Sunday, December 30, 2007
Joe Scarborough had a segment on his show on the campaign to enact reparations for the descendants of slaves. One of the guests, Ida Hakim, is the author of the absurdly titled book "Reparations: The Solution to America's Race Problem." The other guest Niger Innis, from the Congress of Racial Equality, seemed like a smart guy that I would like to hear more from.
The quote that Niger Innis pulled out from former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, that we should be careful about making "the black race a permanent badge of inferiority," is some powerful stuff. Innis went on to say some other good stuff about "god awful public schools" (something I've had experience with) and the stereotypical images in music and other entertainment of blacks as gangstas and "hoochie-mamas." These are problems that aren't really tackled by the political left, who seem to put gangsta rap and self-destructive black imagery into their toxic idea of cultural relativism (the notion, prevalent amongst anthropologists, that all cultures are of equal value), but that are regularly tackled by conservatives.
Giving free money to black people is never going to solve racial problems. Nurturing a generation of black people to believe in themselves enough to make their own money will.
According to the Iraqi government's interior ministry, large amounts of the Al Qaeda network in Iraq have been destroyed. 75% of it, apparently. I believe that their network has been crippled by better security forces as well as the surge, but there is a history of governments in that region spouted unsubstatiated nonsense, and if you read into the article it's clear that there is a little to back this 75% figure on:
BAGHDAD — Iraq's interior ministry spokesman said Saturday that 75 percent of Al Qaeda in Iraq's terrorist network had been destroyed this year, but the top American commander in the country said the terror group remained his chief concern.
Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf said the disruption of the terrorist network was due to improvements in the Iraqi security forces — which he said had made strides in weeding out commanders and officers with ties to militias or who were involved in criminal activities.
He also credited the rise of anti-Al Qaeda in Iraq groups, mostly made up of Sunni fighters the Shiite-dominated government has cautiously begun to embrace. Additionally, an increase in American troops since June has been credited with pushing many militants out of Baghdad.
Khalaf's assertion that three-fourths of al-Qaida in Iraq had been destroyed could not be independently verified and he did not elaborate on how the percentage was determined.
On the other hand, there is a figure that could be substantiated:
But violence in Iraq has dropped significantly since June — the U.S. military says it is down 60 percent nationwide — demonstrating success in fighting the terrorist network.
That seems like more reliable good news to me.
As a rapper, it seems that Mos Def has seen better days. On his last album True Magic, he sleepwalks through songs like the title track and "Undeniable," which featured rhymes that could have been written by any sophomoric rapper. However, Mos is far from a place where he should stop making music to devote all his time to acting. As he has illustrated in the last few years with gorgeous songs like "Kalifornia," "Lifetime" and the genius "Modern Marvels," Mos Def may be one of the most gifted singers in years. This talent hasn't been pushed to its full potential, and may never be as long as acting offers more financial security than music. (Far more people are going to see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Something the Lord Made than are going to listen to Black on Both Sides, and Mos more than likely knows this. I'd probably make the same decision in his shoes.)
If you've never heard his less than hip-hop songs (Well, more like not really hip-hop at all), take a listen. I guarantee you'll be satisfied.
Mos Def - Lifetime
Mos Def - Kalifornia
Mos Def - Umi Says
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
B/W of Meryl Yourish, here is an article by Fatima Bhutto, a neice of Benazir Bhutto who alleges that rampant corruption and assasinations were part of Bhutto's tenure as Prime Minister:
And I am suspicious of her talk of ensuring peace. My father was a member of Parliament and a vocal critic of his sister’s politics. He was killed outside our home in 1996 in a carefully planned police assassination while she was prime minister. There were 70 to 100 policemen at the scene, all the streetlights had been shut off and the roads were cordoned off. Six men were killed with my father. They were shot at point-blank range, suffered multiple bullet wounds and were left to bleed on the streets.
My father was Benazir’s younger brother. To this day, her role in his assassination has never been adequately answered, although the tribunal convened after his death under the leadership of three respected judges concluded that it could not have taken place without approval from a “much higher” political authority.
I will concede I know very little about the Pakistani situation, but I am led to believe that she and other moderates in Pakistan are infinitely better alternatives to the brutal rule of Islamic radicals. In my estimation, this kind of overanalyzing is pointless, when dirt can be dug up on any figure largely accepted as courageous in the face of overwhelming odds. Martin Luther King was a serial adulterer, Malcolm X was a former hoodlum, Gandhi had a tense relationship with his son, and so on and so on.
For a contrasting viewpoint from the one above, read Christopher Hitchens' article, "Daughter of Destiny," published today in Slate:
The sternest critic of Benazir Bhutto would not have been able to deny that she possessed an extraordinary degree of physical courage. When her father was lying in prison under sentence of death from Pakistan's military dictatorship in 1979, and other members of her family were trying to escape the country, she boldly flew back in. Her subsequent confrontation with the brutal Gen. Zia-ul-Haq cost her five years of her life, spent in prison. She seemed merely to disdain the experience, as she did the vicious little man who had inflicted it upon her.
Benazir saw one of her brothers, Shahnawaz, die in mysterious circumstances in the south of France in 1985, and the other, Mir Murtaza, shot down outside the family home in Karachi by uniformed police in 1996. It was at that famous address—70 Clifton Road—that I went to meet her in November 1988, on the last night of the election campaign, and I found out firsthand how brave she was. Taking the wheel of a jeep and scorning all bodyguards, she set off with me on a hair-raising tour of the Karachi slums. Every now and then, she would get out, climb on the roof of the jeep with a bullhorn, and harangue the mob that pressed in close enough to turn the vehicle over. On the following day, her Pakistan Peoples Party won in a landslide, making her, at the age of 35, the first woman to be elected the leader of a Muslim country.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Scatbug put me on to Oscar Peterson just recently and it was a pleasant discovery. Before then, Peterson had just been a jazz name that I'd heard but never really looked into. Unfortunately, just as I was learning about him, he has passed:
TORONTO (AP) — Oscar Peterson, whose early talent and speedy fingers made him one of the world's best known jazz pianists, died at age 82.
His death was confirmed by Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, the Toronto suburb where Peterson lived. McCallion told The Associated Press that he died of kidney failure but that she did not know when. The hospital and police refused to comment.
"He's been going downhill in the last few months, slowing up," McCallion said, calling Peterson a "very close friend."
During an illustrious career spanning seven decades, Peterson played with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. He is also remembered for touring in a trio with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar in the 1950s.
Peterson's impressive collection of awards include all of Canada's highest honors, such as the Order of Canada, as well as a Lifetime Grammy (1997) and a spot in the International Jazz Hall of Fame.
While the men and women may no longer be with us, the music will stay forever. Peterson has a lengthy back catalog of music. Check it out.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Tom Hanks is starring in a film called Charlie Wilson's War, about the Texan senator who led the push to aide Afghans fighting against Soviet occupiers. Oddly enough I found an article in the Seattle Times about the film only a minutes after thinking and talking about the Afghan folk hero Ahmed Shah Massoud, who fought against the Soviets and was killed by the Taliban two days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The article is a pretty good one and really created an appetite for this movie. Hopefully it will also shut up claims by alot of folks on the Left that the US was "allied" with bin Laden, a claim that has no credence, and also get people thinking about the Afghan-Soviet war.
Friday, December 21, 2007
If you ask me, it looks worth watching, especially after this clip:
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Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Slate has a pretty healthy article the best jazz albums of 2007, all good picks. I did feel like they left out three good albums, so I'll list those:
Robert Glasper - In My Element (Blue Note). This album struck me by surprise in its simplistic brilliance. Glasper, a jazz pianist, is assisted by only a bassist and a drum player throughout the album, which helps to highlight Glasper's unique talent. Released shortly after the death of hip-hop producer J Dilla (who passed due to a rare blood disease called TTP), Glasper and his group shine on the track "J Dillalude," where the trio adopts many of Dilla's songs into a jazz style, possibly creating a new hybrid-genre in the process. While far from a classic, Glasper does show that he is a pianist worth keeping an eye on.
Wynton Marsalis - From the Plantation to the Penitentiary (Wynton Marsalis Enterprises, Inc.). I have no idea why this album didn't make it onto Slate's list. Perhaps some of the politics of the album offended Fred Kaplan? The album is certainly packed with political provocation, as Marsalis, through his own spoken word and with the vocal aides of guest singer Jennifer Sanon, attacks gangsta rap as a "modern day minstrel show" and ridicules both liberal and conservative politicians. When many musicians turn their hand towards political messages, many of them come off seeming ignorant. Marsalis showed himself to be both intelligent and articulate, and From the Plantation to the Penitentiary brought a degree of sophistication to music that is not too common today.
Delta Saxophone Quartet - Dedicated to You But You Weren't Listening (MoonJune Records). Delta Saxophone Quartet is the official quartet of London's Kingston College, and the money that comes with being funded by an educational institution comes through strongly on this album. The quartet melds bebop-style saxophone stylings with sound effects and synthesizers in a style reminiscent of Pink Floyd. The first track, "Dedicated," brought out an atmosphere quality more common with electronic groups like Orbital than in jazz. The album unfortunately got a little too experimental for my tastes towards the middle.
Jazz releases are usually full of reissues and posthumous releases, and for not only a flood of new releases, but good ones, to come out is indeed a rare treat. 2007 was a year where we were lucky enough to witness this happen.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
LONDON - An artist is inviting Londoners to come face-to-face with the wretched labour of one of India's lowest castes - by filling an art gallery with 21 big blocks of human excrement.
The monoliths are the brainchild of Santiago Sierra, whose previous work includes pumping a former German synagogue full of poisonous car exhaust (visitors wore gas masks) and an attempt to write the word "Submission" in giant, flaming letters near the U.S.-Mexico border.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is drawing heat for suggesting her political opponents are fond of the war in Iraq.
“The grassroots are justifiably disappointed and I am too that we could not do something to end this war,” Pelosi said at a press conference today. “The assumption that I made that the Republicans would soon see the light and listen to their constituents was not an accurate one.”
She continued: “They like this war. They want this war to continue. We thought that they shared the view of so many people in our country that we need a new direction in Iraq. To affect that we need redeployment of our troops with a goal of a year to do that. But the Republicans have made it very clear that this is just not George Bush’s war, this is the war of the Republicans in Congress.”
No one wants to be sending troops into harms way. It's not fun. Those that support these efforts think it is necessary, they don't like death and destruction. To suggest that they do is some of the most disgusting and toxic demagoguery, which is unfortunately all too common from the Left.
Pelosi tried to back off from her comments:
Asked to clarify her use of the word “like,” Pelosi backed off her statement of moments before.
“When I say ‘like,’ I shouldn’t say they ‘like’ the war. They support the war, the course of action that the president is on and they are not questioning in terms of his implementation of the war, the execution of the war.”
Well, you said "they," as in the Republicans, "like" it "want this war to continue," Mrs. Pelosi. Those are your own words.
The ones that truly want war to continue are the jihadists who have been more upfront about their desire to annihilate us than any adversary in any war anywhere in recent memory. I would hope you would note this instead of attacking those that seek to keep their bizarre Islamist dystopia from coming about, Mrs. Pelosi, but I won't hold my breath.
According to the Wall Street Journal, there is a pretty good chance that New York City mayor may throw his hat in the ring of presidential candidates:
As Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls stumped in Iowa and New Hampshire Monday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in China talking about entrepreneurship. The setting was different, but the goal may have been the same.
Those close to Mr. Bloomberg said the 65-year-old billionaire is considering a White House bid, despite his repeated denials. Moreover, friends and advisers said, developments make a candidacy more conceivable.
Shifts atop the polls for both parties in early-voting states suggest uncertainty among some voters about the current crop of candidates, while an increasingly nasty campaign could badly bruise whomever comes out on top, Mr. Bloomberg's supporters said. Gridlock in Congress could open the door for Mr. Bloomberg's nonpartisan message. At the same time, national polls show voters worrying more about the economy and less about Iraq -- a trend that plays to Mr. Bloomberg's strengths.
By all accounts, Mr. Bloomberg remains a long-shot. He is an independent -- a longtime Democrat, he ran for mayor as a Republican and then left that party in June -- and no third-party candidate has ever won the presidency. He often jokes about the electoral chances of a 5-foot-7-inch Jewish divorcé. His record of raising taxes, banning smoking in bars and clamping down on guns could hurt him among libertarian Republicans and independents who are among his likely supporters.
Much of his politics seem very similiar to that of his mayoral predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, who is also in the race. Would Bloomberg not run as an independent if Rudy gets the GOP nomination?
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
This clip is a classic example of a middle aged man discovering the sexual innuendo being used by a younger generation. I'm sure there was equally "gross" slang used by teenage and twenty something baby-boomers decades ago.
I have to praise O'Reilly for consistence compelling content. He may be the only host who would focus on this topic not just once, but twice.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
NEW YORK (Media Week) - Fourth-ranked broadcaster NBC has quietly begun reimbursing advertisers an average of $500,000 each for failing to reach guaranteed ratings levels, the first time a network has taken such a step in years, media buyers said.
Networks usually offer make-goods -- free advertising slots -- in the event of such shortfalls. But NBC has none to give. In fact, no broadcast network has much ad inventory left between now and year's end -- except for, perhaps, a handful of units the week between Christmas and New Year's, and that doesn't do much for advertisers chasing holiday shoppers.
It doesn't appear that now is the best time to be working in the entertainment industry.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Polygamy advocate Mark Henkel asks a powerful question: “If it’s all right for Heather to have two mommies, then why can’t she have two mommies and one daddy?” His challenge provides perspective on current demands that government endorse same-sex marriage. Why should society support the novelty of gay relationships ahead of polygamy, which was practiced nearly everywhere for thousands of years and would probably appeal to far more people than homosexuality?
The right answer to polygamists should be government neutrality: if private relationships involve consenting adults, then it makes no more sense to prosecute a male who claims he has two wives than to go after a guy who boasts of two girlfriends. But that doesn’t mean government should license polygamous relationships, any more than it should sponsor homosexual coupling.
In both cases, those who choose unconventional alternatives to one-man/one-woman marriage—still the best situation for child-rearing—shouldn’t be punished, but they shouldn’t be promoted either.
That argument is logical, but I'd be weary of bringing it up with your liberal friends lest you get your head chewed off.
One of the main obstacles to such efforts is that employers and insurers are often reluctant to make long-term investments in employees. The average tenure of an American employee is just four years. The disincentives this creates for companies raises the question of whether state or local governments should follow Mayor Buonanno's lead. Indeed, this is a mayor who may have a great deal to teach us. His other social initiatives include a plan to supply the good people of Varallo with Viagra. "Ensuring the wellbeing of one's fellow citizens also means making sure they have the possibility of a serene sex life," the mayor has declared. Ahh, to be Italian.
This is exactly the type of stuff that causes us to have a ridiculously large government. It ishould be the perogative of the employers and health insurance companies to try out something like this. Having the government take it up would be a total waste of taxdollars on the part of Americans who aren't effected by obesity or don't see it as a problem.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
It's hard to maintain that respect as he goes about on his anti-faith temper tantrum started by the success of the sloppily written god is not Great, a book that argues that religion literally poisons everything but has almost no references in the back to scholarly sources backing up his arguments. After reading his latest tangent on how much he hates Hannukah, I'm left viewing Hitchens as little more than a real life version of the worst cartoon animation of Ebenezer Scrooge:
But at this time of year, any holy foolishness is permitted. And so we have a semiofficial celebration of Hanukkah, complete with menorah, to celebrate not the ignition of a light but the imposition of theocratic darkness.
Like that classic Dickens character, Hitchens may find himself alone and depressed at the end of his life as he alienates all the ideological allies he made with his self-righteousness. Bah, humbug, indeed.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Paul Greenberg, of the excellent publication Patriot Post (which I just now discovered) let loose on Bill Clinton's assertion that he has been against the Iraq war the entire time:
“Of course Bill Clinton was against the war in Iraq from the beginning. It’s proven unpopular. It would be different if the war had gone better, as it has in Afghanistan. Bill Clinton’s still for that one. There’s a phrase for someone who’ll stick with you through thick and then and in-between: A man to tie to. Bill Clinton’s the opposite. Not only does he disappear when the going gets tough, he was never with you from the first—at least to hear him tell it. With him, history is one of the plastic arts. There is no surer guide to William Jefferson Clinton’s view of the past than what is popular in the present. All of his statements supporting the war in Iraq now have become, in a Nixonian word, inoperative. Down the memory hole they go, as if they’d never been uttered... Bill Clinton tends to bet for and against any political proposition that involves taking a risk, then recall only the position that proved popular. That way, he can’t lose. Principle has nothing to do with it... But never fear, should the long light of history reveal that in the end this long, long struggle in Iraq has bolstered freedom and stability in that always-volatile part of the world, rest assured, Bill Clinton will have been for it all along.”
When you hear people cite the fact that Clinton had high approval ratings throughout his presidency, it's wise to consider the fact that he is a man who stands for everything and nothing simultaneously. He doesn't lead, he follows, as the focus group chosen positions he took throughout his presidency illustrate.
If you don't believe me, feel free to read up on the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, signed into law when Bill Clinton was the leader of the free world and George W. Bush was a Texas governor. A bite of it shows that non-interventionism was never on the Clinton agenda:
It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.
In the Simpsons Movie, which came out next year, there's a scene where Marge agrees to stay with Homer after he talks about how he'll change his ways. Their son, Bart, interjects by saying, "Mom, you just bought more crap from the world's greatest fertilizer salesman."
I think that the position of "world's greatest fertilizer salesman" is far better suited to describe Bill Clinton.
Governor Gregoire has declared a statewide state of emergency in response to the flooding brought on by the storm. While the storm is brutal, the chances of a northwestern Katrina probably aren't very high. Seattle is an area of hills and mountains, and residents are for the most part protected from the sort of battering that those in the Gulf Coast took in 2004. Other parts of Western Washington don't seem to have that blessing, and cities like Woodinville have taken a beating.
This is the middle of winter, and with that is shorter days and darker nights, which make it very frightening to leave the house during the evenings. The already depressing environment of Seattle becomes even drearier with a storm like this.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
I believe the video was made before it was revealed that there had been Democrat campaign activists asking questions, so Ham may have since taken back her praise.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
PRINCETON, NJ -- Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.
I would say there's definitely something to it. Some of the most negative experiences I've had have been in college classes where entire class periods were spent talking about nothing except how bad a country the United States is and how we are responsible for all of the world's ills. I can imagine that sort of mentality, which is very common on the Left, can only lead to depression. How can anyone go around living happily in a country when they hate everything about it?
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
While I was in California this last week, I went to a small record store of the kind that have been spiraling out of business the last few years. While there, I saw zines for sale for the first time in years. I figured that the art of zine-making had become history after the explosion of information brought on by the internet, but it seems there is still a market for handmade media. I picked up an issue of King Cat, a decades old series by artist John Porcellino. Porcellino sells copies of the zine on his website.
In 2003, Freeway dropped one of the craziest tracks I've ever heard in hip-hop, "What We Do." The beat is still nice years later, and I find myself still bopping my head to it. When he came out, Freeway got a fair amount of buzz, alot of it focussing on his being a practicing Muslim. (That focus was a little strange, since rappers from RZA to Mos Def have been forthcoming about being Muslim.)
After four years of mixtape and guest appearances, Freeway has come back with his sophomore effort, Free at Last, an album that is itself very sophomoric. The production is top notch throughout the album, but the content is average. The stand out track is the obvious next single"Take It To The Top," where 50 Cent shows up to croon an R&B verse to an 80s beat that sounds it could have been part of the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack. A shout out to the ladies, "Take It To The Top" is the exception in an album chock-full of the tired subgenre of gangsta rap.
It's hard to live up to Freeway's fellow Roc-a-fella rappers like Beanie Sigel and Jay-Z, and this may end up being sandwiched between Jigga's classic American Gangster and Beanie Sigel's upcoming The Solution. Freeway's high voice tends to grate on the ears after a while.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
It's hard to get a lot of excitement up for off-year elections. There's little hype, with the races not being highlighted by well-funded candidates and a year-long campaign cycle. These elections, however, can play a role in seeing what direction the electorate is leaning, politically speaking.
The victory of Tim Eyman's latest initiative, I-960, was interesting in this regard. The initiative pressed for greater accountability among legislators toward the people who put them in power by making it necessary that every statewide tax measure is first approved by voters. For those who believe that voters should control their own funds, this is a move that will increase the power of the electorate.
The initiative also would require that fee hikes be passed by legislators and signed by the governor, as well as mandating press releases regarding bills on taxes and fees in order to provide information to the electorate.
Eyman was quoted as describing the victory of the bill as "another victory for the taxpayer." It certainly was a victory for those who believe in the libertarian ideals of small government. The question is whether this could also translate into a victory for Republican candidates down the road, most notably Dino Rossi for governor in 2008, or if this is merely hollow populism on the part of Washington voters.
An interesting insight into Washington voters' psychology came while reading the blog of Seattle Times reporter David Postman. Postman quoted Chris Vance, the former chairman of the Washington state Republican Party, on why conservative and libertarian initiatives are passed by the same voters who vote Democrats into office: "They like our ideas, they just don't like us."
Can the connection be made in voters' minds that there are politicians on the other side of the aisle that support the policies they pass through initiatives? If it can, it may have to involve demolishing the popular myths regarding conservatives. In liberal circles, people who lean conservative or vote Republican are painted as either hopelessly ignorant or somehow morally vacant.
To combat this, it would be wise to be proactive. Instead of getting into personal battles during election cycles, demonstrate the power of conservative ideas and how they compete with the failed policies of liberalism. If articulated well enough, voters would see that the ideas and values they hold are not being shared by the people they vote into office.
Imagine.. the mainstream media is mesmerized as the image of the Ron Paul blimp is shown to tens of millions of Americans throughout the day (and throughout the month). Wolf Blizter, stunned and as if in a trance, repeats the words "Amazing, Amazing".
As GPS co-ordinates stream to the website a map shows the Ron Paul blimp's location in real time. The local Television stations broadcast it's every move. The curious flock together and make a trip see history in the making. Emails with pictures are sent, then forwarded, then forwarded again. Youtube videos go viral and reach tens of millions of views. Ron Paul becomes the first presidential candidate in history to have his very own blimp. The PR stunt generates millions upon millions of dollars worth in free publicity, and captures the imagination of America.
As John Lennon said, imagine all the people. Supporting Ron Paul.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Hopefully MEMRI will make a translated version available once this show is broadcast in Iran.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
While I was on the train ride from Seattle to San Francisco (Oakland to be more precise), I got to talking to a very interesting man sitting across from me. Well up in years, he was dressed and looked like just about any other aging American male and had the kind of dark wit that many older American males have. After talking for a while, I learned that he was actually a German American who had arrived in America after World War II.
I couldn't make sense of alot of it because the train setting made it a little difficult to understand each other at times, but I still learned much of his history. He was about fifteen when the war ended, and had never seen any combat but had been enlisted by the Nazis. His family was in Ukraine, and by 1952 he was allowed to come to America as a "D.P." (Displaced Person). When he came, he didn't know how to speak a lick of English, and according to him, he learned what many words were from the Sears catalog, where the meanings of item were spelled out quite bluntly.
I noticed that the man still had an accent, which he preferred to describe this way: "Yes, I still have an accident - Oh, I mean accent!"
The number of people alive who experienced the second world war is getting smaller and smaller each day, and it was a blessing to be able to meet one of these men.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Here's wishing Kanye West and his family all the best.
The teacher unions are an incredibly important source of money and volunteers for the Democratic Party -- about one in 10 delegates at recent Democratic national conventions have been teacher union members or their spouse. When they snap their fingers, the Democrats jump. Vouchers threaten to dry up dues money, and that is that.
I try to avoid sounding like a partisan, but the fact that the Democratic Party is so tied to groups that harm children (indirectly or directly) is a reason why I will never vote for one of their candidates until the policies they advocate change. On the critical issue of education, the Democratic policy is to keep pouring money into failed schools and failed programs and maybe someday results will improve. It is time for new ideas, so that the next generation after mine (I'm afraid the damage has already been done there) will be prepared to compete in the global market.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
H/T to Hot Air
The man who wrote the following is running for President:
Compare that case [the Moussaoui trial] to the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who organized the attacks of 9/11. He was held in a secret prison, where he claims he was tortured severely. Whether he is lying or not, by our actions we have allowed Khalid Mohammed to claim the moral high ground. Khalid Mohammed plays martyr to a world that is inclined to believe it.
Khaled Sheikh Mohammed is not only the brains behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but he is also a man who has admitted to killing journalist Daniel Pearl. If Dodd thinks that someone who has beheaded someone on camera and planned the annihilation of 3,000 people has the moral high ground over the United States, he is not qualified to serve in any office, much less the presidency.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The next case in point is a 13 year old girl, Megan Coulter, in Illinois who was slapped with two days of detention for hugging. While this is not as traumatic as the child abuse the boys in Oregon received, it is a result of the same mean-spirited mindset.
The superintendent of the district Coulter attends, Sam McGowen, told CNN that "Hugs lead to other things." We can only assume that McGowen is a man who has not experienced much love in his life.
Coulter was interviewed by CNN as well, and cited that in sixth grade she had attended a D.A.R.E. program at the same school that had a motto of "hugs, not drugs." Has that program been removed from the curriculum?
One of the biggest factors in my adopting a libertarian ideology was going through a public school system that was hard to take seriously. I was disciplined by staff that had obviously higher standards for children than they did for themselves, and these mixed messages made their authority hard to take seriously. If public schools continue to send mixed messages, and punishing kids for policies that don't make any sense, children will grow up with cloudy and muddy notion of right and wrong and the credibility of the public schools will continue to deteriorate to levels even lower than they have now.
Several bloggers laid fire to my post-Virginia Tech column, "We Must Stem the Flow of Guns," originally published in the May 2007 edition of the Madison Park Times.
A reader who runs a blog on townhall.com, wrote an entire short essay rebutting my piece, cleverly entitled "The Outdated Second Amendment." The reader was a rather eloquent essayist, and I must say he laid into me in a verbally adept way of which I am not used to being on the receiving end.
His major contention with me had to do with my claim that "no one was responsible enough to own a handgun." He was admittedly right to lay into this, as it could be interpreted as a blanket statement calling a large group of Americans irresponsible, a statement that could, in and of itself, be irresponsible.
The reader said, "If we extend that same rationale to the rest of the Bill of Rights, then neither is anyone responsible enough to have or voice an opinion on issues of national interest, decide their own religion for themselves, determine if they've been wronged by government and should seek redress, or anything else. All those aspects of liberty should be dictated, I suppose, by trained professionals. It would also indicate that Powell evidently considers the founding fathers misguided in their trust of the people."
When one is accused in American political debate of thinking the authors of the Constitution were misguided, it's meant to sting. If your beliefs are contrary to the ones held by those who founded the country, then the whole value of anything you say begins to come into question.
While I got excited about the fact that my article was being taken so seriously by a reader, that feeling began to deteriorate. I was as diplomatic as someone like me can try to be, but soon it became quite apparent that things were getting personal.
I was disappointed to see personal e-mails that I had sent in response to his own being posted without my consent. For the reader, the subject seemed to have become less about the issue of gun rights and more about me.
I didn't even start to look at the comment thread to the reader's post, which I imagined would be filled with some very nasty words about me. The whole thing was a bit bizarre, because I'm just one guy living in Seattle writing on a keyboard, who never claimed to be the epitomy of modern-day conservatism.
While it seems like a couple of guys that might have gotten a little bit obsessive, at the core of this was the issue of debate: Are we going to debate the issues, or are we going to play Gotcha in hopes that we will win over another person? Are we going to solve problems or turn against each other?
I am certainly no beacon of perfection, but it seems there's already a lot of negativity and misery in the world, and we'd be a whole lot better to try to be a little civil to each other.
Michael Powell can be reached at email@example.com. He also has a web log at mopowell.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
SEATTLE - Voters in congested King, Snohomish and Pierce counties were trouncing a tax package to pay for at least $18 billion worth of road and transit projects.
Proposition 1 was trailing by 12 points midday Wednesday. The plan was the most ambitious and expensive transportation package ever placed on a Washington ballot, and was described as America's largest local tax package.
Elected leaders are now trying to figure out the next step to go from here. House transportation committee chair Rep. Judy Clibborn says she's disappointed but not surprised by the overwhelming disapproval of Proposition One.
"I was very disappointed because it is a solution to something that everyone comes about which is congestion, but I'm not totally surprised," said Clibborn, (D)-Mercer Island.
On the Democratic ticket, who shall get St. Al Gore's support? And isn't it amazing that in 2004 Al Gore's support was a kiss of death but three years later it is getting the support of a Nobel Peace Prize winner? My, how times do change quickly.
November 6 was a good day for music. Along with the twin soundtracks to the modern classic American Gangster, yesterday also saw the release of Nas' Greatest Hits album. Thirteen years after his solo debut, it's about time that a Best Of came out and the album is recommended for anyone who has never listened to Nas. Some clunkers are in it, though, including "Got Ur Self A..." and "Hate Me Now" (a decent song that Puff Daddy made terrible). "Surviving the Times" and "Bridging the Gap" make up for it, though, and hopefully this will help maintain the hype for when his upcoming album comes out (if it comes out with his planned title).
Rolling Stone had a feature on the rap legend and his thoughts on each of the songs included on the disc. Read the whole thing.
Monday, November 5, 2007
It's also got a stellar soundtrack that you should cop. The only fault is the Public Enemy track "Can't Truss It," which stands out as early 90s hip-hop among R&B and blues songs that mirror the time period of the movie. Listen for yourself:
Pakistan is a microcosm of the difficulties of establishing liberal democracy in the greater Middle East. Its institutions -- except for the army -- are weak, its politics traditionally have been clan-based, and it is riven by ethnic divisions. This is the worst possible starting point for establishing a true constitutional democracy, but is basically the same cultural material we have to work with in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
This is the reason that the Bush administration's Middle East policy so often has sunk to abject hopefulness. There is always a chance that key local players -- your Malikis or Musharrafs -- will act responsibly and in the interest of greater political openness, but old habits usually triumph over hope. Bush isn't wrong to promote democracy, but he never should have done it in such a sweeping, grandiloquent way that set him up for failure on his own terms. His freedom campaign should have shown keener appreciation for the fact that he was dealing with countries that had missed the wave of democratization of the latter part of the 20th century for a reason. Our ability to dictate their political development was always going to be limited.
I've really liked some of the stuff I've heard from and about Mike Huckabee. Does anyone know anything more about the Cato Institute rating of him that Thompson is bring ing up?
Also, isn't it putting the cart before the horse to talk about a constitutional amendment banning abortion? Roe v. Wade is still law, and reversing it seems more important than talking about constitutional amendments that I imagine would have take place after a Supreme Court reversal.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Some things are too ridiculous to make up. This e-mail, which was apparently sent to me by Kofi Annan himself not once, not twice but three times this week, is one of those things:
How are you today? Hope all is well with you and family?,You may not understand why this mail came to you. We have been having a meeting for the passed 7 months which ended 2 days ago with the then secretary to the UNITED NATIONS.
This email is to all the people that have been scammed in any part of the world, the UNITED NATIONS have agreed to compensate them with the sum of US$ 100,000.
This includes every foriegn contractors that may have not received their contract sum, and people that have had an unfinished transaction or international businesses that failed due to Government probelms etc.
We found your name in our list and that is why we are contacting you, this have been agreed upon and have been signed.
You are advised to contact Mr. Jim Ovia of ZENITH BANK NIGERIA PLC, as he is our representative in Nigeria, contact him immediately for your Cheque/ International Bank Draft of USD$ 100,000. This funds are in a Bank Draft for security purpose ok? so he will send it to you and you can clear it in any bank of your choice.
Therefore, you should send him your full Name and telephone number/your correct mailing address where you want him to send the Draft to you.
Conatct Mr. Jim Ovia immediately for your Cheque:
Person to Contact Mr. Jim Ovia Email:
Thanks and God bless you and your family.
Hoping to hear from you as soon as you cash your Bank Draft.
Making the world a better place.
Mr. Kofi Annan
Former Secretary (UNITED NATIONS)
I love that someone could send out a spam e-mail like this and include the term "Making the world a better place" in it. What a world.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Sri Lanka has promised to look into allegations that 108 of its UN peacekeepers in Haiti paid for sex, in some cases with underage girls.
The men are being sent home after being accused of sexual misconduct and abuse.
Officials say the law will take its course once the soldiers arrive back in Sri Lanka, but warn that little tangible evidence has been produced.
In the past, UN peacekeepers have been involved in a series of sex scandals, including this year in Ivory Coast.
As a news junkie who checks into this sort of thing on a daily basis, I'm well aware that there is a pervasive problem of abuse by UN peacekeepers towards the populations they are supposed to protect. The average person likely doesn't know about this problem, however, as it has yet to be brought into the public light in the way that the Abu Gharib abuse scandal took over the American consciousness for a significant amount of time.
Does a dumb UN peacekeeper with a digital camera need to provide a visual dimension to these scandals in order for the problem to illicit outrage among people? Or is the lack of attention to peacekeeper abuse a product of anti-Americanism that chooses to overlook the evils of the UN because it doesn't fit with the image of the peace-loving "international community" against the evil American imperialists? I certainly hope it's the former.
"The Insurgents" uses the events of 9/11 as a springboard to talk about politics and society, security and freedom, patriotism and dissent. Led by a disillusioned former government operative turned radical left-wing academic, a group plans to detonate a bomb in the United States as an act of protest against what they feel are imperialistic actions. Throughout their planning and doubts among some members, issues such as when is violence an appropriate response and what is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter are debated. A fractured narrative structure adds to the suspense as complications such as love triangles and double crosses are gradually revealed. It is an unflinching self-examination of what it means to be American, the state in which we find ourselves, the implications for the future.
The Insurgents Trailer #1
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The one thing I found myself thinking while watching the trailer was, "Well, looks like some leftists are taking their radical beliefs to their logical conclusion."
Friday, November 2, 2007
How did you become part of Astralwerks?
We knew they were coming to our showcase at CMJ 2005. It was to be our first show with the current lineup, but on the way down, we were turned away at the border. We were fingerprinted and told not to try again, but the show just felt like it was going to be important, so the next morning we tried again (which is a bit risky - we can't screw around with the possibility of never being able to come to the U.S. again, which has happened to a few other Canadian bands under similar circumstances). Somehow we got in, drove our asses off without stopping, got to New York, found a parking spot right outside the club, rushed our gear right on stage, had one cigarette and then performed. Thirty minutes later I was having my first conversation with the label - which went well to say the least.
The above illustration was made by artist and comedian Iszi Lawrence.
It seems as if Christopher Hitchens has engaged in as many debates regarding his book god is not Great as there have been presidential debates recently, so pointing out one of them isn't exactly a monumental act. His recent debate with Dinesh D'Souza, however, stands out because he doesn't go against the likes of Al Sharpton or Sean Hannity but instead someone who is Hitchens' intellectual peer (if not his superior). With as formidable an opponent as D'Souza, it's no wonder that Hitchens starts off with a light personal insult towards him (and anyone else who "actually believes this stuff"). It's worth watching to anyone interested in the topic.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Barack Obama illustrated this when he lurched upon Hillary's incomprehensible stance on a plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrantsin New York:
Barack Obama added: “I was confused [by] Sen. Clinton's answer. I can't tell whether she was for it or against it. One of the things that we have to do in this country is to be honest about the challenges that we face.”
As a former First Lady, Clinton should have known that what a state like New York does in regards to illegal immigration is irrelevant to the job of the Presidency, which is a federal position. If she had pointed this out while also saying that she was confident New York Governor Eliot Spitzer would make the right decision, she would have been able to close the book on the issue and avoid the trouncing that she received at the hands of her opponents.
Democratic party supporters and left-leaning people in general across the country were pretty depressed after the 2004 election, unable to understand why on earth an "idiot" like George W. Bush was able to trounce John Kerry, who, if you weren't aware, fought in Vietnam. With poll numbers that would normally spell defeat for any sitting president, it was obvious s that the cause of Bush's defeat was Kerry's all-over-the-place stance on the top issue of the election, Iraq.
If the Democrats pick another candidate who is unable to articulate a coherent message to voters, they will see the same results of narrowly avoiding victory that their party has repeated in presidential campaigns.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I have to be totally honest about something. I hate Halloween. Besides the commercial creation of Valentine's Day and the politically correct holiday that is rarely actually celebrated, Kwanzaa, Halloween ranks as the worst holiday of the year.
I never liked it. When I was little, I had to be forced by my family to dress up, despite intense protests. There were plenty of things for me to dress up as, and I was a huge fan of comic book superheroes. From the beginning, I just never saw the point of this holiday other than an excuse for people to dress up as things they're not.
There is relevance to the holiday in Mexico, where Halloween is marked as the "Day of the Dead." It would be very nice if Americans had a holiday where they remembered all those who have passed on, but Halloween as we celebrate is nothing like that. It's an absolutely meaningless day of excess involving candy, pumpkins and costumes. The focus of Halloween being scary has even lost its meaning. What is frightening or chilling about dressing up as Spongebob, a panda or (and I'm not kidding) a plug and socket?
I'm not against holidays. Not by a long shot. Unlike alot of people I've met, I love Christmas. I love everything about it: the music, the gifts, the celebration of the birth of Christ, hanging up stockings, the tree and Santa Claus. Despite being a vegetarian, I always look forward to Thanksgiving. Even though I don't celebrate it very much, I respect Easter as honoring the sacrifice that Christ made.
I'll be sitting this Halloween out, as I do just about every year. I'll be watching a movie off of Netflix, and I will have candy for any kids that knock on the door because I'm not totally cold-hearted. As for dressing up in costume or decorating the house, forget it. That money's getting saved for Christmas decorations.
Monday, October 29, 2007
While #1 of the series has just recently been published, a free #0 issue, entitled "Origins," is what caught my attention to the series. It started off telling the story of Dana, a privileged girl who is kidnapped by terrorists and manages to escape, while blindfolded and bound, with the aide of the mythical Noor Stones that play a large part in the book. The stone that Dana discovered allowed her to see the good and evil within people's souls, and when a man named Dr. Ramzi recruits her for a superhero team, she is surprised to find that Ramzi's soul is almost completely free of evil.
While "Origins" was impressive, I found #1 to be a bit of a letdown. Readers had been introduced to all of the predominant characters already, and #1 seemed to center squarely around a small child who has the power of the Noor Stones. There was little action, and the art was nowhere near the level of "Origins."
That isn't saying that you shouldn't invest time and money in this series. It is only starting, and has the feel of the Byrne and Claremont runs on X-Men with a dose of modernity that can't be faked. With a writer with a proven track record like Nicieza behind the wheel as well, there's no reason to think this series won't be going places.
I'm pretty in deep in studying anthropology right now, and it may be a result of very liberal reading material that I differ with the Weekly Standard and Allahpundit on the issue of Laura Bush donning the hijab on a visit to Saudi Arabia and subsequently rebutting critics, but hear me out.
The struggle against radical Islam is not against the religious practitioners. It is not against the women who follow the custom of donning the hijab, veiling or covering themselves in a burqa. (I have heard it stated many times that this custom has been present for women in the Middle East long before the arrival of Islam, something I will do some investigating into.) It's against the types of guys that pour gasoline on 5 year old boys and set them on fire for no reason. It's against the worst human beings on earth, who are exporting their inhumanity to other countries.
Targeting ancient practices of everyday people seems counterproductive in the face of that kind of terror.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
I'm not sure if I'm on there, but if I'm not I will be soon!
Oct. 17, 2007 -- In one of the earliest hints of "modern" living, humans 164,000 years ago put on primitive makeup and hit the seashore for steaming mussels, new archaeological finds show.
Call it a beach party for early man.
But it's a beach party thrown by people who weren't supposed to be advanced enough for this type of behavior. What was found in a cave in South Africa may change how scientists believe Homo sapiens marched into modernity.
I'm not a child psychologist, but I have an intuition that if the message of racial differences is not presented to children regularly through teachers, parents or media, they are far less likely to see differences. In my personal viewpoint, this result would be alot better than children who are taught to "appreciate differences."
This message is still being sent to kids. A recent article in Comic Book Resources focuses on a comic book that features a multicultural cast, from the look of it a white boy, a black boy and a disabled Asian girl. The comic book is called The Scrapeyard Detectives and it is produced yearly and given away to libraries and schools. Creator Bill Galvan openly touts it as "promoting ethnic diversity."
I was surprised to see that a white kid was included, as almost all of the multicultural programs in my public school tenure acted as if whites had no culture at all. I can recall in high school monthly "Diversity assemblies" where there were Ethiopian music, Vietnamese dancing and the Black Student Union singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing." When this was combined with a history curriculum that emphasized slavery, genocide of Native Americans, misogyny and environmental destruction, a subtle message was given that having been born a white male, something I never had control of, had to be accompanied with constant apologies for the sins of people I had never met.
In the article at CBR, questions were not asked of Scrapeyard Detectives creator Bill Galvan as to whether or not white guilt was part of his message of diversity. I respect anyone who brings the medium of comic books to children, and to use it to make everyone proud of who they are would be a great accomplishment.
Friday, October 26, 2007
American Gangster Review
By Michael O. Powell
American Gangster is a modern day gangster classic. Russell Crowe plays detective Richie Roberts, reprising the role of flawed enforcer of the law that he showed himself to be so talented at a decade ago in L.A. Confidential, while the equally adept Denzel Washington deviates from fare like Malcolm X, Remember the Titans and Hurricane to play Frank Lucas, a gangster with few redeeming features.
For those that are used to seeing a heroic Washington, Gangster will be a shocker. The first five minutes show a man being dowsed in gasoline, lit on fire and recieving several bullets from an emotionless Lucas. It's not all violence however, and the cartoony nature of Quentin Tarantino and gangster movies like Scarface is totally absent. This is real, it's ugly and it shows the conflicting emotions of the protagonists. Roberts (Russell Crowe) finds himself facing divorce and the possibility of never seeing his son again while he works to take down Lucas, while Lucas gives his mother a new home and tries to protect his wife while remaining a cold-blooded drug lord.
Crowe's acting was solid, and he fit perfectly into the hardened tough-guy with a heart that matches his own personality. Denzel Washington, on the other hand, got really annoying. Some of his worst habits from other movies, like his continued repeating of "Huh?" when talking to someone, were in excess here and made it hard to not look forward to the scene switching to Crowe.
One of the really interesting things about American Gangster is how many rappers are involved. While gangsta rap has been a permanent subgenre in hip-hop for a long time now, there were some surprise guest stars here. A representative of about every aspect of hip-hop shows up in this movie. Conscious rapper Common plays one of Lucas' brothers, while renowned producer RZA plays a cop helping Roberts bring down Lucas. Southern rapper T.I. ironically plays a nephew of Lucas and the son of Common's character. Both RZA and Common have been interviewed in regards to T.I.'s recent arrest.
Two albums are spawning out of this film, one a soundtrack featuring a mix of new songs by Anthony Hamilton and classics by Bobby Womack and others, the other a new album by rap legend Jay-Z inspired by the film. The lead single, "Blue Magic," is entitled with the term used by the characters in the film to the describe the prized commodity they are fighting over. Once I saw American Gangster, I went to iTunes and pre-ordered Jay-Z's album.
Like any classic film, there are some classic quotes in this film. Going away from it, my favorite was by Russell Crowe, which appealed to the libertarian in me, "I'm not sure they really want to stop it. You stop bringing dope into this country and about 100,000 people are going to be out of a job." Those are the perils of creating a bureaucracy to fight a problem.
With a DVD quality bootleg of American Gangster showing up two weeks before the movie is released, it will be interesting to see whether moviegoers stay home or if the leak, which is uncommon for films, results in creating a buzz around the film and around Jay-Z's next album. Whatever happens, this film is definitely an Oscar contender.
If you're curious about what I'm talking about, the website for the comic book has issues available for sale as well as plenty of information to wet your appetite.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
We're over half a year into the presidential campaign, and there's going to be a whole other year more of this stuff. It's getting really quite tiring to hear a bunch of professional truth-stretchers talk down to the electorate on a daily basis. I like covering social issues and am quite passionate, but playing the role of pundit is a little bit exhausting.
I don't want to cover politics to cover politics, but I've noticed a lack of comments lately, and I want to be someone that people want to read. Let me know what you want to see and what you like.
Will the ability to connect with fans on the indie level with the financial backing of major label ever lead Hip-Hop back to that Golden Era radio-wise?
I know that in the '80's they had Glam Rock guys on stage dressed like women with long hair, and then Nirvana came out and then they had Grunge Rock. it was a backlash. People wanted to get back to dirty rock music. I know that nobody is taking what is on the radio seriously, except for some kids. People always want music to mean something to them. Hip-Hop means dollars. You can't change that . but people are more open to hear something different. It can't stay like it is for too much longer. There are songs on The Undisputed Truth where I talk about caring about the legacy of the art - "Pedigree" and "Whatcha Got." It's one of the most important things in society and culture, and how it affects the whole world. And Hip-Hop is a real distinct thing that people for the richest country in the world -- but a the bottom of that totem pole -- created. There is something to be said about that.
Read the whole thing, it's not long.