Thursday, May 25, 2006
1) We would not have invaded Iraq in the way they have done.
2) We would not have occupied Iraq in the way they have done.
3) When we take back the reins of power in 2009, we will move promptly to withdraw any remaining occupation troops; and
4) In the meantime, we support the efforts of our troops.
We could perhaps add a clause 3a) When we take back the reins of power in 2009 or 18 months and one day after the Iraqis name a Minister of Defense and Interior, whichever comes first, then we will move promptly to withdraw any remaining occupation troops; and...
(new language italicized)
I know it's a bit sarcastic, but that seems to be the only appropriate response to the announcement of the government without these positions filled. What, are they waiting for Rumsfeld to be canned and the new Secretary of the GWOT to select the ministers? Don't.
Larry King interviewing John McCain. The Senator came clean with Larry and spoke, softly, his confident that credit for his geopolitical authority and sincere bipartisan effort are granted. At least that was the intended tactical program. I think it “came across”, except for the fact he’s looking old. 4 years tops, we’re to think. Careful, now; I see no commitment that he'd be one term and done. So, we'd have a ridiculous re-election campaign, as in 2004. 1968, yet once more into the breach--in 2012. That's the Crimean danger his candidacy presents, and it's a major one.
McCain’s big 3: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan. We’ll come back to this.
McCain, the ABB.
this shorthand reference may initially be seen as referring to The Anti-Bushite Bushite, which in some important policy areas he would be. No, instead it is The All But Bushite.
2006 will be the proof of the McCain thesis, and will pose the simple challenge: McCain. Who can beat him? Who will take the crown from the unelected Presidential favorite?
(This is where the Democratic challenger comes in.)
Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, our pre-race designation of Sen. McCain as the party's pre-emptive champion presumes something very important, and not to be taken for granted, Romney-style (not Mitt, the late George Romney. You remember him, don't you? The presumptive leader in 1968 from the conventional wisdom when the primaries began, Gov. George Romney of Michigan blew it when he admitted he had been "brainwashed". )
John McCain doesn't have to worry about that charge--it's well-documented-- but he does have a host of potential challengers. Many have lined up for a shot at the action, and with no electoral reform in sight, the field will divide rapidly into those who can churn in the money and those who cannot. There's contribution space for quite a few early, but the second-round money goes to three guys/gals tops. There are interesting primary results sometimes for other candidates, but the weight of delegates will end up going to those who continue to draw contributions.
So, besides McCain, we see a couple of slots that will remain open through the primaries, as long as a contender's bank balance can sustain the challenge:
Giuliani/Pataki. Another spatially-driven encounter: Only one of them can occupy the candidate space of offbeat choice from New York of moderate Republicans. Giuliani can do that and make the anti-terrorism cop role stick. That makes him favored to take that role into the final series of primary challenges.
A Bushite. The one I'm looking to see make a run is Frist. He auditioned for the ABB role but was not called back.
(This is where the previously-mention challengers are mentioned. Gingrich. Hagel. )
And then, there are others still:
Romney. I think tarbaby killed his momentum. Doesn't he have to get re-elected or something? He will not make it to the starting gate.
Brownback. Could pull a solid 3-15% kind of number. Will deliver the evangelical vote. Has a shot at making the finals. A potential kingmaker, unless McCain can bag him early.
George Allen. All right, he's a Bushite. Write him in there instead of Frist, I don't care. Only one of them gets to be the alpha dog, though. He has the advantage of being on the right side of the stem cell issue (unlike Frist), for the purposes of keeping Brownback out of it. He's got to win one early; maybe they can get a caucus in Nevada going for him, too, get some of Daddy's old gambling friends?
Friends, we need the Bushite in there; otherwise, it gets too complicated. Once the candidate gets nominated he can run as the Anti-Bushite Bushite, he won't get to that spot without being able to do that.
Huckaby. A-yuk, a-yuk. Will get much of the Lamar Alexander vote.
OK, we got through that. Any more names?
I think McCain will hit 40% or more in every primary and have established himself as the clear leader by April. After that, it's a question of how much further the Bushite and Giuliani/Pataki carry it forward, and when Brownback will acknowledge the obvious and take the VP slot. (In the form of a question.)
ABB is Reagan Revisited.
As mentioned before, McCain sees himself as the logical continuation of Ronald Reagan. It is not too early to consider what this means, not in the terms of electoral positioning on some imaginary one-dimensional axis of "left" and "right", but in terms of governing strategy when dealing with some of the most challenging problems in the history of mankind.
2. Anderson Cooper.
a) Pictures of Al Gore, promoting An Inconvenient Truth.
Picture of the icecaps melting. Unfortunately, this all reminds me more of The Truth
Hydrologists Don’t Want You to Know. We’ll talk later.
Anyway, Gergen and John Roberts were brought on to answer that burning question, “Is Al Gore the Man of the Moment?” They gave quite reasonable assurances that, yes, depending on how the movie release goes, he could be very well
“The Most Hype-othetical Candidacy in America. And I do mean “hype”.
But seriously, though, Donna Brazile managed to point out before the segment ended (during which, I believe, they did not fail to mention twice the parallels with Nixon, the former defeated VP, coming back to win eight years later), saying, seriously, Gore will only be taken seriously as long as he’s not serious about running.
b) Some post-Katrina Gulf Coast reconstruction news bit. Don't recall what it was, but I do Love the way Anderson says, “N’Awrlians”.
Read the excerpt in Vanity Fair from his new book, Despatches from the Edge. First, I have to give kudos to the editing by Graydon Carter. I jumped from the end of Douglas Brinkley’s piece to Cooper’s opening—pausing only to look briefly at the picture pages in between--and it's nearly seamless in time, just skipping the actual hell of the hurricane*. I was amazed at the improvement in immediacy, the humor, the compelling quality of the writing, doing this segway from the academic to this guy, who I considered just a competent TV anchor. Well, we have revised our opinion of the man, we're impressed with the second dimension of his infotainment performance capability, and Despatches from the Edge is going on my summer reading list.
The Vanity Fair excerpt has some amazing stuff. This guy has the dream bio for a reporter to cover, including the tragedy of his brother’s suicide, so movingly told in the excerpt; including growing up a Vanderbilt, specifically a Gloria Vanderbilt. So he told it. Back to the Cooper 360 show (what about the other 5 1/4 days?), though:
c) Rahm Emanuel: The Man Running the Democratic Party—I’d have to say that, though thorough in talking to many Dems and getting the correct answer, this segment was presented to Me The Viewer rather badly. First, I predicted it from the teaser before the segment was shown. “Who’s Controlling the Direction of the Democratic Party? The Answer May Surprise You,” they teased. It was obvious the segement would start with the default position, i.e., nobody. As usual.
The profile bounced around and ended up giving The Name Unfamiliar. I think it was a pretty cheap shot (with anti-Semitic undertones?), mainly because they never properly explained the logic why all would name him as the critical man in the party’s affairs this year: he is running the strategy for the House elections this year, the one branch of the one branch the Democrats have a chance of winning. Or so Emanuel at least would allege in his off-the-record briefing to NY Times stenographers.
So, instead of Harry Reid, as it appeared at one point when the issue of judicial nominations before the Senate looked as though it could be the flash point of battle, it is the House campaign which is make or break, as far as any progress whatsoever in progressing towards the future anytime before January, 2009. I tend to think we're looking at a tactical result in a multi-frontal battle which is going to have another heartbreaking “no change” outcome.
Let’s just say I’m wrong and the Democrats win in the House. If there is any progress, it’s going to have to be Nancy Pelosi in the spotlight as Speaker, one would presume. The question the media will be groping for will be, “Who’s The Power behind the Throne, then? “ They won’t take her seriously, and it would have consequences.
If the Democrats should win, Pelosi’s performance would set the backdrop for Hillary’s Run for the Record**, which I think can only be to Her (uncrowned) Royal Clinton’s detriment. Choose your nightmare scenario conclusion—Barbaro (catastrophic) or Barry Bonds (caterwauling and cantankerousness). This is the core of the “Electability” rumor being spread about Hillary—that the anti-feminism her candidacy would provoke (in code-word camouflage, of course) would once again successfully distract sufficiently the electorate to allow another sham “no change” result in 2008.
This time I simply won’t buy it. I think that the gap will be closed in both the House and Senate, but not enough to switch. So, the history of never having a woman in a key constitutional leadership/decision-making position (as opposed to the collegial Supreme Court seat) will still be wide-open for Hillary to try to bust in 2008. If she wants.
3. Back to Larry King interviewing McCain
This is as close to a stump speech as I care to see, and it tells me what I need to know.
The news item here is that McCain has done his preparation and is ready to take on a variety of general candidate-type questions and has figured out where he stands on them. His stands already mark him as the potential Republican nominee with the greatest appeal to Independents and Democrats. I think he's in a position to make an appeal to the effect that, "Before we abandon Republican national leadership forever out of anti-Bushite fervor, give me a chance to show that we can lead you in a different way." Could work, once. But it would be four more years wasted in terms of orienting ourselves politically to face the unforeseen challenges of the future, and I'm not sure he'd be able to put that many of the unresolved challenges of the past behind us, either.
Most critically, from a political strategy point of view he's successfully putting himself in the Loyal Anti-Bushite Republican bloc, clearly a growing segment of the population. McCain seeks to have positioned himself for anything from a Republican disaster to a decresase in majority. His wide-ranging criticisms of Bushite administration will then appeal to a party elite which will be chastened but still in place.
If, somehow, the Republicans defeat expectations and hold their majorities largely at their current levels, it will be hard to deny a Bushite like Frist, or horrors! Jeb the first (best, and only) shot at top spot on their ticket. Jeb would be especially likely if HRC goes for the brass ring and remains viewed as likely to get the DemNom. McCain would be logically advised to stay out of it then, and this whole argument actually lends credibility to the standard delaying words he uses in postponing any decision until after the 2006 elections.
2006’s task for McCain is trying to score loyalty points for Republican candidates this year, an effort to make his nomination as close to inevitable as possible in the eyes of party loyalists. He was at great pains to put on display his willingness to compromise to get things done (unlike the Bushites), but also to point out that his philosophy is a “conservative” one. Here he's taking the safe ground and giving fair warning to those liberals who might be tempted: if elected, he will work with you to solve certain issues in a bipartisan way, but don’t be fooled. He’s not with you on your agenda.
Strategically, the Democrats would need to confront McCain with a candidate willing to represent the interests of the young, our future. More on this soon.
As I have said before about McCain, I respect him as an authentic American war hero (more authentic than Kerry; in the league with McGovern, the elder George Bush, Bob Murtha, and the ex-Georgia Senator and Vets' Admin head Clefeld) and a man of integrity. As a candidate, yes, I fear him.
I recall 2000, of course; I felt the same way about him then, basically. He was a much more potent general election candidate than Dubya in every way. The fact that Dubya managed to eke out victory does not change that, though I admit I felt foolish later to think that I felt relieved at the South Carolina Republican primary outrages of 2000 which pushed Dubya to the fore.
4. And Back, Once Again, to Gore
So, no, they're not really serious about him. Although this could change. CNN's John Roberts in the (taped) dialogue with Cooper identified a key concern about any notion of Gore-mania. Democratic leaders, deep down, are afraid that a Gore nomination (much like a Kerry nomination) would bring up the past, when they want to put Democrats on the right side of the Future issue (at least in this regard I feel they are coming around to the topic, even if they don't know how to address it yet).
Paradoxically, though, I think Gore would put the Future on the agenda, and he'd have the angels on his side on this one. So, maybe they will come around to him again. If the movie thing pans out.
Gore 2008: Political Stump Speech Embodied in Film
Gore 2008--the Sequel: The Candidate as Film Director
*The ideal segway would have been shots from CNN's coverage of Anderson Saying 'Dat 'Dere, while getting smacked about by the storm. I would guess that CNN wanted too much for what they wanted.
**In The Record Book, it would read: Most times elected President of the U.S., Women's Division---(1)--H. Rodham Clinton, 2008.
2001-18 Progressive Era, climaxing with WWI (dates from McKinley assassination/TR inauguration)
19-32 Inter-War Era, climaxing with Great Depression (from treaty of Versailles?)
33-52 New Deal Era, climaxing the Century with WWII, and its climax year, 1944
53-63 Golden Age I , ending abruptly with JFK assassination
64-80 “Years of Turmoil” Attempted generational coup by baby Boomers (b. 47-67). Its failure with 1980 Iran Hostage Incident? Its productivity. Carter presidency anachronistic.
1981 through 2008 is Golden Age II. Though its energy is spent, the period will continue on, in denial of the changes occurring, until the 3-D Administration (Dumb Duck Dubya) completes its futile, Buchanan-like term of office. One can only hope that we, too, will be so lucky as to find a Lincoln who will point us to the future (no doubt, at the cost of his/her life, as was true with Lincoln, and then so many others during the Years of Turmoil).
Three Phases of Golden Age II
81-92 Reagan Era, its climax with Gulf War I
93-2005 Post Cold War. Ending with Katrina, first days of September, 2005. Not the natural disaster itself, but the implications of the governmental response or lack thereof.
2006-2008 Drift until the era ends—it could be seen to end if the Democrats were to overturn control of the House in 2006. Then, the 2007-08 Congress will undoubtedly be a hot spot, with now Nancy Pelosi in the spotlight for the party, until the Presidential election takes over. In the meantime, things could get very sticky for many Republicans. This side show—even a side show deserves a spotlight—if it occurs, it will make things even more complicated for the apocalypse we now call the 2008 Elections. This election will be run as a repudiation of the Tyranny of Bushite Misrule by all but one party in this election. The Republicans just have to decide whether they will be that party. This once again returns the discussion to the question of John McCain, to be taken up subsequently.
2009-?? The Long Thing.
The Bushites would have you believe that Golden Age II ended with September 11, starting a generation(s)-long GWOT, also known as “the Long War”. Of course, we here still living innit know that isn’t true: we’ve been told we must undergo “treatment” for our “addiction to oil”, but we haven’t got a space open yet for our chosen rehab unit. We may or may not emerge from our coma this year (hint: it only partly depends on the voters; the rest is just the vicissitudes of the House’s electoral roulette wheel, tricked up as it has been by both parties), or we may stagger on through the apocalypse we now call the 2008 elections to the inauguration of our chosen anti-Bushite.
James Howard Kunstler would have you date the next age, which he also believes will be extended for decades, from publication of his The Long Emergency. Alternatively, from the date when oil production reached its peak. In the case of the paperback version, with its Epilogue sent to the printer just after Katrina, that would appear to be August 30, 2005.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
For those who didn't see the program or are unfamiliar with the hypothesis, a brief summary: global dimming is their name for the reduction in global solar heating caused by haze and increased clouding, which in term were driven by human effects--pollutants. This effect has been reduced--at least in many areas of the world--by reforms reducing pollutants by introducing technologies that scrub exhausts from industrial plants and vehicles. The resulting clearing of the air has allowed the full weight of the distinct process of global warming--the heat-trapping effect of invisible "greenhouse" gases--to be felt only recently. The global dimming hypothesis suggests that the full potential effect of global warming in the next century may need to be bumped way upward.
A very depressing prospect, if true, since no doubt much damage has already been done and much more will occur before we can change significantly the pattern of release of these organic gases from burning fossil fuels. I'm not sure that "going agro" with bio-fuels would even change that pattern all that much (subject for research).
But that's not my point of this post. My first thought was, well, China isn't going to have that temperature problem (though they would experience the devastation of rising sea levels), because their pollution is bad and getting worse. Global dimming isn't over, over there.
This led to a more general thought: We don't want to go back to the bad days of smog and pollution, but the amount of heat directly absorbed on earth, no doubt a massive quantity, may be something which we could influence in a favorable way. We could choose to block sunlight, through judicious geographic selection (over deserts? or icecaps?) or partially, through filters suspended in the sky (pie-shaped?). We could put massive banks of solar collectors just above ground, and collect the energy (let's just make the panels easily replaceable as the science of photovoltaic materials progresses).
I'm really encouraged by these thoughts, contrary to the original thrust of the documentary report. For one thing, this report is coming from a post-G.W. point of view (global warming, not the Bushite): it does take the time to go over that science, but the focus is on the new science indicating that the recent dynamics in the geophysical realm are the result of changes, each following different paths over time, of two opposing results of human-generated mess--global warming, and its dampener, global dimming.
Monday, May 15, 2006
You can find it at:
In it, Dubya refers to something called a "shit sandwich", and says it's just great. And, like the other pundits and political figures Tomorrow skewers, I'd go along and say that he deserves to have it named after him: The Bushite Sandwich.
Monday, May 08, 2006
The Bushites would have you believe that Golden Age II ended with September 11, starting a generation(s)-long GWOT, also known as “the Long War” (see the "Appendix" for recent chronology from the "stoner" perspective). Of course, we here still living innit know that isn’t true: we’ve been told we must undergo “treatment” for our “addiction to oil”, but we haven’t got a space open yet for our chosen rehab unit. We may or may not emerge from our Golden Coma this year (hint: it only partly depends on the voters; the rest is just the vicissitudes of the House’s electoral roulette wheel, tricked up as it has been by both parties), or we may stagger on through the apocalypse we now call the 2008 elections to the inauguration of our chosen anti-Bushite.
James Howard Kunstler would call the current age, which he also believes will be extended for decades, The Long Emergency. That's the title of the book, and the current age starts from the peak of world oil production, which may have already occurred in 2005, but if not, it will certainly occur soon.
Kunstler starts with some premises that are incontrovertible, such as the fact that there must be a peak, then a decline, in world oil production, starting pretty darn quick. Another is that the era of cheap fossil fuel energy is ending, and that many of the technological and engineering miracles of the recent era were in large part due to those cheap fossil fuels. He ties in global warming quite well to the developing emergency due to decline in oil availability, pointing out accurately that many of the touted solutions to perpetuate the fossil fuel era would compound the impending global climate change disaster. Logically, he remains on solid ground by debunking the market argument; all the market forces in the world cannot change the laws of physics.
He reaches, though, to prove that none of the alternatives are feasible. It is a difficult argument that no alternative can work: he has to prove that each and every possible new source is either limited in supply, unworkable, or too far away in time to relieve the gathering storm. Further, that a combination of these alternatives can't sustain our lifestyle.
He goes on to predict that globalization will end, that suburbia in all its manifestations will collapse, and that a global famine will result, with viable society reduced to small towns and small farms, isolated.
I think that in his zeal to give his jeremiad maximum urgency, he has undermined his strong initial arguments. He makes us want to "gargle with razor blades" in despair (his phrase), instead of mobilizing people to do something smart to avoid the decline into barbarism.
First, if we are just now reaching our peak of oil production, then there are still a trillion or so barrels of oil products yet to be consumed. There's plenty left, if we can be intelligent about using them according to a plan. Some uses are indefensible and must be abandoned, others (plastics and other chemicals, production of electricity) need to be preserved. He makes a very telling point that America needs to invest now in electrified railways, but doesn't seem to believe that it will happen (as it did in most of the rest of the developed world).
When it comes to personal road transportation, a very plausible alternative is emerging in terms of plug-in hybrid technology, and it seems likely that future energy transmission will be through the electrical grid. This, like the hybrids themselves, is an energy-consuming system that is characterized by flexibility (in the means of generating power) and efficiency.
I think Kunstler is motivated in part by geographical ignorance and bias. One clear takeaway is that he despises suburban sprawl and has a desire to see it end. OK, but do the dying industrial towns of the Northeast really have an advantage in the hypothetical localized economy of the future over the green exurbs? We already see that the jobs are moving to the suburbs, and not just the service McJobs of fast foods, gas stations, highway and single-family home construction.
I'll buy that some of the big cities based on sprawl and massive car commuting are in danger from the end of cheap gasoline. This will be exacerbated in this part of the country when water supplies dry up as a byproduct of global climate change and the exhaustion of aquifers. However, there are efforts to make sustainability part of the culture of the Southwest, too. There is also a source of energy which is practically limitless, totally renewable, and the potential of which has not been even slightly exploited to its full extent: solar energy. Apart from the expanded use of passive solar energy to heat homes, buildings, and water use, I actually think there is a technological fix, which will come from improved photoelectric energy capabilities; it's probably about a generation away.
In thinking about the book and the world he envisions, I thought of a late Talking Heads song off "Naked"--a fantastic album. "Nothing but Flowers" envisions a world where all the shopping malls and fast food restaurants have been replaced by daisies and farms. The perspective of the lyrics is nostalgia for the lost parking lots, etc. It seemed pretty outlandish, and I was never sure whether it was sarcastic. Surely, there will be some parts of our automobile-driven culture that we may miss (if Kunstler is right), but like him, I think history will look back on this period as a strange, perhaps necessary, phase of society's development, characterized by bizarre behavior on a massive scale and leading, unfortunately, only to its own exhaustion. Which is not to say that we will lose our technology, that the arts of this period will be totally denigrated, or that we will revert to near barbarism, either. I'm thinking more "Childhood's End".
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
The phrase in the subhead is taken from a song byHarry Connick, Jr. (recorded on a recent New Orleans benefit album, but written in 1995), and I like it: it's got a romantic, Atlantis-style allusion; it's ironic, and it's factual.
We have been to Jazzfest, and I can report: it lives. New Orleans, too, though there was considerable anxiety about what comes afterwards (a slow season for tourism, with the threat of hurricanes and knowledge the city is not yet protected from them).
I would say there was unanimity on one thing--to welcome people back to the city, whether they are evacuees returning or visitors. There was much less unanimity on what was to be done--appropriately, with the city in the middle of a closely-contested election--but the main themes were the following:
1) lack of affordable housing--the logjam is taking many forms, from lack of construction supplies, to the bureaucratic obstacles to rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward, to exorbitant rents for substandard conditions, to the empty mansions of absentee landlords. One of the more interesting ideas was utilizing ship containers as temporary housing in rebuilding areas. The rebuilding process is going to be very slow; whoever wins as mayor will likely move to implement an organic process to determine whether to renew neighborhoods on a block-by-block basis as they gain critical mass of returning residents (or don't).
2) lack of service workers--just another effect of the housing shortage, probably. They can't staff restaurants, stores, and can't keep up with the garbage collection. There is much to be done.
The deepest concern at this point is that a recurrence of bowl-filling in the near future could kill the existing momentum and the potential for greater progress.
This threat, recognized by all, resonates with my own childhood experience. Our home was badly flooded in 1969--the remnants of Hurricane Camille dumped on the Blue Ridge. We were evacuated out the front door of our split-level house with eight feet of water already in the downstairs section. The peril for our lives was not great with a bit of caution and luck, though over the mountain mudslides buried or swept away dozens. The most enduring memory, though, was the mud left behind afterwards (New Orleans may have been less unfortunate in this regard: color photos from Katrina show the floodwater, most coming from the lake not the river, was somewhat clear--though, invisibly, often toxic.) The real problem we had was that, after that first one, the river's tendency to flood was much greater.
One can only hope that the goddess of hurricanes doesn't take a shine to the path that leads to that part of the Gulf Coast anytime soon.
Now, for review notes from the food and drink of the weekend:
Thursday 4/27--OK, we were to meet some friends at "Felix's, on Prytania"--vaguely uptown. I didn't check, but just passed it on to the taxi driver (Asian subcontinent, recent). We ended up at "Feelings" Cafe (downtown). Patched it up with our friends later. Not bad; it's still hard to find a bad meal without making a special effort. Gumbo--B+; Crawfish Etouffe--B.
(Ratings are an attempt to judge how successful the performer was at whatever it was trying to do, not how much I like their style selection).
Loyola University Jazz Ensemble: basically all white, heavily-scored classics. I have to admit I was a bit worried if this was going to be indicative of the New New Orleans. It wasn't. Grade: C
Coolbone Brass Band--the new variety, brass band with rap. Grade: B-
Anders Osborne--I'm not familiar with his story, but he had the appearance of a session man coming out into the spotlight. I have to agree with JDK who noted the resemblance in appearance and musical style to '80's-vintage E.C. (Clapton, that is, see Costello below). B
Keb' Mo'--an acoustic set with one accompanist, on the big stage. Excellent. A
Bob Dylan--One thing I figured out during his performance, the first I'd seen him live since Rolling Thunder in '76: the twisted arrangements and vocal deliveries would seem to be designed expressly to prevent the audience's singing along and getting involved. My guess, Dylan is willing to entertain us with one pre-eminent condition: the entertainers are on this side, the audience on that side. Wise, given the Hinckleys and Mark David Chapmans out there (I should say out here).
This tour, the gimmick seems to be Dylan as The Gaunt Cowboy. White hat, white pants and top poorly filled, big head, teeth, pencil mustache. The main musician he was communing with was well-framed in the camera shot; this young fellow played mostly pedal steel, but also banjo, guitar, violin. (Have to get the name, and confirm the playlist from bobdylan.com)
The mix of old and new songs was pretty impeccable. As far as the new stuff, the emphasis on Love and Theft (the last--2001-- and most highly-rated of his recent cycle of three albums, represented with Summer Days, Lonesome Day Blues, and--I'm not kidding--High Water) is understandable, though I wish he'd played Cold Irons Bound, from the penult, Time Out of Mind. I'd rate that as his best song of the last 25 years or so. B+
Lunch: Crawfish Monica--One size only, now (the small), price up to $5. Jama Jama--spicy, sauteed spinach. Monica--C+; Jama--A-. The vendor turnout was very good--about 90% of what you'd remember and love from recent past years was represented.
Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra--an emotional performance, with some original compositions by the conductor (I believe), who keeps time for his charges by bobbing his head in time with the main beat. The musicians are spread all over for now; many were flown in for the weekend. Lots of guest stars, including Donald Harrison, Kermit Ruffins, Trombone Shorty. A
Dinner: Marigny Brasserie--Faubourg Marigny was getting so hot before Katrina. It's cooled off just a bit. This restaurant is a bit too classy for the nabe, but continues to measure up from quality and value standpoints. Gumbo (always gotta try it)--B; Soft Shell crabs (with pecan, blue cheese, green beans)--A.
Snug Harbor All-Stars: All of them were referred to by the club's owner in his introduction as band leaders whose bands were not in the lineup for Jazz Fest. Our companion that evening, Evan Mendelson, listed them for me in her epic email, "Bear Witness to the Healing Power of Music!", as follows: "Henry Butler and David Torkanowsky (piano/organ), Wes Anderson and Ed Peterson (sax), Shannon Powell (drums), Jason Stewart (bass), and a young guy who came in to play organ for a song or two --Devon Crawford, who had me in tears."
Tork used to be everywhere in town for the two weeks of Jazzfest; he seems to be slowing down and much more laid back (he plays everything, improvises with grace). Henry Butler had another gig, crosstown, scheduled at the same time! He played like he was in a hurry (metronome at 160, lots of chord runs and flourishes, a la McCoy Tyner), then left after 45 minutes to give way to the young Crawford, who killed with his version of the old Leon Russell song (...and when my life is over... look it up!)
The talents of Petersen (a featured soloist in Irvin Mayfield's show earlier that day) match up well with Torkanowsky's, but both are letting go a bit and it's showing up in their waistlines, if you know what I mean? Alto sax Anderson and drummer Powell paid tribute to both tradition and whimsy: how many times do you see a drummer come out in a suit? Young Jason Stewart on the upright bass handled all the changes in personnel, tempo, style without a hint of trouble. He looks to be a formidable fixture for future 'fests. All-Stars-- A+.
That Friday was a real workout. We didn't make it to Jazzfest Saturday until about 1:30. We found that the greater-than-usual disorganization getting in the gate Friday--unexpectedly large crowds!--had been remedied. We fought the winds and dust and roamed, most of the day. Some quick hits on acts we dropped by on:
World Leader Pretend--emo, young. JDK: like Coldplay. B
Clarence "Frogman" Henry--blues with pop styling. Crowd-friendly. B
Galactic--Deep grooves. B-
Tony Green--Gypsy guitar jazz (after Django Reinhart). B
Iguanas--Very danceable, with Latin influence and good use of horns. B+
Herbie Hancock Quartet--As the Times-Picayune music reviewer pointed out, too popular to be in the Jazz Tent. Not to denigrate, just a question of space and crowd. If he played it, I missed Rock It, which is an all-time favorite and would've suited his band's style perfectly. A-
Hugh Masakela--in Louisiana Rebirth Congo Square (as it's been re-christened, so to speak. Wynton Marsalis gave an endorsement to the stage; well , at least that's something. ) In the African big-band style, layered and rich. B+
Eddie Bo--at Fais Do-do. Funky piano in the down-home Louisiana style. Very popular. B+
Dinner--Felix's, on Prytania. We made it, this time. They ran out of fresh oysters, their principal specialty (serious shortage of shuckers). The cooked ones were good. B-
Rain and gale-force winds as we waited for our taxi. This is the way it should be, we thought: gluing the loose, sandy soil down. Wading through puddles and mud on Sunday. But no rain during the shows themselves.
Rambling early day, then some serious burrowing into the Acura Stage crowd. We followed the muddy ditch from the "road" at the back, into the heart of the crowd. Then, we found the quick way in and out: it's straight out to the track, over near the stage entrance.
Little Queenie--Classic rouser. Stayed around after her show to meet individually with her devoted followers. B+
DL Menard--About as red as they come; also as authentic. Sings in Cajun. B-
Christian Scott--Next-generation jazzman with college buddies. Style is late-Miles electric. C+
Soul Rebels Brass Band--Representative of the new style in brass bands, with heavy hip-hop augmentation. This band's from Houston. B
Walter "Wolfman" Washington and the Roadmasters--Congo Square, the distant lawn (a relative high point, away from the swamp by the stage, and we managed to score a direct view through the scaffolding). P-funkadelic R&B with suave vocals. Wolfman lives about two blocks from the Fairgrounds, alongside one of the main pedestrian entry roads. He had a little sign up outside his home, happened to come out for an errand as we walked by that evening. We gave him a quick rave--he gave us a big smile. Got to check and see if he's on Amazon. A
Allen Toussaint with Elvis Costello--"Mr. Music" was being the elegant host; Elvis looked psyched and happy to be a rebel; his new music--River in Reverse-- sounds promising. The lyrics seem a bit more politically pointed than usual, rather than just a vague disaffectation (key tag line from the title track: "Wake me up"), but we'll have to await the close examination to be sure it's not just another costume. Allen and a guest performer did "Land of 1000 Dances" in honor of Wilson Pickett? A
Mighty Chariots of Fire--Hot gospel. Roaming around the track a bit between shows. A
Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band--I bought into the presentation, especially at first. Workingman's folk songs, delivered with conviction. An outstanding band, laying down a nice thick line. Good fiddle action; wife Patty providing some continuity and conviction. I didn't even object to the introduction of the banjo as the lead solo instrument. After awhile, though (I'd mark it from Jesse James, about the fifth song, through the "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" tune with some different lyrics), it got to be a bit too shit-kicker for me. B
Mona's Cafe--back in the Marigny (Frenchman, near Chartres). Eastern Mediterranean food; delicious and cheap, service and ambience casual in the extreme. Meat Grape Leaves Plate--B; Gyro Plate--A+; Lebanese Iced Tea (w/rosewater and pignoli)--B.
B&B: The House on Bayou Road. The grounds are in beautiful shape; I've been told much of the work was done by people staying there, in lieu of rent. Anyway, the special Jazzfest rates have been restored just in time for the event. The cooking school there has re-opened, but the restaurant, Indigo, has not yet done so. Breakfast outside the pool was heavily attended by flies. The location could not be beat for Jazzfest attendance purposes. Overall rating--B.
Though there is undoubted novelty in the current wave of retired generals--now topped by the intervention of Colin Powell--denouncing the Iraq war's conduct from the planning side and pointing the finger at Rumsfeld, we here at Rumsfeld's base camp have a different perspective. As Powell said in his televised bit, we should judge Rumsfeld to be only a facet--a Suit, if you will (I'd say clubs)-- of the disastrous Iraq policy, with full weight also falling upon Dumb Dubya, Dick, and 'leeza.
Still, this is an Ace, no mere Bram or Tool of Bushite Misrule. Thus, the dilemma: do we invite Rumsfeld to cut and run back home, in other words to do the right thing (by our country), run with his tail not visible (whether chopped or between his legs would seem hardly important, given the magnitude of the victory) or challenge him to stand and fight and be crushed ever more thoroughly?
I follow the historic example of the Spartan mother who sent her son off to war, telling him to be brave: Come back with your shield, or on it. In this case, forget the shield. Rumsfeld must see the job through until he leaves in utter defeat, Bush's firing of him being the final refuge of the desperately lame leader of the administration. The reason for the hubbub now is that Bush is close to that extreme, and Rumsfeld that close to utter defeat. But not just yet, I think--that looks like the early-2007 ploy to try to pull things together enough at least to turn the page in Iraq. Just as I opposed making firing Rumsfeld a focus of the 2004 opposition--it would have made it seem (falsely) as if Bushism were turning a new leaf--I oppose doing it this year.
Hey, as long as Dubya says that Cheney's his VP, and Rummy's Defense, and 'leeza's State Security, that's his choice. He should have to live with them politically, whether in or out of office. Like Brownie's the man for Katrina.
Whosaiditism-- its current usage
There is a phenomenon of society that I am still, at my advanced age, having a great deal of trouble accepting. That is the notion that Who said something is more worthy of notice than What was said.
There are times when that aspect of reporting is appropriate: take the generals' statements about Rumsfeld and the critical Iraq decision process. The news is, in fact, not what the generals say but who is saying it. Such an event should be the exception, though the fact is that it is not rare at all.
What I will call whosaiditism and define as excessive attention to the authorship of a statement or idea and the thought process behind its timing, rather than its content, has two very pernicious notions behind it. One is that, rather than the content, the story is in the dramatic quality of the fact that So-and-so- is saying it. The corollary is that there is nothing new to be said; we just get the enjoyment of the permutations of seeing varying talking heads in the absurd postures of saying these things. This is exactly how much of political discourse is viewed these days (by me and by many others), and it's exactly what they used to say about modern Italy before the fascists.
But we are wrong to think that. It is simply a function of the quality of the political discourse, not that there is nothing new to be said. We are in times without precedent, trying to solve problems by traditional methods.
Reviews of '08 Proto-Candidates
Herewith, the first installments of a serial analyzing the political content of contenders for 2008 from both parties. These are all inspired by stump speeches I’ve seen them do on C-SPAN in recent months. (Posted 5/15)
Hagel’s approach is neo-Bulworthian: Tell the truth, no varnish, take it or leave it. He defies the conventional wisdom that Americans are looking for an optimistic vision.
He also seems to want to defy the notion that one needs a base constituency of popular support to make a credible run at the Presidency. Where, exactly is his support going to come from? Moderate on social issues, frankly anti-Bushite in foreign policy, contrary to political-based expenditure allocation…there may be a hardcore residuum of “good-government liberal Republicans”, representing something like 1-10% of the primary vote (depending on the state), but where does that get him?
I think his approach would definitely appeal to a significant percentage of independents, and for that matter Democrats, but these are not the people Hagel will need to make a run at a Bushite/Republican establishment candidate (to be named later), nor even at a conservative with anti-Bushite credentials (McCain, Newt). Nor do I see much of an opportunity to parlay his run into a VP or major Cabinet role.
So, I just can’t see it happening for Chuck, whose positions are thoughtful, filled with integrity, and show a lot of common sense. Unless there is, in fact, some sort of neo-Bulworthian groundswell in the Republican party for someone who will level with us. So far, I don’t see any sign of that.
The speech I saw was in New Hampshire, on St. Patrick’s Day. He was out of his element on both levels—not much feel for the New Englanders, awkward jokes and story lines on the concept of a Hispanic at an Irish party pot-boiler. He was sweating. Later, he marched with the parade and took opportunities to reach out to the crowd, his response being general lack of recognition or interest. Based on what I saw, he shouldn't even make a run in New Hampshire, but I can't think of the last time that was a successful campaign strategy.
Since then, he’s gone more to ground: he’s does have a re-election campaign to run, though it’s heading for Hillary-like landslide percentages. Although, in theory, the current immigration debate should put him in the spotlight favorably—as an Hispanic governor of a state bordering Mexico, he has the most relevant knowledge and experience of anyone--I don’t think it’s done him any good at all, particularly given the populist thrust toward Nativism the debate is taking.
And that, I’m afraid, may be that for his Presidential hopes. He’s not going to have a crowd that feels like home, or that will have a significant Hispanic voting bloc, until his favorite-son race in New Mexico; OK, possibly some Southern states. Probably not Florida, though; we should not overlook the polylithic (like that? I just made it up—it means “not monolithic”) nature of Hispanic voters and the fact that most Hispanics in Florida are not of Mexican origin. I think he can win a few Hispanic delegates here and there, which will position him well in case the convention is deadlocked.
Don’t hold your breath. Apart from the fact that there is a heavy favorite who could have it wrapped up by April, there’s also the fact that the primary process, combined with laser-like media focus on the horse race (burning out all also-rans), seems effective in making an early decision. There’s enough of a track record to say that the probability that a convention will open without a presumptive nominee, in any presidential year, has become vanishingly small (5%?).
So, Richardson’s prospects would seem limited to either a Vice-Presidential nomination or a major Cabinet post for a centrist Democrat. Neither of these prospects seem improbable in the slightest: Richardson was definitely up for consideration on the Gore ticket, while his range of experience could project him comfortably to Homeland Security, EPA, a return trip to Energy, or even State. He has shown better diplomatic skills than any other politician I can think of. He doesn't need to play politics with delegates at the national convention to earn one of these jobs. No doubt, they would be more appealing than dealing with the rabble out here.
I saw Newt last night on a speech before a group of Iowa Republicans given in late April. It was a basic party fundraiser and feel-good session; Iowa seems to have some interest for the national party in certain Congressional districts, and Newt was basically just scoring some endorsement chips.
Except that it was Iowa, the caucus state. That makes it a Presidential campaign speech.
I could definitely see some elements of amphibian strategizing going on in his fertile mind as he proposed bipartisan Open Forums (instead of mediatized “debates”) for Iowa pre-caucus candidate events. '...and let the best ideas win,' his proposal concludes. This is Newt’s strong point, his ideas, which he backs up well, like the academic that he is. This should have little appeal, really: Dubya is nothing if not a man of big ideas (in his case, fixed ones), and has proven to be surprisingly inept at administration. We don’t need that again. Gingrich's ideas sound fresh, but amount to the same old story.
Ideologically, though, I think Gingrich has found some politically promising turf (better than Hagel’s, anyway). He has no stake in this monstrous Administration I call the "Tyranny of Bushite Misrule" and freely criticizes its policies, its execution; and its exposed, flimsy philosophical undergarments, though none of it by name. He does it from a 21st-century conservative viewpoint which is more coherent and articulate than most conservatives’: open to New Age thinking, pro-business, pro-GWOT, pro-enforcement, Constitutional federalist.
Rather than anti-Bushite, Gingrich is thinking “post-Bushite, secular conservative”. Sounds good. Only problem is, John McCain is seeking the same high ground, and he’s both more well-known and more trusted than Newt. Still, if McCain slips, or can’t convince the Republican Right of his bona fides, there could be a major opening.
Common-sense Consumerism: Shampoos, Dandruff
I'm moved to rise in public denunciation of the fact that Head & Shoulders is now trying to market various colors and scents in its dandruff shampoos. There's a whole line of choices now, and a Head & Shoulders conditioner. Now, we all know this is standard Procter & Gamble technique: crank out product, then test it, see if it can be marketed, etc. But haven't we sort of lost the "purpose" of the whole Head & Shoulders exercise, namely, to get rid of the dandruff?
Longtime H&S customers know that question was purely rhetorical. The purpose is not to excise the dandruff vector; we know that isn't really feasible. The purpose is to ease the discomfort (not to mention "flaking, itching") we feel when our little dandruff boogers are unhappy. Because they let us know about it.
I admit that I have never looked at the stuff under a microscope (anybody want to post a comment who's had that experience?), but I'm going to hazard a few guesses about how this whole condition works.
(To be continued)