Saturday, March 07, 2009

Leave Limbaugh Alone!

He's not even a human!
"The Sound Of Music" - Second Friday

Left and Below: Kay Hight as Maria and Giorgio Selvaggio as Captain von Trapp.

Left: Kay Hight as Maria and Giorgio Selvaggio as Captain von Trapp.

Below: Moriah H. as Liesl and Matthew Kohrt as Rolf in "You Are Sixteen".

Left and Below: "Doe A Deer". Liesl (Moriah H.), Friedrich (Rami R.), Louisa (Jasmin M.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Kurt (William C.), Marta (Ani C.), and Gretl (Rose M.), with Maria (Kay Hight).

Left and Below: "Doe A Deer". Liesl (Moriah H.), Friedrich (Rami R.), Louisa (Jasmin M.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Kurt (William C.), Marta (Ani C.), and Gretl (Rose M.).

Left: "Doe A Deer". Marta (Ani C.), Gretl (Rose M.), Kurt (William C.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Louisa (Jasmin M.), and Liesl (Moriah H.).
Robin Antin Interview

Just really curious who Robin Antin is. I still feel like I have no idea....
Pussycat Dolls - Bottle Pop

Yes, we truly live in a Golden Age!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Kea Birds - Arthurs Pass, New Zealand

I can watch video clips of keas all afternoon long.

I was set upon by keas, if I'm not mistaken, in this same parking lot, last December.
Detail From "Underworld 2"

I liked this painting (which is much larger than just this detail)

The painting's called "Underworld 2" by artist Tony de Lautour, and is located at the Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Arctic Nomenclature

Image from brain_blessed at B3ta.

In regards to how many words Eskimos have for snow, it depends on what you mean by an Eskimo.
The Right Thing To Do At The Time

What's new in South Carolina?:
Tammy Fausel said that she and her family were shocked at what happened during her uncle's funeral in Gray Court.

A Candler, N.C., woman danced in front of the service, waved a wand around the casket, opened the lid, laid her hands on the deceased's head and struck the body with a wand, according to an incident report from the Laurens County Sheriff's Office.

Nicole Marie Loretta Leonard, 25, has been charged with disturbing a funeral and public disorderly conduct in Tuesday's incident, according to tickets.

Fausel said she had never before seen the woman and had no idea why she would've been at funeral at Church of God on State 14.

"Everybody was just kind of flabbergasted," she said. "They didn't know what was going on."

The woman took flowers from the top of the casket and threw them at the family before leaving in a burgundy Toyota, according to the report.

Fausel said she called the Sheriff's Office.

A lieutenant intercepted a burgundy Toyota Corolla heading south on Interstate 385, according to the incident report.

When deputies asked the woman why she acted the way she did, the woman said "she felt that it was the right thing to do at the time," according to the report. The woman told deputies she knew no one at the church, according to the report.
Never On Sunday

This is baffling - Utah is high, but Idaho, a very similar neighboring state, is low:
A study by a Harvard Business School professor shows that Utah outpaces the more conservative states -- which all tend to purchase more Internet porn than other states.

Online porn subscription rates are higher in states that enacted conservative legislation banning same-sex marriage or civil unions and where surveys show support for conservative positions on religion, gender roles and sexuality, according to an analysis published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

The Beehive State briefly experimented with a state-funded porn czar until 2003. The study examining online porn usage from 2006 to 2008 shows those efforts apparently failed.

Utah has the nation's highest online porn subscription rate per thousand home broadband users, at 5.47, while the nearby states of Idaho and Montana showed the lowest rates of 1.98 and 1.92, respectively, according to the study.

Utah's No. 1 score may have to do with its demographics, said the author of the study, Benjamin Edelman.

For instance, Internet porn subscriptions are particularly widespread in states with young populations, in the 15 to 24 age group, while people over 65 are less likely to subscribe. Income can be a another factor, with each $1,000 increase in average household income pushing up the number of subscribers. Rates also go up with a college education and among people who are divorced, although marriage and graduate degrees have the opposite effect.

"Even when I control for income, age, education, and marital status, Utah residents still consume disproportionately more than people from other states," said Edelman.

...Although Utah is headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Edelman found that regions where people regularly attend religious services are not statistically different from their counterparts in more secular regions. But users who do attend religious services tend to shift their adult entertainment sessions to other days of the week than the day of services.
Scolded By The Stone

I remember once talking to Phil Krider, a lightning authority, about an experience I had on top of Mt. Audubon, in the Rockies outside Boulder, CO:
Marc: We were on the mountaintop and our hair stood up on end!
Phil: It was time to leave.
Marc: We could swish our fingertips through the air and hear crackling!
Phil: It was time to leave!
Marc: There was a growing cumulus cloud over a nearby mountain. We worried that we might get hit by lightning, so we laid down on the mountaintop.
Phil: Don't do that! It was time to leave!
Anyway, here's what might have happened if we had waited too long before leaving:
MOHAMMAD Ponari was, until last month, a typical kid in the impoverished East Java village of Balongsari. Then, quite literally, lightning struck.

The nine-year-old, who had been playing in the rain in his front yard, was hit by the thunderbolt but, to the astonishment of his young friends, he was unharmed.

All the more bizarre, according to an account by his village chief and his family, when he came to, he found a stone the size of an egg on his head, and was convinced he possessed healing powers.

A boy next door with a fever was his first patient. The stone was placed in a glass of water and the boy drank deeply. His fever vanished.

Then another neighbour approached him, a woman in her 30s who had suffered from a depressive condition for 15 years. She, too, was healed.

The miracles, large and small, kept coming, said Nila Retno, the local village chief.

"My arm was sprained. The water touched by stone was given to me and I applied the water to my sprained arm. Suddenly, I was OK again," she said.

The district police commissioner, Sutikno, a devout Muslim who will be making the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca this year, told of his experience.

"I was inside the house talking to the boy and his family. Together with me in the house was a boy of his age who had not spoken for five years," he said.

"Ponari shook him. The boy reacted and they started fighting, like wrestling and pulling each other's hair. Then, a few moments after the fighting, the boy started to talk."

What did he say? "He said 'I'm scared' in Javanese — but he talked."

The tales of miraculous healings spread. Within a week of the lightning strike, hundreds of villagers were lining up outside Ponari's modest home.

A week later, the ailing, the lame and the curious were coming from as far afield as Malaysia. Thousands queued each day in lines stretching for kilometres, carrying plastic bags of water ready to be transformed into an elixir by the magical stone.

Stampedes erupted on at least three occasions, resulting in the deaths of three people and injuries to dozens more.

...As for Ponari, he stopped administering his miracle cures this week after tending to tens of thousands of patients. The public disorder forced police to remove the boy to an undisclosed location.

Even so, as much as 1 billion rupiah ($A120,000) has been raised through a charity box outside his home. This, many adherents to mysticism believe, was poor form indeed. Dukuns are not supposed to profit from their activities.

According to village chief Retno, Ponari himself said he had been "scolded" by the stone for accepting cash. "He said he felt that his whole body was whipped," she said.

Ponari himself has now fallen ill, gripped by fever and nausea. Exhaustion perhaps. Or a sign of displeasure from the spirit world?
As A Catholic

The fellow waiting at the bus stop and carrying a bedroll was big - he looked a little bit like an aging Kid Rock:
K.R.: Sir, perhaps you could help me with my problem. I'm a Catholic and I need $2.00 to get across town. Please help me out, if you would. I implore you, as a Catholic.
Marc: Well, I'm not a Catholic, but I'll give you a dollar.
K.R.: Well, that gets me halfway there.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

DJI 6,000, Ho!

Wow! Closed at 6,594.44!
Courtroom Chaos

Be careful with the schizophrenic meth addict! They get really paranoid!
STOCKTON – His family said he never should have been on the stand.

But it was in the middle of David Paradiso's testimony in his own murder trial that the Stockton man leapt from the witness stand and attacked the judge – seconds before being shot to death by the Lodi police detective who built the case against him.

The attack occurred during a brief disturbance when Paradiso's mother, Debra, was removed from the courtroom after shouting that her son should never have been asked to testify. Paradiso, 29, had just told the court that he stabbed his 20-year-old girlfriend in the neck in 2006 " 'cause she deserved to die," according to observers.

San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Cinda Fox ordered a recess and directed the jury from the courtroom. In the commotion, observers reported, Paradiso left the witness stand, walked behind the judge's bench and grabbed her from behind.

He appeared to punch and stab Fox, according to reporters from the Stockton Record and Lodi News-Sentinel newspapers who were in the Stockton courtroom.

Authorities later confirmed Fox had been stabbed with "an unknown cutting instrument," though her injuries were minor. She was treated at St. Joseph's Medical Center and later released.

As the attack unfolded, Lodi Police Detective Eric Bradley, the lead investigator in the case, jumped from his seat at the prosecution's table and fired several shots, killing Paradiso. Bradley was later placed on paid administrative leave pending investigation, as is routine in officer-involved shootings.

Chaos ensued, and the reporters described people screaming and ducking for cover. Trials were halted and the courthouse locked down. Later, the building was emptied, save for witnesses, court employees and authorities beginning their investigation.

San Joaquin County authorities released little information about the day's events.

Paradiso's family, however, had much to say. His older brother, Aaron Paradiso, was in the courtroom when the shots rang out. He saw his brother fall before rushing his own 14-year-old daughter out of the room.

Recalling the scene in a long and emotional telephone interview, Aaron Paradiso went silent. "You've got me speechless," he said. "I was just feeling my little brother's pain."

Aaron Paradiso and his family assailed lawyers' decision to put David Paradiso on the stand, saying he was a paranoid schizophrenic who had been "breaking down" in recent weeks and couldn't withstand the stress.

"They were playing with a sick man on the stand like it was a game," he said.

The Record reported Paradiso had been questioned by his defense attorney, Charles Pacheco, without problem Tuesday. But he balked when asked to take the stand Wednesday for cross-examination.

Paradiso agreed to testify after a short meeting in Fox's chambers, the paper reported.

"He was going after her jugular, just as he did to the victim in this case," Pacheco told the News-Sentinel. "He was not stopping stabbing her, going for her neck. Bradley did the right thing."

Aaron Paradiso said his brother's illness was evident in the crime he was accused of committing: In December 2006, David Paradiso allegedly stabbed his 20-year-old girlfriend, Eileen Pelt, in the neck as the two rode in the back seat of his mother's car while she drove through Lodi.

His family does not dispute his guilt. Instead, they say the defense argument that methamphetamine use prompted the violence is deficient.

"The evidence shows what it shows. But the paranoia is real," Aaron Paradiso said. "The craziness was there."
Great Unemployment Interactive Map!

Thanks, John!

It's interesting looking at the geographic variation.

I’m very surprised how well OK, TX, NM, and the Plains states are holding up. There was at least some advantage in NOT participating strongly in the housing boom!
This Is Just About The Best 'Daily Show' Clip Ever!

Jon Stewart dismantles CNBC!
"He Didn't Have Enough People Lookin' At Him?"

The "Backwood Hicks" girl, Tonya Harding, explains why "all publicity is good publicity."
Davis Enterprise Review Of "The Sound Of Music" Is Out

Bev hearts Kay:
The ladies rule, in the Davis Musical Theatre Company's production of 'The Sound of Music.' The women in the cast far outshine the men in this sparkling show, which is directed by Jan Isaacson.

A company with a small house can use the entire theater in many scenes, and Isaacson does this quite well, starting with the opening Gregorian chant by the nuns of Nonnberg Abby: They file in from the back of the theater, chanting on their way down the stairs and through the audience, and finally onto the stage.

The curtains then open, to reveal postulant Maria sitting on her beloved mountain. The scenery - designed by Steve Isaacson - is lovely, and perfectly conveys a sense of the mountains.

Kate Hight is outstanding as Maria. She has a lovely voice and a fresh earnestness to her character; just watching her makes us want to smile. She's particularly good during her scenes with the von Trapp children, for whom she takes a temporary job as governess.

Marguerite Morris is wonderful as the Mother Abbess, who sends Maria to the von Trapp home, hoping she'll discover whether she has a true vocation. Morris is at her best, of course, in the signature 'Climb Every Mountain,' for which she receives a well-deserved ovation.

The delightful '(How Do You Solve a Problem like) Maria' is sung with Sister Margaretta (Eimi Stokes), Sister Berthe (Mary Young) and Sister Sophia (Laura Sitts). Stokes is particular charming, and has an irrepressible personality.

The von Trapp children are essential to the popularity of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, and Isaacson's experience as director of DMTC's young performers program really shows, both in her selection of seven outstanding young actors, and in her direction of the group. Individually and collectively, they're all quite good.

Liesl, who is '16 Going on 17,' is played by Moriah Haworth; she has a winning voice and beautifully expresses the joy of new love, and the heartbreak of its loss.

Kendyl Ito plays Brigitta, who seems never to have an unexpressed thought.

The others are Rami Rashmawi, as Friedrich; Jasmin Mould, as Louisa; William Chan, as Kurt; Ani Carrera, as Marta; and Rose Moylan as the adorable youngest, Gretl. The group sings well together, and down to the youngest they're all professional on stage.

Emily Cannon-Brown plays Elsa Schraeder, the woman who hopes to wed Capt. von Trapp (Giorgio Selvaggio) until she realizes that his feelings for Maria are more than that of an employer for an employee. Cannon-Brown also is a strong performer, and has a lovely voice.

Sadly, the men in the cast don't fare as well. Selvaggio has a big voice, but even the sprayed-on gray hair can't make him look old enough to have fathered seven children. He looks more like Liesl's brother than her parent. This might have been overlooked if Selvaggio appeared more comfortable on stage, but - alas - he doesn't.

Herb K. Schultz fares a little better as Max Detweiler, the opportunistic entrepreneur who is determined to befriend both Austrians and Germans as the war approaches, and to exploit whomever he can for his own good. Schultz is OK but not outstanding.

As Rolf, the young man who delivers telegrams and steals Liesl's heart, Matthew Kohrt is the best of the male actors; sadly, his role is small.

This is one of the better-looking DMTC shows, with each scene clearly demonstrating the work that went into it. This show's dedication to quality also is revealed by the size of the orchestra, with 18 musicians listed in the program. That's more than I remember seeing for any previous DMTC show.

Jeanne Henderson's costumes are wonderful, and the wedding dress for Maria is a knockout, with a train that covers half the length of the stairs, as she descends through the audience on her way to the stage. (This dress was a donation to DMTC many years ago.)

Despite a few shortcomings, this 'Sound of Music' is well worth the price of admission. Hight's performance as Maria is worth the price of admission; after including all the other good things about this production, it definitely won't disappoint DMTC's fans.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

No, What Do You Really Think?

Oooh, methinks some of these Masters Of The Universe don't like taking orders from the government:

(Excerpt from House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street by William D. Cohan, to be published in March, 2009 by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.)

Cohan brings lively quotes about the tensions surrounding the death of Bear Stearns. Consider, for instance, this rant that Cohan describes from bridge-playing Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne describing his feelings on Geithner’s decision to sell Bear Stearns:

Asked about Geithner’s comments and his decision regarding opening the discount window to Wall Street after Bear had been sold for $2 a share and not earlier, Jimmy Cayne became spitting angry.
“The audacity of that p—k in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan,” he said. “Like he was the determining factor, and it’s like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, getting a h–d-on, saying, ‘Raise the bridge.’ This guy thinks he’s got a big d–k. He’s got nothing, except maybe a boyfriend. I’m not a good enemy. I’m a very bad enemy. But certain things really—that bothered me plenty. It’s just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they’re a good credit? Who the f–k asked you? You’re not an elected officer. You’re a clerk. Believe me, you’re a clerk. I want to open up on this f—-r, that’s all I can tell you.”
On Yearning To Join The Juror Clique, And Being Rebuffed

Left: Superior Court Of California, County Of Sacramento, 720 Ninth St., Sacramento.

This morning, after four hours of sleep (it's hard being a night owl sometimes), I hurried down for 8 a.m. jury duty call at the Sacramento Superior Court.

I was the second juror seated for voir dire from the third cattle call of the morning, in what appeared to be a shoplifting allegation against a Wal-Mart customer.

I was rather eager to be on a jury again. When I lived in Arizona, I was on two juries (homicide & DUI). The homicide case, in particular, was very interesting. The parties stipulated that the defendant had shot the victim (taking care of a huge swath of time necessary to present the forensic evidence) so the fairly-brief case turned on the jury's interpretation of what was really happening in the last ten seconds before the fatal shot was fired. For gripping human interest, better than what you see on TV!

But jury service is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get. So if shoplifting is the matter of interest today, then shoplifting it will have to be.

I was called for jury duty several times in the 90's, but in the voir dire process I propounded a jury nullification theory that the jury could set aside the law if the law got in the way. That's the American spirit! Independence! The lawyers, however, weren't that thrilled with my bracing, freelancing 'Live Free, Or Die' interpretation of criminal law. I was swiftly excused.

This time, chastened by the years, I left the lawyers little to work with in voir dire. I left blank the answers to:
Have you or a close friend ever been:
  • employed by a law enforcement agency;
  • a victim of a crime; or,
  • arrested for a crime?
I was answering more or less correctly, but of course, in the deep past I've talked to crime victims or had stuff taken from me. It's been a long time (thankfully) since I've had a brush with crime, however, and it didn't seem germane today.

Nevertheless, the defense exercised its peremptory right to excuse me from the jury anyway. Why? Probably my Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences.

Now why should well-educated people like scientists and engineers expect to be thrown off a jury? Some people would suppose it's because education makes one resistant to the emotional appeals of the defense (and there is an element of truth there). But actually the reason is more because scientists and engineers tend to have a rigid, hierarchical sense of order that makes them ill-equipped to understand the moral elasticity required to participate, say, in your average drug gang or credit-card scam. The lack of imagination is the killer. And as in any proper clique, in the jury clique, you don't want to include harsh, unimaginative, overly-judgmental people who don't get it.

(But please, I'm not like those other engineers! Really! Gimme a chance!)

Sigh. Maybe next year....

Left: Fountain Sculpture, Sacramento County Administration Building, Ninth & H St., Sacramento.

Left: Downtown Sacramento Light Rail going hither and thither.

Left: The Old Governor's Mansion, 16th & H St., Sacramento.

For four years (1990-94) I worked in a building directly behind the Old Governor's Mansion (Jerry Brown grew up in this building), but I have yet to actually visit the big pile.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Called in to jury duty on Wednesday.....
"Sleepless in Seattle" Musical

Coming in 2010:
"Sleepless in Seattle"-- the 1993 movie that turned Tom Hanks into a romantic leading man, is being developed as musical headed for Broadway, producers said on Tuesday.

Eighteen songs have already been written for "Sleepless in Seattle - The Musical" and producers are aiming for a first reading in May 2009 and an official opening in early 2010.

Oscar-winning composer and lyricist Leslie Bricusse, whose past musicals include "Stop The World, I Want To Get Off" and the song "What Kind of Fool Am I?", is part of the creative team along with Joel Zwick, who directed the 2002 breakout hit movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

Producer David Shor, who is developing the musical, said he had recently acquired the theatrical rights to the movie and had already received an option to finance up to 50 percent of the production budget.

Jeff Arch, who co-wrote the movie screenplay, will write the book of the show.

"This is a timeless romantic comedy that lends itself to stage production, and having one of the film's original writers involved -- someone who has lived these characters for many years -- will help us bring it to life in an authentic way," Shor said in a statement.

Shor said the musical would remain pegged to 1993, reflecting the culture, fashions and music of the era.

This may be more complicated than I thought - getting tickets for Britney's April 11th show in Sacramento.

Or less complicated, if I just part with the cash - but I don't want to spend $1,000 for a ticket....
Just Kept Talking To Me And Talking To Me

For the people who really love parrots:
Brian Wilson, from Damascus, Maryland, suffered life-threatening injuries in the accidnet 14 years ago. He also lost his ability to speak.

But he now claims that the chatter of pet parrots confounded the bleak outlook of doctors, who were convinced that he would spend the rest of his life in bed at a nursing home.

"Two birds taught me to talk again," he said. "I had such a bad head injury I was never supposed to talk any more than a two-year-old."

But two of the birds that he had had as pets since he was a child "just kept talking to me and talking to me".

"Then all of a sudden, a word popped out, then two, then more."

To show his gratitude to the birds who helped him on the path to rehabilitation, Mr Wilson has devoted his life to feathered pets whose owners are no longer able or want to keep them.

He now shares his home with about 80 brightly plumed exotic birds, from snow-white cockatoos to scarlet or blue and green macaws to African grey parrots.

He has set up a foundation called the Wilson Parrot Foundation, which also offers the services of the birds to entertain at birthday parties and corporate events.

"You wonder why I rescue birds? They helped me to talk again, so now I take care of them," he said.
Your Rainbow, Courtesy Of Joe The Plumber

Joe: Hey, Marc! There's a rainbow! Look out your window!
Marc: So there is! Two rainbows actually.
Joe: That's what you get in Lavender Heights. See the white truck?
Marc: Yes. Is that you?
Joe: I'm heading to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
Bush, The Unconstitutional Dictator

When I think about comparisons between George W. Bush's Global War On Terror (GWOT), and Abraham Lincoln's Civil War, I think about a relative I learned about while doing genealogy, a fellow born in 1832 named Henry Hudson Drake. The only things I know about him are in this list. As you can see, Mr. Drake had an eventful 1864:
1853-1857: Lived near Keokuk, Iowa
1864: Captured as a Federal spy at Bayou Sara, Louisiana.
Tried and acquitted in Canton, Mississippi.
Confederate conscript at Enterprise, Mississippi.
Escaped at Mobile, Alabama and fled to Pensacola, Florida.
1865-1869: Retail shoe trade at New Orleans.
1869: Moved to Mobile, Alabama and entered wholesale shoe trade.
1884: After New Orleans 'Exposition', formed new business engagements and travelled in Louisiana and Texas.
1888: Moved to Claude (Armstrong Co.), Texas.
1900: Still in general merchandising.
Remember, in 1864, Mississippi was in a shambles. Worse yet, given his birthplace, Mr. Drake may well have been somewhat guilty, or at least not entirely innocent, of the charge of being a Yankee spy. Nevertheless, he was still able to find justice in a Confederate courtroom in 1864! (It sounds like he bargained his way into the hard-pressed Confederate army). Despite everything, the wheels of justice still functioned in that dark, dark time.

That's what the rule of law means. Everyone's actions are constrained by applicable law. Everyone. When soldiers fired at each other on the field of battle, they were doing so lawfully. Anyone freelancing was doing so unlawfully.

Which just makes the way the Bush Administration approached the GWOT such a defamatory blot on American history. George Bush was freelancing, which is very, very dangerous:
It was during the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln became known as a "constitutional dictator," said former Nixon White House counsel John Dean during a Monday broadcast of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Responding to the recent release of several legal justifications for President Bush's most criticized policies, Dean summarized, "Reading these memos, you've gotta almost conclude we had an unconstitutional dictator. It's pretty deadly and pretty serious, what's in these materials.

"The memos, released by Obama's Justice Department on Monday, outline possible methods for the president to ignore treaties and International laws, kidnap and torture American citizens and overrule the First Amendment to the Constitution which ensures freedom of speech and of the press.

All of these things and more could be done exclusively by the president in the name of fighting terrorism."Who in this formula was supposed to decide that these were terrorists?" asked Olbermann.

"Well, according to these memos, that was rather limited to the President of the United States and there are no guidelines as to how he might describe who was or was not a terrorist," said Dean.

Dean also said that the repeal of several of these memos just days before the Bush administration left power, was "definitely a bit of C-Y-A," though he did not ascribe "evil intent" to anyone.

...Dean has previously warned of "serious consequences" around the world if the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are not willing to "point fingers" at Bush administration members who may be guilty of war crimes.
The Rush Dilemma

Publius' post is so good I reproduce it below, in entirety. Rush Lambaugh is a shock jock and the Republican Party is the loyal opposition and their interests aren't exactly the same, as displayed this week:

Have to admit – I’m sort of fascinated with Rush Limbaugh these days. Terribleness aside, it’s been fascinating to see his revival in the mainstream news of late. And yes, his revival is a problem for Republicans – but not for the reason you think.

The GOP’s “Rush Problem” isn’t that he’s too extreme – it’s that Rush fundamentally doesn’t give a damn about whether the GOP succeeds. In fact, he personally benefits more if it doesn’t.

There were lots of happy people on the night of November 4, 2008. I was happy. Oprah was happy. The guy Oprah was using as a chair seemed happy (perhaps he was offered a car or free book). But let me tell you who the happiest soul in America was – Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh is an entertainer. Period. Full Stop. Steele was right about that. He’s not a policy guy – he’s not a party guy. He’s a glorified – though very successful – shock jock. He wants to cause outrages. He craves press – negative press; positive press; it doesn’t matter. Basically, any attention for him – in any form – is a good thing.

For this reason, his incentives are completely different from the institutional GOP’s. To be frank, he has more professional incentives to root for the Democrats than for the Republicans. It’s much easier to shock and rabble rouse in the opposition. You don’t have to pull punches. You are free to play up the persecution complex so central to the Rush bloc of the GOP.

That said, he is of course conservative. And I’m sure he truly hates liberals with every fiber of his being. So it’s not so much that he's personally rooting for Democrats. It’s more that he really doesn’t give a s*** about whether he’s helping Republicans or not. That isn't his concern. His concern is getting press. And that’s why he secretly relishes the attention Obama and Rahm have already given him.

That’s also why it’s completely foolish for the GOP to try to distance themselves from him. Better to just completely ignore him. Frankly, it's a no-win situation. If they embrace him, that’s of course bad because he’s smelly and odious. If they distance themselves from him, however, they create headlines and open themselves to Rush's on-air attacks (which, in turn, create more headlines...).

Poor Michael Steele is a great example. He jumped in the fray, and has been forced to give a humiliating apology to a man who's secretly frolicking in all the headlines the spat has caused. I'm sure Rush was deeply deeply offended by the comments.

The Steele incident, though, shows precisely how Rush’s skewed incentives come into play. If Rush were truly invested in the GOP, he wouldn’t devote a show to attacking Steele. But that’s not his thing – that’s not his essence. He’s an attention-seeking entertainer. So he feels completely free to light into Steele and hope for more publicity. And if those attacks hurt the GOP’s cause, well, he doesn’t really care because he has no professional incentive to care.

It’s similar to a central idea in Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit.” “Bullshit,” Frankfurt explains, isn’t conscious lying, but indifference to the truth. That’s sort of how Rush operates. He isn’t consciously trying to hurt the GOP through extreme statements and high-profile fights. He’s just indifferent to their effect. If they help the GOP, fine. If they don’t, that's fine too. The key is getting attention.

It’s better, then, for the GOP to avoid Rahm’s trap and just ignore Rush altogether. The mere act of discussing him is to necessarily be losing, regardless of what you're saying.
Sparky's Combs

Because of "The Sound Of Music" I've somehow managed to mislay or lose all my combs. Hair loss aside, I still need combs.

Well, one must improvise....
Today's Liberal Uplift

From Oliver Willis (Like Kryptonite To Stupid).

Oliver Willis is young and he may be right that he'll live long enough to see a Republican in the White House again. Me, I'm old, and I hope to pass on before that dark day:
Redstate joins the chorus on the right assuming that liberal attacks on Bobby Jindal are due to us being scared of him.

Bobby Jindal doesn’t scare anyone. Nor for that matter do Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter or the rest of the mental midgets that form the core of the conservative/Republican axis.

It’s not as if we’ve never been scared of the right. For 8 years we feared what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would do to America, and sadly the damage done was even worse than most of us (including myself) feared.

But now? I have no doubt that the right will one day again be on top, there will likely be more than a few Republican presidents within my lifetime. But right now you’ve got idiots like Sarah Palin and cartoons like Bobby Jindal being touted as serious national candidates. I’m too young to remember it firsthand, but I’ve got to feel that liberals today feel like LBJ did in 1964 or Ronald Reagan felt in 1984: You can’t be serious.

So we mock, not the way we mocked Bush out of fear of what he would and did do, but out of that most natural of reasons: Conservatives and republicans, right now in 2009 are the most mockable of public figures.
Offer Nissim ft Maya - First Time

I love House, particularly when it's done live.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Reading The Magazines In The 'Jiffy Lube' Waiting Room

At last, a chance to catch up on the most-important matters of the year!

I opened up "OK! - Weekly" to read the feature story: 'Rihanna and Chris - What Really Happened'. The table of contents put the article on page 40, near the middle of the magazine. But when I opened the magazine up to the middle, I discovered that someone had artfully played with the staples and removed the center pages, including the feature article. So, now I'll never know :(

So, on to 'Men's Journal' which, on the last page of the March, 2009 issue, featured an interview with Craig Ferguson. A fun interview, but what I liked most was the answer to the last question: "What skill do you wish you could master?":
I'm trying to master flying an airplane. Aviation is the complete opposite of show business. In show business, you live by bullshit. In aviation, you bullshit, you die.
Marc's First Bungy Jump - The Video

For the monthly potluck lunch here at work, I'm presenting a Power Point slide show of my trip to New Zealand. I wanted to also show the video of my first bungy jump (at AJ Hackett's Kawarau Bridge site near Queenstown, NZ - previously blogged about here, but I had to change the video format first.

I have trouble telling how close I got to the river. I asked the crew to adjust the ropes so I could *just touch* the surface of the water, but it's hard to get the setting that precise. The lead guy on the crew said I missed it by "an inch". Looking at the video, I think it's five feet or so, but it's hard to tell (I had closed my eyes until I reached nearly the bottom, and when I opened them I was too addled to make much sense of what I was seeing).

It's not a very artful jump, but things we do for the first time rarely are....
Santelli And The Astroturf

Excellent post!:
Interested in how the uninformed spewing of one relatively obscure CNBC anchor became a nationwide cause célèbre? It turns out it had a little something to do with astroturf organizing funded by rightwing foundations: “At stake isn’t the little guy’s fight against big government, as Santelli and his bot-supporters claim, but rather the ‘upper 2 percent’s war to protect their wealth from the Obama Adminstration’s economic plans. When this Santelli ‘grassroots’ campaign is peeled open, what’s revealed is a glimpse of what is ahead and what is bound to be a hallmark of his presidency.”

As I’ve been saying, one thing that makes it difficult to break the top two percent’s grip on things is their total control of the media. A typical Sunday chat show will consist of a host who belongs to the top two percent reporting to a network executive who belongs to the top two percent, who reports to a conglomerate executive who belongs to the top two percent. Their livelihoods will depend on attracting advertising dollars that are controlled by other top two percenters, and if the host brings some pundits on to discuss things they’ll be from the top two percent. Thus do the delicate sensibilities of the two percent or so of households earning more than $250,000 a year wind up getting equal weight—or more!—to those of the overwhelming majority of households that earn less than $100,000 a year.
Crash Goes The Market

DJI now below 6,800. It's the magic of the marketplace! Finally it's telling us our lives are built on foundations of sand. It took awhile, but now the news is in.

Yes, now is the time we should put all our Social Security into stocks! The future is so bright!
Strange Week Coming Up

I'm supposed to be on jury duty, and so the week might be full of really interesting stuff, and absolutely none of it available for blogging (at least, not available until later). So, posts may be spotty, depending on what happens.

"The Sound Of Music" - Sunday Matinee

Left: Captain Georg von Trapp (Giorgio Selvaggio), Marta (Ani C.), Kurt (William C.), Friedrich (Rami R.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), and Liesl (Moriah H.).

Here are some pictures.

It was a bit of a strange show - particularly the party scene. One person blanked and failed to make an entrance. That left too many men for the dancing, and so my partner jilted me to dance with Steve. I was in emotional distress for a few seconds over this abandonment.

In the Landlaer Dance, my partner rejoined me, and jilted Steve (equal-opportunity emotional distress). Capt. von Trapp handed me a brandy at the beginning of the Landlaer Dance, to my great surprise (the missing person was supposed to take it), and I missed the start of the dance trying to figure out what to do with the glass (I put in on the floor near the edge of the stage). Nervous, I also nearly dropped the tray of brandy. It's interesting what happens when just one person is missing!

Left: Louisa (Jasmin M.), Friedrich (Rami R.), Liesl (Moriah H.), Gretl (Rose M.), Maria (Kay Hight), Kurt (William C.), and Marta (Ani C.).

Left: Friedrich (Rami R.), Louisa (Jasmin M.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Kurt (William C.), Maria (Kay Hight), and Gretl (Rose M.).

Left: Maria (Kay Hight).

Left: Frau Schmidt (Wendy Mumolo).

Left and Below: Maria (Kay Hight) and Liesl (Moriah H.).

Left: Maria (Kay Hight) and Liesl (Moriah H.).

Left: Kurt (William C.), Gretl (Rose M.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Marta (Ani C.) and Louisa (Jasmin M.).

Left: Liesl (Moriah H.), Marta (Ani C.), Kurt (William C.), Gretl (Rose M.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Louisa (Jasmin M.) and Friedrich (Rami R.).

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Thank You, I Hope You Enjoyed The Show!

After playing Franz, the Nazi butler, in Friday's performance of "The Sound Of Music", an eighty-year-old man came up to me and shook my hand:
I really enjoyed your performance. As a ten-year-old boy, I was on one of the very last boats to escape Greece when the Nazis invaded. I remember it very clearly. We heard absolutely nothing from our relatives until after the war was over. Those Nazis weren't human: they were monsters!"

In fact, in the second act, I started getting madder and madder at you. What I wanted, more than anything, was to jump up on the stage, grab you by the throat, and choke you until you passed out!
Thank you! (I think....)

Turner picked up my cell phone (a hated device, to be sure) and started asking questions: "Hey, Oprah, can you get the Internet on this phone?" "Yes, I think so," I replied. Turner continued, "there's this great Web Site ( where you can get free ring tones."

Turner started working the phone and eventually downloaded two Beyonce ring tones (after failing to locate a free Kylie ringtone), but I was unsatisfied. Turner suggested "why not get a really old song?" So, I had him download Patrick Hernandez' "Born To Be Alive".

To my surprise, Herb knew the song. "Born To Be Alive," Herb mimicked. Paul recognized the tune, and hated it with a passion.

So, now I have a unique ringtone (who else has a Patrick Hernandez ringtone?) In addition, the ringtone identifies me as being hopelessly out-of-step with the times, a status I increasingly strive for.

Maybe cell phones aren't so bad after all....
Keeping The A.I.G. Scams Going

Why the credit crisis got so bad and could get worse:
If we let A.I.G. fail, said Seamus P. McMahon, a banking expert at Booz & Company, other institutions, including pension funds and American and European banks “will face their own capital and liquidity crisis, and we could have a domino effect.” A bailout of A.I.G. is really a bailout of its trading partners — which essentially constitutes the entire Western banking system.

...“They were the worst of them all,” said Frank Partnoy, a law professor at the University of San Diego and a derivatives expert. Mr. Vickrey of Gradient Analytics said, “It was extreme hubris, fueled by greed.” Other firms used many of the same shady techniques as A.I.G., but none did them on such a broad scale and with such utter recklessness. And yet — and this is the part that should make your blood boil — the company is being kept alive precisely because it behaved so badly.

...As a huge multinational insurance company, with a storied history and a reputation for being extremely well run, A.I.G. had one of the most precious prizes in all of business: an AAA rating, held by no more than a dozen or so companies in the United States. That meant ratings agencies believed its chance of defaulting was just about zero. It also meant it could borrow more cheaply than other companies with lower ratings.

...(Credit-default swaps) acted as a form of insurance for the securities. In effect, A.I.G. was saying if, by some remote chance (ha!) those mortgage-backed securities suffered losses, the company would be on the hook for the losses. And because A.I.G. had that AAA rating, when it sprinkled its holy water over those mortgage-backed securities, suddenly they had AAA ratings too. That was the ratings arbitrage. “It was a way to exploit the triple A rating,” said Robert J. Arvanitis, a former A.I.G. executive who has since become a leading A.I.G. critic.

Why would Wall Street and the banks go for this? Because it shifted the risk of default from themselves to A.I.G., and the AAA rating made the securities much easier to market. What was in it for A.I.G.? Lucrative fees, naturally. But it also saw the fees as risk-free money; surely it would never have to actually pay up. Like everyone else on Wall Street, A.I.G. operated on the belief that the underlying assets — housing — could only go up in price.

...But because credit-default swaps were not regulated, and were not even categorized as a traditional insurance product, A.I.G. didn’t have to put anything aside for losses. And it didn’t. Its leverage was more akin to an investment bank than an insurance company. So when housing prices started falling, and losses started piling up, it had no way to pay them off. Not understanding the real risk, the company grievously mispriced it.

...The regulatory arbitrage was even seamier. A huge part of the company’s credit-default swap business was devised, quite simply, to allow banks to make their balance sheets look safer than they really were. Under a misguided set of international rules that took hold toward the end of the 1990s, banks were allowed use their own internal risk measurements to set their capital requirements. The less risky the assets, obviously, the lower the regulatory capital requirement.

How did banks get their risk measures low? It certainly wasn’t by owning less risky assets. Instead, they simply bought A.I.G.’s credit-default swaps. The swaps meant that the risk of loss was transferred to A.I.G., and the collateral triggers made the bank portfolios look absolutely risk-free. Which meant minimal capital requirements, which the banks all wanted so they could increase their leverage and buy yet more “risk-free” assets. This practice became especially rampant in Europe. That lack of capital is one of the reasons the European banks have been in such trouble since the crisis began.

...It’s not as if this was some Enron-esque secret, either. Everybody knew the capital requirements were being gamed, including the regulators. Indeed, A.I.G. openly labeled that part of the business as “regulatory capital.” That is how they, and their customers, thought of it.

...Here’s what is most infuriating: Here we are now, fully aware of how these scams worked. Yet for all practical purposes, the government has to keep them going. Indeed, that may be the single most important reason it can’t let A.I.G. fail. If the company defaulted, hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps would “blow up,” and all those European banks whose toxic assets are supposedly insured by A.I.G. would suddenly be sitting on immense losses. Their already shaky capital structures would be destroyed. A.I.G. helped create the illusion of regulatory capital with its swaps, and now the government has to actually back up those contracts with taxpayer money to keep the banks from collapsing. It would be funny if it weren’t so awful.

I asked Mr. Arvanitis, the former A.I.G. executive, if the company viewed what it had done during the bubble as a form of gaming the system. “Oh no,” he said, “they never thought of it as abuse. They thought of themselves as satisfying their customers.”
Let's Face It, Grant Line Road Is Too Far Out There For A Mall

Barely enough business for the malls already here:
As recently as two years ago, General Growth appeared ready to deliver on its promise. Confident City Council members debated whether stores such as Target and JCPenney would be good enough for the upscale mall they envisioned.

No one talks that way these days. Work on the Elk Grove Promenade has been stopped for months. And the news grew worse Friday: The project has been put on hold indefinitely.

General Growth spokeswoman Nicole Spreck said the company has "suspended" its most recently promised completion date – fall 2010.
"And That's The Rest Of The Story!"

Paul Harvey, dead at 90. One annoying radio guy I won't miss (with many more to go).
That's It - No Ethanol Blend For Me!

Thanks, John! I don't much like the idea of biofuels anyway (growing them is hard on the soil and their combustion tends to yield worse air quality than burning petroleum fuels), and this fatwa against ethanol just confirms my distrust of them:
An Islamic scholar in Saudi Arabia said using ethanol or other alcohol-derived fuels in vehicles may be a sin for Muslims.

Sheik Mohamed al-Najimi of the Saudi Islamic Jurisprudence Academy told Saudi newspaper Shams that the prophet Mohammed banned alcohol for all uses -- including buying, selling, carrying and manufacturing, Al-Arabiya reported Friday.

Najimi said Muslims who use biofuel, which is made from fermented plants, in their cars are violating the ban since the substance `is basically made up of alcohol.
Saturday Night At "The Sound Of Music"

Much smoother tonight. Nice effort on everyone's behalf!

Many of Herb's friends were there tonight. They seemed to appreciate seeing him on stage.

In "16 Going On 17" Matt (playing Rolf) was apparently forced to leap from the bench upon which he was doing an arabesque. He hoped his desperate leap looked graceful (but he doubted it somehow).

Moving the cumbersome sofa on stage, the portable metal railing was knocked over, adding an unnecessarily emphatic "CLANG!" in the middle of the wedding scene.

Nice show!