Saturday, December 11, 2004

Three decades

that's how long the Hip-hop Nation has been rockin tha house, as Debwire reminds us. She points to a wonderful article on Afrika Bambaataa, who's been there from the beginning. Planet Rock and Looking for the Perfect Beat were classics, and fit in very nicely with some other tunes I liked during the early to mid 1980s (think Herbie Hancock's Rockit, and the rest of his classic Future Shock album; Kraftwerk; e.g.).



Truth is that one can check out what was going on back in the early to mid 1970s and see that at bare minimum hip-hop was in the air, part of the Zeitgeist. Check out the early raps by Gil-Scott Heron, Last Poets, and Watts Prophets for example. These cats were taking the spoken word vibe of the beat era to the next level - lots of great socially aware rhymes, spare percussion and jazz instrumentation. By the mid 1970s some jazzers were already cutting tracks that had a hip-hop feel to them. Check out Maulawi Nururdin's track Street Rap which opens his only album Maulawi (released in 1974 on the excellent Strata-East label). See also the title track to Harry Whitaker's Black Renaissance album (recorded in 1976), as well as various tunes cut by Mtume in the early 1970s before he started hitting the pop charts (see his albums Alkebu-Lan and Rebirth Cycle), and James Plunky Branch's Juju and Oneness of Juju projects. The vibe was definitely there, well before Rappers Delight hit the charts at the end of the 1970s. It may have taken a while for the hip-hop vibe to reach disaffected suburban youth - but thanks to the miracle of college radio it did (Sac State's college station during the early 1980s was my intro to hip-hop as well as no wave, hardcore, industrial and all sorts of other dangers during my formative years).



So check out some of the early stuff from three decades past. You'll see that their vibe is what today's underground hip-hop cats are drawing upon for inspiration.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The fallout continues...

US Army plagued by desertion and plunging morale

While insurgents draw on deep wells of fury to expand their ranks in Iraq, the US military is fighting desertion, recruitment shortfalls and legal challenges from its own troops. The irritation among the rank and file became all too clear this week when a soldier stood up in a televised session with Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, to ask why the world's richest army was having to hunt for scrap metal to protect its vehicles. The same night, interviews with three soldiers who are seeking refugee status in Canada, where they have become minor celebrities, dominated prime time television. They are among more the than 5,000 troops that CBS's 60 Minutes reported on Wednesday had deserted since the war began. Many experts say that America's 1.4 million active-duty troops and 865,000 part-timers are stretched to the point where President Bush may see other foreign policy goals blunted. The bleed from the US military is heaviest among parttimers, who have been dragged en masse out of civilian life to serve their country with unprecedented sacrifice. For the first time in a decade, the Army National Guard missed its recruitment target this year. Instead of signing up 56,000 people, it found 51,000.




Amputation rate for US troops twice that of past wars

US troops injured in Iraq have required limb amputations at twice the rate of past wars, and as many as 20 percent have suffered head and neck injuries that may require a lifetime of care, according to new data giving the clearest picture yet of the severity of battlefield wounds. The data are the grisly flip side of improvements in battlefield medicine that have saved many combatants who would have died in the past: Only 1 in 10 US troops injured in Iraq has died, the lowest rate of any war in US history. But those who survive have much more grievous wounds. Bulletproof Kevlar vests protect soldiers' bodies but not their limbs, as insurgent snipers and makeshift bombs tear off arms and legs and rip into faces and necks. More than half of those injured sustain wounds so serious they cannot return to duty, according to Pentagon statistics. Much attention has focused on the 1,000-plus soldiers killed in Iraq, but the Pentagon has released little information on the 9,765 soldiers injured as of this week. "The death rate isn't great compared to Vietnam, Korea, and World War II. But these soldiers are coming back to their communities and people are seeing just how high the price is that these young people are paying," said Dr. G. Richard Holt, a head and neck surgeon at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and a retired US Army surgeon who served as a civilian adviser in Iraq earlier this year.




Whoopeee!!! Looks like we can expect even more federal red ink: Funding for U.S. Military Operations in Iraq Could Surge

The Bush administration, facing mounting violence in Iraq and demands for upgraded equipment, is assembling a funding package for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that could surge beyond earlier estimates to as much as $75 billion to $100 billion, congressional sources and experts said on Thursday. Administration and congressional officials estimated in October that the funding package would total between $60 billion and $75 billion. The Army's request alone could top $51 billion, far more than the $35 billion to $40 billion cited by the Army chief of staff in October, congressional sources said. The Marines are also expected to push for billions of dollars more as the Pentagon increases troop strength for Iraqi elections scheduled for January. Two congressional sources said the size of the emergency spending bill, which President Bush will send to Congress early next year, could swell to between $75 billion and possibly $100 billion, depending on the level of violence in the coming months. That would include billions of dollars to upgrade equipment and purchase more armored vehicles.




Why? Because the asylum is being run by incompetent loonies. As much fun is it is to see Rumsfeld put on the defensive, the truth is that the soldiers thrust into this 21st Century Children's Crusade simply do not have what they need. We've known this for a while, but Bu$hCo refuses to face up to that fact.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld came here Wednesday to lead a morale-lifting town hall discussion with Iraq-bound troops. Instead, he found himself on the defensive, fielding pointed questions from soldiers complaining about aging vehicles that lacked armor for protection against roadside bombs.



Mr. Rumsfeld, seemingly caught off guard by the sharp questioning, responded that the military was producing extra armor for Humvees and trucks as fast as possible, but that the soldiers would have to cope with equipment shortages. "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time," he said.



Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit set to roll into Iraq this week, was the first to step forward, saying that soldiers had had to scrounge through landfills here for pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass - what they called "hillbilly armor" - to bolt to their trucks.



"Why don't we have those resources readily available to us?" Specialist Wilson asked Mr. Rumsfeld, drawing cheers and applause from many of the 2,300 soldiers assembled in a cavernous hangar here to meet the secretary.



A few minutes later, a soldier from the Idaho National Guard's 116th Armored Cavalry Brigade asked Mr. Rumsfeld what he and the Army were doing "to address shortages and antiquated equipment" that will affect National Guard soldiers heading to Iraq.



Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced it. "Now, settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."



Mr. Rumsfeld, 72, said all organizations had equipment, materials and spare parts of different vintages, but he expressed confidence that Army leaders were assigning the newest and best equipment to the troops headed for combat who needed it most. He said adding more armor to trucks and battle equipment did not make them impervious to enemy attack. "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up," he said. "And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up."



[...]



A senior officer in Specialist Wilson's unit, Col. John Zimmerman, said that 95 percent of the unit's more than 300 trucks had insufficient armor.



[...]



But the complaints by the soldiers here are likely to revive accusations that the Bush administration did not anticipate the kind of tenacious insurgency confronting troops in Iraq, and that the Pentagon is still struggling to provide enough basic supplies, such as body armor, and fortified Humvees and other vehicles.




If you aren't feeling a draft yet, you haven't been paying attention: Uncle Sam Wants Your Kids – Now!

We'll soon have 150,000 U.S. troops stuck in the ever-expanding Iraqi quagmire, a number that will probably grow even larger before Iraq holds elections presently scheduled for the end of January '05. Maintaining such a force is a logistical and personnel nightmare for every grunt in Iraq. And according to several Pentagon number crunchers, it's also driving the top brass bonkers. Meanwhile the insurgents continue cutting our supply lines and whacking our fighting platoons and supporters, who attrit daily as soldiers and Marines fall to enemy shots, sickness or accidents. Empty platoons lose fights, so these casualties have to be replaced ASAP. ... "I believe the Army will have to drastically change what they offer to enlistees to overcome what's happening in Iraq. The war is ugly, and not many kids want to enlist to be blown up." Moms and dads are outraged about desperate Army recruiters on a relentless campaign to sign up their teenagers. High-school kids are actually running away from recruiters like they were George Romero's living dead. "Recruiters have called my son a minimum of 20 times in the two years since he finished high school," a dad reports. "The phone calls usually come in clusters. I answered five calls in a two- or three-week span. Each time a recruiter calls, he receives the same polite, respectful response from me or my son ... no interest, and please take the name off the list. When asked why the name hasn't been removed, excuses are made. While recruiters are brief with me, when my son is on the phone, the sales tactics are clever, prolonged and very high-pressure." ... Unless a miracle happens and the new Iraqi security force decides to stop running and start fighting, we'll be in Iraq for a long time. Most likely with a draftee force.


This is what an alleged 51% of the voters voted for, and they deserve their share of the credit for the fiasco we find ourselves in.

Every Picture Tells a Story

So, here are some pictures of Fallujah.



That album is one of several that Dahr Jamail has taken of the results of the US occupation of Iraq.



Albums of pictures from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal can be found here, and similarly pictures are available here, and pictures and information on Abu Ghraib can be found at the Wikipedia.



By the way, the blog Fallujah in Pictures is back up and running, and in need of funds.

Here's one reason why I like Moveon.org:

The organization tells it like it is, as exemplified in this article MoveOn to Democratic Party: "we own it"

Dec. 9, 2004 | Washington -- Liberal powerhouse MoveOn has a message for the "professional election losers" who run the Democratic Party: "We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back."



A scathing e-mail from the head of MoveOn's political action committee to the group's supporters on Thursday targets outgoing Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe as a tool of corporate donors who alienated both traditional and progressive Democrats.



"For years, the party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base," said the e-mail from MoveOn PAC's Eli Pariser. "But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."



Under McAuliffe's leadership, the message said, the party coddled the same corporate donors that fund Republicans to bring in money at the expense of vision and integrity.



"In the last year, grass-roots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive," the message continued. "Now it's our party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."



Pariser urged MoveOn supporters to help support a DNC chair with a bold vision to represent Democrats outside Washington. Democrats will vote at their February meeting in Washington on a successor to McAuliffe.



DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera declined to engage in a tit-for-tat with MoveOn, but praised McAuliffe's efforts.



"Call me crazy, but I think the fact that for the first time in party history we outraised the Republicans, and did so primarily through grass-roots fund raising is something to be proud of," Cabrera said.



Among those vying for the party chairmanship is former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, an early darling of MoveOn's cybernetwork of activists when he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination.


DNC apologists be damned. Fact is that it was the grassroots organizations, from Moveon.org, ACT, and Howard Dean's Democracy for America that kept the Democrat Party from completely imploding this year. The jury's still out regarding the DNC's direction, but supposedly there's some hope in hell that an actual reformer might end up leading the organization. The party will need all the reform it can get, including a move to from the Beltway to the grassroots. I'm still skeptical. Maybe a related bit of good news is that one of the main Vichy Democrat organizations the DLC, is losing its influence. I hope Kos is right. In the meantime, I look at Moveon and similar groups as the bright spots in an otherwise bleak era for those of us with even the slightest of a progressive inclination. As for the group's detractors, they can go fuck themselves.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

What do fundamentalists all have in common?





Digby's got the skinny:

The five characteristics are



1) Men rule the roost and make the rules. Women are support staff and for reasons easy to imagine, homosexuality is intolerable.



2) all rules must apply to all people, no pluralism.



3) the rules must be precisely communicated to the next generation



4) "they spurn the modern, and want to return to a nostalgic vision of a golden age that never really existed. (Several of the scholars observed a strong and deep resemblance between fundamentalism and fascism. Both have almost identical agendas. Men are on top, women are subservient, there is one rigid set of rules, with police and military might to enforce them, and education is tightly controlled by the state. One scholar suggested that it's helpful to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. The phrase 'overcoming the modern' is a fascist slogan dating back to at least 1941.)"



5) Fundamentalists deny history in a "radical and idiosyncratic way."



All of this is interesting and it's interesting because it crosses all religions, cultural and regional boundries. When the scientists were presenting their abstracts, "several noted that all their papers were sounding alike, reporting on 'species' when studying the 'genus' was called for, that there were strong family resemblances between all fundamentalisms, even when the religions had had no contact, no way to influence each other."


The whole post is worth reading.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Ewwwwww!!!!!

NYT columnist David Brooks promotes the work of a notorious eugenics sympathizer, named Steve Sailer. Slimy, to say the least. Sailer is an advocate of something called "natalism" which as far as I can surmise essentially obsesses over the birthrate of white folks.

Brooks writes that "Young families move away from what they perceive as disorder, vulgarity and danger and move to places like Douglas County in Colorado (which is the fastest-growing county in the country and has one of the highest concentrations of kids)." Compare that to Sailer: "Couples attempting to raise children in a big blue city quickly learn the truth of what bond trader Sherman McCoy’s father told him in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities: 'If you want to live in New York, you’ve got to insulate, insulate, insulate.'" Unable to insulate themselves through buying into private schools that save them from the urban minorities, writes Sailer, they simply move to the 'burbs, where, "Having insulated themselves through distance rather than money, they can now send their kids to public schools."



In bringing aboard a movement conservative, the august Times could hardly have imagined that they'd eventually have a ready conduit for the racialist thinking of the fringe right on their pages. But this promotion of Sailer's analysis by Brooks is opinion journalism at its absolute shoddiest.


And that's the tame stuff. The Tapped post lays out a few other things about Sailer's background:



Sailer's past articles include "Save Europe! Keep Turkey Out of the EU"; "Brown vs. Black—vs. America"; and "GOP’s Southern (=Sailer) Strategy Rises Again. Actually, It’s Never Been Down."



Sailer writes a column for VDARE.com, which is a repository for racist and anti-semitic writings.



Sailer is part of a discussion group called the Human Biodiversity Institute, whose main goal is to promote the use of artificial means of genetic selection in humans - smells like eugenics.



If you judge a man by the company he keeps, Sailer's basically another racist, gay-hating, anti-semite who tries to sugar-coat his bile with academic-sounding jargon. And although Brooks, I'm sure, would vehemently deny being a racist or anti-semite himself, he's obviously comfortable enough with it to transmit the ideas of those who openly are. Scratch a movement "conservative" and they'll ooze bigotry. Not even their facade can contain it.

Getting it right versus not getting it at all

Not getting it at all:Peter Beinart, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias



Getting it right: Atrios (followed up here), and David Neiwert



Here's my quick and dirty take: Scapegoating those of us who happened to be against the Iraq war - whether it's the prominent organizations such as Moveon.org, or prominent individuals such as Howard Dean, Michael Moore, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, etc., and even the extremely obscuroid anti-war voices such as mine on this humble blog - is counter-productive and just plain stupid. Let's get it straight: those of us who were (and still are) opposed to invading and occupying Iraq were right. I'd like to be able to say to the pro-war liberals that I feel their pain, but quite frankly I don't, and I don't appreciate that those of us who opposed that damned war are now the convenient scapegoats for a bunch of folks who are experiencing too much cognitive dissonance for their own good. The Democrat party is in trouble, but it's not because of the Moveons and Michael Moores of the world, but rather because among other things too much of the party's movers and shakers (as well as those who are wannabe players) have bought into the right-wing mentality when it comes to dealing with the threat that terrorism poses as well as with regard to the antiwar liberal and progressive crew. So what do we get? More of the same crap; more of the same tepid candidates with tepid platforms lacking in vision. I wish I had something constructive to say tonight, but right now I'm just too disgusted. Read Neiwert instead.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Maybe a university's business school could hire that feline,

or better yet, maybe that cat could be preznit (come to think of it, the feline did have a better GPA than Duh-bya): Online school that gave MBA to cat is sued

Dec. 7, 2004 | HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- The Pennsylvania attorney general's office Monday sued an online university for allegedly selling bogus academic degrees -- including an MBA awarded to a cat.



Trinity Southern University in Texas, a cellular company and the two brothers who ran them are accused of misappropriating Internet addresses of the state Senate and more than 60 Pennsylvania businesses to sell fake degrees and prescription drugs by spam e-mail, according to the lawsuit.



Investigators paid $299 for a bachelor's degree for Colby Nolan -- a deputy attorney general's 6-year-old black cat -- claiming he had experience including baby-sitting and retail management.



The school, which offers no classes, allegedly determined Colby Nolan's resume entitled him to a master of business administration degree; a transcript listed the cat's course work and 3.5 grade-point average.



The state is seeking a permanent injunction, civil penalties, costs and restitution for violating consumer law and restrictions on unsolicited e-mail ads.



Prosecutors said more than 18,000 illegal e-mails were sent out this year with links to Trinity Southern's Web address, including 300 that appeared to originate from the Internet servers of Pennsylvania companies and institutions.



Among the alleged victims are Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as numerous Internet service providers, businesses and technology companies.



The defendants are the school; Innovative Cellular and Wireless Inc. of Corpus Christi, Texas; Alton Scott Poe of St. Cloud, Fla., vice chancellor and dean of admission for Trinity; and Craig Barton Poe of Frisco, Texas, president of Innovative Cellular.



A phone message left at Trinity Southern was not returned Monday. None of the other three defendants appears to have a listed or published phone number.


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Drive a Ford Excursion, Support Global Terrorism

Just to be fair and balanced, I'd could have just as easily substituted "Hummer" for "Ford Excursion." Some clips from At the Breaking Point, by Paul Campos:

I'm standing in the parking lot of an enormous shopping mall, staring at a Ford Excursion. A 7,700-pound hunk of metal, the Excursion gets horrible gas mileage, while spewing massive amounts of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.



It's the official policy of our federal government to offer Americans bribes, in the form of huge tax deductions, to encourage the purchase of such vehicles. In 2003, Congress enacted a provision allowing people who bought SUVs weighing at least 6,000 pounds to deduct the entire purchase price from their taxable income, if they claimed to use the things for "business purposes."



Manufacturers scrambled to add even more weight to their vehicles, to make them eligible for the deduction. This further decreased the gas mileage and increased the pollution emitted by these environmental disasters on wheels.



The most awe-inspiring feature of this particular Excursion is a plastic decal shaped like a yellow ribbon, which its owner has affixed to the back door. The ribbon is embossed with the message, "Support Our Troops."



[...]



To the owner of the Ford Excursion who implores us to Support Our Troops I say this: You, sir, (or madam) are a monumental jackass. At this moment, American troops are risking their lives to protect your inalienable right to live your life in an impenetrable fog of selfishness and stupidity.



If not for the need to service this grotesque monstrosity on which you squander your money and that of the taxpayers who subsidize your comfortably numb life, those troops you support would not be getting killed and maimed in a country I doubt you could find on a map.



I sometimes wonder if anything short of dynamite can shatter your complacent fantasy that the Iraq war is about bringing democracy to the Middle East.



The truth is that every Arab from Casablanca to Khartoum could be cutting his brother's throat, and yet this would remain a matter of indifference to our government, if not for the need to ensure that you will be able to fill your Excursion with cheap gasoline.



To expect others to sacrifice everything for you, while advertising by your own behavior that you will sacrifice exactly nothing for them, is the height of political and social immorality. And to do so while claiming your political views are an expression of "moral values" is an obscene joke.



Drive off, Ford Excursion. Head back to your gated community, to patiently await the Rapture, or the next Nordstrom's sale. You've driven me past the limits of pundit endurance, and I long to return to the world of thoughtful observation.

Thought for the day

via Adventus: That I Would Be Good

Atrios picks up on this, and yes, it is the hypocrisy, stupid. But the real issue here is being hoist on one's own petard. Which only happens when you ignore the call to humility of true religion, and start talking about being at war:



"Where we are in this world, [Rev. Mintz told a reporter] with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that's going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that's going to stand by what he believes."



All well and good, of course, to praise someone for standing by what they believe; so long as you are doing that yourself. But it's the flip side of a story from the desert fathers.



Gathered together, they are complaining about one of the absent monks, who has harmed the community with his actions. Finally, the eldest of the group walks off, only to return with a huge sack on his back, a tiny one before him. What are you doing?, they ask the elder. These are my sins, he says, pointing to his back. But these are the sins of my brother, which I keep ever before me, where I can see them.



Ashamed, the monks all returned to their cells to confess, repent, and pray.



Hard to pray when you are bragging about who you are aligned with. Even if you are aligned with God, or whatever you think is the source of good and justice in the world.


Make sure to check out the Atrios link and Atrios' follow-up post for context. Taken together, food for thought.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Abu Ghraib never goes away

Boing Boing: Google reveals Iraqi prison abuse photos on photosharing site



Juan Cole: Abu Ghuraib Redux - posts some of the pix on his blog.



"Bu$hCo Torture Chambers: Your Tax Dollars At Work"

If you haven't been checking out

the blog, Fallujah in Pictures, you really should. Not the most pleasant reading and viewing to be sure, but a necessary reality-based counterpoint to Bu$hCo's happy talk.