Archive for January, 2010

The (Almost) Complete Last Waltz
January 30, 2010

I don’t think I’ve plugged PHROCK Blog here in the past, but it’s an amazing resource. For the past couple of months or so, I’ve been using it to wantonly indulge my inner John-Cusack-from-High Fidelity* and fill out my classic rock collection with everything from the standards I was missing out on (like Joan Baez; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; etc.) to the deeply obscure and weird (like, um, this).

But the greatest gem I’ve found there is four-disc box set of the Band’s final concert. Longtime readers might now I’m kind of obsessed with this concert, and the Band’s live performances in general (their studio stuff: good, but not essential). Up until now, I’ve only been listening to the two-disc remastered version, so this one is quite a find. It includes every song performed during the concert (except for the cover of “Georgia on My Mind,” which I’m going to guess was probably left off for legal reasons), most notably “Don’t Do It,” their signature signoff song. That gets left off most versions of the soundtrack, even though it plays over the film’s opening credits (see above).

There are 8 files to download, which is a lot for concert album under normal circumstances and even more when you need to deal with Rapidshare; but it’s worth it for any of you that have any interest in American roots rock. To my mind, nothing beats this.

*Okay, well, Jack Black, anyway.

From Benign Neglect to Actively Undermining HCR
January 29, 2010

“We can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold,” said President Obama during his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it health care parenthetical in Wednesday’s State of the Union address. Which is kind of funny, because putting it on hold is evidently precisely what his chief of staff intends to do.

Say what you will about Obama and Emanuel, but they’re not stupid. They know that just taking a rain check on the whole issue would be a death sentence. So Emanuel’s plan to just put it off until we’re done dealing with every single other major problem ever can only be interpreted as an attempt to kill the issue, or at least wash the White House’s hands of it.

Now, maybe there’s reason to hope, as Chait suggests, that Emanuel’s breaking with the president here. But I’m not sure that’s something we can count on, given Obama’s conspicuous absence from the whole process, to the point where even a couple of sentences in the SOTU to the effect of, “By the way, this thing is sorta important too,” were taken as a huge watershed moment in his support. Either way, I’ve yet to see any evidence that this is something he’s actually willing to fight on.

If HCR eventually passes, then the history books will no doubt say that this was one of Obama’s great domestic legislative achievements. But let’s get the record straight: as it stands right now, he’s done nothing to earn the credit. Unless he jumps on the wagon he was supposed to driving real goddamn quick, then even if it gets across the finish line, it will be someone else’s win. Right now, it seems to me our last best hope is Nancy Pelosi.

Tonight’s Dollhouse Finale
January 29, 2010

I have a post on it up at NYU Local. Here’s a preview:

Has it really been only two seasons? Joss Whedon’s kooky little show-that-almost-could may be meeting a premature end, but it’s had enough plot development and radical shifts in overall quality for a program five times its length. As I’ve written elsewhere, what started out as a subpar mission-of-the-week thriller fronted by a limited actress who was in waaaay over her head turned into a grim, challenging ensemble piece that, in its best moments, could easily be compared to Battlestar Galactica. Of course, once the show started improving on its formulaic first few episodes, it was doomed.

The last few episodes were put together after the axe had already fallen and FOX had washed their hands of the whole fiasco, giving Whedon and co. the chance to go balls-out. And that they did, producing a series of episodes (starting with “The Public Eye”) that were, dare I say, face-meltingly good. The question is if they can keep that streak up through the finale; and while I hate to rain on the Whedonite parade, I have my doubts.

Happy Friday.

My Hyper-Detailed, Policy-Heavy, Ridiculously Nuanced State of the Union Reaction
January 27, 2010

Obama said a few things I took strong exception to (sad to see him adopt the old “tightening our belts” cliché in particular). He said many more things I’m in agreement with. The problem is, the speech did nothing to increase my now dangerously depleted confidence that he would actually follow through on any of the more ambitious things he suggested. I mean, if the guy won’t fight to get a comprehensive health care reform bill passed, how can we expect him to get a comprehensive climate change bill through? At least everyone on both sides of the aisle agrees that uninsured sick people exist.

Speaking of comprehensive health care reform: what I think should have been a major part of the speech ended up as a footnote. To goddamn deficit reduction, of all things.

I suppose I can’t really evaluate the speech until at least a couple weeks from now, after we see what he actually does in its wake. Hopefully more than he’s been doing. But if he stays the course, then my first impression won’t change.

For now, I give this speech a rating of two and a half mehs.

SOTU
January 27, 2010

I won’t be liveblogging it or anything, because I doubt anyone would really care and I have readings to do for class.

However, I will have the speech blaring in the background, and be occasionally posting thoughts on Twitter and the NYU Local comments page. Which means that the odds of any reading at all getting done tonight are pretty low.

What a Difference a Week Makes
January 26, 2010

Right about now is when the smug brigade start crowing about how Obama hasn’t turned out to be the liberal messiah all his progressive supporters expected him to be. But really, that’s not what this is about. You didn’t have to expect very much of him to expect more than what we’ve gotten over the last week.

It is not, for example, very much to ask that the White House not follow in the steps of the Bush administration and detain people without trial indefinitely. And it’s certainly not very much to ask that they not retreat from what they claimed was a centerpiece of their domestic agenda (although, to be frank, I haven’t seen a whole lot of evidence for that claim).

But now the spending freeze. One terrible idea on top of another.

The president’s list of accomplishments may still be thin, but here’s one he can add to the list: he’s made me, and a lot of his other supporters, look very stupid.

Harold Ford, Political Genius
January 25, 2010

Thank god for Harold Ford’s ill-advised lunge for the NY Senate seat; national politics has gotten mighty depressing as of late, but this shit is comedy gold. Check out the ironic juxtaposition here.

From the Times (emphasis mine):

Mr. Ford, a five-term congressman from Tennessee, has given himself until the end of February to decide whether to challenge Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand in New York’s Democratic primary, but in the first week of a statewide tour, he is quickly revealing what kind of candidate he would be: an effortless retail politician, equally at ease in baroque restaurants and Baptist churches, who makes instant, Clinton-like connections with voters.

And now, from NY Daily News (via Weigel):

The two bantered about the difference between New York and Tennessee, with Dicker poking fun at Ford for pronouncing “smear” (as in: “I’ve been the victim of a smear campaign on my position on choice”) as “schmear”, prompting this exchange:

Dicker: “I think schmear is something you put on a bagel.”

Ford: “I’m a little country. I apologize…It’s “smear”, s-m-e-a-r. Y’all talk funny.”

Effortless! Instant, Clinton-like connection!

In Which I Sneak the Phrase “Ontological Relativism” Into an NYU Local Post
January 25, 2010

To elaborate on what I wrote here, I would only add that part of the problem with the “tiered reality” conception is that it’s fundamentally untenable in an open, democratic society lacking a rigid caste system. Eventually, people who aren’t privy to Strauss and Kristol’s special, holy truths are going to climb their way up the socioeconomic ladder and start distributing the Kool-Aid that the previous generation’s elite fed to them without any understanding of where it actually came from.

The result: Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers.

Blog For Choice 2010
January 22, 2010

Apparently the Blog for Choice Day question of the year is, “What does Trust Women mean to you?” I see the answer as being pretty straightforward: women are equal in their personhood and rights to men in every conceivable way. Which means that any just society has an obligation to make sure that gender plays no role in an individual’s access to opportunity and societal privilege. Obviously, that means no active institutional discrimination based on sex. But one point that’s still, sadly, controversial in modern society is that we also can’t allow institutions to passively discriminate.

Passive discrimination means doing nothing to alleviate the disparities in investment when it comes to pregnancy. If a man and an equally qualified woman in two identical jobs conceive at the exact same time, then, over the next nine months, the woman’s investment in the consequences of that conception, in time, energy and resources, is going to be far greater than the man’s. But that shouldn’t be allowed to affect the woman’s career trajectory, and not the man’s. Nor should the woman be barred of terminating the pregnancy if she so chooses–to prevent that from happening is to infringe upon her sovereignty over her own body in a way that no man will ever be expected to bow to.

The point being that if we’re taking that phrase–“Trust Women”–even remotely seriously, then it’s not enough to avoid obstructing equality. It’s something that needs to be actively nurtured. And policies like access to abortions, maternity leave and a robust enforcement mechanism for equal pay aren’t just permissible features of a just society but necessary ones.

Thanks to my roommate Alex for letting me know this was going on.

Letting the Dust Settle
January 21, 2010

After going back and forth–and drafting, at least in my head, several different reactions ranging from fury to resignation–I’ve decided to hold off on commenting about the health care reform fallout until it’s clear what the Democratic way forward is. What I think is clear right now is that a semi-functional party would still be able to pass the bill. I guess we’re going to find out soon if either major political party in the United States is semi-functional.

If the bill fails, then we’re going to have a long, fairly unpleasant conversation about what the obligations of the left becomes. Jamelle has been fairly explicit of late about his intention to leave the party entirely if the (formerly) unthinkable occurs. Coates thinks there are two many other issues at stake. Me, I’m ambivalent. I’m sympathetic to the argument that there are other things the Democrats are working towards that we ought to support, but my confidence in their ability to do, well, basically anything has been deeply shaken.

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