Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Nanci Griffith

Nanci Griffith has passed away. I am really shocked. She was a singer-songwriter. I don't know anyone who wasn't a fan. Elaine's blogged about her many times. This is from THE IRISH TIMES:

Greatly admired by her fellow artists and a devoted army of fans, Nanci Griffith, who has died aged 68, exemplified a style of musical storytelling with a literary flavour, focusing on the small details of the lives of her characters
Songs such as Love at the Five and Dime and Gulf Coast Highway have become permanent fixtures in the folk-country canon (Griffith described her music as “folkabilly”), and the Grammy award she won for her album Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1994 seemed a long overdue reward for her carefully crafted body of work.
While that album comprised versions of other people’s songs, other artists appreciated the quality of her own material. Love at the Five and Dime, from Griffith’s album The Last of the True Believers (1986), was a Grammy-nominated country hit for Kathy Mattea, while Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson sang Gulf Coast Highway on Harris’s hit album Duets (1990). Suzy Bogguss had a country Top 10 hit with Griffith’s Outbound Plane.
A shrewd song picker, Griffith was the first artist to record Julie Gold’s From a Distance, and it gave her a Top 10 hit in Ireland, though it was Bette Midler who had a huge hit with it in 1990. A less successful covers album, Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful), released in 1998, was accompanied by a book, Nanci Griffith’s Other Voices – A Personal History of Folk Music.

My favorite studio album by Nanci was STORMS. My favorite album by Nanci of all time was ONE FAIR SUMMER EVENING. Jason Cohen (TEXAS MONTHLY) writes:

The universal, international scope of the adulation that appeared on social media made it feel like we lost both a legend like Elvis (“We will never agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis,” rock critic Lester Bangs wrote upon the King’s death) and an influential cult figure like Guy Clark. On Nanci and what she meant, there was much agreement indeed.
Best known for such Texas folk-country classics as “Last of the True Believers,” “Love at the Five and Dime,” and “Lone Star State of Mind,” as well as her near-definitive versions of Julie Gold’s “From a Distance,” Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Valley,” and John Prine’s “Speed the Sound of Loneliness” (in a duet with Prine himself), Griffith’s music transcended genre, generations, and her home state. Seguin-born and Austin-raised, she may have had even more fans outside of Texas, whether in Nashville, Ireland, New York, or Australia … and she introduced those fans to other Texas artists.
Griffith brought in people from all corners, and they all came out to pay respects. Many of her fans were from Texas, of course, including lots of other writers and musicians (Austin’s Kelly Willis credited Griffith with helping her get signed to MCA). But there also were people from my current home of Portland, Oregon—a deejay I know from indie-rock shows who grew up listening to Griffith with her parents in Maine, an LGBTQ country musician who once toured with her. Fans on Facebook pages devoted to other groups like Wilco and Prefab Sprout turned out also to be Griffith fans, as did several people whom I know only from talking about baseball.

Sam Roche (GUITAR WORLD) notes:

Songs penned by Griffith over the course of her decades-spanning career include Outbound Plane and Love at the Five and Dime.
The former garnered Griffith mainstream success when country artist Suzy Bogguss covered and landed a Top 10 spot with the track in 1991.
Bogguss led tributes to the singer-songwriter on social media, writing: “My heart is aching. A beautiful soul that I love has left this Earth. I feel blessed to have many memories of our times together along with most everything she ever recorded.”

Holly Gleason (VARIETY) adds:

It’s hard now to explain the shock of seeing the slight, sweet-voiced kindergarten teacher in the yellow dress covered in cabbage roses on “Austin City Limits,” unfurling delightful miniatures of life, of romantic disappoint, of young girl best friends killing the lights in town with pop bottle caps. In those days of “Miami Vice,” electric-neon “I Want My MTV” new wave and post-“Urban Cowboy” country, the folkie with a band that included legendary musicians Roy Huskey Jr., Mark O’Connor and licorice-thin background vocalist Lyle Lovett delighted with the songs, the stories and the applause of a hometown audience.
I raced to the local Miami branch of Spec’s, that long-gone record store chain. One of the clerks had had “ACL” on, saw the same thing I did, and walked me back to the folk section. “Once In A Very Blue Moon,” on the tiny Philo label, was soon mine. Raving like a crazy person who’d been set on fire by this young woman, who was so much the girl I wanted to be — erudite, funky bohemian in her dust bowl dresses, straight hair tumbling down, and anklet socks the anti-thesis of sex-on-display aesthetic I saw in the city around me — I tumbled head-first into the short stories and “Last Picture Show” imagery that anchored the whimsy and the heartbreak.

The “Last of the True Believers” album made good on the contradictions: velvety and whisper-soft and guttural and salty. “Love at the Five & Dime,” tracing the romantic life of a Woolworth counter girl named Rita and a bar musician named Eddie who found each other and fell into a life, offered the fence posts of how love binds us together in the small but very real dramas that threaten the fairy tale ending. “Looking for the Time (Workin’ Girl)” was a clear-eyed take on a street whore’s life that was neither judgmental nor romanticizing; with that churlish thrust over a rushing sweep, she apprised, “This sidewalk ice is cold as steel, and I ain’t Dorothy, I can’t click my heels… You asked me if I got the time, well you just wasted mine/ if you ain’t got money, I ain’t got the time…”

 I will miss her gifts a great deal.  She was truly an artist.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 Tuesday, August 17, 2021.

Starting with . . . 

Afghanistan.  Again, it will be used to make arguments regarding Iraq which is why we have to pay attention to it.  US President Joe Biden spoke on the issue yesterday.

From the official White House transcript, here are Joe's remarks:

East Room

4:02 P.M. EDT  

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  I want to speak today to the unfolding situation in Afghanistan: the developments that have taken place in the last week and the steps we’re taking to address the rapidly evolving events.

My national security team and I have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and moving quickly to execute the plans we had put in place to respond to every constituency, including — and contingency — including the rapid collapse we’re seeing now.

I’ll speak more in a moment about the specific steps we’re taking, but I want to remind everyone how we got here and what America’s interests are in Afghanistan.

We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.

We did that.  We severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we got him.  That was a decade ago. 

Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building.  It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.

Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.

I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism — not counterinsurgency or nation building.  That’s why I opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when I was Vice President.

And that’s why, as President, I am adamant that we focus on the threats we face today in 2021 — not yesterday’s threats.

Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan: al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia.  These threats warrant our attention and our resources.

We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have a permanent military presence.

If necessary, we will do the same in Afghanistan.  We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.

When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban.  Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 — just a little over three months after I took office.

U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country, and the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.

The choice I had to make, as your President, was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season.

There would have been no ceasefire after May 1.  There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1.  There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1.

There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict. 

I stand squarely behind my decision.  After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.

That’s why we were still there.  We were clear-eyed about the risks.  We planned for every contingency.

But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.  The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

So what’s happened?  Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country.  The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.

If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision. 

American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.  We spent over a trillion dollars.  We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong — incredibly well equipped — a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies. 

We gave them every tool they could need.  We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force — something the Taliban doesn’t have.  Taliban does not have an air force.  We provided close air support. 

We gave them every chance to determine their own future.  What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.

There’s some very brave and capable Afghan special forces units and soldiers, but if Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, there is no chance that 1 year — 1 more year, 5 more years, or 20 more years of U.S. military boots on the ground would’ve made any difference.

And here’s what I believe to my core: It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not.  If the political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down, they would never have done so while U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the fighting for them.

And our true strategic competitors — China and Russia — would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely.

When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations.  We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people.  We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically. 

They failed to do any of that.

I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban.  This advice was flatly refused.  Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong.

So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans — Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?   How many more lives — American lives — is it worth?  How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?

I’m clear on my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past — the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces.

Those are the mistakes we cannot continue to repeat, because we have significant vital interests in the world that we cannot afford to ignore.

I also want to acknowledge how painful this is to so many of us.  The scenes we’re seeing in Afghanistan, they’re gut-wrenching, particularly for our veterans, our diplomats, humanitarian workers, for anyone who has spent time on the ground working to support the Afghan people.

For those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and for Americans who have fought and served in the country — serve our country in Afghanistan — this is deeply, deeply personal.

It is for me as well.  I’ve worked on these issues as long as anyone.  I’ve been throughout Afghanistan during this war — while the war was going on — from Kabul to Kandahar to the Kunar Valley.

I’ve traveled there on four different occasions.  I met with the people.  I’ve spoken to the leaders.  I spent time with our troops.  And I came to understand firsthand what was and was not possible in Afghanistan.

So, now we’re fercus [sic] — focused on what is possible. 

We will continue to support the Afghan people.  We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence, and our humanitarian aid.

We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability.

We’ll continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan people — of women and girls — just as we speak out all over the world.

I have been clear that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery.  But the way to do it is not through endless military deployments; it’s with our diplomacy, our economic tools, and rallying the world to join us. 

Now, let me lay out the current mission in Afghanistan.  I was asked to authorize — and I did — 6,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan for the purpose of assisting in the departure of U.S. and Allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan.

Our troops are working to secure the airfield and to ensure continued operation of both the civilian and military flights.  We’re taking over air traffic control. 

We have safely shut down our embassy and transferred our diplomats.  Our dip- — our diplomatic presence is now consolidated at the airport as well.

Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan.

We’ll also continue to support the safe departure of civilian personnel — the civilian personnel of our Allies who are still serving in Afghanistan.

Operation Allies Refugee [Refuge], which I announced back in July, has already moved 2,000 Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigration Visas and their families to the United States.

In the coming days, the U.S. military will provide assistance to move more SIV-eligible Afghans and their families out of Afghanistan.

We’re also expanding refugee access to cover other vulnerable Afghans who worked for our embassy: U.S. non-governmental agencies — or the U.S. non-governmental organizations; and Afghans who otherwise are at great risk; and U.S. news agencies.

I know that there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans — civilians sooner.  Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier — still hopeful for their country.  And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, “a crisis of confidence.”

American troops are performing this mission as professionally and as effectively as they always do, but it is not without risks.

As we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the Taliban: If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the U.S. presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful.  We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary.

Our current military mission will be short in time, limited in scope, and focused in its objectives: Get our people and our allies to safety as quickly as possible. 

And once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal.  We will end America’s longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed.

The events we’re seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, and secure Afghanistan — as known in history as the “graveyard of empires.”

What is happening now could just as easily have happened 5 years ago or 15 years in the future.  We have to be honest: Our mission in Afghanistan has taken many missteps — made many missteps over the past two decades. 

I’m now the fourth American President to preside over war in Afghanistan — two Democrats and two Republicans.  I will not pass this responsibly on — responsibility on to a fifth President.

I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference.  Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here.

I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.

I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face.  But I do not regret my decision to end America’s warfighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser-focus on our counterterrorism missions there and in other parts of the world.

Our mission to degrade the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden was a success.

Our decades-long effort to overcome centuries of history and permanently change and remake Afghanistan was not, and I wrote and believed it never could be.

I cannot and I will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another — in another country’s civil war, taking casualties, suffering life-shattering injuries, leaving families broken by grief and loss.

This is not in our national security interest.  It is not what the American people want.  It is not what our troops, who have sacrificed so much over the past two decades, deserve.

I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for President that I would bring America’s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end.  And while it’s been hard and messy — and yes, far from perfect — I’ve honored that commitment.

More importantly, I made a commitment to the brave men and women who serve this nation that I wasn’t going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should have ended long ago. 

Our leaders did that in Vietnam when I got here as a young man.  I will not do it in Afghanistan.

I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another President of the United States — yet another one — a fifth one. 

Because it’s the right one — it’s the right decision for our people.  The right one for our brave service members who have risked their lives serving our nation.  And it’s the right one for America. 

So, thank you.  May God protect our troops, our diplomats, and all of the brave Americans serving in harm’s way.

Patrick Martin (WSWS) evaluates the speech:

In the course of the speech, Biden effectively admitted that the pretexts under which the United States invaded Afghanistan were lies. Despite the claims of the Bush administration and the entire media that a central aim of the US invasion and occupation was the promotion of democracy and the well-being of the Afghan population, Biden declared the United States could not care less.

“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building,” he said. “It was never supposed to be creating a unified centralized democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been, preventing a terrorist attack on the American homeland.”

In other words, the claim by George W. Bush, who launched the war in Afghanistan saying he sought to save “a people from starvation, and freed a country from brutal oppression,” was a lie.

To the extent that anyone was to blame for the US debacle in Afghanistan, Biden insisted, it was the Afghan people, who were ungrateful to the United States military, which had spent two decades assassinating, torturing and bombing them.

Even as he effectively admitted that the Bush administration lied about seeking to build democracy and bring prosperity to the people of Afghanistan, Biden doubled down on another lie--that the US war was launched to fight terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

The US intervention in Afghanistan, which has had such catastrophic consequences for the people of that country, did not begin 20 years ago, but in 1978, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. It started as an effort to foment civil war by mobilizing insurgents against a Soviet-backed government in Kabul, and give Moscow “its own Vietnam,” in the words of Carter’s chief strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

This policy was continued aggressively under the Reagan administration, whose CIA director, William Casey, encouraged Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to recruit and arm Islamic fundamentalists from all over the Middle East to join the fighting, leading to the rise of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban emerged from the same process at a later stage, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the collapse of the USSR. Working through the government of Pakistan, the Clinton administration promoted the Islamist movement as a force for stability and a potential vehicle for US access to the oil resources of Central Asia.

Glenn Greenwald (SUBSTACK) observes, "For two decades, the message Americans heard from their political and military leaders about the country’s longest war was the same. America is winning. The Taliban is on the verge of permanent obliteration. The U.S. is fortifying the Afghan security forces, which are close to being able to stand on their own and defend the government and the country."

Again, this all has huge implications for Iraq.  The US government keeps insisting it has to train, to train, to train . . ..  Remember when Gary Ackerman was in Congress?  Remember when he used to call out the government for this nonsense?  Training has accomplished nothing.  

Let's drop back to the February 8, 2012 snapshot:

We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program?  Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter didain for the program.  When the Iraqis sugest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue."  The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete?  Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it."  She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government.  But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name.  That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States."  He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
Brooke Darby noted that he didn't deny that comment or retract it; however, she had spoken with him and he felt US trainers and training from the US was needed.  The big question was never asked in the hearing: If the US government wants to know about this $500 million it is about to spend covering the 2012 training of the Ministry of the Interior's police, why are they talking to the Deputy Minister?
The US State Dept wass not ready to put a time limit on it, by their own words.  How long does the 'training' continue?  How many years and how many billions?  If it's really not clear to you, let's drop back to the House Foreign Relations Committee hearing of December 1, 2011 for this exchange.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
[long pause]
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye."  Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.
And that's where we are today in Iraq.  No one's being honest.  "Training."  Just a little more training, just a little more . . . 

Below Katie Halper discusses the situation with Mike Prysner., Iraq War veteran, part of March Forward.

Mike's an important voice, I'm glad he's on.  I'm glad Katie interviewed him.  I do hope the circle allowed to speak expands.  I get it, I wouldn't have on fake asses myself and most of the 'names' who objected to the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq were just whores using the war as a turn-out-the-vote measure.  Phyllis, Norman, all the rest.  

We need more voices, not less.  


Below, Glenn Greenwald is discussing the reality of Afghanistan versus what the American people were repeatedly told.

The following sites updated: