Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kev Thompson - Auld Lang Syne

About as close as you may get to hearing it as it was originally sung. Happy new year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

What Has Obama Done For You?

Thomas Lane of Talking Points Memo provides an answer.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Charles P. Pierce on Skocpol and Williamson's Analysis of the Tea Party

Sometimes the obvious needs to be pointed out. From Pierce's blog at

The Tea Party is nothing more than the hard right wing of the Republican party, rebranded by the more conservative end of its corporate wing. It's approximately as "new" as the 1964 Republican national platform and, that being the case, will disappear again as soon as another Republican wins the White House.

H/t Atrios.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

RIP Sam Rivers

Sam Rivers died Monday at the age of eighty-eight. A prominent figure in the jazz avant-garde of the last fifty years, for a brief period in the early sixties he played in Miles Davis's band. According to Wikipedia he was too free a player for Miles at the time, and when he was replaced by Wayne Shorter, Miles's "Second Great Quintet" was complete and went on to its own glory. Rivers maintained his own career, but to memorialize him today we'll hear this example of his work with Miles.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Irish Rovers - Good King Wenceslas

Today is the feast day of St. Stephen, which is mentioned in this traditional Christmas song.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gail Collins on the Establishment Republicans vs. the Tea Party

Ms. Collins, as she is capable of doing, pretty much nails it.

I think the moral here is pretty clear. We have talked for nearly three years about how the Tea Party is terrorizing the Republican establishment, until the old country-club, deal-making model was verging on extinction. But it now appears that if the new populist right does something that actually endangers the well-being of the old, entitled right, the establishment will rise up and slap those little whippersnappers down faster than you can say Mitch McConnell.

Friday, December 23, 2011

House Republicans Cave

From Politico:

Boehner knew the year-end fight to renew the payroll tax would be bad — but he couldn’t possibly have anticipated how bad it would get. Obama always knew the fight would be good for him — but not this good. It got the president not only the tax cut he wanted but provided a jolt for Democrats anxious about 2012 who felt Obama had been played by House Republicans in earlier negotiations.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Roberta Flack / Donny Hathaway - Where Is The Love

Ralph MacDonald, whose death was announced yesterday, was a percussionist whose work landed him on dozens (if not more) albums in the seventies. He was also a skilled songwriter, co-writing this song with William Salter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hitchens via Pollitt

Katha Pollitt, a longtime colleague of Christopher Hitchens, presents a measured perspective of him. H/t Atrios.

So far, most of the eulogies of Christopher have come from men, and there’s a reason for that. He moved in a masculine world, and for someone who prided himself on his wide-ranging interests, he had virtually no interest in women’s writing or women’s lives or perspectives. I never got the impression from anything he wrote about women that he had bothered to do the most basic kinds of reading and thinking, let alone interviewing or reporting—the sort of workup he would do before writing about, say, G.K. Chesterton, or Scientology or Kurdistan. It all came off the top of his head, or the depths of his id. Women aren’t funny. Women shouldn’t need to/want to/get to have a job. The Dixie Chicks were “fucking fat slags” (not “sluts,” as he misremembered later). And then of course there was his 1989 column in which he attacked legal abortion and his cartoon version of feminism as “possessive individualism.” I don’t suppose I ever really forgave Christopher for that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Krugman on the Incipient Chinese Financial Crisis


Some commentators say not to worry, that China has strong, smart leaders who will do whatever is necessary to cope with a downturn. Implied though not often stated is the thought that China can do what it takes because it doesn’t have to worry about democratic niceties.

To me, however, these sound like famous last words. After all, I remember very well getting similar assurances about Japan in the 1980s, where the brilliant bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance supposedly had everything under control. And later, there were assurances that America would never, ever, repeat the mistakes that led to Japan’s lost decade — when we are, in reality, doing even worse than Japan did.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

They're Out

Last American military base in Iraq is closed. From the Washington Post:

The last of the troops left Contingency Operating Base Adder about 2:30 a.m. Kuwait time for the 218-mile trek through the empty, dark desert to the border. In contrast to the U.S. invasion in 2003, the final American convoy, made up of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, drew little notice from Iraqis. The road from the U.S. base to the border was almost entirely deserted, which was the way the U.S. military wanted it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Last Days of Hitch

The British novelist Ian McEwan shares a reminiscence of his old friend as he approached the end of his life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

RIP Christopher Hitchens

I'm among the people who admired him more at the beginning than at the end -- his full-throated support of the Iraq war betrayed a lack of critical thinking that was surprising from someone who prided himself on being a much more rigorous and tough-minded thinker than most political writers -- but there's no doubt that he brought something rare to the American political scene. He never pandered to his readers: for example, although mostly conservative, he was a staunch, even fierce, atheist until the end. The Guardian appreciation is here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Iraq War Officially Ends

It's telling and sad that this story is not the top story on the Washington Post website (at the NY Times it is). I usually post a short quote from the article I link to, but this one is so carefully non-analytical about the war itself that there's not much point. Over 4500 Americans died (along with many more Iraqis), tens of thousands of Americans were left permanently injured (again, even more Iraqis). And for what? The supposedly liberal WaPo carefully avoids drawing any conclusions.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spike Jones - Sabre Dance

Happy 100th birthday to the late Spike Jones, who was an avatar of some force -- I'm not sure which -- of which this world has too little.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Freddie King - Have You Ever Loved A Woman

I noted Laura Nyro's selection for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week, but somehow missed that Freddie King, one of the great electric guitarists of the blues, also made it in. Here he performs one of his signature songs, which was also performed by his disciple Eric Clapton on the Layla album.

Monday, December 12, 2011

E. J. Dionne on Obama's Evolving Foreign Policy

Mr. Dionne makes an interesting point that I hadn't seen before.

Something important has happened to President Obama’s foreign policy. For some time after he took office, he only rarely spoke out for human rights or used the word “democracy.” In the wake of the George W. Bush years, he was focused on rebuilding alliances and moving toward both a more measured and prudent use of American power. It was an approach much closer to the old-fashioned realism practiced by the first President Bush....This is evolving, as [Secretary] Clinton’s excellent week brought home. Like the elder Bush, Obama remains a foreign policy realist, but the Arab Spring may have encouraged him to speak ever more forcefully about democracy and human rights. The intervention in Libya — careful, limited, but effective — was a signal moment.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Krugman on Official European Folly, Part 5

This is getting depressing in more than one sense of the word. Krugman explains.

The crisis really has settled some major issues in economics. Unfortunately, too many people — including many economists — won’t accept the answers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Donny Hathaway - A Song For You

How about Donny Hathaway's version of the song we heard Amy Winehouse do a couple of days ago?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Amy Winehouse - A Song For You

From the new collection of unreleased material Lioness. Amy covers Donny Hathaway covering Leon Russell. The bit of dialogue at the end where she talks about Hathaway -- "Donny Hathaway, like....he couldn't contain himself, he had somethin' in him, you know?" -- was obviously included because she might as well be talking about herself.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Laura Nyro - It's Gonna Take a Miracle

Laura Nyro, who died in 1997, was chosen to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today. She's best known as a songwriter who wrote hits for others, so to vary things let's play a song that she sings but didn't write. This is the title song from her 1971 album of covers, featuring material that she loved from the early sixties, songs that had heavily influenced her own songwriting. She's accompanied by LaBelle, and the moment near the end where the four women's voices blend in a near-a-capella moment is, well, just listen for yourself.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Krugman on the Republican Presidential Race

Looking at the same situation as Dionne yesterday, Krugman makes some of the same points but from a different perspective.

The larger point, however, is that whoever finally gets the Republican nomination will be a deeply flawed candidate. And these flaws won’t be an accident, the result of bad luck regarding who chose to make a run this time around; the fact that the party is committed to demonstrably false beliefs means that only fakers or the befuddled can get through the selection process.

Monday, December 5, 2011

E. J. Dionne on the Republican Presidential Race

Dionne makes sense, which by today's standards means he's an insane liberal.

But what’s going on is not just a Romney problem. The Republican Party’s core electorate has changed radically since 2008 — and even then John McCain won the nomination against the wishes of many on the Republican right because the opposition to him was splintered.

A party that lived by the tea crowd in 2010 is being severely hobbled by it now. The Republican right wants the kind of purity that led it to take candidates such as Cain and Bachmann with great seriousness for a while. The same folks took Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller seriously in the 2010 Senate primaries, too. None of them got elected.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bob Dylan - Visions of Johanna

A solo live version from (I think) 1966, shortly after it was written.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Yr Space Pix: Vesta Rotates

Isaac Asimov early in his career wrote a story called "Marooned off Vesta," which is where I first remember hearing of this large asteroid. Now we get close-up pics of it. Ah, modern times...

H/t DarkSyde @ DailyKos.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Krugman on Official European Folly, Part 5

Krugman lays it out does not look good.

How did things go so wrong? The answer you hear all the time is that the euro crisis was caused by fiscal irresponsibility. Turn on your TV and you’re very likely to find some pundit declaring that if America doesn’t slash spending we’ll end up like Greece. Greeeeeece!

But the truth is nearly the opposite. Although Europe’s leaders continue to insist that the problem is too much spending in debtor nations, the real problem is too little spending in Europe as a whole. And their efforts to fix matters by demanding ever harsher austerity have played a major role in making the situation worse.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Romney Stumbles, or Was Tripped

From TPM:

Nor is this out of character for Mitt. The guy doesn’t like getting questioned too hard or pressed too closely. That’s not altogether surprising given the life Mitt’s led. But he shows it. Remember the debate six weeks ago when Rick Perry finally took his geritol and managed to seriously get under Mitt’s skin on the illegal immigration issue? There’s a difficult to describe mix of surprise, put-off-edness and testiness that he exhibits in these cases.