Whoever booked Clockcleaner and Deerhunter on the same bill is mentally unfit to book shows. Both are good bands in their own right, but they don't make for a logical lineup.
Clockcleaner went first, playing heavy, psychotic noise rock (think David Yow, Steve Albini). They show was awesome, though it would have been nice if the bar would have turned off the lights in the back of the room so that the strobe lights could have had their full effect. Regardless, the show was still amazing and seeing Clockcleaner really is somewhat like taking a ballpeen hammer to the side of the head.
Unfortunately, the crowd was terrible. There to see Deerhunter were a couple hundred of the worst sort of pseudo-intellectual art school freshman who all spent the afternoon shopping at Urban Outfitters, then stood around talking about whether or not they're going to switch from photojournalism (yes, he had medium sized plugs and a Fidel hat) to fine arts photography, and whether or not they'd seen the guy with the big beard at Corcoran (he's so weird).
After Clockcleaner finished, a couple of kids started in with, "oh my god, do I have to say it? That sucked. Hahaha!" I turned around, just to see who was talking, and they all got quiet and started backtracking. "I mean, it's cool if some people are into it, it's just not my thing, you know." (Everyone nods quickly.) Good grief. These kids don't even have enough substance to have an opinion.
Deerhunter came on next and an extra 200 people crammed into the tiny backstage at the Black Cat. It was miserable. The music was good. Actually, I was really impressed. They shouldn't have been on a bill with Clockcleaner, but they're still interesting. What made the show miserable was the crammed capacity that pushed the temperature up to about 109. And since bathing isn't cool, the place quickly turned rank with the smell of 19 year olds wiggling around and sweating in those ugly 80s castoffs that weren't even fashionable in the 80s. (Bright pink one-piece hotpants/tubetop made out of terrycloth? Seriously, you look stupid.)
I bailed on Deerhunter after a few songs. The music was good, but the show was unbearable. Besides, since my parents aren't paying for me to spend a few years being creative before I take the GMAT, I actually had to work this morning.
On my way out, though, I stopped and picked up some Clockcleaner merch, including an awesome t-shirt that my wife says I'm not allowed to wear anywhere. I can't wait for them to come back through town. Hopefully, they'll get to play on a friendlier bill next time. Either way, though, I'll be there.
Whoever booked Clockcleaner and Deerhunter on the same bill is mentally unfit to book shows. Both are good bands in their own right, but they don't make for a logical lineup.
George W. Bush, 22 August 2007
Finally, there's Vietnam. This is a complex and painful subject for many Americans. The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech. So I'm going to limit myself to one argument that has particular significance today. Then as now, people argued the real problem was America's presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end.
The argument that America's presence in Indochina was dangerous had a long pedigree. In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called, "The Quiet American." It was set in Saigon, and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism -- and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused."
After America entered the Vietnam War, the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. As a matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people.
In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: "What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they've never seen and may never heard of?" A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: "It's difficult to imagine," he said, "how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: "Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life."
The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.
Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There's no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. (Applause.) Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people," "re-education camps," and "killing fields."
There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today's struggle -- those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that "the American people had risen against their government's war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today."
His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents."
Zawahiri later returned to this theme, declaring that the Americans "know better than others that there is no hope in victory. The Vietnam specter is closing every outlet." Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility -- but the terrorists see it differently.
We must remember the words of the enemy. We must listen to what they say. Bin Laden has declared that "the war [in Iraq] is for you or us to win. If we win it, it means your disgrace and defeat forever." Iraq is one of several fronts in the war on terror -- but it's the central front -- it's the central front for the enemy that attacked us and wants to attack us again. And it's the central front for the United States and to withdraw without getting the job done would be devastating. (Applause.)
If we were to abandon the Iraqi people, the terrorists would be emboldened, and use their victory to gain new recruits. As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities. Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home. And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Recently, two men who were on the opposite sides of the debate over the Vietnam War came together to write an article. One was a member of President Nixon's foreign policy team, and the other was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration's policies. Together they wrote that the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be disastrous.
Here's what they said: "Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences." I believe these men are right.
In Iraq, our moral obligations and our strategic interests are one. So we pursue the extremists wherever we find them and we stand with the Iraqis at this difficult hour -- because the shadow of terror will never be lifted from our world and the American people will never be safe until the people of the Middle East know the freedom that our Creator meant for all. (Applause.)
I recognize that history cannot predict the future with absolute certainty. I understand that. But history does remind us that there are lessons applicable to our time. And we can learn something from history. In Asia, we saw freedom triumph over violent ideologies after the sacrifice of tens of thousands of American lives -- and that freedom has yielded peace for generations.
The American military graveyards across Europe attest to the terrible human cost in the fight against Nazism. They also attest to the triumph of a continent that today is whole, free, and at peace. The advance of freedom in these lands should give us confidence that the hard work we are doing in the Middle East can have the same results we've seen in Asia and elsewhere -- if we show the same perseverance and the same sense of purpose.
After a hilarously hellish day spent picking up a bicycle in the remote end of the world (suburbs, ugh), I hooked up with some friends last night and headed down to the Rock & Roll Hotel for the Stereo Total show.
We got there just in time for the opening band, Fever, a local DC act. I've been relatively unimpressed with the few DC bands I've seen since moving up here, and was nervous about having to sit through another third-rate high school band. Fever, though, far surpassed my expectations. Fever is a three piece band that plays rock/pop songs in the key of Lou Reed/Modern Lovers/Beatles. Their set started off a little bit weak. Maybe they were nervous, but something was definitely off. But after a couple of songs they really caught their stride and took off. By the end of the set, I decided that I would be looking for them in upcoming listings.
Next up was The Octopus Project, and they killed. I mean, they burned down the club and resurrected music out of the smoldering embers. They were the Wong Kar Wai of music, ushering lush, dreamy moods through a wall of sound. Fantastic.
Stereo Total closed out the night with a lo-fi disco piss take that seemed to really surprise a lot of people. Judging by the reaction of more than a few audience members, there was something of an expectation that Stereo Total would be a straightforward disco band that took themselves and their audience completely seriously. Instead there was humor, confusion, and fun. That Françoise kept reading the lyrics off paper on a music stand made everything even better.
A great night all around, but The Octopus Project really stole the show. Here's their video for Music is Happiness...
This is the coolest thing I've seen in a long time.
Skydiver plans head-first freefall from the edge of space in dizzying bid to break Mach 1
But he must wear a special suit to ensure his body fluids don't boil
As he plunges through the stratosphere at supersonic speed, he also hopes to break three more world records - for the longest sky dive, the highest parachute jump and the highest altitude achieved by a human in a balloon.
Despite the intense cold outside, his £35,000 suit will heat up inside when it meets air resistance. His crash helmet will have its own air supply and reinforced ear pads to protect him from the sonic boom as he breaks through the Mach 1 sound barrier.
In September we're supposed to get an update on the situation in Iraq from Gen. Petraeus. Bush & Co. have been pointing to this and saying, wait before you make any rash decisions about how the war is going. Today, the Los Angeles Times gives us this gem.
Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.
And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.
Can't wait to read that report.
Gov. Richardson was on TV over the weekend and was asked whether he believes homosexuality is a choice or a biological trait. Richardson answered "a choice," and was then roundly mocked by the interviewer and has been criticized across the blogs for giving "the wrong answer."
I agree, "a choice" is the wrong answer. But I think "a biological trait" is the wrong answer, too.
If you ask me, the correct answer to the question of whether or not homosexuality is a choice or a biological trait is, "who cares?"
And so, Richardson's full answer seems like the right answer to me.
I don’t see this as an issue of science or definition. I see gays and lesbians as people as a matter of human decency. I see it as a matter of love and companionship and people loving each other. You know I don’t like to categorize people. I don’t like to, like, answer definitions like that that, you know, perhaps are grounded in science or something else that I don’t understand.
Somebody can be biologically gay, they can choose to be gay - either way, it's got nothing to do with me.
Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.
[ Interruption by someone in the audience. ]
You have free speech so I can be heard.
via Rochester Turning
In case you've been on vacation, some interesting developments in Washington, DC lately.
August 1, 2007 - White House says spying broader than known: report
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration's top intelligence official has acknowledged that a controversial domestic surveillance program was only one part of a much broader spying effort, The Washington Post reported in its Wednesday edition.
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell wrote in a letter that other aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic spying program remain classified, the Post said.
"That is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged," McConnell wrote, according to the Post.
So, what's the reaction of Congress? Expand unchecked power of the government to spy on its own citizens.
August 6, 2007 - Eavesdropping Reforms Empower Spy Chief
Apprehensive about what they were doing, Congress specified that the new provisions would expire after six months, unless renewed.
They would give National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales joint authority to approve the monitoring of such calls and e-mails, rather than the 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
That means an intelligence official is now empowered to sort through the legalistic, secretive world of FISA, rather than a judge or the nation's highest law enforcement officer.
But that's not enough, says George W. Bush! Now he's asking Congress to grant legal immunity to communications companies. While thanking Congress for expanding his power to spy on private citizens, Bush said,
When Congress returns in September the Intelligence committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director McConnell, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Note the strange way the President worded this statement - "those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation"? Alleged?
Yale law professor Jack Balkin thinks there's a pretty good legal reason to word it that way:
Apparently "allegedly helped us stay safe" is Bush Administration code for telecom companies and government officials who participated in a conspiracy to perform illegal surveillance. Because what they did is illegal, we do not admit that they actually did it, we only say that they are alleged to have done it.
Have you seen The Lives of Others? Now might be a good time.
Welcome to the house of straw...
Washington Post: August 2, 2007
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the bridge was inspected by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in 2005 and 2006 and that no immediate structural problems were noted. "There were some minor things that needed attention," he said.
"They notified us from an engineering standpoint the deck might need to be rehabilitated or replaced in 2020 or beyond," Pawlenty said Wednesday.
The 40-year-old bridge was rated as "structurally deficient" two years ago and possibly in need of replacement, the Star Tribune reported. The newspaper said that rating was contained in the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Bridge Inventory database.
CNN: July 19, 2007
The steam conduit that exploded beneath a Manhattan street at the height of rush hour Wednesday, just a block from Grand Central Terminal, was laid when Calvin Coolidge was president. It was part of a system that began providing energy to city buildings in 1882.
Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the explosion, but some experts said the age of the city's infrastructure was a possible factor. Pipes don't last forever.
"This may be a warning sign for this very old network of pipe that we have," said Anil Agrawal, a professor of civil engineering at the City College of New York. "We should not be looking at this incident as an isolated one."
From Boston to Los Angeles, a number of American cities are entering a middle age of sorts, and the infrastructure propping them up is showing signs of strain.
MSNBC: September 30, 2005
NBC News has obtained what may be a key clue, hidden in long forgotten legal documents. They reveal that when the floodwall on the 17th Street Canal was built a decade ago, there were major construction problems — problems brought to the attention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A 1998 ruling, by an administrative judge for the Corps' Board of Contract Appeals, shows that the contractor, Pittman Construction, told the Corps that the soil and the foundation for the walls were “not of sufficient strength, rigidity and stability” to build on.
But the 1998 documents — filed as part of a legal dispute over costs — indicate the contractor complained about “weakness” of the soil and “the lack of structural integrity of the existing sheet pile around which the concrete was poured.” The ruling also referenced the “flimsiness” of the sheet piling.
Physics Today: December 2004
The power delivery system is largely based on technology developed in the 1950s or earlier and installed as much as 50 years ago. The strain on this aging system is beginning to show, particularly as consumers ask it to do things it was not designed to do. Energy transmission has been further complicated by efforts to deregulate power generation and by the confusion arising from the overlapping jurisdictional authority of federal and state regulators. Among the numerous challenges facing the electricity industry are the rapid increase in wholesale transactions between such entities as independent power producers and distribution utilities; increasing grid congestion; continuing low levels of infrastructure investment; the application of technology to allow more options for consumers; the growing need for better grid security; and the precision power requirements of a digital society.
An additional and significant stress on the North American power delivery system results from the discrepancy between the growth in demand for power and the expansion of the delivery system to meet that demand. From 1988 to 1998, US electricity demand rose by nearly 30% while the transmission network's capacity grew by only 15%. In its Electricity Technology Roadmap: 2003 Summary and Synthesis, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) anticipates that the disparity will further increase during the period 1999−2009: The institute projects demand to grow by 20% and system capacity to increase by just 3.5%.
American Society of Civil Engineers Report Card for America's Infrastructure
ASCE estimates that $1.6 trillion is needed over a five-year period to bring the nation's infrastructure to a good condition.
When Bangladesh's elections were postponed and the Caretaker Government (CTG) installed, there seemed to be a moment of relief among many. Here was an opportunity for the collection and publication of a proper voter roll, of a functioning electoral process.
When the CTG began the anti-corruption drive, many people responded with hesitant approval. After all, that Bangladesh has needed a strong anti-corruption movement was well accepted long before the CTG took power. But, as I said, the approval came with some reservations. Some were quick to point out that the role of the CTG is to maintain the functioning of the government while the electoral situation is sorted, not to pursue criminal charges against anyone.
When the government blocked Sk. Hasina from returning to Dhaka and were reportedly negotiating a voluntary exile with Khaleda Zia, the "Minus Two" program started to set off a lot of alarms among the society. Prosecuting corruption may have been a step over the line, but many people were willing to accept it as necessary, if not totally legitimate. But by trying to rid the political sphere of the two Begums, the CTG began a much more radical venture - remaking the political sector all together.
At around this same time, Nobel laureate Md. Yunus abandoned plans to form a new political party. Dr. Yunus claimed that he could not get the support from people in the political sphere who were not willing to leave their current party positions. While this was certainly true for many, especially those who may have envisioned themselves heir to the leadership of one or the other major parties, I couldn't help but wonder what response Dr. Yunus received from the military who were backing the current CTG? Could they have dissuaded him from his populist mission?
As the most recent act of this political drama has begun to unfold, we find Sk. Hasina along with a host of other actors locked up by the CTG and awaiting trial. Khaleda Zia is next, we are assured. But why all the attention on Awami League and BNP only? Is there no corruption in Ershad's Jatiya party? What about Jamaat-i-Islami?
Communications Adviser Maj Gen (retd) MA Matin explained the lack of attention on Jamaat thusly,
“Well, questions were raised regarding this issue [lack of Jamaat arrests]. But it might well be that they were never involved in any corruption,” Matin told reporters in his office yesterday.
This certainly raised a few eyebrows.
The nexus of the military rule and religious politics in Bangladesh is not new. In fact, during the presidency of Gen. Ershad that the Eighth Amendment was ratified, declaring a state religion in Bangladesh and doing away with the post-revolutionary dedication to a secular state. Gen. Ershad is not the only figure responsible for the Islamisation of the political sphere, but it is certainly conceivable that his courting of religious groups was a more or less cynical ploy to consolidate support for his somewhat tenuous hold on power.
Nor would Ershad be the last to flirt with political-religious arrangements. The BNP overcame the Awami League in 1991 by aligning with Jamaat, and earlier this year the Awami League reportedly attempted a similiar religious coalition in an attempt to secure a portion of the religious vote in the subsequently postponed elections.
So, what is on the horizon for Bangladeshi politics? Has this been a "bloodless coup," with the military pulling the strings? Is there a pact between the military and Jamaat? None of this would be unprecedented, but it's still too early to say for certain.
In April, Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed announced that new elections would be held prior to the end of 2008. But with the leadership of the two dominant political parties either locked up or soon to be so, the question of what the elections will look like is a legitimate one. After all, Ershad resigned from Army Chief of Staff during martial law and was elected President in 1986, but neither the Awami League nor the BNP participated in the elections, rendering the result rather a foregone conclusion.
Global Bangladesh will feature an exclusive interview with current Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed, in the August 2007 issue - definitely something to look out for, and, if history has anything to say about it, perhaps something to shed light on the future of Bangladesh's government.
[UPDATE] Rezwan supplies a link to the interview with Gen. Ahmed.