Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Paris - Sonic Jihad
David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere - Heartbreak and Duct Tape
Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger
Mustard - Eureka Grande
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Location: Illinois, United States

The peaches, apples, plums and pears are guarded by ferocious bears.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
My Secret - Frank Warren
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

30 April 2006

How To Piss Off The President In 30 Minutes Or Less

Last night Stephen Colbert spoke at the White House Correspondents Dinner. That's really all I need to say. I've never seen President Bush (or the mainstream media) look so uncomfortable. Mark Twain would be proud. Watch the entire speech here.

28 April 2006

Danger Than Fiction Part 2

The Da Vinci Code isn’t the only controversial film that will be coming to the screen this spring. Today writer-director Paul Greengrass’s United 93 was released in theatres. This film will be controversial for far different reasons than Da Vinci, mostly because cable news programmes need to generate false controversies to attract viewers and sell advertising.

Thus, we’ll be bombarded with questions like, “Should a film chronicling the real life events of 11 September ever be made?” and “Isn’t this film taking advantage of our grief to turn a profit?” That not to say that such questions aren’t legitimate. But, in bringing to the screen a film about a historical event, especially one s o recent and so important to the current world psyche, a better question might be, “Is this what actually happened to Flight 93?”

From the reviews that I’ve read of the film, it seems that Greengrass has made every attempt to ensure that his film is as accurate as possible. Reportedly he interviewed more than 100 family members and friends of those who were on the flight, hired flight attendants and airline pilots to play those roles, and even hired civilian and military controllers to play themselves in the film.

That said, interviews with family members can only take one so far in recreating a tragedy of this nature. Much of what happened in Flight 93’s final moments can only be conjectured. Yes, evidence can be pieced together from phone calls made to relatives and cockpit voice recordings. However, the popular theory we have retained, that the flight’s passengers overpowered their hijackers and crashed the plane to prevent another jet-fuelled crash into a populated building, is just that, a theory. And it’s a theory that doesn’t square with much of the available evidence.

For instance, that explanation doesn’t take into account the phone call of Ed Felt, a passenger hiding in the first class bathroom, who told a 911 operator that he heard an explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane. Nor does it explain why the operator who took Felt’s call is not allowed to speak to the media. Further, it fails to explain the presence in the flight’s cockpit recordings of the sound of wind, suggesting that the plane had been holed.

Nor does it take into account the plane’s engine being found a mile away from the crash site, or multiple fields of debris found from the plane, up to eight miles away from the crash point.

Nor does it account for reports from multiple witnesses of a second, unmarked plane in the area, which many have been a military fighter jet.

Nor the lack of debris at the actual crash site.

Nor the reports from a military veteran living in the area who reportedly heard a missile fired.

Nor does it account for why a professional pilot and a former flight controller who were aboard the flight (as passengers) were unable to fly the plane to safety, if the passengers did in fact subdue the hijackers.

None of this necessarily means anything. But it is evidence, and better evidence than that given for the theory we’ve been conditioned to accept. Something tells me that the movie doesn't address this evidence though.

Random Music Bits

Looking Closer points us to Dear Mr. Supercomputer, a brand new Sufjan Stevens song, which will be on the forthcoming The Avalanche LP.

Slightly older, but still fantastic, is the Sufjan track you can find only at NPR, The Lord God Bird.


Earlier this year songwriters David Bazan (Pedro the Lion / Headphones), Vic Chesnutt, Mark Eitzel (American Music Club), and Will Johnson (Centro-matic) hit the road for a batch of tour dates as the Undertow Orchestra. The idea was that each songwriter would perform his own songs, with the remaining three musicians acting as the backing band. The always wonderful Bradley's Almanac has the act's entire Boston set. Grab it here.


In other news, the Royal Bangs have a new track called New Scissors.

25 April 2006

Impeachy Keen

Very interesting things are brewing in my state. As reported by Steven Leser in OpEdNews, the Illinois State Legislature is about to make history:

Members of state legislatures are normally not considered as having the ability to decide issues with a massive impact to the nation as a whole. Representative Karen A. Yarbrough of Illinois' 7th District is about to shatter that perception forever. Representative Yarbrough stumbled on a little known and never utlitized rule of the US House of Representatives, Section 603 of Jefferson's Manual of the Rules of the United States House of Representatives, which allows federal impeachment proceedings to be initiated by joint resolution of a state legislature. From there, Illinois House Joint Resolution 125 (hereafter to be referred to as HJR0125) was born.

Detailing five specific charges against President Bush including one that is specified to be a felony, the complete text of HJR0125 is copied below at the end of this article. One of the interesting points is that one of the items, the one specified as a felony, that the NSA was directed by the President to spy on American citizens without warrant, is not in dispute. That fact should prove an interesting dilemma for a Republican controlled US House that clearly is not only loathe to initiate impeachment proceedings, but does not even want to thoroughly investigate any of the five items brought up by the Illinois Assembly as high crimes and/or misdemeanors. Should HJR0125 be passed by the Illinois General Assembly, the US House will be forced by House Rules to take up the issue of impeachment as a privileged bill, meaning it will take precedence over other House business.

The Illinois General Assembly joins a growing chorus of voices calling for censure or impeachment of President Bush including Democratic state committees in Vermont, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Nevada and North Carolina as well as the residents themselves of seven towns in Vermont, seventy Vermont state legislators and Congressman John Conyers. The call for impeachment is starting to grow well beyond what could be considered a fringe movement. An ABC News/Washington Post Poll Conducted April 6-9 showed that 33% of Americans currently support Impeaching President Bush, coincidentally, only a similar amount supported impeaching Nixon at the start of the Watergate investigation. If and when Illinois HJR0125 hits the capitol and the individual charges are publicly investigated, that number is likely to grow rapidly. Combined with the very real likelihood that Rove is about to be indicted in the LeakGate investigation, and Bush is in real trouble beyond his plummeting poll numbers. His cronies in the Republican dominated congress will probably save him from the embarassment of an impeachment conviction, for now, but his Presidency will be all but finished.
As if that's not interesting enough, AlterNet's Peek points out what's particularly stunning about all this:

Though these state resolutions have slim chance of passing through their respective legislatures, they do, regardless of conservative wailing to the contrary, represent a growing sentiment among the larger populace. On April 14, the LA Times referenced recent polling that found 33% of repondents thought Bush should be impeached. Meanwhile, the most recent CNN poll finds only 32% of Americans giving Bush a positive approval rating. Bearing in mind the usual margin of error caveats, this could mean there are more Americans who now support impeaching the president than believe he is doing a good job.
Maybe the times really are a-changin'.

(h/t: Peek Blog)

24 April 2006

Danger Than Fiction

There’s a controversial new film coming out next month. The film is based on a popular novel written by Dan Brown that was published in 2003. It’s called The Da Vinci Code. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

The Da Vinci Code has been criticised for a number of reasons. I haven’t read it, but, not surprisingly, the novel has been condemned for being derivative and poorly written. Two separate lawsuits (neither of which prevailed) have also accused Brown of plagiarism. But by far the biggest criticisms of The Da Vinci Code have come largely from Evangelical and Catholic Christians who dispute the book’s historical and religious claims.

Some have been critical of the latter criticism. After all, the book is fiction, they say, and should be regarded as such. I agree with that, up to a point. A conspiracy hidden for thousands of years by the Catholic Church regarding the marital status of Jesus is a very compelling idea. But that doesn’t mean it really happened.

The problem is that works of fiction do shape our perception of reality. Our modern conception of heaven and hell, for instance, comes largely not from Judeo-Christian scripture or historical Jewish notions about the afterlife, but from Dante’s The Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost. That people’s ideas about the historicity of Christianity would be negatively impacted by Brown’s book is likewise not hard to understand.

I do find it funny, though, which novels Christians react strongly against. The Harry Potter series was vilified for quite some time by Christians who needed something to complain about after losing the war on rock and roll back in the 80s. Now The Da Vinci Code is taking Potter's place.

And yet there is strangely very little criticism from Christian circles of the Left Behind novels*, whose muddled, perhaps even heretical, theology have frightening real world implications. The worldview inherent in Tim LaHaye’s poisonous novels impacts attitudes about the environment, war and peace, Middle Eastern policy, kingdom living, even the arts, and far more negatively than any book about Jesus’ secret wife. I expect most of us won’t even remember Don Brown’s name when we’re all wearing gas masks because we failed to take global warming and pollution seriously.

*Slacktivist's ongoing deconstruction of the first Left Behind novel being a very important exception.

22 April 2006

Just Curious

So I'm wondering. If you walked into a public restroom, approached a stall door and found it locked, would you:

a)Assume the stall to be occupied?


b) Make multiple violent attempts to thrust the door inward, then, having no success, attempt to crawl under the stall door, only to find a very surprised man sitting there with his pants wrapped around his ankles?

19 April 2006

I've Been Everywhere

So on a whim Mrs Wasp Jerky and I have decided to go to Niagra Falls and Toronto this summer. Has anyone been either of those places? What should we do to occupy ourselves? Inquiring minds want to know...

Worst President Ever?

Princeton Professor of History and Director of American Studies Sean Wilentz has a piece in the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone asking if George Bush is the worst president ever. The entire thing is worth a read, but here is an excerpt:

Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

The lopsided decision of historians should give everyone pause. Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.

Historians do tend, as a group, to be far more liberal than the citizenry as a whole -- a fact the president's admirers have seized on to dismiss the poll results as transparently biased. One pro-Bush historian said the survey revealed more about "the current crop of history professors" than about Bush or about Bush's eventual standing. But if historians were simply motivated by a strong collective liberal bias, they might be expected to call Bush the worst president since his father, or Ronald Reagan, or Nixon. Instead, more than half of those polled -- and nearly three-fourths of those who gave Bush a negative rating -- reached back before Nixon to find a president they considered as miserable as Bush. The presidents most commonly linked with Bush included Hoover, Andrew Johnson and Buchanan. Twelve percent of the historians polled -- nearly as many as those who rated Bush a success -- flatly called Bush the worst president in American history. And these figures were gathered before the debacles over Hurricane Katrina, Bush's role in the Valerie Plame leak affair and the deterioration of the situation in Iraq. Were the historians polled today, that figure would certainly be higher.

Even worse for the president, the general public, having once given Bush the highest approval ratings ever recorded, now appears to be coming around to the dismal view held by most historians. To be sure, the president retains a considerable base of supporters who believe in and adore him, and who reject all criticism with a mixture of disbelief and fierce contempt -- about one-third of the electorate. (When the columnist Richard Reeves publicized the historians' poll last year and suggested it might have merit, he drew thousands of abusive replies that called him an idiot and that praised Bush as, in one writer's words, "a Christian who actually acts on his deeply held beliefs.") Yet the ranks of the true believers have thinned dramatically. A majority of voters in forty-three states now disapprove of Bush's handling of his job. Since the commencement of reliable polling in the 1940s, only one twice-elected president has seen his ratings fall as low as Bush's in his second term: Richard Nixon, during the months preceding his resignation in 1974. No two-term president since polling began has fallen from such a height of popularity as Bush's (in the neighborhood of ninety percent, during the patriotic upswell following the 2001 attacks) to such a low (now in the midthirties). No president, including Harry Truman (whose ratings sometimes dipped below Nixonian levels), has experienced such a virtually unrelieved decline as Bush has since his high point. Apart from sharp but temporary upticks that followed the commencement of the Iraq war and the capture of Saddam Hussein, and a recovery during the weeks just before and after his re-election, the Bush trend has been a profile in fairly steady disillusionment.


How does any president's reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.


No previous president appears to have squandered the public's trust more than Bush has. In the 1840s, President James Polk gained a reputation for deviousness over his alleged manufacturing of the war with Mexico and his supposedly covert pro-slavery views. Abraham Lincoln, then an Illinois congressman, virtually labeled Polk a liar when he called him, from the floor of the House, "a bewildered, confounded and miserably perplexed man" and denounced the war as "from beginning to end, the sheerest deception." But the swift American victory in the war, Polk's decision to stick by his pledge to serve only one term and his sudden death shortly after leaving office spared him the ignominy over slavery that befell his successors in the 1850s. With more than two years to go in Bush's second term and no swift victory in sight, Bush's reputation will probably have no such reprieve.

The problems besetting Bush are of a more modern kind than Polk's, suited to the television age -- a crisis both in confidence and credibility. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam travails gave birth to the phrase "credibility gap," meaning the distance between a president's professions and the public's perceptions of reality. It took more than two years for Johnson's disapproval rating in the Gallup Poll to reach fifty-two percent in March 1968 -- a figure Bush long ago surpassed, but that was sufficient to persuade the proud LBJ not to seek re-election. Yet recently, just short of three years after Bush buoyantly declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq, his disapproval ratings have been running considerably higher than Johnson's, at about sixty percent. More than half the country now considers Bush dishonest and untrustworthy, and a decisive plurality consider him less trustworthy than his predecessor, Bill Clinton -- a figure still attacked by conservative zealots as "Slick Willie."
Read the rest...

12 April 2006


Wouldn’t you love to be on the cover of a magazine? Healthy skin, perfect teeth, designed to hide what lies beneath. -- Pedro the Lion

It's been a while since I've complained about the Bush Administration. Frankly, those guys have worn me out. Really, who's got the time to keep up with the scandals pouring out of the White House these days? From another secret memo detailing Bush's determination to go to war with or without WMDs to the revelation that Bush OKed the leaking of a CIA agent’s identity to today's report of Bush lying about biological weapons found in Iraq, it doesn’t rain with these guys. It monsoons.

Greg Palast has some insightful commentary on Bush’s latest batch of felonies:

'Scooter' Libby finally outed 'Mr. Big,' the perpetrator of the heinous disclosure of the name of secret agent Valerie Plame. It was the President of United States himself -- in conspiracy with his Vice-President.

Now the pundits are arguing over whether our war-a-holic President had the legal right to leak this national security information. But, that's a fake debate meant to distract you.

OK, let's accept the White House alibi that releasing Plame's identity was no crime. But if that's true, they've committed a BIGGER crime: Bush and Cheney knowingly withheld vital information from a grand jury investigation, a multimillion dollar inquiry the perps themselves authorized. That's akin to calling in a false fire alarm or calling the cops for a burglary that never happened -- but far, far worse. Let's not forget that in the hunt for the perpetrator of this non-crime, reporter Judith Miller went to jail.

Think about that. While Miller sat in a prison cell, Bush and Cheney were laughing their sick heads off, knowing the grand jury testimony, the special prosecutor's subpoenas and the FBI's terrorizing newsrooms were nothing but fake props in Bush's elaborate charade, Cheney's Big Con.

On February 10, 2004, our not-so-dumb-as-he-sounds President stated, "Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing. ...And if people have got solid information, please come forward with it."

Notice Bush's cleverly crafted words. He says he can't name anyone who leaked this "classified" info -- knowing full well he'd de-classified it. Far from letting Bush off the hook, it worsens the crime. For years, I worked as a government investigator and, let me tell you, Bush and Cheney withholding material information from the grand jury is a felony. Several felonies, actually: abuse of legal process, fraud, racketeering and, that old standby, obstruction of justice.

If you or I had manipulated the legal system this way, we'd be breaking rocks on a chain gang. We wouldn't even get a trial -- most judges would consider this a "fraud upon the court" and send us to the slammer in minutes using the bench's power to administer instant punishment for contempt of the judicial system.


Statements aimed at misleading grand jury investigators are hard-time offenses. It doesn't matter that Bush's too-clever little quip was made to the press and not under oath. I've cited press releases and comments in the New York Times in court as evidence of fraud. By not swearing to his disingenuous statement, Bush gets off the perjury hook, but he committed a crime nonetheless, "deliberate concealment."

Here's how the law works (and hopefully, it will). The Bush gang's use of the telephone in this con game constituted wire fraud. Furthermore, while presidents may leak ("declassify") intelligence information, they may not obstruct justice; that is, send a grand jury on a wild goose chase. Under the 'RICO' statute (named after the Edward G. Robinson movie mobster, 'Little Rico'), the combination of these crimes makes the Bush executive branch a "racketeering enterprise."
None of this is surprising, really. Bush has a long history of deceit and criminal behaviour. Jesus may be Bush's favourite philosopher, but Bush sure hasn’t made much progress in putting philosophy into action.

What does continue to surprise, though, is how many Christians continue to overlook these things. Apparently all of Bush’s crimes didn’t really happen. Or maybe they just aren’t that important when there are still big scary Terrorists™ on the loose. Or maybe it’s just that these Christians perceive Bush’s sins to be not as bad as the sins of others.

Whatever the reasoning, the result is that all this cheapens the very faith these Christians think they are defending. It’s hard to take the faith of the faithful seriously when repeated lies and multiple felonies go unchallenged, but an extramarital blowjob does not. After all, it will be the prostitutes who enter the kingdom ahead of the Pharisees.