June 30, 2009
In Desert Hot Springs
Operation Falling Sun - Phase 2: The Fat Lady Has Not Yet Sung
Another beautiful summer day in Desert Hot Springs and Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco was holding another press conference. This one was to announce the results of Operation Falling Sun - Phase 2 - The Wholesalers Get Busted.
But first, I call your attention to this dangerous situation:
Yes, each leg of that shade structure was "secured" by nothing more than a loose piece of granite. I'm afraid this must have been done by D.A. Pacheco's staff because any DHS resident would know this is woefully inadequate security against our winds. Nothing bad came of it today, but at future press conferences I think it would be best to have our experienced city public works staff secure any structures (at the expense of the District Attorney's office, of course). We don't want one of these important people to lose an eye.
The press conference:
District Attorney Rod Pacheco: Good afternoon. My name's Rod Pacheco. I'm the District Attorney of Riverside County. We are all here today for Operation Falling Sun - Phase 2. This is the federal component. You will hear shortly from the United States Attorney for the Central District [of California], Thomas O'Brien, who came all the way from Los Angeles to say a few words and to announce this operation. Let me also identify - the Chief of Police is with us from Desert Hot Springs, the City Manager, the Mayor, Yvonne Parks, the Councilmembers. We also have the IRS with us today and they will be speaking. ICE is with us. And, of course, the FBI was a major component of this operation.
You may remember that March 27 earlier this year we came out to Desert Hot Springs and 682 law enforcement officers hit 450-plus gang members in an effort to rid this city of crime and violence. That was an incredibly successful operation that resulted in over 130-plus arrests and numerous amounts of controlled substances and narcotics, as well as cash and fifty firearms from the streets. Defendants are already being sent to prison from those cases. And that day we sent people off for parole violations - quite a few, quite frankly - but all the while we were continuing to work on the federal component of this operation. That federal component, while they participated as a major partner in Phase 1, Phase 2 was really an operation that was driven by the federal laws and the federal agencies. And Phase 2 basically was - the goal of Phase 2 was to rid Desert Hot Springs of its major drug dealers. As you might imagine, or has been reported in the past, drug dealers have connections - major drug dealers - wholesalers, if you will - drug wholesalers have connections to the drug cartels in Mexico. And they bring the narcotics up and they distribute them to the street gangs who then sell them on the streets. Our intent was to get the wholesalers and not just the penny-ante drug dealers. And so the FBI, the IRS, ICE, and the U.S. Attorney's Office worked together with local law enforcement from my office and also from Desert Hot Springs and the Sheriff's Department.
The cars that you see behind us are cars from the two major drug dealers that we seized today. We are missing one, and that was an almost brand new Corvette that should have been included as well, but we will find that eventually.
A couple of the seized vehicles.
It was an undercover operation that began in August of last year. We had an informant that was working undercover with us and will testify, we expect, in the federal case. Over that period of time we bought up over one pound of "speed" and cocaine. There was a federal wire that was used. And today's operation resulted in three federal arrests which will result in three federal filings, two for drug-dealing, one for money-laundering. There were over 3 ounces of methamphetamine seized today; over 3 ounces of cocaine seized today; close to $12,000 in cash; like I said, 5 cars. The white truck over my left shoulder was bought 4 days ago. The BMW M5 was purchased recently with $40,000 in cash as a down payment by Rigoberto Lopez. A motorcycle was seized as well. We also seized 7 weapons and I believe a thousand rounds of ammunition. In addition to that, 2 bank accounts were frozen and the assets will be seized.
At some point our main drug dealer in Desert Hot Springs, Rigoberto Lopez, owned 5 houses between him and his 20-year old girlfriend. She is also in custody today. Her name is Teresa Coronado. At some point we observed and found that she had over $500,000 in cash in the bank. In spite of having no job whatsoever, other than dealing drugs in Desert Hot Springs with her crime-partner and boyfriend, Rigoberto Lopez.
In addition to that, Miguel Gilbert was also arrested today, he was the competition to Mr. Lopez, another major dope dealer here in Desert Hot Springs. If not, these two guys are the top two dope dealers in Desert Hot Springs.
A bit windy this morning. I'm going to call on the United States Attorney who's come all the way from Los Angeles to be with us, as I said, to provide an announcement. Tom...Thomas O'Brien.
D.A. Rod Pacheco. To the left of him (D.A. Pacheco's right) is U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien.
U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien: Thank you Rod. And to start out I want to thank Rod Pacheco from a personal and professional side for being a very strong law enforcement partner with me for the last two years. On a number of operations which we have completed which are still...some others are still on-going. And also Rod was clearly the driving force behind Phase 1 and Phase 2.
My name is Tom O'Brien. I'm the United States Attorney for the Central District of California. That district is a very large district, the largest in the country, and certainly includes Coachella Valley. Protecting residents and seeking justice is as important here as anywhere in my district.
This morning federal law enforcement agents, including 3 separate FBI SWAT teams along with local police arrested 3 individuals on federal charges involving drug-trafficking and related criminal activity. One of the defendants arrested today is Manuel Rigoberto Lopez. He is considered to be a high-level narcotics trafficker because he deals in wholesale quantities of drugs in Desert Hot Springs. A criminal complaint filed in federal court in Riverside alleges that Mr. Lopez not only supplied drugs to street-level dealers in Coachella Valley, but he also made efforts to acquire fully automatic assault weapons.
A second person arrested early today, Miguel Roberto Gilbert, is accused of selling methamphetamine and an assault weapon out of the back of his pickup truck. Assault weapons, such as the rifle allegedly sold by Mr. Gilbert, are the kinds of weapons a lot of gangs use to terrorize law-abiding citizens and your local police department.
In March of this year, law enforcement targeted Desert Hot Springs gang members and associates in an operation already described by Rod Pacheco, that led to more than 140 arrests, the seizure of illegal narcotics, and over 15 firearms. As a result of this 9-month investigation, law enforcement authorities identified and arrested members of Coachella Valley's gangs who were responsible for a significant portion of criminal conduct in this area. With today's action we've taken major drug dealers and and weapons traffickers off the streets, making the Coachella Valley safer as a result. Gang activity's not limited to major cities such as Los Angeles, and this operation demonstrates that we will work together, federal, state and local law enforcement to target gang members and associates wherever they conduct their criminal activities. Thank you.
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Chief Pat Williams from Desert Hot Springs.
DHS Police Chief Pat Williams.
Police Chief Pat Williams: Thank you, Rod. I'd like to add my thanks and appreciation to Rod Pacheco, the D.A.'s office, the men and women of the Bureau of Investigation led by [unintelligible]. They worked day in and day out with our federal partners, the FBI, IRS, and ICE and other federal players to help continue to make Desert Hot Springs the safest city in Coachella Valley. These efforts continue to lead in crime reduction throughout our community. We've seen an overall 30% reduction in violent crime in the past two years, and all crimes reduction over 23%. We continue to work to make our community safer for our residents, our businesses and our visitors alike, to help the city of Desert Hot Springs be the shining example on the hill to the rest of our valley partners. We're indebted to the collaborative relationships for all the valley police agencies and the county and the sheriff again, as well as to our federal partners. It's not stopping here. We're not going to rest here. The men and women of this police department serve this community tirelessly to help make it safer, and continue to do that. These relationships that we've established with our crime [fighting?] partners, in reducing crime, and taking the crooks to jail is going to continue to be [unintelligible due to wind]. I appreciate everybody's collaborative efforts as we work to make this community safer.
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Also, all the way from Los Angeles, a tremendous federal partner for us, the Federal Bureau of Investigation as led by the Special Agent In Charge, Dan McMullen. Before he comes up I want to mention that the FBI SWAT teams carried the bulk of the work this morning on the hardest targets and the most difficult targets, and in fact, in one of them it was more fortress-like than anything. Certainly had little do with a house, but it was more of a fortress, and they did the bulk of that work and got it done in beautiful fashion.
FBI Special Agent In Charge Daniel McMullen.
FBI Special Agent In Charge Daniel McMullen: Thank you very much and good afternoon. Again, my name is Daniel McMullen. I'm the Special Agent In Charge of the Criminal Division of the FBI Los Angeles field office and that covers the Central District including San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. As many of you know we had an operation last week in San Bernardino County with our gang task force partners, Gang Impact Team, and, of course, we had Phase 1 of this operation. I think this latest phase illustrates the FBI's commitment to addressing street gangs and the violence that comes with them. I think the citizens of Desert Hot Springs should take comfort in the fact that law enforcement at all levels, federal, state and local levels, are working together to address this issue. And we know that the narcotics trade fuels violent street gang activity. And the FBI, once again, is committed to addressing that problem. It is not simply a local problem. It is a problem that the FBI "owns" also, and we will continue to commit our resources to address the threat. Thank you.
D.A. Rod Pacheco: The IRS also participated in this operation and were invaluable in helping us...in fact, establishing the money laundering aspect of it. Special Agent In Charge Thomas Jankowski.
IRS Special Agent In Charge Thomas Jankowski: Thanks a lot. Drug dealing only benefits the drug dealers and that benefit is at the expense of our communities. These dealers also bring their illegal profits into the financial system for ill-gotten gains. With that, that is what IRS criminal investigations specialize in. We follow the money. An illegal narcotics tracking operation brings to bear our financial expertise and that's what we were able to provide to this task force here today. The tracing of drugs proceeds, the profits of the drug dealers, results in increased criminal prosecutions for money-laundering and related crimes and really shows the true nature of what they do with the profits and their motives behind it. Today's arrests, they are a true result of our interagency cooperation working together with both federal and state local agencies. So it's a really good thing to see how we work together in improving this community. Thanks a lot.
D.A. Rod Pacheco: And ICE was a huge component in Phase 1 and they are with us as well. Assistant Special Agent In Charge Tracy Cormier. Tracy...
ICE Assistant Special Agent In Charge Tracy Cormier: Thank you. Today's enforcement action - again, it shows the extraordinary level of multi-agency coordination and cooperation that's being brought to bear in this area to attack gang-related violence and crime. We are putting gang members on notice that we will use every resource and every legal tool at our disposal, including our unique customs and immigration authorities to halt their illegal activities and put those responsible behind bars. Gangs ICE enforcement is part of Operation Community Shield, an on-going ICE initiative launched in 2005. Since many gang members are foreign nationals ICE's unique customs and immigration authority enable us to use both criminal arrests and immigration administrative arrests to target these dangerous organizations. Since Operation Community Shield began, ICE agents nationwide have arrested over 13,000 gang members and associates linked with over 900 different gangs. In the coming weeks and months ICE will continue to work closely with law enforcement here and across the country to target these street gangs that have used violence and intimidation to hold entire neighborhoods hostage to fear. Now more than ever we are fighting back and it is gang members who have reason to be afraid. Thank you.
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Last, but certainly not least, in order to do operations like this you need the city or elected representatives of that government behind you and supportive and willing to assist you in any way that they can. The city manager has been absolutely wonderful to deal with - Rick Daniels. But speaking for the council today, and she's also been wonderful to work with, is Yvonne Parks, our mayor.
Mayor Yvonne Parks: Thank you. On behalf of the city council here in Desert Hot Springs, the city management team, and the residents of Desert Hot Springs, a heartfelt thanks goes out to all the law enforcement agencies that have been involved in Operation Falling Sun 1 and Operation Falling Sun 2. When I did my first State Of The City one of the words that was used continually throughout that was "collaboration." This is a prime example of what can be accomplished through collaboration. We are no longer going to be the dumping grounds for criminals to come. Let the word go out, "Not here, not anyplace." Thank you.
D.A. Rod Pacheco: When I was here last at a press conference on March 27 I said I'd be back, and we would be back, and certainly we have come back today. We're not letting Desert Hot Springs go. We will continue our efforts, working along with the chief and the police department and the city council and so at this point without further ado I open it up to any questions...
Reporter: Rod, what gang affiliations to these three that you arrested have?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: They're connected to the street gangs here in Desert Hot Springs, but they don't necessarily have a particular gang affiliation. But they are the wholesale distributors to those street gangs here in Desert Hot Springs. The two guys that got taken off today, Rigoberto Lopez and Miguel Gilbert, were the top two dealers here in Desert Hot Springs. So they were providing the drugs to those street gangs. This will weaken them as well, indirectly.
Reporter: [an indistinct question about whether this federal investigation had been part of the original Operation Falling Sun Phase 1, or had it been separate]
D.A. Rod Pacheco: They're combined together. They actually started at the same time. When we work together with the U.S. Attorney's office, the FBI, ICE, the Desert Hot Springs police department, the sheriff's department, etc., when we all came together last August, we began investigating a number of things. This was one of those investigations. It was quickly identified as a federal component to the investigations, so the federal agencies took the lead on it, were the lead, and will continue to be the lead on it. But that investigation continued all the way through. We didn't announce it March 27 because we weren't done. There's been a wire that we were on, listening to at the time, so we waited a little bit to Phase 2. That's why I said we'll be back.
Reporter: [a question about whether Rigoberto Lopez's drugs stayed in Coachella Valley or did they make their way over to Los Angeles].
D.A. Rod Pacheco: I don't think I'll comment on that. I don't know if Tom wants to comment on that. [unintelligible remark about connections to drug cartels].
Reporter: Do we know what cartel in Mexico he's involved with?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: I can't comment on that.
Reporter: [verifying that today's actions had targeted 6 people but caught only 3, and asking what about the 3 who got away].
D.A. Rod Pacheco: We'll see them very soon.
Reporter: What becomes of their property, Rod, their cars, etc.?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: The cars that you see behind me, the cash that we find in the bank accounts, the cash that we seized today will be forfeited. Those were assets that were secured, clearly, by ill-gotten gains from the sale of narcotics. That will be a federal action, asset forfeiture. The cars behind us are very, very expensive automobiles. That BMW M5 I think is close to a hundred-thousand dollar car. [MSRP is $85,500.]
Reporter: Do we know if any of the subjects are facing deportation?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: That's a good question. Does anybody know the answer?
U.S. Attorney O'Brien: I don't know about the deportation, although in Phase 1 that Rod announced a short time before there were a number of individuals who are facing deportation and following prosecution in federal court they will be deported.
And one more thing before I forget it, on the asset forfeiture: over the last several years our office has received over $1 billion, billion with a "B," in asset forfeitures and we've been very aggressive in working with strong D.A.s like Mr. Pacheco [unintelligible] because they are ill-gotten gains of narcotics traffickers they are forfeited to the federal government. At that particular time they're sold at auction. The money, then, is actually assigned by me as U.S. Attorney and funneled back into agencies like Desert Hot Springs police department, the D.A.'s office, all the partners. The bad guy's money is, essentially, going back to help us chase more bad guys. It's a very effective program, and we continue to be very aggressive in that area.
Reporter: [unclear question about Rigoberto Lopez]
U.S. Attorney O'Brien: I'd have to defer to the FBI on that one.
FBI Special Agent In Charge McMullen: One of the reason we used our Special Weapons And Tactics team is because of the propensity for violence and perhaps how fortified the location is. So I will simply say that it was difficult to the point that we would use the Special Weapons team to effect the arrest.
Reporter: [a question about whether any weapons were used]
D.A. Rod Pacheco: No, there were no shots fired again today, fortunately. I can tell you that when I got here earlier I spoke to a couple of the folks from the entry teams, and they indicated to me that they had - that no one had ever seen a house fortified in that fashion or had they ever seen as much security [as they saw] in that house. There were cameras all over the place. That was a fortified place and the only reason it was fortified was because we was a major drug dealer doing very large things here in Desert Hot Springs.
[Later I was told that the fortified house was in Foxdale. He also had a house on Calle Descanso in Desert Hot Springs and one near Granada and Palm.]
Reporter: This is methamphetamine we're talking about, correct?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: And cocaine.
Reporter: Did you seize the actual drugs?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Yes. We did. We got some in that residence as well as other residences.
Reporter: Do you know how much?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Three ounces, I believe, of methamphetamine and also three ounces of cocaine. One of the challenges, though, was because it was so fortified, it took us a little bit to get in and I believe that he had the opportunity to uh, uh, [here, the ever-helpful Mayor Pro Tem Baker suggested the word "flush"] flush some of this stuff that he had. [Please take note MSWD staff].
Reporter: Can we have photos of the arrestees?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Yes, I believe we do and officer [unintelligible] can help you with that.
Reporter: [a question about how much cash money was found]
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Almost $12,000. I think it was $11,300. But that was just today. We've seized funds before in Phase 2 - excuse me, in Phase 1. So there's the federal bank account and, again, that's subject to asset forfeiture.
Reporter: Do we have an age on the suspects that were arrested?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: The main guy's 21. Lopez, Rigoberto Lopez. Teresa Coronado is 20. She's the one with over half a million dollars in her account. All 20-year olds have that. And the other guy, Miguel Gilbert, I want to say is... I don't know. I don't want to guess. [The Desert Sun is reporting that Miguel Gilbert is 26.]
Reporter: [completely unintelligible question]
D.A. Rod Pacheco: We're still working on a connection. They're very bold. They're extremely bold.
Reporter: This was Gilbert's house that was heavily fortified?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Rigoberto Lopez's house.
Reporter: Besides all the cameras, what else did they do to fortify the house?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: On his front door that opened in, like most front doors, on the inside of that door frame there are solid iron brackets where he could place 4x4s in those brackets to prevent that door from being opened. That makes it almost impossible to get in without a tank. So we took different measures.
Reporter: Has the house been seized as well?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Well, if the house - all five of them - which are in either his name or his girlfriend's name were actually worth something today, but he paid at a high price and now it's worth less.
Reporter: [a question about measures taken to make sure no one else comes in to fill the void left by today's arrests]
U.S. Attorney O'Brien: I think the answer is, to paraphrase what the Mayor said, if the crooks think they can come in here and do what they want, then they're sadly mistaken. We've seen in less than one year over 150 individuals who did nothing more than prey on the citizens of this part of the district are now in custody. Many in state custody and some now in federal custody. The individuals that the D.A. talked about today trafficked in narcotics and, yes, there were several ounces seized today, but over a pound of narcotics during the course of this investigation. Those individuals are looking at life in federal prison, and as many of you know, there is no parole from federal prison. The message, I think, to the younger gangsters or narcotics traffickers are that if you think we're done with Phase 2, you're sadly mistaken. If you think we're going to ignore this part of district, you're taking your own life in your hands. I promise you this, if criminal activity continues in this district (we're not all thinking it would stop today) we will be back. Some of the agencies behind me, some of the agents in today's operation, are stationed out in this part of the district, and we are not going to tolerate this kind of behavior in this part of the district.
Reporter: [unintelligible question]
D.A. Rod Pacheco: This has been ... I have never seen a commitment like this or read about a commitment like this by law enforcement agencies, federal, state and local, to clean up an area, to clean up a city. It's unbelievably comprehensive and immense. The FBI, ICE, IRS, the U.S. Attorney's office, the local police department, the other police departments in our valley, as well as the county Sheriff's department, the D.A.'s office. 35-plus agencies the last time. I mean, it's an unbelievable commitment to make sure the folks of this city - the good folks of this city don't continue to suffer. It's the biggest in Riverside County history. By far. And the most comprehensive. We've never taken 150 guys off in one operation.
Reporter: [a question about whether we've seen convictions from Phase 1]
D.A. Rod Pacheco: Oh yeah, we've seen convictions already. We have actually a number of them already off to state prison that have been convicted. And there are arrests that we are processing and will convict them as well. Many of them were gun cases and those have resulted in state prison commitments. Every time we had the opportunity to file a gang injunction - excuse me, gang enhancement - we did. And they're pleading to those as well. So those prosecutions are going extremely well.
Reporter: [a question about the court system]
D.A. Rod Pacheco: It's always difficult with the court system. The court system is too small for the size of the county and the number of cases. And so we'll work through it though. This is important to us and we know it's important to the community. Our office has been I think pretty clear that we're not about to make the best deals to move cases. We're here to make sure people are held accountable and we get justice. And that's a tough road, but we're willing to take it.
Reporter: What's going to stop these gangs from going to other cities in Coachella Valley?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: I think the entire valley's been very aggressive. We work very closely with the police chiefs from the rest of the valley, as well as the Sheriff. And coordinate our activities and as you've seen us in the past, we've been to Cathedral City and other parts of the valley. We're going to make sure if they're going to move, they're going to move outside the county. Nobody elected me to protect the citizens of other counties.
Reporter: Do we know if all five of these Lopez houses are in Desert Hot Springs?
D.A. Rod Pacheco: I believe they are, yes.
Reporter: [unintelligible question]
D.A. Rod Pacheco: He bought them a few years ago. His girlfriend Teresa Coronado, and partner, bought her first house at the age of 18. Without the stimulus funds. That's for the IRS.
We had a good day today. And we'll be back.
June 28, 2009
Filipino Prisoners Do It Again For Michael Jackson - NOW With More Nun-Drag
Doubtless, you will recall how moved you were to watch the Filipino prisoners dancing to Thriller just two years ago. And now, of course, they are ecstatic to share their worship-dance with the big poster showing Jackson with his, uh, huge sword.
Let's all chip in, shall, we and buy this prison a really superwide angle lens for their camera!
That's What We're Talkin' About
June 27, 2009
North Korea Wants To Twitter You
S. Koreans Called Upon to Deal Telling Blows at Lee Myung Bak Group
Pyongyang, June 10 (KCNA) -- A spokesman for the Central Committee of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea issued a statement Wednesday on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of the June Popular Resistance in south Korea.
Through the June popular resistance that raged throughout south Korea for more than 20 days the south Korean people fully demonstrated the indomitable fighting spirit and patriotic stamina to do away with the outsiders' colonial domination and fascist rule and achieve without fail independent and democratic new politics, a new life with their own efforts, the statement said, and continued:
The resistance clearly proved that nobody can quell the people's desire for independence and the need of the times and there is nothing to fear when broad popular masses rise up, united close as one.
22 years have passed since those historic days but the south Koreans have not yet been freed from the harsh colonial rule of the U.S.
The Lee Myung Bak group of pro-U.S. conservatives, in particular, openly called for "giving priority to south Korea-U.S. relations" right after its seizure of power and restored the harsh fascist dictatorial system, turning south Korea into a graveyard of independence and democracy and the worst tundra of human rights in the world where the independent right and dignity of the people are wantonly violated.
The Lee group has become evermore frantic in the confrontation with the DPRK alongside its U.S. and Japanese masters in its crafty bid to escape the stern punishment of the people enraged by the political catastrophe, the daily deteriorated people's living and brutal fascist suppression.
The situation prevailing in south Korea urgently calls on the people of broad strata to turn out as one in the same fighting spirit as displayed by the participants in the June popular resistance and make a clean sweep of the group of traitors and wage a courageous do-or-die struggle to greet the day of independence, democracy and reunification.
Yes at Fantasy Springs
The casinos in the Palm Springs area host performances by artists of various sorts, ranging from "I remember him (or her)" to "He (or she) is still performing?" to "He (she) is still alive?!" But that's what the demographic of Coachella Valley demands. Wait long enough and inevitably your favorite band or artist from your regrettable youth will appear at one of the casinos.
That time finally came for me when I serendipitously spotted on a crawl (I never look at those things) on, of all places, The Weather Channel (I never watch The Weather Channel) that Yes would be appearing at Fantasy Springs. Yes was my favorite band in college...or at least they were evenly tied with (of course) Emerson, Lake & Palmer [have you seen a cheezier website that wasn't, like, selling penis-enlarging drugs?]. BTW, a reliable source tells me that EL&P were to come to Fantasy Springs this fall, but that tour was cancelled because Keith Emerson injured a hand. It remains a possibility for 2010.
The cheap tickets were, indeed, cheap ($30 I think, and no ridiculous surcharges, convenience charges, mailing charges, or even parking fees - just $30). Even the most expensive tickets were cheap. Fifty bucks maybe.
The first rock concert I ever attended was Yes in 1975 somewhere in the vicinity of Carbondale, Illinois, at an outdoor venue with my first (and still the best) boyfriend, Bill Shepardson. We drove there from Columbia, Missouri, and then drove back after the concert. Why Yes didn't appear anywhere in Missouri on that tour, I just don't know, but probably it was self-respect.
At that 1975 concert Yes was made up of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Patrick Moraz, Chris Squire and Alan White. Last night's concert it was Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White, Oliver Wakeman (son of Rick Wakeman) and Benoît David. Benoît David looked so young from my cheap seat distance that I was sure he had been born well after Yes's most popular days. But according to his Wikipedia page, he was born in 1966, making him 9 years old when I was at that concert in Illinois. He dressed and cavorted on stage in a way that reminded me of a stereotype of a late 1970s gay hustler, but who cares. He totally nailed the vocals, obviously intending to present a perfect copy of Jon Anderson's singing - and succeeding at it. Jon Anderson, BTW, is maybe not totally gone. He was originally going to be in this tour, which was going to be in 2008, but he had a severe asthma attack and "acute respiratory failure" (according to info on his Wikipedia page). On his own website Jon Anderson has info for a European tour of his own starting this week in Warsaw.
As for the whole performance, they consistently performed nearly perfect copies of what we've been listening to on Yes albums (on all the various media) for decades, and at this point in life that's what we're paying to hear. The crowd included a surprising number of younger people - and by "surprising number" I mean "a few." There were a handful of fans in their twenties who did not seem to be their just to accompany their enfeebled parents or grandparents.
This was my first time at the Fantasy Springs "Special Events Center." See how its name doesn't lay any claim on being a concert hall? It's got a flat concrete floor and could be as suitable for basketball and boxing as a classic rock concert. If you go to a concert there, the cheap seats are what you want. Cheap seats are on temporary stadium seating. Here's a photo:
I sat in UU so that must be a photo of TT. If you pay for the expensive seats you will be seated down on the flat floor with a worse view. The seats themselves are better in the cheap sections, being a bit wider (and having arm rests) compared to the wooden folding chairs (like those you rent for a wedding or funeral) out on the flat floor. I guess if you had a real need to see how your favorite ancient musician has aged, you might want to pay to be in the front few rows. The cheap stadium seats were a bit flexy (probably excellent in an earthquake), so that if anybody in your row got his groove on and started rocking to the beat, everybody in the row had to join in.
Oh yeah, the warm up band was Asia, made up of Steve Howe (the same), Carl Palmer (of Emerson, Lake & ...), Geoff Downes, and John Wetton. They performed a few of their own, plus covers of other bands, including a cover of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's cover of Aaron Copland's Fanfare For The Common Man which really worked the crowd into a frenzy. So much so I thought we were going to have a real rock concert on our hands, but no such luck. Asia continued on with their own stuff and the crowd returned to its previously sedate attitude, biding its time until Yes.
Here are a few photos of the "Special Events Center."
During Asia's performance.
During the break after Asia, before Yes. Note the haze showing under the ceiling lights. I was there at 7 o'clock when the room was opened and that haze was already there, so they're pumping some hazifying material into the air so the light show on the stage more effective. Whatever it is, and however they do it, the stuff remained evenly consistent throughout the show; no billowing, no thin spots. Anybody got technical info on this?
There were five or six bars inside the concert room - you can see two of them in this shot. If you stepped outside the room, there was a whole snack bar to sell you food and more booze. People did go out during the concert to pick up plates of nachos, or whatever, and bring it back in.
There were, BTW, no restrictions placed on recording the concert. Nothing printed on the tickets, no signs, no announcements, no messages projected on the TV screens. So I guess they've wisely given up on trying to stop that. Many people were obviously video-ing parts of the concert. I don't know what they would do if you came in with a tripod and professional recording equipment.
I was experimenting with the camera, not having much concert photography experience, and didn't do too bad. Much of that had to do with the fact that I was on the end of the row and had a good, steady railing to brace the camera against. More photos here.
Before the concert I walked around a bit inside the hotel and casino. At first I thought the place was smoke-free. I didn't smell or see any tobacco smoke...for awhile. Then I spotted one guy who seemed to be trying to hide it, walking along holding his cigarette down by his side, stepping behind a big pillar occasionally to take a puff. "Who's he trying to fool," I wondered. But then I opened my eyes a bit and saw that every trash can had something with it for cigarette butts, and the bar was crowded with ashtrays. But all the ashtrays were clean and empty. No one at the bar was smoking. The butt bins attached to trash cans never had more than one butt in them. I saw no one smoking except that one guy. Is it possible that so few people are smoking now that even alcohol and gambling don't make them want to light up?!
Inside the concert room (I really can't call it a "hall") I did see a cloud of smoke rise from somebody during a moment of bright light from the stage. Before the concert I saw security talking to a woman who had something like this Supercig device. It looks like a cigarette in a holder (at a distance). She would put it in her mouth and draw on it, causing what seems to be a red LED light at the end to glow. This red LED light is totally non-functional and simply invites confrontations with security people. But according to the website the device delivers an aerosolized dose of genuine nicotine without smoke.
Federal Suit Against Prop 8 Gets New Support
ACLU, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have reversed themselves and now support the "Olson/Boies" lawsuit in federal court that was filed by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. That lawsuit seeks to overturn Prop 8 because it so obviously violates the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The suit was initially opposed by every gay group (and the ACLU) because if it ends up before the Supreme Court with its current membership, the case could lose. The groups do not say why they've changed their minds, but it could have something to do with both Attorney General Brown and Governor Schwarzenegger announcing that they would not defend Prop 8. That's still no guarantee of a favorable decision, but it may mean the case can proceed more quickly...if that's a good thing.
Kansas City Barbecue
The L.A. Times has one of the best articles I've read on Kansas City barbecue. It includes a good overall description of the city, acknowledges that Kansas City is the best place for barbecue, and says right up front that Gates and Bryants have achieved perfection in barbecue. That frees up the author to go review some of the other good barbecue that can be had around town.
The barbecue legend started with Henry Perry, who is said to have opened a barbecue shack in the early 1900s in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Perry had an employee named Charlie Bryant who eventually bought him out. Charlie Bryant had a brother named Arthur Bryant, who took over from Charlie, opening what writer Calvin Trillin called the best restaurant in the world: the self-named barbecue apex that's been at 18th and Brooklyn for a half-century or so.
Bryant's has it all: the feel of a joint that's just this side of grubby, the ribs that are just this side of heaven, which is where Arthur Bryant (and his brother and his brother's former boss) now reside, I am certain. Taste the ribs or the sliced meats (or get it to go in the butcher paper) and you cannot help but believe.
Gates, meanwhile, traces its roots back to George Gates, who also is said to have worked with Henry Perry. When you walk in the door of any Gates restaurant (there are six, including one up the street from Bryant's), you're greeted with, "Hi, may I help you?" which some people find off-putting and others find friendly. I am always a bit unnerved, because I'm usually having a mental tussle: Ribs? Burnt ends? Sliced beef sandwich?
More Al Capone
Got some free time in July? The Badwater Ultramarathon is coming up July 13-15. It proceeds from (where else?) Badwater (-280 feet elevation) to Mt. Whitney Portal (+8,360 feet elevation), with total climbing of about 13,000 feet (descending 4,700 feet). The horizontal distance (as if that matters at this point) is 135 miles. The temperature at the start could easily exceed 120°F (call it 50°C). A webcast of the event will be available here.
June 25, 2009
When I heard about the death of that other celebrity, my first thought was that Farrah Fawcett, an entirely decent human being, would be denied her day of mourning. Her obituary in the L.A. Times. The obituary has not been updated to reflect her very recent plans to marry Ryan O'Neal, or whether that marriage took place.
Peaker Power Plant Pollution
Todd has expressed in his comments on my post about Riverside County questioning the funding for the Palm Drive/I-10 interchange his concern about air pollution from the future peaker power plant to be built near Desert Hot Springs and the city council's failure to speak to the subject. Perhaps he tries to excuse them when he says "The mental deficits in this city our many." Many, indeed. He says he speaks from facts, but he has provided none on this topic, suggesting that I go do my own research. So I did...or I did as much as my mental deficits would permit. I'm making this its own post since its connection to the interchange funding issue is fairly peripheral.
The peaker power plant will burn natural gas which is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Being a brand new plant, it should have the latest technology to conform to California and federal environmental regulations. I haven't come across anything to say otherwise, and Todd hasn't suggested that either. By its nature, it probably won't burn as cleanly as a steady-burning natural gas power plant, but that is offset by the fact that it won't be running all the time.
So the plant will definitely pollute. Todd doesn't say how much pollution he would consider acceptable. If he considers NO pollution to be acceptable, then that may be why he hasn't got the support of the city council. Opposition to any increase at all in pollution without also opposing natural gas hookups at homes and businesses, increased numbers of motor vehicles, increased sales of equipment using two-cycle engines like lawnmowers, increased use of barbecues, etc. would be hypocritical. I'm sure there are people in California who would support an economic freeze like that, but very few elected officials.
But maybe Todd's opinion is that while some pollution would be acceptable, a peaker power plant would put way too much dangerous pollution into the air. So I Googled peaker power pollution. And I didn't find much of anything. Oh sure, I could find environmentalists who said they were opposed to the pollution, and citizens organizations that were afraid of the pollution, but I've not yet found any hard facts suggesting the plants pollute more than they are permitted, nor that the permitted amount is too high.
Q. What will be the health impact of a peaker power plant to people living around the facility?
A. The evaluations of new peaker power plants for which the Illinois EPA has received permit applications to date have indicated that the plants will not have a measurable impact on air quality. If a source does not have a measurable impact on air quality, there should not be a health impact. To confirm that proposed plants would not impact air quality, the Illinois EPA has been asking all peaker power plants to submit air quality modeling even though this is not expressly required by the rules for minor sources.
Q. These plants will emit almost all of their emissions over a small number of days during the summer. Why can't they be considered major sources under the federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) rules?
A. The proposed peaker power plants whose potential annual emissions are below the applicability thresholds of the federal PSD rules are not subject to PSD because the rules define "major sources" in terms of annual emissions from a proposed new source, not monthly or daily emissions. However, as noted above, the Illinois EPA is requiring applicants for "minor" peaker plants to perform air quality impact modeling as if the plants were subject to PSD. The Illinois EPA also has exercised its discretionary authority and is holding public comment periods for all proposed plants before taking final action on a permit. In addition, the Illinois EPA will continue to review the situation.
Natural gas burning peaker power stations pollute substantially less than coal-fired all-year round power plants. According to the Reliant company statistics, their 870 MW plant would release 248 tons of nitrogen oxides, 211 tons of carbon monoxide, 29 tons of particulate matter, and 3 tons of sulfur dioxide annually (with bulk of emissions concentrated around summer time). The company compares these emissions (e.g. 248 tons of nitrogen oxides) with cumulative emissions from residential furnaces: 1,745 tons, lawn mowers: 370 tons, commuter auto traffic: 1,040 tons of NOx, where the pollution has been integrated over 880,000 residents of the DuPage county. Information on the aerial spread of the pollution, and an increase in the concentration of toxic substances in the vicinity of the plant are hard to find.
Which brings me to tonight's meeting and the discussion about peaker plants—because they are the most inefficient form of gas turbine application. They are such a poor application that we should be finding ways of shifting peak power to minimize their need.
IOW, power customers (us) need to change our behavior so that a peaker plant is simply unnecessary. That might mean changing the rate structures to discourage use at peak times; learning to get by with less air conditioning, fewer big-screen TVs, fewer swimming pools, etc. On a local level, it could mean making sure there are no unnecessary zoning or building codes that stand in the way of the installation of small-scale solar or wind at residences and businesses.
Here's an interesting comment from New Berlin, Wisconsin. It's not relevant to our local plant, AFAIK, but it does create a terrifying mental image.
How much of New Berlin and surrounding communities would be destroyed by an accidental explosion of the 210,000 pounds of liquid propane that will be stored on site as a backup fuel is anyone's guess.
"These things are horrible," said Mike Thomas, a representative of Communities for a Better Environment who lives near San Francisco's Portero power plant, where three 52-megawatt peaker plants are running at full capacity because of the power crisis. "These peakers, they burn[,] like[,] jet fuel."
So, apparently, some peaker plants burn, like, high octane liquid fuel...which is not what ours will burn.
Todd compares the peaker plant to the proposed Green Path North, saying the peaker power plant is much worse. It's not a good comparison. No one (except maybe for a few) opposes running power lines from the geothermal plants down by the Salton Sea to Los Angeles. What people oppose is LADWP's insane scheme to run power lines across virgin desert wilderness rather than go down the already urbanized I-10 corridor. If there was a proposal to situate the peaker power plant on top of the hills near Indian and 62 (where Palmwood would have been) just because it was cheaper, then you'd have something comparable to Green Path North.
Maybe Todd's opposition is simply NIMBY (again, I'm just guessing, because he doesn't say it is). Perhaps a peaker plant in some other valley would be okay by Todd, just so long as it's not in relatively clean Coachella Valley. I'm generally not a NIMBY person, especially when I look at all the wasteful power consumption in this valley.
Sorry, this is the best I could do, considering my mental deficits.
NASA Wants To Stay Mired In The Past
I don't know when the U.S. scientific community adopted metric units, but I do know that by the time I reached high school (when Nixon was President), we were taught that all of science was universally metric, even in the United States. In our science classes, everything was metric. I never heard anything to contradict what I had learned in high school, so I was mystified in 1999 that the reason NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter probe crashed was because its altitude-control system used feet and inches. How could it be possible that NASA would build a craft with mixed units?
Now, as NASA is engineering the new Constellation Program it wants to continue using feet and pounds. Even if they manage it perfectly, there will still be millions wasted in converting back and forth between NASA's archaic measurements and the metric units used everywhere else.
Solar Roof Tile Test In Bermuda Dunes
A Desert Sun article about the installation of solar roof tiles on a house in Bermuda Dunes. The tiles are shaped like standard roof tiles, but are dark blue and generate electricity. One thing they will be checking is how much desert heat degrades the tiles. The article states that these tiles produce 10% more power, but the installation will have to cover twice as much area as flat panels would to produce the same amount of electricity. The two conflicting claims are not explained. The article also does not include an estimate of cost. The reporter, K Kaufman, added a comment explaining the information she had on hand and why she didn't include it in the article.
It's common in Desert Sun articles that obviously important questions are not addressed, but it's very rare for the reporter to explain why the info is missing. I'm no journalist (although I did hang out with quite a few J-School students at the University of Missouri, if that counts for anything), but I think when obviously important info is missing, the reporter is supposed to say something about it.
June 24, 2009
Three More Fireworks Stands Located
This stand directly across from the police and fire stations
must be the one being run by the police & fire is the one for the food pantries, Food Now and St. Elizabeth's. Good spot to get the people traveling in and out of town on Pierson.
This prime location at Hacienda and Palm was nabbed by AYSO. They must have friends at Fresh & Easy.
So this must be the one for the
food pantries, Food Now and St. Elizabeth's police and fire, or more accurately the DHS Police Officers Associatiion and the DHS Volunteer Fire Company. Excellent location for the bus-riding crowd, since it's right behind the bus stop in front of K-Mart, not far from Starbucks.
The little league's stand, you will recall, is in front of Ace Hardware on Pierson east of Palm.
UPDATE: I guessed wrong and got the Public Safety vs. the Food Pantries reversed. Now corrected. Sales start June 28, Sunday.
"We just want to make sure we're being fair."
At this late date Riverside County is asking CVAG to "re-look at the formula" for dividing up the cost for the reconstruction of five interchanges along I-10 in Coachella Valley. The additional cost to Desert Hot Springs for this little re-look would be $1.3 million. Obviously, the stories of Finance Director Jason Simpson's abilities have grown hugely as they've traveled over the hills to Riverside. Maybe he could find another $50,000, but unless he gets his own branch bank of the Federal Reserve, I think $1.3 million is out of the question. County Transportation Director Juan Perez says "It's not an attempt to pass along costs." Oh, no, it's nothing like that. Perish the thought. After the county created that last minute RDA in our area to-be-annexed, taking away potential sources of revenue for DHS, the idea to re-assess us for highway construction is just more fairness than we can take.
This new lid for a reactor at Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant in Arizona is sitting down on Dillon Road today, just west of Palm Drive. Here's the Desert Sun article about it. It's got 96 tires supporting the 150 ton lid. Not counting the weight of the vehicle itself, that's more than 1½ tons per tire. They do have several spares. Goes 5 MPH at night, but not for more than 10 hours. It's heading up route 62 to the high desert tonight, so if you've got nothing better to do, you could go hang out at Indian and 62 to watch it go by. I'm sure the citizens of Morongo Valley will be gathering at the top of the hill to see it struggle up. It might be as fascinating as watching barge traffic on the Mississippi River, which I used to do.
My Kodachrome Stash
June 23, 2009
Tips For Staying Safe Online
The City Of Boston (or "Shitty Of Boston" we would say, imitating some pol's accent) is sharing this list of tips for how to stay safe in cyberspace. All good advice, but I must point out that tip #6 applies only to Windows, not Mac.
A Chart To Help You
For those who think visually, here's a graphic overview of same-sex marriage by Patrick Farley.