and i’m still deeply cynical

Despite Bill’s optimism, i am more sympathetic to Juan Cole’s take on the Iraq election. One of the more disturbing bits is:

Sunni Arab turnout in the elections was light. The Sunnis in Samarra, a city of 200,000, only cast 1400 ballots. Ash-Sharq al-Awsat also reported that Tikrit’s polling stations were deserted.

Oh. Wonderful. Rah, rah, rah. Go Bush. That’s an obvious recipe for a successful democracy.

Update: Apparently i’m not clear enough for Bill in that almost every American newspaper site i’m reading is interpreting a high Iraqi voter turnout to be a referendum on the success of Bush’s Iraqi adventure (in front page stories no less.) i find this immediate triumphalism in America at the sight of joyous Iraqi voters laughable. I don’t base the success of an illegal war on the success of a single election.

As for Iraq, good luck to them, but South Vietnam supposedly had an 83% turnout back in 1967. That didn’t quite go in the direction expected, did it? Despite Bill’s accusations of racism and American-centric thinking on my part in an earlier post, i don’t see how racism, either unintentional on my part or imagined only by Bill and those blindered people like him, can change the history of U.S. foreign policy in relation to emerging democracies throughout the world.

I, for one, am VERY happy

Preliminary reports on the election in Iraq have been positive. An overview:

U.S. State Department spokesman Noel Clay said 5,171 polling centers — 98.8 percent of the 5,232 that were expected to open — actually did so…

Initial reports indicated voter turnout appeared to be higher than expected, even in Sunni-majority areas where insurgent attacks have occurred on a near daily basis.

Many voters proudly displayed their ink-stained fingers in defiance of the insurgency. Each person who voted dipped his or her finger in ink to prevent people from voting twice.

The IECI clarified an earlier estimate of a 72 percent turnout, saying that the “figures are only very rough, word-of-mouth estimates gathered informally from the field.”

“What is certainly the case is that turnout has exceeded expectations throughout the country,” the statement said.

U.N. election organizer Carlos Valezuela told CNN that though he was “happy with the turnout,” it was too early to report numbers…

In the so-called Sunni Triangle towns north and west of Baghdad, turnout appeared lower than in the largely Shiite and Kurdish provinces.

But Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni member of the former Iraqi Governing Council who had advocated a delay in the vote, said turnout in cities such as Mosul and Falluja “has been far greater than we had expected.”

Source article here.

There were attacks, of course, but the Iraqis were not cowed.

from the Washington Post via

“I would have been happy to have died voting at the time of this explosion, because this is terrorism mixed with rudeness,” said Saif Aldin Jarah, 61, a balding man with white hair who leaned on his daughter, Shyamaa, as he shuffled into the afternoon sunlight after casting his ballot.

“When terrorism becomes aimless and without a goal, it becomes rudeness,” Jarah said, holding aloft a finger stained purple with indelible ink. “How could they force people not to vote?”…

In the aftermath of a bomb attack on a polling place, the Iraqi people stepped up and took command:

“First, people want to stop this terrorism that’s breeding in this country. Second, the religious leadership wanted people to vote. And third, people have had enough of time wasted. They want to get their permanent government.”

So the polling place reopened. On the advice of the U.S. troops, the security perimeter was pushed back a block, so people could be frisked twice before entering the school.

Though performing this duty meant standing amid flecks of the flesh of the last officer who had the job, there were volunteers. In stepping forward to do the first round of pat-downs themselves, local residents explained that they could raise the alert if another suspicious stranger approached.

“The police might not be able to recognize residents; we know them better,” said Zaid Abdulhamid, an electronics merchant. He was stationed at the head of an alley blocked by the trunk of a date palm, the all-purpose roadblock in Iraq.

And in Mosul, the one of the hearts of the insurgency?

The large turnout seen in many parts of Iraq — and in many parts of Mosul — did not materialize in the southeast quadrant of the city. A month-long campaign of violence by insurgents in the Sunni Muslim neighborhoods of al-Whada and Palestine proved effective; a reporter who visited all four sites saw a total of four voters, all women. At 10 a.m., three hours after the polls opened, site No. 31, one of 40 in Mosul, had not had a voter except for 15 Iraqi soldiers who were protecting it. A cluster of men stood within 25 feet of the entrance, saying they were too frightened to go in…

“Of course I want to vote; we all want to vote,” said Mazahim Khalil, a professor at Mosul University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, after his house was searched. “We waited 50 years for this. But everyone is afraid.”

On a wall across the street from Khalil’s house was a warning in Arabic: “Anyone who votes will be beheaded.”

When the official numbers start rolling, in, I would be interested to compare them to our own recent elections. What percentage voted, under what conditions, and how?

What M.I.A. is listening to

from the NY Times, via ILM:

‘Bad Gal Riddim’ “Dancehall producers come up with a new ‘riddim,’ or beat track, every week or so, and send it to different artists. Everybody does their own version of the new beat, and it becomes a compilation. ‘Bad Gal Riddim’ (Madhouse Records) is the newest to come out. It has a little bounce to it. ‘Right There,’ by Spice and Toi, is the most fun song I’ve heard all week. When dancehall got big a couple years back, a lot of girls got pushed out. Now they’re getting back into it. I’m not even sure it’s out yet – I heard it on pirate radio, which is where I get most of my music. The pirate D.J.’s are always six months ahead of everyone else.”

Ivy Queen “I’m a big fan of Ivy Queen. She’s probably the biggest reggaeton star. Reggaeton is the sound coming out of Puerto Rico that’s really huge in America now. Dancehall is much more stripped down, but reggaeton has a Caribbean sound – steel drums and different tempos. Ivy Queen and the dancehall rapper Sasha did a Spanish reggaeton remix of ‘Dat Sexy Body’ (VP Records) that represents a kind of unity between dancehall and reggaeton.”

Baile Funk “This is where my mind has been recently. ‘Baile funk’ (‘funk ball’) is basically Brazilian kids in the favelas (ghettos) going crazy, screaming the dirtiest lyrics over Clash songs and electronic music that sounds like Kraftwerk. They take Miami bass beats, really basic drum loops, heavy bass – I can only describe it as ‘booty music’ – and produce something so fierce and angry that reflects the absolute chaos around them. Diplo (half of the Philadelphia D.J.-duo Hollertronix) put out ‘Favela on Blast: Rio Baile Funk ’04’ (available at, a compilation of the best ones he found when he went to Brazil.”

Jim Jones, the Diplomats “Jim Jones has so much charisma and more attitude than most rappers put together. ‘Crunk Muzik’ (from ‘Diplomatic Immunity 2’ on Koch Records), with Cam’ron and Juelz Santana, is the best song to come out of the Diplomats crew. Such a powerful beat – and you can’t tell what the chorus is, it’s like 32 bars long. Rappers are like Rod Stewart now; they’re like a bunch of Liberaces with their gold rims. The Diplomats are just a little bit off key from what others are doing. They seem to be experimenting the most, and they have a real fight mentality. It’s the guerilla side of hip-hop.”

Lethal Bizzle “I love Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Forward Riddim Remix’ of ‘Pow!’ (Relentless). It’s a grime record that reflects the London streets in the most aggressive way possible. People call grime the new punk – electronic, minimal beats and mad bass lines. The remix makes the ‘pow!’ lyric from the original into the hook of the song, and it has so much energy. There are like 20 M.C.’s from around London on this track. It’s just wicked. I live in a place with Somali refugees, Polish people, a lot of Arabic people, and this song is blaring out of every single car. It’s what’s empowering them now. It’s like when you first hear Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power.’ It makes you feel so good when you walk down the street listening to it.”

Ce’Cile “Ce’Cile hasn’t had a really big hit yet. But she’s strong and consistent, and she’s not afraid to experiment. I thought it was brave for her to work with the producer Jacques Lu Cont on ‘Na Na Na Na,’ from the ‘Two Culture Clash’ CD (Wall of Sound). It most reflects what I like in a sound. It’s minimal – just vocal and beat – with a synth-y drum loop. There are almost no changes at all – when the chorus comes in, Lu Cont just brings in an extra snare and pitches it up and then back down again. It’s brilliant. It came out after my first single, ‘Galang,’ and it was good to know there was something else out there for the kind of music I want to do. If something like this could get on mainstream radio, it would be so great.”

Talon News

It blew my mind the other night while watching the Daily Show, to see that clip of the reporter asking Bush at a press conference,

“Thank you. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] was talking about soup lines. And [Senator] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work — you’ve said you are going to reach out to these people — how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

There was no way this guy could be a real journalist. This was just a little bit of absurdist theater. It turns out that this man has been on the radar for awhile, and his name is Jeff Gannon. according to Media Matters, he’s little more than a Republican shill that parrots every press release the White House cranks out. There’s no objectivity whatsoever from Talon, which is merely another name for a group called GOPUSA. They are no more real or objective than the Daily Show!

It gets weirder. “Jeff Gannon” seems to be an alias. Talon News was also instrumental in the Plame Leak story. Who is this Gannon guy really and why does Talon News exist?

The Jews (Jew?) of Afghanistan

Thanks to the eclectic folks over at Metafilter, I learned of the sad plight of Zebulon Simentov, the Last Jew in Afghanistan. I wonder what its like to really know you are the last of anything. Oh, how he longs for the days when there were two, right?

Wrong. Simentov and Ishaq Levin, the “Next-to-Last Jew in Afghantistan”, apparently disliked each other intensely:

“Yitzhak and the Taliban, they’re the same,” said Simanto, 41, pressing the tips of two fingers together to make the point.Across the courtyard of a crumbling apartment building on Flower Street that used to be home to a community of some 30 Jewish families, Levy is just as bitter about his neighbor. The building has no glass in its windows, no running water and two synagogues, one that Simanto climbs into through a window frame and another that Levy keeps under lock and key.

“All my problems are because of Zebolan,” said Levy, a squat man with a flowing white beard and battered sheepskin Astrakhan hat, who gave his age as 60. He recites a litany of woes capped by accusations that the only other Jew in Kabul had denounced him to the Taliban as a spy for Israel and landed him in jail five times.” They threw me on the floor and one sat on my neck and two on my feet. The other two beat me with electrical cables. Now I can’t walk properly,” he said of one spell in jail.

All this you could have gleaned from the Metafilter thread… what I am curious about is this article from 2001, which states that

The Kuwaiti daily al-Rai al-Am said in its Saturday’s issue that Israel is preparing measures to evacuate the Jews of Afghanistan to Israel.

High ranking Israeli sources quoted a Jewish Rabbi of “Pashtune” origin as saying that large number of the Afghani Jews had converted to Islam and should be returned back to their religion ( Judaism ). Certain sides at the Israeli ministry of enrolling Jews in Israel estimated their number at 1.5 million.

1.5 million? What the hell happened to them all?

You will note, I’m sure, the article’s poor grammar and lack of any concrete sources. I suspect that this is propaganda.

The rabbi quoted above was of “Pashtune” origin. See info on this Afghan ethnic group here. On Pashtun connections to Judaism, see this site.

‘yeah, but what are you really listening to?’

It might not be that much of an open secret that what i’m posting is not necessarily what i’m listening to that day. It’s just another confession. What music gets posted is what i’ve just discovered, rediscovered, or feel is appropriate for the moment. What i play in the car is sometimes quite different. Just a quick list to get this off my chest:

    The Go! Team Thunder Lightning Strike
    LCD Soundsystem LCD Soundsystem
    Frog Eyes The Folded Palm
    Gruff Rhys yr atal genhedlaeth
    M.I.A. Arular
    Flamin’ Groovies Teenage Head
    The Professionals I Didn’t See It Coming
    Animals & Men Revel in the Static

It’s probably no surprise to anyone, but i felt compelled to redefine the nature of my little indiecentric world.

The songs “Statik Dancing” and “Sleep” are still embedded in skull too, but they haven’t dislodged any of this other stuff.

poor name choice

They weren’t so much unlucky as just plain foolish. Who would seriously name their band ‘The Sound’ and not expect to be swallowed up into the earth, amid a purgatory of countless thousands of other unmemorably named bands? It would be easy to mock them for being so shortsighted except for one detail…. they’re actually very fucking good.

The Sound “I Can’t Escape Myself” If i didn’t know better, i’d think this was a extremely good, even great, revival band, someone to brush aside the Walkmen, the French Kicks, and the Strokes. Languid brooding, with burst of bursts of icy fire in the chorus.

The Sound “Hour of Need” Between the chunky bassline, the slithery guitar riff, the creepy keyboards, and the desperation of the vocals, i don’t see why this didn’t wind up more beloved. Maybe it just doesn’t sound immediate or spooky enough? Lonesome song though…

The Sound “Heyday” this one sounds the most like the Teardrop Explodes to me, without as much paranoia and casual surrealism. Great fiery guitar. The vocal melody during the verses is cool too, but please don’t remind me that it sounds just a little like the Doors “Break on Through” or i might get embarrassed.

The Andy Kellman written AMG entry for the Jeopardy album should be more helpful.