Monday, October 31, 2005

Is the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade Just Too Damn Cute?

I think so. My friends and I ran into it on Sunday. We didn't pay to go all the way in, so no current pix, but here's a link to some pictures from the parade in '03.
This year, the bee dog was skinnier. There was a dog dressed as a B train (in a cardboard box), some dogs dressed up as mummies, and a dog dressed as an ipod (with a white leash, of course.
Other Halloween stories.... My friend and I went to "the rub's" halloween party on Saturday and I think we were the oldest people there. We dressed as Gods and barely talked ot anyone there. Although the music was good, the funniest part of the evening happened before we went into the club. As we stood at the velvet rope, something I rarely do, we were highly entertained by one of the most frightening NYC costumes I've ever seen. As is often the case in NY, there was a big cluster of black plastic trashbags on the sidewalk near the line. And in the midst of this pile...(no it wasn't the rat halloween costume parade), a guy was crouching with a black plastic bag wrapped around himself. He was good enough at crouching and hiding that you wouldn't know this except for the fact that whenever a likely person walked by, he would leap from the cluster of garbage bags and scream. He did this over and over again, and would sometimes whisper from the bag to those of us on line, "that couple coming up on the left." We'd all start giggling, they'd get close and AAAGGGGGH, the garbage is jumping.

I said to my friend, "this is the scariest thing any Nyer ever thinks about: garbage coming to life."

So, kudos, NYC. Yet another bizarre and beautiful Halloween.

Lying Then, Lying Again

I can't believe how long I waited for those indictments, and how much speculation I read. I now agree with all of those who were saying that we should stop speculating to the skies about what was coming, because now that it is Libby (not Cheney and not yet Rove) and for obstruction of justice, not the 1982 intelligence identities protection act, not treason, not investigations of Niger forgeries. I'm feeling kind of let down. My expectations were at the Watergate level last week, but I think now if it gets to that point that it's going to be a LONG slow process.

Meanwhile, I was happy to see on the NYT front page an article about non-event of the The Gulf of Tonkin incident, which as far as I'm concerned, had already been exposed long ago. Daniel Ellsberg opens his magnificent memoir, Secrets with his experience of receiving cables from the ship on his first day at work in the Pentagon. His conclusion by late in the afternoon on August 4, 1965 was that it was likely that there had been no attack. It was in 1981, says Ellsberg, that Robert Scheer finally convinced even the ship's captain, Herrick, that he had been wrong to report the first torpedo attack.
So, if released cables revealed the truth about the Gulf of Tonkin "non-event" over twenty years ago, why the front page treatment now? Because the in-house NSA historian who has finally copped to what independent journalists have been saying for years, is officially being suppressed because the agency is worried that people will make "uncomfortable comparisons" between this lie and the current Iraq war...but secrecy historian, Matthew Aid, has just gone public about the suppression. Unsurprisingly, Hanyok finds the "mistake" in intelligence to non-political.
Can we expect to read about Niger forgeries, Yellowcake, and the rest of the lies of the Iraq war in an NSA report in 2045? I hope it's sooner, and that by the time it all does come out, that people still care.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Lost in Brooklyn

Yesterday, I wrote here just before going out for a run with a friend of mine who's visiting from out of town. The two of us set off around 11am, and she told me she was a slow runner, and wanted to run alone with her walkman, would meet me back at my place. So, I pointed out the directions as we ran to the park but forgot the most crucial reminder before we separated - giving her a landmark INSIDE the park for where to exit. Recalling this too late, at the end of the run, I waited for her, then ran back in the other direction to see if I could intercept her. To no avail. Where was she? I wondered, Why couldn't I see her behind me? Maybe she hadn't finished the loop, had doubled back and was already at my place, waiting for me?
I went home - she wasn't there. I did sit-ups. I took a shower. My friend: still not there. Now, as I looked at the clock and realized it was well after noon, I got worried: I dumped out her bag to see what she had with her: no money, no ID, no cell phone - BUT she had her car keys. I quickly dressed and headed out on my bike to look for her. Visions of my friend lying on the path with her leg broken, or mauled by dogs, dragged off the path and lying dead under a tree, filled my mind. I realized too late into my loop around the park that this was a ridiculous strategy. If she'd been injured, she'd be taken to the hospital by some good samaritan or cop. After a quick circle around the area between the park and my house (where I imagined I might find her wandering the streets lost) I went home. I went to look and see if she'd gone to sit in her car to warm up (not there). I started calling the hospitals. Not there either. Finally, accepting the fact that she wasn't going to just walk in the door at any minute, and with the prevailing vision in my mind that she was wandering lost somewhere in Brooklyn with no phone, no money and no real knowledge of the area, I called the police. They came over to the house and I showed them pictures but they said they couldn't do anything to help me since she was an adult and not disabled. There was no way to "file a missing persons report" on an adult who had disappared. The officers were pretty sympathetic toward me and they offered to drive around the neighborhood with me in the back of the car, looking for her. Now, anyone who knows me will know how weird I felt about this, but I did it. What else was I going to do, ride around on my bike looking for her? Call her parents to see if she'd contacted them?
So, I got in the car, and away we went. One of the cops had been riding his own bike around the park for hours that morning and said that the park police hadn't reported any ambulances. That was reassuring. They put out her description to other cops in the area. At one point, the driver asked me, "isn't this better than a bike?" and I thought, I dunno, I did feel somehow that we were doing things more efficiently than I would have, and the other said in unmistakeable bikerese, "nothing's better than a bike." Aha, a kindred spirit, I thought, and then I almost asked the cop, "so do you support critical mass?" - but wouldn't that have been provocative though? I wanted to keep them on my side; finding my lost friend, who was stumbling around in the cold with just running pants and a sweatshirt on, was more important than scoring some point. These guys were helping me find my friend and they could easily not have done so. In fact, if I and my friend had been Black, it's very likely that I would not have gotten this kind of "officer friendly" treatment. It was already the case that they were asking me if my friend could have gone off with some guy she met or just "gone shopping" or walking around.
No, no, no, I insisted. She didn't have money, she wasn't dressed warmly, she wouldn't go meet some guy - though I did think, "what if some nice family took her inside to warm up, gave her some tea or cocoa and she fell asleep on their couch? " How EVER would I find her? They thought this was weird, "your friend would go to a stranger's house and take a nap?" they asked.
We drove all around Windsor Terrace and as we rounded the corner on Bartle-Prtichard Square, to see if she was at the Connecticut Muffin. One of the cops said, "there's the sarge, let's go talk to him." We pulled up next to the other police car and they talked through the open windows about my friend. Now I felt like I was on "Law and Order" or something, and I had a little thrill. Yes, I'm one of the many lefty cop-haters who reads and watches detective fiction. Cognitive Dissonance: simultaneous anxiety about being with the cops and knowing that these guys were really helping me out.
The problem with my mystery reading habit was that I could also imagine several worst-case scenarios: my friend abducted from the running path and murdered in a van. When I floated these horrific scenes by them, the cops reassured me that Prospect Park was really safe and that there were "tons" of people out. Not so reassuringly, they told me about some elderly women from Florida who'd gotten lost for three days when coming home from a bingo game and wound up in Georgia.
We imagined how people might be giving her bad directions. We speculated about her and drove and drove. Finally, after I don't know how many loops around various neighborhoods, they heard something from the radio, "they think they found her: at 5th avenue and 17th street."
Halleluja! The whole thing became immediately clear to me. She had not known whether I lived on 5th street or 5th avenue and had gotten directed in the completely wrong direction. We drove down the slope and there she was: standing with a coffee cup outside a coffeeshop, looking happy that we were there. She had called a cab. She got in the back of the police car and they drove us home as she told us what had been happening for the last two+ hours. So all's well that ends well, as they say.
Her side of the story is a good one...and maybe she'll tell some of it here. Most of what I realized was that no one knew what she was talking about: not the UPS guy, not the mailman, none of the people who could reasonably be expected to know where the hell things were directed her towards me. They all sent her Slopeward, further and further away from my house. What if we hadn't found her? oy. too terrible to think about. We're all ready again to go out today, but we're not getting separated without phones and cash.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Apologetic Blog

I apologize to my more loyal readers for my failure to keep updating the blog lately. It's been something of a mad, mad, mad, mad week for me including lots of work and lots of socializing. I even had students in my office burning the late-evening oil all week just because they wanted to hang out and talk about history, school, and their gawdawful jobs. Now, I do love that - it's very good for the ego, and it's fun to find out more about my students in a different atmosphere, but it cuts down on the blogging time.
More than that though, I just couldn't think of anything to say about any news that was or wasn't happening. I didn't want to be purely in diary mode because that's of limited interest. But, here goes on both counts....
News you've already heard: Patrick Fitzgerald is going to do a press conference at 2pm today. THAT should be interesting. I loved seeing the headline "Fright House" when I was rushing by a newsstand yesterday.
and here's a neither profound nor revealing diary: This week at school was, despite midterms, light-hearted and fun. I played Ma Rainey's "Black Bottom" for a number of my classes yesterday, and students had funny comments to make and seemed ready to run out and buy a bunch of her CDs. One said, "It's like the original rumpshaker." I also played this song by Frank Hutchison, The last scene of the Titanic,which you can listen to online at the internet archive website.
I am heading into an event-filled weekend and I will try to have more profound reflections upon these events for you, and possibly halloween costumed pictures in my next entry. For now: Enjoy the weather and the crazy carnivalesque atmosphere that Halloweeen weekend will bring to our burg. Did you see any costumes on the train yesterday? I saw a guy dressed as "Burger King." I couldn't figure out if he was crazy or on his way to a party. possibly both.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Brian Lehrer Kissing David Brooks' Ass. Oy Gevalt

Why is Brian Lehrer kissing the ass of the disgraceful David Brooks on his radio show this morning? He introduced Brooks by calling him the most imaginative columnist at the New York Times. Could he mean that Brooks is imaginative because he simply "makes shit up"? (Sadly, Sasha Issenberg's article tracing Brooks' fabrications in his Atlantic Monthly Mag piece on "Blue America" from Philadelphia Magazine has now disappeared from Phillymag's website, but the link above will take you to a Daily Howler interview with Issenberg in which he reviews many of his findings).
(the open-source textbook business seems much more promising.)
Brooks on the radio came off like a hack. He defended the Bush whitehouse against the leak invesigation. Going to Lehrer's dialogue with Brooks about the leak investigation after listening to Amy Goodman's interview with Melvin Goodman, a former CIA analyst who strongly beleives that the Bush-Cheney cabal is about to come crashing down was a bit like zipping between parallel universes.
In one of those universes, the debate is about "will the prosecutor's charges focus on the violation of the identities protection act?" and "will the charges relate to perjury in the grand jury investigation of the leak, but not find a crime in the leak?"
In the other universe the debate is about, "will the prosectur charge w/cover up and conspiracy over the attack on political enemies?" or will the Whitehouse Iraq Group finally get busted for cooking up intelligence in order to mislead the American people into supporting a war against Iraq?
I hope the people who get the nasty surprise this week will be the ones who are interpreting the probe narrowly. Wouldn't that be sweet? It will sting both the govt and the pundits who defend them?
Finally, and sadly.
Look for Cindy Sheehan in the news today. She has been saying that she will chain herself to the Whitehouse fence after the 2000th soldier dies in Iraq. That bad news came this morning.
As a reminder, here is Carly Sheehan's poem, which Cindy Sheehan read at the Brooklyn Peace Fair on Saturday.

Friday, October 21, 2005

America...The Beautiful?

Yesterday, in a discussion of WWI and the Sedition Act, some of my students got involved in a defense of America as the "greatest country in the world" with the best economic opportunity and the highest standards of living.
I hear people say this all the time, and I never have that experience of America myself. After all, I'm on the low-side of the middle-class salary for NYC, and I spent years living in the ghetto in Minneapolis. I never felt we had it so good. A lot of my students presumably live in pretty wretched conditions, and yet they insist that they live in the land of opportunity, especially for the working class. I don't know where they get this idea? Not from their own experience, that's for sure, and not from the papers,either. So...
Just in case you were wondering, here are some numbers. We certainly didn't have the highest standard of living in 1991, when these statistics were calculated. For more recent findings on international living standards or "quality of life" go to the OECD's factbook for 2005. Here you will find that the US ranks the highest in both GDP and poverty rate for all industrialized nations, that Americans spend almost twice as much on health care as people in other industrialized countries, and that US workers work more hours than everyone else, but that they have the lowest rate of real compensation as all the other European countries. Why my students think this is good for the working-class, I don't know.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Help I've been sucked into a media vortex and I can't get up!

I hope Marc Maron and Mark Reilly will be doing a little radio dance when I wake up tomorrow morning, but it's damn hard to the moment.
I've been waiting for a new article from Murray Waas for what feels like a week. Here it is. It focuses on witness tampering accusations and obstruction of justice. Other news, from the NYT suggests that there will at least be some indictments. In true DC-media overkill, I'm simultaneously listening to Scott McClellan's press conference while writing this, and I just heard someone ask McClellan if Miers, as Whitehouse counsel, has been involved in the leak investigation... (stonewalling followed) Oh well, today's press conference wasn't as entertaining as many recent ones have been.
Every day, I wake up to the promise of imminent indictments. As you can see, I've become completely fixated. Waiting and hoping for these indictments is driving me crazy. I have been going to the Daily Kos website an awful lot lately, searching for BREAKING news. They're calling this season "Fitzmas."

I also just felt I just HAD to see Bill O'Reilly on the Daily Show. After all, Stewart has been on O'Reilly's show. It was then that O'Reilly referred to Stewart's audience as "stoned slackers" - As usual, this was a case of projection.

Tonight, for the rematch, O'Reilly was on Stewart's turf and came off as a real boor. It was a case-study in the superiority of humor as a means of social critique.
(prepare for a play-by-play)
After O'Reilly made a couple of paranoid references to the Colbert report (Which he called French), Stewart started the interview with a simple question, "why so angry?" O'Reilly talked about the problems of the world and how he had "bad people to fight" --and then he had to stop. He just knew he had walked right into it. Without mentioning any names, he just had to acknowledge the Bush administration's failure to find Bin Laden. Stewart challenged him to "go get them!"
I think I liked it best when Stewart analyzed O'Reilly's bullying strategy through the "Peanuts" comic strip. "Going After the French is like going after Marcy," he said..."Lucy's the one you should be worried about." As O'Relly tried to defend himself, saying he wasn't really going after the "little guy," Stewart leaned over the desk and whispered,
"you know, they didn't find any weapons of mass destruction." When O'Reilly called this liberal propaganda, Stewart just laughed. I'm glad that he didn't think the comment merited a reply.
Overall, the theme of the night was a debate over personal approach or style, indicating that Stewart maintained control of the interview from the beginning to the end. With the disarming, "why so angry," he set up the opposition from the beginning. Instead of looking like a righteous crusader for justice, O'Reilly came off like a humorless scold. When O'Reilly chided Stewart for laughing at him and tried to win points with the audience by saying, that Stewart giggled through disaster,"..Go ahead laugh at the hurricane," Stewart played it off.
Always quick with the reply, Stewart responded, "you're right, we do add insult to injury...and as O'Reilly started gloating over a point seemingly won....
Stewart, with perfect timing responded, "but you add injury."
Although O'Reilly didn't crumple up and cry, he certainly knew he had lost, and for that reason, this had to be one of the best moments of live television that I've ever seen. Afterwards, I felt I had witnessed some kind of watershed event. Has Bill O'Reilly ever lost face like that on television? Apparently, he's thinking about retirement, and he even said on the show that building up "outrage" is exhausting...even for him. seems like it.
While it may seem strange to pit two TV personalities against each other and say it represents something important about the zeitgeist, I don't think it's entirely inappropriate. Television news shows and TV "infotainment" have become an increasingly important part of the national political conversation. Rush Limbaugh and all his followers have played such a huge role in developing today's right-wing base. Dittoheads and their ilk have been a thorn in all of our sides.
So seeing the most popular left-leaning TV news personality totally defeat the most popular right-wing personality (unless that's Limbaugh) seems a sign of a tidal turn. In addition, I liked this face-off between self-righteous "save-the-world" showmanship and mockery as modes of social engagement. While I agree that Stewart's satire and humor are not on their own going to "change the world" or solve humanity's problems, I also think that a sense of humor is an essential part of any democratic social movement. The US right wing seems to have buried its sense of humor long ago.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Indictment Roundup

There's indictments and about-to-be indictments in the news today.
Here are some examples:
and Saddam Hussein are both in the news for being indicted today.
and...there's the DeLay, Abramoff mishegas.
and there's the guy who was just arrested in a somewhat bizarre terror-threat hoax regarding Boston.

And, what day would be complete without speculation about Fitzgerald's investigation? Yesterday, I was giddy with delight when I read that the actual president (Dick Cheney) was now a focus of the investigation. The afore-linked Washington Post article brings up the same discussion of Cheney's office and the CIA that Seymour Hersh was covering years ago. It says:
Before the war, [Cheney] traveled to CIA headquarters for briefings, an unusual move that some critics interpreted as an effort to pressure intelligence officials into supporting his view of the evidence. After the war, when critics started questioning whether the White House relied on faulty information to justify war, Cheney and Libby were central to the effort to defend the intelligence and discredit the naysayers in Congress and elsewhere.
There are some excellent Dkos diaries today and one of them includes a comment linking to this BBC story of whitehouse knowledge of Wilson's report discrediting the Niger uranium sale.
John Nichols, it's time for a beat-the-headlines revised and updated paperback, don't you think?
As the headline on "After Downing Street" revels in Plame, Plame, Plame, people are speculating about a snitch? on the Whitehouse staff. Even the true-believers at Free Republic are nervous now. At least one bright light on their comment board has commented,
To: saganite
The only thing that even worries me at all about this article is this short segment from it: "They have got a senior cooperating witness - someone who is giving them all of that," a source who has been questioned in the leak probe told the Daily News yesterday. That implies to me that someone may have 'flipped' or 'turned'. If something like that really has happened, then all I can say is we need to buckle in, because we're in for quite a ride. Witchhunt or not, this whole deal has the ability to even further distract the President and his staff from their agenda. I'm a realist, and I truly feel that little good can come of this probe. Remember we've got the MSM working against us on this, too. I'm getting sick and tired of us getting flanked on all sides and not at least fighting back. Rolling over is going go get us nothing but out of power - and that sucks
14 posted on 10/18/2005 5:33:33 AM PDT by Rock_n_Roll_Republican

Yes, yes, it's a good morning indeed.
Courtroom 302, which has been my bedtime reading this week, has a section on "good facts" and "bad facts." Which ones will predominate when these trials begin?
Please remember that indictment is not the same as conviction, but nonetheless, I feel the edge coming off my appetite for justice.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Oh Judith, Oh Scooter....I can't believe they're still trying to sell that "faulty CIA" spin.

By now, I'm sure you've all gotten up to the stunning statement issued by Judtih Miller in the New York Times and the accompanying Times story about how they failed to cover the Plame-leak investigation because of her involvement in it.
In her statement, Miller is really working hard to help the Whitehouse with its story that it was misled by bad intelligence, rather than "fixing the facts around the policy."
As it becomes increasingly clear that many Americans believe the administration lied about WMD, Miller's statement is itself an attempt to help out the whitehouse, as she depicts Libby's motivations as being about an argument with the CIA who was trying to "shift the blame" for the "faulty intelligence" to the Whitehouse. Hmmm. Wasn't the earlier excuse (from Rove to Cooper that the effort was to correct Wilson 's incorrent story?) Now let's see, according to Miller's own story, and to the facts, Wilson found no evidence of uranium purchases by Iraqis in Niger on his 2002 trip there. The President, Vice-President, and National Security Advisor talked of the spectre of a mushroom cloud before the invasion of Iraq and well into the Summer of 2003, and the "Niger documents" widely denounced as forgeries by the UN, IAEA and any journalists who investigated, including the one who originally found them, played a big role in the administration's arguments about Iraq as nucelar threat.
However, the Whitehouse is STILL busy shifting the blame and working very hard to make the defense of ignorance of Wilson's trip. Even the Rove "correction" to Cooper related to whether or not Cheney knew Wilson. Here's how Libby is delivering the White House story through Miller, What was evident, I told the grand jury, was Mr. Libby's anger that Mr. Bush might have made inaccurate statements because the CIA failed to share doubts about the Iraq intelligence.
"No briefer came in and said, 'You got it wrong, Mr. President,' " he said, according to my notes

Oh really? This makes El Baradai's Nobel prize well-timed.
David Sirota and Christy Harvey of the Center for American Progress wrote an excellent piece called "They Knew" debunking this claim in In These Times almost a year ago. It's worth reading again, for a succinct rebuttal to Miller's lame claims that the CIA failed to communicate the inaccuracy of WMD reports to the admin.

If you want an even more detailed account against which to measure Judith Miller's (ie, Lewis Libby's) claims about the CIA/Bush admin. conflict, read what a real investigative reporter has to say. In the article linked above, Seymour Hersh goes over the original "yellowcake" story and how it made its way into the whitehouse. It goes back to the original effort to blame the CIA for "bad intelligence" and provides a thorough analysis of the yellowcake story's role in the lead up to the war. While Miller's statement reveals her chummy relationship with both the "Veep" and Libby, and her complete failure to even talk to any other sources, Hersh's article on the same events paints a much more complex picture. In her recent statement, Miller confessed in her piece that she was "fooled" about WMDs because of her bad sources. I guess she is counting on the public not to have more information than she did, because they were reading the crappy reporting done by people like her. Other reporters were...somehow able to learn more. Here's the most relevant section in relation to Miller's story:

What made the two-and-a-half-year-old report [on yellowcake sale in Niger] stand out in Washington was its relative freshness. A 1999 attempt by Iraq to buy uranium ore, if verified, would seem to prove that Saddam had been working to reconstitute his nuclear program—and give the lie to the I.A.E.A. and to intelligence reports inside the American government that claimed otherwise. The sismi report, [the Italian report on the possibility of a yellowcake uranium sale in Iraq] however, was unpersuasive. Inside the American intelligence community, it was dismissed as amateurish and unsubstantiated. One former senior C.I.A. official told me that the initial report from Italy contained no documents but only a written summary of allegations. “I can fully believe that sismi would put out a piece of intelligence like that,” a C.I.A. consultant told me, “but why anybody would put credibility in it is beyond me.” No credible documents have emerged since to corroborate it.
The intelligence report was quickly stovepiped to those officials who had an intense interest in building the case against Iraq, including Vice-President Dick Cheney. “The Vice-President saw a piece of intelligence reporting that Niger was attempting to buy uranium,” Cathie Martin, the spokeswoman for Cheney, told me. Sometime after he first saw it, Cheney brought it up at his regularly scheduled daily briefing from the C.I.A., Martin said. “He asked the briefer a question. The briefer came back a day or two later and said, ‘We do have a report, but there’s a lack of details.’ ” The Vice-President was further told that it was known that Iraq had acquired uranium ore from Niger in the early nineteen-eighties but that that material had been placed in secure storage by the I.A.E.A., which was monitoring it. “End of story,” Martin added. “That’s all we know.” According to a former high-level C.I.A. official, however, Cheney was dissatisfied with the initial response, and asked the agency to review the matter once again. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a year-long tug-of-war between the C.I.A. and the Vice-President’s office.
As the campaign against Iraq intensified, a former aide to Cheney told me, the Vice-President’s office, run by his chief of staff, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, became increasingly secretive when it came to intelligence about Iraq’s W.M.D.s. As with Wolfowitz and Bolton, there was a reluctance to let the military and civilian analysts on the staff vet intelligence.
The story continues by going through the details: Wilson went to Niger in February 2002, and made his report (found nothing) which was circulated. He said to Hersh:
Wilson returned to Washington and made his report. It was circulated, he said, but “I heard nothing about what the Vice-President’s office thought about it.” (In response, Cathie Martin said, “The Vice-President doesn’t know Joe Wilson and did not know about his trip until he read about it in the press.” The first press accounts appeared fifteen months after Wilson’s trip.)

* Finally, it definetely looks like Miller's notes have added something very significant to the investigation, which, based on Fitzgerald's questions still must be focused on the issue of the leaking of Plame's actual name. There are two important nuggets that reveal the direction of the investigation. The first is the discussion of "wife works at winpac" and second:
Mr. Fitzgerald asked me about another entry in my notebook, where I had written the words "Valerie Flame," clearly a reference to Ms. Plame. Mr. Fitzgerald wanted to know whether the entry was based on my conversations with Mr. Libby. I said I didn't think so. I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall. The other issue at stake, and I hope at stake in the investigation, relates to 2 years past Senate Intelligence Committee inquiry into "intelligence failures" and the scapegoating of George Tenet.
If it's down to "I could not recall," I don't know how convinced anyone, much less the Grand Jury will be.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Old Whine, New Bottle

I'm just sitting up, possibly finishing David Oshinsky's McCarthy tome by the end of the evening, and I keep wondering about parallels between him and Tom DeLay. I don't mean in the general way, but in the specific one. McCarthy's tactics for weilding power in the senate were all intimidation, even within the party. When the Cohn/Schine scandal finally broke, McCarthy's response was "I don't answer charges, I make them." In the end, he wasn't so successful.
I'm not the only one to notice a resemblance.
McCarthy's greatest skill was not in convincing his peers that he was right, but convincing them that he was invincible. He used the media to make it almost impossible to oppose him. To oppose McCarthy was to be a traitor, or a traitor-lover. ...until the day when he went too far, criticizing the army, criticizing the president.
Now, we can see how DeLay is attempting a McCarthy style reversal of his own by attacking Ronnie Earl as some kind of "McCarthyite" on a witch-hunt. In fact, the word McCarthyism showed up more in reference to Earl when I started my little google-fest, than it did in reference to DeLay. Despite this valiant, or desperate smear attempt on his part, I don't think that DeLay is currently in the position to browbeat that McCarthy was back in the fifties.
Moderate republicans were privately disgusted with McCarthy's bullying tactics, according to Oshinsky, but were intimidated out of acting. I don't think there are any moderate republicans anymore, but this may be finally leading to self-destruction on the republicans part. With the far right out-righting the president over Meiers, I think this is a question of the "revolution eating its children," not some kind of revalation of virtue by the values voters"" whom Grand Moff Texan so skillfully skewered in his Kos diary today.
When it comes to what they agree on, the corporations are it, and Democrats now are playing the role played by yesteryear's moderate republicans, and they are willing to take down DeLay in the name of the cause. Don't get fooled again though. HUAC kept going even after McCarthy's censure, and corporate power will still function in DC despite DeLay's fall from grace. If Democrats resent the wacked-out crazy corporatist tactics of DeLay Inc, they're still wedded to the same private interests. Perhaps they have their parallel in Eisenhower, who still killed Ethel and Julius Rosenberg,* despite his distaste for McCarthy's vulgarity.

* For those who think Ethel and Julius have recently been proven guilty. oy! The secret CIA cables that were not part of the trial in which they were convicted proved that Julius was a spy during a time when the USSR and the USA were allies. Nothing that he gave the Soviets would have made much difference in their development of Nuclear technology. Most people found guilty of that level of espionage are not executed. Ethel, executed along with her husband, was not a spy, and was known by the govt. to be innocent, but was used as a lever to make her husband confess.

Weather Update

Get out the arks, people. Just a reminder, here's today's almanac entry link. I'm gonna have to put this in my blogroll. We had record-breaking precipitation already. Check the numbers. Normal precipitation for Oct 14th was .12 inches. So far, the day's precipitation is 2.75. The record for precipitation from 1927 was 1.96 inches. Scariest, probably is that we are about 10X the normal "month-to-date" precipitation. For an indepth discussion of this week's rain, see this page on Ross Gelbspan's "heat is online."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

On Rosh Hashonna It is Written, On Yom Kippur It Is Sealed

Do you know anyone who needs to atone? I do. But pointing out other people's sins is not the proper action for Yom Kippur. In fact, I'm sure blaming and finger-pointing are themselves sins worthy of atonement.
Despite this, I feel vengeful today and want to point out the liars that I see in politics, and the ones I've encountered personally. here's a nice proverb on lying:

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death. Prov 21:6
When leaders lie, they betray the trust of the people they are supposed to represent. When lovers lie, they destroy their connection to the other. When parents betray their children, they do the same thing, but even more seriously. They can can leave their children never trusting again. Lying is an awful sin because it takes advantage of our vulnerability. It can leave us on shaky ground, wondering what to believe about the world around us. Being lied to can damage our sense of reality in a profound way.
So, can I get a witness? Raise your hands if you hate being lied to.

Remember how the Republicans went mad over truth back in the 1990s? As you know, I'm no Clinton fan, but I think it feels especially bad to be lied to by those proclaiming Christian virtue, integrity, unusual openness and honesty, etc. Almost as maddening as being taken in by a liar is seeing other people believe liars that you see through. How many times have I sat with my mother in front of a television while she shouted, "he's lying! He's lying!" at whatever politician is there, as if the rest of the world that was watching could hear? Although we all agree that lying destroys relationships, because without trust, relationships are impossible,we've come to take lying for granted in politics.
A little righteous indignation, and a little exposure of the lying liars is in order, even on a day for quiet self-reflection. If being betrayed hurts, exposing the betrayor feels sweet.
For some top stories involving people irate about lying.....
For events involving standing up and sitting down, it appears that Scott McClellan's press briefing today was a brawl. You can also read about lies in Hunter's diary discussing the media coverage of the Plame-leak investigation this week on Chris Matthews' show Hardball.
While I was traipsing around on the technorati web-page, looking for other random stuff, I happened upon another sinner exposed. Find him here, at Hitchens Watch. For tireless exposing of lies, there's always "Mediamatters."
Readers, post your favorite reflections on lying, the worst lie you've heard lately, or any other comments here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Beyond Dethroning Bush....and into a real discussion of US Foriegn Policy ?

Today, I was finally awake when Amy Goodman was talking to Murray Waas about the expansion of the leak investigation to cover the entire Whitehouse "Iraq group." The last time I heard that name mentioned was in the brilliant documentary from the Media Education Foundation, Hijacking Catastrophe. This news, coupled with the AfterDowningstreet poll that finds that between 44% and 50% of Americans favor impeaching Bush if he lied to them about the reasons for the Iraq war, fills me with hope.
However, if I read over my entries on this blog, I can see myself see-sawing between giddy glee over impending criminal indictments and convictions, (a glee which includes a fantasy of George Bush and his cronies bent over the Crown Victorias in cuffs), and cautious optimism, and finally, total despair of any consequences.
I'll try to be less reactive and more analytical about this today. As I get caught up in the excitement over the Plame leak investigation and the belief that perhaps Bush and co. will finally get "their comeuppance," I often notice the excitement and think quietly, "but will this really get to the heart of the matter?"
It's been all too easy to see in Bush and his cronies all that is wrong with American foreign policy and to imagine in his fall from grace some kind of redemption of America. So, without simply applying a pin to a balloon, I want to test this out a bit. Those in power would like to see their own imperial dreams lived out more smoothly and efficiently, so the question is, how will they react to the crisis, and how can those of us on the left prepare for a post-Bush reality? What will we do if we get what we want, whether it comes in the form of a lame-duck presidency or an actual criminal trial? The fall of the house of Bush will feel good, and will have an impact in real terms, but it alone is not enough. What it will create is a major opportunity to engage the public in a serious discussion of US foreign policy in general. If that discussion is limited to a choice betweeen Democrats and Republicans, between UN and unilateralism, it will be a squandered moment.
If we look at Nixon's fall from grace, it seems pretty clear that once the rats have departed the sinking ship, they are quick to strategize anew. There are studies of Jimmy Carter and the Trilateral commission, for example, that are not just wild "one-world government" conspiracy theories. Look at this one from the Cambridge series of studies in internatinal relations.
, or read this 1980 article from Holly Sklar on Third World Traveler. The discussion of whether or not there is a difference between Democrats and Republicans is a distraction that is beside the point. I've found that it's nearly impossible to even be heard in an argument if you begin provocatively with the statement of "no difference."
I think it is more productive to begin the discussion by talking about long-term trends and problems, and by focusing on different issues than those you see in the typical Washington-centric debates. If you are looking at whatever current issues are offered up for debate by legislators, lobbyists and mainstream media, you will see clear partisan differences on a number of issues: namely, social welfare policy, taxation, and issues of personal rights and freedoms. The debates around foreign policy are much more limited and immediate: "What's the best strategy for getting US troops out of Iraq?" and "How can we fix the situation in Iraq" both leave the door open for continued US presence there, in a kinder, gentler form that will involve more international corporations, eliminate blatant cronyism, but maintain a system of Euro-American corporate power nonetheless.
On the one hand, it makes sense to offer up a critique of Democratic party foreign policies, because my primary concern here is to prevent or circumvent the Democratic party from coopting the growing anti-imperialist sentiment provoked by the war in Iraq. Since most Americans see Empire itself as wrong and un-democratic, the job of those seeking international intervention to secure American financial interests has been to mask that intervention as something other than what it is. The Democrats have been successful in selling empire through compassion while the Republicans have used fear to do it. For the Republicans, whose base is less concerned with democracy and fairness, it's been an easy job. For the Democrats, whose base includes the Vietnam generation of anti-war activists, it's been a much harder sell. It seems to me that most of the Democratic party's job on foreign policy has been to "sell" an interventionist, corporatist foreign policy to the powerful voting block of liberal middle-class baby boomers, the people that Jerry Springer referred to as the "wine and cheese" crowd, the people who were anti-imperialist in the 1960s, and who will tend to oppose a foreign policy that is as blatantly imperialist as the one turned out by Bush and co.
Thus, Clinton's foreign policy presented US intervention as "humanitarian" and limited, intervention in the Balkans for example, to prevent ethnic cleansing, intervention in Somalia around similar issues. He effectively used the UN to achieve the appearance of global consensus. Rather than full-scale military operations, US troops have dispatched as part of international forces, thus lessening the appearance of imperial ambition. However, Clinton's and Albright's sanctions regimepaved the way for the present disaster in AIraq, and indeed, his policies paved the way for Bin Laden.
Partisan democrats should see the absence of discussion about foreign policy within the party (with the exception of Dennis Kucinich) as a part of the reason for the party's considerable political failures. Rank and file democrats are limited in their capacity to offer an alternative to Bush foreign policy because of this fundamental hypocrisy in the party's leadership. Individual democrats "on the street" are, to my mind, just as badly misled as Bush apologists when they try to justify these foreign policies, and as self-defeating. I don't think that this committment to the Democratic party is driven by intellect, but rather by some kind of emotional attachment. The defense of the Democratic party's foreign policy objectives, which ultimately contradict the values of everyone I know who defends them, is not rational. Is this a question of "not wanting to know," sort of like not wanting to see the things you don't like about your lover because you want to retain hope about your relationship? (this kind of willful blindness is something I'm familiar with in my own personal life.)
So, after that provocative exercise in anti-partisanship aside, I think that starting as I have here, with a discussion of dems and repubs is exactly the wrong way to talk to committed partisans, because it offends them off the bat. To say to a serious loyal Democrat that the Democratic party's foreign policy is little better (and possibly worse, because it's so much more competent) than the Republicans' is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Immediately, the discussion turns to Nader, Chomsky and their personal flaws, and to accusations that you yourself are responsible for the election of the devil (ie, Republicans/Bush). So how does one articulate that vision of reality that is so clear when you see it front of you to someone who just refuses to acknowledge your perceptions as legitimate, and merely starts to yell at you as if your understanding is just perverse and contrarian, as if what you wanted was simply to be "different" and weird.
The trick is to talk about the policies themselves, rather than the parties associated with them, in the context of long-term trends, perhaps starting with post-WWII, and even Kennedy's role in Vietnam. It's easy for me to do this, because I teach history. That can be the groundwork for a real discussion of foreign policy reform that doesn't get side-tracked by the need to defend indefensible policies simply because of the emotions of party loyalty. The best place for this discussion of long-term policy issues to happen is within the anti-war movement, in teach-ins and the like. The discussions should not be tendentious, in the manner of ISO propaganda. It is in this realm that change is most likely to happen, at least in my experience. I went from Democrat to Marxist in college when I learned about foreign policy in South Africa, Central America, and the Middle-East, among people who were not particularly sectarian politically, but came from points of view as diverse as Nation of Islam, the YCL, and various Palestinian rights groups. In the long run, though, it may be that committed partisans are the wrong group with whom to have this discussion, and that the best post-Bush regime strategy of all may be to engage the "undecided" and non-voters, who are more likely to be of the class of people whose personal experience is not engaged by the limited discussions of policy elites. On the other hand, those who are not politicized in some way already, may just be tuned out entirely, and impossible to reach.
Tell me what you think, readers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Break Up...Better?

OK, two different marketing slogans to start off the morning. Yesterday, I went back through some of my old break-up emotions (you remember February, right?), and did some dangerous googling, so it was a nice coincidence that they had Greg Behrendt on Morning Sedition plugging his new book, It's Called a Break Up Because it's Broken."" Sounds like reasonable advice.
The bad break-up coming may be that of Air America and Marc Maron, if what he says on the radio is accurate. So, if you want to see him live, better go to Florent next week. I'm mixed on the show, but mixed in the way that you are if you're enough of a fan to get up at five in the morning to go see them live. twice.
The only criticism I have is that they really don't "talk about the issues" enough. For that, you have to listen WBAI. I just wish that the people on WBAI were funnier, or not half-asleep. For entertainment value, "Morning Sedition" is great. It's like a hyped-up, urban, Prairie Home Companion for the thirty-something crowd. If they take Maron off, the show will die and there won't be anything left on the network to listen to. I must be the wrong target market, because I like Morning Sedition and liked "Unfiltered" and now one is gone and the other is threatened? It seems that Air America makes the same mistakes as the Democratic Party.
Like a man who's never satisfied with the girlfriend that he has, the management there seems to diss its base and look for someone else. As Nathaniel Livingstone writes in the article linked above, it's par for the course. He says,
In announcing his debut on Air America, Springer said the radio network had cornered the "wine and cheese" crowd but needed to reach out to the "beer and pretzel" market. If you think these sentiments mirror Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean's belief that Democrats should quit placating African Americans and start recruiting "white guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks" into the Party, you aren't alone.
My bro does tell me that Chuck D's new show "On the Real" is great, but I haven't listened to it yet. Maybe today on the subway, with the podcast.
And that's it for now. Time to go teach.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Not Just Crumbling on the Edges, Collapsing at the Middle

Juan Cole's website sent me to this Newsday article which describes the "grim disappointment" with the new Iraqui constitution at the most recent meeting of the American Enterprise Institute. The article features interviews and notes on comments from disheartened Iraqi exiles once associated with Achmed Chalabi's pro-war lobby. Now, they are concerned that the new constitution leaves too weak a federal government and absolutely no political power for the Sunnis.
In Salon, Russ Feingold criticizes Democrats for supporting the Iraq war.
Meanwhile, Mark Kleiman speculates on the Huffington Post that Miller will soon become a defendant in the Rove-Libby & who-knows-who-else conspiracy to defame whistle-blower Wilson.
In addition, controversy grows over Miers; Specter and Leahy are calling for James Dobson to testify at her confirmation hearings, erm....if she gets that far. Call me crazy, but I would LOVE to see James Dobson get questioned by congress.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Anxiety Index: Do you smell ice-cap in that rain?

It's nerve-wracking, this extreme weather. Look at this graph. I'm not imagining it. It says in this report from 1997 that in NYC, "the amount of precipitation on extreme wet (or snowy) days is likely to increase." For more of the same, check out Ross Gelbspan's "The Heat is Online" page or this recent article here, which connects heavy rainfall to global warming.
So what are the stats? Here is a chart with NYC's average rainfall between 1944 and 1995. According to this chart, the city averaged 44.4 inches per year, with 3.3 inches in the average October. Tropical Storm "Tammy" will be responsible, says the National Weather Service for dumping somewhere between three and five inches of rain on New York (state) this weekend alone. Hmm. When they report on the inches of rainfall for this October, I'll do an update.
You think a little rain is nothing serious? Last night, I was watching BBC news and saw damage in Central America that looked as bad as or worse than the aftermath of Katrina. So far, there are over 600 dead because of flooding's another article.
Meanwhile, as always, capitalism leads to the very BEST solution for this problem.

Update: Rainfall averages and yesterday's rain:
Go to the "weather underground" weather statistics to see today's almanac entry. Yesterday, we had 4.26 inches of rain, which was close to the 1903 record of 4.30 inches of rain. Those 4+ inches compare to .12 as a normal October 8th rainfall. The rainfall for the first week of October has been 4.49 inches so far, in comparison with a normal number of 1.01 inches.
I'd call that worrying.
And what about you, what are you worried about today?

Friday, October 07, 2005

mid-day lyrics, Pride of the Mixtape

Despite the fact that I was horrified by his on-stage drunkenness at the Bowery Ballroom show back in August, I remain a dedicated fan of Craig Finn. He's a brilliant lyricist. I'm grading papers and listening to a mix that I made for my Aunt's birthday. While meant as a testament to my love for this auntie, I think it might be more of a testament to my obsessions with Craig Finn and Chuck Prophet.

It has this Lifter Puller song on it. It's a great one:

Back in Blackbeard:
first the guys)
it's not right to blame the guys who had the fights tonight
let's blame the girls that love the guys that like to fight
and don't blame the guys who did the drugs tonight
let's blame the girls who love the guys who live the druggy lives

(and now the girls)
it's not right to blame the girls who had the fights tonight
let's blame the guys that love the girls that like to fight
and don't blame the girls who did the drugs tonight
let's blame the guys who love the girls who live the druggy life

(and mom and dad)
don't blame your daughter's downfall on her dancin
don't blame your baby's binging on the bass bins
blame the boredom, blame the basements

(jenny looks on the brightside
she said i never saw the sunrise before i met all you guys
and now i've done it on the d-line and bathed in all your basslines
and i still ain't died, or have i?)

vampire fangs for bitin into cellophane bags
wasted on red, white and blue and the american flag
and the maple leaf rag
you're the star of every single afterbar
the condescending host to the post-game interview
blowin smoke in the post-show afterglow
rubbin up against the radio
yeah stranded on the couch with the super mario
and the papercut tounge from lickin on the centerfolds

Indicators and Shmindicators

When I hear economic news lately, I start to think about stagflation. Apparently, I'm not the only one. Bonddad on the Dailykos has posted a diary today that quotes a lot of bankers and federal reserve folks on the issue of inflation. We are living in the mode of the monetarists, and yet, the problem seems to be coming back. For views different from those of the bankers (who always like tight credit because they get a bigger return on loans) see this marxist glossary's definition of monetarism. If you're more ambitious, check out Hugh Stretton's 1999 book, "Economics: A New Introduction" from Pluto Press, which was reviewed by Doug Dowd (who also has a nice book on economic theory) in Monthly Review.
(I know, it's terrible of me to keep linking to amazon. Honestly, I love the way they create lists and I love reading the readers' reviews... and then I try to buy the books elsewhere if at all possible. The link to MR, which I got to through googling stagflation and Marxist, took me to Stretton, which took me to Amazon, which took me to this other book "Economics as Religion" which I feel now that I MUST read.)
Meanwhile, I'm listening to Robert Fisk read from "Pity The Nation." He should do all his books on tape, because he's a great live reader. It's WBAI's fall membership drive. Did you contribute yet?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I'm not in a Bad Mood but...

For a hilarious website featuring people who are, may I suggest that you read the "vent," which features this one to "my student." The ones from students to teachers are also enlightening. Apparently there are "christian" teachers out there who say God sent AIDS to kill gay people. There is one student who resents going to a Cinco de Mayo assembly and says it hurts his? patriotism to see Mexican flags waving in the school gym. There are a whole set of "to my ex-boyfriend" and "my ex-girlfriend" and my "ex-wife." Whoever came up with this thing, it's brilliant. Why is there no section "to my president"?

In fact, in that regard, I'm in something of a good mood...because of the collapse of the administration's fire wall, the chinks in its teflon coating. Whatever you want to call it, I'm eagerly awaiting indictments in the Plame case. Check out the Anonymous liberal blog, which has regular updates on all things Plame-leak related.

That's all for now. Time to work, I think.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Thoughts on the OJ SImpson Verdict and the Frontline Documentary

I just got done watching tonight's Frontline documentary on the 10th anniversary of the OJ Simpson verdict. It was quite good, done by Ofra Bikel, who's done a number of intriguing documentaries for Frontline on race and the American criminal justice system. If you didn't get a chance to see the doc, the web-page linked above has a lot of the same material,including extended interviews, and a chance to comment on the whole thing. I liked the way that many (presumably white) viewers said that they understood African-American reactions to the jury's verdict in the case as a result of seeing the film.
I recall my reaction at the time of the verdict. Although I had ignored the case - with the exception of the Cochran's cross-examination of Furman and the closing arguments - I experienced the verdict the way many Americans did. I was in a meeting of (white female leftist) composition teachers...we turned on the radio to hear the verdict, and then all of sat with our mouths hanging open in shock. I had a lengthy conversation with my neighbor and friend in my South Minneapolis apt, where at that time I was one of few white tenants. He, an African-American stage manager and director in the local theater scene, had followed the trial much more closely than I had. I think this was also generally true, that Black Americans as a group knew more about the case than most whites did. He convinced me that there was more to the verdict than I thought, and I talked to him about my experience as a domestic violence crisis counselor, which was why I believed Simpson to be guilty. From the day I heard that Simpson had a history of attacking his wife, I assumed that the case was a typical murder by a husband determined to maintain control over his wife, for as these linked statistics show, 1/3 of all female homicide victims are murdered by boyfriends /or spouses. The overkill in Nicole Simpson's case suggested that her death was personal. Later on, after the Civil trial, which my neighbor also followed, he said he saw my point more than he had before.
But, as Bikel's documentary points out, mere feelings of someone's guilt, mere circumstantial leaps are not enough to convict a person of murder, beyond a reasonable doubt. I'm guessing that my experience as a domestic abuse counselor would probably have kept me from the jury because I would have been prejudiced against the defendant from the get-go, BUT, had I been on the jury, or had I followed the case, it's likely that I too would have found reasonable doubt and voted to acquit. It's one thing to speculate about guilt and innocence based on general patterns, it's another to see real evidence linking and individual to a specific crime.
It was up to the prosecution to establish the connection between domestic violence and murder and to not use tainted evidence in building their case, because they couldn't just count on people making the leap. Maybe the problem with the prosecutors was that they weren't used to the presumption of innocence actually working, especially with a Black defendant accused of killing a white woman.
As I was thinking back on that year at the U, and about that verdict, it did bring up all my old feelings about domestic violence and spousal murder. Those were intense years when I was often reminded of violence against women, which I don't encounter nearly as much as I used to. In the nineties in Minnesota, not only did I have a female student drop my class and leave town because her ex-husband was stalking her. Not only did I live next door to a woman whose husband used to smack her against the adjoining wall until she kicked him out, not only that, but I remember now how only a few months after the "Simpson verdict" we at the University of Minnesota were all affected by the murder of a student, Kami Talley who was murdered by her boyfriend on Valentine's Day 1996. He shot her in broad daylight while she was leaving work.
As Ann Jones explains it, there is a lot of ignorance about domestic violence. People often wonder why women don't leave, but might not know that the risk of murder goes up when a woman leaves an abusive spouse. It might be a bit dated, but it's still worth it to read Jones' book on domestic violence and murder, "Next Time She'll Be Dead."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Chili Pepper Fiesta -- More Fun than You Thought.

More fun than I thought, anyway. I got there at 3:30 after locking up my bike on flatbush and headed in to meet my former roomie at the ice-cream cart. We lickety split got some spicy food and sat down to listen to the bands. We heard the "Weary Boys" who were good, followed by the Lost Bayou Ramblers, of Lafayette, Louisiana. who I liked more. I haven't gone to any of the many Katrina benefits over the last month (but I did give money), so I had missed out on hearing that cajun sound that always makes me think of New Orleans. So, I was hugely impressed by the Lost Bayou Ramblers, but I wondered whether I knew enough to know what was what. Now that I've read their bio, I can see how it is that they can be so young and so good at playing traditional music. They learned it in the family; two of the players are brothers, and their Dad and his brothers were les Freres Michot. Interestingly, the senior Michots seem to have performed for a lot of Republicans (and a few democrats), but the sons named themselves "Lost Bayou" partly because of their environmentalist leanings, which is all good.
So, after watching young Ariadne, pictured below, cut a rug in the grass, we headed into the tent to watch the show. The music had a great effect on everyone around, as you can see from the pictures. Like a lot of Prospect Park events, The Botannical Garden's chili pepper fiesta brought people from every one of Brooklyn's communities out for a wonderful picnic. and the sauce.
IT was hard to pick a favorite in the tummy-burning tasting, but I'd have to vote for the habanero fig combination from ha ha hot sauce - of Philadelphia and the super hot habanero sauce from Guyank brand, which is meant to stand for the collision between Yankee and Guyanese. They say, Oour sauce is Tasty Hot as a result of a thirteen-year chemical reaction gone good between a Guyanese Woman and a Yankee Man; OH YEAH!!! Sweet! HOT! OUCH!! After tasting several sauces and finishing off with the fig and habanero (or maybe fig and jalapeno?) mixture which I think was called "Figgin Hot," my lips were on fire. In a nice way, I mean.

Brooklyn crowds approximating a cajun feel.  Posted by Picasa

The Lost Bayou Ramblers astride the bass at the end of the set at the Chili Pepper Fiesta in Brooklyn's Botannical Garden Posted by Picasa

Ariadne, whose Mom said it was OK for me to put her picture on here, was having a great time at the Chili pepper fiesta. Posted by Picasa

Who Said Hip-Hop Stopped Being Political?

Last night I was at "The Rub"-where everybody said hoooo when Kanye West would break into the mix with "George Bush Doesn't Care about Black People." What a rockin dance party that is. This afternoon, my favorite WFMU deejay sent me this music video link.
Here are the lyrics, as brought to you from Temple of Me.
This morning in the laundro-mat in my neigborhood in Brooklyn, we had a discussion about Bush and his incompetence because one of the washers was wearing the homeland security t-shirt he'd brought back from last week's DC march. Then, on the TV, it was Gil Noble's "Like It Is," which this week featured lengthy clips from Amy Goodman and Malik Rahim in New Orleans on Democracy Now.
"Look, there's Amy!" the man in the t-shirt said, pointing at the TV, as Goodman confronted National Guard members about the two-weeks neglected corpse that Rahim alerted her to.
I'm not that into hero-worship, but I love the way Amy Goodman has come to be a representative for all of us who want to see someone take "exception to the rulers." go, Amy go.
That's a hopeful start to the day. And now off to a chili-pepper festival in Prospect Park.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

More Reasons to Take the Subway, Bus or Bike to Work

Did you read the NYT article about the new Connecticut fines for doing anything that distracts from driving while driving? I say, if people want to do all these things: talk on the phone, send text messages, watch videos, eat, or -the one thing not discussed in the article - read the NYT on their way to work, why don't they just take public transportation? Some might think of it as riding with the masses, but I say it's luxury: reading two-week old New Yorkers, drinking coffee, and listening to an mp3 player that shuffles between Chuck Prophet, Alejandro Escovedo, Wilco and about 100 other delightful artists while somebody else shuffles me around. When I'm feeling really low-brow, I drink the coffee, don't read magazines, but instead listen to pulp-fiction audio books (lately Sara Paretsky's Blacklist) while zipping around underground (the other best use of audiobooks is for doing household chores). The other day I was on the other side of things, reading Thomas Schoonover's Uncle Sam's War of 1898, and nearly missed my stop.
Cell phones are an evil in many ways of course. Another great thing about the NYC subway is that there is no cell phone reception there. Halleluja. One place were people aren't talking to unseen confidantes about their mothers, their boyfriends, their bosses, or Nate on "Six Feet Under."
But there are many benefits to the use of headphones and music at almost all times. We are too damn close together in this city, and there are times when you'd like a little private space, free from other people's conversations. While Clyde Haberman wrote about the need to turn off ipods and cellphone to "let minds and feet wander," I find that I use music to give me the space to think more often than not. It all started when I was a bus-rider in Minneapolis. Those eternally boring waits for buses in sub-zero weather were agonizing until I started carrying a walkman with me everywhere I went. My first year in NY, I had several different mixes of Beethoven, Bach and others that were to facilitate the reading of serious books on the train.
The last thing people in NY need is MORE sensory input from the outside world. For instance, since my upstairs neighbors' kids turned four, they have been in the habit of crying and whining about going to school, the doctor, the park, or wherever, right outside the door of my apartment while their parents try to coerce them out the door. "Maaaaah" one of them is screaming right now. As I listen to the escalating conflict, the frantic parental efforts to get the kids to do whatever it is that they're supposed to be doing, I cannot think about anything else. I find this to be the case when I am on the train and forced to listen to other people's conversations, and when I am in a coffee shop trying to read. I just can't concentrate. It's only the eavesdropping that I miss when I've got the headphones on, not the roses.
My best eavesdropping happens when I'm with a friend. Along with pointing out visual oddities or nice architecture, my friends and I do a lot of commentary on the overheard. Last night, I was walking with a friend and heard two men in the West Village, Said one, in a sort of routine way, as if describing a familiar happenstance, "So he goes to your place, you have sex, and then he leaves and"...Oh man, I was dying to turn around and follow them down the street to find out what happened next. The two of us speculated for at least the rest of the block.
Wouldn't it be funny, if one of those times that you found yourself silent and discreetly shushing your friend while trying to get a better grasp of the next table's conversation, it was only to hear someone at that other table say:
"Wait a minute....shh. I'm trying to hear the rest of what they're saying."
an infinitely receding mirror.
A final note. My favorite overheard comment of all time.
New Year's Eve 1999 at Tonic to see John Zorn & Masada. A woman looks at her boyfriend and says,
"is this the band that's supposed to be good?"