Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rick Wartzman Discusses "Obscene In The Extreme - The Burning And Banning Of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes Of Wrath'"

Friday night, I decided it was time to purchase a New Zealand guidebook, so I stopped by Arthur's workplace, The Avid Reader, at 16th & Broadway, in Sacramento. It turned out The Avid Reader that very night was hosting a talk by Rick Wartzman regarding his new book, "Obscene In The Extreme", which discusses strenuous efforts in 1939, particularly in Kern County, California, epicenter of corporate agriculture's violent response to farm labor agitation, to ban John Steinbeck's new and controversial book, "The Grapes Of Wrath".

As the U.S. currently seems to be descending into an glitzier version of the 1930's, the subject of labor unrest is increasingly apropos.

Rick Wartzman is the co-author of another book about Central Valley agricultural history, "The King Of California", a book I already have in my library (but still haven't read).

Wartzman investigates the book-banning efforts afoot in 1939, but I got the impression those efforts were haphazard at best - America was hardly as efficient as fascist Germany. Wartzman's real interest, however, was not the book-banning efforts per se, but in probing the papers, and thus entering the minds, of several prominent farmers who spearheaded the book-banning efforts. It is easy to feel sympathy for the luckless Okies migrating west from the Dust Bowl to try and find a new life in the California fields. It is harder, but not impossible, to sympathize with the major growers, who viewed the Okies with suspicion and openly fought labor agitation. How did these Masters-of-the Universe think? What did they fear? Why did they do what they did? And how did they ultimately succeed in making the Okies just as conservative as they were, if not more so?

At the end of the talk, I asked an eccentric question. There is a scene towards the end of "The Grapes Of Wrath" where Tom Joad's brother-in-law declares his intent to study radio repair through a correspondence course. The hopelessness permeating the book towards the end is so thick that, to me, John Steinbeck is expressing a real skepticism about the value of education - a surprising attitude from a writer.

Wartzman replied that it was an interesting question, but he was sure Steinbeck had nothing against people pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps, and that he didn't read the passage the same way I did. Guess I'll have to read this passage again, to see if I was reading more into the passage than Steinbeck put there - perhaps my own skepticism about the value of education!

Wartzman signed the book and I went to the counter to purchase it. All this time, Arthur had quietly been going about various quotidian tasks required to run a bookstore - opening boxes and placing new magazines on the shelves, taking note which magazines were already depleted, placing orders for new books, and serving customers. Invigorated by the talk, I was tempted to encourage Arthur to rebel against his management - unionize, strike, get the wage he deserved: "Si se puede!" - but Arthur looked so absorbed by his work that I decided it might be a little too disruptive to rebel at the instant, so I quietly made my purchase and left.
Alan Axelrod's "Profiles In Folly"

I like nothing better than delving into the rich trove of History's Lessons and trying to learn lessons from the past. Alan Axelrod's book, "Profiles In Folly", contains 35 vignettes, divided into six "Decisions".

The Decision to:
  • Gamble and Hope (featuring Custer at the Little Bighorn; the Titanic, and the Space Shuttle);
  • Manipulate (featuring Watergate and Dick Cheney's Iraq War);
  • Leap Without Looking (featuring the War of 1812 and King George's American Revolution);
  • Retreat (featuring Neville Chamberlain's Munich Agreement, and Dred Scott);
  • Destroy (featuring the Alamo and WWI's Poison Gas);
  • and Drift (featuring Vietnam, Iraq, Secession, and Hurricane Katrina).
These kinds of books are the mental equivalent of snack food, because History is almost infinitely variable and it's just hard to abstract the proper lessons from it. Much depends on the author's maturity of judgment, political viewpoint, and choice of subject material.

Some subjects aren't treated in sufficient detail to be terribly interesting or useful. Watergate, Ken Lay's Enron, and the British difficulties with Gandhi were just written to be a little too abstract to be interesting.

Nevertheless, some subjects were fascinating. The most interesting article (mostly because I had never heard about this before) concerned Edward Bernays and his public-relations campaign to recruit women cigarette smokers, featuring his masterful manipulation of New York City's 1929 Easter Parade to make feminine smoking seem liberating, and thus highly desirable. Cigarettes were called 'torches of freedom'! What a great image! First as a trickle, then, after the Easter Parade success, a tide, millions and millions of women succumbed to the campaign.

When the Surgeon General's report condemning smoking as cancer-causing came out in 1964, Bernays changed course and tried to use some of the very same public-relations methods to make feminine smoking seem uncool and thus something to be avoided. Unfortunately, nicotine addiction had sealed the fate of women cigarette smokers. Amazing how much like clay Bernays seemed to think people in general, and American women in particular, were in the face of propaganda and advertising! Perhaps he was right!

I like how George Bush gets his lumps in this book. That's OK: History has many lessons for everyone. Others of a more-conservative bent are likely to find Axelrod's stealth liberal agenda to be annoying, like this conservative blogger does:
He cites Alfred P. Sloan's concept of "planned obsolescence" as a "folly" (and was he really its inventor? The wiki article mentions him, but not as the orginator of the idea). Sloan's idea was to upgrade the look of a car every year and make major stylistic changes every three years, in hopes that customers would want to have the latest and greatest even if they didn't actually need a new car. It worked, too, for many decades. By the end of the essay, Axelrod has blamed the 1980's decline of the US automobile manufacturers on Sloan's 1932 publication. He notes that in 2007 Toyota sold more vehicles than General Motors, as if this was the direct result of Sloan's planned obsolescence. I'm not expert on the finances and marketing of American versus Japanese cars, but I'm guessing it's just a tad more complicated than that.

By the time Axelrod slides into home plate with a criticism of Bush's handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the pattern is clear: all of the "folly" Axelrod points to involves some lesson we are supposed to learn and apply as we move forward. History is rarely like that, however. As everyone who attempted to frame the War on Terror as the Peloponnesian war – with the US cast as the mighty democratic Athens and the Iraqis or the Afghanis cast as the wily and tenacious Spartans – found out, history has a way of twisting around on you. Things that might seem the same on the surface become completely different when you dive below the surface.

What Axelrod was really trying to do here is make liberals feel good about themselves. While a number of his essays are about politically neutral incidents (eg, replacing Coke with New Coke), a number of them are politically charged and, in every instance, the "lesson" is that the conservatives (or politically incorrect, as in the case of Sloan) were wrong.

Even when he takes Kennedy to task for the Bay of Pigs, his criticism is for Kennedy letting the CIA take over and run the operation. Kennedy gets off with an "oh, well, at least he learned his lesson" type of paragraph. In the essay taking Johnson to task for the response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, he has to first spend a few pages castigating Bush over the war in Iraq (and he never gets around to criticizing Johnson directly, only the general government response to the incident).

So, I admit there is some history in the book. It's overshadowed, however, by all of the liberal claptrap. I don't mind it when historians have opinions, even political opinions, as long as they are up-front and honest about them and, for my money, Axelrod is not.
Like I say, Axelrod's book is mental candy, but I must admit to having a sweet tooth!
Mumblecore Grows Up

Or some some-such concept that I don't understand, because I don't watch enough Mumblecore, and so didn't realize it wasn't grown up already.

All I care about is Sacramento's Greta Gerwig gets a high-profile mention!
The Concept Eludes Me

There is a series of fine photos, posted here, from Sacramento's CORE Dance Collective, that were taken in a Sacramento warehouse district. The moral: Warehouse districts make fine settings for modern dance.

Left, and below: Here is different Sacramento warehouse district, yet just a short distance from a dance studio, so it is conceivable that this too could be a dance setting. But for what kind of dance?
Just not getting the concept here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Troopergate Report Out

Check out summary on page 66. Sarah's been bad.....
Pole-Climbing Goes OK

Gabe calls to tell me that Steve Isaacson's pole-dancing (or was it pole-climbing?) test went OK today.

Pole-climbing is a requirement at his job. It involves climbing a telephone pole and doing electrical work up there, all exposed to the elements, without the surrounding cage that would make a Genie Lift psychically more comfortable. Must have been fun, fun, fun on this breezy day!

If Steve had failed, he would have had to resign. The test made him very nervous. Fortunately, he never has to do it again.

So, mazeltov on the pole-dancing! Time to celebrate with this (previously-posted) item....


A break-even kind of day on Wall Street. A kind-of tedious humdrum sort of day, like going down a water slide and climbing back up again to the top (except the water slide resembled Niagara Falls).
Self-Awareness Patrol

John McCain, yesterday:
"The fact is, that the same people that are now claiming credit for this rescue are the same ones that were willing co-conspirators causing these problems we are in."
Politico, "McCain claims bailout credit", Sept. 28, 2008:
"Previewing a McCain campaign message for the days ahead, top strategist Steve Schmidt claimed Sunday that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is partly responsible for the tentative agreement on a mortgage bailout that congressional leaders announced shortly after midnight."
Anna Miles In STC's "Treasure Island"

Denise Miles sent this out a few days ago:
Here is the information of Anna's latest show. She will be playing will be playing Jim Hawkins (yes, as a 17 year old senior she has gone back to playing a 14 year old boy) in Sacramento Theatre Company's "Treasure Island" . The part is double cast so she will be performing on the following dates:

Oct 8 at 6:30 (preview)
Oct 9 at 12:30 (preview)
Oct 10 at 8:00 (preview)
Oct 12 at 2:00
Oct 15 at 6:30
Oct 18 at 2:00
Oct 19 at 2:00
Oct 21 at 6:30
Oct 22 at 6:30
Oct 23 at 12:30
Oct 24 at 8:00
Oct 25 at 8:00
Oct 29 at 11:00
Oct 30 at 8:00
Nov 1 at 2:00
Nov 2 at 2:00

Check out the web site for more information and ticketing. Get your tickets soon, they say it's selling out quickly.

Hope you can make it.

Don't Vote

So saith this fellow:
Don't vote. People will try to guilt you into it, but stay strong and resist. I'm talking to all of you who don't feel strongly about either presidential candidate, not just those 80 undecided idiots seated at Tuesday's town hall-style debate.

...Voting is not an act of charity. It doesn't help anyone else. It's an entirely selfish act of expressing your opinion and asking for policies you want. If your mere opinion added to our nation's well-being, it would be patriotic to take telemarketing calls. And I'd read the e-mails you send me.

...Organizations that try to increase voter turnout -- Rock the Vote, HeadCount, the New Voters Project, the League of Women Voters and the Dorky Self-Important Guy Whose Office Is Near Yours -- will try to guilt you into casting a ballot. Most will use the scare technique of telling you that if you don't vote, you will forfeit your right to complain, which, if there had just been some Jews at the Constitutional Convention, would have been ensured by an 11th Amendment.

...Such campaigns to increase voter registration all seem disingenuous because they are. There's a reason all the organizations trying to increase the number of voters are full of liberals. It's because poor people, minorities, the undereducated and the young are the least likely to register; the higher the turnout among those groups, the better the Democrats do. The reason no one is trying to "Country Music the Vote" is because George Strait fans already vote. We don't "Rap the Vote" because the only words that rhyme with "vote" are the Democratic-unfriendly "Swift boat," "zygote" and "sports coat."

But it's not only the political scheming of Democrats. The entire ruling class wants you to vote for the same reason dictators claim a 100% turnout: Casting a ballot tricks you into believing you have as equal a stake in the power structure as the rich and connected. It's a basic political-science axiom that citizens are less likely to revolt if they feel they determined who gets to look down Arianna Huffington's blouse at political soirees.
Myself, I disagree. A high voter turnout helps guarantee statistical certainty that the recorded winner is the actual preference of the electorate. The likelihood that zealous factions will prevail increases when turnout is too low. High turnout isn't everything, of course, but it does help guarantee the legitimacy of the election - an important necessity for democracy to work.
Blame Game

Time to point fingers!:

Financial specialists blame derivatives, and their cheerleader, Alan Greenspan:
“Clearly, derivatives are a centerpiece of the crisis, and he was the leading proponent of the deregulation of derivatives,” said Frank Partnoy, a law professor at the University of San Diego and an expert on financial regulation.

The derivatives market is $531 trillion, up from $106 trillion in 2002 and a relative pittance just two decades ago. Theoretically intended to limit risk and ward off financial problems, the contracts instead have stoked uncertainty and actually spread risk amid doubts about how companies value them.

If Mr. Greenspan had acted differently during his tenure as Federal Reserve chairman from 1987 to 2006, many economists say, the current crisis might have been averted or muted.
Alan Greenspan says, no, no, it was the surprising appearance of greedy investors and bankers that caused the problem:
And when Mr. Greenspan began to hear of a housing bubble, he dismissed the threat. Wall Street was using derivatives, he said in a 2004 speech, to share risks with other firms.

Shared risk has since evolved from a source of comfort into a virus. As the housing crisis grew and mortgages went bad, derivatives actually magnified the downturn.

The Wall Street debacle that swallowed firms like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and imperiled the insurance giant American International Group, has been driven by the fact that they and their customers were linked to one another by derivatives.

In recent months, as the financial crisis has gathered momentum, Mr. Greenspan’s public appearances have become less frequent.

His memoir was released in the middle of 2007, as the disaster was unfolding, and his book tour suddenly became a referendum on his policies. When the paperback version came out this year, Mr. Greenspan wrote an epilogue that offers a rebuttal of sorts.

“Risk management can never achieve perfection,” he wrote. The villains, he wrote, were the bankers whose self-interest he had once bet upon.

“They gambled that they could keep adding to their risky positions and still sell them out before the deluge,” he wrote. “Most were wrong.”

No federal intervention was marshaled to try to stop them, but Mr. Greenspan has no regrets.

“Governments and central banks,” he wrote, “could not have altered the course of the boom.”
Jimmy Carter blames George Bush:
Carter told reporters on a stopover in Brussels that "profligate spending," massive borrowing and dramatic tax cuts since President George W. Bush took office in 2001 were behind the market turmoil and economic crisis.

"I think it's because of the atrocious economic policies of the Bush administration," said the 84-year-old Democrat, who served in the White House from 1977-1981 during a period of high inflation and energy crisis.

Whoever wins next month's U.S. presidential election would inherit economic problems that would force them to postpone implementing some of their proposed reforms, he said.

"The economic situation is an entrenched problem. It is going to take years to correct what has been done economically," Carter said, adding he hoped Democrat Barrack Obama would win and immediately improve Washington's image in the world.

Eight years ago, the United States had a budget surplus, low inflation and a stable, strong economy, he said.

Carter said he was astonished that the United States now owed China "in the neighborhood of $1 trillion."

Deregulation and what he called a withdrawal of supervision of Wall Street had encouraged irresponsible elements in the U.S. financial system, enabling banks to borrow 30 times their value.
Steve Forbes has a whole enemies list:
The U.S. economy is in recession, and the slide is gaining momentum. Europe is also in a recession, and Asia's growth rates are slowing down markedly. Yet Congress couldn't resist playing brinksmanship partisan politics. The Administration deserves a severe knuckle-rapping as well. More important, President Bush--not to mention Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke--never convincingly explained to the American people why the legislation was a dire necessity, flawed as it was. Most Americans thought of it as a gratuitous handout to greedy Wall Street executives. Even so, House Republicans should have made sure the bill passed on Monday, Sept. 29. Occasionally members of the national legislature must act in the national interest even if--temporarily-- constituents don't realize the magnitude of the impending horror.

Put the bailout's $700 billion price tag in perspective: American households, until recently, had net assets of $56 trillion. A 2% decline in the value of those financial and hard assets overwhelms that $700 billion.

This whole crisis was absolutely unnecessary. The list of villains is long and ugly. The housing bubble and the promiscuous issuance of exotic junk securities would never have reached the level they did had the Fed not been so recklessly loose in its monetary policy. Our central bank behaved like a bartender who continues to ply low- to no-cost booze to already inebriated customers. The White House and Treasury Department went along with the Fed's weak-dollar policy, which wrought havoc on the world by creating a commodity bubble and a catastrophic loosening of lending standards and investing prudence.
Myself, I blame trolls living under Sacramento's I Street Bridge, and their culture of grasp and greed, for the problem.
Alvon Johnson Channels Ray Charles

Alvon, who played at DMTC last July, is one funny guy! Here, he sings "What I Say".
Predator And Prey

Or vice-versa:
A tiny mouse was thrown into a cage as food for a viper - but turned the tables and killed the snake instead.

...[T]he firefighters were stunned to see how aggressive the mouse became once it saw the predator in the cage.

...After a vicious 30 minute battle, the snake was dead and the mouse was left with hardly a scratch.
Britney Turns 27 On Dec. 2nd

And that means it's time for a Britney documentary!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Spying On Telephone Conversations

What the NSA hears gets shared:
Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.
Choreographing Success

There is a nice profile by Jocelyn Munroe of Pepper Von in this month's "Inside The City", featuring several familiar people:
It’s late on a hot summer night at Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre, and the performance has just ended. The stage lights come down as the audience erupts in applause. The performers, glistening with sweat, move among the tables and mingle with the audience, graciously accepting the riotous acclaim. Finally, the noise dies down, but at the back one man in a stylish fedora set over long, rippling black dreadlocks is still whistling, clapping and carrying on like there’s no tomorrow.

This is Pepper Von: dancer and choreographer, successful Midtown businessman and hero to more kids and adults than could fill this room. And this is his show. It’s his concept, his choreography and most especially his cast. He’s wrung from them
their very best work, and now he’s applauding them for meeting his lofty

...Von has lived in Sacramento for 30 of his 54 years, gaining national credibility for his dancing, kickboxing, aerobics, mentoring and speaking. He was a star of ESPN’s “Fitness Pros” show, has appeared in dozens of theater and music productions and has won a slew of national and local awards.

But first and foremost he considers himself a teacher. He and partner Mary Wright
opened Midtown’s Step 1 Dance & Fitness more than 20 years ago.

Wright was a hospital administrator, Von the creative type. It was a perfect match. “Our passions are so well defined,” he says.

At Step 1, he’s in his element. Direct, thoughtful and passionate, he’s also good to look at. A bright red bandana is pulled tight against his head, holding back what look to be hundreds of skinny dreadlocks streaming down to his waist. Black glasses frame intelligent and calm almond-shaped eyes. A white wristband that says “Pay it forward” circles his wrist. From each earlobe flashes a big diamond stud. A sleeveless white T-shirt shows off buff shoulders and biceps, emblazoned with handsome West African spiritual tattoos. A neck chain holding a cross and various tokens hangs around his neck.

“I make no bones about being spiritual,” he says.

The studio around him brims with life; it’s a happy, busy and purposeful place. In the front room, a group of energetic preteens is stomping out a hip-hop rhythm; in another room, elegant teenage ballerinas twirl gracefully. Adults just out of a cardio aerobic dance class mingle with parents watching their moppets’ classes.

...“Everybody here gets along, everybody here loves each other,” concurs cheerful receptionist Alli Phelps.

Serious dancers flock to Step 1. The Jabbawockeez dance team, winner of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew 2008, started dancing together here.

...Hannah Collins is a dancer in "Let’s Go" and a longtime Step 1 student. She finds Von’s energy infectious. “You can be having the worst possible day ever and he can make you forget it. He’s one of those people that you know is in your corner,” she says. “There’s something about him that makes you want to give as much as possible.”

...At age 7, he began taking tap classes with his sister and began a lifelong love affair with dance. Eventually he earned a spot performing with the military troop Tops in Blue and claimed his ticket out of the South.

He teaches 10-plus classes weekly, travels widely for fi tness events and volunteers helping at-risk kids. But it’s his artistic side that defines him. “If it’s creative and artistic and there’s movement to music and creating a picture, I’m all over it.”

Now Von is taking on Broadway, or at least something like it. “I’m trying to grow [Let’s Go] to a national tour,” he says. “It’s a marketable business product.”

Step 1 instructor Michelle Coons has worked with Von for about 20 years. “He’s well-known in the rap and hip-hop world,” says Coons. “I’m very impressed that they’re calling in and want him to take it on the road.”
Upcoming CORE Workshops

Saturday October 11 1-4pm $35 pre-register, $40 at event, $15 single class
El Dorado Hills Dance Academy, 3921 Sandstone Dr, Suite 4, El Dorado Hills, 95762
1-2pm Contemporary
2-3pm CORE Repertory
3-4pm Hip-hop

Sunday October 26 1-3pm $25 pre-register, $30 at event
Master Class with CORE Dance Collective taught by Artistic Director Kelli Leighton
Improvisational Technique and Contemporary
Ages 10 and up (instructor permission needed for <10 years)
Joe Biden Calls John McCain A Coward

OK, let's discuss William Ayers and call the bluff of the Republican cockroaches:
“All of the things they said about Barack Obama in the TV, on the TV, at their rallies, and now on YouTube … John McCain could not bring himself to look Barack Obama in the eye and say the same things to him,” Biden said this morning. “In my neighborhood, when you’ve got something to say to a guy, you look him in the eye and you say it to him.”
Nouriel Roubini, Wizard

In this financial crisis, only the most extreme doom-mongers have been consistently right, and only Nouriel Roubini has been consistently the most pessimistic, and thus the most accurate:
But let’s give economist Nouriel Roubini, whose track record predicting the crisis looks better every single day, the last word, for now. Roubini spent last week savaging the Paulson plan as insufficient to the task, and called for a much more radical approach to addressing the credit freeze. Turns out, getting the Fed involved in the short-term lending market was one of his key proposals.
This action follows closely one of the radical policy options that I recommended last week: “Direct lending to the business sector from the Fed … to the non financial corporate sector. This could include Fed purchases of commercial paper from corporations and other forms of financing of the short term liabilities of the Administration to small businesses secured in appropriate ways. Given the collapse of the corporate [commercial paper] market and the banking system reluctance to provide loans to the corporate sector (credits lines are being shut down) the only alternative to the Fed becoming directly the biggest emergency bank for the corporate sector would be to force the banking system to maintain its exposure to the corporate sector, possibly in exchange for further Fed provision of liquidity to the banking system. The former option may be better than the latter to deal with the looming illiquidity of the corporate sector.”
Piece Of Me - Britney Spears - Bimbo Jones Remix

This Bimbo Jones remix is excellent!

I remember how visceral people's reactions were to Britney when she first appeared on the scene in the 90's. Nothing has really changed that much - either you really like her, or you really can't stand her - a Marilyn Monroe of the new millenium.

Knee injuries, lack of vocal range, and personal problems aside, she's a great dancer and performer! I like her! I really, really, do!
I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17
Don’t matter if I step on the scene
Or sneak away to the Philippines
They still gon' put pictures of my derrière in the magazine
You want a piece of me?
You want a piece of me...

I’m Miss bad media karma
Another day another drama
Guess I can’t see the harm
In working and being a mama
And with a kid on my arm
I’m still an exceptional earner
And you want a piece of me

I’m Mrs. Lifestyles of the rich and famous
(You want a piece of me)
I’m Mrs. Oh my God that Britney’s Shameless
(You want a piece of me)
I’m Mrs. Extra! Extra! this just in
(You want a piece of me)
I’m Mrs. she’s too big now she’s too thin
(You want a piece of me)

I’m Mrs. ‘You want a piece of me?’
Tryin’ and pissin’ me off
Well get in line with the paparazzi
Who’s flippin’ me off
Hopin’ I’ll resort to some havoc
End up settlin’ in court
Now are you sure you want a piece of me?
(You want a piece of me)

I’m Mrs. ‘Most likely to get on the TV for slippin' on the streets’
When getting the groceries, now for real..
Are you kidding me?
No wonder there's panic in the industry
I mean please, do you want a piece of me?
"Sail On, Sail On, Great Ship, Titanic!"

Bargain hunters:
"No, we're not getting out of the market. We're absolutely in it for the long term," said Eileen Shephard, a director of the Sacramento chapter of BetterInvesting, a national nonprofit that promotes education for individual investors.

..."Our little group is staying put, but it's not easy to watch the market fall so quickly in just a few days," said Marcia Wilson-Farmer of Folsom, a member of a five-person group that meets weekly.

It was a year ago today that the Dow Jones industrial average reached its peak of 14,164. Since then, the Dow has fallen nearly 5,000 points. It closed Wednesday at 9,258 – another down day in what seems like an endless stream of down days.

..."Our last meeting wasn't pretty. … It was quite uproarious," she said. "Still, we haven't dropped nearly as much as the stock market as a whole and other sectors. We're holding our own. But we want to be more than holding our own."

..."If you're a long-term investor, you really shouldn't panic now. If you take your money out now, you have no chance to regain it," she said. "The stock market has had all kinds of bumps along the way in the past and come back, so you have to hold steady now."

Crosta said it's also a good idea "to be patient and give the (federal) stimulus package a little time to get working."

..."Our club is looking at fundamentally sound stocks, companies that have been around a long time and are going to be around for many years, no matter what the market is doing right now," said Richard Long of Carmichael. "I guarantee you that people who get out now will regret it in a couple (of) years when the market is back up."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


E.: MMMAAARRRCCC! have you ever heard of that song, "Under The Boardwalk"?
M.: Yes, it's a favorite old-time song.
E.: It's a cha-cha beat, right? Under the Boardwalk, cha-cha-cha!
M.: NO! ... I mean, no, that's not how they usually orchestrate it.
E.: It's a cha-cha: I know it. Under the Boardwalk, cha-cha-cha!

It's hard to get a platform on any national cable show. Sean Hannity used his platform for the rantings of a confirmed anti-Semite.

And what's this about Jerome Corsi trying to spout off in Kenya? Hey Jerome, the Bill of Rights doesn't apply there!
Ignorant Tom Brokaw

Republican tool at the debate:
If a news reporter deliberately makes a false statement claiming that a private company like Boeing or Microsoft is going broke, the company has the right to sue the reporter and the news agency. That is why reporters rarely make statements like Microsoft or Boeing (or Lehman Brothers, AIG, or Goldman Sachs) are going broke.

However, reporters can freely impugn the financial health of a government program like Social Security because a government program cannot sue for libel. That is why Brokaw knew that he could imply that Social Security is going broke, even though it is not true. Social Security cannot sue Brokaw even if he deliberately tells explicit lies about its financial health.
Dealing With The Pain

But it will be hard to deter the Asian folks from one of their few social outlets:
Grief-stricken Southeast Asian refugees asked hard questions Tuesday night about the casino bus accident that claimed eight lives and injured all 35 others aboard.

Five California Highway Patrol officials – including two assistant chiefs – answered questions for more than an hour at a community meeting at the Hmong Women's Heritage Association on Florin Road.

The gambler's special that left Sacramento at 5 p.m. Sunday flipped over about 6:12 p.m. on Lone Star Road about four miles from the Colusa Casino Resort, said Sgt. Patrick W. Landreth of the Williams CHP office.

Xou Vang, 23, of Sacramento wanted to know why his grandmother Lou Her remained trapped under the bus until about 6:30, when her family lost phone contact with her. Her, 68, was one of eight people who died in the accident.

"When she called, she said she was stuck and there was no one to pull her out," Vang said. "My dad received two calls on his cell phone, he called her twice, and she was still alive until 6:30."

Vang wanted to know what the response time was. After an off-duty Colusa County deputy sheriff called in the accident at 6:12, "the first units arrived approximately four minutes later" and immediately called for ambulances and helicopters to take people out of the remote area, Landreth said.

"Eight people were flown in helicopters to trauma centers," added Assistant Chief Steven Bell.

CHP officials couldn't explain why Her was still trapped under the bus until 6:30 but promised to issue a full report on the accident in several months.

...But activist Theresa Saechao, representing the Iu Mien, and Hmong radio personality Rose Xiong wanted to know whether the casinos or the bus company would take any responsibility – and what government officials knew about the safety of the bus.

"Did the bus have any liability insurance?" Xiong asked.

"Does the casino have any liability?" asked Saechao. "They target Southeast Asians who are struggling with income."

Bell couldn't speak for the casino and said the question of bus safety or liability is part of the criminal investigation.

...Saechao said her agency, Sacramento Lao Family Community, will be collecting donations to help with funeral expenses. Norm DeYoung of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association said his organization was contributing $3,500 to the funeral fund.

Koua Franz, executive director of the Hmong Women's Heritage Association, which is coordinating the relief efforts, remarked, "A lot of people are angry, a lot of people are in shock, and a lot of families are concerned. They're getting very little information about the victims, the investigation, and if all the victims' families have been properly contacted."

Funerals need to be planned, spirit healings need to be conducted, prayers need to be said.

One survivor, Pia Xiong, 51, was receiving both spirit healing and Western medical treatments. As she prepared for a 10-hour surgery Tuesday at UC Davis Medical Center, her family performed a traditional Hmong ritual at her south Sacramento home to pray for her health. A relative, who is the clan's shaman, lit incense to invoke the spirits of the Earth and sky to bless Xiong.

Xiong, a widow with 12 children to care for, is the glue that holds the family together, said her nephew Chor Thor, 35.

"Maybe there should be stricter regulations on bus drivers, maybe there should be seat belts on the bus," said Thor. He hopes the incident is a wake-up call – and maybe a sign from the spirits – that will discourage other elderly refugees from going to casinos.
Happy Birthday, Michelle!

A shout-out to my sister in New Mexico.
"Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?"

On Sunday morning at 4 a.m., I was walking Sparky through Sacramento's darkened streets, past the exact same house where I met the Kiwi percussionist last year (this year, the house's yard is inexplicably strewn with toys) when a startled young woman jumped up from a chair on the porch. She was holding a laptop computer, and in the ghostly half-light she said, "Oh, I was doing homework!" I awkwardly bade her a pleasant good evening, and walked off, thinking to myself, "WTF?"
Status Of The Race

October 8, 2004

October 8, 2008

Some people have the touch:
A Kansas man whose girlfriend was physically stuck to the toilet in their home wins $20,000 in the state Lottery, for the second time this year.

Kory McFarren cashed in his winning $2 Bonus Crossword ticket in Great Bend Monday. On July 29, the 37-year-old received six months of probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor mistreatment of a dependent adult.
Down That Slippery Slope

Goes the McCain campaign:
The Secret Service is following up on media reports today that someone in the crowd at a McCain/Palin event suggested killing Barack Obama, according to Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley. The shout of "kill him" followed a Sarah Palin rant on Obama's relationship with radical Chicagoan Bill Ayers.

McCain's big housing buyout:

McCain's plan to buy up mortgages and refinance them at the current value of homes represents a dramatic shift from his position in March, when he said in a speech that "it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers," and that "any assistance must be temporary and must not reward people who were irresponsible at the expense of those who weren't." Democrats were also quick to note that the proposal is not new: In fact, there is a provision in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that expressly allows the government to restructure the mortgages that it purchases.

...In recent weeks I've mentioned the work of Georgetown law professor Adam Levitin, a specialist in bankruptcy and commercial law who has been examining exactly this issue. Levitin's position is that the repackaging of mortgages into residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), and their further slicing and dicing into collateralized debt obligations (CDOS), have fractured the ownership of the original mortgages and redistributed them so widely that the government's hands are tied. To be able to modify the underlying mortgages, the government would need to own a substantial, possibly two-thirds majority, of the securitization pools into which the mortgages have been transformed. That will be difficult to achieve and exorbitantly expensive.

I e-mailed Levitin this morning for his opinion. His answer was blunt.
The McCain plan cannot work. The vast majority (80 percent+) of residential mortgages are securitized. The government cannot purchase mortgages directly out of securitization pools. There are a limited number of ways to actually get around the securitization problem:

1. Refi the mortgages directly, which would involve paying 100 percent of face value.

2. Buy up ALL the RMBS and CDOs and CDO2s, which will be prohibitively expensive and will result in paying close to face value.

3. Take the mortgages from the securitization trusts via eminent domain -- and pay fair value.

4. Permit modification of the mortgages in bankruptcy, or

5. Pass Gold Clause type legislation that changes MBS holders' rights in a way that will allow modification of the mortgages. There are several ways to do this. It might not ultimately be Constitutional, but I doubt any judge would issue an injunction, so by the time there was a final ruling, the matter would be over and done and the worst case is that the government would have to pay out some (maybe a lot) of money.

Because the McCain plan doesn't recognize the (admittedly complex) problems created by securitization it is simply unworkable. At best it will help a few homeowners, but Treasury is already authorized to do that.
...But the easiest and quickest way to get real help to homeowners is Point 4 -- permitting bankruptcy judges to make modifications of mortgages. But that proposal is being resisted so fiercely by the banking and securities industry that it was the first thing that Democrats dropped from their version of the bailout, in the face of strong Republican resistance.
"That One"

"That One"

"That Girl"

"Obama Girl" playing "That (Alaskan) Girl"
Revealing Slip

Perry Farrell, Moby, Paul Van Dyk - "Walk On The Wild Side"

Boy, they sure do things different in South Beach!
Is There A Mexican Corpulence Crisis?

Or is the problem just better-reported than heretofore? If I'm not mistaken, Australia had a recent event like this, however, so its probably just a world corpulence crisis:
JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) - A 990-pound bedridden man who had appealed on Mexican television for help tackling his weight problem died Tuesday of heart failure, his family said.

Emergency officials had to knock down Jose Luis Garza's bedroom wall and load him onto the back of a friend's pickup truck as he fought for his life. The 47-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in northern Mexico.

Garza followed in the footsteps of the world's fattest man, fellow Mexican Manuel Uribe of Monterrey, by taking his weight problem public. Garza lived about an hour away from Uribe in the town of Juarez.

Garza said he always struggled with his weight, but that he fell into a desperate cycle of depression and overeating nine months ago after his parents died of natural causes within two weeks of each other. He had been bedridden for four months.

...Uribe, whose record weight of 1,230 pounds earned him a place in the 2008 Guinness Book of Records, has claimed to have lost around 550 pounds by following the Zone Diet invented by Dr. Barry Sears.

Uribe tried to help Garza by sending him kiwis, grapefruit, pears and a protein supplement. Uribe's fiancee, Claudia Solis, delivered the food on Friday evening.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

SNL's Take On Palin

I resisted Bruce's call, for days, to see this video. Finally, I gave in....
Ha, ha, ha, ha!
Now, back to reality!

Just one month left! Then....

The 2012 campaign starts!
First Impressions Of Tonight's Debate

Left: Image from here: quote from here.

The Joker: You'll see, I'll show you, that when the chips are down, these uh... civilized people, they'll eat each other. You see, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve.

I'm continually struck at how Barack Obama seems unable to focus on the Russia/Georgia situation, at least in comparison with McCain's intense, maniacal laser focus. Obama's non-answer meandered everywhere, when he should have been offering a stark contrast with McCain's drive towards war with Russia.

Does Obama basically agree with McCain? Or has Obama's understanding of the Georgian situation been rattled by events? Or does Obama even really care? It's certainly a mystery to me. It should be easy enough to say Georgia has no business asking for admission to NATO, but Obama won't say that! Instead, he seems to passively agree with McCain!

Boy, McCain really loathes 'The One'! The lust for power sure brings out the disdain, doesn't it?

This thing about how Obama would supposedly meet every tinpot dictator in the world without preconditions has sure become a bugbear with the right. As an indictment, it's almost meaningless - either you meet, or you don't, and the prestige of the U.S. isn't so large that it should become an obstacle. Yet the right thinks they are onto something. I call it John-Bolton-itis.

Look, if Chamberlain had refused to meet with Hitler in 1938 over the Sudetenland Crisis nothing would have been any different than it was! This isn't the Twilight Zone! The importance of the will and pride displayed in summitry is generally overplayed in the pageant of international politics.

Why does McCain want the government to bail out everyone with a bad mortgage? There are lots and lots of bad mortgages out there, likely too many for the government to successfully bail out. Like others, I pay my mortgage on time - if others can't, they need options to surrender their mortgages, and move on. Don't come begging to me for help! Like Admiral Ackbar says, "It's a trap!"

Health care "is a right!" Now that, my friends, resonated with the American electorate!
Silence Of The Grave On Lone Star Road

Left: Cher Vang grips her face in grief Monday at the crash site where her mother, Khou Vang, was killed when a bus overturned. Cher Vang's father was thrown clear and injured in the crash and said he lost track of his wife. Family members combed nearby fields and checked hospitals before authorities confirmed Khou Vang's death.
Bryan Patrick /

The rural casinos of California are heavily-dependent on the bus traffic that brings mostly Asian immigrants to the tables and slot machines. This accident is a real blow to that traffic.

Many condolences to the families of the injured and dead:
It was a recipe for disaster.

A 52-year-old man with a sketchy driving record piloting a bus for the very first time, possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A cargo of 41 passengers in a bus with no seat belts.

A shortcut down a narrow two-lane road that would have saved two miles of driving.

All of these things came together at 6:10 p.m. Sunday outside the Colusa County city of Williams, when Quintin J. Watts apparently fell asleep at the wheel, rolled the casino-bound bus he was driving and crashed, killing eight people and injuring 35.

Among the dead was the bus company's owner, 68-year-old Daniel Cobb, Watts' stepfather and the man who hired him last week as a favor.

Among the injured was Watts, a down-on-his-luck former truck driver and parolee who was upgraded from critical to fair condition Monday at Woodland Memorial Hospital and under arrest on a charge of driving under the influence.

Survivors of the crash told harrowing stories Monday of seeing Watts fall asleep as the bus swerved back and forth, and of Cobb making a futile effort to stop the crash.

"The driver was falling asleep, and he was trying to wake the driver up," said Liw Saechao, Cobb's business partner and the mother of his 8-year-old daughter. "Daniel grabbed the wheel and tried to put the bus brake on, and it was too late – it was already flipping.

"They said Daniel flew out of the bus and into the ditch."

Many of the passengers on the bus were regular patrons of Cobb's bus service, and several called Saechao after the crash to recount the last moments before the bus rolled over.

Saechao's son, Khae, said of Watts: "This was his first actual bus trip."
"Fiddler On The Roof" - More Final Weekend Photos

Left: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio) and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Below: Tevye (Jeff Nauer) and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Left: The Fiddler (Lindsay Carpenter).

Left: "Chavala". Chava (Shannon Kendall) and Tevye (Jeff Nauer).

Below: "Matchmaker, Matchmaker". Tzeitel (Amanda Yount) and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Left: "If I Were A Rich Man". Tevye (Jeff Nauer).

Below: Tzeitel (Amanda Yount) and Motel The Tailor (Brennan Ballard).

Left: Tzeitel (Amanda Yount) and Motel The Tailor (Brennan Ballard).

Below: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio), Hodel (Josephine Longo), and Tevye (Jeff Nauer).

Left: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio) and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Left: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio) and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Below: Hodel (Josephine Longo) and Tevye (Jeff Nauer).

Left: Schprintze (Ana Hansen), Bielke (Lauren Mills), Golde (Jan Isaacson), zeitel (Amanda Yount), Motel The Tailor (Brennan Ballard), and Fyedka (Trevor Hoffman).

Below: Chava (Shannon Kendall).

Left: "Matchmaker, Matchmaker". Chava (Shannon Kendall), Hodel (Josephine Longo), and Tzeitel (Amanda Yount).

Below: Tzeitel (Amanda Yount) and Motel The Tailor (Brennan Ballard).

Left: Hodel (Josephine Longo), Tevye (Jeff Nauer), and Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio),

Below: Chava (Shannon Kendall).

Left: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio) and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Don't Mess With The SUB!

In Albuquerque, John McCain used an appearance in the ballroom at the University of New Mexico's Student Union Building to slander Barack Obama.

The Student Union Building, aka the "SUB", is a very familiar place. As Vice-President of UNM's Ballroom Dance Club, I spent many happy days in the late 70's quarreling with the authorities over scheduling that same ballroom for our dances. Sometimes it seemed to me that the SUB authorities saw us more as parasites than as the precious vessels for America's future that we unarguably were.

Well, I have news for John McCain, and his slander campaign at the SUB. I tried slander too, but it didn't work. We still had to vacate the ballroom promptly at 10:00 p.m., no matter what.

The odds of slander working now, for McCain, are similarly nil. If McCain doesn't have a positive program to bring to America's voters, the SUB authorities are going to bite his ass off.
The Ultimate In Bad-Taste Titles For Musicals

The Beaconsfield gold mine collapse galvanized Australia two years ago, particularly regarding the policy of "self-regulation" applied by Tasmanian authorities to the mine:
A massive rock fall on April 25 [2006] trapped miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb underground for two weeks and resulted in the death of their co-worker, Larry Knight.
This new musical continues to galvanize Australians:
A PLAYWRIGHT who has sent up events surrounding the Beaconsfield mine tragedy has changed the play's name following outrage from the family and friends of the man killed in the disaster.

Dan Ilic originally named his play, to debut at the Melbourne Fringe Festival tomorrow night, Beaconsfield: A Musical in A-Flat Minor, but today changed it to Beaconsfield: The Musical.
Particle Physics' Holy Grail

Image by Wurzel at B3ta.
Journey's End

Dyer returns from Alaska.
Here Comes An Asteroid!

Heading for Sudan!:
The impact location has been narrowed down to 21N, 33E, at 2:46 UT, which is in in northern Sudan. The probability for impact is between 99.8% and 100%.

The asteroid will track from the northwest, so observers in Europe, northern Africa could possibly see the atmospheric entry phase.

Depending on the composition the atmospheric impact and breakup should release ~ 1 kiloton of energy.
Canadian Conservatives Beginning To Get Violent

No quarter for liberals:
Toronto police patrolled a midtown area overnight, after vandals cut brake lines on at least 10 cars parked at homes with Liberal election signs on their lawns.

"There are two child seats in the back of my car," said Andrew Lane, chief financial officer for Bennett's campaign. "To cut the brake line on a car like that is just evil. Awful."

Added Lane, whose children are 6 months and 22 months: "You have to crawl under someone's car and cut the brake line, knowing that it could kill someone, or their whole family."

..."I'm just sick to my stomach about this," a shaken Bennett told the Toronto Star last night. She spent the day visiting the vandals' victims. "It is so upsetting. I've spent my life encouraging people to get involved in the democratic process and now it would appear they are targeted for doing so."

..."This isn't about party politics. Putting people's lives at risk is a whole different thing," said Johnston. "We're not taking the sign down. We won't be intimidated. But I am really disappointed this is happening in Canada. It's beyond comprehension."
A Suggestion From The Vine Bar

In Hollywood. I like this idea:
The diligently redonkulous folks from Party Scammers are back with another Gunna Make You Sweat night, encouraging you to wear Spandex garments, indulge in adult libations and do aerobics under the tutelage of comedy dork Ryan Flynn, who poses as a sibling of fitness guru Richard Simmons. Prepare for hot jams by Icy Lytes and Bianca O'Blivion, and take advantage of going out in that thong leotard you’ve been meaning to debut.
Smooth As Silk

Left: A gigantic mechanical spider sits on the side of the Concourse tower in Liverpool city centre, north west England. The spider which was commissioned for the city`s European Capital of Culture celebrations will explore the city over the next few days. The show is the work of the French company La Machine, the spider weighs 37 tonnes and is 50 feet high, moves at 2 miles per hour and took one year to build.

Arachnophobics Anonymous better not meet in Liverpool!:
Liverpool woke this morning to an unusual sight - a giant mechanical spider dangling down a high rise office building, the latest and strangest happening in the city's European Capital of Culture.

The three storey arachnid on the side of Concourse House was created by a French arts collective called La Machine, and promises to be the centrepiece of an enormous piece of street theatre.

...La Machine , led by artistic director Francois Delaroziere, has an impressive record. It was responsible for The Sultan's Elephant, a spectacular five-day programme in central London that began on May 4 2006 with a four metre wood and steel rocket crashlanding in Waterloo Place, embedding itself several feet into the road surface.

This was merely the start - it was followed by a mechanical elephant 12 metres high that roamed the city streets, the largest actor in a fairy tale drama based around the elephant's relationship with a small girl who had appeared to a Sultan in a dream.

La Machine's Liverpool show is alleged to be a lot edgier and less whimsical than The Sultan's Elephant, but no less jaw-dropping. The spectacle has been 18 months in the planning and surrounded by absolute secrecy, even though the show's protagonists have been rehearsing in the city for a month.

Helen Marriage, the co-director of British-based creative outfit Artichoke productions, which has been overseeing the project, said that the logistics had been formidable.

"In a theatre you'd use the set to rehearse, but we can't - we have to practise off-site and in secret," she said in a newspaper interview. "The first time we'll get on set is in front of the whole city; hence the 18-month planning period. You really can't over plan something this big.

"We've measured every road, removed street lights and even dug up a roundabout. Now we just have to hope it's all been accurate, otherwise, well, it could all turn into a bit of an excitement.'
Jim Cramer's Five-Year Plan

Not quite as optimistic as before:
“Whatever money you may need for the next five years, please take it out of the stock market right now, this week. I do not believe that you should risk those assets in the stock market right now.”
Spotting A Trend

The geisha tradition has much to recommend it, and it would be nice to see it revive:
The dying art of the geisha received a surprising boost last week with figures showing that the number of apprentices has reached 100 for the first time in half a century. More than 30 modern, educated girls are entering this exacting profession every year.

There are at present only about 200 genuine geishas working in the old city of Kyoto, down from several thousand in the period before the second world war depicted in the bestselling novel Memoirs of a Geisha. They can command astronomical fees for entertaining male customers with refined performances of music and dance, playing absurd parlour games and diverting men with conversation as they serve exquisite food.
The Florida Jewish Vote Minefield

I find this quite baffling: Sarah Palin's creationist/fundamentalist crowd these days is philosemitic (often mindlessly so), not antisemitic. But whatever! (I especially like the quote: "All the votes here count, even if we don't count all the votes.")
"I was leaning towards McCain," growled Marvin Weinstein, 74, as he strode to an appointment in a doctor's office. "But I think his choice of her has turned me off."

"What I hear is she's an awful anti-Semite," George Friedberg said as he sat curbside in his Escalade. "She won't be getting my vote." Friedberg's wife, Florence, appeared at the passenger-side door, shopping bags in hand. "I was leaning towards McCain, but after he selected her I've ruled him out completely. I find her offensive."

...Only about 5 percent of Florida's voters are Jewish, according to exit polls from the 2004 election. But this is a swing state with 27 electoral votes and elections here are often decided by slim margins. "You never, ever take a vote for granted in Florida," notes Democratic pollster Thomas Eldon, of Schroth & Eldon Associates. "All the votes here count, even if we don't count all the votes." George Bush owed his victory in Florida in 2000, and the presidency, in large part to the difficulty that the elderly Jewish voters of Palm Beach County had with a butterfly ballot.

In 2000, one of Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore's prime electoral-vote targets was Florida, and his running mate was an Orthodox Jew. Would-be veep Joe Lieberman made repeated trips throughout the campaign to South Florida to deliver the base. It worked: George Bush received only 12 percent of Florida's Jewish vote. Four years later, Bush improved his total, taking 20 percent, and winning the state by 5 points.

In 2008, Joe Lieberman is back, but this time to make his case for the Republican candidate. Lieberman, now an independent, was reportedly McCain's personal choice for vice president, before party pressure forced him to look elsewhere. Lieberman cut a swath through South Florida this summer on behalf of McCain, an old friend and fellow Iraq hawk. Lieberman toured a synagogue, a cafe and a Jewish community center, in Broward and Miami-Dade counties in late July, then returned in early August, a trip notable because his campaign bus hit another vehicle. He is scheduled to return to Boca Raton Monday to conduct a town hall at the local Chabad center.

This year the Republicans thought they had an opening to exploit, a poor fit between the Democrats of South Florida and their party's presidential nominee. Much of the party leadership had been aligned with Hillary Clinton; Clinton also beat Obama by 17 points in the state's controversial Jan. 29 Democratic primary. Then there was Obama's race, his middle name, rumors about his religion, and doubts about his support for Israel.

...Others focused on Obama's supposed ties to Islam. "I think it has affected some people, unfortunately," says Marcy Selko, a committed Democrat and 69-year-old retired librarian who lives in Palm Beach County. "I've heard some people say, 'How could we have a president whose name is Hussein?' They said this even though they were Democrats!"

...In this environment, the Obama campaign made its bid for the Jewish voters of South Florida by selecting one of the region's most prominent Jewish Democrats, Rep. Robert Wexler, to co-chair the state campaign. (Rep. Kathy Castor from Tampa is the other chair.) Six-term incumbent Wexler's seat in Florida's 19th Congressional District, centered in Palm Beach County, is so safe that he has run unopposed three times. An Orthodox Jew and self-described "Fire Breathing Liberal," Wexler counterintuitively endorsed Obama right out of the gate, against the grain of the state Democratic leadership.

Wexler thinks the GOP has underestimated South Florida's Jews. "There's this misnomer among some in the press that the Jewish community is a one-issue community. It isn't," he says one summer afternoon following a talk at a Democratic Club in West Palm Beach. When his constituents learn "that John McCain supports privatizing Social Security" and "wants to appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade," he says, "I assure you they will have nothing to do with John McCain." But Wexler also says his support for Obama is based on the fact that he's such a strong supporter of Israel, and because Obama recognizes that Iran is the greatest threat to Israeli and American security.

And that was all before Palin hit the stage. Her selection was a calculated risk by the Republicans, who badly needed to shore up support among the Christian right in battleground states like Florida. But it carried a special risk in Florida, one of the swing states with a significant Jewish population. "Kissing the Jewish vote goodbye," headlined England's Guardian newspaper after McCain announced his running mate. "Small Town Palin Big Problem for Jews," New York Jewish Week warned.

Wexler, known for his bombast, immediately declared the Alaska governor "a direct affront to the Jewish community."

"She was obviously selected to galvanize the conservative base, and she's done that," Gelber notes. "But for people with other issues, well, elderly Jewish voters are really not comfortable with that level of religious conservatism. They're generally pro-choice, don't believe creationism should be taught in schools, and they support stem cell research."

...Now it's the Democrats who see an opportunity in South Florida. The Jewish Council for Education and Research, which endorsed Obama, is trying to capitalize on McCain's stalled momentum by sponsoring "the Great Schlep," which "focuses on encouraging young Jews to visit their grandparents in Florida during the Columbus Day Weekend" and convince them to vote for Obama. As an added incentive to Bubbe and Zayde, the JCER provides pledges for the grandkids to sign promising to call more often during an Obama administration.
That, My Friends, Is A Joke We Can Believe In

Too far from God and too close to the District of Columbia:
Republican presidential candidate John McCain's brother made an apparent joke at a campaign rally this weekend that might not play well in parts of newly competitive Virginia.

Joe McCain, speaking at an event in support of his brother, called two Democratic-leaning areas in Northern Virginia "communist country," according to a report on The Washington Post's Web site.
"Matchmaker, Matchmaker"

As sung by Tevye's eldest daughters (and lip-synched by the three suitors) during warm-ups, just prior to Sunday's final show.

Left: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio), Motel the Tailor (Brennan Ballard), and Fyedka (Trevor Hoffman).

Left: Fyedka (Trevor Hoffman) and Motel the Tailor (Brennan Ballard).

Left: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio), Motel the Tailor (Brennan Ballard), and Fyedka (Trevor Hoffman).

Below: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio).

Ominous Sounds, Ominous Sights

11:00 p.m., in Woodland. In the distance, the sound of a helicopter. Was it associated with the big bus crash in Colusa County? Yes it was! Indeed, this very helicopter was featured in this video.

Passing by Woodland Memorial Hospital at 11:30 p.m., on the dark lawn at Cottonwood and Gibson, the dark silhouette of a helicopter.
RADIOHEAD 2008 Houston - Everything in its Right Place

I was listening to Paul Oakenfold's 'Greatest Hits' CD, and his remix of this song by Radiohead has got to be a Trance masterpiece!

"Everything In Its Right Place"

Kid A, Kid A, Kid A, Kid A
Everything, everything, everything, everything..
In its right place
In its right place
In its right place
Right place

Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon

Everything, everything, everything..
In its right place
In its right place
Right place

There are two colours in my head
There are two colours in my head
What is that you tried to say?
What was that you tried to say?
Tried to say.. tried to say..
Tried to say.. tried to say..

Everything in its right place

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Fiddler On The Roof" - Fourth Weekend (draft)

Left: Golde (Jan Isaacson) and Chava (Shannon Kendall).

Below: Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio) and Hodel (Josephine Longo).

Left: Tzeitel (Amanda Yount) and Motel The Tailor (Brennan Ballard).

Left: Tevye (Jeff Nauer).

Left: "Sabbath Prayer" - Perchik (Giorgio Selvaggio), Motel the Tailor (Brennan Ballard), Golde (Jan Isaacson), Tzeitel (Amanda Yount), Chava and Hodel (Shannon Kendall and Josephine Longo, both obscured), Bielke (Lauren Mills), and Schprintze (Ana Hansen).
Get-Together At Herb and Stuart's
Risk Assessment In Financial Systems

An exasperated Jim McElroy sent this article. He notes:
I am in awe, really, of the financial system we have today. Time was, the "Market" resembled the Saturday morning farmers market, in which people with products met with people with money and negotiated an equitable trade between equals. A hundred years ago the stock market sold fractional parts of a company that made real products that could be held in your hands and the value estimated reasonably well. Today the market is in promises to pay something of vague value some indefinite time in the future. It used to be that governments would inflate the currency by running the printing presses overtime. Now they don't even need to buy ink. Money is generated by borrowing, what, Money? No borrowing promises to pay money. And where did that money come from? Yep, that's right another promise to pay. Where is all this wealth that has been created? Indeed! My, God, the Emperor has no clothes!
This is ridiculous! Of all people, the financial people should realize that in a financial system, risk is NOT randomly distributed! It was never so in the past. Why should it be so now?

Here are excerpts:
The problem is that Wall Street and regulators relied on complex mathematical models that told financial institutions how much risk they were taking at any given time. Since the 1990s, risk management on Wall Street has been dominated by a model called "value at risk" (VaR). VaR attributes risk factors to every security and aggregates these factors across an entire portfolio, identifying those risks that cancel out. What's left is "net" risk that is then considered in light of historical patterns. The model predicts with 99 percent probability that institutions cannot lose more than a certain amount of money. Institutions compare this "worst case" with their actual capital and, if the amount of capital is greater, sleep soundly at night. Regulators, knowing that the institutions used these models, also slept soundly. As long as capital was greater than the value at risk, institutions were considered sound -- and there was no need for hands-on regulation.

Lurking behind the models, however, was a colossal conceptual error: the belief that risk is randomly distributed and that each event has no bearing on the next event in a sequence. This is typically explained with a coin-toss analogy. If you flip a coin and get "heads" and then do it again, the first heads has no bearing on whether the second toss will be heads or tails. It's a common fallacy that if you get three heads in a row, there's a better-than-even chance that the next toss will be tails. That's simply not true. Each toss has a 50-50 chance of being heads or tails. Such systems are represented in the bell curve, which makes clear that events of the type we have witnessed lately are so statistically improbable as to be practically impossible. This is why markets are taken by surprise when they occur.

But what if markets are not like coin tosses? What if risk is not shaped like a bell curve? What if new events are profoundly affected by what went before?

Both natural and man-made systems are full of the kind of complexity in which minute changes at the start result in divergent and unpredictable outcomes. These systems are sometimes referred to as "chaotic," but that's a misnomer; chaos theory permits an understanding of dynamic processes. Chaotic systems can be steered toward more regular behavior by affecting a small number of variables. But beyond chaos lies complexity that truly is unpredictable and cannot be modeled with even the most powerful computers. Capital markets are an example of such complex dynamic systems.

...The more enlightened among the value-at-risk practitioners understand that extreme events occur more frequently than their models predict. So they embellish their models with "fat tails" (upward bends on the wings of the bell curve) and model these tails on historical extremes such as the post-Sept. 11 market reaction. But complex systems are not confined to historical experience. Events of any size are possible, and limited only by the scale of the system itself. Since we have scaled the system to unprecedented size, we should expect catastrophes of unprecedented size as well. We're in the middle of one such catastrophe, and complexity theory says it will get much worse.
Ed Newman Obituary

From the Albuquerque Journal:
NEWMAN -- Edward J Newman, 86, of Albuquerque, passed away at home with family by his side on Wednesday, October 1, 2008. He is survived by his loving wife of 61 years, Dorothy Newman; sons, Kenneth and wife Marra, Richard, Gordon and wife Kimberly and Jeff; grandchildren, Melanie Parsons and husband, Dave, Jeffrey, Corey, Christy and Sarah; great-grandchildren Rebecca, Haydn and Brennan; Jeffrey's mother Susan Companion; brother, Vincent and wife, Betty; sister, Elsie Screnock; and brother-in-law, Floyd Lewis. He was preceded in death by his sisters, Mary Newman and Evelyn Lewis. Mr. Newman retired from Sandia National Labs after 39 years. He enjoyed tinkering with and fixing mechanical devices of all kinds. He enjoyed gardening, and was a member of the Bear Canyon Senior Center exercise class. His family will always appreciate his dedication, example and provision. Cremation has taken place. Memorial Services will be held at the Newman home at 13200 Indian School NE, Albuquerque, 2:00 p.m., Saturday, October 18, 2008. Should friends and family desire donations may be made to the American Lung Association of NM, 7001 Menaul Blvd Suite 1-A 87110 (505) 265-0732. French Mortuary, Inc. 10500 Lomas Blvd. NE (505) 275-3500 French Mortuary
Foreclosure Alley

Courtesy of E-Mail from John Wright. Foreclosures in the Inland Empire.

If I recall, a giant homeless camp is now open near the Ontario, CA, airport. Some of these folks literally lost everything they had.