Monthly Archives: February 2008

Angelina

Some startling sense on Iraq from, yes, Angelina Jolie in the Washington Post, in her role as a U.N. goodwill ambassador.

The request is familiar to American ears: “Bring them home.”

But in Iraq, where I’ve just met with American and Iraqi leaders, the phrase carries a different meaning. It does not refer to the departure of U.S. troops, but to the return of the millions of innocent Iraqis who have been driven out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country.

In the six months since my previous visit to Iraq with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, this humanitarian crisis has not improved. However, during the last week, the United States, UNHCR and the Iraqi government have begun to work together in new and important ways.

[…]

My visit left me even more deeply convinced that we not only have a moral obligation to help displaced Iraqi families, but also a serious, long-term, national security interest in ending this crisis.

Today’s humanitarian crisis in Iraq — and the potential consequences for our national security — are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won’t explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?

[…]

As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

Hearing these kinds of reality-based perceptions from a Hollywood actress (and one of the sexiest women in the world) just underlines how totally off the map are the stated plans of Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who continue to promise a wholesale withdrawal of troops, regardless of the circumstances on the ground.

Perhaps Obama should consider picking Angelina Jolie as a running mate. I’m thinking she might give the ticket a little more gravitas.

Believe it or not

From the BBC: Dog’s tricks are ‘better than TV’ :

An eight-year-old dog is amazing her owners and neighbours with an astonishing array of tricks.

Cindy, a pedigree cavalier King Charles spaniel, can balance objects on all four paws while lying down.

She can also keep a golf ball in a spoon held in her mouth while balancing objects on her head.

Proud owner Mark Bucknell, from Wednesfield, in the West Midlands, said: “Who needs the telly when you’ve got a dog like this?”

There are pictures accompanying the article, for those who doubt. And almost as good are the comments from readers boasting about their own animals’ remarkable and unlikely abilities.

Just another story from the web sniffed out by my little terrier Billie.

Billie and Google News

Addendum: And here’s another good one about a dog “adopting” a baby goat.

William F. Buckley, Jr., R.I.P.

William F. Buckley has passed away at the age of 82. His influence has been literally incalculable, although many serious tributes will be coming and greater brains than mine will be taking a shot at quantifying it. One thing is for sure: he was completely sharp until the end. Today I enjoyed reading a recent interview he gave to Bill Steigerwald at Townhall.com.

Q: Can you give us a concise definition of conservatism?

A: Conservatism aims to maintain in working order the loyalties of the community to perceived truths and also to those truths which in their judgment have earned universal recognition.

Now this leaves room, of course, for deposition, and there is deposition — the Civil War being the most monstrous account. But it also urges a kind of loyalty that breeds a devotion to those ideals sufficient to surmount the current crisis. When the Soviet Union challenged America and our set of loyalties, it did so at gunpoint. It became necessary at a certain point to show them our clenched fist and advise them that we were not going to deal lightly with our primal commitment to preserve those loyalties.

That’s the most general definition of conservatism.

Bob Dylan’s Starbucks collection

So, I went to one of the 23 Starbucks locations that are within two blocks of my house and purchased the latest edition in their “Artist’s Choice” series of CDs, where famous musicians pick their own favorite recordings made by other people. This new one contains the selections of Bob Dylan. It cost me $15.95, which I thought was pretty darned steep. I mean, you can almost buy a cup of coffee for that price.

The tracklist of the CD has already been reported, including in a previous post here. Aside from enjoying the music, which is indeed highly enjoyable, Bob fans will be interested in the liner notes which he contributes for each song. His tone is just a tad more personal than he usually gets on his “Theme Time Radio Hour” show. He explains from the outset that when he was asked to put together the collection, he …

… just grabbed a bunch of things I was into recently. Some people have favorite songs, but I’ve got songs of the minute — songs that I’m listening to right now. And if you ask me about one of those songs a year from now, I might not even remember who did it, but at the moment it’s everything to me.

Writing about the Stanley Brothers’ The Fields Have Turned Brown, Bob recalls seeing them play in a field in Virginia, where the only lighting was from the headlights of people’s trucks. He says:

I bet you cash money that I wasn’t the only one there who had the hair on his neck standing up. I used to have a really scratched up copy of this record; sounded like they were singing in a windstorm. Someone gave me a real clean version on CD a few years ago. I miss the wind.

Regarding the track Tezeta by Gétatchéw Kassa, Bob writes:

There’s this guy named Harold who usually shows up when I play Fort Worth, and he always gives me a bag of CDs. He never writes down what’s on them. I had to wait till the next time I was in Fort Worth to ask him what this track was. I found out it’s an Ethiopian record from this series of records made during that short window of time when popular music was allowed in Ethiopia. But when I heard it I didn’t know any of that. I thought it was some kind of Cajun record played backwards. There’s something great about hearing music that’s so obviously passionate and so obviously good, and not being able to understand the words. I like to imagine this is what my records might sound like to someone in a country that doesn’t speak English.

And it does sound exactly like a Cajun record played backwards.

The CD can also be ordered online.

A story of Africa

It is getting and will get virtually no real coverage in the mainstream media, but it is a story that no one should miss, and one that was told today by President George W. Bush in an address at the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation. Full text and video is at the White House website.

America is on a mission of mercy. We’re treating African leaders as equal partners. We expect them to produce measurable results. We expect them to fight corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people, and pursue market-based economic policies. This mission serves our security interests — people who live in chaos and despair are more likely to fall under the sway of violent ideologies. This mission serves our moral interests — we’re all children of God, and having the power to save lives comes with the obligation to use it.

This mission rarely makes headlines in the United States. But when you go to Africa, it is a visible part of daily life — and there’s no doubt that our mission is succeeding. You see it when you hold a baby that would have died of malaria without America’s support. You see it when you look into the eyes of an AIDS patient who has been brought back to life. You see it in the quiet pride of a child going to school for the first time. And you see that turning away from this life-changing work would be a cause for shame.

[…]

At the clinic, we visited with a man and woman who learned they had HIV while they were dating — but went on to get treatment, get married, and have a little baby boy who is HIV-free. We saw many others who have new hope because of PEPFAR — including a 9-year-old girl who is HIV-positive. She was smiling at the clinic with her grandmother, because — sitting at the clinic with her grandmother because her mom and dad had died of AIDS. For the past year, Catholic Relief Services has been paying for the girl to receive treatment at the clinic. And I want to tell you what her grandmother said: “As a Muslim, I never imagined that a Catholic group would help me like that. I am so grateful to the American people.”

[…]

And so throughout our trip, Laura and I were overwhelmed by the outpouring of warmth and affection for the American people. Again and again, we heard the same words: “Thank you.” Thank you for sparing lives from malaria and HIV/AIDS. Thank you for training teachers and bringing books to schools. Thank you for investing in infrastructure and helping our economies grow. Thank you for supporting freedom. And thank you for caring about the people of Africa.

Americans should feel proud, mighty proud, of the work we’re doing in Africa. At every stop, I told people that the source of all these efforts is the generosity of the American people. We are a nation of compassionate and good-hearted folks. We recognize the extraordinary potential of Africa. In schoolchildren waving flags on dusty roadsides, to nurses caring for their patients at busy clinics, to artisans selling their products in scorching heat, we saw people who have been given great challenges — and responded to them with clear eyes and big hearts.

In Rwanda, a school teacher was discussing the fight to eradicate malaria and AIDS with her class. And she explained her attitude this way: “It can happen here.” With those words, she summed up the new spirit of Africa: confident and determined and strong.

Headin’ south

Bob Dylan’s shows at the House of Blues in Dallas got largely rave reviews. He and the boys kick off their tour of Mexico and South America tonight at a concert in Mexico City.

If you search YouTube today for “Bob Dylan Dallas,” there are a few clips, mostly short, from the shows at the House of Blues. There’s also this here audio clip of Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) from the February 23rd gig. I think it’s a wonderful performance, including some very spirited organ playing from the band leader.

Senor, senor, let’s disconnect these cables,
Overturn these tables.
This place don’t make sense to me no more.
Can you tell me what we’re waiting for, senor?

Another Dylan news tidbit worthy of remark: Musician Jack White talked to MTV News about the Hank Williams project to which he has recently contributed, put together by Bob Dylan. (Previous post here.)

“Bob’s putting together an album,” White said. “He came upon, somehow, 20-25 unfinished songs by Hank Williams: just the lyrics, no music, and he started to ask people if they would finish these songs. He did one, asked Willie Nelson to do one, asked me to do one, and I think Lucinda Williams and Alan Jackson are on it too. I think it might come out this year. It’s a cool record.”

Hold on

Roger Friedman reports that Sam Moore — of Sam & Dave fame — has objected to Barack Obama’s campaign using the record Hold On, I’m Comin’, at political events, saying that it implies an endorsement that he has not given.

No one from Obama’s group asked Moore if it was OK to use his recognizable vocals.

And that, Moore feels, is ironic since he’s a) a black man and b) was an active supporter and friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, a touchstone legend of the Obama campaign.

Moore says in his letter to the Obama campaign that since “Hold On!” has been used at rallies, often with the audience changing the words to “Hold on, Obama’s coming!” he’s been peppered with questions from reporters and fans such as: “Why do I want you to be president? Have we met yet? Am I honored that my song was selected to be so important to Obama for President Campaign?”

He continues: “I have had no choice but to set the record straight and I have begun explaining that the song was being performed at your rallies without my permission or my endorsement of you as my choice as a candidate for president and that I was writing this to you asking you to not continue including my material at your events.

“I do wish you well in your quest for the nomination. Having been hit with rocks and water hoses in the streets, in the day with Dr. King as part of his artist appearance and fundraising team, it is thrilling, in my lifetime, to see that our country has matured to the place where it is no longer an impossibility for a man of color to really be considered as a legitimate candidate for the highest office in our land.”

But he adds:

“I have not agreed to endorse you for the highest office in our land. I reserve my right to determine who I will support when and if I choose to do so. My vote is a very private matter between myself and the ballot box. My endorsement and support of a candidate, because I do carry some celebrity, makes it quite a different matter changing a private act to a public statement, something I wouldn’t do without considerable thought.”

And Sam Moore’s is apparently one vote that Barack Obama ought not to take for granted.

In 1996, after what one assumes must have been the “considerable thought” mentioned above, Sam Moore re-recorded the Sam & Dave hit, I’m A Soul Man, changing the title and chorus to “I’m a Dole man.” He was not endorsing orange juice, but instead the Republican candidate for president that year, the estimable Bob Dole. (Ironically, according to this item on the NY Times website, a part-owner of the song, Rondor Music Inc., threatened to sue and Senator Dole ceased using that recording.)

Sam Moore was also one of a group of stars, including Isaac Hayes and B.B. King, to perform on a 1990 album called Red, Hot & Blue: Lee Atwater & Friends. Lee Atwater — for those who don’t remember or weren’t around — was kind of the Karl Rove of his day, in addition to being a guitar player and a major music fan. (He passed away in 1991.) Sam Moore also performed at George H.W. Bush’s inaugural celebration in 1989, which was probably also something to do with Lee Atwater and his very solid musical taste.

Well, here’s to Sam Moore: a helluva singer and a true independent thinker to boot.

Below, from YouTube, is Sam Moore delivering a dynamite rendition of I Can’t Stand Up (For Falling Down)

Addendum: The full text of Sam Moore’s letter to Barack Obama was published at this link. And I reproduce it here:

I am Sam Moore the lead voice of the duo Sam and Dave whose recording of “Hold On I’m Comin” your campaign has been using at your rallies.

Unfortunately, I have been contacted by various media outlets because of a story on yesterday’s Newsweek blog about how my signature song as part of Sam & Dave was blasting for 18,000 adoring admirers of yours at a rally in Dallas and how the crowd was singing along and even spontaneously changed the words to “Hold On Obama’s Comin”. Questions have included: Why do I want you to be President? Have we met yet? Am I honored that my song was selected to be so important to the Obama for President Campaign?

I have had no choice but to set the record straight and I have begun explaining that the song was being performed at your rallies without my permission or my endorsement of you as my choice as a candidate for President and that I was writing this to you asking you to not continue including my material at your events.

I must request that you instruct your team to cease and desist from playing the song as I was not asked if I minded that my performance, as well as my name and the little bit of fame I enjoy, was associated to your bid to win the nomination of your party as their candidate for President of The United States of America, our wonderful country.

I have not agreed to endorse you for the highest office in our land.

I reserve my right to determine who I will support when and if I choose to do so.

My vote is a very private matter between myself and the ballot box. My endorsement and support of a candidate, because I do carry some celebrity, makes is quite a different matter changing a private act to a public statement, something I wouldn’t do without considerable thought.

I therefore must stand firm on being given the respect and courtesy of being asked if I mind having my talent, name and fame associated to you or any other candidate running for office, for that matter.

I do wish you well in your quest for the nomination. Having been hit with rocks and water hoses in the streets, in the day with Dr. King as part of his artist appearance and fund raising team, it is thrilling, in my lifetime, to see that our country has matured to the place where it is no longer an impossibility for a man of color to really be considered as a legitimate candidate for the highest office in our land.

On the road again

Bob Dylan yesterday kicked off three consecutive nights at the House of Blues in Dallas, Texas, after which he and the band will be heading south of the border and beyond. Last night’s set list is at Bill Pagel’s page here, and some fan reviews are here, and a review from the Dallas Morning News is here.

Sounds like a really good gig, no major departures (Bob hasn’t switched to playing drums or anything like that). Highlights include a new arrangement of Ballad of a Thin Man which closed the main set.