Friday, July 23, 2004

Arguably the most sensible thing I've read today:

Step One: Grab the Stick; Step Two, Pull Up



A clip:





Bush is a proven disaster.



I would be happy if Kerry does any of the following:

  • Kick out every current member of the current White House. That includes Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, ASHCROFT etc.. safe bet

  • Make nice with the rest of the world and work to get the people that should be our friends to stop hating our guts because we're acting like a bunch of paranoid idiots.

  • Give the religious right, who have wet dreams of dropping a nuclear bomb on the Arabs and starting a holy war, the big middle finger and a swift kick out the back door of the White House. Special kudos for telling Robertson to "fook off!"

  • Kill the whole "we'll save Social Security by giving all our money to Wall Street" scam, and actually re-introduce the concept of responsible spending.

Assuming that Kerry will have to at least do the first one, I think its pretty obvious that I would be happier with him in the White House and the current gang of liars and thieves safely back in the corporate world.



My idea is that FIRST, we return to where we were, crooked politics WITHOUT the lunacy, and work up from there.





That more or less sums up my mindset with regard to Kerry. The man was pretty low on my list of preferred candidates (though I would have been even more irritated at a Lieberman nomination), and I am gathering that his approach to foreign affairs will be too hawkish for my comfort, but at least he's not a fanatic and is highly unlikely to further strain our military on ill-conceived ideologically-addled ventures such as a war with Iran (the "peace prez" henchmen are already sounding the war drums). Given the mess Bu$hCo has made both at home and abroad, Kerry and his inner circle could be thoroughly mediocre and look comparatively like they are walking on water. I'll take sane crooks over insane crooks any day. It's a start.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

An American columnist who gets it:

New Niger/uranium tale flops by Trudy Rubin. A key clip:



The new focus on Joe Wilson is simply a distraction. As for whether Plame recommended him for the Niger mission, news reports last July quoted senior intelligence sources as saying she didn't. Last July, the respected Newsday reporters Tim Phelps and Knut Royce quoted a "senior intelligence officer" as saying it was other CIA officers, not Plame, who recommended Wilson for the job. Maybe the Senate source got it wrong. My point is: who cares?



Wilson had strong qualifications for the mission: He was a former U.S. ambassador to Gabon who had served as Africa expert on the National Security Council, and he knew Niger and its leaders.



If this was nepotism, Plame hardly did her husband a favor. We are not talking trips to Paris here. And there obviously were no CIA rules against sending an agent's relative on a non-secret mission - otherwise, Wilson wouldn't have been cleared.



In other words, the new story line is a flop. The debate on Iraq and WMD will continue. And so will the investigation into who leaked Plame's name.




It's important not to lose sight of the forest for the trees.

A summary of the anti-Bush books on the market:

here.

I thought this was cool

I Am a Conservative



By the author's definition of conservative, I suppose I would be considered conservative as well.

Terra in the Skies

World O'Crap has his own take on the Annie Jacobsen story (see my previous post), and details some of his own terrifying air flight experiences. It occurred to me that I've probably had a few of my own. One event in particular stands out. I had eaten a burrito and some refried beans (yum) while waiting for my flight, and by the time we were up in the air I really needed to use the rest facilities. Let's just say it was a close one, but I made it just in the nick of time. Word to the wise: lay off the burritos and refried beans if you're planning air travel. I'm sure some of the passengers were mighty spooked when they saw some long-haired dude wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt dashed to the restroom mid-flight. Would have scarred Ms. Jacobsen for life, no doubt. I would wager that the experience was far more frightening and terrifying for the poor soul who had to use the restroom after I did.

Ignorant Biatches in the Skies, Again?

The hysterical skies, gives the smackdown to two recent xenophobic-laden columns by someone named Annie Jacobsen, Terror in the Skies, Again?, and Part II: Terror in the Skies, Again?. This chick comes across as rather paranoid and bigoted. So, this is America in 2004. Lovely.

More on Carlos Delgado

Anti-war Delgado may face N.Y. flak



That was from The Toronto Star. Basically, I'm a traditionalist when it comes to baseball. If I had my way, the designated hitter rule, artificial turf, and other such atrocities would be abandoned posthaste. I'm like the traditional seventh inning stretch tune "Take me out to the ballpark" and find the post 9-11 NY Yankee hijacking of the tradition inserting instead a rabid jingoism to be exceedingly distasteful. So not only do I appreciate Delgado's symbolic act of protest against Bu$hCo's Iraq war debacle on its own terms, but view it as also a nod to a baseball tradition that I would hate to see die out in the name of rabid nationalism. Besides, an athlete who shows the courage of his or her convictions is an excellent role model for our youth.



I guess Delgado is and will likely continue to receive boos for his protest. I hope he continues to hang tough. I'm not alone, apparently, as Ron Borges' column Delgado should be

cheered, not jeered
:



Delgado was one man taking an unpopular stance (at least in New York) for something he strongly believes in. One man standing up to speak his mind, knowing most of the people he plays in front of very likely will disagree. The lesson here is the one Voltaire once wrote about.



"I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it,'' he wrote, and the founding fathers of our country took that thought and those words to heart. That is what being an American is really supposed to be about. Having the freedom to say what you believe without someone trying to intimidate you to be silent was one notion the framers of the constitution felt strongly about.



What we are fighting for in Baghdad, so we say, is to free a country whose people's dissent had been silenced for too long. We didn't say that when this mess of a war started, but that's what we're saying now when it turns out the Iraqis not only didn't have weapons of mass destruction, but barely had weapons at all beyond homemade bombs and a few nuts willing to strap them to their chests and drive into a building and detonate themselves.



Now that those facts have become clear through the fog of war, the conclusion is Saddam Hussein was a bad man but he was far more of a threat to his own people than to anyone else. More importantly, there was never any link between his regime and the people who blew up the World Trade Center and a portion of the Pentagon on Sept. 11. Even British prime minister Tony Blair, President Bush's strongest ally, now concedes this point.



[...]



What Delgado is doing is what America is supposed to be all about, but many Americans seem to have forgotten that. To protest these days is to be considered subversive. To protest the actions of our government these days is to not be on the team, to not be true to your school, to not be an American. What dangerous nonsense.



Protestors who have come to Boston to have their voices heard during the Democratic Convention that begins Monday are being herded under an abandoned piece of elevated subway track and then swathed in mesh fencing. In essence, the protesters are being entombed. Saddam Hussein would have liked that. So would the late Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who turned the 1968 Democratic Convention into a riot when he unleashed his police on anti-war protesters of another conflict that proved to be a disastrous mistake, the Vietnam War.



If so silent a protest as Delgado's is something, as Yankees manager Joe Torre put it, that "won't be received too well'' in New York, what has America come to?




Personally, I prefer to save my boos for the umpires who make what I deem to be bad calls (i.e., any call that disadvantages my preferred team, the Anaheim Angels). :-)

Educashun Preznit

Feds Cut Off Funds for Migrant Workers' Kids



Check out the clip of the news article posted by Andrew D. The contemporary GOP mindset is strikingly short-sighted, to say the least. But hey, the opportunity to a decent education belongs by divine right to the kids of the wealthy in Bu$hCothink, even if many of the offspring of privilege are just like old Junior Caligula - pissing away their lives and closing their minds while expecting bright futures on the basis of family name. Andrew's thoughts require no embellishment:



God, I have trouble wrapping my mind around Republican policy. This is a program which is successful at keeping poor kids in school so they can pull themselves out of staggering poverty. It provides necessary services to people who couldn't otherwise afford it. It serves only to help people who are among the poorest yet also most important workers in our society. And they want to get rid of it.



So much for being the "education president." Bush's administration has cut loose the poorest of the poor of our young people from the hope of a decent education. Now these kids have to choose between letting their families starve to death or dropping out. Which do you think they'll choose?



Great job, George. Quietly killed off a successful program in the name of promoting ignorance and poverty. Jesus I hate this president.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

War's lingering after-effects

The Price Of Valor, by Dan Baum. A reasonably good look at killing as a stressor in its own right, and its long-term effects: PTSD, depression, substance abuse, etc. I've been arguing for a while now that our soldiers get a raw deal when it comes to their long-term psychological care, and the research and anecdotes summarized by Baum merely provide more grist for the mill. The author of the article also convincingly argues that there is a dearth of research on the psychological effects of killing in combat, hence hamstringing our ability to understand what these veterans are going through and effectively treating those who come back with various psychological difficulties. Not only are our veterans ill-prepared, but so are their families, as the following clip indicates:



We watched two episodes of “Band of Brothers,” and when I rose to go Debbie told me how the Army had prepared her for Carl’s return. “When he was coming home, the Army gave us little cards that said things like ‘Watch for psychotic episodes’ and ‘Is he drinking too much?’” she said. “A lot of wives said it was a joke. They had a lady come from the psych ward, who said—and I’m serious—‘Don’t call us unless your husband is waking you up in the middle of the night with a knife at your throat.’ Or, ‘Don’t call us unless he actually chokes you, unless you pass out. He’ll have flashbacks. It’s normal.’”




Not especially comforting, to say the least.



Via The Whole Wide World Of Fat Buddha!.

Cult O' Personality

The Church of Bush, an eye-opening account of the Bu$hCo true believers.



I'll cut to the chase and give you some concluding remarks from Perlstein:



Conservatives see something angelic in George Bush. That's why they excuse, repress, and rationalize away so much.



And that is why conservatism is verging on becoming an un-American creed.




It's quite a shame that conservatism has become associated with the authoritarian extremism of Bu$hCo's faithful. What was once considered mainstream conservatism has little in common with the proto-fascist creed of the Bushies, but it is regrettably the latter who have successfully appropriated the label and twisted it to fit their own radical ideology. The cult-like reverence for Bush is especially unsettling, and Perlstein does a decent job of describing Dear Leader's own fanatical devotees. Spooky.

Bu$hCo's America: Keep 'Em Uneducated and Obedient

The Assault upon Trained Intelligence



A clip:



As anyone with an active and informed interest in the state of our nation is aware (i.e., most Crisis Papers readers), George Bush's "compassionate conservatism" has impacted heavily and cruelly upon today's generation of college students.



It is one thing to know this as an abstract fact, and quite another to face the particular and personal manifestations of these policies. This week we were vividly reminded of the personal dimensions of the educational crisis when we received a message from a young college student in our area, hard-pressed to continue his education amidst the public squalor brought on by Bushenomics.



The source of the financial emergency facing this student, and millions of others like him, is no mystery. Federal tax cuts and unfunded mandates have put financial burdens on the states which have, in turn, led to budget cutbacks and tuition increases in the public colleges and universities. Compounding these hardships, the sagging job market has deprived many poor students of the opportunity to put themselves through college. And so, throughout the nation, hordes of qualified and motivated students are being forced to postpone, or perhaps even abandon, their professional aspirations.



The Partridges, professors both, have witnessed this tragedy first-hand, as talented and promising students have had to drop out, as part-time and adjunct faculty at the threshholds of their careers have been "let go," and as course offerings have been withdrawn due to shortages of faculty.



[...]



It is bad enough that millions of our young people are thus being deprived of the opportunity to realize their potentials and achieve their aspirations in life. Far worse are the implications of this fiscal starvation of public higher education for the future of our country. It is indisputable that no nation can compete and survive in this technological age, without a trained work force. Nor can an advanced and free civilization endure without a cadre of educated public servants -- lawyers, doctors, professors, entrepreneurs, administrators -- and a public liberally educated in the history and political laws and traditions of the state, and instilled with critical skills, moral insight and civic responsibility.




Much of the column focuses on a correspondence between its author and a college student who is facing his own set of financial difficulties and who is weighing the possibility of becoming cannon fodder for Bu$hCo's quagmire's abroad.

"The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades"

An Emerging Catastrophe by Bob Herbert and A Growing Force of Nonworkers by Edmund L. Andrews capture the harsh reality underlying the current economic picture in Bu$hCo's America.

Monday, July 19, 2004

"I enjoy killing Iraqis."

Can't make this stuff up. The post summarizes a recent LAT article which basically captures the sheer desensitization to violence, to death, to others' pain caused in a war environment and the likely psychological consequences - many long-term - of prolonged exposure to wartime violence. The pisser is that not only do these individuals get no psychological training to handle the stressors of a war environment but they will also likely have inadequate support when they return home (and those are the lucky ones).

State Control





The artist was apparently inspired by Michael Moore's most recent film, Fahrenheit 9/11.

John Ashcroft is Watching You: Freedom is Slavery

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Here's why I hate it when fanatics are in power

"Fish heads, Jesus freaks, and Nazis": that's how Hunter S. Thompson would have described the inmates running the asylum in the White House, Congress, and much of what's left of our court system (I'm inferring given that's how he actually did describe some right-wingers a couple decades ago).  Harsh words, to be sure, but dead accurate given the fundamentalist leanings of our own Caligula in Chief George Dubya Bush and the more secular but equally apocalyptic leanings of the neocon crowd. For the lowdown on the importance of the fanatical vibe that has entranced our leaders, look no further than Gary Leupp's CounterPunch article, Apocalypse Now: Why the Book of Revelations is Must Reading.



The Book of Revelations is arguably the strangest book in the Bible's New Testament, and is placed as the last book in the Bible. It makes for a fascinating read, regardless of one's faith, as literature if nothing else. The symbolism and events described in that particular book seems descriptive of an LSD or peyote trip gone bad. Although I would generally agree with Dr. Leupp's assertion that Revelations is best viewed as an expression of justifiable rage toward the persecutors of the early Christian church, the trend over the last couple of centuries among the more fanatical Christian sects and doomsday cults loosely based on Christianity has been to view the book as an actual document of prophesy. The thing with this latter interpretation of Revelations is that it's a bit nutty, and otherwise sane folks who buy into that interpretation tend to do rather nutty things (Jim Jones' People's Temple comes most readily to mind - though thankfully Jim Jones never ran the White House).



So we've got a significant subset of the population that is convinced that the end of the world is near. They'll point to all sorts of obscuriod signs as "evidence." And there is little doubt in my mind that many of these cats would be more than happy to help the apocalypse along - after all, as "chosen people" they will be swept up in the Rapture before the rest of us evil-doers are engulfed in all-out war and famine. It doesn't help that contemporary doomsdayers believe that the Anti-Christ is already among us and originated in Iraq (what was once Babylon). And one of those true believers occupies the Oval Office. Add to that the more Machiavellian Neocon cats who see a certain amount of utility in the doomsday mentality of many contemporary fundamentalist and charismatic Christians as that mentality dovetails well with their own visions of a violently and radically reconstructed Middle East region.

 

But I digress. The article is well worth taking a look at and pondering.

The Junior Caligula edition of the Bible must be a lot different from the other translations

The Bible condemns Bush's behavior summarizes Bu$hCo's favoritism toward the extremely wealthy and hostility towards those in the working classes and those in poverty, and shows how those actions are contrary to the writings found in The New Testament. Yet another example of how empty the GOP's version of "Christianity" really is.

Franklin Kiermyer





Chances are that most jazz buffs have never heard of Franklin Kiermyer, a Canadian born drummer who's been gigging for about three decades and recording sporadically over the last decade and a half. I first got turned on to Kiermyer via a review on Ian Scott Horst's Jazz Supreme website while checking out Horst's discography for sax legend Pharoah Sanders (Sanders was on one of Kiermyer's albums). Kiermyer mostly works within a quartet setting (drums, bass, piano, sax - occasionally augmented by additional reed instrumentalists) and is very inspired by John Coltrane's classic quartet albums of the early to mid 1960s, as well as Coltrane's later quartet & quintet recordings of 1965-1967. In fact, one can view Kiermyer's work as an update and extension of Coltrane's classic quartet recordings both in terms of sound and in terms of spirit. Both Coltrane and Kiermyer share a fascination with world religions and various strains of world music - Kiermyer himself appears to be a practicing Tibetan Buddhist. Not too surprisingly, Kiermyer's tunes tend to have a number of sublimated Indian, African, and Middle Eastern elements as did Coltrane's work. Both artists as band leaders also tend to prefer their music to be very emotional and so all-encompassing as to involve the audience on an emotional level. Kiermyer's tunes do tend to emphasize drums more than Coltrane's; and as a drummer Kiermyer seems to have a louder, more aggressive, almost rock-inspired style of drumming when compared to Coltrane's drummer of choice Elvin Jones. Coltrane's music also had a bit more of a blues emphasis than Kiermyer's.



Following are a couple reviews of Kiermyer's albums that I posted on Amazon.com. First, let's start with Solomon's Daughter:



In the spirit of Coltrane



I was blown away the first time I heard some samples from this album, and it has received repeated play since it became part of my collection. The feel of the album is late-period Coltrane (esp. Trane's output from 1965-1967). Kiermyer's choice of Pharoah Sanders on sax even provides a direct link to Coltrane. But lest the reader think that this is merely an imitation, be forewarned that the vision is definitely Kiermyer's. Kiermyer and crew (w/perhaps the exception of Sanders) come across as urban cats who have been absorbing free and avant-garde jazz for quite a while, whereas Trane and the members of his classic quartet mainly hailed from the rural southern U.S. On this album, then you don't hear quite the references to country blues that Trane and his musicians often made on their recordings. This is a drummer's album, and the percussion gets more emphasis here than would have been the case on Coltrane's recordings -- and although the other cats on this date are definitely in a supporting role, there is still plenty of opportunity for everyone to express their ideas and feelings as the pieces evolve. Not too surprisingly, the playing here has plenty of fire, and many of the pieces are every bit as aggressive as one would expect for a free jazz album. There are some quiet moments as well. "Peace on Earth," for example, really conveys the feeling of peace on earth -- the playing is gentle, but with a tremendous amount of emotion. Pharoah's sax playing is excellent, and it harkens back to his early Impulse-era work.



A definite must for fans of late-period Coltrane and for fans of Pharoah Sanders. Kiermyer has since released two other quartet albums that continue to mine this territory -- one also on the Evidence label (Kairos) and another released on his own label, Sunship Records. Kiermyer's work is truly something special.




Here's my review of another album, Kairos:



Avant-garde Jazz with a Strong World Music Vibe



This follow-up to the album "Solomon's Daughter" is every bit as impressive as its predecessor. This album sticks mostly to the quartet format of the previous album, but augments the basic quartet with additional musicians on a few of the tracks (Sam Rivers on "basheret" and Eric Person on "in your presence...", "basheret", and "around the world". Pharoah's replacement on sax, Michael Stuart, sounds right at home with Kiermyer's vision. Interspersed amidst quartet tunes are various snippets of world music, including pygmie and native American chants that connect spirituality in Kiermyer's work with the spirituality found in other forms of traditional music. It would be hard to listen to this album w/o becoming emotionally moved by it. This quartet is the real deal, and Kiermyer has continued to explore both world music and avant-garde jazz interests on subsequent recordings on his own label. Not to be missed for fans of John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, and other like-minded artists.




Kiermyer's energies since the mid-1990s have been focused on his own label, Sunship Records (you can learn more about what Kiermyer's up to by visiting his Mobility Music website), along with annual sabbaticals to Tibet. He's appeared on a couple albums since Sunship Records' inception - one a quartet album and the other an album of Tibetan chants on which he provides the drumming.



Aljazeera article on the Seymour Hersh ACLU lecture

Hersh: US soldiers sodomised Iraqi boys



Much of the article summarizes what we've seen circulating around blogtopia [1] with regards to the raping of children at Abu Ghraib. The article also offers this reminder:



Hersh's revelation follows a newly released 2002 Pentagon memo in which Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld personally authorised the use of dogs for intimidation, stripping prisoners of clothes and hooding them.



Rumsfeld also ordered military officials to hold prisoners, but not list them on prisoner rolls requested by the International Red Cross.



According to Newsweek magazine, these memos and orders were signed by Rumsfeld, Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft.




If one wishes to look for bad apples, they can be found right at the top of the barrel.



[1] Blogtopia is a term coined by Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.

Stupid President Tricks: Amish Edition

Junior Caligula is at it again:



"I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job."

--George W. Bush, during a private meeting with an Amish group.




Via Political Wire.

Absolutely must-read:

Forbidden Reality, by David Neiwert.



Lots of material that deserves to be pondered with regard to the 2000 election controversy that continues to poison the political landscape. Of particular note was this excerpt by Joan Chittister quoted by Neiwert:





I am convinced that the unspoken -- and secretly most impelling -- issue in the election of 2004 is the election of 2000. This election, in fact, will almost certainly be seen by many, both now and in the future, as an attempt to reconfirm the image of governmental integrity in the United States, to reassert real democracy, to reauthenticate the American ballot box. John Kerry himself spoke to the lingering impact of the last election when questioned about whether, as president, he would work to overturn the election of international leaders whose policies did not agree with our own. Kerry put it this way: "As far as I know," he said, "an election is still an election. Except in Florida."



Everywhere the subject never really goes away. Everywhere the continuing dissatisfaction goes deep.



So, there is a campaign issue beyond, but basic to, any of the other ones: Will this election be decided by the people or by boxes of uncounted ballots, a State Attorney General and the Supreme Court? The real American question is: What would have been lost by taking two more weeks to recount ballots in a way that honored the foundation of the entire American system of government?



But don't be fooled. This issue is not a trivial one, coming out of pique or fostered by sore losers. On the contrary. This is the issue that determines every other issue on the agenda. Worst of all, perhaps never have there been greater issues than now, and all at one time. Until we assure ourselves that our elections are safe, nothing else in this country is safe.



Because of those ballots, lost or stolen, misused or miscounted, obstructed or not, the country found itself with one set of programs rather than another.



As a result, the issues that only a ballot can decide are this time more momentous than ever.




These are questions that will not go away. Think carefully about what has been lost since December 2000, when the Supreme Court effectively decided the outcome by allowing Florida to avoid a careful recount. Bu$hCo has subsequently acted as if the White House has a free pass to tread on our civil rights and liberties - and given the make-up of Congress and the failure of the minority party (Democrats) to act as a vocal opposition party it's not difficult to understand how Bu$hCo would have had that impression. Initially I - like probably many others - was willing to shrug off what seemed like a bad precedent and move on. Over time, I've come to realize that was a mistake. The continued demagoguery of the current GOP leadership with regard to the 2000 election issue (of which the recent censure of Rep. Corrine Brown [D-FL] is one example) among other issues has served only to further undercut my trust in Republican politicians and to further anger me. It'll take a long, long time for me to be in an even remotely trusting mood with regard to the GOP. Suffice it to say, I'm motivated to vote come Hell or high water (and this year we may well get a large dose of both) and to be as vocal as possible.

 

Ever read the Constitution? How about The Declaration of Independence? They are beautiful documents that inspired me a great deal in my youth. In the past several years, we've witnessed the rape of the Constitution. To what extent we can even recover what has been lost is an open question. I view this year's election as an effort at recovery and hopefully the beginning of a long and potentially painful healing process.