Saturday, July 31, 2010

3 Chords & the Truth: Wake us up next week


If you're wondering what happened to this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth . . . there isn't one.


We're taking the week off. As you can see from this picture of my assistant Scout, we're tired.

As you also can see from my assistant Scout, it's impossible to find good help that works for dog treats.

We figure the Big Show will be back next weekend, and we also figure that it just might blow your mind.

It already has blown Scout's.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there next week (or listen to the archives now). Aloha.

And if you liked that. . . .





Hey, if you're going gaga for old Baton Rouge TV commercials for stuff that ain't dere no more -- and you know who you are -- I think you'll really freak for this thing on the Internets, Gene Nelson's Podcast.

What's not to love about hours of vintage top-40 radio from the Big 91, WLCS. Which, of course, ain't dere no more. Hasn't been for 26 years.


I LOVED that station. And I may have written about it previously.

I wonder what's being burned into the brains of young people today -- what memories, or old sights, or old sounds will instantly take them back to this present when it's long past in some uncertain future.

What is it they take for granted today that will tomorrow become a touchstone . . . a glimpse into an increasingly murky mind's-eye vision of who they were?

I don't know. Neither do they.

Me, I have my old memories. And the sights and sounds of what helped make me who I am today -- God help us all.

Been there. Done that. And I can log onto Café Press and make the T-shirt.

Ain't dere no more, except on videotape


There's a fella in Baton Rouge who's hit the mother lode of TV-commercial nostalgia for those of us -- those of us of a certain age -- who grew up in Red Stick.

In other words, this YouTube page is something akin to video meth for Baby Boomers from thereabouts. I mean, Gordon Lloyd McLeod . . . holy crap! I haven't thought about McLeod's appliances in 20 years -- at least.

But there you go! And Goudchaux's, too (where the difference was U). If I have to explain it, you ain't from there, and most likely don't care anyway.


FOR THOSE of you who do care, though, let me present the Baton Rouge edition of Ain't Dere No More, beginning in three . . . two . . . one . . . roll 'em!


PHIL'S! Oysters! (sob)


AMERICAN BANK . . . ain't dere no more. And we ain't Young Americans no more, neither.


ABBY! The only chick who ever gave a guy a buck on a Saturday night. (Hey, it's the '70s . . . I'm supposed to be sexist!)


SIMPLE THINGS, like two in the morning . . . life was simple yesterday. And these Louisiana National Bank ads -- almost 40 years later -- are doin' their best to bring me yesterday.

LNB. My first bank.
Sigh.


CAPITAL BANK. Weill/Strother ad agency, before Ray went to D.C., and became a political guru.


WHEN Bon Carré was Bon Marché, and it was THE place to shop.


OBVIOUSLY, Ossie Brown never spied the bodacious tatas on display in this Del Lago commercial, being that the spot presumably aired more than once . . . and the meat market that was orders of magnitude groovier than Smiley's shook its booty for some years to come. That ad probably aired only on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, when Ossie was safely ensconced in a church pew.

No, the late district attorney
was not a Del Lago kind of guy. But every testosterone-crazed high school boy sure as hell wanted to be.


THE GAP wasn't the only thing that was widening here. Go buy yourself an RCA XL-100 color TV and hep' Gordon Lloyd out.


STILL MR. BINGLE gently weeps . . . cause ain't no Goudchaux's . . . or Maison Blanche . . . or that God-awful slash-o-nated thing dere no more.

Well, that's about it for now. I do declare, the only thing that could have improved upon this experience would be going to the videotape of Al Crouch laying a sloppy, wet one on Joni Anderson, Tex Carpenter warning Channel 9 weather watchers about the nefarious "troffaloff" . . . or uncovering complete episodes of
The Buckskin Bill Show or Storyland.

Because, boys and girls, Baton Rouge
was a zoo. Count Macabre said.

Friday, July 30, 2010

They like us! They really like us!

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Well, I think that Afghanistan venture is going rather swimmingly, don't you?

The news is so encouraging, and the happy natives seem so grateful for our benevolent presence. What?

Uh . . . I suppose you can believe the following report from MSNBC if you like -- and that horrid, horrid video from the "mainstream, lamestream media," but I am obligated to caution you against such anti-American behavior.

WHY WOULD any patriot believe this kind of communistic agitprop, which we absotively must refudiate at every turn?
Six U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan, bringing the toll for July to at least 66 and making it the deadliest month for American forces in the near-nine-year war.

A NATO statement Friday said three troops died in two separate blasts in southern Afghanistan Thursday. The statement gave no nationalities, but U.S. officials said all three were Americans. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity pending notification of kin.

Another statement issued later Friday said three more had died, one following an insurgent attack and twin a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan.

U.S. and NATO commanders had warned that casualties would rise as the international military force ramps up the war against the Taliban, especially in their southern strongholds in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan last December in a bid to turn back a resurgent Taliban.

British and Afghan troops launched a new offensive Friday in the Sayedebad area of Helmand to try to deny insurgents a base from which to launch attacks in Nad Ali and Marjah, the British military announced. Coalition and Afghan troops have sought to solidify control of Marjah after overrunning the poppy-farming community five months ago.

The six deaths raised the U.S. death toll for the month to at least 66, according to an Associated Press count. June had been the deadliest month for the U.S. with 60 deaths. There have been 264 U.S. service members killed in combat and noncombat situations so far this year in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, according to the AP.
DON'T YOU believe all this talk about dead American soldiers -- they're resting. Or maybe they're stunned.

That easily could happen, as wild as those Afghan parties get. Just like the one above, which the lamestream media wants you to believe was a riot.

Libtards.

Lâche pas la tomate, mon nèg


May, June, July . . . well that took long enough.

The first tomato of the season, that is. Yeah, it looks like it's going to be another one of those too-cool years where the tomatoes make late and get ripe later.

That's how it went last year, and when we finally started to get a bunch of ripe tomatoes, the blight hit. Wiped out most everyone's crop hereabouts.

This year, we've had precious few really scorching-hot, perfect tomato weather days, but it looks like we're getting a decent number of fruit on the vines. So far, too, it looks like the blight is being held at bay.

(Yes, it's extremely difficult to type with your fingers crossed. Knock on wood. And where's my damned rabbit's foot?)

On the other hand, the jalapeños seem to be doing fine. I've already picked a small mess of them. A couple of those went into a bottle of red wine vinegar to make hot sauce for the mustard greens in the bunny-proof wheelbarrow bed.

Ah reckon that's about it for the Revolution 21 farm report. I'm your Mighty Favog reporting.



P.S.: The headline? A pun probably understood only in Quebec or south Louisiana, based on "Lâche pas la patate," or "Don't drop the potato," which is a colloquialism for "Hang in there."

And no, "mon nèg" has no racial connotation whatsoever here -- it's a Cajun term of endearment.
For what it's worth.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Please rise for the national anthem. . . .


Devo - Jocko Homo
Uploaded by petittheatresubversion. - See the latest featured music videos.

We are devo, D-E-V-O


In television today, there's still money in public service.

Just like there was a half-century ago in 1960.

If, of course, you think of
ABC' television's Wipeout as public-service broadcasting in the sense that people watch it and learn not to do that at home. Or anywhere.

Or perhaps the ongoing
E! and Entertainment Tonight coverage of the travails of Lindsay Lohan (and the fashion faux pas that is the orange jumpsuit) is the type of public-service programming making advertisers go gaga. Message: It's glamorous being a 20-something addict . . . until it's not.

In radio today, "public service" is a functioning Emergency Alert System to interrupt the automation when there's a tornado warning.

If you ask me, the whole concept of "progress" died a horrible and tawdry death about the time Don Draper started dressing like Herb Tarlek.


"Jocko Homo," y'all.

The deadly cover-up

Now this has been a problem for a very, very long time. You can see that corporations were illegal at the founding of America. And even Thomas Jefferson complained that they were already bidding defiance to the laws of our country. Okay, people who say they're conservative, if they really wanted to be really conservative and really patriotic, they would tell these corporations to go to hell. That's what it would really mean to be conservative. So what we really need to do is regain the idea that it's our government safeguarding our interests and regain a sense of unity and common cause in our country that really has been lost.

-- Carl Safina,
author, marine ecologist

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BP's unwitting allies

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Ignorance kills.

When you're ignorant, you don't have options. You're an easy mark, because you lack power and, oftentimes, because you're too ignorant to know you're being played.

Or if you are savvy enough to know you're being played, what are you going to do about it?

Say you're a fisherman in Louisiana. You may or may not have much education -- and being that it's Louisiana we're talking about, chances are, not. All you've done is fish. All your daddy has done is fish. All your family has done for a hundred years or more is fish.

You have no options, because other options --
at least in many cases -- never have occurred to you. School, in all likelihood, wasn't a priority for you, just like it wasn't a priority for your daddy, or your daddy's daddy, or for the whole dying culture down there, for Pete's sake.

Same deal for all the other workers whose best option in life right now is to work cleanup for BP, sopping up or skimming up a toxic soup of crude oil and chemical dispersant that has a nasty habit of exploding the cells of mammals and fish.


PEOPLE on the Gulf Coast = mammals. For some reason, I felt the need to make that clear.

From the Facing South online magazine:
Today, 27,000 workers in the BP-run Gulf cleanup effort may still be in danger. Some are falling sick, and the long-term effects of chemical exposure for workers and residents are yet unknown.

Workers lack power on the job to demand better safety enforcement. They fear company retaliation if they speak out and are wary of government regulators who have kept BP in the driver's seat.

BP carries a history of putting profit before worker safety. A 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas, killed 15 and injured another 108 workers. The Chemical Safety Board investigation resulted in a 341-page report stating that BP knew of "significant safety problems at the Texas City refinery and at 34 other BP business units around the world" months before the explosion.

One internal BP memo made a cost-benefit analysis of types of housing construction on site in terms of the children's story "The Three Little Pigs." "Brick" houses -- blast-resistant ones -- might save a few "piggies," but was it worth the initial investment?

BP decided not, costing several workers' lives. Federal officials found more than 700 safety violations at Texas City and fined BP more than $87 million in 2009, but the corporation has refused to pay.


(snip)

Now workers in the cleanup effort face similar challenges to those Jason Anderson and his 10 slain co-workers woke up to each morning. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy analyst Hugh Kaufman says workers are being exposed to a "toxic soup," and face dangers like those in the Exxon Valdez, Love Canal, and 9/11 cleanups.

The 1989 Exxon Valdez experience should have taught us about the health fallouts of working with oil and chemical cleaners, but tests to determine long-term effects on those workers were never done, by either the company or OSHA. It appears they have faced health problems far beyond any warnings given by company or government officials while the work was going on.

Veterans of that cleanup, such as supervisor Merle Savage, reported coming down with the same flu-like symptoms during their work that Gulf cleanup workers are now experiencing. Savage, along with an estimated 3,000 cleanup workers, has lived 20 years with chronic respiratory illness and neurological damage.

A 2002 study from a Spanish oil spill showed that cleanup workers and community members have increased risk of cancer and that workers with long-term exposure to crude oil can face permanent DNA damage.

So far, Louisiana has records of 128 cleanup workers becoming sick with flu-like symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, and headaches, after exposure to chemicals on the job. BP recorded 21 short hospitalizations. When seven workers from different boats were hospitalized with chemical exposure symptoms, BP executives dismissed the illnesses as food poisoning.

BP bosses have told workers to report to BP clinics only and not to visit public hospitals, where their numbers can be recorded by the state.

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has said that without the benefit of studies, or even knowing the chemical makeup of the Corexit 9500 dispersant (which its manufacturer calls a "trade secret"), scientific opinion is divided on long-term health impacts to the region.

Workers in the Gulf are not receiving proper training or equipment, says Mark Catlin, an occupational hygienist who was sent to the Exxon Valdez site by the Laborers union.

BP has said it will provide workers with respirators and proper training if necessary, but the company has yet to deem the situation a health risk for workers. The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) provided respirators to some workers directly, but BP forbade them to use them.
THE TENDENCY of anybody looking for a good story, one that engages the heart as well as the mind in such situations, is to spend much time romanticizing the poor and the vulnerable. The majority of the media coverage of the BPocalypse follows this well-trod path into the morass of sentimentality and, ultimately, cognitive dissonance when the cold, hard (and complicated) facts of life break through the spin and screw up the narrative.

The facts of the matter is that many of the people we're supposed to be feeling sorry are victims of not only BP, but also of accidents of birth, the deficiencies of a culture that too often hasn't valued all the things that immunize a people against victimhood, and a crapload of poor choices accumulating throughout one's lifetime.

If you're in Grand Isle, La., faced with a royal screwing by a multinational oil company -- and, for that matter, one's own government -- it's all too easy to just take it out on the "animals," which is postmodern Southern-speak for "n***ers." Who happen to be cleaning up the multinational oil company's hazardous waste off your beach and out of your marshes.

And if you're one of those cleanup workers -- poorly paid, without respirators and working under ATV-riding "overseers" in a setup that looks so much like a fast-forward of what slavery might look like had the South won the Civil War -- you further screw up a good narrative by getting shitfaced in a titty bar and treating a bunch of strippers like the pieces of meat you know yourself to be. At least in the eyes of your "betters."

Who, you can be assured, will collect their piece of the pie
(and yours, too) no matter how much they screw up the lives of others by hook . . . and by crook. Why? Because they can, that's why.

THE POOR . . . the "victims," who resist all attempts at romanticizing their plight much more successfully than they fend off humiliation and depredation by them that's got, will not fare well here. Neither will a state like Louisiana, home to so many of the poor, and likewise so much more adept at resisting all attempts to romanticize its desperate plight than it is at fending off humiliation, depredation and marginalization at the hands of Corporate America and the government it has bought and paid for.

Knowledge is power.

Culture is destiny.

The Gret Stet is screwed.

Playing with sugar daddy's money


Once upon a time, Grand Isle, La., was your average, everyday, sleepy Gulf Coast fishing mecca and tourist trap.

No more. BP changed that in a heartbeat.

Or . . . could it be that the BPocalypse -- this stress-inducing gumbo of lawyers, guns and money
(and a big, big oil spill) -- merely has broken down inhibitions enough, just like extreme stress or extreme drink can do to people, so that now it's just more of what it already was beneath a carefully constructed facade?

This is the kind of question we'll be pondering all across the Gulf for a long, long time as klepto-capitalism rides the waves, crying "Havoc!"

IF YOU'VE NOT been regularly reading the oil-spill dispatches of Mother Jones' Mac McClelland already, now would be a good time to start:

I hear about the race riot at Daddy's Money almost as soon as I arrive on Grand Isle, Louisiana. My friend and I are going to the bar tonight to catch the "female oil wrestling" oil-spill cleanup workers have been packing in to see on Saturday nights. When we stop by the office of the island's biggest seafood distributor, he tells us that two days ago a bunch of black guys and a bunch of white guys got into a big fight at the bar. It spilled out all over the street and had to be broken up by a ton of cops.

According to the Census, 1,541 people live in this slow Southern resort town. An estimated 2.9 of them are black. That was before the spill. The seafood guy gestures in the direction of the floating barracks being built on barges in the bay to house the lower-skilled cleanup workers, and says that people think the barracks will keep those workers—who are mostly black—from "jumping off" onto dry land and causing trouble.

That night, dozens of men in race-segregated packs crowd around to watch strippers dance around and then tussle inside the bouncy inflatable ring set up inside Daddy's Money. Female oil wrestlers need, obviously, to be oiled. Plastic cups full of baby oil are being auctioned off, along with the right to rub their contents all over one of the thong-bikinied gals. "I hope there's no dispersant in that oil!" someone quips. The bidding before the first match starts at $10; it ends pretty quickly when some kid offers $100.

"He outbid me!" the guy next to me yells. His name is Cortez. He bid $80. He has dollar bills tucked all the way around under the brim of his hat, and piles of them in his fist. He has spent $200 of his $1,000 paycheck already tonight. "I am coming here every Saturday from now on," he says. He gestures expansively at the scene—writhing women; hollering, money-throwing men. "Sponsored by BP!" he yells, laughing, then throws his arms around me and grabs my ass.

Upstairs, on the open-air deck, the supervisors and professional contractors drink. One comes over to talk; he calls me a Yankee when I don't get that when he says "animals" he means black guys. Another tells us about the crime-prone "monkeys." I have already stopped counting how many times I've heard the n-word on Grand Isle today.
THE LONGER I live away from Louisiana, the more I think I'd consider it a badge of honor to be called a Yankee by some good ol' boy.

That said, chances are, Grand Isle -- and the rest of the eroding, subsiding Louisiana coast -- will sink into the toxic sea before the spill-induced societal Armageddon has run its course there, giving way to the everyday, ordinary Louisiana pathologies that have proven so resistant to enlightenment.
"We'll be here as long as oil keeps washing up," the contractor says.

"So..." I laugh sort of helplessly. "A year?"

"Three years..." he says. "Five years..."

"Hopefully forever," the guy next to him says. "I need this job if I can't work offshore anymore." Last week, the emcee that accompanies the oil wrestlers yelled into the microphone, "Let that oil gush! Let that money flow!" The workers -— part of the new Grand Isle scenery of helicopters, Hummers, and National Guardsmen, serious people in uniforms and coveralls and work boots -- the workers around the wrestling ring, drunk and blowing cash from jobs that might kill them, cheered.
THE HUMAN CONDITION can be an ugly thing. And leave it to a titty bar in some oil-soiled backwater of a too-poor, too-ignorant and too-hateful Southern state to "kick it up a notch."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bloody Priceless is wot it is

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Hey, BP! Don't sweat Greenpeace.

All the eco-activists did was shut down your London petrol stations for a day, as we learn here from
MSNBC:
As BP CEO Tony Hayward resigned under a cloud Tuesday, thousands of British motorists got an unexpected reminder of the oil spill that's wreaked havoc in the Gulf of Mexico.

Protesters with the environmental group Greenpeace said they shut off fuel supplies at 46 BP gas stations across London just in time for the morning rush-hour. Small teams of activists used a standard shut-off switch to stop the flow of fuel oil at the targeted stations. The switches were then removed to prevent most BP outlets in the capital from opening.

And to ensure there was no chance of drivers buying gas, demonstrators in fluorescent vests and helmets locked green metal fences around some sites.

"What BP needs to do is not just change CEOs it needs to actually come up with a new strategy," Greenpeace U.K.’s chief executive John Sauven said at one of the shuttered stations in Camden, north London.
ACTUALLY, poetic justice would have involved blowing those stations up and filling your headquarters building with crude oil.

But that wouldn't have been sporting, would it?

The binge of the nerd?


They don't call it the Republican Party for nothing.

I mean, take this tasty tidbit about our -- at least we thought -- mild-mannered congressman in this morning's edition of the
Omaha World-Herald.

LEE TERRY, it would seem we hardly knew ye:
Republican Rep. Lee Terry is at the center of a storm over questions involving the relationships between lobbyists and members of Congress.

House Minority Leader John Boehner has warned several GOP congressmen to quit socializing with female lobbyists, according to Roll Call and the New York Post.
Terry became a focal point of the warning after a New York Post journalist reported witnessing Terry in conversation with a “comely lobbyist” at the Capitol Hill Club, a Washington hangout for Republicans.

“Why did you get me so drunk?” Terry asked the woman, according to the Post.

Terry, in a written statement last week, said the Post story was “completely false.”

Since then, an unnamed member of the Capitol Hill Club — where Terry reportedly talked to the lobbyist — said he, too, heard Terry make the remark. However, the anonymous source said there appeared to be nothing flirtatious about Terry’s conversation, according to Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill.

Terry continued to deny the incident Monday, saying in a second statement he doesn’t “socialize” with female lobbyists.

In the statement, Terry said: “The repulsive innuendo of the New York Post characterizing me as someone who socializes with female lobbyists is absolutely, unequivocally, 100 percent false.”
OH . . . this GOP smear ad against Terry's 2008 Democratic opponent might be worth recalling, considering:

Because there's enough ugly in the world . . .


. . . we need to cherish -- and cling to -- the beauty all the more.

Some people hear God in dour denunciations from culture warriors who belong more to the realm of politics than to the realm of the sacred. Me, I'm more likely to hear the quiet voice of the Almighty when I put the needle to the groove of an Otis Redding record.

Or in what Jake Shimabukuro does with a ukulele.

SOME MIGHT dismiss this as the squishy rhetoric of someone who is "spiritual, not religious." That is not true. I know full well that God requires we accept a lot of "hard sayings."

But I also know that truth is beauty, and beauty is among the highest expressions of truth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says as much:
Created "in the image of God," man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being's inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man's own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God's activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man.
NEVER TRUST any "religious" person who discounts this. And never trust any Christian who treats music -- or any artistic pursuit -- as a mere utilitarian gimmick for "making converts."

Won't you please hep' me?


My dear Twitter followers and blog readers:

As you know, times are tough. Especially for me.

How tough? More than a decade ago, I gave up on newspapers to go into radio. Bad career move. Slightly worse than staying put, even.

Now I stumble down a career path that -- no doubt -- will lead me to the Open Door Mission. This is a disaster.
This is awful.

I WANT MY LIFE BACK! Just like a certain soon-to-be-former BP executive. Yes, I have screwed up badly -- made poor decisions.

Let's not gild the lily: I have f'***ed myself royally.
But why should that mean I must suffer? That is sooooo not postmodern!

Like I said, I am hurting here. And I want my life back. And that's where you come in.
You can help me. Here's the plan: All I want is the same deal Tony Hayward got. What I need to know is how -- within the sad limits of Twitter and the blogosphere -- I can screw you.

I need to find out how I can really f*** you over.
Mess you up. Despoil your environment . . . MAKE YOUR LIFE A LIVING HELL.

I deserve mine -- "mine" being my life back . . . with certain accoutrements, of course.
(Hey! I've had it rough, pally!)

SO . . .
how I can f*** you up enough that you -- and everyone else online -- will pay me $900,000 a year (and then some) to go the hell away? What are you willing to pay me -- and, as I say, I'm not a cheap quitter -- to leave you the f*** alone?

I. WANT. MY. LIFE. BACK. And I will mess you up good to get it back. And you will pay me well to take it back -- and to go away ASAP.

That's my proposition . How can I Twibuse you -- and blogbuse you -- so you'll pay me off to get off your back?

After all, I deserve it. Because I'm special! Just like BP's top dog.

Monday, July 26, 2010

How we fight


Forget that our A-Number One "ally" in the Afghan War -- Pakistan -- is playing for the other side, too.

Forget that our whole game plan since 2001 has been that the locals are more or less just like us and want the same things as any reasonable Westerner, and that from such naiveté, much mayhem has ensued.

Forget that it wasn't that long ago that the Red Army got its ass handed to it by herdsmen with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and old rifles.

Forget that the U.S. Army, the Marine Corps and the whole NATO shooting match is getting their asses handed to them right now by herdsmen with heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, IEDs . . . and materiél that mysteriously made its way from the Afghan "government" to Taliban fighters.


FORGET THAT this war, and the one winding down in Iraq, are bleeding the U.S. treasury dry amid the ruins of a wrecked economy in an era of unsustainable sovereign debt.

Forget that we're writing $500 million checks to the double-crossing Pakistani government, while Congress for weeks and weeks refused to keep unemployment checks coming to millions of cast-off American workers.

Forget that the money spent each year on an unwinnable war fought for now-nebulous reasons could by itself fund --
and fund well -- cash-starved and unimplemented blueprints for restoring Louisiana's disappearing coastline.

Just remember -- with the
WikiLeaks release of this generation's Pentagon Papers -- that the South Vietnamese government looked like a model of legitimacy and propriety compared to the nightmare we're trying to prop up in Afghanistan, as graphically pointed out in one 2007 U.S. Army dispatch the Guardian has highlighted:
TM HADES (HHC 508th STB) conducts humanitarian assistance delivery on 200330ZMAR07 VIC VC 9126724284 IOT provide relief to citizens of the Kharwar District affected by winter weather and build trust between the ANP/IRoA and the local populace.

Initially, the only signs of town inhabitants were trash and feces in the streets. The people stayed inside until the Apaches left station; they were mostly unresponsive, even when we told them that we had brought HA- they were not impressed as they did not believe that they would get any of it. HUMINT collection was virtually fruitless.

What little infrastructure they have is crumbling and the quality of life is extremely poor. Come summer and spring, the hygiene conditions will worsen and be cause for concern.

HUMINT Assessment: As we walked into the Bazaar, we noticed no one was in the street. We could see people in their shops; doors were closed and very few smiles or waves were returned. A few people were receptive as we spoke to them. We did receive some mean looks. They wondered why we were coming in with such force. We told them that we had a lot EOF HA for their village. They expressed concern that the HA would not be fairly distributed. Security was not an issue, according to the people with whom we spoke. Their main concern is the water supply and buildings collapsing due to the recent rain. They said people who have been working outside of Afghanistan will be returning in a nother month or two. These people have been in Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Key Leader Engagement Assessment: Met with MAJ Rafiki (ANP Chief of Police), Mirr Akbar (Criminal Officer), COL Latifi (Logar ANP XO), and the Mullah/Platoon Leader. Took a tour of the compound and spoke about the physical security issues they were having and also made some recommendations about their improvements. We discussed previous attacks on the ANP station and the reasons for them (i.e.- why they were coming from different directions, etc). After the tour, we sat down to chai. We discussed the HA distribution in detail with the ANP CoP. From the first five minutes, there seemed to be an ongoing discussion between COL Latifi and MAJ Rafiki. As the engagement progressed, the interaction became more heated. The interpreter explained that MAJ Rafiki was complaining about something.

Absent was the Sub-governor. We were told that he would be there, but he decided not to come. He doesnt live in the town- he lives about 30-45 minutes away and drives himself to work. He does not have a driver or a bodyguard and it is strange that he drives himself (alone) to work in Kharwar. This may indicate that he is not worried about anti-government or government threats, which may mean he has both in his pocket.

The ANP CoP seems like the best among the worst; he understood what we were talking about concerning the equitable distribution of the HA. However, he made several comments about the people of Kharwar- how they should get jobs and how he had little influence. We got the impression that he has little concern for the needs of his people. We tried to impress upon him the difference between the people and a civil servant and he seemed to understand, if not agree. The ANP CoP is from the Konar district, so he has no family in Kharwar, which is a good thing as he may normally be tempted to give hand-outs to his family first. We discussed the plan to use the Shura, the Red Crescent and the Sub-governor to distribute the HA; he seemed to understand what we were saying about his job being easier if the people trusted him to support them. He mentioned that he had a meeting with the Taliban Leaders in Kharwar. At that point, we asked him Do you know who they are?! and he said yes, of course. At this point in the conversation, COL Latifi kicked out the criminal officer and the mullah/platoon leader. We began to discuss a mission that the ANP had with the 10th MTN. They were talking about what a failure the mission was because of the terrible intelligence they had received. We tried to ask about the Taliban leaders and the recent intel we have received, but at that point, the apaches returned on station and it was time to establish the HLZ.

As we were walking out, the heated discussion between COL Latifi and MAJ Rafiki flared up again- apparently, the Criminal Officer had drawn his weapon on MAJ Rafiki and threatened him either this morning or last night. According to MAJ Rafiki, the Criminal Officer had been bribed to kill him. MAJ Rafiki said that he was going to quit if he had to continue to work with the Criminal Officer. We were trying to leave, but a crowd of ANP gathered and the heated discussion almost came to a head. We loudly told COL Latifi that we had to get on the helicopter and if he wanted me to arrest the criminal officer, we would. He said that he didnt want to arrest him, but wanted to take him back to Pul-e-Alam for interrogation and to fire him at least. We searched the Criminal Officer and found one 9mm pistol with 3 rounds in the magazine. We took the weapon from him and returned it to COL Latifi after we landed at Pul-e-Alam.

The Mullah/Platoon Leader assumed himself in positions of closeness to whomever he felt was the most powerful of the group. We asked who he was, and was told he was a platoon leader. We asked his name and they called him Mullah- according to the Terp, this is strange.

Other: As we walked through the bazaar, there were no shop doors open and few people peeked out from behind windows or curtains. The bazaar was a canalizing tunnel and the impression was of walking into a trap/ambush. There were stray animals and barnyard feces in the street and trash was thrown out of doorways without concern. There were several dead dogs inside the ANP compound and throughout the town. Also, there was human feces everywhere, without regard for foot traffic or modesty. Several of the bunkers and trenches had obviously been used as latrines, despite the fact that there is a latrine facility in the compound. Not only was the facility in disrepair, it appeared as though the occupants were maliciously negligent. Yesterday, we gave several tarps and sandbags to the ANP to patch a caved in roof, but the tarps had not been used to make any repairs.

Note: The DSHKA gunner is a LT, who apparently spends his nights on the megaphone, talking to the Taliban- taunting them and telling them what a good shot he is. At least one person in Kharwar understands PsyOps.
AND REMEMBER that we are governed by men and women who think such a figurative -- and literal, too -- s***hole is worth the expenditure of a single American life (and billions of American dollars) long past the expiration date of any clear strategic rationale . . . or any reasonable chance at "victory," whatever that might look like anymore.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Children of La Mancha


The problem with the American Dream, now more than ever, is that it's an impossible one.

We spend all our time keeping up appearances, chasing status and material goods instead of meaning, knowledge and relationships -- both human and divine -- such that we have become a society more devoted to "tilting at windmills" than more pedestrian fare as living productively, morally and sustainably.

Society tells us we need to have it all -- today. The economic reports tell us there are five unemployed Americans competing for every job opening.


WE ARE what we own. Our self-worth is what others say it is. We are chasing our tails, our quixotic expectations are giving our kids ulcers, and you just know something's gotta give, something's gotta give, something's gotta give.

Such has it been for a long time in these United States, and the new season of early '60s-set Mad Men was the catalyst for some riffing on the subject from a walking wounded of that era on Rod Dreher's new
Big Questions Online blog:
She said that in her recollection of the time, it was hugely important to maintain an impossible standard of middle-class perfection, to the point where it drove people, well, mad. She recalls the pressure to maintain appearances at all costs, and to strive to meet unrealistic ideals. "There was the [N.] family down the street who didn't live like the rest of us in this way," she said. "They didn't go to church, or seem as concerned about the things that preoccupied our families. We all thought they weren't going to make it. Well, guess what? They did fine. The rest of us? Not so much. It was impossible to be satisfied with what we had. You couldn't just stay where you were; you were always looking to move to something better."

Like me, my friend is not a fan of the Sixties and Seventies, but in talking with her, I kept thinking about a judgment I made about "Mad Men" when it first came on: That it gives you an idea of why the Sixties happened the way they did. Some conservatives read the series as a retrospective justification for Sixties excess. I disagree. I don't think series creator Matthew Weiner is necessarily stacking the deck against the Fifties as much as he's diagnosing what it was about bourgeois/haute bourgeois white society at the time that led to the revolution. Because I grew up after the revolution was well underway, I can look at the autopsy with detachment; my friend, who was Sally Draper's age when it was going on, and who was in the "Mad Men" social and cultural class, cannot.

"I keep thinking that today, right now, we're reliving the Fifties," said my friend, who has a child in college. "I see the same obsession with perfection, with getting your kids into the right school so they can go to the right college and get the right job and move into the right group so they can be successful and happy. And these kids, they're terrified of failure. It's crazy, and you can't imagine how stressful this is for parents and kids alike. It's going to blow up, too. You watch. The problem is, there aren't as many intact families to blow up. But these children, they're going to implode. I worry about the net effect on these kids moving forward. They're never going to feel as good or as smart as they're supposed to feel, given how much we've spent on them. I know how my daughter feels: inadequate, always."
SOMETHING'S gotta give, something's gotta give, something's gotta give.

It did starting in about 1966 . . . until it didn't anymore and the revolutionaries became the Establishment, obsessing about establishmentarian pursuits. Like status and stuff -- in other words,
the same ol' s***.

And their kids, raised in a world where our means never exceed our appetites and every child is exceptional
(or so they're told), know that failure is not an option. Ordinary is not an option -- we will "fight, fight, fight, fight, fight it with all of our might."

Until it is.
Something's gotta give.

AND YOU GOTTA WONDER whether that's a big part of this fresh hell looming on our horizon, as spotlighted by ABC News:
"This is what we have feared for a very long time—that finally the ideology of radical Islam is effectively reaching into the United States to disaffected people here over the Internet," said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism adviser.

Some suspects allegedly used the Internet to also contact radicals like cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. In 2009, Chesser reportedly told the FBI that he sent several e-mails to the New Mexico native, who in turn replied to a couple of them. Al-Awlaki, 39, has most recently been tied to Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the prime suspect in the Fort Hood massacre, as well as the failed Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Some of those charged with terror are now well-known in this country, like Faisal Shahzad, the convicted would-be Time Square bomber. Just last week, a supposed martyrdom video surfaced in which an English-speaking Shahzad vocalized his appreciation for jihad, or holy war.

Also, David Headley from Chicago was convicted of helping to plan the November 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed more than 170 people. Then, associates of Najibullah Zazi, who is a permanent resident, were convicted of plotting to detonate bombs in New York City subways. And Michigan's own Colleen LaRose, more commonly known as Jihad Jane, was implicated in a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist for drawing the head of the Prophet Muhammad on the body of a dog in 2007.

(snip)

But there have been some suspected terrorists that have flown under the radar, like Bryant Vinas, who was accused of attacking a U.S. military base in Afghanistan and providing al-Qaeda with details about New York's railway system. Also, Michael Finton was arrested in a sting where he was attempting to detonate a truck bomb at a federal courthouse in Springfield, Illinois.

With so many potential threats, authorities say they are in a race against time to find these radicals before they launch a successful attack on the land they grew up on.

"In the last six to nine months," Clark said, "the FBI has seen more domestic Islamist extremist activity than at any time since immediately right after 9/11."
IT'S THE '60s all over again. Right down to rebelling against all the right things in exactly the wrong way, with exactly the wrong ideology.

We never learn.

Friday, July 23, 2010

3 Chords & the Truth: Was he stoned, or what?


This episode of the Big Show seeks to answer a single, simple question. Was Rusty stoned, or what?

He hadn't been himself lately. Normally, he would be the life of the party, telling jokes and flirting with all the women.

Tonight, though, he seemed different. Introspective. He kept putting this Joan Baez album on the record player, and listening over and over again -- deep in thought.


RUSTY, normally a leisure suit full of laughs and hijinks . . . piss and vinegar, got a little weepy talking about Janis Joplin. Wondering about the music of her former beau, Kris Kristofferson.

Yeah. He used the word "beau."

It's the pure-dee 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all.

We asked him to sing that "La Vie en Rose" thing he does, but he said he wasn't in a bistro-y, chanson-y kind of mood. He was hitting the Early Times pretty hard.

I mean, you saw him -- was Rusty stoned or what?

Man, I sure hope Mary was driving home -- if Rusty was behind the wheel, it'll be "Book him, Dano" time.

That boy -- there's four letters for that boy . . . D-R-N . . . U . . . D-R-A . . . . There's five letters that spell that boy's name -- S-T-O-N-E-D.

I DUNNO. Listen to the Big Show right now and let me know what you think.

Hey, babe! Hit me up again with a double of somethin', doll!

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

(Thud.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A TEAC-able moment


I've been away from the blog -- mostly -- for a while doing this delicate dance between my inner MacGyver and my inner MacGruber.

In other words, I was out accomplishing s***.
Despite myself.

The saga started Sunday, when Mrs. Favog and I bought an old TEAC reel-to-reel tape deck for $30 at an estate sale here in Omaha. Did it work? I didn't know, but I suspected I might be setting out on a journey to the Land of Fix-It -- a kind of road trip of the mind and soul that I'll detail in a bit.

But here's what's important right now about that trip:
It feels good -- and I needed that.

It's easy to sit behind the keys here and write about stuff. Some of that output, I hope, is insightful and decently written. Most of it, I fear, falls in the category of
"Well, DUH!"


OURS IS
an age where I have just committed a branding and self-marketing faux pas. Humility is out, and so is introspection that might lead to honesty.

What I ought to have told you is how dead-on right I've been about stuff, that this is important writing, and that you can't live without reading my take on things. This would be because I am smart, hip, happenin' and. . . .

That's right -- cool.

That's how, apparently, one "markets" oneself. I suck at that, probably because I think it's bull.
A lie. Immodest . . . particularly in a world where a little modesty might be refreshing.

Yeah, I could have been waxing eloquently about the bloody obvious fact that Shirley Sherrod got hosed, that the Obama Administration let itself get stampeded by the Big Lie, and that Andrew Breitbart is a far-right ideologue and twit whose actions over the last year or so just
may prove him to be objectively evil.

Or at least indifferent to the truth.


All of that, of course, would be bloody obvious, except to certain brain-dead constituencies who --
unfortunately -- have taken advantage of universal suffrage.

But I didn't wax eloquently about that, or any other stuff that might be rattling around the echo chamber this week. Instead, I've been doing something useful -- fixing up that beautiful old TEAC reel-to-reel tape deck, one about 40 years old.

Why?

WELL, for one thing, getting that thing running again -- put back into good use once more -- was something tangible, a sign of contradiction in this increasingly intangible world. I figured I could look at something restored to its former audiophile glory and feel like I'd accomplished something.

That's objective fact. It was broken.
Now it ain't. I accomplished something.

Being another schmuck opining on a blog?
Feh. Maybe that's an accomplishment, but you just might find it to be a first-class detriment to . . . whatever.

Making a tape deck live again -- making it once again able to pluck lost bits of music . . . and history . . . indeed, ourselves out of magnetized oxide particles stuck to a Mylar backing -- now that's something tangible, and your validation neither adds nor subtracts from the act.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
Or hear, as the case may be.

LIKE I SAID, my journey with the old TEAC started in west Omaha last Sunday. The ticket cost 30 bucks.

I don't know why --
I mean, apart from my general geekiness -- I love old reel-to-reel tape decks.

But I do love me some reel-to-reel tape deck, and I have even before I did my first air shift in a radio station, where once upon a time, you could play with top-end (or not) reel-to-reel tape decks to no end.

For its time -- the late 1960s and early '70s -- the TEAC A-4010S was quality stuff. A top performer. Built like a tank.

Today, geeks like me call it a "classic" -- classic in performance, in design and in quality of construction.

When I bought this one -- as I said -- I didn't know whether it worked. Turns out it didn't.

THE ELECTRONICS in the amplifier were fine, as I more or less discovered when I got it home and powered it up, but the tape transport was in bad shape. The pinch roller mechanism, part of what makes the tape move along at the correct speed, was as stiff as a board -- it moved only through brute force.

This was not by design. The whole thing needed cleaning and oiling . . . and a screw in back needed loosening (a little).

And the capstan drive belt? It had turned into tar balls. Really.

Ever tried cleaning tar off of all manner of metal moving parts? Not fun.

Slowly but surely, I got the old TEAC -- it of long-past better days in an Omaha home where its owner used it to listen to Latter-Day Saints conference sessions and some sort of music programming -- cleaned up, lubed up and loosened up.

I scavenged a drive belt and a better pinch roller from another old TEAC tape deck I wasn't using anymore. When I found the belt was too loose to stay where the tape-recorder gods intended, I cut it to fit and super-glued it back together.

And when the torque on the drive motors was too much in one spot and too little in another -- trust me, this can get real ugly, real fast -- I ended up doing some MacGyvering of the taps on a couple of resistors.


IN BRIEF,
thank God for old service manuals found on the Internet, an unused tape deck to scavenge from, WD-40, Super Glue and electrical tape. Not necessarily in that order.

And thank God for the tangible things in a self-promoting, subjective and intangible world. Thank God for old tape decks, craftsmanship that stands the test of time, working with your hands and the visible fruits of one's labor.

Thank God for these things, because sometimes they're what keep us sane. And sometimes, they point the way toward what's really important in life.