Friday, June 29, 2007

A Different Kind of Cowsills Nostalgia

Unlike some critics, I thought Patti Smith's "12" was a fine effort at nostalgic covers, particularly if you threw in the "Two More" single on top of the CD. Nevertheless, Susan Cowsill might just have outdone the mighty Patti. She and her band have compiled songs from the "Covered in Vinyl" evenings at Carrollton Station in New Orleans to come up with a CD of covers by U2, Hendrix, Pretenders, Joni Mitchell and the like. It's four-track muddy live recordings, but the enthusiasm and the quality of Susan's voice make it a bigger keeper than "12". Go buy it at Susan's site.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

USB is the Music for Me!

A month ago, only the obscure Jellyshirts were releasing albums on USB sticks, so I noted it only in my EE Times blog. But now, Jack and Meg have taken the trend mainstream, not only releasing White Stripes' Icky Thump on USB, but making the memory sticks look like little Jack and Meg soldiers. Ain't it cute? Goes well with Wilco weeble dolls. But I don't wanna receive all my music this way! In fact, while you're up, get me some 12-inch, 180-gram vinyl. With gatefold sleeves for cleaning bags of pot.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Deflating the Demagogues of Latin America

For 40 years, the bimonthly magazine NACLA Report on the Americas, published by North American Congress on Latin America, has hosted some of the most sober, fair, and eyes-wide-open pieces describing U.S. government and corporate plans for the nations to the south, and the citizen opposition movements for independent action. NACLA staff are not ideological about either side in this scrap, and sometimes have to face the wrath of True Believers from all sides of the political spectrum.

The May-June issue is doubly tasty. The main focal point is a series of articles describing the current anti-illegal-immigrant movement in this country. The wall chart depicting links from Lou Dobbs to Tom Tancredo to vigilante groups is alone worth the price of the issue.

Perhaps more important, the opinion-piece leaders in the opening pages deflate two radical demagogues who sorely need deflating: Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Ortega is taken to task for making the gutted-out Sandinista party almost a de-facto ally of the Catholic Church, due to a strict new anti-abortion position. Chavez's social programs are examined under a microscope, and rejected as being more a platform for a personality cult than a true move toward people power. NACLA will no doubt get plenty of subscription cancellations and nasty letters, which shows they're moving in the right direction. A toast to 40 years of NACLA, and to deflating all ideological heroes. An idol is only useful to paint fake moustaches on.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


It Can Always Be Worse

OK, how to say this without sounding like a complete elitist?

Plenty of historians agree with Pres. Jimmy Carter that the current Bush administration is the worst since the nation was founded. Yet some Bush critics live under a misconception that this is the worst of all possible worlds. Bush's vacillating positions on immigration, both before 9/11 and as recently as the crafting of the immigration bill, should show us that the president understands the nuances of the global movement of peoples better than most members of his party. Sometimes, critics point to Republican extremists like Arizona's John Kyl or Colorado's Tom Tancredo to show us that we could live in a far worse world than the Bush empire.

Yet even Kyl and Tancredo pale beside the grassroots Republican activists cited in the June 10 New York Times article on who really killed the immigration bill. These people are much scarier than the worst that Thomas Frank could imagine in Kansas. Certainly, it seems silly to advocate a law on a minimal level of displayed intelligence before one could vote. Let's take evolution. Sam Brownback's position is nuanced, not dumb. Yet if you believe cavemen frolicked with dinosaurs, you're too dumb to vote. If you, like Alan Jackson, can't tell the difference between Iraq and Iran, you're too dumb to vote. If you think all Mexicans should be shot at the border, you're too dumb to vote. There are lots of dummies out there, and things could be far far worse than they are in the nation's leadership.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Admit that the Black Bloc are Morons

No matter how badly you think free trade diminishes the chances of developing-nation advancement, there is scarcely an argument to be made for preemptively assaulting police protecting G8 summit members, as happened in Rostock June 2. At some WTO and G8 meetings, members of anarchist and autonomen cells are set upon by police. That is not what took place in Rostock. Provocateurs were at fault for setting out to injure police.
Thankfully, members of all the peace and economic progressive groups protesting in Rostock came out with a unified denunciation of Black Bloc members on June 3. This is not simply an issue of squishy pacifists vs. youthful street fighters. Every now and then, a justification can be made for leaving pacifism behind and putting on the anarchist bandana. The problem is the nature of the provocateur. Just as the world told George Bush in March 2003, it is never OK to strike first unless your existence is truly threatened. Bush and Cheney went from "preemptive" to "preventive" war justifications, and the anarchists in Rostock seemed to be promoting preventive police battles.
There are too many folks on the left who have a confused attitude regarding the Black Bloc, both in a desire to attract youth and energy, and because Black Bloc members have a certain tough romanticism associated with black bandanas and a "never-back-down" attitude. When I was in Washington DC at an IMF summit in 2000, the crowd stood and cheered when Black Bloc members entered a rally. But when anarchists behave as though they are indeed victims of an "infantile disorder," they should be denounced as the morons they turned out to be in Rostock.