The River

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sleepwalking to Fallujah

By Joe Bageant

Trust me, just go read. Great writing.

Also check out Hung Over in the End Times. At the end of that one is a list of other pieces he has published in Dissident Voice.

Online multi-issue alternative magazine Energy Grid has an interview with Bageant.

Thanks to Tutor for that link, which initiated this happy discovery.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Long Time Comin'

The new Springsteen album “Devils and Dust” starts off with a typical Bruce narrator, someone in great pain, intense crisis. Someone asking hard and awkward questions, questions nobody wants to hear. Everything he is, believes in, has been stripped to the bone (a repeated image this go around), and it seems no one is there to listen, no one to care. Not even God, as his God-filled soul has been replaced with devils and dust, thanks to the fearful and fearsome situation created by those he once thought he could trust.

That sense of lonely torment causes the questions to linger, resonate. And so too does the music on this song, the title track, and throughout this outing, Springsteen’s most focused and inspired since Nebraska.

“What if what you do to survive kills the things you love?” asks a soldier in Iraq as the music on the title cut builds.

Could this narrator be speaking of the country he was born in? Could the singer’s intense pain and great crisis represent that of the country as a whole? Is the soul of the U.S.A in the process of being stripped to the bone?

Yeah, maybe.

The opener is followed by the rocking tune “All the Way Home.” The sound and lyrics are somewhat reminiscent of “Dancing in the Dark” (hey baby, take a chance on me), but it’s quickly apparent that the new tune is richer, musically and lyrically, than the arena/pop anthem of mid-eighties Bruce. The harmonica, in particular, is raw and real.

Two songs in, and the rhythm and the themes of this album are established, and they are carried through with coherent vision. We move back and forth between slow, somber reflection – intimate (shockingly so on the sexually graphic “Reno”) tales of human beings failing other human beings, failing themselves – to up-tempo, musically tight songs of affirmation, where the protagonists throw caution to the wind, take chances, commit to each other, try to make something better, find a reason to believe.

The slow, acoustic numbers form a sort of album-length version of the “bring it down” get quiet and feel really soulful for a minute song breaks of Bruce’s early work. But these aren’t the songs of a “Nebraska” or even a “Ghost of Tom Joad.” Fast or slow, this is a new, country-tinged sound for Bruce, and apparently he is so delighted with it that he’s filled out the tracks –to rocking and/or cinematic effect -- with touches of violin, organ, the Nashville String Machine, horns, and on one song an electric sarangi.

So we have introspection, sad tales, hard questions, followed by rock music that affirms the human spirit, resilience. It’s a day, or night, at church, the church of rock-n-roll, led by preacherman Bruce, who finds his soul is saved in Maria’s bed.

“Holy man said, Hold on brother, there’s a light up ahead, Ain’t nothing like the light shining on me in Maria’s bed.”

“Is this a political album?” a friend asked. Not overtly, except for the title track with its obvious reference to Iraq. But it is in that it is an album about human dignity, the loss of such, the pathos of the loss, the beauty in the struggle to keep it alive.

It’s about the fragility of our situation. How we fail each other. Mothers and fathers fail their offspring. Governments fail their people (or people fail to demand better). We’re wounded, we move along, we drift. Finally, “we live with the sadness” to quote an early, famous song, and we find some solace, some refuge, and, ultimately, meaning, close to home, in ourselves, our actions, our families and loved ones.

And when we do so, we try to pass it along to the next generation, give them a leg up as it where. Bruce sings on the vintage-sounding, John Mellencampesque rocker “Long Time Commin,” which sounds like a Human Touch or Lucky Town tune minus the bombast and ersatz soul: “If I had one wish in this Godforsaken world, kids, it’s that your mistakes would be your own, yeah, your sins would be your own.” The wish is especially poignant in that the narrator is someone whose father was just a man he’d see around town when he was growing up. The cycle of pain and misery stops with the singer, however; he ends the song noting that he has two kids and one on the way, and that he “ain’t gonna fuck it up this time.”

Finally, Bruce employs his deft touch with light, sweet pop to capture the essence of this album. In the song “Leah,” the singer recognizes that although he walks a road filled with shadow and doubt, and that “with this hand I’ve built, and with this I’ve burned,” he’s still focused on building a house on higher ground, where he will “sleep in the same bed, search for the same proof/as Leah.”

On this album, where the devils and dust swirl mercilessly, the declaration feels small and inconsequential, but also important and worth celebrating, as is this strong new release from one of America’s best songwriters.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Well, that is the question, idinit?

The American 'war on terror' is completely political and has nothing whatsoever to do with actually stopping terrorism in the world. Primo Kennedy assassination investigator Gaeton Fonzi is interviewed concerning two terrorists currently being sheltered in the United States, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada. Someone who kills civilians in order to achieve a political goal which is desired by the American government will never be called a 'terrorist'. Why does the world continue to allow the Americans to parade their bogus one-sided politicized definition of terrorism in order to wage wars and threaten wars?

See the original Xymphora post for linkage within the text.

Also see Xymphora's masterful exposure of the lies and manipulation leading up to the illegal invasion of Iraq, from the British perspective. A must read, really.

Monday, May 09, 2005


Democracy Now! Friday, April 22nd, 2005, transcript excerpt.

AMY GOODMAN: Today we look the at Armenian genocide. We're joined in our New York studio by Peter Balakian, Professor of English at Colgate University and author of The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. Here in our Los Angeles studio, we're joined by Zanku Armenian of the Armenian National Committee of America. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!



AMY GOODMAN: Peter Balakian, let's begin with you. If you can simply start off by telling us what happened 90 years ago.

PETER BALAKIAN: I think it's important for people to understand that the plan to exterminate the Armenians of what is today Turkey, then Ottoman Turkey, was implemented by the central government, and it was a very well-organized plan. It involved the formation of mobile killing squads. It involved a central bureaucracy called the Special Organization. The Special Organization put into gear the mobile killing squads, and the killing squads were made up of some 30,000 convicts who had been released from prison, a little bit like the Nazis’ Einsatzgruppen. It's also important to understand that there was emergency executive legislation used to implement this plan, that technology was used to train, to deport Armenians from the western part of Turkey down to the south and into the desert. And it's important to understand that the population was systematically dismembered.

And the reason Armenians commemorate the genocide on April 24 is because on that evening in Constantinople, more than 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested and deported by train to the interior, where they were subsequently tortured and murdered. The idea here is, of course, that you cut the head off the culture, you rip its tongue out, its journalists, its poets, its playwrights, its novelists, its clergy and professors. So this was very systematically done, and it's important to understand that this whole operation, which in the end resulted in the deaths of close to 1.5 million unarmed, innocent minority population citizens of Turkey, this became the template for all genocide to follow. And Adolf Hitler did say eight days before invading Poland in 1939, who today, after all, speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians. Hitler was inspired by the fact that the young Turk government had succeeded in doing what they did and also he was inspired by the fact that what had been the most important international human rights catastrophe of the second decade of the 20th century had only 20 years later been sort of washed down the memory hole.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Regulated Resistance: Is it possible to change the system when you are the system?

by Charles Shaw
Newtopia Magazine


This glaring policy disaster on the part of the leadership of the “anti-war movement” was discussed in an article by Virginia Rodino that appeared in Dissident Voice, “How US Anti-War Activists Can Help Topple the Empire”:

The first implication is to simultaneously build an anti-imperialist movement, as we build the anti-war movement. An anti-imperialist movement will situate within our present work US military endeavors since World War II, and give our movement a history and theoretical foundation which is today in a weakened state. Deconstructing imperialism will also allow our movement to identify with current domestic crises, and give us the theoretical tools to identify and build broad coalitions with the masses of working people in the United States who also suffer from imperialism through such projects as the War on Drugs, union-busting, the prison-industrial-complex, and the two-corporate-party electoral system.

The anti-war movement must develop an understanding that the war in Iraq is linked inextricably to the entire neo-liberal project. As New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman has unequivocally stated in an analysis cheerleading Madeline Albright’s State Department, "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist—McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps."

Rodino is a member of the UFPJ Steering Committee, and was compelled to put a disclaimer on this article clarifying the opinions stated therein were “solely her own.”

This omission of anti-imperialist rhetoric, and Rodino’s forced disclaimer, speaks volumes to the present political climate, where it is “suicide” to challenge the legitimacy of the Leviathan. Americans have watched the Democratic Party becoming more and more unabashed about their support for the bloated and ever escalating “Defense” budget, and have stood in befuddlement as Democrats come out of the closet in droves regarding their support for the war in Iraq and developing conflicts with Iran and Syria. Listening to Howard Dean, Hilary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden, Carl Levin, or even Barak Obama these days, one is hard pressed to differentiate between their rhetoric and that of the Neocons. Even ostensible “progressive” heroes like Barbara Boxer, John Conyers, Ted Kennedy, and Dick Durbin are mum on the Empire question.

And lest we all forget, the Democrats ran a pro-war candidate for President last year, and odds are they will run a pro-war candidate for President in 2008. This, to say the least, has presented a fundamental paradox within the “anti-war movement.”

UFPJ’s most notable achievement—the half-million strong march during the RNC—was done under the slogan, “We Say No to the Bush Agenda!” But it’s clear war is not just the Bush agenda, it is bipartisan Foreign Policy, as the Democrats have signed off on every dime Bush has bilked from the American people.