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Big Brass Blog is a group blog founded in February of 2005 by Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend and Melissa McEwan of Shakesville (formerly Shakespeare's Sister). The mission of this collaborative effort is to stand as the premiere forum where strong, enduring voices of Progressivism provide what liberal politics has been missing: the unapologetic, unrelenting voice of liberalism in the darkness visited upon our world by Right-wing extremists, their ruinous policies, and their hypocritical beliefs.

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19 May 2008

самиздат (Samizdat)

by: Minstrel Boy

I have just finished reading Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values by Philippe Sands, an internationally acclaimed expert in International Law.

I was enraged. I was also heartbroken. Sands does an excellent job of making his case. He does so in excruciating lawerly detail. Part of the credibility he brings to this is that he was one of the lawyers who brought the case against Auguste Pinochet.

Step by step through the process of the degredation of principles of law and simple human decency he outlines the way American Law, the Law of Nations, and what the Apache and other native peoples would call Sacred Law was first, weakened, then discarded entirely. He does so using the case of Detainee 063. He shows the escalation of tactics, from strictness, through bullying, and finally into plain and simple cruelty. All of which achieved nothing of any benefit to the stated goals of finding intelligence in the War on Terror.

He interviews the lawyers who drafted the memos, the cabinet officers who expanded them. He attacks the process that led us to this state of affairs.

He draws an undeniable parallel to a case at Nuremburg which was the basis for the film Judgment at Nuremburg. He goes so far as to conduct an interview with the son of one of the Nazi defendants. What made the case at Nuremburg applicable here is that the cited case was judges and lawyers who twisted legal arguments and made a case for the legality of the death camps, the slave labor system, and other Nazi war crimes. By providing the evil a cover of law, they helped to make it happen.

The name of what I'm about to do after reading this book was graciously provided by Jurassic Pork of "Welcome to Pottersville". Thanks JP!

Samizdat was the old system in the days of the iron curtain. Using typewriters with carbon paper, using duplicating and mimeograph machines, folks behid the curtain would copy works that were forbidden. They would also memorize entire books and recite them in underground salons.

What I will do next with this book is send my copy off to Melissa McEwan of Shakesville. I chose her because she is passionate and vocal in her quest for a better America. Hell, she had a brutal case of the flu and dragged her sick ass to the polls in order to vote in the last Indiana Primary. She was one of the main inspirations that got me to start my own blogging.

I am going to send her my copy of the book, with a short little inscription. She's going to read it, write about it, and pass it on to another. Just like the old Samizdat (literally: Self Publishing).

Unfortunately, the truth has become contraband in our country. That must change.

I'm looking forward to following this book's progress through Blogtopia. (Yes! Skippy coined that phrase!)

Big Brass Blog
19 February 2008

Because One Good Pablo Deserves Another

by: Minstrel Boy

Musing on the resignation of Fidel Castro, the lyrical litbrit cited a gorgeous poem by Pablo Neruda. "The Dictators." It's a roiling and steamy bit of work. Like most of Neruda. The thing about Neruda that has always intrigued me is how well he translates. Often, with poets, the musicality or the flow of sound and beauty is lost when things are moved from one language to another. More than any other poet I read, Neruda has managed to defy this. I wish I knew how. Usually when I read a good translation of a poem I try to find it in the original language. Poetry, especially, works like that. With Neruda I am often left wondering which language he was thinking and dreaming in when that particular poem sprung forth.

Here's one of my favorite Neruda's. Primero, en Espanol:


Y fue a esa edad... Llegó la poesía
a buscarme. No sé, no sé de dónde
salió, de invierno o río.
No sé cómo ni cuándo,
no, no eran voces, no eran
palabras, ni silencio,
pero desde una calle me llamaba,
desde las ramas de la noche,
de pronto entre los otros,
entre fuegos violentos
o regresando solo,
allí estaba sin rostro
y me tocaba.

Yo no sabía qué decir, mi boca
no sabía
mis ojos eran ciegos,
y algo golpeaba en mi alma,
fiebre o alas perdidas,
y me fui haciendo solo,
aquella quemadura,
y escribí la primera línea vaga,
vaga, sin cuerpo, pura
pura sabiduría
del que no sabe nada,
y vi de pronto
el cielo
y abierto,
plantaciones palpitantes,
la sombra perforada,
por flechas, fuego y flores,
la noche arrolladora, el universo.

Y yo, mínimo ser,
ebrio del gran vacío
a semejanza, a imagen
del misterio,
me sentí parte pura
del abismo,
rodé con las estrellas,
mi corazón se desató en el viento.

Here's the translation. Notice how well it still sings.


And it was at that age... Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

That, my friends, is genius. Pure. Genius.

el rancho harpo
22 January 2008

Baby Jeebus be Praised

by: blackdog

Wal-Mart just announced that their efforts to provide health insurance had progressed to within 7.36 % of all their "associates". That is down from last year when it was 9 point something percent.

The largest retailer on the planet, and they can't or won't provide a decent package of benefits for their "associates". You add up all the stinking wealth of the remnants of the Walton hoard up in NW Arkieville and you are challenging the greatest personal worth in the world.

I'm always so impressed by the practices of a potential employer where I might end up. Necessity, not want.

With the markets tanking, will the Chinese pull the yuan from the dollar? After all it is at some all time lows. What would Wal-Mart stock on its shelves if that relationship went down them tubes? Personally I avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. But with no money to spend, it's an easy choice.

The universe is only about 4000 years old, the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram was developed by guys on acid, and if I could spell it would conclusively prove the existence of gawd. The fossils in the Grand Canyon prove the Great Flood, since the dinosaurs were heavier and sank faster, while the christers floated rather well and sought their end nearer the surface. Must have been full of frankincense and muir.

Pass me that hooka, you bogartin' sack 'o stuff. I need another toke.

Little did he know that he was smoking a bowl of batshit, and that later in the night he would feel the pull of the moon. He would forever regret the results of his behavior that night, as it would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Waking he reached under the bed for his electric lantern, and a dark, clammy hand grabbed his. He screamed, but the hand did not release him, it only held more tightly.

He knew better than to reach under his bed after dark, but the temptation to get the lantern was overwhelming. Everyone should know that the djinn stay under the bed at night. This one as it gripped his hand, crept out from under the bed and stood, to reveal itself fully in the dim light from the mickey mouse nitelight in the outlet in the corner of the room.

It slowly stood, still gripping his hand fiercely, and was illuminated from the feeble light. It was horrible, it was terrible. he thought he would go mad from the vision of such a visage from the olden times. He thought to close his eyes, but it was too late, the image would always be burned into his mind. So he kept his eyes open, and looked upon what had issued from under the bed.

It said in not so commanding tones, "I put food on yer family! I clear brush! The Constitution is a fucking piece of paper! Nukular strikes comes first!"

There was much more, but being as he was so overwhelmed by the less than commanding tones of a decider, that had crept out from under his bed, he was not in a state to easily react.

A decider, much less than a wraith but more than a parakeet. With a grip on your wrist, no less.

He finially found his thoughts and realized that to rid himself of this ogre he had to concentrate, what was the word he had learned? In what part of his mind did it reside? He had only seconds before the decider took him to the RNC where he would forever burn in eternal fire with the likes of Limbaugh and where shrubbery would provide the flames. He would be consumed, and to no good end.

But in a flash of inspiration he remembered!

"Shit on you, republicans".

Suddenly the night became less threatening, and all became well and good.

Wish I could keep that shit up for a few more days, I just might write a crappy book!
05 October 2007

106 Books Meme

by: Minstrel Boy

Being a committed and shameless bookworm I loved this one. Got turned on to it through PZ Meyers. The original is from Evolving Thoughts through Science Blogs. You take the list of 106 books, bold the ones that you have read, italicize the ones you have partially read. Here goes.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies

War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad

The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences

White Teeth (own but haven't gotten to this one yet)
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

I read, all the time. I usually have at least two books in progress and can produce a volume of most of the ones that are in bold. Right now I'm reading The Coldest Winter, David Halberstram's final book, on Korea, and Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Station. Fuck you and your judgements, I like Wambaugh.

harp and sword
03 September 2007

The Second Coming - W.B. Yeats

by: Jersey Cynic

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

What's YOUR interpretation?

Crossposted at Blondesense


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