Girl with magnifier

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Peter Frampton - Shine On

small faces

The more video I watch of Marriott and Lane, the more blown away I am. Been listening to a lot of Humble Pie as well - so under appreciated.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Han Iron Fist

News today that the Chinese government has shot a tibetan protester who had lit himself on fire in protest of the Chinese occupation.
Isn't there something a bit orwellian and redundant about murdering someone who is in the process of killing themselves?

A full story on the shooting of the young Tibetan monk can be found in the Washington Post article here.

March 10th is the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation, an event that occurred just prior to the Dalai Lama's exile. The young monk's protest was evidently triggered by the authorities refusal to allow the traditional Monlam prayer at the Kirti Monastery at Aba. He was shot three times and joins dozens of other Tibetans from the region who have been killed or imprisoned by the Chinese in the last year.

All suicides in the future will be met with the maximum response and punishment.

With enough suicides, the Chinese might rid themselves of the whole tibetan problem.

Colbert to Steele - Bring it Holmes!

Crosses to bear?

This week the Supreme Court held that a Utah community had the freedom to decide which religious monuments could be permanently displayed in a public park. This decision, Pleasant Grove vs. Summun is troubling and leaves me admittedly conflicted.

The SCOTUS decided to look at the case on purely free speech grounds. But clearly, fundamental questions regarding religious freedom are "the elephant in the refrigerator" involving this case.

We must ask ourself if this ruling leads to a slippery slope where governments, both local and national, are put in the position to grant elevated status to one doctrine over another. Ten Commandments okay, but buddha's wheel, not so good
Are we picking and choosing or endorsing palatable religions with this decision? Is this another attempt by a conservative court to emphasize that America is or should be a "christian nation"?

Now as a practical matter, I can understand that a community would have a hard time servicing every Tom, Dick and Robert who wanted to start their own religion and erect public monuments to themselves. Things might get awfully crowded. But let's be realistic, this shows the folly of allowing creches, crosses, menorahs, the whole megillah in the first place.

I grew up in the land where Juan Cabrillo first set foot close to five hundred years ago, and used to live below the Mt. Helix cross in La Mesa, that is pictured above. I cherish the historical and aesthetic beauty of such monuments. I love the spanish heritage of the area, with it's religious imagery and all. I live near the most beautiful public park in the nation, Balboa replete with architecture from the Spanish conquest.

The idea that the majority could give a government stamped seal of approval to one religious group over another gives me a bit of a fright. The founding fathers were very careful not to endorse a religious viewpoint. I think we would be better served to not allow any new religious monuments in our public facilities.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bernstein Plays Ravel's Concerto in G

Weighing in on the Kurds

This week a Kurdish politician, Ahmet Turk, caused an uproar in the Turkish Parliament by addressing the chamber in his outlawed native kurdish language.

"In order to show that there is nothing to fear in using other languages and to emphasize brotherhood of languages during the International Day of Mother Tongues, let me continue my speech in Kurdish," Turk said, pointing at the UNESCO world languages week.

The state owned television immediately stopped broadcasting the speech. It was a very dangerous move. The last time it had been attempted 18 years ago, Leyla Zana, a parliamentarian from the now-banned Democracy Party, tried to take the parliamentary oath in Kurdish and was sentenced to 10 years in prison as punishment. Kurdish singer Sivan Perwer was forced to flee the country, resulting in a twenty year exile in 1976. Other's who have run afoul of this archaic repression have also served very lengthy prison sentences.

The history of the 40 million Kurds is a sad one and in my mind eclipses the tragedy of the Palestinians. The Kurdish empire stretches back to at least 149 b.c.. Before World War I, Kurdish life was nomadic, revolving principally around herding throughout the Mesopotamian plains and highlands of Anatolia, Armenia, Syria, Turkey and Iran. The breakup of the Ottoman Empire after the war created a number of new nation-states, but not a separate Kurdistan. Kurds, no longer free to roam, were forced to abandon their seasonal migrations and traditional ways.

The Treaty of Sevres in 1920 which created Iraq, Syria and Kuwait codified the borders of an independent Kurdistan that was never ratified. The region has seen several major Kurdish rebellions including; the Koçkiri Rebellion of 1920, the Sheikh Said Rebellion in 1924, the Republic of Ararat in 1927, and the Dersim Rebellion in 1937. These were forcefully put down by the Turkish authorities and the region was declared a closed military area from which foreigners were banned between 1925 and 1965. Iraq used poison gas and killed at least 5000 kurds in Halabja in 1988.

These poor non arabic, mostly sunni muslim people have been murdered, exterminated, repressed and pretty much kicked around by the Iraqis, Iranians and Turks for the last hundred years. The United States has not been a good friend, geopolitical realities trumping morality once again.

I think that to steal a language of a people is to mortally wound a culture. Serbia outlawed the speaking of Albanian, causing deep rifts that resulted in the breakup of Yugoslavia. It is a classical means of repression. How many Native Americans lost their mother tongue through pressure from the United States government? How many Kumeyaay or Cahuilla speakers still remain in California? I assure you that the loss of their language was clinically planned and executed. Can you imagine the outcry if the Israelis forbade the speaking of arabic in Israel? The brutal tactic of language suppression is an attempt to kill a people's soul.

I hope that the Turks will ease up on their heavy handed approach to the Kurds. I was shocked when George Bush allowed Turkey to conduct bombing raids in Iraq on Kurdish separatists, right under our noses. I worry that in the end, the Kurds will be odd man out against the greater numbers of the Shia and Sunni in Iraq, in their quest to gain control of the underlying oil wealth in the north. And we will once again turn our heads, and allow another tragedy to occur to these poor people.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy, Happy!

Leslie and I live in a great town. Fallbrook has fantastic weather, beautiful orchards and most of all, wonderful people. Sunday, accompanied by a whole bunch of friends with the very loose title of the Fallbrook Gastronomic Society, we ventured down to San Diego for a day of frivolity. A perfect day with friends that I will always remember.

We all met up at Jasmine in the late morning, an excellent and spacious dim sum restaurant in Clairemont Mesa where we had brunch. Squid gave way to chicken feet, pork buns, salted shrimp and then an avalanche of tasty fare beyond measure. We finally cried uncle and the bill was less than $20.00 a head. Lost a twenty betting that Retha wouldn't eat a chicken foot. It is as good a Dim Sum restaurant as I have found in San Francisco or Toronto.

We lost a couple to a prior engagement at the opera and then the remaining group reconnoitered down at the San Diego Harbor for a whale watching trip. Two members of the group have a pretty amazing yacht and were gracious enough to invite us out. We saw no whales but followed a school of rare and elusive blunt nosed Risso Dolphins for a time. And had a really delightful voyage for three or four hours. Got boarded by the Coast Guard for the boat's annual inspection. We saw sailboats, frigates, tugs, fast Naval Security boats, Cruise Ships, America's Cup boats, everybody was out playing on the water. Relaxing, with calm water and beautiful skies. Renee brought a great assortment of interesting cheeses, like Humboldt Fog, sweet tangerines and a nice seeded baguette that we all scarfed up. Champagne and a lovely Pinot. Screw the depression.

After we disembarked, a bunch of us high tailed it down to Little Italy. India Street was hopping and we stopped at Cafe Zuccero for rich gelato and italian pastries. I sampled delicate sfogliatelle filled with ricotta cheese. I was absolutely stuffed and absolutely content.

After dessert, we were all totally pooped and headed back home, completely drained and happy.

I hope that this group can stay together for more fun and hijinx. If you weren't invited, we couldn't let it get too big and I'm sorry. Sketchy plans for the Huntington Gardens and Montrose's La Cabanita in the future. Maybe we will see you on board one of these days.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stop Bonnie Dumanis!

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis made headlines earlier this month when she announced 33 marijuana arrests in Operation Endless Summer. A review by the San Diego Union Tribune shows that at least 14 of those arrested had serious medical problems that necessitated marijuana for pain and possessed all the required paperwork.

Dumanis cast the operation as one whose mission was protecting the county's military population but those arrested said that they never dispensed to any military personnel and were actually directed to a miltary location by an undercover agent. The agent showed legitimate paperwork in his quest to buy the marijuana. The police said that a military connection was strictly ancillary. Typical of this DA to wrap herself in the american flag in an election year. This log cabin republican loves to get real butch on crime.

As a person fighting cancer and heart problems who can't stomach narcotics, marijuana is the only pain medication my body could ever tolerate. A close relative of mine is near quadriplegic with severe MS and marijuana is the only substance that can ever provide any relief. I have toyed with getting a clinic card so that I could legally buy but have always hesitated, fearing that I would end up on some government hit list. I think my instincts are once again proven correct. I will continue to have to slink around to procure some relief. Never mind that the people of California have spoken out on the issue, the county of San Diego continues to ignore their directive.

The county Board of Supervisors has refused to issue ID cards to qualified patients – a state law the county has fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and a regional task force repeatedly has raided storefront dispensaries in San Diego and San Marcos.
Link to the article in today's Union Tribune here. Another article that highlights the gestapo tactics occurring in San Diego (ironically while the feds actually relax their persecution) here.

Isn't it time to end this sick drug war against marijuana users? Our prisons are full enough and people should be able to make their own choices. Stop Dumanis in the next election.

An Apple a day

As a kid, my mom (an early devotee of Adelle Davis) threw an apple into every one of my sack lunches. Unfortunately as a kid who started going to school in the early sixties, there were two basic choices, Red Delicious or Macintosh. Red Delicious were mealy, fairly tasteless and sometimes waxy. Macintosh had a foul acrid taste and usually were used for some sort of target practice. I would occasionally sample a Jonathan that some friend's mom would be using for cooking - a friend used to eat them salted - and maybe a Northern Spy, Winesap or Golden Delicious if I was really lucky.

As an adult I had a job once that took me on many backroads of the country. I remember enormous old heirloom apples in Northern Michigan and upstate New York, some of them specialty apples that had grown in their villages for hundreds of years. Very good actually.

I think that we are in a golden age of apple eating at present. About 20 years ago, Fujis hit the scene and raised the bar to unseen heights. Dessert apples from Japan, Israel and New Zealand exponentially increased sweetness and made apple eating a true pleasure again. Galas, Mutsus, Braeburns. Ambrosias. Hopefully the red delicious has been relegated to the apple bin of obscurity.

My two favorite apples are Honeycrisps and Pink Lady's. The former is a perfect balance of sweet and tart but has a very short harvest in September. I thought. My wife just sent me downtown to Major Market where they are on sale for sixty nine cents a pound. Wonder where they are from? Maybe offshore...That's real cheap as they can push three bucks in the fall. These might be organic, a little misshapen but they are honeycrisps all right.  Round honey taste, with a bit more character than a Fuji.

The Pink Lady is tarter and dare I say prettier. Like it's moniker, it's got a schoolgirl's light pink blush. Probably great in a pie.

Can any of the old heirlooms give these apples a race? Love some feedback on your favorites. Heres a link to the all about apples website.

Jefferson Starship

Alice In Wonderland

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings."

Through the Looking Glass. Lewis Carroll

Paradox of thrift

Economics is a dark art, plied by it's unholy denizens on windless nights when the moon is near full. There are two cabals who contend for supremacy in this titanic struggle, the Keynesians and the Monetarists. But where lies the truth?

I do not pretend to understand the complexity of theory of modern economics but have been following the battle recently and here are the players: The followers of Keynes - British economist John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes (pronounced /ˈkeɪnz/ "cains") - June 5, 1883 – April 21, 1946, who believed that governments should intervene to counter the effects of recessions and depressions. He was a proponent of big government spending. The father of modern macroeconomics, Keynes held that the cause of unemployment is a too high rate of savings, or insufficient investment expenditure. Galbraith was a Keynes man, and helped craft LBJ's great social programs in the 1960's. Keynes put forward a theory based upon the notion of aggregate demand to explain variations in the overall level of economic activity, such as were observed in the Great Depression. The total income in a society is defined by the sum of consumption and investment; and in a state of unemployment and unused production capacity, one can only enhance employment and total income by first increasing expenditures for either consumption or investment. In short and to grossly generalize, Keynesian theory suggests that one can spend one's way out of a recession.

The opposition to Keynesian thinking were the monetarists, led by Milton Freidman and Frederick Von Hayek. Freidman and other monetarists have consequently argued that Keynesian economics can result in stagflation, the combination of low growth and high inflation that developed economies suffered in the early 1970s. Friedman advocated a central bank policy aimed at keeping the supply and demand for money at equilibrium, as measured by growth in productivity and demand. Volcker and Greenspan were both monetarists.

I heard an interesting show on NPR a few weeks ago where an economist explained that neither of these theories was fail safe. He showed instances where both historically failed, Keynesian theory in the early seventies where we entered into a long secular recession and monetarism most recently when, Federal Interest rates went to practically nil and still could not stimulate market activity. It's all necromancy I guess, Markets move as they will in spite of all of our best efforts. Maybe there needs to be an allowance for a little chaos theory, monitor butterfly flutters in Tokyo or something...

This long boring prologue leads up to a few brief points of summation. It is possible that the world economy has been entirely built on the sybaritic spending habits of we american swine. Japan became a nation of savers and their economy has never recovered, especially when the demand for their exports dropped. Read an interesting New York Times article regarding Japan here.  

Which brings us to the Paradox of thrift.   Too much saving causes economies to suffer. This is one of Keynes tenets. It basically says that if everyone saves more money during times of recession, then aggregate demand will fall and will in turn lower total savings in the population because of the decrease in consumption and economic growth. I steal the following from Wikipedia as I have elsewhere in this dry monologue: This paradox can be explained by analyzing the place, and impact, of increased savings in an economy. If a population saves more money (that is the marginal propensity to save increases across all income levels), then total revenues for companies will decline. This decrease in economic growth means fewer salary increases and perhaps downsizing. Eventually the population's total savings will have remained the same or even declined because of lower incomes and a weaker economy. This paradox is based on the proposition, put forth in Keynesian economics, that many economic downturns are demand based.

If I may summarize, I say do your duty as both American's and global citizens and start spending like a sonofabitch. Your planet needs you to. And once again I say, why give your money to Madoff when you can put a nice little landscape painting over your fireplace that is sure to appreciate?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Father Damien

Although I am not a catholic, I still get joy from the news that the Vatican has announced that the Belgian priest Father Damien is on the fast track to sainthood. Damien, born Jozef de Veuster, lived and worked among the estimated eight thousand lepers in Kalaupapa on the hawaiian island of Molokai, eventually contracting the disease himself and dying in 1889 at the age of 49. I have always admired the courage and love shown by this man. He has become a patron saint for those affected by H.I.V..

I am not entirely sure how the process works, but believe it takes two miracles to qualify for sainthood and the second miracle was verified in the last several years.

From Wikipedia: King Kamehameha V quarantined the lepers of the kingdom and moved them to a settlement colony known as Kalaupapa on the north side of the island of Moloka‘i. Kalawao County, where the village is situated, is divided from the rest of the island by a steep mountain ridge, and even today the only land access is by a mule track. The Royal Board of Health provided the quarantined people with supplies and food but did not yet have the resources to offer proper healthcare. According to documents from the time, the Kingdom of Hawaii did not plan the settlement to be in disarray but did not provide sufficient resources and medical help.[12] They planned on the inhabiting sufferers to grow their own crops, but due to the nature of the environment and their sickness, it was nearly impossible. By 1868, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), "Drunken and lewd conduct prevailed. The easy-going, good-natured people seemed wholly changed." [13]
Kalawao Catholic Church.

While Monsignor Louis Maigret, vicar apostolic, believed that the lepers at the very least needed a priest to minister to their needs, he realized that this assignment could potentially be a death sentence. After prayerful thought, Damien asked Monsignor Maigret for permission to go to Molokai. On 10 May 1873, Father Damien arrived at the secluded settlement at Kalaupapa, where Bishop Maigret presented him to the 816 lepers living there as "one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of you; to live and die with you."[citation needed] Damien's first course of action was to build a church and establish the Parish of Saint Philomena. His role was not limited to being a priest: he dressed ulcers, built homes and beds, built coffins and dug graves[14].

Damien's arrival is seen by some as a turning point for the community. Under his leadership, basic laws were enforced, shacks became painted houses, working farms were organized and schools were erected.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Arthur Crudup

The Comet Approacheth

The double tailed comet Lulin is scheduled for a peak appearance Monday night.  Will shush by around 38 million miles from earth, south/southwest of Saturn.  Lulin is a spectacular green comet and will be making its first appearance in our solar system. Here's hoping for a direct hit. Link to an article about the comet in Wired with some hilarious comments here.  A smart person's Lulin blog here.  Don't miss it - won't come back for another thousand years... Niburu crap here.

War Games

If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near.
Sun Tzu

There is an intriguing article in today's Los Angeles Times about a recent study published online in the MIT International Review by UCLA Biogeographer Thomas Gillespie, concerning the probable whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. Link to the article here. Gillespie and his team of students postulate that Bin Laden is hiding in one of three buildings in the northwestern Pakistani city of Parachinar.

The researchers based their study on several geographic principles that have been used to chart and predict wildlife distribution.  The first is called distance decay theory, which states that as a person or animal moves away from it's home habitat, the probability of finding a compatible environment decreases exponentially.  

The second principle is known as island biogeographic theory, which states that the subject will find the largest, closest area to fulfill it's needs.  The class used some first class sleuthing techniques to form it's hypothesis, looking for buildings that had electricity to run his dialysis equipment and provide sufficient space for his coterie.  They are confident he is not living in a cave.

I started rereading Clausewitz, Sun Tzu and Mushashi's Book of Five Rings this morning, all pillars of war strategy.  I seem to recall latin revolutionaries hiding out in big cities in the early sixties.  Makes a lot of sense.  Probably much easier to get lost in an urban environment. Interesting to see if their work hits close to the mark.  Maybe he's in Cleveland?

Read the actual study here and an excellent refutation by a Toronto professor who chides them on their lack of perspective regarding the sociological realities of the region.  I was really impressed by their work and hope that you can look at the PDF with it's excellent graphics and well considered science. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hoop Talk

I love basketball. Unfortunately without a television at home I am limited to watching in bars and hotel rooms in order to catch the game. I loved to play when I had knees. Every generation lionizes it's own set of sports heroes. There is a lot of talk about Lebron versus Kobe and how they match up against today's gold standard, Michael Jordan. I think Kobe shares Jordan's killer instinct and probably give him the current edge. But I think the whole comparison is a bit bogus. I think all three are great one on one players and both Kobe and Michael played great defense. But why deify Jordan?

If I had to start a team with a player that made everyone play better I would pick Magic Johnson numero uno. Could play every position on the floor, had the ball on a string and put the show in showtime. Brilliant basketball mind. MJ and Kobe are more like, everyone get out of the way and I will break down the whole opposing team if I have to. Ultimate ball hawks (hogs?) I actually thought that Pat Riley's showtime offense was much more fluid and lyrical than Phil Jackson's triangle, which seems to be slow and contrived at times. Of course, Magic had Wilkes and Worthy on the wing, small forwards that defied description.

If I had to pick the most graceful, beautiful player I ever saw, it would be Doctor J. Aerial ballet - incredibly long and innovative. It is a shame that many of his best years were wasted in the ABA. I cried when he retired. Maravich was another marvel, especially as a ball handler. Dribbling skills seem to have diminished today. I caught Baylor, West and Robertson at the end of their careers but don't put them in the Bird Magic category. The game evolved. Now it's devolved.

And for my money Wilt was the best to ever play the game. I watched him with Thurmond, Lanier, Ray, etc. and he would have made mincemeat of today's big men. Track star, volleyball star, tremendous athlete, his records are beyond compare. 20,000 one night stands for christ sake. 100 points in a game, averaged forty seven once never fouled out. 27 rebounds per game. Field goal percentage of .727. Yeah, Russell's Celtics were better but he had a better cast around him.

I actually think the game has suffered since Bird and Magic and Dominique. Great athletes but poor outside shooting (when's the last time you saw a bank shot?) Little concept of team offense. Some of this might be because of the style of the great Jordan that all these current players copied when they were young. The point guards today are awesome - Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Nash, probably better than any previous class. But the center position is at a nadir. I hope that the Lakers can acquire a first rate point guard soon. Let the purple and gold dynasty begin!

Noble Suffering

The ideal of course, would be to bear my alloted lot with the swagger of a civil war soldier - sure captain, they blew off my legs and arms, but just watch what I can do with this stump...Unfortunately, I am jewish and we tend to want to have the world share in our orgy of pain and suffering.

I had my kidney biopsy yesterday and am awaiting results of the pathology testing. I am back in the catheter saddle and evidently internally bleeding pretty heavily. I tried to work for a few hours and finally said fuck it and went home and took a long nap on the couch, where I now sit with my trusty MacBook Pro.

Leslie was coloring her hair a new shade of purple when I arrived. "Honey what do you think about a shot of the catheter emptying into the toilet?" "Don't you dare, she cried - they still haven't got over the Robert as naked christ picture post heart surgery." Okay, Okay...The reds were just so vivid. You wanna talk verite, baby? But I won't and shant.

Urologist expects the rest of the kidney to come out, irrespective of it's pathogenic merits, since it is apparently blocking normal flow down there. Don't know when. Whatever happens, gonna have to roll with it. My turn to suck. The San Francisco show was another washout and I may be on borrowed time. Too much shit to worry about and the grind of Florida, San Francisco, the economy and my internal breakdowns ending me into a gear crunching free wheel spin. Like many americans right now, especially in large chunks of Ohio and Michigan.

The archetypical dream of the last several decades was the teflon card shark who could always pull out the right hole card at the right time. The new realism and paradigm will be a return to community and caring for others in our very leaky boat. I hope. Since the whole thing has gone to shit in such a ne'erbefore seen magnitude, we should attempt to fix something really big, something that we are on the verge of destroying, like our earth, water and sky. We may never get an opportunity like this again to look at ourselves in the mirror in such a human way. Save me a seat.

Wicked Webs

Bukka White

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


A White House spokesman told Fox News today that the administration had no interest in overturning the Fairness Doctrine in the media.  I think this is a smart move, the right move and also another sign of Obama's adroit political instincts.
Talk Radio is a cesspool of hatred, fake patriotism, mysogony and stupidity.  It caters to the base intelligence of the lowest denominator of humanity as we know it.  I think that it is a good thing keeping these people tuned in to their nasty house organs for as long as possible.  Maybe keep them occupied for a while.
While I see the danger in letting a few companies like Clear Channel and Fox that tend to be very conservative dominate the aural landscape, I have a libertarian problem in the government dictating what people can listen to.  The real problem is that a few companies can own so many stations  in a geographic region and have no real commitment to be fair and objective. 
I personally like to get my news from the print media.  I think that writers do a more thorough, considered and less sensational job.
Talk radio, on the other hand and in my opinion, caters to intellectually lazy people who can easily be goaded by emotionally manipulative issues.  Flag Wavers.  Those that still cannot accept a separation of church and state or evolution or woman's suffrage or unions. Etc., etc.
Although I disagree with Lindsey Graham on a majority of issues, I applaud him for his recent stance on nationalizing the banks. He made the point that if Bank of America is valued at 27 billion and we give them 45 billion, the american citizen deserves an ownership share.  What is so difficult about this?  Bank of America allowed it's new baby Merrill to give 696 people million dollar bonuses out of bailout money.  Our money.  Why do americans thing it's okay  to bail out banks who won't lend but shriek when you actually want to help homeowners or healthcare?
I admire Graham.  I liked him during the Guantanamo brouhaha and don't think he got enough credit for his courageous anti Bush Administration stances.  Some people have said some nasty personal things about him that are not germane. I think he is a very intelligent man. But I disagree with him on most issues. Allan Greenspan sounded much like Graham today.  He said that once every hundred years or so you need to press the reset button.
One of the problems that gets minimized in all the lending talk is how few people can qualify now.  Most people's hands have been scorched.  You can't really blame the banks.  Will the regulators ease up?   I met a client in San Francisco last week who owns a mortgage company who can't qualify. 
 I took a big fall once and had a Chapter 11 reorganization approved and executed - everyone got paid and in seven years I had my credit back.  It was grueling.  I don't really trust people who have never fell on their ass in their life.  The humility index is way up.
Travel buddies Senator John Cornyn and Ponzi pal Allan Stanford are two more reasons to love Texas.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hugo Chavez

Call me a reactionarycapitalistpigtool of the ruling class - I think that the vote of the Venezuelan people to allow Chavez to run indefinitely will be horrible both for the country and region in the long and short run.  Chavez apparently used neighborhood thugs to help gain his victory, as well as the power of his public office, hand picked courts and minions.   Much like Mugabe has done in Zimbabwe.

And like Mugabe, Chavez strategy has been spot on, nationalize everything in sight and redistribute wealth to the poorest people in his country.  Make pariahs of those in the middle and upper classes. Destabilize neighboring countries by funding revolutionary groups like FARC.  Establish relations with shadowy and unsavory middle eastern countries and terrorist groups and start to persecute jewish Venezuelans.

I have talked to several Cuban people lately, both in Cuba and in Fallbrook and some of the tales regarding the reality of life under a dictatorship are sobering and frightening.  As the people of Venezuela will soon discover.

An interesting article with a former leftist turned opposition editor from Venezuela in today's Los Angeles Times.

Mississippi Fred McDowell - Goin Down to the River

Mance Lipscomb - Jack of Spades

cool slide work with a penknife.

Magic Sam

News from the Caliphate

It's been a strange week for Islam. Lot's of news, some of it potentially very scary. The founder of an upstate New York television station aimed at rehabilitating the image of muslims in this country has confessed to beheading his wife.

Muzzammil Hassan was charged with second-degree murder after police found the decapitated body of his wife, Aasiya Hassan, at the Bridges TV station in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, said Andrew Benz, Orchard Park's police chief.

Now, spouse killing has become standard fare in this country, unfortunately, and occurs in a multitude of creeds and skintones. But there is something a bit medieval and extra gory with beheading that trumps lets say a good ol' American overdose of arsenic or a 38 calibre slug to the temple.

Hassan is definitely in deep doo doo but I think if he would just listen up he might be able to get a little leniency. He should hire one of those slick jewish publicity firms in Manhattan to do battle with the Zionist media empire. Fight fire with fire. Play the cultural insensitivity card. Might just work.


On a serious note, Pakistan has just agreed to a truce with the Taliban in the Swat Valley. Many have thought that our whole ire in the mideast has been misplaced and that the focus should have been on Pakistan from the beginning. Their security apparatus started Lashkar e Taiba, the largest and most potent terrorist organization in asia and the group responsible for the recent Mumbai brutality. They allowed Abdul Khan to spread his nuclear technology to North Korea and freed him from house arrest this week. They have allowed the province of Waziristan to become a terrorist hotbed and are probably shielding Osama bin Laden. All financed on billions of American dollars of American aid. Now they are going to play nice with the Taliban and create an official haven with full Sharia law? Read the NYT article here.


Reports today in the New York Times that Pakistani immigrants are facing kidnapping, brutality and threats when they return home from the United States. Link to the article here. How soon before the punitive actions reach our soil?  Word is that one of the Mumbai planners was located in Texas.  The Al Qaida handbook now urges their adherents to start massive forest fires in their adopted countries as a new addition to their bag of tricks.


It's amazing that 12,000 Pakistani government troops could not take on a reported 3,000 taliban in Pakistan. Why do the government troops in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan all seem like fumbling Barney Fifes while their opposition displays such meticulous precision and derring do?


The Taliban are burning down schools that teach females. Honor killing goes on unabated in the Islamic world, including in our country. Often a woman who is raped is stoned to death or killed by her own family. Genital mutilation is the norm for females, the removing of the clitoris assuring that females do not receive any sexual pleasure. Women are not allowed to drive in the most conservative of cultures like Saudi Arabia.

Now a typical feminist will say that the whole system is promulgated by evil men. But the mutilations are all performed by women. In secular Turkey women are demanding the right to wear head scarves. Is it a fair question to ask if they are pure victims in this tragedy or if they have some complicity in perpetuating their own repressive bondage?


Afghan courts have just upheld a twenty year sentence for two men for their crime of translating the Koran without the original arabic verses. Religious scholars had called for their execution so you  see that we don't have the only justice system that is soft on criminals.


In Britain today, eight men go on trial for a 2006 plot to blow up multiple airliners with explosives hidden in soft drinks.  Now I don't think I have to disclose their nationality or religion, do I? With the very occasional exception of the Tamils, ETA and IRA, it seems like you can safely stereotype the offender. Unless it's another horrible Mossad trick, that is.

Israel is of course at the front lines in defending themselves from Islamic fundamentalism.
And they are continually blasted for their attempts to defend themselves from missile attacks and suicide bombers, especially from european intellectuals.  How soon before France, Spain, England and Denmark have their own homegrown war?  Will the tune change?  When will people get the message that religious fanaticism can not be fought by make nice rational western methods.  If they could we could send Drs. Phil and Laura over (might not be a bad idea - if they agree to keep them.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

dream correspondence

I pulled the last blog posting this morning - too depressing. Got the following comment in an anonymous email and thought it deserved posting:

We must ALL re-invent ourselves. Thinking that Obama is a God that will destroy the evil Wall St. and home foreclosure problems is absurd.

People need to find the resources within and coordinate their lives with the reality that the Bush Administration has left us in a terrible mess.

We need to stop eating at chic restaurants and staying at posh hotels. The need for an exciting sports car or Arabian horse needs to be disminished. The outrageous concert ticket prices we can't afford will have to wait.

Our youth needs to grow up and start learning from their teachers and not some XBOX. Our children need to lead by example over a nation of mislead flower children parents who have sold out to material illusions.

Obama might not be the Messiah that the liberals crowned him to be, but he has a pretty solid plan to save our nation from further recession (or more realistically) depression. It will take time, alot more time than most people will require. There will be friends and relatives that go down in this mess and lose all. Prudent advice would be to start being more aware of our insatiable appetite for material things we do not need and cannot afford.

Unfortunately the rewards for a productive society have been kidnapped by the Madoff's, Mozilo's and AIG's. Corporate America stole our inheritance and Wen Jiabao holds the ransom note. Allen Greenspan has raped our children and Bush/Cheney have crippled our veterans. Americans will have to adjust to our unstable economy, and do it very soon.
It will hurt us all. Expect to take a nosedive in class structure. Learn to live with less because there is less to live with.

The Black Widows and vipers will try their best to distort the positive actions of our new President's Administration. The Faux New's and EIB's will poison peoples minds with fear and lies to set their own agendas. The big oil and coal industries will spend millions to stop alternative energy. Expect to see charlatans selling America the same old snake oils that have not worked. They would rather see Americans fail and fall into deeper depression than allow Obama to introduce alternative energy sources, and they have the money to do it[and will]

Unfortunately art, music, and literature will be hit hard. The luxuries we once took for granted will be strangled between a cultural clash between liberal thought and conservative greed.

Asking people to boycott gas stations or turn the thermometer down will never work, however we can turn away from frivolous things we do not need such as prescriptions that do not work,excercise equiptment we meant to use but never did, TV's we do not need and items we can live with out, etc. etc. Pay off your credit card bills before buying some useless reward for boredom. We can do without hanging out in bars. Try sobriety!

It's not the end of the World, nor is it doom and gloom. It is just America waking up from 8 years of dormancy. We need to look at the general health of the retail industry.

My comments are by no way an attack on anyones trip. Simply put, we need to adjust our lifestyles and re-invent ourselves as merchants and as buyers because we are in the mist of economic uncertainty.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Flotsam and Jetsam

When the Russian Cosmos satellite collided with the American Iridium last week, it added nearly 700 pieces of debris to the nearly 20,000 bits of space junk that have been catalogued orbiting our fair planet. The cloud of pestilent scrap is circling the earth in two discernible trails. There is even a wayward tool bag that was launched into space by a fumble fingered astrodame Heidi Stefanyshyn-Piper during her recent spacewalk. Experts are now calling for a system of interstellar garbage traffic control.

Couple our shabby housekeeping record in space with another homo sapien accomplishment of great monument - The Great Pacific Garbage Dump, now roughly twice the area of Texas. This mass of plastic trash is located in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Any time you release one of your rubber duckies in the drink, it will probably eventually waddle into this pile. Plastics have been found to do all sorts of rotten things to mammals, including raising the level of synthetic estrogen - which causes prostate cancer and messes with normal sexualizing. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a common plastic ingredient has been upgraded by the EPA as a likely carcinogen and poly-brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)have been shown to cause memory loss, liver and thyroid toxicity and reproductive problems. Mix this cocktail with BPA and you are sure to wreak havoc with most life forms.

I would hope that some part of our economic stimulus package could help right the world and space of the detritus and damage that we continue to cause. But I fear that we never get the message until it's much too late. Oh well.

Friday, February 13, 2009

John Lee Hooker

Watching the tide roll away...

I'm sitting up here in San Francisco waiting for the doors to open so that I can greet the public. With adoring arms. I am resolved to keep myself from hating humanity for as long as humanly possible. I had several stoned epiphanies last night but only a couple managed to survive my comatose sleep.

I have concerns about my business model. It has never been tested in a depression. I buy and sell to the higher economic strata and hope that my disaster of a Miami Show was a blip and mere aberration and not a harbinger of doom. So much of the business is about attitude and when mine is going south, things can get really ugly. If people are genuine and enthusiastic, I get real nice, real quick. Must stay approachable.

The doctor's office just called and it looks like I am going in for a kidney biopsy next wednesday. Have to find a ride back. Leslie's back has given out and she is in a lot of pain. I don't think she will be able to fly up and drive back with me on Monday. I hope that she feels better soon. She does so much for me and us. I don't think a long car ride will help matters.

I bought a beautiful Curtis Delano watercolor yesterday of Monument Valley as well as a Maria and Popovi vase. Millard has flown up and has been helping me. Went out last night for indonesian food and delicate copenhagen pastries with Dave and Amy and had a great time. We have been getting intermittent rain all week but hopefully it will not hurt the crowds.

One of the epiphanies is how easy I really have it. I have been blessed in so many ways in my life, with great friends, a good head, a thousand breaks, yet I cry at the slightest hang nail. Cassandra. I tilt at windows that are nine steps ahead on the chessboard. That might not and probably will not ever appear. I need to concentrate on process and not fixate on the endgame so much.

I also have been on a kooky self fulfilling bummer regarding my medical issues. When I was young I had a strange notion that my fifty second year was going to be my swan song and since it is fast approaching I have succumbed to some weird ass thinking and fatalism. I was pondering fate last night and a switch flipped over and I said "fuck it, I am going to beat all this medical shit and kick some ass again". At least until the official end of the world that Terrence McKenna said was due in 2012. We are about to get socked with a whole mess of end of the mayan calendar doomsday paranoia, much of it based on some pretty thin foundation.

My merchandise might be too good and too expensive for this venue now. The show has shrunk by a third with many of the older and fringe dealers now gone by the economy and attrition. I thought about bringing all cheap crap but led with my best stuff once again. We will see if it pays off.

Gotta run, gotta be nice.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Americans may be losing their competitive edge with the world economically, but we can definitely match our international brethren in one area - prevarication. We have become a land of first class liars.

Nayda Sulamen says she doesn't receive welfare and then her publicist has to explain that she doesn't really consider food stamps, AFDC, disability and all the other things she's been mooching on a regular basis welfare. Well what exactly is welfare, Nayda? Now we have 14 more wards of the state. Count me in as one who would like to see her Doctor censured and punished.

Alex Rodriguez was on national television a year ago and denied ever using steroids. Now he issues a lame recantation that still charts real high on the bullshit scale. Ditto Miguel Tejada. Listened to a tired justification for their actions by ex players union jefe Marvin Miller yesterday.

I don't know if you can call Tom Daschle's actions lying but he certainly broached a few ethical boundaries. Madoff and a host of other junior ponzi artists have decimated a wide swath of America with their falsehoods.

Who can forget George Bush swearing to prosecute anyone in his administration that had anything to do with leaking the Valerie Plame information? Never saw the big caveat that said - oh, unless it's me or the vice president. Lucky they had Scooter to fall on his sword.  I guess Bill Clinton started the ball rolling when he said that he did not have sex with that woman.  Or was it Ronnie Rayguns when he signed the Boland Amendment prohibiting the Iran Contra aid to the rebels while simultaneously issuing orders to go ahead with the aid. It's no wonder we are such great fibbers when our elected officials set the bar so high.

Ann Coulter is being investigated for voter fraud again, you can't officially live and vote in Connecticut and New York at the same time.

I guess there's only one person an American can really trust - Jose Canseco. The only man left that can still tell the truth.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cheaper to die

I drove the two miles in the rain down the dirt road to my rusty old mailbox today and tore open an envelope from some attorney who says that he's going to sue me for an old medical bill from June.  AMR, the ambulance company (and the largest emergency provider in the nation), contends that I owe them about nine hundred smackers.  Faithful readers will remember that June was the heart attack.  Now I pretty much stay on top of all of my medical bills, and thank god for my insurer, Health Net, who have been wonderful, but something about this one sticks in my craw.

I had a mild heart attack in June and drove myself to Fallbrook Hospital after I gassed up the van.  I was whisked in and checked out in the ER and after confirmation that took about a day, they decided to send me to La Jolla to Scripps so that I could visit the cath lab.  About 40 minutes away.  American Medical Response sent three people for this trip including a nurse and charged me over $4500.00.  And I was fully dressed and conscious and in no way in harms way at this point. My insurer said it was exorbitant and usurious and that they would cover around $3700.00.  Said not to pay - these things get written down.  But it didn't and they are now after my ass. The insurer now throws their hands up in the air.

We need to have medical advocates in this country where patients can go to consult and get the real skinny on how to operate in the legal/medical minefield.  If I would have known the cost of this service, I would have taken a limo and drank Perriet Jouet the whole way down out of my wife's slipper. They don't tell you what things will cost, they just ram it down your throat.   They have a total monopoly in my area and can pretty much charge whatever they want to. I could pay it on principle but I definitely feel hosed by this company.  A company that has been investigated for Medicare fraud (they settled with the Feds in 2002), illegal inducements, civil fraud, violating the False Claims Act and illegally monitoring their own employees amongst other things.  I hope that an anti-trust investigation is also coming down the pike.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Michael Phelps - Boycott Kelloggs!

Michael Phelps has been dropped by Kelloggs like a hot ember from the end of a joint packed with cheap mexican pot.  Kid gets in one wrestling match with the bong and you'd think he'd robbed a bank.

I think the Kelloggs Board of Directors will have more credibility with me if they would all agree to submit to their own individual drug tests for evidence of the evil substance. And no medical excuses please, every fifty year old suffers from arthritis.

Hey, new president, how about an end to the stupid war on pot? Forty years testing and all they've come up with is that it makes you go running for the cheesecake.  Enough.

More Otis Rush

Otis Rush

al green - jesus is waiting

Rob's Sunday Morning Gospel Hour

They threw Daniel 
in the lion's pit
cut off his nuts
and did nasty shit

They trimmed Sampson's mullet and
burned out his eyes
he tore down that temple
with his last forlorn cries

They told old man Abe
to filet his lone son
he lay on that altar
so that the deed could be done

So if you're listening to voices
make sure you hear clear
because those heavenly commands
might be just schizophrenia

my dear

© 2009 Robert Sommers

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bessie Smith - St. Louis Blues

I like to tinker around with old blues songs on my Washburn. I have found that Bessie Smith was the most sophisticated blues composer I have ever encountered. She would use more augmented and complex chords than her peers and her arrangements are really nifty. Wish there was more material available to check out.  This isn't a great example of her work but there ain't much out there.

Bush Cheney Alumni Association

                                    Time to go?

If you are in need of a little levity in your life click on this link to a new website extolling the virtues of the Bush Cheney administration. This site, apparently created by past hirelings of the 43rd Presidency, reads like a cultural revolutionary screed in China glorifying Mao.  Kind of like reading someone's old high school yearbook "Dick, good luck in the summer - drink a lot of your victim's blood."  I tried to read the section entitled "setting the record straight" but it is apparently still under construction so I will have to wait to get the scoop.

I have never seen another past administration in my fifty plus years that was so aggressive and rapacious in trying to justify and redeem their legacy. One would have hoped that Dick Cheney would quietly saunter off to his hardened nuclear silo but he is out there in the flats, still slugging it out for waterboarding and Guantanamo, and hoping and wishin' for a new terrorist attack so that he can prove his mamby pamby critics wrong. Over at Langley, General Michael Hayden says that while one can quibble over whether it was torture or not, you sure can't argue with the results.  Now that's the kind of moral clarity we expect from our leaders.

Bush says that he started his administration with a recession and he ended with one but they had 52 months of job growth that they should get a little credit for.  I seem to remember him starting out with a fat surplus that he insisted go back to the taxpayer and then he outspent every other administration in history but what do I know? Seems like we will be paying his bills for a while.  But that has been the typical m.o. for this gang, deny, deny, equivocate, never take responsibility, never admit any wrongdoing, then scoot out the door like you're wearing a teflon overskin.

I would like to see them talk about the virtues of deregulation again, since it worked so well at the SEC and in the peanut industry.  You know, companies will police themselves.  Ask the folks buried under the coal ash in Tennessee.

Bushites will tell you that they have kept America free the past eight years.  A retired CIA Station Chief said earlier this week that there had been no credible threats against the country the last eight years.  Yet we have bankrupted the nation for this "protection".   I keep going back to the Clarke august memo to Rice telling her to watch out for planes ramming into the World Trade Center. How have they gotten this free pass?

The three part series on Bush accomplishments is riveting.  You can read Karl Rove's essay Bush the book reader, John Kyl's paean to Ballistic missile defense and the always popular, Thomas Donnelly's Lincoln, Churchill, Bush.  And you thought Michael Phelps was hitting the bong hard.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Power Shifting

As a confessed political junkie, I am aware that I am an anachronism and that the vast majority of earthlings do not share my enthusiasm for the body politic. But it interests me, politics being an amalgam of power, influence and conscience. I know that the curse is that you may live in interesting times and we are surely there at present.

I suddenly see a rapid shifting in allegiances that might auger well for America. The President is truly a master politician. I think that this comes from being the first Senator elected in a long run of Governors. He knows how to work the room. Witness his quiet complicity in strengthening Susan Collin's moderate Republicans on the stimulus bill. These Senators, who include Spector, Snowe, Martinez and Voinivich are building a coalition with centrist democrats like Tester, Bayh and Conrad. They are working to cut out non stimulating pork from the present bill. And it looks like it will pass, with their help.

These Republicans have been pariah's in the Republican Party for the last eight years and I appreciate their more sensible outlook than that possessed by their soul mates in the House. Maybe we can get something done in this country after all.


Harry Markapolos made the SEC heads look like a bunch of stooges during the hearings the other day. He tried everything short of a letter bomb to try to get them to take notice of Madoff's racket and they dismissed him for years as a crackpot. Too busy to give him a hearing. Now they claim Executive Privilege and don't want to jeopardize current investigations. Totally non responsive, if just one of them had said, yeah, we really screwed up but instead they looked like castrated bureaucrats playing pass the buck. Hope there is a quick housecleaning. Bravo to Congressmen Gary Ackerman (d) New York for giving them hell.


It didn't take long for that honeymoon to be over - just weeks after a cozy dinner with the President at George Will's Spread, Charles Krauthammer proclaimed today that the Obama magic was over. Darn. That was quick. These guys are out polishing their knives in anticipation of last rites for this presidency but it might be just a tad premature.

More on the presidential wardrobe from Bobby Z.

Is Henry Paulson a liar? Elizabeth Warren on Maddow.

Early Show transcript:

Professor ELIZABETH WARREN (Chair, TARP Congressional oversight Panel): Good morning.

CHEN: Your panel estimates Treasury overpaid by $78 billion. How could they have overpaid so much?

Prof. WARREN: Well, they're trying to push money into banks and the question the oversight panel was asking is, `are you getting an equivalent amount back?' And so that's what this was about. Now there could be lots of policy reasons that Treasury might decide that it wanted this money to be in the banks. But our question is the one we put to Secretary Paulson, and that is, are you putting it in and getting back assets that are worth equivalent value?' He told us yes; our independent investigation said no.

CHEN: So are you saying he was lying?

Prof. WARREN: Well, I'm telling you he told us yes and our independent investigation said no.

CHEN: Can you--I'm sorry, go ahead.

Prof. WARREN: It didn't happen. I'm sorry. It didn't happen.

CHEN: Can you see any reason why Treasury would pay more for investments than they appear to have been worth at the time?

Prof. WARREN: Well, when--under these circumstances, when Treasury pays more, effectively they're subsidizing the banks. It's like giving a gift to the banks in order to help prop the banks up. And so if Treasury wants to subsidize the banks, that may actually be a good policy, it may not be a good policy. The panel doesn't go there. Our real point is, if we're going to subsidize, then we need to call it subsidization and we need to have that good old-fashioned debate about whether that's the right way to spend our money here. You don't get to call it one thing and sell the American people on it by calling it that thing and actually have it be something very different.

CHEN: Let me ask you this. Do you see any grounds for a criminal prosecution here?

Prof. WARREN: No, this isn't about criminal prosecution at this point. This is about how Treasury is conducting its business. It's about how Secretary Paulson said he--that he thought the right way to spend this money is to inject it into banks. We can talk about whether that's the right way to go, but describing it one way, telling the American people one thing about it and doing something very different.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Things that really matter

Andrew Card, a former Bush Chief of Staff, is a bit apoplectic about President Obama appearing in the Oval Office without a jacket. "There should be a dress code of respect” in the White House and that he wished Mr. Obama “would wear a suit coat and tie.”

Card is the first former Bushie to lay into the new leader for his breach of patrician protocol. Mr. Card also reportedly said: “The Oval Office symbolizes…the Constitution, the hopes and dreams, and I’m going to say democracy. And when you have a dress code in the Supreme Court and a dress code on the floor of the Senate, floor of the House, I think it’s appropriate to have an expectation that there will be a dress code that respects the office of the President.”

Pat Buchanan has voiced similar misgivings over Obama's sartorial leanings. "Such things aren't done in the Whte House", he sniffed. I can see the Ivy leaguers seething in their gin and tonics. One couldn't expect those kind of people to live in a civilized manner, could we Muffin?

If these a-holes had spent less time playing Mr. Blackwell, and more time watching Bernie Madoff on their watch, maybe the economy and constitution wouldn't be in such shreds right now. I would rather have a president with his shirt sleeves rolled up, ready to kick ass and take names, than some Yale preppie cowboy turned out in his Brooks Brothers suit, ready to do some hard core anal exploration on the American public. Obama could go au natural for all I care.

These patronizing stuffed shirt republicans, in their faux tortoise horned rims, pastel hued polo shirts, with the khaki pants and gucci loafers sans socks, should all go back to Connecticut and maybe commit hari kari. Your myopia has done enough damage, Emily Posts, go away and leave us alone.

Oh and here's a picture of both Reagan and Bush with their jackets off in the White House. Can't wait for the apology.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

John Hemming Fry

I bought this fairly large mural painted by Indiana artist John Hemming Fry (1860-1946) when I was in Miami.  I am really taken with it. It has a protean mythical quality with great under lighting  and was probably painted  at a time that  predates the WPA.  It came from a collection of 14 similar murals and was arguable one of the two best works.

Don't know a lot about the artist but Davenports shows a painting the exact size selling for 25k many moons ago so maybe it has some value in the marketplace. I know that it gives me a good feeling.  I see that he was a fiend of Royer and Genthe and assembled a major art collection that morphed into a book/catalogue.  Any information regarding this artist would be welcomed.