Monday, April 21, 2003

With all due respect for those of you who support the war...
As someone who is into bluegrass music because it is old, and because it draws from old aspects of our country, and I'm talking about songs my damn granpa
knew when he came here from when he was a little kid
(and he was 80 something when he died in the 1980s),
and a someone whose favorite class in high school and
elementary school was history, this stuff about the
museums and libraries in Iraq being burned and looted
is totally and utterly heartbreaking to me.
You know, I have a collection of lps, probably nowhere
near as good as the lps some of you older folks have,
and they are my prized possessions, especially the old
10" 78s I can't play. compare this to books 1,000s of
years old.
And I live in Philadelphia, where access to
Independence hall the birthplace of our nation is
restricted by federal troops, right across the river
from the RCA factory where the carters and Jimmy
rodgers first recorded, and the fact that the building
is falling apart and may only be saved if it's turned
into high rent condominiums... well that makes me feel
sick. that should be a damn historic monument.
And when I read that museums holding the oldest
artifacts of western civilization have been looted and
destroyed while our troops stood by (and this is a
documented fact, as Jeremy has amply demonstrated) I d
not know what to think. I do not know what to think,
because I love bluegrass because I love history and
the oldest chronicles of our culture (how many of you
know that english has its roots in the Indoeuropean
tongue originally spoken in the fertile crescent, ie
modern day iraq) may have been forever lost and that
to me is as heartbreaking as if all record of bill
monroe were stricken from the world.
that's just what I'm thinking rightnow. ymmv. sorry
to be a wet blanket and divisive.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Imagine how pissed off we'd be if someone blew up the Library of Congress. Yet that's exactly what's happened in Iraq, and according to many reports we haven't done much to stop any looting at all, except for those precious oil fields.

You can call me a partisan, cynical, contrary sonuvabitch all you want, but the fact is that as a reader, as a writer, as someone who treasures history, and as a thinker, I feel sick over this. And what makes it worse is that I feel in my guts that George Bush and his cabal don't even give a rat's ass. Bush's animosity toward the intellectual is well-known, and has been sifted over dozens of times by the media. So I know that when he reads (if he reads; this is after all the man who spent the first week of the war avoiding watching the TV, until he got called on it by the press) that Korans and other historic books are burnt to ashes that it's just so many marks on old smelly paper. Doesn't mean anything. Right?
You know, I have just about had it this week. I'm tired, I'm ornery, I'm disgusted.
I can't even look at the US news today, because I know it's filled with all sorts of gloating over the fall of Baghdad, with no mention of the bloody way we got our way there. And if I read the European newspapers, I feel like even more of a shit because I get to see
the pictures and read the facts that our friends at the New York Times believe we shouldn't seeing lest our fragile little sensibilities be offended (and hey, thanks fellas for looking out for us, what would we do without you? how's that brown lipstick taste?). Add this on top of my irrelevant job, the never-ending house saga (which is now officially my second job) and two band schedules, and you can see that even a stable mind would get to the point of snapping.

So with that in mind, I offer you kittens. Lots of them. Especially the "Vines" link. You'll need sound to really appreciate it.

This never fails to help me decompress. Ahhhhhh.
There we go.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

After a few hours of reading the newspapers from around the country and around the world, HL Mencken's pronouncements from 70 years ago become all the more relevant.
Consider these quotes:

"A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man. In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker."

"The theory behind representative government is that superior men-or at least men not inferior to the average in ability and integrity-are chosen to manage the public business, and that they carry on this work with reasonable intelligence and honest. There is little support for that theory in known facts..."

"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office." (I woudl have also put the link to the DNC here, but they have no talent for either of the above.

My favorite of course is this one. "The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself... Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable."

We need wrenches for the cogs, and sabots as well.

Oh, and by the way, what you've heard about Bush's links to the Nazis?
It's absolutely true, despite what some editorial pages think. The Straight Dope does a bit on it.
Great stuff today from Take back the Media.
Say what you will, but these guys and gals put out GREAT animations.
Why look, here's one


Monday, April 14, 2003

I have been unable to stop looking at the pictures of what's going on in Iraq and it is beginning to get to me in a big way.

Try as I might to give myself a much-needed media blackout, I can't do it: everytime I turn off my TV, shut a newspaper, or turn off the Internet, my first thought is "what wool will be pulled over my eyes this time?" Never mind that I can no longer read the foreign coverage at the New York Times, which I used to respect. I still like Bob Herbert, Maureen Dowd, and Paul Krugman, but I also have to admit that when I read that the Washington Post's Michael Kelly had drowned in Iraq, I was happy, gleeful almost at the poetic justice: he wrote oceans of pro-Bush/ pro-war editorials that were, in my opinion, littered with inaccuracies, and then he went to his precious war, where he drowned in a fetid canal. That's not a good feeling, to be happy that someone died, but there it is.

I read the Times and all I can think is "lies, lies, lies." Then I read the foreign press and I think "hyperbole, hyperbole, hyperbole" depending on what I'm reading. Why does the Times call their war series "A Nation at War"? Whose nation are they talking about? It's not "a" nation, it's OUR nation. And I can't bear to hear Richard Perle's voice one more time. He and Paul Celluci should be condemned to fuck each other up the ass in Hell for eternity while dollar bills and dead Iraqi children get stuffed down their throats with a muzzle loader.

Currently the hospitals in Baghdad are overwhelemed with casualties, with "truckloads" (to use the Red Cross's description word) of mutilated women and children among them. I just read that, I don't know where. Too much news. Do they mean a dump truck, a garbage truck, or just a plain old Chevy S-10? Why am I wondering about this?

I go out to grab some lunch at the deli downstairs. I hate that place; it caters to the UPenn community. The entire place has been designed to enhance the "experience" of sustenance. There are hideous cartoons of people eating all over the walls, all drawn to suggest "fun." On the ceiling, all sorts of slogans have been written in font that jerks abruptly from Times New Roman to something like Cartoon or Wing Dings. Put in the zany font wherever you see capital letters: "A good plate of CHICKEN SOUP has cured more ills than PENICILLIN." "Stop KIBBITZING and ORDER." "A PESSIMIST sees the HOLE; and OPTIMIST sees the BAGEL." And the absolute worst "anything tastes GOOD with BREAD!" Yeah? How about a big steaming pile of dog shit? would that taste good with bread? How about the blown off head of some Iraqi kid? I'll bet THAT would taste good on rye. Hey, the PESSIMIST sees the HOLE where the kid's TEMPLE USED TO BE, the OPTIMIST asks for EXTRA CHEESE WITH THAT. And since when does eating
have to be pitched at me, as if it's something I don't enjoy to begin with? Why is food advertised as "fun to eat"? I don't need a "DELI-cious experience," I just want a fucking pint of soup! It's all so patronizing. Say what you will about Pat's or Geno's, but at least they shut the fuck up and give you your sandwich.

I stand in line with these blueblood kids at ivy-league Penn and listen to them talk about their ski adventure in the family chalet or their plum job at dad's firm, or what over-priced dance club they went to this weekend, or the spring break trip to some exotic location, and all I can think is that the opulence is embarassing, especially now in a war, especially now when the economy lost another 180,000 jobs or whatever, especially now when the cities are in their worst economic shape since World War 2 and SEPTA's talking about shutting down four public transit lines, one of which carries low-income inner city residents to jobs in the suburbs. I get so pissed off thinking about this that I want to empty my can of soda on the head of the most attractive one.

It's like Connie Marble says in Pink Flamingos: "There are two types of people in this world Miss Sandy Sanderson: my kind of people and ASSHOLES. It's clear what category YOU fall into." I'm tired of people who are assholes, and that includes me.

I wish I wrote this.

An open letter to LT Layne McDowell:

The smug arrogance in your recent "Open letter to the Dixie Chicks" is more than I can stomach. How dare you suppose that your role as a junior officer in the U.S. military gives you the authority to insult and demean the political views and statements of American citizens? Apparently you, like many in the military, have come to think of the armed forces as a segment of society superior to the civilian population they are supposedly serving.

Get over it, son. We know that you and the rest of the armed forces put yourselves in harm's way to serve American society. And we appreciate it. But that doesn't give you moral superiority. If you want to talk about danger, there are plenty of civilian occupations where the odds of injury or death are almost equally as great. (Compare the number of industrial deaths and injuries over the last decade, say, to the number of deaths in military combat.) They too are serving American society. America's military isn't something separate from the rest of America: we're all part of the same thing and with the same goal: to preserve and enrich the American way of life. We just do it in different ways.

Let's face it: military life and civilian life are different in one very important respect: in the military, rank is everything, and it is forbidden to criticize or take issue with the orders and actions of superiors. In civilian life, and especially in a democratic society, just the opposite is true: citizens are expected to criticize, comment on, and take issue with the actions of political figures charged with running the show. You need to remember that the President is YOUR Commander-in-Chief, but he's not OUR commander-in-chief. He's a politician, and open to criticism like any other. You are obligated to do as he says, and shut up, because he's your Superior in rank. We are not. He's not our superior in anything except political power. The President is not America, and criticism of him and his policies is not criticism of America, or of its people, or of its institutions, principles, or freedoms. In your arrogance, you pretend that being ashamed of a President many regard as corrupt and incompetent is somehow an attack on Our Fightin' Men and Women. But I didn't see many of you writing letters condeming those who were ashamed of an earlier President for his sexual misbehavior.

You say, and I quote, "How dare you pocket profits off songs about soldiers, their deaths and patriotism while criticizing their Commander in Chief abroad, even while they prepare to give their lives to ensure your own freedom of speech. Please ask yourself, what have you done to deserve that sacrifice?" I doubt that you are able to see the irony in this, but I'll try to explain: criticism of the President (Your Commander-in-Chief, not ours) is NOT criticism of the troops under his command, nor is it a denigration of their valor and sacrifice. But it IS a criticism of the policies and decisions that have placed them in combat at this particular time. I find that last sentence of yours especially ironic. Are you suggesting that Americans have to pass some test in order to "deserve" the protection of our military? What would that test be? To sit down and shut up and do whatever the President says?

Your further statement "Never once in our history have we committed troops to war for the purpose of taking innocent lives" is disingenuous to say the least, and betrays ignorance of history in your military training. Check out the systematic massacres of American Indian tribes (men, women, and children) by U.S. troops. The fire bombing of Dresden, and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were carried out with the DELIBERATE goal of inflicting massive civilian casualties in order the break the enemy's spirit. The Vietnam war had episode after episode of destroying villages "in order to save them". Nowadays we call it "collateral damage", as if the destruction of innocents were just an unpleasant side effect. But often, it has been the very purpose of a strategy. A strategy that you, and your brothers and sisters in uniform, cheerfully carry out because those are the orders and orders are to be obeyed.

Here you are flaunting your rank and your uniform in order to disparage an American citizen for speaking her mind in public. In my view, you are a disgrace to that uniform, and to the principles it commits you to defending.

Bangs Tapscott
Private Citizen

Friday, April 11, 2003

Last night, while driving home from an Uncle Fucker gig in that hellhole of hellholes, Washington DC, I was listening to the 2:00 AM House of Representatives deliberation on the budget on CSpan Radio. The budget passed on a narrow margin: 216 to 211. The House budget is awful and will give us deficits for years. it will be very bad for the country.
An observation: Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, sucks. If she's the face of the Democrats, then the Dems are in some REAL TROUBLE. In fact, Saturday Night Live actress Sheri Oteri, who parodies Pelosi, is a far more compelling speaker.
Nancy, there is a big difference between delivering a speech and simply. reading. off. the. paper. in. front. of. you. I. swear. to. God. I. am. wondering. where. you. learned. to. speak. publicly. The. way. you. sound. it. is. a. wonder. that. you. were. ever. elected. to. public. office. to. begin. with.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

and speaking of scoops, here's a fine article with pictures on police action against anti-war protestors in Oakland California. make sure you read the instructions on the ammo they shot.
My favorite quote from the invasion thus far? "We saw that a truck was delivering dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children. It was an awful sight. It was really very difficult to believe this was happening." So much for not targeting civilians I guess.

It's been awhile since I posted to the blog.

For that I am truly sorry. I've had the combination of the house, two bands, and of course the war weighing on me.
You would figure what with the war and all, I would be writing up a storm, and it quite true that my mind is boiling with ideas and feelings about what's going on.
But photos like this and these here at scoop.. I mean, these are just fucked up.
It has gotten very difficult to read the newspaper or listen to the radio in these here United States. Everyone from the fascists at Fox to the New York Times have jumped on the pro-war bandwagon. You can't get an honest answer from your "representatives" in Congress about anything. I mean, is it a hoot or what seeing John Kerry appropriating the language of the anti-war crowd, "We need a regime change at home," when he was one of the many Democratic senators to support giving Bush the authority to attack Iraq? And what about that Joe Lieberman? He supports the war even though he knows how horrible the last one was for the children in Iraq. how can I say this? Read this article in the otherwise crapulent Valley Advocate. Never mind that Lieberman's voice alone is enough to cause a catatonic trance in the most hardened speed freak, the guy just doesn't give a shit (unless you're in the insurance, pharmeceutical, or securities industry, and then he's got the knee-pads on, nome sane?).
During the Enron scandal (and just what happened to the investigation, asks Brendan. Why is Ken Lay still on the loose? For that matter, why is Cheney still on the loose? Why won't the press touch these guys the way they went after Clinton for his blowjob?), my mother called me up livid. "Now is the time for good people to get cudgels and torches," she ranted, calling to mind images of the villagers heading up the path to castle Frankenstein. My mother is prescient. I would like to see Dick Cheney try to stand up to my mom in one of her famous rages; the woman would rip his mechanical heart out of his chest and stuff it right down his neck. And if my grandmother was able, I am sure there would be even more neck-wringing.
Well. I will evade Homeland Security regulations by eschewing a call for violent revolution. That only transfers power from the ruling class to the middle class anyway, who become the ruling class all over again.
Instead, I will do my Christian duty and pray to God. Some of you may not believe in the power of prayer, but as W says, "there is power, wondrous power, in the blood." (I realize that's a reference to Jesus's blood, not the blood of Iraqi children as a certain Shrub clearly believes). So here I go.
Oh God in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Please hear the prayer of Brendan, Your humble servant. I know it's been awhile, and I know I've flirted with eastern religion and philosophy, but I am ready to return to Your flock if You answer this one prayer. I promise, if You answer my prayer, I will go to a Christian church, even if it's a Unitarian church, every Sunday for the rest of my life (but not a Southern Baptist church, they don't count as Christian). I will accept Jesus, Your only son who got nailed to a pole, into my heart and being. I promise You this, if You will only answer my prayer.

Cancer. Give cancer to every single one of the warmongering crooks who have taken over the US government. Give cancer to every senator and representative who supported giving the occupant of the White House sole authority to wage war, and to every single one of them who supported the Patriot Act and the ban on late term abortion. And don't make it cancer that they can hide. Give them melanoma and Kaposi's Sarcoma on their faces, give them colorectal cancer so bad they have to walk around with colostomy bags, give them testicular and protate cancer so they can never breed again. Don't worry Your mind about how they'll pay for it; all of them have free health coverage (our reps in Congress believe it's their right, but not for ordinary Americans), so they'll get on. And visit Carlyle and Halliburton and Bechtel and Fox News and MSNBC and the New York Times (please skip Paul Krugman and Nicholas Kristof and Mo Dowd) and the Washington Post (especially the Post) and the National Review with Your holy cancer.
If You could compound that cancer with facial leprosy, I will tithe every month. I will play bingo in the church basement. Please God, do this for me and I will be a true believer and spread Your good Word everywhere. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell always say You answer prayers, and now's Your chance to really do some good.
And Lord, while I'm at it, let me thank You personally for calling Michael Kelly home.