Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All this useless beauty

Gotta love Retro Thing.

Thanks, we'll walk from here

In his latest post, Glenn Greenwald writes about John Cole of the blog Balloon Juice, and his extraordinary post This is No Fun. John, one of the Top 20 conservative bloggers, has gotten off of the bus:
In short, it really sucks looking around at the wreckage that is my party and realizing that the only decent thing to do is to pull the plug on them (or help). I am not really having any fun attacking my old friends- but I don’t know how else to respond when people call decent men like Jim Webb a pervert for no other reason than to win an election. I don’t know how to deal with people who think savaging a man with Parkinson’s for electoral gain is appropriate election-year discourse. I don’t know how to react to people who think that calling anyone who disagrees with them on Iraq a “terrorist-enabler” than to swing back....

...And I don’t know why my friends on the right still keep fighting for these guys to stay in power. Why do they keep attacking decent people like Jim Webb- to keep this corrupt lot of fools in office? Why can’t they just admit they were sold a bill of goods and start over? Why do they want to remain in power, but without any principles? Are tax cuts that important? What is gained by keeping troops in harms way with no clear plan for victory? With no desire to change course? With our guys dying every day in what looks to be for no real good reason? Why?

You see, John wanted to believe, so he did. He got on the bus 6 years ago and went happily to sleep. Yesterday, he woke up and said "How the fuck did we get here?"

It's interesting, though, to scroll down to the commments, where I expected to see the spittle flyin' and the ad hominems being hurled. Instead, I found more of the same sadness that informs Cole's post, and that sadness was coming from both sides of the aisle. There was a civility, a compassion present, because the truth is: real Americans, true patriots of either party, can only be dismayed at where the bus has taken us. Right now, this second, it's as ugly as it's ever been, as George W. Bush and his henchmen, surveying the wreckage around them and feeling the cold opinion of history being written, drag us all into the gutter.

Then it hit me: while we may be able to wrest Congress away from the Republicans, what will it take to reclaim public discourse from those who make a living by poisoning it? Sure, the Limbaughs and Hannitys come to mind, but the Chris Matthews and Blitzers are, in an insidious way, more dangerous because they are "respectable." But don't be fooled: like good little house slaves, they toil day and night to keep you pseudo-informed and pissed off. For them, comity is death and partisan rancor is the sweet elixir of life, and so, as US troops die and real news goes unreported, all day long they blather about John Kerry's non-existant insult.

So Wolf, you've been warned; Rush, you're on notice: first, we're gonna clean up Washington, then, we're coming for you.

Olbermann, carry on.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Is Massa George heading south?

I'm not sure what to make of the report about Dubya buying 98,000 acres in Paraguay. Is it an investment? Perhaps a dental floss ranch? Because it couldn't have anything to do with avoiding potential future prosecution; we have an extradition treaty with Paraguay.


This just in.....

The extradition treaty excludes "political crimes."


Friday, October 27, 2006

The best record you never heard of...... first in a series

"When I grow up, I want to be an old woman"
Michelle Shocked, "When I Grow Up"

In 1988, Michelle Shocked came out of nowhere with Short Sharp Shocked, her second album that, in the musical desert of the late 80's, presaged the Americana/Roots music movement by at least a decade. Equal parts edgy folk, quirky ballads, and rockers (with some killer rockabilly thrown in for good measure), Michelle made good use of Pete Anderson, Dwight Yoakam's longtime guitarist and producer. A strange pair, to be sure, but for this one album, it worked. Pete is a smokin' player, and "Hello Hopeville" just demands to be cranked up loud.

Also highly recommended, although in a completely different vein, is Shocked's Arkansas Traveller, her homage to bluegrass and minstrel music.
Michelle Shocked lives in California, and continues to record and tour.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Speaking of Retro

My "new" old Sansui AU-7900 integrated amplifier arrived this week. Out in Internetland, there's a definite cult about vintage '70's Sansui gear. Built like a tank, attractive, but with a sound that is warm (some even say tube-like), in spite of the fact that it's solid state.

Now I need a tuner, and I'm smitten with this cool lookin' thing: a Sansui stereo tuner, circa 1972:

It's a Retro Thing

Hat tip to enjoitherhythm; his post below on Boing Boing led me to discover Retro Thing, a blog about vintage tech, a favorite topic of mine.

The radio shown above accomplishes an idea that I've mulled over for years: taking an old radio, and, in a non-destructive way, retrofitting modern electronics into it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dropping the Ball

Like any sane American, I'm looking to Nov. 7 as a watershed event in American history: the day when the most corrupt, lawless administration that has ever occupied the seats of power gets shown the door. Make no mistake: anything less than a clear mandate from the American people that they have Had Enough will be taken by BushCo as a mandate for their agenda. We need to win, and we need to win big.

As Robert Parry notes, the Party Without a Spine seems to be laying back and letting the action come to them. I have The Fear that this is a terrible mistake.

How many times, lo these last years, have the Republicans lobbed up a softball, perfect for smacking out the park, only to see the Dems refuse to take a swing. Here are a few:

- most recently, the Military Commissions Act, a particularly ugly and un-American piece of legislation that jeopardizes habeas rights for all Americans;

- electronic voting with no paper trail: seriously, is there anyone who thinks this is a grand idea? Sure, lobbyists for Diebold are giddy, but that's gotta be a small and lonely crowd;

- a couple of weeks back, Bush said that he would stay the course in Iraq if "only my wife and my dog agreed with me." Wha....? Huh? Surely I heard that wrong.

And I could go on in listing the insults and outrages, large and small, that have been heaped on our heads by BushCo. I'm pissed, and so are you. Whatcha got, Dems? Something like a cross between Keith Olbermann and Hunter S. Thompson would work for me.

***** crickets ****** the wind whistles across the prairie ******

Yeah, that's what I thought. The polls, strongly in your favor at this point, tell you that it's time to play it safe, to keep your mouth shut. Let me clue you in, boys and girls: the Had Enough segment of the country is not looking for NotBush, for Republican Lite, for mealy-mouthed wafflers and triangulators. They, we, I, we're looking for vision, for someone to level with us no matter how hard the truth is. We want to hear about a whole new path.

Sadly, we've heard none of this; not even close, and hence The Fear. Because, at the end of the day, there is this: Republicans stand for something, no matter how wrongheaded it may be. What does Joe Biden stand for? Or, for all his oratorial skills, Barack Obama? For Gawd's sake, say something; take a stand. Out here in the real world, us grownups do it all the time. You might be surprised at the result.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Back to the Same Well

I hate to keep going back to the same well, but Billmon smacks another one out of the park with"Babbling Idiots", and as always, does it with a quality of writing that is a pleasure to read. As usual, discussion takes place over at Moon of Alabama.

Scroll down and read The Belly of the Whale also.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Free Democracy

BoingBoing posted about the Democracy Player. I thought it sounded too good to be true, but it is as awesome as he makes it sound. Check it out.

p.s. This is my FAVORITE blog, hands down. Sure I love the political blogs but BoingBoing is it in my opinion.

This rocks! Olberman yet again says what needs to be said. Listening to people like him and Ned Lamont is warm drink. A political tequila shot, is more like it. At some point the baseless, silencing GOP heads will have nothing to say to something like this. Sure it's dramatic but so was Ed Murrow, whom Olberman obviously looks up to. Do you think they let Dub see this kinda stuff? Cheney?....heart attack. Enjoy.

Friday Print Blogging

Since I posted about the Sipsey below, it only makes sense to offer up a print from the Sipsey. This was taken while I was technically "at work", i.e. running down the road to some small Alabama town when this scene, and the early morning light, caused me to pull over and grab the camera. Shot with a Minolta Autocord on Fuji Acros 100 film.

Got to get ourselves back to the Garden

It's a cool, rainy October day here in north Alabama. For Monty and some of his crew, this means one thing: the bugs are gone, the undergrowth is dying off, the creeks are full again, and it's time to head for the Sipsey! The Sipsey Wilderness, that most magical of places, is a hostile place in the summer: snaky, ticks falling like rain, hot and dry. But from November to April, it's perfect. Simply invest a 1-1/2 hour drive from Rocket City, then often as little as a 1/2 hike to a campsite, and you're in a place that, in places, looks very Jurassic. Old growth forest, travelling water, and a psychedelic assortment of moss and lichen.

So: you live around these parts but have never been to the Sipsey? That's just a shame. Email me and I'll make it better.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Slow-motion genocide

Billmon on Riverbend's latest post, our "slow-motion genocide" in Iraq, and the complicity of all Americans; discussion here. I'm not sure I completely agree, but it's so well written that it demands reading and analysis.

In case you don't know about Riverbend, and her blog Baghdad Burning, here's some background.

As an aside, sometimes I wonder: just who is Billmon? Or Digby, or Meteor Blades, or TBogg, or the mysterious linkless commenter D.Sidhe, who shows up randomly to deliver choice bits of wisdom, snark, and rant? Who are these brilliant people with cool names who wield the pen (er..keyboard?) better than just about anyone in the MSM? And, forget their writing; is it possible that we could all just vote to put them in charge?

Anyway... Go. Read.

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

I wrote a couple of posts back that the Internet is a great nurturer of subcultures. Another thing the Net provides is a multitude of ways to live vicariously: musicians write of life on the road; Kevin over at the most excellent Cryptogon has shared his journey as he and his wife leave the USA to go "back to the land" in her native New Zealand.

One of my favorites is TravelBlog. These folks are travellers, not tourists, often foregoing the usual creature comforts in favor of experiencing the grit and reality of other cultures. Then, upon finding the next Internet cafe, they upload their thoughts and photos to TravelBlog.

My favorites are the blogs from the real hinterlands of the world, like this one from rural Iran, part of a Scottish couple's journey by bike across Europe and Asia. You may not know "Erika and Robin from Scotland", but after reading their posts, you can't help but admire them. Does not every kindness they receive, and every kindness they offer, help move us all along the Path?

As our government continues to demonize large swaths of the planet as havens for "terrorists" and "evildoers" (I still can't believe that actually came out of his mouth), many of the travellers at TravelBlog go forth with an open mind and open heart, seeking and finding some of the common threads of our humanity: hospitality, kindness, pride in country and culture, and the importance of family and community.

Highly recommended.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Behold the Twike

Ok, let's get this out of the way right now: yes, this fine thang, made in Germany, currently costs about $26,000.00. But what if mass production cut the cost in half? What if our government got wise and started giving big tax credits to the smart, responsible folks who bought a Twike?

What if you could buy such a thing for $8,000.00-$10,000.00? The Twike is a very simple machine, and there appears to be little that would require maintenance, resulting in a vehicle that could last for years. Add to that the savings realized from getting the equivalent of several hundred miles per gallon and it starts to make real sense. The fact that there is healthy exercise involved seems like the cherry on the sundae.
Whether we go there willingly or go there kicking and screaming, the Twike (or something like it) is the future. OK by me; the future looks like it could be lots of fun.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A National Shame

Today, George W. Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, and in doing so, essentially did away with the concept of habeas corpus. Quite amazingly, Americans seem to have met this news with a giant national yawn.

Since the signing of the first charters of the Magna Carta in England in 1215, the writ of habeas corpus has been a key identifier of a free and progressive society. Conversely, absence or suspension of habeas has been the hallmark of virtually every authoritarian regime.

A few posts down is the text of a Letter to the Editor that I submitted a few days ago. At this time it has not been published, and to my knowledge, the Huntsville Times has not run an editorial outlining the true nature of the MCA.

Don't let the spinmeisters minimize what has occured here: George W. Bush can now imprison, for an indefinite period and without recourse, anyone he doesn't like. It's really that simple.

If you'd like to know more, you could do a lot worse than the estimable Glenn Greenwald (a tip o' the hat to my sis for turning me on to Glenn).

You're not mad? Not outraged? Why the hell not? Write letters. Contact your representatives. Help our politically challenged friends understand just what has occured. Do something.

montysano out.


The Ultimate Chill

I'll simply quote another reviewer who said "I know of no other music as beautiful as this." Amen. James and I have been on a Miles Davis kick as of late, especially late '50s Miles, especially his collaborations with Gil Evans. Of those, which include Sketches of Spain and Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess is my favorite. If you've never heard what he does with that overdone chestnut "Summertime", you're in for a real treat. Gil Evans was an orchestral arranger, and here he teams Miles with a 20-piece jazz "orchestra" that featured extensive brass and woodwind (and no strings). I love Gershwin, and there's no other version of "Porgy" that comes close to portraying the sense of sadness, loss, and then joy, that this one does.

Beyond that, if you've never experienced the cream of Miles' work in the '50s ("Kind of Blue", "'Round Midnight", etc.), you need to rectify this immediately! They're the ultimate in Chill, and are those rare few records which simply cannot be played too many times.

Audiophile Porn

Those who know me well know that when I get interested in something, I get.......... well, not obsessed (such a sinister word), but maybe interested-to-the-point-of-thinking-of-little-else.

It's been camping gear or guitars in the past. Lately, traditional B&W photography. I don't own a classic '60's Volvo (I hope to someday), but I know quite a lot about them. This is what the internet does best: feed and nurture subcultures. If there were such a thing as a Gambian Ferrethound, there would be webpages extolling their virtues and offering up minutiae and trivia for the devotee.

I've always been into quality audio. Lately, however, I've gotten interested in old-school tube audio, and especially a subset of fans who design and build their own tube amps, right down to the chassis and enclosure. See here (and scroll down), or here. Many examples are wonderful marriages of technology and art.

There's something about this that speaks to the beauty of the human spirit: to eschew the storebought and prefabricated, and instead to craft something yourself, to make it functional, then to make it beautiful for no good reason at all, and then to find likeminded souls with which to share that beauty.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Had Enough?

Letter to the Editor of the Huntsville,Alabama Times, submitted 10-13-2006:

If I hear George W. Bush say “My main job is to protect the American people” one more time, an innocent television may be harmed by flying objects. Here’s how it works, George: in your Oath of Office, you swore to “protect and defend the Constitution”. If the Constitution is protected, then We the People are protected, at least to the extent that we can be protected in a free and open society. Beyond that, I’ll take my chances.

The Foley scandal stole the spotlight from the passage of the Military Commissions Act, aka the torture and detention bill, which on its surface deals with the treatment of alien combatants.

The MCA, however, through clever omission of the word “alien” when speaking of “enemy combatants”, essentially gives the President and the Department of Defense the authority to declare anyone an enemy combatant. That includes you, me, and your sweet gray-haired grandma. An American citizen may now be imprisoned and denied rights of habeas corpus, right to council, to a trial, to confront their accuser, and to know the evidence against them, all on George Bush’s say-so. This is fact. This is America in 2006.

All of this is particularly galling given the fact that, whether it’s detention, interrogation, wiretapping, etc, there were legal avenues available. But the Bush administration, which seems to have an almost pathological need to flout the law, whined about the paperwork and declared an urgent need to Do Whatever We Want Whenever We Want To.

Arbitrary imprisonment is the hallmark of every authoritarian regime in history. Without habeas corpus, many of our other rights (Bill of Rights Amendments 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8) are rendered irrelevant. Tell me this, Republicans: is this what you signed up for?


Rocket City, USA


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

From the Dept. of You Knew It Was Gonna Happen

Via TBogg, the National Review's Jeff Jacoby gets his Old Testament freak on:
I can't deny that it is deeply affecting to see how seriously the Amish strive to heed Jesus' admonition to return good for evil and turn the other cheek. For many Christians, the Amish determination to forgive their daughters' murder is awe-inspiring.

Hmmmm.... I sense a qualifying conjunction just over the horizon:

Told you so.
....hatred is not always wrong, and forgiveness is not always deserved. I admire the Amish villagers' resolve to live up to their Christian ideals even amid heartbreak, but how many of us would really want to live in a society in which no one gets angry when children are slaughtered? In which even the most horrific acts of cruelty were always and instantly forgiven? There is a time to love *and* a time to hate, Ecclesiastes teaches.

When the suspiciously lefty-sounding New Testament doesn't provide the requisite bloodletting, the conflicted Christian can always flee to the eat-shrimp-and-burn-in-hell clarity of the Oldies.

Also: Billmon has heard it all before.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Bob Dylan has a new album out, "Modern Times", which is his 678th album in the 135 years he's been at it. Or something like that. "Modern Times" actually spent some time at the top of Amazon's bestseller's list, and if you cruise over to and check out the reviews, you'll notice everything from 0 stars and "it blows" to 5 stars and "his best in years." I know this: there are few artists who, 40+ years into their career, are still causing arguments.

Like many Dylan albums, there are a couple of songs that don't do it for me. But on "Modern Times", there are several really fine tunes, a couple of great ones, and one that stands with his all-time classics.

Dylan's voice has always been the subject of controversy, and "Modern Times", with its croaking, raspy vocals, will be no different. Not a great voice, maybe; but Lord what a singer! The control he has, the phrasing, the inflection; it's just a thing of wonder. Nowhere is that more evident than on the album's closing song, "Ain't Talkin'", where Bob travels through an apocalyptic landscape of evil and betrayal, and reports back to us through some of his most sinister and chilling poetry in years:

All my loyal and my much-loved companions
They approve of me and share my code
I practice a faith that's been long abandoned
Ain't no altars on this long and lonesome road

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
My mule is sick, my horse is blind.
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Thinkin' 'bout that gal I left behind.........

As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, a hot summer lawn
Excuse me, ma'am, I beg your pardon
There's no one here, the gardener is gone

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Up the road, around the bend.
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
In the last outback at the world's end.

"Excuse me, ma'am, I beg your pardon, There's no one here, the gardener is gone...." It sends a chill up my spine every time I hear that ruined voice sing it. Is it a prophecy? A warning? Maybe it's just poetry, just words that sound pretty next to each other. Maybe it means nothing, and Zimmer-Man is just screwing with us again. It's always been hard to tell.

In the end, I don't really care, and you won't either. Just hit the "Play" button, crank it up, and enjoy an old pro who's playing at the top of his game.

The Road Ahead

Today is October 9th, and I’m nervous. With less than a month to go until the fall elections, I’m still looking for an October Surprise. Meanwhile, due to the Foley scandal, the Republicans are looking at the very real, and richly deserved, possibility of losing both houses of Congress, i.e. losing power. Speaker Pelosi’s first act might be to start issuing subpoenas. The Republicans have blocked any meaningful investigations into Abramoff, lying about WMD, Cheney’s secret Energy Task Force, et al. The list is long and it ain’t pretty; there have been actual spend-some-time-in-jail crimes committed. But Foley scandal has only reinforced what we all know: there is no depth to which the rightwingers will not stoop to maintain a hold on power. Don’t expect this cornered animal to go down without a fight.

Meanwhile, North Korea has poked us in the eye, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Iran, sensing the same weakness as did North Korea, didn’t take a poke also in the next couple of weeks. Why?

Think about this: what would our enemies prefer to happen on Nov. 7? My belief is that they’d just as soon see Dubya and the neocons hold onto power and continue the disastrous policies of the last 5 years. In his wildest dreams, Osama bin Laden could have never imagined that, in order to make themselves “safe”, US citizens would be surrendering such bedrock rights as habeus corpus, and that nursing mothers would have their hand sanitizer snatched from them at airports.

Iran could have never believed that the US would allow a Shiite government to take hold in Iraq; after all, back in 2003, Bush said such an outcome was “unacceptable.” Iran also never thought that the US would allow Israel to destabilize Lebanon, the one Arab democracy in the Middle East. Despite all our blathering about Iran’s nuclear program, they are in the catbird seat in the Middle East.

To quote Barbara “Let them eat cake” Bush, “This has all worked out very well for them.”

Meanwhile, the evidence is becoming ever clearer that we are, as we speak, at Peak Oil.

There are desperate people out there, full of fear as they sense that It’s All Beginning To Slip Away. The rats are fleeing the various sinking ships.

At times like this, I remember the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The real story

Our national obsession with sex has had two unfortunate results recently: a week ago, the torture/detention bill seemed to be gaining some much overdue traction in the MSM. This bill is as rotten as it gets, and the American people should be aware of what it means. However, the Foley scandal completely blew it out of the spotlight.

Second, the (IMHO) real story in the Foley scandal has been obscured by Pat Buchanan’s NAMBLA bullshit, as well as rest of the strawmen who have been cobbled together this last week. The House leadership, with full knowledge of what they were doing, allowed a man to continue heading a task force that was designed to protect children from people exactly like him. On this point, there is no real debate.

The monumental hypocrisy of this, the abject lack of leadership, is enough, all by itself, to insist that anyone involved is simply unfit to serve in Congress. If that includes some Dems, so be it.

For an example of true leadership, consider the Amish community leaders who set up a fund for the family of the man who killed their children. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Not even on the map

Most of us that hang out here are able to imagine a different world. So let's ask ourselves:

Is it time to wean ourselves from our oil addiction and move on to something new?

The answer is yes, even though sacrifice may be required. Yes, even though the ultimate outcome is uncertain.

Yes, because if we don't start now, we'll regret it later.

Whatever; it has to be done, so sign me up, I'm ready to get started.

But to the theocons, such a prospect causes a response straight from the reptilian brain, all claws and fangs and fear. It's simply the difference between progressives, who anticipate the future (and whatever change the future brings) and .....well.....the not-at-all-progressives, who fear the future just as they fear the Other.

What we see in the Middle East today has little to do with freedom or liberty, or democracy, or the security of Israel. It's about oil, about saving our "non-negotiable" lifesyle, and to believe differently is hopelessly naive. We're witnessing the opening battles for the last of the Ancient Sunshine, the last of the dinosaur juice. Earth's oil reserves took millions of years to form; we've used half of it, the easy half, in a 150 year party of convenience, comfort, and easy motoring. What awaits us when the reality sinks into the public consciousness that The Party Is Over? Chaos? The Big Crash?

There's a saying that the Chinese word for "crisis" is made up of the signs for "danger" and "opportunity". Not really, as it turns out, but that doesn't make the concept any less compelling.

Due to the loss of Russian oil imports in the early '90s, Cuba went through its own Peak Oil, but in part due to the resilient and cooperative nature of Cuban society, they seized the opportunity, largely avoided the danger, and strengthened their society.

Pessimism is a type of pornography. I'm ready to swear it off and start imagining that new world.

Start thinking about it yourself. Imagine a Big Change, a turnaround. How could it happen? What would it take? What would the catalyst be? Because, you know, it's happened before: a seemingly invincible power becomes corrupted, weak, decadent, and in the blink of an eye, is gone. What follows such a fall? Opportunity. Danger.

I almost forgot....... to get the ideas flowing, let me highly recommend V For Vendetta.

Weekly roundup: AC is Jumping the Shark.

- This week, I'm taking some cold comfort in this: it's obvious that, for the Coulters and Kristols and Hannitys, the 15 Minutes Of Fame clock is at 14:45 and ticking. Ann Coulter believes that Bill Clinton is gay? C'mon Ann, you'll have to do better than that, or it's time to strap on your skis and make the jump.

- The London attacks were phony, pure political theater, and even the righwingers, in their gut, know that they're being played. Dubya got zero bounce from it; nada, zilch. Four years ago, he'd have shot up 10 points overnight. Now, it's just the boy who cried wolf.

- Also: the bloodbath has begun:

I'm looking to elect a real war leader to the White House - somebody with a warrior's temperament and a leader's skills. George Bush has neither. He is a dangerous failure, and America will be well rid of him.

Digby? Billmon? Oh no, not at all. The Daily Pundit, linked from Instapundit. Go. Read. You'll feel better. The long knives are being sharpened.

I want you to get mad!

If you're like me, you like the occasional rant. That being the case, it doesn't get much better than driftglass. Here, he's speculating that what we're witnessing in the Middle East is not glaring incompetence. For the men that pull the strings, chaos is the goal. Well....maybe. I think there's plenty of incompetence to be found; it's just that the neocons aren't even competent at fucking things up.

One of the points of the excellent but slightly incomprehensible Syriana was that stability and peace were the last things the neocons wanted in the Middle East. To paraphrase the Matt Damon character speaking to the reform-minded sheik's son: "The goal is: someday the oil is all gone and you're still herding camels."

Iraq is a disaster; it's completely lost, and may cease to exist. We were instrumental in convincing the Israelis that going after Hezbollah would be.....ahem.....a cakewalk. We twisted British arms into acting on the latest half-assed terror plot. It seems impossible to fuck up that badly, so maybe drifty is correct: chaos is the desired result. He's also spot on: while a part of it is certainly Fear of Brown People, in the end, it's oil. It's all oil.

driftglass is worth the occasional visit. Here's another classic.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hi, my name is monty, and I'm a Youtube addict.

I'll jump on the Youtube bandwagon with some Joni:

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Once again, P. Buchanan

More good stuff from Cruel Crazy Patrick, here, here, and here .

Or anytime of the day at The American Cause and The American Conservative .

Don't hate me....

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The same but with a difference

There are more political/opinion blogs out there than one can possibly read, although I try to do my part. Most, even over here on the left side of things, are partisan. Then there's Billmon, aka The Whiskey Bar. Billmon, while certainly leaning left, is no partisan: he seems to find the Democrats as lame and hopeless as the neocons are dangerous. He's been on fire during the Israel/Hizbillah conflict, providing the level of analysis and insight that you used to have to pay for. Commenting for Billmon's posts takes place at a different site, Moon of Alabama and is typically thought-provoking and flame free. If you're trying to get your head around what's happening, you can't do any better.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday print blogging

Old Car, Monte Sano
(click image for high res version)

As many of you know, Friday is the day when many bloggers loosen their tie. Tbogg does music and bassett hounds. Atrios does cats; John at AMERICAblog does orchids.

Since traditional analog photography and darkroom work is a hobby of mine, we'll do prints.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ridin' the wave of the future, chapter 1...

.....In which you get to look at sexy car pictures, and read Mark Morford; not a bad deal.

Meet the Tesla, new, high-priced, high performance completely electric car. While Mark loves it, he's still pissed:

Did I mention the Roadster costs about 80K? Who cares? The price is irrelevant. The fact that this car even exists in such a pure and obvious and performance-oriented form, does. Simply put, it is the most flagrant proof yet that we have been brutally, savagely misled.

See, they lie. And they've been lying for years, decades. They lie about how difficult it is to replace the internal combustion engine. They lie about how unfeasible it is to eliminate auto emissions without sacrificing real performance (the 130-mph Roadster's lithium-ion battery system is estimated to be twice as efficient as a Prius and three times as efficient as a hydrogen fuel cell. Not to mention Tesla's fabulous solar option).

But they lie, most of all, about how much we still require foreign oil, because these billion-dollar corporations claim they can't possibly afford to develop sufficiently advanced technology in your lifetime to create a 100-percent emissions-free, oil-free, ultragreen vehicle that still has all the comforts and performance of a regular car.

We've been lied to? Bastards! They swore They had changed.

While I think our situation on the planet is dire, the Tesla gives me hope, because this is what we, as humans, do. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, and sometimes when it's most needed, we step up to the plate and knock one out of the park. The Tesla is not a perfect solution; it requires electricity, which typically reqires coal, which produces CO2. But it's a step, a start, and a fine looking one at that.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

If you don't like what the Big Chief say....

Years ago, I worked at New Orleans Convention Center, as a tech in the audio and lighting department. Like the rest of New Orleans, the NOCC was a wonderfully diverse mix of people.

There was a carpenter who worked there named Jake Millon. To the white folks, he was just Jake the carpenter, but to the blacks, he was, by God, Big Chief Jake of the White Eagles Mardi Gras Indian tribe. From a newspaper article about New Orleans refugees:

In New Orleans, the Millon family has a sort of royal status, because their late brother was Big Chief Jake Millon, a highly respected leader of the White Eagles, a Mardi Gras Indian gang.

One Mardi Gras, I asked:

Jake, where you gonna be on Mardi Gras Day?

I don’t know, bro, around.

Well, where’s around?

Somewhere Uptown, off of Claiborne.

So, on a sunny Mardi Gras morning, I hopped on my bicycle (the best way to dodge the Mardi Gras traffic) and headed to the neighborhood where I thought I might find Jake. I rode around for a while, enjoying the warm weather, looking up and down the streets. A few blocks down, I noticed a commotion, and there were the White Eagles, making their way through the crowd under 50 lb. costumes. I saw Jake.

Big Daddy Doug!


Ain’t I pretty?

Yeah, Jake, you’re pretty!

Ain’t I the prettiest?

Jake, you are the prettiest chief of them all.

Then, he shook my hand and moved on. I moved on too; although I didn’t feel threatened or in danger in this poor neighborhood, this wasn’t my place. This wasn’t for me; it was for them. It grew out of that fertile and trembling earth, this strange tradition that happens nowhere else.

It’s been almost a year since Katrina ripped a hole in the fabric of our country, but for me and my family, that wound is still raw. A few bars of the right music, or a photo on the Web, and I feel that knot in my chest again. The tears still come at the drop of a hat. New Orleans is still there, but the Big Easy is gone, receding into the past.

Maybe it’s selfish, but at least there’s this: I lived there for 6 years, and I got it. I soaked it up. It changed me to my core, changed my ideas about life, about music and art, about culture, about family. It crawled up under my skin like no other place.

Jake died a few years ago, and I guess I’m glad that he was spared Katrina. But I’ll always be grateful to him for that sunny day when he let me, a guy from Indiana farm country, take a peek, just for a moment, into a world where black people dress like Indians and sing and dance in the streets.

Fever in the mornin', fever all through the night

I try not to go there; I try to stay away. Really, I do. But sometimes the links conspire against me, and it’s click, and click, and there you are, in the fever swamp of the rightwing blogosphere.

You see, the folks over at Confederate Yankee, (via Little Green Footballs. No links, you can search out those fetid paths on your own) think that there may have been some Funny Business surrounding the deaths of all those civilians at Qana. Maybe it was staged; maybe the pictures are phony. OK, we’ve heard it before. But then this comment wrapped its icy fingers around my throat:

Not sure if this has been flagged yet, but is it me, or does that pacifier connected to childs shirt by a plastic chain look too clean?


Has this been flagged!? Does the pacifier look too clean?

While my religious affiliations are tenuous and ever-changing at best, I do believe there is a Great Accounting at the end of our ride, a Karmic Toteboard of some sort.

And when that day comes, I’ll take comfort in the fact that I didn’t spend my time on a computer in my parent’s basement, sitting in a fog of Cheeto dust and Little Debbie debris, poring over photos of dead children.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The professor speaks, you listen.......

Paul Krugman on Israel:

But the actual course Israel has chosen — a bombing campaign that clearly isn’t crippling Hezbollah, but is destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure and killing lots of civilians — achieves the worst of both worlds. Presumably there were people in the Israeli government who assured the political leadership that a rain of smart bombs would smash and/or intimidate Hezbollah into submission. Those people should be fired.

Does the phrase "Slam Dunk" seem familiar?

There's no need to post a history lesson here: we all know that the Middle East is a complex place with complex problems. There's plenty of grievance to go around, as well as plenty of blame. I'll simply note that Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, and it's been trouble ever since.

But one has to wonder: right or wrong, what was Israel thinking? Border skirmishes with Hezbollah have been going on for some time now; why was it suddenly the right time for Shock and Awe? I'm sitting here listening to Fresh Air, where Christopher Dickey, Middle East editor for Newsweek, is trying to figure out what the goal was. Israel has no hope of defeating Hezbollah, in any traditional sense of the word. Hezbollah is a guerilla movement, and the conventional thinking is that if a guerilla movement is able to remain standing, that is a de facto victory. Israel can and likely will continue fighting with air power, but history shows us that an enemy is rarely defeated in this way. Iraq would be the most recent example of this, where it could be argued that our aerial bombarment did little except trash the infrastructure and inflame the insurgency.

So Israel finds itself, very quickly, in a terrible position; "staying the course" offers little chance of success, while negotiating a ceasefire will have the sheen of a Hezbollah victory.

It's quite amazing that Israel, having had a ringside seat as the US ran the ship onto the rocks in Iraq, has now charged down a similar path. Let's remember, we supported Saddam in the '80s solely to prevent the type of Shiite government that is now in charge in Baghdad. Now Lebanon, the great hope, the Cedar Revolution, is poised to meet the same fate as Hezbollah's popularity soars.

Where, oh where are the statesmen, the diplomats, the Churchills, the Adlai Stevensons? It should be obvious to any thinking person that diplomacy offers the only hope. But BushCo is not given to talk, and so the bullets fly.

Gnarls Barkley: Tickles My Soul, Tortures My Ears...

Those that know me know that when I listen to music, I like to move some air around, i.e. I like it loud. Lately, CDs just aren't getting me there.

CDs are sounding worse as part of a boneheaded race to make "loud" CDs. In order to make a louder CD (so you, the customer, don't have to deal with the hell of using your volume knob), the music is put through a process called "compression" during the mastering process. There is nothing inherently wrong with compression; tastefully used, it gives recordings more "pop'. But when it's over utilized, the result is a louder CD, yes, but one with limited dynamic range, and one that often exhibits "clipping", a type of distortion in the higher frequencies. The nastiness you hear when you really crank up the volume on a CD is due to clipping.

LP records have a dynamic range (decibel range from softest to loudest sound) of about 70 db; CDs are capable of 95 db. An article in Stylus Magazine finds that some modern CDs (Gnarls, who I love, was mentioned) may have as little as 6 db of dynamic range!

What to do? Here at Casa del Monty, we still spin vinyl. I love the warmth, the low end, and the fact that when I turn it up, it just gets......louder. Although I'm playing mostly vintage stuff, many new releases are available on vinyl. I just bought Belle & Sebastian's "The Boy With The Arab Strap" the other day, and the sound quality is beautiful.

While a nice turntable is a cool thing to have, the cartridge is what does the real work.. I recently upgraded to a better cartridge on my table, and it sounds fabulous! Next, I came up with a better way to clean vinyl; again, a huge difference.

I don't want to delve any further into the analog/digital mudfight, but if you've got some vintage vinyl that's in decent shape, try a new cartridge, clean up your LPs, and you may be amazed at what comes out of your speakers.

Deal with reality, or reality will deal with you

The world's second largest oil field may be in decline. In 2005, the was speculation that the largest, Gharwar, had also peaked.

When was the last time we heard one of our elected leaders have a serious, no-bullshit discussion about our energy future?

** ...crickets..**

I thought so.

Cruel Crazy Patrick

Hunter S. Thompson called him "Cruel Crazy Patrick", but respected him and considered him a friend. He is the true "No Spin Zone", unable to say anything other than that which he really believes. Although I probably disagree with him 90% of the time, on foreign policy, and specifically our policy in the Middle East, he's been spot on. His columns draw from history, are based in reality, and are blessedly free of partisan talking points.

Characterizing George and Dick's Excellent Adventure in Iraq as "the greatest foreign policy blunder in history", he is the turd in the Republican punchbowl, the archetypal "paleo" conservative who believes in fiscal responsibility, protecting our borders, and most of all, avoiding "nation building" at all costs.

You might want to add The American Cause to your bookmarks. You won't always like what you read. But in a landscape of endless, mindless spin, Cruel Crazy Patrick has got game.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I got a couple extra days off......maybe there's a sale at Ferragamo's

When the president of a small Mideast country tells the world's top diplomat that her services are no longer required, maybe it's time for old #1 to hang up her cleats. I'm just sayin'........

Dumping trash into the river of political debate....

Via the excellent Blue Girl in a Red State, this may be the parable for our times.

Of course, I had to put in my 2 cents.