Thursday, February 27, 2003

Mr. Rogers is dead.
If you don't like maudlin reminisces, skip this and go to one of the dirty stories archived elsewhere on the blog. I have been a lifelong and shameless fan of Fred Rogers my entire life, and I have to admit. I am totally messed up over his death.
One of my earliest memories dates back to probably 1972 or 1973, when I was just 2 or 3 years old. I can place the year, because the memory takes place in New York, where I was born and spent the first couple of years of life, until my father took a job at IBM, and we moved to Maryland and later Newport R.I. At that time, the only TV I watched was public television. I didn't see a "real" cartoon until well after we'd moved to Rhode Island, at which time I was seven. I already had a collection of Sesame Street muppets (Oscar was, and continues to be, my favorite) but for my money, NOTHING beat Mr. Rogers. I was so into that show that I would get excited when I knew it was going to be on, and I would put on this cardigan sweater with a zipper when I sat in front of the old black-and-white set, because like a Philadelphian donning his Eagles jersey before watching them lose the playoffs, I wanted to look just like Mr. Rogers. The Neighborhood of Make Believe was just a fringe benefit. I was more into Fred himself.
There were a lot of cool shows on public TV then, from ZOOM, to Sesame Street, to the Electric Company

Friday, February 21, 2003

Thursday, February 20, 2003

"Filth" has been moved to the stories link, as has "What's New Pussycat?"

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

"What's New Pussycat?" has been moved to stories as well.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Susan McDougal interview with Buzzflash right here. Guaranteed to make your blood boil. If anyone can tell me why Ken Starr shouldn't be drawn and quartered, I'd like you to read this interview.

I have this long-running fantasy that pops up in my mind every time I read an article like this; the fantasy always ends with ugly ugly violence.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The new video out from Johnny Cash is just the toughest thing I've seen in a long time. The link is here at the CMT page.
One of the things that I think is so remarkable about J.R. is that the older he gets, the more vital he gets. In many ways, he reminds me of a character from King Lear, although whether it is the Fool or King Lear himself, I am not sure. I have to reread that play anway...
"There is a long history of marches in New York, including a silent antilynching march in 1917, marches to demand unemployment relief, a nuclear disarmament march in 1982 that drew as many as 700,000 people and a 1994 march and rally commemorating the Stonewall Inn incident that helped ignite the gay rights movement."
Not this time.
I expect that the rally will go on as scheduled, but I also expect that this ruling is only going to inflame those protestors who are inclined to be confrontational. The rally is expected to spill out onto first avenue, and I'd be willing to bet the street will end up shut down anyway. But I would also bet that there's going to be some civil disobedience this time, and the clash of angry protestors denied their permit to march with New York's finest, enjoined to keep the peace, will not be a pretty sight.
I can understand why people want to march. Let's not forget the mass arrests in DC last year.
"I have long thought that there were forces in France intent on reducing the American role in the world. That is more troubling than the stance of a German chancellor, who has been largely rejected by his own people," Perle said.
That's right, Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Policy Advisory Board, has declared that one of the U.S.'s oldest allies is no longer our ally.
Whether you agree with France's stance on war or not (and I would agree that in many ways the French are being cynical: after all, they have lots of money invested in Iraq oil too. Why screw up their good thing? On the other hand, the US is being just as hypocritical, as we see when we consider our response to Korea.), this kind of rhetoric is short-sighted at best and certainly just as damaging to future international relations.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

The next time someone says to me, "Man you have such a weird sense of humor. What makes you so screwed up anyway? Was it your childhood? Is it the marijuana?" I will answer, "what do you expect? I live in a country where the state takes mentally ill death row inmates and give them drugs that make them temporarily sane so the state can legally execute them. That's WAY more fucked up than any joke I can think of."
It's like the end of 1984, where Winston is brainwashed and eventually lobotomized into the conformity demanded by the Party. Within a few weeks, months, or years, he will be publicly executed after confessing his crimes.
It's funny: Arkansas has this reputation as being a bunch of sister-screwing hillbillies with hookworm. Who knew they were on the cutting edge of the Brave New World?

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Friedman update: The Times' readership doesn't think much of his Sunday article either.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Jimmy Martin is to bluegrass what Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis are to rock 'n' roll. If he is not the originator, he is truly the innovator.

Steve Hooks in Big SNOW Gap, VA
Here's something on automated voting machines I found at Cruel it is, but no joke either. Read on...
The American defence chief Donald Rumsfeld has been disowned by his anti-war relatives in north Germany, reports Tony Paterson, for The Telegraph. You may have to subscribe to read this one (it's free). Guess he ain't gettin' invited for spaetzle anytime soon, as this exchange with his cousin and aunt, who lived through WW2, reveals:

"We think it is dreadful that Donald Rumsfeld is out there pushing for a war against Iraq," Karin Cecere (nee Rumsfeld), 59, said from her two-up, two-down home last week. "We are embarrassed to be related to him," she told The Telegraph.

Margarete Rumsfeld, her 85-year-old mother, was equally dismissive: "We don't have much to do with him anymore. Nowadays he's just the American defence secretary to us, but for God's sake, he'd better not start a war," she added.

Tom Friedman lost me in the first paragraph of this column.
Let me count the ways: "India is the world's biggest democracy, the world's largest Hindu nation and the world's second-largest Muslim nation..." While it may be true that India is a democracy, it is ALSO true that the ruling party has been criticized by many groups as fascist. Certainly a google search for "hindu fascist" came up with a number of results, all of which I don't have time to read (some work must be done). Here's one from "The Hindu", India's national newspaper.
"So France could tweak America's beak, do business with Iraq and enjoy America's military protection." Pointing the finger at France for doing business with Iraq is a load of hogwash if you ask me, considering American company Halliburton, formerly employing Dick Cheney, did PLENTY of business with Iraq over the same time period. In fact a LOT of companies from the US did business with Iraq; so much so that the US government culled their names from Iraq's report to the UN lest we embarass ourselves even more. Maybe France is wrong to do business with Iraq, but the US is hardly in a position to point fingers.
"But France, as they say in kindergarten, does not play well with others." Neither does China, Russia or Germany when it comes to Iraq. And neither does the US when it comes to a number of things important to our allies: we have broken our word on the International Criminal Court, the ABM, and Kyoto, and drastically cut funds for the UN Population fund and reinstituted the gag rule on abortion counseling. The Administration insists that the world accept US policies, but does everything possible to get out of complying with our own obligations to the world. This is no way to build allies. Friedman doesn't mention this.
"Oh, France's prime minister was on the road last week. He was out drumming up business for French companies in the world's biggest emerging computer society. He was in India." Yup. And we're in Iraq, making sure we get our oil.

"Wait a minute-- where will the kids play if there aren't any streets?"

Updated get your war on too. Page 19 is just brutal. Rees is gonna be one of those guys I see when the government sticks us all in that camp they're building in Indiana (more on that later).
Some people have complained to me that the kind of humor purveyed by Mr. Ress is unconstructive. To them I say, "Read some Swift."
Rees' language, littered with more "shits" and "fucks" than the present administration, may be jarring at times. And his willingness to throw phrases like "Well, it turns the relief effort into a fun game for the Afghan people-- a game called See if you have any fucking arms left to eat the food we dropped after you step on a landmine trying to retrieve it." around like Bush drops bombs makes the reader recoil.
But recoiling is what we should ALL be doing when it comes to what Bush has done. I open my newspaper every day, and immediately recoil; happens every time. By the logic of those who declare Rees "unconstructive," I should stop reading the newspaper as well (never mind that Rees often includes factoids in his comic that don't make the New York Times).
Rees is a political cartoonist doing what a political cartoonist should do: he attacks hypocrisy with a tongue sharper than anyone out there. He's a lot tougher than Trudeau and Oliphant, and more in the same school as Aaron MacGruder, who writes The Boondocks.
For my money, GYWO's strongest comment on page 19 has no dirty words, although the image Rees calls to mind is itself obscene. "Wait a minute-- where will the kids play if there aren't any streets?"
That's what war looks like to me: hungry, frightened children playing in rubble. Yay war.
Hot Bill Moyers interview here. This is about the Security Enhancement Act of 2003. I'm literally shaking with anger as I type these words. The Bush administration, in the words of Helen Thomas, is "the worst ever." What a hefty pile of shit this is.

Friday, February 07, 2003

This one isn't in any of the US papers that I've seen, but seems to be all over the British press. Apparently, large portions of Britain's Iraq dossier, praised by Colin Powell before the UN, is plagiarized material from what the Telegraph calls "a Californian postgraduate student's outdated thesis... it emerged overnight that much of the document was lifted from a paper by Ibrahim al-Marashi, from Monterey, California - who was researching material relating to the build-up to the 1991 Gulf War and not to the current situation." This article is in every paper across the spectrum, including the left (but not as left as the Guardian)the independent, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London, and the conservative Telegraph.
Because you have to register for the Telgraph, and that's a pain in the ass (only a dork like me is gonna go out of his way to register for news from a paper 2000 miles away whose politics I don't subscribe to), I am going to cut and paste one of my favorite quotes from the article:
Today former Labour minister Glenda Jackson, MP for Hampstead and Highgate, suggested the Government had misled the public.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If that was presented to Parliament and the country as being up-to-date intelligence ... and in fact as we now know they simply lifted it from a university thesis, it is another example of how the Government is attempting to mislead the country and Parliament on the issue of a possible war with Iraq.

"And of course to mislead is a Parliamentary euphemism for lying."

UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting on this.
Here's a piece about the ongoing war in Afghanistan by the Independent's Robert Fisk. Fisk has covered the conflict extensively, and was also there during the Soviet invasion in the 70s.
And North Korea's gettin' all pre-emptive n shit. Why you wanna get in my FACE, North Korea?
Oh... that's right.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

At the late great "brendancalling" blog, I included a link to Poets Against the War, an ad hoc group that got together in response to Laura Bush's call for poets to participate in a White House Symposium called "poets and the American Voice."
Really the whole thing is pretty funny, if you think about it. The title of the Symposium was to be ""Poetry and the American Voice", and was to focus on work by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes. This online beat article in the Nation is pretty funny. Not only have the writers in question bought ad space in the New York Times (and you can bet I gave 'em $25.00 toward that), they are publishing a book of their work. And great god almighty, I love W.S. Merwin.
This whole story reminds me of the time Eartha Kitt was blacklisted in the US, because her comments about the Viet Nam war at a White House dinner made Ladybird Johnson cry
Photos from Gulf War 1, get 'em here!
The Philadelphia Weekly has published a great series today against Bush's war.
I'm listening to Colin Powell as I type, and I remain unconvinced. I find myelf asking "why are we so concerned about Iraq and it's possible weapons, when North Korea is ALREADY making the things?"
Colin keeps talking about equipment that might be getting moved around, but what about North Korea? We KNOW they're getting things underway! Hell a couple of months ago, we caught them selling SCUDS to Yemen and let them get away with it!
Disarmamment? Bullshit: this is about invasion and oil.
The page above includes link after link after link about the anti-war movement. I don't endorse everything there, but probably most of it.
I'm sitting here at work, and in a few minutes Colin Powell is going to start speaking at the UN, in front of a shrouded "Guernica".
It's great to have an administartion thattraffics in metaphors: they block off Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the country was founded; Ashcroft drapes a blanket of the statue of Justice, citing discomfort with her boobs: no justice isn't only blind, she's had the wool pulled over her eyes. And now, Picasso's Guernica, which hangs in the UN, a monument to the horrors of war has a curtain over that as well. As Maureen Dowd writes in the Times today "Mr. Powell can't very well seduce the world into bombing Iraq surrounded on camera by shrieking and mutilated women, men, children, bulls and horses."

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

"Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it's something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles."
Abbie Hoffman

I have a distinct memory of when I first learned to give someone the finger. I was eleven years old, and over the summer had become friends with this monstrous little sonuvabitch named James. He was a skinny kid, and both he and his brother had some congenital defect that made their ribcages stick out like a pigeon's does and gave each a pronounced limp. James had trouble at home like me: his parents had just gotten a divorce, and my mother's alcoholism had reached crisis proportions. Incidentally, this is when I first picked up smoking, a habit that lasted for 10 years, and which persists in my constant use of marijuana. This is also when I first started getting into music that drove my parents crazy, starting with the relatively benign shenanigans of AC/DC and then taking a really sharp right into the Dead Kennedys, the Sex Pistols, and an infinite array of mid-1980s hardcore bands.
I was particularly into the Dead Kennedys. I bought what was to be my first hardcore album, "In God We trust, Inc" because it was cheaper than "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables." FFFRV was actually the one I wanted, because it had the song I had heard about "I Kill Children," but hey, I didn't know if I'd like these guys anyway.
it was an eye-opener. These guys had a big message to the powers-that-be, which can probably be summed up simply as "Fuck you." Later there were other bands that equally appealed to me, usually with variations on the theme. The Dead Kennedys' "fuck you" was directed at politicians and police, as was MDC's (billed variously as Multi-Death Corporations, Millions of Dead Cops, and I think Millions of Damned Christians). The Circle Jerks were all about "fuck you," but more toward society in general. Black Flag's "fuck you" was frequently accompanied with a "you can't tell me what to do and neither can I because I'm going insane" subtext. 7-Seconds was a bit more subtle: the "kids" should unite to do.. well, whatever it was the kids were going to do. Whatever that was, it was preferable to what was going on; this was after all 1985, the height of the Reagan era.
What i am saying, I guess, is that for most of my life, I have been guided by an attitude that can be best summed up with "Fuck you."
I am especially so toward politicians. There are very few politicians on the national level that I have much respect for. It is altogether galling to me that the men and women in Congress make as much as they do, and even more galling that they have what amounts to nationalized health care, and the rest of us don't. I am appalled by the number of filthy rich people that make up Congress; I look at them and see people who often as not do not act in the interests of their constituents, but are so insulated from their constituents that if you bumped into one of them in a bar, most of them wouldn't understand your concerns at all. I write to Democrats asking them why they supported a resolution abdicating Congress's power to declare war to the Executive Branch, and when I got a response it was a form letter saying they stand "shoulder to shoulder with the president." It is the same when I write to my Senators, both Republicans. Fuck you, and fuck your form letter too. I paid for this fucking letter, you can write something better than that.
Your representatives make a lot of money. If I'm paying this much money for some jerk to represent my interests, then dammit I demand a responsive government. When the calls are coming in 3 to 1 against going to war, ARLEN, I expect those voices to be listened to. That's responsive government. THEY are supposed to listen to US, not the other way around.
It's at this time I start to think about what it must be like to be a Californian. You watch your legislature repeatedly pass laws in favor of medical marijuana, and then the Federal government,led by people who claim to favor the rights of states to make their own laws, starts attacking sick people.
Until I get my money's worth, I'm gonna keep saying "Fuck you." Over and over and over again.
So when I call Arlen and Rick today to tell them to say "No" to the ridiculous "budget" Mr. Bush hopes to pass, it's not just "fuck you." It's "Fuck you, I'm not going away." And when I have to call Arlen to yell at him (or his aides as the case is) about standing in support of Trent Lott, it's another "fuck you." Lord knows he and the party he belongs to are saying it to me almost every day. And the same is true of the "loyal opposition" who have pulled so many cowardly stunts over the past 2 years, that I will probably have to dedicate an entire page as a tribute to their spinelessness.
Make a phone call. If they're gonna fuck you anyway, you might as well throw that middle finger right back at them. And don't let them forget that they're in office by your good graces.
At some point someone is going to send me an email and say "Brendan, you're being unreasonable. This kind of antagonism can lead to no good end."
And I answer, in the words of everyone's favorite conservative anti-semite, "Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under."

Monday, February 03, 2003

This is the new site.

A poorly placed keystroke deleted the entire "brendan calling" blog, which needed redesign anyway.
I'm going to set many areas up with links: this front page is more for breaking news. Use the links for everything else.