Thursday, December 31, 2009

50 Albums of 2009

Edited late December 31, 2009 to add A Place to Bury Strangers. I'm disappointed I didn't know about this earlier. It is the second coming of the Jesus and Mary Chain

As usual, I didn't spend as much time listening to music as I would have liked in the past year. This is mostly just the soundtrack for frustrated editing and driving back and forth from work while wearing a wool suit in July.

Definitely not enough Hip Hop. Raekwon was better than I expected but still made me wish I were listening to the original.

Regina Spektor didn't get enough credit from anyone except my wife.

And I am clearly a C93 fanboy. I'll follow him through hell. While others in that crowd (Death in June) got stale and started doing the same thing over and over again, Tibet seems to still be branching out, even if Aleph seems like a direct extension of the guitar-heavy parts of Black Ships.

1. Current 93 - Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain
2. Hyperdub - 5 Years of Hyperdub (Disc 1)
3. Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light
4. Regina Spektor - Far
5. Pretty Lights - Passing By Behind Your Eyes
6. Dan Deacon - Bromst
7. Telefon Tel Aviv - Immolate Yourself
8. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
9. A Place to Bury Strangers - Exploding Head
10. 93 Million Miles From The Sun - 93 Million Miles From The Sun
11. Two Fingers - Two Fingers
12. Vitalic - Flashmob
13. Mos Def - The Ecstatic
14. Tv Ghost - Cold Fish
15. HEALTH - Get Color
16. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
17. DatA - Skywriter
18. Moby - Wait For Me
19. Fleeting Joys - Occult Radiance
20. Sonic Youth - The Eternal
21. William Basinski - 92982
22. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... II
23. Kid Cudi - Man On The Moon: The End Of Day
24. Converge - Axe to Fall
25. Bowerbirds - Upper Air
26. Depeche Mode - Sounds of the Universe
27. Doomriders - Darkness Comes Alive
28. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
29. Bastard Noise - Rogue Astronaut
30. Little Black Dress - Snow In June
31. ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - The Century of Self
32. Snowblood - Snowblood
33. The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away
34. Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas - II
35. FM ATTACK - Dreamatic
36. Caspian - Tertia
37. Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country
38. Clubroot - Clubroot
39. FaltyDL - Love is a Liability
40. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
41. Alpinist - Minus.Mensch
42. Hudson Mohawke - Butter
43. Lazer Sword - Gucci Sweatshirt
44. Japandroids - Post-Nothing
45. Mantic Ritual - Executioner
46. Vladislav Delay - Tummaa
47. The Phantom Band - Checkmate Savage
48. The Thermals - Now We Can See
49. Phonat - Phonat
50. Altar of Plagues - White Tomb

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Changing direction?

I don't know why I post news stories here. No one checks this thing regularly and it's all obvious stuff that you can get from real news sites and feeds or the links that people post on facebook. And no one cares about my personal stuff.

I used to post bad poetry. Maybe I'll try writing a novel on here. It's a good way of organizing my thoughts and motivating myself to do something besides stress out over the dull vagaries of trust, federal tax, securities, and electronic privacy law.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Awesome Hip-Hop: Definite & B.L.I.N.G.

Definite & B.L.I.N.G. - Flavourism

How have I not heard of this before?

Oh yeah, because they're from Aukland. I guess Flight of the Conchords isn't New Zealand's only export.

Nice if you want something upbeat for the coming spring and summer months.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Walt on "The Treason of Hawks"

What is Benjamin Netanyahu Thinking? | Stephen M. Walt

I am substantially more sympathetic to international relations realists than I used to be, especially of the defensive variety. Contrary to the psychotic image of them encouraged by the likes of Henry Kissinger, nearly all of the them came out against the Iraq invasion, before it was politically expedient.

Walt has an interesting take on the pitfalls of single-minded hawkishness in the context of Netanhayu and the two-state solution:
After pointing out that "treason" is a word that carries especially harsh moral connotations, Ikle noted:
[T]he English language is without a word of equally strong opprobrium to designate acts that can lead to the destruction of one’s government and one’s country, not by giving aid and comfort to the enemy, but by making enemies, not by fighting too little, but by fighting too much and too long. 'Adventurism' -- much too weak a word -- is perhaps the best term to describe this 'treason of the hawks.' ... Treason can help our enemies destroy our country by making them stronger; adventurism can destroy our country by making our enemies more numerous."
I was reminded of Iklé’s insights when I read about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ideas for resuming the peace process with the Palestinians. Netanyahu clearly wants to avoid an open rift with the Obama administration, which has forcefully reiterated its commitment to negotiating a two-state solution. To do that, he has to pay lip service to the peace process. But because Netanyahu has long opposed the creation of a viable Palestinian state and instead wants to extend Israel's control of the West Bank, he has to lay out a set of demands that will endlessly delay the process and make it hard for Obama to put meaningful pressure on him.
According to Ha'aretz, Netanyahu will insist that the Palestinians go beyond their prior recognition of Israel's right to exist (as expressed in the 1993 Oslo Accord) and explicitly recognize Israel as a "Jewish state." Furthermore, he wants the United States to agree that a future Palestinian state be barred from possessing its own army and forbidden from making alliances with other countries, while Israel is permitted to monitor its borders, its airspace, and its use of the electromagnetic spectrum, presumably in perpetuity. In the meantime, the expansion of Israeli settlements will surely continue, and in ways that will soon preclude any possibility of a territorially contiguous state on the West Bank. Lastly, Netanyahu wants to link progress toward a two-state solution with an end to Iran's nuclear program. As I've noted before, this condition would allow Tehran -- purposely or inadvertently -- to derail a two-state solution by stonewalling on the nuclear issue. Ironically, this outcome might suit Iran and Netanyahu alike: Israel could keep expanding settlements and the Islamic Republic could continue to play the Palestine card against its Arab rivals.

My question is this: What is Netanyahu thinking? Doesn't he realize that time has nearly run out for the two-state solution, and that failure to achieve it is by far the most serious threat facing Israel? The prime minister and his allies keep harping about an "existential" threat from Iran, but this bogeyman is mostly nonsense. Iran has zero -- repeat, zero -- nuclear weapons today, and even if it were to acquire a few at some point in the future, it could not use them against nuclear-armed Israel without committing national suicide. Let me say that again: national suicide.
It is just refreshing to read someone who treat Iranians and Palestinians like actual people.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The New Depeche Mode is Good

Some have said it's the best thing they have done since Violator. I'm still not sure if it's better than Playing the Angel, but it took me a little while to start liking that album.

If you like synthpop, get it.

AMG Review

Monday, April 20, 2009

Harold Koh and Conservative Misinformation

Good post.

This whole uproar over citing international legal authority is mind-bogglingly stupid. It amounts to insisting that courts aren't allowed to be persuaded by international sources. That's utter bullshit. Persuasion depends on the validity and soundness of the reasoning and there's no reason that U.S. courts can't look to foreign jurisdictions to see what works any more than sovereign state courts can't look to other state courts to see what rules they have adopted. No one is suggesting that foreign law is binding on U.S. courts and the people who are defaming Koh probably know that.

Koh’s unremarkable position is that rulings by non-American courts should be considered, when applicable, as persuasive authority in deciding an issue before an American court. Unless required by treaty, American courts would have no obligation to follow the decisions of any foreign courts. They should merely consider how they addressed the same issue. Not only is this not controversial, it is also common sense.

For example, if Philadelphia’s City Council is considering the effect a smoking ban will have on local businesses, it would be foolish not to look at how similar bans affected business in New York or London. Similarly, if a court is considering whether mentally retarded defendants should be sentenced to death, it might want to see how other democracies with similar values have addressed the issue.

This is little different than a Pennsylvania court citing the opinion of a New Jersey court in support of its decision. To do otherwise would be to ignore the world around us and deprive courts of a valuable tool in understanding the consequences of their decisions. Unless you believe that judges should pay no attention to the results of their actions, Koh’s position should not alarm you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Texas Law Enforcement Using Civil Asset Forfeiture to Intimidate Black Drivers

Not a real surprise. But I'm glad it's getting reported.
By Howard Witt

March 11, 2009

Reporting from Tenaha, Texas — You can drive into this dusty fleck of a town near the Texas-Louisiana state line if you're African American, but you might not be able to drive out of it -- at least not with your car, your cash, your jewelry or other valuables.

That's because the police here allegedly have found a way to strip motorists, many of them black, of their property without ever charging them with a crime. Instead they offer out-of-towners a grim choice: Sign over your belongings to the town, or face felony charges of money laundering or other serious crimes.

More than 140 people reluctantly accepted that deal from June 2006 to June 2008, according to court records. Among them were a black grandmother from Akron, Ohio, who surrendered $4,000 in cash after Tenaha police pulled her over, and an interracial couple from Houston, who gave up more than $6,000 after police threatened to seize their children and put them into foster care, the court documents show. Neither the grandmother nor the couple were charged with or convicted of any crime.

Officials in Tenaha, along a heavily traveled state highway connecting Houston with several popular gambling destinations in Louisiana, say they are engaged in a battle against drug trafficking, and they call the search-and-seizure practice a legitimate use of the state's asset-forfeiture law. That law permits local police agencies to keep drug money and other property used in the commission of a crime and add the proceeds to their budgets.

"We try to enforce the law here," said George Bowers, mayor of the town of about 1,100 residents, where boarded-up businesses outnumber open ones and City Hall sports a broken window. "We're not doing this to raise money. That's all I'm going to say at this point."

But civil rights lawyers call Tenaha's practice something else: highway robbery. The attorneys have filed a federal class-action lawsuit seeking unspecified damages and a halt to what they contend is an unconstitutional perversion of the law's intent, used primarily against African Americans who have done nothing wrong.

Tenaha officials "have developed an illegal 'stop and seize' practice of targeting, stopping, detaining, searching, and often seizing property from apparently nonwhite citizens and those traveling with nonwhite citizens," asserts the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas.

The property seizures are not happening just in Tenaha. In southern parts of Texas near the Mexican border, for example, Latinos allege that they are being singled out.

According to a prominent Texas state legislator, police agencies across the state are wielding the asset-forfeiture law more aggressively to supplement their shrinking operating budgets.

"If used properly, it's a good law-enforcement tool to see that crime doesn't pay," said Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee. "But in this instance, where people are being pulled over and their property is taken with no charges filed and no convictions, I think that's theft."

Money, minorities

David Guillory, an attorney in nearby Nacogdoches who filed the federal lawsuit, said he combed through Shelby County court records from 2006 to 2008 and discovered nearly 200 cases in which Tenaha police seized cash and property from motorists. In about 50 of the cases, suspects were charged with drug possession.

But in 147 others, Guillory said the court records showed, the police seized cash, jewelry, cellphones and sometimes even automobiles from motorists but never found any contraband or charged them with any crime. Of those, Guillory said he managed to contact 40 of the motorists directly -- and discovered that all but one of them were black.

"The whole thing is disproportionately targeted toward minorities, particularly African Americans," Guillory said. "Every one of these people is pulled over and told they did something, like, 'You drove too close to the white line.' That's not in the penal code, but it sounds plausible. None of these people have been charged with a crime; none were engaged in anything that looked criminal. The sole factor is that they had something that looked valuable."

In some cases, police used the fact that motorists were carrying large amounts of cash as evidence that they must have been involved in laundering drug money, even though Guillory said each of the drivers he contacted could account for where the money had come from and why they were carrying it -- such as for a gambling trip to Shreveport, La., or to purchase a used car from a private seller.

Once the motorists were detained, the police and the Shelby County district attorney quickly drew up legal papers presenting them with an option: Waive their rights to their cash and property or face felony charges for crimes such as money laundering -- and the prospect of having to hire a lawyer and return to Shelby County multiple times to contest the charges in court.

Apparently routine

The process apparently is so routine in Tenaha that Guillory discovered pre-signed and pre-notarized police affidavits with blank spaces left for an officer to fill in a description of the property being seized.

Jennifer Boatright, her husband and two young children -- a mixed-race family -- were traveling from Houston to visit relatives in East Texas in April 2007 when Tenaha police pulled them over, alleging that they were driving in a left-turn lane.

After searching the car, the officers discovered what Boatright said was a gift for her sister: a small, unused glass pipe made for smoking marijuana. Although they found no drugs or other contraband, the police seized $6,037 that Boatright said the family was carrying to purchase a used car -- and then threatened to turn their children, ages 10 and 1, over to Child Protective Services if the couple didn't agree to sign over their right to their cash.

"It was give them the money or they were taking our kids," Boatright said. "They suggested that we never bring it up again. We figured we better give them our cash and get the hell out of there."

Several months later, after Boatright and her husband contacted an attorney, Tenaha officials returned their money but offered no explanation or apology. The couple remain plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit.

Except for Tenaha's mayor, none of the defendants in the federal lawsuit, including Shelby County Dist. Atty. Lynda Russell and two Tenaha police officers, responded to requests for comment about their search-and-seizure practices. Lawyers for the defendants also declined to comment, as did several of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

But Whitmire says he doesn't need to await the suit's outcome to try to fix what he regards as a statewide problem. On Monday, he introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would require police to go before a judge before attempting to seize property under the asset-forfeiture law -- and ultimately Whitmire hopes to tighten the law further so that law-enforcement officials will be allowed to seize property only after a suspect is charged and convicted in a court.

"The law has gotten away from what was intended, which was to take the profits of a bad guy's crime spree and use it for additional crime fighting," Whitmire said. "Now it's largely being used to pay police salaries -- and it's being abused because you don't even have to be a bad guy to lose your property."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Telefon Tel Aviv - Immolate Yourself

I heard a track on the Brainwashed podcast (which you should subscribe to if you enjoy experimental music, everything from shoegaze to IDM to Coil) and got the whole thing. It's beautiful electronic music with emotional synths and spare vocals, along the lines of m83. Melancholic feel.

Unfortunately, it's their last because Charles Cooper died in January. It makes for a sad listening experience, but enjoyable.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sublime Frequencies: Group Bombino - Guitars from Agadez Vol. 2

Good new music from a troubled region in Niger, but appears to be sold out from the source. It's better if you know the context.

Group Bombino is the latest salvo from the Agadez music scene. Led by the guitar virtuoso Omara Mochtar (Bombino), the group’s debut LP-- Volume two in the Guitars from Agadez series, represents the latest chapter in the modern sound of the Tuareg revolution. As of 2008, the Tuareg rebellion is in full force again, and Bombino is in exile to parts unknown. Agadez has been cut off from the rest of Niger. The only road that connects this legendary city with the rest of the country is littered with land mines and the only escorts are the military. This music and its messages of hope, justice, and desire for validation of the Kel Tamachek way of life ring louder than ever. Group Bombino are gaining mythic status in and around the Tuareg community for their incendiary live performances. Coming from the same scene as Group Inerane and sharing some of the same musicians, Group Bombino showcase both sides of the Tuareg Guitar style. Side one features the “Dry Guitar” sound, an unplugged selection of songs sung among the dunes and stars of the Tenere desert. Side two showcases the electric fury of the full band, a melding of heavy, psychedelic guitar heroics with a raw garage sound, back beat percussion, all swirling in extended trance rock moves. Recorded live and unfiltered in Agadez and the surrounding desert in early 2007, with the band’s equipment powered by generators and an unflinching dedication to the rebellion, Group Bombino’s music transcends any influence and ignites the raw passion of its message to the outside world. This is a one-time pressing of 1,500 copies. Pressed on 180 gram vinyl and comes in a gatefold full color jacket stocked with great photos of the musicians and liner notes by Hisham Mayet.

Not every African band has a revolutionary backstory, but this one does. In early 2007, Sublime Frequencies co-founder Hisham Mayet discovered Group Bombino in Agadez, a Niger city accessible only by traveling a landmine littered road with a military escort, according to the label. Mayet recorded the group—led by guitar genius Omara Mochtar— live in Agadez and the surrounding desert with generator-powered equipment, and pressed 1500 LPs of the music that was made.

The first half of the record features an almost mournful Mochtar playing acoustic or “dry” guitar, his rhythms punched out with handclaps, the songs sung out in layered voices. The second half is reserved for the thumpers, with Moctar plugged in persistently sustaining a groove, trilling notes over the thick bass. The LP joins two other recent Sublime Frequencies releases that focus on modern African guitar sounds and the Tuareg scene. Years from now, Tuareg may be viewed as this century’s new Delta or Mississippi Hill Country, with Mochtar in the role of RL Burnside and Mayat as its Alan Lomax. (Jason Cherkis)
A bit of what's going on in the region

BAMAKO (AFP) — A hardline Tuareg rebel leader is no longer on Malian territory, a military official said Friday, amid new signs of peace between Bamako and former rebel factions.

Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, whose forces reportedly have been routed by the Malian army, "is no longer on Malian territory. We control all his positions in northern Mali," Captain Alioune Diakite told AFP from the region.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Algerian official claimed to have "the same information."

On Thursday, members of another former Tuareg rebel group, the Alliance for Democracy and Change (ADC), reportedly accepted new government proposals to end the conflict in the north of Mali.

Ag Bahanga's group is the only one that has so far refused to join the peace process, but several members of his group have recently asked Algerian mediators to join.

The Tuaregs are a nomadic desert people who have roamed the southern Sahara for centuries. In recent years they have staged uprisings in both Mali and Niger, claiming autonomy for their traditional homeland.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So long, Rabbit

And now John Updike is dead. That's two writers that really touched my life gone in less than a year.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Damn it

Nadine Strossen is speaking to my red state law school and I have a makeup class during it. My grasp of hearsay is too tenuous to skip.

Three good developments today

Green Light for US Stem Cell Work

Senate OKs Wage-Bias Law

Obama to End Mexico City Rule

Searching for news stories on family planning funding is irritating because all of the top stories on Google News are from the Christian Broadcasting Network or Catholic Culture.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thank god

Obama Issues Directives to Shut Down Guantanamo, Extraordinary Rendition, Torture, etc.
President Obama signed executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.

The orders, which are the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.

And the orders bring to an end a Central Intelligence Agency program that kept terrorism suspects in secret custody for months or years, a practice that has brought fierce criticism from foreign governments and human rights activists. They will also prohibit the C.I.A. from using coercive interrogation methods, requiring the agency to follow the same rules used by the military in interrogating terrorism suspects, government officials said.
Now about that Mexico City policy...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How appropriate

It's somewhat fitting that one of Bush's final acts in office was to commute the sentences of two border control agents who shot a non-threatening person who was running away from them and then tried to cover up the evidence.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Takeover Rhetoric

Researching the history of corporate takeovers is more interesting than I had imagined, at least for aesthetic reasons. I had no idea there were so many fun metaphors: Poison Pill, Suicide Pill, Gray Knights, Greenmail, Jonestown Defense, Pac-Man Defense, Lobster Trap, Shark Repellent, Killer Bees.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How the Bush administration screwed up the Civil Rights Division...

...with the help of the Federalist Society.

I haven't found the report yet, but the summary on the NYT's editorial page is frightening (although we already knew how Bush and Gonzales politicized the DoJ). I guess I'm going to one of those attorneys that isn't a "Real American."

The report found that a former senior Justice Department official, Bradley Schlozman, set out to hire so-called “Right-Thinking Americans,” including members of the Federalist Society and other Republicans, for what were supposed to be apolitical career positions. He then gave them plum assignments on civil rights cases when he was helping to run the Civil Rights Division, beginning in 2003.

The report also concluded that Mr. Schlozman, who left the Justice Department in 2007 amid the uproar over the dismissal of at least eight United States attorneys, which led to Mr. Gonzales’s resignation, gave false statements to Congress when he repeatedly denied factoring politics and ideology into his hiring decisions.

The report’s case against Mr. Schlozman relies heavily on his words, from e-mail and phone messages to colleagues and underlings. His disdain for the traditional independence and mission of the Civil Rights Division is palpable. He spoke brazenly about reshaping the division by doing away with “pinko” and “crazy lib” lawyers and others he did not consider “real Americans.”

“As long as I’m here, adherents of Mao’s Little Red Book need not apply,” he wrote in one e-mail message. The report found that Mr. Schlozman transferred three lawyers out of the division because they were viewed as liberals who opposed his political agenda. The transfers, the report found, violated federal civil service law and “constituted misconduct.” All three lawyers brought federal discrimination claims and returned to the division after Mr. Schlozman’s departure.

While he was a senior official in the division, political appointees overruled career lawyers to approve a Texas redistricting law that clearly violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, as well as a plainly unconstitutional voter identification law in Georgia that amounted to a modernized poll tax.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Over 20 Versions of the Exact Same, Terrible Right Wing Cartoon

Good collection showing how editorial cartoonists distribute their trite talking points:

If Global Warming is Real, Then Why is it Cold?

People are really this stupid. They seriously think that the IPCC has no idea that the Northern Hemisphere tilts away from the Sun once a year.

Edit: Here are some hilariously awful McCoy cartoons. At least they're not making an identical joke.

Bush administration official admits that torture occurred

Oh my.

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Queen II on vinyl

I think this is the first version of this record that I've heard that hasn't been a shitty tape dub or CD-R in a long time. It's nice to hear a clean transition from "March of the Black Queen" to "Funny How Love Is."

Thanks, wife.

It makes me think of being in Junior High, dubbing it for my best friend from the county library's scratched up CD. Last I heard, he was in Iraq with the U.S. Army, which makes me nostalgic and nervous.