Monday, September 11, 2006

Public Memories of 9/11: Tragedy Then Farce Five Years Hence

Also published on Blogcritics:

Two full weeks it has taken me to come to terms with the memory of 9/11 since its five year anniversary.

Like many Americans, I can remember the shock I felt watching television that September morning in 2001. The shock partly came from the fact that the U.S. mainland had never been the site of a war in the 20th century, and here were images of disaster explained through the lexicon of war. The media ensured the shock would not be short-lived; it was emblazoned in my mind/our minds thanks to the images of the planes crashing into the towers and the towers crumbling to their base, traumatizingly repeated ad nauseum on our TV and computer screens, and in our newspapers and magazines, all the more confusing since their mediated state resembled years of well-watched Hollywood disaster flicks. This repetition of such “push button” images filled the sign 9/11 with fragile emotional material. Mentioning it may call forth unspeakable horror, inconsolable grief, insatiable anger, and exploitable fear and patriotism. It is a volatile sign that need not even be the object of an imperative, such as those older battle cries, “Remember the Alamo!”; “Remember the Maine!”; or “Remember Pearl Harbor!” And it has been endlessly exploited by some of the most well-known politicians in America.

9/11 has been exploited to justify a war in Iraq motivated by more than the will to fight global terrorism. It has been exploited to gain political ground by both parties and their multiple minions in media organizations. And its exploitation is evidence of a political culture where civil exchange and respectful reason-giving have become quaint notions in exchange for communication war based on military propaganda and commercial sector PR and marketing.

Minutes after the twin towers were hit, politicians (they also happened to be mainly Republicans) saw an opportunity to bury American Federal social programs. The suggestion was, on the one hand, that the U.S. had become vulnerable to attack because of lack of resources channeled toward military security (forget about the largest military budget in the world) and siphoned away to social programs that from this perspective do not work and are abused by people who don’t really deserve them. On the other hand, “social programs” were immediately targeted as budget fat that had to be trimmed to support a lean, mean, re-beefed up national security state as a matter of immediate priorities.

Just as quickly, 9/11 became the grounds for Republican claims that Democrats had been lax on defense in favor of social programs and for Democrat claims that Republicans themselves were guilty of a dereliction of duty in view of reports that the Bush administration had ignored evidence that Al Qaeda was planning an attack, which was dodged and parried before being sent back to Clinton’s doorstep (a strategy recently renewed in the fifth-year anniversary 9/11 films). Very quickly there were signs that 9/11 was a memory and a sign which would be the site of endless political struggle.

Rumor Bombs of 9/11 for Iraq

The most offensive exploitation of 9/11 for political agendas has without doubt been the Iraq War. This use of 9/11 has taken many reprehensible forms, from rumors of Iraq/Al Qaeda links on 9/11, to Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq which would allegedly be used to commit mass murder even worse than 9/11. These stupendous acts of political opportunism have snowballed into repeated degradations of freedom and public life generally.

The speech that launched a thousand bombs and burned the towers of Baghdad was Bush’s 2003 State of the Union, which used inaccurate intelligence to claim Iraq was building nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. This was the most public case for an invasion of Iraq and its strength mostly lay in its asserted connection to 9/11.

In the same speech heavily loaded with misleading information (that if not deliberately was certainly carelessly used), he launched the rumor bomb that Saddam Hussein had close ties to terrorists, had aided Al Qaeda, and would very likely play a role in future attempted terrorist attacks on American citizens. In his own words, “Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.”

star wars gulf IIThe Iraq/Al Qaeda rumor bomb was repeated in similar forms and circulated near and far in American media and cyberspace. As recently as one day after the fifth anniversary of 9/11, White House press secretary Tony Snow claimed that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda leader al Zarqawi had a “relationship.” This came a week after a bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee report noted that while Hussein had once met al Zarqawi, Hussein had attempted to locate and capture Al Zarqawi. To state there was a “relationship,” just like Iraq/Al Qaeda “links,” was deliberately misleading and is the near equivalent to claiming Al Qaeda had a relationship with the U.S. or Bush, simply because their agents were in the U.S.

These are all types of spin, which I have elsewhere explained as “rumor bombs” (go here for lengthy discussion of this rhetorical strategy called "the rumor bomb"). In short rumor bombs are intentionally vague claims, difficult to ultimately refute in their slipperiness, intended to obfuscate or distract, console or agitate, while circulating widely without news media subjecting them to critical scrutiny. Iraq/Al Qaeda links and weapons of mass destruction were both very effective rumor bombs whose explosions were so powerful that large portions of the American population still believe that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that they were found, and that there were Iraq/Al Qaeda “links” (February 2005 and July 2006, September 2006)!

Also included in that infamous 2003 State of the Union was the exploitation of loyal asset Colin Powell. “Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraq's illegal weapons programs; its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors; and its links to terrorist groups,” Bush promised.

However, more recently former Sec. of State Powell has described that speech as a “blot” on his record; has said he felt “terrible” about it when he learned he was “misled” about much of the information on which his presentation to the U.N. relied; and has said he was “devastated” to learn that intelligence agents did not come forward to announce their shared uncertainty on several counts.

9/11 and Iraq in Presidential Address since 2003

While his 2003 State of the Union address remains the most notorious exploitation of 9/11 to wage war in Iraq, there is hardly a televised presidential address since then where 9/11 has not been exploited to further the Iraq War agenda. Each State of the Union Address since 9/11 has recalled that tragic day, using its memory emotionally to promote particular controversial policies, above all the war in Iraq. In 2004, Bush began, in a now common pattern, with 9/11 and then moved on to Iraq. “Our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since September the 11th, 2001 -- over two years without an attack on American soil -- and it is tempting to believe that the danger is behind us.” Ditto for 2005. How about 2006?

"Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder -- and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder. [….]Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world."

At the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, Bush went so far as to equate 9/11 with Nazi attacks and Iraq with World War II (via an emotional, Private-Ryanesque description of D-Day sacrifices) only to punish his local audience for deserting their “friends” in the Iraq War.

Unsurprisingly, Bush’s Second Inaugural Address last year took the familiar form. Bush invoked 9/11 biblically for some of his audience as a “Day of Fire” which “came” almost supernaturally, only to go on and once again transfer that affective reservoir of hurt, anger, and vengeance to the Iraq War, which was a campaign, he claimed, to defeat tyranny and propagate freedom.

Law and Ethics Abandoned for…9/11?

The exploitation of 9/11 to justify Iraq is even more offensive when one considers how it relates to wide-ranging ethical and legal violations.

A couple of months after Bush’s second inauguration, in March 2005, it was reported that the Bush administration used thousands of taxpayer dollars to further exploit 9/11 and promote the Iraq war and other issues in ever more creative ways. This time it took equally unethical forms such as creating so-called “fake news” segments or “video news releases” (VNRs) and paying columnists, all of which was simply PR-staged reporting.

The use of 9/11 to support the Bush administration’s war policies is also troubling in view of the judgments of those policies by the Supreme Court. The Court has more than once ruled Bush administration policies as illegal under the U.S. Constitution and the country’s obligation to honor the Geneva Convention on war crimes. In July 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “United States courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay." On June 29, 2006, the Supreme Court struck down the Bush administration’s plan for military commissions to judge prisoners suspected as Al Qaeda operatives. As the Washington Post put it: “Brushing aside administration pleas not to second-guess the commander in chief during wartime, a five-justice majority ruled that the commissions, which were outlined by Bush in a military order on Nov. 13, 2001, were neither authorized by federal law nor required by military necessity, and ran afoul of the Geneva Conventions.”

Degrading Freedom

The manner in which the Bush administration has exploited 9/11 for Iraq (first directly and then more loosely and desperately) had been accompanied by an exploitation of the very meanings and practice of freedom and politics.

In that much-discussed State of the Union Address for 2003, Bush insisted that the American military has been and would be deployed paradoxically to fight for peace and to export freedom. “We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended,” he announced in support of his preemptive war policy. He continued, as he has many times since, by repeating the sacred term “freedom.”

This mantra has been repeated, following the political communication strategy of “staying on message,” no matter how intentionally vague that message is, right up to the fifth anniversary memorial address on 9/11. “One of the strongest weapons in our arsenal is the power of freedom. The terrorists fear freedom as much as they do our firepower,” Bush assured us. Then he denied we were all actors in an epic clash of civilizations, only to go on and reassert that we in fact were involved in such a Manichean clash. “We are now in the early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom. Amid the violence, some question whether the people of the Middle East want their freedom, and whether the forces of moderation can prevail.”

You would never know by listening to Bush and other politicians (Democrats too) that freedom is one of the most notoriously debated and complex ideas in the history of political thought. Politicians make it strategically ambiguous so that individuals can attach their own definitions to the glittering generality that freedom is good.

But freedom hardly applies to the dead. Dead for freedom.

Free: Better Off Dead

It is worth noting what has become of many of the Iraqis who were to be liberated in the name of 9/11 and American security (at once a moral and a practical, necessary offense/defense project). Iraq Body Count estimates between 43,387 and 48,174 Iraqi civilians are now dead since the American invasion--almost fifteen times the number of Americans who perished on 9/11!

Study: Before/After War Iraqi Death RatesAccording to a compilation of other scientific studies, compared to the death rate before the war, the rate now points to around 250,000 excess deaths since the beginning of the war. This is, of course, to say nothing about the sacrifice of American lives in Iraq. The total number of dead American soldiers in Iraq has now exceeded the number of innocents killed in the attacks on 9/11.

Similarly, the attachment of freedom and civility to the U.S. has been strained, if not completely discredited, by American military practices of torture and an unclear understanding of how far up the ladder of command its sanction extended. In 2003, Bush attempted to make a case for war in Iraq to the American people by characterizing Hussein as a torturer: “International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.” What despicable irony that part of bringing “freedom” to Iraq and fighting a war on terror has brought revelations of torture executed by Americans on suspected and known terrorists imprisoned in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan. More recently, in his fifth anniversary of 9/11 memorial address, Bush attempted to arouse renewed support for his policies by calling them a “struggle for civilization.” In his topsy-turvy world, freedom is death and torture is civilized when Americans are doing it.

Making Politics a Dirty Word

It is no surprise, then in this theater of infowar, that the Bush administration would do all it can to all but outlaw criticism and debate. Bush has repeatedly played the national unity card, a sub-card to his trump of national security, as a means of distracting publics, repelling criticism, and furthering his policy agenda.

Instead of respecting a political culture of debate and disagreement (even if not a mythical purely rational one), Bush (like Democrats, it must be said, though he has taken the sad game to a whole new level) tries to shut down discussion/debate and a civic process of responding to critics and those who disagree with him. The game is to avoid discussion/debate altogether. One goal of the game is to avoid such debate by quarantining it in academic journals (what academic will try to tell us that the entire system of academic journals is not built upon the notion?), areas of communication Goodnight has called the technical sphere of argumentation. They want to cut lines between technical, public and personal spheres of argument, leaving public/civic life in an anemic state, sucked nearly dry of its blood of civil critical exchange. Leave rational-critical debate to the eggheads and their specialist journals. Public life is no place for it. At what cost to the quality of that public life?

In fact, one of the Bush administration's latest strategies (which Democrats too have used in the past) is to malign the term "politics" altogether. This is the anti-political political culture that the U.S. has become. At a mid-term campaign stop in Arkansas shortly before the anniversary of 9/11, Bush shamefully pleaded, "These are important times, and I would seriously hope people would not politicize these issues that I'm going to talk about." When the claims that debate and dissent are political and the implication is that such a thing is bad and opportunistic, we have reached the endgame of politics. It’s pure information war for the allegiance of an almost completely infantilized citizenry, which fortunately does not always work.

It would be one thing if the administration and its many elves had “just” deliberately and accidentally misled their own people, but they often exploited 9/11 in the process. Sadly, in remembering those whose lives were ruthlessly cut short on September 11, we are also compelled to memorialize the prolonged death of an American political culture that hardly respects civil engagement, honest reason-giving, and, ultimately, the citizenry itself.

"How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?" (Keith Olbermann)

Iraq War
Rumor Bomb
cultural memory

Zizek on 9/11 films and the politics of realism

Two recent films on 9/11 were touted for their realism. Slovenian social/political thinker and media commentator Slavov Zizek reminds us how realism's non-political descriptiveness is a kind of political stance anyway in its choice to ignore the struggle over context and history out of which the tragic events unfolded. To read the article click here

Remembering the Opportunists of 9/11

The Washington Post

October 17, 2001 Wednesday
Final Edition


LENGTH: 1080 words

HEADLINE: OMB Chief Signals New Spending Goals;
Daniels Says Security Needs Must Come First

BYLINE: Glenn Kessler, Washington Post Staff Writer


The White House signaled last night it will seek a reordering of federal budget priorities, with programs not related to fighting terrorism or enhancing security under scrutiny for reductions or elimination.

Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the White House budget director, warned that permanent budget deficits may emerge again if lawmakers do not trim back parts of the government not dedicated to the military, law enforcement and intelligence-gathering.

"Many lesser priorities will have to yield while we ensure that the essential functions of government are provided for," Daniels told a business group in New York, according to a draft of the speech released by the White House. "The alternative is to discard discipline totally and imperil our long-term economic health."

While Daniels in an interview declined to specify which programs the administration will target, his comments represent an early shot in a growing debate between the parties over future spending. With the 2002 budget certain to go into deficit for the first time in five years, policymakers face politically unappealing choices -- higher spending and continuing budget deficits, or higher taxes, or deep cuts in nonterrorism-related programs.

The administration supports legislation that seeks to stimulate the economy, though it has pressed for most of the package to be tax cuts. Last night, Daniels appeared to break slightly with the position of the Treasury Department that a proposed repeal of the corporate minimum tax should be permanent. Daniels said the tax cuts should be of "limited duration."

Even temporary tax cuts, such as a three-year break on new business investments supported by the administration, can have long-term consequences if lawmakers come under pressure to repeatedly extend the tax break just before it expires.

Since the summer, the fiscal situation of the country has changed dramatically, largely as a result of the administration-backed tax cut, the slumping economy and emergency spending related to the fallout from the terrorist attacks. Estimates earlier this year suggested the surplus in 2002 would be equal to about 3 percent of the overall size of the economy, and now it appears the country will slip into a small deficit. The fiscal shift is roughly equivalent to deficit growth during the 1974-75 recession.

In an interview, Daniels made it clear the administration was opposed to either higher spending or tax increases. Daniels said he rejected the notion that much of the additional spending in the war on terrorism -- by some estimates as much as $ 50 billion a year -- will need to be added on top of existing commitments. "Everything ought to be held up to scrutiny," he said. "Situations like this can have a clarifying benefit. People who could not identify a low priority or lousy program before may now see the need."

Daniels said the "two new imperatives are fully affordable [but] the real danger is that we will layer it on top of the government we have." He said that "what you don't do in a time of emergency is hold everything else sacrosanct," though he ruled out not implementing portions of the president's tax plan because "we don't want to do anything that hurts long-term growth."

But many Democrats charge the administration's commitment to fiscal discipline is merely a convenient way to slash funding for social and health programs dear to Democrats while pouring dollars into the military and law enforcement agencies that were always slated for big increases under President Bush. They question why everything but the president's desire for more tax cuts needs to be on the table.

Rep. David R. Obey (Wis.), the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said that Democrats were not planning to shortchange the war on terrorism. "There will be no difference between Republicans and Democrats on that front," he said. "But Democrats are not going to allow Osama bin Laden to accomplish what Mitch Daniels couldn't do on his own" -- which Obey said included weakening spending on science, health care and other social programs.

Obey said that his office has received memos from a range of federal agencies indicating the White House has been "planning extraordinarily deep cuts in domestic programs in order to finance oversized tax cuts."

Thomas Kahn, Democratic staff director of the House Budget Committee, said that the Bush administration has long sought an increase in military spending. "This administration tends to refashion the facts of the day to adjust whatever policy they had from the beginning," Kahn said.

Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) acknowledged that the ongoing costs of funding the war on terrorism will have consequences for future spending. He said that he was not inclined to seek ways to pay for the emerging stimulus package, and he did not think the time was ripe to reopen the debate about the tax bill that passed in the spring.

But Daschle said it was clear that spending priorities will be shifted in the wake of Sept. 11. "There is no doubt that eventually it [spending to fight terrorism] will have to be offset," he said. "We can't permanently commit to spending that can't be paid for."

The federal government has often grown during wartime, and administration officials are increasingly concerned that the wartime pressures will make it difficult to keep the lid on spending.

Earlier this year, the administration succeeded in passing a tax cut that was expected to reduce the 10-year budget surplus by about $ 1.7 billion, with many of the biggest reductions in revenue coming later in the decade. Although Bush had pledged to keep spending growth in annually funded programs to about 4 percent, in part to avoid depleting the surplus, the administration recently agreed to an increase of nearly 7 percent.

"We must resist pressure to unwisely expand government," the president told senior federal workers on Monday. "We need to affirm a few important principles, that government should be limited, but effective; should do a few things and do them well."

Daniels last night issued a stern warning to lawmakers who he said were making "opportunistic spending sorties masquerading as 'emergency' needs."

"Overnight, a climate of fiscal restraint has been dispelled," he said. "We now face a great risk of runaway spending, the erosion of the long-term surpluses we have been anticipating, and the erection of a much larger permanent federal government."

Indie-Music Reviews for the Attention Deficient:Josh Rouse, Gogol Bordello, iForward, Russia!

And you may ask yourself, "What is this swine-loving blogger listening to this week?"
For those of you new to this series, let me familiarize you with how it works.

In keeping with this increasingly globalized,glibly compressed, irrevocably speedy, and immanently forgettable media culture, I have devised a simple review system that also allows you to voyeuristically peek into my ipod window but without all the trouble of having to wade through a paragraph or two of self-indulgent prose. I mention its 90s,80s, or, sometimes digging way back into ancient history,70s, influence, and give you a sentence or two explaining (sometimes in high modernist poetic fashion or haiku) why it's cool. All of these artists are creative exemplars of postmodernist pastiche. Little if anything in indie rock is thoroughly new, but the pastiche of styles can be impressive.

If you're not in a hurry, if your life isn't hurly-burly;if you're not thinking right now, "damn, here I am on the internet and I've got so much crap to do!"--well, I'm not talking to you.

Again, here's how it works. What am I listening to?

Josh Rouse, still. Emigrated from Nashville to Spain. Beautiful overtones of the Pernice Brothers, Elliot Smith, Gordon Lightfoot, The Smiths, Air Supply, Jon Rauhouse, and various seventies string and keyboard accompaniments (songs like "His Majesty Rides" on his latest album, Subtitulo, recall John Lamm's "Saturday in the Park"). I am amazed that someone can musically sample Air Supply and remain cool. Lots of clever, nostalgic lyrics about the 80s. Lie down in the park, with the sun on your face and JR on your MP3 player.

Gogol Bordello. Lead singer Eugene Hütz, originally from the Ukraine, migrated to New York and collaborated with a squeezebox man, a fiddler, a guitarist and a rock drummer. What a cocktail! My Balkanophile friends FnR turned me on to them: Pogues meets Goran Bregovic and Brechtian cabaret. Gypsy Punk. If you thought the Viennese waltz was dizzying, try it to this. Oscillate Wildly while taking shots of whiskey.

iForward, Russia! Leeds, UK. Gang of Four, David Bowie, Ted Leo, Television in brighter and paler shades, respectively. Gang of Four, Gang of Four, Gang of Four, which as you may remember were also from Leeds, a city legendary for its arts-school- and university-incubator of a post-punk tradition. Playful nods to Soviet anonymity; their song titles are simply numbers (e.g. "number three"). Their hit "Nine" sold out in a hurry, supposedly due to a popular UK dj's love affair with it. The vocals alternate between sanity-bending wails and barbaric Byrne-esque yawps, which are themselves sliced by staccato guitar-funk and percussion whose energy rivals Animal's from the Muppets. You're inspired to scream along.

That's all for now, folks. See you next time on "Indie Music Reviews for the Attention Deficient."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rumor Bomb Hussein/Al Qaeda "link" Has Long Life

A Harris Poll in late July 2006 (that's right, this year) found that "Sixty-four percent say it is true that Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda (the same as 64% in February 2005)."

If you repeat an assertion enough, people start to believe it. On September 26, 2002, Bush provocatively claimed,"The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations, and there are Al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq."

Such statements were repeated and sporadically softened. In 2004, Vice-President Cheney was still emphasizing
long-established ties

Then, today, yet another commission or official study tells us there is no convincing evidence of any such link and that the evidence suggests, on the contrary that the administration manipulated the data and the public's perception of it in order to fulfill their own geo-political agenda--in the name of freedom and democracy, I might add.

"Senate finds no al-Qaida-Saddam link

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer 43 minutes ago [September 9, 2006]


Saddam Hussein rejected overtures from al-Qaida and believed Islamic extremists were a threat to his regime, a reverse portrait of an

Iraq allied with Osama bin Laden painted by the Bush White House, a Senate panel has found.

The administration's version was based in part on intelligence that White House officials knew was flawed, according to Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, citing newly declassified documents released by the panel.

The report, released Friday, discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward" al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or his associates." Click here for the full article.

Again, what we have here is an illustration of a "rumor bomb." Political actors, here the Bush administration and their extended network of supporters (bloggers, PR, radio and TV hosts, journalists, etc.), deliberately created the appearance of an important connection between 9/11, Al Qaeda, and Hussein, which drew on a tremendous emotional reserve of vengeance and punishment and desire to believe there was an obvious mythical solution, act of just retaliation for 9/11, and that was the invasion of Iraq.

Rumor bombs are assertions that may or may not be true. Importantly, they are deployed by political and business actors in order to respond to a climate of fear, malaise, insecurity, and/or uncertainty and turn it to their advantage or to create such a climate in order to manage a population's beliefs and desires, again to achieve an ultimate political objective (not management of people and belief as an end in itself, but to get other things done).

Once again, these deliberate distortions that circulate in the media make it difficult to counter them on a rational level. They are explosive and viral. They appeal to a simple desire to "make right." And most dangerous of all, they destroy the best spirit of democracy and collective decisionmaking in favor of a Machiavellian disdain for the ability of citizens to rationally decide public courses of action. And to what end? This attempted (that it is attempted is well-documented; whether it succeeds is a contingent matter) management of desire and belief in business leads to productivty, development, a booming consumer economy in some places, and also great problems of pollution and resources. In politics it can lead to far more tragic results, including the deaths of millions of people and the undermining of goals of democracy and justice. Should we really base democratic political communication on the PR and propaganda teachings and successes of Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Indie-Music Reviews for the Attention Deficient, a series

And you may ask yourself, "What is this swine-loving blogger listening to these days?"
Lucky for you I've decided to start a new thread to answer that very question.

In keeping with this increasingly globalized,glibly compressed, irrevocably speedy, and immanently forgettable media culture, I have devised a simple review system that also allows you to voyeuristically peek into my ipod window but without all the trouble of having to wade through a paragraph or two of self-indulgent prose. I mention its 90s,80s, or, sometimes digging way back into ancient history,70s, influence, and give you a sentence or two explaining (sometimes in high modernist poetic fashion or haiku) why it's cool.

Here's how it goes.

1. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, from Brooklyn/Philadelphia: David Byrne vocals with touches of the Shins and Neutral Milk Hotel.
If you don't like this, then you must listen exclusively to Iron Maiden, Garth Brooks, or Beethoven, or be in thrall of any other musical monomania that discriminates against heady indie quirk pop. Suggested album:"Clap Your Hands Say Yeah" (self-released). DIY, bébé. More remarkably, the numero uno seller on AMG in 2005. Do you like words as well as sounds? They do. This album has memorable lyrics: " You look like David bowie/But you've nothing new to show me/
Start another fire/and watch it slowly die." And song titles: "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth." For fun-loving poets and arm-chair revolutionaries who also enjoy jumping around to music.

2. Shout Out Louds, "four boys and one girl" from Stockholm, Sweden. As their website says, the name has nothing to do with KISS, though they have nothing against the legendary 70s camp rockers, either.

80s and 90s influences: Yo la Tengo, James, The Smiths, the Jesus and Mary Chain and The Cure, as if auto-adjusted with Adobe Soundshop.
What? You didn't like Robert Smith's alienated vocals-on-the-verge-of-tears?
As you can tell I'm currently into band names that are imperatives.

3. Jose Gonzales is an Argentinian-Swede, punk-turned-singer-songwriter: Nick Drake, Will Oldham and Elliot Smith's most recent successor. Another DIY story. Signed to Indie label Peacefrog (UK) in 2005 and quickly gained a large and loyal following in the UK. Followed up with Veneer (2003 Sweden/2005 U.S. and U.K., Imperial Recordings). Check out his somewhat extreme but tasteful makeovers of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and Kylie Minogue's "Hand on Your Heart." What? You're not in to getting beaten to a pulp by sorrow and regret?
There goes my imperative trend.

Time to click the channel.

See you next week on Indie-Music Reviews for the Attention Deficient.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Labor Day: To the Folks Who Brought Us the Weekend

Yesterday was Labor Day in the U.S.
Its September appearance in the U.S. has a history, unfortunately a bloody one related to the industrialization of the U.S. and workers struggles for freedom, security and basic human rights. Labor Day was originally May 1, and it still is in most countries around the world. Strangely, the May 1 Labor Day started in the U.S. but today is a repressed story in American popular consciousness.

If you're interested in that story, I encourage you to pursue this link back to my May 1 story here.


Monday, September 04, 2006

How many Iraqi Civilians Must Die For Freedom?

Last year, I would sporadically gather weekly Iraq civilian and American military casualty headlines from my yahoo browser. I just started doing it again, because I was so astonished by headlines that it's not getting much better (well,actually it was a story whose hopeful headline announced that deaths are "down"). After awhile, last year, I became so depressed by them that I suffered casualty fatigue,probably what
Bartleby felt sorting dead letters. I preferred not to and so stopped gathering them.

But again I'm reminded these numbers are people with families, friends, loved ones, pets, dreams, like the rest of us. I'm also reminded that they died for a shallow at best and opportunistic at worst understanding of freedom and security for Iraqis and Americans.
Consider in this context a recent Yahoo circulated story from the wires: "Iraq deaths down despite new carnage," By Alastair Macdonald Fri Sep 1.
Farther down in the article one learns that "The
United Nations...calculated civilian violent deaths at 100 a day in May and June." Furthermore, "[t]otal civilian deaths in July, including nearly 2,000 dead in Baghdad's morgue, were estimated by officials at over 3,000." The good news, this article says, is that "partial" information from the Iraq Defense Ministry and Health Ministry suggest the deaths are down considerably due to military crackdown in Baghdad. Fair and balanced here. You decide.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Rumsfeld stopped _in medias spin_

Speaking to an audience at the American Legion on August 29, 2006 Donald Rumsfeld compared critics of the Bush administration to those who appeased the Nazis prior to WWII. This comes after other recent attempts by the Bush PR camp to present global warming and Al Gore's film about it as not just a fiction but an evil form of scare-mongering, sheer propaganda a la Goebbels and Hitler (though it's unclear what the motive of such "propaganda" would be. Olbermann was moved to make an intervention on MSNBC recently.

Watch the Keith Olbermann intervention by clicking on the image.

Incidentally, it's no surprise that they're employing volatile false analogies about WWII demons in order to suture their torn coalition. The veterans have been losing faith in Rumsfeld and BUsh for awhile. But, but, wait, guys: Remember Pearl Harbor! Now fall in line!