Archive for January, 2008

  • Rob Spectre
  • 30
  • Jan
  • 08

Less than 48 hours after Bush delivered the final State of the Union of his presidency, you can’t find a reference to it in the news anywhere. For the address that is intended to set the timbre of the legislative session, one would imagine such a climax would at least be on Page 3 of the Politics section. Not so however as all one can find on Wednesday morning is coverage of the Florida primary – a primary that only half counted for one of the two parties.

The precedent redefines the lame duck.  A barely relevant election trumped a completely irrelevant presidential address.  The worst conceivable twilight scenario is in play for the White House; not a revolt, but a yawn.

Had he proposed such a measure like his “Pell Grants for Kids” even last year, the Democratic uproar would have gone on for the rest of the legislative session.  A school voucher program with a veil thinner than Lindsay Lohan’s chances of recovering from alcoholism, the left wing would have been falling over themselves in line to protest Bush’s blatant attempt to get a toe grip on a campaign promise he’s been trying to slip in for eight years.  However, that night the lone voice from the party was the Governor from Kansas pleading for bipartisan effort in the coming year.

If there was a chance in hell of it ever coming to fruition, I’d be worried about these Pell Grants for Kids getting a $300 million foot in the door for the destruction of public education.  As it is, it’s just another bullet point in 53 minutes of crazy talk that was irrelevant before it started.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 29
  • Jan
  • 08

The Riptide is the neighborhood dive that has a popular open mike night on Mondays, if “teh internetz” was to be believed. Located only a couple hundred feet from the most murderous surf to be seen in the bay, the name is appropriate from both a geographic and atmospheric sense. Featuring a fine jukebox stocked full with Buzzcocks, Ramones, Clash, Descendents, and Misfits, I figured I might be able to slip in without harshing too many hippies’ mellow.

My hair getup has been about as popular in The Sunset as cancer of the face, which is to say something everyone clearly knows is there, but would prefer not to discuss.  As such, I was fully prepared for nervous giggles and full on stares as I rolled in to sign up for a slot to play.  Strolling brazenly into some place new with guitar in hand sounds like some pretty romantic stuff.  The scene practically sets itself; the one guy who doesn’t look like, act like, or sound like anyone else wins over a crowd of skeptics with nothing but his own confidence and his heartfelt music.

In reality, it doesn’t work like that at all.  Really it just means consigning yourself for the period of when you walk in to when you go to play to sitting around nursing a beer by yourself.

As the fortune of heritage would have it, though, I found good company.  His name is Dino and he’s one of a few Irish immigrants in the neighborhood.  Hailing from County Down in the North,  he immediately made conversation as I sat down.  Banter in the company of the Irish flows as easy as whiskey from a bottle with ease of digestion coming only with experience.  We talked a bit about Eire and where our respective families were from, finally getting around to the causes of our respective emigration.

“What brought me to San Francisco?” he repeated, perking up at the opportunity.  “I couldn’t speak German and I thought it would be like Baywatch.”

As a sheet of cold rain blew in the door, we laughed conspiratorially – a quiet toast to the reward fortune pays to misconception.

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  • Reem Bazzari
  • 26
  • Jan
  • 08

Founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine or PFLP, one of the most radical Palestinian extremists groups, George Habash died in Amman today. Habash, who advocated the cause of secular Arab nationalism, died of a heart attack, said reports. During his activist-life, Habash chose violence in fighting against Israel.

And don’t let the “revolutionary violence” and “extremism” labels lead you to quickly conclude that George was a radical Muslim. As his name may indicate, George was born to a family of Palestinian Christian (Greek Orthodox) merchants.

Habash was a medical student at The American University of Beirut, where he met Wadie Haddad. In the 1950s, he joined “Youth of Vengeance,” a group calling for violence against Arab governments’ policies toward expansionism. After graduating first in his class in 1951, he worked in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, and ran a clinic together with Haddad in Amman. He was a founding member of the Arab Nationalist Movement in 1951, which was inspired by Nasserism and other Arab Socialist doctrines.

In May 1972 George Habash brought together members of the Irish Republican Army, the Baader Meinhof Group, and the Japanese Red Army for a meeting at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

The seventies was a decade of highly emotional nationalism for the Arabs. Inspired by the pan-Arab message of the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, George Habash believed for many years that unity between Arab states could bring about the liberation of Palestine. Strong contrast to the Egyptian government’s stand nowadays.

Black September:
In September of 1970, four Western jets were hijacked by the PFLP. Three of them landed at a Jordanian airstrip – an act that triggered a civil war in the country and led to Dr Habash, and the rest of the Palestinian leadership, fleeing Jordan. From its new base in Lebanon, and later Syria, the PFLP remained an active militant group.

You may believe that liberation does not justify violence. You may believe that nationalism feeds racism. You may believe that a religious government is the answer engulfing different ethnic groups within one country. You may believe that secularism does not work for every culture and every era.

No matter what your political affiliations are, your heart must yearn for the time when passion for liberty and justice prevailed over greed and ignorance.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 26
  • Jan
  • 08

Units of Egyptian riot police are being deployed along the Gaza border to maintain some semblance of peace as the Palestinians continue to flow into the country. After a week of complete isolation – after Israeli sealed all crossings, effectively cutting off the refugee camp that is modern Gaza from any supplies, the sheet metal fence that stood between Palestinian mothers and and bottles of milk was torn down.  The mass exodus that ensued sent hundreds of thousands over the border to purchase at fair market value meat, vegetables, cigarettes, and rice.  They flooded out of Rafah to but the most basic needs and escape the costly black market that emerged in the camps for necessities.  They bought their groceries.

And then they went back home.

A week later, Israel is considering the wisdom of their policy.  It took two years of this approach for them to realize that more desperation may not be what the region needs.  Thinking increased strain on their lives would eventually cause Palestinians to reject Hamas is viewing the situation with retard goggles on.  Despair and rage is the fuel that radical movements feed on.  If Israel wants to destroy the relevance of Hamas, they need to feed every Palestinian that is hungry.  They need to open their borders and employ every Palestinian that can work.  When is an Arab going to blame his brother when a Jew is holding a gun to his head?

When people can’t buy hope, there will always be someone around selling revenge.  Containment is not a policy that works on the desperate.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 19
  • Jan
  • 08
This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Tales from the L Line

3 January 2008 – 7:58pm PST, Outbound by West Portal Station

As we rolled into the West Portal Station stop, I was listening to M. Doughty talk about how we are all, in some way or another, going to Reseda. His argument I had heard before, but was zoning out the window trying to find some tender bits I had not yet chewed. Sight was thoroughly ignored until some biker who appeared to be cursing at me entered the frame.

Clad in a broken leather jacket, the angry person had face lines that sunk with topography as sharp as Norwegian fjords. Undoubtedly cut by the glacial effects of drugs and rock and roll, the practiced scowl all urban dwellers keep plastered on their faces certainly didn’t crack as the biker continued walking alongside me, gesturing wildly at the glass.

I was surprised to discover however the gender of my would-be assailant as the police came running up to do their thing. That chick looked older than my grandma and more masculine than Vincent Price.

9 January 2008 – 9:03am PST, Inbound between Van Ness and Powell

Nothing gets a packed train’s attention quite like the phrase, “You know, when I finally got out of prison…”

Richard SimmonsThe ex-con was lugging around a full size leopard skin suitcase and wearing some weird outfit combination that was somewhere between Boy George and Richard Simmons circa Sweatin’ to the Oldies. He had poorly applied mascara caked on like the frosting on a freshman Home Ec student’s first birthday cake. A dash of rouge and two missing lower incisors had this androgynous meth addict pegged as a person to avoid. And so it was as he regaled some poor bastard in a three piece about what the judge had told him at his last hearing.

Evidently the fellow with the neon pants was promised a spot in a training camp with the US Marshals, and he wasn’t shy about telling anyone about it. Though it is admittedly Hollywood inspired, my mental picture of the folks that serve our country in this capacity doesn’t include a blaze orange fanny pack.

16 January 2008 - 8:45pm PST, Outbound approaching Sunset Boulevard

“This happens every fucking night!” the man screamed at the driver, banging against the glass with a double fisted flip off.

The lady had gotten on the horn announcing that there was an accident on Taraval and we wouldn’t be continuing all the way to the zoo. This announcement ensured at least a six block hike for the couple dozen passengers still on board. A shuttle would be along soon enough, maybe a 15 minute wait at the most. As I walked away over the din of my noise isolated ear buds I could hear the beast of a woman this man had awakened. I’m didn’t know two hundred pounds could get out of a driver’s seat that quickly.

18 January 2008 – 8:30am PST, Inbound on 14th between Taraval and Ulloa

Pluto is a planet. This controversial statement was being piped into my head in the early morn on Friday courtesy of my Shure 110s and 2 Skinnee J’s. Oblivious to any sound other than Eddie Eyeball’s tasty groove underneath this declaration, when the guy in front of me wrinkled his nose, I thought for sure someone had unleashed a gnarly fart on an unsuspecting bus. I covered my nose defensively and watching him wrestle with what I was sure was pure nasty ass gas.

However, as he put away his paper and started puffing up his chest, it was clear he was entering some sort of aggressive posture. Excited for some morning entertainment, I clicked off the iPod and pulled my plugs, to find that a crackhead was harassing a lady down the car from me. The guy in front of me was dressed like an architect or something; a skinny little nerd without an intimidating bone in his body. This was not a job for a guy with a briefcase and a cardigan. This was a job for half foot hair and a penchant for pissing people off.

Damned that I was going to let anyone beat me to an opportunity for physical confrontation, particularly this early in the morning, I handed my bag to the woman next to me and carved in front of the doeish woman being badgered by the crackhead. The crackhead was wearing Salvation army glasses given out to LASIK patients, the rose covered kind that look ridiculous and wrap all around one’s head.

Inserting myself forcibly between him and the woman, he took them off in an attempt to be intimidating. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“This is your stop,” I replied simply.

“No, no, no it’s not,” as he began making a scene.

The door opened as I grabbed his elderly frame by the shoulders, “Yup it is.”

After the guy who was fixing to go Galahad first started to assist, his resistance faded.

In usual California fashion, the woman we assisted offered no gratitude. I guess the princess was in another castle.

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