Thursday, March 20, 2014


Hamell on Trial, AKA Ed Hamell, blazing like a bastard on stage

No, it's not the latest idiot-culture court case, Hamell on Trial is the most talented songwriter/performer you've never heard of.

Yep, it's just one guy. Ed Hamell. If I recall correctly, he called himself Hamell on Trial to get a bands-only gig many years ago. But he prefers it this way. As a one-man band, he tell us, "It's cool, because now at rehearsals, we all show up on time, we agree on the material, and we're all sober."

That said, this guy plays a mic'd acoustic guitar like its a battery of instruments. It's been described as "folk-punk," which is expedient, I guess, but this is really its own thing. I've never heard an acoustic guitar so beautifully murdered like this before. It brings to mind the character Begbie from the movie in Trainspotting.

But let's go back a little so I can clue you in on Ed properly.

I interviewed him years ago when I was a music writer and I saw him live supporting Ani DiFranco (whose record label, Righteous Babe Records, he was on before a recent move). Hamell has more energy than a school of Fukushima fish. That might seem like a tasteless analogy, but it's not. Because Ed is, 1. A very sharp radical/dissident; 2. Hilarious. And the former helps the latter no end. I'm sticking with the fish thing.

Songs like "Don't Kill" is very anti-violence, as you can imagine; "Hail" is a beautiful number about Brandon Teena (remember the movie Boys Don't Cry?) and Matthew Shepard, two young people murdered for their sexual orientation; and "Bill Hicks," a tribute to the late, great anti-Establishment comedian I've mentioned in House On Fire, several times.

Then there are times he's bitterly sardonic and un-PC: "I Hate Your Kid" (you ever dated someone who has a kid that... never mind), and "John Lennon" (when he "meets" his idol in a very awkward way).

 And sometimes he's speed-regaling audiences with stories about the crazy guys he grew up with: "Choochtown," "When Bobby Comes Down," "Joe Brush."

And playing live, his stories and banter between numbers fire out with the same velocity and wit as his songs.

Ed Hamell is changing the world for the better, one song, one gig, one album at a time. And he's keeping the fun in it. Look him up on the Net or just dive straight into his website. I'm doing you a favor here -- you know I wouldn't lead you wrong. 

Take care,

Monday, March 17, 2014


It's hard to believe that it was four years ago, on St. Patrick's Day, that I started this blog.

And it has taught me that the best way to deal with being pissed off with the state of affairs is to do something. Anything. And proceed from there.

There's no way to measure what House On Fire has achieved but I know thousands of people have visited, that it has surely spread information and inspiration to some degree, and it has been a very fulfilling learning and activism process for me.

Thank you to both the followers of this blog and those who've visited. I know from the stats page that you are located all around the world. 

And thank you to the other contributors who've chipped in, including Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK, some personal friends, and several others.

This blog has never been about me. Its statistics do not feed my ego or persuade me to take on advertising. In my heart, this is just another community gathering place, where the subject at hand is how we can change this world of ours for the better. In fact, with climate change taking hold, and the ever-present nuclear threat, it is first and foremost about saving our world. Our world -- it doesn't belong to corporations or governments. It belongs to every living creature.

You people rock!


Sunday, March 16, 2014


We all know about the problems of the world and the need for change and the dozens of petitions we sign and the big and little things we do to try and make the world a better place.

But I guess what we aren't as aware of are the constant victories that take place.

Here's just one that crossed my desk this past week.

A gentleman by the name of Robert Darrow, from Shreveport, Louisiana, ran a petition on (use this site!) Robert lives with HIV and he learned that Blue Cross Blue Shield -- one of the dirty pillars of our filthy health insurance industry -- was going to stop accepting funding from the Ryan White program (do you remember Ryan?), a federally funded program that helps low-income people afford HIV/AIDS medication and health coverage. This program helps offset premiums and medication costs. Refusing to accept these funds would endanger the lives of hundreds of people.

Well, 130,000 "ordinary folk" like you and me signed Ryan's petition and, quicker than you could say "We should have universal healthcare in America," Blue Cross Blue Shield and two other Louisiana insurers pulled their heads in and agreed to continue taking Ryan White funds (at least through November 2014).

Does this change the whole healthcare battle? No, not even close. Is it important? Absolutely. And it shows that, bit by bit, we can change whatever the hell we want. We have the numbers.

So don't stop signing petitions and doing the "little things." If you have the time, do bigger things: network, hit the streets with flyers, join protests, go to meetings, etc. There are many books available on activism.

It's easy to feel like we're spinning our wheels, but every change for the better affects people's lives for the better. And radical, vast change will come from a critical mass of smaller actions and alliances. It won't come through violent revolution. It will arrive thanks to the awareness, collaboration, and humanity of "the masses." That is, us.

Take care and thank you for every little selfless thing you do,

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Here's the story of CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin being detained and brutalized in Cairo, as mentioned in my previous post. -- Adrian
Media Upon Her Return to the U.S.

 Why I Didn’t Make it to Gaza for International Women’s Day
Medea Benjamin

When I boarded the plane to Cairo, Egypt, to make sure everything was in place for the women’s delegation headed to Gaza, I had no reason to think I’d end up in a jail cell at the Cairo airport and then violently deported.

The trip was in response to a call from women in Gaza to CODEPINK and other groups asking us to bring 100 women from around the world to Gaza for March 8, International Women’s Day. They wanted us to see, first-hand, how the seven-year Israeli blockade had made their situation intolerable. They talked about being unable to protect themselves and their families from frequent Israeli attacks and how the closing of the borders with both Israel and Egypt has made it impossible for them to travel abroad or even to other parts of Palestine. They wanted us to witness how the shortages of water, electricity, and fuel, coupled with severe restrictions on imports and exports, condemn most of the 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza to a life of misery.

So we helped put together a 100-women delegation with representatives from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, the UK, Ireland, Canada and the United States. The delegates, who ranged in age from 18 to 84, included Nobel Peace Prize winners, doctors, writers and students. We were also bringing hundreds of solar lamps and boxes of medical supplies for the women.

The only ways to enter Gaza is by land--either via the border with Israel or Egypt. Israel restricts entry to non-governmental and official delegations, so our only option was to go through Egypt. CODEPINK had already organized eight delegations to Gaza via Egypt since 2008, so we thought we knew the ropes. We had organized these delegations during Mubarak’s reign and after the revolution, but not since the July 2013 coup that toppled the government of Mohamed Morsi.

As in the past, we furnished the Foreign Ministry and the local Embassies with all the information they requested to get the delegates the necessary permits to cross the Sinai (which has become a dangerous place) and cross into Gaza.They said as long the situation was not too dangerous in the Sinai, they would help us get safely to the border. Otherwise, we would celebrate International Women’s Day together in Cairo.

I went early, on March 3, as part of the logistics team. When I arrived at the airport in Cairo, I was taken aside and put in a separate room.  First I was told “no problem, no problem, just checking the papers, just 10 minutes.” After 5 hours I realized that there was, indeed, a problem, as I was taken to a jail cell at the airport. Never once was I told what the problem was. Thank goodness I had hidden my phone and was able to get the word out about my plight over Twitter. Friends and family started immediately contacting the US Embassy for help. 

Medea's Cairo Cell

At 8am, 5 plain-clothed men with handcuffs came into the cell, looking very ominous. One said, “Come with us, we’re putting you on a plane and deporting you.” I was scared to go with them and I had just received a message that someone from the US Embassy was just ten minutes away.  I politely asked if I could wait for an embassy official or if I could call the Foreign Ministry to straighten out what must be a miscommunication.

Instead, the men grabbed me, threw me on the ground, put their knees into my back, yanked my arms back so violently that I heard the pop of my arm coming out of my shoulder, and put two sets of handcuffs on me. I was screaming from the pain so they took my scarf, stuffed it in my mouth, and dragged me through the halls of the airport to a waiting Turkish Airline plane.

I was in such agony from a dislocated shoulder—you could see the bone just sticking up in the air—that the airline personnel refused to let me on and insisted that the Egyptians call an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, the doctor immediately gave me a shot to ease the pain and insisted that I had to go to the hospital. By this time there were about 20 men on the tarmac, arguing about what to do with me while the Turkish plane with 175 people on board was prevented from taking off. After about an hour of fighting, the Egyptian security prevailed: I was not allowed go to the hospital but was forced to board the plane, with the two men who most abused me sitting on either side of me.  

As soon as we were in the air, the stewardess asked if there was a doctor on the plane.  Finally, a stroke of luck! Not only was there a doctor, but he was an orthopedic surgeon. He created a makeshift operating bed in the aisle of the plane and got the stewardesses to assist. “Usually I’d put you out before doing this, so I warn you this will be painful,” he said as he manipulated my arm back into its socket. Once we got to Turkey, I went to a hospital for further treatment before flying back home. My doctors here say it will take months of physical therapy before I can recover full use of my arm.

Along with the physical trauma, I am left with many unanswered questions:

* Why didn’t the US Embassy in Egypt ever help me during this 17-hour ordeal, especially when I made it clear I was in danger? When questioned by a journalist at a State Department briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki falsely claimed that the Embassy had provided me with “appropriate consular assistance.” I have since lodged a complaint about the lack of assistance, and you can send a message to the State Department, too.

*If the Egyptian officials were so brutal to me-- a petite, 61-year-old American woman who has dedicated her life to peace--what are they doing to their own citizens and others languishing in their prisons? And why is Secretary Kerry considering a resumption of US military aid to this brutal regime? According to a recent Amnesty International report, the current human rights situation is characterized by repeated excessive use of force by the security forces, leading to the death of hundreds of protesters; increasingly severe restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression, as well as academic freedoms; the arbitrary imprisonment of protest leaders, university students, journalists and others; and a failure to protect vulnerable groups, including minorities and women. Take a minute to send a message to the Egyptian embassy in the US and tell them to end the government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful citizens.

*Did Israel put the pressure on Egypt to do a last-minute about-face to keep us out of Gaza? In the end, only 17 of our members made it into Cairo (but not to Gaza) and the rest were deported from the airport. The question of Israeli influence is one we’ll probably never have answered, but during the very time we were supposed to be there, rocket fire was exchanged between militants from Gaza and the Israeli army. This shows the vulnerability of the women of Gaza, caught between the Israeli siege, Egyptian blockade, and internal extremists. That’s why it was so important for us to go there, to show our solidarity with the civilian population. But that will have to wait until Egypt no longer deems peace activists to be a threat to their national security.

As long as the world ignores the ongoing siege of Gaza, almost 2 million people will continue to languish in the world’s largest open-air prison. If Secretary of State Kerry wants the US to be a meaningful peace broker and to reach an agreement that includes dignity and human rights for the Palestinians, he can no longer continue to support military aid to the perpetrators of the blockade: Israel and Egypt.

Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Another important piece from CODEPINK. I'll be blogging more about their trip, and what happened to co-founder Medea Benjamin, in the next couple of days. Adrian.
Photo from Cairo of French, Swiss and American delegates of the International Women’s Delegation to Gaza
 Celebrating International Women’s Day with the Women of Gaza -- Not in Gaza, but in Cairo

By Ann Wright

Five years ago, in March, 2009, only two months after the 22-day Israeli attack on Gaza, I was on an international delegation ( of 60 women organized by CODEPINK who traveled to Gaza for International Women’s Day. In the week in Gaza, we met with women where their homes used to be before they were destroyed by the Israeli attack that killed 1,450, wounded 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless. We also met with women in 13 community centers throughout the country, to listen to their stories of life under attack and under siege.

Five years later, I joined an international delegation of 100 women from seven countries to travel to Gaza in solidarity with the women of Gaza for International Women’s Day ( Women of Gaza are over 50 percent of the 1.7 million people who live in tiny Gaza. As they care for their families, they face extreme circumstances with daily attacks from the Israeli military, lack of electricity and water, environmental disasters of sewage flooding into the streets, and a lack of basic necessities. Hundreds of tunnels under the border with Egypt that previously brought food and supplies denied by the Israelis in their land blockade of Gaza, have been destroyed by the Government of Egypt, reportedly to prevent weapons smuggling by militant groups. 

Travel in and out of Gaza through the Egyptian border for medical treatment, education, and family visits to relatives around the world has become even more difficult than it was in the past. The Egyptian border with Gaza now has been closed for 28 consecutive days and was only opened once in February for a number of pilgrims to Mecca to return. (

Palestinians who have never been charged with a crime and never seen the inside of a court, are now treated as convicted prisoners in the “open-air prison” called Gaza. The walls on all sides of the prison -- the Israeli land and sea blockades on three sides, and the Egyptian blockade on one side -- are closing tighter and tighter.

It is because of those conditions in the lives of women of Gaza, that our delegation wanted to join women in Gaza to show our concern and solidarity as women -- to let them know we have not forgotten them.

Today, on International Women’s Day, 16 of our 100 delegates are celebrating International Women’s Day in Cairo, Egypt, not Gaza. However, 62 of our delegates were refused entry into Egypt by immigration authorities and are sending their greetings from their home countries of France, Belgium, the United States, Algeria, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Australia. Twenty-two of the 100 initial delegates decided at the last minute not fly to Egypt, including Djamila Bouhired, the 79-year-old Algerian independence icon.

Our message on International Women’s Day to the women of Gaza is:

We, the International Women's Delegation to Gaza, greet you on International Women's Day.

Although we can never know your suffering as you feel it, we hold you in our hearts, and pledge to you our continuing, ever-deepening solidarity. We will tell your story to all who will listen.

We will tell your story to our Parliamentary and Congressional representatives so they can better understand the injustice they support and the suffering they cause by the billions of dollars they send to Israel and Egypt.

Our sisters who were not allowed even to enter Egypt have a strong additional motive for solidarity.

We celebrate International Women's Day in different parts of the world, but our hearts and our perseverance in the struggle make us one.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She spent 16 years in the US Diplomat Corps and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan, and Mongolia. She resigned from the US State Department in March, 2003, in opposition to the war on Iraq. She has traveled to Gaza six times since 2009 and was on the two Gaza Freedom Flotillas and was an organizer for the 2009 Gaza Freedom March that brought 1,300 persons from 55 countries to Cairo to travel in solidarity with the people of Gaza (only 100 were allowed to travel to Gaza).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Dear Mr. President: You can't have it both ways

The other day I wrote a post about U.S. hypocrisy in decrying intervention by Russia in the Ukraine, while being the most interventionist country on earth.

Now, courtesy of RootsAction, you can sign this petition calling Obama out on just that hypocrisy.

This is really deserving of our signatures, and at a perfect time.

Thanks for everything you do,

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


The Keystone XL Pipeline: Crude from start to finish

Climate change is a fact and it's taking us inexorably to the brink of extinction.

Please go here to offer your comments and to urge Secretary of State John Kerry to recommend that Obama not sign off on the Keystone XL Pipeline which will carry tar sands crude oil right through the heartland of America. This petition link will also give you some excellent, and concise, information on the pipeline.

This is URGENT as the period for public comments closes on March 7. Please add yours NOW.

This is a terrible project at a time when we need to be moving away from fossil fuels as fast as we possibly can.

Thank you!