Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mose, My Hero

Tibor R. Machan

Of course, I am just a fan of Mose Allison, he’s not really my main hero but now and then I get enthusiastic about his work and nearly idolize him.

Mose Allison is a jazz pianist, composer and perhaps the coolest cat on the jazz and blues scene. I’ve had the good fortune of witnessing him play on numerous occasions, from the days when I lived in Santa Barbara, at El Paseo Restaurant back in the 19070s, to Harry’s Bar in Century City, the MOMA and the Bakery Jazz club in Los Angeles, and most recently, on June 30, 2010, at Madison Square Park in New York City. Of course, I have virtually all of his music on my well- and eclectically populated iPod (7400 pieces of music of the greatest variety you can imagine, all uploaded from my CDs by me into my iTunes system on my Mac). Next to my all-time favorite pianist, Erroll Garner, Mose is the top for sure. (Not that I am narrow about this--Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers, among quite a few others, send me too, such as the Allman Brothers, Billy Holiday, Pete Fountain, Sidney Bechet, Ella Fitzgerald, Eric Clapton, Albert Collins, Mozart, Camille Saint-SaĆ«ns, Zoltan Kodaly and many many more.)

My current reason for deciding to celebrate Mose is a bit odd. He is one of the oldest jazz musicians still making the circuit regularly, having just recently returned from recording live two CDs in London, just as a sample. He is in his early 80s and sings and writes and plays the piano uniquely and superbly. (Is it just me who finds that pianists tend to play on and on into old age, like Horowitz and Rubinstein, for instance?)

What fascinates me is how Mose & Co. seem never to retire. And they flourish, it seems, although I don’t know their personal lives so well as to swear to this. But as far as doing what they do is concerned, they seem not to be in the retirement business. (Which reminds me of a remark attributed to, of all people, Bob Dylan, namely, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” Not bad for a quip!) Of course, for some folks retirement is probably very appropriate, especially if much of what they do for a living taxes them physically. But I have trouble fathoming it--writers, too, seem to just go on and on, whether anyone wants them to do so. In Mose Allison’s case, which seems to be a life of musical multitasking par excellance, the determination not to quit is probably an artistic and medical imperative. It probably contributes significantly to his longevity and happiness.

Mose is a very inventive lyricist although both original and borrowed songs fill up his repertoire. “Your Mind is on Vacation,” “Seventh Son,” “Fool’s Paradise,” “They Call it Jogging,” “Getting There” (which contains the hilarious line “thirty years in show business and only had one wife”) and “Since I fell for you” are just a few of my favorites.

There is a lot of stuff going around the world that’s disgusting, sad, tragic even, but then there are the likes of Mose Allison who balance it out, almost, with the most entertaining and wonderful offerings, at least for the likes of me. Aside from family and some of the great places I have managed to visit around the globe, the music that surrounds me, as well as the novels and paintings, pretty much prove that even with all the bad business, life is quite a worthy trip. And it can go on and on for quite some time, especially, I assume, if one keeps one’s mind and body active and learns to follow the Seventh Day Adventists’ bumper sticker I ran across once in Atlanta: “Notice the good and praise it.”

Monday, August 09, 2010

Machan Archive: Does Radical Left Favor Radical Islam?

Tibor R. Machan

Recently I have been recalling when University of Michigan Professor of Law, Catherine McKinnon used to advocate censoring pornography because she believed it is an assault upon women. She lays out her case in her very prestigiously published slim and readable book, Only Words (Harvard University Press, 1993). She not only developed a case for censoring pornography but also went north to Canada to help guide their legal system to implement her ideas in their Constitution.
Paradoxically McKinnon had once defended some Muslim women against their Bosnian oppressors who had tried to restrain their all too Western activities, in K. v. Karadzic, 866 F. Supp. 734 (S.D.N.Y. 1994), 70 F. 3d 232 (2d cir. 1996), all in the name of feminism. Yet, she also gave expert testimony against white supremacists on harm of discriminatory symbols (swastika and cross burning) in support of human rights statue prohibiting them, before Board of Inquiry in Alberta and won the case. (See, Kane v. Church of Jesus Christ Christian—Aryan Nations, Board of Inquiry Decision [Edmonton, Alberta], Feb. 28, 1992.)

The reason these facts have been occupying my attention is that they call to mind for me a strain of thinking in the West that really isn’t at all different from that exhibited by radical Islamists. Remember the reaction in some Muslim communities to the exercise of the right to journalistic freedom when some Danish newspapers published pictures that were regarded as offensive to Muslims? And, of course, there is the fatwa—a contract for murdering someone—that has never been rescinded against novelist Selman Rushdie who was accused of insulting Islam in his book Satanic Verses. The deadly reaction, in which Danish embassies were attacked, had been justified on the grounds that insulting Islam must be punished with murder, nothing less.

Of course, Professor McKinnon did not advocate murdering those who insult woman by producing and publishing pornography but the principle underlying her case isn’t different from what's embraced by radical Islamists. Both believe that writing or speaking against something isn’t “only words” but amount to what should be legally actionable offenses, indeed actionable by the faithful whether the law concurs or not.

But we can take this even further, to policies embraced by many mainstream modern liberal thinkers—e.g., the notion that there should be hate crimes. Never mind that the evidence for the hate is hostile language and other non-aggressive, though admittedly insulting, offensive symbolism. The Southern Poverty Law Center, co-founded by Morris Dees and Joe Levin, actively promotes legal sanctions against those who have promoted ideas and ideals that could inspire some to act violently against innocent members of minorities. Again, the issue isn’t that there is nothing wrong with promoting such ideas and ideals but that Dees and Levin urge us to forcibly restrain those with them.

But even more nearly mainstream is the idea that if one discriminates against someone, one has infringed his or her human rights. Yet, such discrimination is often nothing more than the (quite possibly irrational) exercise of one’s right to freedom of association, as when someone refuses to sell goods or services to members of certain minorities or to hire them for a position one has available in one’s business. Not that there may not be some kind of legal objection against such policies, given that in numerous cases there is no disclosure of the discriminatory policy. Yet, the law often prohibits such policy, so it would be illegal to disclose it! Only in strictly personal relationships, like those pursued on dating Web Sites, is one free to practice discrimination that may well be irrational—e.g., wishing only to date blacks or whites or light skinned Indians.

All this violates the right of freedom of association and is often against the law. When radical Muslims advocate the more extreme versions of these public policy measures, wishing to herd everyone everywhere into the Islamic community and using whatever force they can get away with to bring this about, they could be regarded as taking these politically correct public policies to their logical conclusion.

It might be of interest to see what Professor McKinnon thinks about the policies advocated by radical Islamists. It might give us a clue as to just how many those in the West share the premises of those who wish to destroy it. (One web site does discuss McKinnon’s odd position—http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/364.)