Saturday, June 30, 2007

When you need a Republican war hawk you can count on, call

Creepy Joe Lieberman. Oh, that's right, he' independent. When his hawkish congressional colleagues are slowly walking backwards from the chaos in Iraq, Lieberman is still cheerleading for Bush.

Incredibly underwhelming

I've seen Richard Thompson perform on more than twenty occasions. I walk away from most wishing that the show had gone on longer. Last night at the Calvin Theater, Thompson displayed all the reasons why he is considered the best guitarist in the world whom no one has heard of. Unpredictably inventive guitar leads, strong songwriting, rich evocative vocal. But there were two things wrong with the evening.

One wasn't his fault - the typically muddy mix at the Calvin Theater. This is an ongoing issue in which vocals are lost to the racket of the band.

The other, well, I'm afraid Richard is responsible. Thompson could fill four hours of playing with incredible songs. Somehow, on this evening, he decided to chose several songs from his new album, and lots of second-tier numbers. Some of the songs for the new album were outstanding. His live performance of "Dad's Gonna Kill Me," drew a standing ovation early in the set. While "Mr. Stupid" could remain one of those songs you leave off of your iPod selection when you rip the album. And unfortunately, when Thompson is touring with his band, he is tempted to take one two many of those incredible extended leads.

I hold Thompson to high standards, and unfortunately, I wish I walked away from the show not wishing he had played more of the incomparable songs he's written.

Friday, June 29, 2007

It's what wrong with America, Chris

Now even the media is beginning to recognize its complicity in the dumbing down of the populace. Maybe if Dodd made his exit from the limo without underpants, he'd get the same treatment as Paris. Maybe not.

Don't go killing all the bees

In a hotel room near Asheville, NC last night I watched two episodes of one of the weirdest TV series I've ever seen, John from Cincinnati, on HBO. It's disjointed and bizarre, I think, for the sake of being disjointed and bizarre. But not altogether unwatchable. The theme music is Joe Strummer's great Johnny Appleseed. Upon hearing it, I realized the lyrics were very apropos considering the disappearance of honeybees in this country:

If you're after getting honey, then
Don't go killing all the bees.

Life, unfortunately, imitating art.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Concert of the Week

Richard Thompson Band
Friday June 29, Calvin Theater Northampton Mass

The world's most underappreciated guitarist is also the world's most underappreciated songwriter. Thompson is clever and brilliant, inventive and astonishing, as his new album Sweet Warrior proves. His shows are inevitably funny, memorable and full of surprises, except for the most dedicated of Fairport Convention geeks. The charming and also gifted songwriter Anais Mitchell opens the show.

Pressing issues

So, there's been a bidding war for a property on Main Street. What's that say to town leaders who are unwilling to make design demands on developers who intend to build here?

It should say that Main Street property is valued and that if one developer won't build because he can't get his way, then there's likely another who will step in.

As for the demolition of the Middletown Press building, fare-thee-well. It's ugly late century design was not right for an important corner of Main Street. It's good news that Middlesex Hospital did not win the bid. Their disregard for important historical architecture is already well-documented. Their craven desire for more and more parking is also evident. And building a medical building in the style of their medical buildings, on Main Street would be unwelcome.

Now it's up to city fathers (and mothers) to demand that the winning developer shape his plan in a way that is right for the future of the city.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sticks and stones

I like a good multi-expletive curse as much as the next guy. Big MFing deal. They're only words, right?

Well, the constitutional right to free speech is one of our most important liberties we share in this country. But words can hurt. And they aren't the words you'd necessarily expect. Ask anyone who's been called fat or ugly with complete sincerity.

In the end, most of us can survive a pointed insult. Some unfortunately are not strong enough to endure a string of constant belittling comments. There are enough kids who have committed suicide after being bullied incessantly to convince anyone that words can hurt.

We all have the ability to slip into a dismissing slur, and there are no constraints by political stripe (though some of the right-wing radio hosts seem to have made a career of it). Right or left can be guilty. In the end, the person whose character suffers most by using hate speech is the person doing the spewing.

Call me politically correct (it ain't really an insult, only a description of someone who tries to be sensitive to others' sensitivities), but we all need to do a better job of policing our tongues.

Jesus saves, but he doesn't preserve

Despite the happy talk about preserving the past, as the parish plans the demolition of a beautiful 120 year old building, the good folks at St. John's are destroying a landmark, which has serverd as a gateway to town on a promontory overlooking the Connecticut River (and beautiful Rte. 9) and putting up a modern two-story community center. I would love to get a look at the plans, but I'm afraid that my anticipation of what a two-story community center looks like will be exactly what I fear.

The Hartford Courant's article about a street in Great Barrington
this weekend talked about the proud tradition of construction in the late 19th century. Such was the pride that builders (we call them developers now), actually put their names in brick, terra cotta and concrete on the cornices of these buildings. We knock them down with little discretion, and pat ourselves on the back for saving windows, molding and bells. Whoopee.

Meanwhile, at a workshop meeting of the town council last evening, about a development a block away from St. Johns, the developer defended a driveway that will cross a Main Street sidewalk by saying the proposed tenant (It's Only Natural) demanded a wide view of the parking lot on Main Street. Seems it's too dangerous in the North End to park your car in a sunny lot behind the building.

But not too dangerous for a new community center.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Below the bible belt

Spent the day in the suburbs of Lynchburg, VA. Outside the hotel window a huge LU is "painted" on a hillside for Liberty University, which lies at the base of the mountain. Liberty U, for those who don't know, is the higher education institute founded by Jerry Falwell. One recent infamous grad of LU, was Monica Goodling, late of the Justice Department, and star of a revealing congressional hearing.

The town is booming with an expansion of the "nucular" fuel industry, and while the suburbs are strip-mall America at it's worst, the lovely downtown is experiencing a revival. Nestled on a series of hills on the James River, this downtown is filled with beautiful 19th century homes and commercial buildings and dozens of churches, and a recently renovated court house, at the crest of a steep stairway that seemed daunting in the heat and humidity. A new hotel/condo/brewpub complex is about to open in a former shoe factory on the river.

Terrific Oklahoma ribs in spicy sauce, followed by lemon chest pie at Daddy Bim's BBQ.

Teenagers kick our butts

The press won't stand up to the President. Congress won't stand up to the President. Glad there are a few smart teenagers around.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Free speech takes another, uh, hit

This court is our payment for not insisting that George W. Bush never really won the election in the first place. We will be paying dearly in the decades to come for allowing Gore to gracefully decline a challenge to the Florida hijinx, and for not urging Kerry to fight the Swiftboaters ferociously, and himself challenge the questionable results in Ohio.

Wave goodbye to your rights.

Fangul! Tell me Justice Scalia, what exactly is it okay for us to say? Obviously "Praise Jesus," is okay, especially if there are federal dollars behind it.

Frank Butash, RIP

He was a conservative and a staunch Republican, but most importantly, he had the kind of idiosyncratic take on life that made his talk show, The Refrigerator Club (no idea where the title came from), and his Tuesday Morning Jazz show at WWUH so listenable for a decade, years ago.

Hartford's the more interesting for people like Frank Butash. Sad he's gone.

And everyone he meets, he stays a stranger

Dick Cheney.

Dark matter.

Black holes.

Lack of oxygen.

Bleak dungeons.


Grim reaper.


Thinking heads?

Journalism, especially TV journalism, now, more than ever, needs shining examples to look up to. One wonders if some "journalists" even understand what their professional designation demands from them, other than looking good.

I nominate CNN's Lara Logan as a journalist who knows what her job is, and who does her job well.

Jesus, etc., VH1?

The Wilco show at the Pines Theater in Northampton's Look Park was recorded by VH-1 for broadcast.

It was an unbelievably lovely evening (the predicted thunderstorms never arrived), and aside from the fact that coolers and bottled beverages, including water, were banned (beer, and good beer at that, was $6 a cup inside), there wasn't a thing to be crabby about. If you don't include the performance of opening band Low, that is. (Let me digress. Low belongs to the school of "play it slow" dirges that are supposedly influenced by Nick Drake. Not quite. It's more a case of, "I can't play it any faster." Hence the absence of any mid or up-tempo songs. I much preferred the punk ethic of "I can't play it well, but I can play it loud and fast." And punk songs rarely breeched the 3 minute mark. Low's went on and on and on.)

Wilco sounded comfortable, accomplished and superb. This is the first time that I've seen the band when Jeff Tweedy actually seemed to be enjoying himself. There were broad smiles instead of the snarls of the past, and Tweedy kept up an active conversation with the crowd at the foot of the stage. To Tweedy's mock consternation, one fan kept shouting out the title of the next song on the setlist before Tweedy could strike a note. When asked by Tweedy how he was doing it, the fan claimed to know which song was coming based on the guitar the roady handed to the singer. Tweedy said, "Got to buy some new guitars." Another fan tossed some hand-crocheted sweat bands inscribed with the band members names. The band dutifully wore the headbands for the next song, and some kept them on until the encore. Tweety acrobatically caught red licorice bites thrown from the audience in his mouth. And between two of the songs, the lights went up on the audience and Tweedy waved to a little girl sitting on her dad's shoulder, "Hello, Sweetie," he said. "Oh she's not paying attention. Hello, hello, I'm the creepy rock guy up on stage."

Danton at the Courant was there too.

It's a big week at Look Park, with Dylan there on Tuesday, and Morrissey on Wednesday. What will the neighbors think?

Words as weapons, and the damage they do to the stupid among us

Connecticut's PT Barnum is said to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute." When you read the news as framed by the Bush administration, and regurgitated by the American press, you might think it's true. Ironically, the circus great probably never said those words, which were likely attributed to him by a rival hoping to discredit Barnum. Every time the curtain opens on a run of the Broadway musical "Barnum" the cast sings, "There's a sucker born every minute." No chance anyone will ever believe old Barnum innocent.

As for the newspapers, one of it's most famous "pundits," HL Mencken once said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

And as Glenn Greenwald points out, we the people, and the American press, have been bedazzled by an administration willing to twist words to their own good. Lately it's the claim that all insurgents in Iraq are al Qaida, and that Iran is now the enemy to be feared the most. This of course at a time where the vice president plays a rhetorical game claiming not to be "an entity of the executive branch."

So what's the American public to do?

Crawl in its well-upholstered hole and believe the unbelievable.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday morning inspiration

It's a rare morning. Clear, sunny, cool - a perfect June Sunday morning. A set-up to be inspired.

But on this Sunday morning, as most, I find inspiration in the ink and newsprint of the Sunday paper, and despite my frequent critiques, this morning, the Hartford Courant was the source of that inspiration.

After reading Susan Rodell's piece, I'm going out to buy a clothesline. It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile, having researched the amount of energy a clothes drier uses, but her piece pierces the lame excuses for not using the sun when it's free and available.

Philip Langdon's description of Great Barrington's Railroad Street inspires me to wage a louder war against the destruction of beautiful 18th and 19th century buildings in my own hometown.

And of course Barrack Obama's visit to Hartford, and his speech which simultaneously vilified the Christian right, celebrated the role of faith in making a real effort to solve social and political issue and affirming the existence of skepticism and doubt make him an even more appealing candidate. My one criticism of his speech is that he said that the Christian right was solely responsible for the divisiveness of religion. Religion has been divisive from day one. It's the challenge of religion to overcome its innate divisiveness. He also encourages liberal people of faith, especially candidates, to feel free to express their beliefs. I'll add, that the country will truly find freedom when a Mormon or an atheist can run openly without recriminations. Find the entire speech here.

Colin McEnroe also does a nice analysis of the speech.

Don't forget to read Ann Hamilton's epitaph for Len Domler.

The Courant also carried important stories on Iraq war wounded and roadside bombings in Iraq.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A golfer and a minister walk into a bar...

The United Church of Christ began it's anniversary synod with a letter condemning the violence of the war in Iraq. It continues today with a speech by Barack Obama.

The Travelers Championship began with a cocktail party concert by the Bacon Brothers.
Leaving far more people with one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon.

One can only guess at the conversation at hotel bars around Hartford.

God and Saint Peter playing golf, St. Peter opens up with a hole in one. His halo shines a little bit brighter. God is trying to tee off, but knocks the ball backwards down a hill. A rabbit hops out of the woods, grabs the ball, and goes running for it’s hole. A hawk swoops down grabs the rabbit and flies to 4000 ft.. From nowhere clouds form, lightning strikes the hawk, drops the rabbit, drops the ball, plunk, a hole in one. St. Peter turns to God and says, “Okay now, are you going to play golf or are you going to screw around?”

What's he doing in there?

Lord knows what he'd make of Wallace Stevens, but Dick Cheney, and his lawyers have parsed every law or regulation that might check his seemingly autocratic power, and determined that they do not apply to him. He's sounding more and more like Darth Vader.

He's the Jesse James of the conservative movement - a right wing populist outlaw. He's able to scream about obeying the letter of the law, and then twisting the law into a Chinese puzzle for which only he has the key.

What question pops into your mind when you read these things?

What's he got to hide?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Radio is cleaning up the nation

Rush Limbaugh calls it the drive-by media (and in the case of television, he's actually right). But the myth of a left-wing media conspiracy is as ridiculous as Fox News being "fair and balanced."

A recent study has given statistical heft to what most of us already knew. Talk radio is filled with conservative wing nuts.

Here, in Hartford, if you listen to talk radio at all, it's nearly inescapable. And WTIC-AM is the worst of a bad bunch. One feels that WTIC uses the great work of Colin McEnroe as their justification to fill their airwaves with hate, duplicity, inaccuracy and right-wing blather the rest of the day.

I am not an entity

Dick Cheney has always been despicable and frightening, but he's becoming something out of a bad horror movie.

A few days ago in a spectacular bid to avoid another set of laws he doesn't agree with, he seems to be claiming that he doesn't exist. He said his office is not an entity in the executive branch. And that would make him a non-entity too. Meaning that he's a ghost, an invisible man, a spirit of the nether world. At many times in the past eight years, I guess he's been a little of each. Maybe he's just trying to cash in on some life insurance. Maybe he's referring to his approval ratings.

Or maybe, he's saying what he's been saying for eight years: "The laws you humans create do not apply to me."

Pills and soap

With thousands dying needlessly in Iraq. With all the horrors of Darfur.
With Palestine a powder keg about to ignite the middle East. With a President who belives in science that's more hocus-pocus than hard research.

This is what the networks are spending their money on.

And this is what most Americans will pay attention to.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Buffle off to shuffalo

In Buffalo on a short business trip (and as a result unable to accept an invitation for a sneak preview screening of Michael Moore's Sicko in Hartford on Wednesday), and while it's nice to be in the hometown of the fiery chicken wing, it's easy to observe the struggles of reviving a city center.

One can hardly make definitive conclusions based on a few hours in town, but it's pretty clear that three oversized stadiums downtown, a light rail line, interesting architecture, and a beautiful lake, do not a revival make.

The streets seem empty of people at all hours of the day and evening (and many of the people you do encounter seem to be struggling as mightily as the city itself). There appears to be very few people living downtown. There are quite a few restaurants. Some busy. Some not. It is a Wednesday night, but there's a ballgame at the minor league stadium.

Many of the multi-story, lovely old buildings are clearly empty, though some are undergoing renovation.

The huge Bethlehem steel mill on the edge of town, and the edge of the lake, lies empty (a mixed blessing to be sure), and the auto plants are suffering the fate of costly oil, and little foresight.

Someone here said, "It's a great place to live if you can figure out how to make a living."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Concerts of the Week

Sunday, June 24, Pines Theater
Northampton Mass

America's band. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy helped invent "Americana" music (sorry to disappoint Jim Vicevich who thinks he invented it). And Tweedy has carried this band from careening rock, through insurgent country music, immersing in experimental sounds and all the way back to melodic, insistent, important rock.

Old Crow Medicine Show

Monday, June 25, East Hartford Cultural Center
East Hartford, CT

Imagine what country music sounded like just before Elvis Presley corrupted it forever. You'll have some sense of what this band is all about. Energy, creativity, edginess and excellent musicianship. No one has departed an Old Crow show disappointed. Proteges of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, this band plays to sold-out screaming audiences all over the map.

Considered Briefly

Bob Dylan and Morrissey on consecutive evenings at the Pines Theater, June 26 and June 27. Pick your poison.

The Metro-North ticket?

How's a Bloomberg-Lieberman, indy ticket for 2008 sound?

I relish the thought of Lieberman being absent from his Senatorial duties for most of the upcoming year. He doesn't represent me (does he represent you?) anyway.

By the way, that's Channel 22 in Springfield that noted the endorsement Hartford media.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The spectre of CT Cow haunts Creepy Joe

I won't be able to attend, and I regret any opportunity to taunt our junior senator (I'll blow my nose at you, so-called, Joseph Senator!), or his empty office.

But CT COW will be there. That's the regrettably acronymed Connecticut Opposes the War, or CT Connecticut Opposes the War. It's all good work and worthy of your attendance. But don't go to their website, because it's out of date.


Wednesday, June 20 -- 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
1 Constitution Plaza -- Hartford 06103
(we will gather @ the corner of Market Street and Kinsley Street)

We will be demonstrating against Joe Lieberman and his warmongering ways in front of his US Senate office. It is important to keep the pressure on Joe and his staff. Be careful and read the signs if you use the metered street parking; certain areas are tow zones at rush hour. There are parking garages in Constitution Plaza and nearby. Come for the demonstration and stay for the COW meeting!



Wednesday, June 20 -- 7:00 PM
1199 office
77 Huyshope Avenue -- Hartford 06106

We will be planning further summer actions on Joe Lieberman, Chris Shays and how we keep pressure on George Bush and Congress to end the War in Iraq. Please make evey effort to attend.



Wednesday, June 27 -- 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
900 Chapel Street -- New Haven 06510
(near corner of Chapel and Temple Streets; across from the New Haven Green)

We will be demonstrating against Joe Lieberman and his warmongering ways in front of his New Haven residence. It is important to keep the pressure on Joe and his neighbors. Be careful and read the signs if you use the metered street parking; certain areas are tow zones at rush hour. There are parking lots nearby. Come for the demonstration and stay for the COW meeting!

As if we needed another reason not to vote for Hillary

I can understand, but not accept, her waffle on the vote for the Iraq war.

I can tolerate, though not appreciate, another family dynasty in the White House.

I can accept the political necessity, though not forgive, her after-all-is-said-and-done vote against war funding.

I can laud the sense of humor in her latest spoof-the-Sopranos TV ad.

But I cannot, and will not listen to Celine Dion.

I'm an ass

Yes, I'm a registered Democrat, though sometimes I cringe at how our elected officials act.

Lately, the opposition party, and conservative groups, have taken to tormenting members of the Democratic party by dropping the "ic" and calling it the Democrat party. I understand it's an attempt by Republicans and conservatives to separate the positive connotations of "democracy" and "democratic" philosophy from the Democratic Party itself (truth be told, there are plenty of Democratic party members who do their damnedest to denigrate the principles of democracy).

Still, the dictionary definition of "democrat" is one who embraces democracy.

I think Democrats ought to embrace the term "Democrat Party" and make it synonymous with "Democratic Party." Call me a member of the Democrat Party because I embrace democracy. And call me a liberal, because that's not a dirty word either.

And you can call me an ass, because I am. So are you.

See Colin McEnroe
on the importance of being a dem in CT.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Suzy? Suzy Creamcheese? From B to Z in Middletown.

Separated at birth? Nah.

So Middletown Councilman Dave Bauer is a Frank Zappa fan. I don't know why that surprises me, but I look at grown men and women in my age range and I forget that they listened to the same radio as I did.

Dave likes Zappa and Hendrix, and he likes to stick the needle in the overinflated status quo. Dave invited me to stop by his WESU talk show (he featured Dog Breath from the Mothers of Invention this afternoon), and I spent a few minutes listening to his amazing grasp of facts connecting Connecticut state contractors with State contracts, and the elected officials in charge of distributing the money for those contracts. Dave wonders, rightfully so, why no one from the state media is interested in these easy-to-uncover facts while they hammer Lou Deluca, and rightfully so, for his acceptance of chump change campaign donations from a connected trash hauler. Good question.

I find, again to my surprise, that Dave and I have more in common than I previously thought. At the local level, political affiliations often fly in the face of party logic. I find myself siding often with the minority Republicans in town. Bauer is one of those Republicans.

He told me that before he was elected to the council, he presented a resolution to the council to have the City of Middletown reject the precepts of the Patriot Act. Many councils across the country accepted and passed such resolutions. It would have been wise and wonderful if our council had taken Bauer up on his proposal. They didn't. But my respect for Dave has grown each time he's stood up to the Democratic majority.

I suspect that there's a lot Dave and I won't agree about, but we're going to have some interesting conversations.

My other car's a train (bike, bus)

Vijay Pinch pointed out two provocative articles about development and transportation in Sunday's Hartford Courant Editorial section. One deals with the definition of smart growth and how alternative transportation plays an important role in that definition. The other is about the success of Amtrak's Boston - Portland commuter rail.

One thing is clear. Middletown, as a halfway point between Hartford and New Haven, should be planning to be part of any future rail system. Right now, according to the Courant, a New Haven-Hartford-Enfield segment has the support of leadership in Connecticut. Middletown needs to be a part of this effort, with a spur that connects Middletown to New Haven and to river communities. A rail alternative seems an obvious catalyst for positive development

A local Middletown group has formed to address the issues and challenges of alternative means of transportation. Transportation Alternatives Middletown, is looking for people who think there's a better way to get from here to there.

What we can get used to

It's depressing and scary to consider what humans can come to know as "normal" and "right."

I watched the film Munich this weekend, and I'm just finishing up Ishmael Beah's amazing and frightening book, A Long Way Gone, about being a boy soldier in Sierra Leone, and then I read Sy Hersh's latest New Yorker report on Abu Ghraib. It makes one fear for the future in a world where individuals can so easily discard standards of morality, ethics, law, family and community, and live in a nightmare of perverse and violent "righteousness".

I feel lucky to live where I do, and how I do. I know there are people who live on my street who live in fear and desperation, and whose idea of a civil society is far different than my own. I know there are people who despise what our country stands for (and I don't mean that they hate freedom, I mean they hate wasteful, boastful, arrogant bullies). I know there are religious zealots who feel they are living and acting inside a higher order. I know this and it threatens to paralyze me, when it should be motivation to do more to make sure that our country and community are on the right path.

Pre-production begins

In the film business, pre-production is the term used for the work needed to be done before the film shooting begins. It includes ironing out all the business elements, getting the script in shape, building the sets.

It's what began yesterday in preparation for the September report to Congress and the world about the effectiveness of the Bush administration's military surge in Iraq. It isn't working, and authorities there, like General Petraeus have begun to drop broad hints that expected goals won't be met, while Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared on Meet the Press in what Arianna Huffington called a robotic appearance to give a sneak preview of the September script.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The view from Indian Hill

Seems to me that at some point I read an essay about Indian Hill by Annie Dillard, but I don't recall much about it. I've got to dig it out for a re-read.

After a father's day breakfast, and a visit to Central News where Bill, Kevin and Dom greeted the boys, and I chatted with Dave briefly about the course of town politics, we headed off for an early walk through the Indian Hill cemetary. According to Liz Warner's great history of Middletown, it was the vestigal settlement of Chief Sowheag and the Wangunks.

Does anyone in Middletown know why there are no gravestones at the crest of the hill?

Soggy zydeco part deux

We spent the afternoon at Sunrise Resort in Moodus yesterday for the Great Connecticut Cajun and Zydeco Music and Arts Festival. The afternoon could not have been more splendid - sunny, bright, low humidity. Lots of dancers under the big tent for Step Rideau, whom I hadn't seen perform since a sunny day in October a few years ago at a street festival in Eunice LA. He was playing an early set, so he said, because he had a gig later that evening in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I re-connected with Al Berard, who, with the current lineup of the Basin Brothers played a set of old-time twin-fiddle fueled songs.

Now that this festival is and the one last week in Preston, are on consecutive weekends, there is an itinerant dance crowd which hangs out in Connecticut for the week, and dances until they drop on the weekends. It's amazing how this New England-Louisiana connection has sustained and grown since these bands first came north to play at the Newport Folk Festival, and later at the Cajun and Bluegrass Festival in Escoheag RI.

We were leaving as the black clouds of a thunderstorm cell pushed in from the West. Fortunately, the rain didn't last long, and with the sun breaking out again later, I'm sure the crowds were elbow to elbow for Keith Frank's set later in the evening.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A man's life is at stake

A few days ago I had another of those, "almost drove off the road" moments when I heard WTIC's official local chickenhawk Jim Vicevich fretting over Scooter Libby's sentence and declaring, "A man's life is at stake."

Why did this not occur to any of these conservative scriptreaders when the thought of "a man's life being at risk" might have been enough to cause second thoughts about invading Iraq.

Bill Moyers has an appropriate answer
, and he tips his hat to the Hartford Courant's editorial board, who after all endorsed George Bush twice, and Joe Lieberman frequently.

Don't you wish you were here: I like where I live part 2

Last night after a walk through Indian Hill cemetary and Long Lane we stopped and chatted with Jennifer after examining Vijay's handiwork on the brownstone wall he's building. A few blocks closer to home we saw Megan and Bill and some of their family and friends gathered in front of the Court St. house their moving back into.

"Margarita?" Bill asked.

So we chatted and sipped on Bill's great Margarita and talked about Louisiana and Linda Rondstadt until it conjured up Jeff and Izzi who were pushing a napping Sadie. Lee and Susan slowed and beeped, but didn't stop. So we talked about Louisiana until it conjured up the mosquitoes. Monica and Nora pulled up as we were exiting, and we walked the final block home with Jeff and Izzi, happily buzzed about living in such a cool neighborhood.

Not only was it a run-on sentence, it was pure Lieberman baloney

"I know that some will say that proposing a forum for bipartisan cooperation on the war is, in the current intensely partisan environment in Washington, naïve and impractical. Perhaps they are right. But what is not naïve or impractical is my conclusion that the return of such bipartisanship in the conduct of this war would raise popular support at home, encourage our brave troops in the field, discourage our vicious enemies, and strengthen the resolve of the Iraqi people and the hundreds of millions of others in the Islamic world who want a better way forward than the hatred and death Al Qaeda offers."

In December of 2005, Joe Lieberman made yet another of his noxious speeches supporting the failing policies of George W. Bush. Then, and later during his campaign to be re-elected Senator from Connecticut, and still later after he was elected, he continued to claim his "independent" role as moderator between clashing Senate forces.

Of course, the truth is, Lieberman is quite the opposite. His rhetorical claim as diplomat is belied by his actions.

Last week he went on a Sunday news show and declared that we needed to bomb Iran to put muscle behind our diplomacy.

Later in the week he misquoted Harry Reid and derided him for telling the truth about commanding generals in Iraq.

Yesterday in East Hartford, realizing that people where suddenly paying attention to him as a result of his outrageous take on diplomacy, he repeated his strategy of "war is peace." Incidentally, he repeated his charge that Iran needed to be punished for killing Americans. If we want to begin talking about who's really responsible for American deaths in a war predicated on lies, Creepy Joe may feel uncomfortable with the fingers pointed at him.

Imagine where we would be if all our diplomatic actions had to be preceded by a bombing run.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard

Cruise Night is one of the biggest nights for Middletown's Main Street. It's a night on which I can see how out of touch I've always been with America's Petroleum Culture.

I never understood the draw of loud engines, burning rubber, or a howling metal 3,000 pound projectile in the hands of a 16 year old. The car songs of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean were always lost on me, and though I love the Boss, even some of Springsteen's gearhead lyrics hit me with little effect.

For me cars have always held a practical purpose. Get me from point A to point Z. So, my first car was a VW Beetle, and in a succession of practical rides I now drive a Honda Accord. My last car, an Accord wagon did have a catchet for a few years as a hot street car. Go figure. I'm hankering to buy something that burns as little fossil fuel as possible.

I can appreciate the design aspect of a car. Particularly the seductive curves of the pre-1950 models. I can admire the work these guys, mostly, put into restoration. Let me tell you, these buggies shine.

Considering where we are in the world considering oil supplies, it strikes me odd that we still have this ongoing fetish about our wheels.

And we'll have fun, fun, fun till the price of gas hits $6 a gallon, where it belongs.

Give me Liberty or give me a parking lot

More on plans to replace a 19th century building with a 21st century surface parking lot at 9 Liberty Street in Middletown, an 1853 Greek Revival structure which was formerly the Methodist Misson Chapel.

The current plans call for moving the building at 9 Liberty Street to a lot on the other side of Main Street in the North End, and rehabbing it for residential use. All well and good, except, as I understand the current plans:

1. In it's place, the developer plans to pour asphalt, to accomodate 10 parking spaces, for surface parking which will be adjacent to a sidewalk.

2. The city has or will purchase 9 Liberty, and deed the lot to the developer. BTW, the city was willing to sell the home for a buck, to anyone who was willing to move it, or dismantle it and cart it away (even to a location outside the city). It's an indication of how much our city fathers value Middletown's historic past. Also, the city, with the cooperation of the current owner will be taking 9 Liberty using eminent domain.

3. The developer plans to build a commercial/retail building on the site of the abandoned gas station on the corner of Liberty and Main. A main potential tenant is It's Only Natural grocery store. The city has so far asked for no concessions from the developer. The developer's plan, as presented originally, remains essentially the same, with the exception of some plantings to mask the parking lot. The city could ask the developer to extend the planned new building along Main Street so there will be no parking lot adjacent to the sidewalk on Main Street. The city could ask for exit/entrance drives for the property to be located on Liberty Street which is less heavily traveled by pedestrians. So far, the city boards seem to be accepting of a curb cut for entrance and exit on Main Street, creating a dangerous pedestrian hazard.

4. The lot at 9 Liberty actually wraps around the house at 13 Liberty which was purchased by The Connection, and is now being renovated. This morning they were preparing for asbestos tile removal at 13 Liberty. When the city was asked why it was not "taking" this property, they mumbled something vague about Federal money being tied up in it. It too is on the National Register of Historic Places in the Main St. Historic district. The right of way (driveway) for 13 Liberty is part of the 9 Liberty parcel, according to city property maps.

I would prefer that the house at 9 Liberty be renovated and preserved at it's current location.

I am not completely against moving it for use on another lot in the North End.

I am not against commercial and retail development on the North end of Main Street. In fact I support it.

I am however, against moving the house, if the city cannot, and will not ask concessions from the developer to prevent a parking lot placement on Main Street with a dangerous curb cut.

The city needs to understand that the developer wants to build on that spot as much as we want him to build there, and that concessions can and should be negotiated. The city is in a position to ask the developer to make some of these important changes which are good for the future of Main Street as a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. I'm sure the developer understands the value of the property and would be open to negotiations.

A final note. Minutes of all the public meetings on this topic, along with plans, drawings and schematics for development should be available on line soon after the meetings at which the discussions occur. It's a shame, in this day and age, that this information is not available immediately. A cynic might say that the delay is intentional.

There is still an opportunity for the city to have this important commercial/retail development go forward, and preserve the safety and integrity of Main Street.

Next important meeting: reported Common Council workshop on this developement June 26. Not on the Common Council online calendar yet. Please confirm.