Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nashville cats, play clean as country water

Anyone who knows me has heard me say the the average country musician is a better player than the average rock musician. No ifs, ands or buts. There are thousands of guitarists working the country bar circuit that would make nearly all of the rock guitar gods jealous with their technique.

Thing is, the country players don't go through a lot of visual emotional excess. No contortions, grimacing, no hair tossing. Not that they aren't emotional, the are just a little more internalized, and the focus is on the playing for them, not the visual drama.

Clearly technique isn't everything, there has to be soul. And I have known many players in every genre that seem to have great chops, but an absence of soul. And sometimes, well, often, I think that overblown stage posturing has little to do with the soul of the music, and more to do with impressing the crowds, and maybe even distracting them from the fact that either the player or the music isn't very interesting. You know, musical shiny objects.

Here are a few videos of really great country players. I feel soul in everything they do. Will you? I hope so.

Merle Travis invented Travis Picking. Thumb bass and finger melody had been around for quite some time, but Merle took it to a new level. Here's "Cannonball Rag":

Joe Maphis was the original guitar speed freak. So smooth, but so rocking. And the doublenecks he played-he really put that kind of instrument on the map:

Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant were a great team-steel and regular electric guitar:

If the rain comes they run and hide their heads

As hard as it is to take GWBushCo seriously about anything, except, you know, preemptive war, tax cuts for my millionaire clients but not for me, and freedom is on the march, still, nothing says miserable failure like the Katrina Response.

Rather than do my own research, however, I'll rely on my buddy skippy, who posts a veritable cornucopia of crap, documenting the GWBushCo criminal behavior.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present, skippy on Katrina!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

You know they've got a hell of a band

Over at FireDogLake my friend TRex put up a post about his wonderful friend Elissa, who lost a fight with that Goddamned disease cancer last night. He also posted a wonderful song she had recorded, making the piece especially poignant. And he was sweet and thoughtful in asking commentors to list their own Angels, those who they lost.

Of course, I mentioned Kristin, of whom I have written here often, and our friend Lizzy, still after 4 years losses that really make no sense, that grind at my emotions daily.

But I can't help thinking about other musicians that have left us, especially whose who went too young. We can't help wondering what they might have done, if they had stayed with us longer.

In the late '50s, we had The Day The Music Died. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper, all in one plane crash. And reportedly a coin toss kept Waylon Jennings off the flight. It may seem grim to speculate, but I think, of the three, Holly would have had the longest and deepest career. His music was pretty revolutionary, an amalgam of fresh rock and country influences and creativity that, I think, would have lasted quite a while.

Valens, while clearly talented and a major fave of mine, was a little more mainstream and conventional. While he did some great songs, and his sparkling Come On Let's Go was, I feel, not treated well by Los Lobos in his biopic La Bamba, my gut tells me that if he were working today, his last new recording would have come by the middle or end of the '60s, and he'd be doing the state fair circuit like so many older rockers.

And J.P. Richardson, The Big Bopper, well, IMHO would be hosting a syndicated oldies radio show, as Chantilly Lace would have been his only hit.

In the early '70s we had another tragic 3 losses, not together, but awfully close: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. I consider myself truly lucky to have seen all three, Hendrix twice. What they have been doing today? Again, pointless conjecture by no one but me.

Hendrix was the most prolific of the three, playing and recording every chance he had, and was at the time of his death making plans to work with jazz arranger and composer Gil Evans. With that kind of vision, and open-mindedness, he would at the very least be a 2nd generation Les Paul, perhaps not recording anything new, but still playing often, to adoring crowds.

Joplin, while surely at the peak of her powers, was also at the peak of drug addiction and self-destruction. It's hard to predict what she would have done, but I can picture her as an elder stateswoman of rock, an older Aunt to Bonnie Raitt, Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, and a contemporary of Mick Jagger: not doing anything new or different, but still doing what she did so well.

Morrison is a little trickier. He seemed like the rock'n'roll precursor to Marlon Brando, excess weight, excess partying, and mediocre artistic output. While The Doors created some truly memorable music, it was a combination of talent that made it work. How many people know that Light My Fire was actually written by Robby Krieger, the guitarist, and not Morrison? I suspect that Morrison's best was already behind him when he died.

Again, all speculation by someone who takes music really seriously, but has no crystal ball into the future, just a lot of memories of the past. For more, see the 27 Club. And this gem by Stephen King.

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break

My last post took on the insurance industry on two issues:
  • They are larcenous lying cheats esp. in re: Katrina claims,
  • They make exorbitant profits from products I am legally forced to buy.
Don, the drive-by commentor, took issue with this characterization:
You fail to realize that most insurance companies do not make an operating profit, in fact in most cases they lose money on their underwriting. They make their profits by making sound investments with the premium payments they receive. You however have a blog so feel feel to spread slander and incorrect information.

Don, friend, I have to respond with two points: Bullshit, and so what.

First, of course the insurance business model includes investments. But unless they took the premium from the very first customer, invested it and earned Billions from it in what can only be considered a Ponzi scheme, then the investment capital comes from profits.

Second, when my meager 401k from working at Capitol Studios takes a market hit, I lose money. Too bad for me. But when State Farm loses money in the stock market from their "sound investments", they simply pass the loss onto us in the form of higher premiums. Thus, I am legally forced to buy a product, and I am forced to pay for the mistakes of management. In the "Free Market", so dear to conservatarians, I can only think of one way for this too happen: State Farm has better lobbyists than me. The Center for Public Integrity has much to say about insurance lobbying here and here.

This statement from the Wikipedia entry on Insurance Companies is especially poignant:
Additionally, “speculative risks” like those incurred through gambling or through the purchase of company stocks are uninsurable.

Except when you're a big insurance company. Bastards.

On your last point, Don, yes, I have a blog, which is nothing but my opinions. And though you tried to distract from my secondary point about the essentially slimy nature of insurance companies in general, you did not in any way contradict the main point, which is the evil practiced by these companies when facing large payouts. From the original ABC News article:
Cori Rigsby says she recalls a senior coordinator ordering that an engineering company be told to alter the findings in its report so that State Farm would not have to pay. "Tell them if they don't change their report, we're not paying their invoice," she remembers the supervisor saying.
They're still bastards. And your comment reads like a State Farm training manual. Thanks.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I was raised on robbery

Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. That is, if a good neighbor is someone who robs your house, steals you blind, lies to you, and still expects you to pay them. Thankfully, some brave whistleblowers came forward.

From ABC News, we learn that:
State Farm Insurance supervisors systematically demanded that Hurricane Katrina damage reports be buried or replaced or changed so that the company would not have to pay policyholders' claims in Mississippi, two State Farm insiders tell ABC News.

Kerri and Cori Rigsby, independent adjusters who had worked for State Farm exclusively for eight years, say they have turned over thousands of internal company documents and their own detailed statement to the FBI and Mississippi state investigators.

I had State Farm car insurance off and on for many years, and one time I actually read the Annula Financial Report, in the mid '80s. I was shocked, shocked to find that, after all accounting for expenses, at the end of the balance sheet were billions of dollars in pure profit. And their '05 report, available here, shows $847 Million in profit for '05, as opposed to $3.076 Billion for '04!

How this will play out is anyone's guess. As this is pretty standard Republican-approved corporate behavior, there may be some small sanctions. But look how easily Ken Lay, et al, have so far gotten off, for a barometer of punishment likelihood.

Here in CA, Financial Responsibility laws dictate that to legally drive, one must have Auto Insurance, or post a large cash bond that only movie and rock stars could afford. I am capitalist enough that I feel that everyone should be able to make a buck. But I have long felt that if the government requires me to buy something, who ever sells that something should make only subsistence profit, not billions.

Of course, State Farm can afford better lobbyists than I can.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Somewhere, over the rainbow...

Two music posts in a row, wow. What will people think.

I have long been of the opinion that there are certain pieces of music that don't need to be recorded ever again, because they have already been perfected. Here are a few:

  • Satisfaction - Rolling Stones
  • In The Mood - Glenn Miller
  • Yesterday - Beatles/McCartney
  • Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water - Garfunkel & the short guy
  • Best Day Of Your Life - Green Day
Of course there are others, and there is definitely some wiggle room. If one can really say something new, or offer a truly new reading of the song, then that's cool, too. But it doesn't often happen.

But when it does, we should revel in it. Recently I posted about Jake Shimabukuro, who has elevated the ukulele to a place reserved for guitar gods with his take on George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". But talents like him don't happen often.

One of the "untouchable" songs for me has always been "Over The Rainbow". Young tragic Judy Garland's take on it is sublime, a perfect mix of innocence and soul so compelling that I could not imagine it ever being considered seriously by another singer.

But many have tried. Lord, how they have tried. Overblown, histrionic, wrenching versions of the song have been attempted by many, and yet they always come up short.

Until these two:

A huge man, with a huge talent. I couldn't find any videos of him, but here is a video which uses his mix of "Somewhere..." and "What a Wonderful World".

As a former guitar player, I'm clearly a sucker for talent, virtuosity, and soul. This guy really has all three. Here he is playing what turns into a "Wizard Of Oz" medley. Stunning. Made me really smile.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I only want to be with you

The wealth of videos available today from YouTube, Google Videos, Yahoo Videos, and is pretty amazing. One has to be pretty creative in the searches, but many gems are out there.

Here's something I found (I already knew about this recording, as I bought the album in the mid '80s):

From Wikipedia:
The Tourists (1977 - 1980) were a moderately successful British pop band, but are better known for two of their members (Annie Lennox & David A. Stewart) who went on to achieve superstardom as Eurythmics.

This song, is of course from the young Dusty Springfield:
Her first single was "I Only Want to Be With You", which was a success in both Britain and the United States. This was followed by a series of classic and successful singles, including "Wishin' and Hopin'", "Anyone Who Had a Heart"', "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself", "Stay Awhile" and "All Cried Out". Springfield recorded a number of Bacharach-David compositions, including "The Look of Love" (from the 1967 movie Casino Royale, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song in 1967.) By 1964, Springfield was one of the biggest solo artists of her day. She created a controversy when she refused to play in front of a segregated crowd in South Africa. She was often a featured artist on the British music show Ready Steady Go!, produced by Vicki Wickham, who would later become her manager.

Here's Dusty:

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's only words: Cut out the "Cut and run".

Words can be pesky little things. They can express love, hate, and anything in-between. A single word can cause, in certain circumstances, death, or worse. And words can tell a story, not just in the presence of a narrative, but by their very use.

From Kevin Drum, I found this piece by Spencer Ackerman at TNR:
I spent the last week in Dearborn, Michigan, home of the largest and oldest Muslim community in the United States, and I have a news flash: President Bush's recent formulation of the enemy in the war on terrorism as "Islamic Fascism," or, as it's more often known, "Islamofascism," is extremely offensive here.

"Islamofascism" merely strokes an erogenous zone of the right wing, which gains pleasure from a juvenile reductio ad Hitlerum with the enemies of the U.S.

And Kevin has some advice for GWBush:
. . . you should probably avoid any phrase that's used primarily in the fever swamps of the hawkish blogosphere. Following their lead will merely dig you into an even deeper hole than you've already dug all by yourself.

I'd like to add to this, and ban another word, well, phrase: Cut and run.

As Wikipedia says:
Cut and Run is also a phrase used by politicians to describe a total withdrawl from a war. The phrase is mainly used by politicians who support a certain war. Cut and Run has most notably been used to refer the total withdrawl of American soldiers from Iraq.

No kidding. No one serious about a non-partisan solution to the crisis that is Iraq will use that phrase. It is not an accurate description of any position by any responsible Progressive or Democrat.

Rather it is a pejorative, designed to create an emotional response, to accuse someone who never expressed the idea (Straw Man, table for one?) of being a craven coward, disloyal. It is the modern political equal of "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" It is used by thugs, or right-wing partisan pundits, or the simply ignorant. It is the phrase of Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, Bay Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, and GWBush.

When confronted with the phrase, you may correct the speaker if you have the time, ignore it as if not heard, or simply shake your head and say "There you go again." But to respond to it as if it was a legitimate idea is enabling the opposition, and a victory for malicious framing.

Just say no to "Cut and run".

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Runnin' with the devil

Rick Moran at RightWingNuthouse (nope, still no irony) has finally seen the...well, not the light, but he's at least able to distinguish dark and light and see shapes in Iraq:
. . . to join a growing chorus of conservatives who are becoming very critical of our involvement and try and break through the spin and myopia of the Administration which is making the situation worse by pretending that things are getting better or are not as bad as we think they are.

Sounds positive, productive, right? Guess again. First off, he's only looking through one eye, the right one:
Lest one think that these books are the products of left wing loons or authors suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome, the one common thread running through both volumes is the massive amount of research and unprecedented access to documents that went into writing them. To deny the reality of all that these authors have uncovered is too much of a stretch, even for a Bush partisan like myself.

So only fellow Authoritarian cultists are to be taken seriously, no one on the left need apply. Never mind that the left has been saying that Iraq was a disaster since, oh I don't know, before we attacked? And the left doesn't do research and scholarship? Dude, meet Juan Cole.

We on the left have been accused of having a circular firing squad, and sometimes that has been true. But one thing we're not is Authoritarian. We roundly condemned Clinton for Lewinsky, NAFTA, and several other issues. But the Right simply cannot criticize Fearless Leader, he of the steely gaze and 8th grade grasp of world affairs. And I don't mean affairs with cabinet members, no sirree.

But the serious unseriousness of Moran goes deeper:

Yes we need more troops – a lot more at least temporarily. Order must be brought to Baghdad and its environs and to do that we would need, according to General Trainor, is perhaps as many as 50,000 more Americans to both police the area and ferret out insurgents and the death squads.

For that to happen, the President would have to admit he and Donald Rumsfeld have been wrong all along and that in order to achieve stability, the additional troops must be sent.

. . .

Yes I can understand why he has not admitted past mistakes and errors. The political climate wouldn’t give him “credit” for doing so. The situation in Iraq has gone far beyond the politics of the moment and now engages the future security of the United States. If he can’t be a man and take the inevitable finger pointing and name calling, then all hope is lost and we should start bringing the troops home now.

Jeebus Christ on a stick! If GWBush were to go on national TeeVee and say something like: "My fellow Americans, I now realize that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and I will do everything in my power to bring our troops home safely," he would be cheered in the streets! He would probably win a third term. But he can't do that, because Iraq isn't a serious place for him, but a concept. As Rick continues, he makes the point, unwittingly:
In war, rhetoric must match reality or you lose credibility. By constantly reminding us that Iraq is at the forefront of our anti-terror strategy – and then not doing the things necessary to win through to victory – the President takes the risk that our deterrent will lose its edge. And this is no more true than in the actions of Iran and Syria.

Conflating Iraq with Iran & Syria, surely this will win points with the Neocons and 101st Fighting Keyboarders, but not with anyone connected with reality.

As his commentor Blogenfreude points out:
But guys – Wolfowitz said the oil would pay for the war! Perle – he said we’d be greeted with rose petals! Bush says we’re winning, that Iraq is a real democracy! Cheney said it’s dead enders … last throes and all that! Don’t let me down like this … how are we going to get on with nation-buildin’ and democracy-deliverin’ if you keep up with negative posts like this???

Anyone interested in a truly navel-gazing, almost serious self-dialog about Iraq should follow the link to Rick's place, And then read the comments.

But one thing completely missing from his hand wringing is this: Who is to blame? Who is at fault? Who is the Commander-In-Chief?
But if we are not willing to do what is necessary to win, then the only sane, moral course of action is to bring the troops home as fast as humanly possible. Such a humiliation should not result in a single additional death or injury to the men and women who have performed so bravely and selflessly in the face of blunder after blunder by their superiors.
And regarding dialog with the warring parties, including Iran, he says:
Clearly some kind of diplomatic demarche is in order. Whether it involves sitting down in formal talks and making clear that our apathy toward their support for terrorists is at an end or we actually threaten force against assets that are supporting the insurgents, peace will not come to Iraq until those two nations stop their meddling.

It would be less painfully funny if we were actually engaged in talks with Iran, But no, we can't talk to them. Why, I dunno. Ask He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named.

Oh, and this is priceless:
By constantly reminding us that Iraq is at the forefront of our anti-terror strategy – and then not doing the things necessary to win through to victory – the President takes the risk that our deterrent will lose its edge.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Elvis Presley: for I can't help falling in love with you

Sad day in America music: Elvis Aaron Presley: Jan. 8, 1935 - Aug. 16, 1977.

Does it matter anymore? Hell yes! He introduced mainstream America to the music of Big Mama Thornton, Little Richard, and blues:

Forget the cape and jump suits, the awful movies, ridiculously up-tempo covers and chestnuts, that was debris of a career squandered by, well, I'm not sure what. Ennui, laziness, bad management decisions, drugs, all surely played a part.

When Elvis mattered was in the beginning, long before most readers were born. In '50's America, pop music was, among others, Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page, Perry Como, and what at the time were already slightly past their sell-by date talent such as Sinatra & Crosby. Country was pretty mannered and predictable, with a few exceptions, notably in the bluegrass & hillbilly genres trying to do something original As it was, the "country swing" of the time was probably the most revolutionary thing going, with Spade Cooley here in L.A. and Bob Wills from Texas pushing the envelope, with distorted guitars, and bluesy vocals.

R & B of the time got little radio play except for the "Race Stations," but there was some great stuff. T-Bone Walker and others were bridging the gap between Cab Callaway & Louis Jordan and the up and coming blues performers like B.B. King and others.

But white kids in America were largely oblivious to that. Until Elvis. From Wikipedia:
During a rehearsal break on July 5, 1954, Presley began singing a blues song written by Arthur Crudup called "That's All Right". Phillips liked the resulting record and on July 19, 1954 he released it as a 78-rpm single backed with Presley's hopped-up version of Bill Monroe's bluegrass song "Blue Moon of Kentucky". Memphis radio station WHBQ began playing it two days later, the record became a local hit and Presley began a regular touring schedule hoping to expand his fame beyond Tennessee. However, Sam Phillips had difficulty persuading Southern white disk jockeys to play Presley's first recordings. The only place that played his records at first were in the Negro sections of Chicago and Detroit and in California. In the South the hillbilly disk jockeys refused to play him because they said he was singing "darky" music. However, his music and style began to draw larger and larger audiences as he toured the South in 1955. Soon, demand by white teenagers that their local radio stations play his music overcame much of that resistance and as Rolling Stone magazine wrote years later in Presley's biography: "Overnight, it seemed, "race music," as the music industry had labeled the work of black artists, became a thing of the past, as did the pejorative "hillbilly" music.

In other words, white kids had never heard a white guy sing with such raw feeling, such abandon. And they loved it! And that's why we never forget Elvis.

Sharon: I think I'm gonna die

Ariel Sharon, the old warhorse who seemed to have gone through a conversion in recent times, is getting worse:
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma for more than seven months, suffered a further deterioration in his health Monday, according to the hospital where he is being treated.

A new scan showed a deterioration in his brain function, his urine output has decreased significantly and a chest scan showed that he has a new infection in his lungs, according to Anat Dolev, spokeswoman for the Chaim Sheba Medical Center.

. . .

Sharon's stroke came after he saw through his contentious plan to withdraw Israel from the Gaza Strip after 38 years. Just two months before the stroke, Sharon shook up the Israeli political map by bolting his hard-line Likud Party to form the centrist Kadima faction.

After the stroke, Sharon's successor, Ehud Olmert, led Kadima to victory in a March 28 vote and became prime minister.

We'll never know what might have happened, had he not taken ill. He seemed to be trending toward what in my opinion was a more constructive engagement with the Palestinians. The last time an Israeli leader veered toward a less militant and more conciliatory position resulted in '95 in the assassination of Ytzhak Rabin, and the ascendence of the hard right in Israel, under the leadership of Bibi Netanyahu.

And based on recent events in Lebanon, it seems Olmert, either on his own or under pressure from other members of his coalition government, feels a need to move back to the right.

We'll see...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

cause summers here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy

It occurs to me that many people lack historical perspective on just what a contrived mess is the Middle East. Here's a little background on a few of the major players today:


Lebanon was the homeland of the Phoenicians, a seagoing people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Alexander the Great. Carthage, which threatened Rome, was a Phoenician colony. Alexander burned Tyre, the leading Phoenician city, ending the Phoenician independence. The country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, and Ottoman.

Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, but following World War I, the area became a part of the Syrian Mandate of France. On September 1, 1920, France formed the State of Greater Lebannon as one of several ethnic enclaves within Syria. Lebanon was a largely Christian (mainly Maronite) enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims and Druzes. On September 1, 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. The Republic was afterward a separate entity from Syria but still administered under the French Mandate for Syria.

Lebanon and Syria both gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany. General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of both nations. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebannon.

After the fighting ended in Lebannon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebannon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebannon. On November 26, 1941, General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on November 8, 1943 the new Lebanese government unlaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on November 22, 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon.

The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War Two. The last French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon's unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be a Christian and its prime minister be a Muslim. Lebanon's history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade.

There's more.


The first wave of modern immigration to Israel, or Aliyah (עלייה) started in 1881 as Jews fled persecution, or followed the Socialist Zionist ideas of Moses Hess and others of "redemption of the soil." Jews bought land from Ottoman and individual Arab landholders. After Jews established agricultural settlements, tensions erupted between the Jews and Arabs.

Theodor Herzl (1860–1904), an Austrian Jew, founded the Zionist movement. In 1896, he published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), in which he called for the establishment of a national Jewish state. The following year he helped convene the first World Zionist Congress.

The establishment of Zionism led to the Second Aliyah (1904–1914) with the influx of around 40,000 Jews. In 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration that "view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." In 1920, Palestine became a League of Nations mandate administered by Britain.

Jewish immigration resumed in third (1919–1923) and fourth (1924–1929) waves after World War I. A massacre of Jews by Arabs in 1929 killed 133 Jews, including 67 in Hebron.

The rise of Nazism in 1933 led to a fifth wave of Aliyah. The Jews in the region increased from 11% of the population in 1922 to 30% by 1940[citation needed]. 28% of the land was already bought and owned by Zionist organizations plus additional private land owned by Jews. The southern half of the country is the barren and mostly empty Negev desert. The subsequent Holocaust in Europe led to additional immigration from other parts of Europe. By the end of World War II, the number of Jews in Palestine was approximately 600,000.

. . .

In 1947, following increasing levels of violence together with unsuccessful efforts to reconcile the Jewish and Arab populations, the British government decided to withdraw from the Palestine Mandate. The UN General Assembly approved the 1947 UN Partition Plan dividing the territory into two states, with the Jewish area consisting of roughly 55% of the land, and the Arab area roughly 45%. Jerusalem was planned to be an international region administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status.

Immediately following the adoption of the Partition Plan by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947, David Ben-Gurion tentatively accepted the partition, while the Arab League rejected it. Scattered attacks on civilians of both sides soon turned into widespread fighting between Arabs and Jews, this civil war being the first "phase" of the 1948 War of Independence.

The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, one day before the expiry of the Palestine Mandate.

Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949.


Ottoman control ended when the forces of the Arab revolt entered Damascus in 1918 towards the end of the First World War. An independent Arab Kingdom of Syria was established under King Faisal of the Hashemite family, who later became King of Iraq. However, his rule over Syria ended in July 1920 when French forces entered Syria to impose their League of Nations mandate. Following the Battle of Maysalun of 23 July between the Syrian army under Yusuf al-Azmeh and the French, the French army entered Damascus and Faisal was exiled. The period of the Mandate was marked by increasing nationalist sentiment and a number of brutally repressed revolts, but also by infrastructural modernisation and economic development.

With the fall of France in 1940, Syria came under the control of the Vichy Government until the United Kingdom and Free French occupied the country in July 1941. Continuing pressure from Syrian nationalist groups forced the French to evacuate their troops in April 1946, leaving the country in the hands of a republican government that had been formed during the mandate.

Syria first negotiated a treaty of independence with France in September of 1936. Mohammad Al-abid was the first president to be elected under a post-French minded constitution, effectively the first incarnation of the modern republic of Syria. However, France reneged on the treaty and refused to ratify it, and continued its presence in Syria until 1946. Shukri al-Quwatli [1] was elected President when Syria was granted independence from Vichy France jointly with Lebanon in 1943. Although rapid economic development followed the second declaration of independence of April 17, 1946, Syrian politics from independence through the late 1960s were marked by upheaval.

The Syrian army played a limited role in the war.[2] Historians believe that the Arab armies planned and intended “to destroy the infant Jewish State, through occupation of its entire area by force” and allowing thousands of displaced Palestinian refugees a safe return to their homes.

Prominent Arab leaders at the time however had far less goals. From British and American documents of the time, it is clear that King Abdullah I of Jordan and King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia had already made it clear to the British government that sending symbolic ineffective troops is the least of evils to quiet their enraged masses while not disturbing the imperial plans for the region. One notable exception would be King Farouk of Egypt. While working under pressure from public reactions, he too had an internal agenda to appeal more to his people. The young governments of Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq had genuine interest in restoring Arab rights but largely lacked the means to do so.

The small number of troops that Syria deployed at the Palestinian border speaks for its limited goals. In May 1948, just before Syria sent its troops into Palestine, British intelligence estimated that Syria had no more than 4,500 men available to fight in Israel. Glubb Pasha estimated the number of Syrian troops available for duty in Palestine did not exceed 3,000; the CIA in late June counted a “total of 2,500 effective men” stationed near the Syrian border, 1000 deployed in Palestine and 1,500 near it on the Syrian side. Quwatli pursued a cautious policy in Palestine.

I could go on, but it should be obvious that there is a thread of commonality here. Put simply, this is one of the oldest continually settled regions on the Earth, yet it has been contested, fought over, imperialized, colonized, and it's soul has been psychedelicized. Um, sorry.

But seriously, we have British & French dominion, with a health dose of US interference. We have the aforementioned Syrian, Palestinian, and League of Nations Mandate. In other words, the entire Western world has been screwing with this portion of the globe for generations.

Don't believe me? Check out Saudi Arabia, see exactly how long that peninsula has been an actual country. Same for Iraq. Seems to me to be a little naive and perhaps crazy to keep poking the beehive, and still be surprised that the little guys keep stinging anyone in their way.

Anybody ever see The Burning Bed?

Oh, no, no, you'll never break this heart of stone darlin

From my friend Sailor over at Vidiotspeak, we find this movie review by Richard Roeper:
It takes a heart of Stone to relive 9/11

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities. ... I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

Hatemonger Ann Coulter's assessment of some of the widows of 9/11 victims.

It would be my great pleasure to arrange for a screening of Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" for Ann Coulter and some of the families whose loved ones were killed or seriously injured on 9/11. It could take place in New York, New Jersey, any place, any time, all expenses on me. All I ask is, after the screening is over and the lights go up, that Coulter should stand and face these families and explain to them why she believes they experienced anything but the most profound emotional pain on that day and on all the days that have followed.

Of course, Coulter will never go for something like that. That would take character and humanity, and she's an unconscionable pig.

However, a number of conservatives whose hearts aren't rotted black have seen advance screenings of "World Trade Center," and from conservative watchdog Brent Bozell to longtime right-wing columnist Cal Thomas, they are singing its praises. Oliver Stone has created one of the most patriotic, pro-American films in recent years -- a movie that avoids Bush bashing and doesn't offer so much of a whisper of a conspiracy theory. It's not about politics -- it's about family, friendship and heroes who love their country.

Nothing more need be said.

Thanks for finding this, Sailor.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Republicans on security: You got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend

Anyone ever watch "Law & Order"? Or any other cop show or movie from the dawn of TV or film? One thing they all have in common is that after the murder, about 30 cops stand around, talking on phones, radios, to each other, securing the scene. It's reaction, not proaction. It's closing the barn doors after the horses got out.

It's political theatre, it's a charade. It's supposed to make us feel secure after tragedy, like Big Brother is watching over us. Except if someone were really doing what they claimed they were, the tragedy might have never occurred.

Today we have this, from Yahoo/AP:
The Bush administration posted an unprecedented code-red alert for passenger flights from Britain to the United States and banned liquids from all carry-on bags Thursday, clamping down quickly after British authorities disrupted a frightening terror plot.

The heightened restrictions triggered long lines at airports across the country, and governors in at least three states ordered National Guard troops to help provide security.

I'll bet many of the troops will be standing around, talking on phones, radios, to each other.

How dumb do they think we are? If the present mis-administration had done exactly one thing to prevent such terrorist acts, it wouldn't seem so pathetically late. If we were at risk, as we are constantly told, why wasn't security already higher?

Remember the 9/11 Commission?
In the nearly three years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the families of those who died have become a formidable political force. Fueled by their grief, they forced the 9/11 commission into existence, using the moral authority granted them by their loss to force a reluctant government to submit to close examination.

So how's that working out today?
Referring to $8 billion in USA Patriot Act funds spent by the federal government since 2001 "to help local police departments, firefighters and emergency medical technicians pay for equipment and training to prepare for terrorist attacks," Thomas Kean, a Republican and Chair of the 9/11 Commission, wrote in the New York Times....

"Billions have been distributed with virtually no risk assessment, and little planning. Nor has the federal government set preparedness standards to help state and local governments use the money wisely.

How about ports?

Moments ago, the House of Representatives narrowly defeated an amendment proposed by Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN) that would have provided $1.25 billion in desperately needed funding for port security and disaster preparedness. The Sabo amendment included:

– $300 million to enable U.S. customs agents to inspect high-risk containers at all 140 overseas ports that ship directly to the United States. Current funding only allows U.S. customs agents to operate at 43 of these ports.

– $400 million to place radiation monitors at all U.S. ports of entry. Currently, less than half of U.S. ports have radiation monitors.

– $300 million to provide backup emergency communications equipment for the Gulf Coast.

Oh. Well. How about borders then?

Congressional investigators report that they were able to enter the United States earlier this year, using fake identification papers. The report says there's been no improvement in border security since the last time tests were conducted three years ago.


Well, a bunch of cops, or National Guard Troops, standing around, talking on phones, radios, to each other, securing the scene, certainly make me feel good. I just wonder how many of them are actually out looking for the horses.

Also posted in slightly tidier form at HuffPo.

Do you want to know a secret, do you promise not to tell

Remember back when Malkin, Horowitz, et al, were sooooo outraged that the NYTimes would publish photos of Rumsfeld's & Cheney's vacation homes, even though both parties had agreed to do the puff pieces? In an email exchange I had with Horowitz, about which I posted here, he admitted that they went after the NYTimes because of its long history of supporting...whatever. He's clearly an idiot.

It was like Julius & Ethel Rosenberg all over again, delicious for the paranoids who see Communists and conspirators around every corner.

Well, it happened again. I'm sure that Malkin, & Horowitz will be shocked, shocked! that gambling, er, I mean, television is going on here:
Now it's, also important that we talk about Lebanon as well. We haven't seen the Lebanese military engage. They primarily are a security force. They have about 61,000 troops that are under arms at any one time. And just less than 70 aircraft. But Anderson, these aircraft have probably been reduced in numbers based on Israel strikes over the course of the last three weeks.

And then certainly we have been spending a lot of time talking about Hezbollah. About 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers, they have been unmasked. They've been weakened. They've been atritted. As well as their rocket systems. And without about 100 a day for the last three weeks, you can see the reduction from 15,000 probably down closer to the 10,000 range in terms of their rocket system. Those are all of their rocket systems that we've seen. And some we haven't seen yet.

Now, what's really important, Anderson, it's important to realize that these are very truncated spaces. Very, very small. If you go from the edge of the Golan Heights that Israel has occupied a lot of defensive positions, to the Mediterranean, it's just 40 miles. But from the border of Lebanon, down to the Gaza, that's 140 miles. That's where Israel could fight a multiple-front war. They have interior lines, but they've got to rely on their maneuver in order to do it. This is a very tricky fight were they to do that.

Wow. As General (Retired) James "Spider" Marks continues on CNN: (WTF is up with a nickname like Spider?)
Anderson, it does not. And we've discussed this over time. Especially within about the last week and a half, that Israel is beginning to realize that it cannot achieve its objectives against Hezbollah through the air and by artillery and their own missile strikes. They can't do that. As precise as they want to be, they can't achieve the reduction of the Hezbollah forces as much as they would like to. They have to get across the border with ground soldiers in direct combat in order to get Hezbollah reduced and to get them out of their hindsights. They've got to deny them that sanctuary which they currently enjoy.

Traitor! Giving away our military secrets! Actually, tonight was even better, but the transcript isn't up yet. Of course, CNN is part of that famous Liberal Media, that is so hating on Lieberman today: "But enough about you, Joe. Let's let someone else talk about you!"

Not sure who the bigger idiot is, CNN, or the winger wankers.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Oh but I didn't see, that the joke was on me

In an amazing turn of events, Rick Moran, of RightWingNutHouse (still no irony there) shows off his shiny new Hubris:
You may find this very hard to believe but despite the fact that I’m probably one of the two or three smartest people I’ve ever met, my grades while I was in school left much to be desired.

I like to think it was because my teachers were a bunch of philistines whose dreary recitations of facts and fallacies bored me to tears.

The truth is a little more prosaic. I daydreamed in class constantly.

Wow. Cool. Rick, dude, I have NEVER ever in my life bragged about this before, but I was tested and accepted into MENSA when I was 16. So I got your two or three smartest people right here.

Alas, he goes on:

Let’s imagine it is early tomorrow morning in Connecticut. We are watching CNN as a breathless Anderson Cooper is talking about the victor in the Democratic primary for Senator. We are told that he will make an appearance in the hotel ballroom shortly. Scenes from the ballroom flash across the screen of overjoyed people, dancing and singing.

Just then, the winner appears on stage to the roar of his supporters. The happy, smiling candidate raises his hand for quiet but the crowd simply won’t settle down. They worked hard for this victory. Finally, the room begins to settle. But as it does, a strange barely discernible noise can be heard in the background. Straining, we try and pick it up but it is almost too indistinct to be understood. Suddenly, it dawns on us. It almost sounds like…like…one hundred thousand people screaming in agony and rage at the top of their voices.

That’s right. The candidate making the victory speech is Joe Lieberman. And the howls of pain and anguish are coming from the legions of netnuts whose smug, self righteous crusade to take down Lieberman failed in the end as a direct result of their own hubris.

Kos is so bereft he announces that he’s getting out of politics and going back into the telemarketing business. Hamsher writes a goodbye note to her blog readers, goes back to Hollywood and makes millions doing acne cream infomercials. Oliver Willis is so overcome with grief that he rejoins the circus.

Digby outs himself and joins a convent. TBogg dissolves into a toxic sludge of excrement and bile. John Aravosis refuses to acknowledge Little Neddy’s defeat and spends the next 5 years proving that Diebold employees hacked into the voting machines and gave the victory to Lieberman (he’s eventually proved right).

But what about me? I blog too, I want some winger love...not really.

All I have to say is that when the spasm in your right hand stops, Rick, all you're left with is a stain on your jeans. Oh, and a Democrat in CT. A real centrist Democrat, who thinks that killing American folks in Iraq is not really helping your little GWOT.


Monday, August 07, 2006

In re: Terri Schiavo, Joe Lieberman, you were in the wrong place

As it comes down to the wire in CT, Joe Lieberman and his mouthpiece Lanny Davis are chanting "90%" as in, Lieberman voted with the Democratic Leadership 90% of the time, so why isn't that good enough?

Because that 10% you didn't get right, Joe, included some heavy issues.

On July 15, 2006, David Lightman of the Hartford Courant said this:
He broke with the region's Democratic senators on a key energy vote last year. He has embraced a position on Iraq that few Democrats share. He has questioned bedrock Democrat-backed programs such as affirmative action and Social Security. He voted against a filibuster that could have blocked the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

And just this week the senator launched his own political party so he can still run in November even if Democratic voters rebuff him in the Aug. 8 primary.

But here's the issue that starts and stops the discussion for me. This past Sunday Michael Schiavo said this:
Not only did Joe Lieberman support the illegal political intervention in the private and legally protected decisions of my family, he went out of his way to defend it. On national television.

So when I thought about going to Connecticut to remind voters what Joe Lieberman really thinks about family values and personal privacy, I didn't have to think too long.

This really resonates with, and here's why. 4 years ago last March, my family was gathered around my youngest sister's bedside. We were there to watch her die.

Not blogging yet, I didn't write about it. But during the Schaivo ordeal I did blog about it, and Eric Alterman was kind enough to give me a link. Here's what I wrote at the time:
I watched my sister die.

My immediate family and I watched as she breathed her last breath, her heart beat its last beat, and her soul flew confidently toward the universe.

She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. What a mild phrase that has such impact: "You're going to die, your insides are going to be eaten alive, sorry."

She suffered a further medical insult, and had emergency surgery. I remember the surgeon saying "Well, I tried to fix the problem, but she was so full of cancer..."

She actually seemed to improve after surgery, she seemed a little fiesty and engaged. But she took a turn for the worse.

Her consciousness faded, and her breathing needed help, so she was intubated. Her temperature soared to 110 degrees. All attempts to ease her suffering seemed futile.

After 2 days, when we accepted that she was dying, we (my other sister and I) discussed and decided that we would end further treatment, with one exception: we would keep the breathing tube in. It was our feeling that if there was any chance she was still in there, we didn't want her to feel like she was suffocating.

The hospital followed our wishes, and called the Doctor, who ordered treatment stopped.

But minutes later, in a virtual coma, she died. My brother, my other sister & her husband, my mother, and my wife were all there to kiss her and tell her we loved her as she began the next journey.

So I feel I have some perspective on the Terri Schiavo situation. And here's my opinion:

No politician who has ever voted for the '99 Texas Advance Directives Act has any right to be involved,

No politician who has violated the ethics of his previous profession has any right to be involved,

And no politician who has:

mocked a condemned prisoner,

voted for phony Tort Reform legislation which would stop payment of insurance settlements to people like Terri Schiavo,

voted against DNA challenges in capital cases,

refused to examine death warrants in Texas,

talked about Terri Schiavo as being delivered to him for political gain,

voted against States Rights in blatant disregard of the Constitution,

has any right to be involved.

If they do try to get involved, then God damn them.

So long, and thanks for listening.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm the first mammal to wear pants, It's evolution, baby

Filed under "When will they ever learn" & "How stupid do they think we are" we have this from the Media Report:

Under the corrupt cloak of a "book review," this Sunday's Los Angeles Times (July 30, 2006) continues its underhanded and one-sided assault on the theory of intelligent design (ID). "The language of life," by Robert Lee Hotz*, is a review of three new works that attack intelligent design. The review was promoted on the top of the front page of the "Sunday preview" edition under the heading, "Less than 'intelligent design': Darwin's believers debunk the theory." And rather than providing its readers an honest critique, the Times' "review" is nothing less than a full-on Darwin propaganda piece. Hotz begins his article as follows (emphasis/link mine),

In the border war between science and faith, the doctrine of "intelligent design" is a sly subterfuge - a marzipan confection of an idea presented in the shape of something more substantial.

As many now understand - and as a federal court ruled in December - intelligent design is the bait on the barbed hook of creationist belief ...

. . .

As NewsBusters has already reported this year (link), the Los Angeles Times has never published a single article from a leading spokesperson of intelligent design theory.** (Leading spokespeople would include names such as Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Michael Behe, Jonathan Wells, Guillermo Gonzalez, Jay Wesley Richards, and acclaimed writer Lee Strobel.) Yet the Times has now published its tenth piece in the last 14 months attacking ID! (I'm using this count).

I'm shocked, shocked...! Of course, the LATimes has never published a single article about Leprechauns and their famous pots of gold, or Unicorns, or metal bands that make sense, either. Damn that Darwin for proposing a theory (look up the scientific definition, please) that stands up under the scientific method.

Such a disservice to their readers! I guess the reportage sould be something like this:
Some say Sun revolves around Earth, others disagree.

Fair and balanced, you decide.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Arthur Lee: There's just no getting over you

From the BBC:

Arthur Lee, singer and guitarist of the influential 1960s band Love, has died in Memphis at the age of 61 following a battle with acute myeloid leukaemia.

A Memphis native who called himself the "first so-called black hippie", Lee formed Love in Los Angeles in 1965.

As a former musician who wandered the Sunset Strip in the mid-to-late '60s, I got chance to hear many of the great bands of the day in Los Angeles. And there were two bands that scared other musicians. Not just because of virtuosity, or power, or looks. Rather, because in those heady times when everything was new, these two bands were doing something completely different. They were sailing in waters almost uncomprehensible to many of us. They were making music that was on the raw cutting edge of new. They were The Doors, and Love.

Both were fronted by charismatic vocalists, but there the comparison stops. The Doors relied less on instrumental strengths (Light My Fire notwithstanding) and more on the poetry and dark imagery of Jim Morrison. While Love also depended largely on the strengths of Arthur Lee, they were musically the more adventurous.

"7 & 7 Is" is an archetype of the kind of garage band energy that dotted the L.A. landscape in those years, and in a way predicted the kind of energy that would come almost a decade later in the proto-punk music of the mid-'70s. "Alone Again Or" took the folk music themes of many '60s bands, and added tons of energy along with a Spanish chord progression and horns! And "Little Red Book" took upcoming schmaltz-meister Burt Bacharach's most unusual song, and gave it a most unusual setting. And their version of the oft covered "Hey Joe" may be the best (sorry Jimi!)

The band I was in at the time covered one of their more obscure songs, "Signed, D.C.".

More from the Beeb:
Although the original members of Love were only together for two years, they typified West Coast progressive rock.

The excess and bravura of the period is reflected on Da Capo, one side of which was taken up with a single song.

The album, like its predecessor, was not a commercial success. But Forever Changes, the band's next album, did reach the Top 30 in the UK.

Considered by many as Lee's bold response to the Beatles' Sgt Pepper album, it remains one of the most enduring records of the period and has been named the 40th greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.

After that highpoint the band lost momentum and went through many changes of line-up. Lee also recorded as a solo artist, with little success.

My friend Wintermute has put together a great piece, with links to many video clips, and also says this:

'Twas 1968, after two albums of garage-ish rock and hippie experimentation and with generous help from his record company, Arthur Lee made a classic album, Forever Changes, that still makes the all-time best lists.

Arthur came home to the place of his birth, the great music town of Memphis, Tennessee, for his final months and passed away recently despite the best treatments our world-class medical center provided him.

Wintermute did such a great job with video, I'm not going to bother. Go see his piece.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

And all you do is lie to me, 'cause you're a liar, liar, liar

Eric Alterman is one of my favorite progressive pundits. He has kindly posted some of my writings and given me links, and he wrote a book, wherein he discussed this (from a BuzzFlash interview:
BuzzFlash: In researching your book, what jumped out at you as the most appalling example of Bush's failed administration?

Eric Alterman: Everybody asks me that. I'll tell you what jumps out at me: three days after 9/11, I took my 3-year-old kid down to Ground Zero because I was told by my government that it was safe to do so -- that the air quality was not dangerous to a 3-year-old child's lungs. And I found out a year later that they literally lied to us, but we didn't know that. The Bush administration said that they couldn't test the air quality in New York or at Ground Zero. But we know the White House made the EPA change their position from "we can and will test the air quality" to "we can't test the air quality at Ground Zero" because the White House was worried about a panic, and they wanted to get Wall Street back up and running.

He's rightfully pissed off, not only because of the lie on principle, but because he actually has, you know, family values. He cares for his daughter and values her health.

Well, now we find this out:
Dust and smoke from the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, caused the lungs of rescue workers to age by an average of 12 years and may put them at risk of developing chronic breathing problems, a study said.

Tests done on 11,766 New York City firefighters and paramedics who responded to the terrorist attacks indicated that many suffered a loss of lung function in the next year that was equivalent on average to about 12 years of age-related decline. Firefighters who arrived first had more frequent and severe bouts of wheezing and chest pain than those who came more than 48 hours later.

Bastards! And not only do they (you know who) lie to us, they refuse to help first responders:
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will consider legislation next week to reauthorize a public health program that provides funding to state and local governments for bioterrorism and public health preparedness. AFSCME has been working with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in an effort to include a provision in the bill requiring that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issue an emergency temporary standard to protect health care workers and first responders from pandemic flu. A standard would set out the steps that employers would be required to take to reduce the transmission of pandemic influenza to workers who will be treating and transporting flu victims. Despite the fact that health care workers and first responders will be at high risk of becoming infected, committee Republicans refused to include any language in the bill that would impose such requirements on employers. (Emphasis mine)

Because unless business benefits, no one does. It's the Republican vision of a free market.