Sunday, September 14, 2008

Controversial Iran-Contra Figure Utilized as Pentagon Source

One of the Pentagon’s key “sources” for its denial of the death toll from the recent mass killing of civilians in the Afghan village of Azizabad has been revealed to be Fox News correspondent Oliver North. North was indicted and then later pardoned in the 1980s for lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal.

And oh of the Pentagon's key sources for the denial of secret CIA prisons in Poland has been revealed to be Fox News pundit and megalomaniacal supervillain Lex Luthor.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Gov. Palin calls Iraq War and gas pipeline "God's will"

To anyone still reading this, my apologies for being AWOL as of late. I've been extremely swamped with moving down here to Milledgeville for graduate school, etc. I'll try to keep posting on a regular basis, but my heavy workload will inevitably interfere. Regardless, here's a little something to make your head explode:

GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was recently quoted as saying that the war in Iraq is part of "God's plan:"

Palin: “Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan. So bless them with your prayers, your prayers of protection over our soldiers.”

What's that? Your jugular hasn't rupture yet? Wait, it gets better--during the same address, Palin said the construction of a new oil pipeline in Alaska is also God’s will:

Palin: “I can do my part in doing things like working really, really hard to get a natural gas pipeline, about a $30 billion project that’s going to create a lot of jobs for Alaskans, and we’ll have a lot of energy flowing through here. And pray about that also. I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.”

Addressing the first quote, no one in their right mind should have any problem with prayers being said for our soldiers currently active in the Middle East. Besides having to come to grips with their participation in an increasingly unpopular, jingoistic, and unabashedly propagandistic war, these men and women likely face unimaginable challenges, both physical and psychological, day in and day out. To judge them would be irresponsible. I dare say, however, that to dub the war as "God's will" is infinitely more irresponsible, and is a volatile combination of psychosis and dogmatic naivete.

The second quote really doesn't merit the dignity of a response--if the governor of a state that contains both one of the nation's largest wildlife populations and one of its largest native presences cannot see how a $30 million pipeline through the heart of the land would upset that delicate balance, then...well, actually I can't think up a line acerbic enough to do that level of stupidity justice.

So yes, pray for our soldiers. And light a candle for Sarah Palin; that quick whiff of sulfur would do her sinuses some good if she ever pulls her head our of her ass.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Carlin dead at 71

I've just read a brief article on the Yahoo homepage informing us that influential comedian, author, and all-around curmudgeon George Carlin has passed away today as a result of heart failure. He was 71.

I'm not an authority on the man, so I'll keep it brief. Carlin was an important and revolutionary voice in the world of standup comedy, and indeed of entertainment in general. Absolutely nothing was taboo to him, a trait that would lead to his greatest success as well as to some bitter legal battles. He was cut from the cloth of Lenny Bruce, and inspired such modern-day socio-political ranters as Lewis Black and, to an extent, Bill Maher.

Carlin is quoted (I paraphrase here) as saying that he believes in nothing...not religion, not this country, not good, not any sort of man-made institution. For all of that, accounts indicate that he was not a mean-spirited person; it would be most accurate, I suppose, to say that he believed in a need for the drawdown of bullshit, or rather, what he considered bullshit.

I'd say rest in peace, but he probably isn't. RIP anyway, George.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Issues to Care About: Volume I

Over the next couple of weeks (and for as long afterward as I'm able) I'll be posting a series of blogs that seek to cut through the smears, flotsam, and other non-issues that will likely again dominate this nation's presidential campaign. If you're sick, tired, and disillusioned with flag pins and tribal African headdresses, read on. If you're not, read on anyway...this is for everyone.

President Bush Takes Covert Steps Towards Martial Law

Precisely 22 months ago, President Bush privately (indeed, almost secretly) signed into law the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007. The law, in effect, permits President Bush to not only position troops anywhere in the United States, but also to take control of national guard soldiers without the consent of state or local authorities in order to "suppress public disorder." The president's signing of the law essentially revises a 200-year-old law known as the Insurrection Act and repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which reads: "Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both." This act has been the United States' citizens' most explicitly stated protection against the possibility of tyranny enforced by a declaration of martial law, a tactic commonly utilized nowadays by authoritarian governments to brutally put down populist movements against unpopular rule.

Getting specific, Section 333 of the JW Defense Authorization Act reads: "...the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in federal service--to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a national disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (or "refuse" or "fail in") maintaining public order--in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

Thusly, with one swipe of the pen, no clearly referenced author, and dangerously vague prose, the President has been granted sweeping powers to not only utilize the United States armed forces for the purpose of quashing dissidence, but also to determine what constitutes this "insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

In 2007, Major General Timothy Lowenberg (Adjutant General of the Washington National Guard, as well as Director of the Washington Military Department) testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the "Insurrection Act Rider and State Control of the National Guard." Speaking out in particular against Section 1076, the General asserted and confirmed that the law had effectively stricken irrelevant "one hundred years of law and policy...without any publicly or privately acknowledged author or proponent of the change."

Not only that, but a domestic military organization has already been established; Northern Command (NORTHCOM) was approved by Secretary of Defense Gates on March 15th, 2007. Simply put, President Bush has seen fit to declare himself dictator.

While there has been absolutely no mention of this in the mainstream media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), noting that "Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty," has introduced Senate Bill 513, which seeks to repeal Section 1076 of the John Warner Act.

As of now, the bill has yet to move beyond the introduction phase, according to When and if, however, the bill comes up for consideration, it must be drafted into law so that this President, and the others to follow, will not retain the ability and the "right" to arbitrarily enact an authoritarian rule.

Note: Credit for the story and quotes is due to author Frank Morales, as well as the student and faculty researchers for Censored 2008. Many of my forthcoming posts will be based on selections from the Censored series, as well as from the writings of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Charlie Savage, and Jeremy Scahill, and I thank them for their diligence in upholding and fighting for the tenets of open government, freedom of information and of the press, and for democracy in general.

Response to comments on my last blog

Note: I suggest to anyone reading this that they first reference the two comments left in response to my June 2nd blog regarding the apparent lack of hard evidence linking Bin Laden to 9/11. I posted the following in the comment section, but decided that the contents merited a presence on the main page.

My intention in posting this fact was not to accuse anybody of anything, or to in fact suggest that Osama Bin Laden did NOT have anything to do with the attacks. What I am saying, however, is that, when facts like this come up, it should make us more than a bit suspicious.

It may seem like a "strong enough connection," but it apparently is not strong enough for the FBI to use as evidence against him. Judging the situation by the seemingly overwhelming evidence against the man, it seems to me more than a bit odd that this nation's highest-ranking investigative organization has yet to officially declare that there is sufficient evidence linking Bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks.

Responding specifically to the latest comment, your guess is as good as mine. It's pretty clear by now, however, that if we were going to focus an extended war effort on any country, it should be Afghanistan. The connections to Iraq were completely fabricated, a fact that has been exhaustively documented by both more and less able persons than myself.

Monday, June 2, 2008

No direct evidence linking Bin Laden to 9/11?

To begin, I feel compelled to point out that I don't seek to put forth any conspiratorial implications or to point fingers, but simply to state a few facts and ask a question. It goes without saying that it is our right and our duty as American citizens to point out such discrepancies as the one I'm about to address, and to follow such observations with questions, though not necessarily accusations.

That having been said...

As of the present time, the FBI explicitly states that Osama Bin Laden is wanted for his participation in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Sufficient evidence for this has been uncovered, and the Bureau is actively seeking his capture and conviction for those particular crimes.Mention of his involvement with the 9/11 atrocities, however, are nowhere to be found in official FBI statements. When Ed Haas, journalist and editor for the Muckraker Report, inquired about this curious fact, he was told by an FBI official that "The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama Bin Laden's Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connective [him] to 9/11."

Keeping that in mind, let's go back a bit, specifically to December 2001, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a press release alongside the airing of the video in which Bin Laden is supposed to have claimed credit for the orchestration of 9/11, says "There was no doubt of Bin Laden's responsibility for the 9/11 attacks even before the tape was discovered." In spite of this statement and the federal government's assertion that it was invading Afghanistan in order to root out Bin Laden for his crimes associated with 9/11, there is neither an official government authentication of the tape nor any hard evidence linking Bin Laden to the attacks.

This is interesting at least, and disconcerting at most. Nearly seven years have passed since the Middle East invasions, and there is still no real, tangible evidence; the media has blacklisted any guest that could potentially speak of any sort of cover-up. Perhaps most glaring, however, about the entire situation is that an administration that has gone to extreme, illicit, and amoral lengths to sell this war to the American people would withhold any sort of information that justifies their actions in the Middle East.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pelican, "After the Ceiling Cracked" review

Pelican"After the Ceiling Cracked"Hydra HeadAvailable NowAUGUSTA, GA - Casual music fans that get a hold of the specs for Pelican’s new live DVD are likely to wonder why a band would release a concert film over a year after the majority of the footage was recorded.

Then again, Hydra Head isn’t marketing “After the Ceiling Cracked” toward the casual Abbey Road T-shirt-wearing FYE jockey… they’re marketing it towards Pelican fans. I mean let’s face it, this isn’t something that just anybody is going to walk by, see it and think to themselves, “Eh, might as well.”

The Eagles’ “Hell Freezes Over” it ain’t—which is generally a good thing. May the devil extinguish his cigar butt on the necks of the Herweg brothers if they ever go near the words “farewell tour.” Love ya, guys.

OK, so if you know anything at all about Pelican, then you’re probably not going to be taken aback by anything you see here: It’s long been known that the band is equally adept at creating quiet, mood-piece passages as they are at throwing down with mountain-shattering riffs that could kick up enough of a cosmic shit-storm to put a crack in a 2001 monolith.

That’s a given, but, because this time around you can actually see the intent in the eyes and movements of the band members. Songs like “Autumn into Summer” and “Aurora Borealis” open the viewer up to a whole new dimension of interaction; the crescendos in “Last Day of Winter,” are, likewise, nothing short of triumphant.

The best part of the DVD, however, is the archival footage, some of which dates back to a few of the band’s first performances in 2003, and which allows you to chart the course of the group’s evolution not only with regards to stage presence, but also to how they’ve approached the songwriting process and even certain songs. Juxtapose their performances of “Mammoth” and “Pink Mammoth” and see if you aren’t a little enlightened.

Evolution is the whole point of “After the Ceiling Cracked,” and the foundation upon which Pelican’s very existence is based. The impact is considerable, especially when you realize that seeing the band live is an extension of this whole experience.

I’m not sure whether to feel grateful or manipulated. Cheeky bastards—and oh yeah, the DVD comes packaged with a 3" CD that features two versions of “Pink Mammoth” (one with the entire lineup of These Arms Are Snakes), as well as Prefuse 73 remix of “Aurora Borealis” entitled “End of Seaons.” ‘Course, if you’re like me, you’d already have most of that on vinyl. Dorks! Wait…

Pelican: Streamlined, but still expanding

AUGUSTA, GA - It goes without saying that the evolution of sound, style, and substance (abuse) is typically more difficult to track when it comes to certain artists. Those kinds of changes are usually the ones that gradually take shape over an elongated period of time; having started out as perhaps a speck of a notion inspired by an Albert Camus novel or even as a botched note during a 'shroom-heavy scalar run, the idea first slithers its way onto a single track. Before you know it, you’ve got “Astral Weeks.” Just an example.

Other bands are kind enough to make it more obvious, though it just tends to give the critics a different kind of headache. After the rampant sevenths and pseudo-carnival tendencies of “Blonde on Blonde,” most folks figured it signaled a new direction in Dylan’s sound and career. Nah… turns out he just had a whim. Don’t believe me? Listen to “John Wesley Harding.”

Fortunately for those of us who tend more toward the avante-drone side of the spectrum, Pelican happens to be a shining example of the latter. While their eponymous debut EP and first pair of full lengths, 2003’s “Australasia” and 2005’s “The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw,” boasted an average song length that skirted somewhere around the ten-minute mark, only the title track from “City of Echoes,” released just nine months ago, climbs past seven minutes. Much has been made about the obvious influence of touring on the record’s sound, but guitarist Trevor de Brauw says it’s a little more complicated.

“It really had more to do with just the quality of touring, rather than touring itself,” he says during my lunch break. “We used to just do a few scattered tours here and there for the first two albums…I mean, we all had jobs and school and things like that. But when ‘Fire in Our Throats’ came out, we were able to quit our jobs for the most part and really make the lifestyle work. So it definitely had an impact in that regard; before that, we never really considered the songs as live pieces.”

Indeed, the new tracks tend to inspire more head-banging than the trance-inducing monoliths that highlighted the band’s first few years; the rock-out, it would seem, comes with an almost equal dosage of cock-out this time around, a characteristic that is endearing the band to new legions. Some are even dubbing it the group’s “Black Album.” Dare we invoke the dread name?

“You know, I guess I never really thought about it much before,” says de Brauw after a moment’s contemplation, “but yeah, the new record is a lot more digestable, much easier for people to understand. The earlier material was really slow, and ‘Fire’ was, I think, a little long-winded.”

As if a new album and tour weren’t enough, the band subsequently released a vinyl-only EP entitled “Pink Mammoth,” which featured a major key re-tooling of early song “Mammoth,” as well as a Prefuse 73 mash-up of “Aurora Borealis” and the untitled track from “Fire,” referred to on the EP as “End of Seasons.” It was released in four or five different prints, and every time a “red splatter” print comes up on eBay, a hipster, somewhere, has an orgasm.

Capping off a prolific year, however, is the long-awaited release of Pelican’s first proper live concert DVD, “After the Ceiling Cracked,” which features not only a full December 20, 2005 set from London’s Kings Cross Scala, but archival footage from the band’s early days. Needless to say, Trevor is pretty amped about it…in his own subtle way.

“Basically, the guy who filmed it got in touch with us and asked us if we’d like for him to record the London show, because the venue was really nice and perfect for that kind of thing. The label got really excited, and so we had the place set for up for recording and multi-tracking. There were some problems later on with the digitization, but the recording went pretty well.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Justin Broadrick was the sound mixer for the entire set. And oh yeah, did I mention that the DVD also features a totally “Sledgehammer”-meets-Appalachian-Trail video for “Autumn into Summer?”

“Yeah, that all happened kind of randomly!” says de Brauw. “The guy who filmed it got in touch with us while we were picking out live footage and stuff. He initially sent us about two minutes’ worth, and we really liked it.”

Pelican’s evolution isn’t limited to varying degrees of aural assault. Longtime fans will also notice some tweaks in the group’s live performance, specifically with regards to the newer material. The old songs tended to get fleshed out a little more live, but the same, de Brauw says, tends to not be true for “City of Echoes.”

“Our mood was just changing during the old material,” he says, “so during the tour, the songs would take on these slight variations, and as a result, ended up sounding more wound-up live than on the record. This time around, though, we were very conscious of that, and the songs actually sound more relaxed now.”

And while this tour will no doubt include some spacey favorites, the guitarist warns fans to not hold their breath for an “Aurora Borealis” encore.

“At that time, it was pretty typical of our shows,” he remembers. “Not so much anymore…we don’t always do encores, and we kind of wanted to put that song to rest for awhile.”

As an added bonus, fans who haven’t caught the band live will be able to witness de Brauw channeling his inner Page, utilizing a violin bow on “Last Day of Winter” and “Aurora Borealis.” He snickers lightly as he talks about it.

“That pretty much came about as a result of my learning, unsuccessfully, how to play the violin. So I just became interested in bowing anything else that I could.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

CIA, I see ya later

So...its come out today that there will indeed be a criminal investigation into this whole mess about the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes. It is truly a sad commentary on one citizen's state of mind (mine) when the initial reaction is: and?

Nothing's going to come of this, just like f-all has come of the Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and U.S. attorney investigations. Everyone in America pretty much takes it for granted at this point that the Bush administration is as crooked as a handmade shilelagh, and as a result no one is surprised by this latest scandal.

And so this is the state of our citizenry--rampant corruption has led to the collective ambivalence towards that very rampant corruption. May God help us all.