Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Reno's earthquakes continue:
RENO, Nev. (AP) - Scientists urged residents of northern Nevada's largest city to prepare for a bigger event as the area continued rumbling Saturday after the largest earthquake in a two-month-long series of temblors.

More than 100 aftershocks were recorded on the western edge of the city after a magnitude 4.7 quake hit Friday night, the strongest quake around Reno since one measuring 5.1 in 1953, said researchers at the seismological laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.

...Seismologists said the recent activity is unusual because the quakes started out small and continue to build in strength. The normal pattern is for a main quake followed by smaller aftershocks.

...Reno's last major quake measured 6.1 on April 24, 1914, and was felt as far away as Berkeley, Calif., said Craig dePolo, research geologist with the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.

A rockslide triggered by Friday night's quake was blamed for causing a 125-foot breach in a wooden flume that carries water to one of two water treatment plants in Reno, a city of about 210,000.

A backup pump was used to divert water to the plant, and the breach was not expected to cause any water shortages, said Aaron Kenneston, Washoe County emergency management officer.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Friday night's quake was centered around Mogul, just west of Reno. The area of upscale homes along the eastern Sierra was rattled by more than 100 quakes the day before, the strongest a magnitude 4.2 that caused high-rise casinos to sway in downtown Reno.

The strongest aftershock measured 3.7 and was recorded after noon Saturday.

...Hundreds of mostly minor quakes have occurred along one or possibly more faults since the sequence began Feb. 28, said Ken Smith, a seismologist at the Reno laboratory. The quakes have occurred along an area about 2 miles long and a half-mile wide.

"We can't put a number on it, but the probability of a major earthquake has increased with this sequence," Smith said Saturday. "People need to prepare for ground shaking because there's no way to say how this will play out."

Among other things, scientists urged residents to stock up on water and food, to learn how to turn off water and gas, and to strap down bookshelves, televisions and computers.

"It's getting a little bit frightening," Daryl DiBitonto of Reno told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "I'm very concerned about this increase in not only activity, but also in magnitude."

The quakes around Reno began a week after a magnitude 6 temblor in the northern Nevada town of Wells, near the Utah border. The Feb. 21 quake caused an estimated $778,000 in damage to homes, schools and historic downtown buildings, dePolo said.

Scientists said they're unsure whether the seismic activity at opposite sides of Nevada is related.

Nevada is the third most seismically active state in the U.S. behind California and Alaska. The Wells quake was the 15th of at least magnitude 6 in the state's 143-year history.

A magnitude-7.4 quake south of Winnemucca in 1915 is the most powerful in state history.
Squirrel #6

Joins the illustrious ranks of former squirrels.

Friday, April 25, 2008


The story of my life!

Something new from Deborah McMillion-Nering, who is May's featured artist at Art One Gallery, in Scottsdale, AZ.
It Will Be Obama

This encapsulates my thoughts on the subject:
Notwithstanding the plentiful commentary to the effect that the Pennsylvania primary must have shaken superdelegates planning to support Barack Obama, causing them to rethink their position, key Democrats on Capitol Hill are unbudged.

“I don’t think anyone’s shaken,” a leading House Democrat told me. The critical mass of Democratic congressmen that has been prepared to endorse Obama when the timing seemed right remains prepared to do so. Their reasons, ones they have held for months, have not changed – and by their very nature are unlikely to.

Essentially, they are three:

(a) Hillary Rodham Clinton is such a polarizing figure that everyone who ever considered voting Republican in November, and even many who never did, will go to the polls to vote against her, thus jeopardizing Democrats down the ticket – i.e., themselves, or, for party leaders, the sizeable majorities they hope to gain in the House and the Senate in November.

(b) To take the nomination away from Obama when he is leading in the elected delegate count would deeply alienate the black base of the Democratic Party, and, in the words of one leading Democrat, “The superdelegates are not going to switch their votes and jeopardize the future of the Democratic Party for generations.” Such a move, he said, would also disillusion the new, mostly young, voters who have entered into politics for the first time because of Obama, and lose the votes of independents who could make the critical difference in November.

(c) Because the black vote can make the decisive difference in numerous congressional districts, discarding Obama could cost the Democrats numerous seats.

One Democratic leader told me, “If we overrule the elected delegates there would be mayhem.” Hillary Rodham Clinton’s claim that she has, or will have, won the popular vote does not impress them – both because of her dubious math and because, as another key Democrat says firmly, “The rules are that it’s the delegates, period.” (These views are closely aligned with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement earlier this year that the superdelegates should not overrule the votes of the elected delegates.)

Furthermore, the congressional Democratic leaders don’t draw the same conclusion from Pennsylvania and also earlier contests that many observers think they do: that Obama’s candidacy is fatally flawed because he has as yet been largely unable to win the votes of working class whites. They point out something that has been largely overlooked in all the talk – the Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries were closed primaries, and, one key congressional Democrat says, “Yes, he doesn’t do really well with a big part of the Democratic base, but she doesn’t do well with independents, who will be critical to success in November.”

So, the fact that Mrs. Clinton has shown herself to be a remarkably resilient, tough campaigner, an attribute that the Clintons hope will carry much importance, this Democrat says, “is irrelevant.” This person added: “Many of the superdelegates are not going to be naïve enough to not realize the handwriting on the wall that this thing is going to Obama” – barring, he added, some major event like the Wright matter that he can’t seem to manage. They consider this unlikely. (There’s almost always a “something-might-happen” factor in elections.) As for the Wright matter, a key Democrat on Capitol Hill says, “Though it makes [his Democratic colleagues] a little nervous, it’s not enough to change their minds.” Moreover, the Wright matter may be old news come the general election.

...This pressure may not be enough to get the tenacious Hillary Rodham Clinton to quit the race, but, says a leading Democrat, “Sometime in June we will make it clear to her that this thing isn’t going to the convention.”
McCain's "Straight Talk" Can Boomerang

Now, McCain does have a point here, something well-worth discussing, but he couches it in exaggerated and undiplomatic language that can only hurt him:
DOBBS: A room full of construction workers gave Senator John McCain a little straight talk of their own yesterday. And it was almost more than he could bear. The AFL-CIO's construction and building trades booed Senator McCain when he said illegal aliens fill jobs that Americans won't do.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Now, my friends, I'll offer anybody here $50 an hour if you'll go pick lettuce in Yuma this season and pick for the whole season. So -- OK? Sign up. OK.

You sign up. You sign up, and you'll be there for the whole season, the whole season. OK? Not just one day. Because you can't do it, my friend.
Undiplomatic Language

The whole point of diplomacy is to get parties at odds with each other to negotiate, and thus avoid or mitigate open warfare. Jimmy Carter has never engaged in bigotry, but he has been willing to shuttle between warring parties, to make sure these negotiations occur. This is what the State Department should be doing. It's not a matter of rewarding terrorists, or whatever useless moral category one wants to put necessary work into. It's unfortunate, and perhaps inevitable, that a nation like the U.S., with an Administration that prizes privatization, now has to conduct urgent and necessary diplomacy through private channels, because the government officials who should be conducting the diplomacy are too lame and incompetent and frightened to do it themselves.

Now, people can differ about whether negotiations may be helpful, or not - there are times when poorly-timed negotiations can backfire - but this is not one of them. Throwing panic-stricken insults around is not a productive or useful approach:
NEW YORK (AP) - Israel's ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday called former President Jimmy Carter "a bigot" for meeting with the leader of the militant Hamas movement in Syria.

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, "went to the region with soiled hands and came back with bloody hands after shaking the hand of Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas," Ambassador Dan Gillerman told a luncheon briefing for reporters.

The diplomat was questioned about problems facing his country during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters lasting more than an hour. The briefing was sponsored by The Israel Project, a Washington-based, media-oriented advocacy group.

The ambassador's harsh words for Carter came days after the ex-president met with Mashaal for seven hours in Damascus to negotiate a cease-fire with Gaza's Hamas rulers. Carter then called Mashaal on Monday to try to get him to agree to a one-month truce without conditions, but the Hamas leader rejected the idea.

The ambassador called last weekend's encounter "a very sad episode in American history."

He said it was "a shame" to see Carter, who had done "good things" as a former president, "turn into what I believe to be a bigot."

...Gillerman said Hamas is armed and trained by Iran, whose president once called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

"The real danger, the real problem is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the real threat is Iran," he said.

Gillerman spoke with reporters from around the world at the Times Square offices of a New York law firm on the day Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in Washington meeting with President Bush.

...Gillerman called Syria a "destabilizing influence" in the Middle East.

"You see Syria's hosting, very hospitably and warmly, over 10 terror organizations in Damascus," the ambassador said, adding that the country also supports Hezbollah, an anti-Israeli Shiite group in Lebanon with close ties to Iran and Syria.

"Basically, Syria and Iran, together with Hamas and Hezbollah, are the main axes of terror and evil in the world," the Israeli ambassador said.
Back From The Brink

With a vengeance:
The new study looks at the mitochondrial DNA of the Khoi and San people in South Africa which appear to have diverged from other people between 90,000 and 150,000 years ago.

The researchers led by Doron Behar of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel and Saharon Rosset of IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and Tel Aviv University concluded that humans separated into small populations prior to the Stone Age, when they came back together and began to increase in numbers and spread to other areas.

Eastern Africa experienced a series of severe droughts between 135,000 and 90,000 years ago and the researchers said this climatological shift may have contributed to the population changes, dividing into small, isolated groups which developed independently.

Paleontologist Meave Leakey, a Genographic adviser, commented: "Who would have thought that as recently as 70,000 years ago, extremes of climate had reduced our population to such small numbers that we were on the very edge of extinction."

Today more than 6.6 billion people inhabit the globe, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Upcoming - RSP's "Thoroughly Modern Millie"

Starring Andrea St. Clair and Scott Woodard.

Pam's on choreography too!
YPT "Music Man" Thursday Evening Rehearsal

Left: Cody Craven as Professor Harold Hill.

Left: Ice Cream Quartet. Megan Aube, Camille Totah, Kristine Hager, Lisa Parente.

Left: Kennedy Wenning, Cody Craven, Jasmine (?), Ashley Hickman, and others.

Left: "Marian, The Librarian"
Waiting For E. At The Dentist

Left: With my memory difficulties regarding names, I could totally see retiring here in a few years - if I could just remember the name of the place.

E. needed a tooth extracted, so I took her over to the dentist. I had half an hour idle time to walk around the neighborhood of Professional Drive (kind of a doctor ghetto), just northwest of the intersection of Arden and Watt, in Sacramento.

Left: Resource allocation in the suburbs seems better than downtown. This location is somewhat removed from the supermarket across (and down) the street, but one can pick up, or leave behind, shopping carts here. It's almost like the hub-and-spoke approach to allocating airliners. So, if the supermarket is the analog to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, this location is like the airstrip in, say, Vernal, Utah.

Left: This is my favorite business on Arden Way.

Left: Ooooooooo!

A co-worker saw this photo, and said: "Is that my husband's vehicle there?" but it was all a mixup....

Left: Flower bed, with tire rim, on Professional Drive. There was a fascinating-looking store selling tires and tire rims on Watt Avenue, but they were having a sale, and I was afraid that if I started taking pictures, they would figure I was with the competition, and come on over, and bust my jaw.

Left: When I returned to the waiting room at the dentist's office, I could hear E. caterwauling loudly down the hall "I'm dying! I'm dying!" Ah yes, the sound of progress! I suggested to the apprehensive-looking receptionist that I could go back and help calm her down, but she replied: "Workplace insurance requirements prevent yada, yada, yada..."

In a few minutes, E. appeared, with a tale of how the dentist tried to asphyxiate her by spilling anesthesia down her throat. But her molar was gone, which just means the dentist did his work efficiently, effectively, and painlessly, and really, what more can you ask?
Anemic Victory

Thursday night/ Friday morning, couldn't quite close the deal. But at least I barely managed to scrape five wins in a row. Better than losing....

Win: $1,287.50, minus $1,100.00 initial stake, minus $120 E. stake, minus $30 ATM charge = $37.50

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Went With The Wind

Apropos of nothing I can figure out, Steve notes that the musical "Gone With The Wind" was something of a failure. Critics complained:
"How do you cram a 1,000-page novel into three-and-a-half hours of stage time?"
Well, this is how best to do it.....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Conflation Of Conspiracy Theories

Joe The Plumber was beside himself with excitement as he waved the DVD around: "This proves everything I've been saying for years!" "What is it?" I wondered. "A new theory regarding the assassination of JFK!" I had just one word for the new theory:
Especially after reading the book "Case Closed" by Gerald Posner, I'm a firm believer in the Warren Commission's Oswald-was-the-only-assassin theory. "Don't jump to conclusions. Give the DVD a look," Joe urged.

Well, OK. Joe didn't give me much time (he had to lend the DVD to someone else) and he urged me to fast-forward through the beginning part. I didn't follow Joe's advice, though, and trudged through the tedious early part of the DVD.

After carefully reassuring his audience about the earnestness and purity of their intentions in searching for the truth, author William Cooper seemed to focus on extraterrestrials and events in Roswell, however, not the JFK assassination. I had to return the DVD too early to get to the JFK parts.

Was I supposed to get the message that aliens and the JFK assassination had something in common?

Apparently, yes!
Won The Battle

Lost the war:
Tally so far; Clinton 1,585; Obama 1,715; needed to nominate 2,025.
Hillary can't quite do it......
"Secret Garden" Callbacks

Left: From left to right; Rick Eldredge, Bret McLaughlin, Aaron Rothleder, Kaylynn Rothleder, Richard Lui, Joshua Smith, and Emily Jo Seminoff.

Left: The only one of the Mary/Dr. Craven pictures I took that came out - Rick Eldredge and Kaylynn Rothleder.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bev's Review Of "Pajama Game"

Is on-line.
Keep An Eye Out For This Guy

Because he could be anywhere....:
SAO PAULO, Brazil - A Roman Catholic priest who floated off under hundreds of helium party balloons was missing Monday off the southern coast of Brazil.

Rescuers in helicopters and small fishing boats were searching off the coast of Santa Catarina state, where pieces of balloons were found.

Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli lifted off from the port city of Paranagua on Sunday afternoon, wearing a helmet, thermal suit and a parachute.

He was reported missing about eight hours later after losing contact with port authority officials, according to the treasurer of his Sao Cristovao parish, Denise Gallas.

Gallas said by telephone that the priest wanted to break a 19-hour record for the most hours flying with balloons to raise money for a spiritual rest-stop for truckers in Paranagua, Brazil's second-largest port for agricultural products.

...A video of Carli posted on the G1 Web site of Globo TV showed the smiling 41-year-old priest slipping into a flight suit, being strapped to a seat attached to a huge column green, red, white and yellow balloons, and soaring into the air to the cheers of a crowd.

According to Gallas, the priest soared to an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) then descended to about 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) for his planned flight to the city of Dourados, 465 miles (750 kilometers) northwest of his parish.

But winds pushed him in another direction, and Carli was some 30 miles (50 kilometers) off the coast when he last contacted Paranagua's port authority, Gallas said.

Carli had a GPS device, a satellite phone, a buoyant chair and is an experienced skydiver, Gallas said.

"We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean," she said.

"He knew what he was doing and was fully prepared for any kind of mishap."
Mind That Temper....

Take a deep breath and put away the gun....
A man accidentally shot himself in the stomach after waving his gun in anger at a fellow driver in Tempe, and police said Monday he will face charges.

David Lopez, 33, is expected to survive and could face charges including disorderly conduct, reckless display of a firearm and felony flight from police in the Friday night incident, Tempe police spokesman Brandon Banks said.

Banks said soon after Lopez shot himself, he tried to evade police by driving into a nearby neighborhood, but he crashed his car into a canal embankment. Lopez then ran on foot, but police soon caught up with him.

Banks said it's unclear what sparked the incident and that Lopez has been evasive in police interviews.

The other driver, David Billy Jones, 33, was uninjured but also fled the scene. He was soon after arrested on a charge of misdemeanor drunken driving.

Banks said if drivers find themselves in a road-rage incident, they should always back off. “Just back off, slow down and let that person go where they need to go,” he said.
When Will Albuquerque Movies Be Released?

I want to see the upcoming movie called "The War Boys" because they filmed a portion of the movie in my Dad's trailer court in Albuquerque's North Valley. My dad doesn't like trigger-happy drug dealers, though, so he will *not* be seen in the movie: it's just nice knowing that he's peeking outside through the curtains, from the comfort and safety of his trailer, very, very close by, as the drug smugglers betray each other, or kill each other, or whatever nasty things they do to each other in the movie. According to a post on
The director just taught a class of mine at NYU for a couple of weeks and happened to talk about the current state of the film. It's been submitted for entry to Cannes and so will most likely be taking that route of finding distribution.
And what about that other Albuquerque movie, "Game"?:
Game is a near-future action/thriller starring Gerard Butler (Kable) as the champion of an on-line game called "Slayers". Mind-control technology has taken society by storm and "Slayers" allows humans control other humans in mass-scale, multiplayer online game. With his every move tracked by millions, Kable's ultimate challenge becomes regaining his identity and launching an attack on the system that has imprisoned him.
Not released yet (apparently it's coming out this Christmas season), but here's a teaser trailer!

Yes, this is downtown Albuquerque, just as I fondly remember it!

The Black Man With The White Dog

Monday night, I walked Sparky so late I actually ran into a neighbor, "The Black Man With The White Dog", walking his dog early, before going to work (I, of course, am his photo-negative, "The White Man With The Black Dog").

The white dog (a Bichon Frise) is eleven years old, and even though younger than Sparky, is hobbled to the point of barely being able to walk. But we all know how much dogs love their walks. Who can deny them? So these days, "The Black Man With The White Dog" carries his dog in his arms all around the neighborhood, putting his dog down every now and then to visit favorite spots.
Tourette Syndrome Watch

At lunch, I sat near a man, age of about 60, who was muttering a lot of nonsense to himself. It was fun to hear him bark out expletives at people who weren't there, and carry on a running commentary about his disordered world (much as a blogger would). One thing he said stood out:
It's just the same as in Minneapolis. Nobody wants to hire a slob.
The Folks At TNR Shooting Themselves In The Foot Again

William Kristol drives people nuts. Andrew Sullivan rightly reacts to Kristol's hectoring regarding Barack Obama's Christian faith, TNR's Leon Wieseltier overreacts to Sullivan's reaction, and Matthew Yglesias defends his friend Sullivan.

I love watching the folks at TNR guide their little boat over Niagara Falls. Why don't they hire Kristol on as guest editor?
Getting Steamed At Hillary

You just know that Hillary was thinking along these lines from the beginning. As Hilzoy notes (and I second):
Now Celeste Fremon at Huffington Post has acquired audio of her saying the following at a "small closed-door fundraiser after Super Tuesday":

"We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."

Fremon adds:

"Clinton's remarks depart radically from the traditional position of presidential candidates, who in the past have celebrated high levels of turnout by party activists and partisans as a harbinger for their own party's success -- regardless of who is the eventual nominee -- in the general election showdown.

The comments also contradict Clinton's previous statements praising this year's elevated Democratic turnout in primaries and caucuses, and appear to blame her caucus defeats on newly energized grassroots voter groups that she has lauded in the past as "lively participants" in American democracy."

She also notes that MoveOn denies having opposed the war in Afghanistan.

A few comments: first, I am a member of MoveOn. I joined during the Clinton impeachment hearings, and have remained on their list ever since. I signed some of their petitions opposing the war in Iraq, and voted for an endorsement of Obama, though I wavered on that one because I worried that since Republicans equate MoveOn with radicals, it might be counterproductive. Needless to say, I supported the war in Afghanistan.

All it takes to be one of MoveOn's "3.2 million reliable voters and volunteers" is to sign up for their emails. You don't pay dues, sign position papers, or anything like that. You just sign up for the emails, and voila! you are a genuine certified MoveOn member. ... Which is just to say: membership in MoveOn means very little.

Much more to the point, equating "the activist base of the Democratic Party" with people who "didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with" is just completely wrong. "The activist base of the Democratic Party" is concerned with a lot of issues. A small number of us opposed the war in Afghanistan. That is not a mainstream position within "the activist base of the Democratic Party", as far as I know. On the other hand, a whole lot of us opposed the war in Iraq. To the extent that "the activist base" opposes Clinton, her vote on Iraq has a lot more to do with it than her vote on Afghanistan.

Conflating opposition to the war in Iraq with opposition to the war in Afghanistan is exactly the sort of thing that drives me up a tree when, say, Peter Beinart does it. It amounts to taking a position that a whole lot of people hold -- either opposing Clinton herself, or opposing the war in Iraq -- and conflating it with one that only a small minority of people hold, and then using that supposed "fact" to discredit your opponents -- to cast them as members of some tiny fringe that doesn't need to be taken seriously. It is what Atrios calls the "dirty f*cking hippies" argument: that people who oppose the war in Iraq, or Clinton herself, are just relics of the 1960s, or some other variant of "not serious people like us", and their views can therefore be dismissed out of hand. "MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with."

To say this about her opponents is just wrong. But to say it about the activist base of her party -- about the people who are motivated enough to show up for caucuses and participate in the electoral process -- is insane. Hillary Clinton is running for the nomination of the Democratic Party. She is trying to represent us. If she thinks that people like publius, who caucused in Texas, is worthy of contempt, or that the stunning increase in Democratic voter participation this year is not a cause for joy but a sign that the dirty f*cking hippies have taken over, why doesn't she just become a Republican? She's certainly talking like one.
The Mood Is Still Light

Today at the convenience mart, customers in line complained to the cashier, tongue-in-cheek, that there was something wrong with the signs outside advertising $4.00/gallon gasoline. "It should be $1.97/gallon," one woman insisted.

Well, at least people still have a sense of humor. If gasoline hits $4.00/gallon, and we aren't even in the summer driving season yet, what will the mood be like, say, around Labor Day?
Linkages In The World Economy

Left: Rice price vs Euro/US$ rate, April 15, 2007 to April 15, 2008

Amazing about how well the correlation is between the value of the Euro, in dollars, and the price of rice. That's because the same phenomenon is driving both:

The global food crisis is a monetary phenomenon, an unintended consequence of America's attempt to inflate its way out of a market failure. There are long-term reasons for food prices to rise, but the unprecedented spike in grain prices during the past year stems from the weakness of the American dollar. Washington's economic misery now threatens to become a geopolitical catastrophe.

Months ago, I offered that China, Russia and other cash-rich nations held the antidote to the incipient credit crisis: "If the US wants to remain the magnet for world capital flows it became during the 1990s, it will have to allow the savers of the world to become partners in the US economy, that is, to buy into its first-rank companies."

No such thing occurred, of course, as Washington has made it clear that it would not allow sovereign funds to own the likes of Citicorp. What are the world's investors doing with the trillion dollars a year they used to invest in American securities, including subprime derivatives and various forms of collateralized obligations that turned out to have more obligation than collateral? They aren't buying American companies because they are not permitted to. They are buying food and other stores of value instead.

...China is exchanging its depreciating reserves of US dollars for things of value, notably rice, with frightening consequences for dependent countries, and deadly consequences for American foreign policy.

The chart ... shows the price of 100 pounds of rice against the euro's parity against the US dollar during the past 12 months. The regression fit is 90%. There is an even tighter relationship between the price of rice and the price of oil, another store of value against dollar depreciation.

As the chart makes clear, the ascent of the cost of rice to $24 from $10 per hundredweight over the past year tracks the declining value of the American dollar. The link between the declining parity of the US unit and the rising price of commodities, including oil as well as rice and other wares, is indisputable. China has bid aggressively for rice all year, and last week banned rice exports, along with Vietnam and several other producers.

For developing countries whose currencies track the American dollar and whose purchasing power declines along with the American unit, this is a catastrophe, as World Bank president Robert Zoellick warned the Group of Seven industrial nations in Washington last week. Food security suddenly has become the top item on the strategic agenda.

Never before in history has hunger become a global threat in a period of plentiful harvests. Global rice production will hit a record of 423 million tons in the 2007-2008 crop year, enough to satisfy global demand. The trouble is that only 7% of the world's rice supply is exported, because local demand is met by local production. Any significant increase in rice stockpiles cuts deeply into available supply for export, leading to a spike in prices. Because such a small proportion of the global rice supply trades, the monetary shock from the weak dollar was sufficient to more than double its price.

It is not only rice, of course, that the cash-rich countries of the world are buying as a store of value; the price of wheat, soy and other grains has risen almost as fast. This might deal the death-blow to America's hapless efforts to stabilize the Middle East, where a higher proportion of impoverished people eat off state subsidies than in any other part of the world. Egypt has been the anchor for American diplomacy in the Arab world since the Jimmy Carter administration (1977 to 1981), and is most susceptible to hunger. Food prices have risen by 145% in Lebanon and by 20% in Syria this year. Iraqis depend on food subsidies financed by American aid.

Reduced to essentials, America's foreign policy sought two unattainable objectives: to stabilize the Middle East and destabilize China. That is an exaggeration, of course, for Washington hoped not to sow instability, but only to put China in its place over the Tibetan affair.

The George W Bush administration might as well have used the State Department as a set for the Jackass reality show. American arrogance has eroded the ground under many of the governments on which its foreign policy depends. It is hard to characterize what will come next, except, like the stunts on Jackass, that it is going to hurt.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Step Into My Ride

What does Rihanna sing?:
Getcha where you wanna go, if you know what I mean
Got a ride that's smoother than a limousine
Can you handle the curves, can you run all the lights
If you can baby boy, then we can go all night
Just another day in Del Paso Heights:
The fight reportedly started at the husband's mother's house, and eventually escalated to the wife grabbing the car keys from the husband. She got into the driver's seat and he stood in front of the car, apparently to stop her from leaving.

It didn't.

She hit the gas, and he jumped onto the hood. Cops say Deana Redd was on a joyride around Del Paso Heights, heading from Roanoke Avenue to Marysville Boulevard. She decided to take another turn, this time merging onto Highway 80.

She eventually got off the freeway on Norwood, striking another vehicle. That didn't stop her either.

Redd drove into a field at Bell and Rio Linda, skidding around until the husband finally lost his grip and flew off the hood. That's when Redd stopped the car and when cops finally caught up with her.

Redd is being charged with assault with a deadly weapon and driving under the influence, among other charges. Her husband only suffered minor injuries during the incident.
"Pajama Game" - First Weekend

Left: "There Once Was A Man": Sid Sorokin (Joshua Smith) and Babe Williams (Amber Jean Moore).

First weekend is under the belt! In general, apart from a few clumsy scene changes, things are going well. The Runaway Stage crowd came on Saturday, which was great. Tev said my goofy way of playing ball in the picnic scene made him laugh, which made me happy.

Amber is sporting a bruise on her arm, from repeatedly banging into a podium back stage on the exact same place on her arm (bruises are often the price we all pay of running around chaotic back stage spaces in the dark). After two collisions in two days, we took pity on her, and moved the podium to another location. We didn't let Amber know the podium's new location, however, and running around back stage from the opposite direction, she managed to find the podium again, and banged her arm on the same place.

Left: "Steam Heat" (Kris Farhood, Lauren Miller, and Jabriel Shelton).

In general, I've been having trouble with the "Steam Heat" images, not only because the dancers are usually in motion, but because the dark costumes and bright floor are confounding the digital camera.
I Know You Are, So What Am I?

Speaking from the (momentary) safety of the Green Zone, fearless heroine Condoleezza Rice:
Rice called Sadr a coward hiding in Iran while praising Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki for his recent offensive in the southern port city of Basra that sparked an uprising by Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army.
Insults towards critical players who are working from positions of strength always help one's negotiating posture.....
Fourth Win In A Row

In the wee hours of Monday morning, I spilled my beverage cup of ice, and the slushy cubes mixed in with the chips. Action stopped as the Thunder Valley Casino help went to go fetch a rag. The pretty Asian girl, about age 23, gazed admiringly at my stack of black $100 chips, and asked in broken English: "How many year?" Well, let's see, I first went to Cache Creek Casino in November, 1995, so that would be about twelve, mostly-losing years of intermittent blackjack. "You winning now because you more experienced," she said. Is that true? I wondered about that. Her boyfriend also seemed to be doing OK at the moment, but maybe he was more of a loser than I realized.

I have never experienced four consecutive wins before. Four consecutive defeats, many times, of course, but never four consecutive wins. These latest wins have been fairly-modest by casino standards (but consistency is probably far more important than absolute amounts).

Of course, age doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it. There was also an extraordinarily exasperated Asian man there of about my age. Every time things went badly, which was often, he would pound the table and make the cards jump. He'd fume and rage and throw things around. Kind of scary (even though completely understandable).

Nevertheless, maybe there is some advantage in age. Mountaineers, for example, reach their peak years in their 40's. That's because, apart from the grueling physical demands, mountain climbing requires a sustained mental toughness and grit that even the strongest young people have trouble mustering. Not all middle-aged people are champion mountaineers, but all champion mountaineers are middle-aged. Maybe the same here. As far as I can tell, the only thing I'm doing differently now is that I simply refuse to concede defeat.

Two things can happen when you absolutely refuse to concede defeat: either you get the ugliest, most brutal defeat you ever conceived of, or you get sweet victory.

I certainly needed grit tonight. The first thing that happened is that I lost $1,400.00 in one hour. I lost money so fast it was like stepping into the Grand Canyon. But like they say, it isn't the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the bottom. Hours of inconclusive back and forth followed. But eventually, the fickle cards betrayed the casino as thoroughly as they had betrayed me earlier.

Win: $2,797.00 minus $1,435.00 initial stake, minus $66.00 ATM fees (and no E. stake) = $1,296.00.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blame The Crow, If You Must

When I returned home from Saturday aerobics, I could tell Squirrel #5 had met an untimely end, as four others had previously done, near where I laid bird seed out next to the back alley. The death announcement came not from the squirrel's brushy tail blowing listlessly in the wind, but from the big black crow standing over the body. The crow clutched a parking curb in one claw, and a pothole in the other, to help it hold its balance, as it methodically hammered its beak into the lifeless corpse. Four other squirrels nosed curiously about the corpse and the bird seed, then started running in circles, like incompetent clowns, when a Rav-4 came down the alley right through their midst. The squirrels barely escaped Squirrel #5's fate.

Two neighbor girls, one about six years old, and one about nine, bicycled down the alley to view the gruesome scene. They quickly bicycled home to announce the squirrel's death to their mother.

I went inside my home, but peeked outside again. The girls had returned to the scene, apparently seeking some kind of justice on the squirrel's behalf. The crow had fled into a tree, but the girls threw stones at it, as they denounced its villainy.
Superdelegates, And Such

Walt writes in about the Democratic campaign, nearly on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary:
Hey Marc: From your blog: "Obama for President!" I had the impression you were a Hillary supporter since Edwards withdrew. Am I mistaken, or have you switched preference? If so, what made you decide to change?

You know, I'm thinking that the Democratic Party is giving Obama a free ride (wait - not a free ride, but a freer ride) because he is black. I'm refering to the superdelegates. We know that their sole purpose is to disenfranchise voters. The only possible effect that superdelegates can have on an election is to hand the nomination to someone who is not the choice of the Democratic electorate. Right? If they don't do that, then they don't do anything. (BTW, it is interesting that one party has adopted the superdelegate system, and the other party has not.) Superdelegates have been out there doing their thing for about 30 years, with no complaints from any Democrat, or from the media. Evidently, nobody believes it is wrong, in principle, for party bigshots to disenfranchise the party rank and file. Except this year. In 2008, if superdelegates have any effect at all, it will be to disenfranchise black voters. So there is pressure on the superdelegates to abdicate their privilege. It's a double standard of behavior, favoring blacks. If Obama was white, there wouldn't be any talk about superdelegates disenfranchising voters - there wasn't any such talk in 1980-2004.
Hi Walt: For me, and for many Democrats, opposition to the Iraq War is a litmus-test issue. We demanded of both Edwards and Clinton that they renounce their previous votes in support of the war before extending our support.

Edwards was willing to renounce his previous support, but Clinton has never done so. Her resistance was trumpeted by her campaign as a good trait – she is therefore not beholden to anti-war special interest groups. Nevertheless, I see her resistance as a failure to understand or appreciate the gravity of her previous votes, and a sign of significant weakness. She can make speeches announcing her opposition to the Iraq War, but her words mean nothing until she can humble herself a bit to seek our support. There is little to fear, really. We understand that there were pressures to support the Bush Administration. We won’t bite. But she is afraid – afraid of the Right and afraid of her fellow Democrats. I won’t eagerly support fearful candidates.

When Edwards withdrew, I automatically became an Obama supporter, because he was the only remaining candidate who was reliably against the war. It didn’t matter who he was. If the remaining candidates had been Hillary Clinton and the Man From Mars, I would have automatically become a Man From Mars supporter, provided he was reliably against the war.

I’ve been a little slow to warm up to Obama. I agree with NY Times columnist Paul Krugman that Obama’s health care proposals don’t go far enough, and his campaign theme of burying divisions and healing wounds strikes me as naïve. We need to sandpaper those wounds, not bandage them up. Nevertheless, he is unusually effective on the campaign trail, and so if I have to accept a crappy health care system in exchange for an end to the Iraq War, it’s a sacrifice well-worth making.

I will support Clinton if it comes down to that (but I hope it doesn’t).

The superdelegates function as a brake on popular enthusiasm and will, but even if they act this year to blunt the enthusiasm of blacks, that may not necessarily be such a bad thing. The superdelegates are supposed to be the experienced institutional memory of the party, the ones who can look past Mr. Flash In The Pan and Mrs. Ex First Lady and see how well the party’s interests are being served. Superdelegates do not dominate the system, after all, and the only reason their role is being highlighted this year is because the electorate is virtually split in half in its presidential preference, not because one candidate is black. Actually, I think there is great pressure for the superdelegates to act like weathervanes, so important is the will of the voters, so they will buck the expressed will of the voters only very reluctantly.

I would hope the superdelegates would look at the matter from a very cold-blooded, self-interested perspective, because I think that view favors Obama. Obama has shown unusual support in two regions generally hostile to Democrats – the Deep South, and the northern Rockies, and unusual weakness in normal Democratic strongholds, like the urban northeast, and California. For a superdelegate, the question is, is it worth nominating Obama to go after places that usually lean Republican, even if it means watering down usual bastions of support? It’s a complicated question, and reasonable people can disagree on the answer, but in my mind, it’s a gamble well-worth taking, and I think the superdelegates are likely to break Obama’s way for this very reason when the time finally comes for them to announce their decision. After the primaries are over, we can review how well the system worked.
International Man Of Mystery

Tanned, rested, and ready, Bruce Warren is back in the States.
Davis Weekend Weirdness

Left: Six p.m., Friday evening, April 18, 2008. All northbound lanes on the Pole Line Road overcrossing of Interstate 80 were blocked by this three-car accident (the third car is behind me, and thus not visible).

I eavesdropped as the driver of the third car, a young man who may well have been a UCD student, tried to explain to someone else, perhaps his mother, and perhaps the owner of the car, why there was now a big crater on the back bumper. "The car behind me was going too fast. It flew! It flew over the top of the overpass, and it's driver didn't see the car in front of him until it was too late. Tapped me on the back bumper too!"

Saturday was "Picnic Day" in Davis, an occasion for drunken revelry. Lauren M. was disgusted by the tawdriness of it all. Paraphrasing Lauren: "I saw a woman at a bus stop bend over, and oranges came tumbling out of her top. She laughed, picked them up, and stuffed them back in...."

Yes, it looks like this will be a memorable weekend in Davis for many....