Saturday, July 30, 2016

Grateful For The Obamas

Obama's stimulus package was inadequate in size (due to interference from the Republican Congress), but it was large enough to prevent Great Depression II. Obamacare wasn't designed to limit medical care inflation (only get more people covered), but surprisingly, it ended up doing so. The problems of the U.S. economy today are very similar to those of the 20's and 30's, whereby technical advancements are used to make the economy more efficient, which drives down employment, and starves the middle class of wages. Demand stagnates from inadequate middle-class wages, making the boost from technical advancements moot. Increasing the minimum wage and the strengthening unions helps. Deficit spending can help too. We need much, much larger deficits than we have at present to spark demand, but deficit hawks always squawk, so the economy continues to stagnate. The situation today is aggravated by offshoring, which the 20's and the 30's didn't have to contend with. The argument always is that offshoring leads to cheaper consumer goods, which is helpful to the middle class, and they have (Wal-Mart), but since even Chinese wages are increasing now, that path leads to a dead end. Increased research and investment would help, but America's rich don't appreciate that need. The cowardly rich don't care; they got theirs. Why invest? Why assume the risk? So they don't. The labor participation rate will continue going down as long as the bulge of the Baby Boom is retiring and jobs are being offshored.

We may be heading this direction (fun video there). In the meantime, no desire to let up on the dodgy corporations:

Democrats Spank Republicans Hard Over Bradley Cooper

Democrats OWN Republicans!:
Cooper’s attendance with his model girlfriend, Irina Shayk, however, was not as well-received by a contingent of conservative Twitter users seemingly unable to discern the difference between real life and Hollywood films. The actor, of course, starred as U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in “American Sniper,” which, to no one’s surprise, became the go-to movie at conservative sleepovers.

But in his own life, Cooper is a tried-and-true Democrat, donating to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008, as well as supporting Obamacare and the president’s gun safety initiatives.

In the most compelling demonstration of the failings of the American education system yet, many confused Republicans expressed their outrage that their hero would dare support a Democratic candidate.

Follow Orders, And Vote For Hillary

Donald Trump and the Republicans have moved so far out into the lunatic fringe they've conceded military matters to the Democrats. The entire national security elite is moving into lockstep with Hillary:

Florida Man, And His Adventures In The Criminal System.

Police mistake doughnut glaze for crystal meth:
When Rushing opened his wallet, the officer noticed that he had a concealed weapons permit. She then asked him to step out of the car, and that’s when she noticed “a rock-like substance on the floor board where his feet were.” She asked Rushing for permission to search his car, and Rushing agreed.

The officers spotted three other pieces of the suspicious substance in his car. Rushing says he told the officers it was glaze from the doughnut, but the officers speculated it was crack cocaine and then said it was crystal meth.

Cancer Has Been Around A Long Time

A 1.7-million-year-old example:
The cancer has been identified as an osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of the disease which usually affects younger individuals in modern humans, and typically results in early death if left untreated.

Edward Odes, who co-wrote the paper, which is published in the South African Journal of Science, said: “Modern medicine tends to assume that cancers and tumours in humans are diseases caused by modern lifestyles and environments, but our studies show the origins of these diseases occurred in our ancient relatives millions of years before modern industrial societies existed.”

Archaeologists on a collaborating team also found a two million-year-old fossil of a benign cancer, which was discovered in the vertebrae of a child.

"CRUZ TALKS TRUMP" — A Bad Lip Reading of Ted Cruz

The Northern Mockingbirds Are In Charge Now

The hedge around my back yard is usually a pretty lax place where squirrels scamper back and forth. No longer. Yesterday, two Northern Mockingbirds moved in and are imposing order, terrorizing any squirrel who attempts to scamper back and forth. I'd go and help the squirrels, but the Northern Mockingbirds are pretty scary, so I just stay inside.

The Political Revolution and Libertarian Paradise Are Poles Apart

Kamila At The State Capitol


"We Have To Find Dad"

Overheard - Anxious eight-year-old boy pulling his mother around the grounds surrounding the State Capitol: "We have to find Dad. He gets lost."

"Café Society"

Saw "Café Society" last night. Kristen Stewart is radiant. Jesse Eisenberg essentially plays a Woody Allen stand-in (more confidently than Woody Allen would have played it back in the early days). There was one echo of the early days - the Jewish hooker scene.

After the movie, I started talking to folks near me in the theater. One guy hungered for more emotion. I pointed out Stewart got quite flustered and upset at one point. "Yes, she gets close," he said, but I interjected "But you still want blood on the floor." "Yes," he said, "I want to SEE it!" Then one of his friends added, "But then it wouldn't be a Woody Allen film." Perfect response!

Loved the locations and loved the cinematography!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

RIP, 1950-2016

It's over:
With his comments Wednesday, Trump has finally knocked over what was once a pillar of the Republican Party’s system of beliefs. For decades, the party has stood united behind the principle that the United States must have a strong national defense, take aggressive behavior by adversaries seriously, and confront threats with resolve.

Richard Nixon pioneered scurrilous national security attacks against Democrats in his 1950 California Senatorial campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas. The beauty of these attacks is they work as whisper campaigns, and adequate proof is never required for accusations to stick. They are hard to defend against, which is why they have been the GOP's number one tool for the last 67 years. Now, because Donald Trump is not as clever as Richard Nixon, these attacks can't be taken seriously again for the foreseeable future. It's hard to emphasize enough just how important Trump's press conference today was in the scope of American political history.

Trump Dodges And Dodges And Dodges

The Donald dodges and dodges and dodges the question:

"Does Russia have investments in Trump?"

It's like Leo says in "The Producers": "No way out!" And given Trump's penchant to never, ever apologize, this dumpster fire will turn into an all-consuming forest fire. Trump is doomed! And he'll drag all the other Republicans into the pit with him.

Meanwhile, I like the article over at Salon:
From every conceivable angle, this comment from Trump is an utter catastrophe. All that posturing about how the GOP will get tough on Russia and confront Putin’s aggression gets thrown out the window once your presidential candidate asks Russian intelligence services to help out his campaign. The Republican argument that Hillary endangered national security with her email server arrangement has now been stomped on by Trump, who is on record hoping that national security will be violated.

Bitcoin Is Property; Not Money

Interesting distinction. It's not money laundering if it's property. Property laundering isn't illegal:
First, the facts. Michell Espinoza was charged with money laundering and acting as an unauthorised money transmitter after selling bitcoin to undercover cops who found him through a bitcoin-selling website, Local Bitcoins. Over a series of meetings, Espinoza sold the undercover agent $2,000-worth of bitcoin, which the agent said would be used to purchase stolen credit card numbers. Espinoza was then arrested after a bogus fourth sale was arranged for $30,000-worth.

The Donald is Edging Closer To Treason

Actually, the Republicans and the Russians think alike with their gangster approach to politics, so maybe it's better if they formally ally with each other, so everyone can more clearly see the similarities.
Let’s be very clear about what happened this morning. The Republican candidate for president held a press conference in which he urged Vladimir Putin’s espionage services to help sabotage the American election and put Trump in the White House.

No, seriously. That’s the level of genuine insanity that we’ve reached. Against the backdrop of allegations that Russia is already trying to intervene in the U.S. presidential race on Trump’s behalf, Donald J. Trump took the next step towards true madness today, publicly calling on a foreign government to commit a felony against his American rival on his behalf.

There is literally nothing in the American tradition that’s similar to this. Nothing. Trump is taking his candidacy, his party, and his country into uncharted waters.

George Will Is No Fool

Where there's smoke, there's fire:
Well, it’s the sort of thing we might learn if we saw the candidates’ tax returns. Perhaps one more reason why we’re not seeing his tax returns because he is deeply involved in dealing with Russia oligarchs and others.

Turn China's Smog Into Diamonds

Trailer For Alexander McQueen Movie


One of the Warmest Nights of the Year

One of the warmest nights of the year, and the air redolent with forest fire smoke. Time to walk Bella!

Straight up, there was very little traffic, so some Seriously Scary Dudes took advantage and idled menacingly in their muscle car in the middle of what's usually a busy street. When Bella and I approached, they avoided our stares by creeping just a bit farther down the street and idled some more. There was a homeless guy propped up against a wall, and I wondered at first if he was their target. Then the Dudes rolled further, and headed towards my house. I started returning home, but they returned and idled some more. So, Bella and I sat down next to the cemetery fence to watch, counting on dark clothing (permanent in Bella's case) and the ubiquity of homeless folks as camouflage. Bella was like: "What kind of walk is this?" Eventually the Dudes left.

Almost immediately, a woman drove up asking directions to the neighborhood of Mack and Stockton. How did she end up here? That intersection is miles away! I gave her directions, and thought it strange she was multitasking by holding a cell phone to her ear the entire time. Put that phone down! Time to focus!

Seems more and more like Calcutta every day on Sacramento streets. Must be getting to the desperate days at the end of the month. Wheelchair Guy was pitched face down, asleep in the middle of the sidewalk, but in a slightly-different neighborhood than usual. Two women were squatting in a parking lot under the freeway, rummaging through trash. I pleasantly waved to them and said hello; they waved and said hello back.

Suddenly, at S & 17th Streets, Bella stopped and squinted into the darkness. Sure enough, in single file just in front of us, three raccoons were crossing through a fence. Bella excitedly started barking and bucking on her leash. The raccoons stopped uncertainly before moving on. Got to avoid tangling with a Black Lab!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

For Love of Rabbits

So cute:
How does a woman from St. Petersburg, Russia, end up in Portland, Oregon, photographing the American Rabbit Breeders Association convention? For Katya Rezvaya, it began when she watched Rabbit Fever, a documentary about ARBA’s 2005 national convention. The film was striking to Rezvaya, who said such a thing doesn’t really exist in Russia.

“I was laughing at first, and then I started thinking I should go there and take some portraits,” she said.

That's No Pokémon Player, That's a Poltergeist!

I was in the basement moving magazines from one box to another when Bella came galumphing in with a tennis ball. Some things really are more important than others.

First, we checked the perimeter of St. Joseph's Cemetery. It was finally safe. The Pokémon people were gone.

Nevertheless, early in the walk, I noticed a man at the cemetery's gate. I turned away for an instant and he vanished mysteriously. "That's no Pokémon player, that's what we call a Poltergeist," I warned Bella. Turned out, the guy was riding an Airwheel - a kind of hoverboard - and that's why he was able to move so fast. He was also talking on a Smartphone, so he was completely modern in every respect (including the hopelessly-distracted quality of modern people). Not sure why modern people hang around cemeteries, except for Pokémon.

We skipped past several people camping in the middle of the sidewalk. I noticed a praying mantis on the sidewalk. Excitedly, I said "Look, Bella, nature!" Nevertheless, city-dog Bella paid no attention at all.

There was some kind of a light glowing behind a dumpster. Was a bicycle rider's gear stashed there? Curious, I probed further, and found the active end of an extension cord coming out from a local business. Why would anyone provide free electric power to any street person? An oversight? An unrecognized service?

Bella's goal lately has been to reach and investigate the parking lots surrounding the Safeway supermarket. So much scattered, castaway food there! And so many strange people too. Very energizing to a Labrador Retriever!

Sometimes it's nice to be a good-deed-doer on these walks. Several weeks ago, I took along a garbage bag to help clean up junk left behind by some homeless campers. Made me feel better.

Last night, the P street railroad crossing arms were stuck in the down position, with lights flashing and gongs clanging and no train in sight. Once, when the J Street railroad crossing arms were similarly stuck, I was able to clear the traffic jam just by touching the crossing arms and making them rise. I was the hero of the day! I tried that again last night, but no dice. The crossing arms were definitely stuck. So, Bella and I shed our superhero capes and slunk off into the night.

Last Week's GOP Convention

Last week's GOP convention:

Monday, July 25, 2016

Nietzsche Was More Than A Little Impertinent

I started reading about where dark 19th-Century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche got his idea of "Eternal Recurrence of the Same". To my surprise, Nietzsche used statistical mechanics and thermodynamics to express his idea. He also rejected atomism and entropy, and rejected Lord Kelvin's expression of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. This is all wrong, of course, but I like that he was engaged with the scientific thinking of the day when giants like Maxwell, Kelvin, Clausius, Gibbs, and Boltzmann were all at the height of their powers. Still, Nietzsche's almost like this Frenchman:

Laure Courtellemont Featured on SYTYCD - Next Gen!

Laure Courtellemont's choreographic talents were featured on SYTYCD - Next Gen! Jaw-dropping! Beyond awesome!

(Laure's the most-inspiring dance instructor I've met in decades. She has a real artistic sensibility when it comes to Dancehall.)

This is apparently the first time SYTYCD-USA featured Jamaican Dancehall. Especially now that Laure is in LA, she can move the world! Watch out world!

(They did that "paper bag" move and that other, striking-the-foot move Blacka di Danca really liked and focused on in his workshop.)

Donald Trump Owes His Soul To Vladimir Putin

Donald Trump owes lots of money to the Russians, which helps explain why he is willing to sacrifice NATO unity and Eastern European independence to Vladimir Putin:
Trump’s campaign rhetoric is the “biggest dream of everyone in the Kremlin,” Tina Khidasheli, defense minister of Georgia, a U.S. ally, told The Post. “It’s scary, it’s dangerous, and it’s irresponsible.”

Her view is shared in the United States by leading Russia experts from both political parties.

Michael McFaul, who stepped down in 2014 as the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Trump’s stance toward Russia “makes everyone I talk to around the world nervous — and it makes me nervous.”

David J. Kramer, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state dealing with Russia during the George W. Bush administration, said he was “appalled” by Trump’s approach.

Oldest Reason In The World

The reason Hillary chose Tim Kaine for VP is the oldest reason in the world: he helps with the election map. The entire Atlantic seaboard from PA to FL is up for grabs. If Hillary can 'run the board' there, she can win the election in a landslide.

I would have preferred she go with an age-youth ticket, and choose a progressive instead, but that's her assessment, and she might not be wrong.

Current polling.

Frickin' Seat Belts

I notice the older I get, the less inclined I am to use seat belts. I don't know whether it's because of "been there, done that," or from reading too many exhortations by Friedrich Nietzsche to "live dangerously," or whether I've lost faith with Kapow!, the Greek goddess who impartially supervises the physical laws of collisions. Whatever it is, I should probably ease back on driving.

P.S.: I'll wear a seat belt if I get to do this:

"Bells Are Ringing" - Davis Shakespeare Ensemble - 07/23/16

What an excellent, excellent show! Best I've seen in years. Gia Battista was superb as Ella, and Ian Hopps as well for Jeff.

I sat next to Ron Cisneros, who explained that he had been in the show in Los Angeles in 1967. Steve Isaacson explained he had been in show when the Davis Players did it in 1979, also at Veterans' Memorial Theater. Steve had played Kitchell, who was played here by Tim Gaffaney, who played the Devil the last time DMTC did "Damn Yankees" (early 2012). "Bells Are Ringing" is rarely done - there was a movie version with Dean Martin back in the day - and it played on Broadway 1956-59 (plus a brief revival). Need to see more of this show!

First time I've ever seen Davis Shakespeare Ensemble! Didn't realize they did musicals.

The supporting cast was outstanding! Everyone swooned over the high professional standards of the group!

"James and the Giant Peach" - Yolo Stage Company - 07/23/16

I was invited by the Piazzas to see their daughter Mia in this show.

It was a fun show. Interesting to hear the kids try out their British accents.

Particularly liked Ayva Rose Loveridge as Grasshopper, Tim Fischer as Sponge, Chantele Holt as Earthworm, and (I believe) Sabrina Meyer. And Mia, of course.

I liked the 'Shake It Up' song, but thought it should be more dancey.

The plot of a Giant Peach rolling off the cliffs of Dover reminded me of this: