Friday, November 30, 2007

Hugo, Hugo, Hugo

It's with despair that I read about Hugo Chavez's attempts to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution to suit his needs for limitless power.

In the past I've enjoyed Chavez's ballsy confrontations with Northern hemisphere powers, especially those with the Bush administration. Calling W, "the devil" and "Mr. Danger" and distributing low cost heating oil to Americans whom Americans can't find the heart or wallet to help.

But it seems that old chestnuts remain vital for a reason. Power does corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Much of what Chavez has done for the poor of his country is admirable, but to indicate that he must remain in power for the rest of his life to sustain his socialist revolution makes a lie of his trust in the people, and in the power of democracy.

Venezuela is on the dangerous precipice of trading an entertaining, egotistical, ranting, remarkably refreshing leader for a despot. A vote to change the constitution to keep Chavez in power would be the kind of ego and power boost that would make a servant of the people into a dangerous tyrant.

The best of both worlds

Hurray and hurrah, Peter Garrett, former frontman for Midnight Oil has been named the Australian environmental minister.

Some see the appointment as a demotion for the energetic environmentalist.

There is life after rock and roll, and it's not shilling for a Cadillacs, Visa or Microsoft.

Pete Seeger film at Real Art Ways

There's been a movement afoot to have Pete Seeger nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and there's barely anyone I can consider who deserves one more. He certainly is more an ambassador for peace than many who have received the award.

While nearly everyone knows his name, his hours of glory and ignominy ran together in the fifties and sixties when his music was in the ears, hearts and minds of the people of this country and the world with songs like "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," and "If I Had a Hammer." And when the musical group he was part of, The Weavers, had "hits" during what Pete himself coined as "the folk scare." That renown was balanced against the anti-communist fervor of the day when Pete, and many other folksingers, were hauled in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee to testify.

Jim Brown's new documentary "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song," demonstrates why Seeger is truly one of the greatest living Americans. The film opens tonight at Real Art Ways in Hartford.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Student anti-war petition on Common Council agenda December 3

Tuesday, students from Wesleyan University presented a petition condemning the war in Iraq to Common Council rep Bob Santangelo for consideration by the Common Council.

It is on the agenda for the December 3 meeting (item 8f). The meeting begins at 7 pm with public comment at the beginning of the meeting, which is the only time the public can speak about the petition.

As a petition to be considered, it bears little weight. It does, however, allow the public to express their opinion about the petition.

All it takes is one Council member to sponsor it as a resolution for the council to consider, and a resolution bears much more weight. So, speakers advocating the creation and adoption of the resolution need to make a case for the Common Council to debate such a resolution and hopefully to pass it.

Since it will always be a symbolic resolution, because the Common Council has no authority to stop the war, we need to convince the Council that putting, on record, the displeasure of an entire community.

To that end, the more people in the chambers for the meeting, the better reception the petition will get. The more people, students and other residents, who speak out for peace and against the injustice of this war, the better. Acknowledging the symbolic nature of the resolution will be important, but demonstrating the power in the message that will be sent with its passage, is essential.

This resolution will not end the war, but it will tell our representatives in Washington, especially Creepy Joe Lieberman, that in his support of the war, he is not representing the people of Middletown.

It would be great to get Rosa Delaura, or a reprentative from her office to be at the meeting. And here's a shout out to Matthew Lesser, who's a Wesleyan student, an active member of the Democratic Town Committee, and an elected official, to support the measure in public.

Concerts of the week

John McCutcheon
Saturday December 1, 8pm
Sounding Board, West Hartford, CT

If you've listened at all to folk music radio over the past 20 years, it's unlikely you haven't heard the song that can be considered McCutcheon's "hit." Called, Christmas In the Trenches, it's the unlikely, but true, story of opposing soldiers in WWI's "no man's land," calling a Christmas truce, and nearly putting an end to fighting, until the generals rearranged the troops so they would continue to fight. It's an amazing holiday, anti-war song that works. I know more than one person who has told me that its moved them to tears. But McCutcheon is not a one-hit wonder. He's an amazing hammer dulcimer player, and guitarist, banjo-player, fiddler, etc. He writes songs of conscience and commitment, and he's recordered more than two dozen albums.

Bill Morrissey
Saturday Dec. 1, 7:30 pm

Roaring Brook Nature Center Canton, CT

Bill Morrissey writes songs the way Richard Russo writes novels. They're stories of endurance in a life that is unfair, unreliable and filled with injustice. In that world, Morrissey finds reason to hope, reason to love, and reason to remember. Morrissey's ability to ferret out details of ordinary life, and elevate them to the plane of art are what give his songs their resonance. He sings in a pinched, craggy style which fits the subject of his songs. A true American treasure, Morrissey has been touring less of late, and it's great to see he'll be back in Connecticut this weekend.

Chris Dodd has this strange verbal tic, here

You've got to love Chris Dodd for his principled stands against the egregious faults of the Bush administration in its dismantling of Constitutional liberties. And there's something charming about his "dreaming the impossible dream."

But I think he's been a politician just a bit too long to communicate with normal people.

In a long, very long, interview on the News Hour, Dodd said all the right things (though Judy Woodruff really didn't press Dodd on his failure as a longstanding member of the banking committee to rein in the usurious practices of banks and credit card companies), but he talks like a politician. There's the endles cataloging of his good works. The sentences run together breathlessly lest he be interrupted. There's the questions he asks of himself, then answers. There are the indirect responses to direct questions. And then there's this strange verbal tic where he says "here" when some of us might say, "you know" or "ummm" or "dude" (listen to his speech, and you could replace anyone of these placeholders for his "here.") In the ten minutes he was interviewed, he said "here" a few dozen times.

This formalized political-talk has been the downfall of a few good men - Al Gore, John Kerry, Bill Curry. They were all smart, informed and should have been elected. But in each case, though their opponent was not nearly as smart or informed, and in one case proven to be criminally culpable (John Rowland), and in the others, likely to be criminally culpable (George Bush), the less capable candidate won, because he was better at connecting.

It's a problem with American politics for sure, and with the American people, who seem incapable of leaping beyond voting for the best candidate in Dancing With the Stars or American Idol, to really understanding which candidate is best for their city, state and country.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The plot to a new Stephen King novel: a president's daughter is waterboarded because she won't give up the location of her Hannah Montana tickets

Stephen King is refreshingly candid in his short interview published in Time Magazine this week.

And why wouldn't he be?

He's got enough money to buy the entire state of Maine. And wouldn't it be cool to have Stephen King for a landlord, except for that tapping on the wall every evening, and the voice of a little girl humming plaintively, "Nobody's Perfect."

As much as I'd like to say, "Take off your jacket, lie down on the table, and stuff this sponge in your mouth..."

I wouldn't really want to see waterboarding practiced on John Ashcroft, or any other trampler on the Constitution. It's too inhumane, too sick or a technique to think of using on a fellow human being. It would only help prove their point, that waterboarding is "make believe" drowning, when in fact, experts have testified that it is real, actual, controlled drowning. Just like sticking someone's head into a bathtup filled with water. Besides, what kind of useful information could we ever get out of John Ashcroft?

All these right-wing jackasses are raising their hands now saying "Waterboard me. Waterboard me," knowing full-well that it will never happen. It's a chickenhawk ruse, "Why I'd be proud to serve, except I'm too old, too valuable or my anal cyst is too delicate."

As a nation we need to say that torture of any kind is immoral, and unAmerican. And if some wing-nut wants to expound on the value of waterboarding, or electrodes to the genitals, or lopping off portions of digits, or stress positions, ask them, "Can we try it out on your mother first?"

Still, my most wicked side wonders that if in waterboarding John Ashcroft, his mind could be changed, maybe..... No, let's not even consider it.

Shut your mouth at the mall

So, if you want to protest the war at Metro Square in Middletown, where military recruitment offices are located, you will discover that, according to the Connecticut Supreme Court, you do not have free speech rights on private property.

While the US Supreme Court has allowed that states do have the right to extend freedom of expression rights in malls and shopping centers, few states have done so.

In New York last year, a court ruled that a protestor was within his rights to protest at a mall because military recruitment offices were housed there:

A trial court in New York recently ruled on a case with similar elements. In November 2006, state Supreme Court Justice Vincent Bradley ruled in Kings Mall v. Wenk that “a protester has no right to freedom of expression in a privately owned mall.” However, “the presence of a government tenant (a military recruitment center) at the mall renders the property … something which is more akin to a public forum.” The judge also ruled that “the introduction of a governmental element to the equation should not render the entire mall space … a staging area for protests.” His solution was to allow the protests to be conducted immediately outside the enclosed area of the mall where the recruitment offices were located.
But no such case has been tested in Connecticut.

So if you want to haul your protest signs to Blue Black Square, or the Shoppes at Farmington Valley, or Buckland Hills, you should be prepared to be arrested for trespassing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

So you think your death kick can match my breathing technique

Uncle Earl's amazing new video. Step dancing, clogging, string-banding, kung-fuing fun. Thanks Susan Forbes Hansen.

Wesleyan students march for peace

Who would have thought that a committed group of Wesleyan students and staff could convince the Middletown Common Council to include a resolution to consider passage of an anti-war resolution, on the agenda of Monday's (December 3) Common Council meeting.

Protestors and peace walkers Ashley Casale and Michael Israel prepare for the march.

But they did.

Wespeace, the Wesleyan students for peace organization, marched from campus to City Hall, and then to the military recruitment offices in the Metro Square Shopping Plaza off Main Street, and presented the draft resolution and petition to Council Representative Bob Santangelo, who happily accepted it, and promised it would be on the agenda. A good reason to attend the Council meeting on the 3rd. Remember, public comment is at the beginning of the 7 pm meeting.

BTW, the trip down High and Main was uneventful except for a single, thick-necked asshole leaning out the window, flipping the bird and shouting, "George Bush is the man, cocksuckers." Ah, Middletown.

\The group then proceeded to the military recruitment offices in Metro Square, where a security representative informed them that we were trespassing, and could not display signs on private property. Several minutes of polite discussion with the security officer and the Middletown Police followed, with the police concurring that the security officer had the right to ask the student group to leave. Several students decided to stay and to try to present their questions and comments to recruiting officers, but the recruitment offices were locked. After a half hour of waiting, during which students and police officers debated the right to gather and express opinions, three recruitment officers arrived. One refused to speak to the students. Two others accepted printed material. When it appeared that the offices would remain vacant, students debated the appropriateness of a sit-in, and decided that they would return when the offices were open.

The surge is working by making deals with the devil

It's well-documented that George Bush is so desperate to demonstrate progress in his "war on terror," that he'll ally himself with dictators (Pervez Musharaff), torturers (Syria), murdering mercenaries (Blackwater), and now killer militias.

For Bush and the Pentagon to take credit for a decline in violence as evidence that the surge is working, is to ignore the partition of neighborhoods, the incredible internal and external displacement of Iraqis, the cease-fire declared by Muqtahd al Sadr, and now the arming of Sunni militias.

This president has been lying for seven years. The sad fact is that many people still believe him.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Control the courts, steal the elections, fill the prisons with your opponents

I remember being galvanized when, as a senior in high school, I saw the Costa-Gavras film Z. It politicized me in a way that newspapers, and magazines, and even peace rallies had not before. It was, and is (still powerfully) a polemical work of art that demonstrated how a government can insidiously transform from a bureaucracy designed to serve a people into a state which could suppress and enslave people. It convinced me of the need for a vital press in a democracy. And it was an early lesson about not trusting leaders.

So when I read this investigative piece by RawStory, about the arrest, kangaroo trial, conviction and incarceration of former Democratic Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, by Bush cronies, I got a chill. It demonstrates that bad people with treacherous motives can take control of the government, if we let them, and we show no concern that they have. It shows just how easy it is to justify the jailing of opponents (right, Pervez?) This is essential reading.

Find some common ground with Wes students

Wesleyan Students are gearing up for an anti-war, anti-military recruitment protest and march tomorrow afternoon.

I don't expect that they'd mind if you joined them.

With a sit-in planned, and a speech at City Hall, there might actually be some civil disobedience that the MPD will have to address.

They'll be marching to the Army National Guard Recruitment Office on Main Street (actually in the Destinta Plaza behind Main Street, next to the liquor store where Wes students regularly fill shopping carts with legal, mind-altering substances).

The debate at Wesleying blog is interesting, but indicative, that thinking too much about a simple protest can take all the wind out a protest's sails. My recommendation - think Abby Hoffman. Think Code Pink. I assure you, you will not change the system or the politics with logic and reason. But you can make a change if you can get your fellow Americans to begin to pay attention.

Nimrod nation

The laptop is the hot water bottle of the new century. I'm cursed with some kind of bronchial distress that's been getting me up in the middle of the night coughing.

But last night I was blessed to find that iTunes was offering the premiere episode of Nimord Nation, a documentary series by Brett Morgan. The backstory has Morgan, who traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to do a comedy commercial for ESPN, discovering that he really liked the town of Watersmeet, and its people, and the high school basketball team with the nickname, Nimrods. So he decided to do this series.

It's beautifully shot, edited and paced. Not your run-of-the-mill "reality" show, but a series that's as close to reality as you can come when you shove a camera and mic in someone's face.

It debuts tonight on the Sundance network, and is available for downloading on iTunes.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wrong place, wrong Time

If you have a few moments of leisure to do some heavy reading in what's left of this Thanksgiving weekend, read the marvelous Glenn Greenwald's dissection of Joe Klein's serious lies and inaccuracies about FISA in this week's issue of Time.

Greenwald further extrapolates about the abysmal condition of in-the-beltway reporting.

Jane Hamsher at firedoglake, provides even more evidence of a complicitly lazy Klein.

Warning: not folk music

But not a bad protest song from former NIN leader Trent Reznor, with accompanying video by

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me

I've always enjoyed Susan Campbell's feistiness. Her bravery in spotlighting bigotry and hypocrisy, and then having to suffer the slings and arrows of bigots and hypocrites. She has always done it with wit and grace. She is a voice of conscience at a newspaper that might otherwise ignore the poor, the downtrodden, the tireless, faceless volunteers, and the truly saintly.

Today's might be the bravest column Susan Campbell (and her editor), have chosen to write and print. Today, she serves a plate of steaming plate of "you don't know jack-shit about running a paper" to her corporate bosses. If this column was run with the publisher's knowledge, then god bless him. If not, I suspect Susan is going to get something more than a cranky email. But I'm sure she can handle it.

She writes much more eloquently and entertainingly than I about the downfalls of absentee ownership of a local paper. And she suggests that the editors and writers buy the OCPNIA (oldest continually published newspaper in America), and publish it themselves.

I've got a better suggestion. Leave the printing presses to the Trib. Start a new Connecticut paper that's entirely web-based. Make sure the weather, the obits and the sports scores are easy to find. Have an up-to-date traffic link. And by god, hire some great writers with the money that you'll save on ink and paper.

Go get 'em Susan.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The great Mark Mulcahy

So, when I say that Mark Mulcahy reminds me of Tom Waits, it isn't, of course, his voice, or his style, but the measure of his creativity.

Mulcahy writes songs so surprising, so peculiar, so satisfying, so spectacular, so humble, so glorious and so subtle that all one can do is smile.

He made me smile a lot tonight at his Buttownwood Tree concert at the Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown.

All this greatness, and less than a block from my house.

My country right or wrong?

(Update below)

It appears as if Austrailian MP Peter Garrett, and former Midnight Oiler, has gotten his wish. Australians have shed their Bush lap-dog, pro-war, anti-environmental Prime Minister John Howard, and have elected Kevin Rudd, along with enough seats in Parliament to guarantee a Labor controlled government which will be anti-war, pro-environment and less likely to try to make the American president happy.

UPDATE: There is some speculation that Garrett may lose his current seat on the cabinet for environmental, arts and heritage affairs. Neither he, nor Rudd were willing to speculate for the press.

Friday, November 23, 2007

What's the difference between a tyrant and a dictator

If you don't know, you shouldn't be President.

George Bush gave an entirely unprecedented look into his dark soul when he told Charlie Gibson of ABC that the dictator Pervez Musharaf, had not yet "crossed the line," in his declaration of emergency law, his jailing of opponents, lawyer and judges.

Makes you wonder where exactly Bush's "line" is. We know it doesn't stop at torture, or abridgement of civil liberties. Time to take Naomi Wolf seriously.

And yet another nod to SF Hansen.

20,000 more reasons to mistrust the Pentagon

There is some sense, from independent sources, that violence is down in Iraq. But the underlying questions as to why are still not completely answered. The Washington Post talks about returnees, ghost towns, residual fears and the lack of promise for the future.

So, I'm willing to accept that violence has eased, and happy to do so, but less willing to believe it's because the surge worked.

The administration and the Pentagon would have us believe that the surge was the answer. But the Pentagon is also underestimating war wounded.

Skepticism prevails.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reasons to be cheerful

I appear to be such a crank on this blog, that on Thanksgiving morning, I thought I'd take a moment, in the tradition of Ian Dury, to think about the things that make me happy, including: Lucy, Aidan, Dermot, Colin, Brendan, my sisters and brother, good family, friends and neighbors, making a living as a filmmaker, Middletown, Billy Bragg, James Lee Burke, John Stewart, Keith Olbermann, the Pogues, WWUH, Maine, my iBook, Henry Work, pies, Eunice Louisiana and its inhabitants, music, food and environs, the Sunday New York Times, the New Yorker, Yeats, Mojo, No Depression, Wilco, the Huffington Post, David Schulz, Elvis Costello, Weeds, sausage, coffee, the Iron Horse, beer, whiskey, buffalo wings, Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Bridges, string bands, dancing and a lot of other things. I expect this list will grow as I consider things. I recommend you make your own. It gives you a good perspective on the day.

Ain't life grand.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hannah Montana, Bruce Springsteen and the scalpers

I can tell when tickets go on sale across the country for another Hannah Montana show because there are dozens of hits on a blog I did months ago titled, Hannah Montana Scandal. There are a lot of angry parents who can't get their kids tickets to what is the most popular show in the country.

Bruce Springsteen, on the other hand, is coming back to the Hartford Civic Center in February, and the show is not sold out. The tickets left are pretty crappy seats. But I made my vow. I'm not going to deal with a venue that sells tickets to ticket brokers, and I refuse to buy a ticket from a scalper.

Of course, the invitation is still open. If Bruce wants to visit my radio show, he's welcome. Because here's the deal Bruce, the local commercial stations are not playing Magic. But WWUH is! So if you want to chat with some folks who really like your music, and not just your greatest hits, head north a couple of miles and we'll be waiting.

Dodd wants to know if Mike meant it

According to Chris Dodd's website, he's issued a statement about the revelations in Scott McClellan's book.

Now Dodd wants Mike Mukasey to prove his independence.

Concert of the Week

Mark Mulcahy
Saturday November 24, 8:00 pm

Oddfellows Playhouse
128 Washington Street, Middletown

Mulcahy is an amazing, quirky, gifted, soulful and talented performer. He grew up across the bridge in Portland CT, and nearly rose to fame with his trio, Miracle Legion. But the group's deal with the label Morgan Creek destroyed the band before it ever recorded anything for that label. Mulcahy recovered eventually, recording solo albums that have been revered by critics and European audiences, and largely ignored here. His live shows, especially with his band, are always splendid and fascinating. This "homecoming" concert tradition started at the Buttonwood Tree, moved to a local gallery, and this year moves to the larger venue of the Oddfellows Playhouse.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What? You mean the president was....lying?

So easy to hate Scott McClellan when he was up there for the daily press briefings stonewalling the spineless Washington press elite.

So easy to like him now.

And who among you are surprised?

So much music, so little time

I started writing about music in college when I realized that record companies would send me copies of the latest LP releases free. Free.

So for four years, I was the envy of my contemporaries when I went to the mail room and retrieved my 20 or 30 albums a weeks. Many I listened to. Some I gave away. Some never even got opened. Yes, I became that jaded.

The largesse continued when I graduated, and continued to write for small music magazines, for the local newspaper, and when I began to play these CDs on the radio.

You won't feel sorry for me, I know, but I've gotten so many CDs, so much free music, that I can't always find time to listen. And I have piles of CDs still encased in cellophane. And my problem is tiny compared to folks who write about music for big magazines and dailies.

But, I've never sold a promo CD. I think that's unfair to the artist and label. And it never prevented me from shelling out my own money for lots of the albums that didn't come my way for free.

So, all this to justify my boorish behavior when Amy Gallatin handed me her new CD of songs with Roger Williams. I misplaced the first copy she gave me, and nearly lost the second. But after Amy and Roger stopped by my show last week, and I couldn't find the second copy she gave me, I was mortified. So I did the unthinkable, and cleaned out the trunk of my car, and I found it. It being, Something 'Bout You.

So I put it in the car CD player, and damn, if it isn' t wonderful. I think it's the best thing that Amy has done. I think it's one of the best albums I've heard this year. A bunch of really old, relatively obscure country songs, and a few new ones, done in that old-fashioned country duet style that is killer. Amy's vocals, which with the power and tone of her voice, can come off as strident, are tempered by Roger's baritone which has been sanded smooth by cigarettes and, shall we say, maturity. The song selections are perfect, the harmonies glorious, the sentiments wonderfully maudlin (like any good old country song), and the Nashville session players are amazing.

So, sorry Amy, for not listening right away. But thanks. I'm listening right now.

The holiday gift for the man who has everything and knows nothing

The Center for Constitutional Rights has a gift idea for George Bush. And 'we the people" can be a part of a new holiday gift-giving tradition.

Of course there's no guaranteeing he'll ever read this old piece of paper. There's no guarantee he can read.

Impressed by the Press

Okay, as recently as yesterday, I called the Middletown Press pathetic.

Like many local newspapers, whose glory days have been wrung from them by greedy corporate owners, The Middletown Press was once a respected and respectable daily. But as readership dwindled, and continues to dwindle, corporate ownership has only exacerbated the problem by cutting news staff to the point where, on some days, The Middletown Press, has only a single real news story about the town listed on its masthead. That's shameful. If you want to kill a newspaper, there's no better way than to eliminate the local news.

Local news reporting is important for a lot of reasons, not the lease of which is to let local government know that someone is watching, and maybe things will get better when the Press leaves its old building and moves into Main Street Market. It's a brave move, and one that should be good for downtown.

Now let's concentrate on good reporting.

And not a drop to drink

Atlanta's got a few months of water left. And then what?

The very real possibility that a major American city will run out of water looms. And outside of some pretty stressed bureaucrats in Georgia, no on seems to care.

Maybe we will when the city, out of necessity, becomes as empty as the reservoirs.

Maybe we will when the government, some government, decides that water from your reservoir should be sent South.

Here in Middletown, the Common Council voted this year to allow a major private company to drill a well into an important river aquifer.

As I've said before. The next civil war will be fought over water.

Thanks to firedoglake, for pointing out the Salon story.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Which works best, the surge or the twenty-three skidoo

The Bush administration is offering incontrovertible evidence that the surge is working. Okay, maybe it's controvertible. Less violence than in the summer of 2005, which at the time, was the most violent in two years, which was when we were making real progress, but not the kind of progress we could have been making if, well, if the administration had done anything at all that was right.

Now evidence that maybe just up and leaving would really be the better answer. Seems to have worked for the British.

An incredible judge of character

Bush, meet Mush.

George Bush has relied a bit too readily on his instincts, which have proven to be consistently wrong. Whether it's Pervez Musharaff, Alberto Gonzales, Jack Abramoff or Scooter Libby, Bush, who's had a bit of a character question in his own past, seems unable to recognize honesty, sincerity, morality or nearly any signs of good character.

And so, he becomes the brunt of one little tin tyrant's manipulations. The frat boy gets pranked.

How must it feel to be the mark of someone who is laughed at in his own country? Where do people who are terrorized by a banana republican with a Napoleonic complex find the strength to laugh?

BTW, is it just me, or is today's confirmation of Musharaff's eligibility to run for President by the re-assembled Pakistani Supreme Court remind you of Florida a half dozen years ago?

Who writes the headlines at the Courant?

This morning the Washington Post published an article, headlined, Advances, Not Approval for Bush. It's a fair reflection of the story's content. The Hartford Courant picked up the story and suddenly the headline was a much more pro-Bush, double headline at the top of page A3 (at least in the Middletown edition) Bush Beginning to Rebound With Iraq Quieting, President's Political Fortune Looking Up Again. And don't try to find an online version of the Courant piece. It's not there.

In the Courant's version of the headline, unlike the Post's there is no indication that there is no movement in the public's approval of the President.

So what are we to make of it? First of all, it's a non-story likely peddled to the Post on a Sunday when real news is hard to come by. It's a PR piece positing the notion that because violence in Iraq is down to 2006 levels (is that really an accomplishment), and Bush has found his veto pen in the second-to-last year of his presidency (since Congress is no longer sending him bills he likes, or can easily wiggle out of with a signing statement), that he is somehow going to be able to salvage his presidency. The remainder of the article, if you read that deeply, indicates how unlikely it is for the president to salvage his "legacy."

And that's the point. Many people don't read articles like this one beyond the headlines. And whoever wrote the headline and placed the story at the Courant, gave the Prez a nice PR boost. Kind of like an ad. Big headline, with a long subhead, and you've almost got and advertorial.

Shame on the Courant and the editor, who obviously constructed the headline and placement for shamelessly partisan reasons.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dodd delivers the punchline

Chris Dodd is rolling around Iowa to tiny receptions, giving stump speeches, and firing some amazing rejoinders that, unfortunately, only these guys are reporting.

There's a lot being said about Dodd's temporary residence in Iowa (the same conservative crybabies who are making these claims, had nary a word to say when Creepy Joe Lieberman made his run for the presidency, and the Veep), and his quixotic tilt at the presidential windmill, but as these columnists say, Iowa holds surprises.

Of the longshot candidates, I'd truly rather see Dennis Kucinich pull off the surprise. But give me Dodd any day over any of the rest.

Billions for a dictator, nothing for health care

Bush has some nerve calling Congress "teenagers using a credit card for the first time." Here is an administration which dropped millions in cash, on pallets, into an Iraq in chaos. An administration which delivered no-bid contracts to crony companies which proceeded to bilk our country out of millions. An administration which has larded millions on favored projects and companies.

And now, we find, an administration which gave billions to a "friendly" military dictatorship, and never asked for an accounting.

All the while, denying the needs of people in our own country.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A sense of well-being

They call themselves The Well-beings, because they are. And because they live together in the Well-being House at Wesleyan University.

This young string band played Javapalooza on Main Street Friday night, and their charm, charisma and musicality framed the promise of an interesting band with something going on.

While the group demonstrated all the rawness of a band getting to know each other, and the instruments they are learning to love, the rawness was part of the charm. And their enthusiasm for the music was obvious. Anna, who played banjo and fiddle, explained how she discovered the banjo, and the meaning of life, which drove her on a summertime expedition to Kentucky to discover the source of the music she had fallen for. As a result, many of her songs and tunes began with the introduction, "I learned this in Kentucky from...." Emily, who is an accomplished fiddler and accordion player, discovered her ear for the music at Contra dances in the Boston area. Aliza, who doubled on uke, and euphonium (and is now learning drums), leaned toward interesting songs of her own composition, which showed an affinity for the freak-folk movement of her generation. And Josh, was steady and solid on guitar, and showed a remarkable vocal prowess as he delivered a version of "Frankie and Johnny" learned from a Doc Watson album. And with covers of songs by Stephen Merritt and Justin Timberlake (the latter, inspired by the Gourd's take on Snoop Dog's "Gin and Juice"), the Well-beings demonstrated an ability to synthesize a broad variety of genres into something they can own as their own.

Singing and playing without the benefit of a PA, and outmatched occasionally by the milk steamer in the little cafe, the band took it all in stride, enjoying the fact that they played nearly every song they knew together as a band.

I suspect that as the band learn the language of band-ness, and come to be even more proficient on their instruments, that we will see them on the stages of festivals. Maybe as soon as this summer.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The case of the missing campaign signs

When I agreed to put a campaign sign on my lawn to support Catherine Johnson in her successful run for the Planning and Zoning Commission in Middletown, I did it with some trepidation. Yes, I've voted for Republicans before, but I've rarely bragged about it in public. In fact, I vote enthusiastically for Mayor candidate Seb Giuliano in his initial run.

But shortly after I put the sign in my yard, supporting Catherine, and "The entire Giuliano team," I attended a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting where Giuliano angered me when he rose and, in short, petulantly chastised anyone who would criticize a drive-in window for the new Rite-Aid on Main Street. Then he "advised" the Commission that they would be unwise to vote for the exception because they would probably face a lawsuit, and would likely not prevail.

I decided there and then that he was not getting my vote in an uncontested election.

And when I saw that two of my neighbors had the clever idea of obliterating the "Giuliano team" line on their signs with masking tape, I pulled out my own duct tape and altered my sign.

After a pre-election weekend visit to Louisiana, I found my sign was missing, and the next day, replaced by an election sign with the offending line completely sliced off.

I was mildly puzzled, but dismissed it as a mystery of the universe not worth solving, until I heard a story that provided some answers.

It seems that at a post-election party, a relative of the mayor was giving someone an earful about people who had defaced signs that didn't even belong to them. She was angry, and even was heard to cast aspersions about Johnson for encouraging the defaced signs. Of course, Catherine Johnson had nothing to do with it. But someone from the town's Republican party likely did.

Needless to say, it's a lesson learned. No more Republican signs on my narrow strip of front lawn.

My bet, Pickens welshes on his

A major funder of the Swiftboaters has publicly waged $1 million that no one could find any falsehoods in the ads that group produced.

John Kerry has taken him up on the offer.

Beds are Burning

Imagine Peter Garrett as your Senator.

Won't happen mate. He's Australian, and he's already an MP, and the Labor Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and the Arts. He's not running at the moment, but he's campaigning for the Labor candidate for Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. We don' t have anyone in our federal government quite like Garrett. Pity.

Maybe, like me, you remember him fondly as the charismatic lead singer for Midnight Oil. They managed to score a top ten hit that had people singing and dancing about the environment without always knowing it. Clever lads.

We give thanksgiving for your heroic effort...

Our young men and women will spend another Thanksgiving holiday in foreign lands, away from family because our leaders are bereft of concern. The Senate couldn't determine how to proceed on a war-funding bill, so they decided not to proceed. From today's New York Times:

"...with lawmakers eager to head home for the Thanksgiving recess, there was little rhetoric on the floor and the votes were taken in quick succession."

Of course, Harry Reid promises no funding without troop reductions, but haven't we heard that before. And, Congress heads off for two weeks of Thanksgiving vacation - just like you get.

This just in - Harry Reid may keep the Senate in a weekend session until this matter is settled. Or maybe there's another reason Thanksgiving vacation will be cancelled.

Kucinich makes the most sense

Hillary was defensive. Barack peddled softly. And our friend Chris Dodd can't escape learning how to speak in a political household.

But Dennis Kucinich speaks plainly, clearly, truthfully. And the crowd loves it.

Check out this Kuchinich clip at Raw Story.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

And meet our new chief of staff, Leonard Corruptiani

In a further indication that Bush administration officials just don't care how that act, what they say, or what they do, State Department Inspector General Howard "Cookie" Krongard, was caught in a whopper of a lie.

It doesn't prove anything new about the Bush administration because they are known to lie with impunity, and to lavishly award corrupt contracts to friends, but it is an indication as to their disregard for the vigilance of the press and the attention span of the American public.

Look, they are even appointing officials with comic book names. An inspector general who is protecting his crony brother, and his name is Cookie Krongard? What next, a press secretary named Willie Lyagin?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hartford, always the bridesmaid

Somewhere it's written that if you need an easy mark, Hartford is it.

Robert Kraft dangled the Patriots as if it were a real offer
, and not a bargaining chit for Massachussetts.

Richard Cohen
, a big developer, promised a beautiful development on Front Street. And even though the West Hartford Blue Black Square fight has come and gone, and we've had a grand opening, Front Street is empty.

And now FCC head Kevin Martin wants to relax regulations about joint ownership of media in major cities (which would affect Tribune Company holdings), but Hartford is left off of the list. In Hartford, The Tribune would have to divest itself of ownership if a takeover by real estate magnate Sam Zell occurs.

Hartford is obviously not seen as important enough in the Zell deal to compel Martin to twist the regulations in favor of the Trib.

What's that say about Hartford, much less about the Courant, the Advocate, WTXX-TV and WTIC-TV?

Does this mean an end to the Tribune stranglehold on Hartford media? Or does it mean that no one cares?

Do I smell a pardon?

So, the FBI have determined that certain Blackwater mercenaries are bad guys. Murderers in fact. But prosecutors can't determine exactly how to prosecute them. You see there's not actually a law, and not actually, a functioning independent government or judiciary in Iraq (despite our great success in spreading Democracy there).

Gee, I'm so naive as to believe that murder is a crime, everywhere.

I say, invoke the Patriot Act. The Bush administration has used it before to throw suspects into dungeons without recourse. These guys were working against the interests of the United States. By killing innocent Iraquis, they turn the radical Islamists against us. They invite terrorism. They are terrorists. They are perfect candidates for extraordinary rendition.

Hey, if John Walker Lindh could be put away for bearing arms against the CIA, then these terrorists should get the same treatment.

I mean, Blackwater is far more trigger happy than say, Dynacorp.

Or maybe we should really punish Blackwater and award them a new government contract.

Suicides, homelessness...hail the conquering hero

I was just thinking that I don't see quite as many yellow-ribbon magnet bumper stickers anymore. I guess the Support the Troops cult has turned to other priorities, and those magnets are so easy to remove.

I'd be embarrassed too. After all, the whole Support the Troops meme, was about shaming people like me who oppose the war, and not ever really about supporting the troops.

Otherwise, we wouldn't have the homelessness reported Monday on MSNBC, or the suicides reported last night on CBS. We wouldn't have vets scrambling to get medical and psychological coverage.

Would we.

So, here's an idea. Pull those yellow ribbon magnets from the glove department, and add an inscription.

Support the troops. Bring 'em home.

Ruff tuff Harry puts his foot down, again

Okay Mr. President. This time we mean it. We're not going to fund the war anymore unless you bring the troops home.

Or, you veto the bill, and we can't sustain the veto because we don't have 60 votes.

Or you make a speech and call us unpatriotic.

Or you convince your friends Diane Feinstein and Chuck Schumer to stand with you again.

Or you tell people how I voted for this war, and allowed it to be funded for five years, and that I'm just as responsible as you for the total cost of the war...


Listen, Harry, by now we all know that you could pull the funding tomorrow. Without a bill and without a vote. But you haven't. And you probably won't.

We're tired of the grandstanding. We'd like for you to actually do something.

People are dying every day because you haven't.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The toll of war

The tragic story of the "Marlboro Marine," has been recounted in the LA Times.

It is essential reading, and the accompanying photo/documentary is amazing.