A Cautious Man
September 30, 2007
 
Sunday Night Springsteen
Tonight, a little something from Friday Morning Springsteen, on the Today show the other day. This clip has Mr. Springsteen's pointed introduction to the song.
After enumerating "the things we love about America, cheeseburgers, French fries, the Yankees battlin' Boston, the Bill of Rights, v-twin motorcycle, . . . trans-fats and the Jersey Shore", he noted: "Over the last 6 years we've had to add to the American picture, rendition, illegal wiretapping, voter suppression, no habeus corpus, neglect of our great city of New Orleans and the people, an attack on the Constitution and the loss of our best young men and women in a tragic war." Yes, he did go there, right there on national television.

What's amazing to me, is that it is actually controversial nowadays to be for the Bill of Rights. What a wonderful legacy for the Bush Administration.

Anyway, "Living in the Future" -



A letter come blowin' in
On an ill wind
Somethin' 'bout me and you
Never seein' one another again
And what I knew had come
Stars struck deaf and dumb
Like when we kissed
That taste of blood on your tongue

Don't worry, darlin'
No baby, don't you fret
We're livin' in the future
And none of this has happened yet
Don't worry, darlin'
No baby, don't you fret
We're livin' in the future
And none of this has happened yet

Woke up election day
Sky's gunpowder and shades of grey
Beneath the dirty sun
I whistle my time away
Then just about sun down
You come walkin' through town
Your boot heels clickin' like
The barrel of a pistol spinnin' round

Don't worry, darlin'
No baby, don't you fret
We're livin' in the future
And none of this has happened yet
Don't worry, darlin'
No baby, don't you fret
We're livin' in the future
And none of this has happened yet

The earth it gave away
The sea rose towards the sun
I opened up my heart to you
It got all damaged and undone
My ship Liberty sailed away
On a bloody red horizon
The groundskeeper opened the gates
And let the wild dogs run

Alone I limp through town
A lost cowboy at sundown
Got my monkey on a leash
Got my ear tuned to the ground
My faith's been torn asunder
Tell me is that rollin' thunder
Or just the sinkin' sound
Of somethin' righteous goin' under

Don't worry, darlin'
No baby, don't you fret
We're livin' in the future
And none of this has happened yet
Don't worry, darlin'
No baby, don't you fret
We're livin' in the future
And none of this has happened yet
None of this has happened yet
None of this has happened yet
None of this has happened yet
None of this has happened yet

Na na na na, na na na na-na
Na na na na, na na na na-na
Na na na na, na na na na-na
Na na na na, na na na na-na
Na na na na, na na na na-na
Na na na na, na na na na-na
Na na na na, na na na na-na

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The Cold Black Water
The Blackwater security firm has been in the news lately, mostly because of reports about the "rules of engagement" (or lack thereof) of their personnel in Iraq, and the civilian deaths that have resulted. Then, just the other day, came a report about how Blackwater endandered its own personnel in Iraq, in connection with an investigation of the company's practices.
Democrats in Congress released a scathing report Thursday on the 2004 massacre of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah, charging that the company rushed unprepared into a sloppy mission, skimped on security to save money and stonewalled when Congress tried to investigate.

The report ratchets up the pressure on Blackwater, already under intense scrutiny for a Sept. 16 shooting incident in Baghdad that left 11 Iraqis dead.

. . .

Thursday's report, based on government reports and internal Blackwater documents, said:

- Blackwater, a for-profit company, opted to use unarmored vehicles to save money and cut essential personnel from the mission. An internal Blackwater report said Blackwater's contract paid for armored vehicles but "management in North Carolina ... made the decision to go with soft skin due to the cost."

- Blackwater ignored the warnings of a British security firm, which had twice turned down the exact same mission "due to the obvious risk of transporting slow-moving loads through such a volatile area."

. . .

The mission through Fallujah had a hurried and slapdash quality, the congressional report said.

Blackwater was taking over operations from Control Risk Group, a British security company. Control Risk Groups twice rejected the mission to escort three flatbed trucks from Camp Taji through Fallujah to Camp Ridgeway because it was too dangerous to take a slow-moving convoy through such hostile territory.

Blackwater ignored the warnings, the report said. Blackwater also sent its men out short-staffed, with two men in each unarmored vehicle, rather than three. The absence of a third man left them open to attack from the rear. Contractors from another company, Kellogg Brown and Root, told Navy investigators that they met the Blackwater convoy the night before the ambush. The Blackwater team seemed unprepared and hurried, and it ignored warnings from the other contractors to avoid Fallujah because of ambushes.

"It almost felt like they were being pressured to get there and get there as quickly as possible," said one contractor, whom the report didn't name.

I was reminded of an "infamous" statement written by the proprietor/ringmaster of Daily Kos, Mr. Markos Moulitsas. At the time of the deaths of the Blackwater personnel in Faluja, he responded with a comment (not a post, you have to scroll down this linked comment page) that has been referenced by right-wingers ever since -
Let the people see what war is like. This isn't an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush's folly.
That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

Mr. Moulitsas himself described that as follows:"So I said something pretty stupid last week. I served up the wingnuts a big, juicy softball. They went into a tizzy, led by Instapundit." And, it lingered as a right-wing talking point, as this dialogue (gleefully reprinted by somebody at "Expose The Left") demonstrates -
KURTZ: Now as you know, “National Review’s” Byron York resurrected a quote from you, this was after four American contractors were killed in Iraq in 2004. The quote was, I feel nothing over the death of mercenaries. They are there to wage war for profits, screw them. You dealt with this at the time and you expressed regret. My question is, are you prepared for the extra scrutiny that comes with this higher profile you have, whether you particularly want to be out there as the symbol of the blogging movement or not?

MOULITSAS: Absolutely. To me in a way it’s funny that they have not updated their talking points in two years. And so they want to keep resurrecting an old quote, there’s nothing I can do about it. What I can do is I can say the fact is the reason, the context for that quote was solidarity with my brothers and sisters in arms, Marines and soldiers. I wore combat boots. I served during the first Gulf war and people are making a choice between private armies and mercenaries. I make my choice. I stand behind our men and women in uniform and I’m not going to apologize for that. But they’re going to keep resurrecting that and that’s fine. That’s what they do. They smear, they attack, they don’t like the fact that people are getting engaged in politics, that people are getting involved. There are too many turf to protect so they’ll keep doing that and that’s fine. I can fight back.

Now, why mention this? Well, the latest reports, noted at the start of this post, show that Mr. Moulitsas was not the first person to say "Screw them" about the Blackwater personnel. The reason those men died, was because the executives of Blackwater, in their zeal to make the Iraq War a lucrative, for-profit enterprise, skimped on training and safety, and essentially said about their own employees: "Screw them."

Another reason to question our government and its amorality in pursuing the war in Iraq.

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With A Boulder On My Shoulder . . .
So, I read the latest nonsense from Rudy Giuliani, and my jaw drops yet again. Due to this -
Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani compared the scrutiny of his personal life marked by three marriages to the biblical story of how Jesus dealt with an adulterous woman.

In an interview posted online Friday, Giuliani was questioned about his family and told the Christian Broadcasting Network, "I think there are some people that are very judgmental."

Giuliani has a daughter who indicated support for Democrat Barack Obama and a son who said he didn't speak to his father for some time. Giuliani's messy divorce from their mother, Donna Hanover, was waged publicly while Giuliani was mayor of New York.

"I'm guided very, very often about, `Don't judge others, lest you be judged,'" Giuliani told CBN interviewer David Brody. "I'm guided a lot by the story of the woman that was going to be stoned, and Jesus put the stones down and said, 'He that hasn't sinned, cast the first stone,' and everybody disappeared.

"It seems like nowadays in America, we have people that think they could've passed that test," he said. "And I don't think anybody could've passed that test but Jesus."

First off, he doesn't relate the passage correctly, but why bother trying to get it right if you're going to be interviewed by a leading conservative evangelical Protestant website. Thanks for representing Catholics so well, Rudy, since your interviewers probably think that none of us ever look at, let along read, a Bible.

But, more to the point, just because I may not be able to pass the "without sin" test, doesn't mean that I can't have a low opinion of you. Besides, I can pass the "didn't-leave-my-wife-while-publically-humiliating-her", "didn't-try-to-have-my-mistress-over-to-the-house", "didn't-take-public-safety-money-to-build-a-getaway-for-affairs", and "didn't-throw-my-wives-and-kids-and-past-supporters-under-the-bus-for-personal-ambition" tests.

So, let's just say that we may have a stone or two here with your name on it, pal.

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September 23, 2007
 
Sunday Night Springsteen
An audio-only, from the upcoming album. We're looking forward to that, and to the concert next month.

Who will be the last to die for our mistake?



[Edited on September 30 to add this extra video] Mr. S and the Band performed this song in the "9:30 hour" of the Today Show, from which the Sept. 30 post and link came from. So, we're adding that to this "Sunday Night Springsteen" post - and who would have thought that a mainstream morning show like "Today" could be where these unabashedly anti-war pleas are featured?



We took the highway till the road went black
We marked Truth Or Consequences on our map
A voice drifted up from the radio
We saw the voice from long ago

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die for a mistake

The kids asleep in the backseat
We're just countin' the miles you and me
We don't measure the blood we've drawn anymore
We just stack the bodies outside the door

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die for a mistake

The wise men were all fools
What to do

The sun sets in flames as the city burns
Another day gone down as the night turns
And I hold you here in my heart
As things fall apart

A downtown window flushed with light
Faces of the dead at five (faces of the dead at five)
A martyr's silent eyes
Petition the drivers as we pass by

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Darlin' your tyrants and kings form the same fate
Strung up at your city gates
And you're the last to die for a mistake


(Lyrics from here, no guarantee of accuracy, but it seems close enough ...)

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September 17, 2007
 
The People
Have The Power

Over at No More Mister Nice Blog, Steve M has the news about the latest book from Laura Ingraham - "Power to the People" - noting that it's "Not exactly the title I would have chosen right now if I were a right winger".

I fell victim to an uncontrollable urge to suggest, in his comments, that a little Patti Smith would be appropriate right now -
I was dreaming in my dreaming
of an aspect bright and fair
and my sleeping it was broken
but my dream it lingered near
in the form of shining valleys
where the pure air recognized
and my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry
that the people / have the power
to redeem / the work of fools
upon the meek / the graces shower
it's decreed / the people rule

The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power

Vengeful aspects became suspect
and bending low as if to hear
and the armies ceased advancing
because the people had their ear
and the shepherds and the soldiers
lay beneath the stars
exchanging visions
and laying arms
to waste / in the dust
in the form of / shining valleys
where the pure air / recognized
and my senses / newly opened
I awakened / to the cry

Refrain

Where there were deserts
I saw fountains
like cream the waters rise
and we strolled there together
with none to laugh or criticize
and the leopard
and the lamb
lay together truly bound
I was hoping in my hoping
to recall what I had found
I was dreaming in my dreaming
god knows / a purer view
as I surrender to my sleeping
I commit my dream to you

Refrain

The power to dream / to rule
to wrestle the world from fools
it's decreed the people rule
it's decreed the people rule
LISTEN
I believe everything we dream
can come to pass through our union
we can turn the world around
we can turn the earth's revolution
we have the power
People have the power ...

And in honor of that, we have some Monday Night Springsteen - from the "Vote for Change" concert in 2004, in Washington. This is "People Have The Power", with the E Street Band backing up not only Mr. Springsteen, but also Michael Stipe with R.E.M., Eddie Vedder with Pearl Jam, the Dixie Chicks, John Fogerty, Bonnie Raitt, Dave Matthews, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Jurassic 5, Keb' Mo', and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds. It's a line-up that looks like some kind of pepperoni pizza nightmare for Laura "Shut Up and Sing" Ingraham.



And, yes, I know that one didn't turn out the way we wanted. But, that's no reason to give up, as 2006 demonstrated.

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September 16, 2007
 
Sunday Night Springsteen
One would like to think that the tide may turn, and that enough politicians will decide that enough is enough, and that stopping a war is better than just letting it go on.

This is from the "Kennedy Center Honors" for Bob Dylan in 1997 - Mr. Springsteen's reading of "The Times They Are A Changin'."


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"I Ply My Trade In The Land Of King Dollar
Where You Get Paid And Your Silence Passes As Honor .. ."

Well, looks like Alan Greenspan has gone and stepped in it -
America's elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil.

In his long-awaited memoir, to be published tomorrow, Greenspan, a Republican whose 18-year tenure as head of the US Federal Reserve was widely admired, will also deliver a stinging critique of President George W. Bush’s economic policies.

However, it is his view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says.

Greenspan, 81, is understood to believe that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the security of oil supplies in the Middle East.

Britain and America have always insisted the war had nothing to do with oil. Bush said the aim was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and end Saddam’s support for terrorism.
It's bad enough that "Maestro" Greenspan is criticizing the President on his economic policy. But saying that-which-must-not-be-said about the motivations of the Bush/Cheney White House? That will get Alan some serious blow-back from the Fox News/Wall Street Journal/Talk Hate Radio crew.

I wouldn't be surprised if, all of a sudden, they start telling us what a disaster Greenspan was for the economy, and how Bush saved us all by replacing him with Bernanke.

So, before these disappear down the memory hole, some excerpts from the Wall Street Journal. First, from the Editor of the Wall Street Journal, in those halcyon days of August, 2001 -
I've known Alan Greenspan so long I met Ayn Rand at a going-away party the first time he joined government back in the Ford administration. From long lunches in an aerie above Wall Street, I can testify he has one of the most complex minds I've ever encountered.

Even before he joined the central bankers' club, it was hard but fascinating to follow the twists and turns of his analysis. But somehow he always managed to tie the strands together into a sensible whole, coming out in what seemed to me the right place. So with Alan as Federal Reserve chairman, I've tended to swallow my doubts about a discretionary monetary policy, guided by the intuition of one man rather than by explicit and consistent rules and guideposts.

And indeed, Mr. Greenspan's guidance has served the republic well, with a long run of prosperity and increasingly stable prices.

And, from when Mr. Greenspan turned the reins over to Mr. Bernanke in 2005 -
When Alan Greenspan was nominated to succeed Paul Volcker as Federal Reserve Chairman in 1987, financial markets tanked. The more positive reaction to Ben Bernanke's selection yesterday shows how much the markets have come to trust Mr. Greenspan and how they expect Mr. Bernanke to run monetary policy in the same fashion.

He'll have a hard act to follow . . .

I should note that both columns were written with a critical eye on some aspect of Mr. Greenspan's tenure, but the fact that they have to bow to him first, before suggesting some way he could have done better, shows the esteem in which our right-ward leaning friends have held him.

Now, let's see if the knives come out. That's always been the "Bushie" way. The other side is never "wrong", they are always completely, utterly, and cravenly wrong-headed about everything.

Pass the popcorn . . .

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September 10, 2007
 
Bought Us Two Tickets
Why, yes, we did get tickets for the first night of the E Street Band at the Meadowlands in NJ. Where else should one go to see them?

Thanks for asking.

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September 09, 2007
 
Sunday Night Springsteen
Ticket day tomorrow! Wish me luck.

This was put up on Youtube by someone, about a month ago. It's from a Harry Chapin tribute from about 20 years ago, that was played on television. After a big group number (I think it was "Circle"), Springsteen suddenly appears walking through the crowd of performers, and proceeds to give a classic, one-time story-telling performance in tribute to Harry.

Just another reason why we're fans.



Oh, yes, one more thing. Regarding tickets - Let's get lucky!


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The Pimp's Main Prophet
After completing the post below, I realized that I really get peeved by Michelle Malkin's antics. I guess that, with all the racial animosity politics practiced by a not-insubstantial portion of the right wing, she stands out. I realized why that is, when I saw a piece from her the other day, entitled "Brown like Geraldo, but not down with Geraldo". It's ostensibly another round of an escalating war between Ms. Malkin and Geraldo Rivera, over immigration. Whether the animosity is real, or trumped up for Faux News purposes, is beside the point. In that piece, Ms. Malkin admits to what her role is, in the racial hatred portion of the right wing -
Geraldo says he “cringes” whenever I’m on Fox. I’ll tell you exactly why. It’s not because of any principled objection he has to the arguments I’ve made in my books (which he hasn’t read), columns, blog posts, and tee-vee appearances. It’s because the mere existence of conservative-thinking minorities who reject his tired old brand of identity politics threatens his race/ethnic-card-playing schtick. He can no longer dismiss all immigration enforcement proponents as racists without looking like a fool or tool, because there are countless, vocal numbers of them like me who have skin as brown as his.

So, that's the game. She's "brown", so she can be a means to deliver some of the most virulent, bigoted arguments based on stereotypes and hatred. It has required some compromise, on her part. For example, she used to be the proud daughter of Filipino immigrants - that's how she identified herself in older versions of her biography on her website. Today, her online bio contains no mention of her parents, or the "I" word - she's simply "Philly-born, South Jersey-raised" now.

She consorts with people who, frankly, seem to be the type that would despise her, and any other non-European who would have the audacity to marry someone of European ancestry, or have children with a mixed ethnic heritage. Recently, she seems to have played down her association with "VDare.com", a nativist website that she once featured prominently on her "Immigration Blog" section. The fact that she seems to have hidden and scrubbed that part of her website is telling. After all, "VDare" is the project of Peter Brimelow, an immigrant from England, but also a Eurocentric nativist -
He described the role of race as "elemental, absolute, fundamental." He said that white Americans should demand that U.S. immigration quotas be changed to allow in mostly whites. He argued that spending tax dollars on anything related to multiculturalism was "subversive." He called foreign immigrants "weird aliens with dubious habits."

He worried repeatedly that his son, with his "blue eyes" and "blond hair," would grow up in an America in which whites had lost the majority.

At one point, he wrote that if one enters an Immigration and Naturalization Service waiting room, just like entering the New York subways, "you find yourself in an underworld that is not just teeming but also almost entirely colored."

Hardly a hearty welcome for Ms. Malkin, her parents, or her kids. Ms. Malkin will also heartily recommend columns written by, as she puts it, "the brilliant Diana West", equating "creeping amnesty" with "creeping sharia". Funny thing, that Diana West column that Ms. Malkin recommended also contains this gem:
All of which is to say that creeping sharia, both at home and abroad, is still a present danger. But so is creeping amnesty. And strikingly, the amnesty scenario begins to mirror, if even in a cracked way, some of the demographic changes that historian Bernard Lewis predicted will turn Europe Islamic by the end of this century. That is, as America increasingly loses its European-descended majority on one side of the Atlantic, Europe, too, increasingly loses its European majority on the other.

That's right. Ms. Malkin recommends as "brilliant" a piece that bemoans the fact that the "European-descended majority" is shrinking.

What's my point? It's simply that Ms. Malkin and her "brown-ness" is being spent in the service of racists. She does their dirty work, saying the things they want to say, but don't want to be seen to be saying, because they'd be "outed" as racists if they did. Here's a classic Malkin performance, making her "creeping sharia" argument about the installation of foot-washing facilities at an airport. The poor guy who came on the program actually tried to have an intelligent discussion, but Ms. Malkin at one point actually mocks how he speaks.

So, to conclude. Ms. Malkin has found a sure route to fame and fortune. She hires out her "brown-ness" to racist, nativist movements, and thereby makes them more comfortable with their race hatred. She is, quite frankly, a "comfort woman" for right-wing racial politics.

Yes, I know that Ms. Malkin doesn't like analogies to prostitution, when refering to her work. But, while the "comfort women" of World War II were prisoners and were abused, she appears to embrace her role and the remuneration it provides. So, I guess I'll respond in the way that she responded when asked about suicides among Guantanamo prisoners (none of whom had been charged or convicted).

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Your Own Worst Enemy
The recent arrests of an assortment of New Jersey officials have, once again, burnished our state's reputation as a haven for corruption. We are our own worst enemies, of course, as some local politicians seem to feel that neither the voters, the press, or the law will ferret out their shady dealings. That being said, I have no reason to believe that New Jersey is any worse than any place else - our small time corruption does get exposed, but maybe we're also looking harder for it.

Nevertheless, the press does love a good NJ corruption story when one pops up. And, in light of the recent, endless parade of corrupt Republicans coming to light, that reliable cheerleader and former "Jersey Girl", Michelle Malkin, has a ginormous post for what she calls "A closer look at the NJ Democrat corruption case." It's rare that she dedicates that much blog real estate to a topic, but she clearly wants to play this up.

Couple of problems, of course. First of all, it's not just a "Democrat" case, since one of the policians hauled in is a Republican former councilman from Passaic. More important, this is a group of two assemblymen, assorted city officials, and members of a school board - in reality, this is a "rotten local officials corruption case", not solely a "Democrat" case.

New Jersey is pretty bipartisan when it comes to crooked politicians. Two years ago, a group of mostly Republican officials from mostly-Republican Monmouth County were hauled in by the Feds, on similar bribery charges. And, in Essex County where I live, we had our former, corrupt, Republican County Executive arrested and convicted in 2003 of corruption in office and of trying to obstruct the investigation into his dealings. One interesting facet of the case was Treffinger's plan to short-circuit the investigation into him and his crooked cronies -
Treffinger was seeking a presidential appointment to become the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey in order to terminate favorably the investigation. Treffinger was captured in a covert tape-recording of a conversation with DeMiro on Jan. 15, 2001. During this conversation, Treffinger advised DeMiro that "all this becomes moot if I get to be made U.S. Attorney," and that they would "rest easy for a long time to come" because, he explained, "[t]hen this whole thing goes away."

Curiously, none of these cases were ever addressed by Ms. Malkin. I'm not sure why, since the recent case has given her a chance to repeat a phrase that she's used before: "They don’t call my home state the armpit of the nation' for nothing." The last time I read that in her column, we had a little fun here pointing out that Ms. Malkin was (as far as we were concerned) not terribly welcome or well thought of, here. In her patented jump-to-conclusions-and-blame-the-Muslims way, she had gone on a crusade when an Egyptian Christian family was found murdered in Jersey City. Before the perpetrators were arrested, Ms. Malkin gleefully stoked the flames of racial and religious hatred, asserting that this Christian family was the victim of Muslim assasins. In fact, while during the investigation local officials cautioned people not to jump to conclusions, she mocked them and accused them of some sort of "political correctness" for not pursuing the "jihadists" who she concluded had committed the crime. Even when the truth came out (that Muslims were not involved), she continued to imply that there were legitimate unanswered questions.

At the time, I suggested that Ms. Malkin be relieved of any connection to the Garden State, since we seem to bother her so much. Besides, being a Republican Filipino from New Jersey could get you confused with Leandro Aragoncillo, an FBI intelligence analyst, who previously worked for Vice President Dick Cheney, who was stealing classified documents at Fort Monmouth and passing them to high-level officials within the Philippines government. Especially since she's Ms. "Race-Based Internment".

In any event, this latest crop of corrupt policians are getting what they deserve. And as for whether corruption is more of a Republican or Democratic phenomenon, I'll leave that question alone. The Republicans do seem to have the higher profile scandals lately, as this list (recommended by the Blanton’s and Ashton’s blog) seems to indicate. It's got our buddy Leandro, and a whole lot more.

And, finally, here's a great webpage from WFMU, with "Songs in Celebration of The Armpit of the Nation" - including a personal favorite, Dave Van Ronk's Garden State Stomp.

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September 03, 2007
 
Summer’s Gone and the Time is Right . . .
. . . to get back to random thoughts a/k/a infrequent rantings.

Well, we had a great, I mean GREAT week in London. They had a wet summer, but last week was dry, and mostly sunny. The people are great, and their city is one of the greatest urban areas in the world (imho). I have to take my regular commuter train tomorrow, after having been spoiled by the London Underground, as well as by the National Rail trains we took to Hampton Court and Canterbury.

We took the tour of Parliament that is only available during the late summer break. I recommend it. Sure, the MPs aren’t around, but that means that you can stroll into the House of Commons through their doorway, where the statue of Winston Churchill has had his foot rubbed to a shine by MPs about to make their maiden speeches (and by tourists). We stood in the MPs places, and I stood a moment behind the Dispatch Box where the Prime Minister stands during question time. It was cool.

As our guide noted, before we went into the Commons: “It’s like Tom Cruise, much smaller in person than it appears on film.” It was deliberately made too small, so that when ordinary matters are debated, they still seem important, and when important matters are debated, the sides can really confront each other.

We also went to the Notting Hill Carnival, a Caribbean festival which claims to be Europe’s largest street party. Whether it is or not, it’s HUGE. And it’s not just people of Caribbean heritage dancing and partying in the streets. When you see a whole contingent of pale English women samba-ing down the street like Rio wannabes, it makes you skeptical of the right-wingers who issue dire warnings about “Londonistan”.

Anyway, we had a great time, and a great summer. Hope yours was, as well.

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