October 8, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


ISIS Fighters, Having Pledged to Fight or Die, Surrender en Masse (ROD NORDLAND, OCT. 8, 2017, NY Times)

DIBIS, Iraq -- The prisoners were taken to a waiting room in groups of four, and were told to stand facing the concrete wall, their noses almost touching it, their hands bound behind their backs.

More than a thousand prisoners determined to be Islamic State fighters passed through that room last week after they fled their crumbling Iraqi stronghold of Hawija. Instead of the martyrdom they had boasted was their only acceptable fate, they had voluntarily ended up here in the interrogation center of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq.

For an extremist group that has made its reputation on its ferociousness, with fighters who would always choose suicide over surrender, the fall of Hawija has been a notable turning point. The group has suffered a string of humiliating defeats in Iraq and Syria, but the number of its shock troops who turned themselves in at the center in Dibis was unusually large, more than 1,000 since last Sunday, according to Kurdish intelligence officials.

The fight for Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, took nine months, and by comparison, relatively few Islamic State fighters surrendered. Tal Afar fell next, and more quickly, in only 11 days. Some 500 fighters surrendered there.

The Iraqi military ousted the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, from Hawija in 15 days, saying it had taken its forces only three days of actual heavy fighting before most of the extremists grabbed their families and ran. According to Kurdish officials, they put up no fight at all, other than planting bombs and booby traps.

Seen up close, the fighters' pretense of bravado soon disappears.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Stan Getz - East of the Sun: The West Coast Sessions - The Ted Gioia Notes (Ted Gioia, Jazz Profiles)

Getz gravitated to the West Coast in his early career At age sixteen, he traveled to Los Angeles while still with Teagarden. He returned to California as an 18-year-old bandleader in 1945, leading a trio at the Swing Club in Hollywood, but he soon left to go on the road with Benny Goodman. He returned again some time later and parlayed a gig at a Mexican ballroom into a celebrated stint with Herman.

At Pete Pontrelli's Spanish Ballroom, the unlikely staging ground for this movement, Getz participated in the development of a completely new jazz style, one that came to be known as the "Four Brothers' sound". The band's repertoire on this gig consisted primarily of stock arrangements of Mexican and Spanish tunes, supplemented by an occasional jazz chart. But arranger Gene Roland was working on a new way of voicing the sax section, which Jimmy Giuffre took and refined further for the Herman band. The result was a lightly swinging ensemble featuring three tenor and one baritone saxophones -- with Getz helping to recreate the sound from Pontrelli's in his new role as a Herman sideman. The recording of "Four Brothers," from the close of 1947, exhilarated listeners -- so much so that jazz fans were soon calling this edition of the Herman orchestra the "Four Brothers band".

By this time. Getz had developed the translucent tenor tone and softly swinging style that gave an airy lightness to the Four Brothers' sound and would distinguish his mature work. Getz's debt to Lester Young in this regard has often been cited, and Getz was the first to admit he admired the older tenor saxophonist. Yet Getz brought a more overtly modernist sensibility to his playing that sharply distinguished it from Young's. Although Getz was never an ardent bebopper, he had listened carefully to Charlie Parker and brought a deep understanding of modern jazz into his own, cooler style.

This influence is especially marked on these West Coast sessions, where Getz draws uncharacteristic inspiration from bop-inflected tunes, such as Gillespie's A Night in Tunisia and Woody 'n' You, and offers a tour de force solo on S-h-i-n-e. These progressive leanings were evident throughout Getz's career, as seen by his constant use of young sidemen with new musical ideas. One recalls with admiration how, more than a decade after these sides, Getz was careening over Phrygian scales and navigating through some of Chick Corea's most complex material on another Verve release, the seminal Sweet Rain. On that record he showed a daring unmatched by any other Young disciple from the postwar years. Or listen to another Verve outing, the justly celebrated Focus, which finds Getz engaging in a marvelously intricate dialogue with a string section. The claim that Getz merely commercialized a variant of the Young sound falls to the ground after even the most casual listening to these recordings.

But what Getz did learn from Young was his essentially melodic approach to improvisation. Throughout most of the history of jazz, the prevailing approach to the tenor sax has stressed the harmonic possibilities of the instrument. Substitute changes, intricate cadences, unusual modes that imply equally exotic harmonies -- a range of techniques has been used in the paradoxical attempt to extract a chordal texture from this inherently monophonic instrument. Getz, like Young, never got caught up in this quixotic pursuit. Instead both adopted an unabashedly linear approach, unapologetic in its lyricism There was an almost brutal honesty in this style. No shiny ornaments were hung out to distract attention from its melodic core.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


Seeing Trump Through a Glass, Darkly (Peter Wehner, OCT. 7, 2017, NY Times)

When I served in the George W. Bush White House, I believed before the war began that it was justified -- that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, that he was a particularly malevolent and destabilizing figure, and that it was a military conflict that would liberate an enslaved people.

These presuppositions caused me to ignore, much longer than I should have, the problems inherent in our occupation strategy. I didn't question early enough the errors we made or how the situation was unraveling.

I recall a lunch in early 2006 with a journalist, George Packer, who had just returned from Iraq. A colleague and I, already worried about the course of the war, wanted to hear his firsthand account. What he described was so troubling that my head nearly dropped into my food. In ways I had not fully understood at the time, I had been filtering out information that ran counter to the narrative I believed. (To President Bush's great credit, in 2007 -- in the face of powerful political headwinds -- he embraced the so-called surge strategy that turned the war around.)

I relay all this because confirmation bias is far more difficult to overcome than most of us like to admit. We are ever in search of data that confirms what we want to believe. "Illusion is the first of all pleasures," Voltaire said.

We're particularly tempted by delusions if they constitute bricks in the walls we have chosen to build and to live behind. We're also learning that there is a physiological appeal to confirmation bias (processing information that supports our belief system triggers a dopamine rush) and that our brains are hard-wired to embrace or reject information that confirms or challenges our pre-existing attitudes. Our beliefs are also often tied up with our ideas about who we are individually and our group identity. The result is that changing our beliefs in light of new evidence can cause us to be rejected by our political community. No one likes being accused of disloyalty.

But being on the periphery of my party has given me a renewed appreciation for what Lord Tweedsmuir said. "While I believed in party government and in party loyalty," he wrote, "I never attained to the happy partisan zeal of many of my friends, being painfully aware of my own and my party's defects, and uneasily conscious of the merits of my opponent." I've found through hard experience that the view can be clearer from the periphery than from the center of power.

The especially disturbing thing about partisan zeal is when it leads people to oppose policies they believe in or to support those they do not believe in simply because of the party identification of the president.  There is a big difference between Realists, who opposed the removal of Saddam Hussein and were perfectly willing to have him oppress and exterminate the majority Shi'a and the Kurds of Iraq, and those who profess devotion to human rights generally, but opposed the war because W.  In that sense, what extreme partisanship does is lead people to be dishonest with themselves and sell out their own beliefs for merely political reasons.

While Mr. Wehner has received accolades for self-criticism in this column, the parallel he draws between himself and Trumpies is not really serious.  It's not as if he is generally a Nativist but is now supporting immigration because Donald opposes it.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


Vice President Mike Pence uses Colts for political purposes (Gregg Doyel, Oct. 8, 2017Indy Star)

North Korea and its nukes can wait. The White House has declared war on the NFL. And on the First Amendment.

Two weeks after President Trump decreed that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday after about 20 members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt during the anthem. The 49ers were in town to play the Indianapolis Colts.

Pence was in town to upstage Peyton Manning.

What, you think he didn't know the 49ers would kneel on Sunday? Pence knew. The 49ers are the one franchise, the only franchise, that have had at least one player kneel before every game since Colin Kaepernick was the first to do it in the 2016 preseason. Kaepernick played for the 49ers, of course. Last week, following Trump's unpatriotic assertion that he would fire someone for exercising their First Amendment rights, more than half the San Francisco roster knelt.

Pence knew.

Hell, the media members that follow Pence were told before the game not to bother leaving their vans and enter Lucas Oil Stadium, according to a tweet from NBC News Vaughn Hillyard. They wouldn't be there long, because Pence wouldn't be there long.

Presumably, the rest of the fans agree with the players.
Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Trump allegedly made anti-Semitic, racist comments during work on 'The Apprentice' (JTA, 10/08/17)

Anti-Jewish sentiment and other racism was a big part of the persona of Donald Trump when he starred on "The Apprentice," one of the producers said.

Bill Pruitt told the National Public Radio podcast "Embedded" by Kelly McEvers on Thursday that after the first couple of shows of the reality series that Trump, who is now president of the United States, started saying inappropriate things during discussions about who to fire.

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 AM

Are those my words coming out of Steve Bannon's mouth? (Thomas Frank,  6 October 2017, The Guardian)

There's was a moment in Steve Bannon's recent 60 Minutes interview when the former presidential advisor was asked what he's done to drain "the swamp," the Trumpists' favorite metaphor for everything they hate about Washington DC. Here was Bannon's reply: "The swamp is 50 years in the making. Let's talk about the swamp. The swamp is a business model. It's a successful business model. It's a donor, consultant, K Street lobbyist, politician ... 7 of the 9 wealthiest counties in America ring Washington, DC."

With a shock of recognition I knew immediately what Bannon meant, because what he was talking about was the subject matter of my 2008 book, The Wrecking Crew - the interconnected eco-system of corruption that makes Washington, DC so rich.

The first chapter of my book had been a description of those wealthy counties that ring Washington, DC: the fine cars, the billowing homes, the expense-account restaurants. The rest of the book was my attempt to explain the system that made possible the earthly paradise of Washington and - just like Steve Bannon - I did it by referring to a business model: the political donors and the K Street lobbyists, who act in combination with politicians of the Tom DeLay variety.

My critique of Washington was distinctly from the left, and it astonished me to hear something very close to my argument coming from the mouth of one of the nation's most prominent conservatives.

Rightwinger, not a conservative.  Both Left and Right have to pretend there's something deeply rotten about the Republic conservatives are defending.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


'Long Shot' on Netflix Tells How 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and a Dodgers Game Saved a Man's Life (Kayla Cobb, Oct 2, 2017, Decider)

The most shocking moment in this film is its connection to Curb Your Enthusiasm, but some attention needs to be paid to Defense Attorney Todd Melnik's dedication to Catalan's case. Desperate to find any evidence that places his client at the Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves game, Melnik combs through hours of crowd footage in an attempt to pinpoint Catalan. The very idea is exhausting and Melnik has little luck in this endeavor until Catalan remembers something was being recorded that day.

That's where Larry David's crotchety creation comes in. The very day that Catalan was at a Dodgers game with his daughter and Martha Puebla was murdered, HBO was filming "The Car Pool Lane" for Curb Your Enthusiasm.

This revelation is packed with a million more what ifs. What if Larry David hadn't insisted on filming during a real Dodgers game? What if his character didn't have bad seats in the episode? What if the show hadn't decided to use real people as extras instead of actors? What if a PA hadn't let Catalan and his daughter walk in front of their camera and back to their seats? He had allegedly stopped several other people before Catalan, why did he let this man go through? Thankfully, none of these "what ifs" matter as anything more than a stress-inducing thought exercise. When Catalan appears in full focus in the Curb Your Enthusiasm footage, it feels like letting out a breath you didn't know you were holding.

Not coincidentally, the two best episodes of Mister Ed and The Munsters were at the ballpark too.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


This Is What It Looks Like When the President Asks People to Snitch on Their Neighbors (Daniel Rivero and Brendan O'Connor, 10/03/17, Splinter)

In April, the Trump Administration launched what it called the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) hotline, with a stated mission to "provide proactive, timely, adequate, and professional services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens." But internal logs of calls to VOICE obtained by Splinter show that hundreds of Americans seized on the hotline to lodge secret accusations against acquaintances, neighbors, or even their own family members, often to advance petty personal grievances.

The logs--hundreds of which were available for download on the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement web site despite containing extremely sensitive personal information--call to mind the efforts of closed societies like East Germany or Cuba to cultivate vast networks of informants and an atmosphere of fear and suspicion.

The reports rarely involve the sort of dangerous criminality that Donald Trump campaigned against. Despite the VOICE office's statement that the service "is not a hotline to report crime," callers are using it to alert Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to minor infractions, or merely to the presence of people they suspect of being undocumented immigrants.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


A modest proposal about guns and tech following the Las Vegas massacre (CHRIS O'BRIEN, OCTOBER 3, 2017, Venture Beat)

Left unspoken is how the government might be confident enough to so quickly make such a public assessment. The answer: The U.S. government has constructed a massive surveillance state under the rationale of that we are willing to forfeit our privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

The first time this really hit me was after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013. Incredibly, within three days law enforcement were able to narrow in on two Chechen brothers who, it turns out, the feds had been tracking for some time, having intercepted and analyzed contents of phone calls, emails, and travel records. It was just a few months later that the first Snowden revelations were made that truly allowed us to see the scope of how the U.S. government was spying on foreign targets, but capturing enormous amounts of data from U.S. citizens in the process.

While there was some controversy around this, really, nothing changed. For the most part, Americans seem totally fine with having this huge repository of our data in the hands of the government, because we're willing to do anything in the name of stopping terrorism.

Now, contrast that to the Vegas shooter.

The guy apparently legally acquired what officials were estimating to be 10 suitcases of firearms. [...]

One would think that somebody amassing a personal arsenal like that would have sent up some red flags. But nope. Because when it comes to gun purchases, we have intentionally tied the hands of law enforcement by effectively forbidding them to share and retain information about such things.

While federal law requires licensed gun dealers to maintain sales records, it also requires the FBI to destroy approved background check records, hampering law enforcement efforts. States can -- and should -- take important steps to fill the gaps in federal law.

This is staggering to consider. On one hand, we have federal agencies running deep analysis across all forms of digital communications to divine the tiniest morsel of information that might warrant adding someone to the list of people to monitor. On the other hand, we are actively preventing law enforcement from getting notice about some dude who might be amassing a cache of weapons to wreak havoc.

It seems like creating a national database of gun purchases and gun owners is a minimally prudent thing to do. Because just maybe you might want a law enforcement agent go at least knock on his door and see what's what if someone is legally buying 10 suitcases full of weapons.

We don't do this because the gun lobby is absolutist. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Vermont Designates John Brown Day To Honor Pre-Civil War Abolitionist (Lisa Rathke, 10/08/17, Associated Press)

As some communities consider removing Confederate monuments, Vermont is formally honoring abolitionist John Brown, whose 1859 raid was an important step in the events that led to the Civil War.

The state legislature approved a resolution this spring sought by a Woodstock Union High School teacher designating John Brown Day in Vermont on Oct. 16, 2017. That's the anniversary of the raid Brown led on a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, in what is now West Virginia, hoping to start an armed slave rebellion.

That the slaves might be free.