When I first saw the stories about the CIA’s super-cunning covert op – setting up a fake vaccination scheme to try to get DNA from Osama bin Laden's children in Abbottabad – I immediately thought: How many innocent people are going to die or suffer needlessly from this unconscionable tainting of medical programmes by Terror War subterfuge? How many people will now turn away from ostensibly genuine humanitarian efforts, wary of being used by foreign spies infiltrating their country? How many more genuine medical relief and health care workers will now be targeted as agents of militarist agendas in troubled lands already rightly suspicious of the murderous spy games being played in their midst?
A friend pointed me to this remarkable performance by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings of a now-old song. I pass it along here not only for its inherent worth, but also because it seems to chime with many of the thoughts and intimations behind this blog. Here we can see, through the conjurations of two guitars and two human voices, how the bloody murk of history is turned into a powerful myth -- a myth of yearning, a yearning for liberation: from the bonds of convention, from the sentence of mortality, from the soul-draining exigencies of history itself.
An EP of recent songs is now on sale here. (Note: New blog posts can be found below.)
Worrying news this week from the Middle East, as Jason Ditz reports:
A few readers have been kind enough to inquire if any of the tunes occasionally featured on this site are for sale. Well, now they are. A four-song sampler EP, "Just One Plank," is now available for download right here. I'm not exactly au fait with the technology, and there seems to be a bit of delay with the cover art at the site, but the songs themselves are up there and ready to go. Check it out, if you take a notion.We'll be back to regular service here in just a bit. Thanks for your patience. (Photo from Shorpy.com; Scotts Run, West Virginia, 1935.)
No dogma, no doctrine, no parties, no political poltroonery; just one plank in this platform: I'm for the poor.
I wanted to write about Barack Obama’s recent speech announcing the alleged partial withdrawal of some of the tens of thousands of troops he has added to the decade-long American occupation of Afghanistan during his three Bush-like “surges” of that conflict. Events – and a deep reluctance to “waste my beautiful mind” on such a self-evident assemblage of murderous mendacity – stayed my hand. But this was, as it turned out, all good, as the saying goes, for now I find that Arthur Silber has, to paraphrase the Bard, named my very deed of rage. You should read the whole piece – and the links which provide historical context to the president’s long-tortured relationship with truth – but here’s a snippet to wet your whistle:
Oh my gosh! Apparently Iran is not a monolithic monster whose entire energies are united in destroy all that’s good and holy and can be sold at Wal-Mart.
Do you want to know what the future looks like? Ed Vulliamy can show you. Just follow him down to Ciudad Juarez, where the witless, heedless, heartless machinery of "market fundamentalism" (or "late capitalism," or whatever other name you'd like to give to the unrestrained greed of our elites) has come to its logical, horrific culmination.
Obviously, there was a typo in the UN resolution approving NATO’s operations in Libya. It was widely reported that the resolution authorized the establishment of a “no-fly” zone in Libya to protect civilians from being killed by military attack. However, it’s clear now that what the international body really greenlighted was a “no-life” zone, designed to, er, kill people with, er, military attacks. It’s an easy mistake to make, really, transposing the “f” and “l” like that; a UN transcriptionist probably misheard the original intention, then mentally “corrected” it with the “y” to make it read in the more accustomed manner. Happens all the time.
I wrote the lines below more than 25 years ago; but when I finally got around to putting them to music some months ago, what had seemed allusive and metaphorical – both the public overview and the personal intimations of mortality – had become all too real. It’s like the passage toward the end of Doctor Zhivago, when two survivors of revolution, famine, purge, camps and war are looking back:
Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate met with the crown prince of Bahrain and "reaffirmed" the United States' "strong commitment" to the regime of unelected autocrats. The Peace Laureate -- who in his acceptance of the Prize wrapped himself in the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi -- also "expressed strong support" for the regime's "ongoing efforts to initiate national dialogue ... [and] forge a just future for all Bahrainis."President Obama had dropped in a meeting the prince was having with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who likewise extolled the autocrats for their "national dialogue" and "important work."There is indeed "important work" going on in Bahrain these days, and the autocratic regime's "ongoing efforts to initiate dialogue" -- the campaign laude...