Friday, June 30, 2006

The Madness of King George W.

OK, I get it...this is a colossal game of chicken, where Bush pushes his limits even beyond what's now been established by the Supreme Court.

This I find intriguing. After all, didn't Bush cherry pick half the justices on this court just so they would go along with systematic Third Reich-esque desecration of the American political system? If so, he must be terribly disappointed (not to say constipated). So far his appointments (with the exception of Alito) haven't been able to pull the plug on their own common sense.

One could optimistically argue that that's what Bush wanted all along: a set of fair-minded jurists who could decide cases based on existing law, not try to re-write law. I'd like to believe that, because it would give me hope that, if he's trying to be fair in this regard, maybe he can be brought to see reason in other areas and all is not lost. But when I see him trying to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and then, when the amendment goes down, vow that he will continue to push for it, my red-flag indicator just screams "Screwloose! Screwloose!"

And though many, many people have said this before (and very eloquently), I'll say it again: Why, when we're engaged in a costly, bloody war "on terror," our economy is struggling, and our citizens are fighting to keep their homes, are this man and his band of village idiots so obsessed with something that doesn't, after all, concern them?

And now he's vowing to continue war tribunals. Why does he continually flout the system of checks and balances and defy the rulings of the very people he appointed to create them? Die-hard patriots will bluster "he's got the right to do whatever he has to to defend America!" These same die-hard patriots are the ones who reminded the cities that issued marriage licenses to gay couples that "the law is the law," and we don't have the right to decide which of the laws we'll obey. Doesn't this apply to Bush as well? If he won't obey the law, isn't he unpatriotic, too? Will we have to shut him up in Guantanamo?

Is King George's codpiece on a little too tight? Is he merely clinically insane? Does he just need more fiber in his diet?


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

We Just Want to Be Loved! Izzat So Wrong??!

This Tribune column by Charles Madigan just nails it. The whole gay marriage issue has been blown out of proportion to once again galvanize the not-right wing. The proposed legislation will not protect the sanctity of marriage, either, as long as there's Hollywood. We're the least of America's worries. All we want is the right to love one another and have it legally recognized. I'm not the marrying kind, but I fervently support the right of my gay brothers and sisters to make that commitment.

Such clean, simple reasoning--no wonder the neo-conservatives don't understand it.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Wanna spy? W's your guy!

A federal appeals court has taken up the Bush mantle of electronic surveillance, saying that new technologies have to accommodate rules established under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) of 1994:

Read the story here.

This is like trying to install a 5-speed transmission in Ford Model A. The law was written in 1994, before there was a real Internet. Instead of trying to "retrofit" old laws, why not force these lawmakers to go through the process of writing a new bill, submitting it to the Senate and the House, and letting them wrangle over it interminably?

Oh, that's right, I forgot: anything having to do with spying or curtailing freedom gets an automatic rubber stamp from Congress and Bush! Ahhhh, the joys of checks and balances.

Speaking of the incestuous relationship between the judicial and executive branches, notice how the article identifies the administrations who appointed each of the judges quoted. The republican-appointed judges, of course, are all in favor of it, while the democrat-appointed ones called the interpretation a "stretch" of a law that doesn't fit the case.

Sometimes I'm not sure that it's wise to let these judges have a "job for life." What happens when their arteries start to harden and they flake out?

Of course! Run for president.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sauce for the Gander

So recently, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (you remember, he took over after John Asscrack resigned) came out with this little gem on prosecuting people for leaking classified information:

"There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility," he declared. "We have an obligation to enforce the law and to prosecute those who engage in criminal activity."

OK! Glad to hear you mention it, Al, because there are a few roaches in your own Easter basket. Yes, we know, it was primarily intended to keep those pesky "liberal" (read: "truthful" and "unflattering") reporters at bay, but Patrick Fitzgerald gets ever closer to the nest, doesn't he, dropping names like Karl Rove (the official ventriloquist's hand up Bush's ass), and even Dick Cheney. What WOULD Dick do if he were actually indicted? Oh, silly us, that's what Scooter Libby was for. After all, Dick can't take everyone hunting, now can he??

If you listen real close, you'll hear the rumbling of America's discontent. It's rumbling to the tune of a 30 percent approval rating. Ouch. Once this disapproval gains even more momentum and people are truly fed up beyond their endurance, you may find that these laws you established to bring the rest of us to heel now apply to you as well. That means YOU can be prosecuted for leaking classified information, too. And we all know you've done it.

Don't drop the soap, boys.

Monday, June 05, 2006

But Which One Will Appear in the Borateem Ad?

Somehow, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I'd see the folk song "John Henry" acted out in the animal kingdom.

An Unsatisfying Goodbye

Saturday I went to Ravinia for the Chicago leg of Blondie's farewell tour. It was a double-bill with Blondie opening and the New Cars (featuring Todd Rundgren) closing out the set.

My friend David will probably blog about this better than I, but I have to at least express a vague sense of disappointment.

I bought "lawn" (read: "peon") tickets, because I couldn't afford to hock a kidney for pavilion seats. Now, you must understand that picnicking on the lawn is a unique pastime that many Chicagoans enjoy at Ravinia. And these people really get into their picnics. More so, apparently, than the music that they (and yes, I) paid to hear.

But I unrolled my blanket, and unpacked my hummus and bottled water and settled in for a pleasant time (I also bought a margarita to ensure it would be pleasant). Since I was so far from the pavilion, and nobody bothered to introduce the band, I didn't even realize they'd started playing until--well, until they started playing! La Debbie's voice sounded pretty darn good in my opinion. The version of "Call Me" with which they kicked off their set is significantly lower in key than the original, but it has been 26 years, after all! She's also gotten some of her range back since Blondie reformed in the late 90s. I'm sure she looked fabulous, but I couldn't tell, since I was so far away.

They played a lot of their great stuff, including some of my favorites like "Accidents Never Happen," "Shayla" and and a reworked, pulsing, minor key, slightly menacing arrangement of "In The Flesh," which eschewed the 50's sock-hop treatment of the original. I was a little disappointed not to hear "Rip Her To Shreds," but they only had an hour and 15 minutes to play, and they had a lot of ground to cover. All in all, it wasn't bad.

But it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. I didn't go away feeling like I expected to feel as I left the very last live performance ever of the first band that I ever idolized. Since the speakers were further away from us, and didn't deliver much treble, I couldn't even hear the subtle drumming techniques used by the man (Clem Burke) after whom I modeled myself as a pre-pubescent banger in various garage punk-rock bands in the early 80's.

And it's those small things, those subtleties, that made Blondie what they were. To me, it was never only about Debbie Harry, though she was the reason I loved them as much as I do. It was also about the music, and how simple, yet complex it was. This was the band that took punk and fused it with mainstream just enough to bring it to plebes like me who were too afraid of Johnny Rotten. So it would have been nice if, acknowledging that we probably WON'T ever see this band live again, Debbie could have interacted a bit more with the audience. She did have a few bits of banter, but nothing that made it special and gave us closure. At least not for me. Again, though, they were operating on a schedule, which probably didn't allow for much chat! But at least they sounded good (from what I could hear, anyway).

Which brings me to the behavior of my fellow "picnickers." They talked through the ENTIRE thing and only broke off occasionally to do stupid versions of what they supposed to be calypso dances to "The Tide Is High," and sing along (badly) with "One Way or Another." The rest of the time they chattered and chewed. If the picnic is so important, why not just spread out under a tree in your front yard and save yourself the gas and ticket money? You can buy more potato salad then.

After Blondie finished, I felt that feeling of anti-climax that one so often feels when they recognize that something's truly over, and that's all there is. I began to feel the effects of fatigue, but wanted to catch at least some of the New Cars' performance. But after a half hour of no music, I stumped off to the shuttle bus to ride back to the parking lot two miles away where I'd dropped my car. It was only as I climbed on board that I heard the strains of music coming from the New Cars. But by then, realizing that my fatigue and a general geographical ignorance of Highland Park's poorly-lit streets would lead to stark tragedy on my drive home, I just left. Sorry, Todd! I'll buy the album.

All in all, I went home with a sour taste in my mouth. And it wasn't from the hummus. Next time, I'm making my plans well in advance, and I'm taking the goddamned train! I only drove this time because the train schedule from Metra's website showed a trains only every four hours and I didn't want to take the chance of being stranded. When I was there, I noticed trains at least every hour! More fool me.

Come back soon, Debbie and Todd! I haven't had enough yet...