Friday, October 15, 2004

Ola Na Iwi

Tiny houses so far, but we are having fun (2nd Friday).
Latest Weird Dream

My dream was I was back in NM and I was anxious. I had to walk 150 miles around a mountain range by sunset, it was already 5 p.m., and I was hoping for a lift.

A female co-worker drove up in some sort of outlandish Humvee, along with 2 Chippendale dancer-types in Mad Max gear, to give me a lift. She said she was going to give up air pollution to study well-logging with her new petroleum engineer 'friends.' I said, "You Go Girl!"

Stranger than fiction? Better than truth? A vision for the future?
Times, They Be So Strange

The problem isn't that John Kerry talked about Mary Cheney's lesbianism, it's that Lynne Cheney, Mary's mother, feels lesbianism is somehow bad. And Mary Cheney is staying silent (to my mind, a silence that says it all - she could demand and receive a Kerry apology if she insisted, but that would be a homophobe victory she can't tolerate, so she stays silent.)

By bringing lesbianism up in the debate, John Kerry took a risk, but he knew it would really irritate his opponents, and demonstrate their hypocrisy for all the world to see. Republicans love to dish it out but scream like girlie men when porked by the opposition. Because of Kerry's cojones, he deserves to be President.

Too bad there isn't an endangered species act for American computer programmers.

What has the world come to when you can get arrested for just semi-naked protests where the President can see?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Reprise of 1988

George W. Bush's 2004 community college sunny cluelessness reminds me of Michael Dukakis' 1988 bloodless cluelessness when asked how he'd respond if his wife was raped. In both cases a sympathetic figure was presented (an unemployed worker; a violated woman) and both times the candidates didn't get it. Hooray for Bob Schieffer: like Bernard Shaw in 1988, Bob got one right for once! Time to give Bush the Dukakis treatment.
Worst Bush Gaffe of the Night

Sunny and clueless remarks that will haunt Bush the way Gerald Ford was haunted by saying the Soviets didn't dominate Poland in the 1976 presidential debate with Carter.

Outsourcing hits particularly hard young-to-middle-aged technical workers who completed their educations not that long ago. These are the folks that just got out of community college! They lose their jobs because eager foreigners are available to do the work for a fraction of the wages. Getting reeducated won't help if new jobs are unavailable, because long-term job investments featuring R&D have been neglected. Recommending education as a panacea borders on insult, and segueing to elementary education doesn't address the question.

Bush will pay for his blithe contempt for the modern American worker.

SCHIEFFER: Let's go to a new question, Mr. President. Two minutes. And let's continue on jobs.

You know, there are all kind of statistics out there, but I want to bring it down to an individual. Mr. President, what do you say to someone in this country who has lost his job to someone overseas who's being paid a fraction of what that job paid here in the United States?

BUSH: I'd say, Bob, I've got policies to continue to grow our economy and create the jobs of the 21st century. And here's some help for you to go get an education. Here's some help for you to go to a community college.

We've expanded trade adjustment assistance. We want to help pay for you to gain the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

You know, there's a lot of talk about how to keep the economy growing. We talk about fiscal matters. But perhaps the best way to keep jobs here in America and to keep this economy growing is to make sure our education system works.

I went to Washington to solve problems. And I saw a problem in the public education system in America. They were just shuffling too many kids through the system, year after year, grade after grade, without learning the basics.

And so we said: Let's raise the standards. We're spending more money, but let's raise the standards and measure early and solve problems now, before it's too late.

No, education is how to help the person who's lost a job. Education is how to make sure we've got a workforce that's productive and competitive.

Got four more years, I've got more to do to continue to raise standards, to continue to reward teachers and school districts that are working, to emphasize math and science in the classrooms, to continue to expand Pell Grants to make sure that people have an opportunity to start their career with a college diploma.

And so the person you talked to, I say, here's some help, here's some trade adjustment assistance money for you to go a community college in your neighborhood, a community college which is providing the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century. And that's what I would say to that person.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Kerry?

KERRY: I want you to notice how the president switched away from jobs and started talking about education principally.

Let me come back in one moment to that, but I want to speak for a second, if I can, to what the president said about fiscal responsibility.

Being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country.


This president has taken a $5.6 trillion surplus and turned it into deficits as far as the eye can see. Health-care costs for the average American have gone up 64 percent; tuitions have gone up 35 percent; gasoline prices up 30 percent; Medicare premiums went up 17 percent a few days ago; prescription drugs are up 12 percent a year.

But guess what, America? The wages of Americans have gone down. The jobs that are being created in Arizona right now are paying about $13,700 less than the jobs that we're losing.
And the president just walks on by this problem. The fact is that he's cut job-training money. $1 billion was cut. They only added a little bit back this year because it's an election year.

They've cut the Pell Grants and the Perkins loans to help kids be able to go to college.

They've cut the training money. They've wound up not even extending unemployment benefits and not even extending health care to those people who are unemployed.

I'm going to do those things, because that's what's right in America: Help workers to transition in every respect.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Debate 3

First impression: Kerry won in a walk.

Second impression: I think Bush inadvertently made a terrible error. In regards to what to do about people who have lost their job due to outsourcing, Bush emphasized the importance of education in retraining for the jobs of the future. The trouble is, unemployment from outsourcing principally strikes young to middle-aged technical workers who completed their education just a few years ago. Do you realize how insulting and angering it is to be told to return to school? These unemployed folks have to pay back their current burden of student loans, and they are supposed to sign up for some more? These folks already trained for the jobs of the future, but the future has been snatched from them by short-term thinking, in-it-for-stock-value people who just happened to be their superiors.

Education was the stock answer of America's industrial challenge of the 1980's, and it is heartening to see that Bush is only 20 years out-of-date. Nevertheless, with his blithe cluelessness, Bush demonstrated that he doesn't understand the world of this decade, and like his father with the automated supermarket checkout, is really fit only for retirement.

Third Impression: Bush's hopeful sentiments for a bright, happy future are charming, but there are so many broken covenants regarding Iraq and OBL that he has little credibility left. I suspect people will smile at his vision and vote instead for their real future, for Kerry.
Leah Miller, CDF Firefighter

Last night, driving to Woodland from Sacramento for the first night's Nutcracker practice with this year's 'Clara', Megan Jackson from Robbins, it was hard to miss the glowering smoke plume and impressive sunset over the Capay Hills. I picked up a copy of the 'Daily Democrat' in the hope of finding a mention of Leah Miller, ballerina and firefighter, who lives in Madison, just a few miles below the fire. It seemed logical she might be up there in the hills, but you never know with CDF firefighters, since they get sent hither and yon to fight fires all over the West: she could well have been hundreds or thousands of miles away, in Oregon or Nevada.

Little did I know that Leah Miller was set to make a bigger media splash. Today she made the front page of the Metro section in the Sacramento Bee, in her trendy yellow jacket, as she wrestles the Capay fire to the ground. Leah is the most gung-ho, robust, personable, and above all, lovely girl I've had the pleasure to work with over the last decade in Woodland. Go Leah!

Meanwhile, the heedless gamblers at Cache Creek Casino are completely unfazed by the nearby fire. There are probably taking odds, even now, on the casino ignition temperature.

CDF firefighter Leah Miller of the CDF Brooks Station uses a drip torch Tuesday, Oct. 12, while "fireing out" an area to hold a road (an effort to contain the oncoming blaze by starving it of fuel), as the Rumsey Fire continues to burn nearly 30,000 acres in Yolo and Napa counties. Photo by Lezlie Sterling.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Weather Gods Finally Locate and Pummel Bothersome Geophysicists

A horrific hailstorm struck Socorro, New Mexico on Tuesday afternoon October 5, 2004, striking particularly hard in the vicinity of the campus of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (aka NM Tech: I attended my freshman and sophomore years there in the mid-70's). Courtesy of ex-Techie John Wright in Oklahoma comes an E-Mail from Socorro 6th-grade teacher Candy Lindquist detailing some of the damage:

The worst damage was in the Tech area. Friends who live on "faculty hill" have many serious roof problems, among lots of other problems. Although our students weren't hurt, thank God, a lot of windows were broken in one building of my school (not mine, through some miracle), and many cars are a mess. (My school is near Tech.) And this is true for many, many cars all over Socorro! There was flooding in the streets, no power in the main part of town, etc. It was incredible!

At the time of the storm, I was with my 6th graders. They screamed like banshees, scared and excited. At points they hid under the table--v. good. We are in portables, and this stuff pounding on the roof and slamming against the doors and windows was beyond anything. I actually had to pull one kid away from the door several times--he was determined to go outside &, presumably, get his brains knocked out! (After the worst of it was over, the kids loved seeing the layers of the hailstones--what an opportunity!)

This sort of event is very unusual, maybe unprecedented, in New Mexico, and probably indicates extreme displeasure at some level in the supernatural realm. Here is a photo displaying the wide diversity of the tennis and baseball-sized hailstones that hit the ground:

Photo courtesy Prof. Richard Sonnenfeld, NM Tech. (More images, plus some AMAZING video are available at Dr. Sonnenfeld's Tech web-site).
Luau Extravaganza

Went to the big luau at the Red Lion Inn yesterday (a fundraiser for Interact Theater, KVIE TV, and also a birthday party for Genevieve Shiroma, SMUD Board member and local activist).

As Ola Na Iwi cast members, we were thrust into the important task of selling raffle tickets. It was OK: I made myself helpful by ripping apart raffle ticket stubs.

The food was great, but peripatetic Whyt appeared to skip the yummy pork, focusing on the rice and assorted vegetables. After two glasses of wine, I stopped worrying about the breezy day, occasional flying napkins, and the pork stain on my shirt. Maria and I talked about bruises: after tech week and opening weekend, she has some on her knees from the "Kawehi Go Boom" scene (Act 2, Scene 15). Ben was in the unaccustomed position of watching his former band play on the stage, and Eva chased her grandaughter around.

Heddy was everywhere, but Dennis preferred to stick close to George Takei (Star Trek's Mr. Sulu). Mr. Takei gave a rambling, praiseworthy speech, but like any Hollywood notable transplanted incongruously into the Central Valley, seemed slightly out of the local loop. Never mind. It was fun seeing him. I introduced myself to Genevieve Shiroma and was surprised she already seemed to know who I was (from last year's gubernatorial run - as a local politico, she appears to pay very close attention to the comings and goings of even obscure locals).

The live auction was interesting: some reluctance to bid on the fancy dinner, more interest in the trip for two to Maui, but no interest at all in the estate planning offer (like myself, everyone in attendance must have felt they would be immortal, and thus had no need for the service). Then the Ola Na Iwi cast sang "Hawaii Aloha," the first time ever to live musical accompaniment, and then it was off to Davis, for the latest theater kerfuffle there.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Debate 2

The most interesting thing about Debate 2 was Bush speaking in code to the anti-abortion movement, with his Dred Scott remark, about his eagerness to appoint anti-Roe-vs.-Wade Supreme Court Justices. Bush's campaign has been remarkable in its effort to turn out his base, even at the risk of alienating everybody else.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Vanity Fair Election Special

I just read the gripping article in the current issue of Vanity Fair, summarized here:

The 2000 Supreme Court decision that put George W. Bush in the White House capped the most disturbing and confusing fiasco in recent U.S. political history. Through the eyes of the shocked clerks of some of the justices, Florida election workers, and an outraged African-American community, David Margolick, Evgenia Peretz, and Michael Shnayerson get a clear look at how voters were disenfranchised—and investigate the chance of similar chaos next month.

A very disturbing article, particularly regarding how the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has been carefully cosseted by right-wing clerks in order to be guided to predictable right-wing opinions. Chaos after this election may be nearly inevitable, given the horrible precedent of Bush v. Gore in 2000.
Ola Na Iwi Open!

InterACT's production of Ola Na Iwi (The Bones Live) is now open at the Eagle Theater in Old Sacramento (on weekends)!