Sunday, February 23, 2014

Progressive Music Classics. The Fatima Mansions: "Something Bad"



Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

These days, I think pretty much everyone outside of the Rush/Drudge/Fox crowd now accepts that George W. Bush's eight years in the White House were a true disaster for the American nation, as well as for the world.

Bush's two terms were so awful that it's easy to forget just how bad his father's term in office was, as well. So while the memories are still fresh of how GWB was an arrogant, incompetent little prick and a warmonger, it's important to remember that Bush senior wasn't a whole lot better. Clearly, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Bush senior's time in office back in the early 1990s was truly a miserable period. After eight agonizing years of Reagan, it was almost too much to bear.

It was a dark and sinister era in many ways. It was a time well summed up by the 1992 song, "Something Bad" by the Irish band, The Fatima Mansions.

Led by Cathal Coughlan, The Fatima Mansions were (ironically) named after a crumbling housing estate in Dublin. Coughlan was gifted with a wonderful voice. He had a knack for lyrics that could lure you in with their beauty---and then, when you least suspected it, come at you like a sudden switchblade with deeply disturbing imagery.

Clearly, The Fatima Mansions weren't intended to be easy listening. Nor did they aim for the charts. Instead, they meant to jolt you and, oftentimes, leave you with a queasy feeling. In this, they shared the same approach as other provocative bands like Whitehouse and Throbbing Gristle.

While always intriguing, Coughlan's lyrics were rarely straightforward. But in "Something Bad," there was no doubt as to what the target of his venom was.

"One man felt ashamed running guns and cocaine,
For his short-term gain, so every one of us must pay.

In his New World Order, you can have some nerve gas with your air,
Thanks to the CIA pussy in the President's chair.

Something bad is giving birth,
In the sky its belly bursts."

"Something Bad" appeared on the excellent 1992 album, Valhalla Avenue (which sadly was never released in America). It's an album that alternates between songs with lovely melodies and harsh electronic noise (sometimes in the same song, to jarring effect). It's a wonderful antidote to the lame, safe-as-milk, cynically contrived music that clogs up the airwaves these days.

To me, "Something Bad" is a stark reminder that George W. is hardly the only Bush that has inflicted damage on America. The entire Bush family has been a disaster for the country over the years. God help us if another Bush ever succeeds in making it back to the White House.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

America's Hypocrisy in Condemning North Korea


Lately, the U.S. (and the U.N.) have been spending a lot of time attacking North Korea's human rights record. I'm no fan of North Korea. But something about all this just doesn't pass the smell test for me. After all, it seems like we've been down this road before---although America's persistent collective amnesia prevents us from grasping this truth.

In any case, in the aftermath of horrors like Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Mahmudiyah, I'm not sure the U.S. has much moral authority left to lecture other nations about "human rights." (The fact that a lot of readers are likely scratching their heads and wondering what Mahmudiyah was all about is a good indicator of just how ill-informed Americans are when it comes to our own nation's crimes).

Say what you want about North Korea. But at least they're not going around the world invading other nations to steal their oil.

Yes, the ruling cabal of North Korea is brutalizing their own people. But the U.S. really needs to get its own house in order before we lecture other nations.

I want to make it clear: I don't support North Korea. But I'm always leery of these horror stories that we hear in the U.S. corporate media about what supposedly goes on in these tightly-closed nations on the other side of the world. I mean, who the f*ck in the U.S. really knows what's going on in North Korea these days?

To tell you the truth, I sometimes think I'd like to visit North Korea myself someday, just to check it out and see that nation for myself, first-hand. However, that's illegal for me, as a U.S. citizen, to do. Which raises a question: why? If America is really a "free" nation, then why does it set limits on where U.S. citizens can travel?

Travel to Cuba is also illegal for me to do. However, interesting enough, though, it was perfectly legal for me to visit South Africa during the dark days of apartheid.

Back in the 1980s, the U.S. government had zero regulations about U.S. citizens visiting (and U.S. corporations conducting commerce with) what was, at the time, one of the most evil regimes in history.

But oppressing black people is one thing. Tampering with the United Fruit Company's profits is quite another.

Maybe it's simply because I'm a contrarian bastard who has been lied to so many times that I simply no longer buy anything the U.S. government is peddling.

But something about America's outrage over North Korea's human rights record just doesn't pass the smell test, for me. And what's more, do we really think that America's corporate oligarchy really gives a sh*t about human rights in North Korea? (No, what they're really shedding tears over is potential lost soft drink sales).

I mean, have we already forgotten that a lot of the horror stories we were told about Saddam simply never happened?

How about Saddam Hussein's alleged shredder that we were assured was being used to horrifically kill his opponents? "See men shredded, then say you don't back war," went the headline in one U.K. newspaper. The trouble was, it turns out this notorious machine never even existed. However, it did serve a useful purpose in the corporate media's mandate to transform the Third World tinhorn dictator Saddam into the next Hitler.

Or how about the war-time propaganda/crock of sh*t that was the 1990 Nayirah testimony? The heart-rending stories of Saddam's troops taking babies out of incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and leaving them to die all turned out to be fabricated. But such horrific tales did help whip up support among the U.S. public for war in Iraq.

Or how about the WMDs that all our American leadership insisted posed a threat to our nation? Anyone who disputed the WMD allegations was treated as a kook, or a traitor.

And I always take what I hear from the exiles of such regimes with a grain of salt. Much of what the Iraqi exiles assured us about what was going on in Iraq was either exaggerated or fabricated.

I'd be the first to admit that North Korea is probably in reality a very bad place. But frankly, what goes on there is none of America's f*cking business. We really need to start paying reparations to the millions of families in Iraq and Vietnam that were the victims of our aggression before we continue to point the finger of blame at other nations and lecture them on "human rights."

And if it's human rights abuses and authoritarianism that really bothers you, then please take a look around your house. Odds are, a majority of your household possessions were made in China (which, despite a lot of wishful thinking by the U.S. corporate media, is still very much a Communist nation, with abysmal human rights that are probably on a par with North Korea).

Incidentally, while Americans are constantly making a fuss over North Korea's human rights, why aren't we similarly all worked up over a hell-hole like Saudi Arabia? The latter is ruled by a horrific leadership that brutalizes women, tortures and murders its opponents, and funds Islamic terror groups around the world.

And yet, little is ever mentioned about any of this in the U.S. corporate media. The Saudis are our friends and allies, we're told. More importantly, they hold a lot of U.S. assets and are valuable partners to corporate America and the U.S. military industrial complex. Indeed, the likes of George W. Bush had warm ties to the Saudi ruling class and even invited its members out to friendly barbecues at his Texas ranch.

It's hard for me to put my finger on specifically what bothers me about the U.S. corporate media's continuing outrage over North Korea. But something just doesn't pass the smell test for me. Once again, the corporate media is working overtime to build up an insignificant Third World tinhorn dictator into the next Adolf Hitler. To what end remains unclear.