Protesters, MLK, and Partisan Urges

Young protesters urgently need to go watch “Selma” and in general pause and think, “what would MLK do?” The Selma marchers gracefully expressed their humanity and decency with their faces visible, and created a clear contrast from the opposition’s hate and savagery. The scene and imagery created were more powerful than any weapon, and turned 800 marchers into 25,000 at the end. It was masterful leadership.

Protesters should quickly expel destructive/violent individuals and the idea of using masks or carrying weapons. Masking invites deindividuation and ugly mob behavior. Pulling down a statue by force may get some “attaboys” from their team, but expresses to others that their organization doesn’t respect the law, can’t be trusted to obey it, and doesn’t deserve its protection. All of this turns people away from a cause—even when it’s undisputably just—and creates virulent propaganda to be used against the cause.

Protesters very wrongly assume that the public is willing to forgive bad means to meet just ends, and 2017 America’s hyper-partisanship makes it extremely difficult to build wide coalitions—even against no-brainer causes like white supremacists are bad. It’s a sad state, but many conservatives’ stomachs churn at the idea of working with liberals. That blame is squarely on social media propagandists and on the GOP leadership—for supporting such rhetoric from their media cheerleaders, and while it’s wrong it cannot be ignored. Today, organizations can only build strong coalitions by carefully suppressing partisan urges, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so. It would be a tragedy if charities and organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous reduced their abilities to help by gaining political associations.

About those “partisan urges”. They feel good to indulge! Almost nothing feels better than really giving it to the other team, and Trump more than any politician employs this almost as a guiding principle, but it leads to some awful places. The PR folks working for white supremacists will no doubt point out their opponent’s faults, and note there were good people walking beside them at an event they lawfully planned with permits and everything. When cornered, President Trump said all of those on their behalf, to get in some what-about-ist jabs at liberals. When someone with a few beers in them does this at a BBQ it’s unseemly. For a sitting President of a country with our history, it was, as some conservatives rightly call it, “a moral disgrace.”

Questions about the President’s own feelings about race and past denouncements of racists don’t really matter when he gives hate groups fresh talking points. As of Sunday they can say “if you march beside us, Trump will take political risks to point out your goodness” and “his Monday denunciation of us was a hostage tape.” While I don’t think he’s racist, his statements will lead some to pause on that, and I can’t blame them.

Trump could absolutely have expressed almost all of what he did in a graceful way that did not go neutral on Nazis vs. People Against Nazis. Preparing your words isn’t just dumb politician stuff; it gives you time to sharpen your ideas and avoid stepping on them (“…on many sides”). He has to control his fiery hatred of liberals. First, because he’s leading a nation with a ton of them and it’s the right thing to do. Secondly, he needs them in Congress to really solve problems like healthcare. But lastly, because hatred is blinding, and at a moment the country was looking to him for guidance, it led him to treat the liberals’ enemies as his allies.

Monuments to a Government’s Failure

The Civil War is a strange case where the oppressors and terrorists, upon losing, were basically let alone to continue countless awful misdeeds, and the biggest slave owners retained all the power of government. The “freedom” blacks gained was purely notional until many decades later.

Imagine an alternate history where, instead, former slaves had been given real, meaningful citizenship: The right to vote unobstructed, to hold office, to receive the full protection of the law, and the opportunity to really be known and understood by the white population as fellow Americans. In this more just outcome, do we really think the citizens of the South, almost half black, would’ve chosen to publicly celebrate—with monuments and names of counties, towns, and streets—the cause to continue enslaving their children and neighbors?

We can’t know the answer, but I think it’s “absolutely not.”

These monuments exist because of the dismal failure of the government to protect its citizens from abuse; by fellow citizens, police, the courts, and the law.

If a community or its elected representatives desire it, they should come down in an orderly fashion, with the goal of preserving them. Communities deserve the freedom to decide what they will celebrate for the next few centuries.

The Civil War is better documented than it’s ever been, and if American schools and parents fail to teach history, a statue isn’t going to do it. What we’ve definitely failed to teach are the stories of the generations of Americans that lived under terror and de facto slavery after the war’s end, and through Jim Crow.

The Google Memo

I had a great conversation with Kathleen about the “Google memo”. We talked about her experiences and the greater context of several previous generations of women from the trailblazers to those who later entered workplaces in mass to find they were boy’s clubs.

We already had decades of the golden age of “free debate” workplaces where the topic was often whether women–or minorities–were “cut out for this line of work.” See the first few Mad Men eps, or ask a woman who went to work before the mid 80s. The fully “free debate” workplaces were found wanting and we rightly took some topics off the table. Absolutely some censorship in workplaces is critical! Over the years I’ve heard plenty “ideas” at work that created hostile environments, or would have in a more diverse group. It’s a shame the memo writer didn’t run this by a few women, ideally coworkers, before dumping to Google’s whole workforce. It may have sharpened his arguments and led him to a better approach to reaching his goals.

Naturally our culture around work formed under the assumption of women at home rearing children. Over decades millions of decisions were made without the idea of working women and raising families with both parents working. This isn’t a value judgment, but it means that firms who value diversity still have really big levers they can pull that make the consideration of miniscule biological differences just not that important. Firms will of course forever have to balance their diversity desires with the law’s prohibition of discrimination; the memo’s author basically accused Google of discrimination against men, and that’s for the courts to figure out.

I’ll give him this, he’s right that political viewpoint diversity is probably very lacking at Google, as it is nearly everywhere in America due to our acidic hyper-partisanship and geographical self-sorting. He referenced the Heterodox Academy and I’m a fan. In general diversity is so hard because humans don’t want to have uncomfortable conversations or get pushback on their ideas, even if weeds out the weak ideas and yields better solutions.

To some extent each firm has to consider whether actively fighting against a nationwide polarization trend is worth the hassle, but the more politically homogenous businesses will probably be the first to majorly mess up in public and “out” themselves as saying nasty things about half their customers.

Louis Cole “You’ll Believe Me” chords

Modulations are noted with ().


    A           E7/A |             A   :||


    A                | E7sus         E7
        I saw the world   but didn't like it.

    A      B7/A      | G#m7          C#m7
        Without you there I couldn't fight for

                       (A)                                          (D)
    F#m7             | E7sus/B   E7    | Amaj9     A6/9     | Amaj9 A7 A7sus
       our survival.   If you   need me  you'll believe me.

    D                | A7sus            A7sus/G
      Throw out your doubt that time is over.

    D/F#    Bm7      | C6/9        E7   /F#  | (repeat intro)
       Just cry your fears into my shoulder.


    A                | E7sus     E7
        Grow tired as     as the days burn.

    A      B7/A      | G#m7           C#m7
       Sit down with me and watch the world turn.

    F#m7                    | E7sus/C   E13  /F# | Amaj9     A6/9    | A (bass G)
      I think you will learn  if    you need me    you'll believe me.


    F     /C   /F /G | /A /C            | C7sus     /G /A  | /Bb /G   C7

    Db   /Ab /Db /Eb | /F /Ab           | Ab7sus   /Eb /F  | /Gb /Eb  Ab7

    (A)         (Bb)             (B)                  (C)                (C#)
    A   /E  /F  F+/A | Bb /F /F# F#+/A# | B  /F#  /G  G+/B | C  /G  /G#  G#+/B#

    (C#m)    (B)                (Bbm)
    C#m      Em      | Bsus     D#m     | Bbm/F     F+ F/C | Bbm(9)   Bbm
    D+/F Gm/F# Gm    | Dsus/G   D/F#    | Bm      Bm7/A    | Em7/B    A7sus A7


    D                | A7sus           A7sus/G
      Don't start to cry it's far from over.

    D/F#       Bm7   | C6/9           E7  /F# | (repeat intro)
       Look at who I am    I'm coming closer.

    A                | E7sus       E7
      Look on your face    doesn't ...

    A      B7/A      | G#m7           C#m7
       The big disguise        joy is painful.

    F#m7             | E7sus/C   E13  /F# | Amaj9     A6/9
        I just hope    if you    need me    you'll believe me.


    A     Amaj7      | Am9               :||


This is a well done Pet Sounds tribute in harmony and arrangement. 3rd inversion dom7 chords; using them to modulate to nearby keys; bass solos centered around the 5th; lush V7sus chords.

There are several instances of what sounds like C6/9 or E7sus/C. My guess is these were originally E7sus/B as in the first verse, but the C bass (muted just before the vocal hits C#) made a nice trick for the ears, making the modulations back to A a little less cliche.

The bridge section at 1:30 has a clever modulation from C# minor to Bb minor: After C#m, the Em suggests the iv of B and indeed we follow with I – iii in B. However D#m is used to pivot again to Bb minor as Ebm is the iv. He uses a cadential 6/4 to really settle us in Bb minor. The following a capella part comes in sounding like Bbmaj with a flat 6 due to the low voice’s start on F (maybe an accident), but these two bars I think are really a fancy plagal cadence in D major: V+/iv – iv – Isus – I.

The E13s are voiced as E7 with the 13 only in the vocal. The Amaj9 to A6/9: I’m including the vocal in the maj7 – 6th harmonies.

Pitch Memory Survey


I posted a short survey of how people remember pitches without a reference note. This came about when a Redditor asked what key people sing “Happy Birthday” in (the correct answer being the key that the first/loudest singer chooses).

I, like most people, don’t have perfect pitch, and if someone sits at a piano and plays a popular song, I can’t tell what key they’re playing unless I see their hands. My “movable do” adapts immediately. Problem one for this survey is that, for me (and I’m assuming most others), tonality is “sticky.” Play C – G7 and ask me to sing a song, and it’s likely to come out in C or A minor. After a little longer maybe a closely related key like G or F.

I try to fight that in the survey by asking participants to listen to this “music” between questions. This is one track of Cm – Bdim7 slowly pitch shifted up two whole tones and another of Em – D#dim7 slowly pitch shifted down two whole tones, just trying to disorient the listener.

Anyway, the “answers” are below, but remember there’s no harm in being “wrong”. Perfect pitch memory/recognition is helpful at some tasks in music transcription, but relative pitch is the crucial one that allows you to enjoy and create the vast majority of Western music, recognize when notes are sharp/flat, etc.

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