By now, you've probably heard that there's a really big wildfire in the San Diego area, and it's being fueled by the Santa Ana winds. It's the worst fire in four yearswhich is saying something in Southern California. Fire season is especially bad this year due to the erratic weather that's the hallmark of climate change: First, record rainfall produces lots of brush; then, a record drought turned it into so much kindling. Add the Santa Ana winds, and you've got a conflagration. 170,000 acres, to be exact.
Almost 300,000 people have been asked to evacuate, and about 10,000 of them spent the night in Qualcomm stadium (formerly San Diego Stadium). Seems that as climate change progresses, more and more of us are going to be camping out in behemoth football stadiums. Their corporate sponsors are probably stoked.
As you've likely heard, wildfires are shellacking San Diego. More than 150,000 acres have burned, 1,200 homes have been destroyed, and 300,000 people have been evacuated. And while the devastation is tremendous, the loss of life thus far has thankfully been only one, and those without homes, are, well, doing alright.
Last night more than 10,000 of the home-less bedded down in Qualcomm stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers (football).
Yep, professional sports stadiums are worth those taxpayer dollars in an emergency pinch, but unlike those who braved the Superdome during and after Katrina, the atmosphere at Qualcomm is, dare I say it, festive. As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put it in his news conference earlier today: "The people are happy. They have everything here."
It is southern California after allthose forced to flee include Mel Gibson, Kelsey Grammer, and Victoria Principalso should we be surprised to learn that last night bands played, gourmet food was served, and massage therapists were on-hand to assist the tanned and tattered refugees?
Now, I've been an evacuee myself, during the Oakland Hills fire in 1991 that flew through Oakland and Berkeley destroying nearly 3,000 homes and killing 25. It's scary, and downright devastating for those who lose everything. I mean not to minimize their suffering, it's just interesting to see the contrast of rock and roll playing and bellies full, with the squalor endured in a less well-heeled community when the going was just as rough.
Private military contractor Blackwater USA is currently facing multiple law suits, including one filed recently on behalf of the victims of the Nisour Square shooting, but there's one you haven't heard about. Filed last Friday in U.S. district court on five handwritten pages—one of them bearing a picture of what appears to be the plaintiff in a towel—the suit accuses Blackwater, among other military contractors, of a litany of abuses, ranging from murder and treason to arson and identify theft. The plaintiff is an extraordinarily litigious inmate named Jonathan Lee Riches, who's serving a 10-year sentence at a South Carolina correctional facility on a wire fraud (and identify theft) rap.
By my count, Riches has filed no fewer than 41 suits this month alone—drafting as many as six handwritten complaints per day—and at least 106 since February 2006. In the past, he's accused Martha Stewart of an elaborate plot to "silence" him; sought "$63,000,000,000 billion" in damages from embattled NFL star Michael Vick; and targeted Senator John McCain for "campaign finance fraud," requesting a restraining order to prevent the presidential candidate and his children "from coming to FCI Williamsburg"—where Riches is incarcerated—"to kill me because I exposed them."
Indeed, Riches' court filings make for some interesting reading. A sampling from his Blackwater complaint:
Plaintiff moves for a temporary restraining order against the contract killing of my life and compels the Defendants' to shut down overseas operations A.S.A.P., under Declaratory Injunctive relief. Plaintiff seeks peace in the world without American companies meddling in the Affairs of other Nations. Plaintiff also seeks to add me on to the 2008 Presidential Ticket, as Plaintiff plans to run as a Independent crime/corruption stopper.
Riches, who occasionally refers to himself as "Teflon Jon," also seeks "the return of Jonathan Lee Riches' copyrighted weapons, grenades, bow and arrows, GPS tracking, mugs and t-shirts." in addition, he requested that the IRS look into Blackwater's tax records—an odd coincidence considering that Henry Waxman's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform unearthed an IRS ruling yesterday that the California congressman pointed to as evidence of "significant tax evasion" on behalf of Blackwater.
On Sunday, Mike Huckabee said the signers of the Declaration of Independence were "brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen." CQ's Politifact.com says "not so fast":
Only one of the 56 was an active clergyman, and that was John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). . .We'd like to give Huckabee every benefit of the doubt, but even if you consider former clergymen among the signers the best you could come up with is four. Out of 56. That's not "most," that's Pants-on-Fire wrong.
Or he could just be bad at math. See, maybe he was trying to make a point: we need better math education in schools so that presidential candidates will know that you need 29 out of 56 signers to have "most." At least that's what I choose to believe.
Oct 23rd, 2007 | ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Garrison Keillor has gotten a restraining order against a Georgia woman he claims has made telephone calls and sent him explicit e-mails and disturbing gifts, including a petrified alligator foot and dead beetles...
Keillor's filing said the e-mails and letters were often "disturbing, unintelligible and rambling," and in one, [the accused, Andrea] Campbell "graphically described making love to me."
He also alleged Campbell showed up at his home in St. Paul in July. His wife was startled awake early one morning by the sound of someone rustling around outside the family's house. She filed a police report.
Campbell denied the allegations in a telephone interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She said she only wanted to show her gratitude for Keillor's work.
"I am unclear as to what the problem is," she said.
Campbell said Keillor had misunderstood the letters, e-mails, packages and phone calls. She said she was never closer to his house than the sidewalk.
"I believe that he's paranoid, or some woman, his wife, is upset and told him he has to do something about it," she said...
"It's transcendental love, that's all" she said. "Between a writer and reader."
Even for our finest actors, the Boston accent is Everest: an irresistible, but insurmountable, challenge. . .This may seem like a minor matter to you. But for those of us who grew up possessing, or shedding, a Boston accent, it's a deal breaker. Consider, if you will, the embarrassing hilarity that tends to ensue when my dear father, unapologetic owner of a medium-thick Boston brogue, returns an off bottle of wine at a restaurant because "I know the taste of cork. And this tastes like cork."
Here's a top-line summary of all the current news regarding the Kurds. Increasingly aggressive Kurdish guerrillas (i.e. the P.K.K., labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S.) are executing strikes across the Iraqi border into both Turkey and Iran. Because we like Turkey, we are urging the Kurds to stop. But because we hate Iran, we are giving the Kurds advice and possibly direction.
The alternative to tangling ourselves up in microregional conflicts and aligning ourselves with terrorist organizations is to use (gasp!) diplomacy. If we were allowing the P.K.K.'s strikes in Iran to continue because we were using them as a bargaining chip (for example, saying to the Iranians, "In exchange for a concession on your nuclear development program, we will call off the dogs on the Iraqi border.") that would be one thing. But we aren't negotiating in any serious way! Aiding the P.K.K. on its Iranian raids, as the article linked to above strongly suggests we are doing, is apparently intended to destabilize the Iranian regime. The far, far, far more likely result is that it will increase the chance of regional war, keep the Iranians from ever working with us on stabilizing Iraq, and give the Iranians some rhetorical cover when they send Iranian agents into Iraq to attack Americans.
Update: I just want to remind everyone that war with Iran isn't just war with Iran. It means war with Hezbollah, Hamas, and countless hidden terrorist cells across the Middle East, all of which would be unleashed by the Iranian mullahs. Richard Cohen makes this point in a Washington Post op-ed in which he asks Rudy Giuliani to pretty-please consider maybe being possibly less bellicose on the Iranian question.
Former ABC consultant Alexis Debat called to ask that I post this, the write up of the results of an ABC investigation into his work, and proposals to change its hiring practices regarding ABC news consultants. I told him that ABC Senior Vice President Jeffrey Schneider had reacted to his sending that around with the emailed comment, "Lol. Does he think he is vindicated? He shouldn't. He is still a big liar." Debat says in response, "I don't think I'm vindicated. But it's a big statement." I used the opportunity of the conversation to ask Debat about parts of his earlier claims that did not check out - how he said it was an administrative misunderstanding on his part that he did not know he didn't have a PhD from the Sorbonne. He said that he changed thesis advisors and departments to the political science department but couldn't further discuss it. I asked him about the mysterious Rob Sherman, who supposedly conducted the interview for him with Senator Barack Obama. Debat said he had met him in a cocktail party in 2003, he was fifty-ish with gray hair, but he wouldn't tell me what cocktail party or why he would have agreed to such an arrangement. About the fake interviews with Obama, Hillary Clinton, and others published under his name in the French journal Politique Internationale, Debat says he was stupid to sign his name to those interviews but it's not fair to say he claimed to conduct those interviews. Asked further questions, he said he had only called to tell me to post the above and he had nothing else to say. More from the NYT.
The fashion industry has always been out of sync with normal women's shopping cycles. Stores routinely trot out the latest in fall fashions--corduroy Peter Pan jackets, knee-high boots-when most of us are still in dire need of a new swim suit for the beach. But global warming is making these practices seem even more ridiculous.
Here in DC, for instance, this month may go down on record as the hottest October in 137 years. The average normal high temperature for DC in October is 67 degrees. This month, it's been well over 80 almost every day (we even had a day in the 90s), and yet, just try to find something decent to wear that doesn't involve wool! Eventually, the fashion folks are going to have to come to grips with the fact that D.C. is now basically California, not New York, when it comes to the weather. At this rate, all those cute cord jackets in store windows are going to be obsolete long before the the temperature drops below 70.
With CMJ happening in New York this week, that's all the blogs are talking about. Lucky them. Your intrepid, ridiculously-named reporter was not there, I'm just listening to music on the hi-fi, or the lo-fi, as the case may be.
10. The Dream "She Needs My Love" (from Love/Hate out Dec. 11 on Def Jam)
(stream at The Fader)
Hey, it's super-slo-mo choruses! Remember how much I love those? Combine that with Dream's songwriting skills (this is the guy who wrote "Umbrella") and you have a track that veers between sing-along almost-ballad and car stereo-pounding thumper.
9. New Young Pony Club "Get Lucky" (video)
This new wave-y track from the UK combo appeared in my Top Ten a while back already, but this video is so odd, both charming and disconcerting, I felt like it deserved a re-entry:
8. South Rakkas Crew "Crazy Feelings" (from The Mix Up on Mad Decent)
(listen at the Mad Decent site)
First I thought the bassline was from The Other Two's "Selfish," and then the chorus kicked in and I realized, that's the Jacksons. Not the Jackson 5, the Jacksons, Triumph-era. That's the trouble with samples: you suddenly realize you might actually like the original. Aack!
7. Travis Barker vs. Soulja Boy "Crank That"
Yes, this is the drummer from Blink 182 and +44, playing over the still-inescapable "Crank That." While you just want to be annoyed with him, all tattooed and rich and bashing the living bejesus out of his drums to overcompensate for being like 4'11", this is truly, unbelievably awesome.
6. Roisin Murphy "Let Me Know" (from Overpowered on EMI)
The former Moloko lead singer has struck out on her own in a somewhat typical British solo artist style: too pop to be cool, too weird to reach America. Hello, Robbie Williams! It's too bad, because this is glammy, perfectly-executed electro-disco that should be bigger than Madonna, and the video illustrates why: it can make even the most mundane moments of our pathetic lives feel special.