The River

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Election Game

If the election is a game, the Republican team has the sole ability to make up the rules, and change them when needed. The game is “America at War.” The objective is to make America safe. The contest is a debate on whether Republicans or Democrats should lead America through its war to a new land of “security.” Although the winner is decided through voting by the public on a predetermined day, both players understand that the decision is heavily influenced by a panel of media personalities, who are employed by a small group of billionaires. The billionaires favor the Republican agenda, but that is not allowed as a point of contention. However, the Democrats are allowed a portion of newspaper editors and columnists, bumper stickers, web sites, books, and ad buys.

It’s early in the contest. The Democratic team has already fired its most potent weapon – a four-day, hoopla-filled meeting on the national media stage, known in the parlance of the game at the Democratic National Convention. By the rules the party understands, its job during this meeting was to show the citizens – whose role in the game is to pick up on clues from the media as to how they should vote – that it is a strong and united party capable of making war, which it agrees is how one brings about American safety. Although it’s not explicitly stated in the rules, the Democratic team believes it must project an image of concern for the environment and the poor, elderly and otherwise socially disadvantaged, because that is what it has always done. Consequently, they have devised a strategy in which they emphasize their war experience and war strategy nuance – a key advantage, they feel – but remind voters of their core “beliefs.”

In past games, when rules were less strict and the media panel held more of an advisory role, these traits served the Democrats well. In the new game, “America at War,” these “soft” concerns could be a liability, as they may undermine the “strong warrior” image that is a key to winning the game. It depends on the media panel, and the Democrats thus far seem incapable of reading the members.

The Republicans, being “in good” with the media panel, have no such problems. The two – Republicans and their media – seem to click in a way the other team is blind to. Both have an undying love for this game, no doubt because they invented it and endlessly tinker with the rules. That the game continues to drift away from the notions of fair play is not a concern for the Republicans; such a concern, they feel, is for weak teams, such as their opponents. This new iteration of the game is all about power, the power to strike at Republican-defined, if not created, enemies. This power to make war around the globe, the public is to understand, is what allows them to continue to shop in relative safety for the inexpensive goods advertised in the media.

Well before the game began, the Republicans instituted a key new rule: American power is its own justification. It is beyond lesser notions of fair play, laws of men, and reason. It is a power worthy of worship for it is the source of freedom and a moral, orderly society. Fallible mortals, which includes all but the President, are incapable of comprehending the glory of American power. Republicans are but humble servants of this greatest of all authorities.

The contest revolves around the public response to this new rule, and other rules that have been agreed upon in secret and are only felt. Managing the response is the key challenge for both teams. The rules themselves, as has been stated, are off limits to all but the Republican team braintrust.

This week, the Republicans fire their four-day salvo across the bow of public opinion, the Republican National Convention. They are expected to exploit the “American power” rule and the “America at War” theme to the fullest advantage. They will attempt to project an image of benevolent stewards of this awesome power, which only they “have the stomach” for.

In laying the ground for this worship-filled event, the Republicans launched sophisticated “whisper and innuendo” attacks on the opposing team leader, the better to highlight their strong, unclouded, and “scandal-free” leader.

The Democrats, seemingly locked in the past, responded with indignation. They have yet to learn that power is never indignant. When a team demands and is denied, its power projection abilities are significantly wounded. The Democratic team, and its leader, while understandably the underdog, have once again been outmaneuvered. They are losing ground, while their opponents ready their biggest weapons.

The media panel is, of course, expected to give the Republican convention high marks. By the time it is over, the Democrats should have a better handle on the contours of the game.

The real test they must face, according to independent observers, is this: Are they capable of staring down mutually assured destruction?

Monday, August 30, 2004

"No hay banda"

A Long, Strange Trip Down David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.

If you've seen the movie, you owe it to yourself to read this brilliant piece by By Allen B. Ruch.

Spiritual Cinema

A commenter at Eschaton pointed to a new film called "What the *&%# Do We Know!?". Looks to be very worthwhile. Good site, too. You can click on "Showtimes & Tickets" and find out if and when it will play in your area.

Speaking of spiritual cinema, Donnie Darko has been re-released in a Director's Cut version with 21 extra minutes. I haven't seen it yet, but I hear director Richard Kelly replaced the Echo and the Bunnymen song "The Killing Moon," used in the opening sequence, with INXS' "Never Tear Us Apart." That doesn't bode well; he could not have improved on that opening. themovieboy agrees. He finds the original 2001 version superior.

Kelly says on the DVD deleted scenes commentary track that he was forced to cut the film under two hours but that he fought for the cut he wanted. He then says some of the scenes would have been nice to have but some were best left out. I think he nailed it the first time. Go with the DVD.

Karl and King George

Click it when you have a few minutes, then click on the circular cartoon icon at the upper left and continue through some 37 conversations between Karl and GW. This is excellent, if chilling, political satire.

via Smoky Joe

Would you hire this man?

Bush presented his standard campaign defense of the war in Iraq, saying, ‘‘America and the world are safer because Saddam Hussein sits in a prison cell.'' But in an interview with Time Magazine, the president suggested he had underestimated the struggle of the postwar period in Iraq.

‘‘Had we to do it over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success, being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day,'' Bush said.

-- Protesters mass at convention, Helena Independent Record

I love this quote. It’s like when you’re on a job interview, and you are asked what your weak points are and you say something like, “I can get a bit obsessive over details and push too hard.” But “catastrophic success”! That’s a good one. I’ll have to remember that for my next interview:

Mr. Bruce, what can you tell me about your weak points?

Uh, well, hmmm……uh….I guess I’m sometimes too successful. I get the project done, meet the objective, and somehow the problem persists. Not…uh… not through my fault, but, uhm, because I’m, uh, so good that, well, it’s the problem itself – the problem itself doesn’t seem to understand that it’s been solved. It’s an amazing phenomenon. I call it “catastrophic success.” I was very successful in my last job, too. They were amazed. Although, I guess it can create controversy for those that don’t understand how successful I am.....I dunno, guess that's not really a weakness on my part. could say I'm too nice sometimes.

Friday, August 27, 2004


Power is seductive. Major media figures not only work for extremely powerful companies, they are themselves powerful. Quite naturally they identify with the political powers and the status quo. It’s de rigueur. They can’t very well draw large paychecks while also saying, allowing or even acknowledging an “out of the mainstream view.” The mainstream is defined for you by these powers.

-- World's Oldest Curmudgeon, 1964 McLuhan Lecture Series, Centre for Culture and Technology, St. Michael's College, Toronto

Time to check in with The World's Oldest Curmudgeon again.

So Mr. Curmudgeon, what have you been up to?

Well, I watched the Outfoxed video.


Jesus God! “Some people say” the people who work for the Fox News Channel are assholes. I’m one of ‘em.

Isn’t that harsh? They’re just making a living.

Alright, you’re about to piss me off. Don’t get the Curmudgeon up on his soap box.

I’m trying my best to slide it over to you.

Ha. Yeah, forget it, kid. I ain’t going there. I drive on the perimeter everyday. It goes in a circle around the city. But I get off at my exit, I don’t keep going around and around all day.

No, that would be silly, wouldn’t it….


You really do want to make me work today, huh?

No, I want you to go away.


I am the world’s oldest Curmudgeon. I am tired of this shit.

What shit?

Fox news! Media! Pay attention.

Oh, so you have Swift Boat Vets fatigue?

Look, I know you read that in the paper. I saw it too, so don’t deny it. There’s no idea that anyone will voice anymore unless it’s been pre-sanctioned by the media. Of course I have Swift Boat Vets fatigue. Fatigue is the fucking point.

Isn’t the point that citizens should be free to question Kerry’s war record, since he has touted it so much?

Oooohh. Nice imitation of the mock innocence of sycophantic power junkies. Look, if that were the case, there would be no story. Some conservative operatives bought ads to spew hateful lies, not to “question” anything. They might as well be yelling, “Prove you’re not a Commie sympathizing anti-American liar. Prove you’re not a murderer. Prove you’re not a rapist. Prove it’s not your fault Willie Horton is loose on the streets. How long have you been beating your wife?” It’s the oldest fucking trick in the book. And how much time has the media spent pretending it isn’t? Fucking weeks. Then they do a story about how people are tired of it. It’s like a bully beating the crap out of you, and then saying, hey sorry about all the bruises, I know this sucks. …..Damn kid, pretty sly the way you nudged that there soapbox a little closer. Ah, what’s the use? I cannot renounce my curmudgeonly nature. But I can at least sit down. I am old, ya know. Gotta cigarette?

Uh, no, sorry. Don’t smoke.

What good are ya then? Damn health craze.

It’s a GOOD thing, Mr. Curmudgeon.

Hey, don’t quote Martha. Now that’s bad for your health. Or at least for mine.

So how was the Outfoxed vid?

Ah… know….depressing.

Really? Why?

So many people watch that damn thing. The faux news channel, not the documentary. “Fair and Balanced.” “America’s news channel.” Welcome to the cult. We’re in control now. The poor suckers in TeeVee land don’t even know they are being indoctrinated. “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.” America is the greatest, strongest, bravest, most freedom loving country in the world. Bush is a moral, strong leader. Anyone who says different deserves ridicule and contempt or prison or death. It’s a sliding scale.…..gah, the nastiness of it all.

So we should abhor Fox like we do that evil dude up at the podium in The Manchurian Candidate?

Yes! They are The Manchurian Candidate. But, Mr. naïve interviewer, where is Frank Sinatra with a deck of 52 queens?

Uh, Rob Greenwald and a documentary called Outfoxed?

Wrong! Bzzzt. Rob is still on the perimeter, going around and around, and the problem is, the exits have been removed. His cards are all blank. As soon as he deals one, it is erased before it hits the table. And even if it weren’t, even if your hypnotized Average Citizen could see the queen and short circuit the programming, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t? Rather pessimistic.

Realistic. See, I’ve been going around and around myself. Figuratively, of course, but that's what you do when you tune into the media. He’s outraged, she’s outraged. They’re outraged at the outrage. Round and round. Just like Vietnam. Just like scores of America-initiated conflicts. Passions are ignited and thinking is extinguished. Meanwhile, we’re tired and we give up.

I was reading some young whippersnapper today, he says, uh…I have it here: “However, the world is a dangerous place, and until we solve problems as large as national, economic, ethnic, and religious rivalries, we can expect much more war.” Yep, but war is our solution to those problems here in the land of the free. We aren’t….*cough*…we aren’t …ahghem hgggghhhhtttt, ptoooo…. Ahh, jeez, you sure you don’t have a cig?

Nope. Sorry.


I could get some at the convenience store down the street.

I’ll wait. And the cigs…


Here ya go. Milwaukee’s Best. I couldn’t see $5.99 for Bud.

It’s brown and wet, isn’t it?


Whatever. (he cracks one) Cigs?

Here ya go.

(lights one, exhales) Ahh…much better. As I was sayin’, we aren’t learning squat. War is one sick solution. No solution at all. More like a sickness. But our media – you know, the Major Voice of the Media -- loves it. This…is CNN. And That’s the Way it Is. It can’t even see what’s wrong with it, just like it can’t see what’s wrong with the Swift Boat ad. Like some big, dumb, headless beast, it will go on and on, “covering” it all, never touching on the truth, pretending it’s little hall of mirrors, he said, she said, look at these products, isn’t this great, now I’m sad on cue, now I’m quizical on cue, now here’s a car commercial, 600 died in Najaf last week, it just happened, local sports next will go on pretending it really is all reasonable and sane. There’s only one problem: It isn’t. In all the Iraq war coverage, what is never said?


What isn’t said?

I dunno. Tell me.

Here have one of these. And sit down, for pity's sake. This war is a crime, that's what. A war of aggression. It’s fucking wrong. And now with the Swift Boat thing, they aren’t even admitting that Vietnam was wrong. Gahhh!..Atrocities upon atrocities. Welcome to the human race.

But we liberated Iraq for our national security.

For our national security. Of course. Why that’s the most important thing on the planet. Look kid, drink your beer and quit trying to goad me. America, yeah, god, what an amazingly fucked up place, huh? America the great, the good, and her national security. Her national interests. It’s sacred, by god. If you have some other ideas on that, like, I don't know, maybe Iraq has no WMD and is not a threat, well, bud, then you’re a threat to national security! Ah, what a beautifully constructed Catch-22 it is. National security is not open for debate because to do so would jeopardize national security.

Damn, we are in a pickle. So where does that leave us, Mudg?

Born to run, baby, born to run.

Run where Mudg?

Right here. There’s nowhere to go. Have a beer. Smile on your brother.

And the war?

It ain’t me, babe….you gotta light?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Prostitutes with AIDS to seduce Republican visitors

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Famous quotes of legendary music critics

“As a well-known blog music critic once said, you can achieve Zen enlightenment through lead guitar.”

Haha. I was driving into work, as often happens Monday through Friday, and had decided to tune into Good Morning Blues, the 6-10 a.m. every weekday blues show on WRFG, radio free Georgia. Blackjack, a great DJ with a mellow mid-west baritone, was on, talking about this certain critic. Me. I’d written about him and his wife – they tag-team it for four hours every Tuesday morning – on my former blog and on the site. That's when I'd made the enlightenment comment.

Back then, many months ago now, someone who knew Blackjack had seen my little piece and had alerted him, and he thought enough of it to give me a call, although he found my brother in the phone book, rather than me. The message was relayed and I called him back at the radio station one Tuesday morning a couple of weeks later.

So happens that very morning he had dedicated one of his early sets to me, and he’d read part of my piece on the air, including the Zen enlightenment bit. I was probably in the shower when he did, so I had no idea. Blogs and synchronicity, what can I say?

And here we were again. I hadn’t listened to his show in weeks. My commuting radio habits are sporadic. I bounce between CDs (jazz, classical, rock, pop, folk, blues), NPR, WRFG, and nothing, which is itself rather Zen.

Blackjack had just played two songs by Omar and the Howlers and was commenting on the fine slide guitar. The songs were classic electrified crunchy swamp blues, somewhat reminiscent of Dr. John and CCR.

I’d had just about all I could of the sonorous, serious NPR and their tepid reporting. I thought, “it’s Tuesday. I wonder how my buddy Blackjack is doing” and hit the second pre-programmed button from the left. Ah, I was reminded, electric guitar, bass and drums can help produce a little clarity in the morning fog. Helps redeem us poor souls marching down the highway too.

The two Omar songs ended. “As a well-known blog music critic once said, you can achieve Zen enlightenment through lead guitar.”

Ha. Yeah, hey Blackjack. I’m doing alright, ‘n you?

Heh, "well-known." Good one.

Blackjack and I had chatted on the phone that one time. We’ve exchanged e-mails. We’re supposed to get together for a favorite beverage one of these days. Still haven’t. But the WRFG 19th Annual Labor Day Blues BBQ is coming up. I’ll be there, most likely with Leigh, Eleanor and Audrey. Blackjack will be there, so I will get a chance to say hello in person. Have a beverage or two.

Enlightenment? No problem. There should be a few folks there handy with the electric guitar.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

"The truth will set you free

But first it will piss you off" -- Marek J.

Call me what you will, but to me it looks highly likely* that the SOBs in the White House pulled 9-11 to jump-start their war to control oil, which is soon to be, in the global scheme of things, rare, desparately needed and quite expensive.

It's interesting to note too, all the volumes of print by the learned and the pundits (often mutually exclusive) that overlooks this little detail. What good is it, if it completely misses the boat and has no idea where the dock is either?

What world are we operating in here?

Ah well, here online you can find some fine work on the subject by Jeff at Rigorous Intuition: The Coincidence Theorist's Guide to 9/11

*as in "they did it"

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Sweatman's blogging again!

Wet Dream

Sweet Dreams

Monday, August 16, 2004

Queen of Compromise

By Graham Parker

How can you take the crown from the queen of compromise
How can you figure out where her allegiance lies
How can you be on both sides when you don't know her agenda
How can you be on both rides when you don't know where they end up
How can you look into her heart or look into her eyes
You'll only get half way with
The queen of compromise

If you wanna be a jester you better get a funny hat
If you're out to impress her you better do better than that
She doesn't give a fig if you're horrible or pleasin'
You might be a prick and that's the part of you she's teasin'
If you want to drive her home well you're in for a surprise
'Cause she'll only go halfway
The queen of compromise

She's got all the angles covered and your advances will get smothered cos that's her way
Yeah that's her way
And if you think you're in the runnin'
She'll start runnin' everyway but your way
'Cause that ain't her way

How can you take the crown from the queen of compromise
How cay you get her hand a little further than your flies
If you wanna be a joker you better take another toke
If you wanna smoke her out you better be prepared to choke
It's not completely honest and it's not a pack of lies
It's somewhere in between for
The queen of compromise

If you think she looks alright
She'll turn her face and then you'll see another side
There's always another side
If you blink and look again
You'll find that you've been taken for half a ride
By the queen of compromise

How can you take the crown from the queen of compromise
How can you settle down with her and cut her down to size
If you wanna be a jester you better get a funny hat
If you want to impress her you better do better than that
No I would not commit myself or make any firm ties
I'd only go halfway for
The queen of compromise
'Cause she'll only go halfway
The queen of compromise

--From the 5-star(my highest rating) 2004 release "Your Country." For some reason, this song reminds me of the Democratic Party.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Kerry 307, Bush 231

FYI: The Electoral vote predictor site, linked over to the right, has consistently had Kerry well ahead of Bush for weeks now. By the way, Kerry is outpolling Bush 50% to 43% in Florida.

It's an excellent site.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I’m not cynical about dessert

John Kerry's seeming inability to articulate a coherent position on Iraq, his unwillingness to distance himself from Bush when the increasingly unpopular disaster of a war there should be a clear political winner for Kerry, may be a manifestation of the systematic problem in American politics which allows thugs like the neocons to force a war through all the checks and balances which are supposed to protect the American political system. -- xymphora

Here’s a Daily Howler column about how the right, and the rightist media, get away with branding Kerry as the most liberal member of the Senate, based on his voting record, when, in fact, there are about 10 active Senators who have a more liberal record. Somerby wonders why the DNC and lefty media personalities are letting them get away with it. Why don’t they point out that he’s not that liberal.

Hello? Why aren’t they saying “although they have their facts wrong, we appreciate the compliment.”

And it’s not like this is some sterling insight. The right-wing knows it can get away with these lies because no one will stand up to them, no one will say, “yes, I’m a liberal, can we move on to something substantive now?” Somerby illustrates my point when he pulls out this snippet from Fox’s Hannity and Colmes show:

SEAN HANNITY (7/30/04): According to the National Journal, based on the voting records and they examined the voting records of every senator, they determined in 2003 John Kerry had the most liberal voting record. John Kerry is doing everything he can do at this convention to appear not to be a liberal. My question to you is, you want to be a proud liberal. Why won’t John Kerry do the same thing?

Can you imagine Bush or Cheney responding to an accusation of being the most conservative administration of recent times with anything less than “thank you”? I can’t, but the charge would never be made in the first place. Liberalism is demonized, conservatism is elevated.

Presidential politics is a strange and ugly world. We think we’re hiring people to take care of national interests – clean water, infrastructure, public spaces, people-centered policies, etc. – and what we get, at the top end of the power hierarchy, are merciless killers and exploiters of people and resources. Of course, you look back to what was done to native Americans and you think, “twas ever thus.”

But America is growing ever more dangerously militarized, ever more tilted to the right.

So, this political season, we can support someone who made his bones a few decades ago and thinks he knows a thing or two about brutal empires, or someone who made his bones ordering 9-11s of several orders of magnitude greater for a couple of countries full of brown people and oil. One “inspires” with “we can do better.” The other has no concept beyond brutality, and smirks about it.

The discourse is so debased, the leaders so false, the media so fatuous, that there is no real alternative, no real democracy. Anytime I venture into commentary on this political season, I feel I need a shower and a day at the beach, followed, of course, by another shower.

Yet I venture to comment anyway. I’m not sure why I do it.

But I can tell you this. I think everyone is born liberal, and that conservatism is brought about through fear and hatred, manufactured dissatisfaction and scapegoating. I see today’s brand of conservatism as a prison for your soul. To see it in full flower in the Bush administration – and in the gleeful chest-beating by media sycophants -- is to see a corruption so unholy that it deserves the label so bandied about these days: evil.

People, I am not a radical, I am not a left-wing loon. I don’t hate or fear people caught in this global power trip (on my better days, anyway). I’m just telling you how it is.

Obviously, I don’t see Kerry as much of an alternative. I don’t buy the argument that Kerry is playing the warmonger to get elected. The program has long been exploitation. The program has long been war.

But that is to be expected. Let’s be pragmatic, we’ve gone so far in the “war on terror” rabbit hole that we aren’t going to get out without more militarism, more war, more turmoil. It is the way the world’s only superpower has decided to sort out the coming global oil/resource crisis. That it is sold to the masses as a war of good (the US of A) versus evil (Muslims/Terrorists/Liberals) should tell us how bad the situation is.

The whole left-right, democrat-republican dichotomy is far too limiting. I’m not “left” or “right.” Does it serve humanity? That’s all I care about. Only Dennis Kucinich stands out as a leader with a humane vision, and in his treatment in the media we can see how much currency that has in our country.

The ridicule of his candidacy and the widespread demonization of liberals, now sinking to hate speech of singular depravity, is so woven into the mainstream culture that it actually feels dangerous to put a Kucinich bumper sticker on your car.

Although there are alternatives -- a good church here and there, maybe a good book if you should be so intrepid as to explore, certainly some good music, documentaries, art films, plays, co-ops, blogs -- the culture in general is toxic, particularly the political culture. Voting for Kerry is such a feeble gesture, a damned if you do, damned if you don’t proposition.

Look, all things considered, my life is good, my wife is wonderful, my kids are amazing, my friends are cool. But wide-angle view? It doesn’t look good. My wife just finished reading “Dark Age Ahead.” She says I should read it next. The title alone should tell you something.


Where I differ is in thinking that Fascism is a reaction to modernity and post modernity as well as economic malaise. The death of certainty left a vacuum. Our depressions now make a revolutionary, anti-human doctrine popular. It can be spread like wildfire with radio and TV. -- Harry at scratchings

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

A reminder

Al-Qaeda is a few thousand fanatics mainly distributed in a handful of countries -- Juan Cole quoted by ugga bugga

UPDATE: To spell it out better for the non-link-follower: "I repeat, al-Qaeda proper only has a few hundred fighters, those who pledged allegiance personally to Bin Laden, and a few thousand if you count other Afghan Arabs and their ideological soul mates." -- Juan Cole.

Fiddling while Rome burns

Hey, check out Brian Moffatt's post careening off the one below (Monstrous Possiblity): link

This one too while you're at it: Somebody wanna pimp my ride?

Friday, August 06, 2004

Monstrous Possibility

We know that in the assassination of President Kennedy, Oswald did not act alone.

Likewise, in the felling of the Twin Towers in New York City, Al Qaeda did not act alone. It is clear that they must have had help. You don’t get investigations into your activity obstructed by high-powered officials, you don’t get everyone through airport security, you don’t fly hijacked planes around for well over an hour unmolested, you don’t expertly guide jumbo jets into office towers with minimal training -- unless you have help from within the establishment of the country.

Similarly, you don’t deny federal agencies a chance to study the remains of the Twin Towers site, you don’t stall any investigation into the catastrophe for years until forced to by the public, you don’t, finally, testify behind closed doors for an hour or so, you don’t publish pre-9/11 policy documents that see public acceptance of pre-emptive wars, Iraq specifically, as contingent upon a “new Pearl Harbor” -- unless you have means, motive, and opportunity to allow the attack and you want to hide that fact, notwithstanding your hubris in publishing same to your peers.

We know that most would rather play along with the fiction, we know that a certain percentage of the population will give into the power fantasies fed them, we know that there’s good and bad and life goes on – but damn, we have to accept monstrous possibility.


In any case, those are my thoughts upon reading of a senator who is questioning the 9/11 Commission report, Dayton: FAA, NORAD hid 9/11 failures:

Dayton told reporters that he skipped festivities at the Democratic National Committee Tuesday night and sat in his hotel room until 2:30 a.m. reading the commission report. After piecing together the section about the FAA and NORAD, he said, he could not fall asleep.

And upon reading Inspector Lohmann’s post quoting George Monbiot:

A similar clampdown is taking place all over the world. The US Patriot Act, passed by Congress before any representative had read it, allows the state to treat dissenting citizens as if they were members of Al Qaida. For the past three years, the European Union has been seeking to reclassify the protesters who travel to European gatherings as terrorists. This is the contract the powerful have struck with each other: to agree to a single set of neoliberal policies, and to criminalise all those who seek to challenge them.

And upon reading the thread The Strategy of Tension at Guerilla News Network, including remarks from "Contingency":

Rasputin told me his posts were building a context for the reader to understand how the 9/11 acts of terrorism were, like all the other examples listed, sponsored by state-coporate-covert power. I agree totally, but I added that 9/11 should also be seen as symptomatic in general of what's wrong in our societies too.

It's not so much that alien, shadowy, incomprehensible forces were behind the attacks. The energies behind the attacks most likely come from the most accepted, established pillars of our societies (the ones with the most to lose and gain). Both they and the masses are complicit in denying this. Few want to seriously consider that there's a Jungian "shadow" or Freudian 'id' that is an integral part of overt society in general, and vital in making it work.


They slept and they slept, and if something disturbed their sleep, someone would whisper ‘conspiracy’ and the people would go back to sleep.

Thursday, August 05, 2004 interview with Bruce


Backstreets: As political awakenings go, I’ve always had the impression that the time around The River was big for both you and Steve, as far as getting out of the States and seeing our country through other eyes.

Springsteen: I know for Steve it was a tremendous awakening, that tour. More so for him maybe than for me, because I had kind of started to write about it on Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River already, really before we went overseas. But I know for Steve it was tremendous. We went to East Berlin together, and it was quite an experience, East Berlin at that time. It was real noticeable, what that does to you. And also, when you spend a good amount of time over there, you do have a moment to step out of the United States and look back with a critical eye.

If there was one single thing I’d like to give every high school kid in the United States, it would be a two-month trip through Europe at some point during the formative years. Because it’s very difficult to conjure up a real worldview from within our borders. It’s hard. It’s hard because we’re so big, and the hegemony of American culture is so weighty and so heavy that it’s very difficult without stepping outside and realizing what it’s like to have the next country just a two-hour drive away, to have a certain kind of interdependence that is different than what we have here. It’s just a certain view of the way the world works that is different. So if I could give every young kid one thing, that would be it -- because it would broaden what we listen to, the way we perceive ourselves, the types of leaders we choose. It would change the nation dramatically.

I always remember going down to South America on the Amnesty tour and hearing incredible music, or going into Africa and seeing some amazing acts that opened up for us on that tour, and realizing that only a miniscule amount of people are going to hear this music back in the United States. Meanwhile, a six- or seven-piece rock band from Central Jersey is playing the Ivory Coast, and people who have barely heard our music before are going crazy. And we’re speaking English, you know? The openness I’ve found outside the United States contrasted a bit to some of the closedness that we have here. And it’s not intentional – it’s cultural. And it comes from a lack of exposure to other things.

Backstreets: What opened your eyes to some of those things initially? On the River tour you talked about the Joe Klein book, Woody Guthrie: A Life. Was that book pivotal for you?

Springsteen: That’s a big book, a very powerful book. I was looking for ways that other people went about creating work that spoke to all of these things -- emotional, and social, and political, the environment of the day. How did other people do that? How did they balance their creative instincts and their political instincts? I was a very different creature in that, hey, I was a successful pop musician, and that changes the cards to some degree. But at the same time, what’s at the heart of it is still the same sort of questing after the country that you’re carrying in your heart, the country that you want your kids to grow up in. So I studied all of my forefathers very intently along the way. And I just put together something that felt right for us, and for me.

Backstreets: One of the purposes of art is to reflect our world back to us. And there’s so much animosity and fear surrounding that right now -- a lot of people, the whole “shut up and sing” faction, seem to think that’s not what an artist should be doing. But considering the folk tradition you’re a part of, thinking about Woody Guthrie, “shut up and sing” is a real oxymoron.

Springsteen: First of all, there’s a long tradition of artist involvement in the nation’s social and political life. Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Public Enemy... not only was their music joyous and exhilarating, but it was timely. And it was essential, for me, to understanding some of the events of the day. When they spoke, I heard myself speaking. I felt a connectedness. So I think that any time somebody in this country is telling somebody else to shut up, they’re going in the wrong direction. No, no, no, you’re supposed to be promoting speech. You may like it, you may not like it -- I hear a lot of things I don’t like, either, but hey. [laughs]

Also, if you listen to the airwaves and the level of discussion out there, we can’t screw it up. It’s already broke! It’s screwed already [laughs]. So it’s not like the musicians are going to come in and screw all this up now, you know? That’s not going to happen.


Chords of Change

By Bruce Springsteen, The New York Times Op-Ed, August 5, 2004


I don't think John Kerry and John Edwards have all the answers. I do believe they are sincerely interested in asking the right questions and working their way toward honest solutions. They understand that we need an administration that places a priority on fairness, curiosity, openness, humility, concern for all America's citizens, courage and faith.

People have different notions of these values, and they live them out in different ways. I've tried to sing about some of them in my songs. But I have my own ideas about what they mean, too. That is why I plan to join with many fellow artists, including the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks, Jurassic 5, James Taylor and Jackson Browne, in touring the country this October. We will be performing under the umbrella of a new group called Vote for Change. Our goal is to change the direction of the government and change the current administration come November.


It is through the truthful exercising of the best of human qualities - respect for others, honesty about ourselves, faith in our ideals - that we come to life in God's eyes. It is how our soul, as a nation and as individuals, is revealed. Our American government has strayed too far from American values. It is time to move forward. The country we carry in our hearts is waiting.

You know I had to post this one.

UPDATE: Steve Gilliard has posted some excellent thoughts on Springsteen.

Blogging will save the world

Is it me, or has The River turned rather dark lately?

Can’t be helped, I guess. Damn these vicissitudes.

But ya know night before last I met a blogger, Rick Pietz of Radically Inept, and bad-a-bing, synchronicity. “Yeah, fuck the fuckin Romans, knamsayin?” and such like banter. Politics, history, philosophy. Really, it can’t be beat. Another iconoclast, well met.

And what’s truly odd, besides the two bloggers in question, is that we both posted pieces dealing with the Atlanta Braves and the business of baseball on Tuesday, and neither had read the other one.

Rick is one of the many new bloggers I’ve been meaning to add to my blogroll. Many are new to blogging and some are old pros I’ve read but never got around to adding.

Here’s a partial list:

Radically Inept: Fellow Atlantan. Had a beer at Manuels. Politically progressive and passionate.

Scratchings: Modest name, brilliant blogger.

The Hand That Holds The Light: Slightly Stunned Pigeon writing at a new site.

Guerrilla News Network Not to be confused with CNN.

The Blogging of the President: 2004: Bop on over for intelligent political conversation.

Orcinus: Neiwert. Nuff said.

the rude pundit: High-quality, hilarious political/satirical must-read.

Only Connect: With good writing.

bsmoffatt: Best BS in the blogosphere.

Hard 7: Political Commentary: Old friend and journalism pro from Missoula days. (Hey Frank, when are we going to have a beer?)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Electronic voting

How They Could Steal the Election This Time


The four major election corporations count votes with voting-system source codes. These are kept strictly secret by contract with the local jurisdictions and states using the machines. That secrecy makes it next to impossible for a candidate to examine the source code used to tabulate his or her own contest. In computer jargon a "trapdoor" is an opening in the code through which the program can be corrupted. David Stutsman, an Indiana lawyer whose suits in the 1980s exposed a trapdoor that was being used by the nation's largest election company at that time, puts it well: "The secrecy of the ballot has been turned into the secrecy of the vote count."

According to Dr. David Dill, professor of computer science at Stanford, all elections conducted on DREs [direct-recording-electronic] "are open to question." Challenging those who belittle the danger of fraud, Dill says that with trillions of dollars at stake in the battle for control of Congress and the presidency, potential attackers who might seek to fix elections include "hackers, candidates, zealots, foreign governments and criminal organizations," and "local officials can't stop it."

Last fall during a public talk on "The Voting Machine War" for advanced computer-science students at Stanford, Dill asked, "Why am I always being asked to prove these systems aren't secure? The burden of proof ought to be on the vendor. You ask about the hardware. 'Secret.' The software? 'Secret.' What's the cryptography? 'Can't tell you because that'll compromise the secrecy of the machines.'... Federal testing procedures? 'Secret'! Results of the tests? 'Secret'! Basically we are required to have blind faith."

The integrity of the vote-counting inside DREs depends on audit logs and reports they print out, but as Neumann says, these are "not real audit trails" because they are themselves riggable. The DREs randomly store three to seven complete sets of alleged duplicates of each voter's ballot, and sets of these images can be printed out after the election and manually counted. The companies claim that satisfies the requirement in the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that "a manual audit capacity" must be available. But as informed computer scientists unanimously agree, if the first set of ballot images is corrupted, they all are.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

This could be the year

I got an out-of-the-blue invite to a Braves game last week. I haven’t followed the team in years, but during the early ‘90s I was a big fan of the game and followed the Braves closely. I have some great memories of that time. In 1990, Leigh and I went to at least a game a week on complimentary field-level tickets from a friend connected to the team, watching up-close the germination of what would become the storybook worst-to-first World Series team in 1991, beginning the remarkable run of winning baseball that continues to this day.

In 1992, Leigh and I moved to Missoula, Montana, so she could pursue a master’s in creative writing at the University of Montana. We were bona fide Braves fans by then, and continued to follow the team via TBS. I remember watching on TV at a friends' apartment as Sid Bream chugged around third and slid home just under the tag of the Pirate’s catcher in the bottom of the ninth to score the winning run of the 1992 NLCS. We leaped up, cheered, high-fived, hugged. We were exultant. At that moment, a friend visiting from another country, walked in, mouth open, shocked, confused. “It’s baseball! The Braves won!”


Those were the days. The team had heart, it was young and hungry with just the right mix of old-timers to stabilize and mentor the rising stars. Like many great teams, they transcended the business of sport.

I’ve stopped following the Braves, two kids and the resultant need to change the world for them – starting with myself -- has seen to that. Besides, sometime after their 1995 championship they became a team of corporate professionals – rich, shrewd and successful, but soulless.

So when my boss offered me two seats in the, uhm, *corporate* suite to enjoy a game and socialize with co-workers, I took them out of a sense of duty rather than a desire to see a game. But once we entered Turner Field last Saturday evening, and I saw the green grass of the outfield, the love of the game came flooding back. The atmosphere of a ballpark, any ballpark, is uniquely relaxing. You can’t feel ill toward your fellow man at a ballgame. Something good and real and communal shines in the faces of the crowd.

Our transportation for the night was communal too. Atlanta has a small commuter train system called Marta, used by the middle class to attend big events or to get out to the airport, and by the low-incomers to get to and from work. Most of the Braves crowd had thinned out by the time we left the suite, so we rode home with Marta’s everyday riders, the workers of fast food, security and other low-wage service sector jobs.

We sat next to the railcar door in pair of seats facing inward. A man, in his early 20s I’m guessing, with a boyish, open face sat across from us. He wore a black Pizza Hut shirt, black pants and light-red, suede work boots. A large 40ish man sat behind me in a forward-facing seat. With his black pants and white shirt, I guessed he was a security guard. When he sat down he said, “I’m tired.” And the woman in the seat next to him said she was too. Meanwhile, another 20-something man stood by the door across from us and narrated the entire trip to whoever was on the other end of his cell phone. A man with dreadlocks, a Hawaiian shirt and a 1000-yard stare stood opposite him.

As we gently bumped along, an older man in ragged dress walked up to me, specifically, and asked me for a quarter. I dug one out and gave it to him. The train stopped, and he made the same request to a person standing but was ignored. He drifted off.

At a later stop, a young man walked in, put his baseball cap on a seat, put his money in it, picked it up by the brim and began to walk around chanting “unnmm nummmm mmmmm – the homeless.” Bizarre, but apparently it worked, because he seemed to be collecting a bit of money.

The Pizza Hut worker said he’d come to Atlanta five years ago and had seen the man on the train nearly every day. He doubted he was homeless. A woman to my left said, “I knew he wasn’t homeless. His shirt was too clean.”

The guy even showed up at the Pizza Hut workers place of employment to beg for a meal. The manager was trying to kick the beggar out. In a gesture of solidarity, the young man offered him his daily free meal, but soon realized “the homeless” had plenty of cash and could have bought his own meal. He shook his head slowly. The guy’s crazy, was his point.

“The homeless” walked back our way. A young man burly enough to be a ballplayer said, “hey, I've been working all day. I've got 60 dollars in my wallet. How much do you have?” Since he got no answer, he started to reach into the hat full of bills, but “the homeless” ignored him and walked away.

“I should try his job. I could do a lot better than ‘unnmm nummmm mmmmm – the homeless’,” the man said.

There was laughter at this, and then general commiseration on making ends meet. “I work two jobs,” confided the woman to my left. There was a further general air of “I’m working, playing by the rules, and it’s fucking ridiculous.” The Pizza Hut worker added a short tale – addressed to me -- about payday falling just after the rent deadline and how his landlord turned a deaf ear to his request to waive the late fee. “I can’t afford 50 dollars a day,” he said, incredulous.

At the far end of the car, my ears perked up at the mention of Bush and Kerry, though I couldn’t hear enough to follow any points. I’m hoping it was favorable to Kerry. He may think that war and harsh inequality are acceptable, even inevitable in the face of globalization, as Bush does, but at least he will attempt to raise the minimum wage and readjust the tax policy toward a semblance of fairness. At least he realizes he can’t further the gap between the “two Americas” without (further) serious damage to our national fabric. At least he believes in evolution, as Naomi Klein’s friend says.

It’s something.

The Braves are in first in their division yet again, but I still won’t be watching them. If I want to see gutless competence and experienced-if-uninspired performance, I can watch Kerry. He may not be Clinton, who would be analogous to the Yankees of the 90s, hitting on all cylinders, some heart, plenty of money, and skills that no one can match, but at least he’s not Bush and company. They would probably just shoot the other team and declare victory.


Writing in the Online Journal in the early days of the Bush Administration, Scott Davis, a self-employed MBA holder, noted:

When Clinton raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.5 percent, he balanced the budget, avoided further taxes on the already beleaguered middle class, and created the longest peacetime expansion in American history. He simply took dormant money from the wealthy, and made good use of it. If millionaires did make the world go 'round it would have spun off its axis. [ed. note: uhm..., nevermind, I could be wrong] Instead, even millionaires got wealthier in the Clinton boom. His tax plan kept that money from going into useless merger deals through bond financing and from going offshore. However, the rich felt they deserved even more, so they funded the attack machine against Clinton, and the Bush campaign with the "It's your money" slogan. What they really mean is: "I got mine, and I'm keeping it."

Now that the forces against economic justice in American life have asserted themselves and run the country under figurehead Bush, signs that America is sliding into a two-class society are everywhere. The largest growth in general aviation is jets. I'm sure there are several in your neighborhood. The fastest growing industry is prisons, and isn't it a shame all the millionaires behind bars? We lead the developed world in children born into poverty. Bush is our first president with an MBA. When he rejected Kyoto, he did saying his job was to protect American industry. On September 11, he crowed that America would be "open for business tomorrow." He has internalized MBA values. Just as we surrender the Bill of Rights when we walk through our company's doors every morning (try, for example, to actually exercise freedom of speech in the office and see what happens). We will, if Bush stays in power long enough, have the same lack of freedom wherever we go.

Fortunately, we still have a system designed to protect the public. We have the power of the vote, and can restore the system to its original purpose, having office holders actually represent the interests of the people. It takes the unholy alliance of a complacent electorate, and big money to distract the public from the real issues and onto trivial pseudo-scandals to get the kind of government we now have. But with an informed and activist electorate, who can see past the lies of the Republicans to the sellout behind the façade, we will limit Bush to one term. A Clintonian tax plan, breakup of monopolies and near-monopolies, government investment in infrastructure, research, and education, support of fair trade, a living wage, support of unions, fostering employee-owned businesses, breakup of monopolistic strangleholds and other roadblocks for entrepreneurs, could all help bring the American dream back for too many who have lost hope.

It is our money. It is also our government. The land, and its future are in our hands.

Monday, August 02, 2004

I'm actually encouraged that here, there, and seemingly everywhere, progressives are coming to the sensible conclusion that Bush out and Kerry in is merely a small step in an ongoing effort for political evolution (a concept foreign to the neocons).

Curry St. John points us to Naomi Klein's

Ditch the Distraction in Chief

Under a Kerry government, the comforting illusion of a world united against imperial aggression will drop away, exposing the jockeying for power that is the true face of modern empire. We'll also have to let go of the archaic idea that toppling a single man, or a Romanesque "empire," will solve all, let alone any, of our problems. Yes, it will make for more complicated politics, but it has the added benefit of being true. With Bush out of the picture, we lose the galvanizing enemy, but we get to take on the actual policies that are transforming all of our countries.

The other day, I was ranting to a friend at The Nation about Kerry's vicious support for the apartheid wall in Israel, his gratuitous attacks on Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and his abysmal record on free trade. "Yeah," he agreed sadly. "But at least he believes in evolution."

So do I--the much-needed evolution of our progressive movements. And that won't happen until we put away the fridge magnets and Bush gags and get serious. And that will only happen once we get rid of the distraction in chief.

So Anybody But Bush. And then let's get back to work.

Bruce begins his letter writing campaign

Last night, I tapped out a letter to the local newspaper editor:

Your four printed responses to “The New Faces of the Democratic Party” were interesting.

The first letter writer derides the Democrats for doing non-profit and social activist and political work. He then says this is a good example of why the Democratic party is out of touch. Calling the party that garnered more of the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election “out of touch” is pure propaganda. So too is the inference that working in politics or for non-profits doesn’t provide legitimate “real world” experience, as if the business world is the only “real” world.

Two of the letter writers published are outraged over the same thing – a single short paragraph out of all the millions of words Markos Zuniga has posted to his blog, The Daily Kos. Perhaps the readers of these letter writers would be disinclined to join them in their moral indignation, however, if the writers had provided a bit of context. Zuniga was not writing a considered piece of journalism; he was responding to a blog reader who had left a comment. What’s more, the exchange was in the “diary” section, where he and other users of the site can and do post off-the-cuff remarks. I don’t think what Zuniga wrote was worthy of praise, and I’d take issue with its casual dismissal of human life, but I do recognize that it was made in the heat of the moment by a person who has strong anti-Iraq War views. The whole incident was similar to heated or passionate conversations – familiar to many of us -- in which the participants get carried away, only to back up and admit fault. And that’s exactly what Zuniga did.

The fourth letter takes the occasion of an article on young Democrats to roll out the tired “tax and spend” canard, while ironically charging the Democrats have no new ideas.

However, there is one new idea Democrats would like to implement, should they gain presidential power – a country able to face the complexities of a global superpower without resorting to cheap moral indignation and knee-jerk denigration of at least 50 percent of the country’s citizens.

See? I do want the Democrats to regain the White House.