Friday, May 28, 2010

Worship Tree

Here is a picture of the tree at 8th & J Street (mentioned in a previous blogpost) before which I saw a man kneeling in what appeared to be a religious ceremony - Druid? Buddhist? Meth Hallucination? - of some sort.

To all appearances, it seems to be an ordinary, urban shade tree.

Nevertheless, one can't be too careful. As John mentioned in comments, such unusual conduct could signify terrorist intentions to which the tree was privy. So, I made a citizen's arrest, and read the tree its Miranda warning:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?
Predictably, the tree clammed up and said nothing. What's worse, since the tree grows in the bail bonds district of Sacramento, and since a bail bondsman was just around the corner, the tree never even entered jail, but posted a few green leaves and remains free with its other fellow urban shade trees, in mute, flagrant defiance.

Sacramento Convention Center Sculpture

Is it me, or is this just odd?

Stool Pigeon

But it ain't talking:
Indian police are holding a pigeon under armed guard after it was caught on an alleged spy mission for neighboring Pakistan, media reported Friday.

The white-colored bird was found by a local resident in India's Punjab state, which borders Pakistan, and taken to a police station 25 miles from the city of Amritsar.

The pigeon had a ring around its foot and a Pakistani phone number and address stamped on its body in red ink.

Police officer Ramdas Jagjit Singh Chahal told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency that they suspected the pigeon landed on Indian soil from Pakistan with a message, although no trace of a note was found.

Officials directed that no one should be allowed to visit the pigeon, which police said was possibly on a "special mission of spying."

The bird was medically examined and kept in an air-conditioned room under police guard.

Senior officers asked to be kept updated on the situation three times a day, PTI reported.

Chahal said local pigeon keepers in the sensitive border area told police that Pakistani pigeons were easily identifiable as they looked different from Indian ones, according to the Indian Express newspaper.

I Get A $80 Rebate!

....But I had to spend $600 on struts, among other things. And $400 on brakes. The car no longer squeals. Just the owner....

Charles Krauthammer Swings A Rovian Bat At The Environmentalists

Toles says it best.....

Karl Rove always loves to attack enemies directly at their supposed strengths, thereby sometimes finding weaknesses. Charles Krauthammer follows Rove's playbook by trying to blame the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on environmentalists.

Like all people, environmentalists share responsibility with everyone else for our growing oil appetite, but to the extent they lead the way by consuming less, and helping find alternative paths, environmentalists share less of that burden.

Krauthammer blames environmental chic for sending us out into deep waters, but as he well knows, in many places, the big pools of oil are no longer on land, or even at shallow depths. The reason the Gulf of Mexico is the center of drilling is because that's where the big pools of oil are. Regulations aren't sending us there: a ravenous appetite is. To the extent that environmentalists have succeeded in restricting access to oil elsewhere, the suspensions have always been impermanent and subject to political whim. Constant vigilance is the price environmentalists and governments have had to pay to keep their shores free from filth. Inattention, as in the Gulf, means disaster.

So, blame the environmentalists if you please, but remember - right now, where environmentalists have greater sway, as in California, the shoreline is largely free of oil. That is not an accident:

Here's my question: Why were we drilling in 5,000 feet of water in the first place?

Many reasons, but this one goes unmentioned: Environmental chic has driven us out there. As production from the shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production. (President Obama's tentative, selective opening of some Atlantic and offshore Alaska sites is now dead.) And of course, in the safest of all places, on land, we've had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

So we go deep, ultra deep -- to such a technological frontier that no precedent exists for the April 20 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

There will always be catastrophic oil spills. You make them as rare as humanly possible, but where would you rather have one: in the Gulf of Mexico, upon which thousands depend for their livelihood, or in the Arctic, where there are practically no people? All spills seriously damage wildlife. That's a given. But why have we pushed the drilling from the barren to the populated, from the remote wilderness to a center of fishing, shipping, tourism and recreation?

Not that the environmentalists are the only ones to blame. Not by far. But it is odd that they've escaped any mention at all.

It's Not Katrina, So Stop Making The Analogy

Every night, I turn on Sean Hannity on the radio, and every night, Sean Hannity tries to equate the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill with Hurrican Katrina. That would be very ironic, and irresistibly Rovian too: make the oil spill into Obama's albatross the same way Katrina became Bush's albatross.

But history is just not repeating itself here. Kevin Drum makes the point:
Katrina was an example of the type of disaster that the federal government is specifically tasked with handling. And for most of the 90s, it was very good at handling them. But when George Bush became president and Joe Allbaugh became director of FEMA, everything changed. Allbaugh neither knew nor cared about disaster preparedness. For ideological reasons, FEMA was downsized and much of its work outsourced. When Allbaugh left after less than two years on the job, he was replaced by the hapless Michael Brown and the agency was downgraded and broken up yet again. By the time Katrina hit, the upper levels of FEMA were populated largely with political appointees with no disaster preparedness experience and the agency was simply not up to the job of dealing with a huge storm anymore.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion is almost the exact opposite. There is no federal expertise in capping oil blowouts. There is no federal agency tasked specifically with repairing broken well pipes. There is no expectation that the federal government should be able to respond instantly to a disaster like this. There never has been. For better or worse, it's simply not something that's ever been considered the responsibility of the federal government [additional note: with the exception that the feds do have an overall plan for responding to and cleaning up spills].

In the case of Katrina, you have the kind of disaster that, contra Levin, can be addressed by the federal government. In the case of the BP spill, we're faced with a technological challenge that can't be. They could hardly be more different.

But there is one way in which they're similar. As Levin says, Katrina would have been an immense disaster no matter what. But it was far worse than it had to be because a conservative administration, one that fundamentally disdained the mechanics of government for ideological reasons, decided that FEMA wasn't very important. Likewise, the BP blowout was made more likely because that same administration decided that government regulation of private industry wasn't very important and turned the relevant agency into a joke. If you believe that government is the problem, not the solution, and if you actually run the country that way for eight years, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But we shouldn't pretend it's inevitable.

Abandoning The Gulf Coast

You know you are about to be abandoned when you hear words like these:
President Obama made a promise to Gulf Coast residents today: "You're not alone. You will not be abandoned. You will not be left behind."

Visiting Louisiana, Obama said the Gulf Coast oil spill is "our highest priority" and has already triggered "the largest cleanup effort in U.S. history."

"We wanna stop the leak," the president said. "We wanna contain and clean up the oil. And we wanna help the people of this region return to their lives and our livelihood as soon as possible."

"This isn't just a mess that we've gotta mop up," Obama said, calling the spill a "nightmare."

...The president offered his "solemn pledge" that he'll do whatever it takes to solve this problem, and said that whatever Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen needs, "he will get."
People along the Gulf Coast have been hearing happy talk from BP and various governments for a month now. No one believes any of it anymore. Actions speak louder than words. If you actually believe this, do something useful about it for a change!

Americans forget so easily. If you are not directly impacted, you forget.

BP has been shockingly complacent about keeping people informed regarding what they are doing. That's corporate life for you!

This video is so poignant:

Congressman Melancon has accepted reasonably large amounts of money from oil interests:
Charlie Melancon has received $117,100 in oil contributions during the 110th congress. $101,750 of those dollars were from industry PACS. In total, he has received $235,200 since 2000.

He has voted in favor of big oil companies 64% of the time on important oil-related bills. These include Iraq War Funding, Climate Change Studies, Clean Energy, and Ending Oil Subsidies.
Yet, Congressman Melancon and his constituents have been utterly betrayed by BP. Everything he and his constituents have worked for is in ruins. But feckless Americans will soldier on, preoccupied with their own concerns, as the world slowly dies.

RIP, Gary Coleman

Since I rarely watched TV in the 80's I knew Gary Coleman only as a candidate in the 2003 California Gubernatorial recall election. Too young, really, to pass on. Condolences to his family.

This Stretch Of Road Might Have My Number Someday

This accident unnerved me. I travel this exact stretch every damned day, and I could see this happening to me, either as crash-er or crash-ee - easily!:
A 52-year-old Sacramento woman died early Tuesday morning when the car she was riding in was struck fron behind on Highway 50. According to the Sacramento Bee, the victim, Luther Jean Harris, 52, of Sacramento, was a front seat passenger in a car driven by Rodney Glass, 37, of West Sacramento.

The 1998 Chevrolet Camaro driven by Glass ran out of gas at about 12:40 a.m. and came to stop in westbound lane four, a transition lane to southbound Interstate 5. According to the CHP, Glass's vehicle had its emergency lights flashing when it was rear-ended by a westbound Chevrolet El Camino driven by Jay Stebley, 55, of Sacramento.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Stebley looked over his shoulder to view traffic and did not see the Camaro stopped in the lane until it was too late to avoid the rear-end collision. Both Rodney Glass and Jay Stebley were taken to UC Davis Medical Center with moderate injuries. Harris, who was not wearing her seat belt when the disabled vehicle was rear-ended, died at the scene of the crash.

Lil Foxx Wipe Me Down Remix ft Boosie & Webbie

E.: MMMMAAAARRRRCCCC! Turn off that music! It's not even music! It's black music!

M.: It's great hip-hop! I've been trying to figure out what song this is for a month, but the tempo is sped up on the aerobics mix Pepper Von uses for his Cardio Funk class, so I can't quite make out the words. I thought he was singing about being bone white. It shows you how you can be mistaken!

E.: It is ridiculous! It is wrong!

M.: It's interesting, on this recording, how the singers self-censor their words so they can televise it on BET. That's hard to do, self-censor yourself on the fly.

E.: Make it stop!

M.: Together with Yung Joc's "It's Goin' Down", this is the best hip hop there is, particularly when the tempo is sped up to make it really danceable.

E.: Make it stop!

Full lyrics:
Mr. wipe down ya heard me Foxx-a-million yall!
This one be the reeemix!
Badass, Savage life, Foxx-a-million
Man you already know what it is ya heard me
We still on, we still ridin on chrome, we still pullin up

Verse 1 (Foxx)
I pull up at the club VIP gas tank on E
but all drinks on me (wipe me down)
Fresh kicks fresh white tall tee fresh NFL
hat fresh bauds wit the crease (wipe me down)
pussy niggas wanna hit me wit tha heat,
real recognize real real niggaz gon speak (wipe me down)
Jiggalatin I been rollin bout a week
you can tell i got cake by the diamonds on my teeth (wipe me down)
Black shades so you know a nigga rollin they ain't check me at the door
so ain't no tellin what im holdin (wipe me down)
bad bitches they gon bust it wide open niggas flashin they lil bread
but im the nigga they approachin (wipe me down)
Small nigga tall figures yall niggas crowd niggas
we gon get mac elevens and dawg niggas (wipe me down)
Yall niggas call niggas but my nigga all killas
get ya issue and whoever fall wit ya

Cuz im on (wipe me down)(8x)
Shoulders, chest, pants, shoes (4x)

Verse 2 (Lil Boosie)
B.O.O.S.I.E. B.A.D.A.Z.Z. that's me (wipe me down)
Red bones caramels all of em stop and stare all of em
try and steal my underwear (wipe me down)
I Like to floss like Rick Ross got a hit called set it off
when i sing it everybody set it off (wipe me down)
Black mink yea im on play wit me
i bust ya dome 8 whips on chrome you can gon (wipe me down)
Fresh fade fresh j's on the corner playin spades
im an ordinary person but im paid (wipe me down)
Foxx flippin Webbie smokin
and we chokin off a whole pound of purple famous
like tha ninja turtles (wipe me down)
Just left New York City hooked up wit P. Diddy finna blow past 50
you gon have ta (wipe me down)
We the best im a fool im the hemi man
red light green light yellow light get it man


Verse 3 (Webbie)
Hot drop drop top top drop hoes drop it like its hot
yea nigga im the shit (wipe me down)
You see this ice on my wrist how it glist soon as the light hit
you can't lie the ice sick (wipe me down)
Purple got me smellin funky red monkey 500 dollars on em
you ain't seen these yet (wipe me down)
Beatin you can hear me way around the corner paint wet wit the 24's on em
that's a bet (wipe me down)
Ol lady's baby momma's few fiance's niggas wife savage life
who i'm gonna f**k next (wipe me down)
And i don't use the lifestyle or the magnum or the trojan
i'll go head and use the barrel of the tech (wipe me down)
Man this chain hit me for a couple grand oh no i ain't complainin
just watch how you wipe my chest (wipe me down)
A bad bitch wanted me to stay lil longer i put that dick up on her
but i had a flight to catch (wipe me down)

Shoulders, chest, pants, shoes (8x)


Taking Lady Gaga Seriously

Take Lady Gaga seriously, like a heart attack!

I don't think Lady Gaga is the last pop star. Pop is almost indestructible. After the Apocalypse, the only thing left behind will be cockroaches, Wall-E robots, and pop music.

Nevertheless, I think Lady Gaga is decadent. Britney Spears is wannabe decadent, but not the real thing decadent. Lady Gaga is the real thing decadent.

Sometimes it helps to see incomplete Lady Gagas to understand Lady Gaga. I've seen this one video advertisement for a 1-900 number where an actress pretends to be a dominatrix. The actress looks arrestingly like a dancer I know, who, in turn, looks arrestingly like Lady Gaga. While she orders extras around on the set, the actress orders the viewers to call the 1-900 number. But she isn't a very good actress and even though she enjoys yelling at people, you can sense she doesn't particularly enjoy being a dominatrix. She just wants to get paid. But to be a good dominatrix, you have to enjoy being a dominatrix. The overall effect is absolutely hilarious. That's what you get with Britney Spears.

Lady Gaga, on the other hand, wouldn't enjoy being a bad dominatrix either, but she would sing a very catchy song about being a bad dominatrix. It's as if she isn't even really there at all.

I think it's very risky to build a career this way. At some point in your career, the urge to phone in your performance becomes almost irresistible:
Sometime in 2008, the world entered the age of Lady Gaga. She seemed to spring from the Billboard charts fully formed, microphone in hand and razor-blade glasses at the ready. Details of her pre-Gaga biography began filtering out: Her birth name is Stefani Germanotta, she grew up in New York and dropped out of NYU. ... But the essence of Gaga remains mysterious: She is an enigma wrapped inside a glass-shard-studded suit, singing maddeningly catchy dance tunes about monsters. Perhaps it's this disconnection between the Gaga of 2010 and the videos of conventionally pretty Germanotta sweetly playing piano that has led to so many theories about her, ranging from intensive speculation about her sex life to critical analysis of her epic music videos.

So maybe it was only a matter of time before academia got in on the game. Meghan Vicks, a doctoral student working on her dissertation in comparative literature, wrote a critical breakdown of the "Telephone" video that earned her a nod from the Lady herself. Soon thereafter, Kate Durbin, a poet and performer who had been collecting exegeses about Gaga's work contacted Vicks to begin work on an online academic journal about Gaga. The site, Gaga Stigmata, is a collection of musings and art about Gaga, including submissions comparing the "Bad Romance" video to the work of Stanley Kubrick and a look at the legacy of Michael Jackson in Gaga's work. Salon e-mailed Vicks and Durbin to talk about Gaga as poseur, why we should care about her latest antics, and whether Gaga is just another Madonna knock-off, after all.

Why is Lady Gaga worth studying?

Durbin: Pop matters. What we hear in the mall, in our cars, on YouTube, makes the world around us, which is to say that it makes us. I believe Lady Gaga's art pioneers awareness and liberation at such a massive cultural scale that it would be ignorant, and potentially even destructive, not to take it seriously. We needed a pop star who could simultaneously celebrate the spirit of pop -- the spirit that makes everyone, no matter who or where they are in the world, stand up and start dancing when "Billie Jean" comes on the jukebox -- and deconstruct, and ultimately shift, the static notion of the pop star as a figure of blind worship and untouchable-ness. Gaga has put the glitter wand back into the hands of the audience. She's made the audience responsible for what they are viewing. No other pop singers are doing that, at least not on the level that Gaga is. No pop singer has done it on that level, ever, period.
Some people accuse Gaga of being a poseur, not a performance artist. How do you respond to them?

Vicks: When people dismiss Gaga's art as poseur-y, they miss the point of her project. Gaga's about faking fame, and she doesn’t claim to be genuine. I definitely find her performance to be consciously a pose. That's part of her goal: to demonstrate how powerful the artificiality is.

What distinguishes Gaga's work from that of other artists famous for their constant transformations and provocative costumes? Is she just a revamped Madonna?

Durbin: Gaga has so often been compared to Madonna, and wrongly dismissed as a Madonna clone. Both Gaga and Madonna are transformative artists, who have pushed the boundaries of how women are viewed sexually in pop culture. But unlike Madonna, Gaga makes her entire life a performance. For example, Gaga's outfits physically distort the female figure to the extreme, and she often wears clothing that's physically dangerous, grotesque and cyborg-esque. There's a combination of human and animal (such as her lobster hat, or her Hello Kitty gown), and of human and machine (such as her famous iPod glasses). Madonna always looked sexy no matter which period she was in. Gaga seems to be evolving toward something beyond sexy, to something polysexual and apocalyptic.

Vicks: If you look at the careers of other artist such as Bob Dylan, Madonna or David Bowie -- all famous for their constant transformations -- I think you'll find that their careers each have a number of personal genres or phases; they'll spend some time writing a certain style of music and performing an accompanying persona, and then they'll move on to a new style after a while. But Lady Gaga's transformations are all at once: she's a multiplicity of genres and styles and ideologies at the same time. The distinction is between performers like Dylan who embody a certain identity, and then transform into a new identity, versus performers like Gaga whose identity is embodied transformation.

...In the Atlantic, James Parker called Lady Gaga "the last pop star," because she destroys pop even as she creates it. Do you agree?

Durbin: I think Britney Spears was the last pop star, not Gaga. If anything, Spears' highly publicized descent represented the final fall into the void, a victim of the system. Britney and her shaved head wielding an umbrella at the paparazzi became a "monster"-- Gaga, on the other hand, is the pop star resurrected as a meta-pop star. Gaga said to an interviewer at CNN: "I am whoever you perceive me to be." She reflects back the things society projects onto pop stars. By drawing attention to her self-conscious performance of fame, she gives power to her audience.

Vicks: Deconstruction isn't about destruction, and it isn't about rendering everything meaningless. Gaga is engaging in a deconstructive performance of the pop star, but this doesn't amount to Gaga erasing the pop star. Rather, she demonstrates how fame is something created and costumed and declared, just like many aspects of contemporary identity. I think her performance is more of a commentary on contemporary society and the role of the spectacle therein, rather than a destroying of anything within that society. Lady Gaga doesn't announce the death of the pop star; she demonstrates the strength of the spectacle in our culture.

My Car Is More Ghetto Than Your Car

On Thursday evening, something in my brakes started grinding sporadically. By last night, the car was squealing everywhere it went. I was embarrassed driving around Woodland last night, certain that if the streets weren't already filled with cars with squealing belts, people might have even noticed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Urge To Hold Responsible The People In Command

In Australia, the official response to Black Saturday is coming.

Who will take responsibility for the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster?
AS FIRES raged on Black Saturday, none of those who were in command showed any real leadership.

That's what the bushfires royal commission was told yesterday in a stinging attack that threatens the reputations of former police chief commissioner Christine Nixon, CFA chief Russell Rees and other senior officers.

Emergency services chiefs - including CFA deputy Steve Warrington, DSE chief fire officer Ewan Waller and Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin - were obsessed with co-ordination rather than command, the commission heard.

They focused on overseeing their troops rather than supervising the firefight and issuing warnings to people in the path of the inferno.

Jack Rush, QC, counsel assisting the commission, said proper and effective leadership was absent on Black Saturday.

"Ms Nixon's departure for home and subsequent dinner engagement at a time when she understood the state was facing disaster, is conduct that is entirely inconsistent with her role as chief commissioner of police, deputy co-ordinator in chief of emergency management, and state co-ordinator of the state's disaster planning," Mr Rush said.

"To leave without ensuring that a responsible person was in place, on location, to manage the inevitable consequences of the disaster unfolding, we say is an oversight of grave proportions."

Mr Rush said Ms Nixon misled the commission when she did not reveal she had gone out for a pub meal and was not constantly monitoring the unfolding disaster.

He said the lack of leadership "leaves a sense of bewilderment". There was "a lamentable lack of responsibility and leadership from the most senior personnel involved in fire and emergency response on the 7th of February".

The fires could not be stopped, Mr Rush said, but CFA chief Rees failed to ensure the only action open to the authorities - warnings to the public - were issued.

"We submit that leadership cannot be divorced from command," Mr Rush said.

"Command does not necesssarily involve the issuing of orders or directions, or swooping in to take over at an incident control centre.

"Command demands a presence: to inform, and if necessary, reassure and inspire. But also . . . to oversight and monitor to ensure that key objectives are being met by subordinates.

"Leadership and command is not exercised by retreat to so-called co-ordination or to broad oversight. Leadership and command is not exercised by being available if necessary at the end of a telephone."

...The commission will report to the State Government by July 31

It's Like A Self-Lobotomy!: Cut Off California's Methadone To Save Money!

I read about this wonderful, wonderful idea, and I thought: "There goes my low neighborhood crime rate! Nothing like releasing hundreds of heroin-obsessed wraiths in my immediate vicinity to generate that warm, fuzzy, safe feeling!":
It is a craving so powerful that addicts will do almost anything to satisfy it.

For thousands of people hooked on heroin and other opiates, a daily swallow of methadone tames the demon and opens the door to a normal life.

But soon the synthetic narcotic, which for decades has been used as a controversial treatment for addiction, no longer may be an option for thousands of Californians.

As part of the effort to dig the state out of its massive budget hole, the Schwarzenegger administration has proposed cutting off Medi-Cal funding for "methadone maintenance" and other treatment programs to most addicts, saving the state $53 million.

Advocates who believe that methadone saves lives and lowers crime committed by society's most hard-core addicts are vigorously protesting the proposed cuts. Today, former federal drug czar Barry McCaffrey and others will try to convince lawmakers that slashing the program would backfire on the state.

"Dumping tens of thousands of opiate addicts back on the street would be an immediate disaster to law enforcement, and to the families of people who have become stable, functioning adults" thanks to methadone, said McCaffrey, who has a consulting firm and serves on the board of directors of an organization that treats chemical dependency.
People just have no concept how many people are taking methadone here in Sacramento!

I remember back in, I think, 1999. Those were the days when the DMV parking lot behind my house still had low guardrails around it (removed because of this incident!)

A rather strange woman had moved in next door. Over the months, she kept trying to intrude and otherwise insinuate herself into my household. I learned that she had a family, that she had children, but she was forced to live separately from them. I suspected she might have drug problems.

One day, she fell down the outside steps of her apartment, and she sued her landlord. After awhile, she was evicted, and I stopped seeing her around.

Until one morning, a couple of months later, at four a.m. WHAM! There was an immense collision outside my bedroom window. I ran outside in my pajamas and saw that a car passing through the alley had driven end-on into one of the low guardrails. To my surprise, the evicted woman was at the wheel - rattled, but unhurt. She explained she had been heading from a donut shoppe on Broadway to a medical clinic on Florin Rd., and just happened to be passing through the back alley when she drove into the guardrail. I realized the back alley was not the most direct way from the donut shoppe to Florin Rd., and suspected she must have passed through the alley either out of emotional attachment to her former residence, out of habit, or some weird mix of the two.

Since her car was no longer drivable, we pushed it into a parking space. She asked me for a ride to her medical clinic appointment on Florin Rd. I assented. As we drove along and talked, she would sometimes lapse into a semi-conscious state. Her eyes would roll back in her head and she would start stuttering. I could see why the car accident had occurred.

We arrived at the Florin Rd. clinic about five a.m., and I was astonished. Florin Rd. was nearly empty, but there were at least a hundred people present at this one clinic, waiting impatiently in line. They were there for their methadone. Dozens more were arriving by the minute!

A lot of people in Sacramento take methadone, but since it's administered at odd times and places, you might not even know it!

Take away the methadone and you have an instant crime wave!

If we need to cut budgets, cut methadone last. Why not cut CALTRANS first? I mean, good grief!

Oil Spill Reverberations Just Starting

It's been amazing to read the coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill (and watching a little bit over the Internet, since I have no TV). The cognitive dissonance, the slow response, the befuddlement, the outright lies: and that's just the start. It will get worse from here.

Much time was wasted because BP could not believe the blowout preventer failed to seal the well and kept trying to get it to function. How they could expect it to function when blowout preventers are notoriously fickle to operate in practice is unclear, however. Plus, this one was mangled in installation and maintenance.

No containment domes were on hand when the catastrophic failure first occurred, showing a lack of foresight for disaster.

Nevertheless, when used, the containment domes failed because they filled up with methane clathrate hydrate: a foreseeable event, given the pressures at the sea bottom. As the methane/oil mixture explosively decompresses upon entering the open ocean, methane clathrate hydrate nucleates and grows, like snow, in the methane/oil plume. Nevertheless, BP seems to have been bewildered by this occurrence. They did not anticipate this happening! Despite their expertise, they are neophytes drilling at these depths, and they just didn't know this would happen! And we are supposed to trust them drilling at the continental shelf edges, and in the Arctic, where methane clathrate hydrate is abundant? Please! Like trusting children with loaded weapons!

Since the Deepwater Horizon was located just south of the big oyster beds and shrimping area - among the most productive fisheries in the world - and since those areas have been overlain by large amounts of toxic oil for more than a month now, it would be surprising if oysters and shrimp are not massively damaged. Similar to how the Exxon Valdez totally wiped out the herring fishery in Prince William Sound. Fishing in Louisiana may be eradicated as a way of life. Hunting too. Wildlife will be decimated, even under a best-case scenario. Hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs, and no one is prepared for that.

And yet BP's Tony Hayward is still babbling on about how he hopes the damage is moderate and how BP will fix what ails the coast.
"I feel devastated by that, absolutely gutted. What I can tell you is that we are here for the long haul. We are going to clean every drop of oil off the shore."
He is either cracking under pressure and suffering delusions, or he is willing to tell people anything they want to hear, just to escape the pressure. Maybe both. And when lies don't work, he uses local officials to shut down media access to his person, and to public beaches, and to anything else that might reflect poorly on BP. The utter contempt being displayed towards the people who live near the Gulf coastline is just awesome to witness. The Masters of the Universe just have no idea how callous they sound, and how callous they are!

Crimes may have been committed too. One of BP's folks intends to take the 5th Amendment in testimony to Congress. Nice decisionmaking there!

What form will the anger of ordinarily Gulf Coast folks take, and to whom will it be directed? And when? White-hot anger takes awhile to develop, but once developed, takes forever to burn out!

And most of the oil has yet to wash up on shore. It's offshore - lurking. Shorelines in Florida, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Mexico have yet to be affected. As they most assuredly will be, given the large size of the spill and the fairly-small size of the Gulf of Mexico!

That's right, hurricane season starts early next week too! Wind, rain, waves and oil - an awesome combination!

Obama has suspended drilling permits for the next year. He doesn't even know how bad it it will get, poor child! So naive! And he's not alone! The politicians are SO slow!

Even if the 'top kill' procedure works, the real political damage has just started. This crisis has just started!

And yet, for all that, BP's response to the disaster has, by oil company standards, been fairly rapid. If Exxon Mobil was in charge, or, God forbid, Pemex, the response would have been *m-u-c-h* s-l-o-w-e-r! Put that crude in your pipe and smoke it!

Drill, baby, drill!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tree Ritual

Walking along the sidewalk at the intersection of 8th & J, at the NE corner, I saw a Caucasian man in an orange shirt and painter pants kneeling directly towards one of the shade trees near the parking garage exit there. He bowed his head, drew his fingers through the small gravel at the tree's base, and chanted something in a low voice. Whatever the chant was, it seemed Buddhist in inspiration, but I don't think Buddhists are in the habit of kneeling towards trees.

Basically, I have no idea what sort of ritual I was witnessing.

Maybe If It Wasn't For The Water Diversions....

...And the warm temperatures and the low precipitation, maybe we could bring Lake Bonneville back!

Left: The current situation: The level of the Great Salt Lake at Saltair....

And this is the goal....
Pluvial lakes and glaciers in the Great Basin at their maximum late Pleistocene extent. Darker blue areas are late Pleistocene pluvial lakes: Bonneville, Lahontan, Russell (Mono), Searles, Manix, Manly, Kawich, and Mojave.

Map courtesy of Jerry. Original reference: Morrison, R.B., 1991, Quaternary stratigraphic, hydrologic, and climatic history of the Great Basin, with emphasis on Lakes Lahontan, Bonneville, and Tecopa, in Morrison, R.B., ed., Quaternary Nonglacial Geology: Conterminous U.S: Boulder, Colorado, Geological Society of America, p. 283-320.

Bird #95998 Update

It took a bit of persistence, and several calls, but Wilma at the Wildlife Care Association (WCA) in McClellan Air Park finally got back to me with some information regarding the Scrub Jay fledgling I took there last week.

The bird's injuries were not as grave as I had feared. The bird is recovering.

After treatment, birds are taken home by WCA volunteers and released into flight cages with others of their kind. After several weeks of socialization and strengthening, the birds are released back into the wild.

If the bird is an older bird, efforts are made to release the bird in the same generally location where it was originally found. With fledglings like Bird #95998, however, such efforts are usually not made. By the time the bird is released, the bird has generally 'forgotten' about its original home. The bird is given a fresh start at a location of WCA's choosing.

I tried to urge Wilma to persuade the bird's caretakers to release it back at my home, since family members are still flying around in the neighborhood, but it's unlikely WCA will deviate from their established policies.

Well, at least this bird now has a decent chance of making a happy life for itself....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's All About The Intimidation

An American version of facism gets an Arizona foothold:
Phoenix police have beefed up their security detail for Mayor Phil Gordon after he received death threats apparently spurred by his opposition to the state's new immigration law.

Cmdr. Jeff Hynes, who oversees Gordon's security detail, says the mayor has received several specific death threats, and one claimed he would be killed by sniper fire.

The mayor is under round-the-clock surveillance, and The Arizona Republic reports the heightened security includes plainclothes officers outside his north Phoenix home while he sleeps.

Retiring Phone Number 0888 888 888

Just an unlucky number:
The first owner Vladimir Grashnov – the former CEO of Bulgarian mobile phone company Mobitel which issued the number – died of cancer in 2001 aged just 48.

Despite a spotless business record there were persistent rumours that his cancer had been caused by a business rival using radioactive poisoning.

The number then passed to Bulgarian mafia boss, Konstantin Dimitrov, who was gunned down in 2003 by a lone assassin in the Netherlands during a trip to inspect his £500 million drug smuggling empire.

Dimitrov, who died aged 31, had the mobile with him when he was shot while eating out with a model.

Russian mafia bosses – jealous of his drug smuggling operation – were said to have been behind the killing.

The phone number then passed to Konstantin Dishliev, a crooked businessman, who was gunned down outside an Indian restaurant in Bulgaria's capital Sofia after taking over the jinxed line.

Dishliev, an estate agent, had secretly been running a massive cocaine trafficking operation before his assassination in 2005.

He died after £130 million of the drug was intercepted by police on its way into the country from Colombia.

Gringo Masks

For those times when you can't help but drive across Arizona! (I was amazed when I posted a comment at the Palm Beach Post, only to discover a mountain of racist comments had preceded my own comment. Just another demonstration of the necessity of a mask!):
"When we first heard of the law in Arizona and the effects it could have in terms of racial profiling, we discussed at the agency what we could do about it, since we have access to media," says Michelle Zubizarreta, the agency's chief administrative officer and co-owner along with her brother Joe. "How can we address the issue, but do so in a creative way while at the same time delivering a message?"

Ergo, the mask.

"What caught our attention was the absurdity of this law, and the notion that we all must look a certain way," continues the Cuban-American executive. "Once we talked about it, my creative team came back with the idea of the mask and the website [which went live on April 30. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are also being used to spread the word]. Basically, this is all a satire of what is happening in Arizona."

The Ice Age Was Probably Something Like This

Late spring has been unusually cool in California, as well as inland in the Great Basin. As a result, snowmelt has been slower than usual.

I recall that Donald K. Grayson's book "The Desert's Past", which is all about the natural history of the Great Basin, featured a discussion to the effect that the kind of weather that led to the growth and development of lakes in the Great Basin during the Ice Ages is a subset of the current climate of the Great Basin. You don't need a truly dramatic change in climate to bring the Ice Age lakes back. Nothing so dramatic as the "The Day After Tomorrow". Grayson discusses the findings of Larry Benson:
Today, evaporation rates in the Lahontan Basin are on the order of 48" a year. What if the 1983 water inflow figures were combined with the lowest monthly evaporation rates known to have occurred during historic times? Those lowest known rates yield 24.8" of evaporation a year, roughly half the the average amount. Given the 1983 inflow rates (2.5 times the average) and the minimum monthly evaporation rates (about 0.5 times the average) Benson showed that Lake Lahontan could, in fact, reappear.
Grayson then relates that Benson suggests that the mean annual temperature decrease known to have occurred during the Pleistocene, of 9 to 13 deg F, would be required to bring Lake Lahontan back.

There is evidence that the Laurentide Ice Sheet's presence in the Ice Age led to a split in the jet stream that brought cooler temperatures and more rains to California and the Great Basin during the Ice Age ("Climatic Changes of the Last 18,000 Years: Observations and Model Simulations," COHMAP MEMBERS, Science, 1043-1052, August 26, 1988).

Aerial pictures might do justice to the topic, but at least at the Stillwater Refuge near Fallon, NV, water levels appear to be up. If we could just keep the weather like this for an extended period, Lakes Lahontan and Bonneville might slowly reappear before our eyes!

Can't Do Much, And That's A Problem

John Cole states the obvious, because it really does appear we need to state the obvious. And restate it again. Criticism of the Obama Administration doesn't really help, and criticism of BP doesn't really help. Suspending ALL permits for deep sea drilling might help in the long run, but not now, not for this case.

Considering that it took Pemex ten months to get Ixtoc I under control, BP is moving pretty fast. They are thinking control by August. But this leak is much bigger than Ixtoc I and we will not be able to tolerate the damage from five months of this.

But we might have to.

I've wondered exactly what went wrong with the containment dome(s). Did they try to extract oil too quickly, triggering the phase change into methane clathrate hydrate? It seems odd that the domes would fill up so quickly with clathrate slush. Would a different approach help?

But I'm in California, and I can't help. It's a nice, rather cool spring here. Even as the world falls apart elsewhere, the rest of the world rolls on, unfeeling and uncaring:
I know that no matter what I say, some of you are going to claim I am shilling for Obama while others of you will read the same piece and claim I am unfairly attacking Obama, but I have a serious question- what exactly is the Obama administration supposed to do about the oil spill?

I’ve thought about it, and there are some things that really have pissed me off:

1.) BP keeps missing deadlines they themselves set to cap the spill

2.) BP keeps trying to hide the size of the spill anyway they can, whether it be using dispersants to keep the oil under the water so no one can see it, refusing to allow independent sources access, or just flat out lying.

3.) The government is, as we speak, issuing more permits to drill, even though it is perfectly clear we aren’t prepared for this kind of catastrophe.

Of course, the obvious damage to the gulf and the wildlife has me livid, but these are specific things that have pissed me off about the government and BP’s response. I also almost through something at the wall yesterday when I read Jake Tapper report that the Coast Guard called BP their “friends.”

Having said that, I just don’t know what the administration is supposed to do. What can be done? That, I think, is the real lesson from this- that we can’t really do anything about this sort of disaster, and i think the administration has done a really shitty job of getting that message out.

I hear screams to “take over” the operations from BP. And do what? Is there some secret naval division that handles deep-sea drilling that we have not deployed? Does the government have some elite unit with better equipment than BP? I’m as pissed at them as anyone and want the government to make them pay for every penny of the clean-up, but I have to believe that all the people with experience fighting these things and all the equipment to deal with this sort of thing is already there with BP. And that if we “took over” from BP, it would still be the same people.

In short, I just don’t know what kind of federal response there really could be to this kind of disaster. In Katrina, the reason fro anger was clear- there were people who needed food, shelter, water, and medical treatment, things we have a lot of all over the country, and we just dropped the ball getting it to them. But with this- what are we supposed to do?

Mark Twain Gets The Last Laugh

His Autobiography appears in November: at his request, at least 100 years after his death:
"There is a perception that Twain spent his final years basking in the adoration of fans. The autobiography will perhaps show that it wasn't such a happy time. He spent six months of the last year of his life writing a manuscript full of vitriol, saying things that he'd never said about anyone in print before. It really is 400 pages of bile."

Twain, who was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, had made several attempts to start work on autobiography, beginning in 1870, but only really hit his stride with the work in 1906, when he appointed a stenographer to transcribe his dictated reminiscences.

Another potential motivation for leaving the book to be posthumously published concerns Twain's legacy as a Great American. Michael Shelden, who this year published Man in White, an account of Twain's final years, says that some of his privately held views could have hurt his public image.

"He had doubts about God, and in the autobiography, he questions the imperial mission of the US in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. He's also critical of [Theodore] Roosevelt, and takes the view that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. Twain also disliked sending Christian missionaries to Africa. He said they had enough business to be getting on with at home: with lynching going on in the South, he thought they should try to convert the heathens down there."

Blogger Remembers Ixtoc I

We've been here before!

"Dance With Me" Reference

Here is an interesting guide to the making of the 1998 movie "Dance With Me". When I lived in Tucson in the early 80's, I took lessons at the same studio where Rick Valenzuela taught, and I briefly met Liz Curtis, Ron Montez, and Natalie Mavor too, and so the movie is a kind of a personal touchstone for me.


I just finished watching "Breaking Bad" Season 3 episode: "Fly".

Reminds me of a story.

In January, 1975, I escorted a brand-new student at New Mexico Tech, a Pakistani named Ali, all around the campus. It was his first day in America, and he was excited to tour his new home.

On the west side of campus, we looked inside some new buildings. Inside one room, a fly buzzed hopelessly against a window, trying to escape outside.

Ali shuddered and said seeing the fly made him sad. Ali had grown up in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh), and in 1971 was forced to move to West Pakistan to escape the war. All his life, he had lived amongst flies. He had hoped that in an advanced country like the United States, perhaps there were no flies at all.

Another hope crushed....

Katerine Avgoustakis - Enjoy The Day

Plus the fine video!

What The Oil On The Beaches Looks Like

Mother Jones, since no one else seems to be covering the most important story of the decade.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Sunny Day, As The World Slowly Dies

No sign yet that anyone has a grip. The news isn't the best:
Sometime Wednesday, BP plans an exercise called "top kill" that will shoot heavy mud and cement into the well to try to plug it. BP officials estimated the chance of success at 60 to 70 percent.

"They are pressing ahead. We are overseeing them. They're exhausting every technical means possible to deal with that leak," Allen said.

Allen dismissed suggestions that the federal government take over, noting that the government doesn't own the kind of equipment needed to operate at underwater depths of 5,000 feet. "BP or the private sector are the only ones that have the means to deal with that problem down there. It's not government equipment that's going to be used to do that," he said.

Mind Reader

Walking through the Home Depot parking lot back to my car midday on Sunday afternoon, I thought "Boy, I'm beginning to get hungry!" Just as I formed the thought, a voice next to me quietly said "tamales?"

Startled, I turned and saw a Hispanic man riding a bicycle cart through the parking lot, no doubt with a cargo of tamales. Even though I didn't purchase any, it was interesting to see a man at work, presumably in the business of reading the minds of people walking through the Home Depot parking lot.

Orwell Understood History Was The Key

The recent approval of new Texas standards for the teaching of history helps highlight the dangers when an ideology (in this case, conservative ideology) gets to make up its own version of how things happened.

In "1984", George Orwell illustrated just how important it is for a Dictatorship to control history, and to instantly rewrite history when it gets inconvenient.

Here's a fresh example from Arizona - trying to justify the unconstitutional nature of all the wars we have fought since World War II. Orwell would have understood this is just a form of currying favor with the Imperial Executive, to the detriment of our Republic:
Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who is challenging Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary, said that the United States did not formally declare war on Germany in World War II -- at least, that's how it went in his history.

While speaking last week to a local GOP organization in Phoenix, Hayworth was asked by an attendee about America's failure to formally declare war in our modern conflicts. Hayworth defended the modern-day authorizations for the use of military force. "But I would also point out, that if we want to be sticklers, the war that Dwight Eisenhower led in Europe against the Third Reich was never declared by the United States Congress," said Hayworth. "Recall, the Congress passed a war resolution against Japan. Germany declared war on us two days later. We never formally declared war on Hitler's Germany, and yet we fought the war."
The questioner then responded that he thought the United States did declare on Germany, and he would check it. Hayworth responded: "I think we should check it. Perhaps we made the rationalization -- since there was the Axis alliance -- that the attack of Japan was tantamount to the attack of the Third Reich. But as I recall in my history, Germany declared war on the United States, not vice-versa."

In fact, the United states did declare war on Germany. The timeline goes as follows: Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The United States declared war against Japan the next day, December 8, 1941. Then on December 11, 1941, Germany declared war against the United States -- to which the United States immediately reciprocated by declaring war against Germany that same day.

Weep For The Coast

It just gets worse, and worse, and worse! For some reason, the "top down" procedure keeps getting delayed [updates to this several-day's old article in brackets]:
BP is preparing to launch a procedure as early as Sunday [now postponed till Wednesday] to clog the flow of oil and gas from the month-old Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But the proposed "top kill" method is untested at the 5,000-foot depth of the spill, and could easily join the growing list of fixes thwarted by the spill's punishingly remote environment. It is also the most invasive maneuver attempted to date, and could rupture the leaking well and actually accelerate the flow of crude.

Oil containment operations simultaneously gained ground last week as BP installed a tube in the crippled mile-long riser that once linked the Deepwater Horizon rig to its seafloor wellhead. By Wednesday, the ad-hoc Riser Insertion Tube Tool was sucking 3,000 barrels of oil per day into the holding tank of a drilling vessel, cutting releases to the sea by roughly half [today, being reported as overestimated, with no more than 1,000 barrels/day captured]; the vessel is also flaring off about 14 million cubic feet of captured natural gas per day.

BP's riser insertion operation marks its first real technology success after a string of high-profile failures. One early effort to suck up spilling crude--a 100-ton steel box lowered over the wellhead--jammed within hours with a frozen slurry of natural gas and seawater. This fiasco followed weeks of fruitless attempts to stimulate the blowout preventer, or BOP, that sits atop BP's crippled wellhead. Ongoing Congressional investigations last week highlighted design limitations and potential maintenance lapses involving the equipment, which the offshore industry hitherto regarded as a "fail-safe" defense against deepwater spills.

...The top kill procedure, if it works, will stanch the flow of oil and ultimately allow workers to cap off the well with two relief wells-but these caps won't be ready for several months. It will use the BOP's three-inch-diameter choke and kill lines, which open into the space between the well's casing and the drill pipe that runs up the riser. The lines are being cut and spliced into hoses connected to the Q4000, a vessel on the surface, whose 30,000-horsepower pumps will drive a dense mix of clay and other substances called kill mud into the lines. If the mud cannot stop the flow of oil, BP says it will be ready with a "junk shot," in which a mix of materials from shredded rubber to golf balls are pushed into the lines to further gum up the flow paths through the BOP.

Federal officials acknowledge that the top kill carries a risk of breaking open the well or the BOP and exacerbating the spill. "We're carefully looking at all the pressures involved--what the BOP can handle, what the down-hole [pipe] can handle," says Lars Herbst, director of field operations in the Gulf for the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), the federal regulator that both sells offshore oil and gas leases and regulates the resulting drilling.

Paul Bommer, a senior lecturer in petroleum engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, says he believes the junk shot will prove necessary. But he also sees it as a gamble--the junk shot could fail to block the BOP and further damage and open up the riser. "The bent riser is the weak link. The riser probably does not have the pressure rating of the BOPs and possibly could rupture," says Bommer.
Infighting is beginning to start as people try to dodge the blame. I was amazed by Sarah Palin's efforts in this regard, not only to shift blame to the Obama Administration, but to continue shilling for Big Oil:
Palin, who has supported drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife, told Fox News that onshore drilling is "even safer than way offshore." She said:

Maybe this (Gulf spill) is a lesson too for those who oppose safe, domestic supplies being extracted on our shores and on the land."
It's a tautology, I suppose. It's now crystal-clear that we really do lack the technology to safely exploit deep sea oil reserves, which just means we'd better step up our onshore drilling exploitation.

Can't figure out whether to laugh or cry about that.....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Cinderella" - Runaway Stage Productions

Bows. It was good to see Mike Jones as the King, and Karen Day as the Queen.

One of the White Mice. At left, Choreographer Pam Kay Lourentzos catches herself just before entering the field-of-view.

Don Marsden and Stepmother Lillian Baxter. Lillian had fine comedic timing in her role as the Stepmother.

Cinderella (Katie Veale) and Prince Christopher (Brian Watson; Scott Woodard plays the Prince on other weekends.)

I think this is only the second show I've seen with Katie Veale. I really liked her as Cinderella. Brian Watson has a wonderful singing voice and played a strong Prince.

Stepsister Darryl Clark.

When DMTC did "La Cage aux Folles" two years ago, Darryl subtly resisted my efforts to persuade everyone to use high-end, expensive cosmetics from Sephora. Not that there was anything wrong with expensive cosmetics, it's just that it struck Darryl as - imprudent - particularly onstage, where the audience can't examine the work too closely. Despite my best efforts, Darryl proved good at resisting peer pressure too. So, when I praised his excellent makeup job here (the shot is a bit overexposed, so it doesn't quite do justice to the handiwork) it was as if we were taking up the same conversation from two years ago.

"Wonderful job," I said. "Where did you get the cosmetics?" Darryl hesitated slightly and said "Walgreens." I furrowed my brow and said, "Walgreens?" Darryl replied "It isn't what you use, it's how you use it!"

Darryl may have a point.....

Anne-Marie Pringle and Darryl Strohl.

"Jack And The Beanstalk" - DMTC YPT (II)

This is the last weekend for DMTC's YPT's "Jack And The Beanstalk". Here are a few pictures that I still had from the first weekend.


Aw, shucks! I was looking forward to some crowing:
RENO, Nev. -- Voters dressed in chicken costumes won't be allowed inside Nevada polling places this year.

State election officials on Friday added chicken suits to the list of banned items after weeks of ridicule directed at Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden.

The millionaire casino executive and former beauty queen recently suggested that people barter with doctors for medical care, like when "our grandparents would bring a chicken to the doctor."

Democrats responded by setting up a website, "Chickens for Checkups," and by sending volunteers in chicken suits to her campaign events.

...Under the new rule, chicken costumes will be banned along with political buttons, shirts, hats and signs within 100 feet of polling places.

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Dan Burk said such a costume would be an "inappropriate and obvious" advocacy message against Lowden.