Friday, October 05, 2012

Southwestern Hiatus

Blogging will be sporadic for the next week: I'll be wandering the Southwestern skies!

First, I’m heading to my hometown of Albuquerque to visit the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, meet with relatives and friends (one of whom is flying in from Vegas for the weekend), and also take as many “Breaking Bad” location photos as I possibly can. Since I started my reference blog posts on this subject, a BrBa Location Facebook Group has evolved, and I’d like to meet this crowd:

Then, I’ve been informed by Linda Walker, head of Tucson Regional Ballet, that they are opening a Historical Museum at the end of this month, and since I attended in the early days (the mid-80’s), I get a preview! So, I’ll swing through Tucson next weekend.

Then off to Phoenix, to visit Deborah McMillion-Nering and also attend something called the Freak Music Festival.

So, it doesn’t look like a real restful holiday, but rather jam-packed with activities!

It's starting off, predictably enough, kind of strange. I got the good fare, but the flight is at 6:00 a.m. Crikey! By the time I reach ABQ, I'll be a mess! But at least I'll be a mess there instead of here!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Read A Bit Too Ebullient

Reading went OK, but I'm thinking I was a bit too ebullient to audition well for a sad, depressed clown.

Hitting The Fan In Woodland

It's all hit the fan in Woodland! This thing smelled from the very start, and the stench just gets worse.

The cops acted confidently:

Dale Johnson was confident he had a legal right to pursue and detain Luis Gutierrez that fatal day in April 2009.

The Yolo County sheriff's lieutenant, who was then a sergeant and head of the county's gang task force, testified in Sacramento federal court that, when Gutierrez ran from him, he had cause to believe Gutierrez was up to no good.

He was a "Hispanic male" in baggy clothes walking in an area where gang members hang out, Johnson testified.

He saw the officer's badge, Johnson said, yet ran away, with his hand in the right front pocket of his shorts.

"It was a very dynamic thing that had happened," Johnson told the jury of eight women and one man. "It was not normal. I believed that some criminal activity could be taking place. He could have just committed a crime. He may have a warrant out for his arrest."

It was over in less than a minute, according to Johnson. He caught up with Gutierrez, grabbed him briefly by the shoulders but couldn't hang on, and Gutierrez ducked away and stopped. Gutierrez swiped at him with a folding knife, he testified, so Johnson pulled his service handgun and fired four times.

But all of this may be rubbish:
She appeared uncomfortable recalling the incident, and was a reluctant witness who had to be subpoenaed by plaintiffs' lawyers in order to assure her appearance at the farmworker's wrongful-death trial. She gave short, mostly one-word answers, volunteering nothing.

But by the time she had finished Wednesday, her testimony dramatically contradicted the accounts of two Yolo County sheriff's deputies accused of violating the victim's constitutional rights and killing him without just cause.

...She was driving east on the Gum Avenue overpass above state Highway 113 when she noticed a black Ford Taurus behind her going east in the westbound lane of the two-lane street.

Still in the wrong lane, the car pulled to the curb and two men jumped out and began running at Gutierrez, who was walking east on the sidewalk adjacent to the westbound lane. She said there appeared to be nothing unusual about Gutierrez, who looked behind him and began to run from the two men.

Even though the pursuers were dressed in T-shirts and jeans and the car was unmarked, Fletes said she assumed it was police business because she recognized Yolo County sheriff's Sgt. Dale Johnson from a fitness center she frequented and knew he was a law enforcement officer.

Curious, Fletes said, she slowed down and eventually pulled to the curb and stopped.

She said Gutierrez ran 10 to 15 feet down the sidewalk, then veered into the street in front of her car. Johnson was hot on his heels, no more than 15 feet behind, with a gun in his hand, she said. At this point, she said, she did not see the other man who had alighted from the car.

"I heard one shot, but I don't know where it came from," Fletes told the jury. She said that just before Gutierrez reached the other side of the street he turned to face Johnson, then fell to the ground.

"I was told they had this under control and to move forward," Fletes recalled.

...Virtually every part of Fletes' testimony runs counter to the story told to the jury earlier by Johnson and the other pursuing officer, sheriff's Deputy Hernan Oviedo.
You don't have to believe that Gutierrez had a knife, or that one was planted by the cops. All you have to believe is that Gutierrez didn't recognize his plainclothes assailants as cops, and decided to flee from a highly-irregular, highly-aggressive approach while vulnerable on the Gum Avenue overpass.  And for that, he was killed.

Reading For A Clown

Yesterday, Joe The Plumber and I worked on a broken sprinkler head (and in the process detected a broken pipe that will just have to wait for repair). Afterwards, we stopped off at Pancake Circus, located at 21st & Broadway, where this book is on display.

I got a surprise message the other day:
Hey Marc,

My name is K. I was given your Facebook contact info by a mutual friend Caitlin Kiley. I am a local Sacramento filmmaker and film student at CSU Sacramento. I am directing a short film I wrote, as a senior film project CSUS.

I am looking for the lead role and you were recommending to me by Caitlin, who is helping a bit with casting. The character’s name is Barny and I was wondering if you'd be interested in acting for my film. Barny is a recently fired clown. He is older, scruffy faced, and dirty. He is pretty depressed and somber since being let go from the circus. He was a clown his entire life, the circus lifestyle is all he’s ever known. He had a good career as a young clown in the past, but his time in the circus is over. Now, he is having a hard time adapting to and facing the harsh and cruel 'real world'. Naturally, he is still trying to act like a clown, but people are not very accepting of him. He's experiencing a loss of identify. The character develops as the story progresses.
I replied:
Hi K.:

That sounds HILARIOUS! I'm flattered that Caitlin suggested me! The main hindrance I see is that I don't consider myself to be a very good actor. Nevertheless, sometimes people naturally fit certain roles, so it's certainly worth giving it a shot.

October looks difficult. I'm traveling next week, and I'm head of DMTC's Haunted House Committee.

Here's a video of me and a friend (who, oddly enough, was once a clown).
He replied:
Hi Marc,

Thanks for the quick response. Yes, most of the filming will be done from the middle of October to the first week or so of November. Sounds like that is a busy time for you, but we may be able to work around your schedule if that could be a possibility?
We're heading over to my house this afternoon for a reading, to see if I'm suitable for this role.

Gee, I Rather Liked The Debate

I didn't see the entire debate - mostly just the last two-thirds - and I rather liked what I saw. Nevertheless, many are agitated.

Wow, Chris Matthews is apoplectic!

I see Chris's point, though - from a debater's perspective, Obama wasn't really there. But, hey, he's the President. And who, exactly, says he has to show up?

And Romney - especially compared to Gingrich, Perry, et al., the very, very best Republican candidate available this year! He exudes that Mormon industriousness that is so attractive! The Mormons, who have always been crazier than weasels in heat, nevertheless work admirably hard.  Romney - the biggest, most-industrious, most eager-beaver liar who ever lived! Makes Nixon look like a Boy Scout!

At the pinnacle of the campaign noosphere, where it's just two candidates, the media, and the vast, silent audience, sometimes it's better, like Obama, to be a silent ninja of "The Matrix":
The film depicts a future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality or cyberspace created by sentient machines to pacify and subdue the human population, while their bodies' heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source.
I picture Obama to be like Morpheus, Chris Matthews like Neo, and Rachel Maddow like Trinity:
Computer programmer Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is secretly a hacker known as "Neo". He is restless, eager and driven to learn the meaning of cryptic references to the "Matrix" appearing on his computer. A female hacker named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) confirms that a man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) can help him; however, three Agents, led by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), arrest Neo and attempt to prevent him from collaborating with Morpheus.

...Morpheus tells Neo that humans are fighting against intelligent machines that were created early in the 21st century and have since taken control of the Earth's surface. The machines harvest the bioelectrical energy of humans, who are kept docile within the "Matrix" – a simulation of the world as it was in 1999. Neo has lived in this simulated world since birth; in reality, the year is closer to 2199. Morpheus and his crew belong to a group of free humans who "unplug" others from the Matrix and recruit them to their rebellion against the Machines. They are able to connect themselves to the Matrix, where they can gain superhuman abilities by using their understanding of the simulated reality's true nature to manipulate its physical laws. ...  Morpheus believes that Neo is "the One", a man prophesied to end the war.

...In the Matrix, the Agents drug and interrogate Morpheus in an attempt to learn his access codes to the mainframe computer in Zion, the humans' subterranean refuge in the real world. Neo and Trinity return to the Matrix and rescue Morpheus; in the process, Neo becomes more confident in his ability to manipulate the Matrix, and is ultimately able to dodge bullets fired at him.

... In the Matrix, just before reaching another exit, Neo is shot and killed by Agent Smith. Trinity, who is standing over Neo's body in the real world, whispers that the Oracle told her she would fall in love with the One. She kisses Neo and restores his life. In the Matrix, Neo revives with new power to perceive and control the simulated world, and effortlessly destroys Agent Smith, before returning to the real world in time for the ship's EMP weapon to destroy the attacking sentinels.

The film ends with Neo back in the Matrix, making a telephone call promising that he will demonstrate to the people imprisoned in the Matrix that "anything is possible." He hangs up the phone and flies into the sky.
Wow! If the humans are taking refuge in Utah (Zion), they must cleverly be in southern Utah!  And the GOP is wrong, as usual, about mocking Obama as "The One".  Obama is not that obvious!

What Chris Matthews needs is a little patience. Things are not as dire as they look:
There’s no question that Romney crushed the president, who gave a poor performance. But the facts are clear: This won’t determine the outcome.

It’s worth looking back to the 2004 presidential debates. The unanimous opinion was that John Kerry punished George W. Bush. Whereas Bush was churlish, impatient, and aloof, Kerry was dynamic and aggressive. He came away from the debates with momentum and a boost in the polls.

... Obama is winning the vast majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, while Romney is doing the same for Republicans. There isn’t much across-the-aisle voting in this election, which means that Romney needs to win undecideds and break Obama’s coalition to make gains. To do that, he needs to offer a convincing argument to Democratic voters and, so far, his campaign hasn’t been able to clear that hurdle. Yes, the debate helped him look serious and presidential, but that’s never been his problem: Romney moves with an aura of competence. What he lacks is detail and conviction.
Obama looked like his mind was on bigger objectives than this year's sordid campaign tit-for-tat. I liked his presentation!

I liked Romney's presentation too, mostly because, finally freed from the constraints of the GOP, Jim Lehrer, Obama, and any other human agency in the Universe, he effortlessly threw the Tea Partiers under the bus by reclaiming Romneycare, and proceeded to lie with a brazenness we've never seen before. There was no one to stop him! Even though the hour is late, those lies will catch up to him! Unlike previous brazen lies (like Romney having been in a coma after his auto accident) these lies are getting immediate, hostile attention.

Still, I can't help but feel for friend Ben, who returned home after a hard day's work to find the slimiest, used-car salesman ever invented "winning" the debate:
Well, I had to watch the debate late replay because I was working late. So I was not feeling great after working a little too hard, and then I had to watch Romney turn on (and leave on) that plastic, smirking, disrespectful smile, lie or change his positions multiple times because it was a different audience (AGAIN!!!), and disrespect one of the most sincere, dedicated Presidents we've ever had over and over again with things he said. THEN(!!!), I had to watch the talking heads and their instant polls say the President "lost" the debate basically because he wasn't as aggressive or as much of a jerk as Romney was. Wow. This isn't one of those trashy reality shows where you get declared the winner because you were the best liar and screwed over all your friends. Is that the kind of behavior he will use to effectively reach out to the democrats when he meets with them every Monday (pretty ironic). It's supposed to be an educational debate to help people who haven't been paying enough attention gain a better understanding of the candidates' plans and positions so they can make an informed decision.
Don't worry, Ben! The American people saw and heard all we needed to make an informed decision!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

How Mitt Romney Ripped Apart Sealy Mattresses

When the "great vampire squid" of Bain Capital relentlessly jammed its blood funnel into Sealy Mattresses:
Relative upstart Tempur-Pedic agreed to buy Sealy this week for $2.20 a share, paying less than $250 million for its stock and assuming its $750 million debt.

...Companies like Bain Capital call themselves private equity firms, but as I explained in my book “The Buyout of America” they really provide no equity. They make money by putting businesses at risk. They say they turn struggling businesses around. But Sealy was not a turnaround — it was the market leader in its sector.

Romney first tried to boost Sealy’s profits, so it could pay its debt, by acquiring one of Sealy’s biggest retail customers, Mattress Discounters. But MD expanded too quickly and went bankrupt.

Bain then pushed Sealy to design the no-flip, or one-sided, bed. To cut costs they eliminated the bottom cover, making the bottom simply a foundation. With two-sided beds, consumers can flip their mattress, like they rotate a tire, for longer wear, so getting rid of the bottom would shorten the life of the mattress.

But Bain was more interested in cutting costs and boost short-term profits than in providing value to consumers. For a while, it didn’t seem to matter. Bain and co-investors sold — “harvested,” if you like — Sealy in 2004 to fellow private equity firm KKR for $1.5 billion, pocketing $741 million for its $140 million investment.

KKR then took Sealy public in 2006 at $16 a share. Like Bain, the new owners spent little on Sealy national advertising, likely figuring it was better to lock in a decent return. Tempur-Pedic, meanwhile, was spending big on ads, outflanking Sealy, which missed the chance to make good competing foam beds.

Now, Tempur-Pedic is the leader for beds selling for more than $2,000, and consumers trust it as the standard for foam mattresses.

A longtime Sealy executive told me he was very sad about last week’s sale. “I don’t like being acquired by an upstart like Tempur. We should have figured out how to handle them in the marketplace.” Now, some of Sealy’s 4,500 workers will likely lose their jobs in the merger.

The Ever-Changing Face Of Europe

Europe since 1000 (ht/t Doug on Facebook).


Sometimes events just before an election - "October Surprises", and the like - can actually affect the result of the election. Nevertheless, these events are quite rare - rarer than people realize. Public opinion usually isn't that volatile.

The only election I can remember where the results actually turned over 48 hours just before an election was the Spanish Election of 2004, where shocked voters struck out angrily against brazen, toxic, George-W.-Bush-inspired lies:
In a result which defied most predictions, the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, won a plurality of seats in Congress of Deputies, and was able to form a government with the support of minor parties. The socialists received more votes than expected as a result of the government's handling of the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings. In the early moments following the attacks, the national government maintained the theory of the ETA responsibility; when evidence pointed to the possibility that an Islamic extremist group was behind the massacre, the ETA theory lost weight. If Islamic extremists were responsible, the attack could have been perceived by the electorate to be a consequence of the Spanish government's support of the invasion of Iraq.
Here's another discussion, in an American setting (but which, interestingly, leaves out Nixons' brazen manipulation of negotiations with the North Vietnamese in 1972):
In the end, the Republican plan didn't work and the letters were never released. Why? Perhaps because Wendell Willkie decided it was beneath him. Perhaps because the Republicans were worried it would cause a backlash. Or perhaps it was because Willkie had a mistress and FDR made it clear that two could play the October Surprise game. Whatever the reason, the letters stayed in their vault and Roosevelt ended up winning the election by 5 million votes.

Singing The Praises Of The Australian Reserve Bank

At least someone, somewhere, is getting these things right:
I've noted previously the remarkably underdiscussed fact that Australia hasn't had a recession in over 20 years. My explanation of why that is is that they have the best central bank in the world, the Reserve Bank of Australia, which just cut interest rates and sent stocks soaring after a period of market weakness driven by pessimism about Chinese growth. This is an important issue because if it's true that Australia has recession-proofed itself through sound monetary policy, there are lessons that larger countries could be learning here.

Worried Ohio Nuns Just Want You To Know

Via Jezebel.

Monday, October 01, 2012

"California Bans 'Gay Cure' Therapy"

I need to check my vision. I read "bans" as "buns":
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that makes California the first state to ban a controversial form of psychotherapy that's aimed at making gay teenagers straight.

Effective Jan. 1, mental health practitioners are prohibited from performing sexual orientation change efforts — known as reparative or conversion therapy — for anyone under 18.

Getting Stoked For Halloween

"Home Improvement" Bear

I wondered at the beginning whether it was a good idea to bring these two parties together: the unlicensed plumber and the needy homeowner. But it was such a simple problem - or so it seemed. Her washing machine drain line was clogged. So, just unclog it. Right? Everyone had the purest of motives. She needed value for money. He needed money for value.

But then, there were signs the drain line itself was compromised, so they decided to dig it up and replace it. That involved days and days of hard, difficult work. (I thought it was a bad idea, because the plumber didn't have the resources to engage on such a demanding project, but by then the project had a life of its own.)

During that phase, the plumber noticed the homeowner liked to make Teddy Bears. So, he asked her to make one for himself. Something special - for the memories! Green eyes and nose; slim, not fat; no bow tie. She proceeded to start making one.

Then, signs appeared that the main sewage line itself had too many roots in it. The drill bit snapped on the rooter machine the plumber was using to attack the main sewage line. So, in addition to suspected roots, there was now a jagged object sitting in the main line that was perfectly-designed to cause clogs all by itself.

Then, the new washing machine line backed up. She stopped using most of her house's plumbing and moved into the guest house instead. Quarreling by now, the plumber and the homeowner brought the project to a standstill.

Then her next-door-neighbor, who apparently has decades of grudges against her, called the City. Apparently the plumber's chaos had caught his attention. And the plumber's dog irritated him too.

A City Inspector came over and demanded: "Where is the permit?" There was no permit. It hadn't occurred to anyone to get a permit. It never does when money and value are the objects.

He made further comments too. "This work isn't done to Code. I live just a short distance away, and will be passing by here regularly, so don't try anything underhanded. And where is this dog I keep hearing about?"

So, she was forced to pay a $274.00 fine. What a mess! And the main sewage line still requires attention!

In fact, if you gave a liberal budget to two inept people and told them to cause as much Home Improvement chaos with it as possible, you couldn't have done a better job than these two did.

(My special burden of guilt is that I brought the two of them together!)

But she follows through on her promises, bless her heart! And so, a bit late, here is the plumber's new Teddy Bear....

Thinking Ahead To Halloween

(h/t Kennard)

Toasty Sacramento September

Apparently September was a record month for warmth in Sacramento, and it continues into October:
It's been more than a decade since Sacramento experienced 100-degree weather in October, but the city could broil under century-mark heat today or Tuesday.

The National Weather Service is forecasting 99 degrees for today and 100 on Tuesday, very hot weather for early autumn. The toasty temps are courtesy of a high-pressure system parked over Northern California.

The hot temperatures come in the wake of 26 days of 90-degree weather or hotter in September - breaking the previous September record of 24 set in 1974.

The average high temperature for early October days is about 80 degrees. The last time downtown Sacramento reached the triple-digit heat mark in October was Oct. 2, 2001.

And NWS forecasters say the latest the mercury ever reached 100 in Sacramento was Oct. 10, 1991.

Near normal weather should return by the end of the week, forecasters promise.
Most people I know don't like it, but I find it very agreeable. Warmth means life. Last night on TCM, they were showing "A Night To Remember", about the sinking of the Titanic in the frigid north Atlantic. I, for one, preferred watching the movie from a nice, cozy easy chair.

The Only "Zinger" That Ever Really Counted

Presidential debates make one look for "zingers."

Nevertheless, this is the only one that ever hit home, and it wasn't even a presidential debate. It too, didn't matter in the long run.

A Little Too Paranoid About The "October Surprise"

It's fairly-easy to spook liberals these days about an "October Surprise":
According to a highly reliable source, as Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama prepare for the first presidential debate Wednesday night, top Republican operatives are primed to unleash a new two-pronged offensive that will attack Obama as weak on national security, and will be based, in part, on new intelligence information regarding the attacks in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on Sept. 11.

...The source described the Republicans as chortling with glee that the Obama administration “definitely had intel” about the attack before it happened.

...He said they were jubilant about their new strategy and said they intended to portray Obama as a helpless, Jimmy Carter-like president and to equate the tragedy in Libya with President Carter’s failed attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980. “They are so excited about it,” he said. “Over and over again they talked about how it would be just like Jimmy Carter’s failed raid. They feel it is going to give them a last-minute landslide in the election.”
The Talk Radio folks, like Sean Hannity, were already pushing this angle last week, so it's not much of a surprise this week. Nevertheless, let's take a look at it.

It would not be surprising to me if terrorists had taken root in this year's semi-lawless Libya and used the occasion of a protest march to launch an assault against U.S. interests. It would not be surprising either if the U.S. caught intelligence of the upcoming attack. Indeed, the U.S. Embassy statement released in Cairo just prior to the attack, the one the GOP keeps referring to as appeasement, makes the most sense seen in that light. The diplomats could see the ten-ton truck of violence barreling right towards them, and they were doing the best they could to stop it. It also would not be surprising if the U.S. underestimated the size of the problem and botched its response. U.S. Administrations sometimes say silly things, and the Obama Administration would hardly be the first.

This is what the Middle East is like. All the time! 24/7!

So, what here, exactly, is the "October Surprise"?

Remember, the Iranian Hostage Crisis gained such disruptive power because it was so unprecedented and lasted so long. It was the TOP HEADLINE every single day for more than a year-and-a-half. Iran was the most important U.S. client in the area at the time, and its loss hurt.

In contrast, Libya hasn't dominated the headlines with anything like that power.

Plus, in any election, it's always the INCUMBENT ADMINISTRATION that is in the best position to execute an "October Surprise." It is the greatest power of incumbency, after all! Nixon proved that, in 1972, with all of Henry Kissinger's false Peace Process "progress." People like George McGovern saw right through it at the time, but that didn't mean it didn't work. People can be such chumps!

The U.S. has less power in the Middle East than conservatives like to pretend. Saber-rattling has a lot less punch in a marketplace full of saber rattlers. So, let's follow the GOP's lead and use the month of October to debate the Middle East. It's an important subject, after all. The truth is actually the Obama Administration's friend here. Lay it all out, problems and all. Let the voters sort it out, as they should.

And watch the Obama Administration pull some "October Surprises" of their own!

GOP Staffer Vs. Celebrity Partier

This is awesome! You have to envy Lindsay Lohan for coming up with this. I wish I had thought of it!:
Lohan met LaBella — who is from Valley Village, Calif., but has been working in Washington — during her night hanging out at trendy clubs Double Seven and 1Oak.

He works for Rep. John Shimkus and is the nephew of comedian Heather McDonald.

Christian LaBella, 25, was charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment on Lindsay Lohan. However, the charge was later dropped.

After the club closed around 4 a.m., the actress and LaBella wound up back in her room at the W with other friends, including celebrity booker Claus Hjelmbak.

At about 6 a.m., she took LaBella’s cell phone and got upset after discovering the pictures of herself taken earlier in the evening, police sources said. He had been emailing them to friends.

LaBella demanded she return the phone, but Lohan balked — and told cops he threw her down on the bed and scratched her. At one point, the troubled actress locked herself in a bathroom. She finally ran out of the 15th-floor suite — where rooms top $500 a night — and scurried down several flights of stairs, with Hjelmbak in tow.

When the “Freaky Friday” star and her hunky pal began walking back up the stairs, they again encountered LaBella, sources said.

She claimed that he choked her from behind and threw her to the floor before Hjelmbak yanked him away, cops said. Lohan pulled the fire alarm for help as he fled, police said.

Cops who responded spoke to Lohan and began looking for LaBella, who was trapped in the stairwell because the alarm had disabled the elevators.

As he exited the stairwell, police grabbed him. Lohan identified him as her attacker, and he was taken to the 13th Precinct stationhouse.
The country needs a wrestling match between a worthy GOP champion, and a celebrity with the right amount of crazy. But Christian LaBella and Lindsay Lohan isn't the best possible fit. What I'd like to see is Karl Rove vs. Courtney Love. Yeah! The visuals would be awesome! Like this guy says!: