Saturday, December 12, 2009


This Friday and Saturday mark the birthdays of two giants in contemporary jazz - pianist McCoy Tyner, who turned 71; and drummer Tony Williams, who today would have turned 64. Tyner is probably best known for his stint in John Coltrane's bands at the end of the 1950s through 1965 (including of course Coltrane's classic quartet that produced such incredible works as "A Love Supreme"). After Trane died, Tyner recorded a number of excellent albums for Blue Note and later Milestone Records. Tyner seemed to favor the piano trio setting, but also seems quite at home with larger ensembles (see, for instance, "Asante") as well as solo settings. Regardless of the setting, and regardless of style (during the early 1970s there were tons of African influences, but otherwise seems to be more of a straight-ahead hardbop cat), there is a majestic quality to his sound that has to be heard to be truly appreciated.

Tony Williams is best known for his stint with Miles Davis during much of the 1960s before leading his own fusion group during the late 1960s and 1970s, Lifetime. Needless to say, the albums with Davis' quintet of the 1960s, right before Davis went electric, are considered classics and Williams is one of the cats who drove Davis to modernize his sound. Williams was also a much-sought after sideman, who appeared in both straight-ahead and avant-garde recordings (he played on notable recording sessions led by Sam Rivers, and Eric Dolphy, for example), as well as led his first recording date while still in his teens.

Corporal punishment and voting behavior

In a way I am really not at all surprised to find the two linked. And when I followed Ezra Klein's link to TPM, the basic explanation seems to be apt enough. One thing I've learned from years of social science research is that one's attitude toward corporal punishment makes for a good marker of one's authoritarianism. Individuals who are highly authoritarian also tend to favor the use of corporal punishment. It's also not too surprising that the GOP is populated primarily if not outright exclusively with highly authoritarian leaders and members. So, yeah, when you present me with data showing a fairly strong positive correlation between percentage of states' voters who cast a vote for McCain/Palin and percentage of individuals within each state who favor corporal punishment, I'm not the least bit surprised. I'm not the least bit psychoanalytically oriented, but I would wager that the authoritarian attitudes exhibited by the GOP base (including of course birthers, deathers, and a large proportion of tea party participants) were forged very early in life through a combination of experiencing physical and psychological abuse as kids (and I consider any form of corporal punishment to be abusive - somewhat along the lines of Alice Miller) and basic observational learning.

Note, the above has nothing to do with how the Dems actually govern. A good case can be made that the White House, for example, under Obama has largely continued the authoritarian policies of the previous Bush II White House. What the data do tell us is a little something about the worldviews of those who participate in elections, and give us an idea of just how distinct the probably GOP party's base is from the rest of us - whether Dem, independent (in my case), or whatever.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Saul Alinsky sez:
Liberals like people with their heads, radicals like people with both their heads and their hearts.

Oh, and remember the Great American Swindle?

Since TARP worked so well for the swindlers, they're now coming back to finish the job. If they get their way, you can say bye-bye to Medicare and Social Security. (h/t naked capitalism)

On the contrary, Matt: Obama never sold out

There was no big sellout. Truth is, there was never any reason to believe that the Pope of Hope was anything more or less than a corporatist candidate, who once in office would continue to pursue the same path as all the others since Raygun.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Making a (negative) difference

Uganda's Draconian Anti-Gay Bill: Inspired by the U.S. Yup, once more the US, in both words and deeds, has inspired other nations to enact or threaten to enact oppressive legislation. In particular, the role of right-wing US pastors deserves highlighting:
The bill has an American genesis of sorts, inspired to a large extent by the visits of U.S. evangelicals who are involved with a movement that promotes Christianity's role in getting homosexuals to become "ex-gays" through prayer and faith. Ugandan supporters of the bill appear to be particularly impressed by the ideas of Scott Lively, a California conservative preacher who has written a book, The Pink Swastika, about what he calls the links between Nazism and a gay agenda for world domination, which, by itself, would have raised the anti-colonial sensitivities of Ugandan society. Says the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, an Episcopalian priest from Zambia who authored a recent report on anti-gay politics in Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya: "The U.S. culture wars have been exported to Africa."

One of the bill's loudest supporters is a charismatic pastor, Martin Ssempa, who heads a Ugandan campus AIDS eradication organization that is funded in part by the U.S. and who was associated with the global outreach of Southern California's Saddleback Church, run by Rick Warren, author of best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life. Ssempa has a penchant for burning condoms. In 2007, he organized a rally against homosexuality to protest "homosexual agents and activists" who were "infiltrating Uganda." Asked how the anti-homosexuality bill might affect the fight against HIV and AIDS, Ssempa seemed bemused. "I don't see what this bill has to do with HIV," he told TIME. Warren, who has called Uganda a "purpose-driven nation," cut ties with Ssempa in October as controversy over the bill grew.

Somehow, I'm not the least bit surprised to see Rick Warren's name pop up. And although the deaths that Uganda's proposed new law would cause should permanently weigh on Warren's conscience - as well as those who support his ministry - it probably won't. Although religions can often inspire, the down side is that religions are often at the center of some of the worst structural violence ever perpetrated by humanity. Uganda's law is merely one shining example.

Happy birthday Donald Byrd

This is a remix of "Kofi". This appeared on The New Groove a number of years ago when Blue Note tried to capitalize on the acid jazz trend. MC Mystic's rap is quite nice to my ears. Peace, y'all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

29 years ago

John Lennon was murdered.

More reason for pessimism

You can't have a recovery without people who can buy goods and services.

When asked to choose between the scientists and the crackpots

I find it a safe bet to go along with the scientists. The decade now ending appears likely to be the warmest decade on record. This year will probably be the 5th warmest, with only the US and Canada bucking the trend. While we're at it, please note that two of the most prominent US newspapers have treated the tempest in a teapot called "climategate" considerably differently, with WaPo going for a "he said, she said" style of reporting, while NYT actually has the audacity to refer to flap as one between "decades of peer-review science" and "politically motivated opposition." That seems to sum it up. Now, of course what all this ends up meaning while the nations' leaders gather for a climate summit is anyone's guess. I'm not especially optimistic about what will emerge beyond a lot of talk and half measures.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A decade concisely summarized

Did this first decade of the new century suck or what? Check out Eugene Linden's The Decade in One Page (h/t naked capitalism). My prediction for next decade? Expect more suckage.