Saturday Night Tunes: Maiden Voyage

Well, it’s been a long day of blowing leaves all over my back yard, the cost of living in what should really be a forest. So I kind of forgot about doing an album tonight until about 5 minutes ago. Luckily we have a lot of great albums still to choose from, and tonight I decided to grab Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock. Recorded and released in 1965, Maiden Voyage was Hancock’s fifth album as a leader and may still be his best, although he’s recorded an almost superhuman number of albums since then. As the title suggests, Hancock oriented the album around the theme of a sea voyage or just the sea generally speaking. Since it’s late, let’s just get to the tunes.

The personnel on the album is the same as on the 1963 Miles Davis classic Seven Steps to Heaven (Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on drums, and George Coleman on tenor saxophone), except swap out Davis for Freddie Hubbard on trumpet. That’s a pretty superstar lineup and the results reflect that. All the tunes were written by Hancock.

First up is the title track, which is right out of Davis’s modal jazz movement and is still arguably Hancock’s best-known composition:

“The Eye of the Hurricane” translates the chaos of the storm all around you into an uptempo bop number:

The next track, “Little One,” is a balladish number that also wound up being recorded for the Miles Davis album E.S.P., which was also released in 1965 with the Hancock/Carter/Williams rhythm section and Wayne Shorter on tenor (this is considered Miles’s “Second Great Quintet,” his John Coltrane-Red Garland-Paul Chambers-Philly Joe Jones group from the 1950s being the first). In particular I like Coleman’s tenor better than Shorter’s on E.S.P., but then I’m not a huge fan of Wayne Shorter’s playing (his writing, on the other hand, is amazing):

“Survival of the Fittest” gives you a real sense of a harrowing trek through the wilderness, and lets Williams’s drumming shine:

Aside from “Maiden Voyage” itself, “Dolphin Dance” is the other real classic from the album, and this laid back number has become a well-deserved jazz standard:

Good news on Ebola?

When I said the other day that Burkina Faso matters partly because it’s smack in the middle of the West African Ebola outbreak, I was remiss in not mentioning that the outbreak actually may be subsiding overall:

Statistics from World Health Organization have shown in the last few weeks a steady decline in the numbers of cases reported, particularly in Liberia. There, less than 100 new cases were reported this week after reaching nearly 500 new cases a week during several weeks in mid-September.

“It’s certainly early to say that this is over. It’s even early to say that this is getting better,” Daniel Epstein, a WHO spokesperson, told TPM. But, he said: “It appears to have stabilized.”

There’s still reason for concern, particularly in Mali, but the pessimistic predictions of several international aid organizations seem to have been missed, although there’s a danger in getting too focused on the reported figures for a disease that often goes unreported. But it does appear that international aid has finally started reaching Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and that it’s being used to build or rebuild the kind of public health infrastructure that is essential to containing the disease.

If this is the beginning of the end for this Ebola outbreak, let’s hope that it doesn’t bring a return of the same “eh, there’s no money in it” attitude that has slowed the effort to find a cure for the disease so far. Also, let’s hope that when the next outbreak occurs, it doesn’t take thousands of deaths for the international community to wake up and take action.

A crazy thought about immigration

Maybe, if we here in America are really concerned about undocumented immigrants coming into the country across our southern border, we could stop engaging in the predatory “free trade” practices that are collapsing economies and societies in their home countries and forcing them to migrate in the first place?

In 2004 and 2005, hundreds of thousands of protesters filled Central America’s streets.

They warned of the unemployment, poverty, hunger, pollution, diminished national sovereignty, and other problems that could result if DR-CAFTA were approved. But despite popular pressure, the agreement was ratified in seven countries—including Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.

Ten years after the approval of DR-CAFTA, we are seeing many of the effects they cautioned about.

Overall economic indicators in the region have been poor, with some governments unable to provide basic services to the population. Farmers have been displaced when they can’t compete with grain importedfrom the United States. Amid significant levels of unemployment, labor abuses continue. Workers in export assembly plants often suffer poor working conditions and low wages. And natural resource extraction has proceeded with few protections for the environment.

Contrary to the promises of U.S. officials—who claimed the agreement would improve Central American economies and thereby reduce undocumented immigration—large numbers of Central Americans have migrated to the United States, as dramatized most recently by the influx of children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras crossing the U.S.-Mexican border last summer. Although most are urgently fleeing violence in their countries, there are important economic roots to the migration—many of which are related to DR-CAFTA.

DR-CAFTA, or the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, allows companies to sue governments to “recover” profits lost due to pesky things like, oh, environmental regulations, worker safety regulations, and pretty much anything those governments try to do to protect their citizens from the excesses of those corporations. Central American governments, as a result are incentivized to allow multinational corporations to do pretty much whatever the hell they want to the people and the local environment, since those governments that do stand up to the corporations risk losing enormous sums of money in court. DR-CAFTA ensconces in U.S. law the idea that multinational corporations should be allowed to ignore and ultimately overrule the sovereign governments of the nations they seek to exploit. And this “investor protection” principle, as it’s called, is part of every trade agreement we make, including NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Either or

Welp, I’m either spending the day attending the Middle East Institute’s annual conference or huddled under a blanket trying to figure out if I’ll ever breathe through my nose again. Either way activity will be nil or close to nil here. If you’re looking for something interesting to read, I’d recommend MEI scholar Michael Collins Dunn’s ongoing 100th anniversary of World War I series.

Did Burkina Faso’s army just troll everybody?

Way back in 2000, the Burkinabé constitution was amended to limit presidents to two five year terms in office; previously they could be elected to unlimited seven year terms. This should have marked the end of President Blaise Compaoré’s time in office, since he had seized power in a coup all the way back in 1987, but it was decided that Compaoré would not be grandfathered in to the new system. Somehow Compaoré managed to secure the right not only to serve out his full seven year term (he’d been re-elected in 1998 so his term didn’t end until 2005) but to run for an additional two five year terms after that. So he won re-election in 2005 and again in 2010, and perhaps you won’t be totally shocked to learn that there was some alleged funny business involved both times.

Skip to this past June. Compaoré’s time in office, even under the ridiculously generous terms of the 2000 constitutional amendment, was coming to an end by any measure. So his ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress, “called upon” the President to organize a nationwide referendum over whether the constitution should be amended again to get rid of that pesky two term limit. Compaoré, with total reluctance I’m sure, decided that a referendum was a great idea, because obviously the voices of the people should be heard or whatever and plus he’s gotten pretty good at rigging elections by now (read this for an account of some of Compaoré’s less savory acts while in power). Parliament scheduled a debate over the proposed referendum for October 30.

Well, as it turns out, the voice of the people kind of came to parliament on October 30, and it said “get this guy the hell out of office already.” Continue reading

The point of no return

I’m afraid that when it comes to Israel, Palestine, and a Third Intifada, we may be approaching it:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “respond harshly” after five people — three of them U.S.-born rabbis — were killed in a synagogue Tuesday by two Palestinians wielding meat cleavers, an ax and a gun.

The incident was the latest violent event in the tense city where relations between Arabs and Jews have been deteriorating for weeks over a contested shrine holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Netanyahu immediately ordered the demolition of the attackers’ homes, as well as homes of Palestinians who carried out several recent attacks.

Those demolitions, the unreasonable response to an unjustifiable attack that was just the latest attack in a decades-long cycle of unjustifiable attacks and unreasonable responses, will only spur another attack, which will in turn spur another response, and around the wheel we go. An oppressed people lashes out in ways that only deepen its oppression, while the oppressor reacts in ways that only ensure that the oppressed will keep lashing out, with no end in sight.