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February 24, 2006 - February 17, 2006

Friday, February 24, 2006


The Big Picture

Present day Dubai is an ultra-modern city with soaring waterfront skyscrapers,
including (from right to left) the Flatiron Ritz, the Bose Tower, the Nokia Arms,
the Sony SleepStation 2, and the Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates.

STILLING THE WATERS. Yet another pointless political flap. Haven't we learned anything from Hollywood? All those multi-millionaire stars may shoot off their mouths a lot and do more drugs than Hunter Thompson, but they rarely involve themselves in byzantine conspiracies to blow things up. When you have that much money, you move into a different state of being and all the background issues like politics, race, and religion become merely props and fashion statements. Does anybody really take Madonna's Kabbalah crap or Tom Cruise's Scientology BS seriously? Of course not. They're just killing time between appearances on the red carpet at awards telecasts. What matters is who you're seen with, which top designer is dressing you, how many square feet your mansion contains, and how many exoticars are parked in your garage. The same standard applies to the United Arab Emirates.

Check out the facts. This isn't an Arab state. It's a moneyed estate. With a per capita income of $29,000 and a population of just over 2.5 million, of whom more than 50 percent are servants from South Asia, the UAE is not so much a country as a large  country club. So what if they don't recognize Israel? It's a social thing. They'd probably cut Osama dead at the first tee, too, because why consort with cave dwellers when you can hang out with Michael Jackson? And so what if they seem too cozy with terror states like Iran? In our own country we have no end of mega-millionaires who can't find enough unspeakable criminals to endorse into the nearest open microphone, but there's absolutely zero chance that spoiled snobs like George Clooney, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Barbra Streisand, and Whoopi Goldberg will ever do anything that requires planning, personal risk, and expertise of any kind. It'd screw up their daily appointments with masseurs, personal trainers, couturiers, agents, business managers, publicity flacks, and kiss-ass entertainment reporters.

You see, there are times when it's important to look at the big picture and not get caught up in all the minutiae. Fortunately, you have us to help you see things more clearly. Feel better? Of course you do.

Have a nice day.

POSTSCRIPT. We still stand by this prescription for dealing with the Bush administration's biggest problem.




Thursday, February 23, 2006


The New Right Wing

Frozen solid.

PSAYINGS.5Q.24. We've never been big fans of Alan Dershowitz, but we have to acknowledge that he seems to be up to something admirable. This is a good news-bad news situation. The good news is that Dershowitz is reasserting the importance of morality in the politics of the American left. The bad news is that he is reacting to a state of affairs which is far graver than most casual observers would suspect. And, yes, he has a book to sell, but even we are not so cynical as to believe that the most famous professor at Harvard Law School is fabricating a phony ruckus to pump up his royalties. We think he's sounding an important alarm. So what's he been up to?

He's been speaking out on three fronts. One is the war on terror, which is the subject of his book. The hawkish Tony Blankley previewed the work in a column this week:

Next week a vastly important book will be published: "Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways" by Alan Dershowitz. Yes, that Alan Dershowitz: the very liberal civil libertarian, anti-capital punishment Harvard Law School professor. And but for my lack of his legal scholarship, there is nary a sentence in the book that I -- a very conservative editor of the Washington Times, and former press secretary to Newt Gingrich -- couldn't have written.

The premise of his book is that in this age of terror, there is a potential need for such devices as profiling, preventive detention, anticipatory mass inoculation, prior restraint of dangerous speech, targeted extrajudicial executions of terrorists and preemptive military action including full-scale preventive war.

Is Dershowitz abandoning his liberal roots? No. He's brilliantly defending them in the context of a post-9/11 world. Blankley characterizes it thus:

He shrewdly observes that historically, nations -- including democracies -- have resorted to such deviations from law and custom out of necessity. But that it has all been ad hoc, secret or deceptive. Prof. Dershowitz argues that now, rather, we need to begin to develop an honest jurisprudence of prevention to legally regulate such mechanisms. It is better, he argues, to democratically decide now, before the next disaster, this new jurisprudence -- the rules by which we will take these necessary actions.

Dershowitz is also boldly challenging the great liberal postulate that has caused the left to advocate extending American constitutional protections to avowed foreign enemies:

(H)e raises the great maxim of criminal law: better that ten guilty go free, than one innocent be wrongly convicted. That principle led our law to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt before conviction in criminal trials. Most of us agree with that standard.

But then Prof. Dershowitz updates the maxim thusly: "Is it better for ten possibly preventable terrorist attacks to occur than for one possibly innocent suspect to be preventively detained?" I would hunch that most people would not be willing to accept ten September 11th attacks (30,000 dead) in order to protect one innocent suspect from being locked up and questioned for a while.

That's right. Dershowitz is reminding us that being liberal is not synonymous with being stupid, self-destructive, or suicidal. This idea alone would be enough to occupy most minds, but the professor is frying other fish at the same time. In today's Washington Post, he co-authors a piece with ultra-conservative Bill Bennett, in which the two erstwhile opponents combine to say:

We two come from different political and philosophical perspectives, but on this we agree: Over the past few weeks, the press has betrayed not only its duties but its responsibilities...

Since the war on terrorism began, the mainstream press has had no problem printing stories and pictures that challenged the administration and, in the view of some, compromised our war and peace efforts. The manifold images of abuse at Abu Ghraib come to mind -- images that struck at our effort to win support from Arab governments and peoples, and that pierced the heart of the Muslim world as well as the U.S. military.

The press has had no problem with breaking a story using classified information on detention centers for captured terrorists and suspects -- stories that could harm our allies. And it disclosed a surveillance program so highly classified that most members of Congress were unaware of it.

In its zeal to publish stories critical of our nation's efforts -- and clearly upsetting to enemies and allies alike -- the press has printed some articles that turned out to be inaccurate. The Guantanamo Bay flushing of the Koran comes to mind.

But for the past month, the Islamist street has been on an intifada over cartoons depicting Muhammad that were first published months ago in a Danish newspaper. Protests in London -- never mind Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Iran and other countries not noted for their commitment to democratic principles -- included signs that read, "Behead those who insult Islam." The mainstream U.S. media have covered this worldwide uprising; it is, after all, a glimpse into the sentiments of our enemy and its allies. And yet it has refused, with but a few exceptions, to show the cartoons that purportedly caused all the outrage.

Once again, it is tempting to ask: Has Dershowitz betrayed his liberal convictions and moved to the right with the likes of Bill Bennett? But again, the answer is no. As the essay reminds us:

There was a time when the press was the strongest guardian of free expression in this democracy. Stories and celebrations of intrepid and courageous reporters are many within the press corps. Cases such as New York Times v. Sullivan in the 1960s were litigated so that the press could report on and examine public officials with the unfettered reporting a free people deserved. In the 1970s the Pentagon Papers case reaffirmed the proposition that issues of public importance were fully protected by the First Amendment.

The mass media that backed the plaintiffs in these cases understood that not only did a free press have a right to report on critical issues and people of the day but that citizens had a right to know about those issues and people. The mass media understood another thing: They had more than a right; they had a duty to report.

This is the kind of ringing liberal affirmation that should have the editorial board of the New York Times rising to its feet in a standing ovation. The old New York Times, that is. Not the current version, though.

Is your plate full enough yet, Professor Dershowitz? Confronting both the left-wing foreign policy establishment and the liberal establishment media at the same time is battle enough for one man, isn't it? No. It isn't. Dershowitz is trying for a hat trick. He's also confronting the leftist academic establishment. Yesterday, he published yet another essay blasting Harvard's decision to fire Lawrence Summers from the university's presidency:

A PLURALITY of one faculty has brought about an academic coup d'etat against not only Harvard University president Lawrence Summers but also against the majority of students, faculty, and alumni. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which forced Summers's resignation by voting a lack of confidence in him last March and threatening to do so again on Feb. 28, is only one component of Harvard University and is hardly representative of widespread attitudes on the campus toward Summers. The graduate faculties, the students, and the alumni generally supported Summers for his many accomplishments. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences includes, in general, some of the most radical, hard-left elements within Harvard's diverse constituencies. And let there be no mistake about the origin of Summers's problem with that particular faculty: It started as a hard left-center conflict. Summers committed the cardinal sin against the academic hard left: He expressed politically incorrect views regarding gender, race, religion, sexual preference, and the military.

In elaborating on his views about the Harvard situation with talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, Dershowitz said:

(I)t was incredible chutzpah for the arts and sciences faculty, merely a plurality of them, to engineer this coup. And let me tell you who engineered it. It was engineered by particularly an anthropology professor, a guy named Randy Matory, who teaches Afro-American and Afro-South American studies. And basically, what he said in his resolution that he first proposed, was Summers has to go because number one, he's too patriotic. He's trying to tell us to be more patriotic. And that, by Matory, is regarded as the great sin, that he's teaching patriotism...

Dershowitz also made the following startling statement during the interview:

 In America, I am left-center, but certainly closer to the left. And on the Harvard arts and sciences faculty, I would be on the extreme right."

Wow. Here at last is the punchline of Dershowitz's multi-pronged offensive. He is drawing a line in the sand between the traditional left so many Americans imagine the Democrat leadership is speaking for and the hard left which has hijacked the party and turned it into a viciously anti-American instrument of politically correct insanity.

In this context, all of Dershowitz's fronts are the same front. He is standing up for the fading idea that it is possible to be a bleeding-heart big-government liberal and a hard-eyed patriot who is committed to crushing our country's enemies without becoming like them -- rigid, fanatical, oppressive, tyrannical -- in the process.

It's also vital to note that it isn't Dershowitz who has moved right. It is the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and the  academic establishment which have moved a vast distance to the left. The engine that has driven the move is political correctness, and the vision that unites this new constituency is the hatred of western civilization promulgated by post-modern philosophy.

Everyone should heed the alarm Dershowitz is sounding. Conservatives need to understand how strong, irrational and extreme their real opposition is. Liberals need to understand exactly who is beating the drums they've been dutifully marching to. It's urgent that they seek out a different drummer.

Thank you, Professor Dershowitz. Keep beating your drum. We hope your solitary walk becomes a parade.




Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Mandy

She fulfilled her mission.

DOWN TO SLEEP. Long before they become feeble or ill, old people can begin to give up. Things they have always regarded as necessities of life start to seem too difficult, too onerous. The process was underway with Mandy's people before they met her. They had lost a beautiful, brilliant German Shepherd named Kristie who declined in pain from hip dysplasia for a brave long time, so crippled at the end that she could climb stairs only with a belt looped under her thinning loins. Her death was too much an agony, and the age-old cure of a puppy seemed out of the question. "We are too old," they said. "We can't, we don't want to go through that again."

But their children, worried and domineering, issued a threat: "Find yourselves another dog or we'll find one for you and you'll lose the opportunity to choose."

Blackmail resurrected the memory of a Boston Terrier named Mugsy, the one who greeted a returning WWII fighter pilot by leaping from the floor into his arms the instant he walked through the door of his parent's home. He remembered that fierce and simple love. Inquiries were made. A couple who had owned setters and shepherds and varied Scottish-bred terriers for 50 years were suddenly expectant parents awaiting the caesarean (always with Boston Terriers) birth of the dog kingdom's smallest bulldog.

She came with instructions. No table food. Exact times for strictly dry food meals. A mandatory harness instead of a collar. A schedule for outings to perform basic functions. She also came with that smashed-in face which flat defies the beauty standards of long-nosed hunting and herding breeds. But her youth was rejuvenation for her aged parents. She seemed, from the first, to understand her responsibilities perfectly. She was a grave, obedient, and predictable puppy. She was also on a schedule. She mastered paper training, housebreaking, the sedate rhythms of an old people's house. She played like a bulldog, but with care and reserve, lest she injure her charges with the incredible strength of her compact body and beartrap jaws.

That highly controlled and abbreviated puppyhood was 17 years ago. She soldiered through the inevitable fading away of her people without destroying anything but vulcanized rubber toys, although as the years passed, she rarely got to run in her spectacular windmilling style, and the walks grew shorter as the old legs grew weaker. She stood her post on the bed while her fighter pilot slowly evaporated into the final morphine fog of cancer. She dutifully kept company in chair and bed with the survivor, who clumped from one to the other with her walker while Mandy, despite sightless eyes and failing ears, nimbly dodged the loud aluminum tattoo of approaching loss.

There was a brief -- a pitifully, heartbreakingly brief -- Indian summer, when Mandy was able to join a small pack of sighthounds after her lifelong companions and her home were gone. Like other dogs, she seemed to aspire to their long-legged magic, and there was a day, or perhaps two or three, when she joined them in their running world without a leash -- for the first and only time -- and showed off her joyous windmilling, prancing run. But she was already fifteen by then, and the arthritis had bowed her legs and brittled her bones. The vet forbade her to jump on or off the couch, and she stopped being able to accompany the pack and its huge exuberant puppy.

Characteristically, though, she never gave up. Never. Until about 48 hours ago, she clamored loudly for breakfast and dinner, luxuriating in the life-changing cuisine of soft food with savory gravy. And less than a week ago, she managed a final bit of mischief, escaping a leash badly attached under her red parka and seizing the opportunity to explore her acreage -- blind, deaf, and as ever, full of eager energy.

I believe she may have been looking for the missing ones. Perhaps that's why she chose to leave last night and rejoin them in a place that could never be called heaven if our dogs can't be there with us. Perhaps she knew that, too.

Godspeed, Mandy. Thank you for everything. And give them both a kiss for me.




Tuesday, February 21, 2006


NBC's Olympic Crash


Like a Train Wreck, But Worse.

PSAY.5S.1. Where to begin? To gain the true measure of NBC's incompetence, one must look beyond even the worst of the 2006 Olympics itself. The American alpine skiing team may be a sorry joke -- Surprise! A "star" who boasts of competing while drunk doesn't win any medals! -- But at least one of its members came through with a gold. The old media giant that calls itself the peacock network, on the other hand, hasn't made it to the podium once, in any event.

The commentators are so indolent and ill-informed that they rarely seem present at the venue they're covering. In a couple of hours of televised skeleton sled racing, they couldn't stir themselves to explain how the sledders actually steer the devices. In countless, endless hours of curling competition, they couldn't bring themselves to lay out the rules of the game and the requirements for scoring; these can only be deduced by the superhuman masochist who manages to stay awake long enough to see how points accumulate. Despite a concerted effort to (over)sell the T.V. audience on the excellence of the U.S. women's hockey team, the game announcers couldn't be bothered to specify exactly which rules differences from the men's game are responsible for the ice-capades serenity of the action. In the ever mysterious biathlon events, the experts confined their commentary to the purely self-evident -- as the bullet struck the target or not (in closeup), they told us whether the bullet struck the target or not, but never uttered a word about the make or design features of the peculiar rifles the biathletes employ. For the person trying to watch, it's like repeatedly entering a conversation too late, after the important points have been agreed on and all that's still being bandied about are trifles. But in this case it's hard not to suspect that no important points are being made. The casual observer could be pardoned for imagining NBC's ace sports analysts snuggled up in vast overstuffed chairs before a roaring fire in some mountaintop chalet, swilling schnapps and ogling ski bunnies while casting only an occasional glance (and offhand remark) at the four-inch monitor on the coffee table where the Olympic action they're supposed to be covering is unfolding. If they don't care, why should we?

And we haven't even mentioned the only real ratings draw the Winter Olympics offers -- the gender-bending mix of costumery, soap opera, and corrupt judging that normally attracts women, etc, by the millions to the figure skating competition. Sunday night may have been a low point in the history of Olympic skating, as ice dancers transformed their intricate rumba routines into a kind of human demolition derby, complete with end-over-end crashes and wall-smacking collisions, but even that pitiful spectacle was a masterpiece of finesse compared to NBC's coverage of it. After one faintly amusing contribution from Dick Button on the first night of pairs competition -- in which he ceaselessly ridiculed every non-American, non-Russian entrant -- network bigwigs apparently took him aside and ordered him to cease reporting in any knowledgeable way on the proceedings. Since then, the various events have played out on the small screen in a sort of vacuum. Most times, the commentators are so uninvolved they don't bother to identify the music the skaters are performing to and, especially in the case of ice dancing, they refuse to describe what the performers are doing. The only step ever called out by Button's female colleague is the "twizzle," whatever that is, which whenever it occurs seems to rouse her from her lethargy so that she can pronounce the word before resuming her nap. Dick, for his part, clearly disdains any responsibility for knowing what ice dancers do; he prefers to lean back (in his overstuffed chair?) and announce at the end of the routine whether or not it held his attention.

NBC is an entertainment network, is it not? The producers should be aware that without voluminous gossipy commentary, figure skating consists of little more than a dozen or so strictly choreographed tricks that are repeated again and again by a gang of vainglorious, uneducated monomaniacs of various sexes who have spent all their waking hours since childhood on an ice rink in Delaware. (Yes, Russians included, though not so much the Chinese.) The job of the commentators at an Olympic competition is to tell their mostly female audience who is sleeping with who, why the rules of this "sport" tolerate flesh-colored thongs and nude-tone brassieres speckled with jimmies, which particular Nelson Eddy role the male skater is got up to look like, and exactly how it is that the various turns, spins, and skip-steps "interpret" the music that's playing while they do their tricks. Beyond this, the commentators also have a responsibility to the hostage male audience to explain WHAT THE HELL IT IS THE SKATERS ARE DOING ON THE ICE, which is indispensable for all the beleaguered husbands who are trying to keep their mouths shut and not spoil the experience for their wives by filling the void with their own irreverent observations.

It appears that NBC has entirely forgotten what entertainment is. Perhaps that's why the company has also mounted the most monumentally incompetent promotional scheme in television history for peddling their Olympic product to the public. As the owner of (at least) four television networks -- NBC, USA, CNBC, and MSNBC -- this giant of old media has the capacity to fill the pipe with nearly live Olympic coverage of a huge number of events. And if the NBC brass had been paying attention to the development of the internet over the past decade, they'd also be aware that it's possible to cover everything, completely live, and still earn advertising dollars for every minute of every transmission. But what have they done instead? They've decided they can exert -- in this age of infinite media and 24/7 multimedia news reporting -- monopolistic control of a global event few people can avoid hearing about, even if they're making an effort to stay uninformed. To this end, the geniuses in the NBC sports division have refused to share highlight footage with other media outlets, guaranteeing that their programming will be mocked and slighted at every opportunity by competitors while potential audience members fail to catch a glimpse of dramatic moments that might have persuaded them to tune in. Then these same geniuses postpone the climactic segment of the most popular event to the timeslot between 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m., which is, for many hard working Americans, past bedtime.

No wonder Fox entertainment has been kicking NBC's ass in the ratings. Of course, I'm sure the network honchos will be happy to blame their execrable audience share on the fact that Bode Miller's mouth is bigger than his heart, female hockey is just plain dull, Johnny Weir flounces better than he skates, and that when it comes to snow, Americans excel exclusively at stoner sports like snowboarding while the only truly awe-inspiring events -- downhill racing and ski jumping -- are dominated by anonymous, personality-free blondes from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, and Austria. All this may be true. But when your mission is entertainment and you've made billions convincing people to watch empty-headed sitcoms written by dirty-minded retro-vaudevillians and starred in by talentless clothes racks, you should be able to package middling content better than this.

Stay tuned for the women's figure skating. It should be killer -- another multi-car pileup on the freeway. Until then, we'll leave you with the one Olympic highlight NBC couldn't keep to itself.


U.S. Olympic hockey star
Angela Ruggiero -- shopping in Torino
.

I forgot to mention Bob Costas. Now I have. I promise not to do it again.




Friday, February 17, 2006


Going A'Waltzing


THE LIGHTHOUSE ON THE BEACH
. Sometimes the news is just too full of obvious absurdity to dignify it with comment. How is it possible to highlight the lunkheaded narcissism of a David Gregory more starkly than he does himself every time he opens his baboon mouth? How is it possible to further underscore the screamingly self-evident hypocrisy of mainstream media that are too "sensitive" to print mildly satirical cartoons about Muhammed but too committed to the public's "right to know" not to publish quasi-pornographic photos from the years-old Abu Ghraib scandal? Even repeating the facts for the purpose of laughing is a tautology. The people whose job it is to collect and report the facts about today are insane. How can we escape their manufactured loony bin of jackass headlines and feckless talking heads?

The only recourse on such occasions is to look beyond the headlines for a topic of interest or intrigue, a doorway into more fertile realms. It so happens that if you ask, the universe will provide. Today, it turns out, is the birth date of the man credited with writing the mysterious Australian national anthem/drinking song/mystical hymn Waltzing Matilda, whose baffling lyrics are, once decoded, a paean to the universal desire to escape the insanity of those who insist their will upon you.

The story of the song's composition reads like a series of haphazard circumstances that somehow combined to produce a permanent cultural icon.

On this day in 1864 A. B. ("Banjo") Paterson, the Australian bush poet who wrote "Waltzing Matilda," was born in New South Wales....  While on a visit with his fiance to Dagworth Station (large ranches, originally run by the government on convict labor) in Queensland, Paterson was taken with a nameless tune that he heard his hostess play on the piano from memory. Having decided to set words to it, Paterson immediately found his raw material in his host's guided tour of the Station, which included a description of those events surrounding the eight-day Shearers' Strike several months earlier. The "swagman [a drifter or itinerant sheep-shearer, carrying his swag or blanket-roll] camped by a billabong [waterhole]" was Samuel "Frenchy" Hoffmeister. He was a militant member of the Shearers' Union, thought to have been the one responsible for burning down the Dagworth woolshed, killing 140 sheep. He was not relaxing "under the shade of a coolibah [eucalyptus] tree" but hiding out. If "he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy [tin can of water] boiled," it would have been very softly. When the swagman "stowed that jumbuck [sheep] in his tucker [food] bag" he was adding the fuel of poaching to the fire of political and class war. When "up rode the squatter [wealthy landowner], mounted on his thoroughbred," backed by "the troopers, one, two, three," it was a contest no swagman -- least of all a militant unionist-arsonist-poacher -- could win. When he suicidally "leapt into the billabong," crying "You'll never catch me alive," it was the leap of a cornered, outback, underclass, convict-bred martyr, to the cry of 'up yours, mate.' [boldface mine]

Thus, it all begins with a remembered tune played by ear and overheard by a writer of lyrics. According to legend the original tune was a Scottish air called Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea, which you can listen to here in midi format. You'll note right away that it doesn't sound very much like the world famous melody of Waltzing Matilda (there's a fuller version, plus lyrics, of Thou Bonnie Wood here; be advised, though, that the midi file at this site plays automatically), but that's part of the wonder of the process. In fact, an additional artist, Marie Cowen, is credited with revising Paterson's original into the song's current form in 1906. Reading the history, it's as if the song itself is somehow determined to be and so guides its own seemingly random journey of creation to achieve its full incarnation.

Which brings us to the puzzle of the key phrase, the title. What exactly is "waltzing Matilda"? Here's your answer:

Frenchy" Hoffmeister, the historical swagman... was from German stock, as was the expression "waltzing Matilda." Auf der walz means to 'go on the tramp' or hit the road, used in Germany to describe traveling workers or soldiers on the march; a Matilda came to mean those women who followed the soldiers, to 'keep them warm.' Eventually the soldier's greatcoat or blanket was a Matilda. Thus Paterson's swagman-hero was not only without justice, or food, or a way out, but a woman's warmth.


The Swagman with his Matilda

So, what appears to be a highly parochial Australian folk song is revealed as a blending of Scottish, German, and English cultural artifacts that began by accident and subsequently wandered its way into worldwide consciousness. It has escaped its original historical context, and it has even escaped Australia. The sound file accessed by button above is the opening title of the Hollywood movie On the Beach, which was set in Australia but peopled by characters from around the globe. The song was used to dramatize their plight as the last survivors of nuclear war, awaiting the inevitable death by radiation that would eventually descend from the sky. For them there could be no escape, no more waltzing away from insanity. And while Waltzing Matilda possesses the extraordinary property of being effective as a military march, a joyous bar singalong, and as an endearing folk tune, in this movie the emotional climax is provided by a choral rendition that approximates a funeral lamentation. Wherever it goes, Waltzing Matilda seems to carry all shades of life within it.

The pilgrimage of this special piece of music is likely to continue on and on, but we'll close today with a nod to the most powerful current interpretation, Tom Wait's Tom Traubert's Blues. This sound file is only a sample, but you can buy the album here, and if you do, I think you'll find that just like the original, it has a way of growing stronger and more deeply moving on each hearing.

When the news gets to be like it has been in recent days, here's your way out. Turn off the TV, log off the Internet, and turn up the volume on Tom Traubert's Blues. You'll eventually come waltzing though the worst of the madness, chastened and stirred, but still very much alive.




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