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Friday, December 30, 2011

Don't be surprised if Rick Santorum finishes a strong second to Romney in Iowa

suggests Stephen F. Hayes in The Weekly Standard.

Apparently that very prospect prompted the Perry Campaign to attack the Senator in a recent ad.

If Santorum does pull off an upset--which is what second place in Iowa would be--at the expense of Ron Paul, that would be good news for the GOP.

Ron Paul's baggage is far heavier than Newt Gingrich's, and would prove fatal not merely for Paul as the GOP's Candidate for President but for the rest of the Party at all levels.

Meantime Santorum would represent a true alternative to ex-Governor Gumby--I mean, Romney--and the Senator's continued strong presence in the primaries would ensure a vigorous continuing debate.

What's Ron Paul's baggage ? Check out James Kirchick's opinion piece in The New York Times.

As for the source of Paul's recent bump in Iowa polls, Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal warns
It's in fact the Republican Party protest vote. Since summer, this block of votes has jumped from one candidate to another, desperate for an anti-Obama champion whose anti-Washington intensity matches its own.
In July the Republican protest vote fixed on Michele Bachmann, who materialized in the No. 2 spot.  
In September it became the Perry vote, cresting at 31%. He couldn't debate, so in October it became the Cain vote. When he collapsed, the "left for dead" Gingrich candidacy miraculously rose to 35%.
With Newt carpet-bombed and again left for dead, the GOP protest vote mounted its last pony, the Ron Paul campaign.
The policy set of any of these candidates has been of minimal importance to voters who've boiled down their beef with Washington to one idea: Attack.
Meanwhile Mitt the Whale swims serenely onward at 25%, month after month, dipping occasionally to feed on these pilot fish. But the whale should be worried. These Republican protest fish have sharp teeth. Unless fed something soon, they may tear the Romney campaign to pieces. And there are a lot of them.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Key to Greece's long-term economic survival, if not revival : Energy

An enhanced and expanded energy industry could buoy Greece economically in the not-too-distant future. In DER SPIEGEL, Paul Hader surveys a number of energy-related initiatives in Hellas, from Project Helios, which would turn the country's 300 days of sunshine into 10 gigawatts of power, to wind-farms in the Aegean, offshore oil-drilling, and finally serving as a major natural gas hub between suppliers to the east and energy-hungry Western Europe. Some excerpts from Hader's report follows.

* * *

In a September report called "Greece 10 Years Ahead," the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. suggests that the energy sector could provide some relief. Jobs in the sector should rise to 360,000 by 2021, up from 240,000 in 2010, the study forecast. It also said that energy would be the second largest growth opportunity behind tourism in a scenario which foresees the country adding $59 billion worth of annual GDP to its economy by 2021. Such development, the report notes, won't make Greece an energy behemoth but it would still go "a long way towards curbing the large deficits currently crippling the economy."

Beyond oil, however, Greece is hoping to become a major natural gas hub in coming years. There are currently several oil and gas pipelines in the works that would traverse southern Europe from the Caspian Basin and western Asia to consumers in Europe. Such lines would bring transit fee revenues to Greece, maintenance contracts, cheaper oil and gas prices, while also improving the country's energy security. "We are making a very strong push to make Greece a hub for gas," said Papaconstantinou.

As different pipeline projects jockey for position, Greece is aligning itself with the ITGI (Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy) gas pipeline that would move roughly 11 billion cubic meters of largely Azerbaijani gas to southern Europe as early as 2013. It already moves about 750 million cubic meters of gas from Turkey to Greece. New pipelines, storage facilities and natural gas shipping will expand the infrastructure to transport gas to and through Greece.

Furthermore, many believe the country could also build on its expertise in shipping and its geographic center as a regional port between Europe, Africa and the Middle-East, re-inventing itself as an energy transit hub. Greece has a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal operating from the Revithousa Island, 45 kilometers west of Athens, which is currently being upgraded and expanded. Compressed Natural Gas, which involves transporting gas by ship rather than by pipeline, may also have a future in Greece say analysts.

Many thanks to readers of Cafe Minerve

whose views now number over 10,000. Hope you continue to find the content interesting, informative and entertaining.

The Mismanagement

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Directors' Cuts Not Always Better Than Theatrical Releases

Recently I had the chance to view the Director John Frankenheimer's cut of one of my favorite Xmas (as opposed to Christmas) movies, REINDEER GAMES, starring Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, and Gary Sinise.

While this version was, as advertized (on the slipcase), sexier and edgier than the theatrical release,  it was not better.  To be sure, I had no issue whatsoever with the reinstated sex or violence scenes. They didn't add much, but neither did they take away from the overall product. However, the additional subplot twist Frankenheimer included in his cut added nothing but confusion. In short, this is one example of a studio's being smarter than a director.


* * *
Another example ? Ridley Scott's cut of BLADE RUNNER seemed  more plodding and less atmospheric than the theatrical release.
I may well be the only fan of BL who believes that the theatrical release benefited greatly from Dekker's interior monologue, which so eerily evoked memories of Raymond Chandler's PI Philip Marlowe. Sans the monologue, the director's cut seems flat.

* * *



By contrast, Sam Peckinpah's cut of THE WILD BUNCH is not simply longer but superior to the theatrical release. From the latter, Warner Brothers excised scenes which either vividly illustrate the relationship between Deke Thorton and Pike on the one hand, or create a more rounded characterization of the Mexican warlord Mapache on the other.

* * *

Similarly, the recent "restoration" of Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL, masterminded by Walter Murch and based on Welles' own 58-page memo to RKO--decrying the studio's mismanaged edit--is clearly superior to what audiences of the day experienced in theatres.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blogger DJ's Wicked '70's flashback...

...was triggered by his friend Candace's recent photo post on Facebook.

King Harvest - Dancing in the Moonlight
Looking Glass - Brandy
Player-Baby Come Back
England Dan & John Ford Coley - Nights Are Forever Without You
Hot Chocolate - You sexy thing
Dr Hook - When You're in Love With a Beautiful Woman
Eddie Rabbitt - I Love A Rainy Night
Three Dog Night - Mama told me not to come
Eric Burdon & War - Spill The Wine
Gary Wright - My Love is alive
10CC - I'm Not in Love
Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street
Al Stewart - Year of the cat
Peter Frampton - I'm In You
Badfinger - No Matter What
Badfinger - Day after Day
Harry Nilsson - Without You

Check out Blogger DJ's Christmas Pageant (of sorts)...

Saint Nicholas Poster, courtesy of Saint Nicholas Center Website
...a selection of yuletide carols and videos on his Youtube Christmas playlist. Enjoy !

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blogger DJ - I'm a Believer !

...at least when it comes to the early works of Neil Diamond, like I'm a Believer--which has been covered artfully by The Monkees and much later by Smashmouth--and Solitary Man, which Chris Isaak and Johnny Cash both covered with varied success. 

While the above originals stand up well against covers, the same cannot be said of Red Red Wine, whose reggae version by UB40 is far superior,  in my judgment.

Tonight's bonus link : Cherry Cherry.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Blogger DJ's Thanksgiving Musical Excesses, or Rather, Guilty Pleasures

Foster the People - Pumped up Kicks
Cheap Trick - I Want You to Want Me
The Romantics - What I Like About You
Bow Wow Wow - Do You Wanna Hold Me ?
Sheila E- Glamourous Life
Kajagoogoo - Too Shy to Shy
Rod Stewart - Do You Think I'm Sexy ?
George Michael - Careless Whisper
Tom Jones - You Can Leave Your Hat On
Buster Poindexter - Hot Hot Hot
Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Relax
Haddaway -What Is Love ?

I'll take do-nothing U.S. Government over Euro-Crat Wackos any day

Why ? Check out these recent examples of Eurozone Bureaucrat nutbag-ery, cited in THE TELEGRAPH.

EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration, report Victoria Ward and Nick Collins
Brussels bureaucrats were ridiculed yesterday after banning drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration.  
EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.
Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

Last night, critics claimed the EU was at odds with both science and common sense. Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large.
“The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true.
“If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”

NHS health guidelines state clearly that drinking water helps avoid dehydration, and that Britons should drink at least 1.2 litres per day.
The Department for Health disputed the wisdom of the new law. A spokesman said: “Of course water hydrates. While we support the EU in preventing false claims about products, we need to exercise common sense as far as possible."

German professors Dr Andreas Hahn and Dr Moritz Hagenmeyer, who advise food manufacturers on how to advertise their products, asked the European Commission if the claim could be made on labels.

They compiled what they assumed was an uncontroversial statement in order to test new laws which allow products to claim they can reduce the risk of disease, subject to EU approval.
They applied for the right to state that “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration” as well as preventing a decrease in performance.

However, last February, the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) refused to approve the statement.

A meeting of 21 scientists in Parma, Italy, concluded that reduced water content in the body was a symptom of dehydration and not something that drinking water could subsequently control.
Now the EFSA verdict has been turned into an EU directive which was issued on Wednesday.
This bit of inspired insanity on the part of EuroCrat zanies, who clearly have too much time on their hands and not a dollop of common sense amongst them, is hardly unique, as Nick Collins points out in  his piece, EU bottled water ruling joins the ranks of bendy banana law.
The European Union has a reputation for making rulings on the minutiae of everyday life that some consider to be petty, provocative and absolutely pointless. Here are five of the most notorious.
Curved cucumbers and bendy bananas
In perhaps the most ridiculed example of Brussels bureaucracy, the EU dictated that only cucumbers which were “practically straight” and had a gradient of no more than 1/10 could be sold as Class 1.
The controversial directive, along with a host of other criteria applying to bendy bananas, knobbly carrots and several other fruit and vegetables, were eventually scrapped amid fears farmers were discarding perfectly edible produce at a time of world food shortages.
Swedes or turnips?

Having already prescribed how long, short, straight or bendy a fruit or vegetable should be, the European Commission decided last summer that a swede can be called a turnip, provided it is in a Cornish pasty.
In guidelines which stated that minced or diced beef, sliced potato, onion and swede were the only ingredients permitted in the traditional snack, officials were forced to allow the word “turnip” in ingredient lists – though not in the pasties themselves – because the Cornish confusingly use the word to refer to Swedes.
Female drivers no safer than men
Earlier this year the European Court of Justice ruled that insurance companies could no longer charge women lower premiums than men in a decision described by Tory MEPs as “utter madness”.
Judges said that to use gender as a risk factor in car and medical insurance premium calculations or pension schemes breached equality laws.
Eggs by the dozen

Last summer draft legislation published by the EU stated that all groceries should be sold under a common system based on weight.
But despite rejecting bids to include a caveat which would have allowed certain products to be sold by number – for example a dozen eggs or six bread rolls – MEPs admitted the law could not prevent manufacturers including a number on the box, as long as the weight was also listed.
Water palaver
Last week the EU ruled that bottled water manufacturers could no longer advertise their product as helping to prevent dehydration because of a lack of scientific evidence.
Although some scientists have argued the ruling is technically correct because, for example, drinking water would not help prevent the dehydration that comes with diahorrea, others accused Brussels of yet another piece of petty legislation that runs counter to common sense.

Just when you thought there was no collegiality in Congress...

David Rogers of THE POLITICO reports on promising reform measures being formulated by members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and their chairs, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), whose working relationship apparently has more than just survived the much-publicized Deficit Supercommittee's implosion.

It was always a shotgun marriage: the House and Senate agriculture committees would generate $23 billion in savings and get a ticket on the supercommittee’s fast-moving, amendment-free deficit train. But more than most of their colleagues, the agriculture leadership did at least try, and the weeks of backroom negotiations could prove valuable still as a first Washington exercise in the need for change in agriculture policy.

What emerged was a broad consensus that the current system of direct cash payments to producers — costing $5 billion a year — can no longer be defended. Government support for farmers should be a function of real planted acres, not outdated data measuring a producer’s “base” acreage from years ago. And payment limits of $105,000 are proposed for new safety net programs.

But instead of one overarching replacement for direct payments, the draft bill proposes at least three options, one tailored specifically for a single crop, cotton. Indeed, the old farm coalition may never be quite the same, as cotton’s decision to go it alone isolated rice and peanuts, making the South less of a player. Instead, the biggest tension matched the Corn Belt — flush with ethanol-driven prices — vs. the Great Plains wheat country represented by powerful Senate Democrats.

No plans have been announced to release the bill itself, but within the all-important commodity title, the latest scoring from the Congressional Budget Office is said to credit the committees with $16.7 billion in outlay savings — a 27 percent reduction.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Is Mitt Gumby--I mean Romney--Inevitable ?

I say, no way.

Mitt's mascot ?
At some point, Romney will commit a colossal blunder--like Governor Perry not being able to remember exactly which 3 Federal agencies he would shutter--and Republicans will have to find someone else.

That person is not Cain, Perry, Huntsman, Gingrich, Santorum, Bachman, or Paul, none of those political Lilliputians whose limitations and weaknesses have already become only too apparent.

It must be someone who has actually governed--as opposed to keeping a seat warm in the State House corner office for two years--and, unlike Mitt Gumby, stands for something. The party must turn to Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush, or better still both.      

Blogger DJ's Eclectic Friday Night Mix

Jermaine Jackson - Do What You Do
Michael Jackson - Rock With You, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
Bill Withers - Just the Two of Us,  Use Me
KC & The Sunshine Band - That's The Way (I Like It)
Isley Brothers - Work to Do
Morris Day and The Time - Jungle Love
The Gap Band - You Dropped a Bomb on Me
The Brothers Johnson - Stomp !
The Commodores - Brick House
Wild Cherry - Play That Funky Music
Earth Wind and Fire - Let's Groove, Evil,  Fantasy, September
Kool and the Gang - Too hot
Average White Band - Work to Do , Pick Up The Pieces

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Beyond the Euro-Crisis II : Reboot or Collapse, Niall Ferguson Tells U.S.

...in THE DAILY BEAST.  Some excerpts follow.

***

But if we are headed toward collapse, what would an American “Oh sh*t!” moment look like? An upsurge in civil unrest and crime, as happened in the 1970s? A loss of faith on the part of investors and a sudden Greek-style leap in government borrowing costs? How about a spike of violence in the Middle East, from Iraq to Afghanistan, as insurgents capitalize on our troop withdrawals? Or a paralyzing cyberattack from the rising Asian superpower we complacently underrate?

Is there anything we can do to prevent such disasters? Social scientist Charles Murray calls for a “civic great awakening”—a return to the original values of the American republic. He’s got a point. Far more than in Europe, most Americans remain instinctively loyal to the killer applications of Western ascendancy, from competition all the way through to the work ethic. They know the country has the right software. They just can’t understand why it’s running so damn slowly.

What we need to do is to delete the viruses that have crept into our system: the anticompetitive quasi monopolies that blight everything from banking to public education; the politically correct pseudosciences and soft subjects that deflect good students away from hard science; the lobbyists who subvert the rule of law for the sake of the special interests they represent—to say nothing of our crazily dysfunctional system of health care, our overleveraged personal finances, and our newfound unemployment ethic.

Then we need to download the updates that are running more successfully in other countries, from Finland to New Zealand, from Denmark to Hong Kong, from Singapore to Sweden.

And finally we need to reboot our whole system.

I refuse to accept that Western civilization is like some hopeless old version of Microsoft DOS, doomed to freeze, then crash. I still cling to the hope that the United States is the Mac to Europe’s PC, and that if one part of the West can successfully update and reboot itself, it’s America.

But the lesson of history is clear. Voters and politicians alike dare not postpone the big reboot. Decline is not so gradual that our biggest problems can simply be left to the next administration, or the one after that.

If what we are risking is not decline but downright collapse, then the time frame maybe even tighter than one election cycle.

Beyond the Euro-Crisis I : Asia's Water-Stressed, Turkey's Woofing

Brahma Chellaney comments on Water Stress in Asia, and various risks therefrom

Water, the most vital of all resources, has emerged as a key issue that would determine if Asia is headed toward cooperation or competition. After all, the driest continent in the world is not Africa but Asia, where availability of freshwater is not even half the global annual average of 6,380 cubic metres per inhabitant.

Today, the fastest-growing Asian economies are all at or near water-stressed conditions, including China, India, South Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia. But just three or four decades ago, these economies were relatively free of water stress. Now if we look three or four decades ahead, it is clear that the water situation will only exacerbate, carrying major implications for rapid economic growth and inter-riparian relations.

Yet Asia continues to draw on tomorrow's water to meet today's needs. Worse still, Asia has one of the lowest levels of water efficiency and productivity in the world. Against this background, it is no exaggeration to say that the water crisis threatens Asia's economic and political rise and its environmental sustainability. For investors, it carries risks that potentially are as damaging as non-performing loans, real estate bubbles, and political corruption. Water has also emerged as a source of increasing competition and discord within and between nations, spurring new tensions over shared basin resources and local resistance to governmental or corporate decisions to set up water-intensive industries.

These developments raise the question whether the risks of water conflict are higher in Asia than elsewhere in the world. With Asia becoming the scene of increasingly fierce intrastate and interstate water competition, the answer clearly is yes. Water is a new arena in the Asian Great Game.

In fact, water wars — in a political, diplomatic, or economic sense — are already being waged between riparian neighbours in several Asian regions, fuelling a cycle of bitter recrimination and fostering mistrust that impedes broader regional cooperation and integration. Without any shots being fired, rising costs continue to be exacted. The resources of transnational rivers, aquifers, and lakes have become the target of rival appropriation plans.

Turkey's showing a more aggressive and dangerous side these days, on the one hand, occupying part of Kurdistan, on the other, threatening naval action if Cyprus chooses to exploit its own oil reserves.  In 'Neighbors warily eye a more muscular Turkey', Shlomo Avineri observes :

The recent surge in Turkey's military actions against the Kurds in northern Iraq is an indication that, somewhat surprisingly — but not entirely unpredictably — Turkish foreign policy has undergone a 180-degree turn in less than two years. The Turkish offensive is also an indication that these changes go beyond the current tensions between Turkey and Israel, which are just one facet of much deeper trends.

Turkey has an enormously important role to play in the region. It could be a bridge between the West and the East, between Islam and modernity, and between Israel and the Arabs. But it runs the danger of succumbing to the arrogance of power, which has corrupted and sidelined many strong states in the past.
That new Turkish aggressiveness prompts Michael Rubin to ask, 'Is It Time for an Anti-Turkey Coalition?' :

Kurds and Kurdistan have never felt so much promise. Federalism in Iraq is secure. Iraqi Kurdistan attracts billions of dollars in investment, Masud Barzani no longer needs a borrowed Turkish passport to travel abroad, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has offices which act as virtual embassies in Washington, London, and other major capitals. It is ironic, therefore, that against this progress, Kurds wield so little influence over the issues about which Kurds inside and outside Iraqi Kurdistan most care.

After Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] members attacked Turkish military outposts in the early morning hours of October 19, Nechirvan Barzani, a former prime minister who retains the power of that post, rushed to Ankara to try to defuse any retaliation. He failed. So too did regional president Masud Barzani, who placed an emergency phone call to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish President Abdullah Gül vowed revenge and dispensed with the notion for proportionality that Turkey demands from others. "No one should forget that those who are inflicting this pain upon us will suffer in multitudes," Gül declared. Thereafter, Turkish jets bombed targets in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkish tanks reportedly crossed the border. While Turkish officials say they have killed several hundred PKK members, such declarations cannot be taken at face value. Turkish authorities label any Kurd killed in such bombardment as a terrorist, regardless of reality. Civilians often pay the price. Turkey has yet to apologize or pay compensation, for example, to the families of the seven Kurdish civilians killed in an August strike. Nor has the Kurdish government forced Turkey to provide proof the any recent attacks inside Turkey had a cross-border component.

The failure of Kurdish leaders to fulfill their diplomatic agenda extends beyond the latest Turkish incursion. After all, even before the Hakari attacks, the Turkish Army stationed more than 1,000 troops stationed on mountains and around villages several kilometers across the Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish border. Indeed, as much as Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu frames his country's foreign policy as seeking good relations with all its neighbors, the fact remains that Turkey is the only aspirant to the European Union that unabashedly occupies other countries. Turkish occupation in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as in Cyprus suggests the true meaning of neo-Ottomanism.

Turkey's occupations, however, provide the Kurdistan Regional Government with an opportunity. On September 2, 2011, Egemen Bagis, Turkey's Minister for European Union Affairs, threatened Cyprus with military action. Should that European Union member not stop oil exploration in international waters off its coast, Bagis said, that Turkey might respond militarily. "That's what a navy is for," he quipped.



Friday, October 21, 2011

U.S. Subsidizes 'Green' Car Production...IN FINLAND !!!

When will the Obama Administration--already in hot water over its feckless backing of Solyndra--stop dumb-ass 'green' spending, i.e, expenditures that, in the name of environmentalism, boost foreign business and labor over U.S. business or U.S. labor ? Like, for instance, the subsidy to produce electric cars IN FINLAND !!!

As reported by ABC NEWS...

With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work.

Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department's $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the company's manufacturing jobs are still limited to the assembly of the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car in Finland.

Hell Freezes Over Again : Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Right To Pillory Corrupt Fed


In SEEKING ALPHA, John Lounsbury relates selected sections from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' scathing indictment of the Fed.

Never thought I'd find myself saying this, but GO BERNIE !


***
This week some of the details of the structure and operation of the Fed were summarized in a “brief” 120 page report by the GAO (General Accounting Office) with the very unassuming title: “Federal Reserve Bank Governance: Opportunities Exist to Broaden Director Recruitment Efforts and Increase Transparency.”;
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I, VT) responded to the GAO report with what I have called a scathing indictment of the Fed. Sanders lists 18 former and current members of the Federal Reserve’s board affiliated with banks and companies that received emergency loans from the Fed during the financial crisis. He also summarized findings by the GAO that compares the Fed very unfavorably to other central banks.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dud Sox Deny Sudsing It Up in Dugout

Beckett, Lackey and Lester after a few brews.
The on-going Dud-Sox soap-opera grows ever more tiresome.

Wish the whole bunch --John Henry, Tek, Lester, Francona--would just shut up, and the new brain-trust would get on with preparations for next season.

Of course I have some suggestions.

1. Get Garza and a bag of balls from the Cubs for Theo and Lackey.
2. Tell Tek and Wake it's been real nice, and they're done.
3. Tell Big Papi to take his act--showing up the manager at a press briefing, mouthing off about the starting rotation, wasting critical at-bats, and doing some really dumb base-running--somewhere else for $12 M a year.
4. Tell Jed Lowrie there's no longer a roster-spot for the chronically injured.
6. After you find a manager, find a pitching coach.
7. Tell the guys they'll have to practice baseball fundamentals until they prove it (the practice that is) isn't needed. 

On this rainy afternoon, more than usually perplexed and baffled

Remedies ? Don't think so.
...by the petty annoyances of everyday life -- like websites that seem purposely designed to repel any clearcut query, the better to impel you to choose equally impalatable options, or like customer support reps who seem incapable of answering simple, direct questions in understandable (eighth-grade) English, or like appliance installers who are incapable of any installation calling for more technical know-how than inserting a plug into an electrical outlet -- I sought some musical balm for my modernity-addled brain and instead drifted into an (early)-Procul-Harum-type anomie.

I leave to you, dear reader, to divine the resolution of my dilemma from the accompanying playlist.  

Cream - We're Going Wrong
Dr. John, the Night-Tripper - Right Place, Wrong Time
Foreigner - Urgent
Kool & The Gang - Emergency
Greg Kihn Band - Jeopardy (extended version)
After The Fire - Der Kommissar
Kool & The Gang - Misled
Foreigner - Cold As Ice
Gap Band - You Dropped A Bomb On Me
Thomas Dolby - She Blinded Me With Science
The Motels - Take The L
Journey - Who's Crying Now
'Til Tuesday - Voices Carry
Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime
Daryl Hall and John Oates - I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)
Sade - Smooth Operator
Cars - Who's Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?
Alan Parsons Project - Don't Answer Me
Bryan Adams - Run To You
Mr. Mister - Broken Wings
Foreigner - Waiting For A Girl Like You
Landon Pigg - Love in a Coffee Shop
The Police - Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Sting - If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
Real Life - Send Me An Angel
Journey - Don't Stop Believing


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rangers in Six, Says Nolan Ryan

...according to ESPN.

Can't remember a baseball owner or exec ever calling a World Series his team was playing. 

I'm pulling for the Cards all the way.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Culture Vulture and the Mrs Go to the Fair

Hey ! You talkin' to me ? 
...the famous (in Massachusetts, that is) Topsfield Fair.

Jabba the Gourd poses with unidentified Fair-goer.
Yesterday was a brilliant,  cloudless. summer-warm Saturday, and naturally the traffic into Topsfield and Route 1 was backed up onto I-95.

We heeded signs indicating that all lots at the Fair were full (untrue), and parked at North Shore Comunity College. After a good twenty minutes or so, schoolbuses from Gloucester arrived to shuttle us to the Fair site.  

The grounds were thronged with children of all ages, taking in a wide range of agricultural exhibits,  events, games and rides, ranging from exotic flower arrangements from various Essex County garden clubs to gigantic gourds to racing pigs to a carousel, Ferris wheel, and bumper cars.     

Of all things I was most struck by the endless variety of poultry -- YES, POULTRY !  -- of which the specimen at the top--I believe his name is Travis-- is an excellent example. I will post the rest of my pix on FLICKR. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blogger DJ's Aimless Meanderings

...always end up in the same, thematic place.

The Exciters - Tell Him ( I Know Something About Love )
Martha and the Vandellas - Heatwave
The Supremes - Can't Hurry Love
Love - My Little Red Book
Jefferson Airplane - Somebody To Love (Live at Woodstock 1969)
The Doors - Light My Fire
The Doors - The Crystal Ship
Moby Grape - 8:05
Big Brother and the Holding Company - Combination of the Two
Poco - Crazy Love
Buffalo Springfield - Kind Woman
Neil Young - Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Roxy Music - Love Is The Drug
Bryan Ferry - Slave To Love 
George Michael - Kissing A Fool
Wham! - Everything She Wants
Wham! - I'm Your Man 
Elvis Presley - A Little Less Conversation


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tonight's Blogger DJ Song - Beck's Nobody's Fault But My Own

Click here to play song.
Treated you like a rusty blade
A throwaway from an open grave
Cut you loose from a chain gang
And let you go

And on the day you said it's true
Some love holds, some gets used
Tried to tell you I never knew
It could be so sweet

Who could ever be so cruel,
Blame the devil for the things you do

It’s such a selfish way to lose
The way you lose these wasted blues
These wasted blues

Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault
But my own
That it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault
But my own

When the moon is a counterfeit
Better find the one that fits
Better find the one that lights
The way for you

When the road is full of nails,
Garbage pails and darkened jails
And their tongues
Are full of heartless tales
That drain on you

Who would ever notice you
You fade into a shaded room
It's such a selfish way to lose
The way you lose these wasted blues
These wasted blues

Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault
But my own
Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault
But my own (x3)

Culture-Vulture-ing in Mystic, Connecticut and Mohegan Sun

Last weekend, the C.V. and Mrs. C.V. ventured to Mystic County, Connecticut, to visit with our nephew and his brood.

After checking into our New London motel, we drove to Mystic Seaport, only about 15 min. away. There's lots to see and do even for kiddos, and plenty of places onsite that provide food and drink and someplace to set for a spell. We spent only a couple of hours there, and felt we'd only scratched the surface. Next time, we'll take in more demos and go for a catboat cruise.

From Mystic Seaport, we headed north to Uncasville and Mohegan Sun, hoping to be early and beat the Saturday Night crowds. By the time we arrived (6 PM) only two floors of one of the large garages weren't full. After parking, we wended our way through hordes of gamblers and gawkers like ourselves and found a quiet table at Jasper White's Summer Shack Restaurant.

Beluga Whale charms my great-niece et al.
Next day, we met up with our nephew and the kinder at Mystic Aquarium. It's a great take-in for families, with plenty of indoor and outdoor exhibits. Sadly, we missed most of the demos and shows. We'll make a point of seeing them next time.
         
BTW, if you're planning a trip down to Mystic, be sure to check out the excellent tour info site Mystic.org, and check out the many discounts that are available. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Living Dead Sox (aka Theo Epstein's Science Project) Finally Liberate Boston Fans By Doing What They Do Best

Your fun caption here !
Finally, the Living Dead Sox have met their predestined (according to A-Gon), and unlamented (by me) end.
Sox fans can only hope the breadth and depth of their  failure prompt ownership to demolish the team's entrenched, entitled, SABREMETRICS-know-it-all, what-me-bunt culture, starting with the big, giant heads in the front office right down to obscenely overpaid, consistently inconsistent non-performers, emotional basket-cases, and seriously-hardball-IQ-challenged players whom the late Eddie Stanky surely would have described as 'All-Stars from the neck down'. 
We can only hope that Henry, Werner et al. decide to close down Theo Epstein's Science Project before more innocent people are harmed (pink-hats not included).
We can only hope that 2012 Spring Training is more about baseball than fishing or golf, or that during the regular season--which, oddly enough, still counts for something--the boys take time away from their busy schedule of paid personal appearances at malls, banks, and hot-dog stands to DO THEIR REAL JOBS. 
We can only hope that next year, the boys might actually keep their collective heads in the game (as opposed to where the sun and/or lights don't shine) long enough (1) not to routinely walk 7-8-or-9 hitters in the opposition's batting order, (2) to field their positions adequately, (3) opportunely to move runners into scoring position, (4) consistently to score runners from 3rd when there are no outs (5) not to let themselves get picked off, and (6) NOT TO TRY TO TAKE AN EXTRA BASE IN A ONE RUN, DO-OR-DIE GAME ! The last is especially important for players who get winded just walking from the couch to the fridge. 
     

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Sensible, Non-punitive, Politically Neutral Medicare Reform Plan ?

That's how Ramesh Ponnuru describes proposals by Senators Tom Coburn and Joe Lieberman in his Bloomberg opinion piece, excerpted below. 

* * *

Senators Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, and Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, have suggested some reforms to Medicare that would generate about $600 billion in savings within the next 10 years. They would gradually raise the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 by 2025 while increasing premiums and co-pays in a progressive manner, with higher-income seniors paying more for their coverage. They would also limit the ability of “Medigap” plans to drive Medicare spending higher by covering the federal program’s deductibles. (No private insurer would tolerate such parasitic activity.)

The plan isn’t perfect. Its means-testing provisions should be modified: Premiums should be tied to lifetime earnings, not income, so that seniors aren’t discouraged from working. But it’s a more sensible way to reduce the deficit than across-the- board cuts in defense and domestic discretionary programs. And it doesn’t really cross any of the Democrats’ ideological red lines. It doesn’t voucherize the program or otherwise transform it, as Representative Paul Ryan’s plan would. And if the health- care law that Democrats enacted -- which scaled back Medicare Advantage and cut payments to providers -- didn’t amount to fewer benefits in liberals’ eyes, they ought to be able to accept these reductions, too.

The plan leaves the campaign chessboard largely untouched. If both parties agree to these reforms, neither will take a political hit for enacting it, while both will accomplish some of their policy objectives: sparing defense for the Republicans, and sparing domestic programs for the Democrats.

Surely some liberals would prefer to see wealthy senior citizens get a little bit less help from the federal government than see education and infrastructure spending cut. But if the Democrats on the committee nonetheless balk, the Republicans should make the proposal anyway. It beats tearing each other up over taxes and defense -- when the real budget choice we face is between entitlements and everything else.

Obama's Political Position and Future U.S. Foreign Policy

Great article by George Friedman, Obama's Dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities, the conclusion of which I've republished with permission of STRATFOR.

* * *

Obama’s support now stands at 41 percent. The failure point for a president’s second term lurks around 35 percent. It is hard to come back from there. Obama is not there yet. The loss of another six points would come from his Democratic base (which is why 35 is the failure point; when you lose a chunk of your own base, you are in deep trouble). At this point, however, the president is far less interested in foreign policy than he is in holding his base together and retaking the middle. He did not win by a large enough margin to be able to lose any of his core constituencies. He may hope that his Republican challenger will alienate the center, but he can’t count on that. He has to capture his center and hold his left.

That means he must first focus on domestic policy. That is where the public is focused. Even the Afghan war and the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq are not touching nerves in the center. His problem is twofold. First, it is not clear that he can get anything past Congress. He can then argue that this is Congress’ fault, but the Republicans can run against Congress as well. Second, it is not clear what he would propose. The Republican right can’t be redeemed, but what can Obama propose that will please the Democratic core and hold the center? The Democratic core wants taxes. The center doesn’t oppose taxes (it is merely uneasy about them), but it is extremely sensitive about having the taxes eaten up by new spending — something the Democratic left supports. Obama is trapped between two groups he must have that view the world differently enough that bridging the gap is impossible.

The founders gave the United States a government that, no matter how large it gets, can’t act on domestic policy without a powerful consensus. Today there is none, and therefore there can’t be action. Foreign policy isn’t currently resonating with the American public, so any daring initiatives in that arena will likely fail to achieve the desired domestic political end. Obama has to hold together a coalition that is inherently fragmented by many different understandings of what his presidency is about. This coalition has weakened substantially. Obama’s attention must be on holding it together. He cannot resurrect the foreign policy part of it at this point. He must bet on the fact that the coalition has nowhere else to go. What he must focus on is domestic policy crafted to hold his base and center together long enough to win the election.

The world, therefore, is facing at least 14 months with the United States being at best reactive and at worst non-responsive to events. Obama has never been a foreign policy president; events and proclivity (I suspect) have always drawn him to domestic matters. But between now and the election, the political configuration of the United States and the dynamics of his presidency will force him away from foreign policy.

This at a time when the Persian Gulf is coming to terms with the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the power of Iran, when Palestinians and Israelis are facing another crisis over U.N. recognition, when the future of Europe is unknown, when North Africa is unstable and Syria is in crisis and when U.S. forces continue to fight in Afghanistan. All of this creates opportunities for countries to build realities that may not be in the best interests of the United States in the long run. There is a period of at least 14 months for regional powers to act with confidence without being too concerned about the United States.

The point of this analysis is to try to show the dynamics that have led the United States to this position, and to sketch the international landscape in broad strokes. The U.S. president will not be deeply engaged in the world for more than a year. Thus, he will have to cope with events pressed on him. He may undertake initiatives, such as trying to revive the Middle East peace process, but such moves would have large political components that would make it difficult to cope with realities on the ground. The rest of the world knows this, of course. The question is whether and how they take advantage of it.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

What, Me Worry, About Hackers ?

Yes, Alfred E. Newman, now that you ask.

Why ?

Check out '8 Things You Won't Believe Can Be Hacked' by Colin Murdock of humor site CRACKED.COM. My comments, in parens below, should make clear to you, dear reader, that I for one am not amused at the prospect that hackers might actually be able to :


#8. Explode Your Genitals ( Note to self: keep laptop off lap, on desk !).
#7. Cut Your Car's Brakes ( No problem if brakes shot anyway, right ?)
#6. Control a Nuclear Power Plant ( What's a lead suit go for these days ? Hmmm... )
#5. Use Your Computer Screen as a Two-Way Mirror ( Go ahead, *hole, watch me pick my nose !)
#4. Shower in Free Money ( Really, I'd rather bag it, then spend it. )
#3. Crash the National Power Grid ( Hey, genius-boy, you ever buy that portable generator ? Didn't think so. )
#2. Stop Your Heart ( I can think of more fun ways to do that. Speaking of which, wonder what's Megan Marshak up to these days ?)
#1. See You Naked ( What kind of sick f*ck gets turned on, ogling an X-ray ? )

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tax Fat-Cats ? Sure, but Start with Congress !

The Hill has obligingly compiled a list of the 50 Wealthiest law-makers who "reported a minimum net worth of $1.6 billion, about $200 million more than the lawmakers who appeared on 2010’s list."


Who's at the top ? Glad you asked.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has dethroned Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as the richest member of Congress, according to The Hill’s annual list of the 50 wealthiest lawmakers.

McCaul reported a net worth of at least $287 million, by far the most of any lawmaker.

Analysis for The Hill’s Wealthiest shows that 2010 was a banner year for many well-heeled members of Congress. Lawmakers including Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) saw gains of millions of dollars in their fortunes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two Contrasting Perspectives on the Chinese Economy

1. An Economic Intelligence Unit study quoted by MetalMiner in SEEKING ALPHA contends that China is on the verge of reaching two economic milestones : her primary export markets will be developing, not developed, countries, and her domestic-owned firms will export more than foreign-owned firms.

Helping China overcome wage inflation in its coastal cities is "the flood of Western technology and know-how that has come on the back of successive waves of investment ", enabling Chinese companies " to innovate, reduce costs and compete internationally with their foreign peers."


MetalMiner continues...

The report suggests that heavy equipment manufacturers, particularly in the construction machinery sector, will be in the vanguard of this trend. The EIU expects China to overtake Germany and Japan in exports of construction machinery by the end of this year to become the world’s second largest exporter of construction equipment after the US. As most construction and mining activity is happening in developing countries, this will mean increased competition for the likes of Caterpillar in the years ahead.

Across the board, China’s ability to penetrate developed markets will be limited, but that doesn’t lessen their impact on Western manufacturers exporting to developing markets. In addition to construction machinery, China will soon be exporting high-speed trains, trucks and in time, even commercial aircraft, just as they have saturated the wind turbine and solar panel markets.

2.  Carlos X Alexandre takes the opposing view that China's Future Economic Power Will Disappoint.

Let’s put some perspective on the issue: China can build bullet trains, refurbish old Soviet aircraft carriers – the “new” one was bought from the Ukraine in 1998 -- but can’t raise enough pigs to feed its population. As a side note, a lower dollar has no effect on swine breeding because pigs are not picky eaters.

And on that basis, a country that cannot tend to the basic needs of its population, will become the world’s financial center. Enough said. Ivory tower thinking may foster the publication of impressive glossy papers, but I learned pig slaughtering and sausage making from my grandmother, not my MBA.

Lastly, Reuters reported today that Fitch Ratings – I know, these guys are unreliable -- announced that it may downgrade China within two years "as the country's banks struggle with debt loads following a lending surge to help lift the economy during the 2008 financial crisis." Dismissing Fitch is easy, but not the Chinese debt that lurks in the shadows. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What's Behavioral Finance, and Does BF Explain Why Voices in Your Head Are Screaming at You to Sell Everything, Now ?

Irrelevant but amusing pic
Not knowing you, I can't answer question #2.

As for question #1, Bloomberg.com offers this definition--"the study of how unconscious biases affect financial decisions"--and a bevy of articles on the subject.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What is 'Afro-Soul' Music ?

Blogger DJ's damned if he knows, but Budos Band plays it, and ever since he first heard Origin of Man on the PA at a Portsmouth, NH greasy-spoon, he's been hooked, and offers the following BB cuts for your delectation.

Origin of Man
Hidden Hand
Ride or Die
Nature's Wrath
Smoke Gets In
Deep in the Sand
Crimson Skies
Rite of the Ancients
Golden Dunes
Chicago Falcon

For info on the band, check out Wikipedia, and for info on their concert schedule and discography, check out the Budos Band website.  

Libya's Lessons, and Sundry Info on Gadhafi and the War

LESSONS

According to George Friedman in STRATFOR, it's too early to declare victory in Libya, but not too early to draw lessons from what has already happened. The following excerpt from Friedman's article,  Libya: A Premature Victory Celebration, is republished with permission of STRATFOR

First, it is important to remember that Libya in itself may not be important to the world, but it matters to Libyans a great deal. Second, do not assume that tyrants lack support. Gadhafi didn’t govern Libya for 42 years without support. Third, do not assume that the amount of force you are prepared to provide is the amount of force needed. Fourth, eliminating the option of a negotiated end to the war by the means of international courts may be morally satisfying, but it causes wars to go on and casualties to mount. It is important to decide what is more important — to alleviate the suffering of people or to punish the guilty. Sometimes it is one or the other. Fifth, and most important, do not kid the world about wars being over. After George W. Bush flew onto an aircraft carrier that was emblazoned with a “mission accomplished” banner, the Iraq war became even more violent, and the damage to him was massive. Information operations may be useful in persuading opposing troops to surrender, but political credibility bleeds away when the war is declared over and the fighting goes on.

Gadhafi will likely fall in the end. NATO is more powerful than he is, and enough force will be brought to bear to bring him down. The question, of course, is whether there was another way to accomplish that with less cost and more yield. Leaving aside the war-for-oil theory, if the goal was to protect Benghazi and bring down Gadhafi, greater force or a negotiated exit with guarantees against trials in The Hague would likely have worked faster with less loss of life than the application of soft military power.

As the world contemplates the situation in Syria, this should be borne in mind.

SUNDRY INFO

For a handy guide to Gadhafi's immediate family--who are they, and where are they now--check out Reuters.  And for a map tracking recent developments, check out the Washington Post. 




Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Culture Vulture Returns from an art tour of the 'Dirigo' State

Captain Upton's House, by Edward Hopper
...specifically at Brunswick and Kennebunkport.

Brunswick is far more congenial--and YUP-ified--since callow undergraduate C.V. sampled the lethal hot dogs at Mike's Place, the paste-board pizza at Bill's Class A Restaurant, and the so-thinly-sliced-as to-be-translucent roast beef in the Dining room of the Eagle Hotel.

After a liesurely lunch at Scarlet Begonias, one of the town's many excellent modern eateries, C.V. and the Mrs. headed up sunny Main Street to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, to view Edward Hopper's Maine, among other shows.

The Hopper exhibit, which runs to October 16, is comprised of 90 paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints which Hopper produced in Maine between 1914 and 1929.

A companion show, Hopper's Contemporaries: Artists in New England, features works by John Marin, Rockwell Kent, Andrew Wyeth, and George Bellows, and runs until September 11.

Talk about an embarassment of riches !

And as if the above were not enough, the C.V. and the Mrs. also took in Masterpieces of European Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum, 10 paintings by arists such as Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Giuseppe Ribera, and Aelbert Cuyp, all on long-term loan from the Wadsworth and recently installed at the Museum.

BUT WAIT ! THERE"S MORE ! 

At Bowdoin's Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center, we found an insipiring selection of Canadian Inuit Art, from the Robert and Judith Toll Collection. The Inuit prints and sculpture  co-habit with the permanent Peary-MacMillan Arctic exhibits in Hubbard Hall, just steps away from the Museum. 

* * *

On a dark, windy, rain-filled day--a precursor of Hurricane Irene--we hied to Kennebunkport's shops and galleries, among the latter, the cozy Landmark and the more extensive Mast Cove Galleries.

At the Landmark, we found a wide variety of excellent landscapes, like this Charles Movalli painting of Port Clyde.


At the Mast Cove, we found several canvases by Michael Zigmond, one of the C.V.'s all-time favorites, whose work the C.V. had previously admired at the Chase Gallery in Boston. The painting shown at right, Nasturtium Bouquet, was well beyond C.V.'s price range (sigh), and had sold well before his arrival anyway (sigh).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tonight's Blogger DJ Song is a blast from the past...

You may recognize the album cover from the end of the film Pirate Radio.

The Incredible String Band - The Hedgehog Song

The Culture Vulture Returns to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

...and takes in two current exhibits.


Painting the American Vision features 45 landscapes by artists of the so-called Hudson River School. The highlight of the exhibit, which runs to November 6, is Thomas Cole's  Course of Empire Series.  But fans of  Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Edwin Church, not to mention Martin Joseph Heade, will not be disappointed, since these artists are also represented.



For a change of pace,  there's Man Ray | Lee Miller, Partners in Surrealism.  Running to December 4, this exhibit recounts Ray's and Miller's "brief but intense association and reveals the nature of their creative partnership ", via vintage photographs, paintings, sculpture and drawings.