Saturday, August 11, 2007
There are two houses adjacent to mine, one on each side. Each house is divided into four apartments, providing many opportunities for misunderstandings amongst all the neighbors.
When last we left the eastern house, last winter, there was a Filipino guy sleeping in a cold, cold Jaguar in the driveway, immediately adjacent to where I parked my car, every night. His girlfriend, a blonde who lived in the house, would bring food out to him, but for some reason usually wouldn't let him stay in the house - was it because R., the former cop with the two kids who lived next to the blonde, would disapprove and call the landlord? In any event, both the blonde and the Filipino were friends with C., the young woman who lived upstairs.
From all the commotion last fall of trading cars, parked cars without plates, vans leaking gasoline, etc., I figured there might be car theft going on next door. There were rumors of other suspect activity, but whether it was drugs or thievery or something else wasn't at all clear. In any event, I said to myself, "God placed these people next door to be your neighbors." I believe the blonde lost her lease this spring, and both her and the Filipino vanished, leaving only neighbor C.
Fast forward to yesterday evening. I drove up about 6 p.m., and all three people were there: C., the Filipino, and the blonde. I hadn't seen C. in so long I thought she might not even live there any more.
After running down the stairs, C. breathlessly said, "I'm SO glad to see you! Do you have an extension cord we can string from your house to my apartment, or perhaps an electric generator?" I had no generator and I demurred about the extension cord: too much could happen to an electrical cord dangling between houses. But why?
"Someone has turned my electric power off! I have a big koi, and he is having trouble breathing! He's going like this..." and she made the desperate faces and gasping sounds of a trapped fish in trouble. The Filipino added, "It's a big koi too! I rigged an electrical cord from the laundry room to the apartment, but we're worried someone might unplug it."
(Hmmm....maybe C. didn't pay her power bill?) I said: "Well, I'm sure that if we let people know about the fish, they won't unplug the cord. When I see R., I will let him know not to unplug the cord."
C. looked down, bit her lip, looked at her solemn friends, who were also looking downcast, and then carefully said: "Actually, please don't mention this to R. at all. To tell you the truth, quite frankly, he has been - less than neighborly." The other two silently nodded.
After C. said to contact her if I knew anyone who wanted a koi, I bid them all good luck and farewell, but I was still worried. R., or anyone else in the apartment building, could unplug the life-sustaining cord, for any reason. A fish would expire fast in the summer heat without the oxygen provided by the air pump. I also wondered why she had a large koi to begin with. Some large koi are expensive. Who would keep a large koi in an apartment anyway? Maybe the koi wasn't hers at all? Who knew? So, despite the advisory, I decided to tell R. about the fish in trouble. I got my chance this afternoon.....
"That is very important, and very interesting, " R. said. We compared notes - SMUD had indeed been at the building yesterday, but R. wasn't aware if anyone's power had been cut off. We speculated whether the koi existed at all, and whether the electrical power was being copped for another purpose, like a MJ garden. Predictably for a former cop annoyed with his neighbors and trying to make the neighborhood safe for his kids, R. called the landlord, and then the police.
When the police arrived, R. called the landlord again, but didn't get an answer the second time, so entry could not even be entertained. But the cop did look into a window into the apartment, and according to R., the cop saw the largest koi he had ever seen, swimming silently around an aquarium....
Friday night, watching C.O.R.E. Dance Collective at work. Lots of motion! Ignorant photographer at helm! Weird shots as a result!
Great show, however! Loved watching Tina DeVine dance!
The most striking dance was the duet, "Love, True" featuring Anne David and Adam Peterson, and choreographed by Kelli Leighton.
"Press P.L.A.Y." was the guest artist, and they did some excellent hip-hop.
In the foreground, Blair Kendall and Adam Peterson.
In the foreground, Dawn Miller.
"Recess!" (She is holding a rag doll).
First, two tropical storms next week, one in the Atlantic and one in the Gulf of Mexico. Then, forget about the Atlantic storm, but keep the Gulf of Mexico storm. Now, keep the Atlantic storm, and forget about the Gulf of Mexico storm.
Just make up your mind, would you please?
Even though it is supposedly environmentally-conscious to support the ethanol blends in fuel, because it helps close the circle on reducing fossil fuel dependency, I still hate this evolving ethanol economy, in part because of two problems. One is that the actual cost of producing ethanol is often underestimated, because land degradation, fuel use and fertilizer costs are often not included. The second is that ethanol increases air pollution ozone levels, because ethanol increases the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of the mixed fuel, leading to evaporation emissions of hydrocarbons from fuel tanks, and thus smoggier California days in summer
But more importantly, ethanol production is now interfering with cattle feeding, and so some steaks are becoming scarce (via the New York Sun):
"The production of ethanol, which is made from corn, is one major reason classic cuts of prime beef are becoming more and more expensive."
As the article goes on to explain, "Corn is the primary feed for cattle that produce USDA-grade prime beef. Corn is also the main ingredient for what many believe is the fuel of the future, ethanol. The production of ethanol has not only increased the demand for corn, it has made harvests more profitable for farmers, who receive the fruits of government subsidies when it is sold to ethanol producers."
Friday, August 10, 2007
Can't please everyone:
A Washington man's karaoke performance of a Coldplay song apparently triggered a female bar patron to attack him early yesterday at a Seattle bar. According to a Seattle Police Department report ... Lindsey Lawrence, 21, assaulted the unnamed victim while he was performing with "two other subjects" at Changes Tavern, where patrons sing karaoke Wednesday and Thursday night from 9 PM until 1 AM. When the assault victim launched into Coldplay's "Yellow," Lawrence allegedly told the man that his "singing s***ed" and that the song "f***ing s***ed." She then grabbed at the man's microphone and "pushed him and punched him in order to get him to stop singing," cops reported. When employees escorted Lawrence from the bar, she "became very violent" and struck several other people (and was hostile towards police and fire department medics who responded to the scene).
So, Jean sends me this image via E-Mail (also posted at Snopes), with the following explanation:
THIS IS A FIRE RAINBOW - THE RAREST OF ALL NATURALLY OCCURRING ATMOSPHERIC PHENOMENA.I was quite suspicious of this E-Mail, naturally, because I had never heard of 58 degrees being associated with anything in the sky.
THE PICTURE WAS CAPTURED THIS WEEK ON THE IDAHO/WASHINGTON BORDER. THE EVENT LASTED ABOUT 1 HOUR
CLOUDS HAVE TO BE CIRRUS, AT LEAST 20K FEET IN THE AIR, WITH JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF ICE CRYSTALS AND THE SUN HAS TO HIT THE CLOUDS AT PRECISELY 58 DEGREES.
Snopes says it’s OK, though, although Snopes does post false material on occasion, on purpose, in order to keep its readers on their toes, as I learned to my great chagrin last year regarding the 'Poseidon-Adventure-Silent-Movie-Shown-On-The-Titanic' false legend.
More importantly, the real authority, Robert Greenler’s “Rainbows, Halos, and Glories” confirms the existence of the phenomenon of the circumhorizontal arc, with the caveat being that the sun’s elevation angle has to be higher than 58 degrees (rather than the sun hitting the clouds at precisely 58 degrees). Normally, the sun wouldn’t be this high in the sky in Idaho, but it becomes a possibility near noon, near the summer solstice.
Every day, sometimes twice a day, I put a handful of bird seed out in the alley, adjacent to the DMV parking lot. Slowly, the neighborhood birds have caught on, and have begun gathering....
In the morning, there are little non-descript birds, and maybe a few doves. In the evening, there are wary crows, sometimes standing back if squirrels get the jump on them. I'm surprised I see no pigeons, since they nest just next door, and there are no scrub jays, even though I hear them passing through adjacent trees. I want to put water out, but with West Nile virus such a menace, maybe it's a bad idea.
Just a little buffet for the locals....
Trying to stack the political plate it's way for access-tiering, AT&T flubs up and censors Pearl Jam for anti-Bush lyrics:
Bottom line -- AT&T’s vendor cut non-obscene, anti-Bush lines from Pearl Jam’s “Daughter” (sung apparently to “Another Brick in the Wall”). In other words, AT&T -- or at least their vendor -- censored political speech....
...There's a reason why this matters. In the ongoing net neutrality debate, a key issue has been whether broadband access providers like AT&T will stifle content on the Internets. After all, under the law today, AT&T is free to block or degrade content from say Daily Kos or the Christian Coalition website. It also has the ability -- i.e, the technical capability -- to do so. Despite having this ability, however, AT&T, Comcast and others have emphatically denied that they would ever block content.
But blocking content is exactly what they did.
[U]nderstand that the ability to block content is not AT&T's endgame. It’s not what the broadband companies are fighting about. For them, the endgame in the net neutrality debate is the ability to do access tiering -- i.e., cutting deals with content providers and services to guarantee a higher quality of service (e.g., ensuring Google goes really fast on the high-speed lane). AT&T probably doesn’t care about content -- it just wants money. If the Rah-Rah-Go-Stalin-Go website paid up, I doubt AT&T would much care what they post.
Yes, the infamous station that brought Swift-Boating to Sacramento in 2004 is now making early morning down right-friendly. Thank goodness I'm a night owl and rarely wake before 10 a.m. Is this Sinclair Broadcast Group Chairman sex creep David Smith's idea? Will there be porn too?
The Channel 13 morning show, which already has a provocative voice in anchor Chris Burrous, continues to push the envelope when it comes to local morning TV news.
Former KFBK conservative talker Mark Williams will give his views on politics and social issues every other Monday at 6 a.m. He starts Aug. 20.
The addition of Williams is yet another indication that Channel 13 is carving a niche for itself in the market as the right-wing station in town. It has used Republican spinmeister Rob Stutzman as an evening news political commentator, and nightly commentator R.E. Graswich leans right, as well.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Left: It's not just summer either. Descending into the Central Valley from the heights of the Tehachapi Mountains (January 5, 2006).
People are beginning to notice:
Lying in a rich agricultural region dotted with vineyards and orange groves, this central California community seems an unlikely place for a dubious distinction: the most polluted air in America.
Hemmed in by mountains, Arvin is the final destination for pollutants from cities as far away as San Francisco Bay, and its wheezing residents are paying the price. Many of them complain that the air smells toxic.
...Arvin has none of the smoke-belching factories or congested freeways of cities such as Los Angeles. In fact, it produces little pollution. But the pollutants that blow in from elsewhere get trapped by the mountains, causing airborne particles to coat homes and streets and blot out views of the nearby Tehachapi range on hot summer days.
Doctors and public officials say asthma and other respiratory problems are common among the 15,000 residents who live 20 miles southeast of Bakersfield. People complain of watery eyes, dry throats and inexplicable coughs, particularly in the summer, when temperatures can climb over 100 degrees and stay there for days.
Arvin's level of ozone, the primary component in smog, exceeded the amount considered acceptable by the EPA on an average of 73 days per year between 2004 and 2006. Second on the EPA's list was the Southern California town of Crestline, at 65 days. The San Francisco Bay Area averaged just four days over the same period.
"Sometimes you go outside and can hardly breathe," said Irma Garza, 48, who has lived here most of her life. "The worst part is in the summertime you can't send your kids outside to play."
Ground-level ozone is created when car exhaust and other noxious fumes are cooked by heat and sunlight. It can trigger asthma attacks, aggravate chronic lung diseases like emphysema and bronchitis and may even reduce the immune system's ability to fight respiratory infections, according to AIRNow.gov, a Web site developed by several agencies, including the EPA, that monitors ozone levels around the country.
...Brar and other local officials say Arvin has been neglected by smog regulators because its residents are mostly poor, Hispanic farmworkers.
Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the valley air district, denied that and said he is trying to improve the board's efforts in the town.
"Everything we've done here is for Arvin," he said. "But unfortunately, Arvin will see progress later than any other area because that's where pollution flushes out of the valley."
Joe The Plumber called up, in a fit of excitement. "I was watching TV, and I saw these great dancers, and they said they were performing this weekend, but I can't remember the name." "Was it Barebones?" I asked. "Yeah, yeah, that's the name!" Joe said.
Don't let Joe The Plumber out-cultcha you! Get your tickets on-line now from C.O.R.E. Dance Collective.
August 10th & 11th 2007
Benvenuti Performing Arts Center
4600 Blackrock Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95835
General Admission $16.00
Talking about new things, B-Girl Emiko will teach a 'House Dance Workshop', Saturday August 18th at Step One, at 3 p.m. (cost $10). She used to go to UCD, performed with 'Flexible Flave', danced for the Kings halftime show, but dances in Philly now. Although I know no hip hop, I'm gonna go, because, as you can see in this 7-minute reel, it looks fun!
January is the month when health clubs re-energize and bring in new people. August, however, is the dangerous month when many of the instructors and students are on vacation, and when club management decides to try - new stuff..... Since I am now an old guy, I hate new stuff. But one must move with the times, however painful.....
In lieu of step aerobics in Tuesday and Thursday's 'Get Fit Jam', at least for a while, Step One is trying out Kick-Boxing and Zumba. Kick-Boxing has never been my favorite, so I suffer through all that expressed aggression. Not as satisfying a workout either, probably due to its fitful, rather than continuous, nature. Zumba, on the other hand, is much like a regular dance class, also fitful in nature, but somehow more fun.
What is Zumba? Apparently it is of Columbian origin - aerobics to salsa, basically. Lots of hip sway. Lots and lots and lots of hip sway! So much hip sway, it'll make you seasick. As a guy, it's great to watch all the girls do those Figure Eights with their hips, but as a participant, it's hard to do - I get flummoxed and do Figure Zeroes. The guru of Zumba is apparently someone named 'Beto'.
Well, regarding Zumba, like they say in the movie "Eraserhead" regarding chicken:
Mr. X: We've got chicken tonight. Strangest damn things. They're man made. Little damn things. Smaller than my fist. But they're new.
The current NOGAPS forecast still shows a tropical storm starting east of Florida by Tuesday, and moving NE. The forecast still shows it considerably offshore, so it should be no hazard.
NOGAPS also shows another tropical storm generating south of Cuba on Sunday, passing into the Gulf of Mexico SW of Tampa, seeming to hesitate, then heading westwards, reaching the Mexican coast north of Vera Cruz by Saturday morning.
While both storms will bracket Florida, neither storm looks all that powerful, and they will both move away from Florida.
While NOGAPS is great at storm path prediction, NOGAPS tends to overestimate the frequency of storm nucleation, so it will be interesting to see if both storms actually get going.
Vanity Fair calls it 'deeply-researched', but I'm sure Halberstam could have written it in his sleep, he was so deep into the history already, having written so many thoughtful works of history, including his opus "The Best And The Brightest", about the wizards that brought us Vietnam.
No, what makes this essay special is that it is about the Bush Administration, and that it is literally his last word on the subject of Bush and the Judgment of History, given his death earlier this year in an auto accident in San Jose (well, last word, with the exception of the forthcoming book):
Now, late in this sad, terribly diminished presidency, mired in an unwinnable war of their own making, and increasingly on the defensive about events which, to their surprise, they do not control, the president and his men have turned, with some degree of desperation, to history. In their view Iraq under Saddam was like Europe dominated by Hitler, and the Democrats and critics in the media are likened to the appeasers of the 1930s. The Iraqi people, shorn of their immensely complicated history, become either the people of Europe eager to be liberated from the Germans, or a little nation that great powerful nations ought to protect. Most recently in this history rummage sale—and perhaps most surprisingly—Bush has become Harry Truman.
We have lately been getting so many history lessons from the White House that I have come to think of Bush, Cheney, Rice, and the late, unlamented Rumsfeld as the History Boys. They are people groping for rationales for their failed policy, and as the criticism becomes ever harsher, they cling to the idea that a true judgment will come only in the future, and history will save them.
Ironically, it is the president himself, a man notoriously careless about, indeed almost indifferent to, the intellectual underpinnings of his actions, who has come to trumpet loudest his close scrutiny of the lessons of the past.
...I am deeply suspicious of these presidential seminars. We have, after all, come to know George Bush fairly well by now, and many of us have come to feel—not only because of what he says, but also because of the sheer cockiness in how he says it—that he has a tendency to decide what he wants to do first, and only then leaves it to his staff to look for intellectual justification.
...When David Frum, a presidential speechwriter, presented Bush with the phrase "axis of evil," to characterize North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, it was meant to recall the Axis powers of World War II. Frum was much praised, for it is a fine phrase, perfect for Madison Avenue. Of course, the problem is that it doesn't really track. This new Axis turned out to contain, apparently much to our surprise, two countries, Iraq and Iran, that were sworn enemies, and if you moved against Iraq, you ended up de-stabilizing it and involuntarily strengthening Iran, the far more dangerous country in the region. While "axis of evil" was intended to serve as a sort of historical banner, embodying the highest moral vision imaginable, it ended up only helping to weaken us.
Despite his recent conversion to history, the president probably still believes, deep down, as do many of his admirers, that the righteous, religious vision he brings to geopolitics is a source of strength—almost as if the less he knows about the issues the better and the truer his decision-making will be. Around any president, all the time, are men and women with different agendas, who compete for his time and attention with messy, conflicting versions of events and complicated facts that seem all too often to contradict one another. With their hard-won experience the people from the State Department and the C.I.A. and even, on occasion, the armed forces tend to be cautious and short on certitude. They are the kind of people whose advice his father often took, but who in the son's view use their knowledge and experience merely to limit a president's ability to act. How much easier and cleaner to make decisions in consultation with a higher authority.
Therefore, when I hear the president cite history so casually, an alarm goes off. Those who know history best tend to be tempered by it. They rarely refer to it so sweepingly and with such complete confidence. They know that it is the most mischievous of mistresses and that it touts sure things about as regularly as the tip sheets at the local track. Its most important lessons sometimes come cloaked in bitter irony. By no means does it march in a straight line toward the desired result, and the good guys do not always win. Occasionally it is like a sport with upsets, in which the weak and small defeat the great and mighty—take, for instance, the American revolutionaries vanquishing the British Army, or the Vietnamese Communists, with their limited hardware, stalemating the mighty American Army.
...Recently, Harry Truman, for reasons that would surely puzzle him if he were still alive, has become the Republicans' favorite Democratic president. In fact, the men around Bush who attempt to feed the White House line to journalists have begun to talk about the current president as a latter-day Truman: Yes, goes the line, Truman's rise to an ever more elevated status in the presidential pantheon is all ex post facto, conferred by historians long after he left office a beleaguered man, his poll numbers hopelessly low. Thus Bush and the people around him predict that a similar Trumanization will ride to the rescue for them.
I've been living with Truman on and off for the last five years, while I was writing a book on the Korean War, The Coldest Winter [to be published in September by Hyperion], and I've been thinking a lot about the differences between Truman and Bush and their respective wars, Korea and Iraq. Yes, like Bush, Truman was embattled, and, yes, his popularity had plummeted at the end of his presidency, and, yes, he governed during an increasingly unpopular war. But the similarities end there.
Even before Truman sent troops to Korea, in 1950, the national political mood was toxic. The Republicans had lost five presidential elections in a row, and Truman was under fierce partisan assault from the Republican far right, which felt marginalized even within its own party. It seized on the dubious issue of Communist subversion—especially with regard to China—as a way of getting even. (Knowing how ideological both Bush and Cheney are, it is easy to envision them as harsh critics of Truman at that moment.)
...In time, MacArthur made an all-out frontal challenge to Truman, criticizing him to the press, almost daring the president to get rid of him. Knowing that the general had title to the flag and to the emotions of the country, while he himself merely had title to the Constitution, Truman nonetheless fired him. It was a grave constitutional crisis—nothing less than the concept of civilian control of the military was at stake. ... But it was Truman's decision to meet MacArthur's challenge, even though he surely knew he would be the short-term loser, that has elevated his presidential stock.
George W. Bush's relationship with his military commander was precisely the opposite. He dealt with the ever so malleable General Tommy Franks, a man, Presidential Medal of Freedom or no, who is still having a difficult time explaining to his peers in the military how Iraq happened, and how he agreed to so large a military undertaking with so small a force. It was the president, not the military or the public, who wanted the Iraq war, and Bush used the extra leverage granted him by 9/11 to get it. His people skillfully manipulated the intelligence in order to make the war seem necessary, and they snookered the military on force levels and the American public on the cost of it all. The key operative in all this was clearly Vice President Cheney, supremely arrogant, the most skilled of bureaucrats, seemingly the toughest tough guy of them all, but eventually revealed as a man who knew nothing of the country he wanted to invade and what that invasion might provoke.
...If Bush takes his cues from anyone in the Truman era, it is not Truman but the Republican far right. This can be seen clearly from one of his history lessons, a speech the president gave on a visit to Riga, Latvia, in May 2005, when, in order to justify the Iraq intervention, he cited Yalta, the 1945 summit at which Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill met. Hailing Latvian freedom, Bush took a side shot at Roosevelt (and, whether he meant to or not, at Churchill, supposedly his great hero) and the Yalta accords, which effectively ceded Eastern Europe to the Soviets. Yalta, he said, "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history."
...In early 1943, the Red Army was on the offensive, the Germans in full retreat. By the middle of 1944, the Russians had 120 divisions driving west, some 2.3 million troops against an increasingly exhausted German Army of 800,000. By mid-July 1944, as the Allies were still trying to break out of the Normandy hedgerows, the Red Army was at the old Polish-Russian border. By the time of Yalta, they were closing in on Berlin. A month earlier, in January 1945, Churchill had acknowledged the inability of the West to limit the Soviet reach into much of Eastern and Central Europe. "Make no mistake, all the Balkans, except Greece, are going to be Bolshevized, and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. There is nothing I can do for Poland either."
Yalta reflected not a sellout but a fait accompli.
...Still, it is hard for me to believe that anyone who knew anything about Vietnam, or for that matter the Algerian war, which directly followed Indochina for the French, couldn't see that going into Iraq was, in effect, punching our fist into the largest hornet's nest in the world. As in Vietnam, our military superiority is neutralized by political vulnerabilities. The borders are wide open. We operate quite predictably on marginal military intelligence. The adversary knows exactly where we are at all times, as we do not know where he is. Their weaponry fits an asymmetrical war, and they have the capacity to blend into the daily flow of Iraqi life, as we cannot. Our allies—the good Iraqi people the president likes to talk about—appear to be more and more ambivalent about the idea of a Christian, Caucasian liberation, and they do not seem to share many of our geopolitical goals.
...I have my own sense that this is what went wrong in the current administration, not just in the immediate miscalculation of Iraq but in the larger sense of misreading the historical moment we now live in. It is that the president and the men around him—most particularly the vice president—simply misunderstood what the collapse of the Soviet empire meant for America in national-security terms. Rumsfeld and Cheney are genuine triumphalists. Steeped in the culture of the Cold War and the benefits it always presented to their side in domestic political terms, they genuinely believed that we were infinitely more powerful as a nation throughout the world once the Soviet empire collapsed. Which we both were and very much were not. Certainly, the great obsessive struggle with the threat of a comparable superpower was removed, but that threat had probably been in decline in real terms for well more than 30 years, after the high-water mark of the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962. During the 80s, as advanced computer technology became increasingly important in defense apparatuses, and as the failures in the Russian economy had greater impact on that country's military capacity, the gap between us and the Soviets dramatically and continuously widened. The Soviets had become, at the end, as West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt liked to say, Upper Volta with missiles.
At the time of the collapse of Communism, I thought there was far too much talk in America about how we had won the Cold War, rather than about how the Soviet Union, whose economy never worked, simply had imploded. I was never that comfortable with the idea that we as a nation had won, or that it was a personal victory for Ronald Reagan. To the degree that there was credit to be handed out, I thought it should go to those people in the satellite nations who had never lost faith in the cause of freedom and had endured year after year in difficult times under the Soviet thumb. If any Americans deserved credit, I thought it should be Truman and his advisers—Marshall, Kennan, Dean Acheson, and Chip Bohlen—all of them harshly attacked at one time or another by the Republican right for being soft on Communism. (The right tried particularly hard to block Eisenhower's nomination of Bohlen as ambassador to Moscow, in 1953, because he had been at Yalta.)
After the Soviet Union fell, we were at once more powerful and, curiously, less so, because our military might was less applicable against the new, very different kind of threat that now existed in the world. Yet we stayed with the norms of the Cold War long after any genuine threat from it had receded, in no small part because our domestic politics were still keyed to it. At the same time, the checks and balances imposed on us by the Cold War were gone, the restraints fewer, and the temptations to misuse our power greater. What we neglected to consider was a warning from those who had gone before us—that there was, at moments like this, a historic temptation for nations to overreach.
First, there was that kangaroo loose in LA. Then, Indiana. Now, Mississippi. What-up?:
Are people in Bay St. Louis seeing things or is there really a "kangaroo" running wild through town? The Mississippi town's animal control officer says he's been flooded with calls.
Profiles in courage (via Digby):
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Wednesday defended his five sons' decision not to enlist in the military, saying they're showing their support for the country by "helping me get elected."
Romney, who did not serve in Vietnam due to his Mormon missionary work and a high draft lottery number, was asked the question by an anti-war activist after a speech in which he called for "a surge of support" for U.S. forces in Iraq.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, also saluted a uniformed soldier in the crowd and called for donations to military support organizations. Last week, he donated $25,000 to seven such organizations.
"The good news is that we have a volunteer Army and that's the way we're going to keep it," Romney told some 200 people gathered in an abbey near the Mississippi River that had been converted into a hotel. "My sons are all adults and they've made decisions about their careers and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard."
He added: "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."
Romney's five sons range in age from 37 to 26 and have worked as real estate developers, sports marketers and advertising executives. They are now actively campaigning for their father and have a "Five Brothers" blog on Romney's campaign Web site.
I was highly annoyed with Dan Walters' column a few days ago, where he chastised CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen for trying to implement fixes of vulnerable electronic voting machines. He tries to hold her to a standard of criminal 'reasonable doubt', a far higher standard than people who are trying to prevent disasters that haven't yet occurred in California can reasonably be held to. Why Walters doesn't hold Diebold and others who build systems to the same exacting standard is beyond me. After all, the folks who design SDI missile systems, for example, are never held to standards as high as Walters wants for election equipment:
Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a lawyer by trade, should reread that section of the Penal Code. She cast aside the principle of reasonable doubt when she tried and convicted electronic voting system manufacturers of making unsecure devices -- delivering her verdict in an odd, post-midnight news conference Saturday.
Bowen decertified the machines that California counties had purchased to quiet concerns about the security and accuracy of paper ballots in the wake of the 2000 presidential election's hanging chads. She directed local election officials, in effect, to return to paper ballots for all but disabled voters.
Why she did it is more than a little difficult to understand, at least by any reasonable standard. But it may have something to do with her campaign for secretary of state last year.
After Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Republican Bruce McPherson as secretary of state, he certified the electronic machines. Democrat Bowen, then a state senator, made it a cornerstone of her campaign against him. She alleged the machines, especially those made by Diebold, didn't offer sufficient security. Among other things, Bowen included items about electronic voting on her Internet site and aired a campaign ad showing thieves stealing a voting machine.
Whether heartfelt or opportunistic, her position reflected the "black box" paranoia that had developed on the fringe left about Diebold's touch-screen machines, with conspiracy theorists alleging that they were used to deliver Ohio's electoral votes to President Bush in 2004. It's somewhat akin to -- and about as rational as -- those who worry about an invasion of space aliens in flying saucers.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Byron Garcia, a security consultant for the Cebu provincial government, came up with the idea, and said it had helped "drastically" improve inmate behaviour.
Not only that, two of the former inmates had since become dancers.
The routine is compulsory for the prison’s 1600 inmates, except the elderly and infirm.
The opening of the border between Iran and Iraq for religious pilgrims was one of the few net pluses of the effort to topple Saddam. Millions now cross that border every year. No doubt, many Iranian government agents and spies cross as well. Bush probably figures that with all that traffic something can be made to happen that will start a new war:
In a Fox News interview Tuesday afternoon, President George W. Bush promised 'justice' for Iranians who are caught interfering in the Iraq War.
"There will be a consequence when your people are caught going into Iraq," Bush said when asked if the US should really be talking to Iran about Iraq's stability in spite of allegations that they are supplying some Iraqis with weapons.
When Neil Cavuto, host of Fox News' Your World asked if the President included a military attack on Iran among the 'consequences,' Bush gave a cryptic answer.
"They will be brought to justice," he said.
Ruining California, one toke at a time:
Come September, marijuana growers who have labored for five months in some of California's most remote country will abandon their secret gardens, taking their multimillion-dollar crops.
What will they leave behind? Irrigation tubes that snake for a mile or more over forested ridges. Pesticides that have drained into creeks and entered the food chain, sickening wildlife. Piles of trash and human waste in the most rugged and bucolic drainages.
The environmental consequences of marijuana gardens - or plantations, as they're more aptly called - are increasingly apparent as law enforcement continues its statewide crackdown on the illicit operations.
"They basically trash our public lands," said Matt Mathes, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service in Vallejo. Officials in Calaveras County so far have eradicated 26,000 plants in raids on pot gardens in the back country.
The finds in Calaveras are merely the latest of many; a multi-agency campaign counted a record 1.67 million plants seized in California in 2006, half a million more than the year before.
There's not enough money to thoroughly rehabilitate many of these sites, Mathes said. At Sequoia National Park, officials estimate it costs $11,000 per acre to fix the damage.
The trash goes first, packed out sometimes by National Guard helicopters or hotshot firefighters once fire season is over. Restoring native plants and fixing soil erosion problems are longer-term issues which, officials say, are sometimes never addressed.
"Unfortunately, we really can't clean up all those sites like we would like to," said Ross Butler, assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Land Management's Sacramento office.
...Another concern revolves around endangered species. Pesticides are used to keep rodents out of the marijuana; those rodents, including wood rats, are a primary food source for the California spotted owl.
At Whiskeytown National Recreation Area near Redding, park rangers investigating a tadpole die-off in a creek wandered upstream and found a small dam in which someone had rigged an open can of fertilizer. According to testimony later delivered before Congress, rangers crawled on their bellies up steep slopes and found marijuana gardens perched atop cliffs.
Bear Stearns' chief economist David Malpass seems unusually optimistic, as everyone else flees from the sub-prime mortgage crisis as if from a volcano. In Tuesday's Wall Street Journal opinion article (available for those unfortunate enough to subscribe here), he makes several statements I think are at variance with reality. But then, I have no training in economics, so maybe I just don't get it:
According to the bears: As goes the credit market, so goes the economy.Yes, the sturdy burghers of Main Street, in debt up to their eyeballs themselves, will save us from the looming chaos.
Fortunately Main Street is not that fickle. Housing and debt markets are not that big a part of the U.S. economy, or of job creation.
...the housing- and debt-market corrections will probably add to the length of the U.S. economic expansion.A soft landing? Then why all the screaming people?
The bearish view is that Americans live, breathe and spend their houses and mortgages. ... Jobs matter more.Yes, true, but houses matter quite a bit too.
Neither the economy nor job growth has been dependent on housing.Once again, housing's impact is underestimated. Housing rules in California....
Those overstating housing's impact on jobs often use dates spanning the 2001 recession, as in the widely quoted calculation that 37% of the net new jobs were in housing...From the end of 2003 through present, jobs from residential construction plus real estate and mortgage brokers created only 3.6% of the net new jobs, 5.3% if all credit intermediation jobs are also included.Yes, but people involved in residential home construction have been continually-employed since 2001, and thus do not contribute to these new job growth statistics. Their sudden unemployment would explode like a bomb in the economy!
...the threat of mortgage-rate resets is providing the latest fixation. It shouldn't. ... If the mortgage rate is adjusted upward by an average two percentage points, that's $10 billion in added payments. To put this in perspective, wages in nonsupervisory workers increased by $296 billion over the last 12 months. The July 27 revision alone added $130 billion to the last year's total U.S. personal income....Where did these weird numbers come from? I find them hard to believe. In any event, even if personal income is up, how much of the increase went to people experiencing the mortgage resets? Can they bear the $10 billion added payments?
No wonder Bear Stearns is in such trouble! All is for the best, in this, the best of all possible worlds!
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Having thoroughly mortgaged our future to the Chinese with our trade policies over the last thirty years, we best pay attention to their threats:
The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US Treasury bonds if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.
Henry Paulson, the US Treasury secretary, met with Chinese president Hu Jintao in Beijing last week.
Two Chinese officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning, for the first time, that Beijing may use its $1,330bn (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress. Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.
Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is breaking down through historic support levels.
It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession.
It is estimated that China holds more than $900bn in a mix of US bonds.
Xia Bin, finance chief at China's Development Research Centre (which has cabinet rank), kicked off what appears to be government policy, with a comment last week that Beijing's foreign reserves should be used as a "bargaining chip" in talks with the US.
"Of course, China doesn't want any undesirable phenomenon in the global financial order," he said.
He Fan, an official at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, went further yesterday, letting it be known that Beijing had the power to set off a dollar collapse, if it chose to do so.
"China has accumulated a large sum of US dollars. Such a big sum, of which a considerable portion is in US Treasury bonds, contributes a great deal to maintaining the position of the dollar as a reserve currency," he told China Daily. "Russia, Switzerland and several other countries have reduced their dollar holdings. China is unlikely to follow suit as long as the yuan's exchange rate is stable against the dollar.
I just wish La Nina would get going, so Australia could catch, and Texas could lose, rain:
The first seven months of the year were the wettest on record in Texas, further confirmation of the recent declaration that the state is drought-free for the first time in at least a decade.
The statewide average through July was 27.11 inches, nearly 11 inches above the norm of 16.21 inches, National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy said Tuesday.
"When we broke the drought, we broke it with a bang," Murphy said.
The previous record for the first seven months was 25.88 inches in 1941.
July was the third-wettest since 1895, and the wettest since 1903. The month was also the coolest since 1976 and the fourth coolest in 113 years.
Things are changing, though.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area was supposed to hit 100 degrees for the first time this year Wednesday, Murphy said, and many other areas in Texas also could see their first triple-digit heat.
...Drier conditions could be on the way as well, Murphy said.
"Believe it or not, it looks like La Nina is starting to shape," he said. "The equatorial waters of the central Pacific Ocean have started to cool off the past couple of weeks, and that might be the precursor of the incoming La Nina event."
If those conditions develop this fall, it would probably mean dry conditions from October through March, Murphy said.
Not necessary. Any activity whatsoever that increases interaction between baby and parents will help:
Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos are actually creating baby Homer Simpsons, according to a new study released today.
For every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old were shown such popular series as "Brainy Baby" or "Baby Einstein," they knew six to eight fewer words than other children, the study found.
...The Brainy Baby Co. and Walt Disney Co., which markets the "Baby Einstein" videos, did not return calls from the Los Angeles Times.
Christakis said children whose parents read to them or told them stories had larger vocabularies.
"I would rather babies watch 'American Idol' than these videos," Christakis said, explaining that there is at least a chance their parents would watch with them — which does have developmental benefits.
Jerry is outraged, but I'm just hungry:
Anything made by McDonald's tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick the taste buds of young children.
Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.
The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald's foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods lost the taste test.
"You see a McDonald's label and kids start salivating," said Diane Levin, a childhood development specialist who campaigns against advertising to kids. She had no role in the research.
Levin said it was "the first study I know of that has shown so simply and clearly what's going on" with marketing to "young children."
Study author Tom Robinson said the kids' perception of taste was "physically altered by the branding." The Stanford University researcher said it was remarkable how young children were already so influenced by advertising.
The study involved 63 low-income children ages 3 to 5 from Head Start centers in San Mateo County. Robinson believes the results would be similar for children from wealthier families.
The research, appearing in August's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was funded by Stanford and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
..."This is an important subject and McDonald's has been actively addressing it for quite some time," said company spokesman Walt Riker. "We've always wanted to be part of the solution and we are providing solutions."
But Dr. Victor Strasburger, an author of an American Academy of Pediatrics policy urging limits on marketing to children, said the study shows too little is being done.
"It's an amazing study and it's very sad," Strasburger said.
"Advertisers have tried to do exactly what this study is talking about - to brand younger and younger children, to instill in them an almost obsessional desire for a particular brand-name product," he said.
Or is it beooootch? Beiatch? (How can I be PC if Websters doesn't cover the term?)
The New York City Council, which drew national headlines when it passed a symbolic citywide ban earlier this year on the use of the so-called n-word, has turned its linguistic (and legislative) lance toward a different slur: bitch.
The term is hateful and deeply sexist, said Councilwoman Darlene Mealy of Brooklyn, who has introduced a measure against the word, saying it creates “a paradigm of shame and indignity” for all women.
...The measure, which 19 of the 51 council members have signed onto, was prompted in part by the frequent use of the word in hip-hop music. Ten rappers were cited in the legislation, along with an excerpt from an 1811 dictionary that defined the word as “A she dog, or doggess; the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman.”
While the bill also bans the slang word “ho,” the b-word appears to have acquired more shades of meaning among various groups, ranging from a term of camaraderie to, in a gerund form, an expression of emphatic approval. Ms. Mealy acknowledged that the measure was unenforceable, but she argued that it would carry symbolic power against the pejorative uses of the word. Even so, a number of New Yorkers said they were taken aback by the idea of prohibiting a term that they not only use, but do so with relish and affection.
“Half my conversation would be gone,” said Michael Musto, the Village Voice columnist, whom a reporter encountered on his bicycle on Sunday night on the corner of Seventh Avenue South and Christopher Street. Mr. Musto, widely known for his coverage of celebrity gossip, dismissed the idea as absurd.
“On the downtown club scene,” he said, munching on an apple, the two terms are often used as terms of endearment. “We divest any negative implication from the word and toss it around with love.”
Darris James, 31, an architect from Brooklyn who was outside the Duplex, a piano bar in the West Village, on Sunday night was similarly opposed. “Hell, if I can’t say bitch, I wouldn’t be able to call half my friends.”
...“I think it’s a description that is used insouciantly in the fashion industry,” said Hamish Bowles, the European editor at large of Vogue, as he ordered a sushi special at the Condé Nast cafeteria last week. “It would only be used in the fashion world with a sense of high irony and camp.”
Mr. Bowles, in salmon seersucker and a purple polo, appeared amused by the Council measure. “It’s very ‘Paris Is Burning,’ isn’t it?” he asked, referring to the film that captured the 1980s drag queen scene in New York.
...Robin Lakoff, a Brooklyn-born linguist who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, said that she despised the word, but that enforcing linguistic change through authority “almost never works,” echoing comments from some New Yorkers who believed a ban would only serve to heighten the word’s power.
“If what the City Council wants to do is increase civility, it would have to be able to contextualize it,” said Ms. Lakoff, who studies language and gender. “You forbid the uses that drive people apart, but encourage the ones that drive people together. Which is not easy.”
...Back at the West Village piano bar on Sunday evening, Poppi Kramer had just finished up her cabaret set. She scoffed at the proposal. “I’m a stand-up comic. You may as well just say to me, don’t even use the word ‘the.’ ”
But at least one person with a legitimate reason to use the word saw some merit in cutting down on its use.
“We’d be grandfathered in, I would think,” said David Frei, who has been a host of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York since 1990. The word is a formal canine label that appears on the competition’s official materials. But Mr. Frei said he worried about the word’s impact on some viewers, especially younger ones.
This evening, at the traffic light at 5th and J Streets, I pulled up beside one of those big, white limousines you often see trolling the streets of downtown Sacramento at night.
"Hey!" someone shouted from the limousine. I quickly turned my head as the window rolled down on the limousine, and got a good, detailed look at the biggest, fattest moon I ever saw.
So THAT'S what goes on inside those limousines......
Monday, August 06, 2007
Kate Janzen, who will be on keyboard for DMTC's upcoming "Pirates of Penzance", co-directed, choreographed, and edited this entry, featuring her brother and filmed in Orangevale, for Heinz 57's national 30-second commercial contest. The winner gets $57,000!
Best of luck to Kate, Jesse, and friends!
Left: Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez) and Nacho (Jack Black) confer on tactics.
I missed "Nacho Libre" when it came out last year, but I looked forward to seeing it. Reminded me of my childhood, when all Albuquerque children used to skip past the religious programming on Sunday morning to watch local wrestling matches on KOAT-TV (Jack London was the promoter, I believe), and in particular to watch our local hero, Ricky Romero, pound various obscure out-of-towners into the mat.
Of course, Mexican wrestling has become far more bizarre and fantastical over the years. It is truly a very odd sport, and wildly popular in Mexico.
But who is this Jack Black, and would he do the subject justice?
I don't think the movie (Jared Hess, Director; Jerusha Hess Writer) does the subject justice, but that's not the intent. Instead, a heart-warming and simple story line is wedded to colorful locations in Oaxaca, Mexico, and some truly erratic and bizarre happenings. This movie is the first in a long time to make me bust out laughing!
Here is the story line, from imdb.com:
Nacho (Jack Black) is a young man who was raised in a monastery in Mexico and now works there as the cook. Fueled by his passion for wrestling, he dons a mask and cape and picks up a partner to compete in a local Lucha Libre tournament to try for the $200 prize so he can buy better food for the kids and achieve respect. When a new nun, Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera), arrives at the monastery, he tries to win her adoration as well while attempting to prove that being a Luchador isn't a sin and win the grand prize at a battle royal tournament so he can buy a bus for the kids.The music was very odd - neither Mexican or American, but from some altogether different dimension. The reason is apparently that Danny Elfman composed much of it.
A fun fact: "During some of the wrestling scenes they used blow up dolls to replace some of the audience. Supposedly, they cost much less than extras and they looked real."
Here are some quotes, many involving Nacho's tag-team partner, Esqueleto (Skeleton, played winningly by Hector Jimenez) and the orphan Chancho (Darius Rose). The quotes seem very Mexican, somehow. Makes me wonder if they also did a parallel movie, in Spanish. It would seem logical to do so, but quien sabe?:
Nacho: Chancho. When you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room. It's for fun.A great, heartwarming film! Check it out!
Esqueleto: I don't believe in God, I believe in science.
Nacho: I'm a little concerned right now. About... your salvation and stuff. How come you have not been baptized?
Esqueleto: Because I never got around to it ok? I dunno why you always have to be judging me because I only believe in science.
Nacho: Ok. Orphans! Listen to Ignacio. I know it is fun to wrestle. A nice piledrive to the face... or a punch to the face... but you cannot do it. Because, it is in the Bible not to wrestle your neighbour.
Chancho: So you've never wrestled?
Nacho: Me? No. Come on. Don't be crazy. I know the wrestlers get all the fancy ladies, and the clothes, and the fancy creams and lotions. But my life is good! Really good! I get to wake up every morning, at 5AM, and make some soup! It's the best. I love it. I get to lay in a bed, all by myself, all of my life! That's fantastic! Go. Go away! Read some books!
Nacho: Those eggs were a lie, Esqueleto. A LIE! They give me no eagle powers! They give me no nutrients!
Nacho: I don't want to get paid to lose. I wanna win!
Nacho: I'm not listening to you! You only believe in Science. That's probably why we never win!
Esqueleto: We never win because you are fat!
Nacho: Beneath the clothes, we find a man... and beneath the man, we find his... nucleus.
The ruin known as Evel Knievel:
He is tired of people pestering him, asking stupid questions.
What kind of questions? "That's a dumb question."
What was your favorite jump? "Jesus. Any jump I landed was my favorite."
What does it feel like to crash? "What the hell do you think it feels like? Christ almighty. It hurts."
Why did you do what you did? "Because I could. I could do the impossible. And it sure beat selling insurance."
Was it worth it? "What kind of stupid question is that? I'm still here, aren't I?
"Now hurry up. I'm running out of air."
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Driving home Saturday morning at 1:15 a.m., southbound, I approached the intersection of S and 19th Streets. Two white sedans were parked nearby, one on 19th Street at the SW corner of the intersection. There were two young men present at the corner and appearing to be coming from the parked sedan on 19th, perhaps Hispanic, dressed mostly in white: a tall, robust fellow with silver medallions on his belt, and a shorter, non-descript fellow.
Pow! Robust fellow swung at short fellow's face with a closed fist. Short fellow reeled backwards. Robust fellow swung again, and connected again. Short fellow fell.
I instantly decided I wasn't going to stop and get involved with two young men fighting over who knew what. But I was worried about the mismatch: short man looked like he wasn't fighting back effectively. As I passed, I slowed down to look. Robust fellow was straddling supine shorter man's body, choking him around the throat....
It took me ten full minutes to get home and call 911: a southbound train passing by on the track parallel to 19th Street slowed my travel (another example, I suppose, of why I should have a cell phone). No doubt police response was quite tardy as a result. I wonder what became of both fellows?
Excellent show, featuring six, experienced actresses in a joint Stage Nine/Runaway Stage production, directed by Bob Baxter, in Folsom.
There is just one locale, a beauty parlor, where Saturday morning meetings of local women give shape and meaning to events in a small Louisiana town.
Truvy (Karen Day) runs the beauty parlor in a bright, happy manner, always trolling for romantic gossip or freely handing out sensible advice. Vulnerable Annelle (Lauren Miller) is the new hire, Miss Clairee (Peggy Huntsman), widow of a former mayor, is the voice of experience, and irritable, opinionated Ouiser (Mary Young) is present to cast scorn on weak-thinking.
The marriage of diabetic Shelby (Katie Veale) and her battles with her skeptical mother, M’Lynn (Kathleen Flint), form the central axis around which the rest of the play revolves. M'Lynn has the most difficult role in the entire drama, having to suffer through, and make meaning of, her daughter's terrible trials.
There was a lot of tactile action in the play, by which I mean a lot of fussing with hair. Since the stage and the audience are so close together, there are opportunities for inadvertent interaction. At one point, I made eye contact with Huntsman, which I found embarrassing, because I believe I was slightly groggy and my eyes were crossed at that point. We all appreciated the pacing - there was never a sense of the play dragging. The actresses are all strong, and since there are but six, they have become a very close-knit, unified, experienced group.
Nice set of friends there too!: Jon & Eileen Beaver and Ron & Kaitlin Flint, MikeMac, and, of course, Steve & Jan Isaacson. Afterwards, the cast and ourselves all repaired to the 'Hacienda' across the street, ate burritos and nachos, and had no option but to listen to eighties cover music (Tom Petty & Simple Minds, among others).
“Steel Magnolias” continues through August 19 at Stage Nine Entertainment Store & Theatre, 717 Sutter Street in Historic Folsom. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m. Tickets are $22 general, $20 for seniors and children. For reservations and information, call (916) 353-1001.