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

Tim Grieve, in Salon: Dissent Will Not Be Tolerated. The selected audience is not just for campaign stops anymore: is there any public appearance for which Bush/Cheney are brave enough to entertain disagreeing points of view? It doesn't say much for the strength of their position if they can't face the opposition.

"The (Washington) Post's story reads just like every other one we've seen: The Secret Service doesn't say much, and the White House blames a local volunteer."

From that Post story: "Those onstage at most of the town hall meetings are carefully screened people from the area who agree with the president's Social Security proposal. The participants typically rehearse what they will say with members of the president's advance team and rarely, if ever, say anything critical about his plan for private accounts."

Planning a business trip, of all things, first one since the summer of 2003. After booking a flight, the United itinerary email had a convenient "Rent a car" link which took me to a page of special offers from 7 companies (6 in the US). They all show meaningless hooks about their price: "$20 off," "save up to 20%" and the non-price-sensitive allure of more frequent flier miles. Now that I have no corporate affiliation, I'm free to shop around, and curious about the web interfaces as well. Those are regressing to a mean, mostly, with the basics of specifying a city, dates, times, and so on. Alamo gets the D'OH! award for first requiring me to enter my "country of residence" so they could know what sort of car to offer me (right or left-hand drive?), and then leaving me forlorn with "Minimum rental length conflict with coupon" and no clue how to proceed. BuhBYE.

National showed the rate inversion I've seen before: "Compact" cost more than "Economy," which cost more than "Intermediate." It's all about inventory, I suppose, but $30-ish daily for an Intermediate and $40 for a Compact? Budget was about the same, Avis more, and Dollar won the day with a surprisingly low number: $14/day, a 3-day rental with tax and license for $1.02 under $60. (I checked their site without going via United's link... and get offered the same deal.)

I could get a Hertz Dummer for a bit more than ten times as much. Avis had a "budget" SUV - the Pontiac "Vibe," whatever that is, for $113 (base rate for 3 days). Caddy Sedan DeVille for less than a Chevy Subdivision ($232 vs. $270, the former inflates to $300 with taxes and surcharges, but hey, it's got XM radio). I suppose that would be a good deal if you were going to sleep in the car.

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

Fresh snow, late March on Shafer Butte Reading Walter Kirn's Broke in this week's NYT Magazine, it occurs to me to wonder why Bush is taking his sweet time to sign the new bankruptcy bill into law. Can't find the set of pens with Visa/Mastercharge/AmEx printed on them? Can't find the time? Waiting for the best (or is it most obfuscated) P.R. moment?

Then there's the reform itself: "For a nation whose very founding can be viewed as an attempt to free itself from financial burdens thrust upon it by a distant ruler; for a government that is deeply in the red because of its own spendthrift ways; and for a political leadership whose emissaries have been pressuring other countries to forgive Iraqi debt, such a reform raises questions, to put it mildly. Then again, Americans, as a culture, have never thought or acted consistently on the issue of borrowing and repaying. Our stories on this subject are propelled by a never-ending conflict between two classes of economic antagonists: the thrifty, moralistic Ben Franklin figures who stand for simplicity and responsibility and the spendthrift, zealous Donald Trump types who represent dynamism and raw vigor."

We're definitely in the Franklin camp, using our "credit" cards simply as charge cards, and happy to have our checking account automatically dunned to pay the monthly balance in full.

Interesting angle on the Republicans use of Terry Schiavo, from Juan Cole: "The cynical use by the US Republican Party of the Terri Schiavo case repeats, whether deliberately or accidentally, the tactics of Muslim fundamentalists and theocrats in places like Egypt and Pakistan. These tactics involve a disturbing tendency to make private, intimate decisions matters of public interest and then to bring the courts and the legislature to bear on them. President George W. Bush and Republican congressional leaders like Tom Delay have taken us one step closer to theocracy on the Muslim Brotherhood model."

29.Mar.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fresh violets, fresh hail.  March 29th. With the 2nd hailstorm in 2 days, it's official: March is going out like a lion. The mountains got another half a foot of snow last night! (But we could still use more.)

And this just in: Bogus Basin to reopen on Friday (no foolin')! Proof positive.

HP's found a successor for Carly, one Mark Hurd, formerly of NCR. The market seems to think that's good for HP – up 10% – and bad for NCR – off more than 15%.

"Mark is a complete, 180-degree turnabout from Carly, and very low-key," said Jeffrey Alan Sonnenfeld, associate dean of the Yale School of Management. "I like that he's not an opportunistic job hopper - he hasn't been out shopping himself around.

"He doesn't just do a tour of duty and court the financial press. He rolls up his sleeves and does the dirty work of running a business. It's a brilliant choice."

Love to hear it; I still have more HPQ than I should, and today's $2 bump is a welcome sight.

28.Mar.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Couldn't resist another dose of spring riding, this time at Brundage. It was raining and/or snowing most of the 114 miles up the hill, seemed to be fairly uniform temperature through the storm. It didn't get much colder going up, unfortunately, and the mountain was in fog. The top half (at first) or third of the mountain was awesome, lots of untracked fresh snow. It got heavier, and heavier, and heavier on the way down, though, so that it was best to be on a trail below halfway. By midafternoon, the bottom stuff was seriously technical, getting into that Sierra Cement sort of thing, not something I've had practice piloting a snowboard through. The trick seems to be to point straight down and minimize attempts to turn.

It was fun, all-in-all, but I'm a bit disappointed by the snow report they're putting out. 19° now with a high of 28? That's not the hill I was on today. Just a spot check on the grooming report: Swinger says "today" as of 3/28, 8am. But I made one of my last runs down that about 3pm, and there is no way it was groomed in the last 48 hours. It was ungroomed, half-cut, soft, slow and way heavy. The 7" of snow I can believe. Let's hope they get more, with the temperature actually down to what they're advertising.

Easter Permanent URL to this day's entry

Brundage's photo of the day today: 'Power Day' March is setting up a lion-like exit, working to make up for lost weeks of rain and snow. On Friday, the computer was off for a whole day, while a friend and I drove to the nearest open downhill ski resort, grumbling along the way about Bogus Basin's premature closing for the season. We'd talked about going to Brundage, but Tamarack is right along the way, and their late-season offer to BB pass holders was only $6 more. My buddy hadn't been to either place, so nearer seemed better.

Tamarack's summit is only a couple hundred feet higher than Bogus', with the extra thousand feet of vertical added on at the bottom. Conditions there were "depleted" at best, just enough manmade snow to cover an icy-to-slushy route or two down to the chairlift. But at the base of the mid-mountain lift, a couple of inches added on each day this week and fresh tracks to be made in cold snow for as long as our half-century old bodies held out. I found out that "Adrenalin" was aptly named, inching to the edge of the cornice and dropping down as carefully as I could, but still making like a snowball in the deep snow below it.

Monday's schedule has been pre-empted as well: Brundage got 4-6" overnight, forecast to get 3 more tonight.

Stanford Magazine's articles are free for the reading on the web. The latest issue has a nice piece about linguist Geoff Nunberg, professor, Fresh Air commentator and author.

It included this interesting snippet, contradicting the "conventional wisdom" stemming from the old reverse hook: accusation of bias by the biased:

"When Bernard Goldberg complained of liberal bias in the media in his bestselling 2001 book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, Nunberg devised an elaborate study of political labeling in major newspapers. He confirmed that there indeed was a disparity, but opposite the one Goldberg contended. Labels of political affiliation were attached 35 percent more frequently to individuals with liberal politics than to those identified as conservative, he found." (my emphasis)

Tom Friedman asks a question that's been on my mind: "How will (future historians) possibly explain why President George W. Bush decided to ignore the energy crisis staring us in the face and chose instead to spend all his electoral capital on a futile effort to undo the New Deal, by partially privatizing Social Security? We are, quite simply, witnessing one of the greatest examples of misplaced priorities in the history of the U.S. presidency."

A new ad-form: the "sponsored archive" featuring all the news that puts IBM in a positive light, sponsored, by IBM. It beats dancing and flashing banners and skyscrapers anyway. Watch for the creativity used to disguise the entry link.

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

Seeing is believing, they say, but what exactly does "seeing" mean? The Spitzer space telescope has detected a meaningful variation in the light from the occultation of a "hot Jupiter" orbiting a distant star, but the artist's concept is the best way of our "seeing" this planet in another solar system.

The map is not the territory, but this digital atlas at Idaho State University is a really nice collection of maps of our fine territory. Its rollover menu is pretty cute, too, although non-intuitiveness is not a virtue. (You have to pick something in the popped up submenu, rather than just a main category.)

cover image of Blood And Oil Peak Oil is the story of the month, anyway. The big question is whether it'll also be the story of the year, and decade. Michael Klare provides a Tomgram (no relation) on our Oil-Crunch Planet. Signs of the times include ExxonMobil topping the Market Cap chart, edging GE and approaching $400 billion (still well shy of the 600 $bil neighborhood of the 2000 tech bubble).

Klare's the author of Blood and Oil : The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (The American Empire Project), and Resource Wars : The New Landscape of Global Conflict, looks like he's been studying the issues for a while.

In a ZNet piece, he looks at "Mapping the Oil Motive," and the question of oil's role in the decision to invade Iraq.

"A war of choice is rarely precipitated by a single objective, but rather stems from a combination of contributing factors. In this case, many come to mind: legitimate concern over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction; an inclination to demonstrate the effectiveness of the administration's "pre-emptive" war doctrine; increased security for Israel; the promotion of democracy in the Middle East; U.S. domination of the Persian Gulf region; and a thirst for Iraqi oil. All of these, and possibly others, are likely to have figured to some degree in the president's decision to invade...."

Dowd's headline is a hit: DeLay, Deny and Demagogue.

"As the Bush White House desperately maneuvers in Iraq to prevent the new government from being run according to the dictates of religious fundamentalists, it desperately maneuvers here to pander to religious fundamentalists who want to dictate how the government should be run. Maybe President Bush should spend less time preaching about spreading democracy around the world and more time worrying about our deteriorating democracy."

In case you're not convinced that this is pandering to the "base," consider this: "A CBS News poll yesterday found that 82 percent of the public was opposed to Congress and the president intervening in this case." And the Supremes just said no. For "at least the fifth time."

Frank Rich's swang song in Arts and Leisure (he's moving to Op-Ed) provides his take on The God Racket: "The religio-hucksterism surrounding the Schiavo case makes DeMille's Hollywood crusades look like amateur night. This circus is the latest and most egregious in a series of cultural shocks that have followed Election Day 2004, when a fateful exit poll question on 'moral values' ignited a take-no-prisoners political grab by moral zealots."

Speaking of events lost in the shuffle behind that circus, there are the 26 acts of suspected criminal homicide of prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tom Friedman suggests that George W. #1 might have something to say to George W. #43 on the subject, from a previous round of America changing the rules of war.

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

"There's an amazing diversity of government records that used to be available to the public but no longer are." Listen to Slate contributor Steven Aftergood on NPR, or read about The Age of Missing Information. The diversity includes a fair chunk of history too, as the historical records at the National Archives are being revetted, for example. "It's an assault on the historical record."

On a recent visit to the National Archives, American University historian Anna Nelson recalled, "I found four boxes of Nixon documents full of nothing but withdrawal cards," signifying records that had been removed. In another collection of Johnson records concerning the 1965 intervention in the Dominican Republic, "I found a box of 55 withdrawal cards."

The E.P.A. is supposed to help protect our environment by applying science. It's business as usual, though, with mercury non-regulation based on what's good for industry, the electric power industry in this case. Even a 600% return on the investment of cleanup isn't persuasive, do doubt because the return doesn't go to the right people.

"It is ironic, of course, that an administration which makes so much about 'moral' issues and protecting what it terms 'the unborn,' would abandon that kind of thinking when it conflicts with the needs of well-heeled campaign supporters. One lesson learned from this sorry episode: Babies don't make campaign contributions. Big energy companies do."

A rift opening in the uneasy coalition between flavors of conservatives, described by David Davenport of the Hoover Institute: "When a case like this has been heard by 19 judges in six courts and it's been appealed to the Supreme Court three times, the process has worked - even if it hasn't given the result that the social conservatives want. For Congress to step in really is a violation of federalism."

Not that it's a news flash that everyone's ideology comes in 2nd behind their more immediate self-interest. The rugged individualists out here in the Red States don't mind bellying up to the Federal trough as they decry the taxation and regulation flowing from D.C.

And in an only slightly different direction, David Brooks gives the big picture outline of Masters of Sleaze working behind the scenes:

"Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!"

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

a raindrop on an ornamental cabbage leaf The L.A. Times editorial board sharpens its pen on the radical right and their "shameless" panderers-in-chief and their "outrageous" tactics:

"(T)his case once again shows that some social conservatives are happy to see the federal government acquire Stalinist proportions when imposing their morality on the rest of the country. So breathtaking was this attempted usurpation of power, wresting jurisdiction over a right-to-die case away from Florida's judiciary, that Republican leaders in the end had to agree to limit this legislation's applicability to the Schiavo case....

"Federal judges, regarded with contempt by moral conservatives on other issues, are being dragged into another swamp. No decision they make in the Schiavo case and those certain to follow can be the right one."

The case's timing just happened to be fortuitous for covering up the 2nd anniversary of the start of the Iraq debacle, and that it has was nicely illustrated by last night's local Fox news: a "prayer vigil" attended by some tens of religious conservatives at the Statehouse got about 3 times the airtime of the demonstration by some hundreds of opponents of the war on Iraq. (Note to bias-in-blog talliers of "liberal" and "conservative" adjectives: opposition to the war in Iraq is bipartisan.)

Uppsala Hydrocarbon Depletion Group's 2003 Base Case Scenario The same research firm that exposed the fabrication that was Enron is handicapping Peak Oil: "In Herold's view, each of the world's seven largest publicly traded oil companies will begin seeing production declines within the next 48 months or so." Give or take no more than a decade: Deutsche Bank's estimate of 2014 is a minor adjustment of the big picture, a picture the supposedly Big Oil Men running our federal government these days don't seem to have clued into.

The folks at the US DOE are smart enough to figure it out, though. It's so hard to plan (far enough) ahead, though... "Initiating a crash program 10 years before world oil peaking would help considerably but would still result in a worldwide liquid fuels shortfall, starting roughly a decade after the time that oil would have otherwise peaked." Starting 20 years head would (have) be(en) better.

Follow along at home with your choice of Peak Oil blogs, helpfully cataloged at the Peak Oil Center, or the Dry Dipstick peak oil metadirectory.

One twist I hadn't heard (or didn't remember): if you suck oil out of your reservoir too fast, you can damage the structure and reduce the recoverable oil. There's speculation that the Saudi's have done that. It might have been a virtuous cycle: throttling production earlier would have led to higher prices, and therefore incentive to conserve and economize, leading to a delayed peak. But nobody wanted to do that, and every hint of cartel influence on prices drove us all mad.

A bonus found out in the Peak maze: Kent Tenney's Gumpagraphs. I wish I took pictures that good, that often.

Righteous website design starts with... Ten Commandments of Search Engine Optimization. Some good advice that applies to secular sites, too.

I suppose there must be even more than this, but The New Scientist's 13 things that don't make sense are entertaining. Expanding knowledge expands the interface with ignorance.

Equinox Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another element of today's correspondence (see below) had to do with the "fleecing" of this country, by businessmen and women who are happy to sell us out for their own advantage. When the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration writes about how bad things are getting, maybe it's time to sit up and take notice.

The silver poplar grove at BUUF, starting to bloom It slipped in while I was still asleep: spring! We had some decent weather for a change, rainy yesterday and snow in the mountains. The flowers that bloom in the spring could use a lot more of it.

Correspondence from a regular reader got me to analyzing an anti-MoveOn screed and asking myself if I'm doing enough, or if I've been co-opted into quiet submission to the authoritarian takeover. It ebbs and flows... I continue my long-standing habit of writing to Congress, but that is even less effective in Idaho than writing this blog. Three letters on Social Security and all I have to show for them is hard-copy assurance that Craig and Crapo are reliable tools of the Bush Administration's plan, whatever it may be.

I didn't get out and protest the 2nd anniversary of the war against Iraq, the memories of two years ago fading away. Doing my patriotic duty to voluntarily comply with the tax code, I did discover that the government's going to be giving some of our money back, so there is some good news: less for the war machine.

I'm not feeling much like wringing my hands, in general. I'm willing to do what I can, but I'm not yet prepared to make activism my life's work. That mitigates my willingness to criticize others' failings of omission. I still feel criticism for failings of commission are in order, however, so the blog won't be drying up with the new season.

19.Mar.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Quattro Pro on XP, doing my taxes Rainy day, as good as any to dig into the taxes. It started with a strange diversion: I couldn't open the .xls exported from Quattro, and rather than doing the smart thing and going out and buying a copy of TurboTax or something, I decided I'd install my hoary copy of Wordperfect Suite v8 on to my XP machine. It won't bring back the 15-year-old .WKQ spreadsheets, nor even the 12-year-old .WQ1 spreadsheets, but at least I can get at 1994 through 2004.

I of course did the "custom" install, so that I wouldn't get such gems as a "fully integrated" copy of Netscape 4.04, and when it came to choose fonts, I figured why not take all 1,000+? I found out why not: my "font table" isn't big enough for all that. So I went through the list and deselected a bit more than 4 out of 5 (140 of which I probably will never see again) and marched on.

After it got up and running, I tried copying something from a more recent Excel spreadsheet and while it pasted OK, it also made almost all (almost all?!) of the sheet's gridlines go away. And all of those on the other sheets in the workbook, too. Freaky.

15 years. If Terry Schiavo is sentient, and could respond, surely the only thing she would have to say is "let me die." All I know about the case is what I read and/or hear about it in the news, but hearing that Congress was going to meet in special session tomorrow to try to get her feeding tube reinserted was accompanied by the astounding fact that this has been going on for 15 years.

15 weeks, a debate would make sense. 15 months, even. Three, six and now twelve times that, it's time for the rest of us to get on with life, let go of that poor woman and find some other purpose for the rest of our lives. One benefit to the news is that it prompted me to do some more work on the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Idaho website I look after, including making the nicely formatted Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care forms for Idaho available on the publications page.

If I don't get it done, at least let me go on record here that I don't want my body mechanically sustained if I appear to be in a persistent vegetative state for 15 months.

You don't suppose this is just cocked up to distract from the two year anniversary of Bush's implementing the decision to attack Iraq, do you?

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

Krugman, on Wolfowitz: "Let's not focus on mismanagement. Instead, let's talk about ideology." Next stop, The Ugly American Bank.

Greg Palast has a theory about why Wolfy is going from DepSecDef to banker, "the allies of Big Oil in the Bush Administration have defeated neo-conservatives and their chief Wolfowitz."

I'm sure the Terry Schiavo case could get more bizarre, but I can't imagine how. The mighty majority leader of our Senate has acted to prevent today's 1pm denouement after years – years! – of the family's arguing over whether she should be kept alive by extraordinary means, or not, and whether there is anything more to her life than a persistent vegetative state. Having been invited to testify before congress (if only there was any chance she could), she's now protected from obstructions and impediments by Federal law.

"The Senate and House remain dedicated to saving Terry Schiavo's life," Frist said. A gaggle of House leaders suppose that "millions of people throughout the world are praying for her safety."

If you don't want this to happen to you, you need a Living Will. In Idaho, as I imagine in many other states, the Legislature has dictated the form of such a document, so you need not buy it from anyone: you can get it directly from the State.

John Brown invites Mr. Bush to tear down that metaphor! Historical parallels to recent events are strained, and he shows in just which directions. His background in diplomacy gives him reason for concern about what Karen Hughes might accomplish: "(S)he may try to engage, inform and influence key audiences abroad–the aim of public diplomacy–with the kind of base propaganda used to sell the war in Iraq. The Bush administration’s Iraq propaganda, you recall, was based on simplification, repetition, demonization and utter disregard for truth."

Yes, I recall that.

133t5p33k is n33t! Microsoft provides parents a secret decoder ring for the slang of the keyboard generation, and some links to more, including a new (to me) expansion of POS: Parent Over Shoulder. Teenangels don't have that one, apparently trying to keep their eclectic list "clean" even if that means it isn't useful. They do have 72 variants of ROTFL, however.

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

Creamy crocus, from two years ago last week "(T)the Bush administration's combination of tax cuts for the Republican 'base' and a Global War on Terror is being financed with a multibillion dollar overdraft facility at the People's Bank of China. Without East Asia, your mortgage might well be costing you more. The toys you buy for your kids certainly would."

Niall Ferguson explains why our currency's problem might not be our problem, at least not in the near-term. That all sounds (sort of) reassuring, but each new slipped-up hint from the Far East detracts from the effect.

Karen Hughes has done such a stand-up job of crafting public opinion about GWB in this country that he's going to turn her loose on the rest of the world. Do you think those foreign networks will suck up the video news feed the way the domestic folk do?

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

What's wrong with this picture?

"I'm going to continue traveling our country until it becomes abundantly clear to the American people we have a problem, and it's abundantly clear to those who receive a Social Security check that nothing's going to change," Mr. Bush told an audience in Memphis.

Mr. Bush told the gathering, screened in advance so as to minimize the chances of heckling...

Ok, how about an easier question: what's right with that picture??

Security issues figure prominently in this report on the new browser wars, and those certainly led me to push IE into a corner and install Firefox on our old win95 machine (still kicking after 7 years!), but it's not the main motivation on my work box. The top three reasons I use Firefox are: (1) I can quickly change font sizes on pages I'm viewing, (2) tabbed browsing, and (3) it's a non-Microsoft product. It's nice that it's Open Source. It's essential that it's free.

From the coding side, I've been stuck accommodating the pot pourri of bugs from many browsers over the years, and it's just differences that are the problem. From that perspective, I have some trepidation about IE7, even as hope springs eternal that it will be better than ever. Will it be integrated with the O/S again? We can only hope not; I don't know who benefits from that, but it sure isn't the end user. It's usually works out better to do one thing well than to try to do everything.

39°F at sunrise, and "VERY spring like condition" up at our local ski hill. They're not going to make it to the Ides of March, one month short of what the NFS allows. Today's forecast for the mountains is "highs 55 to 65."

It's going to be a dry year around here...

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

Compassionate conservatism in action: overhauling the nation's bankruptcy laws to "impose significant new costs on those seeking bankruptcy protection and give lenders and businesses new legal tools for recovering debts" and disqualifying many from "taking advantage of the more generous provisions of the current bankruptcy code that permit them to extinguish their debts for a 'fresh start.'"

Expect some happy credit card company and bank execs at the signing, with big, fat grins from ear to ear. This is very compassionate for the conservatives running companies that made tens of $billions in profit last year. A nice percentage of those profits finds its way into political fundraising and lobbying.

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the issue, but it strains to credulity to hear that "ultimately this will lead to more accessibility to credit for more Americans, particularly lower-income workers." More than half of people filing for personal bankruptcy say that medical bills were a primary reason. More credit's not going to help that.

And as for addressing abuse, "critics also said the measure fails to do anything to curb abusive bankruptcy practices by wealthy families, who can create special trusts to shelter their assets, and by corrupt companies like Enron and WorldCom, which were able to find favorable bankruptcy courts and deprive many of their employees and retired employees of benefits. The Senate defeated a series of amendments proposed by Democrats that sought to address those issues."

Kevin Drum wonders (virtually) aloud about what the motivation for this legislation could be, and more than a hundred comments follow. How about this for an explanation of why the "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act" (don't you feel safer already?) has so many supporters: "Credit card companies know when every politician in Washington ever visited a prostitute, strip club, or "massage" establishment."

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

15 or 20 pound racoon, treed by the author A little wildlife in our yard today: this big, fat racoon on the loose. On general principle, I encouraged him to leave (waving a shovel, in what my wife termed a "dog reaction"), and he instead trundled 20 feet up the juniper. After things quieted down (and I'd taken my photos), he walked along the fencetop to the next yard, strolled back the other way after I'd left the premises. The animal control lady said they're not so scary, don't kill cats or attack kids, and there hasn't been a rabid one in Boise in recent memory.

So, we'll live and let live, and hope the family has moved on before we want to start keeping our porch door open to the night air. (And the way things are going, that might not be much longer: the temperature's in the mid 60s today.)

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

N. Fork of the Payette, snow running out with February sums up Frank Luntz's (Pollster, Republican Political Consultant, and president and CEO of Luntz Research Companies) Fourteen Words Never to Use: "And just like that, my dear friends, an entire nation of sheep is shepherded through the gates of hell on Bush’s Ark of the Covenant with Big Business."

The NYT Public Editor is on the receiving end of many disputes about verbiage, I'm sure. Here are just a few of his headaches.

"Hijacking the language proves especially pernicious when government officials deodorize their programs with near-Orwellian euphemism.... The Bush administration has been especially good at this; just count the number of times self-anointing phrases like "Patriot Act," "Clear Skies Act" or "No Child Left Behind Act" appear in The Times, at each appearance sounding as wholesome as a hymn. Even the most committed Republicans must recognize that such phrases could apply to measures guaranteeing the opposite of what they claim to accomplish."

Leave it to a Baptist minister to lay out the argument against Ten Commandments monuments on goverment property. "We must commit ourselves to protecting religious expression in public places, without allowing government officials to promote religion or to pick and choose among religions."

Ellen Goodman put J. Brent Walker on my radar, with this pithy quote from him: 'How strange it is to create a graven image out of a document that says we are not supposed to have any graven images!"

If you're shopping for a tax scam, here are a dozen you might want to avoid: they're at the top of the IRS' checklist.

"Some filers enter zero income, but report their withholding and then write nunc pro tunc -- Latin for 'now for then' -- on their return. It may as well be Greek because the IRS will still come after you."

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

Wish-I'd-coined-that department: Bloggernacle, collective term for mainstream Mormon blogs. But who knew?

$7 billion a year, and now 4 Mounties down: B.C. Bud is serious business, and makes a formerly friendly border a lot less so as "vast amounts" of drugs and money make the crossing.

This is the sort of thing that gives Demopublicans and Republicrats a bad name: defecting to logroll for local interests, in a race to give in to the already wealthy and powerful. The particular example is legislation designed to make it harder for people to declare bankruptcy. A few juicy anecdotes fuel the promotion of it, just like "welfare queens driving Cadillacs" did a while back, and just as meaninglessly. The important thing is to distract people, the same as in the old shell game or three-card Monte.

3.4.5 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Burt Rutan's GlobalFlyer, over the Grand Canyon Around the world on one (9 ton) tank of gas. Awesome. Same guy who did it on a bag of helium. Same designer as the Voyager and SpaceShipOne. 23,000 miles, 67 hours.

If you get your news from ABC or CBS, I guess you might not have heard about the John Gannon story. Apparently it's quickly being relegated to the morgue as unimportant and oh-so-over. But Frank Rich is still interested, and so should you be:

"A close reading of the transcripts of televised White House press conferences reveals that at uncannily crucial moments he was called on by the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, to stanch tough questioning on such topics as Abu Ghraib and Mr. Rove's possible involvement in the outing of the C.I.A. spy Valerie Plame. We still don't know how this Zelig, using a false name, was given a daily White House pass every day for two years. Last weekend, Jim Pinkerton, a former official in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses, said on 'Fox News Watch,' no less, that such a feat 'takes an incredible amount of intervention from somebody high up in the White House,' that it had to be 'conscious' and that 'some investigation should proceed and they should find that out.'"

Hey, Carly's got a blog now!

7:52 a.m. Move to top of list: negotiate severance package. $20 million from HP nice, but shoe closet still in dire need of update. (So glad investors don't read proxies. So hard to hide the good stuff. Like default bonuses! Maybe easier in government job?) Must be strong. Will suggest $40 million and work back from there. Wonder if have friends of friends on compensation board? Will ask P. Bush.

All that water dumped on California and the southwest means one thing for sure: the desert is blooming.

"The sheer surrealism of Death Valley's current appearance is overwhelming. The normally black walls and terraces of the basalt hills in the valley are now etched in yellow and white flowers, giving the terrain the appearance of a photo negative. Clusters of chias with their strangely shaped purple flower float above the desert floor like a vision from Dr. Seuss. Drab-colored shrubs are entwined in what appears to be screaming-orange-colored silly string: dodder vines hitching free rides for the nutrients of their captive hosts."

If you're reading from the Midwest*, you are now switched on for free credit reporting. That's an link, not spam! Go get 'em!

* Midwest = Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin.

Martha's done her 5 months in minimum security, but unlike some who leave prison with little more than $20 and a new suit (at least if the movies are telling the truth), she took off from her "life altering and life affirming" experience in a private jet. Something tells me that her wish that "someday, I hope to have the chance to talk more about all that has happened" is going to come true.

Now, just 5 months of house arrest to go. "There's no place like home."

2.Mar.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yahoo turns 10 today, imagine that! (Actually, you don't have to imagine, you can see their original home page.) You can help celebrate with ice cream, on them. (I had to use IE to get past the registration form; the name fields aren't functional, and with Firefox, I was told that first name and last name were required. :-/)

"Yang, 36, and Filo, 38, became billionaires long ago, but they have stuck around as the 'Chief Yahoos' at the Sunnyvale-based company because they are eager to continue innovating and increasing profits."

Hatin Surucu, murdered by a man in her family From the perspective of a liberal democracy, it's hard to imagine how we don't face an ultimate clash of civilizations when there are people who think their religion tells them to kill women in their family for the offense of living their lives as they see fit.

In Germany, action has to overcome the present bias toward liberalism and anti-racism. "Astonishingly, the first extensive data the German government collected about the lives of Turkish women was published last summer, as part of a study done by the Ministry for Family Affairs. The study showed that 49 percent of Turkish women said they had experienced physical or sexual violence in their marriage." [my emphasis]

Maybe it isn't religion per se (and certainly not any true religion), but whether it's a misguided sect or a cultural force out of control hardly matters. "Zero tolerance" is required. If Islamic religious leaders want their religion to survive, they need to condemn these acts in no uncertain terms.

Would nominating Carly Fiorina to head the World Bank be further evidence of the Bush administration's disdain for international institutions? Probably not, I'm sure they want as much control over the world's finances as possible. Since Fiorina's rise through Lucent and HP made her rich as Croesus, I suppose she does have the qualification of not needing to embezzle from the WB to make ends meet, but I'm struggling to think what else she has going for her. It's not like being Republican makes her stand out. Good looking? Ambitious? High-profile? Predictably toadying?

1.Mar.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We'll have to call this a lamblike start to the month: sunny, a light breeze and the high north of 55°F. Maybe a bit of rain tomorrow, but mostly just dry, dry, dry.

When my neighbor got broadband, he didn't want to give up all his AOL history and email address, so they still get their monthly dues from him, although reduced a bit since Qwest is doing all the hard work. I wouldn't go that route myself, but I can understand the reluctance to change after some years. AOL loves the lock-in, I'm sure.

I got some near-spam today, the USTA with a "News Bulletin" (yeah right) trying to sell me AOL of all things, with an ad suggesting I "Add AOL on top of (my) basic high-speed internet connection for a premium broadband experience." It made me chuckle.

Yesterday's stoopid IDE trick from Redmond was not so amusing, however. It seems that somebody at Microsoft decided table borders were not cool, so they made Visual Studio .NET insert a border=0 tag in all the <asp:table>s the thing makes, and damned if I can find a way to turn that off. I can change it and throw another border setting in there, giving a table tag with two border callouts. My two browsers actually do what I want with that (show the border), but who knows why they made that arbitrary choice? There's also the "rules" style... which Microsoft access through a different word, Gridlines. They just liked that better?

It reminds me of the time I went into ColorTile before they went out of business, and was asking a question about how to get some repair work done on something here at home. What they were telling me didn't comport with something I'd read, or heard, and I asked them about it. The answer was: "there's the right way, and there's the wrong way, and then there's the ColorTile way." It didn't really make any sense, but on the other hand, it did seem like a explanation for why they went out of business, after they did.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Friday, 01-Apr-2005 17:12:25 MST