Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Children and Slave Children

Here is a remarkable video not only for it's cuteness and hilarity, but also for the way these two twin diaperados appear to be communicating with each other like a couple of Pentecostals in conversational glossolalia.

Now look at this video of North Korean slave children playing Spanish guitars like grown up pros. It's unnatural. I cannot imagine what cruelty these children must have suffered to be able to play like this at such a young age.

No doubt, the North Koreans thought this would impress us and confirm for us the superiority of their "system." But it's just creepy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gone Are the Days of Drummer

All this talk of Max Roach led me into conversation with a drummer friend about the apparent dearth of great drummers. I wondered if “the drummer” disappeared with the golden age of jazz. The sixties and seventies gave us great guitarists. (Yes, there have been great country and classical guitarist; I know I'm especially way out of my depth on that one. I have in mind Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and Eric Clapton.) But the last notable drummer I recall was Carl Palmer of ELP. I haven’t heard a drum solo since jean jackets were a staple in my wardrobe.

My friend referred me to Thomas Pridgen. Join half a million others in watching this:

I'm told that the great drummers are spread out in that vast musical diversity that has developed since the 1970s. But I’m not saying no one can play the drums nicely. I’m just saying that everyone knows who Buddy Rich and Max Roach were. But any great drummers there are today are hidden in the tall grass, or so it seems to me.

I case you don't know who Buddy Rich (1917-1987) and Max Roach (1924-2007) were, watch this. The friend who sent me the link said: "If you listen to the album in stereo, Buddy is on one channel, Max on the other. But you can tell the difference because Buddy's playing is more precise and bombastic, while Max's is looser, more be-bop."

As usual, whoever posted this on YouTube gives no information on the what, when, where of it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Immanuel Kant and Thelonious Monk

I have spent the day reading Kant's Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics while listening to the historic 1957 recording of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane (on vinyl!). You tell me if those two things--that labor of the eyes and that pleaure of the ears--go naturally together.

Because I am an infantalized, 21st century consumer, I went onto Amazon to see if I could get it inexpensively on CD and right now when I want it, preferably in just two days. Yup. Six bucks. Delivered.* With extra tracks. My character is rotting even as I type. But "Ruby My Dear" and "Well, You Needn't" will sound good on the LIRR after I load it all onto my iPod.

I then went looking for Max Roach, as I do from time to time. Freedom Now Suite is still too pricey for me. But I found this interesting video that graphically presents the song I'm looking for. I thought it was on M'Boom or Freedom Now Suite, but I didn't hear it on the sample tracks.

Of course, that is only half the song, as I recall. He takes off from there. I'll keep looking.

*We have Amazon Prime.


I found it. (It was there on the Internet the whole time!) It's on Chattahoochee Red. Of course! But it's not available on Amazon, neither new nor used. Why? Why! Why can't I have whatever want right now from sitting on my couch? (Remedy for this petulant, infantile feeling of entitlement: read previous post on all the evil in the world and the great hope of the world.)

Amazon does tells us this: "For this quartet outing, Max Roach performs seven group originals plus tributes to Clifford Brown ("I Remember Clifford"), Thelonious Monk ("'Round Midnight") and John Coltrane ("Giant Steps"). Roach's regular band (with trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, Odean Pope on tenor, flute and oboe, bassist Calvin Hill and on "Wefe," guest pianist Walter Bishop, Jr.) is in excellent form on this spirited outing; pity that this LP has been out of print for quite some time." (emphasis added. Pity? Inexplicable!)

Side 1:
The Dream/It's Time I Remember Clifford
Reach For It
Lonesome Lover
Wefe (We-Fay)

Side 2:
Six Bits Blues
'Round Midnight
Red River Road
Giant Steps
Chattahoochee Red

Max Roach - drums, chimes, tympani, percussion
Calvin Hill - bass violin
Cecil Bridgewater - trumpet, flugelhjorn
Odean Pope - tenor sax, alto flute, oboe
Walter Bishop, Jr. - piano

Hope Amidst the Evil

After last week's column on the West Bank Fogel massacre ("Middle East Murder"), it struck me--or I should say weighed heavily on me--that there is a lot of evil making the news these days. It crowds into limited news time and forces itself on our attention.

Just after the beginning of the Jewish sabbath on March 11, terrorists from Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade (so-called) broke into a West Bank settlement home and butchered Rabbi Uri Fogel in his bed, along with his infant daughter, his wife, Ruth, and two of their sons, ages 11 and 4. This was not shooting from a distance; this was throat slashing and heart stabbing. Two children survived the massacre only because the monsters who flooded the home with blood overlooked them. The 12-year-old daughter arrived home after midnight from a youth event to behold what no human being should ever witness.

That same day, the earthquake and tsunami hit northeast Japan with a resultant nuclear crisis that has pushed even the misery of 450,000 people whom the disaster made homeless.

This volunteer fireman lost his wife, his son's family, and his four grandchildren when he went to close a wall against the tsunami. Warning, it is very sad.

Then there's Libya where the self-styled Mad Dog of the Middle East has been shooting and bombing his own unarmed people (as well as the subsequently armed ones) when he foresaw their protests sending him into exile as Hosni Mubarak's room-mate.

And all of that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as far as human suffering in the world is concerned. It's in Syrian dungeons, Thai brothels, Brazilian slums, and it's on your street.

In this week's column, "Overcome by Evil These Days?," I indicate where the wise turn when they come to face the ubiquitous evil of a fallen world.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Long Range Political Prediction

Ordinarily, the only thing that long-range political predictions have going for them is that they are forgotten long before they are disproved.

But Dick Morris makes a strong case for the unlikelihood of Barack Obama's re-election in 2012.

It is essentially an economic argument. Economic slowdown, inflation (sharply rising food and energy prices), sustained unemployment, and a continuing crisis in the housing market.

This dark horizon is partly the administration's own doing. Part of it is international events like the Middle East revolutions that have driven up oil prices and the Sendai earthquake that has taken the world's third largest economy offline. As far as the Middle East is concerned, a wiser American foreign policy could have turned some of these events, such as those in Libya and a couple of years ago in Iran, to our advantage.

Here's Morris:

As the Rev. Jeremiah Wright said - outrageously and wrongly - about 9/11, "the chickens are coming home to roost." The policies of this administration - the disastrous overspending, the irresponsible borrowing, the social experimentation - all are magnifying and amplifying the impact of the recession. Relief is not going to come anytime soon.

Instead, the true legacy of the Obama years is likely to be stagflation and an entire decade wiped out by his policies, budget and programs. Long after he is gone in 2013, we will still be repairing the damage of his terrible decisions.
Of course, anything can happen in politics. Like the Republicans could put up a completely implausible candidate as they did in the 2010 Senate contests in Nevada and Maryland.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Monsters in the Middle East

When you consider the Arab-Israeli conflict, consider also who it is that the Israelis are having to deal with. If you are heartened by democracy spreading in Arab countries (if in fact that happens), consider who it is will be voting for governments in those countries.

Glen Beck describes the murder of Israeli settler family Uri and Ruth and their three children Yoav (11), Elad (4), and Hadas (3 months) (thankfully three children escaped) by a Palestinian terrorist.

Here is an interview with the Vogels a year ago.

Here is the Fogel family playing in their home.

Here are the surviving children with their grandmother, if your heart can stand it.

My column today, "Middle East Murder," addresses an aspect of this. I should have titled it "Middle East Massacre."

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal has a fine column on the subject, "Are Israeli Settlers Human?" (You may have to Google the title to get at the column.)

A few years ago, British poet and Oxford don Tom Paulin offered a view on what should be done to certain Jewish settlers. "[They] should be shot dead," he told Al-Ahram Weekly. "I think they are Nazis, racists. I feel nothing but hatred for them." As for Israel itself, it was, he said, "an historical obscenity."

Last Friday, apparently one or more members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the terrorist wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's "moderate" Fatah party, broke into the West Bank home of Udi and Ruth Fogel. The Jewish couple were stabbed to death along with their 11-year-old son Yoav, their 4-year-old son Elad and their 3-month-old daughter Hadas. Photographs taken after the murders and posted online show a literal bloodbath. Is Mr. Paulin satisfied now?

Unquestionably pleased are residents of the Palestinian town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, who "hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack" and "handed out candy and sweets," according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. The paper quoted one Rafah resident saying the massacre was "a natural response to the harm settlers inflict on the Palestinian residents in the West Bank." Just what kind of society thinks it's "natural" to slit the throats of children in their beds?

The answer: The same society that has named summer camps, soccer tournaments and a public square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian woman who in March 1978 killed an American photographer and hijacked a pair of Israeli buses, leading to the slaughter of 37 Israeli civilians, 13 children among them. ...
The mystery of iniquity.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here are the Crises. Where are the Statesmen?

What should we expect of our next president? What is the defining crisis of our times? It would help if we had a History of the Twenty-first Century, but that won’t be available for many years to come.

The remarkable thing about great statesmen is that, as though by intuitive grasp of the relative importance of things, they seem to see the present in the clear light of the future. Churchill, in the political wilderness, saw the monstrous threat of Nazism long before his more respectable contemporaries did. It was not a recent insight that he shared in his “Their Finest Hour” speech when he cast the coming Battle of Britain as a contest for “the survival of Christian civilization” and “the abyss of a new Dark Age.”

When we look for a presidential candidate, we are looking for a statesman.

Mitch Daniels says the great crisis is financial. There is a strong case to be made for this. But statesmen are also able to read and lead the public. Daniels stumbled in this. Last year, he told Andy Ferguson of the Weekly Standard that the next president would have to call a truce on social issues to focus on our nation’s more immediate and existential crisis of crippling debt. "It is just a suggestion I made once," he told World reporter Edward Lee Pitts. Both Pitts and Ferguson demonstrate that Daniels is pro-life to his bones. Ferguson quotes Curt Smith, head of the Indiana Family Institute, saying, “He has a deep faith, he’s totally pro-life, and he walks the talk.” Perhaps it was just a stumble. Perhaps he is a great man, and not the bean counter he appeared to be at that moment.

Newt Gingrich tells us that Islam will swallow us if we do not rally against it. This could be true, and rally we must. But in America, unlike Europe which has already committed moral and demographic suicide, we still have a backbone to stiffen, and our uniquely free society encourages Muslim Americans to moderate and assimilate. As for Newt, he is not a great man. He is strong on insight and analysis, but profoundly deficient in character. No man as morally hollow as Newt Gingrich should be President. We suffered that from 1992-2000. Newt is the Bill Clinton of the right
In yesterday's Worldmag column, I make my case that abortion and the disintegration of the family are the great moral crises that threaten to destroy the nation ("Facing the Crisis of Our Times").
As for abortion in particular, not only does it present serious demographic and workforce challenges, it is a moral blight that invites God's righteous judgment.

We need to repent of our evil, return to the Lord, and reform our ways. George Washington saw the flourishing of our nation as inseparable from our national repentance before God’s righteous majesty and from our trust above all in the strength of his arm on our behalf. He wrote at time when the Lord’s government of the nations was commonly recognized and with a clear political conscience for doing so.
In his General Orders of March 6, 1776, as Commander of the Continental Army, General Washington declared, “a day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation to implore the Lord, the Giver of all victory, to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness’s (sic.), and that it would please him to bless the Continental Arms, with his divine favor and protection.” (I thank Dr. Peter Lillback for sending me this reference.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Inside the Union Mind

It has been interesting to see all these union people jumping up and down and chanting their chants up in Wisconsin.

"What do we want?" ("Fill in the blank!") When do we want it?" ("Now!")

"We are..." ("We are...") "Union!" ("Union!")

It's like watching someone else's religion.

Some of the scenes are like time travel back to the sixties. Guitars. Joan Baez freedom songs. It's really pathetic.

In my column on the subject, "The Unions Have No Clothes," I identify the difference between public sector and private sector unions. With the former, the relationship between management and labor is symbiotic, not adversarial. (1) Unions contribute money for the re-election of their employers (if they're Democrats). (2) The employers don't use their own money to pay their employees. They tax it from other people or they borrow it. I thank George Will for pointing out the difference in his much finer column, "Out of Wisconsin."

The heart of my argument is this.

Margaret Thatcher faced a similar issue when she became British Prime Minister in 1979. ... Thatcher knew she would have to face down the unions over where sovereignty and the locus of democracy lay in Great Britain, in the elected government or in the labor unions. The clash in Wisconsin shows the same question is at issue in America today.

These union people speak about the "fight for democracy," and they compare their fight in Wisconsin to the fight for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. It seems that "democracy" means widespread unionization and consequent union domination of politics. That's what Britain had between WWII and Mrs. Thatcher. It is also the same reasoning that supported the claim of East European communist dictatorships calling themselves "democracies" (like the German Democratic Republic, or communist East Germany). These are the same unions that want to do away with the secret ballot by "card check" legislation that would allow union thugs to approach people--maybe at their homes--with cards for them to sign...no pressure, of course.

The left doesn't see how these obscenely generous public service employee compensation packages are bankrupting government. To them it is not a spending problem, but a revenue problem. Ben Manski of the Liberty Tree Foundation says what seems self-evident to the "soak-the-rich" end of the political spectrum. According to him, everybody--public and private sector--should be able to quit work at 50 and be paid full salary for the rest of their lives. Paying for it should be no problem: raise taxes on the rich and the corporations. It's as simple as that. Lots of money there. Free for the taking.

In light of this, consider how closely tied the White House is to union power. Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, is a weekly advisor to the White House.

This union dominated world of Barack Obama's community organizing dreams is an economic and political nightmare. It's good that we are having it out.
One helpful commenter at the Worldmag column shares four points of difference between public and private sector unions that david Brooks lists in his column:

1. “Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers.” (David Brooks, Op-ed, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2011).

2. “Private sector union members know that their employers could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest.” (David Brooks, Op-ed, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2011).

3. “Private sector unions confront managers who have an incentive to push back against their demands. Public sector unions face managers who have an incentive to give into them for the sake of their own survival.” (David Brooks, Op-ed, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2011).

4. “Most important, public sector unions help choose those they negotiate with. Through gigantic campaign contributions and overall clout, they have enormous influence over who gets elected to bargain with them, especially in state and local races.” (David Brooks, Op-ed, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2011).

But how many people in the public discussion just talk about "unions" as though these government worker unions weren't a separate species?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Constitution Toon

I found this charming video on the Constitution Society homepage.

It appears to be Libertarian, but their hearts are in the right place on this one.