Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fay Update

The forecasts are making microshifts again, this time to the west. NOGAPS brings the storm west of Tampa, so the city is spared (landfall in Biloxi, MS). GFS brings it directly through Tampa.

Currently the strength of the storm looks like it'll be a "small" hurricane (Class 1) when it passes Tampa.

For the last half hour, I've been playing and replaying forecast animations, trying to figure out which scenario makes more sense. I'm thinking the NOGAPS near-miss forecast makes most sense. There is a high pressure system over much of the eastern half of the U.S., which will tend to deflect the storm westwards. In addition there is some indication a small low pressure system will develop over NE N.M. and begin moving across the southern plains, acting as something of a draw, pulling the storm west. In any event, even with this optimistic forecast, the storm will still pass very close to Tampa (reminiscent of Dennis).

Walking Sparky last night in the full moon's white light, I nearly collided with an elderly man coming down from his home's side door to the sidewalk. His purpose seemed obscure - I think it was merely to get a better view of the full moon. Startled by us strangers, the man turned and fled back into his house.

When I first caught glimpse of the elderly man, I thought "Is he - nekked?" But no: dressed in white cotton T-shirt and briefs at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning, he was dressed more for comfort than for style.
Fay's Progress

Forecasts nudged slightly to the east. The GFS model places Fay's closest approach to Tampa at about 50 miles east: the NOGAPS model, on the other hand, says about 50 miles west. Both are closer in timing now, with closest approach to Tampa forecast to be about 5 p.m. Tuesday evening.

The storm won't be all-powerful: it's not an Ivan or Katrina. Still 80 - 90 mph winds may be possible.

The National Hurricane Center compares model predictions here. In general, I prefer NOGAPS western path, because I think these models are being initialized with the tropical storm placed just a bit too far north. But there are still land interactions with Cuba to contend with, and the hurricane's path could jog a bit in response.
"Four Barrel" At The Yolo County Fair

Friday evening, Sally and I went to the Yolo County Fair in Woodland to see the rock band "Four Barrel".

Left: Lead singer Ericka Davis (Ericka's sister Natasha used to go to Sally's ballet school back in the day).

Left: Rockin' out!
Left: Ericka and Timmy.
Left: Ericka and Hector.
Left: Timmy.
Left: Phillip comes out into the audience to play.
Raking Florida's West Coast

The forecasts are now very much in agreement regarding an eastern Gulf of Mexico path for Fay. The NOGAPS model brings Fay uncomfortably close to Tampa - just west of the city - by Tuesday morning. The GFS model brings Fay directly into Tampa by Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. In any event, these forecasts are just too close together for comfort. The storm is just too far south to make the eastern Florida path likely.

Friday, August 15, 2008


So, 92L now has a name!
Forecasts are changing. Currently the NOGAPS model brings "Tropical Storm Fay" just west of Tampa by Tuesday evening, with landfall in the Mobile, AL/Biloxi, MS area by Thursday morning. The GFS model brings Fay directly over Tampa by Tuesday noon, raking the entire west coast of Florida.

I'm still skeptical that, with a trough over the East Coast, Fay will go as far west as the Gulf of Mexico, but it certainly can't be ruled out. Much depends on how far south the storm's path is (south is bad for Tampa). Currently Fay is scraping the southern coast of the Dominican Republic.
Women's Gymnastics

I've paid almost no attention to the Olympics, except for the Opening Ceremony, and a brief glimpse at the Women's Gymnastics team. They looked very healthy and very strong - athletic, for the most part, not balletic. Nevertheless, the balletic one, Nastia Liukin, won the gold, just edging Shawn Johnson:
Johnson and Liukin have been the world's two best gymnasts for two years now, and most expected the teammates would be each other's biggest competition. Johnson came in with all the momentum, winning every matchup with Liukin but one in the last few years.

It was Liukin's grace under pressure, though, that made the difference. It had to, with everything coming down to the very last event, and the last two performers.

"I gave my heart and soul out there today," Johnson said. "Nastia deserved the gold."

Long and lean, Liukin has the elegance and classic lines of her mother, a former world champion in rhythmic gymnastics. While other gymnasts tumble on the floor, their music little more than background noise, Liukin puts on a polished performance. Every wave of her arm and brush of her fingertips oozes emotion, making it easy to forget how tough those tricks in her program really are.
Median Fire

Driving home last night from Davis, there was a bright fire roaring in the median. Hands-not-free, I called 911 from my cell phone, only to be told that the call couldn't be completed. Fortunately, a fire engine from West Sacramento roared past just seconds later (lots of people travel that corridor and they were quicker on the phone to get help).
There Go My Campaign Contributions

Unused film:
Meanwhile, an earlier payment of $14,000 to Edwards' mistress from the candidate's political action committee was exchanged for 100 hours of unused videotape she shot producing short Web movies for which she already had been paid $100,000, an Edwards associate told the AP. Neither Edwards' advisers or this associate would discuss the purpose of the payment on the record.

That payment from Edwards' OneAmerica political action committee, which came after Hunter stopped working for it, came in April 2007, months before Baron quietly began sending money himself to Hunter. Baron has described his payments to Hunter as a private transaction.
The Home Equity Loan Mess

Not that I should talk - I've got one, and so do many other people:
“Live Richly.”

That catchy slogan, dreamed up by the Fallon Worldwide advertising agency, was pitched in 1999 to executives at Citicorp who were looking for a way to lure Americans to financial products like home equity loans. But some in the room did not like it. They worried the phrase would encourage people to live exorbitantly, says Stephen A. Cone, a top Citi marketer at the time.

Still, “Live Richly” won out. The advertising campaign, which cost some $1 billion from 2001 to 2006, urged people to lighten up about money and helped persuade hundreds of thousands of Citi customers to take out home equity loans — that is, to borrow against their homes. As one of the ads proclaimed: “There’s got to be at least $25,000 hidden in your house. We can help you find it.”

Not long ago, such loans, which used to be known as second mortgages, were considered the borrowing of last resort, to be avoided by all but people in dire financial straits. Today, these loans have become universally accepted, their image transformed by ubiquitous ad campaigns from banks.

Since the early 1980s, the value of home equity loans outstanding has ballooned to more than $1 trillion from $1 billion, and nearly a quarter of Americans with first mortgages have them. That explosive growth has been a boon for banks. Banks’ returns on fixed-rate home equity loans and lines of credit, which are the most popular, are 25 percent to 50 percent higher than returns on consumer loans over all, with much of that premium coming from relatively high fees.

However, what has been a highly lucrative business for banks has become a disaster for many borrowers, who are falling behind on their payments at near record levels and could lose their homes.

The portion of people who have home equity lines more than 30 days past due stands 55 percent above its average since the American Bankers Association began tracking it around 1990; delinquencies on home equity loans are 45 percent higher. Hundreds of thousands are delinquent, owing banks more than $10 billion on these loans, often on top of their first mortgages.

None of this would have been possible without a conscious effort by lenders, who have spent billions of dollars in advertising to change the language of home loans and with it Americans’ attitudes toward debt.

“Calling it a ‘second mortgage,’ that’s like hocking your house,” said Pei-Yuan Chia, a former vice chairman at Citicorp who oversaw the bank’s consumer business in the 1980s and 1990s. “But call it ‘equity access,’ and it sounds more innocent.”

Many experts say the ads encouraged Americans to go deeper into debt.

“It’s very difficult for one advertiser to come to you and change your perspective,” said Sendhil Mullainathan, an economist at Harvard who has studied persuasion in financial advertising. “But as it becomes socially acceptable for everyone to accumulate debt, everyone does.” A spokesman for Citigroup said that the bank no longer runs the “Live Richly” campaign and that it no longer works with the advertising agency that created it.

Citi was far from alone with its simple but enticing ad slogans. Ads for banks and their home equity loans often portrayed borrowing against the roof over your head as an act of empowerment and entitlement. An ad in 2002 from Fleet, now a part of Bank of America, asked, “Is your mortgage squeezing your wallet? Squeeze back.” Another Fleet ad said: “The smartest place to borrow? Your place.”

One in 2006 from PNC Bank pictured a wheelbarrow and the line, the “easiest way to haul money out of your house.”

In 2003, one from Citigroup said a home could be “the ticket” to whatever “your heart desires.” It continued: “You’ve put a lot of work into your home. Isn’t it time for your home to return the favor?”

In 2004, Banco Popular said in its “Make Dreams Happen” ads: “Need Cash? Use Your Home.”

“Seize your someday,” a Wells Fargo ad advised in 2007.

...As a result, the United States has become a nation of half-home owners. For the first time since World War II, the portion of home value that Americans own has fallen to less than 50 percent. In the 1980s, that figure was 70 percent.

Bankers defend home equity loans by saying they merely give customers what they want: Easy credit to buy things that they otherwise might not be able to afford. Advertising executives say society’s attitudes about debt shaped the ads, not the other way around.

...Marketing executives knew that “second mortgage” had an unappealing ring. So they seized the idea of “home equity,” with its connotations of ownership and fairness. The phrase was also used for lines of credit, which are sometimes taken out by people who have already paid off their first mortgage.

But in the early 1980s, Americans were not very familiar with the concept of dipping into home equity. Charles Humm, the senior vice president for marketing and sales at Merrill Lynch Credit Corporation, had to go on a road show explaining the idea to potential customers.

He had to change the notion that only people in financial trouble took out a second mortgage, he recalls. Merrill wanted to sell second mortgages to consumers who did not need to borrow money urgently.

“The second mortgage category, then as probably now, suffered from a pretty bad reputation,” he said. “It generally tended to be a credit facility of last resort, and it was done by people in dire straits. That was not the audience we were after.”

The campaign worked. The amount of home equity loans outstanding grew from $1 billion in 1982 to $100 billion in 1988 — in part because a portion of the loans were tax deductible, as the ads often pointed out.

A Bank of New York ad in 1986, for instance, told homeowners who exploited those tax advantages they were “absolutely brilliant.”

An ad from CIT Financial, now struggling, said, “You don’t have to sell your home to get $10,000, $30,000 or even more in cash. You don’t even have to walk out the door.”

Citibank’s home equity ads portrayed housing as a revolving account similar to the plastic card in your wallet. One in the mid-’80s, for example, bragged: “Now, when the value of your home goes up, you can take credit for it.” Citigroup also used equity in its product name, calling the line an “Equity Source Account.”

Advertising historians look back at the ’80s as the time when bank marketing came into its own. Citigroup led the way by hiring away advertising staff from packaged goods companies like General Mills and General Foods, where catchy ads were more common.

“Banking started using consumer advertising techniques more like a department store than like a bank,” said Barbara Lippert, an advertising critic for the magazine Adweek. “It was a real change in direction.”

Banks thought they were in safe territory. A Merrill Lynch executive, Thomas E. Capasse, told The New York Times in 1988 that home equity loans were safe because bankers believed that consumers would spend the money on wise investments and not “pledge the house to buy a blouse.”

Mr. Capasse worked in the bank’s division that was repackaging mortgage loans into bundles of loans to resell to investors, a practice that enabled lenders to make even more loans.

But other executives at Merrill were worried about the explosion of home equity lending. Mr. Humm, the marketing executive in Merrill’s credit division, said he was concerned about ads from other banks that suggested using home equity loans for family vacations, new pools and shopping jaunts.

“We thought it was an inappropriate use,” Mr. Humm said. “We thought it would bring to the equity access category the same kind of reputation over time that had come to the second mortgage category.”

Marketing executives who pushed the easy money slogans of the 1980s and 1990s now say their good intentions went awry.

Mauro Appezzato used to run marketing at The Money Store, now defunct, the lender whose longtime television spokesman was Phil Rizzuto, the former Yankees shortstop and announcer. In 1993, Mr. Appezzato helped come up with the pitch line “less than perfect credit,” a phrase he said was meant to refer to people whose credit was only slightly problematic.

But by the late 1990s, the phrase was co-opted by subprime lenders like Countrywide Financial, Washington Mutual, New Century and Ameriquest.

...Still, Elizabeth Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School who has studied consumer debt and bankruptcy, said that financial companies used advertising to foster the idea that it is good, even smart, to borrow money.

“That ‘unused home equity in your house? Put it to work for you.’ ” Professor Warren said, mimicking the ads. “Doesn’t that sound financially sophisticated?” Not to Professor Warren. “Put it to work,” she said, is just a euphemism for borrowing.
92L, West Of Puerto Rico

Looking at the forecasts, it seems most likely that the storm (currently called 92L) will move up the eastern coast of Florida, and make landfall along the Georgia, North Florida, or South Carolina coast.

The consensus at Florida Hurricane blog also seems to support the storm moving up the east Florida coast.

The NOGAPS model supports the east coast track, but the GFS model supports a track moving directly up the Florida peninsula. The differences likely stem not from model details, but from where the storm is initialized in the models. The NOGAPS model initializes the storm just east of Puerto Rico: the GFS model initializes the storm SW of Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, the storm itself at the instant seems to be just west of Puerto Rico, and trying to split the difference between these two model forecasts.

With a trough over the eastern U.S., there seems no good reason for the storm to go as far west as Tampa..... But we'll see.....

So, it is likely that the storm will menace the Miami area by Tuesday, and make landfall around Jacksonville or points north sometime Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center saith:

ABNT20 KNHC 151142




George Doesn't Know What He Doesn't Know

Making promises he is in no position to keep:
President Bush Wednesday promised that U.S. naval forces would deliver humanitarian aid to war-torn Georgia before his administration had received approval from Turkey, which controls naval access to the Black Sea, or the Pentagon had planned a seaborne operation, U.S. officials said Thursday.

As of late Thursday, Ankara, a NATO ally, hadn't cleared any U.S. naval vessels to steam to Georgia through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, the narrow straits that connect the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, the officials said. Under the 1936 Montreaux Convention, countries must notify Turkey before sending warships through the straits.

Pentagon officials told McClatchy that they were increasingly dubious that any U.S. Navy vessels would join the aid operation, in large part because the U.S.-based hospital ships likely to go, the USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy, would take weeks to arrive.

"The president was writing checks to the Georgians without knowing what he had in the bank," said a senior administration official.

"The president got out in front of the planning when he talked publicly about using naval forces," said a second senior administration official. "At that point we need to look at treaty obligations, our bilateral relations with the Turks and others, waterway restrictions and what kind of ships might be appropriate and usable — something like the Comfort or something already in the Med (Mediterranean)."

The U.S. officials requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly, because the issue is diplomatically sensitive or because the administration takes a dim view of officials who reveal its internal deliberations.

..."We think about Turkey when we realize we need them for something," said Mark Parris of The Brookings Institution, who served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey between 1997 and 2000. "This could very well be a case of that."

Bush on Wednesday said he was launching a "vigorous and ongoing" humanitarian mission in which U.S. military aircraft and ships would bring aid to beleaguered Georgia.

..."The Turks haven't been helpful," said a State Department official. "They are being sluggish and unresponsive."

The Russian invasion of Georgia has almost certainly unnerved Turkey because it has huge energy and trade interests in adjacent Central Asia.

Turkey also may be reluctant to jeopardize the $24 billion in annual trade it does with Russia, which provides around 70 percent of its natural gas supplies. The Turkish Navy also shares the Black Sea with Russia's powerful Black Sea Fleet, which in part has prompted Ankara in recent years to restrict U.S. and NATO naval operations and exercises there.

The current situation echoes the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, when the Bush administration tried to send thousands of U.S. troops into northern Iraq through Turkey — a Muslim nation where most people opposed the war — without first obtaining Ankara's permission.

The Turkish parliament refused to allow the United States to use its territory.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Yolo County, And The Ellys

Bev discusses this year's nominations:
In its first year of participation, Davis' Emerson Junior High School picked up a nomination in the best supporting actress category: Caitlin Glassman, playing Julia in 'Lend Me a Tenor.' Caitlin, who has performed in some 15 to 20 shows with the Davis Musical Theatre Company, was shocked to hear the news.

'I didn't expect it, but I'm very excited,' she said, adding that her character was 'a very over-the-top woman of the opera.'

...Chris Peterson, an independent studies student with an eye on a career in law enforcement, picked up a nomination as leading child actor for the DMTC Young People's Theater production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.'

Chris also was nominated last year, for 'The Emperor's New Clothes.'

'I'm really excited,' he said. 'It's such an honor, but it wouldn't have been possible without every other person involved in the production.'

In addition to Chris' nomination, DMTC picked up eight other nods: Lauren Miller, as best actress in 'My Fair Lady'; Steve Isaacson, for the lighting design in 'The Secret Garden'; and six nominations for 'La Cage aux Folles,' including one for best overall production.

'Jan and I were very proud of 'La Cage aux Folles,' ' Steve Isaacson said. 'It was a great show to work on. It had a wonderful message back in 1984 when it first was produced, and the message is still relevant today.'

Other 'La Cage aux Folles' nominations went to Ryane Adame, as best leading actor in a musical; Nic Candito, for lighting design; Steve Isaacson, for musical direction; Jean Henderson, for costume design; and Ron Cisneros, for choreography.

The Woodland Opera House collected 18 nominations, including one for Amy Vyvlecka, who played the housemaid Toinette in Rodger McDonald's production of 'The Imaginary Invalid.'

McDonald was nominated in the leading actor and director category for the same production.

'It means,' Vyvlecka said, 'that all the running around in that 75-pound costume was worth it!'

Vyvlecka was particular happy to see a Moliere play recognized.

'I'm hopeful that these nominations will give more attention to the works of Moliere,' she said.

McDonald shares Vyvlecka's feelings about the attention paid to 'Imaginary Invalid.'

'Fame never has been a driving force for me, but respect from my peers and those who watch the performance is. A nomination is a recognition from your peers, that what you're contributing is being noticed. The Elly nominations themselves are that recognition.

'Winning isn't an issue for me, because my tastes and those of the judges may be entirely different. So, in my case, the nomination has a bit more weight than the winning.

'That said, no judge, panel or committee weighs more with me than the audience. I believe people were taken aback by how much this old classic, 'Imaginary Invalid,' could entertain them. If I'm any kind of actor or director, that material should have worked; I believe it did. The ultimate respect will be when the audiences want more of that brand of classic theater.'
Theme Music Problems

McCain's campaign, or allied affiliates, can't resist the tunes:
Singer, songwriter, liberal activist and now John McCain scourge Jackson Browne filed a lawsuit today against the presumptive GOP nominee and the Republican Party for failing to obtain a license to use one of his songs in a television commercial.

The song, "Running on Empty," has been used by the Ohio Republican Party (not the McCain campaign) apparently against Browne's approval. The music icon also claims that in doing so, the false perception is created that he is endorsing McCain's candidacy.

If the whole episode strikes a nostalgic tone, it's because famous musical artists and Republican presidential candidates have butted heads in the past. Bruce Springsteen publicly complained when Ronald Reagan used "Born in the U.S.A" during his campaign in 1984.

The commercial Browne is upset by is a recent spot on energy policy that rips Barack Obama for suggesting that the country conserve gas through proper tire inflation.

...This is the second time in a week a celebrity has chastised the McCain camp for allegedly illegally using his or her material. Mike Myers, earlier this week, insisted that the Arizona Republican take down a web ad that -- mocking Obama's celebrity -- used a "we're not worthy" clip from his movie Wayne's World.

Back in July, meanwhile, the Silicon Alley News reported that...

... Warner Music Group (WMG) appears to have demanded that YouTube remove "Obama Love," a montage of press fawning over Sen. Barack Obama that had been posted on Sen. John McCain's official YouTube channel. "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Warner Music Group," says a message on YouTube.

The video, set to Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," had the makings of a rare viral hit for McCain. It had been viewed more than 200,000 times in its first three day on the Web, and helped McCain beat Obama in total views on YouTube over the past week.
What's Good For The Goose...

Is good for the gander. Of course, a lot of this is just the return of the world as it always was - apropos today, the 94th anniversary of the start of World War I:
The run-up to the current chaos in the Caucasus should look quite familiar: Russia acted unilaterally rather than going through the U.N. Security Council. It used massive force against a small, weak adversary. It called for regime change in a country that had defied Moscow. It championed a separatist movement as a way of asserting dominance in a region it coveted.

Indeed, despite George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's howls of outrage at Russian aggression in Georgia and the disputed province of South Ossetia, the Bush administration set a deep precedent for Moscow's actions -- with its own systematic assault on international law over the past seven years. Now, the administration's condemnations of Russia ring hollow.

...An emboldened Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sarcastically likened Russia's actions to Bush's foreign policy. Pointing to the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Putin said, "Of course, Saddam Hussein ought to have been hanged for destroying several Shiite villages ... And the incumbent Georgian leaders who razed 10 Ossetian villages at once, who ran over elderly people and children with tanks, who burned civilians alive in their sheds -- these leaders must be taken under protection."

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Bush officials repeated ad nauseam the mantra that Saddam Hussein had killed his own people. Thus, they helped create a case for unilateral "humanitarian intervention" of the sort Putin says Russia is now pursuing. Washington had failed to get a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a war on Iraq, and Iraq had not attacked the United States, so no principle of self-defense was at stake. But since all governments (even the United States under Abraham Lincoln) repress separatist movements, often ruthlessly, Bush was turning actions such as Saakashvili's attack on South Ossetia into a more legitimate cause for an outside power (especially one bordering it) to wage war against Georgia.

Indeed, Putin's invoking Bush's Iraq adventure points directly to the way in which Bush has enabled other world powers to act impulsively. With his doctrine of preemptive warfare, Bush single-handedly tore down the architecture of post-World War II international law erected by the founders of the United Nations to ensure that rogue states did not go about launching wars of aggression the way Hitler had. While safeguarding minorities at risk is a praiseworthy goal, the U.N. Charter states that the Security Council must approve a war launched for this purpose or any other, excepting self-defense. No individual nation is authorized to wage aggressive war on a vigilante basis, as Bush did in Iraq or Russia is now doing in the Caucasus.

...Bush's recent argument, that a democratically elected government should not be overthrown (no matter what its behavior, apparently), was intended to sidestep comparisons between his own unilateral wars of aggression and ones such as the current Russian intervention. He was implying that his invasion of Iraq toppled a government that lacked the legitimacy enjoyed by Saakashvili's.

In fact, Bush's foreign policy includes a long list of actions intended to undermine elected governments. Whether the United States was actively involved in the attempted coup in 2002 against Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected president of Venezuela, or merely cheered it on, it is clear that Venezuelan popular sovereignty meant nothing to Bush if it resulted in a government unfriendly to and critical of Washington.

An even more egregious example came with the destabilization and overthrow of the Hamas government, which won control of the Palestine Authority in January 2006. Bush insisted on allowing the participation in elections of Hamas, a fundamentalist party with a covert paramilitary that has struck at Israeli targets, including civilians. When the party unexpectedly won, however, Bush refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new government, denying it funds and sympathizing with the Israeli attempt to overthrow it. Israeli security forces kidnapped elected Hamas representatives and cabinet ministers, and harmed civilians by blocking medical aid and food that might go to people via the Hamas government.

...Bush and Cheney also repeatedly sided with military dictator Pervez Musharraf against elected civilian politicians in Pakistan. Even when the Pakistani Parliament, elected in open polls last February, initiated impeachment proceedings against Musharraf earlier this week, the Bush administration came out against the idea of Musharraf's going into exile if convicted, urging that he be allowed to stay "honorably" in Pakistan if he stepped down.

Bush's exceptionalism, whereby he implicitly maintained that no international laws or institutions would be allowed to constrain U.S. actions taken in the name of national security, grew out of the sole superpower status of the United States after fall of the Soviet Union. A unipolar world is, however, an exceedingly rare circumstance in modern world history, and it was unlikely to last very long. China may soon have the economic and technological clout to go toe to toe with the United States; and Russia, fueled by the energy boom, is recovering from its economic disaster of the 1990s.

...In a unipolar world, the Bush doctrine of preemptive war allowed Washington to assert itself without fear of contradiction. The Bush doctrine, however, was never meant to be emulated by others and was therefore implicitly predicated on the notion that all challengers would be weaker than the United States throughout the 21st century. Bush and Cheney are now getting a glimpse of a multipolar world in which other powers can adopt their modus operandi with impunity. Bush's rhetoric may have sounded like that of President Woodrow Wilson, but his policy has often been to support the overthrow or hobbling of elected governments that he does not like -- and that has not gone unnoticed by countries that also count themselves great powers and would not mind following suit.

The problem with international law for a superpower is that it is a constraint on overweening ambition. Its virtue is that it constrains the aggressive ambitions of others. Bush gutted it because he thought the United States would not need it anytime soon. But Russia is now demonstrating that the Bush doctrine can just as easily be the Putin doctrine. And that leaves America less secure in a world of vigilante powers that spout rhetoric about high ideals to justify their unchecked military interventions. It is the world that Bush has helped build.
That Upcoming Florida Tropical Storm

Today, the NOGAPS model suggests this disturbance will turn into a tropical storm, pass through the Florida Keys, and be at Tampa's doorstep by next Wednesday, before heading north for landfall near Pensacola.

On the other hand, the GFS model suggests the tropical storm will head north after passing into the Bahamas, and miss Florida entirely.

We'll see what happens. It's still early yet....
Marc's Beauty Tips: Acne-Fighting Face Soaps

Since age 12, acne has been my bane, and so finding the perfect cleanser has always been a concern.

Since 1975, the perfect face soap has been Pernox. The viscous mix of polyethylene beads and salicylic acid could strip bark off of a tree, and so it was perfect for getting at acne. Pernox was way ahead of its time, and I've used it almost to the present day.

Of course, Pernox had its drawbacks. Peeling skin for one. Plus, it was very expensive. And it smelled like a chemical refinery - just what you needed to impress the ladies. Even Lemon Pernox smelled like a citrusy chemical refinery. But you don't argue with perfection.

Lately, however, Pernox has become increasingly difficult to find in local stores. I suppose I could go on-line and order a case of Pernox, but that might be very expensive indeed.

But not all is dark. Just as Pernox seems to be receding into commercial oblivion, and thirty-five years later after I was first introduced to Pernox, there has been an explosion of new face cleansers using the same general formula: a viscous mix of beads and salicylic acid. But now, there are too many competing products. Which ones are best?

Here is my evaluation of several commercial products:
  • Olay Deep Cleansing Face Wash with Witch Hazel - What the hell is this stuff? It doesn't have either beads or salicylic acid. Grade: F
  • Bioré Pore Unclogging Scrub - The folks missed the boat here. It has 2% salicylic acid (good), but the polyethylene beads are too few, too big, and bright green. It's as if they compensated for the largeness and fewness of the beads by making them represent an aesthetic expression instead. No one really cares how pretty the beads are, however, but whether they are effective. This mixture isn't viscous enough, and the beads are too few to help the slurry out. Grade: C
  • Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Cream Cleanser - No beads, which is unfortunate, but it does have 2% salicylic acid, which is good enough to burn as you apply it. Grade: C+
  • Murad Acne Body Wash - Don't know about this one yet, but it's got 1% salicylic acid and it's very expensive, which I suppose is a good sign if you get what you pay for. [Update] I tried this one out this morning. It's a bit chemicalish and it isn't quite viscous enough. Grade: B-
  • Peter Thomas Roth Blemish Buffing Beads - An excellent product. It's got polyethylene beads and 1% salicylic acid, and it's bright yellow, like Lemon Pernox, but it smells infinitely better. The only trouble with it is that it isn't quite viscous enough and it's very expensive. Grade: A-
  • St. Ives Apricot Scrub - Lately people have become concerned about the environmental fate of polyethylene beads in face soaps. The non-biodegradable beads enter ocean sediments, where they can potentially cause problems for mollusks and other bottom-dwellers. Ground apricot pit evades this problem, because it's biodegradable. Nevertheless, this particular face scrub doesn't have enough of the apricot pit. You see, after using a good acne face soap, you should look like you got into a serious fight with an out-of-control belt sander, and lost. These guys are just too timid. Grade: C-
  • Target Facial Scrub - Instead of using peach pit like the St. Ives people, these copycat folks use ground walnut shells (probably cheaper, for all I know), so they are environmentally A-OK. They use 2% salicylic acid, for that special acne-attacking burn, in a very, very viscous paste, which, when water is added, is of the perfect consistency. And because it's Target, it's cheap. Grade: A+

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Perps Walk

No justice in this Administration:
Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey said Tuesday that the Justice Department had no plans to bring criminal charges in connection with hiring abuses that took place under his predecessor, Alberto R. Gonzales.

Mukasey said the findings in two recent reports by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine -- that a group of influential Gonzales aides considered politics and ideology in hiring career employees and summer interns -- were "disturbing."

The aides violated civil service laws and department regulations, Mukasey said, but they did not commit crimes that could send them to jail.

"Where there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing, we vigorously investigate it. And where there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we vigorously prosecute," Mukasey said in a speech to the American Bar Assn. in New York. "But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime."

The decision not to prosecute means that some of the best-known figures in the scandal -- such as Monica M. Goodling, a lawyer and public affairs officer who became a powerful gatekeeper in the department under Gonzales -- will likely emerge relatively unscathed.

In a report last month, Goodling and Gonzales' former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, were found to have violated department regulations and civil service laws by considering political views and other factors in deciding whether to recommend hiring immigration judges and other career employees.

Michael J. Elston, a top aide to then-Deputy Atty. Gen. Paul J. McNulty, was faulted in an earlier report for politicizing the hiring of summer interns and attorneys for the department's honors program.

Violation of federal civil service laws can, in the most extreme cases, lead to dismissal from the government. But since Goodling, Sampson and Elston left the Justice Department last year, they can no longer be sanctioned.

...Some critics had suggested that the department go a step further and fire or reassign employees hired through the flawed process. Mukasey said he would not do that.

"The people hired in an improper way did not, themselves, do anything wrong," he told the lawyers' group. Taking action against them, he said, "would be unfair and quite possibly illegal."
Hallowed Privacy

Logically correct as ever, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski protests that his cabin is on public display:
Imprisoned Unabomber Ted Kaczynski is upset that his former Montana cabin is on display at a Washington, D.C. museum, contending that the FBI's decision to allow its "public exhibition" runs counter to his victims's desire to limit further publicity about the deadly terror spree.
Checking In With The "War Nerd"

Well, here's an interesting fellow! (He lives not far away, in Fresno.)

So, things been busy lately?:
This is the war of my dreams—both sides using air forces! How often do you see that these days?—so I’ll skip the history. ... The Georgians have always been fierce people, good fighters, not the forgiving type. In fact, I can’t resist a little bit of history here: remember when the Mongols wiped out Baghdad in 1258, the biggest slaughter in any of their conquests? Nobody knows how many people were killed, but it was at least 200,000—a pretty big number in the days before antibiotics made life cheap. The smell was so bad the Mongols had to move their camp upwind. Well, the most enthusiastic choppers and burners in the whole massacre were the Georgian Christian troops in Hulagu Khan’s army. Wore out their hacking arms on those Baghdadi civilians.

... The Georgians bided their time, then went on the offensive, Caucasian style, by pretending to make peace and all the time planning a sneak attack on South Ossetia. They just signed a treaty granting autonomy to South Ossetia this week, and then they attacked, Corleone style. Georgian MLRS units barraged Tskhinvali, the capital city of South Ossetia; Georgian troops swarmed over Ossetian roadblocks; and all in all, it was a great, whiz-bang start, but like Petraeus asked about Iraq way back in 2003, what’s the ending to this story? As in: how do you invade territory that the Russians have staked out for protection without thinking about how they’ll react?

Saakashvili just didn’t think it through. One reason he overplayed his hand is that he got lucky the last time he had to deal with a breakaway region: Ajara, a tiny little strip of Black Sea coast in southern Georgia. This is a place smaller than some incorporated Central Valley towns, but it declared itself an “autonomous” republic, preserving its sacred basket-weaving traditions or whatever. You just have to accept that people in the Caucasus are insane that way; they’d die to keep from saying hello to the people over the next hill, and they’re never going to change. The Ajarans aren’t even ethnically different from Georgians; they’re Georgian too. But they’re Muslims, which means they have to have their own Lego parliament and Tonka-Toy army and all the rest of that Victorian crap, and their leader, a wack job named Abashidze (Goddamn Georgian names!) volunteered them to fight to the death for their worthless independence. Except he was such a nut, and so corrupt, and the Ajarans were so similar to the Georgians, and their little “country” was so tiny and ridiculous, that for once sanity prevailed and the Ajarans refused to fight, let themselves get reabsorbed by that Colussus to the North, mighty Georgia.

Well, like I’ve said before, there’s nothing as dangerous as victory. Makes people crazy. Saakashvili started thinking he could gobble up any secessionist region—like, say, South Ossetia. But there are big differences he was forgetting—like the fact that South Ossetia isn’t Georgian, has a border with Russia, and is linked up with North Ossetia just across that border. The road from Russia to South Ossetia is pretty fragile as a line of supply; it goes through the Roki Tunnel, a mountain tunnel at an altitude of 10,000 feet. I have to wonder why the Georgian air force—and it’s a good one by all accounts—didn’t have as its first mission in the war the total zapping of the South Ossetian exit of that tunnel. Or if you don’t trust the flyboys, send in your special forces with a few backpacks full of HE. There are a lot of ways to cripple a tunnel. Hell, do it low-tech: drive a fuel truck in there, with a car following, jackknife the truck halfway through with a remote control or timing fuse—truck driver gets out and strolls to the car, one fast U-turn and you’re out and back in Georgia, just in time to see a ball of flame erupt from the tunnel exit. And rebuilding a tunnel way up in the mountains is not an easy or a fast job. Sure, the Russians could resupply by air, but that’s a much, much tougher job and would at least slow down the inevitable. Weird, then, that as far as I know the Georgians didn’t even try to blast that tunnel....

Most likely the Georgians just thought the Russians wouldn’t react. They were doing something they learned from Bush and Cheney: sticking to best-case scenarios, positive thinking. The Georgian plan was classic shock’n’awe with no hard, grown-up thinking about the long term. Their shiny new army would go in, zap the South Ossetians while they were on a peace hangover (the worst kind), and then…uh, they’d be welcomed as liberators? Sure, just like we were in Iraq. Man, you pay a price for believing in Bush. The Georgians did. They thought he’d help. And I just saw the little creep on TV, sitting in the stands watching the US-China basketball game. (Weird game—the Chinese were taller, muscled the boards inside but couldn’t shoot from outside. Not what you expect from foreign b-ball teams at all.) I didn’t even recognize Bush at first, just wondered why they kept doing close-ups of this guy who looked like Hank Hill’s legless dad up in the stands. Then they said it was the Prez. They talk about people “growing in office”; well, he shrunk.

And the more he shrinks, the more you pay for believing in him. The Georgians were naïve because they were so happy to get out from the Soviets, the Russians’ old enemy, the US, must be paradise. So they did their apple-polishing best to be the perfect obedient little ally. Then we’d let them into NATO and carpet-bomb them with SUVs and ipods.

Their part of the deal was simple: they sent troops to Iraq. First a contingent of 850, then a surprisingly huge 2000 men. When you consider the population of Georgia is less than five million, that’s a lot of troops. In fact, Georgia is the third-biggest contributor to the “Coalition of the Willing,” after the US and Britain.

...We’ve already done plenty, not because we love Georgians but to counterbalance the Russian influence down where the new oil pipeline’s staked out. The biggest American aid project was the GTEP, “Georgia Train and Equip” project ($64 million). It featured 200 Special Forces instructors teaching fine Georgia boys all the lessons the US Army’s learned recently. Now here’s the joke—and military history is just one long series of mean jokes. We were stressing counterinsurgency skills: small-unit cohesion, marksmanship, intelligence. The idea was to keep Georgia safe from Chechens or other Muslim loonies infiltrating through the Pankisi Gorge in NE Georgia. And we did a good job. The Georgian Army pacified the Pankisi in classic Green-Beret style. The punch line is, the Georgians got so cocky from that success, and from their lovefest with the Bushies in DC, that they thought they could take on anybody. What they’re in the process of finding out is that a light-infantry CI force like the one we gave them isn’t much use when a gigantic Russian armored force has just rolled across your border.

...The quickest way to see who’s winning in any war is to see who asks first for a ceasefire. And this time it was the Georgians. Once it was clear the Russians were going to back the South Ossetians, the war was over. Even Georgians were saying, “To fight Russia by ourselves is insane.” Which means they thought Russia wouldn’t back its allies. Not a bad bet; Russia has a long, unpredictable history of screwing its allies—but not all the time. The Georgians should know better than anybody that once in a while, the Russians actually come through, because it was Russian troops who saved Georgia from a Persian invasion in 1805, at the battle of Zagam. Of course the Russians had let the Persians sack Tbilisi just ten years earlier without helping. That’s the thing: the bastards are unpredictable. You can’t even count on them to betray their friends (though it’s the safer bet, most of the time, sort of like 6:5 odds).

This time, the Russians came through. For lots of reasons, starting with the fact that Bush is weak and they know it; that the US is all tied up in that crap Iraq war and can’t do shit; and most of all, because Kosovo just declared independence from Serbia, an old Russian ally. It’s tit for tat time, with Kosovo as the tit and South Ossetia as the tat. The way Putin sees it, if we can mess with his allies and let little ethnic enclaves like Kosovo declare independence, then the Russians can do the same with our allies, especially naïve idiotic allies like Georgia.

Luckily, South Ossetia doesn’t matter that much. I’m just being honest here. In a year nobody will care much who runs that little glob of territory. What’s more serious is that another, bigger and more strategic chunk of Georgia called Abkhazia, on the Black Sea, is taking the opportunity to boot out the last Georgian troops on its territory. Georgia may lose almost all its coastline, but then the Georgians were always an inland people anyway, living along river valleys, not great sailors.

What’s happening to Georgia here is like the teeny-tiny version of Germany in the twentieth century: overplay your hand and you lose everything. So if you’re a Georgian nationalist, this war is a tragedy; if you’re a Russian or Ossetian nationalist, it’s a triumph, a victory for justice, whatever. To the rest of us, it’s just kind of fun to watch. And damn, this one has been a LOT of fun! The videos that came out of it! You know, DVD is the best thing to happen to war in a long time. All the fun, none of the screaming agony—it’s war as Diet Coke.

See, this is the war that I used to see in the paintings commissioned by Defense contractors in Aviation Week and AFJ: a war between two conventional armies, both using air forces and armored columns, in pine-forested terrain. That was what those pictures showed every time, with a highlighted closeup of the weapon they were selling homing in on a Warsaw Pact convoy coming through a German pine forest. Of course, a real NATO/Warsaw Pact war would never, ever have happened that way. It would have gone nuclear in an hour or less, which both sides knew, which is why it never happened. So all that beautiful weaponry was kind of a farce, if it was only going to be used in the Fulda Gap. But damn, God is good, because here it all is, in the same kind of terrain, all your favorite old images: Russian-made tanks burning, a Soviet-model fighter-bomber falling from the sky in pieces, troops in Russian camo fighting other troops, also in Russian camo, in a skirmish by some dilapidated country shack.

No racial overtones to get bummed out by—everybody on both sides is white! And white from places you don’t know or care about!

The fretting and fussing and sky-is-falling crap about this war is going to die down fast, and the bottom line will be simple: the Georgians overplayed their hand and got slapped, and we caught a little of the follow-through, which is what happens when you waste your best troops—and Georgia’s, for that matter—on a dumb war in the wrong place. We detached Kosovo from a Russian ally; they detached South Ossetia from an American ally. It’s a pawn exchange, if that. If it signals anything bigger, it’s the fact that the US is weaker than it was ten years ago and Russia is much, much stronger than it was in Yeltsin’s time. But anybody with sense knew all that already.

What will last is those beautiful videos, like some NATO-era dream, like God giving me one last chance to see the weapons I spent my twenties dreaming about in action. Even the wounded-civilian videos are interesting because a lot of the wounded are fat and old, which you didn’t see much in classic Korean or Normandy or Nam footage.

We’re the new normal, but damn, we sure are ugly casualties. Skinny people just look better sitting in rubble with bloody faces, I can’t lie.

As the war fades out—and it will; countries don’t fight to the death these days—there’ll be time to see how the various weapons systems played. I’m especially interested to see how well the Georgian air defense missiles, some very good recent Russian models, worked. But there’s plenty of time to debrief later. For now, just go to LiveLeak or YouTube (LiveLeak has better stuff right now) and enjoy yourself. This is when us war nerds get all the free porn we can handle. Call in sick, take your comp time, whatever—just don’t miss those videos.

Headbanging Parrot

Parrots rule!
Lightning, Slow-Motion

You can see the stepped-leaders pop on down, and travel in all directions through the air, until just one actually hits ground and becomes the lightning "bolt".
Effect Of An Early Edwards Scandal

These annoying Hillary people get so overwrought. If John Edwards had had his scandal before the Iowa primary, Obama would have benefitted, not Clinton:
Wolfson, in yet another sign that some Clinton acolytes are having difficulty letting go of the past, caused a stir by telling ABC News that his boss would have captured the Democratic nod had Edwards been forced to the sidelines before the Iowa caucuses in early January.

"I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee," the often pugnacious Wolfson said.

Au contraire, argues David Redlawsk -- head of the University of Iowa's Hawkeye Poll and, in the walk-up to the caucuses, himself an Edwards backer.

An e-mail sent today by the school's news service says that polling on caucus night supervised by Redlawsk indicated "that the absence of Edwards would have helped (Barack) Obama."

The survey, which quizzed a randomly selected caucus participant in every Iowa precinct, asked the voters about their second-choice preferences. Among the 82% of Edwards supporters willing to back someone else, 51% named Obama as their next choice, 32% picked Clinton.

Wolfson's claim "that two-thirds of Edwards supporters would have supported Clinton is just not supported in data collected directly from those who actually participated in the caucuses," Redlawsk says in the e-mail. "Had Edwards not been running, and if nothing else had changed, my data suggest that Obama would have ended up even further ahead of Clinton than he was."
Accident Or Coincidence?

The giant kangaroo died out on Tasmania just after people arrived there:
The chance discovery of the remains of a prehistoric giant kangaroo has cast doubts on the long-held view that climate change drove it and other mega-fauna to extinction, a new study reveals.

The research, published this week in the US-based journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argues that man likely hunted to death the giant kangaroo and other very large animals on the southern island of Tasmania.

The debate centres on the skull of a giant kangaroo found in a cave in the thick rainforest of the rugged northwest of Tasmania in 2000.

Scientists dated the find at 41,000 years old, some 2,000 years after humans first began to live in the area.

"Up until now, people thought that the Tasmanian mega-fauna had actually gone extinct before people arrived on the island," a member of the British and Australian study, Professor Richard Roberts, told AFP Tuesday.

He said that it was likely that hunting killed off Tasmania's mega-fauna -- including the long-muzzled, 120 kilogram (264 pound) giant kangaroo, a rhinoceros-sized wombat and marsupial 'lions' which resembled leopards.

...Roberts said because the large animals were slow breeders, it would not have required an aggressive campaign to see them quickly die out.

"A lot of people still have in their minds an axe-wielding, spear-wielding people, bloodthirsty, out there slaughtering all over the place -- it wasn't like that at all," he said.

"It was basically just one joey (baby kangaroo) in the pot for Christmas. And that's all you've got to go to do to drive slow-breeding species to extinction."

...The finding of the latest study has already been contested, with Judith Field of the University of Sydney saying the idea that humans killed the giant creatures was "in the realms of speculative fantasy".

"Humans cannot even be placed at the scene," she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Senator Pat Wiggins Wigs Out

Ah, civility, the last, golden frontier in the Golden State:
In this clip, CA State Senator Pat Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) can be heard (but not seen) cussing out a Sacramento-area Methodist Pastor during a special August 6, 2008, committee hearing on global warming. Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) quickly chimes in after.
Georgian War Beginning To Wind Down

Russia wins, and prepares to slap the Georgians around in peace talks. Kevin Drum comments:
This is an unsurprising end to the conflict. Russia doesn't want to annex Georgia, which would be a festering sore forever, and certainly their conventional forces don't have the wherewithal to "reassemble the Russian empire," as some of the more breathless commentators on the right have suggested. Rather, this was a demonstration war. In the same way that Thomas Friedman suggested that the real reason for the Iraq war was to send a message ("Suck. On. This."), that was pretty much the reason for this war too. Russia may not want to occupy Georgia or Ukraine or any of the rest of its Near Abroad, but Georgia is going to pay a heavy price for messing with Vladimir Putin — thousands dead, two provinces gone, their military smashed, all capped off by a humiliating peace agreement — and that's mission accomplished as far as he's concerned.
Complex Indeed

An ill wind blows:
A GIANT inflatable dog turd by American artist Paul McCarthy blew away from an exhibition in the garden of a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a window before it landed again.

The art work, titled Complex Shit, is the size of a house.

The wind carried it 200m from the Paul Klee Centre in Berne before it fell back to Earth in the grounds of a children's home, said museum director Juri Steiner.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The World's Oldest Celebrity

Just A Geopolitical Reminder

If Georgia had become a member of NATO, as so many in the Bush Administration still want, then we would be at war with Russia today.

Oh yes, Russia does possess nuclear weapons, in case you have forgotten.

Trying to make NATO an elastic fit-all alliance for every purpose in Eastern Europe, including a vehicle for aggressive intentions towards Russia along its southern boundary, may make it difficult for NATO to fulfill its primary mission, the defense of Western Europe. It's time to remember why NATO was created, and what it can, and can't, do:
Georgia began an offensive to regain control over South Ossetia late Thursday with heavy shelling and air strikes that ravaged South Ossetia's provincial capital of Tskhinvali.

The Russia response was swift and overpowering—thousands of troops that shelled the Georgians until they fled Tskhinvali on Sunday, and four days of bombing raids across Georgia.

Yet Georgia's pledge of a cease-fire rang hollow Monday. An AP reporter saw a small group of Georgian fighters open fire on a column of Russian and Ossetian military vehicles outside Tskhinvali, triggering a 30-minute battle. The Russians later said all the Georgians were killed.

Another AP reporter was in the village of Tkviavi, 7 1/2 miles south of Tskhinvali inside Georgia, when a bomb from a Russian Sukhoi warplane struck a house. The walls of neighboring buildings fell as screaming residents ran for cover. Eighteen people were wounded.

Georgian artillery fire was heard coming from fields about 200 yards away from the village, perhaps the bomber's target.

Hundreds of Georgian troops headed north Monday along the road toward Tskhinvali, pocked with tank regiments creeping up the highway into South Ossetia. Hundreds of other soldiers traveled via trucks in the opposite direction, towing light artillery weapons.

President Bush and other Western leaders have sharply criticized Russia's military response as disproportionate and say Russia appears to want the Georgian government overthrown. They have also complained that Russian warplanes—buzzing over Georgia since Friday—have bombed Georgian oil sites and factories far from the conflict zone.

The world's seven largest economic powers urged Russia to accept an immediate cease-fire Monday and agree to international mediation. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her colleagues from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations spoke by telephone and pledged their support for a negotiated solution to the conflict.

"I've expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn the bombing outside of South Ossetia," Bush told NBC Sports.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized the United States for viewing Georgia as the victim, instead of the aggressor, and for airlifting Georgian troops back home from Iraq on Sunday.

"Of course, Saddam Hussein ought to have been hanged for destroying several Shiite villages," Putin said in Moscow. "And the incumbent Georgian leaders who razed ten Ossetian villages at once, who ran elderly people and children with tanks, who burned civilian alive in their sheds—these leaders must be taken under protection."

The U.S. military was flying Georgian troops back home from Iraq and informed the Russians about the flights ahead of time to avoid mishaps, said one military official said Monday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the subject on the record.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday morning that U.S. officials expect to have all Georgian troops out of Iraq by the end of the day.

Pentagon officials said Monday that U.S. military was assessing the fighting every day to determine whether U.S. trainers should be pulled out of the country.

The approximately 130 trainers, including a few dozen civilians, had been scattered at a number of sites to work with local units, but officials were working over the weekend to consolidate them in one reasonably safe location, two officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk about the subject on the record. Pentagon officials said Monday that all of members of the American groups had been accounted for.

Saakashvili signed a cease-fire pledge Monday proposed by the French and Finnish foreign ministers. The EU envoys headed to Moscow to try to persuade Russia to accept it.

Saakashvili, however, voiced concern that Russia's true goal was to undermine his pro-Western government. "It's all about the independence and democracy of Georgia," he said.

Saakashvili said Russia has sent 20,000 troops and 500 tanks into Georgia. He said Russian warplanes were bombing roads and bridges, destroying radar systems and targeting Tbilisi's civilian airport. One Russian bombing raid struck the Tbilisi airport area only a half-hour before the EU envoys arrived, he said.

Another hit near key Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which carries Caspian crude to the West. No supply interruptions have been reported.
"Let's Go!" - Garbeau's Dinner Theatre

Left: Keith Turk.

I was very impressed the way Keith did a flip. He said he hadn't planned on doing one, but his original Plan A had to be abandoned because of a difficulty with his shoe, and so the flip was Plan B. I'm very impressed with anyone who can fall back on flips as a stop-gap!

Wonderful hand-clapping, foot-stomping hi-NRG show over at Garbeau's!

Many of the best dancers in the Sacramento area are in this music revue. Excellent singers as well.

Joe Parente (who is also in my Step Aerobics class) composed several new songs (arranged by Jim Jordan, the Musical Director). Several people contributed to choreography, including Ana Maria Shexnayder (who is hotter than Venus - Wait! She IS Venus!)

Today in Step Aerobics class, Pepper Von intimated that the show is getting a bigger buzz than he expected. According to him, several agents from LA, Las Vegas, (and did I understand Miami?) have either come to see the show, or heard about it, with a thought to picking it up. (I was going to tell Pepper that the show would look completely different with Celine Dion in it, however.)

To rev up excitement, the audience was encouraged to cheer on either the dancing or the singing teams, but in this show, it was a friendly competition, with no losers, and many crossing over the line between teams. (Nevertheless, the team concept reminded me of Riverdance, with its good Irish step-dancers, and the opposing dark step-dancing compatriots, ultimately resolved by Michael Flatley's blistering hot feet.)

Several people excelled:
  • Misty Barker - Marvelous, with her hip-hop moves;
  • Cory Betts - Excellent dancer, of recent RCTC vintage, but going places;
  • Kingi Brown - Young singer from Bret Harte Elementary (a Curtis Park school, which must mean he lives near my house);
  • Hannah Collins - What a fierce dancer! She is a familiar face at Step One, and in companies like Pulse;
  • Carla Fleming - She was recently in one of my step classes. What a voice!;
  • Laura Lothian - Recently she was "Val" in Magic Circle's "A Chorus Line";
  • Gabrielle Perez - Pepper was so proud - "She's my daughter!" And she commands attention on stage!;
  • Elaine Lenae Douglas -Wonderful gospel voice!
  • Tyler Drewitz - Good dancer!

Left: Shantá Robinson. Shantá has been cast in Garbeau's upcoming "Little Shop of Horrors". Shantá was so small that Keith could lift her with seeming ease, making them both one power dance couple.

Left: Rashad ("Q") Grisby, with yours truly. Rashad was brimming with strength and confidence in today's show.

Left: Cory Betts. Cory is currently enrolled in Sacramento Ballet's Educational Program, and, at age 17, is already a great dancer.

Left: Crystal Barrett, Pepper Von, and Mark Ferreira. Crystal was a featured singer in many of the segments of this musical revue, particularly in the Country Medley. Pepper Von created and directed the show. Mark Ferreira is Garbeau's CEO.

Mark wants to encourage Sacramento's live theater community with a civility campaign. Mark is concerned whenever people inadvertently (or otherwise) trash other theater companies. He points out that all live theaters benefit when any one theater benefits from presenting live shows.

I replied that, as an example, that people sometimes assume companies like DMTC and RSP are engaged in a competition for talent and attention, when, in fact, both companies work closely together towards the mutual goal of expanding audiences and giving deserving performers opportunities to take the stage that they might otherwise not get. No one can trash DMTC without also trashing RSP, and vice-versa.

I think we can all get behind and support Mark's kind-words campaign!
Elly Nominations Out

Runaway Stage gets several for best overall production, but, interestingly, so does DMTC's "La Cage Aux Folles"....

Time to break out the lipstick....
For musicals, three productions by Runaway Stage received nominations for best overall show – "All Shook Up," "Cabaret" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" – with Bob Baxter receiving best director nominations for all three and Joshua James nabbing best actor nominations for "All Shook Up" and "Cabaret." The other nominations for best overall production were for Davis Musical Theatre Company's "La Cage Aux Folles" and Solano College Theatre's "A Year With Frog and Toad."
The complete nomination list is located here.
Florida Warning

Something for my Florida friends:
The “Broad Area” mentioned below may head towards Florida. It’s still a number of days away from landfall, and I’d guess it would affect Florida’s east coast, not its west. But with several storms already the season, it’s inevitable that one would eventually head towards Florida. The early forecasts suggest a tropical storm, not a hurricane, but these forecasts are too distant in time to be reliable. So keep an eye open!
ABNT20 KNHC 110548
200 AM EDT MON AUG 11 2008






Sunday, August 10, 2008

Exhibit A: Google=Stoopid?

As previously noted, Google doesn't make us stoopid, but stoopid does make us Google.....
The Gravitas Gap

Vladimir Putin orders armed forces into action while The Decider decides no grab ass today.
Farewell Party At DMTC

Left: Jonathan Cagle-Mulberg, Joshua Smith, and Caitlin Kiley.

Three of DMTC's stalwart actors this season are heading off to college, so about 30 of us had a party for them at DMTC Saturday night, featuring video outtakes from their performances over the last three seasons.

Jonathan Cagle-Mulberg is heading to Johns Hopkins University in the D.C. area, for graduate-level studies in Government. Joshua Smith is headed to AMDA in the Hollywood area to study voice & theater. Caitlin Kiley is headed to the University of Arizona in Tucson (Go Wildcats!) to study musical theatre.

The best to them all!

After the party several of us sat around and idly speculated who, if anyone, at DMTC might get Elly nominations this coming Sunday night. Then we speculated who at other theaters might get Elly nominations. It was a fun game. I'd tell you what we thought, but then I'd have to kill you.....

Left: The celebrants hurriedly put icing squiggles on the ice-cream cake before eagerly devouring the slab of dessert fun.