The fact that about half of my iTunes collection is Dylan songs has me thinking about something I noticed a while back: I've heard dozens of covers of Dylan songs, but I've never heard one that I thought was better than the original. Some are wonderful: Nanci Griffith's Boots of Spanish Leather (iTunes link); Vedder and McCready's Masters of War; Richie Havens' Just Like a Woman; but, in each case, I think the Dylan version is definitively better. Odd, considering Dylan is supposed to be a horrible singer (or an acquired taste, anyway). He has a very strange voice, no question, but I'm starting to come around to different view: Bob Dylan isn't just the best American songwriter (and poet, in fact) of the past fifty years, he's also a great singer.
FOR EXAMPLE: Lordy, how beautiful are these words and this song?
Salon, which badly needs a redesign, actually has a blog that's pretty good. Check it out (watch ad or subscribe, etc.).
SEE WHAT I MEAN? Did you know Salon was serializing a Dave Eggers novel? Neither did I, and I check the site daily.
Everyone's telling you to read Thomas Frank's article in the new Harper's, but who takes the time to type out some incendiary paragraphs as a teaser? Me, baby, me.
Welcome to the Great Backlash, a style of conservatism that is anything but complacent. Whereas earlier forms of conservatism emphasized fiscal sobriety, the backlash mobilizes voters with explosive social issues-- summoning public outrage over everything from busing to un-Christian art-- which it then marries to pro-business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends...
In fact, backlash leaders systematically downplay the politics of economics. The movement's basic premise is that culture outweighs economics as a matter of public concern-- that Values Matter Most, as one backlask book title has it. On these grounds it rallies citizens who would once have been reliable partisans of the New Deal to the standard of conservatism. Old fashioned values may count when conservatives appear on the stump, but once conservatives are in office the only old-fashioned situation they care to revive is the regimen of low wages and lax regulations. Over the last three decades the have smashed the welfare state, reduced the tax burden on corporations and the wealthy, and generally facilitated the country's return to a nineteenth-century pattern of wealth distribution. Thus the primary contradiction of the backlash: It is a working class movement that has done incalculable, historic harm to working-class people.
The leaders of the backlash may talk Christ, but they walk corporate. Values may "matter most" to voters, but they always take a back seat to the needs of money once the elections are won. This is the basic earmark of the phenomenon, absolutely consistent across its decade-long history. Abortion is never halted. Affirmative action is never abolished. The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act. Even the greatest culture-warrior of them all, Ronald Reagan, was a notorious cop-out once it came time to deliver.
In Kansas the shift is more staggering than elsewhere, simply because it has been so decisive, so extreme. The people who were once radical are now reactionary. Although they speak today in the same aggrieved language of victimization, and although they face the same array of economic forces as their hard-bitten ancestors, today's rebels make demands that are precisely the opposite. Tear down the federal farm programs, they cry. Privatize the utilities. Repeal the progressive taxes. All that Kansas asks today is a little help nailing itself to that cross of gold.
There's lots more, including some nice jabs at David Brooks. In typical Harper's style, it has its overstated and misleading moments (some quoted above, in fact) but still: read the whole thing, as they say. The central mystery-- why do people vote against (a significant part of) their interests with such verve-- is still worth thinking about.
Suddenly I'm curious about something: how much of what people like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Hannity say do you think they believe? What's your working assumption? I hadn't given it much thought, and maybe this is horribly arrogant and closed-minded, but if I had to guess, I'd say I was walking around thinking that they believe about 10% of what they say, and the rest is show business.
UPDATE: Be sure to see this cogent and convincing take on just this issue.
Sure, Eleanor Clift is a liberal, but is there any other way to understand the White House's insistence that Bush and Cheney testify together?
A top Republican strategist dubbed the legal document striking the unusual deal "the Wizard of Oz letter" because it strips away the myth that Bush is in charge. Until now, it's been all speculation about Vice President Cheney's influence. With the revelation of the tandem testimony, nobody with a straight face can deny Cheney is a co-president or worse, the puppeteer who pulls Bush's strings.
Does this even matter? Do the people who don't already know this even care?
If you're not a subscriber, this would be a good one to buy.
Here's one right up Fontana's alley: the gayest seeming (but not gay) member or ally of the Bush administration. You can vote (but Derbyshire's not included).
This isn't a new insight, but Gary Hart is the person with the highest profile that has said it.
You know why I think George Tenet is still in his job? I think there are smoking guns all over the White House. I think if you crack the White House safe, you're going to find memos from Tenet saying, "The terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming."
So you think the intelligence community was giving Bush information he should have acted on before 9/11?
Precisely. And that's the only explanation I can think of for why no one's been fired. Which leaves open the possibility that the president misled the American people.
Is this simple enough for everyone?
Prosecutors investigating whether someone in the Bush administration improperly disclosed the identity of a C.I.A. officer have expanded their inquiry to examine whether White House officials lied to investigators or mishandled classified information related to the case, lawyers involved in the case and government officials say.
Mr. Fitzgerald is said by lawyers involved in the case and government officials to be examining possible discrepancies between documents he has gathered and statements made by current or former White House officials during a three-month preliminary investigation last fall by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department. Some officials spoke to F.B.I. agents with their lawyers present; others met informally with agents in their offices and even at bars near the White House.
The suspicion that someone may have lied to investigators is based on contradictions between statements by various witnesses in F.B.I. interviews, the lawyers and officials said. The conflicts are said to be buttressed by documents, including memos, e-mail messages and phone records turned over by the White House.
In my last "what if you won the lottery?" conversation, my friend stipulated that we would give X,Y, and Z to charity and our families, but what he wanted to know was what I would do for myself. It's a good question when you strip the generous humanitarian stuff away. He said he'd buy an island and pay leading academics to come tutor him. That's a thought. Though the academics would get bored and you'd miss the company of other minds, and, well, I think you'd wind up founding a university. That's a fine thing. As I recall (and in keeping with my noted sociability) I think I said I'd buy a big-ass ship and make for the middle of the ocean. That still sounds pretty good, but lately I'd like to make some trouble before I go.
I'm probably about ten years behind on this one, but I'm listening to Michelle Shocked's Short Sharp Shocked and damn it's good.
I don't have astute political analysis, but I do have a story about Ric Flair and a lawsuit, filed by flight attendants, about Flair (and others) behaving badly on a charter flight:
In the below Superior Court lawsuit, Taralyn Cappellano and Heidi Doyle claim that the grapplers--including "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall, and Dustin "Goldust" Runnells--engaged in "extreme and outrageous" behavior on the flight. Flair (pictured right), for instance, was dressed only in one of his famous robes and was seen "spinning" his penis around. Hall, whose booze problems have been well chronicled, allegedly made a variety of crass remarks to the women. The lawsuit does not specify monetary damages.
Flair I can understand, but I always expected more from Razor Ramon.
Yeah, I know what you need:
Unfogged will sometimes treat of matters of philosophy, and, despite being written by flaming closet homosexuals, it will also treat of matters pertaining to naked girlies. How nice, then, to find Diablo Cody, stripper, proprietor of the Pussy Ranch, and tease to Twin Cities philosophy professors.
It pains me to say it, but this piece on the decline of SportsCenter is right on. When Dan and Keith were anchors, they didn't just have the right attitude at the right time: they were really good, and really funny. Favorite Olbermann line of all time: "The USA [national basketball team] beat China by 66 points. We didn't beat Grenada by 66 points."
Amen to this.
You know what we NEVER learn how to do? How to break up with friends. I'm not sure most of us learn particularly well how to break up with lovers, but that happens and we fumble through and over time we kind of get a clue about how it works and feels and what's really sleazy and what's reasonably decent. But friendships end, too, and we have no clue how to do it. In fact, it's not even acknowledged that it happens and we duck behind supermarket shelves or dread invitations for parties we have to go to see friends we don't like. And nobody talks about it. Isn't that weird? Also, there's no friendship equivalent of the "gee, thanks for the interest, but I think of you more as a friend" conversation that most everyone has had with the opposite sex. "Thanks for thinking of me, but I see you as more of an acquaintance, really."
I think my current friends (most of whom I can't stand, obviously) are incredulous when I say I try not to make many friends because they're so damn hard to get rid of. But it's true. And there's a good reason. Unlike Scheherazade, I'm not sure that breaking up with a friend is a matter of skill. There's no possible good way to do it, because being dumped as a friend is a much harsher rejection of the dumpee as a person than being dumped as a lover. Lovers get to talk about "chemistry" and the mysteries of love, but dumping someone as a friend means just one thing: I don't like you (yes, you). You can dump a lover and still credibly claim to like (or even love) them, but you can't dump a friend and say the same thing. So, no matter how tactfully it's done, the only proper response to being dumped as a friend is: yeah, I never really liked you either, and your ass is saggy.
A man accused of attacking an apartment dweller he thought had "chatted" with him on the Internet about fulfilling a rape fantasy pleaded guilty today to one count of residential burglary....
The victim said she struggled with her attacker, thinking he was going to kill her. She testified that she began yelling and grabbed the man's testicles. She said the man asked her what her "chat name" was, then she was able to escape....
Howard told police he had been communicating with a person and that she had given him clues about where to find her in the Mira Mesa area.Clues? Don't you think that if you're going to go rape somebody, you might want to get an address?
Mark Schmitt, once again demonstrating that the best posts are by people who know what the hell they're talking about.
I'm currently under the weather, confined more or less to bed, and this means: bad radio! Whence I heard that Bowling for Soup song "Punk rock 101":
It's stupid, contagious
To be broke and famous
Can someone please save us from punk rock 101
My Dickies your sweatbands
My spiked hair, your new vans
Let's throw up our rock hands for punk rock 101
Now, this isn't a great song, but it passes the time while you're waiting for the ibuprofen to work, and brings to mind the song that changed everything. And it (cutely) refers to another song that changed everything, albeit for a different demographic, viz., "Livin' on a prayer."
The story never changes, just the names and faces
Like Tommy and Gina they're living on a prayer
What a rokken tune: complete with the truck-driver's gear shift and the big triplet!
In other pop news: is 'tipsy' great or terrible? My answer: great, but because of, not in spite of, the inane lyrics:
Three, then comes the four to the five to the six
Suckas run into me, I ain't gotta say I'm rich
Yes single man I ain't tryin to get hitched
Palabris is a new, understated, and well-written liberal group blog--worth a look.
The liberal answer to right-wing radio, Air America, is on. You can find the stream here.
In a sign that I'm probably a great blogger and a very boring human being, I became curious about which sites would be the first hit for google searches on common first names. The results, dear people of earth, might surprise you.
David. As in Bowie.
Matthew. Yes, Yglesias.
Mark. Some bozo whose site isn't working at the moment. (No offense dude, but I'm trying to do some science here.) [ahem. It's back up now. Go ahead, dive in.]
Michael. You're surprised, but not surprised: Moore.
For the ladies.
Mary. Mother of Christ.
Linda. Welcome to Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center. What, Linda Evans isn't still trading on her Dynasty fame?
Sarah. Never would have guessed: McLachlan.
Am I finished?
Ogged. Bring it home, baby.
Unf. Just happens to point to where my beloved co-blogger got his degree.
Bob. This seems appropriate.
Fontana Labs. Booya! Posting has its rewards.
[Franklin C. Miller], a senior national security official who worked alongside Richard A. Clarke on Sept. 11, 2001, is disputing central elements of Mr. Clarke's account of events in the White House Situation Room that day, declaring that it "is a much better screenplay than reality was."
The discrepancies aren't about matters of great import, but Miller is unequivocal about differences between his recollection and Clarke's account.
I thought we were all just getting taller. Not so.
Humans are an ever-improving species, the old evolution charts tell us; each generation is smarter, sleeker, and taller than the last. Yet in Northern Europe over the past twelve hundred years human stature has followed a U-shaped curve: from a high around 800 A.D., to a low sometime in the seventeenth century, and back up again. Charlemagne was well over six feet; the soldiers who stormed the Bastille a millennium later averaged five feet and weighed a hundred pounds.
It's a fascinating article, because one of the findings is that while Europeans (and Asians) have been getting taller (especially the damn Dutch--I'm six feet tall and I felt like a damn midget when I was in Holland a couple of years ago), Americans have not. And it's not for the reason you think.
The obvious answer would seem to be immigration. The more Mexicans and Chinese there are in the United States, the shorter the American population becomes. But the height statistics that Komlos cites include only native-born Americans who speak English at home, and he is careful to screen out people of Asian and Hispanic descent. In any case, according to Richard Steckel, who has also analyzed American heights, the United States takes in too few immigrants to account for the disparity with Northern Europe.
Can't blame the Mexicans for this one (the low-hanging tree branches that whack you in the head while you're jogging are another matter, however). Americans aren't growing, apparently, because 1) too many of us are poor and not properly nourished and 2) even the wealthy are eating like shit.
In a recent British study, one group of schoolchildren was given hamburgers, French fries, and other familiar lunch foods; the other was fed nineteen-forties-style wartime rations such as boiled cabbage and corned beef. Within eight weeks, the children on the rations were both taller and slimmer than the ones on a regular diet.
How depressing is that?
The whole article is well worth reading, because it's full of neat counterintuitive nuggets. Mmm, nuggets.
No, my name is not Paris Hilton. I've just been to this fun toy, which tells you about your zip code. Kind of like an online quiz, instead of "what nation are you?" it's "what person are you?"
Young singles and single parents make their way to Mobility Blues, a segment of working-class neighborhoods in America's satellite cities. Racially mixed and under 25 years old, these transient Americans tend to have modest lifestyles due to their lower-income blue-collar jobs. Surveys show they excel in going to movies, playing basketball and shooting pool.
Well, I have a modest lifestyle, but I'm terrible at basketball and pool. On the other hand, when it comes to buying movie tickets, I got mad skillz.
Via Kevin Drum's defense of David Brooks.
We have it on semi-reliable authority that the Bush administration's next attempt to discount Richard Clarke's credibility will consist of alleging that he's a big gay. We have a little trouble figuring out how being gay makes you unable to assess threats to a country's national security -- after all, we trust them to tell us what to wear. Still, it is a great strategy.
That is, as long as you don't believe there any other homosexuals on the Bush national security team.
Will they do this? I don't know. It might be a trap to get the Dems to attack Rice personally so that she can play victim. In any case, they're desperate, and pretty sleazy, if you think about it for just a second.
Commentary on the Lord of the Rings, from Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.
Zinn: Don't forget the Black Gate. The Black Gate, which, as Tolkien points out, was built by Gondor. And now we jump to the Orcs chopping down the trees in Isengard.
Chomsky: A terrible thing the Orcs do here, isn't it? They destroy nature. But again, what have we seen, time and time again?
Zinn: The Orcs have no resources. They're desperate.
Chomsky: Desperate people driven to do desperate things.
Zinn: Desperate to compete with the economic powerhouses of Rohan and Gondor.
Zinn: Now Frodo, son of Drogo, agrees to take the ring to Mount Doom. Something tells me that no one in Mordor calls it Mount Doom.
Chomsky: And everyone baits Frodo into this. "You are our agent, going on a suicide mission. You have to do it for the Motherland."
Zinn: So is Frodo the Mohammed Atta figure in this story?
Chomsky: He's a fanatical true believer. And crazy. Obviously, totally insane.
Zinn: And listen to what Aragorn tells Frodo: "You have my sword."
Chomsky: So militaristic.
The latest Republican ploy against Clarke was to insinuate that he lied in prior testimony to Congress and to threaten that they would declassify that testimony to reveal that he's a perjurer. Clarke, today:
Clarke told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he "would welcome" that declassification. He also said Rice's private testimony before the commission should be declassified, as well as e-mails, memos and all other correspondence between Rice and Clarke.
"Let's declassify everything," Clarke said.
He's so good. And since the administration tried to use his gracious letter of resignation against him, Clarke read from Bush's farewell note to him.
Clarke also fired back at the administration by reading Bush's response to his resignation letter.
Noting it was in the president's handwriting, Clarke said the letter read that he would "be missed. You served our nation with distinction and honor," and had "left a positive mark on our government."
"He thinks I served with distinction and honor," Clarke said, while "the rest of his staff is out there to destroy me."
Busy day today, but I'll try to watch the Meet the Press interview at some point. I can't get enough Dick.
UPDATE: You can download Clarke's Meet the Press interview here. He continues to kick ass throughout. But saying he voted for Gore will be used against him.