The River

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Back to the roots

Northside Tavern is where the blues live in Atlanta. It’s a supportive environment, necessary to anything that would thrive. Portraits of artists past and present line the wall in back of the stage, which is immediately on your right as you enter what was once, decades ago, a convenience store and gas station. Now it’s a juke joint with a long bar on the far end, a few broken-in wooden tables and chairs, two pool tables, a juke box and a patio out the back under a giant billboard. It’s warm, utilitarian, soulful and real.

If my first visit is any indication, a blues community has quietly taken root in Atlanta. And its locus seems to be this old working-class bar. The show I saw on a recent Saturday afternoon and evening was an effort to nurture that community. It was a benefit for Frank Edwards, an Atlanta bluesman who remained active and vital up until his death at 93 two years ago. The benefit, held in conjunction with the nonprofit Music Maker Relief Foundation, was for his family. And a large contingent of the city’s blues artists came out to play for two days at the small bar, contributing their time and talents. The benefit was called “The Chicken Raid” after Edwards’ song by the same name. And the festivities included, fittingly, a barbecued chicken dinner prepared out on the patio, where solo acoustic performances were given between the sets inside, which grew increasingly hot as the cool spring night fell.

There is life here. It’s nurtured and it nurtures. People give and it gives back. And they give back some more. The bar even hosts a yearly benefit concert called Giving it Back, which raises funds for blues elders in the community.

Earlier that day, I was at Piedmont Park, where about 300 anti-war-and-occupation protestors had gathered for the March 20 global rally. After parking on a side street as close as I could to the large park in the middle of Atlanta, I merely had to follow the police helicopter to find the gathering spot. There were about 20 more police on the ground, decked out in padded black riot uniforms, sans the face-shielding helmets. Pretty ridiculous for such a mellow gathering.

Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, offered their perspective and their feelings about the Iraq war, a couple of black women did some cool rhyming poetry, Rachel Corrie’s cousin spoke about Rachel's incredibly cruel murder at the hands of Israeli soldiers. She also gave out small posters of Rachel looking beautiful and intelligent. Some others talked as well. Some good things were said. It was a nice afternoon in the park.

I’ve gotta get out more. There’s life out there, everywhere, there’s so much we’re so often blind to, until we look. There’s plenty of room, plenty of people, lots of opportunity. This is not yet a locked down land.

Taj Mahal said as much when I saw him in concert recently. He had just introduced local talent India Arie, who had impressed him with her desire when she was starting out. He said there is something happening, there are people giving of themselves, giving their heart and soul, keeping it warm, keeping it real. It’s an under-the-radar type of thing. I heard it as well when Leigh’s sister was talking about someone in her city, Jacksonville, doing good things in education. I see it in Leigh staying home even though she holds a PhD, doing so much for our two children.

I know it's in the Music Maker Relief Foundation and its stated mission: “a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern musical traditions gain recognition and meet their day to day needs. Today, many such musicians are living in extreme poverty and need food, shelter, medical care, and other assistance. Music Maker's aid and service programs improve the quality of recipients' lives. Our work affirms to these artists that we value the gifts of music and inspiration they have delivered to the world.”

And in The Happy Tutor’s proposed meetup of concerned citizens in July in Chicago, a sort of bloggerstock with a purpose.

It’s grass roots, all of it, no question about it. The roots are where it’s at.

I had a good laugh at the Ironic Times today.

More Evidence Mars' Lifeless Landscape Once Was Vast Ocean Teeming with Life
Rover discovers sign: "These wetlands under the protection of the EPA."

The Passion of Alphonso

The new film from Mike Golby:

My director has just phoned from Angola. She tells me she’s finished shooting the final scenes of my forthcoming movie and we can go into editing next month. Our working title is The Passion of Alphonso. Alphonso is a wealthy Luandan playboy and arms dealer living off his father’s money (he was a flunkey for pre-independence Portuguese colonialists). He is Africa’s largest exporter of sex-slaves and importer of hard drugs. He financed Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA for thirty years and oversaw (with the help of South African mercenaries who later fled to earn dollars in Iraq) the obliteration of Cuito, Huambo and several million Angolans. Responsible for withholding AIDS medicines from the poor to speed sales of Afghan heroin shipped by USAid, he has developed a conscience. Realising the magnitude of his crimes, he now sweats blood every night, uses industrial-strength coke to burn holes through his septum, and suffers from a terrible conscience.

Gunned down during a bar brawl with one of his capos at the movie's close (a bloody and explicit three-hour segment), he is a holy man indeed. I thought of blaming his death on the Portuguese, but the pre-publicity tells us the idea’s not taking off. Why? God knows. We therefore don’t expect the movie to make much money but, what the hell, we can always flog it to the Nigerians. They are good Christian folk. And Moslems too.

more (mostly a great essay on the movie Adaptation, it's a rich site)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Stages of my blogger life


There are a lot of smart people on line doing this blogging thing. It’s free, it’s easy, you don’t even have to know HTML. I could join the conversation.


But what should I say? What can I offer? I'm nobody.

The Offering

This is silly. It’s a blog for christ’s sake. George Bush seeks to plunge the world into chaos, and I’m worried about my blog? Life’s absurd, but it’s all we’ve got. It’s cool, funny, odd, and sometimes real serious. I’m serious here. It’s serious. Except when it’s not, thank God. I know you know what I mean.


What if they don’t know what I mean? What if nobody gets it?

Comments (to me)

Somebody cares! Somebody gets it! I feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk: The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!


I am the best. It’s all about me! ME!.... (deep breath) *finally*.

Comments (to others)

“Hey, I said the same kinda thing on my blog yesterday. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.” (that’ll get’em over to my site, hehe)

The Zone

Whoooaa, good idea. (furious typing). Click. Damn, who wrote that? Me?

Letting Go

I can’t believe what’s happening to the world today. What is wrong with people? It’s because they’re reading their crappy newspaper and not reading me. What, they can’t handle the truth? Hosers. Hell, I’m even better than The New Yorker.


Fresh out of ideas. All my links are tired, or worse, blogged already somewhere else. I could do my own excerpt, give some credit with a little “via…” mmm…ahhh….argghhhh….maybe I should do some work? Nah…..woe is me, woe is blogging (yeah, go with it….typity type type….well, there’s another post….)

Metablogging II

I have this blogging thing figured out. It’s push button publishing for the people. Evan was right.

Metablogging + The Zone = Hits!

Hollleee shit. My little tribute to blogland got blogged all over the place. And double-digit comments! The promised land at last.


Blogs aren’t journalism? Hah, check this out. A full-fledged article. Quotes, attribution, inverted pyramid, the whole bit, plus that informal blogger feel. Blazing trails, baby. Read it and weep.

That Sinking Feeling

I’m sinking….no ideas, nobody cares…the world is still upside down and backwards, despite my best efforts. Feh!

A Breather

I need a break. I’m repeating myself. I grow weary, others fade to gray as well. The scenery never changes. (hey, there’s a post!)

The Hiatus

Yes, yes, brain, that’s a good idea, but I’m on hiatus. No, I don’t care that you’ve already written the first paragraph.

The Return

Uh oh, I’ve lost it.

The Nuclear Option

It’s over. This blog is shutting down. We gave it our best shot. Those were some heady days indeed. But I have no choice. Real life calls.

New Discoveries

Wow, it’s warm outside and quite colorful…’s….it’s (it’ll come to me)…it’s spring!

The Tug

If, just supposing…IF I started another blog, what should I call it?

(back to stage I)

Monday, March 22, 2004

Coke or Pepsi?

That's what a new graphic on Mike Golby's remodeled Web site asks us to consider. Only Coke is a stand-in for Republican and Pepsi for Democrat. Whichever flavor you prefer, when it comes to foreign policy, they're both deadly.

The graphic links to a John Pilger piece:

The truth is that Clinton was little different from Bush, a crypto-fascist. During the Clinton years, the principal welfare safety nets were taken away and poverty in America increased sharply; a multibillion-dollar missile "defence" system known as Star Wars II was instigated; the biggest war and arms budget in history was approved; biological weapons verification was rejected, along with a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, the establishment of an international criminal court and a worldwide ban on landmines. Contrary to a myth that places the blame on Bush, the Clinton administration in effect destroyed the movement to combat global warming.

In addition, Haiti and Afghanistan were invaded, the illegal blockade of Cuba was reinforced and Iraq was subjected to a medieval siege that claimed up to a million lives while the country was being attacked, on average, every third day: the longest Anglo-American bombing campaign in history. In the 1999 Clinton-led attack on Serbia, a "moral crusade", public transport, non-military factories, food processing plants, hospitals, schools, museums, churches, heritage-listed monasteries and farms were bombed. "They ran out of military targets in the first couple of weeks," said James Bissett, the Canadian former ambassador to Yugoslavia. "It was common knowledge that Nato went to stage three: civilian targets." In their cruise missile attack on Sudan, Clinton's generals targeted and destroyed a factory producing most of sub-Saharan Africa's pharmaceutical supplies. The German ambassador to Sudan reported: "It is difficult to assess how many people in this poor country died as a consequence... but several tens of thousands seems a reasonable guess."

Covered in euphemisms, such as "democracy-building" and "peacekeeping", "humanitarian intervention" and "liberal intervention", the Clintonites can boast a far more successful imperial record than Bush's neo-cons, largely because Washington granted the Europeans a ceremonial role, and because Nato was "onside". In a league table of death and destruction, Clinton beats Bush hands down.

A question that New Democrats like to ask is: "What would Al Gore have done if he had not been cheated of the presidency by Bush?" Gore's top adviser was the arch-hawk Leon Fuerth, who said the US should "destroy the Iraqi regime, root and branch". Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate in 2000, helped to get Bush's war resolution on Iraq through Congress. In 2002, Gore himself declared that an invasion of Iraq "was not essential in the short term" but "nevertheless, all Americans should acknowledge that Iraq does, indeed, pose a serious threat".

So, the deal is, Pepsi, being sweeter, is actually worse for you, although the degrees of detriment are hard to gauge in either case. Coke's PR machine, with its theocratic base, is more dominant now, but perhaps more vulnerable due to its severe disconnect from the facts on the ground. Pepsi is the more palatable, slow poison.

I think Coke will win the war for 04, if only because that homebrew known as democracy can't find any shelf space.

The thing is, you'd think the makers of Coke would know enough not to shake the bottle.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

You better think -- think! think! -- think about what you're trying to do to me

A while ago, I commented on someone’s blog, ‘”they want us backwards, fundamentalist and controlled.”

They who? Here’s an article that lays it out, the who, how and why of Movement Conservatism -- a free market ideology that is only free for a handful of extremely wealthy, interconnected elites: The GOP, Inc. - Selling Public Policy as a Commodity, by Richard W. Behan, [UPDATE: Link works now]

And here’s one from Kurt Nimmo with some more news on creeping conservatism’s “New Serfdom”:

"Corporate America has spent billions lobbying for deregulation of its activities and for privatization of everything from the health system to education to national parks and forests to Social Security -- a situation that would lead to ownership and control by the corporate sector and a tiny handful of the super rich of virtually every aspect of society," writes Bill Willers. "With country and culture in the hands of a very few, democracy perishes. The great American Experiment would end not through internal weakness, but via carefully crafted 'neoconservative' strategy from without, to be replaced by something resembling, more than anything else, medieval feudalism, only set in a high tech world. According to the plan now in place, 'we the people' are to be the new serfs."

(ed.’s note. Why do I seem driven to keep posting this stuff? I don’t know, love of freedom I guess. It’s innate. But jeez, I’m really overdue for a camping trip.)

(ed.’s note note: Maybe a hiatus from blogging too. Like a racehorse grown weary, I need a break from the track for freshening.)

Aretha Franklin and Ted White

You better think - think
Think about what you're trying to do to me
Yeah, think - think, think
Let your mind go, let yourself be free

Let's go back, let's go back
Let's go way on back when
I didn't even know you
You couldn't've been too much more than 10 just a child
I ain't no psychiatrist
I ain't no doctor with degree
It don't take too much high IQ
To see what you're doing to me



Oh freedom - freedom, freedom - freedom
Freedom, yeah freedom
Freedom - freedom, freedom - freedom
Freedom, whoah freedom

There ain't nothing you could ask
I could answer you but I won't I won't
I was gonna change, but I'm not
If you keep doing things I don't


People walking around everyday
Playing games and takin' scores
Tryin to make other people lose their minds
Well be careful you don't lose yours


You need me - need me
And I need you - don't you know
Without each other
There ain't nothing neither can do


There ain't nothing you could ask
I could answer you but I won't - I won't
I was gonna change, but I won't
If you keep doing things I don't


You need me - need me
And I need you - don't you know
Without each other
There ain't nothing neither can do

Think about it for me, think about it for me(4X)
You had better stop and think about it, think

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Reading the AJC front page

CIA chief defends Bush case for war. That’s the 48-point bold Helvetica head (I’m guessing).


Well, that’s reassuring. Photo of Tenet under the head. He looks unhappy. Looks like he’s having to deal with a lot of stupid questions. The several paragraphs given before the story jumps inside say he was defending charges from Democrats. Quotes Ted Kennedy (D – Mass.) asking Tenet if the administration had misrepresented the intelligence on Iraq. Tenent says no, he doesn’t think so. Kennedy presses him: why didn’t he correct them when they were wrong? Tenet shoots back: I’m not going to sit here and tell you what my interaction was with the president.

Poor Tenet. Being asked for meaningless details by partisan Senators digging for dirt in an election year. How many times does he have to say that the administration did nothing wrong? A little exaggeration here, a misstatement there. What’s the big deal?

What’s really interesting is that Pepsi can above the masthead. Something I can buy. Pepsi Edge, 50% less sugar. What will they think of next? Tastes great! (bold, italics), then partial photo of the can, bound on its bottom edge by the ½-point rectangular box, rising out of it, its top in front of the line, breaking the 2-D barrier. “Less filling?” to the right of the can. In Business, C1.

Uh oh. Last column on the right has the story on obesity. It’s a killer! They’ve got a graph comparing the “death data” for “Obesity vs. Tobacco.” Tobacco still leads, but obesity is gaining ground. Head says obesity crisis now rivals tobacco. Story informs us that eating too much and exercising too little are the culprits, and with the epidemic proportions (not to mention the epic proportions of meals these days – ed.) there are important effects on disability and mortality. As in, I’m assuming, hastening them. But wait, Inside, A12, “A new pill shows promise in helping people quit smoking, lose weight.” Science will provide. Just take a pill. (Future story: Study finds eating too much and exercising too little a factor in epidemic of pill popping. Inside: There’s a pill for this.)

D.C. Sniper Sentenced to Death. That’s the head (20-point) over a photo, half of which is above the fold, of John Allen Muhammad and his lawyers. Thou shalt not kill. Now the state, that’s different.

And speaking of the Ten Commandments (is that capitalized? Yep, the paper does). Georgia Senate backs display of the Ten Commandments. Good god. In yet another move sure to bring further humiliation on Georgia, state senators voted 42-8 to adopt a nonbinding resolution in favor of posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings. That’s not the lead paragraph, but it should be. Sen. Nadine Thomas (D-Decatur, the most progressive pocket of Atl.) is quoted: “This is an election year and everybody is trying to out-God each other.” Good one. Says she’s running for the U.S. Senate. Cool.

Lefthand column has teasers for the rest of the paper. Pollen season starting, DirecTV pirating, a group called Godless Americans Political Action Committee (wtf?), NASCAR. And a cashier at an area Wal-Mart was a hero because she “smelled a rat” when someone tried to pass off a $1 million bill.

So there ya have it. The view from the capital of the South. Pepsi has a new product. Coke sure to respond. Cola wars continue. Lying about Iraq war still okay. Unhealthy habits can be very detrimental to your health. Georgia leadership follies continue.

The fast food of print media. I think they nailed it with the Pepsi teaser: Tastes great! Less filling?

Monday, March 08, 2004

About a year ago, Wendell Berry published a great piece in Orion magazine. It's new to me, discovered thanks to the author of Dialogic. As per usual, I will give you the conclusion, because, as per usual, the author has brought the various threads of his or her essay (his in this case) together into a powerful statement.

At the end of the war, if we have won it, we declare peace; we congratulate ourselves on our victory; we marvel at the newly-proved efficiency of our latest weapons; we ignore the cost in lives, materials, and property, in suffering and disease, in damage to the natural world; we ignore the inevitable residue of resentment and hatred; and we go on as before, having, as we think, successfully defended our way of life.

That is pretty much the story of our victory in the Gulf War of 1991. In the years between that victory and September 11, 2001, we did not alter our thinking about peace and war -- that is, we thought much about war and little about peace; we continued to punish the defeated people of Iraq and their children; we made no effort to reduce our dependence on the oil we import from other, potentially belligerent countries; we made no improvement in our charity toward the rest of the world; we made no motion toward greater economic self-reliance; and we continued our extensive and often irreversible damages to our own land. We appear to have assumed merely that our victory confirmed our manifest destiny to be the richest, most powerful, most wasteful nation in the world. After the catastrophe of September 11, it again became clear to us how good it would be to be at peace, to have no enemies, to have no more needless deaths to mourn. And then, our need for war following with the customary swift and deadly logic our need for peace, we took up the customary obsession with the evil of other people.

It is useless to try to adjudicate a long-standing animosity by asking who started it or who is the most wrong. The only sufficient answer is to give up the animosity and try forgiveness, to try to love our enemies and to talk to them and (if we pray) to pray for them. If we can't do any of that, then we must begin again by trying to imagine our enemies' children who, like our children, are in mortal danger because of enmity that they did not cause.

We can no longer afford to confuse peaceability with passivity. Authentic peace is no more passive than war. Like war, it calls for discipline and intelligence and strength of character, though it calls also for higher principles and aims. If we are serious about peace, then we must work for it as ardently, seriously, continuously, carefully, and bravely as we now prepare for war.


Thursday, March 04, 2004

Wealth Bondage -- The Aftermath

(We join the denizens of newly upended Wealth Bondage corporation as they gather in the employee lounge, trying to make sense of their impending dissolution.)

Smokey Joe, JD: So Phil’s leavin, huh? I never liked him anyway. He was a slave driver. Nothing we did was ever good enough. Fuck, I put in 23 of every 24 hours in service of the corporation. We were fucking winning. We had surveillance of the opposition, we had lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits, we had no-bid, cost-plus contracts for our clients, we even had fucking Gitmo! What else were we supposed to do?

Dick Minim: You’re new Joe. So it’s no surprise you’ve totally misread the dynamics. It’s my fault. There was trouble in the PR charnel house, and Tutor just egged it on. I couldn’t control him. And it was getting so I couldn’t control myself either. I just couldn’t sell it anymore. My mind would wonder even as I was licking Candie’s boots. I could see that Phil was disgusted with me. Tutor just laughed. If there’s one thing both of them hate, it’s lack of commitment. You either sell it, or get out.

Joe: So instead of firing your ass, he just left the company?

Dick: He could see a systemic breakdown on the horizon. That’s what I think. The man was conflicted. He wanted commitment to the company, but he also despised the company. So the more I lost faith and the more I was ordered to lick it back up off of Candie’s boots, the more delighted Phil became, until these feelings overruled his professionalism. I think he had no choice, really. Postmodernism wasn’t the sop it once was, is how he put it to me late one night when the killing floor was all but deserted.

And Candie never noticed. She had no clue to what was going on. But she considered even Phil beneath her.

Joe: Heh, and maybe he was.

Dick: I thought you were her stable boy.

Joe: I tried. I worked harder for her than I did for my Harvard MBA and Law degrees. I licked those boots til my tongue nearly fell out.

Chastity Powers: (walks in breakroom, does a quick turn on her heels): Do you think I should wear this red dress to my Fox News interview?


What is the matter with everybody? Bush says losing your job is a good thing! You just have to pray and always wear low-cut.

Dick: There’s more to this unfortunate situation than meets the eye. Some of us have never felt the sting of failure.

Chastity: This isn’t failure, silly. It’s an opportunity. And if you love it here so much, Candidia said the company would keep running on a volunteer basis as long as we wanted it to. I didn’t want to leave either. I tried to get Phil to stay. I flashed my boobs and smiled real big. He said he’d already been to Disneyland and he found it fake. I never could figure out anything he said.

Dick: Oh *really*?

Chastity: Besides, Candidia set up a one-day job seminar with a free lunch! What more do you want?

Captain Blowtorch (appearing abruptly in the doorway); I just want you all to know, that we’re all counting on you. This is no time for doubt. This is no time for dissension. Desperate times call for bold actions! We must strike, or face elimination. Who’s with me?

(Silence, perplexed looks. Blowtorch backs out.)

Joe: Hey, where is Candie anyway? Have you seen her since Phil left?

Dick: I knew it! He’s keeping her. She’s a fucking winner on top of her game. I know Phil. He can’t resist that power, that strength.

Joe: But Candie was over him.

Dick: Was she? I could never tell. There was an air sometimes, when I saw them together, a wary respect, like two cats in a territory dispute. I could never tell if they were about to fight or fuck.

The Happy Tutor (appearing in the breakroom doorway): Phil had the velvet touch with her. She was a pussycat in his hands. She wanted what he had, but he kept it, he kept it.

Joe: Kept what? A good heart? (snort) what sentimental bullshit! Guys, our bonds are inextricable. Give it up. It. Is. Over.

Dr. Chadwallah (sitting crosslegged in the corner, eyes closed): Yes, Joe is right. We will go on serving our master. For although Phil and Candidia are gone, the master lives on.

Tutor (slouched at the table now, talking quietly with coffee cup between both hands. Tie loosened. Suit jacket crumpled, hundred-yard stare): Yeah, Phil left not in a high-minded huff, but with love and regret for all who trafficked here in the bordello. He said our bonds were illusory but no less powerful. His compassion was real. No one understood him, really. No one knew him. I was the closest, but running off with Candie? I can’t believe that.

Dick: She was the one person HE understood.

Tutor: Maybe. But I doubt he’s told her what he told me just before he left: It’s wealth, he said. Wealth is all wrong. But if we must have the filthy lucre and its imperative to violence, at least our actions can still wash away the blood and help to heal the wounds. Wealth he said, pointing to his chest, is in here. It always was and it always will be.

Joe: Yeah, then he slipped behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade.

(they all crack up)

Tutor (stands): I dunno. I feel better. Maybe this is the best thing that ever happened to us. I have no idea what to do next. I guess I’ll go back to my diss, try to finally get it published. But I’m gonna keep an eye on Phil. He’s got some good work to do now (stop snickering, Joe. I mean it.). He might actually find some answers. Lord knows he and I raised enough questions here.

Joe: C’mon guys. Let’s get out of here. It’s happy hour. First round’s on me. And Tutor, I want to talk to you about a business venture. How do you feel about foreign travel? Ever been to the Middle East?

Dick: Nooo! Stay away from him, Tutor.

Joe (collaring Dick): Ah, Dickie Boy, I’m harmless. And Tutor’s a big boy. But we all gotta eat, right?

Tutor: Well, I am awfully thirsty. So scheme on my friend. I’m all ears.

Dick (whispering as they file out): You gonna keep Phil informed on this nut, or should I?

Tutor: Don’t worry. I’m still on the case.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Why read The New Yorker when you have the Internet?

Hendrik Hertzberg, self-satisfied elite journalist, writes in The Talk of the Town this week:

More than any other single person, Ralph Nader is responsible for the fact that George W. Bush is President of the United States. Nader is more responsible than Al Gore, who, in 2000, put himself in the clear by persuading more of his fellow-citizens to vote for him than for anybody else, which normally—in thirty-nine of the forty-two previous Presidential elections, or ninety-three per cent—had been considered adequate to fulfill the candidate’s electoral duty.

This, folks, is unconscionably bad journalism. Is Hertzberg really saying that Al Gore had no responsibility for giving in to election theft? That to fulfill his electoral duty, Al Gore only had to behave like a child? To declare, "if you're going to be a mean ol bully, I'm taking my ball and going home"?

Hertzberg concludes, "But if Nader once again succeeds in making himself the decisive factor in a Bush victory, then his legacy will be less than zero. His legacy will be George W. Bush."

In between the hysterical bogeyman bromides, there is a discussion of Nader's accomplishments, in which, curiously, credit is granted to more than just Ralph Nader. But most importantly, there is not one mention of thousands of voters deliberately disenfranchised through Database Technology's purge of eligible black voters from the voter rolls. Nor is there acknowledgement of the organized harrasment and obstruction of black voters trying to make it to the polls. And no mention of the invalid overseas military ballots that Republicans berrated a feeble Democratic party into accepting. No, with nothing to back him up, Hertzberg merely parrots the lame "it's all Naders fault!" canard. My four-year-old daughter could mount an argument with greater depth.

By way of contrast, and as a free service, here's Greg Palast, great journalist/American hero, on how the Bushies stold the election, from an April 22, 2003, interview with Boston's The Weekly Dig:

What really happened in Florida?

Five months before the election, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris ordered the removal of 57,700 names from Florida’s voter rolls on grounds that they were felons. Voter rolls contain the names of all eligible, registered voters. If you’re not on the list, you don’t get to vote.

If you commit a felony in Florida, you lose your right to vote there, and you‘re “scrubbed” from the rolls. You become a non-citizen, like in the old Soviet Union. This is not the case in most other states; it’s an uncivilized vestige of the Deep South.

My office carefully went through the scrub list and discovered that at minimum, 90.2 percent of the people were completely innocent of any crime – except for being African American. We didn’t have to guess about that, because next to each voter’s name was their race.

When I questioned Harris’ office about the high percentage of African Americans on the scrub list, they responded, “Well, you know how many black people commit crimes.”

But these people weren’t felons, so why were they scrubbed?

The Florida Republicans wanted to block African Americans, who largely vote as Democrats, from voting. In 1999 they fired the company they were paying $5,700 to compile their felony “scrub” lists and replaced them with Database Technologies [DBT], who they paid $2.3 million to do the same job. [DBT is the Florida division of Choicepoint, a massive database company that does extensive work for the FBI.]

There are a lot of Joe Smiths in the Florida phonebook. DBT was hired to verify which Joe Smith was a felon and which was not. They were supposed to use their extensive databases to check credit cards, bank information, addresses and phone numbers, in addition to names, ages, and social security numbers. But they didn’t. They didn’t use one of their 1,200 databases to verify personal information, nor did they make a single phone call to verify the identity of scrubbed names.

Hertzberg again: "Nader is more responsible than George W. Bush, whose alibi complements Gore’s: by attracting fewer votes, both nationally and (according to the preponderance of scientific opinion) in Florida, Bush absolved himself of guilt for his own elevation. A post-election rogues’ gallery—Jeb Bush, James Baker, Katherine Harris, William Rehnquist and four of his Supreme Court colleagues—helped, each rogue in his or her own way, but no single one of them could have pulled off the heist without the help of the others. Nader was sufficient unto himself."

Huh? Nader was more important to the installation of George W. Bush as President than the entire attack on democracy that went down in 2000? People, this is just unbelievably stupid.

The rarefiled New Yorker air must do something to one's brain. I need air....let's return to the sharp Mr. Palast. So, Greg...

What happened to Choicepoint?

Bush is handing them the big contracts in the War on Terror; immigration reviews, DNA cataloging, airport profiling, and their voting systems are being rolled out across the country.

It wasn’t reported in mainstream press, but the NAACP sued Harris and the gang for the black purge, and won. The state threw up its hands immediately and said, ‘You got us! We’ll put these people back as soon as we can.’ We’re still waiting.

Meanwhile, Hendrik Hertzberg wants you to go on thinking it's all Nader's fault.

A funny thing happened on the way to the revolution

It never happened. No one remembered to start it.

I'm just gonna keep saying this, because we just don't seem to get it yet: This is a culture war. The media is AGAINST us. We have to stand up.

Bruce Miller, brother of NYU professor and media critic Mark Crispin Miller, has compiled in a book a collection right-winger quotes thoughtlessly disseminated through the media. Really, I think they know not what they do, the enablers of this shit. But it has got to stop.

Buzzflash interviewed Bruce Miller. Here's an excerpt:

BUZZFLASH: These people have such extreme thoughts and view the Clintons as diabolical. You could disagree with the Clintons, but this notion that the people who aren't white Republican right-wingers are doing something evil to America and to its culture, religion and society is something that needs to be taken seriously. They dismantle civilized discourse and behavior in the name of "upholding" civilization.

I mean, is this what civilization is supposed to look like: angry, bitter, hateful white people running around claiming that anyone who disagrees with them is working for Lucifer?

Bruce J. Miller: It's truly shocking, and there are a lot of things like that in the book. My own feeling is that it's a way of intimidating us all. That's why I take it seriously. Let me jump back to the Fairness Doctrine. You had the idea of fairness in broadcasting, which was set out in the Communications Act starting in the ‘30s. And the Fairness Doctrine, as such, didn't exist until later, but the elements were there. Even in 1939, there was a memo that the FCC published that enumerated certain things that were considered not in the public interest on radio. In other words, these things would be considered when they're trying to decide whether or not to renew somebody's license. I'm not saying they often pulled licenses, but they occasionally did. There were three things on this memo: One, defamation; two, racial or religious intolerance. And another thing that was in the list further down was "presentation of only one side of a controversial issue." We were governed by that for close to 50 years, until the Reagan Administration dumped this and allowed talk radio to mushroom.

I would argue that this kind of rhetoric has grown with talk radio. Talk radio kind of fed the others, and it emboldened them with the so-called Gingrich Republican Revolution of '94 on to today, to turn up the volume on their rhetoric and the nastiness.

What I started to say about it is it's a way of intimidating us -- the way they trash the public interest protection in broadcasting. They got rid of that, and now they're saying: "We will control the microphone, and we're going to make fun of you if you differ from us." We're going to say really nasty things, drag you from the political process. But you're certainly not going to try to grab the microphone back. And I think that all too often we've kind of given into that.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

This Matt Taibbi is alright

His latest New York Press article:

The flap over Janet Jackson and Howard Stern and that Florida Love-Sponge asshole really serves to conceal a much larger issue. We have a system of media domination in this country, but it operates according to a completely different paradigm than the traditional bald censorship of Josef Stalin. It’s achieved by drowning out minor voices in an overwhelming quantity of mainstream media output, and through the relentless mass marketing of a charade of political plurality and diversity that carefully excludes or consigns to the edges any uncomfortable content–like Kucinich and Sharpton.

Then there is the campaign of emotional body blows designed to ravage the ordinary person’s pride in his own humanity. The average American sees more than 30,000 commercials a year, most of which show human beings participating in a humiliating orgy of self-abasement. There’s the poor sap singing and dancing with joy over his OfficeMax supplies, the gushing woman at lunch with her girlfriends who confesses, "It’s not love–it’s my Crest White Strips!"

We have millions of those choices. We can thusly act like an idiot with any one of millions of culturally acceptable accessories. But in the area of acceptable political choices, we have two. Not one, but two. That is the kind of freedom the New York Times demands for Russia, and for us.


Monday, March 01, 2004

Odd Man In
Dennis Kucinich is nobody’s fool.

By Matt Taibbi, New York Press:

I am a Dennis Kucinich supporter because I believe America’s greatest problem is its incivility, its intolerance to new ideas, its remorseless hatred of weakness and failure, the willingness of its individual citizens to submerge their individual cowardice within the vicious commerce-driven standards of our national self-image. George Bush is a terrible president, but he is merely a by-product of these wider national tendencies, which exist outside of him and independently of him. And these tendencies are symbolized exactly in the laughter directed at Dennis Kucinich. To vote for Dennis Kucinich, I believe, is to vote for man’s right to publicly be who he is and not be ridiculed for it. If we are peaceful people, it is a vote for our right to merely be who we are.

This is not a small thing, because we are in danger of losing that right in this country. If you are the wrong kind of person, even the New York Times would have you disappear from the stage entirely. That is why it is important to understand this vote not as a pragmatic choice for a winner, but as a passionate act of self-preservation. We must stand with the man who is taking all the abuse that most of us are too afraid to take in our own lives.


via mousemusings (and I agree, it's a "must read")

Outside the street's on fire in a real death waltz
Between what's flesh and what's fantasy
and the poets down here
Don't write nothing at all,
they just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand
but they wind up wounded, not even dead
Tonight in Jungleland

-- Bruce Springsteen, Jungleland

Or stomped by an elephant

I suppose I should be able to laugh about it, but I just don't think it's funny. Michael Moore being flattened by an elephant-like creature from Lord of the Rings in Billy Crystal's opening number on last night's Oscar show. I mean, laugh at yourself, sure, but what's the net effect here? For me, it's further marginalizing the anti-war view.

It's saying, and I quote: Yes, Michael Moore was right a year ago when he shouted during his Oscar acceptance speech that we live in fictitious times and were about to go to war for fictitious reasons, but so what? Nobody cares, and Michael Moore is a fool not for being wrong in what he said, but for being wrong for speaking out against the war in general. It doesn't matter. It's all a show. None of this is real. Return to your numbed consumerist existence. War is the answer. Everyone understands that now. It simply doesn't matter what the question is. You may be vaguely angry about it (and you may meet a few tiresome radicals who can be much more specific) but what can ya do?

What's on TV? Hoho, look, man killed by elephant. Hahahahaha. That is so funny. Look kids. Isn't that hilarious? Fake violent death. Gotta love it. And with the added thrill of quashing a non-conformist. I am SOOO glad this show doesn't traffic in low-class entertainment and showing an almost-naked breast. As long as you can only see the outline under fabric.

Whew. I'm glad my TV will smooth out those nagging issues when they crop up from time to time. War good, anti-war bad. Violence good, human body bad. Winning good, losing detestable. Any mean necessary good, limitations based on human rights bad. Fantasy war good, real war..uh, also good (because also fantasy), reality, no clue, entertainment, always on.

And I love the speed. All I know is that Michael Moore was killed by an elephant last night. It was funny. The cleverness was apparent in every line of the skit. There were 10 thousand and 5 jokes, nudges and winks in those three minutes. The moves were honed to perfection. Billy Crystal, what a talent. Love that guy. That Michael Moore, not so funny. Isn't his time up?