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Nature Mort © Robert Sommers 2017

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Insect fear

I leave for New Mexico in the morning. First show is in Albuquerque. Nice of Ken Seals to send this over tonight. I can't wait.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Doolin Dalton



When I was young I rode with a pretty wild bunch for a while. One of the desperadoes I lived with was a cat named Robert Teague. Bob was the archetypical stud high school running back who ended up in Vietnam and came back different and not caring much about how other people thought he should live. He majored in lost causes, having fun, the big score that never arrived and life was always quite interesting, to say the very least. Bob died way too early, of a busted heart, leaving a passel of children all over the place. He was an outlaw and a great friend and we simply tore it up in the full vigor of our youth. On the rare night when the party had died down and the lights got real low he would reach for his guitar and sometimes I was lucky enough to hear him play this J.D. Souther song.

mondayshpiel

Lot of low hanging fruit on the tree today. Might as well shpeel. Mitt Romney is on shaky ground when he starts talking about providence in relation to Israel. I can understand how her godless neighbors can be less than thrilled with the sunday school lesson. He did put in a great word for Israel's socialized medicine program, which is kind of ironic/funny considering our own national debate.

I would say that the trip has not been the international showcase that the handlers had hoped for, first the Olympic gaffe and the pissing match with the conservative leader of England, than the tug of war with the reporters regarding his meetings with the Israelis being private or not and today's theological instruction.

I think that the original script was well written, next stop Poland and a chance to highlight how the Obama administration caved in to Russia regarding the proposed eastern european missile shield. It is just that the messenger is so inept. This guy was governor of Massachusetts for god sakes, he should have better political chops and instincts than this.

The polls are in and Mitt has a serious problem. People don't like him. That's a tough one to overcome.

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Arizona Republican Senator John Kyl had a good one the other day. He said President Barack Obama should stop talking about the middle class because it turns people against rich Americans, who should be embraced as the Michael Jordans of the U.S. economy.

"The use of the phrase "middle class" is "misguided and wrong and even dangerous," Kyl said. He argued in a Senate floor speech monday that Obama is "spreading economic resentment [that] weakens American values" and ignoring "the uniquely meritocratic basis of our society."

"When Michael Jordan came, after he established how great he would be, he was given an enormous, almost unheard of salary. Did the other players say, 'That's not fair?' No, actually all the other players got big salary increases, too," Kyl said. "The whole franchise did well, the people selling popcorn, the people parking the cars ... made more money than they ever would have had Michael Jordan never came to the team."

Now, let's disregard for the sake of argument the fact that the game has been pretty well rigged the last thirty years and that there has been this enormous transfer of wealth to the top 1% thanks to a reworking of the tax laws that started with Reagan. People were alright when the poor took the fall but when the crosshairs are set on villainous teachers, firemen and other public employees, the possibly of mass insurrection is surely at hand. It is not Obama's fault for stirring up class envy, it is the population's fault for not figuring out that the game didn't work without pigeons years ago.

Lets focus on the Michael Jordan metaphor. Because it gave me a brainstorm for a new idea. American plutocrat baseball cards. I'll trade you a Koch Brother for your Rich DeVose and an old Pedro Borbon. Warren Buffet - Berkshire Hathaway, throws right, bats left, lives with his mistress.

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 I haven't caught much of the Olympics, except for one night at the bar, but the newspaper and online commentary has been so dreadful. We are the much xenophobic bunch, we Americans and so, so stupid. When Lochte beat Phelps they couldn't give the guy his due, Phelps miscue being so much more interesting than the other athlete's win. It's the guys third Olympics, he's getting old, back off.


Today they pile on, he was beat by a frenchman, the tragedy! Like we suck if we don't win every medal. Because like Israel, god is shining his light on our country and if the truth be told, he just doesn't like the rest of the world very much.

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Interesting story at TPM over Alabama Public Televsion firings of two employees who refused to toe the biblical line.

The nogoodniks refused to program David Barton’s “American Heritage Series,” which infuses Christian themes and motivations in tales of American history. Barton, a man without a history degree, is considered “a key bridge between the mainstream political right and radical-right religious ideology,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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A federal judge has just sided with the Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer and upheld an abortion bill that will not grant abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. Love you guys.

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Interesting that the International Olympic Committee didn't see fit to honor the 40th anniversary of the Munich tragedy. One can only imagine the reasons for the omissions. Must be waiting for that golden 52nd anniversary in 2024.

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Republicans voted for a bill that instituted automatic spending cuts, including monies for defense, if a deal on the budget wasn't agreed to. Now they are up in arms over the cuts, wanting to gut entitlement programs instead in a last minute sleight of hand, leverage move. Defense has a ton of fat. Last week they gnashed their teeth over cuts to the $388 million dallar military band budget. A real necessity.

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Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister heartily endorses Obama administration today. Might be honest or is he seeing the inevitable writing on the wall? Guess I have to take him at his word.

“I think that from my point of view as defense minister they are extremely good, extremely deep and profound. I can see long years, um, administrations of both sides of political aisle deeply supporting the state of Israeli and I believe that reflects a profound feeling among the American people,” said Barak. “But I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”

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The Catholic Church is really going after the womenfolk. Read this scathing indictment of the sisters by Fr. Robert A. Sirico on National Review Online.

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Anaheim is a powder keg after the recent police shootings. The last victim was shot in the back, of course reaching in his waistband for the weapon that was never there. They shot him in the leg for good measure. Interesting perspective on the place by the editor of the Orange County Weekly, Gustavo Arellano, Anaheim's Tragic Kingdom.  I hear that latinos are regularly frisked near the magic kingdom, not being really simpatico with the image the city is trying to project. I'm so old I remember when it was hippies.

I know that there is a gang problem there, there also seems to be a serious disconnect with a large segment of the population. A largely hispanic community that has only ever had three latino city council members in the city. Have to square it with Walt.

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I was looking for an Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe quote from the other day that just floored me but can't seem to find it. So I will leave you one from an interview that he did in March on Voice of Christian Youth America Radio Network. Global warming is divinely inspired:

"Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that “as long as the earth remains there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.” My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Alejandro Escovedo

dutiful

Guadalupe Rodriguez
La Luchadora
1995
Acrylic on Canvas
I just caught hell from my octogenarian mother. She lives in Maryland.

"Hi mom."
"You write about everybody else when they are sick. Why don't you write about me?
"Alright, mom, I'll bite. What's the matter with you?"
"Well, the doctor now says I've got MRSA and low sodium, UTI and advanced kidney disease."
"I'm sorry mom. I will make sure to write something."
"Well, don't be mean. And don't write bad things about Obama. Romney would be even worse."
"I pick on everybody mom. I have to get back to work. Love you, bye."

Four new diseases in a week. She must be ecstatic. Hope she gets and feels better soon.

Robert Pete Williams - I've Grown So Ugly

Rats And Roaches In My Kitchen

Don't do us any favors.


Brunettes are troublemakers. They're worse than the Jews.
Charlie Chaplin

Mitt has taken his show to Israel, showing his solidarity with the Likud government. As a member of the tribe I must confess that it makes me a bit queasy. In the first place the jewish vote that he is supposed to be pandering to is not nearly as powerful as it is imagined. It will resonate much more clearly with his real target audience, the evangelicals here at home. Not to be outpandered, Barack Obama dispatched Leon Panetta over to Israel, to either try to spoil Mitt's party or to secure a few votes of his own, depending on your favored narrative.

There's an old saying, two jews, three opinions. We are not a monolithic block. J Street, Tikkun, Sheldon Adelson, Aipac, Eric Cantor, you got every political color of the hebrew rainbow. They made up less than 2% of the vote in the last election and tend to spread their political contributions around. But when Mitt goes down, and barring a biblically proportioned miracle, he is, who's going to get the blame for supporting him? Three guesses...

Read any article about Israel in Huffington Post or AlterNet these days and check out the comments. The anti semitic and anti Israel vitriol on the left, some of it coming from young enlightened liberal jews themselves, is beyond belief. Couple that with the traditional jew haters on the right and things could get ugly. Mitt Romney certainly isn't going to help matters any. Might even incite a little blowback after the election if Barack decides to ratchet the screws down a little tighter.

It is obvious that our current President is not a fan of Israel. He has stated that he wants to create some daylight between the two nations. I can't castigate him for this because I myself think Bibi is a calculating prick who plays us for fools. I don't believe that Barack has any conceptual problems with their existence, although it is entirely possible, he just never has anything positive to say about them, always looking like he has drank spoiled milk or is changing a dirty diaper when they come up in discussion.

The middle east is still a very dangerous neighborhood. The United States has traditionally stood behind Israel. They have encouraged them repeatedly not to act unilaterally, with the assurance that Uncle Sam will be there when the fan hits the shit. With this president and the wide gulf behind his words and his actions, I have my fingers crossed. He has suggested a return to the 1949 armistice line as a starting point for negotiations, disregarding history and a half century of aggression by Israel's neighbors.

If I was an Israeli, I don't think I would count on Obama. You can see it in his quotes, in his diffident body language. He is bright, calculating, a superb politician, but he is definitely not in any way a mensch.

Time to put Moshe Dayan's sculpture back in the White House. Right next to Winston's.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

What Is Hip?

Major Fail

I am nothing if not a prolific photographer. Notice I didn't say good photographer, I said prolific, with all the false modesty I can possibly muster.

I do think that I am an improving photographer and that perhaps the new camera has helped me push the limits of my competency and image quality.

While all the new technology and filters can grant practically any image a modicum of decency, it is also a truism that for truly great photography one needs to start with well composed, correctly sharpened and exposed photographs. You just can't make chicken salad out of any old chicken shit in this medium. I have been moving in a direction where I am choosing to forego a lot of bells and whistles, even as I get more comfortable with them. Give it to me straight. By the way, in hip photographer circles, the ridiculous, heavy use of photoshop filters on a picture is called stomping the image.

As I ascend to the full glory of the declining years, my idea of what is truly tragic has also changed. And so I am not dangling on a freeway overpass right now, firemen and cops with megaphones trying to talk me down off my risky perch and get me to a nice institution where I can be appropriately treated with the right anti psychotic drugs. A tragedy is Aurora, or a chunk of blue ice falling out of the airplane bilge, slamming right through the ceiling and conking you into oblivion while you are sitting on the john perhaps. Or somebody you know and love getting real sick or in an accident. Losing thousands of your best photographs isn't a tragedy, is it?

You see, when I woke up yesterday, I had 39,762 photos in my Lightroom catalogue. Around three o'clock I got a message that my start-up disk was full and that I would need to jettison some things to create enough file space for things to start working again on my 500 gig drive.

I downloaded the program Monolingual which got rid of the foreign language scripts and saved about 3 gigs. Not nearly enough. So I went into iphoto and started throwing things overboard. It was mostly backed up on Lightroom, right?

Well I got ahead of myself and chucked about 50 gigs out. Then I went into my users/ pictures/robert sommers file and the fatal mistake was made. I started throwing out what appeared to be redundant files with names like 2011. Which turned out to be the source files for Lightroom. Grand Tetons?  Goodbye. Utah? See you later. This may not be tragic but it is still truly fucked.

I am not sure that all is lost because I had downloaded everything to a Picasa cloud server last year. I did manage to get some things back. But I am getting image corruption messages and can not get many other photos back. Ever. Including some of my best shots.

Beats getting in a car wreck, I guess. Will have to get out there and take more pictures. But in the meantime keep me away from anything really sharp.

Easy To Be Hard

Sonoran Hard Time




Part 2

I heard about these videos last week but only managed to find them today. Amongst disturbing and horrific tales of sexual abuse, homicide and torture, we witness U.S. Border Patrol agents kicking over water containers left by humanitarians for illegal immigrants so that they won't die parched in the hot desert. It is pretty sickening any way you look at it. Wonder why this lady is smiling? Must have thought of something real funny.
I am not pro illegal immigration. Still I can't understand how people can become so cruel and vile as to deny water to anybody dying of thirst, whatever their immigration status. Of course these wetbacks aren't really human beings at all, just tonks.
Slap a uniform on a man or a woman and see how quickly they can devolve into the most barbaric of creatures. Unfortunately I have the feeling that this is just the tip of the story.
"Since 2004, a faith-based coalition called No More Deaths has been leaving gallon jugs of water near common migration routes in a desperate bid to save lives. But in May of this year, just as temperatures in the harsh Sonoran Desert climbed above 100 degrees, the group’s volunteers began to notice that their water bottles were being slashed, destroyed or emptied. With violence from ranchers and vigilantes a constant threat, No More Deaths installed hidden cameras. They were surprised at what they found: Border Patrol agents were purposely, even gleefully, destroying the life-saving jugs of water."




Perhaps this is the bright line that truly divides the two human camps, could you kick the jug over or not?



Members of Congress call for DOJ to investigate death of Hernandez Rojas

Dia con mi hermana

The blog is about to go on another extended hiatus, I am venturing to points east for a couple shows. Not like I have been exactly inspired of late anyway. I am packing for a few days, then gone with the wind. Wish me good luck, need to make enough gelt to hopefully take off for Spain in September. We got turned on to a pair of tickets to Europe, business class, practically free. But I will need a little cushion so that I can go away and not fret too much.

My sister Barb has been in town for the last couple days and it has been a real pleasure to hang out with her. She lives in Florida and her husband has a best ball golf tourney out here with his nephew. I am doing a lot of touristy things that I never do. The first thing she wanted to do was see the Mission De Alcala, or what she always thought was the Mission, which was in fact the Presidio. I took a wrong turn to the Mission and ended up in a shall we say, low income neighborhood in Linda Vista, trapped by a wayward GPS. I am happy to say that we were not eaten and eventually managed to find our way out.


We made our way back to Friars and visited the pretty complex, a place I hadn't visited in at least fifty years. Beautiful california landscaping of pepper trees, aloes and bougainvilleas.

This was the first alta California mission established by the Spaniards and smaller than many of the others. Very lovely in its quiet tranquility.

We visited the museum and toured the grounds on this most perfect of California days, breezy and temperate while the rest of the nation seemingly bakes in the suffocating heat. Oh well, we get all the earthquakes.

After our visit, we drove to La Mesa to try to find the wonderful old mediterranean revival ranch we lived in as kids on Mt. Helix. Good thing Barbara was there, the home on Fuerte Drive was unrecognizable. The barn was gone, the corrals, reservoir, the berry patch, avocados, the giant pines, now there were about seven homes in its place. See what happens when you take off for 50 years? Everything goes to hell.

We stopped at D.Z. Akins, the only decent deli in the county and bought rugelach and the sprinkly cookies that we ate as kids at Blumers Delicatessen on 54th and El Cajon blvd. Had to have sufficient sustenance on hand for the long day ahead.

We drove back to the Presidio, the site of the explorer's first garrison and outpost in this part of the new world, situated on a knoll above the San Diego River valley. 


The presidio is pretty neglected these days, paint peeling and mostly closed up but still stands as a beautiful and stately beacon of impeccable early hispano american design. 

Being a San Diego native, this stuff sort of gets in your blood. From the missions to Irving Gill, Goodhew and Requa, there is no other place quite like it on earth. We left the Presidio and traveled through the beautiful streets of Mission Hills and stopped off at one of my favorite restaurants, Cucina Urbana, for lunch. 

We shared burrata, bread and tapenade and split the short ribs pappardelle entree as well. Rustic and delicious, the place never disappoints. We finished the meal with zeppoli, little doughnuts on poached peaches that were stuffed with lemon curd. So heavenly, we could have died right there. I remember eating them at the feast of San Gennaro in Manhattan as a kid, but they were never this good.

Afterwards, we decided to walk off our meal in Balboa Park, the most beautiful park in the nation. The girls loved walking around the spacious rose gardens. The youth symphony was practicing, things bopping all over the place. A parrot rescue was showcasing their wards on the square. Leslie and I played with the birds. 

We are lucky and blessed to live in such a beautiful place, with such perfect weather. There is an old indian saying that where a man first puts his moccasins will be his home forever and this is definitely mine.

Sandy's nephew lives in a place called Del Mar Mesa, which is sort of a funny name, not being close to Del Mar. A new trend by the developers, never mind the actual geographic position, name them after the closest ritzy town. It is a lovely enclave off of the 56 and Carmel Country road, but no closer to Carmel Valley than it is to Del Mar. But the realtors try to soak off some of the cachet and it helps the marketing people. The same thing is occurring in Escondido, where the Crosby of Rancho Santa Fe now lies right on its borders, quite a furr piece from the Rancho Santa Fe I knew in my youth.

We reconnoitered at the fish market for dinner and finally made our way home, utterly exhausted.

Barbara drove up yesterday and we had lunch at Rosa's with R&D and the accent mark. Keeping with the early california theme, my sister and I then drove through Pala and Pauma Valley, miles upon miles of orange groves and largely unsullied splendor. We drove down to Wilderness Gardens to look at the wild camelia bushes that were planted in the 1920's but decided not to walk around because it was so dry and the flower timing was off.

We drove up Palomar Mountain instead, rolling the windows down and luxuriating in the cool air and the fresh smell of oaks and conifers. The pines up there have really taken a severe beating from fire and the bark beetle.


We drove over to the Observatory, the first time for both of us and looked at the famous Hale telescope, now administered by Cal Tech. This building is an architectural marvel in itself. 


Afterwards we drove down to Doane Pond and a camp that we briefly attended as kids. We saw wild turkeys and this beautiful hawk in the forest. It was about this point when I realized that her rent a car was parked on the street in front of my shop, the street that they was closing down for the Hot Summer Nights celebration. We jammed home at breakneck speed and just beat the tow truck. All in all, a great trip and weekend with a favorite sister. Wish we saw each other more often.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Punch Brothers

Peking Opera

One of Romney's advisors, Rich Williamson, warned today of the dangers that still exist with the Soviet Union. Uh, Rich, the Soviet Union kicked the bucket in 1991. This, by the way, is at least the third time Romney or one of his advisors has brought up the soviets. Methinks somebody misses the cold war.

If you want to be afraid of a country, I suggest that you fear communist China. Fresh from the quite successful appropriation and cultural extermination campaign in Tibet, Beijing now sets its sights on the whole of the South China Sea and historical holdings of Vietnam and the Philippines. They are squabbling with the Japanese and Russia over the Kuril Islands. The continued existence of Taiwan is a major thorn in their side and there are problems arising on the border with India.

When you hold most of the world's mortgage, people have a habit of looking the other way. China is now preparing to build a garrison to assert military control in southeast asia. China thinks that the world should understand that it no longer wants to adhere to, and should not be held to treaties that it made in former times.

"Some top Chinese policy makers say neighboring countries should accept that an increasingly powerful China would seek to re-shape relationships that had been established earlier when it was weak."

The garrison, called Sansha, will be built on the disputed 2.13-square km Yongxing Island, and contains a small military airport, a sea port, roads, a clinic, a post office and an observatory. This island is in the Paracels, a group of islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

This is of course, about oil reserves. It also resembles chess and these initial gambits might prove quite critical. China is fighting a similar battle with the Philippines in the Scarborough Shoal and with Vietnam over oil exploration. Another disputed area, rich in oil and gas reserves are the Spratly Islands, at one time occupied by China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan.

This week Japan protested  the entry of Chinese patrol boats into disputed water and recalled their Ambassador.  Three Chinese fishery patrol boats entered the waters near the disputed islands - known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China and also claimed by Taiwan.


Japan has a proposal in place to buy the islands, further enraging the chinese.

China is blaming the United States for its problems in the region. A front page commentary in the Overseas Edition further criticized Washington for "fuelling" conflicts in both the East and South China Seas, warning that such "tricks" could backfire. The People's Daily was also unhappy with recent remarks from Secretary Clinton urging China to expand "human rights."
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The scope of the revisionism is incredible indeed.



BEIJING, July 10 (Xinhua) -- A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that any private deals made between the United States and Japan after the World War II concerning the Diaoyu Islands are illegal and invalid.


Spokesman Liu Weimin made the remark at a regular press briefing when asked to comment on a recent U.S. claim that the Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islands fall within the scope of a 1960 U.S.-Japan security treaty.


"China has expressed grave concern and firmly opposes such a claim," Liu said. "The Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islands have been China's inherent territory since ancient times and China has indisputable sovereignty over them."


According to Japan's Kyodo News Agency, a senior U.S. State Department official said Monday that the Diaoyu Islands (referred to as the Senkaku Islands in Japan) fall within the scope of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, as the Senkaku Islands have been under the administrative control of the government of Japan since they were returned as part of the reversion of Okinawa in 1972.


"Private deals made between the U.S. and Japan after World War II concerning the Diaoyu Islands are illegal and invalid," Liu said. The U.S.-Japan Security Treaty should not undermine the interests of third parties, including China, Liu said.

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The enormity of China's intentions is mind boggling. A few months ago, a party appatchik laid claim to the Philippines themselves. Imagine the Ottomans staking a present day claim to the Austro- Hungarian empire or the French asking for Louisiana back. They made the deal when they were weak, during a bad month.


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China's neighbor and sometime ally Russia is not immune from the muscle flexing. Maritime and naval authorities in Russia dispatched a large patrol ship July 16 that chased a group of intruding Chinese fishermen who were inside Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone near Vladivostok. The Russians captured by force 17 Chinese fishermen, and one is missing and presumed dead after an at-sea shootout, according to Andrey Orlov, spokesman for the Russian Border Guard Service in the Far East.


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China is also now officially claiming the state of Arunachal Pradesh, historically a part of himalayan India as its own. This dispute has festered since the 1950's. It also disputes the Indian ownership of the ancient trade route of Aksai Chin in the Karakoram Mountains of Kashmir.


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Chinese expansionism is real, concerted and will probably be very effective. They are master strategists and we are highly leveraged. And have little appetite for a conflict against such a powerful enemy. Watch us turn our heads and pretend we aren't aware of what is about to happen.


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China, is of course destined to fall, but ironically, the change is going to happen from within. All of the ipads, bigmacs, iphones and western material goods and dollars are bound to unwittingly awake that sleeping giant that craves freedom and liberty and decides to not put up with the shit anymore. Or am I being a hopeless, romantic optimist again?

Cashing In

With Fallbrook in the national news these days on the heels of the awful Brittany Kilgore S&M murder, I decided to put out a t-shirt. Still in the production stage, let me know your size if you want one. 100% cotton. Twenty bucks. Limited time offer. These babies are sure to be collector's items so don't miss out.




Los Matematicos - Pregunto

Rose in the Desert


You are a top staffer for a New York public relations firm and your clients are a murderous dictator embroiled in a genocide against his own people and his chic and urbane yuppie wife. A real P.R. dilemma.  But hey, when life gives you lemons, why not make lemonade?

Run some puff pieces focussing on them playing with their children and on the first ladies inimitable sense of style.

Your typical western family, typical that is if Grandpa started off the proud family tradition of killing 20,000 of his own people in his campaign on the Syrian city of Hama.

Al Arabiya has a great story today on the Assad's hiring of BLJ, Brown Lloyd James to reform their less than grand image. They arrange to write a story on Mr. and Mrs. Assad for Vogue Magazine. The New York firm whose partner, ex Clinton White House staffer Mike Holtzman, represents the first couple hires long time Paris Vogue editor Joan Buck to write the piece, lyrically titled A Rose in the Desert. This story is supposed to present the other side of the homicidal regime, the stylish, warm and fuzzy side. Operatives are directed to "burnish the country's image."

BLJ clients in the region also include the ousted Qaddafi regime in Libya and Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

"...The company continued to work with the Syrian government by sending a four-page memo in May 2011 offering advice on strategy for handling and improving the public image of the regime as it escalated its violent crackdown to crush the uprising. The memo was published by Wikileaks during the first week of July with 2.4 Syrian million documents."

The writer Buck was apparently shielded from seeing anything controversial on her visit, on advice from Holtzman.

"...According to the leaked email, Holtzman goes on to instruct Sherry (Sheherazad Jaafari, who is also the daughter of Syria envoy to the U.N. Bashar Jaafari)  to “not mention anything controversial to her (Joan)”, this included “lists Syria maybe on, rumor, etc.”“What she (Joan) sees must be 100% affirmative,” concluded Holtzman. "

Here is the original article, from February of 2011, still on Assad's own presidential website. The P.R. company now says that they were just trying to be a force for good and help the regime change its evil ways. Teflon.


Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.

At the end of the article the author describes a Christmas celebration, now tinged with a bit of surreal irony:
Two hundred children dressed variously as elves, reindeers, or candy canes share the stage with members of the national orchestra, who are done up as elves. The show becomes a full-on songfest, with the elves and reindeer and candy canes giving their all to “Hallelujah” and “Joy to the World.” The carols slide into a more serpentine rhythm, an Arabic rap group takes over, and then it’s back to Broadway mode. The president whispers, “All of these styles belong to our culture. This is how you fight extremism—through art.”
Brass bells are handed out. Now we’re all singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” 1,331 audience members shaking their bells, singing, crying, and laughing.
“This is the diversity you want to see in the Middle East,” says the president, ringing his bell. “This is how you can have peace!”


Barack and Hugo



I am not saying it rises to the level of a full on boy crush, but Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama appear to have quite the little mutual admiration society going. This week Chavez called the U.S. president "a good guy," saying that real revolutionaries realize that any criticism Obama makes of the Caracas regime is just election-year politicking.

"Obama is campaigning. He's a candidate," Chavez told a Venezuelan television station. "I hope the real revolutionaries understand well. I think that Barack Obama — aside from 'the president' — is a good guy.""It has all been a hoax by the imperialists and global far right: that uranium is being enriched in Venezuela, that we're setting up missiles here, that we're supporting terrorism." Chavez even cast his symbolic vote for his choice for the United States presidency, Barack Obama. In a campaign speech Saturday night, Chavez equated the agenda of his own challenger, Henrique Capriles, with that of Romney, saying both men represent the callously selfish, capitalist elite.


Chavez claims Capriles, a moderate former governor, is trying to trick Venezuelans into believing he genuinely cares about the poor, the core of Venezuelan president’s constituency. “I believe the person to best explain the loser’s agenda isn’t Barack Obama but rather Romney, because it’s the extreme right-wing agenda that borders on the fascism of the United States,” Chavez told tens of thousands of supporters in the western city of Maracaibo.

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In turn, Obama recently dismissed any real threat from the Venezuelan dictator. In June he said that Chavez poses no "serious" national security threat to the United States.


"We're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe," Obama told a Spanish language television station based in Miami. "But overall, my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.


"If the U.S. empire succeeds in consolidating its dominance, then the humankind has no future. Therefore, we have to save the humankind and put an end to the U.S. empire"
Hugo Chavez speech, University of Tehran

Let's take a look at Obama's new bff. He has a long record of funding revolutionary narco traffickers in neighboring Columbia. He has allowed the Iranians to establish Sam missile bases in his country. When he last met Ahmadinejad in Caracas, he wisecracked about the big atomic bomb they were building. He's nationalized everything in sight and obliterated the opposition party and its media outlets. Several years ago Chavez threatened to sell his 21 plane fleet of United States made F-16 Fighting Falcons's to Iran, in direct contravention of their original purchase agreement.

Iran has just shipped the first of four oil tankers destined for Venezuela. Their two presidents have pledged an "axis of unity" against United States imperialism. Chávez pledged that Venezuela would "stay by Iran at any time and under any condition." He said "We are with you and with Iran forever. As long as we remain united we will be able to defeat (U.S.) imperialism, but if we are divided they will push us aside". One must presume that that includes helping the Iranians establish a terrorist beachhead in the western hemisphere to continue their asymmetric campaign against the United States and its zionist cohorts.

Iran and its Hezbollah proxies have been directly implicated in the Argentinean synagogue bombings as well as similar acts of terror around the globe, including last week's bombing in Bulgaria. Read Stephen Johnson's thorough and insightful study on Iran's efforts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies' recent comprehensive report, Iran's Influence in the Americas.

In all seriousness, I do not understand our president's nonchalance and dismissive remarks about the Venezuelan/Iranian threat. Mitt Romney has, I think correctly, chided the President on this issue. The Obama campaign retorted that the criticism was a way to "score cheap political points by blustering and misrepresenting the President’s record while failing to outline any coherent foreign policy strategy.”

“Because of President Obama’s leadership, our position in the Americas is much stronger today than before he took office," said a statement by campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt. "At the same time, Hugo Chavez has become increasingly marginalized and his influence has waned. It’s baffling that Mitt Romney is so scared of a leader like Chavez whose power is fading, while Romney continues to remain silent about how to confront al-Qaeda or how to bring our troops home from Afghanistan." 

On this one, I go with Romney. Chavez health may be failing but I think that his power has not been marginalized at all. Wishful thinking. You only have to look at Chavez actions and statements and I suggest that our president take him at his word. His ability to wreak havoc by consorting with the Iranians will cause the civilized world continued harm for years to come.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hawkwind - Space Is Deep

When the old gods awake...


If you are a thinking or feeling person you have probably figured it out by now. Maybe you won't grok the more academic aspect of the conundrum, but oh, you just have to know. Or feel it anyway. The human experience, having reached terminal velocity, is now in the side splitting stages of actually turning itself inside out. Think moebius strip. Fasten your seat belts, Ahab. A bunch of engineers thought they could fix things but it was in reality hopeless from the start. It was said in some circles that it was also much too late, by that point anyway, the pocket protectors were said to now just be pissing in the wind.

The first measurements were taken by micrometer and the stellar parallax was observed from either side of the moon and then mathematically corrected and the data is simply unimpeachable. Having despoiled and squandered and made such a general wreck of the place. we humans are about to get spit out of the current movie set like a celestial watermelon seed. Perhaps a few thousand incarnations as a slice of basalt will temper us for our next swing at the piñata, that is if the powers that be find us remotely deserving.

*
The initial reports were odd but not overwhelmingly so; cats chasing dogs up trees, little grandmothers lifting heavy trucks off of babies. Fish dropping out of the clouds, owls flying around in broad daylight. CIA officers starting to mutter about the nonhuman bodies in those boxes back at Roswell, square shooting guys who had never touched a drop. We all knew something was up but nobody could get a handle on it, it was simply too big. People talked of feeling general and unease, even dread, but no one could put their finger on the real source of the existential disquiet..

You couldn't really characterize the changes as mutations. In a scientific sense it was more like the last number on the roulette wheel, the one where the ball never, ever stops, suddenly hitting for 24 hours in a row and not ever stopping, the singularity of the slight chance suddenly paying off in spades as the earth primes for its final curtain call. And so we find ourselves moving through the incongruity.

Some said that it was those folks in the white coats up at Cern, when they unleashed the Higg's boson particle they were messing with the very stuff that holds atoms together, tinkering way above their pay grade and that it was no wonder that the edges of reality were starting to pull apart like silly putty. It turns out that the confines of the possible, didn't preclude, or should I say, guaranteed the existence of the alternative, the impossible, and things were pretty much destined to get curiouser and curiouser.

In a truly infinite universe, these things have to happen, it would be impossible if they didn't, but what was the chance that it would all happen at once and shuffle the deck like this? Snake eyes and a one way ticket back to the critical mass and the unparalleled density of the exploded black star. You suddenly find yourself walking on the ceiling in a place where children give birth to their parents and time hurtles backwards and forwards in the same exact instant.

*

My first clue that something might be amiss was reading about the colored lobsters. They were once orangey red in our youth but they now were sporting all the  hues of the rainbow. Blue, calico. What kind of inside joke is that anyway? When they discovered that they could talk too, it left the guys at Rocky Flats scratching their heads. Who knew, who ever asked?

The Sioux elders traveled to Goshen, Connecticut this week to celebrate the divinely prophesied birth of the white buffalo calf. One in ten million chance they said. Two of them were born June 16, the other in Oregon. 

Some see the white bison's birth as a fulfillment of the ancient Oglala and Lakota prophecy that the birth of a white bison is a sign from a prophet, the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who helped them endure times of strife and famine. So what's it going to be bartender, doom or redemption? What do you think we have earned?

The Legend of the White Buffalo

One summer a long time ago, the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Sioux came together and camped. The sun was strong and the people were starving for there was no game.

Two young men went out to hunt. Along the way, the two men met a beautiful young woman dressed in white who floated as she walked. One man had bad desires for the woman and tried to touch her, but was consumed by a cloud and turned into a pile of bones.

The woman spoke to the second young man and said, "Return to your people and tell them I am coming." This holy woman brought a wrapped bundle to the people. She unwrapped the bundle giving to the people a sacred pipe and teaching them how to use it to pray. "With this holy pipe, you will walk like a living prayer," she said. The holy woman told the Sioux about the value of the buffalo, the women and the children. "You are from Mother Earth," she told the women, "What you are doing is as great as the warriors do."

Before she left, she told the people she would return. As she walked away, she rolled over four times, turning into a white female buffalo calf. It is said after that day the Lakota honored their pipe, and buffalo were plentiful. (from John Lame Deer's telling in 1967). 

There are actually citations for 29 of these white bison being born on Wikipedia. My cynical inner mathematician tells me that with these numbers and the total of live bison extant, somebody better refigure the odds but they fit okay in my story so we will leave them alone. 1 in 10 million. World's going to hell or maybe about to get real interesting again.

All hail White Buffalo Calf Woman, may she wrap herself in her divine aspect and fulfill her ancient promise and then hopefully rest again.

I said that I wasn't a believer in theology, you never asked me about magic.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Blind Willie Johnson - Nobody's Fault But Mine

Corporate Hubris

Interesting article over at Think Progress. Industrial giant Corning goes to Capitol Hill crying that it is overpaying taxes and pleads for a lower corporate rate. The real record shows that they paid no taxes at all from 2008 to 2011, in fact they received a $4 million dollar refund from Uncle Sam.

"Over a four years period from 2008 to 2011, Corning Inc. was one of 26 companies that managed to avoid paying any American income taxes, even though it earned nearly $3 billion during that time. In fact, according to Citizens For Tax Justice, the company received a $4 million refund from 2008 to 2010. That didn’t stop Susan Ford, a senior executive at the company, from telling the House Ways and Means Committee this week that America’s high corporate tax rate was putting her company at a disadvantage."

Ford told the committee that Corning paid an effective tax rate of 36 percent in 2011, but as CTJ notes, she is counting taxes on profits earned overseas that haven’t yet been paid and won’t be unless the company decides to bring the money back to the United States. Corning’s actual tax rate in 2011, according to CTJ’s analysis, was actually negative 0.2 percent.


The territorial system Ford testified in favor of would actually encourage the offshoring of profits earned by American companies, thereby reducing the amount they pay in taxes even more. And rather than helping remove a disadvantage that prevents companies from creating jobs, an economic analysis of such a tax system found that it could actually cost the United States as many as 800,000 jobs.

Cornings response : "Corning management has said that our tax rate continues to go up. Why is this happening?


Corning does business all over the world and different tax rates apply in each country where we earn income. Our overall tax rate increases if we earn a larger portion of our income in higher tax jurisdictions. For example, if we earn $150, in which $50 is earned at a 40 percent tax rate and $100 is earned at a 10 percent tax rate, our overall tax rate is 20 percent. If our markets switch and instead we earn $50 at a 10 percent tax rate and $100 at a 40 percent tax rate, then our overall tax rate increases to 30 percent. Based on this example, even though our total income of $150 did not change, our overall tax rate went up. This means we ultimately received less profit from the same amount of sales. This is an example of what happened to Corning in 2011. We call this distribution of income in different countries the “mix.” Depending on the mix, our tax rate can increase or decrease despite having earned the same amount of total income. As our income grows in the U.S. and China, where tax rates are higher, our overall tax rate increases.


Was our tax rate inordinately low in the past? Did we pay all the taxes we should have, given tax laws over recent years?


Corning always complies with all tax laws in countries where we do business. Our tax rate was low in the past for various reasons. One is the “mix” reason I just described. During the telecom crash in the early and mid-2000s, we suffered significant losses in the U.S., which has a relatively high tax rate of 38 percent. Income in high jurisdictions drives the overall tax rate higher, but losses in high jurisdictions drive the overall rate lower. So our losses in the U.S., due to the telecom crash, drove our historical rate lower. Additionally, many countries –particularly in Asia – offer tax incentives to encourage foreign investment. This has been true for us in China, Taiwan, and Korea. This is another reason why our overall tax rate has been low but is increasing: the tax incentives we have previously enjoyed in these countries are expiring."

Hard to shed a tear for these people. The people with all the gold always figure out a way to game the system. But to cry about taxes that you may never pay takes chutzpah to a new level.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Like mother's milk

Hudg sent an interesting one along. Cannibinoids like Marijuana's THC exist naturally in breast milk. I thought it got me stoned.


And on the same topic. From AlterNet - Food manufactured and directed to stoners. Marketing the Munchies: How Fast Food Companies Target Stoners

"From 420 calorie burritos to Taco Bell's "Fourth Meal," fast-food companies are pushing products to stoners like never before. "

“A lot of companies are skipping the innuendo. They think it's more effective to be overt. It creates more buzz. I think that's why you see a lot of advertising that seems unapologetically targeted to pot smokers.”

Jake Holmes



Dazed and Confused.

Who cares?

Mitt Romney has suffered a rough couple of weeks. He is getting hammered by his opponent and the media for not releasing more of his tax returns and for his offshore accounts. I think the questions should stop.

Let's just accept the fact that Mitt is a very rich and successful businessman. He isn't running for saint, he's running for president. Rich businessmen do things with private companies that politicians wouldn't ever consider doing, well that is unless they thought that they could get away with it.

This whole campaign, on both sides, has deteriorated into a big contest to see who is the biggest victim. "Barack said this or that and he won't apologize." "Mitt is mischaracterizing me in this ad and calls me a poo poo head." Just stop already.

We have two candidates who are decent people who have basically led good lives. Neither of them has any monopoly on virtue. I learned a long time ago to watch out for a guy who tells you how honest he is. Talk is cheap, you sort of figure it out on your own by hanging around a person.

Isn't it time to stop talking about character and personalities and start to discuss issues? Afghanistan, the economy, reproductive rights, civil liberties, those are the things I want to hear about. And we have been remarkably short on policy and position in this national pre election dialogue.

Mitt doesn't seem to have many details mapped out on any subject and Obama is a brilliant stump speaker with a recurring case of amnesia. Take your pick.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Long long time

Garden Party

Carmen © Robert Sommers
My friend the accent aigu ´ has planted the massive vegetable garden and she invited a bunch of foodies and friends over for a home grown dinner. Think the zucchinis were trying to take over the world and it was our job to eat them. We had directions to bring the carnage of our choice for the grill. There was chicken and lamb and a whole bunch of stuff.



I wasn't exactly in the mood but I went anyway for the team. These are some of my best peeps. Connie and Dixon brought their granddaughter, Scarlett.

Helene was there as well as Carmen and Mike. I thought Michael was wounded but it turned out to be just mulberries.


The highlight for me were the fresh squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese. Simply amazing! Carmen and Mike brought a killer bottle that they scored for cheap at Winco. Rare Red, a sangiovese, barbera, malbec, franc blend. Whole meal was epic, Leslie brought salmon and cold squash soup. Everybody brought great stuff, we even had our own gluten free wing. Helene made a great salad with blueberries. Finished the night with a berry cobbler. Glad I went, thanks for the invite.

Dig Dixon's shoes!






? and the Mysterians



Pretty funny and rather fay cover of the old Jaynett's hit.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

more this and that

Granite Construction asked the Fallbrook Community Planning Group for a 20 year extension on the Rosemary's Mountain Quarry site. Seems there isn't all that much call for aggregate in this economy. Leads to the question of why they pushed so hard for the Liberty Quarry this year. Group granted the request by a 13-1 vote. Bravo for the dissenter.
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House Republicans voted today to get rid of the AmeriCorps national service corps, defund National Public Radio, Planned Parenthood, public television and defund Obama's Health Care program.
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The House also voted to make abortions illegal in the District of Columbia, after 20 weeks, even in cases of incest and rape. Arizona Rep. Trent Franks said that people would just use those lame excuses as an out in order to get abortions. Franks said the health exception "would allow for easy circumvention by abortionists." He may have a point, you just can't trust women.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) complained after the vote that the District was being treated as a pawn. “We are not puppets to be used by the right-to-life forces, who are parading this same bill through the states to work up a head of steam against Roe v. Wade,” Norton said.
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Iowa Rep. Steve King thinks that we need to institute McCarthy hearings to root out the marxist and muslim infiltrators in congress. So does Michelle Bachmann.
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Rushbo thinks that the new villain in the Batman Dark Night series was a democratic plant. His name - Bane. Of course this character was created 10 years ago, the author knowing full well what was in store for Mitt Romney. On the same lines of logic, the Mariposa Posse has definitively ruled our President's birth certificate a fake. These people never stop.


Levon Helm

richard manuel

It Makes No Difference

Hot and bothered


Most everybody knows how ungodly hot it is in a lot of places across the country.  The warmest six month period on record since records started being kept in 1895. 55% of the country is in a severe drought. The current drought is now the worst since 1956, according to the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a report posted on its website yesterday. The next graphic is the NWS precipitation outlook for the next month. Looks kind of bleak, doesn't it?






Corn prices have risen 40% and the yield is down 35%. It's simply broiling across our nation's  midsection.


"About 53 percent of the Midwest, where farmers harvested 60 percent of last year’s U.S. crop, had moderate to extreme drought conditions as of July 3, the highest since the government-funded U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska, began tracking the data in 2000. In the seven days ended July 6, temperatures in the region averaged as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Soil moisture in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and Kentucky is so low that it ranks in the 10th percentile among all other years since 1895."


Check out the Palmer Historical Drought Indices. Set the wayback machine to the fifties and pick a summer month and push play to journey to the present.




I think that its time for these whiney farmers bitching about the heat to pay a visit to Old George Will. George has a simple answer for all this. You see, he grew up in Illinois. It's summer. It gets hot in the summer. Simple as that. So don't raise none of that damn fool global warming talk. Go talk to George, he'll set you straight.