Thursday, March 30, 2006

Three

1. Check me out at this press conference today speaking on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild. The gist of it is that there was a protest in the Mission last year against the meeting of the G8 in Scotland. The anarchists ran about and some committed petty property crimes. A police car sped into a crowd of folks, both cops inside immediately ran out of their car. One cop tackled one of the protesters; the other cop ran further swinging his baton at people. That second cop was hurt and spent a few days in the hospital. Somehow the Feds got involved and convened a grand jury to subpoena the video shot by Josh Wolf on that day. The NLG wants the grand jury to take a hike.

2. The immigration debate continues. Here is a great piece that's up on a lot of the lefty websites about something I've been saying for a long time - THERE IS NO IMMIGRATION CRISIS.

3. This week radio host Rick Scarborough convened a war on Christians conference. You read that right - a war on Christians - not just Christmas. Wow! In a country, indeed a planet, led by an openly Christian Mr. Bush, where mega-churches broadcast Sunday services on major television stations, and where millions of children pledge to a country "under God" every day, there is a war on Christians? These nuts won't not feel persecuted until homosexuals are banished, public schools force children to pray to Jesus, and the 50 stars on our flag are replaced by Christ on the Cross.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

TERRORIST CELL IN YOUR BACKYARD ... psyche!

Remember the terrorist Al Qaeda cell discovered in Detroit? How about the one just last year in Lodi, California? Check out a couple of stories that came out today related to both:

Ex Prosecutor Accused of Concealing Evidence in Terror Case: "A grand jury charged today that a former federal prosecutor in Detroit who led one of the Justice Department's biggest terrorism investigations concealed critical evidence in the case in an effort to bolster the government's theory that a group of local Muslim men were plotting an attack."

Hazy Case Against Lodi Man: Prosecution rests - terrorism camp evidence murkier than first described.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (CYHSY) in San Francisco

They played at the Great American Music Hall last night with the Brunettes. I wondered if they invited their opening act because of all the hand clapping they did, but I mostly found the Brunettes to be silly. CYHSY, in contrast, was passionate rock. Their live performance was intense and rough around the edges but well-practiced and not at all lazy. They played nearly every song from their first and only album, but also threw in some new tunes that were just as mysteriously catchy - the crowd was instantly anticipating all future albums.

Lead singer, Alec Ounsworth, reminded me of Neil Young, wearing a hat on his head and a harmonica around his neck. His voice is the key to CYHSY's distinctive sound. It isn't as pretty as the voice of whoever won American Idol, but it is so much better. Think David Byrne and Thom Yorke. Add the back up vocals, in songs like "Heavy Metal" or "Is This Love?" and you suddenly have a sort of zero gravity gut feeling built into a vocal melody.

The band rocks hard, which was great in the intimate Great American Music Hall - a near mosh-pit even erupted in the elegant, yet sturdy hall. The stand out song of the evening was "Upon this Tidal Wave of Young Blood" - also one of the best on their album which, it should be mentioned, they released on their own without a major label.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

LAPD: HALF A MILLION MARCH IN L.A. FOR IMMIGRANT RIGHTS

See the story here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

More Immigrant Rights Protests



This photo shows youth walking out of class in Los Angeles, but thousands marched in Wisconsin and Phoenix this week. This follows hundreds of thousands marching in Chicago two weeks ago.

A movement is born in response to the reactionary, racist, xenophobic anti-immigrant legislation by Congressman Sensenbrenner and Senator Bill Frist. There is no border emergency - I've said it many times - except the fact that it is militarized and immigrants are dying trying to cross. Freedom requires a future without borders.

Look for a major protest in Los Angeles this Saturday, and more action over the weekend and into Monday. If you are in San Francisco, come out to the Federal building Monday at 11 a.m. and march to Senator Feinstein's office for a rally and press conference at noon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Belle and Sebastian in San Francisco

The band played at the Concourse last night. This was my 3rd time to see them - the first two were in Austin at the Backyard (a very different venue from the Concourse).

B&S are my favorite band, so my review isn't exactly impartial. Still, I did find some negative things to say about my latest B&S concert experience ...

THE GOOD

The Music: You can call them Indy, but then you have to admit that they are 100 times better than almost every other "Indy" band out there. Their opening act, for example, the New Pornographers, was only mildly interesting, but otherwise the typical generic, poppy, college rockesque stuff. B&S, on the other hand, displayed its wide range from slow introspection to electro-pop to whimsical rock. As usual there were more instruments involved than I could identify, but always a solid guitar and Stuart Murdoch's stellar voice.

Stuart Murdoch's Voice: It's metallic, but not cold, and really powerful.

Stuart Murdoch's Gay Dancing: This was the most queer I've ever seen Stuart. He danced playfully about the whole night and made occasional cheeky comments.

The Songs: They played many of the new songs, most importanty Sukie in the Graveyard, We Are the Sleepyheads, and White Collar Boy. Their best performance was Your Covers Blown - which is one of their best from the Books compilation/album. They also pulled off Electronic Renaissance brilliantly, which I don't know that I've ever heard them play live.

Stevie Jackson: He wore this handsome outfit - a suit and tie - and has really taken his place as the number two man in the band.

THE BAD

The Venue: It was really big and just a flat warehouse with a stage at the narrow end. Why couldn't they have put the stage at one of the wide ends, at least that would have made it easier to see the band. I don't think there was any slope in the floor at all. So it is basically a venue for the people that can make it to the front, or the freakishly tall.

The Price: It was $30 a ticket for this crowded flat-fest. There was Bud Light in a small cup for $6.

The Fans: Maybe the price had something to do with it, but I was surprised how annoying many of the fans were. One girl near me kept yelling "Dance Hipsters Dance" really loud when it got quiet. There were indeed hipsters about, which is normal and expected, but there were also a lot of yuppies there and blonde couples that look like they shop at the Gap or something. That surprised me possibly becuase I'd seen them previously in Austin, where even the yuppies like to wear thrift store Western shirts.

No Politics: The band is pretty left. They have a Make Poverty History banner on their website, and they played at an anti G-8 Concert in Scotland a few months ago. With all the nasty things Morrissey is saying about Bush and Blair, I was hoping for at least one silly comment from Stuart with a slight political edge.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Decade of Drinking Legally

It started with bad beer - Natural Light - and moved into bad liquor - Purple Passion/Everclear - ten years later and I still prefer beer to anything else. The best inexpensive beer is Pabst - I don't care if it was the hipster beer of choice in 2002. Ambers are good but porters are better. Does that mean I like hops?

Oh yeah, there was a protest this weekend. My birthday happens to fall on the anniversary of Shock and Awe, also the first day of Spring. My greatest ephiphany over the last 3 years of Bush's war? The greatest obstacle to ending the war and reigning in U.S. imperialism generally is the Democrats, not the Republicans. Think about that.

The protest in San Francisco was about 10,000 people I would estimate, although the organizers say 25,000 - I could be wrong. The coolest part was the very active Palestinian contingent. The intifada is global!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Immigrants Hit the Streets; Nerds Hit the Web

In case you haven't heard, and I wouldn't be surprised since the media doesn't have much to say about this sort of thing, 100,000 people, many immigrants, marched in Chicago last week to oppose the disgusting anti-immigrant legislation moving through Congress. The so-called Sensenbrenner Bill would attach criminal penalties to a number of immigration violations and also calls for more border fences. In a statement from Mercedes Castillo of the National Latina/Latino Law Student Association, she wrote:
Here are some of the provisions in HR 4437:
--More money for MORE border officers, inspectors, etc.
--More money for surveillance and every technical gadget that comes along with it --Denial of benefits to immigrants the AG deems "terrorists"
--Detention and removal of non-citizens will be increased, protections take away, judicial review taken away... the list goes on --You will be considered an aggravated felon just for being "unlawfully present", this means you will NEVER be able to fix your papers, NEVER see any legal protections afforded to other people, etc.
--Gang member?! Who me? Sure if the AG says so.
--Give your undocumented friend a ride home, you might just get charged with "alien smuggling"
--Illegal re-entry will lock you up for a period of up to 20 years and THEN we will deport you.
--Burden of proof: guilty until proven innocent.
The right-wing feels like this is an issue they can run with. Things are going poorly in Iraq, with jobs and healthcare, and with numerous scandals in Washington, so it is perfect timing for a scapegoat. Immigrants are easy because most are disenfranchised and few have money, in other words they have no political capital. But if we can get tens of thousands of immigrants and non-immigrants alike into the streets, like they did in Chicago, politicians will have to listen. It makes it easier that a lot of Americans, even if they won't march against this legislation, haven't bought into the immigrant bashing scare-tactics.

Meanwhile, I've been dealing with some right-wingers of my own on Wikipedia. I know, how did I ever get sucked into another web-based project? I already have this blog, pages on friendster, myspace, tribe, flickr, an amazon wish list, a pay pal and eBay account, etc. etc. But one (maybe two) right-wingers have been vandalizing the National Lawyers Guild page with reactionary, red-baiting hogwash pulled from some of David Horowitz's websites. It's pretty frustrating, but I like the fact that Wikipedia exists. These free-marketeers must wonder how it works so well. I mean, people aren't even getting paid and yet they actually take time and energy to write content and maintain the site. Some people take advantage of that almost communal setup for the wrong reasons, but it actually ends up working pretty well, and we don't even have to pay an MBA-degree-holder millions of dollars to run it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Somewhat Reasonable: Hang Saddam!

Fifty seven percent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein should be executed IF he's found guilty. I actually think this is pretty reasonable for a country that is supposedly solidly pro-death penalty and for a country that is regularly told (by the corporate media and Washington politicians) that Saddam was a modern-day Hitler. And it's significant that the poll included a presumption of innocence by adding the "if found guilty" part.

Of course the same poll found that in other countries majorities supported life in prison over the death penalty for Saddam. The AP story had this interesting insight:
Public support for sending Saddam to prison for life was strongest in Spain and Italy, where seven in 10 favored a life sentence over death. A similar sentiment was expressed in Germany, where residents are still sensitive to the violence of the Nazis and Adolph Hitler during World War II.
Some might argue that this would make them more supportive of execution for tyrants like Saddam. But in this case most of the world sees the U.S. as the threat to humanity. Most never viewed the flawed, evil yet relatively powerless former Hussein regime as a serious threat.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Allow Military Recruiters To Discriminate And Lie On Your Campus Or We'll Do To You Like We Did To Fallujah

Today (it's still before midnight on the Left Coast) the Supreme Court decided unanimously that the Federal government can withhold funding to law schools - any schools really - if military recruiters are not given the same access as any other recruiters. More boldly, Chief Justice Roberts' opinion held that "Congress could require law schools to provide equal access to military recruiters without violating the schools' freedom of speech or association." In other words, beyond simply withholding funds, Congress could require equal access and schools could face even greater penalties. What could these penalties be?

Perhaps the National Guard could be deployed to ensure military recruiters are escorted safely onto campus so that they may mislead potential recruits and falsify documents to circumvent standards normally required of those joining the military. There are parallels to desegration here - for example, the fact that schools might be forced to "take down a sign reading 'White Applicants Only' hardly means that the [Solomon Amendment] should be analyzed as one regulating the [school's] speech rather than conduct," so says the Roberts opinion.

How else might the federal government force schools to provide equal access? I suppose they could provide for criminal penalties. Law school deans could be locked up for not sending out the same email announcement for a military recruiter as they do for an employment rights firm.

Or maybe the Pentagon could decide to declare war on the school and rain cluster bombs down. Lord knows I dreamed for such surprises as I struggled to stay alert in Civil Procedure class.

It is important to note that the Court in this opinion seems to reinforce a statement made by the government in its oral arguments. In parentheses the Court writes: "Solicitor General acknowledges that law schools 'could put signs on the bulletin board next to the door, they could engage in speech, they could help organize student protests'" It is arguing that the Solomon Amendment does not really violate the free speech rights of law schools because they can do all these things to make their opinion clear. Activists need to hold schools to this challenge. Give the recruiters equal access and then help your students organize enormous and effective protests. If the recruiters leave in shame, that's their own business and not a violation of the law.

Finally, and even more imporantly, it should be noted that Brokeback Mountain was robbed. At one point even I spoke fondly of Crash. But give me a break, as good as it was, it was good from the perspective of a made-for-tv movie, not the best motion picture of the year! In time it will be forgotten, but Brokeback will live on as the revolutionary love story that it is.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tens of Thousands of Indians Protest Bush

Raj Babbar (a Hindu poltician) told the crowd: "Whether Hindu or Muslim, the people of India have gathered here to show our anger. We have only one message _ killer Bush go home."

We don't want him.