Peanut Butter Knife

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Short Takes

--I'm sure many of you have been following the net-neutrality debate, and if you haven't, this discussion over at TPM Cafe should get you up to speed pretty quickly. I particularly liked this quote from Taylor in the comments:

The more you hear about the breathtaking stupidity of politicians about the Internet, the more you have to respect Al Gore's role in pushing funding for it, and the more egregious it is that this simple fact was turned into a national joke by clever propagandists and stupid inept utterly clueless alleged journalists.

Chicagoist has more on Bobby Rush's conflict of interest and why he defected from the Democrats on this vote.

--I was going to write something about Carol Moseley Braun's new venture and the stupidity seen in some of the reporting on it. However, Joanna at Second Hand Sun took the ball and ran with a far more biting and insightful take than I could have come up with. Good work, definitely check it out.

--Next week, I plan on doing a little photo blogging when I go to the polls and use Summit County's ES&S voting system for the first time. Psychobilly Democrat has been following this story all along and what they've found is kind of alarming. Well, not kind of. Very.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The tricky business of primary voting

...Or how the hell did I end up in Summit County?

Next Tuesday will be the first Democratic primary I will vote in as a Summit County resident. For the most part, this doesn't mean a whole lot. I live on the OH-17 side of things where Tim Ryan is running unopposed in both the primary and the general, so I won't have to muddle through the mass of candidates vying for Sherrod Brown's old seat (though I kind of wish I were, watching this from the sidelines has been interesting, kinda too bad I won't be casting a ballot). The statewide races don't leave a whole lot of intrigue outside of the AG contest and I've looked at the candidates there and am happy to be voting for Subodh Chandra.

However, then we come to the Summit County Council at-large race. There are 8 Dems vying for 3 spots on the November ballot where voters will select the top 3 among the Dem and GOP nominees. The county council is a somewhat new concept to me. In Cuyahoga County, there are 3 commissioners that are elected by the entire county on an individual basis, which essentially means that the Dem primary is the election in such a blue county. Two years ago, I was faced with choosing between the Tims (Hagan and McCormick). I grew up in Cuyahoga County, I knew the candidates names well, I knew the issues involved and who was supporting whom in the race and what that meant. Adelphia cable had a debate between the two, I watched this, followed the race and made up my mind accordingly (I was a McCormick guy, he lost).

Now I'm faced with a decision to select the top 3 Democrats among names that range from vaguely familiar to who is that guy? I live in a part of Summit County that has Adelphia cable's Cleveland programming, so if there's any local TV covering this race I don't know about it. These races are too small for the candidates to have their own websites. So, I'm left with the newspaper. I subscribe to the Plain Dealer and I sometimes read the ABJ online, and both published election previews last weekend.

In each case, the papers toss a few questions at each candidate and they answer accordingly. Both papers asked about the proposed smoking ban, while the PD added questions regarding TEL, job creation and a possible sales tax hike. The ABJ asked about nepotism in county hiring practices. Almost without fail, all 8 candidates answered with somewhat wishy-washy non committal responses on every question or gave typical responses to unchallenging questions. There were two candidates that separated themselves from the pack, in ways both bad and good.

Pete Crossland earns points in my book for coming out strongly in favor of the smoking ban. I realize that the legislation as it stands now is somewhat flawed since it's not enforceable outside of the townships. But I think that its a good start and its better than nothing. I don't buy the old canard that smoking bans hurt businesses. If there is anyone that stops going out because they can't smoke, they're probably going to be replaced with 2 or 3 more customers who are willing to spend their money in a smoke-free environment. Not only that, even if a smoking ban did cut into some profits, I want politicians that will stand up for the public good over profitability. Plus, I give Crossland a lot of credit for standing up for something he believes in when most candidates are taking a pass on answering the question candidly.

Beyond that, on the TEL question most Dems expectedly come out against this horrible ballot initiative. However, Ilene Shapiro states that she "needs more time to study it before she can answer." I'm sorry, but if you've been living in Ohio and following state government even a little bit you know what TEL is, you know that there is strong bi-partisan support against the amendment, you have read all the articles stating what the negative effects are and the articles that show how a similar amendment has brought Colorado's government to its knees, and to say in a major paper that you don't have an opinion on this 2 weeks before the primary. Well, that's disingenuous at best, ignorant at worst.

So that means I have one candidate to support and one that I won't and I have to find two others among the remaining field of six. Are there more resources out there that can shed some light on this race?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Secret History of Country Rock: Michael Nesmith & Plainsong

I'm going to diverge from soul music for a bit this week to highlight some other vinyl I've started to uncover recently. The history of country music's influence on rock is well-worn. By now names like Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, The Flying Burrito Brothers Sweetheart of the Rodeo and others are etched in listeners' minds as the pioneers of fusing the high lonesome sound with the soul searching immediacy of late 60s/early 70s rock. These early works spawned countless imitators The Eagles, Poco, Firefall, the likes of which today is generally associated with bland easy listening better suited to a day at the grocery store or dentist's office waiting room than out on the prarie. (I could make a case for early Poco as being almost on par with the Burritos, not today though)

However, not every ex-hippie with a guitar, a penchant for denim and a copy of the first Burrito Brothers LP was destined to pick up a guitar and write paeans to takin' it easy and playing dress up like long-haired extras from a Wyatt Earp movie. Here's the spotlight on two of them.

Michael Nesmith's place in the country-rock pantheon tends to be dismissed by most critics. By all rights he has as much to do with country and rock's fusion as anyone named Parsons or McGuinn, but today's critics can't seem to look past the Monkee on Nesmith's back and don't treat his work with the same reverence that they do Parsons. And it's a shame really because Nesmith has all the bona fides to back it up. Hailing from Houston, Nesmith grew up on country and blues. He did a stint with an early folk-rock group, simply known as Mike & John, before the Monkees came along. Nesmith left the Monkees in 1969, deciding to further his interest in country music by forming the First National Band. This was after Sweetheart but before the Burritos. Nesmith's work with the First National Band was more gentle and calm than Parsons' sometimes rollicking honky-tonk raves. If Parsons was Hank Williams, than Nesmith was Jimmie Rodgers, chronicling life in the New West as California was coming down from the American Dream and the tumult of the 60s.

Included here are two songs from Nesmith's 3rd and final album with the First National Band Nevada Fighter from 1971.

Michael Nesmith "Texas Morning"

Michael Nesmith "Propinquity (I've Just Begun to Care)"

Iain Matthews is known to folk music afficionados as one of the original members of Fairport Convention. Matthews influence on the group was more from the rock angle of that classic UK folk-rock ensemble. He grew increasingly disenchanted with the groups more celtic folk leanings and left soon after the group's first album was released. Matthews solo career never quite got on track, though he made several memorable recordings. Increasingly, he became more and more drawn to American folk and country modes and the formation of Plainsong in 1972 was the result of this interest.

After signing to Elektra, Plainsong recorded the harmony laden In Search of Amelia Earhart which found these Brits doing the California folk-rock vibe better than many of their west coast contemporaries. The album is loosely based around Earhart and the stories of her possible abduction by the Japanese. The album's songcraft and vision is quite evident, why Plainsong never amounted to much is really still perplexing considering how well they blended with the sound of their times. In any case, the group would record a 2nd unreleased album before splitting up. Coincidentally, Matthews and Nesmith would collaborate on several projects in the later part of the 70s.

Plainsong "Louise"

Next time, more Chicago soul with The Esquires!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

With The Possible Exception of Teddy Roosevelt

Sorry for the quietude around here this week. I've been kind of thinking inward and haven't felt the urge to blog about much. So, this will be a short post that is very timely in light of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan's conviction earlier this week on all counts in the "licenses for bribes" scandal that dates back to his Secretary of State days. Seems some folks think he should be remembered for more than just corruption and they've written a song about it:

Illinois First! Band "George Ryan" (mp3)

Probably the greatest fusion of politics, music and humor that I've ever heard. You need to hear this to believe how great it is. Apparently these guys write songs exclusively about Illinois history. I wonder if they've considered suing Sufjan Stevens?

On a completely unrelated note, is it wrong of me to hope that Ben Broussard doesn't play well for the Tribe this year? I mean, even when he gets on one of his hot streaks he is still not a particularly exciting player. I want to see Ryan Garko now!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Chicago Soul Part 1: Chi-Lites

Some more soul music to get you through the week. Here is the first post in what I hope to be an ongoing spotlight on Chicago soul. This week I'm featuring two tracks from The Chi-Lites 1973 self titled album. Black music from Chicago is almost always exclusively talked about in terms of the blues, but the city had a sound that was distinct from that of Memphis, Philly, or Detroit. With deep roots in the vocal group culture of the late 50s, Chicago soul placed an emphasis on group harmony. The Chi-Lites were no exception, having begun their career as doo wop group the Hi-Lites before progressing into the soul era. Not as musically complex as Motown, slick as Philly Int'l or as funky as Atlantic soul, the Chicago sound tends to be mid-tempo and very melodic; the soundtrack for a city on the go. Listen to these tracks and try not to think of working men & women riding the L home or chilling after a long weekend.

Chi-Lites "Homely Girl" (Brunswick, 1973)

Chi-Lites "Go Away Dream" (Brunswick, 1973)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Some Links on a Friday Night

Look over to your right. Yes, I've finally got the blog roll a little more organized and up to date. If you have a blog and you're a regular PBK visitor, please leave a comment and I will add you to the list.

Some highlights:

Second Hand Sun A new blog from a friend of mine. Joanna takes a look at a variety of subjects through a feminist lens. I recommend checking out her recent post on immigration.

Chicagoist The Windy City franchise of the Gothamist blog chain has assembled a terrific cast of local writers whose curiosity for all things Chicago past & present is served up with enthusiasm and the right amount of snark.

Subset of Derek Derek commented in the Henry Wallace post last week and I enjoyed his blog. See, its that easy.

Soul Sides and Captain's Crate are some of the best mp3 blogs I've discovered recently. Anyone who comes here to read the music posts would be well advised to check both of these sites out!

Analog Giant covers music, progressive politics, baseball and urban planning. No wonder I like it so much.

Yard Work contains some of the funniest baseball writing I've ever seen. Think The Onion, only about baseball.

This is just a random sampling. If I didn't include you, no insult was implied. I'll try and highlight some folks off the 'roll every now and again.

I also added links to some 2006 candidates as well with a focus on Ohio Dems along with a few others. I expect this to grow as we approach the fall elections.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Would you like a mass wedding ceremony with your sushi?

The Moonies strange influence in DC is well-documented, but did you know that when you sit down for sushi in this country, there's a good chance that you're likely doing the equivalent of buying a copy of the Washington Times? Today's story in the Chicago Tribune was very illuminating about the alarming trend of religous sects openly aligning themselves with capitalist gains. Or, as one competing fishmonger so drolly put it:

"It's kind of tough to compete in this industry with a company that is so global, has a major presence in almost every market and that is driven by religious fervor," said Bill Dugan, who has been in the fish business for almost 30 years and owns the Fish Guy Market on Elston Avenue, near the original Rainbow shop. "We should all be so blessed."

The Moonies' seafood operations have taken over whole fishing communities in Massachusetts and Alabama. Scientologists basically own downtown Clearwater, FL. And of course there's the state of Utah. Is America slowly turning into a loose collective of theocratic city-states where service to God and the almighty dollar are one in the same?

Historical examples such as the Shakers and the Oneida colony have shown that religion and capitalism are not such strange bedfellows in America (in the case of the Oneida they were actually quite good in bed ), but what happens when that religous fervor is coupled with a messianic zeal and a lust for political power?

And what do you do when your craving for spicy tuna rolls conflicts with your political beliefs? I don't think I'm going to stop eating sushi any time soon, is this the price we must all pay for being so disconnected from our sources of food?

Cross posted at Unbossed.

Monday, April 10, 2006


And now the post you've all been waiting for! I finally set up a hosting account for mp3s so now you can listen to some of the music I've been writing about. As of now, I don't have a way to convert my vinyl into mp3s, so the songs I can post are limited to those I have on iTunes or some other services. I haven't decided how long I am going to leave these links up, but suffice it to say that these songs are for entertainment and/or educational purposes only and if you like what you hear, support the artists and buy their recordings. Of course much of this stuff is out of print so in that case, have at it since the suits obviously don't want you to hear it! I'm going to try and post 2-3 mp3s every weekend and I'll appreciate any and all feedback that you give me.

Without further adieu...

Lou Rawls "Dead End Street (Monologue)"/"Dead End Street" b/w "Yes It Hurts - Doesn't It?" (Capitol) I picked this single up over the weekend and I was disappointed to find out that it was slightly warped and the first 30 seconds or so are unplayable. Anyone out there have any idea if there is a way to "unwarp" vinyl? These Axelrod/Rawls jams are probably my favorite discovery this year so far. Axe's arrangements are so complex and rival anything that Brian Wilson or Phil Spector was putting out in the same era. Add to that some of the funkiest drum breaks this side of James Brown and the sound is intoxicating. Expect more where this came from in the coming weeks!

The Blackbyrds "City Life" (Fantasy, 1975) By request, here is the title track from the Blackbyrds LP I blogged about a few weeks ago. Upbeat and funky, The Blackbyrds managed to conjure up a gritty urban realism that comes across as a timeless soundtrack to life in urban America.

Syreeta "Harmour Love" (Motown, 1977)
People googling this tune have driven the most traffic to this site since I first blogged about it in the same post as the Blackbyrds above. Perhaps everyone else is discovering this tropical soul nugget the way I did, from the movie Junebug. The album may have been a disappointment but for $1, I am perfectly content having this song in my collection.

Enjoy. I'll try and post some links to a few other mp3 blogs tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Know Your New Dealers: Henry A. Wallace

Cross posted at Unbossed

This post is the first in what I hope to be an occasional series on the key figures of the New Deal. Much as people today forget the sacrifices that labor gave in order for us to enjoy our current standard of living, there were also good people in government fighting for things that we now take for granted.

Name:Henry Agard Wallace (1888-1965)

Birthplace: Orient, IA

Positions Held:Secretary of Agriculture (1933-41), Vice President (1941-45), Secretary of Commerce (1945-46)

Early Years: Wallace hailed from a prominent Iowa farming family, who's name is still important today, through the publication of Wallace's Farmer magazine. His father, Henry C. Wallace was Agriculture Secretary in the Harding administration. In addition to serving as editor of Wallace's Farmer, Henry A. also experimented a great deal with seed hybrids, leading to the founding of the Pioneer Hy-Bred Corporation. Wallace's innovations in hybrid forms of corn would revolutionize agriculture in the 20th century.

New Deal: Despite being from a Republican family, Henry A. Wallace had become disillusioned with the party and its obsession with free-markets during the Coolidge and Hoover years. He campaigned for Democrat Al Smith in 1928 and served as FDR's advisor on agricultural issues during the 1932 campaign which led to his appointment as Ag. Secretary in 1933. Wallace was a committed New Dealer and saw in the New Deal a way towards accomplishing many of the agricultural reforms he had advocated as editor of Wallace's Farmer throughout the 20s.

Wallace headed up several New Deal administrations, most notably the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), which sought to end surplus production and promote a more collectivist mentality among American farmers. In addition, Wallace also promoted the idea of an "ever-normal granary" which stockpiled agricultural resources to insure against the negative effects of drought or other agricultural disasters. The USDA expanded quickly under Wallace's watch, but despite it's size, was often praised for its efficiency. Wallace broadened the USDA's scope to include several programs which endure today such as food stamps and a school lunch program.

Vice Presidency: Wallace's term as Vice President coincided with WWII and he took an active role in preparing the country for war, overseeing the Economic Defense Board (EDB) and the Supply Priorities and Allocations Board (SPAB), both of which sought to ramp up America's industrial output as the onset of war was looming. Wallace's scientific expertise was valued enough by FDR that he was also appointed to the secretive "Top Policy Group" which oversaw the development of the atomic bomb.

In addition, Wallace also began thinking about his vision of the post-war world, arguing that freedom and justice should be the ultimate goals once the Axis powers were defeated.

These roles were the most active any Vice President had been in history, as Wallace set the stage for the modern role of the Vice Presidency.

Post War: Party politics ousted Wallace from the VP slot at the 1944 convention, but Wallace's key role in FDR's administration was acknowledged in his appointment as Commerce Secretary. Disagreements with the conservatives in Truman's camp over Cold War policy would eventually lead to resignation in 1946. He worked for a time as an editor of The New Republic, championing liberal causes (imagine that!) before launching an ill-fated 3rd party bid for the presidency under the "Progressive" banner, though many sought to tie him (incorrectly) to communists.

With the presidential bid ended, Wallace returned to private life tending mostly to agricultural experiments on a farm in upstate New York. His views on the cold war moderated somewhat, Wallace didn't seem interested in reversing public opinion on him. Both Nixon and Kennedy sought his advice in the 1960 elections, and he was a special guest of JFK at his 1961 inaugural.

Key Quote: "To me a liberal is one who believes in using in a non-violent, tolerant and democratic way the forces of education, publicity, politics, economics, business, law and religion to direct the ever-changing and increasing power of science into channels which will bring peace and the maximum of well-being both spiritual and economic to the greatest number of human beings. A liberal knows that the only certainty in this life is change but believes that the change can be directed toward a constructive end." --from Liberalism Re-Appraised, 1953

Legacy: Though Wallace is probably exhibit A for anyone who wants to show that idealism and American politics are an incompatible relationship, Wallace also showed that idealism, when put to practical aims can have an impact on society. An ardent New Dealer, a believer in the power of collective action; Wallace was also a capitalist and an early advocate for free (but fair) trade. Wallace proved that these two trains of thought need not be antithetical to each other, that when our neighbors succeed, we succeed too.

Further Reading:

Selected Works of Henry A Wallace

The Life Of Henry A Wallace (a web bio)

American Dreamer by Sen. John Culver & John Hyde

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Odds & Ends

I'm trying to avoid doing too many of these sort of "round up" posts, but sometimes they work best, so here we go:

--Prime Minister Thaksin is going to step down in Thailand. I blogged about his tenure as a "CEO Prime Minister" in this post. Though he won last week's election, over 10 million people turned out to cast an "abstention" vote. I wonder how a "none of the above" scenario would play out in this country?

--Tribune columnist Jon Hilkevitch ponders what life in Chicago would be like if the Crosstown Expressway had been realized. Current plans for a combination of a rail/truck bypass sound much more sensible than the original plan for an 8-lane freeway that would have dramatically changed many of Chicago's interesting west-side neighborhoods.

--On that tip, I'm getting more and more interested in city planning, especially with regards to rapid transit systems. Could there be some sort of future in this for me? What kind of background do I need: public policy? urban planning? engineering? If anyone has insights, let me know. I am starting to feel trapped in what I do. I fulfilled one dream by going to Chicago to work at a record label, might I realize another by returning to work for the CTA?

--Thanks to UCLA for beating LSU. That was all I needed to ensure a win in my office NCAA pool. I've already spent the winnings on a digital camera, and I'm up and running on Flickr, so check it out. I'll be incorporating more photography in this blog as I go along.

--Finally, hopefully the long promised 7 Blunders post and some mp3 posts will finally materialize themselves this week. I probably shouldn't promise these things in such a public space, then the pressure is on!