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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Matt Hardwick's LiveJournal:

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Monday, January 26th, 2009
11:45 am
Soundbite Technique
Oh, Snap:

The governor looked to another British poet in another speech on Friday, January 9. Again, he made national news. Just impeached by the Illinois House of Representatives, but not yet convicted by the state senate, “Blago” said that he would fight to remain in office, just as he fought for ordinary Americans. He concluded with a ringing quotation from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Victorian poet laureate who also wrote “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” (Some headlines read “Gov. Rod Blagojevich Quotes Tennyson.”) The governor used the same poem, he noted, that Senator Ted Kennedy cited in 1980, after losing the Democratic presidential nomination: “Ulysses.”

The governor quoted lines from the end of the poem, in which the hero of Homer’s Odyssey declares, in resonant blank verse, that he and his comrades still have strength to fight:

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will,
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Resolute, determined, unwearied — appropriate, no?

Yet for anyone who knows the poem, Blagojevich might as well have quit on the spot. Tennyson’s great monologue is not a show of defiance but a speech of resignation from office, by a ruler who admits he is unfit to rule.

Read more...Collapse )
Friday, January 23rd, 2009
1:24 pm
Obama is closing Guantanamo in a year, swears he's against torture, seeks to eliminate CIA black sites. This has his admirers all gooey in the knees. “He really gets it,” marveled John D. Hutson, a retired admiral and law school dean, who watched Obama sign the Gitmo order. “He acknowledged that this isn’t easy. But he is absolutely dedicated to getting us back on track as a nation. This is the right thing to do morally, diplomatically, militarily and Constitutionally.”

John Kerry added, “America is ready to lead again — not just with our words, but by our example.” Obama agreed with his fans: "We think that it is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world."

Moral America is back, baby. Finally, we can take pride in the fatherland as we lead the planet according to God's will. The embarrassing, aberrant Bush/Cheney era is already a distant memory, but serviceable when liberals need something to bash.

Is it crass to say I told you so?

Out here, where the confetti's not as thick, the picture's less rosy. Obama's doing what many in elite circles want done. His moves are hardly controversial, much less courageous. Most of Bush's mess must be cleaned up before the US can get on with the next imperial phase. Gitmo was bad PR. Torture's bad PR. Unlike more rigid systems, the American model adapts, alters itself when necessary, but not too much, for those calling the shots want to protect their advantage. Look to those periods when the powerful thought they were losing control, and watch the truncheon crash down. No worries about that today. Nearly everyone's on board. Masses of people are still crying and thrashing about with holy vigor. Consumers want to believe in the American fairy tale, and Obama's gonna give it to them. He's gonna give them something else in time. But that's down the road.

None of this is new. Jimmy Carter played the same role after the Nixon years, restoring "human rights" to the American vocabulary. (...) Yet, I don't think that Obama's another Carter -- he's too slick to get snared in that trap. Carter's failure taught Bill Clinton several lessons, and Clinton's success is not lost on Obama. Why do you think he made Hillary Secretary of State? To leading corporate Dems, it's always advisable to have a Clinton around.

States aren't moral agents. They don't have personalities or pet peeves. States represent the interests of those who rule them. And it's in the interest of our present rulers to reboot the American brand. Words like "morality" and "ideals" are smokescreens, blown in the faces of the public. Bush used the same words, but fewer and fewer people believed him. It was his own damn fault. A cheap failure in so many ways, Bush's recklessness made Obama's ascent not only possible, but inevitable. His actions weren't out of the mainstream of imperial thought, just riskier, crazier, more destructive. Bush's tactics were questioned, but not his crusade, which remains with us. His violence didn't seriously bother Democrats, as they continually helped finance it. So all this "new day" blather is utter bullshit. What's new is that we have a better, smoother bullshitter in office.

-- Dennis Perrin, "Clean-Up Time"
1:21 am
Soundbite Technique
I did say I was cautiously pessimistic about Obama's Presidency - but this is simply acknowledging the reality of an American Empire that is out of control and on the verge of collapse. Let us not forget that on the eve of the election, we witnessed a near-trillion dollar robbery of the US treasury. That robbery is still taking place. I do not blame President Obama, but I do not believe the financial and corporate interests that own and control this country will fold so easily. I do not question the integrity of the man as much as the power of his office - which I believe has greatly diminished over the years. I believe the Federal Reserve Bank, the Military Industrial Complex, and the massive corporate interests that run this country have more power than our new President. I hope I am wrong.

After 9/11, I witnessed most of this country become obsessed with squashing dissent and silencing critics. I hope this election does not turn Black America towards this same, fascist mind state; but already I am starting to see it, and it saddens me greatly. I absolutely wish our new President and his family success and safety. But after all I have witnessed in my lifetime, and especially in the last eight years, I am not ready to lay down my skepticism or my outrage for this government. To do so would be unwise and, ironically enough, anti-American.

-- Aaron MacGruder, creator of The Boondocks, via Dennis Perrin
Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
11:16 pm
8:51 pm
Soundbite Technique
REV LOWERY: Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- (laughter) -- when yellow will be mellow -- (laughter) -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- (laughter) -- and when white will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.


REV. LOWERY: Say amen --


REV. LOWERY: -- and amen.


-- Rev. Joseph Lowery, Inaugural Benediction.

Atheist tho I yam...Amen to that!

Current Mood: happy
7:26 am
Writer's Block: Regime Change (A Word To The Wise Guy And/Or Gal)
Today marks the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Obama's campaign was built around a message of change. What changes would you most like to see in the next 4 years?

Wrong Question, as usual. And not just because it's kicked me into a Burroughsian mode. To paraphrase Achmed Jacoubi, an Arab fella Burroughs quotes in "A Word To The Wise Guy": "That question is not personal opinion."

A more relevant question is, "What will you and/or other people who more or less agree with you have to do in order to effect the changes you would most like to see in the next 4 years?" Making change is a lot like, say, becoming President of these United States: it involves a taking series of steps. The steps are not as obvious or as discreet, the room for compromise is wider than you might think, the price might be too high to pay now, but at bargain sale later. The leadership of the people you have to deal with might hope that you'll somehow be able to force them to make their changes for you.

But as Obama's career-long difficulties in imparting this message bear out, the people you're going to have to deal with are certainly not going to say that out loud and clear. If need be, you're going to have to make them say that they want to be forced to change.

Like it or not, the steps will need to be taken, the compromises will have to be risked, the price will need to be paid. It at least has those similarities with personal change, really.

Sooo...what will I and/or other people who more or less agree with me have to do in order to effect the changes I would most like to see in the next 4 years? Well, a lot. But at least there's the consolation that the will to change turned out to be nearby. Even if everyone expresses it as a far-off wish.
Monday, January 19th, 2009
2:42 pm
Soundbite Technique: AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE!
I’ve always been a fan of George Bush, on the simple grounds that the American empire needs taking down several notches and George Jr has been the right man for the job. It was always odd to listen to liberals and leftists howling about Bush’s poor showing, how he’d reduced America’s standing in the family of nations. Did the Goths fret at the manifest weakness of the Emperor Honorius and lament the lack of a robust or intelligent Roman commander?

On Bush’s Jr’s fitful watch Latin America edged nervously out of Uncle Sam’s shadow. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia boldly assert their independence and thumb their noses at Uncle Sam. Twenty years earlier, and even when Bush Sr sat in the Oval Office, the “strong leadership” craved by Americans of all political stripes would have seen Chavez and Morales briskly toppled, their estimable reforms swiftly aborted and the kleptocrats handed back the keys to the presidential office by the CIA and their local right-wing allies.

Barely a month went by in Bush Jr’s second term but that some liberal or left pundit would predict a US attack on Iran. Lurid scenarios were drawn of the US and its local ally, Israel, unleashing the bombing sorties to Iran’s nuclear complex. It turns out that the Israeli high command made numerous requests for clearance for its planes to overfly Iraq on their way to Iran, but were adamantly nixed by George Jr.

Jr’s greatest single trumph in reducing America’s standing was his insistence that the assembly elections in Iraq go forward as planned, in December of 2005. Bush Sr., it will be recalled, shrank from finishing off Saddam Hussein in 1991 because it would most likely have meant the Shia would take power, to the great benefit of Iran. When the invasion of 2003 did topple Saddam, seasoned counselors advised Bush Jr to suspend the elections the Ayatollah Sistani had insisted upon, for exactly the same reason.

But the 43rd president obstinately rejected these counsels, saying that he’d promised Iraqis the gift of democracy and nothing would deflect him from this course. The elections took place on December 15, 2005, in a mortal blow for U.S. objectives in Iraq and a larger disaster for it in the entire region.

Was this doggedly incompetent saboteur of empire an “accident” of history, born of hanging chads in Florida in 2000 and the ruthless competence of James Baker in outmaneuvering Al Gore’s efforts to claim the White House amid the Forida recounts?

Blame first his mother, Barbara Bush, an unpleasant creature who never forgave George Sr for dragging her from behind the lace curtains of respectability in Connecticut to West Texas where she endured the miseries of a frontier wife, helpmeet to a failed wildcatter. She let her hair go white, grieved for the daughter that died and snarled at the lads while her faithless husband gadded about the world. It was Barbara who gave George his petty, mean-spirited vindictiveness and George Sr who passed on the relentless philistinism. Blame Laura who took in hand the lay-about cokehead of the Houston years and nudged him into politics.

But no one ever took Jr seriously as a contender on the national scene until Republicans, aghast at the prospect that John McCain might seize the nomination in 2000, seized on Bush as the man who would save them from this fate. They scarcely dared dream that he might actually become president. That required the campaign skills of Al Gore, looming over the barely articulate Bush in so loutish a display of arrogant ill-manners in that first debate that Americans gallantly rallied to Bush’s cause.

Somewhere in late 2003 blaming everything on Bush became a national pastime and alibi. He took the hit for fifty years of venal failure by the city fathers of New Orleans and the legislators of Louisiana to protect their city. He’s even had to shoulder the blame for the Wall Street meltdown and the subprime crisis, for which Congressional legislators and overseers can far more justly be held responsible.

Blessed blunder dogged his every step, and where he scanted on some necessary incompetence Dick Cheney was at his elbow to ensure disaster was not averted. Bush made so half hearted an effort to “reform” Social Security – the last defense of older Americans – that Wall Street, the instigator of the “reform”, remembered with profound nostalgia the man, Bill Clinton, who was well on the way to destroying Social Security without even a yap of alarm from the watchdogs, until the Lewinsky scandal forced him to abort the mission.

Bush leaves America a poorer but in some ways a better place, more conscious of its blessings. Just as it took bad King John to force the drafting of the Magna Carta, on Bush’s watch Americans have learned, amidst the threat of losing them, that they have constitutional protections. A commander in chief who made Jerry Ford sound like Demosthenes has given them a fresh sensitivity to language, even the dream that they might have a president who can speak in whole sentences.

Bush passed his final White House years in morose seclusion, despised by all, obeyed by none – a welcome rebuke to the concept of “unitary power” and an omnipotent executive.

Now Obama proclaims his mission of renewing America, always a sinister prospect. We’re heading back in to the high country of moral uplift, and dispiriting talk of America’s “mission”...

-- Alexander Cockburn, "Hail To The Chief".
Friday, January 16th, 2009
12:39 am
Soundbite Technique
American Liberalism in so many words:

The more sensitive to our democratic needs (those) who join the ruling class, the more successful our democracy will be and the more likely its survival.

-- Walter Cronkite, via Louis Proyect, The American Ruling Class

This is embedded in Liberal ideology. Conservative ideology, it used to pretend that it mattered (especially the NeoConservative faction) but once it consolidated power in the mid-90s, it ditched it as much as it could.

To its long-term detriment.
Saturday, January 10th, 2009
1:04 am
Soundbite Technique: AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE!
Tone of commentary: Gap-filled and sheepish. Early on, there are several long pauses followed by awkward resumptions, as though some comments had been excised. But even when the trio does talk, they steer clear of any overt political statements, instead ripping on each other and the movie's failure so vigorously that it's hard to know how seriously they take anything the movie says. Maybe that's because Zucker — An American Carol's mastermind — stays relatively silent, letting Friedman mock him for things like inserting his signature portrait of Davy Crockett "instead of jokes." Friedman, whom Farley describes as "to the left of Castro," apparently signed onto this project because he likes to get paid to riff, and he can't stand Michael Moore. Referring to the public response to the movie, Friedman quips, "I said to my mom, 'I guess I'm the black sheep of the family now.' And she said, 'No, you do a lot of good things too." Friedman also gleefully notes every gag he came up with on the set on the day of shooting, saying, "We write these things for ourselves, which is a good thing, because as it turns out, we were the only ones who went to see it."

What went wrong: Well, the first day of shooting went great. After that, the production ran into trouble, as the cast, the crew, and the writers kept questioning each other. Friedman describes a diner scene that was playing to stony silence on the set — Zucker: "Usually the crew laughs, even if it's a mercy laugh." — before he came up with the bright idea to have one terrorist continually push a fellow terrorist face-first into different plates of food. Friedman also ridicules a line Zucker wrote about Malone/Moore: "'The people who like your movies don't go to movies…' I never understood that line, because people do go to his movies."

An American Carol's right-wing backers were reportedly happy with the dailies they were seeing, but when the movie was test-screened in Texas, audiences were perplexed. They found the scene where General Patton shoots zombie ACLU lawyers too mean — "Didn't they get that the lawyers were zombies?" Zucker wonders — and they found some of the jokes too raunchy. So Zucker and his team cut a lot of material in order to appeal more to social conservatives, who, Zucker moans, "stayed home in droves." Describing Zucker's mindset throughout the shoot, Friedman says, "You kind of yelled a lot." Zucker: "Well, directing's tough." Friedman: "It is tough. And if you have to direct and you're a dick, it can be so much tougher."

Comments on the cast: Beyond making fun of Kevin Farley for being low on their list of choices — "We couldn't get Frank Caliendo," Zucker cracks — and pointing out that country star Trace Adkins come up with the idea to call Farley's character "turdhead" all on his own, the commentators spend most of their time weighing the political leanings of their various guest stars. Leslie Nielsen "is a liberal… but some might say he's too liberal when it comes to accepting movie parts." Kelsey Grammer (who played Patton) is a conservative, but still balked at having to say the line "Enjoy your privacy rights in hell!" until the writers softened it by having him note that privacy rights are great, except when they're "interfering with survival rights." Jon Voight (playing George Washington) is so conservative that he worried Zucker and company were making Farley's character too sympathetic. And as for Dennis Hopper… Well, according to Zucker, "Dennis can't remember what he is."

The creative team were also impressed that Paris Hilton pronounced "Riefenstahl" correctly, and they observe, "Bill O'Reilly does this thing with his face that some people would consider a smile, but I don't think you can call it a laugh." And they thank David Alan Grier, whose presence they believe gave them "cover" in the plantation scene. Friedman: "Even Sinbad turned us down." Zucker: "And Frank Caliendo. Again." Friedman: "We were going to put him in blackface."

Inevitable dash of pretension: Zucker notes that the scene with a wacky Hitler is "an homage to Mel Brooks." Friedman retorts, "I thought it was an homage to Hitler."

Commentary in a nutshell:

Zucker: "Here comes the plot."

Friedman: "We should put on the screen in big letters, 'Good scene to follow.'"

Farley: "But this scene really isn't all that great."

Friedman: "No, this scene isn't."

-- Noel Murray, "Commentary Tracks Of The Damned: An American Carol", The Onion AV Club
Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
12:16 am
Soundbite Technique
One striking feature of these complaints (from liberals) is that if the complainers had their suspicions about Obama during the campaign, they kept their mouths firmly shut. Across eight presidential campaigns, since Jimmy Carter’s successful run in 1976, I’ve never seen such collective determination by the liberal left to think only positive thoughts about a Democratic candidate. Indeed, some of the present fury may stem from a certain embarrassment at their own political naivety. In fairness to Obama, beyond the vaguely radical afflatus of his campaign rhetoric about “change”, Obama never concealed his true political stance, which is of the center-right. In every sense of the phrase, he can say to his left critics, “I told you so.” And indeed he did.

-- Alexander Cockburn, "Counterpunch Diary", December 3. 2008.
Friday, January 2nd, 2009
11:18 pm
Soundbite Technique
via Counterpunch:

If I believe the country will suffer with either Hillary, Obama or McCain, I would just as soon the Democrats take the hit rather than a Republican causing the debacle. And I would prefer not to have conservative Republicans in the Congress paralyzed by having to support, out of party loyalty, a Republican president who is not conservative.

-- Rush Limbaugh, February 2008

Let's hope liberals and Democrats will take the hint about what to do as much as they're about to take the hit...::shrugs::

The [U.S.] generals are light-years ahead of the civilians. They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.

-- Barack Obama to David Brooks, May 2008

We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power. Everything and I mean everything.

-- Obama addressing the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Spring 2008

Nervous liberals are perennially terrified that the Brownshirts will soon be marching down Main Street. Now they worry that economic depression will spark to life a right-wing populist counter-attack, headed by Sarah Palin who is already cutting herself loose from McCain and setting herself up as the Jeanne d’Arc of Republican Renaissance in the next four years.

On her current form, she’s not up to it. She’s just not smart enough to get beyond canned one-liners to the rubes. And how much of a constituency will she really have, beyond the born-agains? In the late 1960s Nixon’s speech writers had the easier task of delighting a solidly confident blue collar constituency, many of them with good union jobs, with their sallies against pointyhead professors, liberal judges and unwashed hippy scum. That constituency is long gone, along with the jobs.

When the Republicans have pulled themselves together they’ll muster up some new demagogue of the right, to run a right-wing populist campaign of the sort Palin has been too dumb to mount.

-- Alexander Cockburn, October 30, 2008

The brain initially retranslates the unexpected as some minor aberration of normalcy. Look at what happened in February, 2003 in Key West, on the actual day Ashcroft and Riggs announced we’re One Nation Under Orange Alert. Four uniformed fugitives from Cuba’s navy patrol made landfall on the Homeland, passing undetected by southern Florida’s vast flotillas of Coastguard and Navy vessels.

The four tied up their 32-foot fiber-glass cigarette boat (sporting the Cuban flag and containing two AK-47s, 8 loaded magazines and a GPS finder tuned to the coordinates of the US Coastguard station) on the southern shore of Key West, at the Hyatt Resort dock.

Then, clad in their Cuban army fatigues (one had a Chinese made handgun strapped to his hip) they wandered about, marveling at the serene emptiness of the evening streets, (so unlike bustling Havana, their leader said later) looking for a police station where they could turn themselves in. Had they been Terrorists there were plenty of rewarding targets within a strolling distance, including a major surveillance center for the Caribbean and Latin America, run by US Southern Command, also a US Navy base, plus of course Key West’s extensive literary colony. The Cubans could have wiped out half the authors on the New York Times’s bestseller list with a single salvo.

-- Cockburn, December 2, 2008

"The brain initially retranslates the unexpected as some minor aberration of normalcy."


Current Mood: hopeful
Tuesday, December 30th, 2008
12:12 am
Soundbite Technique
AVC: Do you feel like the election of Obama has ushered in a new idealism? A new sense of hope in our country?

C: There’s definitely a new sense of hope with Obama being elected. I felt that the night at Grant Park when I was there — just the diversity in the crowd and the hope you could see in people’s faces. That’s where we are in this country and in this world, hopefully — that people are starting to feel better and have faith in the fact that God is going to take care of us and there’s going to be a better day. And my music, I was making it at a time when it felt darker, but I wanted people to feel that hope. Instead of saying, “Hey, man, we in troubled times,” I wanted to say, “Hey, it’s going to be better, y’all. Look, it’s a good day.” Speaking things into fruition in a way, you know?

AVC: Speaking of Obama, you grew up in the Trinity United Church of Christ. Can you talk about Revered Wright?

C: Since I was eight years old, I went to Trinity. I mean, I listened to Reverend Wright since I was a kid and I always heard him preach sermons of love and inspiration. And of course he would talk about the community and about the ills that were going on in the community. And if the government did something that we all at the same could see was not good for our community or for people, then he would speak up about it. But he never was an advocate of hate or putting out negative things about people. It was just more like, if the system was oppressing people, he would speak about it. His sermons were sermons of love and that’s why he was able to inspire a book for Obama. That’s why Obama went to Trinity, obviously — he was inspired himself that Reverend Wright was a man of love and a preacher of good word.

AVC: Did you know Obama from Trinity?

C: Not from Trinity, but I met him at one of the hip-hop summits that Russell Simmons had.

AVC: Were you immediately impressed with him?

C: Man, definitely. Immediately. That’s why I went out and — I had never supported a political figure — and I went out and supported Obama. I immediately went out and in one of my songs, in the song on the “Why?” remix that I did with Jadakiss in 2004, I said, “Why is Bush actin’ like they tryin’ to get Osama? Why don’t we impeach him and elect Obama?” This is in 2004 on the “Why?” remix and I said that because I really had belief that Obama was the right person to be president. I didn’t know it would happen in 2008 [laughs], but I just felt when I met him, I just felt in my heart [that], “Man, this is a person that I in my heart feel like could lead this country and do well and will do right by people.”

AVC: In the 90s 2pac famously rapped, “Although it seems heaven sent / We ain’t ready to see a black President?” What do you think has changed between 1996 when Tupac said that and 2008?

C: Well, I think one of the things that changed is — we went through a really rough time, you know. We’ve been through some hard times, not that times weren’t hard then. But once the Bush regime came in and this country went to war and the economy just started getting continuously worse and times became rougher, people went through so much. Whether black or white, they wanted somebody that was going to come in and do right by us and do right by the system and do right by the poor, the middle class, the rich. Black, white, yellow, brown — we wanted somebody who would do right by us. And I think because Obama was that person, whether he was black or white, he was chosen and I think the world was able to see that because of the rough times that we went through. It’s like at a certain point, say if you were a prejudiced person, and you’re drowning in the middle of the ocean and someone comes with a lifesaver — you don’t care if that person’s black or white. You don’t make that kind of distinction when someone’s coming to save your life or just making things better when you’re drowning. You know, when things became that drastic, color doesn’t matter that much.


AVC: You also worked with The Neptunes on Electric Circus, which again was a big departure, especially production-wise from any other albums. Can you talk a little about what was going on in your life that led you to take those chances?

C: Well, at that time I really felt like, man, I really need to find something else to do in hip-hop, because I was becoming bored and felt like the same thing was going on. I really was trying to establish a new sound and a new voice in what I wanted to do. I was listening to Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd, because that was new music for me. I really hadn’t been up on them. I mean, I’d heard of them, but I wasn’t up on their music. And I kept listening to Radiohead, and I was like, Man, I want to make hip-hop that feels like Radiohead. I want to make hip-hop that can use guitars and soul and jazz and just fuse it all together. And I want to make this whole new sound that’s going to shock the world. Unfortunately, the masses didn’t receive it. A lot of the critics didn’t receive it with a lot of love. They didn’t hold it high, but I’m still proud that I did what I did and I wouldn’t change a thing about it, to be honest, because that’s all part of the growth and Electric Circus was just a reflection of where I was at the time. And now, I’m able to come and do a new sound and grow even more and make greater songs because my song-making abilities have grown. And I like challenging myself. I like the challenge of rapping to fast beats, rapping to beats that are super slow, whatever. I like the challenges, so I’m not afraid to take on any piece of music and create a song to it if it feels right to me.

AVC: Because Electric Circus was such a departure, was it hard getting your record label to respond to it?

C: They definitely didn’t… They was not trying to hear it. One of the presidents at the time said, “Man, it’s like you’re a restaurant and people came one day and ate soul food, and then the next day it’s like you’re cooking Japanese food.” He was saying I went so different that people wouldn’t be able to get with it. Obviously, that’s what they were feeling. They weren’t at all convinced that people were going to be able to get with it. But, hey… I just had some of the same journalists that panned Electric Circus at the time, they just listened to Universal Mind Control and they loved it. And then they went back to tell me that Electric Circus, if it came out at today, it would’ve had a different reception. One of them told me, “Hey, man. You need to bring it out again.” And I said, “Hey, it’s cool. It is what it is.” You make art for… You create it and people can respond to it if they like it. If they don’t, then they can go to the next artist or your next album or one of your previous albums. That’s what art is all about.

-- Interview with Common, by Nathan Rabin for the Onion AV Club, December 28, 2008.
Sunday, December 28th, 2008
10:41 pm
Soundbite Technique
In recent weeks, we've seen some of Barack Obama's advisers and colleagues warning about the level of messianic expectation loaded on to the president-elect.

The gospel tells us something hard to hear – that there is not going to be a single charismatic leader or a dedicated political campaign or a war to end all wars that will bring the golden age…

There is a savior, born so that all may have life in abundance, a savior … hidden in the form of poverty and insecurity, a displaced person … whose authority does not come from popularity, problem-solving or anything else in the human world. He is the presence of the power of creation itself.

It is not the restoring of a golden age, not even a return to the Garden of Eden; it is more – a new creation, a new horizon for us all…

And our own following of the Word made flesh is what gives us the resources to be perennially suspicious of claims about the end of history or the coming of some other savior exercising some other sort of power. To follow him is to take the risks of working at these small and stubborn outposts of newness, taking our responsibility and authority.

We can't pass the buck to Caesar Augustus, Barack Obama or even Canterbury City Council – though we may pray for them all and hope that they will play their part in witnessing to new possibilities.

-- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, via Alexander Cockburn, "Against Saviors", December 26, 2008.
Sunday, December 14th, 2008
2:12 pm
Saturday, December 13th, 2008
1:20 am
Soundbite Technique
Of course the good government crowd is aghast (over the developing Gov. Rod Blagojevich scandal). “I was speechless and sickened,” wails Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “In all of the millions of indictments I’ve read over the last years, I can’t remember anything as vile as this.” Another reformer moans about “the damage to the state,. It’s going to take a long time to dig out.” Nonsense. This is exactly the sort of scandal Americans understand and appreciate. Good government is the province of states animated by the social democratic ethos of prim Nordics, like the Dakotas, or Washington in the Pacific Northwest. In the riper ethnic cauldrons of Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and of course New Jersey, corruption reigns in all its intricate and creative forms, In these states no politician is beyond the reach of an indictment, and this political certainty is the truest form of Americanism and the soundest check and balance against the arrogance of power.

If defended by a capable lawyer I don’t see any reason why Blago shouldn’t emerge from his ordeal with a verdict of Not Guilty from the 12 jurors. Don’t those freedoms we supposedly enjoy include the right to dream over the breakfast table or the cocktail shaker of extorting large sums of money from ambitious politicians and venal businessmen? It’s one thing to dream and another to actually grab the bundle of cash, stick it in the refrigerator and say, The senate seat is yours. Fitzgerald pounced too soon. And even if the quid pro quo is there on film, juries can be forgiving, as their indulgent scrutiny of FBI footage of John Z.Delorean and Mayor Marion Barry attest.

Similarly, what's the difference between Jesse Jackson Jr hitting up a bunch of Indian businessmen for $1 million and pledging to dump it in Blago’s political campaign chest, in return for services rendered in the form of the senate seat? If this is felonious conduct, shouldn’t 98 per cent of all elected politicians in this country be behind bars? The American political system is fuelled by campaign contributions, and corresponding quid pro quos. Politicians are elected to deliver services. They need money to get elected. The people who need services give it to them. That’s the way the system works. The Washington Post congratulates Obama for steering clear of the slime of Chicago politics, but what actually happened is that Obama moved to richer pastures. Not for him Tony Rezko’s dingy billfold, but the dignity of anticipatory bri. . . uh, campaign contributions from the Pritzkers, the Crown family, the big ethanol interests in the Midwest, the nuclear industry, Wall Street financiers, the biggest of big time money, now graterfully acknowledged in the form of Obama’s cabinet appointments. Obama raised more money than any presidential candidate in the history of American poltics, and here we are getting excited about Rod Blagojevich?

-- Alexander Cockburn, "Hail To Chicago, Beacon Of American Values", Counterpunch
Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
12:02 am
Soundbite Technique
The toy giant Mattel has won its lawsuit against the makers of Bratz dolls, the slightly slutty “ethnic” dolls that have been selling well while sales of Mattel’s Barbie line have been dropping. The ruling states that since the designer of the Bratz line did the initial doll drawings while employed by Mattel, the rights to the Bratz line now belong to Mattel — whomph, the competition is eliminated in one fell swoop.

I seem to remember reading about the Bratz dolls a year or so ago — the designer tried to get Mattel interested in the line, but with their traditional and long-standing emphasis on the All American Breasts of Barbie, they passed. So, the designer went elsewhere, and despite some initial resistance, the line of dolls caught fire and began to threaten Miss Barbie herself. The Bratz dolls, who look to be of indeterminate ethnic origin — but definitely not Anglo-Saxon — started to crowd out the tall white chick with pointy tits. Do we have a metaphor for immigration attitudes (and policies) here or what?

The designer should have gotten Mattel to sign away their rights after passing on his idea, though I suspect Mattel would not have done so unless they had to. Just like record companies will often pass on an artist’s record and then prohibit anyone else from releasing it, they are scared of both being shown up and possible competition. Forget the lip service that competition is good for business — business will squash any competition if it has half a chance. Maybe the designer got a verbal go-ahead from someone at Mattel to seek interest elsewhere; maybe he thought they’d forget about his drawings; or maybe he thought they wouldn’t go so far as to claim the rights based on the drawings — but he didn’t get a proper release, so legally he’s fucked. Though it doesn’t seem fair.

It seems to me that it would be nice if there were a fairer attitude towards passed-over creations. What if the law said this: if a company like Mattel turned down his drawings, then they would automatically revert back to him after some period of time — a couple of years, for example. Long enough for Mattel to reconsider, given an always-changing marketplace, but short enough that the creation, whatever it is, might still be relevant. This could apply to recording artists, screenwriters, designers, authors and photographers — where the same kind of proprietary nastiness happens all the time.

-- David Byrne, "Mattel, Bratz and Creative Rights"
Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
11:54 pm
Soundbite Technique: AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE!
In earlier years, Pwogs had to wait until after Inauguration Day to be disappointed. Now, with the generally faster pace of events -- due probably to the atom bomb, or maybe that Internet thing -- they can have the satisfaction of receiving their inevitable kick in the teeth much more promptly.

More explicitly, too. This suddenly popular trope among the old Donkparty stagers of berating the "left", even before their man has been sworn in is, I think, a straw in the hot air of no mean consequence. It attests bleakly to the radically enfeebled state of "left" Democrats.

These people's pathologically perseverative commitment to lesser-evillism has now landed them in the unenviable job of almost-perennial whipping boy. (They do get a few dry old bones thrown to them in primary season, whenever the Democrat is not the incumbent, and on this scanty fare they must nourish their delusions from one decade to the next.)

Why, though, do the alpha donkeys feel the need to drive the point home so explicitly, and so publicly? Why not just fuck the Pwogs quietly, rather than talking about it -- as has always been the case in previous Democratic administrations? The election is over -- those half-a-dozen Angry White Guys who might have been swayed by this tactic have already cast their ballots for whomever.

I suspect they're just having some fun, and the Pwogs are now so inconsequential that they can afford to have it. It's good to be the king -- again. Yeah, during the primaries and to some extent during the election, they had to keep their hatred and contempt for the Pwogs a little muted. Now they can indulge themselves -- and people who can indulge themselves, generally will.

-- "Young David Sirota thinks God Must find it exceedingly odd...", Michael J. Smith, Stop Me Before I Vote Again.
12:35 pm
Soundbite Technique: AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE!
If his eight years taught us anything, it was that nothing can traduce Americans' limitless sense of virtuous self-regard. To his supporters, he was an emblem of our continued cultural virility, steadfast and Western, who knew right from wrong, trusted his gut, trusted God, knew evil when he saw it. To his opponents, he was the exception that proved the rule, an aberrant figure who violated all the high standards of our exceptional civilization, and in doing so provided fodder for eight years of kvetching that "this isn't who we are," until finally, exit, pursued by Obama, coming to "take back America." To conservatives who soured on him as his popularity declined, he proved the continued vitality of their "movement" by allowing them to gainsay that they were a mere cult of personality. To liberals who lost two elections to him, he was a standard under which to ride into battle against the real villains, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. He was an empty vessel into which all of our sweet and bitter draughts were poured. He was our mirror.

But who, in fact, was he? And I think the plain answer is that he was no one special, one more failed scion of a failing family, a ruler who could only be considered remarkable, whether for better or worse, in a nation that still fancies itself a democracy. Were we communists, or better yet a monarchy, his vapidity and mediocrity wouldn't shock us at all. People less in thrall to the myth of their own great, national, deliberative process are less inclined to surprise when a bumbler, an asshole, or a moron shows up in the imperial palace, playing dress-up and treating international affairs like a board game. Your own experience in a hierarchy without democratic pretensions should tell you as much. It might drive you nuts, but when was the last time you were surprised that the boss turned out to be an idiot? One could make the case, perhaps, that elections are a reasonable scheme for a city-state somewhere, but a hundred million harried citizens making hazy decisions after two years of propaganda isn't qualitatively different from the happenstance of heredity or the rolling of dice. And George W. Bush, god bless him, is the proof.

-- "George W. Bush - An Appreciation", http://www.whoisioz.blogspot.com/
Sunday, December 7th, 2008
11:35 pm
Soundbite Technique
December 3, 2008: The International (Brotherhood Of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America) announced it will achieve the organizing goal of 40,000 new members in 2008.

UPS Freight was the single largest company organized by our union this year. Twelve thousand UPS Freight drivers and dockworkers joined the Teamsters this year. More than 8,700 First Student workers also joined the Teamsters this year as well as 8,500 United Airlines mechanics.

We’ll have the chance to maintain this momentum in the coming year by pushing for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to form a union. Teamsters need to be in the front lines pushing for this legislation’s passage.

More Teamster organizing can mean more Teamster Power if we win strong contracts that bring the nonunion competition up to union scale.

At UPS Freight, the new contract allowed the company to keep the 12,000 new Teamsters out of union pension and medical plans. UPS Freight also maintained substandard work rules that other Teamster freight employers pushed for and won in the 2008 National Master Freight Contract.

It’s good to see the membership numbers of our Teamsters Union growing. We can grow Teamster Power too — passing the Employee Free Choice Act, organizing the nonunion competition in our core industries, and launching strategic contract campaigns to bring newly organized companies up to union scale.

-- "Teamsters Organize 40,000 New Members in 2008", TDU.org
Saturday, December 6th, 2008
12:03 pm
Soundbite Technique
The powers that be in the Second Windy City Of Big Shoulders And Hog Butcher Of The World would prefer that attention to Chicago be limited to Barack Obama and the possible 2012 Olympiad.

But: First, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart starts enforcing the law according to how it's written on the books and not the Landlord's interpretation thereof. And now, this:

CHICAGO – Workers laid off from their jobs at a factory have occupied the building and are demanding assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay that they say they are owed.

About 200 employees of Republic Windows and Doors began their sit-in Friday, the last scheduled day of the plant's operation.

Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give 60 days' notice required by law before shutting down.

Workers also were angered when company officials didn't show up for a meeting Friday that had been arranged by U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, she said.

During the peaceful takeover, workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building, Fried said.

"We're doing something we haven't (tried) since the 1930s, so we're trying to make it work," Fried said.

Union officials said another meeting with the company is scheduled for Monday.

Representatives of Republic Windows did not immediately respond Saturday to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak said authorities were aware of the situation and officers were patrolling the area.

Crain's Chicago Business reported that the company's monthly sales had fallen to $2.9 million from $4 million during the past month. In a memo to the union, obtained by the business journal, Republic CEO Rich Gillman said the company had "no choice but to shut our doors."

-- Rupa Shenoy, Associated Press, "Idled workers occupy factory in Chicago", December 6, 2008

Chi-town ain't just Obama, WBEZ, The Baffler, Quimbys, etc. any more, folks. It might be becoming something more interesting...
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