*

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White light, white heat © Robert Sommers 2017

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Softie in Chief


Well they got the debt deal done. That old fox Obama sure showed those Republicans a thing or two. Gave them everything they asked for. No revenue increase. Deep cuts. No unemployment extension. Balanced budget amendment. Super Congress. I can hear Boehner's cackling way out here in San Diego.

The President pinioned his democratic rank and file countryman in the most basic triangulation move imaginable. That everyone saw coming. He basically folded like a deck of cards. You don't play poker with guys like these unless you know what you're doing. Mitch McConnell must be really chortling tonight. The President was all bluster after all. He blinked. What a loser. Pitiful.

My dad would occasionally take me to the bullfights in Tijuana when I was a kid. Saw the great Eloy Cavazos. Lomelin. Lots of the sixties greats. The worst thing you could say about a matador was El Matador no tiene huevos. Mi presidente tambien. A maricón. Punked.

I was packing at the shop today. Brett came over and some guy from Obama's re-election group called me for a donation. I laughed at the guy and told him about my distaste for the president and his evident willingness to screw his base. The guy thought about it for a second and told me he agreed with me. Pelosi and the Democratic leadership have a choice to make. You GOP guys want to burn the house down? Guess what, we can to, you can stick the deal right up your ass.



"On The Road"

Hush Little Baby


Inga Swearingen

Joe Ely ~ Me and Billy the Kid

Summer Rain.

Spaceships hiding behind clouds next to rainbows. Ah road trips can be beautiful. In Arizona heading towards New Mexico with Terry. Whoo hoo!
My friend Victoria just sent this incredible arco iris photograph. Michelin rubber man throwing rainbows.

She is on her way to my next destination, New Mexico. I will be highway bound soon. Millard said a lot of rain this week in Santa Fe.

We got a nice rain here last night, first in many months. Ah, summer rain. Nothing like it. Feels like Hawaii in Fallbrook today.

Pop and Shela

She has tried to do it before. I think it will stick this time. My stepmother called early this afternoon.  My father was put in a permanent home yesterday up in Fresno. He is a sweet old guy now, but we are all visitors in terms of the conversation going on inside the old man's head. He barely walks, in little staccato tip toes, shuffling in terms of centimeters rather than inches. He loves his wife and she loves him but she simply can't care for him anymore. He is too old and too frail and too far gone. Frankly I can tell it's killing her. But she has given her life to this man.

She has done so much and I am so blessed for her being there, the last few years being exceedingly hard on her as my father slid farther and farther into his private personal place. Thank you Shela. You have done everything you could possibly do and I salute your love and the work you have done with this once brilliant and sometimes difficult man.

You have exceeded all possible expectations and measures and more.

*

Life is a bittersweet road. The truth is that you are going to endure losing every person that you have ever loved, unless of course you are lucky enough to go first.

*

I am not going to write my Dad's eulogy. He could outlive me. I will say that we never had much of a relationship until I was about 13 and then things got bad for several years. I never quite turned out the way he wanted me to. But at a certain point we put our knives away, drew a line in the sand and moved forward. As father and son and friends.

We get one run around the block in this life and there is no dress rehearsal and none of us even have a real clue what is actually going on.

You are young and you look up to your parents in their thirties and think they have all the answers and know how everything works in their infinite wisdom. Then you hit your forties yourself and you realize you never really got out of the dark.

I salute my parents and my step mother. We all gave it our best shot.

April Come She Will

Helen's Poem - Title unknown.


I have had so many people tell me how taken they were with Helen McHargue's poem, a poem triggered by her thoughts about her late sister after a fight with her own equilibrium. I don't want to keep copying if for people, since it is squirreled away in a far off corner of the blog presently but not really so easy to find.  I am touched that so many of you were touched by her wisdom and eloquence.

The beauty and brilliance of her poem is easy to grasp. Once again.


Walking straight.
A challenge? Who would guess?
The brilliance of our gyroscope -
Its praises unsung, is a quiet miracle. 


I stagger now and list left-wise.
Loopily, my destinations reached. 
But I see eyebrows raised…
My aura broadcasts “Oddball” 


Aging brings gifts in its wrinkled basket.
Becoming invisible was an unexpected pleasure.
Different again - I’m sticking out.
Looking crazy, looking drunk.


What did you say? I can’t hear you either.
Whisper something in the good ear.
Something kind.
© Helen McHargue

Another soldier with an iLimb.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

iLimb Bionic Hand

Born To Wander



Deli Guy is departing for distant ports and we at the blast wish he and Mrs. Deli Guy well! Good health and a great journey.

Nothing Can Bring Me Down



Twilighters, Texas psychedelic/garage band out of Waco, circa 1968. Spiffy video.

Friday, July 29, 2011

MIT's Nexi MDS Robot: First Test of Expression

JJ Cale - Travelling Light

War is not healthy for women and children


Do you realize how sanitized war is these days? Back in the vietnam era, the american public saw photo after photo of flag draped coffins and carnage. Nowadays you might see a shot of a poor soldier learning to use his prosthesis at a rehabilitation hospital but that is about it.

It's easier for the government to conduct wars after they have been cleaned up for public consumption. They can go on for years or decades longer this way.

My friend Warren has a slightly different angle and wrote the following letter to Laura King, the Afghanistan beat writer for the Los Angeles Times:

Subject: la times article.....July 25...

Hi Laura I always have in mind the safety of reporters such as you who do so such a fine job under  what must be dangerous and difficult circumstances......a few thoughts the "poisoning "of soldiers and then shooting them by a fellow soldier appears to be another sad reminder of the cesspool of a corrupt government that the US is literally defending against it's own population.....this week in the Sunday LA times military obit 19 dead and who knows how many wounded....with the exception of usingThe Medal of Honor awarding as a crass self serving public relations "gimmick" President Obama has not visited military hospitals or continually voiced appreciation ....at the very least to the very same military persons .....I  want to make another point that I think is the epitome of the cynicism and carefully omitted  "horrors" endured by service members......I have not seen any casualties suffered by female soldiers.....  this is not misogyny but the fear of a head line that might read....."mother of 3 killed by IUD".......i realize the implications of this statement but giving the proven abilities of woman soldiers in combat I can come up with no other conclusion.....??.....thank you again for your analysis and dedication.....Warren bishop...this observation may not be categorical but I would say....."the exceptions may well prove the rule .....

He in turn received this response:

Hi, sir. Well, one issue with female soldiers who are killed and wounded is that the military here doesn't disclose any ID-type information at the time - that's done a few days after the fact by the Pentagon, and by their home bases. Obviously the numbers are much smaller than of male service members, but deaths and injuries of female soldiers ARE occurring, of course. Maybe I will ask our Pentagon reporter about teaming up on this subject - can't really be reported solely from here unless one happens to be on the scene when such a casualty occurs. 

Thanks as always for your observations -

Best,
Laura

Now Warren (who meant IED, not IUD) brings up an interesting point. Women are already in combat but we never see it. Would the sight of wounded or dead women soldiers be tolerable to the American public? Is it intentionally played down by the Pentagon? Is it a good idea to sanitize a conflict or do you prefer seeing the real horrors of conflict on your television screen. Call me a romantic but I like the vérité of the old days.

The Fugs

Orwellian Bureaucrat of the Year Award

We are in a funny place in this country. Technology is changing light speed fast and people are not taking the time to adequately assess its potential impact on their life. And unfortunately, humans stand blindly by as we continue to watch our rights and civil liberties disappear in front of our soon to be catalogued faces.

I saw this article at boston.com yesterday. A man named John Gass received a letter from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles telling him that his license had been revoked. Gass made some frantic calls, had a hearing and realized what happened. A facial recognition system had pulled his picture from a database of millions of state driver’s license images and identified his as a possible fraud.

Gass, after ten days of hearings, managed to get his license reinstated. The computer thought that he looked like another man. Gass is unfortunately not alone. Last year, in Massachusetts alone, over 1000 individuals were wrongly tagged by the facial recog system, because they looked like other people.

“We send out 1,500 suspension letters every day,’’ said Registrar Rachel Kaprielian, who says the system has been a powerful weapon to fight identity fraud since it was installed in 2006 but that it is not without problems. “There are mistakes that can be made.’’

Massachusetts does not keep records on how many licenses have been wrongly revoked. Gass has filed a lawsuit and his lawyer estimates that it is at least in the hundreds.

Massachusetts began using the software after receiving a $1.5 million grant from the US Department of Homeland Security as part of an effort to prevent terrorism, reduce fraud, and improve the reliability and accuracy of personal identification documents that states issue.


At least 34 states are using such systems. They help authorities verify a person’s claimed identity and track down people who have multiple licenses under different aliases, such as underage people wanting to buy alcohol, people with previous license suspensions, and people with criminal records trying to evade the law.


The system looks at each driver’s license photograph stored in the state’s computers, mapping thousands of facial data points and generating algorithms that compare the images to others in the mathematical database, said State Police spokesman David Procopio. The software then displays licenses with similar-looking photographs - those with two or more images that have a high score for being the same person. Registry analysts review the licenses and check biographical information, criminal records, and drivers’ histories, in part to rule out cases with legitimate explanations, such as drivers who are identical twins.


“No one is angry about the work they have to do to track fraud, but once they saw the error, even the words sorry would go a long way. But I got nothing,’’ he said. “The overwhelming attitude was they couldn’t care less.’’


Kaprielian said the Registry gives drivers enough time to respond to the suspension letters and that it is the individual’s “burden’’ to clear up any confusion. She added that protecting the public far outweighs any inconvenience Gass or anyone else might experience.


“A driver’s license is not a matter of civil rights. It’s not a right. It’s a privilege,’’ she said. “Yes, it is an inconvenience [to have to clear your name], but lots of people have their identities stolen, and that’s an inconvenience, too.’’


This sounds very Big Brotherish to me. Mr. Gass is guilty until proven innocent, the burden resting squarely on his misidentified shoulders. He had to jump through numerous hoops to clear himself according to the full article, because it is easier for his state to use a technology that misidentifies one or two percent of the population base and then makes it that individual's problem than to worry about turning an individual upside down. Your turn to eat the shit sandwich, Mr. Gass. And besides, you are probably guilty of something. No one would apologize to the man, he was just an inconsequential smudge in the machine. Kaprelian's justification for the state's Orwellian tactics and then her glib disavowal of any responsibility and the horror of identity theft makes this Massachusetts democrat my stooge of the week.

***

If my memory serves correctly, facial recognition was used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to identify young protesters during the foment in Iran two years ago. They combed Facebook in order to ascertain people's identities. If the technology is in the wrong hands, lots of bad things can happen. Especially by our governments.

***

Facebook recently raised hackles by enabling face recognition on their zillions of users without notifying them. Hard to opt out when you don't know that you have been opted in. Read about it here. Raises all sorts of privacy questions. Maybe a great tool for pedophiles, especially pedophiles with access to the name and address databases.

***

And then there is the MORIS. Short for mobile offender recognition and information system. This little handheld unit uses iris and biometric scanning technology and feeds into a national database. Manufactured by B12 Technologies out of Plymouth, Mass., the MORIS can attach to an iphone and be instantly checked against a criminal database. Of course nothing can necessarily stop the authorities from shooting and storing data records on everybody they come in contact with, law abiding or not.

***

Google has its own Facial Recognition company this week since it bought PittPatt.  See what the company that vows not to do evil has up its sleeves.

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BMW has been using face recog technology for years to help alert drivers that are falling asleep.

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Civil liberties are like gas prices that go up but never really come back to the original base line. Once they have been ceded, you never get them back. We casually discard them at our peril.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amy

Amy Winehouse never ate at Robert's Le Bistro in Fallbrook but she probably should have.

There, I mentioned her Brett. Are you happy? This will kill two birds with one stone.

People that bitch about the lack of good dining experiences in Fallbrook forget about Le Bistro. For the last 25 years or so, Chef Robert has been turning out wonderful french style cuisine that is always first rate.

I am a sunday brunch regular and sometimes forget about how good their dinners are. René and I went out the other night and had an incredible meal. We split a nice salad. Renée had the scrumptious pork normandy, lightly breaded perfection accompanied by nice tart apple slices.

I had chateaubriand with artichoke hearts and bernaise. I was given the choice between a filet and a top and chose the top which was really good sized and absolutely mouth wateringly divine. Perfectly cooked. The kicker? Both entrees were well under twenty bucks. There is a new menu and he dropped the prices. They were already low. What is it going to take? Get your ass in there.

I know that the chef likes to kid around and rubs some of you more genteel types the wrong way. The reality is that the guy is a prince that likes to kid around. If you haven't been back for a while please give him a shot. If you have never been you are missing out.

Dirty Work

Spooked

“When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they are going to be stunned and they are going to be angry.” Senator Ron Wyden
In late May I wrote about the dire warnings issued by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden concerning Obama Administration privacy and secrecy abuses. This President, who campaigned on a platform criticizing his predecessors use of the Patriot Act to spy on innocent americans, has apparently outbushed Bush. Unfortunately, we will probably never know the magnitude of the intrusion since it is all cloaked in national security paranoia and doublespeak.

The Obama Administration rebuffed Senator's Wyden and Udall in a letter published yesterday. Kathleen Turner, director of legislative affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said that a joint oversight team “has not found indications of any intentional or willful attempts to violate or circumvent” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA, which was amended in 2008.

The ACLU released a report on the government secrecy today which can be read here. The report was written by Mike German, a former FBI undercover agent, and Jay Stanley. The government made a record 76.8 million classification decisions in 2010 according to the report, some of the redactions and classifications placed on the most banal material, long de-classified or in the public domain. The government tried to charge an ex NSA employee for using the word fiber optic in a missive, the charges were ultimately thrown out of court.

This is one of the paragraphs in the preface:

...the framers of our Constitution established a system of checks and balances among
separate, co-equal branches of government to curb abuses of power and suppress the natural tendency of government to encroach on individual rights. Our current national security secrecy regime threatens to destroy this careful balance. The power to hide government actions from public accountability is simply too great an invitation to abuse. Congress has the power and the duty under our Constitution to remedy this situation. The American people depend upon their elected representatives in Congress to oversee and regulate the government’s activities on their behalf and for their benefit.

Unfortunately, even many of our elected representatives have no idea what the government is doing and how they are spying on ordinary americans. They are not allowed to know. Our own Senators.

The report excoriates the Obama Administration for abusing the privacy and secrecy laws and for its casual and convenient use of the states secrets privilege. I really recommend that you read the report in its entirety. It shows that contrary to his rhetoric, Obama has prosecuted whistleblowers he promised to protect and also kept the leaden veil over prior torture abuses. He has in some cases been worse than his predecessor in many respects in regards to protecting american's civil rights and liberties. The constitutional scholar.

Also, in 2010, the Obama DOJ issued a secret OLC opinion that re-interpreted the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to allow the FBI to ask telecommunications companies to provide them with certain telephone records on a voluntary basis, even where there is no emergency and no legal process, such as a Grand Jury subpoena, National Security Letter or court order.


Ironically, the FBI sought the OLC opinion after the DOJ Inspector General criticized the FBI for using “exigent letters” and other informal requests to illegally obtain communications records in violation of ECPA. The IG report said, “we believe the FBI’s potential use of [REDACTED] to obtain records has significant policy implications that need to be considered by the FBI, the Department, and the Congress.”


Unfortunately, DOJ has not released the OLC opinion, so the public has no way of understanding how the government can obtain their telephone records without legal process.


While the IG report reveals the existence of this secret OLC opinion, it is redacted in a manner that masks the provision of law in question, the types of telephone records the FBI seeks access to, and the legal arguments supporting its interpretation. The OLC opinion has not been released. In a letter denying a McClatchy News FOIA request for the OLC opinion, DOJ may have revealed the provision of law that is being reinterpreted.


According to the Washington Post, there are 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 
private companies working on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security 
and intelligence, and an estimated 854,000 people hold top-secret security clearances.


In 2009, the Government Accountability Office estimated that about 2.4 million Department of Defense civilian, military and contractor personnel hold security clearances at the confidential, secret and top secret levels.


 Remarkably, this figure does not include personnel at intelligence agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Intelligence Authorization Act of 2010 required the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to calculate and report the aggregate number of security clearances for all government employees and contractors to Congress by February 2011, but the DNI has so far failed to produce this data.


According to the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), the government made a 
record 76,795,945 classification decisions in 2010, an increase of more than 40% from 
2009. ISOO changed the way it counted electronic records in 2009 so exact year-to-year 
comparisons are not possible, but this figure is more than eight times the 8,650,735 classification decisions recorded in 2001.  One-fourth of the security classification guides the government used in 2010 had not been updated within five years as required.


“Derivative classification” in particular has exploded. Fully 99.7% of classification decisions are not made by the government’s trained “original classification authorities” (OCAs), but by other government officials or contractors who may have received little or no training and wield a classification stamp only because they work with information  derived from documents classified by OCAs.


Document reviews conducted by ISOO in 2009 discovered violations of classification rules 
in 65% of the documents examined, with several agencies posting error rates of more 
than 90%. Errors which put the appropriateness of the classification in doubt were seen 
in 35% of the documents ISOO reviewed in 2009, up from 25% in 2008. A similar analysis was not included in the 2010 ISOO report.


The cost of protecting these secrets has also skyrocketed over the last several years. ISOO estimated security classification activities cost the executive branch over $10.17 billion in 2010, a 15% increase from 2009, and cost industry an additional $1.25 billion, up 11% from the previous year. A meager 0.5% of this amount was spent on declassification. The government spent only $50.44 million on declassification in 2010, which is $182.74 million less than it spent in 1999. The fact is, there are significant physical costs associated with protecting our secrets, and unnecessary classification wastes security resources.


Refused to declassify information about how the government uses its authority under section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect information about Americans not relevant to terrorism or espionage investigations.


These are just a few areas of concern covered by the report. Too many people have potential access to our private information and we can't know, why, what, or where. The last paragraph I cite is the most chilling and troubling to me. When did we decide as an American people that our government was entitled to read, vacuum or datamine our private communications, without a warrant, clear reason or a probable cause to search?

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a
prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance;
and the people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power,
which knowledge gives." Letter from James Madison to W.T. Barry (Aug. 4, 1822)


“Our constituents, of course, are totally in the dark. Members of the public have no access to the secret legal interpretations, so they have no idea what their government believes the law actually means.”
— Sen. Ron Wyden


I found an interesting new blog today - Steven Aftergood's Secrecy News.

Crash Bang

I saw this letter in the local paper, the Village News this morning:

Re: Collision at Main and College intersection results in fatality [Village News, 7/14/2011]
If you were blindfolded and unfortunate enough to be in a car going 20 mph that crashed head on into an identical car going 20 mph, followed the next day by being in a car going 20 mph when it crashed into a brick wall, you would not be able to tell the difference. The forces involved on you would be identical. In each case you would come to an immediate stop and then bounce back a little.
The [CHP] should not add the rates as suggested in the article. If they don’t believe it, please ask another mathematician or physicist. If they still don’t believe it, they should refrain from voting in the next election.
Jerry Maurer
Now this letter sounded a trifle counterintuitive to me, the art and architecture major. Mr. Maurer would have us believe that there is no difference in the collision force between a sedentary wall and an oncoming car and two cars crashing into each other.

Unfortunately, Jerry is a neighbor of mine, a lot smarter than I am and a retired long time math teacher so I think that it would be prudent to take him at his word, no matter how incredible his postulation sounds.

But why does it sound so odd? Doesn't the energy from car #2 add anything to the equation? I wrote Jerry a little note this morning, which he has not yet responded to:
Hi Jerry,
Robert Sommers here. A bunch of us were reading your letter at the coffee shop and I am puzzled with the car crash explanation. If I throw a baseball, let's say an offspeed pitch, at a stationary bat it may only travel thirty feet after contact. Now if I throw a fastball at the bat and the bat is swinging, the ball is probably going over the fence. Force seems to be compounded. Why are the forces not compounded in the car scenario? What am I missing?
We were batting this around (no pun intended) and friend Bill sent me this explanation http://warp.povusers.org/grrr/collisionmath.html but the whole thing stills seems screwy. I guess that is why I was a liberal arts major...
           Best to you and your wife, hardly ever see you anymore.

           Robert Sommers

Can anybody shed some logic here and explain this arcane mystery to me?







Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So Much Trouble In The World

Lightning strikes girl on a sunny day and other ramblings.



From the wire:
CANONSBURG, Pa. -- An 11-year-old western Pennsylvania girl is recovering after she was struck by a bolt from the blue.
Lisa Wehrle tells the Observer-Reporter newspaper of Washington, Pa., that the sun was shining when her daughter, Britney, was struck by lightning Friday, apparently from a storm several miles away.
Lisa Wehrle says, "There was no rain. It was a beautiful day. All she heard was some thunder."
The lightning hit Britney as she was walking down a hill in North Strabane Township with a friend about 2:30 p.m. that day. The bolt hit her on the left shoulder, leaving a burn-like mark and exited her wrist, where it left another mark.
She was treated at a Pittsburgh hospital. Doctors discovered her arm was broken, but otherwise she's OK.
***
I was talking with Charlie, a very good trainer at my gym, this morning. He mentioned that he had a young client who had experienced an unfortunate stroke and was exhibiting some unusual cognitive behavior. For instance if the guy wanted to say "three hundred" he might say "four, fuck, hundred." His neural omelet had been a little bit scrambled, maybe with a dash of a little tourettes as well. As you can imagine, the disconnect for the man had to be maddening.
Charlie, in his young wisdom, suggested that his client sing the words back. By the way, Charlie is always singing himself. In any case, they were startled to discover that the client could communicate perfectly without pause and with full clarity if he would sing instead of speak. The singing function must take place in a different location in the brain.
***
Jerry Schad, the longtime columnist for the San Diego Reader who wrote the popular hiking column Roam-a- Rama called it quits in the paper this week. Schad hiked every trail in the land. He was an astronomer, teacher and photographer but let on that he is living with stage four of cancer. Join me in wishing Jerry well.


***
We got an email yesterday that Mel had found us the perfect dog, a six month old great pyrenees puppy. Our last two great dogs were pyrenees and we love the breed. Leslie called the guy up in the valley and we were all set to drive to Encino and pick up our new dog. He called this morning and welched, he has decided to give the dog to his best friend, some flatfoot from the FBI instead. Bummer.
***
Soon I will start my annual pilgrimage to the land of enchantment. Communication will be spotty and may temporarily cease entirely. Stand fast, man.
***
Some interesting new studies out that show how exercise can halt or forestall mental decline. Even moderate exercise.
***
I am reading a rather odd book, T.H. White's Once and Future King. The writing for the Arthurian yarn started in 1938 and the book was finally published in 1958. Imagine Alice meets Joyce meets the Hobbit. And throw a little Orwell in. I don't have it in front of me and I swear I won't finish it, being so bizarre and twisted but one  passage stands out in my mind. The future king, Arthur, convinces Merlin to turn him into an ant. When he becomes the busy insect, he is shunted into a work camp. There is a sign on the wall that states: Everything not forbidden is compulsory. Or something to that effect. And I knew at that second that the writer was a kindred lunatic.
***
Blast contributor Roy Cohen, a fitness trainer and fine writer got national publicity this week that is very cool for his recent information technology fast. Read about it here.


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Check out this site for very kool World War II nosecone photographs.




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Republicans declare war on the environment!


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Obama rebuffs Wyden on spooks.


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The Darling Tarsier - Gaucamole Gulch

Doin' The Suzy Q



I don't know much about Ina Ray Hutton (1916-1984). She was from Chicago and either June Hutton's sister or half sister. Her real name was Odessa Cowan and some sources say that the blond singer and hoofer was actually of african american descent. Had an all girl band and later all male band.

She may have popularized the dance the "Truckin'". Check out the clip after this one.

South's Gonna Do It Again

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rolling Stones - Off The Hook



Happy 68th, Mick.

Canned Heat - Going up the country



Love Bob Hite's goofing on the lip synch.

Best of Families


I am not necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer but if there is one thing I have learned in my fifty three years of life it is that if you walk on two legs, regardless of your creed or denomination, you are capable of the greatest and most despicable evil.

I have read accounts of early travel in Tibet by Alexandra David Neel and Heinrich Herrer where those gentle buddhist inhabitants would skin poor travelers alive. Catholics in Spain during the inquisition wrought torture of the cruelest variety imaginable. Arab and moslem marauders refined legendary killing and assassination techniques. God told the jews to slay all the Hittites, presumably even the nice innocent ones.

I don't care who you pray to, we humans have the capacity for some pretty vile behavior. Eric Rudolph, David Berkovitz. The Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh. The BTK killer, a deacon if I remember correctly. Sadly, it happens in the best of families.

Having said all this, I find it really funny how fast christian and conservative pundits are trying to disavow any connections between themselves and Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. Breivik says he is christian and conservative, I see no reason to doubt him. His 1500 page manifesto makes numerous references to his faith.
According to an article in today's Huffpo, Bill O'Reilly thinks that this is impossible. "No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder," he said. "The man might have called himself a Christian on the net, but he is certainly not of that faith...we can find no evidence, none, that this killer practiced Christianity in any way."
He said that the reason the media was calling Breivik a Christian was because "the left wants you to believe that fundamentalists Christians are a threat just like crazy jihadists are." O'Reilly called this notion "dishonest and insane," saying that no government was backing Breivik's ideology.
O'Reilly also said that the media "is pushing the Christian angle [because] they don't like Christians very much because we are too judgmental," and that the press want to "diminish" social and religious conservatives.
This is killing O'Reilly. He goes on: The second reason the liberal media is pushing the Christian angle is they don't like Christians very much because we are too judgmental. Many Christians oppose abortion. Gay marriage and legalized narcotics, secular left causes. The media understands the opposition is often based on religion. So they want to diminish Christianity and highlighting so-called Christian-based terror is a way to do that.
 Breivik identifies as a christian on his Facebook page. He writes that "Christianity should recombine under the banner of a reconstituted and traditionalist Catholic Church" or, later, under a new (traditionalist) European Church." He supports the creation of a new Knights Templar, a modern day crusade where christianity can conquer the moslem infidels.

The Wall Street Journal has a similar opinion published today (not necessarily noteworthy in terms of scholarship) by Bret Stephens, "What is Anders Breivik: The Oslo terrorist is neither Christian or conservative" that dances around and disavows the possibility that this man could be exactly what he says he is. Spiritual teflon in action. A self reducing prophecy, as soon as you engage in aberrant behavior we rip the epaulets off your shoulder and deny that you ever were a member of our club.

The long and short of it is that if a christian commits an evil act, he must not be a "true" christian. But if a lone muslim engages in an evil deed, it is perfectly allright to point a finger at the entire creed. I will take responsibility for David Berkovitz. But I think that you are going to have to cop for the Oslo guy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Liar

Manimals, Chimeras and the National Football League


Well America can rest easy, all has been saved. No not the debt crisis, professional football is back. Couch potatoes across the land can postpone doing anything creative and productive in the summer months for at least another year. Watch grown men beat the bejeezus out of each other, not like we can watch the lions give the gladiators a go any more.

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I played a bit today and went out and caught the new Captain America movie. Wasn't bad. For a guy who has been genetically altered with super serum, this masked avenger is pretty mortal. He runs fast and has a decent frisbee forehand with that shield of his. Tommy Lee Jones is getting pretty durned weathered. Odd that the movie is partially set in Norway, with all of the current goings on.

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Speaking of Norway, the Norwegian bomber looks happy as a clam in all the pictures I have seen. Not Jared Loughner/Hannibal Lector  psycho happy, more like Dick Cheney malevolant happy. And he should be happy. Norway has no capitol punishment so the most time he will do is 21 years. Still has time to get out and kill a whole bunch more people. Coward mowed his countrymen down like sitting ducks without fear of retribution.

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Truthout has a couple good articles today. The first one is titled New Court Filing Reveals How the 2004 Ohio Presidential Election Was Hacked by Bob Fritakis and you can link to it here.
"A new filing in the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell case includes a copy of the Ohio Secretary of State election production system configuration that was in use in Ohio's 2004 presidential election when there was a sudden and unexpected shift in votes for George W. Bush.
The filing also includes the revealing deposition of the late Michael Connell. Connell served as the IT guru for the Bush family and Karl Rove. Connell ran the private IT firm GovTech that created the controversial system that transferred Ohio's vote count late on election night 2004 to a partisan Republican server site in Chattanooga, Tennessee owned by SmarTech. That is when the vote shift happened, not predicted by the exit polls, that led to Bush's unexpected victory. Connell died a month and a half after giving this deposition in a suspicious small plane crash."
The second article is titled Emails Show White House Promotes Genetically Engineered Crops in Wildlife Refuges and was written by Mike Ludwig. Read it here.
"The Obama administration is supporting genetically engineered (GE) agriculture in more than 50 national wildlife refuges across the country and watchdog groups say internal emails among top administration officials reveal that the GE plots are a priority in the White House.
Earlier this year, a settlement in a lawsuit filed by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and its allies halted the planting of GE crops in US Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife refuges in northeastern states. Now PEER claims the Obama administration is working with the biotech lobby to shield GE plots in refuges from future legal challenges."
I find this development to be completely odious and another indication of Obama's being completely out of touch with his base. They probably love him over there at Monsanto.

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I was checking out the United States Government's 2011 Statistical Abstract and saw how the genetically engineered food war has already been lost. Good luck finding any original seed stock that has not been genetically tampered with by some modern day Doctor Frankenstein.


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Not content to destroy our trusted food and seed stock, anyone catch the article on man/animal experimentation in England this week?  Here is a link. Reminds me of one of my favorite movies of childhood, O Lucky Man! and the very scary sheep chimera.
"Scientific experiments that insert human genes or cells into animals need new rules to ensure they are ethically acceptable and do not lead to the creation of "monsters," a group of leading British researchers said on Friday.
While humanizing animals in the name of medical research offers valuable insights into the way human bodies work and diseases develop, clear regulations are needed to make sure humanization of animals is carefully controlled."
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 Lots of U.S. dough winding up in the Taliban's pockets. Think they want this war to end?

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Finally to end on a somewhat happier note. The magic healing power of dolphins.

PFM



I was a junior at Oxnard High School when this album by Italian progressive rock band Premiata Forneria Marconi was released. Still sounds good.

On famine and responsibility

It's a funny thing about we humans. A whole nation can stand transfixed over the tragic death of a lone child in Florida. Or the death of a princess. But we can lose hundreds of thousands in a typhoon or to genocide or famine and there is a general disconnect. The numbers get too big for us to grasp the enormity of the pain and the anguish and the large scale tragedies somehow lose significance. The larger the event, the more inpersonal and somehow the easier it gets for us to tune it out.

There is a horrible famine besetting the people of Somalia that is said to endanger about 2.5 million people. Al Shabaab, the local islamic terrorist front, says that the numbers are overblown and is refusing to allow international aid to the worst areas in the south and central region.

I was listening to a few aid workers on NPR saturday night and they were talking about the difficulties of working in the region. Refugees are streaming into neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya, countries suffering from their own drought, people are weary from a two decades old civil war. They come with reports or rape and robbery. Women are abandoning dying children by the sides of the roads.

The aid workers brought up an interesting statistic. There have been on the order of 15 transitional governments in Somalia over the last twenty years and scholars point out only one thing the government has been good at; stealing aid. 96% percent of all foreign aid is shunted off by the authorities. 4% reaches its intended destination. The islamist rebels in turn try to direct it to their base. Food becomes a strategic weapon.

Four percent is a horrible number. International groups have attacked the United States for not doing more in recent days but you have to wonder about the propriety when a corrupt Africa once again
puts its people in a circular firing squad. What can we do that will save starving people without reinforcing terrorists and corrupt regimes?

The aid workers say that one of the problems they are facing is that United States laws forbid dealing with terrorist groups like Al Shabaab and it works against the dying people who live in their sphere. I wish I had an answer, I don't.

***

My friend Rich was over this saturday. Rich is a retired attorney and an ardent libertarian, with a capital L. While I admittedly have my own libertarian streak, there are precepts that they hold dear that I strongly disagree with, such as cessation of all foreign aid and the right of a person to privately discriminate. I have written about the latter before, the cover the Libertarians give to white supremacist groups like Stormfront that have supported them materially in the past.

In regards to the former, I think that we as Americans can never fully disengage from the world. Libertarians that advocate for total cessation become Pat Buchanan, Neville Chamberlain style isolationists.  Volunteerism can never adequately fill the void after a Killing Fields or Fukashima. The Libertarians who advocate for a complete end to foreign aid want to answer the age old question about being their brother and sister's keeper with an emphatic no.

***

Maybe the libertarians are on to something. Does it make any sense to keep pouring good money after bad in areas of the world where the people don't have the good sense to elect good leaders or overthrow those that would enslave them? But can we sit back and watch and allow a couple of million people to die? Tough questions.

***

In other news, The House Foreign Affairs Committee cut billions of dollars from the foreign aid requested by the White House, including funding for the UN, in a vote late on Thursday night. Barack Obama’s total request of approximately $50b. was slashed by $6.4b., including 25 percent of the budget allocated for international organizations, among them the UN.

Committee Republicans were said to be frustrated at the UN’s treatment of Israel  and that was said to be the impetus for the UN funding cut, among other concerns about the international body, as well as in the passage of an amendment prohibiting American aid to any country that votes against the United States at the UN more than 50% of the time.

This last one I find especially pernicious, you don't vote the way you want you to, we are taking our ball and going home. Not a very mature attitude for a superpower if you ask me.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

From the beginning



Compressed, substandard sound, but Greg Lake's sweet playing and great voice accompanying a keyboard genius and one of the greatest rock drummers make it nearly palatable.

Big Mike

Ever Faithful © Robert Sommers
Hey Michael Halter! Are you out there? I haven't seen an indication in about a month or two and I want to make sure that you are okay up there in Gig Harbor. Please call when you get a chance. All is cool, I just want to know you are okay. Best to Kris.

Postscript 7/25/11
BigMike called - all is good, he moved closer to Whidbey. New computer evidently doesn't register on the feedjit app. He says he was wishing for the Humble Pie at the Fillmore the day before I put it up so all is still psychically copacetic between us.

Beautiful People

I LOVE YOU

Strange Bedfellows


I am not going to be too long winded (hopefully) but did any one else get the incredible similarity between remarks made by Florida Republican Representative Allen West's and alleged Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik?


Breivik: "One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is multiculturalism."


"You cannot defeat Islamisation or halt/reverse the Islamic colonization of Western Europe without first removing the political doctrines manifested through multiculturalism/cultural Marxism."


"Just like Jihadi warriors are the plum tree of the Ummah, we will be the plum tree for Europe and for Christianity."


"We, the free indigenous peoples of Europe, hereby declare a pre-emptive war on all cultural Marxist/multiculturalist elites of Western Europe. ... We know who you are, where you live and we are coming for you," the document said. "We are in the process of flagging every single multiculturalist traitor in Western Europe. You will be punished for your treasonous acts against Europe and Europeans."


2083 - A European Declaration of Independence. Andrew Berwick.


"Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike." 


"Before we can start our crusade we must do our duty by decimating cultural marxism."

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Allen West: I believe that we should celebrate the diversity of the melting pot called America, but never allow multiculturalism to grow on steroids and define itself as making American culture subservient! Because yes, there is a definitive American culture!


“[A]s I was driving up here today, I saw that bumper sticker that absolutely incenses me. It’s not the Obama bumper sticker. But it’s the bumper sticker that says, ‘Co-exist.’ And it has all the little religious symbols on it. And the reason why I get upset, and every time I see one of those bumper stickers, I look at the person inside that is driving. Because that person represents something that would give away our country. Would give away who we are, our rights and freedoms and liberties because they are afraid to stand up and confront that which is the antithesis, anathema of who we are. The liberties that we want to enjoy.” 


"Islam is a very vile and very vicious enemy that we have allowed to come in this country because we ride around with bumper stickers that say co-exist.”



“We already have a 5th column that is already infiltrating into our colleges, into our universities, into our high schools, into our religious aspect, our cultural aspect, our financial, our political systems in this country. And that enemy represents something called Islam and Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals that stand up and say that.”


 “George Bush got snookered into going into some mosque, taking his shoes off, and then saying that Islam was a religion of peace.”


"It means reclaiming our Judeo-Christian faith heritage. John Adams said, 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is totally inadequate to the government of any other.' This is not about a separation of church and state; it is about making sure that we do not separate faith from the individual. We must never forget that the American motto is 'In God We Trust.'"

The Court of the Crimson King

Demo Derby

Dramatic Scene From The First Balkan Race (1929) - Ivan Kolev
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that our elected leaders are playing an infantile game of chicken in the current debt crisis. And the American economy is all set to careen right off the road. I blame both sides for the stalemate and believe that with the lack of tractability on either side, we will probably be in a default position in another week. I find myself longing for the good old days, when bipartisan groups like the Concord Coalition sought to cultivate acceptable middle ground in our quest for fiscal solutions and sanity.

I do blame both sides for the current crisis and performing the necessary forensics regarding just how we got to this place is far easier than formulating a ready solution. Democrats and Republicans need to solve this problem like two sensible divorced parents might agree to raise their child. We don't have to like each other but lets put the knives away and figure out what's best for the kid.

First let's look at the issues. When Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in 1935, there were 7.8 million americans over the age of 65, with a life expectancy for a male 65 year old male of 78 years. There is expected to be 70 million plus baby boomer Americans on our shores this year. The growth of the entitlement programs is clearly unsustainable. We will not be able to provide status quo services at current levels for our graying baby boomers without putting a serious hurt on the more productive younger workforce by way or taxes. Or we find a way to change the paradigm.

I am going to try something different today and not indulge too much in the blame game. Republicans had major gains in the last mid term election. Who can blame them for feeling like they have to show something tangible to the constituency who fairly elected them? They rode a tea party horse into the battle and they won. I may not care for it but it happened and we need to respect their loyalty and responsibility to the people who elected them.

Disregard the fact that this was all supposed to be about the economy and we are now faced with a concerted social attack on abortion and birth control and homosexuality the likes of which we have never seen. This is their moment and they want to make something happen. The sides are so evenly balanced and the tipping point so minute, that who can blame a party for shoving it down each other's throat when they get a decent chance?

The problem I have is the über-piousness on the part of the conservatives. All of the current predecessors to the current president raised the debt ceiling, Bush II seven times. The conservative god Reagon raised it eighteen times. It has been raised thirty eight times since 1972. Is it really time to start sounding righteous? While liberals have a giant log in their eye regarding our capacity to maintain entitlement levels and careen down the path to socialism, conservatives have an equal mote in their own eyes about their role in getting us here.

Obama was handed an incredibly bad hand, the worst recession we had experienced in nearly eighty years. A recession largely born from conservative programs to deregulate, look the other way and provide fat tax cuts to our diamond Jim Brady cronies. All that Jack Kemp supply side  stuff, what do we have to show for it? Or you can take the easy and ridiculously unfounded position and blame everything on Fannie Mae. Those with short memories need to be reminded that Clinton handed his successor a surplus which Republicans insisted be given back to the American people as a tax cut. Then we started spending like drunken sailors.

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Jim DeMint was chortling the other day that Obama would say uncle and sign it. Republicans today said that he will sign a short term deal rather than nothing at all. Obama is pissy and stamping his feet and indulging in his own tough guy gamesmanship. It's a big poker game right now. No one is behaving like an adult, it's all a who has the biggest schlong contest. Very immature, very stupid and the reason why we are about to drive right off the cliff. That nasty part of the divorce when we would rather get a really good lick in and hurt somebody real bad than even live. Maybe both sides need a temporary restraining order. Because right now we just look at each other and get sick.