Friday, October 05, 2007

So, What's Up With The Democrats?

W. wonders why the Dems haven't done more against the Iraq War:
When the Democrats took over both houses of congress, I thought that they'd pull the plug on the war pretty quickly. After all, they're against the war. So last spring, when they decided to defer the question until September, I was a little surprised at their caution, but thought that it was a reasonable approach. However, now that September has come and gone, with the plug still unpulled, I am wondering - what is it with the Democrats? Are they against the war, but only in a theoretical, abstract sense? Or are they not really against the war? They control congress, they've got the mainstream media, and their adversary is a lame duck president who has the lowest approval rating since Jimmy Carter! Are the Democrats unable to lead?

Actually, although the war is supposedly "unpopular", I am struck by how low-key and tepid the opposition is today. Now, Vietnam was an Unpopular War. S***, some war protesters back then killed people! People sewed American flags to the ass of their pants! There were riots! There was a massacre at Kent State! What do we have today? Cindy Sheehan buys a piece of land near Bush's ranch so she can set up signs. Somebody gets hassled for wearing an anti-war T-shirt. Big F***ing Deal.

There was an interview with a local Unitarian war protester in our newspaper. She noted that people seem to feel "disconnected" with the war. I think that is true. There is no draft, so nobody is forced to go unless they volunteer for the armed forces first. I was thinking the other day: if I didn't read/watch the news, how would the war affect my life? Actually, it happens that one of my close friends at work has a son in Iraq, who volunteered for a combat assignment. I do worry about him. Whenever my friend misses a day at work, I wonder if he has received bad news. I do not know how he can handle the stress. However, if it were not for that, I wouldn't even know there was a war on based on everyday direct experience. I checked Aiken County statistics from 2003-2006:
  • Aiken County traffic fatalities: 140
  • Aiken County homicides: 22
  • Aiken County deaths in Iraq/Afghanistan: 2
The level of effort that is being put into this war is really very small; not enough to force people to commit themselves to a position. So the Democrats, although against the war, aren't actually willing to spend much political capital to get us out. Cindy Sheehan understands that now. Furthermore, the Democrats learned a lesson from George McGovern -- opposition to an unpopular war, if too obviously allied with anti-Americanism, will lose an election.
Much that you mention is correct, and very disheartening. I quibble with the idea that opposition to the Vietnam War was closely tied to anti-Americanism – maybe on some college campuses, but not in most other places, and certainly not George McGovern (a bomber pilot in WWII, after all). But whatever….

I’m heartened that some Democrats who are obviously reliant on military spending are also willing to work against the Iraq War (Jim Webb of Virginia, for example), but there aren’t enough legislators like him in Congress. We need leaders, but find ourselves surrounded by drones instead.

The dirty little secret (which was just as true during the Vietnam War and part of the reason why that war lasted so long and why this one likely will too) is that while Democratic legislators might be personally opposed to the war, they are quite dependent on the spending in their districts generated by military contracts. From their point-of-view, the problem isn’t the War in Iraq, per se, but to continue the war spending without the distraction of getting people killed. Digby had a recent post on this:

At first, the Global War on Terror looked like a perfect vehicle for their political needs, because Al Qaeda and related groups, while very scary, were not actually that powerful, but since then, the War in Iraq has degraded into a standard, bloody occupation, and the political downside is now larger.

Also problematic is that while Democrats are nominally in control of Congress, their majorities are extraordinarily narrow. So caution is the rule of the day, and extraordinary cynicism too. It’s no wonder Cindy Sheehan told the Democrats to shove it. Any feeling human being would too.

The recent vote in Congress to condemn for the “General Betray Us” ad was a good example of how Democratic legislators actually feel about the war in Iraq. Half of the Democrats voted to condemn, including California’s Dianne Feinstein, a nominal liberal, but whose husband is a major defense contractor. This was an extraordinarily stupid vote for the Democrats, because it has alienated the anti-war portion of the party from the legislators (I’ve stopped making any more contributions to the DNC and related organizations, for example, and I’m not alone). To the Democrats in Congress, however, is an equivalent to the Christian Coalition for the Republicans – the help, not the boss – to be seen, not heard.

So, the Democrats in Congress will move against the War in Iraq if, and only if, it is in their best interest to do so, and not a moment sooner. Since they are likely to benefit from anti-war discontent (if any) they are likely to remain frozen in cement until well AFTER the 2008 election, and maybe not then either.

[Update] W. responds:
The Republican Party is the same way on abortion. The Party likes to give the impression that it is pro-life, but they're not really interested in expending political capital to change anything. Even Reagan was guilty of that. I first realized it when, in the late 90's, with both houses of Congress held by Republicans, they announced that they had "only" 65 votes to for a pro-life bill, not enough to override a veto, so rather than pass the law and put the ball in Clinton's court, they did nothing. And of course from 2001 through 2006, the Republicans had both houses of Congress, AND the Presidency, but I didn't notice much pro-life legislation during those years. Did you?

The established parties have tended to use volatile issues like abortion, or the environment, as fundraising vehicles, and sources for campaign energy, and not to treat them too seriously.

The trouble is, for the Democrats, the Iraq War is not a matter of lifestyle or morality, but a core issue of state. Kick MoveOn.Org too hard, and the entire left wing of the party could defect. After all, the purpose of the Democratic Party is to address core issues of state, and if it no longer does so effectively, then why support it?

Something similar is at work with the Republicans too, regarding immigration issues. The business wing stands for the status quo. The nativist wing wants better enforcement of citizenship issues. These are core issues of state, not lifestyle or morality issues.

So, the entire superstructure of the current two-party system could become endangered. There are statistical approaches that show that two parties will almost always result from the kind of political system we have (over the years, conservative columnist Mickey Kaus at Slate Magazine has blogged about why that is so). But the parties do not need to be Republicans and Democrats. Other possibilities can be invented (let’s bring back the Whigs!)

Of course, maybe calling these matters core issues of state is an exaggeration. Bush’s refusal to call a draft for the Iraq War suggests that, despite rhetoric, it is a lifestyle matter to him, not a core issue. But it will be interesting to see how, or if, these quarrels get addressed in the coming year.
How Did Australian Councils get Sucked into U.S. Subprime Mortgages?

Well, good salesmanship of the subprime-backed collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) helped:
Another gripe was that some of its CDOs, which contained U.S. and European assets, had Australian names, such as Kalgoorlie (a western Australian mining town famous for gold, nickel and brothels).

These labels disguised the true nature of the investments, some say. "I will make the conclusion that they were trying to mislead us, by giving Australian names to U.S. assets; you can draw your own conclusion," said Councillor Andrew Petrie in Woollahra, which owned Kalgoorlie. "If they'd been called 'Detroit,' you'd have said, 'What's this?' "

The Grange spokesman said the securities were denominated in Australian dollars and had other Australian characteristics. Market participants said it wasn't unusual for such securities to have Australian names.
There Goes The Neighborhood

Trying to keep gay senior-citizen condos from becoming too straight:
"It does not matter how friendly they are," said Roger Bergstrom, 77, who shares a condo at RainbowVision with his longtime partner, Barry Baltzley, 57.

Bergstrom spent nearly 30 years as a high school English and speech teacher in the Washington area. During that time, he had to be closeted at work.

For the last chapter of his life, Bergstrom wants to live in a community where gay people rule.

"If straight people are in the majority, it's different. It's not what we came here for," he said. "It's not where we want to live out the rest of our lives."

It's easy to see why seniors of any orientation would be attracted to the 120-unit development, which includes a mixture of condos and rental units plus an assisted-living facility.

The 13-acre community, with views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, features two- and three-story earth-tone buildings, carefully decorated public spaces, a restaurant that prides itself on not serving bland fare and a gym that would turn heads in West Hollywood. Dance parties and other events -- many of which are open to outsiders -- are often booked at the lounge and bar.

RainbowVision isn't the only such refuge for the aging gay set. In Oakland, the historic Lake Merritt Hotel has been transformed into Barbary Lane Communities, endorsed by gay icon Armistead Maupin. Other developments are planned for Palm Springs and Vancouver, Canada.

RainbowVision has been promoted almost exclusively to the gay community. Brochures and the website highlight photos of same-sex couples. The project's name evokes the rainbow that the gay community has adopted as its symbol.

About 80% of the complex's residents are gay, management said. But there is potential for a radical shift because nearly half of the units are unoccupied or for sale.

New Mexico bars housing discrimination because of sexual orientation. And condo owners, looking to unload their properties in a slow real estate market, are free to sell to whomever they choose.

Not that there's anything wrong with straight people, in moderation.

"This is a place where you don't have to find out if someone is gay," said Joy Silver, founder and chief executive of RainbowVision Properties Inc. "You have to find out if someone is straight."
The Hemlock Maneuver

E.: They are so useless over there. There's no one to ask. The vaccinations are all labelled in letters, but I don't know what they all mean.
M.: What's this picture book, with the upside-down baby on the man's thigh?
E.: I'm learning the Hemlock Maneuver, in case the childrens choke.
"Après Moi, Le Déluge"

What was once true of public debt then is just as applicable to private debt today.
Ever since the French Revolution, Madame de Pompadour's comment, "Après moi, le déluge" (after me, the deluge), has looked like a callous if accurate prophecy of the political cataclysms that began in 1789. But decades before the Bastille fell, French writers had used the phrase to describe a different kind of selfish recklessness--not toward the flood of revolution but, rather, toward the flood of public debt.
This news is no surprise, really:
Subprime-mortgage bonds created in the first half of 2007 contain loans that are going delinquent at the fastest rate ever, Moody's Investors Service said yesterday.
The average rate of "serious loan delinquencies" in the securities has been higher than for bonds created last year, Moody's analysts Ariel Weil and Amita Shrivastava wrote in a report. Serious loan delinquencies are those 60 days or more past due and include properties in foreclosure or already foreclosed upon.

"It is shocking what you see," said Kyle Bass of Hayman Advisors L.P., a Dallas hedge fund that bet the U.S. housing market would fall. It reported a 400 percent return on those investments.

"Anything securitized in 2007 has got to have the worst collateral performance of any trust I've seen in my life," Bass said.

Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings Inc. have been downgrading subprime securities issued in 2006, and Fitch said Wednesday that it now was reviewing ratings on bonds created in 2007.

Mortgages written in the United States typically are bundled with other mortgages and sold as bonds to investors. The health of those bonds rests on the strength of the individual mortgages in the bundle.
May As Well Get Used To It

There's not a danged thing the Senate Republicans can safely do, under the circumstances, regarding Larry Craig's decision to stay:
The Idaho Republican's decision gives his GOP colleagues two unpleasant choices. They can resume pressuring him to leave, and risk being seen as disloyal politicians who go harder on alleged homosexual misdeeds than on heterosexual wrongdoings.

Or they can basically ignore him for months, and endure more TV comics' taunts about a conservative senator convicted in a case involving public bathroom stalls.

Judging from comments in the first hours after Craig's announcement, Republican senators were unsure exactly where to land. Outright confrontation with Craig, however, seems unlikely.

Craig's lawyer Stanley Brand said the Senate traditionally has shied away from disciplining members for misdemeanors unrelated to their duties and might be unwise to cross that line now.

"Are they going to begin to take up misdemeanor cases as a matter of course?" Brand said Friday on NBC's "Today" show. "That's going to put a lot of other people in serious jeopardy down the road."

Five weeks ago, Craig announced his intent to resign Sept. 30 if he could not have his guilty plea rescinded. But Craig, who bridled at colleagues' not-so-subtle hints to leave, reneged on the deal Thursday.

..."Senator Craig gave us his word" that he would resign by Sept. 30 if he could not overturn the guilty plea, said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who chairs the GOP campaign committee overseeing next year's Senate elections. "I wish he would stick to his word."

"It's embarrassing for the Senate, it's embarrassing for his party," Ensign said. Asked if Craig's staying would be a distraction for the party, Ensign said: "It may be a personal distraction for me."

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who faces a tough re-election campaign next year in a state where opposition to the Iraq war is strong, spoke with reporters Thursday before Craig announced his plans to stay and fight.

"I would hope that he would live up to what he said he would do _ not put the Senate through the wringer on this, respect the institution," Coleman said. "Clearly, his ability to serve his people was severely compromised."

The White House stayed out of the controversy Friday. "We think this is a decision between Senator Craig, his constituents, his colleagues in the Senate," deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said.

Some Republicans feel that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., went too far in late August when he called Craig's actions that led to his arrest "unforgivable."

Commentators and activist groups contrasted the reaction to the welcome that GOP leaders gave Sen. David Vitter, R-La., after he apologized for his phone number turning up in a list of clients for an alleged call-girl operation.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Enemy Here Is The Press

And those vaunted, useless pundits, in exaggerating, beyond belief, the importance of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary:
All right, you say, why should the rest of us care? Couldn't the other 98 percent of Americans simply rise up and proclaim that they intend to make their own decisions? No one is forced to have their primary vote determined by what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire, after all.

But while we are not literally forced, the imperious campaign press will do all it can to coerce us into narrowing our choices. Like Roman emperors glaring contemptuously at a collection of wounded gladiators, then turning their thumbs down as the crowd roars its assent to the execution, they will pronounce candidates dead on the judgment of a few thousand Iowans. No appeals to mercy or reason will be allowed once the judgment is rendered. They will spend a day or two describing the demise of the candidates who came in third and fourth, then ignore them completely as though they no longer exist. Technically, you could still vote for them in your primary, but any choice other than the two candidates the press proclaims to still be viable, they will tell you, is as pointless as walking into a Starbucks and asking for a cup of Postum.
U.S.S. Liberty Documents Released

But we are still very, very far from understanding why Israel decided to attack the American ship in 1967, killing 34 and injuring 171:
Four decades later, many of the more than two dozen Liberty survivors located and interviewed by the Tribune cannot talk about the attack without shouting or weeping.

Their anger has been stoked by the declassification of government documents and the recollections of former military personnel, including some quoted in this article for the first time, which strengthen doubts about the U.S. National Security Agency's position that it never intercepted the communications of the attacking Israeli pilots -- communications, according to those who remember seeing them, that showed the Israelis knew they were attacking an American naval vessel.

The documents also suggest that the U.S. government, anxious to spare Israel's reputation and preserve its alliance with the U.S., closed the case with what even some of its participants now say was a hasty and seriously flawed investigation.
Magic Bus

Heads north:
When the bus known to millions of Australian filmgoers as Priscilla first appeared last year at the Lyric Theatre for the world premiere of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical, the audience let out a cheer of recognition.

Next year the musical will leave Sydney and the Australian desert far behind when it makes its West End debut as the first home-grown Australian production to open in London.

Due to open late next year, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical will be co-produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, and the producer of the Australian show, Liz Koops.

Koops said the musical would stay true to the Australian script for its northern hemisphere debut. The company was also in talks for a tour of the United States in 2009.
Breaking A Pledge

And entering new terrain:
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig defiantly vowed to serve out his term in office on Thursday despite losing a court attempt to rescind his guilty plea in a men's room sex sting.

"I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively," Craig said in a written statement certain to disappoint fellow Republicans who have long urged him to step down.
"The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert" - On DVD

I found this 1994 movie rather painful to watch. But first, Christopher Null at summarizes the plot:

Bafflement over dragdom plays a big part of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Here we have three guys (well, two cross-dressing guys and one transsexual) from Sydney -- a cosmopolitan burg -- who trek into the Australian desert to perform their drag show at a remote resort which may not be quite so wise to the ways of the cross-dresser.

If you're unfamiliar with the cast, it might shock you: Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce have become some of cinema's most burly men, Terence Stamp -- as transsexual Bernadette Bassenger -- is perhaps the scariest, most masculine man alive. (Never mind his costume in Superman II.) And that's perhaps what gives Priscilla such lasting charm. Contrary to a lot of gay cinema, here we have three straight guys taking the lead roles, playing characters confused, conflicted, and desperate for acceptance. But all three men are exceptional in their roles. Stamp is the standout, his thick, deep voice a wild contrast to his difficult physical transformation into a woman; Weaving as the drag queen with a couple of deeply buried secrets; Pearce as the most obvious stereotype of the bunch, yet utterly convincing you that he's completely and utterly gay (what with the stage name Felicia Jollygoodfellow).

Structurally, the movie is a road trip. Their pink bus (painted to cover up epithets scrawled on it during an early stop) breaks down frequently, giving them time to hobnob with desert locals and find little but blank stares and sometimes violence in response to their cabaret act. The girls don't seem to mind. They're used to persecution, and they soldier on to their destination, wearing one outrageous "frock" after another (one composed solely from flip-flops helped earn the film a best costume design Oscar), and playing a heap of disco to faux-croon to.

The film is fun, and though it offers a few platitudes on tolerance, mostly it's a showcase for one outrageous set piece after another. The movie's easy to like, but difficult to truly appreciate, which is probably one reason why it's become a camp classic on a scale with The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
My issues:
  • I was taken aback by just how bitchy the drag queens were. Being trapped with these folks, in a bus, day after day, would be a claustrophobic nightmare;
  • I was also taken aback how oblivious to danger the drag queens were, particularly facing the deserts of Australia's interior. Deserts move to their own, slower, rhythm of life, and they do not care how much lip gloss you have on. When Bernadette reacts to news of the bus' breakdown in the cruel heart of the Lake Eyre Basin with a tired, bitchy bleat to Tick about how he'd better get the bus running or he'll be in real trouble, I just shook my head. Hello? Earth to drag queens? Please pay attention to your surroundings! You are not in Sydney!
  • The dancing was, unfortunately, quite dreadful. Can we get just a little more effort, please?
The fun parts:
  • The part about the Asian mail-order bride trapped in the Outback, and her unfortunate addiction to popping ping pongs over the heads of raucous barroom crowds, was so bizarre, I will always treasure it;
  • The Australian Frilled Lizard-inspired gowns were truly spectacular!
The pain for me generally involved the hard desert and the hard fringe life of the drag queens, and their adventure in plunging into the hard heart of Australia, and, despite the treacle, coming back, it seemed to me, even harder.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Tough, Tough Streets Of Mesa

That's why, when I lived there, I chose to live in Tempe:
MESA, Ariz., Oct. 3 (UPI) -- The sight of an old man being hit by a truck in Arizona touched off a feeding frenzy among witnesses who allegedly stole the dying victim's groceries.

Not only were the man's groceries taken, but the only person who tried to help him also had his own bags taken.

...The elderly victim was waiting for a bus Tuesday night when a pickup truck swerved off the road and plowed into the stop. The man was sent flying as were his bags of groceries.

As the truck sped off with a white plastic bag flapping on its grill, witnesses began grabbing whatever scattered food they could get their hands on. Boro Mitrovich, who was himself nearly struck, said he ran to help the man and had his bag disappear as well.
Tripping Over Religious Sensibilities

So, back in 1989, when I was living in Salt Lake City, I tell my friend, "I have a surprise for you when you come to visit!" So, he shows up, and we cross the street from where I was living, and surprise him with - a small graveyard, where Brigham Young is buried, with four of his wives! Yet this surprise was not a pleasing one to my friend. And why?:
According to tradition, anyone bearing the name Cohen or any of its variations is a direct descendant of the high priests, the kohanim, who can trace their lineage back 3000 years to Aaron, brother of Moses. As members of this ancient caste of priests, they are even today subject to strict limitations, one of which is being forbidden to enter cemeteries regarded as impure. In addition, in Israel, where there is no civil marriage ceremony, these Cohens are not allowed to marry divorced women or those converted to Judaism.
I was the surprised one that day. Actually, living in Utah provided plenty of opportunities for tripping over any number of religious sensibilities, around-the-clock.
Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out, Pete

John hears:
Pete Domenici is retiring at the end of his current term next year--sounds like another seat for the Democrats!

There have been rumors his mental health is not the best these days……

That Gulf of Mexico storm looks like it's falling apart. We'll probably have to wait for a few days before we figure out which patch of tropical trouble is Noel.
Nothing Can Suage Curiosity

Rather than being assuaged by the word "assuage", James McElroy plunges right down the rabbit hole of research....

I notice the tendency to equate suage with either sewage or sausage, though they have nothing to do with one another - not onomatopoeia, but malapropism:

I really liked the Non Sequitur comic strip you posted. When I saw it in the paper I immediately thought of several persons to send it to, and got discouraged. Wisdom from the mouths of children, eh. The Emperor (Big Science) is neckkid as a Jaybird.

What really set me off though was Noel's comment. I love the word "assuage". It is very onomatopoetic(1), if you sit quietly and repeat it several times you can just feel the guilt, stress, and worries roll off your shoulders. I started to write a comment to that effect but needed to look up the spelling of "onomatopoetic" (actually, it seems that "onomatopoeic" is linguistically correct) and things rapidly got out of hand.

One of the things I found (other than that research is hazardous to your sanity) is the existence of a valid word "Suage", a transitive verb meaning "to assuage". This brought me up short. Suage is not onomatopoetic. The only example of usage I could think of was, "I'm gonna suage the crap outa that SOB!". This led me to look at several definitions of "suage" and perforce, off on another tangent.

One of the latter innovations of the internet, text based advertising, has intrigued me for some time. I like looking at the ad placement and trying to figure out the keyword relationships. Some are obvious, others are not so much. I was looking at the add placements for the definition of suage and noticed a surprising trend exemplified by the following page:


Definition of Suage
v. t. 1. To assuage.

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More Sources - Better Results Metasearch Big Sausage Pizza now!

Emergency Water Removal Services For All Industries

Use The Same Septic System Solution Used In Municipal Wastewater Plants

Find user-reviewed Septic & Sewage in your city or zip code!

What's with that?!

(1) In rhetoric, linguistics and poetry, onomatopoeia is a figure of speech that employs a word, or occasionally, a grouping of words, that imitates, echoes, or suggests the object it is describing, such as "bang", "click", "fizz", "hush", "buzz", "hiss" or "murmur".
Symbol Hotheadedness

Flag problem in Reno.
More Movies On DVD

Watched "Ghost" again - it's been a long time, but it's October, and a good ghost story seemed to be necessary.

What a good movie! It's appalling, however, to read about Demi Moore's late efforts, via surgery, to remain viable, or bankable, or whatever you call it. THAT stuff gives me nightmares!

Then I watched, for the first time, 2004's "Mean Girls", starring Lindsay Lohan. Since I'm completely out of the Hollywood loop, I wondered 'who is this Lohan person, and why do gossip columnists fret about her so?'

Liked the movie a lot. A little more earnest, not quite so clever as 1995's "Clueless", which traversed some of the same territory. Nevertheless, I did not like Lindsay Lohan that much. Sure, she has a lot of energy, and she is dynamic, but she seemed a bit lazy for the role, and vapid too. Instead, I was very impressed with the supposedly vapid "Plastics", particularly Rachel McAdams (maybe I have a weakness for leggy blondes), but also the spacy Goldie-Hawn-like Amanda Seyfried, and the hyper-alert Lacey Chabert. The little bit where Seyfried models the sweater with the applique-K in the mirror had me rolling in laughter! I was captivated by the Plastic's sense of style, and, oddly enough, their niceness.

The last word, of course, belongs to E., who opined "it was dry and it lacked ingredients."
Resourceful Kids

Self-deportation, I suppose:
Three Mexican minors detained in California on suspicion of smuggling drugs stole a U.S. Border Patrol car while still wearing handcuffs and drove it back across the border to Mexico.

Police in the Mexican border city of Mexicali said on Tuesday the three boys had been driving a pick-up truck on a remote Californian highway when a Border Patrol agent stopped them.

Suspicious they were carrying marijuana, he handcuffed them and put them in his patrol car while he searched their truck.

"As the agent was doing his search, he left the vehicle running and the keys in the ignition, so one of the lads, still wearing handcuffs, grabbed the steering wheel and they headed back to Mexico," a police spokesman said.

...Mexican police used a helicopter to locate the patrol vehicle in a remote agricultural area near the border.
Swirly Slime And Kaleidoscopes

Look at what Page Berghoffer is designing these days - toys for Target! All this stuff is being shipped this month, for Xmas. So, go to Target right now and buy:
Kaleidoscopes, Mini-Bowling, Picture Projector, Swirly Slime, Bath Wind-Ups, Blast-Off Spinners, Balloon Bop Buddies, Monster Truck, Catch-A-Ball, Dinosaur, Pig Light, Pixie Pals, and Soft Dino.
Well, what are you sitting around for? Can't you hear the reindeer? Hurry!
Lung Clerk

Yup, that's what I do.
Leave Kevin Caravalho Alone! NAOU!

He is a human!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

WSJ Immigration Advice

I like reading the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages, because lunatics control them. Only half-baked ideas get vetted there.

Nevertheless, once in a while, some sound editorial will squeak through the cacophony generated by the legion of morons and idiots. Today is a one such day. Today's advice by Richard Nadler regards the GOP's problem with the Hispanic vote, given the GOP's determination to stanch illegal immigration, and addresses the division that has opened up between the nativist wing and the business wing of the party (the WSJ is squarely on the business side of the division).

Commenters on conservative Web Sites like Lucianne do make a valid complaint that Nadler mischaracterizes nativists' arguments too extremely, as if mass deportation is the only option they favor. Nevertheless, the fact that GOP arguments aren't clearer is a troubling sign, because unclear arguments can get twisted.:
In my recent study for the Americas Majority Foundation entitled "Border Wars: The Impact of Immigration on the Latino Vote," I document not what Hispanics opined, but how they actually voted, given a clear choice between advocates of "enforcement first" and comprehensive immigration reform. The results, based on returns from 145 heavily Hispanic precincts and over 100,000 tabulated votes, indicate this: Immigration policies that induce mass fear among illegal residents will induce mass anger among the legal residents who share their heritage.

...Former Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona was an architect of comprehensive immigration reform. His retirement in 2006 precipitated a five-way primary in which Randy Graff prevailed with 42% of the vote. Mr. Graff, supported by the deportationist Minutemen Civil Defense Corps PAC, lost to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, 42%-54%. Ms. Giffords aligned herself with the comprehensive reform positions of Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain. Among the heavily Hispanic precincts of Cochise County, Rep. Kolbe carried 43% of the vote in 2004. Mr. Graff's share of the vote in those precincts shrank to 18%.

In Texas, former Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla, chairman of the powerful House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, was the paradigm of Republican Hispanic success--until he voted for Rep. Sensenbrenner's "enforcement-only" bill. In the heavily Hispanic counties of Dimmit, Presidio, Val Verde, Maverick and Zavala, Mr. Bonilla's support dropped to 30% in 2006 from 59% in 2004. He lost the district to Democrat Ciro Rodriguez, 46%-54%.

In 2004, Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth, the flamboyant incumbent of Arizona's Fifth District, defeated his Democratic rival 59%-38%. His 2006 book "By Any Means" described his conversion from advocacy of comprehensive immigration reform to a deportationist viewpoint. Campaigning on enforcement-only, Mr. Hayworth was defeated by his Democratic challenger, Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell, 46%-50%. Mr. Hayworth's majority-white district provided a test of whether a deportationist platform would attract a strong backlash vote among non-Hispanic whites. It did not. In the Hispanic influenced, majority-white precincts of Maricopa County, Mr. Hayworth's vote share declined to 36% in 2006 from 48% in 2004.

In these three races, Republicans' vote share in heavily Latino precincts dropped 22 percentage points.

...One-half of U.S. population growth this decade occurred among Latinos. Were the border hermetically sealed today, the children of Latino citizens will yet vote. Moreover, there are currently 3.1 million American-born minors with one or both parents who are illegal aliens. These young Americans share the same citizenship status as those seeking their parents' removal. It is folly to believe they will not remember who sought to deport their parents when they eventually go to the polls.

The pending catastrophe is not inevitable. Republicans have campaigned effectively among Hispanics on the basis of entrepreneurship, school choice, tax cuts and right-to-life. And, as the 2006 re-election of Republicans Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Jeff Flake of Arizona demonstrated, the GOP agenda can include national security as well. In 2006, Latinos helped re-elect candidates who advocated the border fence, electronic surveillance, expedited deportation of violent criminals, and biometric worker identification.

The next proposal for comprehensive immigration reform can contain all of this. To retain their Hispanic gains, Republicans need to repudiate only the immoral, uneconomical goal of mass deportation.
"Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" - DMTC's Young Performer's Theatre (YPT)

Left: Chris Petersen as 'Joseph' in his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Nice show, with some curious choices, which work well, for the most part. The show continues next weekend, and the weekend following, at DMTC.

Below are some pictures of the "Megamix" and Bows.

Left: Andrew Lemons reprises his 'Pharaoh' role in the Megamix.

Bows - Left to Right in the front row: Andrew Lampinen, Carver Simmons, Zachary Machado, Scott Sablan, Mark Lillya, Kennedy Wenning, Caitlin Humphreys, Chris Petersen, Rebecca Rudy, Meeka Craig, Nora Unkel, and Cass Olson.

More Bows. Here my knowledge beins to fail. Left to right, xx, Lisa Parente, xx, Kiyo Nishiyama, Catherine Williamson, Maya Abramson, Madelyn Roblee.

Background, xx, Joey Lemons, and his brother Andrew.

More bows. Benjamin (Matthew Fyhrie) is evident at the left.

There were some choices that I was prepared to not like in this show, such as having three Narrators, as opposed to just one, but Rebecca Rudy, Kennedy Wenning, and Caitlin Humphreys did such a good job, I think I now prefer having three Narrators, as opposed to just one.

There were three choreographers, which makes distinguishing who did what somewhat hard. I was especially glad to see the jive sequence, where two couples (Mark Lillya, McKinley Carlisle, Kiyo Nishiyama, and, I think, Logan Capps) flipped the girl dancers. Perhaps Emily Jo Seminoff did this part, since she said she was getting more interested in ballroom dancing, but Erin Carpenter could have done it too (and presumably Katie Quiring or Tyler Warren too). DMTC has long-needed to develop this kind of couples dancing expertise, and I worry the expertise will flit off with this show and will have to be redeveloped again later. The only choreographic flaw was that it looked like some of the weakest dancers in the back needed more attention.

Andrew Lemons performed 'Pharaoh', and his energy was fun to witness. He was gracious enough, when he came into the audience, to drape me with one of his sashes! How fun! The screaming teenagers who greeted Pharaoh were more than convincing - Nora Unkel, in particular, looked like she was going to pieces!

Mark Lillya was especially impressive as Levi, particularly in the 'Canaan Days' section. Somehow I failed to see either 'Grease' or 'Aladdin', so his theatrical skills came as a surprise to me. The lighting was particularly good in 'Canaan Days' (Nic Candito's work), and the staging of the opening tableaux was excellent.

Left: Here is Meeka Craig (in a not-very-good image, but one that nevertheless illustrates her physical expressiveness).

Meeka Craig played Benjamin Calypso. You could tell that she could not wait to take center stage. She is just amazing - her physicality and emphatic energy are perfect for the stage. I hope she continues performing evermore.

Nora Unkel sang the 'One More Angel' solo in Act I. I remember liking what I heard, but unfortunately during Act I, I was having wakefulness issues, after a long "Pirates" day, so the performance part I can't comment on with any authority.

I liked McKinley Carlisle's interpretation of Mrs. Potiphar. She remained quite poised, despite what looked like potentially rough handling.

The Dreamcoat itself was quite nice! Very colorful and nicely built! Chris Petersen did an excellent job as Joseph.

The only parts I had trouble with were costume choices, such as switching into jeans and white shirt for the "Megamix", rather than back into various costumes. I didn't like the use of the sleeveless T-Shirts, sometimes referred to as 'wifebeaters', because it reminded me of ....... well, wifebeating. I also thought that miking some people was ill-advised, since the mikes didn't work that well, and were cutting in and out.

Also, if I'm not mistaken, Joseph generally sings about his Dreamcoat at the very beginning of the show. That did not happen here, but it should have, for clearer exposition of the story.

Oh, and before I forget - great music from Erik, Ben, and the rest of the crew!
A Little Corner Of Paradise

Or facsimile thereof:
The leader of an artists' cooperative has been sentenced to probation for setting up a secret apartment inside a shopping mall's parking garage as part of a project on mall life.

Michael Townsend, 36, said he and seven other artists built the 750-square-foot apartment beginning in 2003 and lived there for up to three weeks at a time.

The artists built a cinderblock wall and nondescript utility door to keep the loft hidden from the outside world.

But inside, the apartment was fully furnished, down to a hutch filled with china and a Sony Playstation 2 -- although a burglar broke in and stole the Playstation last spring, Townsend said.

There was no running water -- instead they used the mall bathrooms.

On his Web site, Townsend said he was inspired by a Christmastime ad for the mall which featured a "an enthusiastic female voice talking about how great it would be if you (we) could live at the mall."

He built the dwelling "out of a compassion to understand the mall more and life as a shopper."
"Pirates Of Penzance" Weekend

Views from the wings. At left, a luminous Allyson Paris prepares to make her entrance as Mabel.

Left: General's Stanley's daughters look askance at Frederick's tone-deaf entreaties for marriage (Jessica Bean, Kristen Meyers, Rhiannon Guevin, and Kat DeLapp).

Left: "Stay, Frederick, Stay!" Allyson Paris as Mabel and Travis Nagler as Frederick.

Left: "A Paradox". The Pirate King (Brian McCann), Frederick (Travis Nagler), and Ruth (Lenore Sebastian).

General Stanley (Paul Fearn) and his Daughters.
So, Where Will Noel Pop Up?

There's a storm system (90L) brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. Will it turn into Noel, and will she attack Texas?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Know-It-All Water Bottle

Modern artifices are simultaneously cool and annoying. Here is something new for the 'your door is ajar' crowd (when you know your door is just a door).:
Sportline, a company specializing in pedometers and heart rate monitors, has introduced a new "intelligent water bottle" to help consumers keep up with how much they drink.

What it is: A battery-powered, interactive Nalgene bottle that calculates your personal hydration needs, tracks your fluid consumption throughout the day and motivates you to drink more.
Cross U.S. Airways, They Get You

Weirdness in Phoenix:
The daughter-in-law of one of New York's top officials screamed, "I'm not a terrorist!" and fought with security officials in the Phoenix airport before being wrestled to the ground and handcuffed, witnesses told the Daily News yesterday.

Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, of the upper West Side, died less than an hour later, after cops claim she apparently strangled herself while trying to escape from the handcuffs in a holding cell at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Tropical Storm Juliette

I didn’t come in this weekend, so I missed today’s story, the breakup of Tropical Storm Juliette and the effect of bringing some rain into AZ.
Great Job, William Bratton!

After significantly reducing the homicide rate in New York City (but then fired by megalomaniac Mayor Rudy Giuliani), Police Chief William J. Bratton has succeeded in significantly reducing the murder rate in Los Angeles!

She is a human!:
A court has ordered pop singer Britney Spears to give up custody of her children effective Wednesday at noon, according to court papers.
The Kiwi Who Fell To Earth

After "Pirates Of Penzance" on Saturday, and after the usual gathering afterwards, it was time to return to Sacramento and give Sparky his usual evening walk, at 2 a.m. We followed the usual well-worn paths, and walked the same streets, for the umpteenth time. Everything was exactly the same as always, exactly and precisely normal. We had just passed the house with the big American flag, when, all of a sudden, there was a tremendous clatter and crash, just behind me.

I quickly turned around. It took me a few seconds to figure out what had happened. Adjacent to the porch of the house there was a small 8-foot-tall tree, a fragile bit of shrubbery. A man had stepped off the porch, directly into the tree, and had knocked both himself and the tree onto the bricks below. Cursing, he unsteadily began rising from the ground.

I hesitantly asked, "are you all right?" Unconvincingly he said, "I'm all right, mate." There was *something* familiar about his accent. So I asked "you wouldn't be Australian, would you?" With a broad Australian accent he replied, "I'm a Kiwi, mate!"

I introduced myself, and we started talking. He was a percussionist on extended holiday in the U.S., originally from Roratua, but staying with his brother in this house. He had spent the last nine years in Australia (hence the accent). He loudly invited me to sit, drink some bourbon, and talk about the evening.

We talked a lot about bands of the 80's, and a usual assortment of topics. He became wistful, thinking about how he had set up a woman he met at a bar that evening with a friend. "I've had three houses and lost three houses Down Under," he said, "but I don't understand why it was my fate to come halfway around the world, in order to play matchmaker." I assured him that life can have many unexpected roles for us to play.

Abruptly, he asked both me and Sparky inside. The Lady of the House was understandably perturbed to have visitors at 3 a.m., but not as perturbed as this fellow's brother was, who eventually appeared to rebuke his brother: "don't you have any consideration?" The Lady anxiously whispered "your brother has to work in the morning! You must be quiet!" The Kiwi said "I'm a percussionist! I can't tell if I'm pianissimo, or forte!" (suffice to say, for a bourbon-fueled 3:15 a.m., he was way, way too forte).

I had lost track of Sparky. He had wandered into the kitchen. Presently, Sparky trotted back out, followed by the brother, who opened the door for Sparky, and commanded, "OK, you two, out now!"

We have a loose plan to get together again, the Kiwi drummer and myself. I talked with him about the community theater scene in Sacramento, and he said: "I remember the Operatic Society of Mackay, in the Pioneer Valley. Always good for a laugh!" So, we'll see what happens here....
Dance Anthro

As much as I love dance music and dance culture, in all it forms, I'm in the wrong demographic to have actual contact with rave culture and its practioners, and usually have had to content myself with handy devices, like DVD recordings of music festivals, to form the semblance of an understanding. By and large, the young people with whom I actually come in contact, such as at the theater, are in entirely the wrong subculture themselves to be representative of dance culture. And the few former ravers who drop into the theater world don't really want to talk about it. So, I try to learn what I can from the chance outside contacts I make:

Me: So, let me see if I understand this: You are a PLUR kandi raver juggalo.
She: That's right. Some people use the term PLURR, but the second 'R' flows as a consequence of the other letters, and so it is redundant. Some people use the term 'PLUR-PLUR', but that's really just way too much for me.
Me: So, what I'd like to know is, what is a 'hatchet'?
She: (???) Well, a hatchet is, like, a small axe. You are familiar with the work of Insane Clown Posse, aren't you?
Me: Perhaps less than you might think (didn't like or understand their videos in the 90's).
She: Well, hatchets are big with juggalos....
End-Of-the-Month Blues In The Neighborhood

On the one side, my neighbor with the koi has been moving out, in slow fits and starts, on weekends. I get icy attitude from her, likely because I told her downstairs neighbor about her koi, thus betraying her confidence. Her boyfriend seems to want to be friendly, but under the circumstances, he just smiles wanly and continues to carry boxes to the truck. I have no idea how the koi is doing....

On the other side, an overheard conversation:

He: Hey! HEY!
She: WHAT?
He: There is garage sale down the street. They have a chest freezer for $50!
She: I don't have $50. All I got is 90 cents in my g-damned checking account!

Thankfully, payday is just around the corner....