January 28, 2006

Once again, the CIA is the gang that can’t shoot straight

The same Central Intelligence Agency that was surprised in 1998 when India’s BJP, its Hindu nationalist party, resumed nuclear testing after sweeping to power on a campaign promise of doing just that, can’t even post the right picture in a “Wanted” photo.

No wonder we can’t capture top al-Qaeda operatives. We don’t even know who they are.

Sheehan to challenge Feinstein? We can only hope

Peace activist and bereaved war mother Cindy Sheehan is considering challenging senior California Senator Dianne Feinstein for the Democratic nomination, based on her initial support of the war in Iraq, and even more, her refusal to call for an immediate, or near-immediate, or anywhere close to immediate, pullout, or even a timetable discussion.
“I think our senator needs to be held accountable for her support of George Bush and his war policies,” said Sheehan, whose 24-year-old soldier son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Here, here. Feinstein is so centrist that she could be elected as a Democratic Senator in many Midwestern states. California, with a more liberal base needs to do better. I don’t know what Sheehan will be like on other issues, but Feinstein’s pretty much a centrist on a lot of issues, from where I sit. She too often is a “consensus” senator, too, not willing to be confrontational.

January 27, 2006

U.S. Army: Be all (the barbarian) you can be

So, apparently, kidnapping Iraqis is SOP with the U.S. Army.
The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of “leveraging” their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

It’s just the latest example of how descending to barbarians’ and terrorists’ level seems to be A-OK with this administration.

January 26, 2006

Is Mozart overrated?

Well, it's officially here — t’s the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth Saturday, and all the attendant hyperbole and hoopla will get an official kickoff. I’m suggesting it’s not all warranted.

I own nearly 500 classical CDs and can count my Mozart CDs on the fingers of my two hands. He doesn't make the Top 10 of my classical composer playlist. He's certainly not No. 1 or 2. And who is that Top 10? ...

Going by sevens, my Top Seven are Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Stravinsky and Shostakovich. My Second Seven would be Handel, Schubert, Bruckner, Rachmaninoff, Schnittke, Penderecki, and Elliott Carter, I believe. That second seven is not as written in stone, but Mozart would not make the top seven at all.

Oh, by the way, some of you Mozart idolators might need to listen to some 20th century classical music. Start with the last three I listed. Add some Ernst Krenek. Throw in some late, serialist Stravinsky.

Child prodigy/voluminous output by itself does not make a genius. Saint-Saens was also a child prodigy; why does nobody discuss him like Mozart?

If you pressed me, there are two -- and only two -- must-have works of his; the Symphony No. 40 and the Requiem.

Otherwise, much of his early work was dilletantish salon music.

That said, here in Dallas, the Fine Arts Chamber Players is having a special at the Dallas Museum of Art Saturday. I'll be there.

It's free, and I never say no to free classical music.

Oh, and if you want a classical music birth anniversary to celebrate, circle Sept. 23 on your calendars. That will be the centennial of Shostakovich's birth.

More next week on details of why I think Mozart has gotten to be overrated; it's embargoed for now, as it's my newspaper column for next week.

January 25, 2006

The state of the Union’s energy

Read this important Daily Kos post by Jérôme to get a feel of the importance of energy in the 2006 elections and beyond. As usual, Jérôme is a font of insight on energy issues.

He has a lot of links from this post, all worth reading, but this Energy Bulletin is the best overall. Learn just how close Peak Oil may be and what is next.

FINALLY! — Two Congressmen call for public campaign financing

Wisconsin’s David Obey and Massachusetts’ Barney Frank, both Democrats, said Jan. 25 they will introduce legislation to establish public financing of Congressional campaigns, similar to our current publicly financed presidential election system.

“The problem with politics is more fundamental than meals or trips with lobbyists,” Obey said in a statement.

Please, please, please, both now and when Obey and Frank introduce the appropriate legislation, call your Congressperson and urge him or her to support public campaign financing.

No, it won’t be a cure-all; our current presidential system shows that.

But, for those old enough to remember, would you want to go back to Nixon’s 1972 Presidential campaign — just the finance issues, leaving out Watergate?

Ronnie Earle turns up the heat on DeLay

Or, what DeLay contributor will he subpoena next?

Travis County DA Ronnie Earle is continuing to expand the links between Tom DeLay and big-bucks campaign contributors to resigned and convicted former California Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

Now, he’s wanting more information about Duke contributor Brett Wilkes and his PerfectWave Technologies.

But that’s not all Ronnie’s after. He’s looking at possible DeLay problematic fundraising connections with the Copley publishing family, whose flagship paper is the San Diego Union-Tribune, and an Idaho mine — for now. What’s going to turn up in a week or two?

Stay tuned. Looks like Earle’s going to get plenty of money laundering coming out in the wash.

2005: New hottest year on record

And it passes the old 1998 record without El Niño help, unlike that former record year.

How can anybody doubt global warming after NASA confirmed 2005 as a record-setter?

And, how can anybody doubt the man-made nature of global warming after these facts:
All five of the hottest years since modern record-keeping began in the 1890s occurred within the last decade, according to analysis by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. …

"It's fair to say that it probably is the warmest since we have modern meteorological records," said Drew Shindell of the NASA institute in New York City.

How bad is it? Two-thirds of the temperature increase of the last century is concentrated in the last three decades.
Over the past 30 years, Earth has warmed by 1.08 degrees F (0.6 degrees C), NASA said. Over the past 100 years, it has warmed by 1.44 degrees F (0.8 degrees C).

What happens if we reach an equilibrium-breaking tipping point?