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Stating the obvious

Life doesn't go on, it goes by.

Good York Times piece today:

And yet for all the shortcomings of the government’s strategy, the main reason for America’s persistent poverty is the disappearance of jobs with decent pay that can take workers above the poverty line without the government’s help.

The war on poverty was not just about the poor. President Johnson saw it as a way to “prove the success of our system; to disprove those cynics and critics at home and abroad who question our purpose and our competence.”

Our system provides extraordinary rewards for the successful. But as long as so many are left so far behind, the success of our system remains in doubt.

America has not stopped fighting the war on poverty. President Obama’s health law should, when functioning properly, prevent medical expenses from dragging many families into bankruptcy.

Yet winning this war will require more than expanded government benefits. It will probably require a different sort of labor market that provides a better first line of defense. That is a much tougher war to win.

Go read it, it’s a good overview.

How dare you?

One of the questions going round right now is, why isn’t Jamie Dimon being prosecuted over his very obvious Sarbanes-Oxley oversight violations? We all know the answer: Because he’s Jamie fucking Dimon, damn it, and laws are for the little people!

Go to about 3:30 and watch that “What the fuck?” look on his face when Rep. Brad Miller has the audacity to imply he wasn’t doing his job.

Sucking up to the poor mistreated bankers

Hillary Clinton

Ordinarily these masters of the universe might have groaned at the idea of a politician taking the microphone. In the contentious years since the crash of 2008, they’ve grown wearily accustomed to being called names—labeled “fat cats” by President Obama and worse by those on the left—and gotten used to being largely shunned by Tea Party Republicans for their association with the Washington establishment. And of course there are all those infuriating new rules and regulations, culminating this week with the imposition of the so-called Volcker Rule to make risky trades by big banks illegal.

But Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it. What the bankers heard her to say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate: Beating up the finance industry isn’t going to improve the economy—it needs to stop. And indeed Goldman’s Tim O’Neill, who heads the bank’s asset management business, introduced Clinton by saying how courageous she was for speaking at the bank. (Brave, perhaps, but also well-compensated: Clinton’s minimum fee for paid remarks is $200,000).

Certainly, Clinton offered the money men—and, yes, they are mostly men—at Goldman’s HQ a bit of a morale boost. “It was like, ‘Here’s someone who doesn’t want to vilify us but wants to get business back in the game,’” said an attendee. “Like, maybe here’s someone who can lead us out of the wilderness.”
Clinton’s remarks were hardly a sweeping absolution for the sins of Wall Street, whose leaders she courted assiduously for financial support over a decade, as a senator and a presidential candidate in 2008. But they did register as a repudiation of some of the angry anti-Wall Street rhetoric emanating from liberals rallying behind the likes of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). And perhaps even more than that, Clinton’s presence offered a glimpse to a future in which Wall Street might repair its frayed political relationships.

So Hillary’s the Bad Mommy, the one who will clutch the contrite rascals to her bosom and yell at the nasty populist Dems who are picking on her precious angels? Nah, that’s not gonna work. What planet does she live on? Mike Lux, who used to work with Hillary, points out the problem:

There is a fundamental disagreement over approaches to the Jamie Dimons and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world, and one approach, exemplified by a recent speech by Hillary Clinton’s recent speech to Goldman Sachs’ execs helped inspire (if you can call it that) the opposite approach from an organization I chair, American Family Voices. Partly inspired by one settlement after another where Jamie Dimon has sweet-talked prosecutors into no-criminal-prosecution settlements of things which were clearly criminal (the JPM settlements were by far the biggest in history money wise, which is a good thing, but so inadequate in so many ways they still are disappointing), and partly inspired by Hillary’s warm and friendly speech about Wall Street, we are putting out a parody of Rihanna’s video “Diamonds,” turning it into the story of that jewel of a guy Jamie Dimon- we think it is just the kind of hard-hitting and funny satire he and JP Morgan Chase so desperately deserve.

The thing is, the Democratic Party and American society in general are going to have to make a choice about the kind of economic and political course we are going to follow in the years to come. We’re going to have to choose between sucking up to Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein and the Wall Street masters of the universe with all their immense wealth and power on the one hand, and directly challenging the chokehold they have on our economy and our government through our policy initiatives, our political positioning, and cultural satire like this video on the other. Instead of being sympathized with, the Wall Street masters of the universe should be held accountable politically and legally for the role they played in damaging the economy and then keeping our economy from getting back on the road to recovery- and they should be mocked for their arrogance. American Family Voices doesn’t have the power to break the big banks up, or throw their executives in jail, but we can help on the mocking part and on the organizing part.

Was something funny going on?

This is kind of interesting. It doesn’t sound like there was anything too strange going on, but why is the Post making a point of writing about it?

Federal prosecutors told Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell last week that he and his wife would be charged in connection with a gift scandal, but senior Justice Department officials delayed the decision after the McDonnells’ attorneys made a face-to-face appeal in Washington, according to people familiar with the case.

Dana J. Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told the McDonnells’ legal teams that he planned to ask a grand jury to return an indictment no later than this past Monday, people familiar with the conversations said.

McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, would have been charged with working together to illegally promote a struggling dietary-supplement company in exchange for gifts and loans from its chief executive, the people said.

The plan to seek the felony charges this week changed, however, after attorneys for the state’s first couple met with Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole on Dec. 12.

The attorneys argued that the governor had done nothing improper to assist businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. In particular, they focused on the credibility of a key witness, said a person familiar with the presentation. They also argued that if prosecutors proceeded with charges, they should wait until after McDonnell left office Jan. 11 to allow a smooth transition of power to Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe (D).
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Kirsty MacColl–Caroline

This song, while written during the “Titanic Days” sessions, didn’t turn up on a Kirsty album until her first greatest hits collection, “Galore”. (I’ve got the demo tape for “Titanic Days” with an earlier version on it.)

And it was actually offered to an LA “supergroup”, The Continental Drifters, who were pretty wonderful as well–most members of which most of you won’t know, but featuring ex-dB Peter Holsapple, ex-Bangle Vicki Peterson, and Susan Cowsill. Kirsty and Steve dropped by one of their shows–they had a weekly residency at Raji’s, a long-gone LA punk club (you can see a picture of it on the cover of Nirvana’s first LP, “Bleach”). Kirsty gave them the demo tape in hopes that they might want to do one or two or the songs, especially “Caroline”. (She was a big fan of Holsapple’s.)

But much as I loved the Continental Drifters, I’m glad that Kirsty wound up doing it herself…it suits her much better, and ends my little Kirstybinge on an up note (even though it’s about cheating with her best friend’s lover). It’s classic girlgroup sound given a 90’s nudge, and showcases one of Kirsty’s greatest strengths–she was a one-woman girlgroup. Listen to the sublime overdubbed harmonies on this, and all of her other work.

Again–I’ll love and miss her always.

Kirsty MacColl–Titanic Days

Though Kirsty and Steve Lillywhite did marry (and had two beautiful sons), it proved to be a stormy relationship post-marriage. Her album “Titanic Days”, though not specifically about their eventual split-up, was informed by it.

It’s a wonderful album; on any given day, my favorite Kirsty album, tied with her last, “Tropical Brainstorm”, from whence comes one of her best-known songs, “In These Shoes?” (heard in “Sex and The City” and as the theme song for “The Catherine Tate Show” for its first series. She was living in Cuba by then, loved it, and was madly in love with a new boyfriend.)

Anyway, to the song at hand: the “Titanic Days” album was (I believe) originally going to be called “Paddle”, since she and her songwriting partner at the time, Mark Nevin, were both going through hell in their romantic lives, and she felt like they were both “up shit creek without one”. The lyrics to “Titanic Days” are enigmatic, given the circumstances…is she referring to Lillywhite?

No matter–it’s another gorgeous Kirsty song.

Prologue: Kirsty MacColl was a friend of mine. Not a BFF or anything, but a friend. We’d met when she played LA’s Club Lingerie during her first US tour on October 22, 1992–the eejits at the Lingerie had her on the marquee as “Kristy McCool” (aargh). I got there as the soundcheck was ending, and I asked the waitress to send a round over to her and her soon-to-be husband (and producer) Steve Lillywhite, who were sitting at a table close by. Kirsty called me over to their table, we hit it off immediately, and wound up trading addresses and phone numbers. And she played a wonderful set, comprised largely of songs from her then-new album, the underrated “Electric Landlady”.

And a few weeks later, I got a small package–she’d sent a tape of demos and hard-to-find tracks, and a postcard letting me know how she was doing. The package had an image on the back from a rubber stamp of a sombrero, with what I think was a quick self-portrait under the hat, rendered in BiC pen. You can find all sorts of goofy rubber stamps in LA, so I bought a couple I thought she’d like, and sent them off to her. She sent another postcard thanking me profusely, and the friendship progressed–whenever she came through LA, she’d call to let me know where she was playing and that I was on the guest list, and we’d always meet post-show and laugh and drink. And drink. (Hey, she was Irish, and I’m adopted-Irish!)

Fast forward to what I still think of as the worst year I’d ever been through, 2000–a combination of a bad job in animation post-production, the “election” of a criminal president (and confirmation that the Supreme Court was utterly corrupt) , and a few other nasties. I came into work on December 18, and the post-production supervisor–a nice guy–said “hey, I was sorry to hear about your friend.” I didn’t know what he was talking about, until it became clear that he was telling me that Kirsty had died that day. (I’m not going to go into the beyond-tragic details; you can find them on Wikipedia.) But I left soon after, because I couldn’t see what I was doing through the tears. And when I got home, I turned on BBC World Service, and this song, “Fairytale Of New York”, was playing, along with the details of the tragedy.

***

Anyway–”Fairytale”, originally released in 1987 on the Pogues’ album “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”, produced by Steve Lillywhite, is a Christmas perennial in the UK, and anywhere people loved Kirsty and the Pogues. The Pogues, in whatever form they’re in at the time, will always play it live during the season, with the audience singing along with every word, but especially after lead singer Shane MacGowan sings the line “I coulda been someone”, to which Kirsty, while she was alive–and after her death, whoever the girl singer they’ve enlisted in her stead is–responds “Well, so could anyone!”, the audience almost screams the line.

I still play it every Christmas, and sing along myself, smiling and remembering my friend while tears stream down my cheeks.

I dearly love Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry’s music, and won’t dispute that Darlene Love’s version of Ellie and Jeff’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is probably the greatest modern Christmas song.

But not for me. Miss you, Kirsty, you wonderful, lusty, life-loving woman. Always.

Kirsty MacColl (October 10, 1959–December 18, 2000)

Sorry

When I got back from the chiro’s, I thought, “I’ll just lie down for a bit.” The next thing I knew, it was three hours later!

These wingers are so freaking crazy

You can’t stand next to a picture of Obama. Really?

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