Friday, August 17, 2007

The 2004 Socorro Hailstorm

Reviewed on the "My Strange New Mexico" web site.
Two young boys got the brilliant idea to go outside and have a “hail-ball fight”...and were badly injured. People outside ran for cover, covering their heads with their fingers, and many of their fingers were broken. Three people were knocked unconscious. The golf ball-sized hail became baseball-sized and even grapefruit-sized. All 113 skylights of Socorro’s new Wal-Mart imploded, as did almost every skylight and window and windshield in town.
She Really, Really Doesn't Want To Go To Rehab

Amy Winehouse, bless her.

Women In Film


Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Marlene Dietrich, Norma Shearer, Ruth Chatterton, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Vivien Leigh, Greer Garson, Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth, Gene Tierney, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Ginger Rogers, Loretta Young, Deborah Kerr, Judy Garland, Anne Baxter, Lauren Bacall, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Audrey Hepburn, Dorothy Dandridge, Shirley MacLaine, Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Janet Leigh, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Ann Margret, Julie Andrews, Raquel Welch, Tuesday Weld, Jane Fonda, Julie Christie, Faye Dunaway, Catherine Deneuve, Jacqueline Bisset, Candice Bergen, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sigourney Weaver, Kathleen Turner, Holly Hunter, Jodie Foster, Angela Bassett, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Salma Hayek, Sandra Bullock, Julianne Moore, Diane Lane, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon and Halle Berry.

The College Roundtable Discusses Media Bias

Or how W. comes to grips with the left-blogger viewpoint regarding the media, and suggests that too much hyperbole is pushing left bloggers towards extremism.

(Edited Discussion)

W.: Hey Marc: I read your dialog with J. about Sicko. In it you make an interesting point, seeming to say that CNN is right-wing. I have not heard that opinion before. Since I watch CNN only very rarely (less than an hour per year), I can't evaluate your statement based on personal knowledge. Could you elaborate? Do other people you know agree with you? Also -- I'd be interested in hearing your opinion on the political leanings (if any) of ABC, CBS, NBC, and NPR.
M.: Since I stopped watching all Cable TV in disgust two years ago, I can’t easily illustrate the media’s right-wing tendencies with contemporary examples. All major media, virtually without exception, are right-wing. It may be that right-wing is not the best term to use – corporatist may be more descriptive. Preserving Beltway Groupthink is a major objective, as is kowtowing to business priorities. Debate is discouraged, in favor of juvenile hazing of liberals. There are a few bright lights – Jon Stewart’s Daily Show works as well as it does because what they satirize most – the corruption of TV journalism – is so omnipresent.

I think all liberals feel that we now live in a strange fascist state, where the media offerings are designed as much to confuse as to enlighten – hence stories about John Edwards’ hair, and missing young white women in Aruba, and no genuine opportunities for changing policy in Iraq. Orwell foresaw some of this weirdness, but the Bush Administration has proven exceptionally innovative. The decline actually started in the nineties, and was foreseen in Paddy Chayevsky’s 1977 movie ‘Network’: first with the 1987 removal of the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ and any restrictions on corporate monopolization of media markets, then the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, with the absurd restrictions on US military power in the Balkans that accompanied it, and then with the media going farther and farther right, with the Clinton impeachment, the Wen Ho Lee debacle, then running right off the rails with the stolen election of 2000, 9/11, and the invasion of Iraq. The return to reality has been very slow and halting – Hurricane Katrina, the absence of any ‘progress’ in Iraq, the efforts to shift blame to the victims - mostly liberals – and can reverse at any time.

Some of the liberal blogs such as Media Matters and Daily Kos carefully follow the statements of the major media, as if they were Pravda and this was the USSR – because they may as well be Pravda and this may as well be the USSR. I follow most closely Digby’s Hullaballoo.

W.: OK. … I've heard that a lot about Fox, but you are only the 1st or 2nd person I've ever known who has claimed that ALL major media are right wing. Do you include NPR, NY Times & Washington Post? Has the major media always been right-wing, or has it become so recently? Are Rather, Brokaw, and Jennings right wing? Is your assessment common among your peers? I'm not criticizing your point of view, but I'm trying to get a more accurate fix on where you are.
M.: The decline of major media started in the 80’s, began accelerating in the 90’s, and since 2000 has hit bottom, hard. The rapid expansion of cable TV created vast swaths of time that needed to be filled with content. The simultaneous concentration of ownership made coordinated media movement more practicable. The new horde of reporters and journalists (stenographers, actually) created by Cable TV were easy marks for officials wanting to purvey access for slanted coverage. Later, the growth of the Internet and political blogs made superfluous much of what journalists and pundits were producing. Pundits used to be prized for their detailed knowledge of government’s workings, and their access, but there were too many of them now, too many of them poorly-trained, and everyone eager for access of some sort.

My assessment is common in the left blogosphere, but is not particularly common among other peers.

Certain events stand out as hallmarks:

  • A garden variety of non-scandals scandals quickly enveloped the new Clinton Administration: Travelgate, Whitewater, Gennifer Flowers, etc., were promoted by the mass media as part of coordinated campaigns with small groups and individuals with ideological goals.
  • The Clinton Impeachment brought into prominence people like David Brooks at the NY Times, who were good at character assassination, but had little real expertise otherwise.
  • The Wen Ho Lee case, promoted by Notra Trulock at the FBI through his favorite media channel, the NY Times, showed increasing boldness by the media in manufacturing false scandals, this time in coordination with government agencies.
  • The contested 2000 election vote showed yet more coordinated campaigning. Indeed, reporters like WSJ’s Paul Gigot were participants in the Palm Beach “riot” against removing vote-counting from public view.
  • Judith Miller at the NY Times was instrumental in taking all manner of inflammatory (and false) information regarding WMD from the Iraqi National Congress and placing it on the front page of that paper. She was also part of the outing of Valerie Plame.
  • The media was deeply involved at every level in the Plame scandal. Classified information was shopped to Bob Woodward at the Washington Post, and many, many more journalists, as part of the campaign to discredit former Acting Ambassador to Iraq, Joseph Wilson.
  • The embedding of journalists in the Iraqi War created another cadre of co-opted stenographers.
The counter-reaction to all this journalistic corruption has been slow to form. Frank Rich at the NY Times turned his entertainment column into a de facto political opinion column. Paul Krugman, also at the NY Times, rebelled against the perversions of economics he was witnessing. The McClatchy news organization resisted being co-opted. And the left blogosphere, of course, filled the vacuum created by the disappearance of expertise and objectivity. Still, the whole enterprise is pretty shot, even now.

NPR and PBS have partially-resisted the decline of journalism, mostly because they are partially publicly-supported.

All the major networks are corrupted. ABC News, right now, is promoting unexamined and probably exaggerated reports regarding Iranian nuclear capabilities, in order to start a war with Iran.

You mention Rather, Brokaw, Jennings. Rather is gone, of course (not reliable enough for corporate interests). Isn’t Jennings dead? In any event, all anchors partake of the corruption.

The NY Times is still in a schizophrenic state: some right (Adam Nagourney); more and more left these days.

The Washington Post remains Neocon right. Let’s look at the columnists:
    • Anne Applebaum: moderate left
    • Peter Beinart: used to be neocon right – now, just confused
    • David Broder: Most widely-hated columnist in the left blogosphere – right
    • Richard Cohen: Moderate right
    • Jackson Diehl: Moderate left
    • EJ Dionne Jr.: Left
    • Ellen Goodman: Left
    • Fred Hiatt: Right Jim Hoagland: Moderate
    • Richard Holbrooke: Bloody-minded left
    • David Ignatius: Left
    • Robert Kagan: Right
    • Colbert King: Left
    • Michael Kinsley: Moderate left
    • Charles Krauthammer: Genghis Khan right
    • Sebastian Mallaby: Moderate
    • Ruth Marcus: Left
    • Harold Meyerson: Left
    • Eugene Robinson: Left
    • Robert Samuelson: Moderate
    • George Will: Famously right
    • Fareed Zakaria: Neocon right
Hmmm…..More on the left than I expected, but many of these left columnists do not write about foreign affairs. The columnists who do write on foreign affairs are mostly on the right. Plus Bob Woodward, of course, who once was the lion of the left, but now has seen his career badly-damaged by the Plame scandal.

W.: Hey Marc, you kind of got lost on your reply to my question. You were speaking about a purported decline in media quality, but I was asking about political bias. You did seem to say that the Washington Post is right wing, and that the NY Times is moving leftward (from what point?), but I didn't catch any clear opinions about the other outlets. I am still interested in your opinions on the political orientation, if any, of the major news organizations and personalities (in terms of left-wing, moderate, right-wing: ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS) plus Brokaw, Jennings, Rather.

Yes, I do know that Rather is gone and that Jennings is dead, but these guys did represent TV News for a quarter century, and so your opinion on the political bias, if any, of these three men would be very relevant to the basic question.
M.: With the caveat that I actually watch precious little from any of these media outlets anymore, let’s see…..

    • ABC - right
    • CBS - right
    • CNN - right
    • FOX – far right
    • NBC - right
    • NPR – moderate left
    • PBS – moderate left
    • Brokaw - moderate
    • Jennings – moderate (for some reason, neocon Martin Peretz always hated Jennings, and accused him of anti-Semitism)
    • Rather – left
The New York Times, once having experimented right in the 1990’s, is heading left, but is still in a bit of a schizophrenic state, since they haven’t had a full staff turnover.

W.: OK. I see that you think all TV news organizations are right wing, and that the NY Times is partially right wing. I'll respond in two ways. First; what does this say about your own political orientation? Second, are your assessments correct?

Your political orientation. As I said before, you are only the 2nd person I've ever met who thinks that ABC, CBS, and NBC are right-wing, and I believe that perhaps the 1st person was not being serious. You confirmed that when you said that your observation, although common in the left blogosphere, was not particularly common among peers (i.e. people you actually meet in California). Most liberals feel that the mainstream media is moderate, or slightly left. Since organizations which are approved by most of the left appear to be right-wing to you, then you would seem to be to the left of most of the left, or "far left". Fair enough? My guess is that your point of view is held by 2% or less of the general population. I'm not criticizing your views, I'm just trying to place you on the political spectrum. Of course, having an unpopular viewpoint is not by itself evidence of wrong thinking -- history has many examples of an extremist viewpoint later developing into a majority position.

Is your assessment correct? I agree with you that FOX is right-wing, and that NPR and PBS are left-wing. I'm not sure about CNN - I think they may be the closest thing to an objective news source in our society today, but I don't watch them, so I'm not really sure. However, your opinion about ABC, CBS, and NBC must surely be wrong. It is actually quite easily testable. If ABC, CBS, and NBC were right wing, then right-wingers would approve of them. Correct? However, I've never met a conservative who likes them. Have you?
M.: Regarding my political orientation, I see it as moderate liberal, fairly milquetoast, and certainly not left, or extreme left, or even progressive (although it is getting leftier all the time).

The left blogosphere has succeeded in crystallizing a critique of the mass media as largely conservative, and often reactionary. I wholly endorse this critique. Indeed, the modern liberal is apt to endorse portions of, or the entirety of, the critique as well. You are unlikely to enjoy watching “The Daily Show”, for instance, without accepting portions of the critique. Thus, when you state:
Most liberals feel that the mainstream media is moderate, or slightly left.
That is simply not how liberals see things. Just ask any liberal. Indeed, it’s a litmus test. Whether someone answers the statement ‘true’ or ‘false’ will distinguish liberals from conservatives. The sentence describes how liberals may have felt, say, in the 70’s. Not any more, and not for a long, long time.

It’s hard to characterize by percentages how much of the population may feel as I do. I’d say 30 to 40% myself, but that ropes in lots of people who pay almost no attention to politics at all.

These days, my peers tend to be a lot of people who judge the media based on show biz values. I have one friend, a confirmed liberal, who nevertheless likes to watch Chris Matthews, because of his manner of grilling guests. She feels Matthews is neutral. She might pay less attention to the political subtext of the show, like why he is interviewing this guest delivering a conservative message, rather than some other guest with a more liberal message. My friends are very good at spotting product placement in movies, but may be less successful at spotting idea placement on news shows. Or perhaps the presence of conservatives on these shows sparks less concern, because it is expected, since the administration is conservative.

Right-wingers may not approve of ABC, CBS, and NBC, but it isn’t for lack of media effort. The media today constantly, relentlessly cater to conservative views. In the 60’s, liberals didn’t approve of ABC, CBS, and NBC either, even though the media of the day were certainly trying to cater to liberal views. If conservatives don’t like the media today, they really won’t like it if the media pendulum swings the other way.

W.: Well, I have to say that I am astonished at the assertion that ABC, CBS, and NBC news are right-wing. I presume that means they support Republican candidates, ending affirmative action, pro-life, lower taxes, etc. I'm still wondering, how long have they been right-wing? Did they support Reagan in the 80's? How does one reconcile left-wing Dan Rather being the voice of right-wing CBS for 25 years?

Digby's posts for this week (July 18-24) had only one complaint about media bias (not counting the one on People magazine, which I disregard because I don't reckon People to be a newsmagazine). The post concerned a supposedly unfair AP article about Obama. Although Digby did not, in my mind, conclusively demonstrate that AP treated Obama unfairly, even if the accusation is accepted, it still does not demonstrate right-wing bias. Digby is a left-wing blog, and presumably would not call attention to unfair treatment of a Republican by AP. So if AP unfairly targeted 5 Republicans in one week, and only 1 Democrat, I bet Digby would describe the 1 Democrat, and not mention the 5 Republicans, and give the impression that AP is right-wing when it really would be left-wing. It could be an example of what geochemists call "biased sampling" (for real). Or am I being unfair to Digby myself? If there were examples of left-wing AP bias, would Digby report them?

I would like to invite you to persuade me that ABC, CBS, and NBC are right-wing. I might learn something. You might learn something. We could both shoot each other memories like "I remember when so-and-so said XYZ, which proves his bias", the one saying it not remembering the facts or context exactly right, and the one reading it having not even seen the broadcast in question. In that case neither of us would learn much. But I did think of an interesting idea, which I hope you will like. Why don't you choose one of the networks, and we'll agree on 3 to 5 specific evenings during which both of us will tape & watch that network's nightly news. Then we'll compare notes. Neither one of us will be able to bullshit the other. And if the network really is biased during those 3 to 5 shows, we'll know. It won't be as easy as pontificating by email, but it will be more informative for us both. What do you say?
M.: I like the idea of actually comparing these things for ourselves, rather than relying on what other bloggers might think. After all, like you say, Digby and other bloggers on the left will be much more sensitive to anti-left sentiment than anti-right sentiment. And vice-versa, of course.

I watched the 7/23 CBS newcast, just to make sure it was feasible. That particular evening seemed more liberal than conservative, suggesting that I’ve been out to lunch for a long time, but I also thought the choice of stories was rather eccentric: there must have been many more urgent stories that should have been covered instead of what they chose.

Let’s watch the 7/24 broadcast … and compare notes.

...(next night)...

I watched both programs and took sketchy notes. … I got the impression of a liberal bias – different from what I expected - but it was hardly consistent. In general, what struck me was the odd editorial judgment of what constituted a story, and what did not.

In the sixties, on NBC, Chet Huntley reported from New York, and David Brinkley reported from Washington, D.C. What you got was a narrow digest of business and political news. They did not presume to offer advice in your daily life. They did not try to tell every newsworthy story in the world, or even the country.

On these two shows, there was a different emphasis. On 7/25, shortly after discussing the housing prices slump and the recent comments by the CEO of Countrywide Loans that triggered the 200 point decline of the DJI on 7/24 (interrupted by the spectacular pictures of the Dallas gas explosions), CBS offered a primer on how people can avoid affordability traps in getting mortgages. To me, this was largely-wasted time. The information might be useful to mortgage neophytes, but everyone else would gloss over it. And I think it’s patronizing. Perhaps CBS is trying to be useful, by being informative, but if other stories aren’t covered in full detail, or aren’t covered at all, then the public is badly-served. I suspect this scattershot editing is not a new weakness either.

An important example is the current testimony by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Capitol Hill. The liberal blogs are all atwitter about Gonzales’ attitude. Having deflected previous efforts to force his resignation, Gonzales is now bordering on open contempt for his questioners, by openly ignoring their questions. This is unprecedented in a Cabinet official. Yet, that information did not make it into the 7/24 broadcast, the only one of the two that mentioned the testimony at all. The 7/24 report was too brief to allow viewers to come to any real conclusion about what the Capitol Hill testimony might be all about, or if there was anything unusual about it.

J. made a similar point in an E-Mail message he sent yesterday, which I enclose below, in full:

J: OK, here's an example from NBC news this morning of, at the very least, indifferent journalism which works very strongly to the benefit of the Bush administration.

The lead story on local news last night and again this morning on national news was that terrorists are trying to test airport security by carrying things "that look like bombs or bomb components" aboard commercial flights. Because of this TSA officials issued one of their breathless pronouncements that the nation is in imminent danger of attack.

Now, let's look at the facts. The "incidents" to which they refer are four cases dating back to last September. Supposedly there were blocks of cheese with wires attached which were found in suitcases. There seems to be a big mystery as to who did this and why. Suspicious? Maybe. Pointless or easily explained? More likely. A TSA official was interviewed but the questioning was about what I would have expected from a high school newspaper reporter. The OBVIOUS question to ask was: What explanations did the people who put these mysterious things in their bags give? Look, there is no way a bag can anonymously be loaded onto a commercial plane. The person who owned the bag should have been--and almost certainly was--questioned. Was it a goofy high school kid? Was it a little old lady who heard somewhere that putting wires into the cheese she bought at that little store by the sea will help it keep better? More than likely there is a totally innocuous explanation for these "bomb-like components" but THE INTERVIEWER DIDN'T BOTHER TO ASK! As a result, viewers are left with the impression that there is some credibility to the endless panicked announcements of grave danger. And they give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt.

And, by an interesting coincidence, this story took up so much time that NBC didn't get around to covering Alberto Gonzales' Senate testimony which was at the least extremely evasive and quite possibly blatant perjury.

Liberal bias? Not a chance! Conservative bias? Maybe--maybe not. BUT the sloppy journalism and reluctance to ask pertinent questions CLEARLY benefits the Bush administration. That's not really conservative bias because the Bush administration is not conservative--it is radical and clearly opposed to the basic principles of democracy. What's the word for that? Criminal? Monarchical? Nihilistic? Whatever it is it is not conservative.

Sorry for the typos in my last post. This is a topic that really makes my blood pressure rise and my thoughts tend to get ahead of my typing...

M.: Now, regarding liberal/conservative bias, at the current time, with a conservative administration in power, I would presumptively associate news stories about security issues as inherently conservative, and news stories about scandals as inherently liberal, unless there were other factors that might mitigate the classification. So, going through the stories in a sketchy way:

7/24 Broadcast

  • Dow Plunge of 200 points – Just now (morning of 7/26), Rush Limbaugh warned his listeners that the ‘drive-by media’ – presumably liberals – are trying to scare people away from the markets by hyping the decline. I might agree, except that all markets near all-time maxima are always prone to sudden reverses. So, maybe slight liberal bias, but it’s probably a passing phenomenon of little note either way.
  • Myspace sex offenders number 29,000 rather than 7,000. Sounds like a conservative bias here. Eerie footage of the very strange North Carolina Attorney General.
  • Attorney General’s testimony – liberal bias, but briefness of report blunts message.
  • Clinton/Obama dustup – Emphasis of report is on what Clinton refers to as Obama’s naivete. Struck me as a conservative bias, since the subject was foreign policy. Two days ago, I also watched the 7/23 broadcast, when the emphasis was women’s support for Clinton, with the exception of trust during a foreign crisis, where women feel ill at ease with Clinton. Sounds like CBS is adopting a ‘pox on all houses’ mentality when it comes to the Democrats. Conservative bias is probably most-evident with coverage of Democratic Presidential contenders.
  • Federal minimum wage – (took no notes here)
  • Philadelphia murder rates up – Definite liberal bias here, since the emphasis was on gun control.
  • Bush’s shifting rationale for involvement in Iraq – Liberal bias here, but not terribly timely: maybe 6 months late.
  • Iran/US talks – Report not specific enough. Probably a conservative bias, since emphasis was on US agitation.
  • Silly stories: Collapse of a building in Portugal, a machine that hands out compliments, Spiderman stamps. Filler has a slight conservative bias, in my opinion, because it keeps people uninformed about more-important stuff.
  • A story about the rebound of American Crocodiles at a nuclear plant in Florida – probably a conservative bias, showing how industry and wildlife can live together in harmony, despite numerous counter-examples elsewhere.

    7/25 Broadcast

  • Walter Reed Hospital scandal and continuing efforts to get health care to vets – Liberal bias, since the focus is on administration weaknesses.
  • Heightened security efforts by the TSA – conservative bias.
  • Soccer team celebrations ruined in Iraq – Liberal bias, since it makes the current US efforts in Iraq look ineffective.
  • National housing prices slump – Weakening economy makes people question leadership, therefore presumptively liberal bias.
  • Dallas gas explosions – presumptively conservative, because of security fears, but since it was an accident, likely included just for the spectacular camera shots.
  • Primer on mortgages and housing – Patronizing filler.
  • Contempt of Congress citations – all-too-brief report has a liberal bias.
  • Women fighting the VA – Tie-in to previous report regarding vet health care. Has a liberal bias.
  • Friends and fat – More filler of dubious distinction. Slight conservative bias.

W.: If one were compelled to assign a bias to every story, I would make pretty much the same calls you did. However, I think it is possible to look too closely for bias. Most stories in the first half of the broadcast are real news stories, carried by every news organization. It's not bias, it's what happened today. Furthermore, I will have to disagree that "filler counts as conservative because it keeps people uninformed about more important stuff". As a conservative, I could turn it around, and with just as much reason, say that filler is liberal, because it keeps people uninformed about more important stuff. You see, I think that conservative issues are important stuff.

In your tally, I count Liberal Bias 9, Conservative Bias 8. I might have done the count a little differently, but not very much so. This means that either CBS is nearly objective (rather than right-wing, which is your position), or that classifying every story is not the best way of assessing media bias.

Back in the 80's, when there was no other choice, I got my news from the three networks, and it was clear that they were liberal. For example, during the 1982-83 recession, they used the word "Reaganomics" in every story about layoffs, unemployment, etc. But when the economy turned around in late 1983, suddenly "Reaganomics" disappeared forever from their vocabulary. It was bias of the worst kind -- I would like to say that that sort of behavior was beneath Rather and Brokaw, except that obviously it wasn't. However, one would not have been able to recognize that bias by looking at one broadcast - or even one hundred broadcasts. It would take more than a year of watching the news, and thinking about what they said, to see it.

A good time to look for network bias is when there is an important question before the American people. If the networks ever decide to misuse their position, it would be then. We should have done this two months ago, when the amnesty bill was an open question. However, this month is a slow month for news. Let's re-open the issue the next time there is a litmus-test question before the people -- during the '08 election, if not earlier.

"the Bush administration is radical and clearly opposed to the basic principles of democracy". Really!
M.: As I was compiling the CBS News 7/24 & 7/25 lists, and also assigning the Washington Post columnists to appropriate niches, I became aware of a definite pattern. One might even call it a rule: *Marc’s Media Rule*:

With few exceptions:

All domestic stories (or columnists who write about domestic stories) are biased liberal; all international stories (or columnists who write about international stories) are biased conservative.
Thus liberals and conservatives will never be happy, because they will always see a bias, no matter what. And they are right to see it so – it’s the result of definite, conscious decisions by the media companies. Some people might call this “balance.” I’m thinking the reason for this state of affairs is because that’s where the money is. A non-intrusive domestic policy would mean less domestic spending, which would mean less money flow to support the media. The same would be true in the international arena.

Think how odd it would be if the U.S. pursued an isolationist or pacifist foreign policy, and a libertarian or non-interventionist domestic policy. No fun for the media in that kind of environment. Changing the paradigm is quite difficult, but it sometimes happens, like later during the Vietnam War, or today, for examples. A lot of sturm und drang accompanies the process, however, because it goes against the media interest.

Regarding choice in media, there still isn’t much choice, despite the supposed proliferation of outlets over the last three decades. There are just as few companies doling the stuff out as ever. People often complain “100 cable channels, and yet there is nothing on the tube.” This complaint strikes me as valid.

Regarding filler material, because it deflects attention, it works to support whoever is in charge. As a rule, these days it works to support conservatives, but in the 90’s, moderate Democrats were the beneficiaries. It just depends who is in charge.

We don’t need to look for a major issue to see the networks abusing their power. They do so with every single issue, without exception. But it may be more evident when a Big Issue is under debate…..

Regarding J’s statement:
"the Bush administration is radical and clearly opposed to the basic principles of democracy"
I think that is clearly true. The Bush Administration has been following a fascistic or Leninist template ever since it was installed into power. It’s an odd, ad hoc, fairly-soft tyranny, but tyranny nonetheless. We have had several incidents already where people’s devotion to the Republican Party overwhelmed their allegiance to the United States: the Plame matter was the most spectacular, where a U.S. agent was outed as a punishment for working against the Republican message. That used to be called Treason, but it’s commonplace in today’s Washington.

Bush’s America is George Orwell’s “1984” come to life. People remember “1984” for the total surveillance, but that was actually not its most salient feature, but rather how everything worked together – the media particularly – to keep the crowds under control and the ruling party in power. Orwell developed “1984” after seeing how his faction in the Spanish Civil War, the “POUM”, suddenly got branded an “Enemy of the People” when its politics became inconvenient to the USSR, nearly costing his life, and forcing him to return to England as a fugitive. The threat of Al Qaeda works even better than the three-power-bloc balancing act that Orwell foresaw in “1984” in keeping the masses cowed, because its acts are quite spectacular in the media, yet its small size makes it more benign, because it poses less of an actual threat. Thus, Bush’s America is more efficient and better organized than Orwell’s Oceania, a testament to the skill of the Republican Party.

What limits the Bush Administration’s depredations is its ignorance. Examples: somehow not realizing that removal of Saddam would inevitably lead to Iranian domination of the region – it’s right next door, after all - or that Sunni/Shia divisions, unpoliced by a powerful hand, would erupt into a civil war. But then, all fascistic regimes founder on such ignorance, in the end: Hitler’s decision to invade the USSR was the most spectacular example of ignorance ever, but there are many such examples. With Bush, I don’t know if we are heading towards a “Mussolini Moment”, where a lynch mob settles things, or not, but it wouldn’t be that surprising of a finish. Or maybe the clock will just run out, and they’ll leave the damage control to Hillary, or others, and look for better opportunities later.
W.: What is an "extremist"? One definition might be - one who uses extreme language to characterize people. Another definition: one who believes that his political opponent cannot be a reasonable man. Extremists always Demonize the Enemy. Is Bush really a fascist or Leninist? Really? Is he really opposed to the basic principles of democracy? Are we really suffering under a tyranny? Do you really think Bush is heading toward a Mussolini moment, where a lynch mob settles things? Do you really think that? How about you, J.?

Here's what I think: Anyone who is opposed to the basic principles of democracy, or who is a fascist, or a Leninist, or a tyrant, or who is ready to contemplate settling things with lynch mobs, would never be elected President. If such a person was elected, he would certainly not allow a later election to remove him from power, once he has attained it. Right? Isn't that the essence of fascism, Leninism, tyranny, and lynch mobs?

Here's what I saw: Legislative power was transferred smoothly to the Democrats after the 2006 election. Bush did not try to void the election, did not use a "terror alert" to try to delay swearing in the new Congress, did not bring trumped up charges against Democratic leaders, did not arrest any candidates, congressmen, or journalists. Martial law was not declared. There were no takeovers, riots, or fights at the Capitol building. No newspapers, radio stations, or TV stations were shut down. There were no mysterious disruptions of the internet. There were no attacks on anyone by "hooligans", no Democratic leaders disappeared or were assassinated; nor were there any last-minute scandalous revelations about Democratic candidates. No offices of Democratic leaders, journalists, or anti-war activists were vandalized or burned. Finally, nobody tried to cow the masses.

Here's what will happen in 2008: Nothing. Bush will not try to change the rules and seek a third nomination. He will pass leadership of the Republican Party to someone else. If the Democratic candidate wins the electoral vote, Bush will step down, and the Democrat will be sworn in the following January, peacefully. No lynch mobs will appear anywhere.

Bush is not opposed to the basic principles of democracy, he is not a fascist, he is not a Leninist, he is not contemplating the use of lynch mobs, and he never did. Occasional hyperbole in conversation and writing is acceptable, but if it is repeated too often, it begins to look like extremism.
M.: There are different varieties of tyrannies, and I think Bush and Co. have hit on a new form, a variety of Christian fascism that mercifully does not (yet) aspire to totalitarianism. The essence of Christianity that is retained is that the people must choose to be saved – salvation cannot be imposed. So, no dictatorship, no martial law. Nevertheless, the Administration expects deference. Dissent is not welcome.

The essence of the Bush Administration is secrecy whenever possible. Secrecy paralyzes the functions of democracy, however, which depend on the flow of information. The insistence on secrecy started early: one example was the Administration’s early consultations on energy policy. The people and companies consulted were held to be privileged, not because it really mattered (and there was ample precedent from earlier Administrations where that information was not privileged), but in order to establish the principle that no one could hold the Administration to account, except at election time: then, and only then.

When I use the term Leninist, it sounds like extreme language, but what I am trying to do is describe a disturbing phenomenon using an historical example for illustration. Unfortunately the example is extreme, but the extreme example is just a variety of the same phenomenon. The outing of Valerie Plame showed how loyalty to the Republican Party trumped loyalty to the United States. The history of the USSR is replete with examples where loyalty to the Communist Party trumped loyalty to Russia, or the USSR – Lenin pioneered that approach. To have the same phenomena beginning to appear in a democracy is highly disturbing. It suggests the democracy no longer functions well, and may be breaking down. Use of the term Leninist is not demonization of enemies, but rather a correct description of Administration actions.

Other examples abound. The US has held Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber, for years on secret evidence that may be insufficient, and in fact may be largely absent. The President asserts the right to hold him purely on his authority, alone. Such a bald assertion of power has been absent from all English-speaking countries since the Magna Carta. If this example holds, it is likely that others will suffer the same fate in the future, for no valid reasons whatsoever.

When the populace lacks sufficient information, or correct information, it is relatively easy to lead through fear. Domestic opponents have trouble organizing when they do not know what has happened. Massive arrests and open crackdowns, on the other hand, invite resistance. The Bush Administration has showed repeatedly that it does not want massive resistance. It wants deference. Future administrations, however, using Bush-era precedents, might decide otherwise.

One example has been Bush’s reluctance to insert more than 140,000 combat troops into Iraq. Bush likely feels that higher numbers would lead to massive resistance he can’t overcome. He is likely right. Generals who want more troops see their careers ruined, however, so Bush gets his way. Yet experience from other wars shows that higher troop levels are necessary to curb guerilla war. So, the current troop levels are a holding action, unlikely to lead to success on anyone’s terms, except maybe the guerillas. But if that’s the price for preventing massive domestic resistance, so be it. Mercenaries like Blackwell help out, since they are off-book contractors, but they aren’t enough either.

When I mentioned lynch mobs, I didn’t imply that Bush would organize them, but rather that others might form them and use them against Bush. That was what happened in Italy, with Mussolini, as Italian troops capitulated to the Allies. Or maybe that is just a bloody example of something that might happen bloodlessly, that Republican candidates might suffer rejection in an electoral lynching.

South America actually has quite a few examples of where the US may be heading. The unsuccessful 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela showed how the economic elite lost power, in part because of its willingness to defy established law. Perhaps we’ll have an analogous leftist strongman emerge in the US and use Bush-era precedents against the economic elite here. Not a good thing…..

Liberal apprehension of Bush Administration actions is not irrational and is not based on extremist ideology. Indeed, conservatives have many of the same fears. It’s just that exactly these kinds of authoritarian actions have appeared repeatedly in dictatorships. We aspire to better.

Postscript: Am I an extremist? I don’t think so, but as W. notes, many of the hallmarks of standard fascistic regimes are missing, and thus calling the Administration fascistic is a form of overreach. In contrast, I tend to think that the current Administration is a new and improved form of fascistic tyranny that will be appreciated better, in retrospect….
Someone Will Get Frosted About This

Note taped to the door of a Community Center:
Anger management course is cancelled today.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Net Cafe Refugees

Talking about lack of sleep, if I lived in Japan, I'd find this tempting:
Japan is launching its first study into so-called "Net cafe refugees," young people who live in all-night lounges and are feared to become a new class of working poor, an official said Wednesday.

Japan's omnipresent net cafes -- equipped with sofas, drinks, computers and comic books -- are designed for businessmen who want to slack off for a few hours or for commuters who missed their last trains home.

But Japan has been alarmed by growing reports of young day labourers who are staying in round-the-clock cafes rather than renting and living in apartments.

...A five-hour stay at an Internet cafe in Tokyo costs about 3,000 yen (25 dollars) with a meal served. Showers are available at 200 yen for 30 minutes and underwear is on sale.

...Sleeping in net cafes can be problematic "in terms of employment security, hygiene and development of job ability," said the labour ministry official.
Bill Richards-zzzzzzzz-on

Bill needs sleep. I sympathize: I'm running on caffeine vapors myself. But what's this about none of the candidates getting enough sleep again until the Iowa Caucuses are over? Are they nuts? And firefighters, soldiers and other emergency responders can go long periods without much sleep, but no one is asking them to argue fine points of federal budgeting while on camera.

But then, I remember, in 2005, how Dave Lack got through opening night of RSP's "Victor, Victoria" with very, very little sleep. The most impressive command of the sleep impulse I've ever seen, while simultaneously reciting mounds of lines from memory! It probably does matter that Dave is a firefighter....

Dave Lack for President!:
Richardson, tired and apparently worn down by a long stretch of campaign travel, caused a stir last week when asked during a debate whether it was a person's choice to be gay.

"Yes," Richardson said.

"No," he said the next day.

Then, when clarifying what he really meant to say, Richardson said a long flight was to blame.

Although no one is calling for Richardson to leave the Democratic presidential race after the gaffe, the moment might be an example of how the cruel pace of campaigning can catch up with the candidates, said David Redlawsk, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science.

"Already this year, we had Senator (Barack) Obama claim 10,000 people died in a Kansas tornado back in May - Obama later said he was really tired when he made that misstatement - and Richardson called being gay a choice during the Human Rights Campaign forum, apparently not quite understanding the question," he said.

...However, Richardson campaign spokesman Pahl Shipley said the governor is getting the winks he needs.

"The governor has never required much sleep," Shipley said Wednesday morning.

Shipley added that the 59-year-old Richardson thrives on being in motion.

"If he gets more than one or two days off, he gets antsy," Shipley said.

Richardson staffers have long talked about the governor's ability to catnap and wake up refreshed.

"We'd joke that you'd be talking to him and he'd nod off, and then he'd wake up in 30 or 40 minutes and complete the sentence he was talking about before," said Shipley, who worked in the Governor's Office before moving to the campaign earlier this year.

...Nonstop activity doesn't necessarily mean Richardson isn't well-rested, said Richard Seligman, the medical director of the Presbyterian Sleep Disorder Center in Albuquerque.

"Unless there is a specific point, such as he's having trouble with his memory or words, or yawning in public, unless you can identify those, I don't know that you can say he is that tired," Seligman said.

Richardson did have a memory lapse on a "Meet the Press" interview this spring when he called a New Mexico journalist - whose release from captivity in Sudan he'd helped secure - by the wrong first name.

Still, Seligman said, many people have hectic schedules but are able to perform well.

"There are many examples of people in the community that work pretty grueling schedules and function fine," he said. "There are examples of police and firemen, first responders and emergency workers who put in extensively long hours and function pretty well."

...Richardson long has said he'll outwork anyone on the campaign path.

A check of his schedule for Wednesday bore that out.

He had five events planned in four cities. Obama had three cities and two events on his calendar, while Clinton was slated to make four events in three cities.

Since he announced he's seeking the nomination, it hasn't been uncommon for Richardson's travel to include six states in a week. On one June day, Richardson was in New Hampshire for some campaigning, flew to Iowa for a dinner and then back to New Hampshire for a debate.

On the same April day this year that he returned from a six-day trip to North Korea, Richardson flew to Dallas for a fund-raiser - and then back to Santa Fe.
"Pirates of Penzance" Rehearsals Ramping Up

Image by printmeister at B3ta.

Lots of good singers in the cast! Hope I can keep up and avoid getting keelhauled....
Why Is The Stock Market So Volatile?

Well, it's like this (via Atrios):
First, you take a bunch of shaky and risky subprime mortgages and repackage them into residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS); then you repackage these RMBS in different (equity, mezzanine, senior) tranches of cash CDOs that receive a misleading investment grade rating by the credit rating agencies; then you create synthetic CDOs out of the same underlying RMBS; then you create CDOs of CDOs (or squared CDOs) out of these CDOs; and then you create CDOs of CDOs of CDOs (or cubed CDOs) out of the same murky securities; then you stuff some of these RMBS and CDO tranches into SIV (structured investment vehicles) or into ABCP (Asset Backed Commercial Paper) or into money market funds. Then no wonder that eventually people panic and run - as they did yesterday – on an apparently “safe” money market fund such as Sentinel. That “toxic waste” of unpriceable and uncertain junk and zombie corpses is now emerging in the most unlikely places in the financial markets.

Second example: today any wealthy individual can take $1 million and go to a prime broker and leverage this amount three times; then the resulting $4 million ($1 equity and $3 debt) can be invested in a fund of funds that will in turn leverage these $4 millions three or four times and invest them in a hedge fund; then the hedge fund will take these funds and leverage them three or four times and buy some very junior tranche of a CDO that is itself levered nine or ten times. At the end of this credit chain, the initial $1 million of equity becomes a $100 million investment out of which $99 million is debt (leverage) and only $1 million is equity. So we got an overall leverage ratio of 100 to 1. Then, even a small 1% fall in the price of the final investment (CDO) wipes out the initial capital and creates a chain of margin calls that unravel this debt house of cards. This unraveling of a Minskian Ponzi credit scheme is exactly what is happening right now in financial markets.
You Know Your Paraplegic Bunny Is Happy To See You Come Home....

...When she spins on the floor so fast that she flips onto her back and waves her front legs uselessly in the air, like a tossed beetle.
Dean Aiming South

With every new forecast, Hurricane Dean is looking like it will veer south. Last NOGAPS (and current NHC consensus) points it straight at Cancun. Current NOGAPS forecast points it even further south, towards Belize.

Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Erin is ashore in Texas.

And in Brisbane, NOGAPS is reducing its rain forecast, for some reason, while the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is increasing its rain forecast. I think BOM is right - there's already a big fat juicy area of clouds over western and SW Queensland, and northern NSW. They'll get some useful moisture out of the storm.

[Update] It's raining in Warwick. Desperately dry Warwick!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Expectations And Respect

I'm now getting to the age where old friends are starting to appear in official places. Here is Rich Blakeslee, who was in the office next to mine in graduate school:
Rich Blakeslee is a senior atmospheric researcher at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. On behalf of the Marshall Center, Blakeslee conducts research at the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC), the Huntsville-based research facility cooperatively managed by Marshall and Alabama research universities.
The write-up continues in the same deferential vein. It's funny to see Blakeslee written up in such a respectful manner. Goodness knows he was the least pretentious person I knew in graduate school.

Rich once talked about Thanksgiving dinner when he was a kid. He didn't get to sit at the big table in the dining room - that was for the adults. Instead, he sat at the fold-out card table, with the kids.

As an adult, he had trouble adjusting to people's expectations that he should eat at the big dining table. It was all wrong: his place was at the card table, with the kids.

It's hard, sometimes, meeting expectations.
Wait, You Forgot Something

Owww! :
A Japanese biker failed to notice his leg had been severed below the knee when he hit a safety barrier, and rode on for more than a mile, leaving a friend to pick up the missing limb.
Tropical Storm Erin

Wow! Presto! Already there, by the Texas coast....
Another Bowling Ball From The Tropics

NOGAPS has changed its mind again about Tropical Storm Dean (formerly Tropical Depression Four). Instead of washing out over Cuba, like the computer model thought yesterday, it’s now decided the storm is strong enough to make it all the way to the Houston, Texas area by next Thursday. It would pass through the Florida Keys Monday night/Tuesday morning. There is no indication as of now that Tampa would be affected, however.

Keep an eye on this….
Bat Boy Is The Canary In The Coal Mine

The demise of Weekly World News may signal the eventual demise of other tabloids like the National Enquirer:
The Enquirer, the archetypal supermarket tabloid, was founded in 1926 as The New York Enquirer with capital from mobster Frank Costello to list illegal lottery numbers. In the 1950s, publisher Generoso Pope Jr. built it into a newsstand hit with a formula of blood and violence, crime scene and accident pictures, and screaming headlines like “I Cut out Her Heart and Stomped on It!” But, by 1967, Pope realized the tabloid’s future lay in suburban supermarkets, so he reined in the shock and gore, replacing it with the familiar formula of celebrity gossip, the occult, and miracle diets. Pressure from competitors pushed the content toward wildly scurrilous – until a landmark 1981 lawsuit won by Carol Burnett suggested to AMI the benefits of fact-checking.

Through the ’80s and ’90s, although forced to curb their worst excesses, The Enquirer and its kin enjoyed business as usual. As the century drew to a close, though, TV shows like Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, the entire E! channel, and an overall swing to a tabloid-style celeb obsession in all media from People to cable news, plus the Internet becoming a massive resource of salacious cyber-tattle, had eroded those numbers. The Enquirer enjoyed a certain renaissance with an inside track on both the O.J. Simpson trial and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. It also survived a post-9/11 anthrax mail attack on AMI’s Florida offices, which killed a photo editor.

Without Bill and O.J. to pull in the readers, however, circulation again began to drop, and in 2003 AMI brought in super-editor Bonnie Fuller, formerly of Glamour and Cosmopolitan and who had recently turned around the fortunes of Us Weekly. But Fuller’s formula – total concentration on celebrity and the elimination of the astrologers, flying saucers, and near-death experiences – proved little more than a short-term containment. Fuller temporarily slowed the rot, but did not reverse it. Now, as The Weekly World News goes under, AMI is reportedly close to $1 billion in debt and posted a $160 million net loss for 2006.
Quantum Indeterminacy

Image by printmeister at B3ta.

Like Schrodinger wrote:
One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Crocs Miss Out

Trapped in a swamp, a man survives by keeping his cool:
CAPE York stockman David George has spent seven nights up a tree in a crocodile-infested swamp, bleeding and with little food - and lived to tell the tale.

..."Every night I was stalked by two crocs who would sit at the bottom of the tree staring up at me," Mr George recalled yesterday.

"All I could see was two sets of red eyes below me and all night I had to listen to a big bull croc bellowing a bit further out.

"I'd yell out at them, 'I'm not falling out of this tree for you bastards'."

Dazed and bleeding after a tumble from his horse earlier this month, the bushie had given the horse its head in the pre-dawn dark to get him home – only to find it had taken him more than a kilometre into the heart of a croc swamp.

"I had to get off the horse and fall on the long 8ft-high swamp grass to clear a path, when I fell straight into a crocodile nest," he said.

"That spooked me. There were some monstrous tracks and the big ones are never far from the nest.

"I couldn't go back, it was too far and too dangerous, so I headed to the nearest high ground and stayed there, hoping someone would come and find me before the crocs did."
Rebel Disko

Tonight is the inaugural of something new at the Press Club (21st and P): Rebel Disko, with DJs Danny Ramirez (Kru - Las Vegas) and Mike Mal (Razkals - Sacramento), and sponsored by Ragdoll Vintage. Every second Tuesday, they will mix Indie, Electro, Eighties House, and Italo Disco.

This is very tempting, but I'm already scheduled to rehearse with the DMTC crew tonight and learn to sing Gilbert and Sullivan's, Less-Than-Rebellious, but More-Than-Disko, "Pirates of Penzance." Maybe later, though. We need more House in Sacramento....
Why The Aliens Are Here

After explaining to me how electromagnetic forces could be harnessed to create wormholes composed of atoms made entirely from electrons, K. addressed a more-timely question: Why, exactly, are the aliens here?
They are actually people from the future, who have come back through wormholes to warn us not to become what they have become.
I was always troubled, frankly, by the big heads, spindly limbs, greenish tint, and almond eyes. Another good reason to eat your vegetables and keep your alcohol consumption under control and to teach your children your healthy ways.

Tropical Depression Four has strengthened into Tropical Storm Dean, but NOGAPS weakens it after it crosses the Antilles, and wipes it out over Cuba. Hope that is so.

A cold front should bring heavy rain to western Queensland on Friday, and some showers to the Brisbane area on the weekend. Not much rain in Brissy, but you take what you can get. Still, it makes you wonder why one can't get more rain from them, like what happens in the Northern Hemisphere.
Dallas-Area Teens Pre-Screen "High School Musical 2"

And what do they think?:
As Nicole Walker started the movie (rewinding the parts when people got too loud), the comments flew.

"Oh my gosh, look at his pants."

"Aren't her braids cool?"

"She has a weird laugh. And she laughs a lot in this movie."

"He's got the weirdest shoes."

"This is the weirdest song on earth."

"Don't make fun of him! He's listening to his heart."

"Monique's really old. She's like 27."

"He looks bad with his hair up."

"I think he looks better with his hair up."

"Aw! That was sweet!"

"They're so cute."

"They're made for each other."

Occasionally, the girls inadvertently revealed their age through their commentary. When Troy clocks in at the country club, one of the girls asked, "What's that for?" Her friend explained what a timecard was.

...As the movie reached the halfway point, the girls offered their verdict: The sequel is definitely not a dud.

"I like this one better so far," Erica said. "It has better acting and better singing and better dancing. In the first one, everything was perfect. I mean, it was really good, though!"

Her friends agreed: The extra drama helps. Most also agreed that the bigger heartthrob in the series is not Zac Efron, but curly topped Corbin Bleu. Why?

"His hair," they all said.

...After the credits rolled, the group jumped up and began shrieking about various things, as girls will do. The mission for the night was accomplished: They'd seen the movie.

"Every person in school will see it," Nicole said. "It's one of those things you have to see."

Jessica agreed: "No matter if you want to or not."
George Carlin Can't Stay Away From Vegas

Although he is no fan of the place:
"It is the most dispiriting, soul-deadening city on earth."

But despite his obvious loathing of the town, there is something about Las Vegas that keeps bringing Carlin back. Unlike most comics his age, Carlin still has work to do.

...“So, Las Vegas provides an easy place to go to where the audience keeps changing. You don't tap it out. But the price I pay for that is the audiences are not the best in Vegas. In Pittsburgh I get the hardcore fans who know what I am about. In Las Vegas often I get people who saw me on Leno or got a coupon. It doesn't work easily. Each night (in Vegas) I have to find out how they are going to be and I have to train them."


Sorab Wadia sings the part of Hussein Al Mansour in the Edinburgh Fringe Production of JIHAD THE MUSICAL.

The musical tells the story of "a hapless Afghan peasant who wants nothing more than to sell poppies". He somehow falls into the hands of jihadi terrorists and conceives an ambition to be "Islamically renowned", to which end he sings show-stopper, "I Wanna Be Like Osama", where longing for "a jihad of my own" and waiting with a world-weary shrug for the CIA "to determine what I'm worth", he is surrounded by assault-weapon toting chorines clad in pink burqas.

Costumes by Deb O.

Choreography by Bethany Samuelson.

See for more information about the production.

(Hat tip: )

Monday, August 13, 2007

Look Up, You Fool

Sigh. Missed the Pleiades. Again.
Woo Hoo! Featured In The Bee's Blog Roundup

Must get love somewhere - my submissions to B3ta, the British site for callow juvenile humor, have been roundly-ignored of late. Must be the American accent. And I'm not juvenile. And I send them dull stories, too. Yeah, that's the ticket....
"Freedom Is About Authority"

Remember, freedom is about authority.
Instilling Old-Fashioned Values

Tough love goes awry at boot camp:
Authorities said both Flowers and Bassitt restrained the girl June 12, tying her to the back of a van with a piece of rope before dragging her on her stomach at the Love Demonstrated Ministries' boot camp in Banquete, about 10 miles west of Corpus Christi.

..."Obviously force was used, but the big question is whether or not it exceeded the force permitted by the parents," Bailey said, adding camp officials said they had permission slips from parents that allowed them to discipline their children.

...Authorities interviewed on Friday could not say how far the teenager was allegedly dragged. Her mother complained to authorities after boot camp personnel took her daughter to get treated for scrapes and bruises on her stomach, legs and arms.

...The camp was created to "reinstill the values that have been lost in our society for a couple of generations, values such as discipline, morality, unity and integrity."
NOGAPS Makes A Fool Of Me

NOGAPS has decided to make me look like an idiot. Instead of two tropical storms bracketing Florida this week, it looks like now that there will be none. Storminess, yes, but nothing serious enough to be considered anything but normal.

But there is reason to hope. Tropical Depression Four has started way out there, near 30 degrees West, between Africa and South America. But it’s still very far away, and it too may not make it to North America.
Elly Award Nominations Announced

(I haven't seen the list yet)

[Update] Oh, here's the list!

Let's see what catches the eye:

Denise Miles got a lot of nominations for costume design. Some good people got nominations too: Kyle Cherry, Kris David, Colin Spahr....Yay! Meghan Vanderford! Yay! The group from RSP's "Chicago" got several nominations....

Boy, all sorts of people are involved in local theater! Broad range of nominees!

DMTC got seven nominations, total. Given the SARTA target nominee population of Education and Newer Theaters, this number is more than I expected.

May the best competitors win!
Injuries From Global Warming Continue To Mount

Or something like that:
The captain of the luxury sightseeing boat hit by falling ice from a glacier in the Arctic was being interviewed over the incident today. The trip left 17 British tourists injured.

...Local officials said the passengers were hurt - some seriously - after being thrown around on the ship when large chunks of the ice shelf broke off and collapsed into the sea.

The blocks of ice hit the side of the vessel as it was carrying tourists off the Svalbard Islands, 300 miles north of Norway.

The injured Britons were among 46 who had paid around £2,500 to take part in the "expedition voyage", booked through specialist tour operator Discover The World.

...He added that the injuries sustained by the British tourists included broken arms and legs and fractured ribs.
I Was Bad This Weekend

When people call from charities, the conversation usually goes something like:
Charity: The local NAMBLA chapter is hosting a picnic in the park this weekend. Can you attend?
Marc: No, I'm busy this weekend, but I'd be happy to contribute $40 to the local chapter.
Charity: Thank you ever so much! Donors like you are much appreciated. We'll send you a pledge letter in the mail ASAP, and please return it with your check within ten days.
Then, as often as not, I forget to send in the $40 check, getting the feel-good rush, without the undue burden of meeting the expectations of all the charities that call.

Sometimes this approach extends to politics too. I agreed to go to 'California Speaks' on Saturday at the Sacramento Convention Center. Health insurance issues were going to be discussed.

Nevertheless, got up late, had to wash the bunny and the dog, and just way too much else to deal with.

I apologize.

My bad.

[Update] Stonebender went, and found some pretty overt steering by Ahnold's staff.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cute Storm?

Hawaii prepares:
"Everyone in the Hawaiian Islands is urged to continue monitoring the progress of Hurricane Flossie," the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said in a statement. "A northward shift in the track could potentially bring hurricane conditions to the Big Island."
According to the Urban Dictionary, Flossie is:
a chick who is very cute, Hot babe
"Heaven Help Us!" - Garbeau's Dinner Theatre

Left to right: Vic (Nic Candito), Frank Sinatra (The 'Chairman of the Board' himself, Mr. Michael R.J. Campbell), Sammy Davis, Jr. (Sequence Rashad "Keiu" Grisby), Dean Martin (Troy Thomas). Not pictured: Angie (Lindsay Grimes).

Went with the DMTC crowd to see "Heaven Help Us!" This was the first time I've visited the new Garbeau's, under the management of Mark Ferreira, who, interestingly enough, recently got a plug in the Wall Street Journal:
Moving beyond murder mysteries and musical revues, some dinner theaters now boast European cabaret and Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics. Some say it's a needed boost. "Dinner theater can't necessarily work on its own anymore," says Mark Ferreira, 26, who recently bought Garbeau's, a dinner theater near Sacramento, Calif., that's also 26 years old. Among his changes: removing "dinner theater" from the marquee and adding a blues night. Below, three venues updating the dinner/show concept.
Mark was very congenial and welcoming and eager to promote his new jazz revue night (most Thursdays, with the exception of when tech weeks occur for shows opening that weekend). The crowd look plusher, more free-spending than what I remember of Garbeau's crowds in the past, so it looks like things are off to an excellent start!

The Rat Pack's songs were always highly-variable in nature: some vapid and forgettable; some others, timeless works of art. Both types were found in this musical, with many of the vapid songs in Act I, and the timeless ones predominating in the 'Big Show' portion of the musical, in Act II.

When I was young, it was cool and hip to run down the Rat Pack's work. By the late 60's, they had overstayed their welcome in show biz, to some extent. Yet even then, they did much fine work, which can be appreciated better in retrospect; for example, watching reruns of Dean Martin's late 60's comedy variety show. No one in the business had better comedic timing! I've even heard rumors that, despite his reputation, Dean Martin's lush schtick was entirely an act, that he was a teetotaler (don't know if it's true). Watching him and Goldie Hawn was always a trip!

I am happy that Troy Thomas also has excellent comedic timing. It was fun to watch his rendition of Dean Martin.

Michael R.J. Campbell's Frank Sinatra was also very enjoyable, as he used English, Hoboken-style, to bring Frank alive again.

Sequence Rashad "Keiu" Grisby played Sammy Davis, Jr. Wonderful voice! He was a little measured with the dancing, not venturing into Davis' trademark tap, but rather moving tautly through the smoky cool of 'Mr. Bojangles.' Even though Keiu is from Sacramento, he teaches dance at the Applegate Dance Studio in Davis.

Nic Candito played Vic, owner of 'The Rat Pack Lounge', whose emotional crisis brings the Rat Pack back to Earth. In some ways, Nic has the hardest acting challenge of the show, having to be alternately depressed and vibrant.

Lindsay Grimes played Angie, the only 'tomato' of the bunch. I'm a big fan of hers, and she does have excellent moments - especially with the song 'I Love Being Here With You' in Act II - but the musical doesn't have her center stage quite as much as she should. The play was written to focus on the Rat Pack, at the expense of tomatoes.

In reality, of course, the Rat Pack could be exceedingly solicitous and helpful to women singers. I recently heard an interview (broadcast together with Latino news) with the Mexican/American singer from El Paso, Vicki Carr, who discussed her improbable rise in show business, starting off with a hit song Down Under - folks there thought she was Australian - then catching the attention of Frank Sinatra by effortlessly shifting from English to Spanish, in song. Dean Martin had the highest praise for her, not only calling her the 'best girl singer in the business' but also 'it's so good to see a nice Italian girl make it in the business!'

Excellent performances on the part of everyone!

Heinz Moment

Daniel Leighton and colleagues, friends of Susan and Andy Sullivan, put together this entry for the Heinz 57 commercial ad contest.