Prison band up for a Grammy – and may not even know it

Inmates of the Zomba high-security prison have become the first Malawians to be nominated for the American awards…The maximum security prison in Zomba, Malawi is not the sort of place where Grammy-nominated albums are typically recorded.

But a group of Zomba’s inmates, many of them serving life sentences for offences including murder and theft, have found themselves nominated for a the prestigious awards in the best world music album category.

Announced last week, the group – known as the Zomba Prison Band – are joined on the shortlist by some of world music’s biggest stars: Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Angelique Kidjo, Gilberto Gil and Anoushka Shankar.

“I was shocked. Absolutely shocked… The other four nominated artists all have roots that go back decades, so to see this group of completely unknown people from what is really a lesser known country get recognised is really humbling,” said Ian Brennan, who produced the album.

Recorded in the summer of 2013, 16 inmates wrote and performed the songs for the album, I Have No Everything Here.

They are the first Malawian musicians to be nominated at the prestigious Grammys.

But Brennan doesn’t know if the prisoners involved have been informed of their historic nomination, as all communication with them must go through the prison commissioner or local NGOs.

Lovely sound, meaningful music. My kind of music.

“Deadbeat Dams” author calls for abolition of water bureaucracy

A former chief of the U.S Bureau of Reclamation is advocating for the removal of that agency, which has built dams across the nation for more than a century.

Dan Beard says tens of thousands of federally built dams nationwide are outdated and environmentally damaging. In his book, “Deadbeat Dams,” he calls for demolishing Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam and transforming the way we manage water in the West.

❝”There’s greater competition for less and less water,” Beard said. “We need to make some fundamental changes in the way that we think about water, the way we pay for it and the way we use it.”

He said that includes ending water subsidies for farmers and increasing water conservation and reuse in urban areas.

Beard…worked on water policy for 40 years, including as staff director for the Subcommittee on Water and Power in the U.S. House of Representatives…

Just as the Army Corps of Engineers screwed up riverine environments by straightening and digging channels, destroying wetlands, to increase profits for river freight and harbor terminals – the Bureau of Reclamation dedicated its work and life to already subsidized agribusiness. Increasing product and profits by bringing water to lands naturally lacking that precious commodity. The Bureau enabled much of today’s shortages. And created a constituency that assumes it is owed continuing energy and dollars to remain profitable.

Just about the worst kind of reasoning one could ask for from bureaucrats.

Fed increase was the most important thing ever. Oh, wait.

The Federal Reserve’s liftoff day is here, and truth be told, I find almost all of the commentary on the subject to be overwrought speculation and uninformative blather. If that sounds harsh, it is. But at least it’s consistent with my other writings on this and related subjects.

You see, much of what you believe to be important isn’t important at all. Most of the media focuses on items that seem critical day-to-day, but actually amount to little more than interesting, amusing, gossipy filler…

The most regular reminder that there is too much focus on all the wrong things is the monthly employment situation report…this is very noisy data subject to revisions and the longer trend matters much more than any single report. I think of the Fed in a similar way.

Today is different in that for the past seven years, every single data point — and that is all each Fed meeting is, a single data point about changes in interest rates — in this series has been a big fat “nothing done.” This makes today feel more momentous than it is…

This isn’t me being a curmudgeon, but rather being consistent with our other admonitions that most people spend a lot of time and mental energy worrying about the wrong things…They fear terrorism when they are more likely to die of high cholesterol; they are concerned about market crashes when costs, excessive trading and taxes do more harm to their returns.

And now, they’re worried about a minimal rate increase, when history shows that it shouldn’t be feared. Raising rates from zero with inflation modest, unemployment cut in half and the financial crisis seven years in the past is a positive, not a negative…

The passing of time provides much needed context to the daily breathless excitement of, well, everything. After months have passed, in the clear light of day, what seemed important, even earthshaking at the time, actually didn’t amount to much of anything

One day, there will be another recession and the bull stock market will end. The Fed’s decision to raise rates a quarter point in 2015 won’t be the cause of either.

Barry Ritholtz is forever my favorite Recovering Republican. He is blessed [or cursed] with preferring reality, accurate history, mathematically precise analysis whenever possible.

RTFA if for nothing else his giant list of everything that was going to “kill the economy”.

Pic of the day


Click to enlargeDave Sandford

A November Witch is, as the name suggests, not something to trifle with. The colorful name refers to the particularly nasty storms that pummel the Great Lakes around this time of year. Most people wisely choose to stay inside, protected from the 30-mph winds whipped by storms so brutal they can make rivers flow backward. But Dave Sandford rushes headlong into the storm with his camera.

Something else.