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unraveling

31.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Money doesn't grow on trees, it's an annual.

It's going to be a white New Year's anyway; snow on the ground in Boise and more falling as the thermometer struggles to get to the melting point. More snow expected tonight and tomorrow. Just like winter! Cool.

That'll be Sir TBL, if you please. And here I thought he was Swiss.

Chen Shui-bian making the point that Taiwan is a "so-called" separate country is extremely immoral to the mainlanders. Or so we're told. Bush is taking the side of the big boys, there's more money to be made on the western side of the strait.

Somebody slipped a year at the Gray Lady -- Tuesday's "Today's Headlines" email came in with a date of Thursday, December 30, 2004. Maybe I should save it to see if the stories are the same a year fron now.

The more you know about slaughterhouses, the less interested you'll be in eating meat that comes from them, I think. Counterpunch's look inside Big Meat reviews Jeffery St. Clair's book, Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature. Viewer discretion advised.

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30.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's not just stealth bombers at W's command these days, he also has a stealth pen, which he used -- on Saturday, December 13th -- to sign a big chunk of what previously leaked to the light of day as "Patriot II" into law. Aside from it being the weekend, it was also the weekend of the glorious retrieval of Saddam from his spiderhole. How nice that the legislation was right there and handy for a convenient occasion when it wouldn't make the news.

The weapon of mass delusion is the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 and it's a doozy. As its title suggests, its intent is "to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2004 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities," but the statement of purpose ends with "and other purposes." Could be anything from cloak and dagger to the kitchen sink. Subtitle D, "Other Matters," includes section 334, "Modification to definition of financial institution in the Right to Financial Privacy Act."

Said act, from 1978, obtains a new meaning for the term "financial institution," the same meaning as in 5312(a)(2) of title 31, United States Code, said section having a list from A to Z that ends with "any other business designated by the Secretary whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters." As if that catch-all weren't enough, it explicitly calls out stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the U.S. Post Office, travel agencies, pawnbrokers, and all the things you and I once knew as financial institutions. Congress passed the law around Thanksgiving, with the Senate taking cover under a voice vote.

To get any records it needs from just about any business that handles money, the FBI must proffer a "National Security Letter," which is not vetted or signed by a judge, nor does it require any sort of probable cause for suspicion. And like the best of the original USA Patriot Act, the investigation comes with a gag order - your stockbroker, casino, credit card company and airline can't tell you that the records of your transactions have been turned over to the FBI.

If all this is in the public interest, David Martin wonders, why was it so clearly done to escape public notice? The so-called statement by the President doesn't rise to quite the same rhetorical panache that W. employs when he wants us to sit up and pay attention. Can you imagine him saying this out loud?

"The executive branch shall construe these provisions in a manner consistent with the Constitution's commitment to the President of exclusive authority to submit for the consideration of the Congress such measures as the President judges necessary and expedient and to supervise the unitary executive branch, and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair the deliberative processes of the Executive or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties."

I doubt he could write a 69-word sentence, let alone speak one. In case you need a secret decoder ring, he says "I've got the authority for greater power and secrecy in the Executive branch, and you better believe I'm taking it. Either you're with us or you're against us."

Speaking of terrorism, did ya hear the one about the guys caught in Texas with a weapon of mass destruction - a sodium cyanide bomb capable of delivering a deadly gas cloud? Or the 100 other bombs, bomb components, machine guns, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and chemical agents they had? Or the documents indicating that unknown co-conspirators are still on the loose? In May, 2003?! Me neither, but there's the story, in the Memory Hole.

But watch out for people carrying almanacs! No joke!

Every once in a while I look at a spam message (in plain text), and they just about always have some found poetry. This evening's attempt to sell me solvent-based ink for my inkjet from China ended with this:
Sorry to disturb you! If the E-mail have not useless for you please cancle it right now!

29.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

JR Simplot's house is big; his flag is *really* big.

One of my fellow retirees has an apt line in his .sig:
Retirement is that time of life when you stop using the aphorism "time is money."

Eric Alterman's Christmas Eve missive: Washington Goes to War (with Howard Dean). Washington didn't really care for Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton coming to town, either. (They did learn to love Ronny Reagan, though.) About this question of whether or not we're safer now that Saddam has come out of his hole, if you're among the reported 22% who think we are, can you answer one more question? How are we safer?

The argument that "look, Qaddafi rolled over!" is probably the best one, but in terms of the color of our alert and how likely it is that a religious fanatic will hijack an airplane and turn it into a missle, or explode a dirty bomb in some crowded city... Saddam in hiding and Saddam under questioning don't seem to matter for how many more weeks of war we'll have.

If the Aussies can figure out electronic voting, we should be able to. Open Systems are working for them. You can join the lobbying adventure for a better system at VerifiedVoting.org. Can you say "voter-verifiable audit trail"? Sure you can.

What do you do when an email discussion goes bad? I used to jump in the fray, try to argue and reason the opposition in to some sort of capitulation, but seriously, how likely is that? It happened once in a great while, as did my own capitulation to another's point of view. One must recognize the Lost Cause, however.

That was what was in my inbox this morning, a thread gone bad on the HP Alumni list. It started with a complaint about the end of extensions to unemployment benefits, from a guy who said he could really use the help right now. With perhaps a bit of hyperbole (but maybe not!), he wrote, "for every job I apply for there are 500 qualified applicants." "It seems the Republicans in Congress will not authorize any additional extensions, citing the Presidents recent speech in which he told the American people that the economy was getting better." That issue is in the news at the moment, a political football in the presidential election. Expect to hear a lot about "jobs" in the coming months, along with frequent mentions of "Herbert Hoover." (Just as an order of magnitude check, the extension of benefits would run about a $billion per month.)

Anyway, one fellow styling himself "Libertarian" took umbrage at another poster's complaint about the Bush administration's economic performance. The worst of the complaint was this: "----better strategy is for us Americans to move to Iraq and get a slice of the $ 100 + Billion from being a part of Halliburton or Bechtel! Never mind that the real war on terror is with Osama in Afghanistan!!!" Ok, that was off-topic. The Libertarian response? "Those of you who bash Bush but neglect to blame your own party are sincerely ignorant of the facts -- but then Democrats have never let the facts get in the way of their viewpoint. You are so caught up in your vehement, vitriolic hatred of George Bush that you don't WANT to know the facts!"

That was followed by a call to the moderator to "ban the senders of *unfounded* attacks on our politicians," as the previous poster's "hysterical shrieking is diametrically the opposite of intelligent thought." A 4th party said let's PLEASE keep politics out of this group, and L said "Hear! Hear! Thanks for agreeing with me!"

It went downhill from there.

The last flourish from the vorpal blade of the Libertarian was this: "the *brutally* ignorant responses such as yours, Greg's, (Greg had asked -- twice -- for political discussions to be taken elsewhere, made no political statements) and Mr. R's are making me rethink whether HP hired intelligent people at all. (No offense to those who agree with me, of course.) Bill, you are an ignorant buffoon."

See, if the problem is that somebody forgot their meds, one more email is just not going to fix it. It is instructive to observe the form of the message, though. Early on the pat reply was "impugn the critic's patriotism." Now, it's "impugn the vitriolic message of hate." For a Libertarian, this bozo sure sounds a lot like a stock Republican. You don't have to agree with one party's point of view to observe the plot line. Unless, of course, you're an ignorant buffoon.

I started to wade in, but came up with a better approach: the cathartic blog entry.

The actual political strategy may be even more calculatingly venal according to this story by Jason Straziuso: "Emsellem said lawmakers 'want to see how much bad publicity they get before they capitulate,' but that ultimately Bush's position will decide the issue."

Zeldman wonders what if filmmakers were web designers?

That 19.65 million viewers were attracted to Michael Jackson talking to Ed Bradley explains the popularity of the freak show at the circus, I guess. I usually watch 60 Minutes, but not only was I not attracted, it's safe to say I was repulsed. And not in that "but you can't look away" way, either. I could, and did.

I was among the millions attracted to the epic finale of The Lord of the Rings trilogy over the holidays, though. Great show. Could've skipped the 15 minutes of previews and the drawn-out goodbyes, but I was surprised that the 4th row in front of the Imax screen did not hurt me, and that the sound level was actually adjusted appropriately. Must be somebody new in the booth.

28.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

On the cusp of the New Year, parts of the world are in a mess. Thinking of tens of thousands of people buried under mud bricks in Iran makes me think that there is more important work to be done than fighting wars. We can all rally when our fellows get desperate enough (although the Iranians did say no to any help from Israel, sadly), but in the meantime, it's greed, venality, squabbling and the like, facilitated with depleted uranium and exploding things. Just a few millennia back, some remarkable cultural intelligence popped up, and manage to persist. It's been nip and tuck ever since, though; the lights could go out any damn minute if we don't get our act together.

The big G for Green Bay

On a slightly less serious note...
If you're not a football fan, it all seems like sound and fury, signifying nothing, as indeed it is. But it's an entertaining game, and by creating arbitrary goals, obstacles, rules and so on, we create excitement for ourselves. Some of us.

I'm a Green Bay Packers fan, just in case you weren't paying attention. It started when I used to go down the street to the Purmans' house every Sunday for a communal appreciation of the team's dominance of the National Football League. They would win pretty much every Sunday in the 60s, and after the black and white spectacle, we would all go outside and play football ourselves. Joe Purman and I were typically the winning quarterback/receiver in the sandlot match-ups. When the AFL decided to try playing against the NFL and they started this thing called the Super Bowl, the Packers won that, too. Twice.

Ok, enough history. To bring you up to date, the NFL long ago subsumed the AFL, teams and players and owners and stadia have come and gone, but the Green Bay Packers are still owned communally, and they still play at Lambeau field, on grass. There are new and complicated tie-breaking procedures to figure who goes on to the 12-team post-season, and this year's Packers were on the hairy edge of elimination. They had a slow start (to say the least) and a storybook finish, setting up today's action with last Monday Night's game for the history books from quarterback Brett Favre. (Pronounced to rhyme with "Marv," by the way.)

The Packers needed the Niners to beat the Seahawks yesterday; San Francisco had a ton of chances and choked them all away. The Packers needed the Dallas Wowboys to roll over the New Orleans Saints to eliminate the Seahawks, but Dallas forgot how to play, too, and lost 13-7. From there, the only thing that would work was GB to win and the Minnesota Viking to lose. Green Bay had the Denver Broncos at Lambeau, but since Denver was already assured of their (AFC) playoff berth, they put in the second string and saved most of their best players for next week. All the same, Denver threatened to make it a game late in the last quarter, down 3-17, but first and goal. A touchdown brings them right back in it. The Pack holds for 1, 2, 3 downs. Denver talks it over with a time out, tries on 4th down, and gets stuffed yet again, and the Packers take over on the 2. Next play, Ahman Green gets the handoff and -- he -- could -- go -- all -- the -- way! 98 yards for a Green Bay touchdown. The next 7 points when the Broncos fumbled the kickoff was just gravy.

Meanwhile, out in Arizona... the Vikings had come back from a slow start, and led 17-6 with but a couple minutes to go. The Cardinals get a touchdown, recover the low-probability onside kick, and get a one-footed, 30-yard touchdown play on 4th and forever with time for one last play. 18-17 Arizona, the Vikings are done, and the Packers go on to the playoffs next week.

Just one word for all that: unbelievable.

Christmas Permanent URL to this day's entry

No riding powder, play Scrabble instead I guess

If I'd known how long I'd be convalescing, I would have been more careful about that fall. (How many times has this sentiment been expressed in sporting lives, I wonder?) Our storm has passed, the sun is breaking through, there's pure blue to the West, and it grieves me to think of the footasnow up the hill that I'm not skiing or riding. That's the basic ingredient for a great day at Bogus Basin, skiing through the trees, off the trails, over the top and down the meadows. It's my kind of day, but here I am hanging out at home. Sigh.

I did graduate from sleeping propped up to sleeping flat last night, that was a big improvement. But what a sport, huh? Go out, have some fun, see if you survive to do it again or have to take a week or two off. Maybe I'll get better at it, or maybe I'll find out about this "older and wiser" stuff.

The neighbors are out of town and we're watching the cats, which means we get to read their newspapers too. It's easy to see how that gets habitual, so many interesting tidbits from around the world. Today's feature is yet another bulk of advertisements (more slick pages than newsprint, again), focused on the big after-Christmas blowouts. (Question: how do you promote a big sale if your store's name is Liquidation World? Just wondering.) As with Thanksgiving, the one-day closure gives us time to study the ads more careful, and time to build the excitement of shopping. (Except Walgreens is breaking ranks, and is open today. Good news if you need a prescription filled, I guess.)

Is December 26th a bigger day than Black Friday now? If so, I think it's a measure of satiety: we have enough consumer goods that we can wait for the (even better) sale prices. Storewide savings + values. 50% OFF original prices storewide. Sale! & Clearance! No Payments, No Interest until January 2005*.

* Additional terms apply. See page 55 for details.

We've cut back on church-going this holiday season, rented a movie last night instead: we watched Bowling for Columbine while huddled in our bunker under Condition Orange. Moore's questions to Charleton Heston are left hanging: what are you afraid of? why are the guns loaded? It wasn't a fair fight, unfortunately, as Heston is on the downhill side of lucidity. Yes, he's an empty figurehead (and a reasonably frightening one) at this point, but using him to turn the NRA into a strawman is not all that helpful.

An upstanding member of Colorado's "defense" industry assembling rockets is contrasted with the horror of alienated students killing as many people as they could before taking themselves out, and the most clear understanding of the events comes from one of the South Park creators, Marilyn Manson, and three Canadian high-schoolers skipping out of school. What are we so afraid of?

The capsule history of how we've acted on our fears does help explain why we might be turning away 6 planeloads of Paris-to-LA passengers because two or three suspicious people might be boarding. We've got something to be afraid of now, by golly. Me, I'm afraid of our progress to becoming a military police state, and the increasing likelihood that George W. Bush will get re-elected. Whether or not they're selling bullets at the Marts.

Qaddafi must've got a great deal (starting with "we won't bomb the hell out of your country and invade it") to roll over, and I'm sure more big news will be coming out before November. In the meantime, terrorists can get a lot of mileage by just turning up the "chatter" without leaving the comfort of home. Feeding terror to get W. re-elected might not be the most effective strategy for economic progress, but as a lottery ticket for a ride to Armageddon, it's probably a fair game.

Speaking of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, it seems Ag Secretary Ann Veneman didn't think the heads-up from the guy who got the Nobel Prize for the discovery of prions was that important. He says we should test every animal that's slaughtered. Sounds like a pretty good idea, certainly in retrospect. It works for Japan. Imagine if some of the beef in the supermarket counter had a green sticker on it "Tested BSE-free!" How much more would you pay for a pound of that?

(The Seattle PI excerpted the longer NY Times article.)

When we're speaking of BSE, we're on the topic of prions, and this remarkable item has popped up at the same time as concerns about beef: research with sea slugs and yeast may have turned up a prion-based mechanism for long-term memory. The research is reported in the journal Cell.

Christmas Eve Permanent URL to this day's entry

Went out in the rain for the last shopping day before X-mas. Barnes & Noble was hopping, with all the humans handling the capacity crowd well. The computers and credit card comm were running slow, though. As I was loading my panniers on my bike outside, a fellow my age admired my "nice old bicycle. A Trek, from when they used to make good bikes. And all that Campy stuff on it." (Just the brakes, actually, and one crank arm.) "I don't know if I'd leave it out here all by itself, though." I'd looped the cable through the frame and back wheel, leaned it against the building where it was driest (rather than where they'd plunked the bike rack), and smiled, thinking about how unlikely it was that someone would make off with my bike in weather like this. I also smiled knowing that it was only cyclists of a certain age who would admire my 24-year-old custom ride for its finer qualities, and that its expired fashion is better theft protection than the lock and cable.

We're getting the first good soak of winter, a long time coming. At dark-thirty, it was 42°F and windy, cooled into the 30s with the precip., and then meandered back to 40 with a SE wind. I hope the snow level gets well below the bottom of the ski hill.

So what if the WMD thing was a cocked-up distortion and subterfuge? What's the difference? (Or, for the audio version, I recommend Le Show.)

The same attention to detail can be found in that bastion of liberal media, Newsweek, as it makes the case for what corporate America sees as a litigation crisis. S.O.S!

It may be time to seriously consider becoming a vegetarian, or at least to kick the ruminant habit. Bully for Ann Veneman, boldly announcing she'll have beef on Christmas, and recommending faith-based confidence in the safety of our food supply. "No risk," says chief executive of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The brain and spinal column were removed before they could enter the food supply... they were sent instead to the feed supply, but hey, we don't feed that stuff to ruminants anymore. Not directly.

Time for a 2nd edition of Mad Cow U.S.A, perhaps? The first one came out in 1997, the year after Oprah Winfrey got sued for disparaging beef. The industry got the hush-job it was after, ultimately, and now they can find out whether that was such a good idea.

I was lured in by the domain name, stayed for the story of the Coat Check from Hell. "We were searching for bags, umbrellas, snow shoes, dog leashes, hats, gloves, ear muffs, laptops, poster tubes and just about anything that people feel the need to check in at a party."

The Homeowner's Association has to be the ultimate proto-fascist organization. The BVM has never been my thing, but if someone wants her statue in the yard, why not? Mote Ranch's HA's answer to that question is "because we said so."

Incidentally, I'm impressed with the HeraldTribune.com's advertising software; their 3 Sponsored Links on this story were perfect. A "large collection of statues for indoor and out. High quality," followed by a Trojan Horse "Homeowners Associations," selling "commmunity association management" (hey, get a buzz on with that), and "Neighborhood Select" interactive websites.

Our own Homeowner's Association went moribund (or at least very, very quiet) before we moved in, not quite 20 years ago now. (Holy cow, where did the time go?) We've muddled along, somehow.

23.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Jonathan Tasini
American Rights At Work

Dear Mr. Tasini:

Your essay ("A Home Run") is nothing if not an interesting and unexpected angle on the story. I know who A-Rod is, but hadn't been paying attention to his off-season business.

The reduction of an actual situation to a higher ethical principle is an abstraction, and your argument supposes that the details abstracted away are not salient. While the logical simplicity has a certain attraction, it does not seem to me that ideology trumps reality by necessity. It certainly does not do so by any claim to moral authority.

A-Rod's contract is, in any objective assesment, incredible. Whether it's also obscene, economically justified, reasonable under the circumstances, etc., can be (and has been) debated, and I don't need to do that here. $252M for 10 years of sport is not simply one point, nor even the endpoint on the spectrum of worker compensation. The money available to fund such a contract comes from a commercial-governmental combination that charges willing fans and disinterested bystanders indiscriminately. There's a boatload of graft and corruption in the parenthetical historical note, "once partly owned by W," for example.

There are three orders of magnitude between A-Rod's salary and the poverty level. I'm sure he plays shortstop many times better than some poor schmuck on the street, maybe even a thousand times better, whatever that could mean. But a "principle of collectivity"? No, I don't think so. The 10% of his salary that Rodriguez was willing to forgo was as meaningless to him as the final score in a mid-season minor league game. He was willing to bargain for fame and opportunity not included in the Texas deal.

The "basic principle" that "the value of contracts cannot be reduced" is absolutely arbitrary. Value by whose measure? The way I read your account, Rodriguez and the Bosox came up with a mutually agreeable adjustment between dollars and intangibles, but the MLBPA said "only dollars matter." It was nice of him to be gracious to the union after its exercise of arbitrary authority. It is an imaginative leap to judge it an admirable moral act.

This is entertainment, not religion.

and now Winter Permanent URL to this day's entry

One of the hairpin turns on Bogus Basin Rd., snow on the Boise front

American football is a game of "if only" to begin with, then they added another layer to the wild card playoff rules. If only the Packers hadn't wasted earlier chances (like the big lead against Kansas City), we wouldn't be talking about scenarios where they win their last 2 games, finish 10-6, and still don't get to go. But we'll always have Monday night, and the amazing performance by Brett Favre after the untimely death of his father. What father wouldn't want his son to play the game, especially a father who helped coach his son to be one of the greatest players of all time?

It usually takes a contest to make a game interesting, and I don't suppose Raiders fans really enjoyed it all that much, but it was a lot of fun for Packers fans, as well as for anyone wanting to know the boundaries of human performance. Among his other records, this was Favre's 205th consecutive start as quarterback.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on one group of fans who enjoyed the game: Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Military Police Company, stationed in Baghdad.

Solstice Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not much to report on the longest night of the year and the onset of our northern hemisphere winter. Graduated from my snowboard class, slightly bent out of shape after a toe-side edge and a hard fall with my ribs landing on my left fist took the fight out of me. I was feeling sorry for myself and watching football when my buddy Rob called to see if I was up for tennis. Sure, why not? Low 40s, courts almost dry, and some bruised ribs that keep me from breathing hard. It turned out better than I expected, for three sets to sundown. I managed to eke out the last one with a 9-7 tiebreaker.

The whole town seems to be ga-ga over our li'l Broncos going to the Fort Worth Bowl to meet TCU on Tuesday. Our boys got a 6-pack knocked out of 'em by the academic eligibility rules, though. Half a dozen players didn't make the grade. It's not a terribly high hurdle -- you have to pass 6 credits per semester, half of the minimum full time course load.

Chadd Cripe wrote "It's a black eye at the worst time for a (football) program," but that seems to miss the point. It's a black eye for Podunk University, Chadd.

20.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Solstice eve, it's too warm, and a little wet, and we still get an inversion. Go figure.

Reading about the (possible) resurgence of entrepeneurship in Iraq was mildly interesting until it stumbled on to this statement: "Clan loyalties are even more intense in Iraq than in Sicily, since nearly half of Iraqis are married to a first or a second cousin, and each of these tightly knit families belongs to a tribe with further demands for loyalty." (My emphasis!) That seems a bit too cozy.

The sociological term describing a society wherein families are a bulwark to all outside forces is wonderfully descriptive: "amoral familism." "In the Middle East, the family is a fortress against the rest of the society and a massive obstacle to democratic politics and economic efficiency," There's something called a "resource curse," too, found "in studies correlating mineral wealth with authoritarianism, corruption and economic stagnation."

19.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

He's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even Arnold Schwarzenegger has now figured out that California's in a fiscal crisis. After he rescinded the vehicle registration tax hike, and with city and county governments in the hole more than $300 million, he's taken emergency powers to impose $150 million in spending cuts. It's got the drama of the movies, but the arithmetic isn't quite right.

The folks who can handle big numbers have lowered the state's bond rating to just a scootch above junk.

18.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The NY Times Magazine's "Year in Ideas" is an amusing tour; get it quick before it goes behind the paywall. Put in alphabetic order, the finale provides "comfort in mediocrity," as Dan Pink puts it: Young Success Means Early Death. Unless of course you're not mediocre and you were a young success.

Mid-December, and SARS is in the news already. A possible case, doesn't seem too likely...

Well, the Wright Brothers re-enactment flopped (after Bush ditched the scene?!), but Space Ship One took off all right. SS1 rides the White Knight up to mach 0.55 at 48,000 feet and then: "Binnie pulled SS1's nose up to 60° and lit the rocket for 15 seconds. This blasted SS1 to 930 mph, or Mach 1.2, and an altitude of 68,000 feet (20,700 m)." Wooeee! Even better, after 12 minutes of gliding, a safe (if scratchy) landing.

It's leading the pack (manned-spaceflight-wise) on the way to the X prize, at 100km with 3 passengers and a repeat performance within 2 weeks. Tall order.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says the federal government can't prosecute Californians for growing marijuana for their personal medical use. According to Ann Harrison, the court found that "if the marijuana is not purchased, transported across state lines or used non-medically, the federal government has no jurisdiction."

17.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Taiwan (a.k.a. The Republic of China) and China (a.k.a. the People's Republic of China) are having a little Cold War of their own, but the sides don't seem quite balanced. Taiwan, which has been independent for more than 50 years, is threatening to hold a referendum on independence. Scary stuff. The PRC has, oh, 500 missiles pointed at the island, an arrangement that Annette Lu describes as "state sponsored terrorism." The US is hell on that, right? Oh wait, Bush doesn't want to rock the status quo, it all seems pretty well balanced right now. How do you argue with the observation "that Bush now views Taiwan's ballot box as more threatening than China's missiles"?

Meanwhile, China issues a new warning: "we must make necessary preparations to resolutely crush Taiwan independence plots," says the spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office. What are they going to do, launch a missile attack on the island?!

14.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shooting and driving down Bogus Basin Rd.

We're not getting foot after foot of snow like the Northeast, but we got some nice rain here in Boise this weekend, and more than a foot of snow up in the mountains. Bogus Basin opened just enough for lessons on Saturday, and then all the way today. I took my first two snowboarding lessons, and started to get the hang of it on the beginner slope, with nothing broken or too badly bruised. It took me half a dozen tries, but I did finally manage to get off the chairlift without crashing. Almost like being young again, except that the healing won't be as fast this time around, 25 years after my first adventure in skiing.

On my way down the hill, I decided to just go nuts with my digital camera, set the focus on infinity and shot 64 pictures out the car windows. This is something I would never think to do with film; it was fun to shoot with wild abandon once I got going. On the one hand (ouch, bad pun), it's probably not that smart a thing to do, but on the other, I've had enough practice driving the road, the storm had abated, and the traffic was well-spaced and moving smoothly. I did stop at one of the few convenient pull-offs to take a couple of steadier shots; having the snow line in the middle of the drive on a sunny afternoon creates some beautiful scenes.

The numerous shots of the steering wheel and my other hand remind me of the little 110 camera I bought when I hitchhiked out west in 1973. I shot 8 or 10 rolls of film along the way, and when they came back from the developer (after the trip, of course), I discovered that my finger was in about a third of the pictures. D'OH!

The latest email from BushCheney04@GeorgeWBush.com (a.k.a. Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman) is still working off the "messages of hate" theme, citing "liberal billionaire George Soros, who has compared President Bush to the Nazis," among others. Looking for some independent perspectives on what Soros said, I found kuro5hin's to start with. First of all, Soros was a Jew born in Hungary in 1930, who survived the Holocaust and the Soviet occupation of Hungary. He has some direct experience of Nazis to draw on. He is indeed a billionaire, and a liberal, which I suppose makes him seem a bit like a traitor to folks in the GOP. He's said to have his own foreign policy, and takes overt action to support democracy, giving away billions of dollars for what he believe in. That should be a Good Thing, one would think. He's opposed to the leaders of Zimbabwe, Libya, Burma, and Turkmenistan as well as of the U.S.A.

Apparently, this is what Soros said and the Washington Post reported: "When I hear Bush say, 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Germans. My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me." Kuro5hin also has a ton of discussion which I didn't read through, and a link to a NOW interview with Soros from September of this year. "The Republican Party has been captured by a bunch of extremists..." he said, hard to argue with that.

He also said: "The people currently in charge have forgotten the first principle of an open society, namely that we may be wrong and that there has to be free discussion. That it's possible to be opposed to the policies without being unpatriotic." Generously, about Bush, Soros said: "I think he's a man of good intentions. I don't doubt it. But I think he's leading us in the wrong direction." He sounds like a pretty reasonable guy.

I suppose the appeal will work, though. Even as the Republicans have been working the class warfare thing for their side (cutting taxes good! You worked hard for your money! You might be rich some day!), they're also willing to work it against if it's convenient; liberal billionaire mind you, he's not like you and me. The appeal is not intended for people who will look up sources on opposing sides of an issue and make up their own minds. On the day that news of Saddam Hussein's capture dominates, and we've made another demonstration of might, the argument that might makes right is still ascendent.

Distilling the headline "Soros Likens Bush to Nazi" from what Soros has said in various forums is a reprehensible ploy. Usenet discussion threads historically had come to a bitter end when Hitler was invoked in almost any context, and the headline writers are attempting to both end the discussion and tar their opponent at the same time.

But let's keep the discussion open a bit longer, shall we? The December 2003 Atlantic Monthly has a longer piece, by Soros himself, which is quite a bit more illuminating (but perhaps less remunerating) than Mehlman's clever quip. He doesn't use the N-word, incidentally. Well in to his argument, Soros writes, "To make the war on terrorism the centerpiece of our national strategy is an abdication of our responsibility as the leading nation in the world. Moreover, by allowing terrorism to become our principal preoccupation, we are playing into the terrorists' hands. They are setting our priorities." Read the rest of what he has to say, and then you tell me if you think this is an "angry, rage-filled attack."

The ITAA (Information Technology Association of America) is joining with the companies selling electronic voting systems to form the Election Technology Council (ETC), presumably to short-circuit the increasing current of concern about unauditable systems that are ripe for fraud.

My cousin sent me a pointer to this lovely slice of cheese, the Wisconsin dictionary. Made me feel right at home, yahhey.

12.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Three months ago today, I was liberated from the cube farm.

I don't have a nice, tight answer to the question "what are you doing now?" which inevitably follows an announcement that I "retired." (I still get some "you're too young" responses in between, the way I used to when I mentioned I was a grandfather. The latter have pretty much dried up; enough gray around the ears and you too can pass for a grandfather, apparently.)

I like to say "whatever I want to." That's sort of rubbing it in, but it's the most accurate answer I have. Somebody could turn the tables on me by asking "so what do you want to do?" I'm still figuring that out, one day at a time. Necessity still intervenes; there are bills to pay, taxes to look after, still paperwork to be done to wrap up my 20-year employment, things around the house to look after.

"Blogging" probably wouldn't satisfy anyone as an answer. I can just hear the follow-ups: "What?" "But seriously...?" Ok, I'm doing some writing. (Oh yeah, that would work; mysterious, open-ended -- people can make it as grand or trivial as they like, without my having to help.) "We went to China" still works, but it is a bit of a wasting asset. Where have you been lately? On a tennis court when I can. My first snowboard lesson is tomorrow.

The one group I don't have to elaborate for is my fellow retirees. They just smile and say "that's great!" (and maybe "you're so young!") and we don't need to pin anything else down until the conversation gets going.

Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is hot, hot, hot. c|net can help you get up to speed on the subject. I fetched "free phone calls!" enabling software Skype and now just need everyone I call to install it, too. :-/ Getting connected to everybody's phone will cost something, but maybe not so much. How do unlimited local and LD calls for $25/month sound?

Bruce Schneier wonders if the MSBlast worm precipitated the huge blackout back east in August. Having infrastructure dependent on Microsoft's O/S seems risky, doesn't it? I'm sure there's something in their EULA that says they're not to blame if things go to hell in a handbasket.

Cringely's proposal for fixing voting technology is grounded in the caution: "Remember that every public crisis in America is an opportunity for someone to make money." His solution is dead simple, reliable, inexpensive, and doesn't have a chance of being implemented. "I suggest that we add humans to the process in order to eliminate technological errors."

Speaking of following the money, colorofmoney.org provides the data on $200+ federal campaign contributions in a variety of slices: by state, by zip code, by ethnicity, etc. In Idaho, the leading per capita contributions for the 2002 election cycle were $206 in Sun Valley, $55 and $40 in neighboring Ketchum and Bellevue. No big surprise there. Small towns with sizeable donors took the next four spots; I'd never heard of Laclede, Rogerson or Coolin. The highest Boise zip code on the list is 83702, with $17 per capita. (The population figures seem tiny - Sun Valley has only 875 adults?!) My zipcode is 38th in per capita contributions ($5, just above the state average of $3.84), 3rd in population with 28,392 adults.

83% of contributions of $200+ went to Republicans; they dominate the money, and state politics. The tables are sortable by total contributions, population, ethnicities, household income. Interesting stuff. High-income households cluster in Sun Valley, Eagle, Ketchum, Felt (where is that??), Boise. The greatest percentage of households below the poverty line are in May (42%!), White Bird, North Fork, Clark Fork, Rexburg.

David Brooks' epiphany about Howard Dean creates a sense of déjà vu: "At each moment, he appears outspoken, blunt and honest. But over time he is incoherent and contradictory." We've got a Resident like that already.

Molly Ivins weighs in on her choice for President, with a second (who was first?) for the notion "that this year, the Internet is to politics what television was in the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon race."

11.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Golden asters gone golden, and to seed

It's old news that the fix was on in Florida to elect Bush in 2000, and the risks of electronic voting are getting documented. It seems likely that the risks will not be addressed before the next election. Bravo to Nevada, for mandating a paper receipt, but a receipt is not an audit trail, and as amazing coincidences like three races being decided by 18,181 votes start piling up, we are very much going to wish we had an audit trail.

Charles Fishman in Fast Company, The Wal-Mart You Don't Know: "It is, in fact, so big and so furtively powerful as to have become an entirely different order of corporate being." It's controlling inflation, driving gains in productivity, and providing a pipeline for foreign goods -- especially Chinese goods -- to the American consumer. "Sure, it's held inflation down, and it's great to have bargains," says Steve Dobbins, CEO of Carolina Mills. "But you can't buy anything if you're not employed. We are shopping ourselves out of jobs."

The White House is backpedaling on the Wolfowitz memo, incredibly. It caught them by surprise, but it's a measure of the Deputy Secretary of Defense's position that it has been repudiated. As The Australian points out in a Dec. 12th editorial, "a pragmatic alternative was available," to quietly shut out those with whom we're in a snit. That's not ideological enough, apparently, so we'll go ahead with the shot to the foot and cripple progress in the UN, the UN Security Council, and the forgiveness of Iraqi debt by other countries. James Baker, newly named Debt Eraser, is left twisting in the wind for his assignment. Or maybe not, if Greg Palast is right in his speculation that Baker is bringing home the bacon for Saudia Arabia.

10.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Here's a new hypothesis about global warming: humans have been doing it for 8 millennia now, and we stopped the last ice age that was due about 3 or 2000 B.C.

Michael Moore's latest letter to Bush had us rolling in the aisles. "It was also a good idea that you made the 'press' on that trip to Baghdad pull the shades down on the plane. No one in the media entourage complained. They like the shades pulled and they like to be kept in the dark. It's more fun that way."

The trial of John Kerry may have come just a bit too late to make a difference in next year's -- next year's! -- election for President. To those of us in the US electorate, just how we pick candidates and Presidents is a deep mystery. It sure as hell is not done by voting, because no voting has been done, and yet all the handicappers are saying the race is all but over. The best person may not be the one who wins, and he or she may not even make the finals. Only the most rabid of Bush supporters could presume to believe that he was -- or is -- the best person for the job he's in. He's the most useful to a lot of people, which may be all the explanation needed.

I'd like to see the chaff cleared out and have Kerry and Dean (ok, throw in a couple others if you like) go head to head for a while, and then have a one-day national plebiscite. The states will never get together on that, of course, even though enough got together for a "Super Tuesday" primary. I appreciate Dean's principled stand, but the idea that Dean "was there when it counted" when the Congress voted to give Bush war powers is nonsense. The governor of Vermont was not there. I didn't trust the Bush team's intentions; Kerry did. That's not a good reason to count him out of the Presidential race right now.

Just in case you weren't sure if Paul Wolfowitz is still calling the shots, watch Scott McLellan defend Wolfie's tweak of Germany, France and Russia, supposedly for "essential security interests."

There's plenty of blame to go around, but the basic fact is that Congress failed to pass a budget for this fiscal year (which started more than 2 months ago) before the end of the calendar year. The VOA piece has Frist blaming obstructionist Dems, but elsewhere, we see both sides piling on the Resident for dragging his feet on pet issues. Mr. DeLay (no pun intended) defended 7,000 special purpose "earmarks," telling us that pork barrel and log-rolling are just the way the gummint works.

Maybe they'll get the budget done in late January, check back.

The wrap-up press release on the BCC/OMX merger provides an adjustment to my prediction that everyone with million-dollar plus severance incentives would bail out: Peterson (OfficeMax president and COO, now "president -- retail"), Mulet (exec. VP of retail stores) and Vero (exec. VP of merchandising) are in. Since OfficeMax CFO Michael Killeen didn't make the press release, I assume he's out, with a modest $2M parting gift.

9.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Cropped version of Boise Cascade Corp.'s photo of their HQ

The architect of Boise Cascade's gleaming tower in downtown Boise had openness and transparency in mind, and I'm sure it's still a very pleasant place to work. But welcoming visitors is no longer a matter of revolving doors at each point of the compass; visitors please use Jefferson St. entrance, this one door here.

Three cheerful employees waited for me to sign in with the security guard, eyeballing my outfit (#1 suit) and appertunance (a tasteful leather folder); a more detailed inspection wasn't needed. I was escorted to the guest elevator, one of 4 that connect to the perimeter offices with sky bridges across the full-height atrium. This morning, they even had an elevator operator, to help guests get off at the right floor.

At the 4th floor desk outside the conference room, I signed in again, introduced myself and was told "you're pre-cleared." The conference room was set up for 50, had 2 guests seated and a few employees moving about, getting things ready. George Harad was brought over to take a phone call, someone with 969,000 shares, voting in favor of both items? I didn't hear the answer, but after the call, "the percentage is changing." The fellow in the row in front of me had a handful of printouts of news about the merger from the web, the woman was saying something about "some of those people just make those protests their whole life." Sorry I didn't get in on that conversation earlier.

There were no demonstrations this time around, of course, the Rainforest Action League having declared victory and moved on.

At the stroke of 8, Harad called the meeting to order, 72.5% of shares represented providing a quorum. An older fellow and his wife ducked in and sat in the 2nd row, casual clothes, somebody who worked in the forest once upon a time, I imagine. That made maybe 20 of us present, at most, with employees in the majority. "The polls are still open," Harad noted, offered ballots to anyone who was there to vote in person. No hands, but the fellow who came in last said "I brought my ballot," duly executed it and got his joint-owner's signature. The results will be tabulated and reported later today; the preliminary result is that both measures (the merger with OfficeMax, and trebling the shares available for issue under the incentive plan) are approved.

That concludes the formal part of the meeting, not quite 5 minutes.

Questions? Discussion? I raised my hand, introduced myself as representing John Osborn, of the Sierra Club, and asked what Mr. Harad thought was the future of the corporation in the forest products industry if the merger goes through. He gave a warm and content-free executive answer that they'll be re-evaluating all that, no news this morning. After the elliptical question and answer, the older guy up front asked "Are you going to get out of the forestry business?" "As I said," etc.

That's that then.

We stayed around and chatted a bit, I talked to VP Karen Gowland, George talked with the fellow and his wife from Ogden, here for his very first shareholder's meeting, then with me. I mentioned my concern to Karen that the sale of Boise Cascade's assets might have negative consequences, brought up the example of Pacific Lumber. That didn't register, I gave her the capsule history: high-leverage, hostile takeover of a company run with sustainability in mind, resulted in lots of old redwoods being cut to pay off the debt. She suggested that they would certainly be careful about a buyer of their assets. Let's hope. The corporation says nice things about its environmental stance. When it comes time to sell off assets, that may not be the first consideration.

George and I talked about mergers, the new company being HP's 3rd largest customer (or reseller, at least; this according to ex-HP printing exec Carolyn Ticknor, who is on BCC's board), HP's paper being made by Champion, which was bought by International Paper, which licenses Boise to make HP's paper. "Co-opetition" is what they call it these days.

I was politely escorted to the elevators (ah, this one, here), asked about using the stairs. "You'll be much happier with the elevator," my escort assured me, dismissing the bizarre notion that someone would use the stairs. I asked the elevator operator what his usual job was ("I work in security"), and exited from whence I'd come, before 8:20. Beautiful sunrise behind the capitol dome, the full moon still up in the west.

By 8:24 MST, news was on the wire that OfficeMax had approved the $1.4 billion deal, "overwhelmingly." 9:36 MST, news that the OfficeMax CEO is leaving to form a retailing venture capital firm. The prospectus notes Michael Feuer will get a $10.5 million parting gift. Expect Gary Peterson ($4M), Michael Killeen ($2M), Harold Mulet ($1.7M) and Ryan Vero ($1.3M) to take the money and run, too. ("It's QUITTIN' TIME!")

9:19 MST, Boise Cascade reports the merger passed, with 77% of the voted shares in favor (comfortably more than half of the shares outstanding, as well). The dilutive increase of shares for the incentive plan passed also, but with a narrow plurality - 53% of votes cast, only 24M of the approximately 60M shares outstanding in favor.

7.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Terry Dobbelaere describes what happened one day at the VA hospital when George W. Bush spoke to soliders. (In uniform, believe it or not.)

Music for America is something interesting, I haven't read through enough of it to be sure just what. "Music and Other Social Causes" is the subhead, and the branches are many. The interview available from this archived post purports to tell us what it's about.

When I first saw Blogs for Bush I thought it was a send-up, but looking just a bit further, I see that it does appear to be a grass-roots (or at least astroturf), pro-Bush thing. I guess 2004 will be the first presidential campaign where blogs figure. Somehow. (No doubt some 2000-era bloggers could tell us how important weblogs were 3 years ago, but I don't think so.)

6.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The lead in a NY Times story datelined London, Dec. 5th: "One day after President Bush abandoned American protective tariffs on imported steel to avert a trade war with Europe, Pascal Lamy, the European trade commissioner, said he would use the same tactics again in another long-running trade dispute with the United States."

Not a big surprise, really, with the apparent success of Bush's cynical maneuver on steel tariffs: they were obviously illegal, but the administration knew it would take the WTO bureaucracy time to act, and they bought a lot of votes in key states. The really impressive part, though, was the "Mission Accomplished" statement, saying they were no longer needed. Now they can pick up the "free trade" votes. Unfortunately, our international trading partners may be a little slow, but they're not stupid, and they'll fight the war with new (and mutable) rules. Targeting the industries in states crucial to Bush's re-election, the EU is showing they understand the leverage principle provided by the US' example.

It's still the economy, stupid. And how well the numbers sort out by next November will decide whether or not George II gets to follow his father's example or serve a second term. We've had employment rising for four months, and it's barely made a tick on the percentage: down to 5.9%, now, still higher than when Bush took office. (The good news is that it was 6.4% in June; some progress.) The 57,000 new jobs in November make a total of a third of a million added since the end of the 2001 recession, in which 1.1 million were lost. You don't have to do the math; the three quarters of a million additional jobless will keep track of the problem for you. Nearly a quarter of them are classified as "long-term unemployed," looking for work for 6 months or more. Employment is down by more than 2 million jobs since Bush took office.

That giant sucking sound we can still hear is manufacturing moving off-shore; manufacturing employment has not stopped shrinking during the "recovery." Output is up, but productivity is rising faster; good news for investors and management ("Corporate profits rose sharply in the third quarter"), but not if you're looking for a job. The job gains haven't been enough to cover the growth of the workforce (estimated at 200,000/month), and the quality of jobs created continues to decline. The average hourly wage of production workers is barely holding its own, and not keeping up with inflation. Get used to it; changing the talking head in the Oval Office won't change the new economic world order.

Such as this latest export from the US to Mexico: "Wal-Mart's power is changing Mexico in the same way it changed the economic landscape of the United States, and with the same formula: cut prices relentlessly, pump up productivity, pay low wages, ban unions, give suppliers the tightest possible profit margins and sell everything under the sun for less than the guy next door." Its sales are almost 2% of Mexico's GDP.

One wild card in the mix is the "self-employed," such as yours truly, if you ask the questino the right way. The numbers quoted above are all from various statistical measurments, some from surveys of employers, and households. It's not like we can add up everyone's books (some of which are half-baked, if not cooked, anyway) and know "the" answer on such things. As Floyd Norris notes, "Some people who say they are self-employed may really be out of work and trying to bring in money as consultants or freelance workers. Others may be doing very well, living a dream of boss-free success." Door #2 for me and mine.

This is the half of the glass you'll be hearing about from the GOP: "But with (the apparent rise in self-employment), it is possible to point to one government survey that indicates that more people are working now than at any time before."

5.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If there is a Hell (I have my doubts), I'm pretty sure Fred Phelps is going there. His latest publicity stunt is to propose an anti-Matthew Shepard monument for Boise's Julia Davis park to go along with our 10 Commandments. The more, the scarier.

Dust blowing out to the Pacific from San Diego.  NASA Earth Observatory
photo

After the dry weather, hot wind, and catastrophic fire, the dust in San Diego. Amazing satellite imagery from NASA's Earth Observatory.

Cringely, on the recipe for disaster in electronic voting: "In the case of this voting fiasco, there was a wonderful confluence of events. There was a vague product requirement coming from an agency that doesn't really understand technology (the U.S. Congress), foisting a system on other government agencies that may not have asked for it. There was a relatively small time frame for development and a lot of money. Finally, the government did not allow for even the notion of failure. By 2004, darn it, we'd all have touch screen voting."

The moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for, especially if it's something in Information Technology. And the crucial question left as a cliff-hanger for next week: who decided these machines would be unauditable?

Buzz Aldrin says Fly me to L1. (That's the unstable Lagrange point between the earth and the moon. There are 4 others, two of which are stable.)

Meanwhile, after George Bush heard about China's manned spaceflight and lunar ambitions, he seems keen that the US should get to the moon first. More miraculous Texas education, maybe.

This is odd: a company named Andrew Andrew with two principles (each named Andrew, natch) who think they think alike. According to Rob Walker's NYT piece on the iPod, "they require interviewers to sign a form agreeing not to reveal any differences between Andrew and Andrew, because to do so might undermine the Andrew Andrew brand..."

It would be more intriguing if their home page didn't have the embarassing tagline "This website was made with Microsoft Word" complete with a gratuitous frameset, a ton of semi-compliant embedded CSS and a noncompliant character probably intended to be '®'. Microsoft's own trademark, surprisingly apt.

Just in time for Christmas, you can now view my wish list on Amazon. Ok, ok, so you all haven't been waiting with bated breath to see what it is that I wanted from Amazon, but it can't hurt to try, can it?

One of my regular readers said he took the trouble to find an Amazon link on my site (not all that easy, was it?) to go shopping for some DVD hardware, in order to get me the referral credit. We hope that works, even though the "5%" credit is limited to $10 per item. That'll still be more than I usually make in a couple quarters. I don't really want to turn up the advertising, but I have added the text to the left and an Amazon search widget (at the bottom of the left column) to encourage a little more juice. Giving me the referral credit doesn't add to your bill! And it'll give me a little boost to keep putting up interesting content.

Ok, enough commercialism for a while.

4.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

While scanning through a few hundred spam subjects this morning, I was thinking that even though Cableone's filter is reasonably effective (maybe 5% or fewer escapes, and about 0.4% fall positives), it's a tedious annoyance to have to look through this garbage. Then I noticed a new theme, cheap watches:
Christmas Rolex Sale -- Only $65 - $140!! F...
It made me think about how they're having a "Rolex Sale" all over China and in a number of other countries, and if you pay $65, you are paying seriously too much. I'd start the negotiation at $5 (if it's running, the battery is worth at least 1 or $2), and wouldn't plan on going above $20.

Or did you think you were going to get a "real" Rolex for a special price by going spamorder? We're having a special on bridges this holiday season, too...

Jeanette was surfing around for Yangtze river stuff and found a beautiful travelogue from September of last year with photos that put mine to shame. The fredmiranda.com site is interesting, too, hosting a gaggle of excellent photographers. There is so much good work out there, it's rather amazing. It stands to reason, though; just about everyone who travels takes pictures, and there are millions of us traveling...

3.Dec.3 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Cableone's email service "all throughout Idaho" has been broken for more than half the workday, and still counting. They tell me they're working on fixing it just soon as they can, which I don't doubt, but it's still majorly annoying. If you emailed me something and it bounced, please be patient and try your call again later.

Later: the good news is, it's back. The bad news is, all that anxiety about missing something was misplaced.

32-year-old Shanghai artist, Yang Fudong's punchline is that the repression of the Chinese government has eased up to the point that he doesn't feel the need to escape anymore. Travelling's OK, though: "The purpose of going abroad is very simple. You take a look at what the world is doing and then you come back and you do it yourself."

Having just traveled to his country and brought back my own wealth of new ideas and imagery (and copywatch, copysunglasses, copydaypack), it struck me as funny that I feel pretty much the same way. It was an interesting place to visit, but I wasn't doing it for them, and I prefer living here.

(I've taken to saving any pages from the NY Times site that I want to reference. I've got 7 days to catch things, or else rely on the fair users who are willing to republish copies. I see a lot more interesting stuff than I'm willing to waste blog space on, though. I note this feature piece with the reluctance of "subscription required, expires in 7 days.")

Here's a bigger big picture look at the Medicare bill than I did when I looked at the individual end of the stick for the drug benefit. How much (less) would drugs cost if we went back to not allowing them to be advertised? We'd save the advertising expense, at least.

But that isn't what matters. What matters is that George Bush delivered on a campaign promise. All that seems to matter is getting GWB re-elected in 2004, then God help us after that.

The headline from yesterday's runoff election: Eberle wins in a landslide, 12,000 to 4,000 over the incumbent, appointee Paula Forney. Boiseans are anti-incumbent by a margin of 3:1, in a race that exposed no other distinguishing characteristics of the candidates. It's remarkable how strong a response a little felonious misuse of city funds engendered. With any sense of proportion, we'd be throwing out the state legislature bums, and our 4 man Congressional delegation, too, but I'm guessing by November 2004, the city and state will come to their senses and re-elect whomever. Whatever!

Ronald Brownstein's Washington Outlook (LA Times, subscription req'd):

"Seniors with big prescription drug bills, health maintenance organizations awaiting lucrative new subsidies, upper-middle-class families anticipating a fat tax refund, and Iraqi cities expecting new schools or hospitals all have reason to be thankful about President Bush's extraordinary success at pushing his agenda through the Republican-controlled Congress this year. There may be less celebration among the young people who will inherit the tab for these initiatives. Bush is funding every penny of every one of these goodies by increasing the national debt."

"Several reliable analysts project the federal deficit will soar past $500 billion this year -- and then remain near that unprecedented level for the indefinite future, even if the economy recovers. It's an understatement to conclude, as the Goldman Sachs investment bank did in a recent report, that the budget process in Washington is 'out of control.'"

Tom "tin ear" DeLay won't be cruising in New York Harbor during the Republican Reaffirmation this summer after all, and the headline writers are having... "a field day" doesn't quite match the nautical theme. GOP Torpedoed (NY Post), GOP bows to pier pressure (NY Daily News), DeLay scuttles NYC ship (The Hill), and so on.

Here's another reason to like the world wide web: you can enjoy the work of Jay Leno's writers without having to watch Leno.

2.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A stock photo of one of our squirrel horde

That little blast of winter over the Thanksgiving holiday didn't hold. It was up in the mid-50s today, sunny and indescribably delicious. Wet, fallen leaves suffuse the air with the ripe smell of autumn, and I had a buddy to play tennis with at lunchtime. The squirrels had a field day. Life is good. Now go back to thinking snow!

It's more than a little creepy that the Bush administration feels it has to make up stories to enlarge its image. That little drama about the exchange with the British Airways pilot on the way to Iraq? Huh-uh. Never happened. Maybe one of the folks in the presscon with Scott McLellan can ask "now is this a real story, or another one of those things you guys just made up?"

Oh wait, maybe it was between the BA pilot and the tower. Yeah, that's it.

Doc Searls is a radio-head from way back, and his blogrant about how radio can unsuck itself is an interesting read with (as usual), lots of "additional reading" referenced every-which-way off of it. "Old Fashioned Broadcasting -- AM, FM, TV, Shortwave -- is railroads. Internet Radio, by individuals and small organizations, is cars."

It's Votin Day again in Boise: one of the city council races ended in a plurality, so they run off. Everybody expected the mayor's race to end up here, too, but state Representative Dave Bieter beat the Sheriff and the Developer in the first round.

Gypsy Journals are an interesting collection of travelogues from all over the world. My friend Diane Ronayne mentioned Wylie and Helene's as one of note.

Maybe it's because I went to the University of Idaho up north, or maybe it's because they share a name with that Denver team (who beat my Packers once), but for whatever reason, I just have no interest in the BSU Broncos, unless it's to see them lose. Not much to see this year, as they're having their best season in recorded history, 11-1, and off to a freakin' bowl game. It's a little funny that Boise's own bowl game, the fabulous Humanitarian Bowl is not quite good enough for the Bongos now that they've hit the big time. It looks like it's supposed to be the champeens of the WAC and the ACC, but... how can we put this nicely? The BSU Broncos are just too good for the Boise bowl game. God bless 'em.

Pravda's not too keen on the idea of giving the Kurile islands back to Japan, but the idea of a cross-border park in the "Northern Territories" (or southern Kuriles, depending on your point of view) is a possibility. No sign of the purported website of "The Kurile Island Network" that I could find, though.

A website for people who want to experience the world and themselves by bike sounds pretty cool, but the style sheet renders the poor thing just about unreadable.

Hey, Phil Greenspun's got a blog. His modest tagline says "an interesting idea every three months; a posting every day," but I'm guessing he does considerably better than that. The posting about "how modern information systems are actually built" was interesting, at least. Thanks to Dave Winer for the link.

1.Dec.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The story of Tom DeLay and the Bahamanian-registered luxury cruise liner where he wants Republicans to stay, party, or just hang out during next summer's Republican National Convention seems too perfectly made for TV. The Hammer looks ready to force his way on the issue, with apparent obliviousness to his party's sinking image. It'll be "secure," one spokesman offers; unlike New York City, is the implication. (Why are the Repubs meeting in NY again?) Hey, it might be cheaper if they get to avoid the city's hotel tax, too, but really - is cost an object here?

It can remind us that DeLay changed House ethics rules (how many oxymorons can you find in this sentence?) "so that members could accept free trips and lodging to attend charity events." It can remind us of the revolving door between government and corporations, with DeLay's former chief of staff (Susan Hirschman) in the lobbying firm hired by the ship's owners to sell the idea. Maybe there are some deck chairs that could be rearranged.

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Tuesday, 06-Jan-2004 15:27:00 MST
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200312.html