Friday, August 07, 2009

Facebook Can Fuel Jealousy

Photo link.

News item:
Social psychologists from the University of Guelph in Canada queried college students who were in romantic relationships about their Facebook use. Their preliminary findings, described in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior, suggest that rather than enhancing communication between romantic partners, Facebook use may be fueling wild flights of jealous investigation, as users in relationships perceive hints of potential infidelity and then scramble to find evidence of a partner's unfaithful thoughts or behavior.
Admit it, you were looking at Facebook again.

What's wrong with this blog? Sure, nobody's nobody's friend over here, but it makes for more interesting reading, don't you think?

What were you just doing? Were you writing on someone's wall? Were you tagging someone's photo?

You just think you're special, don't you?

I Pity The Fool Who Can Find A Worst Rap Video

Damn, this has been a crappy week. I'd rather fall down in the shower again, and bruise my other cheekbone, rather than watch this video twice.

This Is My Idea Of a Good Time

Synthesis Blog is the illest.

Where's An Asteroid When You Need One?

OMG, all the Juggalos are going to be in one place....

Olbermann At His Best

Wondering If This Is The Fascist Moment

With the Teabaggers now threatening gun play and other violence at Town Halls, some are wondering:
All through the dark years of the Bush Administration, progressives watched in horror as Constitutional protections vanished, nativist rhetoric ratcheted up, hate speech turned into intimidation and violence, and the president of the United States seized for himself powers only demanded by history's worst dictators. With each new outrage, the small handful of us who'd made ourselves experts on right-wing culture and politics would hear once again from worried readers: Is this it? Have we finally become a fascist state? Are we there yet?

...In tracking the mileage on this trip to perdition, many of us relied on the work of historian Robert Paxton, who is probably the world's pre-eminent scholar on the subject of how countries turn fascist. In a 1998 paper published in The Journal of Modern History, Paxton argued that the best way to recognize emerging fascist movements isn't by their rhetoric, their politics, or their aesthetics. Rather, he said, mature democracies turn fascist by a recognizable process, a set of five stages that may be the most important family resemblance that links all the whole motley collection of 20th Century fascisms together. According to our reading of Paxton's stages, we weren't there yet. There were certain signs -- one in particular -- we were keeping an eye out for, and we just weren't seeing it.

And now we are. In fact, if you know what you're looking for, it's suddenly everywhere. It's odd that I haven't been asked for quite a while; but if you asked me today, I'd tell you that if we're not there right now, we've certainly taken that last turn into the parking lot and are now looking for a space. Either way, our fascist American future now looms very large in the front windshield -- and those of us who value American democracy need to understand how we got here, what's changing now, and what's at stake in the very near future if these people are allowed to win -- or even hold their ground.

...According to Paxton, fascism unfolds in five stages. The first two are pretty solidly behind us -- and the third should be of particular interest to progressives right now.

In the first stage, a rural movement emerges to effect some kind of nationalist renewal (what Roger Griffin calls "palingenesis" -- a phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes). They come together to restore a broken social order, always drawing on themes of unity, order, and purity. Reason is rejected in favor of passionate emotion. The way the organizing story is told varies from country to country; but it's always rooted in the promise of restoring lost national pride by resurrecting the culture's traditional myths and values, and purging society of the toxic influence of the outsiders and intellectuals who are blamed for their current misery.

Fascism only grows in the disturbed soil of a mature democracy in crisis. Paxton suggests that the Ku Klux Klan, which formed in reaction to post-Civil War Reconstruction, may in fact be the first authentically fascist movement in modern times. Almost every major country in Europe sprouted a proto-fascist movement in the wretched years following WWI (when the Klan enjoyed a major resurgence here as well) -- but most of them stalled either at this first stage, or the next one.

As Rick Perlstein documented in his two books on Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, modern American conservatism was built on these same themes. From "Morning in America" to the Rapture-ready religious right to the white nationalism promoted by the GOP through various gradients of racist groups, it's easy to trace how American proto-fascism offered redemption from the upheavals of the 1960s by promising to restore the innocence of a traditional, white, Christian, male-dominated America. This vision has been so thoroughly embraced that the entire Republican party now openly defines itself along these lines. At this late stage, it's blatantly racist, sexist, repressed, exclusionary, and permanently addicted to the politics of fear and rage. Worse: it doesn't have a moment's shame about any of it. No apologies, to anyone. These same narrative threads have woven their way through every fascist movement in history.

In the second stage, fascist movements take root, turn into real political parties, and seize their seat at the table of power. Interestingly, in every case Paxton cites, the political base came from the rural, less-educated parts of the country; and almost all of them came to power very specifically by offering themselves as informal goon squads organized to intimidate farmworkers on behalf of the large landowners. The KKK disenfranchised black sharecroppers and set itself up as the enforcement wing of Jim Crow. The Italian Squadristi and the German Brownshirts made their bones breaking up farmers' strikes. And these days, GOP-sanctioned anti-immigrant groups make life hell for Hispanic agricultural workers in the US. As violence against random Hispanics (citizens and otherwise) increases, the right-wing goon squads are getting basic training that, if the pattern holds, they may eventually use to intimidate the rest of us.

Paxton wrote that succeeding at the second stage "depends on certain relatively precise conditions: the weakness of a liberal state, whose inadequacies condemn the nation to disorder, decline, or humiliation; and political deadlock because the Right, the heir to power but unable to continue to wield it alone, refuses to accept a growing Left as a legitimate governing partner." He further noted that Hitler and Mussolini both took power under these same circumstances: "deadlock of constitutional government (produced in part by the polarization that the fascists abetted); conservative leaders who felt threatened by the loss of their capacity to keep the population under control at a moment of massive popular mobilization; an advancing Left; and conservative leaders who refused to work with that Left and who felt unable to continue to govern against the Left without further reinforcement."

And more ominously: "The most important variables...are the conservative elites' willingness to work with the fascists (along with a reciprocal flexibility on the part of the fascist leaders) and the depth of the crisis that induces them to cooperate."

That description sounds eerily like the dire straits our Congressional Republicans find themselves in right now. Though the GOP has been humiliated, rejected, and reduced to rump status by a series of epic national catastrophes mostly of its own making, its leadership can't even imagine governing cooperatively with the newly mobilized and ascendant Democrats. Lacking legitimate routes back to power, their last hope is to invest the hardcore remainder of their base with an undeserved legitimacy, recruit them as shock troops, and overthrow American democracy by force. If they can't win elections or policy fights, they're more than willing to take it to the streets, and seize power by bullying Americans into silence and complicity.

When that unholy alliance is made, the third stage -- the transition to full-fledged government fascism -- begins.

All through the Bush years, progressive right-wing watchers refused to call it "fascism" because, though we kept looking, we never saw clear signs of a deliberate, committed institutional partnership forming between America's conservative elites and its emerging homegrown brownshirt horde. We caught tantalizing signs of brief flirtations -- passing political alliances, money passing hands, far-right moonbat talking points flying out of the mouths of "mainstream" conservative leaders. But it was all circumstantial, and fairly transitory. The two sides kept a discreet distance from each other, at least in public. What went on behind closed doors, we could only guess. They certainly didn't act like a married couple.

Now, the guessing game is over. We know beyond doubt that the Teabag movement was created out of whole cloth by astroturf groups like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips' Americans for Prosperity, with massive media help from FOX News. We see the Birther fracas -- the kind of urban myth-making that should have never made it out of the pages of the National Enquirer -- being openly ratified by Congressional Republicans. We've seen Armey's own professionally-produced field manual that carefully instructs conservative goon squads in the fine art of disrupting the democratic governing process -- and the film of public officials being terrorized and threatened to the point where some of them required armed escorts to leave the building. We've seen Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner applauding and promoting a video of the disruptions and looking forward to "a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress."

This is the sign we were waiting for -- the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America's conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country's legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America's streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won't do their political or economic bidding.

This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It's also our very last chance to stop it.

Deborah Asks The Question That Troubles All Arizonans

Deborah asks:
Where'd our monsoons go?
The answer is sobering.

The monsoon is completely - and I mean completely - shut down. As long as these slow-moving lows keep parking themselves off the West Coast (and there's no sign they'll stop - it's a winter-type pattern) the monsoon can't get started. By the time the pattern finally stops - if it stops - it'll be autumn.

So, this year will be the year without a monsoon. New Mexico has scraped by because of smaller, disorganized thunderstorms, but for Arizona it means disaster.

The MSM's GOP Enthrallment Begins To Crack

One Thrall begins to think again (and at that most notorious of GOP ghettoes, the Washington Post, no less):
As a columnist who regularly dishes out sharp criticism, I try not to question the motives of people with whom I don't agree. Today, I'm going to step over that line.

The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress -- I've made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation.

...By now, you've probably also heard that health reform will cost taxpayers at least a trillion dollars. Another lie.

First of all, that's not a trillion every year, as most people assume -- it's a trillion over 10 years, which is the silly way that people in Washington talk about federal budgets. On an annual basis, that translates to about $140 billion, when things are up and running.

Even that, however, grossly overstates the net cost to the government of providing universal coverage. Other parts of the reform plan would result in offsetting savings for Medicare: reductions in unnecessary subsidies to private insurers, in annual increases in payments rates for doctors and in payments to hospitals for providing free care to the uninsured. The net increase in government spending for health care would likely be about $100 billion a year, a one-time increase equal to less than 1 percent of a national income that grows at an average rate of 2.5 percent every year.

The Republican lies about the economics of health reform are also heavily laced with hypocrisy.

While holding themselves out as paragons of fiscal rectitude, Republicans grandstand against just about every idea to reduce the amount of health care people consume or the prices paid to health-care providers -- the only two ways I can think of to credibly bring health spending under control.

When Democrats, for example, propose to fund research to give doctors, patients and health plans better information on what works and what doesn't, Republicans sense a sinister plot to have the government decide what treatments you will get. By the same wacko-logic, a proposal that Medicare pay for counseling on end-of-life care is transformed into a secret plan for mass euthanasia of the elderly.

Government negotiation on drug prices? The end of medical innovation as we know it, according to the GOP's Dr. No. Reduce Medicare payments to overpriced specialists and inefficient hospitals? The first step on the slippery slope toward rationing.

Can there be anyone more two-faced than the Republican leaders who in one breath rail against the evils of government-run health care and in another propose a government-subsidized high-risk pool for people with chronic illness, government-subsidized community health centers for the uninsured, and opening up Medicare to people at age 55?

Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society -- whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off. Republican leaders are eager to see us fail that test. We need to show them that no matter how many lies they tell or how many scare tactics they concoct, Americans will come together and get this done.

If health reform is to be anyone's Waterloo, let it be theirs.

Today, 56 Years Ago

Via the Daily Rotten:
Aug 7 1953

Eisenhower signs legislation retroactively granting Ohio official statehood for the previous 150 years. In 1803, apparently everyone just assumed that Ohio was a state, even though Congress had never passed legislation to that effect. The nation remained blissfully unaware of this fact until nosy historians began snooping around in preparation for Ohio's sesquicentennial.

The Creep Is Outta There

Preachy hack Ben Stein:
The guy with the annoying voice who led a crusade against evolution has lost his job with the Grey Lady after taking a job advertising for a financial services company.

Apparently, Ben Stein's decision to become a pitchman for, a dubious financial services firm, finally put his employer over the edge.

Reuters Felix Salmon, who reported the news, has reacted with glee.
"You’ll forgive me if I take some small measure of credit for this one: after something in the region of 35,000 words of the Ben Stein Watch, the world’s worst financial columnist has finally been fired from the New York Times," Salmon writes. "And I couldn’t be happier. The reason was his appearance in commercials for (and on the homepage of), a sleazy company which exists only to extract large sums of money from those who can least afford it.

So, The Birthers Were Punk'd?

If so, it serves them right!

RIP, John Hughes

Left: Image from Bela Lugosi's Dad at B3ta.

You Are Here

Left: Image from atomic at B3ta.

Lemonade Stand Standoff

Negotiation seems to have paid off here, however:
Eight-year-old Daniela Earnest has made lemonade out of lemons in more ways than one this week.

Hoping to raise money for a family trip to Disneyland, the Tulare girl opened a lemonade stand Monday. But because Daniela didn't have a business license, the city of Tulare shut it down the same day.

From that came a radio station's offer of Disneyland tickets to Daniela's family -- in exchange for 30 cups of lemonade -- and an appearance in front of the Tulare City Council on Tuesday night that will likely lead to a compromise allowing her lemonade stand and other pint-sized business ventures to operate legally.

The story began Monday morning when Daniela and her stepmother, Marisa Earnest, set up shop at Cartmill Avenue and Hillman Street in north Tulare. The lemonade was freshly squeezed and priced at $2 for a 32-ounce plastic cup.

Richard Garcia, a Tulare code enforcement officer, happened to be at the same intersection to remove illegal signs left behind by someone selling tetherball poles.

Garcia told Daniela and her stepmother that their lemonade stand -- on the northwest corner of the busy intersection -- was not safe, and also that they needed a business license to sell lemonade.

...Tulare officials said they cannot recall ever shutting down a lemonade stand before this week. But it's not altogether uncommon. Authorities across the nation have done the same. And in Fresno, a Huntington Boulevard shaved ice machine run by a resident mostly so neighborhood kids could get a sno-cone on hot days was shut down by a Fresno code enforcer in June 2008.

Ed Earnest, Daniela's father, said Garcia got "a bad rap" from critics about his enforcement actions. "He was just doing his job," Earnest said.

Nonetheless, news that the city had put the squeeze on a young girl's lemonade stand prompted public outcry.

The story was the hot topic on Q97 (KSEQ, FM 97.1) disc jockey Davey D's program Tuesday.

Davey D, whose real name is David Hickman, and the Visalia radio station decided to offer four two-day passes to Disneyland and California Adventure to the Earnest family.

"All I did was follow my heart," Hickman said. "It was a no-brainer."

Vice Mayor Philip Vandegrift said a compromise -- possibly asking lemonade stand operators to pay a nominal fee or establishing a license fee waiver for children under a certain age -- could be the outcome of Daniela's experience.

However, the city needs to enforce vendor laws, Vandegrift said, "otherwise we'll have people on every corner."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Be My Boyfriend - Offer Nissim, Featuring Maya

Mars Monolith

Interesting picture!

Health Care Debate Cartoons


Jerry sends some pictures:
As luck would have it, I was in western Nevada in June (I was on my way to Indiana, but doing a bit of sightseeing as well.). Ever hear of the old mining town of Ludwig? (Apparently, some art students have decided to use the ruins as a canvas.)

The Scheming Daughters Of The World's Worst Tyrants

Fairly lurid stuff:
The consequences of crossing [Gulnora] Karimova became clear in 2001 when she divorced her husband, an Afghan-American businessman with extensive holdings in Uzbekistan, and took their children out of the United States in violation of a court order. The unfortunate ex-husband’s Coca-Cola bottling factory in Uzbekistan was promptly shut down, three of his relatives were imprisoned, and 24 were deported at gunpoint to Afghanistan. In 2006, Karimova, whose business interests include most of Uzbekistan’s tea industry, reportedly sent hooded men with machine guns to shut down a rival company and liquidate their holdings.

In recent years, Karimova has been focusing on her budding music career. A music video she recorded under the name GooGooSha, her father’s pet name for her, was in near-constant rotation on Uzbek MTV in 2006.

You Just Can't Make Up This Stuff

No sir, no novelist would dream this stuff up:
First, Birther Queen Bee Orly Taitz released a purported Kenyan birth certificate for Barack Obama. Then reporters discovered that the Obama 'birth certificate' was actually a forgery based on the birth certificate of an Australian man, David Bomford, who was unfortunate enough to have uploaded his own birth certificate onto a family genealogy website during the summer of 2009 America birther mania.

Now Taitz is accusing him of having forged his own actual birth certificate in order to discredit the phony Obama birth certificate that was in turn based on his real birth certificate.

Hospice Humor

As the dread moment approaches, the funnier.... Here is an E-Mail exchange with my sister Marra (starting with Marra):
Hi Marc,

Thank you for the pictures that you took. I was wondering if Michelle is keeping you informed of what is happening with Dad or not. If she is not then I would send you information. Let me know.
I called Michelle I think on Tuesday morning to let her know I arrived safely, and she told me Dad had had a bad night, with an aching back. But since then, I’ve heard nothing. How is Dad doing? How are you doing?
Dad is getting weaker. He fell/stumbled on Tuesday night against the kitchen counter and later we found out the stove. When Michelle went over on Wed morning the place was filled with gas. She opened up the doors and windows and cleared the gas out. Dad did not seem to have any affects from the gas, no headaches. Then last night he fell again and hit his head against the recliner. Did not seem to injure himself but scared both of us. Took me 4 tries to get him on his feet. I don't want him to know that it did injure my back. Will try to get an adjustment tomorrow. I will have to walk him every place in the evenings because he just tips over since he is so tired at that time. Hospice was going to check him out today and see if there are any injuries.
Oh, that doesn’t sound good at all. I was actually pleased when I was there how few problems he had had with falling.


Don’t worry, we won’t ask Hospice to check your back out too.

(Sorry, bad joke....)
bad joke but it did make me laugh.

Chaco Canyon, And The Problem Of Water

Here is an excellent blog post that explores the question of water use during ancient times at Chaco Canyon. The author makes the important point that the cultural flowering there was achieved under today's adverse water conditions - a real triumph of ancient civilization!:
Looking at the remains of the great houses in the canyon today, it’s hardly a surprise that many of the most common questions visitors ask are about water. Where did they get it? How did they store it? Was it wetter then than it is now?

The answer to the last question is no, which comes as a considerable surprise to many visitors. Some of them even seem very skeptical, like I’m trying to trick them. It defies common sense to think that anything like what we see at Chaco could have arisen in an environment as dry as what we see today. And, indeed, many early archaeologists who worked on Chaco assumed that the climate must have been more favorable, and there has been a considerable amount of research into this topic over the past few decades, much of it using the precision available through tree-ring studies to great effect.

Rather surprisingly, what that research has shown is that the climate has not changed significantly in at least the past several thousand years. There were variations in the amount of precipitation on the order of decades, but always within the range seen in modern records.

Time To Get Your Papers In Order

You can never have too many official-looking documents proving your identity!

The one and only, genuine Republic of Kenya Birth Certificate Generator.

Problems In The Tubes

Sounds like I'm not the only one with problems in the tubes:
Denial-of-Service (Dos) attacks have been launched today against Twitter, Facebook and LiveJournal. Twitter and LiveJournal were taken completely offline and Facebook service has been degraded.

Somebody needs to call a cyber plumber to come out and fix the tubes.

The Wise Latina Triumphs

Didn't even slow her down.

Transporting Jagged Heavy Objects In Tiny Fragile Spaces

What was that E. was saying?:
MMMMMAAAARRRCCCCC! There is water under the back porch! I looked everywhere for a leak, but there's nothing
Sigh. This happens every six months to a year, or so. The house's sewage line dates from around 1940, with a 60-year expected lifetime. There is a break in the house's sewage line not far from the house and roots from nearby trees periodically block the line. Water backs up and flows from an open pipe into a concrete basin under the back porch. It is impossible to wash clothes or take showers without creating a health menace as collateral damage.

Prior to 1940, the house's water closet was located where the back porch is located now. The old toilet pipe is still there, and open for back-up flows. It's spooky to watch munched up toilet paper, spider webs, and other black, unidentifiable debris, come bubbling up like an oil strike from that pipe!

Until I spring for a new sewage line, the interim solution is to use a 75-foot snake (the approximate length of the pipe) to get rid of the roots and restore flow. I bought a snake with a 1/4" cable several years ago, but I kinked it last year. Apparently it was not heavy enough for the job. So, it was time to check out the rental equipment at the rental equipment place and get the 75 foot 1/2" snake for the night. Sometimes Joe The Plumber helps out with this, but after the big loss in Vegas I didn't want to pay this time. Self Reliance is the New Black.

The only trouble, of course, is that the motorized snake, with its sharp, wicked root-gouging blade-encased tip, is very heavy. Plus, I didn't have a pick up truck, and I was working all by myself. Well, I've done all this before, and I can do all this again.

I showed up at the rental equipment place at 4:25 p.m. and the rough and ready guys there gave me that expression - you know, like a fish, with a big oval for a mouth - when some eccentric customer rolls in and proposes the impossible just 5 minutes before closing time. "Can't you get a pickup truck? The snake won't fit in a compact sedan! It's too heavy for you! You need some some help! You'll destroy your upholstery! You know, it'll make your car stink!" "Listen," I said, "I've done all this before! The 3rd door on the Saturn SC-2 coupe gives you options! There is a blanket on the back seat to protect the upholstery. Just give me a little help!" So, three of us muscled the savage, heavy object into the car's back seat. "It's not secure! It's not secure!" whined one of the Nervous Nelly Muscle Men. In response, he used a seat belt to help keep the plumbing equivalent of a black hole from rolling if I ever tapped on the brakes on the way home.

I was a bit exasperated with these guys. I mean, I've done this before! Trust me on this!

Rolling home, I tapped on the brakes, and I heard what sounded like a ninja star hit the side of the car: "TTTHHHHWWWAAAACCCKKKK!". Apparently the seat belt wrapped around the motorized snake destabilized the snake and made it sit up abruptly as I braked. As the snake stood up, the sharp, wicked root-gouging blade-encased tip rotated at high speed and punched into plastic interior wall of the car, making a small hole. Wow! Cool! Still, it made me impatient. Nervous Nellie Muscle Men! Secure my ass! Look, I've done this before! It's not as hard as it looks!

At home, I wrestled the monster from the car, tried to avoid dropping it on my foot, and rolled it into the basement. After the DMTC Board Meeting, at about midnight, I went to work plumbing the depths of my sewage pipe. Despite two plunges, the sharp, wicked root-gouging blade-encased tip never ripped into roots. I'm not sure what caused the clog, but a load of laundry demonstrated that flow was finally reestablished.

In the morning, it was a real challenge to wrestle the dense, gravity-warping motorized snake back into the car, but by using an Igloo cooler to help stair-step it upwards, I managed to get it into the back seat. Of course, the sharp, wicked root-gouging blade-encased tip dinged up a little bit the weather-stripping on the 3rd door as I dragged the motorized snake into the back seat. Plus, I hyperextended my knee a little bit. But that's the price of Self Reliance.

Returning the snake to the rental equipment place, the Rough and Ready Muscle Men gave me that familiar oval-mouthed fish-faced expression when they saw me roll up. They helped me unload the monstrous tool and finalized the rental transaction.

As I started to drive away, one of the workman flagged me down. He pointed to my front license plate frame and asked what the slogan emblazoned on the license plate frame meant. Let's see, the slogan reads "So, Far From God; So Close To Kylie!". I explained that I was a fan of the pop singer Kylie Minogue. He said he knew who she was, she is very pretty, and that she's been singing for years. But did the slogan mean I didn't believe in God?

No, I explained, the slogan meant that I would be very happy if Kylie was my girl. He smiled and agreed with that sentiment.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Trouble In Dinosaurland

As always, it's that dadgum gummintosaurus:
A federal judge has cleared the way for the government's seizure of a creationism theme park in Pensacola owned by a couple convicted of tax fraud.

A ruling by U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers states that the nine properties that make up Dinosaur Adventure Land as well as two bank accounts associated with the park will be used to satisfy $430,400 owed to the federal government.
Kent Hovind, who founded the park and a ministry, Creation Science Evangelism, is serving 10 years in federal prison for failing to pay the Internal Revenue Service more than $470,000 in employee taxes.

He was found guilty in November 2006 on 58 counts, including failure to pay employee taxes and making threats against investigators.

The conviction culminated 17 years of Hovind sparring with the IRS. Saying he was employed by God and his ministers were not subject to payroll taxes, he claimed no income or property.

Hovind is incarcerated at the Edgefield Federal Correction Institution in South Carolina.

His wife, Jo, also was sentenced to a year in federal prison for her role in the tax fraud. She's currently jailed at the Federal Correctional Institution in Marianna.
Rodgers' 16-page order released late Thursday gives the government the green light to divide up the nine properties in and around the 5800 block of North Palafox Street and begin to sell them until the $430,400 forfeiture amount is satisfied.
The properties have a combined value of more than what the Hovinds owe, according to Rodgers' order, and any excess property available after the sales will be returned to the Hovinds.

The Hovinds' son, Eric, and business associate Glenn Stoll unsuccessfully tried to block the government's attempt to seize the properties. They said they are the legal owners.

Only Eric Hovind, who has managed the park since his father's incarceration, was successful in his claim, according to Rodgers' order.

Stoll said he owned nine of the 10 properties in question, according to a motion filed with the court. Eric Hovind claimed ownership of a single property, where he lives with his family. He will be allowed to keep the Cummings Road home.

Kent Hovind made a series of quick transfers to conceal his ownership of the properties at risk for seizure, according to documents filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Tonopah McDonalds Update

Passing back through Tonopah, and against my better judgment, I checked the status of the McDonalds there (the disastrous first report is here).

Well, the air conditioning was working again. The toilet, while dirty was functional.

Nevertheless, the windows were still smudged. The mop bucket was sidelined by the waste paper bin, indicating that someone had at least thought about cleanliness (although there was no sign that anyone had actually mopped).

The restaurant was filled mostly with Asian folks who had stepped off a tourist bus parked outside. Even though it looked like these folks had been served already, there was still an interminable wait: the only fellow detailed with handing food to the customers at the counter seemed slow and incompetent.

The crisis du jour was the absence of one dollar bills in the till. The reason? I heard the manager say that "no one told me" about the absence of cash.

I ordered a hot fudge sundae and was told the ice cream machine wasn't working (even though I had just seen an employee leave the restaurant with a hot fudge sundae and head off walking towards town). The fellow collecting money at the counter was pleased my order came out to exactly $5.00, since that meant I didn't require any one dollar bills in change.

Leaving town, heading off towards Hawthorne, I wondered whether incompetent employees or uninspired management were to blame for the situation there. Perhaps it was a toxic combination of both, feeding off each others fecklessness.

Thrashed In Vegas

Left: I stayed at the plush Desert Rose Resort, just off the Strip (behind Hooters). There were quite a few families staying here too - a more family-friendly alternative to the big Vegas Hotel casino/resorts.

Left: A dead mouse just outside the Excalibur. Sort of emblematic of my $1,051.00 loss at Luxor's blackjack tables.

Left: Mandalay Bay, and Luxor.

Left: Luxor's big beam!

Below: The Tropicana Hotel.

Left: New York, New York.

The Ghost Of Sam Kinison (II)

Several years ago, I blogged about looking for the exact spot on Highway 95, near the NV-CA state line, where the comedian Sam Kinison died after a head-on collision with a drunk driver in 1992. My search was confounded because there is no monument - not even a roadside cross - to mark the spot.

Belatedly, I discovered a Web Site where the spot was described as being exactly four miles north of Interstate 40, where the state police marked the accident site, as they usually do with accidents, with white paint sprayed on the pavement to mark the locations of the cars. That gave me something to look for. But would the paint still be on the roadway 17 years later?

Exactly four miles north of Interstate 40, sure enough, there were white marks on the pavement. But was this the right spot? The marks looked less like spray paint and more like thick white goop that had fallen out of the back of a truck. I looked around for telltale car debris, but aside from a shredded tire at the road's edge, and some other unrelated junk, there were no certain relics to rely upon.

Well, probably close enough......

Desert Miscellany

Left: Thank you for your cooperation in keeping Luning safe and happy!

(since the towns of Luning and Mina are on the primary route for trucks to bring ordnance to the army base at Hawthorne, these warning signs do serve an important purpose).

Left: Fun with spray paint at Coaldale Junction, NV.

Left: Too cute! (at Goldfield, NV).

Left: Roadside ruin at Vidal, CA (very much like a modern ghost town).

New Tires In Needles

Even before I started my trip, I had noticed a vibration in the front end of my car. The tires looked pretty ragged too. I did what I usually do under these circumstances: I slipped into denial, decided to ignore the situation, and took off down the road.

The vibration worsened considerably during the trip. Still, onward I rolled through the hot deserts of the Southwest.

Trying to pull away from the pumps after filling up at the Needles Shell service station, I was suddenly confronted by a sweaty mechanic animatedly gesticulating at my right front tire. What could possibly be wrong? Well, sure, maybe the tire was falling apart. So what has that to do with me?

Reluctantly, I decided to listen to the mechanic's advice: costly but sound advice. I sprung for four new tires.

And the vibration disappeared.

The next morning, on Las Vegas TV, the lead story was about a fellow who drove off the freeway and rolled his car after a blowout. There but for the grace of God go I!

Desert Vistas

Beautiful sky and mesa, just east of Red Hill, NM, late afternoon, January 8, 2006.

Left: The same mesa, midday, August 2, 2009. There is less grass in this picture, suggesting that those cows have been out and about in the summer warmth.

Left: On the road, heading to Mesa, AZ, from Payson.

Before Highway 87 (the Bumble Bee Highway) rises over the Mazatzal Mtns. from the Tonto Basin, it goes over a spur of the mountain range. In the early 80's (about 1981), when the road was narrower, I got into trouble right here, on the descent of this spur. I tried to pass a semi-truck trailer in my 1970 VW Bug just as the road began its steep descent. The semi wouldn't let me complete passing as we both accelerated downhill, and so I traveled a mile praying that there wasn't any oncoming traffic.

Semis scare me....

Left: The Big Maria Mtns., just north of Blythe, CA.

Even in the desert, all mountains sport vegetation, but the mountains in the Lower Colorado River Valley have so little vegetation that they begin to approximate the ideal of perfect lunar barrenness.

Left: The Big Maria Mtns., Lower Colorado River Valley, CA.

Left: A dust devil lazily spins away the afternoon, hardly travelling at all, but staying essentially in one place, at Dry Lake, in the Eldorado Valley, just south of Boulder City, NV.

Left: A hillside of Joshua Trees, just north of Lida Junction, NV, on the south-facing slopes of the Goldfield Hills.

The northernmost extent of Joshua Trees along Highway 95 lies between the north-facing slopes of the Goldfield Hills and the south-facing slopes of the San Antonio Mountains, where Tonopah is located.

I find it mysterious that the Joshua Tree demarcation lies between these two ranges of hills. There is no reason I can divine why Joshua Trees, the signature species of the Lower Mojave desert, couldn't spread farther north. Maybe it's a dynamic boundary, and perhaps the only reason Joshua Trees haven't spread farther north is that they just haven't had time to do so yet.

Left: Brock Mountain, San Antonio Mountains, just SW of Tonopah, NV.

Left: The wave-cut benches left behind by the high-water mark of now-vanished, ice-age Lake Lahontan are particularly noticeable in the Wassuck Range just northwest of Walker Lake, NV. The wave-cut bench here is the pale horizontal feature just below the picture's middle.

Here, gullies from the hills drape steep alluvial fans over the wave-cut bench. Apparently, sediment-bearing water from the gullies abruptly ran into the calm water of the ancient lake and swiftly dropped its sediment. Now that the lake has vanished, the gully water is now digging into and eroding away the alluvial fans they laid down in a wetter era.

Left: Wilson Canyon, West Fork of the Walker River, Singatse Range, near Smith, NV.

This is a very pleasant place. The big mystery is why a canyon like this is here in the first place. It's rare that a river chooses to cut right through a mountain range. Perhaps the river predates the mountains and the land is rising swiftly as the river tries to maintain its status quo.

High Noon At Blythe

Left: The Colorado River at the I-10 bridge.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Misreading The Danger

Stayed overnight at my customary Phoenix motor hotel destination (Holiday Inn Express, I-10 & Chandler).

Preparing to take a shower this morning, I decided to put the rubber bath mat outside the tub, since the bathroom floor seemed so slippery.

Mistake. Once wet, the tub's bottom was infinitely more slippery than the bathroom floor. I fell, and smacked my cheekbone against the soapdish. I sensibly finished my shower sitting down.

Ow. May as well look at the bright side. A bit of rouge has always suited me well.....

Time to leave Phoenix, and head for Vegas! No dangers there, no sir!