Saturday, August 26

White House Lies about Stem Cell Study

Thinkprogress:

Today, a new study was published that shows embryonic stem cells lines can be created without the destruction of human embryos. Previously, the White House has said they oppose the creation of new stem cell lines because it involved the destruction of embryos.

In today’s New York Times, White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said “Any use of human embryos for research purposes raises serious ethical questions. This technique does not resolve those concerns.” This afternoon, the White House changed their story. Here’s Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino:

QUESTION: Any decision to perhaps revisit the President’s position on federal funding for stem cell research, in light of this new development that was published yesterday in the journal Nature?

PERINO: …This study today reported in Nature Magazine has not been reviewed by scientists and bio-ethicists yet, but it is one that the President believes deserves a good look. He is encouraged that there are scientists who are continuing to look for innovative ways to do stem cell research that would not involve the destruction of embryos. And so he is going to listen to folks after they have a chance to review the study, but it does hold some promise that they would be able to do that type of research without destruction of a human embryo.

This is false. ThinkProgress spoke with bioethicist Ronald Green, who is an ethics advisor to Robert Lanza, an author of the study. Green said that in order to be published in Nature, the paper went through a rigourous peer review process, which lasted nearly three months.

The study was also reviewed by bioethicts. It was reviewed and approved by the Ethics Advisory Board of Advanced Cell Technology. Also an independent review board was constituted to scrutinize the study, as required by Massachusetts law.

Why Ann Coulter is a Bitch

There's a reason why Ann Coulter is dangerous. It's not because her name calling makes her a horrid role model for anyone in the public eye, or because her neo-anorexia is a potential health hazard for young women. It's not the snarky dismissive attitude to facts - it's because she promotes a false version of reality through her books and tv appearances. She's like a demented tinkerbell - all you have to do it "clap" and she continues to live in a lie and do everything she can to drag the rest of us into a world of bullshit. From Thinkprogress:

Last night on Hannity and Colmes, guest host Kirsten Powers confronted Ann Coulter about President Bush’s failure to capture Osama Bin Laden and the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

Coulter responded, “As for catching Osama, it’s irrelevant. Things are going swimmingly in Afghanistan.” Powers blasted Coulter for her answer. Coulter then abruptly decided to end her participation in the middle of the segment, saying, “OK, well, good night! It was nice being here.”

For Ms. Coulter’s benefit, here’s an update on the situation in the last couple of months in Afghanistan:

Security situation is “close to anarchy.” Last month, a senior British military commander said “the situation is close to anarchy” in Afghanistan, and warned western forces were “running out of time” to meet expectations Afghanis have for their security.

Discontent among Afghans is “boiling.” “After months of widespread frustration with corruption, the economy and a lack of justice and security,” the New York Times reported that “doubts about President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, and by extension the American-led effort to rebuild that nation, have led to a crisis of confidence.”

Opium production is at record levels.Opium cultivation in Afghanistan has hit record levels - up by more than 40 percent from 2005 - despite hundreds of millions in counternarcotics money,” the Associated Press reported. “The increase could have serious repercussions for an already grave security situation, with drug lords joining the Taliban-led fight against Afghan and international forces.”

Crooks and Liars has more.

Video-WMP Video-QT

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I think the view that "Osama is Irrelevant" is very interesting considering we just had a British Plane Bombing plot foiled that is identical to one sponsored by Osama in 1994. What a coinky-dink? More from Media Matters:

In her August 23 column -- "What Part of the War on Terrorism Do They Support?" -- Coulter repeated the false claims that Democrats "oppose the National Security Agency listening to people who are calling specific phone numbers found on al-Qaida cell phones and computers" and "oppose the Patriot Act." Introducing Coulter on Your World, Buttner stated: "You do a great job in your editorial of ... listing it all out, and when you do, it's very interesting to see -- they're really good at saying what they're against, aren't they?" Buttner later appeared to concur with Coulter's false assertion that Democrats are "against every part of the war on terror," saying: "You've said it well. The problem is that the [Bush] administration doesn't always go out there and sell this. It doesn't always go out there and say, 'What are the Democrats for in this war on terror?' " Buttner then asked Coulter: "Do you think the getting out there and selling themselves and fighting against the Democrats -- that finally we're going to get the Republicans out there to fight?"
There isn't a single Democrat in the House or Senate who doesn't support eavesdropping on terrorists - name one, I DARE YOU - all they want is for the President to abide by the law, and the constitution and request a FISA warrant first. Probable Cause and all that shit. In the 90's President Clinton sought the abilty to implement roving wiretaps to track terrorist, and other tools to track money launders, who finance terror but the Republican Controlled Congress tried to block these initiatives.

Clinton Anti-Terror Initiatives/ Republican Obstruction -

-- Republicans blocked 1995 bill provisions to allow swifter deportations and court viewing of sensitive evidence
-- Republican controlled congress blocked roving wire taps and new powers to monitor money laundering; Phil Gramm and others lead the effort
-- John Ashcroft and others rejected initiatives to tighten controls on encryption software (encryption used by 1993 bombers and 2001 terrorists)
-- Clinton created the FBI Counter terrorism Center and increased the counterterrorism budget from $78 million to $609 million in four years
-- Clinton signed a National Security Directive in 1998 to destroy al-Quada and seize or assassinate Bin Laden. Multiple assassination attempts were made
-- Clinton's CIA al-Quada unit thwarted bombing attempts in Los Angeles, New York, the UN, and the Israeli embassy in Washington DC. They also neutralized dozens of al-Queda cells overseas -- all of this without any fanfare, then or post 9/11.
-- Clinton was labeled by the Right's Robert Oakely as having an "obsession with Osama". Yet now Republicans attempt to claim Clinton, not Bush Jr, was soft on terrorism and ultimately responsible for 9/11
And even more detailed list of Clinton Era Terrorism success was recently posted Truthout by William Rivers Pitt.
Starting in 1995, Clinton took actions against terrorism that were unprecedented in American history. He poured billions and billions of dollars into counterterrorism activities across the entire spectrum of the intelligence community. He poured billions more into the protection of critical infrastructure. He ordered massive federal stockpiling of antidotes and vaccines to prepare for a possible bioterror attack. He order a reorganization of the intelligence community itself, ramming through reforms and new procedures to address the demonstrable threat. Within the National Security Council, "threat meetings" were held three times a week to assess looming conspiracies. His National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, prepared a voluminous dossier on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, actively tracking them across the planet. Clinton raised the issue of terrorism in virtually every important speech he gave in the last three years of his tenure. In 1996, Clinton delivered a major address to the United Nations on the matter of international terrorism, calling it "The enemy of our generation."

Behind the scenes, he leaned vigorously on the leaders of nations within the terrorist sphere. In particular, he pushed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to assist him in dealing with the threat from neighboring Afghanistan and its favorite guest, Osama bin Laden. Before Sharif could be compelled to act, he was thrown out of office by his own army. His replacement, Pervez Musharraf, pointedly refused to do anything to assist Clinton in dealing with these threats. Despite these and other diplomatic setbacks, terrorist cell after terrorist cell were destroyed across the world, and bomb plots against American embassies were thwarted. Because of security concerns, these victories were never revealed to the American people until very recently.

In America, few people heard anything about this. Clinton's dire public warnings about the threat posed by terrorism, and the massive non-secret actions taken to thwart it, went completely unreported by the media, which was far more concerned with stained dresses and baseless Drudge Report rumors. When the administration did act militarily against bin Laden and his terrorist network, the actions were dismissed by partisans within the media and Congress as scandalous "wag the dog" tactics. The TV networks actually broadcast clips of the movie "Wag The Dog" to accentuate the idea that everything the administration was doing was contrived fakery.

The difference is that Clinton didn't try to manipulate the populace through fear - he didn't trump up phony threat warnings every time something embarassing happened to his administration. (If fact, attacking Bin Laden as he did during the midst of the impeachment trial should have been called taking advantage of a "target of oppurtunity" or "decapitation strike" instead of an attempt to "wag the dog".) He simply did his best to get the job done - despite virilent Republican opposition to everything he attempted. The resistance of modern Democrats to George Bush initiatives - even the illegal ones - can hardly be called more than a mild speedbump.

Vyan

Thursday, August 24

Rock Star: Week 8 Elimination

Well this show wasn't much of a surprise on stage, but things in the Rocker pod certainly grew interesting.

Ryan and Dilana pretty much had it out - and I have to say that Ryan won easily. While he may have seemed a bit like a weasle when it came to calling out Dana in previous weeks, even calling Patrice a "Bitch" at one point - he was dead-on when it came to Dilana and her back-stabbing bullshit. She's clearly grown a huge ego in the last few weeks, we could tell when she tried to button-hole Tommy in Vegas "Just cut the other 7 and give me the job". And some of the shit she said to Ryan was just ridiculous - "You would have been nothing without the House Band last night" - because he had practically cracked the whip on those boys during rehearsals to get the song exactly where he wanted it. They were crying "Uncle", and then she gives *them* all the credit? What the fuck kinda shit is that?

To his credit, Ryan was gracious. But what he said was absolutely true, that Dilana may have been nice when she was in front of the SN boys -she certainly hadn't been in the house. And her mock reaction shots of feigned surprise and annoyance at what he was saying were just priceless - especially when the subject came up a second time in reference to all the crap she dished during the press clinics.

Turnabout is fairplay Dilana, and this time it was gorgeous behold. Gotta say I loved Magni's SNAP - "You're just doing the same thing, over and over again - we're evolving". BULLSEYE! Lukas in response to the comments made to Jamie of Star 98.7 was also incredibly gracious, he's certainly learned to "rise above it".

Not that any of us in blogistopia have to - what's up the with Demented Princess Leia hair buns anyway, Dilana? Jesus, Fashion Tragedy Much?

Clearly Dilana has her fans and they're going to support her no matter what. We've long passed the point where individual performances really matter at all - if someone has gained a huge fan base, they are protected no matter what stupid asshole behavior they manifest - if they haven't they're basically screwed, and don't let them show a kink in their armor and they're done! Buh Bye.

For tonight's special Supernova debut song - Toby got the nod. The song was better than last weeks, and Toby did a good job - but the song actually showed some of the weeknesses in his voice and tone. It's just grating, plus he doesn't have much control in the lower ranges. Weak and pitchy down there. His stage presence pretty much made up for that, and his again displayed something that Ryan doesn't seem to have - coordination. Just about every move was in time to the song, not that he was literally dancing like Dilana was last week (doing the MJ kick and all) but he ROCKED. It was cool, but I still like Patrice and Ryan's original songs better than what I've heard of Supernova's material. Which is a bad sign for them, but a great thing for Patrice and Ryan.

This time we had four rockers in danger - Patrice, Toby, Magni and Storm. Now look, there was nothing wrong with either Magni or Storms performance yesterday -but somebody has to be in the bottom and someone doesn't. In this case Dilana, Ryan and Lukas weren't - so it's safe to say that they are the front runners. According to the Wikipedia Supernova page - Ryan also also tied with Magni with the most number of encores so far (two). Of the top three only Ryan has actually been in the bottom 3 (Week 6), while Storm, Lukas and Dilana have never performed an elimination song - yet.

Magni was up first and performed "Fire" by Jimi Hendrix - which is a favorite of mine. He did a good job, he's a much better vocalists than Jimi was - so that partwasn't a challenge. The challenge is performing while wearing a guitar at the level that Jimi used to - and Magni wasn't quite up to that. He just happened to have picked the one Hendrix song that has the shortest and simplist guitar solo -- and he actually played it in tandem with Rafeal. (HELL, Yes) I'd been waiting for all these pretenders to actually play something beside strumming pussified barre chords for this entire show and finally - finally - somebody got up there and actually played some real guitar.

Too bad no one could hear him.

Magni's guitar simply wasn't in the mix. In fact, I'd bet that none of the rockers guitars have actually been in the mix during the entire show so far. I certainly haven't actually heard them, and since they've only been playing chords that are simple and identical to what the other two guitarists are doing - you can't really tell. It's an old trick I've seen used before -- put the guy whose skills you don't entirely trust in the monitors so he can hear them and think he's rocking out, but not in the house mix. Works almost every time. Damnit, if I were Magni and I was going to do a song like this one, I'd either let Rafael do all of leads or else tell him to sit the fuck down - I'll do it - all of it. That was some bullshit right there. If the man can play - let him play - if he can't don't jerk his chain. Either way - he killed it as usual and went immediately back to the pod.

Patrice was next, and did her usual thing - which is to over enunciate every damn syllable. I don't know what her problem is, it's just like Zarya's accent - only this isn't her Texas drawl coming out in the song. I didn't happen last week when she did her original, but when she does cover song - BAM - there it is again. Annoying as hell. Plus it pretty much ruined a great Pretenders song - "Middle of the Road". She didn't even catch the "purrrr meow.." part just before the harmonica solo. Feh.

Lastly was Toby - Storm again got a pass, and boy did she look disappointed and annoyed - Toby got up and performed Plush. Again, great stage presence - even letting Magni sing a chorus with him - but a reedy voice that simply doesn't have anywhere near the richness of Scott Weiland. And that's a bad comparison since the direction that Supernova really needs to go - is that of Velvet Revolver. Old school with some modern hip twists. I'm not sure they realize that yet, but either way - Toby aint their guy.

In the end the hamster released from the cage was Patrice after four appearances in the bottom 3 - no big surprise. She's done extremely well to have survived so far and was clearly the weakest of the remaining performeers but somebody has to go and now was her turn.

After this, it's going to get nasty.

Vyan

The Resurrection of Chocolate City

From the Seattle Times.

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Wednesday reassured struggling victims of Hurricane Katrina that he has not forgotten them but warned recovery will not be achieved by the storm's first anniversary.

"It's a time to remember that people suffered, and it's a time to recommit ourselves to helping them," Bush said after meeting in the Oval Office with Rockey Vaccarella, who lost his home to Katrina. "But I also want people to remember that a one-year anniversary is just that, because it's going to require a long time to help these people rebuild."

Here's my question: Recommit? When the hell did Bush ever show any commitment to helping these people? One year after Katrina New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast is still quite literally - a Disaster.

How this has been handled is a complete macrocosmic version of Conservative philosophy. The Government can't help you, the government is the enemy. You have to rely on yourself, and trust private industry. Except that private industry has no interest in helping you - only it's bottom line and shareholders, so fuck you. You are totally, literally - on your own. And if you don't happen to have a summer home in Hamptons to escape to - too fucking bad.

More from the Seattle times article.

The administration's Gulf Coast recovery coordinator, Donald Powell, said during a White House briefing Tuesday that since Katrina slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi last Aug. 29, $44 billion of the $110 billion in federal money earmarked for rebuilding the region has been spent.

Bush addressed the delay Wednesday. "To the extent that there are still bureaucratic hurdles and the need for the federal government to help eradicate those hurdles, we want to do that," he said.

The President's own mothers comments that Katrina evacuees - not refugees, evacuees - who were being housed in the Houston Astrodome now "Had it pretty good" - were telling. Very telling.

The problem isn't money, it's the lack of will. In parts III and IV of his documentary on Katrina and it's aftermath, Spike Lee takes a long hard look at the results of that willful neglect.

He shows us a New Orleans that is still largely rubble. Search, rescue and recovery teams have swept through most of the city checking for human remains and marking each building checked -- leaving and ominous marker when one, two or three bodies are found. Yet 6 months and more after the waters had receeded many residents who return to the ruins of their home are still finding the bodies of the their loved ones, parents, daughters, wives - stuffed under refrigeraters, trapped in attics. Mumified.

The bumbling incompetence and simple lack of caring that was clearly evident before and during the storm - is still there. Listening to the stories of former home-owners in NO get completely shafted by insurance companies who insist on quibbling between whether the total devestation to their house was caused by wind, rain, hurricane of flood, was heart rending. Being required to produce utility bills and sales records just to prove that you owned the house. What the fuck is that bureacratic bullshit all about anyway? I mean - Jesus - don't these people have hearts?

And no, I'm not naive - My wife worked in the insurance industry (with U.S.A.A. an insurance company originally founded by members of the military) and they wouldn't have dreamed up putting people through that kind of crap. Especially when been paying on these policies for decades. But that was years ago, before George Bush's America was upon us.

New Orleans is a town that has many different reputations. It is a city built largely by freed slaves. A french outpost which became American with the Lousiana Purchase. The city has a unique life and culture, one that is a mix of French, Native American and Black American. It is one of the first places where half-black half-white people - creoles - where able to live in peace and build a place for themselves even in the 19th Century. Even in the 21st Century you really can't say there's any other place in this coutry that has accomplished that.

It's a violent place. The Murder Capitol of the U.S. A city that has long been known for it's corruption, for a police force that is notoriously underpaid and notoriously dangerous. Over the last ten years I can think of two cases of New Orleans PD officers who have committed armed robberies, been convicted and sentenced to prison. One case was with a bank, the other with a convenience store. In one case the prepatrator was white and male, in the other black and female. One commited his crime while offduty, the other just before her shift started and in order to prevent being identified shot and killed everyone in the store - except for the young daughter of the family which owned it. When the robbery was called in to 9-11, the very same officer responded to it - and came face to face with that little girl who answered her questions about "What Happened?" with "You should know - you were there!". That Officer is now on Lousiana's Death Row.

In 1994, a third NOPD officer Len Davis was running off-duty security operation with other officers and was eventually hired by undercover FBI agents to protect their "drugs". All Davis asked for - besides payment - was a phone. One which, of course, the FBI tapped. Using their phone Davis order a "hit" on a young woman who had compained about his physical assault of her brother. How exactly he learned of information - which was only a day or so old - which had been confidentially provided to Internal Affiars, I've never discovered. The FBI was shocked, but did not act - not realizing that Davis was serious. But after the young woman Kim Groves, was found dead and Davis began to discuss killing the FBI own undercover operatives in order to grab their dope. They learned to take him seriously, fast. Davis is also on Death Row.

Spike Lee's documentary doesn't tell these particular stories - although he does focus on much of the violence and indescriminate murder which continues to plague the city- he tell a least part of the story of why these things can happen not just with street thugs, but members of the government (i.e. Police). New Orleans Police are grossly underpaid and frequently take off-duty security jobs to make ends-meet. City teachers are also underpaid and their schools ridiculously underfunded.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying tar and feather NOPD, it's clear that the vast majority of police performed well above and beyond the call of duty during and after the storm - despite the shitty pay and they should be commended, but they also should get paid more and be held accountable for their actions while on and off duty. Last I checked, NOPD were the lowest paid police in the nation, and how do you resist temptation and corruption without support?

One fact that could provide that support is the fact that there are enourmous oil and natural gas reserves just off the coast of Lousiana, nearly all of which have been placed far enough offshore to be exempted from state taxation and are owned by out-of-state companies. Various contracts and Federal regulations have allowed that revenue to escape Lousiana, but if those funds were brought home - New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast could rebuild itself instead of waiting for the Federal Government to gradually dole out the other 86 Billion that has already been allocated to Katrina recovery.

Governor Blanco has filed suit to help recover some of that revenue as well as protect the remaining wetlands - which should have been able to absorb much of the storm surge that ultimately overtopped and breached the 17th Street Levee.

Still despite all of this - or perhaps because of it - New Orleans is a place that many of it's residents hold deeply in their hearts. The culture, the cuisine and the music -oh the music- haunts them. It's the home of jazz, the home of blues, ragtime, zydeco and even rock and roll. Mardi Gras has gone on, despite the devestation, in the spared French Quarter.

New Orleans is a national treasure, it's something we should never have allowed to be mistreated this way. It's also tragic that no one, NO ONE, in the music industry save Kanye West ("George Bush doesn't care about Black People") have even attempted to make a statement about what has happened here. From Youman Wilder
I mean we need "Luda" or "Nelly" and so forth but we need to have "David Banner" and "Common" as well. My beef isn't with hip hop it's really that it has nothing to say. Dammit!!! I mean "Hurricane Katrina" comes destroys a city that is 60%

African-American and nothing in the dam music said anything or was angry. I mean these rappers are getting ready to boycott Cristal but no mention of your people, Black people in your music. No wonder the powers that be take us for idiots!
No wonder indeed. But then again, look at how America has treated the Dixie Chics for daring to speak their minds, eh?

4 to 6 months after the storm, people were finally began receiving their flimsy FEMA trailers to live in. Still without water or electricity. The Army Corp of engineers races against time to repair and reenforce the breached Levee walls before the next Hurricane Season, but there work is little more than patchwork and spittle. Actually they don't really have genuine Levee's - which are four foot wide for every one foot of height - they have "I Walls" which are just concrete slabs put in place to hold back the water, but what we've already learned from Katrina is that they haven't been place deep enough to prevent the water from slipping under and undermining the walls integrity. They need to be buried 17 feet down, yet they've only gone down ten feet. Yes, the they've been "repaired" - but will they hold against another Category 5 -- or even a Catorgory 3 Hurricane? Most are doubtful, especially former residents.

Many of these same former NO residents have begun to build new lines in Utah, Texas and elsewhere. The schools, hospitals and other infrastructure elements they need to thive simply don't exist in New Olreans anymore. Others like Fiesty Phyllis - who was prominently featured in the Lee Film, refuse to leave their home. Other films such as "Surviving Katrina" one the Discovery Channel are planned and should air near the upcoming one year anniversay, but few I suspect will show the heart of the people of New Orleans as well as Lee's film.

One solution to the levee problem which occured to me, one which was done in my former hometown of Sacramento which faced massive flood threats from two major rivers which intersect within a mile of the downtown area - is to raise the level of the city with landfill. Since most of the structures along the Levee walls have already been destroyed, one way to solve this problem is to build an actual levee and make it at least 150 - 200 feet wide, raising the level of the surrounding land by 15-20 feet in order to buttrice the "I" Wall. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that $70 Billion or so and slice of all those oil revenues could go a long way toward accomplishing this goal and permanently protecting the city. Homes, Roads, Sewage and Electrical would have to be rebuilt along the raised wall - but then - it all has to be rebuilt anyway. Common sense would dictate that if you have to do this, you might as well do it right.

Too bad common sense isn't all that common.

These problems can be solved. This city can be returned it's former glory - resurrected from the ashes- it can become Chocolate City once again. If we can just find the will and the desire to make it so.

Vyan

Wednesday, August 23

Rock Star : Week 8 Performance

Tonights episode was one of the most rocking yet. Now that Z is gone, we're finally focused on the people who genuinely have a chance to front Supernova. I mean, as Gilby has been saying, all of these guys can sing. But not only that, they all also know how to bring the ROCK. I don't envy the SN boys for their upcoming decision, because the truth is all these people are already winners - all of them are superstars - it's only a matter of which one best one for Supernova and at this point I honestly don't know who that is.

Patrice debuted an original song to start off the show and for once I actually paid attention. Most of the Creed-like overenuciation issues I've had with her melted away. She was comfortable and confident - the song, which seemed an amalgam of 80's Alt-Rock which updated well, was rocking and had a great hook as well as some changes that kept it unpredictable. It was a total 10.

Normally that would be impossible to follow, but follow it they did, as Magni went up and kicked the shit out of Smells Like Teen Spirit. I still think he sang it almost a little bit too clean, too pretty and neat - his voice is almost too good - but this isn't about singing anymore. His physical performance is what sold it, he had energy just flying off of him from the stage. It was magical. But I have to admit I was a little uncomfortable seeing anyone but Kurt (or Weird Al) do that song. It's so iconic. Mythic. Seeing someone do it for a contest reality show almost felt like I was watching something be cheapened. Yeah, yeah - I know they've been doing Nirvana songs since year one - but this was the first time it made me uneasy. What this show is about - which is a huge corporate premarketing of a packaged band of ex-stars is Sooo not what Kurt was about. The honesty, the depth and heart he brought to rock is totally absent from this band.

Now, that's something that even I wouldn't expect me to say - because I've been bitching and railing at the wind about Kurts weak vocals and shitty guitar playing for a decade and half. When Jerry Cantrell finally - FINALLY - yanked down Kurt's empty boxers by stating he was a great songwriter - but a lousy guitar player on Vh'1's "I love the 90's" - I was ecstactic. I'd been waiting forever for someone admit that shit. He fucked up a lot of things in rock n roll. He took out the sex, he took out the fun - he took out the joy - and left us with hundreds of punk-ass whiner rock emo bands in his wake. Most of those guys are just plain lousy vocalists and even worse guitarists - and they revel in that shit. They claim all their imperfections make them "more emotional". That's such a load of B.S. You want to hear a musician who know how to emote? Go listen to Sarah Vaughn. Or Bonnie Raite. Blues is all about the emotion. I've said it before, I'll say it again - Fuck Emo - it's justa buncha hack posuers, who should spend their time on synchronized guitar hopping contests, not Rock.

But... hearing a singer as good as Magni do "Teen Spirit" just didn't sound "right" to me. He did a great performance, and there's nothing I can say he did wrong - he absolutely did bring the emotion too it, even keying on one particularly line to bond with Lukas and the hamsters. I just felt weird about it.

Next up was Ryan, with his original song - and he just completely tore the shit down, and did something I said a couple weeks back with Josh - you don't just have to stand there like you feet are trapped in cement just because you have a guitar strapped to you. Move your ASS. In Ryan's case it actually helped him because his normal lack of timing and co-ordination was completely absent. The song was great, like Patrice's it has the potential to either be a great album track or even a hit single all on it's own. Good stuff. And just as SuavePorn had suggested to Patrice - Ryan played his guitar for a while then tossed it across the stage. Talk about heeding the advice. This guy wants this gig, badly. And even if he doesn't get it - just like Zayra he's now gotten some exposure that I'm sure he has A&R people salivating and just praying that he loses so they can snap him up. When he got off stage my first words where "Where the hell did this guy come from?"

Two seconds later Navarro says "Where the hell did this guy come from?" Had me rolling on that one. Ryan's proven he's no little bitch (unlike the other Ryan Starr from AI and Surreal Life who is definately a beyoitch!) - he's a Rocker. My favorite original song from last years was Deanna and Ty's "My Truth" - now I have two new favorites.

And if all this wasn't bad enough, then came a Storm. She had dropped out of the original song fight with Ryan, partly because she's a charitable persons and partly because she can "spank the crap" out of just about anything. And tonight she proved it. Last year, Jordis had crash and burned massively on an Aerosmith song. I've done them before and they are a stone cold BITCH for a singer - Storm heated that bitch up and spit her out. A lot of it was the band and the strength of their backing vocals, which were a) actually better than Aerosmith's who've been using pre-recording backing vocals for years and b) blended perfectly with Storms lead. Getting your voice to sound natural with other people's voices isn't easy. You have to plan things out carefully. It's not just about the lead vocal, all the vocals become like a single instrument if you do it right. They did it right.

I've been in bands for years and the shit these guys pull off week after week just totally blows my mind. Now my bands were all originals, but I have had to learn some cover songs for a 70's tribute show (hence the Aerosmith) and it's a totally different animal. All those lyrics. Ugh.... Makes my head spin. I got nothing bad to say about Storm, in fact this may have been her best looking and sounding performance so far. Dave complimented her too saying she did this week what he had hoped for last week. Pfft. Whatever dude. She rocked both times. "Come over her a take it, Bitch!". Classic.

The first disappointment of the night was Dilana doing "Every Breath You Take". It was dull and Booo-ring. Plus I think she completely missed the creepy factor of this song. It's not a love song, it's about obsession - it's about holding on to someone so tightly - you become a stalker. She totally missed it. Plus her outfit was like circus clown gear. I thought we were done with the tragic fashion disasters when Z left. I guess I was wrong. Sure, she sang it ok, and obviously didn't even attempt the falsetto-voice ending she had been practicing. No need to attract the neighborhood dogs.

It's also interesting to note that they didn't bring up anything about the way she dished dirt on just about everyone in the house in her interviews. Supernova glossed over it totally. Their praise of her performance was overdone. Obviously Dilana is being handled with the kid gloves on, but she simply didn't do anything special other than look like a demented Barbie who just been gang-raped - and liked it.

If they guys have settled on Dilana, well more power too 'em - but I think their making a HUGE mistake. She can sing, she can perform - and even do the Michael Jackson kick - but she's not what these guys need. They need someone like Storm, Ryan or to be fair, Lukas - someone who has the taste and balls to tell them when their shit stinks, plus the talent to clean it up and take it to the next level as a musician, song writer as well as a performer. Dilana probably is a front runner, but she's not that person.

Toby's reworked version of "Layla" was probably his best performance to date. He's learned the art of the "Hoodie reveal" which Dilana used in week 1, and later Ryan used on Week 6 for "Paint it Black". No eye makeup though. But still a great performance. He sang it well, totally controlled the stage. Nice. He's not among my favorites, but this time he definately brought it. When he first took off the hoodie and I saw writing on his chest my first thought was "Soy Bomb!?!"

The last performance of the night was probably the biggest disappointment. Lukas doing some Killers song. Ugh. I'm not a Killers fan, and he really didn't sing it that well. Pitchy as all get out. He seemed like he was phoning it in - and again with the back to the audience almost half the time. Although in this case he seemed like he was really vibing with the band - it is kind of rude. They band gets paid to be there no matter what, the audience paid money to see a show, ok? Give it to them. His mood do tend to affect his performances, and many of the quick camera shots to Lukas seemed to be setting up something that didn't really pay off in the final edit. Maybe he was still pissed off at Dilana for talking shit about him to TWO of the press people who came to the mansion that week, I don't know - but he didn't "Wow" me this time and he can't afford to slack-off with so many of the others doing so well and the gifted writer issue being relatively neutral.

To my mind the people that deserved to be in the bottom three were Dilana and Lukas, but I also know - that aint gonna happen. At the end of the show it was Storm, Toby and Patrice. Storm was a surprise - I don't know what that's about, maybe the Lukatics are Dilaniacs are starting to take their toll.

We'll all find out tonight.

Vyan

P.S. Also being Broadcast last night, simultaneous to Rock Star was Part III and IV of Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke" on HBO. During last years RockStar, I was so caught up in the program and the raging debates over J.D. and Ty, as well as Race in Rock, that I didn't watch the news the week that Hurricane Katrina hit News Orleans. I damn neared missed it until about three or four days afterward. The first anniversary of Katrina is approaching and New Orleans, the city that gave us not just Zydeco, but also gave birth to Jazz, Blues and ultimately ROCK - has died. The city was murdered by neglect. I'm not ignoring it this time. Neither should you.

My review of Act I and II is here -- I'll be writing up III and IV later today or tomorrow.

Vyan

Tuesday, August 22

Spike Lee: When the Levees Broke

Spike Lee just might be one of America's most controversial film makers, often frankly and starkly addressing the issues of race and class.  


Last night his four part documentary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" debuted on HBO, but rather than inject his own view as would Michael Moore, Lee insteads lets the survivors and citizens of the late great city of New Orleans tell their own story.


The Story of an American City that was neglected and allowed to drown as the rest of the Country looked on in horror, and while Emperor Bush and all his his men (and woman) fiddled.

It's been just under a year since New Orleans was destroyed.  A rather morbid first anniversary still awaits us.  In anticipation of this, Lee begins his story at the beginning - as Hurricane Katrina is upgraded to a Category 4 and then 5 after devestating the southern tip of Florida and turns towards the Gulf Coast.


The warnings are evident. Mayor Nagin, after consultation with Max Mayfield, the head of the National Weather Service, orders a mandatory evacuation on August 29th, one day before land fall.  Most residents of the city leave, the streets and airport are jammed, city buses are provided to take people to the save haven of last resort - the Superdome.  


Some  people are too stubborn to leave, some too poor.  Many people still remember the landfall of Hurrican Betsy in 1965, which prompted massive flooding and deliberate breech of the levees in order to save much of city.  Even with this in their consciousness, far too many believe they can "Stick it out".


Nagin certainly does not escape criticism in this film.  Lee in an interview with the LA Watts Times:


LAWT: Did your opinion change about Ray Nagin?


LEE: He's a great politician.   What I mean by that is that he's very personable. He'll smile and hug you and maek you feel good.  But, once you get past that, you have to get the job done.  You can go through a list of things he did that ended up coasting people their livse.  Very slow in issuing mandatory evacuation.  Not taking into account the people who had no means of evacuating.  Stories about Amtrak offerin trains out of New Orleans and no one from the citygovernment returning their calls.


LAWT: And what about Condoleeza Rice?


LEE: That's an evil woman. I'll just say it point black.


This may be Lee's personal view, but it isn't reflected in the film -- only the view of those he interviews are shown.          The lateness of the mandatory evacuation - on Monday the 29th instead of on the 28th when Nagin talked to the weather service chief - is addressed, but few of the other issues.


President Bush and Micheal Chertoff were also alerted of the danger to the levees by Max Mayfield, Monday afternoon in the video most of us have already seen.




From Crooks and Liars



(AP Story)      Video-WMP Video-QT

Federal officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief of possible devastation just before Hurricane Katrina struck. Six days of video footage from briefings and transcripts were obtained by The Associated Press. The warnings were that the storm could breach levees, risk lives in the New Orleans Superdome and overwhelm rescuers. A-P reports Bush didn't ask any questions during the final government-wide briefing the day before Katrina struck on August 29th...


Again, the warnings were ample.  Problems with the New Orleans levee system have been known since 1927 when they were strategically destroyed to prevent devestating flooding, just as they were again in 1965 after Hurricane Betsy.   In 2002, the National Weather Service ran a simulation of the effect of a Category 3 Hurricane on the New Orleans area - they called it Hurricane Pam.


Once the Storm reached landfall late Monday night, most of Nagin's options ended. The city was in total lockdown starting at 2 am and into the following evening.


Estimated Katrina Flood Depth from NOAA


Despite this Governor Blanco had already declared a State of Emergency on the 26th. The White House responded and declared the Gulf Coast a disaster area, an act that transfered authority and responsiblity to DHS and FEMA.  Both are ordered to prepare "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures."


But none of this is what makes Lee's film compelling.


It's all in the personal stories, the one on one interviews.  People describing moment by moment what it was like to try and weather the storm in their homes, in the Hyatt Regency Downtown - and in the Superdome.


People describing hearing a loud BOOM, followed by other crashes - just as the levee broke.  The argument of whether this was a deliberate destruction of the levee - The Levee Bomb - (as occured both in 1927 and 1965) is discussed, as well as the possibility that it may have simply been the sound of the levee walls collapsing on their own - or the sound of a barge impacting the walls.  A conclusive answer isn't found, as the purpose of this film isn't to investigate that issue -  but tell the people's story.


And harrowing stories they are, of fighting back to escape the rising water - while the one Federal Agency who seemed to have their eye on the ball - the Coast Guard - worked overtime to help, sending their pilots out to fly double-shifts to rescue trapped citizens.


Most of the rescuees were taken to the Civic Center, others to the interstate where they were left.  Abandoned.  No food.  No water.


The Superdome, now cracked and leaking after the storm fulled to overflowing with people - nearly 40,000. The flood waters destroyed communications, knocked out electricity, stopped up plumbing.


Some survivors raided the nearby stores for food, and some - while most of the police were busy with rescue efforts - for electronics gear.  Fear spread.  Sanitation broke down.  The Heat was excruciating.  One resident: "They always saying we should go back to Africa. We'll if it's as hot as this - Fuck That!"


Days passed.  Bush went on Vacation and declares "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees". Micheal "Brownie" of Fema did a "Heckuvajob" (of sitting on his hands).  Lee's film does not address the email trail of desperate messages to Brown from the one FEMA Employee who was in town during Katrina, Marty Bahamonde.  But Marty wasn't the only one with a desperate story.


One man told the story of how his wheelchair bound mother died at the Superdome while waiting for the bus to rescue them - "It'll be here any minute now momma... any minute"


Ten minutes later she was gone.  He found a blanket to cover her, and wrote a note with her name, his name and phone number so that she could be identified and pushed her to the side.  Nothing else he could do.


He along with many of the rest of us were helpless.  


People trapped on the interstate who attempted to cross the Mississippi river and escape the disaster area are met and turned back by police at gunpoint.


The film features Soledad O'Brien of CNN grilling Michael Brown - "How could you not know what we know (About the people trapped at the Superdome)? How could our intelligence be better than yours?".  


Eventually, after Mayor Nagin breaks down on the radio in pleading for help - the President finally arrives and the exodus begins.  On day five, Lt Gen Russell Honore, Commander of Task Force Katrina, is at last on the scene with food, medicine and buses.


The final evacuation is chaotic and wrenching, families are torn apart and scattered across the country - there is no organization and still no plan.


Later after nearly everyone is gone, Soledad O'Brien tours the Civic Center with the CNN crew.  "It smells like death, and urine and like people crawled through a sewer to get here".  They do a spot outside on the street and notice a body, covered by a sheet, out in the open.


When they return two days later, the body is still there.  


Still alone. Still neglected. Just like the city of New Orleans remains to this very day.


Parts 3 & 4 Air Tonight on HBO.


Vyan

Monday, August 21

Rock Star : Week 8 Reality

Today was Media Day at the mansion and much dirt was dished.

As part of their introduction and indoctrination into the Rock World the hamsters are given a press crash course. Technically this is probably a fairly light version of the real thing where an artist will have to do phone interviews with dozens of stations back to back. Most of the rockers handled it well, some didn't.

The toughest interviewer was clearly Jamie for LA's Star 98.7, who pulled no punches - commenting to Storm that she "had a handshake like a man". Questioning the commitment of various contestants and asking "Who can't you stand?" Most didn't answer, but Dilana did stating that she questioned Toby's commitment, felt Magni would rather be with his family, thought Patrice shouldn't be there, that Storm didn't like the Supernova song lyrics (Join the club, Stormie!!) and that Lukas was like two different people. "Sometimes I just want to pound him."

This of course became quite an issue once Jamie finally interviewed Lukas and hammered him on being the houses biggest jerk - according to Dilana. "She should mind her own business". Evenually Jamie who had already been called "Mean" by Magni came right out and called Lukas a "Dick". And he responded with "Go Fuck Yourself". Go Lukas, that Jamie was one sour pill. I'd almost suspect her of being a Supernova plant to test the hamsters, but on the other hand she seems like a natural born beeyotch. No artificial sweetners included.

Next up was song selection, this time with two original songs included. Immediately Ryan, Storm, Patrice and Toby jumped on it. Storm was willing to put on gloves and box, but Ryan just thought that was ridiculous. "I'm not fighting a girl". Yeah, but since she's got a handshake like a man, she probably has a punch like one too - and I think she knows it. Toby managed to get Dilana to run around the pool naked in revenge for last week so that he would let her sing "Every breath you take" - and Toby didn't even really want that song, he was happy with "Layla". Magni got "Smell like Teen Spirit".

Eventually the group all agreed to give one of the originals to Patrice, since she'd been in the bottom three so often and needed it the most. Not exactly highly competative behavior, but kinda cool and generous. Ryan got the other original. Storm kinda "wussed" and took the one song noone else could do - "Crazy" by Aerosmith. (Actually, Jill could've done it but she's long gone). "I can do anything". Well, yes - you can, but that doesn't mean Supernova going to like it. And you can absolutely guarantee that lyrics issue is going to come up during the performance show.

Based on the lyrics thing, I'm also going to reassess who I think some of the elite hamsters are - I had figured that Dilana was basically buggered after Supernova called her lyrics for the Supernova song "Cornball" - but then that would make their own version a "Cheeseball" pretty much. Dilana embrasses the velveeta, damn near swims in it. Some of the other Rockers apparently have taste, and standards and stuff.

This is all about who can Front the band. It's not so much about who technically sings the best (Magni), or who writes the best (Lukas), it's about who can become the figurehead for this band who already have their music and songs written? Who can bring these songs to life and embody them? In an overall sense, Dilana probably is the front runner - as Ryan admitted during his interview with Jamie - but that doesn't mean she has it completely locked up yet. Not hardly. Lukas and Storm still have the strongest fan support - and fans matter.

During rehearsals Magni had some problems as he struggled with the flu. Ryan's original song sounds really good, and unlike Zayra actually has a Supernova-ish sound to it. But the one looking at the biggest hurdle is Dilana, who apparently doesn't have any headvoice. (Falsetto). If you don't use it regularly, it's pretty difficult to just conjure up -- plus if you constantly sing with a growl and/or scream - I've found that it can burn your head voice out. Dilana's is long gone, and probably isn't coming back for a visit anytime soon. Trying to rekindle it she ended up sounding like a howling dog.

Lukas and Toby heard it from the Pool room and were practically in stitches laughing.

Hopefully for Dilana, the rest of us aren't going to be laughing tomorrow, since you don't really need falsetto voice to do "Every breath". I did it for voice class in college 20 years ago, great song - but not that tough.

Vyan

Sunday, August 20

You can't talk to a Psycho...

...like a normal human being" - from "Trigger Happy Jack (Drive by a Go-Go)" by Poe.

The truth of that statement grows clearer and clearer, especially as we watch the GOP gradually disintegrate. Case in Point - The Dick Cheney:

REPORTER: About a year ago, you said that the insurgency in Iraq was in its final throes. Do you still believe this?

CHENEY: I do. What I was referring to was the series of events that took place in 1995 [sic – 2005]. I think the key turning point when we get back 10 years from now, say, and look back on this period of time and with respect to the campaign in Iraq, will be that series of events when the Iraqis increasingly took over responsibility for their own affairs.
This he says despite the gradual increase in the numbers of U.S. Soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq, and the insurgents being emboldened by the Lebanon/Israel war.

To Cheney we're still in the "last throes" while Chuck Hagel says we're in the midst of "A very defined Civil War". (Note: The left sure has grown pretty wide wings if it now includes Republican Senator Chuck Hagel!)

Cheney is the guy who not long ago "had a beer at lunch" before going hunting for pen raised quayle and mistakenly shot a friend in the face. Then decided to go to dinner and have a few cocktails while the Secret Service helped him evade the local sherriff's until morning.

People like Cheney, Rumseld, Rove, Gonzales and Bush are clearly impervious to reason. Divorced from fact and reality. They don't live in the same world we do. I've come to the conclusion that they are sufferring from a low grade form of Dementia. They see things they way they want to - facts be damned. Their incessant happy talk about Iraq and Afghanistan isn't just a political pose - it's nigh-psychotic.

Now it may seem rude to ascribe psychologic problems to those whom you disagree with - but it's not like they haven't been doing it to those in the center and left for a long time.

To them, if you don't see things their way you must be suffering from what Charles Krauthhammer describes as Bush Derangement Syndrome.
The acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.
Those who criticize the Adminstration are trapped in an obsessive fixation and hatred of all things wrought Bush. You're a tree-hugging, kumba-yah singing, burkenstock wearing, Michael Moore-loving, cut and running leftie. You're soft. Weak. You simply don't understand the hard realities of the world. We have to be tough to fight these terrorists. We have to use each and every means at out disposal to the fullest and put the Constitution and Geneva Conventions on the back burner until we achieve final victory (whatever that is.)

Sorry Charles, but that's just plain nuts, and it's hightime we gave this disease a name.
Bullshit Addiction Syndrome (BAD): the acute inability to recognize the total complete bullcrap of the Bush Administration and NeoCon-wing, and the obsessive need to have it continually shovelled on top of you by Faux News, Right-wing radio, The Washington Times and the Weekly Standard- 24/7.
It's practically an epidemic. And some of these BAD people having serious trouble aren't those you would expect, like John McCain who today said : "Most Americans — when they are asked ‘do you want to set a date for withdraw [for Iraq]?’ — they say no.” Meanwhile the most recent polls say that 57% of Americans want a Timetable for Withdrawal. I guess 57% isn't "Most" in McCain-World, but it is for the rest of us.

Those of you who still have hard-core Conservative and Republican friends know what I'm talking about. Perfectly intelligent people they are, but when faced with an inconvention and uncontrovertable fact their minds go into overtime to either reconcilie it with their chosen fantasy world-view - or else they simply ignore it.

"No WMD's in Iraq? Well, didn't Rick Santorum himself go out into the desert and find them? (Nope).

Well ok, we didn't go into Iraq because of WMD or Nukes anyway, we went there to Liberate the Iraqi people from a tyrant and eliminate the "Rape Rooms" - it's right here in the Iraq Force Resolution. (Uh, no it isn't...dude. The IFR was almost entirely on UN resolutions which Saddam had already complied with and told us so. We didn't listen. "Rape Rooms" were never mentioned.)

And and while we're there we might as well treat the Iraqis the same way that Saddam did, for their own safety and security, of course."

They say people who want the President to follow the law are hurting America. They claim the law and the Constitution is too restrictive, and that tying the President's hands with it simply helps the Terrorists and "Al Qaeda types" - but that somewhere buried in that very same Constitution, under Article II, the President has the authority as "Commander in Chief" to pretty much to any damn thing he feels like doing to "protect America".

Somehow they ignore the entire section of the Constitution where it says the President has the duty to ensure that the laws are followed. Or that Congress has the Article I powers to establish not only the civilian laws, but also the laws of War. To sit: Congess shall...
make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

and

make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
Sorry, guys but The President is NOT a King. He is not Emperor George the Second.

A picture named Randi-Rhodes-CSPAN.jpgBut getting the Reich-wing to listen is like trying to tell a psych patient that the aliens aren't coming to remove the anal probes anymore.... They simply aren't going to hear you. Like Janet Pashall, they'll just stick their fingers in their ears and go "La la la laah".

It's time to write these people off. They're too far gone.

John Dean has written as much as 23% of us may be prone to this type of syncophantic behavior, and identification with the aggressors. Many of the other 77% of us have been napping. We've been asleep, lulled into a falls sense of abject paranoia as a result of incessent and manipulative terror alerts.

But the polls are showing that we're starting to wake up as we watch Abramof, Safavian, Allen, Libby, DeLay, Cunningham and Lie-berman all go down in a blaze of self-aggrandizing shame, and K-Street is starting to hire Democrats in anticipation of a major Republican bloodbath this November.

Things are looking up for the Sanity-Based Community.

We just might get control of this country back from the nutballs yet. Maybe.

We still have to remember they may be crazy, but their crazy like Foxes. Keep the nets ready.

Don't let the BAD guys win.

Vyan