Saturday, November 29, 2008

Weekly Address: "We can renew our nation"

Loser's Logic: On the way to the gym this morning, I listened in on a discussion among black conservatives about why Obama's election did not mean that the black vote was lost to Republicans for the foreseeable future:
  1. Obama's election broke through the ultimate glass ceiling. Now (and search me as to why this necessarily follows), black people will be interested in hearing alternative conservative ideas. As near as I could tell, the argument is that there's no longer a need for black voter solidarity.
  2. If/when Obama fails at being all things to all people as he promised, disillusioned black moderates will turn to the Republican party, which after all has this long history of being race neutral (sarcasm mine). That this is a fragile reading of Obama's appeal went unrecognized.
  3. If/when Obama fails, the way will be open for the new generation of fiery, articulate black conservatives. Now, there's been a new generation of fiery, articulate black conservatives who can't get elected for, well, generations. The reason they can't get elected is that they have no constituency among black people. 
So this is the rationale: Win, lose, or draw, the election  of the most liberal Democrat since Lyndon Johnson is inherently a boon for black conservatives. Yep, and Hurricane Katrina was good for New Orleans, too...

One conservative black who did get elected was J. C. Watts, who represented Oklahoma's Fourth District from 1994-2002. Oklahoma's mostly rural Fourth includes Norman, home of the Oklahoma University, where Watts starred a quarterback in the late '70's. Oklahoma itself is 83% white; judge for yourself whether the Sooner State is, ever was, or ever will be a likely launching pad conservative black hegemony...

Years of driving in Ireland left me with the firm conviction that the Kit Kat bar is the national candy of the Emerald Isle. I've purchased and eaten a half-dozen varieties unavailable in the States. It turns out, though, that Ireland has nothing on Japan, which offers 142 varieties including Brandy & Orange, Caffe Latte, and Pineapple. See for yourself here...

Word Choice of the Day: 
Currently, Governor Sarah Palin is the only Republican politician who is in high demand on the talk show circuit, has galliardising support, is directly or indirectly responsible for developing massive email distribution lists, growing the online presence of conservative chat rooms, networking site and blogs and has the ability to fund-raise at the level of President Bush
-Kristofer D. Lorelli, Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President
According to my dictionary, the galliard is "a lively dance in triple time for two people, including complicated turns and steps. It's possible that this is an erudite reference to the logical contortions necessary to believe that Palin had a positive impact on the Republican ticket. It's more likely that my man Kris can't tell a galliard from a galvanizer...

Thanks to bumblebums at Daily Kos, we now know a galliard when we see one:

For the record, here's a galvanizer. It doesn't seem to have much in common with a galliard:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Morning After Musings...

T. and I hope that everyone had a great day yesterday and that you all ate far too much. That way, we'll feel less guilty ourselves! We had a house full of college students; besides eating and drinking, we played games, watched the Seahawks get trounced, watched the Longhorns trounce the Aggies (ha ha!), and debated the merits of...

Quantum Of Solace. Chase scenes by foot, motorcycle, car, boat, and plane. Incredible amounts of mayhem. Two maybe three jokes. Stereotypical charming-sociopath villain. Thirty-seven minutes shorter and still too long. But...Daniel Craig makes a fine Bond, a killing machine instead of a charming rogue. Very nice turn by Italian star Giancarlo Giannini as a retired operative. Great global location work. Compelling climax that manages to outdo the previous action scenes and that features a nicely ironic bit of vengeance on Bond's part. And...

...I am not a Bond aficionado (an ethically and critically neutral position), and two who are pointed out a few things to me. First of all, better no jokes than the tired wit that had seeped into the franchise. That Craig's Bond relies on wit, athleticism, and skills -- no gadgets that had become progressively laughable. (In fact, other than a super turbo turbo turbo turbo charged Aston Martin, no gadgets at all.) That the Bond women, while as attractive as always, serve a plot function other than him getting laid. In fact, amazingly enough, he doesn't get the girl in the end. He's left alone, having helped some people and hurt others while, of course, saving the world. And the movie offers a pointed reminder that the most precious resource in the world is not oil. It's...well, you'll have to watch Quantum Of Solace to find out...

Molly the Dog tells of a sad yet engrossing encounter with a schizophrenic woman who wants to keep her baby:
I was contacted by CPS after her visit with me and told them although her behavior was erratic, and I don't trust her, there is nothing "reportable". They told me she'd already had 2 children taken from her and had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was refusing her medication. She had also been violent in the past, including to a police officer. My goal was to get her to trust me and then I could keep an eye on her and the baby.
The situation is laden with troubling implications and hard questions...

The Nation On-line features an essay/interview by Sean Penn with the reclusive Raul Castro, as well as an account of a group interview (himself, historian Douglas Brinkley, and writer Christopher Hitchens) with Hugo Chavez...

Three Joan Baez CDs I like:
  • In Concert, Part 2. Not only did my mother own this one, the consensus of user reviews on iTunes and Amazon is that this is the early Baez album to have. Beautifully remastered by Vanguard, In Concert, Part 2 one includes her mighty version of "We Shall Overcome."
  • Ring Them Bells. 1995 live album now available in a 2CD set, Bells shimmers with gorgeous harmonies between Joan and guests the McGarrigle Sisters, Mimi Farina, Janis Ian, Mary Black, Dar Williams, Tish Hinojosa, the Indigo Girls, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
  • Day After Tomorrow. Her newest, produced by Steve Earle. She ably handles 10 songs by contemporary songwriters (including three by Earle) and benefits greatly from Earle's rootsy production. Reviewed here

Friday's Choice: A 1963 duet by Baez and Bob Dylan of "With God On Our Side," Dylan's great polemic exposing American Exceptionalism. Baez has said that this is the first Dylan song she learned.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

High Praise!

This morning, I received a very nice email praising my recent review of a Hank Williams collection. The writer added that he had linked to the review from his blog, called A Hank Williams Journal. I checked out the blog and found that not only had he linked to my review, he wrote that 
A blogger known as Citizen K has written the best review of “Hank Williams The Unreleased Recordings” that I have read yet.

I’m including in this opinion the articles written in major national and international publications which I posted links to in an earlier post.
Wow! Talk about making my day! Anyway, check out A Hank Williams Journal. A great place to start is the two-part entry about Williams and Leonard Cohen, here and here...

OK, enough about me. This morning, Barack Obama held his third press conference in three days. As usual, he was poised, confident, and articulate. Among other things, he gave the right answer to a question about why he has turned to veterans of the Clinton Administration for part of his economic team. Obama reminded the questioner that this was the only Democratic administration since 1980 and that he was hardly going to keep on members of the current administration. Obama added, correctly, that had he not looked to experienced Democrats, he'd be criticized for the lack of expertise on the team. Then he got to the real point, which is that Barack Obama will be president, not the members of his team, and that he will set direction. Obama added that he wanted a mix of experience and new blood to advise him and that he had gotten just that...

Listening to Obama, I wondered how George Bush was taking all of this. Whatever delusions Bush may hold about the vindication of history, he knows that the country repudiated him. And as far as his replacement is concerned, Bush can't invoke the "majesty of the office" stuff, and has to deal with Obama as peer. And even the stunted, entitled mind of George Bush must have figured out that his successor is in every way his intellectual superior. I'll say this much: Watching Obama in action is a reminder of the great extent to which Bush has been in over his head. People aren't missing that, either...

Speaking of people in over their heads, don't miss today's Doonesbury (click to enlarge):

Then there's this TV ad -- apparently on the level -- slated to run today in Alaska and cable outlets:

What can you say? It's like watching an episode of Green Acres, only minus the comparative drollery...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alive As You Or Me

It's not often that we are among the youngest people at a concert, but we definitely were at last night's performance by Joan Baez. Backed by a three-piece string band, she greeted us with a hearty "Yes, we did" (no dissenters) and immediately launched into "The Lily of the West," a song she originally recorded in 1961 for her second album. The current tour simultaneously celebrates her 50th year as a performer and the release of her strong new album, Day After Tomorrow

While age (Joan is 67) may have claimed the ethereal soprano of her youth, Baez still has plenty of vocal chops and a more immediate, earthbound contralto. And then there's her taste in songs: As the hour-and-three-quarters show advanced, I found myself marveling at the depth of her catalog. There were trad folk and Dylan favorites ("Farewell Angelina" and "Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word") of course, but she also covered Eliza Gilkyson's lovely "Rose Of Sharon" and three Steve Earle songs. The Earle numbers included a surpassingly wonderful rendition of his great song "Christmas In Washington," followed immediately by a full-band version of "Joe Hill." 

I'd say that that was my favorite part of the show, but I don't want to diminish the rest of it. At one point, the band departed so that Joan could perform some solo numbers, eventually putting down her guitar for the a cappella rendtion of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." (Her final encore was leading us all in an a cappella "Amazing Grace.") And of course she graced us with the likes of "Long Black Veil," "Sweet Sir Galahad," "Diamonds And Rust," and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." She even threw in a lovely version of Donovan's "Catch The Wind" for the simple reason than that she likes singing it.

Along the way, she told humorous anecdotes of her past, such as the time she innocently sang a bawdy R&B number at a school assembly as her parents looked in horror. The tale of her and the band taking a cab on election night from a Virginia hotel to the White House, the cab driver honking in glee, made me think of what a great moment Obama's election must have been for Joan Baez. After fifty years of fighting the good fight and never giving up on people and never apologizing for her belief in human rights and simple peace and justice, she found herself dancing in front of the White House with thousands of her fellow citizens, celebrating a breakthrough even she must have thought was a long shot.

And this is what made the performance much more than an exercise in nostalgia. Joan Baez' journey as an artist and activist may have begun fifty years ago, but it continues now, with no sign of stopping...

More great photographs from Mike Urban of the Seattle P-I here...

Gail Collins, only half-jokingly, suggests that Bush resign now and let Obama take charge. With one caveat: "Vice President Dick Cheney, obviously, would have to quit as well as Bush. In fact, just to be on the safe side, the vice president ought to turn in his resignation first. (We're desperate, but not crazy.)"...

People seemed to like the video of The Original Schnickelfritz Band performing "Turkey In The Straw," so I managed to find a web site with more great performances here. The boys in the band were lead by one Freddie Fisher, the self-described "Colonel of Corn." They appeared in the "Gold Diggers" movies of the '30's and apparently had a following. Anyway, enjoy!...

Here, in a performance from the European leg of the current tour, Joan Baez sings "Joe Hill," one of my favorite songs:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Let Me Get This Straight...

...we have $20 million dollars to bail out Citicorp, which is on the verge of failure despite years of charging usurious interest rates on its credit cards, but we don't have $25 million for General Motors even though it employs 150,000 people directly and millions more through its subsidiaries and job multiplier. 

Look, I know that General Motors bears heavy responsibility for its problems and that its brand has a bad rep. But there's still something wrong with a picture where it's o.k. to use taxpayer dollars to bailout finance but not o.k. to use them to help labor. For all the big talk in this country about the work ethic, public policy time and again favors capital over labor. Look no further than the tax code, where the highest tax rate on money earned by money (capital gains) is lower than the highest rate on money earned by work. Moreover, capital gains are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Conservatives of course see GM's travails as golden opportunity for them to fulfill their moral imperative of union busting. For them, this is like the Prime Directive. And I don't like seeing my tax dollars go to bailouts any more than anyone else. Nor am I for giving GM (or Citicorp, for that matter) carte blanche with bailout money. The government needs to hold their feet to the fire and exact a commitment from them to build green cars. But I don't see the point in allowing the backbone of American manufacturing to disappear without a whimper...

"Working On A Dream," Bruce Springsteen's new single is available from iTunes and his web site for free today only. It's an o.k. song. Bruce is capable of more original metaphors than playing the hand you’re dealt, although the first stanza is classic Bruce. But what’s with the whistling? His harmonica suddenly isn’t good enough? And if that’s actually Roy Bittan on piano, he got turned into a 1970’s Southern California sessions ace. On the other hand, I’ll be the first to admit that if I’d been present when Bruce broke out the song at an Obama rally, I’d have been singing along and crying with everyone else. Context is everything, and "Dream" might work well as part of a song cycle. (Although I’m apprehensive about what’s been leaked so far. Any album that opens with a song called "Outlaw Pete" should be greeted with apprehension.)

My personal dream for the next Springsteen album remains the same: Ever since hearing his contributions (“Ain’t Got No Home” and especially “Vigilante Man”) to 1988’s Folkways Revisited: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, I’ve hoped that he would do an album in this spirit. This takes the form of a four-piece band – two guitars, bass, and drums – performing live in the studio. The material is a combination of nine or ten originals and three or four covers. It’s generous with guitar workouts, and most of all it is self-produced. I think he could take that baton and run a mile in 100-meter dash time...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Call Me Up In Dreamland

I just finished reading Dreamland, Kevin Baker's novel of turn-of-the-20th Century New York. While it was overlong and had at least one plot line that could have been dropped altogether, Dreamland provides a fascinating, almost impressionistic view of the Jewish ghetto in lower Manhattan, combining politics, crime, and union organizing. The characterizations -- a typical mix of historic and fictional figures -- are strong; anyone with an interest in this time and place should enjoy Dreamland.

In addition to the Manhattan locale, much of the novel is set in Dreamland, a fantastical Coney Island amusement built in 1904 that lasted until its destruction by fire in 1911. Exhibits included premature babies living in incubators, which at the time had not been approved for use in hospitals. It also included a town populated by midgets, complete with its own fire department. I found a set of period postcards at this web site featuring Dreamland sites and attractions. When it comes to amusement parks, they don't make 'em like they used to. Start with the entrance:

This attraction showed off modern fire-fighting techniques and included acrobats jumping to safety. Immigrants crammed into crowded ghettos feared fire above all other dangers.

The midget city (above) included its own fire department:

Last night, Premium T. and watched The Court Jester, a 1955 classic musical comedy with Danny Kaye. The laughs (and there are plenty of them) derived from word play, puns, and the kind of physical comedy that has become a lost art. Just watch this scene in which court jester Kaye is knighted against his will:

That's Angela Lansbury as Princess Gwendolyn and an exquisitely lovely Glynis Johns (Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins) as Kaye's love interest, Maid Jean.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"It Is Time To Act"

President-elect Obama announces his plan for a two-year economic stimulus package that he wants to sign soon after taking office:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday's Choice: Farewell To Storyville

"You can make it [prostitution] illegal, but you can't make it unpopular."
-Tom Behrman, Mayor of New Orleans, 1917.
In 1897, the city fathers of New Orleans legalized prostitution in a small quadrant of the city bordering the northwest edge of the French Quarter. As the relevant legislation was written by alderman Sidney Story, the area became known as Storyville. Establishments ranged from squalid "cribs" to regal Victorian-style bordellos. A Louisiana politician named Tom Anderson, known as the "Mayor of Storyville," presided over the district from a cafe named after himself. The photographer E. J. Bellocq immortalized Storyville with his moving and humane portraits of the prostitutes who lived and worked there. (Louis Malle told Bellocq's story in his 1978 film Pretty Baby, with Keith Carradine, Susan Sarandon, and Brooke Shields.) Prostitution stayed legal in Storyville until 1917, when the federal government insisted that it be outlawed to protect the morals and delicate sensibilities of the thousands of servicemen flocking to the Crescent City after the United States entered World War I. Today, the bordellos are long gone, replaced by a collection of housing projects and part of Louis Armstrong Park. But during that twenty years, Storyville not only became a part of New Orleans lore, it functioned as a hothouse for the development of jazz.

A great source of Storville history, personalities, and lore is the 1978 book Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic, Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red-Light District, by Al Rose. It's still in print and available from You can even look inside.

The forgotten 1947 film New Orleans includes an imagining of Storyville's last night, in which Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong perform "Farewell To Storyville" and lead an exodus of jazz musicians, rounders, and prostitutes from the famed red-light district:

And on a completely unrelated matter, this one goes out to Sarah P.:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Meanwhile, Back At The Catholic Church...

U. S. Roman Catholic bishops are chagrined that 54% American Catholics voted for Barack Obama despite an aggressive effort to position abortion as the paramount issue of the campaign. The failure of their crusade has caused them to reexamine not their position, but the ways in which they conveyed it. They do not consider that the moral dimension of one's vote might legitimately consider more than abortion or that a personal discomfort with abortion might be outweighed by a greater discomfort with the state's involvement in a personal decision.

Writing as a former Catholic, for me the bishop's reasoning typifies many of the reasons that I turned away from the Church. It seems to me that the moral dimension of one's vote is ultimately a matter of conscience and conviction. Whatever my personal feelings about abortion, I couldn't possibly cast a vote without considering matters of war and peace, poverty and economic justice, environmental justice, and racial reconciliation. That the bishops would question my commitment to Catholicism if I didn't subordinate those issues to abortion is simply offensive. 

Of course, there is self-interested dimension to the vote as well. The bishops express disappointment that so many Catholics voted the economy instead of abortion. They miss that even this has a moral aspect with direct impact on the family: How can an individual cast a vote that he or she thinks may harm the well-being of their immediate family in favor of an abstraction? In the present economic climate, that's simply asking too much of human nature. But the bishops operate at such remove from the day-to-day concerns of their flock that they can't see this.

Like it or not, moral choice is often not a black-and-white affair. This is especially true with one's vote, when multiple moral issues compete. It is entirely possible and legitimate to integrate these in a way that does not subordinate one issue to all others. That the bishops don't or won't recognize this reflects their limitations and a fundamental disrespect for the members of the Church...

Cardinal James Francis Stafford says that Barack Obama is "aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic" and warns that America is headed to Gethsemane. If this isn't a case of the pot calling the kettle black, I don't know what is. Oddly enough, his eminence went on to argue that  “man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government.” Not to be a smartass or anything, but isn't this exactly the point of those who favor a woman's right to choose?...

By now, we've all read about the South Carolina priest who wants to deny communion to Obama. No comment, except to point out that there are any number of priests who would never think of politicizing communion and that this one priests extremism shouldn't taint the daily efforts of the great majority...

Quote of the Day: This gem comes from a Palinista blog and refers to Obama voters:
"How awful that people are so swayed by the cult of personality!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Pollock. (2000) D: Ed Harris. Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden. The outline of  Jackson Pollock's life makes for a promising film. A Westerner moves to Greenwhich Village on the eve of World War II and develops a signature painting style that makes him one of the most significant artists of the 20th Century and one of the greatest American artists ever. Though misunderstood early on and plagued by alcoholism, with the support of his wife (artist Lee Krasner), Pollock eventually catches the attention of influential art collectors and critics, finally achieving world renown. Unable to shake his alcoholism, Pollock dies prematurely in a 1956 auto accident, leaving behind him a legacy that placed him at the pinnacle of the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Unfortunately, the film -- while undoubtedly well made and well acted -- rarely probes beyond the outline. We're left with an interesting story that doesn't attempt to understand Pollock's motivations or even what he wanted to accomplish with his art. As the film portrays Pollock, it's hard to see why Krasner (Harden's Academy Award winning performance is one of the best things about the film) had any romantic interest in the monosyllabic artist, who seems inarticulate and utterly devoid of charm. Krasner comes across as a PR booster, when in real life she was a significant influence of Pollock's work and vital to his development as a painter.

The strongest part of Pollock comes in the middle, when Jackson and Lee escape New York for the serenity and isolation of the Hamptons. Harris (as director and actor) depicts a convincing period of spiritual regeneration for the artist that culminates in the perfection of his pouring technique and in his abandonment of what were thought to be essential materials like easels and oils. The scenes of Pollock painting are among the film's best: the brushes function as an extension of Harris' body, which moves around and over and on the canvas with rapt intensity. 

More than most artists, you can't appreciate a Jackson Pollock painting until you actually see one. Each work I've seen completely merits every accolade his work has received; it's like holding up a mirror to a battered soul. They have a profound unity and a complex structure completely removed from the stereotype of random and careless splatters. As the size and scope of Pollock's work is vast, reducing it to small reproductions greatly diminishes this sense of wholeness, no matter how skilled the bookmaker.

That, unfortunately, sums up Pollock: It's good as far is it goes, but frustrating for how much further it could have gone. We're voyeurs of key moments of Pollock's life, but when the movie is over, we don't understand much more about him and his work than can be gleaned from a Wikipedia article. Nonetheless, any film that calls serious attention to the work of a great painter can't be dismissed. Harris' respect and love for his subject are evident throughout, but you'll keep hankering for more and may find yourself thinking that there ain't nothing like the real thing...

Want make a Pollock painting yourself? Go to this ultracool web site and drag your mouse any which way you can. Click to change colors, hold down the mouse to create blots, and press the Space bar to clear the canvas...

Like most Democrats, I think Holy Joe Lieberman deserved the political equivalent of having his thumbs broken. I even think there are sound political reasons for doing same. But Barack Obama thinks otherwise, and who am I to tell Barack Obama what to do politically? Over at The Nation, John Nichols explains that grass roots disgust with Holy Joe never translated into a structured effort to defenestrate him...

I have no problem with Obama naming Tom Daschle and Eric Holder to his cabinet (or Rahm Emmanuel to his staff). Yes, Daschle represents the Democratic establishment of the 90's. Yes, Emmanuel and Holder were members of the Clinton Administration. Yes, on the surface none of the three symbolizes change for the sake of change. But Obama's relationship with Emmanuel goes back to Chicago, and both Daschle and Holder were key campaign advisors. Holder was publicly critical From here, it looks Obama has so far gone with people he knows and trusts, and whose counsel and advice is proven...

What he said goes for me...

Congratulations to the Little Engine That Could, American League MVP Dustin Pedroia. And if Dustin is 5'9", I'm 25 years old and look like George Clooney...

Poor Mike:

Attractive Girls Union Refuses To Enter Into Talks With Mike Greenman

Monday, November 17, 2008

"What A Country We Live In"

Were the Obamas on their game last night or what? Yes, the questions from 60 Minutes' Steve Croft were largely hanging curves (I can hear the yelping from the Palin apologists), but Barack and Michelle still had to swing the bat and hit them out of the park. Here's one home run, with Michelle Obama talking about when it all sunk in:

All in all, they came across as a devoted, loving couple who are comfortable with themselves, as dedicated family people, and as prepared for the new life in front of them as they can be...

Meanwhile, the Republicans begin to sort through the rubble. Did they depart from conservative principles by letting the budget get out of hand? Have they become too narrow, too defined by cultural issues? Does the problem have everything to do with the incompetence of the Bush administration and nothing to do with conservatism itself? I'll let them figure it out, but will point out one thing: The Republicans have become the party of anger, resentment, and victimization at a time when the American people want hope and practical solutions to the problems facing the country.

So here's a thought, Republicans: Whatever you do, put country first. When you disagree with President Obama (do I like the sound of that!), how about doing it respectfully and rationally? Search for compromise when you can, and when you can't find it, present your differences in a way that does not demonize the millions of fellow countrymen who happen to be Democrats. When you get right down to it, this approach to politics -- embodied by the likes of Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich -- ignited a civil war that had its Fort Sumter 20 years ago with the infamous Willie Horton ad. If nothing else, the failure of the Republican strategy to bring down Barack Obama by attacking his "association" with William Ayers signifies that the American people have tired of this approach and will reject it. The louder you shout, Rush, the less we'll listen...

Speaking of which, don't miss the Big Fat Idiot channeling Willie Stark (at 1:38):

We laugh (or cringe or spit nails), but Limbaugh speaks for a lot of people. Not that I lose sleep over it, but it's hard to see what the Republicans do when the most active part of their party lacks the temperament and intellect for objective self-examination. They've painted themselves into a very tight corner and don't even know it...

Bruce Springsteen's twenty favorite singers here. The guy's got taste, although I'm a little surprised to discover that only eight or nine of them would make my list...

Swimming UpstreamEve Ensler's (The Vagina Monologues) new play chronicles the experiences of New Orleans women before, during and after Katrina with characters drawn from a wide cross-section of New Orleans society. Says Ensler, 
Usually, [women] are the people who don't create the wars or pick up the guns, or have a say in the structural realities of crisis, yet they are the ones who always end up picking up the community, repairing the community, because they are so resilient...
Finally, Paul Krugman slamdunks George Will:

Sorta like this:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Funnies

See for more...

A sticker I like:

Great button:

The Bumper Sticker I Thought Of Only After The Election:

Another Elitist for Obama

Finally, the actual paranoid deranged ramblings of a Palin lover and reluctant McCain voter:
In so many post-election analyses, opportunistic polticians and I-told-you-so pundits have been more than willing and able to freely offer up their 'solutions' to what ails the GOP while affixing internecine blame to certain segments of the Republican tent. Yet at the same time they appear reluctant,unwilling or too politically correct in not attributing the election of Obama to the values of the electorate and to that part of the electorate who strongly agree with the views that Obama espoused. With that in mind I am here not to provide the GOP with answers but to ask the 10 questions that few Republicans have wanted to venture for public digestion.
  1. If the 22nd Amendment (limiting the Presidency to 2 terms) were not in force would the followers of Obama give the thumbs up for Obama to become President or Emperor for life? 
  2. Does the majority of the youth (under 30)of America believe in 'spreading the wealth' or redistributing income and Ayre's view of radical education that favors Maoist re-education and the implementation of Marxist brainwashing? 
  3. Is part of the electorate so morally bankrupt that they would favor voter fraud as long as it benefits Obama and the Democrats? 
  4. Is 'white guilt' among privileged whites and 'white hatred' among 'deprived minorities' so prevalent that no WASP will ever be elected President again, given that Obama is going to legalize all the illegals? 
  5. Do Obamacons favor the total destruction of the GOP and its evangelical base? And as a follow-up would they favor the imprisonment of all evangelical leaders in concentration camps or public hangings with gays as the executioners? If given unlimited access would these folks favor publicly stoning or crucifying Sarah Palin and her family? 
  6. Would these folks favor the arrest of George Bush and Dick Cheney and their wives and Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and people of the right-wing talk radio ilk and have them publicly ridiculed at a show trial at The Hague for war crimes and then summarily executed? 
  7. Would these folks favor a permanent suspension of the Constitution, including the 1st and 2nd Amendment in the name of imposing an Utopian socialist world order? 
  8. Do these folks favor abortion, killing disabled children after birth (infanticide) and euthanasia on demand? 
  9. How content would these folks be if there were a permanent one-party system in America led by Obama or by one of his supporters? 
  10. As a party is the GOP willing to get down, dirty and diabolical as the Democrats are and will stay or should it remain true to its noble ideals and principles and stay naive and virtuous and keep on losing election after election for eternity and die a death by a thousand cuts to those who will never show you any mercy and whose goal is to exterminate you from the face of the earth?
Now you know why they call them wingnuts. I have been monitoring the blog from whence this emitted for a while, and I promise you that this is absolutely serious.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Weekly Address

President-elect Obama's first weekly address to the nation concerns the economy and the need for Congress to pass a stimulus package (3:34):

Transition co-chair Valerie Jarrett provides a brief update on recent personnel decisions and the latest steps taken on ethics reform (2:09):

To keep current on transition activities and to provide input, go to

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Wind Is In From Africa

Just A Little Green. Paul Krugman writes that President-elect Obama must learn from Franklin Roosevelt's errors as much his successes:
The economic lesson [of the New Deal] is the importance of doing enough. F.D.R. thought he was being prudent by reining in his spending plans; in reality, he was taking big risks with the economy and with his legacy. My advice to the Obama people is to figure out how much help they think the economy needs, then add 50 percent. It’s much better, in a depressed economy, to err on the side of too much stimulus than on the side of too little...

Put On Some Silver.
E. J. Dionne agrees that Obama must ignore the voices that claim America is still a "center-right" nation and act boldy: "Timidity is a far greater danger than overreaching, simply because it's quite easy to be cautious..." I don't think that the United States is defined by its political orientation so much as a preference for solutions, wherever they come from. If Obama and the Democrats get things turned around, the amount of people who describe themselves as "conservative" will drop until only the wingnuts remain...

My Old Man. Monday, Obama meets with John McCain to discuss issues on which they can cooperate. One thing you gotta say about our guy: He doesn't hold a grudge.

Fancy French Cologne. Meanwhile, world leaders have plenty of advice for the President-elect, who plays it cool...

We Don't Need No Piece Of Paper. The entire contents of The New Yorker election issue (see brilliant cover illustration above) are available free on-line. But since you can't display that cover on one of your kitchen cabinets without buying the news stand issue, you might want to pick up a copy of the 20th Century version. Especially worth reading is literary critic James Woods' assessment of Obama's victory speech, which unearths the speech's rhetorical roots in Lincoln and Martin Luther King...

All Romantics Meet The Same Fate Someday...Mark Illa explains how intellectual conservatism in effect turned on itself:
But their [intellectuals] function within the conservative movement is no longer to educate and ennoble a populist political tendency, it is to defend that tendency against the supposedly monolithic and uniformly hostile educated classes. They mock the advice of Nobel Prize-winning economists and praise the financial acumen of plumbers and builders. They ridicule ambassadors and diplomats while promoting jingoistic journalists who have never lived abroad and speak no foreign languages. And with the rise of shock radio and television, they have found a large, popular audience that eagerly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites. They hoped to shape that audience, but the truth is that their audience has now shaped them...

...Cynical And Drunk And Boring. Harold Meyerson tells Fox News to keep on doin' what it's doin' -- things are working out just fine:
Your work remains dangerous and disintegrative to the nation. But it is also, more narrowly, tactically, for now, a great gift to liberals and Democrats. You ensure the ongoing Palinization and marginalization -- electorally, the terms are synonymous -- of the Republican Party. And to think that you're doing all this not on the Democratic National Committee's dime but on Rupert Murdoch's...

Blow This Damn Candle Out. "Our aim should not be more government, it should be smarter government." George Bush actually said this. Yesterday. Had he figured that out eight years ago, John McCain might be our next president...

Friday's Choice. Discerning readers of a certain age may have inferred that we've been listening to Blue, Joni Mitchell's 1971 classic. With a nod to John and Cindy, here's Joni singing "My Old Man" at a 1970 BBC session:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Family And Friends

Rachel Getting Married. D: Jonathan Demme. Anne Hathaway, Rosemary DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger. 

Anne Hathaway excels in Jonathan Demme's return to form about a drug addict's weekend home from rehab to participate in her successful sister's wedding. As Kym, a wan, jumpy Hathaway -- hair cropped, eyes peering out sharply from a circle of black makeup -- displays an unexpected range in her portrayal of the addict who compulsively calls attention to herself and threatens a fragile network of family relationships. The movie is all about how people respond when there are no easy answers -- when there are no answers at all.

Rachel's wedding, a joining of two musical families, is more than a backdrop; it's a metaphor for the strength of family bonds that hold firm despite the stresses of addiction, divorce, sibling jealousy, and death. The wedding itself is propelled by the mysterious powers of musical and cultural diversity, shown here as a benign force serving as a bulwark against the destructiveness of Kym's addictive behavior.

Demme's handheld camera makes us very nearly members of the wedding. We're at dinner for Hathaway's excruciating wedding toast (so well played and directed that you may want to turn away), participating in her AA meeting where she reveals the secret at the heart of the film, witnessing Kym's confrontation with her aloof mother (Winger, elegantly beautiful at age 53), and beside her sister Rachel (DeWitt) as Rachel tenderly bathes a shattered Kym just before the wedding. 

Demme allows the film's quiet power to accumulate slowly, trusting the actors (each of whom is excellent, Irwin as the father torn between Rachel and Kym) and the musicians who provide a live soundtrack to the movie's drama. It's Eugene O'Neill territory, except that in this case the family holds itself together in spite of -- or perhaps because of -- it's dysfunction. Quite an achievement, and better than any movie I've seen this year or last. Highly recommended...

Simply Grand, Irma Thomas. Simply grand it is, as the Soul Queen of New Orleans teams with a host of pianists on this fine outing that shifts comfortably between gospel, blues, R&B, and jazz. Thomas revs up her voice and simplifies the arrangements to great effect. Five of the numbers feature her accompanied only by a pianist, putting the emphasis on a vocal instrument that has been compared with Aretha Franklin's. (Not by me, but I read it somewhere!)

Any project relying on a shifting set of guest musicians and styles risks a degree of disjointedness, but Thomas' vocals keeps everything unified. From the opening gospel reading of John Fogerty's "River Is Rising" to the unadorned grandeur of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" at the close of the album, she moves effortlessly across a stylistic spectrum aided by the mostly New Orleanian pianists Henry Butler, Dr. John, Jon Cleary, Tom McDermott, David Torkanowsky, David Egan, Norah Jones, Ellis Marsalis, John Medeski, Davell Crawford, Marcia Ball, and Newman...

R. I. P., Mitch Mitchell...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Job Ones Of Many Job Ones

Great stuff from Ben Sargent, but let's face it:  "Recession" is a stand-in for "results of eight years of Bush-Cheney destruction of the economy, the Constitution, foreign policy, and America's reputation." As we all know, Barack Obama has a massive job ahead of him on virtually all fronts. The Bush-Cheney administration has left virtually no walk of life untainted in some way. Reversing executive orders and closing Gitmo are great starts and symbolically important, but useful mainly as signals of greater changes to come.

One of President Obama's first actions must be to assemble the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Middle East command structure, the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security advisor and ask them for the plan for exiting Iraq. He will likely discover that no such plan exists, in which case he must order the preparation of one that ends American military involvement in Iraq within the 16-month window he has already proposed. 

The time for this has come at last. The entire misadventure has been a strategic catastrophe from its onset. The neocon Bush vision of a democratic Middle East under American guidance and protection lies shattered in a million jagged shards. We're hemorrhaging money there that is badly needed here.  We don't want to be in Iraq and -- equally to the point -- they don't want us there. It's past time to get out, and we finally have a president who knows that and who will act on it.

Warren Zevon, Warren Zevon (Collector's Edition). The late great Warren Z. wrote many great songs and made plenty of memorable albums. But none surpass his debut, a masterful portrayal of counterculture decay in post-60's Los Angeles that tells its story through a deft blend of autobiography and myth. The outlaw songs, balls-out rockers, poignant ballads about junkies and whores, breakup songs, and stirring anthems all reflect Zevon's mordant wit and keen powers of observation. The remastering is superb: You can hear every instrument and voice in the just the right proportion. Since the extra disc of out takes and demos is of interest primarily to Zevon fans, the question is whether the remastered album justifies the purchase. Well, anyone who buys it will not only get the work of great songwriter at the top of his game, they'll be getting one of the top albums of the 70's.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

He Walked Alone

Hank Williams, The Unreleased Recordings. The camera pans the single street of a desolate north Texas town. The ripping wind of a blue norther flings clouds of dust and debris in random directions. A truck motor coughs and backfires. In the truck, a teenager stomps on the clutch, shoves in the starter, and rubs his frozen hands. The eternal wind rips and whines. The boy pauses to turn up the radio so that he can hear Hank Williams singing "Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used To Do." He works the starter again, the protesting engine finally starts, and the truck pulls away from the curb. So begins Peter Bogdanovich's great film The Last Picture Show.

Besides being terrific cinema, this scene encapsulates Hank Williams’ stark vision of loneliness and spiritual isolation. Since seeing that scene, I like to listen to Hank in my car, preferably when it’s cold out. That's the ideal way to appreciate that mournful, inimitable voice pondering such unknowables as "Why can't I free your doubtful mind/And melt your cold cold heart"?

1951 was Williams’ breakthrough year as a recording artist, but it was also a miserable time personally. Wracked by excruciating back pain, he saw his marriage fall apart, spurred on by his binge drinking. He barely made it through 1952, dying a lonely, drug-addled death on New Year’s Day 1953 in the back seat of a car. He was 29 and our first great post-War songwriter, leaving behind him a canon ranking with any in the American songbook.

Hank Williams knew a terrible secret, and he revealed it in his songs and performances. He knew that humans have a core of fear where love is a fleeting and treacherous thing, where redemption lies in death, and where loneliness and isolation is the human fate. In Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings, he fearlessly explores this core, leading us on the harrowing journey that ultimately claimed his life.

The 3-CD set comprises a series of live studio recordings Williams made for broadcast on Sunday mornings. The liner notes don’t say so, but surely this explains why over a third of the songs are gospel numbers. In Williams’ hands, collectively these become a Biblical epic of the wanderings of a lost soul. To Hank Williams, the search for spirituality is not a collective experience found in a megachurch: It is a lonely road traveled by prodigals who quest for redemption that probably isn’t there but that at least offers the hope of self-knowledge before the release of death.

One can divine William’s preoccupations by the names of the songs he chose: “Low and Lonely,” “Drifting Too Far From the Shore,” “The Prodigal Son,” “I’ve Got My One Way Ticket to the Sky,” “Searching for a Soldier’s Grave,” “Why Should We Try Any More,” “May You Never Be Alone,” Lonely Tombs,” and “The Pale Horse and His Rider.” Collectively, they form a cinematic impact evoked perfectly by the opening scene of The Last Picture Show.

He turns the campfire song “Cool Water” into a Conradian odyssey, a tale of a parched soul pleading for deliverance only to find that redemption is a mirage. Through this performance, Williams reveals his ultimate fear: That the journey is not the reward, but just another part of the horror. Even so, moving on beats standing still, which leads to madness. Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, a fiddle, and the occasional whisper of a pedal steel guitar, Hank’s deliberate phrasing summons a paradoxical sense of inevitability. It’s a bravura performance, arguably Williams’ finest vocal, and by itself worth the price of admission.

Small pleasures abound: A spirited romp through “Cherokee Boogie,” the pellucid steel guitar solo in “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone,” the occasional bit of faux jive that passes for between-song banter, the first-ever appearance of “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still I’m Still In Love With You),” a Korean War verse added to “Searching For A Soldier’s Grave.” And since the early ‘50’s was a time when country and bluegrass cross-pollinated, the four-part harmony of the high lonesome graces many of the performances, an adornment that perfectly augments Williams vocal style.

Some of the beloved favorites are here, but mostly Williams delves into a catalogue of rural Americana that he knew and loved and felt from the deepest parts of his soul. Hank Williams understood loneliness as an essential part – maybe the essential part –  of the human condition, the surest path to the true self. He feared loneliness but couldn’t resist its embrace; in his exploration of loneliness, he ironically touched the most fearful part of us all. Perhaps the knowledge that someone else understood that part of us and could expressed it as art eases our burden and lightens our step. Certainly, such empathy allowed one soul the redemption it never knew in life...

R. I. P., Preacher Roe, Boy of Summer...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Funnies & So Much More

The Tom Toles archive is here...

Williams Ayers tells his side of the story
Obama has continually been asked to defend something that ought to be at democracy’s heart: the importance of talking to as many people as possible in this complicated and wildly diverse society, of listening with the possibility of learning something new, and of speaking with the possibility of persuading or influencing others...
Barack Obama's election made headlines around the world. Here's one:

Be sure to click on the link for a terrific mosaic. Thanks to Sylvia for calling this to my attention. More headlines here...

Will Joe Lieberman join the Republican caucus? Talk about change we need. If so, he'd be the first rat to board a sinking ship...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Premium T.!

And she'd better be around for at least this many more!

Don't miss this story about the White House butler from Truman through Reagan. But have at least three hankies handy. If you don't need all three, you must be a Republican...

James Carville said yesterday on the radio that Sarah Palin "has as much business running for vice-president as I do pitching the ninth inning of a major league baseball game..." 

Newsweek's seven-chapter story about the election is here...

Michael Jordan Dept.: Eleanor Clift's brief reflection on the campaign and the road ahead includes this anecdote:
Obama strategist David Axelrod recalled standing in the green room with Obama minutes before he would go onstage for the debate with John McCain. The days before the high-stakes encounter had been chaotic with the financial crisis breaking around them and McCain declaring he was suspending his campaign and might not attend the debate in order to return to Washington and help craft the bailout package. A day of debate prep was lost in the frantic back and forth with Treasury officials. Axelrod found the tension in the green room "suffocating." He turned to Obama and asked, "Are you nervous?" "Yes, but it's a good kind of nervous," Obama said. "Just give me the ball."

Friday's Choice: Marvin Gaye sings the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star game. Look fast to see a grinning George ("Iceman," "If There's One I Could Do It Was Finger Roll") Gervin when the camera pans the otherwise stoic players.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dancing In The Streets

Tuesday night on Seattle's Capitol Hill, s crowd of around 3,000 gathered for an impromptu celebration. I've never seen anything like the worldwide outpouring of goodwill over the election of a politician. It's remarkable. It makes me proud. Watch as the revelers break into a spontaneous rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner":

As hard as it may be to sing, I've always liked that old song and I've always thought we had a great flag. What I've never liked -- what I've resented -- is the hijacking by the right of our national symbols. They've equated the flag with a cramped, nativist patriotism and support of their own agenda, and flatly accused Americans who differed with them of being unpatriotic and of hating the country. In this video, 3000 Seattleites not only take back the flag and the song, they offer it up to everyone...

There is a lot of hard work ahead and the country has serious problems. (Joe Biden told the attendees of a Seattle fundraiser that Bush and Cheney were leaving behind "a hell of a mess.") Our finances are a wreck. Our infrastructure continues to crumble. The gap between rich and poor is the greatest it has ever been. We have not transitioned out of a manufacturing economy in any way that benefits working people and allows them to live with security and dignity. Fifty million Americans lack health insurance, tens of millions more lack adequate insurance. We started an awful war that has left tens of thousands dead, displaced millions more, and cost billions of dollars. The Bush Administration has put the Constitution at risk through its penchant for secrecy, by exploiting 9/11 to increase the power of the executive branch, and by its contempt for fundamental civil liberties. But in the past, history has blessed us with the exact right leader at the country's most desperate turns. Barack Obama has the ability, the temperament, and the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. He represents the change we can believe in, the change we desperately need...

Meanwhile, the blame game in Nutsoland begins. Here's a proscription list, sort of like in ancient Rome minus the competence. "Criticize Obama, you’re a racist. Criticize Romney and you’re a bigot. Well, then put me in the racist bigot category, because I can’t stand a Racists, Marxist, anti-semite like Obama and I can’t stand a lying flaming liberal pro homosexual agenda, pro socialized medicine, pro gun control, anti-Reagan back stabbing loser like Romney." Hey, if the shoe fits...

Henry Louis Gates writes movingly of the end of the last color line, and compares Obama's election to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation: 
On that first transformative day, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Frederick Douglass, the greatest black orator in our history before Martin Luther King Jr., said that the day was not a day for speeches and "scarcely a day for prose." Rather, he noted, "it is a day for poetry and song, a new song."
It hasn't escaped Stupid and Contagious' notice that Obama is black again. (He thinks that's a good thing.)...

Foxessa blogs about voting in a precinct near Ground Zero
Our part of the city is one of the places to which freedmen and women flowed during and post the Civil War, to work in the textile factories and sweat shops that were here. We’re also only blocks east of the old wharfs (which were very busy in those days), and the warehouses serviced by the railroads. Many New York state's people of color had already been working over there. The oldest continuing operating business/building in the city is there, now called the Ear Inn, but was the James Brown House, that serviced the black labor force employed on the docks and the railroads, and provided rooms too. The building we live in was thrown up originally to provide housing for this influx up from the South. All this felt very close to us today.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Did!

I'm 53 years old and haven't felt this way -- meaning hopeful and great -- about the new president in my entire life. 

Despite the best early efforts of the talking heads -- even Rachel Maddow! -- to make up a story line that the first ten or so states indicated a long night because none of them had flipped, there was a key sign that 2008 was much different than 2004. Wisconsin, the Badger State, was a nail-biter in 2004, with John Kerry revailing by a hair. Last night, the networks called it almost immediately for Barack Obama.

We sent up the first cheer when Pennsylvania broke our way. McCain had gone all in in the Keystone State, and it was hard to see how he could win without it unless he ran the table of Ohio, Virginia, and Florida. When NBC called Ohio for Obama, the champagne began to flow. When his electoral count passed 200 before the West Coast polls closed, we knew it was over: Anyone who lives out here knew that Washington, Oregon, and California (73 EV) were mortal locks. What we didn't expect were all three states being called the second polls closed at 8:00 Pacific time.

Hugs and cheers! Now it was time for the Veuve Cliquot! And we -- friends, neighbors, and family -- drank deeply and with great satisfaction...

Hubert Locke, great-grandson of slaves and University of Washington professor emeritus, writes movingly of the impact of Obama's victory in the form of a letter to his dead parents:
You would be particularly proud, Papa, of the fact that President Obama stands in the grand tradition and will take up the mantle of other cherished men of color -- Gandhi, Mandela, King -- who have shown the world what great leadership truly is. It is, I think, one of the surprises of history -- that hardship and oppression can produce leaders of enormous vision and immense compassion. Our new president's parents and grandparents, and the places where he was raised, all give him that wider perspective on the world in which we are so desperately in need...

E. J. Dionne says that it is time to hope again:
Above all, it is time to celebrate the country's wholehearted embrace of democracy, reflected in the intense engagement of Americans in this campaign and the outpouring to the polls all over the nation. For years, we have spoken of bringing free elections to the rest of the world even as we cynically mocked our own ways of conducting politics. Yesterday, we chose to practice what we have been preaching...

Don't miss David Horsey's wonderful drawing here...

The New York Times and Washington Post have good campaign overviews here and here. It's irrelevant now, but the papers offer curiously differing accounts of the Obama camp's response to addition of Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket. According to the Times the campaign was caught flat-footed, while the Post says that from the beginning it looked at the choice as an unexpected gift. Both agree that the contest against Hillary Clinton created a juggernaut and that Obama's calm response to the financial crisis was the turning point of the general election...

I don't know who this beautiful little girl is, but she pretty much speaks for me and millions more. The river is waiting, come rise up...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Updates

9:19 p.m.: Just a a brilliant victory speech from Barack Obama. Confident and humble, respectful to his opponent, reaching out to those who voted against him, mindful of the challenges ahead but calm nonetheless. I got teary and I'm not the only one here who did.

8:49 p.m.: Email from Barack Obama:
I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. 

We just made history.

And I don't want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing...

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,


8:23 p.m. John McCain is giving an exceptionally gracious concession speech. He recognized the historic importance of this election to African-Americans and the importance of Obama's ability to bring millions of new voters into the democratic process. This John McCain would have been a much more formidable opponent.

8:02 p.m. NBC calls the West Coast for Obama!!!!!!!! I'm near tears! Our long national nightmare is OVER!!!!!!!!!

7:48 p.m. Pacific: This is so great. Also, I nominate William Bennett as the biggest blowhard on television.

7:21 p.m. Pacific: CNN calls Florida, N. Carolina, and Colorado for Obama! (Texas for McCain.)

7:12 p.m. Pacific: Damn. McCain pulled off major upsets in Utah and Mississippi. That sure puts a damper on my evening.

6:55 p.m. Pacific: The vibe in the K./T. house is great! Now, we just want to run up the score!

Obama has 207 electoral votes. California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii (70 votes) are mortal locks. Colorado, Virginia, Florida, and N. Carolina (64 votes) all look very possible. And Indiana and Missouri are still up for grabs, but they'll be tough.

6:24 p.m. Pacific: Fox and NBC have both called Ohio for Obama! This is over!

5:38 p.m. Pacific: Georgia to McCain. No upset there.

5:31 p.m. Pacific: Kay Hagan defeats Dole in North Carolina! +3!

With Pennsylvania and New Hampshire in the fold, Obama needs win only one red state and he's the next president. So watch Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina of the states where polls have closed.

5:18 p.m. Pacific: NBC calls New Hampshire senate race for Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. +2!

My son just called to tell me that CNN's Ohio reporter left the McCain "victory" party there because no one had shown up. The Obama party is quite well attended.

Around these parts, young people have been really excited about voting. It's been great to see.

5:02 p.m. Pacific: Pennsylvania! McCain had to have it. Put the champagne on ice!

4:30 p.m. Pacific:
For what they're worth, here are some exit poll numbers from this morning (Obama first):

Fl 52-44
Ga 47-51
Mi 60-39
Mh 57-43
Mn 60-39
Pa 57-42
Va 55-45
Wi 58 42
Oh 54-45
Nc 52-48
In 52-48
Mo 52-48
Nv 55-45
Nm 56-43
Ia 58-42
Wv 44-55

Nate Silver outlines the drawbacks to exit polls here.

4:00 p.m.: NBC calls Kentucky for McCain, Vermont for Obama. McCain leads Obama in Indiana by 38 votes with 10% of the vote in. Polls also close in Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina. Next poll closings are North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia at 4:30 Pacific.

African-American early voting turnout in Georgia was 35%. If total AA turnout in Georgia is 30% or more, Obama has an excellent chance of carrying the state.

NBC calls a Democratic senate seat pickup in Virginia (Mark Warner).
12:20 p.m. Pacific Time: projects that Barack Obama will carry 25 states totaling 353 electoral votes, 83 more than needed to be elected president. They also project that Obama will win 52.3% of the popular vote to John McCain's 46.2%. "Our model projects that Obama will win all states won by John Kerry in 2004, in addition to Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, Florida and North Carolina, while narrowly losing Missouri and Indiana."