Friday, March 23, 2012

My Favorite Meteorological Menace



I've regarded Peter Byrne as a menace ever since he dismissed the initial reports of TC Yasi's formation as more alarmist media at work. (WIN quickly yanked THAT particular video from the Web!) Fortunately for Byrne, Yasi was still far out at sea, so he had time to walk his dismissive nonsense back. One day, he won't be so lucky. The media excels above all at sounding the alarm, but if Byrne was in charge, no one would ever hear it.

The California Precipitation Forecast Is Improving!

Like, most of the coming week looks like it will be wet!

Thank goodness for cutoff lows! What would the climate be like without them? I wonder if there are planets where cutoff lows never occur? Those planets must really be ghastly!

Alex Martello vs David Jones ft. Paula Lobos - Stand Up (Club Mix)

'The Three Stooges' Online Trailer

Pointless Fun, But Mostly Just Fun

A version of March Madness:
After three weeks of careful consideration, deliberation and elimination from our panel of all-star judges, Vulture's Drama Derby to determine the greatest TV drama of the past 25 years is drawing to a close with a final face-off between last-shows-standing The Wire and The Sopranos. Our last judge, New York Magazine's own TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz, will be taking the weekend to make his deliberations and his final judgment will be posted on Monday at noon.

...While our judges have been narrowing the field over here on Vulture, our fans have been voting in a parallel bracket on our Facebook page, and it has led to a very different outcome. The Sopranos and The Wire have already been vanquished: The final readers showdown has come down to Breaking Bad and Buffy the Vampire Slayer — two shows that couldn't be more different, but inspire similar levels of fan devotion.

Flour-Bombing Kim Kardashian

The whole atmosphere around these celebrity events is ripe for something like a flour-bombing. I remember stumbling across Kim Kardashian in Las Vegas' Luxor hotel once, and I was really struck by the weird energy of the packed-like-sardines crowd, who seemed desperate for - something. Validation? Fame? Air? Who knows?:
Kim Kardashian was "flour bombed" Thursday night -- that is, someone hurled a baggie of flour at her -- as she arrived on the red carpet to market the launch of her new fragrance.

...The assault on Kardashian on Thursday night at the London Hotel in West Hollywood caused a momentary panic as those in attendance tried to figure out what the white substance was. Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies responded to the scene, as did firefighters. They quickly determined that Kardashian was struck with common flour, nothing more serious.

...In later interviews, Kardashian laughed it all off. "That probably is the craziest, unexpected, weird thing that ever happened to me," Kardashian told E! online. "Like I said to my makeup artist, I wanted more powder and that's a whole lot of translucent powder right there."

Stumbling Over Swarthiness In NM's Tourism Campaign

It's that 'light-skinned' Hispanic issue again! Truth be told, fewer people are more neurotic about swarthiness in New Mexico than New Mexicans. But if we can push the blame onto some faceless corporate casting agent, and avoid having to think about it ourselves, so much the better. But about being a "dry, barren wasteland with nothing to do" - well, that's a harder matter to avoid, because, in considerable measure, it's true enough!:
New Mexico was planning to celebrate its statehood centennial by inviting tourists to come experience the state's rich culture, take in its extraordinary views and have epic outdoor adventures.

...Focus groups in Chicago and Los Angeles assessed the public’s perception of New Mexico, and “the feedback was that it was a dry, barren wasteland with nothing to do,” Valencia said. “So [the state] set on a course to change this misconception.”

Austin, Texas-based marketing agency Vendor Inc. was hired in January to handle the campaign, titled “Adventures Steeped in Rich Culture.” The agency soon contracted with On Location Casting to assign roles in the ad, which was to be filmed in March.

Soon a casting call went out on Facebook seeking “Caucasian or light-skinned Hispanic” people.

The specificity of that call has caused quite a stir, prompting a critical editorial last week in the Santa Fe New Mexican and an even harsher reaction from the state’s Democratic Party chairman.

"Hearing that term brings to mind a vision of casting agents holding up paper bags next to people's faces to ensure they can pass," the New Mexican wrote. "We don't know, of course, who made it into the shoot and how New Mexico will be presented to the world once the campaign is unveiled. But really, light-skinned only? What were they thinking?"

The request seemed ironically appropriate to at least one historian, who noted the territory's long-ago efforts to attract more light-skinned residents.

“New Mexico's population in the 1900 census was 70% Nuevomexicanos [today called Hispanic] and 7% American Indian. In the quest for statehood, each group followed many of their traditions in language, dress, religion... all of which alarmed a few hardcore opponents of statehood in the U.S. Congress,” David Holtby, a research scholar of regional studies at the University of New Mexico, wrote in an email to The Times.

...Holtby added: “Now we have the newest ‘tourism message’ being revised to ‘lighten’ the color of people. This can be seen as an example of a throw-back to racial bias of a century ago."

The hubbub, however, is all an unfortunate misconception, Valencia said.

“We were casting for the role of ‘tourist,’ ” she said. “It was never our intention to make any of this about race. It was more to focus on the experiences and adventures that someone could have in New Mexico rather than the background of the people having them.”

...“We believe that people from all backgrounds visit New Mexico and it is not a place for any one type of visitor,” Valencia said.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dismantling The Drum

M.: Here's the drum I got in Loomis!

T.: NNNNOOOO! You got ripped off!

M.: I don't feel like I got ripped off....

T.: Brother shouldn't have done that to you! You spent how much, and you can't even play it? I'm gonna go to Loomis and give him a piece of my mind!

M.: $300.00. But that's OK. I knew it had issues. It looks nice! And it's from Africa! By putting a new head on the drum I'll bond with the instrument!

S.: Yeah, it'll give Marc a chance to bond with the instrument!

T.: People shouldn't take advantage of new students!

M.: It'll be OK. All I need is a goat skin.

S.: Yeah, all Marc needs is a goat!

Others: (laughter)

M.: And if I can't use the drum on Saturday I'll pound on the goat!

T.: Here, start untying those tight knots and let's take the drum head off.

(more than an hour and a half later)

T.: Now all we have is the shell. The drum head rings are much too large: that's probably why the drum head ripped in the first place. They've got to be tighter! And the drum's dusty. Hmmm.... I'm conflicted. I have two other drums that need servicing too, and I know just the people to do it quickly, but I wonder if this is the right situation? Hmmmm..... Hmmmm..... In the morning, give me a call, and let's pay her a visit.....

Looking Around Corners

Russian Airline Passengers Panic Over ‘Hole In Wing’

Frickin' passengers! It's just a 'technical element':
What looked like a large hole in the wing did not stop a Russian airline jet from taking off for Siberia with dozens of panicked passengers on board.

The Boeing 737 jet was delayed on the tarmac of a Moscow airport when one of the passengers looked out of a window and noticed an oval-shaped gap on the left wing above one of the engines.

...The plane eventually landed more than three hours behind schedule in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

...Tyurkin said all that was missing from the wing was the cover to a hatch workers use to check the left engine. It was not immediately clear who had misplaced the hefty piece of equipment or why.

“This was a technical element. Its absence doesn’t prevent takeoff,” said Tyurkin. “It does not affect safety.”

Chongo, The Homeless Science Writer

The homeless man was passing out a Street Press newspaper for a dollar, and so, inveterate (I almost said invertebrate) consumer of news that I am, I purchased one.

Inside was a column by the homeless science writer, Chongo:
Why learn theoretical physics? The answer is simple. If you can learn something that, with certainty, can make you significantly "smarter" – which means having a more accurate understanding of nature, or of anything in it – in any endeavor you may pursue, taking only a month or two (or maybe four or five for really grasping the concepts) to learn what people have traditionally spent years of labor and study to understand, then you would be very "wise" to do so, if presented the rare opportunity. In other words, the reason one should learn theoretical physics is because, quite simply, for the first time in human history, it is possible to do so without spending years in the pursuit. The website chongonation.com provides that opportunity – for ANYONE – both the formally educated and those who are not, regardless (although it should be emphasized that chongonation.com is most of all trying to provide opportunity to those individuals whom would ordinarily be the most removed from that opportunity: the poor).
With his big-wall climbing and highlining, he certainly looks eccentric, but from a scientific point of view, he looks potentially helpful: able to reach audiences unaccustomed to science. We were all familiar with Chongo's general type in school: interested in physics from a more-conceptual vantage point, but able to do the math too.

A physicist doesn't really need a brick-and-mortar home: the Universe alone will serve.

Eyeing Djembes In Loomis

Last night, Craigslist brought me to Loomis; to the residence of John Daleuski, a former instructor of Afro-Cuban percussion at UCD, in order to purchase an African Djembe (my first musical instrument, ever!) I purchased this Djembe, and John showed me a little bit about replacing the drumhead (since it's totally worn out). I must now find a goat to sacrifice, or a music store that carries suitable goat skins.








On Saturday afternoon, Tyehimba Kokayi starts his first workshop on West African drumming, and I hope to be there.

John also has another Djembe, and a Conga drum, for sale:



Internet Is Down At Work Today

I am sad :-(

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Like These Cutoff Lows That Are Approaching

Starting over the weekend, first one, then another cutoff low will dive south just off the California coast: perfectly-situated to assist with making it rain in California! May they continue doing so at just this spot for months to come!

Imagine That!



Trayvon Martin, and the unequal coverage.

Jeb Bush Endorses Mitt Romney



Train leaving the station, and all that:
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush announced his support for Mitt Romney’s presidential bid this morning, a major boost for the former Massachusetts governor as he seeks to rally the party behind his candidacy.

...That he picked this moment to wade into the race is clearly meant to send a signal to the Republican party that the time is now to coalesce behind Romney. While others have said that the race is over before, Bush’s decision to call for it to end will hold significantly more weight — and draw significantly more media attention.

“He’s lost any hope that we’ll have anyone better ,” said one senior Republican operative about Bush’s decision to endorse Romney.

Dog and River Otter Play

Everyone's A Critic

I loved the comment I got on a previous blog post!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dogs Against Romney





Time to send a signal.

Magnitude 7.6 Earthquake In Mexico

In Guerrero, specifically. That size earthquake has the potential to do a lot of damage.

"Showgirls" Was On The Teevee Again



As if things weren't dramatic enough watching RuPaul's "Drag Race" on the teevee tonight, they followed that up with 1995's classic "Showgirls", with Elizabeth Berkley.

Once again, what an awesome movie! I loved every minute of it!

The question, of course, is figuring out why so many people hated it so.

The answer, I think, is simple. Bad taste. What can you do?

What did Roger Ebert think of this movie? He has better taste than most:
If the plot and screenplay are juvenile, the production values are first-rate, and the lead performance by newcomer Elizabeth Berkley has a fierce energy that's always interesting.

...The plot now develops into basic Jacqueline Susann backstage sleaze, which has a certain informational value. After Nomi is hired at the Stardust, we learn about the hazards of Vegas dancing, including monkey-doo on the stage, and the unexpected uses of ice cubes. The dancers have a higher injury rate than your average hockey team, and get wonderfully evocative advice, such as "Don't ever, ever go out onstage crying." Backstage veterans advise them to line up a job and a man for when their looks start to go. ("How'd you meet your guy?" "I chipped my tooth on a Quaalude. He was my dentist.")

To be honest, I enjoyed some of this. It's trash, yes, but not boring. Sometimes, it's hilarious: (1) As a dancer writhes groaning on the stage, a choreographer grabs her knee and squeezes. She screams. "It's her knee," he concludes. (2) Cristal and Nomi bond, briefly, during a moment of girl-talk when they share that they have both enjoyed eating the same brand of dog food in their past lives. (3) After a character is beaten into a coma by a superstar, a casino official promises, "She can have her own dress shop." Other moments are fun because of glitz. The big stage show, with its star entrance from an exploding volcano, seems inspired by actual Vegas productions. All of the women are terrific dancers. And Gina Gershon, in the Bette Davis role, has a little fun talking the way Eszterhas thinks women talk ("Tell me," she whispers seductively to Nomi. "How do you like your breasts?").

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Damn Yankees" - DMTC - Final Weekend

During most of the run of "Damn Yankees", as Stage Manager, I felt busy enough as to be uncomfortable with taking any photos at all, but on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, I took a few photos (Jenny Plasse took a few photos as well).


On Friday evening, concern was paramount regarding when Adam Sartain would arrive at the theater. He had been in Los Angeles for work, but with stormy weather (plus other impediments) his return was delayed. Steve suggested in his initial warning phone call that I might have to go on in Adam's place for the first two musical numbers, and I began preparing to do so, but Director Rand punctured my bubble, indicating that he preferred that Adam's place remain vacant, if need be (which makes better sense for choreographic purposes). As it turned out, Adam missed the first two numbers, and barely-arrived in time for the third (and he went onstage sans baseball cap, in his haste).

There was a bit of a problem with a couple of actors not going on stage this weekend because they just didn't feel like it. In part because of privacy concerns, I wasn't able to fully-establish whether there was a malingering edge to the complaints, or genuine concern about collapse on stage, but it just goes to show how hard it is sometimes to do community theater, when there aren't enough resources, like understudies, and 'swings', to combat illness and injury amongst the cast.


On Saturday night, as Stage Manager, I whipped around a blind corner during a blackout to view and possibly-assist with a set change, when I collided with Danielle DeBow (Lola) exiting the stage in the dark, momentarily stunning her with my outstretched hand in her d├ęcolletage.

Afterwards, after apologizing to her, I confessed to the baseball players my error, and they were very understanding. Of course, it was a mistake! Easy to do in the dark! They make exactly these kinds of mistakes all the time!

A also forgot to open the curtain at the proper time during "Who's Got The Pain?" Fortunately, it didn't cause any problems (I was pretty spacy Saturday night).







On Sunday afternoon, after repeated strikes over the four-weekend run, the 2x4 I was using for making baseball-crack sound effects in the wings finally split. I had previously-noticed the deteriorating condition of the bat, so I had a backup 2x4 ready that I brought from home. Unfortunately, the backup 2x4 was shorter in length, so when I used it for the final thwack of the run, I got only a muffled crack out of it, because I had also struck my knuckle!


The baseball players got thoroughly discombobulated while singing "The Game" Sunday afternoon: wrong verse, abruptly-stopped singing, etc. Sounded very odd!
During strike, Lee Ann tripped and fell over a falling mop handle in the janitor's closet, and ended up with a twisted knee and two twisted ankles.

Afterwards, dinner at Sudwerks!






















Surprise! The U.S. Made Money Off These Investments!

Take that, GOP!:
The US Treasury said Monday it had earned $25 billion from investments it made in mortgage-backed securities during the height of the financial crisis in 2008-2009.

Announcing the completion of its disposal of its position in the securities, which were at the center of the meltdown of the financial system, the Treasury said taxpayers received total cash of $250 billion from the portfolio — $25 billion more than the initial US investment.

The Tragedy Of Robert Bales

First, the victims:












The dead:
Mohamed Dawood son of Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Nazar Mohamed
Payendo
Robeena
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali

The wounded:
Haji Mohamed Naim son of Haji Sakhawat
Mohamed Sediq son of Mohamed Naim
Parween
Rafiullah
Zardana
Zulheja
For some years now, the political leadership of the United States of America, starting first with George W. Bush, and continuing under Barack Obama, has made the conscious command decision to use up the volunteers of the U.S. Military while treating them as their own private little militia: to keep trained troops on as long as humanly possible, to abuse the troops under its command, to leave nothing left but empty hulks, just in order to save some training money.

There have been times in the past when that kind of low, dishonorable command conduct has occurred before, but generally under the imperative of combat. For example (and I'm trying to find the appropriate reference link now), in World War II, the U.S. would not release troops suffering from combat exhaustion, particularly during the the Battle of the Bulge. That decision fell unusually-hard on certain cadres of fresh, poorly-trained and under-prepared troops that were being inserted into the theater of combat just prior to the battle. Bereft of proper support, many of those soldiers never returned home: they were deliberately-sacrificed by our leaders.

That ruthless decision was somewhat understandable: Allied control over northern Europe was uncertain in 1944, and hotly-contested. For the United States to be doing the same today is unconscionable, however. Because we've decided, for some crazy, demented reason, that the 'Global War On Terror' is going to be infinite in duration does not mean we should keep the exactly same troops in combat forever. That conduct - our conduct as a society - is indecent.

The time for a change is right now:
Bales’ odyssey began just over 10 years ago when he joined the military in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks. It continued through three brutal tours in Iraq where he was wounded in combat to the symptoms he is said to have suffered of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the indignity of being asked to return to combat despite them.

To put it simply, Bales’ story tells us that we are asking too much of too few to fight a conflict that has gone on too long.

Less than 1 percent of the American population serves in the American military, making it a volunteer force where the tensions and fallout of more than a decade of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq can remain invisible to most Americans who never see or hear about the toll of war. It raises a persistent question as to whether America should institute a military draft so that the sufferings of war are a more shared burden and there are many proponents of a need for a greater national service that asks all of America’s youth to share in service, not just military service but in education and public works as well.

Afghanistan is already the longest war in the history of America, longer than the Civil War and longer than World War II. Servicemen and women routinely serve multiple combat tours, swelling the ranks of already crowded Veterans Administration hospitals with wounds both physical and mental.

And many are suffering economically as their lives have been torn apart by the stresses of multiple tours.

Bales appears to be among the ranks of those wounded both mentally and physically and also suffering economically.

According to military records and published interviews with his Seattle-based lawyer, John Henry Browne, Bales spent his career at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he was part of the Third Stryker Brigade in the Second Infantry Division. Brown said Bales has an exemplary military record and a supportive family.

Bales was deployed three times in Iraq. According to a profile in the New York Times, the first tour came in 2003 and 2004 just as the U.S.-led invasion began to turn sour and the insurgency intensified in Iraq. In 2006, he returned for a 15-month tour at the beginning of the surge in Iraq, which was led by Gen. Petraeus and the definitive strategy in his counter-insurgency campaign. Bales’ unit was reportedly involved in a serious battle in Najaf. In 2010, he was back on duty in Iraq when an armored Humvee flipped over, apparently attacked by a roadside bomb, injured his head and reportedly sustained a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

The injury, which has plagued the U.S. military in the era of roadside bombs, can lead to long-term, cognitive disabilities, mood swings and impulsive and violent behavior. Browne told the Times that Bales had been seriously wounded and lost part of his foot from an Improvised Explosive Device, or IED. He added that he may have suffered a brain injury in that attack as well.

Despite the trauma he suffered, Bales was sent back for yet another tour in Afghanistan. And he did so amid what appears to be great economic strain. The family home in Lake Tapps, about 20 miles from his base, is up for sale at an asking price of $229,000 which is 20 percent less than what they paid for it. Neighbors told reporters the family was in economic turmoil and that the recent tour in Afghanistan had pushed it to the edge of a crisis.

Why The Hedge Fund Managers Hate Obama So

Interesting analysis, based on the TNR article:
But one that I found particularly arresting and convincing is that the very thing that helped Obama win their support originally—his intellectual/demographic similarity—now threatens them. Right, Obama might have been their classmate. Was their classmate in some cases (as he reminded some of them during a meeting in 2010). And that was the problem—Obama was asking them—in his cool Obama way, not in FDR’s almost maliciously naughty, “I welcome their hatred” way—to demonstrate some social solidarity, some noblesse oblige. And this pushed all the wrong buttons. As MacGillis writes, “That, in between his relatively measured lines about tax codes and financial reform, he was delivering an unmistakable moral judgment about the worth of the profession they had chosen. That the story they were telling themselves about their own lives was highly questionable.” Yes, they had chosen one life. And this guy they had played basketball with at Harvard had done just fine—he was president!—but he had chosen another life. He taught law, did community organizing, and didn’t dedicate himself to making a billion bucks per year or more (literally in the case of the top 40 or so hedge fund managers, something Obama also pointed out to them at the 2010 meeting). By liberal blogospheric lights, Obama isn’t enough of a lefty. But by the standards of his old hedge fund buddies, Obama enrages them because he shames them.

And it is interesting to compare this dynamic to what FDR confronted from the superrich of his presidency. Back then, old WASP wealth dominated the banking and financial industries. It wasn’t, for the most part, “earned” meritocratic wealth. And thus oddly enough, FDR, like Obama, knew these guys from the school—he was from the old money WASP aristocracy, too. He blew off his Harvard classes to go sailing—just like a lot of them must have. After all, they were going to stay rich, no matter what—they didn’t need to graduate Harvard with honors. FDR thought most rich people were, like himself prior to polio, fatuous, lazy toffs. The rich had never impressed him, he thought they were sort of lazy fools. But then, after he became governor and then president, his laughter became more cutting, and he realized he couldn’t let them smugly continue to destroy the country.

Today, the rich are very impressed with themselves based upon self-perceived merit, not their families of origin. And they thought that Obama, being a fellow meritocrat, would be impressed with them, too. They earned it—just like the president—so, surely, he would admire them, and would never call them fat cats (verbal criticisms stings these guys as much or more than policy proposals that affect their wallets). So, yeah, they thought Obama was like them—and he is, sort of, that’s the funny thing—and now they’re mad he called them out in the pretty minimal way he did. What the hedge funders don’t seem to realize is that, while Obama doesn’t respect them all that much, he respects their meritocratic achievement—and, therefore, his own—just enough not to have the full throated, glib contempt for them that FDR had for his wealthy peer group.

Fifty Percent Of Normal

So, the storm system finally passed through - only the second major storm system of the entire winter. Accumulated precipitation for the season is about half of normal. As long as we can keep the high pressure system over the central Pacific rather than over the eastern Pacific, we still have a chance for more, however:
DATA REPRESENT PRECIPITATION ENDING AT 500 PM PDT ON 03/18/2012


SINCE JUL 01- JUL 01- JUL 01- JUL 01-
MIDNITE MAR 18 MAR 18 MAR 18 JUN 30
CLIMATE STATION TOTAL 2012 PON 2011 PON NORMAL NORMAL
------------------------- ------- ------------ ------------ ------- -------

...NORTHERN CALIFORNIA...

CRESCENT CITY 0.07 38.19 75 49.05 97 50.61 64.03
EUREKA 0.15 26.24 81 32.67 101 32.43 40.33
UKIAH 0.01 18.40 59 31.51 101 31.05 37.35
REDDING 0.06 16.73 59 24.96 88 28.21 34.62
SACRAMENTO EXEC AIRPORT 0.02 7.84 50 18.77 121 15.56 18.52
SANTA ROSA 0.01 17.68 57 31.82 103 30.96 36.28
SAN FRANCISCO 0.00 10.31 51 20.74 103 20.20 23.65
SFO INT`L AIRPORT T 7.90 44 16.92 95 17.77 20.65
OAKLAND AIRPORT 0.00 9.24 53 16.60 95 17.51 20.81
LIVERMORE 0.01 5.09 38 11.48 87 13.27 15.71
MOUNTAIN VIEW - MOFFETT 0.02 4.13 33 9.95 81 12.34 14.68
SAN JOSE 0.03 3.81 30 10.11 80 12.71 14.90

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Open House Gathering For Ned Roscoe And His Family

Left: Ned Roscoe


On Saturday afternoon, an open house for the friends and family of Ned Roscoe was hosted by some of Ned's close friends in Napa, CA.

As previously-noted, Ned Roscoe, one of the most-effective of the 135 candidates who ran in the 2003 California Gubernatorial Recall Election, was sentenced to federal prison for bank fraud.

Ned greeted his guests at the door, and as might be expected, was quite busy talking to everyone. Nevertheless, I had a few minutes with him. Ned asked me questions about air pollution control, quizzing me about the role of reformulated gasoline in driving gas prices up, and methods of controlling particulate pollution from truck Diesel engines and from sources inside warehouses.

Talk turned to prison, and Ned had a provocative insight about the near-future. The prison-industrial complex will be to the 21st-Century what the military-industrial complex was to the 20th Century: the modern economy's solution to the problem of maintaining full employment. Republicans will support the maintenance-of-order aspect, and Democratic unions will welcome the jobs it will create. Indeed, in California, we are already at this sorry pass.

The only question is, just how much of the population will have to serve time? If we head to a dystopian future, who knows, maybe half the population will have to serve time? Maybe everyone will have to serve: like universal conscription?

I gave my Democratic liberal take of the question. "If it didn't hurt so many people, I might support it," I said. Libertarian Ned rolled his eyes and replied, "Believe me, it's better to have everyone on the outside."


Last weekend, Ned sent out a Questions-and-Answers E-Mail to his supporters regarding his upcoming sentence. I extract portions below:

Q: Can we come visit you?
A: Yes, after I put your name on the 15 person visitor list and after the Bureau of Prisons approves your application. I’ve read that visits can be humiliating for the visitor. That said, letters are probably better than visits but even those have strange rules. For example, you can’t use a stamp to mail to me. People put drugs onto stamps. Instead, you must use metered mail or a postage-imprinted envelope. Fortunately, I can use stamps to send to you.

Q. Will you have access to the internet?
A: No. For five to ten cents a minute, I can type messages on a computer that will be delivered through the Trulincs or Corrlinks system to your e-mail. So, if I’m reviewing mathematics, no Khan Academy.

Q: Do you feel guilty?
A: No.

Q: So how do you feel?
A: Well, remorse is appropriate only for actions that really happened. Contrition is the same. I have little fear, and not much anger. It’s kind of like my feeling about the weather: I don’t take it personally.

Q: How can that be?
A: Prayer is effective. I don’t think what actually happened was a crime. I was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to make false statements to a bank, for bank fraud, and for making false statements to a bank. From August, 2003 to November 2003, I signed thirteen weekly reports, prepared by Certified Public Accountants, while I was running for Governor as part of a complex commercial relationship between three large companies. Embezzlement did not occur. In 2005, I spoke to the FBI about the reports and provided them with fifty-three pounds of documents. Eventually, there were more than 30,000 documents in the case. In January, 2011, I was tried in front of a jury for four weeks. I did not testify. I was defended by one of America’s best criminal defense attorneys in the world’s finest criminal justice system. Like 97% of the people charged in federal courts, I was convicted. Now I’ll join one of the world’s largest prison populations.


Q: What will you do?
A: I don’t know. What will you do in four years, three months? Let’s compare notes. My initial plan is to study engineering so that when I get out, I can speak with our Chinese overlords.

Q: How can you be so nonchalant?
A: Prayer is effective. I tried sobbing uncontrollably but I just couldn’t muster the emotional baggage. Plus, although I wouldn’t recommend my path to anyone, I should tell you that there’s something about being sentenced to federal prison that brings out the best in one’s friends and neighbors. Just today a neighbor I barely know stopped me on the road to give me his address. “When I was in the service,” he said, “letters from home were the only things that kept me going.” What I tell people now is “please don’t be jealous of my adventures.” Writing for my family, we’ve certainly enjoyed every day as I’ve counted it down. When time is precious, one sees a lot of love in a daily routine. One gains appreciation for work done well, for duties done, for place and time.

Q: So, is this justice?
A: It’s up to you. Justice Steven Breyer recently wrote a book in which he explained that the role of American courts is to decide, not to decide correctly. Based on my experience, I wouldn’t expect a court proceeding to be a reliable guide to what really happened. As long as prosecutors can dissemble, as long as the resources are so mismatched, you should expect more to be convicted than acquitted. But, don’t underestimate the benefit of a system in which decisions are made and people abide by them.

Q: But what do you really think?
A: Jesus said that feeding the hungry, giving clothes to the naked, and visiting prisoners were some of the best things we could do in life. It’s not the big house, the long car, the pretty wife, the nice kids, the good job, or the geopolitical success which should indicate that we are among the elect, even though all of those are good and can be blessings. It’s our demonstration of love, for one another, for our enemies, and for those who need it most. Can going to prison be a blessing? Um, duh. It already is.


The hosts have a gorgeous garden!






Napa chickens.


What do Napa chickens eat? Grapes, of course.