Saturday, February 28, 2004

Miles Davis: Early 1970s

Nearly all of my jazz series this month has focused on obscure and independent jazz artists whom I believe deserve wider recognition. This post will be an exception, in that Miles Davis is one of the most widely recognized jazz names, and one who did most of his finest work while with Columbia Records. My dad turned me onto Miles while I was a teen, by introducing me to his classic Sketches of Spain album: a lush orchestral piece in collaboration with Gil Evans that nicely evokes the Spanish countryside. What most resonated with me though was his early fusion recordings (1969-1975), and that will be my focus here. Most of Miles' work from this period to me is musically interesting, as Miles was absorbing and synthesizing an enormous number of influences during those last years prior to his "retirement" in the late 1970s. What attracts me most about this music is the sense of searching, anger, and in the end tiredness that the albums from this period convey. When I spin any of his discs from this period, what I hear through the speakers is very much how I feel most days.

On the Corner and In Concert (both recorded in 1972) are an interesting blend of rock, funk, jazz, and Indian music styles, and achieve an almost mantra-like quality (which drove a number of jazz critics nuts). The former, in fact, was widely panned by music critics, who in my opinion were simply unable to dig what Miles was trying to accomplish. In the studio, Miles was more interested in creating a sonic collage, cut and pasted from various jams, and with On the Corner was challenging the standard role of soloist and standard jazz composition values, by instead emphasizing the rhythms (generally funky and very Afro-centric) and allowing the pieces to proceed in a non-linear fashion. The pieces actually sound more like the musical equivalent of chants, in which the soloists are de-emphasized and their contributions instead are merely part of a collective groove. In Concert endeavors to create this same effect live, and largely succeeds. When I listen to these two albums, I think of what world music could have and should have been. This ain't background music, but is instead a very adventurous and downright funky blend of standard jazz instrumentation, rock and funk instrumentation, African and Indian instrumentation. Both of these albums are seminal precursors to more contemporary hip-hop, acid jazz, and nu jazz styles.

Bitches Brew (1969) and Pangaea (1975) are probably my two personal favorites from this period. Bitches Brew includes a number of the sidemen who were part of various versions of his classic mid-to-late 1960s quintet, and includes a number of musically challenging and aesthetically pleasing tracks (my favorite tracks are "Pharoa's Dance," "Spanish Key," and "Sanctuary" from the original double-LP, and there are several tracks from the 4-cd Complete Bitches Brew Sessions box set that are absolutely stunning: a trippy interpretation of David Crosby's "Guinnevere" and Wayne Shorter's "Feio" among others). Pangaea is the final pre-retirement album and was recorded with the final version of his early-to-mid-1970s band. At its best, it pays tribute to a number of Miles' influences, from western art music (e.g., Stockhausen, impressionism) to free jazz, funk, and traditional African music. The track comprising the second disc ("Gondwana") is my pick - the beginning of which sounds heavily inspired by French Impressionism; although critics seem to show a preference for the first track ("Zimbabwe"), which kicks out the jams considerably more.

Some others that I dig from this period:

Agharta: the companion concert album to Pangaea, and recorded on the same day. It's a bit louder, a bit angrier and funkier than Pangaea. Well worth picking up.

Dark Magus: Recorded live in 1974, and is a highly guitar-driven jam session that rocks the house.

Get Up With It: Compiles studio recordings from the early 1970s, and gives the listener an idea of how the ideas on the aforementioned live albums were conceptualized in the more controlled environment of the recording studio. I especially dig "He Loved Him Madly" which is something of an ambient drone that pays tribute to the late Duke Ellington, and the percussion-laden "Mtume." The whole album is a must, and despite the rather diverse recording environments and line-ups is quite coherent. The man was ahead of his time.

Panthalassa: a late 1990s set of remixes by avant-gardist Bill Laswell that stays true to the originals in spirit, and provides the listener with an alternative interpretation of some incredible 1970s studio work-outs from Get Up With It, In a Silent Way and On the Corner.

A Tribute to Jack Johnson: soundtrack to an obscuroid documentary about the African-American boxing champ from the early decades of the 20th century. It's probably the closest Miles came to constructing a rock album. I haven't picked up the complete Jack Johnson sessions box yet, although I'm planning on getting it sometime this year.

In a Silent Way: I'd say take the plunge and get the 3-cd box set, which includes some of his earliest fusion recordings, and shows how Miles' approach to recording and composing evolved as the 1960s drew to a close. Highlights - in addition to remasters of the original album tracks - include "The Ghetto Walk", which sounds like a mellow jam that could fit in with a Jimi Hendrix recording, and several intriguing Joe Zawinul compositions. This work was generally more reflective, more meditative, than much of Miles' subsequent work - ambient pioneer Brian Eno cites that album as one of his own early inspirations.

Miles recorded quite a bit of music during that period, and thankfully much of it is in print, and very easy to find. Of all the mainstream jazz composers and musicians that I've heard, he and John Coltrane are far and away favorites of mine.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Then and Now


Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant. It is subversive to social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery to black beasts will bring this nation to a fatal conflict.

- Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry of Georgia, on introducing an anti-miscegenation amendment to the Constitution in 1911.


[T]he consequence is very clear. Marriage loses its significance. People will stop getting married. Homosexuals will not get married; heterosexuals will stop getting married. And that to me is the real threat to the American family and to the culture generally.

- Rick Santorum, on the 700 Club.

Right-wing bigots: putting the "mental" in fundamentalism. Some things never change.

Quotes courtesy of Atrios.

A Sign of the Times

I thought this was cool. Picture courtesy the Pacific Views blog (see my blogroll).

It's Not Unpatriotic to Question Violence

Compassionate Conservatism A-Go-Go

Here's a roundup of Bu$hCo's "compassionate conservatism" in action:

From the Left Coaster: Bush Five-Year Budget Plan Would Slash Veterans and Family Nutrition Programs, Among Others, To Pay For Tax Cuts. Note that none of these proposed cuts will make much of a dent in the deficit, as these and other social programs aren't where the problem is.

Also via the Left Coaster: Senate GOP Refuses to Extend Unemployment Benefits. Best clip comes from Sen. Don Nickles, Republican from my own state of Oklahoma: "I think we have to determine when's enough" ... "And I happen to think that we've crossed that line." Nickles said jobless workers have more incentive to find a job when the extra unemployment benefits stop. "The more you pay people not to work, the less inclined they are to work," he said.. Well, it's kind of hard to find work when your jobs are being outsourced. Those unemployment benefits are not going to make anyone rich; merely the allow one to subsist while in between jobs.

The Hamster provides numbers on the aptly mis-named and underfunded "no child left behind" law.

And Southpaw has a good post highlighting the problem of unemployment and underemployment in the US.

Non Illegitom Carborundum

"Do not let the bastards get you down."

(Hopefully I got the Latin right).

Crony Justice, or Who Are Scalia's Hunting Buddies?

Scalia Took Trip Set Up by Lawyer in Two Cases (LA Times, registration required to access article).

Subtitle: Kansas visit in 2001 came within weeks of the Supreme Court hearing arguments.

Some Clips:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was the guest of a Kansas law school two years ago and went pheasant hunting on a trip arranged by the school's dean, all within weeks of hearing two cases in which the dean was a lead attorney.

...Scalia later sided with Kansas in both cases.

...Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that Scalia had been a guest of Vice President Dick Cheney on Air Force Two when they went duck hunting in southern Louisiana. That trip came shortly after the high court had agreed to hear Cheney's appeal seeking to keep secret his national energy policy task force.

There definitely is a pattern emerging.

..."The controlled shooting part of the trip was good," Graves said. "They plant birds, and that gives you a better attempt to get some birds."

Added Bond of Scalia, "We stayed the night and had a delightful time. He was just charming to be around."

Bond said that because the trip was two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Scalia had told them in advance that he did not think it wise to fly from Washington with his own firearm. So, Bond said, "I loaned Scalia a gun. I have plenty."

Graves and Bond said the two court cases never came up during the trip. "There was no conversation along those lines," Graves said.

Added Bond, "The cases were never discussed or mentioned. Zero."

There's an old expression among salespeople that most business is conducted on the golf course. Not that business discussions actually occur during around of golf, of course. In fact, it's highly unlikely that anyone will talk shop in that context. What happens though is that the individuals involved get to know each other, become more comfortable with each other, like each other. It's that feeling of comeraderie that can later make a deal. I'd be willing to assert that this same feeling can have an influence on matters other than sales, including legal matters. To me it would be perfectly valid to question Scalia's ability to be impartial in both the KU matters and the Cheney matter.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

The Despoiling of America

How George W. Bush became the head of the new American Dominionist Church/State.

By Katherine Yurica, of whom I know nothing. Makes for an interesting read. The main thesis is that the current Prez AWOL is the first prez of a new would-be theocratic state, and the article tries to tie together various thread of these theocrats' intellectual and political history. I'll say this: there's little doubt in my mind that much of what constitutes "Christianity" among the far right wing is more than a bit creepy. Heck, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Justice Scalia, etc. succeed in making my skin crawl, given the sheer fanatical hatred that oozes out of their pores.

Link via ddjangowire (see my blogroll).

Update: Another related take on this topic can be found on Orcinus. David Neiwert knows his stuff, and has plenty of information to examine. He also speaks highly of Katherine Yurica's work. I don't know if she, like David, is also an investigative journalist. Could be.

Be informed. Knowledge is power.

Power Corrupts

Absolute power corrrupts absolutely.

Pork, ethics and criminal investigations against its own leaders and members: quite a bunch of winners over on the GOP side of the aisle.

Haiku You

Busy, busy, busy has started a new haiku series the last couple days. Elton's originals as well as some of the topical haiku in the comments are funny. A fresh, creative approach to lampooning current US government silliness. Check it out.

Gays Aren't the Only Minorities that the Wingnuts Hate


A billboard unveiled on Ash Wednesday, the same day that a controversial movie depicting the last hours of Jesus Christ premiered, is sparking criticism from people of all faiths.

The large-size outdoor marquee, which sits on the property of the Lovingway United Pentecostal Church at Colorado and Mississippi, says, "Jews Killed The Lord Jesus" and the word "Settled!"

"It's settled," said Maurice Gorden, Loveway pastor. "The word of God is the final word."

...Jewish leaders say that like Mel Gibson's new movie "The Passion of The Christ" -- which opened Wednesday morning -- the passage will stir up anti-Semitic attitudes and will cause some people to lash out at Jews.

Here's another email posted on Andrew Sullivan's site, that I think sums up nicely how moderate conservatives might view Bush and the right-wing extremists:

"I voted for President Bush in 2000 and planned to do so again in November. My reason: national security and the man's seeming personal integrity. As a Jew, I had a gut-level fear of the Christian Right but (1) did not believe Bush shared its worldview and (2) saw fundamentalist Christian support for Israel as indicative that the Christian Right was not anti-Semitic.

Then, in one ten day period, I saw the Christian Right go into rapture over a film that is blatantly anti-Semitic (I saw it today), saw Laura Bush both indicate approval of this film and empathy for those disgusted at the idea of gay marriage and then the President made his speech supporting the amendment.

I'm straight and also a Jew and, to me, the Bushes - sensing defeat in November - are going to tap into homophobia, anti-Semitism and whatever else it takes to secure their base.

I was never part of that base. Jews, gay Republicans, African-American Bush voters, Hispanics are not part of the base but, add our votes to that of the base, and the GOP wins.

But now it loses. Jews used to be the canary people. Jews still play that role but today, even more so, that role is played by gays. You can judge a party or a leader by how he treats this group, the one group it is still safe to hate in America.

Well, Bush has failed the test. I will not be part of the gay-bashing, Mel Gibson adoring, xenophobic America that the Bushes consider their base.

This canary has no intention of dying from the poisonous gas of hatred. I'm 58. I have voted for every Republican nominee since Nixon and without regrets. Until now. I wish I could take back my 2000 vote. But, in any case, I will work to get out the vote for Kerry or Edwards. I will not vote for a President who secures the basest elements of his base by dividing Americans.

And you know what: he is going to lose. That gay marriage announcement was the desperate act of a desperate man."

My hope is that many who have been blind to what Bu$hCo is really about are beginning to see the light.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Feeling a Draft?

Bob Harris, posting at This Modern World, has the lowdown. The bottom line is that the neocons view Iraq as a very long-term occupation, and the plan is to become even more militarily involved around the globe. To do so will require considerably more troops than the US military currently has at its disposal. Dig this: that increase in troops isn't going to come from men and women volunteering in the full-time armed services, the Reserves, or the National Guard. The draft boards are already gearing up. There's legislation just itching to be enacted that requiring mandatory national service. And depending on how that legislation gets interpreted, your indentured servitude may be up to the government to determine. In other words, if Bu$hCo wanted to make endless warfare its main focus, you could very well end up in combat whether you want to or not. And since the more liberal co-sponsors of this legislation are really concerned about an "egalitarian" draft, I suspect that women could easily be at risk for being drafted for combat duty. Get the picture? If Bu$hCo gets another term, I can easily imagine a military draft as the law of the land as early as the end of this year and quite likely before the spring of 2005 is up. That's what it'll take to make those all important plans for world dominion possible.

If you're one of my readers in the 18-24 year age range, think carefully about what a second Bush term will mean for your future. If your future does not include becoming a war casualty in Iraq or wherever Bu$hCo chooses to invade next, it would behoove you to think twice about casting a ballot for Bu$h. I'd also suggest checking into what's needed to become a conscientious objector if you're someone who is vehemently opposed to warfare and absolutely don't want to be drafted in the event that a draft is reinstated. There are some excellent organizations out there who have the info you need in documenting yourself as a conscientious objector: Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft, and War Resisters League.

Putting it Into Perspective

Bush calls for amendment to the constitution defining marriage as a union between man and woman. Last I heard, people were still dying in Iraq.

And they keep dying, for absolutely no damned reason.

Tinfoil Hat In Jasper Alabama

Another example of the Bush base indulging in its basest instincts: fear and hatred. The Bushies should be so proud to be in bed with this bunch.

Marion Brown

His discography

An interview in Jazz Weekly, I'm guessing somewhere around 2000.

A great, and relatively under-recognized alto sax player. His life seems to have been characterized by struggle, from dealing with poverty, to discrimination, to homelessness. The man has had a tremendous number of health problems, especially during the later years of his life. Somehow he keeps on ticking. His most active period for gigging and recording was during the 1960s through the early 1980s. I've always dug his recordings, from the mid-1960s quartets to his gorgeous experimental recordings of the first half of the 1970s. He started out not particularly interested in ethnic musics, and ended up by the end of the 1960s being very fascinated by African styles, in addition to his interests in blues and American folk melodies.

The stereotype of avant-gardists is that they mainly engage in noise for the sake of noise. Not this cat. His combos could kick out the jams, but the focus on his recordings seemed more to me on developing a theme rather than obliterating it. I even find myself humming some of his themes from time to time, which is not something I would say of most avant-garde and free jazzers. At his most avant-garde, he focused on creating peaceful sonic environments, on the pulse of existence. There's almost a down-home rustic feel to his playing and compositions that I find very relaxing.

Favorite albums that I've heard: Marion Brown Quartet (1965), Three For Shepp (1967), Afternoon of a Georgia Faun (1970), and Geechee Recollections (1973).

Some of his recordings are readily available and in print, and some (especially his early to mid 1970s recordings on Impulse!) are next to impossible to find. Of his Impulse! recordings from the 1970s, only Vista is available, as a rather pricy Japanese import. Geechee Recollections and Sweet Earth Flying have long been out of print. The former I managed to find mp3 files for, albeit with somewhat dodgy sound quality - better than nothing. Juba-Lee from a 1966 date on Fontana has also been harder than a needle on a haystack to find.

Here's my review of Afternoon of a Georgia Faun on

A few words of caution: Afternoon of Georgia Faun is not your ordinary jazz album, your ordinary free/avant-garde jazz album, and much different from anything else Marion Brown had done to that point. The two lengthy pieces don't swing. There is none of the overt fury that normally characterizes free jazz. Instead, Brown and crew create an impressionistic soundscape that for me evokes early childhood memories of summer afternoons in rural northeast Texas (not quite Georgia, but close enough). The sound of the birds, insects, the breeze blowing on the leaves, the sultriness of the hot and humid summer afternoons -- it's all there. The social and political turmoil of the day is never too far away (and it's never gone away), but for the moment is suspended. This album is about the rhythm, the pulse of life itself. Highly recommended.

He's truly worth checking out.

If You Observe Lent, a Challenge:

If this applies, give up intolerance (in whatever form it takes for you, be it anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Muslim, etc.; in terms of behaviors, attitudes, etc.) for the next forty days. A tall order you say? Well, Lent is not supposed to be easy, but rather a season of soul-searching and repentance. With so much hate around us these days, this day marks as good a beginning as any to do some serious reflection and self-examination, to ask ourselves how we can do better.


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Wow. Bush's Hate Amendment Looks Like It Is Going To Be A Wedge...

though not quite the wedge that Bu$hCo planned on, given what I see on Andrew Sullivan's blog.

Talk about a moment of clarity. Here's some of his own words:

The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families. And just as importantly, he launched a war to defile the most sacred document in the land. Rather than allow the contentious and difficult issue of equal marriage rights to be fought over in the states, rather than let politics and the law take their course, rather than keep the Constitution out of the culture wars, this president wants to drag the very founding document into his re-election campaign. He is proposing to remove civil rights from one group of American citizens - and do so in the Constitution itself. The message could not be plainer: these citizens do not fully belong in America.

One quibble: Bu$hCo has been defiling the Constitution from the get-go. Just take a look at the Patriot Act. These cats have been involved in a full-frontal assault on the Constitution for a while now, and this is just the latest and arguably most outrageous example. It's about appealing to their base's basest instincts: fear and hatred.

Those of us who supported this president in 2000, who have backed him whole-heartedly during the war, who have endured scorn from our peers as a result, who trusted that this president was indeed a uniter rather than a divider, now know the truth.


This president has now made the Republican party an emblem of exclusion and division and intolerance.

The president has made it easy. He's a simple man and he divides the world into friends and foes. He has now made a whole group of Americans - and their families and their friends - his enemy. We have no alternative but to defend ourselves and our families from this attack. And we will.

Scroll up and read the selection of emails that Sullivan posts. One of his emailers compares the actions of Bu$hCo to Poppy Bush's Willie Horton ads. Another emailer asks, "Who are we going to vote for, Kerry?" and anwers, "Well, yes." It becomes clear in a heartbeat: Bu$hCo has succeeded in alienating potential voters, and for what? Small-minded, hate-filled right-wing extremists?


Nick Confessore has a few thoughts. And yeah, the tinfoil hat brigade might be appeased, but not anyone who happens to give a damn about fairness. The end of the GOP? Well, that remains to be seen, but the party's brass has made its bed by endorsing something comparable to The Fugitive Slave Act of 1854.

Still More Fallout:

From the folks at Burnt Orange in Texas, some thoughts on the Bu$hCo Hate Amendment:

Never before has the United State constitution been amended to rewrite discrimination into that sacred document. It took hundreds of years to amend the constitution to do away with discrimination against African-Americans (XIII, XIV, XV) and women (XIX), and now the President of the United States, here in the twenty-first century wants to rewrite discrimination into the United States Constitution. This is not only a declaration of war against gays and lesbians, as Andrew Sullivan writes, this is a declaration of war against the United States Constitution.

To which I'd add that even with the amendments to the Constitution that did eliminate discrimination against African-Americans and women, it has taken additional decades of legislation and hard work on the part of countless individuals and groups to create a genuinely equal opportunity society - and we still have a long way to go. Heck, if anything, I'd love to see the Equal Rights Amendment revived, as it would stand well with Amendments XIII, XIV, XV, and XIX in the spirit of extending liberty and equality, rather than adding to our sometimes sorry history of hatred and discrimination as our current "President" would do.

Although I'm pretty confident that the Bu$hCo base will fall for the "look, homos" distraction, current polls suggest that most Americans won't be fooled. Josh Marshall contends that this latest disgraceful effort by Bu$hCo is an indicator that the administration is acting like a wounded, cornered animal. I suspect he's right. Who knows what they'll try next. It won't be pretty.

Fun With Hypocrisy: GOP Edition

Based on the GOP's own "standards" George W. Bush is a racist and a sexist for failing to make Estrada and Owen his recess judicial appointments. I can just imagine the outrage felt by good Republicans everywhere at how racist and sexist their President has turned out to be.

The Oneness of Juju

This is a jazz-funk combo that's been around in one form or another for over three decades. Their heyday may have been during the 1970s, or perhaps the early 1980s when they had a minor R&B hit ("Every Way But Loose").

The band's website is Plunky and Oneness, which is the combo's current name, led as always by saxman James "Plunky" Branch.

Plunky once hung out in avant-garde jazz circles, and his band's music in the early 1970s was closer to an Afro-centric free jazz tip than anything else. By the mid 1970s the band became more explicitly funky, and veered into R&B territory by the turn of the 1980s. These days, the band is closer to smooth jazz, with a bit of an edge. Something else about Plunky: he was an anti-war activist during the Vietnam era, and an active draft resister (and not the chickenhawk variety; he walked the talk and was willing to do time for what he believed in).

My favorite work is their early and mid 1970s output. A good start is a sampler of their early work: African Rhythms: Oneness of Juju, 1970-1982. Here's my review on

A good compilation album should leave the listener wanting more. Given that premise, this album succeeds quite nicely, and in the process documents the evolution of saxophonist James Plunky Branch's band (Juju, and later Oneness of Juju) from its beginnings as a jazz combo with strong African influences, to it's transition to a jazz-funk combo, and later a funk combo. The album also features some of the side projects that Plunky and other members of the band were involved with in the 1970s. The packaging is wonderful, including very complete liner notes that detail the band's history, and a reasonably complete discography of the band (both during the period covered by this release, and subsequent recordings by this band). As a document of a period when a noticeable subset of jazz musicians were willing to experiment with African and funk influences, and as a document of the struggles of independent artists to get their progressive and Afro-centric message across to a wider audience, this is invaluable. The music should also serve as a reminder that some of the more recent trends in jazz, such as acid jazz and jazz-rap, have their origins in the various fusions of jazz, funk, world music, and progressive and radical politics of the 1960s and 1970s. This is not to be missed by open-minded listeners who like their jazz funky and their funk jazzy. Get this, and then hope that Strut will continue to reissue the rest of their back catalog.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Fun With Bushes

Courtesy of Freeway Blogger. Check their blog for a new contest.

Grey Tuesday is Upon Us

By the way, DJ Danger Mouse's album, The Grey Album, in which Danger Mouse remixes The Beatles' White Album and Jay Z's Black Album, is damn good. I've downloaded the album via the miracles of mp3 file sharing. It's a remix album that does justice to both the Beatles and Jay Z, while managing to sound like something quite unique. Download some mp3s, groove to some tunes, and help wave a collective middle finger to the suits running today's recording conglomerates: now that's a trifecta!

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: Governator Edition

From the mouth of Schwarzenegger regarding the same-sex marriages in San Francisco:

"All of a sudden, we see riots, we see protests, we see people clashing. The next thing we know, there is injured or there is dead people. We don't want it to get to that extent,'' the Republican said in his first appearance as governor on a Sunday talk show.

Apparently that was news to San Francisco city officials as well as California state officials:

"We are not aware of any riots or any threat to public safety in San Francisco," [CA Attorney General spokesperson Hallye] Jordan said. "As we have said, if there is violence, we would step in. At this point we see peaceful acts of civil disobedience on both sides. We are unclear as to what the governor is referencing in terms of riots. We urge a toning down of the political rhetoric. This is a complex issue, and we will be dealing with it in the courts."

Similarly, Mayor Gavin Newsom's spokesperson Peter Ragone:

"It's been largely peaceful, and we don't see that changing."

So outrageous was Schwarzenegger's statement that Assemblyman Mark Leno (D - San Francisco) demanded an apology to the city:

"His comments were inappropriate and shameful. There were no riots in the street. There was peace, love and commitment."

Someone who's been at the site of same sex marriage receptions noted that if there were any unrest it was coming from the very people who don't want to see same-sex marriages in the first place - in other words, if there are any troublemakers, they're most likely to be right-wingnut bigots.

Update: I apparently cannot spell the Governator's name this evening. Hopefully got those misspellings corrected.

Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: NPR Morning Edition

Today's NPR Morning Edition featured the a real gem from Bush's campaign chairman, Marc Ricicot, where he contends that Bush volunteered to serve in Vietnam, thus putting his military record in as favorable a light as his most likely Democratic challenger John Kerry. To get the lowdown, Josh Marshall has several posts where he discusses Racicot's blatant lie.

This evening, I wrote an email to the NPR Ombudsman, that reads as follows:

Looks like the NPR this morning has aired another falsehood unchallenged. I wrote a few months ago regarding Cokie Roberts' mis-statement regarding who first brought up Willie Horton in the 1988 debates.

This one I think is more troublesome.

Here's what Marc Racicot, Bush campaign chairman, said about George W. Bush:

"He signed up for dangerous duty. He volunteered to go to Vietnam. He wasn’t selected to go, but nonetheless served his country very well."

That would be nice if it were true. Unfortunately that contradicts none

other than the President himself:

From "Meet The Press" with Tim Russert (Feb 8, 2004):

RUSSERT: Were you favor of the war in Vietnam?

BUSH: I supported my government. I did. And would have gone had my unit been called up, by the way.

RUSSERT: But you didn't volunteer or enlist to go.

BUSH: No, I didn't. You're right.

And that's not an anomolous statement by the President. Fourteen years ago, he said something rather similar (1990, quoted in The Houston Chronicle May 8th, 1994):

"I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."

That does not sound like someone who was volunteering for Vietnam duty. Now why Racicot's fraudulent statement was not challenged by Juan Williams or corrected by the NPR brass is beyond me. I'll say this: I am deeply disappointed with NPR's coverage of political affairs, and am rapidly losing respect for what was once a trusted news source.

A couple things I wanted to do with this note: first, I wanted to inform the ombudsman that I've written in the past and on what topic I've written as a way of letting this person know that I'm not merely sending astroturf. Second, I wanted to include some sort of background references for my argument (props to Josh Marshall's ace journalism) so that the note would not be dismissed as entirely uninformed. Third, I wanted to keep it civil, so that the ombudsman would hopefully actually read it rather than delete it. Heck, there's no reason to be uncivil, if for no other reason that I used to be a regular NPR listener and still try to keep tabs with what NPR is doing. I'll be curious to see if I get a response.

By the way, feel free to blast an email to NPR and give them a piece of your mind if so inclined. Never hurts.

There's A Commie in Every Corner

and a terrorist in every elementary school.

Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation's largest teachers union a "terrorist organization" Monday, taking on the 2.7-million-member National Education Association early in the presidential election year.

I gather he's backtracking now and trying to call it a bad joke. Kidding on the square (1) perhaps? Oh well, I suspect this is yet another wingnut in search of a tinfoil hat.

(1) "Kidding on the square" is a phrase coined by Al Franken that means "I'm kidding, but I really mean it."

Colorblind Racism

interesting story on Alternet. Details racism from a macro-level, which is one of the strengths of sociology. The author, and the researchers she cites, are focusing on the social and political structures and their influence on racism. I as a social psychologist tend to look at the micro-level, and focus on how individuals perceive and respond to (verbally and nonverbally; consciously and unconsciously) people from other racial and ethnic groups. What the sociologists remind us is that we mustn't view individual behavior in isolation, but ultimately need to look at the social machinery that facilitates our behaviors and how that social machinery perpetuates itself over a course of generations. Kudos to the author for the friendly reminder. There's a real good annotated bibliography at the end of the article. Check it out.

Roy Moore: A Republican Ralph Nader?

Well, that's what this Slate columnist thinks. If nothing else, there is a schism between America's cultural conservatives and the neoconservatives, and it's fairly clear that a subset of cultural conservatives are increasingly unwilling to follow neocon orthodoxy.

Alan Shorter

Wayne Shorter's late older brother. Now there's an obscuroid figure. He recorded two sessions as a leader: Orgasm in 1968 for Verve, and Tes Esat in 1971 for a label called America. Also lent his flugelhorn playing on a handful of other recording sessions as a sideman. I managed to score a copy of the former when Verve briefly reissued the album as part of its short-lived "Elite Edition" series. It's kind of an odd album in that in the middle of recording Alan apparently switched producers, and also had to replace some of his players. In spite of the behind-the-scenes turmoil, Orgasm is a consistent sounding recording, and one of the more beautiful statements from the free jazz community. I've heard of comparisons between this album and Ornette Coleman's early work (the two composers share a common bassist, Charles Haden), and I find that I can play this album fairly comfortably side by side with some of Coleman's classics (Change of the Century comes to mind). Much has been made about his apparent lack of training and technique, although honestly I can't really hear any deficit in his flugelhorn playing. He seems to get the job done within the parameters of his compositions, which I would suppose is pretty much what matters. It's a painfully hard to find album, but worth finding and spinning.

Tes Esat is one that I've read good things about, but is practically impossible to score. So for now, I'm patiently waiting. Apparently it's a bit more of a blowing session than his first album, and since I enjoy plenty of joyous noise, I would certainly be open to hearing it.

Alan apparently had a number of personal problems that made him difficult to work with, and he died in obscurity in the late 1980s. His brother Wayne had this to say about him:

The strongest thing you can say about Alan is that he was an original, as original as you can get. He didn't want any academic guidelines to equip him to reinvent the wheel. He was always in confrontation, or there was confrontation on the horizon...with record executives, rehearsal places, front offices, professors in school. Teachers would mark on his papers, and he would ask "Why?" on top of the teachers' remarks.

I gather that Alan did quite a bit of composing during his brief life, and left behind scattered remains of those compositions as his legacy. Wayne once commented that he would one day look through Alan's work and do some of his compositions (Wayne used his brother's "Mephistopheles" on one of his mid-1960s albums), although as far as I am aware that has yet to bear fruit.

A review of Orgasm can be found here, courtesy Ink Blot Magazine.

Postscript: In Alan's own words from his album, Orgasm - ....the soloist must embark on what I call straight line energies to set his whole being into continuous motion, striving for the orgasm of himself in reference to that melody. On this journey you'll find yourself utilizing all your beliefs from within and without. All these are components in this continuum of motion which feeds to the total continual experience of the music.

This itinerant drive within me causes pointed attention to the universals contained within me and my environment. This makes for clarity of my earth function. So you see this new music is merely an excursion into a vacant apartment within yourselves and not via "the skies", ... and I do Believe.

Make of that what you will. I read the statement as a recognition of the bodily basis of music, especially free jazz which requires a great deal of the musicians physically, as well as a recognition that the listener's reactions will depend on what he/she projects onto the music.


An Article on Thich Nhat Hanh in the LAT

Buddhist Monk Teaches Zen Approach to Terrorism

Some clips:

The war on terrorism has forced us to look at everyone as a potential terrorist," Nhat Hanh said in a recent interview at his organization's Deer Park Monastery in Escondido. "When the culture goes like that, it goes wrong, because you don't have much chance to discover the good things in people. In fact, we are trying to look for the negative things … and that is very depressing."

...Nhat Hanh said he had urged political leaders to seek approaches other than violence to the war on terrorism. The topic seemed to weigh heavily on his mind at Deer Park, a 400-acre sanctuary of rolling hills and oak trees that opened four years ago.

In outspoken remarks, Nhat Hanh said the U.S. war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq had backfired, creating more enemies of America; and that evangelical Christian leaders who demonized Islam were contradicting the Gospel's spirit of compassion. He also said U.S. church leaders were not speaking out clearly about the nation's escalating military spending.

Sipping tea, the monk said Buddhist teaching encouraged people to reach out to those perceived as enemies with "deep listening and loving speech." Rather than demonize the terrorists, he said, he would like to understand them. "You must have hated us a lot…. Tell us why. Have we tried to destroy you as a people, as a religion, as a culture?" he said he would ask.

"Maybe they have misunderstood us. In that case we can try to correct their perceptions," he said. "To correct their perceptions is much better than to drop bombs on them."

I first read about Thich Nhat Hanh in The Struggle for Humanity: Agents of Nonviolent Change in a Violent World, when I was enrolled in an Introduction to Peace Studies class at my undergrad alma mater (Cal State Fullerton). He offers a meditative dimension to the peace movement, and I consider him one of our more valuable voices. One of my favorite quotes of his is actually one that opens a chapter on him, in which he offers a retort to the US officer who justified the Tet Offensive ("We had to destroy the village [Ben Tre] in order to save it."), by stating: "We are told that you are there to save us even as it rains bombs. We want to be saved from that kind of salvation." Indeed. That observation is every bit relevant now as our neoconservative fanatics plot to mold the world in their own image as it was during the Vietnam War era, when Cold War paranoiacs were propping up dictators and starting up wars to supposedly save the world from Communism.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

You Can't Skip Vietnam Twice

by Frank Rich, NYT

Worth a read.

Some clips:

When George W. Bush's handlers had him dress up as the 1986 Tom Cruise of "Top Gun" to dance a victory jig on an aircraft carrier, they didn't stop to think that he might soon face an opponent who could be type-cast more persuasively in his own Tom Cruise role.

...American troops are once again fighting a war of choice — and this time the National Guard is seeing combat, lethally so. Mr. Bush's Tom Cruise pose of May, so fetishized among his partisans that an ad in National Review hawks a bronze replica at $1,995 a pop, makes an unexpectedly striking visual contrast with Mr. Kerry's Tom Cruise role of 30-some years earlier. In the Kerry Vietnam flashback we hear his most famous line as a protester, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" While few Americans believe that it was a mistake to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the question hangs in the air anyway in 2004. It hangs over those American soldiers who have died since his overthrow, who have died since the triumphal Bush "Top Gun" remake declared "mission accomplished."

If Mr. Kerry is anomalous as a presidential candidate of the Vietnam generation, so in his way is Mr. Bush. By all reports neither a true hawk nor a dove at Yale, the president was AWOL from the culture wars back then even if he wasn't AWOL from guard duty.(1) Though Mr. Kerry was in a pick-up rock band, the president, by his own account, didn't even listen to the Beatles once they entered what he called their "weird, psychedelic period."

In response to Tim Russert two Sundays ago, Mr. Bush said that the only troubling lesson he had learned from Vietnam was that "we had politicians making military decisions." Given that his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has made military decisions about Iraq much as Robert McNamara did in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, it's not clear how well he learned that lesson. But in any event, the real problem for Mr. Bush is that he seems tone-deaf to the other echoes of Vietnam in our home-front culture as the postwar war drags on: polls that show that half the country now thinks the Iraq war was "not worth fighting," the return of a "credibility gap" about the war's progress and origins, the fogginess of the exit strategy, the class differences between many of those who return from the war in coffins and those who sent them there.

(1) Clearly the jury's still out in terms of whether or not Bush was AWOL from his guard duties.

Why Do GOP Loyalists Hate America?

Hundreds of GOP loyalists booed the president at a rally where U.S. Senate hopeful Howard Kaloogian and his allies denounced Bush's plan to give temporary legal status to undocumented workers.

Isn't that supposed to be, like, treason or something?

More Fallout From The Policies of an Increasingly Paranoid US Government

'Mr Ferrer can't be with us tonight', details the increasing difficulty that international artists have visiting the US. A clip:

The results of all this seem pretty clear. As Opera America's Scorca puts it: "These procedures are leading to diminished exposure of American audiences to great artists and making it harder for US artists to get work abroad." But the stakes, many believe, are even higher than that. "Art is cultural diplomacy," says Sandra Gibson, president of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in Washington, which lobbies Congress and USCIS on behalf of hundreds of members. "And it's just as important as it was during the cold war. It's as important as when [pianist] Van Cliburn went to the Soviet Union to perform and changed Khrushchev's mind about the United States."

I wouldn't expect this to resonate with the neocons, who in part groove on an orthodox Platonic vibe and hold the arts in suspicion. It's a damn shame, to say the least. The bi-directional influence of our visa policies and those of other countries is likely already having some unfortunate fallout. As readers here have already noticed, I'm a bit of a jazz buff. A lot of our jazzers have made their livings by getting work in Europe and Japan over the years, and I don't think it's overstating things to contend that our friends overseas have been instrumental in keeping jazz alive as a vibrant art form, as opposed to merely an historical artifact, and it's been interesting to see how jazz gets translated into the musical minds of the Japanese, Europeans, Turks, etc. I can imagine that cross-polination becoming more difficult: there isn't a lot of money to be made in jazz, and the legal fees to wade through the legal red tape may be downright prohibitive to many of these artists who live on a shoestring and who don't have the high-priced agents and promoters to underwrite them. Of course, I have my own biases. I view jazz as the music of freedom, and would love to - if anything - remove the barriers to jazzers of all nationalities so that they can effectively communicate with each other and audiences worldwide.

A Message of Hope in these Dark Times

The One You've Been Waiting For

This passage by William Rivers Pitt says it all:

Is John Kerry the one you've been waiting for? Is John Edwards? Howard Dean? Dennis Kucinich? Al Sharpton? Were any of the candidates who have dropped out the one you've been waiting for? The answer to those questions will vary from person to person. At the end of the day, however, the final answer is no.

No, none of these candidates are the one you've been waiting for.

The one you've been waiting for has always been here. The one you've been waiting for pressured these candidates to fight the onslaught of the Bush administration. The one you've been waiting for took to the streets before the Iraq invasion, worked for the campaign which most inspired, agitated against the PATRIOT Act, spoke to friend and neighbor and family about what has gone wrong.

This final truth is self-evident. You are the one you've been waiting for. You drive the agenda. You make or break this political season. You are the hero. You've been here the whole time.

Amen, brother!

The Ultimate Betrayal

by Howard Zinn. The cost of war that our leaders would rather we not see.

Steve Williamson

Here's a cat I wish were getting some more recording action. He was part of a new wave of English jazzers that began making waves in the late 1980s. What I dug about the two cds that I could find of his (A Waltz for Grace and Journey to Truth) was his refusal to fit into a specific marketing niche. I gathered that his first album A Waltz for Grace was supposed to peg him as a neotraditionalist hardbopper along the lines of the Marsalis brothers, and it's a pretty sweet album with its own twists: it may swing like a 1960s Blue Note session, but there's some funk, Latin, and Carribean elements that break through the surface. This album got him pegged as a latter-day John Coltrane, and it's a fair characterization. If you love what Trane was doing in the late 1950s & early 1960s, you'll like this one as well. That album does not prepare the listener for Journey to Truth, which is another thing altogether. I once commented that it was like three different albums in one: some free-ish Coltranesque sax & drums jams, 1970s style kozmigroov, and jazz-rap (and one of the more successful early jazz-rap fusions of the early 1990s). Black Thought and ?uestlove of The Roots make appearances, and there's a wicked cover of Gary Bartz's tune, "Celestial Blues".

None of his recordings sold particularly well, and the suits at Polygram records promptly dropped him after Journey to Truth. He's still gigging around (apparently he's all that live), and has a couple different line-ups to explore accoustic and electric idioms. He's also appeared on a number of different recordings as a sessions player, and works in straight-ahead jazz, reggae, and hip-hop settings.

You can read more about Steve here. I hope rumors that this fellow-Gen-X-er will have a new recording out are true. In the meantime, if you can snatch his out-of-print albums on ebay, do so.