Friday, December 01, 2006


Ring the living bell,
Ring the living bell.
Shine the living light,
Shine the living light.

That's Melanie's "Ring the Living Bell" (written by Melanie) and the gang has it playing. C.I.'s off in the corner in the midst of an intense discussion about reconstruction in Iraq. I'm so tired, I collapsed in a chair as soon as we walked in. Feeling sorry for me, because I said I had to post tonight, Jim went and got his laptop and handed it to me.

Usually when I post at C.I.'s, I'll go to C.I.'s bedroom because it's far from the crowd. And also pretty cool. Plus, I'm a snoop when it comes to music and I'm always curious to see what CDs people have out.

"Woah" is the word for the evening. It's not even nine o'clock and I'm wiped out. However, we were in the Eastern time zone so it's feeling like a bit away from eleven. This was a whirlwind of a trip. I'm reminded of my earlier decision to only join C.I. on those trips if they stayed in this state.

But I heard about this trip last week and I really wanted to go. I had no idea it would be so cold. We even saw snow. I was never so glad to get back to California.

I was excited about the snow for about ten minutes and then the cold got to me and I started thinking "I'd be safe and warm . . ." ("California Dreamin'").

I like Melanie, her CD is on right now. It's a collection. I'm not getting up to find out the title. If someone passes, I may ask. That's how tired I am.

But, years and years ago, I used to listen to Melanie quite often. She had a very distinctive singing voice and a distinctive writing one. I hadn't forgotten about her but I really hadn't pulled out any of the vinyl until the gang really fell hard for "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)" last year. Then I started pulling out the vinyl a bit at a time and, before I knew it, I was back in the Melanie circle.

Of her covers, I love "Lover's Cross" by John Prine the best. Of her originals? I couldn't pick just one.

The thing about Melanie, and this may be due to the youthful quality of her voice, a song seems to say just one thing on the first listen and then it draws you in.

"Peace Will Come (According to Plan)" hooked me with the images in the lyrics at first. Then I saw it more as a prayer, with the repeated title.

We could use Melanie today. We could really use her.

With a new batch of songs, providing some sense of this chaotic mess.

I've started to wonder about some of the artists that either moved away or stayed around but had little to offer.

Donovan, Melanie and others had a great deal to say. Did they go away because the world seemed calmer (ha!) or because the world just didn't want to think about it anymore?

I loved Polly's report on Donovan's recent concert and I'd snap up a new CD by him in an instant. But Peter Gabriel, for instance, has written so many wonderful songs. But what hit were the easiest ones.

While it's true that music has lost its soul today in most of what gets airplay, I wonder how much of that has to do with the times? When a nation lives in denial, maybe there's not a great deal of room for real art to be welcome?

I think of the "Cumbaya" jokes by the 'hipsters' trying to talk tough.

"Cumbaya"? What's wrong with that song?

I doubt they'd feel free to go to town on "Amazing Grace" the way they do on "Cumbaya."

I can think of a 40-ish radio type who slams that song and peace. He's 'left.' In another time, he couldn't have gotten away with that. He would have been called out and considered a square. Today, we're supposed to root him on.

I don't know that being the legal partner of professional slim leaves him much room to point fingers at others. But I'm guessing he never really got the 60s and, in fact, they frightened him. He couldn't take the idea of involvement. He wanted a kind of 'activism' that was no more than 2 hours a day and then to go home and zonk out to ZZ Top or whomever.

Was art moved into a smaller box in the "Me" decade? (And what followed but a repeat of the Eisenhower era?) Artists could explore their own lives but anything more and suddenly it was time to holler and complain.

I see Mike's highlighted Dave Zirin's "Organizing the Jocks for Justice" (CounterPunch) and I think that applies to music as well. Melanie's "The Nickle Song" really reflects that (and is on right now). The audience wanted to drop in the coin and get an easy-pleasing song. And if you speak out on something, it had better be something acceptable. I was really disappointed to read an interview with Moby this week. I wasn't the only one. A student was complaining about at one of the places we went and I checked it out after. It was just so 'safe.' It was the sort of thing I could've read in 1994 or 1998. At one point, he talks about growing up in an organization for war resisters and I was thinking, "Okay, he's about to talk about Iraq and war resistance today." If he did, it got cut from the interview.

When even Moby's sidestepping the big issues of today (and hiding behind the acceptable talk of the Dems will change things), it shows you how tired or scared the last few artists are.

The e-mails have been very kind about music, by the way. Everyone says, "Take your time." I'm sorry, I'm just not up for reviewing right now. That was another reason I went on the trip this week, to avoid the guilt of not being able to produce a review. Brenda e-mailed to say if I didn't have anything until I did a year-in-review, that was cool. While I appreciated that (and still do), I won't feel cool if that happens.

Right before I left, I was working on two reviews. Thanks to C.I. taking down dictation, I got one completed. But I also wanted to review the other one. I just haven't felt inspired.

The funeral really took a lot out of me as did the lead up to it.

But give me two weeks, I'll have a new review.

Now I'm yawning (probably like most of you reading this). So let me put up the snapshot. I think I'm going to crash here. I don't mean this chair -- although if everyone went into another room, I could probably fall asleep right now. I think I'll grab one of the empty bedrooms. I'm just not up to driving home tonight, too tired. After this post, I think I'm just going to close my eyes and groove on Melanie for a bit. (That'll be my excuse for not moving still.)

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

December 1, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, early numbers for November indicate a dramatic rise (another dramatic rise) in the number of civilian deaths, does the puppet of the occupation feel the EARTH . . . MOVE . .. under his feet (nod to Carole King "I Feel The Earth Move"), and the James Baker Circle Jerk continues to raise eyebrows.

Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) reports that the Iraq Interior Ministry has released their statistics for November's death toll in Iraq, 1,850 -- and increase of 44% from their count of 1,289 for October. Macdonald reminds, "Although it does not appear to encompass all violent deaths in Iraq, the Interior Ministry's statistical series has reflected trends".

And for the living? Not much better as
Dahr Jamail discussed with Nora Barrows-Friedman on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday. Dahr explained how the violence was so common, the attacks so rampant, that for fear of their safety, many Iraqis no longer sent their children off to school (approximately 30% was the number given). On the topic of the daily violence and the people effected, Isam Rasheed (Alive in Baghdad) provides a video report from a clinic in Adhamiya where Ahmed Hameed (cigarette vendor) explains how a car bombing resulted in his hand and leg being lost, "I was working and someone left a car bomb. It blew up shortly after they had left. I woke up and found myself thrown against a wall beside my friend Shukri."; Shukri Abdul (owner of the Al-Areesh restaurant) then explains being outside his restaurant speking with an ice vendor when the car bomb went off "And I can remember landing on the ground. I was blown into the air, and when I landed, everything piled on top of me, the pots & corrugated metals." Shurki Abdul also lost his arm and foot and experienced severe damage to his back. This is the daily reality and, as Dahr pointed out, the only area under US control was the Green Zone section of Baghdad but now even the Bremer walls that wall off the section do not translate as 'safe.' Dahr spoke of speaking with a US marine stationed in Ramadi where he was part of 200 US forces expected to provide order to a city of 400,000.

Dahr noted that move to pull forces out of Ramadi and the rest of the Al-Anbar Province in order to send them to Baghdad to secure the capital. Earlier this week,
Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reported on a Marine Corps intelligence report entitled "State of Insurgency in Al-Anbar" which tagged the area "a failed province," one that was beyond US control. Also earlier this week, Jonathan Karl (ABC News) reported that, in an effort to 'secure' the capital -- 'crackdown' in any version didn't, the Pentagon is weighing pulling the 30,000 US troops out of the province and redeploying them to Baghdad.

Also addressed by Dahr was the issue of the realignmment on the ground in Iraq's parliament where new alliances are being formed with Muqtada al-Sadr's group and Dahr wondered exactly how much longer the puppet, Nouri al-Maliki, would be in place?
CBS and AP report that Tariq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq's two vice-presidents, has stated "he wanted to see al-Maliki's government gone and another 'understanding' for a new coalition put in place with guarantees that ensure collective decision making" while Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie (handmaiden to the puppet) has said the fault lies with the presidency (a ceremonial position) and not with the prime minister he (al-Zuabaie) serves under. If the memo Stephen Hadley penned November 8th is taken at all seriously don't be surprised to discover US monies are being tossed around right now in an attempt to ensure that new coalitions will be to the US administration's liking. Tom Hayden (Huffington Post) examines the events and notes "the sudden move by al-Sadr's Shiite bloc, which pulled out of the Baghdad government over al-Maliki's meeting with Bush, provides the anti-occupation coalition with significant, perhaps decisive, power, if they choose to bring down al-Maliki's shaky coalition." [Hayden's earlier reports on the al-Maliki upset are: "U.S. Retreat from Iraq? The Secret Story" and followed that with "Documents Reveal Secret Talks Between U.S. and Iraqi Armed Resistance."]

Did someone say shaky?

Thomas Wagner and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) report a double car bombing claimed one life and left six family members wounded in the Sadiyah section of Baghdad; while mortar rounds "near Muqdadiya" killed three and left 14 wounded; and, in Kirkuk, a car bomb took two lives and left three wounded. CBS and AP note a car bomb in Baghdad ("near a fruit and vegetable market") that killed two and left 16 more wounded. AFP notes, "A bomb exploded in the centre of Baghdad on the east side of the Tigris river, killing three people and wouding 16, while another car bomb killed three people on the outskirts of the capital."


Alastair Macdonald and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) report: "Machinegun fire rained from U.S. helicopters in central Baghdad . . . the Interior Ministry said one soldier had been killed and nine people wounded, including five soldiers." Reuters reports three people were killed by gunfire (two police officers, one civilian) in Samawa.


Reuters reports that 20 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and fourteen in Mosul while noting the fourteen had been kidnapped on Thursday.

Thomas Wagner and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) report that, Thursday, "Hadib Majhoul, chairman of the popular Talaba soccer club" was kidnapped.

In addition, the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed during combatoperations here Nov. 30." The death brings to 2,888 the total number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war according to ICCC's count and CNN's as well. Twelve away from the 2900 mark.

This as
Antonella Cinelli (Reuters) reports that "Italy pulled its last remaining troops out of Iraq on Friday, lowering the tricolour flag at its base in the south of a country where 32 of its soldiers have died since the contingent arrived in June 2003."

Meanwhile, although the
Iraq Study Group has released its findings, people continue to ponder the James Baker Circle Jerk. As noted by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today, the James Baker Circle Jerk is rumored to call for a 2008 'withdrawal' that is not, in fact, a withdrawal. It's a continuation of the air war that Norman Solomon has been describing for months now. It's also the James Baker Circle Jerk stroking themselves on the public dollar. The onanistic nonsense not only revolves around the air war, it also pushes embedding US forces with Iraqi police squads and forces.

For those who've forgotten how Patrick McCaffrey died and the battle his mother Nadia McCaffrey has had to fight to force the US government to get honest could see the 'suggestion' as worthy of suggesting. (Patrick McCaffrey and Andre Tyson, with the US National Guard, were killed in Iraq. The US government told the families that the two men were killed by 'insurgents.' In reality, they were killed, June 22, 2004, by Iraqi security forces they were training.)

Addressing the James Baker Circle Jerk on this week's CounterSpin,
Gary Younge (Guardian of London; The Nation) observed to Steve Rendall,, "The fact that this study group was necessary itself highlights a flaw in American politics. Democracy should have been able to deal with this, not an appointed study group." As Younge explained the responsibility the group was tasked with was Congress' own responsibility . . . until they outsourced it.

In peace news,
Aaron Glantz (IPS) reports that the revelations of the US government spying on peace activists is not slowly plans for the march in Washington, DC January 27th. Among the groups spied on were CODEPINK, United For Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, the War Resisters League and the American Friends Service Committee.

War Resisters League will be presenting Sir! No Sir! tomorrow (Saturday, December 2nd) at both seven pm and nine-thirty pm. This kicks off the War Resisters League and the Brecht Forum's Screenpeace: An Antiwar Film Festival that will hold screenings of other films on Fridays during January.

In other activism news,
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) are asking for a National "Mandate for Peace" Call-in Day, Monday, December 4th. To sign the petition click here. To phone your rep and senators, you can dial 202-224-3121. PDA notes: "On Election Day, voters said enough is enough -- we want a new direction. Let's make sure Congress hears it again by jamming the switchboards on Dec. 4 with our pleas to bring our troops home immediately."

the washington postdafna linzerthomas e. ricks