Friday, July 30, 2010

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

"You can't say that civilization don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way."
Will Rodgers (1879 - 1935), New York Times, Dec. 23, 1929

The Powder Ridge People's Festival 1970

I was there for four days and nights from Thursday through Sunday. It was the beginning of my radicalization along with the first Earth Day and Vietnam War Moratorium that same year. The Powder Ridge People's Festival was truly a tribal experience with more than 30,000 young people learning to care for one another without the benefit of electricity, water or food. My friend Marc and I were recruited to run the Free Store which was next to the Free Kitchen. We started off with a limited stock of canned food and rice that grew exponentially from donations as the weekend progressed. By Sunday we had enough supplies to feed an army and we did just that. The drug culture of 1970 was never more apparent than it was at Powder Ridge. There were illicit "drug stores" set up on both sides of the main drag with make-shift counter tops advertising the "very best", "Acapulco Gold", "Panama Red", Mescaline, Mushrooms and Acid. People were making love everywhere you looked, under blankets, in the bushes, in old school buses. Yes, there were flying pigs in helicopters and the flying rumors abounded. A young man was apparently screaming in delirium that the band "Ten Years After" was about to preform on the main stage. By Saturday the pond was posted with the skull and crossbones. We trusted in each other, we learned and we survived with a smile.

Powder Ridge Rock Festival: The Greatest Concert That Never Happened

Forty Years Ago, There Would Have Been Much Music In Middlefield

It was called the greatest rock concert that never happened. The Powder Ridge Rock Festival, 40 years ago this weekend, promised that the biggest names in the business — Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Van Morrison, Sly and the Family Stone —would play on the grassy slopes of the winter ski resort. But a last-minute court order prevented the bands from ever taking the stage.

Some 30,000 people showed up anyway, many camping for nearly a week on the sylvan hillside. On the roads, determined state troopers encircled the 300-acre area. The town cut off electricity, hoping to drive away this youth invasion. The kids stayed on, strumming guitars, pounding drums and swallowing drugs that turned the sky into melting rainbows.
"Welcome to the Powder Ridge People's Festival," a bearded youth from San Francisco proclaimed to visitors at the gate. "One birth. No deaths, and the most beautiful [mind-blowing experience] you've ever been to."
The Powder Ridge Rock Festival — which was to be held July 31, Aug. 1 and Aug 2, 1970, at the ski area — has entered into local folklore. "Imagine," said Susan VanDerzee, editor of the local newspaper, The Town Times. "Janis Joplin was going to perform in Middlefield! This story just resonates with people. The festival was less than a year after Woodstock, and for people who didn't make it there, this was a chance to experience what that was like."
Powder Ridge owner Lou Zemel envisioned a modest music festival. "It looked like a good opportunity," said Zemel's son, David, who goes by the original family name of Zemelsky. "Summer is a tough time for ski resorts. This was a chance to make some extra money."
A decade earlier, Lou and Herman Zemel were the appliance kings of Connecticut, their brash newspaper ads promising unbeatable deals on ranges and color TVs. But Lou had tired of the hard sell. He dreamed of owning a ski resort, and in the late 1950s, persuaded Herman to join him on a venture to develop 250 acres of wooded slopes on Beseck Mountain, on the Middlefield-Meriden border.
"He loved to ski, and I think he thought of [Powder Ridge] as his retirement job," Zemelsky said. The Powder Hill Ski Area, as it was originally called, opened in the winter of 1960 and attracted crowds because of its up-to-date amenities. The resort boasted a Swiss-style lodge with an open fireplace and saunas where skiers eased aching muscles after a day on the slopes. Lights were installed for night skiing, and snowmaking machines worked their magic when Mother Nature wouldn't cooperate. It was a success. Still, what do you do in the summer?

A Folk Music Tanglewood

Lou Zemel was deeply involved in left-wing politics. He could count among his friends Pete Seeger and the Weavers, Joan Baez and other folk singers of the civil rights and anti-war movements. Zemel envisioned at Powder Ridge a folk music Tanglewood, where people could gather in the idyllic mountain setting, listen to music and talk about a better world. Music festivals would also solve the summer cash-flow problem when the ski lifts sat idle.
In the summer of 1963, the Weavers became the first group to play Powder Ridge. Seeger and Baez came the following summer. The Baez concert was a big hit, drawing more than 3,000. But when residents complained about all the traffic clogging their country lanes, Lou Zemel decided to take a break from the concert business. For the next six years, there were no big events.
Then, in 1969, Woodstock happened. Seven months later, Zemel was approached by a group of New York businessmen calling themselves Middleton Arts International. They had a tantalizing offer: For a generous sum, Middleton would lease the ski area for a three-day rock festival of Woodstock bands. Names included Joplin, James Taylor, Sly and the Family Stone, the Allman Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Grand Funk Railroad, Richie Havens and more.
The New York promoters also offered a nuisance fee of $10,000 to placate Middlefield town officials.
Fifty thousand tickets went on sale and in just a few weeks, nearly half were sold.
Townspeople were nervous, voicing concerns at local meetings. Zemel tried to reassure his neighbors. "These are wonderful kids," he told the newspapers. "I believe the entire country can learn something from the way in which this festival is handled here, both by a healthy welcoming attitude from the residents and competent planning by the producers." Residents were skeptical.
A legal battle began with suits and countersuits. On July 27, 1970, days before the rock festival was to open, Superior Court Judge Aaron Palmer issued an injunction barring the event. The court order threatened performers with arrest if they showed up.
In the previous weeks, the mysterious New York promoters had vanished, making off with perhaps $500,000 in ticket sales. Some suspected it was a scam from the start.

13 Kids In A VW

In spite of state police ringing the area, thousands of young people were finding a way in. "The kids just parked their cars and walked," said former Middlefield resident Bob Rand, who was 18 at the time. "The cops let the locals pass. I had a VW bug and was picking up kids along Route 66. I remember trying to squeeze 13 kids in the car."
Local boys led parties of young people with backpacks full of camping gear over the back side of Beseck Mountain like Indian guides. By Saturday, the crowd at Powder Ridge had grown to about 30,000.
Lou Zemel was frantic. "I've got anarchy on my property," he screamed into the phone. Zemel had contacted Mark Masselli, then 19 and working at a Wesleyan University summer program. " 'Anarchy' is not a word you would expect from Lou Zemel if you knew his politics," Masselli said. "He was desperate."
Already a seasoned community organizer, Masselli was enlisted to help out, making sure everyone had food and water and comforting those freaking out on drugs. "They gave me a 650 Norton [motorcycle], which I rode from Powder Ridge to the police roadblocks to see what was happening," said Masselli, who is now president of the Community Health Center, with headquarters in Middletown. "The problem was I had never ridden a motorcycle before."
Most people have happy, if hazy, memories of what was dubbed the "unfestival." "It was a great time," Rand said. "It didn't seem to matter that none of the bands were coming. People just made their own music and camped on the hill. There were even families there."
Looking at the sea of multicolored tents pitched along the ski slopes, with people cooking meals over open fires, it could almost be a Boy Scout jamboree — but with a lot more hair and fewer clothes.
The peaceful gathering of campers on the mountain was in stark contrast to the heavy drug scene at the foot of the hill. In this area dubbed "The City," dealers pushed through the crowd, crying "Acid, mescaline, acid, mescaline!" William Abruzzi, M.D., medical director at the Woodstock festival, would later tell Life magazine that the drug scene at Powder Ridge was far worse than that at Woodstock, with hundreds of "bad trips."
Sanitation was another problem. Festivalgoers cooled off, mostly without clothes, at the pond at the foot of the slopes. "The Powder Puddle" had to be closed to swimming because of high bacteria counts.
The high point was the performance by Melanie, the only headliner to show up. Because electricity had been shut off, the popular folk singer played her hits "Lay Down (Candles In the Rain)" and "What Have They Done To My Song Ma" with her equipment plugged into the generator of a Mr. Softee truck. "It was a beautiful moment," Masselli said.
Touching, also, was the reaction of residents as the crowds began their trek home. Locals, waiting out on their lawns, met the bedraggled kids with sandwiches and water from their garden hoses.
Townspeople never forgave Lou Zemel. His son David, now 59, remembers the shame of those years and how his father strove to make it up to people, offering discounts on ski passes to locals, sometimes letting them ski free.
David now runs an organic farm in Durham. People say nobody beats Zemelsky's tomatoes.

(Reprinted from The Hartford Courant 07/30/10)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Who's The Boss?

"He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money."

Benjamin Franklin

After looking at the pattern since Eisenhower warned us about the "Military, Industrial Complex"; we can see who is really in charge of this country and it is not the "elected" officials. Heck, the very idea of free elections is a fallacy. Just look how the election was compromised in 2000. The first draft of Eisenhower's farewell address also included the word "Congressional" (which he was forced to remove) and today we can easily add the words "Media" and "Corporate Lobby". While it is true that Eisenhower warned us about this toxic threat to democracy in his farewell address, he did nothing while in office to check it's progress and merely passed the warning down to the next guy, JFK.

Now there is something even more fearsome than the tyrannical military industrial complex. After the military, the largest component of America's National Security State since 9/11, is a great and out of control intelligence apparatus. No one knows how many people are involved, who they are or what they do. We do know that more than half of the intelligence personnel are private contractors and have little or no accountability to the tax payers. Furthermore, the mass of information that is collected by these shadow governments is so great that it cannot even be analyzed.

In the end, this country's power base lies with the Oligarchy and relegates the authority of those we think have been elected to basically two roles;
1) Cheerleaders for the super wealthy power base and,
2) As a buffer between the classes to make the motives of the rich at least somewhat digestible to the majority.
If anyone in particular steps too far beyond their particular given role, they will at best be marginalized with threats to their family and livelihood and at worst eliminated. How often would CBS's Katie Couric consider exposing Big Pharma consumer crimes while enjoying an annual salary of $15 million sponsored by the drug industry? Would PBS's Gwen Ifill report on the war crimes of the corporate empire while gaining free access to Washington power brokers and commanding a comfortable salary from her corporate sponsor Boeing?

And at the top of the food chain, we need only to look at what happened to John Kennedy (see "JFK and The Unspeakable") along with Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy and all the rest. They all were killed as soon as they got too close to the truth and were perceived as too threatening to the Oligarchs.
Furthermore, in our time, the concept of "Plausible Denial" has become so outdated that atrocities can now be committed in the bright light of day. (See Cheney and torture). It is simply more efficient to defer accountability when excuses might get you into trouble. It is this same adage that tells us that dictators make the most efficient leaders.

So Who is the Boss? Just look what happened to JFK and you will have your answer.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

JFK, 9/11 and Blood for Oil

"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

Frederick Douglass (1817 - 1895), Speech, April 1886

The 9/11 Truth movement says that it was not the airplanes that brought down the twin towers but controlled demolition, plotted by those who seek endless war with the goal of keeping their power base intact by deception of the the majority. One thing is absolutely certain. There was a massive cover up only equalled by the Warren Commission Report on the JFK assassination.
Two recent things piqued my interest.
The repeat of a PBS "Nova" special ... See More
called "The Spy Factory". In the report, NSA information preceding the 9/11 attacks was deliberately withheld from the FBI and other agencies. It was reported that this was due to interagency jealously and competition as well as incompetence. The 9/11 Commission never investigated this stuff and white-washed a huge amount of information.
These were very same reasons and methods used during the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination.
After reading "JFK, The Unspeakable" I have concluded that nothing is beyond belief. If these powers were able to kill a president in 1963, then one can imagine the capabilities now that those powers have grown exponentially. Just look at the Downing St. Memos, Operation Able-Danger and the Pakistani ISI.
Once again, I say follow the money trail and let's ask ourselves who had the most to gain.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Heads I Win, Tales You Lose

"A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining but wants it back the minute it begins to rain."

Mark Twain

Rich or Poor? Either Way Someone is Going to be Taxed.
by William Cibes

Anatole France observed that "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread."

If only the law, in its majestic equality, also asked the rich, as well as the poor, to share alike in helping pay for a civilized society in which no one would have to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and visit soup kitchens and food pantries to get a square meal. Government provides the stability, under a rule of law, that businesses need in order to flourish, and the safety and security from predators that distinguishes our society from one of anarchy and chaos. So shouldn't the rich, as well as the poor, pay at least an equal percentage share of their income in taxes?

Unfortunately, in Connecticut, the rich pay less of a share of their income than do the poor. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says that the 20 percent of non-elderly taxpayers with the lowest family incomes (less than $26,000 annually) pay on average 12 percent of their income for state and local taxes. The richest 1 percent pay only 6.5 percent of their family income for these taxes — and because they can deduct these taxes on their federal tax returns, the net cost to these families, with family income greater than $1.355 million annually, is about 4.9 percent of their incomes.

Some might say that the richest 1 percent of Connecticut taxpayers should be given a break on their tax bills because they contribute more to the economy than the poor. But in view of recent events, it could be argued that the very wealthy have in fact not been good economic stewards: having a greater share of discretionary income than the poor, many of them deployed it in imprudent ways, engaging in schemes that no one fully understood, exposing us all to a high risk of loss.

The supposed guardians of the free market were asleep at the switch. It's hard to argue that the facilitators of the Great Recession should pay less than their fair share of taxes because they've done such a great job.

While the system appears to be recovering, the impact of the recession on state tax collections continues. And so arises the reasonable — and constitutionally required — call to eliminate the state deficit. There are two ways to do so. One is to reduce spending. The other, not so much mentioned, is to increase revenues.

It's not surprising that the popular option to cure the deficit is to avoid increasing taxes by reducing spending. But this option is also a tax. It taxes the poor by asking them to pay more for the services they receive, or to forego necessities such as food and legal and medical services they can't afford.

It is now proposed that people receiving Medicaid must make a $3 co-pay for certain medical services they receive, up to a limit of 5 percent of family income. But for a family with two breadwinners making Connecticut's minimum wage, that still means a potential, if unlikely, increase in cost of about $1,700 per year — more than this year's increase in income tax for a family earning $1.1 million annually.

Similarly, some providers are saying that the state is threatening to mandate that seniors receiving care under the Home Care Program for Elders pay 15 percent of the monthly cost, or an average of $152 per month, or $1,824 per year — a new tax that is more than the income tax increase for a family earning $1.12 million.

Another form of tax for the poor is to reduce funding for legal assistance in civil cases, curtailing access to courts for those who cannot afford to pay an attorney. As Ross Garber and Peter Kelly observed in The Hartford Courant, "when there are not enough legal aid lawyers, justice is not only denied to the poor, but impaired for everyone because courtrooms are flooded with unrepresented people."

So why is it OK to add what amounts to increased taxes for the poor and vulnerable, but not OK to ask the top 1 percent, or the top 4 percent, of taxpayers to pay at least as much in state and local taxes, in terms of a percentage of their income, as the least wealthy 95 percent of families pay?

How can we expect to have a competitive economy and a high quality of life in the future, if we don't ask all of our families to provide their fair share today for those investments — in public safety and security and access to justice, in education and human capital, in housing and transportation and other infrastructure, and in innovation— that make the future possible?

•William Cibes is chancellor emeritus of the Connecticut State University System and former secretary of the office of policy and management under Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr.