Friday, October 31, 2008

Tricks For Us; Treats For Polluters

With all the drama, worry, excitement, and attention surrounding the upcoming Presidential election, it’s easy to forget that George W. Bush is still the current occupant and he still has (some) power. Check out this disturbing information from R. Jeffrey Smith’s piece in today’s Washington Post:
The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.

"They want these rules to continue to have an impact long after they leave office," said Matthew Madia, a regulatory expert at OMB Watch, a nonprofit group critical of what it calls the Bush administration's penchant for deregulating in areas where industry wants more freedom. He called the coming deluge "a last-minute assault on the public . . . happening on multiple fronts."
Oh, so when they want to push this stuff through (or the Patriot Act, or the war, or the bailout) it’s all about urgency to act with no time for honest debate. But if the next president wants to undo any of it, of course it MUST include “lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.”

Gee, none of this sounds good. And as I read on, it didn’t get much better:
The burst of activity has made this a busy period for lobbyists who fear that industry views will hold less sway after the elections. The doors at the New Executive Office Building have been whirling with corporate officials and advisers pleading for relief or, in many cases, for hastened decision making.

According to the Office of Management and Budget's regulatory calendar, National Mining Association officials came in two weeks ago making the case for easing rules meant to keep coal slurry waste out of Appalachian streams.

Many of the rules that could be issued over the next few weeks would ease environmental regulations, according to sources familiar with administration deliberations. Lee Crockett of the Pew Charitable Trusts' Environment Group said the administration has received 194,000 public comments on the rules and protests from 80 members of Congress as well as 160 conservation groups. "This is fatally flawed" as well as "wildly unpopular," Crockett said.

Two other rules nearing completion would ease limits on pollution from power plants, a major energy industry goal for the past eight years that is strenuously opposed by Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups.

One rule, being pursued over some opposition within the Environmental Protection Agency, would allow current emissions at a power plant to match the highest levels produced by that plant, overturning a rule that more strictly limits such emission increases.

According to the EPA's estimate, it would allow millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, worsening global warming.

A related regulation would ease limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants near national parks. A third rule would allow increased emissions from oil refineries, chemical factories and other industrial plants with complex manufacturing operations.

These rules "will force Americans to choke on dirtier air for years to come, unless Congress or the new administration reverses these eleventh-hour abuses," said lawyer John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Bush Administration ladies and gentlemen!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Rock Critic Makes a Good Point!

In light of my previous post, it's appropriate that I came across this quote in another review today:
The average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.
Exactly, Mr. Critic. You got one thing right!

(okay, turns out this is actually a bit at the end of the cartoon movie Ratatouille...)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reviewing the Reviews: Cardinology by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Maybe someone can write a “Ryan Adams Album Review Generator” program where some software will just spit out all the necessary buzzwords for a review that somehow says his new album is good and that his old ones are also good but do it in some sort of backhanded compliment way.

It must include the word PROLIFIC, as well as pastiche, antics, Gram Parsons, editor, enfant terrible and/or “bad boy,” Grateful Dead, focus, quality/quantity, and something about dating actresses or whatever...

Perusing 18 different published reviews of Ryan Adams and The Cardinals new Cardinology CD, I was amazed and amused at what I found. Sure, there’s was the usual varying of opinions (some loved it, some sorta liked it, some found it predictable and boring), but that’s to be expected with any album. Reading the reviews, apparently someone must have invented that “Ryan Adams Album Review Generator” software, cuz it’s obviously been put to some use.

Among these 18 reviews, the word “prolific” is used 12 times (including two mentions of “prolificacy” and one time Adams is even called “insanely prolific”). It is the very first word of one review, the second word of another, and it appears in the first sentence of five other reviews and in the second sentence of yet another two. One review claims that “he became obsessive-compulsive about recording anything that rhymed.”

The Grateful Dead is mentioned six times, Gram Parsons four times, and Neil Young three times. In what must be a software glitch, U2 and/or Bono is mentioned an astounding 11 times (more on that later). Variations on “quantity vs. quality” come up at least six times in addition to three references to “edit” or “editing,” and four mentions of “focus.”

With all the talk about being “prolific,” and in attempt to illustrate the “quantity/quality” point, we eventually reach the fuzzy math portion of these reviews. According to some direct quotes:

*Ryan Adams has been making music at an insane pace for more than 10 years.
*Focused on just the one LP this year (he put out three in 12 months not too long ago)
*He recorded three albums in 2005 alone (Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights and 29), and he hasn't missed a year since before this decade began.
*He's released 10 albums in nine years
*While it might be a short time between albums for many modern-day artists, 16 months is a long time in the world of Ryan Adams, who released three albums in 2005
*Their fourth album in as many years
*Ryan Adams returns with what seems like his millionth album,
*His first release in a year — notable for a guy who put out three full-lengths in 2005
*Five-year period starting in 1997 that spanned two bands and five exquisitely realized albums.
*Cardinology is Adams' fifth full-length album released in the last three years (not to mention the 2007 EP, Follow the Lights).

Ignoring the varying inaccuracies of some of these statements, the guy’s job is to make records. So he's made about 11 records over 9 years? (This includes Demolition, assembled from demos from unreleased albums to capitalize on the success of Gold, and the 7-song EP Follow the Lights with only 3 new songs.) Is that REALLY too much? Sure, it's a bit more than the usual 2-3-year wait between records to maximize hype that the Music Business Formerly Known as the Record Industry might prefer. But some of these reviews make it sound like he does 3 records every single year. It's actually really an average of close to one each year. As it should be.

The strangest thing I’ve found is that, all of a sudden, the Cardinals are often being compared to U2. Huh? U2? Other than perhaps his 2003 single “So Alive,” I don’t think Ryan Adams has ever sounded like U2 or even close enough to warrant comparison (including on this new album). I can maybe hear how, in “Go Easy,” when he sings "if only just to say this to you now..." the melody and delivery is kinda/sorty dripping with syrupy Bononess, but only slightly. And I don’t know if I ever would have thought of that if U2 wasn't mentioned in so many Cardinology reviews.

Again, actual quotes from the reviews:

*“Fix It” even dares to blossom into the type of stadium-filling chorus that U2’s Bono would be proud to call his own.
*U2 knock-offs “Go Easy” and “Cobwebs”
*“Cobwebs” …boasts one of the best choruses on the LP (and another that seems to be taking its cues from the U2 style of epic songwriting).
*“Magick” and “Cobwebs” cringe-worthy horrors that would shame even Bono.
*[In concert the band was] producing a hybrid that echoed Neil Young, the Byrds, Gram Parsons, U2 and the Grateful Dead.”
*…a couple of tunes veer close to overblown U2 territory.
*when he sings "Cobwebs," his voice ascends to Bono-like melodramatic heights.
*"Magick" echoes like prime U2
…the slinkier "Fix It" (and its almost U2 moments -- ditto "Go Easy" on the Bono thing), etc.
*Cardinology is a classic-rock record to the bone, nodding to influences that Adams has conjured before but never so well: the country rock of the Grateful Dead and Gram Parsons, the arena anthems of U2.
*“Fix It” … with a soaring Bono-style chorus…

But wait, maybe it doesn’t sound like U2, since one reviewer declares “Those looking for anthemic rock will be better served by U2.”

That’s not the only contradiction these reviews are inevitably filled with. For example, after saying he's best known for quantity over quality, one reviewer then says: “Last year's Easy Tiger, billed as a return to form, was the sound of Adams trying too hard to edit himself. By making a concerted effort to rein in his self-indulgence, Adams also leeched away some of the recklessness and spontaneity that makes him so fascinating.” Very similar sentiment has also been applied to the new album in this and other reviews. They all cry (and have complained in past reviews) that he needs an editor and he's reckless and too prolific and unfocused. So he tones it down and “edits” himself, puts out a “focused” record (just ONE this year!) and then they bitch that he’s “leeched away some of the recklessness and spontaneity that makes him so fascinating.”

Another typical contradiction is that many of these same rock critics were the ones hailing him as a genius or The New Dylan following his solo debut Heartbreaker and then championing his inevitable rockstar breakout upon the release of its follow up, Gold. But now some of these same clowns write “Adams needed someone to sit him down and explain that he actually wasn't the musical messiah we'd all been waiting for.” Gee, wherever did he get that idea? At least none of them mentioned actresses...

By the way, I think the album is good but maybe not quite the mind-blower I’d hoped for. As a fan, I’m a tad disappointed that it is not as rockin and jammy as their great live shows. But the sound, courtesy of Producer Tom Schick, is very warm and organic. (Number of times Schick is mentioned in the 19 reviews I read: zero.) The songs are good; it’s a solid album that I can already feel growing on me…. And that’s all it needs to be. (UPDATE: After several more listens, perhaps this album is much better and deeper than I initially thought. It's actually, well, beautiful and very brave. And it sounds great. Keep the faith and stick with it.)

As always (if possible), don’t buy Cardinology at BestBuy, Target or on Amazon. Support your local independent record store (while it still exists) and buy Cardinology from them.

NOTE: The reviews discussed in this post came from: Wall Street Journal, New Music Express, Stereogum, Rolling Stone, Paste,,,,, (Ireland), Entertainment Weekly, Courier-Journal (Louisville),,, The Observer (UK), and student newspaper websites from Penn State, University of Maryland and even University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tell Tale Signs

Haven’t posted in a couple weeks…. Didn’t even bother to write up a “review” of the third Presidential debate. I guess my summary would be, to borrow a popular phrase, “more of the same.” Barack Obama seemed smart, thoughtful, and presidential, while once again John McCain came off angry, unfocused, and desperate.

But now election day is getting really close, and I just cant be bothered to comment on the trivialities like the $150,000 spent on wardrobes for Sarah Palin (how small-town regular fiscally conservative gal of her!) or whatever else is passing as news these days. I’ve fallen in to a bit of a silent hopeful pregnant pause… a calm before the storm. I’m hoping that storm is a landslide victory for Obama, but still cautious that it could be the dark clouds of a looming McCain administration…

I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to Bob Dylan’s excellent new collection Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8, Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006. Some spectacular modern-era stuff on these discs from the legend who could dedicate earlier classics like “Masters of War” to McCain and “The Times They Are Changin’” to Obama.

So as we’re speeding toward the election (or are we creeping?), the economy is crumbling before our eyes and amid our financial worries there’s also very real concerns about voter suppression tactics by the Republicans (examined here) that could help ensure a McCain victory.

In the background I hear Dylan singing “Time is pilin' up, we struggle and we scrape / We're all boxed in, nowhere to escape” and “Take a deep breath, feel like you're chokin' / Everything is broken.”

And yet I’m excited at the thought of Obama winning and ushering in a new era of… of…. everything: to live in a country with real, intelligent, and inspiring leadership. I know nothing will get better over night, and that this economy will take a while to bounce back, so it’s a cautious optimism for sure.

In the background Dylan is singing “Most of the time, I'm clear focused all around / Most of the time, I can keep both feet on the ground…”

Of course, these last few weeks and likely the next two, the McCain campaign and all the pundits on The Right have been downright ugly. Trying to scare us into these ridiculous notions that Obama is a Socialist and a terrorist sympathizer. By the way, haven’t we always had a progressive tax code? Has McCain proposed a (non-socialist) flat tax? If so, I must have missed it. And while we’re all distracted by the 15 minutes of fame for Joe the Plumber, the McCain campaign continues to drop hints about who’s “pro-America” and just how radical-liberal-socialist and anti-American Obama is. Meanwhile, they downplay Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama as a "black thing," claiming in various ways that Powell only endorsed him 'cuz he's black. Funny, I dont remember anyone saying Joe Lieberman only endorsed McCain 'cuz he's white...

In the background Dylan is singing “Have you seen dignity?”

And yet somehow…. After the 2000 and 2004 elections, after living through the atrocious Bush administration years…. With all the impending economic doom and gloom…. Amid my worrying and skepticism, I’m excited.

In the background Dylan is singing “Things should start to get interesting right about now” and “The air burns and I'm trying to think straight / And I don't know how much longer I can wait.”

I Went to a Battleground State and All I Wore Was This Lousy T-Shirt

I wore my Obama shirt to a festival in rural Virginia last weekend. The few times anyone said anything it was positive.

My wife did hear one guy with his wife/kids remark with some contempt in his voice, "that guy had an Obama shirt on.... It said Obama on it" and he kept looking back at us. And afterward, when we returned to our car, we found that someone had turned our Obama magnet upside-down.

Other than that, it was all positive with a few "Yay Obama!" comments as well as a "nice shirt!" from a guy in another Obama shirt. Even a bearded guy who looked a bit like what some might call a redneck said "I like your shirt! Obama!"

At the gate, a lady probably in her 50's said "You think he's gonna win?"
I said "I hope so...."
"Me too" she said.
I said "But, I'm trying not to get too excited....."
There was a 10-15 second pause as we stood there and I waited for the line to move ahead.
Then I said, "but I am."
"Me too," she said.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Friends the Stinking Corpses and Other Reasons McCain Lost the Debate to "That One"

I said it about Sarah Palin in the VP debate , and since this election has become just a matter of repeating our favorite talking points, I’ll go ahead and repeat it again now in reference to John McCain in the second presidential debate. Hopefully some other bloggers and eventually the mainstream media might actually join me in pointing this out:

If the rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is so despicable and so full of hate (and it is), and if meeting with him or another of Iran’s leaders would in some sense validate him (and his hate speech) and in turn actually give those reckless words an international platform…. Then why does John McCain insist on repeating all of his worst lines about “wiping Israel off the map” and calling Judaism a “stinking corpse”?? He’s a candidate for President of the United States, and in a debate televised across every network in America and replayed all over the world, there he is delivering Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic talking points for him. Sure, he’s denouncing those words, but he’s also constantly repeating them on TV and amplifying them through campaign rally microphones and giving them the largest platform possible by hurling them on to the Presidential political stage. And since we all agree that talking about wiping Israel off the map and calling Judaism a stinking corpse is reprehensible and disgusting maybe John McCain should stop doing it.

I’m getting the sense that people are starting to feel sorry for John McCain. I started to think that way (just a bit) last night. He's not some horrible evil guy obviously, but it seems like he's turning into this uncomfortable liar who's gritting his teeth and grinning uncomfortably cuz in his heart he knows he just can’t give his old patented Straight Talk anymore. He's not allowed. And that bums him out so he's trying to do the best job he can at being this Rovian Bush-figurehead thing that he's not really down with. He probably doesn’t condone the personal attacks about Obama “palling around with terrorists” and all the guilt-by-association rumor-mongering smear’n’fear tactics his campaign has indulged in, but he doesn’t have a choice. Not sure if that illustrates a lack of intangible leadership or if it’s simply that he’s just not really the one in charge of this campaign.

The debate reaction will no doubt include commentary on McCain abrasively referring to Obama as “that one,” and trivial analysis of whether McCain avoided shaking Obama’s hand afterward (I didn’t notice, but I’ve seen it mentioned a lot today). But the real story for me, is that I felt a "Fuckit I'm gonna lose and I think I'm okay with that" sorta vibe from McCain last night.

I excuse McCain's physical appearance and stiff mobility for the obvious reasons. But he seemed uncomfortable. Not just physically, but generally just really fish-outta-water uncomfortable. To his credit, he kept trying to show confidence (“I’ve BEEN there, I know how to DO this stuff!”) and at the end of each of his speaking segments he'd drop the mic from one hand down to the other, like "nailed it!" but he never really nailed it.

He said his hero was Ronald Reagan. Later he said his hero was Teddy Roosevelt. And the "We don’t have to prioritize! We can do it all at once! We're AMERICANS, we're the BEST and we can do ANYTHING!" seemed to ring hollow. Same with "I'll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I'll get him. I know how to get him. I'll get him no matter what and I know how to do it."

Really? He knows how to get him? Why hasn't he shared this info with anyone? Does he hate America? (Sorry, I tried to get thru this without sarcasm… couldn’t do it.) Speaking of the elusive Mr. Bin Laden (anyone checked the closet or under the bed?), it was interesting that Obama also “played the 9/11 card” if I can put it that way. It almost seemed as if he was using something from the opposition's playbook, like “hey, I can bring up 9/11 outta the blue too!” but I think he did have a fair point: he talked about 9/12, 9/13 and the next few weeks. How all of us REAL regular people actually felt. Like, man, things are different. I'm gonna smile to my fellow man and help someone out and feel a connection with other citizens for no reason other than it's the right thing to do. That feeling evaporated quickly and Obama seemed to call for that spirit to return in these equally daunting times.

But finally, toward the end, the formerly Honorable Sen. John McCain finally spoke the truth and I finally agreed with him: “That requires a cool hand at the tiller,” and again later: “I'll also tell you, when times are tough, we need a steady hand at the tiller.” Indeed. I think we all know which one of these guys is more steady-handed and cool-headed: “that one.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Pitbull Barks Up the Wrong Tree

Seems the McCain campaign is unleashing Sarah Palin to make some targeted attacks.

"For me, the heels are on, the gloves are off," she announced Monday to a group of Republican donors at the Naples Beach Club. "I'm sending the message back to John McCain also: Tomorrow night in his debate, might as well take the gloves off."

"Okay, so, Florida, you know that you're going to have to hang on to your hats," she said at a morning rally in Clearwater, "because from now until Election Day, it may get kind of rough."

She went on to insist that Senator Obama "is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," whatever that means. Later, in Carson, CA, she said "Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country." This is in reference to the fact the Barack Obama once sat on the board of an educational charity with Bill Ayers who was part of a radical anti-American group 40 years ago. It’s quite a stretch to imply that Obama is “palling around with terrorists,” but it stokes the unfounded fears about Obama, especially when Palin doesn’t mind taking the stage at one of her appearances Monday after being introduced by Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott who said: "On Nov. 4, let's leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened."

Hussein!! Hey everybody, Obama might be wearing a flag pin these days, but he’s still the boogey man!!

Speaking of boogey men and sleazy politics, McCain had previously said that attacks related to Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, are off limits. In regard to introducing Wright into the campaign, McCain had said "there's no place for that kind of campaigning, the American people don't want it, period." But Palin told New York Times columnist Bill Kristol in an interview published Monday: "I don't know why that association isn't discussed more."

Umm... Governor Palin? Where were you earlier this year when we got what seemed like two straight months of All Rev. Wright All The Time coverage from the so-called "liberal media"?? Which of the “all of ‘em, y’know, any of ‘em, vast various sources” of news media were you reading and watching that didn’t discuss Rev. Wright enough?

Aw heck, maybe you’re right doggone it. You betcha, let’s deal with some associations that should be “discussed more.”

We’ve already chronicled Palin's association with the Pray Away the Gay! church event that hoped to convert homosexuals into Normal Straight Christ-Loving Patriotic Americans… so let’s move on.

Pastor Thomas Muthee, an alleged Witchdoctor of sorts, visited the Wasilla Assembly of God church in October, 2005. Video shows Muthee put his hands on Sarah Palin's back and say, "make a way for Sarah, even in the political arena. Make a way, my God. Bring finances her way, even if for the campaign, in the name of Jesus... Every form of witchcraft, it will be rebuked in the name of Jesus. Father, make her way now." So it’s okay to have some kook hit Jesus up for some campaign money, as long as he doesn’t spout anything anti-America. But wait, there’s another association for that angle…

Palin recorded a speech for the Alaskan Independence Party’s convention just last March, and her husband remained a registered member of it until 2002, even though it was founded by a man named Joe Vogler who not only wanted Alaska to secede from the United States but also said:

"The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government, and I won't be buried under their damn flag," and: "I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions." One more for good measure, this is what he thinks of President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “I speak pretty frankly, I call him the dirty rotten son-of-a-bitch communist traitor, because he had involved us in that war that we had no business in.”

From a great piece by David Talbot:

Vogler's greatest moment of glory was to be his appearance before the United Nations to denounce United States "tyranny" before the entire world and to demand Alaska's freedom. The Alaska secessionist had persuaded the government of Iran to sponsor his anti-American harangue.

Imagine the uproar if Michelle Obama was revealed to have joined a black nationalist party whose founder preached armed secession from the United States and who enlisted the government of Iran in his cause? The Obama campaign would probably not have survived such an explosive revelation. Particularly if Barack Obama himself was videotaped giving the anti-American secessionists his wholehearted support just months ago.

Where's the outrage, Sarah Palin has been asking this week, in her attacks on Obama's fuzzy ties to Ayers? The question is more appropriate when applied to her own disturbing associations.

Then there’s Ed Kalnins, the pastor at Wasilla Assembly of God where Palin was a member. During the 2004 election, he praised President Bush over John Kerry before warning, “I'm not going tell you who to vote for, but if you vote for this particular person, I question your salvation. I'm sorry... If every Christian will vote righteously, it would be a landslide every time.”

The following year, in reference to criticism of President Bush and the federal government's handling of Hurricane Katrina, he said, “I hate criticisms towards the President, because it's like criticisms towards the pastor -- it's almost like, it's not going to get you anywhere, you know, except for hell. That's what it'll get you.”

And of course it’s been well-publicized that John McCain has sought and accepted the support of preachers like Jerry Falwell and John Hagee who say that Katrina was God punishing New Orleans for having a Gay Pride Parade, Catholicism is the "great whore," the Holocaust was God’s will, and other nonsense. In his 2000 campaign, McCain denounced these types as “agent of intolerance” but the 2008 version of McCain just smirks it off and cashes their checks.

For more detailed lists and explanations of the vast various sketchy associates of McCain/Palin, click HERE and HERE.

When Racists Attack: New Low for McCain Campaign and Republican Party

This isn’t from some fringe right-wing blog or an anonymous email. This is from a newspaper column from Bobby May, the McCain campaign chair in Buchanan County, VA, and correspondence secretary for the Buchanan County Republican Party, warning that "the platform of Barack Hussein Obama" includes:
    • Illegal Immigration: "Learn to Speak Spanish";
    • Terrorist Threat to America: "Learn to Speak Arabic";
    • Reparations to Black Community: Opposes before Election Day and supports after Election Day;
    • Freedom of Religion: Mandatory Black Liberation Theology courses taught in all churches;
    • Homosexual Marriage: Coddle sexual perverts. Give tax breaks for NAMBLA [North American Man-Boy Love Association] membership;
    • Drug Crisis: Raise taxes for free drugs for Obama's inner-city political base;
    • The White House: Hire rapper Ludacris to "paint it black."

Again, this garbage is not from some hatemongering blogger… it’s from the McCain campaign chair in Buchanan County, VA, and correspondence secretary for the Buchanan County Republican Party.

Changing the Subject From Issues to Attacks

The McCain campaign warned us that the gloves would come off and that things were about to get rough. They even admitted that they needed to “turn the page” and shift away from talking about the economy and start launching personal attacks against Barack Obama. That’s right, while we turn pages of our checkbooks and cant just turn the pages of our credit card statements and mortgage statements, the McCain campaign would rather concentrate on replaying all the unfounded crap that couldn’t stick to Obama during the primaries. Seems like no one’s buying it.

The War Room’s Gabriel Winant: “When McCain asks, ‘Who is the real Barack Obama,’ and later says, ‘You need to know who you're putting in the White House -- where the candidate came from and what he or she believes,’ he appears to be attempting to use the scurrilous rumors and fears about Obama for his own political advantage. To underscore the point, [in video footage] of the remarks, when McCain asks, ‘Who is the real Barack Obama,’ one member of the crowd shouts, ‘Terrorist!’”’s Glenn Greenwald: “And as these flames engulf America's foundations, what is the Right doing -- the movement that brought us all of this through their virtually absolute control of our Government for the last eight years? They're spending all their time chattering with each other about an aging 1960s radical and giddily cheering the increasingly repellent Sarah Palin as she skips around the country in front of rambunctiously booing right-wing crowds accusing Barack Obama of palling around with The Terrorists and pointing out that he doesn't see America the way all the Normal, Good Americans do. The behavior of the last couple of weeks isn't unconventional; it's unstable, and increasingly quite ugly, even by the standards of GOP campaigning tactics.”

After a paragraph detailing the real important issues and crises facing America, the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson observes:
But John McCain wants us to talk about Barack Obama's acquaintances. He and Sarah Palin are going to try their best to make us talk about anything but the big issues facing our country, because most Americans think Obama's solutions are better than McCain's.

We all understand that the strategy of the McCain campaign is one of distraction -- his campaign aides have acknowledged that they want to shift the focus from the economy to character, which means personal attacks against Obama. Lacking any fresh mud to sling, the McCain people are trying to exhume guilt-by-association charges that were exhaustively examined months ago during the primaries. This is pure mudslinging and nothing but a cynical campaign tactic, but that doesn't matter to the McCain campaign. What matters is that we're writing and talking about this extraneous stuff -- and not about the issues that polls say voters really care about. The McCain campaign has made clear that it wants to change the subject. We can, and should, change it back.

A New York Times editorial: “Mr. McCain made clear on Monday that he wanted to make the final month of the race a referendum on Mr. Obama's character, background and leadership -- a polite way of saying he intends to attack him on all fronts and create or reinforce doubts about him among as many voters as possible.”

The Boston Globe said Obama was “facing a broad new assault on his character from rival John McCain and the Republican Party.”

USA Today: "As they prepared Monday for Tuesday night's presidential debate, John McCain attacked Barack Obama's credibility. But some of McCain's fellow Republicans say the aggressive tack may not offset the damage to his candidacy from the sinking economy."

Former McCain strategist Mike Murphy, in his blog for Time magazine, writes: "Meanwhile the McCain campaign retains its lamentable focus on press tactics at the expense of a real strategy... Over the top negative attacks and a campaign message that too often seems to be little more than sarcasm and suppressed anger has damaged McCain's priceless and hard earned 'brand' as a different kind of Republican. McCain's best option now is to ditch the chainsaw and offer a scared and angry country what it badly wants; hope and leadership. And Palin should drop the braying attacks on Obama's aging hippie radical pals…”

And finally, from American Prospect's Ezra Klein: "If his campaign's final assault is defeated, it will be read as a repudiation of these politics. It will be understood as firm proof that you can no longer purposefully shatter this country's uneasy sense of tolerance and consensus and be assured that your pieces will be bigger . . . McCain, a man who once fashioned himself as among the country's most decent leaders, will have to live with the knowledge that history will remember him as having been unable to stand against bigotry and fear when they presented a political opportunity."

How Dishonorable

What a surprise! John McCain’s latest TV ad blatantly misrepresents a quote from Barack Obama by simply taking out one little phrase and presenting it out of context and calling it “dishonorable” and “dangerous” before concluding that Obama is “too risky for America." What a sham. Once again, McCain is the dishonorable one. Today’s Washington Post lead editorial breaks it down to illustrate the ad as the blatant distortion that it is:
THE TONE is ominous, the shadings dark. "Who is Barack Obama?" asks the latest campaign advertisement from Sen. John McCain. "He says our troops in Afghanistan are 'just air-raiding villages and killing civilians' . . . How dishonorable. . . How dangerous. . . . Too risky for America."

Here's what Mr. Obama actually said about Afghanistan in August 2007: "We've got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there." The gap between that reality and the McCain ad -- not quite a lie, yet not a fair representation, either -- is where the campaigns seem to be heading with four weeks to go until the election.

But the relevance of character can't excuse an anything-goes assault. Mr. Obama's use of the word "just" in his statement on Afghanistan was inartful. But Mr. McCain knows perfectly well that Mr. Obama doesn't believe U.S. troops are killing only civilians. He also knows perfectly well that the problem Mr. Obama described -- the alienation of Afghan civilians by military tactics that lead to too many civilian deaths -- is real and demands a rethinking of strategy. What's dishonorable in this case is the McCain ad, not the Obama statement.

This John McCain ad blatantly distorts Barack Obama's words in an effort to paint him as callous about the role of the U.S. military. His meaning was the opposite of what is portrayed in this spot.

How the McCain Campaign Changes a Light Bulb

Found this posted on the web, not sure of its origin....

How many members of McCain/Bush/Schmidt/Rove campaign does it take to change a light bulb?

1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed;

2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed;

3. One to blame American Voters for burning out the light bulb;

4. One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of light bulbs;

5. One to give a One Trillion dollars to Wall Street for the new light bulb;

6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner: Light Bulb Change Accomplished;

7. One campaign insider to resign and write a book documenting in detail how McCain/Bush/Schmit/Rove was literally in the dark and out of touch with the American Voter

8. One to viciously smear #7;

9. Sarah Palin to campaign on TV and at rallies on how John McCain has had a strong light-bulb-changing policy all along;

10. And finally one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

Monday, October 6, 2008

CD Review: Earth Beings On Exhibit

The Jonas Brothers aren’t the problem. And we can’t blame Kanye West’s ego, Rolling Stone magazine, or the hype of the next U2 album. Nor can we blame The Eagles for charging $250/ticket to their shlocky concerts. And it’s not Kid Rock’s fault, and we cant blame Toby Keith. (OK, we can blame those last two guys for being no-talent symptoms of some things that are horribly wrong with society and popular music.)

To attempt an analogy, it’s almost like getting so caught up in the salaries, scandals, steroids, stadium-naming rights for corporations, merchandise marketing, and TV ratings that swirl around professional sports that it’s easy to forget that these are just games that we all played ourselves as kids and could simply go outside and play again right now with other people (if we still played outside and interacted with other live humans).

Somehow we’ve all managed to lose sight of the fact that music is…. MUSIC. It’s not product, though it certainly has been marketed and sold as such. Music is not a popularity contest, despite what millions of American Idol fans have been programmed to believe. Karaoke is not music. Guitar Hero is not music. Your myspace page and your iPod playlist may contain music, but it, itself, is not music.

Music is Girl Love's Distortion's debut CD, Earth Beings on Exhibit (Etxe Records). I say that because it’s not pretentious. Sure, they look cool in the photos and they made damn sure that the CD sounds great, but they aren’t trying to look cool or sound marketable or capitalize on a niche or do anything but just… play… music. So it’s aptly titled: Earth Beings on Exhibit…. This is us, this is our art. It is rock music, and like it or not, it is real.

And that’s what’s so rare. GLD is a band of actual people making artistic alternative guitar rock. As if that’s not a horrible and generic enough label, I’ll try to categorize it and “tell you what it sounds like,” even though that’s also part of what’s gone wrong. I hear a strong Sonic Youth influence even if it doesn’t actually sound like SY per se. But the elements are there: the guitar prowess, the feedback, the dissonance, the artsy factor, the presence of both male and female voices, the unconventional song structures juxtaposed among flashes of catchy pop (like the houseful of shaggy-looking weirdos living on the same block as the clean-cut Normal American Family).

While it’s great that technology and access has enabled millions of people to “start a band” and made it easier for existing bands to distribute and promote their music in creative new ways (and often without the “help” of Traditional Record Companies), it’s also spawned a whole new generation of amateurs posing as pros. And if they have the coolest clothes, the right haircuts, and a little bit of money behind them, you might not notice that they suck.

Well Girl Loves Distortion doesn’t suck (how’s that for a glowing endorsement?). They have serious chops to go along with their creative eyes and ears. Lead guitarist and bassist Steve Rubin manages to harness the fury of Crazy-Horse-era Neil Young guitar freakouts and filter them through the tasteful simple/unique approach of someone like The Edge. Guitarist/bassist Chris Goett compliments Rubin perfectly as a songwriter and player and manages to give his own songs a classic Lou Reed/David Bowie baritone that offsets Rubin’s imperfect inner Thom Yorke. Drummer Jenn Thomas isn’t afraid to let all of the creative voices in her head sing out loud, and it’s always refreshing to see and hear a drummer who plays a creative role within the song and makes the drums a real instrument. She doesn’t try to be Neal Peart but still manages to do more than just play along and keep a beat.

GLD’s Earth Beings on Exhibit CD is proof that real people still make real music and, in treating it like a serious art form while not taking themselves too seriously, the result is real good.

Shut Up and Sing

That's usually what you hear shouted from some of the masses anytime a rock star decides to take 30 seconds and excercise his or her right to free speech and utilize their large profile and public platform to convey a message they believe in: "SHUT UP AND SING!!"

Personally I've never had a problem with musicians or actors using their fame to offer their opinions on the issues of the day. Why not?

As a longtime Bruce Springsteen fan, and a current Barack Obama supporter, I'm certainly glad to see Bruce making a few acoustic appearances at rallies and voter-registration drives in key swingstates.

Here are the comments he made from the stage in Philadelphia on Saturday, October 4:

Hello Philly,

I am glad to be here today for this voter registration drive and for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States.

I've spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in this city from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.

I've spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I've continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people's hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.

They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama's understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don't know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.

So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising.

Video of his 42-minute set at the Philadelphia rally is available here.

01. The Promised Land
02. Ghost of Tom Joad
03. Thunder Road
04. No Surrender
05. Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street
06. The Rising
07. This Land is Your Land

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lipstick on a Stinking Corpse

If you’re looking for a roundup of VP-debate reaction from the so-called mainstream media, I’ve assembled a few snippets below in the previous post. Now I’ll offer my thoughts, and I’ll start with something that I don’t think ever gets mentioned:

If the rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is so despicable and so full of hate (and it is), and if meeting with him or another of Iran’s leaders would in some sense validate him (and his hate speech) and in turn actually give those reckless words an international platform…. Then why does Sarah Palin insist on repeating all of his worst lines about “wiping Israel off the map” and calling Judaism a “stinking corpse”?? She’s a candidate for Vice-President of the United States, and in a debate televised across every network in America and replayed all over the world, there she is delivering Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic talking points for him. Sure, she’s denouncing those words, but she’s also constantly repeating them on TV and amplifying them through campaign rally microphones and giving them the largest platform possible by hurling them on to the Presidential political stage. And since we all agree that talking about wiping Israel off the map and calling Judaism a stinking corpse is reprehensible and disgusting maybe Sarah Palin should stop doing it.

Never mind that Barack Obama never actually said that he himself would meet with Ahmadinejad himself; and never mind that everyone from Henry Kissinger and James Baker to Madeline Albright, Condaleeza Rice and others all agree that we should have some diplomatic relations and engage in conversations with Iran and other adversaries, as Obama has suggested. Facts matter little to Gov. Palin. She sang the praises of diplomacy and promised that she and John McCain would engage in diplomacy… but at the same time accused Barack Obama of naivety for wanting to engage in… diplomacy. Huh? I guess it’s possible that she doesn’t know what the word diplomacy means, but I think she does. She’s not as profoundly dumb as she appeared in her few TV interviews. But diplomacy doesn’t sell tickets or boost ratings. She would rather spout fear, and then of course figure out a way to pivot back to talking about oil. And along the way, if she happens to slip in a simplistic, misleading, and disrespectful soundbite like “Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq,” well then that’s okay too, and also you betcha.

Speaking of fear, when asked specifically about the economic crisis and the bailout plan she instead put on her Hockey-Mom sweatshirt and her Joe Sixpack hat and said in her very first response of the night that you can go to a kid's soccer game on Saturday and ask parents how they feel, and "I'll betcha you're going to hear some fear." Fear, fear, fear.

Palin said things like “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people and too many parts of our planet” and “We would never allow another Holocaust” and “Darn right it was the predator lenders… There was deception there, and there was greed and there is corruption on Wall Street” and that mortgage lenders were "rearing that head of abuse." She used the word "energy" 29 times.

She didn’t want to fully admit that global warming and climate change is man made. ("I'm not one to attribute every man -- activity of man to the changes in the climate. There is something to be said also for man's activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet.") She dismissed the causes as unimportant ("there are real changes going on in our climate and I don't want to argue about the causes"), but then claimed to want do something about it. Memo to Governor Palin: it’s a good idea to know what’s causing a problem if you truly want to actually fix it.

She complained about “the mainstream media filter” and wished that she could just talk to the American people…. Well who was or is preventing her from going on Meet the Press or any other news show and sitting down and talking to the American people? And was it the “media filter” who couldn’t even name one other Supreme Court case beyond Roe v. Wade? Was it the “media filter” who, when asked what newspapers or magazines she reads, answered “Oh, uh, y’know, all of ‘em, or any of ‘em… a vast variety of sources….”?

Back to the debate, when they tried to delve further into economic issues and Biden started getting into some specifics about bankruptcy laws and mortgages, Palin’s response? “I want to talk about, again, my record on energy versus your ticket's energy ticket, also,” because her state has oil and, y’know, and also she’s just a Washington outsider and also a maverick. And while the real real regular Americans are worried about losing their homes, and while moderator Gwen Ifill and Sen. Joe Biden want to talk about the nitty-gritty specifics of these very real concerns, the Governor who plays a regular American on TV actually admitted that “I may not answer the questions the way the moderator wants me to” and instead seemed proud of herself for correcting Biden by explaining that the chant of her mindless followers is “Drill, baby, drill!” and not “Drill, drill, drill” as Biden alluded to earlier.

Oil. Fear. Oil. Soundbites. Oil. Folksy. Oil. Remind you of anyone currently holding the title of President?

So, just to clarify since some people didn’t seem to get it the first time: the Bush/Cheney administration is the pig; the McCain/Palin campaign is the lipstick.

VP Debate Reaction Doggone-it and, Also, You Betcha!

One aptly written headline read “Sarah Palin exceeds expectations -- and still loses.” Another claimed "Biden Wins, Palin Wins, Obama Wins, McCain Loses." Biden used the word "fundamental" many times, while Palin sprinkled in a heckuva lotta folksy language and seemed to enjoy falling back on the word "also."

The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson said, “She responded to any question that required real-time thinking by ignoring it and dredging up a canned answer from the McCain campaign’s canned-answer pool. She had memorized her answers, even if they weren’t the answers to the questions Gwen Ifill posed. Her performance was dissociated, jumbled, and at times completely contradictory, with soundbites appearing and reappearing almost at random.”

Some other reaction, starting with the New York Times:
She succeeded by not failing in any obvious way. She mostly reverted to and repeated talking points, like referring to Mr. McCain as a “maverick” and the Republican ticket as a “team of mavericks,” while not necessarily quelling doubts among voters about her depth of knowledge.

Although Ms. Palin name-dropped several times, presumably to show fluency in foreign affairs, she did not always drop the right name. At one point, she referred to the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, as "McClellan.”

Ms. Palin also tended to seize on a single point or phrase of Mr. Biden or the moderator and veer off on her own direction in her 90-second answer. Asked whether the poor economy would cause Mr. McCain to cut his spending plans, Ms. Palin picked up on Mr. Biden’s discussion of energy to criticize Mr. Obama’s positions on energy and talk about her fights against oil companies in Alaska.

In response to a question about her views on an exit strategy in Iraq, Ms. Palin championed Mr. McCain’s support for the “surge” of American troops there; hailed “a great American hero,” Gen. David H. Petraeus; and attacked Mr. Obama’s Senate votes.

After that, Mr. Biden turned to the moderator and said, “Gwen, with all due respect, I didn’t hear a plan.”

Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post: “I thought Sarah Palin made one huge, central mistake -- and I expect it to be reflected in surveys asking voters who won (as it is already, indeed, reflected in a CBS snap poll of uncommitted voters indicating that they saw Joe Biden as the winner). Her error was that she hardly talked at all about policy solutions, except when the debate got onto the subject of energy and offshore drilling. But on everything else -- the financial crisis, the economy in general, health care, the war on terror -- she gave little more than promises of reform and ‘maverick’-y governance.”

From Salon’s Joan Walsh:
She lost the debate when Biden choked up over losing his wife and child in a car accident in which his sons were critically injured -- and she went straight back into “John McCain is a maverick.” I truly expected her to express human sympathy with Biden, and her failure to do so showed me something deeply wrong with her.

She made other mistakes that others have already caught: She called the top commander in Afghanistan General McClellan; his name is McKiernan. She said the troop levels in Iraq are down to pre-surge levels; they're not. She simply didn't answer a lot of the questions. Moderator Gwen Ifill tried to pull her back, but Palin is stubborn; she had her talking points, and she stuck to them.

John Nichols wrote in The Nation: “Let's be clear that Palin did not crash and burn as her most ardent detractors anticipated – or, at the least, hoped – she would. Yes, the governor rambled at times, and she had no comebacks at those moments when Biden directly challenged the validity of her over-the-top claims about Obama's Senate voting record. But Palin gave Republican spin doctors enough material – mainly in the form of folksy one-liners -- so that they could cheer her ‘success’ without sounding entirely ridiculous.”

In a Slate article titled “So Palin spoke in complete sentences; She still knows nothing about foreign policy,” Fred Kaplan writes:
When Palin repeated her charge that Obama was "beyond naive" in calling for negotiating with adversaries "without preconditions," Biden explained what the phrase meant, then noted that it was supported not just by the five former secretaries of state who recently co-authored an endorsement of the idea but by our allies, with whom Palin had just said we needed to work together.

When Palin recited McCain's line about applying the principles of the Iraqi surge to Afghanistan, Biden (correctly) noted that the U.S. commanding general in Afghanistan has said the surge wouldn't work there.

Finally, when Biden said the Bush administration's foreign policy has been an "abject failure," and proceeded to list the many ways in which that was so, Palin's only reply was to smile and say, "Enough playing the blame game." If Obama and Biden talk so much about change, she added (as if this were really a clever point), why do they spend so much time looking backward?

To which Biden replied, with uncharacteristic pith, "Past is prologue." And so it is. At another point, he noted, "Facts matter." And so they do.

More to the point, he noted that McCain has never explained how his policies would differ from Bush's on Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, or Iraq. In other words, even if Palin is right that 2009 is Year Zero, what would she and her No. 1 do differently? She didn't answer the question, any more than McCain ever has, perhaps because there is no answer.

When Biden was asked what line he would draw in deciding whether to intervene in other countries militarily, he cited two criteria: whether we had the capacity to make a difference and whether the countries in question were committing genocide or harboring terrorists—in which case, he said, they would have forfeited the rights of sovereignty.

Palin replied merely by hailing John McCain as a man "who knows how to win a war, who's been there." (McCain has said this about himself as well several times, though, with all due respect for his military record, where's the proof of this claim? What wars has he won, and what did he do there?)

Um, What Was the Question?

Maybe Sarah Palin doesn't know that "Achilles heel" means "weak spot." Or maybe she was just very much conditioned to ignore the questions and pivot to the buzzwords and talking points. The transcript says it all:

MODERATOR: Let's talk conventional wisdom for a moment. The conventional wisdom, Governor Palin with you, is that your Achilles heel is that you lack experience. What is it really for you, Governor Palin?

PALIN: My experience as an executive will be put to good use as a mayor and business owner and oil and gas regulator and then as governor of a huge state, a huge energy producing state that is accounting for much progress towards getting our nation energy independence and that's extremely important.

But it wasn't just that experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills? About times and Todd and our marriage in our past where we didn't have health insurance and we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care? We've been there also so that connection was important.

But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain. That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here. We are not perfect as a nation. But together, we represent a perfect ideal. And that is democracy and tolerance and freedom and equal rights. Those things that we stand for that can be put to good use as a force for good in this world.

John McCain and I share that. You combine all that with being a team with the only track record of making a really, a difference in where we've been and reforming, that's a good team, it's a good ticket.