Sunday, June 29, 2008

African VooDoo Downpour

I've seen some interesting shit in my day, but yesterday was
exceptional by any standard. It was summertime in the park, hot,
sweating, sun-burning summer and I had to work in it. Typical. Not
that I wasn't having fun from time to time. The event was summer stage
in Central Park, a nice little affair, if you don't have to lug
hundred pound spools of audio cable across astroturf lawns that seem
to bleed clay into rain puddles.

Incase you're not familiar with Summer-stage, its a grand tradition of
free concerts by artists so obscure only the snobby-est of the snob-o-
legensia, the intellectual high priests of whatever art they happen to
worship - in this case of course, it would be music - only they would
know who they were actually listening to. In other words, classic New

This Saturday, June 28th, the acts were billed as Afro-beat, which is
unfortunate since those of us who were once proto-snobs turned cynics
will tend to hear a term such as Afro-Beat and think in terms of white
suburbanites in Afrika Boombata costumes playing the djembe. But this
was genuine at least. Real Africans from real African countries. And
this is where it got weird, man - real weird. These cats were the real
deal, born and bread in a land so old even their ghosts have lost
count of the ages. The place where voodoo comes from, if you dig my
jive. Not that I believe in any of that. However, cynic or not, I make
it a policy to respect the super-natural, because, as the saying goes,
you never know.

The acts were fine, lots of dancing and the sound man laid on the hand
drums a little too hot in my humble opinion, but they were otherwise
good. Then it came, the last act. The act from Mali. There wasn't
anything too special about them it seemed, aside from the skies
momentarily clearing when they too the stage. Strange, too be sure,
but not too strange. And they went through their act with little to
nothing of interest to note. Until the last song that is.

It was typical of what you'd expect if you knew nothing of African
popular music, as I did and do. Lots of rhythm and poly-layered
voices, singing only god (and people who speak Mali) knew what. As
they got to the end, the rhythm picked up, more beats, more dancing.
One of the men launched into the sort of gyrating routine that must
have scared the pantaloons off old Europeans. It built - more drums,
more dancing. The kind of free-form musical experience hippies across
the white world have been trying to emulate without success. Then it
it hits a crescendo, the men's face look entranced and fierce, two
women take the stage to join them and the sky opens up. Wind whips at
the tent I am working under. The rain falls in sheets on the dancing
men, the dancing crowd and picks up intensity with the music and it
occurs to me that this must be what they meant by voodoo.

It takes a while for the rain to stop after the music ends. I figure
maybe there was an element in that dance that was meant to bring on
the rains in lands where there is none. To do it in New York was
simply overkill.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Grand Juries Become Latest Abortion Battlefield

In an interesting twist on the old anti-abortion tactics, pro-lifers in Kansas are using voter petitioned Grand Juries to try to indict a late-term abortion provider in the state. According to the NYT, social conservatives have used the technique with limited success against porn and adult toy distributors. And I say limited in the sense that the only thing they've done is stigmatize a few stores to the point where they closed all together. Is it just me, or does the whole thing smack of base harassment? I think it's interesting to note that the one of the first politicians quoted was a local Republican bemoaning the abuse of an otherwise useful populist tool.

Begin forwarded message:
Date: June 17, 2008 1:13:44 PM EDT
Subject: Grand Juries Become Latest Abortion Battlefield
Source: NYT > U.S.

Under an 1887 statute, Kansans gathered signatures to demand that a grand jury investigate an abortion clinic.

Read more…

Obama ridicules McCain's plan to tap offshore oil

McCain is voicing his support for new off-shore exploration, which is a nice sounding plan if you don't take into account the 10-15 years it generally takes for such explorations to really start producing. So if Mac isn't really trying to help us working stiffs at the pump, who's he playing to? Could it be...Satan - I mean, Big Oil? Oh Mac, when the Straight Talk Express get derailed? From Rueters:Obama ridicules McCain's plan to tap offshore oil.

Jun 17 01:05 PM US/Eastern

Democrat Barack Obama Tuesday accused White House rival John McCain of "posturing" as the Republican, tapping voters' anxiety about sky-high fuel prices, called for offshore oil drilling.In a speech later in the Texas oil capital of Houston, the Arizona senator was to call for a 27-year-old moratorium on offshore exploration to be lifted -- reversing his own support for the ban when he ran for president in 2000.

Hooray for the Sac (ramento)!!

Today is a great day in the realm of civil rights. Finally, as the cliche goes, gays have earned the unquestioned right to be just as miserable as the rest of us. Marriage, that oft desired (and then rejected as soon as the parties have come to their senses) sacrament will not only be legal in the Bear Republic, but marriages performed in other states will protected. Now lets see how the Oral Roberts crowd deals with this. Hee...Oral. Funny name for an anti-gay crusader...

Begin forwarded message:

Date: June 17, 2008 1:25:54 PM EDT
Subject: California gays, lesbians marry legally
Source: Reuters: U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California performed its first legally recognized same-sex weddings on Monday and opened its doors to gay and lesbian couples from around the country, a move likely to challenge other states that define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What? Me Worry?

All of us "progressives" (i.e. non-communist supporters of the lower and middle classes) sure are happy to see Democrats in such a strong position. But that doesn't mean we've got nothing to worry about. Take this article, published originally in the Nation and reposted by It's been in the news for months that corporate money was being drawn from the Republicans to the Democrats seemingly by osmosis. Fortune even listed Hillary as being the top recipient of any candidate of any party at the start of the primaries. However, this is the first article I've seen that asks the question of what this will cost us. How good can it be to have the Dems as deep in corporate pockets as Neo-cons? 

Begin forwarded message:
Date: June 10, 2008 1:27:08 PM EDT
Subject: Bluewashing: Corporate Money Tries to Buy a Democratic Race
Source: » Headlines07

We all know about greenwashing, the term activists developed to describe deceptive corporate practice of claiming that self-serving policies and harmful products are somehow good for the environment. Well, perhaps in this year of political change, when polls suggest that Democrats ranks will swell in the House and Senate, it is time to come up [...]

Read more…

This is why...

I've never had a problem with Israel's existence. What I can't stand
is the still flouted myth that Israel is the victim in the on-going
crisis. The following report by Reuters clearly shows masked men
attacking Palestinians in the West Bank, apparently coming from one of
the quasi-legal settlements in the occupied territories. While it is
not the official policy of Israel, clearly it is the policy of some of
the Israeli people to drive all Palestinians off of their land.

In case the video doesn't work, the link

Bruno blasts Paterson's proposed school tax cap --

This is interesting. After finding himself in the awkward position of
being a Republican resisting a tax break, big Joe Bruno of the NY
Senate managed to find a rhetorical loophole to wriggle through.
Newsday reports that Bruno opposed the governor's plan "to cap at 4
percent yearly increases in school property taxes, saying he wants to
cut them, not slow their growth. "

Well isn't that convenient? Let's see how that one plays with the press.,0,7817258.story

This is amusing. :S

This is the kind of thing that drives me batty. When the Mayor is
demanding a minimum 7% cut in all city services, a judge, who is
little more than a well connected lawyer, would have the audacity to
do this?!?

From the WSJ:

"Checks and Judicial Balances
June 14, 2008; Page A10

Here's a weekend daydream: What if on Monday, you walked into work and
gave yourself a raise? That's what happened in New York this week,
when a state judge ordered the Governor and state legislature to pony
up bigger paychecks for him and the rest of his judicial friends. It's
the perfect plan – if only it weren't for that inconvenient detail
about separation of powers.

The ruling, by New York Supreme Court Justice Edward Lehner, commands
the state Senate and Assembly to pass a pay raise for judges in the
next 90 days – and make some provision to retroactively compensate
them for the lean years. The four plaintiffs in the suit suggested
$600,000 each would do the trick. Multiplied out for the entire New
York Judiciary, that would put New York taxpayers on the line for $700

New York Governor David Paterson was unamused. Only the state
legislature has the power to set judicial salaries, his office rightly
pointed out in a statement. The judge's decision "flies in the face of
the state constitution."

There's more where that came from. Still pending before Judge Lehner
is a separate suit brought by New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye,
who has retained New York attorney Bernard Nussbaum to sue the
Governor and legislature for a raise for all 3,000 New York judges.
Judge Lehner will thus be expected to rule in a case in which he is
effectively a plaintiff, and in which he is also judging a complaint
by his judicial superior.

The suits are necessary, say the judges, because legislators will
raise their salaries only when they also raise their own, a fact which
has left paychecks unaltered for a decade. That, in Judge Lehner's
words, represents an "unconstitutional interference upon the
independence of the judiciary." After a decade of inflation, judges
say their salaries have been effectively cut – something which is
prohibited by law.

At those rates, they say they now make less than what's pocketed by
first-year associates at big law firms. But few would consider their
salaries fodder for Oliver Twist. Chief Judge Kaye makes the most, at
$156,000 a year, while others earn about $136,700. By comparison,
Members of the U.S. Congress now make $169,300 a year. A memorandum of
law filed on behalf of Governor Paterson and state Assembly Speaker
Sheldon Silver in Judge Kaye's case notes that judges are already
extremely well paid relative to the state workforce.

We have some sympathy for the judges, most of whom could make far more
in private life. But then they also have extended tenure. To attract
better people to the bench, we'd be willing to swap higher pay for
term limits. New York judges may have a legitimate complaint about
salary erosion, but they are exceeding their own legal authority by
asserting the right to overrule the elected branches and set their own
pay – about as basic a legislative function as one can imagine.

Most judges choose their robes not for the salary but for the honor
and significant authority, and, dare we say, the chance to serve the
public. The hours are good, the work is interesting and they don't
suffer the indignities of work life that are routine for the first-
year associates whose salaries trump theirs. That, as they say, is

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The indispensable lady

Supporters of Hil should take some heart even after her apparent loss, because for at least the next two months, Hillary Clinton will own the Democratic party.  It was the inevitable outcome of such a long and bitter race that whomever came out as the loser would still be in an indispensable position. Hil is now the key to uniting the party. The press knows it, Obama knows it and you can bet your sugar cookies she does too. The question will be, what will give-em-hell Hillary do with this window of opportunity. For no matter what happens, you can be assured she will come out with one hell of a consolation prize for her monumental efforts.

- S. Frog