December 31, 2006

Another grim milestone for the U.S. military in Iraq. Bush will surely not be raving about this piece of news. Instead he will continue to tell the American people that more troops are needed in Iraq and that the war is still winnable.

Whatever “winning” even means.

It’s more tragic news for the families of American soldiers and the worst way imaginable of bringing in the new year.

It’s even more tragic for the people of Iraq who are the biggest victims and who will continue to suffer even more as the criminal war and occupation of their country continues with no end in sight.

The U.S. death toll in Iraq reaches 3,000

My Favorite Music of 2006

December 31, 2006

There was alot of great music made in 2006. New artists with fantastic albums appeared on the scene and not so new artists made wonderful music too.

Like every year there are great albums I was not able to listen to and enjoy, for a variety of reasons. I hope to catch up with them soon.

On to the music. Starting with the new Dylan album. It’s another masterpiece, the third one in a row, as he is fully immersed in yet another creative stage of his extraordinary career. Dylan reaches another artistic peak. As its been said many times before.

Cat Power is the best music discovery i’ve made in a long time, while not a new artist, I have not been able to stop playing her latest album. The voice is ravaged and world weary, singing some haunting country blues and other songs full of soul. It would be the best album of the year in any other year.

Los Lobos made, IMO, their best album ever. They take on the plight of immigrants in America and tell their stories with a beautiful mix of the blues, folk, rock and latin rhythms.

The Raconteurs are the best rock band with the best rock album this year.

Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys keep moving forward as artists and reached new career highs with their albums this year. Same goes for John Legend.

Michael Franti and his band made a musically and politically ferocious album. Old rock veteran Neil Young tells it like it is about the war in Iraq and George Bush, saying things that few artists today, young or old, would have the courage to say.

Corrine Bailey Rae is a great new British singer who is not easy to categorize, her album flows easily in and out of jazz, r&b and soul grooves and her beautiful voice does the rest.

It was a good year.

My favorite albums of 2006:

1. Bob Dylan – Modern Times

2. Cat Power – The Greatest

3. Los Lobos – The Town and The City

4. The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers

5. Mary J. Blige – The Breakthrough

6. Michael Franti & Spearhead – Yellfire!

7. Alicia Keys – Unplugged

8. Corinne Bailey Rae – Corinne Bailey Rae

9. Neil Young – Living with War

10. John Legend – Once Again

Saddam/Uncle Sam – Thanks for the memories

December 30, 2006

A special relationship has come to an end. It was swell while it lasted.

all the fond memories

The most outrageous right-wing comments of 2006

December 30, 2006

Always an entertaining read. The absolute best of the best. It really is very difficult to pick a favorite.

A feast for the mindless.

Most outrageous comments of 2006

How extreme were conservative commentators in their remarks this year? How about calls to nuke the Middle East and an allegation that a “gay … mafia” used the congressional page program as its own “personal preserve.”

Right-wing rhetoric documented by Media Matters for America included the nonsensical (including Rush Limbaugh’s claim that America’s “obesity crisis” is caused by, among other things, our failure to “teach [the poor] how to butcher a — slaughter a cow to get the butter, we gave them the butter”), the offensive (such as right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel’s question about “Barack Hussein Obama”: is he “a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?”), and the simply bizarre (such as William A. Donohue’s claim that some Hollywood stars would “sodomize their own mother in a movie”).

Since there were so many outrageous statements, we included a list of honorable mentions along with the top 11, which, if not for Ann Coulter, we might have limited to 10.

the complete list and article

Village Voice Best Jazz Albums of 2006

December 29, 2006

The Top 10

1. Ornette Coleman – Sound Grammar

2. Andrew Hill – Time Lines

3. Sonny Rollins – Sonny, Please

4. Nels Cline – New Monastery

5. Muhal Richard Abrams–George Lewis–Roscoe Mitchell

6. Paul Motian – Garden of Eden

7. Keith Jarrett – The Carnegie Hall Concert

8. Ben Riley’s Monk Legacy Septet – Memories of T

9. Bennie Maupin – Penumbra

10. Joe Lovano – Streams of Expression

the rest of their list

Cartoon of the Day

December 28, 2006

NY Post Best Albums of 2006

December 28, 2006

1. The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers

2. Nelly Furtado – Loose

3. Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways

4. Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam

5. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

6. Bob Dylan – Modern Times

7. Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics

8. Diddy – Press Play

9. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

10. My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade

comments on their picks

James Brown

December 27, 2006

I still can’t believe the news of his death. It seemed like he would be around forever. That’s how it is with artists of his caliber. They become eternal, indestructible.

I can still remember when I first listened to the “Live at the Apollo” album, and like alot of other people the music shook me from head to toe. It was soulful to the core but it was alot more than that. It’s a high voltage of excitement that is everywhere. In the band’s playing, in the singing, and in the people that were there, taking it all in. Live. It is electrifying.

One can only imagine how thrilling it must’ve been to experience that music in person.

Luckily, we have the recordings to remind us, in case we forget, the power of music in the hands of masterful artists.

Of course, James Brown’s musical greatness and legacy will carry on and go alot further than just one album, as brilliant as it is. He’s left us a vast, wonderful and influential body of work.

Hip Hop in particular owes him alot as it would not have developed and evolved and be what it is today (for better or for worse) had it not been for James Brown’s music as it was widely sampled and incorporated into many rap songs throughout the years.

Another musical giant is gone but the majestic soul and funk he created was his gift to the world. Long it will live on.

There’s an interesting article on his life in today’s Guardian.

James Brown obituary

and a great video clip of the man himself doing what he did so well.

The Godfather of Soul

Petition: For Immediate Withdrawal Of All U.S. Troops From Iraq

December 24, 2006

THE U.S. occupation of Iraq has not liberated the Iraqi people, but has made life worse for most Iraqis.

Tens of thousands of U.S. service people have been killed or maimed, and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have lost their lives as a result of the U.S. invasion in 2003, the ongoing occupation, and the violence unleashed by them.

Iraq’s infrastructure has been destroyed, and U.S. plans for reconstruction abandoned. There is less electricity, less clean drinking water, and more unemployment today than before the U.S. invasion.

All of the justifications initially provided by the U.S. for waging war on Iraq have been exposed as lies; the real reasons for the invasion — to control Iraq’s oil reserves and to increase U.S. strategic influence in the region — now stand revealed.

The Bush administration has insisted again and again that stability, democracy, and prosperity are around the next bend in the road. But with each day that the U.S. stays, the violence and lack of security facing Iraqis worsen.

The U.S. says that it cannot withdraw its military because Iraq will collapse into civil war if it does. But the U.S. has deliberately stoked sectarian divisions in its ongoing attempt to install a U.S.-friendly regime, thus driving Iraq towards civil war.

The November elections in the United States sent a clear message that voters reject the Iraq war, and opinion polls show that seven in 10 Iraqis want the U.S. to leave sooner rather than later. Even most U.S. military and political leaders agree that staying the course in Iraq is a policy that is bound to fail.

Yet all the various alternative plans for Iraq now being discussed in Washington, including those proposed by House and Senate Democrats, aren’t about withdrawing the U.S. military from Iraq.

Rather, these strategies are about continuing the pursuit of U.S. goals in Iraq and the larger Middle East using different means.

Even the proposal to redeploy U.S. troops outside of Iraq, a plan favored by many Democratic Party leaders, envisions continued U.S. intervention inside Iraq.

With former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger insisting that a military victory in Iraq is no longer possible and (Ret.) Lt. Gen. William Odom calling for “complete withdrawal” of all U.S. troops, the antiwar movement should demand no less than the immediate withdrawal of the U.S. military — as well as reparations to the Iraqi people, so they can rebuild their own society and genuinely determine their own future.

We call on the U.S. to get out of Iraq — not in six months, not in a year, but now.

Ali Abunimah

Gilbert Achcar
Clash of Barbarisms

Michael Albert

Tariq Ali
Bush in Babylon

Anthony Arnove
Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal

Noam Chomsky
Hegemony or Survival

Kelly Dougherty
Executive Director
Iraq Veterans Against the War

Eve Ensler
The Vagina Monologues

Eduardo Galeano
The Open Veins of Latin America

Rashid Khalidi
Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies
Columbia University

Camilo Mejía
First Iraq War resister to refuse redeployment

Arundhati Roy
God of Small Things

Cindy Sheehan
Gold Star Families for Peace, mother of Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, killed in Iraq

Howard Zinn
A People’s History of the United States

Sign The Petition

Estas Navidades siniestras

December 24, 2006

Estas Navidades siniestras

Gabriel García Márquez

Ya nadie se acuerda de Dios en Navidad. Hay tanto estruendo de cornetas y fuegos de artificio, tantas guirnaldas de focos de colores, tantos pavos inocentes degollados y tantas angustias de dinero para quedar bien por encima de nuestros recursos reales que uno se
pregunta si a alguien le queda un instante para darse cuenta de que semejante despelote es para celebrar el cumpleaños de un niño que nació hace 2.000 años en una caballeriza de miseria, a poca distancia de donde había nacido, unos mil años antes, el rey David.

Novecientos cincuenta y cuatro millones de cristianos creen que ese niño era Dios encarnado, pero muchos lo celebran como si en realidad no lo creyeran. Lo celebran además muchos millones que no lo han creído nunca, pero les gusta la parranda, y muchos otros que estarían dispuestos a voltear el mundo al revés para que nadie lo siguiera creyendo. Sería interesante averiguar cuántos de ellos creen también en el fondo de su alma que la Navidad de ahora es una fiesta abominable, y no se atreven a decirlo por un prejuicio que ya no es religioso sino social.

Lo más grave de todo es el desastre cultural que estas Navidades pervertidas están causando en América Latina. Antes, cuando sólo teníamos costumbres heredadas de España, los pesebres domésticos eran prodigios de imaginación familiar.

El niño Dios era más grande que el buey, las casitas encaramadas en las colinas eran más grandes que la virgen, y nadie se fijaba en anacronismos: el paisaje de Belén era completado con un tren de cuerda, con un pato de peluche más grande que un león que nadaba en el espejo de la sala, o con un agente de tránsito que dirigía un rebaño de corderos en una esquina de Jerusalén.

Encima de todo se ponía una estrella de papel dorado con una bombilla en el centro, y un rayo de seda amarilla que habría de indicar a los Reyes Magos el camino de la salvación. El resultado era más bien feo, pero se parecía a nosotros, y desde luego era mejor que tantos cuadros primitivos mal copiados del aduanero Rousseau.

La mistificación empezó con la costumbre de que los juguetes no los trajeron los Reyes Magos –como sucede en España con toda razón–, sino el niño Dios. Los niños nos acostábamos más temprano para que los regalos llegaran pronto, y éramos felices oyendo las mentiras poéticas de los adultos.

Sin embargo, yo no tenía más de cinco años cuando alguien en mi casa decidió que ya era tiempo de revelarme la verdad. Fue una desilusión no sólo porque yo creía de veras que era el niño Dios quien traía los juguetes, sino también porque hubiera querido seguir creyéndolo. Además, por pura lógica de adulto, pensé entonces que también los otros misterios católicos eran inventados por los padres para entretener a los niños, y me quedé en el limbo.

Aquel día –como decían los maestros jesuitas en la escuela primaria- perdí la inocencia, pues descubrí que tampoco a los niños los traían las cigüeñas de París, que es algo que todavía me gustaría seguir creyendo para pensar más en el amor y menos en la píldora.

Todo aquello cambió en los últimos treinta años, mediante una operación comercial de proporciones mundiales que es al mismo tiempo una devastadora agresión cultural. El niño Dios fue destronado por el Santa Claus de los gringos y los ingleses, que es el mismo Papá Noel de los franceses, y a quienes todos conocemos demasiado. Nos llegó con todo: el trineo tirado por un alce, y el abeto cargado de juguetes bajo una fantástica tempestad de nieve.

En realidad, este usurpador con nariz de cervecero no es otro que el buen San Nicolás, un santo al que yo quiero mucho porque es el de mi abuelo el coronel, pero que no tiene nada que ver con la Navidad , y mucho menos con la Nochebuena tropical de la América Latina. Según la leyenda nórdica, San Nicolás reconstruyó y revivió a varios escolares que un oso había descuartizado en la nieve, y por eso lo proclamaron el patrono de los niños.

Pero su fiesta se celebra el 6 de diciembre y no el 25. La leyenda se volvió institucional en las provincias germánicas del Norte a fines del siglo XVIII, junto al árbol de los juguetes, y hace poco más de cien años pasó a Gran Bretaña y Francia. Luego pasó a Estados Unidos, y éstos nos lo mandaron para América Latina, con toda una cultura de contrabando: la nieve artificial, las candilejas de colores, el pavo relleno y estos quince días de consumismo frenético al que muy pocos nos atrevemos a escapar.

Con todo, tal vez lo más siniestro de estas Navidades de consumo sea la estética miserable que trajeron consigo: esas tarjetas postales indigentes, esas ristras de foquitos de colores, esas campanitas de vidrio, esas coronas de muérdago colgadas en el umbral, esas canciones de retrasados mentales que son los villancicos traducidos del inglés; y tantas otras estupideces gloriosas para las cuales ni siquiera valía la pena de haber inventado la electricidad.

Todo eso, en torno a la fiesta más espantosa del año. Una noche infernal en que los niños no pueden dormir con la casa llena de borrachos que se equivocan de puerta buscando donde desaguar, o persiguiendo a la esposa de otro que acaso tuvo la buena suerte de
quedarse dormido en la sala.

Mentira: no es una noche de paz y amor, sino todo lo contrario. Es la ocasión solemne de la gente que no se quiere. La oportunidad providencial de salir por fin de los compromisos aplazados por indeseables: la invitación al pobre ciego que nadie invita, a la prima Isabel que se quedó viuda hace quince años, a la abuela paralítica que nadie se atreve a mostrar.

Es la alegría por decreto, el cariño por lástima, el momento de regalar porque nos regalan, y de llorar en público sin dar explicaciones. Es la hora feliz de que los invitados se beban todo lo que sobró de la Navidad anterior: la crema de menta, el licor de chocolate, el vino de plátano.

No es raro, como sucede a menudo, que la fiesta termine a tiros.

Ni es raro tampoco que los niños –viendo tantas cosas atroces- terminen por creer de veras que el niño Jesús no nació en Belén, sino en Estados Unidos.