Friday, November 05, 2010

Tomas Is Veering Towards And Skating Along The Coast Of Northern Haiti

Oh, joy....

William Shatner's Da Bomb

Tomas Is Strengthening Again

And it's not quite past Haiti and Cuba, and it's barreling down on Great Inagua Island. Heavy rain in the Dominican Republic today too.

It's a mess. I wonder how the people there are doing?

Qantas Snark

Bruce sends this news story (apparently from Bloomberg, but I don't have the link), together with the comment: "Aussies think twice about flying Qantas again."

Well, Aussies have little choice. Qantas is the biggest airline company down there, often landing where others don't. If you fear Qantas, you may as well not leave the house at all.

Nevertheless, I’m not worried about Qantas particularly. As far as I know, it’s still the only major air carrier in the world that has never recorded a passenger fatality! (There is always a first time, of course, but banish the thought).

I like Mr. Jenkins' comment (in the news story).

I'm not worried about Qantas, but I am worried about airliners, in general. What worries me most is the discovery last year that AF447 crashed into the Atlantic because all three pitot tubes on the Air France Airbus jet iced up while flying through a thunderstorm. That is almost a predictable event in a strong thunderstorm, but what it means - what it REALLY means - is that Airbus jets (and probably Boeing jets too) should NEVER fly through thunderstorms. But these jets fly through thunderstorms every single day, all over the world! Scares the freak out of me!:
A Qantas Airways Ltd. Boeing Co. 747 jumbo jet returned to Singapore with an engine problem, a day after an exploded turbine forced an Airbus SAS A380 operated by the Australian carrier to make an emergency landing there.

The wide-body jetliner, which departed Singapore as flight QF6 for Sydney at about 8 p.m. local time, is being examined on the ground, according to an official on the Qantas desk at Singapore’s Changi airport, who declined to be identified.

Passengers from the 747 said an engine fault appeared to develop soon after takeoff, with several reporting that flames were seen coming from one of the four turbines. The plane dumped fuel before landing two hours after it had taken off, they said.

...Passenger Andrew Jenkins, 43, who is based in London and was flying to Sydney for work, said there was “certainly no lack of flames” during today’s event.

...The engine involved in yesterday’s A380 incident suffered what appeared to be an “uncontained failure,” where pieces of debris were flung out at high speed, piercing the casing, or nacelle, Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said today.

...Passengers on the grounded 747 said they’ll think twice about flying with Qantas again.

“We all panicked,” said Jeremy Lee, who was heading to Queenstown, New Zealand, on vacation. “I could smell fumes and there was some shouting and noise. Qantas hasn’t said when we’ll fly again, but I’m tired of this. I won’t fly with them and I’m asking for a refund. I am only 35 and I have a long way to go.”

Keith Olbermann Suspended

For making political donations? Odd. As Atrios points out, Patrick Buchanan did the same, and no one complained.

Tomas Waxes And Wanes

This morning, Tomas is rebuilding, after peaking in strength and weakening considerably in the early morning hours. Tomas pounded Haiti's Cap Carcasse region (where the city of Jeremie is), and Jamaica's Morant Point pretty hard. Today, Tomas is assaulting Cuba's Punta de Maisi, where it will briefly make landfall, as well as the entire area around Guantanamo, plus Haiti's Cap-a-Foux.

News reports are beginning to filter back of - you guessed it - trouble in Haiti:
In the westernmost tip of Haiti that juts into the Caribbean Sea and is closest to the hurricane, there were reports from the town of Jeremie of destroyed houses, downed trees and flooded rivers, said Marie-Eve Bertrand, communications manager for CARE in the nation.

Tomas also was being felt in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital.

"It's been raining heavily all night," said Leonard Doyle, the spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.

"The rain is a huge problem where we are," Doyle told CNN on Friday morning. "There's every danger that you could have flash flooding. Every danger."

Relief worker Roseann Dennery of Samaritan's Purse was near Cabaret, about 20 miles north of Port-au-Prince, on Friday morning touring camps that hold some of the 1 million people left homeless by January's 7.0-magnitude earthquake, which killed 250,000 people.

"It's almost eerie," she said. "It's rainy, it's dark and there's really not a lot of movement."

The few people moving from tent to tent were wrapped in sheets and cloth to provide some protection against the constant rain, she said. The ground is soaked and some low-lying areas have minor flooding.

Some people are riding the storm out in open-air community centers with supposedly sturdy roofs, she said. But many are just huddling in their tents, waiting for the wind and rain to pass. Most don't have anywhere else to go.

"A lot of them do not have families or relatives," she said.

She said her agency, an international Christian relief organization, has evacuated 30 staff members from Leogane out of fear of mud slides there.

Michael Dockrey, the director in Haiti for the International Medical Corps, also expressed his deep concern early Friday.

"Particularly," he told CNN, "with mudslides that can cut off whole communities. We have prepositioned medical supplies, tents, tarps and staff in areas that we know will be isolated."

Aid workers already were struggling to keep up with the cholera outbreak, which has killed nearly 450 people and hospitalized about 7,000. The bacterial disease causes diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to deadly dehydration within hours.

"It's obviously stretched us all real thin," Dockrey said. "We could certainly use more help ... as can all the other responders."

Aid sits as cholera spreads in Haiti The hurricane will only make matters worse.

"Even if Tomas only brushes Haiti, it may exacerbate the epidemic, facilitating the spread of the disease into and throughout metropolitan Port-au-Prince, where a third of the population remains homeless and in camps," the International Organization for Migration said.

Some Haitians scurried Friday morning through the rain-pelted streets of Port-au-Prince, looking for somewhere to seek shelter, reported CNN en Espanol's Diulka Perez. They have been told to go to churches or the homes of friends and family, but there are significantly fewer churches or homes still standing after January's massive earthquake.

There is also no public transportation available to take people anywhere, Perez reported.

The problem is compounded, she said, because there's no central source of information. Haitians are having to rely on word of mouth to obtain information.

Chilean Miner Sings Elvis

Samo Ti (Only You)

Serbian dance music, for fun!

Oh, No! Tomas Is Increasing In Strength!

Hurricane Tomas is sitting directly in-between Jamaica and Haiti and is rapidly gaining strength! And slowing down it's forward speed too, from the looks of it! A minor disaster can become a major disaster from that eventuality!

The National Hurricane Center says:


But the storm looks like it's momentarily stalled. It's not driving right through the Windward Passage like it was supposed to, but lingering instead. And don't forget Jamaica! They're getting a beating right now!

This can't end well....

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The First Heavy Rains Are Falling In Port-au-Prince

Infra-red satellite presentation shows a weaker, messy storm. May it blow through fast!

The National Hurricane Center points out the sheared, tilted structure of Tomas:

Comet Hartley 2

Ooooh! Cool!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

It's Not Obama's Fault

It used to be an ironclad rule of politics that parties have to stick together to get things accomplished. In the old days of the Republic - say, 100 years ago - there were severe punishments for wandering off the reservation and trying to strike deals outside the party structure. You basically could forget about any funding from the party for reelection: a death sentence for legislators.

These days, things are more free-wheeling. There is a lot more money, which takes the edge off the pain, and makes death sentences obsolete. Still, the Republican Party makes sure that real pain awaits those who make deals with Democrats. There is much less pain for heretics on the Democratic side, and more hand-holding, but ostracism eventually awaits (just ask that miserable old man, Joe Lieberman).

Nevertheless, the ironclad rule is still true, no matter how many times people (like the Blue Dogs) try to evade it: parties have to stick together to get things accomplished. There is nothing - absolutely nothing - in the modern era that outlaws the political equivalent of gravity. What was true 100 years ago is just as true today.

If a party fails at the polls, the blame is shared by all. The leader is only one of many who shares in the blame. The converse is true too: success is shared by all.

In this election, I don't think it would have mattered who the President was: whether a flaming liberal, a god-fearing conservative, a cautious moderate like Barack Obama, or a lightning rod like Hillary Clinton. The policies wouldn't have mattered either. The Republicans absolutely refused to cooperate with the Democrats in any way, and signalled that any break in party discipline would be severely punished. The only effective reply was to respond in kind. By trying to find cracks in the wall, Obama, among others, help introduce disorder into Democratic ranks, and that disunity eventually resulted in electoral failure. Obama wasn't alone in these decisions. Everyone shares the blame, and everyone shares the defeat.

A Democratic party with fewer Blue Dogs will be a more coherent party. That will help.

Here's a story from Politico about pinning the blame. I particularly agree with Ilyse Hogue's comments.

It all reminds me of a slogan I have on one of my T-Shirts: "I didn't say it was your fault; I said I was going to blame you.":
The bodies aren’t even cold yet in the House, but the Democratic Party has already opened up a bitter debate over who’s to blame.

The party’s bloodied moderates Wednesday released two years of pent-up anger at a party leadership they viewed as blind to their needs and deaf to the messages of voters who never asked for President Barack Obama’s ambitious first-term agenda.

Liberals pushed back hard: The problem, they say, was those undisciplined moderates, who won delays, unsightly compromises and a muddled message from a too-accommodating administration.

Yet a third group of Democratic politicians and operatives blamed not policy but a failed sales job for the party’s woes.

One thing all sides agree on: The White House blew it.

“It is clear that Democrats over-interpreted our mandate. Talk of a ‘political realignment’ and a ‘new progressive era’ proved wishful thinking,” the retiring Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh wrote in a New York Times op-ed posted online as the scope of last night’s losses became clear.

Bayh called the decision to focus on health care in a bad economy “overreach."

“We were too deferential to our most zealous supporters,” he wrote.

...But if the center is speaking loudly, it speaks from a narrower platform. The nature of a wave is to shear off moderate members in swing districts, and the House lost half of its Blue Dog Caucus. And liberals were quick to note that Bayh could have chosen to stay in the Senate, rather than offering advice from the sidelines.

...McEntee said he blamed both the White House and congressional Republicans for failing to act more aggressively to create jobs.

“I don’t think that there was enough effort – and may be there just wasn’t enough knowledge, or maybe there wasn’t enough support in the Congress to really truly attack this problem of jobs,” he said. “You can talk about the tea party, you can talk about the coffee party, you can talk about all kinds of things, but you’ve got to talk about jobs.”

Others said Obama had allowed moderates to distract and muddle his message.

“What killed us was the conservative [Democrats] dragging health care out too long,” said another labor leader Wednesday.

“Democrats who decided to play ball with corporate interests found themselves friendless,” said a spokeswoman for, Ilyse Hogue, citing Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and other defeated moderates while making the case for a purer, more confrontational party. “Claiming to support Democratic principles while quietly pandering to corporate interests is no longer a winning political strategy,” she said.

...Some internal critics are calling on Obama to reach out to Republicans, but any threat of factionalism inside his own party will likely push the president in the opposite direction. Democrats' best home, many believe, is uniting around a common enemy in congressional Republicans, and Obama's best bet for rallying both a restive base and skeptical moderates is pointing to a common enemy.

...“If you look at the stuff that we did, it was on an issue-by-issue level popular – but we have to do something different in the way we talk about the challenges we face and the way we deal with them,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York.

“We clearly need much better air cover from the president,” he said, expressing skepticism of “this accepted wisdom that if you get things accomplished and explain them, you’ll win people over.”

Blue Dogs Decimated

22 out of 46 voted out. These folks are fifth columnists in my book, and not worthy of much support. The ones that remain need to learn there is no advantage trying to be business-oriented Democrats, or conservative Democrats, or whatever political hybrid they conceive themselves to be. Their money connections did not save them. Their trimming did not save them. Dedicated volunteers and hard work could have saved them, but volunteers are motivated by ideals, not shoddy compromises. Why should voters choose Republican-lite when they can choose Republicans? Either the Blue Dogs are all in the Democratic Party, and work to support the Democratic Party, or they are all out.

Once Again, The Tomas Forecast Changes

Now they think Tomas will accelerate northwards, clobbering western Haiti, but moving on rather than lingering to cause more problems. That's an improved forecast!

Update: Tomas seems to have a rather large tilt, with the surface low heading to Jamaica and the upper low (with the rain) heading to Haiti. The tilt doesn't seem associated with much of a temperature gradient, though. Is it just shear associated with the approaching front? In any event, it's looking like the storm will accelerate as it moves north, which hopefully will minimize the exposure of Haitiians to flooding.

Reid's Triumph

Interesting! People tend to forget that Nevada is one of the most unionized states in the country. They also tend to forget that there are many, many Hispanics there. Reid may be 70 years old, but he never forgets anything!:
This time around, Reid’s path to re-election began with a sustained investment in party infrastructure, continued with a varied effort to clear the field of formidable opponents and culminated with the domination of his opponent.

...He identified top Republicans who posed a significant danger, and helped to land them important appointments to keep them out of the race, such as the federal bench in the case of then-Nevada Attorney General and now Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval or the Ways and Means committee for U.S. Rep. Dean Heller.

...Again, Reid’s campaign prowess kicked in, leading to the defeat of the more moderate front-runner, Sue Lowden, and clearing the way for Angle, who was easier for him to define and marginalize.

However, Nevada’s economy continued to collapse, and the typical midterm antagonism for the party in power evolved into outright hostility, nationally and at home.

Against that backdrop, Reid’s path to victory seemed more than uncertain. Angle quickly rallied after her primary win and set about raising more than $14 million, which she used to pummel Reid on the economy and immigration.

But even with ideal circumstances for an upset, her effort fell short.

In a reflection of the bitter destroy-the-opponent-at-all-costs ad war that characterized the race, many voters interviewed at polls across the state said they hated both choices. Reid’s campaign seized on that dynamic, driving a wedge between Angle’s fervent base and moderate Republicans, who found her unacceptable.

“I’ve watched Sharron Angle and she’s nuts,” said Reno Republican Richard Hill, who voted for Reid.

In a telling statistic, 3,000 more Republicans than Democrats voted early in Angle’s home Washoe County, but Reid still trounced her in early voting returns.

...Hispanic voters proved key to Reid’s victory.

Despite earlier polling data that indicated Hispanics would skip this election, exit polls showed they accounted for a record 16 percent of total voters.

That turnout was likely backlash to an ad aired by a Republican operative explicitly telling Hispanics not to vote, as well as inflammatory ads from Angle’s campaign that used images of Hispanic youth dressed as gang members.

Xavier Caballos, a Mexican immigrant and Las Vegas Democrat who voted for Reid, said Angle had tried to make people like him look dangerous.

“That was the final straw,” said Gilberto Ramirez, a Reno concrete worker who recently obtained his citizenship and voted for the first time. “She was depicting me as a gang member. I served seven years in the Marine Corps.”

...In recent years, his clout as majority leader has helped him further causes in Nevada’s interest. It was due to Reid’s influence, for example, that so many stimulus dollars and government loan guarantees were steered to Nevada to ensure that the newest wave industry in the United States — renewable energy — would get a special edge in the Silver State.

But there’s no question what Reid was most passionate about as a local issue: the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

Reid, not one to seek out the limelight, made his mark on the issue during his first year as a senator, when he attempted to stage a filibuster of the annual energy appropriations bill to keep it from designating Yucca as the country’s only nuclear waste dump site. The “Screw Nevada” bill eventually passed, but 27 other senators joined Reid in voting against it.

Today, he is credited with steering the Obama administration through every administrative step possible toward finally killing the controversial project.

Parsing The Election Results

We have a lunch meeting here at work in a few minutes to learn what the defeat of Proposition 23 means for us (since we prepare air pollution permits for industry, it means a lot....)

Back from lunch! Instead of Prop. 23, or AB32, we discussed EPA's Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule, which is being implemented in a PSD regulatory context. There are many, many unanswered questions, which, in a regulatory context, means trouble....

All that aside, what about the rest of the election?

I got a celebratory E-Mail from Barbara Boxer:
We did it! Together, we delivered a huge victory for the people of California last night, and it would never have been possible without you.
But it was done entirely without me! Despite getting crushed by her direct mail operation, I never donated to Barbara Boxer. She didn't need the money. Instead, I donated to Raul Grijalva, embattled Congressman from Tucson, who really did need the money. He apparently won:
Grijalva (Incumbent) 62,231 49%
McClung 58,316 46%
Grijalva's campaign just sent a note:
We won the race last night thanks to your hard work and your belief that democracy can't be bought no matter how much anonymous money you spend. Republicans came gunning for this seat with everything they had. Today, we have a message for them: the people of Southern Arizona saw what you have to offer, and they said no thanks.
I also donated tiny amounts to Alan Grayson, Jack Conway, Joe Sestak, Scott McAdams, Suzan DelBene, Colleen Hanabusa, and Joe Garcia, but beyond Grijalva, only Hanabusa won last night. I donated very little to anyone this election cycle (part of the dispirited Left, I suppose). Surely the politicians realized they had to do more with less. Since my hours were cut 20% heading into this recession, there's just less money available, period. The rule in Washington is that favors are done for money. Since I didn't get much of a stimulus package in 2009, there wasn't much money that was going to head back to D.C. ....

Jerry Brown won against Meg Whitman, but the real winner was Gloria Allred. The way Allred employed Nicky Diaz was stellar, and the way she knifed Whitman was a real work of art: better even than the way Bruce Herschensohn was mugged on the way to the U.S. Senate in 1992. I don't think Allred coordinated this with the Brown campaign: she was too smart for that, and I think Brown would have been too squeamish for it. This level of stark brutality is rare in California politics - a once-in-a-generation event. Forgive me if I stare at the bloody corpse too long....

I voted for C.T. Weber, from the Peace and Freedom Party, supporting him rather than Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor. Weber's a great guy!

I also voted for Gerald Frink, from the Peace and Freedom Party, supporting him rather than Doris Matsui for Congressperson. Frink is often to be found wearing his trademark pink boa while standing at the corner of 16th & J, urging passing motorists to honk for peace, U.S. out of Iraq, and passing out Sept. 11th conspiracy literature. I know where Frink is, but where is Matsui? Frink is part of my world; Matsui isn't, so Frink gets my support. (I once asked Frink, why does he wears a pink boa?)

I waffled on Proposition 19, but finally voted for it. As usual, I seem to have jinxed the proposition, and it failed (46.1% to 53.9%).

The Democratic Party urged voters to vote No on Proposition 20, and Yes on Proposition 27. Instead, voters chose to vote Yes on Proposition 20, and No on Proposition 27. Despite creating a new lobbying locus, this may all work out in the end - we'll see.

The defeat of Proposition 21 is a sad tragedy.

Ultimately, I decided to support Proposition 22, and it turns out I joined the winning side, for once! The lack of clarity about who is responsible for what is part of what cripples California politics, and preventing the state from raiding local funds will support that clarity. Forcing the state on reduced tax rations during a recession is hard, but maybe we've got to get a few things straight before we can fly right.

Proposition 23 failed. Good.

Proposition 24 failed. Bad.

Proposition 25 succeeded. Good! Wonderful, actually!

Proposition 26 succeeded. Retarded, actually, but the sovereign voters of the Great State of California have spoken!

Measure B, my pet hobbyhorse, went down in flames:
Sacramento Measure B, Utility-Rate Rollback
No 57,349(68.7%)
Yes 26,093(31.3%)
But Measure B, or something like it, will rise once again, all due to the relentless power of arithmetic:

Left: Annual rate of increase of Marc's monthly Sacramento residential utility bill, and the Consumer Price Index (July 1983 = 100).

At least since 1997, and even before, Sacramento utility rates have risen faster than inflation. That rise is accelerating with time! It can't continue forever!

Ellyne Bell won! Yay!
Sacramento City Unified School District, Area 1
Ellyne Bell 5,324(50.3%)
Paige Powell 3,383(32%)
David Ross 1,880(17.8%)
Genevieve Shiroma won for SMUD Ward 4. That's good!

Scott Jones barely leads Jim Cooper for Sacramento Sheriff. Both candidates have 'issues', so a split in support was to be anticipated.

The last item I decided on the ballot regarded Sacramento City Council District 5. Kennedy or Schenirer; Schenirer or Kennedy - two very competent people! How to choose?

With hesitation, I remained with Schenirer, whom I had voted for in the primary, and who won surprisingly-strong support there (but not enough to avoid a runoff). The close race makes it look like District 5 shared my hesitation, but, in the end, Schenirer seems to have won:
As of the most recent count, Schenirer had 53.3 percent of the vote to Kennedy's 46.7 percent.

...According to a Bee analysis of voting results, Schenirer received strong support in the Curtis Park and Brentwood neighborhoods, and did well enough in Kennedy's stronghold of Oak Park to come out ahead.

This Is Our Biggest Problem

Ever since the Industrial Revolution really got going, about 220 years ago, keeping everyone actively employed has been a real problem. Each new industry, every new advance, generated work-saving benefits that created unemployment. The economy has had to run harder and harder just to stay even, employment wise.

The Depression saw similar employment difficulties. People were bewildered in the 1930s about how to generate enough growth to absorb all the idle people.

The Internet Revolution, and related revolutions (computers, cell phones), has been the biggest game-changer ever. Many, many people are effectively redundant. And with the latest economic crisis, the jobs they need just aren't there. And the jobs may take nearly-forever to show up! Since the 1970's, it takes longer and longer for unemployment to recover from economic downturns (see graph above). Deindustrialization has just aggravated that sluggishness.

We need another Internet Revolution, but because of the lack of investment by either business or government, there is little in the pipeline to grab on to. A lot of people pinned their hopes on advances in biology (genetics, and the like), but since the 1980's a lot of those efforts have been directed to patent and copyright protections. The hard work wasn't done. And isn't being done now.

And so, we shuffle on.....

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Tropical Cyclones Everywhere! Don't They Ever Rest?

Oh, this is a surprise! Even as late-autumn Hurricane Tomas prepares to make life miserable in the northern Caribbean, there is a similar, early-spring southern hemisphere storm - Tropical Cyclone Anggrek - whirling away in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It's unusual when both hemispheres get tropical storms at the same time.

It's likely that La Niña is to blame. La Niña makes those equatorial waters southwest of Sumatra bathtub hot!

Pundit Bingo

This fellow has created a handy chart to describe how journalists will tie poor Democratic election results tonight to President Obama's supposed failings.

Projected Equal-Opportunity Destruction

The new, new Hurricane Tomas forecast is projecting hits on Haiti, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, then circle back and hit eastern Cuba and Jamaica, and then maybe after that go after Haiti again. Tomas is going to be a mess! For it's painful stickiness, it's going to be the tar baby, or the teddy-bear cholla cactus ball, of the northern Caribbean!

One Last Thought For Tonight

As long as the economy is bad, political turnover can be expected. Tonight is mostly a Republican night, but if things remain in a funk (and at the moment there are no solid signs of improvement), Election Night 2012 will be mostly Democratic.

[Update: Blue Dog Democrats were halved in number, from 48 to 24. Good! A more ideologically-pure Democratic Party is in its best interest.]

Harry Reid Fights Off Sharron Angle

Josh Marshall says it best:
The Dems have a small moral victory with the Reid win in Nevada, in the context of a pretty rough night. But, man, you've got to step back and just recognize what an amazing victory this was for Harry Reid. I mean, the economy is close to the worst in the nation. Reid was amazingly unpopular. There was a point about a year ago when I figured he'd probably pull a Dodd and just pack it in. And the polls at the end showed Angle opening a small but clear lead. And really, it's not even close. There was enough shoe leather in this win for like a hundred shoes. I don't know how else to put it.
For myself, I found it hard to imagine that Reid could lose. All those people in Las Vegas that he single-handedly lifted into the middle class over the years! And they are still there, and they vote! But things are difficult in Nevada these days, and the opportunity was there for a good candidate.

As the New Yorker profile indicated, Reid systematically dealt with and disposed of all his most-viable Republican opponents before the campaign season began, but unlike ham-handed Governor Grey Davis' intrusion into the California Republican gubernatorial primary in 2002, Reid did it in such a way as to not provoke a firestorm of opposition, leaving the Republican nomination to whomever was left behind. Entering stage right from the howling wilderness of the Nevada desert, Sharron Angle wasn't quite the person to mount a successful challenge, even with the political winds behind her back.

Harry Reid is an amazing guy! Next time I pass through the little town of Searchlight, Nevada, I will burn some incense in his name!

Trolls At The Polling Places

I caught the teevee news last night, and this story was receiving prominent play:

Linda Bozzo lives in San Francisco's Portola district with her 19-year-old daughter. So when an iPhone app promised to show the locations of sex offenders in her neighborhood, she tried it out. "I came across all these names," Bozzo said.

One, with a familiar-sounding address. "I was like, wait a minute I know that address," she said.

When her voting pamphlet arrived in the mail a few weeks later, Bozzo realized why. Turns out, her neighborhood polling place is the home of a sex offender. His name and address are listed on the Megan's Law website.
Listening to this news piece, I couldn't help but think this was a voter suppression effort designed to make people fear their polling place. But suppress whom, exactly? Women, maybe? Young people? Maybe it wasn't any of that, but just local TV News ("if it bleeds, it leads") doing its local, lurid thing. But it worried me, nonetheless....

Grow Up

Via Tbogg and Instaputz....

A comment left over at digg regarding Ralph Nader:
The Democrats really hate Nader because he points out the fact that they are asking those of us on the left to vote for them but they aren’t doing anything for us. Did they end funding for the Republican’s crime spree in Iraq? No. Have they moved for UHC? No. Have they tried to stop corporate crimes? No. Have they tried to reform the tax code to be progressive? No. Have they tried to protect homeowners from predatory lenders? No. Have they defended our constitutional rights? No. Take back the FDA from the corporations? No. The FCC? No.

The Democrats don’t deserve my vote. They aren’t helping the left, why should the left help them?
Let me see if I can explain it this way:

Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.

You don’t live there.

Grow the fuck up

Pigs Fly After All

Conrad Black becomes a liberal:
Holed up in his Palm Beach mansion, an unrepentant Conrad Black has broken his silence for the first time since his release from prison with a paean to the virtues of fine wine, his wife, Barbara Amiel, and the pleasures of "pristine quiet, free of loudspeakers, screamed argument, and the snoring of a hundred men".

The disgraced media mogul, freed on bail last month after almost two-and-a-half years in prison, also used a comment piece for Canada's National Post to announce (like so many other famous conservatives who end up behind bars) that he has become a convert to the cause of penal reform.

The former proprietor of The Daily Telegraph - once a paid-up member of the hang `em and flog `em brigade - explained that his time among the 1,800 residents of Coleman Low Security Prison in Florida has convinced him of "the fallibility of American justice, which does convict many people, who, like me, would never dream of committing a crime in a thousand years".

...His time inside, Black says, has "been an interesting experience, from which I developed a much greater practical knowledge than I had ever had before of those who had drawn a short straw from the system; of the realities of street level American race relations; of the pathology of incorrigible criminals; and of the wasted opportunities for the reintegration of many of these people into society".

..."I saw at close range the failure of the US war on drugs," he said, "with absurd sentences, including 20 years for marijuana offences, although 42 per cent of Americans have used marijuana and it is the greatest cash crop in California."

Polling Place 2010

Poll Worker #1: (pointing to Poll Worker #2) She has your ballot.

Poll Worker #2: 'Ballot'? I thought you said 'salad'.

Me: I'm hungry, so if you have a salad over there I would be most appreciative.

Poll Worker #1: The ballots are not very tasty!

Me: But they have lots of fiber!

Wait, I Prize My Uselessness!

There is some sort of backlash developing in Britain. I hope it doesn't come here, because my defunctness and general redundancy will be only too obvious:
TELEVISION host James May has hit out at a "useless" new generation of men - describing them as "morons" who do not know how to iron a shirt or put up a shelf.

..."I keep reading women are better at school and now better at parking, better at navigating. We are sort of laughing at it going, 'Ho ho ho, I'm just a bloke', but really in my lifetime men only will be required to keep sperm at operating temperature and they will have no other function."

...He said: "The decline of practical skills, some of them very day-to-day, among a generation of British men is very worrying - they can't put up a shelf, wire a plug, countersink a screw, iron a shirt.

"They believe it is endearing and cute to be useless whereas I think it's boring and everyone's getting sick of it."

...He blamed the move away from old-fashioned masculinity partly on 'lads magazines' such as Zoo, Nuts and Loaded, and said it was a shame that traditional male hobbies were now seen as unfashionable.

He said: "There's this idea that men aren't allowed to be interested in these things as it is a bit sad or a bit weird.

"But enthusiasms are good. Hobbies are healthy. They don't harm anybody.

"It's the people who don't have them that end up going mad and shooting people."

Merriam Webster's "Word Of The Day"

Gabe shares this:
The Word of the Day for November 2 is:

psephology \see-FAH-luh-jee\ noun
: the scientific study of elections

Erin is a political science major with a particular interest in psephology.

"To help voters make up their minds, this issue contains a 20-page briefing on personality, policy and psephology." -- From an article in The Economist, April 10, 2010

Did you know?
"Psephology" is from the Greek word "psephos," meaning "pebble." (One relative of "psephology" is "psephomancy," meaning "divination by pebbles.") "Psephology" merited election as the name for the work of analysts of elections, or psephologists, because pebbles were used by the ancient Greeks in voting. Similarly, the word "ballot" was an excellent choice for a means of voting since it is derived from "balla," the Italian word for "ball," and Italians placed balls in a container to cast votes.

Word Trivia: What word meaning "to banish" or "to exclude from a group" comes from an ancient Greek method of voting by writing a name down on a pottery fragment? The answer is ...

Back To The 'Annihilation Of Haiti' Forecast

The NOGAPS model keeps pointing at Haiti as the place Hurricane Tomas will stall. If it keeps pointing there long enough, the forecast might actually come to pass....

[Update: Each new forecast is slightly different. The new forecast shows Tomas as passing over Haiti, and then stalling over the Turks and Caicos Islands. Oh joy, for them!

Update 2; The newer, newer forecast shows Tomas bouncing back and forth between Haiti and Jamaica like a pinball.

Wherever Tomas goes, there will be problems.]

Monday, November 01, 2010

Harry Reid Profile

This New Yorker article is purportedly about the Sharron Angle-Harry Reid Senatorial race, but it's much more about the character of Harry Reid. Economically speaking, Nevada, like all intermountain states (like New Mexico particularly) is much more like a colony than it is independent (economically, Nevada is an appendage of California). Nevada, like the rest of the intermountain states, relies very, very heavily on the federal government. If Sharron Angle wins, she will not be able to replace Reid's contacts and expertise, and it will prove to be an unmitigated disaster for the state in general, and Las Vegas, in particular:

This jaunty hyper-confidence is the essence of the conservative mood right now—a sense that the tide is antigovernment, and sweeping everything along with it. Nevada is in such bad shape that comparisons to the Great Depression are justified. It has the highest foreclosure rate, the highest bankruptcy rate, proportionally the highest state budget deficit, and the highest state unemployment rate in the country. In Las Vegas, everywhere you look are empty buildings, abandoned construction sites, unkempt houses with for-sale signs in their yards, and apartment complexes offering spectacular deals.

...Sharron Angle, more than most other Republicans, has been willing to oppose government not just in general but in particular. Over the years, she has called for abolishing the Departments of Energy and Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, and for privatizing Social Security, Medicare, and the Veterans Administration. ... Reid kept saying that government should provide something that he knows is popular (like mandated insurance coverage of mammograms), and Angle kept saying that it shouldn’t. Reid plainly had gone into the debate with the idea that he could demonstrate that Angle is “extreme,” but nothing seemed to stick.

...It is a mistake, though, to regard Reid as ineffectual. He is obsessive in his work habits. Everybody in Nevada politics has a story about the brusque telephone calls he makes at all hours. He’ll check in as often as several times a day, for five minutes, two minutes, thirty seconds. You’ll be saying something and it will dawn on you that he has hung up without saying goodbye. Once, Reid recruited a candidate to run for an important state office, and during a phone call she complained about fund-raising difficulties: click. Reid doesn’t like whiners. He found another candidate.

“He is truly hard as a diamond, and tough,” Bryan says. “Nobody pushes him around. He’s always thinking one step ahead. He never forgets. Never forgets.” ... But what shines through is Reid’s lack of the natural gregariousness and geniality that most people associate with the political personality.

Harry Reid was born poor and out of wedlock in the desert mining town of Searchlight, Nevada. His father was a hard-rock miner who didn’t get through the eighth grade; Reid hints broadly that both his parents were drunks. ... Another time, Reid took a .22 rifle and went out to shoot a rabbit for dinner. With his last bullet, he merely wounded the rabbit, so he gave chase on foot for “what seemed like hours,” he wrote. “I got that rabbit. Took it home. Skinned it. Took it to my grandmother. . . . Best rabbit I ever ate.” At fourteen, Reid had a fistfight with his father (because he was beating Reid’s mother). At nineteen, he had a fistfight with his future father-in-law (because he opposed his daughter’s marriage).

Mike O’Callaghan, a high-school teacher and coach of Reid’s, taught him to channel his aggression by becoming an amateur boxer.

...Reid’s lack of natural electioneering talent and a certain over-aggressiveness in seizing opportunities led to an uneven career. He narrowly lost a U.S. Senate race in 1974, then ran for mayor of Las Vegas and lost badly. O’Callaghan rescued him in 1977 by giving him a job that nobody wanted: chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. Charged with cleaning up the casinos, Reid faced down the real-life versions of the Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci characters in “Casino.”

The 1980 census showed that the state’s population had grown so much that Nevada got a new congressional district, in Las Vegas. Reid ran for the seat in 1982 and won—bringing with him to Washington, he writes, the gun he kept in his desk drawer in Nevada. When Paul Laxalt, who had beaten him in the 1974 Senate race, retired, in 1986, Reid ran for his seat and narrowly won. He has been reëlected three times and has become the deeply trusted protector of all the most established interests in Nevada. Still, only once in his long career has he won more than fifty per cent of the vote in an election. He’s a will-power politician.

In Reid’s accounting of his political life, there are more enemies than friends. ... Jack Gordon, a minor concessionaire at one of the casinos who dreamed of getting a full-fledged gaming license, tried to bribe him when Reid was head of the Gaming Commission. Reid called the F.B.I., which set up a sting operation that wound up ensnaring Gordon, but Reid’s attitude went beyond cool professionalism: “I lunged and got him in a choke hold. I was in a rage.” He took personal umbrage at George W. Bush. “I have made no secret of my antipathy toward the second President Bush,” he wrote. He added that Bush “is an ideologue who has done incalculable damage to the government, reputation, and moral standing of the United States of America.” He twice publicly called Bush a liar, explaining, “When one lies, one is a liar.”

...Other than a few close relationships, like the ones with his wife, Landra, and with Mike O’Callaghan, what most reliably draws warmth from Reid’s tempered-steel heart is New Deal liberalism. He likes to say that his parents’ religion was Franklin D. Roosevelt; practically the only good thing that ever happened in the life of his father was joining a union. “The American government is the greatest force for good in the history of mankind”; Social Security is “the greatest social program since the fishes and loaves.” Sig Rogich, a Nevada adman who worked in George H. W. Bush’s White House, and who, like most establishment Republicans in Nevada, is backing Reid over Sharron Angle, told me that during many evenings at his house he and Reid have relaxed to old Woody Guthrie songs on the CD player—“poignant songs about society and the poor.”

...On the morning after the 2004 election, Bush, reinvigorated and aiming for historical significance, indicated that he was going to turn Social Security into a system of individual retirement accounts, as Republicans had long dreamed of doing. Reid pounced. He brought Senator Max Baucus’s chief of staff, Jim Messina, into his office to create a war room and work the issue relentlessly. Messina, now the deputy chief of staff in the Obama White House, told me, “When Bush had his kickoff”—for the Social Security initiative—“Reid was already out ahead of him by a month, and by March or April of ’05 I knew we had won.”

...After Obama made his first speech on the Senate floor, in 2005, against the Iraq war, Reid approached him to compliment him on its eloquence. (Reid, who has never been as liberal on social or military issues as he is on the provision of government benefits, voted for the war.) As Reid tells the story, “And I will never forget his response. Without the barest hint of braggadocio or conceit, and with what I would describe as deep humility, he said quietly: ‘I have a gift, Harry.’ ” Surely, Reid’s sense of awe was intensified by knowing that Obama’s gift is one that he lacks. Conversely, Reid’s gift—relentlessly working the Senate Democratic caucus, member by preening member—is one that Obama lacked any interest in during his four years in the Senate.

In the House, an adept Speaker with a majority can herd her entire party caucus, using the Rules Committee, which decides what legislation gets to the floor. The Senate requires far more individual attention to the members, especially if they include people as ideologically disparate as Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist, and Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut almost-Republican. In the partnership between the Obama White House and the Reid Senate, Obama supplied the eloquence and grace and originated the policy ideas. Reid’s role was to get it done. Between Obama’s Inauguration, in January, 2009, and the congressional recess early last month, more consequential liberal legislation passed than at any time since the Great Society: health-care reform, the economic-stimulus package, financial regulation, a big education bill, the rescue of the auto industry, and the second phase of the rescue of the big banks. Others (a large expansion of protected public lands, funding for universal broadband access) didn’t get the attention they normally would have.

...His strength is knowing and playing to his caucus. He “has an amazing ability to figure out what the other person needs,” Billy Vassiliadis, a Las Vegas adman, Democratic political consultant, and old friend of Reid’s, says. In talks with the White House, Reid would explain that each senator is a “brand”: Maria Cantwell, of Washington, is high-tech; Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, is a Federalist; and so on. One had to understand each member’s sense of himself and then find a way to play to it.

...Angle is a curious political commodity: she seems marginal but always does better than people expect her to. She started out in politics as a member of the far-right Constitution Party, and in 1998 she won a seat in the state assembly as a Republican, and beat a rising star in the Party for reëlection in 2002. There she was anything but a prominent member; she was best known for voting against tax bills. Yet in 2006 she ran against Dean Heller for Congress and came within five hundred votes of beating him. In 2008, she ran against the senior Republican member of the Nevada state senate, Bill Raggio, and almost beat him. She is unlike Reid in almost every way except in her relentless determination.

Reid, as Majority Leader, has access to all the top national Democratic funding sources, as well as the ones in Nevada, and he has ceaselessly battered Angle in campaign ads. Yet she and Reid are in a dead heat in the polls. Reid’s prominence helps Angle financially, because it attracts donations from national conservative groups that want to take Reid out. Now she can afford to pound him in advertisements, too.

...As Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid, a teetotaller who doesn’t gamble, was at the center of the creation of this new social order. He delivered for the casinos, a heavily regulated industry that lives in fear of federal gaming taxes and relies upon airports and highways, and they supported his campaigns. None of the major casino owners have publicly endorsed Angle; Steve Wynn, who recently suggested on CNBC that the government of the People’s Republic of China is more hospitable to business than the Obama Administration, gave Reid twenty thousand dollars last year.

If you think of yourself as a champion of ordinary people, you can build a case for helping the casino industry. An unskilled laborer—a valet parker, a dishwasher, a chambermaid, a waiter, a busboy—can make more money in Las Vegas than just about anywhere else. Except for the Venetian and the Palazzo, all the big casinos on the Strip have contracts with the Culinary Workers Union, which has fifty thousand members, many of them Latino. They make high wages and have decent job security, a guaranteed full workweek, no-premium family health care, and company-paid pensions. It sure beats working in a mine, as Reid’s father did.

...Then, beginning in 2007, and escalating in 2008 and 2009, Nevada went spectacularly bust. Last year, the state lost population for the first time since the Great Depression. Next year, the state legislature will meet to balance a budget that, on a two-year cycle, has a three-billion-dollar deficit, on total spending of less than seven billion dollars. The construction industry—Nevada’s second-largest, after casinos, during the boom years—has nearly disappeared. More than half the students in the Clark County public school system are eligible for the federal school-lunch program. The school system used to have to recruit teachers from elsewhere because it was growing so rapidly; now it has a waiting list of two thousand job applicants.

...Late one afternoon, I met with Donya Monroe, a former basketball player for the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and financial adviser with Merrill Lynch, who runs a counselling center for people with housing problems. She is a commanding woman—the daughter of a two-star general—but she looked weary. “It was literally mass hysteria here,” she said. “You had a large group of people from California who took advantage of the system. Come here, buy a house, no money down, take out a HELOC—a home-equity line of credit—use it to buy another home, get a second mortgage, get some cash. And then they’re gone—poof. They all came at the same time and they all left at the same time. Then, there’s another group, the people I deal with every day. Uneducated, sign here. Their payment has gone up. They lost their job. They’re panicked. A huge portion just walked away.”

Reid reacted to the bust just as you would expect. He helped extend unemployment benefits, gave special aid to schools so they wouldn’t have to lay off teachers, secured money for potentially job-rich alternative-energy projects in the desert, and funded foreclosure-prevention counselling.

...CityCenter, a vast new casino and shopping complex on the Strip, is the largest private building project in the history of North America. In 2007, its primary owner, MGM Mirage, took on Dubai World as a partner. With construction well under way and five billion dollars already sunk into CityCenter, the crash of September, 2008, hit. Dubai World sued MGM, and then the banks collectively announced that because Dubai World had sued they no longer had to honor their own obligations.

Harry Reid called Jim Murren, the chief executive of MGM, to offer his help. “I asked him to call Ken Lewis of Bank of America, Jamie Dimon of J. P. Morgan, John Mack of Morgan Stanley, and I’m sure he did,” Murren told me. “Everybody in the Nevada delegation called, but there’s only one Senate Majority Leader. That’s the call that got returned.” When a contractor needed a two-hundred-million-dollar payment in order to continue construction, “Reid called, the banks released the money, and we kept constructing.”

Murren, a Republican, appeared in the first television ad the Reid campaign ran this year, saying that Reid had saved twenty-two thousand jobs in Nevada with his calls to the banks. MGM is not just Nevada’s largest employer and taxpayer; it is proportionally among the largest single taxpayers in any state, supplying eleven per cent of the budget of Nevada’s government. Murren told me that Sharron Angle has never tried to meet him. She has said that she would not have made the calls that Reid made on CityCenter’s behalf.

The Reid campaign considered that comment a gift from Heaven, but it wasn’t able to sink Angle. Angle’s campaign ignores what would seem to be a basic rule of elective politics: that you have to promise to deliver government services to your constituents, especially in hard times. It may be that a large number of people in Nevada dislike Reid more than they like his works. ... It may be that people aren’t aware of Reid’s many services to the state. It may be that the unpopularity of the Obama Administration’s accomplishments, which Reid had so much to do with, outweighs the popularity of his more mundane local record. It may be that Reid gets blamed for the state’s depression because he was in office when it arrived. Or Sharron Angle could be right: many Americans don’t want the government to help them.

...People go to Nevada to loosen the bonds of traditional society and try something new. What has happened there over the past twenty years is a particularly American version of the economic cycle. European governments get into trouble by overloading on pensions and other expensive benefits; American governments get into trouble by practicing a kind of casino liberalism, in which credit flows too easily, everybody goes too deeply into debt, and if the growth ever stops, everything crashes. Now Nevadans are being presented with a great clash of social visions: help from Washington with Reid versus less of Washington with Angle. The stakes are real, not rhetorical. Reid’s reëlection campaign is about the role of government in the United States. Obama’s reëlection campaign will be about that, too.

FOX News' Prop. 24 Campaign

FOX News goes all out for Prop. 24:
FBN attacked proposition 24 with five straight hours of live coverage last Tuesday without once mentioning that its parent company had contributed $1.3 million to the campaign against the measure. FBN even interviewed the spokesman of the group that News Corp.'s donation bankrolled without disclosing the conflict of interest. FBN pleaded ignorance, claiming it was unaware that News Corp. had donated to the anti-proposition 24 campaign.

Prop. 19 Donors

It's fun using this interactive Web Page to identify the donors for and against Proposition 19. George Soros, Sean Parker, and even George Zimmer show up.

This Agonizing Dance

What will Hurricane Tomas do? The current forecast shows it basically stalling in-between Jamaica and Haiti, and basically being the 800-lb bull tip-toeing through the delicate china shop of the northern Caribbean. It can go anywhere. And if it stalls long enough, it just might go everywhere!

Negative Political Ads

A historical perspective.

Some History Of Mexico's Drug War

I find this article helpful in describing the bicoastal rivalry in Mexico's Drug War, and also the identities of some of the people executing it. The war is pretty scary stuff, but there are identifiable people behind it, and it's not random. History, as always, helps:
For reasons they themselves probably do not completely understand, the various Mexican drug clans and organizations responsible for so much bloodshed have acquired a liking for public attention, and to hold it they have developed a grisly theatrical performance of death, a roving display of grotesque mutilations and executions.

...In 1989, an up-and-coming drug trafficker called Joaquín Guzmán, and known generally as El Chapo or Chapo—which is what short, stocky men are called in Guzmán’s home state of Sinaloa, on the northwest coast of Mexico—picked a fight with some of his business associates in Tijuana. Four years later, the estranged associates sent a hit team to Guadalajara, where Chapo Guzmán was living. According to records of the investigation, the Tijuana team was supposed to intercept Guzmán on May 24, 1993, as he arrived at the airport on his way to a beach vacation, but the murderers appear to have confused Guzmán’s white Grand Marquis with one owned by the burly Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, cardinal of Guadalajara.

As the unfortunate cleric pulled up to the curb, the Tijuana hit men opened fire. (According to some versions, Guzmán had arrived at the airport by then, and engaged in a shoot-out with the killers.) The cardinal died on the spot, and even though this was to become one of the most scandalous murders of the century, a subject for endless conspiracy theories, the hit team managed to get on the next commercial flight to Tijuana. No one has ever been tried for the crime. Guzmán’s comment on the day’s events, before he packed his bags and went on the run, was “Esto se va a poner de la chingada,” or roughly, “Things are going to get really fucked now.” ... Guzmán didn’t foresee his own long-term prospects, though. At the time of the cardinal’s murder he was merely one of the more ambitious Sinaloa traffickers plying their trade along the Pacific coastal states and the northern Mexican border. Seventeen years later—eight of which were spent in a Mexican prison, from which he escaped in 2001, reportedly in a laundry van—Guzmán may be more embattled than ever, but he is also the most powerful trafficker on earth, or certainly the most influential.

...But what we mostly understand here, as in de Mauleón’s parallel biography of Arturo Beltrán Leyva—Guzmán’s former associate turned bitter enemy, who was killed in December—is his influence at the highest levels of the Mexican government. Throughout these records army generals provide Guzmán with information, police officers provide security, major airports are run by his allies, and the dark suspicion grows steadily that cabinet members in several administrations, including the current one, are also on friendly terms with him.

It’s not that Guzmán has influence whereas other traffickers do not; it’s that every trafficker has a great many appointed officials and elected politicians on his payroll but Guzmán has more than the rest. The most distressing conclusion one can draw from de Mauleón’s articles is not that President Calderón’s war on drugs is being lost but that it may not even be fought.

...Still, most murders in Juárez are, indeed, the result of gang warfare. The murder rate in Mexico City is eight per 100,000, comparable to Wichita, Kansas, or Stockton, California. The overall murder rate in Mexico is fourteen per 100,000. But in Ciudad Juárez it is 189 per 100,000. And as in Tijuana, Reynosa, or Nuevo Laredo—other border cities also afflicted by runaway violence—all but a very small number of the Juárez victims are, in fact, involved in one way or another in the drug trade.

...None of us reporters understood much then about the new religious cults mushrooming in the drug world—notably the Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, a Halloweenish figure identical to the hooded skeleton who makes frequent appearances in biker art. Her cult has spread well beyond the jailhouses where she is revered, and now that altars to the gloomy skeleton are everywhere in the country and we have heard of young migrant girls from Central America being killed and offered to the Santa Muerte by the particular branch of the drug mafia devoted to human trafficking, there is more reason to wonder if the current traffickers’ obsession with nauseating forms of murder did not start back then.

Carrillo Fuentes, the lord of Juárez, died in 1997. He was given the wrong kind of sedative—perhaps even accidentally—while recovering from plastic surgery in a boutique Mexico City hospital, and his death left the Juárez plaza (meaning a combined drug distribution territory and supply route) wide open. Chapo Guzmán of course tried to move in immediately following Carrillo Fuentes’s murder (or before, if he was behind the fatal injection), but so did a trafficker who, unusually, comes not from the Pacific coast state Sinaloa but from Tamaulipas, which lies across the country on the Gulf of Mexico. His name is Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, and for quite a few years he held the profitable monopoly of all the trafficking in Tamaulipas, whose border cities Reynosa, Matamoros, and Nuevo Laredo are collectively the largest commercial crossroads in the world. Nuevo Laredo is, consequently, the most lucrative plaza in Mexico; some eight thousand trucks pass the US customs inspection checkpoints at Laredo every day. Cárdenas, a man of ambition and keen business sense, baptized what was then just a gang, calling it the Cartel del Golfo (Cartel of the Gulf).

...All the traffickers before him had relied on their own gatilleros, or hired killers, to enforce their law, but in the late 1990s Cárdenas figured out the logistical and intelligence advantages of hiring military men—particularly highly skilled military men who had been trained to fight him—as his own private defense force. That is how the rogue drug gang the Zetas was born. Today it is a collection of former police agents and Central American army special forces, gang members, and what amounts to indentured killers, all led by a group of Mexican former special antinarcotics forces who destroyed all the existing narco codes of honor and rules of engagement.

...The ever-fluctuating war among the constantly fragmenting and multiplying drug clans and families is, among other things, a culture war, one being fought by the old campesino marijuana-growing and smuggling families along the Pacific coast against the wholesale traffickers of the Gulf of Mexico, who grow nothing. It’s also a war with, on one side, Pacific coast criminals who have a romantic vision of themselves as renegade outlaws—and who commission old-timey biographical ballads about themselves (narcocorridos) to spread that vision.... On the other side are former members of the Mexican military establishment in the east, whose taste in music, as far as one can tell from the narcovideos frequently put up on YouTube, runs to techno and reggaeton.

Pacific coast smugglers like Chapo Guzmán have yet to catch up with the Zetas’ ability to intercept the conversations of even the lowliest politicians along the Tamaulipas border and their delight in chest-thumping (they appear to have been the first to use trucks to block major thoroughfares, sometimes just for the hell of it). If recent news reports are correct, the Zetas also use antiaircraft weapons and satellite trackers. The traffickers from Sinaloa rely on backroom alliances with local politicians to keep the business quiet and safe—one can only think with envy of Chapo Guzmán’s Rolodex. The Zetas show no sign that they have ever heard of the word “compromise” and seem bent on a direct challenge to all authority.

The Sinaloa traffickers’ cult of a rural trickster hero, Jesús Malverde, is in equally stark contrast with Gulf coast worship of Holy Death. The Zetas seem modern and the Pacific coast gangsters old-fashioned, but at the moment we have no way of knowing who is winning, partly because the Zetas are so out of control and partly because the clan leaders on the Pacific coast who used to form an alliance are busily trying to kill one another, as are the Zetas and their former masters in the Cartel del Golfo.

...An easy conclusion would be that Mexico, or the drug war zone, is in the hands of a failed state. But a failed state does not constantly build new roads and schools, or collect taxes, or generate legitimate industrial and commercial activity sufficient to qualify it as one of the twelve largest economies in the world. In a failed state drivers do not stop at red lights and garbage is not collected punctually. The question is, rather, whether in the face of unstoppable activity by highly organized criminals, the Mexican government can adequately enforce the rule of law and guarantee the safety of its citizens everywhere in the country.

Rihanna & Shy Ronnie On SNL

The Long Vigil

Three enormous bags of candy, and just two trick-or-treaters. Two!

(My neighborhood is composed of empty-nesters and starving students, and very few families with young kids.)

What am I going to do with all the candy?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Finished Painting The East Exterior Bedroom Wall

I had hoped to finish by November 1st, or the beginning of the rainy season, whichever came first. I actually finished by November 1st, or the beginning of the rainy season, whichever came last. But whatever.

I now have finished the minimum of what I wanted to finish this year. I still have to finish painting the porch, but that was an extra work item.

Celebrating The Birthday

Left: Dinner at California Fats in Old Sacramento.
Halloween season wouldn't be complete without shopping at Evangeline's!

I purchased two items: A T-Shirt saying:
Ten Reasons To Procrastinate:

1. ...
plus a book for hypochondriacs, with a list of diseases I may already have!

Afterwards I headed to DMTC for convivial bonhomie!

Adopted By The Neighbor's Cat

Kitty want some steak?

Jarring Noontime False Alarm

Saturday morning, I rolled out of bed for a beginning ballet class taught by Dian Hoel at Curtis Park's Sierra 2 Community Center dance wing. Several DMTC folks attended the class. I stayed for some tap/jazz as well.

Nevertheless, shortly before noon, at about 11:45 a.m., a fire alarm went off. The fire alarm not only disrupted our class, but also disrupted Darryl Strohl's Musical Theater Workshop farther down the dance wing, and possibly interfered with the children's performance at RSP's 'Storytale Theater' (although they may have finished by that time, but just barely). Too disruptive!

City of Sacramento firefighters prepare to reset Sierra 2's alarm system.

"Dial 'M' For Murder" - Sutter Street Theater

After dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory in Rancho Cordova, we headed to Sutter Street Theater in Folsom to see "Dial 'M' For Murder".

I had forgotten how 'straight' plays, particularly murder mysteries, rely upon intricate details. Musicals, with their simpler plots, have spoiled me.

An interesting show. Friend Jeff Nauer played the victim. It was sad to lose Jeff so early in the show, but murder mysteries generally depend on the victim 'losing it' in Act I.


The-Chicken-In-The-Handbag Dodge

E.: MMMMMAAAARRRRCCCC! I was stopped by the cop last night! I was on I-80 and the cop came up behind me and he turned on his lights, and said on a loudspeaker "Exit on Madison!" So I exited on Madison. Then he said: "Turn right!" So I turned right. Then he said: "Turn right again!" So, I turned right again, and parked!

M.: What did the cop want?

E.: He looked at my license and insurance, then said he stopped me because I was weaving.

M.: Why were you weaving? Were you under the influence?

E.: I only had two glasses of wine. I told him "Sorry, officer, I was trying to get something out of my handbag." And it's true: I had some chicken in the handbag that I was going to snack on. So, he let me go....

M.: Two glasses? Did he make you take a breathalyzer test?

E.: No.

M.: You are lucky! You probably wouldn't have passed a breathalyzer test having had two drinks.

E.: Four, actually.

M.: Four glasses? Then you are very, very lucky!

E.: I know! I guess I shouldn't do that again. Is there anything he can do to me now?

M.: No, but you've got to be careful!

Vision Of Catastrophe To Come

These NOGAPS model forecast animations play out alternative futures - weather, to come. They get some details wrong, of course, but they are seldom dramatically wrong.

The current model forecast shows one of the bleakest forecasts I have ever seen. The forecast shows Hurricane Tomas, currently a rather humdrum Category 1 hurricane, as stalling in the immediate vicinity of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Given the complete destitution of Haiti, particularly after the January earthquake, having any hurricane pass anywhere nearby will be a catastrophe. Having the hurricane essentially park itself near Haiti for a few days will make the calamity many times worse. Humdrum Hurricane Tomas could be the Hurricane Mitch of 2010.

I pray this nightmare does not occur! I pray the model is wrong!