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November 27, 2005


I have a Daily Kos diary to recommend to your attention this morning, by Welshman, on the parallels in the way Nixon and Bush have justified their interventionist foreign policy, and how both have fallen back in different ways on blaming bad intelligence for their mistakes.

What, no post-Thanksgiving sale?

Bargain hunters. It's as American as a political argument with your uncle at Thanksgiving.

Frankly, I've always been amazed and a little bit appalled by Black Friday shopping. I've never gone anywhere to shop on that day, and would probably be afraid to even if I ever considered it. I envision the outside world on that day as one big Cabbage Patch Kid stampede.

I did go see Arlo Guthrie, though, for the 40th Anniversary of the Alice's Restaurant Massacree show. He says hi, by the way.

The concert last night at Carnegie Hall? I wanted to go to that but what with relatives in town & all it was just too much -- I'm jealous. How was the show? (If I'd known you'd be around I'd have invited you to stop by afterward, have a drink & collect your nickels.)

Veering back to consulting topics... would a young Arlo today get that song famous? and the follow-up: is the activist-folkie movement dead, or am I just not hearing them (or hearing them & not recognizing them)?

Carnegie Hall? No, I'm strictly sub/ex-urban and low-rent. I went to the Friday night show at the NJPAC in Newark.

The show was fun, and was an indication that the activist-folkie movement isn't dead, though Arlo noted that he had considered titling his latest album not "Live in Sydney," but rather, "He's Only Mostly Dead." He was preceded and accompanied onstage by his daughter, Sarah Lee, who is apparently touring on her own as well, and by a band of much younger activist-folkies, The Mammals, whose most overtly polital song, "The Bush Boys" brought out at least one catcall of, "Go back to Cuba!" (The Mammals had previously played the Cuban folk song "Chan Chan," prominently featured on the soundtrack of Buena Vista Social Club.)

A young Arlo today would probably have considerable difficulty making Alice's Restaurant famous, not least because of the space it might take up on your iPod. But also, it's primarily a song about the draft, which Arlo made a good go at making relevant during his performance of the song. While acknowledging that there was no draft in the form that the song addresses, he did say that if you think there's no draft at all, tell that to the people who are being called back into service. He also reminded the audience that it's a situation some in the house could find themselves in all too soon, if things didn't get set right.

In another nod to evolving lefty political parlance, Arlo changed (probably long ago) his description of what would happen if two people walked into the draft board and sang a verse of Alice's Restaurant (in harmony). Today, it's something like, "They won't ask, but you just told, and they won't take either one of you."

Well that's an interesting answer but not along the lines I was thinking. Alice's Restaurant is of course about everything but the draft, mostly about the incompetence of authority, from Officer Obie to the blind judge to the sociopathic Shrink, the puffed-up Sergeant, and even the FBI:

He looked at me and said, "Kid, we don't like your kind, and we're gonna send your fingerprints off to Washington." And friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a
study in black and white of my fingerprints.

You can't get much more relevant than that.

There is hope to be found in musicians like Eminem whose black hoodie video was beautifully deconstructed (I think by Kid Oakland?) (yes, in fact it's here) so even I could get where he was going with it. That analysis made me see that art like that is the continuation of the activist-folkie tradition, and I'm hoping that most of it is just swimming beneath my sonar as Arlo most likely did to the older generation in his day.

Oh, one more thing. Something I've begun to notice about successful art, writing, and even political messages. Alice's Restaurant is, ultimately, about hope.

Arlo Guthrie! You guys have just outed your demographics! Thanks for making me feel young. (young-er...well, I do know who Arlo Guthrie is...)

By the way, Kagro....continue that "not watching TV news" thing. Other than information gathering, for which I use the internet, I like to hear news as other people talk about it, over the water cooler, or on the train, etc. That's a better weathervane what than the J-school grads from Columbia type on their $3k laptops at the desks of their 4-star hotel rooms.


Democrats fumed last week at Vice President Cheney's suggestion that criticism of the administration's war policies was itself becoming a hindrance to the war effort. But a new poll indicates most Americans are sympathetic to Cheney's point.

Seventy percent of people surveyed said that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale -- with 44 percent saying morale is hurt "a lot," according to a poll taken by RT Strategies. Even self-identified Democrats agree: 55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale.

The results surely will rankle many Democrats, who argue that it is patriotic and supportive of the troops to call attention to what they believe are deep flaws in President Bush's Iraq strategy. But the survey itself cannot be dismissed as a partisan attack. The RTs in RT Strategies are Thomas Riehle, a Democrat, and Lance Tarrance, a veteran GOP pollster.

Their poll also indicates many Americans are skeptical of Democratic complaints about the war. Just three of 10 adults accept that Democrats are leveling criticism because they believe this will help U.S. efforts in Iraq. A majority believes the motive is really to "gain a partisan political advantage."


I watched some interesting news gathering this week, too. I had Israeli cousins visiting, who were hearing from Americans for the first time that a withdrawal from Iraq was a real possibility. They were pretty stunned, and had apparently been under the impression that we were committed to "taking care of Syria" for them.

And while Alice's Restaurant is indeed about a number of things, I'm just taking my cues from Arlo, who tells us in the song that despite the time he spends on the retelling of the Massacree, he had come to talk about the draft.

As for the fingerprints in Washington, he acknowledged that they were "still there," and entertained us all with stories of his own modern day airport security travails. "A lot of people think that's a new thing," he said. And a favorite line of the night was the story of how he told the security personnel, "I haven't become nearly the threat I'd hoped to become."

Hey--Some of us remember Woody Guthrie.

Remember? Hell, some of us have over 200 MB of Woody songs (plus another 100 MB of Leadbelly, Sonny & Brownie... not to mention all the Alan Lomax collections!) on our video iPods... now what generation do I belong to?

My new minivan comes with an in-dash MP3 player as standard equipment. What generation do I belong to?

On the other hand, I have no MP3s.

My new Scion xA came with a Mp3 connection too. So I finally broke down and got one of the last iPod minis, with 6 megas or gigas or whatevers of memory, and gave it to my brother to program for me. It is great. Holds about 1500 songs. I didn't know I knew that many songs. But it is great to discover old favorites he put on there. Fairport Convention. Richie Havens. Ian and Sylvia. And lots and lots of new music. Easy to use.

One rather encouraging sign... my right-wing brother-in-law, who delights in baiting me at family gatherings, didn't say a word about politics during our Turkey Day dinner.

I've noticed the same thing, p.lukasiac among both my aforementioned friends and frothing relatives (I've got a few of those, too): Now you don't/ talk so loud!/Now you don't/ act so proud!

Speaking of old music, I've hauled out Spike Jones lately. Something appropriate about the manic, almost disturbing hillarity Spike and the boys proffered.

Speaking of MP3s, you can get a really good selection of books on them now. Here's my generation bender--last week I listened to All the President's Men on an IPod.


Randy Cunningham resigned and admitted that he took bribes from defense contractors.

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