Friday, March 11, 2011

How Disillusioned Scientists Start Religious Cults

Like with all things, these ambitions start small. Probably just how Scientology started.

Today, for example, Andrew recommended this:

On March 19, the moon's orbit will make its closest approach to Earth in 18 years while at the same time be in full phase. Such a coincidence has been named a "SuperMoon" by astrologer Richard Nolle.

...So the questions that emerge are: 1) Is there any legitimate science linking the Supermoon and extreme natural hazards? and, 2) Did the upcoming Supermoon play a role in this morning's horrific earthquake in Japan, the fifth most powerful on record?

...There were SuperMoons in 1955, 1974, 1992 and 2005. These years had their share of extreme weather and other natural events. Is the Super Moon and these natural occurences a coincidence? ... He noted that one of his readers pointed out that the last extreme supermoon occurred on January 10, 2005, right around the time of the 9.0 Indonesia earthquake.
I reply:

Last night, I turned on George Noory’s radio show, and it was a field day for the solar flare people, plus every excitable caller west of the Rockies.
Andrew replies:
Yes, science goes out of the window and anecdotal theories abound!
I answered:
At lunch just now, I was explaining to a friend of mine named “J” that the trouble with the solar flare hypothesis is that there is no obvious coupling with the tectonic plates. J agreed, and said people don’t understand that there is a hole in the gravitational field in California, that the principle of repulsion applies here, not attraction, and that no one even thinks about magnetics.

Sometimes it’s just hard having a scientific education....
Andrew didn't quite follow:
You have lost me now ... magnetic fields etc?
I replied:
Believe me, I’m lost too. He also has theories about how alien beings are masquerading as humans and how most of our problems can be traced to the avarice of the British Empire, plus poor diet.

He’s fun to talk to, but sometimes he makes my head hurt.
Andrew replied:
Mine too – just hearing you talk about it without even meeting him. [A relative] is into some of these alternative theories to accepting the reality of climate change concerns. Apparently things like solar flares, gravitational forces make human carbon emissions of no significance. What a cop out! Shall we sit around some time with a few glasses of wine and come up with some of our own whacky theories??!! It seems that many people give greater acceptance to the whacky stuff than to decades of good science.
I replied:
That sounds like fun! But we could be too successful, and end up like the Scientologists, and create a new religion.

Whatever the theories will be, they have to fit into a coherent whole. (Or maybe not – no one else is worried about coherence)

Crescent City Hit

Hard to believe something so far away could cause so much trouble, but - it did!:
Eight-foot waves from the Japan tsunami destroyed much of Crescent City harbor, battered boats, closed the 101 Freeway and left one person missing.

KDRV-TV reported that four people were washed out to sea Friday. Three were hurt and one is feared dead.

Interesting Earthquake Videos Here

This supermarket video is interesting too....

Iconic Aerial Tsunami Video From This Quake

Just one of a number of videos utilizing this same aerial footage.

You read stories about ancient tsunamis, but there's nothing like seeing the real thing (even if it's just on video) to make you sit up and take notice!

Tsunami Waves Hit Hawaii

Craig was just telling me war stories of last year's tsunami warnings, when he was on Maui. From the press, today's adventure sounds considerably - more adventurous:
Kauai was the first of the Hawaiian islands struck by the tsunami, which was caused by an earthquake in Japan. Water rushed ashore at least 11 feet high near Kealakekua Bay, on the west side of the Big Island, and reached the lobby of a hotel. Flooding was reported on Maui, and water washed up on roadways on the Big Island.

...High waters reached the U.S. western coast by 11:30 a.m. EST Friday, after evacuations were ordered and beaches closed all along the coast.

Fishermen in Crescent City, Calif., — where a tsunami in 1964 killed 11 people — fired up their crab boats and left the harbor to ride out an expected swell.

Sirens sounded for hours before dawn up and down the coast, and in Hawaii, roadways and beaches were empty as the tsunami struck. As sirens sounded throughout the night, most residents cleared out from the coasts and low-lying areas.
...The tsunami, spawned by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan, slammed the eastern coast of Japan, sweeping away boats, cars, homes and people as widespread fires burned out of control. It raced across the Pacific at 500 mph — as fast as a jetliner — although tsunami waves roll into shore at normal speeds.

...It is the second time in a little over a year that Hawaii and the U.S. West coast faced the threat of a massive tsunami. A magnitude-8.8 earthquake in Chile spawned warnings on Feb. 27, 2010, but the waves were much smaller than predicted and almost no damage was reported.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tsunami Danger On West Coast

This Japanese earthquake is HUGE! And because tsunamis travel for tens of thousands of miles there's a real danger of tsunamis here! Stay alert!

CORE's "Silent Noise" To Premiere

I was hoping to hear from CORE soon! This will be the best show of the Spring!:
In the fall of 2010, the Crocker Art Museum invited CORE’s Artistic Director and Choreographer Kelli Leighton to create the first commissioned dance work for the museum. Inspired by the startling and raw work of renowned artist Gottfried Helnwein, Kelli brings to the stage a stark and vulnerable look at human fragility.

Choreographed as a site-specific work for the intimate Crocker theater, Silent Noise surrounds the audience with the inescapable cry of the human spirit. Similar to Helnwein’s larger-than-life artwork, CORE challenges the audience members to look inside themselves and confront their own complacency. See the remarkable artwork and don’t miss this unforgettable performance!

Silent Noise – world premiere
Thursday March 24, 2011 7pm
Crocker Art Museum
216 O St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

$15 Members; $25 Non-Members
Tickets available through the Crocker Art Museum

Seats are limited for this intimate performance! Tickets are only available through the Crocker Art Museum - get yours today!

Whirlwind Made Visible By Plastic Sheeting

John sends this....

Naked I Came To The Jehovah Witnesses

Er... something like that. They were knocking at the front door and I had just climbed out of the shower, so I wrapped a towel around me and answered the door. A bit discomfited, they kept the conversation short.

Speed Bump On The Road Towards Victory In Wisconsin

It was always clear the Wisconsin Republicans had the legislative resources to push through whatever they wanted, but it wasn't clear how low they would reach in order to please their paymasters and enrage the citizenry. Now we know. The Wisconsin coup d'etat is unlikely to last very long against the focused attention of its citizens. Onward, recalls!

This story is only half over....

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Fish Pedicures For What Ails You

One nice feature about growing older is that, just because I've been around longer, I'm more likely to be a disease carrier than a disease victim. You have more to fear from me than I have to fear from you.

I really like this British fish pedicure craze, but it's specifically because fish would be ideal to handle my toenail fungus issue. I don't know about the possibility of spreading the fungus to others, though, or having something passed on to me.

But it doesn't matter much to me, because whatever nastiness you are worried about, I probably already have it:
A surge in the number of people getting fish pedicures on the high street has prompted a health warning.

Experts are worried that the latest beauty craze – offered in scores of salons – could spread infection and disease.

It has already been banned in 14 states in the U.S.

The treatment, which costs between £10 and £50, involves customers dunking their feet in tanks to have their dead skin nibbled away by scores of Turkish miniature toothless carp.

But it has been revealed the pedicures using the garra rufa fish could spread infection from person to person through open wounds. Salons say they use UV-lit tanks which are constantly filtered to keep them clear of disease.

But the therapy’s opponents say that unlike usual salon rules, which compel staff to throw away or sanitise tools after each use, the epidermis-eating fish are too expensive to discard.

MLK Day Bomb Suspect Arrested

This was a big bomb built to kill. It's amazing it didn't kill lots of people:
The man arrested in connection with a bomb found along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., earlier this year is Kevin William Harpham, 36, of Colville, Wash. Harpham has been charged in U.S. District Court with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of knowingly possessing an improvised explosive device.

Earlier, The Seattle Times reported that law enforcement was preparing " to search a house where others associated with the suspect were living" and that the suspects in the case "are apparently affiliated with white supremacists."

Trifling With Desert Climate Data, And Thinking About Global Warming

Last week, I was looking through some climate data from the deserts of Nevada (I think it may have been Pahrump, or vicinity), and was struck how it just doesn't get as cold there as it used to. Mean monthly minimum temperatures in the single digits could be observed a hundred years ago, but they never occur now.

I couldn't find that data set this week, but there is plenty of other data out there to look at.

Deserts are nice, because the greenhouse warming associated with water vapor is minimized in the deserts, so if you see any changes, it's likely carbon dioxide to blame, rather than any changes associated with the urban heat island effect, or changes in roughness associated with changes in land use, or first-order changes in water vapor. And minimum temperatures are where you would spot the change first, because turbulence is at a minimum for these mostly-stagnant conditions. Cooling occurs principally by radiation.

Using US HCN data for Mina, NV (on the road between Hawthorne and Tonopah), and looking at just the monthly mean minimum temperature for the month of April (a rather dry month), it's easy to spot the warming signal. And this particular data set ends in 1994, so recent warming isn't even on here.

Australia's BOM has a series of maps for the Outback showing pretty-uniform warming throughout the last century. It's the same phenomenon.

Yup, Global Warming is real!

RIP, David Broder

The even-handed fellow whose supposed professionalism could not help him distinguish between the firefighter and the arsonist; the child and the child molester, ultimately was unable to distinguish between the harvester and the Grim Reaper.

So, Did The Good Citizens Of Dallas Win The Battle?

Was it the vigilance that paid off? Or, was there no battle to begin with?:
Politicians, women's groups, cops and child advocates were predicting that up to 100,000 hookers would be shipped into Dallas for the Super Bowl. It would be akin to the invasion of Normandy—with silicone and come-hither poses at no extra charge.

Yet someone forgot to tell America's prostitutes they had an appointment with destiny. The arrest numbers are now in. The hookers failed to show.

...Up to 38,000 of these hookers would be child sex slaves, according to a study by the Dallas Women's Foundation. They'd presumably been kidnapped en masse while waiting in line at the mall Cinnabon, then shipped to Dallas for deflowering by venture capitalists and frozen-food barons.

America's human trafficking epidemic was coming to North Texas. The Super Bowl would be ground zero.

...Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott puffed his chest and promised dozens of extra bodies. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security linked arms with 13 state and local police agencies in a task force. Even the airline industry leaped in, training flight attendants to spot the indentured.

..."We believe, without a doubt, that God gave us the Super Bowl this year to raise awareness of what's happening with these kids," she told the Morning News.

...Detectives from Dallas to Plano, Forth Worth to Irving saw no spikes in sex traffic or signs of the occupiers.

...In other words, it was just another week of playing cat and mouse with the world's oldest profession.

Arlington, host to the game, unleashed extra manpower and bagged an impressive 59 arrests. But it found scant evidence of erotic hordes. Of the 100,000 supposedly Lone Star-bound hookers, Deputy Chief Jaime Ayala says, only 13 were found by his guys. Their busts largely involved rousting the local talent.

...Steve Wagner knows this. He worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, serving as director of the Human Trafficking Program under Bush. He threw millions of dollars at community groups to aid victims. Yet as he told the Washington Post in 2007, "Those funds were wasted....They were available to help victims. There weren't any victims."

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Us?

Dianne Feinstein is funny when peeved:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, harshly criticized the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community for failing to forecast the uprising in the Middle East and warned the White House not to intervene in Libya without international support.

"Our intelligence, and I see it all ... was woefully inadequate. [The unrest in] Tunisia was the only intelligence we got right," Feinstein told TPM Tuesday, adding that U.S. intelligence completely missed the instability in Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain.

Feinstein chalked up the black hole on intelligence in the Middle East to the failure to have the right "human assets" gathering information on the ground, as well as a fundamental failure to analyze and evaluate open-source intelligence on social medium platforms. She also derided a briefing on the Middle East she received from intelligence officials last week, saying it contained "nothing that we didn't see in the newspapers."
Actually, the process of getting good intelligence is painfully simple, and was the original reason for having an intelligence service in the first place, but doubtlessly is rarely-used today.

You get an intelligent person to read the local news, in the native language, and that person prepares a summary that the policymaker then reads. Simple! But everyone knows that what policymakers read gets acted upon, so you can't just leave it be at that. There are now so many levels that the intelligence has to pass through to get to the policymaker, with everyone adding or subtracting their own self-interested angle, that honest intelligence has no way to make it to the policymaker. So, you get ignorant and unprepared policymakers. And that's how everyone likes it!

Remember the WMD controversies of 2003? The lesson from all that is that the manipulators (like Dick Cheney) control the product, not the authors of the intelligence briefings, who might have better understanding. That's what you get in bad governments, like we have in these days of decadent American Empire - since 1960, to be sure. And our newspapers are controlled too: look at the neocon grip on the Washington Post! It's a veritable Hall of Mirrors on the Potomac these days! The interests control everything!

For years, people have been saying that the Middle East is fundamentally unstable. It is hardly a surprise that Middle East has revealed itself to be - fundamentally unstable. All you have to have done is read a newspaper in the last thirty years to know that.

Simplify the model. Or read a newspaper once in a while, preferably produced by disinterested people from somewhere else, like Europe or the Middle East, and get some fresh air in your cocoon. Don't blame your cocoon-minders for your ignorance!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Cheryl Bly-Chester Concedes In State Assembly District Four Race

Here are election results.

Cheryl released this statement:
Although the race is too close to call at this point, it looks clear that either Beth Gaines or John Allard will move forward to face Dennis Campanale in the runoff.

Like many things I have undertaken in life, I am very proud of the effort and I intend to persevere to see that the people of this district are well-served by their next representative. Our campaign started literally from scratch and reached ten percent despite being outspent near 20 to 1. We refused to go negative in order to score political points, and I believe that accounts for our strong third place showing among the much better-funded Republican candidates. By keeping our focus on jobs and the economy, I know we ran a campaign worthy of the people of the 4th district.

As for my own political future, I will be keeping my options open. I have earned many supporters and I value their opinions greatly. I will have a discussion with them to see how they would like to continue the campaign we started.

Whatever my own future holds, tonight is a time to remember that this campaign wasn't about advancing myself - it was about helping my 4th district neighbors by calling attention to their issues. I intend to continue that effort by staying active and supporting our next Assembly member in any way I can, including offering ideas, counsel and support whenever asked.

I also intend to go back to working hard in my business, helping businesses get through the regulatory process to keep their businesses going and even thriving. I am looking forward to more time with my children as I will be an empty-nester soon enough. Thank you for all who supported me and voted for me. You can look for me in the future to continue to advocate for a better business environment in California.

Heading Towards Victory In Wisconsin

It's still a bit of a Mexican standoff at present, but the blowback to GOP overreach is accelerating, particularly with the recall movements under way. Democrats have the staying power that Republicans lack, and that makes all the difference:
After weeks of pitched battle that has clogged the state Capitol with protests and gummed up legislative works, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hinted in an interview yesterday with the Wisconsin State Journal that he might be willing to make a deal with the public-sector unions.

The gesture was a weak one: He suggested that issues like unions' right to collect dues and hold elections are on the table, but he is still unwilling to negotiate on public employees' right to bargain collectively on non-pay issues like benefits. Such a compromise would be unacceptable to most union activists, but it was the first sign that Walker is feeling pressure and willing to make a deal to resolve the massive protests, now more than two weeks old.

Whether Walker deals or not, it's clear that the protesters are prepared for the long haul. Walker made his biggest tactical blunder by attempting to kick people out of the Capitol last Sunday, just as the protests were starting to die down. Instead of clearing out, protesters rushed in rejuvenated.

...Galvanized by the show of public support, the Wisconsin Democratic Party filed papers to begin recall efforts against eight Republican state Senators. They have 60 days to collect the requisite number of signatures, which ranges from 13,000 to 25,000 signatures per district; 25 percent of voters who cast ballots in the last election must sign the petitions. If organizers meet the deadline, recall elections would occur as early as mid-summer.

Organizers also have their sights set on Walker himself: Michael Brown, a Web developer based in Joseph McCarthy's hometown of Appleton, launched a website,, which already has 79,000 signatories supporting an effort to recall Walker.

...Before then, Walker faces the possibility of a more general strike -- one that includes members of private-sector unions.

...A general strike would surely bring Walker to his knees. It would also be the first attempt to hold one since 1934 in San Francisco. Many private-sector unions might avoid signing on to avoid being sued by their employers -- striking in support of other unions is illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act -- but the fact that it has entered the discussion shows how serious the fight has become.

Wyoming Smog

The wintertime smog problem in the Upper Green River Basin is surprising, but it's real. It's aggravated by UV light reflecting off of snow, very low inversions, and high hydrocarbon levels from drilling operations.

I remember seeing what I thought were high ozone levels in Flagstaff, AZ in the winter of 1985-6 (70 ppb), which I attributed to transport from LA (the winds were from that general direction). But maybe the west is just vulnerable to this problem, whenever you have high UV levels, high hydrocarbon levels (whether anthropogenic, or from vegetation), snowpack, and inversions:
Folks who live near the gas fields in the western part of this outdoorsy state are complaining of watery eyes, shortness of breath and bloody noses because of ozone levels that have exceeded what people in L.A. and other major cities wheeze through on their worst pollution days.

...In many ways, it's a haze of prosperity: Gas drilling is going strong again, and as a result, so is the Cowboy State's economy.

...Preliminary data show ozone levels last Wednesday got as high as 124 parts per billion. That's two-thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's maximum healthy limit of 75 parts per billion and above the worst day in Los Angeles all last year, 114 parts per billion, according to EPA records. Ozone levels in the basin reached 116 on March 1 and 104 on Saturday.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality urged the elderly, children and people with respiratory conditions to avoid strenuous or extended activity outdoors.

...High levels of ozone happen in the Upper Green River Basin only during the winter. They result from a combination of gas industry emissions, snow on the ground, bright sunshine and temperature inversions, in which cool air near the ground is covered by a layer of warmer air. Pollution builds up during the day and becomes visible along the horizon as a thin layer of brown smudge -- smog -- by midafternoon.

Do Conservative Radio Talk Shows Feature Call-In Actors?

Maybe, maybe.... It would make sense, if they do, since they'd be better-behaved....

Christchurch Rorschach Test

I used the resources at this Web Site to make a map of all (or at least most) of the earthquakes since September 4, 2010. I was thinking that they might reveal a more-or-less circular zone, encircling the North Canterbury Plain, that was moving counter-clockwise (and in the case of the Greendale Fault, and in the Christchurch vicinity, moving counter-clockwise a lot).

Nevertheless, the picture looks more intricate than I had first imagined. Not a circular region, but possibly a triangular region encircling just a portion of the North Canterbury Plain. And a broken wedge to the west too. Like shards. Interesting how the quakes mostly stop just a short distance offshore. And there is a western branch, and maybe even a southern branch. Kind of forms an "X" near Darfield. No third dimension here with these images, so maybe details are getting lost, but it's certainly interesting to look at!

Darling Downs Feminism

Former Toowoomba Chronicle Editor Nancy Bates gives a luncheon talk:
Ms Bates said she believed women had taken feminism too far into the workplace, into their homes and into the polling booths.

“Too many women who fought their way out of the kitchens and into jobs have feminised the workplace to the point where it has weakened strategy,” she said.

“The workplace is the modern equivalent of the hunting ground, where the strong and ruthless shine.

“But instead of recognising that the workplace is where you make the money to buy the bacon, too many women have taken their pots and pans and sewing-circle mentality into work and tipped the scales too far into femininity.”

...Socially, Ms Bates said women had become too gullible, believing “crafty shonks and charlatans peddling information like ‘spare the smack'” and encouraging mothers to get their sons to play with dolls rather than guns and take part in contact sports.

She said as a result, women were raising a generation of sissies, which could explain the “bizarre, invasive laws being rammed through parliaments”.

Ms Bates also questioned why women had turned their backs on the “hunting, shooting, fishing” men with hairy chests in favour of “ magazine pretty boys from the gym, oiled, fake tanned and hairless with the sock down their jocks”.

“Give me rugged, strong, sweaty and scarred, silent on the sensitive stuff,” Ms Bates said.

“We can't build a strong nation when we smother it with oestrogen.”

Paul Hogan Vs. Australian Tax Office

Apparently discussions haven't been copacetic:
He followed this up by apologising to clowns everywhere for comparing them to the high-ranking bureaucrats of the ATO.

“Clowns may be creepy-looking but they’re just trying to give you a laugh,” he said.

“I’m sorry clowns for comparing you to these fools.”

Modeling The Lockyer Valley's January Floods

Here are a series of videos showing how torrential rainwater spilled down watercourses from the Great Dividing Range and the New England Plateaus in the vicinity of Toowoomba, and lead to devastating flash floods in the Lockyer Valley below.

Semi-tropical areas like Queensland seem unusually-vulnerable to dramatic swings in rainfall.

"Arthur" Trailers

Duds And Studs

Kakapo are doing better:
Fertility rates of kakapo on Codfish Island are growing as dud males are weeded out of the breeding mix.

..."You have your duds and your studs, and your duds are usually put on other islands. It is like a stud farm operation I suppose, but it just takes a while (for the breeding season) to come around again," he said.

Kakapo breeding coincided with the fruiting of rimu trees about every three years, but the amount of eggs this year was less than the last season because of a lack of fruit believed to be caused by the large snow fall in September, he said.
Late last year, the Hoiho Penguin faced a viral threat:
The Department of Conservation is fighting a virus that is killing yellow-eyed penguins on the Otago Peninsula.

The avian diphtheria has already killed 40 chicks and DoC is trying to stop it spreading.

“They get these cheesy sores around their bill that makes it hard for them to eat and swallow and they end up dying often from kidney failure,” says David Agnew from DoC.

...“They are very vulnerable to this avian diphtheria within the first two to three weeks of life. And so they're just hatching at the moment so this is an extremely vulnerable time,” says Sue Murray from The Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust.

The next few weeks will be critical for the endangered Hoiho.

Young People Delaying Sex: Are They More Moral, More Cautious Or Less Libidinous?

No, they are too busy filling in bubbles with their No. 2 pencils and otherwise answering surveys that ask "are you more moral, more cautious or less libidinous?"

A Bad Time And Place To Be Autistic

Troubled Christchurch:
Two police officers are being investigated after an autistic man who became the "face of looting" was allegedly beaten up while in custody.

Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp, 25, was arrested for stealing two light bulbs and an antique light fitting from a damaged home after last month's devastating Christchurch earthquake.

He has Asperger's syndrome which compels him to take light fixtures.

When he was arrested he was left with a black eye after two police officers beat him up, his lawyer Simon Buckingham told the New Zealand Herald yesterday.

"He had no intention of committing a crime, but for years he had been going around abandoned buildings, asking permission to go in and going and getting the fittings because he has a real fixation with being a sparkie."

"There was also a bit of an issue with the army poking their head in and taking the mick a little bit out of the looter, but that was just verbal."

Buckingham said Smith-Voorkamp was "extremely remorseful" for what he did but at the time he did not understand what he was doing was against the law.

How Christine Whitman Destroyed New Jersey's Finances

A twenty-year plan that has come to fruition, and that the GOP hopes to replicate everywhere:
Whitman was one of those star Republican governors of the early 1990s. Like so many other Republican governors who win media attention for innovative approaches, she made her name through the not-so-innovative strategy of cutting taxes. Since she had to offset those tax cuts in order to balance New Jersey's budget, she reduced payments into the state's pension system. And that, as the New York Times noted last August, "contributed to the growth of the unfunded liability" that is now widely blamed for New Jersey's budget shortfall.

It's important to keep in mind that none of this is a surprise. When Whitman was defunding the pension system in order to cut taxes, there were warnings that this is exactly what would happen....
Whitman calls what she did a "reform" of the pension system that puts it on a more "sound actuarial footing." Others are less charitable. The one thing that even the actuarial consultants hired by the Whitman administration agree on, however, is that the chief effect of the changes will be to shift billions of dollars in pension obligations onto New Jersey taxpayers 15 to 20 years from now.
Let's see, that article ran in 1994, so 15 or 20 years would be right about … now. Huh.
"The New Jersey pension system was highly rated in terms of its fiscal integrity," said [Henry] Raimondo of the Eagleton Institute. "Now that's compromised. She has effectively slowed down" the amount of "money going into the system, and in around 2010 the liability to New Jersey taxpayers is going to grow dramatically."
So, in the mid-1990s, Christine Whitman raided New Jersey's pension fund to pay for tax cuts. Critics warned that doing so would cause massive problems for the state's budget -- and nailed the timing of those problems with remarkable accuracy. And now, the media is full of stories suggesting New Jersey's pension system is the cause of the state's budget shortfall -- without mentioning Whitman's role in causing it to happen. (The Washington Post, which reported on Whitman's role at the time and which frequently reports on current pension/budget issues, last mentioned Whitman's diversion of funds from the pension system on December 20, 2005.)

...You've probably seen dozens of statements like that lately. It should be clear by now -- though it isn't from most news reports -- just how disingenuous this is, at least as far as New Jersey is concerned. Let's review: A Republican governor of New Jersey reduced payments to the state pension system so she could cut taxes. Critics warned doing so would cause significant budget shortfalls in 2010. 2010 rolled around, and -- surprise! -- so did budget shortfalls. And now those shortfalls are used by New Jersey's current Republican governor (along with many in the media) to justify cutting pensions (while again cutting taxes.)

Basically, conservatives have staged an end-run around having a public debate over cutting pensions in order to pay for tax cuts. Rather than making the argument that tax cuts are more important than pensions, they just went ahead and cut taxes, raiding the pension system in the process, then waited 15 years for predictable -- and predicted -- deficits, which they now point to as evidence that the pension system is unsustainably generous. And they've done it with the help of countless news organizations that fall for this shell game.

Watching Glenn Beck Is Like Watching An Abridged Version Of The Decline And Fall Of Western Civilization

To me, he's never been as entertaining as he is now. But the audience is heading to the exits:
Mr. Beck, a conservative Jeremiah and talk-radio phenomenon, burst into television prominence in 2009 by taking the forsaken 5 p.m. slot on Fox News and turning it into a juggernaut. A conjurer of conspiracies who spotted sedition everywhere he looked, Mr. Beck struck a big chord and ended up on the cover of Time magazine and The New York Times Magazine, and held rallies all over the country that were mobbed with acolytes.

...But a funny thing happened on the way from the revolution. Since last August, when he summoned more than 100,000 followers to the Washington mall for the “Restoring Honor” rally, Mr. Beck has lost over a third of his audience on Fox....

...The problem with “Glenn Beck” is that it has turned into a serial doomsday machine that’s a bummer to watch.

...What had been a fast and loose assault on all things liberal has grown darker and less entertaining, especially with the growing revolution in the Middle East, a phenomenon Mr. Beck sees as something of a beginning to some kind of end. He’s often alone in the studio with his chalkboards and obscure factoids, a setting that reminds me of an undergrad seminar on macroeconomics with an around-the-bend professor I didn’t particularly enjoy.

...“He used to be a lot funnier,” said David Von Drehle, who wrote the article in Time magazine. “He was the befuddled everyman and something entirely new, but the longer people have listened to his ranting and raving, the wearier they become. Now you are just getting down to diehards. I mean, how many people were in the Waco compound at the end? A couple of hundred?”

...“When I first came here,” he told his audience on Wednesday, “I had this pie-in-the-sky belief that if I told you the truth, if I verified all of my facts and double-checked, and we could make that compelling case with facts to back it up, the journalists in other places would get curious and they’d use their resources and they’d investigate and they’d prove it right and they’d show it too.” Then he shook his head and laughed bitterly.

HBGary Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

It's interesting how little attention the HBGary matter got in the press. It's like turning over a rock and finding a million scorpions and centipedes. Instead of clearing out the vermin, you look away and carefully replace the rock where it had been.

There is an entire political consulting underworld out there just awaiting exposure by an enterprising reporter. It's also interesting that so much of it is based in Sacramento. Anyone out there looking to collect Pulitzer Prizes? A golden opportunity!

No Escape From Marty Ralph

I was driving home Monday morning, about 1:00 a.m., and I was listening to the radio. I channel-surfed to some random station (92.1 FM?), to a science-related radio show already in-progress, called 'Viewpoints On-line' (or something like that).

The soothing baritone was - familiar. It dawned on me: it's Marty Ralph, talking about Atmospheric Rivers again!

In the early 80's, I taught a meteorology lab class: part of the undergraduate Meteorology curriculum at the University of Arizona. Marty was one of the students in the class. I lost track of him over the years, but apparently he went to UCLA for graduate school. Nowadays, he has a position of considerable heft over there at NOAA. And he is all over the media too. And now, he's speaking to me from my car radio.

From Marty Ralph, there is no escape. He is the Lady Gaga of Meteorology.

Can't We All Just - Get Along?

When I was a kid, our family had a collie named Prince.

One day, my sisters and I were frolicking in the yard with Prince, when we had a devilish thought: let's stage a fight for Prince's benefit! So, very abruptly and without warning, we started shouting, turned on each other, and started fighting.

No one was more surprised than Prince! His barking jumped an octave, and he tried to force his way in-between us. Failing that, he circled us, bit into the ragged ends of our blue jeans, and did his frantic best to pull us apart. Poor Prince! We relented, started laughing and quickly turned to pat and console our poor, worried dog.

I felt a bit like Prince when I read this story regarding Andrea Rosen:
As a member of the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association, she pushed developer Paul Petrovich to make changes to the residential and commercial project he plans in the former railyard next to Curtis Park.

Now Rosen is pursuing her own, much smaller development project in midtown Sacramento. And Petrovich, who says Rosen and other Curtis Park activists put him through years of hell with his project, is doing what he can to foment neighborhood opposition.

...Much of the debate seems to center on Rosen's personality. Petrovich, who developed the nearby Whiskey Hill lofts on S Street between 21st and 22nd, sent a fiery e-mail in November to the neighborhood association board calling Rosen "pushy" and urging them to "start with a white sheet of paper and demand what is best for YOUR neighborhood."

"I don't know know how to define irony any better than this," Petrovich said in a phone interview about Rosen's project. "The smoke had not even settled in Curtis Park and she comes in here with her bullying tactics."
I've known Andrea for years, and she's a real sweetheart. As a resident of Curtis Park, I quietly and vaguely supported efforts to hold Petrovich to a high standard with regards to the railyard. I mean - who wants a toxic neighborhood? - but I didn't follow the matter closely-enough to read the various, thick reports.

Nevertheless, a couple of years ago, I noticed a certain shrillness creeping into accounts of the activities of the neighborhood railyard activists reporting in the local neighborhood newspaper, the Sierra-Curtis Viewpoint. And the project seemed to be taking an unusually-long time to come to fruition. Petrovich was apparently being held to a high standard. Maybe too high? Hard to tell without reading the various, thick reports, but my vague support of the neighborhood activists waned to a kind of vague neutrality. After all, successful in-fill development in Sacramento depends on developers like Petrovich, and if we want to mitigate the city's humongous impact on the natural world, and keep Sacramento from growing across the Valley like some kind of adolescent octopus, we have to have in-fill development. Like him, or not, Petrovich really isn't the enemy. Maybe a friend, even.

So, now this new hullaballoo....

Echoing my poor dog Prince, can't we all just - get along?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

"Oldest Established...." From DMTC's "Guys And Dolls" On "Good Day, Sacramento"

(For some reason, I'm having trouble getting the embedded player to appear here, so just go to the link)

"Fugue For Tinhorns" From DMTC's "Guys and Dolls" on "Good Day, Sacramento"

"Fugue For Tinhorns"

Here is the video I took.

DMTC's "Guys And Dolls" On "Good Day, Sacramento"

For a theater person, 5:15 a.m. is strictly for sleeping, but here I am instead driving to West Sacramento, to KOVR TV-13, to join other DMTC folks for live performances of 'Fugue For Tinhorns' and 'Oldest Established Permamnent Floating Crap Game In New York,' from "Guys and Dolls" on KOVR's daily "Good Day, Sacramento" morning television show.

Orchestra Conductor and Pianist Kay Hight on the set of "Good, Day Sacramento."

Left to right: Kyle Hadley, Andy Hyun, and Michael Ball.

As well as being a performer with DMTC, Michael Ball is promotional director at KOVR TV-13. Michael was our guide this day.

Foreground: Kay Hight and Michael Ball.

In the background is KOVR employee Dale Patterson. Dale was part of the ensemble in DMTC's October/November 1987 production of "Grease".

Newsreader Lori Wallace reads the 6:00 a.m. morning news.

Lori Wallace.

Michael Ball asked Lori Wallace to show everyone her "IFP cable", through which producers issue a constant stream of instructions and advice as she reads the news.

Michael Ball explains the teleprompter (basically, a horizontal TV monitor in the box below, plus a mirror assembly above).

Entering the blue-themed 'Smurf Studio' at KOVR.


Weather Center on a rainy morning..

What the producers look at.

Co-anchor Cody Stark.

DMTC players Steve Mo and Adam Sartain.

It was hard to keep track exactly what was happening, because we weren't privileged to hear what the producers wanted next. So, there was lots of waiting as the heavy cameras mysteriously glided by remote control across the floor. Here, Adam Sartain and Kyle Hadley wait, as one of the directors (Julian?) checks the time and gives a tour to two guests for the eight o'clock hour (gamers who recently founded a social-networking gaming Web Site called Loki's Planet.)

Adam and Kyle wait.

The Loki's Planet gamers puzzle out how they will do whatever they need to do on TV as everyone waits for the producers to return the .

Delivering the weather on a rainy morning.

"Guys And Dolls" - DMTC - Second Weekend - Saturday & Sunday Pix

"Take Back Your Mink"