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.