Archive for October, 2008


Chicago Giant Studs Terkel Passes, Chicago Tribune Stays Classy

It is my fondest hope that Chicago institution Studs Terkel will begin his air shift in the afterlife by, in fact, surprising Mahalia Jackson with a bigger penis.


Dispatch From The Titanic’s Bridge

I didn’t see the October 18th editorial in The Economist sooner than this morning for reasons connected to my current work situation.  I bought the issue last week after leaving a job interview downtown, stuffed the copy in my briefcase and forgot it was in there until this morning.  Chalk it up to the disruptions inherent in the unpaid toil of job-hunting.

That’s a shame, because written therein, during the height of unregulated capital’s global financial crisis, is some incredible stuff.

In the editorial entitled “Capitalism At Bay”, we are predictably fed the false binary choice in a dire warning:  a larger role for the state in regulating capitalism necessarily means a “smaller and more constrained private sector.”

We could stop right there and exit on a laugh line. Imagine that someone had instead written that “a greater number of prisons necessarily means fewer crimes are committed” or “having traffic signals at intersections necessarily reduces the number of vehicles on the streets”.

Poor, put-upon private sector!  If not for that nasty old state, you could really spread your wings and fly!

That howler is eclipsed three paragraphs later:

Even if it staves off disaster, the bail-out will cause huge problems. It creates moral hazard: such a visible safety net encourages risky behavior.

Can the free-market fundamentalist who penned the above be serious?  A visible safety net  – not widespread deregulation of securities trading – encourages risky behavior? Speaking as a US taxpayer and an unwilling part of that safety net, I can only ask: who among the unregulated credit derivative dealers of the past eight years, as they piled untold trillions into these insane instruments until banks and nations everywhere dropped to their knees, ever once thought past pocketing their own commissions?

How is it that the individual moral hazard is accepted or ignored, even lauded as a feature of “economic freedom” while nothing but scorn is reserved for the notion of having a pit boss at the blackjack tables?

The Economist: Denigrating the telescope and cheering the iceberg since 1843.


Triumph Of The Whistleblowers:

Assuming an Obama presidency, the wholesale looting of public funds by fraudulent private contractors may well have reached a historic peak.  Indicators are strong that a philosophical shift away from free-market fundamentalism will accompany Obama to the Oval Office, which could mean the brakes will be put on the wild Washington joyride business interests have for decades enjoyed at the public’s expense.

While serious  study of government contracting abuse means mountains of generally dry and abstruse stuff, observers of this cultural struggle for the taxpayer’s dollar are not necessarily condemned to slog through government reports or to parse isolated news pieces to get a working sense of the culture, players, sums and offenses involved.

Taxpayers Against Fraud or the False Claims Legal Center is a non-profit group that publishes the terrific website.  TAF shows the results of fraud litigation instigated by whistelblowers under the False Claims Act of 1863, sometimes referred to as the “Lincoln law“.  Ever since the first US military contractor was sued under the FCA for selling Uncle Sam the first beaten-down mules or non-firing rifles, the act’s litigation history has been a fascinating peek into the mindset of corporate crime – and a chronicle of its defeat.

Since 1998, TAF has served as a kind of victory parade for the public, documenting billion after billion in funds recovered from corporations who were caught red-handed pickpocketing the public. Given the past thirty years of insanely deregulated, overprivatized government, It’s hard to find as dense a concentration of good news in one place as TAF.


Random Garbage Or Cryptic Message From Local Sandwich Gang?

Discovered 7:33 AM, CST, In front of my house:

Am I a “jelly” being sent a message that I’m on the “peanut butter” side of town?  Or is this merely the flotsam resulting from a late-night prowl by a gang of choosy mothers?


Johnny Marr Gives It Up To Bohannon and Bo Diddley

While it may not exactly have broken a lot of new ground, BBC One’s series “The Story Of The Guitar” has its moments, and here’s one: Johnny Marr lifts the hood on the riff from the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now” and shows what led to what – electrically and culturally.

Watch also for the joyous clip of Buzzcocks where Steve Diggle is found ah-ah-ing in the vicinty of a Shure SM-81, an odd, if great-looking choice of microphone for vocals.


OSX 10.5.5 Update Breaks OpenOffice 2.4

Gee, thanks Apple.  No, I didn’t need OpenOffice this morning.  Nah, it’s cool, I only had a printer fail and had to come to Kinko’s, which is my favorite place to get surprises – surprises like OpenOffice 2.4 failing to, well, open.

“Command timed out” says OpenOffice on boot while it reaches for X11 – a windowing system which apparently you just had to delete with your 10.5.5 update.

No, really, it’s okay.  The Kinko’s LapNet I’m on will only take 45 more minutes to download OpenOffice 3.  I haven’t been on dialup in a long time, it’s fun! And not only that, it’s six bucks an hour.

I mean, I have all kinds of time for stuff like this, no sweat.


Pro Tools: “Everything You Want, And Nothing You Need”

At the 2008 Audio Engineering Society convention in San Francisco:  a slip of the tongue from the Digidesign presenter while demoing the new Pro Tools version 8 inadvertantly speaks to the radically altered landscape in digital audio workstation software.   (Gaffe occurs at 3:54)

Worth a chuckle, but certainly not at Mr. Jackson’s expense.  His employer, however, is another story.  Thanks to their business model, the slip has more than a hint of truth to it.   Digi’s rigid adherence to hardware bundling built an empire, but is part of a philosophy that has resulted in each new iteration of its DAW application being less and less exciting while competing titles are steadily eating Digi’s market share and capturing users by the thousands.

PT8’s Sibelius-scoring features and GUI face lift are a real shrug of the shoulders when put up against the kind of development work being turned in by the good people at Cockos with their REAPER DAW.  If you’re recording anything from any source for any reason and you’ve never checked out REAPER, it’s time.   REAPER is a case of everything you need and nothing you don’t want.


Grover’s Bathtub

(Above: Reaganite guru Grover Norquist dries off his hands)

As three decades of conservative misrule and libertarian/Republican free-market fundamentalism in Washington finally surfaces in the form of global financial meltdown, the American voting pubic is moving the presidential election into territory beyond what Floridian vote fraud can deliver.  Left holding the pro-business bag on the campaign trail are John McCain and his illiterate running mate, a woman now destined not for Dick Cheney’s secret bunker but back to Alaska to answer to charges of gubernatorial abuse of power.  The ticket’s foibles aside, unambiguous events in world finance are what will ultimately bar the Straight Talk Express from puling up the the White House.  The tens of millions of very grim 401(k) statements arriving in the mail across the country are doing more than Barack Obama or his campaign manager David Axelrod could ever do to blow this one wide open.

A windfall for one presidential candidate to be sure, but the Washington he will inherit is not one competent to govern.  This is because the aforementioned three decades were not merely the heyday of business interests at the expense of the pubic, they were the years that regulatory government itself was systematically destroyed by those business interests.  Attacked in policy.  Derided in rhetoric.  Pushed back again and again by deregulatory legislation paid for by those once regulated.  Handed, department by department, to leadership openly hostile to the public interest.  And finally outsourced wholesale in a bacchanal of privatization that has left the country unable to respond to hurricanes in timeframes shorter than years.

The same economic tsunami that is sweeping away McCain can be traced to the splashing of his party’s’ own most esteemed guru of the past thirty years.  Grover Norquist, the indescribably influential conservative lobbyist, titan of deregulation, radical libertarian and a thirty-year committed enemy of the public interest said it best when he quipped:

I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.

Splish, splash. SEC regulation of credit markets?  Drown it in the bathtub. Bank regulations devised in the 1930s in the wake of the last depression?  Drown them in the bathtub.  Transparency on Wall Street?   Prudent oversight of over-the-counter trading?  Fines or sanctions against predatory lenders?    Budgets for federal supervision of the private market in mortgages?  All into the same very crowded bathtub over at least the last eight years.  And all absent when we needed them most – to check the runaway greed that free-market capitalism naturally takes to catastrophic extremes when unsupervised.

For so long has the government’s legitemate role in public interest been held under in Mr. Norquist’s tub that it will take a generation to extricate itself from the chokehold of his now plainly discredited philosophy.  Shaking off the Norquists, Reeds, Krisotls and Bolicks is of course only the beginning.  The more important step is reacquiring the proper role of legal and regulatory authority on behalf of the public.  This must be done in a Washington that has spent thirty years indulging in an individually profitable philosophy that what is good for business is what is good for the public, and never the other way around. “Size” of government must no longer solely be discussed in terms of how many dollars go into it, but in terms of what the public gets out of it — and what the private contractors may no longer run away with. The struggle to reverse course will be long and it will be ugly, but the return to a balance between public and private interest is as inevitable as it was in 1933 when the Norquists of that bygone era were banished to the margins of a society hobbled by the global economic disaster they wrought.


Bloodthirsty Florida Republicans Don’t Cotton To No Questions

(Seeking to leave behind the elitist machinations of Katie Couric, the State of Florida is outta here)

Dana Millbank in today’s Wanshington Post paints a portrait of the Florida conservative faithful at a Palin rally that can’t leave anybody feeling great about the future of representative democracy:

In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric‘s questions for her “less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.” At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”

The reception had been better in Clearwater, where Palin, speaking to a sea of “Palin Power” and “Sarahcuda” T-shirts, tried to link Obama to the 1960s Weather Underground. “One of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,” she said. (“Boooo!” said the crowd.) “And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,’ ” she continued. (“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.)

“Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.

It is unclear if the gentleman with the above proposal was directing it at the black sound guy, Professor Bill Ayers or the next President of the United States.



rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

October 2008