Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Woody Guthrie captured the novel's Depression-era spirit of solidarity in his protest ballad "Tom Joad." Where the film's monologue stressed middle-class aspirations of "people...eatin' the stuff they raise, and livin' in the houses they build," Guthrie turned his attention to a class army of the hungry, the weeping, and the disenfranchised. It's telling that in Ford's film, children laugh when they were hungry; in Guthrie's song, they cry. Where Ford's view is ultimately and unsurprisingly romantic, Guthrie -- an Okie himself -- retains a hard edge.
Post-war prosperity seemed to bear out Ford's vision, at least in part. But as Reaganomics and globalization began to suffocate the middle class like as boa constrictor, Tom Joad suddenly seemed as relevant as ever. In 1995, Bruce Springsteen updated the famous monologue in "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Here, the homeless huddle under a bridge, denied even the community of a migrant camp. A teeming road leads to poverty and exploitation. And yet, the singer won't surrender his anger even if it does depend on the fading hope of his belief in a ghost. Three years later, Rage Against The Machine released their own fiery take, keeping the ghost alive for a new generation.
For it seems that Tom Joad won't go away, even as the middle class dreams of the Ford film fade for millions. Recently, Rage guitarist Tom Morello joined Bruce Springsteen on stage for what must be the definitive performance of "The Ghost Of Tom Joad." Morello's soft voice combines with Springsteen's defiance and remarkable empathy to form an anthem culminating in a Morello guitar solo that captures all of the frustration and rage conveyed by the lyrics in a literal attempt to summon forth old Tom's ghost. A video of the performance made its way to YouTube, spreading Tom Joad's words in a way that Steinbeck or Ford of Guthrie could never have imagined:
You just can't keep a good man down...
The New York Times reports that tainted blood thinner manufactured in China has shown up in eleven countries. The Food and Drug Administration requires a budget of $56,000,000 to adequately inspect overseas drug manufacturers. While the Bush Administration hasn't budgeted for this, it does promise improvements. One place they could find the money is Iraq, where the money spent on two days of war would guarantee medication safety. Don't look to John McCain to solve the problem: His "intellectually dishonest" budget would slash discretionary spending to reduce the corporate tax rate and to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
Citizen K. read:
Christine Falls, Benjamin Black
One Man's Place, John F. Deane
Monday, April 21, 2008
Lumiere Dans Le Noir, Zachary Richard. Cajun singer-songwriter Zachary Richard's first French language album proves a great vehicle for his haunting, plangent voice. It doesn't matter if you don't speak French (I certainly do not). When someone can sing that most beautiful of Western languages with with as much feeling and insight as Richard, there's no difficulty understanding what he's getting at. With the help of some of Louisiana's finest musicians, you feel Lumiere Dans Le Noir in your heart and soul, which in the end is what great music is all about.
Notes From The Underground, Elliott Murphy. Paris ex-pat Murphy follows up last year's excellent Coming Home Again with another thoughtful, witty release. Murphy's voice -- sort of a cross between latterday Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler -- is perfect for his songwriting. Notes features literate lyrics that cover ground spanning the simple the joys of the alphabet ("A if for Amazed you walk out of the shower...F is a word I do without shame") to the spiritual plight of old age ("Tell me if you can/Am I part of a plan/Will my secrets unfold/When I'm useless and old.") On the other hand, this is a man grateful for what he has and who has come to appreciate the power of love: "I count all my blessings 'till I can't count no more/I know God's grace when I walk in your door." I try not to lean so heavily on lyrics when I write reviews, but this guy is awfully good and can speak for himself much better than I can. Listen, and listen closely.
Live From Artist's Den, Patty Griffin (DVD). Normally, it would be a great compliment to call someone Austin's best singer-songwriter. In Patty Griffin's case, though, this sells her short. Griffin is (hopefully) in the midst of a stretch of excellence comparable to Steve Earle's 1995-2000 run. Each CD she releases tops the one before it, culminating in last year's brilliant Children Running Through. Along the way, she's evolved from a terrific belter to a vocalist of inquisitive nuance and deep emotion. Now, you can see what its all about with this concert DVD, which intersperses brief interviews into a concert from New York's Artist Den. Check it out:
Friday, April 18, 2008
"A gentleman named William Ayers, he was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings. He's never apologized for that. And in fact, on 9/11 he was quoted in The New York Times saying, "I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough."
"An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly. Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?"
An incredulous Obama protested that "the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make much sense, George."
Needless to say, Hillary Clinton disagreed, adding that "I also believe that Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time, the Woods Foundation, which was a paid directorship position."
Who is William Ayers? Today, he is a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He's also an advisor to Chicago Mayor William Daly on education issues. He was once a member of the Weather Underground, and actually went underground after an accidental explosion at his apartment killed his girl friend and two others. Ayers and his new wife -- fellow radical Bernadine Dohrn -- surrendered themselves to authorities in 1980. All charges against them were dropped owing to prosecutorial misconduct. Unlike David Horowitz, another Sixties radical, Ayers retained the courage of his convictions while channeling his considerable intellect and energies in more constructive directions. For example, Mayor Daley selected him to lead Chicago's highly regarded school reform effort.
Let's take a close look at the exchange between Stephanopoulos, Obama, and Clinton. The September 11, 2oo1 edition of the New York Times did contain Ayers' provocative statement. However, for inclusion in that day's paper, Ayers must have made the statement prior to 9/11, when neither he nor anyone else outside of the Oval Office had advance warning of the attack on the World Trade Center. Moreover, the Times would have put the edition to bed prior to the bombings. As someone who has spent his career in or working with the news media, George Stephanopoulos knew this. Thus, he deliberately framed his question to inflame and mislead. This kind of juvenalia one expects from Fox News; it's a broach of the public trust that it came from one of the most recognizable members of ABC News. Why is it a broach of public trust? ABC may be a business, but we own the airwaves.
We now know that right-wing talk show host Sean Hannity virtually spoon-fed the question to Stephanopoulos on his radio program: Stephanopolous dutifully informed Hannity that he was "taking notes." (You can listen to the actual exchange here.) ABC claims that they were researching the matter anyway, but neither they nor Stephanopoulos must have been taking very good notes. For if they had, they'd know that Ayers clarified his remarks as referring to the Vietnam war and that he should have worked even harder to oppose it. They would also have known that -- far from being unrepentant (as Hannity would have it) --Ayers told the the Times in the same interview that he was "embarrassed by the arrogance, the solipsism, the absolute certainty that we and we alone knew the way. The rigidity and the narcissism..." As Stephanopoulos failed to include this context, he was either ignorant of it or again deliberately chose an intellectually dishonest way to raise the matter.
I lean toward the latter explanation, as he took his cue from a leading light in a club of dissemblers with such members as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter. Utterly without scruples, Sean Hannity and his ilk treat journalism like professional wrestling. Hannity would become a liberal tomorrow if he thought it would increase ratings and book sales. That Stephanopoulos would lend credibility to this person by appearing on his program makes one wonder about the man's own scruples. Or at least his self-respect.
As for the actual fundraiser at the Ayers home, it seems that Obama's predecessor in the Illinois State Senate knew William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn and asked them to host a fundraiser for Obama. That's it. That's the extent of this particular sinister nexus.
But what about the sinister Woods Fund? By eagerly associating it with Ayers, Clinton connected the Fund -- and by extension former board member Obama -- with the violent activities of the Weather Underground. For starters, the Fund's Board of Directors is comprised mainly of such dangerous characters as educators and business executives. (That Hillary Clinton, for six years a paid member of WalMart's Board of Directors, tut-tuts Obama because Ayers may have held a paid board position with the Woods Fund is downright comical.)
As for its mission, it turns out that the Woods Fund "is a grantmaking foundation whose goal is to increase opportunities for less advantaged people and communities in the metropolitan area, including the opportunity to shape decisions affecting them." And perhaps this is Barack Obama's crime in the eyes of the media elite: Telling the disenfranchised that their voice counts as much as anyone else's and that they must make it heard.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
- a barely coherent question from Stephanopoulos about the Weather Underground, last heard from sometime around 1969;
- an invitation from Gibson for the candidates to discuss the mutterings of Mario Cuomo, a politician who hasn't been in the national spotlight for 20 years;
- wasting the time of voters, viewers, and both candidates by pushing them on trivialities that they both addressed time and again;
- two videotaped questions that insulted the voters of Pennsylvania by implying that they care most about who wears a flag lapel pin and how many times Hillary Clinton has to address her memory lapse or fantasy or whatever you want to call it about being under sniper fire in Yugoslavia. Hey, I enjoy watching a politician forced onto a rhetorical Slip-n-Slide as much as the next guy, but enough already;
- frankly unbelievable interrogations from both moderators in which they appeared to express great concern for those making $200,000+ a year. You'd think that there weren't 50,000,000 people without health insurance. And yet it's Barack Obama who is the elitist!;
- still more questions to Obama about Reverend Jeremiah Wright. George, Charles: HE'S TALKED ABOUT IT TIME AND AGAIN. HE GAVE A MAJOR SPEECH ON RACE RELATIONS THAT YOU APPARENTLY MISSED. EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT HE HAS TO SAY ON THE MATTER.
Personal Disclosure: My mother's family is from Pennsylvania. I have spent many happy days there. I know for a fact that the people there are more informed and care about matters of greater substance than the dolts at ABC led the rest of the United States to believe.
For more along these lines, read Tom Shales' review of last night's bomb here. Eric Alterman didn't think much of it, either. Katrina Vanden Heuvel gets past the outrage to critique ABC with thoughtfulness and even sadness, here. In the end, though, this gets it about right:
It's hard to imagine the MSM sinking any lower than last night. But, at least one of them will find a way to show the rest of us that the bottom of the barrel is farther down than anyone previously believed. Bet on it.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Dear Friends and Fans:
LIke most of you, I've been following the campaign and I have now seen and heard enough to know where I stand. Senator Obama, in my view, is head and shoulders above the rest.
He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where "...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone."
At the moment, critics have tried to diminish Senator Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships. While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision, so well described in his excellent book, Dreams From My Father, often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues: war and peace, the fight for economic and racial justice, reaffirming our Constitution, and the protection and enhancement of our environment.
After the terrible damage done over the past eight years, a great American reclamation project needs to be undertaken. I believe that Senator Obama is the best candidate to lead that project and to lead us into the 21st Century with a renewed sense of moral purpose and of ourselves as Americans.
Over here on E Street, we're proud to support Obama for President.
"As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." -President Bush, 2005. Do you think this is what he had in mind? It does give you a good idea of what John McCain meant when he said that we might be in Iraq for a hundred years."They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat. And we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins." -President Bush, same speech. But it's not us this is happening to, is it Mr. President? I wonder whether the families are bitter enough to turn to something like, say, guns and religion...
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I've always wondered what was meant by the euphemism "surgical air strikes." I doubt that they seemed especially surgical to those on the receiving end, unless you think of undergoing an invasive operation without anesthetic as "surgical." TomDispatch discusses the realities of using air power in the war on terror here. In the article, he elaborates on these nine propositions:
- The farther away you are from the ground, the clearer things are likely to look, the more god-like you are likely to feel, the less human those you attack are likely to be to you;
- However "precise" your weaponry, however "surgical" your strike, however impressive the grainy snuff-film images you can put on television, war from the air is, and will remain, a most imprecise and destructive form of battle;
- In human terms, distance does not enhance accuracy;
- If you are conducting war this way and you are doing so in heavily populated urban neighborhoods, as is now the case almost every day in Iraq, then civilians will predictably die "by mistake" almost every day;
- Since World War II, air power has been the American way of war;
- Since November 2001, the Bush administration has increasingly relied on air power in its Global War on Terror to "take out" the enemy, which has meant regular air strikes in cities and villages, and the no less regular, if largely unrecorded, deaths of civilians;
- In Afghanistan and especially in Iraq (as well as in the tribal areas along the Pakistani border), the use of air power has been "surging;"
- Force creates counterforce. The application of force, especially from the air, is a reliable engine for the creation of enemies;
- U.S. air power has, in the last six and a half years, been an effective force in a war for terror, not against it.
Wellesley and Yale alum Hillary Clinton and millionaire John McCain accuse Barack Obama of elitism (read: "uppity") because Obama had the temerity to suggest that Americans might be pissed off at the current state of affairs. Obama's sin was to observe that “our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives." Obama stated the obvious: When people feel disenfranchised, they turn to things like guns or religion ("the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people") No word as to whether Clinton -- who grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois (median family income $100,000) plans to go duck hunting with the Holy Spirit 0n Martha's Vineyard (see photo above) any time soon...
Unfair And Biased Dept: Don't miss this Comedy Central whuppin' of Fox News, here.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Fred Kaplan dissects Bush's speech last week endorsing the 45-day pause in Iraq troop drawdowns requested by General Petraeus. It's an especially interesting read because the brevity of the statement allows Kaplan to parse it word-by-word in some places. For example:
Bush: "As a result of the surge, a major strategic shift has occurred. Fifteen months ago, America and the Iraqi government were on the defensive; today we have the initiative."
Kaplan: "This isn't really true. Yes, "progress"—tactical progress—has been made. But U.S. and especially Iraqi forces are still, by and large, responding to crises when and where they occur. The recent (and unusual) attempt at taking the initiative—the offensive in Basra, which Bush last week called "a defining moment"—played out badly, as Gen. David Petraeus admitted at his Senate hearing on Tuesday. The operation revealed that the Iraqi army is nowhere close to being capable of leading a major fight, and it confirmed that the Iraqi police are nearly hopeless."
Bush: "Gen. Petraeus has reported that security conditions have improved enough to withdraw all five surge brigades by the end of July."
Kaplan: "I hope a few people on the speechwriting team blushed when they penned this passage. Those five surge brigades were going to pull out this July no matter what the situation in Iraq happened to be. Their 15-month tours of deployment will be up by then; they will go home; the Army has no combat brigades ready to replace them. This was always the calculation. It's the product of arithmetic, not policy."
Bush: "As Iraqis assume the primary role in providing security, American forces will increasingly focus on targeted raids against the terrorists and extremists."
Kaplan: "The key word here is the first word in the sentence: "as." As the Iraqis take on "the primary role," we'll reduce our role. The Iraqis are not close to doing this now. So we won't be shifting down for the foreseeable future, either."
Again, read the article. It's an excellent example of how to analyze and interpret political doublespeak. That's something we really can't get enough of...
''We need to think about charging some of the high-value detainees because there could be strategic political value to charging some of these detainees before the election." Attributed to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England on 9/29/06, in reference to Guantanamo detainees.
It's not big news that the Bush Administration has no problem with politicizing the judicial process, nor is it big news that the MSM appears to have completely missed the impact of this story. The Nation didn't though, pointing out that "political interference at that level would lead to indictments in any other American courtroom." But, that didn't stop them in 2006 and won't stop them this year, either. As The Nation argues, "it has become painfully clear that the Administration's concern is to have not a credible, transparent trial of 9/11 conspirators but election-year convictions at any cost."
What's also painfully clear is that this Administration figured out a long time ago that a broad assault on the democratic process will numb the mainstream media to the point of ignoring it. Either that, or take advantage of the MSM's simpleminded tendency to report everything in a he said-they said context, thus conferring legitimacy on any idea no matter how harebrained or dangerous.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries-
Melons and raspberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
All ripe together
In summer weather--
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy;
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye,
Come buy, come buy."
Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bowed her head to hear,
Lizzie veiled her blushes:
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger-tips.
"Lie close," Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?"
"Come buy," call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
"O! cried Lizzie, Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men."
Lizzie covered up her eyes
Covered close lest they should look;
Laura reared her glossy head,
And whispered like the restless brook:
"Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen tramp little men.
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds' weight.
How fair the vine must grow
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes."
"No," said Lizzie, "no, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us."
She thrust a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man.
One had a cat's face,
One whisked a tail,
One tramped at a rat's pace,
One crawled like a snail,
One like a wombat prowled obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry-scurry.
Lizzie heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.
Laura stretched her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.
Backwards up the mossy glen
Turned and trooped the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
"Come buy, come buy."
When they reached where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heaved the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
"Come buy, come buy," was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir,
Longed but had no money:
The whisk-tailed merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr'd,
The rat-paced spoke a word
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
One parrot-voiced and jolly
Cried "Pretty Goblin" still for "Pretty Polly";
One whistled like a bird.
But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
"Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather."
"You have much gold upon your head,"
They answered altogether:
"Buy from us with a golden curl."
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flowed that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore,
She sucked until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away,
But gathered up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turned home alone.
Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
"Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the moonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.
You should not loiter so."
"Nay hush," said Laura.
"Nay hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more," and kissed her.
"Have done with sorrow;
I'll bring you plums to-morrow
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons, icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink,
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap."
Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other's wings,
They lay down, in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fallen snow,
Like two wands of ivory
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars beamed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
Not a bat flapped to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest.
Early in the morning
When the first cock crowed his warning,
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed;
Talked as modest maidens should
Lizzie with an open heart,
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day's delight,
One longing for the night.
At length slow evening came--
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep
Lizzie plucked purple and rich golden flags,
Then turning homeward said: "The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags,
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep."
But Laura loitered still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.
And said the hour was early still,
The dew not fallen, the wind not chill:
Listening ever, but not catching
The customary cry,
"Come buy, come buy,"
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
Let alone the herds
That used to tramp along the glen,
In groups or single,
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.
Till Lizzie urged, "O Laura, come,
I hear the fruit-call, but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glow-worm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark;
For clouds may gather even
Though this is summer weather,
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?"
Laura turned cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
"Come buy our fruits, come buy."
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succous pasture find,
Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life drooped from the root:
She said not one word in her heart's sore ache;
But peering thro' the dimness, naught discerning,
Trudged home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent 'til Lizzie slept;
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnashed her teeth for balked desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.
Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain,
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
"Come buy, come buy,"
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon waxed bright
Her hair grew thin and gray;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay, and burn
Her fire away.
One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dewed it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watched for a waxing shoot,
But there came none;
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dreamed of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth
With shade of leaf-crowned trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.
She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetched honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.
Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister's cankerous care,
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins' cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy."
Beside the brook, along the glen
She heard the tramp of goblin men,
The voice and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Longed to buy fruit to comfort her,
But feared to pay too dear,
She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest winter-time,
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp winter-time.
Till Laura, dwindling,
Seemed knocking at Death's door:
Then Lizzie weighed no more
Better and worse,
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook,
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.
Laughed every goblin
When they spied her peeping:
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Cat-like and rat-like,
Ratel and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes, --
Hugged her and kissed her;
Squeezed and caressed her;
Stretched up their dishes,
Panniers and plates:
"Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs;
Pluck them and suck them,
"Good folk," said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie,
"Give me much and many"; --
Held out her apron,
Tossed them her penny.
"Nay, take a seat with us,
Honor and eat with us,"
They answered grinning;
"Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these
No man can carry;
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavor would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us,
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us."
"Thank you," said Lizzie; "but one waits
At home alone for me:
So, without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I tossed you for a fee."
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One called her proud,
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her,
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.
White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,
Like a rock of blue-veined stone
Lashed by tides obstreperously, --
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire, --
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee, --
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet
Mad to tear her standard down.
One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,
Coaxed and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
Kicked and knocked her,
Mauled and mocked her,
Lizzie uttered not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in;
But laughed in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syruped all her face,
And lodged in dimples of her chin,
And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit
Along whichever road they took,
Not leaving root or stone or shoot.
Some writhed into the ground,
Some dived into the brook
With ring and ripple.
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanished in the distance.
In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore through the furze,
Threaded copse and dingle,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse, --
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran
As if she feared some goblin man
Dogged her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin skurried after,
Nor was she pricked by fear;
The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.
She cried "Laura," up the garden,
"Did you miss me ?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me:
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men."
Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutched her hair:
"Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden,
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing,
And ruined in my ruin;
Thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden?"
She clung about her sister,
Kissed and kissed and kissed her:
Tears once again
Refreshed her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth;
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.
Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast:
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast.
Her locks streamed like the torch
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light
Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed,
Or like a flying flag when armies run.
Swift fire spread through her veins, knocked at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame,
She gorged on bitterness without a name:
Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
Sense failed in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Like a foam-topped water-spout
Cast down headlong in the sea,
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life ?
Life out of death.
That night long Lizzie watched by her,
Counted her pulse's flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,
Held water to her lips, and cooled her face
With tears and fanning leaves:
But when the first birds chirped about their eaves,
And early reapers plodded to the place
Of golden sheaves,
And dew-wet grass
Bowed in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
And new buds with new day
Opened of cup-like lilies on the stream,
Laura awoke as from a dream,
Laughed in the innocent old way,
Hugged Lizzie but not twice or thrice;
Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of gray,
Her breath was sweet as May,
And light danced in her eyes.
Days, weeks, months,years
Afterwards, when both were wives
With children of their own;
Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
Their lives bound up in tender lives;
Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone
Of not-returning time:
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,
Their fruits like honey to the throat,
But poison in the blood;
(Men sell not such in any town;)
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
"For there is no friend like a sister,
In calm or stormy weather,
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands."
-Christina Rosetti, 1862
Sadr's power grew after the occupation began, when American leadership proved unable to provide food, water, and electricity to the people of Baghdad. Moreover, the Iraqi provisional government, hunkered down in the relative safety of the Green Zone, "rapidly turned into a kleptocracy comparable to Nigeria or the Congo. Muqtada sensed the loathing with which the government was regarded, and dodged in and out of government, enjoying some of the fruits of power while denouncing those who held it."
In the last chapter of his book -- available here -- Cockburn describes how the best chance of Shia and Sunni alliance collapsed when the Sunnis reject Sadr's calls for unity by refusing to denounce Al-Qaeda in Iraq, an organization hated and feared by the Shia community. Unwilling or unable to accept their minority status, the Sunnis began their protracted guerilla war with the Shia factions. Ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods ensued and the fissure between the two groups became unbridgeable. Cockburn observes that "the only way the Sadrists and the Mehdi Army could create confidence among the Sunni that Muqtada meant what he said when he called for unity, would be for them to be taken back voluntarily into the areas in Baghdad and elsewhere from which they have been driven. But there is no sign of this happening. The disintegration of Iraq has probably gone too far for the country to exist as anything more than a loose federation."
Cockburn describes Moqtada, whose hold on the Shia militias is hardly absolute, as "a man riding a tiger, sometimes presiding over, sometimes controlling the mass movement he nominally led." Which begs the question: If as influential and capable a man as Moqtada al-Sadr is riding an Iraqi tiger that he can't control, what are we doing? I circle back to the galling Petraeus-Crocker testimony and wonder why no one asks this question: What about the situation in Iraq and the Administration's performance to date leads anyone to believe that the United States can dictate as positive outcome in that tragic country? Or, for that matter, play any constructive role at all, given who is in charge?
Bill Sher writes from Northampton, Massachusetts: When Gen. David Petraeus testifies about the status of the Iraq occupation, I'll be thinking about my neighborhood elementary school. Because the Bridge Street School in Northampton, Mass., may have to close for lack of funds, while we continue to waste billions on a failed foreign policy.
My town is facing a shortfall in our school budget between $800,000 to $1 million. We are forced with a choice between closing an entire school, which doesn't even make up the entire gap, or a series of cuts across the entire school district, including teaching positions, school buses, special education, music and arts education and supplies.
We're not alone in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reports:
"Across Massachusetts, cities and towns face the prospect of deep cuts in what appears to be the grimmest fiscal year since 2003. Local revenue and state aid can't keep up with such rapidly rising expenses as employee health insurance, heating oil, and even street paving. School costs, like special education requirements, are sapping local budgets. And now beleaguered residents are seeing home values dip even as taxes continue to rise."
And it's not just Massachusetts, school budgets are being squeezed across the nation. While we are starved for investment in our schools—not to mention our health, our energy, our environment and our infrastructure—the occupation saps our resources. As Joseph Stiglitz, co-author of The Three Trillion Dollar War, said on MSNBC yesterday: "Spending on the war is the worst form of spending. I mean, just think about it. Paying a Nepalese worker to work in Iraq doesn’t stimulate the economy in the same way that spending that same dollar in the United States."
Paying for cheap Nepalese labor (sometimes lying to lure them into Iraq) doesn't even help rebuild Iraq's economic foundation, let alone ours.
How does this relate to the Bridge Street School's possible closing? According to the National Priorities Project, while my town of Northampton faces a school budget gap of nearly $1 million, Northampton's share of the cost of the occupation is a massive $55,800,000. It is critical that we invest in America's foundation if we are to thrive in the global economy of the 21st century. If we're wasting our money on a failed foreign policy, we won't have the resources to invest in the next generation.
War always has costs. If war is a strategic necessity, then those costs may be worth sacrificing. But the conservative goal of this war, a permanent military occupation of Iraq, is a dangerous and destabilizing goal not worth one penny or one life. And we're paying far more than that.
You can find out from the National Priorities Project how much your town is paying for the occupation at nationalpriorities.org
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
If case you didn't, allow the general to clarify: "This process will be continuous, with recommendations for further reductions made as conditions permit.” Still not sure what he means? Here's the nub of it: "This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable." To do anything else would undermine the "progress" brought about by the surge. Ambassador Ryan Crocker understands why someone might not get this: “Taken as a snapshot, with scenes of increasing violence, and masked gunmen in the streets, it is hard to see how this situation supports a narrative of progress in Iraq.”
But, you see, just the fact that the Maliki governed tried and failed dismally in Basra has great strategic import ("major significance"), although Crocker doesn't explain what that might be or how the average American might recognize it. "There is still much to be done," he allows, and presumably we have to trust the Iraqi government to get around to it. Whenever that will be, it's unlikely to occur within 45 days. Luckily, the Bush Administration is making progress on the long-term agreement of a legal framework for allowing the continued presence of American troops.
What this amounts to is the fruits of yet another Bush Administration bait-and-switch. At root, Petraeus and Bush propose to make an open-ended commitment to the Maliki government. The Basra expedition wound up inserting American lives into the breech of an intra-Shiite squabble that ended only when Muqtada al-Sadr decided to call an end to it. This is what they want us to commit American lives and treasure to. Of course, the other end result of Petraeus' recommendation will be to punt the matter of troop reductions to the next president. It amounts to one more instance of dereliction of duty by the Bush Administration.
Dispatches from Blogland: Renegade Eye wants your recipes...Foxessa remembers The Wanderers while looking forward to the new novel by Richard Price...Scrumpy's Baker considers the fitness alternative offered by a Japanese game show...As Julia Sweeney anticipates the new R. E. M. album, even the thought of it makes one of her commenters feel old. I know where he's coming from: There was a time when I felt out of touch because I wasn't up on R. E. M. Now...Meanwhile, Abrogast discovers pictures of Civil War dead that resonate with contemporary eloquence...Premium T. contemplates sewing after a 10-year hiatus...
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Note: You can download Accelerate on Amazon.com for $8.99. This includes five fun bonus tracks that serve as a light dessert to the serious business of the main course. Watch out for those red heads!
Rabo de Nube, Charles Lloyd Quartet. The master reed player and composer assembles a magnificent quartet and premieres a new set of compositions on this superb live outing. Amazingly, despite the powerful personalities of each member of the group, no one's ego takes over or even attempts to. Perhaps that's out of respect for their 70-year leader who performs with the muscularity of a man half his age and who has few peers of any age when it comes to originality of musical imagination. Whatever, the integration of their sound impresses as completely as their skill as soloists. (Lloyd's Seattle appearance reviewed here.)
Keep It Simple, Van Morrison. That his ground-breaking days are in past hasn't stopped Van Morrison from creating beautiful visions. Few of his 30+ albums are outright clunkers, and most of them stand up under repeated listenings. Van the Man's genre explorations have ranged from the inspired (pairing with The Chieftains for Irish Heartbeat) to the puzzling (Pay The Devil should have been brilliant instead of merely good); he's continued to write terrific songs like "Slow Train" and "Precious Time" and to breath new life into classics like "Lonely Avenue." Morrison long ago absorbed and integrated blues, gospel, country, folk, and R & B into his sound, and on Keep It Simple he wears them like a damn comfortable old suit. So, a simple blues keeps company with a simple ballad, a simple gospel tune, and a simple country weeper. Van Morrison has such command of the genres that he shows their interrelations with spare arrangements that you can pay close attention to or play in the background while you read a good book or eat a fine meal.
For Boston: One of the many joys of traveling is taking the time to check out local music. Last month in Boston led me to a couple of nice finds: Dennis Brennan's Engagment and Collective Psychosis Begone from Hallelujah The Hills. Brennan is a fine singer-songwriter who ought to be better known. His writes with wit and flair and leads an excellent roots band. Treat yourself and track down Engagement. Hallelujah The Hills create a unique indie/prog sound augmented by soaring zigzag keyboard and the judicious application of a soul horn section. These guys are going places.
R. I. P. Chuck Heston. Even though you went from being one of the first white celebrities to march with Martin Luther King to a senescent gun rights advocate who couldn't accept the homoerotic subtext of Ben-Hur, with that one and The Ten Commandments you made two movies that people enjoyed and quoted with glee every year. There are worse legacies. Plus, you were a memorable Long John Silver when you remade Treasure Island. Go in peace.
Note: That's 15-year old Christian Bale as Jim Hawkins.