Saturday, November 27, 2004

Today was Jim Hendrix's Birthday

Would have been 62 today. I've been digging on his music since I first heard "Purple Haze" as a kid. From the music I've heard, and what I've read over the years, he was only just beginning to spread his wings when he passed from this planet. I still try to imagine what a collaboration between Hendrix and Miles Davis would sound like.

Ewwwwwwww!!!!

Things fall apart.... summarizes a book review of Niall Ferguson's Colossus: The Price of America's Empire. I'll highlight the parts of Ferguson's thesis I found especially disgusting in red:

Ferguson's argument is that we (Americans) just aren't ruthless enough, yet. Which means, yes, we could have won in Vietnam, if we'd just had the belly for it. Now America faces "the growing power of liberalism" (don't you all feel better now?), which prevents us from exercising our true authority as the benevolent Empire the Romans...oh, sorry, the British, once were.



How to overcome this and other obstacles to the Pax Americana? Apparently by reining in the deficit by cutting Social Security and Medicare spending. The "less privileged" (Grandin's words, now) would be made: "leaner and meaner, more willing to shoulder the burdens of empire. Just as poverty drove the Irish and Scots into Britain's colonial army, 'illegal immigrants, the jobless,' and 'convicts' could help fill the ranks of Washington's imperial legion." (Apparently Jonathan Swift and Jeremiah were both wrong: poverty is good for sovereigns!). "Ferguson is especially enthusiastic that African Americans might become 'the Celts of the American Empire.' And once he dispense with what here passes for social democracy, he sets his sights on political democracy. Successful empires, Ferguson writes, require 'the resolve of the masters and the consent of the subjects.'"



According to Grandin, Ferguson is the "darling of the American media." Great. Wolf Blitzer's late night reading, I suppose. Makes one glad Bush isn't much of a reader; but he's surrounded by people who are, and who would take this half-baked crock of "thought" seriously. Which is what worries me. The "fringe" is moving more and more toward the center; which means, indeed, that the center cannot hold.


So a racist, elitist prick is the "darling of the American media." What I find especially slimy is the rationalization for a poverty draft. Granted that's pretty much the reality here any way. When there are no jobs and there is no social safety net, folks will do whatever they can to survive. Out of desperation the military can start to look pretty good. So Ferguson's main proposal for maintaining the American Empire is to keep African-Americans desperately poor and probably it wouldn't hurt to keep them disenfranchised. After all, in the fantasy world of the GOP, there's nothing worse than a bunch of uppity negroes who forget that their place is to "shoulder the burdens of empire." Pure unadulterated bovine fecal matter.

Last night's 20/20 program

My wife knows that my main research interest is in human aggression, so when 20/20 was hyping its Matthew Shephard story my wife insisted I watch it. The thought of having to sit through an hour of John Stossel was almost nausea inducing, but I decided to hold my nose and watch it. The one good part of the whole program this time around was that Stossel was conspicuously absent. Otherwise, I was very underwhelmed.



Doug Ireland has a fairly good summary of the show and it's flaws here. In the comments to his post I offered a couple quick remarks:

I saw it as little more than a "feel-good" piece meant to do two things:

1. Dismiss the importance & prevalence of hate crimes such as gay-bashing, hence putting those uppity gay rights folks in their place;

2. Provide fodder for the "war-on-drugs" types, by locating the sole cause of the crime on the use of methamphetamines (we even get a new "rage" phrase to add to our lexicon - "meth rage").


I want to address the methamphetamine hypothesis for the crime just briefly. The traditional view of the relationship between the consumption and stimulants is based on two assumptions: 1) drugs that stimulate physiological states of arousal increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior, and 2) the presumed soundness of early clinical research on stimulants and aggression. As stimulants, amphetamines (including meth) will get lumped into the category of aggression-enhancing. That would be nice if there were solid evidence for that belief. Problem is, the evidence is minimal at best (Bushman, 1993). The summaries of the research that I have read to date (e.g., Taylor & Hulsizer, 1998) indicate that overall amphetamine usage is unlikely to stimulate aggression, with the possible exception of doses that induce amphetamine psychosis (see e.g., Allen, Safer, & Covi, 1975 for a summary), and others have argued that amphetamines may lead to aggression only if they are used chronically, or are used by individuals who show signs of paranoid psychosis or antisocial personality disorder (see, e.g., Moss, Salloum, & Fisher, 1994, for a summary). Furthermore, the experimental research on human subjects in Stuart Taylor's lab have shown that subjects receiving doses of an amphetamine (dextroamphetamine) showed no more aggressive behavior than those in a control group who did not receive the drug (Beezley, Gantner, Bailey, & Taylor, 1987).



At this point, I have no reason to believe that the amphetamine drugs consistently facilite or inhibit aggressive or violent behaviors. When I hear the term "meth rage" being used in conjunction with the Shephard case or any other act of criminal violence, I'll be tempted to use one of Stossel's favorite stock phrases - "Give me a break!"



Quick update:



To summarize, I saw nothing in the program that would change my opinion that the Shepard case was a hate crime. Contrary to the story last night, based on my understanding of the research on drugs and aggression, the methamphetamine angle is simply too weak to undermine the gay-bashing hypothesis in that case. The 20/20 piece was merely shoddy journalism at its worst, and is not to be taken seriously (though sadly it will be).

Friday, November 26, 2004

A Reminder From Notes From Underground

courtesy of markusd's Daily Kos diary: Ignoring Voter Suppression is Betraying Black Voters.

The bottom line is that many of us are writing diaries about possible fraud in the recent election, and about voter suppression in the recent election, because we are hopeful that a full investigation will result in strong election reform, and some of us are also still holding out hope that the result itself will be overturned.



But I fear the aspect of this that is overlooked, or at least not being given enough focus, is that our party leadership is doing a grave disservice to it's minority supporters by not speaking out strongly and persistently about the outrageous, blatant racism of the Republican strategy of suppression of the minority vote. Black voters voted for Gore over Busy by 91 to 9 percent, and for Kerry over Bush by 89 to 11 percent. Many of them waited on line for 5, 6, or 7 hours in order to cast their vote, an inconvenience that very few white voters had to deal with. They are BY FAR the most loyal constituency that the democratic party has. What does the democratic party owe them? Does it owe them it's voice in speaking out against this disgusting garbage that the Republicans pull every goddamned election? How many elections should we expect black voters to maintain this loyalty to the democratic party while it remains silent about this gross assault on their most basic right as a citizen, the right to vote?



Loyalty is a two-way street. Right now, it seems to me that it is all too much a one-way street when it comes to black voters and the Democratic party.



The diary, free press article, my original comment and pronin2's response are all below:



Renee from Ohio's Diary is here



And the free press article is here



MY COMMENT IS HERE:



WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?



People died so that black people can have the right to vote in this country. When they were directly prevented from voting in the 50s and 60s, thousands marched in the streets to fight against that. When it is done now via these subtler techniques, the public and the MSM are dead silent.



This is a direct assault on our democracy and the freedom that our country claims to stand for. I don't give a damn if we have eight out of eight recommended diaries on this, and we don't discuss another issue here for a year or more if that's what it takes. If we don't ensure a fair electoral system in this country, everything else we talk about will come for naught.



PRONIN2'S REPLY IS HERE:



you are right on. I know many in the black community, including well contected party activists and they, like you, feel the same. 2000 was betrayl of the upmost. with GOP storming florida to stop ALL votes from being counted and the supremes blocking and ending recount blacks were betrayed by the public and the court. their anger in 2000 was primarily at the GOP and the supremes. then the question is asked: why vote? my vote doesnt count! when congress convened on jan 6 to count the eletoral ballots not one democratic senator would contest florida's slate of electors. now the betrayl is from the dem party. not one so called "white liberal" would stand up and we have paid dearly for that. one of the darkest moments in our nation's history. not one! not even ted kennedy for godsakes. now 2004 rolls around and what happens? betrayl again, directly from the GOP lawyers who hassled blacks in Ohio and then from the DNC who wont even fight for ALL votes. and we know whose votes were "spoiled"-black votes (freepress.org). will betrayl happen again on the senate floor? I think the term betrayl sums it all up...."



[...]



In case we've forgotten



It seems to me that the fight for the right of black people to vote in this country is fading into memory, which is pretty astonishing because the truth is that the fight is still going on. At least the other side, the one that wants to prevent blacks from voting, is still fighting pretty hard.



Maybe we should take a minute to remember what this is all about. This may help, and I note with sadness that Lyndon B. Johnson, the old deal-maker from Texas who many of us despised for VietNam, still showed more political courage on this issue than a SINGLE national democratic leader is showing today.



http://www.core-online.org/history/voting_rights.htm



In the century following Reconstruction, African Americans in the South faced overwhelming obstacles to voting. Despite the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which had enfranchised black men and women, southern voter registration boards used poll taxes, literacy tests, and other bureaucratic impediments to deny African Americans their legal rights. Southern blacks also risked harassment, intimidation, economic reprisals, and physical violence when they tried to register or vote. As a result, African Americans had little if any political power, either locally or nationally. In Mississippi, for instance, only five percent of eligible blacks were registered to vote in 1960.



The Voting Rights Act of 1965, meant to reverse this disenfranchisement, grew out of both public protest and private political negotiation. Starting in 1961, CORE joined SCLC in staging nonviolent demonstrations in Georgia, and Birmingham. They hoped to attract national media attention and pressure the U.S. government to protect Black's constitutional rights. The strategy worked. Newspaper photos and television broadcasts of Birmingham's notoriously racist police commissioner, Eugene "Bull" Connor, and his men violently attacking the peaceful protesters with water hoses, police dogs, and nightsticks awakened the consciences of whites.



Selma, Alabama was the site of the next campaign. In the first three months of 1965, Local residents and visiting volunteers held a series of marches demanding an equal right to vote. As in Birmingham, they met with violence and imprisonment. In the worst attack yet, on Sunday, March 7, a group of Alabama state troopers, local sheriff's officers, and unofficial possemen used tear gas and clubs against 600 peaceful marchers. By now, the nation was watching.



President Lyndon B. Johnson made civil rights one of his administration's top priorities, using his formidable political skills to pass the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, which outlawed poll taxes, in 1964. Now, a week after "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Johnson gave a televised speech before Congress in which he denounced the assault.



Two days later, the President sent the Voting Rights bill to Congress. The resolution, signed into law on August 6, 1965, empowered the federal government to oversee voter registration and elections in counties that had used tests to determine voter eligibility or where registration or turnout had been less than 50 percent in the 1964 presidential election. It also banned discriminatory literacy tests and expanded voting rights for non-English speaking Americans.



The law's effects were wide and powerful. By 1968, nearly 60 percent of eligible African Americans were registered to vote in Mississippi, and other southern states showed similar improvement. Between 1965 and 1990, the number of black state legislators and members of Congress rose from two to 160.



The Voting Rights Act was extended in 1970, 1975, and 1982 and despite some setbacks and debates, the Voting Rights Act had an enormous impact. It re-enfranchised black southerners, helping elect African Americans at the local, state, and national levels.


Re-read this and think about core values (e.g., justice, responsibility) and how issues such as voting rights should be handled based on those core values.

Free jazz as "freedom to" rather than "freedom from"

Harris Eisenstadt : The Next Wave



I've been thinking for some time now that there is a distinct connection between the music I most dig (free jazz) and my thoughts on freedom more broadly. I was just catching up on some reading on the One Final Note site (see links) and stumbled upon this feature article. The way I try to view human freedom is as "freedom to": freedom connected to a context, freedom to explore and to incorporate a variety ideas and practices into my own lifestyle. It's a freedom that holds a high degree of reverence for traditions without being rigidly bound by those traditions. Perhaps you see the connection too. Some clips:

Artistic responsibility and historical context aren't concepts that typically spring to mind when one thinks about creative improvised music. After all, isn't the point of the music to stretch boundaries, to continually push at what is already known—in other words, to realize the new? Wasn't that what was gained during the 1950s and 60s through the work of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, and others: Freedom from historical contexts, freedom from presumptions and expectations, freedom from the popular song and the concomitant musicological trappings of explicit meters, strict tonality, and the strict-structured relationship of leader and sideman?



Perhaps, or perhaps this is the simplistic story that is most easily told. For when we really go back to those early recordings what is most often striking is not the newfound freedoms exhibited by the first wave of the jazz avant-garde, but how historically constructed those freedoms were. After all, wasn't collective improvisation the fundamental working model of the earliest forms of jazz—this, of course, why it was a logical leap for Roswell Rudd to move from trad to free—and hadn't, as Charles Mingus certainly argued, Ellington done everything already?



Cecil Taylor and Max Roach (and let us not forget how "radical" Roach was during the 60s) may have pushed toward new concepts of rhythm and meter, but their work was not a-historical, as is too often argued. Instead, it was entirely responsive to historical contingencies, created with love (rather than derision) for the music that had influenced them throughout their lives. "Free Jazz" was neither aberration nor logical extension but simply one among many forms and genres that developed to meet the needs of creative musicians, musicians who grew up inspired by their historical forbearers and who would certainly go on to influence an entire new generation of players.



If there were any freedoms gained, ultimately, they weren't in the guise of "freedoms from" as much as they were in relationship to "freedoms to". Freedoms to incorporate any variety of influences, freedoms to explore other musical traditions, freedoms to develop one's own unique language, one's own vision, one's own voice. Folk music of all kinds, as well as the various traditions of Africa, India, Europe, Japan, and the Middle East called, and musicians engaged in a bountiful dialogue.



So it should actually be without surprise that the newest generation of players (a generation whose entire lives have been defined by an unprecedented availability to knowledge and information from around the world) is mindful, is even responsive to artistic responsibility and tradition. "If you have all of the freedom in the world, you are responsible for practicing that freedom within tradition", remarks Harris Eisenstadt, a young drummer now residing in LA, and his comment is one of which anyone interested in where the music is heading must take note.



[...]



It is a life, also, particularly devoted to drums. Greatly inspired by unpitched percussion, Eisenstadt is also familiar with the complete range of the percussive family, drawing "great inspiration from mallet players". After only a cursory listen, it will be clear to any listener that he has studied both the history of drumming as well as the history of percussion in general. Another inspiration is the guitar, an "inescapable influence", as Eisenstadt states, for anyone growing up in the 1970s. For Eisenstadt, though, the sound of the guitar has been morphed (no longer playing frontline), as he typically uses it in his compositions for "textural explorations". More recently, kora-inspired guitar lines have found their way into his music, as has the influence of people including Babaa Maal and Foday Musa Suso.



Again, this should not be surprising given the current age in which we live. "The concept of place is now completely different with the Internet. You want to learn about some Swiss drummer and all you have to do is click and there it is." For Eisenstadt, though, this ability to "virtually" learn does not replace the need for travel—his demanding touring schedule is evidence enough that he is no simple online explorer. Instead, his commitment to throwing himself into situations throughout the world reminds one of the careers of Don Cherry or Peter Kowald, musicians who made music through travel, whose lives were defined by travel.



For Eisenstadt, who did a short European tour in the time span it took to interview him and later write this piece, the contemporary music scene is "clearly the result of a pile of travel". It is the aggregation of cultures mixing, sometimes clashing, and thereby perpetually defining music in continual evolution. This transnational enterprise is not without dangers, though, and perhaps tradition is more important now than ever before. But actually, isn't this exactly what Cecil Taylor argued over forty years ago?



This is why musicians like Eisenstadt are not content with simply hearing West African music on record. This is why people like Eisenstadt head to Africa, not only to study the music but also the dance and the culture. And this is why contemporary improvised music will forever remain vital, as musicians continue to learn from their own traditions as well as those from around the world. Travel will forever play a role as musicians celebrate the "freedoms to" as much as the "freedoms from". Listen and you will know: The future of creative improvised music will be written by people like Harris Eisenstadt.

How we look to the rest of the world?

Not very good according to a couple articles linked to by Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest. Turns out that the US has been using its own WMDs in Fallujah and is bullying nations in an effort to curtail the International Criminal Court.



Remember I've been discussing liberal and progressive values (see also here , here, and here). To me the core value is one of justice which is tied in more with the value of responsibility. Again keep in mind that I think of responsibility in the broad sense of responsibility to others. Clearly the above stories indicate that there is a violation of the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.") occurring. It is equally clear that our government generally has the mindset that there is one set of standards for the US and another set of standards for everyone else. It's okay for the US to use chemical weapons (napalm cerainly fits the bill) but not okay for anyone else. It's okay to prosecute war criminals such as Milosevic and Saddam Hussein but it's not okay to apply the same standards of international law to US leaders. See the disconnect?



the point of all this is that from a liberal or progressive standpoint, the above should not and would not happen. Taking the core values of justice and responsibility as starting points we'd develop policies that would flow from those values. For starters, we'd rule out the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance in large part to remain consistent (we'd apply the same standards to ourselves as to other nations) and in part to be responsible (such weapons end up harming far more than military targets - think of the countless civilians, families, etc. who have been maimed and killed). Similarly in the arena of international law, from the values of justice and responsibility we'd craft policies that are consistent and fair. We'd be active players in the construction and application of international laws and would if anything want to facilitate the effectiveness of such bodies as the International Criminal Court as a check on all nations - as a means of assuring that all nations are subjected to the same standards of fairness; that nations' leaders understand their responsibilities to the international community, along of course with the understanding that other nations are responsible for being fair to their own nation.



Keep in mind, I'm just try paint the broad outline of an idea: that we need to articulate our values and to have our policies flow from those values. I don't have the answers with regards to the nuts and bolts of shaping policies. I'm simply a layperson (one who is both liberal and Christian) trying to get my little corner of the blogging community to think about policy from a somewhat different angle, and hopefully in a way that connects with the larger community more successfully than what our predecessors have tried. The goal: have a set of concrete, easily explainable policy ideas that can be tied to core values that most of humanity already grasps and that can be easily contrasted with right-winger policies that can be shown to violate those core values. More simply, here's what we want to do and here's why it's basically on solid moral and ethical footing, and here's what our opponents want to do (and to a large degree already do) and why what they do is morally and ethically bankrupt.

"A picture is worth ten thousand words."





Click the pic for the rest of the story.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Apparently a number of our founding fathers were America-haters

The Enlightenment of the Founding Fathers

The Founding Fathers were products of The Age of Enlightenment. These quotes draw sharp contrast between their thoughts and the nonsense going on now:



"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."

-Ben Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1758



"Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects."

-James Madison, letter to William Bradford, January 1774



"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect."

-James Madison, letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774



"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."

-Thomas Jefferson, letter, 1787



"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see, but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity, though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequences, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and observed, especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure." -Benjamin Franklin, letter to Ezra Stiles, March 9, 1790



"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." -Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1797



"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind."

-Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794



"The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?"

-John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 20, 1815



"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." -Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823



"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose."

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Alexander von Humboldt, 1813


In our current post-Enlightenment era, in which a fair number of folks seem hell-bent on turning back the clock to the Medieval Era, one has to wonder how our nation's founders would be received if they were to utter or write the same statements today. One of the things I am thankful for is that we did have men, like the above, who were dedicated to the creation of a secular republic and that the government they envisioned has held up more or less even with the threats of our own Mullahs to trash the republic and replace it with something more akin to a theocratic dictatorship. These founders were certainly not saints (as subsequent biographies have certainly revealed), but at least when it came to the Constitution they did well.

Why Did George Washington Hate America?

Fighting Words For A Secular America

"The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion." - George Washington


I'm sure that'll get some fundies' knickers in a knot.

Heil Junior Caligula!





Let's just say my already low opinion of Clear Channel just sank further (and I didn't think that was possible).

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cartoons

FreedomToons. Check it out.

The Liberal/Progressive Narrative

courtesy of Larry, the blogger responsible for Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time:

We can't easily fight that sense of loss of control by wonkishness. We don't lack policies, proposals, or programs; we lack, as others have said, a narrative. A theme, a meme of what progressives (noting as I have before that some Democrats still deserve the title) are about. I have my own notion of a narrative, a pull quote from that speech I quoted on November 12:



What I ultimately reject is the right of so few to have so much when so many have so little; what I ultimately resist is the power of so few to control so much when so many control so little. What I ultimately affirm is the right of every human being to a decent life free of hunger, fear, and oppression; what I ultimately demand from our society is the effort to guarantee that right.



The single word summary being "justice." What we have to do isn't to show people we have programs but to show that our programs provide hope. That it's the left, not the right, that offers them the promise of a better tomorrow. For example: While the right looks at the economy and cries that we all have to "sink or swim," we talk about providing everyone with water wings: You still have to do your own swimming but you won't drown in the process.



And we are the ones who actually talk about responsibility: The right talks about being responsible for yourself, and in that they just want the half that benefits the selfish and the rich who want to be freed from any commitments that don't profit them personally. But we talk about responsibility for yourself and responsibility to others, to the community as a whole; we talk about the whole thing, not just half.



Bottom line: They talk about "go for yourself." We talk about "love thy neighbor." And yes, dammit, that will require some sacrifices, but some things you do just because they're right, not because they're profitable - and if everyone is made to chip in the way they should, according to their ability, including the greedheads and top dogs who have been screwing all of us for decades, it probably won't be a sacrifice at all.



Most importantly, we are the ones who offer them control over their own futures. We are the ones who believe in their right to privacy. We are the ones who believe in their freedoms. We are the ones who want to include them in the overall discussion of where we will go as a people, not dictate the answers. Yes, yes, yes, you can have a say, you can have a voice, and not the imaginary ones like right-wing talk radio that allow you to vent in order to distract you while your future continues to contract. But a real voice in a real community. And a real way to build a real future for you and for your children. Real hope.



That's what we offer and what the right never can.


I highlighted a few blurbs that especially caught my eye. More food for thought. Let's hope that these efforts to create a new narrative spread. Larry's planted some seeds. So have I recently, as have others. It's still winter in America, and that winter promises to be longer than hoped for, but this is the time to be planning for the spring.

A Bit O'Cheer For The Holiday

A Thanksgiving Prayer by William Burroughs

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.



Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.



Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.



Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.



Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.



Thanks for the American dream, To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.



Thanks for the KKK.



For nigger-killin' lawmen, feelin' their notches.



For decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.



Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.



Thanks for laboratory AIDS.



Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.



Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind their own business.



Thanks for a nation of finks.



Yes, thanks for all the memories-- all right let's see your arms!



You always were a headache and you always were a bore.



Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Human Rights Zionist Style

Israelis fired on girl 'having identified her as a 10-year-old', military tape shows

It shows that troops firing with light weapons and machine guns on a figure moving in a "no entry zone" close to an army outpost near the border with Egypt had swiftly discovered that she was a girl.



In the recorded exchanges someone in the operations room asks: "Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?" The observation post, housed in a watchtower, replies: "It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastwards, a girl of about 10. She's behind the embankment, scared to death."



Not until four minutes later was it reported that the girl had been hit and had fallen. The observation post reports: "Receive, I think that one of the positions took her out." ... Operations room: "What, she fell?" Observation post: "She's not moving right now."



The tape records the commander as telling his men, after firing at the girl with an automatic weapon and declaring he has "confirmed" the killing: "Anyone who's mobile, moving in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed."



...The girl was carrying a bag which the army said that the soldiers had thought contained explosives, but which was found to contain schoolbooks. Although the family is at a loss to explain why she had wandered into a dangerous prohibited zone, they say she was on her way to school at the time.


I have a son who's about eight and a half years of age. Kids around that age have a tendency to wander all sorts of places where they are probably not supposed to wander. As a parent I would feel sick to my stomach if my kid had inadvertently wandered into the wrong place and been shot and killed by occupying military forces. I'd also be mad as hell at those who killed the kid. The mindset that informs the dialogue on the tape is one that would invite such atrocities to occur.

Articles on free jazz that caught my attention

The Limits of Politics in Avant-Garde Jazz, written a few years ago by Micah Holmquist (see blogroll).

Both links above from the blog Flaskaland

Also check out: Poor Boy Long Ways From Home... which has a brief Sun Ra blurb.

All sorts of ramblings from the post-punk landscape to reviews of Albert Ayler & Noah Howard. I'll be reading more of this blog.

Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton, written about a gig that apparently deeply impressed the author, who hadn't been much of a jazzer beforehand.

Oh, Ornette. A brief post on a recent Ornette Coleman gig.

Free Jazz & Free Love, or, Is Branford Marsalis a Neocon?, asks the question of whether free jazz is necessarily tied to leftist politics; doesn't seem to arrive at any sort of conclusion.

Not about free jazz, but this article from last year's SF Gate captures some kindred spirits: Hip-Hop Intellectuals: A radical generation comes of age

Freaky

(Re-)Meet G. Gordon Liddy... - an article recently appearing in the UK newspaper The Independent. The quotes Ryan pulls out are pretty disturbing, as is the rest of the interview, which can be read in its entirety here. Here's some more from the same article:

I'm not sure how much of this I can take. I am becoming desensitized to his madness; I haven't even furrowed my brow for the past five minutes. Does he really mean this stuff? And what's better - if he is spewing all this hate for effect, or if he really means it?



But this is how Hate Radio works in America. It numbs you to far right positions; it makes the most depraved politics banal and commonplace. So Ann Coulter talks affectionately of "the benefits of local fascism" and nobody blinks. Michael Savage describes Lindy England as "an American hero" and tells gay listeners, "I hope you get AIDS and die," and we simply avert our gaze. Even a mad criminal like G. Gordon Liddy is accepted as a normal part of the political furniture. Republican politicians appear on his show happily and nod along to his far-right patter. These 'hosts' have created a political culture where even John Kerry - who is, in European terms, pretty conservative - can be savaged as "far left" and denied the White House.



Liddy looks at his watch, gulps his coffee and begins slowly, carefully to get off his stool to catch his train. He looks so weak that I offer to carry his bag, and so I wander through Penn Station with an advocate of slaughtering millions of people, trying to make polite conversation. The last generation of Nixon warriors is about to pass into history, and Liddy is one of the few to remain politically active. I ask him how history will judge him. "Me? I hope it says G. Gordon Liddy was strong," he says, coughing slightly. "A strong man."


From the Gangsta Haiku Site:

life spared twice

soldiers comin home from war

then another tour



- simply ian

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Fun Links

Pharoah Sanders at the Jazz Bakery



Michael White



Music for today: The Jazz Composers Orchestra



stompin' - scroll down and find a ton of jazz & hip-hop links under the title talkin jazz.



DAY 2 OF CARL SANDBURG WEEK



the creator has a masterplan ....



Purge the Minorities



All from typing the keyword "Pharoah Sanders" into Blogpulse.

Looks like I wasn't the only one to think of the Bugs Bunny reference

to the provision in the recently passed federal budget to buy Junior Caligula a yacht. Just stumbled upon this one at Patridiot Watch: My Name is George W. Bush, I Own A Mansion And a Yacht:

Elmer J. Fudd should be jealous of George W. Bush, as Bush really is a millionaire who has a mansion and a yacht.



Well, actually, President Bush doesn't have the yacht yet, but the Republican Congress just decided to give him one as an early Christmas present.


To be fair to poor Elmer, let's keep the following in mind: Mr. Fudd is much brighter than Junior Caligula.

Lakoff on Progressive Moral Values

Our Moral Values

We are the 55 million progressives who came together in this election, voted for Kerry and rejected the Bush agenda.



We came together because of our moral values: care and responsibility, fairness and equality, freedom and courage, fulfillment in life, opportunity and community, cooperation and trust, honesty and openness. We united behind political principles: equality, equity (if you work for a living, you should earn a living) and government for the people - all the people.



These are traditional American values and principles, what we are proudest of in this country. The Democrats' failure was a failure to put forth our moral vision, celebrate our values and principles, and shout them out loud.



We must immediately convince our leaders to unite behind these values, express our common moral vision and hold the line against the Bush agenda because it is immoral! Bush will call them obstructionists. They must frame themselves as heading in the right direction, going forward not backward, defending the greatest of American ideals and moral principles, working against a radical right agenda that would lead our country to disaster and speaking for more than 55 million highly moral, patriotic Americans.



If we communicate our values clearly, most people will recognize them as their own, personally more authentic and more deeply American than those put forth by conservatives. At the very least they will see progressives as having deeply held, traditional American principles. This would be a huge step forward from the present state, in which conservatives are seen as having a monopoly on "values" and progressives are framed as the party of "if it feels good, do it," with no higher principles.



Moral values at the national level are idealized family values projected onto the nation. Progressive values are the values of a responsible nurturant family, where parents (if there are two) are equally responsible. Their job is to nurture their children and raise them to be nurturers of others. Nurturance has two aspects: empathy and responsibility - both for yourself and your children. From this, all progressive values follow, both in the family and in politics.



If you empathize with your children, you will want them to have strong protection, fair and equal treatment and fulfillment in life. Fulfillment requires freedom, freedom requires opportunity and opportunity requires prosperity. Since your family lives in, and requires, a community, community building and community service are required. Community requires cooperation, which requires trust, which requires honesty and open communication. Those are the progressive values - in politics as well as family life.



Take protection. In addition to physical protection, there is environmental protection, worker protection and consumer protection, as well as all the "safety nets" - Social Security, Medicare and so on. Equality means full political and social equality, without regard to wealth, race, religion or gender. Openness requires open government and a free, inquiring press. Progressive political ideals are nurturant moral ideals.



On the other hand, the strict-father family model assumes that evil and danger will always lurk in the world, that life is difficult, that there will always be winners and losers and that children are born bad - they want to do what feels good, not what's right - and have to be made good. A strict father is needed to protect and support the family and to teach his kids right from wrong. That can be done in only one way: punishment painful enough that, to avoid it, children will learn the internal discipline necessary to be moral. That discipline can also make them prosperous if they seek their self-interest and no one interferes. Mommy isn't strong enough to protect the family and is too soft-hearted to discipline the children. That's why fathers are necessary.



Apply this, via metaphor, to the nation: We need a strong President who knows right from wrong to defend the nation. Social programs are immoral because they give people things they haven't earned and so make them undisciplined - both dependent and less able to function morally. The prosperous people are the good people. Those who are not prosperous deserve their poverty. Taxes take away the rightful rewards of the prosperous. Wrongdoers should be punished severely. Government should get out of the way of disciplined (hence good) people seeking their self-interest. The President is to be obeyed; since he knows right from wrong, his authority is legitimate and not to be questioned. In foreign policy, he is also the absolute moral authority and so needs no advice from lesser countries.



The so-called "moral issues" are affronts to strict-father morality. Strict-father marriage cannot be gay; it must be between a man and a woman. For a wife to seek an abortion on her own or a daughter to need one is an affront to strict-father control over the behavior of the women in his family. They are not the main moral issues in themselves; rather they are symbolic of the entire strict-father identity as applied to all spheres of life. That's why they are so powerful for conservatives.



Swing voters have both models - in different parts of their lives - and are unsure about which to apply to politics in a particular election. The job of a candidate is to activate his model in the swing voters. Conservatives know this: By talking to their base, they are activating their base model in swing voters. When liberals move to the right, they are shooting themselves in both feet: They alienate their base and they activate the other side's models in the swing voters, thus helping the other side.



Democrats in Congress need to understand this. They must hold their ground, be positive and be aware that moving to the right is a double disaster. It will only help the radical right's agenda, break with values that unify us and make it harder to awaken our values in swing voters.



The only way to trump their moral values is with our own more traditional and more patriotic moral values. Proclaim them and live them, and we will find that there are many more than 55 million of us.


Hopefully this helps further the discussion on where to go from here. One of the points I'll keep pounding home is the need to reframe our message in a way that does not pander to the base impulses of the right-wing.



I also want at some point in the near future to offer an extension of Lakoff's strict-father metaphor for the right wing, suggesting that a somewhat more disturbing metaphor is more accurate: the strict abusive father. My analysis will be based on both my understanding of Lakoff's theoretical work and my understanding of the available research on human aggression (which happens to be my specialty area). Stay tuned.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Sunday, November 21, 2004

tonight's haiku

blues sublimated

a prayer for peace now and then

the fog, a cold breeze

"My name is Elmer Fudd. I have a mansion and a yacht."

$388 billion bill is show of GOP power :

A potential boon for Bush, $2 million for the government to try buying back the former presidential yacht Sequoia. The boat was sold three decades ago, and its current owners say the yacht is assessed at $9.8 million and are distressed by the provision.


A toy for Junior Caligula. How nifty. He can play sailor on one of his many vacations, because after all it's "hard work."

Where Science and Free Jazz Intersect

Finding Healing Music in the Heart.



Check out what Milford Graves is up to these days:

Mr. Graves, 63, a jazz drummer who made his mark in the 1960's with avant-garde musicians like Albert Ayler, Paul Bley and Sonny Sharrock, performs only occasionally now. He spends about half his week teaching music healing and jazz improvisation classes at Bennington College in Vermont, where he has been a professor for 31 years. He spends much of the rest of his week in his basement researching the relationship between music and the human heart.



[...]



But after years of hard living as a jazzman, Mr. Graves began studying holistic healing, and then teaching it. He became fascinated with the effect of music on physiological functions.



"People with ailments would attend my performances and tell me they felt better afterward," he said.



Curious about the heartbeat as a primary source of rhythm, he bought an electronic stethoscope and began recording his and other musicians' heartbeats.



[...]



In his basement, he converted the heartbeats to a higher register and dissected them. Behind the basic binary thum-THUMP beat, he heard other rhythms - more spontaneous and complex patterns in less-regular time intervals - akin to a drummer using his four limbs independently.



"A lot of it was like free jazz," Mr. Graves said one day last week in his basement. "There were rhythms I had only heard in Cuban and Nigerian music." He demonstrated by thumping a steady bum-BUM rhythm on a conga with his right hand, while delivering with his left a series of unconnected rhythms on an hourglass-shaped talking drum.



Mr. Graves created computer programs to analyze the heart's rhythms and pitches, which are caused by muscle and valve movement. The pitches correspond to actual notes on the Western musical scale. Raised several octaves, the cardiac sounds became rather melodic.



"When I hooked up to the four chambers of the heart, it sounded like four-part harmony," Mr. Graves said.



He began composing with the sounds - both by transcribing heartbeat melodies and by using recorded fragments. He also realized he could help detect heart problems, maybe even cure them.



"A healthy heart has strong, supple walls, so the sound usually has a nice flow," he said. "You hear it and say, 'Ah, now that's hip.' But an unhealthy heart has stiff and brittle muscles. There's less compliance, and sounds can come out up to three octaves higher than normal.



"You can pinpoint things by the melody. You can hear something and say, 'Ah, sounds like a problem in the right atrium.' "




Check out the rest of the article. Graves is still an active musician, is on the faculty of Bennington College, and has been pursuing his research and practice of music therapy for quite some time. I'm sure that the better living through chemicals crowd won't quite appreciate his work, but like acupuncture will in the long run prove a valid method of treatment.

Bukowski quote and picture

via Spontaneous Arising:



Read some Bukowski here. Probably my favorite 20th century poet.

More on the "F" Word

Triumph of the Will, the Sequel

"Fascist", like "irrational", is often thrown around as an epithet. But when used properly it is also a useful and meaningful conceptual tool for the analysis of political phenomena. The total rejection of pragmatic considerations from the political sphere in favor of the radical self- assertion of what is thought to be an authentic national culture, the mutation of fear into hatred of vaguely defined enemies, and the aestheticization of politics to the point where arguments are seen as cowardly and dull and only gestures count: this is just what fascism is.



To point out that Karl Rove has been charged with substantially the same task as was Leni Riefenstahl in the mid-1930s --namely, aestheticizing the power grabs of their respective leaders in order to make these look like the manifestation of the people's will and fortitude-- is not to smear. I would even go so far as to say it's not to state an opinion. It is to utter a patent truth, one that a century from now (if, God willing, the end is not nigh) our imagined historian will take to be among the most non- controversial.

Story Time

Copy Protection.

Some Reissues December 7th

Looks like a number of recordings from the defunct America label will be reissued in a couple weeks. There's quite a bit there that I haven't heard, along with a few that I've been able to find through the miracle of mp3 files. I'll be adding to my wishlist, needless to say. The reissues:



Art Ensemble of Chicago - Certain Blacks (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6098; 1970

Art Ensemble of Chicago - Phase One (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6115; 1971

Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass - (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America LP

Paul Bley - Improvisie (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6121; with Annette Peacock and Han Bennink; 1971

Anthony Braxton - Improvisations, Series F (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of 2 LP America 011-012; solo sax; 1972

Anthony Braxton - Dona Lee (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6122; 1972 quartet date



Dave Burrell - After Love (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6115; 1970

Emergency - Homage to Peace (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America LP

Steve Lacy Quintet - The Gap (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6125; 1972

Steve Lacy Quintet - With Mal Waldron (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America LP



Roswell Rudd - Featuring John Tchicai (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6114; 1965

Archie Shepp & Chicago Beau - Black Gipsy (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6099; 1969

Alan Shorter - Tes Esat (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6118;

Clifford Thornton - The Panther And The Lash (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6113; 1970

Frank Wright Quartet - Uhuru Na Umoja (Emarcy/Universal France) Dec 6 — reissue of America 6104; 1970


This list courtesy of the always informative website Jazzmatazz. I can definitely vouch for the Frank Wright and Art Ensemble of Chicago albums that are being reissued. Frank Wright was a tragically under-recorded free jazz master (his instrument: the sax), and that album along with his mid-to-late 1960s ESP-Disk output make for a wonderful introduction to his work. AEC fortunately have had ample opportunities to record, and I simply love their work from the 1970s - you can get the whole history of African-American music in just one song with these cats. I'll be interested in the Clifford Thornton album (another cat who rarely recorded; played cornet and appeared as a sideman on a number of projects during the 1960s and 1970s) - he dug large-ish ensembles, alternating between kick-out-the-jams blowout sessions and quieter introspective pieces. He also had a deep sense of the music's history and brought a healthy dose of modern European classical music sensibility into his work.



The Alan Shorter album (Tes Esat) I've been wanting to get a hold of ever since I first read a review of it (the album was his second and last as a leader). His first session as a leader (Orgasm) was reissued in the late 1990s in a limited edition package and then vanished once more. He definitely made his mark on the few recording gigs in which he played, contributing original compositions to albums led by cats like his brother Wayne, Archie Shepp, etc. If you can find Orgasm it's well worth the effort - it's free jazz that's surprisingly hummable. Supposedly he wasn't that technically adept at his chosen instrument, the flugelhorn - though from the vantagepoint of a nonmusician fan (that's me) he sounds just fine. All I know is it gets me "in the moment" - as is the case with his other aforementioned compositions - so I have pretty high hopes for the reissue.



It's good to see that someone somewhere is willing to keep this music alive. Dive in.

Ornette Coleman



Freedom Rides Again: Ornette and Denardo Coleman, a harmolodic family, consists of an interview with sax legend Ornette's son Denardo (who is an excellent drummer in his own right, and may arguably understand his dad's approach to jazz - harmolodics - better than anyone). Some highlights from the article and interview:

Ralph Ellison’s novelistic Invisible Man; Albert Ayler’s saxophonic “Spirits” and “Ghosts”; Ornette Coleman’s “Angel Voice,” “The Disguise” and “Invisible” — all speak of communication from unseen sources best not ignored.



Those three Coleman titles all come from his 1958 debut recording, Something Else!, in which the L.A.-via-Texas alto saxist stepped out of the shadows to present concepts he later started to group under the name harmolodics — a system whose implications still haven’t been widely absorbed. With its rejection of traditional hierarchies in favor of equality, freedom and interaction, harmolodics has social and intellectual implications as well as musical ones. “Music has no prejudice,” he told me in 1996. “It’s a sound; there’s no anti-sound.”



[...]



Coleman didn’t vanish only from Los Angeles; he has released no new music since 1997’s Colors, an album of ’96 duets with pianist Joachim Kühn. But according to his son and longtime drummer, Denardo Coleman, he has never stopped filling reams and even rooms with compositions; Denardo figures that the new band, which features Denardo plus bassists Tony Falanga and Greg Cohen, has worked out more than 100 pieces. Coleman is in one of his visible stretches; at 74, he has logged numerous concerts in 2004, and in October received the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for excellence in the arts from the hands of presenter Wynton Marsalis (Coleman’s about the only avant-gardian Marsalis can tolerate) at a ceremony attended by fellow out-musicians such as Henry Threadgill, Muhal Richard Abrams and Leroy Jenkins — and Lou Reed, on whose Edgar Allan Poe tribute album the harmolodian guested/ghosted last year.



[...]



L.A. WEEKLY: You’ll be playing a lot of new stuff?



DENARDO COLEMAN: Yeah, because what Ornette likes to do is write new pieces for every concert. Sometimes he writes a whole program.



LAW: With 100 new tunes, how do you keep them all in your head?



DC: Well, when you rehearse for 12 hours, you can remember ’em. [He laughs.] We do marathon rehearsals. The thing about it is, Ornette is in such good shape — we’re all dropping off like flies, and he’s going strong. We put up the white flag! It’s like that in the concerts as well.



[...]



LAW: Your father gave you your first set of drums at age 6, and you made your first album with him, in a trio with Charlie Haden, in 1966, at age 10. As a musician, how do you find your relationship with Ornette has changed?



DC: It hasn’t changed a whole lot. ’Cause the way he talks about music today is how he talked about it back then. Hopefully I’ve improved a little.



LAW: How does he communicate his ideas to his musicians?



DC: He’ll say, “Okay, that might’ve been a minor third, but if you thought about it coming from this other key, it would’ve been a dominant seventh. If it was a dominant seventh, then it would’ve gone really nicely into this other thing.” He’ll break it down theoretically, and then he’ll play it. So in that way he’s like a scientist — you know, like breaking down the genetic codes.



LAW: Many people would be surprised by that. He has a reputation for being a “free” musician, and the music sounds so natural.



DC: His method has the effect of not only giving you information, but then maybe taking you out of the preconceived zone that you might be in, so that the music becomes even more natural.



LAW: Does he write things out?



DC: Oh yeah. Sometimes he’ll get a manuscript book for each musician, and write various things in it — exercises or . . . [He hesitates here, as if exercise, like style, might be a word Ornette doesn’t care for.] It would be kind of like laying out a natural progression of examples. One might have to do with dealing with a key or dealing with chords. My father loves to go through, looking at these various examples, how you can really look at the notes differently, and the combination of notes differently. It’s almost like language [Ornette’s 1987 album was called In All Languages], in the sense that even though you may see a word on paper, it could be used in so many different ways depending on the context, or how it’s being used in terms of the inflection. So all of a sudden, you may have a sentence that takes the passage it came from into a whole different place. He opens you up to expanding not only your vocabulary but also what you can hear.



LAW: Sounds like Derrida’s deconstruction — kind of difficult. How long does it take a musician to get spontaneous with the theory?



DC: It doesn’t take that long. Because if you get with him one time, he will reveal something that starts to open up a door that you didn’t realize was there. Just that revelation breaks everything down for you, breaks the lock. Then how far you take it, that’s a different matter.



LAW: You yourself must have a special rapport with him.



DC: From playing together for so long — it’s fluid, in terms of having ideas and being able to hear what he’s doing and pick up on it pretty quickly.


Ornette's one of those fortunate jazzers who's been able to do his thing without compromise and make a living at it - he hasn't needed a non-music day job as far as I'm aware since the 1950s. Even though he's steered clear of the recording studio since the mid 1990s, Ornette's still an active composer and performer and serves as one of the few remaining links to the first wave of free/avant-garde jazz of the late 1950s - early 1970s. He's also been blessed by numerous sidemen who've gone to make names for themselves - the late Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, James Blood Ulmer come most immediately to mind.

Freedom Quote

From the voice of Assata Shakur found at the end of A Song for Assata (from the album Like Water For Chocolate by Common):

“Freedom! You askin me about freedom. Askin me about freedom? I'll be honest with you. I know a whole more about what freedom isn't than about what it is, cause I've never been free. I can only share my vision with you of the future, about what freedom is. Uhh, the way I see it, freedom is-- is the right to grow, is the right to blossom. Freedom is -is the right to be yourself, to be who you are, to be who you wanna be, to do what you wanna do. (fadeout)”