Monday, June 30, 2008

Stung by lack of funds

I've been lulled into a sense of complacency by the buzz in my garden, though I found out recently that Connecticut's bees have not been deeply affected, so far, by the strange malady called Colony Collapse Disorder.

The problem made it to Congress last week where scientists bemoaned the lack of research, and the lack of money to do research, to find out the causes. This year a third of all commercial hives have been lost to the rampaging disease which empties hives of honeybees.

A mathematical projection in yesterday's New York Times is inconclusive, but frightening, nonetheless.

Whether it's the transport of tired colonies to West Coast almond farms, and the resulting intermingling of distant hives, or navigational interruptions due to cell phones, or its a opportunistic virus which was waiting for its time to come, the answer hasn't been found, and that's not comforting to anyone who like a little fruit with their honey.

BTW, honey is one of the few foods that will not spoil. Put a couple of gallons away so your unborn grandchildren will know what it tastes like.

This shit's no good

I've avoided using the free compost created by citywide composting efforts (yes, Middletown offers compost upon request, and West Hartford has a well-used program), because lawn clippings, which often find their way into these compostings, often have residual herbicides, pesticides and high-octane chemical fertilizers. In Britain, the problem has hit commercial composters. The half-life of herbicides, particularly Dow's aminopyralid, are wreaking havoc in the ornamental and vegetable gardens of the British Isles.

H/T Firedoglake.

Of note Middletown, they're not good neighbors

Umm, mayor, councilors, patriots of all stripes. Those "nice" folks from the Army who want to build an Army Reserve Training Center in Middletown? Better check their environmental record, and their willingness to do what's right. Did you know that the Defense Department is the nation's biggest polluter. I didn't see that in their PowerPoint presentation.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Get your barf bag ready

On Face the Nation this morning, Creepy Joe™ Lieberman demonstrated the art of undercutting himself. No sooner does he get through offering a thorough critique of the Democratic party then he complains, again, about partisan politics. Now, isn't a blanket complaint against an entire party partisan?

Lieberman goes on to cut the legs our from under his Democratic colleague Barack Obama saying that if Obama's desire to leave Iraq, then Iran would be in charge, with chaos, genocide and civil war reigning. Lieberman paints a rosy picture of Iraq - book your vacation flights now.

And the fear card? Lieberman plays it like a billboard. Obama gets elected? Al Qaeda will attack America. Right out of the Rove playbook, as Frank Rich pointed out today. But as Rich says, maybe the fear card will be a joker.

The amazing shrinking Courant

I don't envy The Hartford Courant's managing editor, Barbara Roessner. As the architect of the "new" Hartford Courant, she is, and will be, the target of scorn from readers and reporters alike. If Roessner pulls off the transformation of the Courant, she will be acclaimed a genius, but the odds are against her. Those who do feel that if anyone has a chance, Roessner, who is reportedly smart, tough, shrewd and creative, likely does.

In her column today about the changes to come, Roessner explains the uphill battle she faces, with a sense of humor, and a sense of what's possible given the resources she'll have at her disposal. In addition, she's sizing up her options, considering an alternative career as a Vermont bartender if the Courant thing doesn't work out. By the way Barbara, it'll be the rare bar in Vermont where you'll be asked to mix a Goombay Smash.

On the positive side, the folks at the Courant likely understand that there will not be an immediate mass exodus of readers since the paper is still considered a daily must by thousands of readers across the state, as the states's paper of record. Still, as the Courant realizes, readership of the print edition continues to shrink. What they need to consider as well, is the fate of The New Haven Register, and it's associated papers, all of which were well-read until a corporate right-sizing reshaped those papers into rags that readers walked away from in droves. On the other hand, the Courant should consider successful independent dailies like Manchester's Journal Inquirer, which has maintained its readership by providing local news and insightful state reporting.

As a longtime reader, I can't say I'm thrilled with some of the other projections of what will happen at the paper.

Right now, the first section, the A section of the paper is the most read piece. The Courant plans to reshape that section, but it's time to ask the question "if it ain't broken, why fix it?" By ridding the section of national and international news the Courant seems to be pandering to a dumbed-down audience, when, in fact, the people who are currently reading are not of the "dumbed-down" variety. The people who are not reading the paper may fit that definition, but it's unlikely that the Courant is going to convince the non-reader to suddenly pick up a paper.

What will happen, of course, is that the Courant will be sending us elsewhere - the New York Times, for example - to read national and international stories. How does it help the Courant to send readers like me elsewhere?

Elsewhere in section A, we'll find the stories which formerly appeared in the "Connecticut" section. As a born skeptic, it leads me to surmise that I'll find more stories in that section about towns which I don't care to read about, and less stories about the town in which I live.

Business news will also move into the A section, though I understand that the Courant will abandon its print version of stock prices and sports scores. It's an old axiom, I know, but it's been said that people pick up a paper for the obituaries and the sports scores. Sure, the online scores, and stock reports, are more current (no pun intended), but the Courant seems to be cutting off its nose, etc.

Another new element of the paper will be shorter stories, more "bulleted" stories, and more charts, grafts and statistics, which will replace full-length stories. For the Courant's information, I come to newspapers for depth. I hate USA Today for it's lack of depth. If I want headlines, and soundbites, I'll turn on the local radio news, or God forbid, the local TV news. Again, the Courant seems to be turning its back on its core readership to try to seduce the non-reader, who, I hate to say, will never darken the door of an honor box.

As for iTowns, the pitful weekly review of town stories (what person, who hasn't read the original story, actually will want to read the encapsulated version, and what person who has already read the original, gives a shit that it's printed again), I say ditch it. As I wrote a few days ago, you want me to write the news and then pay to read it? Not likely.

The Courant's predicament is, unfortunately, a direct result of the Sam Zell deal. He was allowed to broker the future health of the paper (and don't be misled, without the debt saddling the Courant because of the deal, the paper could make millions every year), for his own benefit. I think Zell should have stuck to real estate, then again, there ain't much money to be made there these days.

The Courant cannot afford to continue to shed its best, and only asset, it's knowledgeable, experienced writers, editors and photographers, and expect to keep readers who understand the value of a newspaper.

I'm with Colin McEnroe. I think the best writers and editors should take the early retirement package and severance and start an online state news website that will give the "new" Courant a run for its money.

Good luck Barbara, but rest assured, a shot and a beer are easy to serve up.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Trust your Uncle Sam

To our friends in the European Union, a warning - be afraid, be very afraid when the US Government acquires the rights to your private transactions and promises to protect your privacy.

In another bid to combat terrorism, the US and the EU have decided to collaborate in invading the privacy of their combined citizens. Big Brother just became acquainted with his twin.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Good things come in small packages

With apologies to Bob Englehart, from whom I cribbed some artwork.

Publisher and Chief Executive Officer Stephen D. Carver said in a memo to the staff. "We're redesigning the newspaper with the goal of making it sleeker, smarter and more relevant to our readers' lives.

The pricks who run your government...

(Mara - Washington Post)

...and don't want your fucking permission for anything they'd like to do. And that's whether they will grab an American citizen off the street and send him off to a detention camp, or give the President legal permission to crush the testicles of an alleged terroist in order to get that detainee to "confess."

Here's Dan Millbank's take on the disdain Yoo and Addington have for the likes of you.

Taking a principled stand is not abandoning practicality

Logan Nakyanzi Pollard makes a defense of Barack Obama's pragmatism at Huffington Post today. It's an argument we've heard before. It's an argument political consultants make frequently: you must be a centrist to win the presidency.

Ask Al Gore about that one. His popularity has soared when he abandoned the centrist route and became an Al Gore not fashioned by focus groups, poll results and the delusional cadre of political consultants who think they know anything about anything.

In the process of praising Obama's political pragmatism, Nakyanzi Pollard denigrates the idealistic thinking of anyone who believes in a progressive agenda. As a producer for Air America, it's a strange group of people to criticize.

In her essay, she sneers at the "whining" of Muslims who feel they are being ignored by the Obama campaign. She says: "this is about winning, not feeling good." And thus, Obama needs to disassociate himself with a group whom the right wing and the media have conflated with terrorism. She concludes: "Obama is simply being pragmatic about how he is being perceived by the larger public, a public that does not wholly embrace Islam."

It's a shame that Obama has to reject people who the right-wing deplores. I guess that means he has to abandon the left in general. The right-wing can't stand liberals. Unfortunately, they're Obama's base. If he abandons us (and that us is getting bigger every day - check the polls to see how many people have faith in Bush, Republicans and conservatives these days), then he may not win either.

Nakyanzi Pollard also jumps high atop the Ralph Nader pile-on. She criticizes Nader's criticism of Obama for "talking white." There's not really much defense of the precise words Nader used to indicate that Obama is abandoning some of his principled stances to seduce the "white working middle class." She says that Nader has "grown strange in his old age." And she compare's him with Don Imus saying there's "the sense that the older generation seems un-moored in a way." I've written before that Nader is an anomaly in that he's a public figure who is willing to speak the truth at the cost of being mocked by people like Nakyanzi Pollard.

Finally she excuses Obama's flip-flop on FISA as another nod toward centrist pragmatism. Like Keith Olbermann she's unwilling to criticize Obama in the hopes that he'll get elected and solve the problem later. She says: "Obama is clawing his way to the top of a political culture that is upside down. He's a pragmatist, not a messiah. He has to win in order to make the changes I want." And that's an old argument too. Isn't that what they said about the Democratic congress? Just wait and see what they do. I'm still waiting.

Nakyanzi Pollard suggests retraining the focus of FISA criticism from Obama to Pelosi and Reid, which, if she would admit to it, has already happened.

The comments section attached to Nakyanzi Pollard's article is an interesting give and take on this issue. And there is an real divide among progressives who feel we must win at any cost, and those, like me, who feel that abandoning your principles for a win-at-any-cost philosophy is a walk down the road to ruin.

Hey, that's me in the business section

(Stephen Dunn photo - The Hartford Courant)

The Hartford Courant's Dagney Salas wrote a nice piece on my film production company, Motion Inc., that appeared in the Courant's Business section today. Ironically, we weren't the big news in that section - the tumbling stock market received the major headline.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

If you stand next to a skunk, you still smell bad when the skunk leaves

I think Creepy Joe™ Lieberman is betting on the wrong polecat. While the Democrats have been grudgingly generous, out of practicality, the feeling is going to change when the Democratic ration increases to 53 or 54 seats, and Ruf Tuf Harry™ Reid is put out to pasture.

Lieberman says he feels "liberated."
From what? His responsibility to represent the voters in his home state? From moral obligations? From any sense of loyalty to a party which help build his now-pathetic career?

Remember what ML King said about the arc of justice. Karma's waiting for Joe the second Tuesday in November.

Get ready for the government to be in your shorts

As Ian Walsh reports over at Firedoglake,

the real FISA vote took place yesterday when the Senate voted overwhelmingly to proceed with FISA cloture, meaning debate will be limited to 30 hours, before a vote is taken. Filibuster is now impossible.

Only 15 members of the Senate vote against cloture. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain were absent.

And lest you believe otherwise, this vote can be pinned entirely on Harry Reid, who had the ability to procedurally disable the bill.

Shame on Barack Obama.

And Glenn Greenwald reports how even Keith Olbermann has changed his stripes of FISA.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Courant cut to shreds

As reported late in the day on the Courant website (notice the lack of a byline on the story), after an email sent to employees leaked, the Hartford Courant will cut 25% of it's staff and an equal percentage of its news pages as it tries to recover from a huge dip in advertising profits.

It doesn't seem likely that by cutting news the Courant will be able to sell more ads. Maybe we'll see bare tits on page 3, gossip on page 6, and lots of contests!

I've been thinking a lot about the venerable gray lady on Broad Street this week. I've always loved and hated the Courant simultaneously. I've been reading it for 40 years, and when it was the conservative foil to the liberal crosstown afternoon paper, The Hartford Times, where I was a stringer back in 1975 and 1976, the competition made both dailies better.

But evening news on TV killed afternoon papers across the land, the Hartford Times included, in 1976. In fact newspapers have been fending off other media news deliverers since radio began regular broadcasts. In the fifties, TV began taking a big bite, and continued to bite hard. Then came cable, 24-7 news channels, and with another nail for the coffin, the internet.

My generation may be the last that truly loves sitting back with newsprint and inky fingers as we delve as deeply as we please into the news, local, national and international.

That has been changing, and for the print version of the Courant, will change permanently when the "new" Courant debuts in a few months. The new Courant will have less news, more advertising, and national and international stories will be relegated to bullets on the last page of the front section.

The Courant has experimented with handing reporters and photographers video cameras, and laptops with Final Cut, to create video stories, but these video stories have gotten few hits. Leading with video ads. people clicked away to other sites in droves. One source says that still photo essays were far more popular than video on the Courant website. Proving that readers of news want quality and depth, still.

The Courant will re-design its print edition to death. And though the woes of newspapers can be laid most directly in the laps of the giant media corporations who gobbled up local newspapers, the blame will be carried by the reporters who are laid off, and by the reporters who are left behind to follow two and three times the assignments they had previously carried. The web version of the Courant will not save it - the Courant, depending for hits on obscene, hateful commentary by demented readers, and not ever having figured out how to charge the obscene advertising rates they charge for the print version. iTown, indeed. You want me to write your news, and then pay for it? Not likely.

This week one of my favorite Courant writers, Susan Campbell, was recognized by her peers in the National Society of Newspaper columnists (I hope New Orleans was fun as you celebrated, Susan), as the top columnist in the country this year. It's writers like Campbell, and Condon, and Lender and Catlin and Green and Gombosy who will save the paper. Writers and reporters who know how to find, research and shape a story until it's something that grips you from the get-go.

Also this week, I've had close contact with a few journalists for the Courant who are working on a story for which my filmmaking company is the focus. One of the journalists is a beginner, an intern (I understand that the Courant gets some of the best interns in the country), the other is a veteran. The intern is smart, and sharp as a razor, asking insightful questions, and digging to find her answers. The veteran carries the wisdom of his decades. Both love what they are doing. Both are wondering what will become of their beloved industry.

I've spoken to a handful of Courant reporters over the past few weeks as the rumors of layoffs filtered through the newsroom, and over pints of beer. Morale has been as low as some longtime employees have ever seen. When one grizzled editor heard one of the most determinedly optimistic employees mutter, "I'm worried," he looked back and said, "We're fucked."

The news today confirmed the worries.

And when the reporters skitter off to jobs at universities, publishing houses, and public relations firms, and the newspaper shrinks and shrinks, we're all fucked, because democracy rests on a vigilant, intelligent, responsible press. And when it's gone, those who cower in the shadows to do their nasty deeds (and that means everyone from grifters to political hacks), will step into the light and wreak havoc with impunity.

Here's your hat, what's your hurry

I got an email from someone who feels as strongly about Creepy Joe™ Liebrman as I do:

Dear Edward,

Joe Lieberman is a war hawk, plain and simple. He staunchly supports George Bush's War in Iraq and John McCain's plan to stay in Iraq for 100 years. But Lieberman's new alliance with the Republican Party runs even deeper. He has endorsed and stumped for McCain, wants to be the star of the Republican National Convention, and has even served on a 527 group that smeared Barack Obama with a nasty attack ad.

And yet Lieberman still holds a top rank within the Senate Democratic Caucus as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The Senate Democratic Steering Committee needs to know just how much of a conflict of interest this is. That's why we created Lieberman Must Go.

Watch the video:

Here's what you can do: Sign our petition today and tell the Senate Democratic Steering Committee to strip Lieberman of his leadership role in Congress. Then, e-mail this video to everyone you know and spread it on sites like Digg and elsewhere.

Recently in Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall suggested that the best way to limit Lieberman is by encouraging the Steering Committee to render him powerless in 2009. Lieberman must go, and you can make that happen by donating to Brave New Films today.

Robert Greenwald
and the Brave New Team

The dog ate my homework, but he also ate the Constitution

Chris Dodd has not offered a sufficiently clear explanation for his acceptance of VIP loan status from Countrywide Financial. As Chairman of the House Banking Committee, who has received thousands of dollars in campaign support from Countrywide, there is no accepting his logic (or lack thereof), that he didn't know he was getting a special deal.

Why can't politicians say: "I made a mistake. I was wrong." Chris, why can't you say: "I made a mistake. I was wrong."

Because when you don't admit mistakes, it steals the power from your great speeches, and from your ideals. For example, Chris Dodd's indictment of the FISA amendment is classic. He finds a way to make clear what exactly is wrong with the bill, how it is unconstitutional, and what needs to be done. It could be a completely shining moment, if there weren't a dark cloud hanging over his head.

As far as FISA goes, Glenn Greenwald hails Dodd, and his fellow Senator Russ Feingold, for standing up to the politically expedienct actions of their colleagues. And Greenwald holds out hope that the procedural obstacles Dodd and Feingold can set across the tracks, my yet put the FISA locomotive in the ditch.

A good night for sex

Last night the Green Street Arts Center hosted a reading by the editor, and three authors, who have contributed to Dirty Words, A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex.

While the topic is such, that one would surely expect a crowd of curious listeners, the Middletown audience only numbered a couple of dozen. To be fair, it was a Tuesday night (a lovely summer Tuesday night at that); this was the second central-Connecticut reading and there was a joint meeting of the Redevelopment Committee and the Public Safety Committee on the other end of Main Street. And perhaps Middletown, with most of the student population of Wesleyan absent, is a bit more prudish than I might have guessed.

There was no need to be abashed, because while the language was sometimes blunt, the readings were sensitive, insightful, and often hilarious. Sam Brumbaugh, a novelist from Northampton, and coincidentally the producer of Be Here To Love Me, the great documentary about singer-songwriter Townes van Zandt, read his entry about fobbing - the act of weeping during sex. Hartford-born writer Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, gave a hilarious recitation about her first hum job. Dan Pope, a novelist now living in West Hartford, revealed a cross-border journey that ended in coitus interuptus. And editor and author Ellen Sussman revealed the truth about her brother in an essay on commitment, or lack thereof.

If you have any questions about the terms I mentioned above, you may want to get a copy of Dirty Words, and, shall I say, bone up.

What's the Army afraid of?

If you want a good example of how the Army will treat the concerns of Middletown during the contruction of the proposed Army Reserve Training Center, and for the fifty years it will occupy the site (after which they will abandon it as a brown site, unsuitable for building up to Army standards) read the blog by Fishmuscle over at the Middletown Eye.

At an "explicitly private" meeting with the Westfield Residents Association executive board, the Army continued it's practice of pretending to listen, nodding with affected concern, and refusing to consider any alternative to their plan. The Army Corps' Diane McCartin, who at the last public meeting stated that she would not have any more public meetings on the topic, apparently relented and, in a bow toward friendly neighborhood relations, and some pushing from town officials, no doubt, decided to hold this "secret" informational meeting. McCartin was obviously promoted to her postion because she is smart, and able to project a friendly warmth, while maintaining a steely refusal to alter marching orders.

The vaunted Army Corps of Engineers (infamous these days for their levee-building skills), detailed their plans for residents, with their heels firmly planted.

So what conclusions can we draw from the meeting? The Army will only interact with the general public when it is part of their standard operating procedures and required by their regulations. They will not alter their plans for the concerns of residents or city and state officials. Nothing will be done in the way of public good, in the way of environmental or economic concern or in the way of good development. It will be done the army way, sir.

As for the private meeting, little did the Army know they had a blogger in their midst.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Filibuster or bust

Russ Feingold says that he and Chris Dodd will filibuster the FISA amendment if it arrives on the Senate floor with telecom immunity intact.

We can only hope that Harry Reid will delay action on the bill until after the end of the year, but that being unlikely, given his track record, that Dodd and Feingold will stand and talk until the country hears what we're about to be fed.

Must remember: it's not the Democratic party or the Republican party, it's the incumbent party

The whole FISA compromise is a puzzle to me, in which the only satisfactory answer is that someone is on the take. Maybe many someones. Constitutional scholars have pointed out that the FISA amendment flies in the face of that venerable document. Democrats have pointed out that it's antithetical to the principles of their party. Party leaders have vowed to stop it, and haven't. To be sure, Harry Reid can kill the whole bloody mess by keeping it off the agenda with a parliamentary manuver. Chris Dodd once vowed a Mr. Smith-style filibuster, now he's written a letter. Barack Obama said he was against it, before he said he was for it. And many observers have demonstrated that this vaunted "compromise" is not a compromise at all (though Democratic leaders are working hard to convince voters, and themselves, that they've reached a good deal)>

The smell of rancor on the river

I received this public email today, authored by LK Godburn, questioning the city's new lease for Harbor Park - the author is responsible for its content. A copy of the email was forwarded to the Hartford Courant:

Subject: Somethings fishy on the Ct. River


There has been no official comment from the public on this Harbor Park fiasco because frankly no one believed a governing City body in it's right mind would have re-leased the property, so people were caught unaware. That is now changed. If you would like to hear public outcry get ready. We want to know how and why Harbor Park has been allowed to operate with the violations of it's last lease for so long without the City taking action. We want to know what, if any, benefit the tax payers of Middletown are receiving for their hard earned tax dollars going to foster this bar. We would like to know why after all this time in business and the millions of dollars earned by this property Middletown needs to financially help it along. If we are forced to live with this new lease we would like to know what the City intends to do so we don't have to deal with another 25 years of the best location in town being misused and prostituted. We want to know why in a town that is known for it's restaurants the City is financially, unfairly, helping only one. We want to know what the taxpayers liability is going to be when someone finally sues for a drunk driving accident, and we want to know what right the City has to force the guilt of such a tragedy on us. We want to know when a City feels it is appropriate to own and be partnered in a bar. We want to know how appropriate it is to have a former Mayor's husband be the negotiator for this lease. We want to know why budgets are being cut for schools and arts but we have money for a bar. We demand to know the terms of this lease and if it includes the private boat dock for the Marratta yacht and why Frank Marratta has the right to charge other boats docking fees. We want to know what part of this expenditure benefits the taxpaying family. We want to know why it is felt that a low class bar is the best use of our priceless waterfront property. We want to know why other restaurants or developers were not given the opportunity to present other plans for use. And last but not least we want to know why this whole thing seems so shady?
Please tell all you know to call, write, E-mail City Hall to let them know we are not just blindly approving this. Start and or sign petitions stating that you are not in agreement with this arrangement. Let's all meet at the meeting City Council should have to discuss this public expenditure and talk about the best use of this property. I don't know about you but my taxes are too high and my money too hard to make to see it being spent like this.

The secret scripture

Last night, I went down to RJ Julia Books to hear Sebastian Barry read from his new novel The Sacred Scripture, and was mesmerized by Barry's talent, as was the entire audience. Read a sample of The Sacred Scripture here.

I fell in love with Barry's writing when Lucy brought me a copy of his The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, many years ago. He is a gifted writer who was granted the Irish gifts of language and story.

Barry is in this country because his play, The Pride of Parnell Street is being staged during the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven this week, by the Irish theater company Fishamble. The play sold out its run, and a new show was just added for Saturday evening.

Barry read his story, which is written in the voice of a 100 year old woman who is being moved from the institution she has lived in for decades, after being committed for a problem with "morals." He explained that it took him months to hear his character's voice, but if you're quiet and contemplative enough, these voices will rise up and tell their stories.

The reading was one of many hosted by Roxanne Coady at her amazing independent bookstore, RJ Julia, in Madison.

Monday, June 23, 2008

More proof, when the truth won't work, make it up

It doesn't matter if you're the vice-president telling lies about alleged Chinese oil wells springing up off the coast of Florida, or now, a Supreme Court justice fibbing about former Gitmo detainees back in the insurgency, and killing Americans.

As far as right-wing blather, it's further evidence that the truth need not get in the way of a good story.

On the whole, I'd rather be in filibuster

The despicably amended FISA bill heads from the House, back to the Senate, where, once upon a time when he was a presidential candidate, Chris Dodd promised to filibuster it.

Seems like Barack Obama said he'd support that filibuster. As presumptive leader of the Democratic Party, it's Obama's duty to use his influence, and to keep his word, and is asking him to do so, with your help.

Every mother's son

William Kristol so willfully misses the point of the new anti-war, anti-McCain ad, Not Alex, that he proves himself totally incapable as being anything other than the house conservative.

Kristol reasons that the ad, which implies that no mother's son should have to be deployed in an immoral war to protect the profits of oil companies and mercenary corporations, particularly if that war turns into an occupation that lasts 100 years.

And so,, has used a mother's love for her son as the method to demonstrate how wrong the war, and McCain are.

Kristol sees it as an insult to soldiers who are now serving, and mothers who have given their children over to the conflict.

The unfortunate truth is that politicians can, have and will always use the patriotism and love of country that some men and women hold dear, and use it to convince them to strap on uniform and gun to fight in some foreign land.

The bigger insult is that Bill Kristol, who never served, is still encouraging mothers, sons and daughters to follow a criminal leader into a war of disgrace.

Shit, piss, fuck...

The man to whom the FCC owes it's eternal gratitude has died. George Carlin dead at 71.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Joe Cocker and the grease pen

A gaze as blank and pitiless as the sun

When William Butler Yeats, the great Irish poet, wrote The Second Coming, shortly after the finish of World War I, he envisioned a world in tatters, a globe in chaos of the kind predicted in the bible's Book of Revelation.

Yeats would likely be greatly abashed at what Evangelical Christians have made of John's apocalyptic hallucinations, but he might be inclined to write a post-script to his well-known, and well-quoted poem.

Or, he might leave it to the likes of the AP's Alan Fram and Eileen Putnam. I just don't know what to make of their "think piece" that sees the world "spinning out of control," and in the midst of a "great unraveling." It's a little bit Eve of Destruction, a little bit of the rapturous Left Behind Series, and a whole lot of Yeats.

Let's have a contest. Which "rough beast" do you think is "slouching toward Bethlehem?"

With one eye open

There's pleasant progress after just a week over at the Middletown Eye. We now have eight reporters/bloggers/authors, and eighteen posts, on everything from town development, to hiking the hills of Middletown, to seeing the town through the eyes of a visitor, through seeing the car show through the eyes of Pearse, to biking in Europe.

And it's only the first week. If you're interested in Middletown CT, I'd recommend a look see at the eye, and if you have any inclination to share your observations, I'd encourage you to write.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bipartisan? By whose definition?

The FISA vote by the house is being spun as a bipartisan effort. Bullshit. Check out the vote and you'll see that, as ususal, the Republicans voted as a block, except for one lone vote, and the only bipartisan effort was by Democrats who defected to their corporate sponsors, and to the lame-duck president. Pathetic.

The bill supports warrantless wiretapping on anyone, and immunity for telecom companies who participated in those wiretaps, illegally, in the past.

Connecticut's congressional reps voted against the bill, as might be expected, with the exception of Chris Shays.

Friday, June 20, 2008

No one's protege anymore

Not only did I miss Carrie Rodriguez at the Iron Horse last night, I missed her when she was in Hartford for two nights last week as part of the Alejandro Escovedo band which opened for Dave Matthews.

But today, I was able to hear a sample of her new album, She Ain't Me, out in August.

It's an interesting shift in style as Rodriguez stretches away from the roots rock and folk she performed as her career kicked into gear as a partner of legendary songwriter Chip Taylor.

Rodriguez always had star potential, and the new songs, which are largely pop turns - though some acoutic and folk-like, seem to be trying to capitalize on her tunefulness, and to downplay her fiddle prowess.

There's a bit of an image change, as the photos accompanying this blog will attest to.

Obama's feet of clay

Mr. Idealism today dealt a blow to his own image with his approval of the FISA "compromise" bill. Not only was he not in Washington to vote against it, he wrote a defense of the bill as passed.

Say it ain't so, Barack.

Worse still, Obama has recorded a radio spot for Georgia's U.S. Representative John Barrows, a white, bluedog Democrat who supports the war in Iraq, retroactive immunity and George Bush's tax cuts. In fact Barrows is a big Bush supporter on many fronts. He's running in a Democratic primary against Regina Thomas, a progressive African-American state senator.

What's worse, Barrows didn't endorse Obama until after the Georgia primary.

Oh, Barack. Forget about Rev. Wright. Forget about the bitter middle class. You're beginning to abandon the principles you espouse before you've been elected to uphold them.

Joe Lieberman has a good suggestion

Credit where credit is due. Senator Joe Lieberman is drafting legislation to limit the amount of speculation in the oil business.

Unfortunately, the legislation won't be ready for months, and it doesn't seem to go far enough - limiting speculation on essential commodities instead of banning it outright.

But it's a start, and Lieberman has beaten his colleagues to the punch.

H/T to Todd Sanderson.

A plan of development in need of dentures

For the second time in two months I sat through a presentation on the update of the Middletown Plan for Conservation and Development, developed and written by Middletown's town planner Bill Warner. Warner should be commended for his command of Middletown planning history, his hard work in assembling the package, and his willingness to present the plan before 13 groups, according to his own accounting.

You can read the plan here, and read it you should.

Warner is enthusiastic about Middletown's advances in preserving open space, through a variety of strategies and purchases, and about planning alternative transit plans for the town. He is also fully aware of the problems in neighborhoods adjacent to Main Street (though he doesn't acknowledged that the re-development of neighborhoods East of Main Street, and the building of the Richman Group project - which Warner backed enthusiastically - have fueled a rapid degradation of neighborhoods West of Main and North of Washington Streets.) Creating good housing for all - particularly those who are impoverished and underserved, is essential. Creating that housing by pushing the problem to other neighborhoods is simply ignoring the core problem

Warner acknowledges the source of many of the problems - lack of home ownership, absentee landlords, increased vehicle traffic, and he offers good solutions to the "urban dilemma," but fails to acknowledge that some of the tools to address these problems - zoning enforcement, police intervention, are already available, and under-used. He mentions the "two family" limit for housing in the Village District, and in the Grand and Liberty neighborhoods, but I know from personal experience that conversion of two family homes to four or five apartments is ignored by those in charge of zoning enforcement, and that complaints don't register. There are three homes on my block of Pearl, and a recent conversion on Court Street, and all a zoning officer would have to do is count the mailboxes to know that code is being broken.

Warner, who seems to know every street and property in Middletown, is a font of knowledge. The downside is that while he asks for input, he's often defensive about accepting suggestions, sometimes immediately dismissing ideas with a list of reasons why they won't work. I've seen this occur at both presentations I've attended.

Warner should also refrain from digressive public comments which reveal his own feelings about how dangerous Main Street is after dark, and how much of a pain it is to the process when the public shows up to contest development issues. The first statement is not completely accurate, and was refuted by a former mayor at one meeting. The second statement shows a disregard for the democratic process.

By his own admission, the Plan of Conservation and Development is a document without teeth unless there are zoning codes which align with the plan.

So, while Warner is the author of the draft, and by his admission, the draft will come before a public hearing before it is adopted, I would suggest we all get involved in being sure that the plan will serve us, and Middletown for the next ten years.

Here are some of my suggestions:

- Have the final draft reviewed by the public and by appropriate commissions.
- Be sure that all suggestions for changes to the draft be available for viewing by the public and the commisssions
- Create a video presentation of the plan which can run repeatedly on cable access (the town has the right to demand this kind of broadcast)
- Make sure the plan is right, reflects the views of the city, and then create zoning code which complies with the plan
- Include actual wording about "new urbanism, smart growth and smart code" instead of simply nodding that it will be a future consideration
- Invite appropriate state legislators to the public hearing so they are familiar with the plans and concerns to the town
- As part of the plan, create separate departments of Planning, Development and Conservation, so there is a check and balances system instead of the very powerful department which exists now

Warner says he is open to suggestions. My suggestion is to be sure that any ideas you have are made in writing with copies to the Planning and Zoning Commission and to the mayor.

A betrayal to freedom, liberty, the American people, and one more victory for corporate America

In a shameful capitulation to a disastrous executive administration, the House of Representatives led by the shameful house majority leader Steny Hoyer (who joins Reid and Pelosi as land-dwelling invertebrates), has produced a "compromise" FISA bill to be voted on by the house today and sent back to the Senate for approval.

A coalition of forces, organized on the internet, is working today to convince lawmakers to table the bill.

companies who broke the law when the President asked them to. This is the kind of The big problem, of course, is that it's no compromise. It delivers immunity to telecomfascism which will ensnare the rights of the individual in America.

The New York Times suggested that this bill be left for the next Congress and the next president, and that seems like a good idea. With a large majority of poll respondents opposing corporate immunity, lawmakers ought to think twice about what they'll say while stumping for votes in October.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Don't give me no shit about blood, sweat, tears and toil

Say, Billy Bragg was right after all.

Sticks and stones

WARNING: If you're offended by curse words do not play this video. It's very funny, but it uses a blunt, and offensive to some, word for a part of the female anatomy. There is a censored version available on youtube that you can show your mother.

Thanks to Cunnecticut Bob for pointing it out.

The army, a tin ear? Ah, c'mon.

(Pearse Pinch photo)

While the Courant editorial board praised the planned relocation of the Army Reserve Training Center in Middletown, they did recognize that the Army refused to consider using a brownfield for its site, and also failed to listen completely to the suggestions of residents, and town leaders.

IMHO, the Army is not designed to listen, and has never demonstrated a zeal to do other than what it damned well pleases. Middletown must keep this in mind once the center is built, because once it is, the town cedes all control over the property, and the comings and goings therein and thereabouts.

BTW, I know it's a cheap shot, but the Army Corps of Engineers is no longer considered infallible, no matter what their press releases say. Witness the damage to levees in the recent flooding of rivers in the midwest. Mother Nature wins again.

Bruce sings at Tim Russert's funeral tribute

I'll admit that I was not a huge fan of Tim Russert, but I am completely touched by how much he was loved and respected across idealogical and political lines. I'll confess that I wept watching his memorial yesterday, thinking of Russert and his son, and about me and my own sons. And I wept again listening to Bruce sing Thunder Road. And yes, Russert's son Luke is a pretty amazing young man.

Ever notice how Creepy Joe™ Lieberman sneaks into town to face the least threatening audiences

Face it. Senator Lieberman is afraid of his constituents. So he goes to elementary schools to talk about the environment. It's the Bush mold. You'll never look bad in front of a group who is afraid to challenge you, or whom is handpicked to love you.

Where are the town meetings on Iraq? Where's the tough talk on the econony?

Where's your Senator when you need him?

The Enron loophole

The facts about how lack of regulation has allowed oil speculation to drive up prices at the pump. And who bears responsibility? Hint: he running for president as a Republican.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Still pushing for telecom immunity

The New York Times gets it right. Save the renewal of the FISA bill for the next president.

George Bush is still pushing Congressional Republicans to deliver him a bill that provides unassailable rights to spy on Americans, and to protect telecom companies that helped Bush to spy. Of course, a bill that protects telecom companies from prosecution, protects Bush as well.

This president hasn't done much right, but he's done a lot. He's a lame duck, and Congress should be willing to stand up to him, even as we enter the critical months before a presidential election. Unfortunately, Congressional elections take place at the same time, and congressional delegates still seem to lack the backbone to stand for their convictions.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Worshipping at the altar of internal combustion

If you wanted to understand how we got into this mess, you might want to have walked down Main Street in Middletown tonight where the annual Cruise Night, sponsored by the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, was held.

Here you could find multifarious ways of burning processed petroleum.

The crowds were large, and the sidewalk vendors seemed to be doing a brisk business. But the Chamber of Commerce paints this event as good for Main Street merchants. In a brief and unscientific survey of eight restauranteurs, I found two who said business was booming (the Firehouse Grill, and First and Last), two who felt it was about the same (Forbidden City and Amici), one which had a lot of empty tables (Thai Gardens and Fiore) and two who felt the event was horrible for business (Typhoon and It's Only Natural). The restaurants with sidewalk seating seemed to fare better.

Main Street market was like a ghost town, though, to be fair, it often is.

Seems that there might be a better way to get the event to integrate with Main Street businesses than to have most of the attendees walk past in the center of the road.

The universal soldier

Sorry John, he's not yours.

The eye is open

Check out a new Middletown Community blog - The Middletown Eye, designed to cover the community through the eyes of its residents.

Residents are welcome to submit postings.

That's $1882 a month

A longterm sweetheart deal was perpetuated after a negotiated settlement between the city of Middletown and Harbor Park lessor, Frank Maratta.

While the mayor has been talking tough for months about ejecting Maratta from his long-term lease, and a promised additional 25 year renewal, it seems that Maratta's threat of lawsuit may have prompted the mayor to negotiate. (Be sure to read the "comments" section in the originally posted, on-line Courant article - thanks Vijay)

The deal is laughable. A 25 year extension of a lease for a tenant who has repeatedly ignored city noise ordinances, and has done little to improve the musty interior of the restaurant through which the Connecticut River runs most Springtimes, seems shameful. But inevitable. Maratta apparently won the extension in negotiations which included his promise to improve the site, and make design changes to lessen noise from rock bands who play outside on the deck in the evening.

The most ridiculous clause in the agreement is the lease amount - $22, 624 annually. That's less than many Middletown residents pay for monthly mortgage payments, and Maratta has a prime location, on prime real estate fronting the River.

Yet another example of bad deals done by the city which never tires of bad deals.

Carl's house not hit by lightning

The Middletown Fire Department visited Pearl Street last evening in the midst of a lightning storm.

Reports of a strike at 20 Pearl Street, and a call by a neighbor who claimed to have seen flames sent the department to the house.

I spoke to Carl Bender, who said firefighters appeared at his door with crowbars in hand ready to pull down walls. The house has recently been restored and renovated, and Carl begged the firefighters not to apply force to the walls. Eventually the FD put a ladder up to check where the bolt was thought to have struck, and no damage was found.

This non-news report is modeled on coverage by local television news.

Bush and Brown spin the sanctions

It might have seemed like some late-in-the-game diplomatic coup for our lame, lame-duck President, but apparently the announcement of sanctions against Iran were something already negotiated by the EU, without the urging of Bush.

I guess Gordon Brown has taken on the mantle of Tony Blair as Bush's favorite English lapdog.

And the American press who are swallowing the bait provided by the White House propaganda machine without any followup? Shame piled upon shame.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The cultural hothouse in the Middle

(AP photo)

The seedlings have germinated, sprouted and are bearing fruit.

Last night, In the Heights, a musical which in a different form, was first staged at Wesleyan, won 4 Tony Awards. Lin-Manuel Miranda, is just one of several recent Wes grads to find acclaim for their creative efforts this year.

MGMT is the hot band at festivals this summer, and Santogold continues to garner great reviews for her new album and for her shows.

This of course follows on the heels of the ongoing success of Hollywood's Wesleyan mafia.

This week the Moodus noise was creole

The funky, unintentionally retro Sunrise resort in Moodus held it's regular Cajun and Zydeco Music and Arts Festival over the weekend. Formerly held, for years, on the same weekend as the Blast from the Bayou at Strawberry Park, the festival now takes advantage of a dance crowd willing to hang around for consecutive weekends. I saw a bit of the festival on Sunday, and in talking to festival-goers, reports are that despite the steamy, Lousiana-like weather, the dance tent was packed to overflowing on Saturday.

It's interesting to note that the Cajun/Zydeco dance crowd in New England is aging. Most of these folks have danced here for decades to a music which found a second home in the old North. Down home in Louisiana, the music has caught on again, in a big way, with a new generation of teens and twenty-somethings who love the old sounds, and the idea that dancing is the best form of social interaction on a Saturday night.

Aliens suck nutrition from tree roots

Either we are being invaded by a species of hungry aliens who love sap more than human blood, or the arborists at Wesleyan are trying some sort of experiment with the great old trees on campus.

Several trees on campus have had strange plastic cylinders pounded into their roots. These cylinders seemed to be designed to monitor flow of moisture, or inversely to be injecting some sort of material, into the roots. Anyone have any idea?

Which leads me to the tribe of black squirrels that gambol around campus. It's the only family of black squirrels I've ever seen in New England. Is it me, or is it suspicious that this gaggle of squirrels lives suspiciously, directly across from the science tower, where experiments are conducted every day.

UPDATE: Dave Hall, who is in charge of grounds at Wesleyan told me that the affected trees are elms which are being inoculated against Dutch Elm disease. It's a three day inoculation (the "hypodermics" will be removed today), and it's been successful for the last several years in warding off the disease that has been fatal to most elms in New England.

No word on the black squirrels.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A jig in the canned goods aisle

One of the world's most renowned Celtic fiddlers is a neighbor. As the Courant points out this morning, Martin Hayes is happy to be the anonymous face in Waldbaums.

But he's anything but faceless in the world which enjoys and respects the ancient music of the Irish.

Hayes, and his musical partner, Dennis Cahill, perform in a benefit concert for WWUH, in the Celtic Airs concert series, on Saturday June 21.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Let's see, is it "the surge is working" or "we're winning in Iraq"

John McCain's spin doctors and speechwriters will be up late figuring out how to sugarcoat these turds.

Iraq is clearl a failed mission, measured against every set of standards the Bush administration has tried to apply.

If you can't say something nice, make up something bad

Right wing pundits and bloviators have made it a practice to complain about the alleged "liberal" main stream media. They seem to ignore the fact that the right-wing media loves to create bad news from scratch, and then repeat it and repeat it until the zombies who listen repeat it as if it were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

Take the "Obama is a Muslim." As ludicrous as it is, I've hear it repeated again and again.

Now it's the "China is drilling for oil off the coast of Florida." I heard it repeated on talk radio, and in blogs about 10 times last week, and it's false. In fact, a person with as high (and low), as Dick Cheney sunk to the level of rumor and repeated it too. Although he's since had to retract it.

When listening to right wingers, think of a twist on the old "it's too good to be true" adage: "it's too bad to be true."

Disregard for life and limb in Hartford's South End

There's little hope that reckless teenagers will be moved by the tragedy of a hit and run, but Friday night, as one of my co-workers left our parking lot on Broad Street she witnessed a spectacular disregard for everyone in the neighborhood.

Two young men, one on an ATV, one on an unregistered motorcycle, sped through the neighborhood, up on sidewalks, through stop sign intersections, in the wrong lane against traffic. They almost hit a little girl, caused cars in traffic to swerve, and nearly did themselves in.

This isn't the first time these kids and these vehicles wreaked havoc at rush hour. My coworker called me to ask if she should call 911 or some other police line. I suggested 911, given the concern about traffic safety in the South End after the Park Street accident.