Friday, December 28, 2007

Goes to show what I know about South African politics. Of course, per my previous post on the subject, I could've stretched it and extended the analogy and compared Zuma to Alexander Hamilton and his oft accused designs on an imperial presidency, but I'd be disingenuous in doing so.

Besides, there are a lot more pertinent subjects. Like what the fuck is going on in Pakistan, and shouldn't we be worried? One can only hope they don't have any ICBMs. Probably not.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007: Great year for my family and me, tough year for democracy. When Putin's Person of the Year and Bhutto is killed by a suicide attack, probably by Musharraf's men, as elections (sham ones at that) approach, a year that began somewhat promising with the return of some form of balance of power here in the States, the destabilizing effect of 9/11 and six years of the Bush administration's militaristic response to it, are taking root everywhere you look. This trend, coupled with the continuing sub-prime mess, does not bode well for 2008. Whomever wins the election next November (and I pray it is Obama) will have quite a mess to clean up in 2009. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 17, 2007

When I read this article about the state of the ANC in South Africa, I can't help but draw parallels to the United States and the 1800 election. Mandela would be the George Washington of the ANC, although GW didn't survive to see the fraying into partisanship in its actual implementation, though he certainly foresaw it. I'm guessing the reminder was also triggered by my morning reading of the latest NY Times Book Review, which included the new book about the 1800 elections, A Magnificent Catastrophe. So the question is: Is the current state of the ANC a part of the natural evolution of democracy, or is it something else entirely? Depends on your definition of "is?"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Whatever ends up coming out in the Mitchell Report on baseball and steroid use, the underlying thing is this: The lax enforcement over steroid use in Major League Baseball is, in many different forms, a direct offshoot of the bad labor/ownership relations in the 80s and 90s. One part of this is the players union's steadfast refusal, at times, to agree to more stringent testing. Another part was a tacit willingness by management and others to look the other way as the home run derby got going between McGwire and Sosa in 1998. One might suppose the reason for the latter is because baseball needed some kind of event to bring some of the fans back after the 1994 strike debacle. There was no man behind the curtain in all of this, many are to blame, including, perhaps, ourselves. But I've long felt you can't put an asterisk on Bonds alone, because there were, common sense would dictate, plenty of pitchers using the stuff as well. I'm guessing when a bit of time passes, that this period WILL be looked upon as the "juiced" era in the same way we look at the "dead ball" era now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Olivia Margaret was born September 28th at 11:42am, 7 lbs, 1.8 oz and 20 inches. I have a hunch I won't be spending a great deal of time posting things in here for a while. But...you never know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

With regard to Pakistan, and why we've been supporting the dictator there, it's all coming into focus (in my mind, at least).

"Dictators need crisis to perpetuate their rule and therefore have an interest in keeping extremism alive, she added."

Classic. However, why do I get the feeling that Bhutto's either going to get turned away from the country like Sharif was or end up dead?

Friday, September 21, 2007

In their own words...Blackwater U.S.A.: "We are not simply a 'private security company.' We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm who provides turnkey solutions." That's modern gobbledygook for one word: mercenary. Mercenaries like, say, the Hessians? Yep, it looks like it.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I've been searching the internet to see if anyone else is questioning the methods of Oakland A's trainer Larry Davis. I don't know what goes on in the clubhouse, but it seems to be a pattern for the A's, multiple injuries every year. I have just begun the search, and right out the gates comes this article from 2004. At first I thought it was this year based on the quote: If there was ever a time when the trainer was this busy in his 20 years with the team, he can't remember. He'd rather be in the clubhouse watching TV or doing routine maintenance. Or something...

Is it me, or do the A's need to reconsider retaining their trainer? Maybe it's time for a fresh perspective.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Another one to file under the law of unintended consequences by shortsighted war hawks who think we can solve the terrorist question militarily. What has happened since we invaded Iraq on these false pretenses? The region is slowly turning militant. Turkey is the latest cog in that wheel. If I am reading this correctly. And someone, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I don't usually care about celebrity stories but this one ties into a beef I have with where we're headed: As long as you're wealthy or famous, different rules apply.

We are so obsessed with celebrity and status, that we don't realize how stratified we're becoming. A woman who took my blood pressure, etc. for life insurance last night was a case in point: how hard it is for people who do something of real value in our society to simply survive in California. It is one of the reasons K & I won't be here for much longer. It's an unsustainable playground for the rich, who are increasingly served by a slave class. That's right. I said it: Slaves--in practice. Try making $9 an hour living here much less sub minimum wage under the table.

Rant over? Go Brewers. We'll be at AT&T Park tonight rooting for 'em.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The time has come to get some semblance of order in the whole jockeying-for-first-dibs-on-the-primary thing. Michigan is the latest entrant into this mayhem. Campaigns are already too long and costly. What the fuck are we doing? I believe a constitutional amendment may be in order to try and codify a system of rotation. This is the kind of thing constitutional amendments are useful for, not hot button issues like Gay Marriage, etc.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On the way to the office this morning, I heard a rare nugget of intelligence coming from a sports talk commentator, guest Sam Spear on the Murph & Mac show on KNBR:

"By the way...Michael Vick is the latest distraction in our society to keep our mind off real problems. And he will soon be ...out...and there will be a new one."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Is it me, or does it seem like the only mission every time the old Space Shuttle goes into orbit now is a spacewalk to repair the foam that falls off at liftoff? Here's the same story 2 years ago. If that's not a sign to put that spacecraft out to pasture, then what is?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Call me a simpleton if you must, but what was the housing market boom and bust, but an echo of the dot-com boom and bust? Those wild speculators, once drawn to anything with .com, then spooked, were probably the same ones engaging in things like flipping houses in the same day during the housing boom. And, once again, the bust. Scary, indeed. Guess who's gonna need to step in? Yep, you guessed, it, the government. Now is not the time for less government. Now is the time for smarter government. I suppose neither of the two will be a reality. Like I said, we don't live in a vacuum. But...an active government (for better or for worse) it will be.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I don't know about you, but I smell a rat in the whole Musharraf "State of Emergency" affair. Reeks of pure politics to me.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Obama is right about Pakistan. Musharraf is playing it both ways and sort of reminds me a little bit of General George B. McClellan. If the intel is there, and you know Al Qaeda's within your borders, what are you waiting for? Are you an incompetent fool? Or are you hiding more sinister intentions?

Back to Ron Paul for a minute, in response to a couple of the commenters on my last post. Two points. First, we are the leader of the world. Just because we fucked up in Iraq shouldn't mean that we disengage from conflicts in other parts of the world. Am I saying anywhere that we should invade? No, I am not. But we can apply pressure on China and others to divest from the Sudanese government, and use diplomacy to convince them that supporting that regime is not in their interests. Just because a provision in the legislation leaves all options on the table doesn't mean we're gonna go in there. How do you suppose the Sudanese government would react if we explicitly said that we would leave military action "off" the table in the legislation? Of course there are provisions that "could lead to" military invention. We do not live in a vacuum.

I guess you could say that I have a big problem with a "one size fits all" worldview.

Secondly, in regards to this idea that government shouldn't be involved in much of anything, and that the free market and the invisible hand will solve all of our problems...in the long run, that is...John Maynard Keynes put it about right when he said "in the long run, we are all dead." There are many revisionists and pundits who come in with an agenda and basically lie and say that Keynesian economics didn't work, and imply that Reagan saved us from the New Deal. That's just wrong. While I won't defend the Great Society under Johnson (that is where we went too far), I would ask that you have a look at our numbers during the wartime years up to about 1973 (where it CAN be argued that Great Society implementation began to have its spillover effect), and ask yourself whether the boom years resulted from a form of Keynesian economics or not. As I am not an economist by trade, I don't have the numbers to back me up. But I have a good idea what would have happened if Milton Friedman's model ruled the day back then.

in fact...we had a President who had an amazing track record as a humanitarian, cited for his relief efforts in Belgium during World War I. When he became President, and a crisis emerged in our country, he had an unbending faith that the free market (for the most part) would solve the crisis if government would just stay out of the way and people would be patient for the long run. His name was Herbert Hoover. Ring a bell, gentlemen? Or do I need to put up a link? A Ron Paul presidency would be much worse. Unlike Hoover, whose aforementioned relief effort saved many lives. What's Paul's track record, other than as an undistinguished local congressman voting no on everything? Indeed, there are a lot of N's down the line, with a couple of glaring exceptions: eliminating taxes unilaterally, or limiting a woman's right to choose.

Luckily for America, Ron Paul has no chance in hell of gaining the GOP nomination, same as Jerry Brown in 1992 on the Dem side. He might have some unexpectedly high poll numbers for a while like Brown did, but he won't last. The bad news? It's looking like Obama will share the same fate on the Dem side next year. The pundits have anointed Hillary the front runner, and Barack has a tough hill to climb now. I still support him, because of his experience as a community organizer, his honesty, sense of balance, and exposure to different cultures and points of view. Supporting Hillary would be tough for me to swallow, because she just licks her finger and puts it in the air to see which way the wind blows. But I'd take that any day over another unbending ideologue like W, and I would argue we would have one in Ron Paul. One who has a preconceived theory that remains unbending when the facts and details on the ground prove otherwise.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Last week Congress voted 418-1 on the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act. Seemed like a no-brainer to me. So, who was the nay vote? None other than Ron Paul, candidate du Jour for some of our younger voters, and self described libertarian for President of the United States. It is people like Ron Paul and those who support him without thinking things through that have the potential to damage our global reputation in the long run. What is this nay vote other than a reincarnated "America First" movement. We have been down this road before. In light of the blundering Bush administration and its rush into Iraq, the isolationist viewpoint has returned.

And now, in light of the collapsed bridge in Minnesota, a bridge I've driven over a few times, I can't help but say I bet I know which side of the vote Ron Paul has been on for bills involving infrastructure improvements over the years. Any young readers thinking about voting for Ron Paul because he happens to play up his social libertarian side on popular talk shows, think again. There's another side to the libertarian coin. Most recently, it has been called the "Reagan revolution." But indeed, we have also been down that road before. And it took the Progessive movement at or near the turn of the previous century to pull us out of it. We're getting to that point again.

With regard to his statement that he "never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution," that's not governance, that's dereliction of duty. Even the most fervent proponent of "original intent" wouldn't say that, would he?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My monthly emusic purchases included the remaining tracks from Panda Bear's Person Pitch and a record called Boxer by the National. This latter record is quite good. Interesting voice, interesting and tasteful use of polyrhythmic guitars, drums, piano, etc. I hesitate to use the word "polyrhythm," as that term immediately conjures up images of the "world" music genre, which I haven't had a lot of success in navigating through (the dreck therein, that is). I guess I'm just an old crank. Anyway, it's a good record and I was pleasantly surprised. It's nice to have that happen with music every now and again. As my attention is moving farther and farther away from keeping current on music, I'll take anything new that I can get with as minimal effort as possible due to my time being necessary to concentrate on other things. Wow, that's loopy syntax, huh?

Monday, July 09, 2007

When we were in Wisconsin, one of my dad's ideas was to take the boys to visit the International Crane Foundation, just five miles south of Baraboo. I'm glad we went. They do great work, and we got to see two whooping cranes feeding their chick. You can see the best picture K took posted here. Thanks to the ICF, the once severely endangered whooping crane population is recovering. At one time there were 21 birds left. Now they are over 200. Part of this is because cranes hatch one chick at a time.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Our peanut enters the third trimester and it won't be long now. The summer's humming along, and I'm back to work now after a two week respite in Wisconsin to celebrate my dad's 80th (he wouldn't call it a celebration, exactly). Time flies. As Dad says, "The years between 50 and 80 just flew by." Indeed. As for me, 37 years old is a babe even still.

With my monthly bare bones subscription to eMusic, which I re-initiated when desperately seeking an authentic James Bond theme to provide to my boss at work for a short film we were doing for our company kickoff, I purchased the new Andrew Bird record, Armchair Apocrypha today. Andrew first caught my attention when K & I were staying at a bed and breakfast in Galena, Illinois for Jason's wedding. I'll refrain from identifying which one since I get the sense that he probably wants to keep his privacy. Anyway, the folks there, after hearing I was (at the time) a somewhat traveled musician, mentioned the name Andrew Bird and popped in a disk. Where had I heard that name before? I whipped out my iPod and noticed I'd downloaded his song "Lull," probably either from Epitonic or Insound. I was sold.

Fast forward a couple of years and this brilliant new record comes out. And I've come to learn his early path into music was very similar to mine. We both come from musical families, and both were enrolled into the Suzuki program at a fairly young age. He started earlier. Many kids would start at age three. He was four and I was seven. It doesn't matter what age (so long as it's still in single digits, I'm guessing). You start out by holding up a cereal box with a ruler sticking out of it, and later, a sponge underneath the actual violin, which is a fraction of the real size. The main thing is that it teaches you to listen to others and not rely on sight reading. This method can cause problems later in life should you choose to take the conventional route into an orchestra or something. I had problems at such conventional auditions that relied heavily on sight reading. But if you choose to carve your own path, you're better off. I can go into a session now and get the line down in no time flat. And I'm better off at picking up the phrasing of the lead vocalist for harmonizing because of this early training.

There's the other coincidence I have with Andrew Bird about sharing ornithological last names. The difference? Well, I sucked at violin and switched to trumpet. But I'd play horn on a record of his in a heartbeat.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Here is an interesting article about babies and language identification. Pretty fascinating stuff. My sister and also k's uncle are part of a bilingual household and what I've observed in both seem to bear this out.

I also picked up "An Ordinary Man," by Paul Rusesabagina yesterday. Paul was the manager of the Hotel Mille Collines in Rwanda, and inspired the film Hotel Rwanda. It is extremely well written. He breaks it down this way:

"Between April 6th [1994], when the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down with a missile, and July 4, when the Tutsi rebel army captured the capital of Kigali, approximately eight hundred thousand Rwandans were slaughtered. This is a number that cannot be grasped with the rational mind. It is like trying--all at once--to understand that the earth is surrounded by billions of balls of gas just like our sun across across a vast blackness. You cannot understand that magnitude. Just try! Eight hundred thousand lives snuffed out in one hundred days. That's eight thousand lives a day. More than five lives per minute. Each one of those lives was like a little world in itself. Some person who laughed and cried and ate and thought and felt and hurt just like any other person, just like you and me. A mother's child, every one irreplacable. "

"At the end, the best you can say is that my hotel saved about four hours' worth of people. Take four hours away from one hundred days and you have an idea of just how little I was able to accomplish against the grand design."

The same thing, over a longer arc, is happening in Darfur as we speak. 400,000 have died so far.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

1-800-GENOCIDE

As promised earlier, I am now going to elaborate on the subject of Darfur:

1-800-GENOCIDE (436-6243) is a toll free hotline set up by High School students concerned about the genocide taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. When you call the number, it will ask for your zip code, then route you to a tree with four options to press:

1. To contact the Governor's office of your home state
2. To contact the U.S. Representative of your district
3. To contact one of your U.S. Senators
4. To contact the White House

With each choice, information is provided about pending legislation to urge support or co-sponsorship for, or to enact policies to help stop the killing. File under: Why didn't I think of that? Easy to remember, hard to forget. Awareness of genocide requires repetition. 1-800-GENOCIDE: A child can remember it.

A lot has been written on the subject of Darfur, but for those who aren't aware, here it is in a nutshell:

The Sudanese government is funding a militia of paid mercenaries, called the Janjaweed, which is targeting non-Arabs in the Darfur region of Sudan. The Janjaweed are brutally gang raping women and girls, burning villages, throwing children into fires and dropping the dead bodies into wells to contaminate the water supplies of a very parched region, all in the name of "cracking down" on a rebellion. They've killed at least 400,000 people since this campaign began in 2003. There are complexities behind the origins of the conflict, but what the Sudanese government is doing can simply be called genocide. And even more simply: this cannot stand. Not on our watch!

This is the same thing that happened in Rwanda 13 years ago, but in a slower, more methodical way. And this is the same government that once provided refuge for Osama Bin Laden to plot things like the 9/11 attacks, among others. U.S. influence, working with other countries in the region forced the Sudanese government to kick Bin Laden out in 1996, and we can do the same to stop the killings in Darfur. As of now our actions have not backed up our official declaration of the situation in Darfur as genocide. Colin Powell called it genocide, Condi Rice said it, and so has President Bush. But little has been done beyond paying lip service at this point.

Sound familiar? Surf on over to the History channel, or if you're in D.C., pay a visit to the Holocaust Museum. The former? Let's just say I'm willing to bet there are more than a few who see footage of Auschwitz and assume this kind of thing could never happen again. The latter is actually fitting, because the Holocaust Museum is very much involved in trying to get people to notice and take action regarding the Darfur genocide now.

The late U.S. Senator Paul Simon surmised that if each Senator and Congressperson had received 100 letters from their constituents urging an American response when the Rwandan crisis first surfaced, U.S. policy would have been different. This is where placing a call to 1-800-GENOCIDE comes in for the current situation in Darfur.

Make no mistake: We are not calling for direct military action, but divestment from support for the Sudanese government in any way. This means sanctions, in short. A divestment strategy worked to end Apartheid in South Africa almost a generation ago, and it can work again now. Plans are in the works for both the Bush administration and for Congress, and 1-800-GENOCIDE addresses these in detail depending on where you're routing your call. As the saying goes: "Stand and be counted."

For those who say we can't do this, not now, because Sudan is our ally for the war on terror, think again. Does the word "double agent" come to mind? It sure does for me. Do you think a man like Salah Gosh should be considered an asset? I don't. Think for a moment about all of the things that have come back to bite us in the ass. For me, that picture of Don Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983 comes to mind (trepidations with certain aspects of YouTube notwithstandng). Continued support of the regime in Sudan is one of those things. We know better. It's time to act. But how? 1-800-GENOCIDE.

There's a book credited to Don Cheadle (actor in the film "Hotel Rwanda" among others) and John Prendergast, called "Not On Our Watch." My good friend Heather Bourbeau was very heavily involved in both the writing and editing of this book. I highly recommend it. Hell, I'll buy you a copy if you'd like. It means that much to me.

Think this is a liberal, bleeding heart cause? Check out the introduction of "Not On Our Watch," co-written by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Barack Obama (D-IL). This is a cause that conservatives and liberals can agree on. Here's a link to "Not On Our Watch":

http://www.bookbrowse.com/excerpts/index.cfm?book_number=1982

For those interested in further reading, the following organizations could sure use your support, or at least your time:

http://www.enoughproject.org
http://www.sudandivestment.org
http://www.genocideintervention.net
http://www.savedarfur.org

Yes, there's a lot of suffering and evil in the world. But when it's genocide, I consider it our moral obligation to do all we can to try and put a stop to it. Please help to spread the word. Call 1-800-GENOCIDE. Vote early and often, as they say. And consider placing a call to your local news station. At present, our major media outlets seem to think the color of Britney Spears' wig is more important.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

For the last day or so, I've felt compelled to try and post something here to corroborate what Miles has said on the subject of why I was the only ex-Beulah to not participate in his soon to be released solo record. I plopped something up here only to delete it and start over.

Let me simply say that I concur 100% with what he has said, there are no hard feelings, we do stay in touch (I still manage the Beulah site, for one, and there's always the subject of the Packers v. Steelers or Giants v. A's to fall back on), I just didn't feel like participating at that particular point in time which, according to my recollection, was a decision made way back in September of 2005 with no rhyme or reason other than it felt better to sit out and see what he could do with calling up some other horn players from the farm. I was feeling kind of spent back then and had a sense that I would do a half-assed job, perhaps a parody of myself ending up on the cutting room floor? As usual, being too hard on myself I suppose. I seem to forget that we moved to Santa Clara around that time too, so that might have had something to do with it. The fog of too many glasses of red? Quite possibly that, too.

Anyway, I'm very interested, like everybody else, in what the result is going to be. It's kind of fun that way. And I'm sure it will be great, and I'll bet I'll be jealous that I didn't take part. But...I am happy to know that Steve LaFollette has plugged back in, he's an amazing musician, and very much underrated. His impact was all over Heartstrings and Coast and didn't always get a lot of credit since he played the bass onstage. He played some wonderful piano for the Bye Bye Blackbirds record I helped out with more recently and was very patient hanging in there through some technical issues we had on that particular day.

Also, Eli is the man. I can't think of anything he's not good at, unless he hasn't had his morning cup of coffee (then he's useless and irritable). First rate engineer, first rate bass player, easy to work with, quick on the draw, great translator, able to eschew the pretensions that many of his peers in the graduate musical program no doubt exude (akin to how I chose to write this sentence, perhaps?), and on and on. Roger Moutenot probably put it best: "It's great to work with a band with a member who knows how to 'op a tape."

As for Miles records, I imagine I'll be back around sooner or later in one form or another (tambourine or triangle?). But all of my attention now is focused on the birth of our first child in October, and I'm not taking on any new musical projects now other than the occasional one off, and likely trumpet, since there seems to be more of a demand for that and trumpets are easy to carry. Old debts are almost paid off and new responsibilities are soon to follow. Time for all of that, work, family time as well as time to unwind, is the most precious of all.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Old memories are conjured up with this news report about a fish virus that they think originates in lake Butte des Morts, near Oshkosh, WI, where my parents live and not far from Berlin, where I was born and raised. As kids fishing in Lake Winnebago for Walleye, Jon Thompson (rest in peace, my friend) and I would always hate it when we'd reel in a Sheephead. But eight times out of ten, we'd either catch one of those or a White Bass. Talk about a worthless fish, that was it. And now it's spreading a virus that threatens the rest of the fish population? Ick.

Just doing a quick lookup, I didn't realize there's a California Sheephead, and the fish we grew up calling "Sheephead" is technically called "Sheepshead." Go figure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Is it me, or is the mainstream media's treatment of Jerry Falwell's legacy far too kind? Newsweek calls him "Passionate and Resless," for example. Fuck all that and read the Rude Pundit's eulogy. Pretty much sums it up. Jerry Falwell was not a nice man.
Amendment to my previous post: A Senate bill has just been introduced as of last week. Please write your Senators to support Senate Bill S. 1353 as well.
Anyone who supports internet radio and wants to keep it free of payola and subject to corporate radio influence should contact their local member of the House of Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 2060. Unless you like the fact that radio decides what to play based on the highest bidder.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

1-800-GENOCIDE

It's been four years now since we began hearing stories of genocide taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. In the interest of brevity, I urge anyone reading this to call 1-800-GENOCIDE (here is their site), a number set up to connect constituents to their politicians, urging action to stop the genocide in Sudan. Two organizations are worthy of your support:

http://www.enoughproject.org/

and

http://www.genocideintervention.net/index.php

I will have more to say on the subject when time permits.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

After thinking about things a little more, I want to be sure I'm not giving out the impression that I have any sympathy whatsoever for the killer at Virginia Tech, because I don't. The more I read about him the more I wish someone could have been given the opportunity to kill him before he could kill anybody. That's my gut feeling, raw as it is. I can only hope that, without becoming super paranoid, that we can be more aware of warning signs and learn from this tragedy the way we should have after Columbine. Hindsight is indeed 20/20 (just ask the President of VT). I think partly most Americans (aside from those familiar with Asian gangs in SF or something) didn't think of quiet Asian kids as a threat to shoot 30+ people dead, execution style. I hope now people (self included) will be more wary and look beyond the usual assumptions. It's not just middle aged, white males who can do this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I am saddened and deeply troubled by the news coming out of Blacksburg, VA. It goes without saying how horrible those killings truly are. More than ever it stresses the need for all of us to be more aware about mental illness and treat it as a disease. What compels some to commit suicide and others to commit suicide and take lives on the way. What we DON'T need is more guns. Arming everyone in the classroom is clearly not a very good idea. Let's remind those who believe that an armed society is a polite society some percentages: the murder rate during the California Gold Rush, among others. But I digress.

I have fond memories of Blacksburg. Beulah played there on its first tour, opening for the Apples in Stereo in the fall of 1997. We had an extra day off and rolled into Blacksburg a day early, which we spent getting to know some of the folks we met in a record shop that was helping to promote our show. I'm afraid my memory doesn't serve me well as to what their names were or the name of the store, but I had a good impression of the town, the campus and the people. I remember a childhood fear of bats was rekindled as we were walking through town that night when what seemed like an entire tree's worth were stirring and flapping about. I remember, at the place we crashed, one of my favorite Steve St. Cin quotes, chiding the others for not being up to partying that night: "What is this, the traveling Betty Ford clinic?" That night in Blacksburg was also the first time I'd ever seen an episode of South Park (or knew what it was).

On a more personal note, I also remember the gig at Blacksburg (not our best) being the first and last time a song that I personally wrote (S.O.S., song two, side b on a limited 7" called "A Small Cattle Drive in a Snowstorm") was performed by that band. It was a time of learning one's own limitations. Deepest sympathies to the students at Virginia Tech, their families and loved ones.

On a separate note, it looks like the RIAA and the Copyright Royalty Board are at it again. It is clear that their intention is to kill internet radio. But the arc of history points to technological change (as it usually does to justice). Wherefore art thou, Sheet Music publishers? Still here, yes, but...

I wrote my Congressman and encourage anyone who cares about the future of internet radio and services like Pandora, to do the same.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'm sorry, but I don't give a rat's fuck what Don Imus has to say, never have. The only people who should care are the middle aged, balding, fat wife beaters that listen to his show. I'm not stereotyping, am I?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Here's a bit of good news. Not sure why it's not in blaring headlines rivaling, oh, say, Anna Nicole Smith still being dead, but there you go. A universal blood type for blood donating. That's pretty amazing. But I guess it hasn't been safely tested yet.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The latest in the contango files. Here at Hamradiocentral, we, I mean I, post on the subject from time to time.

Some excerpts:

"Blame huge refinery profit margins, falling gasoline production, tensions with Iran and American drivers themselves, who are -- believe it or not -- buying more gas now than they did last year."

Or how about:

"Throughout, refinery profit margins on the West Coast remained almost twice as high as they were last fall, adding to the price drivers pay at the pump. The difference between what West Coast refiners pay for crude and the price they charge for refined products has risen to $37 per barrel from about $20 last fall."

And:

"Consumer advocates charge that refiners are purposely restricting gas supplies as a way to drive up the price. They doubt that all the recent mechanical problems are real or require as much downtime as the companies say. And they note that no government agency polices refining companies to make sure their executives are telling the truth."

I like this one:

"Still, no one has been able to prove manipulation. And many experts say the huge margins for refiners simply represent the dynamics of the market, where supply is squeezed and demand keeps rising.

For all the times California officials have investigated gasoline prices, they have never been able to demonstrate that refiners are gaming the market. The state attorney general's office has one such investigation under way right now but has not reached any conclusions."

Sound familiar? It should, because that was the exact scenario California went through with Enron and others on 2001. Where is the outrage?

The clue can be found here:

"Yet, even some oil executives acknowledge that California's gasoline market is broken, or at least seriously warped.

The state uses its own unique, pollution-fighting blend of gasoline, made by a limited number of refineries. That limited supply makes the state prone to wild swings in price and is one of the main reasons Californians typically pay more at the pump than other Americans."

What's wrong with the way that the above is framed in this article? EVEN SOME OIL EXECUTIVES ACKNOWLEDGE...as if it's established fact that the real reason there's a problem is because of those hippie environmentalists. That's the implied from above. But don't you think the oil executives have an incentive in highlighting the above limitation to create an impression that it is the real cause of the spike in prices, and omitting or downplaying the real cause (artificially limited supply to create higher demand and, thus, higher prices in a short period of time)? Uh, yeah. The spikes in prices are not just here in California.

This kind of thing is right out of the Bush Administration's playbook, in fact. Remember WMD? It's the same tactic: oversell the flimsy evidence to create the conditions to get what you want. "Even oil executives acknowledge," my ass. They are the first to want to acknowledge that red herring, not the last.

I'm still surprised at how little attention was given to this report, which I linked to last year. Nobody seems to care. The dems have subpoena power now. Where is the movement on this? Is it not a priority because key Dems want to incent people to stop driving? Is it because the Dems in the House and the Senate also have friends in the oil industry and owe them a few favors? A combination of the two? None of the above? If it's none of the above, then what is it? I don't get it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Monday, March 26, 2007

A familiar pattern: a disgruntled nfl player in the news. And his agent? Drew Rosenhaus. Shocker. Well, except that this one's a kicker. A sign of things to come for Drew?
Katie Couric=Brutal

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This article reinforces my "burn the witch" fears about YouTube quite nicely. I agree with Mr. Hogarth: if the person posting is anonymous, I have a problem with that. It is very much indeed like Salem (insofar as how things can easily spin out of control and a nonstarter of a story can take on a life of its own).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Can you say "Much Ado About Nothing?" I mean, come ON! The Repubs are going..."ooooh, big bad Obama's trying to make Hillary look like big brother." I love how the morons in the mainstream press just eat up this inane shit hook, line and sinker. Some folks need to seriously consider a career change. Like...most journalists? Or a remedial course in independent thinking or....something.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I wrote a while back about the wonders of lastfm and internet radio, and how it's breathing life into music (maybe not the music industry as currently configured). Well now it seems the RIAA's fighting it all once again. They are again proposing to grossly increase fees that allow internet radio stations and the like to stream music. If allowed to stand, the new fees will put many of my beloved stations, like somafm.com (likely pandora and lastfm also) out of business. I encourage everyone to write their members of congress. Details can be found at somafm.com.

Here's what I wrote to Congressman Mike Honda (along with Senators Feinstein and Boxer. Honda responded in less than 24 hours. I thought it would be instructive to share both what I wrote, and Congressman Honda's response. I encourage anyone reading (anyone?) to do the same. Assuming anyone reads this.

Dear Senators Feinstein, Boxer and Congressman Honda:

I am an independent musician living in the Bay Area, and I am writing in support of small, independent internet radio stations like somafm.com and others against recent changes in copyright licensing fees which, so structured, would put small mom & pop internet radio stations out of business and threaten to put music outlets back into the hands of large, corporate distribution channels only.

Internet Radio stations like Somafm and other services like Pandora and Lastfm have been a boon to getting independent artists heard by a wider audience. This phenomenon, call it Web 2.0 if you like, is the most exciting thing to happen in music in years, and it encourages innovation. But the RIAA, in its infinite wisdom (not!) would quash that innovation by dramatically raising licensing fees for such outlets.

Make no mistake, the artists would not benefit from this change. Large, corporate distribution networks that have been overcharging for music, and taking a disproportionate cut of royalties for years stand to gain the most from these changes.

In my view, independent, web-based music distribution has put much needed deflationary pressure on the costs/risk that independent artists have to make/take for a chance to be heard. The quality and variety of music that kids listen to today is much, much wider as a result of the internet than it was even ten to fifteen years ago. The RIAA needs to understand that, in the long run, it will lose based on a strategy of bringing independent internet radio to its knees.

Let me share some quick numbers for you. The new fees for Somafm.com (my favorite local, SF, based stations) face a staggering increase over their previous annual royalty rate of about $22,000 to over $600,000 for 2006. And the fees are even higher in 2007. Based on current listener ship, they'll be over $1 million dollars for 2007! This is 3-4 times what they hope to raise in 2007. This is unfair to internet radio stations that are trying to play by the rules, and all it will do is encourage "illegal" filesharing to increase once again.

Please help abolish these changes, for the sake of independent music, and for artists who innovate. Thanks for your time.

Bill Swan

Dear Bill:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the threat that new royalty payments pose to Internet radio stations. The issue is of great importance to me, and I appreciate your thoughtful comments on the matter.

As you may be aware, in 2002, the Library of Congress, under a recommendation from the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP), required that Internet radio stations pay prohibitively high royalty rates for the music they stream to listeners. After a failed appeal made by both webcasters and copyright owners, and a series of unsuccessful negotiations between the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Internet radio stations, Congress created the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) under the Library of Congress to determine new royalty fees.

Under an agreement reached in 2002 made by the CRB, internet radio stations are required to pay royalties which constitute about 6 to 12 percent of the stations' revenues. However, this agreement has expired, and the CRB recently proposed raising the amount that commercial internet radio services pay to record companies by up to 30 percent.

When these negotiations took place in 2002, I advocated that the LOC take a more measured approach that would encourage the development of Internet radio stations. In addition to sending letters to the Librarian of Congress, I also cosponsored legislation that would reform the CARP process, as well as the decision to increase royalty fees in the 107th Congress.

At a hearing before the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Rep. Edward Markey criticized the CRB's proposal, stating that it creates a further imbalance between what different radio industries pay. Thus far, no further congressional action has been taken, but I will continue to monitor this issue closely as relevant legislation arises in the House.

Once again, thank you for taking the time and effort to share your opinions with me. Please continue to keep me apprised of issues important to you.

Sincerely,
Mike Honda
Member of Congress
Bong Hits 4 Jesus? What's the fuss, the city of Juneau, Alaska is only 3% Latino.

P.S. Someone at NBC6 had fun with the headline.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Okay, I take back my earlier commentary about YouTube. Ann Coulter is a gutter slut. Burn the witch!

But don't just take my word for it. Here's the Rude Pundit.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Some of us have been saying this for months. I won't mention names. All right, I will. And Barack's got the tone in his speech exactly right. I think he's the only one who does among the candidates.

Friday, February 16, 2007

What did I ever do without last.fm? And how am I going to be a dad?

The former fits perfectly with my random nature, and the latter? It's time we've long planned for without the wherewithal. K & I are both grateful that we could consider having a child on our own terms, wherewithal or not...when we're ready.

As I write this, Brazilian artists I never would have considered seeking out (without being able to travel the world at leisure like my childhood hero David Byrne) are piping right in, simply by typing Joao Gilberto, and then later, Baden Powell. I knew the former from somewhere in the three semesters of studying Portuguese for my BA language requirement at UW Madison, not the latter. But how hard is it to type in the latter in place of the former? Now I know who Edu Labo is, too. Prog-Jazz with Brazilian scat singing and odd chord changes, a tad on the cheesy side. And Walter Wanderley?

"Organist from Sao Paulo Brasil. A Brazilian organist/composer who stumbled upon a gold mine in the 1960s, Walter Wanderley has been resurrected posthumously in the 1990s almost as a camp figure, a purveyor of plastic lounge music for a cynical young generation. Yet his sound on the organ, generated by a crisp, lightweight, staccato attack, can be mistaken for no one else's - and his choice of material showed much good taste, particularly when exploring his countrymen's songs."

How in the fuck would have I discovered a dude like Walter Wanderley (and can you think of a better last name for this subject) without having to buy a bunch of other records that I'd end up spending twelve bucks on and hating along the way? If I hate Walter Wanderly in lastfm, I simply hit the forward button. But I don't.

And as I speak here comes Azymuth, a nice mix of bad disco bass (doinky octaves), conventional mid 70s jazz fusion with a hint of prog rock. I feel like I'm reviewing a cheap bottle of wine. And like the bottle of wine when I'm well into it, I don't hit (or spill) forward because I find other reasons to stick with it, in this case a long held theory I've had. And that theory is once again reinforced, no matter the tongue...the unifying trait of 70s recordings: "sound sucker" studios making the drums sound like someone decided to bang on a basketball in a room with shag carpeted floors, walls and in this case I'm guessing ceilings. And when I hear that I am transfixed, with my what-the-hell-were-they-thinking detector. They were thinking it would be a good idea to isolate everything they possibly could for the after-the-fact control of adding it in later...also known as "fixing it in the mix." I am comforted by any universal truth I can identify with, no matter how bad it may be for some stupid reason. How bad was it to be a child of the 70s after all?

Now comes Stan Getz, Donald Byrd, Os Mutantes.

I'd been of the mind that whenever the theoretical subject of our kids came up during the past ten years or so, that we better be prepared for things in the world being way, way more devolved when they're in their late teens. And now that we have a real kid on the way, I've always known that I could refuse to be the parent that is stuck in a place in time, and I also refuse to be the parent that tries too hard to stay current. And in a present where things like lastfm are possible, things aren't so bad, are they? There are ways of finding things out now in the world that don't require you to have to sit through a mainstream media that stumbles all over itself to be the first to put out another ten minute update on the death of Anna Nicole Smith (and really, what is there to update at this point, right?), or an exclusive video of Britney Spears in a tattoo parlor getting her head shaved. Who knows what's to come, but I haven't felt as hopeful for the future as I do at this very moment.

In that future, and it's coming fast now, I think that when the word I hold near and dear, that best describes how I feel about a lot of things, comes up in some debate or argument as I am sure it will, and that word is balance, dare say it? I reserve the right to then downplay its significance in any way that I possibly can, to make it seem as milquetoast as...sliced bread.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Oh, when does trying to figure out things like "Could not load file or assembly 'System.Windows.Forms, Version=2.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b77a5c561934e089' or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified." end? When does it all end?

Not any time soon, I'm afraid, for reasons I will soon disclose. Onward and forward, onto the next phase. I feel young again, somehow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

BREAKING NEWS

Today it has been announced that all major news networks and outlets, including CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC and CBS have decided to merge under a new partner company, ANS (The Anna Nicole Smith network).

I mean, WTF?!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I have registered an account for Barack Obama's website. I support Barack for President of the United States in 2008. Wisdom trumps experience in 2008! I look forward to meeting other Obama supporters in the coming months.

Friday, February 09, 2007

While the recent GM add depicting a robot contemplating suicide might have been in poor taste, at the time it came on I didn't think it to be that big a deal. As someone who's been touched by suicide, and one who supports AFSP, I understand the point, but that doesn't mean we all need to be walking on eggshells here. And now there are a lot of trolls out there who are probably just having a field day on this, that AFSP is being politically correct, overreacting, etc. etc. To turn Kurt Vonnegut end up: "I don't believe that, too."

At least GM responded as quickly to AFSP as a corporation would, say, for some right wing Christian fundamentalist group complaining about seeing a little nipple.
It has been a whirlwind of ADD since the first of the year. I can barely see straight. I joined up with lastfm today. If nothing else, I can claim to have attempted to stay current. And I'll be goddamned if our kids (once we have them) know more about technology than I do.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I love this meme. Right out of the GOP talking points, or Karl Rove's playbook, but maybe with the DLC's help. Yeah, like GW Bush had a lot of experience coming in. And the wrong experience at that. And Hillary's experience? 6 years in the Senate compared to Obama's 2 and beyond that...what? I don't mean to belabor the point, but wisdom always trumps experience, especially in 2008. I will repeat this meme ad infinitum. Wisdom trumps experience, wisdom trumps experience...repeat after me.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I'm staring occasionally beyond the dual screen, Dell Optiplex GX 620 here in the office, out the window at Hwy 280, my pipeline back home to Santa Clara from up here in SF, where I spend my weekdays 8-5. 280's the reason I endure the commute from there to here. The rain broke this afternoon and I'm counting the minutes now.

Sometimes, on slow days like today, I'll restlessly paw through sites of old band pals, feeling woefully detached. Today I poked through some of JV's more recent tour photos, and wonder how he keeps doing it. I feel so far away from all of that now. I can't say I'm feeling sorry for the direction I've taken, but every once in a while I get sentimental for the old days. I threw on an old pair of Adidas I haven't worn since one of our last European tours for some reason. They're a little tight.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Okay, this is the kind of shit I'm talking about when I worry about the "4th branch." On the day of a school shooting (within hours), the local newspaper decides to post a little digitally enhanced image in the form of a target on a school bus. Have some fucking respect! I tried to upload the image itself from the article to blogger, as I'm sure it will get yanked at some point. but I couldn't.
I should add to my remarks yesterday about Saddam's execution. It's not that I have a problem with his execution. But the way in which it went down clearly shows that it's mob rule over there, and it sure seems like Al-Sadr's the one pulling the strings. Al-Maliki looks like a figurehead.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

About two weeks after K's uncle gave me his copy of The Arms of Krupp, by William Manchester last summer, coincidentally I came across this entry in David Byrne's Journal. I filed it away, to be re-read after finishing the Manchester book. Call it an inquisitive re-inquiry into what a sequel to Manchester's book might look like, a sort of "where are they now" tale.

In my re-read, David postulated the following question, which I think I can now answer based on my reading of Manchester:

"Berlin and Dresden were reduced to smoking hulks while so many of these factories and steelworks, so essential to the German war effort, survived. Did the Allies think they would do a Halliburton and take them over for themselves, and therefore they spared them the bombing? Or maybe they realized that without industry a defeated Germany would have no possibility of reconstruction — they would be shattered refugees — desperate, pathetic, ready for anything that would restore some dignity."

But since David doesn't blog and doesn't provide a place for comments, I'll provide my reading of Manchester in the form of an answer here: It was because of the Cold War. We had an eye on Stalin by that point, and probably long before. Later, after the war, the Allies tried to "do a Halliburton," but due to the fact that the Krupp Works were basically a family dynasty for upwards of eighty years by that point, the record keeping, financing and the like were a convoluted mess.

It was for this reason, according to Manchester, and also in part due to the Marshall plan (reconstruction, as David Byrne postulates) and the onset of the Korean conflict, that Alfried Krupp was released from prison in 1951, a repudiation of an already lenient sentence at Nuremburg. Krupp himself was responsible for many of the atrocities performed at the concentration camps, among them ordering the "disappearance" of children (many of whom were infants) born in the labor camps near the end of the war. Others, like General Alfred Jodl, were executed for lesser crimes. Krupp's trial was also bungled, but that's a whole other topic.

It could be argued that, if we were thinking of Russia alone, we should have bombed out the works Dresden style, for fear of Essen falling under complete control of the Red Army. But I think by then it was clear that the US or Great Britain were closer at hand.
KEEP MILLEN! We Packer Fans love him in Detroit. I'm guessing the real onus is on William Clay Ford. Not such a good track record, with what's happening at Ford and with the poor, poor Lions.
I am going to take a brief moment in the new year to reinforce what I said earlier about the dangers of YouTube and related mediums, if taken too far. This article, which related to an open investigation as to whom was responsible for filming and posting Saddam's execution, is a further spark, at least in my mind. The chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada" you hear in the background might as well be retranslated to say "burn the witch!" And it makes me wonder if, in the official "4th branch" of government (media), there is no check or balance, what the future holds.

The holidays were fantastically chaotic. All of my family have safely returned home or, in the case of my sis and family, have safely arrived at their next stop. Now it's on to the resolutions, among them how to better handle embarrassing situations involving disrespectful behavior from an increasingly erratic friend. I'll save that subject for a later time, after I figure out a way to handle the situation personally. It is not clear to me how this is to be done.

On another (more) uplifting topic, I'm almost finished with Obama's "Audacity of Hope." My first thoughts to those who would cite executive inexperience as a disqualifier for the presidency: After six plus years of experienced neocons running the show, wisdom trumps experience in '08!