Religion Issue

Hi all. The Religion Issue finally hit the streets earlier this week, and it is most certainly the best Buzzsaw ever (like forever ever). In coordination, the website is now up and running (albeit with limited functionality). Stay tuned as we work out the kinks and fill in the past year of articles!

Here's a comic!


Halloween is HERE!

Loyal reader,

Here is Mike Berlin's deliciously dated and scintillatingly scandalous piece on our favorite of recently bygone holidays (no, not that one). Thank you Mike, staff writer extraordinaire, we love you. sincerely. -buzzsaw

I sit in the living room of my three-bedroom apartment and stare at the piling dishes, papers, and trash bags in the corner. We live in utter squalor. In a holiday attempt to be festive, three carved pumpkins decorate the room, swimming in a sea of clutter, rapidly rotting away. This is the spirit of Halloween in the den of three college juniors.

My stomach growls angrily at me and I get up to forage in the pantry. On the way, I pass a plastic bag filled with browning pumpkin guts leaking through to the floor from a carving session past. In the true spirit of Halloween, I imagine dust, cobwebs, and flying bats to present themselves in the kitchen cupboard, but instead I’m greeted by store brand Mac N’ Cheese.

Disappointed, I resolve to watch more Food Network in an attempt to absorb the enticing cuisine metaphysically through the television screen. It’s this and the promise of the free food that lies ahead which keeps me strong and weary of the two New York style pizzerias down the street.

It’s Halloween, and me and my nostalgia-starved friends are going to hit the town (of Ithaca) in search of free treats. Our first semester off the meal plan, and we were more than ready to gorge on free candy. For many this would be the first time in a decade.

We had never necessarily lost the spirit of Halloween, but our ideas had evolved. As college students, we became red cup toting, weekend warriors, parading up and down South Hill from party to party. Costumes became a bit more risqué.

I recall spotting Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love at a party the weekend past, complete with punctured veins drawn with eye makeup. In hand, they carried a cheap plastic baby doll, which they continued to throw around and inject with invisible heroin from a syringe stolen from the campus health center. For me, this hadn’t stirred up childhood memories of trick-or-treating, but I’d given them points for the make-up job. My weekend costume wasn’t quite suitable either.

I dressed in drag as Ann Coulter, equipped with a slew a neo-conservative ideals and a sign reading “End Women’s Suffrage Now!” Though I’m sure the residents of Ithaca would’ve appreciated the irony, I knew children would shudder in fear of my hairy legs protruding from a mid-length skirt.

Now, it’s time for a costume change. I leave the apartment and head to the kingdom of standard and cheap—the dollar store. Amongst the instant meal mixes and putrid hand soaps, there lies a corner filled with sparse Halloween themed items. There is a rack of flimsy plastic masks. Each resembles something Tom Cruise would peel off his face during a “Mission Impossible” movie. I choose one at random and grab fake police tape and a devilish pitchfork. A savvy $3 investment and I’m all set.

As friends start arriving to the apartment, it’s apparent that we all are cheaping out on our costumes. Both Steve and Evan are wearing similar masks to mine, possibly costing a few dollars more. Brittany is wearing a shiny orange wig. Cassandra is wearing makeup. I give her some police tape to wrap around and we call it “a-policewoman-entered-in-a-beauty-pageant,”—a spooky twist on the plot of “Miss Congeniality.”

Finally, we embark on our journey with danger in the air as Cassandra says, “A kid in my class said it’s illegal to trick-or-treat as college students.”

The three of us taller than six feet are a bit fazed, but we understand that Halloween is a time to be daring in the face of terror and disgruntled adults.

As the streets turn residential, kids of all ages, dressed as the Nickelodeon characters of their generation scurry about collecting their treats. It all seems the same at first, until I start to notice some children with cell phones in place of parents. One child is even dressed as a cell phone, occasionally yelling “Can you hear me now!”

My imagination goes wild thinking about the next generation of children navigating the streets with their GPS systems, plotting out the routes that turn out maximum candy collection.

We have our own methods, deciding to knock on doors with the porch lights on—none of this “ Turn left for the next Snickers Bar in .23 miles.”

We knock on our first door, highly anticipating, poised, waiting to say “trick-or-treat!!!” It’s Nicole from Research Methods in Psychology. She answers the door holding a bowl of candy, smiling shame into us. We move on, our bags a bit heavier and our tails between our legs.

The next few doors turn out pretty well with parents complimenting us on our spirit. They hand out generous fortunes of chocolate, as if we had more self control than children. One woman asks what we’re supposed to be. I hesitate and think: unlicensed plastic surgery gone wrong. Brittany replies, “These three are cheap monsters, she’s a beauty queen, and I’m a rockstar.” Very well put.

Steve adds in, “We’re all 14,” and gets a laugh all around.

After conquering a few more blocks, we turn down another street. Brittany and Evan sit the next few houses out, suspiciously smoking cigarettes on the adjacent sidewalks as we continue to ring doorbells. The spirit of Halloween begins to overtake us and we become quite chatty with the adults, teenagers, and small children who start to answers the doors with depleting candy bowls as the night goes on.

Eventually, our hunger catches us and we pull into a playground to lighten our bags for the walk home. Sitting on picnic tables, discarding wrapper after wrapper, I find this to be a great “young at heart” cinematic moment.

A cop car slowly drives down the street. With the ever present danger of minor scolding ahead we decide to head out, our stomachs full and our teeth sugared. “Mission accomplished, agents.” We peel of our plastic faces and continue to stuff them with chocolate. -Mike Berlin


A New Direction

I promise a full concert recap (with some freakin pictures and video) is on the way. To hold you over, here's a link to Matt Taibbi's election night column. He's been one of my favorite writers employed by a real magazine since his piece on John Kerry's robot publicity stunts 2 years ago. In other news, Rolling Stone still gives every cd three stars regardless of what the reviewer says. Well except for this.


Mailing it in

So. Election Day is tomorrow. I know I promised to give some reasons not to vote (the AARP's awesome, misleading commercial for www.dontvote.com caught my attention), but looking at my absentee ballot, I feel like the more important question is 'why the hell haven't I heard of anybody on this?' With 11 parties on the ballot I was familiar with where they generally stood. But the candidates? I knew they had names, and parties, and that was about it.

I flipped open this week's Ithacan and found a break-down of the midterm elections, and while there was a general summary of the latest scandals and a few sentences about the Democratic and Republican candidates, the rest of the candidates were relegated to the name-party combination I already had. Further in, I found an article arguing for not voting. While that idea, as you can probably tell, did cross my mind, the allure of mailing a letter was too much. So, as long as I was embracing the pretence of democracy, I figured why not give my vote to someone who I might actually agree with. Maybe if I was the only one they would send ME a letter.

So I did some research, which I am not going to share with you, but I do encourage everyone to google (the only research worthwhile) the Republican, Democratic, Independence, Conservative, Working Families, Green, Libertarian, Rent Is Too High, Socialist Workers, and Socialist Equality parties before tomorrow. Not that their websites will necessarily tell you the truth, but you might find something useful.

If you're voting absentee, it needs to be postmarked today at the latest, so you've either voted already or not (either way we can watch the exit poll results on tv and ponder over the futility of our efforts). If you want someone to tell you how to vote check out alt-weeklies the City Newspaper and the Ithaca Times for some decent ideas. The City's campaign for voters to write in REFORM for state assembly seems like a particularly good idea for the jaded.

If you don't care about politics, look for a full City on Film Show recap within the next few dates (with pictures and video). Read Popcorn Youth's interview with Bob Nanna. And if you're not sick of this yet, Bryan Kerwin's reflection on Elliot Smith is below. It's a little dated but what the hell.


Elliot Smith: Three Years Later
I credit one person with starting me on the path out of my blink-182 jones in high school – Elliott Smith. Like many people, I first became aware of Smith’s music thanks to Gus Van Sant and Good Will Hunting (you know, the movie where Matt Damon is good at math), and I was immediately drawn in. The sparse and haunting arrangements, the ghostly tremor of Elliott’s voice, the palpable angst – all the songs affected me in a way that pop-punk dick humor had yet to touch. I immediately went to the music store (and subsequently the internet) and collected as much Elliott as I could get my hands on.

When Smith passed away on October 21, 2003, I was a freshman in college, and it hit me right then that my generation had lost a great musician. We were too young to really absorb Cobain, but Elliott Smith was something of a contemporary, someone who was living and making music that distilled things about my life at the time I was living them. We all know the tendency of public opinion to inflate an artist’s importance after their death, especially if they died young, but this doesn’t apply to Smith – his genius was recognized every time he put out a record.

On the third anniversary of Smith’s suicide, we can look back at some of the things he left the world, most importantly, the music. Records like XO and Figure 8 still resonate as much now as when they were released, and I expect that’s a trend that will continue as new people discover them. There’s a clichéd sentiment that I will repeat here unabashedly: We’ll always have the music. Elliott’s family has also set up the Elliott Smith Memorial Fund, a charity organization that donates proceeds to Free Arts for Abused Children. For fans that have the same personal connection to his songs, and want to help out, check out www.sweetadeline.net for more information, and for tons of other stuff about Elliott Smith. -Bryan Kerwin


Election Issue!

So the Election Issue has been released. Pick up your copy either on the Ithaca College campus, one of our pickup locations around the Commons (No Radio Records and Junas come to mind), or at our Buzzsaw events, much like the one this SATURDAY. Just one correction I'd like to make: Joy Kucinkas wrote the excellent Little Miss Sunshine review in the most recent Election issue. By some demon force her name was erroneously omitted. I'm going to put a hold on the blog until the show this weekend is over, but when we come back get prepared for the ANTI-ELECTION blog entry. Yes, though the obvious reason why I will not be voting in this upcoming election is that the monroe county board of election has once again failed to mail me my requested absentee ballot, will I be able to ideologically support this bureaucratic bungle? Until Monday . . .

The City on Film, American Watercolor Movement, Skybox, I Need Sleep
Emerson Suites, Phillips Hall, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY
All-ages. Tickets at the door: $5.

See you at the show.
-Andrew, MOC


I Need Sleep!

Seriously, I need sleep. But that's not all. Previously I mentioned another national act possibly coming for the November 4th Buzzsaw show (scroll down for a refresher). Well . . . the rumors are true. Opening the show is going to be racket pop (i heard somone on the street use that . . .) group I NEED SLEEP!
Check out I Need Sleep on their Myspace

In additional news, the buzzsawblog has already reached unprecedented levels of fame and fortune (in REAL PRINT MEDIA!) That's right, we've transcedended this paltry electronic medium to greater heights. Check out the sweet buzzsawblog plug in October 18th's thaca Times or in the eternal online archive here.

Thanks to the informative article linked above I became informed of the Ithaca Times' own weblogs: Popcorn Youth, a running discussion of the arts and entertainment happenings of ithaca, and dirty life and Times, kick-ass commentary on pretty much everything written by Buzzsaw-alum Bryan Chambala. Want proof? I found his first 3 Buzzsaw articles in the hallowed vaults here, here and here. That's right, read the Times without fear; it's all in the family.



Boys and Girls in Ithaca

Hey devoted buzzsawblog reader!

Here is a rather unimpressive review of the newest cd by indie-rock loverboys THE HOLD STEADY! In light of its mediocrity, I cut it from the magazine so we could have more delicious pictures! On a side note, the newest edition of Buzzsaw Haircut, loveably titled "The Election Issue," will be in your grubby hands Thursday of next week! That's November 2nd by my caluculations. Just 2 days before our biggest Buzzsaw Haircut sponsored concert yet. Here's the details:

The City on Film (Bob Nanna of Hey Mercedes/ Braid fame)
American Watercolor Movement

Emerson Suites, Phillips Hall, Ithaca College
all ages
$5 at the door

There may possibly be one more band opening up (yes, another national act, I know unimaginable!) so check here this weekend for more info. Like I promised here's the review! More online only content to come!

The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant, 2006)
Budweiser-bar guitar splashed with frantic (beat poetry) gutter ramblings from the Twin Cites. I’ve gotta say this album is much more melodic than their past records, Craig Finn still yells like Allen Ginsberg on cocaine wearing a Peter Sellers mask, reminding you of everyone in Shit City, New York and all the times you felt connected and lost. Your best friend’s parents are out of town: there’s someone screaming with her boyfriend in the front yard, then everyone’s making out in the bathroom, then everyone’s pouring Genny Light into their mouths, then everyone’s passed out, someone’s getting garbage plates and someone can’t find their keys. I had to put on my copy of Born to Run to remind myself where we got these ideas from before this album came out (Ed. The Springsteen reference reflects more of a critical consensus than it does this particular writer’s actual experience). Every tragedy and victory of your life, of your mistakes and missteps, all in stereophonic sound. It’s the Boss’ world, we’re just living in it. –AF

Listen to the Hold steady here
Go to their webpage here
Search for a real review here


Web Exclusive Album Reviews

How's it going everyone? So, Buzzsaw's back on the internet. We're going to be updating this blog regularly again, so check it often. In fact, you probably should make it your homepage. At least until our regular website gets redesigned. If you've got any comments, send them over to buzzsawhaircut at gmail.com . To start us off, and as a freaking sweet reward to you dedicated web people, here's three exclusive album reviews from our staff writers.


M. Ward Post-War (Merge Records 2006)

Disclaimer to Rock Against Bush followers: there’s no “Let’s Impeach the President” on this album. Despite the name of M. Ward’s latest release, the songs at hand address the issues that M. Ward fans would expect: the loss of friends, the women who toy with men’s hearts, and the search to answer all those questions that keep us up at night.

While the subject matter does not break any new ground, the music certainly does. M. Ward’s past albums mixed contemporary songs alongside tunes more reminiscent of a by-gone era. On Post-War though, Ward is finally able to combine these two types into one; ragtime, blues, and folk melt into alt-country and indie rock creating a beautiful amalgam of genres within each song. The arrangements on songs like “Right in the Head” are lush and sweeping, possibly because of production input from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, without ever losing the grittiness of Ward’s earlier works. Ward’s trademark instrumental interludes are replaced by “Chinese Translation” and “Eyes on the Prize,” which maintain his characteristic meandering guitar work while including surprisingly catchy choruses.

While “Post-War” will surely satisfy those who’ve been listening since the beginning, it’ll also fit perfectly alongside blog-happy bands like The Decembrists and Spoon on the CD racks of new fans. One thing’s for sure though: when you see your hipster friend opting for over sized flannel instead of his usual skin-tight tee, you’ll know exactly what’s in his stereo. -John-Severin Napolillo

Peeping Tom Peeping Tom (Ipecac, 2006)

Anyone familiar with Mike Patton’s work knows that he’s no stranger to the avant-garde. In the late ‘80s he was fusing rock, rap, funk and other styles with his band Faith No More, almost a decade before that became popular. Since FNM’s disbanding, Patton has found a niche in the fringes of modern music with diverse, schizophrenic projects like Mr. Bungle and Lovage, combining elements from all over the musical spectrum. So naturally his fans were quite confused when he announced his new “pop” project, Peeping Tom. Was he joking? Being ironic? Was he really collaborating with Norah Jones?

The album does raise the question of Patton’s motivations. Listening to it makes one wonder if he’s making an ironic statement, or if he’s just broadening his horizons to a new audience. Is he quoting Britney Spears lyrics and spewing rock clichés on the first single, “Mojo,” to have a laugh at pop culture, or the fact that this album is the closest he’s ever been to it?

While Peeping Tom’s debut album maintains much of the genre-bending originality that makes Mike Patton stand out as a musician, it is also his most accessible work since his days with Faith No More. It’s an album of duets, with guest stars ranging all the way from Dan the Automator to Massive Attack to Rahzel (and the Norah Jones rumor was true too). While it may not be the best album he’s ever made (he set the bar high in 1999 with the Bungle album California), it’s still one of the most original albums released so far this year. - Josh MacMillin

The Cat Empire Two Shoes (Virgin, 2005)

If I were to visually translate this Aussie six-piece band’s latest album, Two Shoes, in a Dali-esque fashion (something that should only be done in small, regulated doses), it’d probably be a guy in a tuxedo with a beach ball where his head ought to be. Effervescent as any self-respecting carbonated drink, the Cat Empire melds punctuated pop melodies with a big band sound while sprinkling in sweeping jazz riffs and plenty of summer between the lines.

“Sly,” the album’s spirited opener may not be much of a thinker (little of the album is, really) but it puts the Beach Boys to shame with its buoyant bonfire-on-the-sand feel. A “girls, sun, and surfing” song, this single’s sure to put a smile on your face in the dead of winter…so yeah, most of the school year.

If that doesn’t suit your tastes then perhaps “Two Shoes,” for which the album is named, will with its salsa beat and rolling ballroom dance story. Or maybe the pseudo-existential (not really) “Protons, Neutrons and Electrons” is more your style. In any case, this is a band with a sense of humor, rhythm and fun.

And of course if all else fails, their accents are delectable. Who doesn’t like being told they “tayste like vaniella?” -LuAnn Fong

M. Ward's Homepage
Peeping Tom on MySpace
The Cat Empire


Bobby Bare Jr,

His first music video, "Let's Rock and Roll."

"In The News"

Kris Kristofferson has a new anti-war song streaming on his website that is a damn fine piece of topical and relevant songwriting. I'd say it's actually one of the better Iraq war/Post 9/11 songs that I've heard. But then again, maybe this glitterati is just sucker for outlaw country artists. None the less, do check it out. It's got a video companion that helps illustrate what the words are referring to.

- Glitter


The Mattoid

Glitter approved!


Read with below

Ah, another piece of the puzzle. The intersection of the Bush administration's theories on presidential power and the domestic consequences of the War on Terror.

- Glitter

Fitzgerald and the WMD Rationale

For a lucid demonstration of how the Plame scandal interweaves with the political selling of the WMD rationale for the war in Iraq, please do take the time to read David E. Sanger and David Barstow's article in the New York Times today.

I've said this in passing before, but I'll say it on this blog's record now. Even if the Fitzgerald investigation does not result in the legal toppling of George W. Bush, it will still serve as a political wrecking ball to his administration as well as the current Republican majority.

Key graf of that thesis, here:

The new account of the interactions among Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby was spelled out last week in a court filing by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case. It adds considerably to a picture of an administration in some disarray as the failure to discover illicit weapons in Iraq had undermined the central rationale for the American invasion in March 2003.

I've written about this idea in a more general sense before. You can find that article here in the Privilege issue of Buzzsaw.

- Glitter


Sobered up

If you're the type who's curious about how things are going in Iraq, may I suggest you read these two articles?

Civilians in Iraq Flee Mixed Areas as Attacks Shift.

Sectarian Strife Fuels Gun Sales in Baghdad.

The last few weeks have been quite the shitstorm of work for this Glitterati, but I do promise that regular updating will begin anew. And I promise to keep this promise.

- Glitter


That Was Frank

Pretty harsh Op-Ed on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the New York Times today. It's written by Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004. Eaton calls for Rumsfeld to step down.

Key grafs:

Mr. Rumsfeld has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his cold warrior's view of the world and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower. As a result, the Army finds itself severely undermanned — cut to 10 active divisions but asked by the administration to support a foreign policy that requires at least 12 or 14.


Donald Rumsfeld demands more than loyalty. He wants fealty. And he has hired men who give it. Consider the new secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey, who when faced with the compelling need to increase the service's size has refused to do so. He is instead relying on the shell game of hiring civilians to do jobs that had previously been done by soldiers, and thus keeping the force strength static on paper. This tactic may help for a bit, but it will likely fall apart in the next budget cycle, with those positions swiftly eliminated.


More vital in the longer term, Congress must assert itself. Too much power has shifted to the executive branch, not just in terms of waging war but also in planning the military of the future. Congress should remember it still has the power of the purse; it should call our generals, colonels, captains and sergeants to testify frequently, so that their opinions and needs are known to the men they lead. Then when they are asked if they have enough troops — and no soldier has ever had enough of anything, more is always better — the reply is public.

Our most important, and sometimes most severe, judges are our subordinates. That is a fact I discovered early in my military career. It is, unfortunately, a lesson Donald Rumsfeld seems incapable of learning.

Ouch. Quite the stinging critique, though I don't really agree with the suggestion of Lieberman as a replacement.

(Via TalkingPointsMemo.)

- Glitter

3 Year Anniversary of Iraq War

So we've now been in Iraq for three years. I don't have any grand words to impart at the moment. With much confusion I was against this war when it began. Now I find myself still confused, but unable to decide what I think is the correct course of action. The only thing I do know is that it is important for Americans to remain intellectually connected to the fact that there is a very real war all the way across the world that is being waged in our name with the blood on our tax dollars. We should not forget that while we sleep safely at night, others hear explosions.

This timeline provided by the Center for American Progress is an easy way to remind yourself of what has occureed in these past 36 months.

Here's a link to the New York Times special section on "The Reach of War."

Juan Cole is must read in general if you want to pushed to expand what you consider when thinking about Iraq. Whether you agree with him or not, the amount of pure information put forth and linked to is staggering and worth checking back on.

Video of Chuck Hagel (R-NE) discussing what he describes as civil war in Iraq.

The Brookings Institution's Iraq Index.

The Pentagon's Quarterly Reports reports on Iraq.

The former Prime Minister of Iraq, Iyad Allawi, describes Iraq as in a civil war

Keep the war in mind this week.

- Glitter


Quick News Round-Up

* Colleges are buckling under pressure, much of it from the Bush-run Education and Justice Departments, to open up affirmative action programs to everyone, including upperclass white males. The article states that many of the current moves by colleges and universities might be a pre-emptive attempt to protect themselves legally due to the changing nature of the Supreme Court (I.E. the Roberts and Alito appointments and the liklihood of a new case testing current affirmative action policies.)

* Yesterday was an incredibly bloody day in Iraq. 87 people have been found dead in Baghdad. Seems to be reprisal for attacks on Shiites that happened on Sunday. Key graf in terms of what the violence means:

While the shrine bombing and the reprisals that followed pushed the country to the brink of civil war, the new round of reprisal killings has led many people to worry about an extended tit-for-tat sectarian conflict.

* I have no idea what this means in terms of Israeli-Palestinian relations and their continuing conflict, but Israel just raided a Palestinian prison.

* Mad Cow Disease confirmed in Alabama. This is the third confirmed case in the U.S.

* Talks in France over a proposed youth job law seem to be intense. The proposed law, which both President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin support, would make it easier for firms to release, or "fire," young workers. Worker's rights groups and unions are strongly against the law.

This is just from the New York Times, I'll be back later with more.

- Glitter


Just a link

There is an interesting roundtable discussion with John Darnielle, Rick Moody, and Jonathan Lethem in the LA Weekly about the interaction of music and literature.

- Glitter

Bill Frist: For the rules when they help him, against them when they don't

Firedoglake's got their eye on a little bit of cynical hypocrisy coming out of the Senate Majority leader's mouth.

It's also worth going directly to Glenn Greenwald's post in order to remember that this little bit of, dare I say it, flip-flopping, just may be crafted to disrupt and avoid hearings about the NSA domestic eavesdropping program. This is not the first time that Frist has threatened to change the rules and procedures of the Senate in order to protect his party's political machinations. Remember the Nuclear Option.

Glenn points out:

While Frist’s threat here is, in one sense, of a piece with those tactics, it is actually quite extraordinary and motivated by a particularly corrupt objective. The whole purpose of the Senate Intelligence Committee – the only reason why it exists – is to exercise oversight over controversial intelligence activities. Whatever else one might want to say about the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, it is controversial on every front. There is no conceivable rationale for the Intelligence Committee not to hold hearings.

It would be an extraordinary abdication of the responsibility owed to Americans by the Intelligence Committee for it not to investigate the Administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program – a program which scores of prominent politicians and scholars from across the political spectrum have condemned as being legally dubious at best, and which polls show a majority of Americans oppose and believe is illegal.

ReddHedd over at firedoglake implores readers to get the word out about this potentially shitfuck of a move. She suggests that people "take some time to write, fax and call your Senators, radio talk shows and media folks -- both via e-mail and on any media blog comments threads where this would be approriate to discuss." Think about doing it.

- Glitter


Creeping Theocracy Watch

State bill in Missouri proposes Christianity as "Official Religion":

Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

House Concurrent Resolution 13 has is pending in the state legislature.

Many Missouri residents had not heard about the bill until Thursday.

Karen Aroesty of the Anti-defamation league, along with other watch-groups, began a letter writing and email campaign to stop the resolution.

The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."

State representative David Sater of Cassville in southwestern Missouri, sponsored the resolution, but he has refused to talk about it on camera or over the phone.

KMOV also contacted Gov. Matt Blunt's office to see where he stands on the resolution, but he has yet to respond.

(Via Atrios.)

- Glitter

My Glorious Bounty of Wasting Time on You Tube

As is the case when I should be doing legitimate work, I have been finding various items on the web to occupy my time. My latest temptress has been the devil You Tube. There is something strangely democratic about how this site and others like it creates free access to video information.

The following have been some of my favorite clips that I have found:

* Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler on Letterman.

* Captain Beefheart on Letterman.

* Captain Beefheart live in Belgium.

* Bill Hicks on Letterman.

* Tom Waits Interview on Letterman in 2002.

* Tom Waits performing "Chocolate Jesus" on Letterman.

* Tom Waits performing "Make It Rain" on Letterman.

* Tom Waits performing "All The World Is Green" on Letterman.

* Music video for "What's He Building?" by Tom Waits.

* Tom Waits performing "Goin' Out West" on the Arsenio Hall Show.

* Tom Waits performing "Small Change" on the Old Gre Whistle Test.

* Tom Waits performing "Elephant Beer Blues" on Danish TV.

* Tom Waits performing "The Piano Has Been Drinking" on a comedy show with Martin Mull and Fred Willard.

* Harmony Korine on Letterman.

* Devo on Letterman in 1982.

* X performing on Letterman.

* John Lennon performing "Instant Karma" on Top Of The Pops.

* Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash recording "One Too Many Mornings".

* Bob Dylan performing "Lovesick" at the Grammys (look for Soybomb!).

* Bob Dylan performing "Like A Rolling Stone" in Newcastle, England on May 21st, 1966.

* Bob Dylan performing "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carrol" on the Steve Allen Show>

* Alternate video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues" by Bob Dylan.

* Hank Williams perfroming "Hey Good Lookin'".

* Hank Williams III performing "Howlin' At The Moon" live at Stubbs in Austin, Texas.

* Hank Williams III performing "Nighttime Ramblin' Man" on Craig Kilbourn.

* Hank Williams III performing "Straight To Hell" live in New Orleans.

* Music video for "You're The Reason" by Hank Williams III.

* Buddy Holly playing "Peggy Sue" on Ed Sullivan".

* Music video for "Oliver's Army" by Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

* Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl, and Little Steven Van Zandt performing "London's Calling" in tribute to the late Joe Strummer at the Grammys.

* Music video for "London Calling" by the Clash.

* Anti-video music video for "Bastards of Young" by the Replacements.

* Husker Du performing "You Could Be The One" on the Joan Rivers Show.

* Biggie freestyling at 17 years old in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn.

* Pavement performing "For Sale: The Preston School of Industry" on a Danish TV show.

* Music video for "Cut Your Hair" by Pavement.

* Music video for "Dark Wave" by Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks.

* Music video for "Jo Jo's Jacket" by Stephen Malkmus.

* The Beach Boys performing "Good Vibrations" on TV.

* Bugs Bunny and the Monkees Kool-Aid commercial.

* Beat Happening performing "Black Candy" on public access television.

* Sid Vicious breaks his leg coming off the top rope.

* Television performing "Foxhole" live on TV.

* Patti Smith performing "Because The Night" on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

* Patti Smith performing "Hey Joe" on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

* Patti Smith performing "Gloria/Land of 10,000 Dances/Le Mer" on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

* Talking Heads performing "Psycho Killer" on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

* David Bowie performing "Oh You Pretty Things" on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

* The Go-Go's performing "We Got The Beat" on the Old Grey Whistle Test (I've always had a school boy crush on Jane Wiedlin).

* Bill Withers performing "Ain't No Sunshine" on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

* The Specials performing "A Message To You, Rudy" on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

* Frank Zappa performing "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing" on SNL.

* Frank Zappa on the Arsenio Hall Show.

* Terry Funk vs. Eddie Guerrero in the NWA in 1989.

* Kurt Angle wins the Olympic Gold Medal in 1996.

- Glitter


Blog update

I've updated the links on the right with as many Ithaca related blogs I could find using Google and by searching Blogger.

The blogs are roughly ordered top to bottom as such: Local Ithaca Media > Ithaca College Blogs > Cornell and Ithaca Community Blogs > Politcal Blogs > Music Blogs.

For the Ithaca blogs, an inclusion on the links list is in no way an endorsement of the content, rather an acknowledgement of their membership in the online Ithaca community. I tried to only include blogs that stepped beyond the purely personal.

Hopefully once I get a bit more understanding of how to actually manipulate things on the web (i.e. the actual making of a webpage), I will redesign the color scheme and layout of this blog so that it is a bit easier on the eyes and sexier to look at. I'll also create clearer categories for the links on the right.

Though I've failed at following up on some of the topics I've said I'll follow up on in the past (like the Ithacan critiques), I will write tomorrow about the stabbing that occured at Cornell over the weekend.

- Glitter

Oh, and in a random aside, The Hype Machine is an all too addictive fix for my music junkie monkey. Check it out.



Well, this certainly seems to be the news item of the day. Bush is loudly suggesting that NATO should significantly increase its military presence in Sudan. That's kind of a big deal. Considering that the genocide there is quite real and quite the bruise on any serious person's moral record. I know many people who are well aware of the genocide, but not so many who have responded to the urgency of the situation, myself included. This is one of the major areas, granted there are many, that Buzzsaw has fallen short in its coverage of international events is a lack of an article about Sudan. We've had them in the works before, but for one reason or another they have always fallen through. Hopefully we will have one for the upcoming "War is Complex" issue.

Now, I don't know if this is the correct policy prescription in any form, but I do know that Bush's call does bring a very large spotlight onto the genocide. Which can only be good. Though I do worry that this may be an example of big booming words followed by much smaller action. Notice what's buried at the very end of the article:

NATO diplomats said in Brussels this week the allies would look kindly on new appeals for help for African troops in Sudan but ruled out for now a major deployment of their own.

The U.N. Security Council has authorized Annan to draw up contingency plans for U.N. peacekeepers to go into Darfur.

Annan has indicated that U.S. help in planning was not enough and emphasized he needed sophisticated logistics, such as air support and intelligence so that soldiers could get to a trouble spots in time.

Washington has been noncommittal on troops for such a mission. If there were to be any significant deployment of U.S. troops in Darfur, it would be Washington's first major foray into African peacekeeping since it quit Somalia in 1994.

Also interesting to note are the two Senators who co-sponsored the resolution "calling for NATO troops to help the African Union `stop the genocide' in the Darfur region."

Both Biden and Brownback are both seeking the White House in 2008 for their respective parties.

This is definitely a story to keep an eye on in order to play witness to whether promises and pledges are followed through on.

- Glitter

My Favorite Country Kids

With his tour in full effect, Bobby Bare, Jr is getting little bit of press. Here's a Cleveland paper's lowdown on Bobby and crew coming to town. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to be able to make it to Buffalo to see him, but if you can make the drive, it's sunday night and certainly worth the $8 ticket price. The Young Criminals Starvation League smoke live. Here's an Indianapolis papers' take on the man.

My new musical obsession, Hank Williams III, also has a tour coming up and an album coming out. Here's a review of his new album, Straight To Hell. Remember, as Hank III says, if you're going to buy it, don't buy the censored version from Walmart or Hank's record label, Curb. Blender has an interview with Hank III too.

- Glitter

The Ongoing NSA Program Saga

So inquiries into the NSA program are going to happen, but just not about any of the aspects of it which people are legitimately curious about. For the record, there is still a program that was authorized by the President that allows the NSA to eavesdrop on American citizens' international communications without a warrant. But now, instead of looking into whether the program infringes harshly on civil rights and civil liberties, the Republican led Congress wants to change the FISA law that the Republican president broke so that it can no longer be considered broken.

Now, I don't claim to know many details about this program, as no one really does, but apparently the deal is that Congress will change the law in order to protect a program they don't know much about other than the fact that they apparently have no oversight over it. I think Senator Wyden brings up a good point here:

Mr. Roberts and other Republicans say they are wary of an investigation into the secret program because providing information to Congress might result in leaks. But Democrats say there is no way to pass legislation involving the program until they have more information about it.

"I don't think it's possible for Congress to produce responsible bipartisan legislation dealing with a program that Congress knows very little about," Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said.

And I agree with Senator Specter here:

"Unless they're prepared to have a determination on constitutionality as to their programs, window dressing oversight will not be sufficient."

If anyone is curious about how the White House is putting pressure on Congressional Republicans to cover for them, perhaps this will be enlightening.

Glenn Greenwald has a more optimistic take on the latest developments in the inquiries into the warrantless eavedropping program. Consider it a pep talk after the first quarter of a basketball game when the opposing team just scored a flurry of points right before the bell. These recent developments aren't good for morale, but they don't necessarily speak of the outcome of the story that is unfolding.

The Times has an outraged editorial about Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Commitee, continued obstruction of investigations into the administration.

Oh, and somewhat unrelated, but kinda sorta fucked up.

- Glitter


Hackett Drops Out of Ohio Senate Race, Politics in General

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my mulling of a Congressional campaign to work on after I graduate in May. At the time the front runner for my grunt work was Paul Hackett. That feeling has now become null and void as Hackett has dropped out of the race and supposedly politics forever.

It seems Hackett was pressured to drop out by party insiders, specifically Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senator Charles Schumer of New York, in order to make room for Congressman Sherrod Brown. While it is understandable that the party infrastructure wants to support the candidates whom they believe will have the best shot at winning, I can understand why Hackett feels he got a bit screwed over by them. According the the Times article, Reid and Schumer are the same Senators who urged him to join the race in the first place. It's been said that they wanted Hackett to run again in Ohio's Second district against Jean Schmidt, who narrowly beat him in a special election last year. However, Hackett claims he had already given his word to fellow Democrats who are running in that district that he would not run, and he does not want to renege on his word, which is an utterly respectable position, though perhaps disappointing from a purely political POV as Hackett would surely be the strongest candidate that could be fielded in that district. There's been a lot of mixed feelings about this on the internet with some like Markos, the Kos of Daily Kos thinks this is understandable and probably for the best. Many of his commenters disagree. As for me, I agree with Kos in the sense that strategically this might be better (though I don't really know, and Hackett out of politics is bad for Dems), but personally it is really disappointing because Hackett was a politician who actually riled me up and inspired me.

Now, this is also disappointing news for me because not only was Hackett running for a Senate seat that will be important in wrestling control of Congress from the Republicans, but he is also a veteran of the Iraq War, which is one of the pre-requisites for me in terms of working on someone's campaign this summer and fall. I'm not hardline on that point, but I really do think it would be the most enlightening experience I could seek out. There are still plenty of vets running as Dems in plenty of parts of the country, and I am sure I will find one I will feel comfortable working for, but most of them are for House seats, and while the House is certainly important, the Senate is the best shot we have at taking back one of the chambers of Congress. Though apparently things are looking better in the House then they had previously.

Hackett explains his decision here. He sent the same message to is email list.

More thoughts from Kos. Chris Bowers gives his thoughts on it here. Atrios simply calls it ugly.

If you're down in the dumps about this development, maybe this will help, a recording of a live Of Montreal concert that consists mainly of covers.

- Glitter


Defining America

The New York Times ran an interesting editorial observer yesterday about the role of Noah Webster in American history. Apparently he was an old time progressive, but perhaps more importantly, his efforts to establish an American lexicon of words was direct effort to distance America from England and in some ways to help establish a distinctly American culture.

The latest issue of Buzzsaw Haircut, The America Issue, aims to take look at some slices of American culture and what it means to be American or to even label something as American. Admittedly we were unable to cover many many aspects of the debates that surround the idea of America, so I thought this piece on Webster might be an interesting addition to our efforts, particularly covering an area we missed out on.

As for the plug that was surely telegraphed by the previous paragraphs, The America Issue is on campus now. Check it out.

- Glitter

Cheney Gives Shotgun Rash

I assume most people have heard the news about Vice President Dick Cheney shot a millionaire friend with a shotgun while hunting quail. By all accounts this seems to legitimately look like an accident, but it's also seems like it is still being spun by the White House.

Josh Marshall has a few posts delving into it, using his large readership as a base of knowledge about the likelihood of this particular huntin narrative(here, here, here, and here).

Interesting stuff. Obviously not a huge scandal or anything, but it certainly fits into the Cheney as bad guy image that is pretty common these days.

- Glitter

Oh, and this news broke on the same day that Republican and Democratic Senators called for an investigation into Cheney's involvement in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity. George Allen is not someone generally considered a moderate or a RINO (Republian In Name Only), so it's pretty big that he's the Repub talking on this. Probably the best source for further and updated info on the Plame scandal is Murray Waas.

Flipper Kidz Fun Show

The show's on right now. You can listen here.

For a playlist, check this livejournal.

- Glitter

Oh, and a hat tip to Copy,Right? for the french cover songs.


Blog Discourse

As seems to be the norm here, Peter Daou has written something worth reading. Check it out here. Daou and Josh Marshall are the two people thus far who I feel have been able to see the forest amongst the trees of the blogosphere in terms of analyzing and realizing the politcal potentials of this medium. Others, such as Kos and Atrios have definitely done much in terms of articulating and illustrating the potentials for this medium in terms of fostering political community and effectively activating it for change. However, in terms of articulation, I feel like Daou's essays on "the triangle" have been the clearest argued statement of how blogs can affect political change and Marshall's use of his readership's muckraking abilities on specificed issues such as social security bamboozlement has been the epitome of the potential of the blogosphere in bringing together citizens as active independent researchers conferring together to figure out what is the "truth" as best they can. So yeah, to me, most anything Daou writes about what blogs are doing, aren't doing, could be doing, shouldn't be doing, and so on, is worth a read.

I'm going to weigh in a little bit later on the latest chapter in the blogs vs. Washington Post scuffle, especially regarding the Post's online editor, Jim Brady's latest missive about the ordeal. My opinion in short form: The Post fucked up then fucked up again, but I don't agree with all of the criticism and tactics that have been dished by some of the big liberal blogs, mainly Atrios and Firedoglake.

- Glitter

PS, for those of you on the Ithaca College campus, keep your eyes open for the fresh issue of a certain magazine that will be hitting the stands this evening.


Library Tax Update

So I should have written about this on Weds., but I didn't, and I can't change that now.

So, the tax was defeated, by rather definitive margin too.

About 65 percent of all voters cast their votes against the proposed $540,000 tax levy. The vote count was 3,091 against and 1,679 for the tax, according to unofficial results from the ICSD.

I can't say I'm surprised by this. I only started paying attention during the last few days, but it was clear at that point that the dominant narrative was that the tax was not needed as direly as the library posited. Both local newspapers editorialized (here and here) against the tax, using separate, but confidently reasonsed arguments. The opposition made a louder argument in the press, and the library never sufficiently argued its position and reasoning for new tax. Whether the tax was needed or not, the impression created by the coverage was that it was extraneous and mysterious.

I never really came to a decision as to how I was going to vote on it, and to be fully honest, I didn't vote because I legitimately could not tell for myself what the right decision was. Thus my inertia, which I concede and know is not a good an example to be setting as someone who argues for active citizen participation in elections and governance. So, I fucked up and didn't vote. However, when I reflect on it now, I'm sure that at that moment in the booth when I would have had to make my final decision, my gut impulse would have swayed me to vote against the tax.

Perhaps the reason that I feel so odd about my opinion on this is not because of the merits of that decision and the fact that I would have voted against an increase of library resources at the cost of increased taxes, but because it means my decision aligned with the political goal/aim of Joe Brennan, a Republican in ICR who's sense of ethics caused another member of ICR to quit the club in protest over Brennan's potential leadership. Though in Joe's defense, I do have to say that the person who quit has a peculiar system of ethics. Conversations with him about relationships and the death penalty tend to contradict.

But yeah, I don't mind ending up at the same principled point (albeit from different direcetions and paths) with conservatives whose reasoning and moral base I can empathize with, but for some reason I have never been able to find an empathetic point with Mr. Brennan's arguments. That's not to say that he is someone who is beyond empathy. I've just never been able to find it when talking politics with him. He's very much in the vein of a Ken Mehlman where he so naturally spins for a political party's talking points, and yes all political parties spin talking points, that you hardly ever get the feeling he is struggling with the principles involved rather than just how to win political power.

So that's one of the places where my tension over this vote comes from.

I also think I am reflexively weary of the media manipulation when two people from the same ultimate source are labeled as being from different organizations and representing different points of view. Such as this:

Opponents of the tax said they were surprised with the results.

“I have never been so happy about being so wrong,” said Mark Finkelstein, the vice chairman of the Tompkins County Republican Committee. “I think it shows enough is enough. Perhaps this is some sort of turning point, and the taxpayers are saying ‘There is a limit.'”

Joe Brennan, the leader of the Students Against the Library Tax, said: “The voters of the Ithaca City School District have spoken, and hopefully this failed idea of a library tax is truly laid to rest in the history books.”

Ok, Finkelstein and Brennan are both cogs in local Republican party machinery. From what I understand of the Ithaca College Republicans through the infomral conversations I have with much of the leadership of, whom I have taken various classes with, Brennan is the person in the campus group who is most closely tied to Finkelstein and the local GOP. No where in the coverage of Students Aganist the Library Tax was it mentioned that it was comprised solely of members of the Ithaca College Republicans (as far as I can tell). I believe Brennan even goes on Finkelstein's cable access show regularly. Clever, strategic media outreach by the Repubs and a poor contextual job by the local media.

So yeah, that's that. I suppose this experience could be called my first foray into the world of being a lurker on local politics.

- Glitter


CPAC is Back

It's that time of year again when all the disperse strands of movement conservatives gather together to show off their claims to ideological purity. That's right folks, it's CPAC 2006. Myself, and two other Buzzsaw editors attended the conference last year as undercover correspondents, and I can say it was a surreal and frightening time, but also a strange look into an active movement for political and legislative power in this country (and perhaps world). Unfortunately the article we wrote doesn't seem to be online. So, instead, if you're curious, may I suggest checking out the current conference through the eyes of an undercover Campus Progress correspondent.

It's especially worth a look for college students, as much of CPAC is focused on grooming the young of the conservative movement. It's also notorious for drunken College Republican shenanigans.

That's all for now, but hopefully I'll have a post up later today going over yesterday's Ithacan as well as other news of the day.

- Glitter

(Full disclosure: Buzzsaw Haircut is partially funded through a grant from Campus Progress.)


This seems like a rather big deal, and also rather deceitful.

Allen Sloan in the Washington Post:

Last year, even though Bush talked endlessly about the supposed joys of private accounts, he never proposed a specific plan to Congress and never put privatization costs in the budget. But this year, with no fanfare whatsoever, Bush stuck a big Social Security privatization plan in the federal budget proposal, which he sent to Congress on Monday.

His plan would let people set up private accounts starting in 2010 and would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years.

If this comes as a surprise to you, have no fear. You're not alone. Bush didn't pitch private Social Security accounts in his State of the Union message last week.

Seems the Social Security trench wars are back on. Better check in with Josh Marshall.

Now it just so happens we still have the Conscience Caucus list online -- remember, that's the list of the Republicans who wouldn't publicly commit to phase-out last year.

Are they coming out against Phase Out Round Two?

I wonder how this will play out for the 2006 elections? Grassroots pressure seemed to turn the tide against Round One. Can it do it for Round Two?

Here are more numbers from Sloan:

Unlike Bush's generalized privatization talk of last year, we're now talking detailed numbers. On page 321 of the budget proposal, you see the privatization costs: $24.182 billion in fiscal 2010, $57.429 billion in fiscal 2011 and another $630.533 billion for the five years after that, for a seven-year total of $712.144 billion.

In the first year of private accounts, people would be allowed to divert up to 4 percent of their wages covered by Social Security into what Bush called "voluntary private accounts." The maximum contribution to such accounts would start at $1,100 annually and rise by $100 a year through 2016.

It's not clear how big a reduction in the basic benefit Social Security recipients would have to take in return for being able to set up these accounts, or precisely how the accounts would work.

It will be interesting to see if this gets much press beyond Sloan's article and a sail around the liberal blogosphere. I'm sure TPM will be on the case.

- Glitter

Something of Note about the Role of Blogs

I would never argue that blogs are some kind of threat to traditional forms of media or journalism, as some bloggers can tend to imply in the dizzying heights of blog triumphalism. But I would like to point out two specific recent instances where original reporting by blogs has opened up larger stories and actually had the type of impact journalism is meant to have, in that they brought more truth to the discourse.

Example #1: Glenn Greenwald and the DeWine Amendment.

On his blog, Unclaimed Territory, Glenn pointed to legislation that was introduced by Ohio Senator Mike DeWine in 2002 that sought to eliminate the same barrier in FISA that Gen. Michael Hayden argued the administration was necessitated to bypass for the NSA eavesdropping program. But at the time, the Bush Department of Justice objected to the legislation, arguing that FISA was fine as it was and the change might be unconstitutional. This revelation brought many new questions to the discussion of the NSA eavesdropping program and in effect shifted the discourse a bit. This story was picked up by the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, amongst other news media outlets. All gave credit to Glenn for first scooping the story.

Example #2: Nick Anthis and the Bush appointee

I noted before that a NASA scientist was complaining about having his voice muffled by political appointees of the Bush administration. Days later, another article came out that named George Deutsch as the person who actively tried to suppress the scientist as well as alter the language of NASA educational materials so that they allowed room for intelligent design. Two days ago on Feb 6th, on his blog called Scientific Activist, Nick Anthis posted that through his own reporting he had discovered that Deutsch had never graduated from Texas A & M, even tough news reports had listed him as a graduate. Today, the New York Times reports that Deutsch has resigned, at least partially over lying about his graduate status from Texas A & M. Just like with Greenwald, Anthis' blog was given a hat tip for making the initial discovery that opened up this new part of the story.

Now, these two cases by no means prove that bloggers are all journalists, but I do think they does throw spit in the eye of the argument that bloggers are nothing, but partisan and opinionated pundits. Some are, some aren't. There are many forms in the blogosphere. As Jay Rosen points out (well, he's quoting James W. Carey), journalism is a practice, not a label. You are a journalist when you are reporting on and recording for posterity what is going on in life, not just because you draw a paycheck from a news media institution. To me, the above mentioned examples are but two instances of how blogs can positively play into our culture and democracy.

- Glitter


Doesn't Rove Have His Own Investigation To Worry About?

White House puts politics over rule of law...film at 11.

Oh, and does this vaguely sound like either a bribe or extortion to anyone?

The sources said the administration has been alarmed over the damage that could result from the Senate hearings, which began on Monday, Feb. 6. They said the defection of even a handful of Republican committee members could result in a determination that the president violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Such a determination could lead to impeachment proceedings.

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Rove has been calling in virtually every Republican on the Senate committee as well as the leadership in Congress. The sources said Mr. Rove's message has been that a vote against Mr. Bush would destroy GOP prospects in congressional elections.

"He's [Rove] lining them up one by one," another congressional source said.

Mr. Rove is leading the White House campaign to help the GOP in November’s congressional elections. The sources said the White House has offered to help loyalists with money and free publicity, such as appearances and photo-ops with the president.

Those deemed disloyal to Mr. Rove would appear on his blacklist. The sources said dozens of GOP members in the House and Senate are on that list.

It does to me.

- Glitter


NSA Congressional Hearings Day One

You, whomever may read this, may have noticed that I'm rather interested in the revelation of NSA's warrantless domestic spying program authorized by the administration.

The first day of the Senate hearings was/is today, with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifying, though apparently not under oath. I haven't gotten a chance to read too much about how it went, so I'm just going to link to things as I go through it. Consider this a round up:

* Senator Leahy's smackdown opening statement.

* WaPo's article,Gonzales Defends Legality Of Surveillance.

* Gonzales' prepared opening statement.

* NY Times' article, Defense of Eavesdropping Is Met With Skepticism In Senate.

* Glenn Greenwald's live blogging of the hearings. In general, Glenn's blog is kind of the go to site for left of the aisle analysis of this affair.

* Reuters' article, Democrats Frustrated By Gonzales On Eavesdropping.

* LA Times' (via Chicago Tribune) article, Spirited Debate On Limits Of Presidential Power. Be sure to read page 2 of it.

* Think Progress picks out a strong point made by Lindsay Graham (R-SC).

* Here's the Fox News' take on the proceedings. Strangely, their front page, as of 5:39 PM, has the hearings relegated to a side bar while 3 stories pointing towards "big bad Muslims" are front and center.

* John at AmericaBlog has a running commentary throughout the day. Take a scroll down it. Same goes for Digby

* For a taste of how the hearings are being interpreted over on the still-supporting Bush Right side of the aisle (I say that because some conservatives and Repubs have come out against this program), you can check out Powerline, a good enough weathervane for the apologists.

I'll probably give my thoughts on this sometime soon.

- Glitter

Library Tax Debate

It's been a motto of mine for a year or two now that I will only be legitimately politically engaged once I am engaged in local politics. With that idea in mind, I have been trying to read more and more about not only Ithaca College, but also Tompkins County issues. So today, I'm going to try to look a little deeper into a pertinent local issue while adding what I can to the discussion.

Tomorrow, Feb. 7th, there is a county-wide referendum to decide whether or not to approve a new tax that would ultimately provide $540,000 in new funding for the Tompkins County Public Library. (BTW, having just read the above linked article for a second time, and for an article that claims to be looking at the spectrum of debate, it seems to lopsidedly report on the opposing viewpoint. Strangely, or not so strangely, the article appeared in the same issue as the paper's editorial against the tax. Another article that focuses more on the library's POV, and is generally more balanced, can be found here.)

When I first recieved a flier about this at the library, my initial gut reaction was "of course the library should be supported, it's a great public service that all can benefit from." But I do have to say, after reading this editorial in the Ithaca Journal, I'm not so sure anymore. The editors do make a rather compelling case against the tax, mainly due to the fact that the tax will be added onto property tax, and according to the editors:

the property tax levy carried by local households in the Ithaca school district has increased $12.54 million, about 28 percent, in the past five years. For city residents, that increase comes on top of a 75 percent jump in combined county and city property taxes for the same time.

I'm not completely convinced by the editorial, but I do have to say, if their numbers are right, they do raise some vexing questions. Another issue they bring up is the state of the library workers' labor contract. Apparently they have a pretty good deal through United Auto Workers 2300. I consider myself pretty pro-union, and don't really mind that much that library employees get paid a decent salary and a living wage (Under the recently expired contract, librarians were earning between $20.99 and $26.25 per hour; Clerks earned $13.30 an hour; and Pages earned $11.79 per hour), but some of the provisions pointed out by the Journal do seem extraneous to me. According to the Journal's editorial:

Union employees at the library work 35-hour weeks, with time between 35 and 40 hours triggering “compensatory time” or paid time off. The contracts contain seven paid holidays, five “floating holidays,” 12 personal/sick days and two weeks vacation as a starting point; meaning even without comp time, after the first year a new employee can have as many as 34 paid days off. The deals also carry over a previous arbitrator's ruling making summer Saturdays join all Sundays as workdays at time-and-a-half pay. That means, putting aside comp time again, for every weekend the library is open in the summer wages equal to the cost of another Sunday are burned in overtime.

Terry Sharpe, President of the UAW Local 2300, responded to criticism of the union's contract with a letter to the editor here.

He raised the interesting point of how focus has been on the labor contract while the library administration earns and spends a lot:

If the public somehow believes that our union workers earn too much, why is no one asking about the director's salary ($84,152 in 2004), which is significantly more than those of many county managers? What about the huge annual bonuses awarded to the director and assistant director (totaling $20,050 in 1999-2001)? Why do they spend thousands in legal and miscellaneous fees ($45,400 in 2004)? Why do they hire an expensive lawyer to negotiate the labor contracts, when traditionally the library trustees have always negotiated these themselves? Why pay a private company to water and maintain the plants?

Truthfully, after having read all of this, I don't quite know where to stand on it. The meme by most supporters is that the tax increase would come to about $25 per year for the average residential property in the Ithaca City School District. I don't know how much this will affect people in the district, especially those who come under the average. Apparently the tax works by a "rate of 17 cents per $1,000 of taxable assessed value in 2006 and will be on the same bill as school district taxes. A house assessed at $100,000 would pay about $17 for the library tax."

The Journal printed 6 letters supporting the tax (here, here, here, here, here, and here) as well as one opposing. The Ithaca Times also came out against it in an editorial as well. The Times also had an Op-Ed in favor of the tax.

It seems to me that oppositional voices have some legitimate concerns, but there also seems to be a more generalized anti-tax feeling fueling much of the opposition to this particular tax. This seems most apparent to me in the case of the so-called Students Against Library Tax (SALT), run by an Ithaca College student who is an active, and quite partisan, member of the Ithaca College Republicans. That person, Joe Brennan:

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wrote an Op-Ed for the Journal that doesn't address any of the substantial issues raised by most opponents, but rather just attacks the process. His first point of contention is that the election is in February, instead of the generally accepted electoral month of November. This point seems odd to me considering Brennan just got back from a holiday season campaign in San Diego. This leads me to believe that the criticism of the timing of the election is hypocritical and likely just political.

He does also raise the legitimate question of the fact that the election and much of the pro-tax support was being funded by a philandthropist who until recently had been anonymous. This does raise some questions, but it is also a diversion from tackling the tax on its merits - whether it is the right choice for the community or not in terms of finances and services.

My instinct that Brennan is against the tax for ideological reasons stem from having had two classes with him as well as from this graf in his Op-Ed:

As it stands, New York already has the second highest combined state and local taxes. By passing this measure, not only will we further perpetuate this problem that has caused thousands of citizens and jobs to head elsewhere, but we will be publicly stating our support for such a policy. I cannot do either in good faith, and have formed Students Against the Library Tax in response to my beliefs on the issue. Our group is dedicated to informing the public on the issues raised in this article and strongly urges the defeat of the library tax.

As for SALT, I find it kind of odd that the group is being displayed as a student initiative, yet to my knowledge there has not been a single effort to engage the Ithaca College student community on this issue. I have not seen a single op-ed or letter to the editor in the Ithacan nor have I seen a single flier on campus. For a group that is purporting to speak for students it has done a piss poor job of informing students that an election is even occurring. If one of Brennan's main worries is that people won't turn out for this election because it is in February then why isn't he trying to inform his community that the election is occuring? Without these efforts, Students Against Library Tax reeks to me of a manipulative attempt to use the image of students (which can be a strong image rhetorically in a discussion about libraries) without actually engaging students.

BONUS UPDATE: A view into College Republican electoral tactics. Also, an article by Franklin Foer about the teaching of dirty tricks to Republican youth.

Now, I may end up taking the same final position on the tax as SALT, a No vote, but their tactics don't seem right to me. I'm not basing my position on ideology (or fufillment of school credit), but rather a weighing of the pros and cons of the matter. SALT however, its not clear to me what their real reasons for being against the vote is. If it's cause they're ideologically anti-tax, why don't they just come out and say it?

Hopefully I'll have made a decision by the end of the day in terms of yay or ney.

Oh, and finally, some needless libel of Mr. Brennan through his own actions and words:

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Joe on a Mets message board:

There are a lot of Asians here at Ithaca, some with funny names. There' Soo Me Kim, and So Yung Ho.

On the subject of names, (and I know this is superficial, but I'm up front about it) I have a very hard time becoming attracted to girls with obscure names. Fortunately for me, I recently came by a pretty Ms. Lisa Smith.

- Glitter