Thursday, October 30, 2008


I wonder why the press doesn't seem to take much notice of this.

Never in my lifetime, and perhaps in the history of the two party system, have the progeny of so many former presidents and luminaries of one party supported the candidate of the opposite party.

We know about Christopher Buckley, son of the most famous arch conservative of his time, William F. Buckley, supporting Obama. That's gotten some media attention because he's a well known writer.

And of course there's Ronald Reagan's son Ron, and daughter Patty.

But then there's also all kinds of Eisenhowers supporting Obama, as well as Goldwaters, descendants of Ike and Barry.

To understand the magnitude of this, just project twenty to thirty years into the future and picture the Bush daughters, some of Sarah Palin's children and grandchildren, Dick Cheney's grandkids and Bill O'Reilly's kids and grandkids all supporting Chelsea Clinton or one of the Obama girls for president on the Democratic ticket.

Just one more reason this has to be the most unique presidential race in the history of this country.

[PS: Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Cindy McCain's half-sister is an Obama supporter.]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


If elected:

Secretary of State: Bill Clinton
Secretary of the Treasury: Warren Buffet
Secretary of Defense: Max Cleland
Attorney General: Hilary Clinton
Secretary of the Interior: Sherman Alexie
Secretary of Agriculture: Willy Nelson
Secretary of Commerce: Oprah Winfrey
Secretary of Labor: Bruce Springsteen
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Jill Bolte Taylor
Secretary of Housing and Development: Jimmy Carter
Secretary of Transportation: Lance Armstrong
Secretary of Energy: Ed Begley Jr.
Secretary of Education: Garrison Keillor
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Cindy Sheehan
Secretary of Homeland Security: Jim Webb

[In response to good suggestions in the comments:
Poet Laureate: Joanne Kyger
Supreme Court Nominees: (they say at least 3 will most likely retire during the next four years and since Supreme Court Justices weren't always lawyers, let alone Constitutional scholars, I think it's about time we revied that custom and chose people who we truly believe will know how to be fair, so my three would be:
Toni Morrison
Maya Angelou
and Tony Bennett]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Once again eskow pulls our collective coat to some interesting connections.


Here's another story on GOP voter suppression and purges.


A lot, I'm afraid.

But the latest wierdness for me is McCain's recent speeches in which he says that Obama is "the most liberal candidate for president ever" or "in history"!!!

This is a guy, Obama, who has tons of top Republicans saying they will vote for him, some of whom I'd bet will be a part of his administration if he's elected.

He's also a guy who from the beginning of his campaign had many Illinois Republican State Senators saying how great he was to work with when he was a state Senator, how they had found him to be less partisan than most Democrats and able to compromise. Many of them also support his candidacy for president.

This is a guy many leftwing Democrats find too moderate, to generous in his praise and acceptance of Republican politicians and positions (note how many times in his speeches and in the debates he said he "agreed" with McCain etc.).

This is one of the least "liberal" and least "lefwing" Democratic politicians I've seen in my lifetime.

But even if he were as "liberal" and "leftwing" as McCain (or actually his Bush Junior speechwriters) is saying, does anyone who has been alive for more than a few decades believe for a second that Obama is more liberal than FDR? or LBJ? Let alone Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Dukakis, and almost any other candidate for the presidency from the Democratic Party in at least a century?

The closest he comes to is Bill Clinton, one of the least liberal Democratic presidents. Like Bill, Obama is more of a pragmatist than an ideologue. And, like Bill, he is an incredibly intelligent man. But unlike Bill, he doesn't seem to be so insecure about his self image that he needs to make everyone love him, including interns.

In many ways, despite his being one of our youngest candidates for president (which Bill was too) Obama seems like one of the most mature (especially in comparison with McCain's yes erratic behavior). A result, it seems, from the incredible circumstances of his life—being identified physically as "black" despite his white mother, and being raised partially by white grandparents but in multi-racial Hawaii, as well as partially by his white mother in Indonesia, attending a variety of schools with a mix of ethnicities and worldviews, ending up using his intelligence and talents at Harvard among a white elite and in Chicago as an organizer among both the black and white poor and working-class.

The man has a broader understanding, from personal experience, of the world and its people as it truly is, than any other candidate for president in my lifetime—except for the trauma of war. But, if you check out history, the most successful war presidents we've had—Lincoln and FDR—had no experience of the trauma of war, so that seems like an asset too.

Monday, October 27, 2008


The big difference between liberal Democrats and rightwing Republicans (a distinction necessary to make since there are very few truly leftwing Democrats and very few moderate or liberal Republicans anymore, though there once were many of all of the above) can be demonstrated in a simple way.

When Bush Junior stole the election in 2000, and again in many observers views, including mine, in 2004, there were no mass demonstrations by liberal Democrats or angry mobs of liberal Democrats screaming for his head (or even Congressional investigations into the methods used to steal the 2000 and 2004 elections once Democrats won a majority in 2006).

And I am certain there were few, if any, worries on the part of the Republican leadership, among Junior's administration, or even in the Republican party ranks, that Junior was in any actual physical danger, other than the usual threats faced by any president of either party.

Even after his actions or inactions caused some of the most devastating calamities of our times, there seemed to be no fear that some liberal Democrat would do anything more to him than voice their opposition, usually modulated with caveats about how their criticism did not imply any criticism of his patriotism or Christian faith and values etc.

But I doubt there is any Obama supporter, except the youngest and most naive, who isn't worried for Obama.

First of all that the election might be stolen, despite the obvious lead he now has in enough states to win not just the popular vote but the electoral college.

Because rightwing Republicans have tried to suppress voting in the elections of the past, including those of the past eight years, including by bringing cases of voter fraud against Democrats in swing districts or districts where Republicans once held sway and were losing traction (that was at the root of the Justice Department scandal with Gonzales firing Republican-faithful federal prosecutors around the country who refused to bring these suits because there wasn't enough evidence or at times any evidence).

All objective studies show that there have been more problems with Republican corporate owned voting machines and voters being turned away for not having the proper I. D., or too few voting machines being available in Democratic districts, and other voter suppression tactics that would benefit Republican candidates (as in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004), than there has been any proven voter fraud that has benefited or might benefit Democrats.

And I doubt there is any Obama supporter except for the youngest and most naive, who isn't concerned for Obama's safety, if he does win the vote (or even in the few days left before the election if it looks as it does inevitable that he will win).

That's a pretty stark difference. Democrats certainly project a glum scenario if McCain and Plain get elected, especially if something happens to McCain in his first term and Palin becomes president. But I doubt anyone in either of the McCain or Palin camp is worried about some "liberal" physically attacking them, or even of the liberal Democratic leadership pressing any investigation against them if they're elected (after all, Pelosi refused to even consider impeaching Junior even though he has commited more treasonable acts than Clinton or Nixon or any other president in history).

Rightwing Republicans, on the other hand, have used the power of the government, including the military and security agencies, to keep tabs on and thwart or overthrow any opposition (e.g. Nixon's "enemies list" and "dirty tricks," the most expensive investigation in history against Clinton which found no wrongdoing other than an extramarital affair etc., Junior's wiretapping of US citizens etc.).

And the McCain/Palin campaign continues to foment anger and hatred toward Obama and liberals and Democrats, while even further-to-the-right commentators like Rush and some of the Fox crowd and the behind the scenes proteges of Rove in the Palin and McCain camps (especially the former) push even harder for anger and hatred toward anything left of their hardcore rightwing ideology, to the point of fomenting a deep paranoia that if Obama gets elected it will only be by "stealing" votes and it will result in the US being hand delivered to either Muslim terrorists or some amorphous international socialist/communist conspiracy, or worse, leading to the kind of desperate acts blind ideology often leads to.

Like that poor girl who cut a reverse "B" on her cheek (didn't that give it away to anyone besides me that she obviously did it herself while looking in the mirror?) after listening to a robocall from Sarah Palin and the McCain/Palin campaign stirring up that kind of paranoia about Obama, enough to make her deliberately inflict that on herself and claim some Obama supporters did it to her.

The closer it gets to the election, the harder I'm praying for Obama's, and his family's, safety and protection from such crazies, and for a peaceful transition into his presidency, if, as all the polls now make clear, he wins the election and it isn't stolen by voter suppression and faulty voting machines (see this recent story, one of too many about voting machine problems in Jersey, where I vote, and in too many other states—like stories today about bad butterfly type ballot design in North Carolina).

Sunday, October 26, 2008


After doing the recent one word/one syllable list of works of art I dig, when the garbage trucks woke me up early this morning, I figured I’d make up a new list with titles at least five words long (I looked up some of the details this morning, like the full title to the R. B. Kitaj painting that I knew began with “Cecil Court”):

“AUTUMN BEGINS IN MARTINS FERRY, OHIO” (my favorite James Wright poem and one of my favorite poems period)

BY THE WATERS OF MANHATTAN (first a novel by Charles Reznikoff, one of the earliest paperbacks—1930—and then in the 1960s, the title for his selected poems, both books favorites of mine since I first discovered them in the ‘60s)

CECIL COURT, LONDON WC2 (THE REFUGEES) (an amazing painting from the 1980s by R. B. Kitaj—it personifies what impresses me most about his work, the mix of all kinds of 20th century approaches to painting with traditional approaches as well as some uniquely his own)

DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (still an impressive movie with knockout performances and a true snapshot of the times despite its limited range and almost claustrophobic sets) (the title song too)

EARTH, DAY, NIGHT, SELF, THE (an early William Saroyan story from his first major collection and one of my top ten all time favorite books, THE DARING YOUNG MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE, this story being as atypical as most of them, a variety unprecedented and unequaled since, in my opinion, but still characteristically what most of the world in his day could recognize as a Saroyan story)

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (not my favorite Hemingway book or Gary Cooper movie, or Ingrid Bergman movie either, pretty predictable and uncharacteristically sentimental for Hemingway, but despite all those caveats, the story still always works)

GENIUS OF BUD POWELL, THE (CD compilation of the great bop piano maestro)

HUMAN LANDSCAPES FROM MY COUNTRY (the Great Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet’s unique novel/poem, the Randy Blasing /Motlu Konuk translation)

IF I WERE A BELL (the Frank Loesser song from GUYS AND DOLLS, but the version I always loved the most is an instrumental one by Art Farmer from a late ‘50s LP featuring a sextet as I remember it (don’t have it anymore) led by Art playing tunes from that musical, I woke up this morning hearing it in my head perfectly, and I haven’t heard it for real in several decades!)

JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY (this black and white documentary about a late 1950s Newport Jazz Festival is worth it for Anita O’Day’s performance alone, but also for a true take on the style and escapism of a time about to change dramatically)

KNIFE OF THE TIMES, THE (the first story—and also the title of the first section—in THE FARMERS’ DAUGHTERS, William Carlos Williams’ collected stories, and a great introduction to his style and subject matter, a slice of early 20th Century history but an otherwise never reported on slice and never as intimately rendered)

LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece and actually, for me, a great read, as well as a unique movie with one of Katherine Hepburn’s most amazing performances)

MERCY OF A RUDE STREAM (the series of autobiographical novels Henry Roth wrote late in life to cash in on the decades-late popularity of his early novel SOME CALL IT SLEEP, these are much more raw and scathing and to my taste vibrantly original)

NOTEBOOKS OF MALTE LAURIDS BRIGGE, THE (Rilke’s novel had an enormous impact on me as a young man and has remained one of my top ten, I reread it every few years, the best contemporary translation is Stephen Mitchell’s)

OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING (the great opening song of OKLAHOMA! which was always a favorite since I was a boy, especially the movie version with Gordon McCrae, but the best version was my oldest son’s when he was in middle school chorus—before a concert he kept it from me that they were doing that song and that he was soloing on it, needless to say I was surprised as well as moved and delighted by the song, and even more so by his solo on what he knew was one of my all time favorites)

PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, THE (Carl Dreyer’s 1928 silent film classic that I once saw at one of the smaller outdoor amphitheaters in Hollywood in a refurbished print and was spellbound for the entire flick)

QUICK AND THE DEAD, THE (this movie may seem campy to some, but it’s a really unique film, not only because Sharon Stone plays the lead gunslinger in it, but because she’s playing against (and with) Gene Hackman and Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in what was really his American debut in many ways (in a part I auditioned for at the time) and they all do their usual fine job with material that is a cross between a 1960s spaghetti Western and a 1990s reconfiguring of old genres to fit a more feminist agenda of female heroines replacing the tired old male ones, worth watching)

RECOLLECTIONS OF MY LIFE AS A WOMAN: The New York Years (the first volume of poet Diane di Prima’s memoirs and the best take ever on what it was like in the 1950s New York downtown/Beat/avant-garde/street scene)

SURREY WITH THE FRINGE ON TOP, THE (another great song from OKLAHOMA!—,especially the version Ahmad Jamal recorded on his c. 1960 LP POINCIANA, which is the version I copped and played for years, still do)

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (Zora Neale Hurston’s lyrical, tough, unique novel)

UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, THE (Milan Kundera’s masterpiece and still one of the great books of the 20th Century)

VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE , A (Sidney Lumet’s film version of the Arthur Miller play, melodramatic but some great performances, especially Maureen Stapleton)

WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT, THE (another favorite song, with lots of great versions including many by Sinatra and one instrumental version in particular on a Thelonious Monk/Sonny Rollins Prestige CD re-release of some early 1950s studio sessions)


YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (the movie adaptation of the play, one of my all time favorites)


Saturday, October 25, 2008


Couldn't figure out how to embed this one, so check it out through this link.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Hope this works and you can access this video here:

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die


Check out this "mash up" my friend Tom Wilson put together. I'm so honored and humbled by the way he used my words [from different recorded poems] and voice in this. Stay with it to the end, I think you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


People have been asking me what I think the last gasp rightwing Republican effort will be to hang on to power. My answer: the so-called Bradley Effect.

It's named after Tom Bradley the successful African-American mayor of L. A. who ran for California governor in the '80s when polls showed him with a victory but he ended up losing. Some studies concluded that a small percentage of white voters lied to pollsters about not voting for Bradley for fear of appearing racist or prejudiced against him.

Subsequent studies of other similar cases, as well as contradictory cases, where black candidates either lost where polls said they wouldn't, or vice versa, have concluded that either there is a "Bradley Effect" or there isn't. So the science behind this supposition that a certain amount of white voters will get into the voting booth and be unable or unwilling to pull the lever for a black candidate they told pollsters they were voting for, or did vote for, is very iffy,

But notice how the more responsible seeming rightwing Republican commentators (like say William Bennet on CNN) will refer to it often lately, and how Democratic and liberal commentators will too often go along with it, assuming that there has to be a fair amount of prejudice still out there against voting for a partly African-American candidate.

But many studies show that percentage to be really small, almost insignificant in polling terms, and most prejudiced voters to be pretty outspoken with their opinions (there are many yotube videos showing interviews with supporters of McCain and even more so of Palin flat out admitting they won't vote for a "colored" candidate, or just saying that Obama is a Muslim terrorist), but these are not found in any significant numbers in Democratic districts or even in most "swin districts that polls show going for Obama this time.

But one study has projected a possible six percent difference from the "Bradley Effect"—meaning Obama could go into the election with anywhere around a six percent lead and lose and this study will be a ready excuse.

Which is why the rightwing is pushing it so much, and too many in the media are repeating it. Because if the rightwing Republicans attempts to rig the vote is successful—through purging voting roles in Democratic districts, or closely contested districts, of legitimate voters as has been proven they are doing in several states already (their success at keeping the media and the FBI focused on "voter fraud" has led to less attention focused on their voter purges, disqaulifying many legitimate voters who are registered Democrats, or tricking them into voting Republican through rigged or "faulty" voting machines, as has already been demonstrated in early voting in many states where voting machines are owned by a company run by Republicans, including rightwing Republican activists (who have proven since Nixon's dirty tricks team and Lee Atwater's deathbed confessions and Rove's blatant tactics that they are capable of any kind of illegal manipulation of actual votes and voters in order to gain and maintain power) who claim the "faulty" machines were just "calibrated wrong" (which means when you push the Obama rectangle it registers for McCain)—they can claim any percentage difference of ten or less is a result of "the Bradley Effect" and too many in the media and even among Democrats, will accept it (as they too easily did the Florida debacle in 2000 after the phony Rove directed "protest rally" that turned into an invasion and pressure on the vote counters, etc., and as they did the voting machine problems in Ohio that showed great disparity between exit polls and what the machines reported).

The only bright side to such a scneario would be if the Democrats are able to secure a large enough majority in the Senate this time (60 or more) to make it impossible for Republicans to block their votes and actions. Then they could hold investigations to expose and prosecute such vote manipulation. But if the rightwing Republican dirty tricks work, the Democrats may not be successful in capturing 60 seats in the Senate either.

Hopefully the Obama lawyers and poll observers are more ready to contest and fight any McCain win that contradicts entrance and exit polls, which until Florida 2000 had proved to be correct in every previous election.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Finally got to see this documentary. It’s disturbingly brilliant.

Deeply disturbing as it focuses on the tattoos and living conditions of men, and women, in the Russian prison system—many of whom were first incarcerated when it was still the Soviet system—and on the soulfulness of their suffering.

That soulfulness might be just the resonance of my early romanticizing of Russia and its people from youthful discoveries of the Russian writers, especially Dostoevsky and Mayakovsky, two of my personal icons when I was young.

Or it may just be the result of the almost poetic English translations of the profiled prisoners’ statements, or of the deeply moving camera work that exposes through the eyes and worn faces of these prisoners, a seemingly bottomless well of sadness mixed with stoic acceptance of their lot.

It was made in 2000, or at least copyrighted that year, and had a great influence on some of the plot of, and definitely the look of Viggo Mortensen’s body, in EASTERN PROMISES. Because it explores the meaning of many of the prisoners tattoos, as well as how they’ve changed, and to the despair of veteran prisoners become in their minds almost meaningless in the ways younger criminals use them.

The starkness of the conditions, the poverty and mistreatment is also disturbing (fifty prisoners in cells built for fifteen, meals of soupy broth or mushy “kasha” or moldy bread that causes illness, epidemics of fleas and antibiotic resistant strains of a virulent TB).

But the faces! The eyes! Few movies of any kind, documentary or otherwise have captured such iconic visages of pain and endurance, of shame and guilt, cruelty and helplessness.

How the young woman who directed it, Alix Lambert, (who, as I mentioned in a previous post participated along with me and several others in a recent reading for the anthology THE POEM I TURN TO) got access to these prisons and prisoners to film and interview them, is a mystery.

But what came out of that access is even more mysterious, as mysterious as life can be, let alone a work of art, which this film is.

Only recently out on DVD and never really distributed here, it’s worth tracking down. There’s a few docs and books out there with that name, so look for Alix Lambert’s THE MARK OF CAIN.

[PS: It's available from Amazon, that's where I got it.]


This link too was sent by Winch, though I had heard of it from a few friends and family members.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Thanks to Terence Winch for hipping me to this.


RJ Eskow's nailing it even more than usual these days. Here's an entire post from his nightlight blog that I don't think he'll mind my quoting in full:


Sarah Palin says that the 'real America' is in small towns. Yet the people who lost their lives at the World Trade Center lived in the cities and suburbs. I know. I worked three blocks away from the WTC and know people who died there.

Not real Americans? The friends and colleagues I've been forced to picture dying in pitch black, crowded stairwells in some Boschean vision of hell? Or breaking a window and jumping from the 101st floor rather than continue to feel their skin grow hotter and hotter?

Not real Americans?

They're saying that Northern Virginia isn't the real America, either. It's not even the real South, they say.

Nothern Virginia. You know - where the Pentagon is."

Monday, October 20, 2008


Took my now eleven-year-old to see this new Broadway musical for Saturday’s matinee show and thoroughly enjoyed it (sorry about the image to the left, my scanner won't let me crop anything anymore).

It’s not the most innovative, original, creatively inspiring musical (like say OKLAHOMA! was when it first came out and still continues to be in many ways—our friend Jaime Rose, back East for a visit a few weeks ago, took me and my son to the most Broadway like theater in this part of Jersey, The Papermill Playhouse, to see their latest version of OKLAHOMA! and we not only loved this classic old theater—which I had never been in before, having grown up with a chip on my shoulder about what I took for the wealthy snobby people who could afford it back when—but were impressed with the production, the leads all terrific, the female singers sounding like angels, the dance numbers well executed, especially the barroom dancehall-girl sequence which came across as still radically in-your-face physical in a way the movie never has as the male dancers slowly spin the females who hold their legs spread as wide as possible—I can’t imagine how confrontationally risqué that must have seemed when it was first performed over a half century ago and was surprised at how it still seems radically transgressive).

But 13 is still a great Broadway musical experience (and thanks to Jamie again since she sent the email with the half price ticket offer I took advantage of).

First of all because, the cast, including the onstage band, are all teenagers (Allie Trimm, the female lead playing a thirteen-year-old, is actually thirteen) and all terrific.

We missed the evening shows’ lead, Graham Phillips (the middle son in EVAN ALMIGHTY) but the matinee lead, Cory J. Snide, did a fine job carrying the show as Evan, the character the plot pivots on.

Eric M Nelsen as the “most popular boy in school” character was so good at depicting this dim bulb jock’s cluelessness, I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. My son recognized him from just one guest shot on ICARLY, one of his favorite Disney TV shows.

A diminutive actor, Al Calderon, also had me in tears from laughing so hard with his depiction of the funny sidekick (along with Malik Hammond, also funny and multi-talented).

In fact, I have to admit, it brought tears to my eyes just seeing the talent displayed. I’m a sap for live performers who give it their all, even when it isn’t the best I’ve experienced.

But in this case, the level of performance chops in the cast—from singing and dancing to comic and poignant acting moments—was as good as any adult Broadway show.

And I was always a sap for musicals. I took a lot of heat as a kid and a young man for digging musicals when most males looked at them as entertainment for females and gay men. I took solace in the fact that the musicals I dug were ones from which many of my jazz idols and models borrowed tunes for their own gigs and recordings. If Miles and Coltrane dug these tunes, they couldn’t be all that sappy.

I find it interesting that the tradition of the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wins-girl-in-the-end plot that fueled classic Broadway musicals like OKLAHOMA!—as well as romantic comedies on both stage and in films—seems so sentimental and unreal in this post-Sondheim age, and is mostly seen now in films—and now in this play—with plots that center around teenagers or men who still act like teens and are nebbishy Jewish anti-heroes, as in the Judd Apatow films and this musical. 13 may be the first Broadway musical in which the plot hinges on the lead’s plans for his Bar Mitzvah party.

Another great thing about 13 is that it has no intermission. It’s about ninety minutes long and the scenes flow into each other so well and so rapidly, with scene changes done by the cast in seconds (the sets are fantastic as well, evoking Manhattan and a small town in Indiana with a few bold strokes, as well as teen bedrooms, classrooms, school halls and the Dairy Queen, equally minimal but powerfully evocative) that the time flies by.

The energy in the dance numbers and ensemble songs is so contagious, they’re worth the price of admission alone. I highly recommend this if you have teens or pre-teens, or if you still have any of that youthful spirit in your own heart.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I know I did something similar somewhere in the past on this blog, but last night for my usual helping-me-fall-back-asleep list I started thinking about creative works I dig that have one syllable titles and came up with this before I was snoozing again:

ACT (a beautiful early collection of poet Tom Raworth’s work)

BURN (an operatic epic movie shot almost like a documentary with a great score and unlikely performances, especially from Brando)

CANE (Jean Toomer’s masterful 1920s collection of short stories and poems that somehow added up to a new kind of novel, to me)

DUES (a rare limited edition hardcover collection of short early poems of mine—hey, it’s my list)

ELF (a silly kids movie, maybe, but the first time I got what people see in Will Ferrell as he charmed me right into loving his character, and this movie, which has to be on most classic Christmas flicks list, at least it’s on mine)

FUP (fellow poet Jim Dodge’s breakthrough novel back in the day)

GO (John Clellon Holmes’ attempt to capture the Beat era as it was happening)

HELP (in retrospect a true cry for “help” and not just another uniquely clever Beatles song)

“I” (I think that was the title of an essay poet Bruce Andrews wrote about my work in an early issue of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, but I can’t find a copy of it so can’t verify that, but it’s what came to mind)

JOE (poet Ron Padgett’s memoir of artist/poet Joe Brainard, a very accessible personal take)

KIM (I haven’t read any Rudyard Kipling in years, and even when I did I wasn’t crazy about a lot of it, but this novel is his best, and not just in my opinion)

LOOT (The 1980s Broadway production of Joe Orton’s farce in which Alec Baldwin first showed his comic chops playing the dim bulb Cockney chauffeur and stole the show)

MOON (one of the more subtle of James Schulyer’s short diary-like poems that seem to be nothing more than daily notations or “occasional” poems but end up epiphanies)

NUNS (originally a rare poetry chapbook of Terence Winch’s but now available as a section of his latest collection of poems BOY DRINKERS)

OF (like I said, it’s my list and although I can see why some folks wouldn’t get or care for some or all of my poetry, I still dig it or I wouldn’t put it out there, and this book-length poem is one of my favorites)

PRIEST (an early ‘90s Brit flick that had some terrific performances in it)

QUEER (William Burroughs’ early non-“experimental” almost pulp novel).

RAIN (emblematic Francis Ponge prose poem)

SKY (poet Blaise Cendrars memoir/history of “flying”)

TED (Ron Padgett’s short but totally engaging personal memoir of poet Ted Berrigan)


VEINS (a favorite of mine and a typically original and brilliant poem of John Godfrey’s from one of his uniquely terrific books, DABBLE)

WATT (Samuel Beckett’s second published novel, if I remember correctly, but his most radically original)

X (the section of Dante’s LA VITA NUOVA—one of the first books to match my own burgeoning idea as a kid of what a book can do—where he returns from “the road of sighs” as one English translation has it, a road I already knew well even as a young man)

YES (their first album with just the band name knocked me out at the time, or maybe I mean contributed to my already gone state the first time I listened to it and on subsequent listens through the next several months, it became the soundtrack of the end of the actual decade the ‘60s)

Z (still one of the better “fictional” films about politics and power)

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Here's an article worth quoting, to show what the rabble rousing is creating.

"Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal activist group's Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized Thursday, reflecting mounting tensions over its role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote next month.

Attorneys for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now were notifying the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division of the incidents, said Brian Kettenring, a Florida-based spokesman for the group.

Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, have verbally attacked the group repeatedly in recent days, alleging a widespread vote-fraud scheme, although they've provided little proof. It was disclosed Thursday that the FBI is examining whether thousands of fraudulent voter-registration applications submitted by some ACORN workers were part of a systematic effort or isolated incidents.

Kettenring said that a senior ACORN staffer in Cleveland, after appearing on television this week, got an e-mail that said she 'is going to have her life ended.'

A female staffer in Providence, R.I., got a threatening call from someone who said words to the effect of 'We know you get off work at 9,' then uttered racial epithets, he said.

McClatchy is withholding the women's names because of the threats.

Separately, vandals broke into the group's Boston and Seattle offices and stole computers, Kettenring said.

The incidents came the day after McCain charged in the final presidential debate that ACORN's voter-registration drive "may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history" and may be 'destroying the fabric of democracy.'

McCain's comments provoked a response from ACORN.

'I would not say that Senator McCain is inciting violence,' Kettenring said, 'but I would say that his statements about the role of this manufactured scandal were totally outlandish. We would call on Senator McCain to tamp down the fringe elements in his party.'

McCain's campaign didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kettenring said that ACORN had received growing amounts of hate mail in recent weeks, but 'the campaign debate sort of tipped it over to a scary point, where raising allegations of voter fraud went from a cynical campaign ploy to really inciting racial violence.'

Since McCain's remarks, ACORN's 87 offices across the country have received hundreds of hostile e-mails, many of them containing racial slurs, Kettenring said. "We believe that these are specifically McCain supporters" sending the messages, he said.

The e-mail to the Cleveland employee was traced to a Facebook Web page in the name of a Baltimore man. It featured a photo of a McCain-Palin sign.

Kettenring said that the bulk of the e-mails had been either 'flat-out racist' or had racial overtones. Most of the group's 400 members and about 80 percent of the 13,000 voter-registration canvassers are African-American or Latino.

It's unclear whether the alleged threats violated federal law, but Jonah Goldman, the director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit legal organization that battles discrimination, argued that the Voting Rights Act should apply.

'A real concern is the impact that these terrible acts have on the people who registered through these registration drives," Goldman said. "Legitimate, eligible voters who sign up through these registration drives may be understandably intimidated and choose not to show up at the polls, and the Voting Rights Act prevents voter intimidation.'


Sometimes rj says it better than me. Check it out.

Friday, October 17, 2008


So, as we all now know, "Joe the Plumber" is a registered Republican who doesn't have a plumber's license. And the business he works for, and said he hoped to buy, has a yearly income that will get a tax break under an Obama presidency, not a tax hike.

But as we also know, these facts mean nothing to rightwingers.

Obama will "raise your taxes" is still their mantra, and McCain less than twenty-four hours ago—and after "Joe the plumber" was exposed as a fraud—is still claiming in his speeches everything he was claiming in the debate that has since been exposed as lies.

This is what so many of us have been pointing out (and been frustrated by the media often ignoring or trying to "balance" by giving the lying side and the factual side as if both were equal)—that rightwing Republicans have perfected "the big lie" of the Nazis and Soviet Communists so well that an inordinate amount of people in this country (see some of the comments on past posts on this blog for perfect examples) believe them, no matter the evidence.

I told a friend the instant I saw the photo of "Joe the Plumber" and Obama—even before the video turned up on youtube or that encounter became an emblem of the debate and the commentary that followed—I could see "Joe" was trying to control an obvious distaste, if not outright hatred, for Obama.

And when I learned "Joe" said that Obama "tap danced all around the answer" and added that Obama outdid Sammy Davis Jr. Well, that's all she wrote. I don't listen to Rush or his ilk, but that sounds exactly like the kind of thing they say in their coded racist way.

The right despises Obama's consistently thoughtful and reasoned answers to questions and proposals for solutions to our problems. They have been thriving on their own "big lies" for so long now, they have no aptitude for reason and thoughtfulness, only sarcasm and simplified rightward spin.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


1. I’m tired of too many pundits and too many of the voters interviewed after debates saying the candidates are not being specific or explaining their policies or answering the questions directly and specifically.

Not always, not necessarily consistently, but in general, they are. They did last night. Obama more than McCain, but that’s partly because McCain’s proposals are less detailed in general, and he’s changed his positions on major issues a few times since the campaign began.

But anyone who has paid attention to the campaigns, or even just to the debates, or even just the debate last night should have come away with several specific differences in the candidates’ proposals for how they will handle tax policy, health care, the issue of abortion, and Supreme Court nominations, as well as energy policy, jobs creation, and the federal budget. Among other issues.

And in previous debates their foreign policy proposals, especially concerning the two wars the USA is fighting, but other foreign policy issues as well, were made clear and are distinctly different (they were briefly referred to last night as well).

This is a stark choice between two very different approaches to governing and to the policies the executive branch has any power over, even if just the power of persuasion.

2. Which leads me to the obvious superiority of Obama’s policy proposals, unless you are a major corporation or big business and are more interested in tax cuts than in sustaining your business’s viability and profitability.

Under a McCain presidency, it is clear there will be some minor changes from Junior’s administration, but not many. Under an Obama presidency, there will be major changes. So it is perfectly fair to portray McCain/Palin as representing more of the same (especially in the case of Palin whose handlers are all from the Bush/Cheney circle of advisors).

Obama has won every debate because his ideas are better for the country and the average citizen, and he has stated them more clearly and specifically. And because he has displayed the temperament, the intellect and the resolve we need in a president, now more than ever, while McCain has appeared temperamental, often intellectually at a loss, and more sarcastic than resolved.

3. Which leads me to renewed fears.

Liberals, by definition, are humanists. They believe in equal rights, solving problems with reason and compromise, intellectual curiosity and openness, etc.

Moderates, by definition, believe in a balance, a middle way, a repudiation of ideology in favor of practicality and, obviously, moderation.

Independents can have varied beliefs, but again, they do not succumb to the ideology of either major party, though they may adhere to another ideology (libertarianism e.g.), and have never had the power of controlling any branch of our government so have no history of schemes and tactics to maintain power.

True conservatives, of which there are few these days, believe in fiscal responsibility, smaller government, personal responsibility, and generally in ideals that have been better represented by Democrats in the past several decades than Republicans (e.g. the most fiscally responsible administration in most of our lifetimes was Clinton’s, the least fiscally responsible were Reagan’s and the present one).

Rightwing Republicans, so-called neo-conservatives, the ones who have been dominant in the Republican Party since Reagan, and on the rise since Nixon, and entrenched in the past eight years in all branches of government (it continues to be one of their big lies that the Congress is controlled by Democrats for the past two years, when they know that because of the almost even split in the Senate, the Democrats cannot override Republicans in Congress to get bills passed the Bush administration objects to, etc.) have demonstrated clearly they are only interested in power.

If it was the ideology they profess to believe in, then why didn’t they move to overturn Roe v. Wade in the first six years of this administration when they controlled the Supreme Court (witness the stealing of the 2000 election), the White House and the Congress. Especially after Roberts became the Chief Justice, a man who is anti-abortion.

They didn’t even attempt it, because they are not interested in that, they are interested only in getting and keeping power. Which is where the fear comes in for me.

When LBJ was faced with the possible loss of power, he chose not to run again. When JFK was faced with the rightwing faction of the federal government wanting to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro as well as escalate the war in Viet Nam, he was assassinated (no, I’m not defending conspiracy theories, I’m just stating the circumstances).

When Carter told the country the truth about our dependence on foreign oil and the measures needed to detach from that dependence, and for the first time brokered peace between Israel and one of its Arab state neighbors, and healed the rifts in this country caused by the Viet Nam war and by a corrupt administration (Nixon’s) bent on gaining and maintaining power by any means necessary (i.e. their “dirty tricks” team, Watergate, et. al.), the rightwing elements in the CIA in conjunction with the ones Carter had purged (the so-called “shadow” CIA and other rogue elements of the various intelligence agencies) sabotaged Carter’s policy initiatives through various secret and often illegal methods, while the rightwing propaganda machine ridiculed Carter’s seeming powerlessness in the face of these rogue elements (leading to the hostage crisis becoming a negative—despite the fact that the Carter administration managed to keep them alive etc.—and only being resolved when Reagan was inaugurated because of the eventually exposed secret deal these rogue elements made, Iran-Contra, etc.)

What I am saying is, just because it looks like Obama may indeed be elected president, rightwing Republicans will not just accept that reality. As we have seen in every election since 2000, despite the scientifically proven accuracy of exit polls as conducted up to that time, in cases, and only in cases where Republicans have lost in key districts, have those exit polls proved inaccurate because voting machines have failed or been suddenly faulty or polling places have delayed opening or not had enough machines etc. etc.

And when the rightwing “dirty tricks” fail to accomplish their goal of getting and keeping power, they will stoop to any means necessary, (e.g. attempted impeachment even after the most expensive government investigation in history turned up no crime on Clinton’s part, other than keeping an affair secret, the original investigation about Whitewater cleared the Clintons of any involvement in any crime involving that minor investment).

There will be many voting irregularities. The rightwing push against ACORN already shows their strategy, questioning the registration of voters only in those districts that seem liable to swing from Republican to Democratic.

The reality is that many more cases of voters being disenfranchised at the polls have been recorded in the past several elections than cases of “voter fraud” i.e. voters not being who they say they are. The disenfranchisement has always been, historically and more recently, cases of probable Democratic constituents being turned away and kept from voting or their votes not being counted, ala Florida 2000, Ohio 2004. Cases bought against “fraudulent” votes cast over the past decades add up to so few you can count them on two hands, while cases of disenfranchisement, the rightwing preference for keeping Democratic votes from being cast or counted, have numbered in the hundreds.

If Obama wins and the vote count is so overwhelming they cannot turn the election results around through voting irregularities or a close decision being decided by the Supreme Court again, etc. I do not put it past them to try some other means of maintaining power.

While the most thoughtful Republicans lately have been saying they intend to vote for Obama, or at least accept that an Obama victory might be for the best and they’ll regroup and come back in four years or in the mid term Congressional elections, the more strident rightwing Republicans have been making it clear an Obama victory will be a victory for terrorism, socialism, communism and gangsterism, all legitimate targets, in their minds, for vigilantism.

Let’s hope they’re too busy dealing with their own financial problems to actually do anything extreme. But I do not put it past them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


As my old friend Selby would say, it's a gasser.

[thanks to RJ Eskow's nightlight blog for hipping me to this. I wish I knew how to just put the video on my blog the way others seem able to do. Hmmmm.]


Not all Republicans, but all Nobel Prize winners:

"An Open Letter to the American People

This year's presidential election is among the most significant in our nation's history. The country urgently needs a visionary leader who can ensure the future of our traditional strengths in science and technology and who can harness those strengths to address many of our greatest problems: energy, disease, climate change, security, and economic competitiveness.We are convinced that Senator Barack Obama is such a leader, and we urge you to join us in supporting him.

During the administration of George W. Bush, vital parts of our country's scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support. The government's scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations. As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk. We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve our economy.

We have watched Senator Obama's approach to these issues with admiration. We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation's competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation's and the world's most urgent needs.

Senator Obama understands that Presidential leadership and federal investments in science and technology are crucial elements in successful governance of the world's leading country. We hope you will join us as we work together to ensure his election in November.


Alexei Arikosov

Roger Guillemin

Peter Agre

John L. Hall

Sidney Altman

Leland H. Hartwell

Philip W. Anderson

Dudley Herschbach

Richard Axel

Roald Hoffmann

David Baltimore

H. Robert Horvitz

Baruj Benacerraf

Louis Ignarro

Paul Berg

Eric R. Kandel

J. Michael Bishop

Walter Kohn

N. Bloembergen

Roger Kornberg

Michael S. Brown

Leon M. Lederman

Linda B. Buck

Craig C. Mello

Mario R. Capecchi

Yoichiro Nambu

Martin Chalfie

Marshall Nirenberg

Stanley Cohen

Douglas D. Osheroff

Leon Cooper

Stanley B. Prusiner

James W. Cronin

Norman F. Ramsey

Robert F. Curl

Robert Richardson

Johann Diesenhofer

Burton Richter

John B. Fenn

Sherwood Rowland

Edmond H. Fischer

Oliver Smithies

Val Fitch

Richard R Schrock

Jerome I. Friedman

Joseph H. Taylor Jr.

Murray Gell-Man

E. Donnall Thomas

Riccardo Giacconi

Charles H. Townes

Walter Gilbert

Roger Tsien

Alfred G. Gilman

Daniel C.Tsui

Donald A. Glaser

Harold Varmus

Sheldon L. Glashow

James D. Watson

Joseph Goldstein

Eric Wieschaus

Paul Greengard

Frank Wilczek

David Gross

Robert W. Wilson

Robert H. Grubbs


I don't want to use the expression "rats leaving a sinking ship"—mostly because the rightwing Republicans will do anything to steal this election so until it is officially over (I am among those who think that Junior lost both elections, 2000, and '04, but that rightwing Republicans stole both, the first one in the obvious ways we all know about, the second in the swing state of Ohio where voting machines displayed discrepancies inconsistent with voter interviews and previous and subsequent elections etc.) I will be holding my breath.

Still, it is amazing to see how many leading Republicans, even rightwing Republicans (which over the past several elections has been the vast majority of course) are backing Obama now. here's Maureen Dowd in todday's NY Times mentioning only a few:

"On Tuesday, Matthew Dowd, the former Bush strategist who offered a famous apologia for helping get W. re-elected, offered a scorching assessment of Palin’s not being ready, saying that McCain 'knows that in his gut. And when this race is over, that is something he will have to live with. ... He put somebody unqualified on that ballot, and he put the country at risk.'

Christopher Hitchens endorsed Barack Obama on Slate on Monday, calling Palin’s conduct 'a national disgrace' and writing: 'Given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party’s right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama’s position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.'

Christopher Buckley endorsed Obama on The Daily Beast, writing of McCain’s embrace of Palin: 'What on earth can he have been thinking?' (The endorsement led to Buckley’s resigning from The National Review, founded by his father.)

On 'The Colbert Report' on Monday, the conservative columnist Kathleen Parker stuck by her assertion, which she said caused the base to treat her like a traitor, that Palin should have bowed out. She said she’d gotten some secret e-mails from Republicans in the White House agreeing with her.

...David Brooks, speaking at an Atlantic Magazine event, called Palin 'a fatal cancer to the Republican Party,' bemoaning the fact that she did not fit in with the late William Buckley’s desire to have a party that celebrated ideas and learning."

Monday, October 13, 2008


Who would have thought I'd be quoting form Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who has been spinning everything in this campaign in favor of McCain and Palin no matter what. But even she feels compelled to finally tell the truth:

"McCain has seemed herky-jerky. Obama has seemed like the older, steadier fellow since the economic crisis began."

And might I add, for much longer than that for many of us.


When I was a kid, I always got confused and called Frankenstein's monster Frankenstein, like most kids, and actually many adults.

I got the monster and his creator confused. But now I know the difference, and in our current crisis, the cynical rightwing political manipulators behind uncredited rightwing attacks on Obama, along with Palin's and McCain's (though he showed some regret for his part in it briefly a few times on Friday), Rove and his surrogates and those in the rightwing media from FOX News to Rush et. al. know very well that Obama is not a socialist, a communist, a gangster or a terrorist, let alone a Muslim, anything other than "American," etc.

But they fuel these rumors and smears and lies because it is the only game they have left. And the monster they create—young couples afraid for their children's lives if Obama gets elected (!) and old people believing he's an Islamic terrorist (!) etc.—can lead to no good, as we learned the last time this kind of anger was fueled by the right in order to get Nixon elected. I was on the receiving end of some of that anger, not pretty.

Here's a link to a youtube video of what they've wrought.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Trying to get back to sleep last night after the garbage trucks, started imagining a new alphabet list based on the KGB reading last week and the post I did about it titled WINCH & LALLY.

Made me think of other dynamic duos whose work has sometimes, if not always, impressed me or entertained me or inspired me or educated me or just engaged me in unexpected ways.

Here’s the ones I could think of, unfortunately left more than the usual amount of letters blank, maybe you can think of some:

D? [DYLAN & BAEZ c. 1963, thanks to Toby Thompson's prodding]
HADEN, CHARLIE & HANK JONES (the album STEAL AWAY, just Haden’s bass and Jones’ piano on spiritual tunes, is one of my all time favorites by a duo or anyone else)

Friday, October 10, 2008


They're actually trying to pin the world economic meltdown on Democrats!

The current rightwing Republican administration was warned about what's happened over the past few weeks time and again by many, including Obama, but just as they responded to the warnings from the outgoing Clinton administration and from their own intelligence advisors that Al Queda was planning a major attack on the U. S. and as they were warned by the U. S. Weather warning system and The Army Corps of Engineers and their own advisors about the impact Katrina might have on New Orleans, and just as they were warned by military leaders, their own and retired ones from previous administrations about the necessity of not invading Iraq, but if doing so doing it with a larger force and being prepared for the chaos to follow—they ignored every warning and twiddled their thumbs while they and their cronies profited from their mistakes.

And now they're trying to pin the 1960s radicalism of Bill Ayers on Obama, though he was a little boy when those events occurred. But as I said in a comment on a previous blog and is worth repeating in case you missed it, their guilt by association McCartyhism is not only tired and lame, it's self destructive.

Reagan was friends with Werner Von Broun, the Nazi scientist who created the V rockets that destroyed much of London and murdered innumberable people in England and elswhere, and who was a friend of Hitler's, therefore by their logic Reagan shares in the guilt for all those killed by the Nazis.

Junior and the entire Bush family were and are in business with and very intimate family friends with and profit from their connection to the Saudi Arabian leaders, therefore all the Bushes are co-responsible for 9/11 and all deaths caused by radical jihadism (since it originates in Wahhabinism which originates in Saudi Arabia and is supported by the Saudi leaders).

John McCain has ties to innumerable rightwing hatemongers and was on the board of an organization that is racist and anti-semitic, which is actually a truly bad association, but he also made friends with his Vietnamese Communist adversaries so therefore he now shares guilt for all the deaths on our side caused by them (over 50,000, including friends of mine), and there is ample evidence, including the testimony of fellow POWs who aren't his supporters—that the confession McCain gave under pressures many of them also were subjected to (but they never gave up military information) included giving information about bomber routes and bombing missions and targets that led to more of our planes being shot down (statistically provable by the way) after his confession, as well as more American troops dying. So McCain is therefore co-responsible for millions of deaths, shall we go on?

And don't forget, Reagan and the Bushes and McCain were all adults when their friends did the nefarious deeds that led to the deaths of multitudes. And they were and are actual friends. Obama was a boy when Ayers promoted radical actions to fight against the Viet Nam war effort, actions which led to no deaths at the time, and a handful later but not caused by Ayers, by the way. And Obama and he are not friends—as I'm sure you all know Ayers is a professor now and he and Obama served on the same board of an organization dedicated to improving public education, and Ayers hosted a fundraiser for Obama's Senate race in his home. As did many other people Obama either had never met or only knew as fellow prominent Chicagoans, etc.

We know these tactics are born from desperation because McCain and Palin have no real solutions to the enormous problems facing this country except to blame the Democrats and Obama for problems caused by Republicans, and when that doesn't stick, start throwing accusations about being friends with "terrorists."

It's heartbreaking to see what could have been one of the first modern campaigns to be more about issues than personal attacks turn into one of the most disgusting displays of smear tactics and rabble rousing. Unfortunately these tactics will only get worse I'm afraid, and the people behind them won't disappear if they fail to steal the election, which they are hard at work doing by questioning voter registration in predominantly Democratic districts in swing states already.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Remember where the 9/11 attackers came from? Saudi Arabia.

Remember where Bin Laden comes from? Saudi Arabia.

Remember where the virulent form of fundamentalist Islam that inspires the jihad against the West comes from? Saudi Arabia.

Remember which nation's leaders have been close friends and business associates of the Bush family for longer than most of us have been alive? Saudi Arabia.

Remember how Junior said he would get the terrorists whereever they are or whoever supported them? And how Laura Bush was so upset about the way women were being treated in parts of Afghanistan? But how no Bush or anyone in their administrations has ever condemnded or even attempted to put pressure on Saudi Arabia?

Well check out the latest news from Saudi Arabia here.

[PS Thanks to Charles Lambert's blog for hipping me to this]


It seems pointless to even comment anymore. McCain looked like a troll, alternating a self-satisfied smile—when he thought he had zinged Obama or just gotten all his talking points out—with a mean pout that looked like he couldn't believe he wasn't just getting handed the presidency for saying all the "right" things.

As for Palin, she has proven herself to be not only ill-informed and incapable of stating the truth, but her nasty streak, the one Alaskans talk about her using against anyone who challenges her or questions her, has grown to the point of her seeming willingness (along with Cindy and John McCain) to incite their loyal rightwing crowds to shouting death threats against Obama as if that's how our democracy works (though unfortunately in our history, it too often has, witness JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, et. al.).

It was disheartening to see the various focus groups interviewed on the networks and cable news shows after the debate who couldn't seem to make up their minds because they thought neither candidate gave any specifics. Obama couldn't have been more specific. Even McCain was specific a few times, in ways that should have made it clear to any clear thinking citizen that his ideas and projected policies will not solve any of our big problems but instead will make most of them worse.

Unfortunately, policy and how it gets carried out are lost on a lot of our fellow citizens, and so short easy answers, or stories, work best. Obama had a few great moments where he seemed to realize that, like when he said he thought health care is a right. And McCain gave Obama one—at least for those of us who are paying attention and can see past the spin—when he said the country needs a "steady hand" on the rudder in these times of crisis, and most of us could nod our heads and agree that Obama has been the steady one while McCain has been erratic.

I hope the Dems are smart enough to run adds making that point.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Just a quick note to say the reading at KGB Bar last night—Terence Winch and I read our poems in two sessions with a short intermission, Terry reading first for "ten" minutes and than me and the same after the break—was a lot more entertaining than the debate tonight.

About half the standing room only crowd were old and new friends of mine and Terry's, and about half folks neither of us knew. Old friends and great poets like Bruce Andrews, Ted Greenwald, Charles Bernstein, Bill Zavatsky, David Lehman (who oversees the reading series and gave the introduction), Simon Pettet (he and I will be reading next month in Jersey, more about that soon)—and especially Beth Rake, Keith McCarthy and publisher and great editor Janey Tannenbaum (whose Wyrd Press published my early long poem "My Life" as a book back in the '70s)—were there, as well as new friends and also terrific poets, Jose Funes, publisher and poet Lisa Duggan, Phliipa Scott, artist and poet Susan Napack, Nance Boylan and others I'm probably not remembering, and ones in between, like Janet Kirker, just too many friends to list here (plus my ten-year-old now eleven-year-old today and his mother and aunt Luloo) and more, made it feel like a poets reunion and family celebration rolled into one (or vice versa).

Terence "raised the bar" as someone said, and I tried to reach it. Even read a bunch of new poems, ten of them written that day (yesterday afternoon) and they seemed to go over pretty well.

All in all a terrific night. I was told there'd never been a bigger crowd for a poetry reading at KGB. Nice to hear that. And Terence and I figured out that it may have been the first time we read together in Manhattan! A first. But we'll be reading again there in January, this time in a reading series where poets read prose they've written. I'll post the details when I get them straight.

For those who were there, thanks again for coming out, and thanks to KGB Bar for keeping the words flowing.

[PS For another take on the reading see "Last Night at the KGB Bar" link at the top right]


Our friend, 15-year-old Gabe Norstein came up with the most succinct summary of McCain:

"Multiple houses, multiple spouses, but can't use mouses."

[woops, made a mistake, Gabe is only 14 years old!]

Sunday, October 5, 2008


At the end of the Bush/Cheney regime, where do we stand?

They promised to protect this nation and entered office with warnings that the greatest threat to it was Al Queda but chose to ignore those warnings and allow the most deadly attack on this nation in almost twoo hundred years.

They promised to reduce the size of government. It's grown more than any time in the past several decades.

They entered with a budget surplus and promised to add to it, but are leaving with the largest deficit in history.

They put down "nation-building" and said our military would never be used for that nor would we ever engage in it under their administration. They leave with our military still engaged in a more than five-year effort to rebulld Iraq, a nation needing rebuilding because our military (under order from Bush/Cheney) destroyed that nation.

They promised to find Bin Laden and either kill him or bring him to justice. He's still at large (living in a "villa," not a cave, according to Christiana Amanpour's sources, which, as opposed to Bush/Cheney's, have proven to be reliable).

They promised to listen to their own military leaders and "commanders in the field" but instead demoted or forced into early retirement any general or admiral who disagreed with them.

They promised to create jobs and build our economy, which was already sound and had resulted under Clinton/Gore in more jobs being created than under any previous administration. They leave with the economy in the worst shape it's been in in a century, according to some of their own experts, and with job losses increasing every month.

They promised a "humbler" foreign policy. They leave having tried to bully other nations around the world into following orders from them, only to see the prestige of the U. S. government diminished to its lowest ebb in modern history and perhaps in all our history.

They promised to end partisan fights and "reach across the aisle" only to end up demanding everyone follow their orders lockstep or be branded unpatriotic or even traitorous.

They pretended to respect the Constitution, especially the privacy parts, but ignored the Constituion time and again and only fought to protect the privacy of profiteers and corporations, invading the privacy of citizens more extremely than under any previous administration even in war time.

They promised to return "honor" to the government and then overturned the historic tradition created by George Washington before we were even yet an independent country when in the Revolutionary War he set the policy which our military would maintain until Bush/Cheney of treating captured enemy combatants as we would want our troops treated, and in doing so brought shame not only on our country and our military, adding to the loss of prestige for our government and people, but also brought shame on this administration when it lied about deliberately designing a policy that not only tolerated torture but encouraged it and held only a hand full of low level troops accountable refusing to prosecute or even investigate those who designed and ordered the torture policy.

They promised to make government more efficient but instead rewarded their followers with more pork and perks and corrupt power coming close to bankrupting the economy and rendering government agencies virtually useless (see response to Katrina, warnings about Wall Street, etc.)

This list could go on for several more days, probably weeks, even months if we really got into the details, but the main point should be this—the only thing this administration and the Rovian philosophy behind it accomplished successfully was to get and hold on to power no matter how they had to lie steal and cheat to do it, and to use that power to reward friends and punish enemies, not based on those peoples' contributions to the welfare of the nation, but on those peoples contributions to the getting and maintaining of that power.

May their God hold them accountable for their deeds.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Well, she did better than expected because the expectations were so low.

Or another way of looking at it is, doggone it, she sure is a regular joe sixpack hockey mom kinda gal next door who’s gonna get that darn fed’ral government to help out the folks at Saturday’s soccer game and’ll just have to not be too specific how (wink wink) ‘cause doggone it who wants to hear about her ol’ end times beliefs (what the heck, the world’s comin’ to an end soon anyway an’ Alaska, according to her pastor, is gonna be the refuge state for all those believers in the lower 48 who’ll need a place to run to when the anti-Christ shows up—and we know who that might be wink wink—and the Rapture sends all those Jews and Catholics to hell and even some of those darn Protestants who just don’t get it that there’s only one way to be saved) and she’s not gonna come out and say it but her sarcastic tone and gotcha satisfied smile when she gets an opening for her rehearsed phrases about how these other guys are just gonna raise your taxes, gosh even if that is a lie, it isn’t if you’re as rich as John and Cindy McCain for pete’s sake, and anyways, these guys are just gonna take away your doctors and try and put the fed’ral government right there controlin’ your health care darn it, even if that’s a lie too (wink wink) we all know lyin’s fair ‘n’ square if you do it with a wink and a smile and that sarcastic knowing rightwing insider look of these dumb ol’ Democrats think that facts’ll beat her perky cutesiness and competence’ll win over repeating the same old lies over and over again until enough people believe’em. Which, come on, they obviously do or there wouldn’t be such high percentages of Americans who still think Obama’s a Muslim (well he did wear that funny outfit and has that funny name not like brig and trig and fig and the cutesy white folks Alaskan killers of wild animals with guns from helicopters chasing them down kinda folks) and he’s an obvious “elitist” with all that fancy expensive stuff (hey, so what if he was raised by a single mom on food stamps and later by grandparents from Kansas and made it to Harvard on brains and hard work and turned down opportunities to make millions as a big time lawyer to help working-class and poor people instead, and so far has been right on every major issue of our times so much so that even Junior and his team have come around to carrying out almost every suggestion Obama made (and there’s still more time left doggone it) like dealing with Iran, coming up with a timed plan to get our troops out of Iraq, deciding oversight is needed for Wall Street etc.) well heck even Mavericks, John and her, she , whatever, have followed Obama’s lead and now they’re for change too but not that ol’ changing of the people and party runnin’ Washington, that’s not change, change is sayin’ Maverick over and over again, ‘cause gosh, votin’ ninety percent with Junior like John has done and havin’ the same cut-taxes and don’t talk to bad guys like Russia and just let’em have it dead or alive you can’t hide it’s us or them country first there’s no people as great as American people cause heck anybody knows a young black man isn’t gonna change much in Washington, so who cares if that whole change thing was his idea, it’s John’s and hers now, just like John and her are gonna cure health care and not raise your taxes by cutting rich people’s taxes even more and letting the insurance companies run your health care instead of that old icky fed’ral government that should just go away, who needs it anyway? Government’s the darn problem, we need to get government the heck out of the way. Gee whiz that’s what the president’s been tryin’ to do and them Mavericks can finish the job ‘cause they’re a whole new party now and all the lobbyists and oil people and Carl Rove folks workin’ for John’s and her campaigns just means John and her are smart enough to use the bright guys that got Junior elected and kept him in power even though he pretty near gosh darn destroyed the economy and destroyed our country first!

[rj eskow did a much funnier and on the money version of this, check it out]

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Hey, anybody interested in the poetry reading I'm doing this coming Monday with Terence Winch at KGB Bar (85 East 4th St.) in New York, I've had it listed to the right for a while now with the wrong time. I was originally told it started at 7:30, but on the bar's calender they have it down for 7PM. Just a heads up.


Check this out. It's long but worth it. Says pretty much what a lot of us have been pointing out for a while now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I needed some comic relief from recent events so I took my little guy to see GHOST TOWN.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved almost any movie that had ghosts or spirits in them.

And I love romantic movies too, that work—at least for me.

So I’m a sucker for movies that do both.

I even liked GHOST, which most people I know can’t stand, or can only admit they like Whoppi Goldberg’s performance in. But I dug everyone in it, including Demi Moore and the much-parodied pot-throwing scene.

So, it should have been easy for me to love GHOST TOWN, the latest entry in this genre.

But I wasn’t sure I would. And well into it I was still wondering. Because even though I love everything I’ve ever seen Tea Leoni or Greg Kennear in, because they are both such good actors, especially able to draw pathos from comedy and vice versa, and I appreciate Ricky Gervais’s comic talent, ultimately I find it difficult to watch him.

I had trouble watching the original British THE OFFICE as well as his HBO series EXTRAS, for the same reason I rarely watch sitcoms.

Because when something totally embarrassing happens—no matter how obviously meant to be funny or lead into something funny, or how well resolved—I get so uncomfortable I have to leave the room.

For a guy who’s done his share of embarrassing behavior, you’d think it might be cathartic, or at least a small relief to see my own foibles shared. But that’s not usually the case, because the kind of behavior I’m talking about most people could see coming a mile away and avoid it, even me, or at least regret it later.

No, Gervais’s character on EXTRAS was so blindly unaware of other peoples’ feelings most of the time, it led to behavior that, though seemingly funny to a lot of folks, I usually found so thoughtlessly dumb, it embarrassed me too much to watch.

That’s how GHOST TOWN struck me in the early scenes, watching Gervais’s dentist go through his self-pitying self-centered day. There was a note of sympathy evoked for what was portrayed as a pathetically lonely man—which of course telegraphed the eventual resolution from the first moment—but that wasn’t enough to overcome the general dislike Gervais was seemingly deliberately creating for his character (yes as crucial to the story, but think of all the great actors, comedic and otherwise, who make us fall for them immediately no matter how bad or base the characters they’re playing might be).

Even when the ending is pretty much a given, how a movie gets to it is the mark of whether it’s any good or not. That’s mostly dependent on the writing (in this case the director David Koepp with the help of John Kamps) and how well the actors execute it.

Having Greg Kennear and Tea Leoni acting out your words and plot pretty much guarantees I’m gonna enjoy watching it, no matter how dismissible or unmemorable it might become in hindsight. But Gervais was the problem for this viewer.

Especially since I was so looking forward to the interaction between the ghosts and the live characters and it wasn’t happening quickly enough—or just plain enough—to satisfy the little kid in me (and maybe because I was watching it with my own little kid).

But after the set up extended too long for my taste, it finally started to pay dividends (if that isn’t too sensitive a metaphor to use these days) when Kennear’s and Leoni’s characters became a more integral part of the story.

From then on I was hooked, and by the end of the movie, Ricky Gervais had made me stop squirming and I’d surrendered to his “comedic” tics, used here for more dramatic effect, and left the theater having laughed a lot and even dropped a few tears, with another movie to add to any list of romantic/ghost stories.

And wondering if Gervais fans will be disappointed in his obvious surrender to a classic Hollywood kind of movie sentimentality and a more heart-warming take on reality than he usually offers in his TV personas (except for a few contemporary touches, like Aasif Mandri as Gervais’ character’s Hindu dentist partner, this flick could have been made by a Hollywood studio in the 1940s).

You Gervais fans out there, let me know.