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Truth To Power

the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must

Archive for March, 2009

Green Day musical? Egad.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Green Day’s “American Idiot” Musical To Debut September ‘09

Green Day and the director of Broadway’s Spring Awakening are set to debut a musical based on the band’s 2004 punk epic American Idiot this autumn, the New York Times reports. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” frontman Billie Joe Armstrong told the NYT, “but that’s what I love about it. When people see it, it’s going to be my wildest dream.” The American Idiot musical will premiere September 4th at California’s Berkeley Repertory Theatre and run through October 11th.

Boy, does this sound stoooopid.

Free speech or defaming religion

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The new threat to freedom of expression
The UN passage of a resolution barring defamation of religion, especially Islam, should be a wake-up call.

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.”

These are the first two freedoms of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech, which has special urgency today. The world economic crisis has naturally called attention to the last two freedoms he declared, freedom from want and from fear. But freedom of expression and religion got first billing for a reason. These two rights are absolutely fundamental to our humanity. And yet they’ve been under unceasing assault over the course of history.

These assaults continue today. On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution that calls on states to limit criticism of religions – specifically Islam.

But don’t be fooled; the resolutions only give clever lip service to these values. In reality they are calling for laws and actions that prohibit dialogue by declaring certain topics off limits for discussion, leading to intolerance of any view that some Muslims may find offensive. For instance, criticizing the practice of polygamy or the greater weight given to the testimony of men over women in sharia law would be forbidden. Such laws that prohibit blasphemy, defamation, or the defiling of Islam already exist in many of the countries that support the defamation of religions resolutions.

Who decides what views defame religion? Governments, of course.

How do we limit a presidents power?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Why We Need a Commission on Presidential Power

We should not look upon presidential lawlessness as if it were an odd aberration of the Bush years.

President Barack Obama started strong by announcing the end of torture and the closing of Guantánamo, but he has recently taken a more equivocal attitude toward the Bush constitutional legacy. While rejecting his predecessor’s extreme claims, he continues to assert the presidential power to hold terrorists without trial and to keep state secrets from the courts. And he has already issued his first signing statement denouncing a few provisions of the stimulus package as unconstitutionally limiting his executive prerogatives.

These decisions have unleashed a flood of anxious commentary about Obama’s ultimate intentions. But the discussion has only served to divert public attention from the real question confronting the new administration. Barack Obama is no George W. Bush — he will indeed cut back substantially on unilateral assertions of power. The big question is whether he will take effective steps to prevent the next president from reversing course yet again and using the precedents of the Bush years as a springboard for even more extreme assertions of executive authority.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

My musical weekend

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Had a great musical weekend, full of sounds old and new. Starting off with a good haul from the used cd and book store where we found such gems as “Tired Of Wandering- The Blues of Arbee Stidham

Great T-Bone Walkerish via Chicago blues, with King Curtis on sax. Stidham is a stinging guitarist and a emotive vocalist, and it was pure luck I found this at all, never heard of the guy before.

Next up, a bit of musical anarchy in the form of The Holy Modal Rounders on a collection entitled “I Make a Wish for a Potato“. Sorta hard to describe the Rounders other than to say perhaps they are Hunter Thompson…with a banjo.

And thanks to the generosity of a co-worker, we enjoyed a complete set of “The Midnight Special


Laugh if you will, but in the pre-MTV days of broadcast television, without the zillion channels of cable, shows like “The Midnight Special” and “In Concert” were the only way you could see bands like this live. Granted, a huge amount of Seals and Crofts/Helen Reddy cheese to be sure, but for every Leo Sayer you also had a rowdy T-Rex doing “Bang a Gong”, Steely Dan with a smoking “Reeling in the Years” or the fearsome Ohio Players with “Love Rollercoaster”. And as I cruelly discovered a few years ago with an Eagles DVD, I knew every word to every song we watched- good or bad.

So that is part of my musical weekend. How was yours?

Becoming a banana republic

Monday, March 30th, 2009

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.

But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Where’s Yoshi’s asteroid when ya need it?

Too sick for insurance

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Whatta country…sheesh:

Insurers shun those taking certain meds

Trying to buy health insurance on your own and have gallstones? You’ll automatically be denied coverage. Rheumatoid arthritis? Automatic denial. Severe acne? Probably denied. Do you take metformin, a popular drug for diabetes? Denied. Use the anti-clotting drug Plavix or Seroquel, prescribed for anti-psychotic or sleep problems? Forget about it.

This confidential information on some insurers’ practices is available on the Web — if you know where to look.

What’s more, you can discover that if you lie to an insurer about your medical history and drug use, you will be rejected because data-mining companies sell information to insurers about your health, including detailed usage of prescription drugs.

These issues are moving to the forefront as the Obama administration and Congress gear up for discussions about how to reform the healthcare system so that Americans won’t be rejected for insurance.

How many people have died or been driven into financial ruin simply because they got screwed by the insurance industry? Thousands upon thousands most likely. Putting a dollar value on our health- saying, essentially, if you’re rich you live, poor you die- is insane. For the same reason we attempt to educate all our children- because if benefits us as a nation- everyone should have basic healthcare. For the same reason. And don’t say health care coverage is a choice- millions of Americans would love to even have the choice to get insurance they can afford, but can’t. But somebody somewhere is making a buck off of it, and giving a chunk of that dollar to a congresscreep, so nothing is going to change. Because in addition to being an increasingly sick nation, we’re a damn short-sighted and stupid one too.

Was Ravel writing love songs?

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Hidden clue to composer’s passion

A sequence of three notes occurring repeatedly through his work spells out the name of a famous Parisian socialite says Ravel expert David Lamaze.

He argues that the notes, E, B, A in musical notation, or “Mi-Si-La” in the French doh-re-mi scale, refer to Misia Sert, a close friend of Ravel’s.

Well known in art circles, she was painted by Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Ravel never married, but Misia was married three times. Ravel composed some of his work while staying on a boat belonging to Misia and her second husband.

“It has never been done before. To take one person and to place them at the centre of a life-long work,” says Professor Lamaze of the Conservatoire de Rennes, who is working on a book about Ravel and Misia.

Pearl Jam’s “Ten” goes deluxe

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Fanboy alert, beware. This is the only music from Pearl Jam I can listen to, and although I’m sure they created good stuff since, I’ve always found Vedder to be “Bono Jr” and I just wanna smack him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. But their debut album “Ten” is magnificient, and is getting completely revamped 18 years down the line:


Pearl Jam getting nostalgic over debut album

NEW YORK (Billboard) – As Pearl Jam’s blockbuster 1991 debut, “Ten,” gets a re-release on March 24 so deluxe that it would be fairer to call it a complete reimagining, the veteran Seattle band’s bassist and co-founder Jeff Ament sat down with Billboard to talk about what went into the four extras-laden editions of the 12-times platinum album.

Each of the four versions of the “Ten” reissue includes a digitally remastered version of the original album as well as a completely new remix of the set by longtime producer Brendan O’Brien. The version that has sent hardcore fans into a tizzy is the two-CD, one DVD, four LP “Super Deluxe Edition.” The linen-covered, slip-cased clamshell box includes a replica of “Momma-Son,” the audition demo tape Vedder sent to Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard in 1990 to land the job in Pearl Jam, the previously unreleased September 20, 1992, concert at Seattle’s Magnuson Park on two vinyl LPs, a replica of Vedder’s composition notebook packed with notes and photos and assorted stickers and other memorabilia from the “Ten” era.

Trivia quiz: What is the album named for?

PA parents: Our kids aren’t pervs

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Parents fight child porn threats against “sexting” teens

Backed by the ACLU, a group of Pennsylvania parents is suing to block an enthusiastic DA who has threatened to file child porn charges against teen girls who appear semi-undressed in candid cell-phone photos—unless they agree to attend a five-week program on “what it means to be a girl in today’s society.”

As teen flirtation and sexual experimentation enter the digital age, dog-bites-man stories about adolescent exhibitionists being charged as kiddie pornographers may soon seem no more newsworthy than reports of cops breaking up a kegger. But one group of Pennsylvania parents is pretty sure their daughters aren’t sex offenders—and with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, they’re suing to force a zealous county district attorney to back off.

In what’s becoming a familiar pattern, Tunkhannock School District officials confiscated a student’s cell phone late last year, and discovered an array of photographs of local girls in various states of undress—photos that male students had apparently been trading and collecting more avidly than Pokémon cards. Duly horrified, Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick decided he had to protect these young women… by threatening to prosecute them for “sexual abuse of children.”

In a letter sent to parents in February, Skumanick declared that both the boys caught swapping the photos and the girls who’d been photographed would have to submit to a reeducation program or risk being charged with a felony. In addition to accepting six months probation, the students would have to pony up $100 for a five-week, ten-hour program that would, among other things, help them “gain an understanding of what it means to be a girl in today’s society.” The parents of most of the 20 or so students involved readily assented.

But the parents of Marissa Miller and Grace Kelly were less than scandalized when they saw the snapshot for which their daughters had posed: both were shown wearing opaque white bras no more revealing than a bikini top—one on the phone, the other flashing a peace sign. Skumanick averred that it was nevertheless child pornography because the girls were posed “provocatively.” The pseudonymous Nancy Roe was a bit more exposed in her photo, which showed her fresh from the shower with a towel wrapped around her torso, below her breasts. But her mother doubted whether a bit of nudity was all it took to make a picture “pornographic.”

The ACLU shared the parents’ skepticism—though they’ve had to rely on second-hand descriptions so far. Skumanick won’t show the photos to anybody else, including the parents’ lawyers, for fear of becoming a kiddie-porn “distributor” himself.

Justice coming to Texas?

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Since 1994, Texas has exonerated thirty-nine innocent people who served over 500 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

Although several of the exoneration cases involve instances of intentional misconduct, inadvertent error is by far more common. It would only compound these injustices, however, to assume that these mistakes were inevitable. Texas cannot ignore its broken criminal justice system. This report addresses the common causes that lead to wrongful convictions, as echoed in each of these cases, and presents practical reforms to prevent such errors. It is critical for Texas to take action. When Texas gets it wrong and convicts an innocent person, the true perpetrator remains free to commit more crimes.

Compelling reading, and one imagines that Texas isn’t the only state with innocent men behind bars.