Friday, July 10, 2009

Peggy Noonan On Sarah Palin

Peggy sounds exasperated:
Her history does not need to be rehearsed at any length. Ten months ago she was embraced with friendliness by her party. The left and the media immediately overplayed their hand, with attacks on her children. The party rallied round, as a party should. She went on the trail a sensation but demonstrated in the ensuing months that she was not ready to go national and in fact never would be. She was hungry, loved politics, had charm and energy, loved walking onto the stage, waving and doing the stump speech. All good. But she was not thoughtful. She was a gifted retail politician who displayed the disadvantages of being born into a point of view (in her case a form of conservatism; elsewhere and in other circumstances, it could have been a form of liberalism) and swallowing it whole: She never learned how the other sides think, or why.

In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. "I'm not wired that way," "I'm not a quitter," "I'm standing up for our values." I'm, I'm, I'm.

In another age it might not have been terrible, but here and now it was actually rather horrifying.

...."I love her because she's so working-class." This is a favorite of some party intellectuals. She is not working class, never was, and even she, avid claimer of advantage that she is, never claimed to be and just lets others say it. Her father was a teacher and school track coach, her mother the school secretary. They were middle-class figures of respect, stability and local status. I think intellectuals call her working-class because they see the makeup, the hair, the heels and the sleds and think they're working class "tropes." Because, you know, that's what they teach in "Ways of the Working Class" at Yale and Dartmouth.

What she is, is a seemingly very nice middle-class girl with ambition, appetite and no sense of personal limits.

..."The elites hate her." The elites made her. It was the elites of the party, the McCain campaign and the conservative media that picked her and pushed her. The base barely knew who she was. It was the elites, from party operatives to public intellectuals, who advanced her and attacked those who said she lacked heft. She is a complete elite confection. She might as well have been a bonbon.

"She makes the Republican Party look inclusive." She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated.

"She shows our ingenuous interest in all classes." She shows your cynicism.

"Now she can prepare herself for higher office by studying up, reading in, boning up on the issues." Mrs. Palin's supporters have been ordering her to spend the next two years reflecting and pondering. But she is a ponder-free zone. She can memorize the names of the presidents of Pakistan, but she is not going to be able to know how to think about Pakistan. Why do her supporters not see this? Maybe they think "not thoughtful" is a working-class trope!

"The media did her in." Her lack of any appropriate modesty did her in. Actually, it's arguable that membership in the self-esteem generation harmed her. For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they're perfect in every way. It's yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy.

"Turning to others means the media won!" No, it means they lose. What the mainstream media wants is not to kill her but to keep her story going forever. She hurts, as they say, the Republican brand, with her mess and her rhetorical jabberwocky and her careless causing of division. Really, she is the most careless sower of discord since George W. Bush, who fractured the party and the movement that made him. Why wouldn't the media want to keep that going?

Here's why all this matters. The world is a dangerous place. It has never been more so, or more complicated, more straining of the reasoning powers of those with actual genius and true judgment. This is a time for conservative leaders who know how to think.

Here are a few examples of what we may face in the next 10 years: a profound and prolonged American crash, with the admission of bankruptcy and the spread of deep social unrest; one or more American cities getting hit with weapons of mass destruction from an unknown source; faint glimmers of actual secessionist movements as Americans for various reasons and in various areas decide the burdens and assumptions of the federal government are no longer attractive or legitimate.

The era we face, that is soon upon us, will require a great deal from our leaders. They had better be sturdy. They will have to be gifted. There will be many who cannot, and should not, make the cut. Now is the time to look for those who can. And so the Republican Party should get serious, as serious as the age, because that is what a grown-up, responsible party—a party that deserves to lead—would do.

It's not a time to be frivolous, or to feel the temptation of resentment, or the temptation of thinking next year will be more or less like last year, and the assumptions of our childhoods will more or less reign in our future. It won't be that way.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Family Tree

Just checking in to see what Mumblecore Princess Greta Gerwig is up to. This short film is apparently an experimental work; the basis for something much larger, later.

Guys and girls think so much differently. I like the fact they mention Family Tree Maker software, which I've used myself, but instead of focusing on the handy drop-down PeopleFinder menu, or something useful like that, they have to go exploring relationships and emotions and all that other exasperating girly stuff instead.

I sense a chick flick in the works.....

Homey Message

Sitting on a planter not too far from Step One's front door was a little pocket-sized craft item: something like a pillow, with a homey message stitched into the gingham covering: "Suicide is Painless". The item was there yesterday, and it was there again today.

I eventually mentioned the item to Mary W., and said it wasn't a 'good' message (their clientele is young and, who knows, maybe even impressionable).

She agreed about the message, and even though it belonged to neither of us, she disposed of it anyway.

2012-Theme Crop Circle

Left: The Mayan-themed crop circle formation found at Silbury Hill, Wiltshire, UK

I can hardly wait till 2012! The end is nigh!:
The giant pattern - thought to represent a traditional Mayan head-dress - appeared next to the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe last week.

Members of the crop circle community believe the mystic symbol is a signal of the end of the 5,126-year Mayan 'Long Count' calendar on December 21, 2012.

Karen Alexander, a crop circle enthusiast, said: "This is one of the most interesting crop circles I have ever seen. It is definitely a Mayan symbol and we are sure it is linked to the Mayan calendar, which ends in 2012.

"It appears to be a warning about the world coming to an end when the calendar does. For the ancient Maya, reaching the end of a cycle was a momentous event, so we are taking this crop circle very seriously as an indicator of a possibly huge event in 2012."

Never, Ever Do That!

Disrespectful young'un:
MERCED -- A 50-year-old man at a correctional facility south of Merced took issue with an insult against Michael Jackson, breaking the jaw of another inmate Wednesday night who spoke badly about the late King of Pop.

Jeffrey Salery, 50, is expected to be charged with aggravated assault and battery with great bodily injury against a 21-year-old fellow inmate at John Latorraca Correctional Facility.

Salery told correctional officers that the 21-year-old “disrespected Michael Jackson,” although what specifically was said is not known.

Armageddon (StoneBridge Radio Edit) - Jessica Jarrell

He's B-A-C-K!

El Niño!:
US scientists on Thursday said that the El Niño warming trend of the Pacific Ocean waters has returned, bringing with it almost certain changes in weather patterns around the world.

The El Niño climatological effect -- the periodic warming of central and eastern tropical Pacific waters -- occurs on average every two to five years and typically lasts about 12 months.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement that the current El Niño was likely to develop further during the next several months, with additional strengthening possible and is expected to last through early 2010.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Apparently Oklahoma's Senator Tom Coburn is deeply-enmeshed in Nevada Senator John Ensign's sex/money scandal. That's just mahvellous! Why keep the number at two? Let's have a whole Republican orgy there!:
As Zack Roth explains here, this is the claim made last night by Doug Hampton, the cuckolded husband. Yesterday Coburn and his representatives would not deny the claim and actually seemed to concede that he had urged Ensign to pay the Hamptons money. To the Politico, Coburn's spokesman John Hart "categorically" denied Hampton's claim but seemed to be pegging the denial to the dollar amount not to the general issue of advising him to pay money. (See the quotes in Zack's post and judge for yourself whether it amounted to an admission.) In one extra piece of humor, Hampton refers to the money as 'restitution.'

But now -- just since I started writing this post -- Coburn has come out with a new line entirely. Now he's categorically denying urging Ensign to pay any money at all. And now -- and here's the kicker -- Coburn is saying that he won't answer questions about this from the Ethics Committee or anyone else because his conversations with Ensign are constitutionally protected since he was providing counseling as a physician and a Church deacon.
Apparently Coburn is an ob/gyn. Mahvellous!

DMTC Anxiety Dream

Last night, I dreamt I was hiking through a desolate arid wilderness in Australia, featuring lots of creosote bushes on reddish hills (which is odd right there, because creosote bushes grow in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico, not Australia, but nevermind).

Suddenly, it was time for a rehearsal of "The Wizard of Oz" (Director, Jan Isaacson) back at the swank coastal hotel. The place was called "The Strip", which HAD to have been Las Vegas, but since it was Australia, it was the Gold Coast (which is near Brisbane, nicknamed Bris-Vegas because of certain similarities to Vegas). And just before falling asleep, I had watched a DVD about Miami Beach night life, so the coastal tropical locale all fit together, in an odd, jumbly Miami/Gold Coast/Vegas dream-like way.

I was actually across the street from the rehearsal hotel, in another swank hotel. I HAD to get to rehearsal. So I descended down a packed, slow troublesome hotel elevator with several DMTC friends. The elevator let me off on the wrong floor without my friends - and then I suddenly got turned around.

Suddenly I was running along the top of a parking structure, heading directly towards fireworks and loud music ("76 Trombones") coming from yet another hotel farther down the Strip. I couldn't get there, however, because of steep walls and no stairs, so I had to backtrack through the hotel, and through the ground-level hotel bar. I saw Lenore Sebastian there, but she didn't see me, and I seemed to have laryngitis and couldn't communicate to her.

Then I passed into a back garage of the bar. The garage was filled with rusting automobiles from the 1930's. I was menaced by a large, growling whippet and caustic Australian mechanics. I managed to placate the dog and the Aussies, however, and passed outside into the gardens (that looked a lot like Vegas' Tropicana Hotel's grounds), but then I fell into a swimming pool and had to paddle for life. Oddly, I couldn't reach the edge of the pool, but had to desperately swim, even as they drained the pool, revealing jagged metal on the bottom of the pool that threatened to slice me up.

By now, I was very late for rehearsal. I was suspended in the air, as the surrounding crowd rhythmically chanted 'stroke, stroke, stroke!' I flailed my arms in the empty pool, striving for dear life. Just then, Jan approached the pool's edge, discovered me, shook her head at the scene, and walked off. I awoke suddenly.

Just before falling asleep, I had also rewatched the movie "Clerks", which may account for a portion of the dead-end frustration felt in the dream. The sensation of being turned around and lost reminded me of folks who have Alzheimer's, and who get turned around, and lost, quite readily.

Not sure what it was all about. Maybe "Music Man" final weekend anxiety is getting to me. I'm starting to plan a Southwest trip, so maybe trip anxiety is getting to me too. Maybe it's the forgetfulness, or the punctuality issues, or the need for social approval. Plus, I prepared my signature stir-fry for dinner last night, which gave me vivid dreams last week (I wonder if I have inadvertently added hallucinogenics to the mix somehow?)

All I know is that I'm not in Kansas anymore.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Dawn Of The Renminbi Era

Thanks to our ridiculous Middle East ventures and crazy ideas regarding housing, the dollar will soon be eclipsed by the renimbi as the world's reserve currency. Basically, we will lose our national credit card, and suffer the resulting pangs of poverty, as the Chinese Empire inexorably replaces our own:
THE 19th century was dominated by the British Empire, the 20th century by the United States. We may now be entering the Asian century, dominated by a rising China and its currency. While the dollar status as the major reserve currency will not vanish overnight, we can no longer take it for granted. Sooner than we think, the dollar may be challenged by other currencies, most likely the Chinese renminbi. This would have serious costs for America, as our ability to finance our budget and trade deficits cheaply would disappear.

Traditionally, empires that hold the global reserve currency are also net foreign creditors and net lenders. The British Empire declined and the pound lost its status as the main global reserve currency when Britain became a net debtor and a net borrower in World War II. Today, the United States is in a similar position. It is running huge budget and trade deficits, and is relying on the kindness of restless foreign creditors who are starting to feel uneasy about accumulating even more dollar assets. The resulting downfall of the dollar may be only a matter of time.

...China is a creditor country with large current account surpluses, a small budget deficit, much lower public debt as a share of G.D.P. than the United States, and solid growth. And it is already taking steps toward challenging the supremacy of the dollar. Beijing has called for a new international reserve currency in the form of the International Monetary Fund special drawing rights (a basket of dollars, euros, pounds and yen). China will soon want to see its own currency included in the basket, as well as the renminbi used as a means of payment in bilateral trade.

...If China and other countries were to diversify their reserve holdings away from the dollar, and they eventually will, the United States would suffer. We have reaped significant financial benefits from having the dollar as the reserve currency. In particular, the strong market for the dollar allows Americans to borrow at better rates. We have thus been able to finance larger deficits for longer and at lower interest rates, as foreign demand has kept Treasury yields low. We have been able to issue debt in our own currency rather than a foreign one, thus shifting the losses of a fall in the value of the dollar to our creditors. Having commodities priced in dollars has also meant that a fall in the dollar value doesn't lead to a rise in the price of imports.

Now, imagine a world in which China could borrow and lend internationally in its own currency. The renminbi, rather than the dollar, could eventually become a means of payment in trade and a unit of account in pricing imports and exports, as well as a store of value for wealth by international investors. Americans would pay the price. We would have to shell out more for imported goods, and interest rates on both private and public debt would rise. The higher private cost of borrowing could lead to weaker consumption and investment, and slower growth.

...So the process that will lead - in the medium-long term - to a challenge of the US dollar as the major global reserve currency has started. The US creditors - the BRICs, the Gulf states and others - are becoming increasingly alarmed that the US will deal with its unsustainable fiscal path via inflation and debasement of the value of the dollar via depreciation. So they will not sit idly waiting for this to happen: they are already diversifying into gold, into resources (as China purchases mines and energy, mineral and commodity resources all over the world) and into shorter term maturity US Treasuries that have less market risk than longer term Treasuries. With two-thirds of US Treasuries, being held by non-residents and the average maturity of such government debt down to 4.5 years, the risk of a refinancing crisis and disorderly fall in the dollar will increase over time unless the US presents a credible plan for medium term fiscal consolidation.

Increasingly it is clear that unless such reduction in fiscal deficits occurs the incentive to continue monetizing them will increase. In the short run such massive monetization has not been inflationary as money velocity has collapsed and as the slack in goods and labor markets is still rapidly rising. But over time - late 2010 and 2011 - deflationary pressures will lead to an increase in expected inflation and then in actual inflation if monetization of persistently large fiscal deficits continues. Indeed some in the US argue that wiping out the real value of public debt and dealing with the private sector debt deflation through a bout of double digit inflation may be the most desirable way to reduce the overhang of public and private debt. While such arguments have many flaws as inflation will have serious collateral damage one cannot rule out that the US will use inflation and depreciation as a way out of its public and private debts.

The Building That Haunts Esparto

On my jaunts to Cache Creek, I always wondered about this building. Now it appears everyone else is wondering about it too:
Downtown Esparto has gotten a lot quieter in the weeks since the state Department of Transportation closed the town's main street to through traffic and detoured thousands of casino-bound motorists around the Yolo County hamlet.

In mid-May, Caltrans shut down a five-block stretch of Highway 16 called Yolo Avenue over concerns that a crumbling 19th-century brick building might topple into the street.

The building's owners say they don't have the money to fix it, and officials said the situation could take months to sort out.

...The lack of cars was nice for anyone trying to cross the street, but terrible for the handful of businesses that rely on casino traffic to stay afloat.

"They're killing us," said Amrik Singh, proprietor of the Grab-N-Go convenience store, just beyond the roadblock.

Singh said he's lost a third of his business since the closure and isn't sure he'll be able to make his mortgage payments much longer.

"Everybody's hurting because of the economy, and now this," he said.

Other businesses, especially the few small restaurants in town, have been similarly hurt, owners said. A Mexican restaurant that opened last year and relies heavily on weekend casino traffic has been especially hard hit, officials said.

...The problem building at the corner of Yolo and Woodland avenues is known to locals as the Wyatt Building. Built in the late 1800s, it has housed hardware, grocery and dry goods stores, all long gone.

Pam Pearson, who now works at the town's fire department, remembered running across the hardware store's wooden floors as a child and then working there 10 years.

She said that even then the crumbly bricks would yield easily to screws when deer heads were mounted to the wall.

The building's current owner is a nonprofit group in San Diego County called Healing the Nations Foundation, which had intended to rehabilitate it someday. Then in May, part of the roof collapsed and Caltrans closed the road.

The foundation's president is "Pastor Bob" Maddux. He said the building has now become a "huge liability" replete with structural problems and environmental hazards, including asbestos and lead.

The foundation doesn't have the money to fix the building but is hesitant to knock it down, he said.

Maddux said he is trying to find a low-cost solution to shore up the building and is hoping to secure grant money to do the needed work, but nothing has come through.

"I feel absolutely horrible about this situation," Maddux said.

Yolo County Counsel Robyn Drivon sent Maddux a letter last month that described the building as "an intolerable public nuisance" and threatened legal action. The county could eventually step in and demolish the structure, she said in an interview.

Panama Pottery Feature

Interesting feature article:
In the first few decades of the last century, Sacramento's Panama Pottery created art pottery that may appear roughly thrown or hastily colored.

Today, those same characteristics are hallmarks of what is increasingly collectible work.

Panama Pottery operates today on the original site – 24th Street between the railroad tracks and Hollywood Park – on which it opened.

Though operation has been nearly continuous, there hasn't been the same continuity with respect to the original artistic styles.

Aside from the site, much of the company's origins are mysterious. Even the year Panama opened is uncertain. The modern business says 1913, but the place first shows up in the Sacramento City Directory in 1914.

That makes sense because 1914 was also the year the Panama Canal opened, though there is some evidence the pottery opened earlier and only got its name in 1914.

"That's why he called it Panama Pottery," said Mike Allgood, a collector and dealer who co-owns Mike & Greg's Fine Antiques in east Sacramento.

The "he" to whom Allgood refers was Swedish immigrant Victor Axelson, the first listed manager of Panama Pottery.

...Panama made Arts and Crafts-style vases, nesting bowls, cups and urnlike jars that Allgood thinks may have been inspired by funerary objects found in King Tut's tomb when it was discovered in 1922.

...Panama still makes flowerpots, using age-old equipment that manager Carol Honda aptly describes as machinery out of "The Flintstones."

Suddenly, Lots Of Free Time

Speaking from experience:
In June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, production and nonsupervisory workers spent one-tenth of an hour less on the job than they had in May. Six minutes? How big a deal is that? Here's how big:

It's "the lowest level on record for the series, which began in 1964," the BLS says.

Late last year, we started hearing from you folks about your hours being cut or your employers sending you out on furlough. At the time, the experience was so new that you couldn't find much record of it in the government stats. Now you can, and it's a scary sight. That average of six minutes a week reflects a nation of people who've been laid off, or pushed into part-time work, or lost a day's pay here or there, or can't pick up the overtime that they once used to cover their bills.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Jack Black's Jitterbug

Approaching the restaurant, I saw the workman, who looked a little like the actor Jack Black, flash a goofy, self-satisfied smile. He was playing a radio much too loud for a business that needed to cater to the general public and gawking at all the passersby.

Where have I seen a look like that before? Oh yes, when the homeless guys 'helped' me with my house earlier this decade! Confident, without reason....

'Jack' was doing some kind of repair to the restaurant's door. S. said, "That guy worked on my front door four years ago. He's just awful! I had to throw away the door and start over. It was very expensive!"

Leaving the restaurant, 'Jack' suddenly asked, "What's a jitterbug?" I illustrated a jitterbug, and talked briefly about the lindy hop. Excitedly he asked "What's a foxtrot?" I showed him that too, adding that the musical style was similar between the two apparently dissimilar dances. 'Jack' said "The Discovery Channel has been doing slow motion photography of couples doing the jitterbug, and it's amazing! It's much better than today's dancing!" I said that today's dancing isn't bad, but agreed the jitterbug is great.

It's hard to repair doors when all you want to do is dance, dance, dance....

AF447 Photo Hoax

I was appalled and amazed when a friend in the airline industry mentioned that two photos had been recovered from a digital camera among the floating wreckage in the Atlantic from Air France 447. The photos purport to show the breakup of the airliner.

I'm relieved that the photos appear to be fakes. I wrote my friend:
Web sites like this one are labeling the photos as hoaxes. I suspect they are likely hoaxes because the illumination is too good for a nighttime accident.
He replied:
u are right
those bastards

Blogging Analogous To Telephoning

I rather liked this article:
"Self-publishing by someone of average talent is not very interesting," [Barry Diller, the veteran TV executive] told The Economist in 2006. "Talent is the new limited resource." At a technology conference that year, he declared, "There's just not that much talent in the world, and talent almost always outs."

Diller's view echoes that of avowedly elitist polemics like Andrew Keen's "The Cult of the Amateur." According to this perspective, talent is a resource of fixed supply. The existing institutions of the publishing and broadcast world are already doing an efficient and thorough job of finding all that talent and giving it a platform. And all this other stuff that's spewing forth from the Web's profusion of blogs and podcasts and videos? It's just dross that obscures the real talent's output.

Beyond the obvious arrogance, this view misreads and underestimates the Web in several ways. It's a mistake to think of human creativity as a kind of limited natural resource, like an ore waiting for society to mine; it is more like a gene that will turn on given the right cues. Diller and his ilk envision the Web simply as a new distribution channel for the same old stuff, and human expression as a static commodity, uninfluenced by the medium that bears it or the social environment in which it emerges. Their view values each bit of expression based on marketplace worth and potential breadth of appeal, but ignores any worth the expression may have to the person who made it. Most narrow-mindedly of all, they assume that yesterday's filtering methods will remain reliable and sufficient tomorrow, no matter how radically the environment changes around them.

This is a recipe for failure. Yet, despite these flaws, despite its condescension and its inflexibility, Diller's attitude remains widespread among media company leaders. They are rightly afraid that it will be harder for them to work the same way and maintain the same profits in the new media world; but they are deluded in believing they have any choice in the matter. Already, today's Web has evolved well beyond the familiar shape of Diller's picture. It is expanding the opportunity to manifest talent even as it is exploding the agreed-upon structures for rewarding the works that talent creates. These changes are wreaking havoc with the music industry, whose youthful customers have moved into the new world faster than the companies that sell to them. The same crisis is now beginning to engulf television, movies, book publishing -- everywhere that physical goods can be replaced by digital files, and anywhere that the old gatekeeping model of talent recognition can be eroded by the demotic currents of the publish-everything Web.

Diller and his species of executive have always excelled at finding rare talents that can, at their best, enchant a mass market. But this very success has blinded them to the different, more diffuse sort of talent present among the Web's millions of contributors. Of course talent isn't universal, nor is it evenly distributed. But there is far more of it in the world than Diller's blinkered vision allows. On the Web it can reveal itself in a far wider range of ways, and far more people will have a chance to cultivate it. It will never be perceived in a uniform way; you and I will recognize it in very different places and judge it in very different ways. But it is surely there -- and, fortunately, denigrating it will not make it go away.

Because the Web comes to us on a screen, it has been easy to misapprehend it as the next phase in the evolution of television. The advent of blogging looked to some observers like the latest mutation of reality TV, which dissects the lives of ordinary people on a mass stage. But there's one defining difference: on a reality show, only a few people get the opportunity to participate, and those who win the chance remain at the mercy of the show's producers. In articles that explore how blogging can turn lives inside out, rendering the private public, references abound to "The Truman Show"-- a 1998 movie about a man who discovers his life is an elaborately staged TV program. Truman Burbank, that movie's protagonist, is a victim, practically a prisoner, with no choice in his performance. Bloggers, on the other hand, are volunteers; they may have little power over whom they reach, but they have unprecedented control over what they say and whether to keep saying it. No one can vote you off the island of your own blog.

We talk too much about television as an antecedent to the Web, and not enough about the telephone. When the telephone arrived in American homes and businesses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was some uncertainty over how people would use it and how using it would change their lives. Some social critics worried that the telephone's insistent intrusions would undermine the status of the home as a refuge from the world's pressures. Others feared that the phone would erode the shared public space of our communities and disengage us from social life. Telephone conversations were neither private nor trusted. Party lines and operators meant conversations were likely to be overheard; con artists took advantage of the new technology to prey on the naive.

...Some blogs are simply vehicles for conversation among friends. Some are exclusively public discourse. But many take advantage of blogs' potential to cross back and forth over this line. A post meant originally for a small circle of friends may "go viral" and catch the attention of millions; a broadside post from a public figure may spark a back-and-forth exchange in the comments. This mutability can be breathtakingly powerful; it can also be treacherous. Either way, whenever we observe an instance of it, we sense we are witnessing something that could only occur in this form, via this medium -- something uniquely bloggish.

Once we acknowledge that the Web inherits at least as much from the telephone as from the television, complaints about the "problem" of the Web's abundance appear in a different light. In a 2007 article, James McGrath Morris, a journalism historian, wrote, "There is a point when there are simply too many blogs. With 30 million blogs today, we may well have reached that point."

He was not the first, nor the last, to raise the "too many blogs!" alarm. In November 2008, Time's Michael Kinsley wrote, "How many blogs does the world need? There is already blog gridlock." The question, echoing a legion of similar skeptics, sounds reasonable at first. But what if he'd written, "How many telephone calls does the world need"?

...The sheer volume of blogs evokes a peevish resentment among some observers, as if the outpouring represented a personal affront. How dare all these people presume on our attention! Do they really think that anyone is listening to them? It is certainly possible to blog into a void -- to post and post and never get a visitor or a comment. But it's unlikely many of us would persist with such unrewarding labors. Most blogs have some sort of audience, however tiny -- moms and beyond. Where do these readers come from? More often than not, they are other bloggers. Observers steeped in the values of the broadcast world identify this as a failure: Look, the only people who care what you're doing are already in your club! But in fact, as they say in the software industry, this reciprocity is not a bug at all -- it's a feature.

Housing Market Predictions For 2009

The Housing Bubble Blog asked its readership for their mid-year observations and predictions. Some of their previously-posted comments from New Year's predictions for 2009 are quite interesting:
A reply, “If your prediction comes to pass, no amount of funny money printing or interest rate buydowns by the Fed will save the housing market from the ongoing, precipitous crash that is already underway.”

Another added, “If savings become trendy, couldn’t I argue that inflated Mc Mansions are toast? The Government along with NAR can not change trends. Once burnt twice shy. This trend is going to be forced upon millions like it or not. Now only if we can convince my high wage earning fiancé not to buy hundreds of shoes, coats, clothes etc and to follow this trend.”

And another, “Make spending too much money socially unacceptable! If it becomes ‘cool’ to live within your means, the REIC, banks and government can huff and puff and blow interest rates to zero and drop hundred dollars bills from helicopters until they are blue in the face and it won’t matter. It takes only one link to break in the chain.”

A reply, “We can figure out how to live on less - less credit, less eating out, smaller houses or more people in the houses, older cars, you name it. But the process of getting to the smaller economy that this level of consumption will demand is going to hurt like anything.”

One said, “The entitlement generation will never give in to something so unreasonable. How dare you suggest such a thing.”

One had this, “I have thought housing will bottom in a couple years; my only doubt is all the government intervention. By driving interest rates low they could spur some buying by those who have secure jobs. I bet they do something under Obama to help people stay in ‘their’ homes, or should I say government homes owned by Fannie and Freddie. So, if the price is right I’ll be buying in 2009! I may be early, but it will be a cash deal and cheaper than rent at this point. Although, I do feel I have a year or more to find the exact deal I want!”

Another said, “I wish they would stop calling it a housing or foreclosure ‘crisis.’ The ‘crisis’ happened when the regulators, politicians, Wall Street thugs, etc. forced or allowed prices to escalate like they did.”

“It’s only a bad market for sellers. For buyers — the other half of the equation — the market is quite good and getting better by the day. As a future buyer, I see no crisis…only sunny skies ahead!”

And finally, “I can’t predict the future any more than the next guy, but my guess is that this is a generational cycle, more than it is a next year, two years, or three years until it’s all good.”

“My father lost 50% on a house in 1960, in a micro economic event (Rt 190 in Buffalo planned through our block). He absolutely rejected the idea of buying a house for the next 30 years or so. My niece has lost 50% on TWO houses in Santa Rosa, one a step up and the other ‘would sell quickly.’ She and her husband will remember this pain for the rest of their lives I’d expect. The whole model we have lived with for decades is broken.”

“Three times income is a stretch for anyone raising a family. That is over half your takehome pay. Plus utilities and maintenance and you and are living like a slave and your kids like paupers. I have done that for decades and will not do it again. Will anyone do that with a mindset that a house is the worst investment ever? Add to it that those average incomes are going down and taxes are going up (half my friends are already in a bind with reduced income). With an economy that needs to be reinvented and a government hell bent on large scale forced malinvestment, we will be in pain for more than a couple of years.”

“My 82 year old mother says ‘people will learn to live like we did.’”

“The bottom is a long way down, but it won’t be a killer for those of us who are not in debt. I am glad to have a roof over my head and a job, no matter how transitory. Food in the cupbaord, savings, friends and freedom. Merry Christmas to all of you, may you recognize your blessings and enjoy living!”

Get The Government Off Our Backs!

The State of Florida, in its infinite wisdom, and no doubt drunk on deregulatory propaganda, completely ceded its regulatory authority, allowed Allen Stanford to avoid regulation entirely, and thus greatly aided his complicated international swindles:
Years before his banking empire was shut down in a massive fraud case, Allen Stanford swept into Florida with a bold plan: entice Latin Americans to pour millions into his ventures -- in secrecy.

From a bayfront office in Miami in 1998, he planned to sell investments to customers and send their money to Antigua.

But to pull it off, he needed unprecedented help from an unlikely ally: The state of Florida would have to grant him the right to move vast amounts of money offshore -- without reporting a penny to regulators.

He got it.

Over objections by the state's chief banking lawyer -- including concerns that Stanford was laundering money -- regulators granted sweeping powers never given to a private company.

The new company was also allowed to sell hundreds of millions in bank notes without allowing regulators to check for fraud.

Over the next decade, the Miami office was among Stanford's busiest in the sale of controversial investments now at the heart of the federal government's sweeping fraud case against Stanford and his lieutenants.

...Represented by a powerful Florida law firm, Stanford got approval to create the first company of its kind: a foreign trust office that could bypass regulators, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald.

...Now, with Stanford indicted on sweeping fraud charges last month, the Miami office poses serious challenges for federal agents trying to find assets from the demise of his vast banking fortune, legal experts say.

In all, prosecutors say Stanford diverted nearly $7 billion from customers who purchased his CDs, long touted for their high returns.

Some of the millions went to support Stanford's lavish lifestyle, including private jets, expensive cars and mansions, including a $10.5 million home in Gables Estates that he has since torn down, records show.

Investors who flocked to the luxury offices on the 21st floor of the Miami Center to buy the CDs are clamoring for their money, saying they were fleeced of millions.

''It's not fair that so much money has gone down the drain,'' said Margie Morinaga, whose 84-year-old father lost $400,000.

Former customers are sending letters to the court receiver, pleading for help; others are angrily organizing to press for the recovery of their money.

...Unlike other Stanford companies around the country, the Miami office was exempt from reporting the amounts of money sent overseas -- bypassing anti-laundering laws.

In fact, employees shredded records of the trust agreements and CD purchases once the original documents were sent to Antigua, state records show.

...Simon, the Florida banking director who approved the agreement, says he should have banned the office from handling money.

''It raised serious questions in my mind after the fact as to whether we should have had tighter provisions,'' said Simon, a former state representative who helped draft much of Florida's modern banking legislation.

The office was only supposed to provide information for people interested in the offshore trust's services -- not offer CDs and accept money, he said.

But in clear language, the agreement reached between Stanford and state regulators allows money to flow to and from the center.

Simon, 63, now retired from state government, said he didn't recall the language until he was e-mailed a copy by The Miami Herald.

But several lawyers who reviewed the documents for The Herald said much of the responsibility rests with Simon. ''In this case, he was responsible for having an effective system of enforcement,'' said Jeffrey Sonn, a Fort Lauderdale securities attorney. ``The state didn't do the kind of reviews it needed to do.''

Miami banking lawyer Jose Sirven said the state may have been able to approve the office, but questioned the state's decison to let employees transfer money.

Donelan, the state's chief banking counsel, said he did not believe Stanford had the right to open the satellite office in the first place.

``It was not an American financial institution. I had expressed that opinion. There was no regulation. It was as if they had an office that could be selling shoes or ice cream.''

...In the end, the Miami company was allowed to open under a unique category: a foreign trust representative office -- the only one in Florida.

While the state allows out-of-state trust companies to set up satellite offices in Florida -- catering to snow birds loyal to their hometown banks -- there are no provisions in Florida law for similar foreign offices.

The Rich Have Big Carbon Footprints

A great deal of the world's carbon emissions come from a rather small proportion of the world's people. Go after them!:
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US researchers have proposed a new strategy to tackle the global climate dilemma: target the biggest polluters in a country, who also tend to be the wealthiest individuals.

Under the framework, a universal cap — rather than different caps for different countries — would be placed on carbon emissions and countries would then be tasked with getting individuals living beyond that cap to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Most of the world’s emissions come disproportionately from the wealthy citizens of the world, irrespective of their nationality,” said lead author Shoibal Chakravarty, a research scholar at the Princeton Environmental Institute.

“We estimate that in 2008, half of the world’s emissions came from just 700 million people,” he added, noting that many emissions owe to lifestyles that involve airplane flights, car use and the heating and cooling of large homes.

Greatest Obituary Ever (Until Richard Perle Dies)

Joseph L. Galloway on Robert Strange McNamara:
"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." —Clarence Darrow (1857–1938)

Well, the aptly named Robert Strange McNamara has finally shuffled off to join LBJ and Dick Nixon in the 7th level of Hell.

McNamara was the original bean-counter — a man who knew the cost of everything but the worth of nothing.

Back in 1990 I had a series of strange phone conversations with McMamara while doing research for my book We Were Soldiers Once And Young. McNamara prefaced every conversation with this: "I do not want to comment on the record for fear that I might distort history in the process." Then he would proceed to talk for an hour, doing precisely that with answers that were disingenuous in the extreme — when they were not bald-faced lies.

Upon hanging up I would call Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam and run McNamara's comments past them for deconstruction and the addition of the truth.

The only disagreement I ever had with Dave Halberstam was over the question of which of us hated him the most. In retrospect, it was Halberstam.

When McNamara published his first book — filled with those distortions of history — Halberstam, at his own expense, set out on a journey following McNamara on his book tour around America as a one-man truth squad.

McNamara abandoned the tour.

The most bizarre incident involving McNamara occurred when he was president of the World Bank and, off on his summer holiday, he caught the Martha's Vineyard ferry. It was a night crossing in bad weather. McNamara was in the salon, drink in hand, schmoozing with fellow passengers. On the deck outside a vineyard local, a hippie artist, glanced through the window and did a double-take. The artist was outraged to see McNamara, whom he viewed as a war criminal, so enjoying himself.

He immediately opened the door and told McNamara there was a radiophone call for him on the bridge. McNamara set down his drink and stepped outside. The artist immediately grabbed him, wrestled him to the railing and pushed him over the side. McNamara managed to get his fingers through the holes in the metal plate that ran from the top of the railing to the scuppers.

McNamara was screaming bloody murder; the artist was prying his fingers loose one at a time. Someone heard the racket and raced out and pulled the artist off.

By the time the ferry docked in the vineyard McNamara had decided against filing charges against the artist, and he was freed and walked away.

Monday, July 06, 2009

It's A Constitutionally-Protected Right To Bitch About Constitutionally-Protected Rights

Duelling 4th of July marches in Bozeman, Montana:
The Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus will march on Main Street as planned July Fourth, the organizer of the group said Thursday evening.

Organizer Brian Leland had set a 5 p.m. deadline Thursday to reach his fundraising goal of $1,100, the amount of money the city of Bozeman estimates it will cost it to shut down the downtown thoroughfare for the morning protest.

Leland said Thursday evening that he had raised about $1,500. The $400 difference will be given to the local food bank, he said.

The Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus was formed to protest how the city went about granting the Bozeman Tea Party’s request for a permit march down Main Street on July Fourth.

City staff initially denied the Bozeman Tea Party’s request to cordon off the street for two hours while they protested government spending, the growing national debt and taxes. But following pleas from members of the Tea Party, the Bozeman City Commission recommended 4-1 that staffers reverse their decision, which they did.

Leland said the city violated open meeting laws since the discussion was not publicly noticed. Also, he said it is hypocritical for a group to protest government spending while forcing the government to incur costs n thus his emphasis on raising the $1,100 before marching.

Organizers of the Tea Party n who have said they do not oppose Leland’s march n do contend that it would set a dangerous precedent to require protestors to pay for a demonstration, since it is a constitutionally protected right.

Organizers for the Tea Party have said they expect 1,000 or more people to turn out for the demonstration. The Tea Party protest is scheduled to line up at 10 a.m. at the Bozeman Public Library and begin marching to the Gallatin County Courthouse at 10:30 a.m. That demonstration is scheduled to end at noon.

Why Did Palin Resign?

Mickey Kaus tries to keep up with the theories regarding Sarah Palin's resignation:
I can see 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Palin theories ... and counting: 1) She's running for president; 2) She's undergoing fame withdrawal and plans to get more attention in the lower 48; 3) She wants to cash in ($); 4) There's another shoe about to drop; 5) She'll now run against Murkowski for Senate. 6) She needs to tend to her family. 7) She's bonkers. 8) She's preggers. 9) She wants to "effect positive change outside government at this point in time on another scale and actually make a difference for our priorities." 10) Actually being a governor in a recession is no fun. Gives you ulcers. 11) She worried she wasn't giving "Alaska's issues" the attention they deserve, and was being criticized for that; 12) She's "fed up with politics ... the personal garbage" etc.. 13) She wants to fight back without one hand tied behind her back. 14) The Alaska legislature now hates her; ... These theories are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
My theory is that Palin learned last year that you don't actually have to be Governor of Alaska to run for President, and that it is actually a hindrance to have a substantial record behind you if you yearn to get the top office. And, who knows, she may be right (Obama certainly benefitted from just a short sojourn in the Senate).

That could be a disaster for the Republic, however, if prolonged overexposure (e.g., McCain)automatically disqualifies you from seeking the top office. Every out-of-work actor, singer, and wrestler will reach for the brass ring instead.

On the other hand, I'm rather under-employed right now....

The Price Of Oil

Like Yglesias says:
At any rate, as you can see here it doesn’t just seem like the past few years worth of oil price activity has been crazy, it’s really been crazy. And note that we’re in the midst of a pretty remarkable increase in prices considering that there’s no economic growth.

Robert S. McNamara Dies

Well, good riddance.

Probably the single most-important architect of the Vietnam War, the liberal prototype of the conservative neocon, deserves every calumny he ever received.

And this despite his later recantations of his actions while in office.

Because some 'mistakes' can't be forgiven.
For all his healing efforts, McNamara was fundamentally associated with the Vietnam War, "McNamara's war," the country's most disastrous foreign venture, the only American war to end in abject withdrawal rather than victory.

Known as a policymaker with a fixation for statistical analysis, McNamara was recruited to run the Pentagon by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 from the presidency of the Ford Motor Co. He stayed seven years, longer than anyone since the job's creation in 1947.

His association with Vietnam became intensely personal. Even his son, as a Stanford University student, protested against the war while his father was running it. At Harvard, McNamara once had to flee a student mob through underground utility tunnels. Critics mocked McNamara mercilessly; they made much of the fact that his middle name was "Strange."

After leaving the Pentagon on the verge of a nervous breakdown, McNamara became president of the World Bank and devoted evangelical energies to the belief that improving life in rural communities in developing countries was a more promising path to peace than the buildup of arms and armies.

A private person, McNamara for many years declined to write his memoirs, to lay out his view of the war and his side in his quarrels with his generals. In the early 1990s he began to open up. He told Time magazine in 1991 that he did not think the bombing of North Vietnam — the greatest bombing campaign in history up to that time — would work but he went along with it "because we had to try to prove it would not work, number one, and (because) other people thought it would work."

Finally, in 1993, after the Cold War ended, he undertook to write his memoirs because some of the lessons of Vietnam were applicable to the post-Cold War period "odd as though it may seem."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

"Music Man" - Third Sunday

Left: "Wells Fargo Wagon".

Left: Lenore Sebastian (Mrs. Paroo), Michael C. (Winthrop Paroo), and Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo.

Left: "Marian the Librarian", featuring Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo and Rand Martin as Harold Hill.

Left: "Marian the Librarian", featuring Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo and Rand Martin as Harold Hill.

Left: "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" ladies: Jan Isaacson as Alma Hix, and Eileen Ojakangas.

Below: Kendyl I. as Amaryllis Shinn.

Left: "Piano Lesson". Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo and Kendyl I. as Amaryllis Shinn.

Left and Below: Two photos (courtesy of Paul Fearn) of "Rock Island".

Left: Would you buy a used anvil from this man?

"Let's Go!" at Club 21

In May, the cast of Pepper Von's "Let's Go!" apparently visited Club 21 to promote their show at the Crest Theater later that month. Great salsa by some of Sacramento's best dancers!

Teabaggers Take Off For The Fourth

After April 15th, when the Teabaggers decided to reprise their protests on July 4th, I thought it was a bad idea - too many people would (or should) already have other committments for that most important of national holidays. And so, that is what came to pass: participation was light. And September 12th is probably a poor choice too. That is a day for national unity, not partisanship. April 15th works best of all, but it comes only once a year:
The organizers of the latest round of Tea Party protests must be wondering whether the Fourth of July is the right time for political activism.

On a day usually reserved for barbecues, family outings and fireworks displays, the Tea Parties held at some 600 locations across the country appear to have drawn considerably fewer participants than the much-ballyhooed Tax Freedom Day protests on April 15.

Preliminary news reports from Saturday’s Tea Parties suggest public participation fell far short of the April protests. In Morristown, NJ, attendance was down by a third compared to this spring’s event. In Fort Lauderdale, FL, the Sun-Sentinel reports a crowd of “hundreds,” compared to an estimated 5,000 in April.

And in Syracuse, NY — where protesters waved the American flag upside-down — organizers had expected 1,000 people to show, but only 200 did.

Yet warm weather and patio parties may only be a part of the explanation. Unlike with the April protests, the Republican party’s establishment didn’t throw its weight behind this latest round of rallies.

“The collaboration between the official Republican establishment and the Tea Parties has not lasted into June,” writes the Washington Independent. “The RNC has no plans to get involved with any Tea Parties. A spokesman for [House minority leader] John Boehner (R-OH) … said that [Boehner's] holiday plans were private but would probably not include Tea Parties. [Newt] Gingrich will not attend any of the Tea Parties, although he recorded video messages for events in Birmingham and Nashville “at the request of the respective organizers’.”

...Tea Party organizers are already planning the next protest: A large “unity” rally in Washington, DC, on September 12, the day after the eighth anniversary of 9/11.

Fourth Of July "Music Man"

Left: "Marian the Librarian", featuring Rand Martin as Harold Hill and Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo.

Left: "Marian the Librarian", featuring Gracie Shinn (Vivi K.) and Chloe D. Also visible in background, Kelly Soderlund, Ashley H., Kailani C., and Danielle M.

Left: "Marian the Librarian". Standing, Calvin Y., Chloe D., and Kailani C. Seated, Lydia S. and Danielle M.

Left: Rand Martin as Harold Hill, Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo, and Lenore Sebastian as Mrs. Paroo.

Left: Lenore Sebastian as Mrs. Paroo and Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo.

Left: "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean", featuring Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (Mary Young).

Left: "Seventy-Six Trombones" - Harold Hill (Rand Martin).

Left: "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" ladies. The four most-clearly visible are, left to right: Mrs. Squires (Anissa Smith), Alma Hix (Jan Isaacson), Eileen Ojakangas, and Mary Hickman.

Left: "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" ladies. The five most-clearly visible are, left to right: Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (Mary Young), Mrs. Squires (Anissa Smith), Eileen Ojakangas, Christine Deamer, and Mary Hickman.

Left: Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo and Rand Martin as Harold Hill.

Left: Mrs. Paroo (Lenore Sabastian) and Marian Paroo (Laura Wardrip).

Left: "Wells Fargo Wagon".

Left: "Shipoopi". Left to right, Elizabeth F., Calvin Y., Kendyl I. (Amaryllis Hix), and (obscured) Michael C. (Winthrop Paroo).

Left: Tommy Djilas (Matthew Kohrt) gets a tongue-lashing from Mayor Shinn (Gil Sebastian), in the presence of Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (Mary Young) and Zaneeta Shinn (McKinley C.).

Left: "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" Reprise. Stacey Sheehan, Christine Deamer, Julie Kulmann, Eileen Ojakangas,, as well as Ethel Toffelmeyer (Wendy Young Carey) and Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (Mary Young).