Patterico's Pontifications


Kozinski to Retire Amid Another #MeToo Scandal

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:15 am

The first major judge caught up in the #MeToo phenomenon was Alex Kozinski, a well-known Ninth Circuit judge with strong libertarian leanings. The Washington Post published a story about alleged inappropriate behavior with women, and followed it up with another story that brought the total number of accusers to in excess of a dozen women. Now the judge is retiring:

Alex Kozinski, the powerful judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who was facing a judicial investigation over allegations that he subjected 15 women to inappropriate sexual behavior, announced Monday that he would retire effective immediately.

In a statement provided by his lawyer, Kozinski apologized, saying that he “had a broad sense of humor and a candid way of speaking to both male and female law clerks alike” and that, “in doing so, I may not have been mindful enough of the special challenges and pressures that women face in the workplace.”

“It grieves me to learn that I caused any of my clerks to feel uncomfortable; this was never my intent,” he said. “For this I sincerely apologize.”

The whole thing is very regrettable. The behavior alleged in the stories turned out to be fairly widespread and — if all the stories are to be credited — more severe than one might have imagined likely from this jurist. I still don’t see him as someone who was ever out to demean women. I see him more as a fellow with a very effusive personality combined with perhaps a lack of sensitivity as to how people might react to certain comments or behavior. I have met Kozinski on more than one occasion and always found him an engaging and an interesting person, and I think the federal judiciary will be the poorer without his intellect, wit, and direct and clear manner of expression. But I respect his decision to retire, under the circumstances, and wish him the best in the future — just as I also wish the best to his accusers.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Roy Moore Won’t Take No For An Answer, But He Will Take Your Money

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:14 am

[Guest post by Dana]

Nearly one week after the special election in Alabama was called for Doug Jones, Republican candidate Roy Moore is still refusing to concede the race.

In fact, not only is he refusing to concede, he is now also asking supporters to send him money so that he can investigate voter fraud:

Alabama Republican Roy Moore on Friday told supporters that the “battle is not over” in Alabama’s Senate race even though President Donald Trump and others have called on him to concede.

Moore sent a fundraising email to supporters asking for contributions to his “election integrity fund’ so he could investigate reports of voter fraud.

“I also wanted to let you know that this battle is NOT OVER!” he wrote.

As a reminder, Jones garnered 49.9 percent of the vote compared to Moore’s 48.4 percent, and while Moore apparently believes he can accrue 20,000 more votes, including military and provisional votes, Alabama secretary of state John Merrill, himself an ardent Moore supporter, remains doubtful:

While the vote isn’t yet certified — that won’t come for several weeks — and the totals could move a few votes here or there even John Merrill, the Alabama Secretary of State who acknowledged he voted for Moore, has told CNN that it is “highly unlikely” that Moore could come close to winning the race. (Each of Alabama’s 67 counties are required to report the results to the Alabama secretary of state’s office by Dec. 22. Then, the state’s Canvassing Board has until Jan. 3 to formally certify the results.

Here are the odds of that happening:

What Moore is banking on is that there are 20,716 votes for him and 0 for Jones in the military and provisional ballots. That would give Moore a one-vote victory.

Moreover, the cost for any possible recount would be exorbitant:

If the difference between Jones and Moore is less than half a percentage point, the state would pay for the recount, but if it’s greater, Moore’s campaign would have to request and pay for it.

The check would be a big one.

“We estimate that it might be somewhere between 1 million and 1.5 million dollars but that could change,” says Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

Moore’s latest actions remind me of Jill Stein, who asked her supporters to fund a recount in the 2016 election. However, unlike Moore, Stein never discussed accepting the election results as God’s will being done — no matter the outcome:

It’s God’s will whatever happens, so we’re expecting God to do whatever he does will be the right thing to do.

Certainly one of the most difficult aspects of the Christian faith is submitting oneself to the will of God and trusting Him, especially when it goes against what we want. So it’s pretty rich that Roy Moore, who presented himself as some sort of model Christian and paragon of virtue, and whose supporters defended him as such, still refuses to yield to the “will of God,” which has been loudly and clearly made known to him and to the voters of Alabama.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

— Dana


Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 30, Part 2

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:45 am

It is the third Sunday of Advent, and the title of today’s cantata is “Freue dich, erlöste Schar” (Rejoice, redeemed flock), Part 2. Last week we heard Part 1.

Today’s Gospel reading is John 1:6-8, 19-28

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

. . . .

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing..

The text of today’s cantata is available here. It contains this passage:

The glory of your happiness,
the time of your contentment and peace
will never reach an end.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

The Day Fast Approaches…

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:56 am

…when Amazon Prime members can’t get Christmas presents in time for Christmas.

The last day to do so is December 22.

As always, use the widget on the sidebar for your Amazon shopping needs.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


Irony: Office of Congressional Ethics Staff Director Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:22 am

[Guest post by Dana]

In light of the current flurry of elected officials being accused of sexual misconduct (and making payouts using taxpayer money), it is an ironic slap in the face of Americans to find out that a high-ranking official, whose job is to investigate accusations of sexual misconduct against lawmakers, is himself being sued in federal court for physical and sexual harassment of several women — as well as using his powerful position to influence law enforcement responsible for the investigation into the matter:

Omar Ashmawy, staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics, is heavily involved in determining which allegations brought against lawmakers warrant an ethics committee probe.

Ashmawy, who signed off on the ethics investigation into Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan among others, was allegedly assaulted by three men after repeatedly sexually harassing women in a Milford, Penn., bar on Valentines Day in 2015.

One of the men, Greg Martucci, is suing Ashmawy in federal court for, among other things, “threatening to use his position as staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics to induce a criminal proceeding to be brought against Plaintiff and/or others,” according to court filings obtained by Foreign Policy.

Ashmawy denies that he harassed any women that night, and says the assault was unprovoked: “To be clear, I did not harass anyone that evening, physically or verbally,” he wrote in a statement to FP. “To the contrary, I was the victim of a wholly unprovoked assault for which those responsible were investigated, arrested and charged. Any allegation to the contrary is unequivocally false.”

However, witnesses at the bar and the alleged victims corroborated Martucci’s accusation that Ashmawy had behaved in an “extremely violent and belligerent” manner toward several women that night:

Dawn Jorgensen corroborated much of what Martucci alleges in his suit in a written statement provided to police. She claims she saw Martucci “clearly sexually harassing” [Joey Lynn] Smith during successive trips to the bar to order drinks.

“You’ll give me drinks, but you won’t fuck me,” Ashmawy said to Smith before physically blocking her escape and grabbing her, according to Dawn Jorgensen’s statement. At that point, Dawn Jorgensen said she tried to intervene, at which point Ashmawy allegedly grabbed her wrist and fell on top of her.

[Christina] Floyd confirmed much of what Dawn Jorgensen alleged in her own statement to the police.

“I watched each time Omar would come down and verbally sexually harass the bartender as he ordered drinks,” Floyd wrote in her statement, describing Ashmawy.”

After witnessing the altercation, bar owner John Jorgensen (who is also the husband of Dawn Jorgensen), Martucci, and another individual took Ashmawy out back to the woodshed where, according to Ashmawy’s statement, he was left with a “bruised and bloody eye.” Oddly, in spite of the written statements by the alleged victims, no charges of sexual assault or harassment have been filed against Ashmawy.

Piggybacking on the theme of “ethics” and officials behaving badly, Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) is currently facing an investigation concerning his alleged sexual misconduct involving two women:

The House Ethics Committee announced Friday that it has launched an investigation into the conduct of Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) amid allegations that he sexually harassed an employee on his 2016 congressional campaign and a lobbyist during his time as a state legislator.

Nancy Pelosi has called on Kihuen to resign several times, based on the accusation by the lobbyist that: “…Kihuen touched her thighs and buttocks without consent and sent her hundreds of suggestive text messages, which the Nevada] Independent reviewed.”

Kihuen has declined to step down, stating that he wants to “go through the ethics process.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tx.), who is also the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation, announced that rather than step down from his position, he has decided instead not to run for reelection after it had been revealed that he had “settled a lurid sexual harassment claim with his former communications director for $84,000,” and faces accusations from two former press secretaries who claimed he had “an explosive temper, berate them repeatedly, made sexually explicit jokes and engaged in casual sexual banter that set a tone followed by his underlings.”

And as a reminder, Sen. Al Franken (D-Mn.) has not yet stepped down after facing numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. The senator also remains baffled about how those women’s bottoms ended up in his unwilling hands. However, according to a report out today, the Democrat will be gone in early January when Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is scheduled to take over his seat.

In the midst of numerous allegations against officials, and resignations by some of them, Speaker Paul Ryan has had enough of these shenanigans, especially when it involves taxpayer money:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that Congress plans to stop using taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment cases against lawmakers.

When asked whether Congress would stop using taxpayer dollars to settle these cases, Ryan replied, “Yes, that’s among the things we’re working on right now.”

Ryan added that he agrees with Weber’s assertion that using taxpayer dollars to settle harassment claims is “indefensible.”

While both the House and the Senate have voted to implement sexual harassment training for all members of Congress and staffers, reforms on how Congress should handle accusations of sexual misconduct are also in the works. One hopes that all the decision-makers bear in mind that these lawmakers who have behaved badly are adults who already know that sexual harassment and assault is not only wrong but also illegal. However, like small children, they behave in such an unacceptable manner because they know they can get away with it. And no amount of sexual harassment training can change that. As such, it will be interesting to see whether the new reforms have any actual teeth to them.

Final point: if this teaser has any merit to it, those reforms should be put in place much sooner rather than later.

Also, any official that has used taxpayer money to make secret settlements should be publicly named, to promote a more transparent government.

— Dana


Painful: Unqualified Trump Judicial Nominee Founders Under Questioning (VIDEO)

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:23 pm

Oh, man. This is just brutal. Under gentle questioning from Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), Matthew Spencer Petersen, a Trump nominee to the U.S. District Court, reveals that he is patently unqualified for the job:

He has never tried a case. He’s assisted with fewer than five depositions and never taken one himself. He’s never argued a motion in court. He starts stumbling and bumbling when asked when he last read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He last read the Federal Rules of Evidence in law school. He doesn’t know what the Daubert standard is. He initially says he knows what a motion in limine is, but ends up conceding that he could not give a definition of it. He doesn’t know what the Younger or Pullman abstention doctrines are.

And throughout, he stutters and filibusters.

Those of you who aren’t lawyers are probably wondering: to what extent these are trick questions? Can every lawyer articulate the Daubert standard? Not necessarily, if they don’t practice in federal court, but it’s pretty basic stuff for federal court practitioners. Most lawyers at least know that it addresses the admissibility of expert testimony. This guy doesn’t. Can most lawyers distinguish between Younger and Pullman abstention and tell you which is which? Again, you’re more likely to be able to do this if you’re a federal court practitioner; they have to know the ins and outs of federal vs. state jurisdiction and abstention doctrines. I learned about abstention doctrines in my Federal Courts class in law school, and applied them as a federal judicial clerk for a United States District Judge, but in 20 years as a state prosecutor I don’t deal with those doctrines any more.

But if I were a nominee to the federal bench, I would bone up on this stuff. Especially if I had never tried a case or argued a motion or taken a deposition. I would read the FRCP and FRE. I’d look at the basic jurisdictional rules, which federal judges have to know and apply whether the parties raise them or not.

In other words, I would try to show that I am worthy of the nomination.

Nominees to the federal bench aren’t supposed to be just any random lawyer. It’s a lifetime appointment. You’re expected to have at least some idea what you’re doing.

This guy is not only unworthy, he’s not even trying. It’s shameful and embarrassing.

Lefties will use this video to suggest that all Trump’s nominees are unqualified. WRONG!

By most accounts, Donald J. Trump has done a good job manning the federal judiciary. The New York Times is upset at the way he is reshaping the federal courts — in particular the appellate courts, whose rulings are final in all but the .1% of cases that go to the Supreme Court. Trump doesn’t care about judges, so he largely outsources the job to the Federalist Society — and as far as I can tell, they’re doing an excellent job by and large.

But the fella in the video above shows a hole in the process. Whether through cronyism or donations or some other kind of connection, he received a nomination for a position for which he is totally unqualified. Nobody should be on the federal bench who is this lacking in experience and basic knowledge.

Find the hole and fix it.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]


Yes, the Strzok Text Messages Are a Problem

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:00 am

So one of the top FBI guys investigating the Russia stuff for Mueller hates Trump, as revealed in several text messages published yesterday. Sarah Lee posted about them last night. My first reaction upon reading them was that many of them sound a lot like my own private (and public) statements about Trump:

“I just saw my first Bernie Sanders bumper sticker. Made me want to key the car,” Page wrote in an August 2015 exchange.

“He’s an idiot like Trump. Figure they cancel each other out,” Strzok replied.

Whoa. He thinks both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are idiots? Who doesn’t — besides fanbois who are super-impressed that a guy can inherit a lot of money?

In a March 2016 message, Page exclaimed: “God trump is a loathsome human….omg he’s an idiot.”

“He’s awful,” replied Strzok.

Someone thinks Donald Trump is awful? Get out!

Of course, Strzok went further than I ever did or would, actively wishing for the election of Hillary Clinton by saying “God Hillary should win 100,000,000 – 0.” But many of his rants about Trump and his idiocy are shared by, well, millions of people in the country. Including people who voted for the guy.

Andrew C. McCarthy says no biggie:

Well, I’m not OK with Trump’s outbursts, but I’m not sure I’m OK with this either.

I’m of two minds about this. Before the Strzok texts came out, but after their existence was reported, McCarthy made the case that people in law enforcement can work political cases while holding political beliefs:

People who work in law enforcement tend to be engaged citizens, well-informed about current events. Many of them are passionate in their political convictions. In the New York metropolitan area, those convictions tend not to jibe with mine — although rank-and-file FBI agents tend to be more conservative than their high-ranking superiors, and than prosecutors educated in elite American schools. Political differences are fodder for good-natured ribbing in the hallway or over beers after work. But they get checked at the courthouse door, even in political-corruption cases. Law enforcement is a straightforward exercise: Figure out what the facts and law are, then apply the latter to the former.

I actually agree with this. I have no specific reason to believe that Peter Strzok is anything less than professional at his job. I don’t do political cases, but I think if people could see how the day-to-day operation of criminal investigation and prosecution works, they would have more confidence in the system than they get from Big Media’s often unfair portrayals.

But here, there is an issue that goes beyond whether the work is actually getting done right: the public’s perception. And while having general political opinions should not necessarily render a prosecutor or an investigator unfit for prosecutions of political cases — again, like McCarthy says, they tend to be engaged citizens — a very strong bias against a particular person, as we see here, has a negative effect on the perception of the integrity of the investigation.

At this point, I would like to quote a question from a correspndent whom I respect, who wrote me an email asking in the subject line: “Isn’t Bias Good in a Prosecutor?”

Not corruption, bias.

Doesn’t our system demand an aggressive prosecutor who has a jaundiced eye for suspected criminals? The defense is lionized for doing most anything to get a defendant off. Don’t The People need an energetic/passionate person to prosecute?

I believe Mueller was corrupted as an FBI Director, and maybe before. I am not defending him. There shouldn’t even be an IC without hard and fast limits as to scope. If an IC learns anything outside that scope, they should/would be free to refer to DOJ just as any U.S. Attorney can.

What troubles me is the meme that a prosecutor (or defense counsel, for that matter) is somehow wrong for having a bias. Isn’t that a core trait necessary to the job?

I’d answer this with an unqualified “no.” Yes, you want an energetic and passionate person to be a prosecutor. But their zeal must be for justice —
and it must be tempered zeal. Having a strong pre-existing bias against the target is not the kind of zeal that promotes justice or that gives the public confidence.

So I’m fine with Mueller taking Strzok off the investigation. He should not have been on it. Even though I agree with many of his views of Donald Trump.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

RIP Pat DiNizio

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:59 am

The first time I went out with Mrs. P in what could be considered a date, she wanted to dance. I hate dancing. But I told her that I would dance with her if “Behind the Wall of Sleep” by the Smithereens came on. It did. We danced, and later that night we kissed for the first time.

We last saw The Smithereens at the Roxy, I think in 2016. DiNizio was not doing well. His right arm hung at his side, and he seemed to have limited use of his left arm too. Between songs or during guitar solos, one of his bandmates would mop his brow and give him water to drink. He could not hold the towel or glass himself.

And yet, he sounded great, and it was a marathon show. It might’ve gone three hours, maybe even three and a half. It was clearly not easy for him, but he still gave it his all.

RIP, Pat. You will be missed.


Open Thread: Showdown in Alabama

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:00 am

Often we say “let the best man win” but it seems like an odd thing to say in a race between a pedophile and a supporter of killing any baby for any reason before it’s born.

I still believe Roy Moore will win despite a Fox News poll released yesterday showing Moore down by ten points. Then again, another poll shows Moore up by nine points. Even a veteran pollster like Nate Silver seems flummoxed by it — although he seems to be leaning towards a Jones win, based on the superiority of the polling methods showing Jones ahead. [UPDATE: As Donald Trump likes to say: WRONG! That’s what I get for skimming Silver’s post too fast this morning. He actually says the opposite: “I still think Moore is favored, although not by much.”]

The polls are trying analyze voter turnout in which some people feel like me (I would never vote for either man), while some other people are extra fired up — whether it’s by Moore’s past behavior and statements, by Jones’s position on abortion, by unthinking tribalism . . . or by dark thoughts of Bernie Bernstein and his pack of Jewish infiltrators from the #FAKENEWSAMAZONPOST.

As an amusing aside, True Populist Steve Bannon was in Alabama stomping all over his own junk as he fought the scourge of Joe Scarborough:

I don’t like Scarborough, but I still gave a solemn standing O in my head for this response:

So what’s gonna happen and what’s the fallout?

As a mere spectator, it feels like a win-win. If Moore wins, it’s (like Trump) endless entertainment where you never know what crazy damn fool thing he’ll say next. We’ll get to enjoy the spectacle of seeing the Democrats hang Moore around the neck of the GOP. There will be endless debates about whether to seat him or subject him to an ethics investigation, all amounting to nothing. Al Franken will try to worm out of his resignation, citing Moore. And we’ll probably get some pretty good votes in, amid the stupid ones:

And if Moore loses? I guess there’s a lesson in there somewhere about the ultra-alpha-male guy who never apologizes for anything, treats women like objects, and promotes bigotry against Muslims and gays.

But that’s if he loses. And let’s face it. He’s gonna win.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Bach and the High Baroque by Robert Greenberg: A Review

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:00 am

I recently commented that I had been listening to a class about Bach, and commenter Pinandpuller asked me to share the details. As I listen to my Zenph re-recording of the Goldberg Variations, I am happy to share the details of a course that has changed my life for the better.

Although a lifelong fan of classical music, I have always been a huge fan of some composers (Beethoven, Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Schubert leap to mind) and skeptical of certain others (including many of the moderns, and two of the older guys: Haydn and . . . you guessed it: Bach). Anyway, I have become a devotee of the “Great Courses” offered by The Teaching Company — in particular, the offerings by their resident music expert Robert Greenberg. He has opened my mind to a lot of music I either didn’t know, or incompletely understood.

Including the music of J.S. Bach.

I believe I own every single course by Greenberg. Hang on while I go check to see if I’m right.

OK, I just checked. When I started writing this post, I owned 24 of the courses. The shorter courses are about 6 hours, while the longer (and frankly better) courses are 12 to 36 hours in length. After checking, I learned that I was missing two of the 26 Greenberg courses offered by The Teaching Company, and instantly remedied that defect in my collection. (I did this very inexpensively, and will explain later in the post how I did that, and how you can do the same.)

So anyway, I do indeed own every Greenberg course that The Teaching Company offers. I am a huge, huge fan of these courses. Even as a lifelong classical music lover and music major, I have learned enough from these courses to more than justify the monetary expense of obtaining them (which I’ll help you minimize) and, more importantly, the expense of time in listening to them.

What you’ll get out of a Greenberg course depends on your level of musical knowledge. If you’re a newbie, the shorter biographical courses with less musical content might be more your speed. I own those too and I enjoy them too. But I grew up as someone who read Beethoven and Brahms biographies for fun as a kid and could rattle off the birth and death years of most of the major composers from memory. My parents were classical music lovers and made me take piano lessons, and I was a parent-pleasing first child who took after his parents in most respects. So I get a lot more out of the (unfortunately rare) longer courses that survey a specific area of output by a particular composer, or (in one unusual case, that of Bach) spend a significant amount of time on the output of a single composer.

If you’ve made it this far in this post, you might be a Big Music Lover too, so I’m going to emphasize the stuff I got out of these detailed courses, in the hope that you seek them out as well and have your life enriched the way mine has been,

The courses I most highly recommend are Bach and the High Baroque (25 hours), The Chamber Music of Mozart (12 hours), Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas (18 hours), The Symphonies of Beethoven (24 hours), or (a personal favorite) The String Quartets of Beethoven (18.5 hours). (All links in this post are affiliate links to Amazon.)

I could go on and on and on about the stuff I have learned from these courses. In the future I will probably do a post about each as I revisit them. For now, with the Pinandpuller request to discuss the Bach course, and that being the one I most recently completed, I’ll concentrate on Bach.

Again, the reason the Bach course has so enriched my life is because I wasn’t a Bach fan before. I always saw Bach as repetitive and dry. Yes, I get it: you do an intricate melody and sequence it three times, each time a little higher or lower than the last, and there is all this counterpoint that I admit is technically proficient but which leaves me cold. Yawn.

I thought the Kyrie of the B Minor Mass was cool. I enjoyed some of the Well Tempered Clavier pieces I knew and played as a kid. And everybody knows a couple of those famous pieces like the Air on a G String or the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. But other than that, Bach left me cold.

Man, was I wrong. I am now like a kid in a candy store — only the candy is substantive and only gains flavor the more you chew on it.

Sure, Greenberg gives you the biographical history. Yes, he gives you the historical and musical context, and instructs you (if you didn’t know them already) in the forms of fugue, ritornello, concerto, and so on.

But to me, the real treat was in becoming familiar with the intricacies of the details of pieces like the Goldberg Variations, or the St. Matthew Passion. With the Goldberg Variations, the tidbits include the structural details, like the way the piece is subdivided in two, with variation 16 being a French overture (he’ll explain it to you), but also subdivided into ten trinities bookended by the aria on each side. The trinities all end in canons beginning at increasing intervals, with the first canon (variation 3) at the unison, the second (variation 6) at the interval of the second, and so on up to the octave. The significance of the minor variations, in particular the “black pearl” (variation 25) is fascinating. I could go on.

And the St. Matthew Passion. What a piece! Listen as it is explained how Jesus’s vocal pieces are always accompanied by a halo-like shimmer of violins — with one singular exception that shows Bach’s deep understanding of the significance of the crucifixion. One detail I never knew, which is truly a Music Nerd detail, is that e minor is the key of the crucifixion. Why? Because, like its relative major G major, it has a single sharp — and in German, the word for “sharp” (as in the sharps and flats used in music) is Kreuz — the same word that is used to mean “cross.” Get it? One sharp, one cross — the One True Cross.


The fun nuggets of learning go on and on.

SMALL ASIDE: I don’t owe all of my Bach appreciation to Greenberg; just most of it. Last year, Mrs. P and I went for a long weekend with the fella that long-time blog readers know as Armed Liberal from Winds of Change, as well as his lovely wife. We hung out at the Aviara resort near San Diego and went to see Verdi’s Falstaff at the San Diego Opera. One afternoon, as we were hanging out and drinking wine in the Aviara’s open area off the lobby, I asked A.L. what his favorite music was, and he named Bach’s Cello Suites as among his favorite music. He had seen Yo-Yo Ma perform them at a concert in (if I recall correctly) Minneapolis years ago, and had even gotten to meet the famous cellist.) I said I didn’t know the pieces, but resolved to become acquainted with them. And then Yo-Yo Ma announced his performance of the suites in their entirety at a marathon concert at the Hollywood Bowl this past summer, and I knew I had to invite A.L. and the wife to come along. (In an example of terrible timing, he ended up having to go to New York for work the night before, so Mrs. P. and I and A.L.’s wife went with a friend of theirs and A.L. missed out, which I’m still sad about.)

I listened to those cello pieces dozens of times before the concert, and played through them on the piano (well, all but No. 5, which is written in that bizarre C-clef that I have struggled with my whole life). I now know and love those pieces as if I had listened to them my whole life — and I owe that to Armed Liberal and not to Greenberg. (END ASIDE)

BACK TO GREENBERG: In reading reviews of the Greenberg courses, I see that the man’s style is not for everyone. He is very confident and expressive (and the reviews reveal that he occasionally gets small facts wrong) and most importantly he cracks a lot of corny jokes. Look: I’m a fan of dad jokes. I ask Alexa (yes, Alexa: I probably would not have gotten it, my mom got it for us and it turns out to be useful and fun) to tell us jokes pretty frequently. They are often dad jokes and they make me laugh.

Where did Napoleon hide his armies?

In his sleevies.

(While we’re sharing corny humor that my kids roll their eyes at, did you ever see Sail Cat? My kids say I should not say anything about it on the Internet because literally everyone else in the world saw this five years ago or more, but I saw it for the first time in the last week or two and I could not stop watching and laughing.)

Anyway, I think Greenberg is funny, but if you hate funny dad jokes then fairly warned be thee say I.

These courses can be bought for a song, if you are an Audible member, or become one. The discount is absurd, and paying “sticker price” would be like paying the sticker price for a new car. Take the course on the Beethoven symphonies. The Great Courses Website indicates that their usual price for DVDs is $519 and their cheapest option, an audio download, is $250. Absurd. As of this writing they have a “sale” where the audio download is $45 and the DVDs are $110. Also silly. Amazon tells you that they want to charge you $30 for an audio CD and $26.47 for an audio download. We’re getting closer for a 24-hour course, but you can do a lot better.

Join Audible as a Platinum member and pay $22.95 per month (cancel any time) and get 2 credits a month. Each costs you $11.48. Or join as a Gold member and pay $14.95 a month for one credit. A credit will buy you a whole course, no matter how long it is or what the usual sticker price is. So you’re paying about $12-15 per course, depending on which option you go with.

If you’re convinced and you want to sign up for Audible now, you can do it through my link. I get a commission and you get a 30-day free trial and two free audiobooks to start:

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

If you’re a music nerd, I’d highly recommend Bach and the High Baroque and the Beethoven String Quartets as your free selections. Even if you’re not, Greenberg keeps it simple enough that as long as you’re interested, you’ll be glad you did it. Those two courses alone would be over 43 hours of music instruction for free, and then $14.95 a month after that if you don’t cancel.

If you’re like me, you’ll go Platinum for barely over a year — long enough to get all 26 Greenberg courses, at about $12 a pop.

Anyway, if Greenberg did nothing but acquaint me better with the music of Bach, that alone would be enough. As regular readers know, I have begun to post a Bach cantata every Sunday, with eight entries so far and counting. I feel funny saying this, but Bach’s music has even motivated me to go to church again. I was raised in the Episcopal church, but Bach’s example spurred me to look for a Lutheran church, and I found one nearby that has a very welcoming congregation where I feel very comfortable. Commenter DRJ noted something that I had never heard before: that Bach’s cantatas have been called “the fifth Gospel.” Indeed:

Yuko Maruyama, a Japanese organist working in Minneapolis, was once a devout Buddhist. Now, thanks to the music of J. S. Bach, she is a Christian. “Bach introduced me to God, Jesus, and Christianity,” she told Metro Lutheran, a Twin Cities monthly. “When I play a fugue, I can feel Bach talking to God.” Masashi Masuda, a Jesuit priest, came to faith in almost the same way: “Listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations first aroused my interest in Christianity.” Today Masuda teaches theology at Tokyo’s Sophia University.

But why would the most abstract works of an 18th-century German composer guide Asian people to Christ? Charles Ford, a mathematics professor in St. Louis, suggests that this is because Bach’s music reflects the perfect beauty of created order to which the Japanese mind is receptive. “Bach has had the same effect on me, a Western scientist,” explained Ford. Henry Gerike, organist and choirmaster at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, agrees: “The fugue is the best way God has given us to enjoy his creation. … But of course Bach’s most significant message to us is the Gospel.” Gerike echoes Swedish archbishop Nathan Söderblom (1866–1931), who famously called Bach’s cantatas “the fifth Gospel.”

I can’t easily explain it in words, and it makes me feel a little sheepish to talk about it, but my experience has been much the same. After listening to Bach, I just felt drawn to the church, and I couldn’t really articulate precisely why when people asked. But it makes sense to me inside, and that’s all that matters.

And this, among other things, I mostly owe to Robert Greenberg and his course on Bach. I can only hope that even one person reads this and has even half the experience I have had as a result.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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