these human beings, thought of as sub-human by white supremacists, were tortured and their bodies burned. In addition to making the photos into post cards, the killers sometimes kept body parts as souvenirs of their great triumph.

How many people have been lynched? Probably upwards of 4,000, but I can't give you an exact figure. Black people aren't alone in being the targets of such hatred, although they are the largest group. Jews, immigrants, Catholics, and gay/lesbian people can be included as common targets of hatred.

To learn more about lynching, please visit HERE to see a map of the United States that shows where lynchings took place between 1835 and 1964. This site also has more information about mob violence. Another good source of information is the Southern Poverty Law Center.

It's well past lunch time, but for some reason, I have no appetite.

I guess we know why Lewis Allan felt compelled to write Strange Fruit.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug










Sunday, October 15, 2017

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: STRANGE FRUIT

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Welcome to my return to Battle of the Bands, hosted by Mr. Stephen McCarthy, who blogs at STMcC Presents 'Battle of the Bands'.



On the 15th of each month, I'll present two versions of the same song. You vote for the one you prefer in your comment, and I'll tell you the winner on the 21st. Voting remains open until midnight on the 20th.

Our song for this month is Strange Fruit. The "strange fruit" to which the song refers is that of "black bodies"––victims of the horrific practice of lynching.

I wasn't going to use Billie Holiday's rendition of the song for the battle because she made the song famous, but I find Nina Simone's singing so compelling that I decided to let the two compete against each other.

This week on my blog I'll provide more information about the song and its composer, who played a role––probably unknown by most people––in the story of a family torn apart because of the execution of the parents by the U.S. government.

Here's Nina Simone:





Here's Lady Day:



Now I turn the question over to you. Do you vote for Nina Simone or Billie Holiday?

 Please visit STMcC Presents 'Battle of the Bands' to find the list of participants in this bloghop.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I SPAT OUT THE PHISHING BAIT

To read the first part of this story, please go to I WAS PHISHED AND I NIBBLED ON THE BAIT.

To read the second part, please go to WHEN I NIBBLED THE BAIT, IT DIDN'T TASTE THAT GREAT.


To read the third part, please go to I CHOKED ON THE BAIT WHEN I WAS PHISHED.

All right, Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Let's finish this damn story no matter how long it takes. I'm sick of it.

Here's how I figured out that I absolutely, positively was being phished. I went to the Sas Web site and took a look at their employment information. It said that recruiting emails and job information would only come from sas.com verified email addresses.

William George, Jessica Julious, and Dexter whatever his last name was all had gmail addresses.

I informed Willy Dunne Wooters, who said if I had set up the Google Hangouts interview with Dexter, that is when he would have asked for my birthday and Social Security number under the guise of performing a background check so they could give me this great job. Fortunately, when the bait didn't taste right, I didn't swallow it.

It occurred to me that this experience was a lot like the fake news stories that are online (and I'm talking about actual fake news and not the real news that the doofus in the White House claims is fake because it tells the truth about him). The stories might seem interesting, but if you read them, any sensible person can tell that the "news" isn't real. The source isn't respectable and known. The stories are often badly written. The whole thing doesn't make sense.

Sas also had an email address in the employment section of their Web site, so I sent them the fake emails. I received a very nice note in return from an HR person––with an sas.com email address–– who confirmed that it was a scam. She also said she'd forward the emails to their legal department to keep them informed because they try to prevent Sas's name from being used in this way.

A couple of days later I received a recruiting email from a business that's not too far from my home. I know it exists. I know where it is.

But I didn't apply for the position until after I called them, asked for HR, and spoke to someone who confirmed that the job was real and they were recruiting me. It hasn't led to an interview––yet. Maybe it will. I try not to lose hope.

In other news, I'm returning to The Battle of the Bands on a once-a-month basis. Each month on the 15th, I'll present two versions of the same song. You can vote in your comments for the one that you prefer. I'll announce the winner on the 21st.

The 15th of October is this coming Sunday, so be there (here) or be square.

I've already chosen the song for my return. It's hauntingly beautiful and its composer played an unusual and rather interesting part in history. Yes, Silver Fox, you know what it is, but don't reveal the title, please.

See you all soon. Thanks for sticking with me throughout this story. Maybe it will help you avoid being phished.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug