Jul
23
2016

Geek / Geology Alert – New Blog Link.

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Just want to give a should-out to a geology-minded blogger who, strangely, found me, via my “temblor” post. The blog is Dr. Geophisics’ Weblog.

My friend Preston Ward should get a kick out of this.

 

Jul
20
2016

Rules For Radicals… And Others.

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“Saul Alinsky was a brilliant man. Evil, but brilliant. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, everyone on the Left from the President on down is playing by his rules in the political arena.” (Townhall)

 

Republicans are fond of vilifying both President Obama and Hillary Clinton because of their supposed brainwashed allegiance and fealty to this evil guy by the name of Saul Alinsky. Saul Alinsky was a community organizer (guilty) in Chicago in the 1940’s. Before Barrack Obama started his path toward the Presidency, you never ever heard about this guy Alinsky. But MAN, if you want to bring some Conservatives to high alert, just mention the guy, as Ben Carson did last night. Conservapedia says this explicitly:

Saul David Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) was a liberal community organizer in Chicago who developed a method of local organizing that was widely copied by Democrats, and influenced Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Alinsky wrote a book, Rules For Radicals, which Politifact describes as offering “advice to activists seeking to influence public policy, covering topics such as class differences and tactics such as disrupting meetings and winning media attention”. The book was written in 1971 and draws on his long experiences of seeing what works best to influence people and organization, and make the most impact to achieve the stated goal.

Here is the list as is typically presented:

  • RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)
  • RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)
  • RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
  • RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)
  • RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)
  • RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)
  • RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)
  • RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)
  • RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)
  • RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)
  • RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)
  • RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

If you’ve read “The Art Of War”, or “The Prince”, some of these strategies will look familiar, so it’s not as if the rules Alinsky came up with are really original or dangerous. They are time honored and used by all sorts of people and organizations… And political parties…

HEY! WE’RE HAVING A PARTY RIGHT NOW!!!!

Why yes, we are!!!

Lets see if the Republicans might be using some of the “evil ideas” presented by Alinsky.

RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people.

Money?

SUPERPACS. Check

People?

Plenty of white fearful voters. Check.

RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

Judging from the past two nights, and the GOP platform, they are definitely not treading new ground. From hate Hillary to the continuation of the stated desire to keep the LGBT community as second class citizens… And don’t forget GOD!!! According to the benediction delivered, He has chosen Trump to win the Presidency.  Check on 2.

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating.

Donald Trump’s entire campaign strategy has very effectively relied on this.

RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.

See Rule number 5. And for some reason, Conservatives really really enjoy ruminating over the exploits and picadillos of Hillary’s husband, even though he’s not running.

RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)

From Whitewater to Benghazi and e-mails. And when the FBI and Department of Justice decided not to prosecute Hillary for the e-mail debacle??? This. It really does never end.

RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.

“Hillary is a monster that will destroy the country!!!!”. Or something like that.

RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

Two words – Hillary Clinton.

I’m sure there are more that can be listed. But do understand that the Alinsky rules are used quite often, by all sides. He didn’t invent them, he just wrote them down.

Jul
19
2016

To Follow The Trump Missteps… As Written By A Guy Named Fallows…

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Follow… Fallows… Get it???

Here.

Jul
12
2016

Bernie Sanders… Sell Out!!!!

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Many Bernie Sanders supporters are pissed as hell in the aftermath of his endorsement of Democrat rival Hillary “evil liar” Clinton.(“evil liar” is the description I keep coming across in the emotional facebook / twitter posts)  What I don’t think many of these same people realize is that… Bernie Sanders was ALREADY a Sell-Out. He started his political career registered as a member of the long defunked Liberty Union party. Then he was an “independent”, and remained so during  his long career up to this point. He often sparred with Democrat leadership on various policies and bills as they moved through Congress, as a Representative, then as a Senator. His early relationship with the Democrat party was contentious, but did improve over time. But, he was NEVER a Democrat.

Given that history, there is one glaring observation to be had… Bernie Sanders “sold out” as soon as he joined the Democrat party to run for President.

The reason why he chose to become a Democrat is clear. Being a member of one of the two major political parties gives you access to the people and resources that make that process of running a campaign much easier than if you were running as an independent. Being a Democrat gives you built-in votes, as, like in the Republican party, there are people who will only vote for that party. And then there’s money, etc. And now, by “selling out” and supporting Hillary Clinton, Sanders is giving approval to his supporters to go ahead and lend your vote to Hillary in order to defeat her opposite party rival, Donald Trump.

But reasons don’t matter if you’re “selling out”, do they?

Jul
9
2016

Racial Profiling – In Full View. UPDATE.

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Of all the senseless violence that has happened lately in the last few years that has revolved around race, the Philando Castile case is a shining example of what black men have to face. Here is a man who was doing nothing wrong, got pulled over by the police, and now is dead, even though he did nothing wrong. By all accounts, he was an upstanding citizen. Yet, this morning, just a few days after his death – do we call it murder? – there are those who are trying to justify that death by denigrating him and trying to paint him, and his girlfriend, as liars, as if that justifies his death. A post from a blog called “The Last Refuge” is going viral in Conservative circles. It starts like this:

“The Falcon Heights, Minnesota police shooting of Philando Castile is based around an entirely false narrative.  Castile and Ms. Diamond Reynolds (Facebook video uploader) were pulled over by police because Castile matched a BOLO [Be On Look Out] Alert for an armed robbery suspect from four days prior.

Saint Anthony, MN, Police Officers Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser pulled over Mr. Castile and Ms. Reynolds because the driver, Philando Castile, matched the suspect profile in an armed robbery which occurred on July 2nd, at a convenience store, only a few blocks from where their car was pulled over.”

Continue Reading »

Jul
1
2016

Geek Alert! Going It On My Own! (again)

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Geek Talk… My Pi 3 should be delivered today.
 
You might be asking – or not- “Mike… What is a ‘Pi’, and why did you get it?’.
 
Here’s the low-down, in reverse order.
 
I have a blog and have been writing my thoughts on it for the past 11 years. Though I don’t write on it much anymore, it’s still a great platform when I want to air my thoughts beyond my facebook community. It’s also a wonderful archive of my life, and it’s fun to look back and see how some of my positions on things have changed, or not, over time.
 
In order to have a blog, you have to have a web hosting site of some kind that puts your blog on the web so people can see it. My web hosting service was pretty affordable when I transferred my blog over to it some 5 or so years ago. But the price has steadily increased to the point where it’s almost $90 every 6 months.So, I’ve decided to build my own server and host my blogs from home.
 
Now, about this thing called a Pi. A Pi is a mini computer, about the size of a guitar pedal, that is low powered but pretty powerful, all things considered. I’ll be using the Pi 3 to store and host my blog from home. A long time ago, Greg and I used to have a web site called Fatbird.Net. this was in the pre-blog / MySpace / Facebook days. Because of the limits of our budget, and because this was kind of new and things weren’t automated much, hosting our content was a pain to do back then. But that was 15 years ago, and things have gotten so much easier now.
 
It will take a bit of work to set everything up, but this will be a fun project.
Jun
21
2016

Republican Senate 2016 – National Security Is Job One.

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In light of the failure of the Senate… No, in light of the REFUSAL of the Senate to pass a single piece of meaningful gun legislation yesterday, I thought it would be interesting to note what they have accomplished, to see what sort of critical national problems they’ve tried to solve. Here is a list of some of the important things that became law this year:

 

H.R.4605 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 615 6th Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as the “Sgt. 1st Class Terryl L. Pasker Post Office Building”.

H.R.4046 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 220 East Oak Street, Glenwood City, Wisconsin, as the Second Lt. Ellen Ainsworth Memorial Post Office.

 

H.R.3866 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1265 Hurffville Road in Deptford Township, New Jersey, as the “First Lieutenant Salvatore S. Corma II Post Office Building”.

 

H.R.3735 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 200 Town Run Lane in Winston Salem, North Carolina, as the “Maya Angelou Memorial Post Office”.

H.R.2814 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Sevierville, Tennessee, the Dannie A. Carr Veterans Outpatient Clinic.

S.184 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Native American Children’s Safety Act

H.R.4957 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To designate the Federal building located at 99 New York Avenue, N.E., in the District of Columbia as the “Ariel Rios Federal Building”.

H.R.4923 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016

H.R.4336 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

An act to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the inurnment in Arlington National Cemetery of the cremated remains of certain persons whose service has been determined to be active…

S.2143 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

A bill to provide for the authority for the successors and assigns of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company to maintain and operate a toll bridge across the Rio Grande near Rio Grande City, Texas, and for…

S.2755 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Fallen Heroes Flag Act of 2016

S.1890 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016

H.R.2908 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

National Bison Legacy Act

H.R.2722 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act

S.1638 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act of 2015

S.719 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

A bill to rename the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Great Falls, Montana, the Captain John E. Moran and Captain William Wylie Galt Armed Forces Reserve Center.

S.1826 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 99 West 2nd Street in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, as the Lieutenant Colonel James “Maggie” Megellas Post Office.

S.1596 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2082 Stringtown Road in Grove City, Ohio, as the “Specialist Joseph W. Riley Post Office Building”.

H.R.3262 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

To provide for the conveyance of land of the Illiana Health Care System of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Danville, Illinois.

OK… So they may have totally sucked at stopping terrorists from getting semi-automatic weapons…. But DANG IT!  They sure can rename something when that kind of national emergency is foisted upon us!

 

Apr
3
2016

Evil Dictators… What’s A President To Do???

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This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but I felt I didn’t quite have enough information to be able to illustrate the point that had to be made. A puzzle piece was missing….. The database was incomplete.

Noting that terrorist organization and the conditions that lead to their development had been a part of the social / political landscape in the Middle East long before 9/11 and the ensuing Global War On Terror, the question that must be asked is this: What are the best options on how the US should deal with dictators in the Middle East in relation to terrorism?

When trying to answer this question in regards to current US foreign policy, I would say the place to start is Iraq. Continue Reading »

Mar
25
2016

Vinyl or Digital….

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Ah… The eternal question. OK. Not eternal. But something that some people get very passionate about.
 
Let’s start with a little history from my perspective. I grew up with vinyl. We did have cassette decks in the house, and 8 tracks and cassettes in the car, but for a quality listening experience, the vinyl LP was the way to go. If I think of listening to music as a kid, LP’s are the musical memories of my youth. I learned what music was, and my first music teachers include the following: Eagles, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago,  Peter Paul & Mary, Simon and Garfunkel (all of them), John Denver, The Carpenters, Led Zepplin (Zoso), Foreigner, Rush (2112), Heart (Little Queen), Aerosmith (Rocks), 1812 Overture, Teddy Bear’s Picnic, Alvin and the Chipmonks… It’s all on LP. Note CSN&Y was on cassette only. And yes, I learned about music from Alvin and the Chipmonks. they had some catchy tunes!
Fast forward a few years.

I was an early teen when the CD was first introduced to the market place. At first they didn’t sell because the machines were way too expensive for ordinary folks to buy, as were the CD’s themselves – 25 bucks a pop – and the catalog of CD’s that WAS available were mainly classical recordings, and what self respecting teenager was going to buy that???? But in short order, prices began to fall on both the CD player and the CD’s themselves, stereo systems started to include CD players as part of the package, and the record companies started to print more and more rock records on CD. My first good system, A Fisher Studio Standard component system, was purchased from Macy’s in 1983, It included a really loud AM / FM receiver amp – did I mention that is was really loud… it kicked arse! – a turntable, a cassette deck, and a CD player, which was useless because I didn’t have any CD’s. My first CD’s were Toto IV and Genesis ABACAB. Within a couple more years, there was this little album from Dire Straits called “Brothers In Arms” that EVERYONE had to have, because it was, so they said, the first album to be recorded digitally, whatever that really meant. It was a FANTASTIC album (the previous Love Over Gold was even better, but that’s a topic for a different day) and listening to it ply from the CD, especially the title track, was probably as big a music high as one could have experienced back then! The dynamics were unreal!!!!!!!!!! The LP just couldn’t match it. It was so “thin” in comparison.

Granted, not every CD sounded like that one did. During the first couple of years, when CD’s were still selling far below that of LP’s and cassettes, the record companies were just putting out product to fill shelves, and not really paying much attention to the sound of the CD’s themselves. Most rock CD’s that were released were recorded before the advent of digital technology, and were duplicates from the vinyl master. They also sounded kind of thin. But because of the greater fidelity of the digital media, you could also hear things that were inadvertently recorded that didn’t get noticed on the LP format. On the CD version of the Carpenters song “Bless The Beasts And The Children” you could clearly hear a door opening and shutting at the beginning of the song. It was kind of amusing to hunt down flaws like that on the first generation of Cd releases. It would be a few more years before the ideal that maybe these old recordings should be remastered to better take advantage of the digital medias strengths.

So, what about vinyl?

 I have nothing against vinyl. But if you want to know why CD was a great improvement over vinyl, look for an interview with one of the great sound engineers of rock music, guys by the name of Bob Clearmountain and Bob Ludwig. You lose a lot of dynamics on vinyl, especially at the lower end. As a musician who had recorded a few things here and there, I can say from experience that if you want to hear what the artist actually recorded in the studio, what his or her sonic intentions were, digital is the way to go.

Here is Ludwig’s experience on mastering the Band’s “Music From Big Pink” on vinyl and later, on CD:

“At age 23, Bob Ludwig was an up and coming audio engineer at A&R Recording in New York. He was asked to create a test pressing of the Band’s debut, and in the process he tried to capture what was on those master tapes. When he heard the final product, however, his ears were in for a surprise: “All the low, extreme low bass that I knew was there, was chopped right off.” It wasn’t until many years later when he was called in to do a remastering of the album for compact disc that he found a note in the box of the original master tapes. It was written by the engineer who cut the actual disc for pressing, with the instructions to cut the low end, as it was apparently too much for the vinyl to handle, sometimes causing the needle to jump.”

 

Here is Bob Clearmountain:

“I’d just listen and go: ‘Jesus, after all that work, that’s all I get?’ It was sort of a percentage of what we did in the studio. All that work and trying to make everything sound so good, and the vinyl just wasn’t as good. If you’re a musician… and you get to do a mix and you listen to it and you love the way it sounds, and then it’s transferred to vinyl and suddenly it’s got noise and ticks and pops, for me that’s an extremely unmusical event”.

“It wasn’t until CDs actually started to sound good [that I went]: ‘That’s what it sounded like. That’s what I remember doing in the studio. The great thing for me about digital, about CDs, was that I could do things that I could never do for a vinyl record.”

That said, there is nothing wrong with vinyl. I don’t blast MP3’s either. The listening experience, and the joy one takes from it, is what counts. As a regular listener, I’m just happy to have music on my phone and able to play it with the touch on the screen. But if I am listening with musician ears, dissecting and taking apart a song to get to know all the subtleties of it, then yes, I’d prefer CD quality at least.

 There is one caveat here that makes me sometimes long for the old analog records; noise floor issues, and the endless destruction of headroom in modern recording practices. Because of the digital experience, we’ve grown accustom to having our music louder LOUDER than was ever possible when I was growing up in the 70’s. I listen to some recording today and shake my head at how bad the dynamics are. One recent example is the last Toto album, Toto XIV. And yes, I know not everyone is a Toto fan. Ignore whether they are your cup of tea and focus on the final product and the sonics of it, at least on the digital copy. No headroom anywhere! Nothing breathes! It sounds soooo compresses, at all times, even in the quieter songs. It was a real disappointment. And I’m not the only one that noticed. Many of the reviews of the album said the same thing. This might be a case where the vinyl copy may have ended up being better than the digital copy.
Mar
23
2016

Donald Trump Is NOT Hitler.

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So… I totally forgot to acknowledge my eleven year blogiversary at the beginning of the year.

Happy Blogiversary To Me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now that that is out of the way….

 

If you’re not dead, and have been paying the mere slightest attention to politics, or if you’re alive, I’m sure you’ve come across someone saying “Trump Is Hitler!!!!!”.

No. He’s not. Hitler actually had a core set of beliefs. He wrote about those beliefs in Mein Kampf, even as he was becoming politically active. And he pretty much stuck to them and expanded on them once he gained political power. Yes, his beliefs were twisted and delusional, and yes, evil. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that the Jews caused Germany to lose World War One, never mind the “final solution”. Thing is, Hitler really really REALLY cared about things. Twisted and insane, yes. But he cared and had a real passion for his country.

Trump?

The only thing Trump really cares about is Trump… And money. He has no core set of beliefs. That can be said of Hillary Clinton, and there is a lot of evidence that can support that claim. But at least she usually takes a few years to completely contradict a previous statement. Trump has taken three different positions on things within a span of hours! And that’s on the few items he has expresses real opinions on.  He doesn’t care about the country. He doesn’t care about Republicans. Judging by his lack of command of any foreign policy issues, even relations with Mexico, it’s clear he doesn’t care about the fate of the nation. He only cares about one thing, and that’s building the Trump brand. And what better way to do that than run for President.

If we really want to compare Trump to someone, I would say a better figure from history to compare him to would be Andrew Jackson, except without the political or military experience. Both Trump and Jackson made their fortunes by speculating on real estate. Not so with Hitler. Unlike Trump, Hitler was very politically active by the time he was, had risen up within a political system, and had helped shape a new political party. Jackson, and Trump, hijacked a party that already existed. Trump, like Jackson before him, were called on by the public to run for President, and both are seen as the ultimate outsider. But, in the end, the comparison between those two men is not a strong one. Jackson at least had political experience before he decided to run for President; he was not a complete novice. He, like Hitler, also had a strong sense of mission coming into the office. Of course, many of those Jacksonian ideas, including the removal of Indians and the elimination of the National Banks (the predecessor of the Federal Reserve) had dire and longstanding repercussions for the nation.

In short, there is no need to invoke Hitler when there are better role models that are native grown and are probably a better match.