Recent read; shop Amazon from this link (or the search widget below) and support this site.
Other fortboise logs
World News from:
The Sydney Morning Herald
Axis of Logic
Information Clearing House
Asia Times online
The Times of India,
The Hindustan Times
The Jerusalem Post
The Daily Star
New Zealand Herald
The Rocky Mountains:
Idaho Mtn Express
The Moscow Times
|Make my day via|
My Amazon Wish List
Andrew Sullivan's review of Irshad Manji's book, The Trouble with Islam makes it sound like something worth reading, now. She's not pulling punches.
"What Manji discovered in the madrasa was a symptom of what she sees as a broader and deeper problem: that Muslims have stopped thinking, that their faith has been hijacked by tyrants and bullies, and that it has become infested with all kinds of hatred -- of Jews, of women, of gays, of the West. And instead of confronting these issues directly and openly, most Western Muslims -- perhaps the only group of Muslims with the actual freedom to question, criticize and debate -- have decided to retreat into victimology and appeasement. Aided and abetted by the moral nihilism of academic postmodernism, these people have surrendered to the new fascists of the Arab world."
Steve Bass' "Home Office Newsletter" has an occasional bit of useful information and a lot of filler. It tends to pile up in my inbox and then get thrown away (rather like PC magazines themselves). While cleaning out old issues today, I came across some links into the extensive archive of the Padadena IBM Users Group, and enjoyed a couple of the videos.
Given my personal history with motorcycles and wheelies, this was of interest -- turns out it's the "other" kind of wheelie: [.5MB .mpg].
You've seen some of those wild-and-crazy tricks done on motocross bikes? When I watch what gets televised and see 90+% of the tricks getting hit cleanly I can't help but think how many times they get it WRONG while learning. It's got to hurt. Here's one that did: [.5MB .mpg].
Still in the slapstick realm, an important warning on the hazards of toothpaste use.
Today's NY Times editorial: "How to Hack an Election." "Critics of new voting technology are often accused of being alarmist, but this state-sponsored study contains vulnerabilities that seem almost too bad to be true. Maryland's 16,000 machines all have identical locks on two sensitive mechanisms, which can be opened by any one of 32,000 keys. The security team had no trouble making duplicates of the keys at local hardware stores, although that proved unnecessary since one team member picked the lock in 'approximately 10 seconds.'"
Wired's report provides background, and a link to the report. Incredibly, Diebold spun the conclusions as positive. How do you make these kind of quotes sound good? "We were genuinely surprised at the basic level of the exploits" that allowed tampering. "I can say with confidence that nobody looked at the system with an eye to security who understands security." "I was really surprised with the totality of the problems we found. Just about everywhere we looked we found them."
But hey, those are just extemporaneous utterances of people confronted with astounding denial. Try this, from the reports summary of results: "As part of our analysis, we considered both the specific ways that the code uses cryptographic techniques and the general software engineering quality of its construction. Neither provides us with any confidence of the systemís correctness."
I guess they figure that image is everything when it comes to voting machines (just as in elections), and let the best P.R. win. Or are they just counting on help from their well-placed friends?
Now available from Yahoo! -- something called "web beacons" (perhaps you heard about them as "web bugs") to help them and third parties track what you're up to while surfing. If you're not keen on that, you can opt out of the third party part of them. Note that this is different from all the other stuff you opted out from (didn't you?).
Now available from The National Security Archive: Declassified secrets from the U.S.-Iraq relationship in The Saddam Hussein Sourcebook.
CBS is holding firm in its decision not to let the rough and tumble of explicit political opinions interfere with its coverage of our national football spectacle tomorrow. MoveOn.org is getting plenty of mileage on it, and will get to put its $millions to use elsewhere to boot. Here's the Boston Globe's opinion on the subject:
"MoveOn.org's 30-second ad, which has aired on CNN, is a gentle yet powerful depiction of how hard today's children will have to work to pay off the country's mounting deficit. That's a vital message that might get lost in a year of campaign rhetoric, and it deserves a response from the White House in its own 30 seconds of imagery. America, sitting on the couch, junk food in hand, just might sit up and want to know more."
Eli Pariser got his opinion to run in the LA Times. (Free subscription required.) "The fewer issue ads run, the more time there is for ads with mud-wrestling women selling beer and leggy models peddling fast cars. CBS execs think Americans love mindless consumerism more than anything else and that it's their duty to pander to this."
And even CBS News is reporting on the CBS news. "'The network simply does not accept any advocacy advertising of any kind,' says CBS Executive Vice President Martin Franks. But CBS does plan to air anti-drug ads sponsored by the White House. The difference? 'There isn't a group out there advocating drug abuse.'"
We're having one of those "don't like the weather? Wait a minute." days today. It was warm all night, a burst of wind this morning delivered a hailstorm and some distant thunder, then the sun came out. My god, how long has it been since the sun has been out here in town? Three weeks?!
There's more weather coming in, though, and our three day flirtation with the 40s will reset to lows in the 20s, highs in the 30s, and I can go back to hoping that one wave after another of rain and snow showers can put something light over the 8" of base dropped on the Boise Front this week.
Paul Krugman's got a simple question: WHERE'S THE APOLOGY? Being the leader of the free world means never having to say you're sorry, I guess. What's the difference?
There's a move afoot to raise the bar for getting initiatives and referenda on the ballot in Idaho. The Legislature apparently doesn't like the idea of the public horning in on its territory. Neither do powerful lobbyists, it seems, by this Eye on Boise blog entry quoting IACI head Steve Ahrens.
We went to the DOE's hearing in Boise last night, to learn about "Risk-Based End States" (RBES) and what that concept might mean for the cleanup of nuclear and other toxic wastes at the INEEL site in SE Idaho. The Idaho Statesman's background piece gives a good introduction to the issue. Jeremy Maxand of the Snake River Alliance is quoted at the end: "Making the assumption that the world is going to be the way it is forever is kind of Roman or Mayan. Itís not a good way to make public policy. The goal should be while we have the money and the resources and the technology and the expertise, we should do it right the first time, so we donít have to put it off forever. This all comes down to saving money at the expense of protected water and the health of the people of Idaho."
So far, that has proven easier said than done. The good news is that the DOE is talking to the public, with apparent candor about past mistakes and a commitment to progress. That was in evidence from the working relationship between Maxand and the DOE's division director for environmental restoration, Bill Leake, who was the main speaker at the hearing.
This RBES idea has been brewing for a number of years, perhaps arising from the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation II. Their Literature Guide provides an opportunity for spelunking into the caverns of bureaucratic thinking. "The compendium editors were requested to limit the number of full text articles, in order to provide the reader with a practical, manageable set of information to read. Of course many other fine publications could have been included in full text, had the number of articles not been a factor. The reader is encouraged to look at the other listed article abstracts and to scan the complete bibliography to potentially identify other references of interest that might supplement the given complete text list to better serve one's own informational needs."
This appears to be a communication program related activity.
Our little tempest in a teapot over the misplaced Ten Commandments continues, providing lots of entertainment in the letters to the editor. Some people feel they've staked out the moral high ground and want to defend doing the Right Thing, at any cost. That's easier when the "any cost" comes out of others' pockets, as lawyer fees, court costs and perhaps even a recall election would.
Also in the Statesman's Letters, this interesting snake-chasing-its-tale story: "Those who are comparing President Bush to Hitler show an ignorance of history that can only be explained by conscious deception based on mean-spiritedness, hate and loathing not seen since Nazism. They are like Hitler whom they claim to reject, in that they demonize their supposed enemy and then send in their attack dogs."
If those comparing the President to Hitler are like Hitler, are those comparing those who compare the President to Hitler to Hitler like Hitler too? If I had a sound track for this entry, it would have to be from The Producers.
George Soros: "The US is now in the hands of a group of extremists."
I'm watching this business about legislative "relief" for corporate pension plans with particular interest. The bad news is that the Senate acted on the bill that the House had passed last year, before the recess. The good news is that they didn't accept the House bill as-is, so the two bills have to go to conference to get reconciled. The other good news is that interest rates remain low, low, low.
What I care about is what the 30-yr TSR for January 2004 is going to be; it hasn't been posted on the IRS site on January 8th the way my pension administrator said it would, and they're scheduled to calculate the lump sum value of my retirement plan to roll it into an IRA on the first of February.
A lower interest rate to provide for a future benefit means more money today, which is why corporate lobbyists worked so hard to get Congress to find away to use a higher interest rate than the (now defunct) 30-yr Treasury Securities Rate. The higher the interest rate the applies, the less money corporations have to set aside for the pension liabilities. Can the conference iron out the differences and get it signed before Feb. 1st? Hardly seems likely. Will the bill go retroactive to Jan. 1st? Probably. But will it apply to my rollover? That's what I'm waiting to find out.
The snow is always whiter on the other side of the fence. (If we're talking about the fence alongside a roadway, that's not a statement about misperceptions, it's a truism.) The seaboard gets a foot dump and they're probably miserable. We had a forecast of 2 to 4 inches yesterday and nought but a bit of misty rain showed up, and I'm not satisfied. If I were in northern Michigan standing by for 27", would I still be gung-ho? Maybe not...
Later... it's been raining most of the day down here, and I hear it's snowing an inch an hour up in the mountains. The steady drip in the downspouts is music to my ears. It's going to be a beautiful thing on the top of Schaefer Butte at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.
He hardly needs any flow from me (since I think he got /.'d), but when someone who reads a lot of résumeés takes the trouble to organize his thoughts to tell you how to get your résumeé read, you should pay attention. If you want somebody to read your résumeé that is. In addition, he gives lots of examples of where those accent thingies go. And it's pretty funny, too. Check him out.
Stopped down at the monument in Julia Davis park to see what the vigil looked like. There were only two guys holding down the fort when I arrived, and they told me that the group was up at City Hall, and I should go there instead. I said no thanks, I just wanted to see the monument and what was going on here. As I drove downtown, I'd been thinking these poor souls were out in the misty rain, but as it turns out they've got this cozy tent with 2 sides, sheltering a propane space heater. They're ready for a bit of bad weather, anyway.
One fellow (who I just noticed made himself scarce when I took out the camera at the end of our conversation) launched right into an emphatic speech about what's right and how the Ten Commandments are the foundation of what this county is all about and so forth, when I asked him to slow down and ease up, and were they at all interested in my point of view? There was some friendly give and take, but with a predictable outcome: nobody's opinion was much changed, but at least we were able to politely sustain a friendly disagreement for a little while.
Steve (holding the yellow sign) covered up the top 3 or 3½ Commandments and asked me if I would have a problem with it if the monument just had these. (I don't suppose he was proposing that it be altered if we could agree on that much, though.) Ok, I said, let's just consider the most obvious one -- Thou Shalt not Kill. I pointed out that there was plenty of killing going on in the Old Testament, and that the Commandment was really about murder, that is, unlawful killing. We ask our soldiers to kill for us during war, after all, and I haven't heard any protest against that activity because it violates our most basic precepts. "Yeah, but a lot of those guys, their conscience really bothers them when they come home!" he said. Indeed.
The Emphatic Guy, who mentioned that he wasn't from this city (I forgot to ask him where he was from) made a big deal about the Commandments being the basis for every one of our laws. Tax code, I asked? Steve said "those are statutes , not laws" as if that settles that. Another couple guys had gathered round, and one of them volunteered that the Bible says "Render onto Caesar what is Caesar's" etc., and so "Thou Shalt Not Steal" covers the government taking part of people's income. No doubt the IRS will appreciate the divine support.
As for the core issue, that a particular religious expression doesn't belong on city property, we didn't make much headway toward a compromise. The argument for leaving it seems to be that it's such an important religious expression, or somehow so fundamental to what this country is all about that it's different from all the other possible expressions of religious sentiments that we're not about to allow. The Anne Frank memorial, just down the path has sayings from Confucious, should we take that down, too? Interesting question. I supposed that the newer memorial was ecumenical, and after looking up what it says (PDF), it appears I was correct. Here's one quote on it I like, from Henry David Thoreau: It is never too late to give up our prejudices.
When I was attracted to, and joined HP, it wasn't that well-known outside of engineering circles, but within them, it had a reputation as an exemplary place to work. I found that to be so for most of the two decades I worked there, but the times they are a-changin' according to the surveys. I'm sorry to see it.
The hits keep coming: Jay Rosen's tied into several blogs, including The Revealer, "a daily review of religion and the press." Today's top item had some links to reviews of The Da Vinci Code which has been recommended to me from several angles. I guess I'm waiting for a free copy somewhere, having missed the first wave of its popularity. They should be plentiful soon (or already; it's 40% off at Amazon).
In the meantime, this review gives away enough of the novel's plot that I don't need to bother with the book. (It does provide a spoiler alert to "skip the next few paragraphs" in a strategic location, but no one gave me the strength to do that.) With so much good non-fiction, and legitimate scholarship available, it seems a shame that it's conspiracy theorists who hit the pop charts. (Legitimate scholarship into the abundance of actual conspiracies in the world would be even better.) I guess the moral of the story is that you gotta make it interesting.
As usual, there are gems in the Amazon reader reviews, such as this, in a 2-star rating: "However, as clever as the author would seem, he simply borrowed the research of others (read Holy Blood, Holy Grail) and wrapped it up in a paint by numbers thriller." Or this (just 1 star): "If you can stomach sentences like the following -- 'Everyone in the reception area gasped in wonderment at the sight of the half-naked albino offering the bleeding clergyman' -- then be my guest. You have been warned." Mass popularity gives you a wide selection to choose from - more than 2,000 reader reviews for it.
This is a pleasant diversion: the Language Log, a group weblog about language. Its blogroll has a couple dozen more in the genre, in case you can't get enough of this stuff.
After our city council made the obvious decision -- move the Ten Commandments monument out of the city park, so that we don't have to deal with idiotic proposals from the likes of Fred Phelps -- the monument's (or is it the Commandments'?) supporters have rallied, and begun a round-the-clock vigil. Will they be hauled off in a paddy wagon if they obstruct the movers? Will the movers fall on their knees and come to Yahweh? Anything could happen!
If you're in Ada County and you want to do some trash talkin', it's too late for today's open house, but there's still Tuesday and Thursday this week.
Cringely offers up the Cliff's Notes version of the outsourcing crisis: "What happens when we are down to just entertainment and agriculture?"
Jay Rosen provides a Davos sketch from a newbie, now that Lance Knobel isn't going (although he's still does his davosnewbies blog. That sent me to the "must-read" account of Cheney's speech there: "I've seen ushers get more applause than Cheney did. I wasn't in the hall, so I couldn't see everything, but when the camera panned the audience at the end of his little apologia, I could see that many were literally sitting on their hands -- or at least, keeping them firmly in their laps."
You can compare the account of it with the official transcript if you like. It doesn't include the stage direction for body language, however, but billmon's assessment fits with what I've seen from the Veep. Always in an avuncular way, of course.
Reading various comments on the infamous "empire" Christmas card quote, we flipped through our sources before I turned up the context of Benjamin Franklin's statement, which Dick Cheney has apparently looked up as well (see his response to Klaus Schwab in the Q&A section at the end of the White House transcript). Cheney did jocularly blame the choice of quotations on his wife; one can only assume they're both tone-deaf. Franklin, however, was not. As Jeanette notes, "he was a crafty devil," and his motion to include prayers at the beginning of the sessions of the Constitutional Convention was certainly intended to provide an antidote to the polarized points of view that had stalled progress, more than to make our government religious. At the time, a dose of religion had the possibility of bringing the delegates closer together; imagine that! They did not agree with Franklin's prescription; he noted peevishly that "The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary!"
Times have changed, and we now have ample prayers at legislative assemblies, along with the invocations on our currency and (temporarily, at least) in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Hey kids! Collect the entire set of statements about WMDs.
Kenneth Pollack's lengthy article in The Atlantic examines how we came to what Jane Harman called a "massive intelligence failure," with "a detailed account of how and why we erred." His point of view seems as well-informed as anyone's involved, and while sympathetic to the Bush and Clinton administrations, he does not mince criticism. The word that came to my mind while reading it was "groupthink." It looks like as good an impartial analysis as we're likely to get. (Pollack does recite the apologia that concludes by acknowledgeing that Hussein was of course "pure evil"; could it be Satan? And to think that not too long ago, he was our pal.... Apparently focusing one's messages of hate toward a foreign devil is not a problem.)
Come to find out, Wal-Mart is looking out for us. I'd get be a warm, fuzzy feeling from that if it weren't quite so creepy. Yet another reason to shop elsewhere. (Thanks to Lee K. for the heads-up.)
While listening to the news yesterday, I heard that New Hampshire has 4 electoral votes. Only 4! That's the same as Idaho, where a slightly larger population is spread over 9 times the area. But you're not going to be hearing about the "Idaho caucuses" on the national news. (If by some miracle you do, it'll be about a month from now.) Timing is everything.
Hurray, the inversion is finally broken! We've had crusty old snow left around town for two weeks now, and it just finally got augmented with more than an inch of new. My preference is to save it all for Sunday night, so that the ski hill is freshly covered, untracked and uncrowded for my Monday morning, but hey, you can't have everything.
A modest personal milestone along the snowboard learning curve: during Thursday's outing, I got to the point of getting down some black diamond ("most difficult," which is not as difficult as the double black diamond "expert only") runs over on the backside, where the fog was creeping in around the edges and to the bottom of chair 6. Had a go at the groomed-smooth and thin loose stuff on Second Chance, Upper Paradise and Wildcat, and lived to tell the tale. One skid on Second Chance was a bit dicey, though, as it looked like sliding down the steepest pitch on my butt was a possibility.
Drove up to Bogus in part 2 of the snow storm, straining to see with the wipers icing up... at 5:30, the crowd had cleared out and there was plenty of fresh powder on the few available lighted runs.
Oh oh oooooh, it is fun to snowboard in fresh snow. :-)
Out with the old and in with the new for the search for WMD in Iraq. The new guy has already set expectations low, with his Jan. 9th statement on the Newshour ("the prospect of finding chemical weapons, biological weapons is close to nil at this point") even as Dick Cheney and Scott McLelland work the proof by repeated assertion and semantic hair-splitting routes.
What about that grave and gathering danger that Bush announced to the UN in September 2002? Here's what Rep. Jane Harman (D-Cal.) of the House Intelligence Committee concludes: "Dr. Kay's astonishing statement today cannot be ignored. It is increasingly clear that there has been a massive intelligence failure."
"The administration seems to be in deep denial. There has been no acknowledgment of serious deficiencies in pre-war intelligence on Iraq and there is no apparent commitment to addressing them. The potential threat posed by Iraq's stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and Iraq's nuclear weapons program was central to the case for war. In light of Dr. Kay's statement, the President owes the American public and the world an explanation."
Don't hold your breath. Bush summarized his point of view in his "interview" with Diane Sawyer. "What's the difference?"
While you're shopping at Amazon, you can also drop some bucks in the cup for someone running for President. Interesting.
The pork-orama omnibus spending bill passed the Senate. More than 7,900 "earmarks," $11 billion of lubrication to get it through. That's an average of almost 15 earmarks per legislator. Did you get your special present?
In case you're keeping track, the January 22nd, 2004 action for this fiscal year's budget was due October 1st, 2003. No government shutdown this year (continuing resolutions kept it going), but almost a third of the year past the due date. In high school, you would get in a lot of trouble for being that late.
One of many things buried in the legislation is the "compromise" allowing large media outlets to extend their coverage from 35% to 39% of viewers. (The FCC was ready to roll over for 45%.) We can expect more actions such as CBS' refusal to air MoveOn.org's ad during the Super Bowl, no doubt. Just one happy military-industrial-media complex.
Maureen Dowd's talking about Riding the Crazy Train, but it's mostly not about Howard Dean's swan song in Iowa. Her translation of "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country" was this: "Hey, we don't need no stinking piece of paper to bring it on in other countries. If it feels good, we'll do it, and we'll decide later why we did it. You lookin' at me?"
Frank O'Donnell, on Sins of Omission: "What are we to make of the fact that President Bush completely ignored the topic of the environment during his defensive State of the Union address? Somehow the environment rated a goose egg -- like the dud idea of sending people to Mars -- and did not rank up there with such urgent national priorities as keeping professional athletes from taking steroids or making sure our tax money flows to 'faith-based' charities."
Richard Blow's review of Suskind's book about Paul O'Neill makes me want to read it. On the other hand, I feel like I know more than I want to know about what's going on in Bush's White House as it is. It's that car wreck rubber-necking fascination with horror.
After reading and hearing 6 or 7 different takes on Dean's concession speech, I looked it up on the web (helpfully served up by FoxNews of all things). It was close to over the top, but hardly seems enough to scratch him from the race. Someone on NPR termed it the "I have a scream" speech, but something tells me the critics haven't been on the working end of a campaign. (Watching one or twenty doesn't count.) Not Presidential enough for you? I'd rather have someone passionate about what they believe in and honest in their expression of it than someone lying to me, cheating me, and filling the pockets of a parade of cronies. But that's just me.
Coming to a campaign speech near you: the story of the recession that started earlier, "not on my watch." Of course, it ended more than two years ago. Right? What about the millions of missing jobs?
It's been a busy and unblogged long weekend, 4 days of it taken up with driving up to Spokane and back to visit the grandkids. All but a few bits at the top of the Blue Mountains were under this huge inversion, cold air stuck in the lowlands (and some not-so-low lands), waiting for some new weather to come on through. After a moment of sun, and a view over the foggy sea over the Columbia River basin, down Cabbage Hill and back into it. A bit of snow Sunday morning in Spokane was the one respite, otherwise it's all inversion, all the time.
Back home, getting up above it and back on the snowboard is the order of the day. Workin' on the snow tan.
Meanwhile, back in the workaday world, exciting news out of Iowa, where the Democratic caucuses ran away from the script. The odds are long, but there's an outside chance the race will still be interesting a month from now, when the Idaho Democrats have their caucuses. Y'all come!
Just now looking at the numbers; Kerry beat Dean by more than 2 to 1! Edwards was closer to Kerry in the lead than to Dean's 3rd place. Even more remarkable is that more than half of those polled at caucus entrances said they were attending for the first time. Only 1 in 5 registered Democrats could be bothered to show up. You have to wonder about that: Iowa has made itself the center of attention, gets the personal focus of most of the candidates, and 4 out of 5 people don't even care enough to let their preference be known.
We taped Bush's State of the Union speech last night, watched it after choir practice, with pauses as needed to take notes, and zipping over some of the gratuitous ovations. The $1.5 billion marriage promotion didn't make the final cut (leaving just a suggestion to look into "the constitutional process" to thwart arbitrary will-enforcing judges). The main act was more than half of the speech talking about terror, war, our military heroes: Some question whether we're really at war... let me emphasize that we are: 9-11, 9-11, 9-11. Did you notice how being "at war" against terror segued seamlessly into being at war in Iraq? We are protecting the "homeland" by pre-emptive war waged on other countries. How soon before War is Peace?
Were you shaking your head like Teddy Kennedy was when Bush used David Kay's report to support -- to support! -- all that? That's the report with "dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities," 'cause there weren't any WMDs. It takes a special sort of person to lie the way Bush has and then deliver this line without a hint of self-consciousness, let alone irony: "For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible -- and no one can now doubt the word of America." The context of course is that no one can now doubt the resolve of America('s leaders) when we say we're going to kick your ass. On matters of fact and intelligence (read that how you will), there is still a great deal to doubt when "America" speaks.
He read over this part of the script without irony, too: "The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world." He did at least show a sense of irony when the introduction to his pitch to keep empowering John Ashcroft brought premature applause from the Democrats: "Key provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire next year." He mentioned his "tour of duty" on the deck of an aircraft carrier and a mess hall in Baghdad: he's totally behind the military. Well behind them.
Ah well, if you care about it, you watched it, or read the flood of punditry reviewing it, or your mind's already made up and you're immune to all this second guessing and incredulity. They're counting on sleeping dogs laying, and scared voters punching R.
Alessandra Stanley wins my prize for best snarky parenthetical comment about Bush's speech:
The president defended the tougher testing provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act by saying, "This nation will not go back to the days of simply shuffling children along from grade to grade without them learning the basics." (He made his point: his speechwriters seemingly did not learn the rule that the possessive precedes a gerund; the president should have said "without their learning the basics.")
A perfect square day: sixteen, one, four. Ok, 2004's not a perfect square, but less is more.
Another multi-billion merger of giant corporations, another 10 thousand jobs hit the floor while the multi-million dollar golden parachutes waft quietly away from the skyscrapers.
After last week's runup to the space initiative with its (mere) one billion dollar punchline spread over 5 years, we can now start waiting for the State of the Union and a $1.5 billion initiative to promote certain kinds of "marriage".
I listened to some of Bush's speech to NASA yesterday, while driving up through the woods to Bogus Basin. Having the "video" a twisting road through snowy woods and the audio a greeting from the International Space Station was a bit odd, but curiously satisfying. Seeing administator O'Keefe and resident Bush at the lectern and Michael Foal in my mind's eye was every bit as satisfying as seeing them on my computer screen.
Giving this show in front of a group at NASA has to define "warm welcome," and it can't help but be exciting to hear a "vision" of renewed human having a bold vision for space exploration laid out. (Apparently the Secret Service didn't get the memo, though: watch at the end, while Stars and Stripes Forever is piped in, as Bush is yanked back by the hips several times when he leans into the receiving line too far.)
But. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) I was listening to this thing being drawn as some sort of corporate undertaking, the people we used to call "astronauts" being labeled "spatial entrepeneurs." O'Keefe's background is business (former deputy director of the OMB and Defense Dept. CFO) and business has been good to George W. Bush as well. It doesn't make a lick of sense as a business undertaking, of course. It's too expensive, too risky, and its returns, if any, are too indirect, too dependent on technology development too many years into the future.
I was reminded of how many times I've heard managers and marketers talk about technology they didn't really understand, with a vocabulary cadged from those who do, the words shuffled around by speechwriters.
What's it worth to stand on the moon? Or Mars? How much of your life expectancy are you willing to sacrifice for a couple months' dose of interplanetary radiation along the way? Will Congress and bean counting administrators make the the business tradeoff of how much shielding to use, how fast to go, how much redundancy to purchase? Someone has to pay for all of this, of course. Like so much of the Bush administration's undertakings, the "who" is future generations, who have no voice in the decisions we make today.
Bush calls for reallocating an eighth of NASA's current $87 billion 5-year NASA budget, and adding just $1 billion over what at worst will be the rest of his watch. It's the "vision thing" Poppy lacked, but essentially unfunded, and scheduled so that nothing is deliverable before Election Day, and nearly nothing will be deliverable over W's 2nd term, should such a fate befall us. (The Crew Exploration Vehicle -- shades of Fantastic Voyage?! -- will be "developed and tested" by 2008, unless it's late, and the CEV would "conduct its first manned mission" no later than 2014, unless it's late.) No budget, no deliverables, no chance of failure. Such a guaranteed "success" is called vaporware in the technology business, and if I were part of NASA, I'd be embarrassed to be a stooge for this nonsense, a week of news buildup about this "new mission to Mars" (no timetable set) when the current, real mission to Mars is a lot more interesting.
The view from down under seems on the money to me: One big step for Bush in poll year.
Peter Maas studies Professor Nagl's War in Iraq, an interesting, long piece in the NY Times Magazine: "My first experience of war was the gulf war, which was very clean. We shot the tanks that didn't look like ours, we shot the enemy wearing a uniform that didn't look like ours, we destroyed the enemy in 100 hours. That's kind of what I thought war was. Even when I was writing that insurgency was messy and slow, the full enormity of that did not sink in on me. I am seeing appreciable progress, but I am starting to understand in the pit of my stomach how hard, how long, how slow counterinsurgency really is. There is no prospect it's going to end anytime soon."
No mention of the Kurds' role in the "notable achievement" of capturing the head bad guy, though.
Whatever was planned for today (Ok, I didn't have much really planned) got rearranged around a flat tire on one car, and then surprise! the water heater's leaking. Our trusty 40-gallon gas burner has been kicking out the therms for all of our 20½ years in the house, so it's not a shock that time's up. (Could it be the original equipment in the house, 40+ years old?!) Some water (not a whole lot, fortunately) to clean up, drained the tank and considered DIY vs. having it done. My neighbor the plumbing parts guy gave a couple suggestions (including "we could do it," meaning him and me) and I ended up going through Home Depot. Their "same day" deal didn't actually happen as advertised (and the customer service agent didn't mention the $75 additional fee that was foremost on the plumber's mind), so we're chillin' until tomorrow morning's work party.
The package deal is pretty reasonable, except for one little unknown: the "free" safety inspection, which will include any mods needed to get us up to code. There are a few changes needed, starting with putting the shutoff valve on the supply side of the union. (D'OH!) Then there's the matter of where the relief vent goes... If I had to make a wild guess, I'd say the local subs make up for the cost-controlled installation fee with the charge for the added requirements.
Some day, I'm going to write up the story of my one and only visit to Comdex, after it was over the hill but before senescence had really set in. In case you slept through the last three years, the action is now at CES, the future of electronics now starting with "Consumer" instead of "Computer." I loved the keynote speeches, nothing like a good show. Mike Landberg rates the wowsiest of what this year's show provided.
Good day to get out of town and up the hill. The top of the fog was between 4 and 5,000 feet, and past that, it's all smooth sailing. Or smooth riding, actually. I'm starting to get the hang of this snowboard thing, two days out of the last three in the supra-inversion sunshine.
Back down in the valley, it's condition red, "unhealthy for sensitive groups." The DEQ's color scale goes past red: purple is worse, then dark purple, downright Hazardous. Nothing coming to stir it up much until Thursday either, yuk! If it builds up high enough to bury Bogus Basin, escape won't be so easy.
You may have noticed that the initial version of a lot of stories isn't turning out quite the same as the final. Here's a blog on that theme: whatreallyhappened.com? Thanks to Lee K. for the link into it, and leads to these gems that I hadn't stumbled into yet:
Blair: I do not know if Iraq had WMDs (he says now. In Sept. 2002, he said "His WMD programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The WMD programme is not shut down. It is up and running.")
Colin Powell now says the Iraq-Al Qaeda link was faith-based rather than fact-based.
Ex-SecTreas Paul O'Neill's telling tales from his time inside the bubble, Saddam ouster planned from get-go, nothing convincing about WMDs, and Cheney's economic insight: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." They don't matter for getting re-elected anyway, by try that story with the IMF. Sorry I missed 60 Minutes last night. (James Arnold provides an overview of O'Neill's story for context; yeah, he's selling books, and yeah, we didn't like him as SecTreas, but yeah, we tend to believe him now.)
As if it weren't hard enough to find a nugget of truth in what comes out of the government now, how about having the OMB filter everything first?
And before the day was out, news that... the White House is investigating Paul O'Neill for taking classified documents with him when he cleared out his desk. My favorite part of the story coming over the radio was how maybe they were responding to criticism that they hadn't been tough enough on security, for example with that leak about Valerie Plame, so now they were getting tougher. Yeah, that's it.
Or maybe, as Rupert Cornwell put it in The Independent, "The announcement last night by a department spokesman sounded very much like an effort by the Bush administration to punish the plain-spoken former treasury secretary for comments that already have become a major embarrassment for Mr Bush." Maybe that would account for it happening right away, too.
But damn, Paul O'Neill isn't the only one shooting off his mouth. Here's a report from the Strategic Studies Institute of all places: "The global war on terrorism as presently defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate US military and other resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security." File it under stating the obvious, but nevertheless, it bears repeating.
Surreal times at the Pentagon from the Toronto Star. I thought Rummy was scary before I really saw him in action. It's worse than I thought. Beware the affable warmonger, and blind men in rooms full of deaf people. The concluding observation of Bush not attending military funerals (yeah, like the Administration wants that video bite on the evening news) brought to mind the Christie Gorsline's "Reader's View" in the Statesman: we bring our dead home very quietly.
Ok, the inversion's thickened up enough for some hoarfrost. Still not my choice of weather, though. Hope to get out later today.
I was at the University of Idaho during Ernie Hartung's tenure, too, and the people I most respect from that time have nothing but good things to say about him. Not mentioned in Tim Woodward's reminiscence is the fact that he was instrumental in establishing the Learning Center, which my wife set up and ran in the 1970s.
The Democratic Underground's update of its Top Ten Conservative Idiots list provides a riposte to that "left wing freak show" ad from The Club for Growth. Viewer discretion and all that.
So much for the football season. Was it the 4th and goal late in the first half that the Eagles resisted? Until the overtime interception, that was the only mistake to pin on the Packers' offense. The defense was fantastic until it came to the Eagles' do-or-die 4th and 26 from deep in their own territory. Stop 'em and you win the game, let 'em gain 28 and... well, it's a happy, happy day if you're an Eagles fan, let's leave it at that.
The one highlight for a Packers fan is that Donovan McNabb illustrated once again (like we needed another illustration?) that Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot. (In case you missed it, Rush dissed McNabb as a disappointing, equal opportunity QB.)
Our "always-on" internet service through CableOne went off yesterday, and the recording on the support line said it would be down until at least this morning, or this afternoon. I checked in the morning (n.g.) and again in the afternoon, when it was back up. No place to look on the web for status (as if that would be any help when you can't get to the web, eh?), and their operation doesn't produce apologies, explanations, or refunds for non-performance, unless you jump through way more hoops than $2 are worth. No doubt their service agreement has a disclaimer somewhere that you shouldn't count on them for anything critical...
And as if all that wasn't enough gloom, our so-called Treasure Valley is a basin of smog these days, a full-blown inversion settling in (without the visual relief of the hoarfrost we had 2? years ago) and coloring what should be clear a blend of gray, blue and brown. I escaped on Saturday for a snowboard session in clean air and the temperature in the mid-40s on the mountain; the only downside (ok, I'm not counting the butt slams on hard-packed cat tracks) being that you see the opacity of the air to which you must return.
I (in the generic sense) was in the NY Times today, Louis Uchitelle's story of incentives luring many to quit. As a 40-something, I'm on the "didn't get health care" side of the early retirement divide...
I was behind the mass market curve seeing Bowling for Columbine and late as well for reading about how dishonest the movie was. Thanks to Mark Odell for setting me straight. Of course, you don't have to be honest to be popular.
Thanks also for a diversion into Justin Raimondo's world. Among the selection of rants is this thorough deconstruction of David Brooks' NY Times opinion piece dismissing critics of the PNAC/neocon agenda as "full-mooner" anti-Semites.
Raimondo also explains that the notion that Qaddafi rolled over because of our pre-emptive war on Iraq is utter nonsense.
The good news is that you're a lot more likely to get food poisoning than variant CJD. The bad news is that the trouble with factory meat is unlikely to be behind us for some time. (One assumes the "Mad Cow Coordinator for the Organic Consumers Association" doesn't suffer from excess optimism.)
Yesterday's thaw didn't hardly dispose of the snow blanket, so we're left with tracked-up slush, frozen in place. It's 40°F up at Bogus this morning, still below freezing down in the valley. The dreaded inversion.
Late-40-somethings with partnership news at CES: HP to resell Apple's iPod and ship PCs with iTunes. I loved this bit from the NY Times story: "Microsoft has said that it plans to offer its own MSN music store later this year. Thursday the company appeared unprepared for the Apple-Hewlett agreement, which clearly stung Microsoft executives. They said the agreement would limit choice and harm consumers." Microsoft on the side of consumer choice, how charming.
The Guardian put Carly's attack on music pirates in her CES keynote speech at the top of the story. "Just because we can steal music doesn't mean it is right. Just because we can steal intellectual property doesn't mean it is right. It is illegal, and it is wrong," she said. I think "thou shalt not steal" was established as a rule some time ago, but the more enduring principle has always seemed to be "thou shalt avoid getting caught." HP's going to be providing hardware and software to help boost its customers' morality.
George Ziemann looks at the other side of the piracy coin: has the RIAA rigged the game, producing "sales are down 10%" on cue for Congressional hearings? Let's just say Big Music wouldn't be the first group of large corporations to cook their books for PR purposes. Creative accounting is not their only plan of action, however; the head of the ATF has been recruited to up the ante in anti-piracy.
A familiar name popped up in Sharon Beder's Power Play book, in the "Federal Politics" chapter, right after "Deregulation in California." "The Official Explanation" for the problems in California was that an economic boom, a spell of unusually hot weather and not enough power plants because of opposition from environmentalists caused a shortage.
"Such claims were contradicted by the evidence, as outlined in the previous chapter, and by more independent studies, including figures from the Californian ISO (Independent System Operator). The showed that growth in demand was less dramatic than portrayed and not a primary cuase of the crisis; but these were ignored by most media outlets.
"A coalition of groups, the 21st Century Energy Project, sought to ensure that the blame for the Californian crisis was placed on environmentalists who had impeded the construction of new electricity generation. It was put together by Ed Gillespie, a former George W. Bush campaign strategist, who concurrently did work for Enron."
Ed's moved on: now he's the chairman of the Republican National Committee. As Fundraiser-In-Chief, he's doing one heck of a job for W., too.
The weapons disposal team is packing up and coming home, with nothing to dispose. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has released its report, WMD IN IRAQ; Evidence and Implications. "The report distills a massive amount of data into side-by-side comparisons of pre-war intelligence, the official presentation of that intelligence, and what is now known about Iraq's programs." What did they find?
Iraq WMD Was Not An Immediate Threat
Inspections Were Working
Intelligence Failed and Was Misrepresented
Terrorist Connection Missing
Post-War WMD Search Ignored Key Resources
War Was Not the Best-Or Only-Option
China's figured out one thing to do with all those dollars we're sending them: another big bailout for their banks ( Xinhua online, NY Times, Sydney Morning Herald copy of the NYT piece, with the catchy headline "Beijing tops up bad-loan banks again," China Daily's feel-good version, "China deals with bad loans," buries the $45B lede).
The Asia Times gives the bleakest view: "In a desperate and unprecedented move, China has pumped US$45 billion..." except that it wasn't unprecedented). Not to worry, they've got several hundred billion$ more in the foreign exchange kitty. "The irony is that nearly all of the bad debts piled up at the state banks are attributable to the government's own mismanagement and widespread corruption by its own employees. Multi-billion dollar government-financed projects are sometimes shut down the very day they are completed...."
In the "ignorance is strength" category, we read "Beijing bars Chinese journalists from reporting on the full extent of the banks' troubles." $45 billion here, $169 billion there, after a while it adds up to real money. Apparently the idea of "loan" as something that must be paid back hasn't really become embedded in the culture; perhaps a quarter or a third (or more) of the loans are "non-performing." But they've tidied up the 2003 books, and will be selling shares in the banks to the public, most of whom won't be bothered to read the fine print.
I don't care for any of that stock, but a "loan" might be nice. Say $5 million to tide me over?
With a burgeoning trade imbalance, budget deficit and pensions coming due for an aging population, the US' finances have come a cropper and the IMF has noticed. The dollar's getting cheaper, maybe our labor will start looking attractive soon and we can add back all those millions of jobs lost on Bush's watch. "The IMF's report warned that the US' net financial obligations to the rest of the world could be equal to 40 percent of its total economy within a few years, creating Ďan unprecedented level of external debt for a large industrial countryí."
But people like tax cuts, and Bush's "all tax cuts, all the time" agenda is a sure winner. The Democrats raising the ugly truth that someone has to pay for all this are just not going to be welcome in middle America. When the going gets tough, Bush tells us to get tough by going shopping. I feel a malaise coming on.
Just when Utah appeared ready to roll out the welcome wagon for radioactive waste, its governor went off to head the EPA. Promoted from Lieutenant Gov., Olene Walker turned things around in a hurry Now even the Mormons have said no.
Your Bank Account, Your Liberties: "Once we had examined the sum of my daily financial life spanning several months we determined, together, that no fraud had been perpetrated. It was at this point that my banker reactivated my ATM card. I thanked him very much for the service." He doesn't even get around to mentioning the expansion of the term "financial institution" to apply to "businesses that handle money," but its scary enough as it is.
Fresh off the "New Books" shelves at the Boise Public Libary, Sharon Beder's "Power Play", about "The Fight to Control the World's Electricity." All three of the reader reviews on Amazon give it 5 stars, and I'm impressed with the Introduction and first couple chapters.
"This book demonstrates that, although arguments for privatisation and deregulation have inevitably been presented in terms of their public benefit, privatisation is really undertaken for the benefits of particular commercial interests at the expense of the public's. It shows how simplistic ideology and economic theory have been used to mask the pursuit of self-interest; how control of electricity has been wrested from public hands to create profit opportunities for investors and multinational corporations; and how an essential public service has been turned into a speculative commodity in the name of 'reform'."
Afghanistan has a new consitution, with among other things, equal rights for men and women. They also have a continuing problem with terrorism from the Taliban: bicycle bombs, blowing up children coming out of school.
Given what a great success the School of the Americas (or should I now say the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) was, you may be heartened to learn that the US will be helping set up a new Iraqi spy service.
"The creation of a well-functioning local secret police, that in effect is a branch of the CIA, is part of the general handover strategy. If you are in control of the secret police in a country then you don't really have to worry too much about who the local council appoints to collect the garbage," said John Pike, of the Global Security organization. "The presence of a powerful secret police ... will mean that the new Iraqi political regime will not stray outside the parameters that the US wants to set. To begin with, the new Iraqi government will reign but not rule."
Robert Dreyfuss' account on The American Prospect includes this Bad Cop bluster from an unnamed "neoconservative strategist": "It's time for 'no more Mr. Nice Guy.' All those people shouting, 'Down with America!' and dancing in the street when Americans are attacked? We have to kill them." And ends with Richard Perle's downside forecast: "If we were to retreat, I shudder to think of the wave of terrorism it would unleash." Every way but his way, or more likely every way and his way is a jungle of terrorism.
It strikes me a bit odd that in all the flap about Ephedra, we've heard more about Ma Huang (Ma who?) than Mormon tea, the local common name for species in the genus Ephedra, from when we got ephedrine and the notion to make that useful decongestant, pseudoephedrine.
When I put in my vote today, the not-quite half a million poll respondents were supporting FDR over RRR by a 3:1 margin. Time to get off the dime? (Hmm, that URL is a month old...)
So, the $25 million bounty for information leading to Saddam Hussein's capture that someone in our Executive branch OK'd... did that get paid out? Do the people who paid it -- that's you and me -- get any kind of accounting? Or is it delivered with an out-of-court settlement that parties on both sides can't comment on? It appears as if there's better than even odds the Kurds led the way, at least, but all of a sudden the story has gone reeeeal quiet.
More from David Pratt here. Watch for a strengthened role for the Kurds in the New Iraq®.
Ed Gillespie and his Republican National Committee are getting all the mileage they can from the audacity of a couple of the ads that ran in the moveon.org contest. There's no touchstone for polarizing debate quite as potent as der Führer, so expect this to make news just as long as the Committee can keep it going. Of course, making lots of news was the idea of the ad's originators, too, but they hardly could have expected the RNC to serve up the ad after moveon.org had pulled it!
Fox News is serving up the ad, too (in between a pair of "I DECIDE" self-promotions), converted from QuickTime to Windows Media or Real formats (no geeky Mac users in the Faux audience, I suppose) and with the text reduced to unreadability. Is it "fair use" if you damage the goods before presenting them? FN now styles itself "The Channel of Political Record" in the same proof-by-repeated-assertion style that made their entertainment "fair and balanced," or for that matter, "news."
The 15 contest finalists are up on the Bush in 30 Seconds site and while none are quite as dramatic as the ad in question, they're all powerful, stark, and guaranteed to piss Ed Gillespie off.
If you're looking for a lengthy, thoughtful analysis of the Democrats' dilemma for this fall's election, James Traub's piece in this week's NY Times Magazine is it. I imagine that 90+% of voters couldn't be bothered to read that much on the subject. Traub's message for Dems is gloomy: the qualities that are required to win the nomination may guarantee a loss in November. Bush's parade float will be the short-term ends -- "we got 'im!" -- with the deception and the long-term mortgage of the means hidden behind the flowery skirts.
After our little doses of snow here in Boise (the mountains get more, of course, a foot and more in some of the neighborhood), we're getting a nip of the arctic air that's sending temperatures down to the minus thirties in Montana. Seriously winter.
I caught the beautifully produced episode of Nova, MARS Dead or Alive on PBS last night. It's a history of the latest mission to Mars, ending with scenes from the control room Saturday night when they got a signal back from the rover on the planet's surface. Elegant timing for a show that's been in-process for a couple years, with a follow-up to be shown tomorrow (Tuesday) night, with the latest pictures. The day after that, you can watch the program via the web.
Agence France-Presse is happy enough to capitalize on our (and others') space program(s) it seems, snarfing the marsdaily.com domain. The ads are worth it, for having a "Portal to Mars," perhaps. You can get closer to the source at JPL's Mars Rover site though.
I had the old '30s book out this morning and was playing through I've Got the World on a String which seems to fit the news of Stardust mission pretty well -- flying through a comet's tail and picking up a piece of it on the way.
RFK Jr. doesn't make the news all that much, as he flies under the news radar as senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council. This lengthy interview with him on Salon is worth the reading. Useful information to save up for the final days of the coming presidential campaign, when the last of the undecided and non-voters need persuasion.
"Under Bush we're seeing the complete corporate domination of the various departments of government. The Agriculture Department, which was created to benefit small farmers, is now a wholly owned subsidiary of big agribusiness and the principal instrument of their destruction. The Forest Service is being run by a timber industry lobbyist, Public Lands by a mining industry lobbyist. Virtually all Bush's Cabinet secretaries, department deputies and agency heads come from the very industries that those agencies are supposed to be regulating.
"The same thing happened in Germany, Italy and Spain during the fascist takeover in the 1920s and '30s -- you had industrialists flooding the ministries and running the ministries, and running them in many ways for their own profit."
News came out that the washing machine was leaking last night, and I had to spring into action as household engineer and plumber. I had more enthusiasm for that sort of thing once upon a time. Speed Queen seems to have devolved to an industrial-only brand, with not much presence at retail. Can you even find parts for an almost 20 year old model?
The first challenge was how to get the thing open, with no clues from any of the literature I'd dutifully filed away. A bit of web searching turned up the fairly awesome repairclinic.com, with "appliance parts, help and more." The washing machine section has partially exploded diagrams of various types of washers, and I could at least infer that ours was top load Maytag style, meaning the front panel comes off and the top lifts up to expose the innards. The rollover information about the "washer front" tells me "Remove screws near bottom, pull out bottom 18 inches and top will release." That was exactly the disassembly information I needed, and my only regret was that I didn't find it until after we'd hauled it out to the garage; the design allows for working on the machine in place, with connections intact.
As best I could tell, the water pump or perhaps the hoses connecting to it are the likely leakers. The "Part Detective" led me to this page with three orthogonal views of part #3053, posed against a 1 inch grid. It's available, $38.35, and can ship today. Very, very effective web design.
Which still leaves the question of whether I want to try and repair this thing, or go out and buy a new one with 19 years of engineering improvements and cost reduction, and maybe free delivery. I think the latter, although I hate to junk the thing when a relatively inexpensive (if not easy) repair will get it working again. I'm thinking I'll fix it up and then donate it, but I'm not wild about having it take up space in our single car garage for the winter...
Consumer Reports says to go ahead and repair washing machines up to 5-years old, and to "consider" repairing 5- to 8-year-old machines if you've been satisfied with their performance. They're big on the whizzy front-loaders, too, while acknowledging that they cost 2 or 3 times (!) as much. Aside from my bruised knuckles and aching back, I could fix the old Queen for $50, maybe. Or find that the leak wasn't in the water pump? Time for a new washing machine.
Cringely examines how last year's prognostication went, and rolls out a new batch for 2004. Last year, I was alarmed by his prediction that "HP/Compaq would continue its long slide to oblivion." He thinks that was accurate, and for 2004, "the U.S. IT industry will see some real growth except for Hewlett-Packard and Sun, which will continue their declines." And 14 others.
"And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"
Not a bad little Biblical verse, especially for your Christmas card if you're a heartbeat away from being the leader of the new American Empire.
Be very afraid of those who say they have God on their side. Right behind them are those who are certain their vision is clear and right even as hundreds and thousands die in service to the vision.
As the Bush administration makes further strides to emulate corporate America in running the government, we can observe the perils of outsourcing: oops, the BLM didn't realize their contractor was headed by folks from the mining industry. But hey, I'm sure they'll give an objective report, and it's just a coincidence that essentially the whole planning area was recommended to be left open for mining (and other) developments.
Tom von Alten tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org