New Essay at No Depression: A Jazz-Infused, Twang-Inflected, Southern Rock, Soul Sensation

There is a new sensation in contemporary music. He has arrived in the atmosphere like a full force gale with a sound and fury that is impossible to ignore. His name is Marcus King, and he has assembled a skillful and soulful group of musicians for The Marcus King Band. They move through styles without obedience to categorical regulation of genre; playing with the technical mastery and heartfelt avidity that makes great music great music. His kind has not emerged onto the airwaves for many years.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, music went through an exciting and eclectic period of innovation and variety. The transgression of borders visible and palpable in political and social upheaval underwent artistic emulation in various genres of popular music. The barriers separating these genres began to break. Fusion was the result…

Read the entire essay at No Depression to find out about one of America’s most exciting new bands, The Marcus King Band, and how they fit into the rarefied ranks of Gov’t Mule and The Tedeschi Trucks Band.

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New Essay at Salon: Trump is the White Boomers’ Last Gasp – The Future Looks Bright Ahead

In my new essay for Salon, I explore an obvious issue of the current race, not receiving much attention. White male baby boomer nostalgia for their bygone era of cultural control has empowered the Trump movement. The mainstream media has given Trump a dramatic advantage by continually talking about how Americans are “angry” and “pessimistic,” and by broadcasting maudlin segments on the anxieties of the white working class. Studies and surveys demonstrate that blacks and Latinos are optimistic and hopeful about their own lives and American politics, while millennials are the most hopeful group in the entire country. Trump, with the media’s assistance, presents the disaffection of a narrow group – white baby boomers – as if it represents the mood of the entire nation.

Rapidly shifting demographics, and the increasingly liberal bent of Americans under the age of 45, should give everyone hope, even if the unthinkable happens, and Trump does pull off an unlikely upset. His vision is dying, and the story that he represents – the story of the conservative, chauvinistic white male baby boomer – is losing relevance with every day.

Regardless of the outcome on November 8th, the Trump campaign is the last gasp of the conservative white boomer.

Read the essay at Salon.

New Essay at Salon: Children’s Crusade – Trump Supporters and A Juvenile Fear of Democracy

In my new essay for Salon, I examine how the construction and maintenance of democracy is work for adults. The most motivated of Trump supporters have demonstrated a hatred of democracy and diversity, not so much for political reasons (they are politically unsophisticated and uninformed), but because they are deeply afraid of the responsibility and uncertainty that define democracy and diversity. Trump, an authoritarian buffoon, promises to “fix” all of their problems – and right all of the wrongs of the “rigged” system – and in doing so, assures his childlike supporters that they are no longer accountable for their own lives. Their problems are the results of Mexicans, Muslims, trade deals, and a massive conspiracy. Their solution is voting for him.

Read the entire essay at Salon.

New at Salon: Interview with Nathan Rabin on Donald Trump and The Insane Clown Posse

George Carlin once explained that when “you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show, and when you are born in America, you get a front row seat.”

Nathan Rabin, former head writer at the Onion A/V Club, cultural critic and author of “The Big Rewind,” has decided to test the veracity of Carlin’s theory with his new ebook, “7 Days in Ohio: Trump, The Gathering of the Juggalos, and The Summer Everything Went Insane.” Rabin is also able to offer insight into who the real freaks are: Are they fans of the socially stigmatized rap group, Insane Clown Posse, whom the FBI has labeled a dangerous organization and public threat, or Republican Trump supporters? At the risk of spoiling the fun, I’ll mention that the maniacs are not the ones wearing circus makeup.

In his equally amusing, fascinating and moving new book, Rabin chronicles his week in Ohio, attending both the annual Gathering of the Juggalos and the Republican National Convention. As if that were not enough to provide fodder for entertainment and journalism, Rabin spent the seven days with his long-lost brother, allowing him to further reflect on broken families, fractured relationships and the painful consequences of disconnection.

Rabin writes with his characteristic wit, but he also maintains an empathy that is staggering in its profundity and potency. As clichéd as it might seem, when I read Rabin’s account and analysis of Republicans, who frightened him, and Juggalos, who inspired him, mixed together with his own traumatic family history, I experienced the full range of emotional response — rage, laughter, tears.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rabin over email.

Read the exchange at Salon.

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New at Salon: Interview with Award Winning Toxicologist on The Deadly Legacy of the Iraq War

In “Last to Die,” his protest song against the war in Iraq, Bruce Springsteen sings, “We don’t measure the blood we’ve drawn anymore. We just stack the bodies outside the door.”

When the U.S. government and the world’s most lethal military force subject an entire country to torture and torment, the wounds fester long after bored Americans direct their attention elsewhere, and explosions and bloodshed, thousands of miles away and across the ocean, fail to attract news cameras.

The American people and their politicians might have moved on from Iraq, but the American presence of violence and devastation still hurts and haunts the lives of Iraqis. As a direct result of the U.S. invasion and occupation, Iraqi children now have high levels of lead contamination, and pregnant women and the elderly population suffer from expensive and painful health problems. There is an epidemic of birth defects and disabilities throughout the beleaguered country, but much of the world, and especially the U.S., continues to ignore the health crisis and moral catastrophe.

The casualty count, even if the war is over, continues to rise. Bombs and bullets damage the lives of millions of Iraqi civilians, subsequent to their detonation, and penetration of human skin. In America, the war in Iraq is too often reduced to a “mistake,” but for Iraq it is a merciless reaper that will continue to visit the homes of innocent people for generations.

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, winner of the 2015 Rachel Carson prize, is a toxicologist, author and researcher at the University of Michigan. Since 2004, she has organized research expeditions in Iraq to measure the contamination and pollution that’s causing widespread sickness and death. Her team’s conclusions should horrify any thoughtful and ethical person and galvanize the entire world, with U.S. leadership, to react immediately and aggressively to save the lives of Iraqi children. Just as America is responsible for the war in Iraq, it is responsible for its consequences.

I recently interviewed Savabieasfahani via email about her work.

Read the conversation at Salon.

Music Writing: Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, and Gov’t Mule

Recently, for No Depression, I wrote a review of a newly released box set compiling Elvis Presley’s masterful final recordings in the famous Jungle Room of Graceland. Read the essay for my take on Elvis’ unique gifts, his late in life musical accomplishment, and his development of the genre, rhythm and country.

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Shortly after reviewing Elvis, I reviewed a Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band concert at the United Center in Chicago, and used the performance as an opportunity to reflect on the power and importance of hope. Read it at Salon.

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Finally, I crown Gov’t Mule the “best band in the world,” after watching them perform a single set in Rosemont, Illinois. Read my explanation for how Mule surpasses everyone else in the genre, and elevates rock ‘n’ roll to art at No Depression.

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New Essay for Salon: America’s Great Mistakes – The Stupid and Unnecessary Wars in Vietnam and Iraq

In a recent essay for Salon, I break through the cacophony of maudlin discussion of military “service” and “sacrifice,” to ask the taboo questions: Serve what? Sacrifice for what?

There is no longer any debate among reasonable people that the wars in Vietnam and Iraq were unnecessary, unjust, stupid, and destructive. Both wars created widespread death and devastation for reasons that remain painfully mysterious – The advancement of cold, self-interest that never materialized? The edification of cold war, and later, neoconservative theorists?

Read the entire essay on the fatal and permanent consequences of America’s imperial ambitions at Salon.

New Essay at Salon: Barack Obama Reclaimed Patriotism for The Left

In my newest essay for Salon, I examine how Barack Obama, making brilliant use of his own life as metaphor, confiscated patriotism from the reactionary right wing, and claimed it as property of liberalism. As central to the American spirit and story, Obama emphasized diversity, and the enlargement of opportunity and liberty. He injected Whitman’s poetry into politics, making it clear that America is full of contradiction, and that it contains multitudes.

Read the essay at Salon.

I will explore Obama’s transformation of patriotism from conservative vice to liberal virtue, among many other topics, in my upcoming book, Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing).

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New Essay at Salon: The Party of Myth and Nostalgia

One of the most nauseating aspects of the US Presidential election is its nostalgic focus on Baby Boomer issues of manufacturing employment and “abandoned factories.”

The maudlin litany of boomer reminiscence for “how it used to be” manipulates many people, because it implies that most jobs are lost to trade, when in reality they are lost to automation, and gives lazy thinkers the illusion that the jobs are “coming back.” The jobs are never coming back. The 1960s ended a long time ago.

Worse than the political manipulation is the cultural misdirection of focus away from imperatives of the future. Young people are not longing for the reopening of textile mills. They want debt-free education, job training, and easier access to home ownership and entrepreneurship. Pathetic and sentimental weeping over manufacturing gets them exactly nothing, and betrays the future in service of the past.

I write in greater detail on the subject for Salon.

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