Friday, February 17, 2012
In your amazing crime/business story of the day, anti-mafia officials in Italy say they've seized $6 trillion in counterfeit U.S. Treasury bonds.
That is an awful lot of money, considering that the United States' total GDP is only $14.5 trillion. ... Interestingly, the release of a huge quantity of counterfeit U.S. Treasuries into the world would have been exactly what the global economy needs right now. We're suffering from a shortage of liquid AAA-rated financial assets at the moment and the U.S. political system is refusing to meet the demand with a surge of new debt. Counterfeit bonds would work just as well as real ones for the sake of repo transactions as long as they were really good counterfeits, and global economic activity would increase accordingly.
On Tuesday, an individual claiming to be a Heartland donor persuaded the group to email him or her the group’s annual budget, its fundraising plan and a 2012 strategy paper, outlining the organization’s intent to insert contrarian views of climate change into the nation’s elementary schools.
...After reviewing the new Heartland documents, Gavin Schmidt, a scientist with NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who models and studies climate change, told Salon:This is exactly the kind of thing we see people doing, and we know they have been actively promoting the fringe voices, trying to influence teaching curricula, trying to lobby legislators, trying to undermine the conclusions of bodies. But it is good to know who is actually funding them.Heartland, which bills itself as anti-regulatory and libertarian, annually produces climate change “denier” conferences and pays expenses for elected officials to attend. For example, the budget shows that Heartland allocated $304,704 for scientists supporting its contrarian views in 2012.
...The Heartland budget allocates more than half a million dollars for “government relations” and another $800,000 for communications. Besides the big-budget annual climate conference, another $25,920 was budgeted for eight “Heartland Capital Events” identified as “events in state capitals for elected officials,” at $3,240 each.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Heartland is legally barred from using its tax-free income of $7.7 million to lobby for or against legislation. The fact that the group appears to be intending to do just that could transform the group’s ongoing public relations disaster into a legal problem. Heartland’s activities are no surprise to environmentalist watchdogs, but actual proof of moneys spent on lobbying activities might affect their legal status, if the IRS bothers to investigate.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
I started taking ballet at the University of Arizona in 1982 after deciding that I couldn't wait any longer to start strengthening my feet (after injuring myself just stepping off a curb). George Zoritch was an inspiring teacher! But it wasn't until 1985, that I also started driving clear across town to the little storefront on Speedway Blvd. and started participating in community ballet with TCB. (These days, TCB has evolved into the large and impressive Tucson Regional Ballet, but these were the smaller, earlier days.)
My appearance at the studio was greeted enthusiastically by Director Linda Walker - look, a dancing male! - but caused a bit of a crisis with the teenage girls who dominated the social scene there: what were they going with this awkward oaf? I didn't help matters with an accident just a week before the recital. I fumbled a step (what was it called? A Gorgonzola?) and drove my right foot into the floor, cracking my smallest metatarsal and giving me a limp. But the show must go on!
"Round and Round" was really my first time on-stage performing ballet. Some memories remain very vivid: even though I couldn't see the audience in the dark, I could hear the audience breathing. Like a predatory feline crouched in the darkness of an African night. Quite distracting!
That sweetheart Annette Paul was my first ballet dance partner. I understand she lives in Alaska now.
Tucson School of Ballet presented "The Wizard of Oz" on May 11, 1986 at Rincon High School. This is a dress rehearsal, probably on May 8, 1986. Pictured are Tin Man (Michael Sweeney), Dorothy (Leslie Smythe), and Scare Crow (Stephanie - Stephanie Shea?) Obscured in the back is Toto (Kristina Marie Fernandez).
The Munchkins of Oz, with Leslie Smythe as Dorothy and Dawn Craig as Glinda the Good Witch. At extreme left, dressed in black, is Kristina Marie Fernandez as Toto.
Kristina Fernandez: what a dancer!
Kristina Fernandez was the rarest sort of person: a natural ballet prodigy. Her maturity and level-headedness were so striking it seemed like she was an adult woman trapped in the body of a small kid. It came as little surprise that she eventually danced with New York City Ballet: arguably the best ballet company in the entire world. I believe she lives somewhere in Canada these days.
Director Linda Walker, who is originally from Sacramento and who danced with Barbara Crockett as a little girl. Right background, Ida Martinez.
Graduating From The University Of Arizona
My parents in Tucson on December 19, 1987 for the graduation ceremonies (Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences).
Salt Lake City Days
A view of downtown Salt Lake City from my office, 805 William B. Browning Bldg., at the University of Utah.
40th Street Days
Here is Persia Nelson, daughter my girl friend Katherine Arthur. Persia is a reasonably well-known Sacramento photographer these days, but in those days she was very proud of her jacked-up Toyota pickup truck. It was from her that I first-learned use of that all-purpose Northern-Californian adjective, "hella".
Friend James Bucanek used his remarkable kitchen skills to prepare a marvelous repast during an opening at the MARS Art Gallery during one of my visits to Phoenix to view and purchase some of the artwork of Deborah McMillion-Nering.
But wait a minute, this commentary does not offer anything I want to know. What I want to know is: Why did John McCain think to mention chimichangas on the floor of the Senate in the first place? Chimis (deep-fat-fried burritos, often served with guacamole and sour cream) are a distinctly Arizonan faux-Mexican food. I hadn't heard about them before I moved to Arizona. I'm not sure that many Floridians (whom I think were most-affected by the Senate debate) would know about, or particularly care about, chimis. Or has their spread nationwide become complete enough by now that I'm wrong? THAT'S what I want to know about. But, alas, now I'll never know....
A political food fight broke out this week when Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank essentially wrote in a column that the Republican Party had nothing left to offer Latino voters other than the chimichanga.
...Milbank seized on the nonsense that came from Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. The senator's remarks really had nothing to do with Latinos. They were about Arizona.
"The lettuce in your salad this month almost certainly came from Arizona," McCain said on the Senate floor. "It's also believed that the chimichanga has its origin in Arizona."
Milbank sneered: "The chimichanga? It may be the only thing Republicans have left to offer Latinos."
That told me that Milbank's knowledge of Latinos was a taco short of a combination plate. As dysfunctional as the modern-day Republican Party is with regard to immigration -- in large part, because it has basically volunteered to be the party of white Americans who are freaked out over shifting demographics -- the GOP offers Latinos quite a bit in other areas.
...No political party is perfect. And neither Republicans nor Democrats are doing a very good job of serving Latinos at the moment. On the immigration issue, both have failed us.
But the truth is that, despite what some liberals want Latinos to believe, the GOP offers a lot to that community. At moments like this, however, liberal Democrats offer only sarcasm, insults and condescension.
Jon Basso, the quirky restaurant’s owner or “chief surgeon,” said employees summoned medical help when they noticed a patron showing signs of a heart attack.
...The situation unfolded when Basso said a “nurse” — the restaurant’s lighthearted nickname for servers — noticed the man, who was eating alone, shaking and clutching his chest.
“It’s enough to scare anybody straight,” Basso said.
...The restaurant, which opened in the fall, sits near the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas and caters to its name by referring to customers as “patients,” servers as “nurses” and food orders as “prescriptions.”
And the menu doesn’t fall short of the theme either: It boasts everything from a “single bypass” (a single hamburger patty with cheese and toppings) to an 8,000-calorie “quadruple bypass” (four hamburger patties with slices of cheese and all toppings).
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Below: My cousin, Larry Becker, my father, Marcial Valdez, and myself, at the house on Truman St. in Albuquerque
Above: Launching Estes model rockets, in Corrales, NM, circa 1968. My parents made me build a sort-of bunker (foreground) to protect me from explosions (that was overkill).
In July, 1973, I participated in a summer biology class/workshop, in the bosque at the oxbow of the Rio Grande River (near La Luz, and the former University of Albuquerque - the current St. Pius High School). I'm in yellow. I confess I've forgotten so many names. The teachers were Mr. Templeton (left) and Mr. Funk (right). Some people I remember are here: Jeff Anderson, Glen Kellogg, Patricia Smith, Patty Decker, Nancy Garrett, Greg, Anne-Marie, Mike Mills, Jacqueline Sattler, Brooke Bigney, etc., etc.
On July 22, 1974, right after high school graduation, David Baltz (right) and myself commenced a 6,500 mile, month-long trip up the west coast, into southwestern Canada, and back down the Rockies. David was keen to climb mountains, and indeed, we did some of that: an abortive attempt to climb Mt. Shasta, in California; a successful but nearly-deadly climb of Mt. Hood, in Oregon; plus assorted hikes in Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada; plus hikes in Montana, in Yellowstone National Park, and in Colorado. We also visited the 1974 World's Fair in Spokane, Washington.
This marathon trip coincided with the Richard Nixon impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives, and so we were condemned to argue politics the entire way. Indeed, as you can see, Dave has a Joe Skeen for Senate (Republican) sticker on his front bumper. David's father ran unsuccessfully on the GOP ticket for the New Mexico legislature in 1972.
On August 1st, our third Musketeer, thoroughly-apolitical Jeff Anderson, flew up to Seattle, where we picked him up for the rest of the trip. We bored him to tears with our debates, and he employed various tricks (like driving off with the car) to change the subject.
We first learned of Nixon's resignation while hiking the south shore of Lake Louise at Banff National Park, in Canada, but couldn't watch TV coverage of the event, even at the large and very civilized lodge there, because TV signals from Calgary couldn't penetrate the mountain valley where we were located.
Trip to the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico, 1975
Marc on the slopes of Pecos Baldy (or is it Santa Fe Baldy?)
To our surprise, while descending the slopes of Pecos Baldy, we were approached by young, wild, and astonishingly-bold Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. At Pecos Baldy Lake, we made a stand, and the sheep approached.
Zion National Park Trip
In 1975, in the company of David Baltz and several others, I spent a week in the Thunder Creek/Deer Creek watershed of the northwestern corner of Grand Canyon National Park.
In 1978, in the company of friends Jeff Anderson and Ira Gershin, I tried to reproduce the trip, but we met powerful obstacles. The temperature was much hotter than on the 1975 trip, and we lost valuable time trying to puzzle out a descent after we lost the trail. We ran out of water on the burning south-facing cliff faces. So, we retreated and opted instead to travel to Zion National Park, in southwestern Utah.
Here, Jeff and I traverse a portion of Zion's Echo Canyon.
Just as we had run out of water at the Grand Canyon, we began to run out of money in Zion. We decided to go to Las Vegas, in order to get closer to 'civilization'.
In Las Vegas, we decided to phone home for money if necessary, but decided to first try self-reliance. We pooled what money we had left and gave it to Ira to try his luck at the blackjack table. Ira was successful! He more-than-doubled our money!
The previous day we had to brush ants off of cheese blocks in order to eat anything at all, but now we were in the lap of luxury. We saw Bill Cosby perform his comedy act (I think it was at the old MGM Grand, before the big fire, and now called Bally's), and we ate our fill at the buffet lunch, before returning to Albuquerque.