Friday, June 30, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days # 010: Youssou N'Dour: The Lion and Set

I was lucky enough to be introduced to African music by people from Africa. I had played various styles from around the Continent for years (North African/Islamic ‘ud music, South African township jazz/kwela/Zulu styles, etc) but around 1990 I met various people from whom I had the good fortune to learn the music directly.

Most especially from my darlin’ collaborator Heather Maxwell Adou, who after growing up in Michigan spent high-school time in West Africa, then as a Peace Corps volunteer, then stayed on as a working musician. I learned a lot about music of Ghana, Mali, and Cote d’Ivoire from her; she taught me to play kamelengoni and balafon, I wrote a bunch of accompaniments for her traditional and original songs, and we did a series of gigs at which she sang and danced, I played and sang, and Rob Mulligan played percussion. Still some of my favorite music to play—but, as with a number of other genres, something I’ll only play anymore as a sideman—I need an expert leading the way.

I also had the chance to see Youssou N’Dour’s band around 1990 in Lexington, KY. I was playing in an eight-piece horn band (“Jif and the Choosy Mothers”) and we did a lot of reggae, South African, and Afro-Caribbean music. Way too hip for the rooms/college students we played for, but the players were excellent and we had a good time. I was later fired from that band for being insufficiently collegiate material (and I still owe Danny K a beating for that and worse sins—payback’s a mother, Danny, and I’ll find you some day).

Anyway, I’d seen Youssou on various videos, and had watched him blow Peter Gabriel off the stage singing guest vocals on In Your Eyes (with Gabriel’s happy assistance). We went down to see Youssou in KY, and this was the first time I’d ever seen a real African band: 10-12 players on stage, costumes swirling, fantastic virtuosity as the players casually switched from one instrument to another tune-by-tune, and the phenomenon of the animateur: the virtuoso dancer whose whole job is to dance, thereby “animating” the crowd to dash the band by showering them with money. It was an incredible show, largely featuring the material on The Lion.

Youssou was a child star in his native Senegal, and a prodigious money-maker with his band Super-Etoile du Dakar. Unlike many such, he went on to grow and mature as an adult musician, maintaining the fantastic groove-a-bility of the great African dance bands, but also developing a voice about national and international issues affecting his people. Like Fela Kuti, subject of a future posting, he understood the powerful voice a musician has in Africa—unlike Fela, he wasn’t so much a sociopath that governments felt they had to arrest, beat, or persecute him. The Lion and Set capture this new maturity. Youssou calls in a favor from Gabriel, who co-wrote and sings on the feminist anthem Shakin’ the Tree and Youssou pulls in New York session ace David Sancious to add keyboards. Set continues and deepens this trend, with beautiful cautionary and proverb-laden texts, power-house grooves (especially on Set and the reggae-flavored Miyoko), and fantastic global critique (Toxiques, which begins “rich countries make toxical waste..why should they send it to me?”).

Youssou has continued this full range of activities, building a state-of-the-art studio in Bamako and continuing to produce hit singles, which fuels everything else.

One of the great West African musicians.

The legendary Jacques Cousteau

Originating in a comment to a post over at DeanDad about first childhood exposure to science:

Two words, one name, a legendary inspiration: Jacques Cousteau. I watched every National Geographic Cousteau special there was, my parents bought me every one of the books he published, I read his autobiography and even wrote to him. Here was the guy who *invented* the aqualung in occupied WWII France, who bought an old minesweeper and refitted it for oceanographic exploration, who was talking about presentation and the global ecosystem in the 1950s, who traveled the world with a small cadre of guys with cool accents and dove on Mycenean wrecks and South Pacific atolls.

I was the first volunteer (at the age of 11) at our regional giant-tank aquarium--even before they opened the doors to the public. I didn't wind up an oceanographer, but I think Cousteau might have been the first person who interested me in recovering, understanding, and telling the stories of the past. Which definitely *is* my profession.

I still get choked up when I hear the brass fanfare that was the old "National Geographic" TV theme.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days # 009: Jethro Tull: Songs from the Wood

I don’t really understand why the rock critics hate(d) Jethro Tull. I mean, if you wanted to accuse them of pomposity, surely E.L.P. was more pompous? If you wanted to accuse them of empty flash, surely Yes was more show-offy? If you wanted to accuse them of scungy cynicism, surely Alice Cooper was a better target?

I think the rock critics hated Tull and frontman Ian Anderson for some of the same reasons that the same critics hated Frank Zappa—because it was obvious from both artists’ interviews as well as records that said artists were smarter than said critics. And there’s nothing that a critic hates worse than having his mental/creative limitations exposed: just ask David Horowitz.

Tull was one of the few rock bands I actually knew about as a child because they were one of the few rock bands that my elder brother was interested in. I remember Blood, Sweat and Tears records, Bill Cosby and Firesign Theater records, one or two FZ discs, and Tull records. My beloved and admired elder brother can sort of carry a tune in a bucket but he knew these records inside and out, and so Living in the Past, Aqualung, and Stand Up were records I also knew very well.

When I went off to school here I took only a few records with me and I didn’t know much about popular music, as I mentioned in “100 Greats” entry # 003. But I did know Jethro Tull, and I did know enough to look for new releases. Just before the release of this LP, I found a limited-edition promotional EP (7” rotating at 33 1/3 RPM) in a Greenwich Village record shop, which included Ring out Solstice Bells on one side, so I was primed for Songs from the Wood when it came out. I basically instantly liked everything about this record, from the beautiful hand-colored photo of Ian at his campfire on the cover, to the stunning vocal and instrumental virtuosity of the title track, to the Green Man, pagan, and Gaia references in Jack-in-the-Green (“I saw some grass growing through the pavement today”), to the stunning love song Fire at Midnight. I didn’t really understand, at age 17, what went into this music, but I knew

I mean I KNEW

that the Greil Marcuses and Robert Christgaus of the world (Lester Bangs gets a pass for getting this one wrong, because he got so much else right) were jealous and intimidated, and that’s why they didn’t like the record. A lovely synthesis of Brit-blues, poetry, odd-meters, and the influence of Renaissance broken-consort and (especially) Tudor music.

I thought it was beautiful, still do. No "guilt" about this pleasure.

Vaughan Williams would have loved and approved of this record.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days # 008: Talip Ozkan: The Dark Fire

Music plays a fantastic, intensely-emotional, deeply-personal, and culturally very central role in Turkish culture. Because of the country’s location at the Bosphorus, literally straddling the land bridge connecting Asia and Europe, and because it has been a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural place for at least 1500 years, Turkish music has both influenced and been influenced by many other idioms. Couple that with a mystical religious tradition (Mevlevi Sufism) in which music and dance play a sacred role, and the Azeri/Central Asian/nomad reverence for the spoken word and for poetry, and you have a recipe for an incredible music culture. In Turkey, musical instruments are capable of giving religious sermons (the saz), wandering minstrels fight improvised poetic duels in coffeehouses, and the national Robin Hood character, Koroglu, not only robs from the rich and gives to the poor, but composes, sings, and accompanies his own ballads describing these exploits.

Talip Ozkan is a fine saz player and very expressive singer who has recorded for several different overseas labels, but who hadn’t really caught on in the US until he lucked into a recording contract with the American producer Bill Laswell, who released this disc on his late lamented Axiom label. On it, Ozkan plays a mixed bag of dance tunes, Sufi melodies, and songs from the asik tradition: the tradition of the wandering minstrel-poets whose badge of office was the saz, who were revered throughout Anatolian, Azeri, and Central Asian culture, and whose most famous exemplar was Koroglu, who is also the topic of the titanic opening track, an excerpt from the enormous, loose cycle of songs associated with him.

[A weeny wanna-be American ‘ud player who wanted to brag about playing with Latif Bolaf has dissed this record, but I feel reasonably confident in saying he’s full of crap. I know this music too, and the power, focus, and spiritual intensity of this record is exemplary. The legendary scholar and collector Ilhan Basgoz recommended this discs to me. And yes, I’ve done gigs with Latif also.]

Monday, June 26, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days # 007: Dama and D'Gary: The Long Way Home

Astonishingly (and criminally), this CD is now out of print ($32 used from Amazon). It’s essentially a jam session, featuring one legendary and one obscure Malagasay musician plus a supporting cast. Its genesis was in the field collecting/collaboration trips by Henry Kaiser and David Lindley to Madagascar in the early ‘90s. I had the opportunity to interview Henry about this several years after the event, and he emphasize that he and Mr Dave had gone there, as much as possible, simply to meet, hang out, and play with musicians. They brought a pretty-decent-for-the-period digital recording setup, liaised with local producers, and put the results on two CDs called A World out of Time. There is amazing stuff on those records, but they suffer from some of the problems of any compilation.

The Long Way Home was a followup disc, when Dama and D’Gary were brought by Henry to La Fete Internationale de Louisiane, a fantastic festival of Francophone music held in Louisiana every April. Because the Malagasies are more comfortable in the French colonial language, they were a natural for the festival, and both made a hit: Dama (an elected legislator), who is described as a Malagasay combination of Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Victor Jara, and Dama, a cowherd and guitar virtuoso who had never owned an instrument until Henry and Dave gave him one. Dama writes and sings beautiful and resonant songs, proverbs, and cautionary tales (Hiakatra Sa Hidina, I Alamino (Be Cool!), and Voasary), while D’Gary plays astonishingly complex and polymetric guitar instrumentals in a rainbow of tunings.

Henry put them into a bayou studio in French Louisiana, found them some compatible French-speaking collaborators in himself, slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, and fiddler Michel Doucet of Beausoleil, and turned them loose. The result is magnificent: warm, loose, joyful, musical, and hellaciously groove-filled. Favorite moment: the long jam on Mpanjono Mody (The Fishermen’s Return), an instrumental depicting a group of fishermen returning to shore, happy with a full-to-overflowing catch. Dama plays kabossy (a small, box-shaped, open-tuned guitar), D’Gary plays the Martin he got from Henry and Dave, Doucet plays fiddle, and they play and play and play. It’s a first take, and you can hear them searching for and finding musical solutions moment-to-moment, with the same sense of astonished joy as the fishermen they’re depicting. Best moment: when they finally coast to a beautiful as-if-rehearsed tutti ending, the tape keeps running, and there’s a burst of delighted laughter and excited 4-way French chatter between the Malagasies and the Cajuns. Warms my heart every time I hear it.

(Secret weapon: Dama’s hair-raising rhythm section of Pana and Laurent Razafindraibe on congas, sticks, and bunches of grass. As Lindley says, “nothing ever scared me so much as watching the Malagasies tap their feet!”)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days: # 006: NRBQ, God Bless Us All

Arguably the greatest bar band on the planet, and I'm granting the qualifier (“arguably”) only because different people define “bar bands” different ways. But if your definition includes the “ability to play absolutely any song, from any style, in their own distinctive way and in a fashion that makes you want to dance,” then NRBQ (the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet) is in fact the greatest bar band in the world.

It doesn’t hurt that they’re headquartered—more or less—in Western Massachusetts, my old stomping grounds, or that bassist Joey Spampinato plays Danelectro and National basses exclusively, or that keyboardist Terry Adams (a Monk fanatic) is one of the only clavinet players in rock ‘n’ roll, or that (erstwhile) guitarist Al Anderson plays a paisley Telecaster and is bigger than me, or that they have a standing New Year’s Day eve gig at the greatest nightclub in the world (the Iron Horse in Northampton), or that they have a standing policy that if even one of four members knows a verse and chorus of a requested song, they’ll play it.

But it all helps.

They sound like James Burton jamming with Thelonious Monk, accompanied by Louis Jordan’s rhythm section; a fantastic amalgam of all the great American roots musics, from hard country through R&B through doo-wop and free jazz. Tommy is a truly fantastic jump-blues drummer who hits the skins so hard he regularly breaks drum rims (no need for a snare ‘mic when Tommy’s in the house), Terry (who regularly wears colanders on his head during gigs) finds ways to layer noise, clusters, and random wrestlings of the keyboard over the groove.

It all comes together on this live disc, which really has it all: Big Al’s earthquaking ferocity on Crazy Like a Fox, the goofy band intro of Here Comes Terry (whose entire lyrics consist of “here comes Terry, here comes Al, here comes Joey, here comes Tommy”) and Music Theory 101 of Twelve Bar Blues (wherein band and crowd together practice counting the measures of a blues), the beautiful melting pop of Joey’s Every Boy, and the fantastic bent rock of Me and the Boys (a hit for Bonnie Raitt in the 1980s). It also has the great byplay which makes their live shows hilarious, notably in Terry’s “They loved it, Big Al! They loved it! They love ME!!”

My little brother, who used to live up that way and closed down the Horse on many a night, stood in line all day to get us tickets to a New Year's Day show--and he was right.

This is indispensable. Sell the car, mortgage the kids, board the dog, get a sitter, and GO SEE THIS BAND.

Thanks, J.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days: # 005: The Bothy Band, Live After Hours

Probably not the first LP of Irish traditional music I ever heard—I actually heard and started playing the music before ever hearing it on record (thank you for that, anyway, Alan Sorvall)—but it’s certainly the first disc of the 1970s Irish trad-revival I ever heard. This would have been around 1978, in a small 2-room 18th-centry house on a side street in Marblehead Massachusetts.

The record was on the (subsequently notorious) Mulligan label, on thin & floppy low-grade vinyl, but the music contained therein was like nothing we’d ever heard. Years later we realized that other bands had been paving the way for the Bothies (notably Planxty, the original Boys of the Lough, and what would become De Danann), but they were the first ones I heard.

Now I hear the rhythm section as pretty overbearing, and I like original fiddle players Paddy Glackin and then Tommy Peoples more than Live’s Kevin Burke, but the sheer ferocity of flutist Matt Molloy, bouzoukist Donal Lunny, and especially the titanic piper Paddy Keenan, made a huge impression on me.

This was where I first really understood the power of modal music (in the fantastic closing reels medley of The Green Groves of Erin/The Flowers of Red Hill), the intensity of the slow airs (Triona ni Dohmnaill’s The Heathery Hills of Yarrow), and just the overall full-tilt boogie of a band.

Years later a friend said to me, while listening to uillean piper Jerry O Sullivan wrestling with balky reeds in 100-degree heat, “It was only when I heard the pipes that I regretted all those years I wasted on rock ‘n’ roll.” Live After Hours taught me that I could find the ferocity, anger, sorrow, and fierce exultant joy of rock within the world of roots musics—and, far more importantly, could find community as well.

This record changed my life. Almost 30 years later, it’s just as great as I remember it.

100 Greats in 100 Days # 004: Ry Cooder: Boomer’s Story

[got bumped a day because of a set of flights that somehow transformed themselves from [Leg I: 1 hour + II: 3.5 hours] to [Leg I: 3 hours-including-stackup-over-Houston-plus-reroute-to-College Station-for-gas-plus-3 hours-at-College Station-plus-delay-at-Houston-arrivals- plus-sprint-across-Houston Intercontinental-plus-2 hours-wait-plus-3.5 hours-to- Hartford=arriving-W Mass-4:30am-sans-luggage]

Cooder grew up in LA, but he sounds like he's from the South. That's a compliment.

Part of the Topanga Canyon folk mafia that gave us his contemporaries, friends, and frequent collaborators Taj Mahal and David Lindley, Cooder early made a name for himself as a slide-guitar expert, most notably through appearances on various Stones records. But he was always a scholar and an ethnomusicologist as well as a hired gun.

His solo recording career eventually ground to a halt in the ‘80s, from which he was rescued by the soundtrack work he did for Walter Hill on films like The Long Riders, followed by Paris, Texas and Crossroads. Eventually he revitalized his solo career with the boom of CD reissues.

Boomer’s Story is one of his earliest, and it has the flavor of the first Taj Mahal records: authoritatively rootsy without being solemn, funky without being blackface, and showing absolutely impeccable song selection and musical taste. I came up in the late 70s hearing a lot of older friends play these tunes, which I thought they had arranged themselves but were in fact copped from this record.

There’s hard-core Delta blues (Skip James’s Cherry Ball Blues and Sleepy John Estes’ Ax Sweet Mama), a heart-breaking version of Dark End of the Street which Richard and Linda Thompson promptly copped, beautiful versions of Civil War (Rally Round the Flag) and Tin Pan Alley (Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer) songs, and even some Norteno. Dharmonia and I played Cooder’s version of Maria Elena, in Cooder’s version, at my little brother’s wedding, and both he and the bride wept when they heard it.

Absolutely masterful.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days: # 003: Allman Bros. Band, Live at Fillmore East

In the fall of 1977 I had moved to NYC, after my junior year of high school, to go to college here. It was a fantastic experience, because both faculty and format were incredibly timely for me--I hated high school and was more than ready to leave my home town. They housed us in NYU dorms in Alphabet City on the Lower East Side, and every morning, I'd walk west on 10th street, cross 5th Avenue, angle up a couple of blocks and wind up at the New School on 12th and Ave 0f the Americas. I was so broke that I walked places rather than take the subway (once I walked all the way from one end of the island to the other) and I lived and died by the Village Voice's "Free or Under Two Bucks" back page, which led me to some incredible experiences (saw Cecil Taylor play in the basement of an East Harlem church that way).

Some time in the fall of '77, some Voice author who I've never been able to identify wrote an article on the demise of the original Allman Brothers band. It was a beautiful article, which understood how the interaction of rock 'n' roll, drugs, Jimmy Carter, and the South all fitted together, and it explained why the band ended. It was a bit of a hagiography for Duane, who was killed in a bike accident in 1971, but it also inspired me to go out and buy Live at Fillmore East, probably the first hard-core rock 'n' roll record I'd ever bought myself. I still remember the quotes: "'Like church,' Duane would say. 'Like having a vision, magic,' Jaimoe would say. 'It was so spiritual, the music,' Butch said, 'that I can remember several times when my soul actually left my body onstage, while we were playing.'"

It's one of the greatest records of rock 'n' roll improvisation ever made: the Brothers were living together, traveling in an Econoline van, playing 300 nights a year, and listening to Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. And you can hear it in their music: in the potent, circular rhythms Butch Trucks and Jai Johanney Johnson played at their two drum kits, in the modal ostinatos that Berry Oakley laid down on bass, in the keening and wailing of the twin lead guitars of Duane Allman and Dickie Betts. But they also had one of rock music's other great natural instruments: Gregg Allman's voice, who at the age of 21 created an incredible, instinctive meld of Ray Charles, BB King, and the black church.

Everything on this record is magnificent: the dynamic with the crowd, the intertwining of the guitars as Duane and Dicky push each higher further and further, the ebb and blow of the roiling drums, and Gregg's astonishing voice. From the hammering stop-time of Statesboro Blues and Done Somebody Wrong, to the slow blues of T Bone Walker's Stormy Monday (the blues that launched a thousand bar bands), to the gorgeous Dicky Betts instrumentals Hot Lanta and In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, to the quintessential Southern-rock anthem Whipping Post, no band ever jammed better live.

They truly did get to within striking distance of the intensity, passion, and spiritual devotion in Coltrane's music. And, at the peak of the 20-minute jam on You Don't Love Me, as the rhythm section floats out of time and poises trembling over the fermata, until Duane's slide guitar pours down like silver into the opening notes of Lowell Mason's cop of Handel with Joy to the World, and the rhythm section roars to a crescendo, they get there.

It's transcendent.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days: # 002: Zappa: You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, vol. 3

Zappa led the most virtuosic, most responsive, most detailed, and funniest electric bands that ever existed. The complexity of the compositions and the casual facility with which the band tossed them off made the "art-rockers" seem like pretentious adolescents, the political and social critique made the MC5 sound like thugs, and the pure fun of the band made everybody else seemed labored and dour. Musicians played with Zappa (admittedly off-and-on) for decades, and even the new guys rehearsed 5 days a week for 3 months before they went out on the road.

The YCDTOS series (6 double discs) documents various permutations of the Zappa touring bands, from all eras and with all different kinds of characters. Vol #3 documents the '84 band (with occasional interpolations from other eras), which included a couple of fantastic technicians (drummer Chad Wackerman), a couple of absolutely distinctive and original instrumentalists (bassist Scott Thunes), and, most especially, perhaps Zappa's greatest cast of vocalists: keyboardist Bobby Martin, guitarists Ray White and Ike Willis (the latter especially a cornerstone of FZ's bands) and saxophonist Napoleon Murphy Brock. In turn, this makes for a fantastic series of vocal features, particularly focusing on the doowop, r&b, and electric blues styles on which Zappa cut his teeth.

Essential for understanding the genius of the live Zappa.

Monday, June 19, 2006

100 Greats in 100 Days: # 001: The Harder They Come

Jimmy Cliff et al: The Harder They Come (soundtrack).

Oh, my God. Desmond Dekker, Toots and the Maytals, The Melodians, the Slickers, and Jimmy himself. This was the soundtrack to the first full-length feature film shot in Jamaica (1972), which took off from a series of folk tales about a legendary ghetto gunman called Rhygin. He became a media star before being shot down in 1948. The film gives him a back-story as a singing star ripped off in the Trenchtown manner.

The music is absolutely incredible. It captures a moment when Jamaican popular music, melding indigenous religious styles of percussion, the influence of American r&b and gospel via radio, and original songwriters. Rock-steady, ska, and reggae all represented here. This was the first Jamaican LP to hit the US/UK top 10 charts and it's absolutely fucking incredible. Cornerstone of a Jamaican music collection.

the "Music, vernacular culture, education..." part

Gotta change it up some--the spewing-at-politics posts are easy to do with limited time because they're essentially reactive rather than creative, but that's not the best value for the reader's dollar. So I'm gonna try to build more posts that address the "music, vernacular culture," and "education" parts. If I only ever write about radical politics and history, I'm gonna slit my wrists (no way to be a student of history and an optimist at the same time).

So, in the spirit of the new leaf: Next post inaugurates "100 Greats in 100 Days" meme: 100 records that I think are fantastic.

Trying to focus on the good in the world a bit. It's about time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Fear and Fox

Look at the fear in Tony Snow's eyes as he and Bartlett fly into the Green Zone.


Bet he wishes he was back in the Fox Studios even as we speak.

Rove walks? I don't believe it, quite...

Announcement from Rove's lawyer (Luskin) this morning that his client has been "formally advised" that he/Rove will not be charged. Luskin has refused to provide any details, or to produce the actual communication. Christy over at firedoglake thinks it possible that the letter itself contains critique/accusation from Fitzgerald that Luskin doesn' t want public. I think that's likely.

But I also notice Rove's entirely disinclination to talk, much less crow, about his "exoneration." And I notice that the White House has also been remarkably tight-lipped about this, where normally we would expect Tony Snow to be leading the gloating. Why no celebration?

This smells like constrained behavior. It smells like both Rove himself and the WH as a whole have been muzzled by something.

I think there was a deal; a plea-bargain, the terms of which included "no comment" from Rove/WH. What could Rove give up in return for walking? And what kind of offenses might he have been charged with that would make him roll? Upon whom might Rove be able to roll to such an extent that he could save his own ass? [Note: as of 11:45CST Fitzgerald also has not commented; this is ominous for someone]

Couple that with Junior's "surprise" visit to Baghdad today, for a mere five hours, with so little advance warning that he lied about it yesterday, and the Iraqi president didn't even know Bush was coming. Why the sudden collosal urgency to get Junior out of Washington? It almost has to be in order to distance him from something going down there.

Or some-ONE.

Anybody heard from Dick Cheney in the last 12 hours?

I dunno. But something is in the air, and Fitzgerald has another shoe to drop.

Another monster going to hell...

Michelle Malkin, whose response on hearing of the suicides of the three Gitmo detainees was

Presumably she was equally unmoved by the plight of the young man who had actually been adjudged "safe" and "no threat", but who was not informed in time to prevent his suicide.

I know that this is Malkin's cynical self-promotion in light of Coulter pulling ahead in the "monstrous money-making harpy" sweepstakes, but Jesus! Don't they think their words have any likelihood to rebound? Don't they think that maybe, just maybe, what "goes around comes around"?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bubble Boy

Jesus, the Bush White House is like Romper Room:

"If the aide looks nervous, the President will think there's something to be nervous about. So you look calm even when everything is going wrong." -- White House aide Blake Gottesman, in an interview with Time magazine.
"Romper, bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic mirror, tell me today. Have all my friends been good at play?"

"I can see Georgie and Dickie and Condi and Tony and Donnie and all of you boys and girls out there!"

NRO punks Neo-Cons, Bush WH

When even the rabid paleocons at the National Review Online are dissing you, you are in deep, deep shit. John Derbyshire says:

The lazy-minded evangelico-romanticism of George W. Bush, the bureaucratic will to power of Donald Rumsfeld, the avuncular condescension of Dick Cheney, and the reflexive military deference of Colin Powell combined to get us into a situation we never wanted to be in, a situation no self-respecting nation ought to be in, a situation we don’t know how to get out of.
Sorry, John. You and your fellow Neanderthals (Dartmouth punks and corporate shills) bought this presidency and you're gonna live with its war crimes and malfeasance.

But is sure is a pleasure to watch the circular firing squad.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Candidate Newt? God, I hope so!
Gingrich is a contemptuous, arrogant little worm, who served his wife with divorce papers while she was in the cancer ward and was chased out of Congress by his own party-members less than four years after the "Republican Revolution." Now he thinks that, due to the "vacuum" in the current leadership, he might have to step in as candidate. Digby is on him, though, and quotes William S Lind, who obliterates the Newt's Star-Wars-esque militaristic hubris:

While Rumsfeldian "Transformation" represents change, it represents change in the wrong direction. Instead of attempting to move from the Second Generation to the Third (much less the Fourth), Transformation retains the Second Generation's conception of war as putting firepower on targets while trying to replace people with technology. Its summa is the Death Star, where men and women in spiffy uniforms sit in air-conditioned comfort zapping enemies like bugs. It is a vision of future war that appeals to technocrats and lines industry pockets, but has no connection to reality. The combination of this vision of war with an equally unrealistic vision of strategic objectives has given us the defeat in Iraq. Again, Rumsfeld lies at the heart of both.
I hope the evil little bastard does run. The netroots could annihilate Gingrich w/out even needing any assistance from the DCCC.

Welcome to the newest US satrapy

There was never an intention of getting all the way out of Iraq. Oil was the motive behind faking the WMD's; oil was the motive behind linking to 9/11; oil was the motive behind the invasion; oil is the motive behind the obvious intention of building massive and permanent US Army installations:

Congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country, a lawmaker and congressional aides said on Friday.
Of course they're intending permanent bases--that's the only way Big Oil can control the Iraqi fields and maintain the flow of obscene profits to their billionaire shareholders.

Let's be clear on this: Bush/Cheney and their henchmen have killed thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis to insure their oil profits. No other reason. And the Republican Congress knows it and that's why they deleted the reference to "no permanent bases."

[Update 11:10pm CST: NYT confirms:
Bush Administration Developing Plans To Keep 50,000 U.S. Troops In Iraq For Decades

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Bush assumes others will take the rap

Jesus. Ever since adolescence, that miserable little punk has been taught to expect that others will take the rap for him: Guard, baseball, banking, governership, now Presidency; "Heckuva job Brownie" was expected to fall on his sword for the Preznit:

This was the text of the email message to Brown read on the air: "I did hear of one reference to you, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. I wasn't there but I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the President replied, 'I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff.'"
That little bastard. Since when is avoidance of responsibility a Trumanesque quality?

You can't write this shit: DeLay cites Colbert

The Bugman is so desperate that he's now citing Stephen Colbert's faux-O'Reilly assault on Bob Greenwald's film in DeLay's defense:

A good sign that Tom DeLay doesn’t have the facts on his side: the top source for his latest defense against his critics is Stephen Colbert. This morning, DeLay’s legal defense fund sent out a mass email criticizing the movie “The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Congress,” by “Outfoxed” creator Robert Greenwald. The email features a “one-pager on the truth behind Liberal Hollywood’s the Big Buy,” and the lead item is Colbert’s interview with Greenwald on Comedy Central (where Colbert plays a faux-conservative, O’Reilly-esque character). The headline of the “fact sheet”: 'Colbert Cracks the Story on Real Motivations Behind the Movie."
I can see only two possible scenarios explaining DeLay's citation of a fictional wingnut TV host, as played by Colbert, in DeLay's defense:

(1) DeLay or his people don't realize that Colbert is playing a character (unlikely, because even if his people never watch the "Report", they must have heard about Colbert's evisceration of the Shrub at the National Press Correspondents' Dinner); or

(2) They know damned well that Colbert's character is a parodic fiction, but they assume that their target core supporters are too dumb to make the same realization (much more likely, given the stupidity of anyone who would vote for Tom DeLay expecting him to actually represent any interests other than his own greed).

Either way, you simply can't make this shit up--it's so perfect that no-one would believe it.

[h/t: ThinkProgress

NYT lowballs Bush's rolling disaster

Article in today's NYT leads:

As Agenda Falters, Bush Tries a More Personal Approach in Dealing With Congress...
Now, with Mr. Bush's poll numbers sinking and his agenda faltering, the White House needs Republicans in Congress more than ever. Without necessarily taking the advice he is seeking from Capitol Hill, Mr. Bush is adding a more personal touch to his presidency in an effort to put himself in the good graces of lawmakers.
"Falters"?!? FALTERS?!?!?!?

If Junior's agenda is best described as "faltering", then that Norwegian Blue Parrot is "just restin'":

Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Mr. Praline: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

Mr. Praline: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister Polly Parrot! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if you

(owner hits the cage)

Owner: There, he moved!

Mr. Praline: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!

Owner: I never!!

Mr. Praline: Yes, you did!

Owner: I never, never did anything...

Mr. Praline: (yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) 'ELLO POLLY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!

(Takes parrot out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)

Mr. Praline: Now that's what I call a dead parrot.

Owner: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!

Mr. Praline: STUNNED?!?

Owner: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Norwegian Blues stun easily, major.

Mr. Praline: look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour
ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.

Owner: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.

Mr. Praline: PININ' for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?

Owner: The Norwegian Blue prefers keepin' on it's back! Remarkable bird, id'nit, squire? Lovely plumage!

Mr. Praline: Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the
first place was that it had been NAILED there.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Boomers and their psychodramas

It's become a truism that the generation of "Boomers" (roughly, those born between 1945 and 1960) both had a significantly different experience and developed significantly different perspectives on life and their place in it than did those generations who preceded them. Born in the post-WWII era of economic prosperity and nuclear paranoia, to "Greatest Generation" parents who remembered the war and the Holocaust, the Boomers are alleged to have grown up more privileged and more self-oriented than prior generations. Certainly this "boomeritis" has been invoked to explain everything from the 1960s hippie uprising to the 1970s disco era to 1980s Reaganomics, and there's probably some truth in it (although, as a tail-ender to this era, and aware of how many of my contemporaries are still active in politics and social justice, I question claims for its ubiquity).

However, I think it would be reasonable to see both Bill Clinton's marriage/sexual psychodrama and George Bush's Oedipal neurosis as examples of this. Clinton obviously has all the programming for infantile self-gratification (think cigars and blue dresses) of his generation--but at least he was smart, genuinely engaged with and curious about other peoples' experience, and liked the work that went with being President.

Now we find the Bush II went to war purely and simply to, in Suburban Guerilla's felicitous phrase, "shove [it] up his father's ass" after Poppy repeatedly tried to bail his punk adolescent ass out of trouble again:

Former President George H.W. Bush waged a secret campaign over several months early this year to remove Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,” writes Sidney Blumenthal for

Excerpts from the article:

…The elder Bush went so far as to recruit Rumsfeld’s potential replacement, personally asking a retired four-star general if he would accept the position, a reliable source close to the general told me. But the former president’s effort failed, apparently rebuffed by the current president. When seven retired generals who had been commanders in Iraq demanded Rumsfeld’s resignation in April, the younger Bush leapt to his defense. “I’m the decider and I decide what’s best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain,” he said. His endorsement of Rumsfeld was a rebuke not only to the generals but also to his father...This effort to pluck George W. from his troubles is the latest episode in a recurrent drama — from the drunken young man challenging his father to go “mano a mano” on the front lawn of the family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, to the father pulling strings to get the son into the Texas Air National Guard and helping salvage his finances from George W.’s mismanagement of Harken Energy. For the father, parental responsibility never ends. But for the son, rebellion continues.

It certainly does ring true in light of the absurd petulance Junior displays when his decisions are questioned. But does he have to work out his beefs with Poppy using the world as a palimsest? That's what therapy is for--and it doesn't cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

Jesus! Can we ever get away from the Boomers' infantile psychodramas?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hatred's apologists

The following have defended the indefensible: Ann Coulter's hate-filled screeds about the 9/11 widows:

Sandy Rios
Jack Burkman
Sean Hannity
Karen Hanretty
Glenn Beck

They, too, are going to hell--along with her. I hope to God people in this life remember Rios, Burkman, Hannity, Hanretty, and Beck when the big roll is called.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Rumsfeld immortalized

When the artists start making paintings, poems, plays, sculptures, and/or songs about you, you can be sure that you will be condemned to stand before the bar of history:

Muayad Muhsin was both inspired and enraged by a photo of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld slumped on an airplane seat with his army boots up in front of him. "It symbolized America's soulless might and arrogance," said Muhsin, whose similar painting of Rumsfeld will be unveiled in an exhibition opening in Baghdad on Monday. The oil-on-canvas, 5-by-3-foot (1.5-by-1-meter) work shows Rumsfeld in a blue jacket, tie, khaki pants and army boots reading from briefing papers. His boots are resting on what appears to be an ancient stone. While Rumsfeld's image is true to life, he sits next to a partially damaged statue of a lion standing over a human - a traditional image of strength during the ancient Babylon civilization. The statue's stone base is ripped open, revealing shelves from which white piece of papers are flying away, later turning into birds soaring high into an ominously gray sky. Muhsin said the symbolism has to do with Washington's repeated assertions in the months before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that Saddam's regime had weapons of mass destruction, the cornerstone in the Bush administration's argument for going to war.

The Jokerman put it well:
"Even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked. " From "It's All Right, Ma, I'm Only Bleeding."
And so did Ginsberg:
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments! -Allen Ginsberg, Howl, Part II
You're doomed, Don--you and your pissant little frat-boy mouthpiece boss. All that history will remember of you is the suffering you caused and the arrogance with which you did it. The artists and the historians may not be able to stop you in your genocidal madness but they will always have the last word.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bill Bennett is dumb

Dumb enough to show up on "The Daily Show," wherein Jon Stewart kicked the living shit out of him and his "anit-gay-marriage" talking points. Wonderful to see how these conservative solons fold and then lose their tempers when they're debated by someone who they belatedly realize is smarter than they are.

These guys don't get outside the enclave much, do they? They always have the same reaction when they don't get stroked--petulance.

Well done JS.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Christian haters: Sue their ass

That's it. That's where it lives.

The father of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters from a fundamentalist Kansas church filed an invasion-of-privacy suit against the demonstrators Monday. It is believed to be the first lawsuit brought by a serviceman's family against Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., whose members routinely demonstrate at military funerals around the country... Members of Westboro say the military deaths in Iraq are God's punishment for America's tolerance of gays. They typically carry signs with slogans such as "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for IEDs," a reference to the roadside bombs used by insurgents.
Wonder how long it'll take for those psychotic Baptists to claim they're being martyred for their beliefs? Not long, I'll wager.

Don Rumsfeld's monstrosities...

Only a chickenhawk who never saw combat (but who likes to direct torture via video-phone) would seek to defend the omission of key provisions from the Geneva Convention:

The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.
I am convinced that Rumsfeld actually likes torture--that he gets some kind of faux-macho thrill from it. Makes him feel tough.

Leaving aside that such omission opens up captured American service-men and -women to analogous treatment--which is the reason that the State Department adamantly opposes the changes--do we no longer believe at all in America as a "shining city on a hill"? Are we really no better than the fanatics who decapitate civilians on videotape?

Evidently not. What a crew of monsters.

[Edited to add:]

Gen John Batiste agrees.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Dept of Historical Absurdity

Rumsfeld visits Vietnam to boost military ties.

The historical irony is, at least, remarkable. Rumsfeld worked for Dick Nixon, for God's sakes--the single man most responsible for the continuation for the Vietnam war years beyond its "unwinnable" date.

You just can't write this shit. That miserable thieving little bastard should have been impeached (and then indicted) months if not years ago.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Going not only to Hell but also to jail...

Those Republican oligarchs hate it when somebody reminds them that the laws of the Republic still apply to them. Ann Coulter is about to be indicted for voter fraud (a felony) for voting in a Florida district not her own. How do we know? Because she's lawyered up. They don't do that unless they're expecting to be indicted.

Conservative pundit and best-selling political writer Ann Coulter has hired a white-glove, White House-connected law firm to fight allegations she voted illegally in February's Town of Palm Beach election. . . .

A poll worker reported to his supervisors that he saw Coulter try to vote in the precinct closest to her Palm Beach home. But when she was told the address on her voter's registration was elsewhere, Coulter ran out instead of correcting it and ended up voting in a precinct that wasn't hers. Knowingly voting in the wrong precinct in Florida is a felony.

You're going to court, you opportunistic harpy. And you're going to be indicted, and you're probably going to be convicted.

Welcome to Club Fed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

West Pointer calls "bullshit" on Junior's military posturing

James Ryan, co-founder of West Point Graduates Against the War, calls "bullshit" on the chummy militaristic posturing of Junior's recent speech at the Point. Many good lines, but the very best ones might be:

You throw around the names of old grads like Eisenhower and Bradley, using them to somehow justify what you and your big buddies in DC have done to the world. What do you know about Eisenhower or Bradley? You might get away with that stuff in the oval office, but not up here. Not at West Point. You got that, wack? You got that loud and clear, beansmack? Good. Retain same.
If only anybody was listening.