31 January 2010

Eclectic Groove

This week's playlist starts off with a classic from the Eagles; it also includes a "lost track" by Fergie; new material from Robbie Williams, Gorillaz, Skye Edwards, and Corinne Bailey Rae; Keane's take on "Under Pressure" by Queen & David Bowie; and the set concludes with a 1967 Bee Gees classic that was originally written for Otis Redding, who passed away before he could record it.

Press play and enjoy...

Hotel California - Eagles
Woman - Barrabas
Bailamos - Fergie
Under Pressure - Keane
Another Runaway - Ladyhawke
I'm Sorry, Baby, But You Can't Stand In My Light Any More - Bob Mould
White Sky - Vampire Weekend
Bodies - Robbie Williams
Stylo - Gorillaz w/ Mos Def & Bobby Womack
Under - Brian Eno
I Believe - Skye Edwards
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' (2008 Remix) - Michael Jackson, feat. Akon
Feels Like the First Time - Corinne Bailey Rae
Ooo Baby - N'dambi
Do I Move You - Nina Simone
To Love Somebody - Bee Gees

30 January 2010

29 January 2010

Absolutely Brilliant

Absolutely brilliant!

Do yourself a favor: If you haven't watched this already, give yourself the hour to watch the President take questions from the House Republican caucus. It's about an hour in length, but if you watch only one political event this year, this should be it. This is abso-fucking-lutely briliant!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Miramax, 1979 - 2010

The once-glorious independent film company closed its doors for good on Thursday. Formed in 1979 by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Miramax produced such legendary Oscar-worthy films as "The Crying Game," "The Piano," "Pulp Fiction," "Good Will Hunting," "Shakespeare in Love," "Chicago," and "The Queen."

My two personal favorites:

"Pulp Fiction" (Dance scene)

"The Queen" (Trailer)

End-of-the-Week Levity

The iPad...

28 January 2010

JD Salinger, 1919 - 2010

The author of "The Catcher in the Rye" died Wednesday of natural causes. He was 91.

We Don't Quit

Last night's State of the Union speech exemplifies why I still support this President. He told it like it is, lambasting the Senate for being so hapless this past year (and calling them out in full view of the American public, mind you); he fought back against the lies of the Fascist-Republican right in both houses of congress (and by extension, Faux News); and he laid out some solid progressive proposals for the coming year.

Some speech highlights, accompanied by commentary from yours truly...
By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. That was before I walked in the door.
While I understand the American people aren't always thrilled with the truth, President Obama needed to reiterate this fact last night. The mountainous mess he inherited from the previous administration is going to take years, if not a decade, to clean up. Recovery from the Great Recession will be long and very slow. But we will only recover if we follow this man's lead; and Americans need to be reminded of that daily, lest they head to the polls in November and hand congress back to the Republicans. It was, after all, decades worth of Republican policies that brought us to this perilous place: 20 of the last 29 years saw Republican presidents in the White House; 18 of the last 29 years saw a Republican Senate; and in the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, all fiscal responsibility was thrown out the window, bringing our economy to the boiling point. Had it not been for the election of Barack Obama and the resulting policies he instituted, the United States would be smack dab in the middle of another great depression.
[We] passed 25 different tax cuts.

Let me repeat: we cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95% of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time home buyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.
That's right...the President of the United States called out the Fascist-Republicans and their tea bagging enablers for their unpatriotic lies and deceit. One glance at your paycheck stub from September 2008 and a glance at your check stub today will show the federal income tax rate remains the same. In fact in many cases the rate went down for some Americans.
From the day I took office, I have been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious - that such efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for awhile.

For those who make these claims, I have one simple question:

How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?
Directed at both parties in both houses of congress, this statement exemplifies why the United States is fast becoming a second-rate country. Rather than work toward shoring up a quickly crumbling nation, members of congress simply ignore the tough problems or pass half measures, afraid they might lose their seat if they do something too bold. Believe it or not, Americans like bold. Even if they disagree with a policy proposal, most Americans respect lawmakers who step up to the plate. As it is, the future our children will inherit looks pretty grim. And that is because our lawmakers have spent the last 30 years doing nothing of substance, failing at every turn to step up to the plate. It's pathetic, really.
I will not give up on changing the tone of our politics. I know it's an election year. And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.
In my view the Democrats need to replace Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. He is a hapless cuckold rooster of a man, and I blame him - not the President - for the absolute gridlock that has taken place in Washington this past year. When you can't get anything passed with a 58 to 60 seat majority, then you are not a leader. Give the job to Dick Durbin of Illinois, and my hunch is bills will fly through the Senate and to the President's desk for signature.
I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. I am also proposing a new small business tax credit - one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and I think our unemployment rate would be greatly helped if we gave the owners of those businesses all the help the federal government can muster. This is a decent step, but I would go further and give businesses with under 50 employees a 100% tax break through 2015.
Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the interstate highway system, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.
If we can't do this and and do it fast we will definitely become a second-rate nation. The political pressure against such expenditures boggles the mind. That we are decades behind China and Europe in keeping our infrastructure upgraded must have President Dwight Eisenhower rolling over in his grave.
I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only ten percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after twenty years - and forgiven after ten years if they choose a career in public service.
Increasing education standards has to be our great national project over the next decade. Too many kids aren't finishing high school, and those that do finish graduate only because sub-par teachers pass them with sub-par grades. The President's call for college tax credits and loan forgiveness are a tremendous step in the right direction. I would be a bit more specific about the loan forgiveness policy by reducing their loans by 50% PLUS giving them a 10 year window to pay them back if these college students spend the first two to five years after graduation teaching, with stronger benefits going to those who teach science and math.
This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.
Typical boiler plate stuff. My understanding of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is that it can only be overturned by congress. But too many men and women are being kicked out of the armed forces over this. It boggles the mind why such an archaic, insane policy is still in place at a time when our military needs every able bodied American. Thus, I expect the President to work with congress to get this done - once and for all. If he doesn't take an active roll in overturning this policy, the last two years of his first term will be dead to the LGBT community. And for crying out loud, Mr. President...tell your Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. I understand they can't fight against it, but there is no reason they can't just remain silent.
We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment - to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.
Amen, Mr. President!

Overall the President's speech was a solid home run. The rhetoric was dazzling, to be sure, and he was confident and easy-going; but, what struck me most (and I believe what struck most Americans) was his seriousness and his realism. He was the only grown-up in that House chamber last night. He called the Senate on their cynical bullshit and challenged both houses of congress to get their heads out of their asses and get to work. Because when it comes right down to it, it is congress who has failed this past year. The President took some wrong turns as well, but the House and the Senate (especially the Senate) have been paralyzed in a year when we needed them be working on all cylinders.

27 January 2010

Calling on Congress

My full thoughts on the President's State of the Union address tomorrow (I usually need a full night to let my mind gel) but for now, this was a solid homerun for Mr. Obama. It was a devastating rebuke to the do-nothing Fascist Republicans and, quite frankly, to the weak-kneed conservative Democrats, calling them out for their refusal to join him in stepping up to the plate to do something - ANYTHING - to bring America out of this Great Recession.

His final thought was spot on:
We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment - to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.
UPDATE: The Governor of Virginia, giving the Republican response, claims the federal government is doing too much. Huh? Does he understand what this great nation is going through right now? The typical Republican policies of limited government and deregulation are what brought us to the brink. They've done enough damage. It's time to try something new.

The State of the Union

Happy Birthday Shawirma Master!

26 January 2010

Cameron vs. Cameron

Wow! That was fast:

James Cameron's "Avatar" has surpassed James Cameron's "Titanic" as the highest-grossing movie of all time. According to Reuters, the box office total for "Avatar," as of Monday, stood at $1.86 billion, beating the $1.84 billion racked up by "Titanic."

Spending Freeze

During his State of the Union address tomorrow night, President Obama is expected to propose a three-year spending freeze for several domestic programs that account for approximately 17% of the overall national budget (or about $450 billion dollars in spending). According to the Wall Street Journal:
To attack the $1.4 trillion deficit, the White House will propose limits on discretionary spending unrelated to the military, veterans, homeland security and international affairs, according to senior administration officials. Also untouched are big entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
This is where I part ways with most of my compatriots on the left. If we are serious about bring our national budget into balance, if we are serious about not saddling our children with crippling debt, then Social Security and Medicare have to be tamed in a big way. With the Baby Boomers entering retirement age, the cost of those programs is expected to sky rocket over the next fifteen years. The programs should not be scrapped, but their costs need to come down drastically.

The President has said he is serious about reforming entitlement programs. This budget freeze doesn't reflect that. I am assuming he held off because of the recession. Only time will tell. But once we crawl out from under this mess, I fully expect Mr. Obama to make some painful choices regarding the two programs.

Some on the left are appalled by the proposed spending freeze. While I agree with their assessment that the only way to tame the Great Recession is to increase federal outlays in targeted areas so as to turn things around, I also believe in my heart of hearts that our economy will take longer to recover if there isn't at least a small effort to reduce the deficit. And quite frankly, even if he wanted to increase spending, the President has no choice here politically.

In the mean time, while I wait to hear exactly where the freezes will be made...kudos to the President and his team for doing something George W. Bush and his enablers in the Republican-led congresses of his presidency didn't even try to do. Those guys spent more than any liberal Democrat could ever think of spending, raising deficits to record levels, which helped lead us to the morass we find ourselves in today.

While there is still a long way to go, President Obama, with the announcement of this plan, once again proves why having a Democrat in the White House leads to a more fiscally responsible government (see Kennedy, John and Clinton, Bill).

25 January 2010

Big Dick

Just when you think the John Edwards saga couldn't sink any lower...well...there's videotape:
Sources have told us that, in the throes of their affair, John Edwards and Rielle Hunter made a sex tape that contains 'several sex acts.' And that his aide, Andrew Young found it on an unmarked DVD. The tape, say both our sources, is explicit and reveals that Edwards is physically very striking, in a certain area. Everyone who sees it says 'whoa'.
First off, the gall of this man to run for president with such dirty laundry. I mean, really, an affair with a staff photographer while your wife is dying from cancer? And you TAPE it!??! You, sir, make Bill Clinton and Mark Sanford look like saints.

Ok...now that I've said my peace...

They really say "whoa?" Where do I get my hands on this DVD!? ;-)

Little Miss Chloe

"Ok...I went out there and walked in the rain for you. Now give me my damn treat!"

Bringing Out His Inner Reagan

Many in the blogosphere are comparing President Obama's first term to that of another president who inherited similar problems. During the first two years of his first term, President Reagan inherited a relatively nasty mess: A recession was in full swing and unemployment climbed up near 10%, resulting in a decline in Mr. Reagan's approval ratings. But there was something about Reagan that kept the American spirit from fully deflating, and that was his uplifting and patriotic attitude.

Many (like me) thought it was all part of an act. But looking back, you have to admit - act or not - it worked. As 1982 gave way to 1983, Americans were in dire straits and the economy looked as if it was going to flat line. Yet Reagan's uplifting attitude was his saving grace. Yes, his job approval ratings suffered a bit, and his party lost 27 seats in House mid-term elections. But he never lost hope and he held the country together at the emotional level.

Today, I think President Obama needs to find that Reagan-esque "everything will be ok/we are America" attitude. I know he can do it, as he showed it off in spades during the 2008 campaign. But in his effort to govern, as he works to extract us from the horrendous disaster that were the Bush years, he has silenced it.

Jon Meachem:
[President Obama has failed] so far in doing what presidents must do, which is to lead the nation emotionally as well as rationally. It would be great if politics were fact-based, but it is not, and it is surely not nuance-based.
As Reagan said in his 1982 State of the Union address:
Let it be said of us that we, too did not fail; that we, too, worked together to bring America through difficult times. Let us so conduct ourselves that two centuries from now, another Congress and another President, meeting in this chamber will speak of us with pride, saying that we met the test and preserved for them in their day the sacred flame of liberty this last, best hope of man on Earth.
That's the stuff Americans want to hear.

Mr. Obama is no Reagan when it comes to this sort of thing. Reagan was a Hollywood actor, Mr. Obama is a constitutional lawyer. But when the current president gives a speech it can wrench the heart. As he and Jon Favreau (his speechwriter) put the finishing touches on the 2010 State of the Union address, they would do well to tap into the emotions of his fellow Americans. For if President Obama can "lead the nation emotionally," he may find himself in a better position come the mid-terms.

24 January 2010

The Perception Thing, Part 2

One of my major concerns about the stubbornness of the unemployment problem is the effect it will have on the younger generation when it comes to participating in the American process. They turned out in huge numbers in the 2008 election and overwhelmingly cast their votes for Barack Obama (66% to 32%). Yet, here we are pulling out of recession (or at least attempting to) while the unemployment rate among 18 to 29 year olds is at a jaw-dropping 18%. Unless something is done to turn that number around, their generation will abandon their duties as citizens and that will spell trouble to progressive candidates for at least a decade.

To be sure, Mr. Obama's economic polices are not the cause of the high unemployment rate among this age group. For decades our governments, both Republican and Democratic, have refused to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs from our manufacturing sector and have turned a blind eye to increasingly shitty education standards. The United States is falling further behind the rest of the world with each passing day, yet none of our leaders has been up to the task of reversing course.

What we need is a Roosevelt - a hybrid of both Teddy (to confront big business and the banks) and Franklin (to wrestle a systemic unemployment problem into submission). My fear is that the problems as they present themselves right now are so deeply embedded into the fabric of our economic engine, it will take a giant like TR or FDR to fix it. President Obama has the potential to be a president of such greatness. But if it is to be so, then he needs to shake things up a little bit.

Thomas Friedman has an idea or two:
What the country needs most now is not more government stimulus, but more stimulation. We need to get millions of American kids...excited about innovation and entrepreneurship again. We need to make 2010 what Obama should have made 2009: the year of innovation, the year of making our pie bigger, the year of “Start-Up America.”

Obama should make the centerpiece of his presidency mobilizing a million new start-up companies that won’t just give us temporary highway jobs, but lasting good jobs that keep America on the cutting edge. The best way to counter the Tea Party movement, which is all about stopping things, is with an Innovation Movement, which is all about starting things. Without inventing more new products and services that make people more productive, healthier or entertained — that we can sell around the world — we’ll never be able to afford the health care our people need, let alone pay off our debts.

Obama should bring together the country’s leading innovators and ask them: “What legislation, what tax incentives, do we need right now to replicate you all a million times over” — and make that his No. 1 priority. Inspiring, reviving and empowering Start-up America is his moon shot.

And to reignite his youth movement, he should make sure every American kid knows about two programs that he has already endorsed: The first is National Lab Day. Introduced last November by a coalition of educators and science and engineering associations, Lab Day aims to inspire a wave of future innovators, by pairing veteran scientists and engineers with students in grades K-12 to inspire thousands of hands-on science projects around the country.

Any teacher in America, explains the entrepreneur Jack Hidary, the chairman of N.L.D., can go to the Web site NationalLabDay.org and enter the science project he or she is interested in teaching, or get an idea for one. N.L.D. will match teachers with volunteer scientists and engineers in their areas for mentoring.

“As soon as you have a match, the scientists and the students communicate directly or via Skype and collaborate on a project,” said Hidary. “We have a class in Chicago asking for civil engineers to teach them how to build a bridge. In Idaho, a class is asking for a scientist to help them build a working river delta inside their classroom.”

The president should also vow to bring the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, or NFTE, to every low-income neighborhood in America. NFTE works with middle- and high-school teachers to help them teach entrepreneurship. The centerpiece of its program is a national contest for start-ups with 24,000 kids participating. Each student has to invent a product or service, write up a business plan and then do it. NFTE (www.NFTE.com) works only in low-income areas, so many of these new entrepreneurs are minority kids.
I hope beyond hope that President Obama puts such bold proposals on the table at his upcoming State of the Union address. I hope his speech gives those Americans from 18 to 29, from San Diego to Kennebunkport, the hope that now that the economic bleeding has stopped, the patient will be stabilized and a heavy round of rehabilitation is about to start.

The Perception Thing

Frank Rich's column in today's New York Times is spot on. When you have time, make sure to read it in its entirety. In the mean time, key quotes with additional commentary from yours truly...
[The President's] two principal economic policy makers are useless, if not counterproductive, surrogates. Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, was probably fatally compromised from the moment his tax lapses surfaced; now he is stalked by the pileup of unanswered questions about the still-not-transparent machinations at the New York Fed when he was knee-deep in the A.I.G. bailout. Lawrence Summers, the top administration economic guru, is a symbol of the Clinton-era deregulatory orgy that helped fuel the bubble.
When Mr. Obama added these men to his administration, many Americans were happy to see the grown ups back at the table again. Geithner and Summers (along with Bob Rubin) were key players in the Clinton administration fiscal team and helped formulate an economic policy that led to the strongest economic growth and lowest unemployment since the Great Depression. Who better to clean up the economic wreck left behind by the Bush administration?

Alas, it turns out that in addition to Bush's pillage of the U.S. Treasury, the deregulation that took place under Clinton (and earlier by Reagan) helped bring on the collapse that took place during 2007 and 2008. Now that the cat is out of the bag, I think President Obama should dump both Geithner and Summers.

Even if the two men have had their "come to Jesus" moment - even if the President believes in his heart of hearts that these are the men to pull America out of this horrible recession - he should ask them to leave. Perception is everything in government, and as the election results in Massachusetts this week indicate, Americans perceive the current team to be lackluster.

More from Rich:
Obama needs more independent economists like Paul Volcker, who was hastily retrieved from exile last week after the Massachusetts massacre prompted the White House to tardily embrace his strictures on big banks. Obama also needs economic spokesmen who are not economists and who can authentically speak to life on the ground. Obama must also reconnect. The former community organizer whose credit card was denied at the Hertz counter during the 2000 Democratic convention now spends too much time at the White House presiding over boardroom-table meetings and stiff initiative rollouts instead of engaging with Americans not dressed in business suits.
The President should nominate Volcker to head up the Treasury Department. Volcker has called for more regulation of banks and believes a breakup of the nation's largest banks and a reimplementation of many aspects of the Glass-Steagall Act, which prevented commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities such as trading securities, are the key to restoring America's economic engine. (Banks that were "too big to fail" that took part in some really shady investment schemes are credited with contributing to the current economic crisis.)

If the President wants to keep his party's losses to a minimum in November, he would do well to follow Volcker's counsel. Because right now, most Americans, from the tea-baggers on the right to the impatient unemployed on the left, have had about all they can take of the big banks.

If I were president, I would also pull the nomination of Ben Bernake to stay on as chairman of the Federal Reserve. That said, I also understand that such a move would rile Wall Street. And so, to keep those folks from totally wigging out, I understand why Obama is sticking by his man. (For all he did to contribute to the crisis, Bernake's fast thinking did pull us back from the brink. And he should be applauded for his efforts.)

In addition to Volcker at Treasury, I would replace Summers with Christina Romer as Director of the White House Economic Council. Roemer is an expert on the Great Depression, and that knowledge is crucial as the President tries to tackle the extremely stingy unemployment problem. I'd also add Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman to his White House team.

Volcker, Romer, and Krugman are considered quite liberal when it comes to economic policy. But after eight years of incompetent Republican government by the previous administration (a right-wing approach that caused the economic collapse) and one year of the centrist approach by the current administration (that hasn't done as much to bring unemployment numbers down as we had hoped), too many Americans remain out of work and increasingly frustrated.

Mr. President, it's time to change to course in a big, bold way. To be sure, your first year had the most serious challenges facing any president since Abraham Lincoln. I understand fully that the 2008 stimulus was in and of itself a tremendously bold move and helped keep the country from spiraling out of control into the the deep depths of a depression. But your fellow Americans still feel stuck. And that is because their perception is that YOU are stuck.

As for me, I'm still behind you. I know there are no quick fixes and that your governing style is to face the problems head on, as an adult, with a steady hand and a solid team. But your economic team isn't looking so solid right now.

Perception is everything in government. I truly believe you would do well to change that perception by shaking up your economic team.

23 January 2010

Disco Queen - Disco, Damn It (Volume 3)

It's time for some more disco, damn it! Press play, get down and boogie...

Disco Queen - Paul Jabara
Star Love - Cheryl Lynn
Boogie Shoes - KC and the Sunshine Band
Sweet Sensation - Stephanie Mills
Ain't Nothin' Gonna Keep Me From You - Teri DeSario
Countdown (Captain Fingers) - Lee Ritenour
Black Water Gold - KC and the Sunshine Band
Outa-Space - Billy Preston
Summer Love - Musique
One More Minute - Saint Tropez
Haven't You Heard - Patrice Rushen
Plato's Retreat - Joe Thomas
Dancer - Gino Soccio
Love Is In Control - Donna Summer

Cuckold Rooster of a Man

Quote of the Day:
[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said he disdains the tough-guy style of one of his more famous predecessors, Lyndon Johnson. Reid said, "You can’t bully.” Besides, he added: “I couldn’t be Lyndon Johnson if I wanted to be. He was too crude and physical for me.”
-Adam Nagourney, in today's New York Times Magazine, about Harry Reid's lackluster turn as Majority Leader in the Senate.

My frustration with the Democrats this year isn't with the White House or even with (most) of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, but rather my deep frustration is with the Senate. The Democratic Party enjoys the strongest majority either party has had in that chamber since 1976, yet Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, has been about as hapless as they come, squandering a two-year window to really step up to the plate and get things done at a time in American history when we require big, bold Johnson-like leadership.

I understand the Republicans are largely to blame. The GOP have become the unpatriotic obstructionists, throwing down filibusters wherever they can, refusing to help the President clean up the mountainous pile of shit the Bush administration left behind. But even when the Republicans had the barest of majorities (50 seats) during the early Bush years, they slammed their agenda through the Senate. Yet Reid can't seem to do anything without 60 votes - an impossible and an un-American threshold.

He's a hapless cuckold rooster of a man, and he needs to be replaced as leader.

Drowning Out Our Voices

The President's weekly address...

22 January 2010

New From Skye

A brand new song from the former Morcheeba lead singer, Skye Edwards...

"I Believe"

20 January 2010

The Dumbing Down of America Continues

So the Republican margin of victory for Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat out of Massachusetts came in large part from independent voters. As one of them told a focus group:
I like what Scott Brown stands for and I feel that the Democrats cannot run the country anymore. That too many people that don’t have jobs are going hungry. They’re not taking care of business. They’re not doing their jobs. They’re caught up in this health care thing. I’m saying they’re not taking care of the people that are unemployed.
And another:
My feeling is the Democrats have really screwed up since Barack Obama has been in office, and the sooner they lose their majority the better for our country. I think I’m just very disappointed in the direction this country is taking.
That's just typical, isn't it? Americans with attention spans the size of a shriveled-up pea. Never mind that the Democratic government passed an economic stimulus bill that brought us back from the precipice; never mind that they extended unemployment benefits; never mind that without both of those bills the American economy would be a burning pile of horse shit, mired in a deep depression with unemployment nearing 15%.

Never mind any of the actual facts. Americans want their quick fix and they want it now.

Folks, the fact of the matter is the mess the Obama administration inherited was so mountainous and beyond comprehension that it will take years, if not a decade, to shovel ourselves out from under it. As Mr. Obama said the night he won the election:
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term...
The President did not want to spend his first year preventing an economic depression. But he is playing the cards he was dealt, and in doing so has been deliberate and methodical, thoughtful and smart. Yet to most Americans, such intelligent governance comes across as lazy and without merit. "True leaders" put a band-aid on the wound for a quick fix and then move on. That's how these tea-baggers want us to attack this rotten economy - never mind that in the long run quick fixes would lead to greater calamity.

And so, in yesterday's special election in Massachusetts, a state that hasn't sent a Republican to the Senate since 1972, voters chose a fascist Republican to complete the term of the late great liberal lion, Ted Kennedy. Never mind that these fascists Republicans have proposed absolutely nothing to help fix the mess left behind by the Bush team (their counter-budget proposal literally contained no numbers!), and have instead resisted supporting the President (and by extension, the American people) at every turn. They are not the loyal opposition, they are the unpatriotic obstructionists.

So I would suggest that American voters get their heads out of their collective asses and really think this through: America is no longer staring into the abyss. The President and his administration were forced to spend their first year doing damage control and shoring up the foundation of our economy. Now it is time to start rebuilding. And it will be a long, slow crawl to recovery - mark my words.

There was no other way to approach the crisis. Rather than blame the current Democratic President for decades of Republican mismanagement, Americans would do well to think twice before punishing Mr. Obama at the polls this November. It was the Republicans, after all, who brought us here (just as it was the Democrats who took us to the edge in 1980).

So remember THAT, my fellow Americans, as we move forward toward November.

UPDATE: This post isn't to say that I am not displeased with the Democrats. But my displeasure lays more with the Senate than it does with the House or President Obama. I'll post an essay on my disenchantment with Harry Reid tomorrow.

UPDATE 2: This YouTube clip captures the reality of today's situation perfectly. A pro-Obama video from the 2008 presidential campaign...

19 January 2010

In Massachusetts

The sad truths of the matter: Martha Coaxley is a flawed candidate, the Democrats are notorious for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and the current state of the economy has independent voters ready to bounce back to the Republican Party (never mind that the GOP has offered not one plausible idea as to how to fix the mess).

That Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat is even in danger of falling to the Republicans in one of the most liberal states in the nation can be debated later; and the possibility that having 59 votes in a 100-seat chamber is a losing proposition is laughable for one reason - Harry Reid is a sorry, cuckold old rooster. His is a sorry form of leadership, and should Coaxley lose tonight he should be replaced.

All of that said, it is imperative that the voters of Massachusetts elect Martha Coaxley today. Because the sorry truth of the matter is that the Democrats need 60 votes to move legislation forward in the Senate. It is a sorry truth, and a one that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.

But for now, on this day, vote Coaxley.

17 January 2010


This week's playlist is inspired by the late, great Teddy Pendergrass (26 March 1950 - 13 January 2010). Eighteen tracks of smooth, solid soul. Press play and enjoy...

Nothing From Nothing - Billy Preston
Stoned - Lewis Taylor
L.I.E. - N'dambi
My Four Leaf Clover - Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators
Strawberry Letter 23 - The Brothers Johnson
Mista Guitar Man - The Sylvers
You Haven't Done Nothin' - Stevie Wonder
I'll Be Around - The Spinners
Hollywood - Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
So Very Hard to Go - Tower of Power
Shiny & New - Mayer Hawthorne
Betcha By Golly, Wow - Phyllis Hyman
The Lover In You - Shalamar

Mini-Tribute to Mr. Pendergrass:
Close the Door - Teddy Pendergrass
You're My Latest, My Greatest, My Inspiration - Teddy Pendergrass
The Love I Lost - Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
Hold Me - Whitney Houston/Teddy Pendergrass

16 January 2010

15 January 2010

Off Their Game?

How did it come to pass that the Democratic Party find themselves thisclose to losing Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts? This is a seat the Republicans have not held since 1952, in a state that has gone Republican for president only once since 1960.

Whether the Democrats keep control of the House and the Senate this November, the loss of THIS seat on Tuesday would have dire repercussions.

Personally, I think it's pitiful that they find themselves in this position. Even if the Democrat wins handily on Tuesday, the fact that it's close less than a week out is unfathomable. With huge majorities in both houses of congress, with a president who won the largest popular vote margin since 1988, this was their time to be the Republicans of the early 80s.

Of course, I know the economy is still on the mend and after a year in office the public, rightly or wrongly, is shifting blame from Bush to Obama (more on that next week when I assess his first year in office), but the Democrats are lousy at P.R., and with the tea-baggers stepping up to every microphone in sight, Americans are only hearing one side of the argument.

My hope is that the Democrat pulls this out in Massachusetts, but that the close call forces the party to grow some cajones and fight the fascists on the other side as if their lives depended on it. Because, right now, their jobs do.

14 January 2010

Teddy Pendergrass, 1950 - 2010

The smooth, legendary R&B singer passed away yesterday. He was 59.

Remember These Five Names

In a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled yesterday that the gay marriage hearings being held in a San Francisco federal court could not be videotaped. Ruling in the majority were conservative justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.

Remember those five names. Because if this case is elevated to the Supreme Court level, those will be the names attached to the ruling that keeps marriage bans in place; which is why I have been steadfastly against taking this to the federal level at this moment in time.

I appreciate what Ted Olson and David Boies are trying to do, but the gamble is awfully risky in my opinion. I just don't see the votes for our side on the court right now. Four (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) will definitely vote no. That means Kennedy serves as the swing vote. And while he voted with the majority in the Texas sodomy case several years ago, that doesn't mean he will automatically vote in our favor in this case.

And, truth be told, none of us knows how Sotomayor will vote.

No. In my opinion it would have been better to keep our powder dry and let this play out over the long haul in the states. If we lose this in the Supreme Court, then, although such a ruling would simply throw this back to the states, a loss would be awfully hard to recover from.

13 January 2010

Little Miss Chloe

Napping with her stuffed puppy, a couple of weekends ago...

The Reid Flap

All the frothing at the mouth by the robots on the right over the comments made about Barack Obama by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid three years ago (as quoted in the new book "Game Change") are a bit much.

On the comparison to former Republican leader Trent Lott: Lott was a long-time advocate of segregation and a former member of the KKK, who announced that the United States would be better off if it had elected Strom Thurmond president in 1948. For those not in the know, Thurmond ran for president as a white supremacist on the segregationist third party "Dixiecrat" ticket (and wound up with 39 electoral votes by winning just about every county in the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia).

On what Reid said: Yes, the verbiage used by Sen. Reid was archaic and insensitive. And yes, his apology to the President was warranted. But if you look deep inside yourself, you will realize that Reid essentially (although not quite artfully) said what a majority of Americans told themselves during the 2008 campaign. Believe me, had it been Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton running instead of Obama, we would be entering the second year of Hillary Clinton or John McCain's presidency.

So, is there a double standard here in Lott's resignation following his remarks about Thurmond and Reid's retaining his job following the disclosure of his rather unfortunate choice of words about Obama?

Only in that rather bizarre alternative universe known as Fox "News."

As always, Rachel Maddow offers an intelligent perspective on what, in my opinion, is a non-issue...

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Finanical Reform

If we are to come out of this Great Recession in tact then major reforms of the financial industry and Wall Street are in order. Bill Moyers talks with David Corn and Kevin Drum about the political obstacles to such reforms here.

Moyers' commentary on the issue here...

First Things First

My condolences to Vice-President Biden on the passing of his beloved mother, Catherine.

How proud she must have been to see her son elected Vice-President of the United States.

Sleep peacefully, Mrs. Biden.

My Absence

Hey folks. My apologies for the extreme lack of posts these past couple of weeks. I was down and out with a really wicked cold; and then, just as I was finally pulling out of it, we had another round of layoffs at work. The cold is gone and I am still employed (my manager, however, is not), so back back to things here. I will start off by catching up on an issue or two.


NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, on his Facebook page this morning:
After 9/11, the French newspaper Le Monde declared: We Are All Americans. And after yesterday's earthquake: Today, we are all Haitians. No country seems to have had worse luck with misrule, environmental mismanagement, natural disasters and poor governance than Haiti. Haitians are a lovely people who deserve far better.
My thoughts are with the people and government of Haiti this morning, as they begin the process of digging themselves out of this horrendous disaster.

10 January 2010

The High Road

An eclectic set of fifteen songs for your Sunday afternoon. This week's set is all over the map: Stereophonics and the Clash, to Petula Clark and Heather Masse, to N'dambi and Plantlife.

Click play and enjoy...

It Means Nothing - Stereophonics
The High Road - Broken Bells
Song Away - Hockey
Downtown - Petula Clark
Nobody Jones - N'dambi
Sun Children - Nickodemus
Lovetoy - Plantlife
Another Runaway - Ladyhawke
Clampdown - The Clash
11th Dimension - Julian Casablancas
People Got a Lotta Nerve - Neko Case
Dirty Little Secret - 54 Seconds
That Western Skyline - Dawes
Rule My World - Kings of Convenience
Hollywood - Heather Masse

03 January 2010

The Ten Best Songs of 2009

My picks for the ten best tunes of the year past, done countdown-style, from #10 to #1. Enjoy...

10. Heavy Cross - The Gossip
Hardcore pop with a heavy hitting lead vocal.

9. Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear
Complex arrangements and tight production, along with some superb vocal work, highlight this track from the Brooklyn-based band.

8. Mrs. Cold - Kings of Convenience
Jack Johnson meets Simon & Garfunkel on this wonderful track.

7. Maybe So, Maybe No - Mayer Hawthorne
This was a super year for new old-school-style R&B, and this geeky white boy from Ann Arbor, Michigan stepped up to the plate with a stellar album.

6. I'll Go Crazy Tonight If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight - U2
From the best album of the year ("No Line On the Horizon"), U2 were definitely in top form in 2009.

5. Dusk 'till Dawn - Ladyhawke
Ladyhawke is Lady Gaga, Brittany Spears, and Gwen Stefani, all rolled into one, only better.

4. Happy Up Here - Röyksopp
Best dance/bubblegum diddy of the year.

3. The Breach - Bob Mould
From another of the year's best albums, Mould showcases his chops on this track. Excellent guitar riffs, superb production, great vocal.

2. Candy - Paolo Nutini
One of the most beautiful tracks of the entire year. Period.

1. L.I.E. - N'dambi
"Pink Elephant" is one of the best R&B albums to come down the pike in a decade. No electronic slides of the voice, and none of the annoying vocal olympics that are so prominent in today's pop music. This is just straight ahead, soulful R&B, updated for the 21st century. N'Dambi ingeniously combines soul-deep inspiration and a sensual style of elegance and power. Produced by the legendary Leon Sylvers for the venerable Stax label, "L.I.E." is the best track on an album filled with excellent material.

02 January 2010