in the Key of “Blecch”
morning lately at the U.S. Justice Department, archconservative
Attorney General John Ashcroft has been gathering his staff
and requiring them to begin the day by singing patriotic songs
he has penned himself. But instead of crooning ditties like
his “The Eagle Soars,” many of his employees wish he would
sing—as the old joke goes—far, far away.
The nation’s top lawyer has long accompanied his baritone
pipes on piano, and also harmonizes with Trent Lott, Larry
Craig, and James Jeffords in the Singing Senators, the congressional
barbershop quartet. He has even made tapes of his originals,
including a 1995 release modestly titled Gospel (Music)
According to John (a sample can be heard on the Web at
the Smoking Gun, www.thesmokinggun.com), and is known to burst
into song at the drop of a hat. The staunchly fundamentalist
Ashcroft already had been holding morning prayer meetings
at the Justice Department, but has now found a new venue—and
a captive audience—there for his musical ambitions. Staffers
arriving for work are receiving printouts with the lyrics
to his songs so they can take part in the daily sing-alongs.
And so no one is left out, Spanish speakers have been pressed
into service to translate the words.
Ashcroft’s latest effort, the country- flavored “The Eagle
Soars,” starts out like this:
she’s far too young to die
You can see it in her eye
She’s not yet begun to fly.
notes are being heard in the choir, though. One worker, when
asked by the BBC why she wasn’t thrilled about singing “The
Eagle Soars,” put it bluntly, “Have you heard the song? It
really sucks.” Some employees hate it so much they won’t sing
it at all.
It turns out that Ashcroft has a long history of treating—or
subjecting—his employees to his music, depending on their
appetite for corn. When he was Missouri’s attorney general,
he gave out copies of an earlier tape, In the Spirit of
Life and Liberty, to his staff (a cut from this, “Keep
the Bells of Freedom Ringing,” can be heard on the NPR Web
Say No to the Media Monopoly
Dee Halleck has written the book on independent media. For
more than 30 years, Halleck has been involved in community
media, helping to launch both Pager Tiger TV, a pioneer, volunteer
media collective, and Deep Dish TV, a progressive grassroots
satellite network that links community-media activists nationwide.
Halleck is also a professor of communications at the University
of San Diego and serves as a media critic and video activist.
A few years back, she helped create the television version
of Democracy Now! and continues to be involved in independent
television projects. Halleck’s new book on independent media
is also aptly titled Handheld Visions: The Impossible Possibilities
of Community Media.
So, Halleck is an appropriate choice to kick off the new Hudson
Mohawk Independent Media Center’s lecture series on Confronting
the Media Monopoly. A multipart series on the growth and importance
of the independent media, the talks will bring several experts
on alternative media to the Capital Region over the next three
months. Halleck is the first speaker in the series, which
in April will feature the culture jammer behind the Barbie
Liberation Organization, Igor Vamos; in May, the speaker will
be Parry Teasdale, author of Videofreex: America’s First
Pirate TV Station and the Catskills. All three lectures
will be held the last Tuesday of the month at 8 PM at the
Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy.
In her lecture, Halleck will recount her experiences as a
teacher and activist in the struggle for media democracy.
Her lecture will draw from several interactive sources, including
slide, video and her published essays.
The Confronting the Media Monopoly series, cosponsored by
WPRI 91.5 FM and the Hudson Mohawk Independent Media center,
will bring community members interested in strengthening the
area’s independent-media movement together.
Work Through This Bureaucracy for Food
most of us will go about our days not worrying about where
we will eat our next meal, many other people will not be so
fortunate. In fact, many will face frustrating bureaucracy
while trying to get governmental assistance for food, while
others will go hungry.
That is why today (Thursday), across New York state, hundreds
of anti-hunger advocates will celebrate the 12th annual Hunger
Awareness Day. More than 65 events will take place statewide,
including food drives, children’s anti-hunger poster projects,
mass food distributions, hunger forums and soup suppers.
loss of 100,000 jobs since Sept. 11 in New York City alone
has intensified the problem of hunger,” said Sheila McCarthy,
community food coordinator for Hunger Action Network of New
York State. “Hunger Awareness Day is really important so that
we can come up with long-term solutions to the fact that so
many people in this state are living in poverty and the fact
that so many people are going to food pantries and soup kitchens
Here in the Capital Region, a welfare simulation will take
place at the YWCA in Troy at 3 PM. The event will include
a series of role-plays to demonstrate what it takes for a
typical low-income family to escape poverty.
hope is that many of our elected officials will partake in
these activities by playing the part of the low-income person
in need of assistance,” said McCarthy. “Perhaps they will
learn firsthand the many obstacles people face while seeking
assistance and some of the problems within the system.”
McCarthy pointed out that with high housing costs in the state
and the decreasing value of wages over the years, more and
more people are having difficulty making ends meet. Since
1997, 2 million more Americans are seeking emergency-food
assistance across the country. In New York alone, more than
900,000 people use one of 3,000 emergency-food programs each
year, Hunger Awareness Day is especially important,” said
Bich Ha Pham, Hunger Action’s executive director. “The attacks
on the World Trade Center, coupled with the economic slowdown
and major job layoffs, have led to increased lines at emergency-food