Sunday, August 31, 2008
Ah, well, here's Colbert. Laughs, laughs.
This isn't merely a question of judgment, although it clearly is that. This goes to the very heart of the conservative worldview that drives the GOP. You're On Your Own. The federal government shouldn't help you. The government shouldn't even exist. This is the mindset that gave us the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, just as it gave us two disastrous wars, the falling US Dollar, the collapse of our economy, the rise in cronyism and corruption, the rise of privatized mercenary armies like Blackwater, and so on. The list is endless. Hurricane Katrina brought all of it into perfect focus three years ago.
McCain and the Republicans will do their damnest to dazzle us with illusion and spectacle, in hopes that a skillful photo-op in a disaster zone will make up for eight years of neglect, and 40 years of a conservative movement that has proven disastrous for America. We've already had enough of this criminal malfeasance. It's time for these Republicans to leave.
The campaign of John McCain has sent a staff of eight people into Alaska to conduct background checks and vetting on Governor Sarah Palin.
Word is they have have eight rooms reserved at a Wasilla hotel.
Sure, I suppose that many Alaskans are feeling a surge of pride that someone from our state has gotten a spot on the big stage. And most Alaskans like Palin. I know I do.
But let's be honest here. Her resume is as thin as the meat in a vending machine sandwich. I'm thinking being mayor of Wasilla doesn't qualify her. And she's less than two years into her first term as governor. Except for her high-profile gas pipeline legislation -- which I like a lot -- she doesn't have much to show. Oil taxes? Most of that work was done by the legislature. Ethics? Ditto. And her role in killing the much-touted Bridge to Nowhere? Talk about coming in after the battle is over and bayoneting the wounded.
And there's a growing sense that the government isn't running all that well, that all that's keeping the wheels from coming off is that 25,000 state employees show up for work every day.
The long and short of it is this: We're not sure she's a competent governor of Alaska. And yet McCain, who is no spring chicken, has decided she's the best choice to replace him as president if he should win and then fall afoul of the Grim Reaper.
From the Anchorage Times:
"I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere," Palin told the cheering McCain crowd, referring to Ketchikan's Gravina Island bridge.
But Palin was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it.
The Alaska governor campaigned in 2006 on a build-the-bridge platform, telling Ketchikan residents she felt their pain when politicians called them "nowhere." They're still feeling pain today in Ketchikan, over Palin's subsequent decision to use the bridge funds for other projects -- and over the timing of her announcement, which they say came in a pre-dawn press release that seemed aimed at national news deadlines.
This is sick. It's sick and twisted. You can see this coming from a mile away. You don't play cheap political games when people's lives are in the balance. This is beyond shameful, beyond shameless.
This is what John McCain and George Bush were doing three years ago, as Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast. The Republicans hope you'll forget this in time for McCain's shameless photo-ops this week. I'm sure he'll make sure to move the dead bodies away from the cameras during his acceptance speech.
Hurricane Gustav is blowing the Republican National Convention off course with tomorrow's proceedings all-but-canceled and John McCain floating the idea that he might deliver his acceptance speech Thursday night from the area blasted by the storm.
The cable news channels are all abuzz about the GOP convention all but closing down on Monday, with the hint that John McCain may not give his acceptance speech in St. Paul. Immediately, the Ramones cynic in me expected to hear McCain's plans for giving his speech right smack in the middle of New Orleans. So much for cynicism.
The Republican Party is desperate. Their backs are against the wall. Just about the only thing they have going for them at this point is Karl Rove and His Magic Slime Machine. If they can just manufacture some crisis, or prop their candidate on top of a real one, they may just be able to sucker enough voters to squeak away with a win in November. Don't discount it for a second. Earlier, I was convinced that the sight of another major hurricane striking the Gulf at the start of the Republican convention, on the heels of Obama's magnificent speech and McCain's shamelessly desperate gamble in Sarah Palin, would spell political disaster. Now my earlier confidence is long gone.
I've seen the Republicans spin certain disaster into their own advantage. I was at the Paul Wellstone memorial, when it seemed all but certain that the Democrats would win the Senate election. We all know how quickly our fortunes turned. And we all know how long Bush rode the trauma of 9/11. The GOP danced on those graves for years. They'll think nothing less of spinning Hurricane Gustav to their advantage.
We already know that Bush and Cheney won't appear in St. Paul tomorrow night. I suspect that we'll see a repeat performance of the Russian/Georgian border dispute. Bush will all but disappear, and McCain will behave as though he were already President. The news media will faithfully cluck along like giddy schoolgirls, and the Democrats will be missing in action.
Let's hope that Obama doesn't sit this one out. If he allows McCain to hog the spotlight as a manufactured "hero" throughout the Gustav tragedy, the evil bastards will win this damn thing. This is exactly the moment in our little opera when the Dems roll over and play dead. The Republicans need to be called out, tarred and feathered, if they dare to turn this tragedy into a cheap photo-op.
Of course, none of these concerns would really matter if we lived in a reasonably intelligent country, but you go to election day with the voters you have, not the voters you want.
A variety of Republican strategists surveyed this afternoon insist there's a real possibility that McCain could come out of this week greatly strengthened, even with convention cut short a day or two and stripped of most political speeches and hoopla, That's because McCain could look more presidential and decisive touring the region hardest hit by Gustav than hobnobbing with delegates and GOP officials in Minnesota. And because President Bush and Vice President Cheney have cancelled their appearances at the convention, the McCain campaign won't be in the awkward position of having to embrace Republican leaders whose approval ratings are remarkably low.
"As long as we properly handle the Gustavication of the convention, it may be a positive," said one GOP operative.
The main reason McCain knuckled under to the religious right by picking Palin is that he actually believes there’s a large army of embittered Hillary loyalists who will vote for a hard-line conservative simply because she’s a woman. That’s what happens when you listen to the TV news echo chamber. Not only is the whole premise ludicrous, but it is every bit as sexist as the crude joke McCain notoriously told about Janet Reno, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.
This is a great article that highlights the fractures within the GOP. We've seen this play itself out during the primaries. Now, despite McCain's sop to the American Taliban faction, the party is a collosal mess. Ruining the nation will do that to you, I guess.
But look who's divided now: the Republicans. As John McCain heads for St Paul this weekend - with his photogenic but almost comically inexperienced running mate, Sarah Palin, in tow - it is the GOP that struggles to find real unity. John McCain now leads a party saddled with fierce internecine disputes about everything from civil liberties to budget policy to America's role in the world. While these Republicans may lack a soap opera akin to the Clinton-Obama psychodrama, their ideological stitching has come dangerously loose. It is McCain's challenge to ensure that the seams don't burst open before election day.
If you're curious about the number of people McCain could draw to his VP event on Friday, rest assured: it's nowhere near Obama's numbers. This bodes well for our side in November; remember, kids, turnout is the key and we have the advantage:
For now, none of these fissures threatens to tear the Republican party apart completely. But from Obama's perspective, they don't need to. All they have to do is leave Republican voters uninspired on election day. Consider the contrast in how last week ended. Obama spoke before 80,000, while McCain struggled to round up 10,000 voters for his vice-presidential announcement rally in Ohio. This is a stark illustration of the 'enthusiasm gap' which threatens to doom McCain in November, should Democrats turn out in droves while Republicans stay at home.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
This has been a fairly recent development among the Dobsonite crowd, as they try to blur the distinction between abortion and birth control. Frankly, it's a disgusting, despicable act, shameful and cowardly. There are many people in America who are opposed to abortion as a moral issue. They are truly "pro-life," not merely anti-women like all the closeted men of the GOP.
This is a key opportunity to win back these voters. For many of them, abortion is the only reason they vote Republican. But to oppose or ban birth control? I know that the far right seeks to overturn Griswald, but how many honest pro-lifers are aware of that? If you truly want to reduce the suffering of the unborn, wouldn't it make perfect sense to promote everything that reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies? Shouldn't that be part of your message?
I've known women who rely on the Pill to safely regulate their monthly cycles. It's an important issue for them. We cannot allow radical ideologues to take away necessary freedoms from its citizens, only because so many of the GOP right cannot deal with their sexuality.
John McCain is the worst Presidential candidate I've seen in my lifetime. And that includes Ross Perot and Admiral Stockdale.
In politics, the "Intimidation Phase" is known as shaping the narrative, or framing the debate. It involves establishing the ground rules of the later rounds. The Republicans are masters of this; Democrats, ehh...not so much. We're getting better. At least those of us in the blogosphere.
Anyway, we're in that crucial phase in regards to, um...dammit, What's-Her-Name? So-And-So? The Ugly One? Okay, it's Sarah Palin.
So you see what I'm doing, right? I am doing this in order to help shape the narrative. I'm trying to push that other caveman to the edge of the cliff. I really do forget this woman's name, so it's not completely disingenious. This was my first honest reaction to McCain's VP pick - I immediately thought of Strong Bad's Teen Girl Squad. And it gets a lot of laughs. Go ahead, try it yourself. You'll make everybody around you laugh and chuckle.
This is important. I know Democrats and activists are still working through their strategy in how to deal with Palin, and I do take the Republicans seriously. They remain a great threat, and they can still win this election (as frustrating and baffling as that sounds). But we already have a powerful weapon on our side, and we need to wield it now: humor and satire. We need to laugh our way to victory. This is especially crucial for the bloggers.
You will also notice the previous post, where I highlighted the phrase, "Palin is a bust"? This is another important part of our strategy. This is really just that old tactic called "Google bombing." We're using the internet's search engines to associate certain words, and join them together. AmericaBlog, those wonderful souls, began this with their headline. Now I'm repeating it in my post, in the link itself.
This is extremely important. I cannot emphasize this enough. We can help to shape the narrative this way, and move the fight to terms more favorable to us. The Democrats always wind up in trouble because they allow the Republicans to dictate the terms of the debate, usually involving emotional rhetoric over facts and reality. It works, it works a lot. We need to do more of the same. The best part is that we have facts on our side. We just need to get the message out.
So here's what we will all do. When linking to posts and articles on What's-Her-Face, use words like "Palin is a bust." Think of it as Miserable Failure, Part II. Get on it, gang!
I'm reminded of the first time The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in 1964. It was a national phenomenon. America was glued to the tv set to see the world's greatest rock 'n roll band. Then the next act had to walk on stage after that. Nobody even bothered to watch. Nobody even remembers their name (a bad comedy duo).
I think Palin is the very same situation. 38 million Americans tuned in to watch Barack Obama give The Speech. It was the highest-rated event of the year - more viewers than the Grammy's, more than American Idol, more than the opening night of the Olympics. It was the closest thing to a national event American politics had seen in a long, long time.
Then John McCain tried to kill the momentum with this. Good heavens, what a joke. This is a practical joke, right? I'm still waiting for Joe Lieberman to walk on stage, and McCain to shout out, "April Fool!" The only fools are John McCain and the Republican Party. Oh, and So-And-So. Or Cheerleader. Whatever her name is.
I think, from a strategic point of view, the smart thing to do would have been to unveil the VP choice on Monday, the first day of the Republican convention. You don't want to be the act that follows Obama. You may as well be following John Lennon. Too bad New Orleans is going to be hit by another Category-5 hurricane on Monday, eh?
Friday, August 29, 2008
I think Obama did exactly that last night. He may have very well delivered the knock-out punch against McCain and the Republicans. Everything he needed to say, he said.
I haven't watched too much tv today, which is probably a good thing, since John McCain's new VP pick, What's-Her-Name (and, no, I'm not being a smart ass here; I honestly cannot remember this woman's name...Something Palin, I guess) will be the talk of the Villagers on the idiot box. I think it's pretty clear that McCain made a desperation play, a hail mary throw, in order to shake up the race and redirect the media's attention.
I'm not worried about that, really. It doesn't matter much what the teevee pundits are gossiping about. On the street, there's only one thing on everyone's minds, and that's The Speech. McCain's VP is tacked on at the end, like some surreal joke. Palin has immediately become a punch line to so many in this nation.
It's such a cynical move, isn't it? This is like one of Mr. Burns' schemes from The Simpsons. Wasn't this a scene from the "Who Shot Mr. Burns" episode? It's so craven, so crass, so obvious in its political calculation and its cynicism. There's a reason why I reacted with mockery and humor. I don't take Ms. Palin lightly, nor do I feel we should rest easy against the Republicans. We must redouble our efforts between now and November 4 to take back our nation and our world.
Perhaps it all comes back to The Speech. It's almost as though Obama prophesized this very event. John McCain Just Doesn't Get It. He feels, and Karl Rove's team feels, that all you need in order to win over Hillary Clinton's supporters is to bring out a woman candidate. Hey, look! You like those women, right? We'll, here's one of those woman things right now! See? She's a change candidate, just like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama!
Are you bloody well kidding me? Are they really this stupid? When did the Republican Party become so stupid? What happened to the intelligent people in that party? Have they all walked out during the reign of Bush? Preznit Stoopid infected the whole brand; now it's completely toxic, and McCain really believes you'll be suckered by the sight of a female on stage.
Obama's words are what ring in my ears. His words are staying in my mind, showing me the score. I feel many of the 38 million viewers will feel the same way. Americans are not dumb. We may not be the brightest sometimes, and we have a serious problem with being manipulated with fear, but we are not stupid.
Let's see how this plays out, folks. Let's work hard and fast, too. The wind is at our sails.
Politically, the Republicans are in one hell of a pincher. Hurricane Gustav is scheduled to strike the Gulf Coast by Monday night. This means if the Republicans go forward with their convention as planned, Preznit Stoopid will take the stage just as another hurrican pummels New Orleans. However, if they postpone the convention - or even further, cancelling it altogether - that will play just as heavily in the news cycles. It will be seen as a concession, a retreat, by the party and ideology that let so many Americans needlessly drown.
In any case, the message of Barack Obama will be ringing in the ears of every American: the Republicans must own their failures. And McSame picking So-And-So or What's Her Face ain't gonna change a thing.
Can McCain just drop out now and save us all the embarassment?
Larry Kudlow of CNBC’s “Kudlow & Co.” asked her about the possibility of becoming McCain's ticket mate.
Palin replied: “As for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.”
Okay, take a deep breath....
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!
No, seriously. When does Mittens or Pawlenty show up? When's the real candidate going to show? John McCain did not just pick the Teen Girl Squad to be his running mate. Um, right?
This is now officially the funniest thing to happen all year. Comedy gold, I tell ya! Even Saturday Night Live could get laughs from this.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Oh, and in rememberance of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech 40 years ago today, I'll point out that John McCain opposed the Dr. King holiday. And he supported the Confederate Flag. I can't remember if he still supports the segregationist Jerry Falwell or not. Probably both. With this guy, you can never tell.
Some highlights from the ever-growing list of McCain flip-flops:
2. McCain insisted that everyone, even “terrible killers,” “the worst kind of scum of humanity, and detainees at Guantanamo Bay, “deserve to have some adjudication of their cases,” even if that means “releasing some of them.” McCain now believes the opposite.
4. In February 2008, McCain reversed course on prohibiting waterboarding.
11. McCain is both for and against a “rogue state rollback” as a focus of his foreign policy vision.
15. McCain has changed his mind about a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq on multiple occasions, concluding, on multiple occasions, that a Korea-like presence is both a good and a bad idea.
19. McCain was against expanding the GI Bill before he was for it.
21. McCain defended “privatizing” Social Security. Now he says he’s against privatization (though he actually still supports it.)
29. McCain went from saying gay marriage should be allowed, to saying gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed.
30. McCain opposed a holiday to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., before he supported it.
32. McCain was both for and against state promotion of the Confederate flag.
42. McCain said in 2005 that he opposed the tax cuts because they were “too tilted to the wealthy.” By 2007, he denied ever having said this, and falsely argued that he opposed the cuts because of increased government spending.
47. McCain supported the moratorium on coastal drilling ; now he’s against it.
53. McCain was a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to illegal immigrants’ kids who graduate from high school. In 2007, he announced his opposition to the bill. In 2008, McCain switched back.
58. McCain went from saying he would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade to saying the exact
63. McCain supported a campaign-finance bill, which bore his name, on strengthening the public-financing system. In June 2007, he abandoned his own legislation.
65. McCain wanted political support from radical televangelist John Hagee. Now he doesn’t. (He also believes his endorsement from Hagee was both a good and bad idea.)
73. McCain believed powerful right-wing activist/lobbyist Grover Norquist was “corrupt, a shill for dictators, and (with just a dose of sarcasm) Jack Abramoff’s gay lover.” McCain now considers Norquist a key political ally.
75. McCain has been both for and against considering a pro-choice running mate for the Republican presidential ticket.
Whatever. Read through Time's interview with McCain. Very strange. I think it's easy to dismiss this as bad comedy, but when we get to the substance, we find the belligerence that belies McCain's worldview. Notice, again, how he deliberately blurs the line between modern Russia and the old Soviet Union. Drilling for fear makes the job simple, as Eddie Vedder once said...
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Fortunately, he was interviewed here at the convention and offers a few words of wisdom. Which reminds me, I've got to pick up his last couple of books - amazing that he publishes at least one full-length book per year. He's the model for former Presidents the world over.
The internet isn't just something you can drive a truck through. It's a series of tubes!
I think John Kerry delivered very nicely, if everyone else's comments on the blogs are any indication. This speech was a good opportunity to redeem himself after clumsily losing to Stoopid four years ago. Oh, and I'm still angry as hell about the "don't taze me, bro" incident. It's a shame, because Kerry would have made a very good President. Let's watch and see if he can fire up the crowd tonight....
I'm reminded of the way Democrats caved in so shamelessly in this march to war in Iraq. How much better would it have been to hear the speakers at this convention denounce that shameful war? Why haven't we ever heard the words, "George Bush lied us into war"? Sadly, this is the price we pay when politicians lose their nerve. Let's hope for more offense from Obama/Biden. Please do not concede the notion of permanent war to the Republicans.
Watching Bill Clinton in his element really does lift my spirits. How the bloody hell did we get from Clinton to Preznit Stoopid?
Well, kids, you've been whining and screaming at Metallica for not making hardcore thrash metal like they used to back in the '80s. You've finally got your wish. Happy now?
So where will all these soldiers be coming from? The Army is depleted thoroughly; it will take years for them to rebuild their strength, and they're in no shape for starting another major conflict. And yet the Republicans want more war. This means two options, really, and they're both terrible and disastrous for this country.
The first is to reinstate the draft. We need more 19-year-olds to kill Iranians and Russians. We don't have any more left in the Army. That means we're coming for your kids. We're coming for you.
The second option is far, far worse. And that option is to greatly expand the use of private mercenary armies like Blackwater. This is the option that scares me the most; it helps that I've read Jeremy Scahill's book on Blackwater. The privitization of our armed services has been the dream of the neocon-right, especially Cheney and Rumsfeld. Their ideology doesn't believe that government should exist. Everything is for profit. Everything is for sale. And, very quietly, under the radar of our banal idocracy and corporatist news media, this ideology has been creeping into the military.
It goes without saying that only governments should wage wars. No wars should ever be waged, but until humanity gets it act together, we'll need armies. No armies should exist for profit. This is not another right-wing pyramid scheme to steal from the taxpayers.
There's a real danger with a privatized military; when war becomes extremely profitable, there is a great incentive to wage more and more wars. There's gold in them there veins. This becomes an even greater danger when dealing with private mercenaries, corporate "armies" like Blackwater, that are not bound by any laws. Blackwater and their peers are not bound by duty or loyalty to one's country. They are not bound by our Constitution (what's left of it). They are not bound by treaty or international law.
This has always been one of the key assets to Blackwater, in the eyes of Cheney and Rumsfeld and McCain. They don't have to be bound by any laws. They don't have to be held accountable. They can do whatever the hell they wish. Rape, murder, torture - no rules, no foul. And every day, corporate pirates like Blackwater grow stronger and stronger.
This is the true danger of a John McCain presidency. This is why he would be far more dangerous and reckless than Bush could dream of. We don't need Dr. Strangelove in charge. I fear this option the most because I know it's the better sell to the American people. Reinstating the military draft would be political suicide. Good lord, the voters would actually have to participate in these little TV wars! God forbid! If it's your kid being shipped off to die, all hell breaks loose. But if it's some other kid....skip it. Who cares? American Idol is on. I've got my ribbon magnet on my Canyonero...what more do you want?
It would be so easy, so tempting, to sell the average American on more wars that they won't have to fight. Just let the hired hands do it for us. That's pretty much what this county has come to, right? Outsource the jobs, bring in the Mexicans to do all the other work, and just slob out on the couch, drowning in nachos and beer. It's Jello Biafra's mantra writ large: Give me convenience or give me death.
A military draft, I could deal with. It could even bring a President McCain down before the War Pigs cause any real damage. The continued rise of Blackwater and corporate "armies"? I don't know how we stop that. And I fear for my land when I contemplate the sight of the Blackwater pirate brigades, rolling down our streets, imposing "martial law" without any regard for law or respect for human dignity.
Whether you like it or not, this election will be a judgement on the crimes of the Bush years. If we don't make a serious change, then those crimes that have been visited upon the world will be revisited upon us. Our chickens will truly come home to roost.
Then again, I hear Barack Obama is a Muslim Celebrity. Or sumthin'.
It's a simple fact that McCain is surrounded by the most exteme hawks from the Bush Administration. These are the Evil Minds That Plot Destruction - war with Iran, war with Syria, war with North Korea, war with China, war with Russia. It's their only response to anything. Wage war. Drop more bombs. Well, sorry, kids, but seven years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq has worn down our Army. If McCain and the Neocons want their wars, then they're going to have to get fresh soldiers from somewhere.
I've heard the Dems hit hard on the economy and domestic issues so far at the convention. But they need to play offense on foreign policy. They have got to stop conceeding every foreign crisis (real or manufactured) to the GOP. The Dems have got to stop caving. You can't win an election merely by making fun of McCain's mansions. You need to hit the Masters of War where it hurts. Fight back!
Normally, an intelligent, well-informed society would see through such shameless attempts to scare the voters with threats of the Soviet Union. Didn't they break up when I graduated high school? Sadly, we live in Idiocracy. There are more than enough rubes to fall for this bullshit.
Keep your eyes and ears open, kids. We'll be hearing more about the Soviets in the coming months.
Oh, and I'll need to replace all the old links on the right column, but I was itching to change that as well. Whatever. Does anybody even read this? Shouldn't you be hunting for PUMA's or something?
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
My thoughts on the DNC so far? Really good. Hillary was fantastic. She hit everything just right, and heaven knows how heavily our Village friends will over-scrutinize her every word. I wonder who will be the first to notice she ended by saying "Godspeed" instead of "God Bless America?" If that actually happens, somebody has to buy me a bagel or something. Hah!
In any case, I'll try my best to write further as the week goes on. At this point I'm really just watching like everyone else, and planning for next week when the GOP comes to the Twin Cities. I've promised myself not to spend the four days of the Republican convention throwing eggs at every Republican I find. So that means coming up with a decent Plan B.
I'm only half joking about that.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Yes, I know this is rediculous. By all rights this game should be a blowout, a five-touchtown victory. Why am I always reminded of the Minnesota Vikings' 15-1 season back in '98? Whatever. Don't panic. Do. Not. Panic.
You probably shouldn't read stuff like this if you're trying to calm down, though:
It seems incredible, but as the Democrats gather in Denver to anoint Barack
Obama, America could be on course to re-elect a Republican as their President.
Not just any Republican either, but a belligerent 71-year-old who can't remember
how many houses he owns, would happily nuke Iran and whose answer to global
warming is to drill for oil in environmentally sensitive areas off the coast of
America which don't even have much oil. But according to the polls, John McCain
is drawing level with Barack Obama, and even pulling ahead.
Really, America is a strange, strange country. After a disastrous and illegal
war, in which 4000 American soldiers have died, in the middle of an economic
crisis largely caused by the investment houses that finance the Republican
party, you would have thought it almost inconceivable that the Republicans could
be re-elected. Could any political brand be more toxic? Has any party in history
deserved to be thrown out at an election more than the Republicans in
I'm still miffed that they shut down my account, though. Jerks.
Anyway, here's Bill Maher speaking on MSNBC, chatting it up with Olberman. The new season of Real Time begins this Friday, and I'll be checking in as always. Here's hoping Bill gets more facetime on the teevee this week.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Hah - funny. I'm 35 now, and many of my friends were Metallica freaks in the '80s when they and the other thrash bands were all underground. The whole '80s underground music world - thrash and speed metal, hardcore punk, hip hop - was built upon directly rebelling against the pop music of its day. I think the punk aesthetic ruled the roost; we were all Ramones in spirit, even if the music was vastly different. But there's a clear line connecting Dead Kennedys Husker Du to Metallica to Megadeth to Run DMC Public Enemy. It was the music of the streets (the movie Style Wars comes to mind as I write).
The punk and thrash bands threw themselves into topical, political material because it was the very opposite of airy pop and hair metal. We were the anti-Poison. The anti-Michael Bolton. The anti-Stryper. The anti-New Kids on the Block. Yet more rock anthems on the hot groupie chicks? How does a kid relate to that in 1980's America? So that's how you distinguished yourself in the scene. You dealt with war, poverty, hypocricy, urban decay, corporatism, yadda yadda.
This is a crucial reason why you really can't go back again. Asking 45-year-olds to revisit their youth a generation ago, now that everything and everyone has scattered to the four winds, is a fool's game. You'll never recapture the spirit of those days. No artist can. You can only capture the present moment. Bitter medicine for aging adults who look to their rockstars to turn back the clock, and turn us all into teenagers again.
I vastly prefer the "CNN Metal" to the tired, nerd claptrack that metal has descended into. Now it's just a teenage macho joke, just waiting the elf ears and the 12-sided dice. In my humble opinion, of course. But I've always preferred protest music, anyway. If you have nothing to say that's useful in daily life, what's the point? There are enough bland love songs and car commercials.
Now, if all these bands stayed in the same realm forever, I would agree. It's best to move on, to evolve and explore new ideas. I know that's poison to the headbangers, but that's just the way life works. Thank goodness The Beatles evolved. Thank goodness Dylan evolved. If I had to listen to a half dozen Metallica albums that aped Ride the Lightning, I'd go crazy and shoot someone. And I love that album!
I've been a great admirer of Master of Puppets for many years. It represents the pinnacle of thrash metal to my ears (although speed metal junkies will obviously go for Slayer's Reign in Blood). I think I prefer the diversity on the third Metallica album. Fast songs, slow songs. Heavy songs, light songs. The personal and the political. The blistering and the beautiful. I've never understood the backlash, the way Metallica split its fans right down the middle when Black Album exploded. This band was always bigger than one sound. They were far closer to Led Zeppelin than their peers. And I wish heavy rock music would discover that imagination again. I wish it could recapture that original sense of wonder, of opening up to new ideas. It's far too cliquish and Puritanical. We need a new Houses of the Holy. We need a new Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.
Anyway, hope I didn't ramble too far, but it got my brain whirling.....
Friday, August 22, 2008
It makes me wish I had Ride the Lightning and Load/Reload on vinyl, if that means anything.
Somewhere in the early '90s, somewhere after the band's legendary two-year world tour, Metallica's self-titled "Black Album" split the fan community straight down the middle. It's been open sectarian warfare ever since; although, it has to be said, the screaming tantrums have been coming almost exclusively from the other side. See, that's the fun part of any civil war. It's always the other side's fault. I keep this little bit or Orwellian doublethink in mind as the hours to the next election grinds away. Don't blame me. I voted for Kodos.
It's funny that the endless trashy turbulation that is evoked at name of Metallica. I can't believe the old men are still around, still finding ways to piss everyone off. The kids scream and pout about greedy Lars and those music downloads, the Great Global Music Shoplift that has destroyed the music industry as we know it. How dare he expect us to pay for his albums! How dare he expect to earn more money! He has enough! By the way, I just downloaded the album from that new up-and-coming band. Whatever happened to those guys? Why didn't they make another album?
When I was 18 years old, I walked into my dorm room at the humble College of St. Scholastica. I hadn't owned more than five albums my entire life. I was raised during the culture wars of the Reagan Era, the days when fire-breathing televangelists pumped your minds full of fear and prejudice. We were too young to realize that we were being served warmed-over leftovers, fecal piles from the zombie brigades for the Jim Crow army. I hope I'm not being too harsh, I think to myself. Then I pick up the newspaper and read of yet another megachurch preacher busted for stealing money from his followers. Mansions. Fancy cars. Private jets. It's the year 2008, and the Leper Messiahs still roam freely. The Pharisees and Saduccees ripped open wounds in this land that never heal.
This was the world I was struggling to escape when I entered that dorm room. My roommate was a Minnesota kid named Carl. He liked weightlifting and videogames. And he loved Metallica. With a ratty, worn-out cassette tape copy of Ride the Lightning, the Black Album, and a radio show called "M-M-M-M-Metal Shop," the melodic thrash of Metallica opened my eyes to the beauty and cruelty of the world. I felt like Alice in the land of Oz, enveloped by Technicolor for the very first time. I've been on that long, strange trip ever since.
Back in the '80s, the rock 'n roll witchhunt was in full force. There needed to be a scapegoat for the crimes of the Pharisees, and as usual, youth culture was to blame. Elvis Presley's hips shook the walls of Jericho, or something like that. Heavy metal rock bands were the prime offenders. An endless stream of videos, books and lectures convinced a nation that heavy rock was pure evil, truly the root of all evil. The killing fields of Cambodia, the death squads of Central America, the torture chambers of Pinochet, the chemical weapon assaults of Saddam Hussein. All of these things paled in comparison to Led Zeppelin and Stairway to Heaven, and those damned evil subliminable messages hidden in Jimmy Page's guitar solos.
It's a miracle we're not drowning in millions of Manchurian Candidates. You may be one right now and not even know it. But don't worry your pretty little head about it. Just sit back, watch some TV. Watch American Idol, watch 24. Have another energy drink. Have another beer. Why don't you pass the time with a little game of solitaire?
There's something violent and viscious about the American Empire. Some great cancer at our core, causing us to rip one another to shreds like wild dogs. We live in a perpetual rage, drowning in a drugged haze of anger, fear, alcohol and caffeine. And the Masters of Puppets pull all the strings. And we tear our hearts out with bared teeth. And the darkness of the human soul becomes darker still. We survived the outsourced torture of Latin America, torture by remote control. Now we do it ourselves. In the daylight, with gleeful smiles on our faces. Guantanamo Bay is officially declared the Empire's 51st State. The American flag replete with the skull and crossbones, or perhaps the coiled snake of the old Colonial Culpepper's Brigade: Liberty or Death. Don't Tread on Me.
Something is very wrong here. Something is dangerously wrong. You've felt it all along. We should not be doing this. This was not the Fate of Mankind. The prophets tried to warn us. The true desciples of Jesus, so many of them who are gone now, taken from us. Murdered. Mahatma Gandhi. Medgar Evers. Malcolm X. Martin Luther King. There are moments in the game when you realize, if you perceive closely, with the right kind of eyes, that the fix is in. The tide will only be allowed to rise so far, then pulled back. When Malcolm was murdered, when Martin Luther King was murdered, when Bobby Kennedy was murdered. It's been hell ever since. Now we're shouting obscenities at one another because Metallica got haircuts and discovered the Blues. We're killing ourselves to live through one oil war after another. We're cutting down the trees because no Lorax can be heard to speak for them. Our cities drown, and cruel sadistic bastards like George W. Bush and John McCain dine and laugh. They dine on our ashes, laughing while poor Americans drown in the streets. And in August of the Year of Our Lord 2008, the Presidential race is effectively tied. Something is very wrong here. The Fix Is In.
The Empire has been galloping headlong for the past fourty years, churning out a world of disposable heroes and a blackened globe. There is a webcam in the Arctic where you can watch photos of the North Pole, retreating, melting every day. We will soon witness a spectacle not seen since Moses parted the Red Sea. The North Pole will become open water. There are no atheists in foxholes, the old saying goes. Well, we shall see, children. We shall see.
To most minds, this sounds like mindless rambling. I'm drifting, roaming, skipping rocks across the waters of my mind. Perhaps. But I think not. Metallica was the key that unlocked this world to me. They taught me the virtues of creativity, the need to explore, the freedom to see everything and know everything. They taught me one of God's most crucial lessons: the name of the game is boundary dissolution. We are not meant to be caged into walls. We are meant to shatter them into the dust.
So what does this have to do with the new song from the upcoming album Death Magnetic? Nothing. Everything. The Democratic Convention is in three days. George W. Bush is trying to recreate the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he's not sluggishly fighting off another night's hangovers. John McCain promises to become the Dr. Strangelove President. He will bomb Iran, or maybe North Korea, or maybe Russia, or maybe all three. He may just ride the bomb himself. Just don't ask him how many mansions he owns. Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!
Rock 'n roll used to be engaged with the world. Music used to matter. Maybe you think it doesn't anymore, that the aging rock stars should only serve as your personal fluffers. Just another set of kicks while channel surfing. But I don't buy that bullshit. I'm willing to bet Metallica doesn't either. They sure as hell better not. But I don't worry. James Hetfield hasn't let me down before. He's led us this far out of the rat maze. We'll make it. Just have faith.
And stop this damned sectarian civil war, you crybabies. Cliff Burton was a hippie. A headbanging pot-smoking hippie. Wrap your heads around that paradox. Then stop sniping at each others' heels. The evil minds that plot destruction are on the loose. Watch yer backs.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Here, this time I made sure to take photos of my copy of Illuminations on vinyl, front and back sides. I'll actually have time to go into detail on this album, one of the true lost gems of the '60s folk-rock era.
A bit of a backstory. I've been curious about Buffy, since I see her albums at the Uptown Cheapo every time I visit, square in the folk music section, just past Peter, Paul & Mary. I also remember her from Sesame Street many eons ago, but for the life of me I could never remember any of her music. I'm one of those cranky Gen-Xers who came of age on a steady diet of hip hop, punk, thrash metal, and my beloved Seattle Grunge. Acoustic folk singers from the 1960's are a tough sell to kids like me; we want lots of noise and lots of attitude. The only folkies I could listen to during my 20s was Ani Difranco (and Dylan, of course, but he hasn't been classified as "folk" since Kennedy was president), and she still remains one of my generation's icons.
It's only now, in my 30's, that I opened up enough to appreciate good 'ol folk, acoustic Dylan and Joan Baez and Peter Paul and Mary and Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. Pete Seeger, Woody Gutherie, that sort of thing. But, still, my heart lies with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and Pearl Jam. My ideal folkie remains Ani; that's my idea of a folk singer, all passion and attitude. She's just at home with an old guitar as with, oh, The White Stripes.
Which brings us to Buffy. Not that lame-ass tv show about the blonde vampire hunter....yuck. Boring. I'm talking about the Buffy with the dark hair and mean, pissed-off, take-no-prisoners vibe. She is the angriest protest singer I've ever heard. Clearly, in the folk music realm, Buffy Sainte-Marie was the Black Sabbath of her field.
On Friday, I found a website that offered samples from her albums of the '60s and '70s, and this was really my first chance to check the songs out. I was pretty thouroughly blown away right from the start. After work I scoured past the usual record store haunts and ran away with four albums. Sooner or later, I'll go back to complete the heist. If you live in the Twin Cities, you better move fast.
This album we're looking at is Buffy's sixth studio lp, Illuminations, from 1969. Like many of her peers, she began with acoustic folk and evolved to embrace the electric rock sound of the '60s. So experimentation was the rule of the day. Even so, I can't imagine too many fans expecting this sudden shot out of left field. Heck, Buffy's fifth album was pure-country. How does she follow that up? With a wild, ecclectic, and surreal post-psychedelic lp.
Illuminations is the only album in BSM's catalog that sounds remotely like this. It is a swirling magic storm of sounds and hums, electronic pulses and wailing guitars and fluttering ballads. It's easy to think of it as a psychedelic rock album circa 1967, but I think it cuts much deeper than this. It's much more like an art-school project, with one foot in rock and folk, and the other in Pink Floyd.
The electronic effects are all processed from Buffy's voice or guitar. It's a remarkable feat as you travel through the album; the goal apparantly was to pull as many different sounds as possible from the keyboards. Dark Side of the Moon comes to mind. '90s trip-hop and electonica also comes to mind. This doesn't feel like an album that's 40 years old. It sounds new. Very new and very much ahead of its time.
The songs on Illuminations veer back and forth between acoustic folk and balls-out-loaded heavy rock. It sounds less like Jefferson Airplane and more like Babes in Toyland. Yeah, that's the ticket. Buffy definitely has that punk attitude. She doesn't dance around things. She doesn't address militarism, oppression, or reckless consumer capitalism with pretty metaphors and sugar-coated melodies to sucker the grown-ups. Naw, this ain't Peter, Paul & Mary by any stretch. It's more like a punch to the gut. It's totally Sabbath. Buffy Sainte-Marie is the folk singer headbangers can get into. She is the equal to Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez; she is also the spiritual mother to Rage Against the Machine.
I've had this thought in my head all weekend long: BSM really should cut an album with Rage. That is the perfect fit, I swear. I understand she's making a comeback album, after a long sabbatical from the music scene (where she migrated into the visual arts). I fear it will be the same watered-down, milquetoast, aging Baby Boomer product, aimed at boring, lifeless 50-somethings. But Buffy was never really part of her era; she was too raw, too honest, too emotional, too loud. Her true peers hail from the punk rock generation....Patti Smith...Ani Difranco...the Riot Grrls....Seattle Grunge....Rage...The White Stripes...Somebody in the know seriously needs to bring Tom Morello over to her house with a pair of guitars, one acoustic, one electric.
I'm not sure if I'm making the right case for Illuminations. It's not a heavy metal album. It's definitely in the folk-and-rock vein, and there are many many quiet melodic moments to be found. It's just that her attitude, her fuck-you attitude, is the thing that stays in my head. It's what follows me all through her work. I don't know if you can really cram an album like this into any box. It floats freely from one genre to the next, blurring all distinctions until nothing remains except the music itself. God is Alive, Magic is Afoot. Those six words that open and close Illuminations are really the only guide you'll ever need. You'll travel through the misty forests on the ride of your life.
Why this album was not a hit in its day amazes me. I'm reminded of a lot of classic music from around 1969 - Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Velvet Underground - that irked the hippies and the suits back then. Now these are the giants. The posers and the fakers have been swept under the rug. I don't see anyone clamoring for those old Sonny & Cher records, do you? La la la la la let's live for today.....fuck that. Gimmie some fuckin' attitude and gimmie some fuckin' truth. It's like nobody else could forsee the rise of Nixonland and never knew how to handle it. Whatever. If that's your take on the last 40 years, then BSM is your new hero.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
File this under Great Albums You've Never Heard Of. Get your hands on this album now. Illuminations fucking rocks. I'll go into more detail later when I can. Until then, get your mitts on this by hook or by crook.