Saturday, April 30, 2005

Jazz Appreciation Month Came and Went

But my interest in jazz goes on year-round. I didn't quite get to do some of the occasional pieces on jazzers whom I dig, or point to some articles, labels, or reissues of note due to a sort of whirlwind month, but that won't stop me from at least highlighting some items that I've mentioned in the past. Without further ado:

Faruq Z. Bey - one of the cats behind Detroit area band Griot Galaxy.
Clifford Thornton
Sam Rivers
Sun Ra
Frank Wright
Milford Graves, the drumming legend who's applied his knowledge of the pulse to the science of healing.
Ornette Coleman
Charles Mingus
Franklin Kiermyer
Steve Reid - and no, we're not talking about the new-age jazz drummer, but a genuine straight-ahead jazzer
Miles Davis, whose early 1970s recordings are among my all-time favorites.
Marion Brown
The Oneness of Juju
Alan Shorter
Steve Williamson
Arthur Doyle
Matthew Shipp
Pharoah Sanders, former Trane sideman and legend in his own right.
Henry Grimes - the long-lost bass legend who resurfaced a couple years ago.
Alice Coltrane
Don Cherry
Grachan Moncur III
The Blue Series Continuum - innovative avant-jazz combo assembled by pianist Matthew Shipp
Some discographies of several artists whom I believe would be worthy of your attention.

I've periodically offered descriptions of jazz labels - past and present - that I consider indispensible.

Articles and other odds and ends
Angry Jazz - a brief history of the political and topical side of jazz
A series of blog links related in one way or another to Pharoah Sanders
Links to articles on the free jazz sub-genre
Some musings on freedom and free jazz
Some musings on hip-hop's jazz roots
Another article on the intersection of jazz and political & social commentary.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The effects of depleted uranium: a marked increase in birth defects

Actions have consequences. The statement is a useful truism. Take depleted uranium. Iraqis have been exposed to quite a bit of the stuff (as is also true of US troops) during the current US-led occupation. One huge consequence has been an increase in birth defects:
"Doctors in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, have reported a significant increase in deformities among newborn babies. 'There have been 650 cases in total since August 2003 reported in government hospitals - that is a 20 percent increase from the previous regime. Private hospitals were not included in the study, so the number could be higher,' [Dr.] Ali warned.

"The health expert said polluted water, which could contain radiation from weapons used in previous conflicts, was the main factor behind the increase.

"The type of deformities found in newborn babies are characterised by multiple fingers, unusually large heads, unilateral lips or no arms or legs." Link

Tip o' the hat to Eli of the Left I.

Fallujah: America's Guernica - A Slight Return

A few months ago I highlighted some folks who had made the connection between the firebombing of Guernica and that of Fallujah. Appropriate ideas have a way of remaining alive, and sure enough Jonathan Steele and Dahr Jamail have revived discussion of the parallels in their recent Guardian article, This is Our Guernica, and remind their readers that this is as much Blair's Guernica as it is Bu$hCo's. Some clips:
Remember Falluja? A city of some 300,000, which was alleged to be the stronghold of armed resistance to the occupation.

Two US attempts were made to destroy this symbol of defiance last year. The first, in April, fizzled out after Iraqi politicians, including many who supported the invasion of their country, condemned the use of air strikes to terrorise an entire city. The Americans called off the attack, but not before hundreds of families had fled and more than 600 people had been killed.

Six months later the Americans tried again. This time Washington's allies had been talked to in advance. Consistent US propaganda about the presence in Falluja of a top al-Qaida figure, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was used to create a climate of acquiescence in the US-appointed Iraqi government. Shia leaders were told that bringing Falluja under control was the only way to prevent a Sunni-inspired civil war.

Blair was invited to share responsibility by sending British troops to block escape routes from Falluja and prevent supplies entering once the siege began.

Warnings of the onslaught prompted the vast majority of Falluja's 300,000 people to flee. The city was then declared a free-fire zone on the grounds that the only people left behind must be "terrorists".

Three weeks after the attack was launched last November, the Americans claimed victory. They say they killed about 1,300 people; one week into the siege, a BBC reporter put the unofficial death toll at 2,000. But details of what happened and who the dead were remain obscure. Were many unarmed civilians, as Baghdad-based human rights groups report? Even if they were trying to defend their homes by fighting the Americans, does that make them "terrorists"?

Journalists "embedded" with US forces filmed atrocities, including the killing of a wounded prisoner, but no reporter could get anything like a full picture. Since the siege ended, tight US restric tions - as well as the danger of hostage-taking that prevents reporters from travelling in most parts of Iraq - have put the devastated city virtually off limits.

In this context Zoellick's trip, which was covered by a small group of US journalists, was illuminating. The deputy secretary of state had to travel to this "liberated" city in a Black Hawk helicopter flying low over palm trees to avoid being shot down. He wore a flak jacket under his suit even though Falluja's streets were largely deserted. His convoy of eight armoured vehicles went "so quickly past an open-air bakery reopened with a US-provided micro-loan that workers tossing dough could be glanced only in the blink of an eye," as the Washington Post reported. "Blasted husks of buildings still line block after block," the journalist added.

Meeting hand-picked Iraqis in a US base, Zoellick was bombarded with complaints about the pace of US reconstruction aid and frequent intimidation of citizens by American soldiers. Although a state department factsheet claimed 95% of residents had water in their homes, Falluja's mayor said it was contaminated by sewage and unsafe.

Other glimpses of life in Falluja come from Dr Hafid al-Dulaimi, head of the city's compensation commission, who reports that 36,000 homes were destroyed in the US onslaught, along with 8,400 shops. Sixty nurseries and schools were ruined, along with 65 mosques and religious sanctuaries.

Daud Salman, an Iraqi journalist with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, on a visit to Falluja two weeks ago, found that only a quarter of the city's residents had gone back. Thousands remain in tents on the outskirts. The Iraqi Red Crescent finds it hard to go in to help the sick because of the US cordon around the city.

Burhan Fasa'a, a cameraman for the Lebanese Broadcasting Company, reported during the siege that dead family members were buried in their gardens because people could not leave their homes. Refugees told one of us that civilians carrying white flags were gunned down by American soldiers. Corpses were tied to US tanks and paraded around like trophies.

Justin Alexander, a volunteer for Christian Peacemaker Teams, recently found hundreds living in tents in the grounds of their homes, or in a single patched-up room. A strict system of identity cards blocks access to anyone whose papers give a birthplace outside Falluja, so long-term residents born elsewhere cannot go home. "Fallujans feel the remnants of their city have been turned into a giant prison," he reports.

Many complain that soldiers of the Iraqi national guard, the fledgling new army, loot shops during the night-time curfew and detain people in order to take a bribe for their release. They are suspected of being members of the Badr Brigade, a Shia militia that wants revenge against Sunnis.

One thing is certain: the attack on Falluja has done nothing to still the insurgency against the US-British occupation nor produced the death of al-Zarqawi - any more than the invasion of Afghanistan achieved the capture or death of Osama bin Laden. Thousands of bereaved and homeless Falluja families have a new reason to hate the US and its allies.

At least Zoellick went to see. He gave no hint of the impression that the trip left him with, but is too smart not to have understood something of the reality. The lesson ought not to be lost on Blair and Straw. Every time the prime minister claims it is time to "move on" from the issue of the war's legality and rejoice at Iraq's transformation since Saddam Hussein was toppled, the answer must be: "Remember Falluja." When the foreign secretary next visits Iraq, he should put on a flak jacket and tour the city that Britain had a share in destroying.

The government keeps hoping Iraq will go away as an election issue. It stubbornly refuses to do so. Voters are not only angry that the war was illegal, illegitimate and unnecessary. The treatment inflicted on Iraqis since the invasion by the US and Britain is equally important.

In the 1930s the Spanish city of Guernica became a symbol of wanton murder and destruction. In the 1990s Grozny was cruelly flattened by the Russians; it still lies in ruins. This decade's unforgettable monument to brutality and overkill is Falluja, a text-book case of how not to handle an insurgency, and a reminder that unpopular occupations will always degenerate into desperation and atrocity.

Some pictures of the dead Fallujans if you require a visual reminder of what has been done in our name.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Trivia time

When did the first hijacking of a commercial airline occur?

If you said December 1954, you would be correct. Who was behind the hijacking? Read on for some background:
December 8: A team of 5 Israeli soldiers engaged in an espionage mission miles deep in Syrian territory are captured. In response, Israeli Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon orders the world's first hijacking of an airliner - a pair of IAF fighters are assigned to force a Syrian airliner out of its flight path, and to land in Israel - taking the passengers and crew hostage in hopes of exchanging them for Israel Defense Force (IDF) troopers. International uproar over this unprecedented act of air piracy foils the plan, forcing the release of the plane and its occupants within 48 hours...Link

Apparently the US government remained silent as the event unfolded.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Some more dirt on the folks behind "Justice Sunday"

In Justice Sunday Preachers, Max Blumenthal has some more info on the unsavory characters who are behind the efforts to kill the fillibuster:
Senate majority leader Bill Frist appeared through a telecast as a speaker at "Justice Sunday," at the invitation of the event's main sponsor, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. "Justice Sunday" was promoted as a rally to portray Democrats as being "against people of faith." Many of the speakers compared the plight of conservative Christians to the civil rights movement. But in sharing the stage with Perkins, who introduced him to the rally, Frist was associating himself with someone who has longstanding ties to racist organizations.

Four years ago, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America's premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke.


But for all his concern with anti-Catholicism, Donohue had no qualms about sharing the stage with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Dr. Albert Mohler. "As an evangelical, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is a false church," Mohler remarked during a 2000 TV interview. "It teaches a false gospel. And the Pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office." Donohue, who has protested against Democrats who have made no such comments about Catholics, was silent about Mohler. In fact, the site of Justice Sunday, Highview Baptist Church, in Louisville, Kentucky, is Mohler's home church.

Other than having a token black and token Catholic at the event, this was pretty much a Protestant group of closet and not-so-closet white supremacists - and these are the sorts of people that Bill Frist as Senate Majority Leader rubs elbows with.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A picture of Bethany Mylene

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She's a cutie!

More proof that Horowitz and cronies are deranged and morally bankrupt:

Ghouls and Cowards: Horowitz's Gang Smears the Dead
" ... It's time to stop worshipping at the alter [sic] of this false heroine. There are plenty of young American men and women ... who've been brutalized or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But none of them got the ... coverage that Ruzicka got--unless they were anally raped or ... played pro football. That should tell you ... about the media's outlook ... : American soldiers fighting for freedom--bad; vociferous activist bimbette ... --very, very good. While it's a sad day when any American gets killed by Islamic terrorists, it's measurably less sad when that American aided and abetted them ... For Marla Ruzicka, some might call it, poetic justice."

-- Debbie Schlussel at

This must be yet another exemplar of the much ballyhooed right-wing "culture of life." I've had precious little use for the Horowitz crowd for a long time. If these cowards aren't smearing academics or political moderates, then they're smearing individuals who actually had the gumption to put their lives on the line in order to make a difference in Iraq. That these ghouls actually celebrate the untimely and fiery death of Ms. Ruzicka, who embodied a genuine culture of life is just plain sickening and inexcusable.

There is a legit leftist party in the UK

Respect - The Unity Coalition. For those looking for an alternative to Blair's New Labour and the Liberal Party. Tip o' the hat to Lenin's Tomb.

"There is a Progressive Movement Aborning"

"The religious right has been working a long time to build up to the strength they now have and to the audacious means they are able to use... What we as progressives are already doing takes time to mobilize and to come to full visibility. But I think that it will be clearer, as the days go by, that there is a progressive movement aborning, that is asking about what are the most effective means for us to promote the values we hold, and what means have been used by others but actually subvert the values we hold. We must be as efficient and effective in the use of media and modes of communication, but hopefully in ways that will not be the death knell of what we stand for and what our nation has been standing for through these years."

The voice of religious progressives is becoming increasingly audible. It's about time.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The War on Judges

Came across an interesting set of quotes over at The Nattering Nabob. A couple that caught my eye in particular:
Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) Chief of Staff: "I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist. I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them"


Tony Perkins, Family Research Council: "There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to take a black robeoff the bench"

In the context of right-wing diatribes against the judiciary, Perkins' Norman Bates-like missive has an ominous tone. As for Coburn's chief of staff, what can I say? There is no excuse for people like that to be anywhere near the US Senate. Coburn is bad news, and it's pretty obvious that the company he keeps amounts to little more than a bunch of knuckle-dragging goons. Coburn's office is apparently in the business of giving legitimacy to efforts to commit acts of violence against judges who themselves are merely doing their part to act as a check on and a balance to the other two branches of government. If Coburn and his ilk aren't terrorists, they sure are the next best (or more appropriately, worst) thing. Those who voted for this maniac should be ashamed.

Some things that just have to be said:

This is as much a personal note as a political one. Many of the casualties at the Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed by right-wing terrorists ten years ago last week, were children who were in that building's daycare center. When I recall some of the pictures that were captured of that tragedy the thought that keeps coming to mind is how strikingly similar they are to my own children. And then I stumble upon an old Ann Coulter quote (via Tom Tomorrow), and feel sickened and outraged:
"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

--Ann Coulter as quoted in the New York Observer, Aug. 20, 2002

This is the same woman to whom Time refers as follows:

"On TV or in person, you can trust that Coulter will speak from her heart."

If that's from the heart, the woman certainly is among the more evil human beings to ever tread this aching planet. One must certainly wonder what must have been going through the minds of the Time editorial staff when they chose to make the Brownshirt Barbie their covergirl on the same week as the anniversary of the Murrah Building bombing.

Oh, I forget...we live in one of those "fly-over states" so our feelings don't matter to the right-wing elites who run rags like Time. My bad.

I'm sure there's more serious live blogging of the Sunday right-wing white supremacist hate fest

But this is just too damn funny!

Gotta wonder what goes on behind White House doors

Secret Service records raise new questions about discredited conservative reporter:
Perhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance, however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits.

Guckert made more than three dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One—which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House.

On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.

In March, 2003, Guckert left the White House twice on days he had never checked in with the Secret Service. Over the next 22 months, Guckert failed to check out with the Service on thirteen days. On several of these visits, Guckert either entered or exited by a different entry/exit point than his usual one. On one of these days, no briefing was held.

Gannon/Guckert is noteworthy for his career as a prostitute before he embarked on a "career" as a "journalist." Leaves me wondering who he was servicing in the Oval Office and elsewhere within the confines of the White House.

These are the nominees who would benefit from the GOP-coined and advocated "nuclear" option:

There's Priscilla Owen, the token white woman and Texas judge whose eagerness to substitute her own values for the rule of law was too much for even Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who rebuked her for it when both served on the same court.

There's Janice Rogers Brown, the token black woman and California judge who believes that our vibrant nation of free-market capitalism -- this economy of Wal-Marts, Pfizers and Enrons and of Googles, Yahoos and Apples; this home of a pitiful $5.15 minimum wage and of a staggering 44 million people without health insurance; this land of soaring CEO pay and declining real wages for workers -- has actually been crushed by the boot of collectivism ever since what she calls the 1937 "triumph of our own socialist revolution."

There's Brett Kavanaugh, who has never tried a case, but rose from Ken Starr's impeachment crusade to become a White House operative.

There's William G. Meyers III, who also lacks trial experience but who has put in plenty of time rabidly fighting against environmental laws and in favor of mining interests.

And there's William Haynes II, whose meager courtroom work is offset by his considerable contribution, as the Defense Department's counsel, to the shameful abandonment of America's deepest legal principles regarding the treatment and rights of prisoners of war and detainees. Link

These are a bunch of legal incompetents whose main qualification is a willingness not to serve and uphold the Constitution (let alone God), but to do the bidding of a bunch of hypocrytical pharisee crackers - as a pic from the following ad should suggest:

The Crybaby Option

Josh Marshall aptly summarizes the Republican-advocated and coined term "nuclear option" for what it really is:
And TPM Reader RR makes an inspired suggestion which, I think, more faithfully captures what's in play than either 'nuclear' or 'constitutional'.

It's the Crybaby Option.

As he puts it, "Oh, boo-hoo, we only got 95% of what we wanted so we're changing the rules. Waaaaah!"

Sort of like at a seven-year-old's birthday party where they want the parent to change the rules of Pin the Tail on the Donkey because they're not winning every time.

They really are babies. So call them on it.

There is a leftist tsunami in the Western Hemisphere

And it is only a matter of time before it sweeps over the border between the US and Mexico:
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans marched in silence on Sunday against a government campaign to put a popular leftist politician on trial in a battle that could knock him out of presidential elections.

Protesters crammed into Mexico City's vast central square and narrow streets in the historic downtown, many waving banners condemning the legal case against Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

"Don't let democracy die," read one banner. Others vilified President Vicente Fox as a traitor and dictator.

Elderly men and women stood shoulder to shoulder with young families, middle class professionals and students, a sign of the feisty politician's broad appeal.

A two-hour silent march erupted with cheers and applause when Lopez Obrador took to the stage to attack political enemies and promise an all-out assault on poverty if he is elected.

"We are going to continue fight peacefully. We are sure our cause is just and that it will triumph," he shouted, pledging to use Mexico's oil wealth to improve the lives of its 40 million poor.

The march was one of the largest in Mexican history. Link

See what the scum have gotten away with - so far:

The US army investigation into the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib has cleared four out of five top officers of any responsibility for the scandal that shocked America and the world. Link

Today's Picture:

Say hello to

The Oil Drum. Well worthy of repeated visits.