Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sen. Obama Brings Positive Message of Hope for America, Laying to Rest the Politics of Fear.

Shortly after the airing of Sen. Obama’s much talked about political message, which has widely been heralded as the most expensive campaign ad ever produced by a major party candidate, the campaign of Republican nominee John McCain released a short statement, saying: “As anyone who has bought anything from an infomercial knows, the sales job is always better than the product. Buyer beware.”

The McCain campaign website also moved to post on their 'splash page' a 30 second ad in response to Sen. Obama’s message saying “Tonight Senator Obama paid over $3 million for thirty minutes to tell us how he will try to fix America. We only need 30 seconds to tell you how unprepared Barack Obama is and how wrong his plan for America is.” -- A more cool-headed approach would have been to quickly agree to the basic tenets of Sen. Obama’s message while respectfully offering a different path.

Unfortunately for the McCain campaign, it has squandered its political capital in a blitzkrieg of negative ads, doubling down on the same old fear-mongering strategies taken straight from the Karl Rove political playbook of the past decade. All of which have flatly failed. These strategies all bear the same hallmark; after causing the stir of an initial whoosh in the media, they dully thud in the resounding ‘booing’ of the hardest of right-wing rally-goers. In stark contrast to the percussive droning of McCain's negative campaigning, Obama offers a different view of the challenges facing our nation and more importantly, an optimistic belief in the resilience of the Americans who will rise to those challenges. Refreshing, yes, refreshing indeed for those of us who have for too long been wandering in the wilderness and in dire thirst of a reviving draught from the wellspring of positive and optimistic politics:

Senator Obama, during the thirty minute spot coolly revealed his trump card, without arrogance or a false doctrine of superiority, but with humility and decency, laid bare his hopeful and optimistic vision for America’s future before the American people. At this juncture in American Politics, Sen. Obama offers the American people optimism and hope, as opposed to fear and pessimism. Obama’s is the voice that is finally calling America to rally once again around her greatest ideals. There can really be no other response from the McCain campaign other than to respectfully agree to disagree on how we are to yet again reach toward the highest ideal of our Nation. Yet, by the very wording of the McCain campaigns response of “buyer beware” and “try to fix America” they seem to indicate that they would continue the same doctrine of fear that the Bush White House has used over these past dreadful years as a bullwhip meant not to rally us toward our greatest potential, but to herd the American people into a cramped pen of abjectly timid obeisance.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


This story has been breaking for nearly a year now. It was first brought to my attention by a series of articles which appeared on Bill Moyers Journal during the spring of this year. In many ways the story of what has been referred to as a “Perfect Storm” brewing around world food shortages and hunger has, during the intervening months, been largely overshadowed by the titanic specter of the worldwide economic crisis as it marches over front pages the world over.

If this is the second coming of the Great Depression, it seems clear now that its scope and reach extends far beyond borders hemmed by “amber waves of grain”. If the abject despair of the Dust Bowl era that followed the economic collapse that led to the Great Depression doesn’t replay here in the US, it certainly appears that a much more egregious scenario might play itself out across the globe, in places like Egypt, Pakistan, The Congo, and recently Hurricane ravaged islands such as Haiti and Cuba.

In many ways, the particulars of the impending tsunami of hunger building are as obscurely complex as the poisonous derivatives and seedy financial instruments that are causing the markets to buck and quake, sending panic across every facet of the global economy.

US Farm Policy must certainly factor into the equation when we think about the availability and affordability of food worldwide. When the poorest people around the world are forced to rely on the supply of cheaper grain produced under lavish subsidies because it is simply economically unfeasible to produce their own crops domestically due to insurmountable hurdles of overhead vs. profit; something is dreadfully wrong.

I think Bill Moyers speaks more eloquently than I ever could on this. In an April 11, 2008 article “CASH COWS & COWBOY STARTER KITS”, he introduced his piece with a short commentary, during which he said,

-- “As so many people face empty fridges and bare pantries, American farmers are going all-out to meet the world-wide demand for food — and earning record prices for their efforts, as they should. Farm income almost doubled last year, and is now reaching an all time high. With grain prices skyrocketing and the federal deficit out of sight, this would seem the moment to cut back on those tens of billions of dollars that taxpayers shower on milk producers, cotton and rice farmers, and growers of corn, soybeans, wheat, and sugar — subsidies that keep coming whether they're needed or not. Our farm policies frankly are a ramshackle, a costly mess — a monster jerrybuilt by politics. What was supposed to be a temporary financial safety net for imperiled family farmers has become a huge boondoggle for a fraction of wealthy farmers, including landowners who've never gotten close enough to a barn to slip on the manure.”

As I said, I couldn’t have said it any better. Below are some links to some of the articles from Bill Moyers Journal that I honestly feel are deserving of a second look, especially this close to the Presidential elections. We mustn’t forget or ignore those here at home, and abroad who are and who will be struggling for even the most basic of necessities.
Bill Moyers : Cash Cows and Cowboy Starter Kits
FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kicking off the boots: The latest of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series

The latest installment, volume 8, of Bob Dylan's Bootleg series has arrived. "Tell Tale Signs" is a collection of outtakes and previously unreleased gems from studio and live recordings made during Dylan's quote, unquote self-resurrection of -- say the last fifteen years. I'll make no bones about it, until "Love and Theft", I had largely regarded Dylan as some relic of some bygone era belonging to the free-wheeling, free loving youngsters of the sixties.

I couldn't have been more wrong, but then, his emphasis had been largely diluted by the time I arrived on the scene as a young teenager to give a listen to his self titled debut album, after picking up a copy at a thrift store sometime during the late eighties. I dismissed him back then as a hack -- and promptly filed him (in my mind) alongside the neo-folk troubadours of his era.

I've since arrived at an appreciation for Dylan and his music through less conventional means. He might applaud me for it, or laugh in my face -- But, as a teenager, I would often listen to and fall asleep to the recordings of Charlie Patton, Howlin' Wolf, The Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers. I wouldn't recommend that to everyone -- it can lead to rather heinous dreams -- and I didn't arrive there by chance, either. My father; not by virtue of some 'movement' or reverence for days past, played folk songs for my brother and I as youngsters. We didn't even have a television in the home until I was seven years old. Our sole entertainment was listening to my father play and sing his songs. The songs he knew. The songs he learned from his father.

Dylan and my father are nearly exactly the same age. I doubt Dylan's father played anything -- I have in my possession the 1928 National Duolian steel guitar my grandfather played at peanut boils and fish fries in the thirties and early forties. In that sense, Dylan was looking as much at my father as he looked at anyone when he struck out from the Middle American constraints of the Midwest to head east into New York City. There is no doubt in my mind now, that the young Bob Dylan knew he had already tapped into the richest vein of Americana as his feet first touched pavement in New York City. Why else would he have gone to pay homage to a dying Woody Guthrie in a nearby Brooklyn hospital.

Yet now, here so many years later, a song such as 'Dignity' emerges to defiantly expose all those who said that Dylan was the voice of their generation as naively self righteous in their determination as they demagogically sought to strip from the rugged individuality of a young Bob Dylan some fleshly souvenir, anything that might support their endeavors.

From the website:

Columbia Records is happy to announce today's release of Bob Dylan's "Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8".

Los Angeles Times: "'Tell Tale Signs' is not just "extra" Dylan. It's essential Dylan."

San Francisco Chronicle: "For Bob Dylan, these are outtakes. Most musicians would call them their greatest hits."

The BBC: "Beautiful, brave and beguiling."

Boston Globe: "a feast for casual fans and Dylanologists alike."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Old Crow Medicine Show have done it again.... but not in quite the same way

I've been following this band for some time now. Their latest release , "Tennessee Pusher" is in stores now. The band is Old Crow Medicine Show, and if they've walked a long highway from the disappointment of a gritty and inhospitable Nashville to the sidewalks of some lackluster town in North Carolina they've solidified their huckster ways on their own terms. The road was stark, and lones0me, very much like the path trodden by the dust-bowl era songsters that preceded them. Perhaps it was all that hard travelin' what gave them their high lonesome harmonies and hokum rhythms. This latest release, Tennessee Pusher, finds the band shooting die in some back alley junkie game of craps. It is the rawest and most deeply honest album they have turned out. As much as I adore the tight harmonies and rambling fiddling of "Wagon Wheel", and have certainly enjoyed their second full length album "Big Iron World" (it will certainly remain an invaluable fixture in my collection), I am compelled to say I'm glad to see they've mined the rawest of ore on this latest release.

No punditry can suffice

My blog on features several political articles and essays, many of which I may move here in the near future. But, I just can't resist resting for a bit in the repose of the irreverent satire concerning last week's debate:

Grotesque Verse

shot wheel smack boulder solar trance
this is the stratospheric inheritance --
an elvis song in minor key,
transfiguration bullet, stay the run tide turned inside
a muse.

If the elephant is sleeping, she lilts to this side
-- and that.
That is elegance and fortitude.
A great big house, for an enterprising mouse,
it smokes weed, fat with a pink nose, and ink stained forepaws.
If jokes are the mocking tone of life washed lies,
there is a taste for truth and delicate wandering eyes.
That searches for meaning in the corners of a frown.
All these things have come up from the earth, the glitter and blink,
and make strange noises, and warmth and dirty oil.

But, it is the same dirt and the same sky and the same ocean.
And salty sea. What have we?
Nothing, but to ultimately rely on miracles.
Turn my wine into water, I'm sick of drunkenness;
Close up the sea, I wanna drown.
I won't eat your manna, I relish the pangs of starvation.
There, now a Negress crouches and clutches her aching skeleton.
Goddamn your insolence.

for love of songs and an unsung songstress ...

Okay, so we all know Chuck E was in love; or something like that. It was quirky in its lyrical undulations -- a snappy tune for sure -- and Rickie Lee Jones' 1979 debut album seemed (at the time) as unassuming as it would be relatively unheralded. With a crisp and overly-tightly polished production, the debut record seemed to suggest that the established record industry was sure it could pluck this gem from the gritty earth and set her in a mount of burnished 24K gold. The cover of her self titled debut belies a muted truthfulness and frank non-conformity -- in the rather stark portrait, a young Rickie Lee Jones in her red beret could seem to care less; couldn't give a shit really. The halls of dank dorm rooms would suit her music just fine -- it seemed the world was just going to have to catch up to Rickie. And it nearly has -- well, at least by proxy. She remains aloft, standing apart from the rest; defined only by a rugged individuality that is as radiant as it is rare. And now, as I listen to "The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard" I am convinced that Rickie Lee Jones has enigmatically re-defined what it means to be a female singer-songwriter for at least the next thirty years--