Monday, November 18, 2013

Is This For Real? Obama Administration Accused of Faking 2012 Unemployment Numbers

On top of everything else, the New York Post is running a story about a census worker - or workers, it's not clear - who were faking unemployment data in the summer ahead of the 2012 election. Can that be true?
In the home stretch of the 2012 presidential campaign, from August to September, the unemployment rate fell sharply — raising eyebrows from Wall Street to Washington. 
The decline — from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September — might not have been all it seemed. The numbers, according to a reliable source, were manipulated.
And the Census Bureau, which does the unemployment survey, knew it. 
Just two years before the presidential election, the Census Bureau had caught an employee fabricating data that went into the unemployment report, which is one of the most closely watched measures of the economy. 
And a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee — that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012 and continues today.
“He’s not the only one,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous for now but is willing to talk with the Labor Department and Congress if asked. 
The Census employee caught faking the results is Julius Buckmon, according to confidential Census documents obtained by The Post. Buckmon told me in an interview this past weekend that he was told to make up information by higher-ups at Census.
Amazing if true, plus we already know that - if it is true - you are never going to find the West Wing memo directing this sort of thing. That's because progressives in and out of government don't need to have things spelled out for them like you do with the more earnest elements of the Stupid Party. They have known since 2004, if not earlier, that Barack Obama was a once-in-a-generation leftist organizer who could bring the progressive "project" along faster than any of them would have dared to dream. Name the institution and its resident liberals have done their part to alternatively aggrandize and protect The One. Faking unemployment numbers would seem an obvious step.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Obamacare: Bitter Recriminations Edition

Like President Obama, I am getting mighty tired of reading articles like this: Trust Frayed Between Obama Dems
President Barack Obama’s credibility may have taken a big hit with voters, but he’s also in serious danger of permanently losing the trust of Democrats in Congress. The Obamacare debacle has been bad enough that it’s tough for Democrats to take on faith that the president can fix the problems. His one-time allies are no longer sure that it’s wise to follow him into battle, leaving Obama and his law not only vulnerable to existing critics, but open to new attacks from his own party. 
“I don’t know how he f—-ed this up so badly,” said one House Democrat who has been very supportive of Obama in the past.
Oh, come off it. the Obama Administration might have screwed up the website, but every other baleful effect of the full implementation of Obamacare is due entirely to what we lawyers like to refer to as the "operation of law." Health plans being canceled? Patients losing doctors? Premiums skyrocketing? Healthy middle class people subsidizing the health care of drug addicts? People being shunted into Medi-caid hell? That's not because of a freakin' website! It's by "operation of law!" (isn't it majestic?) Obamacare is working precisely as it was meant to work. No more, no less. 

Obamacare is a disaster because the law is disastrous. Obama might have sold the law and signed the law, but a Democrat Congress drafted it and passed it, no doubt with the eager vote of "one (of many!) House Democrat who has been very supportive of Obama in the past." This might be one of those rare times when the ship is sinking too fast for the rats to get off in time.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Great Guitars: Ljuba Slavkovic & Marko Jelisavcic

Are you ready to explore the outer limits of...Serbian hardcore punk??? Well, get started with Belgrade's Let's Grow, a punk/thrash 5-piece that managed to keep it together for most of the aughts. Not a joke and not pointless obscurantism; this is a genuinely great band - noisy, chaotic and controlled. If they'd been from Germany or Sweden, they'd have been much better known, but instead they came from a war-torn country* that lay outside the EU. (although they did manage some tours of the Continent and at least one US release). Really worth the time to seek out.

*don't worry about any potential lyrical landmines. As far as I can tell, singer Dario mostly sings about modern ennui. You're not going to find songs with titles like "Put The Croat In The Concentration Camp."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bill DeBlasio, The New New Left & A New New York City

I have manfully refrained from commenting on the NYC mayor's race; but, now that the Huma/Weiner circus has left town, I really need to ring the alarm bell on how Gotham's citizens are on the verge electing a real socialist as mayor; that socialist being Bill DeBlasio, the Democrat in the race.

Think I'm joking? No less than the New York Times has written about DeBlasio's frankly hard left background which includes extensive work with the Nicaraguan Sandanistas and even a honeymoon celebration (!) in Cuba. The New York Post has reported on his extensive ties with ACORN, including a sound bite from the notoriously avowed red Bertha Lewis. DeBlasio himself allows that he was - and remains - a "progressive" and a "social democrat," and is up front about his Reagan-era work with the Internationale. New left worthies like (yes) Tom Haydn are already looking at DeBlasio's 30% lead and licking their lips at the thought of all that sweet, sweet redistribution. The man is not just a leftist. He is a pinko at the very least,  and not even shy about saying it.

Now, one thing that is important to keep in mind: the fact that DeBlasio was flying down to Nicaragua to "help" the Sandanistas is not just a signifier of his extreme leftism. It's also a sign that he is an idiot, both literally and in the "useful idiot" formulation. I traveled in some real left-wing circles back in those days, and I am here to tell you that even most liberals and lefty types thought that Sandalistas like DeBlasio were fools who were helping prop up a dictatorship. Maybe things have changed, but back then there was no honor in announcing that you had just arrived from a spring break trip to Managua. DeBlasio and the rest of the Sandalistas really put the "simp" (as in "simpleton") in Com-simp.

So are New Yorkers really going elect a guy like this? All those bad ass Gothamites with their attitudes, street smarts, and "yo, yo, yo" are going to pull the lever for a guy who thinks Daniel Ortega and Bertha Lewis are worthy of his attention?

Well, they have to vote for someone, and right now the Republican in the race, Joe Lhota, does not seem like the sort of "someone" who can overcome the lazy inertia of Democrat registration. Successful NYC Republican politicians have been larger-than-life figures who could deliver their bold promises to clean up the city's mean streets. Lhota appears to come from the Todd Akin wing of the party. He once called Port Authority officers "mall cops" (37 of them died on 9/11) and is best known for leading the charge against a dung-covered painting of the Virgin Mary.

Also, Lhota says that - Yes! Absolutely! - he is going to make an issue of DeBlasio's communist past and socialist present, but - no - he is not going to call his worthy Democratic opponent a socialist. I look forward to his concession speech, as Lhota clearly doesn't have the stones to face down the left.

Look, Joe, maybe you think it's de classe' to call your opponent by his real ideological leanings, but you can still call him out without having to label Bill DeBlasio a socialist. Notice anything in paragraph 2 above? The man went to Cuba for his honeymoon! In 1994!! He broke a boycott put in place by JFK!!! He violated federal law!!!! His honeymoon dollars went straight into the pockets of a regime that maintains gulags and throws people in prison for simply speaking out against the government!!!!! What kind of person thinks of Cuba as a romantic spot to celebrate his marriage ???!!!

Listen up, Joe! I'm using all these explanation points because I don't think you understand how easy you could make this into a campaign issue without your having to stoop to (shudder) McCarthyism (i.e. telling the blunt truth)!

The success of Republican and pseudo-Republican governance in NYC has been one of the under-appreciated stories of the last 25 years. Rudy Giuliani came into an urban liberal hellhole and turned it around in short order following policies that any conservative would support. Michael Bloomberg re-registered as a Republican (!) to run as Rudy's successor. This at the same time that it's been conventional wisdom that Republicans can't win in big cities and can't fight liberal machine politics! They can with the right candidates and the right message! Too bad for Chicago and Detroit that they never had their own Rudy/Bloomberg moments. And yet, we are poised to hand the mayor's office off to a "progressive" who has specifically promised to return to the law enforcement and budgeting policies that sent NYC into the toilet. Excuse me, I am running out of foreheads to slap.

The NYC mayor's office has been one of the GOP's real plums for the past 20 years, and yet we're not showing any sign that we intend to fight to hold on to it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Think-u-cation Fail: A Lonely Grad Student Rebels Against Diversity

This email from a University of Wisconsin-Madison TA has been making the rounds. The background is that, as a condition of his academic coursework, he had to attend some racial and gender diversity workshops, and at some point he had had enough. Read it and weep:
At the “diversity” training yesterday, though, even this fig leaf of apoliticism was discarded. In an utterly unprofessional way, the overriding presumption of the session was that the people whom the History Department has chosen to employ as teaching assistants are probably racists. In true “diversity” style, the language in which the presentation was couched was marbled with words like “inclusive”, “respect”, and “justice”. But the tone was unmistakably accusatory and radical. Our facilitator spoke openly of politicizing her classrooms in order to right (take revenge for?) past wrongs. We opened the session with chapter-and-verse quotes from diversity theorists who rehearsed the same tired “power and privilege” cant that so dominates seminar readings and official university hand-wringing over unmet race quotas. Indeed, one mild-mannered Korean woman yesterday felt compelled to insist that she wasn’t a racist. I never imagined that she was, but the atmosphere of the meeting had been so poisoned that even we traditional quarries of the diversity Furies were forced to share our collective guilt with those from continents far across the wine-dark sea. 
It is hardly surprising that any of us hectorees would feel thusly. For example, in one of the handouts that our facilitator asked us to read (“Detour-Spotting: for white anti-racists,” by joan olsson [sic]), we learned things like, “As white infants we were fed a pabulum of racist propaganda,” “…there was no escaping the daily racist propaganda,” and, perhaps most even-handed of all, “Racism continues in the name of all white people.” Perhaps the Korean woman did not read carefully enough to realize that only white people (all of them, in fact) are racist. Nevertheless, in a manner stunningly redolent of “self-criticism” during the Cultural Revolution in communist China, the implication of the entire session was that everyone was suspect, and everyone had some explaining to do. 
You have always been very kind to me, Prof. Kantrowitz, so it pains me to ask you this, but is this really what the History Department thinks of me? Is this what you think of me? I am not sure who selected the readings or crafted the itinerary for the diversity session, but, as they must have done so with the full sanction of the History Department, one can only conclude that the Department agrees with such wild accusations, and supports them. Am I to understand that this is how the white people who work in this Department are viewed? If so, I cannot help but wonder why in the world the Department hired any of us in the first place. Would not anyone be better? 
There is one further issue. At the end of yesterday’s diversity “re-education,” we were told that our next session would include a presentation on “Trans Students”. At that coming session, according to the handout we were given, we will learn how to let students ‘choose their own pronouns’, how to correct other students who mistakenly use the wrong pronouns, and how to ask people which pronouns they prefer (“I use the pronouns he/him/his. I want to make sure I address you correctly. What pronouns do you use?”). Also on the agenda for next week are “important trans struggles, as well as those of the intersexed and other gender-variant communities,” “stand[ing] up to the rules of gender,” and a very helpful glossary of related terms and acronyms, to wit: “Trans”: for those who “identify along the gender-variant spectrum,” and “Genderqueer”: “for those who consider their gender outside the binary gender system”. I hasten to reiterate that I am quoting from diversity handouts; I am not making any of this up. 
Please allow me to be quite frank. My job, which I love, is to teach students Japanese history. This week, for example, I have been busy explaining the intricacies of the Genpei War (1180-1185), during which time Japan underwent a transition from an earlier, imperial-rule system under regents and cloistered emperors to a medieval, feudal system run by warriors and estate managers. It is an honor and a great joy to teach students the history of Japan. I take my job very seriously, and I look forward to coming to work each day. 
It is most certainly not my job, though, to cheer along anyone, student or otherwise, in their psychological confusion.
I don't feel absolutely qualified to opine on transgender/genderqueer/WTF? issues except to say this: (1) the number of people who could plausibly count as members of these purported groups are so de minimus as to be not worth the fuss and (2) the transgender/genderqueer/WTF? types you may encounter (and even in SF they are rare) are so clearly mentally not alright as to be more pathetic than anything else. Sure, they and their enablers can talk a brave game about how they're exploring the outer boundaries of sexual expression and such, but really they are just not right. A man who thinks he's a woman? Indulge your whims all you want, but you are never going to look right. Same as for someone who can't figure out their gender. I'm sorry that's pretty basic stuff. Just look down! Again, if you can't figure this out, your problems are 100% mental, and said mental problems really have no proper succor in public life.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Great Guitars: Mick Jones

The Clash's lead guitarist would be an immortal based solely on that band's '77/'78 output when his power chords and punchy leads helped lay down the basic punk guitar template that everyone has followed since then, whether they like it or not. But, Jones was more than just a "3 chords and a dream" kind of player. London Calling and Sandinista are absolutely filled with inventive playing with Jones skipping effortlessly from punk to reggae (The Clash were easily the world's greatest white reggae band, and that wasn't even their goal) to ska to rockabilly to funk to rap and beyond. Even after The Clash broke down ignominiously*, he kept going for another decade with the underrated Big Audio Dynamite. Really a monster player, and if folks don't know that it's because he put out so much music in such a short time, that no one's really been able to catch up.

*it's never a wise career move for your band to break up right after your biggest hit when everyone is calling you The Only Band That Matters.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Leave Me Alone: The Introvert's Manifesto

Matt Walsh says what I've been thinking, but didn't want to say because, why bother: I'm an introvert and I don't need to come out of my shell
Kids who are homeschooled tend to be much better in “social situations” because they learned how to socialize from adults, rather than aping the personality traits of their peers. Public school doesn’t make kids “sociable,” and I think you could more accurately argue for the opposite. The whole concept that we need to send our children to government facilities to be “socialized” makes me shudder. Our children aren’t animals, and I wish we’d stop speaking about them as if they were. That said, I’m not looking to argue that point at the moment. Instead, I’d like to examine the idea that being “outgoing and extroverted” is some sort of universal ideal. 
It isn’t. If a kid is introverted he doesn’t need to be broken like a dog. He doesn’t need to change his personality. He doesn’t even need to “come out of his shell.” He’s not hiding in a shell. He just doesn’t feel the need to chatter incessantly with everyone in the room. If that makes you uncomfortable — that’s your problem. There’s nothing objectively preferable or superior about extraversion. 
Maybe we should define our terms. People throw these labels around without understanding what they mean (what else is new?). Being an introvert has nothing to do with being anxious in “social situations”. Any personality type can suffer from social phobias. Put simply, an introvert is energized by being alone or in small groups, where he or she can think, create and contemplate. An extrovert finds fulfillment primarily in large groups, and generally hates being alone. It’s more complicated than this, obviously, but I’m just hitting the basics. The crucial point is that introversion has nothing to do with fear, and extraversion has nothing to do with boldness or courage.
Walsh's more serious point is that, while modern American society never stops noisily proclaiming its tolerance, a person who seems abnormal in anyway, whether in thought or deed, will quickly find that tolerance will turn on him with a vengeance. Really, the only social "skill" an introvert needs to learn is to act engaged when you are at a party or some other social group (which it virtually any gathering of humans whether in Congress, in jail, at a bar or wherever). That way people won't think you are a jerk and you might actually meet someone who shares (some of) your interests. It happens!
There is an enormous amount of unnecessary chatter out there, both in public and private life. Sociability is fine, but not mindless nattering. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

We Can't Do Anything Right: The GOP and the Civil War

Mackubin Thomas Owens reviews a new book with the thesis that "The South Was Right and Historians Are Wrong" vis a vis what motivated the Southern States to secede from the Union and initiate the Civil War/War Between the States (trying to be ecumenical here). As we all learned in 4th Grade - and was understood back in 1860 - the Confederate States believed the election of Abraham Lincoln represented the end of the line for their efforts to preserve and extend the "peculiar institution." 

Post-war historians and commentators, however, while allowing that slavery was a factor in secession, have filled libraries with alternative explanations for the Civil War's origins. It has even become a leftist trope to denigrate Lincoln himself as a moral monster who had no interest in ending slavery, or protecting the rights of American blacks, except to the extent needed to further his own career. This, of course, is nonsense, but nonsense is never in short supply in America's public debate, especially when it's time to denigrate or diminish the achievements of the Republican Party. 
In his remarkable new book, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865, James Oakes argues that the historians who deny the antislavery origins of the war are mistaken. He contends that from the outset, Republicans had slavery in their sights. Southerners understood that the antislavery threat to the South was real. Accordingly, secession was not an hysterical overreaction to Lincoln’s election but an understandable response to the fact that an antislavery majority in the North had elected an antislavery president. And indeed, Oakes contends, from the very beginning of the conflict, the Republicans worked assiduously to destroy slavery. The problem with the dominant narrative, he argues, is that too many historians have refused to take the Republicans at their word. 
Oakes expands the work of Allen Guelzo, who in Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, argued that from the first day of his presidency, Lincoln had his eye firmly set on ending slavery. Oakes takes nothing away from Lincoln, but demonstrates that Lincoln’s approach was reflective of the Republican Party as a whole. While there were many differences between Lincoln and the Radicals within the Republican Party, they were of far less import than those between the Democrats and the Republicans. As Lincoln himself once remarked, the difference between Charles Sumner, the Radical Republican senator from Massachusetts, and himself was six weeks.
Yeah, God forbid anyone read the 1856 Republican Party platform:
Resolved: That, with our Republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident truth, that all men are endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that the primary object and ulterior design of our Federal Government were to secure these rights to all persons under its exclusive jurisdiction; that, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished Slavery in all our National Territory, ordained that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, it becomes our duty to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it for the purpose of establishing Slavery in the Territories of the United States by positive legislation, prohibiting its existence or extension therein. That we deny the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislation, of any individual, or association of individuals, to give legal existence to Slavery in any Territory of the United States, while the present Constitution shall be maintained. 
Resolved: That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign powers over the Territories of the United States for their government; and that in the exercise of this power, it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy, and Slavery.
Everyone in American political life can plausibly link themselves to the Founders, but only the GOP can claim credit for the hard-won achievements of the second founding, no doubt an intolerable truth for the left to abide. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sotto Voce: Syrian Civil War Edition

Probably Obama's jerkiest moment during the 2012 campaign was when he smirked during an interview on 60 Minutes that his opponents were "new" to foreign if a globe-trotting financier and the chairman of the House Budget Committee were rubes who had never crossed the county line. F*** you very much and enjoy your crow, jerk.

Actually, I remember being impressed with Paul Ryan's contributions to the foreign policy portions of his VP debate with Joe Biden. It really brought home the fact that foreign policy skills are more about having the right principles, rather than knowing who is president-for-life in this or that particular hellhole.

And, am I the only one who remembers "Scranton Joe" faux-bellowing, "Oh! So you want to start another war!" in response to some point Ryan made about the Obama administration's feckless retreat from Afghanistan? It's just amazing how these preening liberal peace-niks want to start major combat operations within a year of their successful election victories premised, at least in part, on "keeping up out of war."

It shouldn't be that hard to make political hay out of this fundamentally political duplicity, but the best the GOP has been able to come up with in the past 100 years has been Bob Dole's bicentennial-era crack about "Democratic Wars." (forehead slap)

(And let's hear it for our history of victorious "Republican Wars" back in the 19th century!)

Should Republicans vote to support Obama's vague proposals for punitive strikes against the Assad regime? Hell if I know, but I do know this: if all Obama wants to do is lob some cruise missiles or lead an air campaign, he doesn't need Congress to approve that.

I mean, Reagan invaded Grenada on 48 hours notice without asking permission, even killing some Cuban military "advisers" along the way. He also sent a punitive air strike against Libya, (remember Qaddaffi's "Line of Death?"), and waged a naval campaign in the Persian Gulf that decimated the Iranian navy.

On the other hand, when Iran (booooo!) and Iraq (booooo!) used chemical weapons on each other, Reagan did precisely nothing except let them bleed one another dry. That's an option, you know.

Also, I don't have time to look this up, but I am 99.99% sure that Bush 41 invaded Panama*, ostensibly an ally, without any great debate beforehand.

Not coincidentally, this was a time when America's international standing and military might was unquestioned.

Now we've got a president of the United States who acts like a senior associate who missed a filing deadline, and whom we're all supposed to treat as the smartest guy to ever hold the office.

The argument that we need to support Obama in order to preserve the prestige of the office of the President is falling on deaf ears here at Free Will HQ. Obama's the only guy whose prestige is on the line, and everyone knows it.

And put away your columns about "Munich moments" and how this is "like" the Spanish Civil War. It's nothing like the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War featured two cognizable adversaries whom you could support or work against depending on your ideological leanings. Who in Syria is the Franco? There is none.  

The effort to define some of the rebels as "moderates" is little more than desperate spin. Do we even know these peoples' real names?! At least when America had a civil war, curious Europeans could visit Washington and Richmond and get a sense of how the two sides were thinking and doing. John McCain visiting some desert encampments doesn't do that. (although all credit to him for actually going over there).

And, I hate to be politically incorrect, but Arab militants have a well-deserved reputation as fabulists depending on which set of westerners they're talking to.

Most important, there is no way our "intelligence," such as it is, can pinpoint who unleashed the chemical weapon attack that crossed Obama's red line. It very well may be that it was rebels, not Assad, who launched the attack. Looping YouTube videos of dead children won't change that. We have no business doing anything militarily on anything less than evidence that establishes Assad's fault beyond a reasonable doubt.

I continue to hold out hope that Obama might surprise us all either by (1) leaving Syria alone or (2) actually launching an effective attack that bloodies Assad enough to chasten him, but doesn't give the Islamists among the rebels the opportunity to seize power. Please at least tell me that they have been monitoring traffic around suspected WMD sites and that we have a vague idea whether Assad's stockpiles are being moved around!

This is, needless to say, a priceless opportunity for Republicans to use Obama's shrunken international standing (and the public's angry opposition to any proposed Syrian attack) and derail or roll back all of Obama's noxious domestic "achievements." That's certainly what liberals did when Nixon, Ford, and W were president. I'm sure the GOP has absolutely no intention of pursuing this for fear of harming the prestige of the office of the president during wartime.

It's just amazing how quickly Obama's fortunes have turned. A month ago, I don't think anyone would have guessed that a Syrian chemical attack would lead to the very real prospect of the president losing a congressional authorization vote opposed by dozens of members of his own party, not to mention conservative "warmongers" (who are usually skeptical of military adventurism, too. It's the moderates like McCain and Colin Powell who like to get gung ho). You can call people isolationists all you want, but the fact is that the US doesn't literally have an interest in every stupid conflict on the planet.

* yes, kids, this really happened.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Can A Woman Save Us From A World Of Woe?

Kathleen Parker's column about how Hillary Clinton can Save The World has to be read to be believed:
Op-ed columns are filled with advice about what Hillary needs to do. She needs a narrative. A message. It can’t be that she’s a Clinton or a woman. It has to be . . . 
Here’s a thought: She can save the world. 
Yes, all right, perhaps that’s a trifle hyperbolic, but hear me out. And keep in mind that this works only as a long game. We may not live to see salvation but one has to start somewhere. Thus far invasions, bunker-busting mega-bombs and killer drones seem not to be having the desired effect. 
Let’s begin with a working (and provable) premise: Women, if allowed to be fully equal to men, will bring peace to the planet. This is not so far-fetched a notion. One, men have been at it for thousands of years, resulting in millions and millions of corpses. Two, countries where women are most oppressed and abused are also the least stable. 
Three, as women become more empowered, especially financially, countries become more stable. When women have money, they can feed their families, get health care, educate their children, start businesses and so on. The ripple effect is stronger families, stronger communities and ultimately saner nations. 
This fact, reinforced by numerous economic studies, has not escaped the attention of corporate America, which is investing heavily to reach women in developing countries. As Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola, put it: “Women are already the most dynamic and fastest-growing economic force in the world today.”
It's a "provable premises" that women will bring peace to the planet, eh? Have you mentioned that to Margaret Thatcher? Golda Meir? How about Argentine President Christina Kirchner, who has been wagging the dog over The Falklands? Or how about Hillary herself, who chortled "We came. We saw. He died" about the late Muommar Qaddafi? The list could go on, all the way back to Queen Elizabeth, Joan of Arc and beyond.

Women who gain political power have no problem waging war. Any study of history will teach you that, but I assume that's not the sort of studying the Kathleen Parkers of the world like to do.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Great Guitars: Craig Chaquico

As long as we're covering Jefferson Airplane/Starship guitar players, how about some love for the Starship's Craig Chaquico? Yeah, I know he's associated with Starship's decline into '80's MOR cheese, but some of his tunes - especially "Jane" and "Find Your Way Back" - hold up well. And, have you listened to Dragon Fly or Red Octopus lately? Those are incredible albums! Chaquico's playing on those records is masterful especially when he's trading solos with Papa John Creech. Chaquico is not a "genius." Instead, he's an immensely talented virtuoso who could probably join any band, whether ska or jazz or rock or country or whatever, and immediately raise its profile.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Great Guitars: Paul Kantner

The Jefferson Airplane/Starship was always staffed with top-flight, glamorous musicians; even when they were singing hippie anthems about revolution. Then there was Paul Kantner, the nerdy looking rhythm guitarist who looked perpetually peevish, as if sharing stage time (and a bed) with Grace Slick was a chore. Actually, Kantner was the musical engine of the group, cranking out album after album for years, even as members came, left and returned. His early Seventies albums, especially Blows Against the Empire and Baron Von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun are communal, hippie music at its best. It's tough to find clips featuring just Kantner, but here's a duet with Grace Slick from 1988. 10 seconds in you understand how the unprepossessing Kantner has managed to work with so many heavyweights.


Great Guitars: Jorma Kaukonen

The Jefferson Airplane's lead guitarist is often over-shadowed by his Summer of Love colleagues Carlos Santana and Jerry Garcia, but don't doubt that he is a powerful player who helped birth not one, but two, iconic musical styles.

The "electric" Jorma, paired with Grace Slick's contra-alto vocals, laid the basic template for the "wailing lead guitars under soaring vocal lines" that every hard rock and metal band has aspired to. The stage is a little crowded in this clip, with everyone from Marty Balin to David Crosby (?) trying to horn in on the camera, but Jorma's easy enough to find. He's the serious looking kid in the center playing the kick ass solos:

At the same time, the "acoustic" Jorma created the open-tuning, finger-picking style that a million New Agers, not to mention heavyweights like Jimmy Page and Steve Howe, brought to the masses:

He also founded Hot Tuna, one of the earliest of the jam bands, and has kept that going strong for decades. Incredibly, for a Sixties guy, Jorma is (1) still alive and (2) quite normal. He always seems perpetually bemused more than anything else, but very few living musicians have bridged so many styles with so little effort.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't Bring The CrazyStupid: How To Run For the GOP Presidential Nomination

Baseball Crank has a list of 73 things you need to do if you are going to run for the Republican presidential nomination. I particularly liked these two:
24-Being a consistent conservative will help you more than pandering to nuts on the Right. If you can't tell the difference between the two, don't run. 
25-Winning campaigns attract crazy and stupid people as supporters; you can't get a majority without them. This does not mean you should have crazy or stupid people as your advisers or spokespeople.
People forget this now, but the conservative movement during the Reagan ascendancy was absolutely be-set with loons, many of whom managed to get on the news and embarrass themselves and the movement. (that's why the media has always tried to play up the alleged "crazies" in the Tea Party. They remember the halcyon days when a Bircher droning about the fluoridation of the water supply was considered good TV, so long as it made the Right look bad). Probably the ultimate right-wing crazy person was Reagan's first Secretary of the Interior, James Watt. Among other things he:
1. got into a beef with the Beach Boys (which he lost) 
2. once said, "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations. 
3. once said, "If you want an example of the failure of socialism, don't go to Russia, come to America and go to the Indian reservations." 
4. and, most famously, he described the make-up of a coal-leasing panel as comprising: "A black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent." This last bon mot cost him his job.
On the other hand, he did not say "After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." That's apocryphal. (phew!) But, it gives you an idea of what people thought Watt was capable of saying at any second. To say that James Watt lacked message discipline is putting it nicely. 

On the other hand, Watt was everything you would want from an evil right-wing Secretary of the Interior. He delighted in leasing federal lands for mining, drilling, timber cutting, what have you. Let wiki-pedia tell the rest of the tale:
Watt resisted accepting donations of private land to be used for conservation purposes. He suggested that all 80 million acres (320,000 km²) of undeveloped land in the United States be opened for drilling and mining in the year 2000. The area leased to coal mining companies quintupled during his term as Secretary of the Interior. Watt boasted that he leased "a billion acres" (4 million km²) of U.S. coastal waters, even though only a small portion of that area would ever be drilled. Watt once stated, "We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber."
Great stuff, but because Watt acted like he had a mouthful of buckshot every time he spoke in public, no one remembers any of it.

Look, Reagan was a movement conservative. So was Watt. So were a lot of people inside and outside the administration. They were constantly getting p*ssed with the 40th president, holding his feet to the fire, etc. Ronaldus had to prove and re-prove his conservative bona-fides to an extent that would have left RINO's like Mitt Romney and John McCain covered in flop sweat. 

More important, and unlike the "disciplined" campaigns of the early 21st century GOP, Reagan was not above firing the idiots and reckless word-meisters who were drawn to his message, campaigned for him passionately, and then threatened to destroy the last best hope on earth with ill-chosen words about minorities,  the Civil Rights Act, etc. Of course, the king of the gaffe was Ron himself, but he was the indispensable man and any way his mistakes had a certain charm that the likes of James Watt utterly lacked. 

It's an iron law of Anglo-American political systems that the conservative party is the Stupid Party. We can live with that. But, even stupid people know and understand what is or is not acceptable public discourse. If you are running for president and you find yourself talking about Gardasil causing mental retardation; or you have a close adviser who thinks, in all sincerity that Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant (then why are you a member of the party of Lincoln); or you can't stop talking about "sodomy" (get a room), you are probably not meant to make a serious run for the GOP nomination. Just sayin'.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Money For Nothing: Corey Booker's "Start-Up"

I think this Times puff piece about Corey Booker was supposed to cause Jerseyites to admire his visionary tech-saavyiety (new word alert. Call the OED), but instead it reveals to how a handful of billionaires have used an internet start-up as a front to funnel money into Booker's bank account
Mr. Booker personally has obtained money for the start-up, called Waywire, from influential investors, including Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman. A year after its debut, Waywire has already endured a round of layoffs and had just 2,207 visitors in June, according to Compete, a Web-tracking service. The company says it is still under development. 
Yet in a financial disclosure filed last month, Mr. Booker, 44, revealed that his stake in the company was worth $1 million to $5 million. Taken together, his other assets were worth no more than $730,000. 
That revelation, with just a week left in Mr. Booker’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate, shows how a few tech moguls and entrepreneurs, many of them also campaign donors, not only made a financial bet on the mayor’s political future but also provided the brainpower and financing to help create a company that could make him very rich. 
Waywire has also provided jobs for associates of Mr. Booker: the son of a top campaign supporter and his social media consultant, who is now on his Senate campaign staff.
Waywire is a pathetic nonentity in the world of the internet. It's a video sharing platform. Wow! a video sharing platform? On the internet?! Althouse, who flagged some of the purple prose from the Times, brings us a dramatic report from the Waywire site:
Here's Waywire, by the way(wire), so check for yourself if it's haywire. You can't tell from one look how long these items have been at the top, but the timelessness of the subject matter makes me think: a long time. I mean: "7 Great Beatles Performances," "Top 15 Most Patriotic Songs," "30 Best Summer Songs"...? These seem to pre-date the Internet! But let's be fair and watch "Top News, August 8," which appears in the upper left-hand corner of the grid. It starts off (for me, now, anyway) with a grainy 38 seconds of a guy in a suit drawing all the pingpong balls for a set of Powerball numbers. (That fits with "betting on Booker.") It then proceeds to another video, a minute of Obama on Leno, then another (showing "Suffering in Syria"), then something about Egypt, something about Dustin Hoffman, something else about Egypt, and ending the run through the top news that you need to know today, August 8th, with "Toddler Beaten to Death by Foster Mother." We see her sad face in a thumbnail. 
Just to add to the appearance of impropriety, one of the board members is Andrew Zucker, a 15 year-old boy. Or, was. He has since resigned, no doubt because someone realized having Jeff Zucker's son on the board of Booker's nest egg would probably give rise to questions about the nexus between the MSM and the Democrat Party. 


As with John Edwards, who actively worked to separate the nonagenarian Bunnie Mellon from hundreds of thousands of dollars, all in the name of funding his political career, one has to ask how any of this is legal. Conservatives like Sarah Palin have to keep every receipt from Target, lest they be hounded for accepting a $50 "gift," while Dems can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars through cattle futures, bogus start-ups or simple "gifts." I'm starting to feel like there's a double standard at work here. 

Booker has been a real up-and-comer; a golden boy who waded into the corrupt world of Newark politics and seemed to be cleaning it up. Then again, there's apparently a lot of hometown griping that he hasn't done all that much to turn Newark around, except remove some of the more egregiously corrupt civil servants. Crime, poverty, unemployment are still sky-high, and indeed are unchanged from the beginning of his administration. Booker's run for the NJ Senate seat has been treated as a for-ordained glide path into national politics, but clearly there is much that is lurking under the surface for a determined foe or journalist to dig into.  

P.S. As much as we can be discomfited by Booker's arrangement with his donors, the fact is that people like him need to sustain themselves and raise a family. Human nature being what it is, you can't expect civil servants to live penuriously. No one likes to hear this, but most elective offices are severely underpaid. Senators and congressmen should be earning in the low seven figures, not the relatively small salaries they are actually paid. If Corey Booker was actually earning a salary commensurate with his skills and his job duties, he wouldn't have to enter into bogus "investments" funded by billionaires living 3,000 miles away from the Garden State. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Charlie Rangel H8's The Tea Party: Can't We All Just Get Along?

Charlie Rangel wants you to know what he really thinks of Republicans and, especially, the Tea Party:
There is little question that Rangel is nearing the end. First elected 43 years ago, after having defeated the man whose name adorns the building where the congressman keeps his office, he is musing aloud now about what he once forbade anyone to discuss with him: his own retirement. 
But even at 83, dressed in a blue bow tie and crisp gray suit, Rangel is relentless toward those who he feels are slowing the forces of progress. 
House Republicans? Have done more damage to American competitiveness than al Qaeda ever could. “What is happening is sabotage. Terrorists couldn’t do a better job than the Republicans are doing.” 
The Tea Party? Defeat them the same way segregation was beaten. “It is the same group we faced in the South with those white crackers and the dogs and the police.”
Uh, no they're not, jerk, and you know it. The Tea Party has nothing to do with segregationists, who were Democrats who voted for every New Deal and Fair Deal program under the sun, so long as the "Solid South" could remain a segregated backwater. The Tea Party is trying to reduce the size of the federal leviathan, starting with Obamacare, and moving on down the line. I know it's hard to understand, given how all us white people (aka "crackas") look alike, but that's life for you. 

The real problem with the Tea Party, if you are Charlie Rangel, is that it is dedicating to reducing the various hand-outs, transfer payments, subsidies and "free" stuff that he has spent a career acquiring for the "community." Rangel's power has come from ginning up outrage and then dispensing goodies to his constituents, many of whom think of Great Society programs as a sort of reparations for slavery. (something they never personally experienced, btw, but the "right" to reparations is something they inherited, I guess, like white people inherit stocks and bonds). Cut welfare? Why don't you just cut off Charlie Rangel's arms?! That would definitely be racist.

America has never had a shortage of roguish politicos, but Charlie Rangel really takes the cake. He's used the ideals of the civil rights movement and the righteous anger of African-Americans to build an empire of boodle where he stood at the head of the line dispensing Obama-phones and AFDC checks like a ward-heeler (hey, what's this "like" stuff?" That's what he is) passing out stringy turkeys at Thanksgiving. Along the way, he's amassed a fortune worth many times what he could have earned through his congressional salary, not that anyone's cared to inquire too closely about that. Even the IRS could be sent packing on Rangel's behalf. 

But, when the taxpayers who pay for Rangel's power revolt and demand some sign that the Rangels of the world at least to pretend to live within the limits of the Constitution, not to mention math, suddenly it's all firehoses and dogs and Bull Connor. It's absurd. If anything, Rangel is now part of the noxious power structure. If he needs to insult decent Americans to keep his place there, I guess that's what he's got to do. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Alert! Alert! Rogue Yemeni Email Shuts Down US State Dept!

Don't mean to minimize the dangers of Islamic terrorism or anything, but the latest round of travel warnings and temporary embassy closings has an especially bogus "Shark Week"-level hype to them:
The United States will temporarily shut down its embassies and consulates around the world Sunday -- including those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt -- as a precautionary measure over terror-related concerns, State Department officials said. 
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf did not say how long the international installations would stay closed -- only that the decision was taken “out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting.” Officials would not describe the nature of the threat.  
Sunday is a normal workday in many Arab and Middle Eastern countries, meaning that is where the closures will have an impact. Embassies in Europe and Latin America would be shuttered that day anyway. 
“We have instructed all U.S. embassies and consulates that would have normally been open on Sunday to suspend operations, specifically on August 4,” a senior State Department official said Thursday night. “It is possible we may have additional days of closing as well.”
Hey, maybe there's really a bunch of terrorists massing somewhere, ready for Benghazi II, but I just don't believe it. And, why the heck are we closing embassies, even for a second? If you don't want a repeat of the attack on the Libyan consulate (which was actually a "mission," or some such), then maybe post some Marines with actual weapons containing actual bullets and see how far your typical terrorist gets. But, that's not how things work under the Obama Doctrine, where concepts like "Defending Yourself" and "Refusing To Knuckle Under To Vague Threats" are now verboten for being the tools of imperialist running dogs. Anyway, one of Obama's two big talking points last year was that "Osama was dead and al-Qaeda on the run," so what's the problem?

I will have no problem repudiating the above should there be a massive, fatal terrorist attack sometime in the next couple weeks, but how likely is that to happen? Not very. But, this grand display of weakness and duck & covering will encourage the next "out of nowhere" attack. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Great Guitars: Sonny Sharrock

One of the great avant-jazz guitar players, not that there's a lot of 'em, Sonny Sharrock's career divides itself neatly in two parts. Back in the free jazz Sixties and Seventies, his broken-glass style of playing landed him on some ESP sessions, a couple jams in Miles Davis' fusion band playing opposite John McLaughlin, and - most unforgettably - sent him out touring the world with flautist Herbie Mann. After recording a couple solo albums, he disappeared for a decade, re-emerging with a searing jazz-funk-rock sound captured in the above video, where he tears through a Keith Jarrett tune in front of an audience of appreciative Czechoslovakians. Sadly, Sharrock died just a few years into his second coming, but the albums he recorded back then, especially Guitar and Ask The Ages, remain vital and easily accessible.

Monday, July 22, 2013

At A Certain Point, You've Earned Enough Social Justice

It's been a week since the Zimmerman verdict and the media and the political left are still trying to stoke some sort of explosive outrage in the "community." They are sort of succeeding as there have been reports out of Oakland and Hollywood (?!) of yout's attacking people and property "for Trayvon." I'm sure Trayvon's looking down and saying "Thanks to my niggas for keeping it real."

Al Sharpton's 100-city protests were pathetic, philosophically and practically. They were hardly expressive of some wide-ranging, righteous anger. Mostly it looks like ghetto kids are looking for trouble, and now have the imprimatur of the president and the "reverend" Sharpton in their never-ending quest to show off. You say you are "just like Trayvon?" That may be. Trayvon looks like he was more of a wanna-be than an actual thug4life, but he was an idiot to turn around and attack the guy he (correctly) thought was following him. Looking at pictures of the Trayvon rallies, it looks like there are a lot of idiots in the "he could have been me" in the crowd. Well, yeah, if you're wandering around like an a**hole looking for fights, copping an attitude, and committing petty theft, you are likely to come to a bad end.

I'm sure the civil rights crowd and leaders in the "community" think all of this rabble rousing will end up being a net positive, but why would that be? Newt Gingrich is already taking fire for his comment that gang membership has increased 40% since Obama became president. This follows, of course, his earlier comments that Obama was the "food stamp president." Now, you can get mad because it upsets you to hear an old white guy from Georgia talk about gangs and food stamps, but is anyone wondering if he's (gasp) right? He was right about the food stamps, after all. If gang membership is, indeed, increasing shouldn't that be a greater concern to the "community" than the death of a guy who was, at least, a wanna-be who dressed and acted the part?

50 years ago, the "community" could riot in Detroit, and the government would convene commissions and throw money at the "community" until the rioting stopped. 20 years ago, the "community" could riot in LA and everyone would pull a long face about police brutality, rather than wonder about the out-of-control criminals and drug addicts that the police were battling in the streets. Every day for the 50 years since LBJ signed the various Great Society programs into law, checks have gone to millions of members of the "community" without fail. The only change to that system has been the well-deserved imposition of a work requirement which has since been gutted by executive fiat. The "community" has not lacked for social justice or help or resources.

Someone once said, "at some point, you've made enough money." In the case of the members of the "community" rioting self-righteously over Trayvon Martin, I would say at some point you've had all the special privileges American society can shower on you.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Great Guitars: Hank Marvin

Back in the pre-"Clapton Is God" early 1960's, The Shadows' Hank Marvin was England's greatest rock guitarist, backing up Sir Cliff Richard and taking the lead on The Shadows' many instrumental hits. Among other things, Marvin introduced the Fender Strat to England, and was an early proponent of echo effects and whammy bar bends. More important, he was one of the few rock guitar players of any era who was able to build a career as much on instrumentals as on playing off a singer wailing pop tunes. I don't know if it's still the case, but for years, The Shadows had the third largest number of songs ever on the British charts (Elvis and The Beatles were one and two). At least half were features for Marvin's sparkling leads with nary a vocal line to be heard. Sure, the times have passed Marvin by, but that's not really Marvin's fault. His playing remains flawless.