Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blog #21 “The key to the soul . . .”

The fight for the presidency on the Democratic side of the fence has noticeably heated up in the past few days, with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton quick to point out real and/or imagined faults of the other. That is quite alright, after all the prize is the most coveted political prize on the planet. However, notice that there is no such in-fighting on the Republican side of the fence. Aside from the fact that the Republican candidates seem to like ganging up on Mitt Romney, whose ads have attacked each of them, otherwise there hasn’t been a peep out of the bunch. I think part of the reason is because in the minds of most voters the Republican race is irrelevant, only the media seems to be taking much of an interest in the G.O.P. lineup and it is probably doing it primarily to display an aura of fairness.

But it seems to us the majority of voters could care less who comes out on top in the Bush/Cheney party. The B/C legacy leaves a sour taste in the minds not only of Democrats, but many independents, and even a Republican or two here and there. So let Hillary and Obama have their little squabbles so long as neither damages the other’s character. After all, that will be the job of Republicans, whose party has been exposed for what it really is, a party which talks an economically conservative line but which in reality is a wildly spending fraud, one which has brought our nation as close to bankruptcy as we’ve ever been in my lifetime. Not even World War II was so damaging to the nation’s economy because Roosevelt's Democratic party used rationing and other tools which showed fiscal responsibility. As a result of it's fiscal irresponsibility Republicans will have nothing constructive to run on except more of the same, which leaves little for them to run on except the attempted character defamation of the eventual Democratic nominee.

Down the stretch after one or the other of the candidates is anointed, the ranks will close behind the winner. After all, no rational person can question the urgency of the Democrats winning back the presidency and working full time to undo the damage eight years of Republican rule will have done to our country. Anything short of complete change will surely mark the undoing of the American way of life as we know it, and we’ll be lucky indeed if the winner of the current Democratic skirmishes is able to undo the damage this Republican administration has inflicted upon us during its eight year span. And further let us hope and pray that our collective memory extends far enough down the line to make sure nothing like these past eight years happens again in the forseeable future. For no matter how weak an incumbent Democratic administration might be, its tenure will never cause the damage a typical Republican administration will. That’s because at heart Democrats are in the mold of F.D.R. and in their hearts they believe in a strong, innovative, and efficient federal government, while the Republican mantra is “the less federal government the better” and so accordingly they fill the bureaucracy with incompetents, fools and the occasional looter.
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Blog Runner is a listing of news and blogs concerning technology and which is available daily in the NYTime’s Technology section. Tuesday it briefly had an item about a forthcoming Star Trek movie, which will be a prequel to the original Captain Kirk series. Although I was really impressed with the trailer, I didn’t save the URL, and when I went back Wednesday to find and retrieve the URL for this week’s blog the item had disappeared. Highly annoyed, I said to myself “what the hell?” and I googled “Star Trek preview 2008” and what do you know? There were about twelve links to the film trailer, including a YouTube version of it, but right up top was the official link, which has excellent quality and which we happily reprint here. Highlight it and paste into your browser’s window:

The trailer is very impressive, so much so that several people with only a modest interest in Star Trek, and one person who claimed to hate any mention of S.T. whatsoever, all said they were impressed enough with the trailer to want to see the movie. The trailer labels the movie as “Under Construction” and announces it for “Christmas 2008.” And speaking of Star Trek, I finally got to view “Star Trek – Nemesis,” which turns out to be the final episode in the Next Generati0n series. Since I have watched Next Generation from its very beginning, it was interesting seeing the cast after some major years down the pike. Nemesis is indeed a fine movie, as good or better than any of the Star Trek movies that preceded it. And it continued the tradition set by previous Star Trek movies, the characteristic which distinguishes the movie series from the television series – which is that at the end of each movie the star ship Enterprise is more or less destroyed.

And fans of the Next Generation will not want to miss the article in today’s (Sat., Jan. 26, 08) edition of the N.Y. Times called “To Boldly Go Where Shakespeare Calls,” a warm account of Patrick Stewart’s return to the Shakespearean stage after all of those Hollywood years of boldly going where no Shakespearean actor had ever gone before.
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Tuesday afternoon when I heard a CNN report that actor Heath Ledger had been found dead in his bedroom I immediatedly surfed to the NYTimes online, and sure enough, there was the story on the front page. No longer must we wait overnight for the next day’s newspaper. There you have the secret of the attraction of online newspapers, the insertion of news is about as instantaneous at we could wish, equalling if not beating radio and television. Although I have never seen the young man in a film, I was struck with his youth. And the more I have read about his talent and the relationships with those he worked with, the sadder seems the loss. The young man was obviously extremely talented, but he also had the good sense of being careful of the kinds of roles he played in, and so was careful not to overexpose himself. Our world seems a little more empty t0day.
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Of course the immediacy of the online newspapers carries with it a price, there is the temptation to go overboard in whatever direction the paper or tv channel tends to lean. However seasoned news sources like the NY Times and the Washington Post do not suffer from this malady except in the minds of those would will only accept their news slanted to their own politically palatable tastes. The Fox Television news channel has had the benefit of greater viewership in the recent past because of the bending of it’s news coverage to suit the tastes of it’s conservative owner and the audience he covets. However, probably because television audiences are getting wise to the realities of the day, the readership pendulum is beginning to swing in the other direction. People who have gone along with the concept of a fractured federal government in every area except national defense have been recently treated to a taste of the reality that government neglect really represents, thanks to the civilian mismanagement of the war in Iraq, the non reaction of the federal government to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, and our spiraling out of control health care situation, not to mention the current home mortgage situation.

Let us take a look at one small part of the problem. I’m talking about outrageously overpriced prescription drugs. People who can buy their prescription drugs in Canada or Mexico, or else order them online from Canadian pharmacies, do it because drugs bought this way are often half the price of their US bought counterparts. And the same is true with virtually every other country in the world. Why is this so? The drug companies will tell you that we in the U.S.A. are paying a premium so as to fund their research and development of new drugs, so that they can be tested and brought into the system. However what they don’t tell us is how much more we are being asked to pay than the rest of the world, nor do they tell us how much of that money we’re paying goes towards lining the pockets of their investors.

Republicans will proudly tell you how they will avoid using the strength of government to damp down situations like these outlandish drug prices, and they faithfully promise to seek “free enterprise” solutions. However make that read “for profit” solutions, and keep in mind “for profit” is no solution to the problem, the current high costs of our prescription drugs is the direct result of our present “for profit” system. America’s patient population is being required to finance the American prescription drug industry’s research and development program, while at the same time we line the pockets of drug company investors.

It is disgraceful to see the precious resources of the elderly, many of whom literally depend on prescription drugs in order to stay alive, having to finance the drug industry’s research and development program while they attempt to stay well. The only real solution, should we finally care to do something about the problem, is to have a giant entity like the federal government bargain with said drug companies to bring those drug costs down to the levels the rest of the world pays. This is why Canada, Mexico, and other countries in the world get their drugs at a fraction of what we Americans pay for them, their governments represent their people and bargain with the drug companies. Virtually every country in the world does this, except for the United States. And to continue this neglect will result in these incredibly high drug prices remaining with us until Americans vote in a truly consumer friendly federal government, one dedicated to bringing down the price of drugs, and restricting drug company’s stockholders from garnering huge profits on America’s elderly and ill population.

Illness, catastrophic or otherwise, is not something the free enterprise system should be making a profit on in the first place. As Michael Moore’s excellent film “Sicko” pointed out, the only way the so-called health insurance companies can make a profit is to charge their subscribers for protection from illness, and then when their subscribers are ill, deny them services. With hospital costs being what they are these days there is no other way for the health insurance companies to bring their stockholders profit. Allowing companies to profit from the illness and misfortune of others causes us to lose our sense of community, our very sense of humanity.

Naysayers will scream bloody murder, shout terms like socialized medicine, or even worse, communism, but that’s rubbish. It doesn’t take one on the political left to note the inherent unfairness of the present system. Every family in the country lives in constant fear of a family member getting ill and requiring hospital care, which situation will lead even those families with health insurance to certain bankruptsy sooner rather than later. The American family needs relief from this anxiety. We need a national health insurance program which at the very least is the equivalent of that which is enjoyed by members of our Congress.

The drug and insurance industries will scream bloody murder, Harry and Louise will regenerate once again, purring their pretended reasonableness for “free enterprise” which translates into the greening of health care industry coffers, but if we want true change in this system, which may or may not offer the greatest health care in the world, but the health care it does offer does none of us any good if we can’t afford the treatment and drugs, then we will have to vote enough Republicans out of office and Democrats and Independents in office to make change really come about. Think about it, America. And those of you lucky enough to get to question these presidential hopefuls during the primary process, get them talking about their health care plans. Pin them down. Don’t give them any wiggle room. For real change only comes when enough people are fed up with the system to demand change with their ballots. And if the time is not now it likely will never be.
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Two weeks ago we told you about former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern’s conversion to the Impeach Bush/Cheney way of thinking. As McGovern pointed out, the B/C presidency has committed far more impeachable offenses than Richard Nixon ever had, and with the instigation of Impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace. And Nixon’s transgressions were certainly much more serious than Bill Clinton’s had been, after all his only offense (besides being alive and breathing) seems to have been in seeking a bit of sexual stimulation away from the family hearth, and in so doing he followed in the footsteps of a long line of presidents before him, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy (to mention only a few). After Clinton’s transgressions became public knowledge the House Republicans launched Impeachment proceedings against him, which fortunately for the sanity of the country, failed in the Senate. For any of you who might be feeling that Mr. McGovern was a bit off base may we offer the following study.

WASHINGTON — A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat. "The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.
Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. Second only was Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews. "The cumulative effect of these false statements _ amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts _ was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.

"Some journalists _ indeed, even some entire news organizations _ have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.
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From our “they get what they deserved” department comes the news that the RIAA’s public website,, the URL for which we published last week in case any of you with festering guilty consciences and inflated bank accounts wanted to appease said conscience by making a contribution, has been attacked, and it’s contents denuded, by hackers.

We would never condone breaking the law, of course, though we will happily consider exceptions for any and all who will attack the RIAA website, the music industry’s (and we use the term industry advisedly) Rico modeled legal arm. The story of the RIAA site’s take over comes to us courtesy TorrentFreak at: Their coverage went on, “It started out on the social news website Reddit, where a link to a really slow SQL query was posted. While the Reddit users were trying to kill the RIAA server, someone allegedly decided to up the ante and wipe the site’s entire database. The comments on Reddit are only speculation so far. Based on the username, which was apparently “webReadOnly,” it might not have been setup correctly, or someone could have found another way to delete the content form the site.

“Another possibility is that the website has some sort of database flood protection that disables new connections, or perhaps the RIAA themselves removed the content temporarily. The latter seems unlikely, as a better solution would be to take it entirely offline to fix the bigger problem. While they could fix a small vulnerability like this in a matter of seconds, the chances are it’s not an isolated problem.

“As pointed out by Haywire, playing around with the urls a bit can return some funny results. It is pretty easy to make the RIAA link to The Pirate Bay for example. For now it sure does look like all the content has been wiped from the RIAA homepage. Let’s hope they have backups, or not.

“Update: After a few hours the RIAA restored the site. They seem to have fixed the vulnerability, but we saved some screenshots.” – TorrentFreak
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Speaking of TorrentFreak, we would direct the RIAA’s rabid legal team’s attention to the following item also from the TF website. Paulo Coelho, the best-selling author of “The Alchemist,” is using BitTorrent and other filesharing networks as a way to promote his books. His publishers weren’t too keen on his giving away free copies of his books, so he’s taken matters into his own hands.

Coelho’s view is that letting people swap digital copies of his books for free increases sales. In a keynote speech at the Digital, Life, Design conference in Munich he talked about how uploading the Russian translation of “The Alchemist” made his sales in Russia go from around 1,000 per year to 100,000, then a million and more. He said: “In 2001, I sold 10,000 hard copies. And everyone was puzzled. We came from zero, from 1000, to 10,000. And then the next year we were over 100,000 . . . . I thought that this is fantastic. You give to the reader the possibility of reading your books and choosing whether to buy it or not . . . . So, I went to BitTorrent and I got all my pirate editions . . . . And I created a site called The Pirate Coelho.

He’s convinced — and rightly so — that letting people download free copies of his books actually helps sales. For him the problem is getting around copyright laws that require him to get the permission of his translators if he wants to share copies of his books in other languages.

So is Coelho just seeding torrents of his books? That’s just the beginning. He took it one step further and, as quoted above, set up a Wordpress blog, Pirate Coelho, where he posts links to free copies of his books on filesharing networks, FTP sites, and so on. He says it had a direct impact on sales: “Believe it or not, the sales of the book increased a lot thanks to the Pirate Coelho site . . . ” In his speech he talks about how the Internet is changing language and books, and how online “piracy” and BitTorrent have helped him not only be more widely read, but also sell more books! It’s a must watch. ____________________________________________________
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In the past few weeks I have spent much of my time when not writing my blog putting together a collection of John Lennon’s songs (which I call a mix) and which by the time I had finished had filled three cd’s. I sent the cd’s to each of my sons and their family. Doing this really got my juices flowing to do radio once again. On March 20th I will be 82 years old. My life has been a series of doing things which, if they didn’t work out for one reason or another, found me shifting into an entirely different direction. But one of the really creative things I have done in my life was my radio diskjockey work. It began on KXYZ circa 1948, with the BarNone Ranch in the early morning, and the MailBag, an afternoon dj show. We played our own records in those days and during the morning shift for the fun of it I would put together mixes of songs which flowed one into the other without talk to interrupt them. And if it worked the mix made each indivdual song’s impact that much greater. Many years later at Houston’s Pacifica station, KPFT, I carried things to a new extreme, combining music, reading, and sounds into a late night surrealistic tapestry.

These are extraordinary times, technologically speaking. Gone is the hiss, the pops and degregation of analog recordings. Since music these days is primarily transmitted digitally, you can digitally reproduce a performance exactly without the slightest loss of quality. And so these days it is quite easy to put together a radio program which perfectly reproduces the music you use.

And so I have been having this strong urge to do Nightsong once again, only this time doing it in the form of a podcast. At the present time this is a long way from happening. I am searching for a program that will let me play and mix at least four tracks simultaneously, two of them a song and the other two sounds. I have explored Garageband, a program from Apple which among other things does allow you to create podcasts, but I haven’t yet discovered a way to create simultaneous sounds in that program. I have downloaded a trial version of Peak, a music editing program which I used to use back in the days when I was creating music, and which gives you a virtual mixer, but unfortunately it will only allow you to work with two stereo tracks at the time, not four. There is bound to be a program out there which will allow more than two track mixing, and I’ll continue to search for such a program.

One thing I want to create again, as I did in my KPFT Nightsong days, is a version of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” one in which the song is suddenly joined by sounds of Humpback whales. I can’t tell you exactly why this was effective, but it was. The two things went together like peanut butter and jelly. On another occasion I read Chief Seattles’ Oration to the sounds of the whales, why this was effective I also can’t explain, but again it was. I believe it worked because Chief Seattle’s timeless words were joined with the timeless earthy, eirie sounds of the whales, which made for a striking surreal image.

Another two turntable mix I want to recreate digitally is a version of The Gray Funnel Line by the Silly Sisters, with a second version playing as an echo track. This effect was spine tingling when I did it live on the air on KPFT in the 70’s. It takes a certain amount of nerve to attempt to do something like that live, if you’re the tiniest bit off you will never catch up. I pulled it off live back then, and the jazz fellow who followed my show went into shock when I pointed out that both turntables were in use on the air at the same time. Another thing I love to do is offer music in an environment of sounds.

I’ll let you know if l have any luck in the combining department. I have digital versions of many songs I would like to include, including my Nightsong theme song, Tama, from the electronic music album Tonto’s Expanding Headband. The tag line, which I spoke at the beginning of each program, used to go: “The key to the soul is found only in the mind. And the mind can be unlocked, and it’s secrets unveiled, only with symbols. Words . . . . Music . . . . Sounds . . . . Images.” To truly appreciate it you have to hear it recited against the background of that remarkable song, Tama. The combination is guaranteed to take you right to cloud #9.

It would be really fun and creative to bring Nightsong back to life as a recurring podcast. Plus it would guarantee to keep me out of mischief and give me something creative to do with whatever time I’ve got left. I’ll let you know what, if any, progress I’m able to make in getting the ability to run two disks at once. Wish me luck.

The Real Little Eddy

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