Thursday, May 29, 2008

Boycott Dunkin' Donuts!

Look, I'm no fan of Rachael Ray, though her taste in indie music is really pretty good -- but the decision by Dunkin Donuts to pull a TV ad where she promotes iced coffee, because her scarf allegedly looks like a Palestinian keffiyeh, is just plain offensive. Who started this mess? A conservative columnist well-known to be more mentally disturbed than Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh put together -- Michelle Malkin. There is no reason for corporations to kowtow to this kind of claptrap. Even if someone on a TV ad had a button that said "Free Palestine," so the fuck what? Israel sure gets enough free publicity! But Rachael wasn't even guilty of such a so-called sin. She just had a wardrobe malfunction, at least in the eyes of the lunatic ultra-right. Shame on you, Dunkin Donuts. I won't say the same for Michelle Malkin, since she is too mentally, ethically, and spiritually damaged to know shame.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Jan Bednar, Czech Hunger Striker, in Liver Failure

Jan Bednar, one of two activists in the Czech Republic who launched a hunger strike to oppose U.S. missile-defense radar based in his country, has gone into liver failure but will still continue his hunger strike. He needs all our prayers and good wishes. He began his hunger strike with Jan Tamas, pictured at left, who many of us in Colorado met. (The original post identified Tamas as the one with liver failure, the result of a miscommunication I had.)

Tamas came to the U.S. in April and impressed many people with his good humor and dedication. I am concerned about how fasts unto death are waged. Occasionally, as in the case of Mapuche activist Patricia Troncoso in Chile, a government responds when a hunger striker is hospitalized. But all too often, particularly when the U.S. government is involved, a hunger striker can die and the parties in charge simply don't care. Let's all wish the best for Jan Bednar and Jan Tamas, and we all need to sign the Czech petition to bar the radar base from Czech soil.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Utah Phillips RIP

Here I was, complaining about too many blog obituaries, but it's important to honor those that pass by! That great folk-singer/anarchist/Wobbly/hobo/train-hopper Utah Phillips died May 23 of complications from congestive heart failure. Utah would always rally the fallen, comfort the disgruntled, and show up for every War Resisters League event there was. I'm glad he did the two CDs with Ani DiFranco that introduced him to new generations of musicians and activists. We are with you, compadre.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

At Last - An Activist Band Gets Mainstream Credit

Let's hear it for Denver's Flobots, who are always willing to perform benefits, speak out for human rights, and cause trouble when necessary. Everyone was bitching about the hip-hop group signing to a major label, but when their new album Fight with Tools ended up in Best Buy's national circular for $7.99 specials this week, I figured it was a good way to spread a radical message.

The Denver Post thought so too, and put Flobots on the front page of the print edition May 20. We need more mass-audience tales of shit-disturbers. Here's the video for their new song "Handlebars."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ode to a Wonderful Daughter

Abigail Wirbel will graduate soon, overcoming adversities and late assignments and a whole lot of hurdles. It's unbelievable what a cool person she's grown into, but then high school seniors tend t0 do that, don't they?

Tim Bensinger, 1957-2008

Too many obituaries on this blog. At least Tim's was expected, and we can consider it a blessing he was with us until 2008. He was one of the most cheerful high school buddies I had, and all those who worked with him told stories about the kind words he had for everyone. His family had a tough time since the summer of 2007, when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. At least Tim left with a smile, and left those that knew him with a smile on their faces. See you on the flip side, buddy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Radomes Face Deflationary Pressures from Plowshares

Not all of the "God's golf balls" radomes used by technical intelligence agencies are quite as solid as they appear. In one of the more unique Plowshares actions of the last couple decades, religious peace activists in New Zealand used scythes to puncture and deflate one of the radomes at the Waihopai intelligence base, run by the Government Communications Security Bureau on behalf of the U.S. National Security Agency.
Activists were in court May 5, and may face up to ten years in prison. It's a pity the puncture didn't cause the radome to fly around the New Zealand countryside backwards, making loud sputtering noises. And before neighbors of Menwith Hill in England or Buckley Field in Colorado get any ideas, most radomes have a buckminster-fulleresque frame structure that would not allow punctures. For more information on New Zealand's participation in the NSA's global Echelon intelligence program, see Nicky Hager's fantastic book, Secret Power.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Trumans Water Lives!

Throughout the 1990s, I tried to convince people of the relevance of Trumans Water (no apostrophe), a band worshipped by John Peel, who seemed to pull together elements of Captain Beefheart, Ornette Coleman, and skanky punky free improvisation in a combination no one else could pull off. Wasn't too many people's cup of tea. The band didn't help by being purveyors of willful obscurity and cryptic situationist pranks, such as when TW released four different albums called "Godspeed ..." in 1994, but denied that three of the four albums existed.
Nevertheless, I got the chance to meet TW's Branstetter brothers in San Diego and Chapel Hill in various tours, and always thought they were the greatest lunatics in the music business. Despite one brother being stateside and one living in France, Trumans Water is back again for a European tour, and they scored a very nice comprehensive biography in this blog on May 1. Godspeed the Dissonance.