October 2, 2007 archive

Cheney’s Plan to Bomb Iran

Oh for crap’s sakes. I assume since it’s a day old, most everyone has seen this article in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh but I’m just seeing it today.

Note: All emphasis below mine. All curse words (mine also) removed before publishing

It begins:

In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. “Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people,” Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. “The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased. . . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.” He then concluded, to applause, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”

I am too discouraged for words.

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started. Whoever pats scoripions with the hand of compassion gets stung.

  1. According to The Guardian, 1,000 British troops will be redeployed home by Christmas. In his visit to Baghdad today, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Britain will redeploy 1,000 of its remaining troops from Iraq. “The prime minister brushed off concerns the security situation would deteriorate, predicting that Iraqi forces could take control of Basra province within the next two months. ¶ Mr Brown said the UK force in Basra would be cut from 5,500 to 4,500, meaning 1,000 troops were likely to be ‘home by Christmas’. ¶ However, the departure of 500 of these forces had already been announced last month.” The Telegraph, of course, reports on the Tories’ anger over Basra pullout announcement. “The Prime Minister was attacked by former Prime Minister Sir John Major for failing to make his announcement on troop withdrawals to the House of Commons. He was also accused of playing a ‘shameful’ political game after he sprung a surprise visit to Iraq timed to coincide with the Conservative party conference. Sir John questioned the timing of the announcement and the number of troops it appeared to concern.” He said: “I’ve no conceivable idea why 1,000, rather than the 2,000 that was briefed, or any other number. I’m not sure what the mission of the remaining troops may be, but in particular I’m not sure what will happen between now and Christmas that will justify the thousand coming home.” The Independent has more on Brown’s ‘Home by Christmas’ pledge. “He said that this would involve the present British force of 5,500 being cut to 4,500 – freeing up the troops for other duties.” I’m guessing those ‘other duties’ involve redeployment to Afghanistan.

  2. The Guardian reports that scientists with Conservation International fear the Amazon jungle could be lost in 40 years time, because of threat from development and new transportation routes. “The Amazonian wilderness is at risk of unprecedented damage from an ambitious plan to improve transport, communications and power generation in the region… ¶ Development plans have been drawn up to boost trade links between 10 economic hubs on the continent, but threaten to bring ‘a perfect storm of environmental destruction’ to the world’s oldest rainforest, according to a report from Conservation International. ¶ Projects to upgrade road and river transport, combined with work to create dams and lay down extensive power and communications cabling, will open up previously inaccessible parts of the rainforest, raising the risk of widespread deforestation that could see the loss of the entire Amazon jungle within 40 years, the environmental group said.”

  3. Science Daily reports Arctic sea ice extent may have fallen by 50 percent since 1950s. “Arctic sea ice during the 2007 melt season plummeted to the lowest levels since satellite measurements began in 1979, according to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center. ¶ The average sea ice extent for the month of September was 1.65 million square miles (4.28 million square kilometers), the lowest September on record, shattering the previous record for the month by 23 percent, which was set in 2005. At the end of the melt season, September 2007 sea ice was 39 percent below the long-term average from 1979 to 2000. ¶ If ship and aircraft records from before the satellite era are taken into account, sea ice may have fallen by as much as 50 percent from the 1950s. The September rate of sea ice decline since 1979 is now more than 10 percent per decade, said the CU-Boulder research team.” While BBC News reports “the giant Ayles Ice Island drifting off Canada’s northern shores has broken in two – far earlier than expected.” The New York Times adds this summer’s Arctic melt unnerves the experts. “The Arctic ice cap shrank so much this summer that waves briefly lapped along two long-imagined Arctic shipping routes, the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia… ¶ Now the six-month dark season has returned to the North Pole. In the deepening chill, new ice is already spreading over vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean. Astonished by the summer’s changes, scientists are studying the forces that exposed one million square miles of open water — six Californias — beyond the average since satellites started measurements in 1979… ¶ The pace of change has far exceeded what had been estimated by almost all the simulations used to envision how the Arctic will respond to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. But that disconnect can cut two ways. Are the models overly conservative? Or are they missing natural influences that can cause wide swings in ice and temperature, thereby dwarfing the slow background warming?”

  4. Today, an explosion of Blackwater related news was triggered by a House Oversight Committee memorandum (pdf) that I wrote about in ‘BOOM! Waxman Fires a Shot Across Blackwater’s Bow!‘ And, as I’ve been compiling today’s Four at Four, Blackwater’s CEO, Erik Prince, was testifying under oath before the committee. I will bring summaries of his testimony tomorrow. In the meantime, I have tried to pick through the more interesting pre-hearing coverage by the traditional media. Most of which, is on the Oversight Committee’s memorandum.

    • The Los Angeles Times gives an overview of the memorandum in ‘Inquiry details Blackwater firings‘. “Blackwater USA, the private security contractor under scrutiny for its role in a deadly Baghdad shootout in September, has sacked 122 of its armed guards in Iraq since it started protecting U.S. diplomats there nearly three years ago… ¶ The firings, most frequently for weapons-related incidents, amount to more than one-seventh of Blackwater’s current workforce in Iraq. None of the people fired has been subject to any legal proceedings or other sanction, the investigation found… ¶ Of the 122 firings, 28 were for weapons-related incidents, including two for improperly shooting at Iraqis and one for threatening Iraqis with a firearm. Another 25 people were discharged for drug and alcohol violations and 16 for ‘inappropriate/lewd conduct.’ Ten others were dismissed for aggressive and violent behavior.” The article concluded with this nugget — “Prince’s brother-in-law is Richard DeVos Jr., former chief executive of the direct sales group Amway. A former Republican gubernatorial candidate in Michigan, DeVos has donated more than $160,000 to the Republican National Committee and Republican congressional committees. ¶ Amway attracted attention in 1993 when it paid former President George H.W. Bush $100,000 for an address to the company’s distributors. At the time, the speaking fee was one of the largest ever paid to a former government official.” Amway! As if there was any doubt these guys were bad news.

    • McClatchy Newspapers weighs in the memorandum with ‘State Department and Blackwater cooperated to neutralize killings. “State Department officials worked closely with the private security contractor Blackwater USA to play down incidents in which company operatives killed innocent Iraqis, according to Blackwater and State Department documents obtained by a congressional committee… ¶ The disclosures appear to contradict past claims by State Department officials that they aggressively investigated wrongdoing by Blackwater. The company has received $835 million in contracts to guard U.S. civilians in Iraq.” The article makes note of criminal investigation launched by the FBI at the request of the State Department.

    • Jurist Legal News gives the scoop, FBI investigating Blackwater role in Iraqi civilian shootings. “The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said Monday that it would send a team of investigators to Iraq to study the circumstances surrounding a September shooting incident involving employees of the privately contracted security firm Blackwater USA that left 11 Iraqi civilians dead. According to the FBI, the US State Department has asked it to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued against the guards involved in the September 16 shooting.” It is doubtful that even if the Bush administration’s FBI finds there was criminal wrongdoing, that charges will climb the ladder up to the corporate top of Blackwater.

    • The New York Times split up coverage of the memorandum with at least four stories.

      1. An overview is given in ‘Report says firm sought to cover up Iraq Shootings‘. The article concluded with the news of “the Senate on Monday gave final approval, 92 to 3, to a defense policy bill that included the establishment of an independent commission to investigate private contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill, which must be reconciled with a House version, faces a veto threat because it includes an expansion of federal hate-crimes laws.”

      2. In ‘Report Describes Drunken Contractor’s Killing of Iraqi Bodyguard‘, the focus is on the December 2006 murder of Raheem Khalif, a bodyguard for Iraq’s Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi. “A Blackwater USA employee under investigation in the killing last December of an Iraqi bodyguard in an off-duty confrontation was so drunk after fleeing the shooting that another group of guards took away the loaded pistol he was fumbling with… ¶ Within 36 hours, the report said, Blackwater fired the man for possessing a firearm while drunk and arranged with the State Department to fly him back to the United States, angering Iraqi officials who said the Christmas Eve shooting was murder.” The article then goes on to explain how the memorandum details how the State Department and Blackwater colluded to cover-up the crime. “Blackwater eventually paid the family $15,000, according to the report, after an embassy diplomatic security official complained that the ‘crazy sums’ proposed by the ambassador could encourage Iraqis to try to ‘get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family’s future.’ ¶ The report did not identify the acting ambassador, but a State Department spokesman, Karl Duckworth, said it was Margaret Scobey.” According to the State Department’s website, Margaret Scobey is now Ambassador to Syria.

      3. Report Depicts Recklessness at Blackwater‘ notes that “the report, based largely on internal Blackwater e-mail messages and State Department documents, depicts the security contractor as being staffed with reckless, shoot-first guards who were not always sober and did not always stop to see who or what was hit by their bullets.” It also calls to attention that “contrary to the terms of its contract, Blackwater sometimes engaged in offensive operations with the American military, instead of confining itself to its protective mission”. An important tangent to note that Waxman’s committee still has uncovered the missing White House/RNC emails.

      4. Finally, Mike Nizza’s blog column, The Lede, focuses on “a few interesting excerpts from the document, including a State Department debate on how much a wrongfully killed Iraqi ought to be worth, what taxpayers are charged for a Blackwater security guard’s working day, the reasons why more than 70 of those expensive contractors have been fired, and a jaw-dropping tale of vehicular recklessness.”

    • CNN reports that Blackwater contractor wrote government report on Blackwater’s Nisoor Square massacre. “The State Department’s initial report of last month’s incident in which Blackwater guards were accused of killing Iraqi civilians was written by a Blackwater contractor working in the embassy security detail, according to government and industry sources. A source involved in diplomatic security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said a Blackwater contractor, Darren Hanner, drafted the two-page ‘spot report’ on the letterhead of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security for the embassy’s Tactical Operations Center.” Hanner is set to leave Iraq this week. “The man who approved the report was Ricardo Colon, whom the embassy source identified as the embassy’s deputy regional security officer… A Ricardo Colon Cifredo works for the State Department in Iraq.” Iraqi reports contradict Blackwater’s report.

    • Salon looks at the Bush administration’s ties to Blackwater. The article details the money and political connections between Blackwater and the Christian right and the Bush administration. I’ll just post a few interesting facts that are new to me.

      • Blackwater CEO’s mother, Elsa, “currently runs the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, where, according to IRS filings, her son Erik is a vice-president. The foundation has given lavishly to some of the marquee names of the Christian right. Between July 2003 and July 2006, the foundation gave at least $670,000 to the FRC and $531,000 to Focus on the Family.”

      • “Erik Prince himself is no slouch when it comes to giving to Republicans and cultivating relationships with important conservatives. He and his first and second wives have donated roughly $300,000 to Republican candidates and political action committees. Through his Freiheit Foundation, he also gave $500,000 to Prison Fellowship Ministries, run by former Nixon official Charles Colson, in 2000. In the same year, he contributed $30,000 to the American Entreprise Institute, a conservative think tank. During college, he interned in George H.W. Bush’s White House, and he also interned for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).”

      • “Blackwater’s benefits from government largesse haven’t ended at Iraq. The company was recently one of five awarded a Department of Defense counter-narcoterrorism contract that could reportedly be worth as much as $15 billion.”

      • “Joseph Schmitz, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel: In 2002, President Bush nominated Schmitz to oversee and police the Pentagon’s military contracts as the Defense Department’s Inspector General… Schmitz resigned in 2005 under mounting pressure from both Democratic and Republican senators, who accused him of interfering with criminal investigations into inappropriately awarded contracts, turning a blind eye to conflicts of interest and other failures of oversight.”

      Think of those as appetizers. For the meat and potatoes, you will need to go read the article.

    • Writing for Salon, P.W. Singer, author and Brookings Institution security analyst, gives an excellent overview of Blackwater and other mercenary firms in ‘The dark truth about Blackwater’. Singer predicts:

      Prince will take his shots, and State officials will point to new investigations they are now launching to try to mollify congressional anger. But regardless of whether the Blackwater contractors were justified in the shooting, whether there was proper jurisdiction to ensure accountability, or even whether using firms like Blackwater saves money (the data shows it does not), there is an underlying problem that everyone is ignoring.

      Our dependency on military contractors shows all the signs of the last downward spirals of an addiction. If we judge by what has happened in Iraq, when it comes to counterinsurgency and the use of private military contractors, the U.S. has locked its national security into a vicious cycle. It can’t win with them, but can’t go to war without them.

      Singer then explains:

      The private military industry was an answer to these political problems that had not existed in the past. It offered the potential backstop of additional forces, but with no one having to lose any political capital. Plus, the generals could avoid the career risk of asking for more troops.

      That is, there was no outcry whenever contractors were called up and deployed, or even killed…

      Hence, while private losses were just the “cost of doing business” for a firm in Iraq, they actually had an undisguised advantage to policymakers. The public usually didn’t even hear about contractor losses, and when they did, they had far less blowback on our government. For all the discussion of contractors as a “private market solution,” the true costs that they hope to save are almost always political in nature.”

      The article is over 7,300 words, but well worth your time to read. Singer also reminds the reader of a his 2004 piece for Salon, ‘Warriors for hire in Iraq‘.

    • CNN reports that an Iraqi official is saying Blackwater was also involved in second shooting September 16. The official said “that a second group of Blackwater contractors on their way to assist the first group later engaged in an hour-long standoff with Iraqi police. The first, widely publicized shooting occurred at Nisoor Square in Baghdad… The second shooting occurred minutes later about 550 yards (500 meters) from Nisoor Square”. This partially confirms what the Washington Post reported from the ‘first blush’ report produced by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad that the U.S. Army interceded on Blackwater’s behalf. “‘The U.S. Army QRF’ — quick-reaction force — ‘arrived on scene at 12:39 hours and mediated the situation,’ the report said. ‘They escorted TST 22 out of the area and successfully back to the [Green Zone] without further incident.'” TST is a Blackwater ‘tactical support team’.

    • Finally, The Washington Post neocon editorial board weighs in with a rather weak-kneed editorial, ‘Blackwater Waves‘ seemingly claiming that investigating Blackwater is simply partisan. But, the editorial grudgingly admits: “Already, though, it seems clear that Blackwater’s critics are right in one important respect: There are inadequate controls over security firms, especially those working for the State Department… Congress and the Bush administration should ensure that those who kill innocent Iraqis or engage in other criminal excesses can be held legally accountable. Moreover, U.S. diplomats and military commanders should exercise more control over the guards who work for them, with the aim of preventing them from needlessly alienating Iraqis. ¶ At the same time it is foolish to propose the elimination of private security firms in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least in the short term… More than 130,000 contractors serve the U.S. mission in Iraq, including some 30,000 security guards, and without them it would be impossible for U.S. forces to function.” What the warmongers at the Post call foolish, I call prudent — get rid of the mercenaries, force the occupation to end.

One more story about the 50th anniversary of Sputnik below the fold…

Is it because she isn’t white?

Imagine, if you could even think of the horrific situation, where a 20 year old “pretty white woman” was abducted by six black men and women, raped, stabbed, made to eat rat droppings, drink from a toilet, threatened with death if she tried to escape and tortured for around a week. 

Imagine, not only what living hell that poor woman went through, but also the fact that she was still undergoing treatment for her injuries around a month later.  Imagine the 24 hour outrage on the cable news, the papers, every caring human being, not to mention the outrage by the racist people who would be decrying this, “the culture that promotes animals like this”, how this was a hate crime and the potential revenge for these horrific acts.

Imagine that the suspects all had prior arrests and records for prior crimes, including one who was arrested for murder of an 84 year old woman but pled to a lesser charge of manslaughter.  We would hear about this for months, and we would all know her name, the suspects names, backgrounds and every little development in her treatment, the case and the potential blowback to the community.

Something hopeful on Iraq? Well, maybe!

(Admitting to some timidity – this is my first effort!)

On the weekend of September 1, 2007, a group of leaders from both the Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis met in Finland, at an undisclosed location at closed meetings to discuss and draft peace principles with leaders of Northern Ireland and South Arica, utilizing protocols similar to peace settlements of those countries.

The meeting was sponsored by the Finnish Crisis Management Initiative [CMI] and the McCormack Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts and, although, the British and American authorities knew of and sanctioned this meeting, they were prohibited from having presence there.

Tom Hayden, in an article published in The Nation said,

Chairing the closed meetings near Helsinki were Martin McGuinness, the former Irish Republican Army commander, lead negotiator with the British, and now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, and Roelf Meyer, former leader of the pro-apartheid National Party in South Africa’s peace negotiations. The Irish delegation also included former IRA hunger striker Leo Green, minister Jeffrey Donaldson, former Stormont speaker Lord Alderdice, and former loyalist paramilitary leader Billy Hutchison. South African participants included ANC leaders Mac Maharaj and Rashid Ismail, key participants in the military and political negotiations in South Africa. [Read more “here.

Names of the Iraq delegations’ have not been released but reportedly included six Sunni and nine Shi’a who signed a statement of principles. About thirty Iraqis were present, including Akram al-Hakim, minister of national reconciliation for the Baghdad government, representatives of Moktada al-Sadr, Sunni leader Adnan al-Dulaimi, and Humam Hammoudi, the Shi’a chairman of the Baghdad parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

Did you see anything in the media giving us knowledge of this important meeting?

It appears that the Iraqis were enthusiastic about this meeting.

The Iraqis saw former military enemies–McGuinness and Hutchison, for example, or South African apartheid leaders and ANC guerilla commanders–chairing meetings together on how sharply divided communities can coexist.

The key question for the Iraqis, who are circulating the draft at home, is whether the major parties believe their armed strategies have reached a stalemated point of no return, or whether one side [and foreign sponsors like the US and UK] still hopes for a military victory. In South Africa and Northern Ireland, secret peace discussions were initiated while the wars were proceeding, but eventually grew into the peace processes as the rival parties concluded that armed struggle [or military occupation] had reached its limits.

There were notable highlights at the meeting.

when Irish and South African representatives told stories of how their militarized strategies ultimately led to stalemate and the prospect of endless war. “The most remarkable impression on the Iraqis was McGuinness, once evil incarnate to the Protestants”, who now sits as vice-minister to First Minister Ian Paisley, the right-wing fundamentalist preacher trained at Bob Jones University who swore that the Catholic Church was the “whore of Babylon.” A meaningful peace process “only emerged in both countries when all parties agreed that those who adhered to violence had to be brought into negotiations, and that those parties adhering to violence had accepted that violence could never lead to accommodation. One could see Iraq heads nod in agreement.” [Padraig O’Malley: September 24 op-ed piece in the Boston Globe]

The so-called “Helsinki principles” which were agreed to, with each Iraqi signatory praying “In-sha’Allah” as they signed their names, are very general and appear utopian, but so were the early framework agreements in Ireland and South Africa. Most importantly, all parties agreed to continue the discussions towards a settlement.

A set of 12 principles were mapped out in order to start work toward a nationally mutual effort toward a permanent peace.

Among the points were:

Aside from promising to resolve political differences peacefully, the agreement commits the Iraqi parties to consider the creation of a disarmament commission, and the formation of a group to deal with the legacy of Iraq’s past.

They also seek an end to international and regional interference in Iraq’s affairs(emphasis mine)

This to me is the most positive and dynamic effort I have heard of with regard to the Iraq catastrophe.  I’m not sure how we can keep tabs on progress, but going to sources outside the U.S. is probably the answer.

While I feel strongly about this, I am also concerned about the extent to which the Bush Administration will attempt to derail these negotiations, since I firmly believe that they have no interest in there being peace in Iraq!  They have continually funded the Sunnis (the Al Qaeda in Iraq), the Shi’ites and other factions ensuring the continuation of strife throughout the country. The reasons?  I’m sure you have a very good idea!

Musings on a link

This link  http://www.bpf.org/h… crossed my path and I was struck by this quote:

“The Buddha emphasized the importance of transforming the three unwholesome motivations: greed into generosity, ill will into loving-kindness, delusion into wisdom. Today we also need to address their collective versions: our economic system institutionalizes greed, militarism institutionalizes ill will, and the media institutionalize delusion. The problem is not only that these three poisons now operate collectively but that these institutions have taken on a life of their own, as new types of collective ego. Any personal awakening we might have remains incomplete until it is supplemented by a “social awakening” that motivates us to find ways to challenge these institutionalized causes of widespread suffering.”

As a consultant  whose practice (http://www.wheelwrig…) has been to assist organizational leaders to become more effective through increased (non)-self awareness,  I find the above to be spot on.  The three poisons are, for me, at the center of every ill this world is currently dealing with.  In our own mess, we can clearly see hatred (fear), greed (desire), and delusion (ignorance) operating at every level and on each side of the current debate.  Not only are these poisonous mind-states pervasive, they have become so enmeshed as to present as an nearly impermeable membrane against which our multi-lateral charges seem to have little effect.

I’m thinking primarily now about how this plays out within the Democratic party as it struggles to come to grips with its lack of spine, purpose,  and direction.  I wonder how the party would look if it was dedicated to reducing or minimizing the grip of the poisons on our society, relationships, foreign policy, and economic structures.  Would it even survive?  Sadly, I don’t know if any existing ‘party’ is up to the job of confronting what has become  nearly universal obsessions with terror, money and ideology.

Rep. Obey Joins “Idiot Liberals”: Vows Not To Fund Iraq Debacle Without Date Certain to End War

Joining the Idiot Liberals, and separating himself from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) promised to not forward any bill from his committee that funds the Iraq War without a date certain to end it:

“I would be more than willing to report out a supplemental meeting the President’s request if that request were made in support of a change in policy that would do three things.

— “Establish as a goal the end of U.S. involvement in combat operations by January of 2009.”

— “Ensure that troops would have adequate time at home between deployments as outlined in the Murtha and Webb amendments.”

— “Demonstrate a determination to engage in an intensive, broad scale diplomatic offensive involving other countries in the region.”

“But this policy does not do that. It simply borrows almost $200 billion to give to the Departments of State, Defense, Energy, and Justice with no change in sight.

“As Chairman of the Appropriations Committee I have absolutely no intention of reporting out of Committee anytime in this session of Congress any such request that simply serves to continue the status quo.”

Not funding after a date certain. Good idea Congressman.  Welcome to the fight. We “Idiot Liberals” have been waiting on you for the past seven months.

Cowboy Meets Sunset – The Last Long Sweet Kiss Good-bye

Samson was going all out, catching a stride that almost felt like floating. Though he was more known for his cutting skills, and bravery among bulls, he was showing me in a pinch he could also be a race horse. But even with his gallant effort, he was still a good five lengths back from the steed carrying my rose.

Down we galloped into valley, playing lover’s games as rode down tree-lined country lanes. She would look back, her long black hair flowing like pozos lit by an angel’s halo from the large Mexican harvest moon. We raced towards the music that was waffing over the next ridge.

Samson did his best to catch her filly, since he felt the same about that horse as I did it’s rider, but it was all for not. You can never truly ever catch a rancher’s daughter from the El Bajio. 

The Day that David did Betrayus

Not what I thought was going to pour from my fingertips yesterday but you know how those freaky muses are.  Besides, Sun Tsu never met a weakening of his enemies defenses he didn’t like.

Feels like such an odd diary to write since I don’t even want anybody I know to be involved in the Iraq War.  I don’t get a choice though in the matter and we have thrown in the towel on getting out any time in the near future so please allow me to focus constructively on something that can be done and affects all those on the ground in Iraq.

50th Annual MJF-For Nightprowlkitty

Friday Night
Dave Holland, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chris Potter, Eric Harland

Dave Holland is a cerebral bassist whose works are always introspective and interesting. Rubalcaba is a fine Cuban pianst whose powerful playing
helps set off Holland’s quieter moods. A great, tight group-very cool.

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension

McLaughlin is a great musician and guitarrist. He was back to his 70’s fusion style here though, and with the rain starting, it was an ordeal. Too many notes.

Issac Delgado

Listened to him on the way home, in the pouring rain. As the arena venue is outside, we bailed before the deluge hit. September rain is very rare here. Wasn’t particularly impressed with what I heard, kind of popish and certainly not the latin standard of Puente or Tjader in years past.

Saturday Afternoon-dedicated to the blues

James Hunter

This guy was on fire! An English band doing 50’s style blues and rock & roll. Hunter was funny, energetic and capable of sounding like anyone from Sam Cook to Chuck Berry, to Fats Domino Little Richard and James Brown. He had a falsetto he could reach that was better than Brown’s screech and the moves to back it up. Very entertaining…give him a listen, but in person is the key.

Otis Taylor Band

Son of a blues legend, Taylor had his charming and beautiful daughter playing bass for him. Started his set playing banjo to a strong Louisiana blues backing. Went on to range over some traditional material. He was kind of reticent at first, but when he wound up, he was down on the arena floor shouting the blues and revving the joint up. Kind of a cajun smoked Delta sound.

Los Lobos

Tim Jackson, the festival head, must feel its necessary to bring in rock and roll groups that have a kind of appeal to younger fans or potential ticket buyers. Too loud, too much rock and roll. Short on blues and feeling.

Saturday Night

Terence Blanchard Quintet with Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra – PREMIERING “REQUIEM FOR KATRINA”

One of the festival highlights for me. Very moving work done with string orchestral backing. Fantastic quintet with all the players very very good.  Place was as quiet as I’ve ever heard it, befitting the subject matter and  musical excellence.  This is out in CD….see if you can listen to it…beautifully done.

Gerald Wilson Orchestra with Special Guest Kenny Burrell Premiering “Monterey Moods”

Gerald Wilson is 89 and still leading, with gusto and verve, his own long standing band in his own composition comissioned for the fest. I didn’t like the pieces, all built around a 3 note theme to suggest the word Mon-te-rey, all that much, but there were moments. Kenny Burrell is a legend and a hero of mine as a jazz guitarrist whose playiing covers every facet of the guitar repetoire. He seemed a little out of place with the big band, and his playing wasn’t up to what I remember. Not the best use of his talents. But he too is getting older…must be in later 60’s now.?

Diana Krall

Had just seen her in concert in May at the Mountain Winery. Was impressed here with how she’d gotten her piano chops back into shape after marriage/twins. Her voice and sensibility with lyrics, as always, fantastic. She has matured into a confident and engaging performer.
Backed up by her trio plus Jeff Hamilton on drums. John Clayton, her bassist, and Hamilton have their own big band based in LA and are both consumate side-men. Her guitarrist, Anthony Wilson, is becoming quite a fine player and happens to be Gerald Wilson’s son. He also performed with his father on the Monterey Moods piece.

Sunday Afternoon:

Los Angeles County High School For The Arts / Winning Big Band from the Next Generation Festival Orchestra

Got there a bit late on Sunday p.m. The day is devoted to kids from all over showing off how they’ll keep jazz alive in the face of all the crappy pop stuff crowding the airwaves. It is always astounding to hear how sophisticated these youngsters are. They play their butts off, leaning into the music as only a teenager can do, with boundless energy and complete abandon. I missed this first group, but many were part of the next act as well.

Next Generation Jazz Orchestra with Artist-In-Residence Terence Blanchard

Blanchard played with these kids, not in front of them. It was great to watch him interact with all the players, from guitar to bass, and of course, with the horn section. The band played some very complex stuff, full of great harmonies and capped by high quality soloists.

Ornette Coleman 3 Bass Quintet

Its as hard to say anything meaningful about Ornette as it is to understand him sometimes. His quintet was a trip to listen to. Acoustic bass, stand-up electric bass, and a five-string ‘guitar’ bass w/ drums.
He played some of his typical avant avant avant guard stuff, and also some beautiful new stuff with haunting rhythms formed by all the crossing bass lines beneath his solos. Drummer was playing some amazing rhythmic stuff tying it all together. A couple of the pieces were so loaded w/harmonic overtones is was like listening to gongs playing melody…very cool. Then some of it was honk and squawk…which I’ve never resonated with, but one thing is for sure, Ornette is in a musical class by himself as a thinker and performer.

Sunday Evening:

Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars with Terence Blanchard, Nnenna Freelon, Benny Green, James Moody, Kendrick Scott & Derrick Hodge

Benny Green was leading this. He is a great young pianist with a powerful, be-bop influenced attack. The band was very tight and Blanchard’s quintet made up the backbone playing again with verve,
agility and feeling. Green was very engaging, I had no idea he was so young.  I didn’t particularly care for Nnenna Freelon’s vocals, but I don’t fault here, I don’t the arrangements were were suited to her talents.

Dave Brubeck Quartet with special guest Jim Hall

I would bet this was Dave’s last visit. He seemed quite old and frail, getting up slowly from the piano, and not saying very much except with his music. I had tears in my eyes listening as it took me back to my own youth in the early ’60’s when Brubeck was my introduction to jazz which became a lifelong love for me. Listening to Take 5, I could actually see myself on my bed, reading and digging Time Out/Time Further Out etc.,
and dreaming of how I would make it big as a flamenco player. Sweet and bitter sweet. Dave’s playing was great, given his age 84/5, and his band, all older guys, were as cool as can be. Jim Hall, like Burrell with Wilson, seemed a little lost, as though there hadn’t been much rehersal together. Hall is another of my guitar heroes, a guitarist in the Bill Evans mode of introspection.

Sonny Rollins

Knocked down the house completely. His colossal frame staggering around with his horn, blowing like a madman, bent to his task with love, passion and consummate feeling. His band was tearing it up behind him,
keeping him up and on top of his game. His last number was a long, extended caribbean-oriented piece a la St. Thomas that just blew us all away. He got standing O’s after every piece it seemed, and at the end, vowed to be back 50 years from now to play again as he did at the first festival. If you could have seen and heard him, of that you’d have no doubt!

So….50 years of jazz at Monterey in the books. One of the reasons I ended up here was because I wanted to be close to this, to feel the vibe, and to see my heros play before they went into the dark. I’ve been fortunate, in the last 25 years, to have attended a good many of them.
I got to see Diz, Tjader, Tito Puente, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn…on and on…never saw Miles or Bill Evans though, damnit. This year was a treat, because at almost 60, I realize I may not have all that much longer to listen, and the greats are passing from our lives all too quickly.

Potpourri on an Autumn Tuesday

Assorted thoughts, links, musings…

I recommend the excerpt from the late David Halberstam’s book, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine (and online). Did anyone notice the resemblance between the delusional leader, General Douglas MacArthur, and another delusional leader who occupies the White House? Or between MacArthur’s principle intelligence chief, Major General Charles A. Willoughby, who falsified intelligence reports to justify a war campaign, and others, more contemporary, who shall remain nameless.

The Korean War is a lost war to American consciousness, if you are under 50 years of age, or even 60. But the lessons of that “police action” run deep, if anyone wishes to mine them.

I can also recommend Stephen Soldz’s series on racism in the public schools, starting with this article, “School Discipline, the New “Racist” Frontier”:

Pony Party… apples in barrels

I love to pick apples. I love to hear the snap that happens when i bite into an apple. I love the smell of apples. Oh, and hot homemade apple pie.

Apple sauce… apple butter… apple compote… apple computers…………………….

And apples, I’m pretty sure, never mistreat each other or lie about each other or kill each other.

So today, I’m for apples. How about you?

Iran Kills the US Dollar — And Pulls America’s Feeding Tube

A Docudharma Exclusive — I’ve been a dollar-follower for a long time.

I remember when, in January 2003, Saddam Hussein announced that Iraq would no longer accept US Dollars for oil. Three months later we invaded Iraq and Saddam was a dead man walking.

I remember why Saddam did it. He was pissed about U.S. sanctions against Iraq.

I remember why the sanctions were there. Phonied up “reports” that Iraq was trying to develop nuclear weapons.

I never forget how stupid Americans are.

I never forget that you can fool them twice in a row with the same bullshit tricks.

2000 <---> 2004. Gawd, Americans are dumb.

Iraq <---> Iran. They’re almost too brain dead to breathe. But like Terry Schiavo, not quite brain dead enough to cease to exist. Unfortunately, for the rest of the world — they are stuck with the responsibility of pulling America’s feeding tube in order save the planet.

TEHRAN (Thomson Financial) – Some 85 pct of Iranian oil is sold in a currency other than the US dollar, the Iranian oil minister said, cited by the central agency of information on state television.

Seyed Mohammad Khatibi, vice president of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), said at present 65 pct of oil sales are made in euros and 20 pct in yen.

‘Only 15 pct of oil sales are made in dollars and we are progressively replacing this with more credible currencies,’ he added.

The value of the US dollar has fallen some 30-25 pct since 2004, he said, and ‘keeping capital in dollars means a significant fall in the value of our assets’.

‘We have therefore decided to replace the dollar with other currencies,’ he said.

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