Saturday, February 10, 2007



from top left: John Prine, Maura O'Connell, Ben Stein, Condi Rice

What could Ben Stein and Ralph Nader possibly have in common? Also: Those little white lies.. Why Condi is in hot water (again)! But first:

So I return to my trusty little S-10 pickup, after lunch with a friend at Denny's yesterday, to find this message on my cell phone: "I know it's short notice, but I have an extra ticket to see John Prine in Ft. Wayne tonight. First person who calls back can have it!" So I call my friend Sue back, and in a couple of hours I am motoring towards Indiana's far northeast hinterlands at a high rate of fuel consumption. After muttering the phrase "goddam f***ing Amish, get a f***ing car" more times than I can count, I arrive at the rambling farmhouse just outside Howe IN that Sue shares with her Great Dane, Max.

Moments later, we are motoring towards the "summit city". She tells me the story of the extra ticket; the concert was supposed to be a second date with a guy she knows, but he came down with a nasty case of creeping crud, and magnanimously gave her the tickets. She also mentions that "some Irish singer" is opening for Prine, and I will probably know who she is.

We arrive at the magnificent Embassy Theatre about 7, grab a beer, then head for our seats. A quick word about the Embassy: It was renovated at the cost of $5 mil about ten years ago. It is a truly remarkable venue, rivaling Detroit's Fox Theatre in it's ornate beauty. The theatre organ is one of the finest in the world, and draws people from all over the country to the regular organ concerts held by the theatre. But I digress...

So like I said, we arrive at our seats, and the lady next to us informs us that the opening act is the incredible MAURA O'CONNELL! Hell yes I know who she is! Anybody who is a fan of Irish traditional music or folk music knows O'Connell. She is a big, buxom woman with a shock of unruly red curls, and a voice like Kate Smith. She wowwed the crowd with a 45 minute set, earning a standing ovation at the end. And then came John Prine.

Eight years out from his successful battle with throat cancer, it is clear that he is fully recovered. He did a full 2 1/2 hours, including a 5 song encore. He did all the old favorites, including Living In The Future, Sam Stone, Grandpa Was A Carpenter, Hello In There, That's The way the World Goes Around, The Missing Years, The Accident, Illegal Smile, and many others. Plus a number of new songs that will soon be old favorites. O'Connell returned to the stage for a number of songs with Prine, including a terrific version of Make Me An Angel.

Our evening ended nicely with the Big Breakfast (including all you can eat pancakes) at the International House Of Pancakes, and a brief discussion of what Sue might have to do as paybacks for what turned out to be such a magnificent gift.

It's funny. It had been quite a while since my top 10 concert list had changed any. Now it has changed twice in the last three weeks. We're on a roll!
Ben Stein is perhaps the last great "man for all seasons." Valedictorian at Yale, professor of economics and securities law at Pepperdine, UC Santa Cruz, and the American University. Also trial lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission, author of seven novels, and columnist for a number of conservative magazines.

And of course, there is his Hollywood career as screenwriter, producer, actor (over 20 movies and a number of tv shows to his credit), and host of the game show Win Ben Stein's Money. He is known as "the funniest Republican in Hollywood" and the "world's funniest economist." So what could he possibly have in common with the curmudgeonly, somewhat humorless, liberal crusader Ralph Nader? Well, both are crusading against corporate greed, and Stein is supporting Nader's push to protect the rights and investments of millions of unorganized shareholders.

Here is what Stein had to say about the plethora of management buyouts of stockholders, a practice that commonly occurs when a company's assets are worth more than it's shares. Management buys these stocks low, then resells them when the stock price reflects the company's actual value, screwing the unwitting stockholders of gazillions of dollars, and making a tidy profit for themselves and their investment banker buddies.

Stein says such management buyouts are "illegal on their face," and cites three reasons that this is so:
1. BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY. Citing settled trust law, Stein states; "Managers are bound to put the interest of stockholders ahead of their own, in each and every situation."

2. CONFLICT OF INTEREST: "Mangers are supposed to avoid any conflicts of interest with their trustors, the public shareholders, or even the appearance of it." Yet in these cases, the managers are buying low, while the rightful expectation of shareholders is to sell high, and hiding this fact from the shareholders.

3. INSIDER TRADING: "What is a management buyout other than trading not just some, but all of the shares of a corporation based on inside knowledge of just what the company is worth? How can this be allowed? How long until a wary court notices? Or Congress? Or the S.E.C.?"

He also has a lot to say about the increasing income inequity in this country. According to Stein, "all restraint of dignity and decorum and decency has been cast aside by people in the corporate boardrooms, and some of the people on Wall Street." According to Stein, "Back in the '60's, CEOs were restrained by social mores. But that sense of restraint is gone."

Stein worries about the continuing effect of the income gap on society. He sees the wealthy more and more buying political influence and solidifying their position at the top of society. According to Stein, "if management and the top dogs on Wall Street are just going to be able to continue to get whatever they want, this will become not a democracy any longer, but an oligarchy where a very few, very rich people call all the shots. We are way down the road to that happening already" warns Stein.

All Things Considered had a great series on income disparity this week. Check it out HERE
Condi Rice appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week, and NPR caught her in a big lie. Iran sent a fax to the state department in 2003, seeking direct talks with the US, and putting the possibility of Iranian support for a two state solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and funding of Hamas on the table. Rice denied ever seeing this, telling the HFAC: "I think I would have noticed if the Iranians had said 'we're ready to recognize Israel,' and Congressman, I just don't remember ever seeing such a thing."

Unfortunately for Rice, she acknowledged the existence of the fax, and the fact that she had viewed it, in an interview with NPR last year.

Who doesn't lie down there?
umm.. no offense, but I think you have you fair share of less than honest politicians also. As a matter of fact, didn't your last liberal government fall due to corruption? I think there ae plenty of lying politicians north of the border too.
No, genius. She never even said she saw the damn fax, which never passed the smell test of being put together by the Iranian gummint, when Flynt Leverett was working for her.

She's not that stupid.
Good stuff...too many different things to comment on... but irish traditional music is just wonderful... as soon as I hear it ...coming out of a store front, on radio, anywhere I get the cold shivers... don't know why...out lot have been in Australia since the 1840's famine so am Australian to the core whatever the core is...but as soon as they strike up and sing or play my hear opens and in they go.

Some years back my youngest daughter - she has a lovely voice a bit like Tori Amos - sang for me a fair imitation of Sinead O'Connor's version of "The Foggy Dew" and I thought how wonderful it was that the girls would share the same love of music along with whatever they were listening to back then...

It seems we are all coming up to elections o er here, o er your way and also in England I believe - Left wing - right wing...same bird. They are all so crooked they couldn't lie straigh in bed.
Oh, I wasn't meaning to insinuate that we have no lying politicians up here at all. That was not my intention. I know damn well we have our fair share of liars up here. I was only being facetious.
Sounds like it was a great show. I'm jealous.

I'm not usually one to agree with anything Ben Stein says ... but he hit the nail on the head on this one.

Also, just saw Nader on the Daily Show the other day. Feisty and entertaining as always, he was.
Chris: why is it always people without a profile available who come to others sites and talk shit. And, bright guy, if she hadn't seen the fax, why did she tell NPR she did? She certainly lied to somebody.
Ya gotta love Ben Stein! The man is a genius. Plus, my parents hate him, which only enhances his appeal. ;)

LOVE John Prine too! Blow Up Your TV is my fav. SME and Doug gave us a DVD of his concert, that they attended a couple of years ago.
Interesting Ben Stein's working with Nader on this. Nader has always believed that the little guy should have an equal access to success in this country as ones born into money. That's why I like him.

Despite what anti-Nader folks say, Nader is pro-capitalism. He's just against exploitation. Huge difference.

Stein was in one of my fav movies, Ferris Beuller. We all remember him taking roll call.

Now in defense of the Amish, if everyone drove those Amishmobiles, we wouldn't be involved in the problems in the Middle East, would we? ;)

Plus, they make d*mn fine furniture.
come read my post...
Awesome! I insisted on going to a John Prine concert a few years ago, afraid that he might stop touring soon. We were in the nosebleeds but it was still an excellent show; he did my favorite, "Lake Marie", as his final encore.
Damn I'm missing great snows and great concerts! Life is so unfair! ;-) I enjoy Ben Stein even if I don't always agree with him. As for Condi lying again, I'm so glad people are paying attention and calling her on it. We need more people paying attention and calling people on the shit they pull.
That sounds like an awesome show. So, since no one else has asked, what exactly are your top 10 concerts of all time? I guess I know what two of them are :)
I've been to more than my share of concerts, but I've never had the pleasure of attending a John Prine show. That must have been fabulous!

GWB, you are right, we Canadians have plenty of lying politicians here in the true north...let there be no doubt.

We're due for an election any time now, and the Conservatives have taken out some TV attack ads....horribly tacky. The Conservative minority has lasted a year, but only because the Liberals were captainless. In fact, it seems to me that the only reason they got elected was due to a huge liberal scandal....
Top Ten Concerts

10. Gordon Lightfoot: Pine Knob (Pontiac MI), 1979. rained like hell, but he did 2 1/2 hours. Sang Rainy Day People for the folks sitting on the grass.

9. Paul Simon: Notre Dame, 1973. Killer rendition of Brdge Over Troubled Water.

8. MC 5, Frost, Cream: Grande Riviera Ballroom, Detroit, 1970

7. Chet Atkins/Mark Knoffler: Elco Theatre, Elkhart IN around 1996

6. Ruth Brown: St. Patricks Park Ampitheatre, South Bend 1998

5. Arlo Guthrie: St.Pats 2000

4. Nanci Griffith/James McMurtry: St. Andrews Hall, Detroit 1994

3. John Prine: Embassy Theatre, Ft. Wayne 2007

2. Van Halen: Deer Creek, Indpls. 1998

1. Jonny Lang: State Theatre, Kalamazoo 2007

bumped from list: Alice Cooper, Frost, Amboy Dukes: Eastown Theatre, Detroit 1969

The Dead/Bob Dylan: Deer Creek, Indpls. 2004
Bob Dylan! Arlo Guthrie! Gordon Lightfoot! Paul Simon! All my favourites...such good taste...sorry don't know the others.
scarrrrrrrry.. several of your top ten are in my top ten shows.. of course the number one pick is a perfect match.. have to tell you though that although i fell in love with maura's vocal abilities that the show itself lands a solid number seven slot on my list..
a number of really good shows coming up in the next month or two, though several will require a roadtrip to chitown... wonder if the southshore would be a better option than actually driving.. will have to ponder that one..
ya know, condi stated that she "didn't remember" seeing such a fax.. well, that COULD be true.. her memory could be as faulty as gw's ability to verbalize the truth versus his illusions.. she has had to try to keep all the "less than the full truths" straight, and that has been a full-time job with lots of overtime..
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