Saturday, August 09, 2008

Rocketrek Starts!

John writes from Oklahoma City:
Hey Marc,

The first Native American astronaut, John Herrington, will begin his transcontinental bicycle tour this coming week. His plans changed from earlier this year when he had thought he would begin in Sacramento. Now he will be starting at the west end of the Olympic Peninsula and following a roughly diagonal route across the lower 48 to Cape Canaveral. Along the way he will be speaking at to school groups, many on reservations throughout the western states.

We're pretty excited about this. We, along with the Chickasaw Nation, Trek Bicycles and GearUp South Dakota (a program to encourage high school students on reservations to go on to college and take science and math courses--so far it has had a 100% success rate in getting the kids to go to college!) are sponsors of the ride. You can get more information about the trip at He will be posting daily updates during the ~3 month tour. Also, you can read a summary of the trip plans at Peter, my son, wrote the article for that weekly Oklahoma City paper.
More Treachery?

McCain is accusing Obama of being the Kremlin's tool for exposing McCain's lobbying connections to Georgia. The shooting war between the two antagonists certainly amps up the attention these connections will get. If McCain hadn't already been bought and paid for, his accusations might have bite.
A Canadian Opinion

Of the housing mess:
IT WAS the extreme greediness of privileged Americans that caused hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens to lose their homes, undermined the economies of not only the U.S., but of nations around the world, and sabotaged the stock-market investments of heaven only knows how many million grey-haired pensioners like me.

...In the case for the prosecution, let us present, as Exhibit A, two government-chartered, U.S. companies: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

They own or guarantee nearly half of America’s $12 trillion worth of home mortgages, and fears that the devastation in the mortgage industry had rendered them unstable and undercapitalized recently sent their stock market prices into a dive that horrified their shareholders.

Moreover, the bad news sharply eroded the value of bank shares, including the Canadian ones in my modest retirement fund. Since not only American banks but the central banks of many nations held billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities that Fannie or Freddie had issued or guaranteed, a collapse in the value of these securities may yet have disastrous consequences for the entire world economy.

It’s now clear that federal politicians in the U.S. have long been insanely permissive about the way Fannie and Freddie went about their business.

Why? The politicians joined the club of greed.

"In Washington," the New York Times reports, "Fannie and Freddie’s sprawling lobbying machine hired family and friends of politicians in their efforts to quickly sideline any regulations that might slow their growth or invite greater oversight of their business practices."

The lobby made sure that Fannie and Freddie would not have to meet the same financial standards or endure the same tax burdens as their competitors, and that government guarantees would stick the taxpayers for any losses they incurred. The companies did not offer home loans. Instead, they bought mortgages from banks, and accepted the risk of defaults. This allowed the banks to issue more and more mortgages.

With the assistance of campaign contributions and muscular lobbying, Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac got together with lawmakers in Washington, brokerages and investment banks on Wall Street, and real estate agents all over the U.S. to build what the New York Times called "an unusual and mutually beneficial co-dependency."

...Jonathan Kopell of the Yale School of Management explained that the two mortgage titans gave money to nonprofit activist groups, and thereby made it hard for such groups to criticize them.

"Likewise, there was another set of entities, essentially a huge industry, that profits from every additional loan that Fannie or Freddie can buy," he continued. "The more loans they purchase, the more business there is for them, and so they’re willing to work with the enterprises."

As a tsunami of foreclosures swept across America, home prices declined, and so did the mortgage assets of Fannie and Freddie.

A lot of Americans, however, had grown rich while busily involving themselves in the racket of issuing mortgages to a whole lot of other Americans who could not afford them.

..."It seems to me we’ve seen enough evidence over the years that the capitalist system is not going to be destroyed by an outside challenger like communism," the late Molly Ivins wrote on the AlterNet website. "It will be destroyed by its own internal greed. Greed is the greatest danger as we develop an increasingly winner-take-all system."

"It’s dispiriting indeed to watch the U.S. financial system, supposedly the envy of the world, being taken to its knees," Gretchen Morgenson recently wrote in the International Herald Tribune.

"But that’s the show we’re watching, brought to you by somnambulant regulators, greedy bank executives and incompetent corporate directors. This wasn’t the way the ‘ownership society’ was supposed to work."

When greed’s in charge, no society works.

The Olympic Opening Ceremony was just amazing!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Strange Work Ritual

T.C. turns 50.
National Enquirer Shoots; It Scores

Lots of disappointment today in the left blogosphere with John Edwards. Elizabeth Edwards is just as popular as he is, if not more so, and people are angry on her behalf.

I still like the guy, though. I hope he ends up in the next Administration somewhere.

So whassup with Steve Pearce's congressional campaign in New Mexico? He's worried about hippies:

With Phish gone, Jerry Garcia dead and Woodstock nearing its 40th anniversary, I think we can all admit that hippies are no longer here (though their... particular love of a certain plant is well in place, as one can see from Seth Rogen and James Franco's newest movie).

Well, except for in the deluded minds that are behind the advertisements at the Steve Pearce campaign. If you saw the Albuquerque Journal the other day (hell, for all I know, today as well), then you saw an ad where hippies holding signs showing "radical" positions.

Hmmm.... Hippies.

Ahh, Bernalillo, New Mexico, during the hot summer of 1978 - 30 years ago! I remember sitting in my grandmother's mobile home on a stifling hot summer's day and listening to my dad and Gramita (my grandmother) discussing hippies:

Dad: I think I saw some hippies at the store.
Gramita: I saw some hippies last week.
Dad: Ooooh, hippies!

I thought the conversation strange, because I had hardly seen any hippies for years - since, say, 1972? They weren't very common by 1978 - almost vanishingly rare, like whooping cranes.

Thirty years later, it's safe to say, hippies are essentially gone. Yet Steve Pearce bases his campaign on a fear of hippies.

Tick, tick, tick: Time moves on.... It had moved on by 1978. How much more so today?
Hell Hath No Fury

Like a White House aide scorned:
Bradley Blakeman, a former aide to President George W. Bush, claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday that the comedy flick starring Kevin Costner and Kelsey Grammer rips off his own version of the story, titled "Go November."

Blakeman is seeking unspecified "monetary and other appropriate relief" from the Hollywood stars and the backers of "Swing Vote," including the Walt Disney Company.

The complaint, filed in Long Island, New York, alleges that Blakeman in 2006 gave Grammer a copyrighted script of his idea which bears a "striking resemblance" to the movie released this August by Disney's Touchstone Pictures.

..."Go November," the law suit says, has an "extraordinarily similar" plot, with several identical characters, and also foreseeing Grammer playing the same role of incumbent president.
SN&R Flips Over "bare"

Kel Munger gives a glowing review here:
Artistic Differences has assembled a cast made up of the best and brightest of the area’s young musical actors. That makes this production reminiscent of last summer’s Hair in all the finest ways: dynamic voices, a lot of humor, a heart that won’t ignore injustice. As the star-crossed leads, Lucas Blair (Peter) and Ian Cullity (Jason) are in impeccable voice. Blair has the good-hearted, earnest-kid vibe down; and Cullity makes Jason’s emotional wavering both frustrating and true. Kelly Daniells, the company’s managing director, turns in a heart-rending performance as Ivy, a true victim of love. Maggie Hollinbeck does a great deal with a small role, mingling grace with pain as Peter’s disappointed but loving mother—and Hollenbeck’s duet with Blair in “See Me” will break the heart of anyone who’s had to come out to a beloved parent as well as any parent who’s had to listen.

But the scene stealers are Jason’s misfit sister, Nadia (Joelle Wirth), with a “good girl wrapped in a bad girl” attitude that puts Stockard Channing’s old Rizzo role in Grease to shame, and Sister Chantelle (Natasha Greer), who manages to channel Diana Ross, Oprah and Madea—sometimes in the same scene. Joshua James (Lucas) does what he does best—stir things up with a rousing dance number, as he did so well in Cabaret earlier this year at Runaway Stage—in “Wonderland,” a paean to the joys of the rave that precedes a dance scene set in one of the underground parties (and is very reminiscent, in a 21st-century way, of Hair’s acid trip).

Once again, Artistic Differences will have people lining up next to the light-rail tracks for the show of the summer.
Behind The Eight Ball

Today is 08/08/08!

Is that lucky?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Meet The Boss

Making bad choices in Vegas:
Casino mogul Steve Wynn was slapped in the face at his hotel during a recent run-in with two sisters with a history of prostitution, Las Vegas police said.

The incident unfolded about 9:30 p.m. July 25 at the V.I.P. valet parking area of Wynn Las Vegas, according to a police report.

As Wynn headed for the doors, Sarah Cournede stepped out from a small crowd and propositioned him, the report said. Wynn put his arm around the woman and continued toward the doors, where he told a door man to summon security, the report said.

Wynn held onto Cournede as she struggled to escape, and her sister, Maria Cournede, eventually joined the fray and tried to pull her sister away, the report said. During the struggle, Maria Cournede slapped Wynn in the face, the report said.
Australian Weather Forecast

For the next week at least, drier than a mummy's medicine cabinet.
Gentle Little People

This is why I moved from N.M. - they're hiding behind furniture everywhere in the Rio Grande Valley:
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- For more than a year, speculation, rumors and mystery have surrounded the former leader of the Gallup Catholic Diocese, in Albuquerque, N.M.

Last July, Bishop Donald Pelotte sustained multiple injuries in his home. He said he fell down a flight of stairs, but a mysterious 911 call from Pelotte is casting doubt on his claim -- so are his injuries.

...And adding more mystery to his injuries was a bizarre call to 911.

A dispatch log from September details Gallup police were called to the bishop's home after he told operators "gentle little people about 3 to 4 feet tall wearing Halloween masks" were in his home.

"Can you tell me what happened?" the dispatcher asked.

"They're just moving. They've been quiet. They've been going upstairs in the bedrooms and hiding behind the artifacts. But they don't talk," said Pelotte, adding that they were wearing masks.

"What kind of masks do they have?" asked the dispatcher.

"Ma'am, I don't have the time to tell you. You'll see it for yourself. Please send somebody over here," said Pelotte.

He then told the dispatcher that the little people were gentle, but that he was going to hide in his bedroom.

In April, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the bishop's resignation. The bishop has been living in Florida.
Just Too Ambitious For One CD

Former White House speechwriter Mark W. Davis finds the Republicans to be tone deaf in trying to link the vigorous appeal of Teddy Roosevelt (John McCain's hero), and the world of early-20th Century Republicanism, to today's world. Referring to today's youth:
So how are Republicans reaching out to them?

I have on my desk a CD sent out this spring from the Republican House Policy Committee. Fat, 1970s lettering bears the title, "Freedom Songs." The cover image of the CD package is a sepia-tone photo of Teddy Roosevelt.

Open it up and you are treated to photos of Warren G. Harding staring into the horn of a crank phonograph, Herbert Hoover listening to a wireless, and a glum-looking Calvin Coolidge simply glowering at a camera. In an accompanying letter, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan writes that the CD includes "riffs by Dr. Russell Kirk," as well as "the pounding rhythm section of the Austrian School of Economics."

So while the Obama Democrats transform America's youth into a Facebook army, the Republican Party is offering this disc, Mr. McCotter writes, "as an alternative to an eighty story high stack of dry white policy papers."

Did I forget to mention it can also be podcast?
To The Last Second, Shoveling Them Out The Door

Just like we puzzle over the Dutch tulip bubble, people in the future will marvel at the subprime crisis:
Mortgages issued in the first part of 2007 are going bad at a pace that far outstrips the 2006 vintage, suggesting that the blow to the financial system from U.S. housing woes will be deeper than many people earlier estimated.

...Evidence that lax lending standards were leading to higher mortgage delinquencies first emerged in late 2006. The first major casualty of the subprime credit crisis, New Century Financial Corp., imploded in early 2007. Yet the data from the FDIC and others suggest that lenders didn't substantially tighten standards until at least July or August 2007, when credit jitters hit Wall Street and financial stocks began to swoon.

...Last month, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. said it expects losses on prime mortgages that weren't securitized and remain on its books to triple from current levels. The increase in bad loans is driven mostly by jumbo mortgages originated in the second half of 2007, a company spokesman said.

Until these bad loans are fully digested, "foreclosures will remain at record highs, the financial system will be under severe stress and the broader economy will sputter," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's

...Questionable business practices may have played a role, too. Some of the 2007 loans "were knowingly originated as really bad loans," says Chris Mayer, a professor of real estate at Columbia University's business school. Mortgage originators who profited handsomely from the housing boom "realized the game was completely over" and pushed mortgages out the door, says Mr. Mayer.
Mystery Man

Walking Sparky last night, I stopped to read SN&R under a street lamp. Things were quiet, calm.

I focused over the newsprint and suddenly noticed a pair of tennis shoes catching the light in the jet black darkness. Odd. Then I realized they were attached to legs. Suddenly I realized there was a dark-skinned man in dark clothing standing quietly just a few feet away. He was fishing out a cigarette with one hand and he held a beer bottle with the other. He didn't say a thing, but nodded and quietly started walking away.

Ever-confused, Sparky decided to follow him. The man leaned down and petted Sparky until Sparky was satisfied. Then without a word, the man stood upright and quietly vanished into the night.
The Left Blogosphere Is All A'Twitter

Happy with Paris today. Some of their comments just slay me:

* Gandalf
To pile on Matt's post below, it appears McCain made a major miscalculation with his celebrity attack ad. Hilton's response is now the top story on Google News, and apparently the McCain campaign is receiving so many media requests about it, that they had to post a from response on their website. They have gotten into a spat with Paris Hilton, which there is basically no way to win. Hilton has nothing to lose, and the back and forth just highlights the frivolic idiocy of McCain's recent attacks.

It feels really weird to say it, but Paris Hilton kind of feels like Gandalf returning to Middle Earth, "at the turn of the tide." Her age-based attacks on McCain are even in line with Obama's new ad that opens with a line that could be interpreted as a shot at McCain's age. McCain is going to be on the defensive now, even though he started the attack in the first place. Obama's "proud to be ignorant" line is getting a lot of play, too.

Paris Hilton is playing a not insignificant role in the presidential election. Who'd have thunk it? Man, politics is weird.

* As much as I tend to hate her and her ilk... just don't fuck with Paris Hilton.

What did he think, she would be too busy to respond? Did he think she would just pass up a chance to be in the spotlight? Did he think her family, with its famous name, would just stand by while McCain trashed them?

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

* It's more than a little funny that Paris Hilton's response ad could just be the definitive turning point in the campaign. It is just so bad for McCain on so many levels.
"He's the oldest celebrity in the world"? That line alone was enough.

First her mom calls McCain's ad "completely frivolous", and then Paris does this.

Well, poetic justice is about the only kind we've got left these days, but this alone seems to say we've got enough to get by.

* Every time the gray-hairs tangle with pop culture, they lose, because pop culture just doesn't quit.
This is definitive proof that McCain learned nothing from the fall of Communism. He no doubt still thinks it was all Reagan's doing, and had nothing to do with jazz, Levis and rock 'n roll.

* As someone over at dKos put it:
Say what you want about Paris Hilton, she gets paid to go to parties. Try arranging that for yourself sometime.

* Oldest Celebrity in the World
Adding to the poetic justice, this puts his age at the forefront without any way to claim Obama's campaign is somewhat responsible for playing the age card. Paris said everything the campaign couldn't, and leaves McCain in a box, for he can't pin responsibility on Obama (and thus find a way to be portrayed the victim of this series of event) nor can he escalate the debate with Paris (who relishes the media spotlight and has nothing to lose in this debate).

Even sweeter poetic justice still, now it is McCain who is associated with Paris Hilton, giving Sen. Obama the ability to frame the contrast as he did today - "Instead of running ads about Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, they should be talking to energy experts and make a difference" - thus making the choice between more GOP nonsense or common sense.

And now that McCain has responded to the Hilton ad saying Paris agrees with McCain's energy policy, could it not be called the McCain/Paris energy plan? Can Paris now be labeled McCain's energy advisor?

There is enough snark to last for days, and you can bet that John McCain's outrage that his clever ad bite back so hard will compel him to compound the error before it's all said and done.

* Amen to all the above.
The only thing McCain has to be thankful for is that takes some attention away from his pimping out his wife at the Buffalo Chip beauty contest.

Or, come to think of it, does it just encourage whoever won that contest to seek her own 15 minutes of fame?

Once again, Paris Hilton could only win from that development, and McCain could only lose.

* its interesting as hell.
All day long I was thinking that the Obama advertising campaign wasn't interesting enough, and how we needed to bring back the 527's.

Well, this ad is interesting and it didn't come from the Obama campaign.

The one thing no political candidate can survive is ridicule. And McCain has just been roasted.

This may very well be a significant event in the campaign.

1.2 million views as of this writing. And wait until people hear about it on the radio tomorrow morning, and get to the office and check it out....

This is going to be the definition of viral.

* the world of celebrities
has become so important and powerful in our culture, that it's now butting up against the presumably far more powerful world of politics.
Absolutely surreal. The only thing that could possibly top this is if McCain showed up on an episode of American Gladiators to face off with Wolf in the Joust.

I really do want to see a McCain vs. Hilton debate. She would cream him.

(As an aside: why hasn't anyone pointed out that Paris Hilton can't run for president? She's under 35).

* As an aside...
It appears that Obama's response on the tire gauge is having an effect too, as McCain has had to concede that he AGREES with Obama.

Yeah, think they're still going to be passing around those tire gauges with such glee?

How about an ad highlighting all the positions McCain has had to switch to Obama's viewpoint? Ie, Iraq, tire gauge, and now soon (because of Paris Hilton), Obama's energy policy compromise.

The theme? "Obama leads while McCain follows."

* Yeah, I saw that climbdown as well
Total, 100% capitulation. Remarkably stupid stuff from McCain to have started a food fight over that specific point. Now he looks dumb, for having brought it up in the first place, AND leaves a lot of frustrated supporters behind by totally hanging them out to dry.

* Wow great video
Paris delivered that policy section perfectly. She sounds lucid and smart, and seems to have an amazing sense of humor by prefacing it by pretending to be her stereotypical bimbo character. I think she not only just p0wned McCain, but her critics too.

I bet McCain enjoyed being called older than dirt to his face. Awesome. I hope Obama sends her a thank you card, she earned one.

* My Dad Likes To Say
That Paris is stupid like a fox, and while we laugh at her she's laughing all the way to the bank. Looks like he was right; I'll have to tell him about this.

* Not all blondes are stupid...
I've seen Paris Hilton on the late-night talk shows and she's clearly not a dumb blond. That's just male sexism. Although there are exceptions, women don't get to be A-list celebrities without having at least average intelligence.

Though You Probably Still Could Drown Her
By throwing a mirror into the swimming pool.
MoDo, And The Mockery Campaign

The unseemly evolution of the 2008 Presidential campaign has led right into Maureen Dowd's bailiwick - snarkville. And she's up to the challenge. A selection:
Now John McCain is pea-green with envy. That’s the only explanation for why a man who prides himself on honor, a man who vowed not to take the low road in the campaign, having been mugged by W. and Rove in South Carolina in 2000, is engaging in a festival of juvenilia.

The Arizona senator who built his reputation on being a brave proponent of big solutions is running a schoolyard campaign about tire gauges and Paris Hilton, childishly accusing his opponent of being too serious, too popular and not patriotic enough.

Even his own mother, the magical 96-year-old Roberta McCain, let slip that she thought the Paris Hilton-Britney Spears ad was “kinda stupid.”

McCain’s 2000 strategist, John Weaver, was equally blunt with Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter: “It’s hard to imagine America responding to ‘small ball’ when we have all these problems.”

Some of McCain’s old pals in the Senate are cringing at what they see as his soulless transformation into what he once scorned.

“John’s eaten up with envy,” said one. “His image of himself was always the handsome, celebrity flyboy.

“Now somebody else is the celebrity,” the colleague continued, while John looks in the mirror and sees his face marred by skin cancer and looks at the TV and sees his dashing self-image replaced by visions of William Frawley, with Letterman jokes about his membership in the ham radio club and adventures with wagon trains.

For McCain, being cool meant being a rogue, not a policy wonk; but Obama manages to be a cool College Bowl type, which must irk McCain, who liked to play up his bad-boy cool. Now the guy in the back of the class is shooting spitballs at the class pet and is coming off as more juvenile than daring.

Around the McCain campaign, they grouse that Obama “hasn’t bled.” He hasn’t bled literally, in military service, just like W., the last holder of an E-ZPass who sped past McCain. And he hasn’t paid his dues in the Senate, since he basically just stopped by for directions to the Oval Office.

As a new senator, Obama was not only precocious enough to pounce on turf that McCain had invested years in, such as campaign finance lobbying, ethics reform and earmarks. When Obama did reach across the aisle for a mentor, it was to the staid Richard Lugar of Indiana, not to the salty Republican of choice for Democrats, McCain.

When the Illinois freshman took back a private promise to join McCain’s campaign finance reform effort, McCain told his aide Mark Salter to “brush him back.” Salter sent an over-the-top vituperative letter to Obama. “I guess I beaned him instead,” Salter told Newsweek’s Howard Fineman.

McCain could dismiss W. as a lightweight, but he knows Obama’s smart. Obama wrote his own books, while McCain’s were written by Salter. McCain knows he’s the affirmative action scion of admirals who might not have gotten through Annapolis without being a legacy. Obama didn’t even tell Harvard Law School that he was black on his application.
Redneck Stonehenge

A man's home is his castle:
HOOPER, Utah — A farmer has erected a fence in his backyard made of three old cars sticking up in the air to send a message to new neighbors that he can do whatever he wants on his farm.

"This is just a fun way for me to say, 'Hey boys, I'm still here,'" said Rhett Davis. "This is my redneck Stonehenge."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Meet Our Cats

Hands-on, as they say:
Three tigers attacked a 16-year-old employee at Branson Interactive Zoo and Aquarium, formerly known as Predator World, early Monday afternoon.
"Slavery Gets Shit Done"

Facebook page of Justin Schaffer, son of the Colorado Senatorial candidate, gets him into trouble.
Tim Pawlenty Comments

Paris' comments are "good for democracy".
Trying To Make Lemons From Lemonade

The McCain campaign scrambles to put the best possible face on Paris' comments:

UPDATE: McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds emails: “It sounds like Paris Hilton supports John McCain’s ‘all of the above’ approach to America’s energy crisis - including both alternatives and drilling. Paris Hilton might not be as big a celebrity as Barack Obama, but she obviously has a better energy plan.”

UPDATE: Shorter McCain, via Drudge (and the headline of Bounds' press release): 'Paris Supports Drilling'...
Nevertheless, two things struck me as being far more important than her position on drilling:
  • she noted that she had been used; and,
  • she emphasized how old John McCain is.

Whatever else one might think, those weren't compliments. They're even nastier than Paris' comments regarding Kim Kardashian's butt. She might not be an Obama supporter, but she won't be McCain's tool.

In this high-school-like election season, much has been made of mockery as a tool to define one's opponent. No one anytime, anywhere wields a sharper stiletto than Paris Hilton. Don't cross the Class of 2008's premier Queen Bee or you will pay.....

We Can Do It!...

...But only if we work together as a team. Some self-sacrifice will be required. Whatever you might think or really want, you will have to buckle down and eat the apple pie a la mode:

If the trends of the past three decades continue, it's possible that every American adult could be overweight 40 years from now, a government-funded study projects.

The figure might sound alarming, or impossible, but researchers say that even if the actual rate never reaches the 100-percent mark, any upward movement is worrying; two-thirds of the population is already overweight.

"Genetically and physiologically, it should be impossible" for all U.S. adults to become overweight, said Dr. Lan Liang of the federal government's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, one of the researchers on the study.

However, she told Reuters Health, the data suggest that if the trends of the past 30 years persist, "that is the direction we're going."
Yeah, But Why Target The National Enquirer?

The FBI's beginning to release selective information regarding Bruce Ivins' motives, but it doesn't really add up - at least, not yet:
One of the most notable aspects of that document is the motive attributed to Ivins, which is several-fold (much of which is grounded in its attribution to Ivins of a right-wing political agenda):

  • Ivins harbored animosity towards Catholic politicians who were pro-choice, particularly Sen. Daschle and Sen. Leahy, two of the targets of the most virulent anthrax strain that was sent;
  • particularly in the wake of 9/11, he was angry towards those who embraced the ACLU position that civil liberties must be safeguarded, and Sens. Daschle and Leahy, at the time, were widely perceived to have been holding up passage of the Patriot Act, and he also was furious at those who wanted to "coddle" or "excuse" terrorists;
  • he was angry at NBC News because one of its journalists, Gary Matsumoto (who subsequently was the producer of the ABC bentonite stories) was investigating the safety of the anthrax vaccine; and one of the anthrax letters was sent to Tom Brokaw at NBC; and,
  • he was afraid that Government support for the anthrax vaccine he helped develop, and funding for future research, would dissipate, and an anthrax attack would revitalize that support.
Paris Fires Back

See more funny videos at Funny or Die
Science Study Chaff

Jerry took note of this (note fun video above).

Global warming is such a hot topic that people apparently spoof studies for their own purposes. The story linked here describes the tale of one such spoof:
On Nov. 7, news flashed around conservative and climate-skeptic e-mail chains, some Web sites and a couple of talk-radio programs that an important new scientific paper proved that undersea bacteria, not people, were responsible for most of the recent buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The trigger was an e-mail chain maintained by Benny J. Peiser, a British social scientist who sends out daily summaries of research questioning dangerous human-caused global warming and international climate treaties, along with other subjects.
This message merited designation as an “Extra,” and had the title “Carbon dioxide production by benthic bacteria: the death of manmade global warming theory?” It cited a new paper in the Journal of Geoclimatic Studies.

It provided a link (no longer active) to a long, equation-laden treatise in that Japanese journal, written by researchers at the University of Arizona and University of Gothenburg, in Sweden.

...But some climate experts almost instantly smelled something fishy, with Roger A. Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado quickly posting, “Call me a skeptic skeptic - I smell a hoax.”

Just 70 minutes after the first e-mail message from Mr. Peiser, he sent out another one with the headline “hoax alert,” saying, “There is no Department of Climatology at the University of Arizona, nor is there a Daniel Klein or Mandeep Gupta in the U. of A. directory. Neither is there an Institute of Geoclimatic Studies. The whole thing looks like a nice hoax.”
In this case, discovery was quick - there is no Department of Climatology at the University of Arizona - but it takes time to shoot these things down. Really well-designed hoaxes might prove particularly vexing. And the apparent purpose of this spoof?:
Its purpose was to expose the credulity and scientific illiteracy of many of the people who call themselves climate sceptics. While dismissive of the work of the great majority of climate scientists, they will believe almost anything if it lends support to their position. Their approach to climate science is the opposite of scepticism.
Too much trouble for everyone. Studies that are not in earnest are all spam in the cerebral cortex: the equivalent of viruses and worms!
But The Other Half Want More, More, More!

Do you feel the magic yet, Gabe?

(I must admit, however, that our two-year-long election season is just ridiculously overextended):
With Election Day still three months away, 48 percent said they're hearing too much about the Democratic candidate, according to a poll released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Just 26 percent said the same about his Republican rival, John McCain.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Classy Guy, That McCain

Offering up his wife as a contestant to the topless (and occasionally bottomless) Buffalo Chip Bikini "Beauty Pageant".
The Customer Is Always Right

So there!:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Jacksonville police say Reginald Peterson needs to learn that 911 is not the appropriate place to complain that Subway left the sauce off a spicy Italian sandwich.

Police said the 42-year-old man dialed 911 twice last week so he could have his sub made correctly. The second call was to complain that officers weren't arriving fast enough.
Women Impressionist Exhibition At The Legion Of Honor

Left: Julie Rêveuse
1894; "Julie Daydreaming"; Private collection. The model is her daughter Julie.

A wonderful time viewing the exhibit: "Women Impressionists: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, Marie Bracquemond". (Here's a nice article on the exhibition in the San Francisco Sentinel.)

Since I rarely go to museums, this exhibit struck me quite forecfully. One thing that images can't quite convey is the luminosity of a lot of Impressionistic painting - you have to see the painting in person to get the full effect. It's amazing to note that the Impressionistic glow is a painstakingly-planned effect - it doesn't just happen by accident.

Because Mary Cassatt is apparently the most famous of the bunch, they arranged the tour so her paintings are viewed last. But then that just means the biggest emotional impact goes to those paintings viewed first - namely, those of Berthe Morisot.

We obtained little headsets, into which we could punch numerical codes every fifth or sixth painting and hear a synopsis of the painting's history and salient features. These little summaries were pretty terse, however (no doubt to help accelerate visitors through the gallery), and I yearned for something else: namely an art expert, who could rapidly and intelligently reveal the universes of experience and emotion behind each painting.

Lo! And behold! An art expert with a gaggle of acolytes caught up to us in the Marie Bracquemond gallery, and I thought "This is great!" Then she started speaking:
Some people complain that, with the Women Impressionists, it's all about autobiography. Other art critics take offense, however, and note that it's not about autobiography at all. Truth is, with the Women Impressionists, it's a little about autobiography.
My eyes rolled back in my head - this level of art sophistication was clearly well above my class and education. I started fiddling again with headset trying to find another frequency.

Wonderful, wonderful exhibit! My only complaint was that 2.5 hours was too brief a time with these paintings. Here is a quick summary:
Each section of Women Impressionists serves as an individual retrospective for one of the four artists. Gonzalès, who died prematurely in childbirth, and Bracquemond, who stopped painting due to the discouragement of her husband, each have a smaller body of work in the exhibition; for many visitors, this will be an introduction to these artists.

Berthe Morisot (1841–1895): Women Impressionists presents over 60 examples of Morisot’s works, including oil paintings, drawings, and pastels. Morisot was the only woman to exhibit in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, and she became one of the most prolific members of the Impressionist circle.

Mary Cassatt (1844–1926): Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cassatt was the only American member of the Impressionist circle. Women Impressionists features over 35 works by Cassatt, including examples of her oil paintings, pastels, and prints.

Eva Gonzalès (1849–1883): The only formal pupil of Edouard Manet, Gonzalès became known for her characteristic style of portraiture and her use of subtle emotion and richness of detail in her works. This exhibition presents approximately 15 works by Gonzalès, including the finest examples of her oil paintings and pastels.

Marie Bracquemond (1840–1916): Women Impressionists marks the most comprehensive exhibition of Marie Bracquemond’s work since a 1919 retrospective organized by her son Pierre at a Paris gallery. The exhibition features approximately 20 works by Bracquemond, including watercolors, drawings, and oil paintings.

Left: Mary Cassatt, American (1844–1926) Visitor in Hat and Coat Holding a Maltese dog, ca. 1879 Oil on canvas. Private Collection

Left: Eva Gonzalès, French (1849–1883) A Loge in the Théâtre des Italiens, 1874 Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Gift of Jean Guérard, the artist’s son, 1927.

Below: A Marie Bracquemond painting where the glow just leaps out at you!

Monday, August 04, 2008

"Legion Of Honor" - San Francisco (draft)

Sally and I went to see the "Women Impressionists" exhibit at the California Palace Of The Legion of Honor art museum (which did not permit photos), but there was just a little time to hastily see some of the other items in this marvellous place....
Left: An ancient Greek wreath (4th-3rd Century B.C.) made from gold leaf.
Left and below: There was a wide variety of Hellenistic Greco-Roman bric-a-brac, like these kraters.

Left: Amazing statues in the Spreckels Gallery!
Left: A wonderful 17th Century French cabinet.
Left: Medici bust.
Left: Renaissance triptych painting.

Below: A Chihuly glass sculpture.

Left: Cast of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker".
Left: Holocaust Memorial.
Frantic Waving, Stage Left

What's going on over there? Oh, I might have guessed:
Gov. Bill Richardson has won a major endorsement as a potential running mate for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The Denver Post called Richardson the best candidate for the job in an editorial Sunday.

Ahh, this is too bad. I was hoping Paris Hilton would recognize the opportunity and come out swinging like Scarlett O'Hara and tell a tale of the besmirched dignity of Southern womanhood at the hands of that rapscallion, John McCain:
NONPARTISAN Paris Hilton - as neutral as Switzerland - refuses to be dragged into presidential politics.

On Saturday night, at a Bridgehampton mansion rented by MySpace founder Chris De Wolfe, the haughty hotel heiress told Page Six she wasn't distraught over being featured last week in a John McCain campaign ad which mockingly compared Barack Obama to Paris and Britney Spears.
But acting was never Paris' strong suit, and maybe she just never saw the opportunity. (The code of the Old South allowed rough behavior between male antagonists, but using, or hiding behind, female skirts was the lowest form of low behavior, and to be utterly condemned.) Indeed, in contrast, Paris' code may be that attention from any source, even hostile attention, is far better than to be ignored.

Nevertheless, Paris is coy enough to keep the Obama fans happy:
Though her parents, Rick and Kathy Hilton, are backing McCain and donated $4,600 to the Republican's campaign, Paris said she isn't a member of any party and isn't endorsing any candidate. But, echoing the theme of the Obama campaign, Paris said, "I think we need a change."

Doesn't sound all that inviting for life on Mars - perchlorates are used in fireworks and related purposes (which may be why they are also worried about inadvertent contamination, maybe from rockets):
Within the last month, two samples have been analyzed by the Wet Chemistry Lab of the spacecraft's Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA, suggesting one of the soil constituents may be perchlorate, a highly oxidizing substance. The Phoenix team has been waiting for complementary results from the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, which also is capable of detecting perchlorate. TEGA is a series of ovens and analyzers that "sniff" vapors released from substances in a sample.
The Lure Of Presentism - Mining The Past To Guide The Future

I just LOVE this type of history! It's a bad, junk-food kind of thinking, of course, but just like junk food, I can't get enough. The past never repeats itself, exactly, so it's kind of an art to abstract the right lessons from the past. And who better to conjure art than the lunkheads at the Pentagon? But the lure is irresistible: war-gamers to the rescue!

America's great strength in world politics has been superior logistics. Superior military forces (the Nazis, for example) have crumpled in the face of an endless wave of American weaponry. Superior logistics, and a sense of justice and fair play, form America's bulwark.

In the Middle East, however, the Americans have been crippled by poor intelligence. As a rule, Americans don't even speak Arabic, and they are poorly-suited to dominate the region as a result. As the years go by, there are more and more Americans gaining the necessary training, of course, but they still aren't fully in charge. Plus, justice and fair play are waylaid by the byzantine ways of the region. So, the American Empire there likely won't endure.

That's my bad extrapolation of historical analogies for today:
In the summer of 2002, the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment (ONA) published an 85-page monograph called "Military Advantage in History". Unusual for an office that is headed by Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon's "futurist in chief," the study looks back to the past—way back. It examines four empires, or "pivotal hegemonic powers in history," to draw lessons about how the United States "should think about maintaining military advantage in the 21st century."

...The study looks a little like a high school text book, devoting chapters to Alexander the Great, Imperial Rome, Genghis Khan, and Napoleonic France ... There is no one secret to world domination, however. The Mongols' military advantage was rooted in their "tactical and operational superiority"; the Macedonians' in the "exceptional leadership" of and "cult of personality" surrounding Alexander the Great; Napoleon's in "innovative operational concepts" and "information superiority"; and the Romans' in "robust tactical doctrine" and "strong domestic institutions" which were "designed to incorporate conquered peoples as the empire grew." In an extraordinary passage, the study cites the Roman experience—from over a millennium ago—as a precedent for America's long-term dominance: "The Roman model suggests that it is possible for the United States to maintain its military advantage for centuries if it remains capable of transforming its forces before an opponent can develop counter-capabilities. Transformation coupled with strong strategic institutions is a powerful combination for an adversary to overcome."

The report's language is jargon laden and opaque—a lance used by Macedonian horsemen is referred to as a "primary weapon system." That may be due to the methodology of "net assessment," a fancy term for the ONA's approach to analyzing complicated real-world situations that is rooted in systems analysis and game theory. Military author James Dunnigan compares it to engineering. "You take apart historical events, reassemble them as a simulation, and then tinker with the simulation until you can recreate the historical event accurately," he explains. "What that allows you to do is play out 'what if?' situations: What if Napoleon did this? What if Ghengis Khan did that?"

While the study was produced under the auspices of the ONA, its five authors work for government intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, and they wrote the study as part of a contract for the Defense Department's Information Assurance Technology Analysis Center. Booz Allen won a 10-year, $200 million cost-plus contract to establish and "host" that center in 1998. (In May, the Carlyle Group announced it will be taking over Booz Allen's government services arm.)

...Most striking is how the study conceives of the United States in imperial terms. "You'll see some neoconservatives at the beginning of the Bush administration crowing that 'we do have an empire, let's just come out of the closet and say we do,'" said Ivan Eland, the author of a book on America's "informal empire" and the director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute, on hearing a description of the study. "But the administration never did that because empire doesn't sell well with the public."

...Even coming from an office vaunted for its intellectual seriousness, "Military Advantage in History" often reads like it was meant as window dressing for the Revolution in Military Affairs agenda—sometimes at the expense of historical fact. ... After reviewing a section that identifies five discrete "transformations" of the Roman military over a period of 1,000 years, Lee Brice of Western Illinois University, president of the Society of Ancient Military Historians, described it as "so completely incorrect as to be useless." In general, Brice noted, "it is inappropriate to apply modern concepts of systems theory, doctrine, and strategy to ancient armies. That required a level of planning and centralization that simply did not exist."

Eland speculates that a study like this would "get warped by the military-industrial-congressional complex into more money for weapons." Furthermore, he says, it ignores the economic implications of military expansion. "The Office of Net Assessment is doing this to show, 'Well, gee, these other empires transformed themselves, they were successful, we need to do the same thing,'"

...The idea that contemporary society can or should try to find direct guidance in the past has been assailed by some historians. The American historian Bernard Bailyn wrote of "an obvious kind of presentism, which at its worst becomes indoctrination by historical example." But the ONA study charges ahead, plumbing the past for contemporary lessons.

...Several historians who reviewed the study differed on its quality and meaning. Walter Scheidel, a Stanford professor of classics and the coauthor of a forthcoming survey of ancient empires, called it "a successful distillation of relevant information and scholarship complemented by very interesting systematic analysis." Others found the scholarship to be shoddy and superficial. Pamela Crossley, a Dartmouth historian who teaches on the Mongols, described the chapter on Genghis Khan as mostly "an accumulation of popularly transmitted misconceptions." She also noted the study's "amazingly strange spelling 'Chengis.'" Brice, the ancient military historian, said the text suffered from "an intense, myopic habit of wanting to make the ancient world fit into modern stereotypes." He compares it with "much lower-undergraduate-level work."
Maybe The Preachers Were Right About Southern California Being The Gateway To Hell

How else to explain this?:
A patch of land in Ventura County where the ground heated up to more than 800 degrees Friday continues to puzzle firefighters and geologists.

...The area is considered an active landslide that in the last 60 years has moved and trapped hydrocarbons, found in petroleum products, natural gas and coal, some several hundred feet deep, Oatman said. After it dried out, the earth began to crack and oxygen crept in, causing "some sort of combustion," he said.

Smoke rose through five cracks in the ground on Friday. From a distance, it looked like "a small, smoldering camp fire," Oatman said.

...This same land area has recorded high heat about five or six times since 1987 and has always been dubbed a "natural phenomenon," Oatman said.
Speed Bump

I was walking Sparky about two blocks away from my house last night when a group of about seven talkative bicyclists passed by, followed by a pickup truck. They receded down the street, but then encountered trouble. Apparently one bicyclist hit the speed bump directly in front of my house and fell in front of the pickup truck, forcing it's driver to make an abrupt stop. The other bicyclists milled in circles as they tried to help.

Down the street, I chafed to help, but Sparky was lost somewhere in an inky flower bed and I had to wait. By the time we returned home, the bicyclists had pushed on.
SacBee Reviewer Bruce Dancis Liked "bare"

Even though, as he put it:
As a fervent expression of faith by Intrabartolo and Hartmere, "bare" at times comes off as too religious for this agnostic critic.
Well, that's how it goes with religious schools and all! But I'm glad he put in a good word for all us agnostics squirming in our seats.

Still, the show itself, Dancis liked:
A sung-through musical with a pop-rock score, "bare," directed by Kevin Caravalho, relies on a talented cast of 18 to tell its story. Big ensemble production numbers, particularly a scene at a rave ("Wonderland") and fantasies by Peter ("Epiphany," in which he has a nightmare about being outed, and "Wedding Bells," where he dreams about getting married to Jason), are choreographed adeptly by Gino Platina and danced and sung with exuberance and flair.

The students at St. Cecilia are putting on "Romeo and Juliet," which, of course, offers many points of resonance in a play about teenage troubles.

While the focus is primarily on the star-crossed lovers Peter and Jason, who in the lovely song "Best Kept Secret" show that Peter wants to reveal their relationship to the world, while Jason remains uncertain, "bare" also looks sympathetically at the struggles faced by other classmates.

These include Ivy (Kelly Daniells, in a strong performance), a flirtatious, pretty girl who seems confident as she lusts after Jason but reveals her inner anxieties in songs such as "Portrait of a Girl" and "All Grown Up," and Nadia (an excellent Joelle Wirth), Jason's punky younger sister and an outcast at St. Cecilia's who sings about her own problems in the sardonically funny "Plain Jane Fat Ass" and the plaintive "A Quiet Night at Home."

Among the few grown-ups in the cast, Natasha Greer is outstanding as Sister Chantelle, a teacher/nun who is directing "Romeo and Juliet" and provides a sympathetic ear to Peter. Her singing in the Motown- and gospel-infused "911 Emergency!" and "God Don't Make No Trash," respectively, were among the show's highlights. And Maggie Hollinbeck (the company's artistic director) delivers a very sympathetic performance as Peter's mother, who in "Warning" honestly expresses her fears about her son's sexual orientation.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

David Gergen Explains To ABC's Pundits How The World Actually Works

Jeebus, Jake Tapper is SUCH a chump.
Tropical Storm Edouard

Blowing up fast along the Gulf coast.

When I saw the forecasts two days ago, I thought that might be the real thing, but no one else was calling it.
Marin County & S.F. Day Trip

Left: Heading north from San Francisco into Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Left: Seacliff, a headland, and Baker Beach.

Left: The Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Chamberlin, The Presidio.

Left: Taking the electric car out for a Sunday-morning jaunt.

Left: Classic, iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, with San Francisco in the background.

Left: Pretty Marin County valley at the headwaters of Rodeo Lagoon.

Left: Immense guano-covered rock near Rodeo Beach.

While sitting the beach, a family arrived with a dog who promptly pooped on a critical path to the beach. Unprepared to deal with the problem, the dog's owner scrambled over to a pile of debris, looking for a plastic bag to scoop up the waste. Indeed, he found a discarded plastic bag, but the bag was full of - marijuana. So, he took out the weed and handed it over to his cousin, and they had a big laugh. Then the dog's owner cleaned up after his dog, who, by this time, was racing full-tilt along the beach, menacing sea gulls and, in general, having a blast.

Left: A large ship departs San Francisco Bay.
Rules Of A Neurotic Herding Dog

The Challender's Border Collie accepts no excuses:
Once rounded up, humans are not permitted to leave the Gazebo!
Communication Among The Young In The Age Of The Internet

Just as computers have made communication easier than ever today, the social atomization that computers impose has simultaneously rendered people less effective at interpersonal communication than ever. Do today's young people have the necessary skills to cope with the challenge of making themselves understood? What strategies can they employ to share their experiences and insights?

Driving along 19th Street towards the Safeway at 1 a.m. this morning, I nearly struck three pedestrians (Party #1) who were crossing the street. Party #1's slick dress marked them as nightclub aficionados, perhaps rendered insensible by futile efforts at communication upon a deafening dance floor, and thus nearly converted into roadkill.

Turning into the Safeway parking lot, I saw a stochastic scattering of individuals wandering alone across the tarmac - the sad wreckage of Internet victims on yet another Saturday night. There was only one grouping of two people: one fellow had draped his arm around the shoulders of another fellow, and was helping him lurch across the lot. The incapacitated fellow had apparently hit upon the strategy of using ethyl alcohol to break down social barriers, but had stumbled into the trap of overconsumption. So, these two were also victims of the Internet.

By this time, Party #1 had stumbled across the lot and was now hailing another party of three individuals (Party #2) as they stumbled out their parked car. Would these two parties, complete strangers to each other, have the social skills to find common interests?
Party #1: Party? Party?
Party #2: Party.
Party #1: Party?
Party #2: Party.
Party #1: PARTY! PARTY!
Party #2: PARTY! PARTY!
Party #1: (with great emphasis) F*** YEAH!
Martian Drama?

(Via Shakespeare's Sister) This is weird, all this skullduggery. I suspect it's wrong - maybe we merely contaminated the Martian samples? That wouldn't be so hard to do with wet chemistry. But there's no doubt it's a fun mystery!:
The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the "potential for life" on Mars, scientists tell Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars. Rather the data relate to habitability--the "potential" for Mars to support life--at the Phoenix arctic landing site, sources say.

The data are much more complex than results related NASA's July 31 announcement that Phoenix has confirmed the presence of water ice at the site.

...The other data not discussed openly yet are far more "provocative," Phoenix officials say.

In fact, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory science team for the MECA wet-chemistry instrument that made the findings was kept out of a July 31 news conference at the University of Arizona Phoenix control center. The goal was to prevent them from being asked any questions that could reveal information before NASA is ready to make an announcement, sources say.

The Bush Administration's Presidential Science Advisor's office, however, has been briefed on the new information that NASA hopes to release as early as mid August. It is possible an announcement would not come until September, to allow for additional analysis. That will depend upon the latest results still being analyzed from the spacecraft's organic oven and soil chemistry laboratories.

...The key is in the soil and water, and how the two behave together at that site on Mars, not the expected confirmation of water ice at this stage in the mission, Mars investigators told Aviation Week.

The MECA instrument, in its first of four wet chemistry runs a month ago, found soil chemistry that is "Earth-like" and capable of supporting life, researchers said then.

It is intriguing that MECA could have found anything more positive than that, but NASA and the University of Arizona are taking steps to prevent word from leaking out on the nature of the discovery made during MECA's second soil test, in which water from Earth was automatically stirred with Martian soil.