Rapt attention

Friday, July 31, 2015

Lagrimas de Telma - Concierto de Marimbas en Xetulul


Tom Pecore and I had lunch today at a new place, or at least new to me, Aydee's Restaurant. Aydee's is a Garnacheria, a type of Guatemalan restaurant. I have lived here for over thirty five years, we have a huge Guatemalan community but I have never eaten their food before. Mexican, Peruvian, Salvadoran, Colombian, but never this particular ethnic cuisine. That is Tom above, in the Ronda Rousey t-shirt.

Aydee's is located next to Mohammed's liquor store on Mission in Fallbrook. 110 E. Mission. The location has been frequented by so many mexican restaurants we have all lost count, mostly really bad. This is good. Not fancy, but good.

I first came into contact with their food, well, the smell of their food anyway, at a drinking with Jesus event at the brewery. I wasn't trading shots with the almighty, I was there to see Dave and Robin. I noticed that the food smelled really good. I must confess that I don't know what a Garnecheria is, can't find an online translation. Near as I can tell it is a place that serves garnachas, a guatemalan staple.

Tom isn't really a foodie, he is one of those strange characters who eats to live rather than lives to eat. Poor guy, but I guess it takes all kinds. Sort of wasted on him but he didn't grumble too much.

We showed up and I tried to figure out what was new and different. There was a lot of neat stuff to sample, different than what I am accustomed to. They had pupusas, guatemalan tamales, posole, tripe, weekend there is fresh menudo with hand made tortillas, a lot of food that sounded darn good. A sign on the wall suggested that a little religion just might wash away your sins. We didn't get that far today.

Instead we ordered a plate of garnachas, small little special crisp tostadas with meat, lettuce and cheese, a Guatemalan staple, sopes with pork, a head taco (cabeza, not the brain but the beef around the head) and the aforementioned tamales.

Aydee's is different in that it serves fresh juice and I had them mix me up a special orange and mango. Delicious. Tom had something in a can.

The food was excellent. The tamales are so different than what you are used to, served on a plantain leaf with a completely different consistency inside than probably anything you have ever encountered.

Very creamy and sticky. Phenomenal tamale, worth the price of admission right there. Can't wait to have another.

Whole meal was good and inexpensive. Next time I want to try the lomo, food from the back of the cow, and the boche, meat from the neck. They also have rodas occasionally, the tail.

The man at the next table ordered a lovely mango and papaya plate with chili powder on top. He said it was okay to take his picture. Seemed to really like the foo.

Fallbrook has a lot of Guatemalans from the village of San Pedro Soloma, many have worked for me at my ranch over the years. I will have to see where these people are from. It is a very nice and personable family. Very good people, very hard working. Place is clean and healthy. I encourage you to try their food.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Nilsson - Sail Away

Clouds got in my way.

Amazing clouds and sunset yesterday evening in these parts. If you missed it, you really missed something. Unfortunately I had a really long lens on the camera and couldn't come close to grabbing it properly.

I managed to grab this one inadequate shot to give you a hint. Epic, nuclear and biblical. Angels singing, trumpets blaring, a lion tamer, the whole sheebang. Guess you had to be there.

I have come to the conclusion that the whole world is suffering from a giant case of ADD. The new social and communication tools certainly aren't helping. Now Cecil the lion is muscling Iran off the front page, or was it the latest cop killing or another theater shooting? I forget. So glad I don't have television. Is this reality or the latest Marvel release? Sorry, the drone just knocked on the door, it's either the NSA or Amazon.

I think the Trump phenomenon follows the Arnold phenomenon, which followed the Reagan phenomenon. Death Valley days and a chimp named Bonzo made Reagan a known commodity to the public, it familiarizes and humanizes them and it's a tremendous advantage for a candidate to be a known televised commodity. Usually doesn't end up real well, but I guess that's just my opinion.

Warren, who has gotten a little snarky and sort of borderline nasty with me of late, sent over this really interesting Camille Paglia interview in a chain letter which I was c.c'd, “Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!” Really good read, much of which I heartily agree with. If you don't tow the liberal party line, you are toast. No room for nuance or objectivity. White hats and black hats, baby.

You’re an atheist, and yet I don’t ever see you sneer at religion in the way that the very aggressive atheist class right now often will. What do you make of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the religion critics who seem not to have respect for religions for faith?

I regard them as adolescents. I say in the introduction to my last book, “Glittering Images”, that “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.”  It exposes a state of perpetual adolescence that has something to do with their parents– they’re still sneering at dad in some way. Richard Dawkins was the only high-profile atheist out there when I began publicly saying “I am an atheist,” on my book tours in the early 1990s. I started the fad for it in the U.S, because all of a sudden people, including leftist journalists, started coming out of the closet to publicly claim their atheist identities, which they weren’t bold enough to do before. But the point is that I felt it was perfectly legitimate for me to do that because of my great respect for religion in general–from the iconography to the sacred architecture and so forth. I was arguing that religion should be put at the center of any kind of multicultural curriculum.

I’m speaking here as an atheist. I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system.  They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny.  Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. The great tragic texts, including the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, no longer have the central status they once had in education, because we have steadily moved away from the heritage of western civilization.

The real problem is a lack of knowledge of religion as well as a lack of respect for religion. I find it completely hypocritical for people in academe or the media to demand understanding of Muslim beliefs and yet be so derisive and dismissive of the devout Christian beliefs of Southern conservatives.

I have certainly taken my shots at religion but honestly I don't know how many of my religious friends put up with me? Because they are far more tolerant than I am, much less inclined to allow me my opinions and belief systems than I am of theirs.

You’re an atheist, and yet I don’t ever see you sneer at religion in the way that the very aggressive atheist class right now often will. What do you make of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the religion critics who seem not to have respect for religions for faith?

I regard them as adolescents. I say in the introduction to my last book, “Glittering Images”, that “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.”  It exposes a state of perpetual adolescence that has something to do with their parents– they’re still sneering at dad in some way. Richard Dawkins was the only high-profile atheist out there when I began publicly saying “I am an atheist,” on my book tours in the early 1990s. I started the fad for it in the U.S, because all of a sudden people, including leftist journalists, started coming out of the closet to publicly claim their atheist identities, which they weren’t bold enough to do before. But the point is that I felt it was perfectly legitimate for me to do that because of my great respect for religion in general–from the iconography to the sacred architecture and so forth. I was arguing that religion should be put at the center of any kind of multicultural curriculum.

I’m speaking here as an atheist. I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system.  They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny.  Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. The great tragic texts, including the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, no longer have the central status they once had in education, because we have steadily moved away from the heritage of western civilization.

The real problem is a lack of knowledge of religion as well as a lack of respect for religion. I find it completely hypocritical for people in academe or the media to demand understanding of Muslim beliefs and yet be so derisive and dismissive of the devout Christian beliefs of Southern conservatives.

The interview is actually in three parts and I look forward to reading and digesting it more thoroughly. Maybe even challenge some of my own sacred cows.

Lindsay Graham made another Israel/Iran holocaust reference today.
"The Munich deal would have made sense if Hitler just wanted German-speaking people under the German umbrella. Munich partitioning Czechoslovakia, and giving him more power and reenforcing his belief that the West was weak, was a terrible deal. He in fact, wanted to kill the Jews and have a master race," Graham told the Newsmax host. "This is a bad deal because the Ayatollah gets more money and more weapons and a clearer path to the bomb. Here’s what the deal does: It gives him a bomb, a missile to deliver and the money to pay for it. What would he do with a missile and the bomb? Does he feel compelled by his religion to attack Israel and destroy democracies like ours? I say yes."
What does Graham say here that is not absolutely factual and correct? I am sure that he will be completely lambasted. Because god forbid we ever bring up the holocaust in regard to the jews or Israel, it is now officially off limits and certainly not de rigueur. Risk being labeled a zionist war monger or something.

I feel like a man without a country in the way. I can't stand either side, hate when people feel so confident that they are right. I don't want people to think the way I do, would frankly get scared if they did.

Mullah Mohammed Omar is no more. The popular one eyed terrorist leader apparently died in Pakistan last year. They just don't make them like Omar anymore and I must assume that somewhere, the guy will be missed.

What a punim on the irascible taliban chief! It is said that he made a mean strogonoff, was always a willing fourth at bridge and would hum the entire Seals and Crofts discography when he wasn't too busy at work, reestablishing the global caliphate.

Hey Omar, we'll keep an eye out for you when we get to the oasis with the virgins and palms and all. You were a hoot. Cool partying with you, dude.

Probably should kick back and have a smoke.

Catch and release

My friends Ken and Lauren had a baby red tailed hawk fall out of its nest in a tree in their yard a few months ago. They brought the young female bird to a local animal hospital, which in turn sent it to The Funds for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona to rehab, where it bonded with another bird. A few weeks ago, the two birds were released back on their property. You can link to the whole story and Ken's excellent pictures here on the Village News website.

I asked Ken and Lauren if I could tag along for the release and they graciously assented.

Their original bird was released first. She wasn't really sure if she wanted to leave the safety of the box but finally made her entrance.

After a bit of needed terrestrial time, the young raptor flew to the safety of a nearby juniper where she proceeded to hang upside down, a bit terrified at the prospect of freedom. 

An introduction to a new player in the neighborhood quickly brought out a none too happy greeting party of mockingbirds and crows, and also a larger red tailed, which we surmised was this bird's mother coming over to say hello.

The next picture shows the ostensible mother, a mockingbird and the young raptor all in one shot. Our youngster is on the bottom of the juniper on the right, hard to see.

Loving these critters, I took a zillion shots. Soon we released bird #2.

This bird didn't hang around too long. The next shot shows his or her's nictitating eye shield.

Posed a little bit and looked cool. Check out the beautiful talons. Reminds me of Burgess Meredith's Penguin in this shot.

This bird wasn't really into hanging around so much and quickly flew off, perhaps seeking new and different pastures.

Really want to thank Ken and Lauren Seals for allowing me to be part of this. Thanks to the Wildlife Center for taking such great care of these birds. Love these wild animals, don't shoot them. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Strange skies over the hops field

GOP field and reproductive rights

I told Tracy that I would chart out the current GOP field's position on abortion and reproductive rights.

Here is what I have come up with so far, in their own words if possible. I include their current CNN poll numbers.

Donald Trump - 18 percent

On Oct. 24, 1999, Trump told Meet the Press host Tim Russert, "I'm very pro-choice." When pressed whether he would oppose a ban on partial-birth abortion, he said, "I would—I am pro-choice in every respect, as far as it goes." Yet less than three months later, Trump was on record saying he would support a ban on partial-birth abortion. He actually made the switch immediately following the show.

On Jan. 16, 2000, Trump's new book was published, The America We Deserve. He discussed why he flipped on partial-birth abortion. Here is what he said: "When Tim Russert asked me on Meet the Press if I would ban partial-birth abortion if I were president, my pro-choice instincts led me to say no. After the show, I consulted with two doctors I respect and, upon learning more about this procedure, I have concluded that I would indeed support a ban."

I’m pro-life and I have been pro-life,” Trump says. “It’s an issue and a strong issue.” 2015

Trump said he believes abortion should only be legal in the very rare cases when a woman is pregnant by rape or incest or when the life of the mother is jeopardized by the pregnancy.

Jeb Bush - 15 percent

Bush supports the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which would ban abortion after 20 weeks, making exceptions for the life of the mother, rape or incest.

Scott Walker - 10 percent

In his 2014 re-election campaign, running against Democrat Mary Burke, he released a TV ad in which he referred to legislation he signed that "leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor."

Signed Wisconsin bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks.

Marco Rubio - 7 percent

Pronounced himself "pro-life but says that he understands fully that a woman's right to an abortion is the law."

"I am pro-life. As a state legislator, I supported various pieces of pro-life legislation that, among other things, would require doctors to perform ultrasounds before performing abortions and another bill that would ban the use of taxpayer dollars to fund stem cell research."2010

Ted Cruz - 6 percent

Cruz vehemently opposes abortion. On his Facebook page, he called Roe v. Wade a “dark anniversary” and wrote ”no right is more precious and fundamental than the right to life,” apparently including women’s individual rights. He did not say he would work to overturn the 1973 ruling, but he has supported bans on taxpayer money funding abortions and a Texas law that would require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, which was ruled unconstitutional and is now being appealed.

Rand Paul - 6 percent

When asked whether there should be exemptions to anti-abortion laws, Paul replied, "Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it okay to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus? You go back and you ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she's OK with killing a seven-pound baby that is not born yet. Ask her when life begins, and you ask Debbie when it's okay to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, get back to me."

Mike Huckabee - 5 percent

* I will stand for the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception until the grave. Taking this unequivocal stand includes fighting to defund Planned Parenthood.

* I will now, and will for the duration of my presidency, promote and sign all measures leading to Obamacare’s defunding, deauthorization, and repeal.

“Life begins at conception. This is not just a Biblical view — it is affirmed by modern science and every unique human DNA schedule, which is present at conception. Our value, and celebration, of every unique human life is the basic tenant of our freedom and should never be abandoned.”

Ben Carson - 4 percent

Thus, the thought of abortion for the sake of convenience does not appeal to me. I am not saying that we should abandon our efforts to save baby seals and a host of other animals. Rather I am saying shouldn't we consider adding human fetuses and babies to the list?

Chris Christie - 4 percent

Over the years he has been self-flagellating about his two years in public life as a defender of abortion rights, calling himself a previously “nonthinking pro-choice person. It was just kind of the default position that I took.”

His epiphany, he first explained a few years ago, came after a doctor’s visit in 1995 when his wife was pregnant.

“When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, Sarah, who is now 15, we happened to go to one of the prenatal visits at 13 weeks,” he told Piers Morgan, then of CNN, in 2011. “They put the Doppler on my wife’s abdomen, who didn’t look at all pregnant at that point, visibly. And we heard this incredibly strong heartbeat.”

“And I remember we came separately. She came from her job. I came from mine. We went back to work. And I was driving back to work, I said to myself, you know, as to my position on abortion, I would say that a week ago that wasn’t a life. And I heard that heartbeat. That’s a life. And it—it led to me having a real reflection on my position. And when I took time to reflect on it, I just said, you know what, I’m not comfortable with that anymore. That was back in 1995, and I’ve been pro-life ever since.”

John Kasich - 4 percent

[Kasich is] pro-life except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. He wouldn’t pick a pro-choice running mate or nominate pro-choice judges. He sees no point in discussing the abortion issue either. It doesn’t serve any purpose, he said. He can’t change his principles. Unlike other pro-lifers whose abortion position also bespeaks a divisive judgmental look at all citizens, [Kasich’s spokesman said], “you’ll never see him pounding on a podium screaming divisive rhetoric.”

-- CUTOFF --

Rick Perry - 3 percent

Rick Perry said he believes abortion should be legal only in cases involving rape or incest or when carrying a pregnancy to term would threaten the woman’s life.

Lindsey Graham - 2 percent

Sponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the post 20 week abortion ban.

Bobby Jindal - 2 percent

Pro life - Offering contraception is dangerous federal overreach. (Jun 2014)

George Pataki - 2 percent

Was pro choice, flip flopped to pro life, now against partial birth abortions

Carly Fiorina - 1 percent

 "Liberals believe that flies are worth protecting, but the life of an unborn child is not."

Rick Santorum - 1 percent

“...and I believe that, that any doctor who performs an abortion--that--I would advocate that any doctor that performs an abortion should be criminally charged for doing so. I don't--I've never supported criminalization of abortion for mothers, but I do for people who perform them. I believe that life is sacred...”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bud Powell - A Night in Tunisia

Barack in Africa

"Yesterday he was a tricky and mischievous politician. And today he has become a passionate inspirational human rights activist," Which one should we believe? Which one should we go with?" Yonathan Tesfaye, a spokesman for Ethiopia's opposition Blue party, said in a reference to President Barack Obama's comment that Ethiopia's government was democratically elected.

Ethiopia is the world's second-worst jailer of journalists in Africa, after Eritrea, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.  In a recent report, Human Rights Watch said, quote, "Authorities use arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecutions to silence journalists, bloggers, protesters, and perceived supporters of opposition political parties."

The Ethiopian government recently blocked the report of the African Union Commission of Inquiry into the situation in South Sudan.

In a a recent parliamentary election Ethiopia’s ruling party won 100 percent of the country’s 547 Parliament seats. Democracy? Those people sure love the ruling party. That is fantastic.

Sunlight through the trees, Point Lobos

tree study #2

Wrecking Crew

Jimmy Gordon

Sanoguy got this letter the other day from his friend Dave. Pretty cool. I wasn't aware of Jimmy Gordon. What a story that is. But I have been following the Wrecking Crew story for many years. Leslie saw the documentary last week when she was in Los Angeles. Said it was great.

Hey guys-
     A few weeks ago I heard the old song "My Maria" by B.W. Stevenson on the radio, and was reminded what a great song it was.  When I got back home, I looked it up on YouTube to play it again, and as I did I noticed people in the comment section referring specifically to the session drummer who worked on the recording of that song.  As an old garage-band drummer, I was always struck by the great drumming in that song, but found it curious that YT commenters all these years later actually knew the name of the session drummer on such an old song, and several of the comments then alerted me to the fact that there's a story there.
     Here's the song, and pay attention to the drumming:


     Turns out the drummer's name was Jimmy Gordon.  So, I did a little research and, oh yeah- there's a story there- big time.  He played drums on session recordings for many of the biggest names in rock/pop music going back to the '60s, but got caught up in the alcohol/drug scene and self-destructed.  I continued to dig further and found a startling story.  One night, freaked out on drugs, he beat his mother to death, confessed, and in about '83 was sentenced to 16 years-to-life.
     Then it gets even more bizarre.  He's still alive.  And he's spending his sentence up here in SLO- at the California Men's Colony, or possibly the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane (I found references to both, and Wikipedia says he's at Vacaville).  
     OK, so he was a good- maybe even great- drummer and worked with just about every big name in the rock business.  So what, he's a drummer- big deal lots of "great" drummers out there, right?  Well, OK, check out this little factoid I uncovered:

"Gordon is perhaps best known for playing the piano climax of Derek and the Dominos' 1971 hit "Layla," which he wrote with Eric Clapton. The song still pays him well; California's deputy district attorney said that for years inmates have solicited money from Gordon, which he has allegedly given them." 
     Not interested yet?  Here's some additional detail- pay particular attention to the list of rock stars he has played for:


     As I continued to read through the articles I was finding, I learned that Gordon was part of a tight-knit group of session musicians who played with a wide variety of singers and bands that we always listened to.  Turns out that those folks became collectively know as "The Wrecking Crew", and they worked with just about anyone you can think of.  
     So, coincidentally, last weekend Marie and I went to a matinee showing of the new Brian Wilson biopic titled "Love and Mercy", and much of the film details how Wilson collaborated with various iterations of Wrecking Crew folks to make many of the biggest Beach Boy songs, including "Good Vibrations" and basically the entire "Pet Sounds" album.  So later that night then, while just scrolling through the guide on our cable system, I noticed that the AXSTV channel was running a documentary film titled "The Wrecking Crew."  Between the Wilson film and the Crew doc film, what I saw and learned was an immense revelation.  Turns out that many of my most favorite all-time songs were done by the Crew.  We're talking everything from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, to Nancy Sinatra and Sonny and Cher, the Beach Boys, the Association, the Monkees, many of the Phil Spector groups, and on and on and on.  Basically everyone except the big British groups, who revolutionized popular music in so many ways, because so many of them wrote their songs, played their songs, and sang their songs.
     Remember that deep driving bass theme in "The Beat Goes On" by Sonny and Cher?  Turns out that the bass was played by Carol Kaye of The Crew.  And it turns out that she played the bass on several other old favorites of mine.  The Crew's main drummers were Earl Palmer and Hal Blaine, and among their guitarists were Tommy Tedesco and the only Crew member who became known and famous- Glen Campbell.  Like Gordon, Kaye and several others of the Crew played several different instruments equally well.
     Anyhow, if you're "into" the history of our old rock music, you might want to go to see "Love and Mercy" ("in a theater near you"), and you can check out info on doc film about The Crew here:


     The Crew doc is purely an indie film, with individual screenings in only certain towns.  I don't think it has screened in Wisconsin yet, so those of you there might want to put in a word with someone out there to get it into a theater.  Some of the Crew folks are still alive, but they're getting up there now.  Let's face it- we're all pushing 70 ourselves, and they were recording these songs when we were kids.  Carol Kaye is 80, but Tedesco is long gone- his son did that doc film as a tribute to his dad and The Crew.  
     So, there we are- that's my music lesson for the day.  You may have been aware of some or all of this, but it has been a real eye-opener for me.  For more info, just google any of this or check out on YouTube- there's a ton of fascinating stuff out there.  For now, I'll leave you off with this memorable Crew contribution by Carol Kaye that you will remember:


     Oh, yeah, so much history- and so much we didn't know.  Enjoy-

Thanks, Dave! I heard a great interview last week on Sirius 60's on 6 with these guys. Lou Simon interviewed Hal Blaine (born Harold Belsky), Don Randi, Chuck Beghofer and Denny Tedesco, who put the movie together after fighting for years to the rights of his father's music. Great stories, hope that I can find a link.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rick Danko - Unfaithful Servant

Shucks and awe

Turks are such a bunch of assholes. It appears that the hard bargain they struck with the United States is that they would allow the Americans to use their airbase and even would help in the fight against the Islamic State if they were permitted to go after the Kurds in Iraq too. And so they did.

Once again the United States sells out the Kurds. This goes way back. But why does this President have to mess with them at every turn?


Mike Huckabee engaged in a little hyperbole the other day when he suggested that the President was leading the jews back to the ovens. That got a lot of people hot under the collar including the Obama himself and one Deb Wasserman Schultz, who suggested that he apologize to the jewish people for his overcharged rhetoric. You don't owe me an apology, Mike. He just might be opening up the gates of hell with this agreement, even if it will be ten years down the road. I guess we will all see.

Obama says 99% of the world is down with this deal, I presume that is everybody but Iran's neighbors but I was never too good at math. Our president seems to steer around any potential icky effects this deal might have on Israel and the Gulf States. And now news that nobody is ever going to get to see the newly disclosed side deals, which just might be illegal.

Obama gave a little lecture to Kenyatta and the Kenyans where he felt the need to once again preach sensitivity towards those fragile souls who might be predisposed to reinstalling the caliphate by any means necessary.
 ...if in reaction to terrorism you are restricting legitimate organizations, reducing the scope of peaceful organization, then that can have the inadvertent effect of actually increasing the pool of recruits for terrorism and resentment in communities that feel marginalized.
You know, it takes a village to raise a terrorist. We're all guilty. He also felt the need to bring up the terrible racial history of the United States.
And as an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently, under the law, and there were all sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery, and they were wrong.  
Pardon me but I don't get this. You are talking about slavery in Africa, the place that practically has the patent on the practice? Read a little about slavery and africa. Who do you think enslaved many of our African American's ancestors? Why it was a combination of African blacks, Berbers, arabs and the occasional european thrown in. In fact it is still going on today, in Mauritania and the Sudan amongst other places.
African states played a key role in the slave trade. Slavery was a common practice among Africans. There were three types: those who were slaves through conquest, those who were slaves due to unpaid debts or those whose parents gave them as slaves to tribal chiefs. Chieftains would barter their slaves to European buyers for rum, spices, cloth or other goods. Selling captives or prisoners was common practice among Africans and Arabs during that era. However, as the Atlantic slave trade increased its demand, local systems which primarily serviced indentured servitude expanded and started to supply the European slave traders, changing social dynamics. It also ultimately undermined local economies and political stability as villages' vital labor forces were shipped overseas as slave raids and civil wars became commonplace. Crimes which were previously punishable by some other means became punishable by enslavement.
Slavery was quite rampant in West Africa in the 1990's, in the cocoa plantations of the Ivory Coast.
In 1998, UNICEF reported that Ivorian farmers used enslaved children—many from surrounding countries. A 2000 BBC documentary described child slavery on commercial cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire. In 2001, the US State Department estimated there were 15,000 child slaves in cocoa, cotton, and coffee farms in Côte d'Ivoire, and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association acknowledged that child slavery is used in the cocoa harvest.
This week of course, news of slavery in Thailand, many of the slaves enslaved Rohingya, forced to supply the pet food industry. But talking about slavery in Africa is like traveling to Rome to talk about Catholicism.

Interesting article yesterday about the Republicans new scripted tone on abortion. No more macabre signs of fetuses, they are going to baby-fy the message per the new consultants who don't want another round of that War on Woman thing. I am going to do a matrix on the GOP abortion issue, show you what they think in their own words as soon as I have time.

Don't know where the frontrunner, Trump, is on the issue but all the other guys have lost me, the matter being between a woman and her doctor, as according to her personal beliefs, faith and even lack of same. Nobody else's business. My personal red line.

Abortion opponents hope the videos will provoke people to consider the humanity of the unborn, much like discussing ultrasounds can — albeit in a much more jarring and graphic way. Conway, the Republican pollster, calls this a “shock the conscience, warm the heart” approach.

I respect your sincere feelings. I wish that you would respect mine and stay out of other people's business.

At an abortion clinic protester training at the Texas state capitol last week, anti-choice leaders told their trainees to write down the license plate numbers of abortion-providing doctors and abortion-seeking patients, so that they could track which doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and which patients did or did not ultimately choose abortion.
“This way, you can track whether or not a client comes back,” said Karen Garnett, the director of an anti-choice Catholic group in North Texas, in an audio recording made by NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, members of which attended a “Keeping Abortion Facilities Closed” training event held last week.

Jonathan Pollard has spent nearly thirty years in the slam for giving United States secrets to the Israelis. His term is due to end at the end of the year. Over the last few days several stories have intimated that the United States has been floating the prospect of an early release if the Israelis will play ball on the Iran treaty. If this is true and we have been dangling Pollard in such a way, it is despicable to use somebody like this as a bargaining chip with an ostensible ally. Especially since we know that the United States has been essentially spying on everybody in the world, including all of its supposed allies. (Shocked, I'm shocked that gambling is going on...Your winnings, sir.)

Aw Shucks, Hush Your Mouth

Sunshine Daydream

We went out to brunch with friends at one of my favorite restaurants, Davanti Enoteca in Del Mar. It isn't fancy, just really great rustic Italian comfort food. Focaccia with honeycomb to die for. Was driving down when Leslie saw skydivers popping out of the plane to our north and I popped a few pictures.

Davanti is great but the meal yesterday was frankly just a little disappointing. The brunch menu has gotten pretty consolidated. Portion size has shrunk way down. Still the food is delicious and right down my wheelhouse.

And the best bloody mary bar I have ever seen.

They hand you a salt rimmed mason jar full of vodka and a nice piece of bacon and point you to the bar which has every conceivable bloody mary condiment known to man. A meal in itself.

Here's a crappy cell phone shot. Let's see, mostaccioli, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, blue cheese, pimento and garlic stuffed olives, cholula, tomato juice, celery, several different salts and pepper, Worcestershire, lemon, hot carrots, what am I forgetting? Epic bloody mary.

You get the idea.

I ordered Uovo in raviolo alla carbonara, giant ravioli with ricotta, spring peas, pancetta, egg and pecorino. Server warned me it was small and maybe I should have believed him. I think I was swayed at the word giant. Funny. The actual pasta patty was all of three inches, if you had a ruler that stretched an eighth inch or so.

Antman would have left that entree hungry. I would have picked another adjective besides giant, even delicious, this menu risked a class action lawsuit for false advertising.

We had a melon and cucumber salad that I found tasteless, boring and rather perfunctory. Focaccia, as always, was the bomb. Whatever cheese is in it is just superb, just beyond.

The table had various things, eggs benedict, salmon salad, beets. Finished the meal off with two rather sinful desserts, a chocolate peanut butter and raspberry thing and a lemon curd, blueberry. They were both fantastic.

Everybody left happy, including me.

Went to a garden party

Notes from my garden: My newest rose has put on a nice bloom this week.

I don't have a lot of roses anymore, kind of let them go to hell, but I do love them. This is a rose from Weeks, I believe it is called Good for Gold.

I have always had a thing for yellow and orange roses. don't ask me why?

I had gone to Tropic World, which used to have the best rose selection this side of Hunter's in Spring Valley, not the same today, looking for two of my favorite orange roses, Lucille Ball and Brass Band. Both long discontinued. How could that be? Brass Band had been rose of the year for floribundas at one point.

It turns out that Jackson & Perkins, my favorite rose grower and distributor, went out of business a few years ago. Woman said they weren't paying their growers. Shame.

Lucille Ball was a hybrid tea hybridized by the same person as Brass Band, Jack E. Christensen. Guy had a knack. It is now Leslie's pick and she said she will be tending towards the fuchsia with this one.

Anyway I picked up Good for Gold. It is a hybrid tea, hybridized last year by Tom Carruth. Very healthy looking plant. Cross between Golden Beauty x About Face.

Drove home last week to see that some great soul had dumped a bunch of construction trash on the road, down a very steep ravine. The very toughest place to retrieve trash, down a steep 200' canyon.

A construction worker too cheap or lazy to go to the dump so they decide to go take a crap on my rural neighborhood instead.

I don't get people sometimes. A lot of the time.

This week there was a type of cowboy hat favored by the campesinos in the area plunked down next to a bunch of empty modelo bottles in the road.

Enjoy the playa but tire su basura, por favor.

That was a few feet from this spot, littered with a bunch of trash and an old appliance or two.

Your mother isn't here to pick up after you anymore. Please respect other people's spaces.


It was touch and go with my bismarckias for a while but I think they will both make it fine.  The spears are velvety soft and starting the process of separation. Beautiful abstract forms.

Garry Cohen allowed us to poach a bunch of his cool succulent collection yesterday. His house, the Glass Ranch, is pretty amazing.

Garry is one of the most creative and talented craftsman I have ever known, in so many media.

We have been friends for forty years, introduced to me by Rick and Ida Griffin at a costume party in Valley Center.

He was wearing an astronaut helmet and I will never forget Rick saying, "I would know that guy in an astronaut helmet anywhere, that's Garry Cohen." They grew up together as kids.

Garry just finished this bitchen patio wall, made out of some weird industrial found objects.

Great to hang out with my old bud and Leslie in his amazing garden. We both go back a long way.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Roadside shrine to Macario Griego, near Truchas, NM

Brokedown Palace

Shifting Sands

One of the most popular liberal tropes of late is that the United States is responsible for the rise of the mullahs and the resultant Iranian fundamentalism because our bad old CIA toppled Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953.

I've heard this from Warren, the resident liberal sage at the coffee shop and also read about it from the likes of ex State Department and CIA employed Iranian apologist Flynt Leverett and his former Penn State crony Dennis Jett.

Jett recently penned an article suggesting that it is the United States that should not be trusted in the current Iranian negotiations because of its past perfidy, Who Should Be Trusted in the Iran Deal?
Iranians, like Americans, have long memories. They have not forgotten that in 1953 the CIA helped engineer a coup that overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of their country. And they have not forgotten the reason: at Mosaddegh's urging the Iranian parliament voted to nationalize the oil industry, and America wanted to help Britain continue to control it instead. So we helped reinstall a monarch, the Shah, who suppressed any dissent or political development until he was overthrown in 1979, just before the takeover of the American embassy.
I have been thinking of this line of reasoning for several days because I know Iranians who fled after the fall of the Shah and they frankly loved the guy. Some "political development and dissent" they achieved over there. Just ask Jason Rezaian.

Don't ask me why but empirically I always give a bit more weight in these quests for historical veracity to the people who were actually there on the ground at the time, but maybe that's just me. Even so, I have had some nagging questions about our responsibility and complicity in Iran's past history and trajectory.

An interesting article by Josh Gelertner at National Review today reinforces my skepticism. Titled Iran: The truth about the CIA and the Shah. Definitely worth a read.
...With a brutal, American-puppet dictator in power, who can blame the Iranians for turning to the ayatollahs? Well, it’s possible that Argo overstated its case. According to historian Ervand Abrahamian, “Whereas less than 100 political prisoners had been executed between 1971 and 1979, more than 7,900 were executed between 1981 and 1985. . . . Prison life was drastically worse under the Islamic Republic than under the Pahlavis. One who survived both writes that four months under [the ayatollahs’ warden] took the toll of four years under SAVAK. In the prison literature of the Pahlavi era, the recurring words have been ‘boredom’ and ‘monotony.’ In that of the Islamic Republic, they are ‘fear,’ ‘death,’ ‘terror,’ ‘horror,’ and most frequent of all ‘nightmare.’” Abrahamian also reports that the Shah’s political prisoners had access to “a radio, television set, reading room, Ping-Pong table, and indoor gym equipped with exercise machines.”
...There was no coup. In 1953, Mossadegh was prime minister of Iran; like many heads of state, the Shah had the legal, constitutional authority to remove his prime minister, which he did, at the behest of his ally the United States. Mossadegh, though, refused to be removed, and he arrested the officers who tried to deliver the Shah’s notice of dismissal. The Shah was forced to flee the country. At that point, it looked at if the U.S.’s anti-Mossadegh efforts had failed: The Shah was gone, and Mossadegh remained in power. After the Shah fled, says Takeyh, “the initiative passed to the Iranians.” The man who the Americans, the British, and the Shah had agreed should replace Mossadegh was General Fazlollah Zahedi; Zahedi was a powerful man, and well-liked by much of the political establishment, the religious establishment, and the army. With the Shah gone, and the Americans more or less resigned to failure, Zahedi took over the anti-Mossadegh campaign himself, spreading word throughout the country that the Shah — who remained popular — had fired Mossadegh and appointed Zahedi in his place. Says Takeyh: “Pro-shah protesters took to the streets. It is true that the CIA paid a number of toughs from the bazaar and athletic centers to agitate against the government, but the CIA-financed mobs rarely exceeded a few hundred people in a country now rocked by demonstrators numbering in the thousands . . . in the end, the CIA-organized demonstrations were overtaken by a spontaneous cascade of pro-shah protesters.” Mossadegh ordered the army to restore order; the army took Zahedi’s side, and Mossadegh fled, soon “[turning] himself in to General Zahedi’s headquarters, where he was treated with courtesy and respect. Before the advent of the Islamic Republic, Persian politics were still marked by civility and decorum.”
What floors me is how short people's memories are and their lack of knowledge regarding the general history of the region. Post Ottoman and British empire, practically all the countries in the area were created in a random and irrational fashion, usually with some world power or another calling the shots. This was standard operating procedure at the time.

Read about Jordan, in history ruled by various peoples including Persians, Turks and Greeks. Full of warring tribes, the Hashemites seized power from the Turks in the Great Arab Revolt. Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations awarded Britain the mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain demarcated a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s. A small percentage of the population, the Hashemites managed to retain their rule over a large swath of people, including a huge number of Palestinians. Jordan was not officially recognized as a country until 1946.

Iraq was essentially created in 1920 by the League of Nations after the Battle of Sevres. At different periods in its history, Iraq was part of the Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires. It was also part of the Median, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid, and Ottoman empires, and under British control as a League of Nations mandate. Iraq became a monarchy in 1921, a kingdom which lasted until 1958 when the ruler was overthrown and the Republic of Iraq created. There were numerous coups and overthrows until Saddam and the Baathists seized power in 1968.

Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud who united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud.

The U.A.E. was basically a British principality until 1966, a federation of seven emirates. Bahrain became independent in August, and Qatar in September of 1971. Yemen, the region that once contained the biblical land of Sheba, has an interesting history, a history of many battles between competing tribes and a strong British inclination to manipulate and plunder. Modern Yemen was essentially recognized in 1926.

Morocco has an interesting and ancient history. They were the first country to recognize the United States in 1777. They were caught in a crucible between French and Spanish interests, officially carved up in the 1912 Treaty of Fez.

Lebanon gained independence in 1943, Syria was created after World War I as a French mandate, and formally gained independence as a parliamentary republic on 24 October 1945.

Do you see a common thread here? The birth and demarcation of these countries was fluid, dynamic and haphazard. Relatively new principalities, their nascent rule has been riddled with exploitation, murder and fratricide, not to mention internecine tribal conflict. And there are very few candidates for sainthood in the region.

Iranians burning the flag of the great Satan, Teheran

It might make sense to more closely study the time of Mossadegh before we deify and canonize him as well as the Ayatollah and successive mullah's. Turning a blind eye to shiite fanaticism while castigating their predecessors in an area with such a sordid and convoluted history is a fool's pursuit.
"With people's revolutionary rage, the king will be ousted and a democratic state, Islamic Republic, will be established." Ayatollah Khomenei
How's that democracy working?

I have an extremely liberal friend who was telling me what it was like in his native Chile during the latter part of Allende's reign, a freely elected leader who was certainly done in by the Americans.

He came from a fairly well to do family and said that due to inflation, his family couldn't even afford to buy a loaf of bread. Cuban advisors were all over the county, carrying rifles, wearing their camouflage fatigues. He said it was scary and if not the Americans doing the dirty deed, Allende would have been soon deposed by his own people. I guess we will never know.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Black castles

New York Times has an interesting article today, Verification Process in Iran Deal Is Questioned by Some Experts. Perhaps 24 days is not the magic number the Obama administration has been telling us that it is?
...several experts, including a former high-ranking official at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a provision that gives Iran up to 24 days to grant access to inspectors might enable it to escape detection. Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director of the agency, said in an interview that while “it is clear that a facility of sizable scale cannot simply be erased in three weeks’ time without leaving traces,” the more likely risk is that the Iranians would pursue smaller-scale but still important nuclear work, such as manufacturing uranium components for a nuclear weapon. David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former weapons inspector in Iraq, also said that three weeks might be ample time for the Iranians to dispose of any evidence of prohibited nuclear work. Among the possibilities, he said, were experiments with high explosives that could be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, or the construction of a small plant to make centrifuges.“If it is on a small scale, they may be able to clear it out in 24 days,” Mr. Albright said in a telephone interview. “They are practiced at cheating. You can’t count on them to make a mistake.”
It has been an interesting week, Obama cabinet types falling all over each other speculating how much freed up sanctions money Iran will spend on domestic uses and how much gelt will go to the oft stated task of destroying Israel. Rice, Lew, Kerry and the gang all have their own idea and it won't be much, you can rest assured. And irrespective of any nuclear deal, Uncle Sam will always be there for its allies if they need a little conventional muscle, don't worry about that.

Of course if Israel takes matters into its own hands and strikes unilaterally, which ally will Obama seek to defend, the jewish state that has disappointed him so by failing to live up to his exalted expectations of how the tribe is supposed to behave or his new BFF, Iran?

Iran the country by the way, that has failed to live up to its agreement to disclose past military activity, that only answered one of the ten questions regarding its nuclear development that it was required to disclose by the IAEA, which has been waiting for responses since last October. We can definitely trust these people.

I understand the arguments from both sides and will not rehash them. Kerry is saying, "Hey the cow is already out of the barn, they have nuclear capability now." Something is better than nothing and the international sanctions, of which we are just one player, are falling apart. Maybe things will be different in ten years. We need to be pragmatic. All that redline talk from the President was merely rhetoric. This keeps them from a bomb in the near term. An understandable argument.

But it does seem like we are cutting our old allies out in this new deck shuffle. And the Iran that exists in the here and now is capable of great mischief. And now they can fund their little extracurricular efforts with funds that they desperately needed. They shoot, they score. And it can be honestly said that Israel had become a little too comfortable with the status quo. Well let's see what happens when President Obama shakes things up a bit, then let's see how comfortable they are.

I am no transactional analysis or game theory maven but I've been in business for a long time. And one of the things you learn in business is that it rarely makes sense to make lateral moves. Lateral moves are for losers and desperate people.

This Iran deal seems like a lateral move with little potential benefit and a lot of potential to do great harm. But maybe not to us so much, so who cares? Ten years will pass before you know it and then a wealthy Persia can breakout their shiny new nuke and go about their stated goal of vanquishing Satan and Satan jr.

What are we getting out of the deal again, I forget? What have we gained? Besides somebody to fight the Islamic State for us since we have mucked up the region so incredibly since 9/11. Boy, sure wish Saddam was still around to kick a little ass and keep the peace. Our leaders don't seem to think too  much about endgame strategy. Then again they will be long gone from the stage when this production is over.

I was listening to Trump the other day, who is all about the deal. A total idiot, but he is just killing the GOP right now, saying things that their base is eating up like hot links at a Grange breakfast. And he was laughing at the administration for their refusal to complicate the deal by getting our american hostages out. And he had a point.

Of course there are those and I am certainly not one of them, who believe that Obama won't be satisfied until Israel is utterly vanquished and decimated. While I am not in that camp, I don't understand how he can make nice with so many bad actors and reserve his worse venom and antipathy for the zionist state. Can't wait until his memoirs come out. I thought Jimmy Carter hated Israel, he had nothing on this guy.

The Obama administration is fond of saying that Israel will always maintain a qualitative weapon edge, whatever that means. I am more worried about the quantitative edge right now. 180 billion buys a hell of a lot of ICBM's.

Keep thinking about the old saying about commitment being like bacon and eggs. Chicken is committed but the pig is all in. No great shakes to this administration if they guessed wrong. About time the Israelis had their nose pushed in. And I have heard Israelis say for god sakes stop talking about the Iran deal. Uncle Sam shuts the money tap off, they are toast. So they grit their teeth while we lecture them most sanctimoniously, paternalistically and patronizingly about how they should behave with the other kids in the neighborhood.

It is no wonder the Israelis love the evangelical Republicans, seem to be the only friends they have, not counting the back channel stuff with the Saudis and Jordanians. Netanyahu gets between Barak and the crown jewel of his legacy and it is liable to get very ugly the next year and a half.

I used to think I was a pretty good chess player. And so I joined the North County Chess club. I came to find out I wasn't. This is thirty years ago, maybe forty. People there had every opening and middle game committed to memory since Capablanca. I used to play an occasional game with a Polish grandmaster, Alina Markowski, who has to be long since gone. Phenomenal player.

She told me something I will never forget, you play very well Robert, your calculations and thinking are sound, but you always start your attack one move too early. I have never forgot that comment and advice. Timing is so important in strategy and game theory. Of course Obama is an academician and Kerry is an ivy league plutocrat married to a rich woman, not a lot of street smarts or deal making savvy on this team I am afraid. Probably not a lot of good chess players. Good for pushing the king down and not much else. Game over.