Sunday, December 30, 2007

The debate over Reparations continues

H/T to Hip Hop Republican

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.

Iraq: 75 Percent of Al Qaeda Network in Iraq Destroyed

Now back to politics.

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.

Video: Artie Shaw - Concerto for Clarinet

I uploaded this Artie Shaw video from the DVD that came with The Centennial Collection. It's been up on YouTube for a while now, and hasn't been taken down for copyright violation, so I assume it's alright to post it here.

The Musical Genius of Mos Def

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

Video: Dizzy Gillespie performs in 1947

I start digging through my YouTube account after Scatbug's comment about the Oscar Peterson video, and found a few jazz videos that I had uploaded. This one of Dizzy Gillespie is obviously alot more on the swing side than Oscar Peterson, but enjoyable nonetheless.

V for Vendetta

I finally saw V for Vendetta, over a year and a half since it arrived in theaters. I was pleasantly surprised, as it was a very well done film. I especially liked that they showed a resemblence in the prisoners held by the government to that of the Nazis. It illustrates that that sort of thing can happen again. Ultimately, I don't see this sort of thing happening due to the Tories of all political persuasions, as if Margaret Thatcher was the greatest threat to freedom the UK has ever experienced. At many points the film began to deteriorate into a ridiculous lambusting of conservatives, with thinly masked accusations that the Western governments have not only been using terrorism for their own benefit but making the whole thing up. It was a hatred for Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s that inspired Alan Moore when he wrote the original graphic novel, however, and he is far from the first artist to have a questionable perception of reality. Despite that, I appreciate this film greatly for its portrayal of the fragility of freedom and democracy.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Great picture from Iraq

I think some publishing company down the line might make quite a few dollars republishing some of the great photos taken during the Iraq war, including this one of a soldier playing the oud for Iraqi children, from the Slate article "Home Thoughts From Abroad:"

Benazir Bhutto, the Good and the Bad

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

R.I.P. Oscar Peterson

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

Charlie Wilson's War

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

Video: Persepolis clip

A new film is coming out called Persepolis, which depicts the story of a young Iranian girl who comes of age during the Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s. Based on a series of graphic novels of the same name, the film is animated in a simple, black-and-white style that looks like a comic book come alive.

If you ask me, it looks worth watching, especially after this clip:


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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Video: The Simpsons in London

A nice little video for a nice little movie.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best Jazz Albums of 2007

I've been noticing a stronger presence in jazz over the last year or so, with artists being more heavily promoted and talked about. I don't know what's causing this, and it could be that I haven't been paying attention, that there is a larger presence of jazz musicians or that record labels are jumping on the success of Norah Jones.

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

Planning a podcast

I've been wanting to do a podcast for a couple years now, and it looks there are some new routes that don't require money out there. Stay tuned.

Art is a bunch of crap

If all else fails in life, I guess you can always become an "artist:"

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.

Pelosi: Republicans like war

Syndicated talk show host Dennis Prager has noted often to the effect that conservatives think liberals are misguided, but liberals think conservatives are evil. Nancy Pelosi's recent comments illustrate this core belief:

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.

Bloomberg to run for president?

H/T to Hot Air.

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

Video: Bill O'Reilly talks MILFs

H/T to Allahpundit.

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

Ratings-plagued NBC giving refunds to advertisers


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

The Iliad, Illustrated

Marvel Comics has been publishing a series of comics for a little over a year called simply "Marvel Illustrated." Each series has been adapting classic books from various others. It's not an original concept, but it is one that Marvel has been executing very well, as evidenced by these shots from the upcoming adaption of Homer's The Iliad:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Medved on polygamy and homosexuality

Nationally syndicated talk show host laid out the double standard of standing against polygamy while endorsing homosexuality in his latest blog post:

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.

"Should the government pay you to lose weight?"

There's a good article in Slate today called "Should the government pay you to lose weight?" It puts a good argument for why health insurance and employers should give financial incentives to those who lose weight. It's problematic towards the end when the writer, proposes that the government take up this mantle:

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

More Loveliness from Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens was one of the voices that I read heavily as I began to rethink ideas I had been raised to believe regarding America and its place in the world. Many of his best articles, including his great "Fat Man and Little Boy" piece on North Korea which can be found in his collection Love, Poverty and War, should be placed as hallmarks of journalism for future generations to emulate.

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

Bill Clinton, the World's Greatest Fertilizer Salesman

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.

Storm batters the Seattle area

The entire Puget Sound area is being caught up in a storm unlike any I've seen. If you take that staement with a grain of salt, it's okay. Seattleites tend to overreact when anything chaotic hits their shores (the fanaticism surrounded the earthquakes in 2001 and 1996 come to mind as examples of this), but the level of rain we've been recieving is very abnormal even in the "city that always rains."

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.

Video: Ham on the Tube

Speaking of Mary Katherine Ham, her latest video made it to the "Featured Videos" section of YouTube. I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to see a conservative voice being promoted there. Watch it:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Video: Ham on the Debate

I totally missed out on the Republican YouTube debate, and will probably have to play a bit of catch-up. In my efforts to do so, I came across this post-debate video featuring the always-lovely Mary Katherine Ham of, who had praise for the debate:

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

Mixtape: Eminem and Elton John Redux

And now for something totally different on an otherwise average Saturday afternoon...