Friday, January 30, 2004

Michael Savage Forgot His Tinfoil Hat

From Newsmax via the Hamster:

MS: It’s not much more complex than fighting for your survival at a certain point. We are not the French where we have to, you know, buy people off. Clinton bought people off for eight years. He was a master of deceit. But everyone knew the piper had to be paid at the end of the road.

Well, we’ve paid it, you know. We’ve paid it. We inherited this. I almost think that he set out to do this. I have the weird feeling sometimes that he set it up so that everything would collapse when Bush took over, because he knew he couldn’t run again.

I think he’s the devil. I truly do. I actually think that the man is demonic.

Oh, good grief!

Back in the Day, When the Wingnuts Likened a US President to Hitler

They were sure more than happy to equate former President Bill Clinton with the fascist regime of Adolf Hitler not too long ago. Funny how they've changed their tune.

It doesn't take more than a quick Google search to expose right-wingut hypocrisy for all to see.

Just a few of the gems I've seen floating around the internet:

Is Clinton the Next Hitler?. The cat behind this particular site is cruising seriously close to "Area 51 conspiracist" territory. Strike that: the author went over the edge.

If you liked Hitler, you'll love Clinton the authors proclaim in all capital letters. Read it, and ask: do the authors wear tin foil hats?

President Clinton is using another Hitler tactic in defending against his impeachment, also in all capital letters. What is it with these wingnuts any way? As I read on, I think I'm buying stock in the manufacturers of tin foil. The same tin foil hat brigade also proclaim that Clinton's national service proposal is similar to one that Hitler advocated.

Remember those nifty compare-contrast essays we had to write in middle school?. The writer of this one demonstrates that his compare-contrast skills were not improved one iota in law school.

Clinton & Hitler Compared.

Clinton on Hitler's "Christianity". This draws a parellel between the Democrats and the Nazis in addition to the Clinton/Hitler parallel. A two-for-one bargain.

Hey, let's throw Tony Blair into the Clinton-Hitler analogy. This one barely mentions Bill Clinton except by association. News flash: Blair's no Hitler either (and I say that as someone who finds Blair's tenure as PM to be rather repulsive).

Comparison Between Clinton and Hitler. Here we go again.

Not too surprisingly, back in 1999, a NY Post survey's respondents rated Clinton second only to Hitler in terms of evil.

Clinton and Hitler are alike in so many ways including that they were both tools for Satan. A little fundamentalist wingnutter.

Robert Holcomb suffers from selective amnesia. Apparently, the dude just can't seem to remember right-wingers engaging in such unseemly comparisons -- too bad there are so many counter-examples.

Two simple quotes. The gist: Hitler advocated registering firearms. Clinton advocated registering firearms. Therefore, Clinton is a Nazi.

H Ross Perot also at one time compared Clinton to Hitler, but then again, Perot had his own paranoid conspiratorial streak. Another editorial on the infamous Perot comparison between Clinton and Hitler may be found here.

Freepers even are willing to rationalize their Clinton/Hitler comparisons. "But keep in mind, we did not advertise these Clinton/Hitler, Reno/Hitler threads to the public during an election cycle." However, keep in mind that those threads are made on a public forum -- one that can reach a large number of people (and probably more people than a couple obscuroid entries in an ad contest that were discredited even by the contest's sponsors). And of course, a freeper poster posts a picture of Bill Clinton's face on Hitler's body. That post elicited this reply"Can you post that picture with Hillary Clinton's face pasted onto the picture. I really miss working in a course ware development lab with all the neat software to modify pictures. I did it for several years before my medication made it impossible for me to continue. I really miss those days and all the fun on the side. Thanks for the Billyboy de Fuhrer picture." We're well into some Pot+Kettle=Black territory.

Springtime for Hitler. Must be time to dust off those tinfoil hats.

Just for shits and giggles, let's compare the Clintons to a whole bunch of authoritarian dictators.

Or we can read about how Clinton & Hitler had supposedly similar upbringings "Freudian issues aside, more than a few people have commented on the eerie similarity between Bill Clinton's early upbringing and that of Adoph Hitler. Both had strong domineering mothers, fathers who were absent at an early age, both became sociopaths with severe sexual problems, and both had lovers who died under questionable circumstances." Ooooohhhhh. Spooky.

Yet another compare and contrast between Bill Clinton and ol' Adolph.

And finally, I'll leave you with some more fundamentalist wingnuts who compare Clinton & the Nazis (scroll down a ways). Hallelujah!

Weapons of Misperception

Interview with former CIA analyst and NSC member, Kenneth Pollack in the Atlantic Monthly. Worth a read, in large part for its insights into how intelligence workers approached the problem of Iraq.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Right-Wing Hypocrisy: Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Want some more examples of right-wingnuts using Hitler & Nazi analogies to describe liberals and moderates? Go here, here, here, here, and here.

Tons of commentary. As I've said before, and will say again, the whining and complaining about a couple fairly obscuroid ad contest entries would carry somewhat more weight if only the ones doing the complaining weren't already guilty of using tactics that are far worse on a far more frequent basis. And given that a fair amount of the guilty parties are ones who are considered prominent right-wing media and political figures, their use of those tactics are considerably more prominent. They cannot be ignored. Let's just say if I had a nickel for every time I have read or heard the term "feminazi" or seen Hillary Clinton referred to as "Hitlery" or seen or heard some reference to Federal employees as "jackboot thugs" I'd be able to retire comfortably. As far as I'm concerned, the right-wing in this country can save their outrage for a more appropriate target: themselves. If you want to contend that there are some similarities between Hitler and folks like Pol Pot, Josef Stalin, Saddam Hussein, or some of the leaders of Maoist or Stalinist extremist groups I'd be fairly sympathetic...none of these individuals is exactly "like" Hitler, but their rigid authoritarianism betrays some stark psychological similarities. But the Clintons? People who are centrists in what most Europeans would call a Center-Right political party? Give me a break.

The Psychology of Evil

Phil Zimbardo, a social psychologist at Stanford, summarizes some situational factors that can account for what we consider "evil" behaviors. Much of his focus is not on leaders, such as Hitler, Pol Pot, and other despots but rather on what would motivate the followers to go along. In the process, Zimbardo describes the findings of several powerful social psychology experiments, such as Stanley Milgram's obedience experiments, Zimbardo's own experiments on deindividuation (as well as the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment), and Albert Bandura's work on dehumanization.

Some of the points that summarize the findings of these studies are worth repeating. First the basic take-home message from Milgram's research on destructive obedience:

• Start with an ideology (justifying beliefs for actions).

• Use authority to legitimate that ideology.

• Give people desirable roles to play with meaningful status.

• Have rules that channel behavioral options.

• Employ semantic distortion to disguise truth (help = hurt).

• Arrange for contractual agreement with the game rules before the game begins.

• Make situation give permission to engage in usually taboo acts.

• Make initial harmful act minimal, minor, trivial.

• Enable subsequent acts to escalate only gradually, minimally, but their cumulative impact can be deadly.

• Displace responsibility for consequences on authority or others.

• Get actors involved in action, in technology, in details, without time to think through the meaning of their actions.

• Don't allow usual forms of dissent to work; undercut them so dissent does not lead to disobedience.

• Put actors in novel setting, without familiar referents.

• Have authority transform gradually from just to unjust.

• Give no training in how to challenge unjust authority.

• Do not provide apparent means for exiting the situation.

From Zimbardo's research on deindividuation, we can draw these conclusions:

• Take away people's sense of uniqueness and individuality, because that encourages spontaneity, rebelliousness, and independence.

• Do so by submerging them in groups.

• Put them in uniforms.

• Disguise them with hoods or masks.

Finally, from Bandura's research, we find that dehumanizing the intended victims makes it considerably easier to aggress against them.

The blueprint for understanding evil behavior is summarized fairly nicely from the above points. We find that evil is facilitated by a number of factors that psychologically innoculate the individual actor from coming face to face with the consequences of his or her actions. The not so comforting take home message is that any of us has the capacity, given the right set of conditions, to engage in evil behaviors; and collectively as a society we could commit terrible attrocities under the right set of conditions. When people have in the past tried to reassure me that a Hitler-esque or Stalin-esque sort of environment could never happen here in the US, I find myself returning to the work of Milgram, Zimbardo, and Bandura (among others) and wonder how one could be so sanguine.

For a more detailed look at the social psychology of evil, check out this paper by Zimbardo: A Situationist Perspective on the Psychology of Evil: Understanding How Good People Are Transformed Into Perpetrators.

Links to Nazi History

Courtesy of Mostly Links.

Also, the same blog has Propaganda links, and Terrorism - Empire links.

Bush's War Record: Missing, Inaction

Pun courtesy of the Village Voice Mondo Washington article Operation Desert Guard.

An excerpt:

By calling Bush a "deserter," [Michael Moore] got the big-time journalists—horrified David Broder, incredulous Peter Jennings, outraged Robert Novak, nonplussed Tim Russert—to openly raise the deserter issue before millions. It is now a political topic once again. As the journalists damn Moore, the populace is once again wondering, well, maybe Bush is a deserter after all. And the idea of a deserter running this war makes it even more sick than it already is. Consider that this weekend warrior is already responsible for the following toll in Iraq: 513 GIs sent to their death; 8,000 medevacked out of Iraq; 2,919 wounded (missing arms or legs, or blinded, or psycho); and at least 22 GI suicides. God only knows how many Iraqi men, women, and children. And when it was his turn to fight for his country, Bush booked.

Note: Emphasis added by your's truly.

There's been quite a bit in the news and blogs regarding Bush's military record in recent days. Clearly, prominent liberal war veterans, such as Wesley Clark and George McGovern, aren't especially thrilled about AWOL and his apparent eagerness to send plenty of young men and women into battle. Some of the best coverage I've seen on the issue of Bush as a deserter or AWOL can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Plenty of info from these writers in their own right, as well as links to source materials, etc.

The issue of such actions as going AWOL, desertion, as well as conscientious objection to military conscription is one I've pondered a bit over the course of my lifetime some of my ranting on a small facet of the issue can be found here. Generally, I have no problem with individuals who actively resisted the draft, and who did so as a matter of principle (note: I am an unabashed pacifist, and have been all of my adult life). Such individuals did indeed exist, and to me deserve respect for having the courage of their conviction to take a highly risky stand and accept the range of possible consequences for that risk. The individuals who served in Vietnam deserve similar respect for doing what they thought they had to do. People like Bush on the other hand, who had little problem with elites sending working-class people into war zones but whom themselves simply couldn't be bothered with military service, bug me. Always have. Always will. Basically it comes down to their efforts to avoid any real consequences for their acts.

As far as I'm concerned there are plenty of reasons why I would never cast a vote for Dubya or his ilk in a million years, and many of those reasons are more important than whether or not Dubya went AWOL. However, the way he went about weaseling out of his obligations then tell us something about the kind of person he is, at the very least. For the conservatives who've complained about the importance of "character", the issue offers them a chance to demonstrate their own fortitude by asking Dubya and his cronies some hard questions, even if it means Dubya's eventual downfall. Whether or not such conservatives will step up to the plate remains to be seen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Novak Freaks Out

Update: More on the incident can be found here.

Editorials Question Bush's Role in 'Cooking' Up a War

by Greg Mitchell at Editor & Publisher. The gist: major newspapers (including ones whose editorial boards were quite gung-ho about the Iraq War) are increasingly saying that the White House has "some 'splainin' to do."

Something else to ponder: just how will the intelligence community react to Kay's contention that they were ultimately to blame for the pack of lies that led to our current military quagmire? Probably not terribly well. Nor will they react well to White House efforts to paint their work in an unfavorable light. My hunch: individuals whose life work is in intelligence are going to be more interested in protecting their own than they will be in protecting a White House that seems overly anxious to diss them.

Parallels to Nazi Germany: How Plausible?

Harley Sorensen via The Left Coaster, has this to say:

My conclusion is that some comparisons between modern times and Nazi Germany are valid, and some are not. Enough are valid, in my opinion, however, for us to be wary, and as vigilant as humanly possible.

I've been raising a similar point on this blog from time to time. Typically comparisons of this sort are written off as "conspiracist" by conservatives who haven't bothered to check into what the comparisons really mean. Here's the deal: no one that I'm aware of is seriously contending that Bush is exactly like Hitler or that the US is exactly like Germany in the 1930s. What is being noted are similarities in how power is acquired and consolidated by these two administrations and their respective political parties, their ideologies (especially the psychological underpinnings of those ideologies), their rhetoric, and policy.

To me what is especially striking is the similarity in mindset:

• Both the Nazis and today's neo-conservatives seem to share an apocalyptic worldview. While their visions may differ in detail, they are similar to the extent that both espouse "cleansing" the planet of impure elements by any means necessary. For the Nazis, that meant cleansing the world of Jews and other "impure" races and groups. For the neo-conservatives, that means cleansing the world of what they consider radical Islamist influences.

• Both the Nazis and the neo-conservatives focus on returning the "homeland" to its former glory. In the case of Germany of the 1930s, there was still the humiliating aftermath of WWI with which to contend and an economy that was in shambles thanks to both economic reparations and to a global economic depression. The United States at the beginning of the 21st century is ostensibly at the top of its game; however the neo-conservatives perceive the previous administration as weakening the "homeland" in its presumed emphasis on diplomacy rather than military force. Each movement espoused some sort of return to an idealized era in which traditional roles and values presumably reigned supreme.

• Which brings me to militarism: the Nazis and the neo-conservatives both appear to me to emphasize the primacy of projecting military superiority and to use military force to attain their aims of a "thousand year reich" (Nazis) or a "New American Century" (Neo-conservatives).

• Both the Nazis and neo-conservatives utilize eliminationist rhetoric in their approach to dissidents. Criticizing Hitler and the Nazis was tantamount to supporting presumed Jew or Communist inspired terrorists. Criticizing Bush and the neo-conservatives is tantamount to supporting presumed Islamist terrorists.

• Both Hitler and Bush's regimes made concerted efforts to strip away constitutional civil liberties. Each has his own version of a "Patriot Act" in response to a terrorist event (the burning of the Reichstag in Germany; the Twin Towers and Pentagon bombings in the US). In both cases, attacks on civil liberties were gradual.

• As power was consolidated by the Nazis, the party was increasingly less inclined to include opposition parties in the decision making process of governing. We see the beginnings of a similar trend with the GOP here.

• Both Hitler and Bush have been masters at manipulating mass media to achieve their aims.

The list goes on. Again, to me, Hitler (and the Nazis) and Bush (and the neo-conservatives) are not exactly the same by any stretch. There are some striking similarities however, and those need to be considered - especially by those of us who value civil liberties. American fascism has its own unique character, although one will find some definite psychological similarities between America's fascists or proto-fascists and those from Nazi-era Germany.

Some recommended reading:

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer

Superpower Syndrome by Robert Jay Lifton

Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis by David Neiwert

Is Dubya a Deserter? Does KFC Serve Fried Chicken?

Was Michael Moore really reckless in contending that Dubya was a deserter?.

"Currently, any soldier who has taken an unauthorized leave from his/her training or duty station is considered AWOL. On the 31st day of AWOL, this status is officially changed to Dropped From Rolls (DFR), or desertion. This can be considered the 'administrative' definition of the term. From a legal standpoint, individuals are considered deserters when they have been convicted of the crime through a court martial."

Something to think about.

Where there's smoke,

there's fire-related program activities.

Harry Shearer's "Le Show" via Uggabugga.

Iraq Casualty Update

Read and weep. Support the troops. End the charade and bring them home.

Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave...

WMD quotes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

So, How Did My NH Predictions Pan Out?

Actually, not too bad:

Let's compare my predictions and reality:

1. Kerry -- Kerry w/39%

2. Dean -- Dean w/26%

3. Edwards -- Clark w/13%

4. Clark -- Edwards w/12%

5. Lieberman -- Lieberman w/9%

6. Kucinich -- Kucinich w/1%

7. Sharpton -- Sharpton w/0%

Kerry and Dean walk away with delegates (13 and 9, respectively). I missed on Clark and Edwards by a hair.

Let's just say I felt like Dennis Rodman after actually making a 3-point shot...I probably won't pull this one off again. But just for grins I'll probably drop a few more of these entirely non-expert predictions as the race goes on.

What do I think we learned from the NH primary? At least two things:

• First, it's looking more and more like a two-man race, as some of the real experts that I've read have been suggesting. Looks pretty apparent that this is increasingly a Kerry/Dean contest.

• Second, it's still too early to write Dean off as finished. Kerry still is riding the momentum from Iowa, and seems to be turning into a formidable campaigner. I've been a bit skeptical about whether or not Kerry would have the backbone needed to mount a serious contest against Bush. He just might. I'll keep an open mind. That said, it's also equally apparent to me that Dean has some come-from-behind momentum of his own. Add to that his solid organization and finances, and he's still in this thing. Whether the momentum is enough to truly come from behind is an unknown. We'll see what happens in the next week when we get our turn out here in Oklahoma and in some of the other states.

Dean strikes me as the more substantial of the two front-runners with regard to issues, but Kerry seems to be the one that is more palatable to "establishment" types in the Democrat Party. I've never been particularly fond of Kerry, but I consider him to be far and away better than Bush.

One thing Atrios points out that caught my interest: the number of voters in the Republican primary who wrote in the names of Democrat candidates. I'm not certain quite what to make of that data. It may be a sign of some rumblings of discord among the GOP rank and file, or entirely meaningless. In any event, one of those things that makes you go, "hmmmm."

Chickenhawk SOTU Lays An Egg

User's Guide to the State of the Union

Given what we've seen of Bu$hCo, is it any wonder that the SOTU is viewed with a great deal of skepticism, and at this point a great deal of cynicism? To get at the real state of the union, one could almost read or listen to what Bush says, and then figure out its opposite.

Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno Unveil Digital "Manifesto"

This one caught my eye in part because of the two musicians involved and in part because of my interest in alternative means of distributing music. Worth a read.

Liberals turn to shows & music to battle Bush

an interesting article, that looks at some of the creative ways used to get the word out. Much of the coverage is on an engagement that brought together Al Franken, Paul Krugman, and Kevin Phillips. Could this kind of gig play outside of Berkeley? The article suggests some skepticism, especially in the so-called "Red States".

Something that caught my attention:

A show featuring comedy, music, film and "censored truths," dubbed "Behind Every Terrorist Is a Bush," is set for next Sunday at the Herbst Theater. In April, the San Francisco punk rock label Fat Wreck Chords will release "Rock Against Bush," a compilation of political songs, and stage a tour by several bands.

A series of performances aimed at getting young clubbers interested in politics debuted Jan. 11 at San Francisco's Cafe Du Nord, where a larger-than- normal Sunday night audience saw a lineup featuring veteran Bay Area stage actor Geoff Hoyle, video artist VJ Luna and longtime activist David Harris.

The last sentence says something I'd like to believe:

"You could find audiences for (progressives) everywhere."

Monday, January 26, 2004

A Kinder, Gentler Fascism

An oldie but a goodie from Carla Binion. If you have the pdf reader, you should be set.

Character Counts

Just too bad the clowns running the GOP have none. Case in point: Democrats say their computers were infiltrated by GOP staffers. Apparently, this infiltration was extensive. It's quite obvious that for today's GOP, it isn't about ideas, or patriotism, or what's best for Americans. It's about attaining and maintaining raw power. Where's the character in that? Nowhere to be found.

More importantly, where's the outrage?

An article on George Carlin

Get past the stupid headline title and just check out what Carlin has to say in a recent interview. This part in particular caught my eye:

Q: Do you feel like this country has progressed any way, shape or form in the past 20 years?

A: Everybody's got more jet skis and Dustbusters now and sneakers with lights in them. They've got more cheese on their thing that they buy. They get double helpings. See, Americans measure all their progress in the wrong way. They measure by quantity and by gizmos and toys. And not by quality and by things that are important.

The most interesting thing to me is that the things that people would seem to have the most right to have - that is to say health, food, shelter and a job are the things that are last on the list. To me, that is fundamental. Those are the things humans most need to function, and we have placed them at the bottom of the list. So I think that says a lot about national character and priorities.

Remember The Surplus?

What ever became of it?

Wingnut Racism

in all its glory.


More SOTU Humor

Or what it would look like if we read between the lines.


Shades of Grey

by Trevor Mendham.

I didn't pay much attention when I first heard about it on TV. A man with a beard was saying that the colours were disappearing, that we'd lost heliotrope. What is heliotrope anyway?

The government spokesman said: "Trust us".

The colours that went first were ones most people wouldn't miss: aquamarine, indigo, russet. Artists complained but the rest of us couldn't tell the difference.

What a fuss about nothing. As the government said, what were people doing with these strange colours anyway? Why couldn't they use normal colours like decent citizens?

When purple went I began to worry. Now it was affecting me. What harm had purple ever done? I never thought it would go so far, not in this country.

I started going on the protest marches, but it was too late by then.

Now everything is shades of grey.

Dull. Predictable.


The government is happy.

My Birthday in Two Days

I can easily think of two national disasters that have occurred on birthdays past:

On my 20th birthday (1986), the first space shuttle disaster happened. Was pretty hard to be in a celebratory mood after that.

Last year, on my 37th birthday, George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address. Given what has transpired at home and abroad since that evening, I'd say it's pretty safe to say that the speech had disastrous consequences for our nation, and for the world at large.

I'm hoping that things will be a bit mellower this year.

Happy Australia Day!

Just noticed that on my calendar.

More Pot + Kettle = Black

One of the other terms that I have seen rather frequently in right-wingnut discourse is "feminazi."

Finding a definition for this term has been rather difficult, as the typical definition is itself based on ill-defined terminology, for example see this definition, this definition, and these definitions. The Wikipedia attempts a more balanced and thorough definition, and acknowledges that the term, which originated with Rush Limbaugh, is pretty much an ad hominem term and one that has tremendous historical inaccuracy (e.g., the Nazis were, if anything, highly anti-feminist).

Here's one example, where the author admonishes feminists to "Put on your bras, shave your armpits and quit your bitching.". The feminism swastika is a lovely touch.

Here's another one, that rants about "Feminazi reporters". The main focus is apparently on one particular female journalist. I don't know anything about the journalist, but I do have a sneaking hunch that the real "screeching wild banshee" is Mark Hansel, who is responsible for the diatribe at the above link.

Of course, adding to the sophisticated and rational discussion is none other than the old Anti-Idoitarian Rottweiler who, while drunk and blindfolded scrawled this drivel.

Here's one that has its own unique take on the domino effect: Feminazi Law Students Become Feminazi Lawyers and Judges. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be law students.

Or, how about this diatribe where the dude is apparently irate that some female writer was upset at another individual for spouting off a combined racial slur and sexist obscenity. How could any reasonable person possibly be upset over racism and sexist obscenities. What is this world coming to?

Beware: there is a Feminazi campaign against fathers. It's a conspiracy, I tell ya!

Here's one with some really pretty pictures, by what I presume is an anti-choice group. Take heart, little fundamentalist wingnuts: Old Uncle Adolf didn't care much for reproductive rights either.

Of course there are tons of hits, and if you're interested in exploring the right-wing's love of using nazi imagery against its political opponents, just do a quick Google Search. Then ask yourself, why do those on the right wing use a different standard for themselves than they do for everyone else?

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Is Bush a Fascist?

well at least he's not Hitler. I generally agree that Bush is not Hitler, and that the US is not like Germany of the 1930s. There are, as I've mentioned elsewhere, some definite fascist elements (albeit with a decidedly American vibe) that are present in the present Bush White House, and we do need to remain vigilant if we have any hope of stemming the fascist tide here.

Dean's Iowa Speech In Context

You can watch a video clip of it here to get a feel for the speech's context (you have the choice of viewing in Windows Media Player or Quicktime).

My initial impression when I first saw the soundbites on the various cable news programs was that he looked more like a coach firing up his team during halftime. From the additional footage, it becomes apparent that the crowd was also firing up Dean. The message to me remains the same: he's simply letting his team know that they may be behind, but that he's planning on playing hard and competitively through the rest of the game. He's motivated to win. I like that in a coach. I like that in a candidate.

(note: I'm a bit of a sports junkie, especially baseball, but also football & basketball, and appreciate the importance of a competent and positive coach & coaching staff. The absolute worst coach I knew of was one who would tell his team at half time, "We're already behind. We're going to lose this one, and lose big." I always wondered why the guys looked even more discouraged coming out of the locker room; not too surprisingly, the team simply folded the second half.)

The Agony of the Great Plains

This post from Sooner Thought caught my attention, given that I live in a rural area out in the Great Plains region. The large cities in the region are doing okay, but the small towns are in a state of decline. Certainly I've noticed it just traveling around the region. Some of the towns I drive through, such as Nara Visa, NM, are increasingly looking like ghost towns: most of the structures look abandoned save for a couple fueling points. The town where I live and work is doing fairly well. Our population has been generally stable, and Main Street's businesses seem to be holding their own. What helps us considerably is that we have a university in town. That provides us with a considerable amount of stability in terms of population, money, and so forth. From what I've seen of the community and its leadership, it appears that many of the points addressed in the post are ones that the community takes seriously. Hopefully we can keep on keepin' on, and improve where we need to improve.

Shorter Colin Powell

Did I really say there were WMDs in Iraq? My bad.

Reading the NH Tea Leaves

My predictions (preliminary)

1. Kerry

2. Dean

3. Edwards

4. Clark

5. Lieberman

6. Kucinich

7. Sharpton

Dean should have a strong #2 showing, if I guess correctly, forcing the pundits to revive a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: "he's not dead yet." If I had my druthers, he'd be at the #1 spot, but a strong second place finish will suffice. Then he'd better do well in the Feb. 3 primaries (including my home state of Oklahoma). Ideologically, I'm probably a lot closer to Kucinich and Sharpton, and I dig what they have to say. Neither appears to be catching fire, unfortunately. Lieberman was tepid as a running mate in 2000, and his brand of "me too centrism" is not going to generate enthusiasm from either the party activist base (who will largely be turned off) or the independent centrists (who will wonder just how things would actually differ from the current incumbent). I'm still keeping an open mind on Clark and Edwards.

It's going to be interesting.

Dubya's Kinda Guy: He and Aliyev Are Two Peas in a Pod

Our Man in Baku, is the title of a Washington Post editorial that describes what this dude is like. Check it out:

ILHAM ALIYEV was inaugurated as president of the oil-rich Muslim country of Azerbaijan three months ago after an election condemned by international observers as blatantly fraudulent. When members of the opposition tried to protest, they were brutally beaten by police. There followed a massive, nationwide crackdown in which more than 1,000 people were arrested, including opposition leaders, activists from nongovernmental organizations, journalists and election officials who objected to the fraud. More than 100 remain in prison, including most of the senior opposition activists. A new report by Human Rights Watch documents numerous cases of torture, including severe beatings, electric shock, and threats of rape against the opposition leaders. Mr. Aliyev, who succeeded his strongman father, meanwhile has been consolidating dictatorial powers: Most recently he was named director of Azerbaijani radio and television.

I'm sure that Aliyev has done all of that in the name of "homeland security." Seems like a guy who's bad news. So what is Dubya doing, given his avowed desire to spread democracy to the Middle East? He's rolled out the red carpet, of course. Why?

...oil. Over the last decade Mr. Aliyev and his father granted billions in contracts to such companies as BP-Amoco, ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil. He also has supported a $3 billion pipeline that is to carry oil from the Caspian to a port in Turkey. According to Mr. Aliyev, Mr. Bush once pronounced him an honorary citizen of Texas in appreciation of his support for American oil companies. When he was installed by his dying father as prime minister last August, the president quickly sent him a congratulatory letter.

I guess as long as Aliyev plays by Bu$hCo's rules, he'll be considered an ally. He'll want to watch his step though. Take a look at Saddam Hussein. Heck, people like Rumsfeld were more than happy to shake the man's hand, and were falling all over themselves to give money, ingredients for chemical & biological weapons, and ignore whatever gross human rights abuses were occurring back in the day. But, as soon as Hussein started following his own twisted muse rather than the Reagan/Bush twisted muse, all those human rights abuses suddenly became a problem. Fancy that.

Arthur Doyle

One of those extremely obscurioud avant-garde jazz sax players whom I wish received more publicity. The first recording that I heard his fairly unique style was on a Noah Howard recording The Black Arc, which I managed to get a hold of early last year (its last issue was as a Japanese import, and since it's out of print is hard as hen's teeth to find). Doyle's contributions turned out to be hard to miss: his basic style is loud, fast, and almost vocal-like. I was hooked (the whole album is great, by the way, and a must listen for fans of the 1960s free jazz scene). I realized fairly quickly that he was one of those jazzers who would have fit in nicely among the punk crowd.

Sure enough, I managed to get a hold of a Blue Humans recording (Live - NY 1980) which featured Doyle on multiple reeds, guitarist Rudolph Grey (think Sonny Sharrock filtered through 1977-era punk) and legendary jazz drummer Beaver Harris. The recording itself comes from a gig at a punk club, and suffice it to say, the musicians created free improvisation for moshing (by the way, The Blue Humans tended to play quite a few punk and new wave joints, including Max's Kansas City and CBGBs during the late 1970s and early 1980s). Grey and Doyle work fairly well together: Grey tends to prefer the guitar's low register, and Doyle likes to hit those high notes. Doyle also proves perfectly capable of being heard amidst the angular shards of guitar-driven feedback. Harris can swing, but here goes for a much more tribal sound more suitable to the punk aesthetic. The untitled pieces are freely improvised in a way that suggests three very good friends at a club trying to hold a conversation. This is very aggressive, emotional music that is not for the faint-hearted. If your idea of sax is Kenny G or your idea of guitar playing is Pat Metheny, you'd better pass. If you'd like a taste of what true punk-jazz fusion might sound like, this album will not disappoint. The album may be out of print, but through Amazon, one can find some used and new copies through their associated merchants.

Alabama Feeling, recorded in 1977, also has a bit of a punkish feel to it, minus the electric instrumentation (with the exception of electric bass). The sound is fairly lo-fi, and has the feel of a good mid-1960s free jazz date. Doyle sounds like he's screaming his lungs out throughout the recording, and in spots sounds like he's playing two reeds at once. To give one a feel for the vocalist quality of his playing, the credits list him as playing the tenor voice-o-phone (i.e., sax), the bass voice-o-net (i.e., clarinet), and flute. The man can snarl and skronk with the best of them, and can even sound surprisingly lyrical (parts of "Something for Caserlo, Larry & Irma"). It's cathartic stuff, to say the least. At the same time, it's music that seems to me devoid of anger. Rather, there's an almost celebratory feel to the music, as if the players are interested more in making as much joyous noise as possible. It's also clear that the musicians dig the blues and hard bop, and elements of both genres can be heard (albeit sublimated); and there's a strong appreciation for the traditional music and spirit of Africa (see, in particular "Ancestor" which evokes the feel of the sub-Sahara savannah), and that builds slowly in intensity until the listener feels as if in the middle of a stampede. On that piece in particular it's almost a capsule summary of the history of African and African-American music. Much to my pleasant surprise, this album even in print at the moment, and available through Forced Exposure.

Finally, I picked up a live 1995 gig recording that's available on this obscure Albuquerque label, Lotus Sound, that reunites Doyle with Grey. A bit subdued compared to early Blue Humans, but with plenty of bite. Both Doyle and Grey have continued to evolve as musicians, and this gig shows them at the height of their powers. Grey plays slide guitar on this date, and manages to pull from the instrument some other-worldly sounds. Doyle sounds like he is his own reed section on one tune, plays some strongly Asian sounding flute on another, and throughout sounds like he is singing, chanting, and wailing through whatever instrument he plays. It's definitely free and spontaneous (the musicians apparently had no written music for the date), and at the same time rather lyrical. I see this one available on Ebay all the time, and it is quite inexpensive though soon to be out of print.

Generally, Doyle is one of those free-spirit types that I've tended to gravitate towards during my lifetime. Back in my punk days, I tended to like bands and artists who were willing to bend genres and take risks (e.g., Black Flag, and their ventures into jazz & beat poetry territory; Wire, and their arty minimalist vibe). In other words, I dug cats who understood where they came from, could write and play well, and who were true to themselves. Doyle is very much in the same vein. His various projects and collaborations have taken him to that nexus where jazz and rocks new wave meet. He has followed his own muse fairly consistently, with little to no regard for commercial appeal, and has somehow stubbornly remained standing after over three decades of hard knocks.