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Friday, November 30, 2012

Best Film of 2012 Is "Not a Film"?

Soon we will be deluged by mainstream critics' "Best Films" lists sure to be populated mainly by the half-good products of Hollywood--you know, they fall apart at the end or you are just happy they weren't worse.  But here's the best film--if you go by Rotten Tomatoes averaging.  Several films got 100% "fresh" reviews but this had the highest number of reviews in that average.  Naturally, it's from abroad:

Friday Night Music Pick

Well, we've already posted The Decemberists below on the blog, but here's Collective Soul with "December."

Paul's Pick

We always look forward to Paul Krugman's Friday night music pick and usually endorse it, and then choose a different cut.  This week he backs The Decemberists.  Here's my selection (she was no Carrie Mathison):

Tough Week for Stevie Wonder

Cancels concert after protests about siding with Israel--and then this song is sort of the "bad guy" in hit Silver Linings Playbook.

Oliver's Army

My new piece at The Nation on the Oliver Stone-Peter Ruznick book, based on their Showtime series, making the NYT bestseller list, and critical reaction to it.

Israel Punishes Palestinians With New Settlements

Breaking from NYT is report on Israel, following last night's UN vote on Palestinian state, approving controversial settlement that will likely wreck any chance for a "two-state solution."  Classic Israeli action.   Of course, Susan Rice and Obama team will firwt say, "we warned you," and blame the Palestinians.  Even though the U.S. has long opposed this settlement.  Watch for U.S. bluster now and then doing nothing about it, as per usual.   Here's key Haaretz article.   NYT below:
The prime minister’s office refused to comment on whether the settlement expansion — first reported on Twitter by a reporter for the Israeli daily Haaretz — was punishment for the Palestinians’ success in obtaining nonmember observer state status at the United Nations, but it was widely seen as such. The United States, one of only eight countries that stood with Israel in voting against the Palestinians’ upgrade, has for two decades vigorously opposed construction in E1, a 3,000-acre expanse of hilly parkland where a police station was opened in 2008.


'NYT' Demands Obama Reveal 'Kill' Rules

Editorial today states their glad the White House may be "codifying" its rules on killing folks abroad via drones and whatnot but they need to release them when completed.
Mr. Obama has acknowledged the need for a “legal architecture” to be put in place “to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in.” Yet his administration has resisted legal efforts by The Times and the American Civil Liberties Union to make public its secret legal opinions on these killings. Once the rules are completed, they should be shown to a world skeptical of countries that use deadly force without explanation.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When John Lennon and Chuck Berry Came Together

Hey, never too old to teach old dog new licks.  Didn't know until today that John Lennon's "Come Together" was inspired by this not-so-famous vintage Chuck Berry tune, right down to the "flaptop" reference.  Lennon, who had added a big bass to the tune to make it more distinctive, was sued by Chuck's manager and settled out of court.

Manning Testifies At Last

UPDATE Friday  Co-author of my book on Manning, Kevin Gosztola, covering this and here's his full report on Thursday.  He's at court today for Friday's cross-examination. 

Thursday:  Bradley finally got part of a day in court.  Here's a full Salon report.    My co-author on Manning book, Kevin Gosztola, of course there, and tweeting @Kgosztola.
Reporting via Twitter, the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington noted that Manning’s lawyer drew a life-sized Quantico cell on the floor and had the soldier stand in it to convey his cramped conditions. For nine months, the 24-year-old was confined to a 6-by-8-foot cell with no window for more than 23 hours each day. “If you put your head on cell door [and] looked through crack you could see reflection of t[he] window,” Manning told the hearing Thursday, according to Pilkington’s reports.
Manning also told the court that he was pleased when returned to American soil in 2010, having felt like he was in an “animal cage” while detained by the U.S. military in Kuwait.
Updates via Pilkington: Manning says,  "I was authorized to have 20 minutes sunshine call" – i.e. 20 mins outside his cell - in chains - every 24 hour  Also: "The most entertaining thing in my cell was the mirror. You can interact with yourself. I spent a lot of time with it." 

Gunning, for a New Record

Guess who else was buying like crazy, and I do mean crazy, on Black Friday? Gun nuts, Charles M. Blow details in new column.  In fact, they set some kind of record, and the FBI computer was swamped.   The reason, of course, was Obama winning re-election and NRA claims that NOW he will take away gun or tax them so high you won't be able to keep all 40 of  them an have to settled for a dozen of so.   Of course, Obama has done nothing on guns, ever.
And it’s not like we need more guns, anyway. The United States has more guns per capita than any country on the planet.
All the while, stocks of gun makers are going through the roof. Smith & Wesson’s stock is up 280 percent since last year. Sturm, Ruger and Company’s stock is up 96 percent from last year.
Welcome to the Great American Arming.

The Twinkies Defense

After its embarrassing showing in its polls for this year's presidential race and many Senate contests, it's good to see Rasmussen returning to the fray with a very serious poll about...Twinkies.  Yes, it has asked what folks think about them and, no surprise, 57% voted thumbs up.  The junkier the junk food the better, apparently, as other polls from the firm find big majorities rejecting the idea of new taxes on junk food and new restrictions on giant soft drinks (despite the obesity and diabetes epidemics that ruin lives and super-size taxes and insurance premiums we all pay).

And, naturally--this being Rasmussen--a poll finds that most people blame the union for Twinkies temporary demise due to Hostess closing. 

Assange Speaks

Here's the full Democracy Now! segment this morning featuring an interview with Julian Assange from his safe house at Ecuador's embassy in London--on his new punk, WikiLeaks' future, Bradley Manning (whose hearing continues today), and more:

But Boehner Claims a Mandate

Or maybe he meant a man date?  In any case, I've been charting the vote counting in the still undecided House races and now we are done, with the Dems winning each one (including the latest in North Carolina) and ending up with a net gain of 8 seats--despite the gross GOP gerrymandering that cost them at least another eight wins, by most counts, maybe more.  "The 113th Congress will be represented by 201 Democrats and 234 Republicans. Democrats entered the 2012 elections holding 190 House seats -- but due to vacancies in three Democrat-held seats, they gained eight seats overall."

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books (see right rail of this blog).  His latest, on the Obama-Romney battle, is "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape.

Neil Young Segment: Long May it Run

Here's the unaired "extended" part of last night's Jon Stewart interview with Neil Young.   Adding cowbell?  UPDATE   Here's NYT piece on Neil announcing Hurricane Sandy relief benefit--in Atlantic City.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Getting the Kinks Out (Again)

The first big-name rock star I ever interviewed, in my early days at Crawdaddy in early 1971, was one of my musical heroes, Ray Davies of the Kinks.   They were in the midst of their "Lola" comeback period but Ray still told me,  "I think I am totally mad." He had recently stabbed his brother Dave with a fork when Dave reached for his chips.  Nice guy, though.  That night, at Philharmonic Hall in NYC,  Ray was so drunk he stumbled backyards toward an elevated amp.  Brother Dave casually stepped out of the way and let Ray fall into it--and it nearly toppled on top of him.  Ray, flat on his back, kept sing, "I'm an Ape man, I'm an Ape-Ape man."  Then he got up and balanced a beer can on his head.  Finally he insisted the audience sing along with what he called "the greatest fucking song ever written," namely, "You Are My Sunshine."

  

Stay Out of That Cadillac, Kids

UPDATE:  NYT reports tonight that this fellow now has warrant out on him for 11 felony cases of abuse.

Earlier:  It's been a cultural icon for more than thirty years, a wacky Amarillo tourist attraction, even the title of a Springsteen song.  That could only be the Cadillac Ranch.  Now its "founder--Stanley March 3--has been named by several John Does as the man who sexually abused them when they were teens.  “I think most people in Amarillo appreciate it as a work of art, and really don’t think of it in the context of its donor any more than people concentrate on whatever Van Gogh’s psychological problems were in appreciation of his art,” said State Senator Kel Seliger, a Panhandle Republican and the city’s former four-term mayor. “One should always take allegations of indecency with a child seriously. But at this point they are just that, they’re allegations.” (NYT photo above.)

Typical NYC Day

Okay, so Annie Leibovitz was in the middle of a photo shoot starring another "girl," Lena Dunham, when nearby a guy starts dangling off the Brooklyn Bridge.  Forty minutes later he falls or jumps to his death.  He lands right in the middle of the famed River Cafe.   So much for the photo shoot.  It will, at least, live to see another day.

Best American Movie of the Year (So Far)?

UPDATE  NYT with big piece just posted online, and probably in print tomorrow, on guy who creatred the "beast," with much detail on the how.  And BTW, it's still near top of my "Best of" list.

Earlier:  "A million years from now, when kids go to school, they gonna know: Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her Daddy in The Bathtub."  Saw sleeper indie Beasts of the Southern Wild tonight and it's tremendous, both ultra-funky (set in swamp land south of New Orleans) and magical (are those aurochs from before the Ice Age?).  Warning about climate change subtle.  Plus the music is great (imagine the group Beirut doing much of the horn-driven soundtrack) and even some Cajun fiddling  here --  and the little girl may get an Oscar nod.  You can have your Dark Blight Rises.

Trailer:

'NYT' Reporter Rudoren Under Microscope

NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan, whose blog post yesterday responded to my charges about the paper's front-page caption on photo of Gaza school kids, returns today with a look at the uproar over the paper's Jersualem chief and her "problematic" tweets and Facebook posts as she covered the recent war from Gaza.
More recently, during the Gaza conflict, she wrote one Facebook post in which she described Palestinians as “ho-hum” about the death of loved ones, wrote of their “limited lives” and, in another, said she shed her first tears in Gaza over a letter from an Israeli family. The comments came off as insensitive and the reaction was sharp, not only from media pundits, but also from dismayed readers.
Philip Weiss, the anti-Zionist Jewish-American journalist who writes about the Middle East for Mondoweiss, his Web site, wrote “she seems culturally bound inside the Israeli experience.”  Ms. Rudoren regrets some of the language she used, particularly the expression “ho-hum.”
Rudoren had also claimed that in the recent air war "it seems like Israelis are almost more traumatized" than the Gazans. 

The Times is so concerned about all this they have assigned an editor to oversee her use of social networking.  However, is that the end of the story?  Much of the criticism of Rudoren was based on whether she was, in fact, too biased to report on Palestinian-Israeli issues during and after the recent conflict.   Sullivan gives her a pass on this--for now--noting she has done some fine reporting in dangerous conditions.   I have a feeling this will not convince the critics. (Philip Weiss responds here.   And Ali Abunimah of The Electronic Intifada strongly objects here. )   Imagine if the Times' Jersualem chief was Palestinian and wrote that "ho-hum" and "limited lives" and only-shed-a-tear Facebook post.

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books (see right rail of this blog).  His latest, on the Obama-Romney battle, is "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape.

Lindsey Graham: Just Like a Woman?

John Heilemann, very early on Morning Joe today, in a discussion about opposition to Susan Rice, suggested that Sen. Lindsey Graham is, essentially, a "woman."  This was in the context of Sen. Kelly Ayotte replacing outgoing Joe Lieberman in the "three amigos" grouping (McCain, Graham, Lieberman).  Heilemann said that now two of the three are actually "women."  Well,  Joe Scarb had a good laugh about it right on camera and then they moved on.  And, as Mediaite just noted, that bit was pulled when the segment was re-aired after 8 a.m.  Here's the original:

John Glenn Meets Beethoven

Another birthday boy, Ed Harris, joining Jon Stewart (see below) and Randy Newman and, to put things in perspective, William Blake.  And, yes, Ed did play my man Beethoven not too far back--helping to spark my own LvB obsession.  Here he does The Ninth.

Jon Stewart Turns 50

Yes, the former MTV host not so long ago has a big birthday today.  So, in tribute, two of his greatest "Daily Show" moments:  his first Glenn Beck impersonation--and the day he trashed "Crossfire" on CNN as "partisan hackery."  Jon to Tucker:  "You're 35 and you still wear a bowtie?"

Ocean Level Rising 60% Faster Than Projected

Meaning, for the U.S. coasts, and many key cities around the world, as Woody Guthrie might have sung, "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Ya"?  Here's a new report that suggests that while troubling temp gains are pretty much in line with projections, the waters are rising faster than imagined.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jimi Turns 70

Two rarities from Mr. James Hendrix (and Mr. Robert Zimmerman) for Jimi's 70th birthday.   First, amazingly, rehearsing "All Along the Watchtower" on acoustic guitar in the studio--allegedly racing there after first hearing the song on John Wesley Harding.   Then, his take on Dylan's obscure single (which bombed, although I still own the Bob 45 that I bought back in '66), "Please Crawl Out Your Window," live on BBC. 

Piercing the Drone War

Charles P. Pierce just now takes on Tweety Chris and Howard Fineman and then, most valuably, the immortal and immoral posturing of a panel backing drone warfare, as a "just war," on MSNBC's Martin Bashir's program.  It might just be about the best thing on the whole issue that I've read at 500 words or less.  Too much to quotes so just go read the whole damn thing.

Naked Truth for Boehner

Several protesters disrobed in a 20-minute action in House Speaker John Boehner's office today, protesting cuts to AIDS funding and related issues.  "After police showed up and repeatedly threatened to arrest the protesters for indecent exposure, they eventually put on their clothes and walked out of the Speaker’s office. The three female protesters stuck around in the hallway to speak to reporters and were arrested anyway; the four male protesters appeared to get away, the organizers said."  Photo above and below and full NSFW video below that.



Woody Approve? For Sure

Somehow I missed this Democracy Now! tribute to Woody Guthrie a few days back marking his 100th birthday, with Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger and others.  News to me:  Woody's father backed the Ku Klux Klan, may have been a member, or possibly taken part in a lynching. Also, author of book on Woody, sings a song that Woody wrote but did not record:  a different lynching in his hometown.

Commie Paper Hails 'Sexiest Man' Piece at 'The Onion'

UPDATE  NYT not completely sure that the Chinese did not know this was all a spoof.  Seems like a stretch to me.  Then there's the matter of a slide show about an official with a sex tape.

Earlier: Fun story for today:  Online news outlet for Communist Party in China runs with piece in The Onion hailing North Korea's leader as its "Sexiest Man Alive."  Quoting the Onion, the Chinese newspaper wrote, ''With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman's dream come true."

"Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile," the People's Daily cited The Onion as saying.
The photos the People's Daily selected include Kim on horseback squinting into the light and Kim waving toward a military parade. In other photos, he is wearing sunglasses and smiling, or touring a facility with his wife.

School Daze: Updated

UPDATE Tuesday:  Margaret Sullivan, the fine NYT public editor, has now weighed in (Please jump to my original post below.)  She quotes from my piece, finds fault with some aspects of the caption but after a few phone calls rejects my claim that it is "disgraceful" and maybe Orwellian--and points to criticism of the photo from another angle, as being an example of "anti-Israel bias" (which she rightly rejects).

I'll offer a full response in stages, and there are already some good comments up at her blog.  For now:  1)  Hicks reports that the school was not, as I suggested, destroyed by a missile but only damaged enough to keep it from re-opening.  I get the difference but the reason I had written that it was destroyed were photos such as this, also from Hicks (go to #19 in the slide show), and especially these (#1, #3 and #4 in gallery),  again from Hicks.  These photos apparently were viewed by Times editors, and now Sullivan.  Note the captions in these (online) cases clearly label the school closed due to damage. 

2)  Sullivan reports:  "Douglas Schorzman, an assistant foreign editor, told me that it wasn’t clear to editors in New York how damaged the building was. 'If it was leveled, we just should have said so,' he said. But 'on deadline and in the moment, we may not have known that.' And in fact, it wasn’t leveled, so it made sense to be cautious."  This, of course, is absurd.  The caption did not even mention that the school was damaged in any way, before jumping to its Hamas focus.

3) "In addition," Sullivan writes, "the brief caption was serving a second purpose – as a way to direct readers to an inside page where several articles were displayed, including one about the prospects for peace talks and the role of Hamas." So the fact that it served this "second purpose" meant the caption could not be accurate and complete?  (Earlier she had cited "the caption’s multiple purpose").  And the articles inside did not cover school closings or damage.

4) Someone at the Times, I hope not Sullivan, has picked as her post's only highlighted Comment so far  one from a reader who hints that the entire photo was a "set up," that the building may not have even been a school, and maybe the girls sent there merely for a photo op.  Now that's disgraceful.

5) Please note my "Orwellian" was preceded by "maybe."

Original post on Sunday:  This image (above) was the top front-page photo, by the great Tyler Hicks, in the NYT print edition today:  kids returning to their school in Gaza and finding it shut down, for some reason.  Disgraceful, some might say Orwellian, Times caption:  "Girls at a Gaza school were stunned to find it closed.  An emboldened Hamas may lead Israel to harden its stance."  Why closed? You had to go to other photos way over at  the NYT site to find out that the school was completely destroyed by an Israeli air strike.  The caption might even suggest to some that Hamas had shut down a lightly damaged school. While prominent placement of the photo might draw criticism from Israelis, the caption seemed aimed at softening that.

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books (see right rail of this blog).  His latest, on the Obama-Romney battle, is "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape.


Bradley Speaks

UPDATE  Manning appeared in court on Monday but did not testify.  Likely to happen today, Tuesday.  Follow updates from co-author on my book, Truth and Consequences, Kevin Gosztola, right here

Monday: After years of imprisonment and abuse, and sitting in silence through numerous pre-trial hearings, Bradley Manning is set to actually speak in a military courtroom today, probably only about his ill treatment back at the Quantico brig.  "At least two military psychiatrists are likely to testify Tuesday that they recommended on numerous occasions that Manning be taken off the prevention of injury order. Quantico commanders in charge of the brig during the nine months in which Manning was held there are also believed to be testifying today." Salon has a wrap-up here.   

My recent book and ebook with Kevin Gosztola, Truth and Consequences, covers Manning and the case from the first WikiLeaks leaks to his hearings a few months back.  Follow @kgosztola.  And his preview here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Clintons: State and Their Union

Joe Nocera, the NYT columnist, just made his picks for Obama's new cabinet--a chance for "presidential do-overs"--and there are some doozies:   David Petraeus at Defense, Sheila Bair replacing Tim Geithner (ouch), and at State, not Susan Rice (she lacks breadth) but husband of current chief, one William Jefferson Clinton.  Plus Randi Weingarten.

Roaches Checked In, He Checked Out

Most horrible story of the year?  (AP)  An autopsy released Monday showed that a man who died after winning an insect-eating contest choked to death after downing dozens of live roaches. Edward Archbold, 32, of West Palm Beach was unable to breathe because his airway was obstructed, according to the report from the Broward County medical examiner’s office. Mr. Archbold died after eating the bugs as well as worms in the Oct. 6 contest at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach. About 30 people ate the insects, but the authorities said none of the other contestants became ill. The grand prize was a python.

Sonic Youth

My son out in Hollywood shot and edited this behind-the-scenes video--starring Danica Patrick--for new SEGA car racing game. 

Outfoxed on Benghazi

UPDATE #3  Now, asked to to on MSNBC, Ricks says that channel's just as bad as Fox.  So after brief flurry of love from the left, Ricks now on outs again.   I'd say: I get his point but most MSNBC hosts are still more fact- and reality-based than Fox hosts. 

UPDATE #2  A Fox spokesman tells The Hollywood Reporter that Ricks "apologized" after the show.  Ricks denies this.


UPDATE #1:  After the interview, Fox accused Ricks of being "rude."  Ricks responds that he was being "honest."

Earlier:  Fox News today made the mistake of inviting Tom Ricks on the air today to discuss the still "smoldering" GOP focus on Benghazi and Susan Rice and possible White House "coverup."  Almost from the word go, Ricks mocked the Fox "hype" over this issue and ended with claim that the network acts as a "wing of the Republican party."  Whoops.  Host instantly said goodbye, wrapping up one of the short interviews in TV history.  Via Media Matters:


 Note: My unique e-book on Obama-Romney race has just been published. "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape" covers the contest and aftermath right up to mid-November, and includes over 500 clickable links to the most important articles and videos. Just $2.99 for Kindle, iPad, phones, PCs.

Stone Cold Truths About the Atomic Bomb

UPDATE I'm told that the Stone & Kuznick book will make a NYT bestseller list next week.  Also, after a pan at The Daily Beast, amid some raves, they are now bracing for a likely hit from Sean Wilentz in The New York Review of Books

Earlier:  As promised, my Q & A with Oliver Stone on his new TV series and tonight's Hiroshima episode just posted at The Nation.  Now, the article, and the episode, may leave you wondering:  Why have certain "truths" about the use of the atomic bomb in 1945 been so well obscured or hidden for so many decades?  I've been tacking this subject for nearly thirty years, including in two books: one with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America, and the more recent Atomic Cover-Up.   You can find them over on the right rail of this blog.

And see my brief video below about the suppression of film footage, the "greatest movie never made," and my book:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pops Culture Hero

I've been following the progress of a new play by drama critic and author TerryTeachout called Satchmo at the Waldorf.   It's still playing "out of town" but hopefully arriving in NYC soon. Satchmo, of course, is Louis "Pops" Armstrong--the most important American musical figure of the past century.  All he did was invent modern jazz playing, and singing.  And more.  I'm an enormous fan of his groundbreaking music of  the mid- to late-1920s, recorded with the Hot Five and Hot Seven.  Tight like that.

Anyway, I've been fascinated by the stories of the dozens of reel-to-reel tapes Louis left behind in his house in Queens when he died, which Teachout and others have now made use of.  The play is set backstage before the last gig of his life, at the Waldorf in NYC, and delves into his musical and political regrets, and includes a cameo by Miles Davis.  Pops was famously profane--and one of the biggest potheads around.   Here Teachout briefly sets the scene:

Larry Hagman and Keith Moon

Didn't expect to see those two in same sentence?  Actually they were friends, having met on the set of now-obscure Brit film Stardust, which starred pop idol David Essex who I interviewed back then in London about it all (long story).  Anyway, here's a fun little video on the night Keith Moon freaked out on speed and someone called Larry to save him.   Hagman should have just ordered, "Slap that drummer with a pie that smells."

When he got to his Malibu the house was a wreck--even Keith's dog was high on speed--but Keith was calming down.  But Keith did have one request: "Take me to rehab."

God Backs Marriage Equality

Morgan Freeman narrates new marriage equality ad.

Watch What You Tweet

NYT reports just now that a high-profile libel case involving a Conservative politician that the BBC had to settle has now ensnared many--maybe thousands--of Twitter posters who ran with a rumor about sexual abuse.  “Many people have had their reputations trashed on Twitter before, but nobody has decided to take action on this scale,” said Tim Lowles, a media lawyer in London.  If I understand this correct, those with less than 500 followers can fill out a form and apologize and maybe escape but others are not so lucky.  “This could have a chilling effect,” said Paul Bernal, a lecturer in media law at the University of East Anglia. “I know people who have said that they are not going to post as much because of this.”

Take This 'Waltz'

Anniversary #36 of "The Last Waltz" concert today.  I posted the rare uncut version of "Don't Do It" a couple days back.  Now here's one of the other Band highlights, with Rick doing "It Makes No Difference."   Plus Joni doing "Coyote."  And then: When Van was the Man--but almost didn't get there.  Had to be talked out of San Fran hotel room to make it to the gig.  And Van was always quite the dresser.  Below that, rare acoustic demo of one of his greatest songs, "The Way Young Lovers Do."

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

My long-running weekly feature, this time featuring the hallowed final movement of the sonata no. 31.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cliff Dwelling

Watching the immortal Jimmy Cliff on Austin City Limits now, and noticing via YouTube he did "The Harder They Come" with Springsteen, also in Austin earlier this year, while recalling taking Bruce to see the movie back in '73.

America, 2032?


Catching up with Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl," Part I tonight after watching Part II this past week.  Scale unimaginable, and I've done some reading on it in past.  And, of course, partly man-made, due to over-plowing and not heeding "science" on climate predictions.   Perhaps if more Americans saw images like the one below--kids going off to school in the Dust Bowl--we might get moving on combating climate change.   Many other kids died from the "dust pneumonia." And the image above just one of hundreds of storms.  One darkened skies in NYC, D.C. and Boston.


'Tension' Over Drone Strikes

Big new piece just up at NYT by Scott Shane on untold story of how the Obama  team tried to "codify" its kill-now-ask-questions-later drone strike policy before Election Day--so that Romney, if it came to that, would have a clear policy to "inherit" and continue (or, who knows, expand).  Figures updated list 300 strikes and 2500 dead, so far (many civilians). 
Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.
Though publicly the administration presents a united front on the use of drones, behind the scenes there is longstanding tension. The Defense Department and the C.I.A. continue to press for greater latitude to carry out strikes; Justice Department and State Department officials, and the president’s counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, have argued for restraint, officials involved in the discussions say.
Note:  My unique  e-book on Obama-Romney race has just been published.  "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape" covers the contest and aftermath right up to mid-November, and includes over 500 clickable links to the most important articles and videos.  Just $2.99 for Kindle, iPad, phones, PCs.

Whispering Pines

Art installation on my front lawn remains, more than three weeks after Sandy.  Below that: The Soul of a Tree.


Entering My Favorite Church

The Cathedral of Grand Central the Divine.



RGIII and Obama: Mo Dowd Eggs Them On

I guess I missed where someone compared the Redskins rookie QB to "Cool Hand Luke" and he didn't get the reference but allowed he sounded "cool."  Maureen Dowd is all over it in her Sunday column, along with also comparing Obama to the Paul Newman hero and recalling the eating of the 50 eggs.   (I guess because Obama sticks to rule of "no throwing up.")  But still, no one was cooler than Paul.

Oliver Leaving No Stone Unturned

UPDATE  Stone's segment on Hiroshima coming this Monday--along with my Q & A interview with him on same. 

Earlier:  Oliver Stone's long-awaited "Untold History of the United States" series coming to Showtime starting in November, and one show offers a new view of one of my pet subjects,  our use of the Bomb against Japan (see one of my two books here).

They just sent me the companion book, it's by Oliver and historian Peter Kuznick, and it's mammoth, at over 700 pages in hardback.  Actually, it's just a history since World War I, but it goes right up to Obama.  Has blurbs from Gorbachev, Douglas Brinkley, Bill Maher and my pal Dan Ellsberg, who says it would make Howard Zinn proud.  The Hiroshima chapter makes strong case against the use of the bomb, though with no new evidence that I can see.  More on this later.

They also sent me the first three Showtime episodes which I will now screen:  On World War II, Hiroshima and the 1948 Henry Wallace race for president.  Here's trailer:

Macho and Boom Boom

Death of Hector "Macho" Camacho gives me excuse to post Zevon doing "Boom Boom Mancini" (who killed a guy in the ring).

One Ginger the 'South Park' Crew Might Like

UPDATE:  A.O. Scott at NYT reviews the film today.   Ginger does not like Mick Jagger and more.


Earlier: NYT with a piece just out on wild new doc opening in the city next week profiling former Cream drummer and legendary bad guy Ginger Baker--who, amazingly is still alive, once beating out Keith Richard in a vote of stars least likely to survive the 1970s.   It seems Ginger broke the director's nose during filming.  Yes, I still resent Ginger for being most responsible for the long ago cult of the lengthy rock "drum solo."  I did see him live once, playing with Blind Faith.  Well, like Keith Moon, it was hard to keep your eyes off him.  Anyway, the trailer, opening with Johnny Rotten:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Doc's Wife Takes 'The Long Journey'

Sad to note passing of Rosa Lee Watson,  wife of the legendary Doc Watson (who passed earlier this year),  and writer of this classic song:

Highlight Of This Year's Macy's Parade

Someone sighted the return of the Pepper-Spray Cop.


Great Shakes

If it's late Friday it must be time for Paul Krugman's music pick.   This week his choice is Alabama Shakes, though he notes they are not necessarily is usual cup of tea (remember, he is big Arcade Fire fan boy).  Some week he may well pick Beirut, who have opened for Arcade Fire:

Black Friday on My Mind

"I'll spend my bread/I'll lose my head." Well, not me.

 

Gaza Debate

As Glenn Greenwald points out, more criticisn of Israel in this two minutes of a debate via the BBC then we heard most nights on U.S. cable channels (although Chris Hayes deserves credit).  Owen Jones is a columnist for the British daily The Independent. And the news today is filled with Palestinians, many Israelis and much of Arab world feeling that Hamas has won a great victory and may gains the kind of power Israel has long feared (yet now provoked as, what--a pre-election show of force?)


Note:  My unique  e-book on Obama-Romney race has just been published.  "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape" covers the contest and aftermath right up to mid-November, and includes over 500 clickable links to the most important articles and videos.  Just $2.99 for Kindle, iPad, phones, PCs.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Classic Uncut

Perhaps the most famous Thanksgiving concert ever was The Band's farewell "Last Waltz" later immortalized by the film.   The movie opens with a credit sequence with Levon and the boys singing and playing the Marvin Gaye classic "Don't Do It."  I've posted it for years--even thought the song is truncated-=but just now I see that YouTube now has a black and white "uncut" version, at more of distance but otherwise great.  So here it is:

Live and Let Live

Rolling Stone out with one of their endless reader polls on best whatever--they must have one even for best rock 'n roll mullet.  This one is for live album, and as per usual nearly all from 1970s.  Some weak choices in there--Frampton?  Really?  Kiss? --and no mention of the two greatest (in this reader's view),  Dylan and the Band 1966 and the real dark horse, Velvet Underground '69.   Here's a cool Velvets clip  from that period:


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stones Still Letting It Bleed

UPDATE, Nov. 21:  Just announced that Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman will join the lineup for a pair of concerts in London coming up, no word if will also play with old mates in USA.

On verge of hot new docs, Rolling Stones, average age 68, release first single in six years, and it's pretty good, if generic.   Mick sounding very young (real or tech?).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Coming to Grips With Gaza.

There are many good people out there who are struggling with the current carnage.  I understand and appreciate the sentiment expressed by many in regards to Israel and the Palestinians--blaming both sides and throwing up their hands--but the problem with that, among other things, is:  our country is fully on one side, sending weapons, or paying for weapons, advising militarily, blocking UN actions, backing embargoes and on and on. That's our country, taking one side.  That's your taxes at work.

Yes, we can condemn Iran or Egypt or wherever the weapons come from that Hamas is firing.  But it's likely our country's name on the missiles and bombs that are hitting Gaza--and if it's not, there's a great chance we paid for them and/or our military advised on their use. Glenn Greenwald's new column makes all of these points and more.

Rachel Maddow just said that he one lever we have in this crisis the leverage we have on...Egypt.   When it is Israel that is so beholden to us for weapons and  diplomatic support. 

MSNBC's 'Disgrace' re: Israel-Gaza

My new piece at The Nation on MSNBC last night:  five primetime programs, five hours, 15 minutes on Israel-Gaza.

Need Steely Nerves for Friday?

Steely Dan, "Black Friday."   When it falls, don't let it fall on me.

Nate Silver Stars at 'Doonesbury' Today


Note:  My unique  e-book on Obama-Romney race has just been published.  "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape" covers the contest and aftermath right up to mid-November, and includes over 500 clickable links to the most important articles and videos.  Just $2.99 for Kindle, iPad, phones, PCs.

A Larry David (Brooklyn) Thanksgiving

All too true for too many homes.



47 Years Ago Today: My First Rock Concert

It was  47 years ago, November 20, 1965 (I still have the ticket stub), part of what many would call the most famous tour ever: Dylan, after going electric -- with the Hawks/Band -- met with boos and catcalls (and, at my show, in Buffalo, cowbells).   I wrote about it all a couple of years back, and soon to appear again in my rock 'n rol memoir.  Here's  "Judas!", one of the most famous incidents in all of rock history in that same period, but in England, leading up to "Like a Rolling Stone."

The Partisan

No, not for a political party...Leonard Cohen's timeless classic for this month of war and conflict.  "Through the graves the wind is blowing." Here from Glen Hansard and the Swell Season.

Gun Shop Owner Bans Obama Voters from Shop

TPM today interviews Arizona shop owner who has gained some kind of renown out in ammo land for banning Obama voters from his gun store and taking out ads, posting online and carrying signs in front of his establishment such as the one at left.  Among his witty claims is that he and his ilk are not racists--they hate Obama's white half too! 

"He also hosts his own internet radio show and sometimes speaks at tea party rallies. So it was probably no surprise to most of his customers when Reynolds posted a sign on the door to his shop a day after Obama won a second term: 'If you voted for Obama, please turn around and leave! You have proven that you are not responsible enough for a firearm!'

"Reynolds said the sign wasn’t premeditated but rather 'strictly off the cuff.'”

Hillary Clinton Sent to Middle East

Overnight, President Obama dispatched his Secretary of State to try to promote a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict.  Still no words of criticism for Israel and Clinton will not meet with Hamas, as per usual.  NYT has a wrap here and also covers, down the page, some of the latest deaths in Gaza, including most of another family with young kids.  An attack on a bank--which I guess was about to attack Israel--wounded seven civilians nearby.  Plus: "Among the latest casualties were Akram Marouf, who died in a drone attack in Beit Lahiya; a 15-year-old boy who was hunting birds in an open space in Beit Lahiya when he was struck; and Mahmoud Al Zahar, felled by an airstrike in central Gaza City."

Amira Hass in the Israeli daily Haaretz today:  "Farmers on their way to sell vegetables in the marketplace, vendors of purified drinking water and people who just happened to live too close to the targets of Israeli air strikes were among the 34 Palestinians estimated to have been killed in Israel Defense Forces attacks in the past two days alone. Just six of those casualties have been confirmed as members of militant groups."  Don't miss this new New Yorker post from Gaza.

UPDATE  10 a.m.  Richard Engel of NBC tweets: "four cars hit in Gaza in last hour, more than 10 killed, medical sources. an intensification of Israel strikes."  Mass leafletting from air warns Gazans in some areas to evacuate in advance of major strikes. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Woody Approve?

If you watched Ken Burns' "Dust Bowl" you know there was quite a bit about the exodus to California, and recurring Woody Guthrie songs.  Not a Mellencamp fan, but always loved version of Woody's "Do-Re-Mi."

Plug and Pray

Is this the world's biggest plug?  Inflatable thing is meant to block entries to tunnels during storms like Sandy--when water filled and shut down key tunnels in NYC.   Here's new story and dig the photo, left. (Photo: ILC Dover).

Coming to Terms With the Blacklist

In a remarkable (if belated) accounting today, the venerable Hollywood Reporter--once my stablemate when I was the editor of Editor & Publisher--today finally looks back with regrets on its role in the Hollywood blacklisting of the postwar period.   I know the back story well, since I featured the magazine's owner, W.R. "Billy" Wilkerson (left)  in my books on Upton Sinclair's race for governor of California in 1934, when he played a key role, and covered the Hollywood anti-Communist crusade in my book on the Richard Nixon-Helen Gahagan Douglas campaign in 1950.   Still it's good see a quote such as this, from famed screenwriter Walter Bernstein,  in his publication today:  "I knew that Billy Wilkerson was a great right-wing asshole." 

The new special report, in print this week and online now, marks the 65th anniversary of the meeting that many claim got the whole ball going, on November "25, 1947.  It includes sidebars such as Sean Penn writing about his blacklisted father, Leo Penn.  I remember as a kid walking down a beach path with my father as we stumbled upon the set of Elia Kazan's The Last Tycoon (1976). My father and Kazan had worked together and known each other before the Blacklist period. After all the years, Kazan recognized him and called out his name. It was the first time I ever witnessed my father ignore someone."

More the Reporter's intro: 
THR's own role in fomenting the Blacklist has long been overlooked: obscured by scholars and, out of shame, for decades never properly addressed in this publication's pages. Wilkerson's key advocacy is at most a footnote in the definitive book-length histories of the period, yet his unsparing campaign, launched early on and from the heart of the movie colony -- the front page of one of its two daily trade papers -- was crucial to what followed. There eventually might have been a Hollywood Blacklist without Wilkerson, but in all likelihood, it wouldn't have looked quite the same, or materialized quite when it did, without his indomitable support.

For this story, most of the living blacklisted Hollywood players involved in the industry's tragic entanglement with this strain of fanaticism were interviewed and photographed. A few could not be reached for comment or declined to participate, perhaps because recollecting the period is too painful. For those who shared their stories, there was relief that THR is now recognizing its role in something so shameful. Says blacklisted actress Marsha Hunt, "It means doing what I knew to be right is no longer lonely."
See my recent piece on one of the wildest nights ever in Hollywood, in 1950, over a "loyalty oath," starring DeMille, Mankiewicz, Ford, and other legends.

Right-Wing Folkies!

No, I don't recall the conservative folk singers in this new collection--part of NYT holiday buying CD wrapup today--unless you count Barry Sadler and "The Ballad of the Green Berets."  But sounds like fun, especially timeless attack on NYT below.   "All the news that's fit to print, that is / Unless it's anti-Communist."  Plus, liner notes by William F. Buckley!

Jimmy and Bruce

Have to laugh thinking back to his response if I had told my then-friend Bruce Springsteen if I had told him back in, say, 1977, that he would one day co-narrate a filmed plea with then-President Jimmy Carter....In this case, it's for Habitat for Humanity and Sandy relief.

Beethovan Marathon--On Your Laptop

Yesterday's Beethoven marathon in NY--all 16 string quartets--which I attended is already online, to view and hear, via sponsor, WQXR's, site.   Younger quartets dominate, and women make up about half the musicians,  both trends quite heartening.   Here's one such group below.  Plus, the great Miss Solemnis from this past Saturday at Carnegie Hall here.   And naturally I will also direct you to my recent book, with Kerry Candaele (and connected to his upcoming fine film), Journeys With Beethoven.

'Flattening' Gaza

See my new piece at The Nation.  

Also note Nick Kristof tweet this morning: "Obama comments on strike me as pathetic. US cld show a bit of concern for Gazans & strongly oppose ground invasiom." 


Capitalizing Jerusalem

This excerpt from a longer Poynter wrap-up on developments on Israel-Gaza reminded me of that uproar over the Dems not declaring Jerusalem as the "capital of Israel."  The AP and NYT qualify that but naturally President Obama and his party do not.  Here's the excerpt:
The Associated Press issued a “correction” tweet Friday changing a reference to “Israel’s capital” to “Israel’s self-declared capital.” As Politico pointed out, there’s only one line in the AP Stylebook on Jerusalem: “The city in Israel stands alone in dateline.”

AP spokesperson Paul Colford told Politco the AP had alternated between writing “capital” and “self-declared capital” in previous copy, but now describes the city as “claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as a capital.”

While the AP is the keeper of the stylebook, it’s not the only news organization struggling with how to describe the city.  The New York Times in a story Friday referred to the city as one “which Israel claims as its capital despite objections from the city’s large Palestinian population and others throughout the Middle East.”

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama urged the Democratic Party to change the wording in its platform to label Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. The Democrats restored the language of the 2008 platform, which stated “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” – a line that Democrats had tried to remove this time around.

A Pre-Election Pillar of Hatred?

International columnist Roger Cohen just posted online at NYT online only, citing "self-defeating Israeli military offensives of the past 16 years — Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and now Operation Pillar of Defense, all of them, not coincidentally, initiated on the eve of national elections in Israel."

He cites the same quote by Ariel Sharon's son that I posted here last night, and comments:  "Atomic bombs, blackness, stillness, nothingness — Sharon allows himself to indulge the old Israeli dream that the Palestinian people should just disappear. But of course they do not. They regroup. They find new leaders. They endure with hatred of Israel reignited by loss."

And now: "the U.S. Congress isolated in its blanket approval, Israel casting around for a plausible endgame as regional fury mounts.  Is all this good for Israel? No. Unless good is defined as policies that radicalize the situation, erode middle ground, demonstrate the impossibility of agreement, and so facilitate continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the expansion of settlements there and the steady eclipse of the idea of a two-state peace. This may well be Netanyahu’s criteria for a tactical victory from Operation Pillar of Defense (along with victory for Likud on Jan. 22.)"

Finally" "As Aluf Benn, editor in chief of the Israeli daily Haaretz, commented, 'The assassination of Jabari will go down in history as another showy military action initiated by an outgoing government on the eve of an election.'"  See my new piece at The Nation on prominent Israelis calling for the "flatterning" of Gaza, sending it back "to the Middle Ages" or citing Hiroshima.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Eleven in Family Wiped Out in Gaza

UPDATE  NYT report tonight on this tragedy, with Israel's lame excuse--something about a targeted bad guy, perhaps mythical.  Now a reported 600 or more injured in Gaza and 70 dead.  Israel death has remained at three for several days.

Earlier: As I noted earlier, NBC and Reuters reported this earlier today--at least 11 killed (an elderly woman just was discovered in the rubble) when a residence housing two families bombed in Gaza, including four young children (photos, left and below).  Many other photos, click on images now here.

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

I'll be attending the annual ObeyThoven marathon in NYC today for the complete string quartets (it's also carried live, audio and camera, via WQXR site), and this is sure to be a highlight--the final movement of the opus 131, here from terrific Brooklyn Rider.

Bomb Gaza Like Hiroshima--Or Back to Middle Ages?

UPDATE   Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli leader and noted hawk Ariel Sharon wrote an op-ed today, stating "We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza...The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too....This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper." He's a major in the IDF reserves.

EARLIER Claims of "anti-Israel" media bias in the U.S.--even from Rupert Murdoch on Twitter--remain laughable today.  I guess they wonder where are the photos of hundreds of Israeli buildings struck by Hamas missiles and dozens of Israeli casualties.  Of course they do not exist.   In fact, a large number of the crude rockets self-destruct over Gaza air space.  Many of the others are shot down by Israeli missiles.  And virtually all of the rest, misfired and faulty,  land harmlessly in the countryside, although they do provoke air raid warnings and fear.

 It's a far different story in Gaza, of course.   An NBC correspondent @AymanM just tweeted that he just watched close-up as a residential building was hit and three kids were pulled out of the ruins.  Presumably same incident reported by Reuters--with 10 dead, including six children.  Update:  Now there are photos of the victims and the site.

And who needs bias when you simply quote the well-known Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who says (as cited by Haaretz and others): "The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for 40 years," he declared.  President Obama today, in Thailand did the expected, blaming the crisis entirely on 10 days of Hamas missiles--not 60 years of oppression and strike and counter-strike.  ((Reuters photo above.)

Note:  My unique  e-book on Obama-Romney race has just been published.  "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape" covers the contest and aftermath right up to mid-November, and includes over 500 clickable links to the most important articles and videos.  Just $2.99 for Kindle, iPad, phones, PCs.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Phony Man

Strong op-ed at NYT by Lucian Truscott IV, well-known writer from famous military family, on "Phony hero"  Dave Petraeus and the "phony war."  Excerpt:
General Petraeus is very, very clever, which is quite different from stating that he is the brilliant tactician he has been described as. He figured if he hadn’t actually been given the mission to “win” the “war” he found himself in, he could at least look good in the meantime. And the truth is he did a lot of good things, like conceiving of the idea of basically buying the loyalties of various factions in Iraq. But they weren’t the kinds of things that win wars. In fact, they were the kinds of things that prolong wars, which for the general had the useful side effect of putting him on ever grander stages so he could be seen doing ever grander things, culminating in his appointment last year as the director of the C.I.A. 

Sunday's 'NYT' Columns Tonight

Not yet on their home page we have Nick Kristof on Syria, Maureen Dowd on the two cooked Rices (Condi and Susan), and Ross Douthat wishing and hoping and praying that the Dem coalition gets unhappy.

Rocket Man

During the 1980s and 1990s, Bruce Cockburn quietly was one of our best political songwriters, plus a fine guitarist (have lost track of him since).  His 1997 album Charity of Night was one of the decade's best, and included the timeless lines, "Anyone can die here/ And they do it every day" and "Everything is bullshit/Except the open hand" (Two fine songs here.)   Here's an earlier  tune that's especially timely, re: today's civilian-killing wars and drone strikes and torture.  "If I Had a Rocket Launcher."

I Just Marijuana Make Love to You

The NYT with new piece on police readying for legal boo, mary jane, pot, whatever you marijuana call it in the state of Washington, and highlight this blog post which it calls the most popular police communication in the internet age as judged by Facebook likes and page view.  Also, the Times ran groovy Cheech and Chong pic 2008 (at left).   Love this Q and A from Seattle among many:

Will police officers be able to smoke marijuana?
As of right now, no. This is still a very complicated issue.

And:

SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?
No.

Burning Wal Mart Down

New "incendiary" Steve Earle song.



End Gerrymandering

I've campaigned against the Electoral College as fundamentally undemocratic--this seems to be gathering steam--but now turn my attention to gerrymandering (which may always be with us).  There's been a bit of hoopla over the fact that Dems won most of the vote for House seats this year but still managed to fall far short of taking back the body due, allegedly, to GOP gerrymandering during the past two years.  Of course, both parties do it, but probably never so aggressively, and successfully, as the Republicans in recent years.

Now here's a Chicago Tribune piece that lays bare the amazing facts: How the Dems swept the prez race and other top races in Pennsylvania and Ohio but still the GOP gained about 3 out of 4 House seats.  Would be comical if not so...undemocratic.

Note:  My unique  e-book on Obama-Romney race has just been published.  "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape" covers the contest and aftermath right up to mid-November, and includes over 500 clickable links to the most important articles and videos.  Just $2.99 for Kindle, iPad, phones, PCs.

Rachel Maddow as 'Big, Angry, Man' Controversy Rolls On

Perhaps you missed the suspension of a local TV news anchor after she posted on her Facebook page that Rachel Maddow was an "angry young man." Much debate has followed and now a columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland has rushed to the defense of the news reader.  He fails to make distinction, in any case, between  allegedly "looking like" a man (even in Maddow's own words, and I would even disagree with that) and "being" one. Also note headline reference to "gay tax."   But read on.

Note:  My unique  e-book on Obama-Romney race has just been published.  "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape" covers the contest and aftermath right up to mid-November, and includes over 500 clickable links to the most important articles and videos.  Just $2.99 for Kindle, iPad, phones, PCs.

An 'Anthem' for the Bereaved

Three years ago Leonard Cohen, on a world tour, book a concert in Israel.   But unlike many others, he insisted on full access for all people, and donated full proceeds to peace organization for parents of victims of in the conflicts--which he established.  And here is his statement and then his classic "Anthem."   The "holy dove" being "bought and sold again" this month.  And below that, his finale blessing to those putting aside revenge and seeking peace there.  And below that, a news report.

Arabs and Jews Unite--Around Beethoven

One of the highlights of the opening ceremony of the London Olympics was a surprise (to me):  One of the eight flag bearers at the end was Daniel Barenboim, the great classical pianist for decades but here honored for his incredible work (with famed Palestinian writer Edward Said) in founding the West-East Divan Orchestra--made up of Israelis and Arabs, and mainly young people, against great odds.  They have played everywhere from Ramallah to (next February) Carnegie Hall, and I will be there.  As I have noted, Barenboim and Said deserved a Nobel Peace Prize, and perhaps Barenboim will still get it.  Here's a current video:

Friday Night Music Pick

One of the great songs of our time, apt today, but timeless, "Jerusalem," from Steve Earle.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fonda Lincoln

Saw the new Lincoln tonight and while excellent in most ways, it's really more prose than poetry, if you know what I mean--much like Spielberg's earlier Amistad.   You do get used to the Day-Lewis voice after a bit.   One shocker:  Jared Harris, the Brit from "Mad Men," as U.S. Grant.  One notable omission:  The whole film is built around passage by the House of the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, and when it passes most viewers will assume it's all over.  But if you remember from your civics class:  State legislatures must then approve, and that didn't happen in this case for another 10 months (and required the unlikely backing of at least a few Southern states.)

This scene from the John Ford "Young Abraham Lincoln" with Henry Fonda--Abe halts a lynching--is more memorable for me than any one scene in the new flick.

Wright Take on Gaza

Robert Wright of The Atlantic with very valuable and lengthy blog post tonight, trying to do a tick-tock (with some unbiased help) on "who started" or at least how the current Israeli-Gaza conflict developed.  His starting point is archly pro-Israel Jeffrey Goldberg flatly claiming Hamas started it and he then sets out to show the events since November 8, with rockets flying,  and lets you decide.  Of course, on one level, it's absurd since this "started" decades ago and it's not exactly an even playing field, in any sense.  Still: worth a look.

Dems Picked up 2 Seats Today But Nate Silver Says, 'Chill'

Two more House races were decided today, both in favor of Dems, bringing their net gains to 5--and they lead in the 3 races still not called.  But Nate Silver is out with a new piece warning that they are unlikely to take the House in 2014, based on history (they may need to gain 17 seats, give or take). 
One should never say never when it comes to forecasting the outcome of an election two years in advance. But it might take a major scandal in the Republican party, or for Republicans to splinter into factions, for Democrats to have more than a remote chance of winning the House.
And there is one more factor working against Democrats: they have become increasingly reliant upon voters, like Hispanics and those under the age of 30, who do not turn out reliably in midterm election years. Democrats have a broader coalition than Republicans do in high-turnout environments, so perhaps this will benefit them in 2016. But these are not the voters you would want to depend upon to make gains in midterm election years, when turnout is much lower.

Jill Kelley at White House

There was a claim a few days ago that Jill Kelley, a central figure in the Petraeus scandal, once visited the White House.  But now it emerges that she's been there at least three times--and that's just counting this autumn.  And most recently on Nov. 4, days before the scandal broke.  Has toured and, with twin sister, met and dined with a certainstaffer she knows.  Politico has it here.  Just when I'm escaping this story they pull me back in...

Note:  My unique  e-book on Obama-Romney race has just been published.  "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape" covers the contest and aftermath right up to mid-November, and includes over 500 clickable links to the most important articles and videos.  Just $2.99 for Kindle, iPad, phones, PCs.

Son of Madoff's Accountant Dies

This has not yet gotten national attention.  I only know about it because our local Patch is reporting it because of angle here.  It seems that the son of Bernie Madoff's jailed accountant--who lived in New City, N.Y.,  about 10 miles from my home--has committed suicide, in Columbus, OH, from a gunshot.  Jeremy Friehling was 23 and apparently studying medicine at Ohio State (was at Duke at one point).

Madoff's son also killed himself, by hanging in his Manhattan apartment.  Jeremy's father David Friehling was charged in 2009 and later pleaded guilty to nine criminal charges.  His mother still lives in the New City area.

UPDATE  More here.  He was found in his apartment after friends reported erratic postings on his Facebook page.

Warm Feelings for My Son

This never quite occurred to me, but here it is:  Today's news that the world has had higher-than-average temps now for 332 consecutives months means that my son, age 25, in his entire life, has NEVER been around for a cooler-than-normal global month.   Here's hoping that changes--before he's my age.  If it takes that long, I guess he will not be living in L.A. but far in the interior as the ocean covers the coast.

Yes, the red and pink at left shows where it's been warmer this year.  Sarah Palin, on the coast of Alaska, may have lucked out.

'NYT' With a Twinkie Defense

The Times to the rescue!  Just as panic was setting in after news of the demise of Hostess (thanks to vulture capitalists), a NYT blog connects us with their make-at-home Twinkies recipes, cupcakes, and more. Wash Post helps out, too.

For deep-frying Twinkies, or adding them to a po' boy, you're on your own, my friend.

Beethoven Strings Me Along

Once again, I will be attending WQXR's "Beethoven Marathon" in NYC on Sunday, this year the complete string quartets in ten hours (last year, we got all 32 piano sonatas) via several different quartets.  Here's one of the greatest and most profound of the movements, from opus 59, no. 2.   And see my Beethoven book (with Kerry Candaele) over on the right rail with my other books.

More Kid Carnage in Gaza Today

The NYT's "The Lede" blog has some good updates.  That's a photo at left of a girl injured today.  One of many.