Saturday, July 21, 2007

It Just Gets Worse

"The odds of us still having a republic in anything but name only by January 2009 grows more remote every day."

That's Nightshift at Shakesville, writing about this peachy new executive order released by the White House last week. Like him, I can't understand why the news media aren't calling more attention to this, unless it's simply fear. Nightshift's analysis is better than anything I could do, so let me quote it:

Under this order, the Executive Branch can ’starve out’ a person by completely freezing their [economic] assets, without trial, without the need to present evidence, and without appeal. The Treasury Secretary has sole discretion to determine who is in violation of this order, in ‘consultation’ with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State. That last part is verbiage; Treasury has the power per this order. Even better, the Secretary of Treasury has the explicit authority to delegate this decision to any flunky or flunkies of his choice per Sec. 6. This order applies to all persons within the United States. If Treasury declares that a person is a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to commit violence in Iraq, or a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to support violence in Iraq in any way, or to have assisted in any way a person who is a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to do so, all their assets are to be immediately frozen.

It is a further violation of the order to make a donation to such a person whose assets have been frozen. (I was being literal when I said ’starve’ them. Such a person would have no legal means of acquiring food, clothing, or shelter. They couldn’t buy it with frozen assets, nor accept it as a gift, and stealing is already illegal.)

Furthermore, those assets can be frozen with no warning, after no judicial proceeding, if someone in Treasury is of the opinion that it should be done. There's nothing like a habeaus corpus provision requiring them to show any cause for this action, much less prove their case. Technically they're just freezing your assets, not seizing them, so they're not bound by the requirement to justify their action or compensate you for your loss. Of course, if you cannot use your assets, you might as well not have them.

So Bush has given himself the power to declare any person or organization an economic unperson any time he wants to, for any or no reason. I suppose he could decide that merely disagreeing with his Iraq policies might constitute "undermining efforts to promote ... political reform in Iraq," so there's no reason Treasury couldn't take action against me for writing this post. Depending on how draconian they're feeling that day, as an unperson I could not receive so much as a sawbuck from my dad to buy a meal without making him and the restaurant into unpersons too. And in case you think this is a spoof or a joke, here's the link to the official announcement by the White House.

Now doesn't that make you feel all comfortable and secure?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Joe D. Calls It

When I lived in Los Angeles in the 80s I was privileged to know jazz clarinetist Joe Darensbourg. He was born in Baton Rouge in 1906. He told me of hearing brass bands that had come up from New Orleans to play parades, bands featuring incredible teenage cornet prodigy Louis Armstrong. He was impressed. Joe had a great career, playing with Jelly Roll Morton, Fate Marable, Buddy Petit, Kid Ory. In the 50s he had a national hit single with "Yellow Dog Blues." He came full circle when he toured the world as a member of Louis Armstrongs' All-Stars.

He was a fine clarinetist, but his true art form was storytelling. Man, could he talk, about the people he'd known, places he'd gone, things he'd seen and done. His stories tended to blossom like flowers as further details, you know, came to him. His friends all knew this, and just enjoyed the show.

I was thinking of him watching the political coverage from Washington. I videotaped a 2.5 hour interview with Joe in 1982, which I later transcribed and published in the journal New Orleans Music. Talking of Jelly Roll Morton, another great musician and great, err, storyteller, Joe said:

Well, Jelly was a great prevaricator, or liar to be exact.

We need phrases like this in modern political discourse.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mary Poppins. Fear her.

You grew up with the Mary Poppins movie, didn't you? Of course you did. We all did. I may have even seen it in a theater when it was released. I'm not sure, but I would have been about eight, so it could be.

But we all saw it on TV at least when growing up. And what a dark, twisted influence she was on us all. Evil. Terrifying. Corrupting. Drawing us into the lightless realm of malign power, ruthless domination, and the unspeakable horror of children being swept up into demonic influence by those they are supposed to trust.

I mean, cummon. Just look at the trailer for the movie.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Guitar -- Whoa!

Xuefei Yang is 30, born in Beijing, China. For many years Asians have been getting really, really interested in Western music, often Classical music. And sometimes truly amazing performers emerge.

Paganini is best known as the first superstar violin virtuoso. During his lifetime he was equally renowned for his performances on guitar, and he arranged many of his incredibly difficult showoff pieces for guitar. Like his Caprice No. 24, popular and well known.

So what this young woman does in performing it is like ... day-umm ... holy shit ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chapman Stick

I'd heard of this thing long before I heard it played, but I didn't know much about it and wasn't much interested. But a few years ago I went into a place on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans that was part of the Satchmo Summerfest evening fest, the Satchmo Club Strut. It's a fun event, with a wonderful variety of musicians and bands playing, for everyone to enjoy in the clubs and on the street.

One club, I don't remember which, had a guy playing jazz on a Chapman Stick with a drummer, and it was amazing. I was transfixed, fascinated.

The Stick looks like a wide electric guitar fingerboard with strings, but with no other instrument body. As I understand it, playing it is like the "hammering on" guitar technique, hitting a string with a left hand finger behind its fret to make the note sound without plucking the string with your right. Unlike a guitar, the Stick's pickups are so sensitive that this is the standard mode of playing it, with no need to pluck any strings, and therefore both hands can finger notes, and with great gentleness and subtlety. This lets the Stick be strung so that one player can cover bass lines, chord fill-ins, and the lead melody.

For me, it's fascinating to watch, and this guy Rob Martino shows how beautiful it can sound.