The Friends of California Libre...

30 September 2007

You Knew the Answer Before You Asked

Greetings, friends,
Ordinarily I wouldn't remark upon the rock classics of the 1960s and 1970s being used to sell crap on television, but I was a little taken aback when I noticed Chevy (who also just provoked the first strike from the UAW in 31 years) using Badfinger's "Come and Get It".  It seems kind of an obvious tune for a commercial, but does no one remember the original use of the song in "The Magic Christian"?  "If you want it, here it is, come and get it..." plays while Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr attract Londoners into a wading pool full of shit and pound notes with the sign FREE MONEY.  Well, no one at Chevy remembers, anyway.

I was overindulging myself this last week.  Perhaps it's because I just turned 42, which as some of you know is the answer to the meaning of existence.,_the_Universe,_and_Everything

By overindulgence I mean supersizing, walking under the full moon to my favorite diner, driving to gigs and movies without even calling you, and going with the flow rather than fighting it.  It means blowing off a social call to watch Berkeley beat Oregon at Eugene for the first time in 20 years.  But the Fir Dearg, a particularly vindicative leprechaun, will eventually come looking for the scenery-chewers.  Last night that happened when I was tootling down Washington Boulevard in my new Echo, and a car ran a red light so late he passed BEHIND me.  When you come that close to death (or at least having your poor new car demolished), you're not sure whether the Goddess is looking out for you, or looking out to GET you.  It's best to lay low.  I probably should have stayed at the party for my stepdaughter Lucy Dodd's new art consignment (and woman, I would have plugged the website IF YOU HAD ONE!), but too many kids in their mid-20s were giving me the awkward what-are-you-hunting-here-old-man look, so I split for Bonde do RolĂȘ at the Echoplex.  After waiting in line for a half-hour with even younger kids giving me the wow-are-you-a-cool-old-man-or-a-pig look, the club hit fire marshal capacity about 20 people ahead, so I took that as the last joke the Fir Dearg had in store for me, gave my ticket to some kid who probably got in for the encore and split.  Now it's Sunday morning and the jackhammers across the street (curses) have been rat-tat-tatting since 8.30.

Maybe I'd feel safer with this new tech:
The electronic brake is on the way
By Laurent Meillaud

Just think, no more "cutting the brake lines" in murder mysteries.  Tsk.

Don't let it scare you...get up and get out of the house.  Too many people I know are locked away just around the corner, if you know what I mean.  It can make you crazy:
"Meteorite" Crash Breeds Mass Hysteria

In fact, I think that cabin-fever must be epidemic in Russia (thanks, Robert):

American spy satellite downed in Peru as US nuclear attack on Iran thwarted

Well, we all have different opinions of whether the Russians have lost their marbles.  Most people within shouting distance of the SCREED know how I feel about low point being in Vienna, when a Russian came up to me in the U-Bahn, said he was starving, had just arrived from Russia, and did I have any that order.  To which my friend replied, "You should not have told him you were from Russia.  Now he doesn't care if you starve."

If I were in Europe right now, especially among my Ukrainian brothers, I'd warn them to watch out for Russians:

Russia determined to retaliate if other nations deploy weapons in space
Russia Steps Up Military Expansion
By Luke Harding
The Guardian UK
Russia Unveils the "Father of All Bombs"
By Luke Harding
The Guardian UK

What really bothers me is that, flush with oil money, they're proud to play the Cossack; this is straight from the horse's mouth (thanks again, Robert):
Relations between Russia and USA get into Cold War spirit again

I noticed that many Europeans, of course, are still more afraid of the button George Bush might accidentally press than any Russian bluster:
Austrian Minister: US Missile Shield Is Provocation

The Austrians can talk...although safely protected on all sides by NATO countries, they are not members.  So they don't have to worry about fessing up to atrocities of their own, like what NATO did to their Serbian neighbors a few years back:
NATO Comes Clean on Cluster Bombs
By Brian Brady
The Independent UK

But I'm not bitching...I love my obnoxious, cocky Austrian friends.  It's that let's-fuck-the-French-Italians-Slavs spirit that was beaten out of the Germans, but may come back someday:
Pope "Refused Audience for Rice"
By David Willey
BBC News
Cardinal in 'Nazi art term' row

One thing I'm reminded by watching "The War", the rather titanic but awesome documentary now showing here on PBS, is how important the Germans have been as a counterforce against the people of the old Roman Empire.  I recently finished Alistair Horne's The Fall of Paris, and we forget how much changed in Europe and the world when Germany and Italy finally asserted many countries had to "cowboy-up" in reaction.

For example, take a look at this (thanks again, Robert):
In pictures: Nazis unwind at Auschwitz

People like to demonize Germans, and after what they gave us last century, maybe they deserve it.  But it is a mistake to think there's something special about them.  Anybody is capable of anything; like Depeche Mode reminds us, "people are people".  On the contrary, I've found Germans to be among the most polite and laid-back Europeans.  Getting jumped for trying to massacre the world and then having your cities bombed flat will do that, I suppose.  Well, if you want a little taste of old Germany, it's waiting right there with a little smirk in Vienna.

Incidentally, I'd like to plug that book, The Fall of Paris, for anyone in Paris or just curious about the French psychology.  It's dry reading, but I knew next to nothing about the Franco-Prussian War or the Commune of 1870-1871, and once I finished the book I had a much greater understanding of France.  Over here most people think (if they have an opinion) that World War I, and the violence of the 20th century, was touched off by a Serb putting a bullet into a Habsburg in Sarajevo.  On the contrary, much older and larger furies were at work.  Here's the scenario:  Although you once had a democratic republic, you let the spineless relative of your former emperor take control, and drive the country into the ground.  Your eastern neighbors, led by the Prussians, decide to demonstrate their newfound unity by provoking you into a foolish war, whereupon they promptly march in and put your capital under siege.  After a few months, with the city on the brink of starvation, your country (which could not even rouse an army large enough to cut the Prussian supply lines) agrees to capitulate, ceding the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine and being forced to reimburse the victors a huge reparation, the modern equivalent of $1 billion (or 5 days fighting in Iraq).  As a parting shot the German Army marches through the Arc de Triomphe.  No wonder the French were itching to fight the Germans again forty years later.

At the same time the Parisians finally learned the contempt the rest of France held them in.  When the General Assembly prepared to reestablish the old government, a new group of rabble called the Communists seized control of the city.  Unable to beat the Prussians, the French army could only defeat the Paris militias by nearly leveling the city...explaining why, though beautiful, large tracts of Paris have a uniformity, as they were all rebuilt in the 1870s and 1880s.  It's also a story of civil disorder and suffering that has afflicted every great city in Europe.

I'm reminded of a remark Charles Bukowski made about Americans:  "The problem with these people is that their cities have never been bombed and their mothers have never been told to shut up."  Well, we have now.  Hmm...I feel a screed coming on.

I'm distressed to see one of my favorite cities, Bruxelles, torn in half.  It is exactly that cooperation between rival groups that is the bedrock of the European Union, and a reason why Bruxelles is the home of the European Parliament.  It doesn't bode well for Ulster, or Catalunya, or any of the other small autonomous places in Europe if this dispute cannot be solved:
Belgium Poised to Rip Apart
By Christian Rioux
Le Devoir
Belgium Juggles With Its Survival
By Richard Werly
Le Temps

I have faith that my Belgian friends, who are too wacky to be much afflicted with politics, will see their way out of this conundrum:
"Menage a trois" seeks to preserve Belgian unity

Listen, this is a new century and a new millennium.  We're all about rights now, from the individual on up instead of from God on down.
Polk Judge Rules Against Gay Marriage Ban
The Associated Press
UN General Assembly Backs Indigenous Peoples' Rights
By Gerard Aziakou
Agence France-Presse

Even the oldest and most entrenched dictatorships should not make it out of this century, this decade alive:
Monks' Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta
By Seth Mydans
The New York Times

It's unbelievably tragic that the country that started all this freedom crap back in 1776 is now showing the world how to remove it with impunity:
White House Manual Details How to Deal With Protesters
By Peter Baker
The Washington Post
A Laboratory for Latin America's New Militarism
By Benjamin Dangl
Guerilla News Network

No matter how hard we try to oppress ourselves or our neighbors, some punk kid will be there to stick it in our face:
Handcuffed Mexicali kids steal U.S. border agent car

If you think we can ever close ourselves off from Mexico, take a look at these photographs:

Arizona Rest Area

Photographs show backpacks and clothing discarded at an Arizona rest area used by illegal immigrants.

Why worry about terrorists and foreigners?  Now we're all about keeping tabs on each other (thanks, Robert):
Exercise Vigilant Shield '08 slated for October
US to Expand Domestic Use of Spy Satellites
By Robert Block
The Wall Street Journal
Spy Satellites Turned on the US
By Jason Ryan
ABC News

We could be using this tech to good ends...take, for example, this device which can save even the most scratched or fragile vinyl record:

Rescuing Recorded Sound from Silence

by Kathleen M. Wong

Instead our tech is ruling our lives, maybe even shortening them:
Drivers warned: Don't trust your Sat Navs
Germany Warns Citizens to Avoid Using Wi-Fi
By Geoffrey Lean
The Independent UK
FCC to Rule on Wireless Auction
By Kim Hart
The Washington Post

There's always a backlash:
Judge Rules Provisions in Patriot Act to Be Illegal
By Susan Jo Keller
The New York Times

And a backlash to the backlash (thanks, Mark):
Bush Has 8 Friends Left on MySpace
Bush Renews Threat to Veto Children's Health Legislation
By Elana Schor
The Hill
* Bush Makes Surprise Visit To Work*

Seriously, it takes a psychologist to explain how we even ended up in this situation (thanks, Brad):

How Political Psychology Explains Bush's Ghastly Success - Death Grip

by John B. Judis

Or how we'll ever get out of it:

Posh fears family will become 'too American'

"Washington, Sep 11 : Victoria Beckham's move to Los Angeles has generated new fears for her - the fear of being too Americanized."
Learn From the Fall of Rome, US Warned
By Jeremy Grant
The Financial Times

But DON'T MESS WITH US, for we are well-armed:
US Most Armed Country With 90 Guns Per 100 People
By Laura MacInnis

And we know where you live:
Texas Carried Out Its 400th Execution in Thirty Years to Relative Indifference
By Aline Leclerc
Le Monde
Not the Killer, but Still Facing a Date With the Executioner
By Ralph Blumenthal
The New York Times

Yeah, I'm afraid that given the opportunity, the rest of the world might deliver our comeuppance:
* Dollar Weakest In 31 Years*
Dollar's Retreat Raises Fear of Collapse
By Carter Dougherty
The International Herald Tribune

Even if it brings suffering upon themselves:
Strong Canadian dollar said hurting pot exports
Fears of Dollar Collapse as Saudis Take Fright
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph, UK

But of course, the greatest threat to us is the country that, thanks to Wal-Mart, is most heavily invested in our money:
China Threatens "Nuclear Option" of Dollar Sales
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph UK

China may lead US economy to collapse dumping US dollar

And this is not a government you want to have any influence over your life (thanks again, Robert):
A Generation in Peril: The Lives of Tibetan Children Under Chinese Rule

It's a country that can go toe-to-toe with our technological mastery:
* Man dies after 3-day gaming binge -*
Chinese couple tried to name baby "@"

It's a country not afraid to break a few eggs to make an omelette:
* Chinese Authorities Execute 10 Million Recalled Toys*
Chinese lover to die for kiss-and-kill pill

And the only thing between us and them is Japan (thanks again, Robert):
Deadly 'iku iku byo' reaches a climax - MSN-Mainichi Daily News
put that in your opium pipe!

Vive le screed!

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