Friday, August 26, 2005

Friday Night Fights

i don't know how this happened. i remember hanging out at home, playing on the computer and throwing thumper off my lap. but i believe this is one of the reasons i tend to not answer my phone.
so, there i was deep in the home when the phone rang. it was across the room and off home base. i paused...then went for it. the voice said to meet at livingstone's for happy hour. i complied. then to veni's. then back to livingstone's. then to my place for drinks and whatnot.
and somehow...just somehow...i end up with an artist sleeping on my front porch. whatever happened to the glamour of it all? where is the foggy bottom of the mystery? why won't the snoring stop?
yeah, it was a round of drinking and i had about 6. so?
all i wanted was a good home. i had that, traded it for something else, went there...twice...before i eased up and set boundaries. and thought of the general in strangelove who is all about protecting our bodily essenses and fluids.
after that, i had to piss.
now, here i am. getting ready to watch the rest of million dollar baby. it's friday night fights, you know.

chat with the preznit

well, we got us a new blogger. don't know exactly how to tell you this, but he goes by the handle of george w. bush. he's an extremely friendly fella and i encourage y'all to stop by an set a spell.

Quiz Time

in the spirit of cameraderie, i offer my own version of a quiz. i expect you all to fail miserably.

1. Calculate the smallest limb diameter on a persimmon tree that will support a 10 pound possum.

2. Which of these cars will rust out the quickest when placed on blocks in your front yard?
(A) '65 Ford Fairlane
(B) '69 Chevrolet Chevelle, or
(C) '64 Pontiac GTO.

3. If your uncle builds a still which operates at a capacity of 20 gallons of shine produced per hour, how many car radiators are required to condense the product?

4. A woodcutter has a chain saw which operates at 2700 RPM. The density of the pine trees in the plot to be harvested is 470 per acre.The plot is 2.3 acres in size. The average tree diameter is 14 inches.How many Budweisers will be drunk before the trees are cut down?

5. If every old refrigerator in the state vented a charge of R-12 simultaneously, what would be the percentage decrease in the ozone layer?

6. A front porch is constructed of 2x8 pine on 24-inch centers with a field rock foundation. The span is 8 feet and the porch length is16 feet. The porch floor is 1-inch rough sawn pine. When the porch collapses, how many hound dogs will be killed?

7. A man owns a Tennessee house and 3.7 acres of land in a hollow with an average slope of 15%. The man has five children. Can each of his grown children place a mobile home on the man's land and still have enough property for their electric appliances to sit out front?

8. A 2-ton truck is overloaded and proceeding 900 yards down a steep slope on a secondary road at 45 MPH. The brakes fail. Given average traffic conditions on secondary roads, what is the probability that it will strike a vehicle with a muffler?

9. A coalmine operates a NFPA Class 1, Division 2 Hazardous Area.The mine employs 120 miners per shift. A gas warning is issued at the beginning of the 3rd shift. How many cartons of unfiltered Camels will be smoked during the shift?

10. At a reduction in the gene pool variability rate of 7.5% per generation, how long will it take a town which has been bypassed by theInterstate to breed a country-western singer?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Half Nekkid Thursday

okay, this ain't me. and it violates all of the rules of HNT. but ya know what? don't fucking care. sandra half nekkid is a lot more palatable to anyone looking in here than me not nekkid at all. tell me i'm wrong. so, sandra bullock joining the HNT crowd, because she's just that damn cool.

Depleted Uranium, Spam and The Boer

i've talked about this before, written to the paper to get the word out, researched it and put out the word via email. so, i'm not one bit surprised that soldiers are coming home sick from radiation poisoning. the number of tons of depleted uranium dumped on iraq this time around as reported by this article is even higher than experts predicted before the war began. however, the number of tons dropped in the first "war" is less (as reported by this article) than the actual truth. 1000 metric tons during the first bush war. soldiers from that war are still living through pain, chemo or have died. a workmate of mine in seattle had to have his gall bladder removed because of it and will spend the rest of his life on a very restricted diet. experts have estimated that somewhere around 500,000 iraqi children have died or will die from the D.U. "given" to them in 1991. now, we've left another 3000 or more tons. but, come on folks. do you expect any less from a government that claims our freedom is held together only because we are so "vigilant"? that is a military jingo. the truth is that once the the makers of uranium found out that D.U. would work well as projectiles they realized a very profitable alternative to storing it until its half life had passed. and damn researching any potential harm to anyone. so, iraq is now the most contaminated country on this planet. i wouldn't be surprised if it "glows" hot on xray pics from space. but we'll never know. those are government/military satellites that take those photos.
Radioactive Wounds of War
Tests on returning troops suggest serious health consequences of depleted uranium use in Iraq

as for my great spam incident, it seems those whose blogs i visited and told to stay off my site have for the nonce. i don't relish having to resort to a password in order to comment on my blog. my shit just ain't that important. i'd rather bow out of this hobby if it gets too annoying. i only started it, because my friend generik told me to get my own lack of a life and stop sending him shit he couldn't post. and he knew i wanted to rant. so, we'll see. if spam is the blog meat of the future...well, i'll continue to annoy them right back until i get tired or they go away.

And we mean to be top dog still. Bow-wow.
Yes, we mean to be top dog still.
a fascinating article from europe about us and the similarities to britain after the Boer War. it even comes with a final warning to those who would gloat.

p.s. one os the spammers i left a polite little comment with has been hit by two more regular bloggers, so i'm not the only one taking an actively hostile approach. ya mon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Previous Post Addendum

in case you missed this little tidbit in the previous post's article, i'll replay it. because it seems this a law that our local government has not been enforcing. the word "require" is defined by the Webster's Dictionary as meaning: order, command; to demand as necessary or essential. seems pretty straightforward. require equals law. and the law sits above the elected. the law protects the land on which we stand. have the mayors and councilpeople been making deals with developers to keep the fees low and get certain buildings and businesses built in the districts? who knows? no one at city hall besides tom boyagian seems to be speaking in terms other than "hey man, this is how you get to be number one".

For years, successive mayors, city managers, development directors and city councils failed to raise the fees even to keep up with inflation. Such an increase is required every year under municipal code.

Letter To Jim Boren

I read this on the internet and wondered why I didn't see it in the Bee. I'm told the writer is a native of Fresno and has written books about Fresno and the Valley. If these fee numbers are accurate and the City's unwillingness to raise them in any logical form is as well, then this is news Fresno citizens and voters need to know about. We are being inundated with cookie cutout subdivisions, outbid and priced by Bay area expatriots and developers and are languishing in a vapid sea of chain retailers who offer nothing but dreck. If this writer's words are true and the main reason our infrastructure is being pieced together with spit, gum and safety pins is because our local elected leaders are afraid of upsetting an applecart seemingly built by the developers themselves...well, it helps explain why the public bus system is built for a town of 5000. I lived for 9 years in Seattle when I was doing my Fresno expat thing and I experienced a dedicated bus system that convinced people of all stripes and all over to work downtown. I could get to work from in the same time it would have taken me to drive- with less stress, hassle, cost and pollution. It also freed up parking for people who wanted to shop or visit businesses and help keep the downtown core vibrant and vital. It also explains why roads in Fresno are constantly being worked on on a start-and-stop basis. I work in the engineering community and often wonder why simple projects can take far too long to finish. Perhaps, if our fees were up to par, we wouldn't have been lambasted by the state for being behind in fixing intersection curbs to accommodate wheelchairs. Perhaps, we would have the funds to synch up most of the stoplights so that flow of traffic could actually be just that: a flow. Perhaps, we could help ourselves come out from under the cloud of being one of the most polluted regions in the country. This money we've not been realizing is huge in so many ways. And, to be honest, poking a stick in the eye of Big Development could send a message that those interested in Fresno had better come armed with better vision than we've seen in the last 20 or so years.

Fresno May End Low-Fee Policy for Developers
By Mark Arax
L.A. Times Staff Writer
August 23, 2005
FRESNO — In an effort to give developers one of the best deals in California, this city has dug itself into a deep financial hole that could undermine its future even as a construction boom is turning orchards into suburbs on every side of town.
As the city looks to overtake Long Beach as the fifth largest in the state, officials project a shortfall of billions of dollars to build streets, parks, police and fire stations and other facilities to serve its 470,000 residents — and the hundreds of thousands more expected in the next 20 years.
"We're facing a world of challenge," said Mike Kirn, assistant director of public works.
The reason for the shortfall is plain, city officials say: Developer fees are far lower than those charged in most other California cities.
In an era when state and federal dollars are tight and politicians are loath to raise local taxes, most cities look to developers to pay for a big share of the infrastructure required by new homes. For years, Fresno officials have been reluctant to do so.
Today, Fresno's City Council will get a first look at a plan to raise fees to build police and fire stations. If they agree to fee hikes, the move will reverse a two-decade pattern.
Through the 1990s, while comparable cities were charging builders from $7,000 to $20,000 a house for new infrastructure, the fees in Fresno stayed at $3,500. Only last year, with its infrastructure kitty in the red, did the city raise the amount to $5,000.
Commercial developers also have paid cut-rate fees. While Modesto, just up the road, collected $520,000 for a four-story office complex, Fresno charged only $90,000.
For years, successive mayors, city managers, development directors and city councils failed to raise the fees even to keep up with inflation. Such an increase is required every year under municipal code.
Critics of Fresno's approach call those low fees a billion-dollar subsidy for the building industry and blame the low payments for a host of shortfalls in city services. For instance, some city fire crews work out of mobile homes and a 1,200-square-foot duplex and park their engines in makeshift garages.
"Fresno is still a good old boy system, and whatever the good old boys want, that's what gets greased," said Tom Boyajian, a city councilman who favors higher fees. "One of the biggest shames in this city is that growth isn't even covering its own costs."
Those views, however, aren't shared by the majority of elected officials in this conservative farm belt.
If the state government took less revenue from local coffers, the city would have more money to pay for new projects, argues City Councilman Jerry Duncan. High fees drive up the costs of houses and drive off builders to even cheaper places, he and other conservatives argue. Low fees, they believe, eventually will generate enough growth to cover the new costs.
"I'm philosophically opposed to impact fees," Duncan says. "Impact fees are hidden taxes."
That school of thought has dominated this city for decades. In the mid-1990s, an FBI investigation of extensive corruption here sent 16 developers and politicians to prison and demonstrated how influential builders dominated the city's zoning and development policies. Many of those involved in the scandal were key players in keeping development fees low.
The fact that the pattern may now be giving way is the result of prodding by a new set of city administrators who are charting a different course for the city. Fresno, they say, needs to raise developer fees significantly or face an additional shortfall of several billion dollars to serve growth from now to 2025.
"Of all the cities I've worked with, Fresno faces the biggest challenge because its developers have been under-funding the infrastructure for so long," said Bob Spencer, an Oakland-based municipal finance expert recently hired by the city to update its fee program.
"Once you get as far behind as Fresno, it's almost impossible to catch up and fix the holes in your infrastructure. Not unless you're willing to raise local taxes."
Builders here acknowledge that they have lobbied to keep fees down at a time of record profits — $60,000 and more on each house. But they say their opposition to higher fees isn't driven only by bottom-line concerns. For many years, they say, the fee program was poorly run.
"They start charging a fee in Fresno, and they couldn't tell us how or why they set it up," said Mike Prandini, head of the local building industry association.
The cost to a city of each new residence depends on such factors as the location of the subdivision, its density and whether residents are commuters or retirees. But municipal finance experts say that, on average, developer fees need to be about $35,000 for each house to fully cover the costs of services.
With its patchwork services, the city's new consultants warn, Fresno may be consigned to the status of third-rate city, attractive to big-box bargain stores but not to Nordstrom.
"Good infrastructure is what the best industries and retailers are looking for when they locate to a city," said Walter Kieser, a Sacramento-based consultant who works with both developers and cities on fiscal issues.
"In Fresno, they've done such a miserable job with the roads, parks, libraries and schools that they haven't created a nice place to live. Instead, they've allowed developers to just maximize their profits."
Over the last 25 years, as the population doubled, Fresno built one new library. The park acreage for a city its size is among the lowest in the state. For example, Sacramento, which has a slightly smaller population, has 4,400 acres of parkland compared to Fresno's 1,400.
The police headquarters, built in 1960, is so cramped that several units overflow into an annex of the old City Hall. The Fire Department's main repair and maintenance division sits in a crumbling building that dates to 1928.
When it came time for developer Farid Assemi to build a fire station to serve his new subdivisions in northwest Fresno, the city allowed him to put in a tract house instead of a firehouse. Three firefighters and their single engine will soon reside there.
The transportation system struggles with its own problems. Only 10% of the traffic lights, for instance, are synchronized, adding long minutes to cross-town trips and more pollution to an air basin already ranking as the nation's smoggiest.
California Department of Transportation officials have taken the extraordinary step of suing the city. The suit cites the failure of Fresno's fee program to deal with the problems that growth causes on state highways. Fresno has risked the safety of motorists by failing to widen and improve dozens of one-lane country roads that now serve areas with dense populations, Caltrans says.
"It takes a lot for the state to sue another government entity," said Mike Leonardo, district director for Caltrans. But, he added, "Fresno doesn't seem to think it has to do environmental studies or mitigate for the impacts of growth."
Even one of the building industry's chief lobbyists, Jeff Roberts, now agrees that "the fees need to go up." In the absence of any local lobbying restrictions, Roberts, who served 14 months in federal prison for his role in the corruption scandal of the 1990s, has become a full partner with the city as it drafts a new fee program.
Because of decades of low fees, the fund managing the fees is in the red. Builders who put in the basic streets and curbs to serve their own subdivisions are spending more on infrastructure than the small amount the city requires them to pay in fees.
Not surprisingly, builders are pressing to keep the new fee on the low end — $12,000 a house. But consultants say Fresno needs to raise the fees higher to reflect the true costs of growth.
"High fees don't raise the price of homes. The market does that," said Spencer, the consultant preparing the new fee proposal. "In fact, it's the fastest-growing cities that charge the highest fees for a simple reason: They need the infrastructure to keep growing."

Monday, August 22, 2005


after some thought of tonight's transpirations i must add and/or refute something. the site to which i referred earlier this evening on lecram's blog contains three things: photographs of dead people in iraq and afghanistan, links to pornography, and comments from people who have viewed the photographs. i said it was disgusting before. i must amend that. the photos are not disgusting. they are graphic and disturbing. they are horrific. but they are not disgusting. they show the truth of what is happening. the horror. the insanity. and the senselessness. all of those show people who died. for whatever reason. for no reason. doesn't matter. they're dead and no one is any happier because of it, not in the long run.
and i wanted to say that linking these photos to pornography is disgusting, but i can't do that. the link makes sense. both are pornographic. we look at what we hope never to see personally and make judgements. and we publicly condemn what we internally seek and make judgements. and we continue to get more of both. irony? probably not.

May the God of Your Choice Not Attack Me

depressin night. lecram shot me a phone call to talk about a site he had found that is incredibly offensive and disheartening. it's not lecram's fault that i am depressed. he knew i would want to see it. he was right.
but it got me to thinking. do we, as americans, really believe that we are always right? do we believe that (no matter the cicumstances) if someone shoots at us they must be a terrorist? an enemy? are we so set in our self-rightiousness as to know the inimitable truths of the world? when we invade a country for whatever reason we are told by our government that it is being done to defend our freedom and way of life. when we topple a government we are told it is because that entity was corrupt and an enemy of democracy. when we question the reasons we are told that to question is un-american and we can't understand the ways of global diplomacy. when we stand up and argue back we are called traitors and worse.
i can forgive a government that sees farther than i do, but can't comment because of sensitive negotiations or undercover spies who are ferreting out people who want to kill at random. i know that they have access to information i never will and it could prove to be important in defending my country. i can live with that. i, also, know that our government does things which are less than nice to others or myself in order to further an aim which it believes will make me a safer person in the long run and i can accept that, too.
what i can't forgive is a government (any government) that actively defies the will of the people in order to further its own agenda and capitulates to a small segment of a society. that depresses me and infuriates me. but i can only speak to my own.
and speak i will. saddam hussein ran iraq for decades. he was a ba'athist. they were the minority, but held power through force and murder. a bad man. not to be exalted, not to be condoned. and, yet, somehow he held onto power even as the majority hated him. why? because he controlled the military? because he held the currency? for over ten years he was castrated as a world leader by the UN and the USA through sanctions. the kurds starved. but the shias and the sunnis did not. the sunnis had no political power, but they were tolerated enough that they had no real complaints about living. their complaints were about power and the civil war that got a lot of them killed. and the fact that if they complained they might be killed.
the civil war in the USA was about representation and taxes. the south felt it was underrepresented in congress and overtaxed on its goods. it rebelled. it was eventually crushed.
the north then moved into the entire region it had burned and called its taking over of the south "reconstruction". in fact, it was an invasion. the north had beaten the south, but it wasn't enough. the north wanted to make sure that the south could never rise again. and, so, it sent "emisarries" who took and brokered land; told the south that they couldn't have slaves anymore, but to call them niggers and treat them as they wished; sent slaves back who didn't have paper proclaiming them to be free; razed farms so that the north could better prosper through less competition; hung young southern men who were merely accused of having seditious thoughts. and much more. whole islands were burnt to the dirt, because they could harbor traitors. even though the natives never had anything to do with the war.
north/south. hutu/tutsi. shia/sunni. palestinian/israeli. what gives my government the right to tell another that it can no longer exist? my government has excused or supported idi amin, general pinochet, ho chi minh, south africa, post-war russia, all of the central american dictators that it put in place, any government that put my government on the fast track to exploiting and raping. my government's hands are so, so dirty. they have been for a long, long time. just like every other government's. no government maintains its authority without bloodshed or an aquiescence to. this is the rule of power. no one is innocent. no one can point a finger without having to look in the mirror.
which is why i think we as americans find ourselves in the predicament that we do. we fucked up. we invaded a country that had nothing to with what happened on 9/11/01. our leaders either needed to go to war to show the world and us that we can't be beaten or our leaders found an easy excuse to take out a president who we hated. or it was, as the president put it, "we hit the trifecta". then, it became "you're either with us or against us". "those who claim we shouldn't be there are as good as terrorists". "mission accomplished". propaganda, propaganda, propaganda. we are hutus being seduced into thinking tutsis are animals. when we will we learn that those who hate us do so out of their own blindness, not because of nationality or skin color? just as we hate them, because we're told to and it's a hell of a lot easier than thinking as an individual? especially when my government doesn't want me to?
i prefer a populace that talks to one another even if it disagrees.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

May the god of your choice bless you.

One of my favorite musician/songsters is running for Governor of Texas on an independent long shot ticket. If he wins it would be the first reason I've ever found for moving to that state. When a gentleman can pen songs like "Asshole From El Paso" and "We Reserve the Right To Refuse Service to Anyone" and "Ride 'Em Jewboy" (a song about the Holocaust) as well as pro-choice songs, love ballads, satire about women's rights, mystery novels that are damn funny and insightful; when Lyle Lovett says that this gentleman was a big influence on his career; when said gentleman can call Willie Nelson his next "Energy Czar" and tout "No Teacher Left Behind", support gay marriage because "they should have the right to be just as miserable as the rest of us", thinks the Ten Commandmants should be put back in schools but retitled as the Ten Suggestions, isn't against the death penalty but is against putting-the-wrong-damn-guy-to-death penalty, then I'm firmly on the side of Kinky Friedman--a man I was fortunate enough to see in Seattle in the mid 90's. If he wins, I could finally begin to show the Lone Star state some respect. The New Yorker wrote a wonderful essay about Kinky's run for Governorship and I highly recommend it.
If, of course, you are not convinced of his potential for Governorhood, then I recommend you go here and read some of his (in)famous thoughts. Salt of the earth, damn randy, and cats are highly respected.

Last Hurrah For Uncle Duke

Hunter Thompson got his final wish as his ashes were fired from a cannon.