Friday, November 18, 2011

Slow-Motion Baton Twirling

I was trying to establish that Australian baton twirling has a distinct tradition with distinct, large batons, but by touring YouTube for several hours all I've managed to do is show that Australian baton twirling looks very much like baton twirling everywhere else. Appreciation for serious athleticism is affecting cheerleaders all around the world, and Australia is no exception.

Nevertheless, I thought this was interesting: baton-twirling in slow motion. Slow enough to allow armchair baton twirlers everywhere to comment upon and criticize her technique. Which just increases the performance pressure she must be experiencing. And if there is a distinct baton-twirling tradition there, it gets left in the dust in the effort to perform, and to come up to the accelerating international norm.

So Obama Triangulated On Ozone

Obama threw the environmentalists under the bus, but as I've blogged about before, as the ozone ambient air quality standard gets pushed lower and lower, the law of diminishing returns sets in. It's interesting that many enviros didn't see it that way, and many didn't see this coming.

As the ozone ambient air quality standard drops, more and more people get roped into more and more sacrifice that has less and less value in the real world. Part of the trouble is that there is no apparent threshold for ozone damage to the lungs. Ozone is always harmful, in any concentration, and so there is no logical stopping point. Enviros can always press the standard towards zero, and health science will always support them. And the role of emissions from natural vegetation grows too, with no way to realistically control those. As the standard drops, at some point, the problem becomes difficult to manage.

There are costs to a lower standard, and eventually someone - someone like Barack Obama - does a cost-benefit analysis and finds the environmental case to be weak:
The White House announced the decision the next morning, infuriating environmental and public health advocates. They called it a bald surrender to business pressure, an act of political pandering and, most galling, a cold-blooded betrayal of a loyal constituency.

“This was the worst thing a Democratic president had ever done on our issues,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. “Period.”

...The ozone decision pitted Ms. Jackson, a Princeton-trained chemical engineer and self-described “New Orleans girl,” against the White House chief of staff, William M. Daley, a son and brother of bare-knuckled Chicago mayors who was brought in to help repair relations with business and Congress. It also shows the clout of Cass R. Sunstein, the legal powerhouse who serves, mostly behind the scenes, as the president’s regulatory czar with the mission of keeping the costs of regulation under control.

...The standard for ozone was last set in 2008 by the Bush administration at a level of 75 parts per billion, above the range of 60 to 70 recommended by the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel at the time, but never enacted. Environmental and public health groups challenged the Bush standard in court, saying it would endanger human health and had been tainted by political interference. Smog levels have declined sharply over the last 40 years, but each incremental improvement comes at a significant cost to business and government.

So Ms. Jackson asked health and environmental groups to hold their lawsuit in abeyance while she reconsidered the ozone standard, a job she expected to complete by the summer of 2010. Until then, an outdated ozone standard of 84 parts per billion, set by the E.P.A. of the Bill Clinton administration in 1997, remained the law.

Delay followed delay until the spring of this year, when Ms. Jackson determined that the standard should be set at 65 parts per billion to meet the Clean Air Act’s requirement that it be protective of public health “with an adequate margin of safety.” At 65 parts per billion, the agency calculated, as many as 7,200 deaths, 11,000 emergency room visits and 38,000 acute cases of asthma would be avoided each year.

...Ms. Jackson thought she had a deal. In early July she sent the White House a 500-page package with a detailed cost-benefit analysis for what she assumed would be routine vetting and approval.

“We were absolutely, 100-percent certain we were going to get this ozone rule,” one senior E.P.A. official said.

...The ozone rule became a symbol of what opponents called a “regulatory jihad” and brought out a swarm of industry lobbyists and Republicans in Congress who identified it as one of their top targets.

...Against all this, there was no one lobbying strongly within the White House for the tougher standard.

...In charge of Mr. Obama’s effort to reduce regulatory costs and burdens was Mr. Sunstein, on leave from teaching at Harvard and a onetime colleague of Mr. Obama’s at the University of Chicago Law School. One of the most respected liberal legal scholars of his generation, he is known for his at-times unconventional thinking on regulation and economic behavior.

Mr. Sunstein had his pick of jobs in the new administration. He chose the obscure regulatory affairs office as a potential laboratory for his sometimes iconoclastic views. He has challenged the utility of command-and-control-style federal regulation and has written favorably of programs to “name and shame” polluters as a way of getting them to clean up their operations without enforcement actions or fines. He has sought creative ways to encourage responsible economic and environmental behavior without using the heavy hand of the state.

Mr. Sunstein never really warmed to the proposed ozone rule, not least because it would, by law, be subject to revision again in 2013. He also noted that in nearly half of the E.P.A.’s own case studies, the cost of the new rule would outweigh the benefits, raising additional alarms.

...Mr. Josten added: “The funny thing was nobody wanted to come right out and say, ‘Are you guys thinking this through? Your boss is up for re-election next year, do you really want to shut down industrial permitting? You’re going to have a major negative impact on the economy.’ ”

...Charles D. Connor, president of the American Lung Association and a childhood friend of Mr. Daley’s, opened by discussing the adverse health impacts of ozone. He introduced Monica Kraft, a pulmonologist at Duke University and the president-elect of the American Thoracic Society.

“I told them that we thought a 70 p.p.b. standard was appropriate for health reasons and laid out the statistics on deaths associated with progressively higher levels of ozone,” Dr. Kraft said. She emphasized the damage smog does to the lungs of even healthy young children.

Mr. Daley listened politely, then asked, “What are the health impacts of unemployment?” It was a question straight out of the industry playbook.

Another member of the group introduced polling data showing strong public support for tougher air rules. Mr. Daley cut him off with an expletive, saying he was not interested in polls.

The Lobbyists Who Tried To Get Paid For Letting Qaddafi Skate

Thank God for WikiLeaks Libya! Turn over rocks and the roaches scurry! The RNC connection was most-crucial, but, sadly, the application to act as lobbyists is still pending:
The papers contained a shock for the Americans: a three-page letter addressed to Colonel Qaddafi on April 17 by another partner in the proposed deal, a Belgian named Dirk Borgers. Rather than suggesting a way out of power, Mr. Borgers offered the Libyan dictator the lobbying services of what he called the “American Action Group” to outmaneuver the rebels and win United States government support.

Noting that the rebels’ Transitional National Council was gaining control of Libyan assets abroad, and attaching a registration form showing that the rebels had engaged their own lobbyists, Mr. Borgers said it was time for Colonel Qaddafi to fight back with his own Washington representatives.

“Our group of Libyan sympathizers is extremely worried about this and we would like to help to block the actions of your international enemies and to support a normal working relationship with the United States Government,” the letter said. “Therefore it is absolutely required to speak officially and with one strong voice with the American Government.”

Mr. Borgers ended the letter with the words “Your Obedient Servants,” signing his own name and adding those of the four Americans.

The letter is especially awkward for Mr. Livingstone — described by Mr. Borgers in the proposal as the “recognized best American anti-terrorism expert” — who closed his Washington consulting firm in April to plan his campaign for governor.

But Mr. Livingstone said that he had never seen the letter before this week and that it distorted his intentions. “That doesn’t reflect our view at all,” Mr. Livingstone said. “Our whole goal was to get the Qaddafis out of there as fast as possible.”

Another member of the proposed American team, Marty Martin, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who led the agency’s Qaeda department from 2002 to 2004, said he, too, was chagrined to see Mr. Borgers’s letter this week.

“We were not there to be lobbyists for Qaddafi,” said Mr. Martin, who retired from the C.I.A. in 2007. “I was not told anything about that letter.”

The other American partners were Neil S. Alpert, who had worked for the Republican National Committee and the pro-Israel lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Randell K. Wood, a Kansas City, Mo., lawyer who has represented Libyan officials and organizations since the 1980s. (Neither Mr. Alpert nor Mr. Wood responded to requests for comment.)

...Mr. Borgers said he, too, wanted to “stop the butchering,” but he offered a positive spin on Colonel Qaddafi’s record.

“I don’t think he was that brutal a dictator,” Mr. Borgers said. “He created a country out of nothing over 42 years. He created a very good lifestyle for the people.”

Of the $10 million fee the group sought, Mr. Borgers said, “The aim was not to make money.” On the other hand, he added, “If you want to put up a serious operation in Washington, I think you need at least $10 million.”

...But the wheels of the Washington bureaucracy grind slowly. A Treasury Department spokeswoman, who would speak of confidential licensing matters only on the condition of anonymity, said the group’s application to accept millions from the vanquished Qaddafi government “is still pending.”

Fairbanks Freakin' Freezes

Serious winter came early this year. I like this quote:
“There’s some inconsistencies in the models right now,” meteorologist Julie Malingowski said. “If it does clear out, we’re doomed.”

Bubble, Bubble, Toil And Trouble

In May, my brother-in-law assured me Gingrich was doomed in the Republican nomination race, because Gingrich is actually a liberal.

Surprise! He's B-A-A-A-C-K!

Gingrich is not a liberal, but maybe he's a zombie conservative instead. Whatever he is, I understand he eats brains.

Pakistani Spiders Make Do

Jerry sends this:
An unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan has been that millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the flood waters.

Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees became cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenonemon before - but they also report that there are now less mosquitos than they would expect, given the amount of stagnant, standing water that still remains.

The Supercommittee Has Taken Black Friday Hostage

Or so you'd think if you actually believed this article, which I doubt more than two retailers ever have:
Retailers are worried that failure by the committee could dampen consumer confidence on Black Friday.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wailing And Gnashing Of Teeth From Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson doesn't like how the Republican nomination process is falling out so far. And I can't say I blame him. The Republicans are displaying the same sort of problem the Democrats displayed in the 80's: a weak bench. The reasons differ: Democrats relied too heavily on the regulatory state and the courts in the 80's, whereas the Republicans currently rely too heavily on big business.

In a democracy, however, the best leaders generally come through the legislature. Obama, for example, came through the Illinois legislature. But among the GOP, respect for the legislative process is at an ebb. Respect for outsiders, businessmen in particular, is quite high (e.g., Herman Cain). But outsiders generally don't know enough to get the job done.

The last really successful outside leader was General Eisenhower. Above all, Ike respected people who got things done. Ike liked empire-building businessmen: it was analogous to breaking Nazi Germany the way Ike had done. That's one reason Ike had such disdain for his own VP, Richard Nixon: he couldn't figure out exactly what Nixon had ever really done with his life. The same problem the GOP primary voters face when trying to gauge Romney, Gingrich, Paul, Bachmann, Santorum, etc. Who are these folks, anyway? But Ike could respect legislative work.

Active legislators get things done in a democracy, but who can remember any laws connected with the GOP field? They've been distracted by the lights and fury of the stage - by TV, by money, by applause. That's not where it's at, though.

So, things will probably get worse before they get better, but that's life in a democracy:
Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. And his general election campaign will be an utter disaster for conservatives as he takes the GOP down with him and burns up what it means to be a conservative in the process.

...Mitt Romney will be the nominee because the other candidates, right now, are a pretty pathetic lot.

The base will not forgive Rick Perry his immigration sins. In fact, that has hurt him far more than his debate performances, but his debate performances have hurt him badly. Perry, who came out principled and fiery with a record others could only envy, has left others with the impression that he’s a poor man’s version of the village idiot, which in the SEC we call “Aggies”. Maybe he can turn it around.

Newt Gingrich will not be the nominee because, despite his daughter’s rebuttals to the horror stories of how Gingrich divorced his first of three wives, Jackie Gingrich told the Washington Post on January 3, 1985, “He walked out in the spring of 1980 and I returned to Georgia. By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said Daddy is downstairs and could he come up? When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from the surgery.”

Gingrich went on to cheat on the second wife with the third. Regardless of the actual facts or even the spin, he won’t win women.

Herman Cain won’t be the nominee because he can’t win women either. Regardless of what you think of the Politico story, Cain’s handling of the story has been an epic disaster. He’s down at least 10 points with women in Iowa. He’s falling even further and doesn’t even realize it. He’s largely been emboldened by a conservative media that is so used to standing by its men that too few are telling Herman that he is now at the point where he must actually sit and answer questions whether he wants to or not and whether he feels maligned or not and whether I think he should have to or not. If he loses women by as big as he is starting to lose the women, he cannot win.

So Mitt Romney will be the nominee. Conservatives will not rally together with the least of the bad alternatives and Romney, like John McCain before him, will run up the middle to the nomination. But, just like McCain, Romney will not beat Barack Obama.

...I’ve been reading the 200 pages of single spaced opposition research from the John McCain campaign on Mitt Romney. There is no issue I can find on which Mitt Romney has not taken both sides. He is neither liberal nor conservative. He is simply unprincipled. The man has no core beliefs other than in himself. You want him to be tough? He’ll be tough. You want him to be sensitive? He’ll be sensitive. You want him to be for killing the unborn? He’ll go all in on abortion rights until he wants to run for an office where it is not in his advantage.

...To beat Barack Obama, a candidate must paint a bold contrast with the Democrats on their policies. When Mitt Romney tries, Barack Obama will be able to show that just the other day Mitt Romney held exactly the opposite position as the one he holds today.

Voters may not like Barack Obama, but by the time Obama is done with Romney they will not trust Mitt Romney. And voters would rather the guy they don’t like than they guy they don’t trust.

...It is striking to me that in 2012 there is broad based popular angst against Wall Street and Washington and the Republican Party is on the verge of nominating a multi-millionaire scion of the Rockefeller Wing of the Republican Party whose closest encounters with the common man are accidentally touching one of the many hired hands in one of the many rooms of one of his many mansions. But then many of the DC-NYC Republican “conservatives” who support Romney are the same, only coming into contact with regular people when they are served their breakfast by a steward in the first class car on the Acela Express.

Cashed-Up Bogans

Australia's pride (and terror):
Mr. Dinnison proudly calls himself a Cub—a Cashed-up Bogan, a bogan referring to Australian slang for an uneducated blue-collar worker. Books and documentaries are coming out about this group, exploring the country's unease with the thought that conspicuous consumption by undereducated people is what is helping to keep the country afloat.

"I have civil-servant friends who talk about giving it all up and going to the work in the mines," says David Nichols, author of "The Bogan Delusion", a sociological book about the riches of blue-collar Australians. Jules Duncan, who filmed a short documentary called "Cashed-Up Bogans" that he is hoping to turn into a feature, admits jealousy prompted his curiosity. "But I've come to respect these people who are just doing what I'd be doing if I wasn't a self-indulgent filmmaker," he says.

Mr. Dinnison hopes to be promoted to another underground job paying $1,400 a day, up from $800 a day. Lina Mitchell, his 28-year-old fiancée, said she is committed to teaching Mr. Dinnison how to manage his money. "The miners will spend the money on cars, bikes, parties," she said. Mr. Dinnison, meanwhile, said he is committed to mining. "I'm qualified enough now that I'll always have a job," he said. "Without mining, I'd be an auto mechanic making $600 a week. I love mining, mate."

A History Of The Sky

Twenty-One Pedestrians Arrested In Las Vegas

In Las Vegas, nothing is left to chance:
Reacting to stories that they are so in cahoots with police and authorities that they behave like little more than casino bellmen, 21 Occupy Las Vegas protesters sat in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard this morning intending to be cited.

...In Las Vegas, the group is leasing property between Paradise Road and Swenson Street near UNLV campus.

The fact that the land is leased, that Las Vegas police are advised about the group’s protest plans and that police are welcome -- even as undercover officers within the group -- has led many to believe the group is little more than an urban campout.

“This was about how serious we are about what we’re doing,” said Jennifer Reed, a UNLV graduate student who drove many of the cited protesters back to the encampment this morning.

She said narratives about the group were “that we’re not really serious, that we’re cooperating with authorities. We want to show that we’re very serious and we’ll escalate if we have to in order to get our message out.”

She quickly adds: “Peacefully.”

...Protesters were cited for being a “pedestrian in a roadway,” police said. They were transported to a temporary processing site at Cashman Center.

At Joe The Plumber's Storage Unit

M.: I've got to get to work before too long. We won't have time to empty the storage unit this morning.

J.: Yeah, I guess I'm not ready.

M.: Look at all this - stuff!

J.: I gave some away to friends, and they already sold it to other friends for cash. It hurts!

M.: May as well start near the front. What's this thing?

J.: It's a Gold's Gym Powerflex! You get the best workout from it!

M.: It's so tall it won't stand up in the garage. We'll have to lay it on its side. It'll be a new obstacle course for the rabbit!

J.: Hard times!

People Are Beginning To Chafe At Political Inaction

One of the wonders of our age has been the disconnect between increasingly-urgent problems in the country, and a Congress slouching towards inaction. For whatever political issue and from whatever political stance, inaction is the watchword.

People are beginning to get fed up.

I like the over-the-top rhetoric in this editorial about immigration. Got to start somewhere!:
The following opinion by Rebecca Lockhart, speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, was received by the Daily Herald on Friday.
...This year, the Utah Legislature formulated a potential solution for Utah after growing tired of waiting for our completely dysfunctional federal government to act. A package of four bills was signed into law that proposes comprehensive reform including enforcement measures and a guest worker program that provides funding to fight identify theft and fraud. It's a plan that involved painful compromise from all sides and is now being lauded across the country as model legislation.

Not everyone is happy with it, including some members of the Legislature, but as a body we're proud of the work we've done. Like most legislation, we'll keep working to iron out any remaining kinks.

But after all our efforts, after the blood, sweat and yes, tears, where is our federal delegation when we ask for support? They run for cover wherever they can find it or throw rocks at those trying to make a difference.

Congressman Jim Matheson feels so strongly about the issue that he gives it a total of four sentences on his "Issues" page. Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Mike Lee dismissed the efforts out of hand. Rep. Chaffetz says it's unconstitutional. But that's why we built in a two-year delay -- to apply for and receive a waiver to show what we can do. Sen. Lee says he doesn't think a federal waiver is an option. How about he propose federal legislation to make it an option? Sen. Orrin Hatch said he couldn't help us. Congressman Bishop remains curiously silent. These self-proclaimed champions of states' rights didn't even give us the courtesy of pointing to Utah as an example of what could be a starting point at the federal level.

Our federal delegation has watched the Legislature do the heavy lifting to get immigration reform off the ground, while their political will atrophies in the airless echo chamber of Washington, D.C. We bleed in the trenches while they wallow in the temporary glory of meaningless blood-boiling rhetoric. Immigration is just one more in a long list of examples where states bear the brunt of failed federal policy. Meanwhile, Congress benefits politically from an ongoing untenable situation. They refuse to take the risks necessary in order to tackle the issue and implement solutions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hints Of Belen

Bruce sends this. Arnold goes to New Mexico to help with his comeback:
The Belen High School football team and cheerleaders were also asked to be in the film. Jaramillo said $5,000 was donated to the high school, plus $500 was given to each of BHS' clubs.

...Herman Tabet, owner of Tabet Lumber and Concrete, Inc., said he wishes film crews would make these types of purchases two or three times a year.

Pat Trujillo, a clerk at Bethlehem Trading Post, said movie crews purchased everything from furniture to antiques for movie sets at their store.

Theresa Padilla, owner of Pete's Cafe, said the movie crew eats at the cafe on a regular basis, and Schwarzenegger has stopped by twice.

"When he came in, I was expecting a group, but I wasn't expecting him," Padilla said.
Movie personnel have also bought supplies from other businesses, including Through the Flower, Becker Street Pub, Adelante Bargain Square Thrift and Ranchero Builders Supply Co., said former mayor Ronnie Torres.

...The movie set contains business signs from Reydar's Barber Shop and Craig Tires, Inc., as well as historic Belen photographs, Torres said.

"They've incorporated a lot of the local community in the story line," Torres said, adding the high school mascot in the movie is an eagle like BHSs' mascot. "They want it to be as authentic as possible for Belen, even though (the town) isn't called Belen."

...The film, directed by Kim Jee Woon and produced by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, details a small town sheriff, Schwarzenegger, and his inexperienced staff who find themselves standing between a fugitive cartel leader and the Mexican border, according to a Lionsgate news release.

Things I Want To See On YouTube That Just Aren't There

Last year, I saw this wonderful work-related video of a machine in a blasted-looking, cratered dump near Fairbanks, Alaska whose sole task is to destroy old wood stoves and rip them into tiny pieces.

Old wood stoves in Fairbanks that smoke too much are being replaced by newer, tonier models, but that means the old wood stoves collected at the dump have to be converted into scrap metal for recycling. This machine was built for that purpose.

Because it was a work-related video, I couldn't get anyone here interested in posting it on YouTube, so I'm hoping, via the Internet, that I can convince someone in Fairbanks, AK to go down to the dump with a video camera and capture the machine in action. It was a noisy, smelly, spinning, clawing science-fiction-monster-like machine - Dr. Seuss meets The Terminator meets H.G. Wells' 'War of the Worlds' - and it spells doom to wood stoves.

I like machines whose sole task is to rip things apart!

I Feel Uncomfortable With Certain T-Shirts

Over the years, I've accumulated certain T-Shirts that I'd like to wear more often, but now is never the time to wear them.

I have my 'Believe' T-Shirt, with Barack Obama on it. Nice T-Shirt - you can almost hear the angels singing - but barely tolerable in November 2008, and not since.

Then there's the Lady Gaga T-Shirt featuring her bare derriere. Fortunately, the derriere tucks in below the waistline, so I can hide it for a time, but if I get even the slightest bit sloppy and the shirt gets untucked, I'm toast.

After 9/11, I got a T-Shirt screaming "AMERICA!", with eagles and flags and all kinds of patriotic excess. Unwearable.

Also after 9/11, I got this cute T-shirt with a Tele-Tubby wearing a beard and Afghan garb, and it's called 'Tali-Tubby'. I'd like to wear it, but my doppelganger with the "AMERICA!" T-Shirt would probably feel obliged to beat me up.

Sally got me a T-Shirt called "California", featuring a Soviet-looking Golden Bear with a Soviet-looking red star. She wonders why I don't wear it, but it's transparent GOP propaganda, and I just can't. But somehow it's not transparent to her....

Then there are the logo T-Shirts. I have one for Saturn, the defunct GM brand. Great T-Shirt. Beside the point, these days.

Then there's the T-Shirt my Brother-In-Law sent me, featuring a picture of a bulldog with an eyepatch and scars, and says "Lost. Answers to the name Cuddles." A literal-minded lady at the gym missed the humor, and with concern in her voice asked about the health of the dog. What's the use of humorous T-Shirts whose humor escapes most people?

I have two new big-sky Indian T-Shirts, with horses and clouds and all kinds of Native American paraphernalia, but they are just too over-the-top, somehow. Joe The Plumber likes them, and they are cool, but I need a drum circle to feel comfortable.

Then there's the best T-Shirt of all, for the Sarcasm Society of America: "Like we need your help!" Unfortunately, it's too small.

I wear DMTC T-Shirts, but even there, there are a few I don't know what to do with. Like the 2002 "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat" T-Shirt we wore on-stage for Pharoah's number. We were supposed to be Pharaoh's security detail, but there is a misspelling on the shirts that C. ordered: "Securitity" they say. I don't want to walk around getting randomly-corrected by people who can't endure misspellings.

Yeah, my closet is filled to the brim with interesting and nearly-useless stuff!

The Juncos Are Back!

Wherever they went for most of the year, they're in my back yard again for the winter!

Woman Behind The Voice At 200 Airports

Gabe likes this.

You Know The Occupy Movement Has Succeeded, Because The 1% Desperately Want To Join

Here's a movement that caters to the 99%, and so that means almost everyone is a member. But not everyone is a member, of course. But instead of waving their 1% status as a badge of honor, some members of the 1% are desperate to join the 99%. Even Rushbo is showing signs of wanting to join. Rushbo? Yeah! It's hilarious, and sad, at the same time!

What did Groucho Marx say?:
First, Jay-Z:
Just last week, the former Shawn Carter was photographed strutting around in a T-shirt with the phrase “Occupy Wall Street” selectively scrawled over to read “Occupy All Streets.” Stick it to the man! Rock and roll! That bold fashion statement was then followed by the inevitable business announcement that the shirts were a new creation from Jay-Z’s own Rocawear line, available for $22 — tax and shipping not included.

...So perhaps the prompt and near-universal retching that greeted the Rocawear shirt came as a surprise to Mr. Z. He is, after all, a kid who grew up in the Marcy Houses projects of Bed-Stuy, who gained his first hit bragging about being “from the school of the hard knocks.” Wasn’t he just doing what entrepreneurs with a stash of Hanes beefy tees and a dream have always done, every time an imperative to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” or “RELAX” enters the vernacular. Was he not merely reflecting a popular sentiment? It’s not as if the man’s going to go sleep in a tent downtown; it’s just a shirt, for God’s sake.

But “Occupy Wall Street” isn’t a demand for “More Cowbell.” As Styleite explained, the movement is “about money and the disadvantageous lack thereof,” thereby making profiting from it just “a supportive sentiment rendered pretty hollow.” Or, as Mogulite put it, that shirt is a gesture that “misses the whole point.” The Hollywood Reporter says this week that the shirts are being pulled, though the made-in-Mexico garb is still for sale as of today – and, hilariously – now described as “drawing inspiration from the ‘Watch The Throne’ Concert Tour.” Oh, so that’s where he got the idea. The tour.

...Like so many in his industry, Jay-Z has built his entire career on that braggadocio dualism, painting himself as the man who hangs with De Niro but will be “hood forever.” Right, and Madonna’s just a simple girl from the Midwest.

...But even the Sex Pistols knew that at a certain point, you can’t sell revolution. And while parks and streets teem with protesters, it seems pretty clear that if there’s one thing nobody much feels like occupying today, it’s a stupid shirt, sold by a millionaire, signifying nothing.

Then, Russell Simmons:
Simmons, co-founder of pioneering Def Jam Records label and chief of an entertainment business empire, insisted that Jay-Z’s loot from the now-canceled clothing deal would amount to “less than what it what it would cost him to buy one earring back for Beyonce.” Jay-Z, he said, “doesn’t even own the company. He sold it years ago. But just by wearing the shirt he’s inspired lots of kids who might not know about the movement.”

...Simmons did not shy away from questions about his own business achievements, which have landed him squarely in the 1 percent of the income bracket.

“I benefit off the tax code but I’m ready to pay more taxes,” he said, while sporting a 99 percent button on his hooded sweat shirt. “I don’t like it that my secretary pays more in taxes than me. I’d rather give my money to charity than the war machine.”

...At the same time, he defended a man’s right to swing a deal for his own corporation. To suggest otherwise, he said, was a diversion from the core issues of corporate greed and legalized bribery.

“To say it’s hypocrisy is an insensitive thought process,” Simmons said. ”If you think that one person who has resources cannot get involved, then that’s just sad.”

...Asked why his own corporation does not make clothes in America, Simmons said that as a competitive businessman he had no choice but to position himself in a global market where labor is cheap.

“Because my company would close and all the workers would lose their jobs,” he said flatly.

...Simmons said ridding the Hill of lobbyists makes more sense than beating up on Jay-Z for not realizing that an anti-corporate revolution cannot be easily merchandised.

“Everybody’s got a different role,” he said. “My role” — and Jay-Z’s presumably — “is to give money and act as a mouthpiece.”
And now, even Rush Limbaugh (talking about Chelsea Clinton's new gig on NBC News):
Now, that gets to the other point of this. Let’s go down to Occupy Wall Street or wherever else that there’s an Occupy, or go wherever there is a collection of liberals. What are they mad about? They’re mad about the 1 percent, and what are they mad about about the 1 percent? The 1 percent’s got it all. The 1 percent has everything and they’re not sharing it with anybody, and they didn’t work for it. There aren’t any jobs for anybody else because the 1 percent are making sure they’ve got all the jobs and they’ve got all the money.

So here we come with Mr. Democrat Party, the highest ranking, biggest star, most respected member of the Democrat Party, and with pure nepotism and nothing else his daughter, who is unqualified for this job, gets pushed ahead of everybody that works at NBC and gets this job. This is the quintessential thing the 99 percent are fed up with, that they don’t have a chance, that the game’s rules are rigged, that everything’s stacked against them…

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Frodo, Don't Wear The Ring" - 'Flight of The Conchords' - Lord of The Rings Song

Last Friday, as I turned the lights up and down on passing whims (in my crucial, solitary role as Light Board Operator for "Bye, Bye Birdie"), I distracted myself by texting my sister. What, we wondered, will become our new obsession, now that "Breaking Bad" and "True Blood" are sailing to the horizon? One must have an obsession, of course, at all times! Obsession nakedness is just wrong!

My sister recommends "Flight of the Conchords." She's already rabidly obsessed.

Myself, I've never seen the duo perform on TV, but "Flight of the Conchords" has that crucial Kiwi angle I prize so much. Not so much Antipodean as Aotearoan. And they have a big (and growing) fan base too.

The carotid artery is here. Have a bite!

Anita O'Day - Love For Sale

Two weeks ago, while channel-surfing, I caught a documentary regarding jazz singer Anita O'Day (Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer), and so, on Sunday, when I saw her "Live in Tokyo '63" CD over at Dimple Records, I just had to pick it up.

She's just amazing in every way. A wizard!

Beauty AND Brains!

I was reading this month's selections from The History Book Club, and was surprised to learn from a synopsis of a new biography by writer Richard Rhodes, that mathematically-talented Hollywood Golden Age actress Hedy Lamarr co-invented a communications technique used in some of today's cell phones:
Avant garde composer George Antheil, a son of German immigrants and neighbor of Lamarr, had experimented with automated control of musical instruments, including his music for Ballet Mécanique, originally written for Fernand Léger's 1924 abstract film. This score involved multiple player pianos playing simultaneously.

Lamarr took her idea to Antheil and together, Antheil and Lamarr submitted the idea of a secret communication system in June 1941. On August 11, 1942, US Patent 2,292,387 was granted to Antheil and "Hedy Kiesler Markey", Lamarr's married name at the time. This early version of frequency hopping used a piano roll to change between 88 frequencies and was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam. Although a presentation of the technique was soon made to the U.S. Navy, it met with opposition and was not adopted.

The idea was not implemented in the USA until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. Perhaps owing to this lag in development, the patent was little-known until 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr an award for this contribution. It is reported that, in 1998, Ottawa wireless technology developer Wi-LAN, Inc. "acquired a 49 percent claim to the patent from Lamarr for an undisclosed amount of stock" (Eliza Schmidkunz, Inside GNSS), although expired patents have no economic value. Antheil had died in 1959.

Lamarr's and Antheil's frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as COFDM used in Wi-Fi network connections and CDMA used in some cordless and wireless telephones.

Joe The Plumber Divests Himself Of His Material Goods

With his honor questioned, and his finances in disrepair, Joe the Plumber is divesting himself of many of his belongings: specifically, those goods in his storage unit underneath the WX portion of Highway 50 just south of downtown.

Closing the storage unit is Joe's first goal, but since I'm his friend, I'm offering to hold and store many of his belongings until such time as he needs them again. But that meant I had to get my act in gear and start cleaning up the basement and garage. And that meant finally facing the boxes of DMTC programs in the basement.

As DMTC Theatrical Historian, my approach to storing DMTC materials has been fairly simple: save everything I can get my hands on! But there comes a price for such an approach, and I was beginning to pay it.

For example, I had an entire box of "Annie Get Your Gun" 2007 programs. That's about 500 programs. Why save 500 programs when saving 150 would do? That's still probably enough to meet the rampaging demand for such programs.

So, in short order, by tossing out gross excess from several shows, I was able to make some space for Joe's belongings, with no real impact on my historical duties.

Today, I feel like I have a cold from the respiratory impact of all the dust (including fiberglass dust) I raised by mucking about in so many boxes (I'm going to have to vacuum that area next). Over the next few days, we'll start moving the goods in.

Then, after Joe's affairs are finally settled, the grim wait to see what Joe does next....

Monday, November 14, 2011

We're Extending The Partisan Divide South Of The Border

Part of the trouble with the narco-war being waged in Mexico right now is that the Republican/Democrat, red/blue divide in the United States is being replicated south of the border, with terrible consequences.

Right now, elements of the GOP, namely, Second-Amendment absolutists who prize their ability to hold gun shows without restraint, are effectively collaborating with the Los Zetas cartel, by delivering arms right to them. Los Zetas get their guns, in part, from under-regulated U.S. gun shows, and SOMEONE in the United States is making a lot of money from the trade.

The idea currently floating around the GOP (e.g., by presidential candidates like Rick Perry) to send U.S. troops into Mexico to fight the drug trade is meant instead to accelerate this lucrative trade. A corrupted U.S. military would be an immense boon to the arms trade, and likely the drugs trade as well. Corrupted commanders could make princely salaries! Corrupted troops too! Everyone would benefit (except for your average Mexican, or American, of course). And we would import the accompanying violence right into the United States.

At the same time, elements of the U.S. Government, first under Bush (Wide Receiver), and now also under Obama (Fast and Furious), have decided, along with elements of the Mexican Government, to arm the Sinaloa Cartel in its battle with Los Zetas.

When the GOP attacks Attorney General Eric Holder regarding Fast and Furious, they do so at the bidding of their masters, Los Zetas, who fiercely resent the arming of the Sinaloa Cartel.

I can understand the decision to support the Sinaloa Cartel. The heavily-armed and well-trained Los Zetas are C-R-A-Z-Y, and they must be stopped! And the enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all. Still, it's a decision fraught with peril.

From my point of view, the decision to support the Sinaloa Cartel is also convenient. It maneuvers the Second Amendment absolutists, who have always been a thorn in my side anyway, into the position of being traitors to the United States. If they maintain the Second Amendment grants them the perfect freedom to arm mortal enemies - foreign enemies - of the United States, without any interference from anyone, God help them. You know what needs to be done with traitors.....

It would be nice to debate these matters in Congress first, of course. Matters of such grave importance regarding foreign policy should be debated. Still, Congress is busy blocking Obama's domestic agenda these days. No time for the really-important stuff:

Here is an interesting article:
In Washington pundits and pols have beat the drums of war calling for more intervention. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, recently convened hearings on a bill to designate Mexico’s organized crime groups as “terrorists.”

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the former drug czar, took to the podium at a recent conference on crime and terrorism at George Washington University to sound the alarm of a “cross-border threat,” saying, “For God’s sake, these people are fighting for their lives, they are being murdered, these men and women of law enforcement … we need to stand with them.”

Meanwhile, Republicans fire political ammunition at the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder, in particular for the catastrophic Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms operation Fast and Furious, the 2.0 version of the Bush administration’s 2007 Operation Wide Receiver. Both sent high-powered weapons into Mexico and the eager hands of criminals. Under Fast and Furious, the weapons were largely funneled to the Sinaloa cartel, a drug-trafficking syndicate that became a formidable force in the last decade.

Some in Washington have suggested that the war as waged by the U.S.-backed Calderon has effectively shielded the Sinaloa cartel. Asked about allegations at the conference, Gen. McCaffrey responded cryptically, “Almost nothing in life is yes or no.”

A cartel capo speaks.

From inside a Chicago courtroom, a high-level capo with the Sinaloa cartel has mounted his defense by exposing the murky inner workings of organized crime and the U.S. government’s strategy in Mexico. A television beams in the image of Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, his slight frame draped with a prison-issued white shirt, from a minimum-security prison in Michigan where officials transferred Zambada to allow him access to fresh air while minimizing the risk of a jailbreak or assassination.

Zambada was allegedly a senior cartel operative. He is said to have handled the logistics of moving heroin and cocaine into Chicago and delivering the proceeds from drug sales — some $1.3 billion over three years — to two Sinaloa cartel leaders, Ismael “Mayo” Zambada García and Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman.

The Zambada case has electrified the Mexican political class and rattled the U.S. press after his attorneys claimed that U.S. government agents sanctioned his criminal operations. Defense attorneys have demanded government documents related to operations that permitted weapons to flow into the hands of the Sinaloa cartel and government informants responsible for killings and moving drugs. Zambada and his lawyers are arguing that the U.S. government has effectively aided the Sinaloa cartel, or at the very least condoned criminal activity. Zambada’s defense, in essence, is a Mexican legal offensive against the U.S. tactics in the war on the cartels.

It is a bare-knuckled legal fight. On one side are two veteran organized crime attorneys George Panzer and George Santangelo (whom a New York judge once described as house counsel to John Gotti). On the other side is federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, best known for prosecuting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and drawing up the first indictment for Osama bin Laden. The U.S. prosecutors say Zambada’s argument is built on “the unsupported and implausible pretense that an authorized agent of the United States government sanctioned not only the defendant, but the entirety of one of the largest criminal organizations in the world, to traffic limitless quantities of drugs.”

Yet Mexican suspicions of U.S. actions are running higher than ever. Like the disastrous ATF operation Fast and Furious that unleashed thousands of weapons onto the streets of Mexico, the Zambada case has big implications for U.S.-Mexico relations. Luis Astorga, author and researcher in drug trafficking, says Mexicans may begin to see an ally with two faces: “a friendly one that wants to support the institutions of Mexico, and the other that makes deals and undertakes operations like Fast and Furious,” he said. “If it turns out that there was some sort of agreement, that would be a low blow to Mexico because who is paying the cost in blood and politically is Mexico, not the United States.”

Panhandler Beaten

I saw the flashing police car lights, and I wondered what was up:
A panhandler at the busy freeway off ramp at 16th and W streets was beaten and robbed by two other panhandlers who said he was occupying "their spot," according to the Sacramento Police Department.

Sacra-Melo Theatre Profiled

On page 73 of the November "Inside The City", the new theater company at the Delta King is profiled:
The theater is Sacra-Melo, a musical parody playhouse that completed its maiden voyage Oct. 29 with a parody of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Housed aboard the Delta King in Old Sacramento, the theater boasts foot-stomping family fun, live ragtime piano and a come-as-you-are atmosphere.

“Sacra-Melo is a popcorn, beer and lots of good cheer musical-parody playhouse,” Winterholler says. He decided upon the name as a cross between Sacramento and melodrama. The theater’s motto is “no drama, just laughs."

Diet Coke Just Doesn't Taste The Same Lately

I am a diet cola addict. Ever since aspartame came out in the early 80's, I've struggled to become completely pickled in the compound. I even liked the taste.

But in the last two weeks, I've noticed most diet cola doesn't taste very good. Maybe something has happened with my biochemistry. I have finally achieved pickledom, and maybe the body is saying it's time for a change....

Grim Milestones Approach

An apprehensive December
Wednesday, Dec 14 2011

5:07-cr-00373-RMW - USA v. Ned Roscoe
5:07-cr-00373-RMW - USA v. John Roscoe

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mexican Cartels Staring Down Anonymous, Bloggers, And Anyone Else Who Oppose Them

Dangerous social-networking times in Mexico. And since the Second-Amendment fanatics that run the NRA these days are becoming enriched from the proceeds of the gun shows that are so essential in supplying the Mexican cartels with the arms they need, it is only a matter of time before Second-Amendment fanatics start employing similar tactics here too:
MEXICO CITY - Gangsters killed and beheaded an Internet blogger Wednesday in Nuevo Laredo, the fourth slaying in the city involving people associated with social media sites since early September.

...The victim, identified on social networking sites only by his nickname - Rascatripas or Belly Scratcher - reportedly helped moderate a site called En Vivo that posted news of shootouts and other activities of the Zetas, the narcotics and extortion gang that all but controls the city.

The beheaded body of another blogger, 39-year-old Elizabeth Macias, who contributed to the blog, was found in the same location in late September.

A young man and a woman were hung from a highway overpass earlier that same month. A sign left with their bodies said they too had been killed for their social media activity.

...Social networks buzzed with the news. Some Twitter and blog posts encouraged others to press on against the criminals despite the dangers.

"No matter, I have to die of something," said one post. "It will be for my people."

With mainstream newspapers and broadcasters terrorized by the criminal gangs, whose violence has killed upward of 50,000 people across Mexico in five years, social media networks have become key information sources in many towns and cities.

...Two weeks ago, a man representing himself as a member of Anonymous, the Internet hacker organization, posted a video on YouTube claiming that the Zetas had kidnapped one of the group. He demanded that the Zetas return the victim unharmed or Anonymous would publish identities of Zetas members and their protectors in government and business.

A few days later, the group said they were dropping the threat because of the danger it posed to innocent lives. A debate raged in Mexico and elsewhere over whether the kidnapping and subsequent threat to the gangsters was real or a hoax.

...A Wednesday posting on Nuevo Laredo En Vivo after the blogger's death declared, "Let's continue denouncing them, now that we've seen it burns them, hurts them .... We have to continue. We can't give in."

Big Grant For The Hiland Theater

This is nice to hear. It's been rocky at times for them:
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Nov. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today it was announced by NDI New Mexico and the Sydney & Andrew Davis Foundation that Sydney and Andrew Davis will donate $1 Million toward the renovation, completion and future support of the Hiland Theater Project in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is in addition to approximately $1 Million of funding given to NDI New Mexico toward the construction of The Dance Barns in Santa Fe and other programmatic support since 1997.

...In collaboration with Bernalillo County, NDI New Mexico is developing the historic Hiland Theater on Central Avenue in Albuquerque. Once renovated, The Hiland Theater will be a vibrant, safe, inviting space for Albuquerque children and families, a centerpiece in the revitalization of the Highland neighborhood and a hub for Residency programs in the central/southern part of the state.

...Since 1994, NDI New Mexico has delivered programs that help New Mexico's children develop discipline, a standard of excellence and a belief in themselves that carries over into all aspects of their lives. ... For more information, visit

The Del Paso Way

M.: So, let me understand this. A vengeful young woman commissioned an attack on you?

J.: Yes, all based on lies. I was able to protect myself fairly well, but as you can see, I took a few hits to the forehead and face.

M.: This might be one of those cases when the police might actually help. I'm worried you might get hit again. If there's a paper trail, they might be able to get the guy put away behind bars.

J.: That's not how we do it in Del Paso. No cops.