Saturday, October 15, 2005

Quotable - from a NOLA-based Griot

Kalamu ya Salaam on the Katrina disaster that so decimated the area:
"The government showed they were willing to let people die. If you don't see it now, you're never gonna see it. It's unspeakable."
From Elizabeth D's post The Storyteller of New Orleans. You can learn more about Kalamu ya Salaam here and here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Since one of my things is jazz:

Check this out (So Much Beauty, Born in Evil):

Jazz and its cousins are the very distillation of life. Often, it’s also been the soundtrack of protest and outrage:

Jazz has always had a complex role in our national image: Louis Armstrong caused a stir in 1957 when he rebuffed President Eisenhower and canceled a U.S. State Department tour to the Soviet Union because of riots in Little Rock, Ark., over school integration. “The way they are treating my people in the South,” Armstrong told newspaper reporters, “the government can go to hell.” Armstrong’s very words were on the lips of quite a few Americans (and not just Kanye West), especially African-Americans in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward—not too far from Armstrong’s birthplace—where the worst of the devastation occurred when the Industrial Canal levee was breached.

The jazz community has now been freshly sparked into practical activity, raising money and manpower, but also into deeper consciousness-raising regarding the truths dredged up in Katrina’s wake and the potential for irretrievable cultural loss. Political activism among jazz’s ranks—think Charles Mingus’ 1959 “Fables of Faubus” (denouncing racist Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus), or Max Roach’s 1960 “Freedom Now! Suite”—has been largely in response to racial injustice, but it also has concerned the tough moral and metaphorical questions about American identity—and it is more acutely focused than in decades.

Through both his trumpet and his role as artistic director of jazz at Lincoln Center, Marsalis, our most recognizable living jazz musician, has spoken loudly and repeatedly about New Orleans’ (his hometown) role in establishing (and fixing) the American identity. These statements have often been taken as mere bromides: Jazz as a civics lesson about democracy in action; the blues as source material for all things American. But Marsalis’ themes took on newfound resonance in his nuanced essay for Time magazine.

As Marsalis put it in his Time essay:

This tragedy, however, should make us take an account of ourselves. We should not allow the mythic significance of this moment to pass without proper consideration. Let us assess the size of this cataclysm in cultural terms, not in dollars and cents or politics. Americans are far less successful at doing that because we have never understood how our core beliefs are manifest in culture--and how culture should guide political and economic realities. That’s what the city of New Orleans can now teach the nation again as we are all forced by circumstance to literally come closer to one another. I say teach us again, because New Orleans is a true American melting pot: the soul of America. A place freer than the rest of the country, where elegance met an indefinable wildness to encourage the flowering of creative intelligence. Whites, Creoles and Negroes were strained, steamed and stewed in a thick, sticky, below-sea-level bowl of musky gumbo. These people produced an original cuisine, an original architecture, vibrant communal ceremonies and an original art form: jazz.

Racism and slavery are still haunting us. Isn’t it past time we made amends to this community that has made America what it is? Isn’t it time that we stopped repeating the mistakes of the past and make our country whole? The wonderful thing about jazz is the way it takes something simple and builds something glorious on the “conversation” between the musicians in the band. Life is enhanced when we realize the way our shared experiences become something more when a creative musician, or artist, or chef or architect or just a guy talking on the sidewalk distill them through life’s experiences and the happenstances of unlike influences to come together in the heat of life and pain and creative ferment. This is the true gift America brings to the world, that we CAN, in cities like New Orleans, create beauty out of difference and adversity.

The Salon piece goes on to highlight some of the more powerful presentations of the recent fundraising concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center:

And at Marsalis’ “Higher Ground” benefit, the tone was more pointedly political than is customary at Lincoln Center. “When the hurricane struck, it did not turn the region into a third-world country,” actor Danny Glover said from the stage. “It revealed one.” Singer Harry Belafonte, at his side, declared, “Katrina was not unforeseeable. It was the result of a political structure that subcontracts its responsibility to private contractors and abdicates its responsibility altogether.”

“This is how I feel about my country,” Jon Hendricks announced before singing a bossa nova with the refrain “Somebody tell me the truth.”

New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield played the hymn “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” at that benefit in dedication to his father, who, he said, “is still missing down there.” Mayfield has yet to locate his father. At home, he leads several bands, including the nonprofit New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Two years ago he was appointed cultural ambassador for the city, a position that involves working closely with Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

“I’ll tell you, in terms of the response to this hurricane, the local government gets a big F,” he said. “The federal government gets an F. The country gets a big fat F. When the levee was breached the culture was breached, and not that many people seemed to care."

I’d add that the American people get an F. We need to finally face this, repay the debt, earn the beauty and joy and wonder that black Americans have brought to us, and to the world. Lets start by doing right by New Orleans.

If a sax solo could say this,

I'd really really really want to be at the gig to hear it:

In response to a recent Kos posting comparing the horrors of Columbine and the horrors of Iraq, Vince Meghrouni, a great West Coast jazzman blew his pain and wrath into a tenor sax.

A specially designed computer sucked it up and spat it back out as follows.

"The stage is set perfectly for fascism.

"The economic darwinism masked as positivity that made it's bravura statement starting in the Reagan years
is revealing the snarling fangs under the mask.
In fact, the mask has fallen completely away.

"The "winners vs. losers" ethos (socioeconomic Darwinism distilled) is the go-code for dehumanization
and seems to be at the core of episodes like torture: Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and the photos of gunned down and burned-to- death Iraqi's
being sent to porno websites
with their horrifying captions.

"Unfortunately, we that hear the sound of the new jackboots
(made by nike in indonesia?)
think of it as an imposed, top-down phenomenon
whereas this Columbine information indicates to me that our society is yearning for the new fascism.

"This is a very serious problem.

"On a side note, I have heard apologists for the soldiers who sent the grisly photos of iraqis killed to the porno site
say things to the effect that these are psychological defenses
generated in order to process the horrors of war
that these unfortunate soldiers have been thrust into.

"Unfortunately I can not accept such a generous view.

"It reminds me of the reason that the German fascists came up with their "gas vans"
in which their women and children
mass murder victims
were lured by promises of relocation with their husbands
and fathers
but were then driven around with carbon monoxide piped into the hermetically sealed passenger compartment until they were dead.

"The reason stated was that the sensitivity of the German personality caused too much emotional trauma
for the soldiers
who would otherwise have to shoot the women and children
(a step considered necessary by the sensitive high command)
in order to exterminate all vestiges of the inferior races - losers, in the winners vs. loser calculus of that time and place - those being the jews, gypsies, and so-called "asocials".

"At some point we have to recognize murder, torture and the love of power
and abandonment of morality
that such things as the iraqi death photos represent
as what they are:

"the fetishising of power as a replacement for morality."
Credit daw 13 for creativity.

The occupation is going swimmingly; we've just turned the corner; ad nauseum

Most of Iraq is in a state of anarchy, with insurgents controlling parts of Baghdad just half a mile from the so-called Green Zone, an Independent debate was told last night.


He [Robert Fisk] said that the "constant, intensive involvement" in the Middle East by the West was a recurring pattern over centuries and was the reason why "so many Muslims in the Middle East hate us". He added: " We can close doors on history. They can't."

Fisk doubted the sincerity of Western leaders' commitment to bringing democracy to Iraq and said a lasting settlement in the country was impossible while foreign troops remained. "In the Middle East, they would like some of our democracy, they would like a couple of boxes off the supermarket shelves of human rights as well. But I think they would also like freedom from us."

Recalling the sight of an immense US convoy rolling into the country's capital, he said: "A superpower has a visceral need to project military power. We can go to Baghdad, so we will go to Baghdad."

He told the debate in London: "The Americans [...] will have to talk to the insurgents.

"But I don't know how, because those people who might be negotiators the United Nations, the Red Cross ­ their headquarters have been blown up. The reality now in Iraq is the project is finished. Most of Iraq, except Kurdistan, is in a state of anarchy."

He said that the portrayal of Iraq by Western leaders of efforts to introduce democracy, including Saturday's national vote on the country's proposed constitution ­ was "unreal" to most of its citizens. In Baghdad, children and women were kept at home to prevent them from being kidnapped for money or sold into slavery. They faced a desperate struggle to find the money to keep generators running to provide themselves with electricity. "They aren't sitting in their front rooms discussing the referendum on the constitution."

With insurgents half a mile from Baghdad's Green Zone, Fisk said the danger to reporters from a brutal insurgency that did not respect journalists was increasing. "Every time I go to Baghdad it's worse, every time I ask myself how we can keep going. Because the real question is is the story worth the risk?"

He attacked television reporters for flinching from depicting the everyday bloodshed on the streets of Iraq. "You can go and see Saving Private Ryan or Kingdom of Heaven ­ people have their heads cut off. When it comes to real heads being cut off, you can't. I think television connives with governments at war." He added: "Newspapers can tell you as closely as they can what these horrors are like."

Asked if the "anger and passion" he felt over the events he witnessed had affected his objectivity, he said: "When you are at the scene of a massacre, you are entitled to feel immense anger and I do."

He rejected suggestions that graphic pictures of the dead in newspapers took away their dignity. He said: "My view is the people who are dead would want us to record what happened to them."

Original link here. Props to Ductape Fatwa for the tip.


via Red Statement:
"In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don't trust the news media anymore.

Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to "glue eyeballs to the screen" in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you have any doubt, just look at what's on: The Robert Blake trial. The Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride. The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings, and on and on and on.

And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate crisis, the nation's fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of America's industrial base, and a long list of other serious public questions that need to be addressed by the American people. "
And I do indeed chuckle when one of the local television stations bills its newscast as "on your side."

A "presidency" in pictures

Photos courtesy of Howard-Empowered People.

The office of POTUS has been reduced to that of a spectacle. Every action by the supposed "president" is merely some marketing gimmick: lots of carefully crafted and stage-managed imagery masking the complete absence of substance. Yeah, the gimmicks seemed pretty clever at first, but after a while it just gets old. Think "Joe Isuzu". Junior Caligula could just as easily be the headlining act of an ad campaign for piece of crap cars. The "true believers" won't see it that way, of course; but they had been lost to a life of illusion long ago. The latest in the long line of sales pitches:
WASHINGTON - It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.

"This is an important time," Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, coaching the soldiers before Bush arrived. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you."

Barber said the president was interested in three topics: the overall security situation in Iraq, security preparations for the weekend vote and efforts to train Iraqi troops.

As she spoke in Washington, a live shot of 10 soldiers from the Army's 42nd Infantry Division and one Iraqi soldier was beamed into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building from Tikrit — the birthplace of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"I'm going to ask somebody to grab those two water bottles against the wall and move them out of the camera shot for me," Barber said.

A brief rehearsal ensued.

"OK, so let's just walk through this," Barber said. "Captain Kennedy, you answer the first question and you hand the mike to whom?"

"Captain Smith," Kennedy said.

"Captain. Smith? You take the mike and you hand it to whom?" she asked.

"Captain Kennedy," the soldier replied.

And so it went.


Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, denounced the event as a "carefully scripted publicity stunt." Five of the 10 U.S. troops involved were officers, he said.

"If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can't do it in a nationally televised teleconference," Rieckhoff said. "He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that's not a bunch of captains."

The pitchman and his product are both lemons - always were and always will be. Only difference between Junior and Joe Isuzu is that Isuzu's sales pitch didn't lead to tens of thousands of deaths and the specter of a long drawn-out civil war in a far-away land.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The good news about a 2% approval rate is

that it can't get much lower. Intelligence Squad today has this headline - Bush Approval Is 2% Among Blacks. The highlight:
Apparently, watching thousands of one's people drown, starve and dehydrate while the man responsible for assisting them squeezes a couple of extra days out of his vacation tends to make folks appropriately cranky. According to NBC's Tim Russert, the network's latest poll has only 2% of blacks saying they approve of the job Bush is doing as president. Those are Ku Klux Klan-like levels. I bet Newt Gingrich had better numbers than that among blacks as Speaker of the House during the Clinton impeachment. I bet Jefferson Davis had better numbers as the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Apparently Condi Rice, Minister T.D. Jakes, Ken Blackwell, and a tiny handful of other sellouts are the only black folks left in America still willing to support this monkey.

So much for GOP inroads among African-American voters. The GOP has made loyalty to Bu$hCo such a priority that there is no way to untangle the party and the White House. Bu$hCo is the concrete wing-tips that the GOP is now wearing on the way to the nearest lake. Only question remains is if there will be an opposition party that can capitalize on the opportunity and push the GOP overboard.

Picture courtesy of Steve Gilliard's News Blog.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


The capstone graf for this column:
If a crisis on the scale of 1929-32 strikes the US now, the country would not find an FDR with a New Deal programme to run against the Republican's Herbert Hoover. It would have a timid, ineffective Hoover for the Democrats running against a Republican Calvin Coolidge, a hidebound defender of the worst aspects of the existing system. If that had been the choice in 1932, the very foundations of the American state would have been in peril.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ready for some dark humor?

The "Up With Torture" 9
After extremely competitive showcases culminating in a showdown thumbs-up, thumbs-down, thumbs-off vote, nine new members joined the United States' "Up With Torture" (US-UWT) cheerleader squad this week

Out of many possible candidates, it was these nine who succeeded in convincing group advisor President George W. Bush that they had the necessary fortitude:

* Wayne Allard - Colorado
* Kit Bond - Missouri
* Tom Coburn - Oklahoma
* Thad Cochran - Mississippi
* John Cornyn - Texas
* James Inhofe - Oklahoma
* Pat Roberts - Kansas
* Jeff Sessions - Alabama
* Ted Stevens - Alaska

Bush was pleased that nine patriots stood with him and chided those who didn't: "Someone has to stand up for the ties that bind, cut off circulation and lead to gangrene. Those who oppose me just want to hinder me in my crusade, check that, global battle against extremism, check that, war on terror."

Bush added: "the infliction of severe physical or extreme mental distress has its merits. It got me, heh-heh, re-elected."

"Here, here" bellowed Ann Coulter of the "Render Them All" activist group that has been pushing for treason charges to be brought against both Al Gore and John Kerry and those who voted for the pair, for opposing Bush. Coulter added: "That is the ultimate act, giving aid and comfort to the enemy. We can't have such people here. It's too dangerous"

Attending devotees of the late Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong protested that their respective Pantheon of Torturers were being shortshrifted and that this band of newcomers were merely torturer wannabees.

"Where are their mass graves," demanded one acolyte.

"Show us the severed ears," shouted another when the decision was announced.

Security dragged both from the building to destinations unknown.

The proposal of Turkmenistan's President-For-Life Saparmurat Niyazov for an annual Torture Olympics, featuring Toss-The-Pagan-About, Who-Can-Draw-And-Quarter-The-Nun-The-Quickest and A-Bullet-For-Gandhi recreational events, was unanimously agreed upon.

Bush and his 'Abnormal 9' now join the nations of Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Azerbaijan, Chad, Uzbekistan, Russia, Burma, Turkmenistan, Sudan, Turkey, Uganda, North Korea, Indonesia, Iran and Iraq as card-carrying members of You Say Torture, I Say Intimate Body Massage (YSTISIBM)

No to the death penalty

Today was World Day Against the Death Penalty. A blurb from Booman Tribune:
Today, October 10th, is the world day against the death penalty. While the civilised world (including New Zealand) has abolished capital punishment, 74 countries still retain the death penalty. The world day against the death penalty is the day we work to change that.

This year, the focus is on Africa. Out of 53 African nations, 12 have abolished capital punishment, and 20 observe a practical moratorium. But 21 still execute people, including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Botswana and Egypt. The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty has an electronic petition, which you can sign here. It's a small gesture, but the more people who sign it, the more weight it will carry.

Now if only America were to join the civilized world.