Friday, July 31, 2009

Krugman on Health and the US Government

Lucky you: I'm feeding you Krugman twice in a week. But until this health care madness is resolved, it's a necessity -- think of it as medicine.

So here’s the bottom line: if you currently have decent health insurance, thank the government. It’s true that if you’re young and healthy, with nothing in your medical history that could possibly have raised red flags with corporate accountants, you might have been able to get insurance without government intervention. But time and chance happen to us all, and the only reason you have a reasonable prospect of still having insurance coverage when you need it is the large role the government already plays.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Greenwald on What it Means to Have Principles

George Will is considered an intellectual heavyweight while Glenn Greenwald is considered a lightweight? I guess that's what happens when you don't follow the unwritten rules.

But the mentality reflected by Massing's view -- there are no "principles"; everything must give way to "practical considerations" of Washington officials -- is precisely what has become so rampant and is what accounts for most of the lawlessness and corruption in our political class. Instead of "the President shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," we have: "Presidents should try to obey the law except when they decree there are good reasons to violate it." Instead of "in America the law is king," we have: "we can only apply the law when it won't undermine bipartisanship." Instead of "treaties shall be the supreme Law of the Land," we have: "we can't have torture prosecutions because they'll distract from health care." To "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause" and "No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," we have added: "unless there are Terrorists who want to harm us, in which case we spy without warrants and imprison people for life without charges."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Kinks - Death of a Clown

Always loved this one. A rarity among Kinks songs, it was not written and sung by Ray Davies but by his brother Dave, the band's lead guitarist. The cool echoed piano intro has been clipped, unfortunately.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Left Handed Way - 48 Hour Film Project Asheville 2009

Cool all the way around. I particularly like the shot at about the three-minute mark where one face is in profile in the foreground, while the other in the background is carrying the narrative load, so to speak.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Krugman on Blue Dogs and Health

The Nobelist on the Blue Dog Democrats opposition to the Obama health care plan.

So what are the objections of the Blue Dogs?

Well, they talk a lot about fiscal responsibility, which basically boils down to worrying about the cost of those subsidies. And it’s tempting to stop right there, and cry foul. After all, where were those concerns about fiscal responsibility back in 2001, when most conservative Democrats voted enthusiastically for that year’s big Bush tax cut — a tax cut that added $1.35 trillion to the deficit?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Didion Speaks: On the Similarities Between Geological Dynamics and Human Personality

A hill is a transitional accommodation to stress, and ego may be a similar accommodation.
Joan Didion, Democracy

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Carla Bley Band with Johnny Griffin - Misterioso

The great bop saxophonist Johnny Griffin died a year ago today at the age of eighty. He was a member of Thelonius Monk's group in the mid-to-late fifties, and was an obvious choice for inclusion on the tribute album That's The Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk. (This was one of the series of tribute albums that producer Hal Willner masterminded in the eighties--others were for Kurt Weill, Leonard Cohen, et al.) But the Willnerian master stroke was to pair Griffin with Carla Bley, brilliant/eccentric jazz composer and arranger, who provided a lush big band arrangement of the Monk song "Misterioso." Griffin fits perfectly in the center of this piece, and grounds everything with a solo that somehow manages to be both relaxed and intense.

The whole piece is nearly nine minutes long, and provides a sort of epic journey in miniature. Bley was a skilled and intelligent arranger long before she did this work--for me it's pure pleasure to savor every detail. But whatever else goes on, Griffin's solid bop is the heart.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stevie Wonder - Living For The City

After yesterday's post, I couldn't get the song that follows "Visions" on the record out of my mind. In some ways, with its story of unfair incarceration it's just as apropos to the situation with Dr. Gates, and the only reason I didn't use "Living For The City" first is that it's been heard zillions of times -- "Visions" is a lesser-known gem. But it's too good to pass up.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stevie Wonder - Visions

Still have the H.L. Gates situation on my mind, and remembered this song.

People hand in hand
Have I lived to see
The milk and honey land?
Where hate's a dream
And love forever stands
Or is this a vision in my mind?

The law was never passed
But somehow all men feel
They're truly free at last
Have we really gone
This far through space and time
Or is this a vision in my mind?

I'm not one who makes believe
I know that leaves are green
They only change to brown
When autumn comes around
I know just what I say
Today's not yesterday
And all things have an ending

But what I'd like to know
Is could a place like this
Exist so beautiful
Or do we have to find
Our wings and fly away
To the vision in our mind?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

A few months ago I had to listen while someone smirked and told me that the election of a black president meant that racial discrimination no longer existed in this country.


From the vita of Professor Gates:


Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 1969-1973
B.A., summa cum laude, Scholar of the House in History, 1973
Clare College, The University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, 1973-1979
M.A., English Language and Literature, 1979
Ph.D., English Language and Literature, 1979

Harvard University
Alphonse Fletcher University Professor (2006-present), W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities (1991-2006), Professor of English and American Literature and Language (1991-present), Chair, Department of African and African American Studies (1991-2006), Director, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research (1991-present)

Duke University
John Spencer Bassett Professor of English and Literature, Duke University (1989-1991)
Cornell University
W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of Literature (1988-1990)
Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Africana Studies (1985-1988)

Yale University
Associate Professor of English and Afro-American Studies (1984-1985)
Assistant Professor of English and Afro-American Studies (1979-1984)
Lecturer in English and Afro-American Studies, Director of Undergraduate
Studies (1976-1979)


I don't know what else to say. This makes me sick.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Anthony Lane on Brüno

Much as I loved Borat, something about the Brüno film seemed off, and I hadn't bothered to see it yet. I don't qualify as a homophobe, so wasn't sure what was stopping me. But in the New Yorker, Anthony Lane reviews Sascha Baron Cohen's movie and I think nails the problem:

“Brüno” ends appallingly, with a musical montage of Sting, Bono, Elton John, and other well-meaners assisting mein Host in a sing-along. Here’s the deal, apparently: if celebrities aren’t famous enough for your liking (Ron Paul, Paula Abdul), or seem insufficiently schooled in irony, you make vicious sport of them, but if they’re A-listers, insanely keen to be in on the joke, they can join your congregation. Would Baron Cohen dare to adopt a fresh disguise and trap Sting in some outlandish folly, or is he now too close a friend? To scour the world for little people you can taunt, and then pal up with the hip and rich: that is not an advisable path for any comic to pursue, let alone one as sharp and mercurial as Baron Cohen.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Walkabouts - Feel Like Going Home

Seattle's finest (not to be confused with any purveyors of espresso drinks) perform a Charlie Rich song.

Peter Guralnick tells of being present when Rich performed this song in public, acknowledged that he had taken the title from one of Guralnick's books (which Guralnick had himself taken from an old recording, what would now be called an Americana song), and proceeded to dedicate it to Richard Nixon. This was near the end of the Watergate crisis, when the end was clear. Guralnick was horrified at first but was ultimately won over to Rich's perspective. Make of it what you will. The Walkabouts are joined by Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees.

Frank Rich Explains the Sotomayor Hearings

FR on our current reality.
Yet the Sotomayor show was still rich in historical significance. Someday we may regard it as we do those final, frozen tableaus of Pompeii. It offered a vivid snapshot of what Washington looked like when clueless ancien-régime conservatives were feebly clinging to their last levers of power, blissfully oblivious to the new America that was crashing down on their heads and reducing their antics to a sideshow as ridiculous as it was obsolescent.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

John McLaughlin - Tones For Elvin Jones

"Tones For Elvin Jones" is from John McLaughlin's long-anticipated tribute album to his true musical hero, John Coltrane. It's not surprising that he wanted Elvin Jones, Coltrane's longtime drummer, to appear on it. (And of course this song, a McLaughlin original, is exactly what its title says, a tune for Jones himself.) Less expected was that the result would be a trio date, with Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond organ. It's a great album, with three musicians with deep technique and a profound love for jazz both supporting and pushing each other.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mississippi John Hurt - Make Me a Pallet on the Floor

Been too long since I posted some Mississippi John Hurt, so here you are. Decent selection of still images to accompany the audio in this clip -- not always the case with these type of videos on YouTube.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trabaci - Galliard III Based on 'La Mantoana' (The King's Noyse)

I've posted stuff by the King's Noyse before. Based on compositions and performance techniques from about four hundred years ago, it's a sound not quite like anything else.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Band - Out Of The Blue

Robbie Robertson sang the song "To Kingdom Come" on the first Band album, then did not take another lead vocal on record until eight years later. Apparently he felt that his high-pitched voice didn't fit the sound they had created, a debatable but understandable proposition. "Out of the Blue" is from the studio material recorded for The Last Waltz, although I don't think it's actually in the movie.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Deep Thought on Palin and Sotomayor

The people who feel that the attacks on Sarah Palin are mean-spirited, sexist, and not based on the facts are the same people who are attacking Sonia Sotomayor.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Frank Rich Explains Sarah Palin and the Republicans

In the aftermath of her decision to drop out and cash in, Palin’s standing in the G.O.P. actually rose in the USA Today/Gallup poll. No less than 71 percent of Republicans said they would vote for her for president. That overwhelming majority isn’t just the “base” of the Republican Party that liberals and conservatives alike tend to ghettoize as a rump backwater minority. It is the party, or pretty much what remains of it in the Barack Obama era.

Mr Rich says it here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Los Lobos - When The Circus Comes

It was money, but it wasn't the money. It was the way the money was handled that just seemed to show a complete lack of respect. He owed me money and said he would pay it but didn't. Eventually someone in his family took care of it for him. There was more after that, but that was the beginning of the end. All those years, gone. Deaths and births shared. Los Lobos explain the situation.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Krugman on Why the Stimulus is Not Enough, Part 2

I guess he makes so much sense that it irritates the powers that be. Even with Bush out of office.

For the past 30 years, we’ve been told that government spending is bad, and conservative opposition to fiscal stimulus (which might make people think better of government) has been bitter and unrelenting even in the face of the worst slump since the Great Depression. Predictably, then, Republicans — and some Democrats — have treated any bad news as evidence of failure, rather than as a reason to make the policy stronger.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Miles Davis - Prelude (Part Two)

There was a biography of Miles Davis on the Ovation Channel, good enough reason to post some electric Miles. The only reason this is as short as it is is because of the file size limit on Vox--this was the era of twenty-minute-plus songs for Miles.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sarah Palin, True Believer

A few months ago I had a post in which I compared some of the aspects of the current conservative movement in the US to aspects of life for many people in North Korea. My point was that if you grow up and never are exposed to anything other than one set of political beliefs, even a wacky set, then you never suspect that there is anything else.

I was thinking about that again in relation to Sarah Palin. It occurred to me that one of the reasons there is a disconnect between what she says and how it is interpreted is that she cannot conceive that there could be more than one way to interpret it. To take one of her better-known public statements, her answer to Katie Couric's question about the economy last fall, it was widely seen as a rather inept evasion. I think it's possible that Palin did not even realize that she was evading the question--that she was answering in what she saw as a straightforward way, but that her thought processes were so disorganized and her knowledge of the issues so poor that the result was a nonsensical answer.

Palin is of the generation whose first votes were for Ronald Reagan. So for her, growing up in a largely conservative environment in which her views were never challenged, her beliefs may simply be set on a poor intellectual foundation. She may well believe every word that comes out of her mouth, and be genuinely baffled when what she says is seen as meaningless crap. For her it has meaning: what she says is as carefully reasoned and well-informed as the political thought she has always known.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Steve McNair

I've been putting off posting anything about Steve McNair, just because the whole situation made me so sad. Generally I'm not a big sports follower, but Steve McNair caught my attention early -- his talent was exceptional, but his determination was even greater. In a New York Times article several years ago, his brother told about what it was like to play on the same college team as Steve McNair. When the game was on the line, sometimes McNair would get so intense, so focused, that his brother would realize that Steve at the time did not even register the presence of his own brother in the huddle. At that moment nothing mattered but playing the game to the utmost of his ability.

Off the field he was basically the opposite, relaxed, polite, even a little shy. Which makes what happened to him all the more shocking. A secret relationship with a lover who eventually crafts a murder/suicide seemed like the last ending possible for Steve McNair. Maybe he was too straightforward a person in some ways to see it coming. Maybe someone less trusting would have walked away sooner. But he did not. He made few errors in judgment on the field--he paid far too high a price for this one off it.

As a reminder that such things are not new, check out the names Billy Jurges and Eddie Waitkus.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Beatles - You Never Give Me Your Money

To mark the passing of Allen Klein yesterday, a song that indirectly refers to him.

The opening lines--"You never give me your money/You only give me your funny papers/And in the middle of negotiations/You break down"--are drawn from Paul McCartney's real-world experiences with Klein. The "funny papers" were contracts that Klein wanted Paul to sign. Paul refused for months and eventually refused completely, after which the Beatles broke up. Klein's lawsuits with the Beatles stretched out for many years. RIP Allen Klein I guess, but not many people outside of his family will miss him.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Krugman on Why the Stimulus is Not Enough

If I didn't think Krugman were right, what he says wouldn't be so depressing.

Unlike the federal government, states are required to run balanced budgets. And faced with a sharp drop in revenue, most states are preparing savage budget cuts, many of them at the expense of the most vulnerable. Aside from directly creating a great deal of misery, these cuts will depress the economy even further.

So what do we have to counter this scary prospect? We have the Obama stimulus plan, which aims to create 3 ½ million jobs by late next year. That’s much better than nothing, but it’s not remotely enough. And there doesn’t seem to be much else going on. Do you remember the administration’s plan to sharply reduce the rate of foreclosures, or its plan to get the banks lending again by taking toxic assets off their balance sheets? Neither do I.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Greenwald on NPR and Torture

Glenn Greenwald has been gently but persistently sparring with National Public Radio about their reluctance to use the word "torture" to describe actions by the US. It's worth a read.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers - Ah, my dear, ah, my dear Son!

The Sixteen is an ensemble specializing in early modern (formerly known as the Renaissance) vocal music, and Harry Christophers is their leader. This piece is from the Eton Songbook, which means it was written about five hundred years ago.