Friday, June 29, 2012

Truck Crash In Davis

Apparently a rental truck over-correction fail.

A Rare Pleasure

To watch FOX News last night, and just hear conservative brains popping.....

The Schadenfreude extends to Michelle Malkin's difficulties, and watching her lash out at the Obama Administration for ending up in a wildfire zone.

Remember, it takes years, and maladministration by all kinds of people of all ideologies, to set up firestorms. Laying blame on just the Obama Administration is hardly adequate - the Blame goes back decades; even a century, or more. She should shoulder some of the blame herself for her lifestyle choices: for choosing that particular Wildland/Urban Interface, a well-known hazard area, to make her home. And I hope she has, and has had, a bit of sympathy for Californians when their houses burn. Some people don't, you know. I also hope she supports the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, and their firefighting efforts, because there is some question whether she has the ideological flexibility to support that budget. House fires are terribly hard on children, and I hope she remembers that too.

Deputy Horace, On Patrol

We won't have no 'magical fairy unicorns'! Nosiree! Not in Woodland anyway....

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Absolutely Had It With The Whining

My message today to the GOP: grow up. You make toddlers look mature. If Congress has the power to draft you to fight and die in the service of wars you don't agree with, it certainly has the power to enact a tax that you don't even have to pay unless you go without health insurance. If you don't like it, work against it. Just stop whining!

Neighbor's Cat Got Lucky

In-between my parked car, and the neighbor's parked car, and not far from where I normally feed the birds, I found a dismembered pigeon wing today.

No Health Care Rant Here Today

I intended to go on an extended rant today about health care and conservative overreach, but given today's ruling, the planned rant is postponed:
The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that the Affordable Care Act meets constitutional muster and can be allowed to continue its slow process of transforming the nation’s health care system.

Thursday’s historic decision, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, was by no means a fait accompli. Though the consensus among constitutional scholars has always been that the law’s insurance mandate did not exceed Congress’ Commerce Clause powers, its opponents erected a counterargument that quickly became an article of faith on the right. In the end, Roberts’ decision upheld the mandate as an exercise of Congress’ taxing power.

The outcome has been a point of tense speculation, hope and anxiety both in Washington and around the country from the moment President Obama signed health care reform into law.

Complicating matters for the law’s supporters, the administration’s top legal advocate, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, choked in oral arguments before the Supreme Court — out-litigated by the GOP’s star attorney Paul Clement.

And in the days leading up to the decision, a peculiar conventional wisdom took hold — in the media, and among political and judicial veterans — that the mandate, and possibly other key provisions, or the whole statute, would fall.

But during oral arguments, Roberts tipped his hand, and provided the Court a glimpse at his ultimate reasoning. By siding with the Court’s liberal wing, he may have saved the entire law. In the dissenting opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing on behalf of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia, held that “in our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.”

From the moment the law was enacted, most Court watchers expected that the ACA’s fate would hinge on the Court’s interpretation of Congress’ Commerce Clause powers. Conservatives contended that, by ultimately requiring people to enter a market, the health care law would compel idle uninsured people into activity — an arguably novel use of the Commerce Clause and one the challengers claimed exceeded constitutional limits. In the end, the five conservative justices, including Roberts, agreed with this argument. Only Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg among all nine justices explicitly argued otherwise.

“The Commerce Clause is not a general license to regulate an individual from cradle to grave, simply because he will predictably engage in particular transactions,” Roberts wrote. “Any police power to regulate individuals as such, as opposed to their activities, remains vested in the States.”

But Roberts nonetheless determined that, by allowing consumers to choose between purchasing insurance and paying a penalty, the mandate should be allowed to stand as an exercise of Congress’ taxing power.

“[I]t is estimated that four million people each year will choose to pay the IRS rather than buy insurance. We would expect Congress to be troubled by that prospect if such conduct were unlawful,” Roberts wrote in his controlling opinion. “That Congress apparently regards such extensive failure to comply with the mandate as tolerable suggests that Congress did not think it was creating four million outlaws. It suggests instead that the shared responsibility payment merely imposes a tax citizens may lawfully choose to pay in lieu of buying health insurance.”

Roberts went on: “Congress’s use of the Taxing Clause to encourage buying something is, by contrast, not new. Tax incentives already promote, for example, purchasing homes and professional educations. … The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

The ruling ends a Quixotic conservative quest to vanquish Obama’s signature achievement by fiat. It also devastates the GOP’s long-standing appeal to voters that the law exists as a monument to liberal overreach, in defiance of accepted limits on federal power. That Roberts, a conservative emissary to the Court, voted to uphold is particularly devastating.

Ho-Hum, Contempt Vote Today

I've been listening to Talk Radio, specifically Sean Hannity, trying to understand the Right Wing's take on the 'Fast and Furious' scandal, but I'm afraid the hullaballoo escapes me. The House of Representatives can hold as many contempt votes as it pleases for Attorney General Eric Holder, but at the end of the day, it is not enough to assert conspiracy theories. One needs to specify crimes.

As far as I can tell, 'Fast and Furious', like its Bush Administration predecessor 'Wide Receiver', falls in the category of a Very Bad Idea. Actually, it's not even that - it would be a pretty good idea if prosecutors did not demand ironclad evidence regarding gun-law violations to even make an arrest. So, given effective non-enforcement of U.S. gun laws, Fast and Furious turned out to be a Very Bad Idea. But it is not a crime, or at least not much of a crime. As far as I can tell, Holder can be properly-accused of not micromanaging the BATF. J'accuse! Ho-hum!

Scandals like this NEED a crime - a BIG CRIME - and if there is no BIG CRIME there, then it's not much of a scandal:
The drive to hold Holder in contempt grew out of an attempt by conservative leaders, activists and media outlets to turn the tragic death of U.S. border patrol agent Brian Terry into a political scandal involving the Obama administration. On the right, the Fast and Furious story has been a huge deal for well over a year now, but it wasn’t until the last few weeks that Americans who aren’t regularly exposed to Fox News or conservative talk radio heard much, if anything, about it. And now that Fast and Furious is attracting real media scrutiny, the basic premise – that ATF agents intentionally permitted guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug gangs — is crumbling, as a new Fortune magazine report thoroughly explains.

What’s left is the right’s determination to pin something, anything on the Obama administration – and Holder, its top target among Obama Cabinet officials from the start of his presidency, in particular. The contempt vote, after all, isn’t even about the circumstances that led to Terry’s killing; it’s about vague, unsubstantiated suggestions that the Justice Department engaged in some kind of political coverup after the fact. Conspiracy theories enter the picture here, with the numerous Republican congressmen – including the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa – and the NRA claiming that the administration tried to arm Mexican drug gangs in order to create a tragedy that would build momentum for domestic gun control efforts.

When the GOP began playing up the Fast and Furious program, some in the party may have believed – or hoped – that it would produce a scandal that would derail, or seriously wound, the administration. But that’s not going to happen. By this point, the Holder contempt vote is simply a matter of base maintenance for Republicans; their voters and some of the most important interest groups aligned with their party are demanding this, so they’d better deliver.

Posing Uncomfortable Questions

Caption: Homes burned by the Waldo Canyon Fire are seen west of Colorado Springs, Colorado June 27, 2012. Firefighters struggled on Wednesday against a wildfire at the edge of Colorado Springs that doubled in size overnight and has forced 32,000 people from their homes, prompted evacuations from the U.S. Air Force Academy and consumed an unknown number of homes. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Question as valid elsewhere in the West as in Colorado:
That leaves tough questions for governments, homeowners, and even the private sector. Among them:

Who should bear the cost of firefighting efforts given dwindling federal money?

Can foresters — as well as homeowners — do more wildfire mitigation work, and how might it be paid for?

Given the hodgepodge of local ordinances, would Colorado be better served by statewide fire-readiness standards for homes constructed in the WUI?

Should property insurers mandate — and monitor — defensible space as a condition of issuing policies?

Next System Up

Looks weak at the moment, and forecasts show little development, but even though it’s only a little over halfway across the Atlantic, forecasts show a fairly-close approach to Tampa in about eight – ten days, so we’ll need to start keeping an eye out in a few day’s time:

National Hurricane Center says:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Colorado Capturing The Attention Today

It's a banner day at Marc Valdez Weblog today, but for all the wrong reasons. In 2010, I posted information regarding a wild fire near Flagstaff, AZ, but today, frantic people are trying to get more information regarding the Flagstaff fire near Boulder, CO, and pulling up my old blog post by mistake. I have nothing to offer, but people frantically search anyway. According to the Denver Post:
The human desire to connect, whether by tweet, phone call or blog, plays out in an intense and public way during a disaster. While some share the terrible beauty of a fire-tinged sunset, others simply want to see a photo of what's left of their home.

"It's like we're in a circle of hell just waiting for a landing spot," said Amy Cosper from her parents' home in Evergreen. She and her husband, Mark Richtermeyer, were on a motorcycle trip in Santa Fe when the High Park fire started, so they had no chance to pack for evacuation.
Meanwhile, Colorado Springs is also seeing big troubles:
The family fled the Peregrine neighborhood in northwest Colorado Springs on a two-lane road that quickly turned into a parking lot. About 7,000 people were trying to get out the same way.

Sobecki said it took two hours to travel four miles. They found refuge at a friend's house on the east side of town, away from the fire.

Sobecki was born and raised in Colorado Springs and he'd seen fires before. But none like this. None that blazed into the city.

He thought about Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's words -- that it looked like nothing short of a full-scale military invasion.

"That is Colorado Springs, the city I was born and raised in, the city that is at war with nature," Sobecki said.

Looks Like Summer Monsoon Is Beginning In The Southwest

Hope the rain comes in before the fires consume everything....

Vatican Seeks Out FOX News

(Via Rising Hegemon) Just when I'm beginning to think conservatives are going to conquer the Universe, the conservatives start pulling bonehead moves. In Vatican terms, though, this may actually be an improvement:
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has brought in the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with years of communications blunders and one of its most serious scandals in decades, The Associated Press learned Saturday.

Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican's secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told the AP.

...He defined his job, which he said he had been offered twice before, as: "You're shaping the message, you're molding the message, and you're trying to make sure everyone remains on-message. And that's tough."

...Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II's longtime spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei.

...Even the Vatican's response to the leaks from within the Vatican of sensitive papal documents hasn't involved a terribly sophisticated public relations strategy. Just last week the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, blamed the media and the devil for fueling the scandal and accused journalists of "pretending to be Dan Brown."

Brown wrote "The Da Vinci Code," the best-selling fictional account that portrayed Opus Dei — of which Bertone's new communications adviser is a member — as being at the root of an international Catholic conspiracy.

Newt Gingrich, And Personal Responsibility

Too much! Today, Callista Gingrich sends a beautiful photo, via Instagram, from Tuscany:
Newt Gingrich ends his White House dream today with his political committee facing a mountain of debts — owing about $4 million to scores of businesses and campaign workers around the country who fear they will never get paid.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Felt Like A Kid With A Magnifying Glass This Weekend

Running Spotlight #1 for "Hairspray" is fun, but it's challenging too. Every little nervous tremor shows up on a big scale on stage, so I have to remain perfectly still, except for those moments I have to sweep the beam quickly and confidently across stage to keep pace with the actors. I have to think three seconds ahead of the show, so I don't get taken by surprise.

I feel like a kid with a magnifying glass, capable of instantly smoking any audience member who stands up at the wrong time during the show. I see deer-in-the-headlights looks too, from actors occasionally caught in the beam (like Hannah), and even cat-like reflections off their retinas (like Megan). I don't know how some actors (like Deborah) tolerate the bright beam so close, or how others (like Patricia) adjust, when I abruptly dim the beam as they turn away and exit down dark steps.

In a theater, the people in charge of the lights have all the power....

Lost Parakeet Tells Police Where It Lives

I've heard that addresses in some parts of Tokyo are difficult - basically, rural-type addresses unsuited for a vast megalopolis. This owner had foresight (via Leighton on Facebook):
The male bird had escaped early on Sunday morning from its owner's home in the city of Sagamihara, west of Tokyo. It remained at large before perching on the shoulder of a guest staying in a nearby hotel.

Handed over to local police, the bird did not speak until Tuesday evening, when it blurted out the names of the city and district where its owner's house is located, said a spokesman for the north Sagamihara police station.

It then produced the home's block and street number for a trio of astonished police officers.

The bird's owner, a 64-year-old woman, once lost another parakeet after it flew away and was determined to prevent a repeat, the spokesman said.

"So the owner decided to teach the address to this parakeet after she bought it at a pet shop two years ago," he said.

"The bird's name was found to be Piko-chan as it said, 'You're pretty, Piko-chan'."

Bev's Review Of "Hairspray" Is Out

She likes it!

"Eye" Of Debby Makes Landfall On Florida Coast

About an hour ago, near Horseshoe Beach.

Dwight replied:
Hmmm. The link appears to show that Debby went (or is traveling) across north Florida and is proceeding up the east coast of Georgia and the Carolinas. Is that correct? If so, it sure didn’t track with the forecasts of it stalling and then going into western Florida or Alabama.

Thanks again for all you continual updates. Tremendously appreciated.
I replied:
Hi Dwight:

Debby was a weird system, in that the center of circulation at the surface was often nowhere near the most-active thunderstorms. Right now, the Intellicast animation shows Debby’s big thunderstorms off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. The center of circulation at the surface, however - what the National Hurricane Center would call the “eye” - is only now crossing the western Florida beach, in the Big Bend area north of Tampa. The “eye” is barely-visible in the Intellicast animation, and shows up as a ghostly white spinning ring.

Glad to be of help! Hope you dry off soon.

What you received was pretty-much a worst-case Tropical Storm impact. I think the weather people did a bit of a disservice to Floridians by not issuing more-forceful warnings much earlier, and if people grouse, they have a right. The very first indications of potential trouble started showing up in the NOGAPS forecasts on June 9th or 10th (I hesitated E-Mailing you at first, because I worried about giving you false alarms), but even as late as Thursday morning June 21st, influential folks like Al Roker seemed only mildly concerned about potential trouble.

In defense of the weather people, Debby was the sneakiest chameleon of a storm I’ve ever seen, the way it moved so slowly and dodged left and right, and it lulled people into complacency. Even today, it’s still moving slowly – almost glacial, by tropical storm standards.

May we see no more threatening systems this season!
Sunday, Tampa received 7.11 inches of rain, breaking the old record of 5.29 inches set in 1995. So far, Tampa has received a total of 10.74 inches since June 20th.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lucy, The Lemon Beagle

Lucy, The Lemon Beagle lives next door, and it's been fun playing with her. She has a stuffed squirrel and a stuffed pink cow, and (courtesy of me) she now has one of Sparky's old toys - it looks like an orange, plastic sea urchin. She will play keep away and tug-o-war for hours, if you have the time.

Breaking Bad Season 4 Bloopers

"Fallacies" By Twaughthammer

"Hairspray" - DMTC - Final Dress Rehearsal - Act I

Wilbur Turnblad (Andy Hyun) and Edna Turnblad (Scott Minor).

Wilbur Turnblad (Andy Hyun) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).

Seaweed J. Stubbs (Erik Catalan) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).

Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina) and Beatniks (Noah Papagni and Dre Caven).

"Dodgeball", featuring Amber Von Tussle (Emily Jo Seminoff).

"Dodgeball", featuring Amber Von Tussle (Emily Jo Seminoff).

"Dodgeball", featuring Amber Von Tussle (Emily Jo Seminoff).

Penny Pingleton (Danielle Hansen), Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina), and Seaweed J. Stubbs (Erik Catalan).

"Dodgeball": Amber Von Tussle (Emily Jo Seminoff), Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina), and Penny Pingleton (Danielle Hansen).

"Dodgeball", featuring Gym Teacher (Andrea Eve Thorpe)

Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina), Link Larkin (Alex Cesena) and Amber Von Tussle (Emily Jo Seminoff).

Amber Von Tussle (Emily Jo Seminoff).

Velma Von Tussle (Patricia Glass).

Velma Von Tussle (Patricia Glass), and Amber Von Tussle (Emily Jo Seminoff).

Link Larkin (Alex Cesena), Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina), and Motormouth Maybelle (Deborah Hammond).

Edna Turnblad (Scott Minor).

Wilbur Turnblad (Andy Hyun).

Little Inez (Megan Sandoval), Motormouth Maybelle (Deborah Hammond), Seaweed J. Stubbs (Erik Catalan), Link Larkin (Alex Cesena) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).

Little Inez (Megan Sandoval), Motormouth Maybelle (Deborah Hammond), Seaweed J. Stubbs (Erik Catalan), Link Larkin (Alex Cesena) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).

Link Larkin (Alex Cesena) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).

Edna Turnblad (Scott Minor) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).

Edna Turnblad (Scott Minor) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).

"Hairspray" - DMTC - Final Dress Rehearsal - Act II

"The Big Dollhouse", featuring the Prison Matron (Andrea Eve Thorpe). Also shown are Hannah Wallace and Penny Pingleton (Danielle Hansen).

"The Big Dollhouse": Prison Guard (Jan Isaacson), Velma Von Tussle (Patricia Glass), Amber Von Tussle (Emily Jo Seminoff), and Little Inez (Megan Sandoval).

Amber Von Tussle (Emily Jo Seminoff).

Penny Pingleton (Danielle Hansen), Prison Guard (Christine Deamer), Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina), and Prison Guard (Jan Isaacson).

"You're Timeless To Me": Wilbur Turnblad (Andy Hyun) and Edna Turnblad (Scott Minor).

Link Larkin (Alex Cesena) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).

Link Larkin (Alex Cesena) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).

Motormouth Maybelle (Deborah Hammond), Seaweed J. Stubbs (Erik Catalan) and Penny Pingleton (Danielle Hansen).

The Pinkys: Christina Rae, Ayesha Thomas, and Judith Boreham.

Upper left to lower right: Noah Papagni, Dre Caven, Hannah Wallace, Haylie Roberts, Ashley Holm (?), x (?)

Little Inez (Megan Sandoval), Motormouth Maybelle (Deborah Hammond) and Tracy Turnblad (Eimi Taormina).


Cast picture

Cast picture

During a break in taking pictures, Tammy (Allison Ruanto) stepped forward to ask a question. Well after the end of final dress rehearsal, her exotic costume and visible fatigue reminded me of nothing so much as an exotic jungle orchid.

Cast picture

Scalia Jumps The Shark

More on that corrupt fascist ideologue on the Supreme Court:
Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA School of Law, piles on his criticism of Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent against the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to invalidate major parts of the Arizona immigration law.

He writes in an email to TPM:

Scalia has finally jumped the shark. He claims to respect the founding fathers, but his dissent channels the opponents of the Constitution. Back then, opponents argued that the Constitution denied states their sovereignty by giving too much power to the federal government, as with immigration. Now Scalia echoes their complaints that states are being denied their sovereignty. States are not sovereign when it comes to powers vested in Congress, such as the authority over immigration and naturalization.

It’s mind-boggling to see Scalia rail against the Executive’s power to enforce the law. That is the core role of the president. He, not the state of Arizona, is the enforcer of our laws. Due to limited resources, every executive – state, federal, municipal – must make choices about how aggressively to enforce the law. Cities don’t uniformly ticket every car that parks illegally. States don’t lock up everyone who ever commits a crime. And the federal government simply can’t use its limited funds to enforce every immigration violation without costs to other, more important laws.

Scalia is an originalist: he has his own original view of the Constitution, ungrounded in history and steeped in conservative politics.

Tampa Rainfall

Yesterday, Tampa received 7.11 inches of rain, breaking the old record of 5.29 inches set in 1995. So far today, 2.32 inches of rain has fallen, for a total of 10.29 inches since June 20th.

Optical Illusion

Florida Really Got Hammered This Weekend!

I was in contact with Dwight in Tampa all weekend long, and the news from there wasn't so good.

Dwight wrote:
Subject: YIKES - We are getting clobbered by serious rain

Marc - The subject line says it all. This is the heaviest continuous rain I have even seen in the 8 years since we moved here, including all the hurricanes we had in 2004 and 2005. There is a possibility we could see some flooding where we live and we are not located in a flood plain. I’m sure there will be a lot of flooding in the Tampa area. Here is link to the local Doppler radar for our area.
I replied:
I'm very sorry to hear about this. It looks as if there is a very narrow beam of heavy rainfall coming in from the SW, and even if the system moved a little it wouldn't be so bad, but it looks like it's staying put. I'm hoping storm intensity will drop after sunset - it looks like it might - and give you guys precious hours for water drainage.
Dwight replied:
Marc – FYI, here is a copy of a note I received a few minutes ago from a friend who lives in the St, Pete area:
It is very nasty. Just cleaned out my closet under the stairs because of all the tornadoes touching down (needed room for Max [her dog] too!). Just heard the Skyway is closing due to high winds and incoming high tide is, so far, 5 feet above normal. Lots of street flooding, downed trees, people getting rescued from their cars. Think I’ll eat in tonight!
I replied:
It looks like it will continue raining for the next 2 days. Kind of an agony.

The system seems to be splitting into two parts. The western part will head to Louisiana. The eastern part will head up the Atlantic seaboard, and eventually out to sea.

"Hairspray" - 'You Can't Stop The Beat'

Here is the finale from "Hairspray", as done last year by an all-star cast (featuring Drew Carey and Harvey Fierstein) at the Hollywood Bowl.

I rarely get teary-eyed when watching musicals, but the finale of "Hairspray" always does it for me. It was my favorite part of the 2007 movie, and it was my favorite part of DMTC's show that opened this weekend! In my book, it's the best number in all of Broadway history.