Wednesday, July 30, 2008

RAND Corp report: To destory al Qa'ida, quit shooting them.

The RAND Corporation (Research ANd Development) was set up by the United States Army Air Forces in 1946. It is known for rigorous, often-quantitative, and non-partisan analysis and policy recommendations (says Wikipedia). However, not everyone agrees that RAND is politically neutral; they have even been called hawkish to the point of being "America's University of Imperialism". Either way, it is full of very smart people (lots of Nobel laureates) doing very smart research. And they have a new report that concludes military force is a very ineffective way to deal with terror groups. I quote from, which includes a link to the actual report.

To destroy Al Qaeda, we must end the war on terror: Rand Corporation

A new Rand Corporation report comprehensively surveys the ways that terrorist groups have been disbanded in the past: "Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended." Instead, historic wars on terror have been won with policing and settlements. Rand's conclusion? To defeat Al Qaeda, we need to end the war on terror.
A recent RAND research effort sheds light on this issue by investigating how terrorist groups have ended in the past. By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments. Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory.
Terrorism’s End: Jon Taplin
How Terrorist Groups End: Rand Corporation

And now I quote from RAND's summary:
These findings suggest that the U.S. approach to countering al Qa'ida has focused far too much on the use of military force. Instead, policing and intelligence should be the backbone of U.S. efforts.
So, while we shouldn't just give up, our "war on terror" (is that a contradiction, or just a redundancy?) needs to change from a shooting war to a smart war. I hope someone in Washington begins listening to the smartest people in town.

You can read the actual report yourself right here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wow! Check out Seeqpod

Some of you know I've been having funky fun on Sunday evenings with Beau Hall, John McKnight and Kirk Plunkett (@ Nik's in Marietta, 6-10PM, outdoors, weather permitting).

The other day Beau hipped me to Seeqpod, an impressive website that seeks out music on a variety of websites, and plays it for you. On the left you'll see an apparently random scrolling list of audio & video clips, and if you like something you see there, you can add it to your playlist on the right side. I've plucked some ripe old plums from this random list: Ohio Players, Nina Simone, The Tubes, Brothers Johnson, Robin Trower, Gene Krupa, Clarence Carter (Patches, not tired old Strokin'), Tom Waits, and They Might Be Giants among others. I also discovered some interesting stuff, new to me, such as Beatallica's "And Justice For All My Loving".

Oh, here's a neat trick, I think I can embed the song & player right here!

Hmm, it actually embedded all of what I had in my current play list. OK, cool anyway. I haven't heard much of this yet myself; maybe you'll enjoy. I should warn you that the first track, the Bon Jovi, sounds awful - as if someone recorded it with a cassette recorder in front of a record player (not even a hi-fi) from the 1960s, not that I'd have any reason to know exactly how that sounds *ahem*. But, that's global diversity for ya.

Or, you can type in an artist to search for, and get that artist and some similar artists to try. I just ran a few names through: Ike Stubblefield, Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, Dave Kilminster, Guthrie Govan, and found interesting hits on all, much of it video. No hits on George Price yet.

Dave Kilminster is Pink Floyd's new guitarist, by the way - a gross underuse of his amazing prowess, as you'll see if you check out the Favorite Licks clip which I recognize from an amazing DVD that came with Guitar Techniques magazine a couple years ago. On the other hand, when you check the clip of him playing onstage with PF doing the "Time" solo, you have to be impressed with how perfectly he nails every note and tiniest nuance of the original recorded solo.

So, there you have it, a new toy for you. Make yourself a playlist for a rainy day, an intimate evening, a party, or just for exploration. Then you can save, or email, or even blog your playlist. Suddenly, you own a radio station!

Friday, July 25, 2008


I was intrigued by the ad I've seen on TV lately (see it here), oil man T. Boone Pickens describing the horrible situation our dependence on foreign oil has put America in. Of course, the numbers vary according to who you listen to, but this oil man marks these as the main points:
  • America has gone from importing 24% of our oil in 1970, to almost 70% today (and rising).
  • $700 BILLION per year we're paying to foreign nations for oil (four times the cost of the Iraqi war, so far)
  • He multiplies that out 10 years to get $7 TRILLION, and that doesn't account for growth or price raises at all. (He doesn't say it, but just think about the mostly awful people that money goes to, and how the money gets used then)
The largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world. Add in all the money we're borrowing from China, Japan, and other people we have even less reason to trust, and surely you can see what a mess we're buying for ourselves.

It's really hard to believe that my party (Republican, supposedly the party that understands finance) has done so little to mitigate this problem - in fact, has done so much to encourage it and block progress toward getting our addiction under control. The very same people who clamp all sorts of restrictions on our American freedoms, and carve away our rights to privacy and due process of law in the name of Patriotism and Security, are more than happy to keep sending gigabucks to the very nations that funded the terrorist attacks against us (I'm looking at YOU, Dick Cheney). In fact, our government is cutting funding for alternative energy research by about 25% this year. (There's some finger-pointing about who caused the cut, but the bottom line is still a cut) Why the continued reluctance to curb our money flow to troublesome nations? Is it that we can't live without the oil, or is it that so many American businessmen get a fat slice of the outgoing money, which they put into campaign contributions for the politicians who keep this process in place?

So what is his plan? Really, he tells it better than me, see the video. Is his plan workable, will we get as much benefit as he promises? I don't know, but I know it has 0% chance if we don't try, and at the very least it will be steps in the right direction. His plan seems to address more supply, without doing much on the other side of the equation, reducing demand. (Many of us have yet to do our duty on this; I still have friends who haven't even replaced their old tungsten light bulbs with modern CFLs yet. And did you know, the CFL itself was invented in response to the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973?) Anyway, Pickens at least has a plan. It's a grandiose plan, just like going to the moon was. We have only general ideas how to do it, but far more than we had when we committed to the space program. We can do this, or at least something like it. We must.
I've been an oil man my whole life, but this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of. - T. Boone Pickens
(This opinion differs from the one you hear from our President. I suggest you remember that, unlike our President, Pickens was a very successful businessman who knows what he's talking about.)

I urge you to watch the short video above, then go to and see the slightly longer one that gets into the specifics. You might be one of the few humans left who has an attention span; if so, you'll find more videos there, including Pickens' congressional testimony, and a former CIA director talking about how important alternative energy is to our national security. If you're not one of those who just sits back and complains, then go ahead and join the group, and let's make things happen. I joined, and will be doing what I can.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bella Bocca shut down, and other news

(originally posted at Ellen Hamby's Come On In My Kitchen blues group, Jul 24, 2008 2:30 pm)

To those of you who may have intended to catch my show with Larry Griffith at Bella Bocca, you may want to revisit your plans. Our weekly Thursday shows there have ended - I was notified yesterday that they're shut down. Poor location, tucked away in a blind shopping center, invisible from the street, finally did them in. To those who did come out and party with us, thanks.

At this point I'm down to one regular weekly show, Fridays at Little Alley in Roswell. I highly recommend this music & dining experience. The food is tip-tops, the music is pretty good (my usual band is Jon Schwenke on bass and John McKnight on drums, we all sing), it's a fairly early show (7:30-11:30), and you'll be spruced up at the door with an electric nipple buffer. Best of all, everything but that last part is true.

Oh, a fun experience at Little Alley recently; one of my guitar students, 16 years old, asked if he could bring his date to my show. I called to make sure, and then asked Natasha to arrange the royal treatment for him so he looks really cool for his date. She did, and from the moment he arrived Mr. Ortega and date were well taken care of. It was fun for all involved, and dare I say, "cute". Later I realized his parents were also in the house, staying just out of sight. Perfect.

This Saturday, I'll be at Johnny McCracken's in Mayretta with Larry Griffith Band, 9PM-1AM.

Sunday evenings are, weather permitting, Bike Night at Nik's. If the weather is non-threatening, I'll be doing my best to hang with Beau Hall, John McKnight and Kirk Plunkett out on the front deck. As Beau says, bring your Harley, or Huffy, or Vespa, or whatever, just bring it.

Tuesday I had fun at Montana's open jam (north Alpharetta), then went to Londzell's to catch the last set with Andrew Black, John McKnight, and Dustin Sargent. Got to play with them some too, including a lush version of Purple Rain. That felt great - I think my best musical work was my years with Andrew, especially the duo work, and hearing him cut loose on Prince just... well, it's hard describe the rush you get from being musically moved, but you know the feeling or you
wouldn't be here.

Last night at Nik's was pretty !@#! good - Mike Martin, John McKnight, Kirk Plunkett, Charlie Wooton (yes two bassists), Louie on sax, and Terry Bradley hosted. Our own Polish ambassador Leszek Wawer, a jam scene regular until he moved to Chicago a few years ago, was back in
town and playing well. Other guests included Sid Wolf, Jim, Ken, Jarrod, Lefty (a guitarist who plays very well without benefit of a right hand), Drew Blood (I never remember his real last name), and some others I'd name if I knew. Rat Rod was presented with a new Epiphone Les Paul gold-top by Dirty South TV and Sam Ash Music; I don't know the story behind this, but it was cool. Coulda used more bassists and drummers. I think Martin will be hosting for the next
few weeks, if I overheard correctly.

My radio show guests lately have included Grant Green Jr. and Ike Stubblefield. It's a safe bet that you have some Ike in your record collection from his works with Eric Clapton and The Eagles, among many many others.

Remember, live people need live music.
See you out there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Spooky Alien Goo

Here's a cool bit of science for you. Cornstarch and water make a paste (called "oobleck") that falls into the class of "non-Newtonian" substances that have unexpected properties. Here's a bit of oobleck in a pizza pan, sitting on a booming subwoofer, doing the funny things that stuff from alternate dimensions should do.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fuzzy Logic

I just learned some things from Ted Koppel, who spent a lot of research time in China for his 4-part TV series on Discovery Channel, "The People's Republic of Capitalism". Consider this:

Our current wars are the first in our history that were not paid for with an increase in taxes. Instead, we've taken out mind-blowingly huge loans. We've borrowed between $600B and $1T from China, and even more from Japan. The interest payments alone on this kind of debt could keep a million Paris Hiltons partying in grand style, but what really concerns me is what happens when China and Japan (among others) come to collect, or take their collateral. Our government has decided to spend us into a black hole of debt, while trying to cut accounts receivable. We have, quite literally, been sold out. And in the process, the value of our dollar has been drained down, part of the reason oil costs so much (Clark Howard says without this mismanagement (his words) oil would only cost us about $80/barrel).

Which is why, for some reason, the current tax cuts must be made permanent, because they're obviously working so well.

If this makes sense to you, please contact me about investing in my business ventures, because I can happily work that way too.

You can see Koppel stating all this during his brief visit on The Daily Show, which you can see right here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Three things you must do

Hi friends - well, last night at Two Monkies was smokin' goodness, thanx to John McKnight and Steve Mays. Too bad very few saw it due to competition from other holiday events, my mistake for accepting that night instead of one of the other Saturdays.

One of the interesting things I learn from (which I use to monitor my blog and my Santa website) is the distribution of web browsers people use to visit me. I don't consider it good news that so many of you are still using Internet Explorer. IE is rife with security weaknesses, and way behind the innovation curve. You can be safer, faster, and happier by installing Firefox, which is available FREE right here. And if you're running Linux or Mac, there's a Firefox for you too.

"You might not believe this, little fella, but it'll cure your asthma too." Frank Zappa

After basking in the warm glow of installation (which makes migration from IE painless, and doesn't mess with your IE if you ever want to use it again) for a while, you'll find there's a huge selection of snazzy free add-ons. I highly recommend FoxyTunes, a tool that does so many things for music and video I can't tell you. Get it. Got it? Good.

Now open the FoxyTunes Portal. You'll see their default welcome screen, which pertains to Nirvana, and some similar bands you'd like if you're a Nirvana fan. Now search on Guthrie Govan, and you'll see this. Check out the videos, especially Bullet Blues. I want to play like him when I grow up.

So, there's your three things. Go do them and be happy.

PS, the folks at Mozilla (makers of Firefox) make an equally important replacement to the nasty Outlook Express called Thunderbird. Get it too, and your email will be much safer, run faster, have less spam, and smell minty fresh.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Alerts for This Weekend

Well folks, a few odd things this weekend.

First, I guess I didn't warn you, but our Wednesday nights at Bella Bocca are now Thursdays (8-11) and my Wednesdays are open. Maybe back at Joel's when the Life University next door comes back in session.

Later this morning (July 4th) I'll be doing a freakin' 5-hour outdoor show (11AM-4PM) with Jon Schwenke, Larry Griffith and Laura Simon at TAP in Buckhead. Bring your sunscreen.

I just learned tonight that although Little Alley didn't warn us, they are closing for the evening of the 4th, so no LA gig this weekend. I'm glad Jon called me tonight to call them and make sure, or we would've gone to a locked club. I'm just a bit steamed about this myself, so believe me I'm sincerely sorry if any of you find your date night derailed tonight.

Saturday night I'll have John McKnight and Steve Mays doing the GP Trio show with me at Two Monkies in Marietta (688 Whitlock, across the street from Nik's) from 9PM to 1AM. This will be a rockin' show, much stronger stuff than what you hear from us in the restaurant gig.

Sundays, I've been working with a great crew at the "Bike Day" events at Nik's. Beau Hall, John McKnight, Kirk Plunkett, and li'l ol' me - hijinx will ensue. 6-10PM on the front deck. Weather permitting, of course - last week we got about two songs into the first set, and a nasty storm blew in hard. Nik decided to scratch the gig, and not pay us. Hopefully this will not happen again this week, or ever again, because the combination of great performers really works well and I'd hate to miss any opportunity to hear more.

That about does it - have a good 4th. Remember how precious your liberties (the ones you still have left) are, and how many lives have been dedicated to gaining and protecting our freedom. Remember that each of us must still be vigilant, and watch for enemies not just outside our borders, but inside as well. For instance, Prescott (Dubya's grandpappy) Bush's failed right-wing coup to overthrow or assassinate FDR in 1933, and turn the USA into a fascist state run in the same style as Hitler (who Bush helped finance) and Mussolini. Here's a link to the BBC documentary about this coup, and here's Prescott Bush in general. It's our duty, not just our right, to be cautious or even skeptical of our elected government. It's also our duty to actively participate in steering our nation to fit our overall needs, or others will steer it to fit theirs. If it ain't of the people and by the people, it sure won't be for the people.

That reminds me of a quote I only partially remember, something to the effect that when the next real threat to American freedom comes along, it will be carrying a cross and wrapped in an American flag (probably not literally). Does anyone have the actual quote?