Girl with magnifier

Friday, October 31, 2014

Who knew?

Who knew that President Obama's greatest wish was for a nuclear Iran, or should I say an Iran a year away from nuclear weapons capability? Obama plays footsie with his new pals, the Iranians, Hamas and Hezbollah. Dangerous times, shortsighted policy, forget everything the presidential prevaricator has ever said about the subject, he gets to finally get his wish and shove it up Bibi's ass during his curtain call.

Of course it's a little tough for our Secretary of State John Kerry to remain objective when his wife Teresa Heinz and her endowment is a longtime Hamas supporter who funds things like Conflict Kitchen the restaurant that proudly only serves food that originates from somewhere in the axis of evil.

Treating our friends like enemies - National Review

If Obama's wish is to plunge a knife into the chest of his biggest supporters and former supporters I think he is doing a truly great job. Wonder what Charles Schumer is thinking right about now?

Things might get a little tough at those posh liberal fundraising parties in Hollywood and New York for the dems.

The long term repercussions of this act of cowardice and appeasement will be enormous. I guess the Iranians have always been so trustworthy, the Prez just had to take a shot. What's the downside?

Vote shaming in Iowa

Think that the person you vote for is nobody else's business? Well, think again.

Thinkprogress has an interesting article - GOP To Iowans: Your Neighbors Will Know If You Don’t Vote Republican

Something in the air

This is the final scene from one of my favorite movies from the 1960's, The Magic Christian. Ringo Starr plays the slightly twisted millionaire Peter Sellers' adopted son in the film. It is worth watching on Netflix although the available version has a poor edit. My favorite scene is the one from the auction house. Very fun movie if you like this sort of stuff.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bim Bim Bap

It is hard to talk about ethnic differences without sounding like a freaking bigot but here goes. I think the first time it happened I was at the local Indian casino waiting for the cashier.

The slightly older Korean woman walked right in front of me in line like I didn't even exist. Not sure if I detected a scowl but it was a quite unpleasant interaction.

On the way back from Texas I was standing in the crappy little breakfast area queu at the Holiday Inn and the same thing happens. The diminutive Korean woman steps right in front of me, or tries to anyway, until she catches my stink eye death stare, at which time she ushers me to move along quickly with her hand. Well, fuck you.

While Japanese people have always seemed unfailingly polite, Koreans are often in my experience quite the opposite, hard, dismissive and rude. At least with my limited exposure to them. Always terrible to generalize but sometimes I think they don't respect or like white people very much.

I was reading Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers recently and Gladwell has a chapter titled "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes." Gladwell has noticed that the Korean aviation industry is frankly a mess, with a very high accident and casualty rate and offers some theories about why that may be.

He introduces the reader to the Power Distance Index, an analysis of the way different cultures treat superiors and subordinates around the world. A dutch social psychologist named Geert Hofstede came up with the concept.
This dimension expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. The fundamental issue here is how a society handles inequalities among people. People in societies exhibiting a large degree of power distance accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. In societies with low power distance, people strive to equalise the distribution of power and demand justification for inequalities of power.
The higher the PDI, the less likely an underling will challenge a superior. Korea happens to rank second in the world in PDI, after Brazil. They are followed by Morocco, Mexico and the Phillipines.

The lowest ranking countries in the deference index, 15 through 20, are the U.S., Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Subordinates aren't afraid to open their mouth amongst the latter group when their betters are off track. According to Gladwell, these rankings correspond pretty well with the accident rate for planes.

Rank is evidently important in Korean society. Gladwell notes that there are no fewer than six forms of conversational address, formal deference, informal deference, blunt, familiar, intimate and plain. From Page 66:
This is a culture in which enormous attention is paid to the relative standing of any two people in a conversation.
The Korean linguist Ho-min Sohn writes:
At a dinner table, a lower-ranking person must wait until a higher-ranking person sits down and starts eating, while the reverse does not hold true; one does not smoke in the presence of a social superior; when drinking with a social superior, the subordinate hides his glass and turns away from the superior;… in greeting a social superior (though not an inferior) a Korean must bow; a Korean must rise when an obvious social superior appears on the scene, and he cannot pass in front of an obvious social superior. All social behavior and actions are conducted in the order of seniority or ranking; as the saying goes, chanmul to wi alay ka issta, there is order even to drinking cold water.
I had dinner recently with a very nice korean american girl in Santa Barbara and I brought the topic up with her, including my anecdotes of rude treatment. Her mother still lives in Korea. 

I was surprised by her reaction when I recounted my story.

"You idiot, it wasn't because you are white that she treated you that way. It is because you were younger than her. In my culture, seniority is everything."

So while I thought that these were women merely being rude, mean and insensitive perhaps it was simply a matter that I was clearly outranked from their cultural perspective. Evidently reverence for the elderly runs very deep in their society.

My friend J gave me a nice lecture about cultural hierarchal relationships in Korea. And I have done a little more research this week to fill in. And I found that the Asian population is not real happy with Gladwell and what might be an instance of sloppy journalism. Gladwell, has a tendency to occasionally play fast and loose with the facts, or show a limited data set, as he did with his hockey chapter in Outliers that doesn't necessarily stand upon inspection.

Here is an excellent blog post that challenges Gladwell, Ask a Korean. The comments have some interesting points for and against the author's theorizing. And other good points here in Asiance Magazine.

In any case I have learned something about Korea. Korea is a Confucian culture. Confucian cultures revolve around five principal relationships. The following list is from the Korea Society;
Confucianism entered Korea from China and was accepted so eagerly and in such strict form that even the Chinese called the Koreans the "ceremonious people of the East." Confucianism dictated that there must be a proper order to all things in the universe, including human society. All persons within a society must know their place and uphold their responsibilities. Confucianism taught that there were five basic relationships to order and guide family and society. They are:
1. Justice and righteousness between sovereign and subject
2. Affection between father and son
3. Etiquette and justice between husband and wife
4. Younger should defer to elder
5. Faith and trust between friends

These hierarchal relationships are termed "relational" in modern Korea. Women are inferior and subordinate to men in the Confucian culture. There is a natural suspicion of strangers. People are seldom called by their first names, except in very intimate and highly proscribed situations. As I said earlier, title and rank are very important in their society, while the United States, Australia and New Zealand have a more egalitarian, populist streak.

I have two friends that both did two years Korean tours in the army, one as a photographer and one in Military Intelligence. One loved the people and the experience the other absolutely hated it and them. Even Koreans will admit that the country has an apparent racist streak. But of course there are rude and racist people in every culture.

I feel better knowing that I was not treated like crap because I am white but merely because I am young and handsome. Another cultural barrier vanishes!

Kang Sehwang (self-portrait), 18th c.
Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator. Confucius

All the news that fits the print

I wanted to thank the many of you that enjoyed my latest literary offering, the continuing stories from the little town of Clarkdale, CA, the at least one time "Pistachio Capitol of the World." As they like to say down at Big Chief High School, "Clarkdale, where our nuts are bigger."

Thanks to those of you who weren't absolutely crazy about it either, really weren't too many of you. I plan on looking a little closer at the little town the native's call "Stumpville" in the months ahead and bring you little snatches of the goings on around the fair berg.

For now the story is off the web, we'll let it incubate for a while and season up some.

Thanks again for checking in!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Final Dissolution

Interesting article over at Atlantic regarding Israeli and United States diplomatic relations being at their absolute nadir. Last week the American's foreign policy staff refused to meet with the Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya'alon and his counterparts, still sore for comments about Kerry's "messianic" attitude.

Obama is said to be trying to force a nuclear deal through with the Iranian mullah's, Israel be damned, and he plans on circumventing Congress to do it. A congress, by the way, that imposed the most stringent sanctions ever placed on Iran in 2010, by a 99 to 0 vote. Google John Kerry and Hamas and see what kind of cover and love he is providing his new bff. Kerry, of course, blames Israel for the rise of the Islamic State group.

 An anonymous senior administration source thinks that Netanyahu is a, well, "chickenshit."
“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”
I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. This official agreed that Netanyahu is a “chickenshit” on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. “It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”
While I appreciate the Israeli Prime Minister's penchant for duplicity and intransigence, especially on the settlement and "two state" issues, I think that the current state of relations is both scary and a harbinger of a deeper problem with the Obama administration. They are either not thinking clearly or they simply don't care.  And they obviously think that they can play nice with Iran, clearly the largest sponsor of state supported terrorism in the world.
Inside America’s intelligence agencies, the biggest concern is that Iran, concluding that its existing facilities are under too much scrutiny, would once again turn to covert means to obtain nuclear technology — buying it from the North Koreans, or building it in one of hundreds of tunnels.“We have not seen much lately,” a senior intelligence official said. “But over the past 10 years, we’ve uncovered three covert programs in Iran, and there’s no reason to think there’s not a fourth out there.”
From Jerusalem Post:
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett quickly came to Netanyahu's defense, issuing a statement saying that the prime minister of Israel is not a private person, and that cursing him is "an insult not just to him but to the millions of Israeli citizens and Jews across the globe."
"The leader of Syria who slaughtered 150,000 people was not awarded the name 'chickenshit'," he wrote. "Neither was the leader of Saudi Arabia who stones women and homosexuals or the leader of Iran who murders freedom protesters. If what appears in the press is true, then it seems that the current US administration is throwing Israel under the bus."
Bennett called on the US administration to "immediately reject these gross comments."
With double dealing friends like Barack Obama, the Israelis have every right to guard their flank. And I wouldn't tempt Bibi. It might not work out exactly like you had planned. Barack Obama may be naive enough to trust the Iranians, the Israelis are not, nor should they. This guy crowing about backing the Israelis into a corner is obviously an asshole, proving the doubts that many had regarding the sincerity of this administration.

The Iranian problem is somewhat academic for the constitutional scholar from Chicago. It is a grave existential matter for the Israelis, who the Iranians have repeatedly pledged to annihilate. I think that we should take the Iranians at their word.

It makes me think of the old saying about commitment being like bacon and eggs. The chicken is committed but the pig is all in.

Israel is all in. Remember Never again? You want to dare them into turning Tehran into a parking lot?

An excellent article by David Horovitz on the state of the United States, Israel relationship, Obama and Netanyahu: A fractured alliance becomes open conflict.

Is the U.S. tipping off Iran and Hamas?

Junkie Doll

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Of course we're listening...

Barack Obama. What a freaking disaster of a President. Talk about a squandered opportunity. Loathed by both his political opponents and many in his own party, democratic candidates are understandably running from him in these midterm elections like he's got a radioactive ebola bug.

It is a shame really. As a liberal, center left kind of guy, I was transfixed by his initial message. He swept into office with all sorts of platitudes regarding his grand vision and soon to be "transformative" presidency.

Yet he turned out to be, in the final analysis, more of a junior accounting clerk from the pool than any kind of game changer. With a political clumsiness and cold manner that turned off friend and foe alike, he exhibits a tone deafness and alienated narcissism that hearkens back to the bad old days of the Carter administration. Plus he was always a bit too eager to compromise with those that would do him in.

Last week reports surfaced that he was preparing to sign on to a Bush administration legal strategy on torture that he himself had ran against and attacked during his candidacy. This on the heels of his Justice Department covering for Brennan and CIA abuses, it makes one think somebody's got some nasty pictures of somebody somewhere.

I'm not going to give you a laundry list. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time you can figure it out. I mailed my ballot out today, pretty much a straight democratic ticket.

Because in the final analysis the real battle is the judiciary, from SCOTUS on down and I find the pernicious views of the tea bagging sharia types more dangerous to our country in the long run than anything ISIS could ever dream of. I am also an environmentalist. I believe in the EPA, FDA, CDC, all sorts of acronyms. Would be scared of life without them.

Face it, this president really sucks. I give him some credit for helping right the disastrous economy that he inherited. But he clearly let the big banks bugger him. And he has managed to alienate many of our allies with his magically disappearing red lines. And he has been a fraud on civil liberties. Conservatives were correct, Fast and furious was a total fiasco. If not conceptually malicious, it showed total ineptitude and incompetence. But hey,on the bright side, nobody in his cabinet has ever been indicted.

I fear the next two years are going to be the lamest of ducks, especially with a GOP Senate. And if there is a GOP senate forget about ever seeing that long awaited CIA torture report. That thing will be buried and off the table before you can say Abu Graib.


It is fascinating to me how many Americans will freely cede their constitutionally granted liberty and rights. I have been reading a bit about the new stingray programs. I believe that Snowden said that these extra judicial, warrantless surveillance operations might be the biggest privacy threat we Americans face today.

I understand that over 18 states have signed on to the Stingray program, and at least 43 police departments. Last month, the FBI, in accordance with a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed a letter from the bureau to a police chief in Tacoma, Washington, stating that the Federal Communications Commission authorizes the sale of Stingray equipment only if municipal departments agree to sign an FBI “non-disclosure agreement.” This was all started by Obama's boy over at Justice, James Comey. Here is the heavily redacted letter.

Police are also apparently instructed to lie about where they found evidence that originates with Stingray.
Earlier this year, the ACLU of Florida said it obtained a set of internal police emails in which a Sarasota Police Department sergeant wrote that his agency concealed the use of cell-site simulators at the request of the U.S. Marshals Service.
The sergeant wrote that, in reports and depositions, instead of revealing that simulators were used to gain information, officers said they “received information from a confidential source regarding the location of the suspect.”
Civil liberties advocates say the secrecy puts criminal defendants at a disadvantage. They have no chance to challenge the use of cell-site simulators without knowing whether they were used in their cases, they say.
In response to the Observer’s records request, Charlotte officials sent a sworn statement dated April 11, 2014, from Bradley Morrison, chief for the FBI’s tracking technology unit in Quantico, Va.
The FBI believes information about cell-site simulators is legally exempt from discovery, Morrison said. The details are shielded from public view because the technology is tied to national security, he said.
That is a specious linkage. It is exempt because the technology happens to be used for completely unrelated national security matters. What a crock of shit.

Stingray works by setting up a system that mimics a cell phone tower and sucks data. Everybody's data. There is a large brouhaha bubbling over in Charlotte/Mecklenburg, North Carolina over Stingray and its implications.

The Charlotte City Manager says the system doesn't grab innocent people's information. Now that's a neat trick. A City Councilman says that if you keep your nose clean you shouldn't have a problem. Why am I not reassured? Isn't innocence something determined in a court of law?

It will be interesting to see how the lawsuits concerning this type of bulk surveillance will shake out. The Supreme Court found unanimously in June that such searches were illegal. The justices ruled 9-0 that warrantless searches of cellphones violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bars unreasonable searches and requires police after an arrest to obtain court approval before examining data on a suspect’s cellphone. A North Carolina law blog breaks the issue down.

Call me old fashioned, call me, god forbid, an originalist. I just don't happen to think that just because law enforcement gets itself a bunch of fancy new toys that it's suddenly okay to wipe their ass with our constitution. These legal safeguards and protections were not offered and granted to be bargained away or revoked when the government decides that they are no longer convenient.

"A surprising number of government committees will make important decisions on fundamental matters with less attention than each individual would give to buying a suit." Herman Kahn

Have you seen the starlight on the rails?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Coming soon to a country near you!


Former Reagan aide Douglas Mackinnon thinks that the time is ripe for a secession, southerners and conservatives should create a traditional values country where gays and "libruls" are not allowed. And the new country shall be called "Reagan." He said that secession had been tried once before but was illegally stopped by a bunch of no good northerners.
"...the South had “seceded legally” and “peacefully” during the Civil War, but greedy Northerners like President Lincoln “waged an illegal war that was in fact not declared against the South after the South basically did what we’re talking about in this book now in terms of peacefully, legally and constitutionally leaving the union.” 
Good luck on that, Douglas. But if you don't take Texas too, we got no deal.

Closet Cases

If you want a few laughs these days, all you have to do is check in on those wacky folks over in the House of Representatives!

Rep. Louie Gohmert thinks that the gays in the military thing won't work because those people are getting massages all the time. Redecorating the barracks and listening to Gloria Estefan.
I’ve had people say, “Hey, you know, there’s nothing wrong with gays in the military. Look at the Greeks.” Well, you know, they did have people come along who they loved that was the same sex and would give them massages before they went into battle. But you know what, it’s a different kind of fighting, it’s a different kind of war and if you’re sitting around getting massages all day ready to go into the big, planned battle, then you’re not going to last very long. It’s guerrilla fighting. You are going to be ultimately vulnerable to terrorism and, you know, if that’s what you start doing in the military like the Greeks did, as people have said, “Louie, you have got to understand, you don’t even know your history.” Oh, yes, I do. I know exactly. It’s not a good idea.

Rep. Steve King says he doesn't expect to meet any gays in heaven.

“I would say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and we need to stick to that principle,” King said in an interview with The Jefferson Herald.

Well perhaps it's because you're not going to heaven, Steve. Ever think of that? I speak for many of us, I am sure, in saying that we would sooner be in hell than living anywhere close to you anyway. Perhaps you could explain why the sheep have such a look of terror on their cute wooly faces when you approach them on your farm?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Soft jazz, soft spine

The Lenny Bruce way to stand up to the man award goes to one Kenny G.

The soporific lite jazz piper flashed the victory sign to the protesters demonstrating in Hong Kong the other day - only to retract his support when he started to get a little heat from Beijing.

What a big pussy! Kenny deleted the selfie he took in front of the protesters and did his best to cover his tracks. The Atlantic furnishes an interview with the sniveling sax player.

The mainland government had said that Kenny was participating in illegal activity.
His retort:  "I am not supporting the demonstrators." "I was not trying to defy government orders with my last post," he wrote on Twitter. "I don't really know anything about the situation and my impromptu visit to the site was just part of an innocent walk around Hong Kong."
The locals weren't exactly thrilled with his act.
"My personal opinion, he is a coward. He doesn't want to be the enemy of the Chinese government, because that's where he's going to make big money." An anonymous Hong Kong merchant
Way to stand up for liberty, Kenny Gorelickspittle! I know, I know, you are just a sax player.

Sinner Man

Fascist Cheek

A Swiss company is apparently in a bit of hot water for selling coffee creamers emblazoned with the likenesses of der fuhrer and Mussolini.

On Wednesday, the Swiss retailer Migros apologized for what officials called a string of errors that put coffee cream with the faces of the leader of Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler and the Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini in cafes in the Alpine country. Migros officials promised that the company would withdraw the small pots of cream from cafes.
Migros announced on Wednesday that it would no longer do business with Karo-Versand, the company that made the packaging. The manager responsible for the swell likenesses of Hitler is unapologetic. Karo-Versand Managing Director Peter Wälchli says that, "There is no problem with the picture."

“Of course what happened under Hitler was bad,” Wälchli told the Swiss News Agency. But he said it shouldn’t make a difference whether he appears in a film or on a creamer lid.

5 out of 7 brutal dictators prefer...© Robert Sommers 2014

Three month old future occupier summarily dispatched by blessed martyr

Family of Abd al-Rahman al-Shaludi

I don't want to beat this thing to death. Many of you are understandably sick of politics and the "jew" thing. But I did want to offer that the religion of peace has been pretty busy this week, with two killings in Canada and one more in Jerusalem.

Palestinians are angry because among other things their brethren are selling property to jews in Jerusalem and because jews are praying at the temple mount, which happens to be the holiest place in the jewish religion.

So twenty year old Palestinian Abd al-Rahman al-Shaludi waited for a train to stop yesterday and then plowed his car into a crowd of people at high speed, killing a three month old American child and injuring seven others.

I first learned of the incident from a BBC story. But what I found interesting was that they used the term terror attack in quotation marks. Which is sort of understandable because Britain has a large muslim population that it doesn't want to see offended and can you really believe anything the jews say anyway? This is pretty standard stuff for the BBC. The Israelis are always the victimizers in their narrative.

Notice that a human being didn't cause the attack, a car caused the attack. Maybe just an errant vehicle that got away. I was tooling around the net and found that someone else shared my curiosity at the headlines. Read this interesting article at honest reporting that fleshes the headline bias issue out pretty well.

The alleged perpetrator had been recently released from 14 months in prison. He was the nephew  of senior Hamas bombmaker Mohyi Al Din Sharif, who was killed in 1998. Israelis said that al-shahudi was a Hamas member himself.

A Hamas spokesman praised the killing as “a daring operation” and a “natural response to the crimes of the occupation against our people and our holy places”.

" The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree." Hamas Charter
A friend, who I like very much, told me yesterday that Israelis should be nicer to the Palestinians. Agreed. But I think that it is hard for people who have never visited or lived in Israel to understand what really happens there. Or understands that there is a huge Israeli Arab population that lives and works in relative harmony with the jewish population. And holds elected office.

I am not a Likudnik. I think that Netanyahu is a duplicitous bastard. But I also understand that every time there is a killing like this one, more and more Israelis slide to the right. It is awful hard to parley with a party whose charter calls for your extermination. Who are tunneling under your borders and firing rockets at you, no matter how inaccurate they may be. People get tired of that shit.

I have never met a single Israeli who did not desire peace. But practically every time the Israelis open up a border crossing to relieve pressure on the occupied there is an inevitable "incident" where the Israelis get shot at and killed. They get tired of being targets.
"It is easy for those of us who do not live under the tyranny of the occupation to condemn the military wing of Hamas for using randomly fired rockets that might cause civilian casualties in neighboring Israel, and I do unreservedly condemn it. Having said that, an occupied population has the legal right to resist the military of the occupier." Roger Waters
Israel is a fact of life, to the consternation of many, a thorn in the side of a native population that would like nothing more than see it cease to exist.  As human beings, our first directive is self preservation, Israelis included. After all, it takes two honest players to forge an agreement. Can Abbas be trusted? Consider the words of his own close confidante, Ihab Al Ghussein:
"You know what Mahmoud Abbas says behind closed doors?? He says: 'Guys, let me [continue] saying what I say to the media. Those words are meant for the Americans and the occupation (i.e., Israel), not for you [Hamas]. What's important is what we agree on among ourselves. In other words, when I go out [publicly] and say that the [PA] government is my [Abbas'] government and it recognizes 'Israel' and so on, fine - these words are meant to trick the Americans. But we agree that the government has nothing to do with politics (i.e., foreign relations). The same thing happened in 2006, he [Abbas] said: 'Don't harp on everything I tell the media, forget about the statements in the media.'
Come on [Abbas]!
The problem really isn't with him [Abbas], the problem is with whoever believes him. Ha, Ha, Ha! (I really do want real reconciliation, meaning partnership and achieving unity, but not reconciliation as Abbas means it)."
[Ihab Al-Ghussein's Facebook page, June 8, 2014]
 As I have often said, we desperately need a two state solution. With a legitimate contiguous state for the Palestinians, with adequate water, a place they can be proud of and a place that they can be free to institute whatever sharia they want on their side of the wall. But they can't have the whole falafel. They have to put the weapons down. The price has been paid for with too much blood already.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Censorship and the blame game

Douglas Preserve Sunset © Robert Sommers 2014
I haven't felt real sociable of late, engaging in a bit of self pity, wound licking and mostly enjoying my own sorry company. The last two shows weren't real terrific. Palm Springs was a lot better than Santa Barbara, a very expensive place to stay with surprisingly lousy food. I have killed there many times before but we all have our day. Even the millionaires are complaining that they are broke. Rocky times.

I fell asleep four or five times on the way home the night before last, arriving just after midnight. It was pretty brutal. At one time I actually turned my lights off on the freeway for a second, don't ask me why, a major synaptic fail and what the fuck moment. My sudden brain melt probably gave me enough energy to make it home in one piece.

Still fighting the cold too.

If you aren't really feeling into people, sometimes books are the next best thing. I read a good one yesterday, Obscene in the Extreme, The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. The book was written by Rick Wartzman, who wrote another book that I want to read, The King of California.

This book starts its mission by acquainting the reader with the nuts and bolts of the Bakersfield banning of the Grapes of Wrath. But it does so much more.

It fills in a lot of the history of the titanic battle between big agribusiness and a migratory labor force that they bought on the cheap. The huge growing concern, Associated Farmers, the goliath in this play, had law enforcement and the cities in their hip pocket and they ruled with an iron fist, even enlisting the KKK on occasion. Anyone that championed the rights of the poor or the worker or who tried to unionize was immediately branded a communist and dealt with harshly and in some cases terminally.

There were a mess of shootings and tear gassings by the growers and their proxies that people have now basically forgotten. Oklahoma dust bowl refugees were treated like blacks in the south.

I drive the Highway 99 a lot. This book brings the little company worker towns like Arvin, Shafter and Weedpatch into a different light. Highly recommended.

Klinghoffer- photographer unknown
I have been a bit transfixed with the controversy surrounding the staging of the John Adams' Opera The Death of Klinghoffer at the Met.

I wrote several letters to the New York Times in reaction to this article but they unfortunately didn't make it past the censor.

If you are not aware, Leon Klinghoffer was the elderly gentleman, an american jew, who was shot in the head and chest, then pushed off the Achille Lauro into the sea by the Palestinian Liberation Front in 1985, in his wheelchair.

I have not seen the now 23 year old opera but it has inflamed passions with its apparent mission to rehumanize the terrorists so that we can better understand their grievances and actions.

The woman who wrote the libretto, Alice Goodman, feels a bit persecuted by the reaction to her work and claims she hasn't been able to get a job in decades since, ostensibly because of the power of that big jewish lobby that we hear so much about.

By the way, Alice was raised jewish but is now an anglican deacon or vicar. She shares the zeal of the newly converted with Bob Novak, Bobby Fischer and Mendelssohn, the hebrews evidently making her life totally miserable.

Just to be on record, I do not favor censorship of any kind. People have a right to view the piece and to peacefully protest the piece as well. What bothers me is the question of moral equivalence and the tendency of blaming the victim.

Many of the comments to this article showed a deep bigotry in regards to a certain population. Two of the comments in the Times caused me to raise an eyebrow.

Shaun says murder of Klinghoffer was terrible but the murder of thousands of Palestinians was correspondingly worse. Tough luck, Leon. You're not going to escape responsibility for this one.

Rubout thinks that the old man probably had it coming for opening his mouth and his purported abrasive personality. You just don't do that around terrorists. You know how they act out. Blame the 69 year old man.

I find Alice Goodman's opinions and musings most disturbing. This is a two year old interview with the Guardian. Interesting read.
"...But her libretto gave voice to his murderers' motives. "Yes. It was suggested that I was making excuses for murder." Which she wasn't? "No, I don't think there's any excuse. All the hostages had been moved on to the top of a covered swimming pool. Mr Klinghoffer's wheelchair would not go up there. He was shot below decks and his body thrown into the sea. I think in many ways he was killed as a wheelchair user more than anything else."
So Klinghoffer didn't die because he was a loudmouth jew or worse, zionist, he was merely an invalid and therefore inconvenient. Interesting. You exhibit an astounding sense of empathy there, vicar.

There was another telling interview with Goodman in 2005 in the Los Angeles Times.
"The important thing for me," she has said, "was to make everyone human. That doesn't mean abdicating moral responsibility or even abdicating judgment, but it did mean not putting a finger on the scales."
I have two immediate reactions. One is that this is an all too common liberal indulgence these days, everybody is human, everyone has good reasons for their perfidy, no matter how heinous their crime.

But it would be interesting to substitute Osama Bin Laden, Charles Manson, the killers of Matthew Shephard for the killers of Klinghoffer in this passion play and imagine the hue and outcry that would arise. Tell me, why did Klinghoffer have to die for our sins again?

It is fashionable, especially in enlightened liberal circles, to excoriate you know who, those genocidal jews. Everybody is responsible for the barbarity of the victimizer, there is no act so heinous that it can not be justified. It is like a visit to Strasberg or Stanislavsky, what exactly is their motivation? Because all humans are, of course, equally guilty.

But Goodman does in fact tip the scales. Here is a recent tweet of hers:

She is obviously free to despise Israel, jews, her parents or herself, or frankly anybody else she wants to. But she should not pretend that she is a neutral party. I am also free to find her and her ilk despicable and detestable.

I think that I should also note that I do not know of a single jew that thinks he or she is perfect, infallible or incapable of being just as big an s.o.b. as anyone else in this world. You don't need to spend so much time pointing it out. We get it.

unaltered version
The Danes have a new way of dealing with returning terrorists, they are making them feel comfortable.
"... in Denmark, a country that has spawned more foreign fighters per capita than almost anywhere else, the port city of Aarhus is taking a novel approach by rolling out a welcome mat. In Denmark, not one returned fighter has been locked up. Instead, taking the view that discrimination at home is as criminal as Islamic State recruiting, officials here are providing free psychological counseling while finding returnees jobs and spots in schools and universities. Officials credit a new effort to reach out to a radical mosque with stanching the flow of recruits."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Racer X breaks the G barrier outrunning the dreaded ebola ravaged bats of Hyperion

© Robert Sommers 2014

Wide berth

Angelfood McSpade - Snatch Sampler © Robert Crumb 2014
I haven't watched the whole vid but the "era of big booty" headline cracked me up this morning.

The white man put them on ships, kept them in chains, stole their jazz and blues, and now they wants to steal deyz big asses too. Lawdy.

No End

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tesla S

A man from Tesla brought an S model to the Calm Antique Show in Santa Barbara. He let me sit in it and check it out and I am here to tell you it is pretty sweet. Missing something though, an engine.

The Tesla man said this car will top out at a governed speed of 134 mph, much slower than the newest car model, the recently rolled out P85D, which is supposedly the fastest thing on wheels.

I liked the way the flush door handles popped out. The interior was very nice and it felt good sitting in the front seat.

This car will set you back a cool 120k. Lots of room for luggage too.

The car I sat in was the performance model. Receives a half charge in 20 minutes. About 10 hours to fully charge. 416 hp. 0 to 60 in 4.6 although that probably understates the car's performance. It has a near instantaneous top speed and no transmission.

Due to its advanced regenerative braking system, the brake is almost nonessential, braking being accomplished through the accelerator pedal.

I know that money can't buy happiness but if I ever get the chance to rent it a while, I might spring for one of these. And hint, hint, my birthday is coming up.

King Harvest will surely come

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Strange days are calling.

It has been over 30 years since I stayed at a Motel 6. I swore them off after an ill fated incident in Albuquerque. I had been accepted to architecture school at UNM and took my ex out there to check it out. She said the climate was too dry and ixnayed the whole deal. Should have let her go back home by herself, would have saved myself a lot of grief in the long run but we just never know how these things will turn out.

Anyway it was a horrific hotel. The mattress was covered in blood. Lots of blood. No other rooms, nothing else around. Blood on the floor, too. We dragged the mattress onto the floor , place felt haunted, maybe a suicide, maybe a murder, very bad juju. Lots of other problems. Ended up trying to sleep on towels. Night from hell. Couldn't sleep - got our asses out of there at first light. Promised myself I would never stay there again.


Cam decided not to do this show in Santa Barbara with me so I didn't grab our normal room. The only thing under a hundred bucks was Motel 6. I took a big gulp and booked it on Hotels.com.

Hotel is very strange. I hesitate to call it spartan for fear of insulting the greeks. But it is obviously not your parents Motel 6. Feel a bit like a rodent in a lab experiment. This is sort of the stripped down Yugo of the hotel world. Who knew?

Turns out that they had a big image remodel a few years ago, hired the prestigious London firm Priestmangoode to give the place a makeover. Definite european feel, like a dump I once stayed at in Spain. They tore out the carpeting, added bamboo flooring, ditched the floral comforter. No pictures on the wall. Brought it up to date, albeit to a time I don't exactly recognize and might feel slightly queasy living in...

It is really like Malthusian worker housing, sort of like my room at the kibbutz only with hot water. No amenities, no drawers, no kleenex, no shampoo, no tub. No clock. No free wifi. No maid today either, at least when I arrived at 4. When she finally showed up later in the evening I told her to come back tomorrow. Mirror shelf falling off the wall. Hey, it's a motel 6 - supposed to be a shithole, part of the charm.

There are a lot of construction workers staying at this one, cheapest rest around, a mexican guy was complaining of being discriminated against for one reason or another when I checked in. I inquired about the thickness of the towels and they handed me some decent ones. Television is okay.

There is a cabinet under the tv with a hanger rod and Gideon's bible perched on the bottom. wired for a bunch of connections I don't recognize. A side table and a minimal desk. Nowhere to put dirty clothes, no closet, broken thermostat. And this one is supposed to be $199 a night according to the sticker on the bathroom door.

Supposedly the sheets have a higher thread count, I couldn't tell. Bed isn't very comfortable, definitely ain't the Westin. Trendy rust and pumpkin color scheme. Not bad, but a little strange. Must buy shampoo tomorrow.

Slowly but surely

In 1976 Jerry Garcia invited a down on his luck James Booker to San Francisco to play a few dates with his band. This is a rehearsal. Rest of the band were John Kahn and Ron Tutt. Great musicians, still feeling each other out, or sniffing each other's butts as musician friend Dave B. calls it.

All going to shit department...

It hasn't been a great couple weeks. ISIS, Ebola, stock market dumping, seems like everything is going to shit. Personally I have been working my ass off, Palm Springs last week, Santa Barbara this week, my immune system has taken a serious hit and I have been suffering a terrible cold. Sixteen tons what do you get...

Today I read that the mosquito that carries yellow fever has been found in Southern California, hantavirus has been located in deer mice in Fallbrook, a hurricane is bearing down on the big island, and clowns are outraged over a new movie that is going to further stoke the fires of coulraphobia.


I have been having serious irrigation problems on my old ranch, after 40 years plus, stuff is breaking down. I was at Grangetto the other morning buying a gate valve when a guy was yammering about Obama bringing Ebola to this country because he has a vendetta against Texas. Brilliant strategy, Barack.

Seriously there was quite a disconnect this week. The same time Obama was mouthing that protocols were in place, the Texas nursing group was saying that there were in fact no protocols whatsoever and that it took three days to even get hazmat suits.

Of course the Texans have apologized. Not to hard to imagine Ebola starting to really work the exponential algorithm, start knocking people out like dominos. It's of course a different story when it starts killing white people. Then it is serious business. But if there were 100 people on the plane...Reminds me of a science fiction story I read once where a guy infected money with a toxin that ended up killing everybody. Greedy bastards couldn't keep their hands off it.

Anyhow thinking about Texas made me think back to my recent trip through there, all of the pollution present in a place where any government regulation is hated and resisted and "bidness" is everything. Remember the fertilizer explosion in West, Texas? Think anything has changed?

I was thinking about this stuff because the Senate candidate from Iowa, Joni Ernst has been spouting off on all of the government agencies she wants to kill if elected. First the EPA.
“I do believe our states know best how to protect their natural resources,” the state senator said. “I believe this can be done at the state level, rather than at a national level with the federal EPA.”
I wrote last year about the problems with this local approach to environmental problems, specifically the problems in North Dakota where businesses are spilling oil like crazy or dumping radioactive waste in landfills. It is the wild west out there. Maybe a state like California could take care of its pollution problems but you think it will fly in Alaska, Wyoming or Mississippi?  Money always wins. Look what happened in North Carolina last year  with the coal ash. Ms. Ernst approach is a recipe for disaster.

And not content to kill the environment, she wants to do away with the Department of Education, the Clean Water Act and the IRS as well. Looks like she might win too.

The Justice Department is fighting the release of video showing the force feeding of Guantanamo prisoners that a judge has granted permission to be released. Methinks it is going to look a hell of a lot like torture and this administration, ever conscious of optics and perception, would rather not deal with the expected blowback.

Same administration that did nothing when CIA operative Jose Rodriguez illegally burned the torture tapes and covered agency tracks. What a bunch of mealy mouthed pussies. If we are going to engage in this type of behavior let's all see what we are doing in the light of day. Maybe then we will all buy in.

Name Game

There's been a lot of back and forth on the propriety of names of sports teams lately, obviously the Washington Redskins moniker causing the greatest consternation. I have heard all the arguments and could give you for and agin on both sides of the issue quite easily but think that after a bit of thought, I have to come down on the sides of the offended indigenous folks on this one.

There are various theories about when the term redskin actually came into being but it is indisputable that it was found in print at least as far back as 1813.
The earliest known appearance of the term in print occurred on October 9, 1813 in an article quoting a letter dated August 27, 1813 from a "gentleman at St. Louis" concerning an expedition being formed and to be led by Gen. Benjamin Howard to "route the savages from the Illinois and Mississippi territories." "The expedition will be 40 days out, and there is no doubt but we shall have to contend with powerful hordes of red skins, as our frontiers have been lined with them last summer, and have had frequent skirmishes with our regulars and rangers.
Some have made the claim that the term arose out of a bounty for native scalps. In any case, true or not, it was most often used historically as a slur.

I realize that at least three native american sports teams have adopted the sobriquet. No matter, many native americans are offended and I think that we should be more sensitive to their feelings than the wounded umbrage of fans of the Washington football team.

I think that you only need imagine someone invoking the Brooklyn Kikes or the Harlem Niggers teams to get a feeling for the impropriety of the name.


Having said that I think that we can take this mascot stuff way too far. Recently a group of San Diego State (the institution where I got my credential) students petitioned to do away with the Aztecs name and mascot.

A group called the San Diego State University Queer People of Color Collective has filed a resolution asking the student body to end its association with the term "Aztecs" as it mounts to racism and inappropriateness.

Come again? What is racist about invoking a name of a tribe of warriors? Why do we not hear similar outcries from angry groups of Spartans, Trojans or Fighting Irish? The latter definitely invokes bad stereotypes, the irish being known as drinkers and fighters. Nobody seems to have a problem with the Louisiana - Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns. Does it invoke the misimpression that cajun americans have anger issues?

What are we going to be left with, just animal names, or is Peta going to go after the Panthers, Lions and Bears too? Talk about ridiculous political correctness gone awry. From the resolution:
WHEREAS, the continued use of the name “Aztec” and the “Aztec Warrior” mascot perpetuate harmful
stereotypes of Native Americans, including the notion that Native Americans are innately violent,
dangerous, and “savage” which is demonstrated by the Aztec Warrior’s aggressive body language, the
Aztec Warrior’s use of a spear at special events, the use of a spear on the SDSU Athletics Logo which is
printed on uniforms and SDSU memorabilia, and the slogan “fear the spear...
The spear apparently really bothers the collective as they have also inserted this language:
5. Weapons Ban (The mascot will not be allowed to use, hold or operate anything resembling a man-made weapon)
What a load of crap. By the way, the University adopted the Aztecs as their mascot in 1925 and the Montezuma figure made his appearance in 1941.  The mascot enjoys a 95% popularity rating on the campus, engenders widespread support and pride amongst a large latino population and the sports arena received major sponsorship from the local Viejas Band of Mission Indians.

So what is my point and am I drawing too thin a line? My point is that adopting a name of a tribe of warriors, be they greek, native american or from who knows where is cool, invoking a name that has been used colloquially to degrade a people is not.

U. C. Santa Cruz Banana Slug