10.31.2007

iVoryTowerz Radio: Late Night Edition

The wonder of podcasting is that you can time shift radio listening. But we recommend that you put this sound mix on after midnight as the underground podcast moves into heavy atmospheric mode. There's plenty of alternative and progressive sounds to saturate the night air, but we also add a dash of electronica, a few slices of country-rock, plus some new wave, punk, heavy metal, and rockabilly. Shake. Rattle. Roll. And voila, a late night rock 'n roll stew. Enjoy!


(This podcast is no longer available.)


Playlist

"School" by Supertramp
"Isn't Life Strange" by The Clientele
“Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" by Broken Social Scene
"Easier" by Grizzly Bear
Jeff’s New Wave: “Hong Kong Garden” by Siouxsie and the Banshees
"Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode
"Jesus is Alright with Me" by The Doobie Brothers
“He Ain't Jesus” by Carrie Rodriguez
Cover Me: "Muswell Hillbilly" by Southern Culture on the Skids
“The Underdog” by Spoon
“Tick Tick Boom” by The Hives (request)
"More Heat than Light" by The Veils
"They were Kings" by Heavy Trash
"Fire Pie" by The Trip Daddys
"Rave On" by Jimmy Page, Albert Lee & John Paul Jones
Rick's Metal Shoppe: “Hushabye” by Korn

(Mp3 Runs - 1:24:04; 77 MB.) Program contains explicit lyrics.

(Photo by Kevin of San Jose, CA via Flickr using a Creative Commons License.)




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10.30.2007

Music Review: Buck 65's Situation

by Stephen Tringali

Buck 65 (real name: Richard “Ricardo” Terfry) is a Canadian rapper with a problem: he doesn’t really know where he’s aiming. Does he want to spin lyrical phrases like MF Doom (Daniel Dumile)? Does he want to craft trip-hop, sample-heavy compositions in the same vein as DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) and RJD2 (Ramble John “R.J” Krohn)? Does he want to pull it off with the same panache as Lupe Fiasco (Wasalu Muhammad Jaco)?

On Situation, the latest release from Buck 65 out on Strange Famous Records, (released Tuesday, Oct. 30) the Canadian rapper never really makes up his mind. His aesthetic ambitions pull him equally in all directions, and unfortunately, never yield artistic material equal to his influences.

His raps never hit the MF Doom-level of finesse. Sure, he drops just as many pop culture references. But those references sound awkward, almost as though he’s made them for the sake of name dropping and not for the purpose of illustrating the song itself. Listen for the peculiar references to Lou Reed, Link Wray, Johnny Guitar, Perry Como, and Pat Boone.

As for the production on Situation, it never hits the same creative stride as what's found on more eminent trip-hop albums, and at the same time, it never packs the punch of the best rap singles. Listeners will quickly find themselves stranded between mediocre sample scrambling and the numb thudding dull of drum beats.

Buck 56’s rap style and production, however, could be forgiven if only he were able to sell himself well. Most of rap’s quality is determined by how big you talk. Kanye West told everyone he’d win a Grammy for Late Registration, and he did. GZA (Gary Grice) of Wu-Tang Clan had the audacity to dub himself “The Genius.” And Akon (Aliaune Damala Akon Thiam) throws kids off his stage when he doesn’t like them.

Buck 65 doesn’t sound as though he believes in himself nearly as much as these other confident rappers. Delivery and ego are everything. Even if the lyrics sound stupid — and quite often they do with rap and hip-hop music — a solid delivery can make listeners forget just how ridiculous you sound when rapping them.

But Buck 65 stumbles with his delivery on songs like “1957” and “Dang.” What is most assuredly a stupid chorus — “No joke / Hit the low note / We all go to heaven in a little row boat” — sounds even worse when he can’t deliver it with the same don’t-give-a-shit mentality that his contemporaries muster.

As strange as this sounds, if Buck 65 can’t let his audience know that he doesn’t care whether they like his album — for an example see “Public Service Announcement” on The Marshall Mathers LP, the self-titled release from Eminem — then no one’s actually going to listen to it, and no one’s actually going to like it.

(Promotional photo of Buck 65 from Strange Famous Records. To see Buck 65 deliver a PG-rated version of "Dang," please check below.)









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10.29.2007

Facebook, Microsoft & The Campaign for (Virtual) World Domination

by Molly Kenney

If there is ever going to be one supranational government, it will be run by Bill Gates.

A key move in the campaign by Gates and Microsoft to dominate the computer world unfolded just in the past week. That's when Facebook announced that Microsoft had bought a 1.6 percent share of the social networking site for $240 million. The percentage looks small, but that small bit of control over the $15 billion e-empire of approximately 50 million users — the majority of whom belong to the important 18 to 24 demographic — is very significant.

Maybe Facebook users haven’t noticed Microsoft ads creeping onto the sidelines of their pages, a practice in use for some time now. But everyone’s noticed that Microsoft controls the software, operating systems, personal computer, and computer gaming markets and that Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, worth at least $59 billion. Gates, and Microsoft by association, may even dominate the realm of international philanthropy.

While many students find Facebook both an obsession and an inane distraction, few can dispute the powerful medium the “social utility,” as its slogan reads, has proven to be. High school students, college students, and 20-somethings from around the world are gathered in one cyber-place for advertisers’ taking, doling out personal information and exchanging consumer preferences freely. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, and the advertisers who line his pockets, probably know more about my generation than we do about ourselves, and Microsoft knows that getting its foot in the door is one step closer to controlling that knowledge — and Facebook.

In a few years, Microsoft will probably have bought out Facebook and merged it with Windows, so our entire lives (already centered on our computers) will be run by one operating system. Meanwhile, Gates will likely trump rival Google and acquire YouTube, merging that technology with the rest. We petty automatons will still think our YouTube creations a brilliant form of expression and information-sharing, while Gates and other Microsoft execs laugh at the diversion they’ve made for us and sign the papers for their buyout of the United Nations.

Microsoft’s domination keeps growing and growing, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. Is such growth really benign?

(Photo of Bill Gates at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by Domain Barnyard of Las Vegas via Flickr using a Creative Commons License.)







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10.28.2007

Turkey & The Kurdish Conundrum

by Laura Snedeker

American and Turkish civilian leaders can talk all they want, but ultimately the Turkish military will decide how to deal with Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

The separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for its own state since 1984, bases many of its soldiers in Iraqi Kurdistan, which the U.S. military has granted a great deal of autonomy since the invasion in 2003. Cross-border attacks prompted the Turkish parliament to authorize an incursion into the region to eliminate PKK bases, and only overwhelming global disapproval halted the opening of another front in the Iraq War.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to meet with President George W. Bush in early November to discuss a diplomatic solution that satisfies all parties involved. This attempt by the civilian leadership to regain some authority in the face of mounting pressure was overshadowed by the Turkish military’s announcement that it would not invade Iraq until a solution had been reached. These talks are merely a formality designed to lend legitimacy to whatever military-friendly solution the two parties reach.

The civilian leadership in Turkey has little choice but to appease the armed forces. As the traditional guardians of secularism, the military disapproved of the election of the Islamist president Abdullah Gul and vaguely warned about the possibility of a coup d’etat. The recent attack by the PKK that killed 17 Turkish soldiers further increased the demand for decisive action by the government. Attempts to prevent the military from retaliating leave the government vulnerable to accusations of weakness.

The Iraqi government similarly has little power to enforce any decision. Despite pressure on the Iraqi government to help put down the insurgency in the north, the U.S. knows that the Iraqi military is neither properly trained nor large enough to fight a second war. With Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr threatening to lift the cease-fire credited with lowering the body count, it Iraqi military may soon be occupied elsewhere, fighting Shi'ite militias.

While Iraqi President Jalal Talibani has tried to use his authority as a Kurd to persuade the PKK to put down its weapons, it is unlikely that he would approve of an attack on Kurdistan that might further alienate Iraqi Kurds and renew calls for full autonomy.

Short of ordering airstrikes on PKK targets, which would endanger the Kurdish population and weaken support by pro-American Kurdish leaders, the U.S. has neither the power to stop the PKK from attacking Turkish targets nor the power to stop Turkey from invading northern Iraq. The civilian leaders in America must consider both Turkey’s role as a strategic ally in the Middle East and their commitment to stabilizing Iraq. The opening up of a second front would also be poorly received by the American public, which has not yet received a firm withdrawal date.

Whatever Bush and Erdogan decide will have little effect on the Turkish military’s decision. Washington may publicly push for a non-military solution while accepting the inevitability of an invasion from the north, but it must recognize that it has little control over the situation.

(The photo shows a PKK rally in London in 2003 by Francis Tyers obtained via Yotophoto using a GNU Free Documentation License.)







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10.27.2007

Fake News Alert: FEMA Goes Hollywood

by Lauren Anderson

This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) held a variety of media briefings related to the California wildfires, but one news conference in Washington, D.C. has raised a few eyebrows. At that news conference, it appeared those asking the questions were reporters, but instead they turned out to be FEMA staffers. The news briefing was a fake. FEMA has apologized, chalking it up to an “error in judgment.”

The Deputy Administrator of FEMA Harvey Johnson (U.S. Coast Guard, Vice Admiral, retired) claimed he used the fake briefing tactic to get the news out quickly. When journalists did not arrive in time for the briefing, which had been called at the last minute, FEMA decided to “fake it.” They proceeded with the normal format of a news conference, even including the customary practice of calling a “last question.”

The questions asked by the FEMA workers posing as reporters were anything but hard-hitting. They were predictable, softball questions answered equally predictably by Johnson. In just six questions, he actually managed to make FEMA look competent. He also complimented the people and administration of California, and put a positive spin on the Hurricane Katrina disaster. If it had been real, it might have been admirable.

The incident brings up a number of questions. Firstly, why didn’t FEMA jut fess up that the staff members were not actually reporters? The real reporters were only given fifteen minutes notice, so one has to wonder how genuinely FEMA wanted them to be there. Secondly, what was really so urgent about the news revealed? None of it was so shocking that it needed to be disclosed quickly. Thirdly, was FEMA hiding something that real reporters might discover? After the Katrina debacle, FEMA has a lot to prove, without a very large margin for error. In this context, it is very possible that they are going to do everything in their power to appear competent and capable in the eyes of the American people.

Naturally, the government staging a fake news conference raises suspicions. We need answers about what was really behind the fakery. Now, we just need to get some real reporters in there to ask the questions.

(Editor's Note: One of the blog's editors is in Los Angeles this weekend, although not out in the canyons where the Santa Ana winds fueled the wildfires. Perhaps the attitude is different elsewhere, but in the city, Angelenos seem rather ambivalent about the news. Perhaps they have seen too many news conferences – fake or otherwise – to get too excited.)

(The photo shows FEMA's Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson at the fake news conference in Washington, D.C. The photo is by FEMA photographer Bill Koplitz; as the photo is from FEMA it is in the public domain.)






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10.26.2007

Capitalism & Poverty in America

by Lauren Anderson

When an anthropology student, who had recently spent time with a tribe in Zaire, was asked what struck her most about her time there, she responded with a question: “They asked me why the United States, with all of its money, could not feed all of its citizens. I thought about it for a while and I could not answer them. I did not know. How would you answer that question?”

I don’t know either.

According to Forbes, the two richest men in the world, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, live in the United States. Their combined wealth is approximately $108 billion. In the context of American capitalism, these men are experts – maybe even geniuses. They have used the system to their advantage, capitalizing on their intelligence and business sense. Sure, there are millions of other people going hungry in this very same country, working for less than minimum wage and hardly getting by. But, that’s just the way it is. That’s capitalism.

But, is that the way it should stay? How much longer can a system that creates such dynamic inequality really be justified? While a complete conversion to socialism may not be necessary, and completely impossible when considering the politics of this country, perhaps we should consider a step in that direction. We should question why the wealthiest nation in the world cannot feed all its citizens. The gap between the socioeconomic classes in the United States is widening drastically. The middle class is disappearing, sucking more and more people into poverty. A recent article from the Associated Press stated that for many Americans living from pay check to pay check is growing more difficult. Food pantries are overwhelmed by the demand for food. Parents are skipping meals to feed their children. Yet, our restaurants are serving obscenely oversized portions and we are in the midst of an obesity crisis. It doesn’t add up. Obviously, something needs to change.

People need to stop being so concerned with those who exploit social welfare programs and consider the people those programs are helping. The United States government must strengthen its social programs. For too long, poverty in America is a problem that has been left unresolved.

They say the last thing a fish would notice is the water. Capitalism is our water. It’s time for us to notice it.

(Editor's Note: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2005, about 18 percent of all children in the U.S. lived in poverty; the bureau defines the poverty threshold as a family with children earning less than $19,806 annually. The National Center for Children in Poverty lists 13 million children as living in poverty)

(Political graphic from radicalgraphics.org, which offers its material for free.)





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iVoryTowerz Radio: Yuppie & Chad Edition

No, the underground podcast has not gone over to the dark side. We have not sold out. Instead, we rail against commercialism and trendy hipsters in our own fashion. Come along for a little musical comedy with a bite. This week’s journey covers 35 years of music, and includes a heavy dose of punk, new wave, and, of course, don’t forget the heavy metal encore. Enjoy!


(This podcast is no longer available.)


Playlist

"Turn on the News" by Husker Dü
Jeff’s New Wave: “You Say You Don't Want Me” by The Buzzcocks
Cover Me: "Oliver's Army" by Blur
"Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis
“First Comes First" by The Paddingtons
"What About Next Time?" by Milburn
"Death Car Ride" by Miss Derringer
"The Moneymaker" by Rilo Kiley
“Fluorescent Adolescent” by The Arctic Monkeys
“Sensible New Age Guys” by Christine Lavin
“Black Tuesday" by The Yuppie Pricks
"Yuppies in the Sky" by Tom Paxton
"Only Wanna Be With You" by Hootie & The Blowfish (request)
"Back in my Baby's Arms" by Popa Chubby
"Blowin' Free" by Wishbone Ash

Rick's Metal Shoppe: “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour

(Mp3 Runs - 1:16:41; 71 MB.) *No explicit lyrics, but parental guidance may be necessary.*

(Photo by Daquella manera, a Spanish-language group blog based in D.C., via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)




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10.25.2007

How the NFL Courts Women

by Robin Forman

I hate the Steelers. Always have.

I hate the Ravens. I have since they stole my team from me in 1996.

I’m supposed to hate them. I’m from Cleveland.

And yet, due to an article in The Washington Post (curse you, Post!) I am left with no choice but to respect these two teams for reaching out to women.

The National Football League (NFL) has been trying to reach female fans for years. They catered kickoff shows to be more female-friendly, they launched an advertising campaign showing the gentler, more family-oriented side of NFL players. And their line of ladies’ NFL gear is downright couture.

The Ravens and the Steelers have gone an extra 100 yards…in heels.

The Ravens have a female fan club called Purple. The club, launched this August, is free to join. This is where they start getting brilliant: members of the club receive information about the team as well as fitness tips from the team’s strength and conditioning coach, nutritional advice from the team’s nutritionist, and discounts from sponsors.

For $250 you can join the exclusive Lavender Ladies. The Lavender Ladies enjoy perks like private autograph sessions, a day at training camp, and gifts such as wine glasses and handbags.

Now, while the Steelers may not have a “ladies only” fan club (ha!) like the Ravens they are hosting a Ladies Night Out tonight that will include a prime rib dinner and a tour of Heinz Field.

Eighteen teams in the NFL offer Football 101 classes and they draw 10,000 women each year.

The Indianapolis Colts offer women’s classes: Women’s 101-Beginner, 101-Advanced, and Women’s 201 which actually allows the women to run through various drills on the field.

Women make up 46 percent of the Ravens’ fan base.

So how are the Browns tapping into this interest from female fans? How are they welcoming the lady Backers with open arms? They’re not.

I guess it just goes to show that the lovely ladies of Cleveland don’t need incentive; we just need the pure brown and orange love in our hearts.

(To see this week's NFL predictions, please visit Rocky's Football Corner.)

(The photo is by paigehortman327 from a public album on webshots.)








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Rocky's Football Corner, 10.24.2007

(Which team will show up in Denver this week? The Broncos who took advantage of the Steelers last week, or that embarrassing bunch who were slaughtered by the Chargers a few weeks back? And why would the NFL schedule the Dolphins on the bill for the game in London? How are the Dolphins able to represent truly professional level football after the Patriots dismantled them last week? Can the Dolphins win even one game after losing their starting quarterback and starting running back in subsequent weeks? Finally, do we have to talk about Michael Vick, even if his case is back in the news? And why don't we have a regular column yet this season at the halfway point? Well, the winning percentage is slipping, but still fairly strong, so we'll let the predictions do the talking.)

by Rick Rockwell

Week 8 Office Pool Predictions

Game of the Week: Packers at Broncos (Broncos)
Upset Special: Bills at Jets (Bills)
Steelers at Bengals (Steelers)
Colts at Panthers (Colts)
Lions at Bears (Bears)
Browns at Rams (Browns)
Jaguars at Buccaneers (Bucs)
Texans at Chargers (Chargers)
Eagles at Vikings (Eagles)
Saints at 49ers (Saints)
Washington at Patriots (Patriots)
Raiders at Titans (Titans)
Giants vs. Dolphins in London (Giants)

Last Week: .643
This Season: .699


For other blogs calling NFL games, please see:





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0° Debuts

You may think this blog already has a podcast, and you'd be right about that. However, today marks the debut of , a podcast produced by students at American University's School of Communication. One of the humble blog editors serves as their instructor. The idea is to produce a program designed by college-aged journalists for the young audience. While the program lasts, we'll be posting updates on this blog too, from time to time.

(To download or stream this podcast, click here.)


(The logo is from dadrox of Buenos Aires, Argentina via stock.xchng.)




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10.24.2007

The World Series Dreams of Red Sox Nation

by Molly Kenney*

Even when they couldn’t win the World Series for 86 years, the Boston Red Sox were the best team in baseball. In 2004, they proved it in epic fashion, and this year they could — knock on wood — do it again. They have the best record in baseball, and, as always, the biggest hearts. The Sox can’t really be called baseball’s underdog this season, but they still have the underdog appeal.

Across the Atlantic, American baseball means little, but everyone knows about the Sox. It’s no coincidence that the sports pub that shows American games is Boston-themed and named after the city’s landmark, Cheers. Despite the whole tea party thing, Brits seem to root for the Sox, and, more importantly, they recognize the evil that is the New York Yankees. Recently, over a pint after game six of the American League Championship Series (ALCS), one Brit suggested that the phenomenal Sox could become the new Yankees, the team of high-paid prodigies hammering its way through the season. (But not this year, Yankees!) That simply won’t happen.

If the Sox management and players stay as smart next season as they were this one, the Sox could very well become the juggernaut of American baseball. But they’ll never deign to think only of the money, and they’ll always be a star team rather than a team of stars. Together, they staged the biggest comeback in playoff history and broke a curse, demonstrating that they are clearly God’s chosen team. When the Sox are on, they look like a bunch of little boys having the time of their lives; when they’re off, they look like little boys struggling to tie their shoes. They are sincere and lovable, members of the collective Boston family. Their fans would never let them become the preening, arrogant Yankees, even if this year is the beginning of their dynastic rule of baseball.

Tonight, millions on both sides of the Atlantic, probably even in remote villages across the world, will be cheering for the Red Sox, everyone’s favorite boys and the best team in baseball.** And that’s how it should be.

*The author is a native Bostonian, so her bias comes naturally; this year she is watching the Series from London.

**Baseball's World Series opens in Boston on Wednesday night, Oct. 24, with the Red Sox hosting the Colorado Rockies.

(Photo of Jonathan Papelbon, the closing pitcher of the Boston Red Sox, by Waldo Jaquith of Charlottesville, VA, via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)







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An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh

(Editor's Note: The following letter was written in response to the recent campaign led by Rush Limbaugh to smear 12-year-old Graeme Frost of Baltimore. Frost became one of the examples of children needing health care that Democrats promoted in their unsuccessful campaign to over-ride President George Bush's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as S-CHIP. For more background, please see this piece from "The Washington Post," which exposes the half-truths used by conservatives in the campaign to discredit Frost and his family.)

Dear Mr. Limbaugh:

Sir, let me first say that I have never agreed with your opinions or the depths to which you will sink to increase your so-called newsworthiness.

Today, as I was thumbing to the obituaries, instead I read the article on the Frost family in The Post. After reading that article, I can no longer remain silent.

Sir, do you have children? Have you ever had a sleepless night wondering how you are going to pay for your child's medicine, food, or clothing? I'm sure you have not. Neither have I. However, there are millions of people who have such nights of worry. They have actually given up all hope of having enough money to give their children the basic needs. To have you ridicule a child and his family for what you call not being poor enough or worthy enough for state or federal aid is simply inhumane.

Are you human or a corporate robot spitting out half-truths and lies for the almighty dollar?

The travesty you have made of the Frost story caught my eye in my daily habit of reading the obituaries. I read them every day not for some morbid thrill, but instead I have learned that reading the obits helps us appreciate people. We learn how important these deceased individuals have been to their families and communities. Every day, I read stories of people who have led lives of honor and integrity. I see the stories of people who build communities and work for the improvement of humanity.

Why is it that you cannot focus on the good, the honorable and noble efforts of humanity instead of ridiculing, insulting and demeaning people? Where is your humanity, sir? Is your ridicule of us as human beings your legacy?

Be careful, sir, for one day you will be in the obituaries too. What will be said of you? Who will be your noted and loving family? Clear Channel Communications? Or some other sponsor or syndicator?

May you find some humanity before that day comes.

Sincerely,
Amy Luther-Rockwell
Special to iVoryTowerz

For other posts on Rush Limbaugh, please see:

(The photo of Rush Limbaugh is from a tour of U.S. Agency for International Development – USAID – programs in Afghanistan. The photo is from USAID and is in the public domain. To see one of the series of Doonesbury cartoons criticizing Limbaugh for his smear campaign against the Frost family, please go here.)







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10.23.2007

Music Review: Neil Young's Chrome Dreams II

by Vincent Lee
Special to iVoryTowerz

Throughout Neil Young’s career he has shown a penchant for announcing new albums and then simply not releasing them. Homegrown, Chrome Dreams, a live Bluenotes album, and Times Square are only a few of his albums that haven’t seen official release. Some songs off these unreleased albums have come out on other releases from Young. However, many of them still remain unheard.

For Young’s latest album, he has released a trio of these older songs, along with seven new tracks. He’s dubbed the creation Chrome Dreams II, a sequel of sorts to one of his previously unreleased albums.

Unlike Young’s recent albums, Chrome Dreams II doesn’t feature a specific theme or focus. Rather, it functions strictly as a collection of songs with varying styles. The first three are culled from Young’s back catalogue, each ranking among the best of his unreleased material. The highlight of these, however, is undoubtedly “Ordinary People.” An 18-minute song from the days when the Bluenotes backed Young, it alternates between powerful narrative and equally powerful guitar and saxophone solos.

The next seven songs are new material. None are new in a stylistic sense. And why would any listener expect them to be? Young seems to have explored his persona thoroughly in the past four decades. Four of these seven are softer songs. None are anything especially noteworthy, but they still remain solid. The other three recall vintage Crazy Horse, a sound Young has not created in some time. The best of these is another epic song, running 14 minutes and entitled “No Hidden Path.”

Young has not had a song this dynamic and this driven since his 1977 guitar assault “Like A Hurricane.” Many bands make mistakes by unnecessarily lengthening songs to the point that they become boring. Young makes no such mistakes with this song. Though it does run for quite some time, “No Hidden Path” moves with perfect pacing, never leaving the listener disinterested.

Chrome Dreams II is one of the better albums Young has released in the past two decades. Loyal fans should enjoy it — at least more so than the heavy-handed Living With War or the lazy-sounding Prairie Wind. Casual rock fans should also find enjoyment and interest, not because the album represents another Young classic in the vein of After The Goldrush, or even the original Chrome Dreams, but because it’s very simply a solid addition to Young’s enduring legacy.

(The photo shows Neil Young performing with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 2006 near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; the photo is by Adrian M. Buss and is used with a GNU Free Documentation License. Young's tour supporting Chrome Dreams II takes him to Seattle to play a concert on Tuesday, Oct. 23, the day the LP is officially released. To see Young play "I Am A Child" from the music documentary Rust Never Sleeps, please check below. Currently, iTunes is bundling a live version of "I am a Child" with selections from Chrome Dreams II.)








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10.22.2007

Hillary Clinton Does not Deserve to be President

by Jeff Siegel

Hillary Clinton does not deserve to be president.

There, that’s it, out in the open – no fancy writing, no turning of phrases, no literary embellishments. A Clinton presidency would not benefit the country, would not end the war in Iraq, would not help working men and women deal with the economic challenges – perhaps even crises – facing the United States.

Mrs. Clinton embodies everything that is corrupt with the current political system, and especially the Democratic Party. She makes choices not because they’re right or wrong, but on whether they’ll play with the audience her pollsters have identified as crucial to victory. Her domestic policies – the baby bonds, for example – pander to the white, suburban middle class as shamelessly as any Republican. Her fearmongering over Iran is even worse: “Iran must conform to its non-proliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table.” George Bush could have written that, and we know how successful his foreign policy has been.

Mrs. Clinton’s votes on the war are so hypocritical as to beggar explanation – unless she’s terrified that she’ll be Swift-boated, in which case she lacks the will to do what needs to be done. This is not the hallmark of a great president. Great presidents know what must be done, and they do it. Teddy Roosevelt was not cowed by opposition within his party to the Progressive-era economic and social reforms he knew were necessary, and so he pushed for them – and we are still the beneficiaries, a century later. Harry Truman was not intimidated by opposition within his party to integrating the military, and he did it – and we are still the beneficiaries, 60 years later.

Mrs. Clinton is not even much of a policy wonk, which is supposed to be her strong suit. Her performance during the 1994 attempt to reform health insurance, which she ramrodded for her husband, was abysmal. She was outmaneuvered by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the insurance industry, who manipulated her like a puppet. The only thing she apparently learned from that experience is to take their money. During her 2006 senatorial campaign, she received $150,600 in contributions from insurance and pharmaceutical companies that she accused in 1993 of “price gouging” and “unconscionable profiteering.”

Sadly, it is difficult to criticize Mrs. Clinton. Her supporters always play the female card, so that any criticism is dismissed as being against women. This is wrong and arrogant. Not only does it alienate those of us who are feminists, but it shields her supporters from the truth of the criticisms. In addition, her critics are accused of not being team players who will prevent the Democrats from retaking the White House. This is even more arrogant – how dare someone on the Left tar us with Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment?

And please do not argue that a Clinton presidency will save abortion. It’s almost certainly lost, given the current makeup of the Supreme Court – and I’m not convinced that Mrs. Clinton would nominate anyone who would make a difference. Consider this, from Chief Justice John Robert’s nomination hearings: “I look forward to the committee's findings, so that I can make an informed decision about whether Judge Roberts is truly a guardian of the rule of law who puts fairness and justice before ideology.” Like she didn’t know that Bush was going to nominate someone who would overturn Roe v. Wade at the first opportunity?

Another candidate, 40 years ago, saw his duty and did it. “I am hopeful,” Eugene McCarthy said, “that the challenge I am making may alleviate the [current] sense of political helplessness and restore to many people a belief in the processes of American politics.” Mrs. Clinton is no Gene McCarthy, and anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.

To see other posts with similar themes, please check:
(Political graphic from Comandante Agi of California via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license; you can see more of the comandante's political graphics at his blog, This Blog Will Self-Destruct in Five Seconds.)





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10.21.2007

The FCC, Corporate Media & The Tribune Company

by Rick Rockwell

The FCC is up to its old tricks.

Members of the U.S. Senate’s Commerce Committee took the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to task last week because the commission again tried to slip a favor to corporate media. The FCC wants to loosen caps on how many stations nationwide a media company can own. The commission also wants to allow cross-media ownership. Usually, the owners of newspapers are prevented from also owning broadcast stations in the same cities. Yes, some cross-ownership does exist, because some owners have waivers from the FCC. They obtained those waivers because the ownership structures were in place before the laws about ownership limits were written.

Some may be asking, in this modern communications world, why have restrictions at all?

Well, the idea to limit ownership was put into the law to encourage local ownership of broadcast properties. The idea was that would encourage local and regional coverage of news and public affairs. Likewise, the measure was put in place as a check on further consolidation of the media. Of course, the quaint concepts of localism and ownership limits existed before the corporate assault unleashed by the 1996 Telecommunications Act. That act gave the FCC the power to re-establish these limits as necessary to improve communication.

Let’s be clear, there’s a reason the FCC is back trying to change ownership laws. The last time the FCC tried this, the federal courts threw out their plan in 2003, and later Congress reached a compromise that allowed both FOX and CBS to keep local stations that were beyond the old ownership restrictions. Behind this new initiative is an attempt by the FCC to boost the sale of the Tribune Company (which owns The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, among other properties) to Sam Zell for about $8.2 billion. The problem with the sale is that Tribune owns 23 TV stations and some of those stations are in cities where Tribune also has other media properties. Although Tribune has a waiver for that type of cross-ownership now, once the sale goes through, Zell will have to start selling off media properties in some of the biggest cities in the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Hartford, Connecticut.

Another reason the FCC wants to be so generous is that Tribune is a company with a long conservative history. The chair of the FCC is Kevin Martin, a Republican appointee, who knows how the Tribune has supported Republican causes for generations. Don’t let folks mislead you about the true nature of media ownership in America: the media are conservative and part of big business, like the Tribune Company. Those who would have you believe the media are leftist and liberal leave out information about these sweetheart deals that the media companies and their lobbyists cook up.

What seems like an unlikely coalition of Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Trent Lott (R-MS) told the FCC to go back to the drawing board. Dorgan and Minority Whip Lott are fierce defenders of the current standards because they represent states with small markets where already too much media consolidation has taken place: so much that local news is sometimes ignored. And when politicians are ignored in their states, there’s going to be hell to pay.

So, Corporate Media and the FCC lose this round. But stay tuned: this battle is not over, not until that Tribune sale is done.

(The photo of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin at a hearing in Keller, Texas in 2006 is from the FCC; the photo is in the public domain.)









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Satire: Dumbledore's Wizard in the Middle

by Robin Forman

In a groundbreaking revelation that began to reverberate around the Wizarding community several years ago, Albus Dumbledore has become the first headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to be openly identified as gay.

Dumbledore himself did not publicly admit to this, instead he was outed by Harry Potter author and friend J.K. Rowling Friday night.

Rowling made this announcement at New York City’s famed (albeit a gathering spot for muggles) Carnegie Hall at the end of her American book tour. The news was greeted by the 2,000 guests with applause and cheers to which Rowling replied “If I had known this would have made you so happy, I would have told you years ago."

One might have imagined that Dumbledore’s lack of a romantic life was due to his hectic schedule, what with running the most prestigious magic school in the world, heading several renowned organizations, and fending off evil. But alas, just like a regular person, Dumbledore suffered from a broken heart.

Rowling said that Dumbledore had this secret his whole life and that his unrequited love for his companion turned nemesis, Gellert Grindelwald, was his great tragedy.

Although this announcement may spark some controversy among the more conservative wizards, it is expected that this news will help teach the younger witches and wizards about tolerance and acceptance.

"It's hugely important for the young witches and wizards so they don't feel alone in the world. We're role models. We're adults, and we know we're not alone but the young witches and wizards don't know that,” said Minerva McGonagall, Hogwarts professor and longtime friend of Dumbledore. “He will definitely help a lot of kids, both magic and muggle, growing up to feel better about themselves."

There is some speculation that a book — working title: Wizard in the Middle — containing Dumbledore’s memoirs about being gay is in the works although this hasn’t been confirmed by anyone yet.

(Promotional photo of the late great Richard Harris as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series from Warner Brothers Pictures.)







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10.20.2007

How the Democrats Fumbled the Mukasey Nomination

by Laura Snedeker

The attorney general nominee could have tapped the Senate Judiciary Committee’s phones and shipped the chairman to Guantanamo Bay this week and the Democrats still would have ignored his shaky commitment to democracy.

Michael B. Mukasey, a former federal judge, did acknowledge that torture is “unlawful under the laws of this country," and pleased the committee by declaring he would quit rather than violate the Constitution. After listening to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales unabashedly claim this summer that he could not recall several significant events, Mukasey’s relatively straightforward answers gratified the committee so much it practically promised his confirmation.

Despite the nominee’s refusal to answer questions about surveillance and detention, saying he was “not familiar” with the government’s spy program, and that to make a statement about its legality or illegality would be “enormously irresponsible," the majority of Democrats on the committee waited at least a full day to become disturbed.

When asked whether waterboarding, an interrogation tactic used at Guantanamo Bay, is illegal, Mukasey maintained that he did not know “what’s involved in the technique," and that he could not say whether it constitutes torture.

Ignore for a moment that the man who will probably be the next attorney general of the United States has apparently been living under a rock or purposely ignoring every newspaper article describing the technique. How can anyone doubt that tying a prisoner to a board, gagging his mouth, and pouring water over his face to simulate drowning is torture?

Not that the Democrats intend to block his nomination. “He’s at least answered the questions, which is better than his predecessor,” said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who had previously expressed dismay at Mukasey’s acceptance of expanded executive powers.

Do we ask only that our government officials answer questions, without discriminating between good and bad answers? Have we lowered our standards so much that matters of torture and privacy are peripheral?

With the Democratic and Republican candidates battling to establish their national security credentials, the Senate Democrats are prohibited from doing anything partisan or obstructionist. Leaving America without a chief law enforcement officer in this era of heightened security in the Post-9/11 World is unacceptable.

The Judiciary Committee hearings were merely a formality, designed only to confer legitimacy on Mukasey, who could have said anything short of promising to personally torture enemy combatants. The president need not worry about remaining relevant, although reporters questioned him on that point in his news conference this week; Bush is stronger now than he was when the Democrats used their status as the minority party to attack him.

Even if Mukasey is better than his predecessor, that’s an awfully low standard to set. Replacing one corrupt cop with a slightly less corrupt cop is no way to run the Justice Department, and acceptance of corruption is no way to run a democracy.

(Photo of Michael B. Mukasey, the nominee for attorney general, and President George W. Bush by White House photographer Chris Greenberg; as the photo is from the White House, it is in the public domain.)







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