Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's again time to Police the Grammys

Of recent years we've pretty much avoided watching the Grammy's or even doing much more than a cursory review the day after to see what-the-hell it was that Grammy voters decided was worthy "music." But this year we'll have to watch again.

The Police are reuniting.

That's good news. (Yeah, they played a song or two at their induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, but that was more of just a "thank you" gesture.)

Here at Oklahomily Central we still cherish the booze-filtered memories of watching Sting, Stew and Andy do their thing in the front of a small club in Durango, Colorado, back in the summer of 1979. This was just as their ship was about to come in, as it is said, or just before massive American radio airplay - demanded by those of us who saw the boys as they roughed it across America in what various histories say was either a) a panel van or b) a station wagon.

We can shed no light on this mystery for a very simple reason: Once the Police began to play, the Oklahomalist and his young bride refused to budge from their table, as it was located front and center, with only about a fifteen foot gap between us, our libations and the band!

Naturally we had no desire to leave the club to see what kind of wheels these three amazing guys were sporting. Even going to the can was done carefully so as to make sure the open seat was defended. The place, which earlier had been sleepy, was now packed well beyond fire code requirements, as memory serves.

How had we happened upon this musical event? Don't know much about synchronicity, but serendipity do!

We were in Durango with tickets to ride the
Narrow Gauge Railway the following morning. That afternoon we ate a fabulous late lunch at some Mexican restaurant, crossed over to the movie theatre for a bit, then drifted along the streets of downtown Durango. On the doorway to one watering hole it said, "Tonight - The Police."

A waitress suggested we take a table early and wait. "These guys are great!" she gushed. "You're gonna love 'em." I seem to remember a $3 cover charge, or some pittance. Perhaps not even that.

And was she ever right! The Police played their music, so many of the songs we now recognize as their classics, with a stripped down equipment ensemble (maybe Stewart had more than a floor tom, kick and snare, hi hats and a couple of cymbals, but I don't recall it that way). Andy had his controller box for his synth-guitar, and Sting, clad in shorts and a tank top, had his bass. There were three mics for vocals. There may or may not have been stage lights; again, don't remember them and can't help but think there wasn't enough room.

It didn't matter. Whatever they lacked in equipment they more than compensated through a manic energy that captivated and transformed the audience.

Roxanne. Driven to Tears. Message in a Bottle, and many more.

Every little thing they did was magic. Even without the marqueritas and (later) the beer it would have been marvelous.

Of course the next morning was a bit rough. We had three-alarm hangovers, iffy digestive systems and an early departure on a train that belched coal dust into the passenger cars on a three-hour trip upward into the old mining area of Silverton. There were several necessary trips to the latrine. It was a most difficult trip.

Yet I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. It was worth every minute of the evening before, and the train ride itself was spectacular, the joy of the moment far overshadowing the nausea and pain. A beer with lunch in Silverton and the natural recuperative powers of a 20-something body gradually managed to assert a sunnier inward disposition to match that of the Rocky Mountain day!

Since then we've loved the Police, acquired just about everything they ever recorded. We aren't even bothered by Sting's political activism even when it diverges from our views significantly. He was a fabulous Feyd Rautha Harkonnen in the "real" movie version of Dune. Yeah, admittedly, we tossed aside any logical objections to their post-Police lives and gave 'em a pass.
The only real objection to their actions has been the fact that they broke up in the first place.

Perhaps the Grammy's will give them the excuse they need to get back to making music again.

First place things first today

We at the Central Command of Oklahomily would like to use the occasion of our 901st post to offer our congratulations to Miss America Lauren Nelson, of Lawton, Oklahoma. Normally the Miss America pageant flies beneath our radar but for two years running Miss Oklahomas have taken the national title, thus our home-state pride trumps our traditional indifference.

Last year's Miss America, Jennifer Berry, was from Jenks, a suburb of Tulsa within a 10-minute drive of our command post. Lawton's a bit further down the pike (literally, I-44 and two toll roads, the existence of which could prompt a lengthy dissertation on the evil of a state government promising that toll roads will be made free someday, but this is not the proper forum for that rant, so we return to the gals and say) "ah, but an Oklahoma rose in any other burg is still an Oklahoma rose!"

(Shown above is Lauren, receiving her crown from Jennifer.)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Who are these people?

Liberal writers for such news outlets as the Washington Post and New York Times never fail to amaze with their descriptions of entire groups of people who have strange and eclectic thought processes, people of whom most of us have never met.

Today's example is in an article about how Congressional Democrats are tip-toeing around abortion (again), trying to move the pro-choice ball forward by pretending concern about pro-life issues while at the same time emasculating the political opposition by fooling enough people so that they will begin voting for Democrats again. The Post admits the pro-choice forces lost the battles in the Culture Wars of the last decade:
... Congress became a battleground for opposing forces in the abortion debate. Nearly 150 bills and amendments have been offered with the aim of restricting the procedure. Democrats and pro-abortion-rights Republicans blocked most of those measures, but in the process they alienated a vital group of voters -- religious moderates who support, in principle, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide but who are morally squeamish about terminating pregnancies.
Pardon the hell out of us for asking, but just who are these "religious moderates" who are at one and the same time in favor of killing the unborn, but squeamish about it?

Is the WaPo telling us that there are hordes of people who essentially say, "I'm personally quite comfortable with abortion rights, but I wouldn't mind telling a woman she can't have one?" Have you ever met anyone who professed that point of view? We have not.

We've met the "I'm personally opposed, but I wouldn't dream telling anyone what to do with their body" people. They are legion. Politically speaking, they are also worthless. Neither side can count on their solid support, because they support nothing solidly.

According to Scripture, Jesus is of the same opinion:

"Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." (Rev. 3:16, but read verse 17 if you are brave.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Winter tightens it's grip, and we lose ours - But then there's baseball!

As we contemplate the Awful Horror of another Oklahoma weekend besieged by snow and ice - the radar shows the leading edge of the snowstorm about six or seven hours distant, and the forecast of another 5 to 9 inches of accumulation - our thoughts cannot help but turn to sunnier topics.


In the morning's e-mail we received an invitation to join MLB Bloggers, after some illustrious member discovered that we have, on occasion, opined on major league baseball. We are invited to help make "a positive contribution to the Internet community."

Well, no one has ever accused of of that before! So after a little more contemplation, we'll probably go ahead. Aside from the residue of the Steroid Era and Barry Bond's failed amphetamine test, exhorbitant salaries and our still percolating anger over the "tie" at the 2002 All Star game, baseball remains one of the few "pure" areas in society, made ever so more sweet by the St. Louis Cardinals' conquest of the World Series last fall.

Who knows, it could be fun.

Count the cost of ethanol gasoline

How much are you willing to pay for "green" - environmentally-friendly - gasoline?

We speak of ethanol, the corn-based fuel of the future that is supposed to eliminate OPEC and the other sorry oil-producing foreign bastards from our lives.

Earlier this week we read a report that suggests farm and energy experts have seriously miscalculated the amount of corn that will be necessary to produce ethanol this year (and in future years). Corn prices, already soaring, could go so high that your average American will not be able to purchase corn-related products for food consumption, not to mention the impact such prices would have on beef and pork production (and prices).

That's alarming enough.

Yet today, whilst reading The Mogambo Guru's weekly diatribe on the economic madness that is the 21st Century, we came across this:
In the Whiskey & Gunpowder newsletter we read that the energy density of ethanol is less than petroleum, as "The standard, accepted measurement of energy density for ethanol is 26.8 megajoules per kilogram. This clearly compares unfavorably with the energy density of gasoline at 45 megajoules per kilogram."

So, you get a lot less energy per unit of weight. Worse, "The energy return on energy investment (EROEI) of ethanol" is "break-even at best", because oil just gets pumped out of the ground at minimal energy expense.

He asks the pertinent question. "So will the U.S. really wind up running its motorized culture on corn-based ethanol? According to Cornell researcher David Pimental, if the entire U.S. grain crop were converted to ethanol, it would satisfy about 15% of U.S. automotive fuel needs. The answer is no."

But that doesn't mean we won't try, as seemingly evidenced by Bloomberg when they report that the price of corn has surged to a 10-year high, "sparking rallies for soybeans and wheat, after the U.S. forecast the smallest global supplies in 29 years as record demand for ethanol uses up more of the crop.”

Our bottom line: we can't get rid of OPEC by converting crops to gasoline. The Mogambo's bottom line?

Hahaha! You slightly reduce the necessary increase in imported oil needed to satisfy an increasing demand for energy, but at the cost of making everybody's food horrendously more expensive? Hahaha! This is too, too rich, and government meddling at its worst!

If you are one of those environmentally-sensitive people who do not give a damn about the fate of individual human beings, then perhaps you are pleased with the thought that greater E-gas will lead to malnutrition, disease and starvation deaths on a massive scale, thus bringing about more rapidly the human die-off some believe are envisioned by the United Nation's Millennial Goals. Our would-be global masters foresee a world of about 500,000 million people living in harmony with nature and one another, or at least that's the word from various conspiracy buffs. (It also happens to be one of the "suggestions" on the Georgia Guidestones.)

You don't have to believe in the conspiracy theories to realize that there is a big economic modelling problem with ethanol. And before you interject that surely this is a great opportunity for the small farmer to increase his corn acreage and profits, we have to point out that the small farmer is pretty much a thing of the past, and the money it takes for a small farmer to become a player against the corporate farming colossi is prohibitive.

We'd say it's about time for that cold fusion technology to come out of the closet.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tragedy on an icy Oklahoma interstate - A cautionary tale of unlawful immigration

Most of the nation is preoccupied with other things, especially those of us who are in the grip of Ice Storm '07, but we should not forget what happened on I-40 early Sunday morning. An eastbound 1998 Chevy Astro minivan stuffed with 12 Mexicans hit an icy patch, crossed the center median and slammed into an oncoming tractor-trailer rig. Seven of the occupants of the minivan are dead and four, as we understand it, are in the hospital. One was treated and released into the custody of federal officials.

Under no circumstances can this report be anything other than a tragedy, but it is even more so because of the legal status, of lack thereof, of most if not all of the occupants. The passengers were being smuggled through the United States, from Nogales, Arizona, a border hub for the unlawful trafficking of persons entering the U.S. without permission, to North Carolina.

It requires little imagination, only a bit of time and compassion, to get a glimpse into the lives of those aboard the overloaded Chevy. It is quite possible, even probable, that the passengers had been promised jobs and new lives in prosperous North Carolina. Perhaps they had spent months raising enough money to purchase their passage. Maybe relatives who already had made the trip had sent them dollars via ATM or money-grams. Connections had been made with "coyotes" who would get them across the border and then provide transport to their new home.

A nine-year-old minivan, if it is not properly maintained, can have awkward driving characteristics on dry pavement, let alone ice. Overloaded with twice the number of passengers it is designed to carry at maximum, the minivan was an accident waiting to happen. Did the people who took their money think about this? Did their profit margin require only one vehicle? Did they even care?

You can imagine the anxiety of the passengers: the fear of discovery, the excitement of an adventure into a strange nation, the fear that destination's end might not be the better world that was promised. It is difficult to imagine, however, that the passengers would suspect that their transportation arrangements would be a one-way ticket to death.

What took place just before 4 a.m. is not just a tragedy, it is a crime against humanity. Every person who takes money for the smuggling of human beings into this, or any other country, with little or no regard for the laws that safeguard the orderly transition of civilization, shared in the guilt.

For every would-be do-gooder who proclaims that immigration without the benefit of legal entrance is a good thing, or a forgettable and forgiveable act, we would point to the mangled metal of that minivan, and the mangled bodies of the dead and injured, and ask: Can you sleep at night knowing that your advocacy of an unlawful smuggling trade has led to these deaths, and the deaths of scores of others during the past year?

Five people were taken to medical facilities in Elk City. It is highly unlikely that any will have insurance that will cover the cost of their care, and less likely they will have the resources to pay for it themselves. Those costs will result in higher prices for Elk City area residents. No doubt many citizens would be willing to defray the expense of those poor people, but many as well may be increasingly unable to foot their own bills for emergency care.

Fortunately the driver of the tractor-trailer rig was not injured, but his appointed rounds for Sunday were ended. What kind of cargo was he hauling? Perishables badly needed somewhere in the Southwest? Insurance will cover the loss, but those costs will be averaged out among policyholders. What if the trucker had been hauling propane, or necessary, but deadly, chemicals? What if the vehicle on the opposite side of the Mexican minivan had been another minivan carrying a family to a winter ski trip in New Mexico, and loss of life occurred?

This is one incident giving us a glimpse into the cost of illegal entry into our country. One vehicle out of how many in each day? A dozen? A hundred? More? No one seems to know.

How much is the total cost to our economy, our culture, the organized machinery of society, on an annual basis? How much more will the cost be?

A legal immigrant will be counseled. A legal immigrant will be advised to heed American traffic laws, and not trust individuals who will put profit over safety concerns. A legal immigrant will study the laws, languages, culture, geography and customs of his or her new land, and be less likely to become a burden, or a statistic.

One must balance compassion with common sense. The victims of Sunday's accident would have been far better off to have been made wait in line for their turn to emigrate. The rush to enter the U.S., abetted by those who make money in assisting them and those citizens (and politicians) who oppose strict border enforcement, is neither compassionate nor sensible.

We are profoundly saddened by the tragedy, the senseless loss of life, and the equally tragic lack of concern of many Americans toward realistic solutions of the border crisis.