Saturday, December 24, 2011

Like All Cantabrians, A. Yearns For A New Start

For folks in the Red and Orange Zones, life is increasingly miserable. Everyone wants to find a way back to normal, but it's hard to do with the earth shaking all the time.

Based partly in the southern suburbs and partly in Queenstown, A. isn't quite as exposed to calamity as folks are in the eastern suburbs, but he's no different in wanting to find a way towards a better life:
Subject: RE: I hope you are well this Christmas season

Hi Marc,

I was hiking the Rees Track near Queenstown on the fateful afternoon – having a wonderful time on a hike that was longer than my usual time (usually I do about 7 hours max and this was a 9 hour one), oblivious to what was going on in the outside world. Then I got back in cellphone range and got the terrible news. This is going on so long and the experts reckon another 4 years!! How will I cope? ... Also I have my place on the market and am keen on a new place. Mine is listed here, and here is the dream home. If only mine would sell so I could get it!

Have a great holiday season,

Gorgeous places both! The best of good fortune on your plans! All things end, and the Christchurch earthquakes will eventually end too, but in the meantime it’s very hard on everyone who lives there. If you can effect a partial escape, all the better. I need to come down again, but money is a problem at the moment. Maybe this coming year….

Maybe you will allow enough time to stay at the new log cabin home (fingers crossed…). The current place is gorgeous but the log cabin is stunning. We are allowed to dream a bit, aren’t we?!

Absolutely! They’ve been showing ‘Lord of the Rings’ again on TV, and I’m sure there’s an incantation there that can bring you your own special piece of Middle Earth!

The Donald Is Leaving The GOP?

I know it's the Christmas season, but I didn't expect presents! Like this analysis at Daily Kos says:
Which pretty much guarantees that The Donald is in the race!

This is gonna be .... faaaaabulous.

Imagine a 3 way race between Obama, Romney, and Trump: 2 Republican zillionaires splitting the zillionaire vote. Then when Obama is re-elected, the GOP blames Trump, thus avoiding the deep self-refection that is necessary for the party to actually get its act together.

And without such deep self-reflection, the Teahadists decide that there's nothing really wrong with their party or their message, so they don't change anything in 2016. And get creamed again.

I never thought I'd say this but ... Donald Trump, you are doing great things for the Democratic Party! Keep up the good work!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Diagram Of Fault Movements Near Christchurch Since Last Year

Food for thought.

As a first approximation, I still think the North Canterbury Plains are rotating counterclockwise. That would be consistent with this animation of continental drift for the next four million years.

Indeed, one can even start making predictions about future quake epicenters. To me, Waikuku Beach looks plausible.

"The Nutcracker" 2011 - Sacramento Ballet

This year, the people I knew, or knew of, were mostly in Cast 2 (but I saw Cast 3 instead).

Amongst the kids I knew of, Cast 2 featured Viktoria Anderson (I work with her dad), and Declan Smith and Jacob Navas (from DMTC). The Salmon brothers (Campbell and Christian) were also in the show (plus Anastasia Salmon?) And Alex Stewart is a DMTC alumnus too!

In Cast 3, Serrah-Gayle Neal (a young 11-year-old) played Clara, and Luke Westerman played Fritz.

Alexandra Cunnigham was a true delight in the show. Just amazing! The Flakes were excellent too. Stefan Calka was at the height of his powers. Just great!

I was seated in the front row of the cheap seats. There was a crankish fellow sitting next to me who occasionally turned around, because there was a four-year-old girl somewhere behind him who occasionally muttered to herself.

There were several nine-year-old girls behind me, and I could occasionally hear what they said. "I want to be the Sugar-Plum Fairy," one said. During the Arabian divertissement, one of the girls was getting excited by what she saw. When she saw Alexandra Cunningham do an attitude derriere and reach back to hold her ankle, the ambitious little girl whispered "I can do that!"

The crankish fellow sitting next to me started humming with 'Waltz of the Flowers', and also started picking his nose, and I could sense the little girls behind me were becoming appalled.

The coolest calendar! Or, I should say, the hottest! A joint project of Sacramento Ballet and the Firefighters Burn Institute, with proceeds divided between the two organizations. I bought one instantly.

Question time! Let's see, clockwise from left: Annali Rose Clevenger and Stefan Calka (Grand Pas de Deux), Emily Hite, (is that Nicole Haskins?), Alex Stewart, Alexandra Cunningham?, Colby Damon, Ron Cunningham, and Serrah-Gayle Neal

Christmastime Means Quakes In Christchurch

Just when everything seemed like it was getting back to normal, this happens:
A patchwork of faults below Pegasus Bay is responsible for the large earthquakes shaking Christchurch more than six months after the last significant events.

The area of active faulting about 10km off the New Brighton coast and further afield was identified in an undersea survey by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research before the June 13 quakes.

GeoNet project manager Ken Gledhill said it appeared thrust movement on two adjacent offshore faults generated yesterday's 1.58pm 10km-deep magnitude 5.8 quake and the 6km-deep magnitude 6.0 shake at 3.18pm.

After more information was analysed it was possible the quake magnitudes could be upgraded and their locations refined, he said.

Preliminary analysis indicated the small faults were oriented approximately north-south, quite a different direction to the Port Hills and Greendale faults.

Yesterday's quake sequence was similar in some ways to that on June 13, with a smaller foreshock and a larger mainshock, although the difference between the two biggest quakes' magnitudes yesterday was much less, he said.

"The interesting thing is, if you look at their focal mechanisms, both have similar mechanisms and are quite different to the February or June quakes.

"These [ruptures] are at quite a lot steeper angle – it's a thrust event, a pushing up. That doesn't suggest to me they are on the same fault but two different faults, but, of course, the usual caution applies in making such an early analysis."

...Aftershock probability forecasts from GNS Science seismologists had put the chance of such large quakes in the next year as small.

They had said there was about a one-in-two chance of a magnitude 5.5 to 5.9 quake and about a one-in-seven chance of a magnitude 6.0 to 6.4.
The best map on the Web to track these things seems to be here.

A terrible time in the eastern suburbs:
Cantabrians hoping Christmas celebrations would be a brighter end to a bleak year were yesterday dealing with more damage to homes, infrastructure and businesses following two magnitude-5.8 and 6.0 earthquakes in a swarm of large aftershocks yesterday.

The earthquakes, which struck at 1.58pm and 3.18pm yesterday, centred in faults below Pegasus Bay, abruptly ended six months of relative calm for the city and has further set back its recovery.

...Sumner residents were without water after one of the overnight shakes caused a main pipeline leak. The water supply was shut off, and repairs crews were hoping to get it back up by 10am.

This morning, Orion said there were 50 customers without power, and the network in New Brighton and Bexley will remain fragile for some time.

Parker said it was the city's goal to have everything back up before Christmas, but "of course that's going to be dependant on what seismic activity we have over the next 24 hours".

"We'll do everything that we humanly can to make Christmas day normal for our people as they deserve.

...Retailers who have struggled to survive were dealt a major blow as stores packed with Christmas shoppers were evacuated. Some face being shut on the busiest trading days of Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

Liquefaction triggered by the jolts flooded streets and properties. There were large deposits in Bexley, Avondale, New Brighton, Burwood, and Parklands.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Zealanders Debate How Far To Accomodate The Joy Of Chickens

I agree with everything everyone says here, but I'm also the first one to push through the buffet line. But it works the other way around too. Lost mountaineers in NZ snowstorms have talked about being stalked by flocks of keas (the cutest alpine parrots) waiting for death in order to scavenge their protein. It's not personal. The keas are aware we have a rich emotional life too, but you can't just leave all that rich protein just sitting there above snowline when the baby keas are hungry:
A conference of animal lovers had just heard how even chickens feel pleasure and have a life worth living.

Delegates had also adjusted to the uncomfortable information that 300 chickens are killed for food every second in America - and 90 million a year in New Zealand.

...While many animals were discussed at the conference, chickens featured large.

Dr Annie Potts, associate professor and co-director of the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies attached to Canterbury University, took delegates on a journey through the history of the domestic chicken, previously revered in various cultures but downgraded in more recent times to mere food and treated appallingly.

Chickens, she said, display tenderness, deception, altruism and grief and can even suffer from post-traumatic stress.

They endure negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety and boredom - along with intense joy and pleasure.

"They love dust-bathing ... they also love sunbathing and will stretch out their wings to the warmth of the sun's rays."

It was "intensely distressing" that the overwhelming majority of chickens lived in grossly abnormal and unrewarding environments, she said, and urged the conference not to forget about broiler chickens.

...Dr Balcombe, a vegan, spoke about a range of animals.

Sheep are much more perceptive than people think, he said, citing a study which showed they could recognise faces and remember 50 or so of their original flock two years later.

That showed they have an inner mental life; they have consciousness and awareness.

"They have a life that to them is precious."

...We need to think of animals as individuals, he said: "It's not just a gull - it's that gull."

The irony of Western society was that most people abhorred animal cruelty but then funded it at the local supermarket.

NZ Muttonbirders Perturbed Over Radioactivity

One big, connected globe:
There are fears radioactive muttonbirds could be on their way to New Zealand after the migrating birds were found to have been feeding close to Japan's ruptured Fukushima nuclear plant.

Niwa scientists, who in 2005 attached tracking devices to 19 muttonbirds, also known as sooty shearwaters, found nearly half of them were spending months at a time feeding off the coast of Japan.

..."I happened to have spent some time on two muttonbird islands within a few weeks of the disaster and the muttonbirders even then were discussing what this would mean for their Titi (muttonbirds). I'm sure that it's a frequent topic of conversation for them now."

...Rakiura (Stewart Island) Maori, are the only people who have rights to gather muttonbirds on 36 islands, known as the Titi Islands, around Stewart Island. They can harvest chicks each year from April 1 to May 31.

Ms Russell said people either loved or hated muttonbird's oily meat, known for its overwhelming smell when cooked.

"Some people tell you to cook it outside on their barbeques and not to cook it in the house. We cook ours inside because we love muttonbirds, but a lot of other people won't even come into the house when the smell hits them."

Ms Russell said the best way to cook mutton birds was simply to put them in a pot and boil them with vegetables.

Others says it's best to boil them in a pot with a rock for six hours, drain the water, throw out the bird and eat the rock.

GOP Congresscritters Cave

But still, Boehner gets what he wants. But the mold is set, so when the process crashes again in two months, the GOP once again gets the blame:
The temporary extension won’t be identical to the one Senate Dems passed. It will differ in very minor technical ways. House Republicans have already rejected the bipartisan Senate compromise bill, so they’ll have to draw up essentially the same bill from scratch, pass it in the House and then have the Senate readopt it by unanimous consent.

In exchange, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will agree to a formal conference committee. The House will bring its partisan, one-year extenders bill to the table (complete with policy riders and pay-fors that cut programs like Medicare) and the Senate will bring the bipartisan legislation that passed overwhelmingly on Saturday.

This is a fairly minor concession for Reid. He’s been on the record for days now saying he’d resume negotiations on a full-year extension as soon as the House passed the Senate bill. He’s saying that instead of taking the lead on those negotiations with Boehner and McConnell, that a formal conference committee would get first bite at the apple.

Democrats have no reason to believe the conference committee will actually result in anything. For one, Republicans have already announced they will appoint to the conference committee several negotiators who have been on the record in opposition to any extension of the payroll tax holiday. Dems strongly suspect that in the end, just before the two-month stop gap measure expires, the issue will be settled in private discussions between party leaders, regardless of whether there’s a conference.

After conceding for weeks, the Dems finally said this far and no further — and actually meant it. You read that right.
It's important to remember that a lot of Democrats, particularly liberals, are also opposed to extending the Payroll Tax Cut (because it weakens Social Security), and wouldn't mind seeing it lapse, so why exactly the GOP thinks it has leverage is unclear. But the GOP will be back soon on its quixotic mission!

Life Inside Boehner's Box

Apparently there are subtleties in the Payroll Tax debacle underway right now. The Democrats might even help Boehner get out of his box. Whatever. At least the Democrats have the luxury of saying yea or nay, for whatever reasons they please, without paying much of a price:
The Boehner office is arguing that the right way to negotiate this compromise -- perhaps the only way to do it -- is a "conference committee." The two parties from the two chambers appoint negotiators to sit in a room and work out a deal.

...Boehner's choice of a conference committee is an interesting one. As congressional scholar Sarah Binder writes, conference committees have become rarer as party leaderships have become stronger.

...What her analysis implies is that insisting on a conference committee serves three purposes for Boehner. First, it offloads the compromises on a coalition of negotiators who come from different wings of the House Republicans. That protects Boehner in the final agreement. Second, it creates a procedural argument that distracts from the underlying disagreement: House Republicans won't want to extend the payroll tax cut except in the absence of extraordinary policy concessions, like the immediate greenlighting of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Third, it lets Boehner spend some time standing up to the Senate and the president who are trying to rush a compromise through the House -- a move that perhaps gives him some political capital he can spend on the ultimate compromise, as he'll have proven to House Republicans that he didn't capitulate at the first sign of pressure.

A Mormon-GOP Dream

I spent too much time last night watching Cable TV News. What I got from the experience was disturbed sleep. I dreamed....

I dreamed that local actor Gil Sebastian was offering a college course on Mormonism in a college fast-food canteen. Abruptly, he sprung a quiz on the students, but I wasn't paying attention to what Gil had been saying and couldn't answer the questions. I approached Gil and quietly apologized, but he whispered it was alright: the answers were posted on the roof of a nearby campus building, if I could get out there in time to write them down and return before the hour was up.

So, I went out and found the building in question, but there was a complication: the answers were written in Mormon runes on the side of an enormous stuffed brontosaurus, which was sitting in what appeared to be a giant Genie Lift - bigger than a dump truck - which was sitting, in turn, on top of the campus building. The giant Genie Lift sported a giant spoiler, which unfolded down from the roof and which was being spray-painted by a group of mechanical engineering students on the ground. So, I climbed into the Genie Lift and was trying to climb up the side of the stuffed brontosaurus and read the runes when I startled a giant elephant hiding behind the brontosaurus. The elephant panicked and started stomping on me with its big feet. Startled by the commotion, the mechanical engineering students released the spoiler which sprang up from the ground and struck the Genie Lift really hard, which destabilized the Genie Lift, which rolled off the building, and landed upside-down in a big heap on the ground. I never got to return to class and flunked the quiz.

This is what comes of the 24/7 news cycle, and two Mormons being involved in the GOP primary.

Mistah FAB - Ghost Ride It

I'm more and more curious about this fellow. He's local, but he's also regional. Superb timing (like in the "Gone Ri Now" video).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

End Of Direct American Intervention In Iraq, And The Future

The United States should never have gotten involved in Iraq. We just didn't know enough about how the place worked to create a successful outcome. Saddam Hussein knew how Iraq worked, but of course we ignored his hard-won advice. Gary Kamiya:
With the possible exception of the Korean War, never in U.S. history has a major war concluded with so little fanfare.

...To truly honor those brave men and women in uniform – and, even more because there are more of them — the millions of Iraqis whose lives we destroyed, Americans need to look unflinchingly at this dreadful war.

They need to look at the ignorant, twisted and duplicitous men and women who started it, at the institutions that failed to stop it, and at their own complicity in it. Above all, they need to look at its terrible toll.

...We need to remember that this war was launched under false pretenses by an administration that used fake evidence to push it through. Americans need to remember their own understandable fear after 9/11, and how they allowed cunning and manipulative ideologues to exploit it.

We need to remember that the institutions that should have resisted the war – Congress and the media – completely failed to do so. Drugged by post-9/11 patriotism and groupthink, America’s representatives and their journalists abandoned their posts at the crucial hour.

We need to remember that the war was ruinously expensive. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has spent $823 billion through fiscal year 2013. Other analysts have estimated that its total cost, including veterans’ benefits and healthcare, will be $3 trillion.

We need to remember that the war was a total failure. According to the respected Center for Strategic and International Studies:
“[T]he US invasion now seems to be a de facto grand strategic failure in terms of its costs in dollars and blood, its post-conflict strategic outcome, and the value the US could have obtained from different uses of its political, military, and economic resources.”

The war destabilized the Middle East, led to widespread hatred of the U.S., and increased the threat of terrorism. Its real winner was Iran.
And what does the most "ignorant, twisted and duplicitous" man in the world thinks about the future? Martin Peretz:
Our very last troops in Iraq have left for home. And, of course, Iraq is no longer ruled by the Ba’athist tyrant who murdered so many people both within his own country and in Iran that he should be counted in the bloody second circle right behind Hitler and Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. History will record George Bush’s daring in confronting this aggressor-dictator (comparing this daring to the pusillanimity of his father whose secretary of state, James Baker, was actually a fan of Saddam Hussein). And it should also reward his foresight in grasping that Hussein’s downfall alone would not be enough to turn the country into a civilized place. Of course, dreadful errors were made in pursuing the war, some of them through vainglory, others in trying to meet the objections of the demagogic Democratic opposition at home. Much of this opposition was actually ugly, and there was a certain smug satisfaction in various American environs when the bloody habits of armed gangsters, both Shia and Sunni, took over the supposedly liberated streets and neighborhoods, mosques and marketplaces of the country.

...The Sunni-Shia break became ever more serious. Bloody it already always was. Iraq is, for all intents and purposes, now a Shia state, which connotes an anti-Sunni state. This means that it needs to resist the Sunni typhoon now gathering in Syria. ... Perhaps the most devastating and intrinsic evidence of how deeply Shia the rulers in Baghdad are is the fact that on the very morrow of the U.S. departure for Kuwait, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki had Sunni Vice President Tariq Al Hashimi arrested and charged with all kinds of crimes, including murder.
Demagogic Democratic opposition my ass! Want to talk demagoguery? Two words: FOX News! No one celebrated Iraq's descent into anarchy, but the Bush Administration could have anticipated that descent. It didn't even conceive of it. Ignorance! And Saddam Hussein's death toll never came close to matching those of the other tyrants Marty mentions. Facts, anyone?

So, our good intentions were good, our good intentions were great, but the war's consequences are appalling. That's not good enough, Marty! Any fool could have told you that would happen, and many fools did!

Why the enthusiasm about destabilizing Iran? "Pottery Barn" rules, like Colin Powell says. If you don't want to buy it, don't break it. If you don't like Iran now, watch what happens AFTER we invade it! You'll REALLY hate what happens next! It's four times larger and has twice the population of Iraq!

The Utility Of Hostage-Taking Depends On The Value Of The Hostage

A sour Christmas in Washington, D.C.:
After a miserable year being thwarted by his foes on Capitol Hill, Obama turned the tables when the Republican-led House blocked a bipartisan Senate compromise to extend a middle class payroll tax holiday for two months.

“Let’s not play brinksmanship, the American people are weary of it, they are tired of it… I am calling on the speaker and the House Republican leadership to bring the Senate bill up for a vote,” Obama said.

...House Republicans appeared stuck in a corner, partly of their own making, facing criticism from fellow party members in the Senate as polls suggest the showdown may be boosting Obama’s political fortunes.

If the tax holiday is not extended by January 1, payroll deductions will go up from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent and Americans stand to lose an average of $1,000 from their paychecks over the year.
In the summer debt-limit standoff, the Tea Partiers in the GOP seized a high-value hostage: the full faith and credit of the United States. They had to be appeased, and they were.

The Tea Partiers likely learned the wrong lesson: hostage-taking against Obama always works.

This time around, however, they seized a lower-value hostage: the amount of taxes paid by the American middle class. By driving up taxes at this time, there was a major side-benefit: the deleterious effects of higher taxes - crippled consumption - would occur during a Presidential Election year. Angry voters would blame the Obama Administration policies. So, bombs away!

The trouble, of course, is that Obama doesn't really care if payroll taxes go up. It's certainly a small price to pay for his people. Ensuing voter anger is the perfect cudgel to use against the GOP. The GOP becomes the scapegoat and attempts to blame Obama can easily be deflected by pointing to the record. As far as Obama is concerned, he's fine if the hostage gets shot.

E. Explains Christmas

E.: MMMMAAAARRRCCCC! Once, when I was working at the school, a kid came up to me and said he was born on December 24th at five minutes until midnight. He said his mother was keeping track, and it was just before midnight.

M.: Oh...

E.: And I said: "That is impossible! Only our Lord Jesus Christ could be born on December 24th!" So I looked his name up on the computer and found his record (which we have to be careful about leaving on the screen - I was criticized by the principal, because the other kids are so nosy - do you know what I mean?), and, sure enough, he was born on December 24th!

M.: He must be our Lord Jesus Christ.

E.: Jesus was born on Christmas Day, but the Jewish people don't believe in it. My friend M. is Catholic, but her husband E. is Jewish - you know them! - and so when Christmas comes around, he tells her: "There's your thing!" And so the kids get two Christmases! He calls it 'Hannukkah'.

M.: Fun!

E.: The Jewish people were longing for a Savior - what they call a Messiah - and they were L-O-N-G-I-N-G for a Messiah, and Jesus came along and said "I'm the Messiah!" But the Jewish people didn't believe it, and so they put rocks on him.

M.: Terrible!

E.: But then they had the Resurrection, which we celebrate at Easter Sunday. And on Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent, we go to the Church - well, I don't always go to the Church, but we Catholics, we are all supposed to go to the Church - and (illustrating) they make a cross on the forehead with ashes, and they say: "From dust you came, and to dust you shall return." Isn't that nice?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Optimistic In New Zealand About The Tropical Cyclone

Don't worry.... don't worry.... don't worry.... don't.... worry....

Sunday & Monday Headache

I had a persistent headache on both Sunday and Monday. At first I thought it was a little hangover from a bit of Kahlua I had on Saturday night (I have a very low tolerance for alcohol), but the persistence worried me.

There are several reasons why I might get a headache (too much caffeine, caffeine withdrawal, poor posture at the keyboard, teeth grinding at night, TMJ, eyestrain, and high blood pressure) but I finally decided that it was probably high blood pressure.

I'm OK on the BP meds - I think. One can always inadvertently forget. Who knows? But after a rather inglorious aerobics session on Monday evening (just so demanding!), the headache seemed to lift. So, cheers, until it returns....

Cozi - Stamina

Hip Hop Breaking Bad

There are so many opportunities here!

Watching The Drought

There may be opportunities for rain in Northern California, but only after Christmas.

It's getting to be a real crisis!

Drought monitor.

Ugliest Mugshots Of 2011

Well, at least in Orange County. Highly-subjective, I might add.

Slab City Profile

A place where people edge towards freedom:
There are no municipal services, no streetlights and no water or sewage services. But nobody charges rent or collects fees or tries to impose homeowner covenants.

Several hundred people — ranging from the free-spirited young, retired "snowbirds" from colder climes and the tight-money crowd of all ages — live in a ramshackle collection of tents, trailers, aging mobile homes and other ad hoc dwellings. But this unlikely community appears to be growing, perhaps because of the troubled economy.

"It has a post-apocalyptic look and we like it that way," said Don Case, 41, who worked as a chef in Colorado and is planning to move to Alaska — someday. "It's peaceful here, people have it together."

Case has put together a small kitchen and cooks for several neighbors. His specialty: quail fajitas, made from the tiny birds that are prevalent in Slab City.

The community is spread over about 600 acres of rutted roads and bushes. To the west is Niland (population 1,100) and the Salton Sea. To the east is the Coachella Canal (ripe with catfish) and the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range used by the Navy.

..."This is the last truly free place in America," said Jim Merton, 54, who spends the winter at Slab City and the summer in Washington. "I can smoke some weed, drink some beer, be loud and rowdy, skinny-dip in the canal, and there's nobody to tell me I can't have fun."

...Moss prefers her Slab City nickname: Magenta. Nicknames are big here, including Terrible Jim, Container Charlie, Biker, Half-Pint and Moth.

Half-Pint rides a mule named Applejack. When a reporter sought to ask Half-Pint a question, she and Applejack galloped off.

...Mounds of trash dot the rough landscape, including large collections of beer cans. Break-ins are so common that one Slab City resident said he leaves his trailer door unlocked so thieves do not break it down when he is away getting provisions.

Which is not to say that the trappings of civilization are not present in Slab City. There are Saturday night talent shows, movie nights, several open-air eating places, an Internet cafe, a small library and a prefabricated building that is used for Sunday church services and a Wednesday night Bible study class.

The pastor is Patrick McFarland, 61, who lives in Slab City with his wife. To McFarland, Slab City is a community of lost souls, driven to the desert by a crumbling civilization that has rejected God and is paying the spiritual price.

The recession, he said, is only the beginning of the wrath that America will soon feel. The Slab City residents are too poor to contribute to a collection plate but there are compensating factors for a pastor seeking a congregation.

"I have a captive audience," McFarland said.

The name Slab City comes from the concrete foundations that remain from the World War II buildings. A huge swimming pool from that era is now a place for youngsters to ride their skateboards.

There are two large water tanks, long empty. One is festooned with corporate logos, apparently the painter's idea of a satire of consumerist culture. The other is painted with erotica, including various positions from the Kama Sutra.

A deputy from the Imperial County Sheriff's Department visits Slab City on occasion. Federal Express will deliver, but the U.S. Postal Service will not. The Calipatria school system sends a bus for Slab City children.

...Slab City, Neill said, teaches self-reliance to children that they could never learn in the city. Other skills too.

"I'm teaching the kids how to catch rattlesnakes," he said.

Pepper-Spraying Models

Take a bad idea to LA, and look what happens next.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Murdoch And His Minions REALLY Hate Ron Paul!

It's a real 24/7 Hate-A-Thon over there at FOX News these days, all directed to discrediting Ron Paul. Some people have even thought that Paul is ready to implode the way the other Flavor-Of-The-Month candidates have imploded. But Paul has been remarkably consistent, for years, on his foreign policy, and his more-isolationist approach jibes well with the current U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Implosion is unlikely. More likely is that Paul's world view will catch on with the rest of the GOP. The cognitive dissonance in the party regarding Small Government/Big Government might finally be resolved.

The ascendant neo-cons in the GOP are properly fearful that their next grand project, the overthrow of Iran, could be derailed by Paul. Well, war with Iran should be derailed. We have little to gain, and much to lose, by a new war. If it means all of Murdoch's plans get torn to shreds by Paul's ascendance, well, it's a small price to pay.

Maybe Time To Drive A Wedge

Steve Clemons on North Korea:
A Neo-Nixonian approach that I have been supportive of for some time would be one that strongly promoted political and economic engagement with North Korea's leading generals and political glitterati. As they have watched former comrades in Russia as well as China join the world's billionaires rosters and be courted into outfits like the World Economic Forum, there may be a substantial amount of robber baron envy stirring inside North Korea.

One way to change a regime is to seduce half of a nation's top leadership with gold and treasure and a horizon for increasing their power while leaving the other half alone. Some senior Chinese authorities believe that this approach is something that they feel is the only way to eventually get North Korea on a China-like track that emphasizes economic development and progress while not necessarily yielding on political control.

Madeleine's Christmas - DMTC

Where did such a large audience come from? It's like, amazing! And they more shows coming up too.

Thank God for Living Social and Groupon and the rest! (And Al Gore too, for having invented the Internet). Marketing gone wild! Woot! Woot!

And good shows too! And hard work from folks like the Deamers!

Liquidating Assets With Joe The Plumber

Left: At the storage unit, under the W-X Freeway.

M: We'd better get back soon after taking this load to my house. Seeing that it's out in the open, you don't have any assurance that that bookcase will still be here when we get back.

J: Talking about insurance, I talked to the agent about the accident I had on Fair Oaks last week. I told him in perfect detail about everything that happened, and how the other woman was faking her so-called injuries. Even the firemen who responded to the call agreed. They were saying, "why do we have to put her neck in a brace?" The insurance agent was impressed with my photographic memory. He told me: "You must be some kind of genius!" I have a photographic memory! And I have tested in the genius range, as I'm sure you have too!

M.: (Thinking to myself: This is my fate. In my life, I invariably succeed in finding exactly those people who are eager to tell me what geniuses they are. I suppose that's where the old Depression adage comes from: "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?") So, you remember every detail about the accident?

J.: Everything. Well, almost everything. I can't remember her name.

M.: I'll take the bookcases.

J.: They are my gift to you! (sotto voce) Cheap bastard!

M.: And here's some gas money.

J.: And not a moment too soon! Oh, and did I tell you how many business cards I passed around at Loaves and Fishes? That's the best crowd to network with!

M.: (Thinking to myself: The homeless are far-and-away the least-likely group in society to need a plumber's services.) But they don't have much money.

J.: But there are ways. Do you know how Craigslist works? The folks who go to Loaves and Fishes really recommend it.

M.: Only slightly....

For Sacramento's homeless and near-homeless population, it's a time of locusts and pestilence and hardship and networking on the Internet.

Late Night TV: Waco: The Rules Of Engagement

Video excerpt (Part 11 of 13) of the movie. "Waco: The Rules Of Engagement" full movie here.

Last night, I got into black helicopter mode, and watched this movie on teevee.

It's a bad mix when ATF agents try to enforce gun laws on a Christian apocalyptic sect that might already be philosophically-inclined towards Masada-like last stands.

Nevertheless, it's clear in retrospect that the proper course of action should have been to defuse any confrontation. No one's interests were served.

It's also clear that the FBI/ATF was the aggressor here, and shoulders most of the blame for what happened. On the final day of the standoff, federal actions were unconscionable. Ripping into a building on a windy day and spraying an aerosol mix of CS throughout the building guaranteed a fire. Why were federal agents firing automatic weapons into the building anyway? (And as the video above makes that crystal clear, despite federal protestations, that gunfire did occur.) If you want desperate people to leave a burning building you don't fire into it.

It would be nice to get a less-slanted view of what the FBI/ATF folks were thinking. Once they had suffered loss of life they seemed bent on vengeance but the documentary was being told from the Branch Davidian point of view, so any subtleties there got lost.

It was weird to be mostly in agreement with the GOP folks on the investigating Congressional committee during testimony (but then it's the filmmaker's privilege to choose the best testimony).

Still, Waco is just another reason why I believe gun control laws should be strengthened nationwide (but on the state and local, not federal level, except regarding the Mexican border). The language of rights aside, it displays poor judgement for Christian apocalyptic sects to possess large caches of firearms. Because Masada is always just around the corner, and the large cache makes it even more terrible than it should be. On the other hand, enforcing gun control laws does not justify incinerating children.

Charles Kruger Works The Xanadu Sexy Angle

Sexy, sexy, sexy!:
The production at New Conservatory Theatre falls a bit short on the singing, dancing, choreography and design chops that might have put this over the top. But much can be forgiven for the wonderful comic acting and sex appeal of the company.

Chloe Condon (Kira) and Jesus Martinez, Jr. (Sonny) are charmingly naive as the hapless couple headed toward a happy ending. Nikki Arias and Jaimelee Roberts are deliciously evil and ferociously funny as Melpomene and Calliope.

Alex Rodriguez (whose credits include the National Tour of Miss Saigon) is irresistable as Terpsicore. His turn as a satyr in the court of Zeus is sexy fun.

And speaking of Zeus, Joe Wicht‘s truculent Father of the Gods is worth the price of admission.

If this sounds like your cup of ambrosia, you won’t be disappointed. Fun, fun, fun.

Christopher Hitchens Gets To Wrassle With Both Dinosaur Jesus And Dinosaur Orwell At The Same Time

Christopher Hitchens is in for a big surprise, according to Bill Bennett:
Only hours after noted author Christopher Hitchens died of cancer, several of his famous Christian friends were declaring that the atheist would finally know that God is real.

“He was left, I was right, but we had great debates, great drinking bouts,” conservative radio host Bill Bennett said on CBS Thursday. “And I hope as the big atheist that he was, he’s in for a big surprise.”
Apparently Bennett is thinking something along the lines of:

But I think it'll actually be along the lines of:

In his writings, Christopher Hitchens tried his best to exploit George Orwell in support of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, but in the end, George Orwell wins out, as the voice of truth always does. The invasion of Iraq was the antithesis of everything Orwell believed in, and should have been the antithesis of everything Hitchens believed in too, if Hitchens wasn't such a damned sell-out.

With any luck in the afterlife, Hitchens will have to cope with Dinosaur Jesus and Dinosaur Orwell at the same time. Kind of like Tokyo trying to cope with both Godzilla and Mothra at the same time. Serves the bastard right!

Sacramento Stumbles In The Vanity Races

Apparently we're damned ugly in Sacramento:
The website Living Social polled locals in the top 20 media markets in the country.

Only 23% of Sacramento residents consider men in the city "handsome."

Sacramento residents report less plastic surgery than other major cities.

But, according to the survey, Sacramento residents also report worse personal hygiene.

The city also reported less spray tans than others on the list.

As for the vainest cities in the country, they are: Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.

Miami is ranked the most vain of them all.

For the record, San Francisco is 11th on the vanity list.

In Davis, folks tried to compensate for Sacramento's spray tan deficit.

Gnomeo & Juliet: Terrafirminator Commercial

I stumbled across Gnomeo & Juliet on the teevee on Sunday.

I remember reading a negative review about this animated movie when it first came out, but then later read on Facebook that Kyle Hadley liked it. Kyle has a very keen sense of these things, so I saved Kyle's recommendation for further action.

I didn't watch the entire movie (the leaves outside were calling for some raking), but I could see enough to tell Gnomeo & Juliet is just about the best animated movie that's come out in years.

As the owner of a lawn, I really appreciated the commercial for the Weapon of Grass Destruction, the Terrafirminator. Very funny!