micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links
Welcome to the musings and notes of a Cadillac, Michigan based writer named Micah Holmquist, who is bothered by his own sarcasm.
Please send him email at email@example.com.
Holmquist's full archives are listed here.
Sites Holmquist trys, and often fails, to go no more than a couple of days without visiting (some of which Holmquist regularly swipes links from without attribution)
Blogs that for one reason or another Holmquist would like to read on at least something of a regular basis (always in development)
Thursday, October 31, 2002
I hope everyone is having, will have or had a great Halloween. It is to me the greatest mass American holiday.
All of the others have their downsides. I love stuffing and squash and Thanksgiving has lead to great episodes of Mad About You and The Simpsons but the day always seems stressful. Christmas is great and has lead to two great episodes of The Simpsons except that I have a hard time not telling people what I’ve bought them and the sacred/secular nature is often awkward. I don’t need an excuse to watch football so New Year’s doesn’t mean that much to me. Valentines Day can be o.k. and lead to the sad tale of Ralph Wiggum’s love for Lisa Simpson but I have never been in anything approaching a serious romantic relationship and so it often brings me down. (Last year I did get a heart-shaped tin from my mom that featured Curious George asking me if I would be his Valentine. I of course said yes.) Easter eggs are o.k. but that is primarily a religious holiday and should stay that way. Nobody remembers what Memorial Day and Labor Day are about, although they do remember that they don’t remember and fireworks might be cool but I have a hard time feeling patriotic given what the U.S. military has done, continues to do and probably soon will do.
Halloween in my not exactly humble opinion has many positive and none of the negatives. It leads to a great episode of The Simpsons each year and it is always great to dress up, see others who are dressed up and play make believe. There are the pumpkins to carve and the decorations to hang. Then there is the candy. I’m not recommending eating it all of the time but once and while it is fun to overdo it. Nobody should forget the musical classic “Monster Mash” and dopey “scary” stories but perhaps what I love most about Halloween is seeing young children being escorted by one of their parents. (If I see two parents, or at least two parental looking figures, I have to wonder who is holding down the home fort and that makes me sad.) I don’t know why but that sight always warms my heart. That and how few relatives I usually see.
I guess what I am trying to say is that what I value about Halloween is not the “horror” and “scary” aspect. Sorry but in a world with Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush and weapons of mass destruction, a ten year old boy with wax fangs and make-up designed to look like blood doesn’t scare me. Actually few things scare me as much as the people who know that Saddam Hussein is about to attack the United States because he is a “bad guy” and because their president has said he might attack the U.S. but who at the same time are confident that Bush needn’t worry about taking too much time in launching a military strike.
No Halloween isn’t about fear of chills, it is about fun, most notably the fun of trick or treating. Here are some tips or rather instructions:
-If you have a dwelling that is accessible by ghosts and goblins and have the appropriate level of respect for the 700 Club, it is your civic duty to hand out stuff –more on that in second- to trick or treaters on Halloween night. If you are going through economic hardships, save up. Having items for trick or treaters is far more important than voting or any of the other activities that people who write newspapers, talk on the radio and appear on the television constantly implore us to do.
-Candy is the preferred currency of Halloween but commercially packaged dried fruit, soda pop, bags of chips, cookies, fruit snacks or pretzels, finger monsters and pencils with some neat design on them are acceptable. Unacceptable are apples and other food products without a commercial package, plastic bags with a currency of a value than that of 50 U.S. pennies, yellow pencils and religious tracts.
-If you are handing out candy you should at the very least have a jack-o-lantern or two, spooky music or lights or at least something to be in the spirit. But if you have any sense of self-respect you will at least have a novelty Halloween piece of apparel on.
-So long as you are not married, are not a parent and have insured that trick or treaters at your dwelling will not leave empty-handed, you have a right to go to trick or treating so long as you have something approaching a costume. If you are really lame, wear a duffle bag on your head. I’m not sure what exactly that constitutes dressing up as but it does count.
-If you are trick or treating and don’t say “trick or treat” when you approach someone while looking for loot, you deserve none. Always say “trick or treat.” “Thank You!”’s and “Happy Halloween!”’s are appreciated and should be said once you have received the treat but in all honesty they are far less important than saying “trick or treat.”
-If you are a trick or treater, don’t complain about you received to anybody. Any trick or treater worth her or his candy should hit so many houses that you will undoubtedly run into some lame items.
-Do go trick or treating in residential streets beginning no more than an hour before sundown and going to as late you can.
-If you are old enough to trick or treat without parental supervision, do plan out your group or solo route beforehand and plan to hit many neighborhoods. Also, if you run into people who are talkative about what they have gotten so far in the evening, you should exchange information. Also if you have to report to parents, make sure you can schedule at least an hour or two to binge on candy away from them.
-And I suppose I should say that you check to make sure there is nothing dangerous in any your items or something. I don’t mean to make light of this problem and in fact do see it as serious to the extent that it exists. Anybody who uses the traditions of Halloween to harm trick or treaters is only quantitatively better than those who have used sanctions and military action to kill who knows how many innocent Iraqis.
Doing the above things isn’t a nice touch; they are things that keep Halloween, and really society, functioning.
Jeff Smoker's suspension is fueling all sorts of rumors, reports The Lansing State Journal.
Tinted windows don't mean nothing They know who's inside"
I'm not a big fan of rap and would estimate that I only have less than two dozen cds of that genre. A clear pluarity, if not most, of those are by Public Enemy but the first group that got me into rap was Run-DMC. In June of 1988 I bought a copy of their 1986 recording Raising Hell and enjoy it quite a bit. The rapping made it into something very esoteric for me while at the same time the music was rock oriented enough so that it seemed accessible. Of coure that didn't turn me on to hip-hop and it was nine years before Spearhead got me listening to the genre on any serious level.
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Two Michigan State football players have quit. The season keeps getting worse.
Richard Goldstein has a fun piece in this week's Village Voice entitled "Neohawks: Leftists Who Love the War Too Much."
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Iraq vs. Israel mano a mano?
"If Iraq attacks Israel tomorrow, I would assume the Prime Minister would respond. He's got -- he's got a desire to defend himself," said U.S. President George W. Bush in an October 16 press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the White House.
"If attacked by Iraq with nonconventional weapons, including biological and chemical materials, Israel will 'exercise its right to self-defense,' [Israeli] Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned yesterday," writes Nina Gilbert in yesterday's edition of the Jerusalem Post.
Whenever this topic comes up there seems to be an assumption that combat between the Iraq and Israel with the U.S. on the sidelines is a real possibility. But how likely is such a situation?
If Iraq were to attack Israel 45 minutes from now, Israel would no doubt respond but it seems unlikely that the U.S. wouldn't get into the game. At the very least the U.S. would provide Israel with military advisors and more likely than not President Bush would view this and the final piece of the puzzle needed to go to war with Iraq. His arguments could be two-fold. There would be the practical argument that the U.S. is on a course to go to war with Iraq as it is and now that Iraq is fighting our close ally we might as well get involved if only to help prevent greater damage being done to Israel. Secondly, if Iraq attacked Israel with nonconventioanl weapons, Bush could present this as further proof that the U.S. has to install a new regime in Iraq in order to avoid being attacked by Iraq. Bush's position that "we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud" would appear to be on more solid ground if Iraq were to use weapons of mass destruction against another country, paritcularly an ally of the U.S. such as Israel, and popular support for the endeavor would likely increase significantly. Bush already has congressional authority to wage war against Iraq and an Iraqi attack of Israel would likely be the perfrect scenario to set up a war.
And Israel would want the U.S. to get involved both because of the U.S. military might and because the ability of Israel to install a new government in Iraq that countries like Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia would be anything but very hostile to is probably less than nil. Because the U.S. has far closer ties to those countries and is not a state for Jewish people, Uncle Sam would be far more effective in that area.
Leaving that scenario aside, let's say Bush gets this show on the road and attacks Iraq without Iraq first attacking Israel but during the fighting Iraq does strike Israel. Israel would no doubt get involved but they would almost certainly be working with the U.S. If two countries are close allies and have a common enemy that they are both waging war against, it doesn't take a diplomat to see which way the strategy meetings go. The two countries would work together if only to increase the effectiveness of each military's actions and avoid hits by "friendly fire."
UPDATE: I am an idiot and originally titled this entry "Iraq vs. Israel mono y mono?" 6:02 p.m. 10/29/02.
The poorly titled "David Horowitz’s response to 'Can I get a Clarification (or two)?' and 'Does David Horowitz want Harry Belafonte Deported?'" is my latest contribution to HorowitzWatch.
Monday, October 28, 2002
The "coaches and media" have picked Michigan State to be atop of the Big Ten in men's basketball.
Traditionally coaches and players consider being picked to win even more important than winning the conference.
Sunday, October 27, 2002
I just posted "Does David Horowitz want Harry Belafonte Deported?" on HorowitzWatch.
My beloved Spartans scored 21 points to Wisconsin’s 14 in the second half of yesterday’s game.
Of course it should be noted that MSU was down 28-3 at halftime and thus lost the game, 42-24.
With a 3-5 record and 4 games left, the Michigan State football team still has a dim shot at a winning record and a bowl game but I don’t see it happening. I think it is possible that the offensive will somewhat get its act together but I doubt it will have much of a running attack and so the overall struggles will continue. The defense, however, is likely to continue giving up lots of points. As I alluded to on Friday, my hope is that MSU will try to get the right coaches to improve its defense over the off season. A team with a mediocre offense and a defense that doesn’t give up more than 15 or 20 points and which causes turnovers would probably do a lot better than this squad.
And I should also note that next week the Spartans play intrastate rivals Michigan –a school I attended oddly enough- in Ann Arbor. They haven’t won there since 1990 and it doesn’t look like this year this end that trend, but if they do they will have won 5 out of the last 10 meetings with the Wolverines. I don’t know this for sure but my hunch is that MSU has played as well against Michigan over the last 10 or 15 years as any Big Ten school.
(By the way my Spartan fandom has lead Douglas Anders to dedicate a post to me. Although I am jealous that he is Fozzie while I am Rowlf, I do want to thank Douglas for usually sending a half dozen or so people my way every day. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much but day in and day out I receive more hits from him than any other source. And then there is the great blog he runs. I’m especially fond of his post on the job of children.)
And yes listened to most of the game as my cousin’s wedding reception was going on as I said I would probably do yesterday. The affair had the atmosphere of the wedding reception in Riding in Cars with Boys but without the family drama or Drew but with a lot of Keith Whitley songs. Make of that what you will.
I did have on revelation about music that makes me rethink some of yesterday’s comments. For many, perhaps most, people music is something they enjoy but which they aren’t compelled to think about constantly. I, on the other hand, do think about it constantly and thus I am critical of the mediocrity and blandness that I see regularly. I want music that challenges me intellectually and/or makes an emotional connection with me. Many people, particularly those who program and enjoy the music played at every wedding reception I’ve ever been to, just want something fun and to create some background noise.
“Love Shack” by the B52’s is an appropriate example of how this plays out. When I hear “Bang Bang on the Door Baby” towards the end, I can’t help but think that there is some dark implication even if I have no idea what it is. The people I saw dancing to it last night saw this section as a time to slow down their joyous dancing.
I am not trying to say that my appreciation of music is better than theirs but only that it is very different. At the same time, I figure there are probably many people who can just let ago and enjoy music at social setting who do get into music on a deeper level on other occasions. For better or worse, I just don’t seem to be able do that.
Saturday, October 26, 2002
Tomorrow afternoon -that is Saturday afternoon so technically this afternoon- one of my nine cousins will be getting married and, for better or worse, I will be attending the wedding and reception. This will be the sixth cousin I've seen get married.
I really dislike wedding for their worth and this one will be interesting. The main course at the reception will be roasted pork, which is just another way of the family saying, "Except for Micah, we don't know anybody who doesn't eat meat or has come into contact with one of those Jews or Muslims."
But that's all stuff I'm used to. What really upsets me is that MSU plays Wisconsin tomorrow evening at 7 and seeing the team at some stage of its annual meltdown -I'd like to be optimistic about the game but I'm not- is of course more important than any wedding. (I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time "going for a walk" by sitting in an automobile listening to the radio.) Why I will bother to show up is something I really wonder about.
But enough of my personal problems, let's talking about wedding reception music. Lost in the barrage of bad music played by the likes of Garth Brooks and Journey is what really distinguishes the music played at weddings. Namely the fact that songs have to be in a verse-chorus-verse-we-are-getting-a-little-daring-so-here-is-a-bridge format and can not be ballads about lost love or songs of any style that are overtly about anything serious. The first qualification takes out a lot of interesting music but is understandable and doesn't necessairly doom the evening. But the lyrical qualifications eliminate much, if not most, of the best music in that does meet the first criteria. So what you end up with is relatively slim pickings for a DJ to play. Still there are probably 3-4 hours of good pop love and novelty songs but what ends up killing the whole project -at least for me- is that every DJ I've ever heard operate at a wedding has middling tastes akin to those who program country music radio today. (That may be the harshest insult I can delve out to a person's musical tastes.) They don't know the good stuff from the bad stuff and want to snuff out anything that has an edge, not matter how dull that edge has become by this point.
The results aren't pretty but then again neither are two people jamming cake into each other's mouthes.
Friday, October 25, 2002
I want to thank Mike Moore -no not that one- for posting a permalink to me on his blog. One day I will figure out how to do permalinks.
Yesterday's edition of The Oregonian features an interesting article by Clifton R. Chestnut about students, instructors and community members who are uncomfortable with Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn being taught in public high schools of Portland, Oregon because the word "nigger" is used in it.
I gather from the article that some think the book shouldn't be used at all for this reason while others think instructors should be better trained to handle the topic.
Since I consider the book to be one of the truely great works of fiction ever and anti-racist in its message -especially the ending which takes a very cynical and critical look at the end of Reconstruction-, I no doubt think it should be taught but I also have no trouble with making sure that instructors are addressing the concerns of students with this book or any other. In fact, I believe that if that doesn't happen then far too many students will not grapple with the ideas contained in the text because doing so is more difficult than not doing so because they don't like a word.
Maybe the greatest compliment that can be paid to the late Paul Wellstone's political career is that nobody is likely to blame his death on terrorists.
MAD is 50!
I have nothing to say about Jeff Smoker being suspened and I think the speculation that is going on is pointless.
Thursday, October 24, 2002
Glenn Reynolds writes:
I'm off to teach in a few minutes, but the IndePundit is updating steadily. And so is Jim Henley, who is calling former Gulf War soldier Muhammad the "black Tim McVeigh." Though that would be the black, Islamic, Tim McVeigh. Does this add to the credibility of claims that McVeigh's anti-Americanism had Iraqi connections?LMAO
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
I have my doubts about the allegations that Iraqi agents and a man with ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization were involved in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City but my doubts stem mainly from logical questions as I haven't studied or thought about the evidence much. But it does seem fairly clear to me that Attorney General John Ashcroft and members of Congress are only seriously considering the possibility because of a certain war that a certain elected official wants to wage.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
I am by no means endorsing it but I feel the need to mention that firebobbywilliams.com exists and is worth a gander if you care about Michigan State football.
Monday, October 21, 2002
Gary Trudeau has taken a look at blogging.
Before people start complaining that Trudeau is just an old fossil who can't keep up with times -which may or may not be true- and will soon be out of work due to the blogosphere, just ask yourself if it would be appropriate for Doonesbury to feature a cartoon about how great bloggers are?
Rock music isn't very political these days, writes Dorian Lynskey in Friday's Guardian. (Thanks to Cursor for the link.)
Lynskey only looks at mainstream music but I believe the general point is true that there isn't a whole of music of any genre that reflects the current times in style or topicality. Then again maybe I'm just listening to the wrong music.)
Earlier this year Jeff Chang wrote about this in "Is Protest Music Dead?" as did I in "Response to Jeff Chang's 'Is Protest Music Dead?'" Chang, who did send me a thoughtful response via email, writes far more eloquently than me but I do believe my entry makes some good points about what the American public has been told is its responsibility in the "war on terror" and about what impact musicians could have the public's mood:
Perhaps it is necessary to try to imagine what musicians of any stripe could do to create opposition to the war. Let’s say a bunch of punk rockers and underground rappers read your piece and decide to speak out against the war. Would that make a difference? Let’s say that the likes of Alan Jackson, Jay Z, Paul McCartney and System of a Down come out against the war and start playing anti-war concerts. They would probably drag in a few converts but my guess is they would see their popularity plummet and be laughed at out of touch “artists.” The first question would asked be of them would be what do they the U.S. should do to fight terrorism Since no anti-war intellectual has an answer to this question palatable to the public, I find it hard to imagine these performers would.Although not exactly the same, many Hollywood stars have criticized the drive for war against Iraq and if what assumes that the critical reaction to these actors is similar to what musicians would receive, and I believe it is, then it is clear that musicians wouldn't have much impact on the public's support, or lack of support, for attacking Iraq.
In the February 1999 issue of Rock & Rap Confidential Dave Marsh wrote a piece about how musicians are expected to carry too much of the weight of political movements these days. His observations are on the money, although what really stands out to me is not something that Marsh says but rather something that he implies; Musicians will begin to be a force for change when there is a larger movement for change that does not involve musicians.
I was going to suggest that you click here to see how many dollars television stations in your area are getting for political ads but I a look at the Michigan page doesn't reveal any of the local stations in my area so I am a bit disappointed. Still it will probably work for most major markets.
Mark Shields makes a good point in his October 15 column:
If you need further proof of the complete separation of the people in power in Washington from the people at peril in the Persian Gulf, just consider this:Shields does note that a few members of Congress do have children who are officers but also says, "In 2002, the American Establishment—political, economic and journalistic—has no personal stake in the men and women who defend the United States."
Shields alludes to how a draft has a democratic elements in that it forces people to defend the country. What he doesn't say is that the draft in the U.S. did not take equally from all racial, geographic and economic groups -with you know who getting the short end of the stick- but any form of the draft is likely to make war "more real" for substantial parts of population. Part of me has a a hard time believing that there would be so little opposition to President Bush's war without end against a concept if the military was not made up exclusively of volunteers as it is now.
This isn't an argument for the draft -I certainly don't want to go fight Bush's wars and I have respect for the argument that if a military can not get enough volunteers then perhaps the country should change its actions and/or it deserves to fall- and I don't mean to say that only those who have served in the military should comment on what the military does -a quick look at this blog shows I certainly don't believe that-, but I don't see how any moral person could at least not have some reservations about ordering other people to go, kill and perhaps die for a cause if he or she has specifically avoided being in a position where he or she might do the same. (And if you are, like me, a U.S. citizen who turned 18 after the abolition of the draft and have not served in the military, you have avoided military service.)
Thanks to a link from Benjamin Kepple, a quiz has told me:
Funny I always thought of myself as Fozzie The Bear.
BTW, my parents have told me that when I was growing up, before I reached school, that I didn't consider an evening complete unless I had watched The Muppet Show and one of them had read to me for about half an hour.
I was a lucky child.
Bob Novak didn't like it when I invited Douglas Anders into the Anti-American Poker League of Subversives largely because he felt people would think Al Bundy belonged but I believe Anders' "In Praise of Monkey-Wrenching" justifies my decision.
Anders, a respectable and upstanding member of the community of Toledo, Ohio and a responsible father of a young child named Gabe and who actually prioritizes caring for Gabe above blogging, admits to smiling at anti-American vandalism and having participated in some of it himself.
Saturday, October 19, 2002
Minnesota defeated my beloved Spartans, 28-7, today in East Lansing.
MSU played as pitifully as head coach Bobby Williams looks.
With a 3-4 record and five games remaining, it is theoretically too early to give up on this team but I don’t see any reason to think they are going to turn things around. The games are played for a reason, however, and I remember the 1988 team that started 0-4-1 and finished 6-5-1.
Friday, October 18, 2002
being noticed is good. being appreciated is even better
Monday one individual or a group of individuals decided to do a pre-emptive strike against the U.S. but lacking the firepower of the U.S. military, this individual or group didn't bomb the White House and instead setteled for setting two military vehicles on fire and spraypainting "Pre-emptive Attack" on a military recruiting center in San Jose, California.
Adam Stevens apparently didn't like this, saying it has become "clear that the anti-American leftists having lost in Congress are now going to try to attack America in other words including by attacking our military. This is war and we must fight back!"
Stevens goes on to write:
I have assembled a list of traitors who should be looked into to see if they are leading the treasonous anti-war movement. I am sure there are more and FReepers should add to the list. If these people have done nothing more than spwe their anti-American garabage, they should not be punished of course but if they are leading the anti-American movements attempt to weaken this country by attacking our military as many of htem probably are then they should be treated as harshly as possible.While I dread the thought of a duet between Steve Earle and Barbra Streisand -actually I just dread Streisand outside of Yentl, which I thought was a funny movie-, it is an honor to be be on the same list as many of these people. In particular I would like to note the inclusion of my fellow bloggers Douglas Anders, Les Dabney and Lisa English. Lisa hasn't commented on the list as far as I can tell while Douglas seems to have the right attitude of viewing his inclusion as a "badge of honor." Les has expressed some concern about being on the list but from my experience with FReepers the most he should get is some hate mail. I certainly hope that no law enforcement agency looks to posters on freerepublic.com to see who to investigate.
The most interesting name on the list to me is Dave Douglas, who is a tremendous composer and trumpeter and has made critical statements about U.S. foreign policy. Still I'd be suprised if too many FReepers knew about him. When I went to the freerepublic.com posting of my piece "Dave Douglas at the HotHouse!," I see Stevens has commented on it and actually knows something about Douglas' frequent collaborator John Zorn, although it should be noted that it is not clear if Zorn's zionism is political as well as cultural.
Next I checked Stevens' profile and guest what? He says he lives in Cadillac, Michigan -that is the same town I live in. I am suprised that there is a persion in Cadillac besides me who knows who Douglas and Zorn but I find it very hard to believe that such a persion would also be an authoritarian right-winger. Then again Stevens does say he doesn't like Zorn's music.
Smarter Sullivan noted the list and then complimented me, writing "Micah Holmquist is a pretty darn funny guy" -a pretty darn good compliment even if not quite up to the level of "You are the goofiest guy I have ever met"- and then quoting Tuesday's post where I ridiculed Andrew Sullivan.
As for the list itself, it is nearly accurate. I am in fact the host of the Anti-American Poker League of Subversives. We meet each week on a night I prefer to not tell my public and all of the people in the list above are invited, even if only 4 or 5 show up each week. Still Stevens has missed out on our most frequent member, the only guy besides me who shows up each week, Joe Pesci. We met Pesci through Marisa Tomei, who I believe met him while shooting My Cousin Vinny. I like Pesci for a variety of reason including his rambling comments about Humprey Bogart movies that he doesn't know the name of and shooting punk bartenders. But most importantly he brings those delightful pictures of dogs.
Thursday, October 17, 2002
Can you say hypocrisy?
The Bush Administration does not believe China or India have the right to launch pre-emptive strikes, reports The Times of India.
If the U.S. acts in a way that it says other countries shouldn't and works to prohibit other countries from acting in that manner -as it does with weapons of mass destruction-, then the U.S. is insuring that it will correctly be known as hedgemonic power that presides over an unjust world.
North Korea says it has nuclear weapons.
If history has taught us anything, North Korea will now begin attacking the U.S. of A. with their nukes just like every other country that has ever come to posses nuclear weapons has done.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
conquering Iraq is now officially a possibility
President Bush has signed the congressional resolution that gives the OK to war with Iraq.
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Someone should explain to Andrew Sullivan that the world does not consist of one good team and one bad team. But if it did, Sullivan would make a pretty good fan of the good team and would attend every game, scream at the top of his lungs and wave one of those foam number one hands in the air. He might even paint his face.
MSU back-up quarterback Damon Dowdell says he wants to play more.
some long sentences about Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the USA,” “My City of Ruins” and people who can’t see things as having more than one quality
"The highlight for me, however," writes Eric Alterman about yesterday's Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band performance in Paris, "was the searing 'Born in the USA,' restored to its rock ‘n roll roots and placed — as far as one could tell — as a warning against war in Iraq. But it also seemed to be a cry of patriotic solidarity with the men and women about to have their lives ended — or at least badly messed up there. Perhaps this is conjecture on my part."
"Born in the USA" is one of my favorite Springsteen songs and probably second only to "American Skin" in terms of his post-River songs but also a song that is sometimes hard for me to like because how is has been misunderstood. Last year, on September 14, I walked into a convenience store in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago and heard it blasting over the speakers. With all the patriotic fervor running through the air at the time, I couldn't help but think, "Its been 17 years and most people still have no idea what this song is about."
And yet at the same time the song seemed strangely perfect for the situation. Most Americans refused to think that 9-11 was anything but an unprovoked attack and left the darkside of U.S. foreign policy out of their minds. They were not looking any deeper than the surface and what they wanted to believe.
Similarly, many people have heard "Born in the USA," wanted to believe it was a patriotic song and thus done so in spite of the lyrics -lyrics that prompted the webmaster of Country Gold USA to write, "this is NOT a patriotic song"-, which decry economic inequality in the United States and American military aggression in Vietnam. These people look at the surface of "Born in the USA" and see what they want to believe.
Whatever the reaction of audiences -Alterman says the French audience dug last night's version-, it is good to see that Springsteen is back rocking out with "Born in the USA." For several years he has usually performed it acoustically as a slow blues, with the point being to prevent the bombast from overshadowing the lyrics. It was a noble effort but made for a less powerful song and I doubt changed many people's minds about the song. Those who want to hear the message will hear its rock version. Those who want it to be a patriotic song will probably cling to that belief as long as they can, just like most of the all too many people who want to believe America can do no wrong in the world -most of whom are Americans but not all, witness Andrew Sullivan recently calling America "the anti-imperialist hegemon" and saying Bush's "current war proposal is, if anything, explicitly anti-imperialist"- will believe that as long as they can.
Springsteen shouldn’t get the blame for how “Born in the USA” has been misconstrued but he does deserve it for the recasting of “My City of Ruins.” Originally the song was ballad about urban decay in Asbury Park and a call for redemption and revitalization. As I’ve previously noted, Springsteen performed it last year on September 21 on a televised concert aiming to raise money for the victims of the terrorist attacks that occurred ten days earlier and let most of the audience believe that the song was not about the internal problems of the U.S. but rather the terrorists attacks.
And on his recent album The Rising, which was largely written in response to 9-11, Springsteen once again allows this happen by placing it as the fifteenth and final track. The version, like the rest of the album, is fine and rather moving, and I don’t want to dispute that music like all works of art can take on different meanings –a good example of this being Dave Douglas’ Witness album which I discussed in “Dave Douglas Live at the HotHouse!”- but I’m uncomfortable with this example because it seems to fall all too closely into what Americans want to believe about themselves.
The fact that many people such as firefighters and other rescue workers reacted heroically to 9-11 is probably second only to ignorance as an explanation for why many people to this day refuse to see the terrorist attacks of that day as a response to anything that the U.S. government has done. Beneath this is a way of looking at the world the refuses to see nuances. The U.S., in my opinion, has more than many positive qualities and wonderful people. It is also my opinion that the U.S. has a brutal foreign policy that is unjust to the core. I see these qualities existing side by side in a manner so easy it is worrisome and yet I feel a great number of people are unable to see two qualities like this existing simultaneously. They want to see the good and not the bad in America and so they latch on to very real examples of the good as way to denying the existence of the bad. This isn’t logic and it certainly isn’t logical but it is very prevalent in the U.S.
Springsteen isn’t responsible for this nor could he put an end to it, but he could challenge his audience and not allow “My City of Ruins” to perpetuate this problem as it does now. By refusing to regularly and consistently tell audiences that the song is about urban decay and not 9-11, Springsteen gives the public one more opportunity to believe that America can do no wrong and that all of its problems stem from outsiders, who of course we need to go to war against.
This is a major blemish on The Rising, which on the whole is an excellent album and easily Springsteen’s best since The River -which is the greatest rock and roll album ever, by the way-, and quite disappointing coming from the writer of “Born in the USA.”
"Recent suicide bombing attacks and plots against Westerners show that al Qaeda loyalists are heeding their weakened leadership's call to initiate a new terror campaign using rudimentary, smaller-scale operations aimed at creating economic hardship, according to U.S., Western and Arab intelligence officials and experts," write Peter Finn and Dana Priest in today's Washington Post.
Few of these "officials and experts" are named or directly quoted and I wonder if this is a case of looking at what is being done and not having the facts lead to an explanation, so the explanation posited is merely one that the facts don't disprove. That is a logical step to take but if you are doing that, you really should look at all of the possible explanations that the facts don't disprove and acknowledge that you don't know the answer.
Later in the story, Finn and Priest describe al Quaeda's attacks till the aftermath of 9-11:
Up to and including Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda's signature actions were elaborately planned and centrally controlled -- the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, the attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 and the suicide airliner hijackings that struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- and all of them took months or years to plan.This is a plausible and likely scenario but the similarities between these two phases of attacks might be more important than the differences. The attacks mentioned above were not designed to cause a maximum number of causalities -prior to September 11, 2001 it would have been far easier to walk into many a professional or college sports stadium during a game and detonate a bomb than hijacking planes and crashing them into buildings, and it most likely would have resulted in a higher number of deaths- but rather to strike targets with symbolic value.
Saturday’s bombing in Bali might not seem to have much symbolic value but it is possible that the target was perceived decadence in the nightclub and/or to announce and make clear to everyone that al Qaeda is active in Indonesia. Whatever the case, the attack was not the most effective way to kill large numbers of people and it is unclear how this puts a tremendous damper on the Indonesian economy as the “officials and experts” want to suggest. All of the other relatively minor attacks seem to follow this pattern and in relatively open societies it is still very possible, with the right explosives, to cause many thousands of deaths by targeting a crowded gathering.
Finally, it is important to note that al Qaeda hasn’t always moved at the fastest of clips. It is perfectly possible that another one of their “signature actions” is in the works and these smaller attacks just represent an escalation of their actions.
Click here for the Department of Defense's informative spin on its Cold War chemical and biological warfare tests.
The Department of Defense says the ground-based midcourse defense system -one of the "star wars" weapons systems- has tested sucessfully.
Monday, October 14, 2002
Members of the military don't know what the Bush Administration is planning with regards to Iraq, reports Robert Novack in today's Chicago Sun-Times.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants the U.S. to use military force more often.
Memories of a certain report pop into my head.
The Indonesian government is blaiming al Qaida for the Bali bombing, according to the AP.
The story appears at nytimes.com and it is interesting to note the headline refers to "al Qaeda" while in the story it is "al-Qaida." This no doubt stems from different style books and I would like to say that, having no opinion on which spelling is correct, while writing in this blog I use whichever spelling is closer to the material I am interacting with.
David Gonzalez of The New York Times has filed a report on the Cuban Missile Crisis conference that I recently mentioned.
Over at The Times Tim Reid writes:
The Bush Administration stepped up its preparations for war against Iraq yesterday by ordering the deployment of key US Army and Marine Corps battle staff and ground troops to Kuwait.There could be something to this but it could just as easily be a move to keep Iraq worried and to try convince permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to go along with a resolution
I'm not always sure when Neal Pollack is joking in this entry and when he isn't but the whole thing is worth reading.
Sunday, October 13, 2002
Iowa beat my beloved Spartans yesterday, 44-16.
MSU played well except for a period of time that began early in the first quarter after they had taken a 7-0 lead and ended in the third quarter when they were down 44-7.
Saturday, October 12, 2002
"The White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein, senior administration officials said today," write David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt in a New York Times story dated October 10.
John Scalzi writes:
However, it's clear that Dubya wants a war for purposes not related to weapons containment; indeed, his administration is utterly disinterested in that aspect of the Iraq problem, except as a convenient trope to sell the war to inattentive voters. Dubya wants regime change, and I can sympathize. Saddam has been in power a decade longer than he should have been, and I can think of worse uses of the American military than clearing out bad governments around the world. If Dubya said something along the lines of "First we get rid of Saddam, and then we're going to pay a call to Robert Mugabe," well, that's a barricade that I'd be inclined to rush.Scalzi makes it clear in the entry that he doesn't think Bush is primarily interested in removing bad governements around the world and I think he is right about that point. What Bush and company appear to want do, however, is have the U.S. military take out governments that the U.S. government does not like under the guise of removing bad governments, threats to "world peace" -as if that has existed in recorded history- or whatever else they can foist upon a gullible public in the U.S. and the broader world.
This is an empire and those who want to see America defeated are right to feel that way. Their alternatives might be worse than the current situation but that doesn't mean that the current situation is just and should not be changed.
Since my archives show up inconsistently to the left, here they are for May, June, July, August, September and October.
Havana, Cuba is now hosting a conference involving participants in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Bombs Away to Where?
The Project on Government Oversight has recently come across a document where Thomas Christie, Director of Operational Test and Evaluation for the Department of Defense, says the Navy has not done the necessary tests on many of its weapons systems to make sure that they do not hinder a "pilot's ability to locate and strike enemy targets. Both POGO's press release on this find and the document itself are worth reading.
Now that "[satirical] remarks from an American who recently visited Canada" is out my system, this blog will be returning to its irregular schedule and content, although I suspect the thoughts and links will be less frequent. There is nothing like a little time away from the Internet to make on realize that surfing the web is a good thing but can be overdone and probably was being overdone by me as of late.
That said, I want to thank the dozen to a couple dozen or so people who visited this site since Monday. Given the lack of content I found this very heartening. Whether you were one of the handful of longtime readers or just found this log, hopefully you will stick around and keep reading my post.
And all kidding aside, southern Ontario is some of the most beautiful and wonderful land I have ever seen.
Friday, October 11, 2002
[satirical] remarks from an American who recently visited Canada
It has been said many times, by many different people, in many different places and in many different ways that travel broadens one’s perspective and, after a recent visit to Canada, I have to agree. Canada, I found out, is a country literally teeming with people that President George W. Bush is not the President of.
Sure parts of the country have many beautiful pudding stones but I didn’t see any of the substance that Pardoner and Ben Rumson spent their screen lives in search of. And whereas in 1992 a young PEZ container collector named Micah Holmquist found great containers with likenesses not sold in the America like Droopy Dog and Uncle Scrooge, now the same collector found the same PEZs being sold in Canada that he could buy in the U.S. of A. Sure the Canadians can get PEZ flavored popcorn but that is a product almost as bad as it sounds.
And don’t think I was in some anti-American backwater either. No I spent most of my time on St. Joseph Island, a beautiful place where they speak American, can watch All in the Family and Monday Night Football and can even see America from their shores and yet the people there seemed like they wanted to live in Canada, a country that has neither invaded Haiti, Grenada, Somalia, Cuba and Puerto Rico nor bombed Germany, Japan, Vietnam, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Serbia and hopefully a few other countries.
To tell you how strange and twisted this country is, it should be noted that while their media is only slightly less interested in our the affairs of the America than the FOX News Channel and refers to a “War on Terror” without saying that it belongs to us and not them, that on Monday they did not broadcast President Bush’s call to war. There is no excuse for this and quite frankly I think it is time for us to remember the immortal question of Mark Russell, “Do we really trust Canada all that much?”
The answer should be no because it is a country full of people unprepared to defend Freedom. They are unprepared to defend Freedom because they are in fact not free. Sure they can start their own business, say almost anything they want and perhaps soon smoke the cigarettes of hippies and Rastafarians, but they are not free. How else can you explain the fact that their House of Representatives and Senate have not given their President the authority to attack another country without anything more than a weak implication that the country intends harm on Canada?
Monday, October 07, 2002
In about an hour or so I am going to embark on a mini-vacation that will take me through Ontario in search of pudding stones and PEZ containers. As of right now, I have no intention of blogging during this break so irregular updates will not happen for a few days. I will be back soon thought!
Sunday, October 06, 2002
My public should head over to jazzreview.com and read my piece "The String Trio of New York Live In Grand Rapids."
Saturday, October 05, 2002
I just read this post by Andrew Sullivan and while I am not suprised to see that Sullivan thinks the United States and Israel have a right to do things that other countries do not have the right to do, I am once perplexed by how any logical and fair person could hold this opinion.
Can somebody explain to me why the U.S. and/or Israel have a right to nuclear weapons but Iraq does not in a manner that does not involve effectively saying that Americans and/or Israelis are inherently morally superior to Iraqis?
"Bloggers of the Left, Unite!" says James Crabtree, the operator of two interesting blogs, VoxPolitics and theisociety.net. "Get blogging. There is a war to be won."
Crabtree argues that the rightward tilt of the blogosphere strengthens the war on terror. The badly overestimates the influence of bloggers of all political stripes. He gives some sub-issues related to the war on terror that some hawkish bloggers have played up but does not grapple with how U.S. politics on all levels has become more conservative since September 11, 2001. Most of the public in the U.S. supports the war on terror and doesn't care about vanishing civil liberties. Bloggers reflect this trend. They haven't caused it.
Furthermore the way I see it there already is a plethora of lefty blogs and they do unite by linking to one another.(No offense if you weren't linked to. The order of links was based on when your blog popped into this blogger's head. If you would like a link from me, leave a comment.)
Finally, it should be kept in mind that some of the better anti-war blogging has come from antiwar.com and Unqualified Offerings, two libertarian sites, while liberal bloggers like Ken Layne, Josh Marshall and Matt Welch have been hawkish.
UPDATE: In the first version of this entry I said that Layne, Marshall and Welch favored war with Iraq. Jim Henley said that he didn't think Welch had come out in favor of war with Iraq. I checked with Welch about this and it turns out I was wrong and so this post has been changed to say that Layne, Marshall and Welch "have been hawkish," a statement that I feel is supported by the web log posts and articles of the three writers. 12:32 a.m. 10/06/02)
Brendan O'Neill is critical of Bill Clinton and attempts by the Bush Administration to link Iraq and al-Qaeda.
A number of hawkish bloggers have been speculating that a series of shootings in Washington D.C. are "terrorism." Jim Henley has been doing an excellent job of blogging on the story but has not embraced speculation that isn't supported by facts:
MITAL -that's this log- thinks UO is giving the hawks too much credit. This is a group that generally acts as if United Nations resolutions are routinely enforced with the barrel and bayonet and that since before Iraq no country besides the U.S. has ever had weapons of mass destruction it is reasonable to assume Iraq having such weapons spells certain doom unless Uncle Sam conquers Iraq.
Even more importantly, sooner or later these speculating hawks will be right and then they will get to type "Blogosphere 1 Blogless Idiots 0" and have a justification for all future baseless speculations.
Friday, October 04, 2002
The great Ken Loach seems to know what is important and what isn't.
Thursday, October 03, 2002
Over at In These Times, Joshua Schenker reports that human rights abuses are getting worse in China while Frida Berrigan writes about the producers of U.S. weapons who are said to be "hard at work developing futuristic precision weapons that promise to keep Americans even further out of harm’s way: lasers."
"Washington last night revealed its intention to use UN weapons inspections as a possible first step towards a military occupation of Iraq by sending in troops, sealing off 'exclusion zones' and creating secure corridors throughout the country," write Julian Borger, Ewen MacAskill and Ian Black in today's Guardian.
The U.S. has drawn up its own terms under which it says it wants U.N. weapons allowed in Iraq, reports William M. Reilly of the UPI.
For some good laughs and a surrealist meditation on political and military power, I suggest Charlie Chaplin's 1940 film The Great Dictator.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
Click here for text of the proposed "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq" that will likely to be passed.
Click here for the transcript of the news conference given yesterday by members of the Iraqi governement and the United Nations weapons inspections after meetings regarding weapons inspection.
The U.S. is threatening to prevent inspections from even happening.
"The Bush Administration says it has made no decision yet about possible military action against Iraq. But at the Pentagon, there are already signs of an emerging confrontation over Iraq between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the news media," writes Alex Belida of Voice of America News.
Some journalists have formed a group Military Reporters and Editors to try to get around attempts by the Pentagon to control news coverage, reports the Hearst News Service.
Well it appears likely that Congress will give Bush authority to attack Iraq.
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Two days ago Douglas Anders followed up on an entry of his from last Thursday, which was a response to a post of mine from earlier on Thursday, which was response to a September 19 post by Anders, which was a response to a post that I wrote earlier on September 19.
I enjoyed writing the previous sentence almost enough to forget that the thread started when I pointed out that nobody ever acknowledges that Iraq migh want nuclear weapons for defensive purposes.
I appreciate Anders' thoughts on this and I want to thank for explaining far more clearly than I have how it is difficult to classify nuclear weapons as either defensive or offensive weapons.
I do want to make further comments on two matters, only one of which is serious.
In a better world no country or group should have nuclear weapons but that world is nearly as far off as a world where no weapons exist. In this world, I am uncomfortable with any country having those weapons but I oppose the use of force by any country, especially a country with nuclear weapons, to prevent another country from having those weapons or to eliminate another country's nuclear weapons. A dictator in Iraq or some other country could use nuclear weapons but so could a duly elected U.S. President who received over 50% of the pouplar vote. I have yet to see any justifiable system for determining which countries should have nuclear weapons and which shouldn't and so I remain ambivalent on that.
In some ways this just points to the weakness of the United Nations. Previously I've argued that the U.N. has failed to effectively do anything but be a proxy for the U.S. in matters of war and peace. I stand by that and so I don't support the U.N. becoming involved in these matters.
Yes a terrible tragedy could result from nuclear weapons but that is a risk I do not see being eliminated any time soon and so I think we all need to learn to live with it. (I'm sure the Bush Administration recognizes this and is just using this argument as an excuse for military action against Iraq. Why do I believe that they want to attack Iraq and take the country over? More than anything else, I believe they want to do it to show the world, U.S. citizens and even themselves that they can and will take over countries when they view a country as a threat to U.S. dominance.)
On a lighter note, Andes writes, "Rule #1 for happy, stress-free blogging: only link to webloggers stupider than you."
Actually a good rule for life is to surround yourself by people who are inferior to you. For instance for 7 years now I have competed competed in bicycling league with boys aged six and seven. I win most of the time.
Change in Iraq for the sake of change?
Earlier today Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in his daily briefing addressed concerns about the cost of war with Iraq, saying, "The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that."
Right before the end of the press conference, a reporter and Fleischer had the following exchange:
Q Ari, could I just clarify the one bullet line -- is the White House from this podium advocating the assassination of Saddam Hussein by his own people, by his military?I guess it doesn't matter who takes over Iraq and there couldn't possibly be a worse government in that country than the one that exists now.
Seriously, regardless of what you think the U.S. should and shouldn't do with regards to Iraq, it is imprtant to keep in mind that any action or inaction by the U.S. runs the possibility of making things worse.
In an article that has appeared in a number of publications but looks like it originated in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dave Montgomery provides an interesting survey at the weapons that the U.S. military intends to use if war against Iraq expands beyond its current level.
The story is informative, although it could use the voices of some more people, particularly critics of the military, and well worth reading. Still I couldn't help but laught at the title, "Advanced weaponry would be used in strike against Iraq."
Somehow I just assumed that was the case.
Nathan Newman says he was impressed by how the Washington D.C. police acted two years ago in April during anti-IMF/World Bank protests.(Thanks to Phil Leggiere for the link.)
Speaking of Lisa English, do read her recent posts "Tiptoeing through War" and "More Stain-Fighting Power: the marketing of war."
The Village Voice's "The Best of New York 2002" section is up. Each year "The Best of New York" is a great read, whether or not you have any connection to the city.
Actually each week I find lots of good things in the Voice, and I don't know why I don't post links to more of their articles in this log.
I don't know if it made the print edition of not but James Ridgeway has a piece dated September 30 on the efforts of a few congressional Democrats to stall a vote on authorizing Bush to use force against Iraq.
At Newsweek Colin Soloway has an excellent report up about how "Operation Mountain Sweep" and charges of thuggish behavoir on the part of U.S. Army troops in Afghanistan.
"Fighting a full-scale war with Iraq would cost up to $9 billion a month, congressional budget experts said as the Senate prepared to open debate this week on a resolution authorizing President Bush to wage that war," writes Jim Abrams of the AP in a story worth no less than a gander.