Monday, December 29, 2008

Gaza Suffers Israeli Wrath

It is time for Israel to stop punishing the people of occupied Palestine and the Gaza Strip for aspiring to freedom and statehood. Stop the bombing Now! It is time for Israel and its apologists to acknowledge what has been painfully obvious for years, namely that they have no real appetite for negotiating a peace, coexisting with the Palestinian people, or conforming to any UN resolution that doesn't suit their purposes.

Yes, frustrated and unemployed Palestinian youth launch home made rockets into Israeli settlements. And they often create shock and minor injury, rarely hospitalization and on an even rarer occasion a single fatality. In the last three days of Gaza incursions, the Israeli Defense Force has killed almost 300 residents, half civilians and about twenty children. Read about a father who lost five of his children to Israeli bombs, here. This was after weeks of border closures and blockades that made it hard for the average Gazan to buy bread to feed his family.

Of course the Palestinians are frustrated. They've been forced to endure decades, generations of scorn and neglect - after being summarily evicted from their ancestral lands. Then, locals have been witness to an unprecedented boom of illegal settlement villages and cities on formerly Arab land. And now, Israelis funded by American Jews are buying up every square inch of Arab land to convert to Jewish control. These "deals" are often shams that take place long after the death of the supposed seller in foreign countries that were never visited by any of the parties involved. Read this recent article about the practice, involving a business and notary in Tustin, California. Uh-huh. Like we're believing that!

The Israeli military monitors travel, transportation and access. Israeli gates and checkpoints have a long history of denying passage to the elderly, the sick and pregnant women for hours or days. This winter, the Israeli government has sanctioned a policy that has kept even heating and cooking oil out of the Gaza Strip.

Then there's the wall, separating Palestinian families and dividing up what is left of traditional Arab olive groves and agricultural land. Adding insult to injury, the Israeli authorities are now building a rapid transit, light-rail train through Arab Jerusalem to connect illegal Jewish settlements to the Israeli part of town. Trains that the local Arab residents will never be able to use.

I have posted about the enormous vacuum of U.S. Policy in the Middle East in previous articles. I noted that the United States provides Israel with more annual foreign aid than all other countries on the planet combined. Combined? That's right. We do so in spite of the end of the cold war, questionable national security benefits, and the ill-will our positions engender in the entire Muslim world. Go figure! For the record, there are about 7.2 million Israeli citizens including about 2 million Arab Israelis; and, there are almost 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. Can you say: Do the numbers?

There's just something so wrong about a people who were treated in such a horrific manner in recent history spending four decades systematically committing small-and-sometimes-large everyday insults and ignominy to a group that they perceive to be weaker and less powerful than they are. The irony is just too profound. The justifications and rationalizations just too paltry and insufficient. Have you seen the pictures? Can you imagine the pain that comes from a generation of teenagers in prison for resisting an unfair and heavy-handed occupation? Not to mention the outrage of collective punishment and the wholesale revision of history.

I confess to having a dog in this fight. It wasn't always that way. Like most Americans, I admired the thinking and work of David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir even if I knew nothing of the politics behind the creation of the state of Israel. But things changed rapidly. Angry far-right Stern Gang sorts with attitude and muscle took over the Israeli political scene and put an end to the dreaming of their socialist colleagues. One has to wonder if the underworld wasn't also involved in that transition. In any case, I had been working closely with the Rainbow Coalition in the early and mid-eighties on racial justice and the political campaigns of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. A colleague who was also involved with me in that process, Alex Odeh, was murdered in an explosion, caused by a bomb planted by a Jewish terrorist in his office in Santa Ana, California. Blew his legs off and he bled out, right there in his office on 17th Street. The Jewish Defense League member that was implicated and in his guilt fled to open arms in Israel has never been returned to justice in the United States.

Then there are the two, high-level spies (here and here) in Federal Prison for life for conducting espionage for the state of Israel. In my experience, allies don't spy on allies. And finally, there is the still open folder of the U.S.S. Liberty, sank while on a research assignment in the Mediterranean in 1967. Is this the kind of friend we want (or need) in this moment in history? I may be in a very small minority, but I think not.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winter Holiday Musings

The December solstice has come and gone. Mid-Winter is upon us, and a couple of weeks of snow has finally yielded to rain and unwelcome morning fog. The holidays were bearable, we all survived with personalities and relationships intact. No small task, given the perversion of the season and the excess that it invites.

On December 13th, we enjoyed yet another installment in our annual holiday fest - the best local social gathering of the season. Guests this year were treated to catered fare from the Jacksonville Inn and lots of big, red wine. Thanks to my friend Platon Mantheakis for his help and support in that regard.

Following our annual fest, we made Tamales, in a nod to my two adult daughters' Hispanic maternal roots; and brewed pots of hearty Assam tea, in a nod to their Scots-Australian grandmother. Our holiday dinner included a standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, baked veggies, sweet potato pie and plum budding with hard sauce for desert. In the run-up, my partner and daughters were a whirlwind of baking projects: Persimmon cookies and pudding; Coffee Cake; and, Mouse au chocolat. Lupe cracked some of her 2006 vintage Cabernet, and my eldest contributed some of her home-made hard cider. Our youngest found time to join us from her ever-changing living situation in close-by Ashland, where she will be teaching the finer points of carving to classes full of anxious pre-teen plankers on the slopes of Mt. Ashland.

I'm heading back to work for at least a while tomorrow morning. Just to check the pulse of the business and catch up. I'll be posting about that assignment next week. I have been at this new consulting gig since July 18th, and I'm very grateful to be working in this tough economy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ginormous Ice Santa Rules

Leave it to the Chinese to sculpt what is claimed to be the world's largest ice Santa.

Yea, that's what I'm talkin about. A mountainous St. Nick in an Asian winter wonderland. How counter-intuitive from an ostensibly communist country. And the day after the holiday, some lucky planker may get to carve Santa a new pirate face. Arrghh.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Convenient Death - Troubling Implications

Here's a very troubling report, worthy of attention and close monitoring. Whenever a high-level whistle-blower dies unexpectedly, especially Karl Rove's IT guru, questions are begged; investigation is mandatory; and press coverage is presumed. Thanks to Boing Boing for ensuring this story didn't get lost in the noise.

This would be alarming enough by itself, but there's more. The whole email and White House communication scandal shows no signs of going away or being resolved anytime soon, as this comprehensive overview in the Washington Post reveals today.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bye Bye July

It is the last day of July, and the image on the left is taken from my back porch. Japanese Maples are among my favorite specimen trees and we are fortunate to have two as back porch bookends. The garden is in full bloom, just below, and we're continuing our never-ending battle with gophers and deer. This year, there are more than just a few red foxes shrieking all night long, and a lot of raptors scaring the hell out of our flock of chickens, now numbering 19. Red-tail Hawks, Osprey and the occasional Falcon.

The Author has taken a new vocational assignment, as VP of Marketing at an Integrated Communications Management company. That's a mouthful, to be sure. I've posted before about the changing face of marketing communications in a digital world, and now I've got a great opportunity to put theory and vision into practice in a company I admire and respect. Doesn't hurt that they have great customers who love them. I'm expecting this development to impact my ability to keep up the three-to-four posts a week that has been a benchmark objective for this blog. The good news is that once I have systems, policies and procedures in place the insanity will subside and I'll get back to my normal schedule. Oh, and my new employer bought me a brand-new MacBook to get us on the same page. That's an awesome piece of gear, and totally complements my iPhone and iPod. So I'm in gear-head heaven as I contemplate all the cool stuff I can add to the system. I'll post a note with the story about my first Mac, a pre-launch gift from Ron Roner and the Apple marketing team in 1986 (or was it 85?), at a future date. It's a good story.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Iraq PM Supports Obama Pull-Out Plan

Okay, the debate is over. Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki (pictured), speaking for the Iraqi government, indicated in an interview that he prefers Senator Barak Obama's troop pull-out plan and schedule. Read the news here. This is significant validation of the long-held position of the Democratic Party that a timeline and transition plan are required at this point of our almost six-year war.

The Bush administration and Republicans in general vigorously opposed a timeline, and insisited on an unlimited commitment with forever bases, since the beginning of the war. And of course, John McCain famously warned we could be in Iraq for 100 more years. Uh-huh. Not happening. Not ever.

It is now clear to even the most casual observer that this war has always been about oil, corporate profits and cowboy diplomacy. Our initiation of the hostilities was based on lies about WMD, poor intelligence and even worse analysis of that intel. Our actions, ironically, seem to have strengthened our opponents and destabilized a region that was already a tinderbox. And of course, we've spent our once great economy into ruin conducting our international affairs; and forever tarnished our reputation and moral authority worldwide. Can you imagine a more disasterous scenario? Well, add to our many mistakes the lost attention and action on real world problems; like global warming, the safety of the food supply, poverty, hunger & disease, and you get a better picture of the damage done by George Bush, his administration of clueless lackeys and the Republican Party in general. The Democratic Party, and presidential candidate Barak Obama win this argument. It's over. Bush and the Republicans were and are wrong. We can only hope that they are held accountable by the American people and history for their crimes and misjudgements.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Brother Metal - Headbanger Monk Goes Viral

Just when I thought I'd seen it all, a heavy-metal Capuchin monk (the real kind) releases a second album and goes viral on YouTube after a BBC piece, here.

We're all familiar with Benedictines and Gregorian Chant, but heavy metal? Yea, that's what I'm talkin about. This is no fluke, the good brother was converted at a Metallica Concert decades ago. Now, sporting a full white beard and not-so-full a head of white hair, Padre Cesare Bonizzi is an unlikely headbanger. But he and his band Fratelli Metal have played the Gods of Metal concert now for a couple of years along side acts like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Slayer. Uh-huh.

We're talking tats, leather and lots of natural pheremones here. So check out this pretty poor quality video below and see for yourself. On a side note, it is a real frustration when YouTube videos have the embedding "disabled by request." The "requestors" should know that they're not doing themselves any favors by limiting the ability of bloggers to share quality videos with their readers (end of rant).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Note on Netroots Nation

Thanks to Andrew from the Northwest Progressive Institute for covering Netroots Nation, referenced in the post below. Andrew is adding value by tracking media coverage of the event. He provides this link to a very surprising and comprehensive report, get this, in the Main Stream Media. Okay, credit where credit is due. Though I recently highlighted some totally LAME reporting by KTLA on the iPhone G3 launch, this story about NN on News 8 Austin rocks.

Pop Impulse Joins Blogs United to Cover Netroots Nation

Today in Austin, Texas the Netroots Nation conference gets underway. Progressive political bloggers, candidates, activists and pundits all over the country have been gearing up for this event for months. The image (left) of Hillary is from the 2007 Yearly Kos, the predecessor to this show. PI featured on-the-ground reports on the 2007 event from author and progressive radio host Jeff Golden: here, here and here.

This year, Netroots Nation speakers include Rep. Donna Edwards, elected with netroots support; General Wesley Clarke; and, speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi, who will chair a special session called "Ask the Speaker."

As a run-up to the event, a number of blogs nationwide created a new group called Blogs United. Thanks to Kid Oakland for energizing the process. Pop Impulse was invited to join several months ago, and as a result The Author has met a bunch of committed compatriots via the listserve and daily digest. Sweet.

Pop Impulse readers will be rewarded with a round-up report on the event, filed by The Bleeding Heartland's DesmoinesDem. Props to her for making the effort to provide coverage for the rest of us. Oh, and if you're hooked-up with Second Life, the conference is appearing live.

Big Bank Balance? Better Worry!

Got a chunk of change in the bank? A healthy balance in your account? You may have a problem. It is time to start worrying about the integrity of the U.S. banking system. Read more about the crisis of confidence in a New York Times report, here. To review, the federal government guarantees bank deposits up to (and there's the rub) $100,000. If one's balance is bigger than that, losses will be sustained in a bank failure.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer (What, you thought Silicon Forest's daily paper would have a normal name?) ran a pretty good "What to Expect if your Bank Fails" piece with a handy calculator to assess your potential losses, here. If you have worries, do the calculation and see what you may lose.

So how real is the threat? Well, the Fed is hiring 150 more professionals for their "failed bank" team. By now, most have heard about the depression-era bank run that broke IndyMac in California. There is a "secret" list that the feds keep of banks on the brink. It is rumored to have over 70 more institutions under watch, with about 15 in dire straits. Washington Mutual and California's Downey Financial are frequently mentioned by financial pundits reporting on troubled institutions.

So what happened? In a phrase...Capitalism run amok. Greedy bankers getting into bubble building on the backs of working Americans. The Author has heard it described as "mission creep." Banks started out with a fairly simple and transparent mission and modus operandi: Provide communities with a safe repository for money, and use a portion of those deposits to make loans to deserving local citizens and businesses at a fair profit. Well as bankers got greedy and competition more intense, the mission changed to more of a "make money at any cost while taking no prisoners..." approach. Loans were "securitized" into mortgage-backed obligations and sold in bits-and-pieces to a host of upstream financial speculators. And thus, the traditional model was broken. Now banks are seriously under-capitalized, due to covering so many bad loans, and the economy is teetering on the brink of depression. If you are the worrying type, now would be the time to worry about your bank.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why the MSM Sucks and Nobody Watches

Thanks to Boing Boing for ferreting this excellent video out of the YouTube universe. Graphic and revealing evidence of the depths to which local news, in the country's second biggest market, has descended. Though happily embedded in southern Oregon for almost 20 years, The Author grew up listening to KTLA News. You know, back when there were a few real journalists among newsreaders and info-entertainers. And the MSM wonders why it is hemorrhaging viewers. Such cluelessness is hard to fathom. Okay, here's why the local news is losing viewers. Just watch as this "News Reporter" takes on the wrong gearhead and gets flamed. Sweet.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Graffiti - Street Art

Everybody knows the difference between "tagging" a wall with gang signs to signify turf and graffiti. The former is vandalism, the latter is art. Check out this blog of Brazilian grafitti organized by city. Then cruise over to Sailor's site for some more exotic street art. Charleston taggers are featured at this site. And KC's taggers can be found here. Graffiti has been around since the ancient Romans. Early graffito (the plural, believe it or not) adorned the walls of tombs in Pompeii.

It's not hard to understand. Humans are by nature artistically expressive in one manner or another. Parts of the world have embraced street art, while others employ armies of clean-up workers and special surfaces to suppress the practice. That generally doesn't work, especially in urban centers where keeping up with artistically obsessed individuals and groups is an impossible task. So recently some of New York's boroughs have been talking about outlawing the sale of spray paint. Yea, uh-huh. Now that's a rational response. Just give it up. Spend a sensible amount of taxpayer dollars cleaning up the most offensive, and leave the rest - even encourage expression in designated venues.

The Author has been trolling the net for some great sites and examples of street art. Virtually every continent and every major city has much to offer in that regard. I'm going to miss a lot of great stuff, but here's what I've decided to share. I need to acknowledge the help and permissions granted to me by the owner/blogmeister of the great Chilean site, here, who provided the images below.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bush Makes Taxpayers Bail Out Banks

Okay, this is despicable. On a hot, Sunday Summer evening (today!!) the Bush administration announces that the American Taxpayer will be held responsible for the failures of the banks and speculators. Our government is making us liable to the tune of $50 billion dollars. That's about $25,000 for every taxpayer in the country. Read Bush's Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson's full statement here. And an analysis in the Financial Times here.

Uh huh. Give us a few hundred bucks at tax time, then undertake the most massive redistribution of wealth in recent memory. That's what it is folks, a redistribution of wealth from those who earned and deserve it to banks and financial speculators. I know I'm overjoyed to just sign over my retirement, my savings and a big hunk of future earnings to these guys. Right? They *so* deserve it. Read why (not) here. Read about how the banks have undermined our schools, here.

In case you haven't noticed, capitalism has finally run amok. Investors and speculators have "securitized" everything and are trading away our birthright. To review, speculation is blamed in part for the increasing price of food, fuel, and energy in general. It was the source of the sub-prime mortgage crisis that has cost countless millions of working Americans their homes and threatens our cities.

George Bush and his cronies couldn't have done a better job of bankrupting the country if they had tried to. The ruinous reign of the nasty shrub has thrust us into two, costly and apparently unwinable wars. On Bush's watch our economy tanked; the housing market evaporated; and the incomes, health and general welfare of citizens has declined. And John McCain thinks we want four, or even eight more years of this? Please. Even the Financial Times says things are going to get worse before they get better. Spare us all. It's time for a change we can believe in.

Sweet Summer Slowdown

After recording almost a post a day for June 08, The Author has fallen victim to hot Summer days, garden reveries and a significant birthday celebration. The temperatures in sunny southern Oregon have been flirting with triple-digits daily. Blazing hot and dry as a bone. Naturally we've been focused on reducing fire threats and keeping thirsty plants alive. Even our virtual Xeroscape has issues with this heat. And some of our not so drought-tolerate plants, like a hillside of knee-high Hypericum, are taking a lot of time and effort. On a positive note, the tomatoes and chickens seem to be doing just fine. That's 19 chickens in our current small flock.

I've got posts in draft form around a bunch of current political issues and scandals, a new article or two on World Beat music, and an essay or two percolating up through my heat-numbed consciousness. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Dave Maxwell Wins 2008 Blues Award

I've posted about the "maximum blues" of Dave Maxwell before, here. It's not often that The Author gets to post about a blues keyboard artist, there just are not that many great ones around. Sure, Charles Brown is a legend - but he's more of a jazz artist, and he insists on singing which sometimes obscures his instrumental genius. And I've posted about Marcia Ball's talented fingers. She *is* da queen of Boogie Woogie.

When it comes to the Blues, no-one alive today matches the licks of Dave Maxwell (pictured, photo by Peter Waiser). Since I said it all in the previous post referenced, I've just included a new video for your viewing pleasure. And news that the man has just won the 2008 Blues Award - whatever that is. Though unfamiliar with the accolade, I'm sure of this: Dave Maxwell deserves it.

Jesse Helms: Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

Former Senator and notorious racist Jesse Helms died today. Read the NY Times article here.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.
All this questionable individual contributed to the country was a unhealthy dose of angry, white male authoritarianism. And we've had entirely too much of that, from our Puritan forefathers to the pious, religious right of today. Enough already.

For the record, Helms was anti-black; anti-immigrant; anti-gay; anti-feminist and anti-progressive. At that, I've probably left something out. There's a reason Helms was known as "Senator No." A reactionary of the highest order, Helms facilitated the candidacy and rule of Ronald Reagan, who took us down the road to ruin and George Bush. Helms defended Reagan's lawbreaking anti-Nicaragua dirty war, and railed against non-military foreign aid. He's also the dimwit that got family planning removed from the approved list of funding targets for American aid - effectively setting back civilization several hundred years and crippling some of the best known, health-related NGOs in the world. Jesse Helms also fought federal funding for AIDS research. Tooth-and-nail. He thought AIDS was a punishment from god for disgusting behavior. What a guy. Quite simply, we're all a lot better off without Jesse Helms around. Now if Dick Cheney and Antonin Scalia would have the good taste to expire without delay, we'd all be much relieved.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

It's Official: Wall Street Enters Bear Market

It's official. As of the U.S. market's close today the Bears have taken over Wall St. Read the BBC report here. As one Wall St. financial analyst put it: ...this is just validation that all Hell has broken lose... in case anyone had any doubt left at all. The shit has hit the fan. Yup, we're melting down. Not a Bull in sight. Read Bloomberg's Financial News Service report.

Investors are justifiably concerned about the condition of the U.S. economy; the ripple effects of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown; increasing unemployment and stagflation. The Author has posted about all of these crises, and their causes, in previous rants (see sidebar).

Of special concern is the perfect storm that is brewing in the financial and banking world. One hears that phrase a lot these days, evidence of the sorry state of affairs in the Bush treasury and mis-management by the Fed. Those of us who own small businesses know that there is a steep price to be paid for incompetence. Consumers are now getting the bill for years of official incompetence and dereliction of duty. Where were the regulators who stood as our last bastion of protection against the hazards of speculation, avarice and greed? Oh, that's right. They were all replaced by political appointees. Just like the Justice Department, the FDA, the EPA, the Forest Service and the BLM.

Steve Winwood's Dirty City

Steve Winwood never disappoints. He's one of those timeless, ageless musicians like Van Morrison who always seem to move forward - not content to live and play based on past glories.

Winwood's latest effort, Dirty City released earlier this year, continues his long string of wins. Featuring collaborations with the likes of Eric Clapton, harking back to Blind Faith days, the disc is wonderful. Highly recommended. The Hammond B-3 drives the band, continuing a rock tradition defined by the Lee Michaels Band. The video below features Clapton on guitar. This is not just your perfunctory collaboration, rather a tune that is uniquely suited to Clapton's style and technique. The pairing produces some great stuff. You'll just have to listen and decide for yourself.

Barack Obama's Second National Ad

I posted about presidential candidate Barack Obama's first national TV ad here. He has now released the second ad in what is clearly a "get to know the candidate" series of backgrounder pieces. We're looking for great work from the Obama communications team. They're already breaking new ground in that regard, allowing the formation of a large group of activists on Obama's own site that are opposed to his recent statements on Telecom immunity and the FISA bill compromise. Now that's a breath of fresh air. The Author, normally a strong supporter, let the Obama team know they were off-message on that issue; and, risking a dilution of brand as Arianna put it in a piece on the Huff post. Without further ado, or editorial comment, here is the new ad.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Uno Cycle - Bringing Cool to Electric Rides

Okay, The Author is impressed. Way impressed. In fact, faith in the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the human race has been restored. Why? How? Just check out Ben Gulak's new Uno-Cycle. Now this is totally, stupid cool.

An electric, Segway-like gyroscopically controlled Uno-Cycle that reaches cruising speeds of up to 15 MPH. Yea, that's what I'm talking about. That's twice as fast as the Segway. Thanks to Larissa at The Raw Story for running the Chicago Trib piece on this awesome piece of work. Read the story and check out another pic here. I want one. And I want all the masses in congested Chinese, Indian and American cities to have one. The sooner, the better. Props to Ben and to MIT for recruiting this 19-year-old visionary.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hersch Says US Attacking Iran Now as Tensions Escalate

In a report that appears in this week's issue of The New Yorker, political journalist Seymour Hersch [pictured: right] says that the U.S. is already on the ground in Iran - preparing the battlefield for the war to come before Bush leaves office. Read a news report on the story and the ensuing denials, here.

In response, Iran's generals have announced that their troops are digging several hundred thousand graves, to provide respectful burial for enemy soldiers killed in any attack; and, targeting their Shahab's for retaliation. And to up-the-ante even more, Iranian generals are threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz and squeeze the world's already perilous oil supply. Just today an American Vice-Admiral returned fire, saying we wouldn't let that happen. Just great. As Sabre-rattling goes, this is some high-decibel stuff. We are clearly locked in developing hostile situation in the Middle East that could dwarf our already disastrous efforts in Iraq and those of NATO in Afghanistan. Don't forget that Iran is five-times the size of Iraq with several million men under arms and modern weaponry. It is also important to remind our policy makers that Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas can be counted as Iranian front-line supporters - each capable of igniting firestorms in the region. And of course, U.S. policy makers and military strategists have not proved effective or successful in this arena - quite the opposite.

The Author has raved about this issue before, with equal trepidation and disbelief. How can we allow this threatening and unrealistic escalation to continue? How can it possibly serve our interests and not compound an already difficult situation? Is the U.S. returning to brinksmanship as a tool of foreign policy? Or is the Bush administration so clueless and out-of-control that they would dig the hole we're in even deeper? I think we all know the answer.

Congress simply must act now to avert this doomsday scenario. It seems to The Author that Representative Dennis Kucinich's articles of impeachment might be the correct path forward at this point. Would a president facing imminent impeachment commit the country to yet another costly and ill-advised war? He might, but the uproar would be deafening.


Gano Espana!! Spain has defeated Germany 1-0 to win the Euro 2008 Cup. An awesome tournament, an awesome victory by the Red Fury. Fernando, "El Nino" Torres was the man for Spain. His goal at about the 38 minute mark was the decider, ending 44 years of drought for the Spaniards. 69 year-old Spanish coach, Luis Aragones, was credited by his players for securing the victory. In their march to this impressive victory, the Spanish team beat the world champion Italians, the former Euro Cup champion Greeks, the aggressive Russians and the storied Germans. A victory to savor for the ages. They're still partying in most of Iberia.

On an interesting political side-note, the Spanish victory manged to bring Galicians, Catalans, Basques and Castillians - often a contentious bunch at best - together in a fever of sports patriotism. It would, however, be an oversight to ignore the sublime and unexpected performance of the Turkish national team in this year's tournament. 19 late game goals is very impressive. In The Author's humble opinion, the Turks gave viewers some of the best moments in the last two weeks of football.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Life Imitating Doonesbury

Life imitating the comics. Yes, it happens. Take the recent Doonesbury plot line for example. Episodes of the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily comic strip recently have featured young Alex Doonesbury, a student at MIT, doing a blog-watch and rapid response for the Obama campaign. Her job is to search the net for bogus blog posts and suspicious web sites, then intervene to expose them for what they are and spread the word. Awesome job, BTW. So you think that's a little far-fetched? Of course you don't, because you're informed and web-savvy. In reality, scurrilous hate-filled postings are already easy to find. Just check out the local politics discussion forums on Craig's List in your own hometown to confirm that.

Today, I came across a great bit of investigative journalism on the "Undercover Black Man" blog. The author of the post I read had noticed a suspicious-looking web site purporting to be a black-power site for Obama. It was filled with some pretty inflammatory crap, then dressed-up to look as real as the owner could manage - considering he's a long-haired, middle-aged white guy from Laguna Niguel, California. UBM "outed" the dude and his charade, and the site was promptly pulled with a contrite apology. Seems the guy is a bass player and teacher with more than a few vids on YouTube, so he's got his own franchise to protect. Welcome to on-line reputation management. Read about it here. You'll enjoy the bit of investigative journalism, proving once again that the blogosphere is rapidly supplanting the MSM as "the source" of up-to-the-minute news and analysis. Props to UBM. The Author suggests a celebratory victory dance is in order.

Hairy Nose Wombat Endangered

Australia's large, hairy nose wombat is facing extinction. So the country's treasury chief, the state's CFO, is taking a five-week leave to go care for 115 of the little animal treasures. With an inflation rate approaching a 16-year high and fuel prices on the rise, this has naturally attracted some attention and comment. Not that Aussies have any trouble saying what's on their minds. Read about the brouhaha, here.

For background, there are fewer of these, unusual short-legged Aussie Marsupials than there are Giant Pandas in China. Marsupials are nature's strangest beasts. And Australia has so many; Koalas, Kangaroos, Numbats and Bandicoots, while the rest of the world has so few. In fact, Australia is the only place on Earth where Marsupials dominate the ecosystem over their placental Mammal cousins (source: Wikipedia).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bye Bye Bill

The Author has the dubious distinction of having moved in some of the same, large circles as William Henry Gates III in the early days of the PC revolution. When the industry was mostly pony-tails and Birkenstocks. While he was busy building Microsoft from a down and dirty operating system he purchased from Seattle Micro, I was busy being a cube-rat in the marketing departments of a series of hardware and sofware companies. Bill was very successful and got way rich, as we all know. And though modestly successful in his endeavors, The Author never could amass the fortune that Gates managed (Damn, not even close).

I remember Bill in pink polo's and on occasion in standard-issue geek suits. I generally ran across his eminence at private parties and early Spencer Katt fests around COMDEX. Of course, he often could be seen stalking the halls of Network World, Interop and other niche trade shows during the empire building segment of the cycle.

I also remember Bill holding forth, as was his wont, while rocking slowly back-and-forth from the waist up. He was mesmerizing, really. The man always had vision, and he was always excited to share it. He also benefited from a good deal of blind luck and serendipity. It is what it is, and Pop Impulse readers know that The Author was actually paid for a few years to run around the giant Microsoft's legs constantly kicking at the knees and ankles. It was a job I relished, and excelled at. After all, who among us can't remember cursing the blue screen of death and Microsoft's pension for Beta-testing its product with release 1.0.

Bill's departure from the day-to-day realities of Microsoft deserve note, as an era has certainly passed. Now he can devote himself to a tireless pursuit of philanthropy. An enviable, and honorable role for this giant of industry. And he will be viewed much like a Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon or Huntington after all is said and done. Like all of the above-mentioned figures, he wasn't above stamping out all perceived competition with ruthless abandon. I should know, about half of my employers during the 80s and 90s fell prey to operating system creep and the monopolistic practices of Microsoft. I often find myself wondering what computing would look like today if Quarterdeck's fine open, cross-platform windowing system, DESQview/X had won the war.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fine Rides - Fuel Efficient

For the style- and ride-conscious, The Author submits the following totally hot cars that boast well over 30 MPG. Two are European and one is Japanese. No surprises there. My personal fav is the Mini Clubman - which is to die for and gets way good gas mileage (above). But you've gotta love the 1.9 litre turbo diesel which is so popular in Europe. That motor shows up in a lot of vehicles, like several versions of Audi's A-4. The motor also comes standard with the New Beatle (pictured). You want mileage and spunk? Check out that motor, it's an engineering triumph.

I've included the New Toyota Scion on my list, just because it looks so cool. Admitedly, the cars pictured are not stock models - with the exception of the Clubman.

So why are we so focused on BioFuels, when there are turbo-diesels that get between 50-and-60-MPG? Seems kind of counter-intuitive in the middle of a food crisis.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Financial Tsunami Drowns Consumer Confidence

Consumer confidence hit a 16-year low today. Read the Bloomberg report here. With good reason, it seems. Consumers aren't as dumb as business often thinks. They know a disastrous economic downturn when they see one. After all, if your mortgage has not been foreclosed, it is likely that the value of your home has gone down over 15 percent in the last two years. Just peachy. And of course, there's the mountain of credit card debt; the auto loans; the equity lines of credit - the list of liabilities just goes on-and-on. The Author has posted before about the roots of this recession, here and here. Readers have learned consumers are not to blame for the sub-prime crisis, rather it is predatory business practices based in corporate greed and excess. Previous posts have also looked at how the crisis will affect cities and schools (hint: very badly).

Just how bad is it? Is the U.S. becomming a third-world nation? Well, Bennet Sedacca, president of money manager Atlantic Advisors LLC in Winter Park, Florida wrote the following in a report (source) issued yesterday:

"Whether it is anecdotal or statistical evidence, I see inflation everywhere, and this is where the financial tsunami cometh. `A battered, over-indebted consumer, if forced to retrench, could create even more problems for the banking system as loan delinquencies would begin to rise even further. All sorts of delinquencies are rising. This is now a systemic issue.''

The EU Engages Cuba's New Castro

Going its own way, four days ago the European Union agreed to lift five year-old sanctions on Cuba - defying U.S. pressure to stay the course. Read the Associated Press article here. The Libertarian Party of the United States promptly admonished the Bush administration to take a lesson and follow-suit. Read their arguments for ending the embargo here. The Author has also argued for ending the embargo in this previous post.

Simply put, there's a new Castro in charge of Cuba these days and he's making some tentative international gestures and domestic moves designed to ease the Island's authoritarian socialism. Recent moves, reported in The Independent, include giving citizens access to computers and cell phones; rental cars and previously exclusive tourist hotels.

Raul Castro appears, according to press reports, to be enamored with the Chinese approach to economic change and the new, party-controlled free market that is flourishing in China. This provides the West with opportunities to engage the new leadership and to encourage positive change. That's just what the Europeans recognized and are acting to leverage. The U.S. would be well-advised to pay attention. Again, The Author is anxious to enjoy a fine cigar and some real Rum and Salsa at sunset on the promenade in Havana.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Woman Nominated for Army Four Star

In what is being described as an historic first, president Bush today nominated Lt. General Ann E. Dunwoody to take over as commanding General of the U.S. Army's Material Command. That's the outfit that keeps the Army supplied with anything and everything they need and use. Read the Washington Post's article about the nomination here. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, according to the Post article, "...she would be the first woman in U.S. history to receive such a high military rank. " As a long term feminist (father of two daughters and former RN in a previous life), The Author is delighted. Kudos to Dunwoody, who comes from the deepest military family imaginable.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sharon Shannon *is* The Galway Girl

Sharon Shannon's latest album, The Galway Girl: Best of Sharon Shannon, topped the Irish charts late last month. It was a tumultuous month for the veteran performer who first toured U.S. at 14. Her long-time partner, Leo Healy (MHRIP), died suddenly and unexpectedly in early May, shortly before the new disc's debut.

Featuring the likes of collaborators Steve Earle, Jackson Browne, and Damien Dempsey, The Galway Girl was formally released on June 9th. A video of her performing Galway Girl live with Steve Earle is well over one million views on YouTube, where most of her vids have been rated five-star. With good reason. This woman can really play. Her Irish-style concertina accordion is very well-known in Celtic music circles, where she is something of a legend. Check out her label's blog here.

As regular readers already know, The Author is very fond of traditional Celtic music. Be it in Gaelic, English or Old Scots the music is infectious and captures the rhythms of the land, sea and everyday work in old and magical ways. It makes me want to dance, to work and to occasionally cry in my Guiness. And Shannon is a master musician, a multi-instrumentalist that is happy making music on whatever is close by. The accordion is really her main axe. You know, the kind with buttons instead of keys. Just watch her fingers fly on this first video; then listen to her back up Steve Earle on his version of Galway Girl.

With Steve Earle

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama's First Gen. Election Ad

See it on Pop Impulse! Barack Obama's first official, general election ad. Hat-tip to Josh Orton at MyDD for the scoop. According to Josh's post, the ad will run in:

Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia.

iTunes - 5 Billion Downloads & Growing

Talk about changing the face of an entire industry in a few short years! Apple's iTunes stores today announced its 5 billionth download. That "billion" with a "b". For perspective, that's more music than WallMart sells. Is Steve Jobs a genius, or what? Look for an iSight digital camera from a new harvest of fine Apple fruit due soon. Just give it up to Apple, America's answer to Sony - and more.

Check out the sidebar on the right for a list of The Author's most recent iTunes purchases on the iTunes widget. The personal iPod is up to 2,700 songs, and the list is growing. The sidebar also links to posts about music & bands, as well as to great YouTube musical videos.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

OMG! The Iraq War Really IS About Oil

The NY Times reports today that the major oil companies that were run out of Iraq over 30 years ago when Saddam nationalized the industry are now in final negotiations to return to the country, and control massive amounts of Iraq's oil resources. Read it and weep, here. OMG!

The Author is older and jaded after decades of life and learning, but it is still hard to believe that we sacrificed thousands of our finest youth, our economy, our homes, our international reputation and our future hopes for the profits of a few oil companies. What were the Bushies thinking? Are we really that gullible? Evidently. Even when former Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson acknowleged the connection, we didn't believe. Even when Alan Greenspan added his voice to the chorus, proclaiming that though politically incorrect, the war was based on the need for unfettered access to Iraqi oil we balked. Damn. Double damn. Here's a relevant quote from the citied article:

There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract.

Mozilla's FireFox 3.0 Sets Download Record

Browser users everywhere made a statement yesterday, downloading a world record 8 million copies of Mozilla's FireFox 3.0 browser rev. Servers were swamped as the download rate went through the ceiling. The company had set an optimistic 5 million single-day download goal, and burned through that number in short order. The new record is, in fact, a shoe-in for the next Guinness Book of World Records. Read about it on WikiNews here. Props to Mozilla. Bah Humbug to the Ruffians from Redmond.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Floods Raise Stagflation Fears

The current Mid-West flooding, described by some as the 500 year flood, has put millions of acres of prime farmland under water. This after a difficult Spring that left growers with only a few days to plant their crops. Well they got the job done and the crops in the ground only to see them innundated with record floods in short order. According to NPR & PBS, up to 20 percent of Iowa's corn and soybean production may have been lost to the weather. The same is true in Wisconsin and downriver in Illinois. And, it is not over yet.

Concern is rising about the effects of the floods on already inflated food prices. Read about it here. On top of record prices for gasoline, the increase in food costs is unwelcome at best, and a desperate blow to consumers at worst. Further, as the price of corn escalates, the price of corn-based ethanol goes up. That impacts the already crazy price of gas. Speculation in both oil and food has exacerbated the situation, as investors seek to profit from the volatility and turmoil.

What is even more alarming to economists and consumers alike is the prospect of Stagflation. This article in Slate explains the nature of the concern. Like we need this! So let me see if I have this right. Just as the most incompetent administration in the history of the United States has destroyed the economy and the American dream, prices on just about everything go up. Uh-huh. Just as record numbers of Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure and their jobs to recession and outsourcing, prices go up. Surprised? Just as the largest demographic group in history starts to retire, prices go up. One sector that is not at all upset about this sequence of events is "Big Oil." You know, the folks that sponsor George Bush and Dick Cheney. And if you think John McCain is any different, just watch this video.

Monday, June 16, 2008

California Celebrates Marriage Equality

At this very moment in the fair state of California thousands of gay couples are tying the knot. Many have waited almost a lifetime for this moment, and The Author celebrates with them. So lift a glass tonight and make a toast to life, to love, and to marriage equality. The younger generation has it right: it's not the sex, it is the person. Read a post by the plaintiff in the Cali case that ended discrimination, here.

German Paper: Impeach Bush

The German paper Die Tageszeitung called for the impeachment of president Bush a few days ago, according to this report in Der Spiegel.

The reason? Wanton disregard of the law of the land and the fundamental principles of the constitution. The proof? The recent Supreme Court decision extending the right to a fair trial to Guantanamo detainees, the third straight court rebuke of Bush's detainment policies. The paper accurately concludes that three, repeated transgressions of this dimension warrant grounds for Impeachment. One could add to that indictment: knowingly lying about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, as well as authorizing the largest most invasive government snooping program on private citizens in our history.

What really gets The Author worked up is the way that right-wing demagogues now direct their hatred and vitriol at the Court. This is certainly not the Warren Court, rigorously guarding our rights and privacy; however it is the most conservative court in recent memory - populated by Bush appointees as it is. So even when this court says enough, the right-wing of the Republican Party is not satisfied. No, any disagreement with their neo-facist policies is unwelcome. Here's what the left-leaning German paper had to say about Bush:

"Instead of keeping to the law and applying it indiscriminatively to all its people, the Bush administration has behaved like a regime that ignores the rule of law. In fact, the administration for quite some time has mocked -- and with outrageous impertinence -- the highest administer of justice in the US.

"Against any person who breached the law in this manner, the state would have at its disposal mechanisms to punish the individual. But they seem to be missing when it comes to punishing the state. According to the logic of the US Constitution, the judgement of the Supreme Court offers an extremely sound reason for the US Congress to launch impeachment proceedings against the president.

"That will not happen, of course, just half a year before the end of the Bush administration. However, there is still a job to do for Congress. The Democratic majority can at least oppose any new attempt by the government to introduce unconstitutional legal principles."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Garden Gnome Thief Thwarted

French police arrested this weekend a 53 year-old man accused of stealing up to 170 garden gnomes. Der Speigel reports the story here.

Though suspicion had first fallen on the notorious Garden Gnome Liberation Front (website, in French), Der Spiegel reports that the thefts appear to be the work of the single individual arrested. Whew. I'm glad they've settled that dust-up. Gnome lovers everywhere will rest a lot easier tonight.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cloak of Silence Unveiled - Invisibility Next?

A couple of days ago, the BBC World News reported that scientists have unveiled the physics behind auditory cloaking. That is, the science necessary to make objects impervious to sound waves. This story got very little coverage, but is quite important in the world of science. As the article asks: if one can cloak sound waves, can light waves and invisibilty be far behind? Find out the answer; and the potential applications of this new breakthrough, read the article here.

Prostate Drug Reduces Cancer - Perplexes Urologists

The NY Times is reporting today that two new studies now demonstrate the startling effectiveness of the drug finasteride in reducing the incidence of prostate cancer tumors in men.

This is certainly very good news for men, most of whom will have to deal with prostate problems at some point in their lives. Many with the decisions around what to do with a prostate cancer diagnosis. And you can take it from me, that is not an easy process to navigate.

It has been seven years since The Author was diagnosed and treated for this common male cancer. So after my own Urologist tried to rush me into an unnecessary surgery ("Why don't we go ahead and just schedule the procedure for early next week?"), I did the research and opted for brachytherapy - close proximity radiation delivered through surgically implanted seeds (pictured above).

The surgery is just too invasive, fraught with too many profound complications and side-effects, and simply unnecessary in many cases. It is, however, the most profitable procedure that is performed by Urologists who closely guard the franchise - often to the detriment of their patients. That's right. When you leave medicine to the free market, medical specialties start competing with each other for your dollar and the foundation of trust is shattered. For example, brachytherapy is delivered by an oncological radiologist or an interventional radiologist. This crew competes with Urologists for your health-care dollar. This is profit-driven, physician-centric care. It is not patient-driven in any way. The Times article hints at the real problem:

"...most leading specialists say, a major problem is that men are getting screened, discovering they have cancers that may or may not be dangerous, and opting for treatments that can leave them impotent or incontinent...While it might seem convoluted to offer a drug to prevent the consequences of overtreatment, that is the situation in the country today, others say. Preventing the cancer can prevent treatments that can be debilitating, even if the cancers were never lethal to start with...What the drug’s proponents are advocating is taking a drug to somehow compensate for what many believe is the nation’s overzealous diagnosis and treatment of the disease."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vid Mocks Republican Voters

Thanks to John Enders, former AP correspondent and former executive director of the So. Oregon Historical Society, for sending a link to this video. It's a hoot, unless one plans to vote Republican in the general election. And nobody is planning to do that, right? Right?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Take My Budweiser, Please!

You've got to be kidding. American politicians are lining up to oppose the sale of Budweiser manufacturer, Anheuser Busch, to Belgian brewer InBev. Read the Huffington Post story here. Is there no limit to the pandering of politicians during election cycles?

American beer drinkers should be incensed. InBev makes European standards Stella Artois, Becks Beer and St. Pauli Girl; three of the finest brews available. And the company also owns Labatt's of Canada, Australia's Castlemaine XXXX and Brazil's wildly popular Brahma Beer.

Not only would this acquisition make InBev the largest beer brewer in the world, it would provide American Beer drinkers access to Europe's far superior beer brewing technologies and traditions. A good thing, take it from me. If you can't bring yourself to admit the hopeless inferiority of most American mass-produced beer, conduct your own experiment. Buy a bottle of Stella, a bottle of Becks or St. Pauli Girl; and a bottle of Australia's Castlemaine XXXX. Blind taste any or all of these against an American Bud and decide for yourself which company you'd rather have brewing your beer. I'm guessing there'll be no contest.

That said, The Author remains a big fan of locally produced micro-brews. After all, this blog originates in the great American Pacific Northwest - home of the finest micro-breweries in the US. But if one judges global companies by the quality of their products, InBev certainly ranks right at the top of the beer sector of the beverage industry.

Split Supremes Affirm Rights of Detainees

The Supreme Court got it right, for once. Barely. On a split, 5-4 decision the Court today decided in favor of Gitmo detainees and against the administration of president George W. Bush. Surprised?

I don't know what surprised me the most...that five members of the current court would actually affirm the constitutional right to a fair trial; or, that four conservative members of the court found a way to leave the constitution behind. Read the NY Times coverage of the story here. Then check out the LA Times Q&A on the issue, here.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain has already reassurred the radical right about his intentions to continue to appoint hyper-political, conservative jurists to the high court. Like we need more Scalia clones to tell us all in endless "ninograms" how to live and act. I don't think so.

Of course, the "torture president" immediately disagreed with the ruling. No respect for the separation of power from this crew, unless it results in rulings in their favor. No surprise there. The Author is mindful of the important role the court plays in the success of our democracy. That's why continuing the trend of partisan, radical-rightist appointments established by the Bush administration is not an option if we value our freedom, privacy and rights.