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

Around and around it goes, and where it falls, nobody knows, at least for a few more hours, when BeppoSAX comes down in one or (probably) more of 30 countries under its orbit. Or into an ocean.

Gretchen Morgensen of the NYT: "(T)here is proof that the stocks of companies that are run more selflessly perform better than those of companies run by me-firsters. Academic studies have shown this in the past, and a new study by GovernanceMetrics International, an independent corporate governance ratings agency in New York, confirms a correlation between corporate performance and an attention to governance.

"Gavin Anderson, chief executive of GovernanceMetrics, said his firm studied one-, three- and five-year returns of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index and found that stocks of companies at the top of the firm's ranking outperformed the index in a meaningful way. Those ranked lowest significantly underperformed the index."

The story doesn't mention "NATO-lite," but after "the coalition of the unwilling" and "the Gang of Four," that can't be far behind this effort by France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg to set up their own military HQ. The Belgian authorities are feeling litigious as well, reportedly contemplating a war crimes indictment against Tommy Franks. Spread that on your waffle!

One of bin Laden's "to-do" items is getting checked off: US troops out of Saudi Arabia.

Brett Favre's house is up for sale. On ebay?! Well, maybe. $1M seems pretty modest for the NFL 3-time MVP.

One forecast for the economic effect of SARS sounds rather sanguine. Yes, $16.5 billion is a lot of money, but it's a modest fraction of the expected growth of the Asian countries most affected.

A cancer resistant strain of mice. That seems huge.

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

This year's first iris in our yard

The NY Times has a report on the emergence of SARS today that gives the most thorough and detailed chronology that I've seen to date.

It also has a bleak rundown of the employment situation in this country: almost 1 in 100 workers has just given up and stopped looking in the last two years. The 5.8% unemployment statistic makes things sound better than they are. The list of cities where people leaving the workforce are buoying the jobless reports hits close to home for a lot of people: Boulder, Colo.; Binghamton, NY; Bloomington, Ind.; Florence, Ala.; Spokane, Wash; Wilmington, Del. "More than 74.5 million adults were considered outside of the labor force last month, up more than 4 million since March 2001, the Department of Labor says."

Robert X. Cringely, reflecting on the fragile lives of his twins, and on the precarious nature of Open Source software.

This guy really gets around, kissing soldiers, pulling down statues, and so on. Staged events? Nah, couldn't be!

Is the battleground between the U.S. and the rest of the world going to be currency? George Monbiot on the Dollar vs. the Euro.

Maybe they were looking at the list upside down: the Ministry of Oil, last on the list, was the only one protected. Either that, or the troops charged with protecting the other 15 places including the Iraqi National Museum didn't get the memo.

Oddly, this International Herald Tribune piece discussing "repositioning" of US forces in the Middle East doesn't say anything about a base in Iraq. Wouldn't this newly liberated country want to invite us to stay and help protect their future?

Given the way that Beijing is shutting down, I'm rather glad we're not winging our way to Shanghai this afternoon, as was the original plan. We were scheduled to arrive in Beijing on May 8th, after the boat trip on the Yangtze River.

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

Onion inflorescences opening up

As the tulips fade and fall apart, newcomers take their place. The first irises are starting to open, along with these onions, launched like purple bottle-rockets and exploding 18 inches above the ground.

Now that we have a growing collection of head men from Iraq in custody, will we find any WMDs? At least some clues about the WMDs would be nice, to try to verify the supposed justification for our pre-emptive war.

"Rumsfeld said the prisoners' legal status -- which ones are considered prisoners of war, for instance -- has not yet been sorted out." Why does it sound like we're making up the rules as we go along?

Pete Zimowsky wrote a nice feature piece about Leslie Gulch, an amazing and mostly unsung corner of the Owyhee Canyonlands. "Leslie Gulch is a spider web of deep canyons laced with pastel-colored volcanic-rock spires and towers." If the Statesman's thumbnail-sized web pictures don't do anything for you, try this Google image search.

110 days and counting: the longest legislative session in Idaho history continues. They've already accomplished part 2 of the historical shift in Idaho's tax structure from income tax to sales tax; 6% kicks in next week.

Given how much fraud and cheating the IRS doesn't have the resources to pursue, why are we going after the poor now? Fits right in with Bush's plan for general downward mobility.

A team of 150 exiled bureaucrats working in suburban Virginia to get ready to take over Iraq's affairs, hand-picked by Paul Wolfowitz, but employed by a defense contractor: you couldn't sell this wild stuff as fiction.

Jamin Raskin on the Supreme Court v. the American people: "The Supreme Court has repeatedly intervened to deform and distort the political process. The most spectacular example is Bush v. Gore. The most interesting part of that decision to me was the sentence in which the court says there is no federally protected constitutional right to vote. The Court essentially denied the right that most people assume is at the heart of democracy."

Paul Krugman does the math on 1.4 million jobs for $726 billion. Those must be junior CEO jobs at a half million apiece! Come November 2004, it's just possible that the pie in the sky promises aren't going to cut it anymore.

He also takes a look at Gephardt's alternative plan to skip the tax cut and do health care instead. It's a better deal for the vast majority of taxpayers, but a guaranteed non-starter under this administration.

Tenzin Gyatso: "The calamity of 9/11 demonstrated that modern technology and human intelligence guided by hatred can lead to immense destruction. Such terrible acts are a violent symptom of an afflicted mental state. To respond wisely and effectively, we need to be guided by more healthy states of mind, not just to avoid feeding the flames of hatred, but to respond skillfully. We would do well to remember that the war against hatred and terror can be waged on this, the internal front, too."

This opinion piece by the 14th Dalai Lama is too important to have it be restricted by subscription (even if it's free).

From Sunday's Magazine Lives: Spooked. I guess we all should be prepared for scrutiny of rumors and accusations against us in the interests of Homeland Security.

George Bush's résumé might need a little sprucing up before his next job interview. Or maybe not, most of the country doesn't seem to care too much about this stuff.

25.Apr.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Now that the relief of not flying into harm's way has settled out, I'm left with the letdown of not going off on this big adventure to China. Before the call yesterday, I had way more than I could possibly get done to do today, and tomorrow. Now all of a sudden, my calendar is free. At first it was just an intellectual exercise, as if I were reading the plot of a novel. Now it's physical. Well, as disappointments go, it's not too deep. As one friend noted, China's going to be there a good while.

Several of the most wanted in Iraq apparently look like this

The Iraqi card deck is available online -- for free! A little production operation, and you could be sending out your own spam to sell copies.

I think I've seen this guy somewhere...

It's been a month since Salam Pax updated his blog from Baghdad, just about the same period of time that the power's been off.

Linus' flamebait, "DRM is perfectly ok with Linux!" The usual zillion response thread follows on /.

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

It sounds like the reaction to SARS in Beijing is kicking into high gear. We got the news today that our 2 week tour, scheduled to start this Sunday morning, has been cancelled. We were getting excited about going to China, but of course had some trepidation about the risk and the precautions needed against contagion. So, we get disappointment mixed with relief, and a whole lot less stress for the next several days, to say nothing of the next several weeks. I was prepared to work from home for 10 days after our return, and wondering how many other public events I'd have to avoid. Now we can follow the news a bit more dispassionately, and wonder when life will be enough back to normal that we can take the trip. Starting in early June, the 3 Gorges starts slipping into oblivion...

I love the idea of capturing literature and having a print on demand system (and not just because I work for HP). Depending on what's popular enough to be economic to produce in volume seems like a terrible way to propagate culture.

Signs of the times: calls to charge Jose Padilla or let him go, and to free Mike Hawash. Holding people incommunicado and without charges is the nightmare scenario of repressive government. If we have to violate the core principles of our Republic to protect ourselves against terrorism, we are conceding defeat.

The employment market has definitely swung to favor the "buyers": half a million jobs gone.

Russians and Americans riding rockets together and coming home from the International Space Station together; to Russia.

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

As the battle over music copyrights heats up, I have to report some good news for sharing music and the internet. As a church choir director, I struggle with finding appropriate music; what will work for a particular occasion, in our particular religious environment, with our particular voices? When I find a likely piece, somehow, the next question is, how can I get legitimate copies, or permission to make them? It used to be damn hard to answer that question, but the 'net is making it easier.

Last night, I looked at the piece one of my singers recommended, in a book she loaned me, and decided that it would work for us, perhaps with a bit of arrangement and/or transposition. This morning, just before I left for work, I did a search for the artist and piece, and found a nice web site, with a sizeable catalog. I fired off an email asking for permission to use and arrange, prepared to pay a modest fee to make (or buy) copies if necessary. Before rehearsal tonight, I had an answer that it was a-ok, without charge, as long as it was for a non-profit organization.

The author's son said that he couldn't give permission to copy from the book I had (a collection published by someone else), but he'd make a PDF available shortly. Since it's a relatively simple round, I just put it in my music editor, and made my own copies, "with permission." All in a day's work.

The other nice part about it is finding out something about the artist of the work we use; bringing spirits back to life in some cases.

Newt Gingrich has popped back into the public eye, apparently ready to delete the State Department and start over, in the neoconservative mold. Is he "off his meds and out of therapy," as Richard Armitage suggests, or is this another Defense Policy Board initiative that will soon be public policy? Either way, it's not a pretty picture.

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

John Simpson of the BBC, reviewing the scenes on the ground in Baghdad after another Gulf war: "The first President Bush, having called on the people of Iraq to rise up, had abandoned them to their fate. Now, the second President Bush is discovering, apparently to his surprise, that Iraqis don't automatically greet his troops as liberators."

Battling the automobile in big cities: it turns out that toll roads can be better than free ones.

Jakob: that spinny, flashy stuff is for kids. "Low-end media" empowers the mature web user.

Arcata, California outlaws voluntary compliance with the USA Patriot Act. "The fine for breaking the new law, which goes into effect May 2, is $57. It applies only to the top nine managers of the city, telling them they have to refer any Patriot Act request to the City Council."

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

Anthony Lewis: "In two cases now before the courts, Attorney General John Ashcroft is asserting that President Bush has the power to detain any American citizen indefinitely, in solitary confinement, without access to a lawyer, if he, the president, designates the detainee an ''enemy combatant.'' The detainee cannot effectively challenge that designation. A court may hold a habeas corpus proceeding, but the government need produce only its own assertions of evidence, not subject to cross-examination. ''Some evidence'' will suffice -- that is, any evidence, however unchecked and second-hand. That is the claim being made by the law officers of the United States."

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

Tulips and crabapples in Jeremiah's Adventure Garden

Happy Easter!

It's a cheery enough greeting, but what exactly does it mean, especially for someone who doesn't subscribe to the trinitarian resurrection myth?

Wendell Berry's poem with the exhortation to "practice resurrection" has sparked many sermons including the one I heard today. Another, from the Rev. Keenan Kelsey in Noe Valley, includes this gem of a prayer, by a woman Sufi from Basra, Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya:

"O God, If I worship you in fear of Hell, burn me in it; and if I worship you in hope of Paradise, exclude me from it; but if I worship You for Your own being, do not withhold from me Your everlasting beauty."

Those words had been kicking around for a millennium before Blaise Pascal tried his hand at gambling with God and came up an epiphany short. The hereafter will hold no succor if we don't seize the opportunity of the here-and-now.

After half a day at church, leading the choir singing "Peter Cottontail," "Lo the Day of Days is Here" and "It's Spring Again," and sketching cactus flowers during the second sermon, I took a walk through Jeremiah's Adventure Garden, where the tulip walk is full on, and the crabapples are drawing bees out of the sky and humming with their business, and enjoyed some of that here, now. Back at home, I reflected on how the dandelions were best practicing resurrection at our house, as I practice digging them.

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

Heavy dew on our clutch of yellow tulips

Yup, it's tulip time in Ft. Boise again, one of my favorite moments in the year. You'd think we'd get tired of this flower cliché, but I sure don't. Looking out at the clutches of impossible red that makes focusing on them and the surrounding green at the same time impossible is a new delight every morning. The season is short; long before May is ripe, the tulips will all be gone. Maybe that's the secret to longevity -- leave them wanting more, and come back when winter has overstayed its welcome.

Ahmed Chalabi's star is rising in Iraq. Anyone with a rising star is better off with US military protection these days, especially if they've been away from home for 45 years, and appear to be returning to cash in on the situation. Hussein wasn't in power that many years, was he? When the troops come home, which can't happen soon enough for the many of the people who live there, it sounds like, Chalabi will need to work out new security arrangements. The radical factions vying for control don't seem likely to embrace democratic methods to determine winners and losers.

The can't-focus-on-'em red tulips against green background

I wonder if rumors of sighting Saddam are going to join the long tradition of Elvis sightings.

Found another interesting news site in the middle east. Three links that caught my eye:

Al Bawaba asks what about the Geneva Conventions? just as some of us are asking "what about the Constitution?"

And a provocative analysis of the situation in Syria.

Douglas Spicer compares two great American leaders and how history has (or will have) painted them. History is indeed written by the victors, at least in the land of the victorious.

Wal-Mart: Sweatshop of the year by a landslide. I don't suppose the dead peasant insurance policies hurt their chances for this award.

Good news for smart-tag sellers: bar-code hactivism suggests you name your price for products that get rung up by laser scanners. Can they still arrest you if you match the store's price? Or if you decide you want to pay more?

Thumbnail of the 2004 Prius from the Toyota pressroom site

I went to check out all the new, improved engineering for the 2004 Prius at Toyota's press site, and got one of the most tasteless rejections ever for my preferred browser (Opera, currently at v6.05 here): an h1 headline, "Your Browser is Not Allowed at this site." I sent the media folk at Toyota, and their apparent web services company, Wieck Media Services (that site produces javascript errors on MSIEv5.5, and that lovely You kind of people not welcome here banner on Opera, even when I have it set to identify itself as IEv5), a clue by email.

The features of the new Prius sound great: more interior and cargo room, 15% better mpg (from high 40s to mid-50s mpg), peppier performance, and lower emissions. The Toyota site also has a side by side comparison of specs for the "old" and "new" models. Too bad our 2001 model will last for years and years!

Here's another nice fan site from a Prius owner, which includes a link to Graham's explanation of the continuously variable transmission.

Trying to assess the chances of the US going to war in Syria, considers the words of the leading hawks. This struck me as particularly creepy: "The United States has entered a new era of undisputed military supremacy with an appreciable drop in human losses on the battlefield," considering that in this context, "human" refers to Americans. Only.

The idea that Syria (and its history with Lebanon) is a grudge match for Abrams, Perle, Feith, Kirkpatrick, Gaffney and Ledeen the way that Iraq was for 43 and his Dad is creepy also.

Also on, Shepherd Bliss: "Especially during this sacred Easter/Passover/Spring season, may America's military might be tempered by humility and compassion."

John Burns' Baghdad Diary gives a tiny snapshot of what it was like to be a reporter in Iraq, before, during and after the war. In the video segment from the Newshour, Burns explains why he thinks Hussein is still alive, and probably in Baghdad.

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

We had the Cable Guys over today, to punch some coax up to the computer and enable broadband. So far the nicest thing is that we can be online and use the telephone at the same time (and stop giving out busy signals to the people trying to call us). The unnicest thing is the bait & switch pricing strategy of Cable One giving a $10 discount to "cable TV subscribers," supposedly NOT including our cheapo "Lifeline" service. Their written information (including the online agreement page, and the confirmation they just emailed me) conflicts with what the installers, the installers' supervisor, and some guy in the office said today, but it agrees with what I understood when I set the deal up over the phone on Monday.

As a bonus, they did check our TV signal, and fixed it from "crappy" to "good" by messing around on a couple of local utility poles. Not that you could get them out to fix yours if you weren't buying something new, but I was impressed with their expectation of quality, and getting it right before they said the job was done.

Burt Rutan rolls out his SpaceShipOne Project, "tired of waiting for others to provide affordable human space access." He seems to be the front runner for the X Prize.

It used to be that "a cure for the common cold" was used as a benchmark for scientific progress. Now it seems that the common cold may have found a cure for Homo sapiens instead. That's overstated, too, of course: there are enough of both species, that I'm sure we'll both stick around.

I tend to agree with the Chungang Ilbo: "It is incomprehensible that they will be making important decisions on the Korean peninsula's peace and security with the South excluded," the paper laments.

The government seems to be in a unilateral disarmament mode when it comes to prosecuting tax cheats. It doesn't make any sense to choke off investment in the IRS from an economic standpoint, so there must be another reason. Is it just anti-government ideology, or is it more specifically anti-enforcement? As Robert Borosage puts it in The Nation, sacrifice is for suckers. "The IRS estimates that US corporations and rich individuals cost the country about $75 billion a year by setting up phony headquarters or residences in offshore tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands." That just happens to be the same amount as the recent supplemental appropriation to fight the war in Iraq. Halliburton is one of the many companies using the dodges, and their Republican friends in Congress made sure that such behavior would not disqualify them from continuing to win government contracts.

Scan your old vinyl records and... play them with a computer. (Can you use Photoshop to remove the lint?!) Neat trick.

The myth of unique corporate cultures, attitude adjustment and 12 questions that matter for determining whether you're engaged, merely putting your time in, or disengaged at work. The poll numbers say you have better than even odds of being in the "not engaged" group, and only 1 in 4 chance of being one of those "engaged" individuals.

Oh, and if you were following the kidney stone thread here... it seems to have jumped into the pool sometime Wednesday, but I never did catch it in the filter. That puts my ETA between 36 and about 60 hours. One friend says his have taken just 2 hours. A momentary inconvenience! And another assured me from personal experience that they're worse than the pain of childbirth. Just so you know.

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

Happy Tax Day everyone! Hope you don't have to stay up too late getting yours done. We sent ours off more than a week ago, so we might have rested easy, but my kidney stone kept me up last night with some of that "nearly unbearable" pain. Drink lots of water. Trust me. You do not want to try this at home.

A somewhat credulous friend sending me right-wing war apologetics prompted a search for references about the flap concerning CNN's reporting in Iraq. The Washington Times editorial concluded: "No careful viewer can trust CNN's reporting on international affairs."

I saw the Newshour mediawatch segment in which Jordan got to defend himself (Realaudio), and I thought he did a pretty good job of it. I really wanted to know what Franklin Foer's bona fides were, the way he was attacking CNN. Looking up his bio, I see that he's had plenty of experience in Washington, but maybe not so much away from civil society. That could explain the energy without momentum.

I also turned up this investigation into another pro-war chestnut, the "young American pastor of the Assyrian Church of the East," who got war religion after some supposed real-life encounters in Iraq, on Counterpunch. Arnaud de Borchgrave, wouldn't you know it. I wrote about his disinformation antics back in the early 1980s when I had a column in the Idaho Argonaut. Who says irony is dead?

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

The start of triumphalism, seeing N. Korea "give in" to multilateral talks after we kicked ass in Iraq. Talk is cheap, I suspect Kim Jong Il is thinking, or whatever the equivalent aphorism is in Korean. When negotiating, always have some gew-gaws to give away to appease the opponent.

The Japan Times' editorial on Al-Jazeera gives an interesting perspective. If everyone's mad at you, you must be doing something right.

The Center for Disease Control is doing its job informing us about SARS facts, with an up-to-date index of publications.

I've been distracted from thinking about contagious diseases in distant lands by my 2nd kidney stone in a year. This one didn't have the advantage of surprise, and I had the leftover pain killers near at hand. All the same, it does focus the mind rather narrowly. You definitely want something to deal with the pain "that begins suddenly and gets worse over 15 to 60 minutes until it is steady and nearly unbearable," as the Healthwise Handbook puts it.

As the Bush administration proceeds on its program of nation building, the State Department appears to be MIA. Condy Rice as the new Henry K.? Donald Rumsfeld will play himself, of course, controlling the budget and the generals.

Rumsfeld whinily dismissed the chaos in Baghdad as the "untidiness" of war, but in the rage and anarchy of "liberation," much of humanity's history is being smashed to pieces.

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

The Pet Psychic reveals the secrets of Cringely's dog, who seems to know all about Google's servers, tapping fiber optic cables and the fate of video standards.

Now that the war in Iraq has been won (except for the mopping up), it's time to win the war on the West, too. "No new wilderness," Gale Norton and her Interior Department are telling Congress, "and we're rolling back the stuff that Babbitt tried to sneak in, too."

A Canadian lab made incredibly short work of sequencing the SARS virus' genome. Now how do we fix it? (And could you make it snappy? We're off to China in two weeks.)

12.Apr.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Michael Ryan on "In Middle America, George Bush may be running the war, but Fox News is writing the script." Given how swimmingly it's all gone, the big question is, who's next?

Joel Spolsky, writing about something I'm pretty sure I'll never do, but which still makes an interesting story: shopping for commercial real estate in New York. "Check out the neighborhood. In the bad buildings, people get into the elevators talking to themselves. In the good buildings, people appear to get into the elevators talking to themselves, but they have a tiny earphone, so it's totally different, they're just on the phone."

11.Apr.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In a recent column, William Safire made a big deal out of ridiculing the idea that the war on Iraq was about oil; it didn't make economic sense. That's certainly true for the taxpayers: they'll pay far more for this adventure than they'll ever get back. It's an investment for the future, we hope. But for many companies with well-placed advocates, the investment is for right now: Halliburton, for example, with their pal Dick Cheney just a heartbeat away from the Residency, got a $7 billion contract to fight oil well fires. With no competitive bidding.

Another important buddy of the current administration, Ahmed Chalabi, was in the claque for the Saddam statue pull-down. It shouldn't be a huge surprise that the event was staged for the cameras, but the apparent extent of the staging is a little disappointing.

Looting, anarchy and a license to kill: this is what regime change looks like.

Nicholas Kristof is there, and he writes, "perhaps it's churlish to say this so soon after an impressive military victory, but we may have underestimated the risk of chaos in postwar Iraq."

There may be an opening for Iraq's Minister of Information in a corporate PR department. Hey, I know -- he could go to work for Halliburton! He wouldn't even have to leave home.

Krugman, on Conquest and Neglect: "One has to admit that the Bush people are very good at conquest, military and political. They focus all their attention on an issue; they pull out all the stops; they don't worry about breaking the rules." But then what?

Just in case you weren't sure, "an explicit order to fire a female employee for failing to meet a male executive's personal standards for sexual desirability is sex discrimination." If the claims by the plaintiff are true, this guy Wiswall is some kind of shmuck.

Big names in the Concord Coalition send a raspberry toward Bush's non-stimulative tax cut plan. "Our children and grandchildren already face unthinkable payroll tax burdens that could go as high as 33 percent to pay for these promised benefits. It is neither fiscally nor morally responsible to give ourselves tax cuts and leave future generations with an even higher tax burden."

But I don't think the current regime gives a whit about that. Their chance is now and they're seizing the day. Let the future look after itself.

The conservative pundits had a field day deriding Michael Moore's call for shame on Mr. Bush at the Oscars, but it seems that speaking up hasn't hurt his fortunes. To the contrary.

His site also has the piece that ran in the LA Times, elaborating on his thoughts and feelings on Oscar night.

"So did Goethe say it? Not really." But we love the idea, and having a famous named tagged on makes it more memorable somehow: Providence favors those who get up off their butts and make something happen.

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

Every role in the drama of world events has potential, as Iraq's minister of information, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf shows us. Humor is always richer in multiple languages, it's a shame so few of us are multilingual.

The political posturing following John Kerry's remarks looking forward to American regime change continues. You don't have to be a veteran to put on the more-patriotic-than-thou act, but it definitely gives higher ground for your commentary. Tom DeLay is apparently counting on no one remembering his anti-Presidential comments during the Kosovo war; but we do, Tom, we do.

A shredder a day keeps the fascists at bay.

Some days back in my inbox, a remarkable letter forwarded to an email list, written by Terry Tempest Williams, after she got out of jail in D.C.

"The atmosphere changed abruptly when the federal police arrived. They arrested Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, press -- They took her camera. She was yelling, 'You cannot arrest me I am press, I am protected by the First Amendment. I am bearing witness. I am not with these women.' It didn't matter. They then went over and arrested a second press person, took her camera. It was only then, I became frightened.

"We kept walking until our heals touched the White House fence. We turned and faced The White House....our 'illegal act.' Two cars arrived and wagons - the FBI police arrived, set up a tripod with a video camera and filmed us, each one of us -- after they were done -- the arrests began."

It must be embarassing to be so fearful of women demonstrating for peace.

The 2003 US Big Brother Awards. 'Nuff said.

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

Leo Mullin, CEO of Delta, decides that the $9.1 million in pay and bonuses might be a little over the top as his company flounders and pleads for Federal handouts.

The Motley Fool suggests we "don't cry too much for these CEOs," though. "They have been awarded millions in bonuses and retirement packages over the past few years. For example, last year, Delta put $25.5 million in a protected pension trust for Mullin and 32 other executives. When hired, Mullin was credited for 22 years of service, entitling him to a much larger pension." Sing along with me, "Nice work if you can get it, and if you get it, won't you tell me how."

Their advice on what to do about outrageous CEO compensation ("Start by staying on top of compensation issues and being an active and vociferous shareholder....") pretty much sums up how powerless company "owners" are to derail the gravy train.

The Fools also serve up the direct link to Amazon's rewarding (nickel-a-pop) new trivia game. Tough to get rich on 4 nickels a day, but I like the idea of e-cash flowing in rather than out.

Ben Mutzabaugh's blog, "Today in the Sky" has an interesting rundown of daily conditions and longer term issues for airline travelers. I see the upper Midwest and East coast are bracing for another winter storm, with "more than 200 flights have already been canceled in New York City alone, with hundreds more likely throughout the Northeast by the day's (end)." I guess I should stop complaining about a few flurries and a bit of frost overnight - we're scheduled for highs in the 60s for April's week #2.

Meanwhile, back in the Homeland, Operation Info-Scrub proceeds apace, with millions more documents from the time of Reagan and Bush I will be kept away from the prying eyes of the American public. Sorta makes you think they have a lot they want to hide, doesn't it?

Advertising and other cultural fantasies, discussed by Jean Kilbourne: " extraordinary number of Americans identify with the rich, and believe that they’re going to end up wealthy even though they aren’t wealthy now and there’s no reason to believe they ever will be. They believe that they will be. And in fact I think there have been surveys that indicated that about 40 percent of Americans actually believe that they’re going to be wealthy."

I've never been much to watch the Sunday morning talk shows, and now it looks like there's less reason to than ever.

Jerry Mayer on Presidential Quarantine: "The American president, who once symbolized the value of freedom to many people around the world, can now only visit countries where dissent is crushed."

Oh wait, he's off to Northern Ireland today? Not sure if that's refutation, but it's interesting, at least.

Russ Baker reports on a whirlwind of events in Serbia, mostly good news for a change.

43 to 41: "I'm standing on your shoulders! We're building the New World Order you talked about, only it's... it's got a simpler management chart." (Le Show on RealAudio.)

Paul Krugman on The Last Refuge: ''Mr. DeLay's political agenda hasn't shifted a bit now that we're at war again. He's still pushing for huge, divisive tax cuts that go mainly to the rich: "Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes," he says.'' (Did he really say that?!)

6.Apr.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

April snow showers in our back yard

Enough with the April snow showers already! A joke's a joke, but April Fool's was a week ago.

The book I've been reading, A Shortcut Through Time, was featured in the NY Times Book Review section today. Jim Holt calls George Johnson's book "blessedly slim" and says it "gets across the gist of quantum computing with plenty of charm and no tears." If Johnson's book is a shortcut through the time it takes to understanding a complicated subject, Holt takes a shortcut across the shortcut. I'm kind of getting the idea; it feels like the light bulb inside my head is both off and on at the same time.

Thinking outside the box at DARPA: getting bees to sniff out TNT. I want to know about the "half a grain of rice"-sized radio tag backpacks these guys are going to be carrying. A friend who knows something about the subject says that "the problems with land mines are all about money. Most mines in Third World countries are the old easy-to-detect metal ones. The problem is that no one wants to pay to clean them up." (But DARPA can spend $3M training bees?)

Maybe joining the Democrats would get more done than demonstrating in the streets.

3.4.5 Permanent URL to this day's entry

One of my favorite drawings from ME313, of a tape measure

I took a class from Rolf Faste when I went to Stanford in the fall of 1989, "Ambidextrous Thinking." It involved drawing, building some strange contraptions to solve contrived problems, working in teams and so on. I enjoyed parts of it a lot, but I struggled with some of the arbitrary elements, and the extreme demands on my limited time from it and the two other (!) lab courses I took that first quarter. It was one of those life experiences which improves in retrospect; I'm sorry I wasn't more attuned to the opportunity and experience. One of the requirements I struggled with and failed to fully meet was to draw something every day; I still long for the discipline that escapes me. (But hmm, I find time to blog something most every day, go figure.)

Anyway, the news of his death at what now seems like a decidedly youthful 59 comes as a bit of a shock. You come home from Italy with a bit of a stomachache, and less than a month later, you're gone. Time is short; make the most of it.

I did a little work with robots back then, too, under Mark Cutkosky, but none as interesting as these mechanical cockroaches, I think. If anyone had thought of "shape deposition manufacturing" back then, it escaped my notice.

As I finally get around to doing our income tax returns, some words of economic wisdom from John Kenneth Galbraith seem like a good way to start. I hope I'm still this lucid if I make it to 95!

TP.c: How do you see the proposed tax cuts playing out in years to come?

Galbraith: It will reward basically people who already have a very good flow of income. And will not greatly increase their spending, certainly for consumer’s goods, and maybe not for any useful investment, times being bad. And it will lead to pressure for economy, along with the war debt, that is the result of the large public deficits. So that, on the whole, it will lead to a policy which doesn’t have any regenerative, any good effect, and has some possibility of making things worse.

Margaret Atwood: "Dear America: This is a difficult letter to write, because I'm no longer sure who you are."

George McGovern: "As I have watched America's moral and political standing in the world fade as the globe's inhabitants view the senseless and immoral bombing of ancient, historic Baghdad, I think often of another Jefferson observation during an earlier bad time in the nation's history: 'I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.'"

A year ago, The Nation ran some questions for Mr. Bush from McGovern, including the (presumably) rhetorical one, "Is there still validity to the proverb 'whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad'"?

The Cheney "energy policy," otherwise known as billions of taxpayer dollars to the oil, coal and nuclear industries and massive subsidies to log our national forests, still has legs.

The reports of war increasingly look like propaganda from both sides. Deutsche Welle's report tries to make sense of conflicting information about the fighting in and around Baghdad.

This question about whether or not we're going to have secret trials for suspected terrorists seems like a rather important one for the future of justice in this country.

The RIAA tries its hand at pre-emptive action, suing for $150,000 for each copyrighted work that was illegally downloaded.

4.4.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

HP shareholders passed one of the petition resolutions, another was too close to call, but after the meeting the tally showed that it passed. The Board will consider (?!) the recommendations from the shareholders.

They don't call it CounterPunch for nothin': "Never in American history has a group of government leaders profited so directly from war--never." There's plenty of attitude there, but the important question is which part isn't true?

Senate Democrats holding firm on the filibuster to block Estrada's nomination. Seems like some of Clinton's nominees were withdrawn with a lot less fight than this, but the Republicans don't take "no" for an answer so easily.

A different kind of top 100 list: the 100 best corporate citizens.

The Register hops on the Google bandwagon, repurposing it with the usual sardonic tone and explaining to us all what Googlewashing is. A conspiracy of the blogerati! Well, hey, you want a vote, get yourself a blog, and join the crème de la crème.

Nicholas Kristof on winning the peace: "(T)his administration wages war better than it wages diplomacy, and the Pentagon's apparent plan to make an Iraqi leader out of Ahmad Chalabi, whose support lies along the Potomac rather than the Tigris or Euphrates, is emblematic of the administration's Attila-the-Hun brand of diplomacy, which risks antagonizing the world and alienating the Iraqi people themselves."

Tom Magliozzi on the New Theory of Learning. You can't learn by having an expert try to tell you what she knows; you have to actually do something yourself. It's more of an observation about learning, actually, and not quite new. But it's a nice reminder.

The Arab News' reports on Saddam's rare public appearance was, but even they can't quite bring themselves to make an uncategorical statement that it was him, there, in public.

3.4.3 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Half-inch graupel and a wilted dandelion in our lawn

More April Foolish weather today: occasional snow showers. I actually got out for a little bit of tennis at lunchtime, during which we had two snow showers and a delightful bit of sunshine. When I got home after work and a rally for Planned Parenthood at the Statehouse, I found our lawn covered with half-inch graupel, leaving the violets and this dandelion with a rather unhappy look.

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

It seems a real shame to miss out on April Fool's Day, but I was too busy to blog any tricks yesterday. I was doing the last minute (but not quite final) edits on the Sierra Club tri-state Owyhee Canyonlands website, which officially goes live tomorrow. This early notice is only one of many benefits you get from reading my blog.

Mother Nature chipped in her own April Fool's joke with cold and rainy weather after a Sunday and Monday that were among the nicest spring days this neighborhood has to offer. I rode home from work in shorts and a t-shirt Monday, hoped to play tennis at lunch on Tuesday but it started raining right at decision time, then cleared up and dried off by mid-afternoon. Ha ha. Bicycled in the rain today; back to sweater, raincoat, gloves, hat.

Here's what the local news made of Betty Luginbill's response to the martial Easter baskets: "balancing" her complaint with a veteran who thinks they're A-OK.

Jakob waxes about why internet Portals are dead and intranet Portals are still alive. He thinks that "people are reluctant to spend much time customizing their views for reasons of privacy and laziness" but oddly overlooks the more important factor of durability. I'm not going to spend my valuable time customizing something that may disappear (or worse, change format or interface) tomorrow.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Thursday, 01-May-2003 21:13:06 MDT