Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rush's Latest Insult

Two days ago, Rush insulted millions of living and dead American military personnel. During his radio show, he called any soldier who disagreed with the Iraq mission a "phony soldier". A "real soldier", by contrast, is one who steadfastly agrees with Rush in sending troops to die in a pointless conflict.

Rush, by the way, never served a day in the military. He says he had a medical condition that resulted in a deferment. The condition? He had a pilonidal cyst, which is a clump of ingrown hairs, on his ass. (Don't worry, he had it fixed, so he doesn't have any trouble sitting on it all day).

You can hear Rush's broadcast, and read a full report on it, at the Media Matters web site.

For a much better take on this, go to the Army of Dude blog site. It's written by a "phony soldier" who just got back from fifteen months in Iraq, and he has some very strong and creative words about Rush.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Yes, this is another political rant. If you were looking for more cute pictures of the grandson, sorry, maybe next time!

Blackwater USA has been in the news a lot lately. They're the company that supplies security forces to contractors and embassy people in Iraq. Blackwater guys were involved this past week in a big shootout in Baghdad that killed somewhere between 11 and 20 Iraqi civilians. It has caused a big stink in both Iraq and Washington.

Actually, this has been a landmine waiting to go off for years. Consider: the security force people that Blackwater and other companies recruit are Special Forces, SEALs, and other guys who've been highly trained in special warfare and exotic ways to kill people. They're given lots of weapons and carte blanche authority to use them. And they've been removed from the annoyances of any legal restraints. They can go anywhere, do anything, and nobody can (or will) do anything about it.

Think I'm making this up? Think again. Our military forces (even the Special Forces that Blackwater recruits from) fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If they kill or rape civilians or do something else that normal people like you and me consider a crime, they're prosecuted. The Marines involved in the shootings in Haditha are an example. Even our CIA guys are government agents and fall under government rules of conduct.

But private security firms don't. They aren't on US territory anymore, so they don't come under US laws. And an order by the Coalition Provisional Authority cuts them out of the Iraqi legal system. It says, "Contractors shall be immune from Iraqi legal process with respect to acts performed by them pursuant to the terms and conditions of a Contract or any sub-contract thereto." In other words, as long as they're performing their duties, Iraq can't touch 'em.

And after four years of war, with thousands of private security guys running around the country, not one has had any charges filed against him. For anything. And then consider whether it's reasonable none of these private-contractor Rambos would be so squeaky clean.

So the situation is perfectly designed for abuse. And Blackwater is a particularly egregious company. They have repeatedly stonewalled Congressional inquiries and outright lied when they finally got there. (See CNN reports here and here). Even when some of their people were killed, they covered up details to the families and to investigators (see another report here).

So it's way way way past time for Congress, the Pentagon, and the State Department to rein in these cowboys. The Pentagon and the State Department can do a lot right now if they really want to, just by changing or enforcing some of their own rules. Congress needs to craft a much stronger legal framework with some real teeth.

Private security forces aren't a bad thing in themselves. But give a Rambo a gun and remove any accountability, and you're asking for disaster. Now we've got the disaster, so let's fix it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Led Zeppelin

Tonight, while channel surfing, I came across "The Song Remains The Same", a film of Led Zeppelin's 1973 concert at Madison Square Garden. I was a big Zeppelin fan back then, and even got to see them in Memphis during their 1975 tour. We had the cheapest seats in the house, back BEHIND the stage, looking down on them. Can't say I remember much of it ... whether it's the fact that it was 32 years ago, or the fact I was pretty stoned, or both ... but I certainly remember being in awe of the sound those guys produced.

Which is what struck me again tonight. Led Zeppelin was brilliantly creative. Their songs were hard-edged and raw. Where most musicians are concerned with the "right" way to play their instruments, Page did all kinds of things to create unique sounds, like playing his guitar with a violin bow. You just don't see that today. Almost all today's groups (that you hear about, anyway) are slickly over-produced with all the jagged edges polished away. So about the best reaction you can hope for is "hey, that's pretty good!". Whereas with Led Zeppelin, my reaction is "oh ... my ... gawd ..."

So why don't we have more Led Zeppelins these days? I think part of it is the times. In the late 60's and early 70's there was a lotta turmoil. There were race riots and mass marches against the Vietnam War. There were hippies and druggies and straights and rednecks and Woodstock, and change going on in every facet of the country. And this was reflected in the music. The music of 1973 was a universe away from the music of 1963. You just don't have that today. There's no sense of large-scale social turmoil, just everybody going about their daily business. And the music of 2007 is really no different than the music of 1997.

Kinda makes me nostalgic for 1973. There was an energy then. But after we pulled out of Vietnam and the anti-war movement ended, people just wanted to party. Led Zeppelin gave way to the Bee Gees. The last time I felt anything remotely resembling the nation's sense of optimism in the 70's was Bill Clinton's first inauguration.

So while there are certainly some great young musicians out there right now (Jonny Lang, for one), I just don't see the creative geniuses to compare with Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Hendrix.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Children, Children

Today's theme is (duh) "children". First, here' s the latest on my 5-month-old grandson, Jackson.

Jackson's being raised to be a proper Chargers fan ... even though the Chargers got their butts kicked by the Patriots yesterday.

And here are my own two daughters, Indy and Soozee. I told my life drawing session that we'd have TWO female nude models last Wednesday ... but I don't think they expected these two!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bush's War

Tonight George Bush gave another misguided, misleading speech. He announced a troop withdrawal as if it was a major initiative. In reality, he's simply ending his temporary "surge" three months past the original end date - a date that the Army determined would be the latest to prevent it from becoming broken. And he's still talking about "success", saying "conditions are improving". Is this guy completely cut off from reality? Can he really be that incredibly stupid? He doesn't have a clue what's really going on in Iraq. Honest to God, it's as if he's living on another planet, in a different universe, in a parallel dimension where Alfred E. Neumann is a revered sage. George Bush's performance as President makes Britney Spears' performance at the MTV Music Awards look like a smashing success. (Just try to find complete video of that performance on YouTube: Spears was so embarrassing that the network lawyers made sure that nobody will ever see that performance again. Maybe we should get them to go to work on George Bush.)

For a brilliantly written, short, and insightful view into Iraq, read the op-ed piece from the New York Times' August 19 edition. It was written by seven senior NCO's from the 82nd Airborne who have spent the last 15 months in Iraq. As they were writing it, one of them was shot in the head, but survived and is expected to recover. Today it was announced that two more were killed this morning in a truck accident. So three sharp young men, each of whom had infinitely more experience with what war is really all about than the man who sent them there, are now wounded or dead.

Read their article. Then read Bush's speech. And tell me who really knows what's going on.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Oh, what a busy day (I'm being facetious here). Lotsa playing catch-up on stuff that's been on hold until after the opening of my show. I had to take the Land Rover in for some routine maintenance today. "It'll take about an hour" ... NOT! Two and a half hours later, I'm finally filling out the charge slip. At least the dealer's mechanics are good. They always explain what's going on, what needs to be done, and what can be ignored. They're not cheap, but our Discovery has 128,000 miles on it and still runs and looks like new. Well, almost like new. The sales people have finally given up on trying to sell me a new LR3. "Oh, him again ..." They were always trying to get me to take an LR3 for a test drive. I figure, if I don't drive it, I won't want it. It's a philosophy that has worked so far.

Then it was time to collect the dogs from the studio, visit with fellow artists there, and head home. The dogs were overdue for a bath, so I gave 'em one, then took 'em for a walk to dry 'em off. Come to think of it, I've never posted pictures of my lovely little daughters, have I? Time to fix that. So here they are. The top one is Indie and the bottom one is Soozee. Whaddaya mean, you can't tell 'em apart? Shih Tzu's are the sweetest dogs in the world. Very smart, very loving, and when you have two of 'em, more entertainment than a Playstation.

Okay: bath done, walk done, dinner done. Dogs are napping (for the moment, anyway). Time to finish updating my web site. I changed some things around: got rid of the "giftshop" page since nobody ever used it, put in a section for my Forest Nymph photos, changed the photo of the Arts Council reception so Janis won't get mad at me, and made a lot of other nitnoid fixes. I think it looks pretty good.

One thing I didn't do today is artwork. I've found that if I don't get started on artwork by about 1 pm, then I won't get started on it, period. So I usually try to cram all my "stuff" into one day and then spend as many days as possible in the studio before needing another "stuff" day. So tomorrow is a STUDIO DAY! At least, that's what I'm planning.

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker gave their testimony to the House today. I haven't paid much attention to the reports, but it seems like it was pretty much as expected. The military surge is working to keep violence down in some areas, but the Iraqi government has its collective thumb up its ass. Petraeus says we can have a token withdrawal soon, with the full surge being out by next July. Umm, excuse me, but doesn't that mean the surge would have lasted eighteen months? I believe that's a lot longer than originally advertised. And at the end of that time, we'd still have over 130,000 troops in Iraq, while some troops would be on their fourth or even FIFTH deployment. Unsatisfactory. I stand by my earlier statement: time to start pulling the troops out.

I keep hearing stepped-up noises that the Bush administration wants to go bomb Iran. This was evidently making the rounds on the internet over the past few days, and was even on NPR this afternoon. It would be absolutely the stupidest, most foolhardy, counterproductive, asinine thing that could possibly be done. I can't tell if they're really that dumb or if they're just letting the rumors fly in order to pressure Iran at the negotiating table. Given that Dick Cheney is still on the job, I wouldn't bet on anything. Time to write your congressman: no military action against Iran!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Art Opening

On Friday evening, there was an opening for my solo show at the Asheville area Arts Council's Boardroom Gallery. I have ten paintings from my "Meditation on War" series on exhibit. We had a great turnout: the gallery was crowded almost continually from about 5:30 right up until the staff started flashing the lights to send people out the door around 8:30. This picture was taken about five minutes before the first visitor arrived. I had all kinds of plans to take pictures during the evening, but spent all my time talking to people and didn't think of the camera again until we were cleaning up. So here's my test shot, and if Janis ever finds out it's on this blog, I'm dead meat.

So if you're in the Asheville area between now and the show's closing on October 26, stop by the Arts Council and take a peek. And let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, Rick and Julie have continued to send us more pictures of Jackson. He's the most photogenic kid I've ever seen.

I've been running this blog for a while now, and it seems I'm only interested in three things:
- Political rants
- Photos of the grandson
- An occasional comment about art

I'm not really THAT boring ... well, maybe I am ... guess I'll have to see what else I can write about.

For those of you who have your own blogs: do you find yourself thinking in blogspeak? I find that I get a lot of thinking done when I'm driving or mowing the lawn, and often my thoughts flow as if I'm writing another entry to this tome. Of course, by the time I actually get to sit down at the keyboard, that "flow" is gone. I'll be sitting here drumming my fingers thinking, "Now what the hell was it that I was going to write about?" Which is what I'm doing now.

Time to go do some more yardwork and conjure up some topics!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hangin' Out with Jackson

"Oh, not much, just hangin' out ... what's new with you?"

Little Jackson is now about 4 1/2 very adventurous months old.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship

Friday was Karl Rove's last day on the job. "The Architect's" vision was for a permanent Republican majority in Congress and a solid hold on the Presidency. He pursued it with skill, single-mindedness, and ruthlessness. But now he's gone and, thank God, his vision is in ruins.

Rove's vision was essentially corrupt. It was all about one political party achieving and wielding power. In essence, it was no different than the German Nazis of the 1930's, or the Iraqi Ba'ath Party of the 1980's. Rove wasn't interested in statesmanship, or bringing people together, or achieving the best for the country. No, he wanted American power to be controlled by the few. And to achieve it, he was willing - no, eager - to use any means. "Divide and conquer" was his strategy. Remember statements like "if you're not with us, you're against us" and you'll see the hand of Rove.

Fortunately, Rove wasn't quite as ruthless as the Nazis or the Ba'athists. While the Third Reich was intended to last a thousand years, in reality it lasted a bit over ten. And Rove's "permanent Republican majority" was gone after six.

And now Alberto Gonzalez is stepping down. I didn't think it would happen, but miracles really do occur. As I stated before, Bush can pick some pretty good people when he has to - witness Admiral Mike McConnell as the intelligence director, and Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. So let's see who he comes up with. Pundits are saying that Homeland Security director Michael Chertoff is a strong possibility, but he'd be a disaster. He hasn't done all that great a job at Homeland Security, and moving him over to Justice sends the message that Homeland Security isn't that high on Bush's priority list. Plus, he probably wouldn't make it through the confirmation process.

I'm still reading Al Gore's book "Earth in the Balance". It's scaring the hell out of me. I'm going around now looking at everything - I mean everything - in terms of its impact on the environment. When I see TV ads for new cars, it makes me think about how much energy went into making that car, and how much gas it'll burn, and how much pollution it'll put out. I'm not even halfway thru the book yet and I'm bummed!

Saturday, September 01, 2007