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.