Year: 2011

Phil Ochs’ birthday: You know what they say, or you don’t

I’m strongly of the opinion that Phil Ochs’ “Love Me I’m a Liberal,” as timeless as it is, could use an update.

There is this one, from Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon, good as far as it goes, but a lot has happened since 2007. There’s Schumer, there’s Clooney, there’s Kerry on a surfboard, there’s Bill,there’s Hillary (lots of Hillary!), but it would be nice to have a verse or two about the current occupant of the White House, who probably wasn’t even on Jello Biafra’s radar in 2007.

Here also, for comparison, Phil’s version:

AND, Todd Snider doing a beautiful version of his great song “Thin Wild Mercury,” about the time Dylan kicked Phil out of his limo for “speakin’ his mind.” (It’s pretty stripped down: the studio take is much more uptempo.)

Happy Birthday, Phil.  We could have used you the past few years…..

“I really wasn’t such a Johnny Ace fan”

The day started poorly, but has improved some. As happens every year, we were taken by surprise by the first cold night. Heather woke me at 5:30 to announce that the pipes had frozen. We got the water running just in time for the kids to brush their teeth before school. I have that tingly pink-around-the-edges of my field of vision thing I get when I don’t get nearly enough sleep, but I opted for coffee instead of getting back under the covers.

I have a nice fire blazing now, and have just paid a visit to the herd, which is some distance away in a pasture I don’t usually use. My boots crunched brightly as I ambled out there, and was pleased to be accompanied by Marshmallow, our most sociable tomcat. He enjoys my company, I think, and I am sure he really loves the attention he gets from the calves, who get so excited when chasing him they get into that crazy bucking and kicking sideways mode.

The WW Norton tumblr posted the Paul Simon video above today, the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I was familiar with the song, but it never really registered. Until now.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading about Mr. Ace, or maybe because during the 1981 Central Park performance of this song Simon is accosted by a crazed fan (“I gotta talk to you, I gotta talk to you”), a heart-stopping echo of Lennon’s death, but this video clip hit me pretty hard.

And maybe there are more personal reasons, having to do with my own losses over the years–of family members and close friends. Maybe that’s what’s at the root of the sometimes over-the-top public mourning of a famous person–a JFK, a John Lennon, a Lady Di or Michael Jackson. Or even a more subdued sadness at the demise of an almost famous person … such as the late great Johnny Ace. I can’t really say. But today I think this is a great song.

 On a cold December evening
I was walking through the Christmas tide
When a stranger came up and asked me
If I’d heard John Lennon had died
And the two of us went to this bar
And we stayed to close the place
And every song we played
Was for The Late Great Johnny Ace, yeah

If we make it through December


Reading the news, and it’s all bad

  • “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world.”
    –Mayor Mike
    . See also this
  • “No one is arguing for rule of law as we once knew it. Rather, it’s a fight between those espousing martial rule of law and those espousing unilateral intelligence ops.”
    –Marcy Wheeler, The Rule of Martial Law Vs. the Unitary Spookery
  • According to the study’s authors, the United States’ poor performance and relatively slow improvement compared with other nations may be attributable to “the lack of universal coverage and high costs of care.”
    U.S. Ranks Last Among High-Income Nations on Preventable Deaths
  • “Still, the world is watching a geopolitical game of chicken: Western powers are raising the stakes, threatening economic warfare and even kinetic military action unless Iran backs down; Iran believes it can withstand whatever the West and Israel is plausibly going to throw at it, and is firing symbolic warning shots of its own. To avoid an escalation that could lead to war, both sides would have to be offered acceptable off-ramps. But that takes diplomacy, which isn’t exactly in vogue in Western relations with Iran, right now.”
    –Tony Karon, After the Embassy Attack: Are Iran and the West Lurching Toward War?

“The hardest-working man in show business”

Have been immersed lately in Preston Lauterbach’s The Chitlin’ Circuit, And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll. Yesterday afternoon, I grabbed it off the “new nonfiction” shelf and flipped through while the kids played on the Boyle County Library computers; kept reading last night; and woke up at 5 a.m. to stoke the wood stove and finish the book. It’s terrific. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

Google around for summaries and reviews. Robert Christgau has a good one here. I just wanted to share this excerpt, which was shocking and amazing to me, about the early days of Little Richard’s and James Brown’s careers, in and around Macon, Georgia.  The two were close. Despite being upstaged dramatically one night by James and the Famous Flames (after which Richard conceded, “You’re the onliest man I’ve seen who has everything”), Richard’s career would be the first to take off, and led to Brown actually performing AS Little Richard!

 Little Richard’s abrupt  departure for the West  Coast after the “Tutti Frutti” session left [Legendary Chitlin’ Circuit promoter Clint] Brantley with a problem, namely, unfulfilled bookings. So for a few weeks during the Fall of 1955 around Georgia, you could see James Brown as Little Richard, and Bobby Byrd as James Brown with the Flames.  Brantley plugged James right into Richard’s gigs, touring with Richard’s Upsetters, traveling in a station wagon adorned with Richard’s name and song titles. James took it in stride, teasing about Richard’s magical ability to perform in two places at the same time. Emcee Luke Gonder worked the joke into his nightly introduction of the band on stage. After rattling through the lineup, he reached the star of the show.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the hardest-working man in show business today–Little Richard.”

The Chitlin’ Circuit, And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll by Preston Lauterbach

Well, at least JB got a pretty good nickname out of his tribute band gig.

Later, apparently, as per Wikipedia, James again took Richard’s tour slots when the architect of rock n roll turned to preaching in 1957. Their careers were so intertwined, it’s sort of surprising that there are few images of them together. The screen capture of their appearance on Wheel of Fortune was the best Google Images could come up with…..  which fact alone makes me want to smile and weep  at the same time.

Three headlines, three songs, two (and a half) thumbs up

Emma Sullivan
Emma Sullivan

Readin’ the news, and it’s all bad…

Quelle Surprise! Banks Lied About Bailout Funds and Got $13 Billion in Profit from Them
Yves Smith: And the bottom line is everybody close to the process lied like crazy.

An Assault, a SWAT Team, a Drug Raid, and Some Sex Toys
This one’s from Friday, but mind still being boggled by it.
“When our cops are focused on executing large-scale, constitutionally questionable raids at the slightest hint that a small-time pot dealer is at work, real police work preventing and investigating crimes like robberies and rapes falls by the wayside.”

Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window
“Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.”

Rainy Monday morning tunes

Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli – Manoir de Mes Reves

Acid House Kings – This and That

Belle & Sebastian – Sukie in the Graveyard


Elvis Costello recommends you NOT buy his boxed set, says to spend your money on Satchmo, instead!

Emma Sullivan won’t apologize, Brownback still blows!

Finally, not entirely sure how I feel about this, but Miley Cyrus and OWS??! Interesting take.

“The horribly anti-democratic nature of all this”

I really liked Ian Welsh’s “What passes for smart on the Greek Debt Crisis,” a response to a Kevin Drum piece, in which Welsh makes a convincing case that Drum kind of didn’t really know what he was talking about.

Basically, Welsh says, Drum and other leading liberal bloggers accept without skepticism a number of conventional (and wrong) assumptions about the catastrophic things that will happen in the event of a country not doing what it’s told to do by the world’s banking establishment. Welsh points to the less-than-cataclysmic consequences of Argentina’s and Iceland’s default. And a commenter brings up another alternative to Playing the Game According to the Rules–Malaysia, which in the 90s, instituted currency controls as opposed to doing to IMF’s bidding.

Anyway, I’ll be honest: a detailed discussion of the economics is a little beyond me (and, as per Welsh, beyond Drum and Digby, among others), but the insightful part of the Welsh piece, and the chunk I’d like to share, is in his summation of “the horribly anti-democratic nature of all this.” I’ve highlighted the best, most quotable, bits…..

There is no actual democracy in any part of the world which is attached to the Wall Street centered financial system. Calls can run up to 1000:1 against TARP and it will pass. Strong majorities can be for or against particular policies and if the elite disagrees, that’s all that matters. There are no parties to vote for if you are against the current system.

In a sense, this is fair. Westerners thought that they could have consumer democracy: they didn’t have to participate in it except at election time, when they would vote for parties and platforms paid for and produced by someone other than them. Coke(tm)/Pepsi(tm) politics – you have a choice, you can choose either Coke or Pepsi! Politicians aren’t paid by you (their salaries are the least part of their real income) why would you think they care about your concerns?

You don’t pay for politicians or politics. This is the Facebook rule: if you don’t pay the freight, you aren’t the customer, you are the product. Politicians compete for the money and favors of the rich, and what they sell is the ability to wrangle you: to pass the austerity bills, to cut the benefits, to privatize the jewels of the public system, to force through the multi-trillion dollar bailouts. They control government for the benefit of the rich.

And the rich pay all the way down the line. They control the media, right down to the bottom, to make sure that what is discusses is what they want discussed, in the terms they want it discussed. That default isn’t that bad: forbidden. That currency controls mitigate damage in these circumstances: forbidden. That lenders will lend to defaulting countries almost immediately: forbidden.

That the mere mention of a directly democratic approach to Greece’s debt woes led to widespread panic in global markets tells you all you need to know about how robust, and how undemocratic (that word again), the system is.

Papandreou has recanted, sort of, and the Greek referendum is off the table. Temporarily, I think. Whatever his motivation, the Greek PM (or former Greek PM, depending on when you read this), has let the democracy Genie out of the bottle. I don’t think it will be easy for whoever takes over to refuse a referendum in Greece. And perhaps, perhaps, this is a precedent.

A decade under the Patriot Act: the years have just flown by!

Happy birthday, Patriot Act! 10 years young today!

Don’t forget, there are not one, but two, Patriot Acts: one that the public sees, and a secret interpretation that the government keeps to itself!

It’s for your own good, though, for sure. And if you have nothing to hide, what difference does it make, right?

Below is a terrific graphic from the ACLU.

Hillary Caesar

“We came, we saw, he died.”

Dubya was mocked, justly, for his weird little nervous chortle when he bragged about takin’ out the bad boys. But lately we’ve seen that getting the giggles over a political assassination is a bipartisan affliction.

It’s a trifle unseemly.

Hillary’s gloating comes on top of the president’s joke last year about killing the Jonas Brothers with predator drones. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out on Thursday, last week the joke became a reality, when a drone-fired missile vaporized Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, like his father (and the Jonas Brothers) an American citizen.

And then there’s this guy Sullivan:

To rid the world of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Qaddafi within six months: if Obama were a Republican, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now. And this time, the Arab world loves us as well.

The presumptions and non-sequiters in this are mind-boggling.

I will go out on a limb and call bullshit on the “Arabs loving us” part.

Finally, Jon Stewart pouts because the Republicans won’t give Obama high-fives. “[W]e don’t know what these rebels are going to do” is one of the Fox News positions mocked by Stewart.

For perhaps the first (and probably the last) time in my life, I’m with Fox ….


We removed a dictator in six months, losing no American soldiers, spending like a billion dollars rather than a trillion dollars and engendering what appears to be good will from people who now have a prideful story of their own independence to tell — not to mention, they have oil.

That last part? It makes it all OK?

Disappointing but not all that surprising, if you have a (selective) elephant’s memory like me, and recall Stewart’s sucking up to Colin Powell in 2005:  “the Afghanistan war, man did I dig that. I’d like to go again.”

This is a rather negative post, I know. I have one positive thing to say. Pepe Escobar’s How the West won Libya has just the right blend of perceptive analysis, anger, and resignation. When the world celebrates with near unanimity the disfiguring of a corpse, it’s safe to assume things will get a lot worse before they get better.

Oh, Lord, all options on the table–again!

… and here we go again with the tables and Iran.

Biden: ‘Nothing Off the Table’ After Iran D.C. Terror Plot

Apart from an incredibly sketchy plot, the details of which seem skimpier by the hour, has anything changed regarding the Persian Menace ™ since last August? No, not really.

Why bother, then, writing something new? This  recycled story, centering on the brilliant reductio ad absurdum of the whole “table” business from Fafblog, remains as sadly relevant as it was last year (or basically any year since 1981).

Always with the tables

By timmuky, on August 20th, 2010

Few turns of phrase demonstrate the unquestioning dimwittedness of America’s public discourse than “All options are on the table” when it comes to Iran. As far as I can tell, it first came into broad use during the Dubya Administration.  Bush’s successor, Mr.Changey Changey, didn’t see anything worth changing in the formulation. In fact, he rather seems to  like it.  His  Secretary of State is pretty fond of it, too.

Read the whole thing….


If you can’t try ’em, fry ’em (and the crowd goes crazy!)

Marcy Wheeler writes:

That’s right, not just one, but two, Americans were summarily and extrajudicially executed by their own government today, at the direct order of the President of the United States. No trial, no verdict, just off with their heads. Heck, there were not even charges filed against either Awlaki or Khan. And it is not that the government did not try either, there was a grand jury convened on Khan, but no charges. Awlaki too was investigated for charges at least twice by the DOJ, but non were found.

I confess to not knowing about the halfhearted attempts at legally dealing with Awlaki and Khan, but it’s not surprising to see them overlooked in media coverage of Friday’s assassination.  It fits the big picture. We  couldn’t convict them in any court of anything, so let’s just blow their asses away!

So that is where we stand. Bringing to its logical conclusion a process started under Clinton, the current president has declared himself to be Emperor of the Planet. If he says you’re an Extra Special Evil Enemy, you’re dead, even if you’re an American citizen. This is not the first time Obama’s exercised the imperial prerogative to put names on a death list, but it’s the most high-profile instance. And to read the responses from media and politicians–mostly bowing to the somber need to rid our country of these fucking cockroaches–is to cry.

I don’t think much has changed since I wrote “First they came, the invisible whites, and dealt death from afar” nearly a year ago. Except that now the USA is in major “Fuck Yeah!” mode in zapping  terror leaders! And the efficiency of drone attacks has improved, uh, miraculously.  Top counterterror honcho John Brennan now claims zero accidental deaths from drone strikes.

He actually said this:

There hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.

Yes, ZERO. Earlier a key figure said, in the pages of the Times, that the success rate was more along the order of one in fifty. Now it’s one HUNDRED PERCENT.

Did the science of targeting big-ass rockets at blurry shapes on monitors improve that dramatically, or did the government just decide to lie brazenly about it?

Take your pick, but you should really ponder this report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism before you do….

There have been a good few critical responses to the Awlaki killing, mostly focusing on the fact that we are now murdering Americans without due process.

Truly, that is appalling, but isn’t it a tiny nuance, compared to the fact that a nation, protected by massive oceans on either side and friendly neighbors north and south, is vaporizing any human beings on the other side of the planet –the targeted person(s) and whoever else happens to be nearby when the Hellfire missile explodes–and then claiming self-defense? Mighty America is defending itself from a preacher in YEMEN?!!!! Just let the crazy of that sink in for a moment.

The libertarians have been getting to me, I guess. Not their goofy belief in the magic benevolence of markets, but in their justified questions of what exactly empowers the state to kill anyone, whether it be a hapless poor person of color who can’t afford decent counsel, or renegade Muslim clerics, or indeed anyone in a country that is not massing its troops at our border.

I can’t counter the thought that all of these  decisions to murder arise not from an earnest desire to protect Americans (though I grant that might be mixed into the motivation), but mainly from considerations of domestic political expediency. The local DA has to appear “tough on crime” to win re-election, just as the president has to avoid the “soft on defense” tag to undercut the kneejerk criticisms on this account that are certain to come from the opposing party.

The low, dishonest decade hasn’t bottomed out yet.

Anyway, here is that earlier piece I mentioned above. Sadly, it’s even more relevant than it was last year.


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