Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Unclassified


Looks like three State Dept. employees have resigned as a result of the report (and actions or lack there of) re: the 9/11/12 attack on our Mission in Benghazi. Seems like the most glaring mistake was not just lack of security but glance at the list below and you can quickly see this was not exactly a safe place. Maybe I don’t understand foreign diplomatic service but why did/do we have people in Benghazi in the first place?
March 18, 2012 – Armed robbery occurs at the British School in Benghazi. March 22, 2012 – Members of a militia searching for a suspect fire their
weapons near the SMC and attempt to enter.      
April 2, 2012 – A UK armored diplomatic vehicle is attacked
April 6, 2012 – A gelatina bomb is thrown over the SMC north wall.
April 10, 2012 – An IED (gelatina or dynamite stick) is thrown at the
motorcade of the UN Special Envoy to Libya in Benghazi.  
April 26, 2012 – Special Mission Benghazi principal officer is evacuated from International Medical University (IMU) after a fistfight escalated to
gunfire between Tripoli-based trade delegation security personnel and IMU
security.
April 27, 2012 – Two South African nationals in Libya as part of U.S.-
funded weapons abatement, are detained at gunpoint by militia, questioned and released.
May 22, 2012 – Benghazi International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
building struck by rocket propelled grenades (RPGs).
May 28, 2012 – A previously unknown organization, Omar Abdurrahman
group, claims responsibility for the ICRC attack and issues a threat against the United States.
June 6, 2012 – IED attack on the SMC. The IED detonates with no injuries but blows a large hole in the compound’s exterior wall.
June 11, 2012 – The British Ambassador’s convoy is attacked with an RPG and possible AK-47s. Two UK security officers are injured; the UK closes its mission in Benghazi the following day.
June 18, 2012 – Protestors storm the Tunisian consulate in Benghazi.
July 29, 2012 – An IED is found on grounds of the Tibesti Hotel.      
July 30, 2012 – Sudanese Consul in Benghazi is carjacked and driver beaten. July 31, 2012 – Seven Iranian-citizen ICRC workers abducted in Benghazi. August 5, 2012 – ICRC Misrata office is attacked with RPGs. ICRC
withdraws its representatives from Misrata and Benghazi.
August 9, 2012 – A Spanish-American NGO worker is abducted from the Islamic Cultural Center in Benghazi and released the same day.
August 20, 2012 – A small bomb is thrown at an Egyptian diplomat’s
vehicle parked outside of the Egyptian consulate in Benghazi.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Connecting some dots maybe?


Hearing reports this week on the declining birth rates in America and how this portends trouble for various programs – not the least of which is Social Security which depends on current worker’s contributions to fund present and future worker’s retirements.
I get that: #1 Social security is not enough for anyone to retire on and, #2 people will argue, “why should people working today be paying for those who have or will retire?” I guess this is a tough question and one I can’t answer except to say that we’ve always tried to take care of the older generation; it is just getting harder as people live longer.
But back to the declining birth rate and to connect a dot or two.
Immigration. Another huge issue on which there is very little bipartisanship and no easy solution(s).
Without stereotyping, I believe stats will bear out that a larger portion of our immigrant populations have larger families than the typical white American family.
Our borders are extremely porous and no tall fence or specific state laws are going to do much to stem that tide from the south as long as we (thank God!) have a somewhat thriving economy. Even at its worst, the U.S. economy makes those of most Central American countries look pretty pathetic.
Folks are going to come anyway. Why can’t we work out some sort of arrangement where they become a part of the above-ground legal economy, pay all the requisite taxes and the like and start helping with this Social Security issue?
It is not a “fix”; maybe more of a finger-in-the-dike, but it still can’t hurt to take what is happening now, is going to keep on happening, and turn at least some of it into something good.
I’ve heard figures of 10 million illegal immigrants. I don’t know how many of those already pay into the Social Security system but I’ll bet only a small portion.
My 2 cents.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Scattershooting


This is what I call my blog in honor of the late sportswriter Blackie Sherrod who was for sports journalism in Texas, what Molly Ivins was for politics.
Today’s blog really is a scatter-shot of odds and ends.
Funny is funny no matter which side it comes from. This from Paul Begala: “Trump is living proof that hairspray causes brain damage.”
My cousin tripped and broke her foot. Through a series of events I’m sure I have mostly wrong and don’t understand, she is without health insurance. So she went to Parkland Hospital in Dallas (in fact exactly 49 years after JFK was taken there) where she waited from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. to be seen by a doctor or treated. I’m sure there is an obvious answer but please explain to me how this will get better under the ACA?
Finally today I moved our cows for the first time to new pasture. They jumped and ran like a bunch of kids (goats that is!) and then proceeded to walk the fence-line from front to back and side-to-side. Glad they didn’t test my un-electrified electric fence on the east side. I really must replace some broken insulators!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bone picking



With Obama visiting Myanmar, of course it’s going to be in the news once again. NPR makes a point every time they mention this country to say “Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.”
Now I sometimes find this helpful but also wonder why they do this? I can’t recall ever hearing them do this for any other country.
There’s along list of countries who have changed their names for a variety of reasons:
Serbia and Croatia – used to be part of Yugoslavia. I don’t hear them saying “The Czech Republic, formerly called Czechoslovakia.”
They don’t say Taiwan, formerly Formosa.
How about Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia?
We didn’t hear “Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan” when the Tsunami hit years ago.
How about Sri Lanka? Ceylon is much easier to say but nobody uses it anymore.
Unless you are familiar with the King and I, we forget Thailand used to be Siam. “We are Siamese, if you please.”
And let’s not even try to list all the countries that were “formerly part of the USSR.”
If we are going for accuracy then whether we like it or not, we should use their current names. I kept wanting to say Peking for years when the rest of the world moved to Beijing.
If the goal is to help people recall a little bit of history then lets teach some history.
Syria used to be considered a part of Egypt for a while. (some 20th century Arab alignment thing.)
Iraq and Jordan were a combined entity for a time. Anybody remember TransJordan?
Geographically and otherwise our world has changed a lot in the last century or so. Naming is just one part of it. Good luck if your World Atlas was printed last century. Good luck if you are still using a world atlas.
Anybody remember Guanahani? Me neither. In 1492 Columbus christened it Isla Juana. We now know it as Cuba.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2016


I saw a graphic on TV this morning that said “Ryan front runner for 2016.”
Can I say “Puh-leaze!” on two levels?
1 – do we have to start now? Can’t we all just breathe easy for a bit?
2 – this is more complicated but bottom line when the pundits and pollsters are all finished crunching numbers for yesterday’s votes, I think they will find this:
Ryan may not have hurt Romney but it likely didn’t really help him. It helped him shore up the conservative vote that might have been squishy early; those people who weren’t quite sure they could vote for a Mormon or who worried about Romney’s flip-flopping on some issues. But in the end he should have gotten those votes anyway. They may not really like/trust/accept Romney, but these folks are ultimately going to vote for the most conservative person on the ballot.
But when you look at the red and blue areas on the map, I doubt that Ryan helped in any of those so-called battleground states that turned this election for Obama. Ryan couldn’t even deliver his home state of Wisconsin. But then Romney couldn’t (deliver adopted home state) either.
I wrote a blog years ago saying that a certain young man from Chicago was a name to know for the future. I think the GOP will finally have its own changing of the guard after the dust settles on 2012.
Look for Latinos and women to take more prominent roles in the party. The party needs them! That and a move toward the center is what it is going to take to win back the Senate and the White House. More stringent tea-partiers are not what the GOP needs to win more seats anywhere.
Both sides have their base. Like it or not, the next elections will be won (or lost) mostly in the middle. Romney didn’t reach far enough.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A kinder, gentler Taliban. (not!)

 
I heard about this speech a few weeks ago and have been waiting for it to appear online. I guess I was looking for Lara in all the wrong places.

It is long (19+ minutes) and I rarely watch videos online.
Over the years I’ve questioned our wisdom in going into Afghanistan in the first place but I understand revenge. I questioned the wisdom to go into Iraq.
Reasonable people can take either side on those issues and present good arguments for and against.
But bottom line we are still in both places and now face an even greater milestone as the date for withdrawal from Afghanistan nears. (I have a prediction on this I will share at the end.)
If our main reason was to get Osama then Bush got it going and Obama finished it up. Huzzahs to both of them (and a great SEAL team!) for that.
But if our foreign policy goals were bigger, and I imagine they were and still are, then it appears the battle has only just begun.
With the election so close upon us, each candidate will continue to take opposite sides – no room for agreement here no matter what the truth and compelling need really is.
Many people would say that since Ms. Logan works for CBS (liberal main-stream media) and is a reporter for 60 Minutes (just another liberal program of their parent) that she can’t be trusted to simply present the truth, but – if she still has a job – she is most certainly NOT simply parroting a company/corporate line. I guess she took some flack from fellow journos for expressing a pointed opinion and taking sides. Personally doesn’t bother me when journalists take sides and express opinions, just be upfront about where you started and where you plan to take us on this story you are telling.
If some of what she says is true – and again I take the position of 1) she’s been on the ground, behind the scenes, talked to numerous people in the know on both sides so she must know whereof she speaks and 2) she has nothing to gain professionally by speaking out as she did, then I must take some of this as true if not much, much more.
It’s too late to have more substantive discussions on this before the election and it’s only further compounded by the continued revelations of the leaked emails yesterday (picked up by Reuters) that indicate, STILL, that the current administration has not come anywhere close to clean on the killing of American diplomats in Libya.
But if we are going to keep sending young men and women into harms way, and spend billions and billions that we obviously don’t have to spend, then I’d say we need even more transparency from our government, and all those who have a say in what we do with our foreign policy.
My prediction mentioned earlier: If Obama wins the election, he will backpedal on the firm withdrawals promised. It’s just that right now to keep his base happy, he has to promise to draw down our military presence overseas. But once (if) elected, those promises won't matter.
Should Romney win, he’ll do the same thing. Slow down the draw-down but for different reasons. He’ll need to prove to his base that he supports our military, that he’ll do whatever he can to stop the Sequestration re: the budget that will impact our military; current and future.
So I think we’ll see the same thing but either one will call it something different than the other and give reasons that support their particular course of action.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lady Gaga


Not exactly sure how but we ended up with a Lady Gaga CD from the library. What I mostly know about her is here-say or thru one of her more outlandish getups seen on TV etc.
Driving to work I decided to take a bit of a listen before I returned it.
Overall pretty catchy stuff. I can see how people would want to dance to it (but I can’t don't dance!).
But I was listening for a voice. What I heard was heavily produced with lots of beat. Somewhere in the mix might be an OK voice; just not sure.
I was reminded of some of the Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana stuff and when she had to sing almost by herself with Taylor Swift at the Grammys or CMAs or some such award program, I was like “she can’t sing.” I don’t if this is true of Lady Gaga or not.
Overall I can also see how teens and pre-teens especially would like this but beyond that, guess I’m too old to get it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Audience Development

Our vocabularies have to keep changing. I’m still not ready to use “reach out” when what I really mean is call you or write you or …

I got an email from a magazine thanking me for my subscription (they give it for free so maybe I should be thanking them!)

It was signed by a lady with the title, “Audience Development.”

I work in television AND government (not as scary as it sounds!) so that term would mean we need more people in our audiences watching, listening etc. I don’t recall ever hearing the term “audience” in the context of a magazine subscription. Maybe the readers are the audience but just don’t think of describing them that way.

In my day this was called “circulation.” Maybe an odd word but a familiar one.

I suppose this is all part of the larger context of all media companies trying to survive in the ever-changing world.

But I’m not sure semantics and clever job titles are going to do it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

transition

Not trying to make this a maudlin post but it is about serious, growing up stuff.

Earlier this week I learned my step-mother was ill and in the hospital. But she was expected to return home soon so I didn't worry too much. She is 84 and with a history that includes quite a number of hospital stays.

Thursday I learned it had gotten worse and pneumonia was the problem.

Friday morning I was on my way to Dallas to help and support my 90+ year old dad however I could.

Friday afternoon and evening were spent bedside watching and listening. Not much else to do. Her medical directive stated that she did not want any extraordinary measures taken.

Friday evening later we left to go home so everyone could get a little sleep. The hospital called and said she had had a stroke and we should come back. We did and found that she had actually had a couple of seizures but not necessarily a stroke. We sat some more and her vital signs actually improved so we left once again. We had only been home for a few minutes when my phone rang again.

My step-brother was calling to let us know the hospital had called and a few minutes after we left, Louise passed away.

My dad sat and held her hand earlier in the day, kissed her forehead and said goodbye when we left before. I don't know if he knew that would be his last goodbye or not.

The hardest thing for me was, I had to be the one to tell him he had lost his partner of 34 years. Maybe he knew it already but all I could think to do was put my arm around him, pull him close and sort of whispered that Louise had passed away. I held the phone away from me and just held him while he softly cried a little. We Crunks are not given to much displays of emotion.

Kids get hurt and their parents hold them when they cry (sometimes) but they don't tell you that someday you will hold your parent when they cry. They don't tell you that you might be the one to give them the worst news they've gotten in their life.

Friday night at the hospital, we all stood around her bed with the Priest (Louise was Catholic) and he prayed and then he started into the Lord's Prayer. Everybody else started in with him. I've never prayed it in that context before and his version was slightly different than the one I pray. Holding the Priest's hand (never done that before either) I worked at remembering the words to something I've known and prayed since I was little.

All these past few days I keep telling myself this is not about me and it's all about helping my dad through this hard time. So far he is handling it well. Maybe it is shock; I don't know. We've been reviewing Wills, talking about doctors, reviewing all sorts of important stuff in my dad's life. I guess her death is causing him to think about his own mortality a little more.

Now we are in hard stage #2 - dealing with all the stuff of arrangements, what should she wear in the casket. Lots of help from her side of the family - son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter.

Monday will be the funeral; a very small family service.

I'm sure that will be hard. But then comes the really hard part when my dad has to go home to his empty house and we have to start thinking about what the next stage of his long life is going to be.

We hope he'll come to live with us but playing a slow wait-and-see before we begin to broach that difficult subject.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Conventional

I’m sure everyone has been glued to their TVs this week watching the RNC. Ok, I guess not everybody, me included.

I’ve had a hard time working up any enthusiasm for anything. I got interested last night when I saw that Clint Eastwood was going to speak.

While he has a lot or marquee value, I’ll bet the Romney camp is thinking, “what were we thinking?” Next time, use a script, he’s an actor, he’s used to that. I think Romney got upstaged but then what do you expect from an 82 actor/director? He did have some funny lines but overall in terms of his politics, apart from his obvious dis-like of Obama, what exactly makes him a Republican?

Not much to say directly about last night except that I think many Republicans saw a glimpse of the future of the GOP when Marco Rubio took center stage. If they haven’t already stood-up and taken notice, notice has been given. So that makes two future GOP stars coming from the Latino-side of the aisle.

But this missive was not supposed to be about last night.

I recall as a 15-year-old sitting with my dad watching the Dem convention in 1968. I was naïve about many things and really didn’t understand what was going on. But I watched the inside business as they nominated Humphrey/Muskie and Dan Rather got punched. And I watched the Chicago police as they dealt with the yippies and demonstrations going on outside. My dad didn’t talk much about politics but he had no place for the young radicals.

Then my memory jumps to 1984 (the year, not the book!) when I worked at both the Dem and GOP conventions. This was the Mondale/Ferraro year and the GOP nommed Reagan/Bush.

I coordinated production for our news dept. at both events. It was kind of heady being there rubbing shoulders with the big boys and girls from the networks. But it was also a lot of work dealing with two live shots everyday, a major 3-hour time zone difference to the studio back home and San Francisco parking!

I recall standing in a small downtown SF park where a small demonstration was taking place and feeling just a little bit worried. As a sheltered Texas boy, this was as close to a potentially riotous event as I had ever been and I remembered those Chicago police (and Dan Rather!)

Our daily packages were edited in a small trailer in a parking lot outside the Moscone Convention Center filled to overflowing with more trailers, satellite trucks and enough cable to probably string from SF to NY and back.

My Dallas (location of the GOP event in 1984) memories are pretty limited to a Beach Boys concert for the delegates and our interview with then-VP George Bush (who later became Bush 41). This was my first encounter with Secret Service. We had to wait outside our interview room while it was cleared. Then all of us and our gear had to be cleared. Then we were let in the room – and no one could go out. After waiting awhile while everyone (except us) talked into their sleeves, Bush arrived. We did the interview. Secret Service ran cables out of our beta decks and made their own copy of everything. After Bush left, we had to wait awhile before we were allowed to leave the room. I think I shook V.P. Bush’s hand but I can’t guarantee I did that.

One other trivial memory was standing on a Dallas sidewalk and Roger Mudd stands next to me. From the waist up, he was suit and tie. Below that he wore Bermuda shorts and I think socks and sandals. This was August in Dallas and pretty hot.

Apart from Ferraro being the first woman nominee, I don’t recall anything really exciting or noteworthy happening at either place but it was a unique experience to add to my memory bank.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Boleto by Alyson Hagy

Not sure how I found this book or this author but … just wrapped this one up.

While I was disappointed in the way the book ended (my wife helped me get a better handle on just what happened) overall Hagy writes with a tight prose style that could remind one of Cormac McCarthy. Not as rough perhaps but I’ll bet if she listed her influences, he’d be one.

I guess because my daughter lives out west now, we have horses and because maybe someday the two will come together somehow, I enjoyed the setting and culture of her book.

I really liked the first two-thirds – as noted I did not like the ending. But I guess I can savor the parts I did like.

So if you like horses (but this is not a horse book), if you like the west (but it is not just about the west) and you appreciate well crafted sentences … then maybe check her out.

I’ve already requested two more of her novels from the library. We’ll see how they go.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Intercessing

For those who don’t have this word in their vocab, it simply means praying to God for another’s needs.

If you don’t pray or don’t believe in prayer then stop reading now because this won’t mean anything to you and you’ll likely lump me with some religiously fanatical nut-jobs.

OK I’m not one (a nut job OR a real intercessor) but … I do have a long (and always seems to be growing) list of people I try to pray for.

Hardly seems like a week goes by that I don’t hear about someone I should add to my list.

I can’t and don’t spend a great deal of time on each person. My dilemma comes from this: when is it ok to stop praying for someone?

For years I’ve been praying for an older couple in our church. The lady of this couple probably qualified as a minor saint and an intercessor of the first order.

Well, she died recently. I still remember her husband and since I’ve prayed their names for so long, I still say hers because I always said it first.

I have several other names on my list and I’m not sure why for some of them. They just are. I guess at some point I felt like I should add them but then again I seem to have this issue with when can I quit?

Several days a week I pass a playground where this tall skinny kid is often swinging. I really think I understand what he is doing. Why would a 15-20 year old spend that much time in a swing unless it made him feel better? I pray for him. I don’t know his name but I pray for him and his family. If I didn’t think I might get accused of something untoward (isn’t this sad that I even have to worry about that?) I’d ask him his name.

Some people write their lists down. I don’t. I tried one time and it didn’t feel right. It seemed like I needed more flexibility than a written list gave me.

I never promise anyone I will pray for them because that seems like a sacred sort of promise and should not be taken lightly. But if I get some sense or feeling (not a woo-woo sort of thing) then I will usually add their name and need to my list. Some days the shortcut I might take is to just pray for those who have some physical issue or illness. For a few of those, that’s the most urgent thing.

This is like some of those old songs that simply faded out rather than quit so I will just fade …

Thursday, July 5, 2012

the Descendants

A much better movie than the last one I watched. I've heard much about this movie and finally watched it last nite.

this is certainly not a happy tale but a good story.

warning - if the f-word bothers you, you've been warned. Some movie sites actually count the number of times certain words are used. This one could have worn out a clicker.

But if you enjoy a good story, Hawaiian music (there is plenty of it!) and scenery, George Clooney, good dialogue (f-word notwithstanding!) - worth a watch.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

it was free

DISH periodically offers free channels, I'm sure to tease us into an upgrade but Patti is savvy and checks out the free stuff for anything we might want to watch later. Kiss the person who invented the DVR!

Not too long ago she recorded Hemingway and Gellhorn off HBO.

Not sure why I kept watching but it was a train wreck! I hope Nicole Kidman got a ton of money for that since it might set her career back a notch or two. I always say I like Hemingway but really only like two of his books so I'm not exactly a fan-boy.

The story is supposed to be about Hemingway and his relationship and eventual marriage (3rd or 4th, I lost count) to journalist Gellhorn. Things get all mixed up with the Spanish Civil War, only a tiny bit about WWII and in general made a mess of things.

I watched a little of the credits to see who did what and was disappointed to see a really good editor, Walter Murch, had worked on it. There were so many cheesy effects and scenes. Imagine Zelig and Forrest Gump sort of mashed together where these people are inserted into what I guess was documentary footage from the 30s etc. They move in and out of black and white to color and back again for no apparent reason. Add a few Dali-like scenes shot in the iris of the eye as a sort of odd POV shot and well, anyway... if you see this pop up free somewhere, Redbox etc., run, don't walk away.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

fax, fax, who's got the fax?

Had to send a fax today. Remember those? I had to think for a minute to remember how to do it. I remember 1976 (might have been 1977) and my first fax machine. It was amazing.

At the time I was working with offices all over the world in many different time zones and communication was hard. I’d often stay late or get up really early to make phone calls.

The new fax – facsimile back then – was made by Qwip, at the time a subsidiary of Exxon I think (go figure) and it worked on the same principal as drum scanners. I’ve never been in the printing business but in the olden days (I guess) there were these big drum scanners that spun and allowed documents to be copied electronically.

Our little fax machine worked the same way. We wrapped the document face out around the drum, set the quality level for either 3 minutes (which was considered a fast fax but at lower quality) or 6 minutes (considered higher quality) then dialed the number and waited for a connection. After it made the sounds like modems used to do (any one remember modems and dial-up?) so you knew you were connected, you pressed another button and voila! Fax underway!

The only problem I remember was – maybe two problems – the machine had to be turned on overseas to receive and sometimes international connections weren’t always clean and noise or static could end the call and the fax might only make it half-way.

But it was still so much better than early morning or late night phone calls just to share information.

Isn’t (wasn’t) technology grand!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

800,000

Since Pres. Obama announced his executive action to stop deporting children (approx. 800,000) of illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria, and allow them work permits, there has been plenty of media discussion.

At first hearing I thought two things: yes, this is a political move to shore up support with Latinos and 2) it sounded OK on its face (albeit somewhat complex.)

How can you be against children (many who are now adults) that ended up here (illegally) through no fault or action of their own and likely have no “home” to go back to in another country?

My 3rd (really my first but I started counting at the wrong place) was: Really? We have plans to deport 800,000 people? I can’t imagine INS having the staff to be able to do that. But then I read that 1.2 million people were deported last year.

So someone has the staff and means to “remove” (Janet Napolitano’s word when discussing this last week) that many people. That’s a lot a taxpayer funded tickets back home too.

I’m not quite ready to take sides on this issue.

But I did read an interview that indicated that allowing these 800,000 to get work permits will only hurt many already un- (or under-) employed lower income folks with whom these “to-be” legal workers will be competing for jobs within an economy of already high (at least 7% or more almost anywhere) rate of unemployment.

All Obama is doing is nibbling around the edges because it is an election year. But this is NOT one of those elephants that you can (or should) eat one bite at a time. If you wonder about this just look at our tax code.

Our elected officials on both sides of the aisle need to step up and develop a comprehensive policy on immigration that takes into account the realities of the 21st century, our world-wide economy and why even with our high unemployment and anything else you might find wrong with our country, for some reason, many people still want to live here – so badly that they will spend thousands of dollars and risk their lives to get here.

I’m also asking myself the clichéd WWJD but that’s going to take a little more time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

the future of news?

Tried to look something up on a local TV station’s website today and found:

Entire top half of the page was commercial except for one video window with three stories.

URL does NOT contain the station’s call letters.

Was looking for staff information and had to drill down to find it and when I got there it was not up to date.

I have a friend and former co-worker who is a consultant mostly trying to help TV stations move (kicking and screaming) into the web world. I may pass his contact information along.

A few months ago I went to another local station’s website to look for a story and was confused by various words that were underlined indicating a link to other content. I recall how disappointed I was when every one of those “links” took me to a sponsored page and not more or related content to the page/story I was reading.

Not exactly sure what I’d call my source for local news but these are not likely to be the places.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If they lie ...

Listening to radio on the way home and one story was about Roger Clemens who (for you who don't know or care) was and to some degree still is a famous pitcher in baseball.

I did not follow his earlier trials or testimony closely but was interested in this particular part of it all: he is being tried or will be tried or was tried on whether he lied to Congress. Really? We've spent countless hours and who knows how many millions on that? Stick around to the end for my actual point - I'll get there eventually.

To some degree the Edwards trial falls in the same category - spending millions and countless on whether he misused and lied about misuse of campaign funds. This isn't about whether the sleaze-ball who ran for Prez. slept around on his cancer-stricken wife and that he came close to being one missed heartbeat away from the White House. It's just about money and rules about campaign financing. And most of the money being spent on Clemens and Edwards is probably ours.

Yet across the country a Vegas billionaire gives Romney $10 million. Some people don't seem to care. Not sure why but I was reminded of Oral Roberts back when he claimed he was going to die or be taken by God if he didn't raise some enormous amount of money. Then some guy who was (I think) into Greyhound racing, bailed him out. I digress but I am disappointed in Romney if he takes the guys' money. I don't think Mormons support gambling. Adelson admits he is pro-choice. Where do he and Romney agree exactly? I digress some more.

My initial theme and point here was supposed to be this. Clemens is in trouble because he may have lied to Congress. What are we supposed to do when Congress lies to us?


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tapestry

Who from the late 60s/early70s doesn’t remember this seminal album?

My daughter got it for me (again, I had an original vinyl) on CD not too long ago. I still pop it into the car player occasionally.

So when I heard that Carole King was publishing a memoir, I put my name on the library’s hold list (sorry but I can’t remember the last time I bought an actual book.)

I got it a few weeks ago and just finished it last night.

I wish she had done it in two parts; kind of like the old 45s with a b-side.

I found myself really enjoying the early years – working in NY, writing hits for people like Aretha Franklin. Then of course the Tapestry, James Taylor et al years.

But when she moved into the 70s after Tapestry, I sort of lost interest. I kept reading, she kept writing and recording but much like I can only remember one song – Jazz Man – after her hugeness, the 2nd part of the book was not too memorable.

I did learn she has acted on Broadway, been married 4 times, did NOT have an affair with James Taylor, lived (and maybe still does) in Idaho as a sort of back-to-nature, mother-earthy kind of woman and get ready – she’s more than 70s years old!

I will say I did enjoy her Troubadour Concert with James Taylor and most of the original bandmates/sidemen on PBS last year.

So if you are waxing (get the vinyl record pun?) nostalgic, by all means get the book but if you are like me, just read up until Tapestry is out there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

To Kill …


One of my favorite movies and books is To Kill a Mockingbird. This past week it ran again somewhere on DISH so I dvr’d it. It took me two nights to watch but it is always worth it.
Before I get into the movie stuff one of my early and favorite memories is of my dad and me at a drive-in movie in Dallas on a hot summer night watching this. I remember sitting in the front seat of the car, sweating and swatting. For some odd reason I recall that odd sound quality of the tinny little in-car-speaker that hung on our window combined with the echo of all the other car-speakers in the place.
Any literate American should be familiar with the story (if you are not – familiar, that is, I can’t help you with the literate part - go to your library and request a copy. Amazon probably has plenty of used copies - cheap) 
This time around watching the movie (adaptation and screenplay by Horton Foote - he wrote Tender Mercies later) brought me two new thoughts:
Just wondering about the whole cover-up between Atticus and Heck Tate and Scout who sat there and heard it all. Can you imagine that happening today with our 24/7 media coverage? No matter how bad a man Bob Ewell was, someone would have to be accountable for his death. And Tom Robinson’s shooting as he tried to escape? Sure. That could easily be kept quiet.
Secondly, wonder what happened to Boo Radley. This gentle troubled soul (think Lenny in Of Mice and Men) but who was certainly capable of extreme violence. What happened to him when his parents died? Where would he fit into today’s society?
I have a sequel in my head of Scout’s life after she grows up but it would be disrespectful of Ms. Lee’s original masterpiece to even think of writing such a thing down.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

more on Texas music

this excerpt -
 
"The hub was a Dallas listening room called the Rubaiyat, from which young singer-songwriters like Steve Fromholz and B.W. Stevenson sallied forth to coffeehouses around the state. The music they played was distinct from the protest songs of Greenwich Village. Texas folk was rooted in cowboy, Tejano, and Cajun songs, in Czech dance halls and East Texas blues joints. It was dance music. And when the Texas folkies started gigging with their rock-minded peers, they found a truer sound than the L.A. country rockers. There was nothing ironic about the fiddle on Fromholz’s epic “Texas Trilogy.”"

Saturday, March 10, 2012

rubaiyat redux

Back in 2008 I wrote this (http://redbridgerancher.blogspot.com/search?q=rubaiyat) about a folky club I used to go to with friends in Dallas way WAY back in my college days. Since then it has been fun to see who stops by and reads. I've had several folks share some memories with me. Not too long ago a Paul Kelso contacted me and we exchanged an email or two and he wrote the following reminiscence which I post with his permission. It's my hope that others may notice a tag or two and respond to add their own memories.


 "It was a sunny day in 1959 when I walked into the tiny store building that was to become the original Rubaiyat and the first folk music/coffee house in Dallas. I think it was in spring, because I was involved in opening the second, the Poet Restaurant, with actor Norman Smith, later that summer, also on McKinney Ave a few blocks toward downtown. The Poet was located in the front of the building housing the 90th Floor jazz room where Dick and Kiz Harp held forth for perhaps
a decade.

Ron Shipman rented the former neighborhood grocery and conceived of
the little music room based on west coast rooms. Ron was busy painting the walls
black and screwing together antique sewing machine tables to be placed in front
of the narrow benches along the walls. (Dallas artist Tom Motley would create
some intriguing wall art and other mood setters. He later taught at Richland).

I’m not sure of the dimensions of the room, maybe twelve wide and
forty deep. As you faced the back, you saw a tiny restroom in left rear corner,
small kitchen center and right rear, with a window looking out into the room.
In the window squatted a magnificent, belching, smoking Espresso machine.
The place did not have booze originally, that came later, if at all. There were
pastries and maybe little sandwiches later on.

The stage was just in front of the kitchen area, right center to right
wall. Ceiling spot. (Note: not sure what Mr. Kelso means here.)

I learned of Shipman and his project most likely through Lu Mitchell
and Hermes Nye of the Dallas Folklore Society. (I was raised out by SMU but
was a NTSU student then). Shipman was of course the house primary, full time
singer, but ran an open mic stage most of the time with many unpaid regulars
(including me) as well as the occasional pro from out of town.

One story is that Ramblin’ Jack Elliot was booked one weekend but
didn’t show till Saturday as a horse threw him a few days previous. He drove in
from New Mexico with a leg in a cast! I recall an excellent young Latino guy
whose name I cannot remember, who not only gave us the beautiful Mexican
traditional pieces but also belted out Leadbelly! I’m searching for his name.

Interesting sidebar is that of Herta Marshall, a pert little red head sponsored in town by Nye. (1960?). She appeared at the Rubaiyat several weekends. Previously married to Will Geer, who played Grandpa of The Waltons TV fame, she sang and acted for decades and appeared as one of the elderly wives in the Cocoon movies. Last I spoke to her—in the ‘80s—she ran a Shakespeare rep company in the northern hills of Los Angeles at Topanga. Her Folkways album as Herta Marshall: To You With Love: American Folk Songs For Women (1957), is still available.

People should remember that the “Beat” era was still strong in 1959.
Coffee house culture and protocol demanded silence while singers performed or
poets read, real art hung on the walls, and we all dreamed of doing a Jack
Kerouac and splitting for Algiers. That era should not be confused with the later
anti-Nam and flower child years.

A dozen coffee houses and folk or jazz joints quickly opened up and down McKinney after Ronnie. The legendary 90th Floor jazz room, (I think older than the Rubaiyat), and The Poet. The 8th Day, with floor to ceiling art carved into the walls and run by bros. Steve and Stan Crooks, which later was sold and became strictly gay, The Interlude, owned by Hank Arnold, where great jazz flute man Jimmy Clay played and Sherry Riley read jazz poetry on Sunday afternoons. The street became a “strip” with funky clothes shops, art galleries and studios and a Beat bookstore. Shipman could be said to have kicked off the Dallas “movement,” which was short lived as the Viet Nam years changed the atmosphere.

Local police did try to infiltrate the “scene,” but were easily spotted, as they couldn’t speak the ever-changing lingo. Of course they looked for drugs but to my knowledge availability or use on the street was slight.

The Dallas Morning News railed against us but used our fads and language in their ads to sell ‘with it’ products. The DMN also had apoplexy when Pete Seeger appeared in concert at the old Knox street theatre and, despite its efforts and that of the Birchers, couldn’t get him canceled.

I left for grad school at Iowa U in the fall of 1961. The Poet closed as Smith pursued acting. When I returned to Dallas for visits in the ‘70s or early ‘80s, I played one gig at the new Rubaiyat and visited several times to catch Frummox and others. The newer group of singers seemed to regard me as a relic from the past. I suppose that was true.

To get to a close, a little praise for Ron Shipman (he and Lu Mitchell still appear at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre sometimes), now living in Allen, Texas. He was and is a fine singer, more eclectic than straight folk, accomplished at calypso, and a good songwriter. Theodore Bickel bought and recorded one about eternity. Ron ground no political axe and, in truth, never was a “Beat”. He was just serenely determined to proceed despite many telling him his little venue on McKinney would surely fail, or that our kind of music would never succeed in Texas"



Paul Kelso

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Whatever happened to OPEC?

I will quickly show I know just enough (and maybe not even that much!) to be dangerously stupid but what are blogs for?

I was having lunch with a couple of friends and of course briefly we bemoaned the rising prices of gas.

My pet peeve has been what I call “self-fulfilling prophecy”; i.e. some speculator somewhere thinks gas might be higher in a few months or hears that a middle eastern dictator has a cold, then buys some sort of commodity derivative or something at a certain price and off we go. The media reports prices are going up and sure enough, drive by your friendly local station and the guy will be out there with a ladder, suction cups and numbers in hand, changing the price.

Made me wish for OPEC. I remember something about the days when OPEC were the bad guys, a group of Arab Sheiks who met in Switzerland or some such ritzy place to determine who was going to produce how much and for what price. Then I figured – surely they couldn’t have been setting prices for the world market but then …

“One of the most common misconceptions about OPEC is that the Organization is responsible for setting crude oil prices. Although OPEC did in fact set crude oil prices from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, this is no longer the case. OPEC's Member Countries do voluntary restrain their crude oil production in order to stabilize the oil market and avoid harmful and unnecessary price fluctuations, but this is not the same thing as setting prices.” source OPEC

So who exactly DOES set the prices for Oil and indirectly gas?

Then I read this: “In today's complex global markets, the price of crude oil is set by movements on the three major international petroleum exchanges. They are the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX, http://www.nymex.com), the International Petroleum Exchange in London (IPE, and the Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX, http://www.simex.com.sg). source OPEC

Please refer back to my earlier statement about a speculator. Wonder where those people go to work everyday?

Again my faulty memory of the bad OPEC days is that the Sheiks would meet, and because at the time the Saudis were the biggest and baddest OPEC dudes, they could call the shots, raise or lower their own production so the smaller guys wouldn’t get hurt too much and in general keep the flow of crude somewhat stable (because it benefited their own economies and countries) which had the effect of keeping gas prices somewhat stable.

Note I didn’t say low but think back to those earlier days when we started feeling the pinch. I do remember when gas went over a $1 a gallon. I remember when it broke $1.50. What I don’t remember are times when it was up a dime today, down a penny or two tomorrow and then back up a nickel again the next day. It seemed like there were longer periods of the same price and not the day-to-day volatility in the market. Buying gas now is like watching an auction on eBay!

Wonder who the OPEC members are? Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (2nd largest known reserves of OPEC countries) United Arab Emirates, Venezuela (largest known reserves of any current OPEC country)

We used to complain that higher gas prices were just making a bunch of spoiled Saudi Princes richer and richer. That may still be true but who is really profiting by the rising prices? I found these folks on a list of the 20 most profitable U.S. companies:

#1 Exxon ($30.5 bil.), #3 Chevron #3 ($19 bil.), #16 Conoco/Phillips ($11.4 bil.) Two int’l cos. are Shell ($28.6 bil.) and BP (a measly $5.3 bil. in the year after the big spill)

Can you see where this is going?

The next little bit of research is to see who of these folks are paying taxes. I found an article where Exxon was whining to CNN about how they paid out more in taxes than they took in, in profit. But it turns out they were counting sales taxes collected at the pump as taxes they paid! So the 25-50 cents per gallon tax that you and I pay at the pump, Exxon was telling reporters THEY paid those taxes. All their stations did was collect them and pass them on. Those taxes were OUR nickels and dimes and DOLLARS, not Exxon’s. But in fairness I did find that Exxon paid about 29% of those profits as actual corporate income taxes – still below the 35% that our tax code requires (can you spell tax subsidy?)

All I set out to do here was find the bogeyman for the daily price rises at the gas pump. We can hate the Arabs all we want (and Chavez too) but it seems there are plenty of our own villains to go ‘round!

I don’t really understand the futures market. I sort of get that if I want to buy a share of Apple stock, I’d pay $532 today (give or take). What I don’t understand is that as a speculator I can presume Apple’s stock price might be $750 (they wish!) and then buy up options or futures based on that assumption. What I further don’t get is how this option purchase today can affect the stock price tomorrow or next month? Shouldn’t that be based more on performance, the long-term market for the products etc.?

Bottom line, low or high, gas is always going to be profitable. Oil companies weren’t going broke when I paid less than 30 cents a gallon back in college. In fact for many, those days were the hay-days of big oil in Texas.

Finally just read this: Obama is considering revoking some tax subsidies for oil companies because of the high prices at the pump. I’m no economist and I really don’t think any of them need subsidies but … taking them away will mean their operating costs go up – right? And if their costs go up, what will happen to the price of gas?

What goes around, comes around I guess.