Daily Archives: November 8, 2011



Today is the fortieth anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV, but more cultishly referred to as “Zoso,” after the stylized runic characters that appeared on the inside jacket of the vinyl release.

The most famous and (over)played song on the album is also the one most identified with the band, “Stairway to Heaven.” I can no longer listen to it: thousands of continuous radio-play exposures over the years are enough. The song I am posting therefore is the album’s opening track, “Black Dog.” Two things in particular make this song. First, the fact that it is so obviously derived from Delta blues, which was always the great engine that drives the band’s music; in this case the song’s call-and-response structure, especially the guitar riff that makes up the response. The second is the way that John Bonham drags the beat in the lead-up to the chorus. How? Why? It doesn’t make any sense other than in some unforeseeable way it works.

Rolling Stone‘s original review of the album here.

TransCanada Under Investigation by U.S. State Department

The Athabasca river winds through tar sands production facilities at Fort McMurray. Fresh water in one end, toxic sludge out the other. (Photo: AP)

The Inspector General of the U.S. State Department has been asked to investigate improprieties in the promotion of the Keystone XL pipeline. The sponsor of the project, TransCanada of Calgary, faces the prospect that the State Department investigation will expose the details of its questionable conduct in assessing the environmental impact of the pipeline. The investigation will likely only encourage the steadily growing protests against Keystone XL. At the same time, the final decision about the project may be delayed by the Obama administration as the investigation continues. This will probably not sit well with the crony capitalists of the Alberta oil industry or their Conservative agents in Parliament.

The other day the Conservative house organ, the tabloid Toronto Sun — always working to whip up unending resentment and paranoia about events that have minimal importance as news — whined on its front page that delay of construction of the pipeline will cost TransCanada $1 million a day. This may turn out to be the least of TransCanada’s worries as a fuller understanding of its handling of the Keystone XL proposal emerges.

In tangentially related news, payback is a bitch.

From Think Progress:

INSPECTOR GENERAL LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO KEYSTONE XL APPROVAL PROCESS | In response to a congressional request, the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General has launched a review of the Keystone XL pipeline approval process. The State Department is tasked with conducting the environmental review of TransCanada’s proposed tar sands pipeline from Canada to Texas for a Presidential Permit decision. Beginning with the Bush administration, the process has been largely outsourced to a contractor chosen and paid for by TransCanada, with only a single staffer overseeing the work. Meanwhile, lobbyists with close ties to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have aggressively pushed for approval on behalf of the foreign oil company. The request for an investigation was made by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and eleven Democratic members of the House of Representatives.

Frye on Blake and Money: “The cohesive principle of fallen society”

Blake’s “To Annihilate the Self-hood of Deceit,” 1804-1808

I’ve posted this before, but it is worth looking at again. Frye in Fearful Symmetry takes on the money economy from a prophetic perspective:

Money to Blake is the cement or cohesive principle of fallen society, and as society consists of tyrants exploiting victims, money can only exist in the two forms of riches and poverty; too much for a few and not enough for the rest. La proprieté, c’est le vol, may be a good epigram, but it is no better than Blake’s definition of money as “the life’s blood of Poor Families,” or his remark that “God made man happy & Rich, but the Subtil made the innocent, Poor.” A money economy is a continuous partial murder of the victim, as poverty keeps many imaginative needs out of reach. Money for those who have it, on the other hand, can belong only to the Selfhood, as it assumes the possibility of happiness through possession, which we have seen is impossible, and hence of being passively or externally stimulated into imagination. An equal distribution, even if practicable, would therefore not affect its status as the root of a evil. Corresponding to the consensus of mediocrities assumed by law and Lockean philosophy, money assumes a dead level of “necessities” (notice the word) as its basis. Art on this theory is high up among the nonessentials; pleasure, in society, tends to collapse very quickly into luxury and affection. (CW 14, 82)

Quote of the Day: Why Nobel Laureate Economist Joseph Stiglitz Supports OWS


Joseph Stiglitz in Slate explains why he supports Occupy Wall Street. An excerpt:

Research in recent years has shown how important and ingrained notions of fairness are. Spain’s protesters, and those in other countries, are right to be indignant: Here is a system in which the bankers got bailed out, while those whom they preyed upon have been left to fend for themselves. Worse, the bankers are now back at their desks, earning bonuses that amount to more than most workers hope to earn in a lifetime, while young people who studied hard and played by the rules see no prospects for fulfilling employment.

The rise in inequality is the product of a vicious spiral: The rich rent-seekers use their wealth to shape legislation in order to protect and increase their wealth—and their influence. The U.S. Supreme Court, in its notorious Citizens United decision, has given corporations free rein to use their money to influence politics. But, while the wealthy can use their money to amplify their views, back on the street, police wouldn’t allow me to address the OWS protesters through a megaphone. The contrast between overregulated democracy and unregulated bankers did not go unnoticed. But the protesters are ingenious: They echoed what I said through the crowd, so that all could hear.

The protesters are right that something is wrong about our “system.” Around the world, we have underutilized resources—people who want to work, machines that lie idle, buildings that are empty—and huge unmet needs: fighting poverty, promoting development, and retrofitting the economy for global warming, to name just a few. In America, after more than 7 million home foreclosures in recent years, we have empty homes and homeless people.


Stiglitz in the May 2011 issue of Vanity Fair outlines the growing economic inequality of the last thirty years. An excerpt:

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.