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.