Saturday, August 26, 2006
Is Osama bin Laden Still A Threat Five Years After 9/11?
"The fact that he has eluded capture does not mean that he has left the scene," she said. "It's incredible to me that he still manages to put out fairly sophisticated video and audiotapes, that his presence is still there."
For that reason, said Gary Berntsen, former head of the CIA's Jawbreaker Unit assigned to track and capture bin Laden, "I believe it is very important that we get bin Laden."
Berntsen, speaking on behalf of the National Geographic Channel's "The Final Report: Osama's Escape," in which he appears, said, "Bin Laden has demonstrated his ability to conduct a catastrophic attack on the United States. He's still a formidable opponent. His resources are somewhat diminished, but he can still be very lethal."
Michael Scheuer, author of "Imperial Hubris" and former chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, which was disbanded recently, appears in the National Geographic Channel report.
Scheuer, speaking to reporters via satellite, called the disbanding of the unit "an extraordinary decision" that "sends a terrible message to people like Pakistan who we keep urging to help us. And it really sends a message to the American people that we're no longer chasing bin Laden."
"The action was taken by those who simply don't like bureaucracies, he said."I would doubt that the president even knew about it being dismantled," Scheuer said.
In the film, he says the failure to find bin Laden after five years is embarrassing: "The greatest power the world has ever seen can't find one 6-foot, 4-inch Saudi in Afghanistan. On the face of it, it looks very, very silly."
The biggest mistake in the pursuit of bin Laden may have been not having enough troops on the ground to catch him in Tora Bora, Scheuer said.
"The CIA begged and pleaded with the U.S. military to put the troops on the ground and block the mountain passes in the back, and the U.S. military, for various reasons, did not do that," said Philip Smucker, a former foreign correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and author of "Al Qaeda's Great Escape: The Military and the Media on Terror's Trail."
Scheuer says such decisions have caused a number of agency officers to speak out.
"Clearly, we've experienced over the course of our career an increasing moral cowardice among the leaders of both parties when it comes to protecting Americans," he said.
"Protecting Americans simply does not come first."
The lack of troops on the Pakistan border in 2001 is also cited in the CNN report. But so is evidence that some of the Afghan warlords enlisted to help were actually paid off to look the other way.
Amanpour says bin Laden continues to benefit from "a blanket of support."
"Look, how is he able to put out the videos? How is he able to put out the audiotapes? How is he able to still, we think, to be with his key lieutenant, al-Zarqawi? You know, for those reasons, it's very, very, very difficult and because he's protected in those areas that he stays in."
Bush Administration Public Statements Concerning the Failure to Capture or Kill Osama bin Laden
to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations,
organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided
the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such
organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international
terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush announced that the terrorist organization al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, planned and executed the attacks. President Bush promised to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
Five years since the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden still has not been captured or killed. The question is why not? How could the combined might of the United States and allied military and intelligence forces have failed for five years to have captured or killed the "most wanted" terrorist in the world? And as the President and his military and intelligence forces have failed to capture or kill bin Laden, how effective has the President been at implementing the AUMF to future acts of international terrorism against the United States?
Try getting a straight answer to these questions from President Bush or any other present or former Bush Administration official. This post will set forth some examples of their public statements on this subject.
On March 1, 2006, President Bush held a joint press conference with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan:
QUESTION: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, there was a time when you
talked about getting Osama bin Laden dead or alive. Why is he still on the loose
five years later? And are you still confident that you'll get him?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I am confident he will be brought to justice. What's
happening is, is that we got U.S. forces on the hunt for not only bin Laden, but
anybody who plots and plans with bin Laden. There are Afghan forces on the hunt
for not only bin Laden, but those who plot and plan with him. We've got Pakistan
forces on the hunt. And part of my message to President Musharraf is, is that
it's important that we bring these people to justice. He understands that. After
all, they've tried to kill him four times. So we've got a common alliance, all
aimed at routing out people who are evildoers, people who have hijacked a great
religion and kill innocent people in the name of that religion. We're making
progress of dismantling al Qaeda. Slowly but surely, we're bringing the people
to justice, and the world is better for it, as a result of our steady progress.
On March 4, 2006, President Bush answered questions at a joint appearance in Islamabad, Pakistan with Pakistani President Musharraf:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, what would you like to see
President Musharraf do in the war on terrorism that he's not doing now? Is the
United States getting the access and the help that it needs to go after al Qaeda
and Osama bin Laden?
PRESIDENT BUSH: There's a lot of work to be done in defeating al Qaeda.
The President and I know that. We spent a good while this morning talking about
the work that needs to be done. The best way to defeat al Qaeda is to find -- is
to share good intelligence to locate them, and then to be prepared to bring them
to justice. So, one, the first question that I always ask is whether or not our
intelligence-sharing is good enough, and we're working on it to make sure it's
good enough. Intelligence is gathered by -- in a lot of different ways, but the
key thing is that, one, it be actionable, and two, it be shared on a real-time
basis. Secondly, in order for Pakistan to defend herself from al Qaeda, she must
have equipment necessary to move quickly, without tipping off the enemy. The
President is training up special forces teams to do just that. And so while we
do have a lot of work to be done, it's important that we stay on the hunt. Part
of my mission today was to determine whether or not the President is as
committed as he has been in the past to bringing these terrorists to justice,
and he is. He understands the stakes; he understands the responsibility; and he
understands the need to make sure our strategy is able to defeat the enemy. Do
you want to say something to that?
PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: May I add to this, with your permission? The first
element that one needs to be very clear is the intentions. And it's very clear
that the intentions of Pakistan and my intentions are absolutely clear that we
are a very strong -- we have a strong partnership on the issue of fighting
terrorism. So the intentions should be very clear. Then we need to strategize. We have strategized. We have strategized how to deal with terrorism, and then strategized also on how to deal with extremism, which is very different from terrorism. So we have strategized both. Then we need to come forward to the implementation part. Now, the implementation has to be strong also, with all the resolve. We are doing that also. So if at all there are slippages, it is possible in the implementation part. But as long as the intention is clear, the resolve is there, and the strategy is clear, we are moving forward toward to delivering, and we will succeed. That is all.
During on April 24, 2006 press briefing en route to Athens, Greece, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had this to say:
QUESTION: On the bin Laden tape, what do you make of it? What's your
reaction? Is he still trying to seem relevant? Does the U.S. still think that he
is relevant and also what do you say to critics that said our efforts in Iraq
are taking away from actually capturing him?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, there is -- all the time, every
day, all the time, an effort to continue to degrade and round up the al-Qaida
network, including efforts against Osama bin Laden. But the effort is more than
one man. This is about disabling the al-Qaida network. It is the scores of
important field generals of al-Qaida that have been put out of commission one
way or another in the last three and a half years, and that's the real story of
dealing with al-Qaida. I don't know what to make of the tape, except that he
continues to say things that he's always said. You know, what it is a reminder
of is that we have a determined enemy that we need to fight, but I don't give it
any credence beyond that. And the effort in Iraq to help bring about an ally in
the middle of the -- in the center of the Middle East that will be a stalwart
fighter against terrorism, that will be a state that speaks to the ideology of
hatred that has produced the al-Qaidas of the world, I think is a very
short-sighted view to say that somehow because you are engaged in the efforts to
build a different kind of Iraq and a different kind of Middle East, that you're
somehow not focused on the efforts of al-Qaida; it's both shortsighted and a
very narrow definition of what actually produced al-Qaida.
On April 5, 2006, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher was interviewed on Pakistani television by Hamid Mir. Here is how he addressed the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden:
MIR: What is the level of U.S. engagement in nabbing terrorists within
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: This is a task that is being carried out
by the Pakistani forces and very sadly they have lost people doing this. We’ve
pointed out many times that no country has caught more Al Qaeda or lost more men
doing that than Pakistan. So it’s a very strong fight that Pakistan has carried
forward. We talked, President Bush and President Musharraf have talked quite a
bit about this during their visit. Pakistan is working on all the terrorists,
the Taliban, the Al Qaeda, all the violent groups that are trying to upset and
destabilize Pakistani society. So that is very important to us. But it is, it’s
a Pakistani fight. To the extent that we can help them, we will. But Pakistan is
very much engaged.
MIR: U.S., U.S. forces are not active in Pakistani territory?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: U.S. forces are active on the Afghan side.
And again it’s a common enemy and we all need to do what we can, but not on the
MIR: Recently, U.S. troops have started a new operation in Afghan
province, Kunar. So can you tell us that, do you have any clue about Osama Bin
Laden and any other big Al Qaeda fish?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don’t know, I don’t have any new
information on that and certainly I’ll leave the military operations to the
MIR: So can you tell us that, why the most wanted person is still at
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I’ve only come here a few times. I’ve only
flown over those areas of mountains a few times, but it’s pretty obvious that it
is a difficult area to operate in. It’s a difficult area to find somebody in.
You know we’ve had cases in the United States of people going up in the hills
and have been able to hide for a few years. So the success of this fight doesn’t
depend on one person. Certainly we would like to capture Osama Bin Laden and
Mullah Omar. I think we are all interested in doing that, but there is a, a
violent group, a violent element of Taliban and Al Qaeda people who’ve been
really trying to kill us all, kill Pakistanis, Americans and Afghans, who’ve
been exploding bombs and shooting bullets that kill a lot of people. And we’ve
got to stop them all. Catching the leaders is certainly important, but we’ve got
to stop them all. And not just in military ways. We have to extend government on
both sides so that government really has control over these areas and is able to
provide for the needs of the people in these areas. We’ve got to extend economic
opportunity and we’ve been working with Pakistan and Afghanistan on proposals
like the Regional Opportunity Zones. So we recognize there is a
multi-comprehensive need for working on the military side, the police side, the
economic side and the government administration side. And trying to coordinate
on both sides is very important. It’s a common enemy, it’s a common problem and
it needs a common solution. And we’ll do what we can to work together.
On April 20, 2006, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte responded to a question at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as follows:
MR. SALANT: Speaking of al Qaeda, have we gotten any closer to catching
Osama bin Laden over the past year? And is the intelligence information flow
about him growing, lessening or remaining the same?
MR. NEGROPONTE: I think that first -- the first thing I'd say about Mr.
bin Laden is that I believe his range of action, his operational capacity has
been substantially diminished since the year 2001. He no longer has a sanctuary
from which he can operate with impunity, as he did when the Taliban governed
Afghanistan. And I think his style has been cramped. He's hiding -- in hiding
somewhere, we believe, in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border area, and I don't
believe is nearly as operationally active as he previously was. It would,
of course, be desirable that he be captured or killed at the earliest
opportunity. And one could say that about him as well as his deputy, Mr.
Zawahiri, and others. We wish that this might have happened sooner. But on the
other hand, I think it would also be fair to point out that since 9/11, many,
many of Mr. bin Laden's principal lieutenants and deputies have been captured or
killed. And his high command is not nearly what it used to be. And I think this,
too, has diminished the operational effectiveness of the al Qaeda movement. So I
think we've dealt them a number of body blows, but we haven't yet dealt a
knock-out blow to Mr. bin Laden himself.
Summary: When confronted with the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, President Bush and Administration officials, for all their double-talk and mumbo-jumbo, have three basic answers: (1) the War on Terrorism really is not about capturing or killing one man; (2) we have captured or killed many other members of al Qaeda; and (3) bin Laden is hiding in a place where it is difficult to find him.
None of them has explained, even in the most general terms, what has been done to try to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. None has explained how it is possible for Osama bin Laden to have evaded being captured or killed for so long. Are you satisfied with their answers?
Friday, August 25, 2006
City of Black Jack, Missouri Forced to Renounce Ordinance Prohibiting Unmarried Couple and Children From Living in City
On May 5, 2006, the Black Jack City Council refused to amend the ordinance to allow a family like the Shelltrack/Loving family to obtain an occupancy permit to live in the city.
On August 10, 2006, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit, Loving v. City of Black Jack, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, challenging the ordinance as a violation of the family’s rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution, as well as family status discrimination under fair housing laws. The lawsuit names the City of Black Jack and several city officials as defendants.
On August 15, 2006, less than a week after the lawsuit was filed, the Black Jack City Council voted UNANIMOUSLY to reverse its policy and amend the definition of "family" to include unrelated people and the children of both or either person who live together as a single housekeeping unit. The amendment would make the family eligible for an occupancy permit.
Black Jack Mayor Norman McCourt insisted the city ordinance had nothing to do with morality but was intended to prevent crowding. In my opinion, the ordinance had everything to do with allowing the stodgy Mayor McCourt and his puritannical and small-minded cronies to impose their morality and to try to discriminate against and exclude from "their" community people to whom they condescended in their arrogance to judge as unworthy.
My opinion in this regard is supported by a letter Mayor McCourt wrote in 1999 when the city refused to issue an occupancy permit to an unmarried couple and their triplets. In that letter, Mayor McCourt wrote:
It is apparently the opinion of the majority of the City Council, the Board of
Adjustment and certainly the input received from the majority of the City's
residents, in this instance, that they do not believe that an unmarried couple
having children residing in our community is an appropriate standard that they
wish to approve....
We believe our community standards and the morals
thereof are something that the City can and must enforce....
The easiest resolution to cure the situation would be for them to be married. Our community believes that this is the appropriate way to raise a family. While it would be naive to say that we don't recognize that children are born out of wedlock
frequently these days, we certainly don't believe that is the type of
environnment within which children should be brought into this world. I believe
the City has acted appropriately in keeping with the law, consistent with our
community's moral and standards, and that we will continue to enforce our
ordinances to protect the interests of our community.
Yes, Mayor McCourt, you ARE a hypocrite. Your insistence that the ordinance was only intended to prevent crowding is belied by your 1999 letter which shows you used the ordinance to impose your narrow-minded standards of morality. Yes, Mayor McCourt, you ARE a spineless worm because you used your ordinance to bully countless defenseless people who were not willing or able to fight tough-talking, moralizing, insufferable prigs like you and your cronies at City Hall. But when faced with a lawsuit that would subject your city's actions to scrutiny in a court of law that would demonstrate that the City's ordinance and its actions were NOT consistent with the Constitutions of the United States and Missouri, you and your City made a rapid retreat and hastily amended the ordinance.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Politicians Behaving Badly: Broward School Board Member Darla Carter
According to this article in the August 18, 2006 edition of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel:
[Ordinary citizen] Anita Borrero e-mailed Broward County School Board
member Darla Carter in August 2004 asking for help with problems she was facing
regarding the school bus. She told Carter in the e-mail that she was not
satisfied with the way the district's transportation department had treated her.
Carter forwarded the e-mail to the transportation officials, which left Borrero
"I am extremely disappointed in your response -- I would have preferred
none at all," Borrero wrote.
Carter's answer: "Believe me, It's people like you that we as Board Members
really HATE to try and help because they're NEVER THANKFUL FOR A DAMN THING!! Boy, I feel sorry for your kids, you must be under a lot of stress. … Gee, Maybe you need a Doctor or a Psychologist, maybe you need to email them and ask what you need to take???"
When reminded of the conversation Wednesday, Carter was unrepentant.: "Oh,
I'm proud of myself. I'm honest, upright and blunt and I don't play games. I'm
there for the people. I work for the students. And if they're unhappy with one
answer that I give them, then so be it. You can't please all the people all the
Darla Carter, who is married to waste management executive Butch Carter, probably assumed, if she thought about it at all, that her response to Ms. Borrero would never see the light of day. For Mrs. Carter, a school board member, to have sent such a repugnant e-mail to a constituent demonstrates that it is Mrs. Carter who was under a lot of stress and may have needed some kind of medication. The fact that Mrs. Carter was so unrepentant about her e-mail speaks volumes about her true character as a person: arrogant, conceited, haughty, and condescending. This type of behavior by Mrs. Carter is why some people see her only as the jumped-up wife of a garbageman. The bright side is that at least she didn't try to deny she sent the e-mail or try to make up some ridiculous story as an excuse or justification. I guess sometimes what you see is what you get.
Update: In the September 6, 2006 election, Darla Carter was voted out of office. Voters favored a politically-connected former teacher and lobbyist named Jennifer Gottlieb whose campaign was better financed and who received endorsements from the teachers' union and some incumbent school board members. Carter told the Miami Herald (here) she does not plan to run for any other office and blamed her loss on what she called attacks from Gottlieb, the third candidate, and the rain.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
As If Democrats Would Have Done Anything Different...
[The Bush Administration] will never seriously battle
the sources of terrorism in an effective, strategic fashion. That is because
politically they need the terrorists as much as the terrorists need them. And
the goals of the Bush Administration are the consolidation of power and the
acquisition of natural resources and economic dominance, not the eradication of
NBC just confirmed -- as BuzzFlash
editorialized earlier this week about the politics of terrorism -- that the White House forced the UK to move up
the timing of the alleged terror cell arrests, against the recommendations of
the British intelligence agencies. By so doing, the Bush Administration
compromised the investigation and kept it from obtaining further evidence and
contact names. In short, for purposes of political timing -- in order to make
partisan points from the election of Ned Lamont -- the Bush Administration
compromised our national security. This is an extraordinary betrayal of
America's national security, purely done so that Cheney, Snow and Bush could
attack the Democrats as weak on national security, knowing that the arrest
announcement was going to be made on Wednesday, because they picked the day of
These use of Rovian-timed terrorist announcements -- often extremely,
extremely exaggerated (as in the case of the Liberty City Insane Clown Posse and
the alleged Manhattan Tunnel explosions that would have defied the laws of
gravity if they were planned to "flood" lower Manhattan) -- are basically
treason. They are meant to frighten Americans into voting Republican. The only
viable winning platform of the Busheviks now (and remember that they cannot
afford either House of Congress to become Democratic, because it would likely
lead to investigations and the impeachment and prosecution of the senior Bush
Administration staff) is something like: "You see what the terrorists will do if
the Republicans are not here to protect you. The Democrats will just mollycoddle
them. Fear for your lives and vote Republican." After six years of cynical rule
and five years of an alleged "war on terrorism" that has killed tens of
thousands more people than the terrorists have, all the White House has to do is
invoke premeditated fear into Americans. And it has worked up to now. Look at
the media this week. The alleged British terror plot dominates the leads in
television, radio and newpapers around the nation. Fear is a powerful tool. It
goes right from the media into the brain. It appeals to our Reptilian sense of
self-protection. That is why it is the tool of demagogues. Yes, there are
terrorists out there who wish to do citizens of the United States harm. But yes,
we also unleashed them in Iraq to do us and each other harm. Bush is breeding
new ones every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush hasn't reduced terrorism; he
has increased its threat.
The Bush White House and GOP campaign apparatus will lie,
cheat, steal, manipulate our emotions -- and even carry out policies that breed
terrorists, because they need terrorism in order to win elections. They would
lose in a landslide if people were to vote on public policy
The goals of the White House are not to stop terrorism; the goal of the
White House is to allow terrorism to fester in order to -- as is the basic game
plan for dictators goes -- use fear to consolidate tyrannical power and do away
with our Constitutional checks and balances of government and guarantee of
The Buzzflash editorial seems to view the political use or manipulation of terror as a Republican vs. Democrat issue. When it says “the goals of the Bush Administration are the consolidation of power and the acquisition of natural resources and economic dominance, not the eradication of terror,” that is partly true.
I think it would be more accurate to say that the goal of terror eradication is not as high on the list of priorities as the other goals that were mentioned. But, in my opinion, it is a mistake to think this prioritization of goals is unique to the Bush Administration.
If the Democratic Party was in power, I believe their ranking of these goals would be so similar as to make no difference. This is because economic dominance and acquisition or access to natural resources (i.e., oil) is the primary agenda of the major corporate interests that underwrite both the Republicans and the Democrats.
Yes, “the Bush White House and GOP campaign apparatus will lie, cheat, steal, manipulate our emotions.” But, on the whole, the Democrats are not different. Remember Vietnam? In general, both Republicans and Democrats alike think nothing of currying favor and ensuring generous campaign contributions and other support by enacting legislation and policies that inure only to the benefit of large corporate interests while detrimentally impacting the financial well-being, and sometimes even the physical health, of ordinary Americans.
If the Democrats had controlled the White House after the 2000 election, I have no doubt that the Democrats would have played the “terror” card, much in the same way the Bush Adminstration has, to justify foreign interventionist adventures, the accelerated deprivation of civil rights, and to grab and hold on to political power. The evidence supporting this is the shameful way the Democratic congressional “opposition,” for fear of being branded as “soft on terror”, has for the past six years, with very few exceptions, meekly gone along with and failed to object to the Bush Administration on every initiative, including, but not limited to, the War on Iraq and domestic spying on American citizens. Only now that the Iraq War has become verifiably-based-on-poll-data “unpopular” are Democrats speaking out against the Bush Administration’s policy.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
9/11 Commission Neither Exhaustive Nor Independent
The proliferation on the internet of so-called "conspiracy theories" concerning 9/11 demonstrate that they failed to achieve this goal.
The August 12, 2006 edition of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) contains a review of a book entited Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission written by co-chairmen Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton. The WSJ review was written by Edward Jay Epstein, the author of a book about the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy. Epstein is currently writing a book about the 9/11 Commission.
Some salient points from the WSJ's review:
1. In reality, the 9/11 Commission was neither exhaustive nor independent. If the investigation had truly been as exhaustive as advertised, it would have made a genuine effort to weigh evidence that ran counter to its thesis. But it did not.
A. For example, Capt. Scott Phillpott, a high-ranking naval intelligence officer asserted that through data-mining his military intelligence unit, code-named Able Danger, had identified Mohamed Atta as a potential terrorist in 2000 and even had his photograph on a chart.
B. Since the 9/11 Commission staff could not find any such chart in the documents it had obtained from the Pentagon, and because Capt. Phillpott's account "failed to match up" with the staff's conclusion that Atta was unknown to U.S. intelligence prior to 9/11, this putative identification of Atta was omitted from the commission's report (and a number of commissioners were not informed about it).
C. Later, the Pentagon said that at least four other intelligence officers in the unit had confirmed that they had seen the photograph of Atta or recalled hearing Atta's name prior to 9/11. The Pentagon also explained one possible reason the chart with Atta's photo was missing: The military had destroyed many Able Danger records in 2001.
D. An exhaustive investigation would have at least heard these eyewitness accounts.
2. The 9/11 Commission was not able to independently evaluate or verify crucial information it received from intelligence agencies.
A. The CIA refused to give the commission access to seven imprisoned al Qaeda conspirators who had planned, directed, and co-ordinated the 9/11 attack. The commission was not even allowed to question the prisoners' CIA interrogators.
B. The co-chairmen admit they "had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information."
C. The 9/11 Commission accepted, at face-value, information from the prisoners delivered via a CIA "project manager," if it would fill in gaps in the commission's investigation.
D. The 9/11 Commission relied on this information, giving it the benefit of the doubt when conflicting information surfaced.
E. As a result, the 9/11 Commission discarded and ignored evidence found in CIA documents of Iran and Hezbollah's involvement with and aid to the 9/11 hijackers, allowing the commission to conclude that al Qaeda carried out 9/11 with no help from any outside party or government.
The jumping off point for most 9/11 conspiracy theories is that the "official" story embodied in the 9/11 Commission Report is questionable. The WSJ's review certainly does not validate or endorse claims made by 9/11 conspiracy theorists, such as the "controlled demolition" theory. However, the WSJ's review shows that the starting point for 9/11 conspiracy theories is valid, i.e., there is a rational basis for questioning the findings and conclusions of the 9/11 Commission Report.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Dead Men Are Heavier Than Broken Hearts
Artist: Christopher Woitach and the Cathexis Orchestra
Album: dead men (are heavier than broken hearts)/February 15-18, 2006/teal creek records TC2009
Review: Christopher Woitach's second album as a leader signifies the breakout on the jazz scene of a highly evolved and still-evolving artist who dares to innovate with an astounding arsenal of unusual and powerful compositional tools to create a distinct sound that swings and bops and floats and grooves and surprises with shifting tempos, moods, layers, textures, and colors. While drawing on a thorough grounding in existing blues and jazz styles and traditions, Woitach blends these elements with thoughtful invention into an original synthesis that defies easy categorization.
This 2006 album of original music composed, arranged, and produced by guitarist Christopher Woitach grew out of a project he began more than ten years ago to set music to the words of beloved American detective novelist Raymond Chandler. This is by no means an attempt at "film noir" music. While utilizing Chandler's writings as a creative spark and lyrical source, Woitach stays true to his musical vision as a jazz composer and guitar virtuoso.
Woitach's harmonically-advanced, cool-toned, and subtle guitar playing is featured throughout the album. He is technically brilliant and versatile - using the guitar in different contexts as a percussive, harmonic, melodic, rhythm, and lead instrument. His improvisational prowess is demonstrated both vertically - building and smoothly manipulating dense chordal and harmonic voicings, and horizontally - propelling his compositions with polished, expressive, melodically-advanced, and flowing lines.
Woitach includes generous space in his compositions for improvisations from his sidemen who are all first-rate musicians in their own right. Tim Jensen (flute), Keller Coker (trombone), and Tom Bergeron (alto) contribute outstanding improvisations on the album's first cut. Bergeron's alto solo on the third track blasts into orbit with a muscular free-jazz explosion reminiscent of John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman at their most untethered.
Woitach's compositional sophistication, his use of counterpoint and canon and fugal structures, and the deployment of alto, trombone, flute, baritone, bass clarinet, bass, and drums in his arrangements is nothing less than inspired. For example, the album's opening cut interleaves improvisational sections with five-voiced fugue interludes of precise lengths determined by a descending Fibonacci number series. In the hands of a less-skilled composer and musician, such a calculated scheme might result in music that is overly mechanical, unduly complicated, and devoid of feeling.
Woitach's breakthrough on this album is the culmination of years of applied effort to plumb the mysteries and depths of classical mathematical constructs to discover their underlying organic, natural, and musical implications. On this album, Woitach applies his complex compositional techniques to create jazz music that is impressively unconventional, atypical, and decidedly uncommon. Woitach does not emulate other composers and musicians. His music is not an exercise in intrinsic geekery or cybernetic noodling. Although knowledge of harmonic and contrapuntal music theory and applied mathematics no doubt enhances appreciation, it stands on its own as enjoyable jazz music. He captivates the listener with what I call "pure grooving" and music that is capable of expressing and reflecting a wide range of emotion, but he does so in his own uniquely refined yet mischievous Woitachian way.
Jazz critic Scott Yanow once wrote: "The most important jazz musicians are the ones who are successful in creating their own original world of music with its own rules, logic, and surprises." By this criterion, Woitach's latest album is persuasive evidence of his emergence as an important jazz musician. Woitach has created and continues to create his own original world of music that exhibits internal logic and surprises that can be found in the music of no other.
Woitach is an extraordinarily talented musician and composer, and with this album, he has succeeded brilliantly by creating music that simultaneously appeals to the emotions and the intellect - music that is interesting, dynamic, accessible, and rewards repeated listenings. The best part is that Woitach is still evolving, still exploring the ramifications of his creative genius. There is a lot of great music yet to come from, and the world would do well to pay attention to, this amazing artist.
For bookings, information, and other albums from Christopher Woitach, go here. The album dead men (are heavier than broken hearts) can be purchased here.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
The Big Ripoff - Why Corporate America Needs Welfare Reform
In the July 29, 2006 edition of Wall Street Journal, Jacob Laksin, a senior editor at FrontPageMag.com, reviewed a new book entitled The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money by Timothy P. Carney. At least one aim of the book is to debunk the myth that big business and big government are enemies. Some salient points highlighted in the review:
1. Carney does not begrudge businesses their right to make a profit. His objection is to their doing so by enlisting government bureaucrats and by shortchanging taxpayers.
2. Corporations are not practitioners of laissez-faire ruthlessness - they defend all sorts of impediments to competition and court the government for every sort of handout and favor.
3. Enron built its fortune on the strength of $7 billion in government subsidies, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. These came mostly in the form of discounted loans from government agencies, supposedly required to create American jobs but in fact used to bankroll several ill-fated Enron projects abroad.
4. Members of the Fanjul family - the "sugar sultans" of South Florida - collect $65 million in subsidies annually.
5. Regulations are not the scourge of the business world. Many top companies welcome these rules. The airline industry sees burdensome federal oversight as a means of discouraging upstart competition. Tobacco giant Philip Morris is only too happy to submit to government curbs on advertising, confident that the effect is to keep smaller, lesser-known manufacturers on the margins, to the benefit of its already famous brands.
6. Many lawmakers rely on corporate backing to get into positions of power and to stay there.
7. Businesses will always do whatever they can to make money.
Disgraceful Behavior by Proponents of Book Ban
Throughout the [June 5, 2006] meeting [of one of the school district
committees considering whether the book should be removed from the schools],
members of the public interrupted the committee's discussions, often whispering
the word 'communist' whenever committee members spoke favorably about the Cuba books.
See Order, page 18.
I understand how upset some of these people are about this book, but the conduct in which these people indulged themselves at a public meeting is disgraceful. These kind of mean-spirited, narrow-minded, whispered denunciations are among the features of living in a totalitarian dictatorship that many people escaped Cuba to get away from. And here they are in the United States acting like the very dictatorial monsters they condemn. Those who engaged in this conduct and those who condoned it should be ashamed of themselves!