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A penny for your thoughts indeed. Around here that would be a raise.

What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

Oh-- and please welcome God to the APW team. We're thrilled and humbled to serve as His earthly vessel.

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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Nothing Like the Smell of Democracy in the Morning!
Friday, January 28, 2005
Am I the only one who thinks that the provision for ex-pat Iraqis to vote in their new countries is simply a racket to inflate the vote count in order to assure that the occupying forces can claim "success" in holding the election?

Apparently, persons of Iraqi descent who were born and raised in the US, are American citizens, and have never set foot in Iraq, are still eligible to vote. God bless democracy, our finest export!


Posted by: --josh-- @ 8:11 AM  0 comments

Social Security is Not in Trouble
Thursday, January 20, 2005
The Bush administration is simply masterful at the art of the fake crisis (and the ensuing war on said crisis.) Want to invade Iraq, despite the fact that they had nothing to do with 9/11? No problemo--- there's a WMD crisis.

According to Paul Krugman, if the Social Security trust does indeed run out in 2052, all that means is that Social Security revenues will only be able to cover 80% of its costs-- compared, today, with 68% for the rest of government outside of Social Security. In other words, under this calamitous worst case scenario you'll be hearing about ad nauseum over the coming months, Social Security in 2052 will be the most efficient part of the US federal government. And that's if the doom sayers are RIGHT. Privatization, "choice" (the new buzz word because "privatization" doesn't test well), overhaulling, dismantling Social Security is simply neither necessary nor prudent. Indeed making the Bush tax cuts permanent will account for a greater hit on Gross Domestic Product than the supposed doomsday scenario about Social Security. This is why even his own party colleagues are abandoning him on this issue (also because unlike Dubya, most of them plan to run for office again).

But Harold Meyerson put it better than me in his op-ed piece in the Washington Post. So here, without permission, is today's APW guest editorial.

Op-Ed Washington Post: President of Fabricated Crises
Harold Meyerson-----Wednesday-1/12/05

Some presidents make the history books by managing crises. Lincoln had Fort Sumter, Roosevelt had the Depression and Pearl Harbor, and Kennedy had the missiles in Cuba. George W. Bush, of course, had Sept. 11, and for a while thereafter -- through the overthrow of the Taliban -- he earned his page in history, too.

But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.

So Iraq became a clear and present danger to American hearths and homes, bristling with weapons of mass destruction, a nuclear attack just waiting to happen. And now, this week, the president is embarking on his second great scare campaign, this one to convince the American people that Social Security will collapse and that the only remedy is to cut benefits and redirect resources into private accounts.

In fact, Social Security is on a sounder footing now than it has been for most of its 70-year history. Without altering any of its particulars, its trustees say, it can pay full benefits straight through 2042. Over the next 75 years its shortfall will amount to just 0.7 percent of national income, according to the trustees, or 0.4 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That still amounts to a real chunk of change, but it pales alongside the 75-year cost of Bush's Medicare drug benefit, which is more than twice its size, or Bush's tax cuts if permanently extended, which would be nearly four times its size.

In short, Social Security is not facing a financial crisis at all. It is facing a need for some distinctly sub-cataclysmic adjustments over the next few decades that would increase its revenue and diminish its benefits.

Politically, however, Social Security is facing the gravest crisis it has ever known. For the first time in its history, it is confronted by a president, and just possibly by a working congressional majority, who are opposed to the program on ideological grounds, who view the New Deal as a repealable aberration in U.S. history, who would have voted against establishing the program had they been in Congress in 1935. But Bush doesn't need Karl Rove's counsel to know that repealing Social Security for reasons of ideology is a non-starter.

So it's time once more to fabricate a crisis. In Bushland, it's always time to fabricate a crisis. We have a crisis in medical malpractice costs, though the CBO says that malpractice costs amount to less than 2 percent of total health care costs. (In fact, what we have is a president who wants to diminish the financial, and thus political, clout of trial lawyers.) We have a crisis in judicial vacancies, though in fact Senate Democrats used the filibuster to block just 10 of Bush's 229 first-term judicial appointments.

With crisis concoction as its central task -- think of how many administration officials issued dire warnings of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein or, now, by Social Security's impending bankruptcy -- this presidency, more than any I can think of, has relied on the classic tools of propaganda. Indeed, it's almost impossible to imagine the Bush presidency absent the Fox News Network and right-wing talk radio.

With the blurring of fact and fiction so central to the Bush presidency's purposes, is it any wonder that government agencies ranging from Health and Human Services to the Office of National Drug Control Policy have been filming editorial messages as mock newscast segments, complete with mock reporters, and offering them to local television stations?

Is it any wonder that the Education Department paid commentator Armstrong Williams $241,000 to promote its No Child Left Behind programs? In this administration, it is the role of a government agency to turn out pro-Bush news by whatever means possible. Fox News viewership in the African American community wasn't very large, and here was Williams, who seemed to have learned during his clerkship for Clarence Thomas that it was rude to decline any gifts.

We've had plenty of presidents, Richard Nixon most notoriously, who divided the media into friendly and enemy camps. I can't think of one, however, so fundamentally invested in the spread of disinformation -- and so fundamentally indifferent to the corrosive effect of propaganda on democracy -- as Bush. That, too, should earn him a page in the history books.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


Posted by: --josh-- @ 5:05 PM  1 comments

Its Official: No WMD
Friday, January 14, 2005
"We know where they are, they're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad."

--Donald Rumsfeld on WMD, March 30, 2003

"What we're giving you are facts and conclusions, based on solid intelligence."

--Colin Powell on WMD, February 5, 2003

(Thanks to the Daily Show for the footage of these statements)

This week the White House has officially put an end to the hunt for WMDs in Iraq, essentially admitting (to the extent that the Bush White House admits anything) that the whole thing was a canard.

Now, of course, I never believed for a second that WMD had thing one to do with the invasion of Iraq; indeed only those who unquestioningly lap up whatever cock'n'bull story eminates from authority figures, ever believed that in the first place. (I'm looking forward to the Bob Novacks and Ann Coulters of the world, who so vigorously defended the WMD canard, tap dance their way around this one.) So this isn't anything like a surprise. Administration officials were even quoted at the time as calling WMD merely the most expedient way to garner US support for the unilateral action they'd already decided to take. The real reason-- oil, democracy in a middle eastern country, Saddam tried to kill my daddy-- whatever it was, it wasn't WMD, and no thinking person could really have ever been fooled.

What I want to know, though, is whether there will be any backlash whatsoever here. If you don't believe the administration was blatantly lying (as I do) with the WMD story, then you have to believe they were just wrong, and have no conceded as much. Which is worse? Personally I think being wrong is worse; at least if it was just a lie, I can understand that they felt they had to use propaganda to generate support for something they knew had to be done but which would be unpopular. Something administrations have done for a long time. But if they were just plum wrong? That gets a little scary, since we're in Iraq for God knows how long (we're still in Korea, for God's sake), and Iraq is now far more dangerous to Americans than it was with Hussein in charge. Will the American public be at least a little ticked off that they were lied to? Will Bush have to bear the burden of having been wrong? Or will self-righteous arrogance rule the day, and they'll totally skate on this debacle? I'm betting the last one.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 3:05 PM  0 comments

Jill Sobule at Joe's Pub; December 27 and 28
I posted this to Jill's listserv. I've written about her before. She's best-known for "I Kissed a Girl," probably a blesing and a curse, because it tends to trivialize the breadth and quality of her work. She's a top-tier songwriter, and a fabulous live performer, one of the few artists I can think of who is more compelling as a solo act-- just voice and guitar-- than she is on record. Her personality and total command of the room shine through. But the thing I like best about her, and probably the same can be said for many of her fans, is her heart, her sweetness, her accessibility. She has a song called "Good Person Inside;" there is no question at all that she is. Outside as well.

Anyway, here you go. The horn player on "Cinnamon Park, of course, is me, playing invisible trumpet.


You know, if these concerts were in the late 70s I'd still remember every detail. Unfortunately they were 2 weeks ago, and so they are now officially a blur. And did anyone see where I left my reading glasses? Oh, wait-- here they are, on top of my head. Oy, my corns are aching. It’s gonna rain.

Anyway, I had the privilege of seeing the first two shows of Jill's first-ever three-night stand in New York City, in the intimate and hip-vibed Joe's Pub. Believe me, I claim no authority as the arbiter of hip, but any place where I can sit on a comfy couch, order drinks, and see one of my favorite musicians in a small room is hip in my book.

First the setlists:

12-27: Resistance Song * Dreidel Spinner * Christmas Break-up Song * Merry Christmas From the Family * Bitter * Under the Disco Ball * Underdog Victorious (segue into Love Hangover snippet) * Soldiers of Christ * Mexican Wrestler * Cinnamon Park * Lucy at the Gym * Karen by Night * something I seem to have called St. Francis * Tel Aviv * Survivor * I Kissed a Girl * The Jig is Up * e: When My Ship Comes In (with Way-Outs excerpt) * e: Jet Pack

12-28: Underdog Victorious * Resistance Song > * Dreidel Spinner * Merry Christmas From the Family * Freshman * excerpt from the Christmas Break-up Song * Angel/Asshole * Que Sera Sera * Half a Heart * Texas * Youthful Indiscretions * Karen by Night * Sunrise, Sunset (closing with snippet of Stones song Angie) * Jet Pack * Ritalin Kid * Cinnamon Park * Love is Never Equal (w/Lloyd Cole) * I Kissed a Girl (w/Cole) * Kathie Lee * Margaret * Mexican Wrestler * Big Shoes (Mom on cell) * Survivor* e: When My Ship Comes In

Jill took the stage on Tuesday the 27th promptly at 7:30, and professed her nervousness at the home town gig—New York being the only place, she says, where she gets nervous. Of course every time she makes this complaint, she proceeds to lay waste to the room, so maybe a little fear is good. She is wearing a purplish-gray dress, no lines but short enough to be sexy, solid color save for the Prince-style glyphs for male and female, one over each general breastal region. It was designed by the same person who made the peace sign dress Jill wore at XL, and it looked great on her, the funky bohemian chic of the retro-mod design pitched perfectly to Jill’s very being.

After a commanding “Resistance Song” featuring crowd la-la-la-las, Jill confirmed that it was still OK to play Christmas songs, then favored us with a seasonal section—“Jesus Was a Dreidel Spinner” (to much laughter); the new Christmas break-up song (which Jill says is her saddest song ever, with snowflakes on Christmas really the tears of a jilted Santa); and Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family.” On this last tune, it is really hard to believe Jill didn’t write the piece herself, as the biting lyrics match her voice and persona to a tee.

Having imbued all of us in the unique Sobulian sense of Christmas spirit, Jill made her way through a crowd-pleasing “Bitter,” with the “she was actually pretty good” line apparently back replacing the “’cause she’s a slutty mouseketeer” line. Then a quick “Disco Ball,” a short song that again elicits laughter from the room, especially the climactic joke about women who play golf.

“Underdog Victorious” was anthemic, with Jill instructing us to wave our lighters in the air for the final verse and chorus. Then out of “Underdog” Jill segued into a brief excerpt from Diana Ross’s “Love Hangover.” Which one is the real diva?

“Soldiers of Christ” appears to have made its way back into the setlist in a major way, a logical choice given the political climate in the country today, and it carries a profound poignancy. Indeed Jill may have been prescient when she wrote it way back for Happytown. “Mexican Wrestler” was next, one of Jill’s most oft-requested songs, and one of her most powerful. Jill plays with the ending, mixing up the dynamics for dramatic effect. “Lucy at the Gym” and “Karen by Night” are both responses to crowd requests, Jill still leery on the latter about dissing Marlon Brando so soon after his death.

Next Jill brightens the room with “Cinnamon Park,” accompanied on the invisible trumpet by some guy whose name I didn’t get, but who is apparently a platinum artist. There were just two of us on stage singing with her, and as usual the song is an upbeat highlight. The horn riff is particularly poignant, truly capturing the pathos of the song.

“Tel Aviv” is powerfully and empathetically rendered; still new live, this may end up being the “Mexican Wrestler” of the new album. “Survivor,” “I Kissed a Girl,” and “Jig” make for an upbeat and crowd-pleasing close.

Jill picks up an electric guitar and scratches out a raucous version of “When My Ship Comes In,” drenched in feedback and effects and bent notes. I half-expected her to bust into “Purple Haze,” instead of the popular Flintstones hit “The Way-Outs Song.” Finally “Jet Pack,” with Jill leaning away from the mic at the end, forcing everyone to lean in, the room growing drop-dead quiet. A beautiful ending.


The next night Jill is dressed more casually, in jeans and a top. She opens with the “la las” of “Underdog Victorious,” and tells the story of getting booed at the Don Henley concert before asking the crowd to wave our cell phones as we sway to the anthem. Last night’s opener, “Resistance Song,” is up second tonight, segueing directly into “Jesus Was a Dreidel Spinner.” Then Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family,” and “Freshman", which Jill has apparently grown comfortable playing on guitar (as opposed to the omnichord.) Tonight Jill didn’t have the lyrics to the Christmas Break-up Song at the ready, so she sang the chorus and the verse about the snow being Santa’s tears, to a collective “Aawww!” from the house.

“Angel/Asshole” was up next followed by a downbeat, cabaret-style “Que Sera Sera.” “Half a Heart” is outstanding, an unquestioned highlight; Jill uses her outside voice, and accompanies it with expressive, percussive guitar work. Next up is the Dubya section, with “Texas” (which Jill tells us she wrote before Bush was nominated the first time) followed by “”Youthful Indiscretions.” Next “Karen by Night,” one of several requests bellowed out from the bar, is chiming and anthemic. “Let’s rock!” she exclaims, breaking into a sing-along on the always raw and ragged “Sunrise, Sunset.” It was like a little taste of my Bar Mitzvah. “Sunrise, Sunset” gives way at the end to an excerpt from the Stones song “Angie.”

A glorious version of “Jet Pack” follows (“yeah, I’m gonna play it,” Jill assures the bellowers at the bar.) Jill has someone from the crowd phone her mom for “Big Shoes,” but she isn’t home, and so the guy leaves a message. During this exchange Jill performs “Ritalin Kid,” forgetting—in a funny piece of irony—that the song has no guitar part. Then “Cinnamon Park,” with a slew of singers on stage and that trumpet guy reprising his spot-on take on the “Saturday in the Park” riff. Jill puts her guitar down at the end and walks out into the crowd to lead an a capella sing-along, then finishes off with her Missy Elliot, Mavis Staples, Big Mama Jill voice (see her journal entry of 11/8/04.)

Lloyd Cole joins Jill onstage to accompany her on two numbers, “Love is Never Equal” and “I Kissed a Girl.” On the latter, for the second night in a row, Jill does a full version. Cole accompanies on guitar, lending both songs a rich texture. Jill follows “I Kissed a Girl” with “Kathie Lee,” who we now know is the secret subject of IKAG.

Jill tells the story behind the song—including parents’ address—before favoring us with “Margaret.” “Do you mind if I give the annotated versions?” she asks. Next is a gorgeous rendition of “Mexican Wrestler,” with a close wherein she moves off the mic and fills the room with unamplified singing. Pin drop stuff. Then “Bitter,” and finally Mom is home (“Hey! I went out to dinner”) so she and Jill do “Big Shoes,” complete with Mom’s rap (if you ask me, it sounded like she phoned it in.) Jill closes the set with a ballsy “Survivor”—tonight’s show is distinctly longer than the night before—and again encores with an electric version of “When My Ship Comes In,” more guitar histrionics, but no “Way-Outs.”

Two excellent, enjoyable shows; after each, Jill takes the time to meet and greet every fan who wants a CD signed or a photo taken or a moment with her, and for your moment, Jill makes you feel like the only person in the world.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 2:56 PM  0 comments

Long time no see!
I've taken something of a sabbatical from posting. A couple of reasons. One, the muse sort of comes and goes in bunches. I have alot to say for a while, then nothing. And too, I wanted to sort of let the top albums post sit on its own. Hopefully someone bought a CD or two from the list. My gal Jill Sobule mentioned at her Joe's Pub gig, while I was onstage with her for "Cinnamon Park," that "Josh did his list of top-10 albums, and mine made the list!" I'll post my Jill review soon; its written already for her listserv, happytown.

So how about that tsunami, huh? As my friend John's brother said, "Allah not so Akhbar now, huh?" Then my own brother sent me photos of a boulder having fallen from the mountains and blocked off Topanga Canyon Road, and of a grusome-looking mudslide, also in Ventura County, which killed 10, and from the looks of it the death toll was a lucky break. God seems to be pissed at something.

The end-timers probably think all this natural disaster is a good sign, heralding as it does the coming of Jesus, the ascention to heaven of the true believers, and the smiting of the rest of us. If you read the Bill Moyers speech I posted a while back, he talks about the rapture index. Check it out; an actual score card for the lunatic fringe religious right on how close we are to Armegeddon. Nice that you can keep track.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 2:33 PM  0 comments

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