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31.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Last year's Jack o'Lantern -- recycled!

The SEC takes two bold leaps forward for corporate responsibility: executives will be barred from selling their stock when the rank and file are "blacked out" from doing so, and "pro-forma" results must be accompanied by a statement of how they differ from generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). They had to think a while longer on whether they should "require corporate lawyers to blow the whistle on securities law-breaking found on the job."

Meanwhile, is Harvey Pitt bucking to go home, or what? Turns out he didn't bother telling the rest of the commissioners or the House about William Webster's ugly little history at U.S. Technologies before they voted on Webster to head the SEC's accounting oversight board.

Optical illusions, presented on a very nicely done website. I especially like the Koffka Ring.

Biodiversity hotspots: a tour of the 25 richest and most threatened reservoirs of life on earth.

A two-part series from Wharton (registration required) about exporting back office work: "Turnover at U.S. call centers can run at 100% and absenteeism can reach 14%, Dutto says. But those drop drastically in India, she suggests, partly because of door-to-door transport services for workers. Prestige also may play a role. Dutto says while call center jobs in the U.S. might be on par with fast-food work, in India they are equivalent to accountant or computer programmer positions. All employees at the InTelegy-HCL Technologies facility have a college degree."

The downside of democratic socialism is that all members of the society obtain a sense of entitlement, even if it's not deserved. As those who can do the math figure out that labor is not just cheaper, but also more effective overseas, what will be left for the middle class at home?

Everybody talks about the weather, but not that many people do something about it. H.E. Edens is doing something - he's taking interesting photographs of it.

Poof! There goes the equity. Qwest to unjigger its books and (more than) zero out shareholder equity. The writedowns don't change its underlying liquidity or viability, such as those are. We send them money every month, and if you're reading this, our phone still works... but the investment we made many years ago in U.S. West is just a fond memory.

An invitation to read a 142-year-old novel, no charge for the serialized installmants mailed to your home, or on the web, your choice.

The largest volcano on the planet is lighting up again, after a couple decades' holiday. In a triumph of blind hope over the most basic powers of inference, more than $2 billion worth of new construction is ready to be offered as a sacrifice to Pele.

Are the Wild West days of the internet soon to be over? Will bandwidth hogs have to pay more or cease and desist? (Funny, I thought we had a great excess of bandwidth these days.) Jeff Chester writes about the Death of the 'Net.

29.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's hard for me to imagine that any regular readers of this weblog would be the sort of person who wouldn't vote in a general election. If there are, I don't suppose persuasion from me would make the difference then, would it? How about persuasion from If if you don't get persuaded, you can get a nice poster from them. "Regime change begins at home. VOTE."

Radio snippets: $300 million publicity campaign for Microsoft's MSN8?! Wow, $300 million. Consumer confidence at a 9-year low - like father, like son, eh? People don't think the economy will grind to a halt, though. (Guess they didn't hear about the longshoremen's stranglehold on the west-coast ports.) They'll have to get used to it only going at 2%. Do people who read this stuff over the air ever hear what they're saying? "Going at" 2%? Just so you know, the observation is about growth of the economy being only 2%, so in other words, the economy is bigger than ever before, but not as much bigger as some folks might like. Liar liar pants-on fire Ari Fleischer says presidents don't go to senator's funerals. Apparently their apprehension of "past patterns" does go back before the last inauguration day. Bush will come to Minnesota, though - to stump for Wellstone's opponent in the race, this weekend.

Did you hear about the peace demonstration in SF this weekend with some tens of thousands of protestors? Me neither. The local paper picked up the story...

28.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Nice quotes from a friend's email sig included this one: "The love of wilderness is ... an expression of loyalty to the earth (the earth which bore us and sustains us) the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see." -- Ed Abbey, from Desert Solitaire.

That reminded me of a reading from church on Sunday, from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, titled "A Network of Mutuality." The part that struck me was this: "One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means." The larger context was a presentation from a woman who has lived and worked in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and who had the heartening message that what the US did in Afghanistan seems to her to be for the best. She also had a (very) few words about the posturing toward Iraq; it seems incomprehensible to many of our allies. What can the Bush Administration be thinking, they are wondering. They are certainly not thinking about anything King had to say.

We saw a local production of The Laramie Project tonight. Powerful, powerful theater, even though this production was clumsy and uneven. It might be just as well, as the effect of an expert production could be overwhelming. It turns out that just listening to one other can be deeply profound.

It's been more live performance this past 4 days than we typically see in months: "Lobby Hero" at Boise Contemporary Theater on Friday night, then Porgy and Bess brought to town by Opera Idaho. Each one wonderful and moving, and completely different from the others. Lobby Hero runs through November 3rd, and is well worth checking out. The other two were one-time deals, sorry.

26.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Excerpt of the Atlas of the Biosphere's map of total annual
 rainfall for N.  America, 10/2002

To me, the best part of an atlas is the maps, and the University of Wisconsin's Atlas of the Biosphere has some good ones. The footer describes the organizational hierarchy: the atlas "is a product of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), part of the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison." The excerpt of the North American total annual precipitation map shown here tells you a lot about the neighborhood I live in. It's dry, and with being dry comes sparse population.

The individual maps, at 1600x1200px, provide great detail of the world in 6 chunks, but the preview gives the all-at-once picture (with a clever moveable magnifier), allowing broader generalizations and understanding. The intermountain west is the only seriously water-deprived area in North America (other than the Arctic). All of northern Africa, the Arabian peninsula, central Asia, southwest Africa, most of Australia and much of Argentina and Chile are in a similar regime.

The Atlas includes datasets for topography, average annual temperature, net primary productivity, annual runoff, and irrigated lands. asks: Can a sitting president be charged with plagiarism? as the parallels between Bush II's reign and 1984 become a little too close for comfort.

I scored 100% on the ACLU's Safe and Free quiz. It's not that I'm so fully knowledgeable, but rather that the test was mostly designed for guessing. Assume the worst, and you can get them all right, too. Nevertheless, I was surprised to learn that "Law enforcement officials must present you with a search warrant before searching your home" is now false.

"Since passage of the USA Patriot Act, law enforcement officials have greatly expanded authority to enter your home or office, search through your possessions, and in some cases seize physical objects or electronic information, without notifying you until after the fact."

25.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

MIT Courseware: All the paraphernalia of going to college, without the tuition, fees, and personal contact. It's an invitation to leverage for educators, and self-study for learners. It's not easy to match the pace and depth of a real course, but if you're interested in science and technology curricula, it's worth a look.

Transcript of a DOD briefing on Cold War-era Chemical and Biological Warfare Tests, Oct. 9, 2002. The details are still rather glossed over, but the big picture is that we did some ugly things to our own people (and country) during the Cold War. It's not much consolation that the Soviets did far worse things, at this point. Could it happen again? I don't see why not, especially in a state of permanent war.

CNN: Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife and daughter Marcia were killed in a small plane crash in Minnesota. One of the most important and contested political races in this year's election is turned upside down.

I saw one of Microsoft's "butterfly" ads on TV - a big cocoon is spotted, and eventually a goofy-looking guy in a butterfly suit comes out of it. It's reminiscent of the many years of the company's semi-mindless copying (or buying) good ideas from others, without quite knowing what was good about them. Their placement of decals in NY city was cheerfully greeted as "illegal, irresponsible and dangerous defacing of public property," for which they were fined $50 (for each instance, one would hope). I'd forgotten what it is they were selling already, I was so distracted by the stupidity of the ad.

In between the teasing lead about the rich and famous, and the witty punchline, Matthew Herper describes an interesting study of what makes entrepeneurs tick. The "Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics" started in 1995, and presumably will have more of a report than the two paragraph summary Forbes gave.

24.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If we go to war against Iraq, it will be a nuclear war, just as the last one was: U-238 is built-in to munitions and tanks these days, and war spreads it around the battlefield in addition to exposing troops in armored divisions to radiation directly.

Paul Krugman's feature piece in this week's NY Times Magazine describes (and decries) the return of the Gilded Age: income disparity is back where it was before the New Deal created a sizeable middle-class and a corporate culture of egalitarianism (or at least ethical constraints). Now, anything goes.

"My sense is that few people are aware of just how much the gap between the very rich and the rest has widened over a relatively short period of time. In fact, even bringing up the subject exposes you to charges of ''class warfare,'' the ''politics of envy'' and so on. And very few people indeed are willing to talk about the profound effects -- economic, social and political -- of that widening gap."

The reality of a shortage of nurses makes for a grim economic assessment: "University of Pennsylvania researchers found that each additional patient in a nurse's workload translated to about a 7 percent increase in the likelihood the patient would die within 30 days of admission. For example, the difference between four and six patients per nurse translated to a 14 percent increase in mortality, while the difference between four and eight patients increased the likelihood of dying by 31 percent."

Has Pay for Performance Had Its Day? Balancing "high-powered" and "low-powered" incentives to get the most out of employees. (Interesting juxtaposition; how do we create incentives for nurses? Maybe we could start by not having 12-hour shifts be the norm.)

A massive DDOS attack on the 13 root DNS servers -- the heart of the internet -- was shrugged off. Next time, it could be more serious, I suppose.

Dilbert's creator explains the Zeitgeist: "The way you know you're in a weasel bubble is when historians are discovered to have made up history, ice skating judges fix the Olympics, priests are having more sex than you are." He's pushing his latest book, in his inimitable style.

Still more holes in MSIE v5.5 and 6.0. As usual, Microsoft suggests all such criticism be routed through them, as they know best how to handle problems. "Publishing this report may put computer users at risk -- or at the very least could cause needless confusion and apprehension," they say. You think?

George W. Bush's political career has demonstrably benefited from lying to the public, during his campaign for president, and while he's in office. The need to go to war against Iraq is arguably the biggest lie of all, calculated to provide the maximum benefit to his party in the mid-term elections. There are other possible explanations, of course, but there is too much evidence to make them as credible as the one above. Dana Milbank spells out a few of the recent lies. (Thanks to The Daily Howler for the pointer, and a more thorough airing of the dirty laundry.) has a nice radio ad, asking the musical (well, not really) question, "Saddam Hussein: America's Worst Enemy, or Cheney's Best Customer?"

I was lured to Sarah Milstein's "Basics" column by David Pogue's "Circuits" newsletter, thinking it was going to be about proper vacuuming techniques for computers; something about the title, "Bugs and Dust Balls: A 'Clean' Installation." Instead, it was yet another software nightmare, hundreds of dollars and days of aggravation to "upgrade" a 3-year old machine. Mine is 4-1/2, and working well enough, thank you.

21.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Republicans are planning for Christmas in November, according to Paul Krugman, after they control the Congress and the White House. No need for corporate reform at that point! Starving the IRS has worked so well that the same strategy is being applied to the SEC. It hasn't worked well for the country, mind you, or for fairness, just for a lucky few who get to write the rules or avoid having the rules enforced upon them.

2002.10.20 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Oh yeah, pitch to Barry Bonds. I love it when they have to do that. Reading Tim Salmon's lips was pretty cool, too: "that's the furthest ball I've ever seen." But the Giants came up one run short, and the Angels took game 2, 11-10. In other sports news, the Packers whupped the Redskins, 30-9, but lost Brett Favre in the process. All of Green Bay (and then some) is hoping his knee will be all better in a couple weeks, and that he can make his 165th consecutive start. "I wanted to go back in,'' Favre said. :-) Of those 164 games he's started, this is only the fourth he hasn't finished, due to injury.

I see in my latest statement from my Credit Union that I'm going to get to participate in making the country safer from terrorism. As a requirement of the USA Patriot Act, "after October 25th, (I) will be required to complete a new Master Membership Account Card and provide a copy of a valid form of identification." And if I refuse? Do they call in the FBI? (Before or after they give me all my money back?) I'm wondering if this annoys me enough to take it to court.

The power of positive thinking: it makes you feel better. If you can't manage it, don't sweat it, it probably won't make you live longer anyway.

19.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Kaolinite (?) clay blocks on the old highway, more than a hundred feet
 below the waterline of Lucky Peak Lake

It's warming up: more detail on the loss of ice caps in Africa, with dire implications for those who have been depending on the water.

Is it suspicious to have brown skin? The courts will get to hear arguments about that, after refusing to dismiss a lawsuit brought by two men who were booted from a Continental flight last New Year's Eve.

Theater technology is not what it used to be. " You hit one Go button. And everything goes." But "If the computer crashes, you're toast."

Spotted over the left coast: a Minuteman II, on its way to rendezvous with a target rocket. This time, the report is that it worked (although we've been lied to before), so we can all sleep a little better tonight.

John Perry Barlow on Pox Americana: "They didn't listen to your phone calls or letters. Let them now hear your silent voice speaking from the voting booth."

18.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Praise for Google's "Robo-editor," from an unlikely source: an editor at Time. He's confident that Google still relies on what he does...

This is why we have reporters -- so they can point out that Microsoft's take for the last quarter was FOUR billion dollars, rather than just the 2.7-something they accounted for as current. Gillmor predicts that "once Microsoft is out from under what's left of the antitrust case, it'll go on a strategic investment and acquisition spree the likes of which you cannot even imagine" with their $40 billion accumulated cash.

Last week's top 100 rundown shows M$ at the top of the heap, with GE slipping to 4th place. This week's rally will extend the lead, I think.

The NY Times gushes about slashdot as the frontier of new journalism, "a must-read publication for the wizardly set." The stats work out to one article every 88 minutes, 190 pages served up every minute, for five years. (That estimate of 30,000 articles doesn't include the "hundreds and even thousands" of responses that follow.)

The Copyright Office wants to hear from you. But their comment form page says not until a month from now. :-/ ZDNet News reports that they're looking for comments on places where the DMCA has gone too far in prohibiting technical circumvention. Wired weighed in too.

John Gruber has a nice play-by-play and commentary of amazing and idiotic attempt by Microsoft to come up with a rejoinder to Apple's Switch ad campaign. I've seen 2 or 3 of Apple's ads and they do a beautiful job of capturing the expressions of real people. I don't think Microsoft (or their apparently lame PR firm) would know a real person if they met one. Imagine putting this sort of prose in the mouth of anyone, let alone a seventh-grader: "I can't begin to tell you all the ways that Encarta helped with that first assignment, though I should mention that the historical map of France from the Interactive World Atlas and the drawing of Louis XVI from the Multimedia/Photos section, both of which I printed, made a stunning centerpiece for my poster."

After a flap about undisclosed compensation behind statements in a weblog, Doc Searls was prompted to post an apology. He didn't have to do it for my benefit. After a bunch of specific disclosures, he wrote: "The fact is, money has very little influence on what I advocate, or what I like and dislike, beyond what it does to put me in a position to talk about something." It shows. If I had to point to one individual's weblog as an exemplar of the type, I think it would be Doc's.

The Internet Scout's weblog is faster-paced, and shorter-blurbed than their weekly newsletter. Lots of interesting sites that are in-depth about something you probably hadn't thought about (lately). One of those for me was Ladybug Adventures, the weblog of some folks living and cruising on a sailboat.

17.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Holy cow, the BuRec's teacup diagram shows Lucky Peak at 2% full. That can't be right, can it? Maybe they have a bad sensor or something.

Dan Popkey writes about this week's debate for the Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates, and fills in some of the details about the Republican challenger. An endorsement from Bush?! Puhlease. He didn't mention anything about the Libertarian candidate, other than her name. I did remember one other thing she said: when responding to a question, she said "I did the research on that. I read a book once..." We have a high-quality candidate, an idealogue with zero relevant experience, and a ditz. What choice will Idahoans make? It may say a lot about the state of public education here.

So, our president is spending the next couple of weeks traveling around the country stumping for Republican candidates, and raising money for his party. Hardly seems like that should be legal, given how much it costs the taxpayers to fly him and his entourage. Of course, the 'Pubs were hell on the Dems for doing that sort of thing during Clinton's administration. I think it all stinks and should be illegal. I heard a little sound bit from Ari Fleischer on NPR, responding to the question about using public money for the enterprise. He had a self-serving little booster statement about how great it was for democracy. Gag me.

While Microsoft's customers and competitors are still in the tech doldrums, but they're back to making money hand over fist, most of $3 billion dollars profit on revenue of less than $8 billion. That's for one quarter, mind you. Not many companies have that kind of franchise. Pfizer. GE (which makes a fraction more, on 5 times the revenue). Wal-Mart and Exxon have ten times the revenue, and somewhere around the same amount of profit.

As it turns out, North Korea does indeed have weapons of mass destruction, or at least they admitted they did. (Just bragging?!) Should we maybe go to war with them before Iraq? We're working through diplomatic channels. The administration kept this secret for a couple weeks, while the debate about Iraq was raging. No need to confuse the issue, apparently.

The evidence is piling up that at the center of this beautiful galaxy that we live in is the unimaginable simultaneous nothingness and everythingness of a black hole. That really sucks.

15.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Two Stellars Jays, responding to our baiting at Clair Tappaan Lodge

A calm, reasonable, and easy-to-follow suggestion for encouraging readers to consider upgrading to a standards-compliant browser (without driving them away). Seems like something good to replace my "good in any browser" tags in a lot of my pages' taglines, when I get around to it. (I didn't roll that all into an include file for some reason, so it'll take a lot of individual file editing.)

In that same vein, here's a collection of succinct illustrated examples of using CSS to get a variety of layouts that have long been managed with < table > tags.

You are validating your web pages, aren't you? (Oops, I don't get around to doing that on my own every time.)

"Hardware bugs" take on new meaning in the world of nanotechnology. Sandia National Laboratories illustrates the point.

Let's all recite this together: there is no contradiction in being an exemplary citizen and an atheist. Thank you, David Keller.

Now even Microsoft wants to get on the Open Source bandwagon, "dragged kicking and screaming by its customers," as c|net puts it. Four part series.

Warning, dystopia ahead, according to Ian Pearson of BT Research, in this year-old white paper, What's next? The nexus of artificial intelligence (coupled with robotics), nanotechnology and genetic modification technology could spell doom. Science takes a back seat to commercial development, leaving much of what needs to be studied unfunded.

T.Boone Pickens sees gold in them thar hills, and this time it's not oil or gas, it's water. I did a double-take when listening to the story on NPR today when they referred to the Ogallala aquifer as "underutililized." That was before the interview snippet with a rancher who said the water table had gone down 4 feet in less than a year, and that he understood recharge to the aquifer was about half an inch a year. But 74-year-old T. wants to suck his out before somebody else does, and sell it to Dallas, or whomever comes up with the right price. Molly Ivins wrote about the worldwide land grab for water (I guess that would be a "water grab") two weeks ago, referring to the Sept. 2d article in The Nation, "Who Owns Water?" and a more local piece in the Texas Observer.

Jim Hightower had a column in that issue of The Nation also, about The Water Profiteers, bringing to potable water and sewage utilities what Enron and others brought to energy - deregulation, commercialization, and dysfunctionalization. (Sure, I made up the word, but try it a couple times, it feels good to say.)

When I hear the phone ringing for 41 calling 43, I just start cracking up. Before it's over, my face is hurting from laughing so hard.

We have a fine incumbent running for State Superintendant of Public Education, who has 20 years experience in teaching and 10 as a school principle, Marilyn Howard. We have two yahoos running against her, Republican Tom Luna, and Libertarian Robbi Kier. Jeanette and I went down to the BSU ballroom this evening to hear all three of them in a debate. Dr. Howard is educated, informed, careful to make statements supported by data, reasonable and effective. First Lady Patricia Kempthorne is on her side. Luna found out that you need a college degree to run for the position, and went out and got one on the internet. Kier's a CPA, and is perky and mugs for the camera way better than the other two. She finished each statement with "That's it! That's all I have to say!" Luna and Kier had satchels full of cant and rhetoric, and not all that much useful to say about public education in Idaho.

One of the things Howard said, in response to a question about bilingual education was that "children only learn to read once." I hadn't heard that before, but my wife, who knows a thing or two about education and reading, tells me that it's probably right. We only learn to walk once, and to speak once... Anyway, as we left, Jeanette heard one gal respond to that statement by saying "When I heard her say that children only learn to read once, I could've just walked up there and hit her over the head." Here we have Idaho.

14.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Something every consultant needs -- the huh? factor.

Feedback to AT&T Wireless:
I'm trying to do business with someone for whom I have a telephone number that I just found out has service provided for by AT&T Wireless. When I call him, after one or two rings, I get this bizarre recording:

  Message B.O. 24

  Welcome to AT&T Wireless Services.
  The subscriber you have called does not answer.
  Please try your call again later.

  Message B.O. 24  (disconnect)

Why should I have to be told what message number you're giving me (and who thought of a numbering scheme that includes "B.O. 24"?!). I hope to have wireless service myself someday, but I never want to cause anyone to hear a message like this! It's really negative advertising for your business. It's so bad, I'm taking the trouble to send this feedback to you.

(Hint: "We're sorry, the AT&T Wireless Services customer you called does not answer. Please try your call again later." would get the job done a lot more effectively, and no one will ever write you a note like this about it.)

Ultimately, you ought to do a better job of selling voice messaging to people and avoid the problem entirely.

2002.10.12 Permanent URL to this day's entry

MSN's MoneyCentral article about the fall of EMC was interesting for the history, but also for its "4 rules every technology investor should know":

  1. In technology, nothing lasts forever, so there's no such thing as buy and hold.
  2. Bail out of tech companies that don't change quickly.
  3. Watch for signs of arrogance that will impair play on a new field.
  4. With tech companies, past performance is rarely an indicator of future success.

If technology investing isn't working for you, maybe you should consider the Vice Fund. Alcohol, tobacco, gambling and armaments; always a sure bet, and now more than ever, in uncertain times.

It worked for Reagan in 1980, maybe this question will be pertinent in this year's elections (or at least in 2004's): "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" has a compendium of "Reasons Why We Shouldn't," updated daily. When I looked just now, they had links to pieces from The Christian Science Monitor,, The Progressive, The Boston Globe, Newsday, Arianna Online, Senator Robert C. Byrd, The NY Times, Albion Monitor, Ha'aretz, The Guardian, The Village Voice, Institute for Policy Studies,, The American Prospect, Molly Ivins, the Cato Institute, UPI, Tom Tomorrow, Salman Rushdie and more.

2002.10.11 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Half snag and half pine on Mt. Judah, above Donner Pass

Larry Lessig goes to The Show, arguing Eldred v. Ashcroft before the US Supreme Court. Newsweek provides the background beforehand (in its "Oct. 14" issue), and the NY Times reports on the atmosphere in the Court for the arguments from Lessig and Solictor General Ted Olson (formerly of the Florida election fix team).

Speaking of déjà vu all over again,'s web redesign is a standards and useability flop. In 2002! I remember being appalled at how bad the HTML generation in the Office2000 site was, and two years later, Microsoft's A-team is still behind the curve. Amazing. Sad. (Even worse, it's not clear if Microsoft has fixed the earth rotates in wrong direction error.)

Diveintomark's next item, talking about changes at Google and the possible end of its reign, is even more disturbing. It's been so wonderful to have search that "just works." Is an arms race with scam artists and egomaniacs inevitable? alltheweb mentioned as the next contender for best search.

That guy's a fount of entertaining stuff, such as this rundown on RSS: "RSS 0.9x and 2.0 are the Whoopee Cushion and Joy Buzzer of syndication formats."

Slashdot has questions for Dan Gillmor. In a little while, we get to see his answers to the 10 "highest-moderated" of them. Should be interesting. (I'm not sure I'll know where to look - there is way too much stuff on slashdot for to follow; I only get in there when I see a link in someone's post or blog.)

Along with myths of competence, there are myths of markets existing for talent. Jerry Useem writes in The American Prospect, "The Winner-Steal-All Society."

The mindset of students entering college this fall, from Beloit College's annual survey. These teenagers were born in 1984, to a world that's a little different than the one I knew in the 60s and early 70s. (That's ancient history, of course.) "...a country where the Presidents have all been Southerners, and in a world with AIDS and without apartheid."

I heard snippets of the debate in Congress on the car radio, thanks to NPR's lengthy coverage this week. I tried to tune it in with my Walkman at work, but there's a Christian station overpowering it, as I understand is getting to be a widespread phenomenon. (Conversion still not likely.) I thought about how great it was that there could be such a thing, as all the speakers sounded mighty fine. Certainly there is no respected dissent such as this in Iraq's government.

The indignation about anyone suggesting the process was partison was justifiably righteous, but when it comes right down to it, the very topic (and timing) of the conversation is suspect. As Rep. Pete Stark (D-Cal.) does not, I don't trust this president and his advisors. That's water under the bridge, now. Overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress apparently do trust Bush, and have given him near carte blanche to wage war. If it's all a bluff, it's a damn good one at this point.

For Doug Ireland, writing on, however, the glass is half full: predictions had been that only a handful of Democrats would stand up against the drums of war and be counted, but 126 of them in the House voted "no," along with 6 Republicans, and the one independent. (In the Senate, 21 Dems, 1 Republican -- Chafee of R.I. -- and the independent Jim Jeffords.

Some of the rhetoric stands a bit awkwardly on its own. The NY Times coverage quoted House majority whip Tom DeLay of Texas: "The question we face today is not whether to go to war, for war was thrust upon us." Thrust upon us? This must be from Bizarro World, where pre-emptive strikes are in response to future agression. Oh, but he probably refers to the implicit connection with 9/11. Something was clearly thrust upon us then. There has been a lot of thrusting in Washington since then, as well.

9.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just so you know this isn't a warblog, I'll lead off with some other stuff, starting with this possibly useful Child safety ID kit.

In an interesting move for employee compensation, Siebel has said it will buy back underwater options -- $1.85 per share for options at $40 or more, vs. their current single-digit stock price. A lot of technology company employees would like to see such a thing become a trend, I'd guess. Two bucks ain't much, but it's a lot more than zero, which is what a lot of 1995-2000 vintage options will be worth over their 10 year lives.

Krugman: Fool Me Once. The foxes are running the henhouse, with great cover from the to-do in the Middle East. The news behind the opinion is "S.E.C. Appears Split on Board to Oversee Accountants." As in, SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt and Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) who chairs the House Financial Services Committee don't want John Biggs, an aggressive reformer, put on the board.

HP's monster image, 22,400 square feet, and 9 gallons of ink. "Click here to see full image" gives a 720x436 pixel rendition. Somehow "full image" doesn't seem the right descriptor for a 100,000X reduction. (Not that I really wanted them to try to send me the full thing...) I sent a suggestion that they have a Powers of Ten sort of presentation, so that we can step into the image and eventually see at least part of it (1/100,000th?) at full resolution.

Campbell's Click for Cans contest got a little out of hand. I checked in this morning, and the Packers had clinched the best of 5 million clicks, but the referees threw a flag on the play and penalized the "overzealous" fans who had worked around the lame, cookie-based one-click daily limit. The total's back below 2M tonight, and the contest is back on.

Ok, now on to Bush's Monday night speech, and the various reactions to it. Now the selling is directly to the American public. All Iraq needs is a "softball" of fissile material, and they'll have The Bomb. And then they're going to use it on us? The argument depends on complete abrogation of the notion of deterrence, which is a difficult concept in a world with many nuclear powers. Is it just Saddam who is undeterrable? We don't hear so much about North Korea lately, they may be standing down as North/South reconciliation proceeds. Iraq's neighbor, Iran, is said to be working on a Bomb program, will they be next after we finish with Iraq?

What is the Iraq/Sept.11 connection? We were attacked by terrorists, therefore we must attack all terrorists? We are vulnerable, therefore we must lash out. Something just does not compute on that, the rhetoric seems to be beyond even proof by repeated assertion. This is proof by changing the subject. The very existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is cause for attacking them, but somehow such weapons can exist in India, Pakistan (!), Israel, and an inevitably growing list of countries without the need for immediate retaliation. The landscape of deterrence and non-proliferation has been turned upside down. Now the hawks care about non-proliferation, apparently more than anything else in the world, long after Pandora's box has been opened.

Iraq is different, we're told, because of its "unrelenting hostility toward the United States." That seemed to start when we went to war with them in 1991, eh? Before that we were friends, we even supported them in their war against Iran. Since we've been patrolling most of their airspace and occasionally shooting at them for 11 years since the war, a certain amount of hostility is to be expected, isn't it? "Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction," Bush tells us. Wouldn't Hussein say the same thing about George W. Bush and his father?

The list of particulars against Iraq and Hussein are persuasive, I'll admit. He's a definite threat. Do we not have him contained? Do we not have deterrent power against him? This is the denouement of Mutual Assured Destruction -- if one participant is truly mad, MAD falters. We don't want to suffer that first attack, no matter how swift and terrible our retaliation would be. With the world's greatest military, it is much better to strike first.

So strange for us to be mighty and vulnerable simultaneously. It's disorienting to those in power, I think.

7.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Well, I don't know if it'll do a lick of good, but at least it's off my chest. I called my two senators' and representative's local office and registered my thoughts about war with Iraq. My talking points:

On a ligher note... Campbell's is running their NFL-badged click for cans contest again this year, with a goal of 5 million page views mapped to 5 million cans of soup to a charity program. The numbers were creeping into the tens of thousands a week or two ago, with the Packers in the lead (America's team, after all). Then somebody figured out how to spoof the "one a day" limitation, and the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots got ahead of us, by as much as a 2:1 margin. Total clicks were a few hundred thousand on Saturday, 2 days ago. Today, half the cans are spoken for, with the Packers over the Bills 1,168,542 to 868,848. Go Pack Go!

6.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The latest missive from bin Laden (or perhaps the heir to his myth) is enough to turn one away from monotheism for good. Fear the self-righteous, who will tell you God is on their side. My first thought on hearing the report was to wonder if he is so clueless as to not realize that warning the US not do something is the strongest motivation he could give us for doing just that. My second thought was - is that what he wants?

And cheery news from a Senate committee looking into how well the SEC did in the Enron debacle: "no willful malfeasance," but "a fundamental breakdown in this system."

5.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tom Friedman's column in tomorrow's NY Times set me off on this whole business of going to war on Iraq. ("With" seems too generous for how one-sided it will surely be.) What started out as a blog entry ended up as a page all by itself. Read more...

From the Week in Review section, a story about a union at the top of its game: the west coast longshoremen. $120k/yr clerk jobs (not counting the "no out of pocket" medical plan)! Part of the recent work slowdown was too shuffle containers off into nooks and crannies of the container field and not clerk them, so that someone would have to go out there and track things down on foot. One of the things they don't want to see happen is the obvious automation improvements possible to tracking containers. What then would those 6-figure clerks do?

3.Oct.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We bought our Prius almost on a whim. We'd gone looking for something in the Toyota line, tried the Prius, and that was it. (We're not that big on the whole shopping experience -- if the shoe fits, wear it.) It's turned out to be a great choice, and the more we drive it, the more we love it. Automotive Engineering's readers and editors loved it to, naming it "best engineered car of 2001." I'm gradually finding out more about what's inside, and it only makes me more impressed: a special holding tank for hydrocarbons while the catalytic converter is warming up; the Atkinson/Miller thermal cycle (instead of the familiar Otto cycle); lots of sensors and servo control to optimize combustion and minimize emissions; and best of all, it's fun to drive.

An unsolicited testimonial.

Here's something that could make good hybrids even better: doped lithium iron phosphate for battery electrodes. The nickel metal hydride technology that it's "well beyond" is what the Prius uses.

Two articles came to my attention in some sort of harmonic convergence today: Malcom Gladwell's The Talent Myth from July, and this news in today's NY Times about Enron's apparent talent: "During the years it was celebrated for its ingenuity, Enron was fundamentally mismanaged, entering into absurd business deals that could be hidden from the marketplace only by manipulations the government now says were crimes." This also resonates with the TomPaine piece on the myth of Republican competence, noted yesterday.

2002.10.02 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This evening, a little while before sunset, I noticed the crickets were still doing their thing. 56°F, I guess that's warm enough for some of them, at least. The last couple of days have been seriously cold in the morning, windshield-scraping cold on Tuesday. (Today, I bundled up and rode my bike.) But nobody told the insects. As I looked up at the thermometer by our patio door, I saw the preying mantis hanging upside down from the top of the door frame. What does it all mean?

The Lord of the Flies comes to life on the streets of Milwaukee. I'm glad my mother's not alive to hear this story. Tragic news always hit her hard, and this is much too close to home. We can't step inside each others' brains, and the studies have been equivocal, but surely violence on TV and in the movies must have something to do with this.

Who are we to question the commander-in-chief? Well, we're his employers, right? This is still a democracy, isn't it? These and other questions from a combat veteran, writing on Alternet.

Meanwhile, Joshua Micah Marshall explains Why the Myth of Republican Competence Persists, Despite All The Evidence To The Contrary. "Until recently, few could believe that the Bushies could run such a tight ship and yet still not know how to steer it."

2002.10.01 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If you have any experience with the latest in factory dairies, you know that they degrade the quality of life in rural neighborhoods, that they create overwhelming smells that lower property values and that they put small dairies out of business. The Sawtooth group of the Sierra Club paid for some radio ads to point out those obvious facts to listeners who aren't downwind -- yet -- but Clear Channel Communications couldn't bear to risk offense to the industry in Idaho. They pulled the ads.

Clear Channel Radio's page starts off by asking "How many ways has Clear Channel reached you today?" and then glowing about the "platform" they offer advertisers. Funny, that.

Back in August, I was in the seat next to a contractor for dairy processing plants, flying from Seattle to Boise. I asked him why his business in Idaho was booming, and he said it was simple: California producers were getting the hell out of a climate of regulation and population pressure. Before we bumpkins up here in Ideehoe knew what was up, we're rolling in stink.

Paul Krugman on the California energy debacle: "how could a $30 billion robbery take place in broad daylight?" The combination of a story that's old news, and other distractions may make us overlook two important issues, and the lessons that should come with understanding them:

"Maybe our national faith in free markets is so strong that people just don't want to talk about a case in which markets went spectacularly bad. But I'm still puzzled by the lack of attention, not just to the disaster, but to hints of a cover-up. After all, this was the most spectacular abuse of market power since the days of the robber barons -- and the feds did nothing to stop it."

When is a logger not a logger? When she's a "hazardous fuels reduction specialist," I suppose. With the new cabinet-level Interagency Wildland Fire Leadership Council headed by a former timber-industry lobbyist, it's probably a good idea to be a little skeptical. (MotherJones)


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Friday, 01-Nov-2002 17:16:02 MST