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Aid hurts Africa – Bono attacks Africans (again); Africans fire back

‘When the World Bank thinks its financing an electric power station,’ it’s really financing a brothel.’

– Dead Aid

‘If you wanna save the planet, jump up and down!’

– Madonna at “Live Earth”

‘Saint’ Bono loses the rag in Africa and a look at the new book “Dead Aid” which looks at the futility of most aid programmes for Africa, and indeed the damage this aid actually causes.

“Dead Aid” was written by Dambisa Moyo, who was born in Zambia, and who has a doctorate in economics from Oxford, a masters from Harvard, and who, for several years, has worked for the World Bank in Washington DC.

Comic relief? Top black academic argues western approach is not working for Africa

By Christopher Hart

Daily Mail (UK)
10th March 2009

We are accustomed to bizarre outbursts and posturings from multimillionaire celebrities, especially when they spot a chance to portray themselves as concerned philanthropists with almost painfully big hearts.

Their favourite method is to drop in for a few hours at some televised charity event – Comic Relief, Live8 and Live Earth.

Perhaps the best-known, and certainly the loudest among them, is U2’s Bono. His efforts have won him an honorary British knighthood, no fewer than three Nobel Prize nominations and the adulation of Tony Blair. Yet one of Bono’s most significant outbursts – rude, heckling and laden with expletives – took place away from the world’s TV cameras at a small conference it Tanzania recently.

Not so funny any more: Lenny Henry and Davina McCall lark about in their Comic Relief red noses but a voice from Africa argues western aid is not the best way to help Africa

Bono had been enraged by a Ugandan writer called Andrew Mwenda, who was presenting a powerful case that international aid, far from helping lift Africa out of poverty, might in fact be the very cause of its troubles.

Even the suggestion that this might be the case sent ‘Saint’ Bono into a foul-mouthed rant, accusing Mwenda of being a comedian rather than a serious contributor to political debate.

For his own sake, then, one can only hope that the pop star never comes face to face with the author of an incendiary new book. Called Dead Aid, its very title is a bitter mockery of that great institution and celebrity bandwagon, Live Aid.

Voice of reason? Sir Bob Geldof has done much to highlight the plight of Africa

But what it contains – particularly at a time when people are generously giving time, money and enthusiasm to this week’s Comic Relief fundraising events – is even more provocative. It argues that for 50 years the West has been giving aid to Africa – and in so doing has ruined the continent it professes to help. The author of Dead Aid is no lightweight courting controversy for its own sake. She is a highly qualified economist. More importantly, she is herself African – and what she has to say is as unsettling as it is important.

After years of listening to Western ‘experts’ such as Bono, Bob Geldof or Angelina Jolie pontificating about what Africa needs, here is a refreshing voice from Africa itself.

Dambisa Moyo was born in Zambia, where her family still live. She has a doctorate in economics from Oxford, a masters from Harvard, and for several years worked for the World Bank in Washington DC.

She is now head of research and strategy for sub-Saharan Africa at a leading investment bank. But here, you feel, is one banker who is still worth listening to, not least as she has witnessed the way her home country has become blighted by poverty. At independence in 1964, Zambia was a fresh, optimistic young nation, eager to embrace the future. Its GDP was around a quarter of the UK’s.

Today it is one-26th, and the country is mired in corruption, poverty and disease. So what went wrong?

One by one, Moyo examines the usual lame excuses for African backwardness, and dispatches them with ruthless efficiency. Africa has a harsh, intractable climate, with huge natural barriers such as jungle and desert? Well, so does Brazil, or Australia.

Many African countries are landlocked, always an obstacle to economic growth? That hasn’t done Switzerland or Austria much harm.

Happy birthday tyrant: Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe celebrates his 85th birthday with wife Grace

African countries are too ethnically and tribally diverse? So is India, and its economy is booming.

Africa lacks democracy? So do China, Thailand and Indonesia, all Asian tiger economies.

As for any lingering mutterings about Africans simply not being up to it, or inherently lazy, she doesn’t even consider them. She herself is eloquent proof of the idiocy of such Victorianera racism. No, the problem can be summed up in one short word – aid.

Aid isn’t Africa’s cure, she believes. It’s the disease.

Let’s be clear, though, Moyo is scrupulously fair about distinguishing between three different types of aid. There is emergency relief for famine, which many of us support through donations or charitable fundraisers, which is not only well-meaning but absolutely necessary at times of international crisis.

Heartbreaking: malnourished children continue to die in Ethiopia

Then there is the everyday work of the charities themselves, about which she appears neutral, although she quotes one cutting comment from a senior economist: ‘They know it’s c**p, but it sells the T-shirts.

‘ This year, it is Stella McCartney’s Comic Relief T-shirts – featuring images of The Beatles and of Morecambe and Wise – that have become the must-have accessory of those who like to wear their conscience on their sleeve.

Despite the cynics, it is worth remembering that since its creation in the mid-Eighties, Comic Relief has generated £600 million – roughly two-thirds of which has gone to fund charities working on the ground in Africa (the other third goes towards charities in the UK).

That is an awesome achievement that has made a genuine difference towards alleviating suffering on a local scale in some of the most deprived nations on Earth. No one should belittle that work.

But charities are ‘small beer’ compared to what Moyo perceives to be Africa’s real problem: the billions of pounds’ worth of aid poured into the continent by Western governments.

Consider the figures. In the past 50 years, the West has pumped around £35 trillion into Africa. But far from improving the lives of ordinary Africans, the result of stateadministered charity on such a colossal scale has, argues Moyo, been ‘an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster’.

The effects are easy to see, yet always ignored. Over the past 30 years, the economies of the most aiddependent countries have shrunk by 0.2 per cent per annum.

Yes, in the UK we have been in recession for six months or so now, but countries like Malawi and Burkina Faso have been in recession for three decades. How is this disaster related to thoughtless Western aid? Directly.

All smiles: Madonna performed at Live Eight in 2005 – but has celebrity endorsement really improved the lot of ordinary Africans?

And Moyo cites a brilliant example of how the whole concept is flawed. Imagine there’s an African mosquito-net maker who manufactures 500 nets a week. He employs ten people, and this being Africa, each of those employees supports as many as 15 relatives on his modest but steady salary. Some 150 people therefore depend on this thriving little cottage industry, producing a much-needed, low-cost commodity for local people.

Then, Moyo writes: ‘Enter vociferous Hollywood movie star who rallies the masses and goads Western governments to collect and send 100,000 mosquito nets to the afflicted region, at a cost of a million dollars. The nets arrive and a “good” deed is done.’

The result? The local business promptly goes bust. Why buy one when they’re handing them out for free? Ten more people are unemployed, and 150 people are without means of support.

Not just a pretty face: Angelina Jolie has visited much of Africa to highlight the poverty faced by its people

Like all such aid hand-outs, it’s an idiotically short-sighted way to treat a complex problem.

And that’s not all. In a year or so, those nets will have sustained wear and tear, and will need either mending or replacing. But the local net-maker is no longer around.

So now those previously independent and self-sufficient Africans have to go begging the West for more aid. Intervention has actually destroyed a small part of Africa’s economy, as well as its spirit of enterprise. Thus aid reduces its recipients to beggary in two easy moves.

Yet despite this ongoing disaster, we still have the celebrity harangues, the self-applauding rock concerts, ‘making poverty history’ from the comfort of your private jet.

At some point in the Eighties, as Dambisa Moyo observes, ‘Public discourse became a public disco’, reaching its eventual nadir, perhaps, with Madonna addressing her audience at Live Earth as ‘motherf***** s’ and declaring: ‘If you wanna save the planet, jump up and down!’

Moyo is blisteringly critical about the ‘Western, liberal, guilt-tripped morality’ that lies behind these jamborees, about the tax-avoiding Bono lecturing us all on poverty and advising world leaders at summits, and Blair’s craven admiration for him. Ordinary Africans do not, on the whole, have much admiration for Western pop culture at its noisiest and most foul-mouthed.

So what do they make of the bizarre spectacle of some ill-qualified Western pop star moralising with such supreme arrogance on ‘what Africa really needs’? Africans themselves have ideas about what they really need, if only someone would listen. But as one such African comments: ‘My voice can’t compete with an electric guitar.’

Another effect of aid, well known in the West and yet consistently and shamefully ignored, is that it props up the most thuggish and kleptomaniac of Africa’s leaders.

That parade of grotesques who have filled our TV screens almost since independence, it seems – Idi Amin in Uganda, Mobutu in Zaire, Mengistu in Ethiopia, the ‘Emperor’ Bokassa in the Central African Republic – were always the greatest beneficiaries.

Bokassa spent a third of his country’s annual income on his own preposterous ‘coronation.’ The genocidal Mengistu benefited hugely, it is said, from the proceeds of Live Aid.

Today we have Mr Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace, 40 years his junior, going on £75,000-a-time shopping trips to Europe or the Far East, while her people starve, inflation runs at 230 million per cent, and Zimbabwe’s Central Bank issues $100 trillion banknotes.

Such tales echo Mobutu’s reign of terror in Zaire. He once asked the West for a reduction of his country’s colossal debt. The West, feeling guilty, promptly granted it.

Mobutu’s response? He hired Concorde to fly his daughter to her wedding on the Ivory Coast. In all, Mobutu may have looted £3.5billion from his country’s coffers. Nigeria’s President Sani Abacha stole about the same.

Even the World Bank itself reckons that 85 per cent of aid never gets to where it’s meant to. ‘When the World Bank thinks its financing an electric power station,’ says one jaundiced commentator whom Moyo quotes, ‘it’s really financing a brothel.’

Out of control inflation: a young boy holds the new 1 million Zimbabwe dollar note

So the aid industry causes poverty, corruption and war. Yet it continues. Why? Could aid just be something the West indulge in to buy itself an easy conscience – regardless of what effect it has on Africa?

Whatever the case, we should turn the taps off immediately, says Moyo. Would this mean the end to the building of new roads, schools, hospitals? No.They’re mainly built by investment, not aid.

Would it be the end to many a kleptomaniac despot? Most certainly. But would millions would die of hunger within weeks? Of course not.

The aid we send doesn’t reach them anyway. Life for them would in the short term be no different, but in the longer term immeasurably better.

What makes Dead Aid so powerful is that it’s a double-barrelled shotgun of a book. With the first barrel, Moyo demolishes all the most cherished myths about aid being a good thing.

But with the second, crucially, she goes on to explain what the West could be doing instead.

We all share the well-meaning belief that ‘the rich should help the poor, and the form of this help should be aid’. The first part of this is plain morality. But the second part, as she so forcefully demonstrates, is false – lethally false.

Another grim day: Children collect stagnant water in Zimbabwe as cholera continues to claim lives in the southern African country

We shouldn’t be giving aid to Africa. That’s not what Africa wants. We should be trading with it, and idle chatter of ‘economic imperialism’ be damned. She has no time for such Left-liberal pieties. Of course we should be using Africa’s vast pool of cheap labour to make our clothes, assemble our cars, grow our foodstuffs. In fact, one country already is – it’s called China.

China is building roads in Ethiopia, pipelines in Sudan, railways in Nigeria. It’s buying iron ore and platinum from South Africa, timber from Gabon and Cameroon, oil from Angola and Equatorial Guinea. China is pouring vast sums of capital investment into the continent, enriching both itself and Africa in the process.

Dambisa Moyo is not much bothered by Western concerns that China does nothing to further democracy in Africa. An villager with six children doesn’t lose sleep over not having the vote, she loses sleep over what she will feed her children tomorrow.

Address poverty first, says Moyo, and democracy later.

The greatest example for Africa today, she believes, could be the Grameen Bank, which means, ‘The Bank Of The Village’, in Bangladesh. Moyo hopes that, in time, the nations of Africa can develop such a bank for themselves. For it is an extraordinary and heart-warming success story.

It was devised by Muhammad Yunus, who quite rightly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts. Yunus’s inspiration was to ask: ‘Where lies the wealth of the typical Bangladeshi village?’

A village may not have money, goods or assets. Yet it is a wonderfully tight-knit, loyal little community, where nobody locks their doors at night, nobody steals, everyone knows each other. This is a tremendous kind of wealth – but how to translate it into money for these impoverished, decent, hard-working people?

Yunus realised you could lend money to such a community and be sure of getting it back if you worked according to a plan – a plan with the simplicity of genius.

You lend not to an individual but to a group, but only one member at a time. So you might lend one woman £20 (and an amazing 97 per cent of the Grameen Bank’s customers are women. That’s enough for her to buy a new sewing machine, and so start a thriving little tailoring business.

A year later, she repays the amount, with interest. At which point, the original £20 is passed on to the next person in the group.

But if she doesn’t repay the loan – and here Yunus saw how to turn the village’s ‘social capital’, its trustworthiness and deep-rooted sense of community, into economic value – then the next person in the group, quite possibly her next-door neighbour, her sister or cousin, doesn’t get it either.

The result? This humbly named Bank Of The Village now has 2.3 million customers, and a portfolio worth a colossal £170 million- in one of the poorest countries on Earth.

There is something deeply moving about it, especially when you learn that the reliability of the Grameen Bank’s customers has proved to be virtually 100 per cent.

No greater contrast between our own inept but limitlessly greedy banks and Bangladesh’s Bank Of The Village could be imagined.

The failed fat-cat Cityboy still awards himself a £500,000 bonus for his own incompetence, while these trustworthy women care for every single cent of their precious £20 loan.

More than that, though, it is a humbling example of the way that trade – not aid – can help Africa lift itself out of poverty. Certainly, there is still much that we can do to help Africa help itself. We should act, and fast. But pouring billions more in aid won’t change a thing.

Moyo concludes her book with a wise old African proverb. ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.’

By all means give to Comic Relief when the fun gets under way this Friday. It is a worthwhile humanitarian cause that makes a real difference to people in desperate circumstances.

But as for a long-term solution to Africa’s immense problems – that may require a new way of thinking.

DEAD AID by Dambisa Moyo (Allen Lane, £14.99). To order a copy (p&p free), call 0845 155 0720.

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March 16, 2009 Posted by | Angelina Jolie, Bob Geldof, Bono, Madonna, Roykeanz, _ARTICLE, _CARTOON, _MUSIC, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Find out now exactly when you’ll be worm food !

No, not at all Morbid! Or insane!

There’s this wacky website where you can answer a few questions such as “when will I meet my maker … Dr Frankenstein”; or “when will I at last never again have to accidentally switch to some channel showing ‘Everybody Loves Raymond'”; or ” when will I be able to go ‘na na na na na, aetheism was of course correct’ to all Religious nuts when worms are dining on my insides”!!

Yap, this thing tells you the date of your death and even how many minutes you have left! That enables you to work out how many beers and chicks you can have before death!

This thing tells me I’ll live til 99 years old!! Fu*king Hell! How many ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ shows will I have to endure?!

If you wish to know when local worms can expect a feast, click HERE

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February 19, 2009 Posted by | _OTHER | Leave a comment

World’s Your’s Plax

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December 3, 2008 Posted by | Plaxico Burress, _CARTOON, _OTHER, _SPORT | Leave a comment

Only a Metaphor

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December 3, 2008 Posted by | Plaxico Burress, _CARTOON, _OTHER, _SPORT | Leave a comment

At the MENSA Meeting – Dubwa and Plax

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December 3, 2008 Posted by | GW Bush, Plaxico Burress, _CARTOON, _OTHER, _SPORT | Leave a comment

Plaxico Burress becomes a punchline

If you look up the phrase “shooting yourself in the foot” in the dictionary, what footballer’s picture do you see?

None! It’s a fucking dictionary!

Burress sure messed up! What a genius!

The New York-Presbyterian Hospital messed up too as did, to a lesser extent, the cops.

We await the shocking news in due course that the multi-millionaire – lawyered up with uber-slick and uber-expensive Benjamin Brafman – is hit only with a token fine and some “Community Service”!

by roykeanz

On Friday, November 28, 2008, Plaxico Burress suffered an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right thigh in a New York City nightclub. The injury was not life-threatening and he was released from an area hospital the next afternoon. The following Monday, Burress turned himself in to police to face charges of criminal possession of a handgun. According to his lawyer Benjamin Brafman, Burress will plead not guilty.

It was later discovered that the NYPD found out about the incident only after seeing it on television and were not called by New York-Presbyterian Hospital as required by law. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the hospital actions an “outrage” and stated that they are a “chargeable offense”. Bloomberg also urged that Burress be prosecuted to the fullest extent, calling less than the minimum 3 and a half years “a mockery”.Burress had an expired license for the firearm from Florida, but no New York license. Unlawful carrying of a handgun carries a minimum 3 and a half year jail sentence.

On December 2, 2008, Burress posted bail of $100,000. He is scheduled to return to court on March 31, 2009 to enter a plea. Later in the day, Burress reported to Giants Stadium as per team policy for injured players, and was told he would be suspended for the remaining four games of the season for conduct detrimental to the team. He was also placed on the Giants’ non-football injury list. Either of the two moves by themselves would have ended Burress’ season. However, placing Burress on the non-football injury list (as opposed to injured reserve) means the Giants will not have to pay him for the remaining four games of the season.

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December 3, 2008 Posted by | Plaxico Burress, _CARTOON, _OTHER, _SPORT | Leave a comment

Bloggers beware: Your posts could vanish without warning

Apparently, some people’s intellectual property matters more than others!
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Fine piece below from Larisa Mann about indiscriminate targetting of certain blogs by parties unknown (something we’ve had a lot of, ourselves), the rash removal of posts by Google and the one-sided battle that some bloggers get thrown into.

There are usually ulterior motives at play, and it does seem far too easy to target a blog and even get it shut down.

The trolls of course, are trying to demonise music blogs, just as they are trying to do with file hosts – who carry out a legitimate and necessary service!

Remember, we are not talking here about blogs espousing, say, racial hatred or terrorism or paedophilia or something fucked-up and harmful! These are simply blogs where music fans share their ideas and cultural / musical likes with other like minded souls! Nobody is getting hurt here! The vast majority of these blogs too are making no money from this – some like us are making less than zero!

Some excellent and well-known music blogs have been taken down in recent weeks, some of which only posted out of print and/or bootleg music – therefore, not infringing any copyright nor causing income loss to artists or the greedy muzak biz!

The critical argument of course exists that posting information found on a simple internet search (e.g. a link to a certain file that the blogger has neither uploaded, nor possibly even downloaded) represents one’s basic right to FREEDOM OF SPEECH, and to not be allowed do so is a restriction of that inalienable right! We’ve written about this in great detail before and shall not do so again!

The whole scenario is very Big Brother (no, not the dumb fucking TV show! – Orwellian) !

Free Association: Sound of Silence

By Larisa Mann, November 28, 2008

Music bloggers beware: Your posts could vanish without warning.

Music blogs are engines for fandom, DJ culture and music making. They range from websites featuring news, links and commentary run by individual fans, to label-run sites promoting similar sounds and scenes. Music blogs may also include producer coalitions that promote music as part of an ongoing culture of participation. Finally, there are blog aggregators that report on what’s hot and online music magazines with formal articles that include links to the music that they discuss. Many feature actual streaming or downloadable audio files that allow the reader to hear what all the fuss is about.

At minimum, a music blog might consist of basic lists or links to hot or obscure tunes, like a mixtape or playlist. But at maximum, many blogs provide fascinating context for the music they post, from scholarly analysis on a particular music element to a devoted fan’s impassioned history of a tiny subgenre, or even a wide-ranging set of thoughts on a musical theme.

Although blogs serve various creative purposes, they are above all social spheres. By posting links, entries and search functions, music blogs promote and embody a lively culture of interaction. Music blogs can also help artists. One anonymous blogger points out, “People like myself discover new music through these blogs, which often leads to album purchases, and even more often to support of the artist’s concerts, merchandise, etc.” Other blogs focused on DJ culture have new electronic artists post their work for feedback — an important step in developing artists and music scenes.

Missing Links

But now posts are disappearing. The trigger for deletion appears to be MP3 audio file links that possibly violate copyright law. However, many blog sites go far beyond simple link lists, including commentary, images and bloggers’ own creative work alongside music. The blogger’s original work, also covered by copyright law, often disappears along with the problematic link.

Apparently, some people’s intellectual property matters more than others!

Even stranger, some deleted links were given to bloggers by artists and labels explicitly for promotional purposes. As another anonymous blogger told me, “On the one hand record companies use blogs to help them sell records, and on the other hand, persecute blogs for it.”

It also seems that one branch of the music industry doesn’t know what the other one is doing. Linda, author of a small Southern California-based music blog, explains,

“I e-mailed my contact at the label of a band for whom I wrote an album review that was deleted. I told him which songs I posted and asked if I had done something that prompted the label to request a takedown. He denied that the label would have done that. I e-mailed another contact at a PR (public relations) firm regarding another album review that was deleted. The PR had sent me the album to review! They denied having any part in a takedown.”

The Google-owned blog-publishing system, Blogger, has e-mailed bloggers after the fact, informing them that their posts were taken down because they contained a link to material Blogger has learned infringes copyright. But in other cases, entire posts have disappeared with no communication. Most bloggers have not been told which link in a multiple-link post is problematic.

When Blogger has notified music bloggers, they’ve cited the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), an unwieldy mishmash of compromises between the content and tech industries. The DMCA is supposed to protect middleman technology companies like Google (“Internet Service Providers” or ISPs) from lawsuits over what their users do. To avoid lawsuits over content that users post, ISPs must not create or edit content but simply host it, and must take down content when an owner says it infringes their copyright.

Bloggers can technically use the DMCA to fight back if they think their use is legal, by filing a counter-notification. In the best scenario, this would mean the copyright holders and the people who upload copyrighted content can duke out the issue themselves while the ISPs stay out of it.

However, Blogger hasn’t given bloggers the tools they need to defend themselves. Counter-notification can only happen after Blogger registers takedowns online. But, as Linda pointed out, since Blogger has not yet registered any complaints, “There is nothing for me to ‘counter’. I have no idea who I have offended or how.”

Blogger’s own code of conduct says, “If we remove or disable access in response to such a notice, we will make a good-faith attempt to contact the owner or administrator of the affected site or content so that they may make a counter notification.” Since when is no notice a good-faith effort?

Even if Blogger complied with its own policy and the DMCA, that might not be enough. Linda points out the asymmetry of the legal battle: “The direction[s] for filing a counter-notification includes agreeing to pay all legal fees if I am found in the wrong. Without knowing what I am defending myself against, how can I possibly agree to such terms? Is it realistic for me, someone whose blog earns no money, to retain a lawyer?”

The system is biased in favor of those with plenty of cash and their own lawyers on staff. Luckily, in the US, we have a legal defense that would cover many music blogs — at least those that discuss, educate, criticize and comment. These could qualify for fair use protection, which does allow people to make use without permission of copyrighted works in ways that benefit society.

Although many bloggers, DJs and musicians I spoke with said that some blogs don’t play fair, they all emphasized the overall benefit that music blogs provide to artists and the public. “There will always be pirates,” said one blogger, label owner, producer and DJ. “File-sharing, mash-ups, and DJ mixes are all part of a huge explosion of musical creativity. We’re living in a time in which people are exposed to more new music than ever before and it’s the free flow of information that’s driving this push forward.”

Unfortunately, it looks like Blogger may have made a private deal with content owners to automatically remove posts that owners complain about, rather than going through a transparent process with room for discussion. While this may not be illegal (although we should be concerned about the effect on our fair use rights), this is exactly why we can’t trust private companies to administer our culture fairly: They can make deals with other private companies without public input.

And why should we trust the content industry to make the rules when it doesn’t play fair? There’s a long history of baseless and debatable copyright complaints. If these companies have Blogger’s ear and don’t consider input from the public or users, they can basically define our access to works with no accountability.

What About Author’s Rights?

Worse yet is the fact that music bloggers’ own original material is being deleted. Even if some links in a post are not fair use, two wrongs don’t make a right. Google has made its name by promising to do right by its users and the data they host for the public. If they keep deleting our own creative works, why should the public trust them?

Blogger is a private company, but it provides public services similar to those offered by libraries, archives and broadcasting. It’s a growing problem in the internet era: These private companies, controlled only by private law, have the ability to run their businesses with little or no respect for the public.

Google recently made a deal with book publishers over access to scanned books for Google Book Search. We have to be vigilant that they don’t snub the reading public the way they are currently dissing the listening, writing and remixing public on Blogger.

(Author’s Note: Only one blogger agreed to be identified for this column. Others say they are concerned about being further targeted. So much for “Don’t Be Evil“!)

Larisa Mann writes about technology, media and law for WireTap, studies Jurisprudence and Social Policy at U.C. Berkeley and djs under the name Ripley. She is a resident DJ at Surya Dub, San Francisco, and collaborates with the Riddim Method blog-DJ-academic crew, Havocsound sound system, and various other cross-fertilizing organisms in the Bay Area and worldwide.

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December 1, 2008 Posted by | BloggerStuff, InternetNazis, _OTHER, _TECH STUFF | Leave a comment

The real "Good Samaritan" Maria Ruiz

“My heart went out to those kids. I couldn’t just cross my arms and turn away from it. I needed to do something.”

The sight of families living in homes made of wooden pallets pushed Maria Ruiz into action.

We have been known to be a tad cynical here on Stupid & Contagious – a normal reaction to over exposure to the bullshit of the world!

However, we were very moved indeed by the selfless people celebrated a few days back on the excellent CNN Heroes; selfless people who have given so much to those in direst need – the abandoned, the helpless, the poor, the sick.

All true Heroes, indeed. We stand in total awe before their humanitarianism, initiative and selflessness.

And none more so than Maria Ruiz, an El Paso native who has for years now, on her own initiative and at significant personal cost, financially and otherwise, has been bringing critical food and aid to hundreds of impoverished Mexican children.

Amazingly, she’s been doing this for 12 years! Yes, 12 years! Travelling for hours daily to and from her home, crossing through the border thousands of times, spending hours and hours cooking food for the needy, and hours serving the food to the very grateful poor.

She buys and prepares food and then crosses the border several times a week into Mexico, to the outskirts of Juarez. She is not herself wealthy yet has given, as well as incredible levels of time and effort, much of her own savings to this wonderful humanitarian endeavour. And all this while rearing a young family of her own!

It’s clear that Maria’s a woman overflowing with love, selflessness and goodness.

And a woman overflowing with supreme modesty, as evidenced by her emotive, beautiful and extremely moving acceptance speech.

However, given her unique nature, Maria’s not happy with the wonderful levels she has achieved and has further plans to develop an orphanage and a permanent food kitchen resource and a school for the neglected and impoverished children and adults of Juarez!

The word “Hero” actually does not come remotely close to capturing the essence, strength, goodness and valiance of Maria! What a supremely fine human being!

We stand in total awe before Maria’s unimaginably wonderful work!

More below from

Maria Ruiz of Texas regularly crosses the border into Mexico with food, clothing and toys for impoverished families.

EL PASO, Texas (CNN) — El Paso native Maria Ruiz knows firsthand how different life can be a mere 30-minute drive south of her Texas home.

The sight of families living in homes made of wooden pallets pushed Maria Ruiz into action.

“Just by crossing the border, you’re in a Third World country,” Ruiz said.

For 12 years, she’s traveled several times a week to the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico, bringing aid to hundreds of impoverished children and their families.

Ruiz’s family has roots in Juarez, but it wasn’t until 1996 that she ventured outside the city.

There, for the first time, she saw poverty in the extreme. People lived in homes made of wooden pallets. The elementary school was built of makeshift materials and had no running water or electricity. Teachers told her that many children were failing because they were hungry.

“My heart went out to those kids,” Ruiz recalled. “I couldn’t just cross my arms and turn away from it. I needed to do something.”

Ruiz got donations from El Paso businesses, and within one week, she was running a food program out of her home. She cooked meals in her kitchen and drove the food south to the Juarez school.

The sight of families living in homes made of wooden pallets pushed Maria Ruiz into action. She fed approximately 1,200 children every day for three and a half years, until the businesses she depended on for donations shut down in 1999.

But that didn’t stop Ruiz from helping the children in Juarez. Now, working with her husband and two children, she gathers donations from around El Paso — food, clothing, toys, even furniture — and distributes them at local “giveaways” a couple of times a month.

This is no easy task. The Mexican government charges customs fees when large amounts of goods are brought across the border. To avoid this, Ruiz makes several trips every week.

“You bring the stuff little by little, like the ants,” she said.

Although the trip south can be just 30 minutes, long lines coming back into the U.S. mean the return trip can take a couple of hours. On top of that, Juarez is at the center of a drug war, so Ruiz needs to take precautions to ensure her safety. But for her, helping kids in need is worth the effort. Video Watch Ruiz describe why she takes risks to help kids »

“When you make a child smile,” she said, “it’s awesome.”

Although conditions have improved, most families that Ruiz helps still live in poverty, so the Ruiz family has plans to do even more.

They’re building a community kitchen with space to feed 500, an orphanage for 100 residents and a trade school. They work on the complex every weekend, and although there’s more to do, they’re hoping to be open this summer.

The very thought of seeing the orphanage up and running makes Ruiz smile. Video Watch Ruiz describe how she’s helping turn a hill into a haven »

“It’ll be a dream come true when it happens,” she said. “I pray that it is soon.”

Strong religious beliefs help keep Ruiz motivated, and her family’s efforts are part of their ministry, called JEM (Jesus es Mana) Ministries. Their Juarez complex even includes a small sanctuary where her husband preaches every Sunday. But Ruiz stresses that they’re happy to help anyone, regardless of their beliefs.

“We are open to the community as a whole,” she said. “It’s equal for everybody.” Video Watch Ruiz talk about bringing aid across the border »

Ruiz says the children have kept her coming back to Juarez. When she reflects on her work, she doesn’t consider herself a hero.

“I know I can do much more.”

The sight of families living in homes made of wooden pallets pushed Maria Ruiz into action.

Maria Ruiz| MY STORY

When I got the call I was barely getting home.

As I walked into my bedroom, he told me the great news. I was shocked, surprised, excited!

My feelings, emotions, and heart were going 100 miles per hour all at the same time!

As I talked on the phone tears ran down my cheeks. I thanked God. It was unexpected to hear such awesome news.. I couldn’t believe it!

I think I am still under shock and I think it still hasn’t sunk in yet!

Thank you for all you have done. May God bless you abundantly.

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November 29, 2008 Posted by | Maria Ruiz, _ARTICLE, _OTHER, _VIDEO | Leave a comment

Priest urges penance for Obama voters

More Religious madness! Does the bullshit never end?

I can hear that religion death knell pealing louder every day!



By Ben Szobody, The Greenville (S.C.) News

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Greenville has told parishioners that those who voted for Barack Obama placed themselves under divine judgment because of his stance on abortion and should not receive Holy Communion until they’ve done penance.

The Rev. Jay Scott Newman told The Greenville News on Wednesday that church teaching doesn’t allow him to refuse Holy Communion to anyone based on political choices, but that he’ll continue to deliver the church’s strong teaching on the “intrinsic and grave evil of abortion” as a hidden form of murder.

Both Democratic president-elect Obama and Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, support legal abortions. Obama has called it a “divisive issue” with a “moral dimension,” and has pledged to make women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a “priority” as president. He opposes a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court decision.

At issue for the church locally and nationwide are exit polls showing that 54% of self-described Catholics voted for Obama, as well as a growing rift in the lifestyle and voting patterns between practicing and non-practicing Catholics.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Barack Obama | God | United States Supreme Court | Catholic Church | Joe Biden | Lord | St. Mary | Scripture | Holy Communion | Greenville News | Corinthians | Cardinal Francis George | Rev. Jay Scott Newman | Archbishop of Chicago

In a letter posted on St. Mary’s website, Newman wrote that “voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil.”

Catholics who did so should be reconciled to God through penance before receiving communion, “lest they eat and drink their own condemnation,” Newman wrote, echoing a I Corinthians admonition for anyone who partakes “without recognizing the body of the Lord.”

The response from parishioners has been supportive by a margin of 9 to 1, Newman said. He also cited Scripture in urging parishioners to pray for Obama and cooperate with him wherever conscience permits.

Stephen Gajdosik, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, told The News that calling parishioners who voted for a candidate who supports legalized abortions to penance is a question of how best to deepen a flock’s relationship to God and a move left up to local priests. He said such a move is appropriate and in line with church teaching.

Earlier this week at the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, their president, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, pointed out that there was no automatic excommunication for a politician who approved pro-choice legislation. It will take a complex study of church law to determine levels “cooperating with evil.”

Voting on legislation that allows abortion is not the same, for example, as running a hospital that performs abortions or acting as the surgeon. George would not lump such a politician into the “material cooperation” category, the worst one.

The Church’s “Faithful Citizenship” document, advising voters on how to consider Catholic teachings in their decisions, spells out that abortion is an “intrinsic evil” and cautions that Catholics should not choose a candidate specifically because he or she is pro-choice.

However, it also notes a full spectrum of issues that may prompt a voter to pick a candidate who shares the Church’s stance on immigration, peace, and social and economic justice.

No matter the intention of the voter, Newman said a vote for Obama is “material cooperation” with his goal of extending access to abortion. Asked in an e-mail interview if he would actively deny the sacraments to Obama voters, Newman said he won’t because the church teaches that no one is denied communion unless it would cause “grave scandal,” such as in the case of a notorious public sinner.

However, he said he’ll continue to teach the necessity of being in “full, visible communion” with the Church before receiving the sacraments.

Contributing: Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

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November 28, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Roykeanz, _CARTOON, _OTHER, _RELIGION | 2 Comments

Imagine: Vatican newspaper praises John Lennon

More religious madness! The mad Vatican has apparently “forgiven” Lennon for his “more popular than Jesus” quote over forty years ago!

The quote that, encouraged by the Church, inspired unimaginable furore, especially in redneck areas of USA.

The quote that, encouraged by the Church, led to countless death threats against Lennon and the Beatles.

The quote that, encouraged by the Church, got Lennon killed by that psycho whackjob Mark Chapman on the night of 8 December 1980.

Were anyone sensible to analyse what John actually did say, they would find it quite intelligent and philosophical. More importantly, correct and even prophetic!

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first — rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

However, the adjective “sensible” is not commonly associated with Religion! Particularly the crazy Vatican!

Yap, the same lunacy prevails today when certain priests have told parishioners that those who voted for Barack Obama (an evil heathen, or something!) placed themselves under divine judgment because of his stance on abortion and should not receive Holy Communion until they’ve done penance!

Maybe in 40 years, these lunatics will forgive Obama voters too!

Catholic bloggers are singing about the Vatican newspaper’s praise for the Beatles, 40 years after the debut of the White Album.

L’Osservatore Romano even gave John Lennon a gracious pass for his 1966 wisecrack that the rockers were more popular than Jesus.

According to the Associated Press, the Vatican paper is writing this off now “as the bragging of a young man wrestling with unexpected success.”

The newspaper as well as Vatican Radio last week noted the 40th anniversary of the White Album.

Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia digs up John’s original lines:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first — rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

At Pontifications, David Gibson, muses that the musical commentary by the papal paper is a “brow-furrowing” effort to make the paper a modern must-read. Gibson is also offering extra credit for identifying which Beatle is/was Catholic.

No points for me there. I’m a Stones fan. Will L’Osservatore offer a note of praise for Sympathy for the Devil? Somehow I doubt it.

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November 28, 2008 Posted by | John Lennon, Roykeanz, _CARTOON, _MUSIC, _OTHER, _RELIGION | 2 Comments

Trenton Titsworth kisses Jesse Vargas then gets sucker punched

The moral here, is not necessarily “never kiss a man”. But more specifically “never kiss a man in the boxing ring!”

Big thanks to the original poster


We do not host any files here. If this post contains a link to content hosted elsewhere, this is content found by a simple search on the worldwide freedom web. However, if for some valid reason, you object to a said content, or any content here, please let us know and we will remove the content in question.

Any content linked to here is only meant as a taster for the original work itself and is posted on the strict understanding that anyone who downloads the taster, deletes said content within 24 hours. We would assume that these fans will then buy the original work and we greatly encourage them to do so.

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November 22, 2008 Posted by | _CARTOON, _OTHER, _SPORT, _VIDEO | 1 Comment

The Beatles’ legacy? Macca should let it be

A Beatles “purist” responds to the “new” Beats track, as described in the previous post!

He isn’t very fucking happy!


The Beatles were so avant garde that George Harrison is playing the jacket with his knee. Photograph: David Magnus/Rex Features

by John Aizlewood
Monday November 17 2008

For one whose place in history is not so much secure as gloriously, unquestionably assured, Paul McCartney behaves as though there is some doubt. He is, lest we forget, not just any old ex-Beatle, but the Beatle. At least since John departed.

That insecurity is why he decided to rewrite history by bowdlerising Let It Be when he removed Phil Spector’s production-rescue job, the one thing that made the album listenable. And it’s surely why he engineered that silly hullaballoo about having some Beatles songs credited to McCartney/Lennon rather than Lennon/McCartney.

And, as if he were Gary Lightbody rather than Paul McCartney, he so desperately wants to be taken seriously. Hence the Fireman, the Liverpool Oratorio and that time he played celery with Super Furry Animals. Now, he’s picked over the Beatles’ carcass again and unearthed Carnival of Light, apparently an improvised 14-minute, vaguely avant-garde jam session recorded during the Penny Lane sessions. And he wants to release it. If he couldn’t let Let It Be be – and in fairness, for all the pointless carnage he wrought, he’d always hated Spector’s contribution – couldn’t he at least show some decorum here?

If Carnival of Light sees the light of day, is it going to enhance the Beatles’ standing? That’s the very same Beatles who changed the world and whose influence and reputation remains undimmed. Of course it isn’t. Is it going to make us think slightly less of them? In all probability, yes, and I’m inclined to trust the judgment of Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Yoko Ono, who vetoed its inclusion on Anthology and who (with Olivia Harrison standing in for George) will hopefully do their duty again this time. Carnival of Light may be the greatest 14 minutes in Beatledom and some people (ie me) are going to look pretty foolish if that’s the case. Even so, I’d bet my sub-prime mortgage that it isn’t and that phrase “14-minute jam session” strikes fear into the hearts of stouter men than myself. It’s a soundcheck-esque rehearsal at best. At worst, it’s Phish.

McCartney says it’s the Beatles going “off-piste”, or in other words, messing about. Frankly, I’d much rather hear them on-piste, crafting moments of genius such as Penny Lane. If Carnival of Light wasn’t good enough to be released nearly 40 years ago (or on Anthology) then it’s not now.

We’ve got the Beatles’ body of work. It changed everything. Isn’t that enough?

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November 19, 2008 Posted by | Paul McCartney, The Beatles, _ARTICLE, _MUSIC, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Jody Reynolds dies November 7th in Palm Desert, California.

Very sadly, passed away on November 7, 2008 in Palm Desert, California, aged 75.

Jody was a great American singer and guitarist whose biggest hit single was 1958’s Endless Sleep which reached #5 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart on July 7, 1958.

He followed this great song up with another classic cut, Fire Of Love, in 1958.

After a period of stardom, sadly Jody disappeared from the charts, but kept on playing music for many years.

He had entered the world in 1932, born in Denver, and been named Ralph Joseph Reynolds.

“Jody” had later moved to Oklahoma with his family as a child and had grown up in Shady Grove.

After his flirtation with the charts in 58, Reynolds continued writing songs and performing with the Storms throughout the 60’s.

He moved to Palm Springs, California and pursued a variety of interests, including real estate sales!

His old friend Alan Freed later moved to Palm Springs and the two travelled to Phoenix where Freed produced Reynolds’ record Raggedy Ann.

Reynolds retained his interest in songwriting and recording and set up a small recording studio in his home in Palm Springs.

Jody had for some time suffered from cancer of the liver and a malignant brain tumour.

Jody passed away on November 7, 2008 in Palm Desert, California.

All commiserations to Jody’s family and loved ones.

An interesting interview with Jody can be had here

Some more info about Jody can be found at;

There’s a nice tribute piece below from

A man who took his membership in the 50’s one-hit wonder club in stride, Jody was a musician’s musician and could shred (old-school style) with the best of ’em – whether he was onstage with Roy Orbison or runnin’ around Hollywood with cats like Duane Eddy and Al Casey.

In the course of one of my attempts to satiate my obsessive desire for firsthand information on the early history of rock ‘n’ roll, I contacted Jody to bug him about the old days.

I found him to be open and generous, sharp and funny. Whether he was reminiscing about recording alongside Eddie Cochran and Ritchie Valens at Gold Star in ’58, or talking about his experiences working with Alan Freed* in the 60’s – he was a treasure trove of great stories. The guy made and lived rock ‘n’ roll history.

Jody was aware of and embraced his legacy, had a genuine passion for rock ‘n’ roll and was accessible to his fans. For people like me, deeply interested in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, he was a National Treasure.

His coolness cannot be overstated. Thanks Jody, and rest in peace.

* Freed left Jody his personal stash of 45s – ones that (I gather) he was spinning during his last couple of stints on the air (KDAY, WQAM). Jody gave me a few – they will always be among my most prized possessions.

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November 19, 2008 Posted by | Jody Reynolds, _MUSIC, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Dylan’s Born Again Years Documented

“Turn it, turn it,
for all is within it,
and contemplate it,
and grow gray and old over it,
and stir not from it.”

Rabbi Ben Bag Bag
from the Mishnah
first century C.E.

Bob’s “Barren-Again”, sorry “Born-Again”, period is looked at in “Inside Bob Dylan’s Jesus Years: Busy Being Born…Again!” a new film written and directed by Joel Gilbert which attempts to explore the most confusing and most debated period of Dylan’s majestic music career.

This movie, and Bob’s oeuvre more broadly, especially the more biblically influenced work, are explored from a Jewish perspective in this wonderful and well written piece by

Jesus, Bob: To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest

Dylan’s Born Again Years Documented

Of all the intangible elements contributing to Bob Dylan’s sustaining genius — prodigious recall of the breadth and depth of American song; a restless, creative spirit, and abiding intellectual curiosity — none has been more powerful than his ability to confound expectations.

Pop vocalists on the radio were not supposed to sing through their noses, or sputter and growl from their throats, but Dylan changed that. Not long after establishing himself on the charts, and seemingly overnight for his fans, he swapped lucid, intimate acoustic protest tunes for esoteric electric epics. Radio songs were supposed to be three minutes long, but Dylan changed that rule, too: The second half of “Like a Rolling Stone” served as its own B-side; disc jockeys simply flipped the record over halfway through. A pivotal figure in 1960s counterculture, Dylan all but disappeared from public view as the underground coalesced as a movement: He was a no-show at the Woodstock music festival, even though it was down the road from his house.

“Inside Bob Dylan’s Jesus Years: Busy Being Born…Again!” a new film written and directed by Joel Gilbert, attempts to explain the most confounding period of Dylan’s career. In the late 1970s, Dylan became, to the shock of many of his fans, a born-again Christian. To add what seemed like insult to injury, his albums “Slow Train Coming” (1979), “Saved” (1980) and “Shot of Love” (1981) — steeped in fundamentalist Christian imagery and with proselytizing intent — anchored a series of revivalist tours.

Dylan’s born-again Christianity was a rebellion too far off for many of his fans. At the heart of the film is the unresolved question of why Dylan did it. Born Robert Zimmerman and raised Jewish (including a bar mitzvah) in Hibbing, Minn., he attended a Zionist summer camp as a kid and then dropped out of a Jewish fraternity house at the University of Minnesota. Dylan had always been the rebel with whom young Jews have identified, now remarkably across three generations. Despite his Jewish roots, his fascination with religion generally and with Christianity specifically has been obvious throughout his career, particularly in the core narratives and myths of American roots music carried by the traditional blues, country and gospel that he loves. Just listen to his weekly radio show, where much of his playlist comes from before 1950 and has the same themes of old-time religion that abound in his own music.

TWO NICE JEWISH BOYS: Robert Zimmerman in 1978

According to his then girlfriend, singer/songwriter Jennifer Warnes, even fellow songwriter Leonard Cohen was bewildered: “I don’t get it. Why would [Dylan] go for Jesus at a late time like this?” This is the same Cohen, no stranger to religious syncretism himself, who wrote, “Anyone who says I’m not a Jew is not a Jew/I’m very sorry but this decision is final” while living as a monk in a Zen monastery. You know you are in trouble when the only Jewish performer to compete with Dylan in the realm of rock ’n’ roll gravitas can’t reconcile born-again Bob with the Dylan who had famously sung “Don’t follow leaders/watch the parking meters” in the ’60s.

Gilbert, lead singer of the Dylan cover band Highway 61 Revisited (“Highway 61 Revisited” is also the name of Dylan’s sixth studio album, released in 1965), and director of “Bob Dylan — World Tour 1966, The Home Movies” (2004), tackles this tense period with a series of talking heads interviews. He rarely allows a religious agenda to stilt the construction of the film’s controversial raw material. His weakness, however, is a fan’s naive compulsion to gather the reflections of anyone who knew Dylan during this period without properly parsing the effect of two full hours of rambling comments bridged by stock images.

According to Mitch Glaser and songwriter Al Kasha, who are not only key figures in the Jews for Jesus movement, but also two of the primary talking heads of the film, the “late time like this” of Dylan’s conversion could have been predicted by those paying closer attention to the chaos around him. Glaser, Kasha and other commentators, like the Rev. Bill Dwyer of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church, where Dylan studied and prayed, explain how deep pain drives deep “witnessing” in the realm of born-again Christian acolytes; that the tumult of drugs, social and political burnout and the failures of the sexual revolution left many people broken in ways that the Jesus movement — rooted in heady Southern California, where Dylan and many other counterculture heroes lived at the time — exploited to attract vulnerable souls.

In fact, the Jews for Jesus movement continues this work, with centers of worship around the world almost universally regarded by non-messianic Jews as being beyond the margins of organized Jewish life. Much of the 200-member audience at the November 1 premiere screening and concert for the film, held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture’s auditorium, were among either the hunters or the hunted of Jews for Jesus, as the event was co-sponsored by Glaser’s Chosen People Ministries.

Glaser was there, and he spoke on a panel with Gilbert and former members of Dylan’s band, Regina McCrary and Rob Stoner. Volunteers with nametags designating them as staff members roamed the hall, collecting e-mail addresses and questions from the audience on colored note cards. All this action seemed to be interpreted by the moderator as an excuse for asking how or why one might come to accept Jesus as the savior.

Unfortunately for Gilbert — who self-produced and now distributes his work on DVD, and at one point in the panel discussion stated with some defensiveness that he is a Jew and not a Jew for Jesus — the content of the evening was spoiled by the sheepish attempts of representatives of the movement to appear casual about their religious goals despite obvious missionary pitches and ploys. Gilbert’s mere desire may have been to find an audience for his work, but placement of the event by Glaser’s group, as well as messianic Congregation Sha’ar Adonai at the Society for Ethical Culture — founded as a nonsectarian movement by humanist Jew Felix Adler – added an element of irony to the insult of a messianic soft sell throughout.

TWO NICE JEWISH BOYS: Bartolomeo Montagna’s representation of Jesus the Christ from the early sixteenth century.

Dylan’s religious stances over the years betray vulnerability to extremes and a profound sense of drama for which a messianic soft sell worked quite well. In the early 70s, after a decade as a musical legend, Dylan, then a young father of four, had thought of joining a kibbutz. He also claims in his 2004 memoir, “Chronicles, Volume One” (Simon and Schuster), that a famous image of him praying at the kotel from this period was posed as a way to disrupt the blind loyalty of cloying fans who would come to dread him as a Zionist and finally leave him alone. But by 1979, exposed to change by his innate spiritual character, the many demons come to roost for his generation after the chaos of the ’60s, and a hard divorce, Dylan plunged headlong into the quest for salvation. Maybe he showed up at Chabad Shabbat programs in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights area a few years later, and at Chabad on both coasts on the High Holy Days ever since, but Dylan’s fans still reflect on this Christian period with dismay — and not just because of Dylan’s religion.

The music from this period is as inconsistent as any Dylan has created — from rote melodies with clichéd images of devils, blood, baptism and unbelievers in tunes like “Property of Jesus,” alongside gorgeous tunes like “I Believe in You” and “Every Grain of Sand.” What weakens the music and Gilbert’s film, and even permeated the atmosphere at the premiere event, is a lack of subtly and nuance that animates Dylan’s best work and is lacking in his worst. From 1963’s “With God on Our Side” to 1997’s “Tryin’ To Get to Heaven” and beyond, Dylan is one of the most committed commentators on the human and divine struggle that popular culture has ever seen. Few artists have had more influence on bringing big questions to the sometimes small-minded world of rock ’n’ roll. The key to understanding what is flat and disturbing about Dylan’s Christian period is exploring what is thick and mysterious about his most compelling work.

Most of the time, Dylan embodies a multilayered approach to his subject — with wordplay, rich cultural allusions, insinuations, irony and clusters of unexplained questions. In his writing and performing, Dylan grasps at defining themes with ferocity and dynamism that allow renowned academics like Milton scholar Christopher Ricks (who dedicated some 500 pages to Dylan in his 2004 book “Dylan’s Vision of Sin”) to compare his canon without reservation to that of Shakespeare and Milton. With a few exceptions, including the aforementioned songs, the Christian period of Dylan’s work remains unconvincingly simplistic, overly literal, humorless and blunt.

One way of understanding Dylan’s religious vision throughout the majority of his career comes from an intriguing passage at the conclusion of Moshe Idel’s “Kabbalah: New Perspectives.” Idel reads Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” as a fable for the contemporary decline of mystical knowledge in religious traditions stunted by allowing passionately flat answers to layered questions. From Jewish orthodoxies to Muslim fundamentalism to evangelical Christianity, communities are being deprived of the complexity that religious systems can express. For Idel, the spiritual paralysis of the “man from the country” is emblematic of an entire world of religious seekers who have lost the keys to the locked gate of the splendor of the palace of faith. On the verge of death, the man discovers that the door at which he had waited a lifetime would have opened for him if only he had entered with broad possibilities of understanding rather than with fixed answers and static expectations.

Dylan at his best is Dylan at his most open. As he sings in 1966’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” “To live outside the law you must be honest.” One should not wait for the Law to open the door, direct traffic or guide the journey. So, too, in Dylan’s rereading of the story of “Akedat Yitzhak” (“The Binding of Isaac”), a classic midrash on the irony and irrationality of belief:

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”

Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, ‘No.’ Abe say, “What?”
God say, ‘You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run’
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61.”

Though he uses it as a mythic trail and template for America’s betrayal of the disempowered, the actual Highway 61 runs right down the center of the United States. Beginning in Minnesota at the Canadian border near Dylan/Zimmerman’s birthplace, and ending in New Orleans at the birthplace of the blues he adopted as his roots, the pavement traces the living narrative of slavery’s betrayal, which today’s America, especially after the recent presidential election, continues to unravel. As it challenges God and temporal authority, the song mixes anger, dismay, humor, accusation and wild celebration.

Consider also “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” from 1978, where the narrator poses a series of cutting questions and memories for a messianic stand-in accompanying Dylan’s version of the man “Before the Law”:

Señor, señor, do you know where we’re headin’?
Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?
Seems like I been down this way before.

How long must I keep my eyes glued to the door?
*Will there be any comfort there, señor? *

On the cusp of Dylan’s acceptance of Jesus, a soul exposed to a political and theological abyss stubbornly looks for answers. Not long after “Señor,” Dylan submitted fully to the Law that provides a singular answer to plow through doubt, paradox, hurt and unbelief. It results in the oppressive need to gather more troops to ensure that the “good news” remains fresh and unchallenged. It also results in mostly lousy art.

Gilbert’s film is useful for Dylanologists still trying to answer Cohen’s question about what happened to Dylan’s complex, compelling religious commentary during this phase, particularly when some of his deepest spiritual messages would re-emerge in the late ’80s, with “Oh Mercy” and, most recently, with the albums “Love and Theft” and “Modern Times.” To uncover what keeps Dylan’s vision sharp across his career, apply the Talmud’s famous injunction to Dylan’s oeuvre: “Turn it, turn it, for all is within it.” The songs of Dylan’s Christian period — though sincere artifacts of an honest quest by a restless seeker — are often superficial products of his cultural vision. In the end, Dylan’s genius is that, as he sang of one of his favorite outlaws, “no one really knew for sure where he was really at.”

Stephen Hazan Arnoff is a writer and teacher and the executive director of the 14th Street Y of The Educational Alliance, a Jewish community center in Manhattan’s East Village.

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November 18, 2008 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ARTICLE, _BOB DYLAN, _CARTOON, _MUSIC, _OTHER, _RELIGION | Leave a comment

A fight back against the evil Corporations in The Troll Wars

“The concern of this Court is that in these lawsuits, potentially meritorious legal and factual defenses are not being litigated, and instead, the federal judiciary is being used as a hammer by a small group of plaintiffs to pound settlements out of unrepresented defendants.”

-Hon. S. James Otero, District Judge, Central District of California, March 2, 2007, Elektra v. O’Brien, 2007 ILRWeb (P&F) 1555

The troll wars have truly begun, my fellow prisoners. Hordes of Nazi bullies trying to control the internet! Trying to restrict freedom of speech!

Things have really been escalating recently. Just check out the wonderful recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot which tracks some of the countless cases being brought against individuals – in many cases, spuriously so.

There have also been an insane number of music blogs shut down. Talk about shooting the messenger!

Large hosts such as Rapidshare are being brought to court by the muzak biz. Trolls are trying to make hosts accountable for content stored on their servers, which is akin to a “real life” scenario of trying to hold a bank accountable for the contents of a safety-deposit box.

In this scenario, the bank offers a service whereby certain objects can be safely stored. Objects the bank do not know specific details about. Thus, the bank cannot be held accountable if, for example, someone – an EMI executive, say – stuffs his safety-deposit box full of nazi memorabilia and gay sex toys!!

The army of trolls is on the move, my fellow prisoners, and making a concerted attack on the concept of file sharing and indeed too on the concept of free speech.

Just because we live in a technical world, doesn’t mean that the inalienable right to free speech no longer applies!

The muzak biz has been ripping off the music fan since the days of the gramophone!! However, the trough where the muzak biz sticks its greedy snout is presumably not as overflowing with goodies as it once was!!

The Troll Wars are truly underway!! The dark days are upon us!

But some good news! Maybe the tide is turning!

Yes, the muzak biz’s courtroom campaign against people who share songs online is coming under counter-attack and Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson has launched a constitutional assault against a federal copyright law at the heart of the industry’s aggressive strategy, which has wrung payments from thousands of song-swappers since 2003.

The muzak biz had being suing a college kid, Joel Tenenbaum, for a minimum of $12,000 for allegedly distributing a few files on Kazaa! Insanely, at the extreme, Tenenbaum could be sued for $1 million if it is determined that his alleged actions were willful!

Joel is accused by the RIAA of downloading at least seven songs and making 816 music files available for distribution on the Kazaa file-sharing network in 2004. He offered to settle the case for $500, but the muzak biz rejected that, demanding $12,000.

We wish professor Nesson every success in his commendable venture.

Nov 17, 7:22 AM (ET)



The music industry’s courtroom campaign against people who share songs online is coming under counterattack. A Harvard Law School professor has launched a constitutional assault against a federal copyright law at the heart of the industry’s aggressive strategy, which has wrung payments from thousands of song-swappers since 2003.

The professor, Charles Nesson, has come to the defense of a Boston University graduate student targeted in one of the music industry’s lawsuits. By taking on the case, Nesson hopes to challenge the basis for the suit, and all others like it.

Nesson argues that the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 is unconstitutional because it effectively lets a private group – the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA – carry out civil enforcement of a criminal law. He also says the music industry group abused the legal process by brandishing the prospects of lengthy and costly lawsuits in an effort to intimidate people into settling cases out of court.

Nesson, the founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said in an interview that his goal is to “turn the courts away from allowing themselves to be used like a low-grade collection agency.”

Nesson is best known for defending the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers and for consulting on the case against chemical companies that was depicted in the film “A Civil Action.” His challenge against the music labels, made in U.S. District Court in Boston, is one of the most determined attempts to derail the industry’s flurry of litigation.

The initiative has generated more than 30,000 complaints against people accused of sharing songs online. Only one case has gone to trial; nearly everyone else settled out of court to avoid damages and limit the attorney fees and legal costs that escalate over time.

Nesson intervened after a federal judge in Boston asked his office to represent Joel Tenenbaum, who was among dozens of people who appeared in court in RIAA cases without legal help. The 24-year-old Tenenbaum is a graduate student accused by the RIAA of downloading at least seven songs and making 816 music files available for distribution on the Kazaa file-sharing network in 2004. He offered to settle the case for $500, but music companies rejected that, demanding $12,000.

The Digital Theft Deterrence Act, the law at issue in the case, sets damages of $750 to $30,000 for each infringement, and as much as $150,000 for a willful violation. That means Tenenbaum could be forced to pay $1 million if it is determined that his alleged actions were willful. The music industry group isn’t conceding any ground to Nesson and Tenenbaum. The RIAA has said in court documents that its efforts to enforce the copyright law is protected under the First Amendment right to petition the courts for redress of grievances. Tenenbaum also failed, the music group noted, to notify the U.S. Attorney General that that he wanted to contest the law’s constitutional status.

Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the RIAA, said her group’s pursuit of people suspected of music piracy is a fair response to the industry’s multibillion-dollar losses since peer-to-peer networks began making it easy for people to share massive numbers of songs online. “What should be clear is that illegally downloading and distributing music comes with many risks and is not an anonymous activity,” Duckworth said.

Still, wider questions persist on whether the underlying copyright law is constitutional, said Ray Beckerman, a Forest Hills, N.Y.-based attorney who has represented other downloading defendants and runs a blog tracking the most prominent cases.

One federal judge has held that the constitutional question is “a serious argument,” Beckerman said. “There are two law review articles that have said that it is unconstitutional, and there are three cases that said that it might be unconstitutional.”

In September, a federal judge granted a new trial to a Minnesota woman who had been ordered to pay $220,000 for pirating 24 songs. In that ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis called on Congress to change copyright laws to prevent excessive awards in similar cases. He wrote that he didn’t discount the industry’s claim that illegal downloading has hurt the recording business, but called the award “wholly disproportionate” to the industry’s losses.

In the Boston case, Nesson is due to meet attorneys for the music industry for a pretrial conference on Tuesday, ahead of a trial set for Dec. 1.

Entertainment attorney Jay Cooper, who specializes in music and copyright issues at Los Angeles-based Greenberg Traurig, is convinced that Nesson will not persuade the federal court to strike down the copyright law. He said the statutory damages it awards enable recording companies to get compensation in cases where it is difficult to prove actual damages.

The record companies have echoed that line of defense. In court filings in Tenenbaum’s case, they contend that the damages allowed by the law are “intended not only to compensate the copyright owner, but also to punish the infringer (and) deter other potential infringers.”

But are these lawsuits the only way the record industry could deter piracy? Nesson believes the industry could develop new ways to prevent copyright material from being shared illegally. One idea would be to bundle music with ads and post it for free online, he says.

“There are alternative ways,” he said, “of packaging entertainment to return revenue to artists.”

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Ray Beckerman’s blog: recordingindustryvspeople

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November 18, 2008 Posted by | InternetNazis, Roykeanz, _CARTOON, _OTHER, _TECH STUFF | Leave a comment

The life and deaths of Patti Smith

From rock icon to hippy pacifist, at 61 Patti Smith is the music industry’s most enduring female icon. In an extraordinarily intimate interview she talks to Amy Raphael about growing up, motherhood and the bereavements that have overshadowed her life

by Amy Raphael,

I find Patti Smith in the polished marble lobby of a ritzy hotel in Paris. She is beyond incongruous. It’s not the skinny jeans pushed into brown cowboy boots, the paper-thin, black V-neck T-shirt or the well-cut black jacket with its row of buttons on the cuffs. Nor is it much to do with the pitch-black sunglasses. It’s the way the staff are gliding around the hotel so efficiently while Patti Smith moves so slowly, shoulders hunched, hair falling over her face. She looks utterly lost, utterly bereft. She is about to make her way to a downstairs bar to find coffee when a brisk woman says it’s out of bounds. In return, Smith asks sharply why she can’t go anywhere in the hotel today.

We return to the lobby, find a seat in the dark corner of another bar. I am more than a little nervous. Here’s the woman who arguably made the first punk-rock record with ‘Piss Factory’ way back in 1974. Who witnessed the birth of rock’n’roll in America and then became a rock star herself with the release of Horses in 1975. Who always thought of herself not as a punk but as a poet, painter and photographer. Who was influenced by Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger and who has, by now, influenced three generations of musicians. Who, while her male musical peers burned out or faded away, is as vital at 61 as when she was a skinny, stylish, intense girl from New Jersey. And who is now more hippie pacifist than angry young woman.

Still, I’m not expecting our conversation to open with, ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’. She is apologising for her grumpiness with the brisk woman. For feeling as though she’s had the energy sucked out of her. She orders black coffee with hot water, removes her sunglasses and reveals eyes that are virtually glued together. It’s oppressive outside and she is feeling it, with a headache that is threatening to intensify into a migraine. She flew in from New York the day before and was up till 5am, but she doesn’t mind jet lag. ‘I just couldn’t sleep,’ she explains in a slow, East Coast drawl. ‘I’m sorry. It’s the pressure in my head. Anyway … I guess it’s a combination of things. Stress about the American election and … sorry. I’ve got to stop talking for a minute.’

We sit in silence, drinking coffee. It feels oddly OK. ‘I’ve just had a kind of rough week. So. You must think I’m a mess.’ She looks sideways at me and there’s a small smile. ‘I’m not normally like this.’ She replaces the sunglasses, moves her head slightly, winces. ‘This last period of time started for me on 16 August this year. I always note that date because it’s the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. I woke up at home in New York feeling extremely agitated. I thought it was maybe the moon, because it was very full, heavy and bright. Then we got torrential rain and the street caved into my cellar. It wasn’t just a drag – it was quite scary. So, I actually escaped here to Paris.’

Smith releases a long sigh. I ask gently if we should perhaps talk later. There’s a barely perceptible shake of her head. ‘No. No. Right now, I’m having an episode. I think it will go away. In the process of all the rain and this big moon, one of my closest friends died. A woman my age. We’d been friends since we were 20 years old. She’d been ill for a long time. She just suddenly died. The reason I’m telling you this … I’m feeling exactly like I was that day in August. It’s probably some kind of cycle. The flooding and the mud. My friend. This whole atmosphere of submersion, death. I just took off.’ This time, the silence is heavy.

Patti Smith knows what grief feels like. She has lost more lovers and friends than is fair. In 1989, her former lover and close friend Robert Mapplethorpe died of an Aids-related illness. The American photographer shot the iconic image of Smith on the front cover of Horses, in a man’s white shirt, black ribbon tie, black jacket flung over her shoulder, studied nonchalance unable to disguise a kind of casual yet untouchable sexuality. In late 1994, her husband, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, once a guitarist in pre-punk rockers MC5, died of a heart attack, leaving her with two young children. Less than a month later, her brother Todd, to whom she was extremely close, died suddenly. Both her parents recently passed away. And now her oldest female friend.

I ask if such a loss allows previous grief to flood her mind. ‘It reminds me … but she’s the first female. I’ve lost lots of men in my life, besides my mother, which is a whole different loss. It’s the first time I’ve had a female friend die since I was a child. It’s quite different. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’m older; suddenly a friend my age is gone. And she didn’t die of drugs or lifestyle.’

The lights are turned up and the empty bar suddenly becomes busy. ‘Let’s see where we can go,’ says Smith. She suggests her ‘small and messy’ hotel room and we head for the lift. From behind a pillar someone tries to get her attention. ‘Hey, Patti! It’s David!’ And there’s the American film director David Lynch, with a smart black suit and a magnificent silver quiff, beaming. ‘How you doing, Patti?’ She smiles. ‘I’ve got a hell of a headache. It’s nice to see you. You look terrific.’ He is excited about the series of concerts she will be giving, starting the following night at one of the oldest churches in Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés. ‘It’s cool. I’ll see you there, Patti. Rock on.’

Smith’s room is dark. She opens the curtains a little, pulls her boots off and lies on the bed, head propped up on three pillows. Around the room are piles of novels and biographies, Moleskine notebooks in different sizes, her beloved old Polaroid camera. It reminds me of the simple but cluttered white room in which she is often filmed during Patti Smith: Dream of Life, a beautiful, engaging new documentary which was over a decade in the making. The white room was not, it turns out, just a makeshift studio for the film. It is in fact where Smith spends most of her time in her New York house, reading and writing, with her two Abyssinian cats for company. ‘I live up there in that room. My son [Jackson, 26] has left home but my daughter [Jesse, 21] pretty much dominates the place.’

Dream of Life, whose title was taken from the album Smith made with her late husband in 1988, which in turn was taken from a Shelley poem, is emphatically not an A-Z of Patti Smith. Given that she is known for being intensely private, it was never going to be laden with gossip about a lost weekend with actor Sam Shepard at the Chelsea Hotel in New York in the early Seventies (though we do get to see Smith and Shepard playing guitar together in the white room and gently flirting with one another) or offer revealing tales about hanging out with William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. And there’s only the briefest glimpse of her old friend Bob Dylan in the corner of the screen, shot when Smith went on tour with him the year after the deaths of her husband and brother. I ask about their enduring friendship as she lies, eyes shut, on the hotel bed. ‘Bob and I know who each other is,’ she offers, simply. ‘And I am grateful for all I have gotten from him, from afar and in close proximity.’

That Smith agreed to be filmed at all is a surprise; that the process went on for 11 years is initially baffling. Yet she is clearly loyal to those she decides to trust, and would-be director Steven Sebring won her confidence early on. They first met in 1995, when Smith was looking for a photographer to shoot a new session with her. At that time, she had virtually dropped out of the music business and had been living with her husband and kids in Detroit since the late 1980s. ‘My husband had died and I had to support my kids. I couldn’t live the way we’d lived for 16 years – on the outskirts of Detroit, on a canal, rather simply. I’m not from there. I don’t drive. So I came back east to be closer to my family. Like I say, I was obliged to get a job. I had to work again.’

With a new record to sell, Smith had to do press. ‘It was strange. Everyone wanted to talk about Robert dying, then my husband and my brother. It wasn’t easy. And to have so much attention around oneself … I hadn’t had that in a long time and I don’t especially crave it. Even now, I’m conscious that had I not lost my husband, my life would have taken a very different trajectory.’ But everything had changed. And with no Mapplethorpe around, she needed a new photographer. ‘By that point, I’d befriended [REM’s] Michael Stipe, who’s a very sensitive family person. I called him up and asked if he knew of a photographer who wasn’t rock’n’roll oriented, who’d be sensitive to my kids, and he suggested Steven.’

Smith had always turned down biographical film projects but when Sebring said he was experimenting with a 16mm movie camera and asked if he could film her, she finally agreed. ‘All he wanted was to discover. He had no plan or design. I put a lot in at the end of the film, because by then Steven had become like a brother to me. The film doesn’t necessarily reflect my aesthetic but I like it and I’m glad to have it because it has the only footage of my parents.’

There are some lovely, resolutely unsentimental scenes documenting one of Smith’s last visits to her parents’ house. She stands with her father in the back garden, stroking Sheba the dog [‘she’s getting grey, like me,’ says Smith] and talking about the trees. ‘The scene where I’m in the backyard with my father … it was right before my father died, so it means a lot to have his beautiful voice, his sense of humanity, on film. He hated rock’n’roll but he loved that I made somewhat of a name for myself. I don’t think he liked any of my songs, except “People Have the Power”. My mother loved rock’n’roll. The more raucous, the better. There was lots of music in our house. The radio was great in the Fifties and Sixties. We had the whole evolution of rock’n’roll on the radio.’

I wonder what kind of child Patti Smith was. She has said in the past that she wasn’t born to be a spectator. Born in Chicago on 30 December 1946, the first child of Grant (a factory worker) and Beverley (a waitress), the family moved to Philadelphia in the early Fifties where her brother, Todd, and her sister, Linda, were born. When Smith was nine, they moved again, this time to ‘a very rural place in New Jersey where there was zero culture’. However, she got lucky with a music teacher who inspired her love of Maria Callas.

She sounds like a very particular kind of child. ‘A lot of children don’t have a developed aesthetic. I did. I made early choices in life, even about cloth; I liked flannel and not polyester. My father’s mother was from Liverpool and she had this very beautiful English china. I only wanted to drink my cocoa out of my grandmother’s cup and saucer. My mother was like, “What are your plans in life? Are you going to marry a duke?”‘

Young Smith certainly had plans. By 1969, she had left behind the world that had inspired ‘Piss Factory’ and was living in the Chelsea Hotel with Robert Mapplethorpe. Here she ran into Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Luc Godard, Janis Joplin, Arthur Miller, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg. And, in the lift one day, Muhammad Ali. ‘He radiated love and a sense of humour. I was awestruck by the reality of his magnetism and innate energy. I also got the sense that he was self-effacing.’

I start to say that she was immersed in a very male world right from the start. She jumps in before I finish. ‘That I chose to embrace?’ She walked straight into it, the alpha-male world of rock’n’roll. How did it feel? ‘Well, I felt alien my whole life but I didn’t feel alien because of my gender. Other people made me aware of my gender. Like if you’re performing poetry in a bar and guys are yelling, “Go back to the kitchen!” That kinda makes you aware there’s a gender issue.’

She sits up a little. Her eyes are bright. ‘The issue of gender was never my biggest concern; my biggest concern was doing good work. When the feminist movement really got going, I wasn’t an active part of it because I was more concerned with my own mental pursuits. I didn’t want to be confined to any kind of movement. I think these movements are extremely important, but I look forward to the time when they aren’t needed. When we can all just be who we are.’

Has she never labelled herself? ‘Never. I was a very awkward girl. Awkward teenager. A tomboy. I loved Peter Pan. I never related much to classic female things. When I was growing up, the big thing was teasing your hair and making your eyes look like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Looking like one of the Ronettes. And it just wasn’t interesting to me. I loved books; I read my childhood away. I was more interested in my interior world. On the other hand, I loved Ava Gardner. Jeanne Moreau. Joan Baez. Edith Piaf. And, in terms of rock’n’roll, after hearing Grace Slick as a teenager, anything seemed possible.’

She says that she hasn’t changed much, though the world has changed around her. ‘You could chart me from five. I’m very similar. I’ve just learnt things. I’m a mother.’ A good one? She pauses. ‘I love my kids. I do the best I can. I was able to be a better mother when their father was alive. Perhaps sometimes I was a little strict … but I have really great kids. They are both really good people. And they’re not assholes.’ She laughs. ‘As human beings, I find them interesting and they teach me a lot. I don’t drive, I don’t use a cell phone. But my kids have taught me how to use a computer. They have helped to shepherd me into the 21st century because this is not my century.’

Apparently exhausted by the very notion of this strange new world, she sinks back into the bed. ‘It’s not my time but I’m certainly happy to be alive. There’s always something to look forward to. I don’t watch TV, I don’t even own one, but I’m always looking for a new book or film. My sister loves Charlotte Brontë. We are like the Brontë sisters in our own way. For almost a decade, we’ve had this plan to go to Charlotte Brontë country wearing matching brown, boiled wool dresses. We’re going to get nice steamer coats, the brown dresses, our notebooks and cameras and go visit the moors. And there are so many graves to visit, too.’

Smith is drawn to the resting places of the creative dead and often plans her concerts around graveyard visits. She recently took a job in Moscow so she could see Mikhail Bulgakov’s grave; she is in a ‘Bulgakov period’ right now and had read The Master and Margarita five times in as many months. She has played gigs at Charleston, the Bloomsbury Group’s country home, just to feel closer to her beloved Virginia Woolf. She visited – and considered moving to – Brighton after reading Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock

We have talked for over three hours. I can’t remember why I felt nervous. She invites me to the soundcheck at Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Prés that evening (an empty dark church with candles flickering while Patti Smith sings ‘Because the Night’ in her beautiful, resonant voice) and we have tea at midnight in her hotel. The next night, she plays at the church as part of the city’s Nuit Blanche, a free all-night cultural event.

This is the first church she visited in Europe when she was 21. Travelling with her sister Linda, she wanted to see Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar in the church’s garden. She was too shy to go into the church itself. And now, 40 years on, she is back. There are thousands of people, young and older, milling around in front of the church. With her son on guitar and daughter on piano, Smith starts performing just after 9.30pm and, with half-hour breaks, keeps going till 5am. There are still people waiting to see her as the sun comes up. It’s an astonishing evening. People are sitting in the aisles, oblivious to the cold stone floor.

She dedicates a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’ to her children’s father. She does a spine-tingling ‘Ghost Dance’ and a rousing ‘People Have the Power’. During one of the breaks, David Lynch appears in the sparse dressing room. He takes a blurry digital photo of Smith and she takes a blurry Polaroid of him. They swap addresses. He is excited about ‘People Have the Power’, thinks Barack Obama should use it in his campaign.

Around 1am, American actor Michael Pitt and his girlfriend show up. They are in a band and will perform onstage with the Smith family even though they’ve never met before. Patti Smith, who has long since left drugs and drink behind, pours herself a glass of red wine and takes a sip. She’s not sure how it will go with Pitt and his girlfriend, but she’s willing to give it a go. ‘There’s no such thing as a mistake, just a creative approach. That’s how I get through life.’ She grins and, for a moment, I see the girl on the front of Horses. And then she’s back on stage, this woman who was never born to be a spectator.

• Patti Smith: Dream of Life is out on 5 December

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November 17, 2008 Posted by | Patti Smith, _ARTICLE, _MUSIC, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Ku Klux Klansmen Knuts’ Katastrophe

So a few leading Ku Klux Klansmen Knuts are in the dock! And the ridiculous organisation “The Imperial Klans of America” is facing bankruptcy!

News to brighten up any day!

One young but strong American Jordan Gruver, a 16 year old kid severely beaten for no reason by two of these krazy KKK knuts, is standing up against these morons. And hopefully bringing them down!

We wonder though how the jury in the State of Kentucky ended up being all white?

We wonder too why it takes court cases like this to end the existence of such groups of hate, and what “friends in high places” are preventing their extermination by the Government.

Perennial winners of the “dumber than a bag of spanners” award !

Take a gander at the simian defendants and wonder who the hell they could properly consider themselves, as “supremacists”, supreme over? Chimps? Slugs? Aemobas?

They seem to live in some sort of Tolkein hobbit world too with insane organisational titles such as “Imperial Wizard”, “Grand Titan”, “Exalted Cyclops,” and “Imperial Gothi”! What the fuck?

Well, here comes Frodo with his magic courtcase ring to wipe you out, motherfuckers!

Jordan Gruver, then 16, was accosted and beaten by Klan members, his lawsuit alleges.

It was a mismatch from the start: a 16-year-old boy, 5-feet, 3-inches tall and 150 pounds, against two reputed Ku Klux Klansmen, the biggest standing 6-feet, 5-inches and tipping the scales at 300 pounds.

Jordan Gruver, an American citizen of Panamanian descent, took a beating that July day in 2006 at the Meade County fair in Brandenberg, Kentucky. He was called names, spat upon, doused with alcohol, knocked to the ground and punched and kicked.

When the blows stopped, Gruver had a broken jaw and left forearm, two cracked ribs and cuts and bruises.

Now, with the weight of the Southern Poverty Law Center behind him, Gruver is fighting back in a civil courtroom. Gruver and the center are suing the Imperial Klans of America, and they hope to win damages large enough to put the supremacist group out of business.

An all-white jury — seven men and seven women — was chosen Wednesday to hear Gruver’s lawsuit against the Klan and two of its members. They are identified in court papers as “Imperial Wizard” Ron Edwards, and Jarred R. Hensley, the Ohio Klan’s “Grand Titan.”

Two others — Joshua Cowles, the Klan’s “Exalted Cyclops,” and Andrew W. Watkins, the Klan’s “Imperial Gothi” and webmaster — have settled out of court, according to a pretrial brief.

Ron Edwards, center, is identified as “Imperial Wizard” of the Imperial Klans of America.

The lawsuit identifies Cowles, Hensley and Watkins as the men who confronted Gruver and insulted him with ethnic epithets while on a recruiting mission at the fair. Hensley and Watkins, the suit alleges, knocked Gruver to the ground and repeatedly struck and kicked him.

The two men already have gone through the criminal courts, striking plea bargains and serving time in the Kentucky state prison system, according to court documents. The others were named as defendants because the Montgomery, Alabama-based center identified them as Klan officers at the time.

Opening statements began under tight security. The center’s co-founder, Morris Dees, alleged that Edwards “sent his agents out on a mission,” adding, “It was while that mission that Jordan was hurt.”

Edwards, who is representing himself, told the jury he would prove he had nothing to do with the attack.

“I’ll prove that I teach them not to go out and commit violence,” he said in his opening statement. “I’ll prove I did not know they were there.”

He added, “I stay within the law. I don’t break the law.”

Jarred Hensley is shown in Klan garb in a photo posted on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Web site.

At an earlier court deposition, Edwards demonstrated his contempt for the center and its lawsuit by tattooing a profane reference to it on his freshly shaved head.

Hensley, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, told CNN affiliate WAVE on Wednesday that he already has paid a price for something he didn’t do. He said the legal system was “corrupt,” but that he was at the trial “because the law told me.” He also is representing himself.

The lawsuit alleges that Edwards, the supremacist group’s founder, uses money from Klan dues, contributions and merchandise sales “as his own personal funds.”

He lives in a trailer on the Klan’s heavily guarded, gated compound in rural Dawson Springs, Kentucky. The compound is the site of the Klan’s annual white power rally and music festival, know as “Nordic Fest,” according to the suit.

It was at the compound, the suit alleges, that the Klan incited its members to use violence against minorities.

The center is seeking to win a judgment that would allow it to seize up to $6 million in assets.

“We want to win justice for Jordan to compensate him for his injuries and put this group out of business,” said center spokesman Booth Gunter. “We’ve won a number of these suits in the past.”

In 2000, for example, the center won a $6.3 million jury verdict that forced Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler to give up the group’s Idaho compound. In 1987, a $7 million verdict in Mobile, Alabama, targeted the United Klans of America.

Richard Cohen, the law center’s president, said, “The Imperial Klans of America is one of the largest Klan organizations in the country. It promotes violence and intimidation against racial and ethnic minorities, homosexuals and so-called ‘race traitors.’ While on a recruiting mission, members of this organization targeted and viciously beat our client solely because he has brown skin.

“Our lawsuit seeks justice and compensation for the victim of this brutal hate crime. We also hope that the monetary damages will be sufficient to put the organization out of business and send a strong message to other hate groups and their followers that this type of racial violence will not be tolerated.”

The center says the Imperial Klans of America is the second largest KKK group after the Brotherhood of Klans, based in Marion, Ohio. Estimates of its total membership vary widely, but the center says it has about 23 chapters in 17 states.

Gunter said Edwards’ son, Steve, runs another group called the Supreme White Alliance, which has ties to two supremacists accused in a plot to don white tuxedos and assassinate Barack Obama.

PDF: Read the lawsuit

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November 17, 2008 Posted by | _ARTICLE, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Criminal mastermind ‘female Charles Manson’ is on the prowl!

The ‘female Charles Manson’ is on the prowl! Everyone look out!

This whacko was jailed for 110 years for “masterminding” a double murder.

So she’s a mastermind? What deviously clever scheme did she concoct?

Well, she got her boyfriend Richard Hull to kill her two roommates (over a £50 drug debt!) and stuff their bodies in a rubbish bin!

£50? A rubbish bin? Wow, she’s a true genius! A mixture of Einstein and Hannibal Lecter!

Anyway, she’s “the most wanted woman in America”!

And we can only imagine the immense reward being offered by the Feds for “the most wanted woman in America”. How many millions?

Well, the reward for “the most wanted woman in America” is the king’s ransom of £12,000 !!!

We read that some prison guard became obsessed with this wonderful beauty – who actually looks like Wayne Rooney’s twin sister! – and helped her escape! Man, how horny must that guy have been to get obsessed with that?! He must’ve been a huge Manchester United fan!!

Double killer dubbed the ‘female Charles Manson’ tops the US Marshals Most Wanted list after escaping from jail

By Paul Thompson

10th November 2008

A double killer dubbed the ‘female Charles Manson’ has become the most wanted woman in America.

Sarah Jo Pender, 29, heads the list of the US Marshals Most Wanted after escaping from prison.

Pender, who was jailed for 110 years for killing her roommates over a £50 drug debt, escaped three months ago with the help of a prison guard.

She had begun an affair with the married 41-year-old officer at the Rockville correctional facility in Indiana.

Investigators said Scott Spilter became so obsessed with Pender that he agreed to help her escape.

He was able to hide her in the boot of his car and drive her out of the medium security prison where she was picked up by a friend, Jamie Long.

Long and Pilter were arrested and charged with helping an inmate escape, but Pender has not been seen since August.

Police have warned the public not to approach Pender as she is considered ‘extremely dangerous’.

‘She is somebody whose been convicted of two murders,’ said Indiana police captain Mark Rice.

‘She’s escaped, she’s liable to do anything and use her wiles and cunning in order to get what she wants.’ At her trial six years ago prosecutors said she was the brains behind the brutal murder of Tricia Nordman and Andrew Cataldi.

Pender persuaded her boyfriend Richard Hull to kill the couple and stuff their bodies in a rubbish bin.

Hull was jailed for 75 years while Pender was given 110 years for masterminding the double murder.

Prosecutor Larry Sells said at the time of the trial: ‘Lurking within is a dark, evil demon, she has the ability to seduce others into committing atrocious acts, she’s like Charles Manson.’

US Marshals have offered a £12,000 reward for information about Pender but warn she is ‘armed and dangerous.’

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November 11, 2008 Posted by | Wayne Rooney, _OTHER | 10 Comments

More BBC bungling in ‘Sachsgate’ (and too many gate-gates !!)

So the Beeb can’t even issue a proper apology for a huge fuck-up!

Who the hell is in charge at the Beeb these days?

Basil fkng Fawlty? George dubwa Bush? Sarah Palin?

And why is the apology only coming now?

Original story covered here; top-bbc-stars-canned

As an aside, we’re sick of that lazy journalism of adding of the suffix “gate” to any scandal … here with ‘Sachsgate’!

If another scandal related to the Watergate complex were to happen today, it would be called “Watergategate”! It’s pure stupidity!

Also, of course, were a scandal related to Colgate toothpaste to occur, it would be called “colgategate”! Were a scandal related to the Golden Gate bridge to happen, it would be called “goldengategate”! ….. yawn!!! ….

BBC forced to change bungled ‘Sachsgate’ apology after Fawlty Towers star lodges complaint

By Paul Revoir
9th November 2008

The BBC was forced to change an on-air apology to Andrew Sachs after a complaint from the actor.

The Fawlty Towers star was angry that the corporation had failed to consult him over its statement on the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand scandal.

He was also upset that the apology did not refer to the anguish suffered by his wife and daughter.

As a result of his complaint, the Radio 2 apology, first broadcast on Saturday morning, was revised for the repeat airing that evening.

The scandal erupted last month over obscene calls that Brand, 33, and Ross, 47, left on Mr Sachs’s answerphone and later played on air.

Brand boasted of sleeping with Mr Sachs’s granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, 23. He and Ross then joked that the 78-year-old actor might hang himself as a result of the calls.

The fallout saw Brand resign from his job as a BBC presenter while Ross has been suspended from his £6million-a-year post. Saturday’s apology was broadcast at 10am during what would have been Ross’s morning slot and at 9pm, the time of Brand’s former show.

The later broadcast was revised to include mention of Mr Sachs’s wife and family.

Mr Sachs said: ‘I was surprised that I was not contacted before the apology was broadcast.

‘They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble and it annoyed me a bit that I was forced to call and tell them to change it.’

He said his wife, Melody, had been especially upset by the scandal because she was trying to recover from an operation.

The BBC said: ‘Mr Sachs asked us to specifically include mention of his wife and family in the second broadcast apology at 9.03pm and we were happy to do this.’

Centre of the storm: Sachs’s granddaughter Georgina Baillie was the subject of lewd comments by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross

John Whittingdale, Tory chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, said: ‘I find it extraordinary that nobody from the BBC saw fit to contact Mr Sachs before the first broadcast to check he was happy.’

In an interview with yesterday’s Observer magazine, Brand claimed the producer of his programme had spoken to Mr Sachs and agreed to edit out the lewdest parts of the dialogue.

He added: ‘I can’t let it change what I do, other than when I make a programme have an editor look at all aspects of it to see if it will offend on a personal level.’

Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas and the station’s head of specialist music and compliance, David Barber, have also resigned over the affair.

November 10, 2008 Posted by | Andrew Sachs, Georgina Baillie, Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand, _CARTOON, _OTHER | Leave a comment

F**king Youtube

Is it just me or is youtube removing every single fucking interesting video?

And leaving the links though, so that youtube can still get the traffic numbers up!

We were searching for some tracks from Bob Dylan’s recent TTRH show! All fucking gone. Every one! Including clips from TV shows from the 50s and 60s! But there are still loads of misleading useless links there!

I mean even vids about that “Rumble in the Catacomb” have been removed! WTF! Have the Armenian Church been in touch with youtube or something?

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November 10, 2008 Posted by | _OTHER | Leave a comment