Weblog Archives




  Monday   December 31   2007

at least the new year is starting off right

I just got of the phone with my oldest, Jenny. Her husband, William, left Iraq on the 28th. He's been in Baghdad for the last 15 months. She picks him up at 3 o'clock tomorrow morning (Mountain time). That's only 3 1/2 hours away!! Woo hoo!! Tomorrow is also their wedding anniversary. They were married just down the street at the Honeymoon Bay Club House on January 1, 2003. We are much happier now.

 10:38 PM - link

some things to look foward to in the new year

Forecast for 2008
by Jim Kunstler

For the tiny fraction of people who actually pay attention to real events -- those, for instance, who know the difference between Narnia and Kandahar -- the final hours of 2007 leading into the fog-shrouded abyss of 2008 must induce great racking shudders of nausea. Has there ever been a society so exquisitely rigged for implosion? The whole listing, creaking, reeking edifice stands like one of those obsolete Las Vegas pleasure palaces awaiting a mere pulse of electrons to ignite a thousand explosive charges perfectly placed to blow away the structural supports.

The inertia holding everything together that I described in last year's forecast finally melted away at mid-summer and events began spooling out of control. Specifically, the massive tonnage of debt-backed securities circulating through the financial sector stood revealed for the mostly worthless bales of paper they truly are, and the investment community was left suspended in mid-air, grinning unconvincingly, like Wile E. Coyote thirteen yards beyond the edge of the mesa, with a sputtering grenade in each hand and an anvil tied to his ankles.


 09:29 PM - link


The Muppet Show was on from 1976 to 1981. Those who missed this amazing show lead a seriously deprived existence. The Muppet movies are very nice, but seeing The Muppet Show every week was truly sublime. Here is a documentary on making this insanity. Something to bring a smile to you face amid the doom and gloom that you usually find here.

Of Muppets and Men (Part 1)

Of Muppets and Men (Part 2)

Of Muppets and Men (Part 3)

Of Muppets and Men (Part 4)

Of Muppets and Men (Part 5)

Of Muppets and Men (Part 6)

  thanks to Neatorama

 09:17 PM - link


They Don’t Blame Al-Qa’ida. They Blame Musharraf.
by Robert Fisk

Weird, isn’t it, how swiftly the narrative is laid down for us. Benazir Bhutto, the courageous leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, is assassinated in Rawalpindi - attached to the very capital of Islamabad wherein ex-General Pervez Musharraf lives - and we are told by George Bush that her murderers were “extremists” and “terrorists”. Well, you can’t dispute that.


With Bhutto gone, does Bush have a Plan B?
Bush's failed policies in Pakistan, a nuclear power that al-Qaida still uses to plot against the West, threatens U.S. security more than Iraq ever did.
by Juan Cole

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday provoked rioting in Islamabad and Karachi, with her supporters blaming President Pervez Musharraf, while he pointed his finger at Muslim extremists. The renewed instability in Pakistan came as a grim reminder that the Bush administration has been pursuing a two-front war, neither of which has been going well. Bush's decision to put hundreds of billions of dollars into an Iraq imbroglio while slighting the effort to fight al-Qaida, rebuild Afghanistan, and move Pakistan toward democracy and a rule of law has been shown up as a desperate and unsuccessful gamble. The question is whether President Musharraf now most resembles the shah of Iran in 1978. That is, has his authority among the people collapsed irretrievably?


Killing Bhutto
What Happens Now in Pakistan?

1. I have to start off with my recent perceptions of her. She was a corrupt politician who was more interested in her political legacy than in the welfare of her nation and people. President Bush said today that Bhutto was someone who fought against terrorism. She did so, conveniently, post 9-11. During the mid 1990s she was openly pro-Taliban as the Pakistani government was one of the few nations in the world that recognized that neo-Khawarij regime.


After Bhutto: What About Those Nukes, Not To Mention Regional Stability?

At the risk of sounding callous to the predicament of the Pakistani people... for the world, key questions tonight are whether the military will be able to keep control of the nuclear weapons arsenal...and, is there a risk that Pakistan will literally blow-up into uncontrollable chaos, and so spill-over into the region?


Pakistan Stares Into the Abyss
A Disaster for Musharraf

Beyond the immediate shock of Benazir Bhutto's death by violence in Rawalpindi, the greater tragedy for Pakistan is that the opportunity for a peaceful transfer of power-one that did not involve assassination, judicial murder, or legal vendetta -- has been lost.


 09:00 PM - link

book recommendation

The Shock Doctrine:
The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

by Naomi Klein

I've recommended a lot of books that explore the shitstorms coming at us. If you are going to only read one (You are going to read at least one, aren't you?!), this is the one.

The Shock Doctrine

On this website, you can receive the latest news about Naomi Klein's latest book, The Shock Doctrine, read reviews, and see where you can purchase a copy. ShockDoctrine.com is designed to serve as a living companion to the book for readers who want to delve deeper into the book's material and themes, and who want to see the evidence for themselves.


The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Naomi Klein takes us on a lengthy journey from the shock doctrine to disaster capitalism. By the time the journey is completed, you might well feel that you have been given the map of Alice's Wonderland and with an audience with the Queen thrown in for good measure. You might even think the Queen is kind of terrifyingly sane in her own way—sane, but very dangerous.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, is nothing less than a re-reading of American foreign and economic affairs for the last 50 years. As a journalist, Klein has traveled the world doing on site research in Iraq, post-tsunami Sri Lanka, Argentina, and post-Katrina New Orleans to add to her years of research. She has delivered an amazing and important book, which begins with the economic theory of Milton Friedman, an obscure and marginalized academic in the '50's and early '60's.

I divide this journey into four historical phases with a narrowed focus on the development of the shock doctrine and its transformation into disaster capitalism. First, Klein describes the incubation and maturation of Friedman's economic ideas at the University of Chicago beginning in 1946 up to the Chilean coup of 1973. The regime of Augusto Pinochet would proved the first laboratory setting for the implementation of Friedman's program. This phase includes the violent revolutions in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. The third phase commences in the '80's with the onset of Thatcherism and the work of Jeffrey Sachs in Bolivia. This period marks the full maturation of the shock doctrine and it's implementation worldwide through the International Monetary Fund up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. From 2003 forward, the invasion of Iraq, the ultimate expression of the shock doctrine so far, is transforming the world economy. It was economic shock therapy delivered by military intervention. What Klein terms the disaster capitalism complex, although developing quietly for years, has now emerged as a rapidly growing economy. I will comment on each phase.


HuffPost Video: John Cusack Interviews Naomi Klein

Klein's writings on Iraq helped inspire John Cusack to create a stinging new satiric film called War, Inc. The pair recently sat down for a HuffPost exclusive - a lively and insightful conversation about The Shock Doctrine, Iraq, the burgeoning new economy that has sprung up around the war on terror, and Baghdad's Green Zone, which Klein calls "a heavily armed Carnival Cruise ship parked in a sea of despair."


Book Review: Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine"

The world would be a far, far better place if what had happened in Chicago 50 years ago had stayed in Chicago, as Naomi Klein’s riveting The Shock Doctrine makes abundantly clear. In this mind-bending masterwork, the lauded Canadian journalist has reached the apex of her analytical and explanatory powers, creating a bone-chilling narrative tracing superficially unrelated events—Katrina, Iraq, Chile’s Pinochet regime, Poland’s remaking, Russia’s lurch toward capitalism, brutal Indonesian crackdowns, China’s human rights violations, South Africa’s failure to enact its Freedom Charter—back to the fountainhead of right-wing economist Milton Friedman’s slash-and-burn corporatist ideology promulgated at the center of the laissez-faire universe, the University of Chicago.


 08:05 PM - link

middle east clusterfuck

Notes on the Post-Bush Mideast

A year from now, the Bush Administration will be emptying its desks into cardboard boxes and preparing to hand over to its successor. And, it’s a relatively safe bet that the menu of foreign policy crises and challenges it will leave in the in-trays of its successors will be largely unchanged from that facing the Bush Administration today. A combination of the traditional lame-duck effect of the final year of a presidency, and the decline in relative U.S. influence on the global stage — a product both of the calamitous strategic and tactical mistakes by the Bush Administration and of structural shifts in the global political economy that will limit the options available to his successor — suggest that even as he goes scurrying about the Middle East in search of a “legacy,” very little is going to change in the coming year. Indeed, the recurring theme in many of the crises Washington professes to be managing is the extent to which it is being ignored by both friend and foe.

On Iran:

While the Administration insists that the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program changes nothing, plainly it represents a neutering of the hawks by the military establishment, which as we’ve suggested all along, was going to be a lot more active this time around in preventing another episode of disastrous adventurism for which men and women in uniform would pay the price (on the American side). The fallacy of the neocon and Israeli hysteria about Bush having 12 months to stop a new holocaust, which we’ve long challenged on these pages, has been laid bare by the U.S. intelligence community. Absent some insanely provocative action by the Iranians, there is unlikely to be any military action against Iran in the coming year.

Moreover, the finding also makes an escalation of sanctions an even more remote possibility — and there’s little reason to believe that Iran would be likely to reverse course in the coming year as a result of any sanctions the U.S. could impose alone, or via the United Nations. What the NIE makes clear is that the Iran’s nuclear program would give it the potential to build nuclear weapons — as would any full-cycle civilian nuclear energy program — but at the same time, concludes that Iran is not currently pursuing that option. (Bush has essentially been arguing all along that Iran can’t be allowed to master the technology of uranium enrichment because that would give it the means to build a bomb should it choose to do so. But the Iranians appear to have mastered that technology already.) The NIE also makes clear that Iran will make its decisions over whether or not to pursue the strategic nuclear option based on a rational calculation of its national interests.


This is a good overview of the mess we're in but things can change fast. Like Bhutto being assassinated since this was written. You didn't think things would get better, did you?

 06:46 PM - link

large format

Large Format Resolution

Resolution isn't everything in large format (LF), and often the most distinctive LF effects involve using classic lenses or techniques that reduce resolution but produce a look that can't be produced any other way.

That said, I posted a demo a while back on my website to give some idea of what an 8x10" neg is capable of —at the link, use the links underneath the picture to click up through successive increases in resolution to get an idea of how much information is really there. Bear in mind that this was scanned on an old Agfa Duoscan that has an optical resolution of 1000 ppi (about 1/5th of what is practical on a drum scanner), and the largest image in the demo is 50% of full resolution. Even so, you can easily see individual bricks in the building next to the school bus. The film is T-Max 100, and the lens is a single-coated Goerz 12" (305mm) ƒ/6.8 Gold Dot Dagor from the 1940s or 50s—a fine lens, but not as sharp as a modern plasmat. So I haven't done anything really to go out of my way to maximize resolution, and still...well, most people who haven't seen an 8x10" negative are impressed by the demonstration.

And just to show you the interesting "low resolution" side of large format, below is a scan of an 8x10" albumen print from an 8x10" neg, made with a classic 360mm Voigtlander Heliar lens at a wide aperture (about ƒ/5.6).


Looking at the link to what an 8x10 neg can do does give me 8x10 urges but 4x5 and 5x7, which I have, does pretty nice on holding a lot of information on a negative. I have also wanted to explore the "low resolution" side. My 4x5 Graflex SLR has a 210mm Tessar that opens to f3.5. After I get some exposures off on the Burke & James Press I will load some film up on the Graflex. I'm looking forward to see what I get.

 06:38 PM - link


The End Of Israel?

I am feeling optimistic about Palestine.

I know it sounds crazy. How can I use "optimistic" and "Palestine" in the same sentence when conditions on the ground only seem to get worse? Israeli settlements continue to expand on a daily basis, the checkpoints and segregated road system are becoming more and more institutionalized, more than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners are being held in Israeli jails, Gaza is under heavy attack and the borders are entirely controlled by Israel, preventing people from getting their most basic human needs met.

We can never forget these things and the daily suffering of the people, and yet I dare to say that I am optimistic. Why? Ehud Olmert. Let me clarify. Better yet, let's let him clarify:

"The day will come when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights. As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

That's right, the Prime Minister of Israel is currently trying to negotiate a "two-state solution" specifically because he realizes that if he doesn't, Palestinians might begin to demand, en masse, equal rights to Israelis. Furthermore, he worries, the world might begin to see Israel as an apartheid state. In actuality, most of the world already sees Israel this way, but Olmert is worried that even Israel's most ardent supporters will begin to catch up with the rest of the world.

"The Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us," he told Haaretz, "because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents."


 06:02 PM - link

book recommendation

The World Without Us
by Alan Weisman

I've often wondered what would happen to all the monuments we've built to ourselves if we didn't show up. From Amazon:

If a virulent virus—or even the Rapture—depopulated Earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished? That's the provocative, and occasionally puckish, question posed by Weisman (An Echo in My Blood) in this imaginative hybrid of solid science reporting and morbid speculation. Days after our disappearance, pumps keeping Manhattan's subways dry would fail, tunnels would flood, soil under streets would sluice away and the foundations of towering skyscrapers built to last for centuries would start to crumble. At the other end of the chronological spectrum, anything made of bronze might survive in recognizable form for millions of years—along with one billion pounds of degraded but almost indestructible plastics manufactured since the mid-20th century. Meanwhile, land freed from mankind's environmentally poisonous footprint would quickly reconstitute itself, as in Chernobyl, where animal life has returned after 1986's deadly radiation leak, and in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, a refuge since 1953 for the almost-extinct goral mountain goat and Amur leopard. From a patch of primeval forest in Poland to monumental underground villages in Turkey, Weisman's enthralling tour of the world of tomorrow explores what little will remain of ancient times while anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like.

The World Without Us

Starting Over

When Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” was published in 1963, the chemical giant Monsanto struck back with a parody called “Desolate Spring” that envisioned an America laid waste not by pesticides but by insects: “The bugs were everywhere. Unseen. Unheard. Unbelievably universal. ... On or under every square foot of land, every square yard, every acre, and county, and state and region in the entire sweep of the United States. In every home and barn and apartment house and chicken coop, and in their timbers and foundations and furnishings. Beneath the ground, beneath the waters, on and in limbs and twigs and stalks, under rocks, inside trees and animals and other insects — and yes, inside man.”

To Alan Weisman, this nightmare scenario would be merely a promising start. In his morbidly fascinating nonfiction eco-thriller, “The World Without Us,” Weisman imagines what would happen if the earth’s most invasive species — ourselves — were suddenly and completely wiped out. Writers from Carson to Al Gore have invoked the threat of environmental collapse in an effort to persuade us to change our careless ways. With similar intentions but a more devilish sense of entertainment values, Weisman turns the destruction of our civilization and the subsequent rewilding of the planet into a Hollywood-worthy, slow-motion disaster spectacular and feel-good movie rolled into one.


An Earth Without People
A new way to examine humanity's impact on the environment is to consider how the world would fare if all the people disappeared

It’s a common fantasy to imagine that you’re the last person left alive on earth. But what if all human beings were suddenly whisked off the planet? That premise is the starting point for The World without Us, a new book by science writer Alan Weisman, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Arizona. In this extended thought experiment, Weisman does not specify exactly what finishes off Homo sapiens; instead he simply assumes the abrupt disappearance of our species and projects the sequence of events that would most likely occur in the years, decades and centuries afterward.


 05:59 PM - link

south america

Good and Evil at the Center of the Earth
A Quechua Christmas Carol
By Greg Palast

Correa is one of the first dark-skinned men to win election to this Quechua and mixed-race nation. Certainly, one of the first from the streets. He'd won a surprise victory over the richest man in Ecuador, the owner of the biggest banana plantation.

Doctor Correa, I should say, with a Ph.D in economics earned in Europe. Professor Correa as he is officially called - who, until not long ago, taught at the University of Illinois.

And Professor Doctor Correa is one tough character. He told George Bush to take the US military base and stick it where the equatorial sun don't shine. He told the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which held Ecuador's finances by the throat, to go to hell. He ripped up the "agreements" which his predecessors had signed at financial gun point. He told the Miami bond vultures that were charging Ecuador usurious interest, to eat their bonds. He said ‘We are not going to pay off this debt with the hunger of our people. " Food first, interest later. Much later. And he meant it.

It was a stunning performance. I'd met two years ago with his predecessor, President Alfredo Palacio, a man of good heart, who told me, looking at the secret IMF agreements I showed him, "We cannot pay this level of debt. If we do, we are DEAD. And if we are dead, how can we pay?" Palacio told me that he would explain this to George Bush and Condoleezza Rice and the World Bank, then headed by Paul Wolfowitz. He was sure they would understand. They didn't. They cut off Ecuador at the knees.

But Ecuador didn't fall to the floor. Correa, then Economics Minister, secretly went to Hugo Chavez Venezuela's president and obtained emergency financing. Ecuador survived.

And thrived. But Correa was not done.


  thanks to David Iles

 05:40 PM - link


This is too cool. It reverses half way through and all is revealed.

What song is this?

 05:34 PM - link

the incredible shrinking dollar

Has the Dollar Hegemony's Tiping Point Been Passed?

According to the Financial times the Euro accounts for 26.4% of foreign reserve holdings, up 2% from 24.4% just six months ago. However there are now more Euros in physical circulation than Dollars and most tellingly more international bonds are issed in Euros than Dollars.

As a special kick in the pants there's this:

"But the Commission report cited empirical studies highlighting the increasing “gravitational pull” of the euro on foreign exchange markets, which was becoming “more important for certain emerging market currencies, notably in South America".

When South America, of all places, is moving off the dollar, you've got problems. This is America's Monroe Doctrine imperial backwater.


The US Dollar: The Long Farewell?

It's just straws in the wind so far. India's Ministry of Culture announces that foreign tourists can no longer pay in dollars when visiting the Taj Mahal and other heritage sites; they have to pay in good, hard rupees.

Iran and Venezuela call for a joint OPEC statement on the weak U.S. dollar, and Saudi Arabian Foreign Affairs Minister Saud Al-Faisal warns that any public reference to the U.S. dollar's problems could cause the troubled currency to "collapse". Rap star Jay-Z's latest video shows our hero flashing a wad of euros, not dollars.

Only straws in the wind, but all in the past couple of weeks. For the majority of Americans who do not travel abroad, the only visible effect so far of the dollar's steep fall has been higher fuel prices at the pump. The Chinese imports that fill the big-box stores still cost the same, because the Chinese yuan is still pegged to the American dollar. But that may be about to change, along with many other things.


 05:30 PM - link

book recommendation

Legacy of Ashes:
The History of the CIA

by Tim Weiner

This should be titled The Arrogant and the Ignorant. From Amazon:

Is the Central Intelligence Agency a bulwark of freedom against dangerous foes, or a malevolent conspiracy to spread American imperialism? A little of both, according to this absorbing study, but, the author concludes, it is mainly a reservoir of incompetence and delusions that serves no one's interests well. Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times correspondent Weiner musters extensive archival research and interviews with top-ranking insiders, including former CIA chiefs Richard Helms and Stansfield Turner, to present the agency's saga as an exercise in trying to change the world without bothering to understand it. Hypnotized by covert action and pressured by presidents, the CIA, he claims, wasted its resources fomenting coups, assassinations and insurgencies, rigging foreign elections and bribing political leaders, while its rare successes inspired fiascoes like the Bay of Pigs and the Iran-Contra affair. Meanwhile, Weiner contends, its proper function of gathering accurate intelligence languished. With its operations easily penetrated by enemy spies, the CIA was blind to events in adversarial countries like Russia, Cuba and Iraq and tragically wrong about the crucial developments under its purview, from the Iranian revolution and the fall of communism to the absence of Iraqi WMDs. Many of the misadventures Weiner covers, at times sketchily, are familiar, but his comprehensive survey brings out the persistent problems that plague the agency. The result is a credible and damning indictment of American intelligence policy.

Counter Intelligence

America’s foes and rivals have long overrated the Central Intelligence Agency. When Henry Kissinger traveled to China in 1971, Prime Minister Chou En-lai asked about C.I.A. subversion. Kissinger told Chou that he “vastly overestimates the competence of the C.I.A.” Chou persisted that “whenever something happens in the world they are always thought of.” Kissinger acknowledged, “That is true, and it flatters them, but they don’t deserve it.”

A few years later, in 1979, Iranian revolutionaries seized the American embassy in Tehran. They captured a C.I.A. case officer named William Daugherty and accused him of running the agency’s entire Middle Eastern spy network while plotting to assassinate Ayatollah Khomeini. Daugherty, who had been in the C.I.A. for only nine months, tried to explain that he didn’t even speak the native tongue, Persian. The Iranians seemed offended that the Americans would send such an inexperienced spy. It was “beyond insult,” Daugherty later recalled, “for that officer not to speak the language or know the customs, culture and history of their country.”

The C.I.A. never did have much luck operating inside Communist China, and it failed to predict the Iranian revolution of 1979. “We were just plain asleep,” said the former C.I.A. director Adm. Stansfield Turner. The agency also did not foresee the explosion of an atom bomb by the Soviet Union in 1949, the invasion of South Korea in 1950, the popular uprisings in Eastern Europe in the 1950s, the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962, the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the explosion of an atom bomb by India in 1998 — the list goes on and on, culminating in the agency’s wrong call on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in 2002-3.

Tim Weiner’s engrossing, comprehensive “Legacy of Ashes” is a litany of failure, from the C.I.A.’s early days, when hundreds of agents were dropped behind the Iron Curtain to be killed or doubled (almost without exception), to more recent humiliations, like George Tenet’s now infamous “slam dunk” line. Over the years, the agency threw around a lot of money and adopted a certain swagger. “We went all over the world and we did what we wanted,” said Al Ulmer, the C.I.A.’s Far East division chief in the 1950s. “God, we had fun.” But even their successes turned out to be failures. In 1963, the C.I.A. backed a coup to install the Baath Party in Iraq. “We came to power on a C.I.A. train,” said Ali Saleh Saadi, the Baath Party interior minister. One of the train’s passengers, Weiner notes, was a young assassin named Saddam Hussein. Weiner quotes Donald Gregg, a former C.I.A. station chief in South Korea, later the national security adviser to Vice President George H. W. Bush: “The record in Europe was bad. The record in Asia was bad. The agency had a terrible record in its early days — a great reputation and a terrible record.”


 05:25 PM - link

some adjustments coming

A Christmas Eve Story
by Jim Kunstler

Dmitry Orlov's publisher sent me the galley proof to get a blurb for the dust-jacket, and I'll furnish one in short order because Reinventing Collapse is an exceptionally clear, authoritative, witty, and original view of our prospects. The thesis is that the United States is headed for troubles as broad and deep as the ones that brought down the Soviet system in Russia, though we will get there via a somewhat different route. Orlov has been in the privileged position of living under both systems at critical times, and the parallels are striking, but the differences even more so.

The Soviet experience was a collapse of consensual reality as much as of economy. Nobody could continue to support the credibility of a one-party, centrally-planned, "command" economy best represented by the joke: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." An economy in which nobody had any real stake other than ideological finally ground ignominiously to a halt. Once the state surrendered its authority, the society was stripped of assets. The social safety net dissolved. A lot of people on the margins slipped through the cracks and died. Eventually, the Russian economy (and government) reorganized on a different basis -- largely because its remaining oil resources and annual production exceed its domestic consumption. So, this reorganized new oil-exporting state, with its shocking poles of extreme wealth and poverty, will go on for a while until the oil is gone, and then it will face more transformations.

The comparison with the American situation is chilling. For all its gross faults, Soviet Russia was ironically better prepared for economic collapse and political turmoil than we will be. For one thing, all housing there was owned by the state, and allocated under bare nominal rents, so when the economy collapsed, people just stayed in their apartments. Nobody got evicted. There was scant private car ownership in pre-1990 Russia, so gasoline allocation problems did not paralyze movement. Train service was excellent and cheap, and the cities all had a rich matrix of underground metros, on-street electric trams, and trolley-buses, which continued to run even when central authority flickered out. There was no suburban sprawl to strand and isolate people (in homes owned by banks, that can be taken away after the third monthly failure to make a mortgage payment). Official Soviet agriculture was such a fiasco for half a century that the Soviet people were long-conditioned to provide for themselves. For decades, 90 percent of the food was coming from tiny household gardens, wherever it was possible to grow stuff. When America's just-in-time supermarket resupply system wobbles, and the Cheez Doodles disappear from the WalMart shelves, few Americans will have a Plan B.


 04:53 PM - link



Oddmusic is home to unique, odd, ethnic, experimental and unusual musical instruments and resources. Tour the Gallery, see in-depth sections featuring artisans who blazed new trails or are on the cutting edge of new and previously unheard musical instruments. Look, listen, and explore music and musical instruments that aren't part of the mainstream. Showcasing unusual musical creations and sounds of unique artists and artisans from around the globe. From gourd music to electronic odysseys, harp guitars to industrial insects, from beautiful, to bizarre, to just plain wacky. New, unique innovations, along with heavily modified hybrids of instruments once formally known as guitars, basses, keyboards, drums, wind and stringed instruments. Musical stalagmites, bowed telegraph wires, twisted electrons, Circuit Bending, Waterphones, Hang drums, ethnic instruments, Stamenphones, Theremins, Serpents, Light Harps, and much more. Give your eyes and ears a treat. Feed your imagination at Oddmusic.


Wonderful instruments with wonderful sounds.

  thanks to Gideon Freudmann

 04:49 PM - link

drugs r us

This is a must read.

How America Lost the War on Drugs
After Thirty-Five Years and $500 Billion, Drugs Are as Cheap and Plentiful as Ever: An Anatomy of a Failure.

On the day of his death, December 2nd, 1993, the Colombian billionaire drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was on the run and living in a small, tiled-roof house in a middle-class neighborhood of Medellín, close to the soccer stadium. He died, theatrically, ridiculously, gunned down by a Colombian police manhunt squad while he tried to flee across the barrio's rooftops, a fat, bearded man who had kicked off his flip-flops to try to outrun the bullets. The first thing the American drug agents who arrived on the scene wanted to do was to make sure that the corpse was actually Escobar's. The second thing was to check his house.

The last time Escobar had hastily fled one of his residences - la Catedral, the luxurious private prison he built for himself to avoid extradition to the United States - he had left behind bizarre, enchanting ­detritus, the raw stuff of what would become his own myth: the photos of himself dressed up as a Capone-era gangster with a Tommy gun, the odd collection of novels ranging from Graham Greene to the Austrian modernist Stefan Zweig. Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, arriving after the kingpin had fled, found neat shelves lined with loose-leaf binders, carefully organized by content. They were, says John Coleman, then the DEA's assistant administrator for operations, "filled with DEA reports" - internal documents that laid out, in extraordinary detail, the agency's repeated attempts to capture Escobar.

"He had shelves and shelves and shelves of these things," Coleman tells me. "It was stunning. A lot of the informants we had, he'd figured out who they were. All the agents we had chasing him - who we trusted in the Colombian police - it was right there. He knew so much more about what we were doing than we knew about what he was doing."

Coleman and other agents began to work deductively, backward. "We had always wondered why his guys, when we caught them, would always go to trial and risk lots of jail time, even when they would have saved themselves a lot of time if they'd just plead guilty," he says. "What we realized when we saw those binders was that they were doing a job. Their job was to stay on trial and have their lawyers use discovery to get all the information on DEA operations they could. Then they'd send copies back to Medellín, and Escobar would put it all together and figure out who we had tracking him."


  thanks to Dumbmonkey

 04:36 PM - link

the excuses continue

No pictures yet with the 4x5 Burke & James. It's been hard to clear the mind with all that is going on. It's been hard on Zoe. But the new year is almost here and some things are looking better. I wish that included both our mothers.

 04:29 PM - link