Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hippy Sex Fiends and
Brutal Machiavellians

From the German news magazine Spiegel courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe, a cool interview with a primatologist:

SPIEGEL: Is it possible that even the dream of a selfless society is the result of each individual's self-serving endeavors?

De Waal: No. Socialism cannot function, because its economic reward structure is contrary to human nature. Despite massive indoctrination, people are not willing to give up their own needs and those of their immediate families for the general good. And for good reason. Morality, after all, has nothing to do with selflessness. On the contrary, self-interest is precisely the basis of the categorical imperative.

SPIEGEL: Wouldn't that mean that capitalism is the more suitable model for human coexistence?

De Waal: A system based purely on competition also comes with significant problems. You can see this here in the United States, where there are too few constraints on market forces. It's a balancing act. Competitiveness is just as much a part of our nature as empathy. The ideal, in my view, is a democratic system with a social market economy, because it takes both tendencies into account.

Click here for the rest.

Early on in Real Art's history, depressed by the apparent war lust of the American people as the mighty US military machine geared up for it's invasion of Iraq, I wrote a post decrying the chimp-like and herdish behavior of my fellow countrymen:

I also find that, even though I am leery about the hundredth monkey premise, I am increasingly beginning to feel that we are more primal than I want to believe. Seemingly, most Americans believe in our sacred national ideals, not because of contemplative, rational thought and judgment, but because there are serious social rewards for believing: “Good boy. You’ve memorized the Preamble to the Constitution. You get an ‘A.’ What a good boy you are. A good American.” Good monkeys get more bananas.

Americans also tend to believe the words of the leaders who seem the most excited, the strongest. Watch the alpha male behavior during the upcoming presidential primary season. Watch the monkeys screech and beat their chests.
Click here if you want to read the rest (and, by the way, I've heard recently that the "hundredth monkey" premise is based purely on myth, and therefore bullshit).

I was at that point starting to seriously consider the notion that biology, rather than intellect, plays the most important role in determining human affairs. That is, no matter how far we advance as a species, we are still, deep down, the same animals who climbed out of trees in Africa in search of more and better food thousands of years ago. Now, I'm pretty sure it's the truth: we're all a bunch of monkeys pretending to be gods.

The facinating thing about the interview above, however, is that biological destiny isn't necessarily such a bad thing. Most everybody knows about the violent alpha male behavior of chimpanzees, but it seems that relatively few Americans know about the chimps' extremely close relatives, the bonobos. Indeed, the bonobos are so closely related to chimps that they, too, share some 98% of human DNA. That is, we're almost exactly like chimps, but we're also almost exactly like bonobos. And that's a good thing.

Bonobos don't fight; they cooperate. Instead of violence, they engage in sex. Lots of it. With pretty much anybody, male or female, in their respective communities. Females tend to dominate, but in groups, without any sort of real heirarchy, and with very little aggression. The bonobos are the living manifestation of the old 60s imperative to make love, not war. It's as though chimps are hawks, and bonobos are doves.

So, it appears, if you accept the notion that chimps and bonobos give a close approximation of what human nature would be like divorced from human society, that we have it within ourselves to be both killers and lovers, dominators and helpers. Unlike our primal cousins, however, we have much more of an ability to choose. That is, if biology is our destiny, it doesn't have to be violent and destructive. We can choose to be true to our humanity by taking the path of the bonobos, the path of peace.

I'm not monkeying around here.



From Yahoo, courtesy of Screen Caper, courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe:

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is being made to watch his appearance in cult cartoon South Park while he is behind bars.

The deposed leader on trial in Iraq was featured in the movie spin-off as the lover of the devil. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut featured Hussein and Satan attempting to take over the world together.

Click here for the rest.

Okay, as anybody who reads this blog knows, I totally opposed the invasion, and now the occupation, of Iraq. That doesn't mean, however, and this is obvious to anyone who's not a moron, that I think Saddam Hussein is a good guy. On the contrary, he was a brutal, barbarous, murdering despot, one of the worst motherfuckers to ever be on the CIA payroll, and not all of his cruelty was approved by the US. Consequently, it's pretty difficult to have much sympathy for his current plight. Indeed, this is goddamned funny.

I sure hope the DVD they're using has Arabic subtitles.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fox News' Ratings Take a Nosedive

From the Huffington Post courtesy of AlterNet:

Fox News' ratings, TVNewser reports, are down since August of last year. Like, way down. Like down 28 percent in primetime among all viewers, down 20 percent in primetime in the "money demo" (viewers aged 25-54) and down 7 percent in daytime viewership overall. In fact, the only place Fox is up is during the day, when they managed a ratings increase of just 2 percent, and even then only in the money demo.

Click here for the rest.

The formula for good television ratings is mysterious, indeed. What was big yesterday is often crap today, and what's hot today is often embarrassing tomorrow. Programmers who are unable to figure out tastes quickly enough don't last long in the business. The formula Fox News has been using for years, far right-wing distortions and lies, continual attacks against moderates and liberals, and defending the GOP no matter what happens, all the while branding the approach as "fair and balanced," has been formidable: Fox is the absolute king of cable news, and not even a 28% drop in prime time ratings will change that. But this plunge in ratings is definitely good news. It strongly suggests that their formula may very well be turning out to be tomorrow's embarrassment.

And that's no surprise given how sick so many Americans have become of the right-wing bullshit they've been force-fed by Fox for some ten years now. Who knows? In ten more years, facts may be what's hot. Here's hoping.


Astros finish trip with rout of Pirates

From the Houston Chronicle:

As the Astros eagerly packed their bags Sunday afternoon following a season-long, 11-game trip, they probably wished they could have taken the Pittsburgh Pirates home with them.

The Astros continued their dominance over the National League's worst team, pounding the Pirates 13-1 at PNC Park for their third consecutive victory. They finished the road trip 6-5 and improved to 10-3 against Pittsburgh this year.


The Astros, winners of four of their past five games, sliced a game off their deficit in the NL wild-card race for the third day in a row. They're four games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card chase.

The club will get a day off today — its first in three weeks — before opening a six-game homestand Tuesday, starting with three against the Milwaukee Brewers.


Rookie righthander Jason Hirsh (2-2), who gave up 10 runs in 2? innings in his previous start Tuesday in Cincinnati, rebounded nicely, allowing five hits and one run in seven innings. The Pirates loaded the bases in the fourth and fifth, but Hirsh limited the damage to one run.

"Confidence-wise, it was big," Hirsh said. "I got away from my game plan a little bit. I got a little timid with guys, especially the two walks (in the fourth). I was getting away from what I was trying to do. I tightened up at the end and made my pitches."

Click here for the rest.

You know, the only reason I mention this particular game--baseball, more than any other professional sport, seems to be much more about clumps of games--is because the pitcher who won it, Jason Hirsh, is the guy I saw live at Minute Maid a couple of weeks ago losing his professional debut. It was obvious then that he's a good pitcher, just as it was obvious that he was extraordinarily nervous, what with the Big Leagues and all. Anyway, it's nice to see that he's settling down and winning some games now. And, boy, do we need wins now. Amazingly, even though the 'Stros are still below .500 in the win/loss column for the season, they're still in the running for the playoffs. What a weird world we live in.

Heh. They just beat the Brewers a few minutes ago. I love this. If they make the playoffs again, it'll be sooooo in Houston style: fart around most of the year, and then pull it together at the last minute. Actually, that's kind of how I'm living my life.


Monday, August 28, 2006


The Federal Government let us down in the worst way. Hundreds died; thousands suffered needlessly. I have to admit that going over material for this post has been emotionally difficult. I didn't really think I was over it all, but going back and reading what I wrote at the time, going back and watching news video from while it was all going on, well, yeah, I've cried a few times today. I still can't believe what a fiasco it all was.

From This Modern World:

Katrina : A Timeline

On Fox News :

SHEPARD SMITH: You’re live on FOX News Channel, what are you doing?

MAN IN NEW ORLEANS: Walking my dogs.

SMITH: Why are you still here? I’m just curious.

MAN: None of your fucking business.


“We pee on the floor. We are like animals,” said Taffany Smith, 25, as she cradled her 3-week-old son, Terry. In her right hand she carried a half-full bottle of formula provided by rescuers. Baby supplies are running low; one mother said she was given two diapers and told to scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again.

At least two people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for.


From Newsweek :

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less “situational awareness,” as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

Click here for much, much more, including video.

As amusing as it is that an NO resident told a Fox reporter to go to hell, I've got to give old Shep Smith credit for showing more compassion than I've ever seen from a Fox employee: on a Hannity and Colmes report from the Big Easy during the reign of chaos, Smith essentially told Hannity to go to hell, too, and Geraldo, bless his sleazy little heart, broke down in tears. You can see video of the immortal exchange in TMW's Katrina timeline linked above. Actually, it's pretty damned disturbing. Even Hannity was having trouble defending Bush in the face of what was going on.

So that's what was going on in New Orleans. What was going on with me? I became obsessed with the disaster. I had forgotten, but from the day before the storm hit, I essentially posted on nothing but Katrina, and then Rita, for an entire month.

Here's a bit I wrote after Becky and I returned from our needless evacuation to Tyler:


I have to admit being freaked out by all this. I cannot explain how much I love New Orleans and what that place means to me--to some small extent, it's why I came to LSU. I will tell you one thing about our time on the road. In Tyler, the motel we found was full of evacuees from the Crescent City. I spoke with an older woman who told me that she had lost everything and that she was pretty sure that a couple of family members had drowned. What can you say to that? My simple statement, "that's terrible; I'm so sorry," seemed trite, especially because I then broke off the conversation because Becky and I had to check out to leave for our home in Baton Rouge. This is terrible, but it really is beyond my ability to truly articulate. It's horrible.

It was horrible, and I am still filled with horror, like it was a terrible nightmare from which there is never any waking.

If you're interested, here is a link to my first August '05 post on Katrina--just scroll up to get a sense of the story from my point of view. Here is a link to my first September post--again, scroll up for the full story in blog form. Just scanning through it earlier today was almost too much for me to bear.

Some pics:

One can argue about who is to blame for the slowness of the reconstruction--indeed, for that event it appears there's plenty of blame to go around at all levels and for both political parties. However, blame for the reign of chaos in New Orleans immediately after the hurricane hit rests squarely on the shoulders of President Bush: Nagin and Blanco managed to evacuate 80% of the city, far better than any other city ever does under similar circumstances; they did their job. Since the Department of Homeland Security was created in the wake of 9/11, however, it has been the stated responsibility of the Federal Government to deal with the rest of such crises, shelter, rescue, food, water, medical care, security. And they fucking blew it. Big time.

Why is Bush still in office? He should be rotting in jail.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Activist's remark starts FBI probe

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Jim Bensman thought his suggestion during a public hearing was harmless enough: Instead of building a channel so migratory fish could go around a dam on the Mississippi River, just get rid of the dam.

Instead, the environmental activist found himself in hot water, drawing FBI scrutiny to see whether he had any terrorist intentions.


He urged that the dam be torn out. He said he never mentioned blowing the dam up, though the corps' presentation of possible options included a picture of a dam being dynamited.

The next day, however, a local newspaper reported that Bensman "said he would like to see the dam blown up and resents paying taxes to fix dam problems when it is barge companies that profit from the dam."

Click here for the rest.

I would simply chalk this up to zealous post 9/11 stupidity except for the fact that the FBI has seemingly been far more concerned with the largely fictional eco-terrorist movement than they have been with actual terrorists for some years. My guess is that this bizarre focus is hang-over from the old COINTELPRO days during the 60s and 70s: the Counter Intelligence Program, founded by famous transvestite and longtime FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, was the outfit that wiretapped Martin Luther King Jr. as an alleged communist, and actually assassinated Black Panther Fred Hampton, among other atrocities. That is, the FBI apparently continues to have an anti-liberal culture so strong that they continue to have knee-jerk responses to even a whiff of hippy.

Typical cops.


Klansman Reinstated As State Trooper

From CBS News courtesy of AlterNet:

Robert Henderson was not fired as a state trooper because he belonged to the Ku Klux Klan and another white supremacist group, authorities said.

Instead, he was ousted because he could not uphold public trust while participating in such groups, they said.

An arbitrator disagreed, ordering the State Patrol to reinstate Henderson within 60 days and pay him back wages. The state went to court Friday to keep him off the force.

"The integrity of Nebraska's law enforcement is at risk," Attorney General Jon Bruning said at news conference in Lincoln. "The Constitution does not require law enforcement to employ anyone tied to the KKK."

Click here for the rest.

How would you like to be pulled over for "driving while black" by this guy?

I'm very inclined to side with the state of Nebraska on this one. I mean, historically, the Klan isn't much more than a racist right-wing terrorist group; obviously, a cop ought not to be a terrorist, and, obviously, a cop ought not to be a racist. On the other hand, according to Wikipedia, there are today something like six different KKK organizations: is his group one of the violent ones? If not, the issue becomes tricky. All Americans are fully entitled to the rights of free speech and free association, without which, ironically, the Civil Rights Movement could have never gotten off the ground. As much as I despise what the Klan stands for, firing this guy conceivably opens the door to firing cops who, say, don't support the occupation of Iraq, or who support gay and lesbian rights.

Freedom is messy, and it constantly brings up conundrums such as this. I'm sure that I'm missing out on any number of important points here. For instance, after Timothy McVeigh's infamous bombing in Oklahoma of a Federal building, the US armed forces managed to somehow purge itself of the extremist elements who inspired him to commit his crime--of course, what with recruiting shortfalls, that's been changing recently. But my point is that if the military was able to do this without a Constitutional challenge, it seems to me that a state police force could do the same thing. I just don't know how.

I sure hope somebody's able to figure this one out.



No post tonight because I'm in the middle of installing a new copy of Windows on my computer. Afer all these years Microsoft finally caught up with me. Anyway, this Newsweek article courtesy of AlterNet, about how officials in the State Department might have known all along who leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press, looks interesting. But I haven't even read it yet.

See you tomorrow.


Saturday, August 26, 2006


Okay, actually the Beatles are my favorite rock band, but they pretty much occupy a class of their own, you know, the Beatles and everybody else. At the top of the "everybody else" category, however, is Steely Dan whom I have loved since I was in the fourth grade. Their two most recent albums have been, admittedly, disappointing, but that's okay. I love them anyway.

From Wikipedia:

Steely Dan is an American jazz rock band centered around the core members Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. The band's peak of popularity was in the 1970s, when it released six albums that blended jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop. Their music is characterized by complex jazz-influenced structures and harmonies, literate lyrics and adroit musicianship.

Fagen and Becker named the band for a steam-powered dildo in the William Burroughs novel Naked Lunch. The group toured from 1972 to 1974, but from 1975 to 1980 the group became purely a studio-based act. The band was known for using session players such as Michael McDonald on their recordings. Steely Dan was inactive from 1981 through 1992, but Becker and Fagen have since reunited.


Lyrically, their songs cover a wide range of topics, but in their basic approach Becker and Fagen's writing can be compared with the observational, novelistic style of Lou Reed, and with songwriters such as Randy Newman, who specialises in creating fictional personas that narrate the song. The duo have said that in retrospect, most of their albums have a 'feel' of either Los Angeles or New York, the two main bases where Becker and Fagen lived and operated (see below). Characters appear in their songs that evoke these cities. Themes of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll appear, but never in a straightforward manner, neither encouraging or discouraging, and many (if not all) of their songs are tinged with an ironic edge.

Click here for the rest; it's a pretty good article.

In addition to the nearly thirty years I've spent enjoying their music, I owe Steely Dan a great deal. Even though many influences over the years eventually led me to my love of jazz, Becker and Fagen are probably the biggest--Wayne Shorter's sax solo on the song "Aja" may very well be the first time I ever heard a Miles Davis alumnus play, and the strange permutations of Larry Carlton's guitar solo on "Kid Charlemagne" served as an excellent introduction for the more complicated stuff I grooved on later in life.

But it's not just Steely Dan's jazz trappings that I adore. Their usually ambiguous lyrics, always suggesting, but never quite telling, some sort of depraved and bittersweet hipster story, continue to transport me to more interesting places than the ones in which I often find myself; they've had a profound effect on my own sense of artistry and personal narrative. Furthermore, Becker and Fagen embraced a sense irony fully two decades before serious rockers and music fans followed suit in the 90s--when the age of irony finally came, Steely Dan had me well prepared.

Topping all that off, I never seem to tire of repeated listenings, and I'm often surprised by some nuance or lyrical phrase I hadn't noticed before. I'm still tickled by my realization in the late 80s that the "guitar" solo on "Do It Again" is, in fact, an electric sitar solo. I also remember the time when I heard a story about a drummer trying, unsuccessfully, to recreate the drum line from "Babylon Sisters," which made me revisit the song, learning that it's way more complicated than I had thought. I had no idea that "Glamour Profession" was about professional basketball players on cocaine until fairly recently. You never quite know what you're in for with Steely Dan.

Like I said, they're my favorite rock band.

Here's a YouTube snippet from a documentary on the album Aja covering the making of the song that first sucked me into their world, "Peg." Here's a link to a page that has links to seven cool Steely Dan clips (scroll down), including the kickass and very modern video for Donald Fagen's 1982 solo tune "New Frontier."

Becker and Fagen back in the day

(Tip of the hat to my old pal and fellow Steely Dan fan Matt for getting me thinking about my favorite rock band again.)


Friday, August 25, 2006






Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging!


Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson dies at 78

From Reuters via the Houston Chronicle:

Jazz trumpeter and big-band leader Walter "Maynard" Ferguson, famed for his screaming solos and ability to hit blisteringly high notes, has died at age 78, associates said today.

The Montreal-born Ferguson died Wednesday at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California, of kidney and liver failure brought on by an abdominal infection.


The Penguin Guide to Jazz says of Ferguson: "There are few sights more impressive in animal physiology than the muscles in Maynard Ferguson's upper thorax straining for a top C.

"... Putting a Ferguson disc on the turntable evokes sensations ranging from walking into a high wind to being run down by a truck," according to the Penguin Guide.

Among Ferguson's best known and most commercially successful recordings were "MacArthur Park" and the "Rocky" movie theme, "Gonna Fly Now."

Click here for the rest.

Okay, I have to admit that I've never been much of a Maynard fan. His 70s stuff I was hearing when I was a kid struck me as being too much like Blood, Sweat, and Tears, but without their cool earthiness, and with too much showing off. I mean, he was never in Miles or Louis' league, and as I grew to be a big jazz fan over the years, it seemed that the only people who ever named him as one of the trumpet greats were people who had been in their high school band. But that's the key to his greatness: in addition to being a pretty darned good player, and a jazz survivor with an excellent pedigree, Maynard Ferguson was pretty much the inventor of the high school band clinic. By working with young musicians for many years, most of whom would put away their instruments after graduation, Ferguson single handedly created masses of jazz fans who would not have existed otherwise. Maynard Ferguson was a missionary for jazz in an era when fewer and fewer people were listening to it. Like Carl Sagan, who was only a pretty good scientist, but a great spokesman for science, Ferguson's contribution to jazz cannot be understated.

And, you know what? Ferguson's "Gonna Fly Now" from the first Rocky movie has actually aged pretty well--check out this sample, courtesy of Amazon. He really was pretty wild with those high notes.

Farewell, Maynard Ferguson.


Means "Who Polices the Police?"

From the Houston Chronicle:

Houston trooper arrested in alleged ID card scam

A state trooper is free on bail today after his arrest in Houston on charges accusing him of selling Texas identification cards for $1,200 apiece, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Department of Public Safety Trooper Richard Rodriguez, 47, was arrested Monday after the issuance of a criminal complaint charging him with fraud. He posted bail Wednesday.

Click here for the rest.

Child molestation, robbery, drug use, rape, brutality, willful violation of civil liberties, racism, and, of course, petty fraud. And more. Since I started Real Art almost four years ago, I've posted on case after case of police corruption and crime, and they just keep on coming. This happens so much, so consistently, that I'm simply unable to buy the "few bad apples" point of view. Indeed, dismissing chronic police abuses as isolated incidents simply allows the orgy of arrogance to continue. And that's what I think it comes down to, arrogance. As I've said many times before, I don't think it's necessarily individual arrogance, that cops are somehow inherently bad guys. Quite the reverse: we need cops, and it's dangerous work; they're clearly performing an important social service overall. But I just can't escape the sense that police culture, nationwide, eggs on what were probably latent tendencies in people before they joined up. That is, there seems to be a sort of us-and-them groupthink among police officers that morphs into a kind of elitism. Or, like I said, arrogance, which leads some cops to do bad things, and other cops to look the other way out of loyalty. The effects of this could probably be greatly lessened through some kind of counter-cultural training, but nobody seems to conceptualize the problem in this way.

And that means that cop corruption is here to stay.


Thursday, August 24, 2006


From Hullabaloo courtesy of Eschaton:

"Undecided voters aren't as rational as you think. Members of the political class may disparage undecided voters, but we at least tend to impute to them a basic rationality. We're giving them too much credit. I met voters who told me they were voting for Bush, but who named their most important issue as the environment. One man told me he voted for Bush in 2000 because he thought that with Cheney, an oilman, on the ticket, the administration would finally be able to make us independent from foreign oil. A colleague spoke to a voter who had been a big Howard Dean fan, but had switched to supporting Bush after Dean lost the nomination. After half an hour in the man's house, she still couldn't make sense of his decision."


"Increasing political interest won’t be easy, however. One suggestion has been for schools to conduct more classes in civics or American history, but the link between the number of such classes taken K-12 and informed citizenship is extremely weak. Get-out-the-vote campaigns in the mass media have also been popular, but the people who most need such encouragement don’t read newspapers or watch the news on TV. “Kids Voting” programs may benefit some, but they tend to be too few in number around the country, and their effects are generally minor.

Tne possible solution is deliberative polls, as suggested by University of Texas professor James Fishkin. The 2004 ANES found, for example, that persons who reported discussing politics with family and friends were significantly better informed than those who eschewed political talk. It is likely that political information and political discussions are mutually reinforcing."

Click here for the rest.

Unlike the true moderate, like my buddy Matt, who is informed and thoughtful, the undecided vote, or the swing vote, or the mushy middle, whatever you want to call it, is wildly uninformed, and politically naive. Sadly, these are the people who tend to make the difference in deciding elections--even sadder, this tends to make party leadership, traditionally, take their base for granted in the misguided drive to appeal to these swing voters, our current President serving as a major exception, although come election time, he's all "uniter not a divider." It is a sick and twisted condition, indeed, that political morons hold the fate of our nation in their thumbless hands.

Anyway, I agree that increasing political interest in the general population is the key to ending this bizarre situation, but I disagree with the notion that schools are unable to help. The problem with schools is twofold. First, the structure and moment-to-moment reality of public education is authoritarian. That is, we unthinkingly teach children an ideology that is anathma to democracy. It is no surprise that political apathy, and therefore political lunacy, results for most of the population. A radical shift in our approach to education could easily teach Americans to both value and participate in our democratic institutions.

Second, history, government, economics, and civics courses are some of the most boring subjects taught in the schools. And it's not because those fields are inherently boring: it's because we don't really teach them. That is, I've learned from writer and education critic James Loewen that these courses are generally treated as bland and glorifying pro-American propaganda--US history becomes the story of a great nation that's always getting better; aren't we so great? Who the hell can be interested in that? The reality is that these subjects are wildly conflicted, full of contradictory views and marvelous debates. That's interesting, but the schools avoid the good stuff, the stuff that would make people better and more motivated citizens, for fear of controversy.

So the schools, as they are now, are, indeed, incapable of solving this mushy middle problem. But that could change, if there were enough demand.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Christian Coalition losing chapters

From the AP via Yahoo courtesy of AlterNet:

Three disgruntled state affiliates have severed ties with the Christian Coalition of America, one of the nation's most powerful conservative groups during the 1990s but now buffeted by complaints over finances, leadership and its plans to veer into nontraditional policy areas.


The coalition, which claims more than 2 million members, was founded in 1989 by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and became politically powerful under Executive Director Ralph Reed before he left in 1997. Robertson, who turned over the presidency to Combs in 2002, has been criticized for provocative public statements, while Reed lost an election in Georgia last month after being linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Jim Backlin, the coalition's vice president for legislative affairs, said the Reed situation harmed the organization because of heavy media coverage that constantly mentioned his past role with the coalition.

Backlin insisted, however, that the coalition remained influential among conservatives in Congress.

Click here for the rest.

Lately, I've become hopeful regarding the prospects for Christian failure as an American political force. Like conservatism in general, it is now appearing that the fundamentalists, who are really the only major Christian players on the US political scene beyond the few remnants of the Civil Rights Movement, are overplaying their hand. Ralph Reed's stunning loss in his attempt to enter elected office is but one example; Bush's callow attempts to push the religious right's agenda, which has created massive opposition on stem cell research and in other areas, is another.

But it's not recent events that have made me so optimistic. It's this history show I've been watching online, The Western Tradition, made available by the same people who host episodes of Ethics in America, on which I posted a while back. The show is essentially a series of lectures covering the history of the cultures, philosophies, and economics of the West, delivered over Ken Burns style pans and zooms of art from each respective era--if you're a Civilization player, it's a must watch. The lecturer is UCLA professor emeritis of history Eugen Weber. I've recently watched the episodes covering the fall of Rome and rise of Christianity. Weber argues that as long as Christianity offered an alternative to mainstream society, it remained pure as a religious ideology, but once the new religion became entangled with, and then eventually replacing or combining itself with state authority, it was no longer able to remain true to its own system of beliefs. That is, once all society considered itself believers, Christianity as philosophy became simply a political tool--it wasn't until Martin Luther's reformation that this trend was reversed, but only to an extent.

I feel like I'm seeing something similar happen now in the United States. Certainly, Christianity has always played an important role in our republic, but it was not until the late twentieth century that the religion began seriously inserting itself into American political life. After a couple of decades of major gains, the movement is showing some signs of disarray. If history is any indicator at all, and I think it is, this can ultimately only lead to fundamentalist self-destruction: it appears that the nature of Christianity cannot abide a quest for real power. Unlike Dark Ages Christianity, however, we now have a relatively rational, literate, and well-informed population, which includes rank-and-file fundamentalists. As their leaders continue to misstep on the political scene, it seems to me that disillusionment can be the only result. Disillusionment should result in political withdrawal in the long run.

I just hope this scenario plays itself out sooner rather than later. I don't know how much more damage we can take from these Jesus Nazis.



From Crooks and Liars:

BUSH: Part of the reason we went into Iraq...uh, was, uh...the main reason we went into Iraq, at the time, was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. Turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction.


BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. They were …

QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with that?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attacks upon the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. . . . .Except for it’s part of — and nobody’s ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September the 11th is: Take threats before they fully materialize

Click here to watch the rest.

As C&L observes, the notion that the Bush administration never suggested a link between Iraq and 9/11 is as much of a crock of shit as the bogus connection itself: the whole gang tirelessly pushed the link, again and again, which is why so many Americans, which includes numerous US military personnel ultimately used as cannon fodder over there, believed the invasion was some sort of justified retaliation. Our President is a fucking liar, and these lies aren't about blowjobs. They're lies that have caused inestimable death and suffering, lies that have wildly increased the threat of terrorism that he was supposed to be combating. I'm so sick of this shit. You know, it's nice that Bush continues to admit that there were never any WMDs in Iraq, that they were wrong, but why the hell do so many Americans continue to think otherwise? Because they tell the truth out of one side of their mouths and continue to lie out the other. Fucking bastards.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dylan says why not steal music, 'worth nothing anyway'

From Reuters via the Houston Chronicle:

Noting the music industry's complaints that illegal downloading means people are getting their music for free, he said, "Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway."

"You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them," he added. "There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like ... static."

Click here for the rest.

It's important to note that Bob Dylan isn't simply blasting contemporary pop music itself, like I often do: rather, he's blasting production style, and he'll get no complaint from me there. Certainly, there are numerous genres out there as the recording industry becomes ever more niche oriented in its marketing, but, at the same time, it's really tempting to say that everything sounds alike these days because on many levels that's the case. Of course, my thinking is that it all comes back to the talent. That is, MTV years ago ushered in an era where musicians are valued as much, or more, for their good looks as they are for their talent; ability has necessarily suffered. Furthermore, corporate ownership of the recording industry has resulted in the marketing of clone bands and performers who are usually a bad rip-off of other bands from bygone days, which also has weakened the talent pool. Producers have been forced to make up for that gap with studio tricks that bury the usually weak vocals and distract from sophomoric songwriting with baroque fills and grooves. There are still great new CDs out there, but, because they don't fit the narrow scope of what's deemed "marketable," you don't hear them unless you're part of the subculture that searches out such things.

Or maybe I'm just getting old and don't understand these damned kids today.


Dylan in the 60s


Monday, August 21, 2006

Church Fires Teacher for Being Female

From the AP via AOL courtesy of AlterNet:

The First Baptist Church dismissed Mary Lambert on Aug. 9 with a letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation that prohibits women from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years.

The letter quoted the first epistle to Timothy: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

The Rev. Timothy LaBouf, who also serves on the Watertown City Council, issued a statement saying his stance against women teaching men in Sunday school would not affect his decisions as a city leader in Watertown, where all five members of the council are men but the city manager who runs the city's day-to-day operations is a woman.

Click here for the rest.

In principle, this shouldn't be so surprising to me. After all, I recall several "wives submit" sermons back from when I was a Southern Baptist years ago: Southern Baptists are not feminists. But this church isn't Southern Baptist; it's American Baptist, one of the moderate mainline protestant denominations, and it's in upstate New York, a region not necessarily flaming with liberalism, but then not terribly conservative, either. So this swing into Scriptural literalism, a.k.a. fundamentalism, from a denomination usually not inclined to do so is disturbing, to say the least. It's difficult to not think about reports I've heard that mainline church attendance has been decreasing over the years while fundamentalist attendance continues to rise. Is this Baptist church's journey to the dark side an omen of things to come? Is rational Christianity in the US doomed to die out? I can't help but think that we're definitely headed in that direction.


Opposition to Iraq war at all-time high

From CNN courtesy of Eschaton:

Opposition among Americans to the war in Iraq has reached a new high, with only about a third of respondents saying they favor it, according to a poll released Monday.

Just 35 percent of 1,033 adults polled say they favor the war in Iraq; 61 percent say they oppose it -- the highest opposition noted in any CNN poll since the conflict began more than three years ago.

Despite the rising opposition to the war, President Bush said the U.S. will not withdraw from Iraq while he is president.

"In this case, it would give the terrorists and extremists an additional tool besides safe haven, and that is revenues from oil sales," the president said. "Leaving before the job is done would be a disaster," he said.

Click here for the rest.

Upon occasion, because I'm less willing to swim in the sewers than I used to be, although I will from time to time listen to Drudge or Michael Reagan on the radio when I shower, I'm able to dope out some of the latest lines of right-wing rhetoric from my father, who is apparently a big fan of Rush and O'Reilly. When I was in Houston weekend before last, I accidentally let slip that most Americans want out of Iraq. Dad came back with an assertion that I was misreading the polls; the reality, he said, is that some want out immediately, while some want a timetable, while still others want out after the Iraqis are able to effectively police themselves. He told me that I was adding together all these different viewpoints, which he felt was unreasonable, and that the long and short of it all is that it is wrong to conclude a majority of Americans want out. Avoiding pointless conflict, I agreed that I was adding together the different viewpoints and left it at that.

But I still don't understand why adding together various "get out" opinions is unreasonable; I guess that's all the pro-war crowd has to defend themselves with these days.

At any rate, this recent CNN poll appears to cut to the chase, simply asking for a "favor" versus "oppose" position, which is pretty black and white if you ask me. Sixty one percent, if it was the margin of an election, would be considered a landslide. I think it's safe to say at this point that America unambiguously wants out. Strangely, or perhaps I mean fittingly, the ruling majority is deaf to the popular majority's will. I am greatly looking forward to the elections in November.

Also, and Atrios was all over this in another post today, it is very interesting to note that Bush has now pledged to not withdraw at all while he is in office. I said as much as early as two years ago, myself, when it was starting to become obvious that the neocon's plans for reorganizing the Middle East absolutely necessitate a strong and permanent US military presence in the region for decades to come. So everything is playing out according to the script.

What scares me is that future administrations, Republican or Democrat, may very well decide to stay, as well. The prize here is controlling world oil supplies in order to control the world economy. That's just too tempting to let go, even for "reality-based" Democratic Presidental hopefuls. I guess we'll see.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Employer advises Dumpster-diving for axed workers

From Reuters via the Houston Chronicle:

Bankrupt Northwest Airlines Corp. advised workers to fish in the trash for things they like or take their dates for a walk in the woods in a move to help workers facing the ax to save money.

The No. 5 U.S. carrier, which has slashed most employees' pay and is looking to cut jobs as it prepares to exit bankruptcy, put the tips in a booklet handed out to about 50 workers and posted for a time on its employee Web site.

Click here for the rest.

Danny Noonan: I've always wanted to go to college.

Judge Smails: Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too
From the film Caddyshack.

So, outsourcing, downsizing, permanent layoffs, bloodletting, whatever you want to call it, has been around for a long time now. But never, never, never, have I encountered such hardcore gloating coming from these corporate powerhouses while in the act of throat-slitting--traditionally, these suited and neck-tied profit machines disguised as people are too worried about PR to dogpile their no longer needed employees. I guess this is simply a testament to how comfortable the elite have become with the disposability of workers. And by "workers" I mean "human beings."

I remember years ago in high school some of the guys I hung out with decided that the most effective and devastating way to flip someone off was to take your outstretched middle finger and press it heavily right between the eyes of the person to be offended--try it sometime; it really works. Anyway, this dig-in-the-trash thing is tantamount to the bird-between-the-eyes, if you ask me.

Damned corporate bastards.


The Legacy of John Kenneth Galbraith

A Ralph Nader essay from CounterPunch:

I first came across the name of John Kenneth Galbraith during my student years at Princeton where I picked up his book American Capitalism. Wondering why it was not on any reading list for my economics course, I put the question to the professor. He replied: "It's really not about economics. It's about political economy."

Before the discipline of economics broke off from what students used to major in--"political economy"-early in the 20th century, my professor's comment would not have been a put down. Today, most economists see economics as a branch of mathematics and tend to dismiss economists who bring into their study the variables of politics and power.


What would a Galbraithian economy look like in the United States? For starters, major public investments--fueled by corporate tax reforms--in public works--public transit, repaired schools, clinics, upgraded drinking water systems, good parks and libraries, and environmental health projects. These forms of public wealth for everyone, he believed, would also advance the objective of a full employment economy.

Galbraith believed that uncontrolled capitalism, especially the giant corporations, required prudent regulation to diminish the damage their out-of-control greed and power inflict on society. Always a realist, he was more than aware of the capture of regulatory agencies by the very companies that they were created to regulate.

Click here for the rest.

I thought that since Galbraith's name has come up several times during the great Caffeinated versus Real Art Debate on Economics (see post below), it would be nice to hear what progressive hero Ralph Nader has to say about him. Obviously, Nader has lots of good things to say. Like Edward Hermann, co-writer with Noam Chomsky of the great news media analysis book Manufacturing Consent, Galbraith was a political economist, which means he was able to see beyond the endless stream of numbers that constitutes the world of the conventional contemporary economist. That is, he saw a bigger picture, and was able to concern himself with the meaning of economics, instead of simply with the "description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services," the raison d'etre of the entire field.

Okay, I'm convinced. This Wikipedia article only scratches the surface of JKG's ideas: can anybody recommend a nice Galbraith starting book?


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Caffeinated versus Real Art on Economics (II)

First, if you haven't already read it, go check out part one, and then go check out Matt's response at his blog Caffeinated. Okay, done? Good. Are you seated comfortably? Good. Time for my response.

On Galbraith, Keynes, and the post WWII expansion

I think Galbraith's explanation of the abandonment of Keynesian principles is right on target except for his prioritizing of causes. I think a good rule of thumb for historical or political analysis is to never attribute negative consequences to individual failings when a motivational social structure is fully in place. That is, Matt's comment "those in academia validate the theory that those in power believe" strikes me as being a much bigger factor than hubris. People with wealth and power are always going to be chasing after more wealth and power, and part of that chase in an ostensible democracy is apologetics for their actions--intellectuals who support them are handsomely rewarded in terms of status and career advancement. Indeed, most elites were advancing themselves and their interests quite nicely in the 50s, especially those from the military industrial complex. There was profound incentive, therefore, to keep the whole status quo going as-is. Consequently, what was called "Keynesianism" ended up being something else entirely because actually taking the revered economist's advice would have meant changing the way things were, which was unpalatable to the elites, who wanted to keep the gravy train coming.

Intellectuals and politicians, like all humans, have extraordinary powers of self-deception, especially when there is great motivation to self-deceive. I think calling it a misdiagnosis is far too kind. When it became clear just how nicely the US was sitting in the post war period, the government should have massively cut both spending and taxes, but didn't, fooling itself into believing that their circumstances were somehow of their own making, which set the stage for the structural downfall starting in the 60s.

Also, the political influence, and needless economic impact, of the the military industrial complex cannot be underestimated, and we're still dealing with that today, but I'll leave that to another discussion.

On replacing the real US economy
with an investment economy

Matt asserts that the global economy as currently constructed, because that's really what we're talking about here, is actually quite a good thing: global capitalism has created a great deal of wealth and innovation. He then goes on to make some good points in support of that view, with which I only have a few small objections. Yes, great technological innovation has come from corporate globalism. However, it strikes me that one of the major attributes of globalism is the well-known "race to the bottom" in terms of wages, working conditions, and benefits. It strikes me as good business sense to try to minimize production costs as much as possible, so I totally understand why corporations have been celebrating this outsourcing orgy for years now. The problem with this, setting aside questions of egalitarianism for a moment, is that cheap labor tends to stifle technological development, at least as far as production is concerned. For example, European technological innovation in the Middle Ages and Renaissance stemmed directly from the fact that the continent had such a small population compared with other civilizations. Labor was expensive, which economically forced technological development to proceed faster there than elsewhere. Ultimately, this resulted in Europe's scientific superiority, which allowed the civilization to dominate the whole world--actually, we're still benefitting from that expensive labor today. So this "race to the bottom" strikes me as being, at the very least, counterproductive in the long run, despite it's clear value in the short term.

Matt also cites greater capital flow as an innovation in and of itself. That's true in all likelihood. Of course, greater capital flow is simply an adjunct of greater information flow, which I'd be insane to condemn. The reality is that my problem is not with greater information flow, but the loss of production capacity here in the United States itself, which I believe leaves us in a dreadfully weak position should the economic framework under which we now operate fall apart. Complicating matters further is that corporate globalism makes such a seemingly unlikely event all the more likely, but I'll get to that in a moment. I'm also disturbed that the loss of those good factory jobs signals a potential end to the middle class in America, which, again leaving aside questions of fairness, ultimately means great social, and therefore economic, instability.

Matt observes that politicians tend to impede innovation with their short sightedness, and, again, I have to agree. However, I've also got to point out that many, if not most, of these politicians, from both parties, are pretty much hand-picked by these same capitalist uber-organizations whose innovation is being held back. That is, if you want to be a political player at the national level, it is highly unlikely that you'll get there without the blessings, in the form of campaign contributions, of the corporate elite. Two steps forward, three steps back. It strikes me that these political barriers aren't so much blocking the forces of global capitalism as they are blocking good common sense, in which there is no corporate profit.

Matt then asserts that the innovations of corporate globalism are, in the long run, key to fighting terrorism. However, it is my belief that most terrorism is the direct result of globalism. That is, terrorism as a tactic first appeared as a response to the imperialism of the Great Powers. It continued to be used against imperialism's replacement, globalism. I'll get to that, too, in a moment, but I think that the belief that the US ought to rebuild and economically stimulate the countries it pounds militarily is something of an impossibility because, especially in the third world, there's generally not much profit in doing so--corporations have proved time and again that a country doesn't need to be economically viable in order to be exploited; hell, a bombed out wasteland is far more docile, generally, and easier to push around.

Anyway, this brings me to my bottom line about global capitalism. Globalism is only good for corporations and their shareholders, who, despite what the Wall Street Journal and Thomas Friedman say, are not most Americans. The real costs of this outflow of American capital are hidden. Direct military action costing billions, and direct payments, also costing billions, to corrupt regimes to keep all that cheap labor in line, create massive levels of resentment among rank and file citizens. Not only is the ability for multi-national corporations to do business heavily subsidized by the American tax payer, the manifestation of these corporate welfare payments as military repression, either by our armed forces, or by US supported client states, makes the world a much more dangerous place, stifling economic activity by pretty much everybody else.

The absurd situation with oil and the Middle East is the perfect example. If you factor in the billions of US tax dollars needed to provide a friendly busines climate over there, paying for the enforcement powers of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other states, the real cost of a gallon of gas shoots way up, to around, I've read, eight or nine bucks. Meanwhile the repression paid for by you and me has created such a hostile atmosphere there that now we, not just Israel, have to constantly fear terrorism. Remember that sixteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, the rest were Egyptians--both countries are US allies, receiving millions in military aid, which is generally used to keep down popular political movements. What I'm saying is that global capitalism isn't just unfair: it's downright irresponsible and dangerous.

Since 9/11, I've said many times that the only real way to fight terrorism is to completely change how we do business. Unfortunately, big business thinks we're doing just fine.

Anyway, I think it's clear that this business model called globalism isn't really capitalism as we understand it. It depends heavily on state subsidy. It creates massive instability in the long run. It enriches only a fraction of the world's population. There's hell to pay for globalism today, and there'll be even more to pay for it in the future.

A few more words on big government

I fully agree with Matt's assessment of the problems stemming from how our big goverment currently operates, especially the part about how my suggestions for reform are unlikely to happen. However, it's not as though reform is impossible; it's simply politically unviable at this time. Discussions like this one might one day be seen as catalyst for the cultural change necessary for making Big Government a responsible entity. For every shortcoming of the current system, there is a fix; what's needed is political will and enough stamina to keep the retooling an ongoing process.

Was it Thomas Jefferson who advocated a revolution every twenty years? I think this is the kind of thing he was talking about.

You know, it's not really even my and Matt's personal responsibility to have a fully fleshed out solution for the problems of massive government. He's in marketing; I'm a theater artist: we're not political scientists, for god's sake! I think that if there is enough demand, solutions will be found. Until then all the smart guys in poli/sci are working for the elites, instead of the citizens as they ought to be.

In conclusion (hooray!)

Matt says:

As for [big government] being a counter to business, here Ron and I differ.

Just for the record, I'm really only worried about big business. If government were to be a counter to business itself, we'd all be in big trouble because I can't help but think that such a thing would be really bad for the economy. Big business, on the other hand, has demonstrably undermined democracy, foreign policy, and the market principles so embraced by the ruling class. Big business is dangerous and incompatible with commonly held American values. That's why, if we have to deal with it, we should heavily regulate it. Only big government has the ability to do that.

Phew! What a mouthful. But then, I guess we are discussing, well, everything.


Who's to blame for state of New Orleans?

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

When the Broadmoor Improvement Association recently released its 319-page neighborhood redevelopment plan, revitalization committee co-chairman Hal Roark said most of the work was "definitely happening in spite of the government. It's individuals taking their destiny into their own hands, and neighborhoods."

Standing in the space between his mold-infested Lower Ninth Ward duplex and the government trailer where he now lives, TV repairman Arnold Lewis speaks enviously of other neighborhoods that enjoy decent water pressure and city-sponsored wireless Internet service.

"There's something to be desired as far as the pace of recovery down here," Lewis, 46, says as water leaks out onto the ground from a nearby line break. "There's no phone service here. There's no cable service down here, and there's no gas."

Patricia Jones says it's no wonder the companies that provide services have been unwilling to reinvest in the Lower Ninth.

With about half the neighborhood still under a "look and leave" policy, residents have been unable to return and do basic salvage work on their houses, says Jones, who represents the Lower Ninth in the Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association. It seems to her that the neighborhood has been just about written off.

Click here for the rest.

I mentioned yesterday that I was in New Orleans on Friday, a day trip, to hang out in the mostly restored high-ground areas like the French Quarter: that's the part that most people from outside the city are seeing these days, which gives the false impression, bolstered by a frustrating lack of national news coverage, the above linked article notwithstanding, that everything is returning to normal. Everything is not returning to normal. Most of the flooded areas still lie in ruins. At least half of the city's former population is scattered to the four corners of the Earth; many are not likely to return, greatly weakening the gumbo of a culture on which everything else in the city thrived. Meanwhile, reconstruction efforts proceed at an agonizingly slow pace. Is it because it's damned hard to rebuild after a hurricane, or is it because the whole thing is bureaucratically fucked up? Probably both, but nearly nine months after I took these pictures in the Lower Ninth Ward, things remain pretty much the same, and that's unacceptable and outrageous:

If you can't read it, the spray painted warning on the boarded-up window says "WARNING TRESSPASSERS ARE CONSIDERED LOOTERS AND ARE SHOT DEAD!" An obvious relic from what I call the "Reign of Chaos" during the week after the hurricane hit, before the Feds were able to get their act together and provide much needed security.

Anyway, I don't know if it's conscious or deliberate, but the fact that this neighborhood was once mostly populated by African-Americans means that this foot-dragging on rebuilding, while many white areas, relatively speaking, are briskly reviving, constitutes racism. And the whole damned country is participating in the suffering, even if it doesn't really understand it: New Orleans was once one of this nation's few crown jewels, but it continues to be on life support in the intensive care ward. It's as shameful, in its own way, as the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Sometimes I feel like not a damned thing I was taught in school is true.


Friday, August 18, 2006


From Wikipedia:

Internet radio is a broadcasting service transmitted via the Internet. Not every internet "radio station" has a corresponding traditional radio station. Many internet radio stations are completely independent from traditional ("terrestrial") radio stations and broadcast only on the Internet. Broadcasting on the Internet is usually referred to as streaming.

Because the radio signal is relayed over the Internet, it is possible to access the stations from anywhere in the world—for example, to listen to an Australian radio station from Europe or America. This makes it a popular service for expatriates and for people who have interests that may not be adequately catered for by their local radio stations (such as progressive rock). Some of the internet radio services offer news, sports, talkback, and various genres of music—everything that is on the radio station being re-broadcast.

Click here for more.

You may have noticed down in the links column to the left the Internet Radio section. For several years now pretty much every time I sit at my computer I boot one of those stations up and listen to a cool stream of music that I wouldn't necessarily have programmed for myself while I futz away at whatever task I'm doing. At home or work, I'm always grooving to better stations than I can actually find on the radio, which isn't surprising, given the corporate consolidation of the industry, which has resulted in ever more bland niche marketing--how many stations does the far right-wing Clear Channel company own in your town? Probably three or four, at least.

Because great radio while I work or play strikes me as such a no-brainer, it surprises me that I appear to be the only person I know who takes advantage of it. In the office where I work at LSU, I've been asked several times if I'm playing a CD; when I explain that I'm actually listening to a station on the internet, the response is either puzzlement or disinterest. What's up with that? These people don't know what they're missing.

Anyway, the point to this little rant is that I've discovered more cool internet radio.

Mike over at This is not a compliment turned me onto Pandora, which takes the concept of computer radio a couple of steps further than all the rest. That is, one is allowed to submit musical parameters into one's own internet radio station which then programs itself. For instance, I've put together a little jazz station for myself, Ron's Good Jazz: I simply told the web based program that I like Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, George Benson, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and, well, you get the idea; I've keyed in about twenty or so of my favorite jazz artists. The result ended up being near perfect. My jazz station plays all of those musicians, as you might well expect, but it also programs in others who are musically similar, often people who are completely unknown to me. I've had to strike very few players and bands. Another of my Pandora stations with which I've had great success is Down Home with Mr. Reeder, country music as I think it ought to be. Down Home riffs on Jerry Reed, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, Flatt and Scruggs, Dwight Yoakam, Hank Williams, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and on and on--I've probably pumped in just about as many artists here as with Ron's Good Jazz. I'm not sure how the linking works exactly, but I think you'll probably get access to some of my stations that I'm not quite ready to announce to the world, like Art Rock with Ron, or Ron's Ethereal House-Hop--they're still works in progress, I think, but, what the hell, you may like them anyway. Go check it out.

ALSO, I was in the Big Easy earlier today and discovered that my favorite New Orleans jazz outlet, public station WWOZ FM, has been streaming over the internet for quite a while now. Indeed, when the station's staff was in exile following Katrina, they started streaming from New Jersey pretty darned quickly, just to show the city's will to survive. Anyway, they're great. I heard the best blues radio show I've ever encountered earlier this evening, better than the old Blue Monday show on KUT in Austin, better than San Francisco's KCSM blues show, better than Texas Southern University's KTSU blues show; it fucking rocked! Go check 'em out.