Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Michelle Obama in Colorado Springs

Even if I missed Barack Obama among 150,000 people in Denver on Oct. 26, I got to see Michelle Obama among 3,000 people in Colorado Springs Oct. 28. The beginning of her speech is below, with Part 2 here and Part 3 here (ran out of memory before the end of the speech). You can also see an antiwar protest outside the auditorium here, and Catholic anti-abortion protesters facing off with Obama supporters here. Sen. Ken Salazar spoke prior to Michelle Obama's speech.

Intelligence Spending: Be Sure to Read the Fine Print

Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, said on Oct. 28 that Fiscal 2008's intelligence budget was $47.5 billion. But a Baltimore Sun article admitted that this does not include tactical military intelligence. Ten years ago, the TIARA Project (Tactical Intelligence And Related Activities) totaled more than $10 billion. This means the full U.S. intelligence budget exceeds $60 billion.

Another Associated Press article stated that DOD agencies consume 80 percent, or about $37 billion of the total that does not include tactical. Since National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency are less than $5 billion in size, this probably means the National Reconnaissance Office (nation's largest by budget) must be well above $10 billion, while the National Security Agency must be approaching, if not exceeding $10 billion. Feel safe yet?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Call Orkin

Well, with a week before the election, it's time for the vermin to crawl out! Two skinhead supremacists from Jackson, TN just got arraigned for planning an "assassination" (yeah, right) of Obama, and Sarah Palin tried to stay unflustered while a supporter hollered "Obama is a nigger!" at a rally (video below). Man, oh man, seven more days of this crap, should we expect an armed coup attempt by those convinced of a Zionist Order of Government and Illuminati plot to turn the U.S. over to the UN?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna

If you've seen a Gang Gang Dance live show, with four drum kits and random noises coming from a dozen directions at once, no explanation is necessary. If you haven't, the new Saint Dymphna album is their most melodic and accessible, sounding a little like a Putumayo world-music compilation as played by OCD/ADD-addled robots. Liz Bougatsos veers dangerously close to becoming a diva on a couple cuts, at least a diva of the Bollywood variety. Above is a clip from Tokyo, and another interesting London performance is here. Watch them in high resolution, and catch them when you can.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Involuntary Servitude for the Financial Industry?

It was wonderful to see CNN's Situation Room do a short clip Oct. 23 featuring Dennis Kucinich, who wants to launch new legislation preventing those banks who were helped in the bailouts from granting bonuses to key executives. CNN interviewed some asshole economics professor who said that leading financial barons needed to be provided some sort of incentives to stay at distressed banks, or they'd go work for hedge funds or sovereign wealth funds (SWFs). Well, that's assuming that we don't place them in a position of involuntary servitude.

Why not modify the Thirteenth Amendment to say that slavery is abhorrent except when applied to key investment-banking executives, hedge-fund managers, and Nobel laureates in mathematics who work in the financial field? We lock in the financial services industry today, forcing everyone currently working in the industry to remain in place, working for minimum wage. They will be forbidden to switch to SWFs or hedges. Their $40 million apartments on the Upper West Side will be provided rent-free to community non-profits, and they will be given seedy apartments in Alphabet City, which they will be forced to travel to using mass transit. Weekend chain gangs will be led, not by Ben Bernanke, but by Saint Greenspan himself, for continuing to hew to the Ayn Rand/Milton Friedman school, while giving only the mildest of mea culpas. Time for slavery! And no reparations in a century for financial robber barons!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crooked Fingers in Denver

Eric Bachmann has reconstituted his stunning band Crooked Fingers, after releasing a solo album a year or two ago. On Sunday night, Crooked Fingers played the Bluebird in Denver, where I captured the newer version of the band playing "Crowned in Chrome" (above), "Devil's Train", and "Bad Man Coming." (I would recommend choosing the "Watch in high quality" option.) My Flip camera unfortunately insisted its memory was full, even though there was 15 minutes left, so I missed superb acapella duos of Elin Palmer (violin) and Miranda Brown (guitar) singing "Man O'War" and "Luisa's Bones." The band's version of "Let's Not Pretend to be New Men" was also stunning. Oh well, hope you enjoy what's here.

I should mention the marvelous new Denver band, Dust on the Breakers, that opened for CF, a sample video is here. This was only their second time playing live! Wonderful performances by all.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

NSA to Soldiers in Iraq: We've Got Your Datebook!

The good old National Security Agency is at it again. An ABC report on the night of Oct. 9 said that cryptanalysts had been listening in to U.S. soldiers in Iraq phoning home to loved ones. Honestly, for being Upper Echelon, these guys are pretty low-class.

"We're Not Human" - Patti Smith, Birdland

After dealing indirectly this week with a couple acquaintances who showed sociopathic tendencies in the way they treated others, I thought back to the period 15 years ago, when pundits were talking in the aftermath of Rwanda and Croatia about whether human rights can be forfeited. At the time, I stuck adamantly to the view that human rights are not automatic and inviolate for those who fail to recognize the rights of others, but must be constantly re-won and re-earned through right behavior and right thinking.

Now, it's obvious in the aftermath of Nuremberg that humans are responsible for their actions, and cannot claim a law of obedience. It's equally clear, in the aftermath of the Vienna and Helsinki "baskets" in the UN on human rights, that certain rights are common across all cultures and circumstances. Mass murderers like Vojislav Selselj would insist that principles are not common, and that when Serbs are indicted, it's "us against the world." The International Criminal Court made it clear that, when 90 percent of a relevant population is opposed to your viewpoint, your alternative definition of sanity, and of torture, genocide, etc. has no relevance - you are insane by the consensus of the vast majority. Of course, now that the ICC has moved into indicting President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, you have to wonder - does such insistence on moral righteousness by vast majority aid anything, or does it make conditions worse?

The ties to personal behavior are obvious. Certain behaviors are expected of human beings interacting with other human beings, in a way that operates beyond cultures and race: nonviolence, honesty, some level of consistency of emotional response, etc. We can and should be cognizant of the limits to effective human behavior that alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental illness place on a person, but that should not be an automatic free pass for bad behavior. Nor should insistence that "I'm just that way." Making claims of being "naturally inconsistent," of being a "temperamental artist," of saying "I'm a North Italian from New York City, that's just the way we are," do not stand up as excuses or rationalizations. Do I want to see preventive detention of sociopaths? Not necessarily, though the use of repeat-offender statutes by criminal courts should serve as a guide. Rather, we should always remember that old line mommy and daddy gave you about, "With rights come responsibilities." Demanding human rights means showing appropriate human behavior, on a social level and an interpersonal level. Gross violations of mutually-agreed-upon standards should mean forfeiture of human rights. The next question is, what does it mean to forfeit your rights as a human? Is it open season to shoot the offender?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cyber Command in Colorado Springs, Nuclear Control is....where?...Omaha?

Well, Tom Roeder from the Colorado Springs Gazette gave us the first report on why the Air Force Academy was on lockdown over the weekend, and what happens as a result of the Air Force officials getting spanked for not controlling their nuclear weapons. Cyber Command, the computer defense and attack unit temporarily housed in Louisiana, comes to Colorado Springs under the auspices of the Air Force Space Command - but will no longer be called Cyber Command, apparently. Meanwhile, nuclear weapons control leaves the Space Command's domain and now moves under.... well... it's not exactly clear. Roeder's article makes it sound like a new constituent command is formed under the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, but details are pretty sparse. In any event, the shit all comes home to roost at StratCom, where the bigwigs control nuclear weapons, conventional weapons, global strike, intelligence, and every other icky thing you can think of. But if your computer is hacked, blame the kids in Colorado Springs. And is this inside baseball? Maybe, except that it involves the future of the planet, indicating you just might want to pay attention.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Criminally Moronic People Run the Nobel Prizes

I'm a couple days late catching up with this, but I'm still astounded that the Nobel Prize committee's top jurist, Horace Engdahl, could say that U.S. citizens receive few literature awards because American writing is insular, and Europe is still the center of the literary world. Excuse me?! I'm glad that New Yorker editor David Remnick pointed out that the Nobels had snubbed Joyce, Nabokov, and Proust, making them all but insignificant in identifying great literature.

I read a lot of European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Asian literature, and I am far from a rah-rah U.S. guy, but if Engdahl's short list doesn't include Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, the late great David Foster Wallace, Neal Stephenson, Richard Powers, etc., there's a permanent crease in his right and wrong. But then, Engdahl does not seem to be a man of great mental capacity.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

John and Barack Sitting in a Tree...

The Progressive magazine always goes out of its way to be provocative in both artwork and essay content, regularly spurring squeamish readers to go through the "Cancel My Subscription!" ritual. They've topped themselves with the October issue's cover art by Sako Shahinian. Not sure what is being said here, but I'll cherish this issue as a collector's item.