Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Alluded-to FISA Post; or, More Fun about Acronyms

So the Democrats in Congress got together with the Republicans in Congress and the Administration (do we have to call them "the Administration", really, when they can't administer their way out of a paper bag? How about-- oh pick your own suitably excremental adjective. I'm busy and sleepy and cranky.) to "reform" (and by reform we mean "gut like a carp") the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (now you know what FISA stands for, at least. Don't let anyone tell you I'm good for nothing.). I am properly outraged by this, and will be donating to the ACLU,possibly the Strange Bedfellows campaign (though those Ron Paul people are a bug, not a feature), and whoever else might make these gutless dolts uncomfortable (Meaning the "Administration", Congressional Democrats, and other gutless dolts to be named later). Yet, despite my high dudgeon, and promising a piece on this, so sure was I of its rantworthiness, I am sleepy and cranky. I am sad and dispirited. Not because I expected much different, not because I now know why it happened (can't find the link, but in some of the reviews of Jane Mayer's latest book-- basically, enough Democrats were briefed on what Bush was "administering", that when the potential for war crimes prosecutions was broached, said Dems came down with acute cover-yer-ass-itis; and a certain sympathy for those poor innocent babes at the helm of our telecommunication playground.), but because it is just so sad that there is no leadership offered in the fine art of saying "enough".

When the Bush spying plans-- like the Bush torture plans (no links here-- do you really need them at this point? The question is not whether spying and torture took place, but whether they're a good thing for the nation or not-- Mithras help us all.)--
were revealed to these leading Democrats, somebody should have squealed (I would pick Jay Rockefeller-- he's old, led a rich full life, he's got more money than Zeus so he could get great lawyers.). Somebody in the Congressional leadership should have said "we don't do this." Let the chips fall where they may, act like a coequal branch of Government, put on the brakes. Do something, anything. Don't just go "Oh, that's very interesting. Are you sure it's necessary? Oh, then, carry on." Don't let it get to where you have to shred the 4th Amendment to protect your own worthless pustule-flecked cowardly rump. This seems obvious to me, but apparently it's hard for some people to grasp. And just look at the expressions on the faces of Bush and Cheney in the photos as this farce was signed into law-- they literally can't believe they're getting away with it. Again. Those expressions tell me that things didn't have to turn out this way.

But turn out this way they did. A court challenge looms, and I am guardedly hopeful, since the "Administration" has lost every FISA related case under the old law, and hopeless, since most have been turned over on appeal. If you're interested in the differences between the old and new FISA laws, click here. I'm tired and cranky and though busy, feel a need for a good long cry in the shower, ala Elisabeth Shue in "Leaving Las Vegas". And, courtesy Congress and the President, for the same reasons.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Are you Experienced?

I meant to write this one a week or so ago, when the whole Gen. Wesley Clark kerfuffle exploded. As a liberal, a progressive, as someone who hates America's freedoms (just clipped back a little more by the recent Democratic collapse on FISA, about which more later-- doesn't that just whet your appetite, the promise of more writing about an acronym?), as a proud dirty f---ing hippie, you would think that I'd have Clark's back on this. But I do not. Because, after careful consideration and a coupla thirty-seven bottles of Rumpleminze, I realize what this country needs is the foreign affairs experience of John McCain. After eight years of mush-mouthed incompetence by an alcoholic AWOL fighter pilot with daddy issues that make Oedipus look like-- well, pick some healthy father-son relationship from myth or literature, I can't do everything for you! And call your mom, she'd get a kick out of it—anyway, like someone with less-big Daddy issues, America clamors for change. Surely John Sidney McCain III, fourth or fifth generation military, can at least free us from these crippling daddy issues. John McCain and his surrogates tell us that his experience matters. So I'm looking forward to seeing him put it into practice.

I expect McCain to, within a hundred days of being inaugurated, be shot down and tortured by North Korea, Iran, and Russia. I believe that this tour of shoot down and torture diplomacy will increase America's stature in the world, and win for us concessions on oil prices, a further infusion of cash from China, and a twin luge gold at the next Winter Olympics. Sure it will be tough on a seventysomething man, but presidentin', as we know, is hard work. Oh wait, that's not what he's going to do? Sorry, my bad. So he is going to spend 4 hours each in downtown Pyongyang, Tehran and Moscow in a flak vest, surrounded by US armed forces, and pronounce them peaceful, wonderful places to be? No? He'll go to bat for accused financial criminals in North Korea, Iran, Russia? Marry another billionaire liquor heiress while still married to the last one? No again? Okay, now I'm stumped.

I should make absolutely clear that I'm not belittling the horrific suffering McCain underwent at the hands of people he was bombing, nor diminishing his service in a war conducted under false pretenses. But did that experience make him hate war, and stop him from condoning torture? No, and only for a while. (In a true you-can't-make-this-stuff-up moment, McCain's North Vietnamese torturer supports his Presidential bid.). This experience doesn't seem to come from his Washington career, or legislation that he's passed or championed. So where and what is it, and how does it matter? Because the only Presidential experience that matters is getting more votes than the other guy (Some restrictions apply. Presidency not valid if Supreme Court justices with clear conflicts of interest and/or rigid ideologies are allowed to rule on question. Please study history for more sorry, sordid details.). So for my money, the experience question is still up for grabs. For other people's money --a near perfect rating from big business; flip-flopping on immigration, torture, and tax cuts for the rich --you'll have to ask John McCain what his experience means. Just don't be surprised if he says something bad.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Long Playing

If you think I'm the kind of guy who only enjoys translations of what Joe Cocker is laboriously squeezing out of his head while high, think again. My brow has its high side too. I remember when I was a tot, the Beatles' breakup caused me no upset, because Beethoven was my musical main man. I based this, of course, on solidly musical concerns, not (for instance) on the repeated Beethoven references in “Peanuts”, of which I was a slavish devotee; or the idea that nothing really popular could be good (although, then, what was I doing reading “Peanuts”? It must have been for the angst.); or on the fact that liking Beethoven was and remains the quick and easy route to musical snobbery. All of these things, I'm sure, brewed up in my contrarian child's soul, but the fact of the matter is I did (and do) like Beethoven. And my parents had, through luck or design, managed to acquire some first-rate performances and recordings, which I proceeded to grind into dust on their inferior playback equipment. If you asked me to name a favorite musical experience, this one would be near the top, even after all these years: me and my dad making a big bowl of popcorn, turning down the lights, and listening to Rudolf Serkin wail his European way through the Moonlight, Pathetique, and Appassionata sonatas of old Ludwig van, on a much-abused Columbia 6-eye; the radio dial of the stereo our only illumination. Truly lost in the sound, beauty and popcorn alone sustaining us, a forty-five minute step away from the world.
I was thinking about this the other day when I pulled an ancient yet well preserved copy of Walter Gieseking playing the Moonlight and Pathetique, from a cardboard box at the Goodwill. Ninety-nine cents later, it was mine, along with a few others at the same price, thick cardboard and stout vinyl, all mono. I had bested iTunes yet again.
And the sound-- I put it on while cooking dinner, and suffice it to say we had a late dinner. I kept rushing back into the living room, saying out loud “This sounds really good”. Gieseking was hitting on all ten fingers, and the recording just sang-- old enough to probably be done direct to disc, no editing or not much; a true performance, not a tape collage. I don't begrudge people their iPods stuffed with ten thousand songs-- we are busy people, hanging on by a thread, grabbing art sustenance anywhere we have the time-- but when has anyone been struck on their iPod not just by the beauty of the music, but the beauty of the sound? There is something to be said for not taking your music with you, for (at least once in a while) going to your music. The water at the oasis will always be sweeter than the water in your canteen. I had to finish grilling the fish and making a salad, but I kept coming back in at every stage, hungrily absorbing the contents of the disc. And every time I did so, I got a faint buttery taste of popcorn in my mouth.