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31.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Here's what it means to be an 800 pound gorilla in the business world: the national Bureau of Economic Analysis for the country with the biggest economy in the world has a special note and a FAQ entry about the your special dividend and its effect on the economy. "The dividend payment affects the fourth-quarter estimate of personal income released on January 28, and will also affect the estimates of corporate profits, national income, and government current receipts that will be released on March 30."

30.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I started laughing when reading the news that Qatar might sell Jazzera when I got to the Bush administration complaints "that Al Jazeera's broadcasts have been inflammatory, misleading and occasionally false, especially on Iraq." Sorta like Fox News or White House press conferences, eh?

27.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Now for something completely different: vegetative portraits from Susan Hesse. "I have a somewhat strange sense of humor, but I'm a little on the quiet side, and sometimes it's hard for me to express it verbally." (Thanks to David Pogue for the link.)

Frank Rich deconstructs quagmires, our love for the military and Inauguration Day, under a Jan. 30th dateline: "(T)elevision's ceremonial coverage of the Inauguration, much of which resembled the martial pageantry broadcast by state-owned networks in banana republics, made a dutiful show out of the White House's claim that the four-day bacchanal was a salute to the troops."

On feeling alone in the world, Tom Friedman reports from across the pond: "Mr. Bush is more widely and deeply disliked in Europe than any U.S. president in history. Some people here must have a good thing to say about him, but I haven't met them yet."

Our new cordless portable headset phone, the Plantronics CT12 I don't know what the problem was, but after giving me a 2-week estimate for a shipping date after my Jan. 2d order, Amazon emailed me at t=+3 weeks and said "it's going to be another month. Do you want to wait?"

Huh uh. I checked the product page again, and they said they had 31 used and new from about the same $70 price that I'd jumped after from them. One of the suppliers was... Amazon, "usually ships in 2 to 3 days." I decided to try Headset Discounters instead. I had to spend a bit more for the shipping, but for just under $80, this is a fantastic cordless portable with headset. My biggest complaint is that it's a bit on the small side, but the under-40 set won't mind that. And it has the no-feedback-from-microphone design flaw that I'm told some cellphones do. (A bit of feedback helps you sound right to yourself, so you don't have to think about whether you're being heard, and so you know when you're on mute.) But I'll get used to that, and the rest is fabulous. Nice little display, callerID, great sound. (N.b. the reviews that complain about interference with wireless routers; not everyone has the problem, and I don't have ours turned on, so it's not an issue, here.)

Amazon says 30 left today, starting from well under half the original list price. Go get 'em!

26.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tough choice: iPod vs. Cassette

"I believe that he talks to God." Patsy Brown, of George W. Bush, on Inauguration Day.

Yet another interesting way to communicate an idea: the people who use my Amazon referral links and then buy something (and thereby give my hobby here a little boost, thank you) that I've never heard give me something new to consider. I don't know if the book is any good (most, but of course not all the reader reviews are positive), but I love this title: Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager.

It's not just the bleeding-heart liberals driving Priuses any more, the neocons are getting into the act, too.

OTOH, when a black DUMMER passed me on my bike the other day, I thought about how those things are the image a lot of people have of this country: big, ugly, sucking up too much gas and taking up too much of the road. A necon in a Prius seems as wrong as me driving an SUV, but if it's James Woolsey, maybe we should suspect covert action.

Speaking of crises possibly more imminent than Social Security's, there's a new, lower estimate of the CO2 concentration in our atmosphere that will cause a damaging fever: 400ppm. We're at 375 and climbing by 2 per year, giving us just 12½ years to go.

George Soros, who knows a think or two about nation-building, deconstructs the new Bush Doctrine: "Paradoxically, the most successful open society in the world, the United States, does not properly understand the first principles of an open society; indeed, its current leadership actively disavows them."

25.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yesterday's view of Schaeffer Butte from my hike at Bogus Somebody asked about a good reference to learn LaTeX and someone else asked "isn't that way over?" and someone else said "oh no, there are all sorts of lively discussions still, and there's also LilyPond, for music.

The real nut is back to TeX— pronounced most like its cognate root "tech" by those in the know; it's spelled "tau epsilon xi" rather than t-e-x— and we can find that LaTeX is "the most popular macro set" for the macro compiler that is TeX. I was surprised that no one seems to have taken the trouble to get the name formatted just so in HTML...

How about this: TEX. Sheesh, that wasn't so hard (if your browser's up to snuff, anyway). LaTEX is a bit trickier, but just a bit. It can be done with em sizing, rather than px also: TEX. Possibly more reliable across browser variants.

I like the art in trying to capture some enthusiasm for a snow report when the report is not good. Today's: "Good on machine groomed runs. Spring like conditions in the afternoon. Firm in some areas." The "altitude adjustment" is a nice thing, and I got mine yesterday, but firm in some areas is an amusing understatement. We could also say "set up like a skatin' rink overnight, staying that way in the shade and a lot of the sunny spots have gone completely bare."

24.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Cirrus and a sun dog over an inversion layer In case you didn't see enough reporting on the protestors at Bush's inauguration (which of course you didn't, because the corporate media decided it wasn't a story), there's this from Democracy Now!

"And we found a perfect moment, good thing we didn't wait for him to say Iraq, because he never said that the whole time but he did say the freedom of dissent and how important that is for people around the world to have that freedom. We thought, okay. That's our time. So, we pulled out our banners. We get up on the chairs. We stand there with our banners. And immediately, security starts running over, grabbing our banners. The Bushites start grabbing our banners. We're saying, didn't you listen to the president? He just said the people of the world need the freedom of dissent. That's what we're doing. It's okay. It's on message. They're looking around. They don't know what to do. The cops literally say, okay. And then they leave...."

Safire retires (saying "never retire") and gives us the key to the kingdom on the way out: How to Read a Column.

Viet Dinh ventured into enemy territory, sort of. Irvine should have been friendly, but the University definitely was not. The opening self-deprecation was acknowledged, but not found funny: "His confession of cerebral incompetence turned out to be both factual and devoid of irony—the latter being key to humor."

23.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If you haven't been to north Idaho, here's the next best thing in this week's "Lives" feature of The NYT Magazine.

Frank Rich, on the warm afterglow of the inauguration, and the near silence of broadcast media on the subject of prosecutions for torture: "Maybe we don't want to know that the abuses were widespread and systematic, stretching from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to unknown locales where 'ghost detainees' are held. Or that they started a year before the incidents at Abu Ghraib. Or that they have been carried out by many branches of the war effort, not just Army grunts. Or that lawyers working for Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales gave these acts a legal rationale that is far more menacing to encounter in cold type than the photo of Prince Harry's costume-shop armband."

Perhaps "nobody seems to be listening" in this country, but you can be damn sure the rest of the world is paying close attention.

One noticeable exception (which Rich didn't mention) to the de facto embargo on TV coverage of the issue was 20/20's interview with Army Reserve Specialist Sabrina Harman, aired Friday night. Maybe it was just a sympathetic portrait of one of a few bad apples, but her attorney's suspicion of "a degree of scapegoating going on here" is a generous euphemism for obvious volumes unspoken.

The forecast for full disclosure is about as overcast as the records of George W. Bush's National Guard service.

Nicholas G. Carr on the FBI's failing software makeover ($170 million and counting and "not even close to having a working system"): "Software hell is a very crowded place."

Ford couldn't scale its Everest, McDonald's wrote off the same amount that the FBI has sunk (coincidentally, or is $170M the ante?), Agilent's Oracle clouded over, HP's ERP gave indigestion.

22.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The inversion from the slopes of Bogus Basin The inversion remains tightly wrapped on us, the sky a featureless gray blob keeping morning airplanes away and hiding the truth above us: it's warm and sunny in the mountains, the snow sublimating away into yet another winter of drought.

Meanwhile, back where all the people live... the Northeast braces for "the season's first major storm" (really, the first?), with stuff like 12 to 18" in Central Park, two feet along Cape Cod, even Washington (D.C.) could get 7 inches?! C'mon folks, share the wealth!

(I liked this account: "For those who ventured out to play - hooded, booted, muffled to the eyes - the storm offered glimpses of nature's beauty: empty streets turned into white meadows, black-and-white woodlands painted in moonlight, snowflakes glittering like confections in a bakery - frosted, glazed, powdered, sugary - and in the parks children, romping, padded like armadillos."

In this moment when victory in the election is converted to "ratification of truth," Lew Rockwell considers the Future of the Republicans. In addition to the significant inroads against personal liberty that the party has been making (while dealing freely in the slogans of freedom), there's this:

"Virtually all traditional Republican themes that were once seen as making a case against government have been transformed into policy agendas for more government power. Pro-family means a national law on marriage. Pro-religion means funneling tax dollars to religious charities. Education standards means centralization and regimentation. The free market means forced savings at home, vicious anti-trust prosecutions, protectionism for favored industries, and the imposition of new economic structures abroad...."

Gary Hart sees it as the restoration of a mythical golden age, when "the great-grandchildren of those grumpy old men see the chance to restore America to the 1920s."

"Three radical forces will colour the second term.The first is represented by those concerned to dismantle America's social security system, the cornerstone of the Rooseveltian New Deal and the heart of the United States' social safety net. The second by those attempting to remake the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, the fulcrum for institutionalising the cultural agenda of the religious right. The third is represented by those seeking to salvage the neo-conservative project to bring democracy to the Arab world at the point of a bayonet."

Orlando Patterson's view, of the speech misheard around the world: "Promoting freedom, of course, is a noble and highly desirable pursuit. If America were to make the global diffusion of freedom a central pillar of its foreign policy, it would be cause for joy. The way the present administration has gone about this task, however, is likely to have the opposite effect."

21.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I heard little snippets of the inauguration coverage on the radio while running errands yesterday. David Brooks was all gushy about Bush raising the bar on "American Exceptionalism," bringing freedom (27 times) and liberty (15 times) to the rest of the world. I just wish our record to date did not have so many blemishes of exploitation and corruption.

Since I didn't see any video bites, my brain filled in the gap overnight and I had a dream about the festivities. George Bush was in a gleaming white uniform with fringy epaulets (but no gold trim). He wore a tall red hat, the whole get-up reminiscent of something from the 1800s. As the parade went on, he kept being given new hats to put on for brief moments, then putting one aside for the next, sort of like Nascar drivers servicing all their sponsors while they drink a gallon of milk. One hat was like a sea anemone, with looping tendrils.

Sometimes the show you imagine is better than the real one.

Paul Krugman's Free Lunch Bunch: "President Bush is like a financial adviser who tells you that at the rate you're going, you won't be able to afford retirement - but that you shouldn't do anything mundane like trying to save more. Instead, you should take out a huge loan, put the money in a mutual fund run by his friends (with management fees to be determined later) and place your faith in capital gains."

Direct hit on the Veepmobile! The NY Times had more than enough photos to satisfy my curiosity about the real event, including one of Dick Cheney's car with a snowball hit. Oh, I remember the naughty thrill of throwing snowballs at cars, I can only imagine what it would have been like to throw one at—and hit!—the Veepmobile. Well done, young man! :-)

In the Who Knew? department, one more thing to be afraid of: the insidious message of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Our old Windows95 machine turns 7 this spring, and it's still limping along. I've moved almost all the heavy lifting to my new machine and what's left is primarily email and some newsletter work. There have been problems with attachments lately, and Word documents that won't open because of a problem with the Tahoma font. How stupid is that for any of the dozens of other fonts not being applied? The web search for help (Googled "word97 tahoma") turned up a nice FAQ from the University of the South Pacific and the in-hindsight obvious answer: copy the font from another PC.

When I went about doing that, I found ONE of the font files already sitting in the temp directory, with the same July 2004 date. In other words, this happened before, and not that long ago. How do font files go bad? And why Tahoma, in particular? So many questions, so little time.

18.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yet another thing to pay attention to besides work, Dave Barry's take on the news and entertainment, such as what bugs him about 24. I noticed the omnipotent computer thing, too, but I'm hooked all the same. My main complaint is that I can't just sit down and watch it for 24 hours straight. Oh, and that little 2 minute cheat they have at the end of every episode when the clock ticks to ":00" but it's still ":58." Do they fill that in if you buy the DVD?

Dave's report on the last inaugural is worth a few ad views, too, and makes me feel better about missing this one. And that.

Some of the comments that readers chip in are pretty funny, too.

I responded off the top of my head with half a dozen good reasons to impeach Bush after being goaded by someone whom I suspect was shocked, shocked by the very idea that he'd actually done anything wrong. I can understand supporting the guy (in spite of all that), and being partisan, but there's a serious cognitive dissonance problem if you think he ain't done nuthin wrong. Peter Dizikes takes a bit more rigorous approach to the list-making and finds 34 scandals from the first four years of George W. Bush's presidency, every one of them worse than Whitewater.

"This is about the dozens of scandals occurring while the Republican Party has enjoyed almost complete control over the federal government. This is about the GOP's utter disrespect for the laws of the United States. This is about stopping greed, bribery and influence-peddling."

17.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You don't think public transportation and its subsidization is a big deal? Consider the contest Babushkas vs. Vladimir Putin. I'm guessing Vlad blinks sooner or later, and the seniors will be riding free for the forseeable future. That's just a piece of the puzzle, though: consider that the Russian government is currently running a big surplus (oil revenue, donchaknow), and this: A leading parliamentary deputy told a Moscow radio station last weekend, "The demonstrations will reach their peak in February when people will have to pay their utility bills for the very first time."

And just below that link in vanden Heuvel's blog, Partying While Baghdad Burns, about the difficulty of the Bush twins finding a suitable headliner for the kid's table at the $40M soiree coming up this week. Kid Rock is out, who's in?

Martha Stewart's Christmas letter is interesting: she's been busy cleaning, and thinking about sentencing reform and rehabilitation.

She and her lawyers have a few things to say about how well the trial went, too.

"...a high-ranking government official lied under oath about important matters, with the full complicity of at least four U.S. Secret Service officials, and a juror made numerous false statements on a questionnaire completed under penalty of perjury. Moreover, despite repeated references to "cheating investors in the stock market" and an "illegal" "secret tip" that cost ordinary investors "millions of dollars," ...Stewart was barred from proving—or even arguing—that she had not committed the uncharged crime of insider trading, and the jury was never cautioned that whether she had was not before it...."

Speaking of incarceration, why is it, exactly, that Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper are facing jail time and Robert Novak, the guy who actually put the beans in print, is still dancing with one hand waving free?

16.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

How many specious "facts" does the Administration get to trot out before we get to stop beating around the bush and just call them LIES? The White House "fact sheet" on Social Security says "By 2042, when workers in their mid-20's begin to retire, the system will be bankrupt - unless we act now to save it."

That's a lie.

We'll never get close to seeing the proof, of course, because that and other lies are going to be repeated so many times in the coming days (the Agency itself is going to be enlisted to do the work) that "we" will "act now" to change it, if not to save it.

The NY Times has a bunch of articles on the subject this weekend, including Paul O'Neill's big idea of million-dollar nest eggs for all; the Bush push for the "ownership society"; Roger Lowenstein's Magazine piece, A Question of Numbers. Unlike most or all of the politicians flapping their jaws at present, Lowenstein says he "carefully read the 225-page annual report of the Social Security trustees."

We've got Gov. Dirk's State of the State (and Budget) speech in the can, but haven't worked up the gumption to actually watch it. After an inflamed (and X-rated) email "frm 1 pissed off Idaho Republican," I was encouraged to go out and see what columnist Dan Popkey had to say about it. Other than running afoul of the "slack-jawed" conservatives, the big highway plans have that wonderful Red State pork barrel flavor, tapping Federal taxes for a giant project in the hinterlands.

But it was the huge feeding trough put out for Albertson's that really lit up my supposed Republican correspondent. Popkey's the only guy standing up against this juggernaut according to "Tom Paine." The rest of us Democrats (but what about the Republicans who actually run things 'round here, TP?) and "independent" press (did he mean me?) "should be totally ashamed of how you've been emasculated by a bunch of witless bible-thumpers with room temperature IQ's, who's otherwise intellect & passion would barely allow them to (expletive) fog a mirror."

And speaking of redefining political spectra, there's Albertson's CEO complimenting the Guv as "very progressive." But the CofC was burned by Boise Cascade morphing into Office Max and clearing HQ out of town, and we want to make damn sure that Albertson's, Micron and HP remain as happy as they can possibly be in Boise.

1.15.5 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another spectacular triumph in space exploration: an intact landing on Saturn's moon, Titan. Conveniently, Saturn is in opposition at the moment, up all night to tantalize star (and planet) gazers who have seen the closeup pictures by radio.

I heard Malcolm Gladwell talking about his new book, Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking on the radio this week, and my intuition was that I wanted to buy it and read it. David Brooks had a similar first reaction (although he didn't have to buy it, I'm sure) but had to do more than just go with his gut for a review.

Here's my gestalt: it's going to sell a ton and prop up millions of smug "I told you sos" from the overwhelming majority of us who would rather not be burdened with thinking deeply. About anything. Why bother with consideration when you can go with your gut and get the right answer just as often – even more often?

My second impression, the "thick slicing" assessment, is that I'm not going to buy the book, but I might skim through if I'm stuck in a waiting room and it's there on the table. I think I've apprehended the useful part of the book's inspiration: prime yourself, do your homework, pay attention and learn to recognize that flash of insight. It doesn't hurt a bit to dig deeper and understand exactly why you know what's so must be.

From Bob Herbert's point of view, "the administration is like an ardent lover in its zeal to shower the rich and powerful with every imaginable benefit." Remember all that talk about those damn trial lawyers—John Edwards was one for heaven's sake!—during the campaign? How badly we needed reform to protect us (us?) from what all those lawsuits were doing to the cost of everything, and especially medical care?

How amazing that in a country so willing to apply punitive damages to individuals, we're prepared to not only exempt corporations (as long as they have "FDA approval"), but also accept the concept as some sort of righteous, ordinary-guy, red-state position.

Why don't those people recognize what's good for them? Could be the messenger, by Allston Mitchell's reckoning.

"The Middle East and North Africa are riddled with corruption and dictatorial leaders with precious little democratic vision but it is no secret that these leaders are the ones that are most effective in protecting US interests in the region, the most persuadable due to their corrupt nature. The State Department might wish to ask itself why it is only repressive despots who are best placed to implement US foreign policy."

14.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Recommended event for readers in the Boise area: Idaho Dance Theater's current performance, tonight and tomorrow at the BSU Special Events Center. 3 big pieces, and two of them were outstanding. (The other one was ok; I'll let you decide which were which.)

This Armstrong Williams affair needs a ton of deconstruction, and Frank Rich gets started on the work. This is special: in December 2003, just as Williams was signing up to do his pretend-newsman shilling, and "at a time when no one in television news could get an interview with Dick Cheney, Mr. Williams, of all 'journalists,' was rewarded with an extended sit-down with the vice president for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a nationwide owner of local stations affiliated with all the major networks. In that chat, Mr. Cheney criticized the press for its coverage of Halliburton and denounced 'cheap shot journalism' in which 'the press portray themselves as objective observers of the passing scene, when they obviously are not objective.'"

No doubt.

Turns out that the UK undertook the same sort of reform that's being talked about for our Social Security system -- 20 years ago. Seems like "how'd it turn out?" would be a question a lot of people would be asking right now.

In short, it's a bloody mess, and people over there are thinking that our system may well be the best model for "modest guaranteed retirement benefits delivered at low cost."

Thanks to Paul Krugman's column today for the pointer.

Wake-up call (after the moron doing callbacks from his callerID log at a quarter past midnight) and the brain delivered a bonus wave of intense nausea, as if it didn't already have my full attention for whatever was needed. I assumed the position to call ralph on the big white phone, but after that and two more trips, it turned out that work from "please remain seated" was all that was needed.

A touch of food poisoning. My prime suspect: Mr. Poultry, in the kitchen, with a saucepan. And not quite enough heat under the leftovers.

13.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Thank goodness our environment has Eliot Spitzer on its side. Bush seems to focus his environmental efforts on providing benefits to big companies who feed him campaign cash while his spin-doctors make up names like "Clear Skies" for initiatives that will increase pollution levels. New York's attorney general is the real deal, and he's getting results.

Such as, "NRG agreed to reduce emissions causing acid rain by 87 percent and emissions causing smog by 81 percent. Niagara Mohawk agreed to pay a $3 million fine, to give 2,500 acres of land along the Salmon River in Oswego County to the state, and to spend another $3 million on environmental projects in the region."

"AES agreed to reduce smog-causing emissions by at least 70 percent and acid-rain-causing emissions by at least 90 percent," while chipping in a million bucks for "environmentally friendly projects."

The last time you read about AES, NRG and the Bush Administration in the same story, it probably had to do with the California energy "crisis," for which they never had their feet held to the fire, or maybe about Dick "No Doubt" Cheney's top-secret energy task force.

From the "in case you were wondering" file, we hear the reason why our universe is not just a uniform gray goo with nobody inside it wondering why it's featureless: it had to do with quantum mechanical "burbling" (which might come as a comfort to anyone who as ever been burbled). We're here because of imperfections.

And what nicer feature could we ask of a story about "sound" waves echoing the Big Bang then a scientist named "Eisenstein" to explain it? (Having him explain it in a song, of course.)

We looked really, really, really hard and we didn't find a damn thing. Time for the Iraq Survey Group to go on home, 'cause there ain't no WMD round here no more. Any embarrassment or "lack of comfort" for the Administration in that regard? Scott Mclellan beat around the bush, but it all comes down to "huh uh."

Stay the course. Ignore. Deny. Think about that when George comes pitching his urgently needed Social Security reform because if we don't do it, the system "goes broke, flat bust" inside a few short decades. The lesson seems to be: if you don't have command of the facts, make some up.

We're told the Bush team won't have anything new until the intelligence commission reports on the failures, but let's go hypothetical and wonder: are they going to ask George Tenet to give his Medal of Freedom back?

Not to be missed further down in that White House Briefing is this, from reader Kim Jonas, commenting on the Washington Times interview with Bush (the part about how he "doesn't see how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord"):

"Relationship with the Lord? I'd like to see our President have a relationship with the *facts*. And I'm a born-again Christian."

He's talking about a healthy relationship, no doubt, rather than the current, abusive one.

12.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A useful history review as we roll toward a "Pastor Niemöller moment," from Thom Hartmann:

"King Charles I, in response, invoked his right to simply imprison anybody he wanted (other than the rich), anytime he wanted, as he said, per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis.

[T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny.
– Alexander Hamilton

"This is essentially the same argument that George W. Bush makes today for why he has the right to detain both citizens and non-citizens solely on his own say-so: because he's in charge. And it's an argument supported by Alberto Gonzales....

"Ironically, the third George to govern the United States now says, 190 years later, that unlike England's George III, he does not need an act of Congress to detain people or exile them to camps on a distant island."

11.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

NYT graphic of cumulative rainfall in LA in the last 2 weeks We've got decreasing temps and negligible PoPs. I put a mark for tennis on the January calendar, but I'd much rather be riding in fresh snow. I hear the Sierras (where they license chain monkies) are getting it by the foot, as in 9 or 10 of them in the past couple weeks. Sun Valley got 3. We got bupkus.

Funny how the Bush Administration gives no credence to any of those distant scenarios where global warming might matter to the environment that sustains us, but they can do the numbers on an infinite horizon when it comes to the "crisis" they've cocked up in Social Security. Ok, 75 years then if the infinite horizon is too far over the top for you..

It's the corporate state, stupid. "The early twentieth century Italians, who invented the word fascism, also had a more descriptive term for the concept -- estato corporativo: the corporatist state. Unfortunately for Americans, we have come to equate fascism with its symptoms, not with its structure. The structure of fascism is corporatism, or the corporate state. The structure of fascism is the union, marriage, merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power. Failing to understand fascism, as the consolidation of corporate economic and governmental power in the hands of a few, is to completely misunderstand what fascism is. It is the consolidation of this power that produces the demagogues and regimes we understand as fascist ones."

If you're doing business with any of these companies, congratulations, and thank you for your support of George and Dick's magnificent party.

9.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What do you get for the twit who has everything and a Hummer? A $250,000 parking spot disguised as a 265-square foot condominium right near the best lift.

This is funny: "The only problem this condo owner had with the situation was that news of the ski 'lockers' at the Edelweiss, and of the holiday parking crunch out front, might create the impression of Sun Valley as a flashy Aspen-like place, which might then draw in even more celebrities, and the gawkers and pretenders that people here pride themselves on disdaining."

Heaven forefend that quaint and barely-heard-of Sun Valley, Idaho should become flashy.

We lost the benefit of news reporting from Iraq some time ago. The vacuum gives all sides the opportunity to make up their own stories, which everyone seems happy to do.

In the face of Scowcroft's warning that the elections could produce an "incipient civil war" (as opposed to the kind of civil war they've got going right now), Bush's reply: "I look at the elections as a - as a - you know, as a - as - as a historical marker for our Iraq policy." That ain't the good news. Maureen Dowd considers what it means to define victory down.

A letter to the editor in the latest Stanford Magazine (and a continuing email exchange with a high school buddy who's at least as Right as I am Left) led me to Greg Miller's article about the interrogation at Bagram Air Base from the previous issue. It's an interesting background piece on the use of torture before it went off the deep end, in the eyes of the world (even if you imagine not in the eyes of God, or in legitimate service to the defense of our nation).

8.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Boy this Office2003 is an egg-laying wooly milk pig. It has so many bells and whistles, it doesn't let you have all of them right off the bat. When you stumble into one of the features deemed "special," you have to install that on top of everything else you installed the first time around. And to do that you "Add or Remove Programs" and so on. When you've found the secret piece and specified it, the wizard proceeds to remove a whole bunch of stuff... WAIT A MINUTE, I SAID INSTALL! Damn, I hope this thing knows what it's doing, did I press all the right buttons?! With a user interface designed by the people who put "Stop" under a "Start" button, it's never easy to know.

It all finished with a monologue saying it had been "updated" successfully. I hope their definition of "success" is similar to mine.

Turns out, it isn't. I went back to the Word document I was working on, with the equation editor now enabled, and some hours later went to look for Excel. It's gone! I tried to add a feature to Word and managed to remove more than 80% of the Office2003 package. Access, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, Publisher. Just brilliant. I thought I'd selected just the program I wanted to change, but my deselections meant "remove these programs." The good news is, I don't think I lost anything in the process, and it was reasonably painless to reinstall all that junk (especially with the source CD copied onto my HD -- highly recommended before installing).

7.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I thought it was just a work of fiction until I got to this part: "As White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales was charged with vetting Mr. Kerik."

The good news is, he Will Follow Non-Torture Policies. Starting right... now.

It's kind of changing the subject to bring up the $1,200 worth of tires (and $40,000 worth of other "gifts from friends") that Clarence Thomas has been given while sitting Supreme, isn't it? Among his defenders is none other than John C. Yoo, former clerk for Thomas, who you might remember as co-author of the 42-page pot-boiler "Legal Arguments for Avoiding the Jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions." So there is a connection.

Waddayaknow, it seems that public education is working, after all.

Armstrong Williams "said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement (for him to promote No Child Left Behind on his syndicated talk show, in exchange for $240,000) unethical, but 'I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in'" reports USA Today.

Oh yeah, I wanted to do that for $240,000 too, but nobody asked me. I could believe in it very much for that kind of compensation.

Mr. Majority Leader talking on a subject he seems to be familiar with: "It is a crime against the dignity of American democracy." Imagine the audacity to question the irregularities of our election.

"One of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times," putting the fix on Social Security.

"Our strategy will probably include speeches early this month to establish an important premise: the current system is heading for an iceberg. The notion that younger workers will receive anything like the benefits they have been promised is fiction, unless significant reforms are undertaken." I don't know about you, but when I was a younger worker, "the benefits I had been promised" was not a fiction so much as a null concept. "Social Security" was all about minus so much percent on my paycheck.

It sounds mostly like they want to renege on unsustainable commitments that no one to whom they've been made could possibly fathom, calculate or expect. "Here's a startling fact: under current law, an average retiree in 2050 would be scheduled to receive close to 40 percent more (in real terms) in benefits than an average retiree today..." All the workers I know near 20-years old are more concerned about getting and/or keeping a job than promises 40+ years out.

Would you buy a used car from a man who talks about "the miracle of compound interest"? I didn't think so.

Imagine this thrill... oh wait, you don't have to, a GM Vice Chairman has a blog. He says "In the age of the Internet, anybody can be a 'journalist.'" What else did you figure out in your 18 months' preparation to become a blogger, Bob?

"In response to the comment below on the G-6 interior: I would admit that the Accord has a great interior, as does Acura. But we're talking much higher prices there. When the G-6 4-cylinder versions come out, you'll see a substantial price difference in our favor to Accord."

A huge thank you to reader Ted Fulmer for sending me a clue about Userland's partnership with The NY Times and its enabling more durable URLs for archived NYT articles.

Now, can we script that to patch up 55 months' worth of blog entries?! Just for grins, I went back to the beginning and tried the first NYT article from the top of the page... and it worked as-is, waddayaknow about that! (That was many revisions of their archive ago...) The second one didn't work, though, and it's not something the current tool is going to be able to resurrect, either.

The third one works, and Paul Krugman's 5½-year-old column on Social Security is as fresh as a daisy.

All well and good, but we're left with the question: are there now-defunct URLs that a run through the New York Times Link Generator will bring back to life? I guess I should RTFM and see that "The new policy began on May 5, 2003. All specially coded links pointing to articles after that date will continue to work." Skipping ahead 3 years, and trying the 2nd link (the first being yet another Krugman column, sheesh)... that doesn't work, and the error page says "This service only goes back to June 2003." Ok, the top nyt link from the next month... It worked! Sweet.

Epiphany Permanent URL to this day's entry

Something beyond cholesterol to worry about, C-reactive Protein or "CRP," with an obvious (but unspoken) pronunciation for the acronym. Some studies are suggesting low LDL and low CRP may be required to maintain a healthy heart. Expect the advertising for statins to ramp up, but gee, isn't there a way to stay healthy without taking lots of drugs?

Sure: exercise, control your weight, eat right... and stay away from doctors and drug advertising.

Larry Seltzer's skeptical about AOL's claims that they (at least) have turned the corner on the war on spam, but whatever my non-AOL ISP is doing (and my abandoning a long-used address in the middle of last year) is working for me. Spam is not a problem these days from where I sit. Hallelujah.

Army Reserve Chief to Army Chief of Staff: The Army Reserve is unable "under current policies, procedures, and practices governing mobilization, training, and reserve component management to meet mission requirements associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and to reset and regenerate its forces for follow-on and future missions." The Baltimore Sun posted his memorandum. (I'm assuming it's "his," even though there's no name or signature under the letterhead.)

5.1.5 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The second go at a swan song for Keith Stroup, founder and outgoing head of NORML is quaint, funny and nostalgic, unlike our jails and prisons full of drug offenders. In the context of the Independent Lens film we watched last night, A Hard Straight, it isn't quite so humorous. The system stacked against those at the bottom is not just incarceration: "Two-thirds of U.S. parolees return to prison within three years of their release."

You can end up doing a lot more than your sentence if you can't meet parole terms, which are way tougher than the law. Freedom of association? Forget about that, bub. 2nd amendment? You're kidding, right? 4th amendment? Sorry. "You, your residence and your property are subject to search at any time without notice." And "residence" includes the home of friends or family you land at when ends don't meet.

Compare the "average incarnation cost of $23,000 per year per inmate" to the pay of the jobs these men and women might be able to find and keep and think about the opportunities we're throwing away because we can't come up with a better idea than coercion.

In the Use it or lose it department, a little story about winter driving in Idaho. First, you have to know something about Whitebird grade, a 6 to 7%, 7-mile slice of US 95 from mountain pass to canyon bottom, 4 lanes. The weather this time of year can change from pleasant to rainy to zero visibility snowstorm from bottom to top.

On the day in question, it was icy and foggy, and two gals were cruising down in an Oldsmobile when they were surprised by a trailer rig spun out and blocking three lanes, including all of their current choices. They had the presence of mind (!) to get down, flat on the front seat, before they and the bottom half of their car went underneath. It didn't used to be a convertible...

4.Jan.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Bogus webcam from a few minutes ago It's cold (22°F by our thermometer), frosty and somewhere between fog and overcast. We call it inversion. No new snow to attract us to Bogus Basin, but there is the SUNSHINE, and the warmer temperature... Software or snowboarding? Tough choice -- yeah, right. Now, were did I put those sunglasses?

Krugman, on Stopping the Bum's Rush "The people who hustled America into a tax cut to eliminate an imaginary budget surplus and a war to eliminate imaginary weapons are now trying another bum's rush. If they succeed, we will do nothing about the real fiscal threat and will instead dismantle Social Security, a program that is in much better financial shape than the rest of the federal government."

Here's something useful from a techno-geek: How to Build a Global Internet Tsunami Warning System in a Month, from Robert X. Cringely. "With local effort, there is no reason why every populated beach on earth can't have a practical tsunami warning system up and running a month from now." He provides the rough instructions and links to resources to make it happen.

3.Jan.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

My spam filtering is working so well that the very occasional incoming tidbit can be an object of curiosity rather than aggravation. The pseudo-medical weight loss phishing has been sneaking through, and today's is fascinating for the number of names it abuses on its way to my attention. Tired old subject "important info" and sender "Rob Parks." Opening it with the "Forward" command to safely render it in plain text (given my Outlook configuration), I see the return email address is The internal address of the "letter" is Dr. James E. Clarke, whose title of "Temporary Family Physician" sounds like an spammer's inside joke. He supposedly works out of the "Central Side Physician's Centre" (somewhere in the UK?), with a gee-we-must-have-forgot-the-last-two-lines address of "78 Grande Blvd. Suite #1." Finally, I'm told the message was sent by Secretary Linda Thompson.

I might have been concerned about this gaggle of strangers making "a close examination of (my) records from 2004," if I had any medical records from 2004. Or a "past history with weight control" for that matter.

2.Jan.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Still life, New Year's Day 2005 Christie Todd Whitman finally has something to say about the people she went to work for 4 years ago, and she's hoping to peddle her wares in book form. To Blue State readers, it seems. For her sake, I hope the book turns out better than her stint as head of the EPA, but what do the rest of us get besides an entertaining read?

Buzzflash kicks off its series of 20 editorials with Hypocrite of the Year on the "cover."

"George W. Bush, first and foremost, is our GOP Hypocrite of 2004, because he has allowed Al-Qaeda to win. If they hate democracy, as Bush claims, Bush has done everything possible to curtail our freedoms and our right to elect officials as a national community. He has accomplished their terrorist goal for them; something that surely warms the cockles of Osama bin Laden's heart."

If I were going to donate to relief for tsunami victims, I'd go through these folks, because I know and trust them, and have supported their efforts for many years.

Dan Gillmor made a clean break for the New Year: bustin' out of the Murky News, and into the future of journalism. Or something.

I had a conversation with a buddy at a New Year's Day party, in which he started by saying "I read your website" with a little nod of his head. The whole thing? Yup. Four+ years of blog entries?! No, not that.

("Read" is sure a strange word in our language, isn't it? What he said sounded liked red, not reed; past tense, not present. Maybe more interesting if he'd said "I reed your website." How often?)

Finally got started on that Funeral Consumers Alliance of Idaho website that I said I'd do. We're thinking to make all those helpful publications available as PDF files, but we're just getting started at that. It's almost, but not quite, as useful as our brochure at the moment. (The brochure comes on a piece of paper so you don't have to print out the membership application form.)

a is for amazon
b is for best buy
c is for cnn
d is for dictionary
e is for ebay
f is for firefox
g is for games (not Google?! they're #2)
h is for hotmail
i is for ikea
j is for jokes
k is for kazaa
l is for lyrics
m is for mapquest
n is for news
o is for online dictionary
p is for paris hilton
q is for quotes
r is for recipes
s is for spybot
t is for tara reid (who?)
u is for ups
v is for verizon
w is for weather
x is for xbox
y is for yahoo
z is for zip codes
today, on Google Suggest.

2005! Permanent URL to this day's entry

Snow on our sycamore and pyracanthus berries We didn't get the White Christmas thing, but we got a little sugar coating for New Year's - half an inch down in town. Good morning!

Here's a suggestion for New Year's resolutions: start with something small, doable. Just before lights-out this morning, I resolved to clean the huge pile of clothes off the top of my dresser, and first thing after the sleep, I fulfilled my goal. Why not start with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment? Now, what else needs to be done around here...

Probably time to polish up the to-do list. There are things on that carried over from previous years, so I can cover the whole gamut from well-done to deep, nagging guilt.

Looks like the DOJ has a resolution for the New Year (coincidentally just in time for Alberto Gonzales' confirmation hearing), starting with the simple statement of a moral principle: Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms. The new memo is by Acting Assistant AG Daniel Levin, "for" Deputy AG James B. Comey, so it can say things like this:

"We decided to withdraw the August 2002 Memorandum, a decision you announced in June 2004," and this here is a replacement memorandum. Discussion "concerning the President's Commander-in-Chief power and the potential defenses to liability was—and remains—unnecessary," given "the President's unequivocal directive that United States personnel not engage in torture," said directive coming in Bush's July 5, 2004 statement on United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

The memo still seeks to draw the line between torture and "other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture"; an unseemly business that apparently someone needs to do.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Tuesday, 01-Feb-2005 08:33:51 MST