Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Peace," lost in translation...

Mostly everyone claimed to want peace at the anti-war march yesterday in downtown Chicago. The only difference was varying perspectives about the conflict. Just take a look, putting aside the "facts."

"It's getting better over there," said Ron Verback, one of the 50 or so counter-demonstrators at the event. "We've got to make this country safe. We've got to help those people over there."

Verback, who served as reconnaissance in the Army in Iraq two years ago, says his unit saw a decrease in bombings and more open markets as signs of progress. "Just take Fallujah," he said. "We've taken control and secured that part of the country."

Amidst the waving American flags and some trucker hats bearing U.S. military insignia, a woman raised a poster saying, "I'm proud of my son, Peace through victory!"

Across a cordon of police, clad in flack-jackets and armed with Glocks, the anti-war crowd chanted, "Suppport our troops; Bring them home," and hoisting signs saying things from "Fuck this empire, No blood for oil." to the relatively innocuous: "God bless our troops, God damn President Bush."

"We should support our troops by helping them succeed," countered Verback.

Many other issues were presented as well, such as immigration, presidential politics, health care, education, and the environment. Many of the activists proselytized as they eagerly recommended books they've read that "explain everything."

Among the more questionable elements...

Pro-occupation counter-protesters cried "Coward!" and "Traitor!" when anti-war Iraq veterans passed by the wall of police.

I was going to talk more with the counter-protesters, but a police officer stopped me and told me to go around. "Why can't I pass through?" I asked. His response was simple, authoritarian. "Because that's what I was told to say."

I decided not to press my luck; the Chicago police have come over considerable fire for using "excessive force."

Among the anti-war crowd, some hippie-type folk seem to have been there more to have a good time. With ratty hair, hemp jewelry, and tie-dye clothes, they brought instruments as they performed street theater, wrestling a pretend President Bush. Laughing and singing, "Ole, ole, ole, ole!"

On the flip-side, I really enjoyed the Raging Grannies, a group of elderly ladies singing "Get out of this mess; no more, no war!"

Several other ladies from southern Wisconsin said that three buses came from Madison, Wis. I told them that I went to UW-Madison and they go very excited, telling me with pride about their hometowns of Dodgeville and Mount Horeb. They assured me that Chicago was very nice too.

Several congress members and local government folks were there as well, including Michigan rep. John Conyers and Chicago-area Illinois rep. Luis Gutierrez.

Gutierrez quoted Gen. Omar Bradley's rebuke: "This is the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy"

"America is a great country," said Gutierriez. "But it is not doing great things."

It seemed everyone wanted America to do great things, but couldn't agree on how to get there. Ron Paul supporters were intertwined with those of Dennis Kucinich, and socialists were decrying government altogether.

Counter-protesters and Iraq veterans against the war called each other short-sighted as they both claimed to want peace. But apparently no understanding was bridged.

Instead, a series of campaign slogans mixed with the common stories of veterans and their concerned families.

Friday, October 26, 2007

While on your way to becoming a hell raiser...

Before becoming a zombie, naughty nurse, or pimp in prep for Halloween, consider joining a group of sane people (at least on one subject) in rallying against the Iraq War.

Chicago will host a large demonstration this Saturday beginning at Union Park at 1:30 p.m. and finishing off at Federal plaza at 4:00 p.m.

Oct. 27th Mobilization Chicago has not only organized local alders to advocate an end to the Iraq War, but has pulled in veterans, anti-war groups, and politicos from Michigan and Wisconsin.

They are slated to speak in support of the radical idea of providing health-care and education funds instead of paying for a bomb-for-peace campaign that has dragged on for the past four years.

Gasp! The audacity...

See Oct. 27th's web site for more details. Here's a map of the procession.

Axis of Stupidity

As former Iranian president Khatami was urging Iranians to say, "Death to Terrorists!" in the post-9/11 scene, President Bush was aiming, with the force of neoconservatives and their Democrat apologists, to recreate the Islamic world in America's Image.

This layout of events is pointed out by PBS Frontline's special, which can be viewed here. For the short and sweet version, see Crooks and Liars.

All of this as Bush currently warns against World War III, and nutjobs are beating the war drums.

Back in 2001...

U.S. operations in Afghanistan were aided by Iran, but U.S. 'intelligence' thought hardliners in Iran were hiding Al Queda operatives.

So instead of discussing, negotiating in confidence, the assertion that Iran was working with Al Queda, Bush brazenly insulted all Iranians with his "Axis of Evil." With cowboy gusto and the applause of supporters, Bush hurt any progress made.

Granted, there are Iranian hardliners who consider any action against the U.S. justified, but lumping them in with the fragile reformist element only made the hardliners more justified amongst the Iranian population.

The gun-slinging cowboy has much in common with the Islamic tribalist that shoots in the air.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Radiohead, In Rainbows

So I caved in to the hype and purchased Radiohead's new album set to my own price. Kind of like Priceline, except less William Shatner, more "Indie."

I paid 2.50 pounds as I liked Radiohead's new concept, saying FU to the record companies and directly linking fans and artists. See for yourself.

I really thought the pinnacle of Radiohead's career was OK Computer. That was when radio successfully blended both avant-garde expressionism and catchy pop, even if they competely denied most of the speculation on double entendres made by the artsy, Indie crowd.

Pablo Honey was almost like an album by a normal alt-rock band, a catchy though intelligent album. Then Radiohead delved into the more experimental on the Bends, with computer-generated distortion lining the angst of my favorite song on the album, "Iron Lung." Still, frat boys could listen to it...

In Rainbows is more like the last three albums in the sense that the melodies are more contemplative background music that makes the listener feel a sense of depth while in a morose funk. Which really isn't a bad thing, most thinkers nowadays are often in a morose funk.

Though I agree with some critics that this album is a harkening to more classical sound of OK Computer, significantly more accessible than Kid A.

The first song, "15 Step," is buttressed by Thom York's typical high-pitched vocals, with a catchy, almost Afro-beat drum, and arpeggio-laden guitar. Blended together, it provides, at least for me, a rather comforting feeling in the midst of the chaos of modern life. Which seems to have been the current of many of Radiohead's earlier works.

"Bodysnatchers" includes some of the rockability of the Bends, yes Radiohead has rockability. Foreboding fear of the future mixed with what-the-fuck attitude with lively, heavily distorted guitar riffs.

Overall, I could see people easily paying full price for In Rainbows, and still say that they've spent money wisely on a good album. Especially if listeners were more fans of the earlier Radiohead of the 90s.

At least you have to respect the experiment.

Humboldt makes me proud

Here's an article on the Humboldt march this evening against violence and for stricter gun laws, by yours truly.

Citizens in action to make positive change...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dr. Strange Bush

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb...

Bush's press conference today about Russia, Iran and his love with Putin wowed me when I read this in the New York Times:

“If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it’d be a dangerous threat to world peace,” Mr. Bush said. “So I told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”

After reading, I immediately had to find an image more fitting than the usual, Nero-emulating smirk. Courtesy of Fergie's Tech Blog, one can see Bush riding the Bomb, cowboy hat in hand.

Bush still alleges that a diplomatic solution is preferred, but should I hold my breath?

Talk of World War III comes one day after Bush's best buddy, Vladdy Putin, met with Iran's Ahmadinejad to denounce any military strikes.

True to prior behavior, Bush is clinging to a false sense of hope, or at least he wants America to do so: "(Bush) said he believed that Russia still wanted to stop Iran from developing such weapons."

In the midst of all this tomfoolery, saying World War III could happen, denying Putin's obvious courtship of Iran, empty overtures to diplomacy, I ask myself: Does it really matter what this guy says anymore? Even if he turns hints of war into outright threats, does he have the power to make it happen?

Dan Froomkin at the WaPo (reg. req.) seems to think not, noting that Bush's approval rating hovered around 24 percent in the latest Zogby poll.

With President Bush having to insist that, "I am relevant," it would seem that the reporter had already answered his own question. The relevance of any leader seems to be minute when said leader has to remind how he actually is an important guy to whom people oughtta listen.

But Bush did have a point...

He referenced his veto of a bipartisan supported expansion of children's health care as an example of his relevance. Bush holds an uncanny ability to be able to screw things up, through negligence or obliviousness, despite the opposition of experts and large swaths of people.

Just look at the (overall) idiots running for the GOP nomination, save Ron Paul. They clamor over who's tougher on Iran, who wants to expand Guantanamo More, who most likes the television series "24," who hates killing babies the most, and who gets the most one-on-one time with God.

Whose to say a World War III couldn't happen? Irrelevance, incompetence?


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

El Barrio Humboldt Park No Se Vende

A community rising against gentrification and leaders disavowing violence show some of the positive motions happening here in Humboldt park, notes community newsletter La Voz del Paseo Boricua.

Some hints of a bustling civil society, public spheres in action:

October 19-20th, religious leaders will organize with Ald. Billy Ocasio to march on Humboldt park and hold an overnight candlelight vigil against gun violence in the neighborhood. The demonstration is dubbed EX 20:13, in reference to the bible verse where God gave the commandment, Do Not Kill.

"The greatest threat to our lives isn't terrorism or radicalism in the Middle East or some far away land; it's the church's failure to take a firm stance against violence here..." says Rev. Wilfredo de Jesus in La Voz.

Hundreds of demonstrators are predicted to be on tap, urging greater gun-control laws and faith conviction to change cultures of violence. It's refreshing to see moral outrage made into good public policy, even though Chuck Heston (Moses) would disapprove.

November 3, Humboldt Park Empowerment Partnership’s Housing Team will host the first affordable housing summit with various community groups. Residents have complained that rising rents and property taxes along with pressure from developers are prompting longtime residents to clear the way for gentrification.

It's similar to the debate in Madison, where residents are complaining about city-funded condo development in Allied Drive. Sure, owner-occupied housing allows residents to put a larger stake in their communities than a often transient rental market. But moving poorer populations doesn't make sense in the long-run if you want to transform a neighborhood for the better.

Getting Back to Humboldt... If the city wants to ameliorate the quality of life in an area, try replacing the ubiquitous Dunkin' Doughnuts, liquor stores and Cash Stores with colleges and financial planning centers.

Mayor Daley's addiction to TIF-funded condos leaves longtime residents in the same rut, only relocated somewhere else.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Riding the Irony Train

I've just started freelancing for New City, where I'll be writing reviews and other copy for their art section.

Above is a review of a photography exhibit, ostensibly about nature, that is adorning the rusty, industrial halls of a Chicago el train station. Columbia College students did the photography.

The writing was more a reflection of artistic writing that I did for a liberal studies class in undergrad than anything I've done at the J-school. Meh...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Second City Secrecy - Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

One of the world's oldest modern police forces may be worse than the criminals...

Chicago police are accused of beating the confessions out of suspects and use of excessive force. Not to mention special operations officer, Jerome Finnigan, who allegedly planned a murder hit on a fellow officer.

But who are these officers? Wouldn't the public benefit from knowing who is corrupt, of whom to be afraid when police "respond" to misdemeanor theft?

City hall makes no bones about keeping the names of such officers secret, crossing out several names on an Office of Professional Standards complaint list to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle.

The city seems to think that the July order by U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow to release the list doesn't preclude keeping some of the names secret.

However, the decision was intent on making the list publicly available.

This secrecy amidst Mayor Richard Daley's announced "reforms" to make the OPS more "transparent."

The public has a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent, especially if it might be used to pay the salary of thugs.