Saturday, August 5

200,000 Iraqi Troops - 30,000 Insurgents. Do The Math.

During this week's Armed Services Committee hearing Republican Senator Lindsay Graham displayed a rare penchant to actually Do his Job when he asked General Abizaid how many Insurgents there were in Iraq and where they were coming from.

The answer?

  • Approx 1000 Al Qaeda Fighters
  • Sunni Insurgents in the "Low Five Figures"
  • Approx 10-20,000 Shia Militia members (who may in fact also be members of the Iraqi National Army and have become roving Death Squads

Graham then responded by asking why over 200,000 trained Iraqi troops can't seem to get a handle on "just 30,000-40,000" insurgents whom they outnumber by at least 5 to 1?

Why indeed?

With that one question Graham hit the true failure of our policy in Iraq squarely on the head. The problems in that region are not one of manpower or of financing - it's an issue of willpower.

Ultimately it's the Iraqi people who have to paraphrase Sting from the song Russians that they have to "Love their children" more than they hate the enemy - whether that Enemy is the U.S., the Sunni, the Shia or the Kurds.

Several other Senators during the hearing made pointed statments.

Senator McCain, while discussing the recent plan to move 3,500 U.S. troops pointed out that we've been through this game before with Fallujah where we moved our forces in and and soon as they had cleaned the city out, the insurgents returned.

"We're playing a game of whack-a-mole here," McCain complained. "It's very disturbing."

No kidding. We're also not winning that game.

Oddly enough Senator John Warner when questioning Abizaid actually managed to echo a point repeated made by Cindy Sheehan - The Mission has long ago been accomplished.

From The Daily News.

The 2002 resolution authorizing military force, Warner noted, called for U.S. forces to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and to enforce all relevant U.N. resolutions.

"Many of those missions set out and envisioned by the Congress when it gave this authority - namely, the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime - have been achieved," Warner said.

Abizaid didn't respond directly to Warner's suggestion but said he was hopeful that civil war could still be avoided.

With the death toll rising above 100 people a day in what mostly to be a Sunni/Shia War - that hope seems to be rather in vain.

Besides Sheehan, Senator Warner's suggestion also echoes the efforts of Rep Lynn Woolsey to have the Iraq War Resolution Repealed.

Six weeks after we invaded Iraq, President Bush stood aboard an aircraft carrier before a banner that read "Mission Accomplished," declaring that "major combat operations in Iraq are over." From that moment on, we were no longer fighting a war, but rather participating in an occupation.

With only 90 Days left until the November Election, Republicans are clearly starting to run scared and have begun to shows some weaks signs of recognizing their oversight responsibility - yet, the harshes criticism of the entire hearing was still delivered by a Democrat.

Senator Hillary Clinton - while questioning Donald Rumsfeld from the Washington Post:

Under your leadership, there have been numerous errors in judgment that have led us to where we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have a full-fledged insurgency and full-blown sectarian conflict in Iraq.

Now, whether you label it a civil war or not, it certainly has created a situation of extreme violence and the continuing loss of life among our troops and of the Iraqis.

You did not go into Iraq with enough troops to establish law and order.

You disbanded the entire Iraqi army. Now, we're trying to recreate it.

You did not do enough planning for what is called Phase Four and rejected all the planning that had been done previously to maintain stability after the regime was overthrown.

You underestimated the nature and strength of the insurgency, the sectarian violence and the spread of Iranian influence

In a July 22 article in the New York Times, General Abizaid was quoted as saying, "Two months after the new Iraqi government took office, the security gains that we had hoped for had not been achieved."

In Afghanistan, your administration's credibility is also suspect. In December 2002, you said, "The Taliban are gone." In September 2004, President Bush said, "The Taliban no longer is in existence."

However, this February, DIA Director Lieutenant General Maples said that, in 2005, attacks by the Taliban and other anti-coalition forces were up 20 percent from 2004 levels, and these insurgents were a greater threat to the Afghan government's efforts to expand its authority than in any time since 2001.

So, Mr. Secretary, when our constituents ask for evidence that your policy in Iraq and Afghanistan will be successful, you don't leave us with much to talk about. Yes, we hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration's strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy.

Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?

And the Donald of course had an excellent response.

RUMSFELD: My goodness.

He then went on to question himself and further justify his ongoing failures in the region.

RUMSFELD: First of all, it's true: There is sectarian conflict in Iraq and there is a loss of life.

And it's an unfortunate and tragic thing that that's taking place.

And it is true that there are people who are attempting to prevent that government from being successful. And they are the people who are blowing up buildings and killing innocent men, women and children, and taking off the heads of people on television. And the idea of their prevailing is unacceptable.

Second, you said the number of troops were wrong. I guess history will make a judgment on that. The number of troops that went in and the number of troops that were there every month since and the number of troops that are there today reflected the best judgment of the military commanders on the ground, their superiors, General Pace, General Abizaid, the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense and the president of the United States.

I think it's not correct to assume that they were wrong numbers. And I don't think the evidence suggests that, and it will be interesting to see what history decides.

I think after three years we already have an incling of what history will ultimately decide on this matter, and it doesn't look promising from this angle.

After I originally posted the above on Dkos - one commenter brought up the less than obvious answer - at least not that obvious to someone like Graham.

This not about 30k versus 300k.

It's about insurgency and occupation. This is not a symmetric war where forces meet on the battle field. An insurgency is necessarily an asymmetric guerrilla operation, and the correct response is counterinsurgency, not the GWOT that the US is fighting and losing.

David Galula wrote the bible on asymmetric warfare forty years ago. Bernard Fall's books on Vietnam are essentail reading also. (I did this research when I was a naval officer during the Vietnam years.)

Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice

And he's absolutely correct. And we should recognize this type of warfare, we helped perfect it during our own Revolutionary War. General Washington's Continental Army used non-convention tactics and sneak attacks such as crossing the Delaware River during the dead night and winter to attack Heshen troops while they still were in their quarters. They faced a vastly superior and far more experience force, they had no chance in a head-to-head conflict so instead they used guerilla tactics they'd learned from the American Indian. We also pioneered counterinsurgency when we later fought and eventually won the Indian Wars and the west.

We already know how to do this and "Wack a mole" isn't the way.

You take the terroritory inch by inch, house by house, town by town and you hold it. Slowly you drive you opposition out into the open, push them away from resupply routes and resources - you starve them out, bottle them up and smash them. But we haven't committed the neccesary resources or man power needed to do this - 200,0oo Iraqi soldiers (with some percentage actually being loyal to the new Iraqi government) combined with 130,000 U.S. troops really isn't enough. And the odd thing is the lower the number of insurgents - (or more accurately counter-occupationists) - the harder the job is to do thoroughly.

The only way to "win" this war would be to institute a draft - but that shit is not going to happen.

We have to take a step back and realize that we've been played all the way through this situation , when you look at indications that our man in Iraq, Ahman Chalabi. The one who assured us that Saddam had WMD's, has apparently been working with and for the Shia dominated government of Iraq all along. From William Rivers Pitt.

Ahmad Chalabi has been many things to many people over the last several years. Officials in Jordan considered him to be a petty criminal, convicting him of 32 counts of bank fraud and sentencing him in absentia to 22 years in prison.

Chalabi was, for a time, the leader of a manufactured dissident group called the Iraqi National Congress, and received millions of American taxpayer dollars thanks to the passage of the Iraqi Liberation Act. This made him a source for New York Times reporter Judy Miller, who used his false information about Iraqi WMD capabilities to frighten the populace into war.

For Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the masterminds of the Iraq invasion, however, Ahmad Chalabi was the anointed one, a statesman-to-be, the man who would replace Saddam Hussein once they figured out a way to attack and overthrow his regime. Chalabi had been chosen for this position as early as 1997, before this whole mess was anything more than a twinkle in the vice president's eye.

Sept. 11 gave them the opening they needed and they went for it - but it didn't turn out how they'd planned once we'd taken over the country.

Chalabi was in the mix, to be sure. He ran for the prime minister's spot and was handily defeated, but resurrected himself long enough to become the oil minister. He was a mover and a shaker, adept at playing both ends against the middle, at one point standing as the avatar of American power and at another fashioning himself as the anti-American savior of Iraqi Shiites.

And then his house got raided, and the whispers began to percolate. Something happened with Iran, something bad, and soon enough it became clear that Chalabi was playing a double game. Rumsfeld's promise to put him in power, and to give him unfettered access to Iraq's vast oil wealth, had not been fulfilled. Chalabi, therefore, switched sides.

The NSA detected that someone was feeding the Iranians information through Baghdad, and the FBI suspected that someone was Chalabi.

"On May 20th," continued Bamford, "shortly after the discovery of the leak, Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided Chalabi's home and offices in Baghdad. The FBI suspected that Chalabi, a Shiite who had a luxurious villa in Tehran and was close to senior Iranian officials, was actually working as a spy for the Shiite government of Iran. Getting the U.S. to invade Iraq was apparently part of a plan to install a pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad, with Chalabi in charge. The bureau also suspected that Chalabi's intelligence chief had furnished Iran with highly classified information on U.S. troop movements, top-secret communications, plans of the provisional government and other closely guarded material on U.S. operations in Iraq.

The fact is that we've been suckered! Of course we're playing "Wack a Mole" only it's been the wrong freaking mole.

Now we have nearly 100,000 Shia in the streets of Baghdad protesting both us and the actions of Israel in Lebanon. Something tells me there hearts and minds haven't exactly been won over by our actions in the region.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Tens of thousands of Shiites, some burning U.S. flags and chanting "Death to Israel," thronged a Baghdad slum in support of Hezbollah Friday as protests surged against the Lebanon fighting in several Mideast nations.

Organizers and local police said hundreds of thousands attended the rally, but the U.S. military later estimated the crowd at 14,000. Associated Press reporters at the scene thought attendance was at least in the tens of thousands during the high point of the march.

The rally went off peacefully — a remarkable achievement in a city where bombings and shootings are an everyday occurrence. Sadr City is under the effective control of the cleric's Mahdi Army militia, which maintains its own security network.

Meanwhile in the nation of another one of our "allies".

In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of Shiites, who make up about 12 percent of the predominantly Sunni country's population, have marched over the past three days in al-Qatif municipality in the Gulf coast region.

Under the watchful eyes of anti-riot police during a demonstration Thursday, protesters chanted: "No Sunni, no Shiites, only one Muslim unity" while others waved posters of Nasrallah chanting "Oh Nasrallah, oh beloved one, destroy destroy Tel Aviv."

Isn't that just lovely, they're become one big happy Muslim family - all united against Israel and Us? Wonderful...

And while we talk about how Syria and Iraq are fueling the hostility of Hezbollah. Look at what the Iranian press is saying.

The horrific US and UK supported war waged by Israel against Lebanon under the pretext of self defence for the capture of two soldiers by Hezbollah is setting the stage for a US/Israeli military assault on Iran that would lead to a major conflagration in the Middle East and beyond. Only the antiwar movement and urgent action by a united Iranian community worldwide can stop such an aggression.

Iran has been the key player in this from the beginning, and they've been not just one step ahead -- but several moves ahead of us. It's well past time that we started playing this smart - something this administration seems completely incapable of doing.

Rumsfeld needs to go - now. Not later - now. He's resigned at least twice before, it's well past time that President Bush finally accepted. Seven Generals have called for him to leave, even Joe Leiberman has said it. It's not just the President perogative, it's a matter of what's best for the nation and the world. We can't afford to have an incompetent, demented boob like Rumsfeld in such a key position any longer.

Even without Rummy, this mess isn't going to end with Bush, heaven help whoever comes in after him to clean up the shitstain he's left on the oval office floor - they're going to need it.


Thursday, August 3

Rock Star : Week 5 Elimination

Well, that wasn't really a shocker.

The encore this time went to Ryan, who had pretty much killed and skinned it last night during the performance show with "Losing my Religion". I've been calling that song "Losing my Lunch" for years now but Ryan made it go down smooth. During this stripped down performance you could finally hear the quality of his voice, which has been largely covered up by the band so far. I'm not so sure he's going to be able to parley this performance into future elite-ness because I think the next time the house band cranks up they're going to yet again swallow Ryan whole and spit him out. But at least he got this one brief moment in the spotlight before becoming a lunchable again.

The bottom 3 this time weren't surprising. I didn't expect to see Zayra perform this time, her fanbase has grown too strong, even if she did release a petulant "of course" when she briefly had to stand while they listed those people who were briefly among the b3 during the night. For once she was actually wearing an appropriate outfit - no dayglow, no spandex superhero uniform, no bikini wax needed - this time she was sporting black gloves and black eyeshadow.
But no, were didn't get to see her sing and shimmy for survival again - no crazy dancing, and no hiccup vocals this time out.

The main limitation Zayra has, which I really haven't really seen anyone bring up, is the fact that her accent is so strong it actually affects her vocals. It causes her to clip of her words and phrases abruptly and akwardly. It's a real bad habit and I doubt she'll be able to fix it. We've already had the vocal clinic.

Anyway, on to people who actually were in the b3 - first up was Jill who did a fanstastic job on the Heart song "Alone". This is a song that needs a certain amount of vulnerability in the performance, and that's something that Jill hasn't shown yet. It's been all bombast, but she hasn't been able to show the proper amount of taste and sensitivity to the needs of the songs. She's been ALL JILL - ALL THE TIME, or else she's been channeling and emulating someone else - either Tina Turner on Mescaline or Courtney Love on - well, whatever it is that Courtney takes - and for once she wasn't. She was sweet. There are moment in this song where you have to basically bellow - but they're fairly restrained. Jill has proven that she has great pipes, and now she's shown that she actually has some control. Good job. She still has a long - long way to go with her constant excuse making and whining and simply not getting it - but this was a vast improvement.

Patrice did well too, but not as well as she has in her last couple performances. She's still learned how to bring it, but this time her performance of just seemed listless. Maybe she was intimidated by Jill's turnaround, maybe it was just nerves or fatigue - but she backslide a bit back into Boring!Patrice. That's not a good sign girlfriend, and hopefully won't continue - but we're well past the point where individual performances will make or break someone. It's the totatality that matters now - and although Patrice has certainly stepped up since "My Iron Long" she has to maintain it each and everytime to work off the deficit of her first few performances. This one didn't do her much credit.

Speaking of the totality of performances I have to address the Lukas issue. Yes, he probably should have been in the B3 based on how badly he fubar'd "Celebrity Skin", but that simply wasn't going to happen. At least to his credit, he knew it and was willing to admit it. But just like last year - certain people aren't going into the b3 even when they desperately deserve it (like Jordis' version of "Dream on") after a really bad performance. Oh well.

Last up tonight was Dana, whose clearly improved massively and bloomed from a little Country Flower into a Rocker Chick. She's learned how to crutch not on crazy outfits and hair - but on her ability to project the song which is impressive to behold. But it still wasn't enough compared to Jill and Patrice. As the "Suave Porn" guys stated, she just had too far still to go in the few weeks they have left. Whoever wins this gig has to be able to hit the ground running at full speed and keep it up for the next year and half straight. Dana isn't ready yet, but she will be.

We said goodbye to her and it was very bittersweet.

This year there have been both Jill's exit and this one which have shown a ton of class and maturity. Even Tommy pointed it out.

Both of these stand in stark contrast to Ty's exit last year, and his glaring return. Even though I found both Jill and Dana's departure inspiring in their depth and graciousness - I can't neccesarily find any contempt for Ty's tearful and bitter exit last season.

And before anyone gives me any shit about that apparent contradiction - I've already got a ready Rant on Deck!

The truth is that their situations are not the same. Ty went from being a major front-runner and contender with a stage presence that was probably too big for that group (they would have become the TY TAYLOR Band featuring INXS) to be shunned by the audience for speaking the truth. He was absolutely correct to state that there are fewer successful black artists in rock than you can count on one hand. I've checked. Twice.

The reason that it's important is because black people invented Rock N Roll. Everything that people call ROCK originally came from Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Chubby Checker, Fat Domino and Ike Turners original band who recorded the first "Rock N Roll" song Rocket 88 in the early 50's. From All

In 1951, the Kings of Rhythm traveled to Memphis to record at Sam Phillips' Sun studio. Their original tune "Rocket 88" (actual authorship is still disputed) was recorded with a lead vocal by sax player Jackie Brenston, and as a result was released under the name Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, not Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm. "Rocket 88" zoomed to the top of the R&B charts and is today regarded by many critics as being quite possibly the first true rock & roll record.

Yes, there were also people right there at the beginning like Buddy Holly and Richie Valens(uela). But the influence of black artists on rock was undeniable. They called it "Race Music". When Elvis dared to perform it it caused riots - not simply because of his turbo charged hips (which he picked up from people like Chuck Berry) but because everybody knew where the music came from. Black people.

Black artist completely dominated Rock until the British artists like the Beatles, the Animals and the Rolling Stones showed up and began to mine the roots of black rock and blues without watering it down the way the White-bread American artists such as Elvis, Ricky Nelson or Pat Boone had. "Tootie Fruitie" is not a Pat Boone song - it's Little Richard. "Twist and Shout" wasn't written by the Beatles - it was written and first recorded by the Isley Brothers.

Gradually rock was stolen from black people - song by song. The executives at the record labels realized they could only sell so many copies of this music with a black face on the cover - but have somebody like Elvis do it and things would go through the roof. Elvis in fact, never wrote a song - ever. He may be the "King of Rock and Roll" but he never would have got there without the help of others - mostly black people.

I can't say that black people didn't help this take place - they capitulated. They could see the direction of the industry, the incredible invasion not just coming from England, but also from American/White artists who previously would have been drawn and quartered (as Elvis nearly was) for doing that Nigger music. (Yes, they called it that - calm down) But once the Beatles did it - it was safe. It was cool. The floodgates were open and black artists were about to be drowned (just like in New Orleans). So they swam for higher ground - they run to the hills - to R&B, to Funk and eventually to Hip-Hop. So the story isn't all bad, that's true, but they left behind part of themselves, part of their heritage - part of their culture. It's something that they'll always be a part of and in many ways - still belongs to them. Rock is about freedom, and nobody was screaming for freedom louder than black people during the '50s and '60s. Rock was their tool, and it's one they could - and should use again.

But now in 2005-2006 you honestly can NOT count more than five successful black artists in rock. There's basicaly Lenny Kravits and um... Lenny Kravitz. According to the RIAA database you have to go back five years and include not just Platinum albums but Gold (500,000 copies) to be able to include a band like Sevendust. You have to go back more than ten years to get to Terrence Trent D'arby who hasn't had a hit record since 1995 (and that one only hit #178 on the Bilboard Top 200). The fifth black rock band - isn't even considered black rock because hardly anyone knows that Tom Morello is black and that's a two-fer with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. If you go back almost 20 years you can pick up number six with Living Colour whose first record Vivid was released in 1987, and number seven with Guns N Roses featuring Slash (whose half black like Lenny).

And it's not like there aren't black people out their trying hard to get into Rock. Tom and I were both members of the Black Rock Coalition in the early 90's - before he formed RATM. At the time he was in a band called Lock Up, who were originally signed to Geffen for a multi-album deal. When the first record didn't take off like a rocket and they were accused of being a "Chili Peppers rip off" - which they weren't - Geffen voided the contract and told them - "Sue us - if you can find the money to do it".

During the 90's I saw that story played out repeatedly. It happened to Cree Summer when her original band Subject to Change released their first album and were abruptly dropped due to a "Management change". It happened to former Arrested Development vocalist Dionne Farris who practically had to go to war with her own label over some of the tracks on her debut album which had a more "rock" sound. Eventually she scored a top ten hit with the rock tinged song "I Know" in 1994. They wanted her to be more like Mariah, more like Whitney - more bland, more POP - more "black". She refused and her career has basically gone nowhere since that time.

People forget that Ty has clearly been through the exact same experience as Tom, Cree and Dionne. He was a member of signed band - Dakota Moon - that managed to score a Top 10 hit on the Adult Contemporary Charts and tour with Tina Turner in 1997. But Dakota Moon wasn't just another R&B band - they had Rock Songs too. But somehow only two or three of those songs over the course of several records were ever released, almost like there was a quota or something. It was just like Dionne Farris, and just like Cree Summer who had to essentially abandon rock to make the labels happy and start doing R&B - cuz that's what black folk do now. Hendrix is dead - where's the hit single? Can we play it on Black Radio? What's with this guitar shit?

So when Ty had his eventually melt down - I knew exactly where he was coming from, that was ten years of frustration with record label bullshit erupting all at once, and although he may have shown a lack of class and composure - he said something that needed to be said particuarly on national tv.

This country (and several others really are racist, in many ways and on many levels. It's not always deliberate, it's not always malevolent - but it's there in the way people perceive and preconcieve each other. It's in how they can or can't "See" someone fronting this band or that band. It's in how labels fail to take a chance on a "different" artist, how they fail to take the risk and ultimately fail to see the benefits of that courage - meanwhile the status quo remains.

Dana and Jill have the luxury of being young, attractive, female and yes - white. But it's not going to be easy for them, they'll still have to crawl over broken glass to create real careers for themselves - and no I don't consider singing backup for Pink to be a real career - BEING PINK is a real career.

However neither of them is going to have to fight through the last 40 years of bullshit that someone like Ty has to deal with. Then again, he could always just cave-in and be a good little black boy and "go back to R&B" - or Vegas. He could capitulate like many other black people have had to.

Somehow I doubt he's going to do that. So good luck to him, and good luck to them - they all need it.


(P.S. Many of the artists I mention in this rant are included on the T2P radio station, as well as other black rock groups such as RA, King's X, Fishbone, Skindred, Kilswitch Engage, Mother's Finest, 24-7 Spyz, Bad Brains, Skunk Anansie and Urban Dance Squad -- it's not like they aren't out there, if you know where to look for them)

Wednesday, August 2

30 Days to change the mind of a Minuteman

Reality TV is generally a wasteland of amped up game shows gone all voyeur on our asses.

Instead of spending 30 minutes each week (or weekday) watching a new set of contestants vying for some extravagant prize (A New Car - A Dinette Set - or maybe a Million Dollars) by answering trivial persuit questions, squeezing through a water willie - we get to watch the same people for 24/7 for 6 months.

Oh Joy.

But there is a reality show that actually has an extra Supersized dose of Reality in it - and that's Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days on FX. If there was ever a show with the potential and power to truly reshape hearts and minds this is the one.

This show takes one person with a particular ideological or political bent, and asks them to live 30 Days in the shoes of someone else they completely disagree with.

In the first season we had a devout Christian spending 30 Days living with and living as a Muslim in middle America. There are no guarantees, no scripting. Anything could happen. The visitor could change their opinion, the family/person they're living with could change, or neither could learn or discover anything they didn't already know or feel.

The season premeir this week featured, as the show usually does, one person with a decidedly Red-State-of-Mind in the midst of Blue Staters. In this case it was a Minuteman - fresh from the Arizona border where he had been doing his best to "protect this nation from invaders who wish to destroy it" -- who voluanteered to live with a family of illegals in Los Angeles for 30 Days.

Frank the Minuteman was himself a Cuban Immigrant, spoke fluent spanish -- but like many Cuban's (including Alberto Gonzales) have become since the Bay of Pigs and Elian Gonzales incidents - he was virilently right-wing. "The Law is the Law. The only right these people have is the right to be deported."

Frank moved into a cramped one bedroom apartment with a family of seven - led by Rigoberto and his wife Patty who had crossed into the U.S. 12 years ago bringing his wife and oldest children. The two youngest were born in the U.S.

During the first portion of the show, there were some predictable debates back and forth - mostly between Frank and Rigoberto's oldest daughter Armida (a 3.8 grade ave High School senior with hopes of attending Priceton) on the issues of immigration, and the relative rights of persons who've violated U.S. immigration laws.

They attended immigration rallies together. Frank :" These people chanting 'U.S.A' don't really mean it. And what's with the Che Guevara t-shirts - doesn't that represent Revolution?" He was pretty far gone. There was even on fairly scary moment when the depth of his anger become evident as Frank pounded on the table to emphasize his point that "Illegal Immigration is a crime".

The various members of the family tried, but they couldn't break through, as Rigoberto told his Armida - in spanish - "He has to make his own decision, you can't change the world". But one thing that Frank did respond to was the caring and commitment that the family had for each other, how generous and giving their were to allow him in their hom and how hard Rigoberto worked as a handyman collecting $20 to $30 at a time doing odd jobs to provide for them.

Not being a man of stone, Frank eventually warmed to them, particular Patty as he helped her pick up cans and plastic for recycling for small change ($2-3 at a time) which she dutifully put away into a can to help buy Christmas presents for the children. (So far she had saved about $30 for the year -- and from what I could tell this was somewhere around May) When Patty spoke of her parents and Rigoberto's brother who were still living in Mexico and not being able to risk seeing them for the last 12 years - his children only remembering their grandparents dimly - Frank understood as an immigrant himself how heart-wrenching that could be, so he voluanteered to take a trip into Mexico to visit their parents.

While there, he had a chance to see first hand the conditions that Rigoberto's brother lived in. Decades of filth caked on the floors - "You can't clean this - it's just packed into the walls and floors". Cockroaches everywhere. He met the grandparents, and then Rigoberto's brother offered to show him where Rigoberto used to live in Mexico.

It was a shack.

Not even that, it had only two brick walls and a curtain for a front door. After 12 years the local plants had grown into the middle of the single room building. It had no running water. No heating. No air conditioning. No toilet. (They went out in the bushes). They ran a hose from down the street for water, and also had a nearby well -- which when Frank saw it had turned into a filthy disgusting mudhole.

It was at this point that Frank finally realized what the consquences of his "Just send them back to Mexico" rhetoric really meant to these people. He realized why Rigoberto's daughter tried so hard in school, why Rigoberto worked so hard doing odd jobs - yet continued to wish for the oppurtunity to start his own business using his mind and his hands. An oppurtunity he will never get without documentation.

He finally got it. Telling him wasn't enough, he had to see it for himself and then he understood. He wouldn't have stayed in Mexico if he had to do so under those conditions and there was simply no work to be had, no chance to make life better for your family - if there was no hope.

It was an amazing turn around. Not that Frank didn't still believe in our immigration laws, he did - he simply felt that some other options need to be explored. The situation isn't so black and white as he'd once thought.

If a man this hardened in his beliefs can learn to change his view, if he can progress and begin to empathise with those he formerly thought of only as freeloaders and criminals - there just might be hope for many of the rest of us yet.

The next Episode of 30 Days is airing tonight, featuring an American who had lost his job to outsourcing an decides to go to India to get it back. Future Episodes will flip the script on the Red/Blue dynamic that has dominated the show so far and place an Athiest in the middle of Christian Church, as well as an Abortion Supporter in the middle of Pro-Life group.

FYI I have no personal or professional affiliation with FX Networks, I just happen to think this show is far more than just a bunch of mindless visual pablum - it accomplishes what I think is the highest aspiration of telecommunications - to speak on issues that matter, are important, and potentially very powerful. Maybe I'm wrong - but you all should at least give it a chance to see for yourself. Besides giving Conservatives a red-hot truth injection, It might even manage to change a few Blue-Stater ideas about the Red States.

The challenges and conflicts we face on many issues, from Religion to Immigration to Terrorism and all challenging - but not insurmountable. If we approach them with empathy and understanding instead of anger - we just might find a way through them. We certainly won't if we don't bother to try.


Tuesday, August 1

Rock Star : Week 5 Performances

Wow. Oh wow, oh me - oh me - oh my - oh Wow.

Now that was one hell of a Rock show. I can't remember seriously when I've seen a better collection of performances on balance, and that includes the Grammys, the American Music Awards and possibly even Live Aid back in 1985. I shit you not -I was blown away.

This weeks reality clinic where the hamsters got a chance to watch and critique themselves on video - like the rest of us do - was apparently very - very - helpful. Many historians have told us that Nixon lost the 1960 Presidential Election against John Kennedy because he didn't understand television. I think a ton of these guys just figured it out.

First up was Patrice whose suddenly found the 11 spot on the dial ever since last week. Her Chili'd out version of Higher Ground was steller, and she definately showed that she could front a band even with Tommy Lee the attention-whore extra-ordinaire on the drums. I still have a problem with her vocals being a little too stiff and mechanical, but she's definately learned to control the show and the audience - both in the studio and at home. She's no longer one of the people on the bubble and has become Elite, a serious contender in this competition. I'm looking forward to what she does next week.

Josh's perfermance of Sublime's Santeria was ballsy, and showed a good balance of what he can briing to the table when he's outside his comfort zone. Lazt year "Soul man" Ty, would have done with a little venturing into the unknown - just to help people remember how great his initial hard rocking performance of "Cult of Personality" and "Heatbreaker" were. Josh still isn't really in Ty's class as an overall vocalist or showman, but he did far better than I expected him todo with this song. Although he sounded far better than the original vocalist - which isn't really that difficult truth be told - the main difference is that he seemed comfortable on stage and comfortable doing the song, which is a big change from last week where he looked like he was trying to squeeze out a loaf. Uncomfortable to do - uncomfortable to watch.

Magni is a consumate professional, and although I'm not a fan of Coldplay as I consider them the prime example of the pussification of rock, he made the song not just palatable - but even chilling. This guy can't make a wrong move, he brings it every time. My only worry is that he has a very generic sounding voice, it doesn't have a lot of personality and character that makes it truly unique. Let me give you an example - if a Rolling Stones song comes on the radio you know it's rolling stones as soon as you hear Mick's voice. It's unique. It's distinctive. But is Magni's? I don't really think so. However, he did manage to bring puts some balls into a Coldplay song - without overdoing it - and that's a genuine accomplishment.

Ryan - I have to say it - Ryan fucking blew my mind. Oh. My. FUCK - that was cool. This is a guy I considered to be absolutely be The Weakest Link among the men pretty much from day one. But if anyone felt his pulling his ass out of the frying grease last week was a fluke, they just had a rude awakeneing. His solo piano performance of "Losing My Religion" was absolutely stunning. I had visions of him doing that at Wembley Stadium. It was like seeing Paul McCartney do 'Hey Jude" or Phil Collins doing "In the Air Tonight" at Live Aid. Purely magical. When he performed this I realized it wasn't just him, but most of the performances tonight were just on that level. These guys aren't acting like a bunch of contestants trying to win a prize job - they're active like full on professional performers (which most of them are) -- but World Class performers.

Fucking Holy Fuck.

Dilana. dilana. Dilana. DILANA! God Damnit. She just ruled tonight on "Can't get enough" and hardly seemed to be trying. It's one of the first classic rock songs she's done, and she just killed it. Some of her vocals were right into Jill's range -and shows that we haven't seen anything near her full capability yet - but that's a good thing. She clearly knows when to pull her punches and when to go for the knockout. She remains Elite. As an aside, her reaction to her performance last week on the Cindy Lauper song shows a personal honesty that is rare. Jason Newsted thought her standards were "too high", but I disagree - and said so at the time. She sounded like a neutered cave troll on most of that song. Even though it worked, her tone was just plain bad, and once she had a chance to hear it, she knew it - which shows that she has control of her ego and a great ear. She remains a top contender in this.

Anyway our new Weakest Link among the men is now Toby. It's not that there was anthing wrong with his performance of Nirvana's "Penny Royal Tea" wasn't good, it was. It's just that so many people are raising the bar so high, he's just not keeping up IMO. I'm not sure what specifically he needs to do - but he's got to find a way to bump it up a notch, or he's ultimately in trouble.

Zayra - oh zayra - oh lordy. I'm so glad this Puerto Rican girl takes her grooming tips from Brazil. As in Brazillian Wax. Oh God - that outfit. I'm not sure if they keep her on the show because of her performances or to see what crazy shit she's going to wear on stage next. She and Sebastian Bach could share notes on catsuits.

Watching Z is like watching a slow motion train-wreck.
Oh no, it's headed for the Bus! Ow! And now the dining car's doing a 540 -- WHAM - oh man, there goes the school! Crash - BANG!
You just can't look away, no matter how horrible it gets.

As for the song - "867-5309 Jenny" someone need to type of a memo to her that it's not punk, it was a New Wave song. Yet again Paul "Eeyore" Merkovitz was predicting a disaster due to her changes during the reality segment and yet again magically a disaster did not occur. Even Rafeal thought she should just once, sing and perform the song the way it was supposed to be sung. But even with all that drama Zayra was actually good - again. Frankly, the one thing I'd like to see her do is ditch the nutty clothes and actually trust her voice and performance itself. I know she's about as likely to do that as Pennsylvania Senator Rick Sanitorium is to making a rational decision in his life -- but one can always hope, right?

She did good - not great, but good - and she's not going anywhere, I know damn well better than to predict her rapid exit from the show. I'm done griping about it. She's great eye-candy, great for ratings - even if she can't sing a lick and is a total spaz - but why quibble about stuff like that?

Another one for the weak category this week - was Jill. It's not that she didn't sing or perform well - she did - it just wasn't appropriate for the song. Jim Kerr's original performance of Keith Forsey's "Don't you forget about me" has a smokey, smoldering angst to it. It wasn't strident. It wasn't hystrionic. Jim's not a hystrionic guy. Zayra has been Z-effying her songs to good effect, she has good ideas and an understand of her assets and limitations - Jill doesn't. She performed this song just like she did the Rolling Stone's song last week - like part of the Tina Turner Review. The thing is that Tina knows how to cool things down once in a while and provide some contrast to her over-the-top-ness. People need a breather every once in a while, and Jill seems either unwilling or unable to provide it.

One big surprise tonight that I didn't expect was how much Lukas sucked. Musically and vocally he was fine. I even think he's managed to find a good balance between his whisper to a growl vocal tendencies -- but what's up with dissing the audience like that? You don't sing the God Damn CHORUS of the song while facing the drummer. During the Reality segment he said there's "No Rules" to this thing -- well, wake up fella - that's a freaking rule. Pay attention to the audience. You are there to entertain them, they are not there to be entertained by staring at your ass. (Ok, well most of them aren't) Oh and by the way - open your eyes when you look at 'em. Jesus Criminy. He's acting almost like he's doing a Jordis (on "Dream On") like he's trying to get thrown into the bottom 3 just so he can go home early. Maybe he's playing some type of "strategy" - I don't know. Either way, I doubt it's going to work. He's got mondo credit so far with the SN guys and a strong fan base so I don't expect that this will hurt him significantly. J.D. managed to screw the pooch on both "Crazy" and 'We are the Champions" but by that time his following was strong and vocal. There's no way that the producers of the show and Supernova's label ( which I suspect is either CBS, Mark Burnett or both) is not paying attention.

During the 80's my wife worked for the band Toto and ran their Offical Newsletter (her ex-roomate Laurie still runs it today), and was actually there in the room when Joe Williams (son of oscar winning Soundtrack composer John Williams) auditioned for the band. He pretty much Blew. Them. Away. with an uncanny ability to mimic pretty much any singer around. They hired him on the spot, but when it came time to record the album the label had other ideas. The band already had a fairly well known sound, and they didn't want to rock the boat - so they insisted that on most of their most likely hit singles that the long standing members of the band like David Paich or Steve Lukather do the lead singing. So what was the new lead singer they just hired supposed to do during those songs - bang a tamborine?

If you think a label and a producer like Burnett are going to invest this kind of time, energy and money into the Supernova project and not have any say what so ever on who they finally pick, or not pay attention to the level and intensity of voting for specific rockers -- your just about ready to buy this brand spanking new bridge I have for sale, which just happens to have a wonderful scenic view of the Hudson River and lower Manhattan at the low - LOW price of just $5.95 a inch. Operators are standing by right now at 1 888 BULL-CRAP!

JD had such massive fan support by the end there was practically no way he was going to lose -- and the same just might be true of Lukas, even if he doesn't want to win anymore.

Update on what's the F was up with Lukas:

Part of an interview from Source|
LR: Well, I think they see that I’m the real deal, brother. Sure there’s television involved, absolutely, but at the end of the day…the other night I did Celebrity Skin (on the episode aired last night, Tuesday August 1) and forgot the lyrics cause I didn’t believe in the song and the performance. I would rather not pretend to a crowd and try and sell something that I don’t believe in. I mean, they’re not stupid and I don’t want to lie to their face. So I basically had my back turned the whole show. And you know I just try to be honest, because whatever fans I do have out there, I wanna give them my all and my best. Last night I was just off my game, you know?
Whateva - dude.

Storm flipping the switch and doing "Change" by David Bowie was mesmerizing. Again, like Dilana she makes this seem effortless. I am certain, baring any label interferance, that at the end it's going to be the two of them going head to head. She was just dazzlingly sweet doing that song, and showed such a massive shift from her wild-eyed hyper-energetic performances have been so far. She's been a band leader for a long time, she knows how to run the SHOW - and it shows, in spades.

Lastly we have Dana, who seems to have completely transformed herself. She may have been a student these first four weeks, but I think now she's about ready to give some lessons. She just nailed The Who's "Baba O'Rielly" and sent if flying over the left outfield wall. "Going... Going... GONE!!" All growed up and more than ready to Rock. Dana is officially now a serious contender. Nobody - not even bitch-ass Ryan - is going to be talking shit about her begin an "Pop embarrisment" again.

I suspect we'll see Jill, Z and possibly Toby in the B3 tomorrow - but I'm hoping to see Lukas. He deserves it, and probably needs the wake-up call before it's too late.

And for those of you who haven't figured it out yet and love competely useless trivia, the song that plays during the bumper segment of the Reality Show sounds to me like an instrumental versions of Yngwie Malmsteen's "Heaven Tonight".


Dems find that Bush Broke 26 Statutes

rom TPM Muckracker

The Bush administration may have broken over two dozen federal laws and regulations -- some of them multiple times -- according to an unreleased report from the House Judiciary Committee Democrats.

"The misconduct I have found is not only serious, but widespread," reads a draft summary of the report by Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI):

From the Report:

The laws implicated by the Administration's actions include federal laws against making false statements to congress [sic]; federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; federal laws concerning retaliating against witnesses and other government employees; Executive Orders concerning leaking and other misuse of intelligence; federal regulations and ethical requirements governing conflicts of interest; the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; communications privacy laws; the National Security Act; and the Fourth Amendment.

TPM goes on to point out that a report of this type may have been ignored in the past, but with the rising probability of a Democratic take over of the House this November - accusations such as this coming from a report generated by the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee (aka the Impeachment Committee) could mean a great deal of trouble for the end of the Bush Presidency.

It is fair to note that although Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has called for the hearings on the Mahar Torture Case, for the GAO to investigate Bush's prepackaged propoganda news, asked Patrick Fitzgerald to subpeona Jeff Gannon/Guckert's notes on Valerie Plame's ID and sought a full investigation of the Downing Street Minutes, but he has not yet called for the impeachment of George W. Bush

Some may feel that making the statement that Bush may have broken over 26 Federal Laws, but not calling for his immediate impeachment is a mistake.

But there are certainly realities we need to face not just as Democrats, but as Americans. The last thing we can afford to do, is to create the feeling of a purely partisan witch-hunt against at sitting President. I believe strongly that the many and numerous illegal activities of this administration - from 750 quasi-legal signing statements to War Crimes - need to be addressed forcifully and seriously or else the likelyhood of future Presidents repeating or even surpassing the totalitarian bent of this Admnistration will remain a sword dangling precariously over the tender vulerable neck of our Democracy.

Something has to be done - soon - but it has to be handled in the correct manner. Republicans and Conservatives - even some of the 23 Percenters - may have to be brought kicking and screaming back into the Reality Based World, but there's no other way to begin truly healing this nation from the damage George W. Bush has wrought unless it is done in a bi-partisan manner.

Now is not the time to call for Impeachment formally, now is the time to gather the documentation, gather the evidence -- but that time coming, and it won't be long now.


Sunday, July 30

Idol Worship in the Oval

From Thinkprogress:

Bush Works for Lasting Peace in the Middle East:

This afternoon at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush said he would “make every effort to achieve a lasting peace” in the Middle East. He got started right away. Here are some photos from the Oval Office immediately after the event:

Strangley absent from the photo-op was Idol finalist Elliot Yamin.

This of course could be a mere coincidence, Yamin probaby figured he could visit the President the next time the Idol's are invited. (Never mind the fact that this is the first time in five seasons this has occured, and apparently only happened this time because one of Idol Winner Taylor Hicks' Grade school teachers is now Laura Bush's Press Secretary).

Now, I'm not one to speculate - (yeah, right) but maybe Elliot was just sick and didn't want to give the President something he had. Yeah - that's the ticket. It probably had nothing what-so-ever to do with the current conflicts in the middle-east in Israel or Iraq. I mean, it's not like Elliot has any particular interest in those countries - except for the fact that his father Shaoul Yamin is of Iraqi descent, while his mother Claudette Goldberg-Yamin is Jewish-American.

Imagine that, an Iraqi and a Jew, married and having children (at least until their divorce when Elliot was 14) and then having one of those children become a finalist on American Idol. And better yet, that child having a chance to speak directly to the President of the United States - while both Iraq and Israel are at War - and missing it?

Methinks there's a big fat pink elephant in the Oval Office. Or rather - missing from the Oval Office. Elliot Yamin.

But then again, maybe I'm completely offbase. Maybe this has nothing to do with Elliot's choice, maybe he didn't decide to be left out - and that decision was made for him. Maybe it was the Secret Service, or White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten - or Turdblossom - they do have to protect the President from any undesirable persons, don't they?

Y'know - people with like bumper-stickers and stuff.

Or people who might ask embarrising or probing questions. People like Cindy Sheehan who just decided to buy a house in Bush's hometown, Crawford Texas. And rest assured that southern hospitality is already blooming.

"I wish she'd stay away. Crawford's a Republican town, and she's a dumb Democrat," Westerfield, a lifelong Crawford resident, said Friday while sitting on a bench outside a gas station on Main Street.

Heartwarming isn't it? She's only been camped outside President Bush's doorstep for months to ask one question "What Noble Cause did my Son Die For?" - and George has been ducking her the entire time. Brave man, that George.

If you or I were one of the "safe" Idol's who actually did meet the President, would you or wouldn't you feel the urge to ask Cindy's question for her?

Or maybe instead ask one of a half million other possible questions like "Mr. President...
  • How could you endorse and allow torture by attempting to dodge the Geneva Conventions, don't you realize how that endangers our own troops? (Troops like Menchaka and Tucker)

  • How could you authorize the Iraq War when all legitimate information pointed to Saddam already being disarmed?

  • Even if you yourself disputed of the facts and intelligence data at the time (and have since been shown to be completely wrong), shouldn't you have erred on the side of caution and let the inspectors finish doing their jobs, rather than destroying the infrastruction of Iraq and causing the deaths of over 50,000 people?

  • Is "Just Wait" really what you'd call an effective long term foreign policy?

  • Is it a Civil War Yet when people start talking about a Coup against the Prime Minister?

  • What happened to our 8.8 Billion dollars and can we have a refund since we obviously failed to buy Maliki's loyality away from his fellow Shia's in Hezbollah with it?

  • Just how big was the federal deficit when you came into office again? Oh yeah, that's right - we didn't have one.

  • Why's New Orleans still so fucked up - uh - a total disaster?

  • Why do Donald Rumsfeld and Micheal Chertoff still have jobs? Do they have copies of compromising pictures of somebody? Did they forge the Killian Memos or the Niger-Uranium Document or something?

  • How's that Social Security Reform Plan coming along?

  • So, do you plan to wait to act until Israel has killed every living thing in Southern Lebanon - or just most of the children?

  • Now that your Vice President's Chief of Staff has been indicted for perjury, your head of Domestic Procurement prosecuted for bribery and corruption and your Chief Domestic Policy Advisor arrested for shoplifting - do you still think you've brought "honor and integrity" back to the White House?

  • Just what kind of shoes did Condi buy while the people of New Orleans were drowning?

  • If the New York Times should be prosecuted for revealing (already public) information about the Bank Data program, what exactly should happen to columnist Robert Novak for revealing an undercover CIA agent and her entire operation which was working to prevent Iran from obtaining a Nuclear Bomb?

  • Why haven't we caught or killed Osama Bin Laden yet? I thought we were gonna "Smoke 'em out"!

  • So do you think the Rapture has already started, or we still have a couple more years for our stocks to mature?

  • Isn't it great, now that Zarqawi is dead - our troops can start coming home (as long as they call "home" Baghdad, that is) ?

  • Hey, I forgot this phone number of this girl I called once on Saturday, November 21st 2004 at 1:37 am Pacific Standard Time - could have the NSA get that back for me?
Do you think maybe the reason he did meet with Idol's, besides doing a big favor for Laura, is the fact he had assurances that they wouldn't ask those kinds of questions?

But how could you not? How could let an oppurtunity to get an answer, any answer - even one of Bush's typical bullshit answers like "Freedom is on the March" - slip away?

I don't know if Elliot had a cold that day, if he had strong enough feelings that he didn't want to be in the proximity of George Bush, or the reverse - members of the Bush Adminstration felt he couldn't be trusted not to pressure or embarass the President - I just don't know.

I'm just saying, whether you approve or disagree with George Bush's Presidency, if you had a chance to speak your mind directly to the man - even in the middle of a photo-op of this type - would you pass it up?

I know I wouldn't.

What would you ask him?


Update: People Magazine (not a News source I generally frequent) has a report up that indicates that Yamin simply overslept and only missed the photo session.

Elliott Yamin missed the first part of the visit with the President. About five minutes after it started, he was seen racing down the hall toward the Oval Office, wiping his brow and saying, "Phew!" "He was sleeping!" Young explains, adding that the Idols - who have been on the "American Idols Live" tour since July 6 - arrived in Washington, D.C., at 5:30 a.m., and that some of them have been having a hard time sleeping on the bus that takes them from city to city.
Leave it to AI to be banal to the end - that is if you believe this "story" from People. /snark.