Friday, August 29, 2008

Rhythm and Roots

For the past two decades and more, I've marked the passing of summer by attending a roots music festival in Rhode Island.

In the old days it was called the Cajun and Bluegrass Festival, and was held at the Stepping Stone Ranch in Escoheag. I saw, and met some of the greats on that stage, Dewey Balfa, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson.

This weekend, I'll be on stage at the Rhythm and Roots Festival at Ninigret State Park in Charlestown, for the 11th year. The fabulous Pine Leaf Boys are the host band, and their neighbors, the Red Stick Ramblers will be there among many others.

There's alway plenty of music and dancing, and I've watched my fellow fans mature and have children of their own who have grown into men and women.

This evening kicks off with bluesman Paul Geremia, and ends in the dance tent with Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-chas.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The L word

Bill Curry once told me there were two parties - incumbents, and non-incumbents.

A liberal blogger for Firedoglake found out that you don't mess with a frat brother when he asked Senator Dick Durbin about turncoat Creepy Joe™ Lieberman. It seems as if a brother Senator would have to commit matricide before an esteemed colleague would begin to consider chastising him.

One more hint to novice "video reporters" - keep the light at your back.

Hey Joe, I hear you shot your party down

And now they're shooting back.

Comes as no surprise that Connecticut delegates to the Democratic National Convention, are disenchanted with their Senator.

Creepy Joe's™ gotta go.

The army definition of "openness"

Several dozen of my neighbors and fellow residents and I, spent another few hours with the Army Corps of Engineers last night as the debate over an Army Reserve Training Center sputtered onward.

David Dale,
deputy district engineer of the Louisville District of the Army Corps of Engineers, was assigned the duty of explaining the newest approach, and to take the heat from the crowd of opponents, who, overall, were polite, but earnest. Dale, joked at the beginning, that he was happy to be in New England, instead of in hot and humid Kentucky digging holes for his wife's landscaping projects. At the end of the meeting I asked him if, in the middle of the public comments, he might reconsider, and rather have been digging holes in Kentucky.

The Army presented search plans for a smaller site (25 acres), and declared an intent to keep the process "open" and to allow residents to be involved.

Unfortunately, at the first instance, Dale was forced to admit that the Army's idea of "open" was different than the public's view of that word. When asked if the Army would share its legal opinion about why the Training Center had to be built in Middletown, he answered, "no." Shortly thereafter, he was asked if the Army would abide by the decisions of Middletown's Wetlands and Watercourses Commission, he answered "no" again. So much for openness.

Some of my impressions from the meeting:

- Many residents have come around to the idea that no location in Middletown is suitable for the site.
- It's becoming clear that the public has a better grasp on the facts of the case than does the Corps, or City representatives
- The absence of a representative from Governor Rell's office was obvious, conspicuous and embarrassing, considering there were reps from the offices of Rosa Delauro, Chris Dodd and (CJ™) Lieberman, and state reps including Paul Doyle, Gail Hamm, Joe Serra, and Ray Kalinowski.
- The Middletown committee or seven, appointed by the mayor Sebastian Giuliano, includes representatives from Westfield (Stephen Devoto, Arline Rich), Common Council members Phil Pessina and Ron Klattenberg, city conservation commissioner Nancy Kiniry and South Farms residents Ralph Wilson and Phil Cox. Some of these people have been vocal at the meetings on the topic (Devoto, Rich, Pessina, Klattenberg), the others have been less conspicuous, and a few may not have attended any of the meetings. Will hours have to be spent getting these committee members up to speed?
- Where was the Hartford Courant? After several recent excellent articles by Jodie Modzder leading up to the meeting, the meeting itself was not covered.
- While the TV news coverage is appreciated, their methods are ridiculous. They show up, stay for 35 minutes of a two hour plus meeting, and then file a report based on partial knowledge. Since you asked, this is exactly what's wrong with TV news coverage - shallow, incomplete and inevitably misleading.
- And finally, Mile Lane. Last night it emerged, for me, as the most logical place for the Training Center to be build in Middletown, if it must be built in Middletown. It's currently owned by the Federal government. It's currently off the tax rolls. The Feds plan to remediate the site. The downside is that Middletown stands to be granted the site, for free from the Feds, and has $9 million committed from the state to build a fire station and training center on the site. To choose another location for the fire station would mean the purchase of land, and perhaps, putting the $9 million in jeopardy. The question must be asked: if the site is perfect for the Army Reserve Training Center, would the state be willing to help fund a new site for the much-needed fire station?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sure, where was his advice two years ago for Connecticut voters

Robert Novak throws Creepy Joe™ Lieberman under the bus in a column today.

Novak, who has retired from his regular writing duties after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, thought the topic important enough to step out of retirement to vanquish our favorite "liberal" senator.

I guess I've been wrong about Lieberman's ability to achieve bipartisan agreement. Seems like both parties agree he ain't our man.

My obvious crush on Rachel Maddow

She's brilliant. She's spunky. She doesn't take shit from Pat Buchanan, or Keith Olbermann. And she just might be the future of liberal television.

Jennifer, can you get me an autograph?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is that a saber in your pocket, or are you just unhappy to see me?

I'll admit a good deal of ignorance on the relationship between Russia, and the now independent states which used to be part of the Soviet Union.

But this I know, a country which has preemptively invaded a sovereign nation has no right to criticize a country which had done the same. The US no longer has moral ground to stand upon to criticize Russia for invading Georgia, when we invaded Iraq, for reasons which now can be seen as specious, at best, and at worst, similar in justification to Russia's invasion.

Worse still, two of the prominent promoters of war in Iraq Senators Lindsey Graham, and Connecticut's own Creepy Joe™ Lieberman, are at a more severe moral ebb tide than many other Americans who protested the invasion of Iraq.

Graham and Lieberman have co-authored an editorial on the Russian invasion of Georgia in today's Washington Post. Glenn Greenwald critiques it here.

The co-authors are shocked that Russia: spent last week destroying the country's infrastructure, including roads, bridges, port and security facilities. This was more than random looting. It was a deliberate campaign to collapse the economy of Georgia, in the hope of taking the government down with it.

Sounds like the techniques the US used in Iraq, and which Graham and Lieberman supported.

The pair is also aghast at: the innocent men, women and children displaced by the fighting, some of whom we saw last week. Would that this pair of death angels felt the same about the tens of thousands of dead and wounded innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan, or that Lieberman could find a shred of empathy for any dead or wounded Palestinian child.

It's beginning to appear that the apocalypse twins haven't found a war they don't like - Iraq, Russia, Palestine, Iran, Syria. Bring 'em on.

Many commentators are concluding that the disastrous conflict between Russia and Georgia was propelled by an incompetent foreign policy, initiated by the Bush administration, which coddled the belligerent Putin, and urged on a naive and reckless drive for democracy by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Ronnie Drew, RIP

I read last week that the great voice of Ronnie Drew was silenced last week when he died of cancer in Dublin.

Drew, and his band The Dubliners, were a huge inspiration to Shane MacGowan, and the Pogues. The Dubliners and The Pogues had a top ten British hit in the 90's with The Irish Rover.

Meet the new boss

Seems like Mr. Springsteen won't be in Denver, but Mr. Bon Jovi will be.

Maybe if Mr. Bon Jovi weren't there, Mr. Springsteen would be.

Maybe Mr. Obama didn't want to be upstaged by The Boss, and being upstaged by Mr. Bon Jovi is not possible.

After all, what would you rather hear, You Give Love A Bad Name, or Born to Run.

Senator, grow up

Since the deserved and needed attacks on the McCain campaign have not materialized in the first day of the Democratic National Convention, I offer this splendid dismemberment offered by Keith Olbermann. I missed it last week when I was vacationing in Maine, but it's classic Keith. BTW, when was the last time you heard a TV talking head use the words, "calumny" or "persiflage" or "dyspeptic." Where did I put that dictionary?

Chris Shays - party crasher

Seems like Chris Shays picked up something for those Lieberman goons who continued to show up at Lamont campaign stops. ConnecticutBob features video of Shays crashing a Jim Himes presser.

Seems like Shays may have a memory as faulty as the ironically-named, Congress Street bridge.

We wonder if Shays will spend the next two months stalking Himes' campaign events.

Working hard to be a Connecticut Senator? Huh?

(Huoppi - New London Day)

While spending most of his days turncoat campaigning in states other than Connecticut, Creepy Joe™ Lieberman, spoke at one of his regular Chamber of Commerce appearances in New London yesterday and refused to talk politics, except to say that:

”I've never expected to be selected for vice president,” the senator said. “I've worked real hard, as people here know, to continue to be a senator from Connecticut. That's what I want to do and that's what I expect I will be doing next January.”

This, of course, is unmitigated baloney. What exactly has CJ™L done on behalf of Connecticut since he abandoned his party, and it's rules, to achieve re-election two years ago?

In fact, the argument could be made that in campaigning for John McCain, Lieberman has jeopardized Connecticut's influence in the Senate. If the Senate gains Democratic seats, it will no longer need Lieberman's swing vote. If Lieberman speaks at the Republican convention, continues to campaign for McCain, accepts a VP slot, or switches parties, it's reasonable to expect that he will lose his seniority, his committee chairmanships, and what little remains of his influence. He will not be a hero of bipartisanship, he will be a pariah. And Connecticut will have have a limp, ineffectual, unwanted and unloved Senator for the next four years.

Does Lieberman really think that President Barack Obama would really take his phone calls?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The gift of retroactive immunity just keeps on giving

Glenn Greenwald was out front of the party AT&T threw for Blue Dog (conservative) Democrats prior to the DNC.

He conjectures that AT&T is providing party payback for all of those who helped pitch retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.

Seems like he might be right.

Oh, but damn, Glenn has balls, but he could use a few lessons in basic video production.

"Look...I was in the civil rights movement..."

Creepy Joe™ Lieberman is profiled, er, skewered in a New York Magazine piece which tries to understand his journey from liberal Democrat to hawkish indy-Republicrat. The piece is entitled Joe Vengence.

One of the most telling quotes is about race. When asked about Obama as a candidate, he doesn't mention his education, his experience, his charisma or his amazing rise to prominence. No, he mentions his race.

“Look,” he tells me, “I like Obama, I was in the civil-rights movement, I went to Mississippi to register voters. I’m not going to attack Senator Obama.”

So, it's clear, Lieberman sees Obama first, not as a candidate, or a colleague in the Senate, but as an African-American. It's the most insidious kind of racism, respectful racism. And, of course, then to say, he isn't going to attack Obama, when he spends every day doing quite the opposite.

The article also notes a major Lieberman defection. His trusted executive assistant, Melissa Winter, has quit her job with Lieberman to work for the Obama campaign.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A poetic, alliterative convention - "recreate 68" and "Fuck Fox News"

Some Fox reporter tried to mix it up with protestors in Denver recentlty. But, as far as I can remember, Fox News wasn't around in 68, so their chants of "fuck Fox News," is a creative innovation.

The China games

I haven't watched a minute of the Olympics. It wasn't an official protest, though I have to say part of my motivation from staying away was the thought of somehow supporting a repressive Chinese culture, but actually, I'm just not that interested.

However, I've been following news reports and found two stories which are reprehensible. One is the repressive nature of the Chinese government, the second is the religious zealotry of the US archery coach.

Friday, August 22, 2008

He ain't no Creepy Joe™

Christopher Shays, who has spent the last seven years shilling for Bush on the Iraq war, and ignoring his constituents concerns on the matter, now sees himself as a latter day Barack Obama. He may call himself a moderate Republican, but he's not Abe Lincoln, and he's not even Lincoln Chaffee. To think that he thinks he's like Barack Obama is not only ludicrous, it's shameful. He may as well compare himself with Ghandi, after all, like Ghandi, he's a human being, I think. Shays claims he bucks his own party, and that would be when?

Homes sweet homes

John McCain is just a regular guy, with an average house, or seven.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An infinite regress

I regret not being able to attend the meeting with Colonel Keith Landry and the Army Corps of Engineers held Tuesday night, but from reading news accounts here, and here, and on this site, it seems like more of the same to me.

To begin with, the public was not allowed to speak. Most of us don't need to be reminded that it was the PUBLIC, and not any of the elected officials who were allowed to speak at the meeting, who first sounded the alarm about the Army's plans in Maromas. A plan that elected and business leaders endorsed. These leaders also initially supported the site on Boardman Lane, until the PUBLIC opposed both sites. And yet, the PUBLIC was not allowed to speak. Although the PUBLIC has the right to speak at any meeting of the Common Council (which, with quorum present, this officially was), according to the city charter. Someone should have asked Attorney General Dick Blumenthal for an opinion, although he jumped the line to speak during the PUBLIC's last opportunity for public comment. In the end the public needs the support of elected the Army plans.

Then the Army marches into town with a decorated colonel who declares that he wears the uniform "for the nation," and who, dressed strategically in combat fatigues, apologizes for Army closed press conference debacle. While the appearance of a decorated colonel indicates that the Army realizes how important the site selection is, it was yet another public relations event, long on promises, and short on detailed answers. How could the public doubt the word of a senior, bemedaled, war veteran. In the end, the Army made more promises about keeping residents informed and involved. Trust us, they assured the public, and the gathered elected officials. Unfortunately, trust must be earned, and so far, the Army has done little to earn it.

You'll notice that Col. Landry's consistent response was that the process would be open to residents, and yet when questioned his reply was as consistent - that he is following orders, and he would do what he was ordered to do, no matter what the residents, or elected officials decide.

To understand my own cynicism, you must know that my own trust of government and the Pentagon ended sometime around the secret invasion of Cambodia. And, for me, nothing in recent history improves that trust. No doubt, the men and women who serve in our National Guard and Army Reserve deserve our gratitude and support. Unfortunately the government and the Pentagon themselves, have been egregiously negligent in that support during the disastrous war in Iraq (lack of equipment, extended deployments, lack of medical, financial and psychological support, stop-loss orders). And now they have the nerve to turn to us and invoke the needs of the "citizen soldier" when they want us to build a training center on an site which is wrong for our city.

However, our own Middletown elected officials continue to baffle. After the Freeman Road controversy they passed an non-binding resolution with a list of alternative sites. (According to Councilman Daley this list reflects the preferences of the city - though the list was created by town hall staff after no public hearing or consultation with city residents). This resolution was passed at a public meeting (I was there) crammed with Freeman Road neighbors who were happy to hear about other sites. This resolution was not re-framed after the Boardman Lane discussions. And despite the pleas of our mayor and council members, they themselves did not seek public input when creating the list that is included in their hastily-passed resolution. It's time for them to reconsider that resolution, after consultation with residents from throughout the city.

And finally, Governor Rell, where are you? You change the marching orders without ever having a representative at any of the essential meetings. Your obvious lack of concern is bound to chip away at some of your teflon coating in this community.

Happily, Congresswoman Rosa Delauro, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal are not so easily placated by the Army's answers.

One final question. At next week's public meeting, will the Army send a senior officer to take the heat and provide answers?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

They deserve each other

It wasn't until Tuesday that I got around to reading Frank Rich's dissembling of John McCain, who it appears has dissembled himself frequently. Pair that up with a Democrat who turns Republicrat as soon as the rules of getting elected work against him, and you get a pair of Washington veterans who care less about the people who elected them then they do about their own sense of what's right. Of course, that sense of what's right is sculpted by their relationships with those who pad their campaign accounts.

Woo hoo Rachel Maddow gets her own show

With the TV news channels filled largely with air-filled talking heads, the fact that MSNBC is ditching the irritating Dan Abrams for the bright, funny, tenacious, beautiful Rachel Maddow is wonderful news. And MSNBC is realizing there's a market for an alternative to the conservative "MSM" drivel.

Laundromat blogging

On a rainy morning, I'm "stealing" wifi from the motel next to the laundromat I'm sitting in, on Rte. 1 in Ogunquit, ME.

The Portland Herald Press had a few interesting letters on the hypocritical response from the Bush administration to the invasion of Georgia by Russia. Both are interesting but Ursula Slavick's comparison to the Bush administration's bolstering of revolt in Haiti, is compelling. This is another object lesson in how George Bush reliably has played the wrong card in every instance of his "international diplomacy."

I guess Aristide goes in the "bad" column on Bush's dictator list.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Creepy Joe™ pricked by the AP

I've called him lots of things, but never what the AP did inadvertently, here.

His top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices mentioned include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.

Sometimes the truth will out. And that does nothing to defame the the dick who actually won the vice-presidential race.

Thanks to TPM for pointing it out.

Helen Ubiñas is back and she isn't happy

I would've predicted that the combination of downsizing at the Courant, and a newly-gained sense of her talent and worth in a larger world, would have meant that Helen Ubiñas would not return to California from a fellowship at a California university.

But she's back, and she isn't happy. And that makes for some great writing, right out of the blocks, and some fascinating reading.

Goodbye to a tin tyrant

Another George Bush puppet theater closed down as Musharrageorf is given the bum's rush in Pakistan.

The New York Times has thoughts on what's next.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Globe's Wasserman sees Creepy Joe™ for what he is

One of the nice things about vacation is that you read newspapers you don't normally read.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Trying to outflank city hall

When the Army comes back to Middletown on Tuesday, it will be with a show of scrambled eggs and epaulets of some of the Army's top brass. Bringing a war hero to town to plea the pathetic case the Army has made so far is a typical Pentagon public relations move.

I've heard unconfirmed reports, which I tried to confirm with Congresswoman Rosa Delauro's office yesterday (my call was not returned), that Army Secretary Pete Geren has written a long letter to Rosa Delauro saying that the Army will reinitiate a site search in Middletown based on the Governor's realignment of the base realignment. Rell, as commander-in-chief, has asked the Army to remove the New London guard base from the consolidation, creating a smaller base footprint. Hence, the Army Reserve Training Center needs less acreage, and perhaps a smaller site can be found.

If the Army refuses to build on a brownfield, I think Middletown should ask the Army to look elsewhere.

The meeting is Tuesday, August 19, 6:30 pm in Council Chambers. Apparently in another attempt to keep information from the public, it is for invited guests only. Westfield residents have been invited, but not other concerned residents.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Creepy Joe™ to Georgia

Creepy Joe™ Lieberman will travel to Georgia in a show of solidarity with the beleagured defenseless and tiny democracy. Since their expecting the US Army, Lieberman's appearance will probably be disappointing.

One can only imagine how he'll insult Barack Obama while he's there acting as Secretary Of State in Waiting.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

You can put slime between covers and it's still slime

The Swiftboaters are at it again, and despite the fact that their word and their work against John Kerry has been discredited time and again, Jerome Corsi, one of the prime slimers, is out with an anti-Obama book. The book, filled with inaccuracies and innuendo, is at the top of the New York Times best seller list, but as Media Matters points out, sales are spurred by bulk sales to right wing organizations and mailing lists. To make the number one spot on the list, only 5000 hardcover copies need to be sold, then it can be trumpeted as NY Times bestseller, and pushed to the unsophisticated masses. One can imagine many unread copies on otherwise empty bookshelves, with most right-wingers getting their quotations from Fox News. MediaMatters tears the book apart.

So much for Senate collegiality

Creepy Joe™ Lieberman limbos to new lows
as the Republican presidential campaign of John McCain sics their new Zell Miller on Barack Obama.

So, Obama doesn't always put America first. How is this legitimate from Mr. Anything For Israel at Any Cost?

Lieberman didn't escape without a scratch. Nancy Pelosi pulled out all the stops and called him "irresponsible." This isn't a Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn song, it's a campaign.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Justice flies below the radar to get above the law

Thanks for the clarification on that AG Mukasey.

So, a law broken is not necessarily a crime, eh?

Then what do we call it? A transgression? A fuck up? An offense? A reason for a time out?

And shouldn't the justice department, of all the frigging departments in the country, be the one department where even a little lawbreaking, even if it is only "civil service laws," be reason to through someone's ass in the can?

I grew up in a town called New Britain, where transgression of civil service law cost many men their jobs, their careers, their pensions, and in some cases, their health and their lives.

Mukasey is just another suck-up for George Bush.

Wilco rocks Tanglewood

Wilco proved again, last night, why they are the best band in America. Jeff Tweedy and company offered superb musicianship, complex songs, and a reason to shout. Gone are the days of an angry Tweedy spitting bile at an adoring audience. The adoring audience is still there, but Tweedy seems to like us. Dressed in illustrated and bejeweled Nudie suits, the band seemed to be enjoying shaking the dust from the rafters at the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra where the hardest rock prior to Wilco has been James Taylor's band.

ADDENDUM: Some thoughts about Tanglewood. For those who have attended Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts there, or pop concerts with the likes of Garrison Keillor, James Taylor or Bonnie Raitt, you understand the gentrified, laid back vibe of the place. It was a music shed before any of these new outdoor sheds, with failing automotive company names, was ever dreamed of. Tanglewoods grounds are lovely, nestled into the Bershires, with lots of pleasant views, and acres of lawns. The site lines from the lawn to the stage are non-existent. There are two video-mag screen for the picnickers and lawn chair crowd. Inside the shed, the unpaved floor is gently sloped so that even inside, sight lines are not great, but the sound is terrific. For veterans of folk and rock festivals it probably came as some surprise that there were no bag or cooler searches, and you could bring in whatever you wanted to eat or drink. Compare this to the cavity searches done at some festivals, and you begin to relax the minute you walk through the gate. I saw blankets laden with every kind of comestible and beverage, and though smoking is strictly discouraged on the grounds, there was lots of weed being consumed. There didn't seem to be the philosophy of, "Keep your beer and wine out so we can sell more of ours." And yet, they had a nice selection of Sam Adams and Magic Hat beers, some on tap, some in bottles. The ticket-takers and ushers are mostly seniors, and this may have been the rockingest show ever for the venerable venue, but they never seemed to get flustered. The mid-set journey from the back rows to the stage were largely unchallenged, with local police keeping the final aisle to the stage clear, and doing it with a sense of humor. I'd go to Tanglewood for another show like this in a second.

Tweedy line of the evening, after being heckled with dozens of requests - "Do you shout out requests when the BSO is here?" And then after a pause for effect, he turned his voice into a shouting heckler, "Mahler. Mahler. Mahler."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The coalition of the wishful thinking

So, the Georgians sent troops to Iraq, and kept them there long after many members of the "coalition of the willing" withdrew. They took George Bush at his word, and like many journalists, politicians and citizens (of the U.S. and Iraq), they have come to regret it.

Like many of his "friends" Georgia has found out that Bush is as good as his word, and his word is worthless. Bush has encouraged the democratic and nationalistic tendencies of Georgian leaders, only to cave in the face of a ruthless and disastrous invasion by Mother Russia.

And for all of those who think John McCain somehow has a better grasp on international affairs than he actually does, or worse yet, a better grasp of international affairs than Barack Obama, I insist you read this chilling analysis by Gregory Djerejian.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Heeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny

Hitting the op-ed trail

Connecticut's secretary-of-state scored bylines in the Hartford Courant on Sunday, and today in the New York Times.

You can read my thoughts on the Sunday op-ed here.

As for today's NYT piece, Bysiewicz is right on the money, challenging the federal government, and in particular the Veteran's Administration from prohibiting voter registration at Veteran's Hospitals and other Veterans facilities.

For god's sake, as Bysiewicz points out, these are the men, and women, who fought and sustained harm in service of their country, and we can't go out of our way to be sure they have the right to vote?

The images of war

(Gleb Garanich- Reuters)

I caught my four year old son staring at the image on the front page of Sunday's New York Times. It was a photo of a man embracing the corpse of a relative who had been slain in the bombing of Gori, Georgia by Russia. The dead man wears vintage Adidas, khakis and a plaid shirt he could've bought at Target. Standing above the man are two soldiers. I asked my son what he saw, and he was jolted back to our comfortable living room, and he said "Nothing." I knew he saw what I saw in the photo, horrible suffering - suffering he couldn't understand. I tried, inadequately, to describe what had happened, only to have him ask me who the "bad" people were, and to ask me to reassure him that they were far away, and that this same scenario could not happen to us.

Earlier in the day, I caught myself staring at the same photograph, with tears in my eyes. The horror of the Russian-Georgian conflict is evident in dozens of photographs already published around the world. The horror of the war is magnified by the fact that these people, these bodies, look alot like many of us. The skin color, the clothing, the facial features - these could be your neighbor, your cousin, your brother. They are.

It caught me off guard. Would I feel any less horror if these victims had black skin and were dressed in tribal African garb, or if they wore headscarfs and robes over their brown skin? I'd like to think my horror would be as significant. I've found myself staring at the same kinds of photos from Darfur, and Indonesia, and feeling the same sickening hopelessness about mankind.

But I've rarely found myself staring at photos of this kind of horror from Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps, if at the outset of the American incursions into both of these countries, hundreds of photos of dead civilians had been printed in the American press, our immediate feelings about the war would have been different. Perhaps if we witnessed the daily suffering of people trying to live "normal" lives, but interrupted by the horrors of war, we, as a nation, would have done more to stop the Bush administration from exercising his destructive machismo.

The Pentagon, and the press have failed the American people by refusing to allow us to see the results of our destructive ways. Those images can be hunted down on the internet, but rarely, in the past eight years have we seen the bloody face of a dead father and never have we seen the torn body of an American service person, unless it was in the cause of raising the ire of the American populace.

Some say the Viet Nam war was finally driven to a stop because television and news photos showed us its horror.

It's a mistake to fight an visually antiseptic war. It's too easy to hide in our cocoons and hum "God Bless America."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Creepy Joe™ hedges his bets

While Creepy Joe™ is on the shortlist to be Forgetful Johnny McCain's Veepy Joe, he's also, obviously, beginning to think of the possibilities of his diminished future if the Democrats retain control of the House and Senate, especially if that control is in bigger numbers.

Thanks to CT Bob for pointing out that CNN has reported a $115,000 donation by the waffling Senator to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. As Bob points out, Lieberman appears to be padding the nest of his committee chairmanships. The Democrats would never be so venial as to be swayed by tens of thousands of dollars. Ask any lobbyist.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The quietest week of the year

My blogging has been scattered and superficial this week as I've spent many hours in a dark AVID edit suite chopping together the rough cut of a video for Kurn Hattin Home, a residential school for kids with problems at home (the homelife is usually the problem, and not the child). The edit is based on shooting over the course of a year, and many hours of footage. It takes a lot of concentration and creative energy.

That being said, I've always found this week of August to be the quietest of the year. Here in Middletown, Wesleyan's summer programs are over, students haven't arrived, and the energy is poured into preparing buildings for the arrival of students in a few weeks.

The New England Folk Festival season is temporarily in hiatus. Somehow, no one has ever claimed this second week of August as the logical or reasonable time for a festival (it's been claimed by the Newport Jazz Festival for several decades), and while it's usually hot, dank and humid, this weekend would have proven to be a delightful one in which to sit and listen to music.

Lots of folks are vacationing, and I sit at home wondering why my tomatoes haven't ripened (I've got a Brandywine vine that hasn't put out even a single tomato bloom - help).

And somehow, I've been up every night this week at 3, unable to sleep. It's taken me nearly all the way through one of my summer passions, the latest James Lee Burke novel, Swan Peak, popcorn crime literature featuring Cajun detective Dave Robichaux.

And the news media has nothing better to do then pursue pitiful John Edwards.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ummmm, hmmmm, duh...

Sure, the campaign trail is a rough road, but when it's right there in front of you on the telePrompter, you'd think you could get it right.

H/T TalkingPointsMemo.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gotta lover her "holy mackerel-ness"

If you haven't had the chance to hear a commentary delivered by Rachel Maddow, or to have seen her fill-in for Olbermann (it's called upstaged), or listened other show on Air America, then you're missing one of the brightest lights in the TV news world. Rachel Maddow has spunk, substance, brains and beauty. She can skewer a blathering conservative with facts, and jolt a glib pundit with her analysis.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so.

The constitutional right to wear a red, white and blue fez

("Free speech pen" at the Boston Democratic National Convention, 2004)

As hard as I looked at my pocket-sized copy of The Constitution, I couldn't find a single reference to safety and security at a political convention. No protection of the right to sprinkle balloons and confetti at will. No protection of the right to binge drink until you spew on your t-shirt image of Obama. No protection of the right to walk three blocks to the convention center without hearing someone shouting at you about the abridgment of civil rights.

But, there is this little Amendment, which happens to be the first listed: "Congress shall make no law (that's NO law)...abridging the freedom of press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble..."

And still, a federal judge has agreed that the city of Denver (aw, c'mon Hick!), and the Secret Service, have the right to lock protestors in caged "free-speech" pens during the Democratic National Convention. She talks about "security" which, sorry Blackwater, isn't mentioned in the Constitution either.

Could be the judge needs a little refresher course on what "no" means.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The class and the ass

The dirty tricks have begun, and it's flag-waving pseudo-patriots like John Quinn who are leading the charge.

Photographer insists on Pledge of Allegiance before Obama rally from Dale Omori on Vimeo.

And Connecticut Bob's thoughts on the topic.

Me, Roy, and 150 friends

(Ken Dowst photo)

Thanks to all who came out to the Roy Zimmerman show. It was a hoot in every sense of the word, and most of us left the room exhausted from laughter.

Roy was very pleased with the night. It was the largest audience of his Eastern tour, and he was gratified that the people of Central Connecticut came out.

All of us at WESU, WWUH and WHUS extend our thanks to you for this celebration of free speech, independent radio, and peace.


And she reads a telePrompter better than both of them

Paris replies.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Erik Darling, RIP

Influential folk artist Erik Darling died Sunday. He had the audacity to score two top ten hits with folk songs - The Banana Boat Song with The Tarriers (in which he performed with actor Alan Arkin) and Walk Right In with the Rooftop Singers. You can hear a sample from each below. Darling left the Tarriers to replace Pete Seeger in the Weavers. He released several solo recordings after his stint with the Rooftop Singer.

Matt Nozzolio, RIP

Middletown resident, MDC spokesman, and accomplished bluegrass dobro player Matt Nozzolio died unexpectedly Sunday after a solo musical performance in New Haven.

More info at his website.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Welcome to castle anthrax

Glenn Greenwald, who is quick to indicate that he has no evidence on which to make a statement about Bruce Ivins' guilt in the anthrax case, has plenty to say about how the press and the FBI has handled the case, from the beginning.

In addition, Greenwald offers lots of reasons why we can't, with any assurance, say "case closed."

When is a seal not a seal

When it's a boatful of phony Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen.

Sy Hersh, who has been one of the bravest and most accurate reporters of the dark and despicable acts of the Bush White House, reported this month, that Dick Cheney was trying to incite a war with Iran.

In a demented brain storming session in the VP's office, staffers where trying to figure out ways to trigger an incident which would garner support amongst Americans for a war with Iran.

Fortunately, because the charade would put American lives at risk (isn't that an understatement), it was rejected.

But, it's a illustration of the psychopathic character of this administration.

Roy Zimmerman's America

Roy Zimmerman has already traveled to 23 of the 48 states in his 50-state pre-election strategy.

On Tuesday, he'll make a second stop in Connecticut (he was through on Saturday to do an interview for Susan Forbes Hansen and WHUS).

Here are the details for his visit:

Roy Zimmerman
Tuesday August 5th, 7:30 pm
Wilde Auditorium, University of Hartford
TIX: 860-768-4228 or online

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Creepy Joe™ gets caught with a handful of mud

Senator Lieberman spent another Sunday morning shilling for the decrepit, uninformed, chameleon Republican candidate for the presidency. Tom Brokaw, and John Kerry didn't let him off the hook.

Where is the Courant's reporting on its layoffs?

I know these are depressing days at the Hartford Courant. They're depressing days, indeed at all US newspapers facing a spiraling decline in readership. In an effort that can only be described as desperate self-strangulation, the corporate owners of the papers are shedding reporters, news copy inches, and number of pages to "save themselves."

Save themselves?

The Hartford Courant, like a number of US dailies, is trying to reinvent itself as a sleeker, more-focused version of itself, but it's unlikely that the paper will be able to reinvent the news-seeking habits of a new generation of readers. The defection to either web-based news, or complete insular, non-news, ignorant bliss, is endemic in a generation who would rather laugh at the news than understand it. What I don't understand, is that one must know what the news is to get Jon Stewart's jokes.

But why has the Courant refused to devote a single line to the sizeable loss of reporting staff (and for that matter, support staff), which occured Thursday July 31? Is it bad business to acknowledge that the news will be written by fewer hands?

Credit to Diane Smith of WTIC-AM for spending time honoring some of the departing writers and performing the eulogy that other media outlets seemed to ignore.

In my email correspondence with a few friends at the Courant, I discovered that there is not a definitive list circulating at the Courant, but among those whose bylines have disappeared are Carole Goldberg, Greg Morago, Linda Giuca, photographer Marc-Yves Regis, and many copy editors. Many were offered buy-outs, some were victims of lay-off.

The wake for the departing writers was held at Kenny's (now the Red Rock tavern), which has been an indispensable hang-out for Courant writers. It's reported that the short good-bye was bittersweet, but as cathartic as a real wake.

UPDATE: Found an unofficial list here which includes all 2008 departures, layoff and buyouts, thanks to CT News Junkie.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Will global warming kill folk festivals

It's been a rough summer for folk festivals in the Northeast.

I was at WWUH this morning standing over bluegrass host Kevin Lynch's shoulder as he watched a storm cell approaching East Hartford and the Podunk Bluegrass Festival. The worst part of that cell was bearing down on Newport RI, and the Newport Folk Festival.

I watched a close-call a few weeks ago at the Green River Festival.

But last week, Falcon Ridge, which gamely has dealt with mud and showers each and every year, was hit hard last week with a fast-moving front, high winds, heavy rain and sizeable hail. You can read some accounts here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Spy vs. spy vs. spy

Well George Bush has finally become the uniter he promised he would be.

He's united Congressional Republican and the ACLU in opposition to a new executive order about uniting the 16 spy agencies in the federal government. Yes, that's right 16. I dare you to name half of them (and UNCLE is not one).

Congressional Republicans are angry because the huge order was delivered 40 minutes before the approval vote was to be taken.

The ACLU is angry because the executive order shifts the focus of agencies like the CIA onto American shores.

Everything you think can and will be used against you.

Get your war on, comes to life

The Army fails public relations 101

If the Army wanted to demonstrate their incompetence in handling public relations and communications, they couldn't have done better than their performance Thursday at a closed-door press conference at the Inn at Middletown.

To begin with, they excluded three important town representatives from the meeting. Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, State Senator Paul Doyle and State Representative Joe Serra were all prevented from entering the meeting to observe, leaving them stewing in the hallway. Attorney General Dick Blumenthal was allowed in, apparently because he called ahead and asked permission. So before the press conference had even begun, the Army further alienated town and state officials whom they need on their side.

Then the Army Corps of Engineers and the Army Reserve went about the task of clarifying the facts. They claimed that there was a lot of false information being bandied about. Unfortunately for the Army, they don't have a stellar reputation for being straightforward. These past seven years have shown a disgraceful disregard for the truth as the Pentagon attempted to assist the President in spinning their misguided misadventures in Iraq. And now the Army is going to set the record straight?

Here's how they did it.

In every meeting up until this one the Army claimed the base would support 800 reservists visiting the site on weekends each month, and that the base would have 150 full-time employees. Those claims were made to support the argument that the Training Center would have a positive economic impact on the city. Now that the Army is addressing charges that the base would put an undue traffic burden on country roads, they've decided that there will only be 70 full-time employees and 400 reservists and guardsmen for monthly visits. So, the original inaccuracies were disseminated not by passionate opponents to the site, but by the Army itself.

In their prepared statement to the press at the meeting, the Army declared that they would be good neighbors, and would work with the city because they were bound to "go above and beyond" do the right thing. But when questioned by a correspondent from the Middletown Eye about exactly how many homes adjoined the site, no one in the room - not one representative of the group who were claiming to be good neighbors, and who declared they were doing a thorough job - no one knew the answer. In fact, all of the homes on Atkins, Old Farms East and Timber Ridge will be affected either directly, or indirectly by the construction of the facility.

The Army Corps of Engineers also declared that, as opposed to public impression, there would be no live ammunition, and no outside military exercises conducted on the site. That would go under the heading of "correcting a misinterpretation which didn't exist." I've been to most of the meetings with the Corps, and know that the question has consistently been asked - "What will the Army be doing on the site?" The answer has always been, "Classroom training, and training on vehicle maintenance." No where - in the press, on blogs, in public meetings - has anyone protested because the army would be using live ammunition, or conducting outdoor military exercises.

The Corps also described the facility as something like "Wesleyan University." Well, unless they intend to immediately disregard their "don't ask, don't tell" policy, I can guarantee it won't be anything like Wesleyan University (though probably unbeknownst to the Army Reserve, the original buildings at Wesleyan University began as a military school!). The building will be more like a WalMart with a huge parking lot then it will ever be like Wesleyan University.

The Army also allowed a representative of the current owners of the property to speak. Pedro Wasmer, of Fairfield, represents a group of real estate investors which includes, by his own account, pharmacists, doctors, and people like that, who are, in fact, Middletown taxpayers, but who don't live in town. The group has not been able to lure any other development to the hard-to-develop site, so they support the Army's plan. Wasmer conjured up the "grand military history" of the state of Connecticut to lend support to the plans. Of course, his real interest in the Army's plans is not the "grand military history" but the benefit to his own group of investors.

So at the end of the day, the Army, which hoped to use the press conference to bolster support, ended up angering state and local officials, engaging a formidable new opponent in the person of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, getting their lock-out of local officials as lead-stories on local newscasts and in local papers, further generating local public opposition and altering their presentation with a new set of facts to align with their current strategy.

Oops, doesn't seem like a good communications day to me.

UPDATE: BTW, I love the way the Army is helping the poor farm animals. The Army realizes that the fate of furry creatures is often more important to readers and viewers, then the fate of human beings. So, they're going to make an effort to help pay for the transfer of the animals to a nice new farm - where they'll be happy and free!!! And no puppies will be killed in the construction of the new facility.

Also, at one point, one of the Army reps said that residents of the state should be thankful that federal dollars and not state dollars will be used to build the facility. That's a relief, because I pay state taxes, and the federal money comes from....hey, wait a minute!

More detailed and complex reporting on the meeting, including environmental impact and other issues will be discussed in a following post.

What if the Beatles were Irish?

More shameless promotion.

Roy Zimmerman's has gotten millions of youtube hits with the songs he posts. This one has garnered nearly a half million on its own, and, strangely, it's one of his most controversial.

The premise, as Zimmerman explains in the clip, is to imagine some of the Beatles most well-known hits sung as if by an energetic Irish folk group, say, like the Clancy brothers or the Dubliners.

However, he came up with the premise, "what if the Beatles were Irish" without really thinking it through. Because, the Beatles came from Liverpool, just across the Irish sea from the Emerald Isle, and it's a huge Irish ex-pat enclave. And, in fact, all the Beatles, while thoroughly Liverpudlian, had strong Irish heritage.

So, the premise is faulty, but the medley it spawned is still hilarious.

Roy Zimmerman
Tuesday August 5th, 7:30 pm
Wilde Auditorium, University of Hartford
TIX: 860-768-4228 or online