Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Midterms in Review



Historically Midterms haven't favored incumbent presidents. FDR suffered big House losses in '38 and '42.  Clinton lost control of the House in '94.  The worst Senate losses were suffered by Eisenhower in '58 and Truman in '46.   The Republicans would need a repeat performance to do the same this year as they have to win no less than 39 seats to regain control of the House, and score a +10 to take the Senate.

Faced with these overwhelming odds, Boehner has issued his Pledge to America, essentially a replay of Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America.  But as the Tennessean notes, this Pledge may backfire, as the Democrats now have something to tee off on.  Up to this point, the Republicans and their fellow teabaggers have essentially been running negative ads, attacking Democratic positions, and making any number of false claims in regard to health insurance and tax relief.

It seems the Dems will lose seats, but the Republicans riding what they feel is a huge wave of resentment against the current administration may have set themselves up for the fall, because anything less than a clear majority in the House and a split in the Senate (as was the case in 1994) will be a defeat for them.  Either way, Obama will have a tough two years ahead, as the Republicans won't be anymore willing to work on Democratic sponsored legislation than they currently are, and the focus will become on the 2012 elections.

Has Obama done enough to stem the economic tide and start to see appreciable gains in employment in the two years ahead.  Getting a road bill through Congress and other infrastructure bills may help, but it seems that what America needs must is an attitude change.  Once again this has become an election about perceptions, not the reality of the situation.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Obama's Wars


What I have noticed is that Bob Woodward tends to feed into prevailing impressions, not go against them, which I suppose is why his books become bestsellers.  Seems he will have another one in Obama's Wars, timed perfectly with the midterm elections.  From what I've read of the blurbs, there isn't much more Woodward is saying that hasn't already been said,

The book, “Obama’s Wars,” by the journalist Bob Woodward, depicts an administration deeply torn over the war in Afghanistan even as the president agreed to triple troop levels there amid suspicion that he was being boxed in by the military. Mr. Obama’s top White House adviser on Afghanistan and his special envoy for the region are described as believing the strategy will not work.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Decision Points


Not to be outdone by anyone, George W. Bush will be providing his memoirs in the White House and the Texas Governor's Mansion in Decision Points.  The publishers note:

In gripping, never-before-heard detail, President Bush brings readers inside the Texas Governor’s Mansion on the night of the hotly contested 2000 election; aboard Air Force One on 9/11 in the gripping hours after America’s most devastating attack since Pearl Harbor; inside the Situation Room in the moments before launching the war in Iraq; and behind the Oval Office desk for his historic and controversial decisions on the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan, Iran, and other issues that have shaped the first decade of the 21st century.

I can hardly wait.

White House Diary


Seems Jimmy Carter is making a few waves with his promotional book tour of White House Diary.  You have to love the comments he made in regard to Christine O'Donnell,

He noted that even though he (Joe Biden) launched his national profile as an anti-Washington politician, he probably wouldn't be welcome within the tea party movement, since unlike O'Donnell, he has never "been involved with witchcraft ...

I would have to agree that Carter's post-presidency beats that of any recent president, and stacks up pretty well with those of the past, like John Q. Adams who remained a strong voice in the House long after his presidency.  All though, I imagine Clinton would have something to say about that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This one I can get involved in! We are in between marking and my Ph.Ds aren't even close to submission. But Australia hasn't recovered from his break with folk.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bob Dylan in America


Bob Dylan is many things to many people, not all of them flattering.  Here, Sean Wilentz gives us a historical view to Dylan, digging into the background of both the man and his songs to give the reader a better sense of the time and place that shaped Dylan's music.  Reviews of the book are positive with Tim Rutten offering this glowing review for the LA Times.  Geoff Dyer points out Wilentz' shortfalls in his review for The Guardian.  And, here is an interview with Wilentz on the book in SFGate.  Discussion will start October 1, but feel free to drop comments beforehand.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Bookseller's Lament

 
Nearly four centuries ago, Donne suggested that we each die a little when another human being goes. For Mr. Mysak, when another bookseller closes shop, it means that he, too, is a little closer to a literary death. 

So he takes little pride in the fact that at the end of January, his little table stacked high with used books will have outlived the giant Barnes & Noble less than two blocks south, near Lincoln Center. For him, it is just another sign of decay. 

From NYTimes
________________________________ 


I guess B&N does better online these days.

Atomic Bomb Legacy


This series of photos in the NY Times today is amazing.

I mentioned Garry Wills Bomb Power here earlier, which I really enjoyed (if "enjoyed" is the right word when reading about the atomic bomb).

Mose knows


Listening to some piano blues by Mose Allison from Allison Wonderland.  Such wonderful recordings covering a 40 year period, including The Seventh Son and Parchman Farm.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Feel Like Going Home


Great series Martin Scorsese put together for PBS back in 2003, enlisting the services of world renown directors, that is well worth watching if you haven't had the opportunity.  It has been since released on DVD with a companion book.  There were 7 episodes in all starting with Martin's Feel Like Going Home and ending with Clint Eastwood's Piano Blues.  Where Ken Burns' documentary of Jazz barely scratched the surface, Scorsese and friends dig deep to unearth some great archival footage and fascinating contemporary observations.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

After the Deluge


Josh Neufeld takes a graphic turn at New Orelans After the Deluge.  He follows six families in their attempt to cope with their swamped city, which I think probably inspired Jonathan Demme to approach Zeitoun as an animated feature.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Don't Look Back


Speaking of Bob, I linked the classic Pennebaker documentary, Don't Look Back, which covered his 1965 tour of England.  Personally, I liked the Rolling Thunder Revue (1975) better, which was chronicled by Sam Shepard.  It was a great line-up that included Ramblin' Jack Elliot, T-Bone Burnett, Dave Mansfield and of course Joan Baez. There was also a great documentary done by Martin Scorsese on Dylan, entitled No Direction Home, which placed Dylan in context with the early 60s folk movement, with some wonderful interviews and historic footage.   Like him or not, Bob Dylan is an American icon and probably did more to popularize folk music than anyone other than Pete Seeger, who of course was a huge influence on Bob Dylan.



Here's Pete and Bob at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bellocq's Women


Of course, no tour of New Orleans is complete without a look at Bellocq's Women.

Friday, September 3, 2010

When the Levees Broke


I've had the box set sitting on my shelf for sometime, but haven't brought myself to watch it.  With my wife having become hooked on Treme, maybe we will finally get around to watching this Requiem in Four Acts.  Reviews were generally excellent for Spike Lee's homage to New Orleans, a city that seemed to greatly affect the American consciousness, at least for a little while, as we all grieved in the devastation Hurricane Katrina brought to this city and the lack of political will to bring aid to the city in its time of need.  So many books now available on Katrina and its aftermath, including this one by Phyllis Montana LeBlanc, who was featured in the documentary.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Network


Couldn't resist posting this trailer.  How prescient Sidney Lumet and  Paddy Chayefsky were back in 1976.  The movie still sticks with me in the way Peter Finch portrayed Howard Beale.  It would seem many of these conservative talk show hosts today have styled themselves after Beale without recognizing that this movie was a wicked satire on the news and entertainment business.

Long Labor Day Weekend Meander