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31.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The great Easter basket controversy arrived at our house via a phone call. Ironically, it was while I was composing an arrangement of "Peter Cottontail" that we'll be singing on Easter. It seems that this year's baskets are available in a martial theme. We all want to know "what were they thinking?"

Anyway, our state president of Church Women United was not amused, and let a local news service know what she thought about it, and CBS news picked it up and had her talking before the day was out. I looked to see if it was on the news (Google News, of course), and found that the controversy has been hot for most of a month. "From the neighborhood Walgreen’s to the blue glow of Kmart, military-themed Easter baskets are flying off the shelves faster than an F-14 from a carrier deck," wrote Jason Whited in the Independent Florida Sun two weeks ago.

I think we have a new contender for the definition of "beneath contempt."

One good thing to come out of it is me finding Poynter Online, a news site. The front page is a little busy, but the articles, such as this one with reporters discussing Peter Arnette's judgement, are interesting.

This embed blog is good, too. Gritty.

Delusions of Power: The truth that seemed fairly obvious in 2000/2001 is now obvious to even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and readers of its latest report: "California's power shortages were largely artificial, created by energy companies to drive up prices and profits." Paul Krugman notes that the Cheney team's errors are part of a larger pattern.

"In the last two years Mr. Cheney and other top officials have gotten it wrong again and again -- on energy, on the economy, on the budget. But political muscle has insulated them from any adverse consequences. So they, and the country, don't learn from their mistakes -- and the mistakes keep getting bigger."

''In a brief phone conversation (Thursday) afternoon before the Pentagon's announcement, Mr. Perle sounded angry. Asked whether he had resigned, he replied: "Let me just tell you something. If I had, you'd be the last person in the world I'd want to talk to." He then slammed down the phone.''

And now that little snit is in the NY Times for all the world to see. I get the impression that he had more of a sense of privilege than of duty in his government service, but all I know is what I read in the papers.

Eight states are trying to extend the DMCA with bills to ban technology that conceals "the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication." The describes the operation of firewalls, of course.

National Dark Sky Week: support astronomy by turning off outdoor lighting from April 1st to 8th, 10pm-12 am (ET, MT) or 9pm-11pm (CT, PT). Just 2 hours a night, that's not too much to ask. (Unfortunately, I missed this week's episode of The Simpsons, in which the consequences of dark skies are explored more fully.)

Will Hutton on Tony Blair's right turn: The tragedy of this unequal partnership. "It is a political tragedy, Shakespearean in the cruelty of its denouement."

The Bush Administration is working through a preemptive war on the environment, too. Its "Clear Skies" include three times as much mercury from coal-fired power plants as the Clean Air Act, for example. Greenwashing the Truth on

03.03.30 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Unless the weather takes a very serious turn for the worse in the next 30 hours, March is most definitely going out like a lamb. In fact, the lamb has fallen asleep in tall grass and is snoozing peacefully, with the temperature bumping up against 70°F this afternoon. Arriving early at church for singing with the choir today, the silver poplar grove is sporting catkins and three red-winged blackbirds were trading calls on three sides of us. It was one of those stop-and-pay-attention moments.

When those happen these days, my thoughts bounce to the war in the Middle East. How can I be this comfortable and happy when so many are suffering? I don't know, but other than that nagging voice, I can be. We sang a "Dakota Prayer" by Dadee Reilly, "Peace I Ask of Thee, O River," by Deborah Jacquemin and "Woyaya" from South Africa, arranged and taught to us by Ysaye Barnwell, through the magic of her book and CDs. That last one was the big hit of the morning, both to sing and to hear sung. Learning music by ear makes it easier to learn it by heart.

The guy who identified severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has died from it. Sometimes being an expert doesn't save you.

So where did Tacoma go for the two days he was AWOL?

Al-Jazeera gets hacked by the same sort of "Patriots" who think dissent is treason. It's a little embarassing to be in the same country with these people.

29.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

James Webb, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and a Vietnam vet, sums up the Week in Review: The War in Iraq Turns Ugly: That's What Wars Do.

27.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

My attitude toward the war is changing. We're in it, and as much as I think it was a bad idea to start, that debate is over. What can we do now? I'm starting to think that we have to win the war, and I'm hoping that way we win it will allow us to win the peace. From the safety of my computer beyond the known places in these United States, the experience of drama and heroism and foul play, and triumphs great and small are perversely captivating. As Robert E. Lee said about a war that was considerably more terrible than this one has yet been, "it's a good thing war is so terrible or else we'd get to liking it too much."

Unfortunately, we may all have the opportunity to get sick of the killing, maiming, refugees, and so on, as war planners prepare us for possibly months to come. One of the hundreds of tragic ends is deep within this story of the battle around Basra: Maj. Gregory Stone of the Air Force, based in Boise, was pronounced dead Tuesday in Kuwait, from wounds he received from what appears to have been intentional fratricide.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Beth Gillin is doubtless not the first (or last) to deconstruct Salam Pax but she does a fine job of it.

Should the Supreme Court be in your bedroom or not? "Yes, but only if you're gay" seems like the least likely answer to be correct.

Practicing for urban warfare, and analyzing the outcome: is a humane siege possible, or an oxymoron? The General doesn't use that word in his document, and "psychological operations and control of the media" weren't a possibility for Leningrad, but still.

I agree with Rep. John Conyers that Richard Perle's resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board is "a step in the right direction," but he needs to keep going. He doesn't need to be chairman to have a conflict of interest between his government advising and business dealings. Let's see, if his pal Don Rumsfeld approves the Global Crossing's proposed sale to a foreign firm, Perle gets $600,000. I know that's just pocket change at his level, but still.

Jack Shafer, writing on Slate, notes that we're in week 3 of the libel watch for Perle's suit against Seymour Hersh and the New Yorker. "If Richard N. Perle intends to sue Seymour Hersh for libel in Britain, as he promised three weeks ago, he better get to gettin' before the Department of Defense's inspector general launches a requested investigation of Perle."

A few more stories such as this one and we might all start asking just why in the hell we have a "Defense Policy Board" anyway.

26.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Drove to work today, after getting a little too soggy bicycling yesterday. Of course, after a soaking rain overnight, it cleared up in the morning. Another downside is that I turned on the radio, and listened to George Bush at some sort of pep rally for the war, with the crowd interrupting him with applause after every sentence or two. That kind of response could go to your head, couldn't it?

Newspaper box in front of the lobby had a placard underneath the window: WAR NEWS TODAY. The media's circulation is up, up, up.

Here's another company that does all right by war:

"A division of Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) named Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work in Iraq. The size of the contract was not disclosed, but estimates put it near $1 billion....

"It is an especially auspicious (sic) first awardee, however, because Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton until 2000. Upon entering the vice president's office, Cheney divested himself of his holdings, although he reportedly still receives about $1 million a year in compensation from the company."

(Was that supposed to be suspicious rather than auspicious I wonder?!)

24.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We made the newspaper today, along with a handful of others who are finding more efficient and healthful transportation. Mike Butts and I talked a long time for how few of my words ended up in the story, but it looks OK to me. As much as we love our Prius, it's probably more significant that I'm riding my bike to work 3 or 4 days a week.

I watched some of the Oscars last night, but wasn't prepared to sit still for hours and hours. I emjoyed most of Steve Martin's standup intro, but it did seem way too long, considering the plans to cut everyone else short. I was happy to see Frida win a couple, in between all the gushing over Chicago (which I haven't seen, and have yet to hear a reason why I should). I'm glad Michael Moore got his, and not terribly surprised at the band leader cued to cut off anyone talking about the war. Never mind that such violence was the very topic of two films that won awards, we have to draw the line between entertainment and message, I guess.

Add to that list of stock oxymorons ("good cigar," "pet cat") the rules of war. I'm not sure which seems more strange, that war should have rules, or that one side or the other should be outraged by violations of them. You invade my space, threaten my life, all bets are off. Come prepared.

Victoria Clarke, speaking for Sec'y of Defense Rumsfeld drew an even stronger case, for the laws of war. Might not want to press the legal argument too hard, ma'am. Although as usual, the winner will determine what exactly is fair in love and war.

All about the best seats on airplanes. If you're one of the select few still flying.

The Silent Majority Speaks Up in half a dozen anecdotes of ordinary folks left, right and center who are for the war. If even half of the 70% of those raising their hands in recent polls do indeed support it, there should be a hundred million anecdotes to collect. On either side. No doubt we could have read this sort of article in Germany in the 1930s.

Counterpoint, from four combat veterans.

Some hundreds of them here and there are willing to demonstrate in support of the war, too. "Many who attended the rally, including Carico, said they aren't necessarily pro-war, as much as they are in favor of any measure to preserve the American way of life and rid the world of terrorists like Saddam."

Any measure. Terrorists like Saddam.

At some point, it seems even the most militarist among us will have to acknowledge -- hell, do it with admiration if you need to -- that the terror (a.k.a. Shock & Awe®) being meted out by the USA exceeds anything that Saddam could have done, in his wildest dreams.

Jim Brighters on my favorite golfer: "There are too many superlatives to describe Tiger Woods and quite frankly it gets tedious writing about how great he is. This was one for the ages though."

If yesterday's links on Richard Perle weren't quite enough for you, here's one more from Eric Alterman, at The Nation.

George Soros: "The Bush doctrine is grounded in the belief that international relations are relations of power; legality and legitimacy are decorations. This belief is not entirely false but it exaggerates one aspect of reality -- military power -- at the exclusion of others."

Here's a four-word business plan: permanently end email spam

Down payment: $75 or 80 bil. Final price: TBD.

But thank goodness the pre-emptive war hasn't pre-empted too many of our TV shows. It seems the American public is prepared for golf-tournament length, maybe one of those two-week tennis championships at the outside.

Salam Pax is back on line, with a couple days' worth of entries, reporting from Baghdad, and now mirrored by Blogspot.

One of the inbeds, er embeds is blogging too, from the Abraham Lincoln.

23.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

William Rivers Pitt: Mr. Bush's War. "At the beginning of the press conference from the Department of Defense, after the attack had started, a camera caught Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Don Rumsfeld congratulating each other."

Just Say No
to Empire

(Still wondering who Richard Perle is, and why his opinion is worth a nickel? Try on this Ding Dong the UN witch is dead essay that ran in this week's Guardian, or what The London Times had to say about his advising of corporate boards while he's advising the Pentagon as well, or Maureen Dowd's column today.)

The Nation: Iraq and Beyond "...Thus, the war is about more than Iraq; it is about the character of our society and the international order in which we live. The Administration hopes that a quick victory will not only silence critics and confer an ex post facto legitimacy on the war but also give momentum to its larger political agenda...."

"The White House has withheld from Congress and the American people the true political, humanitarian and economic costs of the war and of the occupation that is to follow, but even by the most modest estimates, they will be staggering."

Salam Pax's blog has gone quiet since Friday morning, Baghdad time. Further evidence that it's an authentic voice; a fiction writer would not forgo the opportunity.

A good news story (lord knows we need some of that right now) about the company I work for: Hewlett-Packard's promotion of 3rd world microfinance programs.

Sunrise and dew on the violets

A good dose of spring rain yesterday, and sunshine this morning has brought out the blooms; our violets are more glorious than ever before the First Mowing, Hyacinths, Fosythia, and our first, lipstick red tulip against the north side stone fence.

"The City Club, which regularly hosts appearances by public figures, selected Scalia for its Citadel of Free Speech Award because he has 'consistently, across the board, had opinions or led the charge in support of free speech,' said James Foster, executive director." One wonders if Foster still thought so after Scalia insisted on banning television and radio coverage or else he wouldn't appear.

Thanks to Harry Shearer for the irony alert, the list of countries in the "coalition of the willing," and those charming snippets from Richard Perle.

22.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Interesting conversation with a couple friends last night, after I observed that not many people around me seemed willing to speak up with a pro-war point of view. One was, and the three of us launched into a heated (but civil) discussion. We agreed that the leaders of Iraq and North Korea were nut jobs, but not on the status of the US' leader. I imagine the majority who back the war similarly take it as given that our leaders might be beyond reproach.

Now that the battle is joined, we're all supposed to rally around the flag. (Quite a few are saying no to that idea though.) Even an unjust, illegal and immoral war must be supported once it's underway. I've seen many supporters invoke the pre-WW2 appeasement of Nazi Germany as "counter-argument" to opposition to the war. (That didn't come up last night, though.) There are indeed many parallels in the rise of autocratic regimes, but they are at least as easy to draw against the US position as in favor of it.

Another record severance deal: more than $37 million in parting gifts for Richard H. Brown, as he's booted out of the ailing EDS. "It breaks my heart to go," you can imagine him saying, "but thank you so much for this thoughtful gesture to help me on my way."

21.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Welcome to the equinox, be yours vernal, autumnal or martial.

The color coding scheme has seemed like light humor and political manipulation so far, but what exactly will red alert be like? I've never experienced martial law before.

I got a letter from one of my senators today, responding to something (I'm not sure exactly what) I sent some months ago, regarding cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for members of Congress. It was dated January 21, so it only took 2 months to get to me. Mike Crapo (or perhaps 'bg') writes that when he first came to the House in 1992, he "opposed even congressional cost of living adjustments until fiscal responsibility was restored in Washington." "Even" is an interesting modifier. Next sentence, emphasis mine: "Our efforts to balance the federal budget are finally bearing fruit."

Uh, Mike? I think the fruit's been borne, ripened, and has fallen into a rotting heap.

Anyway, Senator Crapo now feels that COLAs for Congress are ok, and a 3.1% adjustment has been "estimated for January 2003." (Estimated? As of January 21st?) They got one in January 2002, most recently, although he didn't say how big it was.

Meanwhile, most of the people paying the Senator's salary are happy to have just kept their jobs over the last couple years, and aren't counting on pay raises any time soon. Of course if they got to vote on their own salaries, they'd probably would have got 3.1% in January, too.

You think we're France-bashing, get a load of what the British tabloid press is up to. The story ends with this amazing tidbit: "Under French law it is a criminal offence to insult the president, carrying a fine of up to €45,000."

I'm so behind the times, I heard about Salam Pax's blog from David Brooks of the Weekly Standard's mention of it on the Newshour tonight. (Brook's summary characterization of blogs in reponse to Jim Lehrer's request for clarification was cute: "the little diaries.") Paul Boutin did some research, has decided it's likely authentic. If it's a creative imagining of what it would be like to be there, it's amazingly well done. "Nobody minded an un-democratic Iraq for a very long time, now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how thoughtful."

Given the advent of Shock & Awe®, if the guy (I'm guessing) is in Baghdad, he may not be offline for a bit.

I saw the mushroom cloud in some of the war footage, but I noticed that none of the commentators used that description. "Huge clouds of smoke." The Gulf Daily News has no reason to be circumspect.

The days of big tobacco jury verdicts are not quite over: here's a $10.1 billion award against Philip Morris USA Inc., for example.

20.March.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Robert Byrd on the arrogance of power: "Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned. Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination."

One of oh so many things obscured by the war in Iraq: the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, and dicussion of the coming international conflicts over water.

The Pentagon says depleted uranium is a-ok. The Arab News says leaving it behind violates the Geneva Convention. Maybe we can have our EPA run some tests after this conflict and assess the truth of the matter.

19.March.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

So it has begun, on the eve of the vernal equinox. We were at choir practice, came home to find The West Wing preempted and an hour of photos from Baghdad, maps, talking heads of generals (including "General" McCain, promoted by Tom Brokaw), hand waving, and the crawl. As Brokaw put it, we don't want to destroy the infrastructure, "because in a couple of days we're going to own the place." The generals gushed about how the air command had apparently "called an audible" and sent some ordnance after a "target of opportunity." The one thought that kept going through my mind is that this is incredibly obscene.

Oh and our President spoke, too. He told us how "reluctant" he was about starting this war.

This may be just the first of our reluctant preemptive wars. Krugman: "It's a matter of public record that this war with Iraq is largely the brainchild of a group of neoconservative intellectuals, who view it as a pilot project."

Looking to the future, which vision do you prefer? Timothy Garton Ash lays out the choices of "Rumsfeldian, the Chiraco-Putinesque and the Blairite," with his preference for the latter.

To Gail Norton, it's a "flat, white nothingness," and to our fearless leader, it's the cornerstone of our energy and oil plan. The Senate said we should hold off drilling there for now. There's an unexpected twist!

18.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Strange bedfellows in opposition to war: Michael Moore, Jimmy Carter, Patrick Leahy and Pat Buchanan. Osama bin Laden and Tony Blair are still for.

Doug Ireland spells out some of the specific lies in last night's speech. We have the bulliest pulpit in the world, now in the hands of a bully. Of those who are behind him, and gung ho for war in Iraq (unlike Moore, I have heard from a few), how do they feel about America embarking on the slippery slope of preemption, I wonder? Just because we can doesn't hardly mean we should. also offers up an opposition reader.

I have a friend who thinks that people who use big words when small words will do are either incompetent or lying. "Methodology" used where "method" will do is one of many examples, and a new "accounting methodology" has to be a bright red flag. Our other war-without-end, the one on some drugs, is getting one, and promises to be a lot cheaper -- on paper.

17.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We heard the last part of Le Show when it was broadcast locally on Sunday, and enjoyed the end of the interview with, and the music of Judith Owen. This evening, we heard the first half, and found out the dark nepotistic secret of how she got on the show. Made it more interesting, actually.

Something a little lighter was definitely appreciated after the address from Fearless Leader, putting us on Orange notice that war is 48 hours + time of our choosing away. After a St. Patty's day dinner at the neighbors, we watched Frontline's and Bill Moyer's history, interviews and analysis, before looking up Harry.

It's funny how the commitment makes me want to believe that yes, this must be the right thing after all. I still don't believe it, but I want to. Now more than ever. I do expect this urge to work its demographic magic and give Bush a nice pop in the opinion polls; the ones in this country that is, of course. The pop he's getting in Iraq's neighborhood is not one he'll want to collect personally.

I have no doubt there are many Iraqis who are ready and willing to lose their Fearless Leader, even as they wonder what will come next. As do we all.

16.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

How might a fascist state arise? A precipitating event leads citizens concerned for their security to empower its government to usurp civil liberties and apply authoritarian tactics to keeping order. Folks in Europe have some first-hand experience with this, and their view of the rise of neoconservative ideology in this country may be instructive. (Thanks to Lee Killough for the link.)

After yesterday's demonstration, and gauging the hostility of some of the negative reactions we saw, it seems reasonable that if (ha!) and when the shooting starts, that hostility will be amplified by patriotic fervor of those who mistake "support (for) our troops" to mean support for whatever mission the troops are sent on. It feels a bit odd to be standing with The New American on this topic, but I do agree with Theodore Roosevelt: "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country." The New American and I don't agree as to the "threat" posed by the UN, however.

Now that it seems clear that the UN will not endorse Bush's preferred course of action (at least not on his schedule), it appears we will forgo the formality of a Security Council resolution and vote. That removes the anti-UN issues from the debate and puts it back to our Constitution. If we're to go to war, Congress must declare it. Failing that, it would seem that impeachment will be much more in order than it was over lies told about "that woman."

The anger welling up here in favor of the war is well short of the anger in the rest of the world against it, where young men don't have the opportunity for going shopping at the mall in big pickup trucks to distract them. Al Qaeda recruiters are taking note. "The recruitment pitch is simple: American policies are directly responsible for Muslims' misery, all over the world."

Gretchen Morgenson on Worldcom's $80 billion write-off: "We now know in actual, quantifiable, stupefying terms, just how much WorldCom overpaid for the telecommunications network it built."

Are chemtrails another brilliant flash of insanity from the mind of Edward Teller?

It's no wonder guys get angry, we're the weaker sex.

Norman Mailer, speaking to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last month: "More directly (even if it is not at all direct) a war with Iraq will gratify our need to avenge September 11. It does not matter that Iraq is not the culprit. Bush needs only to ignore the evidence. Which he does with all the power of a man who has never been embarrassed by himself. Saddam, for all his crimes, did not have a hand in September 11, but President Bush is a philosopher. September 11 was evil, Saddam is evil, all evil is connected. Ergo, Iraq." It's long, but well worth reading.

Indeed, some of yesterday's nay-sayers brought up 9/11. Most of the things shouted at us where barely intelligible, and of course rhetorical by the nature of passing vehicles. "Have you forgotten about 9/11?" one asked. Just as with Bush's press conference (or my correspondent), there is no opportunity for dialogue, just a series of monologues passing in the darkness.

"Because democracy is noble, it is always endangered. Nobility, indeed, is always in danger. Democracy is perishable. I think the natural government for most people, given the uglier depths of human nature, is fascism. Fascism is more of a natural state than democracy. To assume blithely that we can export democracy into any country we choose can serve paradoxically to encourage more fascism at home and abroad. Democracy is a state of grace that is attained only by those countries who have a host of individuals not only ready to enjoy freedom but to undergo the heavy labor of maintaining it."

15.March.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our power went out for about 20 minutes this morning, something amiss at a local substation. We had to wait a bit to fry up pancakes. Shortly after it came back on, I heard a helicopter flying not far overhead. In a moment I could spot it out the porch door, and see that it was LifeFlight, headed to St. Al's hospital. I thought about how the power going out and a nearby helicopter don't alarm me, and don't threaten me in any way, and how that isn't true in all parts of the world.

Went out to Fairview and Milwaukee for another peace demonstration today. We had the biggest crowd of the 3 (or was it 4?) that I've been to -- most of a hundred people -- and the nicest weather. A big east wind was testing sign construction (and finding some wanting), but it was in the 50s and the sun even threatened to come out at times. An hour or so after we were done, a healthy rainstorm came through, so our timing was impeccable.

Defying the particularly pedestrian-hostile portion of Boise's urbanity, we marched down Milwaukee to Emerald and back up the other side of the street, requiring three crossings at stoplights and a dozen business driveways. As usual on a Saturday afternoon, Fairview, Milwaukee and Emerald were all packed with traffic.

Judging from this sample, the mood of the populace is much closer to war than it has been. The positive responses were closer to even with negative, and the negative ones seemed more hateful. Once compact car with two young bucks made several passes while we were walking, shouting pro-war epithets, and on about the 4th pass, one of them finally heard what we'd been hollering back: "Sign up!" Seemed to give him a moment's pause. (It was one of the several veterans in the group who first made the suggestion to them.) Big guys in big rigs gave us big birds, sometimes the double bird (if they weren't on the phone). I demonstrated the American Eagle wave in reply - five times the strength of the ordinary bird. A humonga motor home gave us the ugly thumbs-down, I could see why he's in favor of war for oil.

I imagine once the shooting starts, it'll get uglier still. War supporters and those who don't know any better (such as the president of BSU's College Republicans) will call dissent treason. We had an answering chant for that: "What does democracy look like?" "This is what democracy looks like!"

There was one lone pro-war protester, who marched counterclockwise against us, carried a wimpy sign with print too small to read from a car, and interacted politely with us when we intersected. The other side of his sign had pictures of children that Saddam had bombed. The funny thing is that bombs are agnostic about who drops them, and our plans include a lot more ordnance than Saddam has ever dreamt about.

14.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I don't have any comment/response software hooked up on this site, as you may have noticed. It's on my to-do list, but not too close to the top. I do like getting email from readers, though, even those who don't agree with me. I think some dialog would make this more interesting, but I also know from what I've seen that there would be a lot of uninteresting, and worse, stuff. Do I want to have to look after all that? One of the reasons why it's not close to the top just yet.

I got a strident response to my last essay, Why I Oppose the US' Policy on Iraq, that started with You are wrong and rambled on from there. I sent a long and (hopefully) thoughtful response, trying to do more than just strengthen the polarization. I didn't get a follow-up, and rather don't expect one; I don't keep going back to sites whose politics I don't agree with either. I did update my home page essay with a response to this mini-debate on war, though.

If you're interested in hearing Andrew Rice's talk at Boise's City Club - last week's event will be broadcast on Saturday (3/15) at 7pm (NPR News 91). (I heard him speak at a different forum, and wrote about it last Friday.)

Roger Morris points out that American-backed regime change in Iraq is not a new concept. We helped bring the Baathists to power, way back in 1963. I don't remember that from history class, and I don't suppose GWB does either.

It's not as if history started in the '60s, either -- The Independent casts a glance back a hundred or a thousand years.

Matt Taibbi's assessment of the recent Bush press conference show is a bit different harsher than the lukewarm positives that flowed through the majors:

I was sure I was witnessing, live, an historic political catastrophe. In his best moments Bush was deranged and uncommunicative, and in his worst moments, which were most of the press conference, he was swaying side to side like a punch-drunk fighter, at times slurring his words and seemingly clinging for dear life to the verbal oases of phrases like "total disarmament," "regime change," and "mass destruction."

It's ironic that just when television entertainment is forgoing scripting in favor of "reality TV," newsmakers and newswriters are picking up the slack.

Tom Tomorrow asks How Far is Too Far?. "We're either with us -- or we're against us."

Bob Cringely proposes the ultimate spam solution: pay us to read it.

We hear about so many big numbers these days, they start to lose their effect on us. I'm still pretty sure that $80 billion is a lot of money, though; that's how much Worldcom is about to write off in the value of good will, "equipment and other intangible assets" that they had on their books and now acknowledge aren't real. (It is 20% less than AOL Time Warner's recent write-down, if you're looking for good news.)

Maybe my pencil isn't as sharp as the ones their accountants are wielding, but with "little effect on its business and no impact on its cash position," I don't see how this gets them out of chapter 11 any sooner. Depreciation and amortization "expenses" aren't money out of your pocket, they're accounting for money that's out of your pocket after it's already gone. It seems reasonably certain that Worldcom's $80 billion is already gone.

13.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Trees that were secretly budding just busted loose today, with the temp hitting 70°F. Cherry and Forsythia flowers out, daffodils up. It's not going to last, but what a blast while it's here.

Some twit in the neighborhood drained his antifreeze into the gutter to celebrate the warm weather. Jeanette and another neighbor and the jerk's grandmother soaked up what they could, scrubbed down the rest and rinsed it all down before any small animals tasted sweet death.

This looks like an interesting hobby, making southwestern Idaho trail maps. centered graph from

I saw a pointer to BlogStreet almost a month ago and just got around to trying it out. It's a Java thingie, and sent Opera v6.05 straight out to lunch, but with MSIEv5.5, it worked, and amazed. I'm not sure why it has the "live" response to dragging things around, but when you click a new node to expand the graph, it's fascinating to watch it incorporate the new links and rebalance the nodes' placement as it maps how sites are connected.

I went "back" to look at the instructions for a few more clues, and then "forward" and it didn't work the second time. :-/ Java's like that sometimes, at least on my machine.

Krugman: George W. Queeg.

Kristof: The Iraqis aren't the only ones torturing Kurds: the country we're willing to pay to be our ally, Turkey, has its own checkered past, which apparently is not supposed to compel our patriotic moral outrage, invasion, etc.

9.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This is much longer than most web-reading, but well worth the time to understand some of the history of the Middle East: the four part series, Who Owns the Holy Land?, published last year in the Westar Institute's journal, The Fourth R.

Today's terror alert is Code Pink: "Why would you deliberately impede the exercise of constitutional rights by a group of grandmothers wearing pink?" asked Nancy Skougor, 61, a D.C. resident and former political science professor. "What are they afraid of?"

If they were afraid of bad publicity, they lost that skirmish.

Alternately, one could chose flesh tones to protest the war, as the Raelians are doing. "Whenever everybody undresses, the ego goes away and then we can make decisions," said protester Nadine Gary. "Imagine President Bush nude addressing the state of the union. Imagine Saddam Hussein nude."

Excerpt of AFP/INA photo showing the Iraqi Republican Guard rallying around Saddam Hussein

The AFP/INA photo accompanying this Newsweek story is kind of interesting. Do you have to wear a Saddam-style moustache to be a member of the Republican Guard (and shouldn't they be doing some gray streaks)? There's something not quite right about Hussein's skin tone, too; too much cave time, or is this a composite photo?

Maureen Dowd: our Xanax Cowboy is even scaring Russia and China. "It still confuses many Americans that, in a world full of vicious slimeballs, we're about to bomb one that didn't attack us on 9/11 (like Osama); that isn't intercepting our planes (like North Korea); that isn't financing Al Qaeda (like Saudi Arabia); that isn't home to Osama and his lieutenants (like Pakistan); that isn't a host body for terrorists (like Iran, Lebanon and Syria)."

(If you normally skip NY Times URLs because of the registration required, give that one a try - it's got a Google partner tag on it, from where I found it.)

This week's NY Times Magazine has a feature on Eli Pariser and (Sorry, that one does require registration. CNN has the blurb version, not nearly as interesting.)

Newsweek/MS/NBC (it's all a blur now) hosts Elaine Clift's opinion on George W. Bush's real agenda, along with a link to a transcript of Bush's "press conference." It was indeed all September 11th, all the time. (Well, eight times, at least.)

One of the things missing from the administration's war marketing is a reasoned argument, without recourse to fear-mongering, caricatures of enemies, bluster and swagger. The inference suggested is that that's the best they can do. William Lind provides some dispassionate assessment that supports that inference. "The last U.S. president who tried to export democracy to the far reaches of the world on American bayonets was Woodrow Wilson. And that is one of the reasons he counts as one of America's worst presidents, ever." With all of our economic power, we could do so much positive good, but it seems as if that just hasn't occurred to our leaders. We're locked into an elementary school sort of contest, where the teacher must assert arbitrary authority and have it acknowledged by the pupils, because we can contemplate no other outcome than anarchy without that.

8.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's not a down market for everyone: Berkshire Hathaway made record profits for 2002, more than $4 billion. Warren Buffet is comfortable on his $28 billion nest egg.

Here's the next manifesto from Searls and David Weinberger, "World of Ends." We can end the tragedy of Repetitive Mistake Syndrome in our lifetimes -- and save a few trillion dollars’ worth of dumb decisions -- if we can just remember one simple fact: the Net is a world of ends. You're at one end, and everybody and everything else are at the other ends."

Io over Jupiter's clouds, imaged by
 Cassini-Huygens on 1.Jan.2001, from JPL/NASA

Was it five years ago now that I gave a presentation to my coworkers about tricks and tips and interesting stuff on the world wide web? One of the images I used was of Jupiter, its moon Io, and Io's shadow on the planet. The shadow looks like an artifact at first, a black speck on an otherwise abstract mosaic of swirling gas. After a few moments, you notice the moon, and then absorb the distance and relationship between the two heavenly bodies. There's an expanded collection of Jupiter images now, thanks to the Cassini-Huygens mission (which was just passing by -- it's headed for Saturn). Here are Io and Jupiter again, captured in profile, on the dawn of this millennium.

Check out this Ciclops page if you have a bit more patience - the mini-movies of the circulation on Jupiter are fun to watch. Don't miss the 2Mpx version of Jupiter and Io viewed from the far side, in crescent phase.

Some of our yellow crocuses, out in early March

Doc Searls reminisces about finding radio stations in the dark, and how that matters for finding solutions to contention over spectra today. (There are always lots of interesting things on Doc's site, but I can only visit so often, as there's too much information to follow when I do.)

No blogs on, but there's a whole lot of Texas. And war. And business. And money. You get the picture.

US spying on UN Security Council delegations?! I'm hoping it's not true, but afraid that it probably is.

7.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Head of the herd on Cole Road, checking me out

Cruising by the island ranch just across Cole Rd. from us today, the herd was out, as usual, and I knew what I had to do: blog a llama. I walked over with my camera and most of them sorta cleared outta there, but this guy seems to be the boss, and he made his way around the inner fences to come over and check me out. He didn't seem particularly friendly, nor hostile, but he was definitely between me and the harem, and curious to see what I was up to.

If I were in a pasture next to Cole Rd. with the constant traffic noise gnawing at me, I'd be a little edgy, too. Just walking a block back and forth was more than enough for me. It's 2 lanes each way, with no shoulder, bike or turn lanes, and the sidewalks are hard against the curb.

A dose of rain overnight and this morning, snow above about 4000 feet to put the Boise front back in winter clothes. But it's still warm down here, over 50 mid-afternoon. Crocuses are well in bloom, the violets are coming out in our lawn, shrubs are budding. I saw aspen catkins last weekend. It's happening again.

I didn't see the President's press conference last night, but I understand that while he took questions -- some good questions -- he didn't really answer any, but stuck to his script, invoking the spectre of 9/11 over and over, strengthening the public's misconception that war on Iraq has something to do with the terrorist attack on this country. But of course it does have something to do with that: the attack was the excuse the administration has used for cover to pursue the Iraq agenda that predates 9/11 by a decade. "I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons," Bush said, instead putting the Iraqi people at the mercy of an increasingly authoritarian American leadership and its weapons.

I heard of the press conference from Andrew Rice today, the guest speaker at the World Day of Prayer service of the Church Women United in Caldwell. His brother was killed in the 9/11 attack, and he is a member of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows as well as an editor, and documentary producer. He went from there to a presentation to Idaho's legislators. Yesterday, he was at Boise's City Club, Caldwell's Albertson College and the Hyde Park Fellowship. Tonight, he'll be speaking at the IEA building, another Peace Coalition event, and tomorrow morning at a workshop at the First Congregational Church at 23rd and Woodlawn.

It's a busy speaking schedule, and for as much as he must be saying some of the same things over and over again, it's anything but scripted or rehearsed. His message is well suited to the Christian community to which he was speaking: forceful retaliation is not the way to peace. Waging war on Iraq, and creating still more casualties and grieving family members will not make America safer and it will not provide comfort to the families of 9/11 victims.

The Guardian Unlimited recently ran more such stories, from relatives of victims who feel that retaliation is wrong. How many thousands of innocent Iraqis will die in the first day of the war when the US unleashes its "shock and awe" wave of terror? (This is the concept the Germans called Blitzkrieg, with 50-years newer technology.) How could that possibly make America or the world a safer place? How does it honor the democracy we purport to be to ignore the considered judgement of the UN Security Council if it suits us?

How is all the public piety demonstrated by the people who are planning this war not the most egregious blasphemy against the moral principles of a nation with a majority who say they are Christian?

Just a few of the questions I have to think about on a day off from work, on the eve of war.

Paul Krugman describes the Latin phrase brought up by John Brady Kiesling in greater detail, as the Bush administration threatens "discipline" against Mexico if they don't support us at the UN. The French, Mexicans, Germans, China, Russians... our friendship list is shrinking pretty fast.

6.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry continues its fantastic grassroots organization, giving the means for the rank and file members of our democracy a chance to speak to the leaders of the world. Consider their latest action, an appeal to the UN Security Council to continue supporting tough inspections but not the Bush administration's rush to war.

Joe Bob Briggs read the federal budget proposal from the Bush administration, and summarized it so you don't have to. "The pace picks up with Defense. Stryker Brigades! F-22 fighter jets! Hellfire missiles! A picture of F-16s flying over Detroit! A picture of the new volleyball court in Qatar! (A little bit of a downer in the section about chemical weapons destruction. Despite international treaties, we're sort of, uh, not doing it.)"

But the Joe Bob story I was looking for was "Defending Frogs & Huns," in which he explains what Lazy-Boy War Hogs are.

New money! New color! (But we don't know what it is just yet.)

I don't remember any of my high school teachers being quite like this, writing a book with a title like The Greatest Sedition is Silence, or a column like Arrest Me, even though I went to high school during the Vietnam war.

"This is about failed leadership, and the despoiling of everything that makes this place precious and unique and sacred."

ASIMO is walking, and it's just a little this side of creepy to watch. Looks like a pretty fun engineering project, though!

Tom Friedman's arguments for war seem to have run out of gas. If "saving face" is the best he can do, I think he might as well concede. That is so lame. If we don't use the largest military force in the world, we won't have a credible threat anymore? Puhlease.

It seems to me that the threat of three vetos in the Security Council is a pretty good reason for slowing down to reconsider whether "chicken" is really the game we want to play here. (The team with the best car has the most to lose in that game, by the way.)

Speaking of burying the lead, why did Newsweek put this story about an Iraqi defector -- Saddam's son-in-law -- making credible claims about Iraq having "destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them," back in the mid-90's deep in its "Periscope" section?

5.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's hard to know which is more pitiful, the actions that are being taken by our state legislature, or the coverage of them from The Idaho Statesman. Just one example: a significant bill regarding private property, development and redefinition of "takings" to give advantage to big players. The Statesman's blurb makes you wonder how anyone could oppose Speaker Newcomb's point of view (we're all for private property, right?), and tosses in the opposition's point of view as an afterthought:

''Democrat Ken Robison of Boise opposed both bills, calling them a back-door attempt to weaken local governments. "This is primarily for the benefit of developers or people proposing land use changes," he said.''

The definition of "taking" is proposed to be changed from "an uncompensated deprivation of private property" to "a regulatory or administrative action resulting in deprivation of private property that is the subject of such action, whether such deprivation is total or partial, permanent or temporary." House bills 256 and 257 are written for the Cattle Association and the Water Users Association, and they are also music to developers' ears. P&Z messes with their plans - never mind the public interest inherent in planning and zoning - and the public will have to pay for it.

Ok, another example. ( Their coverage of this one is little better.) The Republicans are working to kick the unions while they're down, making sure that public employees can't have any political funds included in their automatic payments out of their paycheck. The March 4th story went to press before the bill had its number changed from HB 316 to HB 329. Legislators got a lot of calls opposing HB 316, but hey! Hardly any against HB 329, so that must be OK. Too bizarre.

3.3.3 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's three-threes day! Totally triangular.

This is a nice story for today, twins reunited after 20 years. It would have been even cooler if we could have had a story about triplets getting back together, eh?

Way down in the story there's a mention of "although DNA testing has not yet been done." Does anyone really think a DNA test in needed to verify these two are identical twins?

Jakob Nielsen reviews Dr. Fogg on captology and credibility, web style. His notion that Fogg let persuasive interactive technology out of Pandora's box is a bit funny. He apparently hasn't been paying attention to cartoon tie-ins. He needs to get some youngsters on staff at

Harry Shearer opens up Fox' brain and looks inside: "The monetization of reality is the key to the whole thing." Oh yeah. (Realaudio)

deth of litrcy in txt gen, or a vibrant new medium? Either way, it's an appropriately short story.

I guess Tiger Woods' knee surgery turned out OK. And I can't blame him for skipping Dubai.

Quite possibly the photo of the century - last century, that is. Dr. Stuart's 1953 capture of an asteroid hitting the moon.

The denoument of the California energy crisis is beyond drawn-out, it's a positive snoozer. The report on the $9 billion swindle is sealed? Pul-lease!

North Korea ups the ante for getting the US' attention, locking on to a surveillance plane. Those NK flyboys might not be so enthusiastic about being bait for a USAF fighter response, but it's all gravy for fabulous leader Kim Jong-Il.

2.Mar.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The only price of admission to the club of lapel-flag-pin-wearers is cost of the pin. Bill Moyers has paid his, and explains why.

Turkey's parliament just says no to having their country be used as a base for American troops. (Does this mean we'll take our economic assistance back?) Actually, they said yes, but not strongly enough: 263 to 251 with 19 abstentions. The resolution needed support from a majority of members present, or 267 votes.

Opinion polls in Turkey show 90% opposition to their countries involvement in a war on Iraq. "Tens of thousands" demonstrated in that country (with more than 5,000 police assigned to keep order) while their Parliament deliberated. Democracy is messy sometimes.

1.Mar.3 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Woah, big terrorist fish on the line - Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, suspected mastermind of 9/11. Yes, there are some questions we'd like to ask you Mr. Mohammed. Do you suppose that Pakistan is prepared to extradite him to the U.S.? We have an indictment for him left over from 1996 and a plot to blow up civilian airliners.


In Wisconsin, we used to imagine that March would come and go with opposite temperament -- in like a lion, out like a lamb, or vice versa. Human memory being what it is, there were always elements of the weather that could be made to fit the model. I can't recall much talk of that here in Idaho, perhaps because March's weather just isn't as fierce as it is in Wisconsin. Last night, we had our first precipitation in a while, a inch or so of light snow turning wet in the morning at Boise's elevation. With the sun coming out and the temp climbing past 40, this is not lionine, but if the end of the month is as nice as we expect, it will have to do.

One of the more interesting magazines of the boom has gone bust: the March issue of Red Herring was the last.

The Ninth District Court of Appeals has muddied the waters considerably in the Pledge of Allegiance controversy. They won't hear the case en banc, even as they struck down the part of the ruling that says the addition of "under god" was unconstitutional. What's left is the decision that the Pledge should be outlawed from public schools.

AG John Ashcroft says his Justice Department "will spare no effort to preserve the rights of all our citizens to pledge allegiance to the American flag," even as he works to undermine some rather more important rights via Patriot and the forthcoming Patriot 2. Funny, that. (This just in: the TSA will be testing a system for prescreening airline travelers' credit history and criminal records.)

As others do, I disagree with the Court's ruling, but for different reasons. I see no reason why the Pledge shouldn't be allowed as a patriotic exercise in public schools, but I agree with the original ruling that it should not be allowed with the inapproriate religious phrase. This can not be an easy point to explain to children (or adults), given the pious invocation of God's blessing that every pol now seems required to use for speech taglines, and the promotion of "God Bless America" to quasi-anthem status at public sporting events.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Friday, 04-Apr-2003 19:08:33 MST