Friday, July 01, 2005

Cruel Provocation...

...Is still permissible in "Letters-to-the-Editor." Long live freedom of speech!
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Friday that a newspaper cannot be sued for printing a letter that suggested Americans respond to attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq by going to the nearest mosque and killing the first five Muslims they see.
Jingles

The folks at B3ta collect these things - God knows why:
A few weeks back we asked you to send us crap advertising jingles based upon re-workings of popular songs.

However, you mostly ignored us, and sent us entirely the wrong stuff. However, it was all insanely great anyway so who cares?
This week B3ta features three jingles:
Handi Gandhi - Apparently a recording for an Australian curry sauce, this jingle might offend Hindus. And make Australians a little embarrassed too.

Yum Yum Bumblebee Tuna - For the revolting mental image alone, this jingle is a stomach-churning classic.
But the best jingle isn't really a jingle at all, but rather an:
Amateur voice over - "I work in radio", whispers Phil, "and sometimes clients insist on either voicing, or making, their own commercials. This is one of the latter, the very end cracks me up every time."
Daily Rotten

Picked up the box jellyfish story.
Subtle Plame

Economaniac suggest that the Plame case is not about a vendetta as such, but rather bureaucratic politics meant to conceal lies about WMD:
What started as a potential case of intentionally leaking the identity of an agent has now become about perjury and obstruction of justice in an attempt to conceal White House involvement in fixing the intelligence that led to war. Cooper and Miller were all over the prewar intelligence beat, so they become keys to understanding how the White House went from propagandists fighting CIA skeptics over WMD to triumphal victors haranguing their doubtors to well meaning victims of bad intelligence. The Plame disclosure happened right in the middle of the transformation, which means that it draws attention to both the WH role in the fixing of intelligence and its efforts to deny that role.

Fitzgerald needs the reporters to contradict whatever whitewash the WH has come up with for this mess. Its not just the identity of the source, it is what the WH was saying and when that will show that they lied to Fitzgerald and the Grand Jury to cover up their manipulation of and lying about prewar intelligence. This is what happens when the administration's Orwellian alteration of history occurs in a venue where lying is a crime and providing talking points is conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Air Quality in Albuquerque

Is suffering - from the fire north of Phoenix, 400 miles away! Wow!
LA Settles For Second Place

The second-rainiest season on record:
They say Los Angeles likes a winner. But when it comes to rain, the city is going to have to settle for a close second.

The epic 2004-05-rain season comes to an end at midnight Wednesday, and downtown Los Angeles missed the all-time record by a measly 0.93 of an inch.
War of the Worlds

I don't like the color much myself:
IN a breakthrough that could bring a new defence against the world's deadliest animal, Queensland scientists have discovered that the box jellyfish flees from the colour red.

While a colour often associated with passion, red is a complete turnoff for the dreaded jellyfish, which in the warmer months inhabits tropical waters in northern Australia and has killed 70 people.
"The King and I" Review


Courtesy of Andy (and Steve), here is the Davis Enterprise review (for readability, save and expand).

Some aspects of the review are....idiosyncratic, to say the least. Could it be Malibu Barbie and Aunt Barb ARE THE SAME PERSON??? Oooowwweeeooo!

And now....the text!

Getting to know this 'King'
By Bev Sykes, Enterprise drama critic
Published: June 28, 2005

No make-up designer is listed in the program for the Davis Musical Theater Company production of "The King and I," which opened Friday at the Varsity Theater.

It's unrealistic, I suppose, to expect a small community theater to find a cast of actors who look Siamese/Burmese, but a little make-up magic would have helped credibility.

The characters who suffer the most from the lack of authenticity are Tuptim (Chelsea Beatty), the Burmese gift to the King of Siam, who narrates her story of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" wearing traditional Siamese headgear ... which, I hate to say it, just made her look like Malibu Barbie on the way to a Halloween party.

Likewise, the King's first wife, Lady Thiang (Jennifer Bonomo), does a marvelously consistent job with her accent, which seems strange coming from a woman who looks like my aunt Barb.

That said, if one can get past the fact that most of the faces on stage look no more Siamese than director Steve Isaacson, the show's good bits quickly fall into place.

This story of Anna Leonowens, a feisty British widow who travels to Siam with her young son Louis, in order to teach the king's children is, at the outset, visually stunning. Juan Ramos, who also plays the King, has designed a beautiful set within the confines of DMTC's always meager budget.

When the curtains opened Friday evening to reveal the King's chambers, some gasps came from the audience, at the simple beauty on display.

Add Dannette Vassar's subtle, effective lighting, and Jean Henderson's beautiful costumes, and we're off to a good start.

Isaacson has assembled a top-notch cast for this popular show. Unfortunately, no bios were made available, so I'm not sure who is new to the cast; I failed to recognize quite a few names, though, so several may have made their DMTC debuts. If so, I hope they stick around.

DMTC veteran Marguerite Morris plays Anna, and she's wonderful. Her clear, steady, strong voice is a delight whenever she sings. Her acting, as well, is first rate (although her projection could use a bit more oomph in her dialogue scenes). It's difficult to fault her; she's a marvelous casting choice.

Ramos also is equal to the task. He's a commanding presence, despite his less than commanding stature. He has the bearing of a king and a strong voice to go along with it. There's palpable chemistry between the King and Anna during their dancing scene ("Shall We Dance"), when they realize that they have feelings for each other, which never will progress further.

Chelsea Beatty and Ryan Favorite, as Tuptim and her lover Lun Tha, are outstanding. Beatty has a voice to die for, and it remains as strong in her top notes as in her mid-range. (If only she looked the part.) Favorite is a tall, handsome Lun Tha; although less sure as an actor, he handles the part vocally. Their duets are beautiful.

Young Andrew Lampinen is a fine Louis, with a good stage presence and a convincing British accent. John Ramos — as the young Prince Chulalongkorn, who will inherit his father's title on the death of the King — is somewhat less comfortable, though basically he does a good job.

Unfortunately, the two boys' duet, a thankfully brief reprise of the king's "A Puzzlement," is painful. They may have been unable to find the right note to start, and were unable to recover.

Ryan Adame turns in a very strong performance as The Kralahome, the King's right-hand man. (Adame is also one of the few who does look the part.)

The King's children — LisaSoto, Michelle Brunader, Maya Rothman, Macey Almendariz, Paige Almendariz, Brittney Almendariz, Linnea Lampinen, Tanya Campos, Kazuo Koyama, Camila Ortiz and Brittany Aldrege — are all adorable and well drilled.

Michael Miiller's choreography is particularly skillful in the superb rendition of "The Little House of Uncle Thomas," danced beautifully by Katy Fast, Robert Coverdell, Marisa Casillas, Maria Ramirez, Tanya Campos and Marcy Gribin.

I'm certain a few are not already familiar with this Rodgers and Hammerstein story, and with the songs that have become so much a part of the American scene ("Getting to Know You," "Hello, Young Lovers," "Whistle a Happy Tune," and others.). This production, which closes out DMTC's 20th season — and, Isaacson assures me, is the last DMTC show to be staged at the Varsity Theater — has its flaws, but they're outweighed by its strong points. The production is well worth checking out.

Copyright, 2005, The Davis Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.
Billmon Finds The Pea Under The Shell

The best reaction to Bush's speech is by (courtesy of PBD) Billmon, who sees a new Bush strategy: negotiate a settlement with some of our foes - specifically Sunnis who may have only been loosely associated with Saddam's regime (now called insurgents), and not others (now called terrorists). Quoting Billmon:
If you go back and look at the old party lines (versions 1.0 and 2.0) you can quickly see that something new has been added. Heretofore, the "anti-Iraqi forces" have consisted of:

1.) Foreign Terrorists (aka "assassins")
2.) Regime Remnants (aka "dead enders")
3.) Criminal Elements (aka "thugs")

But now we have a fourth category, one with a nice neutral name that doesn't allude to hacking people's heads off or gassing your own people or hating our freedoms:

4.) Iraqi Insurgents (aka "negotiating partners.")

From there on out, the speech carefully and repeatedly distinguished between the terrorists and the insurgents, who are now -- in the fantasy world of the White House propaganda shop at least -- two unique and different populations, where before they were one and indivisible....
So, there was something new in the speech after all! A subtle but very clear shift. You never negotiate with terrorists, after all, but negotiations with insurgents is just a matter of course. We are going to negotiate our way out, likely leaving Iraq to the mercies of a very nasty bunch of people!

Indeed Juan Cole notes that already some of the Shia suspect the Americans are talking too much to the Sunnis, and maybe are planning to stab them in the back.

So remember, from now on, the operative term is now "Terrorists AND Insurgents!"
The Soothing Cloak of Darkness

Yesterday afternoon about 4 p.m., a truck collided with - and completely broke at the base - a telephone pole at the intersection of 21st Street and 2nd Avenue in Sacramento (across from Swanberg's). Thus, when I went home last night, I was startled by the sound of jackhammers in the darkness. My house was apparently at the edge of the blackout zone created as the SMUD workers replaced the telephone pole and transferred the electric cabling to the new pole. Everything from 2nd Avenue to the railroad was cloaked in velvety darkness.

I relished plunging into the jet black streets on our 2 a.m. walk, but I think Sparky was a bit spooked.
Forest For The Trees

The harrassing calls come in on the cell phone nightly, starting around 3 a.m. Jungle Woman keeps some strange hours for a businesswoman, leaving disorder in her wake...

Afflicting the Convenience Store Clerk:
"The gas pump isn't working. You need to reset it."
"You turned off the pump. Do you want the change?"
"I just gave you $20 for gas! I tried to put gas in the tank, but none came out."
"I show that you put $2 worth of gas in your tank, then turned it off."
"Turned it off? That is the STUPIDIEST thing I ever heard of! Who would EVER do anything so STUPID?"
"Would you like your change?"
Catching Up on Pop Culture:
Elvis Presley: King Of The Rock!
Favorite Movie Line (supposedly from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon):
"I AM the Green Destiny! Now BEG for your mercy!"

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Impressions of George Bush's Speech

Here are some of my impressions:
The terrorists who attacked us – and the terrorists we face – murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression – by toppling governments, driving us out of the region, and exporting terror.

And yet, unlike Communism, it's an ideology without a name, right? So mysterious! But wait! Most of our opponents are Muslims, so presumably that's the ideology. But our allies are Muslims too. So complicated!
Our mission in Iraq is clear. We are hunting down the terrorists. We are helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We are advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability – and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren.
To an increasing extent, we are not hunting down the terrorists. Rather, the terrorists are hunting down our forces. We are on the defensive, have precious little intelligence regarding our enemies, and simply await slaughter.
Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and other nations. They are making common cause with criminal elements, Iraqi insurgents, and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime who want to restore the old order. They fight because they know that the survival of their hateful ideology is at stake. They know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty as well.
Well, this is progress. A year ago, Bush was claiming that only dead-enders and recalcitrant Saddam loyalists were opposing the "Advance of Freedom." But what he says now was true then as well. And our enemies don't have a quarrel with "liberty," or even "freedom," as such: they see their enemy as being the United States of America: Christian, modern, aggressive, and in their backyards.
Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: “This Third World War … is raging” in Iraq. “The whole world is watching this war.” He says it will end in “victory and glory or misery and humiliation.”
We determine where the central front is as much as bin Laden does. We said it's Iraq: so it's Iraq!
These are savage acts of violence – but they have not brought the terrorists any closer to achieving their strategic objectives. The terrorists – both foreign and Iraqi – failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty. They failed to break our Coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war. They failed to prevent free elections. They failed to stop the formation of a democratic Iraqi government that represents all of Iraq’s diverse population. And they failed to stop Iraqis from signing up in large numbers with the police forces and the army to defend their new democracy.
The insurgents do not appear to have much of a political arm - they never said they wanted to do any of these things. So how can we say they've failed?
The lesson of this experience is clear: The terrorists can kill the innocent – but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11 … if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi … and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden. For the sake of our Nation’s security, this will not happen on my watch.
But we have yielded "the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden," by failing to eradicate him. We didn't follow through in Afghanistan!
A little over a year ago, I spoke to the Nation and described our Coalition’s goal in Iraq. I said that America’s mission in Iraq is to defeat an enemy and give strength to a friend – a free, representative government that is an ally in the war on terror, and a beacon of hope in a part of the world that is desperate for reform. I outlined the steps we would take to achieve this goal: We would hand authority over to a sovereign Iraqi government … we would help Iraqis hold free elections by January 2005 … we would continue helping Iraqis rebuild their nation’s infrastructure and economy … we would encourage more international support for Iraq’s democratic transition … and we would enable Iraqis to take increasing responsibility for their own security and stability.

In the past year, we have made significant progress:

One year ago today, we restored sovereignty to the Iraqi people.
Sovereignty without control of the armed forces is hollow indeed. And how can the U.S. prevail if we don't commit enough troops to the campaign?
In January 2005, more than eight million Iraqi men and women voted in elections that were free and fair – and took place on time.

The elections featured slates of candidates, and not specific individuals - to announce a candidacy meant courting death. The elections gave only the roughest idea of true voter sentiment.
In the past year, the international community has stepped forward with vital assistance. Some thirty nations have troops in Iraq, and many others are contributing non-military assistance. The United Nations is in Iraq to help Iraqis write a constitution and conduct their next elections. Thus far, some 40 countries and three international organizations have pledged about 34 billion dollars in assistance for Iraqi reconstruction.
And troop levels by donor countries are being reduced month by month.....
The progress in the past year has been significant – and we have a clear path forward. To complete the mission, we will continue to hunt down the terrorists and insurgents. To complete the mission, we will prevent al-Qaida and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban – a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends. And the best way to complete the mission is to help Iraqis build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.
But we are on the defensive, not the offensive. If force protection is the order of the day, we will have failed our soldiers. Seize the offensive, or get picked off by snipers and bombers!
The principal task of our military is to find and defeat the terrorists – and that is why we are on the offense. And as we pursue the terrorists, our military is helping to train Iraqi Security Forces so that they can defend their people and fight the enemy on their own. Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.
Vietnamization, Part II!
I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I. Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis – who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops – who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy – who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed – and not a day longer.
But what, again, is our job? The mission changes all the time! It was once WMD: now it's the training of troops. Is that a proper function for our soldiers, instead of their sergeants?
Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don’t you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever – when we are in fact working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters – the sober judgment of our military leaders.
It has long been clear that if military officers ask for more troops, their careers are cut off at the knees: witness General Abazaid. So, the military commanders don't ask for more troops, ever! - they make do. Remember, the commanders take orders from Bush: they don't "ask" him for jack! And what about the "14 bases" we are angling for in Iraq, the ones the Coalition Provisional Administration made sure our sovereign right to insist upon was embedded in Iraq's Constitution?

One big reason we don't ask for more troops is that we've made a conscious decision that the goal is not worth more troops, however important we might say the mission is. So, we are, in essence, lying to our own troops about the value of their mission. They can sense the gulf between rhetoric and action, and who can blame them if they lose heart?
As Iraqis make progress toward a free society, the effects are being felt beyond Iraq’s borders. Before our Coalition liberated Iraq, Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Today the leader of Libya has given up his chemical and nuclear weapons programs. Across the broader Middle East, people are claiming their freedom. In the last few months, we have witnessed elections in the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon. These elections are inspiring democratic reformers in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Our strategy to defend ourselves and spread freedom is working. The rise of freedom in this vital region will eliminate the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder – and make our Nation safer.
One consequence of freedom is that people now openly shout "Yankee Go Home" rather than grit their teeth in silence. Condi Rice's latest trip to the Middle East generated lots of nice headlines here, but no applause there.
America and our friends are in a conflict that demands much of us. It demands the courage of our fighting men and women … it demands the steadfastness of our allies … and it demands the perseverance of our citizens. We accept these burdens – because we know what is at stake. We fight today, because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world – and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens – and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we will fight them there … we will fight them across the world – and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won.
No, we are making OUR stand in Iraq: the "terrorists" will go wherever we do! And I didn't recall Bush asking for our perseverance after September 11th: instead, he asked us to continue shopping!

Well, no imminent draft apparently, but no reinforcements for our struggling troops, which means we'll flog them to death, just like we did with the "Rag Soldiers" of WWII, during the Battle of the Bulge (at least there, we had an excuse - we didn't have many troops yet in Europe). Plus, Bush recites hollow progress, and shows no sign of changing course. Following the Vietnam script the entire way! Bush is Nixon resurrected!
(The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again.")

We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

(small instrumental)

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no!

(instrumental)

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

(instrumental)

There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!

(instrumental)

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Iraq, Vietnam's Flashback

Vietnam, the Sequel, where we still lose. Not hard to persuade me: they are deeply similar in many ways.
New Book on Social Security Sleazoids

A new book is coming out describing the Bush Administration's jihad against America's retirement system: Michael A. Hiltzik's "The Plot Against Social Security: How the Bush Plan Is Endangering Our Financial Future."
New Source Review Court Decision

I enter the field of air pollution control carefully: not only is it controversial, but it's outside my immediate range of experience (dispersion modeling). It looks like the recent Appeals Court decision regarding EPA’s December 2002 New Source Review (NSR) reforms doesn't lean THAT heavily in industry's direction. Still, everyone is waiting to see what happens with the NEXT court decision:
The Bush administration's plan to let aging industrial plants modernize without buying expensive new pollution controls was upheld Friday by a federal appeals court.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sided with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying New York and 13 other states failed to show how key areas of the administration's new regulations violate the 1970 Clean Air Act. But the unanimous decision also came down against the EPA on two parts of the rule changes, and told the agency to review a third, giving environmentalists some reason for optimism within the 73-page decision.

...The Bush administration argued that its decision to let older power and other industrial plants modernize without making them install expensive new pollution controls will remove barriers to innovation and increase productivity -- and will not worsen air quality. But environmental critics say the changes also will increase sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that contribute to acid rain and public health woes....

...The judges' ruling said it is not clear if the administration's changes in "new source review" regulations -- rules governing industrial sources of pollution -- will lead to greater pollution, or if leaving the old rules in place would deter companies from modernizing. The new source review rules apply to some 17,000 facilities around the country, including power plants, refineries, steel mills and pharmaceutical factories.

...Another lawsuit, focusing on plant maintenance and upgrades, will be of greater importance to power plants. That case is pending.
Among its decisions, the Appeals Court rejected an exemption for pollution control projects. For example, if you install a scrubber on a coal-fired boiler, you will generate a large reduction in SO2 emissions and a small increase in particulate emissions. Under the old rules, the increase in particulate emissions could trigger NSR and Best Available Control Technology requirements, thus creating a disincentive to install the scrubber. The December 2002 rule changes would have exempted these collateral emission increases from review under certain circumstances, but the Court held that there is no basis in law for this exemption. Some California District rules include similar exemptions.

Most significantly, this Court decision has nothing to do with the Routine Repair, Maintenance and Replacement provisions of the NSR Reform package. These provisions are the most controversial provisions that lead to the claim that power plant operators might be able to modernize their facilities without undergoing NSR. The Court decision didn’t address those provisions because the States’ lawsuits didn’t challenge those provisions, because they were adopted by EPA less than two weeks ago. So that battle is yet to come.
Big Party

Over at East Lawn Cemetery (43rd & Folsom) this evening at 7 p.m., as they celebrate their 101st anniversary. Tours of notable burials wil be featured.

Between this, the Chimp's speech this evening, and Pepper Von step aerobics, all I can say is I'm glad I live in a city!

Mea Culpa

Courtesy of Gabe, a photo of a young Pope John Paul II on a camping trip.

I Don't Have A Problem With Religion

But religion has a problem with me (From Betty Bo Bibster at B3ta):

Top Ten List

Debra Dickerson's Top Ten reactions to the U.S. Senate's recent lynching apology:

  1. Bite me.
  2. Damn right, the least you could do.
  3. Mighty white of you.
  4. Gee, couldn't you have waited just a little longer -- until even the trees from which the "strange fruit" swung were dead?
  5. I'm not impressed, but then, I'm bell-curved. What do I know?
  6. Thanks for kicking our asses so hard, and for so long, that we were forced to develop entire art forms around our oppression.
  7. Try not to break your arm patting yourselves on the back.
  8. Give us back the land, the businesses and the unpaid debts that were the true cause of many lynchings. You sleaze bags!
  9. Gee, was there no appropriate Hallmark card? Let a sister help you out:

    Sorry I castrated your granddad. My bad.
    What's 300 years of raping your ancestors among friends?
    Sticks and stones may break your bones ... Oops. They already did.

    And my topmost reaction to your lame-ass, late-ass lynching apology:
  10. Thanks for absolutely, positively nothing. You feel better. We feel worse. Déjà bloody vu all over again.

Monday, June 27, 2005

"Sepo"

The fruit of G. W.'s war.
Louts And Their Cars

Are soon parted.
Cost Of The War

A ticker!
Too Fun

Poking holes in the arguments The Wall Street Journal uses against Global Warming.
Strategery

What to do about Iraq? Here is my germ of an idea:
OK, how about this: forswear the "14 bases", abandon the Green Zone, and then make a strategic retreat to the Kurdish north.

We'd take a bit of steam out of the insurgency, give our widely-scattered troops less ground to cover, and put our troops in a place where they are actually welcome. We could make lightning forays to attack in the South when needed as well. We wouldn't be actually abandoning the mission, just reconfiguring it for survival in a harsh environment.

The danger would be that the new Iraqi government wouldn't survive such a change, but it may not survive anyway if we don't do something different than what we've been doing. Like FDR said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Be willing to experiment!
Sulky Cloudy

I washed Cloudy this weekend (a complete wash), and even though she was very compliant, she acted very hurt that I would mug her again this way, just as I did last autumn. I've been conducting all sorts of diplomatic forays, with bananas and carrots and kale, to ingratiate myself with her again, but progress is slow.

I wonder if she'd mind if I used a portable hair dryer to make the drying go faster?
Looking To Wash His Hands

Donald Rumsfeld has signed off on the idea that America need no longer prevail in Iraq: Iraqis must do the hard work. Particularly for American nationalists, the implications are worrisome: it means a loss of control (at Obsidian Wings):
But there are other emotions, too. Less-freeing emotions. Emotions that seem better suited to sitting in a twin-prop in turbulence than being a citizen of the greatest nation on Earth in a battle for the soul of a liberated Iraq. Indeed, if you have always believed -- or, as I, have come to believe -- that Iraq is a central front in the war on terror, Rumsfeld's statement is frankly terrifying.

For here is what it means: If victory in Iraq is required to win the war on terror and our troops no longer hold the key to such victory, then we have given up part of our control over the course and conduct of a big part of the war. We have subcontracted a substantial part of our national defense to Iraq's fledgling security forces. We win, or lose, based on their -- not our -- efforts.
Charming Marion Davies

Last night, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) featured a biography of Marion Davies. In her lifetime, she was judged rather harshly, for her relationship with the arch-conservative William Randolph Hearst, for her drinking, for her ambition.

But it is clear, looking at movie clips, that she was really a gifted actress, a classic Broadway Showgirl, a generous person who deserved all the happiness she could gather. It's important to remember not to judge too quickly or harshly other people - something Orson Welles should have remembered before cementing history's harsh judgments of Marion Davies with his accusatory masterpiece, Citizen Kane: history will certainly judge Welles more harshly than Davies.
Don't Do This At Home

Years of education and experience have superbly prepared me for this video game. As the E-Mail says:

I was forwarded this website and thought you'd find it useful for training people on how to calculate plume direction based on wind speed and direction.

David Broder, Dupe (and Dope)

From Edward Gorey: the craven pundit feigns cluelessness and conveniently forgets he helped pull the trigger!



I was appalled by David Broder's weekend editorial. Broder feels that the national interest on any topic is empirically determinable from debate - and compromise - between Republicans and Democrats. What a dope!

Some issues do not lend themselves to compromise: for example, Lincoln wavered not at all in his determination to save the Union, and most importantly, never compromised with the Secessionists.

Insisting that a compromise be reached under all circumstances is, simply, wrong: for example, imagine Jews negotiating terms with the Nazis (OK, we'll offer 3 million Jewish lives this time, and that's our final offer!) It's like negotiating between a raging conflagration and the firemen sent to help: the parties are not on equal terms. Split-the-difference only works when there is a basic agreement on means and goals.

Doesn't Broder understand that the current Republican leadership DOES NOT CARE about Social Security AT ALL and negotiations with them over the program's future will be fruitless? Republican leaders do not care about the program's approaching insolvency: instead, they only care about avoiding the tax hikes required after 2017 to cover the program's shortfall. A better response for these refractory cases comes from World War II, when General McAuliffe responded "Nuts!" upon being confronted with a German surrender ultimatum during the Battle of the Bulge. That's the spirit!

Republicans have never negotiated in good faith regarding Social Security. Time and again, the Democrats have faced surrender ultimatums: Private accounts, or ELSE! Well, "NUTS!" to that! Saving Social Security DOES NOT require private accounts! Period! Come back when you are prepared to actually negotiate!

George Bush is willing to try Robert Bennett's proposal, just to assess where Democratic weaknesses are - a Trojan Horse, if you will:
When Bennett outlined his proposal in a Republican leadership meeting with Bush last week, the president encouraged him to go forward. Bennett quoted him as saying, "I like your bill, period."

White House spokesmen quickly added that Bush was not abandoning his desire for private accounts -- despite polls showing broad public disapproval of his approach.
Bush will certainly not adjust his own plans, whatever the merits of Bennett's proposal.

So, Harry Reid says "Nuts!" and Broder cries more crocodile tears:

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada was quick to dismiss the Bennett idea as a "bait-and-switch" scheme, designed to lure the Democrats into negotiations that would ultimately produce a bill with private accounts. Reid repeated his demand that Bush take those accounts off the table before the negotiations begin -- something the president plainly will not do.

Democrats are feeling smug about the way they have stymied Bush on Social Security. When I asked Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean last week about his party's position on the issue, he said, "We're in a great place. We have been able to block privatization."

But the program is not in a great place. The insolvency problem is real, and it needs to be fixed. No one who knows Bob Bennett believes he is a "bait-and-switch" game-player.
Bob Bennett may or may not be a straight-shooter, but he is coordinating his proposal with the White House, and they are definitely not straight-shooters.

Broder seems to think Armageddon analogies are appropriate, as if circumstances are dire enough to demand negotiation even under adverse circumstances:


Democrats need to recall what John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. The president received two messages from Nikita Khrushchev on successive days, the first outlining easy terms for resolving the crisis -- a pledge of no U.S. invasion -- and the second adding other conditions. Kennedy decided to respond to the first and ignore the second, and the crisis was resolved.
The Social Security problem is not Armageddon - it isn't even as severe as the current Medicare problem - and the Khrushchev analogy fails to hold. Broder offers foolish advice:


If they are responsible, Democrats will take Bennett at his word, come out of their defensive crouch, negotiate -- and put Bush and the Republicans on the spot. To balk at such an offer would be a sign they are putting politics above the national interest.
Even having a negotiation occur at all doesn't put Bush and the Republicans on the spot: rather, under the circumstances, it would be a small Republican victory, and would simply encourage the Joe Liebermann/DLC surrender monkeys. Democrats are under no obligation whatsoever to grant them even that much. Who cares if David Broder thinks the Democrats are putting political interest above the national interest? The Democrats are stalling, and that will serve the national interest infinitely better than ANY negotiation with Republicans pushing private accounts!

The Republicans are determined to destroy Social Security, by hook or by crook. Negotiating a quick demise, through massive privatization, or a more prolonged bloodletting, through Senator Bennett's privatization-lite, leads in the same direction: the more money diverted from shoring up Social Security, the weaker Social Security gets. Negotiation will lead nowhere, at least, until Republicans give up their ideological fixation on destroying Social Security. Even if no negotiations occur until 2017, the system will still be stronger than if ANY of the current Republican suggestions on the table get implemented into law.

Yet Broder is outraged - outraged! - that the Democrats should stall on Social Security. He calls the Democrats smug. That's a false allegation: Democrats aren't smug, not by a long shot! They are finally getting smart about HOW to negotiate, however: first, it's all about not getting all wobbly and caving before the real negotiation actually starts! And there's plenty of time - another 12 years! - for that negotiation.

So, stay the course Harry Reid! Onward, to victory! Crush the Republicans and their craven, compromising Broder friends along the way!

Meanwhile, talking about crushing reporters, reporters Miller and Cooper's appeal to the Supreme Court regarding the Plame case leaks has been turned down: a good development in efforts to rein in mainstream media reporters who subvert national security in order to suck up to powerful government sources engaged on vendettas....

Sunday, June 26, 2005


"The King and I" Opens

(left: DMTC Co-Producer Steve Isaacson implores a new ensemble member to please enunciate and sing more loudly, especially in the confines of the acoustically-challenged Varsity Theater!)


Friday night, DMTC's "The King and I" opened at the Varsity Theater in Davis. I was there to help usher. Co-producer Steve Isaacson was in a suit: first time in a year I've seen him so dressed!

Minutes before opening, D. asked me to take some extension cords backstage. With large shows like "The King and I," the backstage area is usually a beehive of activity, but this time, the area was all but deserted: only M., the Stage Manager, was there (I suspect the traditional opening-night conclave in the dressing rooms was underway, explaining the missing cast). M. picked up some colorful cloth strips on the prop table: "Sashes!" she said, as her eyes rolled upwards. She proceeded to trudge upstairs to return the sashes to the children, who would surely miss them soon.

Opening night, I could sense the cast was being quite careful, to avoid making dreadful mistakes. There were a few mistakes - e.g., the Karalahome prophetically commented on Anna's new ring before the King apologetically presented it - but by and large, things went well: Bev, the Davis Enterprise reviewer was there, so by Wednesday we'll have an less-biased impression how things went. One unexpected thing that went wrong was in Anna's bedroom scene, when she had to put on a bathrobe: it was exasperatingly difficult to find the sleeves. In a similar vein, I thought maybe for entertainment's sake, every show should feature the lead characters having to solve Rubik's Cube puzzles, or answer riddles, or respond to knock-knock jokes, just to drive them crazy and test their on-stage amiability.

Juan Ramos is a very effective King, and Marguerite Morris did an excellent job with Anna. I especially liked the contrast between Anna's usual reserve, and her fiery demeanor when alone in the privacy of her room, she rebukes the King's selfishness. After the show, Marguerite commented that she hadn't fully-appreciated until now how difficult the role of Anna is: one of the few fully-developed and complex leading roles in Musical Theater. Ryan Adame is intimidating as the Kralahome, and Jennifer Bonomo (as Lady Thiang) switches from nuturing to intimidating at an instant's notice, depending on context.

According to Steve and Jan, this is the smallest cast for "The King and I" that DMTC has ever fielded. There aren't that many kids in the show, and John Hancock makes several quick changes trying to keep up with the demands on adult males. The opening night audience was 155, nearly twice "Annie's" opening audience, in March!