MONDAY, DECEMBER 8 This week of banned books, busted governors, and ferociously flung footwear kicks off with the continuation of an excessively dark chapter in American history, as five Blackwater security guards were charged with 14 counts of voluntary manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter for their alleged participation in an Iraqi civilian massacre last September in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. As the Associated Press reports, 17 Iraqis were killed during the impromptu bloodbath, which eyewitnesses blame on six employees of the North Carolina–based security contractors Blackwater Worldwide, who allegedly opened fire without provocation on various Iraqis, all of them civilians, some of them surrendering, and many of them women and children. Today, the five charged guards turned themselves in on the manslaughter and attempted manslaughter charges, which came with an additional charge of using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, which carries a 30-year minimum prison sentence. Meanwhile, Blackwater representatives say the guards were "ambushed" and/or driven to defend themselves against a white Kia sedan, which the contractors reportedly believed "might have been a car bomb." A potentially fatal flaw in the five guards' self-defense defense: The testimony of a sixth guard involved in the attack, whose plea deal with prosecutors found him admitting to killing at least one Iraqi in the 2007 shooting and testifying there was no indication the Kia was a car bomb. A potentially fatal flaw in the whole indictment shebang: As the AP reports, "The law is murky on whether contractors can be charged in U.S. courts for crimes committed overseas." Stay tuned.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9 In much goofier criminal news: Today we turn to the hurricane of bad hair, mellifluous cussing, and allegedly bottomless political corruption that is Rod Blagojevich (say it with us: Bluh-GOY-uh-vitch), the governor of Illinois who was arrested early this morning on a ridiculous array of federal corruption charges. Storming onto the national stage as a fully-formed cartoon character, the mighty Blagojevich will hover over the news week like a blast of Spencer's Gifts fart spray, gaining A-list notoriety as a would-be political-corruption superhero (with an inspired potty mouth, to boot). As for today's charges: The Chicago Tribune reports they're the result of "a three-year federal corruption investigation of pay-to-play politics in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration." Among the governor's alleged legal breaches: offering quid pro quo exchanges of key political appointments (despite calling Barack Obama "a motherfucker" in a taped phone conversation, Blagojevich reportedly dreamed of becoming secretary of Health and Human Services in the motherfucker's administration), attempting to negotiate the firing of Chicago Tribune staffers responsible for editorials critical of his governorship, and effectively putting Obama's freshly vacated Senate seat up for sale. As the week goes on, calls for Blagojevich to step down will accumulate, but the Rod will remain firm and defiant, which is why Rod Blagojevich is a superstar. Once again, stay tuned.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10 In much better news: The week continues at the Seattle nightclub the Triple Door, where tonight Last Days had the great pleasure of seeing John Kelly's Paved Paradise: Redux, a musical performance in which the aforementioned Mr. Kelly appears onstage in a long-sleeved velvet gown and blond wig and performs the songs of Joni Mitchell. While the performance can be accurately described as an impersonation (he wears the hair and mimics her tics), it must be noted that impersonating Joni Mitchell is fundamentally different from impersonating, say, Groucho Marx. The latter demands as little as a cigar and a couple catchphrases, while the former requires Kelly to play Joni's legendarily tricky arrangements-with-invented-tunings on guitar and dulcimer, accompanying himself while he sings the best of her songbook ("For the Roses"! "Amelia"!) in an eerily accurate Joni-in-'75 bell-toned quaver. The result is one-of-a-kind and perfectly exemplary postmodern art, in which a diehard Joni fan magically provides countless other fans with a ravishingly satisfying near-Joni experience. (And God knows the real Joni is never so generous in performing her beloved early- to mid-career compositions.) Huge thanks and impassioned encouragement to return to Mr. Kelly, who closed his show in boy clothes with "the saddest Christmas song of all time" ("River") and confirmed our suspicion that the first five notes of "A Case of You" are enough to make a grown man cry.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11 Speaking of triumphant artists and effusive praise: The week continues with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, a pair of Stranger-beloved artists (he's a writer and poet; she's a graphic artist who happens to be on the cover of the Stranger you're reading) blessed today with something most writers only dream of: a banned book. Details come from the Oregonian, which today reported that Alexie's National Book Award–winning young-adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (featuring illustrations by Forney) has been pulled from Crook County, Oregon, schools thanks to the complaints of one concerned parent: Hank Moss of Prineville, whose son was assigned the "trashy" and "inappropriate" book in class, and who brought his objections to the school board earlier this week. Specifically complaining about the book's inclusion of "a reference about masturbation," Mr. Moss passed out photocopied pages of "graphic language and graphic pictures," ultimately inspiring the school board to "temporarily" ban the book from the school's curriculum. Still, that's not enough to appease Moss. "I don't think it should be for anybody," said Moss to the Oregonian. "I think it's trash. I don't think a 50-year-old ought to read it." Thanks to Mr. Moss, and congratulations to Mr. Alexie and Ms. Forney, who I hope enjoy their book's requisite post-ban bump in sales.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 12 Nothing happened today, unless you count the seventh straight day of rioting in Athens, where Greek youths have spent the past week smashing bank windows, burning cars, and throwing Molotov cocktails at police. As the Associated Press reports: "The riots broke out Saturday within hours of the police shooting death of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, and have since expanded to encompass general anger over economic hardship." So far the riots have brought the injury of 70 people and the arrest of roughly 200 people.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 13 Nothing happened today, unless you count the aggressive blast of winter that seized the Pacific Northwest, replete with subfreezing temperatures, histrionic weather alerts, and honest-to-God snow.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14 The week ends with the pair of shoes hurled by an enraged Iraqi journalist at the head of President George W. Bush, an inspired protest/ attempted assault that brought smiles to the faces of millions of earth dwellers and will live in schadenfreude-bestowing infamy on YouTube for eternity.
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