“Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Long Lost Rock and Roll” is the most depressing documentary about popular music. And that’s because of our part in it, yes America’s, which I’ll get to in a bit. It’s also the best documentary on rock and roll this year.
In a nutshell, it’s about the evolution of pop music in Cambodia prior to Pol Pot and the genocides in the killing fields.
After independence from France, Cambodia had a small prospering middle class in Phnom Penh, the capitol of a nation that was primarily rural, it’s people rice farmers in the fields. An emerging prosperity literally amplified people who considered music part of the soul of the nation. Encouraged by the monarchy of the Sihanouk regime, it built a music scene around the National Radio, city dance halls and bars …
Another atrocity, or My Lai moment, has arrived for the US military in what was described superciliously as its pointless bombing wars last week.
Whether the American government will actually do something about it other than issue the usual get-out-of-jail-free card as it has done with every single hit job in the last decade remains to be seen. Personally, I’d bet against anything more than the equivalents of shit happens and/or they had it coming.
The Army Green Berets who requested the Oct. 3 airstrike on the Doctors without Borders trauma center in Afghanistan were aware it was a functioning hospital but believed it was under Taliban control, The Associated Press has learned …
A day before an American AC-130 gunship attacked the hospital, a senior officer in the Green Beret unit wrote in a report that U.S. forces had discussed the hospital with the country director of the medical charity group, presumably in Kabul, according to two people who have seen the document.
The attack left a mounting death toll, now up to 30 people.
Separately, in the days before the attack, “an official in Washington” asked Doctors without Borders “whether our hospital had a large group of Taliban fighters in it,” spokesman Tim Shenk said in an email. “We replied that this was not the case. We also stated that we were very clear with both sides to the conflict about the need to respect medical structures.”
The hospital was destroyed by the gunship and is now abandoned.
“Doctors without Borders has said it was frantically calling Kabul and Washington during the attack, trying to make the U.S. aware of what was unfolding as patients died in their beds,” rreports AP.
“Presumably, the gun camera video from the plane would show whether anyone was firing from the hospital.”
A week ago, there was a great deal of excuse making and assertion that if a war crime had been executed, it would be hard to prove.
John Bellinger, a former legal adviser to the State Department, says the bombing of the hospital was a terrible tragedy, but he believes it would be a rush to judgment to call it a war crime.
“The mere fact that civilians are killed, that a hospital is damaged, doesn’t automatically mean that there has been a war crime,” he says. “It only becomes a war crime if it is shown that the target was intentionally attacked.”
If the AP’s report is good, there goes that argument.
A majority of Americans believe that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence.
In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”
The only good news is the pool was restricted to a sample size of 1,000.
I have a hard time believing such a small sample provides much meaningful information in a country as segmented and economically riven as the United States.
Many people just can’t be reached on the telephone anymore, for a whole slew of good reasons.
[One man interviewed by the Post] said torturing people during war was appropriate if there was reasonable suspicion the individuals had important information that could aid the United States.
The person was thirteen when we started torturing people. Representative? I’m thinking maybe not so much.
Not this month. Probably not in the next few years. But it will come.
This country can’t survive not dealing with its original sin.
If you saw the President asking there be no violence in Ferguson immediately after the grand jury result was announced, you could tell he knew there would be rioting. And he knows there’s not much he can do anymore to ameliorate that which is deathly wrong with the United States of America.
Violence was inevitable. White America is a culture that allows the police and many others to gun down black people without consequence.
For the black community of Ferguson, the killing of Michael Brown was the last straw in a long train of abuses that they have suffered daily at the hands of the local police. News accounts have strongly suggested, for example, that the police in St. Louis County’s many municipalities systematically target poor and minority citizens for street and traffic stops — partly to generate fines — which has the effect of both bankrupting and criminalizing whole communities.
In this context, the police are justifiably seen as an alien, occupying force that is synonymous with state-sponsored abuse …
President Barack Obama was on the mark last night when he said, “We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America.” The rioting that scarred the streets of St. Louis County — and the outrage that continues to reverberate across the country — underlines this inescapable point. It shows once again that distrust of law enforcement presents a grave danger to the civic fabric of the United States.
“[The] police in St. Louis County’s many municipalities systematically target poor and minority citizens for street and traffic stops — partly to generate fines — which has the effect of both bankrupting and criminalizing whole communities,” it reads, again.
Look, I like the man. He had to say something that at least sounded like it had some gravity and truth but this is too unfortunate a stretch.
From the wire: “[7 out of 10] of Americans are worried about the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) and support military action against the terror group, according to [a CNN poll].”
After 9/11 Americans were explicitly told to be in fear. A color code system for fear was made just for that. Fear drives over half the economy. Yay, for those of you working in the national security infrastructure! Fear gave us Keith Alexander and his surveillance monster of the National Security Agency. Fear in America has given all of you over a decade of solid job security.
The United States couldn’t exist without fear in the polity: Fear of Ebola, fear of not-white people, fear of people without money and things, fear of foreign enemies in nations, tribes, little gangs, pirates, single individuals with funny names. As this week has more than adequately shown again, fear is the lubricant for the gears of America, its lifeblood, too.
Almost all the subjects I’ve written about in the last twenty years are direct consequences of the American culture and business of fear. You’ve lived it.
On a related note, everything old is new again. What were crap stories a decade ago are back. The people now responsible for bearing the public relations water of fear were in their teens when it all started. Now they’re the fresh paid idiots, lickspittles and mountebanks servanting for it. And in this country, history is a liability, the wisdom to remember the taste of the old stale bread, a character defect. More today, maybe. You’ll recognize it.
Coming from the White House blog, an excellent essay on how inequality in rock music has mirrored inequality in the country. Actually, it is worse. The growth of the winner-take-all society has made popular music even more unequal than American society, generally.
The music industry is a microcosm of what is happening in the U.S. economy at large. We are increasingly becoming a “winner-take-all economy,” a phenomenon that the music industry has long experienced. Over recent decades, technological change, globalization and an erosion of the institutions and practices that support shared prosperity in the U.S. have put the middle class under increasing stress. The lucky and the talented – and it is often hard to tell the difference – have been doing better and better, while the vast majority has struggled to keep up.
These same forces are affecting the music industry. Indeed, the music industry is an extreme example of a “super star economy,” in which a small number of artists take home the lion’s share of income …
[Krueger explains that digitization and the Internet have greatly decreased income from music sales. This in turn made artists go to performance as the only way to preserve income. As a consequence, ticket prices have exploded. But only for the benefit of the topmost.]
The top 5 percent [of pop music artists] take home almost 90 percent of all concert revenues.
This is an extreme version of what has happened to the U.S. income distribution as a whole. The top 1% of families doubled their share of income from 1979 to 2011.
Krueger also discusses how luck has an increasingly outsized effect on a society distorted by inequality.
Specifically, he shows a study on popularity, one which tested what numerical counts of downloads meant to success.
Here at DD blog I’ve discussed it before when testing effects of Google AdWords campaigns and how view counts are gamed on YouTube. Ranking, as I’ve long maintained, means a lot.
If you aren’t returned in the top page of findings at Google, if YouTube search doesn’t return your video or display it in “recommends” because it has low numbers, you do not exist.
You need luck, you need someone important to promote it on a site with lots of eyeballs. If such things are not available, and luck again has a lot to do with such fortune, then numbers languish. Their are few magical resurrections, few spontaneous rises to the very top.
And, indeed, YouTube music popularity mirrors the yawning inequality Krueger writes about at the White House blog.
Google and its properties, along with social networking sites, have made an environment in which most value is accrued only by numbers of likes, views, inbound links and increasing [counts] which allegedly measure legitimate followers and friends. With web search, this has instated a winner-take-all digital ecology in which there is always strong incentive to cheat, to purchase rigging.
So I discovered that about two weeks after I’d written the linked piece an anonymous account had ripped “GE and Jeff (Taxavoidination)” and uploaded it under their account.
Subsequently, the user — going under the name Mega Grilled Ham & Cheese, rigged its views.
[Note: Mega Grilled Ham and Cheese’s YouTube account was purely engaged in testing how to artificially boost counts on YouTube. Eventually YouTube pinched him off but the point and techniques had been made.]
But back to Krueger’s piece.
In it he shows a chart in which two songs in a research test are shown, rated by download count.
Those tested were invited to download all songs available in the test for free and the songs ranked by popularity. Halfway through the test, and unknown to those tested, the counts presented to half those tested were flipped, that is — the most popular tune by downloads was given the count of the lowest, and vice versa.
Here is the chart…
In the alternative world that began with the true rankings reversed, the least popular song did surprisingly well, and, in fact, held onto its artificially bestowed top ranking. The most popular song rose in the rankings, so fundamental quality did have some effect. But, overall – across all 48 songs – the final ranking from the experiment that began with the reversed popularity ordering bore absolutely no relationship to the final ranking from the experiment that began with the true ordering. This demonstrates that the belief that a song is popular has a profound effect on its popularity, even if it wasn’t truly popular to start with.
A more general lesson is that, in addition to talent, arbitrary factors can lead to success or failure, like whether another band happens to release a more popular song than your band at the same time.
Quality does have an effect, he adds, but the perception of popularity in a winner-take-all society like ours is a big influence.
“The same forces of technology, scale, luck and the erosion of social pressures for fairness that are making rock ‘n roll more of a superstar industry also are causing the U.S. economy to become more of a winner-take-all affair,” continues the economic adviser.
The United States, he explains, has the highest inequality among advanced nations. And the divide is getting bigger. The US now also has the highest level of social immobility than all other advanced countries.
The American Dream is now a myth. It was fast fading into it when I was in grad school.
Eventually he gets around to saying, in a very gentlemanly way, that a lot of the inequality has to do with corporate America screwing over the middle class for the last three decades.
Krueger warns, gently, that there will be increasing consequences.
In returning the country to Great Gatsby/Roaring Twenties levels of disparity, the corporate market economy is creating increasing inefficiencies. These inefficiencies spring from research that seems to conclusively show that workers who perceive unfair treatment by corporations exact a toll in efficiency.
It is not hard to find reasons why the institutions and practices that long enforced norms of fairness in the labor market have been eroded. At a time when market forces were pushing an increasing share of before-tax income toward the wealthiest Americans, the previous administration cut taxes disproportionately for the well off.
Even earlier, in the 1980s when inequality was starting to take off, the nominal value of the minimum wage was left unchanged from 1981 to 1989, causing it to decline in the value by 27 percent after accounting for inflation. The minimum wage serves as an important anchor for other wages, and the whole wage scale was brought down by the decline in the minimum wage.
A lower minimum wage and regressive tax changes sent a clear signal that maintaining fairness was not a priority.
Just coincidentally (ahem), “Taxavoidination” was a rock and roll video on one of the causes of growing economic inequality, corporate tax avoidance, or “profit shifting” to countries which have built finance-sheltering systems for the purposes of tax evasion.
“Rock and Roll, Economics, and Rebuilding the Middle Class,” at the White House blog, is here.
The post title, a not-subtle dig at “Reaganomics” and “trickle down.”
It’s what it boils down to. The last two weeks destroyed all the NRA’s about the goodness of being more heavily armed. Just the opposite — the more heavily armed a certain minority white part of the populace is, one with problems ranging from insecurity over virility, paranoia about the non-white guy living in the White House (and everyone else) and an increasingly toxic ideology in which they see themselves as the last patriots to defend the country, the more certainty there will be slaughters in the future.
The selling and “panic buying” of Bushmasters has been height of morally reprehensible and irresponsible behavior during the holiday season.
There was a killing in Portland, the big one in Newtown, and the one the day before Christmas in Webster, New York, all employing the same assault rifle. And what happened? Sales of it and huge ammo clips went through the roof because the right-to-be-heavily-armed crowd was most concerned about not having them, not the substantial problem they, the National Rifle Association and manufactures of civilian assault rifles have created for everyone else.
And we know that since the incidence of violent behavior and mental illness is not zero in this gun buying white male part of the populace, somewhere, in the future, perhaps not soon, one or two or perhaps three of the weapons bought in the current surge of “panic buying” will turn up in another mass killing.
The Duluth News Tribune Reports that Duluth-area firearm dealers are seeing a high demand for Armalite, or “ARs.”
“Every time Obama opens his mouth, I sell more of them,” said Scott Van Valkenburg, owner of Fisherman’s Corner in Pike Lake, Minn., in a News Tribune article “It’s getting hard to find them, but we still have a few on the shelf. … I know a few distributors who can still get them for me, at least for now. The more they talk about banning them, the more they sell and the harder they get to find.”
Allen said that almost every five minutes his store receives a call about AR-15s. The AR-15 is a common assault weapon, and the federal government has discussed the possibility of banning such weapons and enforcing stricter gun laws. Since the recent attack, the demand for AR-15s have been high across the nation, according to Allen. FMJ does not expect to get anymore in, due to the country’s high demand for them.
Allen does not think that stricter gun laws will have an affect on decreasing gun violence.
“Most crimes are done with illegally obtained guns.” said Allen. “And if the government takes away guns, people will have no way to defend themselves,
Southern Shooters on New Hutchinson Mill Road has sold about 100 guns since Newtown’s massacre, up drastically from the normal eight to ten guns sold per week. Southern Shooters had sold the last of their five AR-15s between the Dec. 14 attack and last Tuesday.
Concern that tighter gun laws might be on the way is causing already brisk Sacramento-area gun sales to spike.
Within a handful of hours of Christmas, a steady stream of shoppers arrived at Just Guns on Auburn Boulevard and left with bullets and shells by the boxes, pistols, hunting rifles, shotguns and stun guns.
What they weren’t carrying out were AR-15 semi-automatic rifles – akin to the weapon used in the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school – and high-capacity clips.
The store didn’t have them in stock, but people were still asking. And store owner Josh Deaser said the tragedy is causing gun consumers to buy up varieties of firearms they feel might be subject to restrictions.
Closer to downtown Sacramento, Broadway Bait Rod and Gun is being inundated with calls about high-capacity rifles.
“It’s been crazy. Every third call is about AR-15s.”
Put on layaway in Sheboygan, the article read.
Many got rides on Xmas eve in Webster, New York, presumably because not enough people had guns to take out the bad guy during a gun ambush/battle, even though the police and a SWAT weren’t sufficient.
A research report compiled earlier this year by a group of social scientists working for the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System found that members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) are largely seen by U.S. soldiers as unmotivated, highly dependent and making little to no progress …
Soldiers responding to the survey are quoted as stating that the “ANA doesn’t care, they are lazy” and the “ANA have no motivation to do anything.” One U.S. Staff Sergeant said that the ANA are not interested in taking on more responsibility, adding that “We do the heavy lifting, they put a face on it.” Nearly half of soldiers surveyed said the ANA has little, not much or no motivation at all to fight. This lack of motivation often causes coalition forces to take the lead even on missions that are supposedly led by the ANA …
In fact, 62% of soldiers responding to the survey said that so-called “ANA-led” missions are rarely or never actually planned and executed by Afghan forces.
You would have thought the US military has some institutional memory re the “local fighting forces” of propped-up client states with corrupt central government and populations that want the occupiers out.
My friend Don had a wonderful library. Books were a big part of his life and I have been trying to give the many fine ones in it new homes. All those worth having and reading, and there are many, will not be wasted on public school libraries or other similar “charity,” since the actual valuing of books in such traditional places is well and truly dead.
One of the great finds is a two volume set, Reporting WWII. It anthologizes a large number of American news reports from old foreign correspondents hardly anyone, except for other journalists, remember: A. J. Liebling, Bill Shirer, Ernie Pyle and many others.
William Shirer, from Berlin in September of 1940:
The statement of the High Command, obviously forced upon it by Hitler himself — he often take a hand in writing the official communiques — deliberately perpetrates the lie that Germany has only decided to bomb London as a result of the British first bombing Berlin. And the German people will fall for this, as they fall for almost everything they’re told nowadays. Certainly, never before in modern times — since the press, and later the radio, made it theoretically possible for the mass of mankind to learn what was going on in the world — have a great people been so misled, so unscrupulously lied to, as the Germans under this regime.
[Most Germans] I speak to are beginning for the first time to wonder why the invasion of Britain hasn’t come off. They’re still confident the war will be over by Christmas. But then, until a fortnight ago they were sure it would be over by winter … I have won all my bets with Nazi officials and newspapermen about the date of the Swastika appearing in Trafalgar Square and shall — or should — receive from them enough champagne to keep me all winter. Today, when I suggested to some of them another little bet so they could win back some of their champagne, they did not think it was funny. Nor would they bet.
Hitler made a surprise speech here this afternoon, the occasion being the opening of the Winterhilfe — winter relief — campaign. Like the Volkswagen, the cheap “people’s car” on which Germans are paying millions of marks a month in installments though the factory which is supposed to make them is actually manufacturing only arms, the Winterhilfe is one of the scandals of the Nazi regime, though not one German in a million realizes it. It is obvious in a country without unemployment not much “winter relief” is necessary. Yet the Nazis go on wringing several hundred million marks each winter out of the people for “winter charity” and actually use most of the money for armaments or party funds.
There was a short time when the Reich took over Norway — the same is true of Holland — when Germans might have succeeded in winning the goodwill of the people there, who saw it was helpless to struggle against the overwhelming military power of Hitler. But the Germans did everything possible to forfeit goodwill and in a few weeks the sentiment changed. Now in all the occupied countries the Germans are bitterly hated. No decent Norwegian or Dutchmen will have anything to do with them.
The United States isn’t Nazi Germany in 1940. There are also exactly zero William Shirer’s in the national press corps. Life is bleak, though. Forty six million are on food stamps but the United States has the biggest military in world history.
And we get press reports from the war on terror, in ludicrous style similar to anything that so annoyed Shirer in 1940.
A Norwegian man who received terrorist training in Yemen is “operational” and is likely awaiting instructions to attack Western targets, according to a report by The Associated Press, which was confirmed by an ABC News intelligence source.
The AP reported today that officials from three European security agencies said that the man, who was not identified, is in his 30s, a convert to Islam and had completed training from the al Qaeda offshoot AQAP. One of the officials said the man was believed to still be in Yemen, but said that he has no criminal record and would be able to move freely across borders.
“Not even a parking ticket,” the official said, according to the AP. “He’s completely clean and he can travel anywhere.”
A terrorist. From Norway. Who went to Yemen and is now trained to hit us. He has not even a parking ticket, delivered in dead seriousness. Certainly this man must be of the most serious menace to American society. Perhaps he will finally be able to get through with an underwear bomb.
The White House on Monday promised to work with Turkey and other NATO allies to hold Syria “accountable” for what American officials have described as the deliberate downing of a Turkish military jet, apparently in international airspace …
“We stand in solidarity with Turkey, a key U.S. ally,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. “We will work with Turkey, and other partners, to hold the Assad regime accountable …”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the shoot-down as a “brazen and unacceptable act” after discussing the incident by telephone with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday.
“It is yet another reflection of the Syrian authorities’ callous disregard for international norms, human life, and peace and security,” Clinton said in a statement.