Saturday, May 28, 2005

VFW, North Highlands

Raffle ticket inflation this Memorial Day weekend: $5 yields twenty-plus tickets. At least there's a good chance of winning! Now, what to do with the Orange Mountain Dew twelve-pack, and the mini American flag?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Schapelle Corby

Gets 20 years, and Australians decide en masse that they've had it with Indonesia:
"There just didn't seem to be enough evidence to prove her guilty. It doesn't make sense the Bali bombers who killed hundreds of people get nothing, but she gets 20 years."

Eryn Bousfield, 25, said she would protest against the sentence by never holidaying in Bali.

"I said if she's found guilty I would never travel to Indonesia as a protest against what's happened to her," she said.
Unusual Arizona Pre-Monsoon

Deborah in Phoenix asks:
Where is da monsoon? : )
Not far away! The forecasts look reasonably good for some action today, or tomorrow.

Deborah replies:
Ah--I see it. It "Lurketh on the Threshold". Lovely!!!
I reply: One reason I mention tomorrow is that the westerly winds look a little too brisk to bring it across the threshold today, but I may be wrong on this point! You will know in a few hours!

Deborah replies:
There is a mild breeze out there and the humidity is something else for AZ and the sky already is looking hazy. I can't see the horizon for any of that typical buildup though.
Celebrate Davis

The promotional announcement in The Davis Enterprise sounded pretty good:

Then: About 5,000 people "celebrated Davis" last spring at a Chamber of Commerce bash designed to promote local shopping and reintroduce residents to Davis businesses and services.

Now: The Chamber hopes to draw that kind of crowd again this year to the second annual Celebrate Davis!, Thursday, May 26, from 4:30 to 9 p.m. at Community Park, 14th and F streets. The festival-like event will feature 170 booths, including about a dozen restaurants offering everything from pizza to ......
but there were also warnings, too, for the dogs:

Fireworks will cap the second annual Celebrate Davis! extravaganza, on Thursday, May 26, in Community Park. But for pets, fireworks can be a frightening.

Some animals aren't bothered by the sights and sounds of fireworks. But others are terrified, becoming nervous, upset and stressed, animal experts say.

Animals have a keener sense of hearing than humans, and the unexpected explosion of fireworks can cause panic in dogs, cats, horses and even birds.
Warnings aside, there were plenty of dogs on-hand yesterday, at Celebrate Davis. DMTC had a booth there, and I went to help sell cookies. The place was pretty crowded and there were some interesting groups there, model airplane flyers chief among them, plus realtors, masseuses, churches, bicycle supply shops, and a wide variety of civic groups, but there were surprisingly few people there selling jewelry - this wasn't the Whole Earth fair!

I went to the Afghan food booth, not only because the food looked excellent (called something like 'sheeshli' - chicken with vegetables, with bread and basmati rice), but also because they were fairly disorganized and thus had the shortest line. Fine food! Poked around, bought a necklace, plus some sherbet as well.

At the DMTC booth, it was deer-in-the-headlights time. Who knew that the entire population of Davis, for months, had been nursing a ravenous appetite for cookies that could no longer be contained? We had to parry a virtual stampede, which ended only when the artillery opened up overhead.

The fireworks were very loud and impressive. I was reminded that folks who collect particulate samples from the air, and analyze them for chemical content, can spot the distinctive chemistry of fireworks smoke, which, last night anyway, was heading east, together with a variety of errant helium balloons and deafened birds, towards Sacramento.

Breaking down the fair was interesting too: carrying boxes under the blinding tennis-court lights, while dodging giggling little girls rolling down the small grassy hills in the park. Made me nostalgic - reminded me of a similar festive evening on Larimer Street in downtown Denver, with kites and purses being sold from festive shops and booths, in the long-past summer of 1976.

A fun time was had by all - summer is at hand!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dopy NRO Reviewer

Loredana Vuoto abuses Warren Farrell's arguments to hail back to a feminine golden age that never was. Referring to Farrell's book, "Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap — And What Women Can Do About It," Vuoto writes:
But he also lays bare the unpleasant truth about working women. For decades, feminists and Hollywood have perpetuated the myth that a woman can have it all — a successful, high-powered career, with time for a loving husband and children, all the while looking glamorous, sexy, and carefree. The reality, however, is that working women today are more stressed, overworked, and underappreciated than they were prior to the women’s liberation movement. Pursuing a career carries trade-offs and costs, which usually come at the expense of family and children. A similar dynamic holds true for women wishing to spend more time at home: The result will be less time and less productivity at the office. This book poignantly illustrates why feminism’s war on human nature is destined to fail: Instead of chasing the chimera of perfect wage parity between the sexes, women will continue to harbor the natural desire to be devoted mothers and wives.
Greg Mankiw

Drank the Kool-Aid! He really has no understanding just how little impact he had in the Bush Administration. He pumped for Social Security reform in the New Republic, arguing in an obnoxious, patronizing way that what Bush had in mind was no different than the sort of 401K programs academics are familiar with (presumably the core readership of TNR). Really annoyed me!

Here are choice nuggets from Mankiw's Fortune interview. To start, Mankiw blames public ignorance for the negative reaction to his offshoring comments during the presidential campaign, despite the fact offshoring directly threatens people's livelihoods:
Q: What are your thoughts on the reaction to your offshoring comments during the presidential campaign? What does that say about the ability to discuss economic issues in this country?

A: It's a challenge. You have to talk about sophisticated economics to voters, most of whom haven't studied economics, or even taken a single course. So you're starting from a base of knowledge that's pretty low.
Mankiw gets very vague about the trade deficit, and ultimately decides to blame the people again, suggesting subtle approaches to take away their discretion to use their money as they see fit:
Q: A lot of people are worried about the trade deficit. Your thoughts?

A: I don't think the economic profession in general has a very good handle on how to think about the trade deficit. If you had asked economists 20 years ago whether the U.S. could run a trade deficit for as long as we have, they would say no, that it could never happen. This has come as a bit of a surprise. I don't think we really have a good sense of what the limits are, especially since we're growing so much faster than most of the world. This might sound glib, but it might be fruitful to think about immigration and the trade deficit as reflecting the same thing—capital and labor both want to flee here because we're the most productive economy.

On the other hand, while the trade deficit isn't a problem in itself, it may be a symptom of a problem. The problem is that Americans aren't saving enough. I don't think there's a single magic bullet to increase national saving, but I do think a switch from an income tax to a consumption tax would help.

Q: But we don't seem to have had much success with efforts to bolster the savings rate, which remains near record lows.

A: I'm intrigued by some compelling evidence from [Harvard economics professor] David Laibson and others that if you design 401(k)s differently, you could improve saving a lot. For example, suppose we made the default for a 401(k) plan that people have to decide to opt out if they don't want to save, rather than having to opt in if they do want to save, as is currently the norm. The evidence suggests that the participation rate would increase substantially.
Rove was the scary political guy who was Mankiw's real boss. Despite his lack of training, or maybe because of it, Rove, not Mankiw, makes Administration economic policy:
Q: What are your thoughts about characterizations of this White House as insular with Karl Rove running most of economic policymaking show?

A: The policy process worked extremely well. It's not like one person sits there—like Karl Rove sits off all by himself making economic policy, or Dick Cheney sits all by himself making economic policy. It's a very formal process where deputies meet, talk to their principals, then principals meet, everyone from [former U.S. Trade Representative and current deputy Secretary of State Bob] Zoellick to [Labor Secretary Elaine] Chao to [former Commerce Secretary Don] Evans, when I was there. Then meetings with the president. We all give different points of view, and the president makes a call. It's a well-run decision making process—the way it should work. .....

Q: It was a collaborative process?

A: It was very collaborative. Look, Karl Rove is a very reasonable guy. I was absolutely delighted that he got the job as deputy chief of staff. He knows his stuff. Some political folks see policy as a way of getting political things accomplished. That's not Karl Rove. He's motivated a lot by good policy. He has a vision of what the party should be doing. He was one of my favorite people in the White House. I didn't come in expecting to think that. I thought he'd be a political guy who'd push policy in a bad direction for political reasons. I left the White House having great respect for Karl.
Note Mankiw's rationalizations: don't blame the Bushies for the enormous deficits! They're nice guys with a well-run decision-making process (which functions so well because independent people with a clue are systematically excluded):
Q: What about the argument that administration policies made the deficit worse than it would have otherwise been?

A: Well, it did. But the president came in inheriting an economy that was sliding into recession. He cut taxes in part to stimulate the economy, and I think that did have a positive impact on the growth of the past few years. He also, in the aftermath of 9/11, had to increase spending on defense and homeland security. But over time everyone agrees we have to reduce the budget deficit and move toward budget balance. Also, over the long term, the key fiscal challenge is not the short-run deficit, it’s the long-run budgetary pressures coming from entitlements, which is why Social Security reform is such an important priority.

Q: But does the administration truly believe that? What about what [Vice President Dick] Cheney is alleged to have explicitly said, that "Reagan proved deficits don’t really matter," and this general sense that this administration truly believes that?

A: In my dealings with everyone in the administration, from the President, to Snow to Friedman to [Office of Management and Budget director Joshua] Bolten, there was a lot of concern about the budget deficit and an acknowledgement that it was one of many priorities, but that it was an important priority to reduce the budget deficit over time.
Mankiw blames the public for balking at Bush's Social Security reform. Remember, Bush never actually presented a reform plan, he just talked about it, so what Mankiw says regarding the 'plan' is, simply, wrong, because no 'plan' was ever presented. Also remember that Social Security's unfunded liability can be solved by modest increases in payroll taxes and doesn't require destroying the entire program in the process. Also recall that none of the private account plans bandied about so far would be either voluntary or would allow much discretion regarding where to put your money (certainly not as much as a typical 401K plan currently offers). What gives Social Security stability is that Congress is on the hook for seeing that Social Security functions, and they can raise taxes just as high as necessary to make certain it functions. Congress is accountable, Wall Street is not accountable, and that's the difference!:
Q: What do you think of the idea that a part of the reason Americans are not embracing the President’s Social Security reform plan is that this is a period of greater economic uncertainty and Americans value all forms of insurance more highly as a result—including perceived insurance like Social Security?

A: I think for people to perceive Social Security as safe they haven’t looked hard at the facts. The fact is that the current system is not sustainable. You have a large unfunded liability. There’s tremendous uncertainty about what the future resolution is going to be if we kick the problem down the road. The way to reduce future political uncertainty is to deal with the problem head on right now.

Q: Given that, do you think there’s a plausible argument to be made that people want to protect guarantees?

A: Under the president’s plan, personal accounts are a voluntary option. People are not required to take it as an option. In addition, when you take those personal accounts, you have the option to invest in low-risk assets, if you want to invest in safe Treasury bonds. Most financial planners would tell you its prudent to put some assets in higher-risk, higher-return equities—I personally have 60% to 70% of my assets in equities and what the President’s proposal does is give the option to choose what kind of risk-return profile they’d like.

Q: Let’s put aside the lack of awareness of this reform plan. You don’t think it’s a plausible explanation that Americans are dealing with a lot of economic uncertainty these days that they just didn’t have to deal with 30 years ago—the evaporation of defined benefits, higher health-care premiums, the prospect of more people becoming uninsured as a result? That, along many dimensions, people are losing the kind of economic certainty, job security, financial security that Harvard professors on tenure can take for granted, and don’t want cuts to perceived guaranteed benefits and that this insecurity has to be addressed if the Social Security reform plan is to be successfully advertised?

A: Under the President’s plan, people would have the option to choose themselves how much risk they would want to take on. You’re absolutely right, that defined benefit plans are disappearing, but there’s a reason for that—because they’re not the best way to set up a retirement system. What the President is proposing is to do for public pensions what companies are doing for private pensions—to give people that option.
Interesting sign-off here for the brainwashed!:
Q: Any other thoughts on any of this?

A: No. I think you’ve completely emptied my brain of all thoughts in economics.
Schapelle Corby...

...Gets sentenced today, and in solidarity with her, Australians brace to boycott Bali as a holiday destination.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Plan B

Edging closer.....not there yet.....

One less on the air:
May 25, 2005 -- CONTROVERSIAL sportscaster Sid Rosenberg has been bounced from Don Imus' wakeup show — for good this time — after joking about breast cancer.

"He will not be returning to the 'Imus In the Morning' show," a spokesperson for WFAN-owner Infinity Broadcasting said yesterday, declining to elaborate.

Rosenberg had been mysteriously AWOL from Imus' show since last Wednesday when he stunned listeners — and viewers of the MSNBC simulcast — by mocking singer Kylie Minogue's breast cancer diagnosis.
Then there was this:
Some areas of the media are being far less considerate however. In one shocking report that we have received, a nurse at the Cabrini Hospital in Melbourne, where Kylie is receiving her medical treatment, was offered $100,000 by a member of the paparazzi to snap Kylie in her hospital bed.
"La Mancha" Script

This is what made it hard for our cast to read:
Entire 'Don Quixote' on Six Human Hairs?April 7: (AP) -- Physicists in Spain are celebrating the 400th anniversary of publication of "Don Quixote'' in a very small way: they wrote the first paragraph on a silicon chip in letters so tiny the whole 1,000-page book would fit on the tips of six human hairs. The feat -- just for fun -- shows off a data-storage technique developed years ago by the Microelectronics Institute of Madrid, part of the government's top scientific research agency.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bless Her

How to make our leaders worry about identity theft?:
Betty (but call her BJ) Ostergren, a feisty 56-year-old from just north of Richmond, is driven to make important people angry. She puts their Social Security numbers on her Web site, or links to where they can be found.

It's not that she wants CIA Director Porter J. Goss, former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, or Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to be victims of identity theft, as were millions of Americans in the past year. Ostergren is on a crusade to scare and shame public officials into doing something about how easy it is to get sensitive personal data.

...Today, she is eager to guide reporters to her favorite example: the Social Security number of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), which is viewable via the Internet on a tax lien filed against him in 1980.

"Don't you think if I can get Tom DeLay's Social Security number . . . that some guy in an Internet cafe in Pakistan can, too?" she asks, her voice rising with indignation. "It's just ridiculous what we're doing in this country."

...When Ostergren finds a well-known figure, she decides whether exposing his or her number on her Virginia Watchdog Web site might further her cause.

Which is how she came to link to Jeb Bush's Social Security number.

She notified him through someone she knew in the administration of President Bush. Soon after, she noticed that the governor's number was blacked out on the county Web site in Florida where it was listed. So she posted it on her site.

"I decided since he protected his own hind end and nobody else's, I'd put his on there," she said.
The Leninist Right

Hey, Rush, it's not just a party issue! Why do you believe being a Republican is the same thing as being a conservative? Ideology and party loyalty shouldn't be conflated! Equating the two is equivalent to Leninism!
CALLER: Hey, Rush, it's an honor to talk to you. I have to tell you I didn't think last night that I could have been any angrier. I've been working today as we Republicans have been known to do, and so I just now heard that sound bite from Lindsey Graham. My blood is boiling. He just openly acknowledged by saying, "The folks back home are going to be mad at me," that he's completely disregarding the desires of his constituency. I'm just on fire.

RUSH: Well, this happens. You know, there's a little bit of a dilemma, or better said conundrum with elected officials -- I mean in talking about now structure and principle. Yeah, they're supposed to represent the constituents but we also want them to have minds of their own, and not just, you know, mind following robots themselves. But this, the reason why you're mad is that this is a party issue. This is about what we've all been fighting for since the 1960s, or maybe in some cases the fifties: To get to the point here where we've done what we're supposed to do. We've worked hard and we've won elections, and we've won elections by persuading people to agree with us, and we've campaigned on specific things, and said, "This is what we believe in." We've defined ourselves as conservatives and we've won and we've won big, and now we've won the Senate and the House and the White House -- and now all that's being undermined by some of the people who campaigned on various things that resulted in their getting elected.
Lessons Learned

Reviewing the battle:
In spite of Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party showed a new spirit these last couple of weeks. Some of it was the momentum from a united caucus blocking Social Security privatization, but there was something else that I noticed in this fight: teamwork.

Except for the Lieberman and the dipshits at the DLC, the left worked together to save the filibuster. Bill Frist's abuse of power forced institutional and structural changes in Democrats' coordination, command and control, messsage, and distribution that were fast-tracked to deal with Dobson's threat against the senate.
Clean Comedy Night

Something like this strikes me as a perfect fit for DMTC's Young Performers' Theater (YPT).
What Was - And Remains - At Stake

From Harry Reid's statement:
The integrity of future Supreme Courts has been protected from the undue influences of a vocal, radical faction of the right that is completely out of step with mainstream America. That was the intent of the Republican “nuclear option” from the beginning. Tonight, the Senate has worked its will on behalf of reason, responsibility and the greater good.

Abuse of power will not be tolerated, and attempts to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control are over. We are a separate and equal branch of government. That is our founding fathers’ vision, and one we hold dear.

I offered Senator Frist several options similar to this compromise, and while he was not able to agree, I am pleased that some responsible Republicans and my colleagues were able to put aside their differences and work from the center. I do not support several of the judges that have been agreed to because their views and records display judicial activism that jeopardize individual rights and freedoms. But other troublesome nominees have been turned down. And, most importantly, the U.S. Senate retains the checks and balances to ensure all voices are heard in our democracy.
Republicans weren't defeated here, nor movement conservatives. Rather, it was a comeuppance for an arrogant, dictating minority faction (Dobson, et al.) who thought they could break rules of Senate debate that have stood since the early 1800's. This wasn't Gotterdamerung. That will come later.

By tradition, changes to Senate rules require a 2/3 majority to implement. The nuclear option was all about changing Senate rules, by devious means, requiring only a majority. It is a smarmy approach that could be favored only by hacks.

Several years ago, when Sacramento lost to Los Angeles in the NBA West final, the referees stood aside and let LA get away with transparent fouls. The message to Sacramento was: if you want to be champ, you have to nail a convincing victory, and don't come to us for help.

Systematic filibusters are a new phenomenon, but they are here to stay. Get used to it! We've been doing lots of new things, of late, like strapping justice nominees on partisan missiles, and firing them across the sky. Until that stops, it's guerilla war all the way. Knee-cap the fascists with whatever it takes!
Madness Rampant

Bubble? Bubble? More like a froth!
In California, the median sales price for existing homes broke through the $500,000 level for the first time, according to April housing figures released today.

The stronger than expected sales and price increases defied expectations of a slowdown and came amid growing signs and concerns of a speculative housing bubble emerging in many markets. Federal Reserve policymakers noted "signs of possible speculative excesses in some areas" in the minutes of their May 3 meeting that were released today.
Hometown Albuquerque is #5!

On Forbes list of Best Cities in the U.S. to start a business, or a career. I disagree with their ranking, though. They are over-emphasizing the importance of a low cost of doing business. To me, the critical parameter is income growth, which is pretty bad in Albuquerque, and New Mexico as a whole. Who cares if you have a low cost of doing business, if you have no customers?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Blame America

Yup. Abrupt geographical changes: that's something we're expert in!

Yeah, just who the hell are we? So many possible roles: the romantic, the desperate, the revolutionary - yet we are often just as mixed up as anyone else, and affected by any number of influences. I'm reminded of a clumsy thing a Mormon woman in Utah once told me when she learned I had Mexican roots - something like 'we have a place in our religion for Mexicans.' I didn't inquire as to what that place might be....

We are who we are - whoever that may be....
Made of Glass

I THOUGHT this super pop tune (apparently an unreleased track) sounded like Kylie, and indeed, it is! That's the mark of a good pop tune these days: if it sounds like Kylie, it's good!
Kicking The Can Down the Road

Well, what can one say? It sounds like a horrible compromise, which will have the effect of just "kicking the can down the road" (Mickey Kaus quote.) The only nice thing is that the Republican base is incensed - at their own, the so-called RINOs! Frist is damaged, which is good, and Dobson is frustrated, which is good. But bad judges will get their positions on their courts, and the entire filibuster battle will start up again when a Supreme Court justice is nominated. Nothing is really settled, and even now the Republicans are taking their anger and plotting anew.

(update) I was just lurking over at Lucianne, and I'm amazed at the reaction of the dittoheads. It's a freakin' compromise, for God's sake, not Gotterdamerung! Everyone's pissed that they didn't get their 'money's worth' and they're howling for revenge! This time, the anger is inner-directed: talk of traitors and plots. Here are some choice quotes from crybaby watch:
Bill Frist, MD. That means he should have some rudimentary knowledge of anatomy, and having same should know what testicles are. That is of course unless he only cut up eunuchs while in medical school.

I am ENRAGED at this entire fiasco. Frist looked liked a simpering old woman. Then I had the distinct displeasure of witnessing the disgusting Upchuck Schemer and the ever repulsive daffy dork durbin all giggly and smiling like little school girls at recess time. Made me want to McPuke. Matter of fact I still feel that way. What a sellout. Disgusting RINOs. I hope every last one of you slugs gets defeated.

OK you wimps. Don't call me or send me mail wanting donations for your lousy efforts at this when you were in the majority! Wimps - Wimps - Wimps.

Those are just the Dem fanatics saying that. Any Dem with sense knows they got the best deal here. Read NRO if you want the real deal on how the GOP has betrayed us yet again. This is the final straw for me, and I hope for plenty of others. Vote in your primaries against the RINOs and pull your financial support from the party, and let them know why. They have betrayed us all.

The enemy has adapted and mutated.

The Republicans in the Senate have no idea the level of a litmus test that this vote was. The Democrats do and they know that they won. The Republicans clearly have no idea how big a deal this was to the base.

I am so mad I dare not say what is on my mind. We've lost, and our own people betrayed us. It's time for us to take it to the streets and rebel against those who will not do the will of the people.
Awful compromise, and I'm unhappy with Harry Reid for it, but if this compromise makes the fascists eat their young, it was worth it!
Cross-Casting "Huck Finn"

Sensitive as I am to the demands of history, I nevertheless feel that racial casting Huck and Jim is not necessary for an effective performance.
So Close!

Rumor has it Kaylynn Rothleder nearly made it as Annie on the "Annie" national tour, placing roughly third in the running, beating hundreds in the process!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Pirates of Penzance

Went with the DMTC crew and saw lots of friends in performance at Runaway Stage's "Pirates of Penzance" on Friday! Occasional and frequent DMTC folks who performed: Tevye Ditter, Kelly Mustain, and Rodger McDonald (the SacBee picture is below), plus Michael McElroy, Kyle Cherry, Hailee Ketchum-Wiggins, and Chloe Condon. It was a very nice show and featured an excellent performance by Jess Gonzales as the 'very model of a modern Major-General.' The 'modern' touches (e.g., Tev singing to the sword hilt as if to a microphone) were incongruous, but amusing, and hence effective.

Pam Kay Lourentzos did an excellent job with the energetic choreography. Indeed, I was a little worried, at times, whether there was enough room on stage, and on the fore-stage, in the aisles, and in the audience, for all that energetic movement! Her inspirations seemed many and diverse - a real grab-bag! Lillian Baxter's costumes were great as well.

It was nice seeing Joe Schulte at intermission: he played Tevye in Woodland Opera House's Fiddler in 1997 (my first show).

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

I spent most of the weekend at home, sweeping the back yard and garage, mowing, and cleaning gutters. It's a duty I've neglected, and as a consequence, there was a lot to do.

The house is tall, and the gutters are high above the ground. While cleaning the gutters, a rock turned under the tall ladder's leg. The ladder toppled and I was thrown into the wall. I grabbed a drainpipe, which was able to hold my weight, and I was thus spared injury. I'm glad I didn't fall away from the wall!

After a shower, I fell asleep, leaving the back door open. Cloudy the Rabbit took advantage of the open door, came into the house, poked around, spotted my shoes in the bathroom, and peed in them. I'm not sure why she did that: rabbits are so inscrutable! Was it affection? Was she offended by the presence of the shoes? Was she just taking inventory?