Sunday, May 27, 2007

Remembering the Unnecessary Dead -- Again

Memorial Day in 2003 came a mere three months after disastrous invasion of Iraq. I wrote then on my old blog about the destroyed lives of the soldiers recklessly sent into harm's way by Junior Bush and his various enablers. Back then, the deaths were relatively few and more traditionally battle-related, as opposed to the continuing crisis, where our troops -- when they are not walking targets for those still avenging the violation of Iraq's sovereignty -- are getting caught in the crossfire of a civil war.

Here is a re-print of my May 26, 2003 post:

Every Memorial Day, I think about the Unnecessary Dead. This year, more than ever, it is important to remember those who have been put in harm’s way by vapid politicians in unworthy and undefined causes, in the pursuit of only power and wealth. The number in the Iraq invasion is 162 (and counting – more deaths today). And, this Memorial Day, I am celebrating the life and family of one of the first to die in this most-recent stupid war – Kendall David Waters-Bey of Baltimore, Maryland.

Kendall, an African-American and a Muslim, died in a helicopter accident on the first day of the invasion. It’s the kind of accident that happens when fragile equipment meets desert wind and sand. Acceptable collateral deaths, no doubt, by the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and G.W. Bush.

Not so to Kendall’s father, Michael Waters-Bey. Holding a picture of his son for TV cameras at the time of his son’s Unnecessary Death, he said: "I want President Bush to get a good look at this, really good look here. This is the only son I had, only son." Asked what he say to Bush, the boy president, if he had the (unlikely) chance, he said: "This was not your son or daughter. That chair he sat in at Thanksgiving will be empty forever."

Kendall’s sisters were even more clear: "It's sad that this war is going on and that we have to lose so many people over nothing...This war is all about oil and money. But he [Bush] has already got oil and money. It's about greed. ... He ought to send his daughters over there to fight. See how long they'd last over there."

Whoa. Those of you reading this for the first time – over two months after these statements were lightly and, mostly, only locally reported – now can understand why you might have missed it. The justifiable rage of the Waters-Bey family and their poignant comments were completely ignored by the mainstream media, which opted for the more predictable, banal and (most-importantly) war-supporting "he died doing what he wanted to do" comments of the more traditional, er, white families.

You wonder what happened later to the Waters-Bey family. I think I remember Bush staging a photo-op with the families of the Unnecessary Dead. Didn’t exactly notice whether the Waters-Beys were in front of the line. Or invited at all.

So here is to the memory those American soldiers who died in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq and all the dirty little secret and not-so-secret wars before and since. No one supports the troops more than those who try to stop the Unnecessary Deaths.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Of Dependence, Entitlement and Victimhood

One of the favorite tirades of wing-nuts is about the supposedly terrible cycle of dependence and entitlement by those various imagined elements of society who exist only to soak up Our Money. Whether it’s food stamps or health care or even (in the case of immigrants) education, according to the wing-nuts, there is no end to poor people living large at the public trough. Give a desperate person cooking oil and tortillas and, tomorrow, they will want...beans to put in the tortillas! Those who consider themselves adversely affected by societal injustice are said to be playing the "victim card".

But, take something from the right-wing that they consider their birthright, and there is no contest as to who is best able to loudly wail and gnash teeth. It is the wing-nut, by a country mile.

Right-wingers portray themselves as self-reliant, self-made, entrepreneurial, tough, worldly-wise and straight-shootin’. But, take away just one of their precious AM radio spots, and they will squeal like stuffed pigs headed to the bacon factory. They are exposed as guilty of the sin of dependence. They feel deprived of their entitlement to the non-Brewer evenings on TMJ. What will be done to make up for the loss of McBride? Who will make us whole for this violation of our precious local wing-nut slot?

Since McBride was bounced from the TMJ family like a ground-rule double, the wing-nut radio hogs and blogs have been in full bleat in defense of their beloved Jessica. They bemoan the increased scrutiny of what is said on the public airwaves, as if they can’t possibly be held responsible for what they say. Mark Belling was bellyaching this week about lefties trying to monitor all the wing-nuts on the radio, looking for the same sort of "gotcha" moment that "got" McBride. The premise seems to be that they are "entitled" to this free air-time for the GOP agenda – why can’t they just be left alone to poison the electorate in peace? Anyone daring to listen to what they actually say is playing a trick on them and on you.

It is interesting how hurt the wing-nuts big and small seem to be about this otherwise minor loss. The blowhard bullies have had sand kicked in their eyes and they are running home to tell their mommies. They rightly identify the problem (for them) of having one less local wing-nut on the radio. That means local elections and issues will just be a little less twisted and a little more (gasp!) fair. There will be fewer repetitions of lies about Doyle, Dems in the legislature, local alderman, school funding referendums, etc. There will be one less radio show playing scurrilous anti-Doyle Club for Growth and WMC ads for free five times, and then talking about how wonderful they are. Belling and Sykes will have to pump it up just to keep the negative hit numbers up.

No doubt about it, the GOP message machine is dependent on their radio stalwarts to anchor their daily campaigns of talking-point misinformation. Just this little hit of losing the McBride block of time has them feeling and acting fragile, like maybe their stranglehold on the AM airwaves won’t last forever. Maybe washed-up dips like Dennis Miller are the future – you know, a little nicer, relatively harmless (I said "relatively"), in-one-ear-and-out-the-other stuff, rather than the believe-or-die screechings of Hannity or Savage. Besides, I bet the Miller show is a lot cheaper than keeping the studio in McBride’s house so she doesn’t have to trouble herself with trips to the East Side (a neat little tidbit from Joel McNally’s column). And, if there is one thing radio executives appreciate, it’s cheap programing. What else could possibly explain Jay Weber?

The radio is going to have to find something to do after the Democratic Landslide of 2008, when Rove finally retires and they pull the plug on talking-point support. What will Belling and Sykes do without their marching orders? I can’t imagine them having to dream up all this wing-spin on their own. You can’t get it all from the Drudge Report. Can you imagine those two actually saying something different from each other every day? Talk about the End of the World.

And, McBride – poor Jess – is bitter, you bet. Her new/old blog is filled with the omen of dark conspiracies and mournful pleading. You can hear the pain of her denied dependence; the loss of her Sacred Entitlement, the unrequited pleadings of her lost listeners. Who dares to take her down for the sake of community sanity, better ratings and cheaper programming? You are not the Victims, dear reader, She is. Who will Right the Wrong and give her back what is rightfully hers?

Alas, no one. Maybe she’ll get back on the air as a fill-in on WISN (although they already import another wing-nut woman from Madison for that purpose, and she actually might have to step foot in the studio). She will have to settle, for now, for her unfortunate J-School students (but, wait! It’s summer!). There will be no Oprah moment, no welcome back to the public eye, and no redress for her imagined victimhood.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

McBride Dumped for Miller – A Horse A Piece


As Bill Maher said on his great HBO show last night, not all deaths are sad. Jerry Falwell, the charlatan twister of ignorant souls, croaked in his office this past week, and, although he had already done most of the damage in his long, fear-mongering career, the world is much better that he is gone. Then, this morning, comes the joyful news that TMJ has put Jessica McBride’s radio career out of its misery – or, should I say, relieved the rest of us of having to listen, even in passing, to one more talentless wing-nut.

Sometime last year, before I began this blogging thing in earnest, I was driving down the road one night, trying to listen to McBride. I was so infuriated by something or other that I called the station to get on the air to discuss whatever she was babbling about. In the time between dialing the number and the screener answering the call, I couldn’t take another minute of her incredibly nasal, whiny, unpleasant delivery, much less the substance of her "ideas". When the screener finally answered, all I could do was scream "This woman is so annoying!" Then I hung up, feeling somehow unclean for even thinking about joining Jessica’s World, if only as a sure-to-be rejected caller.

When wing-nuts proclaim that the right-wing has access to all the AM microphones in the country because of some free-market triumph over liberal ideas, I think about McBride. No one ever "competed" for McBride’s slot – someone at TMJ just decided to give it to her based on her political connections and her willingness to spurt the daily GOP talking points. Her droning monotone – when she wanted to make a point, she-would-talk-with-out-in-flec-tion-in-ov-er-ly-long-sent-en-ces-un-til-she-got-to-the-end-and-then-she-would-stop-like-she-had-just-made-the-great-est-point-in-the-world-and-all-you-had-to-do-is-let-it-soak-in..... – made for some of the most excruciating listening possible. This was not someone with undeniable talent that was begging to be heard. And, as far as intellect was concerned, she was the Queen of the Wimpy Hang-Up, abruptly disconnecting from callers who had her on the ropes, which, given her limited capacity, was often.

Even more entertaining, in a train-wreck sort of way, was her TMJ vanity blog. There, in long, rambling, often late-night postings, McBride would flesh out what passed for her "ideas". As comical as the (lack of) substance was, the woman needed an editor. With a little help, she could have been just as insipid in a much shorter period of time. I’m sure her "writing" will continue somewhere on the Web or in the wing-nut-happy Waukesha newspaper that inexplicably runs a column from her, although some of these folks do conveniently disappear once they are not getting paid to blog.

We are informed this morning that McBride’s demise was accelerated by her un-funny pretend-interview with Eugene Kane after the poor 4 year-old was shot outside of her house in the inner city this week. You can’t blame McBride too much for that one, really. Apparently, someone in the backshop at TMJ got a little too cute with the ridiculously unfunny idea that Kane would make chicken sounds if asked "tough" questions by McBride. After it aired, McBride posted something saying she was beginning a new series of conversations with lefties, starting with Kane, and included a link to the fake interview. That post has disappeared from the TMJ site, as she soon will. Radio is Stalinist that way – gone is gone, like it was never there. Last week, she was a valued member of the TMJ line-up. Now? Who was that again?

Speaking of the unfunny, McBride is being replaced by the new nationally syndicated Dennis Miller show. Is there a sadder case in the entertainment world than Dennis Miller? In the late ‘90s, Miller had a brilliant live show on HBO on Friday nights, where Maher now reigns. His monologues and riffs while showing snapshots of the famous were often very funny and insightful. He was usually lefty, sometimes not, especially on stuff like rights for criminal suspects and Bill Clinton. Then 9/11 happened, and, like the formerly gifted writer Christopher Hitchens, he fell off the Cliff of Legitimacy, into the Abyss of Kill-‘em-All. Miller turned so far to the right, he started doing Fox News and Bush fundraisers. HBO had a stand-up special with him a year or so ago and it was depressingly unfunny. He was dour and shrill, substituting unearned ridicule of anything Democrat for his former hip-reference humor. He actually explained in the middle of the show why Junior Bush – someone who would otherwise get deservedly sliced-and-diced by his former self – gets a pass from him in "this time of war". Given his past glory and what looked like a healthy skepicism about all politicians, it was pathetic.

Now, Miller has hit rock-bottom, picking up a stint as a wing-nut radio squawker. I have listened to it several times on WIND (560) in Chicago (where you can also catch an early dose of racist homophobe Michael Savage if you can’t wait until 11 p.m. on TMJ). Besides picking up some extra change sadly shilling for "gold as a great investment", SleepNumber beds and pre-fab steel buildings during the breaks, Miller does the usual national wing-nut nonsense, trumpeting the GOP talking-points of the day. He also fills space by "interviewing" guests who are "one of my best friends in the world" who happen to have written "the greatest book I ever read", like xenophobe Mark Steyn, who writes bogey-man nonsense about the mongrel-ization of Western cultures that are too accepting of all these, you know, Muslims. Miller cheerily goes along with all this, throwing in his now-tired asides about how hanging out at the UN is "like the bar scene in Star Wars", etc. He manages this in a fairly breezy, hep-cat cadence, throwing in Pink Floyd bumper music in case you forgot his generational reference points.

Like I said, sad and tragic. Now we get to listen to his crap instead of McBride’s. Six of one, half-dozen of the other. All we can hope for is lots of Brewer night games, bumping him into the nether regions of the un-listened-to, if only for a night or two.

UPDATE: The other shoe dropped this morning -- no more McBride vanity blog on the TMJ site. She never even got to say goodbye. All together now...Awwww.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dix Six Trix Nixed


These are not good days for the Grand Old Party:
  • The disastrous war in Iraq has caused the unnecessary deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. Because of this and the whole fiasco known as "the Bush Administration", the Republican party is facing the prospect of an electoral rout in 2008 that will make 2006 look like a shining moment of glory.
  • The Attorney General has been exposed as a knowing stooge to White House schemers who have tried to purify the nationwide corps of U.S. Attorneys to include only those who will advance phony voter "fraud" and other prosecutions designed to prop up GOP talking points.
  • A pathetic group of GOP presidential aspirants are falling all over each other and their own words, desperately trying to find a way to run away from Junior Bush, embrace the exaggerated ghost of Ronald Reagan and to get someone buy their empty souls so they can be the successor empty suit for the next shadow gang of manipulative handlers.

In days like this – well, anytime, actually – the Party of the Rich will grab any thin reed to hold on to that which might keep it from finally going completely over the Falls, crushed on the rocks of reality and not-so-instant karma. And so, from the always helpful "Justice" Department, here comes the case of the Fort Dix Six.

For all the Fear the Bushies have tried to ratchet up to drive their agenda since 9/11, and for all the violation of our privacy and civil liberties, there is remarkably little to show for prosecutions of those who would Do Us Harm. Indeed, the hapless law-stretchers at Justice have found it hard to get convictions of those few poor souls they managed to indict. See this interesting compilation of post-9/11 "terrorism" prosecutions put together by the Center for Law and Security at the NYU Law School.

Some of the most interesting highlights: "the vast majority of cases turn out to include no link to terrorism once they go to court" and there is only a "29% conviction rate for federal charges of terrorism". This despite the fact that "conviction, no matter how short the period of time or how minor the charge, is the primary goal" of the government’s efforts. The authors conclude "either that the threat is much less than we thought, or that the policies of the United States have reduced the threat of terrorism through deterrence, and, yes, through excessive vigilance." The authors give the government a little too much credit for creating any atmosphere of deterrence. With the government wasting its time chasing around wanna-bees like the Fort Dix Six, what serious evil-doer would be deterred by that activity? My guess is, if they exist anywhere in this country, they have a good laugh and go right back to work.

But that doesn’t stop the wing-nuts and other Bush enablers to glom onto the news of the Dix indictment to toss out all the regular canards, not the least of which is Fear, of course; but also "the PATRIOT act works" and "we must continue warrantless searches of phone conversations, bank records, , etc." One look at the affidavit supporting the indictment shows that, while not as lame as the guys a couple of years ago whose first request when meeting with a fake supplier was for "really good boots", these guys were a long way away from being a danger to anyone.

One thing that jumps out of the document is that absolutely none of the vaunted PATRIOT act or extra-legal snooping touted as so necessary by the Bushies and their allies were used to foil what was already a very bad plan to attack the Army base at Fort Dix with the equivalent of assorted sticks and stones. After their DVD replication service turned an amateurish tape of their shootin’-and-shoutin’ play over to the authorities (even porn afficionados know to watch out for that happening), investigators simply applied good police work to find out what they were up to and eventually arrest them. The affidavit relates lots of phone conversations, but not from warrantless wiretaps – the calls are with an informant that was able to infiltrate the group (that they allowed the infiltration is a primary sign of lameitude for any self-respecting jihadist).

These deluded fools dared to partake in paintball training in furtherance of their evil designs. Paintball training! They also jumped through quite a few hoops to just get a decent map of Fort Dix. A map! By the time they were set up by the informant to meet with a fake arms dealer that was going to finally get them some AK-47s (they were arrested instead), the whole group of them apparently only had a shotgun, a handgun and maybe a couple of rifles between them. They would be the successors to the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, but they didn’t have anything to shoot.

They weren’t "terrorists" – they dreamed and talked about of being terrorists. They are guilty of impure thoughts and false bravado. You can imagine them jumping out of their pizza delivery truck at the checkpoint outside Fort Dix, the guard effortlessly grabbing the guns out of their hands, slapping them in the face and literally kicking their silly asses back where they came from. No one at Fort Dix was ever in danger from these guys, much less the rest of us.

But that doesn’t stop the wing-nuts from using the wacky antics of the Dix Six to justify everything from more illegal snooping to the Iraq war to the war on illegal immigrants (3 of the 6 were illegal, or something). In the meantime, Osama bin Laden spends another summer dancing in the mountains of Pakistan, the Iraqi "parliament" is taking a couple of months off and three of our soldiers are missing.

UPDATE: In the GOP "debate" last night, Mr. 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, used the Dix Six arrests as an excuse for the Iraq war, claiming it was proof of the "if we leave there, they will follow us home" nonsense. He also used it to play the immigration card, saying the lack of "reform" means illegals can "find a big underground to hide in". Oh, that Rudy -- like Bush, he's never seen a tragedy or crime that he couldn't play for political advantage.

And then there is Jessica McBride, who claims the media is downplaying the Dix Six story because, well, they're so soft of terrorism, I guess. Most of her screed is devoted to the fact that some of them were illegal (they "went to public schools and had businesses"!) and from the the former Yugoslavia, although 23 years or so removed (never mind that the 20-somethings came here as children). She also manages to suggest that the "secret recordings" made were proof of the success of King George's warrantless program. No. The recordings were made by the informant -- if he consents to the recording (he did), no warrant is necessary -- and there is no evidence that any of the extraordinary powers claimed by Bush had anything to do with the investigation whatsoever.

So, calm down, Jessica. You never know when something might happen that really proves your "points". But I wouldn't hold my breath. The hapless Fort Dix Six sure ain't it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

You've Read It, Now Hear About It

As regular readers know, this blog is all sooo serious and political. And, yeah, it's been a couple of weeks -- I promise to get something new and topical out there in the next couple of days.

But, with a summer-like sun shining for at least one day here in Milwaukee, let's talk music.

  • Radio Milwaukee continues to evolve as a breath of fresh air on the bottom of the FM dial (well, it used to be a dial -- honest!). 88.9 is delightfully ecclectic -- much more old-school and R&B than I expected. I also have learned a lot about some new stuff -- it hasn't changed my opinion much about the death of rock and roll as a social force, but I now understand there is more out there than Dave Matthews. It should be a great summer knowing that there is now a station you can lock into while driving around and also get something unexpected and enjoyable. It's only been, like, 30 years since you could say that in Milwaukee.

  • If you have never been to Summerfest in Milwaukee, it is worth the trip whoever is playing. Two of my favorite acts are appearing opening night on June 28th -- Steely Dan at the Ampitheater and Milwaukee's own Violent Femmes at the Miller Oasis. I promised my boy (12) I would take him to see the Femmes for the first time, so it's a tough choice. I just hope he knows he'll be the one saving our seats all day...

    I have been grabbing my guitar and playing around Madison and Milwaukee off and on for a long time. I am doing a "Mike Plaisted and Friends" night at Linneman's (1001 E. Locust in Milwaukee's Riverwest) this coming Thursday (the 17th), from about 9 to Midnight. Yes, there are political songs ("Why Does Dan Rather Want to Be My Friend", "Stupid War", "Community Standards" [Inspirational Verse: "Some people will do anything/To get themselves elected"]). So, if you are around, come on and check me out live in person.

I am also hosting and playing at the "Peace Though Music" Lennon tribute at Linneman's on the night before Memorial Day (May 27th). It is a benefit for WAVE (Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort) and the Brady Campaign.

Alright, enough self-promotion. Now back to the nitty gritty...