Saturday, May 10, 2003

I saw Califone over a year ago at All Tomorrow's Parties in L.A. and thought them good but not great.

Their new disc, quicksand/cradlesnakes, mixes twilight sit down porch picking with enough fuzzed out guitar noise weirdness so it never gets too precious. A more folky Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. A great 3 am record...

Coca Cola's swastika robot promo

Friday, May 09, 2003

Confederacy of Dunces

Despite the title above, this is not another George W. Bush post.

The movie version of the John Kennedy Toole novel (funniest ever written, it says here) is finally underway with Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the gargantuan Ignatius J. Reilly. That's a good sign, but the fact that Drew Barrymore is involved is not.

Here's a link to a good page featuring an excerpt from Walker Percy's intro to the novel.

FBI's Nose Out of Your Books

By Bernie Sanders, U.S. Rep. Vermont, independent.

An unnecessary chill has descended on the nation's libraries and bookstores: The books you buy and read are now subject to government inspection and review.

After 9/11, the Bush administration, particularly Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, pushed hard for passage of the Patriot Act, which contained sweeping changes to our nation's surveillance laws and new intelligence powers for the FBI and other agencies. At that time of national outrage, Congress passed with little debate a bill the attorney general had crafted.

Few who voted for the Patriot Act knew that among its provisions was one that gave FBI agents the authority to engage in fishing expeditions to see what Americans read. Although it does not mention bookstores or libraries specifically, the sweeping legislation gives the FBI the power to seize all of the circulation, purchasing and other records of library users and bookstore customers on no stronger a claim than an FBI official's statement that they are part of a terrorism investigation. Surely the powers the government needs to fight terrorism can be subject to more meaningful checks and balances than that, especially when the right to read without government intrusion is at stake.

Until the Patriot Act, the FBI had the authority to obtain bank records, credit records and certain other commercial records only upon some showing that the records requested related to a suspected member of a terrorist group. The Patriot Act expanded the FBI's authority in two ways. First, it gave the FBI the authority to seize any records of any entity. Most members of Congress probably didn't realize it, but this included libraries and bookstores. Second, Congress dropped the prior requirement that the FBI actually have some evidence that the person whose records it sought was a member of a terrorist group or otherwise involved in terrorism.

Now, one Patriot Act provision allows the FBI to obtain whole databases, including records of citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing. The FBI has a history of abusing its power: monitoring, keeping records on and infiltrating civil rights organizations, Vietnam War protest groups and others that had broken no laws but were considered controversial. Little has changed to prevent the FBI from abusing its powers again if it is left unchecked. The new powers appear to have been used already. A University of Illinois survey shows libraries were targeted at least 175 times in the year after 9/11 yet the FBI refuses to explain how or why.

Such is the state of affairs that librarians in California and across the country are putting up signs warning patrons that the FBI may be snooping among their records. These librarians, along with booksellers, are particularly concerned because the proceeding for these warrants takes place in a closed court and the new law has a built-in gag order: Those who are asked to turn over records are not allowed to say that the search has occurred or that records were given to the government. In addition, under this provision the courts are no longer an arbiter of individual rights because judges are not allowed to determine whether there is probable cause to justify such sweeping searches.

We need law enforcement to track terrorists down before they do their evil deeds. But if we give up some of our most cherished freedoms, the right to read what we want without surveillance, the need for "probable cause" before searches are made the terrorists win, for their attacks will have struck at the very heart of our constitutional rights.

To remedy the excesses of the Patriot Act that threaten our right to read, I have introduced the Freedom to Read Protection Act. The bill, which has the support of Democrats and Republicans, progressives and conservatives, will establish once again that libraries and bookstores are no place for fishing expeditions. Because this new legislation will allow the FBI to use the constitutional routes at its disposal, including criminal subpoenas, to get library and bookstore records, it will not tie the hands of investigators. At the same time it will require, as had always been the case, that investigations be focused and that the reasons behind them be subject to judicial scrutiny.

Before Congress begins any discussion of new powers for the FBI, as some in Washington are advocating, we must first focus on correcting the unchecked authority the Patriot Act already grants the government.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Zinn: This is absolutely established in the books. Pipe-weed is something all the Hobbits abuse. Gandalf is smoking it constantly. You are correct when you point out that Middle Earth depends on pipe-weed in some crucial sense, but I think you may be overstating its importance. Clearly the war is not based only on the Shire's pipe-weed. Rohan and Gondor's unceasing hunger for war is a larger culprit, I would say.

Chomsky: But without the pipe-weed, Middle Earth would fall apart. Saruman is trying to break up Gandalf's pipe-weed ring. He's trying to divert it.

Zinn: Well, you know, it would be manifestly difficult to believe in magic rings unless everyone was high on pipe-weed. So it is in Gandalf's interest to keep Middle Earth hooked.

Chomsky: How do you think these wizards build gigantic towers and mighty fortresses? Where do they get the money? Keep in mind that I do not especially regard anyone, Saruman included, as an agent for progressivism. But obviously the pipe-weed operation that exists is the dominant influence in Middle Earth. It's not some ludicrous magical ring.

Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn's unused DVD commentary for
Lord of the Rings
(gotta love that McSweeneys)

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The George W. Bush Military Paper Doll play set

The web is swarming with would be photoshop John Heartfields but this guy does the most hilarious propaganda poster remixes ever.

Thomas Pynchon's new intro to 1984 is doubleplus good.

Just another unsolicited crank spewing his views of the news, jokes, links to lost trails, with periodic Ashcroft smackdowns. I am an info junkie, so I wanted to somehow create a forum that would justify my over consumption of media. Let the good times roll....