Monday, June 29, 2009

Money For Nothing

I know how to fix the economy! All we have to do is charge $80,000 for every MP3 downloaded from the internet.
File-Sharing Mom Fights Back

Thomas-Rasset was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for pirating music. But unlike most of the more than 30,000 other targets of RIAA pirating lawsuits, Thomas-Rasset fought back. Her case was the first of its kind to go to trial. In 2007 she lost. A jury awarded $222,000 to the RIAA, but the judge threw out the verdict because he believed he gave incorrect instructions to the jury.

That led to a second trial. Thomas-Rasset lost again. This time the jury ordered her to pay a whopping $1.92 million, or $80,000 per song.
1.) The RIAA doesn't represent musicians, it represents the music industry that takes advantage of musicians. The music industry blew it years ago when they didn't understand the digital age and now they're desperate for a business model to make money, not art.
2.) An MP3 is a low-bandwidth representation of a song, not a 1:1 digital copy of the music.
3.) The 24 MP3s that were proven to have been in her share folder and then downloaded by a company that was legally authorized to download them.
Where's the crime?
4.) Ms. Thomas-Rasset is probably a liar and perjurer, but that's not what she's charged with.

So if the RIAA actually collects 1.92 MILLION DOLLARS for 24 songs that were uploaded by a Mom and then downloaded by an arm of the RIAA, where does the money go?

I've emailed the RIAA, I've called the RIAA, and I still can't get an answer. And I have a Gold Record certified by the RIAA.

It's been awhile since I worked in the biz in LA, but I still know a few artists, producers and engineers that had points on records and the ones I still have contact with have never received a dime or been informed that there was an RIAA settlement with $$ that they should be entitled to.

It seems the artists get screwed again. Welcome to the music industry.

I recommend if you want to buy music go out to your local clubs. If you like the band then buy their CD. It's cheaper than big labels, the band makes more than if they'd released on a major label, and actual music is performed. And there are lots of other ways to find music you like that don't involve the music industry and make the artist more money.

Corporations don't make art, artists do, and the artists deserved to get paid.

Pink Floyd put it best:

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Update: SteveAudio:

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) was formed to ensure that standards were used in the manufacturing of vinyl records. This was necessary, because in the early days of records, RCA Victor's records might not sound good on a turntable & stereo built by Columbia. None of the competing standards was really better or worse, just different, so the RIAA didn't screw up, they just maintained order in a embryonic technology.

They also did the same when the new Phillips Compact Cassette™ was introduced in the mid '60s.

Since then, however, they seem to have nothing on their plate other than certifying Gold & Platinum album sales. Oh, and pursuing heavy-handed tactics against music downloaders.

In the late '70s, The Record Plant's Sausalito studio had t-shirts made that said "Tape a record, go to prison". While seemingly harsh, the sentiment was that taping albums and handing copies to friends was diluting artists' royalties.

The same thing happens today with illegal downloading. And while some can justify it by the wealth of the artist "Dude, he's a bazillionaire, he won't miss it", that's not the point. Because while it shouldn't be necessary to explain, not all artists live in mansions in Beverly Hills. Many artists/bands record and distribute 2 or 3 albums before they make any profit.

Here's the simple explanation: If you're willing to work for free at your job, so the boss can have the fruits of your labor with nothing given back to you, then we can talk about downloading music for free. Until then, it's wrong.

Or how about this: the computer you're using for the downloads, it's really cool. I want it. I take it. How's that feel?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The Elite Villager Media was never more apparent than on CNN's Reliable Sources with Über-villager Howie Kurtz, when HuffPost's Nico Pitney challenged Dana Milbank's credibility.

Here is Nico in his own words:

This morning, Dana Milbank, Amanda Carpenter, and I appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources, hosted by Howard Kurtz.

It was a spirited affair and folks can draw their own conclusions. Here's the video:

The only thing that surprised me was when Dana turned to me after our initial sparring and called me a "dick" in a whispered tone (the specific phrase was, I believe, "You're such a dick"). Howie Kurtz wrote on Twitter that he didn't hear it, which is understandable -- he was doing the lead-in for the next part of the segment on the ABC White House special. But it happened (I urge Howie to watch the video of the panel during the ABC intro) and it was frankly pretty odd.

For those interested, here are the citations for some of the points I made:

-- Greg Sargent's piece on Milbank's write-up of the "Mission Accomplished" moment.

-- Lynn Sweet's reporting on Milbank's questions to Obama about bathing suit pictures:

Milbank's ass-hattedness is just silly, and he has no defense against Nico's points except bluster. This has not gone unnoticed in the lefty bloggersphere. Here's my friend Nicole Belle at C&L:
On Reliable Sources this morning, Howard Kurtz brings on Huffington Post's Nico Pitney to deal with two naysayers eager to scream "collusion!" over Nico's question to President Obama this week regarding the Iranian election: WaPo's Dana Milbank and TownHall's Amanda Carpenter. The fact that hyper-partisan Carpenter is even asked her opinion shows how little interest Kurtz had in an honest dialog. Seriously, Amanda, the video shows Nico in the back of the room behind other reporters--your complaining about Nico being "pushed to the front of the room" is discredited just like all your other "facts"--who you gonna believe? Amanda or your lyin' eyes?

But it's Dana Milbank who really gets his bitchy little knickers in a twist. He starts the segment incredibly defensive. It's hard to tell whether Dana is just miffed that he didn't get called on or that some upstart blogger who doesn't get the same Beltway cocktail party invitations asked a better question than he ever has.

Nicole links to Jamison Foser at Media Matters:
Here's the thing: Nobody is actually claiming that Obama knew what question Pitney was going to ask. The allegations of "coordination" and "staging" are premised on the idea that the Obama folks knew what topic Pitney would ask about - Iran.

Well, it isn't all that unusual for a president to have a pretty good idea what topic a reporter is going to ask about. If you call on a reporter from Stars & Stripes or Army Times, you'll probably get a question relating to the military. Call on a Washington Post reporter, and you'll likely get a question about steroids in baseball or haircuts. Call on a New York Times reporter, and there's a pretty good chance he'll ask what enchants you about the White House. Call on a Huffington Post reporter, and they'll probably ask something a little more substantive.

But here's where the complaining gets really ridiculous. David Gregory hosts Meet the Press. Do you know what happens when Gregory and his staff book guests for Meet the Press? Much of the time, they tell guests what topics they want to discuss. That's right - they coordinate! The whole thing is staged! Quick, someone convene an ethics panel!

Milbank might still be smarting, however, from the criticism of his creepy vlog called Mouthpiece Theater, in which he lampoons . . . himself?

Yet Milbank, and Cillizza consider them above mere bloggers. Kids, get a grip.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung, may you stay forever young

I met my hero a few weeks ago.

Most people, knowing I work in Hollywood recording studios, might ask "Wow, did you meet 'insert famous musician's name here' ?"

While I have indeed met and worked with many famous people, the hero I met was a cute 6 year old boy named Pablo.

I'm putting together a new recording studio for an indie record label here in L.A. One of the owners of the label, Jeff, and his wife Jo Ann, have a great son named Pablo. Unfortunately, just over one year ago Pablo was diagnosed with Wilms' Tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer:
Wilms' tumor or nephroblastoma is a tumor of the kidneys that typically occurs in children, rarely in adults. Its common name is an eponym, referring to Dr. Max Wilms, the German surgeon (1867–1918) who first described this kind of tumor.

Approximately 500 cases are diagnosed in the U.S. annually. The majority (75%) occur in otherwise normal children; a minority (25%) is associated with other developmental abnormalities. It is highly responsive to treatment, with about 90% of patients surviving at least five years.

90% survival rate sounds great. Unfortunately, Pablo & his family have been on the roller-coaster ride from Hell for the last year. In and out of the hospital, in and out of chemo, in and out of panic and hope, a trip no one wants to take. You can read the diary of this journey at Pablo's blog:

Jeff and JoAnn are smart and caring people, and knowing that Pablo's care would be paid for, established a fund to help other cancer-stricken children and their families at Childrens' Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), called The PABLove Foundation:
Specifically, the Pablove Foundation will make an annual contribution to cancer research and treatment at CHLA's Saban Research Institute, one of the top cancer research facilities in the United States. It will also support play activities, music and arts programs and sponsor play rooms in the soft tumor units at CHLA. These 'units' are actually entire floors of the hospital, which are filled with brave, beautiful children at any time of the year. A strolling minstrel, a board game, a book, or an art easel bring such joy to the heart of a child whose life has been temporarily reduced to a small hospital room.

Note that this isn't a personal charity; all of Pablo's care is taken care of. But it will really help in the healing and care of many other children fighting pediatric cancer.

I met Pablo at the record company offices a few weeks ago, after reading the blog for a few months. I was more nervous than meeting a rock star, because Pablo is something they aren't: a kid asking for nothing other than to be loved by his family and to have some fun, yet representing a strength and fearlessness that would humble most adults. I introduced myself to him, asked about the bike ride he and his Daddy had gone on the day before, and then we shook hands.

When you donate to The PabLove Foundation, you can get a snazzy yellow bracelet embossed with the logo. I'm wearing mine now, it looks like this:

You will also have the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping the most fragile among us: children with illness. Click on the bracelet to donate, if you feel inclined. Please.

Sadly, I have a confession to make. In all I wrote above I used to present tense verbs 'have' and 'is'. I really should have said 'had' and 'was'. You see, Pablo left us Saturday. The good news is he won't hurt or be afraid anymore. The bad news is his loving family and friends miss him terribly.

Here's Saturday's entry from the Get Well Pablo blog:
Dear friends, Pablo Thrailkill Castelaz passed from this life at 1:30 p.m.

He left this life in the same way he entered it: beautifully, gracefully and in the loving arms of his Mommy and Papa and dear big brother Grady.

He left this life in the middle of his parents' bed - the bed he's grown up in, from day one until today, his final day.

Our family is grateful for your love and light.

From our hearts,

Jo Ann, Jeff and Grady

Pablo doesn't need our help anymore. But many more kids do. According to the National Cancer Institute, 10,400 kids were diagnosed in 2007. And the rate is rising:

Over the past 20 years, there has been some increase in the incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of invasive cancer, from 11.5 cases per 100,000 children in 1975 to 14.8 per 100,000 children in 2004.

If you're a data geek, read the whole short page. While overall cure rates are up, childhood leukemia and brain tumors are on the increase. So more research is needed, and sadly more children will die. If you choose to, please honor Pablo by contributing to The Pablove Foundation, or to your preference of charities.

Pablo's family and the other thousands of families confronting childhood cancer will appreciate it.

Finally, to understand the love and grace of this family, read Jeff's Saturday evening blog post:
We have all wept and wept and wept. At one point I thought I was going to pass out. But this is the purpose of crying and weeping and letting go, isn't it? It's about clearing out. It's about finding the bottom and scrubbing it clean with the tears, the breath, the tornado of release. There is no doubt the sorrow and mourning and tears and gut-wrenching will go on for a long time. But there's also no doubt that our acceptance will grow and take on color and shape and dimension. We're nowhere near that today, of course. But we know that this is the promised land for a family who has lost a boy named Pablo who lived exactly six years and six days.

Read the whole post, please. It's painful & beautiful poetry. And it's full of love, because that's who these people are.

Someone To Watch Over Me

The Washington Post fired Dan Froomkin, one of the few journalist/columnist writers that wasn't a stenographer for the government. Here are portions of his last column, but I urge you to follow the link and read all of it:
White House Watched

Today's column is my last for The Washington Post.
I started my column in January 2004, and one dominant theme quickly emerged: That George W. Bush was truly the proverbial emperor with no clothes. In the days and weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, the nation, including the media, vested him with abilities he didn't have and credibility he didn't deserve. As it happens, it was on the day of my very first column that we also got the first insider look at the Bush White House, via Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty. In it, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill described a disengaged president "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people", encircled by "a Praetorian guard,” intently looking for a way to overthrow Saddam Hussein long before 9/11. The ensuing five years and 1,088 columns really just fleshed out that portrait, describing a president who was oblivious, embubbled and untrustworthy.

When I look back on the Bush years, I think of the lies. There were so many. Lies about the war and lies to cover up the lies about the war. Lies about torture and surveillance. Lies about Valerie Plame. Vice President Dick Cheney's lies, criminally prosecutable but for his chief of staff Scooter Libby's lies. I also think about the extraordinary and fundamentally cancerous expansion of executive power that led to violations of our laws and our principles.
I don't understand why the WaPo would fire one of their few employees who got it right. But wherever Dan ends up writing next, I'll be reading.

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Friday, June 26, 2009

No one wants to be defeated

I did some tech work for the Jacksons prior to their '81 tour. While billed as a sort-of reunion tour for the album "Triumph", it also funtioned as Michael's "Off The Wall" tour, if I recall correctly.

Most of my work involved the bassist and the guitarist in the band, as well as guitar-playing brother Tito. I was at several days of full lights-and-sound rehearsals at a movie sound stage complex in Hollywood, so I got to see a lot of the Jacksons.

I never actually talked with Michael, but nodded hello to him, and he did back to me as well. He was clearly shy, and stayed in one corner of the big stage, not hidden, but still clearly off by himself. The other brothers would wander over when the neede to talk, as did stage managers, etc. But no idle chit chat with Mike was clearly the unspoken rule.

Bass-playing brother Jermaine wasn't on this tour. He had started his solo career, and I guess that was incompatible with the Jacksons as a group. Thus the need for a bass player in the band (Hey, McKinney! You still owe me $250!) Youngest brother Randy joined the group for the first time, and was a big hit. We talked quite a bit, and he was both an R'n'B/Soul guy, but also a true rocker. He talked about liking Queen as well as other white rock bands. Nice guy.

Here's the true story. When MJ wasn't on stage, he was a shy, skinny guy who was totally non-descript, might have been an assistant or gofer. Nothing about his demeanor or appearance told you he was important.

When rehearsals started however, and he took his mark on stage with the brothers, a remarkable Jekyll/Hyde transformation took place: he grew taller, he raised his head and looked out at the (non-existant) audience, and became a "star" while the air around him glowed. While before no one paid him any attention, once on stage, no one could take their eyes off him.

His contribution to pop music can be debated but can't be ignored. Not only was he a captivating performer, but he was also a real musician. Dean Parks, veteran L.A. session guitarist, told me about the "Beat It" sessions (Dean played the main rock riff, while Steve Lukather played the 12th fret 'funk' riff). Dean said Michael showed up at the studio with a PortaStudio (4-track cassette format) demo with virtually all the basic parts fleshed out, including the guitar parts.

In my opinion, "Beat It" was the best song on Thriller. Here's MJ performing "Beat It" live:

(Jennifer Batten handles the VanHalen solo nicely)

So long Mike, and thanks for all the music.

Update: Vocals only for Beat It; incredible:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Try a Little Tenderness

One thing the Baptist churches I attended as a youth taught me: The folks who pray the loudest and cast the first stones are the biggest sinners. Personally, I think human failings are none of my business. But when people preach one thing and practice another they are fair game.

And when you're in the republican church, and we see how the politicians in the the RNC and GOP believe that their Party of No is washed in the blood of the lamb, they pray the loudest against; the gays (Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, Jeff Gannon, Gov. Christ, et al) ; and the adulterers, (Newt Gingrich, John McCain, David Vitter, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, et al). Except when their colleagues trip and fell over their dicks. As always, IOKIYAR.

Hey repubs? Look for the log in your eyes before searching for the mote in ours.

And if you want to keep your marriage & families together, gay or straight, maybe you should

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon, television pioneer, pitchman, and world's greatest sidekick, passed away Tuesday at age 86, having suffered ill health for the past several years.

Edward Leo Peter McMahon Jr. was born in Detroit on March 6, 1923. By the time he was 10, he wanted to be a radio announcer; at 15 he had his first announcing job, promoting a circus from the back of a sound truck. In World War II, he served in the Marines as a test pilot and flight instructor; he returned to the service in the Korean War piloting spotter planes. After WWII, he earned a degree in speech and theater from Catholic University in Washington, DC, paying his way through school by working as a pitchman for vegetable slicers on the Atlantic City boardwalk.

After graduating in 1949, McMahon took a $75/week job at the brand-new Philadelphia TV station WCAU. Within two years he was Philadelphia's most visible TV personality, hosting 13 programs on WCAU. He gained some national exposure in the 50's as an MC for several game shows. He got his big break in 1958, when he was hired to be the announcer on a new show hosted by Johnny Carson, Who Do You Trust?

The ebullient McMahon proved to be the perfect foil to the reticent Carson. Originally hired to announce the guests and read commercials, Carson quickly worked McMahon into his comic routines, especially poking fun at Ed's love of food and drink. He adapted to the job of straight man so well that when Carson was named to succeed Jack Paar as host of NBC's Tonight Show, he took McMahon with him. Over the next 30 years, McMahon established himself as the undisputed king of the sidekicks, developing an encyclopedia of catchphrases, knowing exactly when to laugh, and introducing Carson each night with his trademark, "Heeeeere's Johnny!!!" As McMahon explained it, "I was there when he needed me, and when he didn't, I moved down the couch and kept quiet." McMahon and Carson worked together 34 years in all, forming one of the great show business partnerships and becoming good friends as well. When Carson died in 2005, McMahon described his longtime partner as "like a brother to me".

During his over 50-year career on television, McMahon enjoyed an assortment of other prominent roles. From 1983 to 1995, he hosted Star Search, a talent-scout show that gave early exposure to the young Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Rosie O'Donnell, among others. He was one of TV's most prominent pitchmen, some of his best-known spots included commercials for Budweiser, Alpo, and American Family Publishers. Every Labor Day for 41 years, he appeared with Jerry Lewis on his telethon for muscular dystrophy, and with Dick Clark, he co-hosted TV's Bloopers And Practical Jokes for several years.

McMahon's final years were somewhat sad. He broke his neck in a fall in 2007, accelerating his declining health status. The next year, it was reported that he was behind hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments on his Beverly Hills home. Donald Trump offered to buy the home so that McMahon would escape foreclosure, but McMahon made an agreement with a private buyer who leased the mansion back to him. Good-natured to the end, McMahon spoofed his financial difficulties in commercials for

Ed McMahon will forever be remembered as the ultimate second banana. This Alpo commercial from The Tonight Show highlights several of McMahon's roles, and is a great example of the rapport he enjoyed with Johnny Carson.

(Crossposted at Pole Hill Sanitarium.)

Walk like a man, my son

Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina recently put his feet in his mouth and his head up his butt when the state Supreme Court slapped him silly:
UPDATE: The South Carolina Supreme Court has ordered Gov. Mark Sanford to apply for the disputed $700 million in federal stimulus money.
The court voted 5-0, with Justice Costa Pleicones concurring in a separate opinion, that the General Assembly had the authority in passing the state budget to order Sanford to apply for the money. Sanford contended that a federal law passed in February gave him the sole authority to apply for the money.
The justices also issued a rare writ of mandamus ordering Sanford to apply for the money.
* * * * *

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina Supreme Court justices Wednesday picked away at arguments made by Gov. Mark Sanford in his legal fight to reject $700 million in federal stimulus funds, mainly for schools.

Chief Justice Jean Toal said the case boiled down to a policy fight and that Sanford had already lost that fight when the Legislature overrode his veto and passed a budget law requiring the governor to use the funds.

Is it any wonder that he needed some time to reflect:
On Tuesday, sources told News 4's Nigel Robertson that a state vehicle is missing and was tracked down, not to the Appalachian Trail, but to the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.

Sources told Robertson that a federal agent spotted Sanford in the airport boarding a plane. Robertson was told that the governor was not accompanied by security detail.

Sanford has been out of reach for more than four days, including Father's Day.

Sawyer has emphasized that the governor was hiking on the Appalachian Trail and that it wasn't something the staff or Jenny Sanford were concerned about.

But sources told WYFF News 4 that the federal agent who spotted Sanford saw him at the Atlanta airport, which is about 80 miles from the start of the trail.

Um, yeah. This from one of the Right's best and brightest? What happened? Weekend binge? Hookergate? Meetup with Larry Craig?

Who knows, except the people of S. Carolina should be worried, very worried about their governor.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The revolution will not be televised

Reflecting some of what I wrote below, my friend Howie Klein offers his most recent take on the events in Iran:
While bloodthirsty vampires on the political right, your McCains, Pences, Liebermen and Cantors-- whose only desire is to see blood running in the streets of Tehran-- do whatever they can to inflame emotions and offer Iranian patriots false hope, the entire world is viscerally mourning for Neda. And Twitter is part of that at #neda. Mousavi, no friend of the West by a long shot, says he's prepared for martyrdom-- he tweeted it-- but Neda is already dead. Unlike him, she never ordered the deaths of 30,000 political prisoners or funded Hezbollah. President McCain, President Graham, President Lieberman are wrong-- always... about everything. But it is their cranky, crackpot voices-- voices Charles Pierce explains so very well in Idiot America-- that dominate the incendiary, trivial, ratings-hungry mass media.

And who is Neda, of whom Howie speaks? This young woman (WARNING: graphic video):

More at this Iranian blog: This is what happens in revolutions, sadly. Allegedly shot by Basiji paramilitary thugs, Neda is becoming a martyr to the Iranians in the street.

Clearly rabid reality-challenged U.S. politicians didn't cause this, Supreme Leader (yes, that's his actual title) Khamenei did with his response to the contentious election in Iran. But is there anything the U.S. can do to help? Back to Howie:
They need to hear exactly what Obama is saying. But that isn't what the neo-Cons want. They want a message like the one George H.W. Bush gave the Iraqi Shi'a in 1991-- or the CIA gave the Hungarians in 1956: rise up against your oppressors and we will help you. They rose up-- and were slaughtered by the thousands.

Irresponsible inciters, safely back in Washington, shed a collective crocodile tear for them. Meanwhile, without McCain and without Mike Pence and without Howard Berman, the Iranian people-- or at least the middle class of North Tehran-- may well be delegitimizing the fascist dictatorship and the Supreme Leader. And if Al Giordano is correct, the revolution is spreading from the middle class to the working class.

So President McCain, President Graham, President Cantor, Rabbi Lieberman, Press Sec'y's O'Reilly & Hannity: sit down and shut the hell up. You're not helpful, no one cares what you say.

Oh, and in case you forgot: Iran, 1953, Mossadeq, CIA. Every Iranian remembers. Sad that you don't.


I've got big balls

The parade of conservative weenies whining about Pres. Obama's cautious words on the Iranian crisis would be funny, if they weren't so damned stupid.

For perspective, here's what Obama said on Wed., 6/17:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Obviously all of us have been watching the news from Iran. And I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football -- or discussions with the United States.

. . .

Now, with respect to the United States and our interactions with Iran, I've always believed that as odious as I consider some of President Ahmadinejad's statements, as deep as the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on a range of core issues, that the use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy -- diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries -- is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests, specifically, making sure that we are not seeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East triggered by Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon; making sure that Iran is not exporting terrorist activity. Those are core interests not just to the United States but I think to a peaceful world in general.

Yep, sounds like a pussy to me. Going all squishy when the people of Iran are crying out for us to . . . what's that? Mossadeq? 1953? CIA? Never mind.

And again, Obama on Fri., 6/19:
Q People in this country say you haven't said enough, that you haven't been forceful enough in your support for those people on the street -- to which you say?

THE PRESIDENT: To which I say, the last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That's what they do. That's what we're already seeing. We shouldn't be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the Iranian people are seeking to let their voices be heard.

What we can do is bear witness and say to the world that the incredible demonstrations that we've seen is a testimony to I think what Dr. King called the "arc of the moral universal." It's long but it bends towards justice.

But that's not enough for some of these politically motivated bloodthirsty idiots, like über-tool Mark Steyn, who whines on Friday:
The polite explanation for Barack Obama's diffidence on Iran is that he doesn't want to give the mullahs the excuse to say the Great Satan is meddling in Tehran's affairs. So the president's official position is that he's modestly encouraged by the regime's supposed interest in investigating some of the allegations of fraud. Also, he's heartened to hear that O.J. is looking for the real killers. "You've seen in Iran," explained President Obama, "some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election."

"Supreme Leader"? I thought that was official house style for Barack Obama at Newsweek and MSNBC. But no. It's also the title held by Ayatollah Khamenei for the past couple of decades. If it sounds odd from the lips of an American president, that's because none has ever been as deferential in observing the Islamic republic's dictatorial protocol. Like President Obama's deep, ostentatious bow to the king of Saudi Arabia, it signals a fresh start in our relations with the Muslim world, "mutually respectful" and unilaterally fawning.

That last part is rich, considering your guy GWBush kissed and held hands with Saudi Royalty. But of course, his sensitivity made him tough. Or something.

Look, this gotcha crap is not only insulting but childish. Steyn has made a career out of weak attempts at humor and hipness, but it's clear his only goal, like most on the right, is not a realpolitik assessment of the world, including the Middle East, but constant criticizing of Democrats, regardless of the reason.

Speaking of Realpolitik, here's what '70s hawk Henry "H-Kiss" Kissinger had to say:

KISSINGER: Well, you know, I was a McCain supporter and — but I think the president has handled this well. Anything that the United States says that puts us totally behind one of the contenders, behind Mousavi, would be a handicap for that person. And I think it’s the proper position to take that the people of Iran have to make that decision.

Of course, we have to state our fundamental convictions of freedom of speech, free elections, and I don’t see how President Obama could say less than he has, and even that is considered intolerable meddling. He has, after all, carefully stayed away from saying things that seem to support one side or the other. And I think it was the right thing to do because public support for the opposition would only be used by the — by Ahmadinejad — if I can ever learn his name properly — against Mousavi.

But idiots like Steyn have to criticize Obama for not being hawkish enough. Bacause as I keep harping, Iranians haven't forgotten 1953 and the CIA-engineered overthrow of democratically elected Mohammed Mossadeq, the popular Prime Minister of Iran.

And if we act foolishly, that's all they'll see: Allen Dulles, Kermit Roosevelt, Operation Ajax, and the US CIA.

That'll work really well for us. Like it did in 1979. Sometimes the strong thing to do isn't to flex muscles, but to talk. But I guess macho Right-wingers would rather inject testosterone into the situation and depend on manliness. Or assholiness.


Friday, June 19, 2009

I'll be your baby tonight

Just watched the charmingly disarming and alarmingly dishonest Mike Huckabee on The Daily Show debate anti-abortion/pro-choice with John Stewart.

I was surprised to find that when society allows us to terminate pregnancy because of potential economic hardships, we will inevitably slide down the Randian slippery slope to a day when elders, who may cause economic hardship, will be placed on an ice floe and sent into the Arctic Sea to die. Because real people who are living real lives are the exact equal to a fertilized egg.

Look, I can understand if you believe that sacrosanct life begins at conception. I think you're wrong, but that's OK. But use logic & honesty to convince me, not sophistry and straw man arguments. That makes you look dumb, and makes me angry. And that makes me far less inclined to take you seriously.

And Huckabee's argument is actually with himself, based on that idea. No true liberal, dedicated to the common good, would ever even dream of offing an elderly person for convenience. Rigid Libertarians and hard-hearted Conservatives might, however.

As Barney Frank famously said, conservatives "believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth".

Here are all 3 parts of the interview. I present, you decide. And sorry about the commercials.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

And watch Huckabee's dishonesty about stem cell research when Stewart questions him about IVF. Huckabee clearly has his talking points arranged in his mind, and has no interest in an actual give-and-take debate.

And lastly, how many times have pro-choice people killed anti-abortion people? Anyone, anyone?


Update: Removed all the extraneous html from Comedy Central so that videos would actually, you know, play.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Celebrate Good Times

The Chicago PD is planning to celebrate their 41st anniversary of their police riot during the 1968 Democratic Convention.

In addition to their proud moments of gassing and beating non-violent protesters they should celebrate beating barmaids, torturing people, beating handcuffed people in wheelchairs, [ED: his fellow cops, who did nothing to stop the beating, not only go free, but complain about his sentence.] and it's not like they don't have a history of such acts.

These cops were out of control in 1968, previous to 1968, and 41 years later they are still out of control.

The only 2 places I have ever been solicited for a bribe were Mexican border guards and CPD. I paid both times. It's really hard to argue with a man with a gun in his hand.

So go ahead CPD, celebrate your torture, your beatings, your trashing of laws and the constitution.

And may you all be sentenced to LWOP with your worst nightmare as a cellmate.

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Every Breath You Take

ABC News in flap over health care special

ABC News has drawn fire for an upcoming special on President Barack Obama's health care plan after rejecting a Republican request for airtime.
During the special, the president will discuss his health care plan and answer questions from a cross-section of Americans. [ED: the participants & questions are picked by ABC, not the WH] But the event will not include an official Republican Party response, prompting the Republican National Committee to complain to the network.

"I find it outrageous that ABC would prohibit our party's opposing thoughts and ideas from this national debate, which affects millions of ABC viewers," wrote RNC chief of staff Ken McKay in a letter posted on Drudge Report. "I am concerned this event will become a glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda. If that is the case, this primetime infomercial should be paid for out of the DNC coffers. President Obama does not hold a monopoly on health care reform ideas or on free airtime."
Well, in the 1st place, Obama speaks for America, not the democrats and not the DNC. 2nd, not even all democrats are on board, kinda shoots down that whole democratic agenda thing. 3rd, the RNC is a political arm of republican politicians and doesn't even represent the 21% of voters who self-identify as republicans. 4th, to repeat, Americans who will be affected, unlike politicians who already get public health care, get to ask the questions.

Gosh, with their faux outrage, it's almost like they are calling for the Fairness Doctrine to be reinstated.

The real joke is "I find it outrageous that ABC would prohibit our party's opposing thoughts and ideas from this national debate"
Republicans Unveil Health Plan but Are Thin on Details

House Republicans presented a four-page outline of their health care reform plan Wednesday but said they didn’t know yet how much it would cost, how they would pay for it and how many of the nearly 50 million Americans without insurance would be covered by it.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who heads a GOP health task force, said that when the details are drafted in the coming weeks, they would present a plan that “costs far less than the Democrats’ [plan] and provides better results for the American people.”

But Republicans who stayed at the press conference to answer questions — the leaders made statements but didn’t stay — could not answer whether their plan would include a tax increase to pay for such costly items as refundable tax credits for low- and middle-income workers to help pay for insurance.

Other reforms proposed by the GOP were largely minor tweaks to a system that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said is already the “best health care system in the world.”

“We want to work within the existing market structure,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Of course Boner (R-Boneless) says he has the “best health care system in the world.”, he has the best taxpayer funded health care in the world!

Now let's look at "the existing market structure" of health care:
Health insurers refuse to limit rescission of coverage

Executives of three of the nation's largest health insurers told federal lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that they would continue canceling medical coverage for some sick policyholders, despite withering criticism from Republican and Democratic members of Congress who decried the practice as unfair and abusive.

The hearing on the controversial action known as rescission, which has left thousands of Americans burdened with costly medical bills despite paying insurance premiums, began a day after President Obama outlined his proposals for revamping the nation's healthcare system.

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Venturing into the unknown

Bob Bogle, founding member of The Ventures, is now playing in a more heavenly venue. I can't say it any better than The Ventures' site does:
Bob Bogle 1934-2009

Jun, 14 2009
It is with profound sadness and grief that we must inform Ventures' fans all over the world that Bob Bogle passed away on Sunday, June 14. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bob's family at this terrible time, especially his beloved wife, Yumi, who has been the light of his life for so many years. The Ventures' members are completely devasted, and share the pain of this loss with all our friends and fans. As more information becomes available, it will be posted here, and we hope to set up a section on this site for messages from those who wish to post them.

The music world has lost a true original and an innovator - may all our wonderful memories console us.
It's somewhat comforting to know that Bob lived long enough to see The Ventures inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

As I wrote in 2006:
Why Aren't The Ventures in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!?

The Ventures are still touring with the surviving original members and have sold 110+ million albums worldwide. They are the biggest selling instrumental rock & roll group of all time. They've influenced everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Joe Satriani to countless players who didn't have a clue as to who helped forge their style.

So I'm instituting the 1st ever vidiotspeak drive ... no, not for something as crass as $$, but to get The Ventures into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
SteveAudio actually had the honor to work with The Ventures:
Oddly enough, I, too, played with The Ventures. For about an hour, in 1980. They had used a keyboard player named Biff Vincent for a few tours, and I did tech work for his studio, at the time located in Costa Mesa, CA.

While I was there one day, installing some new equipment, he was working on something with Mel Taylor and Don Wilson, drummer and rhythm guitarist from The Ventures. They were trying to record something for a demo using a Vocoder, and Don, being a rhythm player, couldn't quite get it.

Biff knew that I played quite a lot, and asked if I would mind, and of course I said yes. So I played guitar on a Ventures demo for about an hour, long ago, far away.

That, of course, means nothing in the big picture. What really matters is that these guys played rock instrumental guitar music, at a time when it was all brand new. And for that, they deserve inclusion into the R'n'R HOF.
Here's Tacoma's News Tribune quoting co-founder Don Wilson:
“Boy, I tell you, he’s the brother I never had,”
“And he is much more than any brother could be. He and I were partners for, like, 52 years. And to tell you the honest truth, we had never, ever had an argument in all that time — never.”
“If you listen to ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ and ‘Perfidia,’ the lead guitar is just totally unique,” Wilson said. “He used that vibrato bar – they call it a whammy bar – and he used it like nobody else.

“Nobody had heard anything like it. That was why ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ was such a monster hit. I run across so many people, guitar players – famous ones - and they say the first song I learned was ‘Walk, Don’t Run’.”

And 40 years later:

Thanks Bob, Telstar never shined so bright that you didn't eclipse it.

Update (SteveAudio):

Instrumental songs are something many rock listeners today don't think about. They have been important in all types of pop music all through the 20th Century, and especially once the electric guitar emerged as the instrument that would define rock.

When I started playing in bands in '63, instrumentals were mandatory. And while many famous instrumentals still get air play today, from Sleepwalk to Rumble to Tequila to Miserlou, The Ventures made the unusual career of recording virtually only instrumentals.

Every aspiring guitarist of the early '60s knew most of The Ventures' repertoire. But the song that defined them and was arguably the high point of their career was indeed "Walk, Don't Run". While many early rock instrumentals were fairly simplistic and often downright primitive, The Ventures' work, due to their ages and jazz experiences, showed much more subtlety than most rock did in 1960 when WDR was recorded and released.

But that makes sense when you consider that they didn't write the song. Jazz guitar great Johnny Smith did. They took his not loud but hard-swinging song and gave it a rock feel.

Here are 3 songs of Johnny's "Walk Don't Run" (1954) album, starting with the eponymous title song:

Listen to all 3 songs, they're all pretty great.

Update 2:

Please see my friend Max's post at Crooks & Liars:
The Ventures (the best selling instrumental band of all time) are the style's finest. Bob Bogle may be gone, but he's in every whammy bar shake on a Stratocaster for some time to come.


Monday, June 15, 2009

And the beat goes on

Some say Holocaust Memorial shooting signals a broader war
Home invasion suspects tied to border group

Two of three people arrested in a southern Arizona home invasion that left a little girl and her father dead had connections to a Washington state anti-illegal immigration group that conducts border watch activities in Arizona.
While the self-proclaimed Minutemen are now distancing themselves from this "Minutemen American Defense" group, it's important to note what Jim Gilchrist, President of The Minuteman Project commented on an earlier news article:The Minuteman Project is proud to be a supporter of Shawna Forde’s Minutemen(women) American Defense (M.A.D.)

And the hits just keep on coming:
Far-Right Shootings Raise Fear of Hate Offensive in America

Von Brunn wrote in a note: "The Holocaust was a lie. Obama was created by Jews." Von Brunn, who shot dead Stephen Johns before being shot himself, is in hospital and has been charged with murder.
Two weeks ago Kansas-based abortion doctor George Tiller was gunned down in a church by an anti-abortion campaigner. In April, Joshua Cartwright shot dead two policemen in Florida after a domestic disturbance. Police interviews established that he was "severely disturbed" that Obama had been elected. In North Carolina a former marine is facing charges after police investigating an armed robbery found a private journal containing a plan to kill Obama and white supremacist material.

In January, the day after Obama was inaugurated, a white man in Brockton, Massachusetts, went on a gun spree that killed two blacks. He also had links to white supremacist groups. That followed another shooting spree last summer in which an unemployed truck driver in Tennessee shot two people dead at a church. The gunman, Jim Adkisson, left a note saying he was targeting the church because of its liberal and gay-friendly outlook.

But perhaps the most disturbing recent incident involving the far right happened in December 2008, when police investigated the murder of James Cummings in Maine. Searching his house, they discovered literature on how to build a dirty bomb and many ingredients that could have been used to make such a weapon. Cummings, who collected Nazi memorabilia, had amassed four barrels of radioactive material.
And just in case you think these are 'isolated incidents' by 'lone wolf gunmen', you should know and understand that Pat Buchanan, one of the most invited and quoted wrongwing pundits on TV has invited a white supremacist to speak to his conference:
Leading White Nationalist To Speak At Pat Buchanan’s American Cause Conference This Month

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky

Our good friend John Amato of Crooks & Liars' father passed away last night.

We wish him comfort and love in his time of sorrow. John, many people love you, I hope that helps.

Must die, must die, this Jesus must, Jesus must, Jesus must die!

While most of the anti-choice outlets are distancing themselves from the murder of Dr. Tiller, and put out press releases denouncing the 'left' for politicizing the event, they were also putting out calls to their fellows to politicize it. e.g
How Tiller's Death and Office Closing can Help Propel Pro-Life Movement
Even more disturbing is christain pastors calling and praying for Obama's death:
Colmes: then said, I asked for whom else are you praying in that fashion and you said President Obama. Are you praying for his death?

Drake: Yes.

Colmes: So you're praying for the death of the president of the United States?

Drake: Yes.
WWJD? Well I won't pretend that I have conversations with Jesus, (or god), but I can't see the Prince of Peace praying for anyone's death, or walking up behind a man in church and assassinating him.

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I ran so far away

(I Ran: deal with it!)

In re: the electoral debacle in Iran, Juan Cole, as expected, has the definitive answers. Not only on the recent history and trends, but on how the election was likely stolen:
I am aware of the difficulties of catching history on the run. Some explanation may emerge for Ahmadinejad's upset that does not involve fraud. For instance, it is possible that he has gotten the credit for spreading around a lot of oil money in the form of favors to his constituencies, but somehow managed to escape the blame for the resultant high inflation.

But just as a first reaction, this post-election situation looks to me like a crime scene. And here is how I would reconstruct the crime.

As the real numbers started coming into the Interior Ministry late on Friday, it became clear that Mousavi was winning. Mousavi's spokesman abroad, filmmaker Mohsen Makhbalbaf, alleges that the ministry even contacted Mousavi's camp and said it would begin preparing the population for this victory.
Some Neocon idiots, and perhaps even some misguided naifs on the left might suggest we interfere. Here's why that's a monumentally bad idea.

In 1951 the Persian Parliament elected Mohammed Mossadegh as Prime Minister. No one disputes this democratic election. Mossadegh was popular, and western friendly. But he also thought that the U.S. & British profits from the Iranian oil fields, negotiated as usual with heavy favoritism to the colonial powers, were unfair. He tried to negotiate a 50/50% split with the Anglo-Iranian Oil company (AIOC) nad was rebuffed. Aramco had recently set up the same profit deal with Saudi Arabia, so the proposal was not out of line. Except to BP (British Petroleum).

Frustrated by Britain's stubbornness, Mossadegh nationalized the oil industry. While the Iranian populace was happy, western interests were furious. 10 Downing St. tried to talk then-Pres. Truman into helping engineer a coup, but were rebuffed.

Shortly after Eisenhower's inauguration, Allen Dulles & Kermit Roosevelt were tasked with organizing a coup. With the CIA's assistance, it came to fruition in August of '53 when Mossadegh was arrested. Much of this information is freely available, and the Wikipedia entry on Mossadegh is quite thorough. Yes, I know it's Wikipedia, but if you trudge through the cites and footnotes, it's all there.

Bottom line is that the ouster of Mossadegh and the return, again U.S. arranged, of Shah Reza Pahlavi, really pissed off the Iranian people. And many of them were slow to forgive. This pretty directly led to the revolution of '79 and the capture of the U.S. Embassy & hostages.

Iran is a young country; 2/3 of the population is under 30. And they're fairly western-friendly, and reform minded. And while Mousavi is not, by any western standards, a liberal or a reformer, he is a radical leftist compared to Ahmedinejad.

So if we really want to throw Iran under the bus, inflame Arab moderates, and generally infuriate the entire region, let's send the CIA and the U.S. military to clean up the election results. Because it worked so well the last time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Barry Beckett

Notable sessionman and producer Barry Beckett passed away Wednesday at age 66. Beckett had been in poor health in recent years, having been diagnosed with cancer, and suffering a series of strokes.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Beckett first came to notice in the 60's as part of the crew of session musicians associated with Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section provided a soulful touch to hits by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Percy Sledge, among others, with Beckett's keyboard stylings as a key part of the mix. Leon Russell dubbed this outfit "The Swampers", and they were immortalized by Lynyrd Skynyrd in their "Sweet Home Alabama".

In 1969 Beckett co-founded the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and began to branch out into producing, while continuing his activities as a session keyboardist. A couple of Beckett's notable session credits from this period are on The Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There" and Paul Simon's "Kodachrome". As a producer, Beckett scored pop successes with Mary McGregor's #1 hit "Torn Between Two Lovers" and The Sanford-Townsend Band's "Smoke From A Distant Fire". At the end of the decade, Beckett produced notable LP's for Bob Dylan (Slow Train Coming) and Dire Straits (Communique).

Beckett sold his stake in the Muscle Shoals studio in 1984 and took a position with Warner Brothers in Nashville. His production skills played a key role in Hank Williams Jr.'s mid-80's success, as well as producing hits for Alabama. Working independently, Beckett also produced an eclectic array of artists including Etta James, Pfish, and The Waterboys. He also helped launch Kenny Chesney's career, producing his first two discs. Chesney said, "There's no way I would be where I am today in my life if it wasn't for Barry Beckett. He was one of the first people in Nashville to believe in me, on any level, and he taught me so much. The more I got to know him, the more I realized how much he contributed to the world of music."

Beckett's work on "I'll Take You There" and "Kodachrome" provide ample testament to his skills on keyboards.

A 1999 interview with Beckett is also a good primer on how records are made in Nashville, for better or worse.

(Crossposted at Pole Hill Sanitarium.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Happiness is a warm gun

You've probably heard by now that the rightwing, christain, anti-semite James vonn Brunn gunned down a security guard at the Holocaust Museum.

I don't know whether it's an actual conspiracy of the rightwing extremists or just a virtual conspiracy, but the exact same thing that the DHS was warning about rightwing extremist groups and their terrorism is coming to pass. (That's the report that the republicans were so up in arms about.)

And the terrorism, according to the rightwing extremists own words, is going to escalate.

Here's a rundown:
Von Brunn friend: It’s what happens ‘when white people are provoked’

What White Supremacists Are Saying Today About Holocaust Museum Gunman

AMERICAblog's End of day shooter updates

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

And when I feel my finger on your trigger

Suspect in abortion doctor death warns of violence

The man charged with murdering a high-profile abortion doctor claimed from his jail cell Sunday that similar violence was planned around the nation for as long as the procedure remained legal, a threat that comes days after a federal investigation launched into his possible accomplices.
Tiller's clinic had been a target of regular demonstrations by abortion opponents. Most were peaceful, but his clinic was bombed in 1986 and he was shot in both arms in 1993. In 1991, a 45-day "Summer of Mercy" campaign organized by Operation Rescue drew thousands of abortion opponents to Wichita, and there were more than 2,700 arrests.
I'm a firm believer in free speech, and the test of that is when you support free speech from folks you disagree vehemently with. Another test of that is when you yell 'Fire! in a crowded theater.

Now let's take a look at the definition of 'terrorism' from
1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
Now let's look at how our country defines it:
U.S. Code Title 22, Ch.38, Para. 2656f(d)

(d) Definitions
(2) the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;
(5) the terms “terrorist sanctuary” and “sanctuary” mean an area in the territory of the country—
(A) that is used by a terrorist or terrorist organization—
(i) to carry out terrorist activities, including training, fundraising, financing, and recruitment;
So, by definition, what Scott Roeder did was terrorism. And it worked, Tiller's clinic,one of only 3 in the country, has closed it's doors. And Scott Roeder is celebrating that fact.

And while the anti-choice folks at Operation Rescue clutch their pearls and declaim him as a lone whacko, the facts are "the authorities found a slip of paper with the organization’s name in Mr. Roeder’s car when he was arrested, as well as the name of one of its leaders and her telephone number" and the 'leader' that the NYT didn't name is senior policy adviser Cheryl Sullenger, a terrorist that has been convicted of conspiring to bomb the Alvarado Medical Center in California. From her previous actions in helping track Dr. Tiller's movements it seems she should be indicted as an accessory.

So why isn't Operation Rescue been designated a terrorist group? And why isn't anyone who contributes to it guilty of funding a terrorist group?

I'm so glad you asked: Because they're white christains.

This movement is the American version of the Taliban. They seek to impose their religious values on others, subjugate women, and make America a theocracy.

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I'm not a lawyer. Surprised? Too much work, too much school. But I do love the law, and read about it often. So I was not surprised when I found this critique of Sonia Sotomayor from conservatarian blog Point of Law:
I suggested hope that she might apply such strong free-speech views to cases involving campaign finance restrictions.

Alas, we now know better. A former member of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, Sotomayor has written aggressively in favor of strict campaign finance regulation:

The tolerance in this country for questionable behavior by public officials is illustrated by the persistence of extremely troubling--but legal-- practices in the public arena. In one of the murkiest and least well-controlled areas, we find ourselves debating what the quid pro quo's are for campaign contributions. Here we have abandoned standards we would surely apply in any other context. We would never condone private gifts to judges about to decide a case implicating the gift-givers' interests. Yet our system of election financing permits extensive private, including corporate, financing of candidates' campaigns, raising again and again the question what the difference is between contributions and bribes and how legislators or other officials can operate objectively on behalf of the electorate. Can elected officials say with credibility that they are carrying out the mandate of a "democratic" society, representing only the general public good, when private money plays such a large role in their campaigns? If they cannot, the public must demand a change in the role of private money or find other ways, such as through strict, well-enforced regulation, to ensure that politicians are not inappropriately influenced in their legislative or executive decision-making by the interests that give them contributions. (footnotes omitted)
As I read her comments, Sotomayor seems either woefully ignorant of or utterly unconcerned by the centrality of political speech to the First Amendment, and the pretty self-evident notion that monies spent on or donated to campaigns constitute political speech.

Crap. simply crap. I know, having buckets full of money entitles one to buy a big house, a private jet, a fancy car. But the weird fetish of the right that political contributions are "free speech" makes no sense at all.

Until one understands that they want, they encourage, government takeover by the wealthy, and the corporations. Then it all makes sense. Bribery as a public policy is a feature, not a bug.

Clearly the writers of the 1st & 14th amendments had no intention of these laws being used for this purpose. It is a perverse agenda-driven analysis that sees a wealthy person's contributions to a political campaign as being worth more that someone donating pennies. Yet the conservatarian right continues to sound this cry, that being able to donate $1,000,000 to Sen. X's campaign will give you a quid pro quo with Sen. X after he/she is elected.

Yes, you can donate anything you want to a campaign. No, you can not expect anything in return except that your dollars are sepnt by the campaign.

Fools, idiots, bastards.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Deer Prudence ...or ... the buck stops here

I just saw a fawn a block from my house. I live near the middle of a town of 70,000 people. And I like venison, but run, Bambi, run!

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight?

Rule of law, republican style:
Court orders Sanford to take stimulus money

The state Supreme Court Thursday ordered Governor Mark Sanford to accept $700 million in disputed stimulus money included in the state budget.
The writ was included in a 5-0 ruling in favor of school administrators and two South Carolina students who went up against Gov. Sanford in court.
The anti-bailout governor refused to take the cash even after legislators passed a budget requiring him to do so.

In response to the ruling, Sanford said the state has "a fundamentally flawed governmental structure that impedes and hurts progress in the state."
Fundamentally flawed!? As in "checks and balances" between the 3 branches of government? As in the same structure of the US Constitution?

He doesn't want to be governor, or president, he wants to be king!

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Sunday, June 07, 2009

There lives a girl everybody calls Patches

As if we needed further proof the writers at National Review Online (NRO) are one enchilada short of a combo plate, John "the human female is visually attractive to the human male at, or shortly after, puberty, and for only a few brief years thereafter" Derbyshire allows a commentor to demonstrate Extreme Stupid.

Rivalling Vanilla Ice's claim that being an upper middle-class white dude was key to understanding the urban hip-hop experience, The Derb's commentor criticizes Sonia Sotomayor's life story for being too privileged:
Derb — I’ve been hoping that someone might be bold enough to rain on the Sotomayor “compelling life story” parade.

The woman grew up in the capital of the world, went to two Ivy League schools, and was blessed by Providence with the precisely correct right race-gender two-fer for the moment.

This is a story of privilege, dammit, not adversity.

Curv3ball, writing at The Poorman, from whom we heard about this, has this to say:

For me, on the other hand, life’s been a non-stop hustle from the jump: grew up white, male and middle class in the suburbs, raised in a stable two-parent home with money for college…I marvel that I somehow managed to make it out alive and not end up just another statistic. The shit, as they say, was of the realest variety.

Despite surviving that ordeal, my ceiling is as low as my birth.

If only I could’ve caught a break, lost my pops, seen my mom scrub some toilets and moved to the projects, I’d probably be John Roberts by now. Cause that’s pretty much how kids from the projects roll.

Derbyshire goes onto rant that his story is as poignant as Sotomayor's:
Like my reader, and I'm sure a lot of other Americans, I get mighty annoyed by the unspoken implication in a lot of commentary that anyone not a member of a Protected Minority must have grown up in a twelve-bedroom lakeside mansion and been chauffered off to prep school with a silver spoon in his mouth. Judge Sotomayor was raised in public housing? So was I. Her mother was a nurse working late shifts? So was mine. When did white working poor people disappear off the face of the earth? Where are the eager listeners to their "compelling stories"?

Here's the public housing that poor, deprived Johnny knew:
The house was built in 1948 by the town of Northampton. It was a "council house" — that is, public housing let at a weekly rent. The initial rent was 19 shillings a week (about $3.80 at the prevailing exchange rate). My parents continued to rent it until 1982, by which time the weekly rent was £12.64 (though this was a reduced rent on account of their ages). I then bought the house for them under the policy instituted by Margaret Thatcher's government, of selling council houses to tenants at discount. Because my parents had been renting for over thirty years, they got the maximum fifty percent discount. I paid Northampton £8,425 for the house. At the time of writing (late 2007), houses like this in Friars Avenue sell for £150,000-160,000.

Cool. He bought a government-subsidized house. How, you know, socialist. How does that compare to Sotomayor's early housing?
Ms. Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in 1954 and grew up in the New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA's) Bronxdale Houses. Bronxdale Houses, located in the Bruckner section of the Bronx, has 28 seven-story buildings with 1,496 apartments. Bronxdale is home to approximately 3,500 residents. A modern, high-tech community center opened its doors on the grounds of this development back in 2007, and offers educational and recreational activities for children and adults of the development and the surrounding community.

And how about the rest of her upbringing?
Ms. Sotomayor was raised in public housing by her mother, who worked as a nurse at a methadone clinic, to support Ms. Sotomayor and her brother Juan. At the tender age of eight, Ms. Sotomayor was diagnosed with diabetes and just one year later her father, a factory worker, died of a heart condition. She is no stranger to adversity, but she did not let these challenges deter her from reaching her goals.

So, Mr. Derbyshire, your charming English home is somehow equal to 28 7-story buildings, aka The Projects, in The Bronx?

I would write more, but I simply don't have the energy. This kind of "I was born a poor white child" kind of reverse racism has never played well, and now it looks even more ridiculous. Derbyshire, for all his obvious faults, may truly believe that he was as challenged as Sotomayor, but the facts really don't support this. Fantasize all you want about being oppressed, it's really all in your head.


Friday, June 05, 2009

At last, my love has come along . . .

We recently watched "Cadillac Records", the fictionalized history of Chess Records. While much of the details were wrong, the basic story had resonance. Chess single-handedly brought 'race' and blues records to a largely unaware audience. Leonard Chess seems like a visionary today:
Leonard and his brother Phil were involved in the black nightclub scene on the South Side of Chicago by 1947. They soon became associated with Aristocrat Records, and moved the company away from black pop and jazz and closer to pure blues music with artists such as Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim and Willie Dixon. Leonard Chess himself played bass drum on one of Muddy Waters's early sessions. In 1948, the Chess brothers took control of the company and in 1950 renamed it Chess Records. "My Foolish Heart" (Gene Ammons), "Rollin' Stone" (Muddy Waters) and "That's All Right" (Jimmy Rogers) showcased the company's new direction.

During the Chess heyday, the early recordings of an acoustic Robert Johnson morphed into the electric adventures of Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Howlin' Wolf. This music in turn was embraced by young musicians in England, and eventually brought home to the U.S. as the '60s kids flipped out over remakes of early Chess hits by The Rolling Stones, among others.

What was it all about? Here's Howlin' Wolf doing Smokestack Lightning:

Here's Muddy singing a Willie Dixon song:

And here's Willie:

But Chess's biggest hit was arguably the first true 'crossover' recording, a song that made it up high on both Pop & R'n'B charts:
The song became James's signature song and was the third in a string of successful songs from her Chess Records debut album At Last!. Upon the song's release in April 1961, it became her second number 2 R&B hit and crossed over to pop radio, reaching number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite its rather low pop chart standing, the song is well-known and is still played regularly on oldies radio stations.