Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weekend Mood: The Yellow Shark Rehearsals; Frank Zappa and Ensemble Modern, 1992

Darkblack recommends this gorgeous footage of Frank Zappa rehearsing with Ensemble Modern, and so do I (thank you, DB). The music's slightly hypnotic, profoundly memory-evoking quality is one that floats through all of FZ's Yellow Shark compositions.

(Consider yourselves warned, softies.)

Also at Cogitamus.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Frank: Reggae Guitar Improvisation; Prague, 1991

As Czechoslovakia celebrated its new freedoms, Frank picked up the guitar and joined the fun before a crowd of thousands. There are a few minutes of preamble in English and Czech, but hang in there and enjoy Frank's solos. (This film is a rare pleasure; I don't recall seeing any clips of FZ playing guitar onstage this late in his life--readers?)

I know George Carlin didn't believe in Heaven, but I have to say, I am profoundly comforted, on this rainy, gray Friday, by the imagined notion of his spirit somehow hooking up with Frank's over black coffee and politically-incorrect, roll-your-own cigarettes.

Bon Weekend, everyone.

(H/T tapesinthemail)

Also at Cogitamus.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Well, You Can Knock Me Over With a Feather

MoDo surprises even this not-too-easily-surprised Mama:

Unlike W., Obama doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder and he doesn’t make a lot of snarky remarks. He tries to stay on a positive keel and see things from the other person’s point of view.

He’s not Richie Rich, saved time and again by Daddy’s influence and Daddy’s friends, the one who got waved into Yale and Harvard and cushy business deals, who drank too much and snickered at the intellectuals and gave them snide nicknames.

Obama is the outsider who never really knew his dad and who grew up in modest circumstances, the kid who had to work hard to charm whites and build a life with blacks and step up to the smarty-pants set. [...]

Charlie Black crassly argued in Fortune that a terrorist attack would “be a big advantage” for John McCain. And what’s scary is, Black is the smartest adviser McCain’s got.

It’s hard to believe that if Americans get attacked after all these years of getting strip-searched at the airport, they’re going to be filled with confidence at the performance of the Republicans on national security. And at least Obama wants to catch Osama and doesn’t think he’s getting his directions on war from “a higher Father.”

Rove’s mythmaking about Obama won’t fly. If he means that Obama has brains, what’s wrong with that? If he means that Obama is successful, what’s wrong with that? If he means that Obama has education and intellectual sophistication, what’s wrong with that?

Many of Obama’s traits are the traits that people in the population aspire to.

Welcome, Ms. Dowd, to the thinking corner of the public square, also known as The Enemies List. Most of us don't actually smoke, but as TRex said to Scott McClellan, "It’s going to be okay. We have cookies!"

Monday, June 23, 2008

All About Your Precious F*cking Rights

"If you think you do have rights, one last assignment for you: next time you're at the computer, get on the the search field at Wikipedia, I want you to type in Japanese Americans 1942, and you'll find out all about your precious fucking rights."

George Carlin

R.I.P. George Carlin

The brilliant American comedian George Carlin has died at age 71.

We are all long-time and enthusiastic fans of George's, here at Casa Litbrit. And I'm afraid I can't think of anything witty or clever to say right now, so I'll just thank George for the all the laughter and joy he has given us over the years. How I wish we could have a few more decades--or years or even months!--of his pitch-perfect observations about the deeply flawed but endlessly comic creature known as Man.

Rest in peace, genius funny man, rest in peace.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Will Someone Please Install This on Barack Obama's iPod So It Runs on a Continuous Loop?

Senator Obama, let the record show that I, one of your most energetic and earnest supporters in the blogosphere, am extremely disappointed to learn that you're apparently okay with the FISA compromise bill. I'm still crossing my fingers that you'll surprise all the naysayers and support a big old filibuster in the Senate--because, well, I'm just hopeful that way. From Glenn Greewald:

It is absolutely false that the only unconstitutional and destructive provision of this "compromise" bill is the telecom amnesty part. It's true that most people working to defeat the Cheney/Rockefeller bill viewed opposition to telecom amnesty as the most politically potent way to defeat the bill, but the bill's expansion of warrantless eavesdropping powers vested in the President, and its evisceration of safeguards against abuses of those powers, is at least as long-lasting and destructive as the telecom amnesty provisions. The bill legalizes many of the warrantless eavesdropping activities George Bush secretly and illegally ordered in 2001. Those warrantless eavesdropping powers violate core Fourth Amendment protections. And Barack Obama now supports all of it, and will vote it into law. Those are just facts.

The ACLU specifically identifies the ways in which this bill destroys meaningful limits on the President's power to spy on our international calls and emails. Sen. Russ Feingold condemned the bill on the ground that it "fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home" because "the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power." Rep. Rush Holt -- who was actually denied time to speak by bill-supporter Silvestre Reyes only to be given time by bill-opponent John Conyers -- condemned the bill because it vests the power to decide who are the "bad guys" in the very people who do the spying. [...]

Making matters worse still, what Obama did yesterday is in clear tension with an emphatic promise that he made just months ago. As the extremely pro-Obama notes today, Obama's spokesman, Bill Burton, back in in September, vowed that Obama would "support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." MoveOn believes Obama should be held to his word and is thus conducting a campaign urging Obama to do what he promised -- support a filibuster to stop the enactment of telecom amnesty. You can email Burton here to demand that Obama comply with his commitment not just to vote against, but to filibuster, telecom amnesty:
Incidentally, Chris Dodd made an identical promise when he was running for President, prompting the support of hundreds of thousands of new contributors, and he ought to be held to his promise as well.

I'm composing my e-mail to Bill Burton even as I type out this post. Please join me. The Fourth Amendment--when it isn't being pissed on and shredded, that is--is a thing of timeless beauty, and it is absolutely beyond me to understand how Democratic Congressmen (indeed, how any Constitution-respecting Congressmen) can buckle and collapse--so quickly, so hopelessly and haplessly!--before the blasts of fearmongering and hot air coming from the Bushian factions of our legislature. Perhaps it has something to do with them not having even a modicum of spinal rigidity--something with which I had long believed Senator Obama was blessed.

Say it ain't so, Senator--say it ain't so!

Also at Cogitamus.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Frank: Whipping Post; Barcelona, 1988

The title says it all, I'm afraid. But thankfully, it's Friday. Yeah.

(And by the way, does Bobby Martin have an amazing voice, or what?)

Bon Weekend, everyone.

Also at Cogitamus.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Slime Beneath the Surface; Scandal Under the Radar: John McCain and the Enron Loophole

Why are per-barrel oil costs soaring like...well, like an enormous soap bubble? Watch this Special Report and gain a broader understanding of the factors and players involved.

Hint: the rich get richer.

Second hint: the rich have friends in high places.

Third hint: "My friends..."

Also at Cogitamus.

Monday, June 16, 2008

One-Ton Tomato, Seriously Rotten

TRex observes, with disgust and dismay, the festering compost heap of hypocrisy and evil that is Guantanamo, along with other taxpayer-funded offshore prisons:

McClatchy is confirming the worst of what many of us suspected:

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

This is one of those pieces of information like Phase 2 of the Senate investigation into the Bush administration’s manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to the War in Iraq. You knew it, I knew it. We hoped in our hearts that it wasn’t really true and that we were being cynical. Now we know that with BooshCo, you can never, ever be too cynical.

Read the whole thing, please. And continue to express outrage to your own Senators and Representatives.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Catblogging and Invitation to De-lurk

Tension is who you think you should be;
Relaxation is who you are.
~ Chinese Proverb

Behold Marley Tornello, the only truly still, non-fidgety (hell, non-airborne) male in my house. That kitty tower's third-level platform has a climb-through hole so cats can slither up and down--you know, an encouragement to get some exercise--but as Marley and his prodigious paunch recently discovered, the hole is also an excellent comfort feature: No pressure, baby--no pressure.

In the spirit of the proverb above, then, an invitation to de-lurk: Who are you, and how are you relaxing today? Say hello in comments.

Happy Sunday and Father's Day, everyone!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Olbermann & Turley on Thursday's Supreme Court Smackdown

It was a very, very close call, but the rule of law ruled the day: a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that stripped Federal courts of their jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from detainees who've been imprisoned in Guantanamo for as long as six years was, according to the Supreme Court, unconstitutional. Meaning, prisoners who have until now been held without charge, denied counsel--indeed, denied due process--can challenge their detention in America's courts. Keith Olbermann discusses the landmark ruling; Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley (my hero) weighs in.

The money quote (well, one of them):

Turley: "I think what we really gained here is credibility--that is, we show the world that having an idiot-proof system doesn't mean you don't have idiots; it means you can transcend them."

(Read the transcript of Thursday's Countdown here.)

Also at Cogitamus.

Friday Frank: Improvisation (ca. 1978); With Tommy Mars & Terry Bozzio

When most of us fiddle around with guitars and keyboards and sticks, it tends to sound...well, like we're fiddling around.

When Frank Zappa, Tommy Mars, Terry Bozzio and company came out to play, though, it produced something I want to hear over and over (and indeed have played three times already, despite it being 8:30am here).

I'm actually pretty thrilled with YouTube today, since there were several fresh Zappa videos from which to choose. But this one! It seemed so appropriate, so weekend-wild and pitch-perfect for the kind of attitude one should have on a steamy summer Friday. And since the morning is moving along, I, too, should probably get busy: sitting in an ice-packed cooler in the garage is a nice fat watermelon that's just crying out for someone to puncture its rind with an ice pick or switchblade and upend a bottle of good vodka into it.

Summertime heat may suck, but summertime improvisation can rock in all the best ways if you know what you're doing.

Happy Friday the 13th and Bon Weekend, everyone!


(H/T andreabubus)

Also at Cogitamus

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Google Doppelgänger

So I was waiting for a return phone call this afternoon, and as I sat for fifteen boring minutes at my laptop, loathe to read one more word about politics (for a change) and desperately trying to avoid looking at all those tempting vintage dresses on eBay, I did something kind of silly (surely I am the last person on Earth to do this): I Googled my name--without the married appellation--to see if I had an interesting Google twin out there somewhere.

As it turns out, I do. And damn it if she isn't considerably younger, cuter, and smarter than I--a Fullbright scholar, in fact, fluent in German and blessed with a bright smile and an even brighter future. While we have the name, as well as the English-teacher thing, in common, the similarities end there: Deborah 2.0 has apparently won just about every scholarship and award there is, and she was recently accepted into law school. *Sigh*

Well, I thought, biting my lip and trying not to feel like a complete waste of space. I can drive really fast; I can translate English into Spanish, and then into (weak) Italian, and thereafter into (strong) profanity--often simultaneously and while taking a shower. I was rejected by four of the six law schools to which I applied (and the two softies who liked me were located, respectively, in Atlanta and Malibu Beach, and attending either would've meant no boyfriend, no marriage, and no My Three Sons, which is kind of unthinkable). Also: I can make a wicked "honorary Italian's" marinara, and I can balance en pointe, unassisted, for several minutes while I ransack the uppermost shelf for the crushed red pepper so crucial to the sauce. And you should see me sort four boys' worth of sweat-socks by size into nice, tidy piles--it's a treat to watch, seriously.

A question, then: who's your Google Doppelgänger, and what do you have/not have in common with him or her?

Also at Cogitamus.

Well, Great-Great-Grandfathers' Day is Just Around the Corner...

...and believe it or not, these even come with their own, um, perky little sack. Hurry over to TRex's--go, right now!--for more info. Be sure to click on the screengrab that shows several satisfied customer testimonials, since--quel surprise--the McCain Store seems to have extraordinarily renditioned that part of their website.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rep. Kucinich Renews Call For Bush Impeachment

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich called for the impeachment of President Bush Monday. This marks Kucinich's latest effort (past attempts to initiate hearings have, thus far, stalled and been largely unsuccessful) to bring about some measure of Constitutional justice. Even today, Kucinich's move does not have much political support, though many of us non-politicians can certainly appreciate it in principle. This is especially true in light of former WH press secretary Scott McClellan's recently-published book about the Bush administration's propaganda machine and outright lies, and his (hardly-news-to-most) outline of how these paved the way for the nation's unlawful, immoral, and catastrophically bloody and costly invasion of Iraq.

The Ohio representative outlined his intention to propose more than two dozen charges against Bush on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kucinich, a former presidential candidate, accused Bush executing a "calculated and wide-ranging strategy" to deceive citizens and Congress into believing that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly said she opposes trying to remove the Republican president who leaves office next January because such an attempt would be divisive and most likely unsuccessful.

Kucinich, an outspoken Iraq war critic who has consistently voted against funding the war and led anti-war efforts in Congress, offered a resolution to impeach Vice president Dick Cheney in April 2007. That also failed to move forward.

Many Democrats and civil liberties groups have accused the Bush administration of providing misleading information before the 2003 Iraq invasion as well as violating the rights of U.S. citizens with its warrantless surveillance program. The White House denies the charges.

I think it's important to file, and to keep filing, these impeachment charges, even as I also believe, with no small measure of sadness, that it's unlikely any attempt to impeach the President or Vice President will be successful between now and January 2009. Sometimes one must act in accordance with one's principles--and with the so-called governing principles of our Constitution, ahem--simply because it's the right thing to do.

If I could, though, I would have to ask Speaker Pelosi, for whom I have tremendous admiration and respect, to whom exactly is she referring with the term "divisive"? I mean, who here is not already on one side or the other?

Despite the traditional media's pooh-poohing or glossing over of anything to do with impeachment, and the liberal blogosphere's tendency to throw its hands in the air or cower in the corner--if not out-and-out demand the beheading of any blogger who dares suggest such a thing (as they did when I wrote about impeachment last year)--support for impeachment hearings continues to stand firm, with scholarly underpinning from both conservative and liberal camps:

Conservative constitutional scholar Bruce Fein and The Nation's John Nichols have both made compelling arguments for impeachment from the conservative and progressive perspectives including a bi-partisan appeal on Bill Moyer's Journal last July.

From the Bill Moyer's program:

"The founding fathers expected an executive who tried to overreach and expected the executive would be hampered and curtailed by the legislative branch... They [Congress] have basically renounced — walked away from their responsibility to oversee and check." — Bruce Fein

"On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this Administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any President has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined. And that box may be handed to Hillary Clinton or it may be handed to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or someone else. But whoever gets it, one of the things we know about power is that people don't give away the tools." — John Nichols

In a related development, Scott McClellan accepted Rep. Wexler's invitation to testify before the House judiciary committee:

President Bush's former spokesman, Scott McClellan, will testify before a House committee next week about whether Vice President Dick Cheney ordered him to make misleading public statements about the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.

McClellan will testify publicly and under oath before the House Judiciary Committee on June 20 about the White House's role in the leak and its response, his attorneys, Michael and Jane Tigar, said on Monday.

Also at Cogitamus.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Frank: Guitar Duel With Steve Vai; Rome, 1982

Ooh, but there are some great guitar solos in this one. I was never fortunate enough to see Frank Zappa in concert before he left our earthly plane--where I lived, he rarely played; where he played, I rarely traveled. *Sigh.*

I did, however, thoroughly enjoy Steve Vai's Tampa Theatre show a few years ago. He looks exactly the same, but his hair is longer and his wardrobe is less...leopardy than it was during his Zappa days. And for those who appreciate his style of playing, Vai is a joy to watch live--if you get the chance, go see him.

Bon Weekend, everyone!

Also at Cogitamus.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Unbearable Wrongness of Joe "It's Going to Get Ugly!" Scarborough

Once upon a time, at the beginning of this campaign, there lived an Heiress Apparent, a presumed winner who had clout to burn and cash aplenty. The word juggernaut was liberally (and, for that matter, conservatively) bandied about and opponents were warned in no uncertain terms: it's going to get ugly. Remember? Jon Stewart does:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Obama is the Nominee; We, the Whole People, Have Hope

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.... Men, their rights and nothing more;
women, their rights and nothing less.

-- Susan B. Anthony

From the first moment a woman dared to speak that hope - dared to believe that the American Dream was meant for her too - ordinary women have taken on extraordinary odds to give their daughters the chance for something else; for a life more equal, more free, and filled with more opportunity than they ever had. In so many ways we have succeeded, but in so many areas we have much work left to do.

-- Barack Obama,
in a speech in Washington D.C., Nov. 2005

My maternal grandfather was a deeply traditional man. Like my paternal grandfather, he was a decorated WWII veteran; like most men of his generation, he sometimes struggled to come to grips with the many social, cultural, political, and sartorial changes rippling through England--and, indeed, across many parts of the world--in the 1960's and 70's.

It would be an understatement to say my grandfather was a bit old-fashioned in his notion of women's roles. Furthermore, he was the sort who could ignite a rollicking post-tea argument simply by uttering a derisive word or phrase. As he did on one particular summer evening, when I was ten, responding to an item on the BBC evening news that Britain was experiencing high unemployment (and yes, Grandfather litbrit is probably responsible for the lion's share of my Shouting at the Teevee DNA):

My Grandfather: Well of course we have high unemployment--women are taking all the jobs.

My Mother and Grandmother, simultaneously: "Wait a minute, what do you mean by THAT?"

G: There would be plenty of jobs available if all those women weren't working.

Me: "So if a girl goes to school, and then college--because she's clever--she shouldn't then work, you know, do something she trained for, something she's really good at...because men...what? What about me? I work hard in school--are you saying I shouldn't be a doctor or teacher because I'm a girl?"

My Mother: "Yes, Dad, what about Deborah? When she grows up, I mean. She shouldn't be whatever she wants to be? Is that what you're saying?"

G: No, no, NO. Of course I'm not saying that. different. She's Deborah. She can do, and be, anything she wishes.

This was as much of a concession as anyone could expect, but it was indeed a concession, evidenced by the tiny twitch of a smile fluttering at the corners of my grandmother's lips.

Love, coupled with plain old hope and ambition for one's progeny, has a way of sharpening one's perspective on all manner of issues; in the case of my grandfather and old-school sexism, it completely inverted his worldview.

And while I am loathe to play the parent card here--you know, do that condescending bit where People Who Have Kids tell the rest of the world how very differently one feels about everything when one is a parent; honestly, you can't possibly understand, blah blah blah--I recount the little story above in order to make a point: with a reasonable degree of certainty, one may count on a parent's love to figure prominently in his or her plans for the months and years--make that, for the lifetime--ahead. It may even figure prominently in what gets shouted at the television henceforth.


Senator Barack Obama--son of Ann, husband of Michelle, father of Malia and Sasha, and now the Democratic Nominee for President--is a friend to women.

Also at Cogitamus.