Friday, July 16, 2010

Teen Cabaret Tonight!

DMTC's Teen Cabaret is tonight! This will be fun!

One Can Only Hope Mr. Wrong Is Right

But Charles Krauthammer doesn't have a good record, so we'll see:
But Obama's most far-reaching accomplishment is his structural alteration of the U.S. budget. The stimulus, the vast expansion of domestic spending, the creation of ruinous deficits as far as the eye can see are not easily reversed.

These are not mere temporary countercyclical measures. They are structural deficits because, as everyone from Obama on down admits, the real money is in entitlements, most specifically Medicare and Medicaid. But Obamacare freezes these out as a source of debt reduction. Obamacare's $500 billion in Medicare cuts and $600 billion in tax increases are siphoned away for a new entitlement -- and no longer available for deficit reduction.

The result? There just isn't enough to cut elsewhere to prevent national insolvency. That will require massive tax increases -- most likely a European-style value-added tax. Just as President Ronald Reagan cut taxes to starve the federal government and prevent massive growth in spending, Obama's wild spending -- and quarantining health-care costs from providing possible relief -- will necessitate huge tax increases.

The net effect of 18 months of Obamaism will be to undo much of Reaganism. Both presidencies were highly ideological, grandly ambitious and often underappreciated by their own side. In his early years, Reagan was bitterly attacked from his right. (Typical Washington Post headline: "For Reagan and the New Right, the Honeymoon Is Over" -- and that was six months into his presidency!) Obama is attacked from his left for insufficient zeal on gay rights, immigration reform, closing Guantanamo -- the list is long. The critics don't understand the big picture. Obama's transformational agenda is a play in two acts.

Friday Irony

Great Web Site!

Greenspan Says Let The Tax Cuts Expire

Alan Greenspan, that formerly-popular, now-despised Master of the Universe, whose willful blindness to the approaching crash of 2008 makes one so enraged that I want to use his mouth to plug the BP oil well - said what?:
July 16 (Bloomberg) -- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, whose backing of George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts helped persuade Congress to pass them, said lawmakers should allow the reductions to expire at the end of this year.

“They should follow the law and let them lapse,” Greenspan said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff,” citing a need for the tax revenue to reduce the federal budget deficit.

Use Of Inappropriate Tools - Episode MCMVIII

Not as creative as using blowtorches to clear spider webs in the basement, and not as safe either:
McMillan, who works for Ludvik Propane Gas Service in Walsenburg, was making a delivery in Colorado City at the time of the accident, the release said.

...McMillan was spraying bees with a propane hose when the nozzle caught fire.

"From what I understand, he was making a delivery and he couldn't get to the tank because there was a bee nest and he was trying to get access to the (customer's) tank and using the propane to kill the bees," Shorter said.

During those moments, the nozzle hit the ground and sparked a fire, injuring McMillan and damaging the customer's fence and backyard, the release said.

Got Milk?

Via WTF Japan, Seriously?!

La Niña Likely

July is Australia's driest month, and right now it's dry as a bone there, but developing La Niña conditions may portend rains in future months:
Sea surface temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific have continued to cool over the past fortnight, and hence the tropical Pacific is now generally cooler than average east of the date-line. Below the surface, temperatures also remain significantly cooler than average, with some areas more than 4°C cooler than normal. Trade winds in the western Pacific remain stronger than normal and cloudiness near the date-line continues to be suppressed. These indicators, together with the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), which has been positive since April, are consistent with the developing stages of a La Niña event.

Rage Monkeys Trashing The Serengeti Plains Of The Internet?

No, actually it works out pretty well - thanks for asking (Peggy Noonan via Yglesias):
On the Internet, you read the fierce posts of political and ideological writers and wonder, Why do so many young bloggers sound like hyenas laughing in the dark? Maybe it’s because there’s no old hand at the next desk to turn and say, “Son, being an enraged, profane, unmoderated, unmediated, hit-loving, trash-talking rage monkey is no way to go through life.”

Deficits Of Mass Destruction

Here is a phenomenal article in The Nation by Christopher Hayes:
First, the facts. Nearly the entire deficit for this year and those projected into the near and medium terms are the result of three things: the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and the recession. The solution to our fiscal situation is: end the wars, allow the tax cuts to expire and restore robust growth. Our long-term structural deficits will require us to control healthcare inflation the way countries with single-payer systems do.

But right now we face a joblessness crisis that threatens to pitch us into a long, ugly period of low growth, the kind of lost decade that will cause tremendous misery, degrade the nation's human capital, undermine an entire cohort of young workers for years and blow a hole in the government's bank sheet. The best chance we have to stave off this scenario is more government spending to nurse the economy back to health. The economy may be alive, but that doesn't mean it's healthy. There's a reason you keep taking antibiotics even after you start to feel better.

And yet: the drumbeat of deficit hysterics thumping in self-righteous panic grows louder by the day. ...This all seems eerily familiar. The conversation—if it can be called that—about deficits recalls the national conversation about war in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. From one day to the next, what was once accepted by the establishment as tolerable—Saddam Hussein—became intolerable, a crisis of such pressing urgency that "serious people" were required to present their ideas about how to deal with it. Once the burden of proof shifted from those who favored war to those who opposed it, the argument was lost.

...Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the selling of the Iraq War was its false pretext. It never really was about weapons of mass destruction, as Paul Wolfowitz admitted. WMDs were just "what everyone could agree on." So it is with deficits. Conservatives and their neoliberal allies don't really care about deficits; they care about austerity—about gutting the welfare state and redistributing wealth upward. That's the objective. Deficits are just what they can all agree on, the WMDs of this manufactured crisis. Senator John Kyl of Arizona, speaking on Fox, has come out and admitted as much. All new spending increases must be offset, he said, but "you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans." So there you have it.

Remember that the Iraq War might have been prevented had more Congressional Democrats stood up to oppose it. Instead, many of those who privately knew the entire enterprise was a colossal disaster in the making buckled to right-wing pressure and pundit hawks and voted for it. That mistake is being repeated.

...The lesson of the Iraq War is that over the long haul, good politics and good policy can't be separated. If the White House is tempted to support bad policy in the short term because it seems less risky politically, it should give John Kerry a call and ask him how that worked out for him with Iraq.

Fresno Ultrafines Cause Worry

I've long ago become wary of atmospheric pollutant research from UC Davis. For so many studies, UCD researchers came to conclusions that their data couldn't support. It became something of an embarrassment.

But it all depends who is doing the research. If somebody told me that UCD concluded that Fresno had a problem, I would yawn. If somebody told me that Anthony Wexler concluded that Fresno had a problem, I would sit up and take notice. I met Wexler once, and found him helpful and thoughtful. Someone who would take instruction from the data, rather than the other way around:

A mysterious shower of microscopic chemicals near a Fresno shopping center could be the first evidence of a broad, undetected assault on the lungs of San Joaquin Valley residents.

If confirmed in other Valley cities, it means many thousands of people are daily breathing these cocktails of chemicals -- known as ultra-fine particles -- that corrode and damage lungs.

The plume in Fresno probably spreads over many square miles, not just the Fashion Fair area where they were discovered, said UC Davis atmospheric scientist Anthony Wexler, who detected the pollution.

Sensitive, expensive equipment is needed to detect and study ultrafine pollution. Science is only now defining the possible problem.

...The particles are so small that 1,000 of them would fit across the width of a human hair. For years, science has known that such particles exist, but they are thousands of times smaller than previously studied particles in dust, soot and diesel smoke.

Health problems from such pollution were detailed last month in a study on allergic asthmatics, whose lungs are inflamed to the point that only a small amount of pollen, animal hair or other allergens can trigger a crippling attack.

The findings from Dr. Andre Nel, a UCLA medical researcher, were published by the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

"If there is a surge in ultra-fine pollution particles, it makes twitchy airways even more twitchy," he said. "It results in a much lower threshold of allergens to create an asthmatic response or an attack."

These specks can come from volcanoes or ocean spray, but they also come from printer toner, vehicle exhaust and chemical reactions in the air. Fresno's particles may come from traffic and other pollution vapors.

...Wexler said he suspects the particles form after pollution gases accumulate in the air each day, though there could be a particular source spewing the particles.

...Is this midday rise in pollution occurring in other Valley cities? It's possible, said Wexler. This kind of pollution also has been detected in other places, such as Pittsburgh, which has problems with particle pollution.

The Valley is known nationally for particle pollution. In the American Lung Association's latest rankings, Bakersfield and Fresno-Madera were the country's two worst places for short-term bouts of particle pollution.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Yearning To Touch

This is exactly the reason I touched that carpet python in 2006: the desire for tactile understanding is irresistible:
A man who was mauled by a five-metre crocodile after climbing into its enclosure in Western Australia's north says he did it because he wanted to know what its skin felt like.

...Mr Newman, who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the attack, says he just wanted to pat the massive reptile.

"I thought to myself, well I will jump the fence and go from behind its tail and pat it and sit on its back," he said.

"Within like one split second - before I even slightly touched its back - it already had me by my leg here."

Mr Newman says he gripped hold of the fence and yelled at the crocodile to let go of him.

The crocodile, known as Fatso, opened its jaws and Mr Newman says he scrambled out of the enclosure.

Mr Newman says he did not realise it would move so quickly.

...Mr Newman, who moved to Broome a fortnight ago, says he had only had a few beers in the lead-up to the incident.

Yesterday, experts said the cold night and the reptile's slow response was the reason he was able to escape.

Integrity Test Looking Good So Far

I realized they had to close the well slowly, in order to avoid a "water hammer" - the dynamic pressure that results from abruptly stopping a flow - and that causes your whole house to ring when your toilet tank stops filling. Swiftly closing the well could cause the well casing to rupture.

I'm a bit bewildered why they will open the well up again in order to collect oil, except as proof of concept. Whatever. At least we are finally getting a feeble handle on this problem. It took only three months to get the weakest handle on it - far better than the ten-month Ixtoc fiasco in 1979 - which is good, because this Macondo well is ever so much larger than Ixtoc ever was.

The environmental damage is almost unknown, except that it is likely to be ghastly beyond belief once we fully understand it. Still, as far as I'm aware, Key West has yet to be oiled by the underwater plumes. Where are those plumes now anyway? They won't be up to any good, wherever they are. I hope no news is good news.

Timely State Fair Warning

After vigorous and fun aerobics this evening, Pepper Von issued a sort of warning:
I don't want you to hear, see, taste, smell, or feel anything at the State Fair these next two weeks that even faintly resembles deep-fried chocolate!
I quickly asked:
Even if food prices have been reduced by 25% this year?
Pepper nodded, and replied:
Not after all your hard work here!
As I walked out, he was telling someone else something to the effect:
Here we are, kicking our health care system down - a system we already can't afford, etc., etc., etc.
Afterwords, I drove over to DQ for a treat, and pondered Pepper's words. After a trip to Target, I stopped over at KFC for a bite to eat, and once again pondered Pepper's words.

Yeah, can't be too careful around that State Fair!

Trying To Puzzle Out Karl Rove

My friend from New Zealand just loves flying around the world, and he has become an expert in getting first-class upgrades. What a life!

On one trip, he found himself sitting next to a vaguely-familiar man. It took him a while to recognize the fellow: it was Karl Rove!

Recognizing an important opportunity to make a professional plug, my friend made the case for increasing the sizes of university research grants.

Still, he couldn't help but wonder, what is Karl Rove thinking?

Yeah, what is Karl Rove thinking? Everyone wonders that. I do too.

I don't 'get' Rove's latest lament that he somehow served George Bush badly by not pushing back hard enough against the argument that George Bush lied us into war. He pushed back hard then, and he's pushing back hard now. So why doesn't the push-back work? Because it's pretty-much false!

There are big differences in the forms of WMD: biological, chemical, nuclear arms. As a practical matter, for strategic, debilitating attacks between nations, only nuclear arms really matter. The scale is so different between nuclear weapons, and all other WMD, that nuclear weapons stand alone in their own category.

I believe that U.S. intelligence was good enough in 2003 to assess that Saddam did not have nuclear weapons available for use. If he did have such weapons, the invasion would never have been permitted to proceed. Because it is way too dangerous to attack a nuclear power, period! The risks are too high! So Cheney and friends knew, for sure, that Saddam couldn't hit the USA. That intelligence understanding was too hot for Congress, however. It may be that this is the major lie of the buildup to the 2003 war: silence, when you know the actual truth! So, you justify war by conflating the forms of WMD, to create a sense of imminent risk, knowing all along that the real risks are actually pretty small. A nice game!

I think the Bush Administration was genuinely surprised to discover that Saddam's chemical and biological weapons didn't exist after all. Saddam was bluffing, to keep the Kurds, the Iranians, the Shiites, and the Americans off balance. Just amazing! The intelligence was there to judge that the other WMD was absent, however, but no one wanted to come to that judgment: the decision to wage war had long ago been made.

But for Rove to think that he had somehow neutered Democratic opposition because they had taken one highly-pressured vote with the Administration is truly strange. The Administration controlled the intelligence the Congress was receiving. The intelligence was not just a little wrong, but dramatically, terribly wrong. Is it a serious misjudgement to conclude that one has been lied to under these circumstances? I don't think so! There is nothing hypocritical or cynical about it at all! Rove sounds a bit injured about having his integrity doubted, but there's so much to doubt!

Is Rove trying to argue that Bush didn't lie, because Bush knew the truth about Saddam's lack of nuclear WMD, but held his tongue from Congress and the American people, so it wasn't technically a lie? That would be so like the Karl Rove that liberals love to hate! What's the right adjective? Positively Clintonian! Sometimes there are lies, and sometimes there are misjudgments, and often there are misperceptions. It's going to take a while to sort it all out, particularly since so much of the actual information is still classified. Nevertheless, blame for it all - serious blame - came to rest, right where it should, right on top of the Bushies. Bush lied; people died:
Seven years ago today, in a speech on the Iraq war, Sen. Ted Kennedy fired the first shot in an all-out assault on President George W. Bush's integrity. "All the evidence points to the conclusion," Kennedy said, that the Bush administration "put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth." Later that day Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle told reporters Mr. Bush needed "to be forthcoming" about the absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Thus began a shameful episode in our political life whose poisonous fruits are still with us.

The next morning, Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and John Edwards joined in. Sen. Kerry said, "It is time for a president who will face the truth and tell the truth." Mr. Edwards chimed in, "The administration has a problem with the truth."

The battering would continue, and it was a monument to hypocrisy and cynicism. All these Democrats had said, like Mr. Bush did, that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD. Of the 110 House and Senate Democrats who voted in October 2002 to authorize the use of force against his regime, 67 said in congressional debate that Saddam had these weapons. This didn't keep Democrats from later alleging something they knew was false—that the president had lied America into war.

...Then there was Al Gore, who charged on June 24, 2004, that Mr. Bush spent "prodigious amounts of energy convincing people of lies" and accused him of treason, bellowing that Mr. Bush "betrayed his country." Yet just a month before the war resolution debate, the former vice president said, "We know that [Saddam] has stored away secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."

...The damage extended beyond Mr. Bush's presidency. The attacks on Mr. Bush poisoned America's political discourse. Saying the commander-in-chief intentionally lied America into war is about the most serious accusation that can be leveled at a president. The charge was false—and it opened the way for politicians in both parties to move the debate from differences over issues into ad hominem attacks.

At the time, we in the Bush White House discussed responding but decided not to relitigate the past. That was wrong and my mistake: I should have insisted to the president that this was a dagger aimed at his administration's heart. What Democrats started seven years ago left us less united as a nation to confront foreign challenges and overcome America's enemies.

20th Anniversary Of Move To Sacramento

Twenty years already? My, how time flies!

On Sunday, July 15, 1990, I arrived in the Sacramento area, in my green 1970 VW Volkswagen Bug, from Salt Lake City, UT.

It was an inglorious trip. I was squabbling with my wife, and we drove out separately from Salt Lake City, in separate cars, not knowing where the other one was.

I broke down along I-80, in Nevada. That's one scary prospect, given how empty Nevada is, but as luck had it, I broke down while passing through one of the few substantial towns along the route, on the outskirts of Battle Mountain, NV. I limped into town, only to discover all the garages had closed. It was a Saturday evening. I would have to wait the night.

But someone pointed me to a mobile home on a dirt road on the edge of town, where a backyard mechanic was busy trying to rebuild the engine of a hippie-style school bus for three young people who had similarly become stranded in Battle Mountain. Fortunately, my problem was simpler. The strangest-looking mechanic I ever saw: a bearded, skinny, very-darkly-tanned fellow with one withered arm, and barely-wearing the oiliest, filthiest plaid shirt I had ever seen, soon had me on my way again. Against all appearances, a great guy!

On the way in, I stopped at a Nevada casino. I stopped more out of curiosity than anything else. Backing out of my parking space with my driver's side door unaccountably left open, I badly-damaged a neighboring car's paint job and ruined my door's fit. Perturbed, and irresponsible, I simply drove off.

Like I say, an inglorious trip all around.

After arriving, I met up again with my wife at her parent's house in Orangevale, and tried to mend things.

First day of work in Sacramento, at 8 a.m., Monday, July 16th, I went to the bus stop on Hazel Avenue to catch the bus for the trip into downtown Sacramento. There was a bearded man sitting at the bus stop drinking a beer. Eight a.m. on a Monday! Living in Sacramento wasn't going to be anything like living in Salt Lake City, where it's hard to spot people drinking beer, even on a Saturday night.

Another striking difference between Salt Lake City and Sacramento was how bad the shopping options were in Sacramento supermarkets. Where Salt Lake City supermarkets featured five or six competing brands of consumer products, Sacramento supermarkets featured maybe only two or three competing brands. Why the inferior shopping selection in Sacramento? Because California stores devote a quarter-acre of valuable floor space to wine and other alcoholic products! In Utah, they couldn't do that, since alcohol could only be sold in state liquor stores. So, with all the extra space at their command, Utah supermarkets were able to carry much more competing merchandise. Salt Lake City: a consumer's dreamtown! Who would have thought so?

There are downsides to wine and spirits that people don't give much thought to.

I wonder what the next twenty years will bring?

Please, no flying cars! Don't introduce them when I'm aging, please! Things are hard enough as they are right now on the roads!

Stacy Sheehan Birthday Party At DMTC

Happy Birthday, Stacy!
Noel Bruening, and son.

Say 'bees', Noah!

DeLong's Rule

Brad DeLong is unhappy with Obama:
I think that the general rule in the future should be that nobody who has not served a full term as a state governor or managed a similarly large organization should be supported in any presidential run. FDR and DDE are certainly the class acts of the twentieth century.
Jonathan Bernstein thinks this rule is too rigid, since it excludes Harry Truman.

Still, it's interesting to reflect on executive experience as a qualifier for a Presidential run.

Never was the cultural clash between presidential ambition and executive experience on greater display than when contrasting Dwight Eisenhower, and his Vice President, Richard Nixon.

Eisenhower lavished affection and attention on colleagues whom he considered his compatriots: people who ran large organizations or who performed great deeds - mid-20th-Century style CEOs, for the most part (not at all like today's financial-lizard CEOs). Wonderful people, for the most part, and if not, at least captivating company.

Ike couldn't figure out how to use folks like Nixon. Instead of doing something big, like seizing Guam or Saipan, or feeding millions of refugees, Nixon spent WWII running a small Pacific-island commissary. Nixon's greatest skills seemed to involve winning messy elections, usually by sliming his opponents as a communists. While an important skill, Eisenhower found nothing to admire there. If only Nixon had some REAL experience!

Well, considering how Nixon turned out, maybe Ike had a point.

So Delong's rule is an important guideline, but it's still too rigid. People can gather executive experience in less-noticed ways.

Why was Harry Truman an effective chief executive? Harry Truman had practical army leadership experience, as an artillery officer in World War I. It's not on the same scale of Eisenhower's feats, of course, but it is still useful experience: to personally lead troops into harm's way and directly experience the consequences of one's decisions. Woodrow Wilson was President of Princeton. Not bad! Herding faculty is harder than herding cats! Teddy Roosevelt assembled his Rough Riders with his energetic organizational skills. Not everyone can do that! Even running a campaign is a form of executive experience.

The wonder, of course, is how Abraham Lincoln did so well as President, given his limited experiences as a lawyer and single-term congressman. Lincoln, Truman and Teddy Roosevelt were voracious readers of history, however, and all the examples of history do have an impact on one's decisions in office. A deep understanding of history is an important crutch for Presidents.

Another wonder is how badly Herbert Hoover did as President, after his amazing exploits in European WWI refugee relief efforts. Executive experience is important, but not the only thing. Maybe, fundamentally, Hoover was an engineer, and not a reader of history at all. Engineers often misread people and events (as one, I should know!)

Obama's executive experience is thin. It's important to note, with reference to the 2008 election, that McCain's executive experience, however admirable his endurance in prison, is also thin. Dashing flyboys like McCain never really ran much beyond their own planes.

Oftentimes, election choices aren't so great.

Oil Change Oracle

I went 1,000 miles past my oil change mileage, so I had to hustle in to Jiffy Lube.

Last time I was there, they had some Food Channel on the TV. The TV program was all about how they gather shrimp from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and how delectable they are.

My, so much changes in a couple of months!

Today, surprisingly, the same Food Channel was on the same TV. They were talking about how wonderful Jelly Belly jelly beans are, with plenty of colorful pictures from the nearby Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, CA.

I fear for the future of Fairfield.

Looks Like I Missed The Thunder Valley "Survivor" Casting Call

That's all right, because almost no one survives in a casino:
Thunder Valley will be holding a casting call Thursday morning for the CBS reality show "Survivor."

Auditions start at 7 a.m. and run until 12 p.m., and will be held in the outdoor amphitheater on the east side of the casino.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Earth To GOP: Tax Cuts Are Never Free

When I was young, Republicans used to be serious about budget deficits. No longer. Their current position regarding the federal budget deficit is so unserious as to be ludicrous. Even bonehead arithmetic, like I did earlier this week, shows that tax cuts don't increase revenue. Cutting taxes for the wealthy shifts the tax burden to the middle class, helps raise interest rates, and depresses consumption. It does NOT help the middle class in any way!:
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) probably didn't realize the impact his remarks would have. The right-wing Arizonan was asked on Fox News how his party would pay for $678 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy, which Republicans are currently demanding. Kyl said what he actually believed: Republicans wouldn't pay for them, and thinks it's a mistake to even try. Spending should be paid for, Kyl said, but tax cuts shouldn't.

Kyl later said his bizarre views are endorsed by "most of the people in my party." As Brian Beutler discovered, that's apparently true.:
"That's been the majority Republican view for some time," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told TPMDC this afternoon after the weekly GOP press conference. "That there's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."

"Vicious Mutants On A Rampage, Called Engineers"

From WTFJapanSeriously?!, here is a video that makes me question my occupation.

Despite What They Say, The Border Is Actually A Pretty Nice Place

Despite people's fears about spreading Mexican narcoviolence, little of it has reached the U.S. as of yet. You'll know when it does - it's unmistakable! Sad to say for so many alarmist people, however, as it has been for so many years, the border is actually a pretty nice place:
Jan Brewer has lost her head.

The Arizona governor, seemingly determined to repel every last tourist dollar from her pariah state, has sounded a new alarm about border violence. "Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded," she announced on local television.

...The Arizona Guardian Web site checked with medical examiners in Arizona's border counties, and the coroners said they had never seen an immigration-related beheading. I called and e-mailed Brewer's press office requesting documentation of decapitation; no reply.

Brewer's mindlessness about headlessness is just one of the immigration falsehoods being spread by Arizona politicians. Border violence on the rise? Phoenix becoming the world's No. 2 kidnapping capital? Illegal immigrants responsible for most police killings? The majority of those crossing the border are drug mules? All wrong.

This matters, because it means the entire premise of the Arizona immigration law is a fallacy. Arizona officials say they've had to step in because federal officials aren't doing enough to stem increasing border violence. The scary claims of violence, in turn, explain why the American public supports the Arizona crackdown.

...Two months ago, the Arizona Republic published an exhaustive report that found that, according to statistics from the FBI and Arizona police agencies, crime in Arizona border towns has been "essentially flat for the past decade." For example, "In 2000, there were 23 rapes, robberies and murders in Nogales, Ariz. Last year, despite nearly a decade of population growth, there were 19 such crimes." The Pima County sheriff reported that "the border has never been more secure."

FBI statistics show violent crime rates in all of the border states are lower than they were a decade ago -- yet Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reports that the violence is "the worst I have ever seen." President Obama justifiably asserted last week that "the southern border is more secure today than any time in the past 20 years," yet Rush Limbaugh judged the president to be "fit for the psycho ward" on the basis of that remark.

...Next, there's Brewer's claim that "the majority" of people immigrating illegally "are coming here and they're bringing drugs, and they're doing drop houses and they're extorting people and they're terrorizing the families. That is the truth." No, it isn't. The Border Patrol's Tucson Sector has apprehended more than 170,000 undocumented immigrants since Oct. 1, but only about 1,100 drug prosecutions have been filed in Arizona in that time.

The claim that illegal immigrants are behind most killings of law-enforcement personnel is also bunk. Arizona state Sen. Sylvia Allen claimed that "in the last few years 80 percent of our law enforcement that have been killed or wounded have been by an illegal." A Phoenix police spokesman told the Arizona Republic's E.J. Montini that the real figure for such killings is less than 25 percent, and that there are no statistics on the wounding of officers.

Manic At The Polysexual Disco

I liked the article's title. The article itself is intriguing. I've always loved disco - always will. If there is some new angle on it, all the better:
MacLean's latest release carries more weight than one might assume of a compilation. It puts on display the former indie rocker's obsession with 30-plus years of dance history, from '70s disco classics to '90s house gems, on to the modern blog bait produced by his DFA brethren — acts like LCD Soundsystem, Hercules & Love Affair and Hot Chip.

...Unlike so many club scenes driven by mating more than music, it's the tunes that have fans fired up. The movement offers an out from the ruts currently pocking the clubbing landscape, whether the jackboot stomp of all-ages electro parties, or the pop-chart oppression of mainstream gay venues.

A quick survey of Rhonda's stage reveals just how in MacLean's sound has become, with local scenester DJs — Acid Girls, Dirty Dave, James Rockwell (87 Stick Up Kids), Turbotito (Ima Robot) — flanking the New York producer, competing for space with costumed voguers who throw shapes for the crowd when they're not bumping into the turntables.

It's a DJ's nightmare, but it's heaven for MacLean, who — bearded, with a tight yellow tee and clean-shaven dome — would make for a fantastic bear fantasy were it not for the fact that he prefers the fairer sex.

"L.A. has become my favorite city to play in the States," MacLean says a few weeks later, calling from the Dallas airport between tour stops. "Last night, for example, I had to work to get my set going, starting with something easy for everyone. When you play clubs like Rhonda, you just walk in the door and do what you want."

Says Henry Self, co-founder and resident DJ at Full Frontal Disco: "The idea was to try to pull together a couple of disparate communities within the club scene, all of which were unified by disco, but sorta separated by their demographics."

..."I love pop music, all that crappy Top 40 club stuff," Self admits. "But a lot of people are now seeking out disco, and have zero interest in hearing Lady Gaga and P. Diddy remixes. If you want to hear that, you go to the West Hollywood establishments."

..."Everyone knew the best parties were the gay parties," says promoter Victor Rodriguez, referencing the bygone era of '70s and '80s disco soirees. He currently runs the Cub Scout night at Silver Lake leather bar Eagle L.A. With a club résumé that dates back to 1986, Rodriguez has seen several generations of parties come and go, both gay and straight, and he recognizes the give-and-take that exists between those patrons today.

"For about 10 years, it was the straight guys who carried the torch for us musically, while only a small crew kept that taste," he continues. "The rest flocked to Beyoncé."

...Just how large an audience this scene can pull remains to be seen. Outsiders might be inclined to hold up June's 185,000-strong Electric Daisy Carnival as evidence that attendance is about as full as it'll ever get, but the ravey, mass-appeal beats peddled therein have little to do with the vintage sounds found on the floors of these clubs.

By MacLean's count, his world is still growing.

"The other DJs who were onstage with me at Rhonda, they weren't into this kind of thing two years ago," he says. "There's been an incredible resurgence of interest in this music. Some of those people came from the electro scene and just got tired of it."

Tayla Storm Appeal

I remember I once had a boss who very much wanted to emigrate to New Zealand, but worried his back problems might prevent him from doing so. New Zealand has excellent public health services, but since it's just a small country in a very big world, Kiwis worried obsessively about old, ill, decrepit people moving there from all over the world just to take advantage of their public health services. Kiwis didn't mind immigrants arriving on their shores - provided they were young, slim, healthy, self-sufficient people unlikely to need much medical care. In particular, Kiwis wanted people with good teeth.

So, this story hits every single button likely to agitate a Kiwi: a young, uninsured tourist arrives, contracts a debilitating disease, and lingers in the hospital for months before passing away:
South African tourist Tayla Storm has lost her battle against a deadly bug that struck her down in the middle of her first overseas trip.

The 29-year-old died in Auckland City Hospital yesterday, nearly five months after she excitedly arrived in New Zealand to meet her sister's newborn baby for the first time.

The childcare student, who didn't have travel insurance, was six weeks into her trip when she experienced an intense pain in her upper thigh.

She was rushed to hospital, where doctors found a Staphylococcus aureus infection had poisoned the blood, triggering a massive organ failure.

Despite predictions that she was unlikely to survive that night, Miss Storm battled bravely during the past few months - so much so that just two weeks ago, doctors were discussing rehabilitation and plans for her to be home by Christmas.

But the infection returned last week and because her immune system was so weakened from all her treatment, nothing else could be done for her.

...Plans are now under way for a funeral service and cremation this week. Miss Storm's ashes will then be divided - half will stay in New Zealand and half will be returned to her mother in South Africa.

..."However, the largest medical bill [for Auckland City Hospital], which is over $300,000, remains unpaid. We are hoping to continue fundraising to try to get as much of this paid as possible."

..."It's sensitive to be commenting on financial matters right now and we will be in contact with Tayla's family at a more appropriate time."

A spokesman told the Herald last week that the hospital usually tried to recover outstanding bills from a deceased person's estate. At times, that meant the next-of-kin or other family.

Donations to the Tayla Storm Appeal Account, which has raised nearly $7000 dollars, can be made at any BNZ or online into the account 02-0108-0163899-000.


Via the LA Times, here is an Estonian map of 'touristiness'. Apparently someone somewhere is keeping track of where people take photos, and so they calculate photo density to get a measure of where people like to take photos, and where they don't.

In the map on the left, some things really stand out. People like to take photos in the Dominican Republic. Next door, in Haiti: not so much. The Grand Canyon area attracts lots of photos. Northern Nevada, not so many. The High Plains - hardly any photos at all.

Fat Obstruction

A team of workers sporting breathing apparatus and carrying shovels has started clearing around 1,000 tonnes of fat from sewers around London's Leicester Square, a water company said Tuesday.

Cooking fat being poured down drains under one of the city's main tourist attractions is thought to be causing blockages.

Leicester Square borders London's Chinatown and its bustling restaurants and cafes, as well as the West End and Soho entertainment districts.

The clean-up, which could take up to two months, is described as the biggest ever of its kind by Thames Water, the firm organising it.

Danny Brackley, one of those involved in the clean-up, said they could not even access the sewers at first as they were blocked by a four foot (1.2 metre) thick wall of solid fat.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Warren Buffett And Noblesse Oblige

John writes, regarding Warren Buffett:
The man has a level of conscience unusual for the wealthy....
For myself, I suspect this attitude was much more prevalent in generations past – noblesse oblige. Aristocracy wasn’t always a harsh thing.

Nevertheless, there has always been the danger that the rich and privileged would reject obligations, particularly as they often saw no connection between their supposedly-self-made station and the surrounding society. Capitalism aggravates these tendencies. Today, Buffett looks like a freak, but 250 years ago, freaks were common.

John replies:
True enough. Carnegie left the lion's share of his wealth to charities and civic organizations, but as a businessman he was ruthless. Still, even among the robber barons, there was an attitude that they were building a great nation even if they were running over people in the process. The attitude now among Wall Street types is that they want the money for themselves because they deserve 8 or 9 figure annual salaries for whatever they do even if it wrecks the economy. It's remarkable, is it not, that today's investment bankers almost make the Jay Gould's and John Rockefeller's of the 19th century look like Mother Theresa?

The Faces Of Meth

Scary Web Site! I don't get the facial wounds, however. What are those from? Maybe it's best not to know!

FAIL - Bobby Jindal's Berms

I worried when Bobby Jindal starting pressing his berm idea to protect the Louisiana marshes that Obama Administration resistance was a bad idea - at least it was a plan, even if a flawed plan.

Nevertheless, it looks like a total failure. I need not have worried:
According to Len Bahr, a former LSU faculty member who posted these photos, they were all taken from roughly the same location and altitude in the Chandeleur Islands. As most experts (including Bahr) predicted, the sand berms couldn't withstand stormy weather and have simply been blown away.

That this would happen was obvious to anyone with half a brain who was paying even a small amount of attention to Jindal's proposal. There's nothing fun at all about watching such an obvious waste of effort go down the drain, but it is captivating to see right-wing talking points literally disintegrate before your very eyes.

Meanwhile, it's worth noting that the contract to build Bobby's berms was awarded by Jindal to the number three contributor to his congressional campaigns.

Aussies On The Bad Taste Frontier

Somehow its the Aussies who always seem to on the bleeding edge when bad taste is involved. Even if I understand the sentiment of these folks - it's just wrong. Maybe choose a different song, or something:
An Australian woman has posted a video of her family singing and dancing along to the Gloria Gaynor hit 'I Will Survive' while on a trip to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

...Mrs Korman has defended herself against claims of tastelessness and said the recording was 'a celebration of life and survival'.

She said: 'I wanted to make artwork that creates a fresh interpretation of historical memory.'

...Mrs Korman added: 'It might be disrespectful, but he (her father) is saying "we're dancing, we should be dancing, we're celebrating our survival and the generations after me" - the generation he created.

'We are affirming our existence.'

Integrity Test

Hoping BP measures high pressures!:
Now that the sealing cap has been installed, all eyes turn to the well integrity test, which BP is starting today, Senior Vice President Kent Wells said at a morning press briefing. The test will involve completely "shutting in" the well so the full pressure of the oil gusher can be measured, giving the scientists and engineers a read on the structural stability of the piping that lines the 13,000-foot-long well.

...Once the valves on the new cap are closed and the well is shut in, high-pressure readings would be good news, suggesting that the well casing is undamaged and that all of the flow is coming up through the well. In this scenario, it would be possible to keep the well closed off indefinitely, effectively ending the spill (the relief wells would still be completed to permanently seal the well with cement). Low pressure, on the other hand, would be a bad sign, suggesting that oil is leaking out below ground through damaged sections of the well casing and percolating into the surrounding rock. In a worst-case scenario, that oil could find its way up to the surface and start an uncontrolled leak from somewhere on the sea floor of the gulf. Either way, a low-pressure result would force engineers to open up the valves and allow oil to flow once more, though BP says it would soon have enough capacity to funnel all of it to the surface for collection.

Blog Of The Week

Noel sent a note yesterday regarding the Sacramento Bee:
On page D5 your blog is highlighted. Way to go!
Apparently I'm the Sacramento Bee's 'Blog Of The Week'. Yay! I'm tongue-tied. A bad state for a blogger!

Business Rankings, State-By-State

Brother-in-law is down on New Mexico's standing:
One could say the democrats have run the state of NM into the ground.
I'm not worried. It’s good to take all these business rankings with a grain of salt. Remember, in 2006, Forbes Magazine ranked Albuquerque as the nation’s top metro area for business and careers, despite its crime rate.

New Mexico has always been a pretty poor place to make money, whether Democrats or Republicans run the place. Businesswise, the place has always been either a colony of Texas, or California. It doesn’t have that much in the way of resources and capital, and educational levels have always been poor.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Crazy For You" Closes At DMTC

Here are a few pictures from Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon...

"I Got Rhythm", starring Danielle Hansen as 'Polly' (in blue) with her partner Scott Griffith. Also here: Wayne Raymond (obscured), Gerald Shearman (with McKinley Carlisle, obscured), Thomas Lea with Dian Hoel, Brittany Bickel, Kyle Hadley.
"I Got Rhythm". Linda Abrille, Turner Petersen, Thomas Lea, Mary Young, Kara Sheldon, Gordon Meacham, Angela Yee, and Dian Hoel (?)

"I Got Rhythm". Joseph Boyette (Bobby, as Zangler) doing handsprings across the stage.

"I Got Rhythm", with Danielle Hansen as 'Polly'.

Final tableaux, "I Got Rhythm". Angela Yee, Wayne Raymond, Thomas Lea, Wendy Young Carey, Turner Petersen, Kyle Hadley.

Joseph Boyette (Bobby) as 'Zangler'.

Gordon Meacham and Turner Petersen.

"I Got Rhythm", with Danielle Hansen as 'Polly'. Also, Angela Yee, Dian Hoel, Steve Isaacson, and McKinley Carlisle.

"What Causes That?" Michael Ball as 'Zangler' and Joseph Boyette as 'Bobby'.

"What Causes That?" Michael Ball as 'Zangler' and Joseph Boyette as 'Bobby'.

Wayne Raymond and Lee Ann D'Amato.

Gerald Shearman as Bartender.

Fight scene. x, Wayne Raymond, Michael Ball, and Steve Mo.

Joseph Boyette (Bobby) as 'Zangler'.

New Mexico Drinking Games

Only the determined should try:
The cause of the burns, the man told police, was losing a drinking game for having "only drank a six-pack," according to the police report.

As punishment, his three friends set his jeans and his prosthesis on fire and let the material - then his flesh - burn and blacken until he "could not stand the pain of wearing clothes" and stripped down to his shoes, the police report states.

When he couldn't stand the flames any more, he asked for a ride from his friend's home on Butterfield Boulevard to somewhere near a medical clinic, since his friends "didn't want to take him all the way to the hospital because they thought they were going to get arrested," the man told police. His friends got nervous when he complained of his pains, he said, and dropped him off on the highway.

...No criminal charges were filed against the men who set him on fire or left him on the highway, and the man told police he didn't once try to stop them.

"If they had lost the bet," the man told police, "he would have done the same to them."

Damsel In Distress

M: You look distressed. What's wrong?

E.: [My boyfriend] acts strange. Last week, at the cabin on Lake Minden, I got so tired - so tired! So, I took a nap, in the upstairs bedroom of the cabin. He was downstairs in the kitchen and he decided to heat up some beans, so he put the beans on the stove and put the burner on. Then he went outside, to the end of where the wood goes out over the water - ?

M.: The boat dock.

E.: The boat dock, where he started fishing and forgot all about the beans. So, the beans overheated and the liquid overflowed and the liquid got on the burner and started burning and the cabin filled up with smoke and the smoke alarm went off and I woke up, so sleepy! And the cabin was filled with smoke, and I panicked and so I opened the window and saw him on the dock down below and I screamed "Help! Help! The beans overheated and the liquid overflowed and the liquid got on the burner and started burning and the cabin filled up with smoke and the smoke alarm went off and I woke up, so sleepy!"

M.: And so what happened then?

E.: Nothing. He just looked at me and froze.

Emcore Shooting

Jean E-Mails:
I hope everyone you know in Albuquerque is ok and not involved in the shooting.
I reply:
Thanks for alerting me. As far as I know, I know no one at Emcore. Sad, however, as all these violent events of recent years are.
Here's the ABQ Journal:
Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz confirmed just minutes ago that six people are dead as a result of a shooting at Emcore Corporation earlier this morning. The six included the shooter, police said.

Schultz said they believe the incident was domestic in nature. A 37-year-old man, who is a former employee of Emcore, is believed to be the gunman. Police believe he acted alone and that a current employee of the firm, his wife or girlfriend, was the target of the attack. Police say the man's children, who live out of Albuquerque, were taken into protective custody earlier today.