Saturday, March 31, 2007

All praise the B-3

Long before R2D2 was a gleam in George Lucas's eye, there was the Hammond B-3. Okay, so it's not a robot per se, but I would venture to guess that we might get to hear a few more B-3s played live if someone could figure out a way to use robotics to move the dern things from place to place.

The Hammond B-3 is the famous organ used in such R&B masterpieces as Al Green's "Take Me to the River". It's an electric organ that forces the sound through a sort of fan called a Leslie, affording it a lovely whirring texture.

Tomorrow night, the sublime vocalist (and former Washington Redskin) Dick Smith will be accompanied by an all-star outfit at his gig at The Islander, including Hammond B-3 player and all-round keyboardist Greg LaMont. Throw David "Git" Cole into the mix, and you've got a hot night. The performance starts at 7:00 PM.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The cops from U.N.C.L.E.

In response to Jim Dwyer's aforementioned piece on the NYPD's widespread spying on people who planned to protest the 2004 Republican National Convention, the New York Times has run some elucidating letters to the editor. To wit:

To the Editor:

I was struck by the dry statement that “many of the 1,806 people arrested during the convention were held for up to two days on minor offenses normally handled with a summons.”

My daughter was among those arrested. She and the people she was with asked each police officer they passed whether he had any objection to their peacefully walking down the street and were reassured that there was no problem. They were herded into a trap surrounded by police officers (some embarrassed and apologetic).

They were taken to a warehouse. The only water was one toilet and one water fountain. They were left chained together in groups overnight, sleeping without pads or blankets.

Many developed rashes and other allergic reactions. Those whose medications had been confiscated started to become ill. The next day, they were taken to another holding pen, where they again spent the night heaped on a jail floor. They were held for three days and released only when the convention was ending, told that they could cause no more trouble.

It appears that this reaction was meant to convey that you will be risking your life the next time you attend a peaceful demonstration. Civil rights lawyers sued the city, and most of the original cases were thrown out on technicalities.

Leslie English
High Falls, N.Y., March 25, 2007
Your blogstress is most fascinated by this story since, as a blogger covering that convention, she saw exactly zero protests. That was because the cordons and checkpoints formed so wide a perimeter around Madison Square Garden that the Times Square hotel at which your Webwench squatted (and the Times Square church at which she prayed for her nation's deliverance) were apparently within the hot zone.



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Monday, March 26, 2007

NYPD saves world from hippie peacemongers
Bicycle held as lethal weapon

Your blogstress is most gratified to see that, two-and-a-half years after the fact , the extreme and unconstitutional level of surveillance and free-speech impediment resorted to by New York City Police during the 2004 Republican National Convention remains of interest.

Today, Jim Dwyer's page-one piece from yesterday's New York Times ranks among the paper's "most e-mailed" articles, meaning that it's making the rounds beyond the paper's usual (and significant) readership. Before anyone thinks wistfully of the possibility of a presidential candidacy by New York's mild-mannered Mayor Michael Bloomberg, your Webwench humbly asks such a one to reconsider in light of the news of the widespread and worldwide spying done by New York's finest in the year leading up to the convention.

And beyond the spying was the nasty little tactic of detaining people just before they were to begin their protests, only to release them without charge some 24 hours later. Dwyer tells of one particularly interesting police intervention on an artist:

At the other end of the threat spectrum was Joshua Kinberg, a graduate student at Parsons School of Design and the subject of four pages of intelligence reports, including two pictures. For his master’s thesis project, Mr. Kinberg devised a “wireless bicycle” equipped with cellphone, laptop and spray tubes that could squirt messages received over the Internet onto the sidewalk or street.

The messages were printed in water-soluble chalk, a tactic meant to avoid a criminal mischief charge for using paint, an intelligence report noted. Mr. Kinberg’s bicycle was “capable of transferring activist-based messages on streets and sidewalks,” according to a report on July 22, 2004.

“This bicycle, having been built for the sole purpose of protesting during the R.N.C., is capable of spraying anti-R.N.C.-type messages on surrounding streets and sidewalks, also supplying the rider with a quick vehicle of escape,” the report said. Mr. Kinberg, then 25, was arrested during a television interview with Ron Reagan for MSNBC’s “Hardball” program during the convention. He was released a day later, but his equipment was held for more than a year.
Your blogstress had the pleasure of covering aspects of the convention for the New York Blade and the Washington Blade, arriving in New York on August 29, 2003, to find a city frightfully unlike the one in which she had toiled, lo, so many years in the magazine biz. All of midtown was in some state of lockdown. The city in which anything once went had become the city where no one could go from Point A to Point B -- at least, not without one's papers.

Inside the convention hall, GOP goons ruled the day.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Hot & blue

2006 © NoVaRon

D.C. denizens won't want to miss bluesman David "Git" Cole tomorrow evening at The Islander, one of the great, authentic U Street establishments. If you've never seen Cole with his band, Main Street Blues, you really can't call yourself a blues fan. Consider the gauntlet thrown, mes amis.

For a taste -- more a tease, really -- of Cole with his big, red guitar, check out his MySpace page.

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Lexiconography: 'a date certain'

Your blogstress finds herself most charmed by the use of this term, with its French-like construction, and one with which she has heretofore been unfamiliar (the term, that is; not French construction, to which the bowing stays of her bustier will readily attest). These days in medialand, of course, "a date certain" refers to a provision in legislation making the rounds on Capitol Hill that calls for the "redeployment" of those U.S. troops now quagmired in Iraq, legislation that very well may pass both houses of Congress, only to be vanquished by the mighty presidential pen. [It's apparently a common legal term. As for your Webwench, she'll settle for un rendez-vous certain (et chaud) ce fin de semaine.]

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The lit of the world

photo by David Guard/Stop the Drug War

Looks like Ken Starr, author of the titilating Starr Report, has gone all butch 'n' everything, apparently taking a page out of the Jack Abramoff sartorial playbook. Alas, Starr, even in his black hat -- which would look much more sexy on a hatstand, thinks your blogstress* -- can't hide his kill-joy spirit as he tries to vindicate, via the Supreme Court, the high-school principal who expelled a student for unfurling a banner that read, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

Mr. Starr appears to have missed the part of the New Testament known as the Semon on the Mount, wherein Jesus tells his followers:

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Now, it's probably safe to assume that Mr. Starr regards the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" kid as something of an enemy. And if he regards the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" sign as something of a curse upon him, no less than Jesus himself has ordered Mr. Starr to bless the little stoner.

Some of the best coverage of this silly case has been by blogger Emil Steiner, who writes:
But is it just about "illegal substances" ("Guns, Cigarettes, and Doctor Prescribed Oxycontin 4 Jesus" would be okay?), or could this ruling allow schools to tear down any banners they simply don't like? And this is where the issue becomes slightly more bizarre. The New York Times reported yesterday that "organizations that litigate and speak on behalf of the religious right" (i.e., ones you'd expect to back Ken Starr) have thrown in a number of briefs on Fredrick's behalf. These groups even include Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, which "is dependent upon God and the resources He provides" to defend religious freedom. So what appeared at first to be a political slam dunk for social conservatives has now become something of an ideological key party, with the religious right jumping into bed with the ACLU and the National Coalition Against Censorship. I suppose all is fair in love and culture war.
For more photos of the players in this smoke-filled room (alas, for Ken Starr, no cigars at hand), go to

*Of course, your blogstress looks quite fetching in a man's black hat.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

And what about Yemen?

It's hard to know just what to make of the confessions gushing out of Guantanamo this week. First, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who allegedly took responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, and now Waleed bin Attash, whom AP's Pauline Jelinek reports as having taken responsibility for blowing up the U.S.S. Cole.

Your blogstress knows nothing of bin Attash, and has no reason to doubt his confession other than the fact that it may have been coerced by torture-like methods. But that doesn't mean it's not true.

More to the point, thinks your écrivaine, are the remarks of Jamal Gunn, a 26-year-old in Virginia Beach who lost his brother, a U.S. sailor, in the Cole attack:

"The thing is, we want accountability from all levels, not just the foreign nationals who pulled off the attack, who masterminded the attack, but those who let it happen within our government as well," said Jamal Gunn, 26, of Virginia Beach, Va., whose brother, Cherone Gunn, was killed aboard the Cole. Gunn said the Cole should not have stopped in Yemen because that country was on a terrorist watch list.
This, mes amis, was your cyberscribe's thought, exactly. What on earth was the Cole doing in Yemen in 2000? When news came that, for the first time since the embassy bombings in Africa, the U.S. Navy was docking a ship in Yemen, your net-tête scratched her pretty little tête, saying, "I dunno that's such a great idea." What did your blogstress know that the U.S. military apparently did not? Nothing she hadn't read in the newspapers, that's what. And what the newspapers said was that there was this bad guy named Osama bin Laden who liked to hurt Americans and had ties to Yemen, which was on the safe-harbor-for-terrorists list.

In fact, after the attacks of September 11, 2001, your blogstress was convinced that the U.S. commandos were looking in the wrong place for the tall one as they combed the caves of Tora Bora. She wondered, has anybody checked out Yemen? But what does she know?

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Read me my Marimba rights!

You have the right to remain seated -- or do the Macarena -- while you watch your blogstress's omni-instrumental compadre, Steve Messina, man the mallets.

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Bad day to be Caesar

Beware the Ides of March, a day on which rendering unto Caesar bode not well for Rome's commander-in-chief.

As for our own top gun, though less fatal, it's not such a great day, either.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Take my ovaries – please!

Your blogstress agrees most heartily in principle with The Nation’s Patricia J. Williams and Brother Ben Adler, your Webwench’s colleague on TAPPED, that the parents of a nine-year-old with the brain of three-month-old should not have to choose between institutionalizing her or subjecting her to a hysterectomy. However, there’s one bit of Williams’ argument your écrivaine finds a bit faulty, and it’s quoted by Brother Ben in this TAPPED post:

“Who of us, with full capacity to consent, would undergo the painful invasiveness of a full hysterectomy just to prevent cramps or as a prophylactic against rape's violations? Why then should it be permitted in the case of someone who has no capacity to protest?”
The answer to this question clearly depends on one’s perspective, and it’s one, I think, that an adult woman with full capacity to consent should be permitted to decide on her own, but she is not.

Your cybertrix, you see, would have gladly undergone a full hysterectomy for the sake of eliminating truly debilitating menstrual pain (“cramps,” they’re really not), but no reputable gynecologist could your blogstress find to perform the procedure. “What if you should want to have a baby someday?” the doctors asked. “ What if you should change your mind?” I wouldn’t, I assured them, but I was deemed to be incapable of knowing my own mind, presumably because any woman capable of having children should want to be having them.

For your ’net-tête, her only regret in the reproductive realm are the many weeks of needless pain that impeded her productivity, thanks to the prejudices of the medical establishment.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

No Giuliani time for firefighters

While hordes of New York's finest once followed Rudolph Giuliani to City Hall for something of a race riot against then-Mayor David Dinkins, New York's bravest apparently have no intention of helping Dinkins' successor into the White House.

According to the Associated Press, the fire-fighters' union today accused Giuliani of ordering the desceration of the remains of firefighters buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11:

The International Association of Fire Fighters, in a draft letter, excoriated Giuliani for his November 2001 decision to cut back the number of firefighters searching the rubble of Ground Zero for the remains of some 300 fallen comrades.

The 280,000-member union accused him of expediting the clean-up process with a "scoop-and-dump" operation after the recovery of millions of dollars in gold, silver and other assets from the Bank of Nova Scotia that had been buried.
For those too young to remember (your blogstress was a very little girl, a-hem), "Giuliani time" refers to the utterances of white New York police officers while sexually assaulting a black man, Abner Louima, whom they deemed troublesome. Explaining their attack to their victim, the cops were alleged to have said, "It's Giuliani time."

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Coulter's gender

Your blogstress finds it rather disheartening to see her fellow liberals, in a rather mean-spirited manner, questioning the gender identification of Ann Coulter, a self-described straight, Christian woman. Just today, your cybertrix read a comment on a liberal site from a reader who said that he had always "read" Coulter as a "trannie."

Tsk, tsk, says your Webwench, who has several trangendered friends, all of them kind, funny and smart people. (After all, there's a reason why they're your net-tête's friends.) To borrow a construction from Mlle. Coulter, why would you want to insult the transgendered by counting Ann Coulter among them?

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Finding the outrage

Melissa Silverstein of the Women's Media Center offers this take (quoting your blogstress's fabulous former colleague, Mary Kay Blakely) on the new media war between right-wingers and the feminist bloggers who were hired by the John Edwards campaign, only to relinquish those appointments after the noxious Bill Donohue -- a first-rate mysogynist and anti-Semite -- made great hay out of the posts of Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare’s Sister:

As the drama unfolded, others enthusiastically joined the attack, and disturbing sexualized comments flooded into the women’s blogs. "Problem with women like you, you just need a good fucking from a real man," read one posting. Another was, "It’s just too bad your mother didn’t abort you. You are nothing more than a filthy mouth slut. I bet a couple of years in Iraq being raped and beaten daily would help you appreciate America a little."

Sexualized threats against women, and especially feminists, are, of course, nothing new.

Blogs like those of Marcotte and McEwan have become a space for cutting-edge feminist discourse. And when women are vilified for feminist opinions we must all take notice. "In a peculiar way the web and the blog sites are the street movements and street marches and demonstrations of 30 years ago," says Mary Kay Blakely, also on the Missouri School of Journalism faculty. "I always wonder where is the outrage. It’s obviously on the internet."

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Guess Coulter's crowd didn't get the joke

At The Politico, Anne Schroeder offers up some juicy dish on right-wingers apparently appalled by Ann Coulter's gay-bashing:

At a conference in Ft. Lauderdale over the weekend at the Center for Reclaiming America, which is connected to TV preacher James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, Coulter reiterated her John Edwards description...


A birdie on the scene told us that after the f-word remark about Johnny Boy, the hundreds of conservatives who filled the church to the brim, gasped in shock. Moments later, she bid her adieu.
For more on this, check out the (PDF file) letter sent by Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United to Rev. Gary Cass of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Scooter, Scooter, Mobooter

And so it has come to this, Scooter Libby taking the fall, as they say, for Pug-nose Rove and the Bush administration. This has your blogstress's fine friend, the Internationalist, a bit distressed. "How well can a guy named Scooter fare in prison?" he asks. "Not lookin' good for the Scoot."

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

J. Scales video and more

If you've never had the joy of seeing the incomparable J. Scales perform, check out this video of J. performing her signature anthem, "Maybe She Thought," at the California Serafemme Festival.

And Washingtonians can catch J. tomorrow night at Mocha Hut.

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