Friday Music Break: Tom Waits and the Resistance

For his latest album, Songs of Resistance 1948-2018, guitarist Marc Ribot collaborated with other musicians on a numerous of old and new protest songs.

He enlisted Tom Waits to sing the old anti-fascist Italian folk ballad “Bella Ciao” (“Goodbye Beautiful”). You can hear it here, via the video directed by Jem Cohen (who also shot the classic Fugazi documentary Instrument) which collages footage from recent demonstrations in Washington, D.C. behind Waits’ growling protest lyrics.

Screening Room: ‘Dark Money’

(PBS Distribution)

The newest movie from Kimberly Reed is a scorcher of a documentary about the corrosive effects of big outside money on elections in underpopulated states.

Dark Money is opening in limited release this week and should appear soon on a PBS affiliate near you. My review is at Film Journal International:

The Montana that Reed (Prodigal Sons) shows is one of nearly unnatural beauty. Angular cliffs carpeted with bright green pine trees and great sweeping plains unfurl under her frequently airborne camera as though for some pristinely photographed travel documentary. But there’s wrack and ruin amidst the glorious nature. Abandoned mine shafts, rusting derricks, and the oil-slicked expanse of a Superfund lake so poisonous that geese who accidently landed in it died by the hundreds all speak to the legacy of a state with a long history of corruption and resource exploitation…

Reader’s Corner: ‘Russian Roulette’

Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s new book Russian Roulette is, well, timely. My review is at PopMatters:

The intent here was not to write an all-inclusive study of the history of the Washington-Moscow power dynamic, the full legacy of Trump’s law-skirting business dealings, or the noxious way those two elements have meshed together. Something like that wouldn’t be a book. That would require a multi-volume Robert Caro-type of effort which some future generation—assuming deep-dive narrative nonfiction survives Peak TV and Instagram—can take up to figure out what the hell happened. In the meantime, we’ll resort to Russian Roulette

Reader’s Corner: ‘We Were Eight Years in Power’

When Ta-Nehisi Coates published his third book, We Were Eight Years in Power, a collection of essays on black American history and current affairs late last year, the country was still just getting used to its new presidential reality. Or not.

My review is at RainTaxi Review of Books:

Until recently, when the true desolation of the early Trump era has started metastasizing in even the most ardent optimist’s heart, America had a script to use after a catastrophe. Whether a mass shooting, natural disaster, or police atrocity, each event was termed an opportunity for a “national dialogue” on guns, race, class, climate change, or what have you. Those conversations never happened because there was always another catastrophe, and in any case, the culture had mostly lost interest in the public intellectuals needed to push forward such a conversation. That changed, however, in 2014, when The Atlantic published one of the most talked-about pieces of writing in recent memory, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations.” Suddenly, the country was having a conversation. And it wasn’t an easy one…

Nota Bene: Not the Country You Voted For

From Yascha Mounk’s “America is Not a Democracy“:

…across a range of issues, public policy does not reflect the preferences of the majority of Americans. If it did, the country would look radically different: Marijuana would be legal and campaign contributions more tightly regulated; paid parental leave would be the law of the land and public colleges free; the minimum wage would be higher and gun control much stricter; abortions would be more accessible in the early stages of pregnancy and illegal in the third trimester.

Quote of the Day: Meryl Streep Digs Journalists

Speaking at the the annual awards for the Committee to Protect Journalists last night, Meryl Streep—who plays Katharine Graham in Spielberg’s new Pentagon Papers movie—said this:

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. You are the Fourth Estate. You are our first line of defense against tyranny and state-sanctioned news … Thank you, you intrepid, underpaid, over-extended, trolled, and un-extolled, young and old, battered and bold, bought and sold, hyper-alert crack-caffeine fiends. You’re gorgeous, ambitious, contrarian, fiery, dogged and determined bullshit detectives.

What’s to say? It’s a good time to be a detective.

Quote of the Day: Margaret Atwood on Police States

Earlier this week, as marchers gathered in St. Louis for another night of protests following the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley on murder charges, Margaret Atwood was in town accepting a literary award. The author of The Handmaid’s Tale and many other works of dystopian fiction said the following:

Countries do not become police states overnight. They get there by steps. One step after another is tolerated and accepted, and soon the bridge between police state and democracy will be crossed, and then that bridge will be burned, and then you can’t go back without an uprising or a war and even that may not work.

So, America, please don’t go there. Please honor your own pledge to the flag — liberty and justice for all. All means all. Justice doesn’t mean merely the administration of laws. The Nuremberg laws were laws. The fugitive slave act was a set of laws. But just and fair laws administered without discrimination. Please don’t settle for less. Live up to your own propaganda.