Friday, October 31, 2008


Here's a Halloween treat from Bruce Springsteen--some murderous swampy blues about a New Jersey legend to scare your socks off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


These vintage Halloween images are souvenirs of a time when the holiday was truly scary, when kids wore costumes and trick-or-treated for miles in the dark, unchaperoned! This was before the Big Lock-up. I bet there were just as many weirdos back then--axe murderers and child molesters and creepy lunatics crouching behind trees--but nothing stopped these brave kids from hitting the streets with a paper sack or a pillowcase and big candy dreams.

Remember? It was finally Halloween, and you were giddy. Everything was a little crazy. Maybe you got cupcakes at school, that was okay, but you couldn't wait for nightfall. At home you gulped down dinner and considered your costume, which was generally a highly flammable affair with a mask that all but obscured your vision. Halloween night was generally rainy and dark and cold, so you had to align the eye-holes perfectly to see a porchlight, say, or an oncoming car in the wet streets. You couldn't really breathe, either, but breathing wasn't that important compared to the accumulation of candy, ranking somewhat lower on the Hierarchy of Need.

It was rough going. Many were lost in the first few hours. If you were smart you payed attention, learned the ropes, and humped your sack up the hills. Word traveled fast about particularly scary spots. Some adults were generous and friendly, and some were assholes, just like now. Some dressed up and got drunk. Some pretended they weren't home. Some had the best candy. (Best candy: Fun-size Snickers, or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Worst candy: Smartees.)

Like nervous crows signaling a predator, trick-or-treaters spread the word about roving high school kids--still feeling a little burnt about leaving this all behind--some armed with squirt guns and fire crackers. They'd scream and yell and give chase, trying to steal your hard-earned candy. They were huge, maybe ten feet tall, and they had claws that you could feel at your back, but you were small and fast and could dive under bushes and over fences and into backyards, and you had the advantage everywhere but in the huge open spaces where there wasn't any cover, fields and parks and intersections, because they could outrun you there, so you avoided these places at all costs.

Here are two kids preparing for Halloween. Their suits are suitably flammable, and their masks successfully impair their vision. They are so ready! Before they leave the house, some adult (a big brother? a parent?) will warn them about razor blades in apples. They will never see one. In fact, they won't see much of anything, including oncoming traffic. Still, they will brave the elements and all the monsters their imaginations can conjure up, and they will get the candy, plenty of candy, and they will stagger home like combat vets. Jack-o-lanterns will light their way.


Halloween is just around the corner. Here are some scary songs--not your standard rubber-headed monster mash crap--but some truly scary songs about about murder, madness, and the dark clouds in the crystal ball.

"Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave. Have you ever walked past a murderer in a crowded street? Probably. "You'll see him in your nightmares, you'll see him in your dreams..."

"Magic" by Bruce Springsteen. "I wrote this song about how we live in this Orwellian time," Springsteen says, "when what's true can be made to seem like a lie, and a lie can be made to seem true. The song's not about magic, it's about tricks and their consequences." Let's hope the future is not foretold in the chilling final verse.

"Cold, Cold Ground," by Tom Waits. Don't let the gruff manner and rumpled suit fool you; Tom is the fool who speaks the truth. In medieval mystery plays, a buffoon or prankster often got the better of the Devil in a game of wits. Here Tom goes toe to toe with El Diablo.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849), short story writer, novelist, poet, and perennial favorite around Halloween. One of the earliest practitioners of the short story, Poe is also credited with inventing the detective mystery, but his stock-in-trade was the macabre: The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Premature Burial, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Tell-Tale Heart. Poe's death was befittingly mysterious, and has been attributed to a variety of causes, including alcoholism, cholera, tuberculosis, drug abuse, and suicide.

I painted his portrait because I've always liked Poe, but confess I first encountered his work in those cheesy 1960s adaptations starring Vincent Price. As I later learned, the films played fast and loose with the stories and sometimes ignored them completely, so it's worth reading the originals some dark night.

Vincent Price still creeps me out. Here, he reads "The Raven."

In "Vincent," a short animated film by Tim Burton, a boy wants to be Vincent Price. The story is narrated by Vincent Price, too. Makes sense.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


"Judith Beheading Holofernes," by Caravaggio, 1599

We usually look at art in nearly church-like settings--hushed, respectful museums and galleries--but some of the greatest artists were far from polite. In fact, some were outright thugs--Caravaggio springs to mind, painting brilliantly between drunken brawls and swordfights, finally fleeing Rome to escape murder charges with a price on his head. It would be hard to imagine the brooding master thriving in our current art scene, chatting up suburbanites over cheese platters on First Thursday. You just know someone would get skewered.

"Caravaggio," from Simon Schama's BBC series, Power of Art

Other artists had their battles on canvas. They didn't paint to pacify us with beauty, but to strong-arm us into seeing the world in a new way. In the last century, Pablo Picasso punched us in the nose and rearranged our faces. Henri Matisse did the same thing, albeit more gently, lyrically, with a few brushstrokes or paper cut-outs.

"Bull Skull, Fruit, and Pitcher," by Pablo Picasso, 1939

To some, "The Fight of the Century" will always be Ali vs. Frazier at the Garden in 1971, and to others the Kennedy/Nixon presidential debate, or maybe Hemingway walloping F. Scott Fitzgerald outside Les Deux Magots. Some say it was a battle of the bands, when the Stones followed James Brown on the TAMI Show, or when the Clash opened for the Who in 1980. My vote would be the clash between the two best artists of the twentieth century, Picasso and Matisse, who shook hands and came out painting.

Picasso and Matisse were the heavyweights, the undisputed masters of modern art. In 2003, their lifelong dialog was celebrated at the Museum of Modern Art. In this clip, Charlie Rose discusses the "Matisse Picasso" show with the MoMa curators, Kirk Varnedoe and John Elderfield.

"Icarus," by Henri Matisse, 1947

Friday, October 24, 2008


Looks like Andy Griffith, Opie, and even The Fonz are backing Barack Obama. This does not bode well for McCain and Palin, who have aggressively waged a smear campaign of robo-calls and nasty character attacks in Mayberry.

Confronted with this small town rejection, an extremely well-dressed Palin had no comment, but reiterated that Obama was indeed a Muslim Socialist out to raise Aunt Bea's taxes and marry Floyd the barber. McCain only growled.

A great clip starring Ron Howard, Andy Griffith, and Henry Winkler.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Technically, Lawrence Welk was never part of the 1960s counter-culture. In fact, culturally-speaking, he was probably as close to a perfect square as was geometrically possible. He loved his polkas and played them tirelessly for his adoring fans in a galaxy of champagne bubbles.

Sometimes the champagne music wasn't enough. Those times Welk went searching the mean streets for something stronger, something wilder. For Kicks. We may never know what was actually going on behind that smile, the friendly demeanor, and the insistence that everything was "Wunnerful, Wunnerful!" All we have are these clues.

In this clip, the Lawrence Welk singers describe the disorienting effects of smoking too much marijuana in a train station. As the singers weave their haunting spell, the music builds in intensity, approximating the drug user's "high." Was Welk a closet hipster sending secret messages to fellow druggies? Or was this a desperate cry for help?

In the clip below, Welk has clearly turned into a hippie. Must have been all that grass. His friends hardly recognize him, and his aggressive behavior seems "out of character." Fortunately, an impromptu intervention sets him on the right path.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


What's eating The Nuge? It sounds like The Motor City Madman got up on the wrong side of the futon this morning. Well-known as a cranky right-wing gun nut, this hairy rocker still manages to surprise us with his vitriolic shock 'n' y'all nonsense, and this morning the cranky caveman philosopher had me screaming at the computer. Instead of having an aneurysm, I decided to have some fun and "sublimate" the experience by conducting a make-believe interview with Ted--using his actual quotes from the Village Voice (Oct. 20, 08).

Call it
Bob and Ted's Excellent Misadventure, and be warned there is a language advisory:

9lbhammer: How you feeling, Ted? You look a little deranged, to be honest. You eating right? Getting plenty of rest?

Ted Nugent: (all Ted's words are actual quotations) Well, I woke up one morning, as I do every morning, for the last 60 years. My middle finger was on fire. I roasted adequate amounts of marshmallows upon said flames and I thought I would share it with my fellow civilians.

9lbhammer: Other than roasting marshmallows on your middle finger, what have you been up to? Your last hit record was "Cat Scratch Fever" back in the seventies, and before that was "Tobacco Road" with the Amboy Dukes during the Nixon Administration. What are you doing these days? Still making records?

Ted: I have no current projects...If it wasn't for Sarah Palin, I'd move to fuckin' Sweden. It's pretty pathetic. I don't think you can be "pretty pathetic." It's mighty pathetic. Barack Obama, I guess if you want to be Mao Tse Tung I suppose you can be. I just don't think you should be the president of America. Call me weird. If you really study the Communist Party of America, if you go to their website and check out their bullet points, it is the Democrat Party bullet points. It is Barack Obama.

9lbhammer: If not for Palin, you'd move to Sweden? I hate to tell you, Ted, but Sweden is a socialist country. Has been for years. According to Forbes, "Cradle-to-grave security is the rule in Sweden, and has been since the early 1950s (the country went socialist in 1932). Go on the dole in Sweden, for example, and you can get 80% of your last job's pay for at least five years." And taxes? Sweden has the highest tax quota (as percentage of GDP) in the industrialized world. On top of that, around eighty percent of the Swedish labor force is unionized, and I know you hate unions.

Ted: Am I out of line here? Did I miss the reintroduction of communism and how it benefited society? Maybe that chapter evaded me. Remember a minute ago, when I said "fuck you?" You might want to play that over the loudspeaker system wherever you go.

9lbhammer: You're flogging a new book, Ted, White and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto, in which you espouse a crypto-fascist populism that makes the Michigan Militia sound like the Ballet Rousse. Frankly, I find your philosophy is a little disturbing.
Why so cranky?

Ted: If you really study what Obama and Biden claim are the poverty level, how about this… fuck you. How about double fuck you. I do federal raids with federal marshals and the Texas rangers, and we kick down the doors of these fuckin' mongrels. And they're under the poverty level. But they've all got meth, they've all got crack, they all got whiskey, they all got a Monte Carlo with new fuckin' wheels on it.

9lbhammer: So much for the poor. What about immigrants? Your view of immigration is just short of Aryan Nations. Care to comment?

Ted: The Nugent family has no invaders. We don't have any welfare, we don't have any crime, we don't need anymore money thrown at our education....and we certainly don't have any invaders, because the message is loud and clear: invade the Nugent property and die. I'm not gonna say "hey you," I'm gonna shoot you in the fuckin' head. Just like all my fellow Texans. Be nice, I'll buy you a fuckin' brisket. Steal from my neighbor, I'll kill ya. Come on. Illegal invaders, especially during the war on terror, should die. Illegal invaders, war on terror, don't invade or we'll kill ya.

9lbhammer: It just came out that the Republicans spent Sarah Palin $150,000 for her hair and clothes in the last month, but she's got nothing on your sense of style. Do you think you could field-dress a moose faster than Palin?

Ted: I'm a disciplined man. I'm 60 years old, and I've gained about 20 pounds since I graduated from high school, mostly muscle, by the way.

9lbhammer: What would you say to the candidates?

Ted: Barack, fuck you. Joe, fuck you. John McCain...We are voting Republican this year, not because of John McCain as much as for Sarah Palin.

9lbhammer: Thanks, Ted.

Ted: Fuck you.

Ted and the last of the species.

Check the source: the interview in its entirety here.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Sarah Palin remarked that she loved visiting the "pro-America" parts of the country, and maybe the McCain camp will clarify her statement, but probably not. They're too busy putting out fires--and starting them--as they continue to "go negative" in the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

With her statement, Palin implied that many of us live in an "anti-American" America, which is ludicrous, but maybe not to Palin. If by "pro-America," she means supporting her red-baiting, robo-calling, swift-boating, racially-overtoned, slanderous, Karl Rove-directed campaign, she might be right. In that case, her narrowly defined America--let's call it Narrow America--is rapidly shrinking and I'm not surprised she's sounding so desperate and shrill.

If by being "pro-America" she means shouting "Kill him!" when Obama's name is mentioned, or agreeing that Obama's tax plan is dangerous socialism, and that he "pals around with terrorists," then I live outside that Narrow America.

To Palin and Company, it seems that "pro-America" means anti-science, anti-feminist, anti-minority, anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-environment, and anti-intellectual.

If by "pro-America" she means waving a McCain placard, then most of the country wouldn't qualify. Obama is making serious inroads in the red states. The McCain camp is losing and feeling desperate, and if "pro-America" means running a campaign based on scare tactics and bald-faced lies, thank goodness we're not in that Narrow America.

If by "pro-America" she means supporting corporate profits over people, deregulation over consumer safety, racism over tolerance, superstition over science, and war over peace, I'm glad I don't live in Palin's Narrow America.

Outside Sarah Palin's narrowly-defined America, honesty is still important, and winning isn't the only thing, but winning fair and square. It may sound corny and naive, but throwing sand in your opponent's eyes isn't okay where I live. Outside Palin's Narrow America, the Constitution still carries some weight, and so does the Geneva Convention, even though they've both taken a beating these past eight years.


Sunday, October 19, 2008


In case you worked the graveyard shift last night, or were up late studying Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, or had simply miscalculated the proper combination of drugs and alcohol and flamed out early, here is the much-ballyhooed Tina Fey and her dingy doppelganger Sarah Palin on SNL last night.

Once again the latte-drinking New York liberals practiced their godless comedy on good sport Sarah. Good sport, like aerial wolf-hunting. If there is a God, an all-powerful God who isn't just rolling dice and toying with us, may He (or She) bless our great nation and send Palin back tout de suite to her tiny world of pork barrel bridges and beauty pageants and small-town tundra corruption.

Somebody say Amen!

Tina Fey, as I know and love her

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Levi Stubbs (1936-2008) lead singer and powerhouse behind Motown soul group The Four Tops died at 72 in his hometown of Detroit. The NBC Nightly News tribute (above) is worth watching if you were a fan, or if you just want to hear humorless anchorman Brian Williams uttering the words "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch."

Stubbs was best known for singing such hits as "It's the Same Old Song" (1965), "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" (1965), "Reach Out" (1966), and "Standing in the Shadows of Love" (1967). A personal favorite of mine is the Tops' soulful rendition of The Left Banke's baroque pop nugget "Walk Away, Renee," which they covered in 1968.

In 1986, folk punker Billy Bragg paid tribute to the soul man with the ballad "Levi Stubbs' Tears."

Back in the Day: The Four Tops, in 1967, in some snappy sharkskin suits; Levi Stubbs at far right. Below is a clip from 1960s American pop TV show, Shindig.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Hey, it's been a hell of a week but the weekend is finally here and just to show you I'm not just some boring doctrinaire politico with an axe to grind (and even if I am) here's a nice little pop song to make you tap your feet and feel good inside. Sure, you can fight against it--the Tinkertoy organ, the pseudo-highlife rhythm, the strained vocals--but if you can loosen up and quit being a wet blanket, a buzzkill, and a playa hater you might actually enjoy this. Or go ahead and be a stick in the mud. Suit yourself. See if I care.

vampire weekend

You had me fooled! You tricked me. You got it now. A glass of brunello and a back rub wouldn't hurt, either...but this music is a great place to start and the words are clever, especially if you spend an inordinate amount of time reading and writing. Can you make them out? ("I've seen those English dramas, too...") Do you give a toss about an Oxford Comma?

(The Oxford Comma referred to in the song is the optional comma used before the word "and" at the end of a series; for example, in this sentence -- "Like the absinthe, the harlot was herbaceous, louche, and faintly green in the gaslight" --the comma after "louche" is an Oxford Comma, sometimes called a Harvard Comma, or a serial comma.)


Joe the Plumber sure came in handy during the last presidential debate. He was mentioned no less than two dozen times, and addressed directly by the candidates, and as a result, Joe was catapulted into fame as a symbol of the average working man facing "much higher taxes" under Obama's tax plan. Maybe he was a little too handy, in fact. It turns out Joe the Plummer (c) isn't exactly what he seems.

For starters, his name's not Joe, and he's not a licensed plumber.

"Joe the Plumber's story sprang a few leaks Thursday," says the Associated Press.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle (Story of Joe the Plumber Springs Many Leaks, Oct. 17, 2008) the "icon of the authentic working-class voter" is a fake.

"His first name isn't really Joe. It's Samuel.

He's not really a plumber--at least not a licensed one.

He's concerned about increased taxes - but hasn't paid his own income taxes.

And he's not exactly just a guy from Ohio.

He's lived in Arizona ... and Alaska.

He is registered as a Republican, and voted in the state's GOP primary in March, county elections records show. But he was previously registered, dating back to 2007, in the Natural Law Party." -SF Chronicle

According to, an independent non-partisan group,"McCain said 'Joe the plumber' faced 'much higher taxes' under Obama’s tax plan and would pay a fine under Obama’s health care plan if he failed to provide coverage for his workers. But Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher would pay higher taxes only if the business he says he wants to buy puts his income over $200,000 a year, and his small business would be exempt from Obama’s requirement to provide coverage for workers."

Update from FactCheck: ABC News reported the morning after the debate that Wurzelbacher admitted to a reporter that he won't actually make enough from his new plumbing business to pay Obama's higher tax rates. ABC said his admission "would seem to indicate that he would be eligible for an Obama tax cut."

Read the SF Chronicle story HERE.

Candid shot of "That One" and "Fibber" McCain at the final debate

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The final presidential debate is over, and just when you thought you could put on your slippers, pour yourself three fingers of Maker's Mark and play some Nina Simone, the alarm rings. It ain't over yet, to use the vernacular, so keep your boots on. There are more tricks in store--or at the very least roadblocks to a fair election. Some key, swing states are taking action to block voters from the polls.

"The important point to realize is that these abuses aren't aberrations. They're the inevitable result of a Republican Party culture in which dirty tricks that distort the vote are rewarded, not punished. It's a culture that will persist until voters - whose will still does count, if expressed strongly enough - hold that party accountable." - Paul Krugman, Nobel Prizewinner,"Block the Vote"

The New York Times article (State's Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal, Oct. 8, 2008) suggests this could even throw the election in swing states. Read the article here.

"The six swing states seem to be in violation of federal law in two ways. Michigan and Colorado are removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, which is not allowed except when voters die, notify the authorities that they have moved out of state, or have been declared unfit to vote. Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio seem to be improperly using Social Security data to verify registration applications for new voters." - NYT, Oct 8, 2008

Today, the Times has another disturbing article, Ruling May Impede Thousands of Ohio Voters, which can be read here.

Like father, like son: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. fights against voter registration fraud and election balloting discrepancies with Steal Back Your Vote (, an organization he runs with BBC investigative journalist Greg Palast.

Robert Kennedy Jr, has written extensively about voter fraud in the 2004 election (Was the 2004 Election Stolen--link here) and now suggests the 2008 election may already be stolen. Read his article about hacking the election here.

Kennedy and Palast have a new article in the current Rolling Stone about stealing the 2008 election, Block the Vote, and can be read here.

Watch the Kennedy/Palast video, Steal Back Your Vote! here:

(Recent update from the Wall Street Journal, Oct. 18: "Court Ruling Stokes Voter-Fraud Fight," click here)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


El Kabong rides again! I'm waiting for the debate (Will Obama nail it? Will McNasty unveil a new dirty trick?) but I decided to bite my tongue and post this colorful Mexican cartoon instead. Don't read too much into it. Sure, there is a sub-text of good vs. evil and that might resonate with the debate, but only unconsciously, because basically this is just a simple folk tale, what Joseph Campbell called the underlying mono-myth of the hero's journey, and El Kabong is the hero.

You may disagree, and I respect that, but El is the hero and I make no bones about it. Bandits hold the town, they've ransacked the banks, they've kidnapped the girl, and it's high noon, so don't let his strange sounding name put you off, or his mask. El Kabong offers hope and a change we can believe in. I know some of you remain skeptical and can't decide between El and the dastardly Bad Guy, and that's your right, but what do you need? Have you been paying attention to the damn cartoon?!?


Tom Waits does a pawn shop marimba in beautiful B movie black and white. You can't beat this clip. The old boxer is played by the legendary Jake LaMotta, the Raging Bull ( 83 wins--30 by knockout, 19 losses and 4 draws). Okay, tough guys don't dance, but scarecrow Tom does a moonlight jig beneath the window that jiggers the machinery of night. Nobody can take a punch like Jake, but Tom knocks him out. It's late! Who is this guy keeping all of Brooklyn awake? He's the coyote trickster, the beat boxer, the angelheaded hipster, the heartbroken thief--all the midnight archetypes rolled into one shabby suit--and he's thinking about a girl on a train.

Tom Waits is a national treasure. Buy the man a drink.

B movie man, John Garfield. Believing he killed a man in a drunken brawl, a prizefighter spends his life on the run. "They Made Me a Criminal," 1939

Monday, October 13, 2008


In case you haven't heard, Paul Krugman, economist, columnist, and professor at Princeton, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. For the non-econ layperson, Krugman is probably best known for his twice-weekly New York Times column in which he discusses trade theory and has been a constant critic of the George W. Bush administration's foreign and domestic policies.

Undoubtedly, Bush would've been happier if the Swedes had awarded a postumous prize to Milton Friedman, patron saint of the neo-cons and grand guru of the movement for unfettered capitalism. Friedman, to whom even a state-run educational system reeked of socialism, died in 2006 and now resides in the ninth circle of hell where everyone pays handsomely for ice water.

Krugman, on the other hand, is a liberal and progressive, though not in any narrow sense. Knowing very little about economics, we will believe the Nobel Committee when they tell us the good professor has "integrated the previously disparate research fields of international trade and economic geography." As the economy continues its dizzying tailspin and people make uneasy jokes about living in a bleak, Cormac McCarthy future world foraging for food with sharp sticks, this is somehow reassuring.

Krugman on the Bill Maher Show, on the current crisis:

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Rosanne and her father, Johnny Cash

If you're like me, you love Johnny Cash--and the whole damn Cash family. If you think country music is all slick and heartless and commercial (Toby Keith leaps to mind) you should explore the classic country of the Cash family, along with the heartsick blues of Hank Williams, the sweet pop of Patsy Cline, and the tooled-leather ballads of Willie Nelson. These folks have soul, pure and simple.

And they're not all knee-jerk conservative dunderheads, either. Rosanne Cash just wrote a great piece for The Nation, entitled "Why I'd Be a Better VP than Sarah Palin." It's well worth reading, so click HERE.

Here is a clip of Rosanne Cash and another outlaw country liberal--Steve Earle--singing a juke-joint classic penned by Roseanne, "Seven Year Itch."

Friday, October 10, 2008


"A legislative investigation has concluded that Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power in pushing for the firing of an Alaska state trooper who was once married to her sister, or by failing to prevent her husband Todd from doing so." - Anchorage Daily News, 10/10/08

"Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin violated ethics laws and abused her power as governor in pressing to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, an independent legislative investigation concluded today." -- Los Angeles Times, 10/10/08

"No matter your partisan leanings, it's hard to see this as a good headline for Palin with less than a month to go before the election." - Washington Post, 10/10/08

Wednesday, October 8, 2008



Believe it or not, there's a whole world out there. It exists beyond the Comfort Zone, beyond the Green Zone, beyond the reality TV and the mega-mall and the air-conditioned hotel lobby, beyond the walled cities and armed borders.

These rebel songs are a reminder that people everywhere want the same things. Starting in Mexico, and then Argentina, and finally on to Jamaica for a song from Bob Marley.



Monday, October 6, 2008


First off, don't believe Sarah Palin. Five Myths about John McCain is a video by Tim Dickinson, contributing editor of Rolling Stone Magazine, extracted from his cover article, Make-Believe Maverick. This is a must-read essay in which Dickinson categorically debunks the "maverick" image McCain and his minions are trying to convey.

Dickinson's article, Make-Believe Maverick, is available here.

After McCain and Palin exaggerated Obama's connections with 60's radical Bill Ayers and claimed he was "palling around with terrorists," Obama hit back with information about McCain and the Keating Five scandal. If McCain wants to wrestle with the past, two can play this game. Actually, it's a different game entirely, because the Keating Five scandal has direct relevance to our current financial crisis.

This morning, the Obama camp directed people to a brand new web site,, about McCain's involvement in the financial scandal. The website presents information and this 13-minute documentary called "Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis.''

You can watch it here:

Sunday, October 5, 2008



McCain and Palin want to throw sand in your eyes. The collapsing economy--which McCain typified as rock solid just before it crashed--has left their campaign flatfooted, so they're pouring on the sleaze in the homestretch. Desperate to get their numbers up, and distract us from the real issues facing the nation, the Republicans are reverting to what they do best: attacking character. From now until the election, expect a campaign of fear and loathing.

According to the Washington Post, "McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said."

Sarah Palin is claiming Obama doesn't believe in America, and he "pals around with terrorists." She is referring to Obama's association (what the NYTimes calls "sporadic interactions") with 60's radical, Bill Ayers, "a founder of the Weathermen who later became an education professor in Chicago and worked on education projects there with Mr. Obama." (New York Times)

According to the Associated Press, "...though [Palin} may have scored a political hit each time, her attack was unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret."

I don't think he'll regret anything, if it works. Greg Strimple, one of his top advisers, said the campaign will be very aggressive the last 30 days. "We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama's aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans."

The trouble is, a campaign of bald-faced lies and dirty tricks can work!

According the Associated Press, "Effective character attacks have come earlier in campaigns. In June 1988, Republican George H.W. Bush criticized Democrat Michael Dukakis over the furlough granted to Willie Horton, a convicted murderer who then raped a woman and stabbed her companion. Related TV ads followed in September and October.

"The Vietnam-era Swift Boat veterans who attacked Democrat John Kerry's war record started in the spring of 2004 and gained traction in late summer."

From CBS News: "'We think the McCain campaign made a huge error by telling the press that their strategy was to distract from the most important issue facing voters,' a senior Obama official said. 'Every attack going forward will be easy to characterize for what it is - an attempt to distract from the Bush-McCain economic record.'"

For his part, Obama is preparing for the onslaught by sticking to his guns, taking the high ground, and countering the bullshit calmly and effectively. He slammed the McCain Campaign's "sordid attacks amid economic peril." His numbers are up, and he's gaining ground. Still, it's a long time till November 4th.

Read "Obama Warns Against McCain Smear Tactics," in today's Washington Post, HERE. Here's Obama's response to the latest wave of sleaze:

As usual, check the sources:
The New York Times story if HERE
The Associated Press story is HERE
The Washington Post story is HERE
The CBS News story is HERE

Saturday, October 4, 2008


October Song

The time is right. It's October, and here's everyone's favorite funky sexy retro soul alcohol-and-substance-abusing diva, Amy Winehouse, singing October Song. We love you Amy, so kick that shit and live.

Maybe the girl can't help it. We can't help posting another Amy Winehouse clip, one of her best songs, performed live in Scotland:

Back to Black

Friday, October 3, 2008


Nick Reynolds, a founding member of the Kingston Trio, died Wednesday in San Diego, California. His smooth tenor voice helped the trio popularize folk music back in the 1950s and 60s. The Kingston Trio had huge hits with traditional ballads like "Tom Dooley," as well as comical tunes like "MTA" shown in the clip above, in which Reynolds sings lead.

“Nobody could nail a harmony part like Nick,” said Bob Shane, another founding member of the group. “He could hit it immediately, exactly where it needed to be, absolutely note perfect, all on the natch.”

The trio was wildly popular, but folk purists considered them commercial, and put them down for avoiding the political music of other folkies such as The Weavers, who were tarred as un-American traitors during the McCarthy Era witch hunts of the 1950s. (Students of history, take note: the right-wing Republican cultural wars are nothing new)

Later, as if in response to the folk purists, the Kingston Trio produced a wonderful album of political folk called "Time to Think," which was a favorite around our house when we were growing up. There has always been a-- dare I say it?--"liberal" tradition in America, and these songs reflected the struggles of the common man, the working family, the downtrodden, the screwed-over, the people working in fields and mines who wouldn't have any rights at all if they didn't organize and stand up for themselves.

Don't believe these hardshell Republicans who want to revise history and claim the flag as theirs alone; the American eagle has always had a left wing, too. The only difference is, in the past people knew the difference between miners and mineowners, and they voted accordingly. They weren't so easily bamboozled by "folksy" phonies like Palin who act like the average Joe but shill for the corporate status quo. Joe six-pack? Closer to Joe McCarthy, if you ask me.

Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, who played on people's fears and appealed to their patriotism while leading the witch hunts in the 1950s

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


"Some of these bootleggers, they make pretty good stuff," Dylan sang on Love and Theft.

He was right. Bootleggers have been coming up with some great stuff. To keep up with the demand for unreleased gems, bootleggers have been illegally issuing rarities from the Dylan archives since the very first bootleg, The Great White Wonder, was released on vinyl back in 1969.

GWW was strictly underground, under-the-table, contraband--a treasure trove of unreleased Dylan. This was the first time anyone heard him singing with The Band on such classics as "I Shall Be Released," "Open the Door Richard," "Too Much of Nothing" and "Tears of Rage." The fact that it was a bootleg, well, that was part of it--something about living outside the law, if memory serves me well.

This October 7th, Dylan will be releasing volume eight of his official bootleg series. Tell Tale Signs is comprised of demos, alternate takes, and live performances recorded between 1989 to 2006, the years Dylan gave us Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times and Oh Mercy.

Sure, these are outtakes, but don't think this is just a collection of second-hand, picked over stuff--Dylan is famous for not releasing some of his best material (a fact bootleggers are fond of reminding us when justifying their existence). I've heard the album already, and it's brilliant, but don't take my word for it. You can hear it over at NPR, where they will be streaming the album in its entirety until October 7th.

Click HERE to hear an exclusive preview of Tell Tale Signs.


Sugar Pie DeSanto sings a smoldering version of "Rock Me, Baby." She was born Umpeylia Balinton on October 16th, 1935, to an African American mother and Filipino father, and the great Johnny Otis nicknamed her Sugar Pie. Cool name, huh? She toured with Johnny's band, and with James Brown, and collaborated with another red hot mama, Etta James.

Jimi Hendrix plays his psychedelic acid rock take of "Rock Me, Baby" at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. What can you say about Hendrix? What can you say about those wacky threads and that funny cigarette he was smoking? You'd rather hear Chet Atkins?

Finally, some old guitar geezers, BB King, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Jimmy Vaughn, try their hand at "Rock Me, Baby." These oldtimers may sit down when they're playing, but they sure hit the right notes. That's about a thousand years of playing experience in those chairs, dude. Bow down.