Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wild In The Urbs: Cesar Chavez Day

Today's a holiday at my office. We get all the holidays California state judges get, and they get a lot. So, this idle morning was spent in the backyard along with these visitors:

A Black-headed Grosbeak.

A House Sparrow, I think, came along.

Pigeons, too, of course, flew in from the nearby grocery store.

Meanwhile, the cat roamed the yard blissfully unaware of her appointment for vaccinations later today.

Have a day, everybody.


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Monday, March 16, 2009

In The Macroverse: Woodpeckers versus Pine Tree.

The woodpeckers at Mount Laguna this weekend worked nonstop pounding on the pine trees and storing their nuts in the bark. The trees didn't seem to complain but nobody would blame them if they did. Here's an example of the woodpeckers' work.

And here's an oozing wound in the bark from all that pecking. That's gotta hurt.

But it's not all pain and destruction. Here's a pretty sapfall hanging from the bark.

For more closeup photos of a pine tree's skin, go to my picasaweb photos page at picasaweb.google.com/tdavera, open the folder labeled In The Macroverse, and scroll to the end. (Here.)


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Wild In The Wild: Mount Laguna Edition.

This weekend's shots of birds were taken at Mount Laguna about 50 miles east of San Diego. Saw 14 different types of birds. If I were a real birder I'd give you a list. But I'm not. So, here's a picture of a Steller's Jay, instead.

For more pictures of this and other birds go to my picasaweb photos page at picasaweb.google.com/tdavera and open the 2009 Laguna Mountain Folder. (Here)


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Sunday, March 08, 2009

California: The Fools-Gold State.

California's government irresponsibly spent too much money during the housing and stock market bubbles. This year, when the economy tanked, California's tax revenues fell but government spending didn't. Instead of passing pro-growth measures to revive the economy and making adjustments to this year's spending in order to close the relatively small deficit this year, government officials ginned up a crisis. They inflated the size of the deficit by combining the real deficit from this year with the projected deficit for next year.

The state controller stopped paying California's bills, the governor declared an emergency, and legislators were locked in the capitol building until they passed a budget. The governor conspired with the Democratic majorities in the legislature to push a budget loaded with tax increases, a few token spending cuts, and not much else. Three Republican legislators in each chamber gave the votes necessary to secure passage. Declaring victory, the governor and legislative leaders claimed this budget would solve California's fiscal crisis through the 2010 fiscal year. The new budget would spare Californians from the legislature's annual budget fiasco this summer.

Not so fast. It doesn't take a genius to realize that increasing taxes in a recession will not increase revenues much and will slow the economy's recovery. The solution to California's budget crisis will involve real and significant cuts in state spending. California's politicians won't do that because real spending cuts will mean laying off state workers and taking on the most powerful political force in this state: the government employees unions.

Nice try, Sacramento, but no cigar. The day of reckoning has been delayed not avoided.

The state controller just issued a press release announcing that California will begin paying its bills again and refunding income tax payments. Buried at the end of the press release is this ominous warning.
"'While progress was made, this recent budget deal does not put California’s fiscal house in order. Revenue erosion of nearly $900 million in the month of February alone, coupled with numerous indicators that California’s economy has not yet turned the corner, demands vigilance over the State finances during the months ahead,' [Controller John] Chiang said. 'While current-year cash flow problems appear to be manageable, early projections indicate the recently-enacted budget did little to guarantee there would be sufficient cash solutions to meet the State’s payment obligations for the coming fiscal year. If the Governor and lawmakers do not take action before July, we could be accelerating towards the very cliff that we just stopped short of falling over.'" (PDF here.)
What kind of action do you think he has in mind? California's taxpayers had better hold on to their wallets.


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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Name That Institution.

California's Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether the California voters' decision to pass Proposition 8 and limit marriage to opposite sex couples would be allowed to stand. The argument was televised on the State of California's government channel.

Judging from the direction of the arguments, it appears the Court will uphold Proposition 8 and rule that the voters had the right to limit marriage to opposite sex couples. The Court's ruling will be extremely limited to holding that Proposition 8 merely affected nomenclature. The Court will rule that Proposition 8 changed nothing else with respect to the rights of same-sex couples.

The Court already found in The Marriage Cases last year that same-sex couples under California's Domestic Partnership law enjoy nearly all the same rights as those enjoyed by opposite-sex marriage partners. The argument today, and concessions by the attorney supporting Proposition 8, made it clear that Proposition 8 in no way changed any other part of the Supreme Court's ruling in The Marriage Cases. The argument today further clarified that California could expand the definition of Domestic Partnerships so that such partnerships would be marriages in all but name, and that expanded definition would not run afoul of Proposition 8's limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples alone.

The course same-sex marriage advocates could follow after Proposition 8 is upheld is to seek to marginalize marriage and make domestic partnerships the norm. Use the arguments made at the Court to urge California's legislature to make domestic partnerships available to opposite-sex couples, to have California continue to issue marriage certificates to opposite-sex couples but also register every opposite-sex married couple as a domestic partnership, have California recognize domestic partnerships transacted in other states as valid in California when the partners move to California, and in every way possible change domestic partnerships so that legally they are identical to marriage.


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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Movie: The International

The International tells a cynical story of international bankers selling weapons, promoting political chaos, undermining governments, and generally making the world a worse place for everybody. Rich white businessmen in cool suits and fantastic buildings are the villians. A rumpled, world-weary cop badly in need of a shave is the hero. Okay, that all sounds predicable, but there are things to like about this political thriller.

1. There is a great shootout in the Guggenheim Museum that ought to catapult into the top ten of movie shootouts. A very exciting bit of performance art.

2. Very cool modern architecture is used to great effect, especially the headquarters of the evil international bank in Luxembourg, and the Italian alpine lakeside headquarters of an international arms manufacturer. Old architecture in Istanbul, Turkey, provides the setting for a rooftop chase. If you travel to Istanbul, find the neighborhood where walkways are built onto the roofs of the old part of town.

3. Five pithy lines of dialogue.

"I'm more comfortable tense."

"Character is easier kept than recovered."

"Sometimes a man finds his destiny on the road he took to avoid it."

"There's the difference between truth and fiction: fiction has to make sense."

"Sometimes the hardest thing in life is knowing which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn. I'm the bridge you burn."

"When there is no way out, go further in."

4. The corporate assassin. He's ordinary and even has a physical handicap, but he's the model of professional competence.

5. Clive Owen. He's a natural as the dirty hero.



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