fortboise Home Blog Useful Sporting Sailing Friendly Site map Fine Print

Cover image of 'American Carnage'

Recent read; shop Amazon from the book link (or the search widget below) and support this site.

Other fortboise logs
China 2003
Reading list

Le Guin
Monkey Cage
Monkey Cage
O'Reilly Ideas

World News from:
arab net
The Sydney Morning Herald
Axis of Logic
Baltic Times
Boise Guardian
Community Radio
Boise Weekly
Idaho Statesman
The Telegraph
The Guardian
Information Clearing House
People's Daily
China Daily
Al-Ahram Weekly
Der Spiegel
Hong Kong:
Asia Times online
The Times of India,
The Hindustan Times
The Jerusalem Post
The Daily Star
New Zealand:
New Zealand Herald
The Rocky Mountains:
HCN Goat
New West
Tunisia Live
Saudi Arabia:
Arab News
Sun Valley:
Idaho Mtn Express
The Moscow Times

RSS feed for this blog

Google logo

Or make my day
Amazon Wish List

4.Aug.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Greetings from Dystopian Hell Permalink to this item

Not sure how much direct mail gnome Richard Viguerie is in the day-to-day screeding, but his ConservativeHQ dailies are getting past my spam filters once in a while. His Editor, George Rasley is a piece of work. Today's teaser splutters out this remarkable sentence under the headline "Your Quality Of Life In A Democrat-Run City":

"Whether the Democrats on the Minneapolis City Council are pandering to the Far Left or grandstanding for the media is largely irrelevant to those who now live in this Democrat-run dystopian Hell, where the little people are told to submit to the criminals instead of calling the police and the elite leadership class lives in a private security protected bubble, insulated from the crime-ridden Hell they’ve created."

The headline got me chuckling, as a resident of a Democrat-run city with pretty good quality of life, even considering the present circumstances.

I gather no one edits the CHQ Editor? The punch of "Hell" dissipates when you hit it twice in one go, plus I'm curious about dystopian Hell. As opposed to... the other kind? If he had a sense of humor, he could've worked in the hoary demo version joke. Here's a suitably plodding version, demonizing Bill Gates, no less. That would fit right in with CHQ and its "we never left the 1980s" vibe. They have a lot of stuff tagged Bill Gates, but they're not doing much of their own work on the subject. Top of the stack is a four months-ago teaser to the Washington Times, complaining about how just because Gates is "a philanthropist who's giving millions and maybe billions to help develop a coronavirus vaccine," "the media give[s him] a free pass."

If you're angry enough, it doesn't have to make sense, is the subtext.

1.Aug.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dogpile Permalink to this item

You might have a collection of old electronics sitting around, e-waste that you're not quite sure what to do with, and that isn't likely to be useful to you. It's got some of your data on it. An old operating system that might or might not even get up and go if you plugged it in and/or charged its battery. If you don't, lucky you. At our house, with two users, and decades of history, we have a bunch of bits and bobs in the described categories. (And it's time for upgrades, too.)

I see Recycle Boise, just down the bench from us will take our junk. They shred hard drives! They take stuff I'm not even sure what it is. "Teradyne Machines"? British aluminum ("aluminium"). "Farm Equipment." "All items made of metal."

Also down the bench (waste flows downhill), only a little further away, The Reuseum with its "Repurpose" angle, "cater[ing] to those who embrace the art, science and fun of DIY by offering new & used equipment & materials of all types. Treasures appear AND disappear daily, so visit often!"

Then Idaho's Governor tossed his recycling bid into the ring, with a Thursday tweet:

Do you have a used laptop or other electronic device that you can donate to a student? Help support our students’ learning by dropping off your device on August 5! Details at @IdahoBusinessEd

— Brad Little (@GovernorLittle) July 30, 2020
Old computers

The jump goes to CLOSE the DIVIDE / Let's connect our kids, and the lede is We have a crisis on our hands. 200,000 Idaho students need computers by August. And here it is August. Because of the pandemic, it's a virtual certainty that "some form of remote learning will be a reality for every child in the state," and hundreds of thousands of them (survey says) do not have a computer.

So, ah, send in your junk. Or donate $350, $7,000, or any amount to the Idaho Business for Education Internet Fund.

Alternately, the state might have allocated more money to education, instead of cutting $99 million less than two weeks ago.

Given our legislature's chronic underfunding of education in this state, some folks banded together as Reclaim Idaho are working to get an initiative on our ballot to raise income tax on the highest 5% or earners in the state, to raise a couple hundred $million for education. $600 per student annually, would be enough to get everyone a computer, eh. But the pandemic hit that effort too, and they tried to switch to electronic signature gathering.

Governor Little put the kibosh on that, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court to try to keep Idahoans from having this question on the ballot in November. By overruling US District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill, SCOTUS may have squelched the civic uprising, at the Governor's urging.

So yippee skippee, we're open for donations now. If you've used a computer much, you might know that things don't always go right with them. As a general rule, the older they get, the more that goes wrong, until really, you need to start fresh. Maybe upgrade or reinstall the operating system, slap on a raft of patches. And so on.

And if you've ever worked in an office with a lot of computers, you know that heterogeneity breeds contemptible user experiences, and an overloaded support staff. So now that it's August, and everyone's gearing up to get school started in a few weeks, even though they don't know how all that's going to go, just imagine the world of fun that will ensue when tens of thousands of Idahoans turn in their old computers and the tech support staff (who I'm sure will not have much to do what with the whole remote learning thing) try to make them go, and pass them out to hundreds of thousands of students.

Just imagine.

29.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

General Factotum Barr Permalink to this item

We all pretty much new he was a snake to begin with, but just in case there were any questions, yesterday's hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. In an earlier lifetime, I might have watched it live but I decided not to boil my blood in the midst of our first good heat wave of the summer. It's never the same relying on the observations of others, but it will have to do this time.

From Wonkette's liveblogging

Heather Cox Richardson is my first stop in the morning, guaranteeing an unburied lede, and reference links, if needed.

"[Barr's] combative answers confirmed that he is Trump’s man. He is committed to the narrative that dangerous anarchists are endangering law and order, and that Trump was unfairly targeted by FBI agents in what Barr calls “Russiagate.”

Predictably, the rank ranking member, Jim Jordan of Ohio, yet to be held to account for his failure to respond to sexual misconduct complaints at the Ohio State University, "with both his signature rapid-fire yelling and a video deceptively edited" to feed the +rump campaign narrative. And his indignation.

As Democrats spoke over Barr, Jordan repeatedly complained at their behavior, saying “I do not think we have ever had a hearing where the witness was not allowed to respond to points made, questions asked, and attacks made.”

Except for every one that he's been in, that is.

The Attorney General of the United States of America is, nominally, the chief law enforcement officer of the Executive Branch, not (yet another) "fixer" for the president. Also not the "General" of a hodge-podge army to use in attacks against citizens in this country.

There is still some sort of law against lying under oath (isn't there?), so when pressed on his free-wheeling week-ago claim that "within two weeks we've had 200 arrests" in Kansas City—news that nobody in Missouri could verify—the AG had to walk that back as a "misspoke." Which is not to say the campaign effect was already done and dusted. Rawstory reported 6 days ago:

“Barr’s false claim, livestreamed by the White House, raised questions about the Justice Department’s trustworthiness,” continued the report. “And the point Barr apparently was illustrating only grew shakier Thursday as officials in Kansas City clarified further that the arrests that did occur resulted in no new federal charges — with the exception of one case announced earlier this week.”

(Coincidentally, 200:1 is also the Vegas line that there's more perjury in Barr's testimony in any given hour. (In case you wondered, the one "federal" case was a 20-year-old charged with being an unlawful drug user in possession of firearms, driving a stolen car. Probably near some suburbs.)

Barr also was forced to admit lying about the US Attorney for the SDNY, Geoff Berman "stepping down." They say that Justice is blind, and Barr shows us that's at least half-right. When Washington's Rep. Pramila Jayapal pressed him on the protesters in Michigan (in the shit-show following +rump's LIBERATE MICHIGAN tweet, subverting the Governor's stay-home order to protect publich health), she asked whether the AG was aware that protesters had called for the Governor to be "lynched, shot, and beheaded." Was he aware about that? The guns, swastikas and so on at the state capitol?

"No," he wasn't! "Well there are a lot of protests around the United States," how's a body supposed to keep track of everything? And hey, it was the Governor, so that's kind of a state matter, and I'm a federal guy. Jayapal's questioning could've been boiled down to a yes/no: You're a lawless hack working to subvert the Constitution in favor of +rump, isn't that right sir? Yes or no.

A week after Tom Ridge spoke up, we now have another former head of the Department of Homeland Security (under George W. Bush) calling out the attack on American cities. Michael Chertoff, on the Hijacking of Homeland Security:

"...White House statements demonstrate the president reveling in the use of brutal and aggressive force, especially in cities that he characterizes as governed by liberal Democratic mayors. And if the politically performative aspect of this policy were not already obvious, it is rendered unmistakable when footage of the mayhem is broadcast by Trump campaign commercials."

One little problem with a call to DHS leadership: illegally Acting Secretary Chad Wolf is not actually the man for that job; he is fully in the bag. And the other thing that was rendered unmistakable yesterday is that Bill Barr plans to do everything he can to keep +rump in office. DOJ's "policy" to keep quiet two months before an election? Fuhgeddaboudit. His and John Durham's "Russiagate" world tour and witch hunt is pretty much guaranteed to be working up to a series of October surprises.

In the less-measured reportorial realm, Evan Hurst liveblogged yesterday's tragicomedy. After you wade through more than a few other F-words, he extracted this F-word from the AG's opening statement: factotum.

"Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus “Russiagate” scandal, many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the President’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions. Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today."

28.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

SAP "Industry 4.0 is Now" Permalink to this item

From the how did I get on this subscription list stack today, and the company that has always signified "all-encompassing enterprise software bollox" to me (with almost no first-hand experience, thank goodness):

"Is your organization keeping pace with the changes brought on by Industry 4.0? Are you ready to redefine your manufacturing processes and the value your products provide for the next stage of industrial revolution?

"Join SAP for our Industry 4.0 Webcast Series, a two-part, 10-episode web series dedicated to helping you on your path to operational excellence across your entire supply chain for Industry 4.0 and beyond. Each 45-minute episode led by industry experts will explore solutions, strategies, and best practices that address today’s most pressing supply chain and manufacturing challenges for your organization’s growth tomorrow."

Episode 1 has dropped. "Explore SAP’s Approach to Industry 4.0 and Intelligent Assets: The Industry 4.Now Strategy." It's 4 point oh, and 4 point Now, nice. As ever, SAP is the cosmic Swiss Army knife and adhesive that does everything.

Further episodes will be out weekly, with a gap before the last one to build excitement (or acknowledge vacation time in late August).

SAP roll graphic

How to Achieve Operational Excellence for Maintenance Processes. Drive Operational Excellence and the Intelligent Factory: Digital Manufacturing Operations, Automated Kanban, and Intralogistics Material Flow for Discrete Manufacturing Industries. How the Intelligent Factory Can Help You Drive Operational Excellence – Experience Digital Manufacturing Operations for Process Industries. Analytics from Shop Floor to Top Floor – Leverage a Digital Operations Center for the Intelligent Factory.

The abstracted teaser graphics go from quasi-automation to quasi-analytics, something factory-floor robotic, to a final roll of raw? finished? material spooling into the or out of the shop floor. The yellow-to-blue color sequence keeps it from being utterly mundane, but there's no avoiding the fact that it looks like a roll of toilet paper. Essential stuff, in our culture, at least, from shop floor to top floor, but kind of an odd closer.

26.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mao in the Age of +rump Permalink to this item

When we went to China in 2003, rescheduled from April to November due to the SARS outbreak, our itinerary was laden with shopping opportunities. Neither one of us were that big on souvenirs and we limited ourselves to a very few items. Jeanette got a calligraphy set that was not quite as nice as a factory second, from a vendor desperate to unload end-of-season junk. I got a Movado knock-off with a "stainless steel" band that soon rubbed off to expose copper underneath. (What was coming off was probably bad cadmium plating, which took the shine off sporting a copywatch. Also, between ubiquitous clocks when I need them, and now always-on-time cellphones, who needs a watch?)

And I got a copy of Mao's little red book. In German. Given my limited fluency, the secrets of China's once revered Great Leader are safe with me, somewhere in the house.

Red-Color News Solider cover

Shortly before departure, and unremarked by us at the time, Li Zhensheng published his "Chinese Photographer's Odyssey Through the Cultural Revolution," Red-Color News Soldier, describing one of the great political upheavals of our time in text, historical documents, and remarkable black and white photographs. Seventeen years on, when Li died in June, the New York Times obituary brought this BIG red book to my attention, extolling Li's collection as "one of the most complete and nuanced visual chronicles of how China’s Cultural Revolution had an impact on daily life far away from Beijing."

Amazon has the French edition for 386€, German for 60€, Spanish for $41.37, but currently unavailable in English. I checked our library. No luck. "Did you check interlibrary loan?" Jeanette asked. Didn't know that was a separate search specification!

It was available! I've got a copy owned by the Molstead Library of North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, due Tuesday. It's a BIG red book, clever homage to the subject, and one hell of an artifact of the history of "Red China" from my teenage years.

Reading it in mid-summer 2020, when the odds of the American experiment suddenly feels like a coin-toss, is sobering. "The Base" these days are not quite the same thing as the Red Guard of the 1960s, but there's a rhyme to it. The Cultural Revolution unfolded over the course of a decade, so still plenty of time for our story to go either (or any which) way. Not to give away the ending (which you know, right?), and it doesn't bring the story fully up to date, but there were some lessons learned:

While the Central Committee continued to insist that Mao's mistakes were "secondary, his merits primary," in June 1981 the 11th Party Congress issued a historic resolution that held: "Practice has shown that the 'cultural revolution' did not in fact constitute a revolution or social progress in any sense.... Chief responsibility for the grave error of the Cultural Revolution, an error comprehensive in magnitude and protracted in duration, does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong. In his later years ... far from making a correct analysis of many problems, he confused right and wrong and the people with the enemy... Herein lies his tragedy."


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007